(short story around the word saffron)

After walking around and marveling at the Alhambra for the entire morning they had moved on. He really wanted to stay and just sit and experience the building, but his friends had seen all they wanted to see and urged him to leave. He decided he would come back by himself the next morning, very early, before they had to move on, because he knew that a building like this required time to be truly experienced and wouldn’t show itself right away… a special building that contains intention needs the sun to arc in the sky, which allows the light to reveal the details, and lets the shadows move around to give it life. And this building had a lot of depth and intention. He would come back and see, tomorrow.

From the Alhambra they had aimlessly walked through backstreets of Granada until he noticed a small guitar shop at the end of a cobblestone road. His friends were hungry and didn’t want to stop, so he urged them to find a restaurant nearby and to wait for him there.

After they had left and gone around a corner he opened the door, which triggered a little bell that rang. After entering the little shop he looked around and saw a few guitars hanging against the wall. Nobody came out to greet him, so after a while he gently took a guitar from the wall, sat down on a wooden chair and tuned it. He began to play, enjoying the strings in his hands, the scent of wood, the familiarity of holding a guitar. He hadn’t played in a couple of weeks, since starting this journey, but the music seemed to come out of his hands anyway… as if it had been waiting patiently for this moment.

He took a look at the label inside the guitar. It wasn’t a great guitar by any means, but it was a guitar and he was glad he had the chance to play a little.

A man came through the door that probably lead to the workshop. The man looked a little unkempt, in a distracted professor manner, and wore a grey lab coat. He said something in rapid Spanish. When it became obvious that he wasn’t understood, he nodded, then said: “Those guitars are for tourists, not for someone like you. Let me show you one of my real guitars.”

The man turned around and was gone for a couple of minutes. When he returned he brought a guitar he held with obvious pride. The top was a saffron color, with simple black inlays around the sound hole.

He nodded and smiled and gently took the instrument from the hands of its maker. Then he sat down with it.

Orwell’s Diaries

From 9th August 2008, you will be able to gather your own impression of Orwell’s face from reading his most strongly individual piece of writing: his diaries. The Orwell Prize is delighted to announce that, to mark the 70th anniversary of the diaries, each diary entry will be published on this blog exactly seventy years after it was written, allowing you to follow Orwell’s recuperation in Morocco, his return to the UK, and his opinions on the descent of Europe into war in real time.

As a friend pointed out to me:

Journals are often the real literature because of their uninhibited writing.

Link to Orwell’s Diary. Link to RSS feed of same.

Music Critics – Questions and Answers
The situation right now is at its worst. Not only because critics are losing their jobs right and left, but because the field is being pared in so brutal a fashion. It is far worse for a city to end up with one single critic, no matter how competent or how well-positioned, than none; the only way for criticism to work is as a forum of some sort, whether it be four guys on the NYTimes or me versus Mark Swed in L.A.. This network of small dictatorships reduces the field to a lot of interlocking blather. All these blogs right now are a kind of Babel, but the small-talk guys, the guys that used to shoot off in the record stores and now have access to websites, will soon run out of steam, and the few worthwhile websites – Alex’s, best of all – will survive as the new source for musical intelligence. The fact that schools like USC are actually training arts critics these gloomy days is a good sign; there’s a chance that the art will survive.

This is not limited to classical music critics.