Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pedro Almodóvar: Hable con ella / Talk to Her (2002)

Pedro Almodóvar's Hable con ella / Talk to Her (2002) gives us a vivid, offbeat tale revolving around four main characters -- a matadora, a travel writer, a ballet dancer and a male nurse. It's a strange one. Lydia González (played by Rosario Flores) is the bullfighter (reflecting reality: there have been several, for example Conchita Cintrón, 1922-2009, and Cristina Sánchez, b. 1972). Marco (Darío Grandinetti), the writer, develops a romantic relationship with her and a friendship with Benigno (Javier Cámara), the male nurse who also happens to be a sort of "weirdo" and is now caring for Alicia (Leonor Watling), who in turn had already been "that obscure object of (his) desire," as Luis Buñuel donned such fetish-making for the title of his final film in 1977.   
What I particularly like about Talk to Her is its incisive demonstration of Spanish manners and social relationships; that and a memorable visit to Córdoba, during which Almodóvar pays meticulous attention to Lydia as she suits up for her final bullfight. All in all, it's a wild journey through time and place, roaming right into a plazas de toros of not always quite predictable results. 

Today's Rune: Gateway. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

American Bison

A good day for hiking. And, for the first time since the beginning of summer, greeting the buffalo. Click for larger image -- if you wish. 
When I was hiking through the woods, a strong picture image of approaching bison came to mind, and fifteen minutes later, there they were.
A strangely flowing hybrid landscape in cloudy light. The black shadow is an idiosyncrasy of the well-seasoned camera. 

Today's Rune: Joy. 

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Lee Smith: The Devil's Dream

Lee Smith's The Devil's Dream (originally published by G. P. Putnam's Sons in 1992) covers an Appalachian family's multi-generational arc from from the 1830s through the 1960s or thereabouts.  

The main dilemma for many of the characters is: 

Should I stay or should I go?

And, closely related: 

Should I adhere to music, or shun it?


Should I follow the belief system I was born into, discard it, or modify it as I go along?

Around the world -- then and now and most likely well into the future -- many say "Music is the Devil's work. A sin." Frown. Some will say, "gospel music -- good." All other kinds of music -- "bad." Add alcohol and whatnot into the matrix, and you hear more of the same, only in even more outlandish tones. In some places, your very head is at risk depending on what you do or believe. 

I knew a Dunker from West Virginia who said that salt was sinful, alcohol evil, but NASCAR ok. This was his interpretation of the gospel life, as guided by the Holy Ghost. 

The Devil's Dream (which is also the name of a fiddle tune going back maybe 200 years) inspires me to think of various social archetypes that address that existential quandary, "Should I stay or should I go?" It's almost comical when you think in terms of such identifiable archetypes.

In no particular order, there are:

a. Those who stay in one place and never leave.

b. Those who stay in one place but travel some, near or far (including perhaps a stint of military service or some such).

c. Those who stay in one place but annually or seasonally migrate to another place or two, such as live in the mountains but migrate to the seaside or vice versa.

d. Those who migrate from place to place, travel around and periodically visit the old places.

e. Those who leave their place of origin and never come back.

I know and have known all of these archetypes, in the guises of real people. I'm pretty much of the "d" variety. How about you? 

Another thing I want to tackle thanks to The Devil's Dream is race and ethnicity in the Appalachians -- from the Melungeons to the Black Dutch, from the Black Irish to the Cherokee Nation -- and beyond. Brace yourself.

Today's Rune: Fertility. 

Sunday, September 07, 2014

In Praise of Limes and Lemons

If you were to compare lemons and limes, limes and lemons, what would you say?

Limes are lime green, lemons are lemon yellow.

Lemons have seeds, limes don't (with exceptions like the Key lime variety).

Lemons and limes can be mixed, combined together to juice up a gin and tonic, for example.

The lime (lima in Spanish, like the capital of Peru) originates from Persia (Iran) and Iraq, but is now grown in various places around the world, including Mexico and the USA.

The lemon (limone in Spanish) originates from China, India and in between, and is also now grown in various other places, including North America.

Lemons tend to be larger than limes -- though such is not the case in the ones I recently purchased (pictured above), thanks in part to drought.

If something is a dud, it's sometimes called a lemon, but not a lime. Why? I don't know and am too lazy to look it up at this juncture. Do you know?

Personally, I like lemons and limes, with a tilt to the lime for its zestier pop to the taste buds.

Sometimes on a hot night, I love to squeeze lime juice into a tall mug or glass filled with Cerveza Modelo Especial, the rather sharp, thirst-quenching Mexican lager. (A bottle's worth delivers about 145 calories, by the way).

If the limes run out, lemon juice alone or even a little lemonade can be mixed with just about any lager to make a shandy or panache, though for me, a little added lemon juice goes a long way. Limes are better. 

Today's Rune: Wholeness. 

Saturday, September 06, 2014

In Praise of Olive Oil

Olive oil is one of the great joys in life, never to be taken for granted. I purchased these 500 millilitre glass bottles of Terra Delyssa Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Tunisia for $6.99 apiece.

Why Terra Delyssa? It's got everything I want in a bottle of olive oil:

It's USDA-certified organic.

It's date stamped (the olive oil in these bottles was cold-pressed on January 2, 2014, with a suggested expiry date of January 1, 2016. Lot 024).

Glass bottles and excellent design.

Tasty -- slightly peppery, spicy and fresh.      

Reasonable price (compare with one "meal" at a "fast food" joint).

Web site with lots of information and ideas <here.>

This one's a winner. Please feel free to add additional suggestions - always welcomed. Calories in olive oil - about forty per teaspoon, so consume reasonably. Can also be used as a skin and hair product. Long live olive oil!

Today's Rune: The Mystery Rune. 

Friday, September 05, 2014

Diego Luna: Cesar Chavez (2014)

Diego Luna's Cesar Chavez (2014), set mostly in California in the 1960s, focuses on Chavez (aka César Chávez) and his compadres in their efforts to improve working and living conditions for migrant farm workers. Michael Peña takes the lead role -- a seemingly low-key yet tenacious and intense one -- with Rosario Dawson as Dolores Huerta.  Using a Catholic variation on the non-violent strategies and tactics of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., the farm workers movement slowly gains traction.  
In Cesar Chavez, the "villains" come in the form of owners and their allies -- the latter including California Governor Ronald Reagan and President Richard M. Nixon. Allies of the farm workers include Senator Bobby Kennedy and various religious and union supporters. John Malkovich, weird as always, plays an owner who helps manage the immediate opposition to reform. Some Anglos continue to treat migrant workers as sub-human -- hence one of the driving demands for change.   

Today's Rune: Partnership.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Behold a Pale Horse: Take II

I. Fred Zinnemann's Behold a Pale Horse (1964) -- continued.

There are aspects of this obliquely plotted film that remind me of the Coen Brothers (compare 2007's No Country for Old Men, for instance).

At one point in the movie, I expected the main protagonist to swoop in like James Bond or a Clint Eastwood character, having everything figured out - but no! 

At another point, I projected an easy ending like that of Martin Scorsese's The Departed (2006) -- but no! 

II. Lourdes. Insert Catholicism and "magical thinking." 

Not only is this a key element in Behold a Pale Horse, but here, too, an important aspect of the Spanish Civil War is evoked. The unwieldy coalition fighting against Franco's Nationalists to preserve the Republic included anarchist elements that turned violently on people of the cloth. The number of priests and nuns murdered during the war came to about 7,000, if memory serves. A blot on the Republican side that might have been avoided through more skillful efforts at winning over priests and nuns rather than killing them.

III. Civil Wars and Memory.

The inclusion of a padre as a major character in the midst of fratricidal conflict reminds me very much of The Fratricides, a novel about the Greek Civil War (1946-1949) by Nikos Kazantzakis published in English in 1964 (translated by Athena Gianakas Dallas). Kazantzakis, better known perhaps for Zorba the  Greek and The Last Temptation of Christ, covers some of the same issues as seen in Behold a Pale Horse -- a film which is itself based on Emeric Pressburger's 1961 novel, Killing a Mouse on Sunday.

The thing about civil wars is -- every inhabited place seems to have to endure at least one of them, they are vicious, and most notably -- they never seem to come to complete resolution or reckoning in memory or history. Civil wars go on and on for decades and centuries, morphing into other outlets that oftentimes include renewed flashes of violence.

Take the American Civil War (1861-1865) -- there are people living in the USA today who say they would join the Confederacy even now. Why? Because slavery was abolished? Because they claim the right of individual states to decide whether something like slavery -- or anything else at all -- should be abolished or changed, rather than a national government? That's what they say in the 21st century.

Take the Greek Civil War. The average Greek (if there is such a person) seems to wonder now, what was it about? What was the point of all that viciousness in the late 1940s, even after WWII? "I don't know. It's confusing." 

And finally for now, take the Spanish Civil War. What if, instead of bloody violence, calmer people had worked out a compromise, helped foster the working classes and living conditions for most people in general rather than prop up mostly the rich and powerful, what if Spanish society had evolved a rational separation of Church and State, offered something hopeful to all elements of that society? What might have happened over time is what is happening over time, despite the civil war, and despite economic setbacks. And so, what was the point of all the death and destruction?  Ask Spanish people today, see what they say. 

What do you say?

Today's Rune: Harvest/Signals.