Saturday, 24 December 2016

Blue

by Joni Mitchell as interpreted by Morgan James and Roy Dunlap

iTunes killed the album. People don’t listen to — let alone buy — the albums anymore. New generation don’t even know what the albums are.

What nonsense, I say, and that’s me being generous, what with the spirit of Christmas and such. Here we have Morgan James (vocal) and Roy Dunlap (piano) performing Joni Mitchell’s classic album in its entirety, live, in one take.

Incidentally, it is also available on iTunes.

Blue

  1. All I Want
  2. My Old Man
  3. Little Green
  4. Carey
  5. Blue
  6. California
  7. This Flight Tonight
  8. River
  9. A Case of You
  10. The Last Time I Saw Richard

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Black Fox

by Yuri

27 July 2008. While sifting through the piles and piles of schoolwork that kids brought home, I found this poem. By some reason, I took care to type it up. And a good thing too, since we didn’t keep most of those papers. Not a single character was changed.

21 December 2016. On the longest night of the year, found this poem again.

The Black Fox

Slipping over the rocks,
Creeping over the grass,
Silent and sleek as a cat,
The black fox watches the grass.
She jumps and snaps,
And gets up with a mouse in her jaws.
Silent as the dead mouse,
She skips back to the den.

Back at the den, safe and sound,
She feeds her cub and watches him play around.

On soft, padded paws she slips out again that day,
Walking silently along, ears pricked, all senses alert to find the way.

While she walks further from home, her baby waits,
waiting all alone.

Waiting all alone.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

A Distant Neighborhood

by Jiro Taniguchi

So. Travelling in time. Ah, to be fourteen-year old again. To find yourself in your family home, with your mum and dad and little sister and granny. To go to your old high school, seeing old friends, allowing yourself this time to fall in love with a beautiful classmate. Leaving behind, that is, far in the future, your wife and children. Wondering if they are worrying about you, whether you’ll ever see them or, indeed, whether you’ll ever have a wife and children.

Hiroshi tries to change his present by changing his past, and also doing his best not to change it. Naturally, you can’t do both things at the same time. You would need at least two time trips, and we all know how easy it is to hitch just one. More interesting dilemmas, apparently not involving any time travel, concern Hiroshi’s father. What happens if you live someone else’s life? It’s difficult to live, difficult — but not impossible — to escape.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

El mundo amarillo

by Albert Espinosa

Incidentally, in case anyone is interested, my favourite colour is yellow. Brandy-bottles, buttercups, cowslips, crocuses, daffodils, dandelions, sunflowers, yellow chrysanthemums and yellow roses. Sun and sand, lemons and bananas, beer and cider, honeycomb and corn on the cob, Cornish clotted cream and tortilla española, yellow leaves, chanterelles and, since we discovered them three years ago in Finland, yellowfoot mushrooms. Spanish post boxes; scooters that postmen and postwomen ride here; padded envelopes with new books and CDs that they deliver. Free rental bikes in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The smiley face. And this happy Chinese character:

Yellow Brick Road. Yellow Submarine. And now, The Yellow World.

I thought this book could make anyone happy, just by virtue of its name. For me, it turned out to be as frustrating as it was fascinating, with insightful and original sitting quite comfortably next to incredibly trite.

I have to note that I read it in original Spanish — by the way, very well written and easy to read — and I guess a lot of it is lost in translation. For example, the similarity of words amor, amistad and amarillo. The very concept of amarillos, those special people who touch our lives, might suffer from literal translation, not least because of all those negative/dangerous/derogatory connotations (yellow card, yellow fever, yellow journalism, yellow star, jaundice, ambulance, various hazard symbols, giallo films, жёлтый дом, жёлтый билет...) Tricky, tricky. I myself don’t particularly like the words yellow, gelb, jaune, giallo, жёлтый, žut... Amarillo is good though. Translators, leave it as is!

The most touching, funny and inspiring part of the book is the one describing the happy (!) ten years that Espinosa spent in hospitals fighting cancer. He divided his experience into 23 lessons — lessons for him, that is. There’s no guarantee that any single of them is applicable to anyone else’s life and death. Paradoxically, it was the chapter dedicated to the amarillos that really disappointed me. Where the author’s sense of humour has gone? But don’t take my word for it. Read the book, its flaws notwithstanding. It won’t be a waste of time, I promise.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Father Christmas: The Truth

by Grégoire Solotareff

Have you ever wondered why around this time of year bears are so unhappy? Don’t know what to do if the phone rings and the person on the line says, “Hello, this is Father Christmas”? Still unsure whether artichokes make good presents?

Let me tell you what makes a good present, Christmas or otherwise. A very good friend introduced us to this timeless classic * — first, as Dictionnaire du Père Noël that we saw at his house in Leeds, and then as an English version that he gave us as a gift. It has been our daily reference to the man in red (or, as Timur just put it, “the book of the most useless facts about anybody”) ever since. In the States, it was published by Chronicle Books under the extremely silly title The Secret Life of Santa Claus but this shouldn’t put you off. Enjoy (responsibly) and remember, Father Christmas is not just for Christmas.

* Dictionnaire du Père Noël, a timeless classic since 1991.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Vaiana

a film by Ron Clements and John Musker

Timur and I went to see Moana, renamed by some reason Vaiana in Spain and a number of other European countries. The Spanish reason is to avoid the potential trademark conflict, with Moana being a part of trade names for a deodorant and eau de toilette manufactured by Casa Margot, S.A. situated in, wait a minute, Calle de la Naval, 59, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

What can I say. It is good. But you would expect that from the duo behind The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules and Treasure Planet, would you? Even so, the visuals are stunning and the heroine is, well — maybe not exctly an “ultimate anti-princess” but as cool and independent as Merida of Brave (with which there are many other parallels). The story, though, could have been a bit better, and I would give a miss to a few songs.

I should say that I like the name “Vaiana” (“Soy Vaiana de Motunui” etc.) better than “Moana” (she is not the one to moan about anything). Still, I’d like to watch it in the original English now, not least because I want to hear the voice of Auli’i Cravalho, apparently the last person to audition on the last day of casting — that’s the ultimate Disney princess story, no?

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Sex at Dawn

by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá

I found it ridiculous that quite a number of academics took an issue with Sex at Dawn’s methodology and conclusions as if it were a standard peer-reviewed scientific publication. (In retrospect, it might be a good thing that the book was rejected by Oxford University Press. Their books are expensive for no good reason but the name.) Likewise, some readers felt offended by the authors being biased as if there is any unbiased popular science literature. If the authors’ (not so thinly) veiled political agenda is “make love, not war” and sex-positive feminism, I’m happy that so many people actually bought and read this book. Now, that we’ve got a pussy-grabbing bigot as the soon-to-be Leader of the Free World, this book is probably more important than six years ago.

Also, it’s a jolly good read.

Theorists supporting genital echo theory have noted that swellings like those of chimpanzees and bonobos would interfere with locomotion in a bipedal primate, so when our distant ancestors began walking upright, they reason that some of the female’s fertility signaling moved from the rear office, as it were, to the front showroom. In a bit of historical ping-pong, the dictates of fashion have moved the swelling back and forth over the centuries with high heels, Victorian bustles, and other derrière enhancements.
Though Darwin proved to be a very loving husband and father, these pros and cons of marriage suggest he very seriously considered opting for the companionship of a dog instead.
Maybe matriarchal societies are so difficult for Western male anthropologists to recognize because they expect a culture where men are suffering under the high heels of women — a reverse reflection of the long-standing male oppression of women in Western cultures. Instead, observing a society where most of the men are lounging about relaxed and happy, they conclude they’ve found yet another patriarchy, thereby missing the point entirely.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Animales fantásticos y dónde encontrarlos

a film by David Yates

Confession time: I didn’t read a single Harry Potter book and feel fine about it. Nor did I know about (let alone read) the Newt Scamander’s classic treatise until today. Of all films featuring the annoying wunderkind, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the only one I would recommend. Fantastic Beasts is a different story altogether. Imagine Stephen Hawking coming to Big Apple in 1920s, inadvertently destroying it, then fixing the mess and erasing the New Yorkers’ memories, then buggering off again. Pretty cool, eh?

Never mind the beasts. My favourite character is Queenie, played by A Fine Frenzy. I wonder if she is going to appear in the subsequent installments, maybe singing something of the era.

Just like Doctor Strange, this film would benefit from some restraint. No need to show that many fantastic beasts in the first movie of the series! Also, Colin Farrell being Johnny Depp in disguise is both creepy and unnecessary. Ah well. There is no pleasing some people.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Problemas del primer mundo

by Laura Pacheco

So, what are the First World Problems?

Sounds familiar? These are real problems, not figment of your imagination. Please take them seriously, not like this book does. Any chance of solving them this century? Hope dies last.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Hejira

by Joni Mitchell

I was a relative latecomer to the world of Joni Mitchell, and even that probably wouldn’t happen till much later if not for my former office-mate who was a huge fan of Charles Mingus. At some point — I think it was in 1999 — he introduced me to Mingus, which was the first Joni’s album I heard. I was fascinated with Jaco Pastorius’ work there and wanted to hear more of Joni Mitchell. One not-so-sunny Saturday, I and Yuri went to Cambridge. We wandered into Andy’s Records on Fitzroy Street (sadly, this shop doesn’t exist any longer) and there I bought both Mingus and Hejira. I loved this latter even more. Hejira, released 40 years ago today, is probably the best of her studio work. Beautiful lyrics, amazing musicians, even more amazing performance.

He asked me to be patient
Well I failed
“Grow up!” I cried
And as the smoke was clearing he said
“Give me one good reason why”
Sharon I left my man
At a North Dakota junction
And I came out to the “Big Apple” here
To face the dream’s malfunction
Love’s a repetitious danger
You’d think I’d be accustomed to
Well I do accept the changes
At least better than I used to do
In a highway service station
Over the month of June
Was a photograph of the earth
Taken coming back from the moon
And you couldn't see a city
On that marbled bowling ball
Or a forest or a highway
Or me here least of all

And while we are on subject of lyrics: complete lyrics, together with guitar transcriptions, can be found at the Joni Mitchell’s website. Note that Joni uses a lot of different guitar tunings. Should you have a go at any of these, Howard Wright wrote a very useful guide to Joni tuning notation.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Doctor Strange

a film by Scott Derrickson

Silly plot and overabundance of CGI notwithstanding, watching Doctor Strange, even in Spanish, is not too bad a way to spend a Sunday evening. (In Spanish, “Doctor Stephen Strange” will be “Doctor Esteven Estrange”.) I enjoyed the interplay of Rachel McAdams and Benedict Cumberbatch: Irene Adler meets a different Sherlock Holmes (and vice versa) while Holmes, just for fun, pretends to be a doctor (Who?). And Dormammu’s Dark Dimension appears to be as brightly lit as Hong Kong but undoubtedly more fun of a place — just imagine a disco there. With Cumberbatch dancing.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Andrzej Jagodziński Trio @ Teatro Pérez Galdós

In the late 1990s, when I was unsuccessfully searching for String Connection albums on CD, a former colleague of mine offered to look for them in Poland. Of course, she didn’t succeed, because they still did not exist. Nevertheless, she brought me the next best thing: Chopin by Andrzej Jagodziński Trio. (The connection is, Jagodziński played keys with String Connection in the 1980s.) I wasn’t disappointed at all. In fact, it became one of my favourite piano trio albums. And now, they came to Las Palmas!

This time, I didn’t book the ticket in advance, hoping to buy it at the theatre’s box office. That’s exactly what I did, ten minutes before the show started. I was lucky: in contrast to Gonzalo Rubalcaba gig two weeks ago, tonight’s concert was pretty much sold out. The theatre was full of music students, or at least that was my impression. Which was a good thing.

The trio, just like 23 years ago, consists of pianist Andrzej Jagodziński, bassist Adam Cegielski and drummer Czesław Bartkowski. The three musicians have developed almost telepathic connection (string or otherwise). And yes, they played Chopin, in words of Andrzej, “the most important Romantic composer and the first jazz band ever”. Somehow the music made me forget the theatre’s unbearable pomposity. Prelude in E Minor, Mazurka in F Minor, the waltz in something major (can’t say for sure now) — all played by the trio maybe for the ten thousandth time, still sounding new and fresh. I wonder what Chopin would make of the show. I hope he’d enjoy it.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Yes, we fuck!

a film by Antonio Centeno and Raúl de la Morena

So... Why the English title? It could be that the authors of this documentary thought that “Sí, ¡follamos!” is too rude a name for a Spanish-language film. I can understand that. If this was an anglophone project, they would probably name it in French. Doesn’t matter. Rude or not, the film breaks one or two taboos. You see, our society, no matter how liberal and enlightened it pretends to be, would rather prefer not to see or discuss disabled people. At all. We (that is, “normal” people) go as far as acknowledging that they exist, what else do you want? The title is an answer to the question we pretend to be too embarrassed to ask, while in reality we just don’t want to know.

But we have to know. Because this is all about equal rights and equal opportunities. Everybody has a right to enjoy sex — sadly, this fundamental right is still absent from The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Watching this film made me realise that the expression diversidad funcional (functional diversity) is not just a politically correct substitute for discapacidad (disability); it is simply more correct term. Just as in cases of ethnic, cultural or sexual diversity, we can continue to be afraid of it, or can embrace it as part of our humanity.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

The Worst Man on Mars

by Mark Roman and Corben Duke

No, I didn’t buy this book, I have to confess. I got it for free, a couple of weeks before it was available for sale. Mark Roman sent it to me on strength of my review of his previous book, The Ultimate Inferior Beings. Perhaps he expected (or still expects) that I would write something similarly positive. Perhaps.

But no, no way. And he has only himself to blame. TUIB set such a high standard that it is nigh impossible to beat it, even with TWMOM. So if you really want to enjoy the latter, you’d be better off without reading the former. Which I, sadly, can’t do.

Now, something good about TWMOM. First, it is illustrated. Every single chapter opens with a pic, and there is even a map of the place, complete with a distance to Huddersfield (just in case you were wondering). Second, it is actually quite funny. And rude. At times, very funny and very rude. And very British. Without giving away the story — no more than you’d read in the blurb anyway — the main premise is that Brits are the world leaders at screwing things up. I suspect it was written before the Brexit vote, which was merely a logical conclusion of the said premise. (Now, in the light of the US presidential election, the authors may reconsider it.) Another conclusion would be that, caeteris paribus, Polish robots do a better job than British robots. To fully appreciate some jokes, a smattering of Polish wouldn’t go amiss.

Sometimes the density of cultural and scientific references is so high that it gets in the way of simply enjoying the reading. And some other times, you’d think you’re reading a screenplay rather than a novel. Perhaps The Wurst Men on Mars should indeed be made into an animation series. Just look at those pictures.

A caption identified the man as Jeremy Franklin, Principal Director of NAFA. “Some people exude greatness,” he was saying, “others hide it under a bushel, while there are those who don’t have a scintilla of it in their entire being. Flint Dugdale most definitely belongs to the third category.”

Dugdale, having lost count of the categories, wasn’t sure if this was a compliment or not. Besides, wasn’t a ‘scintilla’ some kind of furry rodent?

A woman, identified as Sarah Wright, NAFA Head of Human Resources, appeared on screen. “No sane or rational recruitment procedure would ever have accepted him. Any job interview, psychometric test, medical examination, or psychological assessment would have filtered him out before he’d even made it through the door; any ranking system would have ranked him bottom of the whole human race – and quite well down a list of orang-utans.”

Now this clearly was an insult. Wasn’t it? Another calming gulp of Stallion was in order.

The programme’s presenter returned. “Of course, it is well known how Flint Dugdale made it onto the mission.” The screen showed archive footage of Dugdale celebrating his win on British reality show Who wants to go to Mars? “The British public, perhaps through an act of collective mischief, voted for him in their millions. NAFA were not so keen.”

Monday, 7 November 2016

Avril et le Monde truqué

a film by Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci

Timur bought this DVD a few weeks ago. Last Sunday we finally sat down to watch it. Naturally, my first association was “Les Triplettes de Belleville meet Steamboy”, followed by parallels with the Studio Ghibli classics. However, this crazy world is in class of its own. A reminder, if one was ever needed, that the best of French animation is three — or more — standard deviations from the Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks “mean”.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

La princesa de hielo

by Léonie Bischoff and Olivier Bocquet
based on a novel by Camilla Läckberg

I wonder if I would ever read an eponymous Swedish crime novel on which the two Francophone authors based their graphical adaptation. I picked up the Spanish translation of the latter in the library because the Force WiFi connection was strongest in front of the (new or freshly returned) comic book stand. Welcome to Fjällbacka (it’s actually a real place).. A murder disguised as a suicide, a suicide disguised as a murder, and quite a few other things that are not what they appear — I just couldn’t put it down.

...and, of course, a love story, right in the middle of the investigation.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Live music in La Línea, October 2016

I spent September and October teaching English in La Línea de la Concepción. I was told that the town is famous for its flamenco singers. Why, Camarón de la Isla himself lived there for many years. Shame I did not hear or see any flamenco in La Línea, except an impromptu performance from one of our students one Friday afternoon. Apparently, there was a flamenco concert in Eden, a bar on Plaza Cruz Herrera which I visited couple of times because there were free dance lessons (salsa, kizomba etc.) on Fridays. Somehow I missed that show. Luckily, I discovered a great place for live music: Molly Bloom’s, an Irish pub at the very same plaza as Eden. Molly has great atmosphere but drinks are pricey, as one would expect.

  • 7 October: Malaka Youth @ Molly Bloom’s, Plaza Cruz Herrera, La Línea
      An energetic reggae band from Málaga, featuring Nacho Meliveo (vocal), Edu Fernández (drums), Carlos Fernández (keyboards), Camilo Lagreca (guitar) and Antonio Rueda (bass). Sure enough they covered a couple of Bob Marley songs but mostly performed their own material. To my surprise, many punters knew the lyrics.
  • 8 October: Jam Session @ Cortijo El Cartero, El Palmar beach, Vejer de la Frontera
      I did a bit of couchsurfing during these two months and, thanks to my wonderful CS hosts, was able to visit some amazing places not readily accessible by public transport. That Saturday, on El Palmar beach, I went for a sunset swim and then sat down at El Cartero to enjoy a drink and a jam session!
  • 9 October: Edna Brezinska @ Iguana Bar & Restaurant, Vejer de la Frontera
      Edna, a singer-songwriter with fantastic voice and crazy hairdo, was accompanied by Fran Mangas and Jon Ayuga. Jazz, soul, blues, funk... even a song by Nina Hagen! Also, the food at Iguana was delicious (even though slow to arrive).
  • 15 October: Winter Blues Fest @ Cortijo El Cartero
      Exactly one week later, I found myself in the same place at the 4th edition of Winter Blues Fest. Here’s the programme:
      • 15:00, Smoking Alligators (Cádiz)
      • 18:00, Los Hermanos Roncha (Sevilla)
      • 21:00, Los Deltonos (Cantabria)
      I stayed there almost till the end, using the break for a swim (but of course). IMHO, the first act was the best.
  • 16 October: La Reina: tribute to Queen @ Molly Bloom’s
      Strange but true: I’ve never been to any tribute band concerts. Until now, that is. In spite of the show being very late on Sunday night, the pub was packed. La Reina started with Tie Your Mother Down and stayed on the heavier, less obvious side of Queen for the most of the first half. And closer to the end, just for the hell of it, they played Highway Star. I can’t say the singer was quite up to the task but the rest of the band cooked it perfectly. (I think every decent tribute band, irrespectively of who they are tribute to, must know how to play Highway Star. It’s a benchmark.) For the encore, of course, they did Bohemian Rhapsody, which was fine. It would have been cooler though if they had opted for something else. By the way, I never learned where La Reina are from but I found them very andalú.
  • 23 October: The Jungle @ Molly Bloom’s
      Another band from Málaga, playing a healthy mix of R&B, soul and hip-hop covers. With Julia Martín (vocals), Alejandro Berenguer (keys), Eric Pozzo (bass and vocals), Raúl Ranea (guitar) and Daniel Guzmán (drums). Uplifting!

Hasta pronto, Andalucía.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Gonzalo Rubalcaba Quartet @ Teatro Pérez Galdós

After almost two years of walking past it on a daily basis, Timur and I finally made it to Teatro Pérez Galdós. Thanks to Gonzalo Rubalcaba, we know at last where the entrance is.

I wanted to see the Cuban pianist playing live since I heard his album Diz some twenty years ago. And now the chance presented itself. Tonight, Gonzalo Rubalcaba Quartet featuring bassist Matt Brewer, saxophonist Will Vinson and drummer Jeff Ballard presented a tribute to the great late Charlie Haden, Rubalcaba’s long-time friend and collaborator.

Inside the modern cuboid of a building, we found a rather traditional wedding-cake type of theatre, complete with stalls, balconies and boxes as well as classically-inspired frescoes by Néstor. We were sitting in “the gods”, as those were the cheapest seats on offer (and €20 is quite expensive by Canarian standards). In spite of relatively recent refurbishment, there was not enough legroom. This could have made the experience uncomfortably similar to a Ryanair flight. However, the theatre was far from being packed, which was a shame really. Whether it was competition with Hallowe’en parties (I did not realise until now just how popular Hallowe’en became in Spain) or typically Canarian poor publicity, I can’t tell you.

As I was perching on my seat, I couldn’t help thinking how incongruous was the music with this environment. Jazz is egalitarian and playful. Jazz ignores, bends and breaks the boundaries. It is a complete antithesis to the rigidly stratified microcosm of the opera house. The music tonight was thoughtful, at times sombre, with great chunks of silence. Far cry from bebop nuevo of Diz era but as (or even more) engaging. It should have been played in a more chamber settings, if only for the sake of interaction with the audience. Besides, the smaller sold-out venue is always better than a bigger and half-empty one.

After the show, Timur confessed that this is not his favourite sub-genre of jazz, as he put it. He prefers big bands. Fair enough. I think know where we’re going to watch next time.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Never Happened

a film by Mark Slutsky

Swap the first two lines of Bohemian Rhapsody. Those must have been the two questions that quite naturally came to my mind after watching this short. And then there came other ones but I’ll say no more.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Blue Breeze

by Livin’ Blues

For me, Blue Breeze, released 40 years ago (I can’t find an exact date, does it really matter?), was a revelation, if not the revelation. I heard blues before, but this was my first encounter with the band so dedicated to blues. And, of all blues bands out there, neither American nor British but Dutch. How cool is that? Very cool, I say. Very underrated too, and not that well known, even in The Hague.

Here’s the story: A childhood friend of mine asked me and my brother to look after a stack of her (or, rather, her “crazy” mum’s) vinyls throughout the summer of 1977. Those included records by ABBA, Puhdys, assorted rock’n’roll compilations and two strange albums pressed in Poland, viz. Live ’75 and Blue Breeze. All of the summer passed without us ever taking those latter two out of their sleeves. And then, a day or two before returning them, we finally decided to give them a go. What a discovery! Unfortunately, we had only one spare reel of magnetic tape in the house, and there was no way to acquire another one in the remaining hours. So. Blue Breeze, it was decided, in a hope to catch up with Live ’75 some other time which, naturally, never came. Amazingly, that reel, still playable, stayed with me until early ’90s.

A few years later, I got hold of most of Livin’ Blues back catalogue reissued on CDs. Still, Blue Breeze is my favourite record of the band as well as one of my favourite blues-rock (or, indeed, any) records of all time. If you’ve never heard it, find it and listen to it.

Blue Breeze

Side A

  1. Shylina (J. Fredriksz, T. Oberg)
      A blues-rock-waltz that never fails to give me goosebumps.
  2. Back Stage (J. Fredriksz, R. Meyes)
    • They really knew how to craft a rock ballad.
  3. Midnight Blues (J. Fredriksz, T. Oberg)
      Humourous country(ish) style blues.
  4. Pisces (T. Oberg)
      An instrumental of almost unbearable beauty.
  5. Bus 29 (J. Fredriksz, T. Oberg)
      Since I first heard this song, I wanted to ride the bus #29 for no (other) reason.

Side B

  1. Blue Breeze (J. Fredriksz, T. Oberg)
      Vinyls have two sides for a reason. You see, one can’t simply stick a blues of epic proportions like this one in the middle of a record. It just has to be a (or, in this case, b) side opener.
  2. Pick Up On My Mojo (Johnny Winter)
      Trust me, the only track not composed by the band members is every bit as good as the original. Or better.
  3. That Night (A. Reijnen, J. v. Heiningen, J. Fredriksz, T. Oberg)
      Featuring one of the finest rock bass solos I ever heard, this song, together with the title track’s bass line, is probably responsible for me ever trying my hand at electric bass.
  4. Black Jack Dilly (J. Fredriksz, T. Oberg)
      A rocker of a song with rather silly lyrics.

  5. John Fredriksz: vocals and backing vocals
    André Reijnen: bass guitar
    Jacob v. Heiningen: drums
    Ted Oberg: electric and acoustic guitars, dobro, banjo and electric sitar
    Margriet Eshuys and Maggie Mc Neal: backing vocals on Bus 29
    Martin Agterberg: additional keyboards

Saturday, 24 September 2016

...and the winner is...

The ten winning images of Wiki Loves Earth Biosphere Reserves photography competition 2016 have been announced. There is only one Spanish entry, and (in case there were any doubts as to who is the best photographer in Spain) that is Tamara’s fantastic Barranco de los Enamorados taken in 2013. Congratulations!

More photos of Fuerteventura @ Shutterstock.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

A Special Scar: The Experiences of People Bereaved by Suicide

by Alison Wertheimer; foreword by Colin Murray Parkes

I hesitate to call this book a “must read”. And no, not all experiences in this life are necessary. You wouldn’t wish this one on your worst enemy.

The book is based on interviews of 50 suicide survivors conducted by the author, a suicide survivor herself. It’s not your typical “self-help” book. Nor is it an easy reading but, ultimately, a very gratifying one. You’ve got to get used to Ms Wertheimer’s dry, almost academic writing style. As Colin Murray Parkes points out,

she is very self-effacing and she avoids pontificating, theorising, and offering simple answers to complex problems. In much of the book she allows the survivors to speak for themselves, elsewhere she quotes the opinions of others, but they are always opinions offered for our consideration rather than holy writ. And because she shows us bereavement through the eyes of the bereaved, what we see is often direct and painful, but not without hope.

A hope — for those who tries to make sense of what happened, who is looking for clues which cannot change anything, who feels guilty, who feels alone, orphaned and abandoned, who feels angry and betrayed, who feels robbed of their past, present and future, who feels diminished, cut in half, who wants to talk and cannot talk, who strives both to forget it all and remember everything, who listens to the door opening with a familiar sound (could it be? ... but no), who wakes up in the middle of the night and thinks, thinks, thinks, who asks oneself, for the nth time, all these “why him?” or “why her?” or “why me?” or “what if?”, who wants to move away, to never wake up, to disappear, who needs to carry on as before — a hope is not a small thing.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Search for Happy-Land

by Timur Kulikov

Timur had been working on this picture for quite a few weeks (all these Celtic swirly things!) and finished it when we were in Finland this August. This is what he wrote about it:

I thought of a web-comic a while ago. The main character lives on a barren wasteland and searches for a mythical “Happy-Land” because he hates his current life. He travels through a deceptively dark journey with a particularly stupid dog.

I am looking forward to the first installment of the comic.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Croqueta y Empanadilla

by Ana Oncina

Everybody — at least in Spain — knows that croquetas are from Mars and empanadillas are from another planet. What could possibly go wrong when they decide to move in together? (For the last time: empanadilla is not a Cornish pastry.)

Croqueta y Empanadilla are creations of Valencian artist Ana Oncina, who does not look like an empanadilla at all. Yet she says that the comics are based on her and her partner’s true adventures. In any case, they are charming. My favourite story is about CyE’s trip to Germany, featuring Greek Yogurt as a dorm-mate from hell.

Friday, 19 August 2016

The Last Bastion

a film by Blizzard Entertainment

I know nothing about the video games. That includes Overwatch. This did not prevent me from enjoying this animated short, once again, suggested by Timur (who said he is not interested in the game as such). Bastion reminded me of Laputan robot from Castle in the Sky. A surprisingly heart-warming story for something that is intended to be a promotional short for a first-person shooter video game.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Something Wicked

by Yuri & Timur

Last year, for my birthday, Yuri and Timur presented me with a handwritten manuscript of their joint literary work. At long last, we have digitised it (i.e. typed it on a PC), keeping as much of original spelling, punctuation and capitalisation as possible.

The moon is black, the night is dark
Monsters howl and cry and bark
Scream now, leave now, run away
Something wicked comes this way

Friday, 5 August 2016

Revolver

by The Beatles

While Revolver was not the first Beatles album I’ve heard — ironically, my first one was The Beatles’ last — it probably was the first I heard in its entirety and appreciated as such. Which is also somewhat ironic considering that Revolver is still just a collection of (brilliant) songs rather than a concept album. Never mind that. I discovered it in 1977 and listened to it a zillion times. Love You To was unlike anything I heard before.

Perhaps I was fascinated by those open endings: Taxman, I’m Only Sleeping, Love You To, Good Day Sunshine, wonderful as they are, fade away when something even more wonderful is just about to happen — wait, I’m still fascinated with them. And then, Tomorrow Never Knows — what was that? Is that how the album was meant to end? Amazing. Rewind the tape, listen again. The only song I felt out of place on the album was Yellow Submarine, and that despite (or because) it was the first Beatles song I ever learned the chorus. So did Yuri when he was about three, although in his rendition it was “we all live in a yellow atmosphere”.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Un zoo en invierno

by Jiro Taniguchi

This is a manga about an 18-old boy who in 1967 moves to Tokyo to become... an assistant to a manga artist. How exciting is that?

In fact, it is quite engaging. Young Hamaguchi tries alcohol (and has a hangover), draws a nude model, and creates his own manga — all for the first time in his life. Oh, and he also falls in love. It may be not terribly deep but funny, sincere and touching. The last chapter of A Zoo in Winter does not imply a happy ending but leaves you to hope for one.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Carne y hueso

by Eva Yerbabuena Ballet Flamenco

So here it is, another experimental validation of the Theory of Searches by Juan Valdez (see Mindswap by Robert Sheckley): after ten or so years of consistently missing Eva Yerbabuena in England, I’ve got the chance to see her for free precisely in my current Location-Point. Once again, as a part of the 20º TEMUDAS FEST; once again, at Plaza de Santa Ana.

We went to see the show with Timur yesterday. To our surprise, it started exactly as advertised, at 10 pm. There were no free seats so we sat down on the ground, just a few metres away from the scene.

It seems that Timur, in contrast to Yuri, enjoys both toque and baile flamenco. Can’t say the same about cante, but then, I also can do without it, or at least without its most traditional (that is, tragic) variety. Eva’s dance, especially taconeo, was very impressive. However, we both liked even more the rest of the dance troupe. There was an encore where every dancer (and the singer) got to do a solo performance. (On the way back, we’ve been discussing who was the best. We’ve both agreed that it was a male dancer on the far right.)

I have to add that I didn’t care much about the black screens used as stage props as they were obstructing the view for those who (like us) were watching from the side.

Carne y hueso

  • Baile: Eva Yerbabuena
  • Guitar: Paco Jarana
  • Cante: José Valencia, Alfredo Tejada
  • Percussion: Antonio Coronel
  • Corps de ballet: Christian Lozano, Fernando Jiménez, Ángel Fariña, Lorena Franco, María Moreno, Marina González

Monday, 25 July 2016

Jazz at Plaza de Santa Ana

I didn’t see as much of Canarian International Jazz Festival (in its XXVth edition this year!) as I’d like to — but who did? At least, Timur and I went to Plaza de Santa Ana two nights in a row, 22 and 23 July, and enjoyed some good, at times great, music.

Jon Cleary trio (Friday) was the only “international” act during these two days. And man, they were good. Jon Cleary plays some mean honky-tonky style piano and sings blues so listening to him one may be excused to think that the guy himself, just like his bandmates, hails from New Orleans, Louisiana and not from Cranbrook, Kent. They played an encore; “Do you want some more?”, asked the bass player. “Yes? Buy the CD!” Fair enough; the show was free and they were running late.

Personally, I don’t care much about Michael Jackson but Madrid-based Patax made quite a good job of covering his hits, to the degree of enjoyability. They opened their set with Billie Jean which included a great deal of flamenco singing, clapping and dancing; after ten minutes or so, Timur asked me, “Is it still the first song?” — yes it was. A note to myself: next time, try to get closer to the band if just to see the dancing. Patax, perhaps uniquely, played on four (of five) islands participating in the festival this year: Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, La Palma and Tenerife. Respect.

Luis Merino’s band (Friday), Jazz Coming and José Carlos Díaz Group (both Saturday) are three electric guitar-driven quartets based in Gran Canaria (I hope they forgive me for unceremoniously lumping them together) playing “contemporary” jazz which by now became mainstream. The problem with mainstream, of course, is that it is a very crowded stream field place to be. To my ear, neither of these bands sounded particularly Spanish, let alone Canarian. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Still, I need some musical clues to differentiate them from the said mainstream, or, for that matter, one from another. In the case of Luis Merino Quartet, it was Xerach Peñate who made the band to stand out (back in 2013, Yuri and I saw her playing with Gran Canaria Big Band); a jazz drummer to watch. Ironically, what I remembered the best of Jazz Coming set were two songs with a guest singer whose name I did not remember. José Carlos Díaz Group presented most lively, hummable, danceable material.

Touché! probably was the least mainstream of the bands presented during those two days. An acoustic guitar duo from Tenerife plays compositions which are difficult to categorise; unfortunately, also difficult to hear when most of the audience is chatting all the time. A more chamber setting would suit Touché! (and the listener) better.

The whole Saturday set was, as they say, más canario que el gofio. We didn’t stay to see another Gran Canarias outfit, Perinké Big Band, because it was about to start after 1 am but I am determined to catch them when they play next time. Hopefully, soon.

Luis Merino Quartet

  • Luis Merino — guitar
  • David Quevedo — piano
  • Tana Santana — bass
  • Xerach Peñate — drums

Jon Cleary trio

  • Jon Cleary — keyboards, vocals
  • Cornell Williams — bass
  • AJ Hall — drums

Patax

  • Jorge Pérez — percussion
  • Federico Lechner — piano
  • Valentín Iturat — drums
  • Alana Sinkey — vocal
  • Carlos Sánchez — bass
  • Daniel García — keyboards
  • Roberto Pacheco — trombone
  • Raúl Gil — trumpet
  • Rafael Águila — sax
  • Dani Morales — timbales
  • Lidón Patiño — dance

Jazz Coming

  • Néstor García — guitar
  • Juan Antonio Martín — saxophones
  • Carlos Meneses — double bass
  • Suso Vega — drums

Touché!

  • Jonay G. Mesa — Brazilian seven-string guitar
  • Yeray A. Herrera — manouche guitar

José Carlos Díaz Group

  • José Carlos Díaz — guitar
  • Jose Alberto Medina Quintana – keyboards
  • Tanausu Santana Garrido – bass
  • Oscar López – drums

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Things Yuri likes

One sunny day, Timur and I were waiting for this or that appointment. I knew it could take quite some time so I took a pencil and a notebook with me. This is what we wrote.

Things that Yuri likes

  • British panel shows
  • Chess
  • Discworld
  • Undertale
  • 2-D animation
  • Critical analysis
  • Game Grumps and their 2 bands
  • Comics
  • Walking on his own
  • Coming up with ideas for comics, movies, games, etc.
  • Oranges
  • Coffee with milk and sugar
  • Chocolate ice cream
  • Meat (also, to cook it)
  • Dark comedy
  • Sherlock Holmes (various implementations)
  • Blues
  • Cowboy-related stuff
  • His black cap

Las cosas que le gustan a Yuri

  • Programas de concursos británicos
  • Ajedrez
  • Mundodisco
  • Undertale
  • Animación 2-D
  • Análisis crítico
  • Game Grumps y sus 2 bandas
  • Historietas
  • Caminar por su cuenta
  • Encontrar ideas para cómics, películas, juegos, etc.
  • Naranjas
  • Café con leche y azúcar
  • Helado de chocolate
  • La carne (también cocinarla)
  • El humor negro
  • Sherlock Holmes (varias realizaciones)
  • Blues
  • Cosas vaqueras
  • Su gorra negra

Юра любит...

  • Британские телеигры
  • Шахматы
  • Плоский мир
  • Undertale
  • Рисованную мультипликацию
  • Критический анализ
  • Game Grumps и их 2 группы
  • Комиксы
  • Прогулки в одиночестве
  • Придумывать идеи для комиксов, фильмов, игр и т.д.
  • Апельсины
  • Кофе с молоком и сахаром
  • Шоколадное мороженое
  • Мясо (также, готовить)
  • Чёрный юмор
  • Шерлока Холмса (различные реализации)
  • Блюз
  • Вещи, связанные с ковбоями
  • Свою чёрную шапку

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Carmen

by Georges Bizet

“What?”, I hear you crying, “now you go to the opera every single day?” Relax, dear reader. Not every day. Why, I spent years, nay, decades, without going to any opera and feel quite fine about that. I don’t even like opera that much. Unless it is something by Verdi. Or Carmen. It just so happened that right now there is the Festival of Theatre, Music and Dance in Las Palmas, and we’ve been attending it two days in a row.

Besides, we were attracted by the location as much as by the performance itself. This particular instance of Carmen took place at the Terminal de Contenedores del Muelle de La Luz (container terminal of the port). Playing in this unusual place became kind of a tradition for the Philharmonic Orchestra of Gran Canaria. Not the easiest spot to get to and from, considering that the show started at 10 pm; thankfully, there were free buses running from (and then back to) the Centro Comercial El Muelle. I have to say that the event was very well organised and, with tickets priced at €12, a steal. But, of course, there is always room for improvement.

Now the show was (thank goodness!) not a complete opera in four acts but a “greatest hits” compilation and, as it often happens with greatest hits compilations, included some misses as well. Our very own Canarian Nancy Fabiola Herrera made a great Carmen (“She is very pleased with herself”, noted Timur); in comparison, primo uomo Enrique Sánchez Ramos, while technically adequate, was not that impressive or memorable. Both lead singers and choir were just standing there, so it was more like an oratorio than an opera. I felt this gorgeous space was tragically underused. One can imagine employing the said containers as stage props or at the very least to create raised seating area. From our seats, there was little to be seen without binoculars. However, as the show was filmed for Spanish television and projected on huge TV screens (also mounted on the containers), we did not miss much in terms of visuals.

When we were back to the town, I asked Timur how much did he understand of the opera, given that he learns French in school. “Was it in French?” he asked. “Well... One word there was... L’amour.”

Carmen

    Orquesta Filarmónica de Gran Canaria
    Conductor: Rodrigo Tomillo
    Mezzo-soprano: Nancy Fabiola Herrera
    Baritone: Enrique Sánchez Ramos
    Mezzo-soprano: Raia Natcheva
    Soprano: Maite Robaina
    OFGC Choir
    OFGC Children Choir

Friday, 15 July 2016

Rigoletto

by Giuseppe Verdi as interpreted by Les Grooms

As far as I remember, Rigoletto was the first opera I’ve ever seen. Was it in Bolshoi, or somewhere else in Moscow, I can’t tell you. I liked the music but had no faintest clue what it is all about, although I recall that it did not end well. Now, consulting the Wikipedia, I am not sure at all that the theatrical programme back then explained the (fairly complicated, I say) plot in sufficient, or any, detail.

Fortysomething years later, enter Les Grooms with their strange and irreverent version of Verdi’s classic. A far cry from dead serious Soviet-era production. Come to think of it, maybe not that strange. Maybe that’s how the opera should be, free for all, performed on the street — well, tonight it was on the square, bang in the heart of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. On this occasion, the French theatrical brass band was joined by 25 Canarian singers. The best bit, at least for me, was after the end of the show: an encore and then some music that has nothing to do with great Verdi, with what remained of the audience dancing, forming a circle, making a conga line... it could have been a scene from a Fellini film.