This blog will be dedicated to the beautiful passions of life: Food, Film, Football (Barça), Philosophy, Literature, Art and Humanity.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Edinburgh Festivals

In August I have been busy, mainly watching films, but also socialising and attending a couple of Book Festival talks. Here are some brief comments on what I experienced.

Derecho de Familia
Very understated film, subtle and gentle. Quite bourgeois, but at times it is so nice to watch a film that is not trying to shock or scandalize, but it just exists. It is a film just about normalality and the relations between different family members. Especially the one between the father and the son (both lawyers). There were times when he could have tried to do something "crazy", but he opted for a silent touch to those moments. Perhaps the camera could have rested longer on actors, in order to create more "drama", but the film worked. I just love listening to the Argentinean accent.

Zidane - A 21st Century Portrait
The film was made with 18 cameras, under the supervision of cinematographer Darius Khondji. Another beautiful film (excuse me for using that word so often). At first I was worried, it would be too contrived, but I have to say it is one of my favourite films in the festival and perhaps one of the best art pieces made about sport ever. Zidane is a man of small gestures, but well chosen and often quite symbolic. In the film one can hear him spitting, brushing his head against the short stubble, the sweat dripping and muttering one phrased expressions to his team mates or himself, as the camera is mainly focused on Zidane. He seems quite alone, in what is supposed to be a team sport, very few inter actions with other players. The film is quite melancholic and one asks oneself what the atmosphere of the film would have been if it would have been made not in the deep post-galactico depression, but at the height of his career. He looks so angry in the film and does not seem to enjoy himself at all (or like Douglas Gordon said; "he is just having a bad day in the office). It is fascinating to watch him at work, one forgets that this is his job, when one watches a football game in normal circumstances, but this is a portrait of a man at work. A rather famous man, but it is just that. He almost does not run, but when he does it is an elegant gallop with a purpose. Very economic, precise and thought through. Zidane is one of the most expressive and mysterious characters in modern football. There is something about his aura, something enigmatic, untangilbe. I thought it would be too much to watch him for 90 minutes, but I have to say when the end came, one wanted almost more. Perhaps especially since he went out of the game under the circumstances he did.

Empire in Africa
Civil war in sierra Leone. Very tough film, which ended with oneself trusting nobody, perhaps a sensible thing to do when dealing with war and power. They are all bastards after all, where civilians are the ones to suffer.

Return of a Poet
Just pure beauty. Incredible. All emotions at the same time, so subtle and gentle, but provoked oneself to think, I can't even remember what it just would start all these thoughts that does not have much time when the daily routines take over. A sculpture is being returned to the village. It is of the national poet who was burn in the deepest rural part of Armenia. The film is a mixture of all the rituals of the village and the daily lives of the inhabitants and the journey it makes to its new home. Full of moments from the past and present, there is a hint of time being still. The director has even allowed a tiny bit of drama. The humbleness, the dignity in a village, which one assumes is so Spartan, but it is also very rich.

Into This Great Silence

A film about monks in France. Sounds like a cliché, but it is a very silent film. Extremely beautiful. Not that religious, just spiritual. Very very long, allowing the viewer to follow the monks in their daily lives. Almost no dialogue. I can't recall any music apart from the monks chanting. In between you would have stills of the monks, projecting an individuality to a film, which was rather collective. You would see themselves preparing for a "good life" and in the end of the film, you would see them becoming ready for the end. A film that will unlikely get a general release, but I do recommend it. Or you must see it if you have the opportunity to.

God Told Me
To I mainly chose to watch this film, because of the title, it was Ok, but not great. One could almost describe it as "Questions of Catholicism, made by someone who has taken too much acid."

To Get To Heaven One Has To Die First
The sexiest scene I have seen in a long time. The young man finally gets to have sex, with the girl he has been chasing for some time. He is already married, but is impotent and thereof gets sent to his cousin who is going to help him to get rid of his problem. This this factory girl seems to fix the problem that no prostitute could .

The Aura
A very different film than Nine Queens, the directors first film. Subtle, but still dense. Really well written and beautifully filmed. All through the film one has a huge sense of sadness as the director died earlier this summer it reminds one of what a great talent we are going to miss. It is a thriller, but so well written and with Ricardo Darín, who has such a huge scene presence. I could just watch him forever. He is one of these understated actors, were you have to be constantly looking so that you are not missing out on an expression, a twinkle or a gesture. Sad.

Claudia Roden
This woman has written some of my favourite cookbooks. Look into it. Everything that I have made has been wonderful. I was the youngest person attending this talk I think. It was just me and retired house wives, and some man who was pleasing his wife. Claudia Roden studed art, but started to collected recipes obsessively. Always asking people for recipes, what they ate, personal tricks. Slowly it just became her job, a great way to learn a culture and to study human behaviour. I wonder if all that can be studied has been studied. In England at that time they were ashamed of eating. Food used to be in the same category as sex and money. A dirty taboo. She is worred about food loosing its identity in this global melting pot of today's restaurants, where a fusion takes over from regional food, where great traditions and rituals might get lost. I know for a fact I am sick of all these modern restaurants, where you get one calamari or this one place in Barcelona, where I ordered ravioli and got that, one ravioli. You have to be absolutely an innovator to get away with giving people less food than they need, or is that a good thing, to consciously shrink the stomach of the clients? I think soon there will be a revival for good rustic food, like in the good old days. Nowadays she attends Conferences of Pistachios and alike events. I recommend everyone to buy her book Arabesque.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Barça - Valencia

This year it looks like Sevilla and Valencia will be Madrid's beasts for the second place (Obs second place). I hope you are not taking me for un arrogante, for thinking who will be first.

Valencia is a strong team, with a great coach (I like him) from a famous gypsy, flamenco singing/dancing family who writes poetry.
Apart from that they do tend to produce "telearaña" spider net, which is very efficient in slowing down Barcelona's game.
Eto'o has started like a monster, possessed and Ronaldinho seems back to his best, Deco has found the form from the first year (he has probably got back with his wife - as that was what brought him down last year). Messi is a bit lost, but Giuly is taking his chances, Iniesta is growing into a mature player and Valdés always makes a calamity in these games. Last year he was at fault for one if not both of Valencia's goals and Cañizares made a blunder too (please check my drawing from earlier this year).

It is bound to be tense, tactical and perhaps even "italian". I suspect Valencia are going to win. This game.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Brief thoughts on Volver

Volver is OK, not one of his best, but has some nice moments. He was almost better at doing films about "La movida", the explosion of youth culture in post Franco Madrid and somehow now he is "grown up" he is still kind of "finding himself".
For me it was worth seeing, as I think Spanish culture is quite funny, but nothing to take with you to the grave.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

London Thoughts

Went to this Algerian place in Hampstead, to have a coffee, delicious coffee with spices and a hint of rose water. The last streams of the Autumn sun were making its way in to the cafe.

Walking through Hampstead Heath, after looking at all those beautiful houses, one forgets this side of London, how life can be easy in London, that it is not all a struggle, I spot a man in a suit throwing himself on to the grass, reading his daily capsule of news.

What a great sense when there are four directions, each going into the path of the uncertain, where sense of security evaporates. It can bring a new dimension to ones life, four new dimensions.

Holly Lodge Mansions - council estate in Highgate (although probably not anymore).

Greek Taverna on 122 Junction Rd, this looks just amazing. Thyme hanging from the ceiling an Octopus sitting in the display refrigerator (and it is fresh looking).

Dalston Jazz Bar off Kingsland Rd, no jazz playing though to my disappointment. It would have been good with some Afro Jazz.
In Dalston there are also some hardcore places, especially two Russian ones. The Bar one looks like a cheap Rave bar from the former East countries, really tacky, but of good. The Club one just seems dodgy, further up there is a big illegal concrete room under a carpet shop open at nonethical hours.

Portobello Road, one goes quickly through the market, briefly stopping off at Garcia to buy some (dried chili) and my friend bought lots of things, amongst others Tetilla. I found it quite a strange thing to eat, while my friend just said "It is like a real breast". In those places one has to be careful to buy with the head instead of with the heart (unless it is at the start of the month).

I wanted to be a candlel snatcher. £ 30 is quite excessive though. Everything at the market is probably 3 times what you normally pay, but of course that takes some time. I am seriously looking for a brass candle snatcher.

There was a Morroccan cafe, full of men playing domino sipping mint tea, looked amazing, but we hesitated in going in.

The two Portuguese cafes look so good, one is kind of less fashionable (interior) wise - Lisboa and Oporto is slightly more welcoming. However it is Lisboa that has the fame and the pastries are simply delicious. It was packed and behind me was an old Portuguese lady talking to customers, especially the Portuguese young men. Just go there.

Want to visit Kew's Garden, Greenwich, Tottenham/Edmonton, Kilburn, V&A, next time I am in town. Not to forget the Colombia Flower Market - I lived on that street for seven years, but I don't think I visited the market more than a handful of times.

The best sandwiches are at Le Bouche, it is a very trendy place on Broadway Market, a place where the people beyond fashion seem to hang out. Whatever you say there products are AMAZING. Coffee, cakes and most of all their sandwiches.

To end my visit we went for a barbecue type of dish at a Turkish place. They do cheap meat on the grill ( I just hope they don't buy it from the butcher in Dalston, which smells) to round it off we went to a Turkish pastry shop for a Baclawa.

I really enjoy to visit London and it is so nice to see parts of it, that you have never seen, to go to different communites and just to walk around or take a bus route and see the city changing. So many other cities are quite homogenous, but London has something special (just a shame you need so much money).

One should not have to go through bureaucracy in order to arrange a meeting between two humans.

Ps. Pictures taking from the web. I will put my own soon (if I remember).


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Some late football thoughts

Barcelona - Sevilla
The truth is I am happy Barcelona are loosing as it will take off the pressure to win all competitions they are entering. What a silly idea, to put that pressure on the team. The very opposite of what Rijkaard is trying to install in his players. The media has created a monster, limbering close to the team; that Barcelona are unbeatable, that they will achieve what no other team has achieved - TO WIN ALL COMPETIONS THEY WILL TAKE PART IN. come on that is unrealistic, the bar has been raised so high that not winning every game 7-0 will be seen as a failure. I think it is good that the team gets it installed in them that they have to work hard, very hard and then even harder.

Ps. I wrote this during the game, but it is published some weeks after the game.

Barça - Espanyol
Finally I got to see Barbie (Gudjohnsen) in action. Puyol seems to be throwing himself down a lot, I hope he is not acting.
This question came up: "Why did Brasil not build the team around Ronaldinho. Why did they not watch how he is used at Barça, how to get the best out of him."
Great to see Deco back to his best. Belleti is even calm, not going forward like a possessed man. Luis Garcia and Walter Pandiani are some brutes.

Very Post Comments on The World Cup

Who was the kid behind the French coach, it looked like his child. But that can't be possible.
The German second coach looks like an actor from a 70's porn film.
Most players who have had a great world cup are/were in search of a club…
Or at least in a flirtation mood.
The difference between Spain and England is that while the English belief in the English national team is 120 percent, in Spain it is 5 percent.

The reason that England does not dive is because they never have the ball for more than 25 seconds.
Cristiano Ronaldo is like a child sucking his lollipop.
Aragonés brought two psychiatrist with him, one Canadian who only got to know the players in person two weeks before the tournament, the other a family member without a licence.
Domenech does not trust Scorpios, nor wants too many Leos.
The assistant of Klinsman seems to do nothing apart from imitating the gestures of Klinsman.
A foul according to Ronaldo.
Martin O'Neill claims no-one remembers the third place game/position. He is wrong. Sweden and Turkey have not forgotten.


The Difficulty in changing a shirt

This week a deal came through where Barcelona got a reversed sponsor. Where the club gives Unicef 1.5 % of their income to and has their name on their shirts, where most club have a commercial sponsor.
A generous gesture, which can be analysed in many different ways.
A big club, can count on everything from 8 to almost 20 million pounds per year from having a companys logo at the front of their shirts.
When the current directors took over in 2003 the accounts were frightening and they asked for permission amongst its members to put sponsorship on the shirt.
Surprisingly very few major multinationals made an offer. Amongst the ones that got considered were Betandwin, Viagra and the famous negotiations with the Chinese government (promoting the Beijing Olympic games). The club and most people (including the directors) became to believe that it was all a done deal (the Chinese one).
This negotiation was one of Laporta's infamous lies (something he is regularly critisised for and perhaps one of the dark moments in his presidency).

The club worked hard to find a sponsor, but obviously it was a sensitive issue to be remembered as the president who brought a sponsor to the shirt. It was said that Betandwin got tired of waiting and went to Milan instead, or as the club claims that they simply refused the offer, as Barça was not a club to be associated with betting (perhaps in the future betting will not be a taboo).

In the late spring of 2006 it came to light that Barça were going to put something on its shirt and it was going to be Unicef. Most members seem quite proud of such an act, but some are in dignified that have not kept the promises, that this is not what the members allowed when the question of sponsorship came up. I think perhaps should have asked for permission (very unlikely they would have got a NO), but at the same time the club has completely turned around since 2003. The health of the economy is good, the club is winning titles, has players who seem committed to the cause and with a future (the main stars are Eto'o 25, Ronaldinho 26 and Messi 19). If the financial situation does not dictate bringing a sponsorship to its shirt, I believe it is not a negative thing to promote humanitarian causes. Perhaps they are expecting some kind of return, but one can't deny the value of this propaganda.

The directors claim it is not a marketing tool, but rather what image they want to project of themselves: a human club, which is involved in humanitarian causes, as that is what matters that the club helps to promote humanitarian causes.

The players are apparently very proud to be part of the deal and already some of the players are ambassadors for various foundations (Eto'o, Ronaldinho, Thuram).

Are Barça simply doing this in order to raise the value of their shirts for future sponsorships or perhaps it is pure a "good mannered" act. It is obvious that in a way, the other companies associated with Barcelona (ironically Nike, Coca-Cola and others) will benefit in being linked with Unicef, but perhaps one should not be that cynical and simply be proud of such an innovated means to promote a club, that stands for so many more things than simply a club. More than a Club.

For many years Barcelona have been symbolised with the slogan More Than A Club, traditionally it had rather been a local question of identity to the Catalans but with the democratisation of modern Spain it was almost like riding on tradition rather than being a modern club, within today's society.
The directors and the board investigated in what the slogan means today or rather what it could become to and found out that Barça meant amongst other things - one of the few clubs that is owned my its members, they play attractive football and one of the few clubs who does not have a sponsor. Going further it became clear and is very inventive way of putting new meaning to being More Than A Club. Something to distinguish oneself from other clubs, something children all over the world can associate with the club. To be a sponsor of Unicef, or More Than A Club.

Unicef - El Periodico
Industria & Nike - El Mejicanito


Monday, September 04, 2006

The Murky Soup of a last minute transfer

I checked the internet briefly shortly after the transfer deadline and yes, some of the most expected transfers were there (Reyes, Gallas, Cole), but what really cought my eye was the one involving Tévez and Mascherano. One could say that after Agúero's departure to Spain, they are/were the brightest hopes left in South America and with World Cup experience.
Tevéz and Mascherano were stars for their clubs in Argentina (Boca Juniors and River Plate) and instead of going to Europe they were bought by Corinthians.
That whole transfer was quite a surprise as suddenly a Brasilian club could afford to fight off European competitions. The company behind it was MSIMSI and the face behind MSI is an Iranian, living in London, with multiple passports, called Kia Joorabchian. No one has ever been sure who is behind Joorabchian. The Brasilian police did investigate the fundings of MSI, but did not really get anywhere, there were rumours that it was Abramovich, or Boris Berezovsky (a Russian oligarch, fleeing Russian law and based in London), or that it was a money laundry for drugs or illegal arms dealing. In short term, it was dodgy.

Now with the new transfer of the two players the basic questions were:
* Was it just a parking of the two player, in order to gain European experience in order to be sold for a hefty profit?
* Were they really being bought by someone else (rumours were they were only getting a taste of curry at Brick Lane in order to later being able to shop at Kings Road)
* Or are West Ham being sold?

At first the first option seemed the likeliest, but over the weekend strange news have been appearing.
First that Kia Joorabchian is going to take over the club. It is only that he does not have the capital to buy a club on his own, thereof someone must be lying behind it and obviously we want to know WHO.
Apparently he sees great potential in West Ham (West Ham are a massive club in terms of support), and sees parallels with Corinthians. The danger with the Nouveau Rich buying clubs like cars, is that once they get tired of it the clubs are just dumped. No one knows what will happen with Corinthians, but it looks like they will be just left to rot in the gutter.

Today other news have been appearing: that the two players were offered to a lot of clubs in Europe - Sevilla, Manchester United, Roma, Chelsea, Arsenal, but they all refused as the contraactual obligations that came with the deal were not really beneficial. Instead the owner of the two players became desperate as the transfer deadline approached and in the end they were landed at West Ham.

The Deal:
West Ham have not had to pay any fees and pay only a part of their salary, but they will hardly get any profit if they (or rather when) are sold on.
If an offer comes in of $ 50 million, they have to sell or match the offer. The players will have to play in every game and MSI would decide when the players were sold on.
(These are just speculations, as no one has really confirmed the ins and outs of the deal).

But, apparently talks are going on about Joorabchian taking over West Ham.

So What is Going On?

Photos -
Tévez -
Kia Joorabchian -
T&M -

Further Reading:

Under The Hammer

More questions than answers about MSI

Joorabchian oils the wheels that make the deals

Danger ahead on the murky road from Corinthians to Upton Park