Spain

It takes a lot of courage to call a film Happy, Happy, and the young Norwegian director Anne Sewitsky manages to justify it. Her first feature film fixes on the very idea of happiness: what it is or is thought to be, and what happens to it. Other directors of her generation have been likewise concerned, but with Ragnhild Tronvoll’s supple screenplay, Sewitsky puts a story before us that is both recognizable and sufficiently probing. Kaja and Eirik are a young couple who live in the countryside with their son.

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I’m in London, having arrived on Saturday evening. The Sunday morning papers had absolutely nothing about the enormous riot in Tottenham the night before. But the online press had plenty—except who exactly was doing the rioting. I got all my news all day from this—shall we say incomplete?—source. The front pages of the print press on Monday, however, had almost nothing else. (Except, de rigueur,the disastrous news of advanced capitalism in further collapse.) The headlines were a bit different Tuesday morning.

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Last week’s heart-breaking massacre of teenagers and others in Norway makes it dismayingly clear that the religious warfare at the heart of Al Qaeda’s crusade against the West and its supporters has now found its mirror-image not in the random act of a deranged lunatic, but in a meticulously planned execution of the anti-Islamic ideology that has been spreading like a poison throughout European political culture for at least a decade.

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How shall we remember Jorge Semprún, the writer and political figure who died on June 7, just before after the seventy-fifth anniversary of the event that, more than any other, including his imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp, would define his life? I refer to the approach of July 17, 2011, which will mark the date in 1936 when Francisco Franco and his cohort of military officers rose against the second Spanish Republic.

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Last week, the main square of Barcelona was the epicenter of a vital insurgency. On the lawns of the Placa Catalunya, thousands of Europeans—most of them young—orated, ate free food, tried on free used clothing, and took advantage of free child care and yoga classes. An excellent jazz quintet played protest songs for activists and onlookers alike.

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Germany vs. Spain. Texas vs. Florida. These aren’t predictions for the next World Cup final or BCS title game but rather examples of the regional divergence in economic performance and fiscal outlook described by Gillian Tett in the Financial Times last Friday. She argues that while international attention has been focused on the divergence of the Eurozone (between countries with strong, growing economies and those without), the U.S.

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I am no fan of the European Union. It is an artificial contraption, run by the corporate and bureaucratic elites of the continent, without democratic sanction because the various peoples subsumed under its rule themselves see that it is without democratic values or ambitions. Had it at least energized the economies of Europe there might be some raison d'être for its intrusive rules which wreak havoc with every member nation's culture and identity. The fact is, however, that the prosperous countries are still more or less prosperous, some paradigmatically so.

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[Guest post by James Downie] Today, the talk of the soccer world is Barcelona’s sublime 5-0 destruction of Real Madrid. Come Thursday, though, for a brief moment at least, international soccer will grab the spotlight once again, as FIFA announces the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

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No More Arcs

Can history come to an end? Arthur Danto has written of art entering a “post-historical” phase; he believes that the history of modern art as moving toward a state of abstraction has been fulfilled—indeed, internally exhausted. Since the 1960s, this particular “narrative,” as he calls it, has come to an end, even as the art world continues to exist, even to flourish. Although I don't like the phrase “post-historical,” I think Danto is right. I had not, however, considered this idea in relation to history understood in its traditional sense as the actions of great men and nation building.

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Inner Harbor

Cádiz, Spain—No famed church, museum, or historical totem draws outsiders to this city on the Atlantic. So few come. Cádiz returns the lack of interest. Let the summer hordes swelter in Seville or Madrid. We’ll feed and entertain you, the body language of the place tells a new arrival, but we don’t need your validation. Take us as we are. And to be honest, the first impressions won’t beguile. Arriving by road, you pass through an unseemly industrial area reminiscent of the New Jersey Meadowlands, followed by a banal stretch of modern beachfront Spanish architecture.

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