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


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.