Thursday, 30 July 2009

Summer Holiday: Cádiz

A Beach in Cádiz

"I said, that Juan had been sent to Cadiz -
A pretty town, I recollect it well -
'Tis there the mart of the colonial trade is,
(Or was, before Peru learn'd to rebel)
And such sweet girls - I mean, such graceful ladies,
Their very walk would make your bosom swell;
I can't describe it, though so much it strike,
Nor liken it - I never saw the like"

Lord Byron, Don Juan (Canto II, line 36)

I finally managed to get away for the weekend, since finishing university for the Summer. My friend Nacho has a house near Cádiz, in the south-west of the country. Now, considering Cádiz is an eight-hour bus ride from Madrid, I couldn't leave on Friday and had to be back in the capital for Monday morning due to work committments, I ended up only staying down south for a day. Nevertheless, one day of vacation is better than nothing at all.

Saturday 25th July, 11:00 - 19:30
Bus Journey. Spent the first half asleep and the second half reading. What else could I do?

Saturday 25th July, 21:00 - 02:00
Met and ate with Nacho and some of his friends from school. Nacho has a nice house in an urbanización (which roughly translates to housing estate, but in the upmarket, posh sense), and all of his friends, minus one, were incredibly sweet and hot. All straight, though. Urgh.

Sunday 26th July, 12:00 - 15:00
Beach. Swam in the sea a few times, mainly got submerged by the waves, in a fun kind of way (as opposed the frightful drowning kind of way), and sunbathed (ha!) while reading.

Sunday 26th July, 15:00 - 19:00
Nacho's pool. More swimming; more sunbathing; more reading.

Sunday 26th July, 20:00 - 22:00
Packed up, ate, played videogames and chatted with the guys.

Sunday 26th July, 22:30 - Monday 27th July, 07:00
Night bus back to Madrid. Not as uncomfortable as I'd feared, but hardly the most enjoyable experience.

Not my usual break, with a distinct lack of tourism, museum and theatre/art gallery visits, or sampling of local gastronomy, but given the circumstances, I won't complain. At least I had a break. Next stops: Segovia and Salamanca.

Oh, and did I mention the weather? 40-45ºC with not a cloud in the sky...

It's Called Satire...

Some heterosexuals engaging in a curious practice, yesterday

Let me make this absolutely clear: I've got nothing against straight people. Honestly, I'm ok with it. Some of my best friends are straight. I just don't understand this obssession they have with the idea of getting married!

Apparently, some of them want to do it, because they believe that a man and a woman should have the right to tie themselves to each other for the rest of their lives. Or at least until they get bored of it, in which case there is a little-known get-out clause called a divorce. What I don't understand, is why they see this as their right. Everyone knows it's more fun (and far less complex) to either sleep around or faux-commit to an exclusive relationship, and occasionally play around. Why on earth would you want to sign a piece of paper - a contract, if you will - saying that you promise to genuinely commit and not play around?

I mean, I can understand it, I just don't think it's right. Typically, though, the straights are a contentious bunch, and ever since the beginnings of their growing acceptance into mainstream society, they've been banging on about their "rights" to anyone who'll listen - and to most who aren't, but we pretend we are. I suppose they think that if they shout loud enough eventually they'll get what they want. I don't know, though: as progressive as I consider myself to be, some things are sacred, such as anonymous hook-ups, multiple sexual partners, all-night clubbing, bitching over wine, and reading salacious literature. After all, you don't see any of us rushing to tie the knot, so why should they?

What do you think? Let the straights marry, or continue our adherence to equality, and maintain the ban on heterosexual union?

Sick, wrong and weird: a man and a woman claiming to love, honour and obey for as long as they both shall live...

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Media Madness

News Brief is dead. Long Live Media Madness!

Esther "Rancid" Rantzen is to run for political office in Luton. In the style of Harry Enfield's character, Frank Self-Righteous: "Oi! Rantzen! NO!" Give 'er a slap...

"Oh no! Someone's written me a short email, which might have been written in a fit of pique! Help me!" Please. Grow a pair, get over it, and do your f@*king job.

"There's nothing like winning a part in Naked Boys Singing! to get you down the gym." Been there, done that...

I'm not sure if this is revolutionary or revolting. You decide.


The Guardian Online

El País Newspaper (articles in Spanish only)

Est. 1974

I don't want to use the word "best", but the echo still gives me the shivers...

Est. 1958

...and still going strong! My "Golden Era" was 1994 - 2000; favourite presenters: Katy Hill, Tim Vincent, Stuart Miles and Diane Louise Jordan. What about you?

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Video Nice, Video Nasty

This Week: (Barely) Digestible Philosophical Comedy

Ah, Monty Python! I won't even begin to try and explain Python - partly because I'll never be clever enough to fully understand it, myself.

One of my earliest memories of Python is of their fourth film Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. Admittedly not the usual favourite, often cited as the one that went too far, but maybe because this was my first contact with them I have a special fondness for the film.

This week's clip was a toss up, but I eventually chose this one for the final verse of the song. Watch, listen, enjoy...

BONUS: Here's the other clip. Always brings a smile to my face, this mini-feature (part two here).

Thursday, 23 July 2009


Part Two
October and November 2008

The Famous Edificio B (Literally "Building B") - The Faculty building where I had most of my classes

Looking back on my diary is fascinating. I was so relieved to finally be in Spain, I spent an entire month doing everything Spanish I could possibly think of. For my first weekend I went to a campsite a few hours north of Madrid for a weekend binge - that's right, barely unpacked and I was pissing Spanish wine into Spanish bushes for a Spanish weekend. I then went to Zaragoza, in the North-East of the country (close to Barcelona). After that, I spent the next two weekends on a bar-crawl, you know, just getting to know the city.

Of course, it was all drunken debauchery. By day, I would attend this place called University, at which I was requiered to read books, and comment on them in the native language among my fellow students and a teacher. I will never forget that first day at the Complutense. In the middle of the day, at least 200 students were packed into a lecture hall for a three-hour infodump on how to do everything at the university. It was the only time I'd come out from a lecture with a headache which had been caused from merely listening. Having said that, integrating into my classes was relatively easy, since foreign students were everywhere, and we had a month to settle and choose which classes we would take for the semester. Being a novice, I think it's safe to say my eventual choices were a little hit-and-miss. I hated two of them, absolutely loved one, and liked but couldn't keep up with the reading for two others. The eventual results didn't even reflect this, but it took me the first semestester to find my feet in UCM. I pretty much spent October to January trying to get to grips with the system, which certainly put me in good stead for the second semester; but that's for another day.

November got off to a good start, too. Without intention, I found myself in my first steady relationship: and with someone English, at that! Oh, the irony of three years of unsuccessful attempts in the UK, before giving up, going to Spain for a bit of fun, and shacking up with a Brit! C'est la vie, I suppose. Then Barack Obama won the Presidential election, and I made some long-lasting American friends.

Then I turned 21. The advantage: I'd come of age abroad, with all the possibilities that afforded me. The disadvantage: I hadn't any of my best friends around, and the friends I had made were relatively new, and weren't close enough for me to say what I would have liked to say on that day. Nonetheless, I had a great time, and my birthdays have never been all that, anyway.

Winter was approaching, and fast. Madrid is a city of extremes, and the weather is no exception. First came the wind, then the cold, then the rain. As with every winter, I began to fall into a slight depression, which was only exacerbated by the fact that I had been having trouble sorting my bank and visa issues out in time before the end of the year, and had my first bout of homesickness. As December rolled in, so too did my first real feelings of discontent...

Reflections Series

Part One: Summer and September 2008

Book Review: Landscapes of Memory

Landscapes of Memory: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered, by Ruth Klüger

Is it right to laugh at a Holocaust story? Is it wrong to not feel sympathy for certain people who - though certainly never deserving of such an horrific end to their lives - are described as being unpleasant? According to Elena Lappin's review of this book, in The Guardian, "the millions of Holocaust victims were not a dehumanised, faceless mass but real people, each a separate individual with his or her character and life story". In my humble opinion, the tragedy of the Holocaust springs from the flawed belief and fervent assertion that all Jews were essentially the same corrupt and detrimental influence on an otherwise great nation. The fact that each and every Jew who suffered the humiliation of a ghetto or concentration camp, or the ignominy of racially-motivated murder, was an individual, and therefore capable of being a nasty person in their own right is hugely important.

Klüger went through everything but the gas chamber, which she narrowly escaped due to a mixture of luck and paranoid foresight on the part of her mother Alma. Her father and half-brother were not as fortunate, nor were most members of her extended family, but at no point did I feel more sorry for them for being related to the author. In fact, sentimentality is thrown right out of the window, here. Küger is clearly keen to underline how history has made the Jews more victimised than the Nazis ever could. The overwhelming feeling transmitted is one of anger: anger at the Jews, Socialists and Communists, and all the other oppressed people for not getting up and saying "no", when they could; anger at her family for not escaping their native Vienna when they had the chance; and anger at her mother for frequently being a thorn in her side, juxtaposed with a very deep sense of love and respect, as well as gratitude for being her saviour. Despite all this anger, however, she doesn't blame. Blame, Klüger argues, is for those who didn't have to live through the experience, and therefore have the benefit of hypocritical hindsight to be able to afford the luxury of pointing fingers.

One of the press quotes provided with my copy says the following: "It is as important as The Diary of Anne Frank - and equally unforgettable." I would go further and say it is more important than Anne Frank's diary, precisely because Klüger was fortunate enough to achieve something the former never had the chance to do; namely, grow older and look back. Not for nothing is the book called Landscapes of Memory: Klüger writes about all stages of her life, and is able to compare her thoughts and feelings of the time with those of the present. She indignantly refuses to let others argue that her childhood was "stolen". Of course she had a childhood, but unlike her Aryan counterparts it was spent in less than desirable conditions. She had rivals, friends, crushes, secrets and angst just like any other teenage girl: the only difference was she was tattooed on her left arm and condemned to death.

The best word to describe this book is honest. I was left feeling angry that this had been allowed to happen; not thinking how sad it was, but how ridiculously unfair; not feeling sorry for the Jews and other minorities perscuted, but less respectful for any ideology which promotes scapegoating and persecution. As well as being informed, I was motivated to be aware of the dangers of something like this occuring during my own lifetime (which, unfortunately, it already is). This book is important for those reasons, and an excellent introduction to any literature which deals with the Holocaust.

Five Stars.

Today, the Unimaginable Happened...

What a Wonderful Feeling!

As I left my apartment, this morning, I was shocked by the sight of clouds and rain! In Madrid! In July! Were I in London or Edinburgh, this would have been more of a disappointment than a surprise, but MADRID! IN JULY!

I didn't even have anything appropriate. I had to dig out my old clothes to find my waterproof.

Ladies and Gentelmen, Damas y caballeros, Sanya's gone native...

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Est. 1963

No frills, no aspirations of grandeur, no story arcs. Just a good idea, creepy music, and some wierd effects on a black screen...

Film Review: Brüno

Sacha Baron Cohen in Larry Charles's Brüno (2009)

I like Sacha Baron Cohen; really, I do. However, as much as I hate to be a Negative Nancy, I must ask myself why I went to watch this film. Sure, there were laughs, but it wasn't that funny, overall.

After paying 6€ to see a film for which I thought I'd got free tickets (turns out there's only one participating cinema chain with the promotion in the entire city of Madrid), and settling down for an hour-and-a-half of what I hoped would be some cut-throat satire, I walked out of the building wishing I'd stayed at home and not bothered. Like I say, it wasn't that the film was bad - I wasn't even offended, since most of the time I was playing the "fake or real" guessing game - it just wasn't funny enough for me to want to go and pay for it.

Borat was better.

Summer Sex Sabbatical! Sort Of...

I couldn't find anything appropriate, so here's a photo of a deserted beach: Symbolism, people!

So, for reasons I won't go into, I'm taking a break from promiscuity. Don't worry, I'll still be me, just a little more frigid, that's all.

And before you ask, I've not got religion. I just feel it's time to take a break from screwing. How long do you think I'll last?

Friday, 17 July 2009

Video Nice, Video Nasty

A New Feature Containing Clips From the Inter-Web

This Week: Spoof Titles Sequence

Ah, Dallas! The show which, alongside Dynasty, epitomised the greedy, selfish, capitalist bent of the eighties. Now, my regular readers may well wonder why I would choose such a programme as the subject of my first entry into this catalogue, and they would be right to wonder. I've never watched either of the shows, and although I do love the soap opera genre in the way I like eating chocolate (enjoyable but in no way good for you), I'm more inclined towards the "gritty realism" of EastEnders than the "glitzy gala" affairs of the American output. Nonetheless, I am told the Ewings and the Carringtons made for great TV: just look at the ratings.

Another question people who know me pretty well may ask is that if I had to choose a television clip, why wasn't it one of Doctor Who? Another good question, and those who know me well will not be disappointed, for lo and behold, I've come across a fan-made Doctor Who/Dallas "mashup" title sequence! That's right, according to the creator of this piece, Who is "a show that's become more and more soapy as the years go by", and I would have to agree - not that that's a particularly bad thing; that's another debate entirely. In any case, it's a laugh.

So, without much further ado, I give you creativeg's interpretation of the future of Who. Enjoy.

And now for a game of Spot the Difference.

No, I couldn't tell, either...

J.R. Ewing and his family, in a tacky glitzfest some call television.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Poll Time!

Ballot Boxes: Democracy in Action

I was wondering if I should bother to continue blogging when I go home. I sarted this little exercise as a means of people at home keeping up with my life while I was away. Looking back, however, about 10% of my posts have actually been about Spain. I've mainly just used this as an opportunity to bitch, moan, gossip and get up on my soapbox to bleat my opinions about as if they mattered. I could do that anywhere.

The question is would you read it? Poll to the left: you have a month. Vote, damnit!

This is Some A-Grade Sh*t, Right Here

You get it if you get it. If you don't, forget it

So, for the first time in weeks, I actually managed to get everything I wanted done. I've spent my lunch and the following hours relaxing, and this evening I shall be reading in the late-setting sun on my balcony with an ice-cold glass of horchata (drink from Valencia: like milk, but made of nuts). Bliss.

One of my several paperwork issues, today, was to finally collect my grades from the entire year. I already knew most of them, since the teachers put up a piece of paper on their office doors so that their students can either lord it over the rest or publicly weep over their poor grades. I, however, need to put them all in a nice orderly list and send them to my UK university, so that they can be converted into British grades. In Spain, you get a number from one to ten, ten being the best of the best. In the UK you get a number between one and one hundred, one hundred being for the genius who is so clever he or she should run the entire world. The numbers also form grade strands. In spain these are Sobresaliente (Outstanding), 9 or 10; Notable, 7 or 8; Aprobado (Pass), 6; Suspenso (Fail), 5 and below. In the UK these are (typically, for the British) considered "classes": First Class is 70% and above; Upper Second Class (or 2:1) is between 60% and 70%; Lower Second Class (or 2:2) is between 50% and 60%; Third Class is between 40% and 50%; while anything below 40% is a fail. My UK university handily provided us with a conversion table, and now I know my entire year's results, I can work out my marks for each module and the mean mark for the year. Since all I seem to do, this week is list, here's another one for you.

First Semester

Novela hispanoamericana del siglo XX (20th Century Hispanoamerican Novel) - 9.5 (Sobresaliente) = 82% (First)

Literatura española y marginalidad (Spanish Literature and Marginalisation) - 7 (Notable) = 60% (2:1)

Teatro español del siglo XX (20th Century Spanish Theatre) - 6 (Aprobado) = 50% (2:2)

Second Semester

El teatro hispanoamericano (Hispanoamerican Theatre) - 10 (Sobresaliente) = 85% (First)

El cuento hispanoamericano (Hispanoamerican Short Story) - 9 (Sobresaliente) = 80% (First)

El ensayo hispanoamericano (Hispanoamerican Essay) - 8.5 (Notable) = 75% (First)

La mujer en la literatura española (The Woman in Spanish Literature) - 8 (Notable) = 70% (First)

Literatura española y cine (Spanish Literature and Cinema) - 8 (Notable) = 70% (First)

So, the pattern reveals that hispanoamerican literature is my forte, while my low mark in Spanish Theatre can be put down to me having been dumped into a new university with a completely different set of rules and regulations. Also, I stopped going to the classes, since the teacher just rambled on about stuff which had nothing to do with the class itself. I was bound to do worse in the first semester. However, I hadn't forseen just how well I'd do in the second. I was told by some of my spanish friends that marks like that are rare even for spanish students. Which leads me to conclude either I'm spectacularly intelligent, or a relatively-clever foreign student who piped up in class and got extra points with the teachers for it. I suspect the latter. No matter, my UK average mark is 71.5%, meaning that once again I have scraped a First Class mark, despite having been a layabout with a "selective" attendance record and far too opinionated in class for my own good.

My regular readers may be asking the question: "but what about that evil bitch from the bowels of hell who gave you such a hard time? Where are her marks?" Well - suprise, surprise - she failed me in both the classes I had with her, but it turns out I did more classes than I actually needed to. The minimum requirement for us foreign students is 6 or 7 classes, and I took 10, so I junked her classes from my official list, meaning that - officially, at least - I never had to deal with her. Up yours, Consolación Baranda Leturio! Even your machinations couldn't stop me!


Did that make any difference to your life? Probably not, but it gives me a chance to strut my intellectual stuff. As I have said before, I may not be intelligent, but I sure as hell ain't stupid.

Not bad for a boy who failed his first year at University.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Summer Reading

Books are great. Let me be more specific. Literature can sometimes be great. My regular readers may have noted I read quite a bit, what with it being par for my course of study. But even when I have to do it, I still enjoy it. Most of the time, anyway. This summer, I still have required reading for school, but I'm actually really excited by it all. I started the first two at the same time this week, and I'm already halfway through number two. Anyway, here's a list:

1) Christopher Marlowe, The Complete Plays (ed Mark Thornton Burnett) - Shakespeare's contemporary only wrote seven plays, but shades of his writing is seen in the former's work. Many Early Modern specialists think his is interesting enough to study because of this.

2) Ruth Klüger, Landscapes of Memory: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered - Not the happiest of subjects to immerse oneself in during summer, but I'm actually really enjoying it. Unsentimental, but honest and as justifiably angry as it should be.

3) Italo Calvino, If On A Winter's Night A Traveller - Meta-fiction at its best.

4) André Gide, The Immoralist - French and gay writer comes up with a novel about a man who decides to ignore all moral codes? Right up my street, then.

5) Stephen Vincent Benét, By the Waters of Babylon - The last of my required reading, it's about thirty pages long, so I'm hoping to get it done in a day.

6) JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - Say what you like, I like reading them. Also, with the film coming out, I can't bring myself to watch it before reading the original, so I know which bits they've left out and/or changed.

7) John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces - On the suggestion of a friend, I thought I'd pick up this little gem. It's won prizes, dontchaknow!

And a whole host of unfinished novels, plays and poetry books I bought over the course of the year.

What's the next level up from bookworm? Reviews as and when.

My Words Are All I Have

I can't quite remember who I may have heard say it, or where I may have read it, but avid readers should always have a crack at writing. So, once again, I'm going back to my roots, andin the absence of board-treading I'll be ferreting away at my computer or hunched over a notepad, scribbling with wild abandon. That's the hope, anyway. So, as if you cared, here's a list of what I hope to have written by the end of August.

1) One play - The idea for this came to me back in October, and I've been "working" on this since January, but now that summer has come, I can finally give it the attention it deserves. I shan't reveal what it's about, since that would be telling. Tough.

2) Two short stories - Both on the subject of travelling and individual experiences. One is based on an odd moment I wrote about, a few months back.

3) Two articles - That's right: commissions! Albeit unpiad, my friend's father has asked me to write about my experiences as a foreign student thrown into the Spanish university system. The other is a comparison of Hispanic and English literature. Fascinating, some of you must be thinking.

4) Two essay translations - I translate between languages for fun. No, really. To add to this embarrassing revelation, the essays are my own, written for school, this year.

I have given myself until the 31st of August, which, as of tomorrow is exactly eight weeks. Hmm...

What Do You want? I'm Busy.

I know how you feel, love

Don't say it, I know exactly what you're thinking: Where has Sanya been all this time? I ask myself the same question.

You see, in the last two weeks I have moved house, and found a new job teaching in a summer school situated an hour out of the city in a place called Pozuelo de Alarcón: a suburb so sunny and quiet I often wonder if its inhabitants are all members of a cult. Either that, or the adults are all terrified of a small cluster of children with pyschic abilities á la Village of the Damned. I doubt it, though, since half of the kids I'm teaching don't even have the mental capacity to repeat a simple phrase I write on the board. Perhaps they were the factory rejects.

Anyway, the point I'm making is that between my new job, freelancing, my reading (see above) and writing projects (ditto), as well as some other business I won't go into in public, I've very little disposable time. I will, however, try as hard as I can to keep the baying hordes of readers (all six of you) at bay. But if you're waiting for a long time, deal with it: it's a nice day, outside, go for a walk.

That is all; you may go.