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Archive for December, 2009

Twelve grapes and a stuffed pig

by Alex on Dec.31, 2009, under Blog

Apparently I have to find twelve grapes for this evening. And then I’m to eat one in time with every strike of midnight’s bells. If I succeed (and I read it’s quite difficult) then I’ll enjoy a prosperous two thousand and ten. It’s a Spanish tradition of about one hundred years and it seems that it’s made its way to Colombia, I’ll let you know how I get on…

A celebratory thing that is one hundred percent Colombian is lechona. It’s not Yuletide-specific but one was served on Christmas eve when we went with the guys from Cranky Croc (hostel) to Destino Nómada (hostel) for our Christmas dinner.

lechona-2 lechona-1 lechona

The meat is first removed from the pig and mixed with garlic, onion, peas and rice and seasoned with salt, pepper and cumin, shoved back in the pig which is basted with bitter orange juice and roasted for ages.

It sounds pretty tasty though didn’t have any, being a veggie and all.

Well, it’s a few minutes before midnight in the UK so HNY to all over there, we’re still wondering what to do this side, am sure we’ll come up with something good though wonder how I’ll fayre being four days into my month (or so) off booze!

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Takashi Murakami

by Alex on Dec.22, 2009, under Blog

I first came across the work of Takashi Murakami at the Serpentine Gallery in 2002 and instantly loved it. I can’t tell you why and have long got over the small-penis syndrome that I once had in being absolutely useless at any kind of art critique be it literary, performance-based sculpture, paintingy stuff or other. My opining can be extended with relative ease to such prosaic genius as ‘I like it’ and perhaps my favourite – ‘it is nice’, something that would probably have my secondary school English teacher turn in her grave (assuming she’s dead, which she probably is).

Takashi Murakami [singlepic id = 709 h=150 float = left] Takashi Murakami  (26)

From pure Tove Jansson through Smurfs on acid to melting Mangaesque monsters his art is seen on ‘canvas’ and in sculpture, on shoes, vehicles, buildings and to my surprise he’s the guy what done Louis Vuitton’s Monogram Multicolore.

Takashi Murakami  (62) [singlepic id = 759 h=105 float = left] Takashi Murakami  (57) [singlepic id = 750 h=105]

I’ve also read about some Kanye West stuff but have little interest in that after seeing Mr ‘West’ prancing about on stage supposing that he was very cool sporting frankly ridiculous glasses at Wembley, and it wasn’t even sunny!

I’ll not rehash easily googleable biographies but after failing to to find a decent single repository of his works I’ve created a gallery here, I hope you enjoy it!

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Tiësto in Bogotá

by Alex on Dec.12, 2009, under Blog

T’was the eve of my birthday the dress code white and the destination Parque Jaime Duque, about an hour’s drive north of Bogotá. We had to pay a ‘fine’ of 50,000 pesos when flagged down by the policia as Marty didn’t have his driving license on him and when we got there the parking set up was a shambles, naturally…

I wondered if our ‘VIP’ tickets might get us close to the action and laughed when I realised that a ‘VIP’ ticket in Colombia, at least at a Tiësto concert, holds about as much kudos as does the title ‘Vice President’ when working for a large United Statesian corporate. We were right at the back, platinum ticket-holders in front of us and uberplatinum (or something) in front of them. It was for the best though as we had plenty of space and didn’t have a half hour queue for the toilets.

What a night: we were about 15,000, the music was amazing and the smoke effects were provided by mother nature – the mist rolling across the open-air arena added to the ambience no end though brought with it the distinct threat of hypothermia.

Music-wise, at least electronically-speaking, I’m a bit of a turn-of-the-millennium trance boy, my first favourite of the night was Gouryella then came one of my bestest choons of all time – Silence. The pièce de résistance was Barbers Adagio for Strings with a firework accompaniment. The fact that you see me dancing hands in pockets at the end of the video below is reflective of the fact that it was freakin’ freezing, it’s neither a sign of apathy nor lack of enjoyment! Stick with the video ’til the end for the fireworks. Oh and a special thanks to Travis for spending so much time finding the worst possible photo of me for the vid x.

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Día de las velitas

by Alex on Dec.08, 2009, under Blog

I was both surprised and happy to find out that the ‘day of the candles’ is a specifically Colombian thing. Surprised as being of Catholic origin I’d have thought that it would be celebrated in other Catholic countries and happy as being specific to Colombia means that you probably know nothing about it.

It is said that celebrations vary across the country but it seems they mostly consist of lining the streets with millions of candles and hanging lanterns from everywhere, either on the eve of the 7th or morn of the 8th of December. My friends told me that the tradition is one of celebration of love and friendship and that on their balconies and from their eaves, on their doorsteps and on their streets, people place and hang the candles and lanterns as individual dedications to those for whom they care and it’s pretty. For me the candles will always mean this – I’m quite happy to ignore the alternative (religious) explanation.

From our apartment, we watched the fireworks explode from the top of the Colpatria building then went out for a wander. The streets were lively and indeed were lined with lanterns made from paper bags, sand and candles with paper lanterns hanging all over the shop. Front doors were open with families hanging out on what would be their stoops were they a little bigger – this in itself is unusual as doors are normally securely locked in this part of town. Septima, the main street, was packed to bursting; I’ve never seen it so full, nor Plaza de Bolívar. Rammed with sightseers and vendors selling hot drinks food and stuff with flashing lights on, the massive Christmas tree was lit up as were the buildings around the squares as you can see from the pics below:

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I couldn’t find anyone selling (cell phone) minutes though, which seemed odd as you can go there on a day when it’s mostly empty and find at least 30 people selling calls. I’ve dug around on the interweb and found these pictures from around Colombia.

Well, they certainly like to celebrate here. So far not a week has gone by without learning of a new festival or celebration or at least a big event of some kind, which is great as far as I’m concerned!

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An evening with the Bogotá Filarmónica

by Alex on Dec.04, 2009, under Blog

The Cerro de Monserrate climbs to 3,152 metres providing a fantastic look out over the great city of Bogotá. We’d reached the top by way of the funicular railway laden with cheese, wine, baguette and an excess of warm clothing. It was about 25 degrees but at this altitude when the sun goes down it tends to get chilly.

We got to the church as the doors closed, it being full. Initially disappointed, it didn’t take long for us to conclude that sitting on the steps above the plaza outside of the church in front of the big screen would probably be a more fitting location to tuck in to our cheese and wine fest, and to smoke. We’d come to see the Orquesta Filarmónica de Bogotá and what an amazing setting, far better than being cooped up inside. Off to the east roll heavily wooded hills for as far as the eye can see, due south lie the last of the hills with some kind of big Jesusy statue a few hundred metres from us. To the west Bogotá. The fading orange of the sun setting behind flat grey clouds gives way to myriad lights – street, vehicle and building, ever brightening as the sun retreats further below the horizon, the city becoming a blanket of dark sequined velvet stretching far across the altiplano.

‘Hovis advert’ declared my brain as the orchestra commenced with Dvorak’s Symphony Number 9, detracting massively I suppose from the appreciation of the music were it not to have such a mundane ‘daily bread’ association, hey ho… With the start of the third movement there was little doubt as to from where John Williams took inspiration for his Dual of The Fates(Darth Maul’s theme) and I wondered if this symphony ‘From the New World’ was as well known here in Colombia as it is back home, maybe there exists here a tradition of small boys pushing bikes laden with bread up steep cobbled streets – I’ll refrain from endeavoring to find out.

The plaza continued to fill as the orchestra played on and no one seemed to mind when we first lost the audio and later the video feed from the church. In my mind I pictured an inattentive security guard tripping over a cable bringing the performance to an end for those sitting outside. In time it was fixed and when the music was over the fireworks started. I don’t wish to come across as being too negative but had they shortened the display to 5 minutes it would have been great, I find the spectacle more… spectacular when the sky is filled with sound and colour, bangs and flashes, screams and sparkles – 2, 3, 4, 5 and more fireworks going off at the same time. For me that holds far more of the ‘ooh, ahhhhh’ factor than does maximising display time to the detriment of what otherwise might have been a veritable extravaganza of light and sound. Mostly black sky and silence punctuated every 3-4 seconds by an albeit pretty high-level firework ain’t floating my pyrotechnic boat baby. Maybe I should have words with the fireworks association of Colombia and tell them what it’s all about.

I then noticed the lights, they were everywhere. Angels in the trees, stars on the buildings, stuff all over the shop. It was… colouful and I shall refrain from proffering my opinion as to how tasteful I thought it, you can form your own from the below:

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I got interviewed on some national radio channel, had a cup of canelazo – a winter warmer made from aguardiente (the national anise-flavoured firewater), panela (sugar cane-based drink) and cinnamon then queued for 3 hours to get off the mountain during the process of which I realised that we were, probably, the only westerners in the thousands-strong crowd – even though tourism in Colombia is increasing at a rate probably higher than any other country in the world, you can still get off the beaten track here, very easily, even at a large event in a city of 8,000,000. Come to Colombia, it’s brilliant!

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