Sunday, November 15, 2015

Random Word Generator, Part 2

As someone who has always avoided designer brands and visible logos, (You want to use my body as a billboard? Pay me.) I find the global desire for our brands fascinating. Non-American companies try to pull off the Anglo vibe and it works well for them. In a previous post, I talked about Springfield, a Spanish brand whose everything in-store is in English.
A Danish company is the biggest European clothes seller in China, and it's brands are :
   Mamalicious - maternity, of course
   Selected Femme 
And Jack & Jones, the non-American logo we saw most often except for...

Pull & Bear, a Spanish brand with stores everywhere. 
(See the Abercrombie & Fitch influence? Europeans still crave that brand and line up round the block to get into their store on 5th Ave.)

Other slogans, maker unknown, we saw while in Iberia.
   Jeans Intelligence
   Dresen Power
   Infinite D 62 coded
   This is a perfect low (on a seemingly cheerful looking woman in her 40s)
   NY Sunday Voltage Dirt Club , (in a circular design, of course.)
   Minnesota, NY (Where the Voltage Dirt club is?)
   Palm Beach Rugby Beach Team, Old Tigers (Highly unlikely.) 
   Incunabula (It means a book published before 1501. Also, good metal band name.)

And when weary of just throwing together words, how about letters?
On a man purse at Heathrow in largish font -  
Available now on both Alibaba and Amazon. Honest. 

Got few photos, as most things passed by quickly. Must admit I loved the cheek of the last one, seen in a shop in Lisbon that does small run stuff locally.

The more fonts the better. 

Can't fault the sentiment

Not really sure what the designer was trying to say. I say this is George Bush. Mark isn't so sure. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Lisbon. Lisboa. Why do I like you so?

Sure, I'm swayed by the perfect weather we find here, the clean and easy subways, the charming old buildings, many faced with ceramic tiles. The wide river adds a nice breeze and andpoint for all to gather and see the sun go down. 

It's much smaller than Madrid and much grittier. Many buildings empty, derelict, in need of TLC.
But there is something about the art that talented taggers have painted, perhaps by invitation (there is a tour of Street Art) that charms. Buildings are often cheerfully painted, lots of peach, sky blue, Big Bird yellow and Pepto Bismol pink. The official palace is pink. But there is also lots of grime and mildew and plants growing out of roofs, unintentionally. Portugal is poorer than Spain and it shows. But they try to make beauty where they can.

Right down to their many mosaic sidewalks and plazas. 

Ran into no one who didn't speak English, though we spoke mostly to those who deal with tourists and/or are young. There was a friendliness evident, but who knows if it was sincere. 
Maybe Portugal is simply Spain without the arrogance. I was annoyed in Madrid at how fellow pedestrians refused to acknowledge my presence and simply expected me to move. I had to step into the street more than once or simply be mowed down. 

They have bullfights in Portugal but they don't kill the bull. 
In Spain, the dish that's presented as the culinary pinnacle is a roasted suckling pig.
In Portugal, it's all about cod. 

At the flea market in Madrid, police were out in force checking people's permits to sell. At the Lisbon flea, it was a free for all - anybody could throw a blanket on the sidewalk and vend their garage sale stuff.

Lisbon is a city so vertical, part of their metro system is funiculars and elevators. They have elevators to get you from one neighborhood to another. 

Like many cities, this one has statues aplenty, in the squares and atop the buildings. But what I noticed is how often they were women - warriors, protectors, and bestowers of reward. 

Note, too that the recipient on the left is a woman. 

So yes, even though we were victims of theft and Mark was felled by an intestinal bug for a couple of days (which erupted in me when we got home) and our original hotel ended up being quite unsuitable and I had to hustle to find a room among the hoards of tourists from Germany and France, it just felt right. 

Next big trip - don't ask. Still recovering from this. There will be at least one more post of photos that didn't fit elsewhere. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Road Report -Iberia

Back in Lisbon, we turned in the car yesterday. 

The highways of Iberia are in excellent condition, though somewhat better in Spain than Portugal. Everything in Spain seems in a bit better shape than Portugal; a reflection of their economies. The highways are mostly free in Spain, mostly toll in Portugal.

The drives were really very nice. This whole place is far more mountainous than I knew and so much greener than I expected. In terms of topography, much of what we saw was quite similar to central Texas, only very green, so Hill Country Texas for those few weeks in spring. And many more trees. And far more agricultural. 

Adding to the attractiveness of the drive - no billboards. No mobile homes. No yards filled with junk cars. 

Detracting? So much graffiti, ugly blotches and run of the mill tags, sometimes even on historic buildings but nearly always on highway walls. On rare occasions, it's good. 

This was at the end of an ancient wall in Granada where they had covered it with reinforcing concrete,  visible only if you climbed to the top floor of a home from the time of the Moors. 

Saw millions of olive trees. They seemingly grow anywhere, including up the sides of mountains. Saw trees that looked like oaks (from a speeding car at least) obviously planted in rows and couldn't figure out why till I saw some that had recently been harvested - they were cork trees. 

Gas expensive? Yup. We paid $5-$6 - gallon, but that came as no surprise. Mark says the Renault Clio impressed him. Handled well and got about 42 mpg. (I drove almost none.) 

We saw so many car brands - about 20 European brands, including the Spanish made SEAT (it's an acronym) now owned by VW, and the Czech made Skoda, now owned by VW. Also saw all the Japanese and Korean brands, but for all of the above, mostly models not sold in the US. Only American car we saw was an occasional Ford. Saw one Honda CRV - our car back home - and it looked huge. 

The roadside convenience stores were very clean and well stocked and had clean "aseos" which are also called "W.C."  which I  always thought was a British term and likely is because English is everywhere. Everywhere and all the time. 

All the stop signs are red hexagons that say STOP.  

Ruined by Ruins

Evora, Portugal, yet another Uneso World Heritage Site.
This peninsula is filthy with them. 
We have seen so many churches and castles and quaint, narrow streets we have overdosed.

Only 500 years old? Yawn. We are already jaded. 

But Roman ruins, well, that's different. 

The photo above was taken by Fred, our tuk-tuk tour guide.

His English is excellent and this is his business. An entrepreneur. We wish him well.

Finally, on Friday the sun came thru. We headed west to investigate the Almendres Stone Circle, oldest in Europe, thought to be 4-5 centuries BC. Not quite the tourist attraction Stonehenge is, as it's simply a cow path that leads there. 

The muddy parking area had a couple of camper vehicles in it and when we walked to the stones, we came upon a young woman engaged in her sun salutations. French hippies. The remnants of their campfire remained in the center of the stone circle. Which is more of an oval.

And of course they do line up with the sun. Note me in the pic for a sense of their size. 

Nothing like the sun to lift spirits. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Another time travel idea...

I want to be 20 again and spent a year at the Univeristy of Salamanca.

It's a college town and it feels it. The grocery store has a sushi bar and lots of cooked take away food and it looks like at least 50% of the people you see are young. 

It would take a long time to visit every taverna and cerveceia  in town and, due to a large contingent of international students, the bars promote various night for multi-language meet and greets and trivia. 

And it's just beautiful, even on a cold and drizzly day.

They paint on the walls to identify buildings and, as best we can tell, to honor people, mostly faculty. And it's a great font. 

It was lawn edging day. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


Note Sting on the right looking very unhappy, plus the spelling of Beatles. 

the Random Word Generator

Random English words on clothing continues to be a real trend. There is a clothing store called "Springfield" whose in-store signs are all in English and they feature a thin letter jacket with a large M on the right side of the chest and within the M it says "Memphis" 

As I see interesting words on clothes, I make note. Here are some examples:

Small Athletic Original

South Bank Union Square Manhattan

J&J E:1975 (declaring a date of establishment is very popular, though the shirt that claimed 1898 was a bit hard to believe.)

The Hundreds Telling Points 

Dear Pee Land (what did this person think it said?)

A cap that looked like a Pittsburgh Pirates cap in blue, but on the inside of the brim so It would be seen when worn pushed  back --- "Stay Golden"

Dream Fun

Asphalt Rider (on a middle aged woman)

Cheap Monday Stockholm (good for a very short vacation)

On the back of a jacket, over the left shoulder - 
     Industrial Dpt
     C (skull picture) 37 A  (and what was 37 B) 

Brilliant Luxury Soda (an idea with potential)

And on a tall, slim Japanese teen--- Yake Me To Paris

Monday, November 2, 2015

Ham, eggs, bacon and ham.

The Spaniards are crazy for ham. They are famous for their ham. You can go into an eatery and be given a ham menu. 
It's not the ham we eat in America; it's been aged for a very long time and it's cut super duper thin right off the whole leg and they dangle from the ceilings of thousands of cafes, taverns, cervecieras and shops all over Spain. I call it pre-jerky. It is dark and paper thin. The Iberian version of prosciutto.

It's expensive, as meats go. But they love the stuff. There is even a chain called "Museum of Ham." 

Plus, pork is on every menu served several different ways - loins, chops, cutlets and cheeks.

Here's why. 

Back in the middle of the last millennia, when the Christians were slowly taking over the peninsula from the Moors, they decided to expel the Jews and Muslims and confiscate everything they had except for those who converted and became Catholic.

But they didn't trust the converts, knew that some were probably faking it because they wanted to stay where they had lived for generations and keep what they had accumulated, which was often substantial. 

So they made them eat pork to prove their sincere conversion. Pork eating became equated with sincere Christianity. 

And now you know he rest of the story. 

Art - Here's the thing...

When I was young I had opinions about art that I assumed were naive and thus I didn't say things like I do now, like:  Monet is over-rated. How does Sisley rate exhaulted status when Mary Cassett is consistently overlooked? And - pointillism? What is the point? 

And don't get me started on modern art, much of which is best described as "notions without skill."

Meanwhile, this ----

This I love. I thinks it's beautiful. It's wonderfully rendered and it tells a story.

And the artist...

You ever heard of Ramon? I haven't, and I've been to many of the best art museums in the world and loads of little ones as well. So why have I never heard of this man, why are Degas redundant ballerina's swooned over and this guy is a nobody? 

It's a mystery. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Prado and Prejudice

I had real qualms about The Prado.

Not a fan of Goya or Velazquez. Knew the place was very Spanish-centric. But seriously, can you come to Madrid and not go to the Prado?

So we went. And it was as expected. Room after room after room of religious themed paintings, even those by Italians and Germans and Flemish artists, innocents being slaughtered, Sabine women being raped, heads on platters, the Passion, the Pity, and the ever present virgin with one tit showing.

The only memorable exception was the Bosch. Yes, the Garden of Earthly Delights was there is all its acid tryptich-ness. Just what was he on? 

So we made our way over to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. Seems a Hungarian baron married Miss Spain 1961 and their collection plus the government's purchases of hundreds more works resulted in a fine museum. Very eclectic and some B list artists, but also a chance to discover things and revel in some great pieces.

Anyplace with Rembrandt, Hopper and Wyeth is A-OK with me. 

Fleas and Boo-tees

Some scenes from the enormous El Rasto flea market, held Sundays and holidays in Madrid. 
It covers many blocks - we saw only part - and there is a significant police presence, but they are busy checking people's permits. Most of the booths sold used or cheap clothes and accessories made in India or China, but there were a fair amount of booths with etc.; my favorite.  

This is not an optical illusion. The inflatable manaquins are not petite.

Alas, we did not have room for this very strange typewriter.

We have been to flea markets in half a dozen countries and one thing you can count on ---

Although we cannot recall a crying Bob Marley. Perhaps they have confused him with a pollution- grieved Indian. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Museum pieces

At an art space supported by the Telephonica Foundation, we saw the amazing Strandbeests, the creation of the Dutch artist Theo Jansen. They walk powered by wind, and can even store energy in plastic bottles and thus amble without wind. Genius. 

For video see his site   He also has a TED talk.

It was a nice building. Great looking stairwell.

Also in the building, a history of the telephone museum that was quite fun, though at the end, I had to laugh over the fact that my exact model of phone is already a museum piece.

At a different gallery, saw a retrospective of the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, Europe's Frank Lloyd Wright, a man who brought architecture into the modern age and also designed furniture, lamps, bricks, and many other things. His designs are still available, especially the glass ware.

Went to the Madrid design center for an exhibit of Bakelite objects that was absolutely wonderful - hundreds of pieces, all in excellent condition.  Unbeknownst to us, they also had a show with a about a dozen Finnish artists, all women, working in 3D with often recycled material. I'd show you photos, but none were allowed. 

Truly, Madrid is a museum lovers dream. Tomorrow we hit The Prado. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Every day in Spain is a lesson in religion

So off we went to Toledo on a beautiful sunny day. Another cathedral and I'm bored to pieces with cathedrals so I've declared this one to be the last. Sure, it had its fine points, but it's easy to go into overload.

We wound our way to an ancient synagogue which was built in the 1400s and lost to the Catholics after not many years. It was clearly designed by an Mudjaher architect, as were many buildings commissioned by non-Muslims simply because they were the best. For many years the synagogue was a church, it spent about a century as military barracks and then became a state memorial and is now known as the Synagogue of St. Mary. 

As the sweet nun with a Star of David in her crucifix told us, there is no longer a Jewish community in Toledo, yet they will celebrate Hanuka and their love and gratitude for Israel. 

In much of the city, embedded into the street, are tiles like these.

And many souvenir stores carry mezuzzahs of Spanish ceramics or Damascus steel.

Afterward, we wandered to a beautiful little square for another meal outdoors and found tapas con lox at a cafe called "Dar al Chai" whose interior decor as strictly Arabian.