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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Health, Psychological, and Moral Threats Posed by Facebook Usage

In addition to the time people waste on Facebook, this titan of social media also presents other threats to individual users.

-Devastating for people with allergies to cat videos

-Selfie over-dosing

-Violates several commandments including:

Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s vacation

Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s meal he had on vacation which he took a picture of on Instagram®

-Criminally insulting one's intelligence via facile political slogans attached to stupid photos

-Pictures of other people’s cool dogs forces you to ask serious questions about the validity of your dog-less existence

-Pictures of other people’s beautiful kids forces you to ask serious questions about the validity of your dog-less existence

-Because of over-saturation on Facebook, the priceless gag of a dad getting hit in the nuts with a ball thrown by a child (or vice-versa) is starting to lose a bit of its appeal

- Realization that even if the photo were taken from a satellite I'd still look fat

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Rites (Rights?) of Summer

My summer has been one step forward with cycling and other sports followed by at least one step back with early lunches (called almuerzo here in Spain) of embarrassingly luxurious food, many times shared in picnic form at a local café that allows us to bring in treasures from our local market next door. A single anchovy in oil over a piece of bread, the thinnest slice of jamón Serrano with melon, cheese with truffles, and other wonders that go directly from the market stall to the table without passing through the kitchen. Olives, of course, there are always olives.  It’s impossible to beat an ice cold beer after a two hour bike ride in August but a few sips of wine with the picnic is almost as good, so I have both...at the same time.

I’ve had a haircut since this picture was taken as my long hairstyle tended to vary (on its own) between television evangelist, professional wrestler, or country music star wannabe (and who wouldn't want to be a country music star?).

Thursday, August 25, 2016


For many years I’ve had a question about the nature of Spanish people, or at least those here in Valencia. Do they have some deep, dark secret they're harboring? To they all have something shameful to hide? Just what is going on with a majority of the homes here? Why does almost everyone in this city have their blinds and windows closed almost all the time?

As I sit here typing this I’m sitting on the bed in one of my back bedrooms looking out into what we call the “patio de manzana” or the rectangular interior area of the group of buildings which form my block (manzana is “apple” in English but also “block” from two different root words). Almost every flat has its windows closed and most have their heavy exterior window blinds shuddered. It is August 25th at 08:00 but on this morning I almost feel uncomfortably cool without a shirt so I know that people aren’t attempting to fend off the vicious sun. I’ve noticed this phenomenon throughout the year which means that it isn’t just a summer thing. Why on earth would you want to block out the sun in the winter? Why would you ever want to block out the amazing light we have here in Valencia? Most people would kill to have even a fraction of our sunshine.

It isn’t because people are running their air conditioners. People use air conditioning very sparingly in Spain with the exception of the big department store, El Corte Inglés, whose polar vortex exhales with such force each time the front doors open that the frigid air practically knocks me off my bike, but I can’t hear a single AC unit running in the courtyard outside my window. I've asked dozens and dozens of people about why they keep their windows and shutters closed and I've received not much in the way of answers. Sometimes when entering people’s houses I'll have a coughing fit because the air inside is so stuffy and uncomfortably warm because all of the windows are closed. People will ask me if I want to have them open a window and I feel like screaming at them, “No, I want you to open all the damn windows and keep them open!”

Different patio, other month
The responses I've received from locals vary but hover mostly around evasive, like they don’t even know why they do what they do. I half-expect people give me some medieval answer about keeping out the pox or something like that. I've been told that keeping their flats closed up keeps in the cool night air which is highly unlikely since you'd have to open up to let in this coolness. Keeping windows shuttered in the winter does act as an insulator but this is mostly undone by the fact that you aren’t allowing in any heat in the form of ultraviolet rays. I can’t stand shuttering my windows even at night as this blocks out the artificial light from the street and it makes me feel like I’m living in a crypt.

The only answer that I've come up with on my own is that people are incredibly modest and don’t want to be the target of peeping Toms. This would also explain why almost no one uses their little balconies. I seem to be just about the only person on my street that actually uses my modest little balcony as an actual part of my living space. The only time I’ll see my neighbors out on their balconies is when they’re having a cigarette. As I said, I think this is because people feel too much like they are under a microscope when they’re exposed in this open area.

I open my windows the first chance that I get in the early spring and I don’t bother to close them until winter. I want to bring in every ray of light and every breeze that passes by. If I have any complaint it’s that my windows aren’t big enough to capture all the light and air that is available. On especially hot days I’ll sometimes leave my front door wide open to get the breeze from the stairwell. One morning I noticed that I had left the door open throughout the night. When I shared a flat with a good friend here in Valencia we would remove the window in the kitchen area of the flat leaving an opening of about 2 x 1.5 meters during the months of summer.

I just can’t believe how many people close up their flats like they are closed for business. And when I say “most people” I mean like about 90% of the households you see here. If you don’t believe me just take a look. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Lesser Known Works of the Grand Masters: The Catalogue

It is our honor here at Madrid’s Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia to present one of the most talked about collections in our museum’s illustrious history, Lesser Known Works of the Grand Masters: From Prehistory to the Present (If you can even call that new crap art).

- The Last Breakfast by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519 Italy) oil on canvas

Depicts Jesus our savior clad in his underwear having a cup of coffee in the kitchen while reading the sports section.

- Wally by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564 Italy) sculpture in marble

Sculpted years before his more famous marble masterpiece of the biblical hero David, the young Michelangelo chose as his model Wally Delvecchio, a tubby middle-aged janitor at his art school. This was the first recorded representation of man-boobs in all of the long history of art.

- Early American Road-kill by Norman Rockwell (1894-1978 USA) oil on canvas

Twice rejected by the Saturday Evening Post, this painting details a classic American family’s reaction to the death of their pet cat which has recently been flattened by the Wells Fargo Wagon.

- Various Cleaning Products by Andy Warhol (1928-1987 USA) screen printing

Warhol became the first artist to elevate to the status of pop art the bottles of mostly toxic crap we keep in the cabinet under the kitchen sink.

- Neighborhood Punks Spilling Paint in Driveway by Jackson Pollock (1912-1956 USA) oil on concrete

Thought to be the first work in Pollock’s move into abstract expressionism and based on a real incident of vandalism after the artist forgot to lock his garage which he was then using as his studio during his “paint by numbers” phase.

- Peasant Boy Picking at Small Pox Scab by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669 Holland) oil on wood

Completed during Rembrandt’s apprenticeship period with Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam, the work was given as a gift to a woman the youthful artist was courting at the time. She promptly nailed the work backwards to an interior wall of her bedroom to block a draft. The painting was only rediscovered in 1989.

- Turdhenge by unknown (ca 3500 BC) photography exhibit

Situated in Wiltshire, England, near its much more famous architectural cousin but predating Stonehenge by perhaps 1,000 years, these monuments reaching heights of over 5 meters where made with compacted and dried human feces.