Thursday, 17 January 2019

Fifteen short films

The great thing about short films is that they are, well, short. So even if you watch a not-so-good one, you don’t feel robbed of two hours of your life as it often happens with feature films. And occasionally you watch a masterpiece, which really makes your day (week, month, year).

The XIV festival of short films San Rafael en Corto (SREC) took place from 3 to 9 November 2018 in Teatro Municipal Víctor Jara, Vecindario. Most of the films presented on the festival are made by young Canarian film makers. The winners are determined by public vote. Yesterday, I went to Teatro Guiniguada where the 15 winning films were screened. They ranged from amateurish social dramas to sweet but still amateurish social dramas to comedies to a few very professionally made comedies. My favourites were REM (as in “rapid eye movement”) by Tomás Alejo Wilhelm and absolutely brilliant ( ) (i.e. parentheses; not the best title for a movie, I am afraid, to look it up on internet) by Andrea Zoghbi.

Proyección del palmares de la XIV edición de SREC

Teatro Guiniguada, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Wednesday, 16 January 2019, 20:00
  • Harta del silencio by Agustín Domínguez (social drama)
  • Too, the Moon by Moisés D. García (social/feminism)
  • Para siempre by Marta Fuenar, Raquel Castelló and Elena García (comedy)
  • Hasta aquí by Anatael Pérez Hernández (comedy)
  • Salto al vacío by María Soto (drama)
  • X by Galadriel Alonso and Alejandro Rodríguez (drama)
  • ( ) by Andrea Zoghbi (comedy/mockumentary)
  • Tecnoamor by Verónica Vargas López and Escuela Infantil y Juvenil de Cine “Secuencia 27” (comedy)
  • Felices los 4 by Carlos Alberto Mejías Alonso (comedy)
  • Zona de exclusión by Rito José Vega Guillén (drama)
  • How Much? by Jessica Marrero Díaz, Carlos Alberto Mejías Alonso and Raquel Besteiro Ruiz (social drama)
  • REM by Tomás Alejo Wilhelm (comedy)
  • Planazo by Emilio González (comedy)
  • Nouvelle Cuisine by Manuel Reyes Halaby (animation/comedy)
  • Lo que no se ve by Lamberto Guerra (social drama)

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Planet Earth II

a film by Justin Anderson, Ed Charles, Fredi Devas, Chadden Hunter, Emma Napper and Elizabeth White
presented and narrated by David Attenborough

We first saw a bit of this documentary two years ago while staying in Belgium. I think it was sort of Planet Earth II “greatest hits” for we’ve seen sloth a-swimming, widowbirds a-jumping, bears a-dancing, and, of course, a fox snow-diving. Now, during these Christmas/New Year/Reyes Magos holidays, Timur expressed a wish to watch it. And so we watched all six episodes.

I would not call it “a sequel” but rather “an update” to the fantastic Planet Earth. A stunning update, though. We’ve got a DVD, not a Blu-Ray, and we don’t have a 4K TV, but still, the quality of the picture is astounding.

In this series, we’ve noticed, BBC gets too soft on prey animals (at least, where there is a chance of a viewer developing emotional attachment to them) which, naturally, results in predators staying permanently hungry. And, bar the aforementioned dancing scene, not nearly enough bears — or so our teddies thought.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Чихать никому не возбраняется

First published 10 January 2019 @ sólo algunas palabras

So you are not afraid of Russian nouns anymore. Even less should you be scared of Russian verbs. There are only three tenses: past, present, and future. None of this imperfect or pluperfect nonsense. Easy!

Nevertheless, there are complications. To quote Wikipedia,

Most verbs come in pairs, one with imperfective (несоверше́нный вид) or continuous, the other with perfective (соверше́нный вид) or completed aspect, usually formed with a (prepositional) prefix, but occasionally using a different root.
But why “pairs”? I wrote before about Russian verb formation using prefixes. In that post, I used three imprefective verbs: бежать (“to run”), делать “to do, to make” and резать “to cut”, and their numerous (prefixed) perfective derivatives. That means, one imprefective verb gives rise to many perfective verbs, so we should really talk about a tree or a graph rather than a pair.

Another way of “perfecting” is a root modification. Cf. чихать (imperfective) and чихнуть (perfective). Both verbs mean “to sneeze”, but чихать refers to the process in general and чихнуть to the completed action (to sneeze once or a definite number of times):

Апчхи!!! Чихнул, как видите. Чихать никому и нигде не возбраняется. Чихают и мужики, и полицеймейстеры, и иногда даже и тайные советники. Все чихают.
“Aptchee!!” he sneezed as you perceive. It is not reprehensible for anyone to sneeze anywhere. Peasants sneeze and so do police superintendents, and sometimes even privy councillors. All men sneeze.

Likewise, махать and махнуть (to wave, flap, swing, brandish), толкать and толкнуть (to push), кидать and кинуть (to throw), бросать and бросить (to throw, to abandon, to give up), шагать and шагнуть (to step) and so on — here we can indeed say that imperfective and perfective verbs come in pairs.

Quite often, both ways of verb formation combine, as could be seen with aforementioned махать and махнуть.

imperfective perfective
махать махнуть
махаться махнуться
взмахивать взмахнуть
вымахивать вымахать
замахиваться замахнуться
отмахивать отмахать
отмахиваться отмахнуться
перемахивать перемахнуть
помахивать помахать
промахиваться промахнуться
размахиваться размахнуться
смахивать смахнуть

Back to my old example of резать and its perfective children. Well, it turns out that many of these perfective verbs could be changed to imprefective just by shifting the stress to the last syllable: вре́затьвреза́ть, вы́резатьвыреза́ть, наре́затьнареза́ть, отре́затьотреза́ть, перере́затьперереза́ть and so on. Many, but not all: one can say заре́зать but not зареза́ть, поре́зать but not пореза́ть.

Am I splitting hairs here? Is it important to know the difference? Imperfective verbs have three tenses: past, present and compound future. This latter is formed with simple future form of the verb быть (to be) and the infinitive of the imperfective verb. Perfective verbs have only two tenses: past and simple future, but no present [2]! Let’s see how it works with sneezing — for simplicity (and hygiene), only in first-person singular:

imperfective perfective
infinitive чихать чихнуть to sneeze
past я чихал я чихнул I sneezed
present (я) чихаю I sneeze
future (я) буду чихать (я) чихну I will sneeze

Do I hear you telling me “Будь здоров”?

  1. In the 1886 version of this story, instead of чихать, Chekhov used its more colourful demotic form чхать:
    Чхнулъ, какъ видите. Чхать никому и нигдѣ не возбраняется. Чхаютъ и мужики, и полицеймейстеры, и иногда даже и тайные совѣтники. Всѣ чхаютъ.
  2. Tamara drew my attention to the fact that the simple future forms of prefixed perfective verbs (which do not have present) look exactly like the corresponding present forms of their “parent” imperfective verbs, minus the prefix of course. Cf. imperfective бегу “I am running” (present) and perfective побегу “I will run” (future), делаешь “you are making” vs perfective сделаешь “you will make” and so on. I don’t remember my Russian teachers ever mentioning this.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

So long, Harold

I lost my friend.

Because Harold the hedgehog is more than a cuddly toy. Sure, he is a cuddly toy. He came to our house almost twenty years ago. Yuri and Timur played with him when he was young. He moved with us from England to Fuerteventura and then to Gran Canaria. With time, his formerly straight hair (which supposed to represent needles) became afro-textured, probably because we live so close to Africa. During the last two years, he was my travelling buddy. He lived in Valencia and Santander, accompanied me to Finland and to the USA and to countless walks and concerts (he’s been to Chick Corea, Canteca de Macao, Chambao and Amparanoia, among others). And now he’s gone.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Я так люблю крабы

First published 2 January 2019 @ sólo algunas palabras

И потом, ты же салат уже приготовила из крабов, а я так люблю крабы!
And then, you already made a crab salad, and I so love crabs!

To the Russian ear, this well-known quote from the The Irony of Fate always sounded funny. But why? What is wrong here? Why “Я люблю грибы” (I like mushrooms) is fine but “Я люблю крабы” (I like crabs) is not?

To understand what’s going on here, we need to look at a certain feature called animacy (одушевлённость). All nouns in Russian could be divided into animate (одушевлённые), for example, humans and animals, or inanimate (неодушевлённые), such as plants and minerals. Also, as was mentioned before, modern Russian has six grammatical cases. So the nouns change their endings not only according to number and case but also depending on their animacy. That’s why the Russian declension tables always have two questions, corresponding to animate and inanimate nouns.

Let’s have a look at two nouns, the inanimate гриб (mushroom) and animate лесоруб (lumberjack)*. Just like краб, they are masculine nouns of the second declension. This is how they change in all six cases:

animate inanimate
case singular plural singular plural
Nominative (кто? что?) лесоруб лесорубы гриб грибы
Genitive (кого? чего?) лесоруба лесорубов гриба грибов
Dative (кому? чему?) лесорубу лесорубам грибу грибам
Accusative (кого? что?) лесоруба лесорубов гриб грибы
Instrumental (кем? чем?) лесорубом лесорубами грибом грибами
Prepositional (о ком? о чём?) лесорубе лесорубах грибе грибах

If you study this table carefully, you’ll notice that the accusative forms of лесоруб are the same as its genitive, while for гриб the accusative forms are the same as its nominative. Otherwise they follow the same declension pattern. It is as if Russian accusative did not have its own forms and borrowed them from either genitive (for animate nouns) or nominative (for inanimate nouns). Thus, grammatical differences between animate and inanimate nouns only show up in accusative. Moreover, apart from the masculine nouns of the second declension, these differences are only seen in plural accusative. Cf. the neuter nouns of the second declension существо (creature, being) and вещество (substance, matter):

animate inanimate
case singular plural singular plural
Nominative (кто? что?) существо существа вещество вещества
Genitive (кого? чего?) существа существ вещества веществ
Dative (кому? чему?) существу существам веществу веществам
Accusative (кого? что?) существо существ вещество вещества
Instrumental (кем? чем?) существом существами веществом веществами
Prepositional (о ком? о чём?) существе существах веществе веществах

The same story with feminine nouns of the third declension such as дочь (daughter) and ночь (night):

animate inanimate
case singular plural singular plural
Nominative (кто? что?) дочь дочери ночь ночи
Genitive (кого? чего?) дочери дочерей ночи ночей
Dative (кому? чему?) дочери дочерям ночи ночам
Accusative (кого? что?) дочь дочерей ночь ночи
Instrumental (кем? чем?) дочерью дочерями ночью ночами
Prepositional (о ком? о чём?) дочери дочерях ночи ночах

Same with nouns of the first declension, e.g. утка (duck) and шутка (joke), except that here the singular accusative has got its own form:

animate inanimate
case singular plural singular plural
Nominative (кто? что?) утка утки шутка шутки
Genitive (кого? чего?) утки уток шутки шуток
Dative (кому? чему?) утке уткам шутке шуткам
Accusative (кого? что?) утку уток шутку шутки
Instrumental (кем? чем?) уткой утками шуткой шутками
Prepositional (о ком? о чём?) утке утках шутке шутках

The phrase “я люблю”, meaning “I love” or “I like”, requires to put its direct object in accusative. One can love or like many things, for example a person or a pet (clearly animate), jewellery (definitely inanimate) or food. In this latter case, as you have guessed by now, things get complicated.

On top of that, it is not always clear whether one should use singular or plural for foodstuff(s). “Я люблю кроликов” (I like rabbits) — here, most likely, I talk about bunnies in general; “я люблю кролика” (I like rabbit) — here, I may mean that I like rabbit either as food or as a pet. On the contrary, “я люблю мидий” (I love mussels) means that I like to eat them, while if I said “я люблю мидию” (I love a mussel), you’d think I were mad. In the case of true fish (not shellfish), only singular is used, thus “я люблю осетра” (I like sturgeon) but never “я люблю осетров” (I like sturgeons).

According to Russian Wikipedia, the animacy of edible invertebrates could vary:

устрицы/устриц, мидии/мидий, креветки/креветок, крабы/крабов, трепанги/трепангов, омары/омаров, кальмары/кальмаров, улитки/улиток.

Всем попробовать пора бы, как вкусны и нежны крабы
It’s time for everyone to try tasty and tender crabs

However, one can only say “я люблю раков” (I love crayfish) but not “я люблю раки”, placing crayfish firmly in the animate camp. I’ll do the same with the rest of the above list, as did the Strugatsky brothers:

Я стал размышлять, почему я до сих пор ни разу не пробовал омаров. Или, скажем, устриц. У Диккенса все едят устриц, орудуют складными ножами, отрезают толстые ломти хлеба, намазывают маслом… Я стал нервно разглаживать скатерть. На скатерти виднелись неотмытые пятна. На ней много и вкусно ели. Ели омаров и мозги с горошком. Ели маленькие бифштексы с соусом пикан. Большие и средние бифштексы тоже ели.
Аркадий и Борис Стругацкие, Понедельник начинается в субботу


* Alternative animate nouns I was considering for this example include прораб (acronym of производитель работ, foreman), хлебороб (grain grower), or even шкраб (acronym of школьный работник, i.e. teacher). All of them were parts of Soviet lexicon and sound dated now.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Live music in Santander and Las Palmas, December 2018

Good old acquaintances and new discoveries during the last month of 2018...

  • 5 December: Vinnie Sperrazza @ Rvbicón, Calle del Sol 4, Santander
      New York-based drummer Vinnie Sperrazza with Kike Arza (double bass) and Alejandro Mingot (guitar).

  • 8 December: Retrópica by Mari Paula @ Café de Las Artes Teatro, Calle García Morato 4
      You may think that cooking and then eating tortilla de patatas while dancing is not such a good idea. I might have thought that too until I saw the Brazilian dancer Mari Paula doing exactly that, and more.

  • 12 December: Juan de Diego Trio @ Rvbicón
      Juan de Diego (trumpet) returns to Rvbicón with his new trio featuring Alejandro Mingot (guitar) and Santi Colomer (drums).

  • 14 December: Los Mambo Jambo @ El Centro Botín
      I can’t think of a better way of saying goodbye to Santander than spending my last night there listening and dancing to this band’s music. Los Mambo Jambo are Dani Nel·lo (saxophones), Dani Baraldés (guitar), Ivan Kovacevic (double bass) and Anton Jarl (drums).

  • 21 December: Fiesta de Navidad @ Centro Cívico Suárez Naranjo, Calle Pamochamoso 34, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
      After a ten-months break, I joined my friends from the African Percussion Workshop to play two songs to close the Christmas concert at the Centro Cívico Suárez Naranjo.
  • 29 December: Link Floyd @ Centro Cultural CICCA, Alameda de Colon 1, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
      In what appears to be a traditional pre-New Year concert, Link Floyd played entire Meddle plus a great selection of other tasties such as What Shall We Do Now?/Young Lust and High Hopes — all in all, more than two hours of pure Floydian pleasure. My only complain is that, as I already mentioned a year ago, CICCA is not as good sound-wise as Guiniguada, and this year’s concert has proved it once again. The line-up was Besay Brehcist (guitars, lap steel, vocals), Felipe García (bass), Miguel Izquierdo (keyboards, vocals), Fran Navarro (drums) and Kenneth Suárez (guitars, keyboards, harmonica, vocals), with José Pulido (cello) joining on the closing number, Comfortably Numb.

  • 30 December: Gabriela Suárez trio @ Clipper La Puntilla, Calle Caleta
      In the last Isleta Sunset concert of 2018, young (really, really young) jazz singer Gabriela Suárez was accompanied by Jose Alberto Medina Quintana (piano) and Tana Santana (double bass).
Happy New Year!