Category: blog

The final day of Fallas, 2019

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Here are photos from the last day of Fallas, March 19, 2019.  Included are photos of Mary in the Plaza de la Virgen covered with flowers and one or two from earlier on while they are building.   Nuria and Zoe in their Fallera dresses in the first photo.  We walked about 3 hours to get these photos, leaving a little after 8 am.  After around noon the streets at the larger and more famous Fallas get very crowded.  Most of the morning the sky was a bright blue.

A high school mate is on my website mailing list. (you can get on the mailing list on the website or PM me with your email address) She wrote, “Thanks for sharing those fabulous photos and your latest artwork. At first I thought they were small, but after several views, oh my heavens, they are huge. Is there a theme in the designs?”

Indeed they are huge. I was standing next to a small one the other day. Bugger than I am! But next to the 15 meter high ones it looks quite small. I try to get some scale in the photos to help the viewer put things in perspective.

There are multiple themes, in fact a nearly endless variety. One major theme is national and local politics, and international as well, this year more to do with Brexit and the reburial of Franco. One showed Franco, Stalin, Hitler and Trump wearing nothing but hats.

The huge one by city hall is an ode to graffiti. There are some excellent graffiti artists here. It’s stunning!

There are quite a few fallas’ that address the treatment of women. This year Spain inaugurated a hotline for domestic abuse, you dial 116. They are now addressing the matter more seriously. I did not see that dealt with immigration. Italy, Greece and Spain are all dealing with immigration from sub-Sahara Africa. Corruption is always a topic. We saw several that talked about pollution caused by plastics. There are more, these are just the ones I noticed.

A Passcalles is a major part of Fallas.  The clubs, called Casals, assemble in Fallero/Fallera clothing to march through the street.  Here is a short video of one group, accompanied by traditional Valencian reed instruments, called ‘dulzaina’

During the day, aside from the Mascleta in the square in front of city hall, there are dozens of smaller but still loud and impressive mini Masletas put on by the Casals.  We went to ours.  You can get much closer, which does not do your ears any good, but it is something to behold!

Starting late tonight is the Crema.  They burn all these amazing sculptures except for one small example.  It’s a lot of unhealthy smoke and aside from the late hour –  they are not done until 1 am – this is why we no longer go to any of these events.  There are some 800 of these afire in the city, not simultaneously of course.      


Fallas sculptures from our walk around March 17, 2019

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After three long days of walking, our legs are starting to complain.  But the photos must go through!



Short video of one of the small parades that occur during Fallas. Women, children and men wearing clothes dating from the 1850’s accompanied by bands that often include the traditional Valencian reed instrument, the dulzaina- I just call them ‘the squeakies.”

Early photos from Fallas 2019


Friday, March 15, 2019


They began delivery of the Fallas’ (sculptures) last Monday and were still assembling them as of this afternoon.  Here is an early look at some of the fabulous sculptures.


Gaudi’s Barcelona 2- Casa Milà

March 2, 1019

Casa Milà is one of several residential structures for which Gaudi is famous, including Casa Vicens, Palau Güell, Casa Batlló, and Casa Calvet, and the last of them.  Casa Milà is known for the fantasy faces on the roof and its wavy facade.  It was built for Pere Milà and his wife Roser Segimon between 1906 and 1912.  It is a World Heritage Site.  The wrought iron balconies and other iron work by Josep Maria Jujol.  Innovations include a self-supporting stone facade.  This means that the walls are not load bearing, allowing for great flexibility in interior design.  There is an underground garage and a fabulous roof terrace.


These furnishings are also Gaudi, highly innovative ergonomic designs before the concept was elucidated.  
My celebration of two outstanding elements of Barcelona’s culture:



Gaudi Jazz, acrylics, 40 x 30 xm, 11.5 x 16.5″


Casa Mila website

There is much detail here

Gaudi’s Barcelona 1- Basilica La Sagrada Familia

March 2, 2019
Barcelona is more than just Gaudi, but we concentrated on his architectural gems.  Judging by the crowds we were not alone in our choice.  We visited the Basilica Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) and Casa Miló during our short visit.
For those not familiar with Antoni Gaudi,  (1852–1926) was a Spanish whose style belongs to the school of architecture called Catalan Modernism.   His main work is the Sagrada Familia, started before his involvement and ongoing today.  We first visited in 1992, and since then they have installed the roof and the fabulous stained glass windows that flood the space with a vast display of soothing, pastel brightness.  In addition to the church he is also known for apartment buildings and Park Güell. 
My water color sketch of the Basilica
Towers of Sagrada Familia
From outside the Sagrada Familia you are struck by the slender immensity of the spires.  Each is topped by colorfully decorated crosses.The light from the large surface are of the windows passes through the subtle hues.  No artificial lighting is needed.   

Sagrada Familia

Construction started on this basilica in 1882 as a neo-Gothic structure, radically changed by Gaudo when he took over a year later.  It did not pass the midpoint of construction until 2010.  When we first visited in 1992 there was no roof and no stained glass, which was installed starting in 2010.  When Gaudi died it was just 25% complete.  The Spanish Civil War and destruction of Gaudi’s plans delayed things until the 1950’s.  Since 1940 the architects have been Francesc Quintana, Isidre Puig Boada, Lluís Bonet i Gari and Francesc Cardoner.  They will add 6 immense steeples by 2026.  
The style is akin to Spanish Late Gothic, Catalan Modernism, Art Nouveau or Catalan Noucentisme.  The exterior features a much agitated surface and sublime sculptures.  The main sculptor was Josep Maria Subirachs, who died in 1914 at age 87.  His work was original, not adapted from any of Gauidi’s work.  He began work In 1986.
 “While the Sagrada Família falls within the Art Nouveau period, Nikolaus Pevsner points out that, along with Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow, Gaudí carried the Art Nouveau style far beyond its usual application as a surface decoration.”   For further reading see
Pen and ink sketch of sad monk statute, Sagrada Familia

La Crida, the opening of Fallas 2019

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The Crida is the opening ceremony of Fallas.   Here is a good video of the one hour program.    There are lots of nice light effects on the towers. The impressive although very short fire boomies start around 50′. You can skip forward wherever you like, especially if you want to avoid the speeches in Valenciano.  There is lots of pop music as well as some traditional Valencian folk music.     
It was a pleasant evening under the clear night skies.

First Mascleta (huge fireworks display) on Fallas 2019!

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Last night was the opening night of Fallas in Valencia. That event is a mascleta, a huge fireworks display.  It is 10 minutes of non-stop of highly coordinated firework explosions resulting in various formations and figures including stars and spirals, rockets on multiple successive heights,  culminating in a vertical mascleta some 10 stories in height that is almost pure rumble, and in fact is called ‘the earthquake.”  We could feel the vibrations from across the harbor, several hundred meters away.

I do mean huge! Here it is!


The Favorite and Shtisel – two reviews

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These reviews may contain spoilers!   


The Favorite

Set in the early 1700’s during the reign of Queen Anne, this costume and interior-rich film dissects the absurdities of the English class system, and governance under royalty. The film depicts Anne in constant pain and can no longer see to read, and either these factors or just intellectual dullness fostered by years of having every whim catered to are no barrier to her being the ultimate authority. When she does rule it is at best mere whim or the results of manipulations by conniving courtiers. It is amazing the country survived this, but then again, all of Europe was in the grip of monarchs who were largely if not entirely just as deeply mired in absurdity.

Things are rolling along well enough with Mrs. Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough, being the Queens adviser, lover and the de facto ruler. Mrs Churchill is at least honest with Anne from time to time, genuinely cares about the future of the kingdom, educated in matters of policy and war, and tough as nails in dealing with Parliament. Then along comes Abigail.

When we meet her Abigail had been thrust out of her aristocratic world by the crazed acts of her father. The debauched aristocracy is something to which Abigail would like to return, given the alternative: being left to life in the mud as illustrated in the opening scene where she fell out of a carriage after being pinched in the bottom by a fellow carriage occupant who spends his times masturbating for all to see. She tells us she fears a life where she would have to service syphilitic soldiers. A cousin to Mrs. Churchill, she manages to become employed as a servant, as unwelcome by that class as she is by the other. Her life as a servant is a cut above walking the streets but still not pleasant, given the floor scrubbing, six to a bed and ice-cold communal baths.

English society gave the aristocratic few all there was to enjoy and the masses the crumbs, leading to the likes of Marx, Dickens and the liberal democracies of later centuries. There is still just a small middle class so the only alternative for Abigail is to find a way, any way at all, back into the aristocracy and all its corruption. Mrs. Churchill sees Abigail as a threat as Abigail finds a way to come to the attention of Ann, becoming an obstacle to her aspirations.

Abigail, no caring about anything but her own survival, employs her considerable intellect in improving her lot. Abigail is not interested in governing, not that she was in any way prepared had she been. She can only evaluate events as a threat to her own well-being, or not. Meanwhile Mrs Churchill moves to cut off Abigail’s threat to her control of the queen and thus the country. Both Abigail and Mrs. Churchill are trapped by a system where it became inevitable that one of them must go.

Seen in the light of the threats and challenges facing the realm, these rivalries, plots and revenges are absurdities impeding rational governance, absurdities reflected throughout the film, where odd musical riffs and slapstick humiliations combine with rabbit worship, chocolate binges, drunkenness, open fucking, and the director’s thorough mocking of the hyper courteous minuets of the period.

Historically some important aspects of the movie do not check out.  For example, there were no rabbits representing her 17 dead children, Anne was not known to be lesbian, and did at least appear capable of governing.

Excellent movie. Garybob says check it out.


Shtisel is an Israeli production that follows an Ultra Orthodox family in Mea Shearim, the most orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood. Shukem Shtisel and his youngest mid-twenties son Akiva live together following his wife’s early death. The story revolves around his commitment to the religion, Akivas’s less enthusiastic focus upon it and the painterly interests that distract Akiva from constant study at Yeshiva.

The series provides constant reminders of the godly devotion that animates this sect. Each morsel of food is accompanied by praise of the deity and each passing of a door jamb involves touching a fabric put there for the purpose. Men’s black hats perch perilously atop their heads, presiding over ringlets descending along their sideburns in what must involve some sort of daily curling ritual.

There are endless manipulations as Shulem tries to get Akiva to give up painting and get married to someone arranged for by a matchmaker. The father objects to and interferes with his son’s true calling, which is just not good enough for a religious Jew. He should teach at the religious school where the father teaches and later serves as principal. The person he should marry is someone who would keep him in line. Of course Akiva wants to marry someone else, but her brothers in prohibit it against her wishes. That relationship is doomed. The men rule.

In the meantime a gallery owner hires Akiva to make paintings to which the gallery owner signs his name. Akiva quits teaching and is kicked out of the house, staying with friends and acquaintances before being invited to return provided he resumes teaching. Then along comes Elisheva, Akiva’s first cousin. Shulem eventually sees that Akiva is genuinely fond of her, and intervenes with her father, Shulem’s brother. The brother eventually assents, pursuant to Elisheva’s wish to marry Akiva, on the condition that Akiva give up painting and take on the brother’s new business venture. Akiva is so in love that he assents. Parents rule in these arrangements, or at least carry a big stick, so compromises and traps of this sort are unavoidable. Akiva craps out of the deal after giving it a college try, and the marriage is called off.

Along with this story is that of Akiva’s sister Giti, whose husband goes to Argentina and sheds the religion, abandoning the family in the process. He was long ill-suited to the religious life but went along to get along. She tells no one to avoid the humiliation, finds work here and there until she takes over a money changing business. The husband returns and she welcomes his him back but with a deep anger continues to punish him for his infidelity to her and the religion. She wants a ‘normal’ ultra Orthodox life, a total fitting in to all the norms, rules and traditions. Anything else is a loss of face.

The stress of the loss of her father and his livelihood does not go over well with their daughter Ruchami, who finds a way out of the house by marrying another 16-year-old boy estranged from his family and living in the Yeshiva, his nose buried in the Torah day and night. Giti aims to destroy the marriage, lying to the boy telling him that Ruchami wants a divorce, and telling Ruchami that the boy wants a divorce. In a rare but welcome moment, Giti realizes the boy is a good kid. But still it’s the parents and the religion that rules, for it is under Jewish law that these 16-year-old couple could marry themselves by a simple vow before several hastily arranged witnesses, and which ordains powerful parental controls.

Shukem starts looking for a wife and eventually finds a prospect in the matchmaker’s widow. She has him fire the long serving school secretary as having a woman so close does not look right for someone as religious as he. This match creates problem after problem so Shukem calls it off

Akiva returns to painting, getting recognition and support from a wealthy art patron, before backing out of the deal just weeks into his year-long award of room, board, studio and salary and opportunities to show his work in order to marry Elisheva. After bailing on the agreement to work for his future father in law, he walks back into the studio and an opening, at which his father makes a public pitch for the school, totally embarrassing his son. Religion for the father trumps art every time, and at least in principle, everything else as well.

Another series worth watching. Garybob says check it out!

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