End of the world as we know it: version 2
Our favorite Spanish daily, El País, also carried on Sunday an interview with Samuel Huntington. He's not worried about the melting of Greenland and the disappearance of all modern civilization (if he has thought about it all), but with something much closer to (his)home: the erosion of Anglo-Protestant dominance of the United States. Briefly, in his book and his famous and controversial article in Foreign Affairs, he argues that the Hispanics, particularly the Mexicans, are taking over, and that they are enemies of the American creed and dangers to our values of democracy, tolerance, etc. And Huntington can't tolerate anybody who is likely to be intolerant.

In the interview with the Spanish reporter, however, he retreats considerably. The Mexicans in the U.S., he allows, are not really a "threat" in the sense that the Muslim presence may be in Europe (because some are drawn into fundamentalism and al-Qaeda). He expects no violence from the Mexican immigrants, he just finds their presence irritating. He quotes Mexican authors (including Carlos Fuentes) to support his view that Mexicans are lazy (which was not really what Fuentes was saying). The reporter points out that nobody is working harder in the U.S. than the underpaid Mexican laborers, and Huntington chooses not to dispute her observation (easily documented). Instead, he goes back to his argument that the Mexicans do not share the "American creed," as described by the Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal some 60 years. I don't have the article in front of me, and it was a Spanish translation anyway, so I can't give you Myrdal's exact words as quoted by Huntington, but they all had to do with respect for individual liberties and equal opportunities for all. Fine. No Mexican immigrant I know would have any problem with that. But then SH switches to describe the creed as speaking English and practicing Christian Protestant values. Weird!

See the first item (movie about disappearing Mexicans) in the Global Information panel to the left of this screen.
The end of the world as we know it: version 1
El País last Sunday carried an op-ed by James Lovelock (translated from The Independent) arguing that the only way to save the living system of the globe (which he calls "Gaia") is to switch from burning carbons to relying on thermonuclear energy, which he argues is much, much safer than most ecologists like to claim. And even if it weren't all that safe, we really have no alternative if we want to keep Greenland from melting and raising sea levels by 7 meters (there go all of Ireland, Manhattan, and countless other islands, and our little property on the coast of Spain). Nothing else -- wind and solar power, hybrid fuels, whatever -- will work, he says.

Two answers: Chernobyl, and time. Lovelock may be right that, with all the proper precautions, nuclear energy need not be dangerous. However Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and -- for a non-nuclear example -- Bhopal all demonstrate that neither government authorities nor corporations can be trusted to take all the proper precautions. Thus there will continue to be enormous political and popular resistance to nuclearity. That means that, even if nuclear energy has to be part of the solution (I'm prepared to believe this; even apart from the terrible contamination problem, we're running out of petroleum and will have to find a substitute), we won't be able to deploy it sufficiently widely and sufficiently quickly to avoid the disaster Lovelock predicts.

The only solution is political. That is, we the peoples of the world are going to have to make sure that the people who govern us first of all recognize that there is a problem. Bush's rejection of the Kyoto accord is shamefully irresponsible to the whole human race (not to mention all the other living things that make up "Gaia"). Second, we must demand that they supervise and protect us from noxious contamination from all sources, including coal, petroleum and nuclear fission, and that they be responsible to us. Not, like Cheney, to hide their dealings with Enron and other corporate profit-seekers behind a screen of "executive privilege." Technically, the solution will probably involve all known means of producing clean(er) energy, but we can't reach a technical solution until we have power in hands we can trust.
We landed in Málaga a week ago today, after a long, cramped flight from JFK. It's a lovely little city, which we explored last summer (see my blogs from July 2003, in the Archive, for notes on the ancient Roman theater, the Alcazaba, guitar, and García Lorca's old hangout, the Café Cantante de las Chinitas). The highlight this trip was Sunday´s visit to the newly opened Museo Picasso, in what used to be the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo and before that a palace of some noble, and long before that, a fortress and homes built by Phoenician colonists in the 6th century BC. The ancient remains were rediscovered not long ago (the noble who built the palace on top of them surely knew they were there), and can be viewed in the basement of the present museum. Walking among them is a shock to one's personal time system. When I think that people much like us were going about their urban business 26 centuries ago, I have to laugh at the importance I tend to give to my own brief lifespan.

Pablo Ruiz Picasso's creative lifespan was pretty near the limit any of us can expect these days. His first, very impressive realistic portraits of family members shown in the museum were painted when he was 12 or 13 -- ¡caramba! That boy could draw! And he was still inventing new forms when he was in his 90s; some of those works are here, too. You remember his famous remark in his mature years, that he had spent all his life trying to paint like a child. That was because as a child, he painted like Rubens or Velázquez or any of the other great painters he chose to imitate. He had incredible facility, but was quickly bored by doing anything that was that easy for him.

I was especially impressed by one series of 13 sketches he dashed off in one afternoon in Paris. No. 1 in the series was so highly abstract it was almost impossible to make out anything but a complex design, but from there (if we are to trust the numbering he gave the sketches) he worked backwards to an ever more recognizable drawing of a seated nude with her legs crossed. If you delight in extreme visual intelligence and the exuberant enjoyment of physicality, don't miss this collection, assembled mostly (or maybe entirely) from works in the possession of his numerous descendants.


Estival festival in sunny Spain
Carboneras, Prov. de Almería, España -- 'Estival' means summer, right? Anyway, Tuesday was the longest day in the year, so yesterday, June 23, had to be the second longest. Thus the sun was bright as we frolicked on the beach until nearly 8 p.m., when we began thinking it might be a good idea to go home (the apartment we´re renting one block inland from the beach) to fix some dinner. And we saw Isabel, our landlady, gathering chunks of wood from one of the many nearby construction sites. (This little town is going through apartment construction boom times.) You going to start a bonfire? I shouted to her. Yes, indeed. Come on down (this all in Andalusian Spanish). Chorizos, morcillas...

It was still a long time till dark, and we weren't sure Isabel had put in a big enough stock of sausages for a couple of unexpected guests, so we fixed a big omelet and ate before mosying down to the beach around 9, while it was still sunny. That's when we began to get some idea of what was up. Parties up and down the beach had piled scrap wood (a favorite item was the big pine palettes designed to support construction materials). Our group was Isabel, her husband Simón the sailor man, their parents, their children, their children's children, and us -- temporarily part of the family. Other groups were all young guys, or smaller families, and so on. It was the night of San Juan, that is, San Juan Bautista, St. John the Baptist, so what everybody was supposed to do was build a big fire (to frighten away the evil spirits? to burn the past year's sins? Nobody knew what it was supposed to mean, only what they were supposed to do). The next thing was to wait until midnight, when somebody would fire off a loud fireworks missile as the signal, and everybody would plunge into the water. (We did that, too.) That part made a certain skewed kind of sense: You have to plunge into the water if you're honoring John the Baptist. But somehow I suspect that the whole rite is way, way pre-Christian, an ancient celebration of the summer solstice.

What the sausages have to do with it I'm not certain. I was just sorry that, to accompany the chorizo, morcilla and chuletas that just kept coming (grilled on a barbecue, not on the immense bonfire), I hadn't brought any piccolos to roast. That way we could have enjoyed Peter Schickele's famous Mediterranean flute fries.