Just a little light relief today, dear reader. Some people live in villas, others live in hovels. And then there are those who live in a fantasy world all of their own. This picture is of an old tower at a stone's throw from the famous fortress of Eben-Emael in Belgium. Decades ago an artist moved in and transformed it into... Well... Something special, let's say.
I guess the fellow never needed to give his guests detailed directions as to how to get to his doorstep...
Saturday, 30 June 2012
Thursday, 28 June 2012
|The man who understood nothing of such matters|
Winston Churchill once wrote that to tax yourself into prosperity is like standing in a bucket and trying to lift yourself by pulling the handle. Ah, if only he had used the word ‘growth’ instead of ‘prosperity’, then his wise dictum might have applied to today’s situation in Spain.
In any crisis of this nature the historian, however well equipped with information, is at a disadvantage. Any crisis generates its own momentum and its own personality. The stress of events; fragmentary information; the characters of the individual ministers; physical tiredness; sheer chance; all these play their part, and contribute to the character and development of the crisis to an extent of which even the participants are often unaware. And thus it is that follies are committed and a sense of proportion is lost for reasons which are impossible to specify with any exactness. Thus, however complete the documentation may be, the true causes are usually absent. [Robert Rhodes James, Churchill: a study in failure 1900-1939, Part IV.]
|The Eurotop (Rompuy and Barroso on the lower right)|
Tuesday, 26 June 2012
But was this merely a slip of Mr van Rompuy’s double-pronged tongue? No, not all the way, by the looks of it. Rather, it is policy, a new verbal approach of our European Commissars, preparing the citizens for what comes next. For what did Mr Joaquin Almunia (the Spanish Eurocommisar for Competition, and yet another example of a national politician who moved to a splendid career in Brussels after losing every election he ever tried to win) tell his own countrymen yesterday in the context of their Bank bail out? He said, and watch the wording, now: ‘las recomendaciones de Bruselas son obligaciones para España’, i.e. ‘the recommendations of Brussels are Obligations for Spain’. What a most remarkable coincidence of terms! Did we not know better, we might think that some coordination had taken place between Supherman and his buddy Don Joaquin…
Sunday, 24 June 2012
|Alfredo Landa in one of those roles...|
What do we need for this recipe? Well, very few things, really. Only this:
Once you figure the meat is done but not dried out, put two or three spoonfuls of Maizena into a cup, mix with a little water until you have a liquid paste. Pour this into the pan and stir well, moving the pieces of meat around with a fork. The sauce will now thicken, and the cornstarch absorbs and transforms the greasy taste of the frying oil, bringing to the fore the sugars in the orange juice. Let it simmer for three minutes. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top of the meat, either in the pan, which can then go to the table, or on the plates, if you prefer to give each diner his allotted portion.
Thursday, 21 June 2012
Now here is a savvy fellow writing wise words! Except that he needs a complicated introduction about international finance. Those of you who do not like such stuff: just scroll down to where it says ‘Mr Barroso went on to say’, and read the rest.
Tuesday, 19 June 2012
‘Is there no end to this European crisis? Is there even an ultimate solution?’
The other outcome, which I fear is far more likely, is that the Eurozone goes bust. In which case southern countries would return to national currencies, the north will probably stick to a single Euro-Lite or D-Mark-Plus, and we will all pass through two years of chaos and penury. The fact is that nobody really knows what this period of transition will look like or how it will run out. But one thing is certain: any conversion to a new currency will turn out to be yet another along-the-line looting of citizen’s savings, just as the introduction of the Euro itself – in hindsight – was revealed to be the largest collective wage-reduction in history. There will be an Argentinian-style ‘corralito’ of people’s bank accounts, followed by an ‘internal’ exchange rate which skims 10 or 20 or perhaps even 30 % off the purchasing power of private assets. This in the name of a return to competitiveness. Unthinkable, you say? Well, do not underestimate the ruthlessness of our political leadership in times of crisis. They know from their history books and from the recent Argentinian example, that popular fury can be held in control by the thin blue line for a week or two, and that it then abates.
|Swiss Weapons of Mass Construction|
But enough cheerful nonsense. Let’s get back to reality. The fact is that the introduction of the single currency was a mad experiment of the Dr Frankenstein type, which should never have been undertaken, least of all so fast and eagerly by people so blinded by their own ideology and self-importance. But – as the Romans, Montesquieu, Jefferson, Stuart Mill, Hobbes and who not might have told you – such frolicking hubris is what you inevitably get, if you hand over sovereign power to people who are not subjected to checks, balances and electoral correction.
Monday, 18 June 2012
Gr1. Appel Delikatess. Athens, August 1987.
Drachmas [unknown] for 240 grams
Well, Greece may be the cradle of refined perspective Art as it is the cradle of Democracy, but that does not imply that refined perspective art goes into every design it creates. Take this awful Mayonnaise label from 25 years ago. A veritable eyesore. Yes, there is a faint attempt at including a classic Greek arch, and I guess that the combination of red, green and gold is also a wink at certain post-Minoan colour schemes. But the result belongs rather more to the realm of the Amusing than to the dominion of the Muses.
Might it be that Appel Delikatess has not changed the design of its label since 1879, the year of its company’s founding? If so, that was one big mistake, for the customer and the aficionado of the Golden Sauce have progressed, my dear dunderheads. And they no longer understand with their esthetical sense what their eyes behold with a fearful shudder. What, for instance, is that funny oval shape on the lower left supposed to be? A spotted pear on three leaves of lettuce? Or perhaps the X-ray of an olive on its branch? Or might it be the portrait of the egg-head in charge of the company marketing, painted by the incomparable Karel Appel of Cobra fame? A mystery if ever I saw one.
Now, some bottled brands of Mayo that come clad in cheap or badly drafted labels get fully redeemed by the splendid flavour of the sauce itself. Sadly, this was not the case of Appel Delikatess. Taste-wise, it turned out to be straight, Mediterranean, weak and bland. The kind of pap one gets served in the tilting cafeteria of the steamer from Brindisi to Patras on top of an olive-shaped egg or an egg-shaped olive. In short: in Greece do as the Greek do, and eat Tarama or Tzatziki instead of this worthless, useless variety of sauce.
Saturday, 16 June 2012
A wise man once wrote: Show me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are. That is one true saying.
Tomorrow, Sunday the 17th of June, there will be all-important elections in Greece. Elections that will decide no little in the future of the European Union and of the nations that live under its iron, pitiless sway. And in those elections, who are the Friends of Brussels?
You couldn’t make it up.
The grim fact is that Brussels is putting all its hope on the two old traditional parties: the ‘socialist’ PASOK and the conservative New Democracy. These are the same two parties who used to divide Greece between them. Who hated each other’s guts and gladly drank each other’s blood for decades, until they found a common cause in Brussels’ courting. Who cooked the books and lied to their European partners so as to be allowed to join the Eurozone. Who mismanaged the Greek economy on such a bizarre scale that it nudged the country to the brink of the abyss. Who hid their deficits, their inflation, the scarlet of their balance sheets, and the brittleness of their banks. Who borrowed excessively so as to toss gifts and sinecures to their voters and party cronies. Who allowed, and dabbled in, corruption of unspeakable extent and quantity. Who are a complete political mafia of the most scandalous sort. Who cheated, lied, stole, squandered, pillaged, defrauded, embezzled, abused and bloodsucked everybody. Including Brussels itself.
These then are the two great Greek friends of our European leadership. These are their heroes. It is they who Brussels is happy to deal with, with whom they hope to deal after the elections. The very same old utterly corrupt and inept parties who cheated them on many occasions. The ones whom they are sometimes covertly and sometimes openly summoning the Greeks to vote for. The ones they tell the Greek people to return to power, OR ELSE…
In short: Brussels sets its hopes on scoundrels. They hope for a victory of rogues. They want the corrupt back into office, because the corrupt are their faithful friends. The corrupt, the dishonest, the unscrupulous, are the ones who will do Brussels’ bidding. Who will bow over forward for ‘special treatment’ which will save the Divine Euro. Which today, in June 2012, has become the end instead of the means.
We have come a long, long, long, long way, dear readers, from the virtues which made this our continent great. The virtues for whose survival some 20 million people died only 70 years ago.