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Preview: "... neither reveals nor conceals"

"... neither reveals nor conceals"

The internal life and external monologue of someone staying sane in an outpost of Europe.

Updated: 2014-10-14T22:00:58.583+03:00




For reasons that have to do mainly with appearance and ease of use, I have decided to move this blog to Wordpress.

Although this site will not be deleted, it is now closed.

Please update all your links to the new home.

In longhand, the new address is

So, see you there.



First thing yesterday morning, NL greeted me at work like this: "I never knew you had so much patience!". Later, a couple of people told me what a good listener I am. Then a different colleague, hearing me on the phone to a human lizard, exclaimed 'Ooh, how tactful you are'.

Is that me? Are you folks sure?

Fear overcame me yesterday morning when Jod told me a friend confessed to her that there is nothing more to sustain her in life but antidepressants and us. Relying on antidepressants is already bad enough, but relying on us... ?

In the evening I went to a beautiful talk (trying to expand my horizons here). That stupid git of a (probably) student saw fit to make three people stand up passing through on her way out during the question session, in her high heels negotiating the floor tiles. Four fucking minutes before the talk finished. I so much wanted to stick out my leg and make her trip, landing on her face of a blasé imbecile. Still angry.

Traffic jam. A woman jumps the queue and sneakily tries to wedge in front of me, but ends up to my left. I decide to give her neither the finger (Jod's road rage trademark), nor the Compatrido gesture (mine). I just stare at her in reprimand mouthing 'where do you think you are going?' to her.

No expression change, not a single muscle twitching. No expression, either. The queue moves about 20 cm forward. She tries again to wedge between mine and the car in front. I would not let her. I turn to her again and once more mouth: 'where do you think you are going?' The same death mask of a non-expression. I have seen that on Outposter drivers doing something antisocial too many times. Non-confrontation, passive aggression, levantine cunning.

The hopeless cow was still trying to join the queue when I last saw her in my rear view mirror.

I managed to find E Reader on the phone yesterday. She almost shouted in joy when she heard me. Ok, she is giving birth today (will they really go for 'Victor'? I still prefer 'Stephan') but that was not it. It was that moments before my phonecall W Boson was told he had got the job, the real one. "Friends who really love you just sense these things!" she exclaimed to W Boson, who was standing next to her. I was truly moved: that was a lot on her behalf in exchange for nothing.

The baloons are still lightly tapping against the ceiling, bonbon-coloured jellyfish floating inside the room, their swaying strings always tantalising Gizmo who is bent on chewing them to extinction.

All along the city walls



I went for my usual Sunday coffee and newspaper with pH. I had the camera with me, just in case I saw anything shootworthy. Walking towards the city walls, so that I take a shortcut to the café, from a distance I saw an Asian woman in second-hand jeans sort of just standing there. A passing car honked momentarily, she faced it. I thought she was waiting for a friend with a ride to pick her up, as she looked like a Philippina on her way to a Sunday prayer meeting, a party, or both. The car drove on, a fat elderly guy on the wheel.

The penny finally dropped. Yes, these women sauntering along part of the city walls on Sundays are indeed trotteuses. In broad daylight. In the crumbling heart of the city. A bit like in old Paris, although they are (too) modestly dressed here. While walking towards her I looked at the drivers checking her out. They were all elderly, none of them looking particularly (East) Asian. I was right. As I was a pedestrian, she didn't even look at me -- maybe I don't look like a punter, either. Just when I was passing by her, I caught her rehearsing the following line in English under her breath:

"It is forty pounds."

Are we all Danish?


No, especially if you ask the Danes themselves.

I like the Danish, especially their sometimes (very) warped sense of humour. Still, it is quite telling that both my good Danish friends are expats: one, the Hyporborean Hunter, has fled the country for the vast frozen expanses of (dependent) Greenland; the other is Henry's Stepmum, permanently living in England. They had both told me a lot about the Danish brand of xenophobia. Actually, Hyporborean Hunter, when I was after a job in Aarhus, warned: "Never attempt to speak Danish; they will appreciate more a foreigner speaking better English than them than one speaking non-fluent Danish."

Mexico City


Aerial photos of Mexico City, including some architectural and city planning oddities as well as extreme contrasts between opulence and desolation, via Attu's blog. I suggest you go straight to the slideshow.

On insult


I don't really like fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Muslims. I feel that the(ir) One God should smite them by throwing them, even temporarily, to the Hell they have prepared here on Earth for women, children, sexually active people of all orientations -- and many others. Still, I am in full understanding both of the right of free speech and of respect for others, their views and sensitivities (including theirs).

As I am not competent to comment on the recent events regarding the above tension between free speech and respect for others, I will quote Paul Postal, a very influential theoretical linguist. In a recent book of his, of a technical nature, he nevertheless dedicates the last chapter to discuss some guidelines by the Linguistic Society of America about avoiding sexist usage in Linguistics examples. I am not in position to comment on this topic, either, but I noticed a very interesting excerpt therein
Let me expand on the second point first. The guideline only addresses sexist usage. But it can hardly be doubted that many people are offended by some or all of the following:

a. obscenities
b. demeaning of certain racial, ethnic/religious/social/age, etc., groups or figures
c. criticisms of certain political/entertainment/sports figures
d. characterizations of people, real or not, in drastically unkind ways
e. demeaning of physical characteristics
f. articulation of certain political/social/moral views
g. denials of deity status to various claimed deities
h. denials of greatness in various endeavors
i. assertions/denials of quality of various products
j. assertions/denials of the sacredness of various texts
k. invocation of various national, ethnic, etc., stereotypes
l. calls for violence
m. linguistic depictions of sexual activity
n. calls for increased consumption of tobacco, cocaine, heroin, or high-cholesterol snacks
o. laws and proposals seeking to limit the rights of Americans with respect to firearms

There are countries where engaging in some of these activities not only pretty widely offends, it can get one killed. The list could be expanded essentially without limit. And that is the problem. If linguistic organizations and powers are to police examples so as to effectively reduce the possibility of offense, the scope of the necessary guidelines will be enormous. In fact, it could well prove impossible. The result of banning every sort of statement which could offend someone or even ‘many’ people would necessarily yield at best examples of enormous banality. What then if some people are offended by banal examples? More seriously, is the fact that no doubt many people are offended by obscenities to lead to a situation where it becomes impossible to publish linguistic studies of such forms?

What to do? [...]
That is the question.

Hobson's choice


In small places all over the world, when a new bar or club opens, everybody praises it and then they all proceed to go crowd it. For weeks people had been telling me to try the new Scarabbeo bar and the local listings magazine agreed. After theatre (Mc Donagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore, which was ok) and dinner at a newly-opened American diner (very good burgers but a tiny menu and, eventually, more of a glorified overpriced fast food place than a diner) we eventually headed straight there last Saturday.The place had a veneer of swankiness and taste. The music was unnecessarily noisy from a jumbled up playlist, whereas the place was irrationally organised, with overcrowed rooms next to empty unfurnished ones (no, the latter are not dancefloors). pH and me went to the bar. I asked for an "extra dry martini" (verbatim). "You'll regret it", said pH. I should have heeded his wise words. The bartender indeed asked me: "Ice?". Perplexed, I answered "er, no". I should have known right at that point, but then I looked up and at the other end of the bar was someone I know waving at me with her boyfriend. I waved back. Looking down at the bar I found my drink in a whisky glass and full of ice. I should have known right at that point. pH was in the process of paying, so I told the bartender she got it wrong. She gave me a 'be damned, you creep' look, shouted that she had never heard my answer, proceeded to take a new whisky glass and pour from a bottle of Martini Bianco, you know, the vermouth, passed it to me and sneeringly informed me it was on the house. I stood there agape, dumbstruck. Not wanting to make a fuss, I decided to once more bear it with a smile, grabbed the glassful of ice and Martini Bianco, leaving the complimentary one at the bar with the rude bartender, and joined the others at out prized table.The poor thing did not know what a martini is. Sure, where I come from bartenders sometimes do not know (exactly) how to mix a drink, either because you are a weird customer or because they just don't. So, they ask you. Not here. I sat down. I took a sip of the aperitif, for the first time in 15 years. I recalled immediately, in this cliched by now Proustian fashion, how vile Martini Bianco tastes straight. Only then did I erupt in fury. I severely and patronisingly scolded the hapless waiter who came over to furnish us with carrots and nuts and crisps and asked him to tell the bartender to come over to our table so that she can be told how to make an extra dry martini -- I was out of control. Of course nobody ever came over, so I spent the next half hour sulking and in furious silence. Then Jod got angry at my behaviour and we had one of our quiet rows which involves exchanging stares and making carefully nasty comments to others in a contrived mock-carefree way.Why does a drink matter that much? I am not an alcohol connoisseur, I am not bar savvy. I had no business ruining the good time of others and making a working person's life hard (I mean the waiter). But I am so tired of having to choose among, say, the same six bars to have a drink in and two clubs to go dance to -- none of which I would really hang out in, if I had a real choice. Especially given that we spend most of our weekend time working at home, so going out is precious. Especially given that it's all a bloody lottery: if you are lucky, it might just happen the right crowd gathers in one of the few places you have a limited choice among -- and you are there, too. So, given we already have to settle for less, rudely being given the wrong drink can make me feel really miserable and retrospectively angry. (Plato's Bar in the Old City make very good martinis, exactly as ordered. I may give Scarabbeo a second chance but next time I will order a Carlsberg. Bottled.)Today it was Jod's turn. We were driven to the mountains through a downpour by NewYorker (she is one of our three Outposter friends) to[...]

In Black and White (?)


Israel is a soft target: not only because of the obvious reasons but also, resentfully, because many of its critics are in fact denigrating it as a way to express their own antisemitic feelings. In this light, I think the following report on the relations between South Africa and Israel in the 70s and 80s is both informative and thought-provoking as well as balanced.

Coming home


I had been warned beforehand that Jod would be taking a nap, five hours of sleep only go that far. I quietly turned the key, at 6:30 pm the living room was dark although the curtains were still open. My eyes got used to the darkness; actually it was not complete as streetlights and neighbours' lights glowed through the window. A very urban kind of diffused glow, assuring. The room was warm and peaceful, the meagre lighting making it feel like a comfortable and safe place out of a dream. I stood there briefly; before moving, Gizmo made a brief comment alerting me of his sprawling presence on the rug: he seems to have figured out that our eyesight is not as good as his, having been stepped on in the dark so many times. Then Jod's mobile on the sofa lit up, considerably illuminating the room and vibrated vigorously. I encased it between my palms, waiting for the persistent unknown caller to give up. It stopped, the flat became quiet and almost dark again, although populated. I cannot say I did not feel happy right there and then.

I went to the bedroom and found an inlet on the duvet shaped by the body beneath it and lay there, in the manner of the cat. After a while I whispered:

"Do you want to wake up?"



This goes out to Viennese Rhino & Harvard Nun, lately of Providence, Rhode Island, true friends, with love.

We'll be back, or you will. Or we'll meet halfway. Whichever. To be sure, let's fix an appointment here,


or even here.


[Insert timely quotation here]


Internal life on a crisp sunny Sunday: random thoughts and sayings.


"... others which have no hope"


"Am I not an insecure person? Do I look like I'm feeling insecure right now? There must be a reason."




"there is such a thing as a correct mistake"


For the first time in years, I am optimistic.



Loxias is sad this morning. He is sitting in his office staring out of the window at a place he has struggled to put up with, and failed. He is wearing a suit, ready for a press conference, he looks at his To Do list, he thinks in dread of a long dry stifling summer ahead.

Loxias is fearful about the future, about the strength of tensile materials -- like humans are. Loxias was sobbing yesterday, after a sweet and soothing conversation even, while dark was falling in the room, he even screamed, like a child who had just lost a parent. "We have achieved nothing here, except getting this stupid cat" -- who was poignantly asleep at the time. "Enough with conclusions, what are we going to do?", a call for action, what Hamlet is struggling to avoid.

Loxias is trapped in the future. Loxias is tired of persevering and rationalising and bearing it with a smile. Loxias feels alone and fearful of the future this morning, the part of the future that matters most. He is already tired of the past, of advice, of patience.

This is not an anniversary post, as you might think it would be: I only realised while writing this that it's four years today in this miserable exile that has corroded us inside. I wrote this as an exercise in self-pity and as yet another gimmick to muster strength.



Yes, yes!

Thanks to theGoose!

Ignorant (et ignorabunt)


One striking fact about the majority (maybe) of Outposters is their blinding ignorance on matters of what we usually call general knowledge coupled with a sense of their country being the undisputed centre of the world (whereas everybody else knows it is Ojai, California). I have said bits and pieces on the matter before, but it is a topic that inevitably keeps resurfacing.

There is a wealth of anecdotes on the matter, most of which come from perplexed and bewildered Outposters themselves (e.g. "the idiot thought the Principality has a Prime Minister, she's lived here all her life, for *^#%*$#@$ sake!"). Recent examples include yet another student (I mean, they are supposed to read books, right?) who asked her teacher of Spanish what part of Spain Latin America is in and a candidate in a competition for a Propaganda Ministry job consistently translating the term for United Nations into English as 'United States'.

I don't want to dwell on more of the colourful examples; their plentiful abundance making itself manifest every now and then has lost all novelty by now: I have been here for four years (sigh). I am only interested in why there is so much ignorance. I think I can identify two reasons:

a. Outposters do not seem to be interested in whatever takes place beyond the horizon of their everyday experience. Recall that, for most of them, 'kids, houses, food, chauvinism' is all that matters. In this respect they are not really exceptional or even different from, well, quite a lot of human beings. However,

b. Outposters are raised in a society where criticism is actively discouraged in education, society, politics and relationships and this culture of anti-criticism is quite pervasive and, at the end of the day, oppressively inculcated. Naturally, there are discernible reasons for that: a recent colonial obscurantist past superimposed on a sturdy quasi-feudal socio-economic organisation (with the Church as a major player) would make any criticism very unwelcome anywhere. Moreover, this being a small, family-oriented, social-network powered place with a violent recent past of abject poverty for most, criticism would be corrosive of highly prized power relations and social dynamics: your butt of jokes is someone's relative, and you somehow rely on this person, your one-night stand is someone's daughter / sister (male perspective assumed throughout, of course), and so on.

Introvercy and a culture of anti-criticism hardly encourage anything but reproducing the ideology, especially in a rote fashion. In our case (and others), we are dealing with an ideology featuring a formulaic and distorted interpretation of the world in black-and-white, a sentimentalist iconography and irrational foundations, as well as disdain for excessive 'detail' and 'useless 'information.

Other people's crimes are heinous


Dedicated to devious diva and her (online) struggles.

I have finally found time to locate the link to an extremely important article on Orhan Pamuk, Turkish crimes and the British way of doing genocide (and then going on to hush about it).

American Memory V


I marvelled at many things but I only learned one: that Europe is miserable in at least one thing, namely the morosity, Angst and bile of its intelligent and cultured people (or, really, every European, bar the Portuguese). Plainly put, if you are intelligent and / or cultured in Europe, you cannot be happy, you cannot be fun, it is inconceivable that you may smile or be pleasant. You must be possessed by the sullen spirit of Schopenhauer, you must look at the world throught the eyes of Raskolnikov, you must despise the world more intensely than that poor fictional New Yorker, Holden Caulfield, you must despise it at least as much as Nietzsche.

America taught me (Boston first and New York definitely) that you can be of a happy and kind disposition even if you are intelligent and cultured. Also, sullenness and grumpiness or pose, rudeness and obfuscation can hardly conceal emptiness and stupidity. In America. In Europe they are sufficient hallmarks of a true intellectual.

American Memory IV



American Memory III


The Garage jazz bar: cool place, relaxed crowd, great martinis, delectable jazz. A trio: a black guy (bass), a white guy (piano), an asian guy (drums). A singer: looking like Morrissey in 15-20 years. On Seventh Avenue at (roughly) 12th St.


Update on 31.I.2006: actually it is at Grove St., very close to Bleecker St. Hyperlink added, too: even memories can use a hyperlink.

American Memory II


Walking in the street and understanding, for the first time, why The Battle Hymn of the Republic is maybe as important -- and as (excessively) iconic -- as L' Internationale. Among other things, it is a candid and clear voice from a time when American Protestants were all for Civil Rights.

American Memory I


Waking up to rush to a bagel breakfast, turning on the TV, we saw this.

It's a small world, after all


On Friday, Zapata, St and One of the Seven agreed to join us to listen and dance to Winding Corridors, a live band playing anything from '80s and '90s music to disco and heavy metal. Jod and me first went to the theatre, then to a Mexican restaurant. By the time we were ready for some dancing, Zapata had fallen asleep at his home, after having watched Sin City on DVD and St had relapsed into her Yuletide tonsilitis complete with a fever. She also stayed home. One of the Seven made it with two female friends and a male one named after the natural border between Greece and Turkey (imagine: "My name is Bond, Pyrenees Bond" -- something like that).

A lot of dancing ensued. In fact, at a given moment I found myself dancing next to a political party leader (right-wing fearmonger, if you ask me) and his scantily clad party youth overlords. Then we spotted Jod's German classmate from her Spanish lessons, who said she had had enough of the Outpost and was so bloody out of here. During "Play that funky music, white boy", someone I came very close to having fired just before Xmas (I have no executive powers to sack anyone), came to the floor and said hi to me, too. Last but not least, one of the band's two singers is a newscaster by day, presenting the Principality TV's English-language news.

Ha, beat THAT, New York. Eat the Outpost's dust (it's got plenty of the stuff, too).

More New York photos


I am posting some more photos from the recent New York trip, this time of a more personal character.First of all, some exhibits from the Met.The following is a classical Greek head, which I found curiously dramatic and with a very modern feel, the face half-covered with a veil seemingly blown by the wind.Two of my favourite paintings by Courbet.Closely observed Pollock.A stained glass window from Prague, from the time it was the imperial capital (of the Holy Roman Empire).A miserable looking flag of the Vatican, soaked in the rain.Looking out from the Skylight diner.Two shots from Central Park.More truths about sex, life and the like from a bookshop shelf (click to enlarge):From the International Center of Photography shop.Skating in Bryant Park.Red carpet in Bloomingdale's.The following three are exhibits from the MoMA exhibition on safety in design and design for safety, "Safe: Design takes on risk". The first is a set of stickers to protect us from overexposure to TVs and PCs.The second is quite touching, a low elevated pedestal emitting heat and light for street-walking sex workers to stand and rest on, providing comfort and a sort of 'safe space' for them. I found this a very touching piece of design because it bears witness to (unfortunately limited in our societies) sensitivities for the weak. The symbolic and, maybe, also practical significance of a space like this becomes even more relevant in a world swept by trafficking and sex trade (perhaps slavery for our times).What the following is is evident and, at first blush, very funny. My mirth was curbed when I learnt that it can be a life-saving device for populations, especially African women, unfamiliar with the subtleties of latex rolling on impatient members. In other words, the thingy below can contribute to the correct putting on of a condom, 'correct' here entailing the difference between life and AIDS. Intriguingly sobering.Finally, nostalgically and with love, the reading room of the New York Public Library.I will have to tell you about New Yorkers some other time, I now have work to do (yes, at home).[...]

Just old books


From the British Library.

Leaving Manhattan


I was planning a series of posts when I was there. One for each day. They would be numbered and be named something boisterous, like New York Chronicles, or so. Still, a few hours ago I told Jorge:"I do not know what to write about the trip. Or the city.""Don't worry, it will all ooze out in time.""But I do want to post something on New York now!""Well, just post some pictures."Same old kind of advice. But I followed it. So, here.First, the obligatory shot of Times Square.Tango behind a shop window, advertising some show.Looking up from Bryant Park.A virtual convergence (?), from the Lower East Side.However, some Americans seem to have got it right (from the Coliseum bookshop).Our favourite New York landmark.More of the 'alzarsi perpendicolarmente' business here.A view from Brooklyn Bridge,and another one.An urban landscape from within MoMA,and from Central Park.Pure Upper West Side.The Angel of Bethesda (also known as 'I, I, I...')Ascending Guggenheim crowds:Views from the Empire State Building.Looking Northwest, to Times Square.Looking Northeast, to the Chrysler Building and Queens.Looking Southwest, towards Chelsea.Looking down.Finally, I think the quote of this trip is by Jod, while waiting for the subway and as a response to a Chinese fiddle playing in the station:"This music makes me wanna pee."[...]