Friday, 30 December 2011

Finn Family Moomintroll

by Tove Jansson

This was the very first Moomin book I ever read, originally in Russian. Imprinting or not, I consider the Russian translation of this book superior to the English version (which I just finished reading). To start with the title: Finn Family Moomintroll — any book featuring Moomins could be named like that, right? The Russian title Шляпа волшебника is the correct translation of Swedish Trollkarlens hatt — literally, “The Magician’s Hat” (not “Hobgoblin’s Hat”). Снусмумрик sounds almost exactly as Snusmumriken (why Snufkin?), just as the names Тофсла и Вифсла are almost identical to Swedish “Tofslan och Vifslan” (in English, they are named Thingumy and Bob). The language these two latter creatures speak is translated to Russian more consistently. Or take this sentence:
О, какое счастье быть муми-троллем, который только проснулся и уже пляшет среди зеленых волн на восходе солнца!
Oh, to be a Moomin and to dance in the waves while the sun gets up!
And so on.


Never mind that, even in this translation it is still a magical book.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas

by John Julius Norwich, illustrated by Quentin Blake

Whether or not you are still looking for that belated Christmas present... look no further. I imagine this one-way correspondence read by Hattie Hayridge (as female Holly in Red Dwarf).

2nd January

Look here Edward, this has gone far enough. You say you’re sending me nine ladies dancing; all I can say is that judging from the way they dance, they’re certainly not ladies. The village just isn’t accustomed to seeing a regiment of shameless hussies with nothing on but their lipstick cavorting round the green — and it’s Mummy and I who get blamed. If you value our friendship — which I do less and less — kindly stop this ridiculous behaviour at once.

Emily

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Juno

a film by Jason Reitman

After reading a review of this film in The Big Issue at the time, I fully intended to watch it... that never happened. Until now, that is. They were showing it on Spanish telly in the small hours of Saturday. Ellen Page shines in the title role, with some exceptionally good (I mean it) support of the fellow actors. The soundtrack features several songs by anti-folk singer-songwriter Kimya Dawson — what a treat.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Bizzaramente

by Debski’s String Connection

Slowly, slowly, the best of Polish jazz and rock start to appear on CDs. String Connection was the greatest Polish jazz band in 1980s. I was lucky enough to see them live in Moscow Olympic Village in mid-’80s. (Incidentally, it was the first “foreign” band I ever seen live. Those were the days.)

Now Bizzaramente was recorded by a rather different band. The two original String Connection members, Krzesimir Dębski (violin, keyboards) and Krzysztof Przybyłowicz (drums), are joined here by Dom Um Romão (percussion) and Peter Szalay (tabla). Frankly, I was expecting a more interesting result from this collaboration. There’s not much of string connection — the sound is dominated by Dębski’s keyboards (rather than violin), and it must have sounded dated even back in 1988. The absence of a real bass player is pretty obvious. I wouldn’t call it jazz either. At best, it could be a movie soundtrack. The music is well-crafted and pleasant but there’s nothing, really, bizzarramente about it — except, perhaps, Paysage à la Balthüs 2, which is my favourite song on the album.

Friday, 23 December 2011

秒速5センチメートル

a film by Makoto Shinkai

As beautifully crafted as The Place Promised in Our Early Days but shorter (which is always a plus), this anime consists of three episodes. The first one, Cherry Blossom, is really the best, what with all the snow and trains. Cosmonaut reminded me of Yoko Ogawa’s The Diving Pool. The final episode, 5 Centimeters Per Second, is rather weak, although could be vastly improved by cutting out that song.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Torres De Casta Rosado 2010

It is the shortest day of the year, nearly Christmas, and still warm enough to enjoy some rosé outdoors! De Casta is a very decent bottle of wine and, at under €4, an absolute bargain. Life is good.

More photos of rosé wine @ Shutterstock.

Friday, 16 December 2011

The Beauty and The Sea

by Mor Karbasi

Four months after it was packed, our stuff finally arrived to Fuerteventura. The stuff includes books, CDs and DVDs. Now I started unearthing the music that I did not listen to for a while. The Beauty and The Sea was among them.

As it was explained a while ago, back in 2008 I missed Mor Karbasi’s Cambridge gig because Uriah Heep were playing next door. That won’t happen next time, I promise, but nobody knows when this next time will be. According to her website, she plays two dates in Spain next week, 21st December in Malaga and 22nd in Madrid. I hope some of my Spanish friends can catch her!

Back to the album: it is a beauty. The songs are all beautiful. (Do I use this word too much? Unavoidable here.) My favourite is Fuego, with guest musicians Kai Eckhardt and Trilok Gurtu. And then the story by Shoshana Karbasi, which links the songs together. I only wish it had the original Ladino or Spanish lyrics there.

“Tell me kind old lady, what is the name of this street?”
“This street has no name, my child.”
“Does this street lead to the sea?” I ask.
“All of the streets around here lead to the sea, my child.”
“Have you seen my beloved?” I ask.
“Is she pretty, my child?” she replies.
“Yes, very pretty.”
“A red flower in her hair?” she asks.
“Yes! Oh yes!” I answer, “Have you seen her?”
“Your beautiful has gone to the sea... She has gone to the sea.”
“And how would you know kind lady?” I ask, “How do you know?”
“All lost loves go to the sea”, she says with great sadness. “This is how it is with loves.”

Saturday, 10 December 2011

José Pariente, Rueda DO 2009

Finally, a bottle of decent Spanish Sauvignon Blanc, even though on a pricey side (about €9). It comes from Valladolid; now I know what to ask our friends to bring here when they come to visit.

More photos of white wine @ Shutterstock.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Beautiful Losers

by Leonard Cohen

According to Wikipedia, “Beautiful Losers is considered a masterpiece of Canadian literature”. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Canadian literature must be dead boring. I spent more than two months wading through this murky stream of (un)consciousness and it is a little miracle that I actually finished the book, mostly out of respect to the author (who surely is doing much better as a singer-songwriter than a novelist). I didn’t enjoy it.

To be fair, there are some lovely poetic passages, and the strange story of Catherine Tekakwitha on its own would make a decent novella. Then there are some other passages that are positively disgusting. But even if they were not there, I doubt that as a whole the novel would ever work.

Is All The World A Prayer To Some Star? Are All The Years Of The World A Catalogue Of The Events Of Some Holiday? Do All Things Happen At Once? Is There A Needle In The Haystack? Do We Perform In The Twilight Before A Vast Theatre Of Empty Stone Benches? ... ..... ... May I Unfasten My Loneliness And Collide Once Again With A Beautiful Greedy Body? May I Fall Asleep After A Soft Happy Kiss? May I Have A Dog For A Pet? May I Teach Myself To Be Handsome? May I Pray At All?

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Universe Museum

by Timur Kulikov

At long last, Timur is reunited with the PC and Adobe Illustrator. This drawing is an idea of the video game he is designing. One part of the game takes place in The Universe Museum: some creature (naturally, created by a villain) takes control of the clock and then you have to fight it.

The tree in front represents life, the red atom represents matter, the goblet represents water, the black orb represents space and the clock represents time.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Veiga Serantes, Rías Baixas DO 2010

I bought this limited edition Veiga Serantes Albariño (bottle no. 0457 — of one thousand?) in Marumba. And it was a nice bottle of wine. At 13%, it is a bit stronger than Oro Valei, although twice as expensive, so probably not the best value bottle of vino blanco. The search for truly great Spanish white wine continues...

More photos of white wine @ Shutterstock.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Lucía y el sexo

a film by Julio Médem

Last night, I watched this film on Spanish telly, without any subtitles, either English or Spanish. I can’t say that I followed all the dialogue, but when you see the movie for the fourth time it’s not that important. What is important then? I don’t know. This time I paid more attention to the beautiful score by Alberto Iglesias. I was expecting the film being re-edited for television (as many features shown here are, and rather heavily), but it was shown in its entirety, except for the end credits.

Sex and Lucía is not exactly an erotic movie, but the love scenes between Lucía (Paz Vega) and Lorenzo (Tristán Ulloa) are both funny and touching and as erotic as could be.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Zelig

a film by Woody Allen

Last night, or rather in the small hours of Sunday morning, I watched Zelig once again — this time, with Spanish subtitles (which amused me a lot). I find the protagonist of this “mockumentary” more touching and, well, more believable than other Allen’s characters.

The clip below contains one of my favourite scenes in the movie, viz. the escape of Zelig and Fletcher from Nazis on the airplane upside-down.

Zwei fanatische, idiotische, amerikanische Dummköpfe, kriminelle Schweinehunde, die Zelig und Fletcher heißen, ruinierten in einer wichtigen Rede unseres Führers Adolf Hitler den besten Witz...

Das ist fantastisch. Absolutely brilliant.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

iriver iHP-140 jukebox

by iriver
First published 5 November 2011 @ zumbafuerteventura

I bought this amazing piece of kit seven years ago and it is still alive! I even have a few gigabytes of its (40 GB) disk space left. Back in 2004, this was probably the best gizmo of its kind. Granted, even then it did not look as sexy as iPod, but it can do so much more. Most of my music there is in OGG format. It also is a surprisingly good-quality dictaphone. There is a (still unreleased) recording of a bass/drum/guitar trio (eventually becoming a duo as the drummer left the building) in the basement of my old workplace. (When I grow old and famous, I may want to release it to raise some cash.) Also, from time to time I used it just as a portable hard disk that it is.

And here’s a problem: where to get a replacement when (or, better, before) it crashes? iHP-140 is not available in shops any longer. According to Wikipedia, this player is discontinued and succeeded by iriver H300 series, which is also unavailable. Most of affordable MP3 players for sale now have no more than 8 GB memory. In the meantime, I hope it does not die a sudden death just before my Zumba class.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Brunus Rosé, Portal de Montsant DO 2009

Things are positively improving here. After finishing our kilo of Maragogipe and half-way through a kilo bag of Lavazza (bought via Amazon!), I was relieved to find that now we have the source of quality coffee beans in Corralejo. They could be found in the Marumba store in C.C. El Campanario. During our last visit there (yesterday, to be precise), I bought a bag of Costa Rican beans and a bottle of this delicious rosé from Catalonia. Try it if you can find it.

More photos of rosé wine @ Shutterstock.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Mister Pip

by Lloyd Jones

This beautifully told story is set on Bougainville, the Melanesian island of which very existence I was ignorant until now, during the 1990s civil war. I loved the book, but be warned. When the “redskin” soldiers appear in the village for the first time, you know it is not going to end well. Still, nothing prepares you to the horrors of their final visit.

My favourite chapters are the ones where Mr Watts, the only white person in the village, invites the parents of the children to come into his classroom and “share what they knew of the world”.
‘There is a place called Egypt,’ she said. ‘I know nothing of that place. I wish I could tell you kids about Egypt. Forgive me for not knowing more. But, if you care to listen, I will tell you everything I know about the colour blue.’
And so we heard about the colour blue.
‘Some islands have beautiful names for different winds. My favourite is the wind that is known as “gentle as a woman”.’
Gilbert’s uncle, a big man, round as an oil drum, black as tar from toiling out at sea, came to speak to us about ‘broken dreams’. He said the best place to find a broken dream is on the wharf. ‘Look at all those dead fish with their eyes and mouths open. They can’t believe they are not in the sea and never will be again.’
‘At night the blimmin’ dogs and roosters chase after dreams and break them in two. The one good thing about a broken dream is that you can pick up the threads of it again. By the way, fish go to heaven. Don’t believe any other shit you hear.’

Friday, 14 October 2011

The Samba Reggae Workout

with Quenia Ribeiro
First published 14 October 2011 @ zumbafuerteventura

I bought this DVD on the strength of the Amazon reviews — and was not disappointed.

Quenia starts with Welcome and, in just two minutes, introduces the samba reggae Basic Steps. These look easy; that’s encouraging.

To my fellow Zumber@s, Quenia’s Warm-Up may seem more like “cool-down”: a lot of stretching exercises, some of them rather impressive. At 12 minutes, it is a bit longer than your typical Zumba class warm-up/cool-down. But you can’t have too much of a good thing. You will be sweating by the end of it.

In Workout #1 (about 37 minutes) Quenia builds up, well, a “routine”: shows a step, repeats, adds a new step, repeats “from the top”, shows a new step and so on. Non-stop. (Speaking of stops: the great thing about the DVD is that you always can use the stop button to catch your breath. I had to do that a few times during Workout #1.) “Routine” may sound boring, but actually it is a good fun. OK, I found Quenia’s verbal cues rather redundant and did not exactly fell in love with her voice. So what, I know how to turn the volume down, so it really is not a problem. It would be perfect if there was a way to quick-jump to particular steps, because the only way to navigate within Workout #1 is the good old fast-forward (or fast-backward).

Workout #2 (about six minutes) is basically the same routine as we learn in Workout #1 but danced at the higher pace. As by now we should know it more or less by heart, it goes without any commentary.

I love how Ms Ribeiro introduces her band and dancers and explains the role of each instrument. Once again, quite unlike Zumba Fitness Anonymous.

One day, I hope to learn how to dance samba properly. I can start with making good use of Quenia’s moves.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Botany of Desire

by Michael Pollan

Are we selecting the plants we want to grow, or is it the plants who make us to spread their genes far and wide? Michael Pollan invites us to take the plants’ point of view. He is telling the stories of four plant species: the apple, the tulip, marijuana and the potato, with an emphasis on their co-evolution with Homo sapiens.

At times, Pollan’s writing gets too florid for my taste, but it is the fascinating read all the same, no doubt helped by the author’s first-hand experience of (mostly successfully) growing the protagonists in his garden.

The magic plants were, and remain, a gravitational force pulling us back to Earth, to matter, away from the there and then of Christian salvation and back to the here and now. Indeed, what these plants do to time is perhaps the most dangerous thing about them — dangerous, that is, from the perspective of a civilization organized on the lines of Christianity and, more recently, capitalism.

Christianity and capitalism are both probably right to detest a plant like cannabis. Both faiths bid us to set our sights on the future; both reject the pleasures of the moment and the senses in favor of the expectation of a fulfillment yet to come — whether by earning salvation or by getting and spending. More even than most plants drugs, cannabis, by immersing us in the present and offering something like fulfillment here and now, short-circuits the metaphysics of desire on which Christianity and capitalism (and so much else in our civilization) depend.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Joneeba!

by A. Djoniba Mouflet

I already mentioned this book on my other blog. It is a curious mix of African dance history, actual work-out techniques (frankly I’d prefer a DVD), shameless self-promotion (with some bits repeated more than once) and ethical principles (e.g. those of student/teacher relationship, to which I subscribe wholeheartedly).

In Africa, you are taught that no matter how much you pay your teacher, you can never repay him or her for the lifelong knowledge and secrets passed to you.
Your first teacher — the one who taught you the basics — becomes your mother-master or father-master. It is imperative to give credit openly, remain loyal, protect and give gratitude and support to all of your teachers, and especially to your first teacher, regardless of whom you may study with later.
Even after you’re no longer studying with your first master teacher, you should pay him or her a visit and take a class there once in a while.
Joneeba is taught by its creator, Djoniba Mouflet (and probably nobody else) at the Djoniba Dance Centre in New York. In theory, one can become a certified Joneeba™ instructor; now do a Google search and try to find any. It simply could be that no one can sit through the three-day exam, let alone afford a live African drummer band in their fitness class.

Friday, 23 September 2011

The Vicar of Dibley

by Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer

I can’t believe I spent all these years in England without actually watching The Vicar of Dibley. (Wait... I remember seeing a part of one episode in some hotel during school holidays. But that was it!) I had to move to Fuerteventura to correct this oversight. This is the first sitcom we watched with kids from the beginning to the end, and they loved it.

As a whole, the series is not as brilliant as, for example, Father Ted. Some episodes are all over the place. But with fellow chocoholic Rev. Geraldine Granger (Dawn French) that close to unattainable ideal — at least, shape-wise — I really shouldn’t complain.

Curiously, the first five (out of six) DVDs in The Ultimate Collection do not have any subtitles.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

by Dai Sijie
‘What you are about to hear, comrade, is a Mozart sonata,’ Luo announced, as coolly as before.
I was dumbfounded. Had he gone mad? All music by Mozart or indeed by any other Western composer had been banned years ago. In my sodden shoes my feet turned to ice. I shivered as the cold tightened its grip on me.
‘What’s a sonata?’ the headman asked warily.
‘I don’t know,’ I faltered. ‘It’s Western.’
‘Is it a song?’
‘More or less,’ I replied evasively.
At that instant the glint of the vigilant Communist reappeared in the headman’s eyes, and his voice turned hostile.
‘What’s the name of this song of yours?’
‘Well, it’s like a song, but actually it’s a sonata.’
‘I’m asking you what it’s called!’ he snapped, fixing me with his gaze. Again I was alarmed by the three spots of blood in his left eye.
Mozart...’ I muttered.
Mozart what?’
Mozart is Thinking of Chairman Mao,’ Luo broke in.
The audacity! But it worked: as if he had heard something miraculous, the headman’s menacing look softened. He crinkled up his eyes in a wide, beatific smile.
‘Mozart thinks of Mao all the time,’ he said.
‘Indeed, all the time,’ agreed Luo.
Of course this was hardly a laughing matter during the author’s own “re-education” stint in 1970s, but Dai Sijie can make you laugh all the same. I really enjoyed Mr. Muo’s Travelling Couch; I liked Sijie’s debut novel even better.

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Travelling Hornplayer

by Barbara Trapido
I am a sitting duck here, being a homebound worker, and they see no reason at all why I should not take control of the ‘Telephone Cascade’ until I tell them I consider Neighbourhood Watch to be a bourgeois vigilante organization; a smuggies’ club for people with too much stuff.
‘You were shouting at him,’ Katherine says. ‘You looked as though you were going to hit him.’
She says she had to ‘drag’ me away and that when the twerp had thrust his right hand at me on parting and had said, ‘No hard feelings, old man. Will you shake me by the hand?’ I had behaved really badly.
‘Well, I shook him by the hand, didn’t I?’ I say.
‘Plus,’ Katherine says, spitting the words, ‘plus, you said, “Sure I’ll shake you by the hand. I’ve shaken hands with all sorts of arseholes in my time.” ’
I confess I am rather pleased with this reminder.

The Travelling Hornplayer continues the Goldman family saga started in Brother of the More Famous Jack and is as brilliantly written. But. But. Too many buts.

The oft-mentioned “Shakespearean” qualities of Trapido’s novels are abound here: the heroes bump into each other a tad more often than is necessary and/or believable. Of course, all of them are congregating for the grand finale at the snooty college feast in Oxford. The whole Schubert connection (including the German chapter subtitles) is annoyingly artificial. Worse still, the likeable characters from the first book got much less likeable here.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

ION Block Rocker

by ION Audio

First published 7 September 2011 @ zumbafuerteventura

Hooray, my new sound system has arrived! I went to collect it from the Correos today. I thought I managed to buy it for reasonably good price from Amazon UK — VAT-free and free delivery, because it was qualified for a free delivery in the UK... wait, that couldn’t be true? Maybe it ain’t. At the post office, they charged me €20 (twenty euro) before handing it over.

Still, I am a happy bunny now. Block Rocker comes with a microphone “to make announcements or sing” (nice try) but the 3.5 mm headphone jack to RCA adapter was not included. That is the only essential thing I really need, to connect it to my MP3 player. (Not iPod. I don’t have iPod. Block Rocker is advertised as a “Battery Powered Speaker System for iPod” but in truth you can plug in anything, provided that you have the right cable.) So I did cycle to the town in the afternoon to get the adapter. Check! Apparently, the batteries allow the system to blast at the full volume for 12 hours. We’ll see about that. I did not listen to “the full volume” properly yet. It’s getting too loud for our kitchen but maybe won’t be that loud for my, er, Zumba class when the time comes.

No more excuses: let’s rock!

Monday, 5 September 2011

El Duque De La Bachata

by Joan Soriano

I learned about El Duque and his music earlier this year, once again thanks to Songlines and we7. However, it was not until last week that I got the real thing. It is a beauty.

The bonus DVD features the documentary by Adam Taub. Or at least it is called “the documentary”. The Duke with his (very large) family; the Duke going to America; the Duke getting lonely in New York. And so on. All very nice, although about forty minutes too long. Never mind that: I was really after the CD, which is just getting better and better with every listening! This is “simply” bachata and merengue, as fresh and authentic as they get. The liner notes in both English and Spanish give a short history of each song. How else would I learn what the word mamandela stands for?

El Duque De La Bachata

Sunday, 28 August 2011

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

by Marina Lewycka

In Corralejo library, there is a small section of books in English. Most of them are the cheap paperbacks that one buys in the airport and then happily leaves behind once the holidays are over. Still, I was able to find a great book to read: A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian.

As an elderly engineer decides to marry a woman almost fifty years younger, his two middle-aged daughters have to act. Vera and Nadezhda (now Mrs Divorce Expert and Mrs Flog-’em-and-send-’em-home of Tunbridge Wells) put aside their differences and unite in face of a common enemy; that is, their new big-bosomed stepmother and her wunderkind from a previous marriage. Absolutely brilliant.

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian: A Novel
My sister and I will take no chances. I draft a letter to the Home Office Immigration Department at Lunar House, Croydon, setting out the story of Valentina’s marriage to our father and her relationship with Bob Turner. I don’t care about being a good liberal any more. I want this woman taken away. I describe the living arrangements — separate beds — and the fact that the marriage has not been consummated, because I believe the Establishment will take the view that penetrative sex is what marriage is all about. I am pleased with the primness of the letter.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Zeno’s Conscience

by Italo Svevo

My friend, colleague and bandmate Sergio presented me with this book when we last met on occasion of my leaving for Fuerteventura. He said that it is kind of classic and it comes from Trieste. Trieste!

I had an uneasy relationship with this place. Until 1993, the only thing I knew about Trieste was that it was the name of bathyscaphe that reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench. I was not even sure in which country Trieste the city was. The history of Trieste suggests that I was not alone in that. Then I spent most of 1994 right there. During that year, I discovered Italian food, Italian coffee, proper gelato, Jovanotti, Cab Calloway, the World Wide Web, the naturist beach, Dolomiti, Venice, Milan, Sardinia, Hungary and, finally, Leeds. That’s right: as soon as I set my foot in Trieste, I was trying to get away from there. And as soon as I left it for good, I started missing it. The phrases I brought from my time in Trieste include piccoli problemi and pozor na psa. Where were we, anyway?

Ah, forget that. No special Triestine connection is actually needed to enjoy Zeno’s Conscience. The style reminds me of Kharms. The (anti)hero is a really lovable type. And who would have thought that sixty tons of copper sulphate could be made into a running gag?

I have never suffered from miserliness, and Giovanna immediately had her glass filled, to the brim. Before she could finish saying thanks, she had drained it, and she immediately cast her bright eyes on the bottle. So it was she herself who gave me the idea of getting her drunk. But that was no easy undertaking!

I couldn’t repeat exactly everything she said to me, in her pure Triestine dialect, after she had drained all those glasses, but I had the profound impression of being with a person to whom, if I hadn’t been distracted by my own concerns, I could have listened with pleasure.

First of all, she confided to me that this was precisely the way she liked to work. Everybody in this world should be entitled to spend a couple of hours every day in just such a comfortable chair, facing a bottle of good brandy, the kind that doesn’t cause any ill effects.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Dragons and monsters

by Timur Kulikov

Paper, gel pens.

Dragons

Monsters

The artist at work

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

ZumbaFuerteventura

I must admit that, since I moved to Fuerte, I was a bit neglecting this (and my other) blogs. So why on earth did I start another one? To promote myself, that’s why. Also, to give Posterous a try. (Sorry Blogger.)

With Posterous, one can easily create blog posts by email. I tried this and it works like magic. Of course, it’s always possible to come back and edit this post with web editor.

So people, if you have nothing better to do, please visit http://zumbafuerteventura.posterous.com/ and maybe even share the link with your Zumba friends!

More photos of Fuerteventura @ Shutterstock.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

036

a film by Juan Fernando Andrés Parrilla and Esteban Roel García Vázquez

You don’t need to have any experience in dealing with Spanish bureaucracy to appreciate this short film starring Carolina Bang and Tomás del Estal. If you had such experience, you will love it.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Qawwali Flamenco

by Faiz Ali Faiz, Duquende, Miguel Poveda and Chicuelo

This 2 CD + DVD box, which looks more like a hardback book, was not fitting in my media storage boxes. (These latter now should be in a container, hopefully moving towards Fuerteventura). So I took it with me in a bag, along with a few other difficult-to-replace CDs (such as SBB Anthology).

For the most part, the qawwali—flamenco fusion works beautifully. Of course, it is debatable whether such things as “pure” qawwali or “pure” flamenco exist. And yet, if I had to choose my favourite song of this set, it would be “pure” qawwali (in context of this record), Mast Qalandar.

Qawwali-Flameco

In addition to an hour-long live concert footage, the DVD contains the 17-minute “making of” documentary, which I watched for the first time here in Corralejo.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Maragogipe coffee

William H. Ukers wrote in his book All About Coffee:

Maragogipe. This is a variety of Coffea arabica first observed growing near the town of Maragogipe on All Saints Bay, county of Maragogipe, Bahia, Brazil, where it is called Coffea indigena. The green bean is of huge size, and varies in color from green to dingy brown. It is the largest of all coffee beans, and makes an elephantine roast, free from quakers, but woody and generally disagreeable in the cup. However, Dr. P.J.S. Cramer of the Netherlands government’s experimental garden in Bangelan, Java, regards it very highly, referring to it as “the finest coffee known”, and as having “a highly developed, splendid flavor”. This coffee is now found in practically all the producing countries, and shows the characteristics of the other coffees produced in the same soil.
I don’t really know what Ukers meant under “elephantine roast”. Maybe it was a joke of some sort: Maragogipe (also spelled Maragogype) is sometimes referred to as the “elephant bean”, but this is due to the size of the bean, not its taste. (I never tried a roasted elephant though, so I may be wrong.) I discovered Maragogipe coffee a few years ago, thanks to Chisnall’s Delicatessen in Saffron Walden. It quickly became my favorite variety. I bought a kilo of beans from Chisnall’s just before I went to Fuerteventura. This packet should last for a while, hopefully until I find a source of good coffee beans here.

More photos of coffee @ Shutterstock.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Oro Valei, Rías Baixas DO 2010

I don’t think I ever tasted any Galician Albariño wine before, so I may miss a reference point here. But now I did, and this one was not bad at all. Fresh, dry, with just right alcohol content (of 12%), and, at about €5, a good value. If you read Galician, you may, or may not, appreciate the poem on the label. Otherwise, just open and enjoy. Eight points (out of ten) on my scale of gluggability.

More photos of white wine @ Shutterstock.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Sex, Drugs & Chocolate: The Science of Pleasure

by Paul Martin

A book about pleasure: mmm... what a great topic. Just like Counting Sheep, it is a pleasure to read. Don’t be discouraged by the word “science”: according to the author,

There are good biological reasons for believing that the brain is engineered to reward us with pleasure for acquiring and understanding new information.
So there you are. I hate to give away the ending, so... I’ll give you the last paragraph without the last line. Check it out.

There is no single golden key that will unlock huge new realms of pleasure, nor is there a single golden path to escape addiction. Nonetheless, science and everyday human experience point to some simple tactics that should help the wily hedonist to derive more and better pleasure from life. They include adopting a little-but-often policy of favouring frequency rather than intensity of pleasure; searching for pleasurable experiences that have a good ending; having plenty of recreational sex, preferably with someone else; napping, sleeping and dreaming to your heart’s content and not feeling guilty about doing it; smiling, if necessary with the help of a pencil; eating chocolate made from at least 60 per cent cacao solids.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Big Issue

As you may have guessed from some of my posts, I learned a great deal about books, movies and music from The Big Issue. Oh, and festivals. Shame I did not attend any of them. TBI is the only periodical I am buying. Whenever I go up North, I am trying to get The Big Issue in the North (very different from the “main”, mostly London-orientated version). From it I learn about more books, music and (still unattended) festivals up North.

When “my” vendor, who usually sells the magazine near Waitrose, is not there, I start to worry. But why should I? Maybe he found a home and moved on. I should be happy for him, right? And then he is back. By the way, I did not see him for the last few weeks. I really miss the magazine. I am going to miss it in Spain.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Kung Fu Panda 2

a film by Jennifer Yuh Nelson

Ah, the trailers nowadays. “From the creators of Toy Story 3: Cars 2.” Really? Very exciting.

Still, Kung Fu Panda 2 is a very decent sequel to the great 2008 animation. And this time, in glorious 3-D. This is a directorial debut for Yuh Nelson who, according to Wikipedia, “is the first woman to solely direct an animated feature from a major Hollywood studio”. Less famously, this is probably the last film I watched in the cinema in this country.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Le Bal

a film by Ettore Scola

I remember seeing Le Bal in the cinema when it was just out, back in 1980s. And then going to watch it a few more times. It was — still is — unlike anything else I’ve seen.

I watched the DVD yesterday. The film has lost none of its tragicomic charm. Who needs a dialogue?

The collaborationist (Marc Berman) is the only person willing to dance with a Nazi officer (Jean-François Perrier).