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A study in ideal form


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I love you; thanks’; you’re welcome



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Photos of the spring fair in Sevilla in a new window

Why Humans prefer other Humans to be like themselves

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Associative Personality Disorder

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The Golem

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How to steal from gullible artists

Priests behaving badly

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How to get good photos of fireworks

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Further Dialogue on the 20th Century article (above) with comments by Bobby Porter

Love is


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This is not a Blog

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Chivalric ethics


Shibumi: Comments by Bobby Porter

The artist’s relationship to his work

Bobby's response
to The artist's relationship to his work



Memories of my father II

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Men & Women

Girls: come closer & I'll tell you a secret about men

Catholic Spain

Art is

Bad luck

Dogs are the Best People

Tough Love

Dense, intense and condensed: a short love story.

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From the Guggenheim to Santiago's tomb

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Ecco il uomo

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Why do artists paint?

A Monk's Funeral

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What is art? part II- Is modern art, art?

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We'd be better off without Religion

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Rush to change names in Isaan

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What is Art? Part I

Note of introduction added to the Masculine-
feminine article

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I'm back!

Masculine versus feminine, Muslim versus Buddhist.

Driving with Muslims or Buddhists

Peter Feldstein & Stephen G Bloom's Oxford project

How to argue

On 'happiness', in answer to Ivan's comments.

Thoughts on Happiness

The birth of Chiang Mai

War Story

Happiness Versus Suffering

Cogitations upon observing the life of an ant, from its birth to its death by old age, while I lay in a bathtub.

Scopes II pg 1 of 11

At the beginning of what the media began calling the ‘Scopes II’ trial I thought it would become more polemical than it turned out. I began collecting media reports, commentary, cartoons, defences & attacks published here & there by some of our leading scientists -- I started at the very beginning & continued for about four months.

*  I collected everything from science & Church to morality, philosophy, etymology, politics, poetry & parody, like the clever & funny web-site called the Spaghetti Monster. Also a bit of history, historical quotes on the subject & transcriptions of interviews & debates with Richard Dawkins & the like.

* Unfortunately the trials weren’t as amusing as they might have been if the Intelligent Design camp had better arguments & more credible support but in the end I think I have compiled a fascinating & entertaining document.

* It covers both sides thoroughly &, I hope, with a minimum of repetition (& includes links to further reference).

* I have added my two cents here & there in red. It is chronological with dates noted.  I originally saved it to a very large (260 page) Word.doc which I have converted to 11 pages of web site weighing between 30 & 130 or so kbs each.

Scopes II pg 1 of 11

Self portrait Sept 09. oils on panel 10 x 8 inches (25 x 20 cm)

Self portrait May 09. Oils on panel 10 x 8 inches (25 x 20 cm)

Self-portrait Jan 31, 09. Oils on panel 10 x 8 inches

Self-portrait May 2008

Self-portrait 1994. Oils on canvas on board 100 x 50 cm

Self portrait 2

Self portrait 4

Self-portrait 2004. Oils on gold ground on panel. 45 x 45 cm

Self portrait 5

Self portrait 6

Self portrait 7

Self-portrait 2007

Oil sketch. Oils on panel

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Last updated- 3rd of January 2008

Self Portrait 2006

Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

The artist... becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an offensive state.

Click here to try Paul's fun & challenging:
Art-Q Quiz!
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Mental Workshop- pg 1 | pg 2 | pg 3 | pg 4 | pg 5 | pg 6 | pg 7 | pg 8 | pg 9 |

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Thursday January 3rd, 2008

Men & Women (1060 words)

Beneath these words- part of a letter I received from Miss Jamie Sue Austin, a talented writer & original thinker with a keen sense of humour whose letters are always a delight. I had said something about my not wishing my twenty year old self on a twenty year old daughter of mine; despite Jamie Sue's answer being tongue-in-cheek I am inspired by her thoughts to disagree in no uncertain terms! (~below Jamie’s letter)

I suppose you, like so many other men, assume you will age like wine while the women around you age like milk. It’s more than a bit sexist: Paul, you could do the same thing with a forty-five year old woman [Paul’s note- 45: my age] as you would a younger one. The basic physiology being the same regardless of gravity’s effects.

Twenty year old boys teach twenty year old girls the virtue of patience and help grow them up properly into self-sacrificing martyrs. Otherwise, women might go their whole lives not knowing what unbridled selfishness looks like and never be fully aware that it is their place in life to give the very essence of their youth to every pursuit but their own. We couldn’t have that could we now? After all, if a woman is not sufficiently wrinkled, dried up, tired, broken, and miserable by the age of forty-five then she obviously was not giving enough.

In fact, I’ve decided that once I turn forty-five I will have myself put down like a gimp mare so as to spare the world my crow’s feet and soured face. They can take my sagging corpse to a knacker’s yard and turn me into premium false-eyelash glue.

I’m poking fun at you, of course. I just find it amusing that many men assume (or confidently believe) they will grow old gracefully, remain dynamic and interesting… and despite their greying hair, balding scalps, expanding stomachs, dragging balls, creaking hips, bum knees, and broken backs… women will always be in awe of their virility (even if it comes in little blue pills).

If women had the same inherent self confidence, the make-up and fashion industries would crumble, birth rates would plummet, more than a few governments would topple, and men everywhere would find themselves in serious want of a lay. It’s amazing how much of the world dynamic is driven by women’s lack of confidence and fear of getting old.

I would agree unreservedly with everything you say, Jamie Sue, if I didn’t think you start with a false premise: the confidence of which you speak has nothing to do with our believing in our continued attractiveness or virility into old age. As Bertrand Russel said: “Women have us at a disadvantage because where we fall in love with appearance, they fall in love with character.” 

I read the results of an interesting study that took the simple form of asking men & then women, what each felt was the most attractive aspect of the other gender. I don’t remember the exact statistical results but they went something like this: A majority of men answered: “The bum” then: “Breasts” after breasts, legs &, perhaps more sensitively: “A woman’s face”. The majority of women answered: “The way he walks.” As symbolic psychology I read this result not as women being turned on by visual prancing but rather the basic confidence a walk reflects. A man who walks with his head high & weight on feet (that point forward), gives an image of greater self-esteem & strength than a head lowered, pigeon-toed & cautious walk.

Women have the advantage (greater power) while young but lose it as they grow older-- more readily than men-- for these reasons. Women are moved sexually by romance novels while men are excited by visual stimuli like photographs of alluring women (showing once & for all that men have more imagination! Joking, just joking...). Imagine this situation: a man, an average man, is sitting all by himself in a lonely coin laundry waiting for the machines when in walks Jessica Alba like a spring breeze. She doesn’t hesitate but stops just before him & pulls off her little cotton dress to reveal she wears nothing else… she smells of Jasmine, her eyes are dilated, her cheeks- red, & she looks at the average man with vulnerable but unconcealed desire…

Most average men, however sincerely in-love & fulfilled as they may be with their mates, would not hesitate to decide this was a dream come true. Now reverse the situation- however attractive the man, the average girl who sits alone in the laundry will feel offended on principle & won’t be compelled by the same sexual attraction for the stranger as she might if he were fully clothed & smiled a charming & sensitive smile (think Jude Law) at her from the other end of the laundry.

It’s amazing how much of the world dynamic is driven by women’s lack of confidence and fear of getting old. by men’s competition with other men to have the more attractive woman according- largely & unfortunately, to men's biological desires & what women react to.

I once saw a billboard advertisement of a beautiful young woman in a bikini on the other side of the tracks of the subway in London. It was an advertisement selling beer or sporting car-tires or something equally masculine. Someone had risked her (presumably) life crossing the electrified tracks to spray-paint the words: THIS EXPLOITS WOMEN. I realised in that moment: It doesn't exploit women, it exploits men by convincing them to buy one beer instead of another by titillating their biological urges with a photograph of a very expensive model.

So while an unintelligent, uninteresting but beautiful young lady can turn an intelligent & powerful man into an idiot, so can a beautiful young lady fall sincerely in love with the strength of character & power (1) of a man no longer in his sexual prime, or simply: not sexually attractive in a physical sense- he is still a good nest-provider (& smart young ladies know older men are best!) I think about fifteen years difference makes the right balance (Like Nick Nolte & Julia Roberts in that silly film- I Love Trouble, though with his beautiful blue eyes, boy's smile & good hair one wouldn't guess it is actually 26 years that separates them).

(1) Power comes in many forms like Vin Diesel or Tony Soprano or Bill Gates
or Albert Einstein Return

P.S. There is more at work against women’s (& men’s) physical attractiveness than mere gravity!

16th of January:

Not surprisingly, I have had some disagreement voiced over the thoughts in this article- Doreen Dori writes from Israel with the argument that men peak sexually at eighteen while women don't until the mid-forties (really? Mid-forties? Is that true?) I'm not sure if by this she is suggesting the most viable base for a healthy relationship is sexual & if she is further suggesting that eighteen year old boys would be best off with middle-aged women but there you have it...

While an old friend of mine says she agrees with me: she also would not wish my twenty year old self on a hypothetical daughter of her own but neither would she recommend my present, 45 year old, self to her; to which the only answer I could think of was laughter! So let me clarify: what I said about the ideal age difference between men & women was meant tongue-in-cheek, speaking as I was, from the Paul who is a chemical robot motivated by biology instead of intellect & who cannot help being attracted to women of the same age as he was fifteen years ago.

Wednesday January 2nd, 2008

Ego- click to enlarge

Tuesday December 25th, 2007 Merry Christmas!

Girls: come closer & I’ll tell you a secret about men (630 words)

I guess by now everyone knows that, to an extent at least, we humans are chemical automata. Indeed, it is difficult to believe how recent the scientific knowledge is (mid-twentieth century). The surge of Oxytocin a mother experiences upon seeing her baby for the first time binds her emotionally to it; though it feel like nothing more than an objective experience of mother’s love. Serotonin accompanies romantic love & Dopamine: passionate.

In a short few years we have developed all kinds of subtle, thought, mood & personality adjusters that can make the clinically depressed see the bright side, the schizophrenic take a break from their tortured paranoia.

These chemicals are the couriers for attitude adjustment dictated by our biological ethos*, based on the will all living things have to reproduce/replicate. So we have a clear link between biological mandate, or impetus, & psychology, or more precisely: what we think (or what we think we think!).

The zoologist, Desmond Morris, wrote in one of his many excellent books: Why are human females the only mammals with hemispherical mammaries? All mammals have pendulant, conical or tubular breasts with which to feed their young, all except women. It is sometimes difficult for the human baby to find the nipple &, apparently, there is even danger of its suffocating while trying to feed at its mother’s breast. Morris answers with: We are among the very few mammals that make love face to face & so evolution has titillated men with the view of a décolletage as substitute for the primordial bum that would have been the call to sex for males from before the time we stood upright.

If you agree with me so far I think you will find the consequent conclusion logical, i.e.- The fundamental difference between the psychology of male & female Homo sperm Sapiens is based on the biological fact that men create 250,000 seed a day while women have just one precious egg a month… 12 a year, about 500 between puberty & menopause; compared to 5 billion spermatozoa... for a life-time total ratio of 10 million to 1.

In this world of finishing schools abolished in the name of feminism & egalitarianism, the women of the last two or three generations, have forgotten the feminine arts & men have forgotten the pleasures of being manipulated by them.

Here is the secret girls: When a man falls in love with you & no matter how well you trust him, never let him know you are entirely his & he will happily chase you the rest of your life trying to conquer you definitively. But if he ever feels perfectly safe, in possession of you, he cannot help the nature of the beast who will look over your shoulder as he hugs you- for the conquest of a more attractive alternative.

I saw an interview with Marcello Mastroianni not long before he died where the interlocutor asked: As a famous Latin-Lover, would you say you have seduced, or been seduced more often? Marcello shook his head with a low chuckle & answered: No, it is always & in all cases, the woman who seduces. So don’t lie to your man, don’t cheat on him, but do use the feminine arts to keep seducing him forever.

If you think this sounds like an insincere or even cynical way of approaching a relationship I would beg to differ- it is as romantic as putting on make-up & as honest as remembering to say why you love him -- even after you have to trudge through the mud of mundanity together, instead of staring pie-eyed in the face of the mystery you imbue with meaning by projecting your desires on to his clean-shaven, well-dressed, lust-filled & attentive first date.

* ...& similar chemicals for all flora, fauna, bacteria, Archaea, Eukaryota, fungi… Return...


Saturday December 22nd, 2007

Catholic Spain (1240 words)

In 1492, the same year Ferdinand & Isabel sent Columbus to sail the ocean blue, the Catholic Kings, as they are affectionately known here in Spain, also finished expelling the last Jews. Actually, they weren’t all expelled- the ‘conversos’ who denied their religion & culture, who traded olive oil for lard, kosher for pork, Sabbath for high Mass, were allowed to stay. I guess that sounds like it makes the first statement true: all Jews were expelled leaving only those who were no longer Jewish, but in-fact many who stayed remained Jewish in their hearts & secretly brought their children up Jewish.

As an aside, because this essay is not about those Jews, being Jewish, or even Fernando & Isabela: I remember reading in the fifth volume (if I remember correctly- the Renaissance tome) of that most charming of historians, Will Durant’s, History of Civilization-- that like the Parsee in Persia (the followers of Zoroaster)-- the Spanish Jews took to ships & tried to find a new home. They sailed from the South of Spain across the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean but weren’t allowed to disembark in Portugal*. They went on to the Bay of Biscay but weren’t welcomed in France either.  Britain also turned them away but in Holland (the Low Lands) they were given berth. Durant concludes: from that point on, Spain goes downhill while Holland goes up (Spinoza, whose original Spanish name was- Espinoza, was one of them).

The Jews weren’t the only victims of the Christian God’s representatives. After centuries of struggle it was the Catholic Kings who finally vanquished the last Moorish stronghold & signed a treaty of surrender that allowed King Boabdil (who had been so very tolerant of the Christian fundamentalists’ insults to Islam in his Kingdom) & a limited number of his people to live in a certain area around Granada- forever. TheyChopping heads with God's benediction in Catholic Spain waited two weeks until they felt their power was consolidated & then threw Boabdil out too (but not the treaty- I have read it). There is a spot on the route followed by Boabdil & his retinue between Granada & the sea where the king turned from the last vantage point to see his beloved Granada, the fecund jewel of the Moorish kingdom (the abundance of fresh water supplied by the snow capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada, literally: 'snowed mountain range'). The spot has been called: El Suspiro del Moro, The Moor’s Sigh, ever since. Worse was in store for him when he got home: having forfeited a 9 centuries-old kingdom, he cried disconsolately for his loss & shame, prompting his mother to remark: Cry like a woman for that which you weren’t able to defend like a man!”

The Catholic Kings went on to a distinguished career as, possibly, the cruellest religious despots in history, or at least- they laid the groundwork for four centuries of atrocities carried out in the name of their benevolent & forgiving God. The Holy Christian Crusades crossed the sea to ‘re'capture Jerusalem from the infidels & were followed by the ‘Conquistadores’ ('conquerors'), Cortes & Pizarro, among others, who crossed the ocean & managed to wipe off the face of the earth two old cultures, 8 million people, in three years,** even though they had already stolen-- by right of arms-- all the gold in the country.

After Atahualpa had successfully filled one room with gold & two with silver in exchange of his freedom, Pizarro decided to kill him anyway- his grounds? He merited execution because he was an infidel. Atahualpa baulked at being burned alive, because he believed if he were, he would have no afterlife. The priest (Pizarro’s partner) offered an exquisitely ironic redemption: if Atahualpa converted to Christianity he would be allowed to die garrotted instead of burnt. Ironic on the one hand because when he converted to Christianity the charges against him as infidel no longer held & on the other, because his conversion to the Christian creed was motivated by a belief in a different religion.

Pizarro & the priest offered this option only in the hopes that the Inca would all convert once the king had, & could therefore be governed more easily. Instead, the Inca turned to the new king & were, shortly after, dispatched by uncommonly efficient, cold-blooded murder.

Most of the Gold came to Spain only to be spent in Holland (which belonged to Spain through most of the 16 & 17th centuries) where it stayed.

Then there was the Sainted Inquisition who held brutal & corrupt political sway well into the nineteenth century. I bought, at auction in Madrid, an eighteenth century book (published by the offices of the Inquisition in wood-block instead of moveable type***) that describes in detail how to torture Jews in order to save their souls.

What a religious history! Spain’s church make the most vengeful Greek God seem harmless fluff…

I also have a photograph of a church in a small town in Spain near which I once lived. It wasn’t a photo of the unremarkable church however, but of the tiles near the main entrance painted with Christ floating above the words: This church was rebuilt in 1936 after the Marxist hordes destroyed it. The ‘Marxist hordes’ refers to the Spanish Republicans who lost the civil war to the dictator- Franco. Once Franco was in power he had the children taught, in Catholic schools, that these very bad men & the cruelty both excused & imposed by the Church, were actually good men doing the right thing. So, right up to the end of the twentieth century Spain has had a violent & corrupt church.

How does today’s Spaniard feel about his Catholicism? I read of a census that was taken just a few years ago that claimed 76% of Spanish people were Catholic. But when the researchers went on to ask questions about the religion, its moral infrastructure & tenets, they found that the answers given only qualified 19% as actually Catholic. But more impressive than that, I would say, is the way Spanish people swear. I am not even talking about the vulgar swearing one doesn’t say in front of children, but common swearing when one drops a hammer on his foot or sips coffee that is too hot; in front of children, on television... Are you ready? Please don’t read on if you will be offended- Me cago en la cara de Dios & la Puta Madre que le parió! Or- I shit on the face of God & the whore mother who bore him…! Can someone capable of saying that really be God-fearing?

I think the tradition is deep but in their hearts they are cynical.

* actually some did cross into Portugal by land but they & the others already there, were treated even more brutally a few years later as Ferdinand & Isabel's Catholisism gained in power & spread its influence. Return

** in a world that probably held fewer than a billion people, each culture largely isolated from the others, meaning: it makes ‘8 million’ people an even more outrageous number if the people that any single culture might be aware of at that time could probably be measured in the tens of millions. Return

*** Wood-block printing only allows small editions as the blocks quickly wear out; this book was not meant for the pleasure of the reading public (in France Voltaire was leading the age of Enlightenment at the around the same time) but rather the spiritual edification & practical instruction of priest/torturers. When I hold it in my hands I wonder at whose bloody fingers turned its leaves in its 200+ years... Return



Tuesday December 12th, 2007


Tuesday December 11th, 2007

Death & the farmer from the 'Dance of Death' series by Hans Holbein the Younger,
first published in 1538 (printed from wood-block). Click to see the nice detail in the background landscape.

'Death & the farmer' by Hans Holbein the Younger

Monday December 10th, 2007

Bad luck. (440 words)

I was walking with a friend in the country-side that surrounded my house just south of Chiang Mai, Thailand, with its mix of paddy fields, tropical growth & the occasional charming hamlet of bamboo dwellings that straddles the dirt path. We had just passed through one of these little, lost-in-time villages, when I noticed in the irrigation ditch that ran along the edge of the road some small, clay, figurines of people & animals. They had obviously been discarded, indeed, were positively strewn in an array of desolate rejection. I noticed immediately that in typical Thai fashion they were beautifully stylised & confidently wrought. As I reached to them while wondering why anyone would throw them away, the Thai friend I walked with noticed what I was doing & screamed an urgent command: “DON’T TOUCH THEM!”

It turns out that when one is having an unusually long or deep run of bad luck the old woman of the village, who knows about these things, will make the effigial figurines as symbols of the negative emotions that can bring bad luck or invite the spirit who curses you with it. The victim holds the little clay water buffalo of ignorance, duck of vanity, human figure of envy, or whichever are appropriate, in his hands while the old woman draws the bad luck down the arms from the shoulders to the sun-dried clay, while intoning Buddhist mantras (like all religions, one often wonders what the rites have to do with the gods whose names are invoked!) until finally, when all the bad luck is transferred, the bad attitudes that brought it are thrown in a ditch & abandoned.

Later, when I had time to think about it, I realised this tradition was anything but a baseless superstition or even a simple religious ceremony but rather a symbolic & ritualistic introspective psychology. It does not ask of any God or spirit to remove the bad luck the sufferer feels is unjust, but requires instead a facing of the actions that brought the ill-luck by its victim. I bet the practice of Western psychology would benefit a great deal by putting a face to the concepts.

To the Thai they are not, as they were to me, lovely little examples of an evolved yet naïf, traditional art, but rather living entities that seethed with a black & evil energy that might be contagioned by anyone foolish enough to pick them up. A fact of life too real to my alarmed Thai friend for me to ignore & I had to leave the objects where they lay though I would have liked to take them.


Sunday December 2nd, 2007

Dogs are the Best People. (1030 words)

I have been around dogs all of my life & despite the title of this essay I do not, therefore, anthropomorphise their characters- I have seen my bitches eat their still-borns. I once had a pair from the same litter who had never been separated but when one was run over by a car at three years old, his sister sniffed his convulsing body, wagged her tail & licked at his blood; if I had let her she probably would have eaten his body. Not to mention the first face transplant patient who needed the operation because her faithful dog had eaten her old face while she lay knocked out on drugs & alcohol.

I read a book written by that wonderful zoologist, Desmond Morris, on the subject of dogs. He explained why small dogs will attack large ones, like a man attacking an elephant, as if they didn’t notice how hopelessly outmatched they are. The instincts that make the larger dog reticent to retaliate as part of nature's way of protecting puppies from the ire of their adult pack, can encourage the small dog. He goes on to explain that as different as is the appearance of a Chihuahua & Great Dane, a Pomeranian & a Bull Mastiff, they are in fact the same species, if you mix their gametes together you get: a dog. And so, despite the variety that comes of man’s genetic tinkering, the dog, in his heart, whatever its size- still feels he is a wolf.

ToulouseThis morning I was remembering one of my favourite dogs, Toulouse (I name them all after artists), now dead of old age at fourteen. A dog whose life I saved from Parvo while she was still a pup, with an old horse syringe with which I gave her five subcutaneous shots of plasma daily to keep her hydrated while her body fought the virus that wouldn’t let her absorb water or nutrients through her digestive system.

We travelled a lot in her youth & I think for a time she felt the English army Land Rover I had then was home & the other places were just incidental stopping points we visited. This may have been how she learned the very convenient habit that if we were ever separated she would go back to my car to wait for me. I often convinced hotels who didn’t allow dogs to take us by telling them the truth: she was better behaved than I. She was always by my side wherever I went & if I had to enter someplace she wasn’t allowed like say, a cinema, I would tell her to sit & wait & she would spend the two hours watching the spot I disappeared, ignoring the throngs that passed her in either direction & waiting for me to re-appear.

An excellent dog & deeply in love with me.

One time I was painting extensive murals in the house of a client who had a beautiful English Pit Bull, fifteen kilos of murderous muscle & sharp teeth. I worked in his house for months & he would keep his dog outside while mine kept me company inside. One Pit Bull (Staffordshire Bull Terrier) day the owner was talking to me from outside the mosquito-net doors, his dog beside him, mine beside me. The dogs were used to each other & were of opposite gender so they didn’t bother each other but on this day, as Ted & I talked & the dogs sniffed each other through the screen, it occurred to Toulouse to growl… the Pit Bull didn’t hesitate but simply walked through the mosquito screen as if it wasn’t there & despite weighing half as much as my dog & only reaching a third of her height, within a couple of seconds he had her turned over onto her back as he held her by her chest in his huge & powerful jaw. I, aghast, managed to grab Toulouse & separate her from the enraged beast & holding her in my arms while he continued to try & grab her I looked up at Ted & shouted: “Grab your dog!” But Ted put his hands & eyebrows up & said simply: “No way Man!” I held my dog as high up as I could but as I had seen the Pit Bull jump effortlessly to the top of the two metre stone wall that surrounded the property in order to patrol, I knew I wasn’t nearly tall enough for my ploy to be effective.

As I turned one way & another making it difficult for him to reach her his frustrated rage led him to clamp instead on my left knee but with a lucky right knee I dislodged him before his jaw locked but not before he was able to rip a neat & bleeding gash. I could see clearly that we three large animals were no match for the little 15 kilo killing machine & I tried the only alternative that I could think of, to the losing battle I was fighting: I backed a few paces & threw my dog into the interior swimming pool just hoping the Pit Bull wouldn’t follow. As he approached the edge of the pool I looked desperately for a weapon but found myself grabbing the only thing at hand- a floatation device, not what I would recommend in a fight to the death with a furious Pit Bull. While I tried to keep him at bay with the plastic children’s toy Toulouse kept trying to get out of the pool but I repeatedly kicked her back in, taking dangerous seconds from my guard to do so, when… all of a sudden it was over, the Pit Bull was suddenly not angry any more, his daemonic face reverting to its habitual & handsome smile-- his stub of a tail moving back & forth. Ted then acted & took the dog back outside while I slid the glass doors over the dog-shaped hole in the mosquito screen.

With typical doggie logic though, my Toulouse showed no fear of her nemesis the following day but was afraid of swimming pools the rest of her life.



Saturday December 1st, 2007

Picasso's Dad

Friday November 30th, 2007

Tough Love. (235 words)

Boy! This page seems to be filling with thoughts of love, coincidence? Well, this short post, at least, has no sex in it!

Though I’m sure some people everywhere in this wide world practice what they describe as ‘tough love’ it seems to me a particularly & peculiarly American shortcoming. The description of a concept that doesn’t in-fact exist, love is not tough, love is gentle, considerate, sensitive.

Tough love is nothing but an armour suit inside of which one can safely keep his deep emotions & through which he need never feel others’. It reminds me of Sicilian women who have told me without a trace of irony: He only hits me because he loves me.

If one’s influence on another through the use of this weak & cowardly tool is successful it is for the wrong reasons: either wanting to live up to the wielder’s expectations or a submissive fear of his censure. While the healthier impact is motivated instead, by respect & trust.

I think Aesop would have taught the children of a thousand generations a far more beneficial lesson if the ant, after his summer’s toil, had said to the freezing & hungry grasshopper: Sure Brother, come on in, we’ve worked so hard this summer that now your cheering music is just what we need to get us through the long winter (thank goodness you spent the summer practicing).

15th of December:

I have now received so many agreeing comments (without one to counter) that I feel
I should mention it: I have been surprised to find how many people have raised their voices to express the solidarity they have always felt for the footloose & artistic grasshopper in the face of the self-righteous & smug ant who unfeelingly closes the door leaving the grasshopper to a slow, painful & sure death. Heartening, but then I have always been of the opinion that man, as a whole, can generally be counted on to do the good thing if not the right one.

Thursday November 29th, 2007

Dense, intense and condensed: a short love story. (1520 words)

I arrived in London after an 11,000 kilometre flight to see Kate. I was planning to stay with a friend who has a big house in Hampstead, but at the last minute I take Kate's invitation to one of the cute little flats her record label use to put up music industry people.  Very posh, South Ken, quiet, views of the church. I see she has stocked (or, more likely, sent her P.A. with a list) the fridge with delicacies, left a carefully chosen variety of CDs' (from our conversations about music) & finally: seems to have gotten to know me so well that the 4 or 5 books she has left by the bedside were all ones I already owned. 

We met that night and it was sheer delight, I remember laughter like I haven't laughed in years.  I sometimes feel a twinge of jealousy when I see others laugh like that, jealous of my own childhood when Charlie Chaplin could do it to me.  And that first night after hours of excited and absorbing talk, our eyes hardly ever leaving each other’s- I remember her singing Summertime for me in her rich soul singer's voice in the depth and darkness of Green Park at 5 o'clock in the morning.  Making love which is love, talking of the joy of feeling that way forever...

The 21 year old girl, Kate, who I fell in love with and seduced through writing; letters that took each of us through a range of profound emotion during a period of six weeks, after an exciting three hour meeting on an airplane. We were separated by an empty seat but we talked with ever greater interest as we flew high over our planet, and our hands began to trespass the no-man’s land.

Our correspondence shared so many intimate thoughts & sentiments that were mutual, that we felt we knew each other better than if we had come to know each other in person; we each felt here was the real I unperturbed by difficult-to-read physical attractions or dilution in the quotidian mundanities- we knew each other because of a pristine mental exchange, what we had was real & my everyday life, 11,000 kilometres away, began to turn around our usually- thrice daily, exchanges.

She was exactly what she said she was: an ambitious, successful, talented and intelligent girl, six fluent languages including one dead, ancient Greek.  First university degree earned at nineteen, with all the advantages of an unusually wealthy father.

The giving, sensitive, sincere and wholesome ‘Kate of the letters’ however, turned out to be the invention of a much crasser (often drunken) Kate.  She thinks she is enjoying a wild youth, when in-fact we who are older know, she is just making an empty space in her future memories.  I rejected her and even in the end, her overtures of friendship.  I have always found it difficult to follow disillusioned love with friendship. 

At first my romance stricken eyes make excuses for her bad behaviour (spoiled I thought), made excuses for the strange habit of ordering a cocktail each at the bar, plus 6 shots of tequila lined up and shot back, 3 each, before taking our cocktails to a table...  She was busy with work, we met when we could, but mostly it was at night she was mine.  As often as not she would climb into the bed I was already asleep in.  We would make love and talk ‘til morning.

One night at four I was wakened by a telephone call from a desperately drunken Kate.  “I have never drunk so much! I don’t know where I am! I should go to a hospital!” At first I don’t take it seriously, I tell her to get in a cab.  I wait a few minutes and call back, “Are you in a cab?” After a few phone calls, where I even get her to put bystanders on the phone, (who told me they are outside a now closed club in Leicester square) I am dressed.  Finally I call and a man answers, a black man, who says, laughing: I don’t know who you’re calling, but I have just stolen this phone…

I organise with the doorman, giving him my mobile number in case she turns up, with instructions to sit her down in the lobby and call me.  I explain that though she may sound like a tramp, calling drunk in the middle of the night, because of who her father is she is actually a kidnap victim in potential...  I get in a cab and go to Leicester square, a big place with clubs down its side streets as well as perimeter.  I walk awhile, dressed in crisply ironed white shirt, blue jeans and shark skin cowboy boots, perhaps the only perfectly sober person on the wide streets of London at 5 o’clock this Friday morning.

It is deserted, but eventually I find a group of four people and sure enough one of them is Kate, evidently not nearly as drunk as she sounded on the phone.  I walk up behind her taking her by the waist (she: surprised and delighted: “Paul! What are you doing here?), I nod to the group and say: This girl’s with me.  I keep walking.  Her girlfriend Megan (a hanger on) and the two men, are momentarily non-plussed, but Kate doesn’t fall into step and the two men break in.
I have faced off and had the odd scuffle in times recent to this writing but I haven’t been in a real fight for years.  If I stop to imagine myself in a dangerous fight I can see myself having such thoughts as: I’m too old, I don’t want to get hurt, is it worth it?  And yet I know I made those decisions (about cowardice) a long time ago, and when faced with the real situation I won’t reconsider my options.  It is not that I overcome my very real fear of death but just that because of those time-worn decisions I forget it in the appropriate moment.

The two men are between me and Kate whom I can see hands over mouth giggling.  They are both gym giants, one towers over me, handsome- with bulging muscles covered in tight tee-shirt and jailhouse tattoos.  The other not much taller than me but significantly wider, shaved head, baseball cap on backwards.  The big one is in my face, hands either side of me, he’s shouting, surrounding me all by himself, trying to be intimidating.  I can see by his stance he is either over confident, or hasn’t done much fighting. 

With my mind's eye I can see the opening for that lucky right hook of mine, the one that has done miracles in the past.  A clean punch to the left side of the chin that knocks a man out before he hits the ground.  Though it be a second; though he be unconscious only the time necessary to fall to the ground, when a man wakes on his back without knowing how he got there, it can take all the fight out of him; though he’s not really hurt.

Despite this thought in the back of my mind, I have little doubt that between the two of them I’ll lose this fight, echoing in the middle of a big square just us five, and the rats, in all of London.

When he finished, showing his teeth, muscles taught, a caricature of menace, I said: I’m going to give you the skinny, (Damon Runyon?  It just came out!)  “This girl here, called me drunk, I got dressed, came to look for her and found her here.  I am ready to die for her tonight but I am taking her with me.  So what are you going to do?”  The guy’s face went slack as the information filtered.  He turned so that we were at right angles, putting his hands into his pockets.  With a confused look he says, almost to himself: That’s cool!  Then more loudly: That’s cool!  Then he turns to me with a slapping handshake and wide grin, Man, that’s cool!  I shake his hand, squeeze his shoulder: thanks Man!  He turns to Kate and says, if I were you I’d stick with this guy, he’s cool! And I walk off victorious, with the girl, into the sunrise, lucky Paul, once again.
There were two things that were of important consequence to me in that five o’clock meeting in the square.  One is that if the guy had instead pulled a knife and run it through my heart, I know I would have died calmly, no raise in heart rate, no raise in blood pressure… To feel again, after years untested, more powerful than my greatest fear...

The other took the following twelve hours for me to assimilate, but by evening I had taken the rose coloured glasses off, and my love of Kate fell away.  Kate of the letters, sweet gentle Kate, doesn’t exist -- except in my memories.


Wednesday November 28th, 2007

The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife by Katsushika Hokusai- 1814

The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife by Katsushika Hokusai

Tuesday November 27th, 2007

Cubans, Norwegians & me. (660 words)

When she called I was flattered into forgetting how little I had liked her when we met. What I remembered instead was the Norwegian accent with its stereotyped implications, the rosy youth, the blonde hair, her cute upturned nose, a big shapely bosom & long legs, very long legs…

I had been exiting one party for another when she stopped me, introduced herself, chatted awhile & asked me for my number, which I wrote on a packet of matches with her eye-liner pencil before leaving.

When she called my mobile it was to see if I fancied meeting up- I didn’t beat around the bush: “Sure, come on over” - “Ok” she said. I wasn’t home but went there to meet her. We spent the evening talking & laughing. Me, flexing what ability I have to charm & entertain; she, charmed & entertained.

Then bed. She- unsurprisingly good in that Scandinavian, somewhat workman-like, way. Their very lack of inhibition keeping them from understanding physical passion. Without a sense that intimacy must overcome the value one places on physical privacy, a feeling of romance is difficult.

During the hour or two we groped, kissed, licked, excitedly explored the uniqueness of each other’s bodies, my cock screamed its gratitude after a couple of months with nothing but my company -- and my mind forgot the fact that if she were a man she wouldn’t have qualified for more than the ten minutes it took me upon meeting him, to decide he was conventional, inexperienced, unintelligent & therefore uninteresting.

Finally sleep, tightly embraced in a facsimile of affectionate union, breathing into each other’s mouths.

Early morning, she wakes, asks me to walk her to the Tube station. It is raining, cold. I am not finished sleeping & I notice a sense of sadness which manifests in irritability. I offer to treat her to a cab. She calls for one.

During the twenty minutes they tell her it will take to arrive, she dresses. I try sleepily to be pleasant but can think of little to say. While she sits in an armchair with overcoat, hat & scarf for the hour it actually takes the taxi to arrive, I fall in & out of sleep unconcerned at my un-gentlemanliness.

A few short hours later, when I woke, I found a depression settling over me & remembered another affair in Madrid just a few months prior. The girl, a dancer, like others I’ve known: after a life-time dedicated to training their bodies their neglected minds show. She, however, was a Cuban mulatto & as sexy as they come. Although twenty years my junior she reminded me how much more there is still to learn about love-making.

She told me the story of how she lost her virginity at fifteen to a thirty year old friend of her father’s whom she had seduced. When she nervously asked her mother about condoms & ended by divulging the reason for them, her mother let out a sharp scream, hugged her daughter & flung the windows open to shout to the women who were her tenement neighbours: “My daughter has discovered love! Leave your work- come, let’s celebrate!”

Despite her apparent experience (I don’t know the extent of her experience, I only got to know her intimately, not superficially) the sense of romantic attraction, her warmth, our shared heat, made the memory a cheering one every time I have recalled it since.

It took me that day & the following one to realize why the Norwegian left me melancholy while the Cuban had not. I had been a hypocrite. The self that pretended to like her, enjoy her company, be interested in her mundane comments, was the self that enjoyed the encounter. The self that must remember it, on the other hand, is the one that feels like an unwilling prostitute, prostituting the I, the I that I respect, for a shallow closeness & a few minutes of physical release.

Sunday November 25th, 2007

From Bilbao's Guggenheim to Santiago's Tomb. (750 words)

Below this article, a sinister Gothic cemetery on the road to A Coruña. I saw the potential for this photograph while driving through the 'Picos de Europa' ('Peaks of Europe' in the green upper left-hand corner of Spain, above Portugal) through the Principality of Asturias to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela* in Galicia (which is a short distance from 'Finisterre': 'end of the world'). I was driving my little shopping cart of a rental along the mountain roads in the rain as the sun set. The cemetery loomed darkly on my left & I didn't hesitate to pull over at reckless speed & great personal danger, bouncing & sliding through the mud puddles that made the road's shoulder on the right, to a stop.

I could see it was a question of just a minute or two before I lost the rose wisps of cloud I needed as backdrop so I grabbed the camera & ran to the other side of the road only to find a deep irrigation ditch flanked on either side by mud walls inclined slightly outward from the water that ran down the centre of the channel. I managed to scramble/slide down the near side to an unsteady stop just before stepping into the running water & felt quite proud! But then I looked across at the 2 metres of mud wall I faced & from the new point of view, at the bottom of the gutter, it looked far more formidable than it had from street level...

When I glanced at the fast disappearing colours in the sky, however, & didn't waste time, but holding the camera by the strap between my teeth I jumped across the metre of running water with the aim of hitting the soft wall opposite high enough to scramble with hands shaped into claws & points of shoes, to the top. I hit the wall about half way up, my legs & arms splayed like a flying squirrel, but in a few slow seconds I slid back down like a Hanna & Barbara cartoon; Wily Coyote hitting a plate glass window...

I then realised I had the same challenge facing me to return to my car but didn't panic yet & with unusual presence of mind decided to follow the edge of rushing water (instead of jumping back across to try again) in the dark of a half-moon & managed to find a spot a few metres away that dipped lower & with no less difficulty did, never-the-less, get to the top of the other side. I then ran through the tall weeds to the back of the walled cemetery snapping this shot literally seconds before the red fled from the sky.

I got back to my car covered in mud from head to camera & the rain trailed it to the few spots I had missed.

A few kilometres up the road I saw the lights of a lonely café & stopped to try & wash some mud off before finishing the 200 kilometres or so I still had to drive to meet friends in A Coruña. The little cafe/bar turned out to be called the 'Café Moderno' though upon entering I could see that the last effort at decoration must have predated the Spanish civil war. A warm Mom & Pop affair which offered me the local white wine (Ribeiro- fruity, dry & easy to drink) at room temperature & served it in white porcelain bowls. Maybe they were used to foreigners dropping in covered with mud but if they weren't they showed no sign; I cleaned up & gratefully drank their wine while sure the photograph had been worth it. What do you think? Is it a good one?

*The ancient route that ends at this Cathedral is called St James' walk in English & was the second most important pilgrimage, after Jerusalem, to Medieval Europe. When one does the walk (begins officially 900 kilometres away in foothills of the French Alps but the church considers 100 kilometres legal pilgrimage) he stops at regular sanctioned intervals to have his 'pilgrim's passport' signed at various churches to prove to the Cathedral at Santiago he has indeed done it. As reward the Church will then grant him forgiveness for half of his sins... Isn't that dastardly?! However many times you do the pilgrimage you will still have half left & be deserving of only guilt, contrition & fear of your benevolent God's censure... Return

More photos taken on my trip from Bilbao's Guggenheim to the Cathedral of
Santiago de Compostela
. I probably went overboard- 80 images on three pages...

Gothic cemetery in Galicia, Spain


Thursday November 15th, 2007

Memories of my Father. (400 words)

I remember a time I was with my father in Italy when I was about eighteen.  We were invited to dinner for a meal with a dozen friends from the time we lived there, in Florence, some 8 years earlier.

We ate at an excellent but inexpensive trattoria: seven courses that allow time for Self-portrait by my father, Victor Herman.talk, laughter & a bottle of wine per man.  We weren’t expected to dress but when my father turned up neat but with scruffy looking black brogues I thought it wasn’t like him (men of his generation place importance on the trim shoes are kept in), when I commented he answered: “I stopped to have my shoes shined by a bootblack in the street but when I asked if he minded if I took them off first he demurred, saying he couldn’t do a good job of it unless I wore them while he shined them.”  “So why didn’t you let him?” & Dad answered: “I told him ‘Me farebbe sentire troppo come un Re’” In other words: If I sat in the chair while you squat before me to shine my shoes it would ‘make me feel too much like a king’.  Implying his natural modesty prohibited his putting himself in such a position.

I smiled to myself at his reasoning because it was a typical example of his, noble & romantic, if intellectually studied, manner, to me a part of his charm & originality.  When I thought about it later however, I realised it was anything but an instance of uncharacteristic modesty, indeed, it was quite the opposite.  Firstly he denied the man the earnings for the labour he either chose or worse still: chose him.  Secondly & more importantly: the bootblack didn’t watch my father’s back recede with the thought: “What a noble gesture from a man who denies nobility” (!) “I haven’t felt so well respected in this demeaning job for ages”

Instead, through lack of essential sympathy, my father treated the man as if he felt as he himself would feel if he were in the bootblack’s boots, i.e. humiliated.  By making himself the exception to the way the man is treated by his clients every day of his life he implicitly states that but for himself (who shows merited respect) the bootblack is in fact humiliated repeatedly, day after day, by everyone else. Right?

I'm off tomorrow to see Frank Gehry's Guggenheim in Bilbao, my first time, then a quick tour of Asturias, also a first- so I'll talk to you at the week-end after this one.

Saturday November 10th, 2007

Damian Hirst

Thursday November 8th, 2007

Ecco il uomo

While we use words like 'generous' or 'vain', 'bitter' or 'serious', as description of one another, the truth is far more complex as we are, in fact, every one of us a combination of those & all other possibilities but each in differing relative amounts.

What love is:

Love is a reckless madness where the replacement of one's self-importance for the importance of another becomes, in itself, the most important thing to oneself.

Wednesday November 7th, 2007.

Divorce & maturity. (900 words)

Last night I attended a celebration dinner for two old friends who finally filed their divorce papers after nearly thirty years of marriage... just the two of them, their 15 year old boy (with whom I have my own, good relationship, just as I do with each of the divorcing parents) & me... it was a liiiitle tense... they sat at right angles to each other at the small, square, restaurant table, the boy & I- opposite, as audience & bemused observers. 

When they invited me it had been clear they had become old friends with each other, all disposition of goods & responsibilities had been amicable; moreover, they could sympathize with each other’s joyous sense of freedom since it was mutual & so, why not celebrate together?

Fernando had his left elbow on the table with his hand hovering mostly around his left ear.  Esperanza, the love of his life as he had been hers; a love older than their adult-hoods, sat to his left with her right elbow on the table, her head leaning firmly against her fist.  But yet they managed, despite their self-imposed barrier of arms & elbows, to talk exclusively to each other.  And each well-known word of each other's vocabulary rang in each other's ear with a thousand unresolved memories. 

I broke in every few minutes with some desperate joke which after a quick, self-conscious laugh, (everything’s ok laugh, you see- I can stretch these tense lips into the shape of a smile: everything is ok…) was overridden by the overwhelming black hole-like gravitational field of their shared interest in each other’s faults both practical & theoretical. The occasional pleading glance by one or the other of them that I provide witness to his or her obviously superior (implied with arched eyebrows) argument drew more from me than mere reluctance to take sides- but instead- actual fear & panic!

I saw in the boy's eye (who by the time the plates were cleared had turned his chair around & watched with his chin propped on his hands on the back of the chair) a smiling glint that I think spoke of a newly found sense of maturity & adult-hood. 

They never raised their voices but from the hunter’s blind of common courtesy they sniped at each other with a murderous intent I have never seen either of them capable of, except here with each other; practice, I guess…

We came back here & I in my last-ditch effort to change the mood of these otherwise reliably intelligent & sensitive friends-- allowing the freshly made 'ex' to go back to the new country he now lives in, without each having irritating memories of this, the last meeting they need to have in the foreseeable future-- pulled out a little chemical delight & we all introduced it to our respective brains via our stomach linings & livers thanks to our obliging blood streams. 

I never imagined it was possible, under its influence, meaning: with our dopamine receptors clogged, the dopamine bumps its head against the unexpectedly shut sphincters & bursts into tiny, champagne-fizzy puffs of ecstasy (& I bet you thought I didn’t know my science!). The warm & rosy glow to our skin reflecting the sense of well-being through eyes made black by pupils gone fishing; a kundalini snake twisting sensually up the spine as it emerges continuously from the dark of our deepest nether regions... mmnnn... we have all known each other so long… mmmnnn… we have shared so many important & fun moments… mmmnnnnn… though we’re now going different ways, we, we three old friends, actually love each other… mmmmmnnnnnnn

But no! It was a mistake that only resulted in an exhausting attempt to catch the exquisite venom before it hit one or the other of them, I danced & gyred between them, a clown’s smile stuck in place as, like Wonder Woman with her magic bracelets, I caught the gobs of slime mid-air & we all pretended through strained politeness that everything was ok... & we had to fight the pleasant sensations in order to revel in, & concentrate on, the creation of cruel sarcasm & I, in trying to diffuse or deflect its intensity & intent.

I was supposed to drive him to his ship this morning & when I woke still reeling at one o'clock in the afternoon, I jumped up, only to find he still slept & we eventually put his departure off for a day.  We ate a bleary eyed & silent breakfast more or less together & soon drifted back to our beds for an early siesta after a late awakening. 

We traded smiles & words when we met as we shuffled through the day, back & forth to the kitchen for fresh cups of hot tea.  I to shuffle back with my steaming mug to lay on my bed while he lay on the couch in the living room, each burrowed into books waiting for our old abused livers to catch their wind, get up & back to tottering on their rickety walking-sticks. 

It is now just past midnight but I realised the day was over before eleven, if that is, it had actually started.  My old friend agreed with a laugh when I pointed out that today had been a rare one in that it had a complete & absolute absence of event.

Saturday November 3rd, 2007

An article I wrote for content syndication about the town I give art workshops in.

Arcos at sunset- click to open new window to Art Workshop in Spain.com

Arcos de la Frontera. (725 words)

Deep in the south of Spain's southernmost province, Cadiz, hidden in the Gaditano mountain range, lies Arcos de la Frontera the prettiest town in Spain. Although the old walled town of Arcos only holds 4000 people & is lost in a valley hidden in the mountains, its place in Spanish history is important because of the town's strategic placement in Catholic Spain's long struggle against the Moorish kingdom. Boabdil, the last Moorish king, finally fell in Granada in 1492, the same year Columbus sailed west for India. At Cadiz's tip, near Arcos de la Frontera, Africa looms large across a bit of water that seems a mere swim away.

A friendly town, Arcenses, as the population of Arcos are known, tend to ready smiles & obliging attitude to the visitor. A variety of restaurants from cheap to middle priced in the old town or by the lake where one can fish, sail, paddle or wind-surf. Many of its hotels like its restaurants are housed in beautiful & ancient stone buildings.

Arcos is built atop a sharp promontory with cliffs to either side in the middle of a wide valley surrounded by distant mountains. The only approaches to the town are at either end of its long, thin length & they are protected by heavy gates. One begins to see how its sheer impregnability made it an important stronghold in the constant battles against the Moors & some of the churches still display the 'infidel's' banners won in battle.

Arcos' coat of arms includes the legend: "King Brigo founded Arcos and Alfonso the Wise recovered it from the Moors" King Brigo being Noah's grandson & Alfonso the Wise the thirteenth century king that captured & held it against the Moors. The bit about it being founded around the time of the great biblical flood is surely legend but Arcos does, never-the-less, offer evidence of an ancient history. Beginning with remains & artefacts from pre-historic Iberia including skeletons & cave paintings dating back as far as 150,000 years. Some of the caves in the cliffs of Arcos of unknown ancient inhabitants are still lived in today.

Later the Romans occupied the town for six hundred years until 400 AD one of their more durable examples being the bridge at Ronda also near Arcos. Outside of Seville, in the town of Santinponce, is Italica, the largest city of ancient Rome after Rome itself & includes a 25,000 seat Amphitheatre.

After the Romans came the Visigoths for 300 years until 711 AD. Then the Moors for a further 500 years until 1264 AD. Architecture from each culture is still mixed with even later styles like the Spanish Baroque throughout the buildings of the town.  Most of its old buildings are built with local sandstone that not only wears to beautiful organic roundness but glows like old gold in the evening light.  Despite its diminutive size it holds seven churches two of which are Cathedrals! Santa Maria & San Pedro enjoyed an enmity based on their rivalry as most important Cathedral that lasted centuries. In the fifteenth century a bishop made the trip from Arcos to Rome on a donkey to ask for Papal dispensation on the matter of which had seniority. It was more than four years before he returned with the gift the Pope made him of a carved baby Christ (on view today) but no final decision.

As the feud grew each church tried to show its importance in whatever way it could like being the first to ring the bells upon the hour, which competition quickly led to very poor time-keeping! Finally in 1775 the Vatican made the decision the older of the two, Santa Maria, built between the fifteenth & eighteenth centuries, was the senior Cathedral.

A rich history, beauty of a kind that can only grow, evolve, over centuries & can never be designed. The gorgeous country-side that surrounds it including valley, forest & mountain for horse-back riding or trekking. Easy access to Andalucia's most important cities: Seville, Jerez de la Frontera, Malaga, a short distance (2 hours) from Tangiers in Morocco & an hour from Gibraltar or Cadiz, Europe's oldest town. Without mentioning the area’s cultural roots in Spain’s bullfighting, horse breeding, Sherry & Flamenco- Arcos de la Frontera is still a largely undiscovered jewel & definitely worth a visit.


Thursday November 1st, 2007

Artistic inspiration & process. (650 words)

I am writing & painting again after a hiatus of adjusting to my new home which is now slowing its demands & so, as I keep promising those discerning few who care (!) I will enjoy getting back to regular additions to this blog.

When I have found myself in the society of writers at clubs I have belonged to & suchlike, it is only the fact I am a painter that kept me from being surprised at just how different, different writer's motivations & methods can be; while by these different roads each may reach literary excellence. Even a traditionally frowned upon artistic inspiration like the desire for riches or popularity have been efficient foundation to masterpieces.

I was astonished, for instance, to discover my beloved Ibsen, to me one of history's handfull of great connoiseurs of human nature who, furthermore, had the unprecedented luck of being able to combine his insight with the extraordinarily rare talent for precise while uncontrived, sensitive but not obscure, language to express his understanding with.

Well, it turns out Henrik Ibsen was in life, a dandy, concerned in the extreme with his outward appearance, the prestige of his social contacts & what's more was unable to take common criticism of his published work in a mature/dignified way often wasting his writing time on beautifully composed letters of outrage or defence posted to anyone with the temerity to make comment that wasn't strictly idolatrous.

Like one good friend & talented writer (who having been published is the only one of us two with a right to the title) I also 'think' exactly what I am going to write, trying to archive certain turns of phrase & general structure among my unreliable neurons before I sit to write an essay or short story. I'm sometimes quite sure I could rattle off from memory the say, 1500 words, I intend to write as I sit down to the keyboard but have discovered that unlike my friend who does indeed transcribe directly from memory (though he then spends years patiently reading & re-reading the resulting manuscript until the day he can find nothing to change that would improve it) my method seems to be that though the careful thought before-hand seems to be important (that is, if you the reader, find my writing worthwhile) it is in the end inevitably formed by the action of expressing it & not the thought that preceded it. Time & again, just as when I am painting, the canvas & brush in the one instance, or pen & paper in the other, surprise me with ideas that were far better than mine.*

And so today while working on a little script with a filmmaking friend I found yet another definition present itself while writing though it hadn't while thinking. A definition I have tackled before in these very pages concerning the elusive answer to the question of quantifying: What is art?

"...after a few years of practice most can learn to copy what they see using standard technique & materials but the artist’s true obligation is not searching for beautiful things to paint (as I have said elsewhere- even a Philistine can recognise the beauty of a sunset) but rather it is a pact, a collaborative act between painter & viewer of the artwork, where the artist, having found the beauty in a common but commonly overlooked sight, or as Emily Dickinson would agree: its truth,- provides clues to the hidden beauty the spectator must furnish with his imagination.  When successful, this relationship can serve to move the sensitive viewer to compelling sights he would have missed otherwise- that is the magic of art."

What do you think?

*As Picasso famously said: A true artist doesn't wait for inspiration; when true inspiration comes it finds the real artist already holding a brush. (Paraphrased from memory) return

Thursday October 25th, 2007

I am slowing my efforts with the art workshops I have been setting up now that I have the ball rolling & enough interest to make me feel confident of the success of my endeavours. So finally I can get back to my neglected easel & even do some writing. The article I am adding today however, is not an essay but an answer to an English friend's comments in an e-mail about Spanish bull-fighting:

Bulls & Men. (650 words)

I despise the lily-livered, fussy-stomached, hypocritical English attitude to bull-fighting; aside from Flamenco I think bullfighting is the most beautiful of Spanish idioms. A wonderful tradition criticised ignorantly- don't understand-don't like. I find the audacity that allows the English to lobby the European Union from their cold grey isle for the banishment of the practice, odious.

Bullfighting is a big part of Spanish culture & image (we watch bullfighting on television the way Brits watch grown men chasing a ball, I mean really! English men at the peak of physical form rolling around on the ground holding their knees with blubbering lips compared to Spanish men refusing to be carried from the arena while their life's blood pours from their wounds). I have faced mere one year olds with a cape & it was downright scary, when do the English face their fears like that? Oh, I forgot- the English do kill tiny foxes from horseback...

The beauty of the noble beast (if they weren't bred on gorgeous oak strewn farms free to wander until their dates in the ring, the species would be extinct) Bull-fight following his instincts in mortal combat is a far better way to live & die than being penned until fat & killed by a retractable bullet in the brain. The brave bull (toro bravo is the name of the species) by the way, is eaten after the match like any other bovine.

But it isn't a fair fight! Cries the Englishman, well, it isn't a fight at all- it is a ritual killing where the killer takes grave risks to show he is a man & not someone who will only eat meat killed by someone else & packaged in bloodless plastic.

Do you think the English attitude stems from empathy for the beast? No it does not, it comes from their wanting to avoid being reminded of their own blood, gristle & eventual death. If this were not true all Englishmen would be vegetarians.

The English man-animal is only allowed to be sexy by accident (Hugh Grant) any wilful display of sexual vigour (like any other male animal in nature) is berated by your confused society. Imagine you are in a ring of swept albero in front of 2000 jealous men & 2000 wet women, eight thousand eyes on you- the very symbol of sexuality. You strut; you flaunt your cock through your tight trousers. You look the four thousand pound mass of rippling muscle topped with murderous horn in the eye- you want to run for your life but you stand firm & say: Come on motherfucker, you can kill me but you can't scare me...

Here's a line from a rare Alpujarrenean poem (oral tradition, few of them could read or write until well into the 20th century). In springtime piglets are bought by each household & left to live on the ground floor of the stone house along with a donkey, dog & chickens, in the fall- the matanza (killing) that provides protein through the long cold winters. The matanzas are very dramatic in an elemental sense, before sunrise as many as 8 men will wrestle the outraged beast onto its back on a table & then kill it with a long knife cut to his throat. The several litres of blood collected in a large wooden vat make our breakfast along with fresh bread & anisette (to warm the blood) as the sun rises & the pig's dying screams still echo through the mountain range...

The poem asks- If you don't go to the matanza how can you expect to love? If you can understand this you will have risen above England's sanitised sophistication to a primitive aristocracy of the soul that will let you grasp the true barbarity of British refinement. Life, death, love, death, sex, death, procreation... death... the eternal cycle.

Thursday October 12th, 2007

I have been so busy promoting the workshops here in Spain (oh yeah, I forgot to tell you: I moved to Spain! Check out the painting workshop site) that I have again been neglecting my blog. I will be adding new articles to it soon but in the meantime I couldn't resist putting a link here to something very cool or part II which took this clever & original 18 year old (Alan Becker) 3 & 5 months respectively, to make...

page 6


Mental Workshop- pg 1 | pg 2 | pg 3 | pg 4 | pg 5 | pg 6 | pg 7 | pg 8 | pg 9 |

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P'sMW- page 1

Four ducks | A painter's style | Thinking with Google | The Vulture's Throat | Tortures of the Damned | Memory and self | Hinduism and me | The Barber | Glasgow Smile | Airports | False advertising | Buttons | Govandhan pooja | Mean Streets | Population | Back in New Delhi | Buskers | Science and Philosophy | Happiness and Theory of the Mind |
Boat races in Sarasota
| Would you kill yourself to go on living? | More Happiness | Theo Jansen's kinetic sculpture |
ebooks and writers | Arthur Ganson | Thai politics | Misanthropy | Dying | Googling our minds | Knowledge transfer |
| Viggo | A study in ideal form | Fables | The Ant and the Grasshopper | Conceptual Art |
The importance of punctuation
| California, first impressions | India | Conspiracy theories |
I love you; thanks’; you’re welcome
| Errata | Fear | Egon & the other animals | A note about price:size ratio in paintings | Strange tales |

P'sMW- page 2

Christ’s devil | Timelines | Life's funnel | Souvenirs | Moon Myth | How chaos was subdued in the Japanese genesis myth | Noah Lukeman & the murky world of today’s book publishing | Morality and religion | Music and Love |
Temeris Mortis | The Dream | Peace | God's Tick | Old Man (short story) | Intuition | A Curious Fact |

P'sMW- page 3

Why Humans prefer other Humans to be like themselves | A letter to painters | Why do people talk? |
The Painter's Eye
| I'bn al Alhí's treasure (short story) | Associative Personality Disorder |

Love poems, death poems
| The Golem | Elitism in Art | Theory of the Mind | Death Scenes | Politics II |
Rock & Roll | Words II- more words | Words

P'MW- page 4

Confidence | How to steal from gullible artists | Priests behaving badly | How to make a painting | Oats & history |
A note about signatures on paintings | Bob Dylan | Number of atheists among scientists | Theoretical physics & me |
Faust & Mephistopheles | Children's reading habits | How to get good photos of firework | The 20th century |
Further Dialogue on the 20th Century article (here) with comments by Bobby Porter | Love is | Civilisation |
Martial Art as Sport | Blind Boy Fuller | Becoming an artist | Insomniac notes | Mind-brain | Age | José Tomás |
Black Adder | This is not a Blog |

P'sMW- page 5

Dammit! (final comments on the article Karma without metaphysics) | Laic morality (comments on Karma without Metaphysics) | Karma without metaphysics | Chivalric ethics | Shibumi | Shibumi: Comments by Bobby Porter |
Oxford Project revisited | How to travel | How Wang-Fô was saved | Fish memory |
The artist’s relationship to his work | Bobby's response to The artist’s relationship to his work | Egon | 20,000+ |
Memories of my father II |

P'sMW- page 6

Men & Women
Girls: come closer & I'll tell you a secret about men
Catholic Spain
Art is
Bad luck
Dogs are the Best People
Tough Love
Dense, intense and condensed: a short love story.
Cubans, Norwegians & me
From the Guggenheim to Santiago's tomb
Memories of my Father
Ecco il uomo
Divorce & maturity
Inspiration & process
Bulls & men

P'sMW- page 7

Truth & beauty | Bugs as food | What is art? part II- Is modern art, art? |
A painter’s thoughts about self-portraits | The Piraha of the Amazon jungle | Thailand: stories |

P'sMW- page 8

We'd be better off without Religion | East Meets West | Thoughts on Memory | Scared | Frank Zappa |
Art & Dreams by Ilene Skeen | Indoctrination | Rush to change names in Isaan | The Artist & Emotion |
The art critic | What is Art? Part I | Note of introduction added to the Masculine/feminine article |
Rebuttal to Raymond S Kraft |

P'sMW- page 9

I'm back! | Masculine versus feminine, Muslim versus Buddhist | Driving with Muslims or Buddhists |
Peter Feldstein & Stephen G Bloom's Oxford project | How to argue | On 'happiness', in answer to Ivan's comment |
Thoughts on Happiness | The birth of Chiang Mai | War Story | Happiness Versus Suffering |
Cogitations upon observing the life of an ant, from its birth to its death by old age, while I lay in a bathtub.
June 10, 06


Paul's Mental Workshop, pg 6 of 9
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