November 30, 2010

Finished is better than perfect

I just received the stamp on my ph.d. thesis today. What a relief! It is still not the very end, but I am able to see it now.

Making a ph.d. is like running a marathon. G. reminded me that in my first marathon I decided to give up (as I had done two times before at 30K and 24K). That time, I was on the 25K. And I stop running, sat on a bench and thought how uncomfortable that stone bench in Reforma was. So I laid down and had a nap, at least half an hour. When I woke up, I started walking back home. After 10 or 15 meters I noticed that all my pain had disappeared, so I made up my mind, turned around and started running again. I was in the middle of the cars, since the last runner had seen me already sleeping my siesta (yes, I was in the last group, not at the front). I kept running and feeling great till I reached the end.

That was my first marathon. The second one was in Berlin. And now this Aristotle thesis.

The project lasted for almost ten years. First I had to learn German, Classic Greek, to un-learn all those misleading interpretations I had learned in Mexico, read around 200 or 250 titles (books, essays, articles, chapters of books), learn how to write properly in German, tolerate Germans with their food and awful weather... But then I fall in love with  this Germany full of pretty girls who are unaware of their beauty and their awful food and their awesome country, all of which makes me a bit angry.

Veni, vidi, vici.

There is nothing else I can do now except wait for a date for the defense. And defend my thesis and proposal.

Alea iacta est.

You learn too many things about your own self while training for and running a marathon. The same with the ph.d. There are several difficulties, specially if you are in Germany. But a special factor is that your old friends left centuries ago the university and think of you as some sort of fossil. And the new people you meet in the university are either ñoños dedicating their life to their field in order to became the best researchers of the world, or are younger students who are funny but not your peers. In either case, there is a gap. Of course, there are many exceptions and nuances.

Other difficulty is the pressure from outside, say family, funding institution, friends, etc. As I wrote before, asking for the status of the thesis is like asking for the exgirlfriend. That makes you only sad, if you are still dealing with it, and that is exactly when people ask, since people stop asking just when it is really over. A. is the only person I have met all these years who really knows how to talk about the thesis: she never asks, never shows surprise or disappointment if you get stuck, she just unconditionally supports you. That is the only right thing to do.

Today I am happy.

Foto: Aristotle, Musée du Louvre

November 25, 2010

"Nichts", von Nils Minkmar

[Erschienen am Sonntag den 21. November 2010 im "Feuilleton" der FAS]

Am vergangenen Donnerstagnachmittag schlichen schwerbewaffnette Polizisten um den Wiesbadener Hauptbahnhof und suchten mit einer Taschenlampe nach Aufklärung der Gesamtlage. Die ist, zumal im November, düster. Unser Feind? Die Leere. Mehrere Polizeieinsätze haben es in der vergangenen Woche herausbekommen – also nichts. Eben. Am Donnerstag gegen 16.15 Uhr hatte ein Zeuge an der Strassenbahnhaltestelle Holterheide bei Meerbusch-Osterath einen „herrenlose“ Koffer entdeckt und der Polizei gemeldet. Gegen 18.45 Uhr durchleuchteten Spezialkräfte des LKA den Trolley. In ihm fanden sie: Leere. Nicht nur die Spezialkräfte, auch der gebildete Augenzeuge erinnerten sich an Martin Heidegger: „Wovor fürchtest du dich? Vor Nichts“.

Terror kommt heuer als Horror Vacui daher. Gerade auch in Hannover. Da war es am 12. November so weit: Gegen 10.45 Uhr bemerkten Passanten einen herrenlosen Koffer auf dem Ernst-August-Platz (und nicht etwa Herrn Ernst August kofferlos, das kommt dort öfter vor). Jedenfalls: „Gegen 12.15 Uhr durchleuchteten Spezialkräfte den Trolley mit einem mobilen Röntgengerät und stellten fest, dass er komplett leer war“.

Die Terrortrolleys wollen uns fertigmachen mit ihrer Leere. Es ergeht dem ganzen Land wie einer lieben Kollegin, die kerngesund war. Aber sie wähnte sich krank. Sie war daher oft beim Arzt. Und die Schulmediziner machten sie fertig, fanden weder Symptome noch Erreger noch sonst was. „Die Ärzte finden nichts!“ Totale Gesundheit – das klang grausiger als eine Pestdiagnose! Da kann jede Krankheit jederzeit ausbrechen. In dem herrenlosen Koffer, der am 31. Oktober um 17.30 Uhr in Fulda entdeckt wurde, befanden sich immerhin „Bekleidungsgegenstände“, wie 13 Beamte der Landespolizei und sechs Beamte der Landespolizei erleichtert feststellten. Nihilisten, die leere Koffer auf Strassen und Plätzen abstellen oder leere Päckchen oder gleich Leergut aufgeben, denen droht – nichts. Hier muss ein neues Gesetz her, Leerverkäufe sind ja schließlich auch verboten. Wird nun „Leertrolley“ oder „Realtestkoffer“ das Wort des Jahres? Andere Frage: Was sind das bloß für Menschen, die einen leeren Trolley durch Hannover ziehen? Oder durch Meerbusch-Osterath?
Foto: Wahlers / Photocase

November 24, 2010

Winter: Pieter Bruegel, Agnes Tait

It has been snowing a bit in Prenzlauer Berg all day long. I was skeptical about the weather forecast, but of course German scientists know more about weather than Mexican guys sitting all day long at home working on Aristotle. But the first snow of the new winter reminded me of this sosias I had been postponing for some time now.

Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap (1565)

Skating in Central Park (1934)

November 21, 2010

Congratulations, you've reached the end of this internet

I got this page some days ago and clicked on the link, and then clicked on the following link (is there any known name for this disturbing disease besides Zeitverschwendung and curiositas?)... And I got Vint Cerf, co-inventor of the internet, talking about the future of intergalactic internet (5 mins).

November 20, 2010

I'm not a journalist

There is a funny, cute story (a scrap) found by Mark Twain in Times, which had already been published in older, partial editions of his Autobiography, which I just read in the new, complete edition (pp.440-441). The story is well told and he uses it to say that he is not a journalist, and to elaborate on the difference between journalist and author. It was interesting for me, since I also work for media as a journalist, but I am not a journalist either. And yes, of course, I do not pretend to be Mark Twain.
Mark Twain giving a press conference while being sick in Vancouver



A benevolent-looking old man clung to a strap in a crowded Broadway car bound uptown Saturday afternoon. In a corner seat in front of him huddled a weak-looking little woman who clasped a baby to her breast. Beside her sat another child, a girl perhaps five years old, who seemed to be attracted by the old man's kindly face, for she gazed at him and the baby with her bright, intelligent eyes opened wide. He smiled at her interest and said to her:
"My! What a nice baby! Just such a one as I was looking for, I am going to take it."
"You can't," declared the little girl, quickly. "She's my sister."
"What! Won't you give her to me?"
"No, I won't."
"But," he insisted, and there was real wistfulness in his tones, "I haven't a baby in my home."
"Then write to God. He'll send you one," said the child confidently,
The old man laughed. So did the other passengers. But the mother evidently scented blasphemy.
"Tillie," said she, "shut up and behave yourself!"

"That is a scrap which I have cut from this morning's Times. It is very prettily done, charmingly done; done with admirable ease and grace -- with the ease and grace that are born of feeling and sympathy, as well as of practice with the pen. Every now and then a newspaper reporter astonishes me with felicities like this. I was a newspaper reporter myself forty-four years ago, and during three subsequent years -- but as I remember it I and my comrades never had time to cast our things in a fine literary mold. That scrap will be just as touching and just as beautiful three hundred years hence as it is now".

November 18, 2010

Snake: Eve, Truman Capote

"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman (Genesis 3, 4).

Cross reference: "But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11, 3).

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1528) | Horst P. Horst (1973)

November 17, 2010

Guns & Love: Twain, Hemingway

I started Twain's Autobiography already, which he asked to publish 100 years after his death. A real man, Twain lost his love also in Firenze where his wife died after a long disease. He loved Literature.

Ernest Hemingway at the age of 5, sort of Huck Finn (1904)

A real man, Hemingway loved women and Literature, and lost his life through his other love, his rifle. Here he poses with a break-action Markham King air rifle then sold for about 75¢. An ad of that time says:
“Every live, healthy boy wants a ‘King’ Air Rifle. It’s boy nature to want a gun; to want to get out in the fields and woods, nearest to nature, and enjoy youthful life to its fullest extent. Get your boy a ‘King’ Air Rifle. It will mean health and boyish happiness — and steady nerves, keener eyesight and well-developed powers of observation”.
No surprise that he looks like a little Huck Finn. Many years later, Hemingway said: "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn".

November 14, 2010

Cute Aufklärung

Videos for liberating girls from ignorance and machismo some decades ago. Really cute!

November 13, 2010

November 12, 2010

Nemesis: your personal Waterloo

One of the very first words of Martin Amis' The Information is 'nemeses':

"Women -- and they can be wives, lovers, gaunt muses, fat nurses, obsessions, devourers, exes, nemeses -- (...)".

I checked up that one in the dictionary and found this:

1. something that a person cannot conquer, achieve, etc.
2. an opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
3. Classical Mythology: the goddess of divine retribution.
4.  an agent or act of retribution or punishment.

170 pages later, Amis wrote: "Pain and fear were waiting for him, as they waited for everyone. A whole hospice of pain and fear, patiently waiting."
Then back to the dictionary. As a synonym of 'nemesis', it adds something quite funny:

downfall, undoing, ruin, Waterloo.

Nemesis. Waterloo. Invidia. Succumbing to the gods. Femme fatale. Implacable executrix. Sister of the Furies. Daughter of the Night.

Night, right. Back to Amis: "At night, as he prepared to enter the forests of sleep and temptation (...)".

Waterloo, nemesis. Clue words: 'ex' and 'diss'.

I had to think of F making a comparison in a 1970's bar in Bonn some weeks ago: People hardly understand that your ph.d. thesis is like your ex. Both are a 'she'. Never ask, never tell! She is so hard to overcome: you still love her, still you like her, but you started to detest her already, you are tired of her, it's over but she is still present, work in progress, they are in the caves of oblivion, are nightmares that wake you up in the middle of the night, for sure you don't want to go back there. But people hardly get it and they keep asking: 'How's the thesis doing? You got a date already for the defense? What's taking so long, can't you just move on? Say, would you like to meet the sister of the cousin of my wife? The only thing is that she lives in Cardiff, but you know, with Skype and EasyJet...'

Damn it!

Dissertations are like exes, nemeses, your personal Waterloo. I had to think of a stone in an unknown park of San Ángel (payed visit with my ex, hélas), and of a cushion found online, and of Don Alfonso Reyes:

"Vale más la gracia de la imperfección que la perfección sin gracia"

"Finished is better than perfect"

"Se publica para dejar de corregir" (memory quotation)

Upper foto: Nemesis, Roman copy, Louvre

November 11, 2010

Berlin for peace: Yoko Ono

I interviewed Yoko Ono in the bar of the Hotel Kempinski a couple of months ago, and published the text in Mexico's Letras Libres and in Germany's Weltkunst.

Cheers to that!

November 10, 2010

Back to front: Weegee, Enrique G de la G

I was walking through the Belvedere Gardens in Vienna (2008), when I saw these women sharing a bench, but not a view. I hurried up to make the shot in black/white. No complaint from the woman sporting sunglasses, showing no interest for my interest. Then I walked away to see Kokoschka's obsession for Alma Mahler.

Some days ago I discovered by chance this shot by Weegee called Back to Front (1940). Awesome!

November 9, 2010

Suplemento 'Alemania', periódico "Reforma"

Muy buena onda, Yaotzin publicó mi perfil en el suplemento 'Alemania' del día de hoy, conmemorando 21 años de la caída del Muro. La foto es de Tamara Popić, tomada en Coyoacán, y por alguna razón desconocida no aparece acreditada.


Mark Twain: Afro-Americans, indígenas

I had been thinking for a while how to post the story of Cecilia and Petrona, but I just couldn't find the right words. Memo sent me a piece by Sarah Churchwell. And eureka! There it was: Mark Twain has always the solution for any problem you might have.

Churchwell talks about Mark Twain and his approach to racism:

"He also paid for the tuition of a young African American who wanted to attend Yale, saying that 'he was doing it as his part of the reparation due from every white man to every black man'".

That is exactly what we Mexicans (and Latin Americans, and many other people, like arrogant post colonialist Europeans first of all!) should do: We all have a certain debt to every indígena (or person from a former colony): historic debts, like Adam's.

There is still such a huge amount of racism in Mexico towards indígenas. Like Cecilia and Petrona, two tzeltales (mayas), who went shopping to upper-class Polanco district, as part of a deal with a newspaper. And they were asked by security personal to abandon the stores due to their clothes.

Ah! But how nice it is to go to Chiapas and buy artcraft and see Palenque, Montebello, Sancris and the jungle... Or to buy old haciendas and establish a nice hotel. Or whatever.

There is a part to be done of the reparation due from every mestizo man to every indígena. Ask Mark Twain, if not.

 Fotos: Ramón Romero

November 8, 2010

Those backs you just can't forget

 Ingres, Valpicon Bather (1808) | Man Ray, Le violon d'Ingres (1924)

 Angelina Jolie (2006) | Nicole Kidman for Coco Chanel No. 5 (2004)

Irving Penn, Amber Valletta (1996) |  Horst P. Horst, Mainbocher Corset (1939)

Arnold Schwarzenegger 

Sophie Ristelhueber, Every One #14 (1994) | Darío Morales, Mujer de espaldas (1970)  | Hernán Díaz, Mujer de espaldas viendo Mujer de espaldas (?)

Venus of Milo | Denis Gulyaev

Dalí, Gala desnuda (1960) | Werner Amann, American (2010)

November 7, 2010


If you loose your father or mother, you are an 'orphan'. In Spanish, if a mother looses a son or daughter, she is a 'dolorosa'. The relationships between parents and children have been studied exhaustively.

But that is not the case with the relationships among siblings. How you call somebody who lost a sib? There is not even a word to name it.

Besides those with similar experience, nobody can really understand how it feels (and eventually help you) if your sibling  died, or had cancer, or got caught by a sect...

Elisa Albert is publishing in a few days a compilation of non fiction stories on siblings: Freud's Blind Spot.

I just read the first one, published today on NYT Magazine by Mary Norris, whose brother is becoming her sister.

Can't wait to read the whole book!

November 6, 2010

Charles Bukowski on twitter

My favorite bookstore in the neighborhood organizes monthly readings. Earlier this week there was this guy reading Charles Bukowski's poem "bluebird", which seemed to me dedicated to twitter -- notice even their common disdain for capital letters!

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pur whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
in there.
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
you want to blow my book sales in
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody's asleep.
I say, I know that you're there,
so don't be
then I put him back,
but he's singing a little
in there, I haven't quite let him
and we sleep together like
with our
secret pact
and it's nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don't
weep, do

November 5, 2010

Building for the Eternity: Eiffel, Marx-Engels

Eiffel Tour (1878)

Sybille Bergemann, Marx-Engels (1984)

And rather kaputt, but also eternal and beautiful:
Venus of Cyrene, Roma copy (1st Century AD)

Mis impresiones sobre mi barrio en Behlín

Vivo en el barrio más hipster de Behlín, Prenzlauer Berg. Tardé en venir acá, antes vivía cerca de Mexikoplatz, no pun intended.

La muy chida revista colombiana "Exclama" acaba de publicar mi artículo sobre Prenzlauer Berg con fotos mías, como este descamisado graffiteando el Muro de Behlín. Y una entrevista con mi amiga Alinka E.

November 4, 2010

Thucydides and the II World War

One of the most surprising (to use the weakest adjective) things of living in Germany is the fact that you still cannot understand how did the Nazism succeed among these people. There are many reasons, theories, explanations, but the Shoah and Hitler will remain for me always beyond any comprehension.

One very positive (to use the weakest adjective, again) thing of living in Germany is the relationship Germans have with their own Past and History. Sometimes it is too much, specially in daily life, but in this case rather too much than nothing. I take it that Thucydides would be proud of how Germans deal with their own History.

But that is definitely not the case with USA. "Move on!" is the practical way of solving problems (just got an email with such an easy proposal -- "Right!").

So I was not even surprised but completely skeptical when Y told me about the existence of Concentration Camps in USA during the II World War. I thought that was something for Nazis and Communists, nothing appropriate for Hollywoodean territories.

But in fact, it is true.

Not only that, but making some research I found out that there were also Concentration Camps in Mexico.

It might well be that every Historian student knows this, but most of the population is completely unaware of it, it remains still a taboo, children are not taught on these topics at school. 

Concentration Camps in USA (called "Internment Camps") go back to the I World War, where they imprisoned civilians aka "enemy aliens" of German origin, and later also of Japanese and Italian origin.

The one in Mexico (called "Presidio de la isla María Magdalena") was for Chinese people during the so called Campaña Antichina between 1918 and 1934. Around 4,000 Chinese were killed due to racism.

Where is Thucydides, for God's sake?

Foto: Manzanar Internment Camp near L.A.

November 3, 2010

Walls: Berlin, USA-Mexican border

Day of elections in USA yesterday. Today, "surprises".

I have never been a fan of Obama, the Nobel Prize he got was ridiculous. He hasn't understand many of the huge problems he got from Bush and the system. But the most important thing of Obama being President is the enormous fight that the Afro-Americans fought for many years to get their rights. Chapeau!

Now, Latinos are the new object of harrasment in the USA, and yesterday's elections show two things: the first Latino becoming Governor and some anti-Latino forces getting stronger than never before.

The wall between Mexico and USA is as primitive and awful as the Berlin Wall.

Mexico-USA border, Pacific coast

Berlin Wall Memorial, Bernauer Strasse

Beyond the political differences between the USAmerican migration policy and the dictatorial communist German regime during the Cold War, the comparison is fair, at some extent. Both Germany and USA are some of the countries with the best cultural and economic resources. Both killed or are killing (or letting die) innocent people looking forward to be able to offer a better life to themselves and their families.

Between 1961 and 1989 (28 years), the DDR regime killed 136 people trying to escape to West Berlin.

Between 1998 and 2004 (6 years), a number of 1,954 migrants died or were killed trying to get to the USA.  And the number is dramatically increasing due to bastards such as Zetas and other drug dealers ("external" factors). In any case, the statistics here are not that clear.

Carl Osbon, American-Mexican border (1910)

American-Mexican border (2010)

November 2, 2010

One of those happy revolutions

There is a happy musical revolution going on in my life these days, a great experience. I had never discovered so much good music in such a short period of time, without any effort. It is flowing all the time to me, like good vibes, perfect for the timing.

I wrote once already about the Israeli project "1:1". Pseudo Bar Refaeli came to Berlin recently and she brought me the best music from Israel.

Then, since it was impossible to attend that Halloween party, J invited me last weekend to see this new band, Brokof. It was a short, great concert in an empty store of Prenzlauer Berg. Charming guys, the drummer has a unique style, playing while standing. The police came, since there was no authorization for a concert. It was one of those evenings in which you feel like experiencing something for the first time: indie concert in a forbidden place, finishing just on time to avoid the police, great music, never seen a drummer playing on his feet, the singer got so excited that he broke a string of his guitar and started to improvise with it...

And this morning there was this guest-guy posting on Guuzbourg's Filles Sourires an amazing song by Konstantin Gropper, whom I didn't know. But this guy is definitely doing the best visual/musical project you can think of, if you like music inspired by Marx, Seneca, Plinius, which sounds boring but in fact sounds amazing...

Día de muertos: popular art, plain art, wannabe art, snob art, appropriation art, cinema

Sugar calacas (popular Mexican tradition)

Candy calaca (Jim Riswold) 

Foam calaca (Fabio Viale)

Butterfly calaca (Philippe Pasqua)

Diamond calaca (Damien Hirst)

Real calacas in Guanajuato (old photo trouvée by Jane Hammond)

First calaca movie (Lumière, 1895)