And my second cover story for Time Out, an investigation into the film business in Hungary.
And my second cover story for Time Out, an investigation into the film business in Hungary.
Hello all my tomorrows… Oh dear. I’ve been posting vacation snaps again on Facebook instead of writing in my blog. Naughty. To make good, my first travel story for a while.
‘The past is a foreign country’, famously observed genteel English author LP Hartley, ‘they do things differently there’. Well, this is a postcard from the so-called ‘city of yesterday’. It’s a town called Oradea, in Transylvania. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you haven’t heard of it. (Oradea I mean, not Transylvania.) This small city in North Western Transylvania is a repository of faded grandeur, which just happens to be just my favourite kind – of grandeur that is. Though not as well known as other Transylvanian towns such as Braşov, or Sighişoara, it has a baroque and art nouveau splendour all its own and an historic timeline teeming with incident; from the inspiring to the tragic. For inspiring, look to its role as a centre of humanism and the Renaissance in Central Europe, and the university originally built here in that time; for tragic, try the burning down of Oradea Fortress in the Tartar-Mongolian invasion of 1241 – described in the famous poem Carmen Miserabile. Nine hundred years later and the city’s Jewish population were all but annihilated in WWII. The remaining Jewish population is miniscule; as evident in the decrepit state of the synagogue.
There is however a significant Hungarian population in Oradea, and you can recognise the language being spoken on the streets. You can recognise it that is, if you know what geese choking on foie gras sounds like looped backwards. Romanian of course, is a curious tongue with its own peculiar charm; sounding like Italian spoken with a thick Russian accent. (Is there any other kind?)
Well, it’s Discop this week in Budapest, which may or may not mean anything to you. According to Wikipedia, this was “originally founded in 1991 started as an audiovisual television content market for Eastern Europe”. It’s certainly grown since then, and now rivals even Mipcom, another TV market with a not particularly alluring sounding name, that takes place every year in Cannes. Anyway, as well as everything else that’s going on – especially in the Third Dimension – I have a historical drama series in the hunt at this festival. It’s called Valint, and it is based on the life and times of a real life Hungarian bard and brawler, named Balint Balassi. Specifically, a smart and enterprising young Producer named David Timar is taking it to market. Here’s a taste:
Valint, the famous Warrior Poet of Renaissance era Transylvania, goes on a life-long quest for glory and true love on the frontier land between warring empires. Romance and mystery follow this 16th century James Bond…
Yes. It’s been a while, but then Time as we understand it is mostly an artificial construct. While we have in the last century or so arguably gained some understanding of both Matter and Space, it seems to me we still know rather too little about the other two legs of the table, which I take anyway to be Time …and Luck. (Prove me wrong if you can.)
My qualifications to comment on the Nature of Luck, we’ll have to discuss in another post – but while we’re still on the subject of Time, how do The Dark Ages grab you? Well, bear with me for it was only a few days ago I clambered out of my Time Machine from a stint in the Medieval Era. But I hope to be back soon. I refer of course to the 3DTV pilot The Medieval Trip, which I’ve been working on, off and on, since March.
Filmed on location in Hungary: quite possibly the most medieval country in the world, and I say that with no disrespect intended.
In The Medieval Trip, a very fine Hungarian bloke named Attila Muller is plunged back into a reconstructed Medieval Hungary where he has to find food and shelter, learn to fight and hunt and connive his way out of serfdom…
This week the hobo has been somewhat under the cosh. Guidebook deadlines are looming larger because I’ve been, as it turns out, rather wasting my already over-commited time dispensing advice – unpaid for – to would be film and TV producers who think I get paid in drinks, or that they own my ideas. If you any of guys are reading, watch this.
Meanwhile thankfully, Balazs Jekler, a serious professional and the Director of The Medieval Trip, the 3D TV pilot I worked on as a presenter, is in Cannes at MipCom, the TV festival. The hopes of this would-be history series host and hundreds of medieval re-enactors go with him. So come on Balazs!
Anyhoo, like practically any writer working from his home, no matter how pressing the deadlines, one still finds time for digressions and distractions. I can’t quite tell you how I stumbled across this, but courtesy of the Waybackmachine, it shows you what my first ever website looked like. Well, that was 10 years ago, when I was living and working in Florence. My office was in the Palazzo Frescobaldi, where the photo below was taken.
Like the threads? I was fresh from a shopping trip on Via Tornabuoni. “The shoes are Giorgio Armani’s” as I used to joke, “but he said I could borrow them”. And oh, how we all laughed.
Not too sure about her consort, pictured here, from the forehead up. The headware was part of his laughable bid for Governorship of California. How laughable? Read on.
Los Angeles, California (CNN) — How well Zsa Zsa Gabor is recovering from hip replacement surgery a week ago depends on whom you ask: her husband or her daughter. Prince Frederic Von Anhalt said his wife of 24 years is in “critical” condition, but daughter Francesca Hilton said her condition is “guarded.” Gabor, 93, suffered a broken hip in a fall at her Bel Air, California, home nine days ago. “It’s up and down,” Von Anhalt said Monday afternoon. “It worries me very much.”
Zsa Zsa Gabor is from good, hearty Hungarian stock. She may well survive this trial and then the so-called Prince will have to wait a bit longer to inherit all those wedding rings from past marriages. After all, she herself said “I never hated a husband enough to give him his diamonds back.”
The so-called prince’s royal credentials certainly bear closer scrutiny. According to Wikipedia, he became the adopted son of Princess Marie-Auguste of Anhalt at the age of 37 in a business transaction put together by Hans Hermann Weyer, a former consul of Bolivia.
The New European Environment – starring my brother Craig Young
An Emotional weather report
So, as usual after coffee and various salves I began my day with a check of the headlines and see Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard has called a snap election which she’ll probably win. Speaking of woman premieres, it seems Margaret Thatcher’s family are appalled by the idea of Meryl Streep playing Mrs T in a movie.
Speaking of …ecological disasters BP think they might have finally put a cap on the leak in the Gulf of Mexico. But I see also an oil pipeline has exploded in China and is keeping 2000 firefighters busy, which sounds like a pretty big blaze to me. The phrase “It’s a wonder these kind of things don’t happen more often” is fast becoming redundant. We’re all going to have to be brave to make it in this scary new world. Meanwhile, the environmental update from the Hungarian capital is that it’s hot… How hot? Well, it was 85 degrees Fahrenheit last night at 11pm in Budapest and this evening it is, as I like to say in a voice like Sam Elliott’s, still “hotter than a snake’s hide in a wagon rut” now at 7pm CET.
And I’m sitting here in the living room of this rather suitable-for-one apartment, trying to write with the television on. Christ, the Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. CNN is the only English language channel I can get in my otherwise well equipped and well appointed gentleman’s quarterings in the 7th district, the oh-so boho old Jewish quarter of Budapest. Well, I can’t complain but sometimes I still do. I go to sleep every night in a bed fit for a Transylvanian Prince, in a heavy, antique furniture filled and airy apartment, equidistant to practically everything I need.
Finding gainful employment has been as slow as Continental drift, but that all seems to change around September, when the weather will also be agreeably cooler. Tomorrow, at least according to Wunderground, Budapest has a chance to cool down in the wake of a few welcome rainstorms that’ll wash the streets clean(ish) and give us all some relief. The so-called Jet-Set Hobo (might be time to hang up those spurs) is not cut out for this kind of heat – Not unless I’m near a beach with a pile of good books and someone nice to rub in the sun screen lotion. The position is open by the way, so if you’re glamorous and amorous, drop me a line. I make a good dry martini, I’m a good conversationalist and er, well that’s about it really I suppose.
‘At age 50, every man has the face he deserves.’
Only in Hungary. Here’s what the pithy satirical news website Pestiside has to say about a new pole-dancing world record…
If there was ever going to be a pole-dancing world record set, you knew it would have to come from Hungary.
A reasonable hypothesis.
Former pornstar and pole dancing world champion Alma Pirner along with several other strippers pole artistes got together at the Dollhouse dance studio and slid up and down and ground their bodies against a chrome pole for 24 hours, with Pirner setting a solo record for eight hours of consecutive sliding around.
How invigorating. But the kind of thing you could read about every day online at Blikk, if you could er, penetrate the impenetrable, the Hungarian language that is. But here comes the kicker.
When asked why this did this, Pirner said that it was to prove that women are just as physically and mentally capable as men, and deserve to be treated equally in the workplace, which is kind of like BP promoting responsible deep-sea oil drilling, but still, it’s the thought that counts, right?
One of the joys of living in this country. Much of the time, there’s no need to make it up.
BUDAPEST — This picturesque capital in the heart of Central Europe has played many roles over the years. It doubled for the sultry streets of Buenos Aires in the 1996 film “Evita,” directed by Alan Parker; provided the ambiance of terrorist menace and revenge in 2005 for Steven Spielberg’s “Munich”; and is currently standing in for Rome in “The Rite,” a thriller to be released next year in which Anthony Hopkins plays a priest mentoring a young seminary student in the dark arts of exorcism. via Hollywood on the Danube – NYTimes.com.
Well folks, don’t say I didn’t tell you so, because you read it here first, and now the New York Times has caught up. I recall a couple of years back while living in Buenos Aires. After the third article in six months extolling the Argentine capital as the ‘new Prague’ or whatever, some of my fellow expatriates (and I) were saying it was time to move on. What a way to live, and I should know. Well, this time, I’m sticking around to see how it all turns out, and to scoop the New York Times occasionally into the bargain.