One of my political heroes was the late South African politician Helen Suzman, for many years the only anti-apartheid member of the (all-white) parliament in Cape Town. As a leader of the opposition party she sat right across from the government, speaking directly to their menacing faces. On one occasion she said to them: “You should really visit one of the townships, to see how blacks live in our country. I suggest that you go disguised as human beings.”
From the always excellent Peter L. Berger.
I used to listen to my songs in random order, but now I go through them alphabetically by name. That has made me notice something remarkable —out of 38 songs in my collection whose name begins with ‘I’, 14 are from The Beatles.
You know them —male, white, middle class, unapologetically heteropatriarchs, and as I can see now, a bunch of egocentric bastards.
As if the world revolted around them, or as if we gave a damn about the pettiness and hollowness of their pathetic partying around for a girl’s kiss in caverns in Liverpool.
The world would be a better place if they had checked back their privileges, assumed their guilt, apologized to the oppressed, pledged them for acceptance and forgiveness, and redeemed themselves by assuming the role of the meek and humble, low-key unconditional background supporter of those whose moment in history has arrived.
And what did they do instead? A batch of silly songs no one wants to hear which should be given absolutely no platform in any college radio station.
Ban’em, here, there, and everywhere.
You know the type. They give you things you haven’t asked for.
Recently I was given one thousand, ten thousand maybe, I don’t know, almonds. They all came from a very old, purely Majorcan almond tree —no bullshit here, those were almonds with pedigree from the land. Smaller than the foreign ones, that’s for sure; but you’ll test them boy and you’re gonna tell me.
So I thanked him with a big smile, of course, almost rented a small van to carry’em home, kind of emptied a room just to store them, went shopping for an almond cracker… and here I am, cracking open the assuredly best almonds in the world, day after day, until God knows when.
My grandma used a hammer and was far much better at it than I am, but I’m sure enough she nevertheless will be proud to see her grandson doing something useful and laborius in his life for once at last.
(some spoilers below)
American Honey. Can there be romance, happiness, on a rundown bus and in dirty motels, selling mags?
King Jack. He just fell off his bike. That outmoded.
Eye in the Sky. You and me are not in that room.
Morris From America. Everyone should be a stranger some time somewhere.
The Shallows. Visually stunning.
Elle. Everything is unusual here: the approach to rape, to virtue and vice, to lesbianism, to work relations, even to religion and fatherhood.
Hell or High Water. Men in all ways authentic, for better and for worse. Superb acting and storytelling.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople and The Lobster. Essentially the same film —there’s no escape, period.
Nocturnal Animals. Failure to comply with the ancestral bases of both femininity and masculinity will lead to this mutual revenge.
Florence Foster Jenkins. Frears could have followed the usual cynical path but deliberately chooses to tell the story the benevolent way, what makes the film unique, and touching, funny and pathetic.
The Edge of Seventeen. Maybe the story is not about her, after all. Great performance again from Hailee Steinfeld (Mattie Ross in the extraordinary True Grit), and a good one from Blake Jenner (Everybody Wants Some, excellent film by the way).
The Christian afterlife tale. There’s Heaven, where the people you’ve loved and have loved you beatifically wait for you to join them in eternity —and, in the meantime, watch on you and talk to you and you talk to them and respond to them and only them; they laugh at you and you laugh with them, and cry as well.
That’s a selected group up there.
I’m in a process of purposeful de-intellectualizing.
My last morning ride came with an unexpected pleasure in the form of a little fatty robin I came across on the road. Not that I ‘d say the bird in question is rare or difficult to spot; but it was there, it was beautiful, and the encounter if you can call it so had some kind of intimacy about the way and the scenery and the slightly rough weather conditions at the moment it took place.
Rides are becoming a bit more adventurous as the winter little by little comes in. Roads are dangerous —always; now much more, even intimidating to tell you the truth. I learned it the hard way a few weeks ago.
These days, one very small slip of the mind is all it takes for you to be off and out and bruised if not broken. Concentration on the bike is king. Beware each and every moment if there’s wet on the road, on your tires; dirt in the form of pebbles, or fallen leaves, rocks, twigs, whatever. Mind the bumps and potholes; factor in the sharpness of the oncoming bend and the varying width of the road and find the right line while bending —incline at your own risk. And pray for gusts not to enter into the equation as the unknown.
Riding is less fun this way. But then there is the increased silence and quiet on the road and the thrill of both solitude and grayness on the hills, along with the welfare you get from those sunny winter mornings whenever you chance upon one on the right side of the mountain if you do.
And the robins of course.
Saturday morning ride, as Strava puts it. I spot some doodles on a traffic sign, Kill cyclists, then mended, Love cyclists.
FELLOW BIKERS. I can’t help noting most of the cyclists I bump into on the road are old men; that leaves me wondering in misery, whether this is just and old men’s sport or if the routes I take are so insultingly easy for the aficionados that younger cyclists avoid them altogether.
DEAR FELLOW BIKERS, young or old. Since a smile is obviously way too much to ask of you, what about just a simple, trifle, uncompromisingly merely-acknowledging nod when we run into each other? Won’t settle even for that?
ON THE ROAD. But I ride like a pro this time for the first time! I enjoy my way hills up, even attacking them although briefly at certain spots. I try to swing my body left or right on my way down and have a pleasant feeling of the road and the wind as a result. I don’t set my foot on the ground not a single time —and when I arrive at my destiny goal I feel strong enough to keep on going a little further up.
Saturday afternoon. Zidane orders Cristiano out of the field. He shows himself braver than I thought, but less intelligent?
Saturday evening. Steve Jobs—the film, the one from 2015. A fine work of dramatization, which manages to keep a high level of tension from start to end—kudos to the film editor and to the great performances both by Seth Rogen as Wozniak and Kate Winslet as Hoffman.
Sunday evening. The Emmys are around, and so many times J. said about watching The Americans but we didn’t, and what if it wins? So we hurry to watch its first episode and it’s not so good —almost quite bad, or worse —quite average.
And the Emmys… are you kidding me, Emmys? The almost insufferable season six of Game of Thrones takes it all? Come off it!
Monday morning. Three fourths into My Brilliant Friend by the ghostly Elena Ferrante and she tries but she doesn’t reach. Elena, if you want to succeed at depicting an irresistible power one person unwillingly, or not, have over another, just go and read the masterpiece —Maugham’s Of Human Bondage.
Speaking about ghosts, I have a feeling that a movie I saw a few months ago is better than the credit I gave it then —you know that when it comes back to you, unexpectedly: The Awakening.
Saturday morning. I go biking. On my way out of the city I see a female coworker in her way in to the city to waste some hours doing overtime at the so-called parking day in which some streets are emptied of cars and children are invited to be expected to what? Don’t play soccer don’t play rough don’t play un-inclusively no competition allowed everybody has their prize don’t dare go to the street beyond don’t do anything without adult supervision if you’re wronged come here my darling and tell your teacher. But at least she’s worth looking at, in passing.
Although I’m out of form, I try na Burguesa, the tallest peak around. I fail at 2/3rds of the summit. No fellow cyclists around, by the way, and definitely none of the ones carrying 3000 euros worth of equipment on them. Just one mountain biker on my way up and two on my prudish and ridiculously-paced way down.
Saturday evening. Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some. You end up wondering if you’ve been cheated into thinking you’ve just seen another no-brains movie or if, on the contrary, a very inconsequential film is infiltrated with very interesting dialog and scenography to make you think this isn’t another no-brains movie.
Sunday morning. I try my new gadget to clean windows—a windows sucker. You apply your ordinary windows cleaner to the glass and then you proceed to vacuum. And it works, actually better than expected.
Sunday afternoon. Rio Conchos. Not a bad story made into a very watchable western whose very most merit lies on the way their heroes are not.