Postcard from Budapest, Hungary: Signs of the times

Let the photo below of the former “Bazar” serve as an example from a time when signage was approached as artistic embellishment.

From a distance, the banners on the Opera House above appear a major detriment to its majestic architectural integrity. But at least they are removable. And, when you examine the second tier banner in the close-up shot, the comic strip-like advertising might just be a brilliant way to market opera to a new generation. The other series of seven posters with stars in more traditional poses appears downright stuffy by comparison.

The double-d-cupped model for Intimissimi mars another architectural gem, from a woman’s point of view, but it does have the excuse of promoting lingerie. On the other hand, Coca-Cola’s “Taste the Feeling” is offensive to women on so many levels.

The advertisement depicting Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros as a puppeteer reflects current political contests in Hungary. This spring, thousands of students marched to Parliament to protest laws targeting Soros’ Central European University, and, this week, Andras Gergely reported for Bloomberg News:

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told lawmakers from his Fidesz party that fighting against what he sees as the agenda of billionaire financier George Soros will be the key campaign theme ahead of next year’s general elections, a news website reported.

Orban has already been facing charges from Jewish groups that he stoked anti-Semitism with a billboard campaign that targeted the investor and philanthropist this year. While the government has repeatedly denied that charge, it has kept up its rhetoric, saying Soros was undermining Hungary’s security by inducing migration toward Europe.

The government plans to hold a “national consultation” with voters to survey their views on what it calls the “Soros plan” on migration, Orban told lawmakers in a closed-door meeting, Origo news website said late on Wednesday. The premier said his chances for reelection to a third consecutive term in the spring hinge on whether the “Soros plan” fails, the publication close to the ruling party reported.

Orban’s government has also clashed with the U.S. and the European Commission over legislation targeting non-governmental organizations and a university funded by Soros. The laws were steps in Orban’s push to prevent what he calls foreign meddling in political matters by civil groups and institutions, in line with his model of the “illiberal state.”

The random signs brandishing exclamation points to indicate the importance of their warnings went unheeded by us. We were clueless. After a month, we still remained completely ignorant of the meaning of virtually any Hungarian word. Fortunately, the Kakastoke Porkolt sign was much friendlier about translating its warning that the stand’s star product was rooster testicles stew. No exclamation point needed to send us on our way.

Emperor Franz Josef is thrown in here purely because every time we saw the posters of him we felt as though we were staring at Jim LaVilla-Havelin. As I could find no email address for the San Antonio poet online, maybe someone who stumbles across this blog can forward it to him.

Postcard from San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico: The Forty-Three

Forty-three. The number calls out from walls throughout downtown San Cristobal de las Casas.

And copies of their photographs leave their faces staring at you blankly as you wander near the zocolo at the heart of the city.

The desaparecidos, the missing students, may be from the State of Guerrero, but the sentiments of many of the young people studying to be teachers in this city appear to be with them.

City hall is heavily patrolled by well-armed soldiers during the day, but they check out for the night. On October 24, while the only guards were the janitors armed with mops, protesters took over city hall for the day. They also assumed control of the toll booths on the highway linking San Cristobal de las Casas and the state capital, Tuxtla Gutierrez.

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Yesterday, the normalistas were back again, occupying city hall to call attention to the plight of their compadres.

The sit-in is peaceful. The protesters are unarmed. The blockade of the government offices is enforced by only a single string encircling the building.

Although the students could easily be overcome by force, the police and soldiers remain a distance away. There is no apparent desire to spark any confrontations. The students were allowed to express their concerns, with the everyday rhythms of the city expected to return today.