Friday, June 23, 2017


The name of the spider is Maman, born during a rich vibrant avant-garde 20th century movement that explored Surrealism, Abstract, Expressionism and Post-Minimalism.  Maman fascinates. She towers over, is impossible to ignore or avoid, frightens the casual observer, and yet, upon closer inspection, is almost endearing. I noticed how she holds her sac of eggs next to her body ready to die herself before harm comes to them, but she'd be so easily crushed by anyone larger than herself.

"Almost 9 meters tall, Maman is one of the most ambitious of a series of sculptures by Bourgeois that take as their subject the spider, a motif that first appeared in several of the artist's drawings in the 1940s and came to assume a central place in her work during the 1990s. 

Intended as a tribute to her mother, who was a weaver:
“The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.” —Louise Bourgeois

"Bourgeois's spiders are highly contradictory as emblems of maternity: they suggest both protector and predator—the silk of a spider is used both to construct cocoons and to bind prey—and embody both strength and fragility. Such ambiguities are powerfully figured in the mammoth Maman, which hovers ominously on legs like Gothic arches that act at once as a cage and as a protective lair to a sac full of eggs perilously attached to her undercarriage. The spider provokes awe and fear, yet her massive height, improbably balanced on slender legs, conveys an almost poignant vulnerability."

Maman by Louise Bourgeois
Bronze, marble, and stainless steel
Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Patatas Machacadas al Ajo

Today was a work day. Nothing spectacularly new or interesting, but one of the joys of working from home is the ability to try a new recipe for lunch, the big Spanish midday meal. We didn't have any beautiful baby potatoes, like the recipe called for. On the contrary, ours were small, not uniform and cute. In fact, they'd been sitting under the kitchen cupboard counter for a little too long and had gotten a bit wrinkled and a little old. Still, all washed up clean and boiled with a little salt they followed along as in the video. My variation was to to chop a quarter yellow onion into the butter and add a few more Italian spices, such as rosemary and oregano. This is a great new way to make your own vegetarian or even better, vegan, potatoes.

Garlic Smashed Potatoes

The result was delicious. A definite "do again".

And, of course, a little salad to go with. One of our favourite toppings is dried onions. We can get them by the bagful at IKEA, when we go to Oviedo, a couple of hours away.

Sunday, June 4, 2017


He plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.
God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform.

-William Cowper; inverse stanza, on another stormy northern Spanish night.
#santander #tormenta #elsardinero #relampago #rayos #lightning #summerstorms #cowper #god

Friday, June 2, 2017

Paris Climate Accord


I spent hours last night and this morning sifting through news sources to try to understand our president's decision.

I listened to his speech, his concern that the Paris Climate Accord would weaken/ handicap /undermine (yes, all those negative words) our sovereignty, economy, legal recourse, workers, and more. Only the US would be at a disadvantage and other countries would be laughing at us? Really? With just my limited knowledge that sounds extremely paranoid. Then, after some fact checking it just sounded purely ludicrous. What about the sovereignty, economy, legal recourse and workers of the now other 200 countries that are supporting the the agreement?

President Trump says that he's ready to if he holds all the cards in his hand ready to trump in the US's favour. While Macron very diplomatically assures the US of its respect and good will for future dealings, it's very clear that the other countries are agreed that there will be NO new deal. 

In addition, my great state, California, New York and Washington are seriously resisting the president's decision and have formed a "US Climate Alliance" committed to the Accord. More than 61 mayors have stated that President Trump is wrong on the facts and the science and pledged to back the Accord, promising to meet commitments agreed to under the international accord, namely cutting carbon emissions in an effort to ward off the worst effects of global climate change. "We will intensify efforts to meet each of our cities’ current climate goals, push for new action to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, and work together to create a 21st century clean energy economy," the group of mayors wrote.

“The world cannot wait — and neither will we."

Statements by President Trump with truthful counter: 
1. "China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So, we can't build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement."
False. Under the Paris agreement, each country publicly declares how much it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and what it will do to get there. In fact, China has actually taken steps to stop building coal plants. China has cut its use of coal three years in a row.
2. "Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance from all nations, it is estimated it would only produce a two-tenths of one degree -- think of that; this much -- Celsius reduction in global temperature by the year 2100. Tiny, tiny amount."
Misleading. Tackling climate problems depends on taking a series of incremental steps to reduce carbon emissions. Pulling out of the Paris agreement would require even bigger future reductions.
3. "At 1 percent growth, renewable sources of energy can meet some of our domestic demand. But at 3 or 4 percent growth, which I expect, we need all forms of available American energy, or our country will be at grave risk of brownouts and blackouts."
False. Economic growth stems from population growth and improvements in productivity. Neither of these factors will drive 3 percent or 4 percent growth in the U.S, regardless.
4. "India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020. Think of it. India can double their coal production. We're supposed to get rid of ours."
Rubbish. The Paris accord doesn’t even mention the word coal, nor does it do anything to put a global moratorium on coal. Each signatory sets its own goals and has to report on its progress. India has committed to reduce emissions 33 to 35 percent of 2005 levels by 2030.
We have a president who will say anything. Anything.
Know the facts. Spread the truth. I, for one, want to put more of the world's wealth toward clean, sustainable energy.

For the moment we are in "good company" with only two other countries, Nicaragua and Syria. If you know anything about either you'll understand. But, the U.S.?
I read later this morning and am finally seeing something that makes sense to me... corporate interests.
We know who can make Trump rethink his disastrous decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement: The 17 CEOs on Trump’s business advisory council. From IBM to Walmart, the CEOs that are on the council represent some of the most powerful corporations in the world. 
Already, two CEOs -- Elon Musk of Tesla and Bob Iger of Disney -- have stepped down from the council in protest of Trump pulling the US from the climate agreement. 
Tesla’s Elon Musk and Disney's Bob Iger have already stepped down from the advisory council in protest of Trump's catastrophic move. Now that Trump has made his announcement to abandon the deal that nearly every country in the world has signed onto, it’s time the other CEOs from massive multinational corporations like Walmart, PepsiCo, JPMorgan Chase, GM, GE, and Boeing follow Iger and Musks's lead.
In defiance of Trump’s catastrophic decision, a group including 30 mayors, three governors, more than 100 businesses and more than 80 presidents of U.S. universities is planning to present a plan to the United Nations that would meet the greenhouse-gas emission targets under the Paris climate agreement.
Let’s call on the remaining 15 CEOs on the council to take a stand for the future of our planet. Now is the opportunity to show their commitment to a safe and sustainable future and abandon Trump if he doesn’t back down.
Sign here if interested.
From SumofUs: SumOfUs is a global advocacy organization and online community that campaigns to hold big corporations accountable on issues such as climate change, workers’ rights, discrimination, human rights, animal rights, corruption, and corporate power grab.
#climatechange #ParisAccord

Then again, to be fair, there are still those arguing that Trump was right, such as Shapiro:
5 Reasons Trump is Right to Pull out of the Paris Accord

And, a well-respected friend and nuclear physicist wrote me saying this:
Please check your statement that China has cut its coal usage. That doesn't square with any data I have. They have cut how fast they increase their coal usage but they are still using more coal every year than the previous year.
Second, our state California, under governor Brown's leadership we are heading to shutting down all existing nuclear. San Onofre and Diablo Canyon produced more CO2 free electricity than all the solar and wind built in California for the last twenty years.
The big impact on CO2 emissions is what the developing countries choose to generate their electricity - this is far more important than what the US uses. As things currently stand they will choose coal or gas. The thing the US could do that will have a big impact is to create a carbon free power source that can compete with coal and gas cost wise. If you don't have electricity coal generated electricity sounds pretty good. Developing countries will choose the cheapest electricity so the important thing is to invent a carbon free choice for them. That is what we are attempting to do.

Photos while at the Organic Faire in Santander, Cantabria, Spain.
#productosecologicos #vidasana #biocantabria #energiasrenovables #bioconstrucción #comerciojusto #consumoresponsable #alimentosecologicos

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

One Another

I prefer to say that no one is better than anyone else. But, if I were to say that I am better than you or you are better than I it would be in our regard and how we deal with humanity. How we treat one another would be the deciding factor. -

Woke to this thought 5am this morning.

Heart and Mind

Street art under the highway; Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain

The Truth About Your Heart

Your heart will fix itself.
It's your mind you need to worry about.
Your mind where you locked the memories,
your mind where you have kept pieces of the ones that hurt you,
that still cut through you like shards of glass.

Your mind will keep you up at night, make you cry,
destroy you over and over again.

You need to convince your mind that it has to let go...
because your heart already knows how to heal.
-Nikita Gill

I just love how all the colour of her thoughts and creativity are flowing from her head and her heart.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Kundera and The Unbearable Lightness of Being

All photos from walking tour of Bilbao, País Vasco - Basque Country 
At another time in my life I would have cringed to reference Sparknotes and Wikipedia in a book or film critique, but since the subject is so weighty, with philosophical quotes and dealings of the ancients, I gave myself full license this time. Not to mention the most insightful critique of all I found, written by Reason and Meaning; Philosophical reflections about life, death, and the meaning of life.
Regarding my own commentary, be sure to read to the end to understand why after discussions and political debate I ended up wondering how much Kundera plays devil's advocate and toys with his reader, and found his book to be a classic in philosophical thought regarding the meaning of life.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being opens with a philosophical discussion of lightness versus heaviness. Kundera contrasts Nietzsche's philosophy of eternal return, or of heaviness, with Parmenides's understanding of life as light. Kundera wonders if any meaning or weight can be attributed to life, since there is no eternal return: if man only has the opportunity to try one path, to make one decision, he cannot return to take a different path, and then compare the two lives. Without the ability to compare lives, Kundera argues, we cannot find meaning; where meaning should exist we find only an unbearable weightlessness. The uncertain existence of meaning, and the opposition of lightness and heaviness, the key dichotomy of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, sets the stage for the entire novel.
- Sparknotes

Kundera uses Friedrich Nietzsche's doctrine of the Eternal Return to illustrate Lightness. Eternal Return dictates that all things in existence recur over and over again for all eternity. This is to say that human history is a preset circle without progress, the same events arising perpetually and doomed never to alter or to improve. Existence is thus weighty because it stands fixed in an infinite cycle. This weightiness is “the heaviest of burdens”, for “if every second of our lives recurs an infinite number of times, we are nailed to eternity as Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross.” At the same time, it is necessary for any event to occur in the cycle of events exactly as it has always occurred for the cycle to be identical; consequently, everything takes on an eternally fixed meaning. This fact prevents one from believing things to be fleeting and worthless.

The inverse of this concept is Kundera's “unbearable lightness of being.” Assuming that eternal return were impossible, humankind would experience an “absolute absence of burden,” and this would “[cause] man to be lighter than air” in his lack of weight of meaning. Something which does not forever recur has its brief existence, and, once it is complete, the universe goes on existing, utterly indifferent to the completed phenomenon. “Life which disappears once and for all, which does not return” writes Kundera, is “without weight...and whether it was horrible, beautiful, or sublime...means nothing.” Each life is insignificant; every decision does not matter. Since decisions do not matter, they are "light": they do not tie us down. However, at the same time, the insignificance of our decisions - our lives, or being - is unbearable. Hence, "the unbearable lightness of being." On the other hand, eternal existence would demand of us strict adherence to prescripted rules and laws; a sense of duty and rigorous morality.

"What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?" Kundera notes that this is not a new question. Parmenides posed it in the sixth century BC. He saw the world divided into pairs of opposites: light/darkness, fineness/coarseness etc. One half of the opposition he called positive (light, fineness, warmth, being), the other negative. We might find this division into positive and negative poles simple except for one difficulty: which one is positive, weight or lightness? Parmenides responded that lightness is positive, weight negative. Kundera then questions "Was he correct or not?" The lightness/weight opposition remains the most ambiguous of all. Kundera then asks, should one live with weight and duty or with lightness and freedom? In Nietzschean terms, weight is life-affirming in that to live with positive intensity is to live in a way you'd be prepared to repeat. The emptiness of Sabina's life in 'The Unbearable Lightness Of Being', and that she wanted to "die in lightness" — which is to say that she is indifferent to her life — shows that she would not want to repeat her life and would not accept an eternal return. - Opinion piece, Wikipedia

While some might find Tomas' sexual appetite and exploits edgy, daring or on the contrary, maybe even repulsive, I became bored and tired quickly of them. By the end I found his going-ons really unpleasant and distasteful, maybe even as much as Tereza and maybe because of her. I suppose this is due to two reasons. One, I abhor waste and wastefulness and experiencing sex in such consumeristic excess is a total throw away of possibilities, of feelings, loyalties, personalities, friendships, all qualities of humanity and even basic decency. Secondly, said consumerism is entirely void of any nobler or higher emotion. This isn't something to be argued. Maybe for some it's fine, but it's not my idea of anything valuable in life.  The plot, in and of itself, therefore, didn't provide a great read.

What I did find thought provoking and worthwhile was the philosophical journey and even certain application of Nietzsche's premise and its inverse. In Milan Kundera's work we delve into the the study of how life can't have meaning if we're unable to study it from the far end. In other words, if we can't study our lives looking backwards, from the point of view of our death. Instead, in real time, when we must make our most important decisions how can we absolutely know if they are right and wrong if we can never practice what it is to choose well for ourselves, and what choices could be bad and even disastrous? How, therefore, can morality be attached to our choices? This is the deeper, more meaningful essence and redemptive element of the novel. It poses questions about the heaviness and lightness of life. And in the end, many, myself included might decide that while lightness, or lives free as the air we breathe, might be tempting, it might not be the most desirous choice after all. We might decide the light is insignificant, void of meaning and decide that it's simply unbearable and choose heaviness, together with meaning and purpose, instead. Still, in conclusion, not I, nor most lectors will be able to answer simply by the end of this read. That's what gives this book cause for deeper reflection and true value.