Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Let’s Speak English

by Mary Cagle

Mary Cagle, aka Cube, is a young American lady who, after graduating from college with a respectable “degree in drawing comics” (her own words!), spent two and a half years teaching English to elementary school students in Kurihara, Japan. Timur became a fan of her comic some time in 2016 and liked it so much that he decided to support the author’s Kickstarter Project. The physical book arrived last summer, but I only finished it last week.

In my humble opinion, US $20.00 (plus P&P) is a bit steep for a “100-page(ish) softcover”. But... without Timur’s patronage, I wouldn’t read this book at all (as I normally don’t read comics online). The paper quality is good. Most of the comic strips are in vertical yonkoma format, but, unlike the “real” manga books, this one is printed Western-style, i.e. “front-to-back” — something to change the next edition maybe? I liked Mary-sensei’s self-deprecating humour and learned a Japanese word or two. Besides, Ms Cagle’s adventures in rural Japan reminded me all too vividly of my own close encounters with young learners in rural Cantabria, and yes, winter sucks. I can’t be objective.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Алиса в стране чудес

First published 25 January 2018 @ sólo algunas palabras
a play by Oleg Gerasimov
songs by Vladimir Vysotsky
Что остаётся от сказки потом,
После того, как её рассказали?
What remains of the tale
After the tale was told?

Tamara asked, “Is there a way of saying «банка из-под варенья» in English? Or Spanish?”

No, there isn’t. (Yes, I checked with Spanish speakers.)

In Russian, «банка варенья» (without any preposition) means “a jar of jam” while «банка из-под варенья» means “an empty jar which formerly contained jam”. Here, из-под points to the former use of the jar as a container. (Yes, in Russian it is also possible to say «банка для варенья», that is, jam jar).

Of course, this is not only about jam jars. In English, an (empty) beer bottle (“a bottle designed as a container for beer”) is clearly different from a (full) bottle of beer; a wine glass (“a type of glass that is used to drink and taste wine”) is not the same as a glass of wine. The same story with their Russian equivalents: «пивная бутылка» vs «бутылка пива», «винный бокал» vs «бокал вина». In Russian, we use adjectives (пивная, винный) to indicate the purpose of a container. Likewise, in English, we use words beer and wine as adjectives by placing them before the nouns. This still doesn’t provide an elegant way to translate, say, the lines by Bulat Okudzhava:

В склянке тёмного стекла из-под импортного пива...
In a dark glass bottle of for which previously contained imported beer...
In a dark-glass imported-beer bottle...

Why did we talk about that in the first place? Because of a Russian meme:

Банки из-под варенья никогда не бывают пустыми.
It could be roughly translated as “jam jars are never empty”.

Google it. In many cases, it is attributed to Lewis Carroll. In fact, it comes from Алиса в стране чудес, the Soviet-era musical adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, released in 1976 as a double LP. It was created by Oleg Gerasimov (1929—1997), actor and director of Moscow Art Theatre (МХАТ), and contained songs by Vladimir Vysotsky (1938—1980). Both Gerasimov and Vysotsky were among the voice actors in the play. I was introduced to it in 1977 by my cousin and, after a few listenings, knew it by heart (as, I’m sure, did millions of Soviet citizens). For me, it was also the first encounter with Carroll’s story.

Back to our meme: What did Carroll actually say about the jar?

She took down a jar from one of the shelves as she passed; it was labelled “ORANGE MARMALADE,” but to her great disappointment it was empty: she did not like to drop the jar for fear of killing somebody underneath, so managed to put it into one of the cupboards as she fell past it.
To my great disappointment, jars are never mentioned again.

OK, I thought, maybe the theme of jars was further developed by Russian translators. The play was based on work by Nina Demurova. Here:

Пролетая мимо одной из полок, она прихватила с неё банку с вареньем. На банке было написано «АПЕЛЬСИНОВОЕ», но увы! она оказалась пустой. Алиса побоялась бросить банку вниз — как бы не убить кого-нибудь! На лету она умудрилась засунуть её в какой-то шкаф.
Well, this is quite faithful to the original. Just in case, I had a look at another Russian translation of Alice that was widely available in the USSR at the time, viz. that of Boris Zakhoder:
С одной из полок Алиса сумела на лету снять банку, на которой красовалась этикетка: «АПЕЛЬСИНОВОЕ ВАРЕНЬЕ». Банка, увы, была пуста, но, хотя Алиса и была сильно разочарована, она, опасаясь ушибить кого-нибудь, не бросила её, а ухитрилась опять поставить банку на какую-то полку.
Finally, I checked out the version by Vladimir Nabokov:
Она падала вниз так плавно, что успела мимоходом достать с одной из полок банку, на которой значилось: «Клубничное варенье». Но, к великому её сожалению, банка оказалась пустой. Ей не хотелось бросать её, из боязни убить кого-нибудь внизу, и потому она ухитрилась поставить её в один из открытых шкафчиков, мимо которых она падала.
Nabokov took the liberty to replace orange marmalade with strawberry jam, probably because he doubted that a seven-year-old girl (or any Russian reader) would fancy orange marmalade. Nevertheless, once again, this passage is the first and last time we hear about jars. We only can conclude that the maxim of never-empty jars was created by the play authors. Russian Wikipedia lists a number of other discrepancies with Demurova’s translation attribited to Gerasimov and Vysotsky.

What’s it all about? According to CliffsNotes (CliffsComplete Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland),

The jar in and of itself is only a jar. Placing a label on it that reads “ORANGE MARMALADE” might indicate that the object we call a jar contains a substance called marmalade. However, this jar contains nothing, rendering the label deceptive. The label would more accurately read “Empty.”
Yes, that would be more accurate but not 100% accurate. Now it is technically possible to clean and evacuate a jar (which formerly contained marmalade, jam etc. etc.), say using a vacuum pump. But it still won’t be completely empty, completely free of its past content, of its past story.

Так что же остаётся, когда съедена банка варенья? Что останется, когда спета песня?
So what remains when a jar of jam is eaten? What will remain when the song is sung?

Alice, you may recall, asks a lot of questions.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Утренняя гимнастика

by Vladimir Vysotsky

“This Burns Night, consider celebrating Virginia Woolf instead”, suggests The Guardian. I have to admit that I didn’t read anything by Mrs Woolf, so that’ll have to wait until some other time. If I give a miss to Burns this year, it is because today would have been the 80th birthday of another Bard, Vladimir Semyonovich Vysotsky (25 January 1938 – 25 July 1980), and it turns out that until now I didn’t have a single post dedicated to him on this blog!

Утренняя гимнастика (“Morning exercise”), written in 1968, was one of very few songs released by Melodiya in his lifetime, and I even had it on a 7" vinyl. This one:

In case you didn’t grow up in Soviet Union, here’s a Soviet-time radio callisthenics programme of the type broadcast on radio every single morning. I never exercised though.

Ten years ago, Eugenio Finardi recorded an album of songs by Vysotsky with lyrics translated by Sergio Secondiani Sacchi called Il cantante al microfono. One of these songs is La ginnastica mattutina.

The version of the song as appeared on 1974 vinyl lacks the verse that mentions Arctic, Antarctic and «главный академик Йоффе» (academician Abram Fyodorovich Ioffe, unofficially known as “father of the Soviet physics”). Ioffe is also missing from the Italian version, however the spirit of that stanza is preserved and even enhanced (“prevenire è sano e assai catartico”).

Владимир Высоцкий
Утренняя гимнастика
Vladimir Vysotsky, Sergio Secondiano Sacchi (traduzione)
La ginnastica mattutina
Вдох глубокий, руки шире,
Не спешите, три-четыре!
Бодрость духа, грация и пластика.
Утром отрезвляющая
(Если жив пока ещё) гимнастика!
Busto eretto, braccia in alto,
Due tre quattro, un po’ più svelto,
Buona lena grazia e posa plastica.
La mattina ti riaggiusta,
Toglie il cerchio dalla testa
(Se di vita te ne resta) la ginnastica.
Если вы в своей квартире,
Лягте на пол, три-четыре!
Выполняйте правильно движения.
Прочь влияния извне,
Привыкайте к новизне,
Вдох глубокий до изнеможения.
La puoi fare pure in casa,
Due tre quattro, schiena stesa,
Un bel movimento sistematico.
Bada a quel che stai facendo
Un respiro ben profondo
Fino a quando non sarai cianotico.
Очень вырос в целом мире
Гриппа вирус, три-четыре!
Ширится, растёт заболевание.
Если хилый — сразу в гроб;
Сохранить здоровье чтоб,
Применяйте, люди, обтирания.
Già nel mondo l’influenza,
Due tre quattro, sopra avanza
Con uno sviluppo epidemico.
Stando in forma scansi il peggio,
Fatti fare un bel massaggio,
O poi ti ritroverai anemico.
Если вы уже устали —
Сели-встали, сели-встали.
Не страшны вам Арктика с Антарктикой!
Главный академик Йоффе
Доказал: коньяк и кофе
Вам заменит спортом профилактика.
Se la fiacca ti divora,
Su è giù niente paura,
Che da tutto l’Artico all’Antartico,
Basta attendere al richiamo:
Niente grassi, niente fumo,
Prevenire è sano e assai catartico.
Разговаривать не надо —
Приседайте до упада,
Да не будьте мрачными и хмурыми!
Если очень вам неймётся,
Обтирайтесь чем придётся,
Водными займитесь процедурами.
Non è il caso di fiatare,
Su e giù fino a scoppiare,
Niente facce tristi vuote e apatiche.
Se fa male vi sfregate
Con la mano e non scordate
Le più note procedure acquatiche.
Не страшны дурные вести:
Мы в ответ бежим на месте,
В выигрыше даже начинающий!
Красота: среди бегущих
Первых нет и отстающих,
Бег на месте — общепримиряющий!
Quando ai guai stiamo tranquilli,
Che facciamo due saltelli,
Tanto qui i vantaggi sono autentici.
In questa corsa non c’è un primo,
E non vince mai nessuno,
Il surplace ci rende tutti identici.
Traduzione, 1992

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Alma del violín flamenco en Las Palmas

Although both flamenco and violin have long association with Romani music, the violin never was your typical flamenco instrument. Well, this young man is about to change that. Wikipedia credits Paco Montalvo as “creador del violín flamenco como voz principal” (“creator of flamenco violin as the main voice”). I have to say that for at least a year a so I was diligently ignoring the videos of Paco Montalvo that were invading my newsfeed. Then, last December, I read that the man himself is coming to Canarias. So Timur and I bowed to the inevitable and went to see him in the Auditorio Alfredo Kraus.

We were treated to an hour and a half of wonderful music, blissfully devoid of cante (which is always a plus, in spite of sounding like a minus, as Tamara has put it). As one could guess from the name of the show, Paco played many songs from his debut album, Alma del violín flamenco, but also from his latest offering, (unfortunately, not-so-imaginatively named) Corazón Flamenco. And, if I must to give any highlights... naturally, homage to Paco de Lucía: Río Ancho [1] and La Barrosa; Tamacún by Rodrigo y Gabriela; Camarón’s Rosa María... And I was really impressed by 20-years-old Marta Guillén’s dance in El Vito Cordobés and Sevilla por Bulerias.

For encores, Paco & the band played My Way (the only one I honestly could live without) and another of Paco de Lucía’s hits, Entre dos aguas [2]. The audience, as it is usual (in my experience) in the Auditorio, were incredibly quiet and well-behaved throughout the whole performance, and only clapped along that last song... then gave a standing ovation.

    Jesús Gómez: guitar
    Marta Guillén: dance, castanets, handclaps
    Paco Montalvo: violin
    Alberto Romero: handclaps
    Miguel Santiago: percussion
  1. Actually, Mediterranean Sundance/Río Ancho, as on Friday Night in San Francisco.
  2. Entre dos aguas may be the most famous tune ever written by Paco de Lucía. However, according to José Torregrosa, producer of the 1973 album Fuente y caudal, it was created by pure chance. They needed «un tema de relleno» (“a filler theme”) for the album and Paco improvised this rumba along the lines of Te estoy amando locamente, a well-known song by Felipe Campuzano. The name of the composition refers to Paco de Lucía’s home town, Algeciras, which is indeed situated “between two waters”, i.e. Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea — logical enough, but something I was not aware of until last year when one of my students, native of Algeciras, enlightened me.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Loving Vincent

a film by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman

Vincent van Gogh created all his 864 paintings in the last eight years of life. It took about this time and an effort of 125 painters to create Loving Vincent — “the world’s first fully painted feature film”. Once again, Monopol is the only place screening it in Las Palmas. This time, however, it is a Spanish dub, and not particularly good one. (Unexplicably, the title was left in English.) I am looking forward to its DVD release to hear the voices of English and Irish actors. Visually, the movie is stunning. I quite liked how the colour “present” (animated van Gogh paintings, or, rather, the anmation inspired by van Gogh paintings) is interspersed with black-and-white flashbacks which look more realistic. Has to be watched more than once!

Monday, 15 January 2018

De Chambao a Lamari

Fifteen years after Flamenco Chill, Chambao decided to call it a day. I learned about their planned farewell some six months ago. At the time, it did not enter my head to travel to Madrid in the middle of winter to see them. The last concert of Canteca de Macao changed that. I have very fond memories of Chambao’s Santander gig three years ago; here was the last chance to see them again, and I was not missing it.

Then, in mid-December, La Mari posted a video on her Facebook page explaining why she was saying goodbye to Chambao. Of the founding members, she is the only remaining one and every day she moves further and further away from “flamenco chill” style. Honestly I didn’t feel that convinced. The bands evolve, the styles change, the members come and go, the name can stay or, well, go. All these years, apart from her work with Chambao, La Mari did zillions of collaborations under her own name (Ojo de Culebra with Lila Downs and Somos luz with Macaco are the first that spring to mind). But, in the end, it’s up to the artist. In any case, Chambao as we know it was saying goodbye on 13 of January 2018.

I checked the weather. After the previous weekend’s snowfall, I was worrying that I can get stranded even before reaching the capital. Friday 12 January was crisp and sunny and the forecast for the following week was likewise bright. It was only Saturday and Sunday when the sky above Madrid was weeping, probably also feeling emotional. I didn’t mind that.

So... Was it worth flying from Gran Canaria to Madrid just for that night? Of three solid hours of music that I love? Hell yes. From the opening theme, Chambao from Endorfinas en la mente, straight to the grand finale of Ahí estás tú, which saw all the guest artists on stage and sounded as epic as Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. And speaking of guests: what a thoroughly stellar company we had! I never saw Ojos de Brujo live while they were active — and here they were, Max and Marinah! We just said goodbye to Canteca de Macao, but look, Anita and Chiki turned up! And I totally didn’t expect Jorge Pardo to be there, for on Friday he was playing in Las Palmas at the V Festival Flamenco Romí (I hope he didn’t fly with Ryanair as I did). But probably the biggest surprise was the very first guest: Pepa, La Mari’s mum. I think their duet didn’t leave a single eye dry.

As for the venue: compared to Palacio de Vistalegre, WiZink Center is an improvement. More space, no drunken brawls, but, annoyingly, still a lot of pot smokers in da house (should I stop writing about that? It increasingly looks like a new norm here.) The acoustics could have been better too. I appreciate the audience singing — why, I was doing it myself, to the degree that when I woke up Sunday morning, I thought I was about to lose my voice — but it shouldn’t be louder than the band! Ah well. Nothing is perfect.

Thank you, Chambao, I’m sure we’ll meet again, no matter what’s your name. Didn’t you promise us that?

volveré a encontrarme con vosotros
volveré a sonreír en la mañana
volveré con lagrima en los ojo
mirar al cielo y dar las gracias

Guest artists
(in partially alphabetical order, with apologies to those whom I forgot to mention)