On Poetry and Culture Shock

Culture Shock (Comedy of manners)


I cannot show you just now the best photograph I've ever been in. I'll describe it to you. 

It's in black and white and I'm in a living-room, on a big armchair,  next to a balcony, which is on the left of the picture and floods the room (and me) in light. I'm sitting on one of the armchair's arm, feet on the seat, legs open at a right angle for balance. My body is facing the camera, but I'm not at all aware of the photo being taken. I'm eating a yoghourt, looking at the pot, and I look very happy, with a sort of Mona Lisa smile. My memories, other photos, my haircut, allow me to infer that I must be less than ten years-old; almost ten at the most. Nevertheless, since I was a big tall child I look a few years older even though you cannot see or guess the tiniest trace of puberty.  

In this photo, I'm stark naked.  The picture was taken by my father.

I wish I could show this picture to you; I wish we lived in a world that appreciated innocence as it deserves.


No os puedo enseñar ahora mismo la mejor foto que nadie me ha hecho nunca, así que os la describiré.

Es en blanco y negro y estoy en un salón, en un sillón grande, al lado de un balcón, que está a la izquierda de la imagen y llena la habitación de luz (y a mí, así que salgo blanca brillante). Estoy sentada en un brazo del sillón, con los pies en el asiento, con las piernas abiertas en ángulo recto para mantener el equilibrio. Tengo el cuerpo dirigido de frente a la cámara, pero no me estoy dando ni cuenta de que el fotógrafo está ahí. Me estoy comiendo un yogur, tengo cara de felicidad y una media sonrisa en plan Mona Lisa. Mis recuerdos, otras fotos, y sobre todo mi corte de pelo me ayudan a determinar que en esa foto tengo como mucho un poco menos de diez años. Sin embargo, como era una niña alta y grande parezco varios años mayor a pesar de que no haya ni rastro de signos de pubertad. 

En esta foto, estoy completamente desnuda. La tomó mi padre. 

Me gustaría poder enseñárosla. Me gustaría vivir en un mundo que apreciara la inocencia como se merece.




This is worthy of Merece la Pena , the cutest blog in the world, but I saw it first so I'll post it. 

Two young people, with mid-teens acne, although they seemed to be slightly older. Both chubby. He had his arms around her shoulders and she had her face cradled on her neck in such a way that she could hardly see the street. Even though their position sounds awkward, they were walking in perfect unison, one of those couples that seem to have been designed so that their bodies fit each other. But the thing that called your attention was that both were wearing matching Blind Guardian T-shirts.

Because geeks also have the right to find love and a shoulder that fits.  


Esto debería estar en Merece la Pena, mi nuevo blog favorito, pero yo lo vi primero, así que allá va.  

Dos adolescentes, con el acné brutal típico de los diecipocos, pero con cara de más mayores. Los dos tirando a gordos. Él tenía un brazo echado por encima del hombro de ella, que tenía la cabeza encajada en el cuello de él de forma que iba andando sin ver nada. Aunque pareciera una posición rara para andar, iban andando perfectamente sincronizados. Una de esas parejas que parece que los han diseñado uno a la medida del otro. Pero lo que llamaba la atención es que los dos llevaban camisetas casi iguales de Blind Guardian

Porque los frikis también tienen derecho a enamorarse y a encontrar un hombro de su medida.  


Women and friendship

What I'm going to say doesn't apply to children at all. Some little girls have a preference for active, sporty, or rough games and it is natural that they gravitate towards little boys and "boys' games". This only applies to women over 14.

Sometimes, you find a woman who tells you that it has always, always been easier for her to make friends with men than with women; some even say that they have no female friends at all. The second part of the statement tends to be that they make friends with men more easily because men are more sincere, more honest, more trustworthy and a lot less frivolous than women. These poor male-friendly little things are misunderstood by evil backstabbing women. Sniff.

What I see once and again in women who say this is that they are a very specialised type of attention seeker: to them, only male attention counts. They are mysoginists, not because they assume women to be shallow and treacherous, but because female attention, love or care can never be good enough.


Lo que voy a decir a continuación no se cumple en niños. Siempre hay niñas chicas que prefieren deportes, juegos activos o directamente un poco bestias y es natural que se lleven bien con los niños y los "juegos de niños". Esto sólo va para mayores de 14.

A veces te encuentras a una mujer que te dice que para ella siempre ha sido mucho más fácil llevarse mejor con hombres que con mujeres; algunas dicen que no tienen amigas-mujeres. La segunda parte de esa declaración tiende a ser que es asñi porque los hombres son más sinceros, más directos, de mayor confianza, y mucho meons frívolos que las mujeres. Estas pobrecitas chicas tan amistosas son unas incomprendidas, maltratadas por mujeres malas. Sniffff.

Lo que veo una y otra vez en esta clase de mujeres es que son un tipo muy especializado de gente necesitada de llamar la atención. Para ellas, sólo cuenta la atención masculina. Son misóginas, no por dar por sentado que las mujeres son superficiales y traicioneras, que también, sino porque para ellas, la atención o el cariño de las mujeres no es suficiente, ni lo bastante bueno.

What makes us humans?

I have heard "Art is what makes us human" "humans are the only animals that laugh" and similar proverbs. Today after a long lunch with a lovely friend I ended up thinking that friendship make us human.

In purely animalistic /materialistic terms, there is no need for the existence of friendship. Workmates are necessary: we need to cooperate in order to survive. Families are necessary: we live with other people to make the most of the resources. Love is a glorification of the sex drive. But... friendship? there is no cooperation-in-order-to-survive and no sex involved. So, in animal terms, there isn't much of a point. 

Do animals have friends? I don't think so. For that to be possible, a couple of animals wouldn't need to cooperate in order to obtain food. Gregarious birds, or a pack of wolves, even without blood ties, are not friends but workmates, because the essence of friendship is the fact that it is not necessary. Like Art and laughter....


Geek pride day

Today is Geek Pride Day, a bit of a joke that some people are taking very seriously. The celebration is today, I think, because it's the anniversary of the 1977 release of Star Wars. I'm never been much of a Start Wars fan; as a child, I associated it with kids older than me. I mean, I was born that year.

Anyway. Zifra gives us a meme to tell what is the geekiest object we own. Do I count? Am I a geek, a "friki" as we say in Spanish? Friki is sometimes used to mean "fan, fanatic, obsessed", even about things that are not tipically related to geeks. Anyway, I'll pretend I count as a geek in several different counts.

Fantasy Literature: I own a photo of Terry Pratchett holding my ID card because someone took the picture as a surprise for me while I was at work. I also have two books signed by the man himself.

Music: I have Peel Slowly and See by the Velvet Underground, a humungous CD set. And I do listen to it, but I'm careful, so the banana is still attached to the front.

Blogosphere: I own a Limited Edition Gapingshirt. Mine is the "I can't take this shit anymore" one. And I have worn it to work. It was a mistake to throw away the limited edition certificate, but I think mine is number 17 or so.

Literature: A very early edition (1943) of T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets; it's identical to the first edition but it doesn't say "First American Edition" on the copyright page.

Random: is a Swiss Army Knife a geeky thing if I carry it on me at all times?

Edited to add: How could I forget my collection of the Cookie Monster stuff? According to Raven, I have the geekiest wallet in the world. It's black and the Cookie Monster is embroidered on it. I also have a cookie monster metal box, two frosted glasses, and a Sesame Street mousepad with the Cookie Monster, Elmo, Ernie and Big Bird on them (el monstruo de las galletas, Elmo, Epi y Caponata). 



"Guiri" is local slang for foreigner, especially a tourist. My friends disagree on whether foreigners who aren't Caucasians are guiris. The term is humourous and mildly negative.

The last trend I have seen in guiris: when a family has little girls, they are wearing the traditional dress that us locals only wear on a couple of holidays a year. Definitely not on a normal day out. Besides, the dresses look odd in the children because they are supposed to be very, very tight, but the guiris wear them like you would a normal dress, slightly loose. I still haven't decided if this is all ludicrous or kind of cute.

New York??

It's not that I'm the biggest expert on New York City; far from it. But yesterday I was shocked (culture-shocked, of course) when I was driving, listening to the radio, and I heard a truly absurd description of New York in a Spanish pop song. The song was good enough in itself, a bittersweet complaint from a man who has left his life in Spain behind in order to go and live in NYC with the woman he loves. The chorus says: 

Iré tan pronto como pueda donde hablen español
estoy viajando, como un tonto que ha llegado a Nueva York
Hay mil tiendas de pistolas, rascacielos de cartón,
y la verdad es que tuve miedo en el avión

I'll go as soon as possible somewhere where people speak in Spanish,
I'm travelling, like a fool in NYC
there are thousands of gun dealers, cardboard skyscrapers,
and the truth is, I was afraid during the flight.

Erm... I didn't see a single gun/weapons shop in my stay in town and I think it's not easy to buy weapons in New York State. Besides, it is obvious to anyone who has spend more than an hour in New York that all you have to do to find people who speak Spanish as a native language is maybe go to the north of Manhattan. It's amazing what people will assume when they apply a stereotype to a whole country.


Love and statistics

In a previous Seville bloggers meet, Zifra and Luis taught me The Prisoner's Dilemma. In the most recent one, Zifra made me think again about human relations in challenging ways. 

When a couple hugged I said that the more happy couples are there in the world, the more statistically probable it is that single people will end up in a happy couple themselves. Zifra, who happens to be a Math professor, said I was wrong: the more couples there are, the less chances single people have of ending up in a couple because there are less singles available. Who is right?

Both of us are because we were talking about different things. Zifra referred to available, single people: evidently, in a world with plenty of singles it is easier to find a partner. But I was not talking about simply pairing up: I believed that every happy couple is a small piece of evidence of the existence of love. The more loving couples there are, the likeliest it is that true love exists. Zifra never said a word about love, though...

Sevilla: Blogger's Meet, Ninth Edition.

As on a previous occasion, an excepcional bilingual post because this is mostly of interest to local readers but I can't bring myself to make it Spanish only. Scroll down for the English version.

Ayer asistí a la Novena Zifras y Letras, nombre que damos a las reuniones de blogueros de Sevilla porque se convocan en el blog de Zifra. Esta vez había dos convocatorias, día y noche, y se daba por hecho que los mañaneros iríamos a las dos. Lo curioso de una quedada de blogueros como ésta es que lo único que, en principio, todos tenemos en común, es entusiasmo por un tema concreto, entusiasmo bastante como para tener la paciencia de escribir gratis sobre el tema, y por otro lado, exhibicionismo. Si juntas a un montón de gente que es inteligente, entusiasta y exhibicionista es como estar en una fiesta de Hollywood, pero sin la neurosis de la competición por el próximo contrato. Ayer estaba la gente especialmente inspirada y todos teníamos complejo de Oscar Wilde. ¿A quién le damos el premio a la frase más lapidaria?

En fin. Quedada diurna: llego tarde, con Tulio, que conoce a varios pero nunca ha ido a una quedada. Cervecería Macarena: Allí nos esperan Zifra, RaveN, marh (aún sin blog) y Maruja. Luego llegan Hamlet, Luis Rull y la chica que deja que lo acompañe, que está más guapa de lo que yo la recordaba, que ya era mucho. Conversaciones sobre navajas: la de Maruja es más grande pero la mía es más práctica. Sobre tiro con arco: resulta que para practicarlo hay que hacer un ejercicio que te cambia de sitio un músculo del brazo. Ayyyy qué repelús, prefiero seguir practicando los brazos de serpiente. Tulio ha ido de caza una vez en su vida porque hay afición en su familia, y el fantasma de una codorniz que mató aún le persigue. Pobrecito. Se desahoga llamándome fenicia porque estoy vendiendo pendientes. Maruja se va a comer a su casa, prometiendo que vuelve después de comer. Mientras, hay pelea por su mechero, porque es naranja...

Le enseño a Tulio y RaveN qué es el Masmoudi de dos dum (es un ritmo de danza oriental) con una demostración práctica. Zifra dice que la realidad lo supera. Vamos a comer a donde dicen RaveN y Marh. Se equivocan de calle: hemos dado la vuelta a dos barriadas y creado el Trekking y Letras. Se nos unen el Arcángel y Guille. Nos ponemos púos de comer y empezamos a hablar de blogs, un poco, no mucho. De trolls, de Menéame. Decidimos que si son grandes, verdes, y no son dulces, entonces son plátanos macho. Alguien dice "Hay gente muy cochina que son muy guays". No, yo tampoco lo entiendo. Pasamos revista a grándes éxitos de los 80, cuando los presentes teníamos entre 5 y 15 años. Intento convencer a Eva de que se decida a bailar danza oriental ya.

El mendigo que llega y nos dice algo así como que es un día precioso. Se pone a cantar. Cuando acaba, dice que "como nos ha visto así en familia, pues se ha dirigido al cabeza de familia". ¿alguien adivina a quién se refería?

Empezamos a decaer, el calor no perdona. Tetería, cachimbas, siesteo, más frases lapidarias. Casi todos se dispersan, y sólo RaveN, marh, Tulio y yo nos vamos al Utopía. Pufs, más siesta. Y así llegamos a la segunda convocatoria.

Cuando los cuatro Utópicos volvemos a la Cervecería Macarena, ya estaban allí Marcos, Pablo, uno que toma servesita y Coquevas. No sé si fue Coque o quién, que se juntó con Tulio y sacaron a relucir vena friki: recitadores de Les Luthiers. Se pusieron a hablar en su idioma particular y tuvimos que dejarlos solos hasta que se calmaron. Después, la inevitable conversación sobre Lost. ¿por qué los fans de otras series hablan de la serie y los fans de Lost sólo hablan de cuándo van a poder ver más capítulos? ¡Son adictos peligrosos!

Va llegando tanta gente que pierdo la cuenta. Nos disgregamos en grupitos pequeños: los que hablan en un extraño idioma que creo que es linusero, los que han estudiado letras, los que se conocen fuera de la blogosfera. Me quedo fascinada por la acompañante de un bloguero: todos los niños tienen terrores, y uno de los míos cuando chica eran las alergias. Soy hija de médico y de un alérgico a mi fruta favorita, así que pensaba en la posibilidad de que alguien pudiera ser alérgico a todo. Esta chica es alérgica (creo) al contacto de todos los metales y todos los animales. Dice que la reacción cutánea a casi todo se llama "síndrome de piel de princesa". Google no lo sabe. Es como si me hubieran dicho que verdaderamente existen los monstruos de debajo de la cama .

Tardamos un siglo en ir a cenar porque somos casi treinta. Zifra me dice que necesitan un líder y creo que me toca: me junto demasiado con RaveN, ¿esperan de mí la misma decisión? RaveN nos busca dónde cenar. Mientras tanto, lesiono sin querer a JaMaRiEr pero me perdona y se pone a hacernos trucos de magia a Coque, a Maruja y a mí. ¡Le salen muy bien! A RaveN le da envidia y se pone a hacer figuritas con globos (que también le salen muy bien, no se me vaya a poner celoso).

Cenamos por fin. Los recitadores de Les Luthiers se ponen a cantar algo que no es de Les Luthiers pero lo parece sobre uno que quiere ser cura. Panda frikis. Encima se ponen a hablar del Día de la Toalla y a hacer chistes de autoestopista galáctico. Huyo de una conversación sobre el estado de la Universidad española...

y aterrizamos en La Caja Negra, un bar demasiado pequeño para bailar y demasiado ruidoso para hacer otra cosa. Digo que me voy y alguien que no nombraré me hace un chantaje emocional digno de una mujer, y además estoy en medio de un abrazo de oso colectivo, así que me quedo. Nos vamos a Alamey, que tiene unos sofas larguíiiiiiiiisimos. Resulta que la chica de piel de princesa también baila la danza del vientre. Uau. La gente se ha ido marchando poco a poco, a goteo. Cuando yo me voy, quedan menos de diez personas, todas diciendo que se irán enseguida.

La próxima, ¿cuándo?


*  *  *  *   

Yesterday I attended the Ninth Zifras y Letras, the name we give to Seville blogguer's meets because they are announced in Zifra's blog. This time there were two meets, day and night, and it was taken for granted that lunch people would go to the dinner. The funny thing about a blogger's meet is that the only thing we had in common, to start with, was enough enthusiasm about one topic to be willing to write about it for free, and exhibitionism. If you get together a lot of intellingent, enthusiastic and exhibitionist people, it's like being at a Hollywod party but without the neurosis of competition for the next big role.  Yesteerday everyone was especially inspired and everyone wanted to be Oscar Wilde. ¿Who gets the prize for the wittiest punchline?

Anyway. Day Meet: I get there late, with Tulio, who knows some people but hasn't been to any previous Z & L. Cervecería Macarena: There we find Zifra, RaveN, marh (not a blogger -yet) and Maruja. Later, Hamlet, Luis Rull and the girl who lets him follow her around. She's prettier than I remembered, and that's a lot. Conversation on knives (the sort that bends on itself and you can carry on yourself) Maruja's is the biggest but mine is so practical. On shooting with a bow & arrows: it turns out that to have to do some exercises to change the natural position of a muscle in your upper arms. Eeek, I'd rather keep doing snake arms, thank you.  Tulio has gone hunting once in his life and the ghost of the partridge he killed still haunts him. Poor little dear.  He takes out the stress on me, calling me phenician because I'm selling jewellery. Maruja leaves and promises she'lll come back in the evening. There's a bit of a row about her lighter, because it's orange...

I show Tulio and RaveN what's a Masmoudi and why it is great (it's a belly dance rhythm) with a practical demonstration. Zifra says we're weirder than any fiction. We go for lunch to the place recommended by RaveN y Marh, but they get lost: we go all the way around a whoe neighborhood, inventing Trekking and Letras. Arcángel and Guille join us. We eat loads and loads of nice food and we start talking about blogs, but not too much. Trolls, Menéame. We review Greatest Hits from the Eighties, when all present were 5 to 15 years old. I try to convince Eva that she should try start bellydancing ASAP. 

A beggar comes and sings to us. When he finishes, he says that he thought it appropriate to sing to the head of the family. ¿guess who he meant?

Everyone's sleepy, it's too hot. We go to a Moroccan-themed tearoom, with those funny water-filled smoking things. More laughs. Nearly everyone leaves; only RaveN, marh, Tulio and me go to Utopía. And so we get to the evening meet. 

When we four Utopians get back to Cervecería Macarena, Marcos, Pablo, servesita and Coquevas were already there. Maybe it was Coque, I'm not sure, joined Tulio and they sang Les Luthiers songs for a while. Later, they had the obligatory Lost conversation. ¿Why fans of other shows talk about the show, but Lost fans talk about when they'll be able to watch new installements? ¡They dangerous addicts!

So many people arrive that I lose count. People dissolve into small groups: the ones who talk weird foreign languages that sound, I think, like Linux; the ones that know each other from outside the blogosphere; the ones that have studied Humanities. I'm fascinated by a blogger's friend: all small childrne have terrors, and of of mine as a little one was allergies. My mother's a doctor and my father's allergic to my favourite fruit, so I used to think about the possibility of somone who was allergic to everything. This girl is, I think, allergic to the touch of all metals, and all animals. She says that the skin reaction to nearly everything is called "princess skin syndrome". Google doesn't know a word about it.  I feel as if I had found out that there actually are monsters under the bed.

We take forever to figure out where we're going to have dinner. Zifra wants me to choose: I'm spending too much time with RaveN and they want me to be like him. RaveN eventually finds us a Mexican. Meanwhile, I inadvertently kick JaMaRiEr, but he forgives me and does some magic tricks for Coque, Maruja and me. ¡He's good! RaveN is envious and makes a few ballon animals. (he is very good at that, I must say, so he doesn't get jealous) 

We eat dinner at last. The Les Luthiers fans are singing similar songs about someone who wants to be a priest, and then they talk about Towel Day. What a bunch of geeks. I run away from a conversation on the state of Spanish Universities...

and we land in the Black Box, a bar too small for dancing and too noisy for anything else. When I say I'm leaving, someone I won't mention gives me emotional blackmail as good as a woman's, and then I'm in the center of a group hug, so I have to stay. We go to the Alamey, which has looooooong sofas. It turns out Princess-Skin girl also bellydances. Yay! 

People have been leaving in twos and threes. When I go, there's less than ten people left, and all are saying they'll leave very soon.  

So, when shall we all meet again?

How to locate the Pharmacy Building

The stereotype is that young women are not interested in studying Engineering, or, Sciences unless they are Health Sciences.

My town has a Sciences Campus with most of the sciences and engineering degrees, and I told a friend of mine to go to the Pharmacy School. He got lost and he asked a man for directions. The man told him, "Walk straight ahead until you see a crowd of gorgeous babes".

My friend reported he had no trouble at all locating the building.

A new bookshop

It feels me with joy that the Alameda, home of the trendy and refuge of alternative types (you know, the sort who is "artistic" in a general, hazy way but is too busy going to the right bars to ever actually make something creative), the Alameda avenue, as I say, now has a bookshop among the bars.

It has been open for a year, it has the quirky name "Punto y Coma" (that's how we say it in Spanish; dot-and-comma is a much nicer name than semicolon), and it doubles up as newsagent. It is not surprising that about a third of the book section is on communism. Best of luck to the brave owner.

¡Ah, la luna!

I have to say this in Spanish because it really doesn't translate.

Pues nada, sábado por la noche y he quedado en la Alameda (!). Aparco donde puedo y según salgo del coche, veo a un tío mayor y canijo, de pinta arrastrada. ¿Yonqui? Da igual, el caso es que está gritando "¡la luna, la luna!" como si fuera suya y la hubiese perdido. Pufff... aprieto el paso y me imagino invisible.

La calle es larga y bien iluminada. Hacia el final, otro hombre más joven, y de pinta más arrastrada que el anterior dice 

"Cachin la má! Cachin la má!"

Patea el suelo y mira al infinito. Me ve, se levanta,  (hoy no es mi día), y me pregunta:

"Perdona, ¿Has visto a una perrita blanca? "



La que se queda blanca soy yo. No eran yonquis con alucinaciones: habían perdido a la perrita que se había cruzado delante de mi coche un minuto antes. Porque claro, todas las perritas blancas y pequeñas se llaman Luna. Espero que la encontraran, los pobres.


The problem with sarcasm is that it is such a cruel way of putting people down that it is only deserved by people too stupid to understand it. Which misses the point.

Traffic and sex

I have the impression that Spanish policemen tend to be a lot more lenient on women than on men. This happened to me on Friday night.

Policeman  waves about a light to make me stop and carries an alcoholimeter in his hand.

Nia. Good evening again, officer. 

Policeman: Have you been already tested?

Nia: No, I was the copilot on a car that passed by a minute ago. 

Policeman: Right then, go ahead. Good evening.

He didn't test me. A driver in her twenties with loads of smudged make-up on a Friday night at the hour the bars close.

Zifras y Letras, la Crónica (Seville Bloggers Meet, again)

An exceptional bilingual post because I couldn't make up my mind about what language to use. Scroll down for the English version.

Me he puesto al día con los blogs habituales y resulta que la crónica del mitap que Zifra empezó se va a quedar inacabada. Hasta tiene la cara de pedirnos a los demás que hagamos nuestra propia crónica! Pero bueno, como a todo el mundo le gusta un poco de cotilleo (o un montón), y ninguna quedada está completa si su crónica, allá va la mía.

La noche anterior, me acuesto a las dos de la mañana. Creo que he soñado con mi tesina. Me levanto antes de las nueve. Portátil. Tesina, conclusión, email a mi directora, son las 12.30 del mediodía y voy cerca de una hora tarde. Da igual. Bailo por mi cuarto, me pongo ropa que guardaba para una ocasión especial, y voy para allá conduciendo a lo loco.

Daba por hecho que conocería a poca gente. Por lo menos estaba allí Zifra, agradable como de costumbre. Echo de menos a Carboanion y me siento perdida con tanto desconocido, pero el vino y la euforia post-tesina me hacen sentirme un poco menos fuera de lugar. Al cabo de un rato, alguien me da trabajo! Seguro que esto no era en lo que Hugh pensaba con aquello de que los blogs son buenos para conseguir que las cosas ocurran de forma indirecta, pero a mí me vale.

Hasta donde pude escuchar en un grupo tan grande de gente, algunos se conocen ya y hablan más bien entre ellos, de sus cosas... y de chismes raros para el ordenador. Parece que todo el mundo tiene alguna relación con la Universidad, incluidos varios profesores. Quemamos y reconstruimos el sistema universitario español con tiempo para ir a comer. Todas las opciones eran exóticas y al final decidimos que coreano. El restaurante no era de verdad coreano-coreano, más bien una mezcla de cosa asiáticas. Nada me recordaba a mi compañera de piso coreana y sus cinco or seis platitos individuales para cada comida. Bueno, a lo que iba, la comida estupenda y además tengo la suerte de estar sentada con Raven y Stalker ; cotilleamos sin vergüenza ninguna y hablamos del piercing de Raven y de la gente de la que uno no debería fiarse jamás.

Almuerzo exótico, bebidas frikis: fuimos al Dragón Verde, el sueño húmedo de cualquier fan de Tolkien hecho bar. La gente mariposeaba en grupitos, la niña de Zifra (y un par más, creo) juraron por el mismísimo dragón verde que se portarían bien (y lo cumplieron). Hubo oportunidades para destripar la escena artística local (sí, el rollo neosurrealista-intimista con el que pierdo tanto tiempo) con Raven, que pertenece a ese mundillo; y la relación entre religión y política, con dos ateos militantes. Pues eso. Empezó a largarse gente; Habíamos llegado a ser más de 20 y quedábamos como la mitad. Demasiado temprano para cenar; Raven sugirió un bar moderrrrrrno en la Alameda (cuna de la moderrrrnidad modernísima y de su propio sabor de esnobismo, pero no quiero que Raven piense que no me gustó su elección; al fin y al cabo me invitó a un par de copas).

El bar no tiene sillas ni sofás sino pufs. Genial. Escribo un poema, me echo una siesta; entre los demás, las cosas ya han pasado a la fase tonteo (Zifra, ¿a cuántas les pediste que se casaran contigo?). Hablo de mi tesina y mira qué sorpresa, Eva (no es bitacorera, es la mujer de uno que sí lo es) trabaja en el mundo real con lo que yo analizo en teoría en mi tesina. Toma ya. Casi me peleo con la Caminante (lo siento si soné muy bruta, corazón, ya sé que no me estabas tocando donde duele queriendo), pero con reconciliamos enseguida.

Tenemos hambre. A cenar. Alguien escoge un italiano y nos las apañamos para pedir pizzas, todas para compartir, que a todo el mundo le gustan: ¡la prueba definitiva de que nos hemos hecho los mejores amigos del mundo! Me siento con Zifra y Luis , que hablan de tangos y jazz, y me enseñan el Dilema del Prisionero. Compruebo que tienen razón.

Creo que para entonces quedábamos: Luis y Eva; Raven y Stalker; Zifra y Hamlet; La Caminante y acompañante; y yo. Hamlet, Luis and Eva se fueron justo después de cenar, y los demás nos fuimos a otro bar. Se llamaba Ego? Creo que sí. Otro sitio en La Alameda todavía más modernísimo que el anterior. Adivina quién lo escogió. La Caminante casi se queda frita en una silla, Raven me invitó a un cocktail estupendo, y los interesados en escotes discutieron los méritos relativos de los que se exhibían por el local. Una noche fantástica.

* * *

I read what's going on in other people's blogs after coming back and it turns out that Zifra's meetup chronicle is unfinished and he doesn't seem to have any intentions of completing it.HE even has the nerve of asking others to finish the story! Anyway, Ssnce everyone likes a bit (or a lot) of gossip, and no meetup is ever complete without a chronicle, here's mine.

Bed at two a.m. the night before. I think I have even dreamt of my dissertation. I'm up before nine. Laptop. Dissertation, conclusion, email to advisor. It's 12.30 noon, and I'm about an hour late. It doesn't matter. I dance about the room, pick clothes I was saving for a special occasion, and drive like a maniac.
I counted on knowing very few people. At least Zifra was there, as friendly as usual. I miss Carboanion and I'm lost among so many strangers, but the wine and the dissertation-is-over euphoria help me feel less awkward. Minutes later, someone gives me a job!

As fr as I could tell in such a big group, the conversation of people who alread knew each other was about themselves... and about computer gadgets. It turns out nearly everyone has a connection of a type or another with university, including several professors. We burn and rebuild the Spanish University System in time for lunch. All the options were exotic and we finally decided it'd be Korean.

The restaurant wasn't really Korean, but a mix of Asian things over a Korean base. Nothing reminds me of my Korean roommate and her carefully laid out set of tiny dishes (she served herself a bit of five different things on five different saucers and picked from them all). The food's lovely anyway. I'm lucky enough to be sitting accross Raven and Stalker we gossiped scandalously and talked about Raven's recent tongue piercing (eek) and about people who should never be trusted.

Exotic lunch and geeky after-lunch drinks: we went to El Dragón Verde. Yes, the Green Dragon, the wet dream of any Tolkien fan. People fluttering about in small groups, and Zifra's wee one (and two other wee ones, I think his nieces) taking an oath by the sign of the Dragon to be well-behaved (they all were). There were opportunities to tear apart the current arty/poetic scene (yes, the whole Lyrical Neosurrealism I waste so many entries and time satirising), with Raven, who belongs to it; and the relationship between religion and politics, with militant atheists. Yay. People started to leave; we had been about 20 at some point and there was about half left now. Too early for dinner; Raven suggests some trendy pub in the Alameda (home of local trendiness and its own brand of snobbishness, but I don't want Raven to think I didn't like his choice; after all he invited me to a couple drinks). The pub turns out to have not sofas or chairs but huge cushions you can sink to. I write a poem and take a nap; among everyone else, things have already gone into the flirting stage (Zifra, how many women did you propose to, you shameless thing?). I talk about my dissertation and  surprise, surprise, Eva (not a blogger, the wife of one) works with the real-world aspect of what I research in fiction.  I almost fight with La Caminante (sorry if I sounded to harsh sweetie, I know you weren't prodding my bruises on purpose, but we made up easily. 

We're hungry. It's dinnertime. Someone picks an Italian restaurant and we manage to order pizzas to share that everyone will like: the definite proof that we're all the best friends in the world! I sit with Zifra and Luis, who talk about tangos and jazz, and teach me the Prisoner's Dilemma. I check its truth.

I think that at that time we were: Luis and Eva; Raven and Stalker; Zifra and Hamlet; La Caminante and the one that came with her; and me. Hamlet, Luis and Eva left after dinner and the ones left went to, what was the name of the place? Ego? Probably yes. Another place in the Alameda even trendier than the previous one; no prices for guessing who recommended it. La Caminante nearly fell asleep on a chair, Raven gave me a lovely cocktail, and those interested in cleavages discussed the relative merits of several nearby ones. Not a bad night at all. 



Hello, I'm back! I'm disappointed with myself, but I have to say that I have found nothing in Glasgow to culture-shock me. Maybe I shouldn't be: I haven't lost powers of observation, it's just that anything shocking comes from not knowing the place, and anything amusing happens when I'm in one place, not rushed, for long enough. A three-day stay in my second home has neither element.

Well; while I took my parents to see beautiful things in lovely museums, and bought second hand books, and chocolate from brands I cannot buy in Spain, I saw street ads with one thing in common. "kids die because there aren't enough organ donations: donate". "kids get worse treatments because there aren't enough murses: become one". But wait, the kids are always little girls. Always.

Is it because female children look more pityworthy than male ones? Let's see. I don't think that the UK as a whole treats its girls very kindly. The alarming rate of teenage pregnancy tells me that parents and educators don't bother teaching them sexual education, or self-respect, to say nothing of the boys who make them pregnant (no, I'm not taking any responsibility away from the girls but to get a 14 year-old pregnant you need at least six people to have made mistakes: two sets of parents and the teenagers involved). Children finish school two or three hours before the usual adult time for finishing work, so either kids or parents have to make a compromise about what the children can do those hours in the day. Those are just two facts I'm very familiar with. But still, if you want to get pity in order to sell something, nothing beats a blond female under ten. Ah, tha paradoxes of the modern world.



The Prisoner's Dilemma

Zifra told me yesterday "the prisoner's dilemma". According to him, it rules all human relationships. All of them. We used an example close to my own experience and he managed to convince me that yes, he was right.

This is the dilemma: you have two collaborating thieves. They get caught. They are put on isolated cells and each one is told that there is no evidence against them, so the police tries to get any of them to testify against the other one. Under these conditions:  

If no one betrays the other, both will go to prison for 6 months.
If both betray each other, both will go to prison for 6 years.
If one betrays and the other doesn't, the accusing one will go free and the other one will go to prison for 10 years.

What is best to do? Easy. The moral of the story is that cooperation in good faith is advantageous for both parties. Mutual hostility is disadvatageous -to some extent. If one party is hostile and the other is not, the hostile will win more and the cooperating one will lose more. This is not exactly like this all the time: in the situation from my own experience I referred to previously, mutual cooperation led to advantage, far greater than one-sided hostility.

What I as a writer and a reader find very interesting is that the prisoner's dilemma does not apply coherently to fiction. There is always a narrator with plans of his own.  

The speck of truth in every stereotype

I have talked about the incompetence of librarians and other public services in my town before . Today's adventures with the University of Seville information system:

ME: Can you give me the English Library phone number? (everyone knows there is an English Library and a Languages Library).
INCOMPETENT 1: Wait a minute... (a few minutes pass). It's the 1001 and the 1002.

ME: Hello, the Library?
1001: Yes?
ME: I need to know when these books I have are due, can you look at the file?
1001: You have to call 1003 for that.
I'm puzzled because I know the library is very small and if I am calling the library the files and the phone are on the same desk. But I call 1003 anyway.

ME: Hello, The Library File System?
1003: This is not a Library, this is the office of a History professor.
ME: Oops, sorry.

ME: Hello, is this the library?
1002 (which I know for a fact is picked up by the same person as 1001): Yes, how can I help you?
ME: I need to know which of my books are due this week.
1002: I can't give you that information on the phone.
ME: but you have done so before, and the file is in front of you!
1002: OH! you're trying to call the English Library! This is the Languages Library. The phone number of the English Library is 1004.

Yes, they made me call three wrong numbers before giving me the right one. Isn't it fun.

Men's wedding fashions

Do you think there is a connection between the fact that same-sex marriage has been legal in Spain for the last eight months, and the fact that the windows of the wedding shops in my town show a beautiful, never-seen-before variety of men's wedding suits in colours that aren't black? All those shades of light grey and off-white and ivory, and the silk waistcoats in bright colours?

The local performing arts scene

This is too good. I have been looking for creative ways the local scene but it mocks itself much better than I ever could.

Let's see.  If you owned a school and you wanted to hire a teacher, where would you put an ad? Now, if you owned a clinic and you needed to hire a doctor, where would you put an ad? If you owned a cinema school and you wanted to make an audition for actors and actresses, where do you think you should put an ad?

Yesterday it made the local news that a private cinema school is precisely doing that. And a young woman, a producer I assume, said with zero irony: "We weren't looking for anyone especifically. We just put plenty of poster ads on bars".