Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Useful (?) tips to exasperated readers

I thought of upgrading a possible comment of mine to the previous post, as I think I would have a couple of points of a more general interest to make.

1.
Having read the post, St suggested we read Foucault; he offers a number of valuable insights on matters of the politics of the body.

2.
One could also visit the local Institute of Gender Studies (website). They have recently released a media and gender handbook, which contains even more case studies (serious ones, too), some of which quite revealing.

3.
I feel that some readers should (res)train themselves to only attack opinions and ideas instead of people, especially using expletives. I mean, "fucking"? tsk, tsk, tsk; "hellhole"? shocking: even I would not say this, and I live here. A propos, look at this quote, again from the comments:
No loxias I'm sorry.You ARE wrong.You came here a few years ago and for some reason you think that you know the place and it's people better than people who lived there all their lives.
A rather predictable invocation to 'authority', isn't it?

4.
Still, despite all the openness and camaraderie (I still hope) of the blog medium, I am not obliged to tolerate people claiming I tell "outright lies" or branding me deluded and insane. Without an apology, no more comments will be welcome by such people. I'm sorry, it is a matter of dignity.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Angels of Heaven II

The following stories are not about sex and sexual frustration. They are about the politics of repression. They are about the generic becoming specific -- and personal. So, be warned. They start nasty and end disturbing.

(Listening to Preisner's bombastic but beautifully visionary Song for the Unification of Europe.)

'Russian' (woman) in the Outpost (and elsewhere) is the synonym of whore, either by profession or by disposition (as they used to distinguish in the phallocratic Compatrido Republic when it was still the Kingdom of Compatridia). A 'Russian' can of course come from as far south as Moldova, or even Bulgaria.

eleS is a 'real' Russian. I will quickly tell you her story first: she is a student in the Outpost. She used to have a local boyfriend her age, 25 or so. She moved in with him, in his parents' home, obviously. He was complaining she was not arousing enough, going around in the house in those boring pyjamas instead of some sexy underwear. eleS pointed out the sexy underwear option was pretty unfeasible with his parents under the same roof. He would also complain of, and look like he was suffering from, that particular kind of tedium. A propos, she found his massive cache of porn, but said nothing. He eventually broke up with her.

So far, nothing remarkable (remember we live in our little sexist world, not some Ursula LeGuin utopia). Enter Yu now.

Yu is Russian, born and raised in Belarus, the last dictatorship of Europe (of Beautician and the Beast qualities). Four years ago, she was a tour guide in Minsk, making something like $400 a month (which is great if your monthly expenses are around $300, like in her case). Enter Yu's husband, an Outposter on a cabaret-cum-strip-joint tour of Minsk for a buddy's sake (he told me), hotfoot from the US, where he had spent 7 years of his life. On a break from the lap(s) of luxury, he goes on a tour of Minsk. Love at first sight, marriage.

Yu comes to the Outpost. By virtue of her degrees and the five languages she speaks, she gets a high-flying $3000 a month job (which is great if your monthly expenses are around $1600, like in her case), of which her husband appears slightly jealous. She forks out a lump sum towards the deposit and contributes in the payments for the house (every couple in the Outpost must build / own a house, unless paupers, Jod and me are creepy freaks). The husband is unhappy and has to speak very badly to her. Moreover, the quality of her housework is not up to his mum's standards. She also argues with him (not really). She wants children.

This children thing was the last drop. Children? After four years of marriage? For this reason, last June, Yu's husband actually expelled her from his house. She knows practically nobody here, so she came to our place for refuge. She stayed here for a week. Our landlady was concerned: "where does she really work?" "she will not bring any, hm, men here, will she?" Yu's husband's pals convinced him he was too rough on her. She got reinstated.

Three weeks ago, Yu asked Jod to recommend a sex therapist to her but Jod did not know of any. Days later we find out why: Yu's husband had been complaining that he can get no satisfaction. You imagine my coarse first reaction to such a statement. Yu's sex-making was apparently boring and unimaginative (guys, you get the message, don't you? it is as crass as 'alternative points of entry'). Still, he would not tell Yu what he wanted, so he gave her some addresses on the Internet to check out for herself. She did not particularly enjoy the porn she found there, so she thought there was something wrong with her and she had to seek expert advise. The therapist told her to look after herself and her own needs. Yu's husband becomes enraged. Yu is expelled again.

Jod is helping her to find a flat, talking to landlords, as nobody would rent to a 'Russian'. They are decent people.

Now, I hope you realise what underlies the two stories. (Not just Outpost) Men fantasise about Russian women being white fragrant über-whores, Angels of Heaven that will eagerly lick you up and joyfully go down on you, offering up their fabulous gymnast's flexibility which somehow combines with adequately stimulating curvature packaged accordingly. They expect them to be all these and they energetically attempt to impose this stereotype on them. They cannot be timid, or anything like this. They are 'Russians'. The difference in the Outpost is that here these repressive stereotypes can be successfully and painlessly (well, unless you are the woman) imposed with few eyelids batting.

I never knew politics can be so perniciously relevant within private lives before I came here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

(parenthesis:

Minutes before leaving work, I found these blogs: beast and Somewhere near the river. My stomach constricted at the realisation that lyricism, that peculiar kind of lyricism I found once more in places like the above, has almost been lost from my life in this little desolate place I have found myself in. Otherwise, I am grateful for the -- at last! -- cold air invigorating me.)

Monday, November 21, 2005

The truth about Bouvet Island

There has been some bewilderment on where I am. I am obviously in the Outpost. But, understandably, this is not enough for some readers, so they look the blog up in a directory. They come up with Bouvet Island, because this is how I have it listed. I was recently asked where Bouvet Island is.

Bouvet Island is antarctically cold, miserable and uninhabited, one of the most isolated places in the world. More isolated than Pitcairn (a very lonely place) or even Tristan da Cunha, of Wings of Desire fame. So, 'Bouvet Island' is just another trick of mine, as it is a place very different from here. However, the Outpost does feel like a lonely place, sometimes. Not last weekend, though, when Jorge and boyfriend visited and we threw a massive brunch on Sunday. I'll be eating brunch leftovers for the rest of the week (too fatty for Jod's tastes).

brunch

I will tell you about Yu's terrible woes some other time. In the meantime, for those of you who liked the pictures, you know there are more, here for instance.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Linguistics

"esho-nessemasta!", said the secretary to me minutes ago.

I thought she was speaking Japanese (say the thing out loud, stressing the vowels in boldface; see?). I dumbly asked 'who?' She burst out laughing. She is an Outposter, so she couldn't be speaking Japanese to me, anyway.

Monday, November 14, 2005

One grand weekend

On Friday we were bored and tired again. There was no question of watching yet another DVD: we have seen so many films lately, it is becoming a joke we are not getting paid to. So, we went to the bar we used to hang out in. The stakes were low and we secretly knew we would quickly get bored. So, on our way there around midnight, we browsed shop windows.

We opened the door and I said to myself "So here is where everyone is!", i.e. the wonderful section of Outpost youth as well as loads of foreign people like us, including some really good-looking women (Outpost ladies, dressing down can occasionally do miracles!) and that amazing black guy with the white hat (I want a hat too, now). The atmosphere was phenomenal, the music superb -- we were having fun by just standing there, looking at people, drinking stout. In the meantime, we were texting friends to join us, none did.

Then friends arrived, untexted for: Maria and the Guitarist. And we had immense fun. What else to say.

The following day NewYorker took us for a ride to the other side. The weather was good. We left the Capital.

Zena Palace

An hour later, we stopped at a cute beach, blue, green and sunny.

translucent

Then we moved towards the end of Europe, a peninsula like a foreign appendage sticking out of the body of the Outpost. So different from the (rest of the) Outpost, too. On our way there, villages would get poorer and poorer, roads progressively degrading. We stopped again, this time at a seaside chapel carved inside the rock, more of a ruin.

Seaside chapel

Yet another poor village and then, suddenly, a different place: full of maquis vegetation and trees, too; grass on the ground; a gentle landscape. Roads getting ever worse, blocked by sheep, people ever more oblivious to the existence of the (rest of the) Outpost and cars. Then, another village, the last settlement, formerly beautiful, now in abject misery, only nominally part of our great European Union, a bit like les banlieues. After that, mainly nature, truly the end of Europe, the Outpost's outpost. Twenty kilometres through mainly unspoiled beautiful countryside, reminiscent of Provence and Crete and Dalmatia, to arrive at the Beach: by far the most amazing beach in the Outpost:

beach panoramic

beach

rocky path

self portrait

sand

sun

umbrella skeleton

Like with Prague, pictures are understating. You cannot imagine what the place looks and feels like. People used to tell me and I wouldn't believe them. Now I am converted.

We continued to the end of the road from there, where a crumbling monastery is, linked to Scotland by an Apostle whose relics had the peculiar habit of travelling a long way, navigating the high seas.

lassitude

lassitude 2

cats in shade

Another beach lay nearby, complete with Scandinavian-looking cabins

beach cabin

and a former watchtower of the Evil Empire, now humbly serving as a bungalow

watchtower-bungalow

Then we turned back. And that was just on Saturday.

On Sunday the weather was good again. We hooked up with One of the Seven and drove to Aerosol. An odd city, after all, in that it is not entirely uncharming, combining a business centre with a beach.

city by the sea

city by the sea 2

They have recently completed a 17 km-long footpath and cycle path across the waterfront; the Sunday being sunny, the seaside was full of people ("foreigners mainly", commented One of the Seven). We found an immigrant street market and we shopped for clothes

street market

Chat, fun, lunch, coffee -- then merrily back home.

Listening to the White Album, which I bought today after 20 years of waiting, I am bidding you Good Night.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Indoors

Another weekend like those we have been lately getting a lot of: nothing to do, nobody to see (and Jod having work to do at home). The highlights included cooking Thai red curry and watching DVDs: the Best of Road Runner (not Blade Runner), National Treasure, La Mala Educación, 9 Songs.

La Mala Educación I did not really want to watch. This is because I do not like Almodóvar, although some of his films I have found watchable. Guess what, La Mala Educación turned out to be a great film, subtle, superbly paced, playful (there are three main narrative levels embedded within each other), intriguing and tragic (Almodóvar can usually go only as far as melodrama, so...).

Then we saw 9 Songs last night. I had been meaning to see this film for some time because I was intrigued by its allegedly combining sex and rock gigs (there is actually a third element besides these two: Antarctica). I also liked Winterbottom's Wonderland, so I was definitely curious.

The film is a gem: simple and subtle, achingly atmospheric (it sent me into yet another spin of nostalgia for our lost English life), building characters not through dialogue, but through their having sex. Minimalism seems to be the guiding principle, but in a lyrical, personal and intimate way, without detachment or voyeurism. Although the story is narrated from the guy's point of view, the film's editing, choice of angles, lighting, even the actors cast in it (see picture above) make it a very unlike piece of pornography. 9 Songs belongs to a sparsely populated subgenre of films about relationships that use sex in a frank but essential way -- not as a distraction, a filler or a means to just titillate -- in the good company of the raw Baise-moi and the superb Intimacy, and unlike bathetic stuff like Romance, which is really born-again French porn (you know, porn with loads of spoken treatises on the duality / duplicity of love and the meaning of life and men being from Mars, blah blah...).

Of course, this is my point of view. Jod found 9 Songs -- well, here is the dialogue:
Lox: What did you think of it?
Jod: Porn. The live songs are good, though.
Lox.: Porn??? How can you say that? The actors are, like, human. You can identify with them. Nothing like the inhuman circus freaks of porn.
Jod: Antarctica was cool. I'll get the soundtrack.
Lox.: What about the plot? The [see my arguments above]
Jod: Well, it is not mainstream porn. It is a British take on French porn: profound porn. Winterbottom knows how to use sex. He's done it before. He just overdid what he knows best.
Lox: Well, I for myself like the idea of using the bare essentials to describe a relationship; sex is the bare essential.
Jod: Sure, but why did we have to see a close of her dilated labia [she thankfully expressed herself in an academic way -- Blogger censors are on patrol] or his belly soaked with cum? [uhm]
Lox.: Well, come on, these are elements of sex.
Jod: And why do we have to be shown them?
Lox.: Oh, it's not like Winterbottom wants to turn you on!
Jod: Well, I was turned on. Weren't you?
Lox: Yes.

Everyday life

Two pictures of browsing pictures in an open-air exhibition in the Capital.



People at a cafe:



Two shots from the local film club:



Breakfast options:


Before sleep:


Almost there:

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Annuit coeptis

Last week I had a meeting with the American Embassy's Public Affairs officer, as member of a committee representing my employer. The Embassy want us to organise public events using for free their speakers, either resident in the Outpost or invited for that purpose. Among the many suggestions they put forward (some of them actually very interesting, we are seriously considering to take up their offer on these), they included us hosting public lectures with themes such as 'EU-US trade relations' and 'American foreign policy'. NL, also in the committee, asked whether these two would be of a historic perspective (subtle NL!) and, more specifically, whether the speaker would discuss Cold War era American foreign policy. "Oh no, we are talking today's foreign policy", replied the Embassy officer. "Aha", I thought.

The officer himself was naturally forthcoming and smooth-talking (Lord, diplomats are always somehow scary in their own elusive manner, and I have met so many of them here in the Outpost). I politely and civilly attacked the Embassy for suggesting us to act as a vehicle of their government's propaganda and went on to request from them to bring us an expert speaker on racism, who we would gladly host as here in the Outpost "we can certainly use the valuable US experience on the matter". He (diplomatically) enthusiastically exclaimed that this was a wonderful idea, and that this is why such meetings are great.

The guy has an @state.gov email address; his bodyguard, looking like an Iraqi insurgent, was waiting outside the board room throughout the meeting standing, hands crossed in front of his genitalia, like a footballer waiting for a free kick.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

[...]

Jod brought me Morrissey's latest album on her way back from a wedding in the Home City. While listening to 'First of the gang to die' yesterday, I thought of the Hyperborean Hunter, rapidly plunging into winter's long uninterrupted darkness descending on the great expanses of whiteness he roams -- as he is unreasonably fanatic about Morrissey. I also remembered getting drunk merry with Theta the Cuttlefish last September in York to this song, just before I was revealed as a brit-pop kid. I felt happy and high for the first time (excluding sex, of course) since August.

While the song was playing, Gizmo was frantically miaowing in tune (???), pausing only to vigorously and purposefully scratch his head.