Category Archives: English

Nostalgia for the Sea

Here is a translation of prose poem “Añoranza del mar”, by luisma. Translation by Sarah.

Añoranza del mar

Quien necesita estar al lado del mar cuando la brisa que corre a lo largo del valle, mece los arboles que suben adosados a la terraza y los palos de la veranda parencen defensas de cubierta o balconaje a malecon de esta bahia inexistente, con barcos que no son barcos sino arboles con ritmo y balanceo.

Quien necesita un celaje de mar reflejado cuando el bosque continuo y la vegetación exhuberante reflejan en verde la floja nube baja y el alto cumulo-nimbo que se tiñe de los ultimos rojos de la tarde.

Quien necesita las voces y los gritos de los niños que juegan abajo en la playa cuando estos otros niños suenan exactamente igual aunque jueguen en inglés entre maderas viejas y derribos, y la brisa que deshace sus gritos es de la misma tonalidad.

Who needs to be by the sea when the sea breeze runs along the valley, cradling the trees that climb, pressed to the deck and its balusters as to a bulwark, or to a balcony above a breakwater on this nonexistent bay, whose boats are not boats but rhythmic balancing trees.

Who needs a sea-painted sky when the continuous forest and exuberant vegetation reflect green upon the sagging cloud, while the high cumulonimbus are tinged by the last reds of evening.

Who needs the voices and shouts of the children who play down on the beach when these others sound exactly the same; although they play in English among old wood and debris, the sea breeze that dissolves their cries is of the same tonality.

Del Toro’s rebellion: “Imagination should not comply…[and] f#@$ the target audience”

image of the pale man from pan’s labyrinth

Semi-random thoughts while lying awake after watching Pan’s Labyrinth.

I recently saw Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro’s self-described “fable about choice and disobedience” set in the long aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. The movie has been reviewed extensively elsewhere, so another review is not necessary here. For those who haven’t seen the film or who just can’t get enough of the creatures, I’ve put together a few clips.

I know little of Guillermo del Toro’s work, but I was so impressed by Pan’s Labyrinth that I did some research. Of all the pieces I’ve read and watched, the director’s two-part Guardian interview, his appearance on NPR’s Fresh Air, and his own introduction to the film (given at AFI fest) are among the most enlightening. Take a look:

[youtube AIgutLyz5U0]

The violence to which del Toro refers is gut-slugging in a way that recent pointless bloodfests such as Scorcese’s The Departed can’t hope to match. I haven’t felt such a visceral audience response since Uma Thurman got stabbed in the heart with a syringe in Pulp Fiction. Del Toro’s violence is, like Tarantino’s, carefully calibrated and it serves an authentic purpose.

Del Toro’s gore–bare-handed executions, torture, close-ups of wounds–reminded me of an interview with Clint Eastwood that I saw recently which helped me to understand the violence in Eastwood’s westerns. Clint was telling James Lipton about his fascination with fate and destiny. The ruthlessness of Eastwood’s films in general, and the prevalent sexual violence in particular, serves this concern. In the worlds of both Eastwood and del Toro, biology is destiny. If you happen to be a woman, that’s tough luck in terms of sexual assault and death by childbirth. The imagination can refuse to comply, but as del Toro’s unflinching wound shots show, our bodies adhere simply and ruthlessly to nature’s rules.

Thematically, Pan’s Labyrinth owes a debt to Night of the Hunter, the 1955 Charles Laughton-directed classic starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, and Lillian Gish. Each movie follows a weak-willed widow who looks for strength outside of herself in a man she barely knows but needs to believe in. Prisoners of obedience, these women choose to put themselves and their children in the hands of predators rather than face independence.

While del Toro doesn’t offer anything quite like Lillian Gish in her rocking chair with her shotgun, singing “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” in split-screen duet with an approaching murderous Mitchum, his film is plenty cracked it its own way.

After seeing Pan’s Labyrinth, my Dust, Sweat and Iron coauthor Luisma and I had a chat about the film’s historical accuracy, Franco’s bulletproof Hitlermobile, and the symbology of toad slime. Here’s an excerpt:

audio test : Cowbell Fever!

I am trying to get my Audio Player plugin to work so that I can embed audio. As a test file I’m using a “composition” my sister made using Garage Band. Fans of Christopher Walken and Saturday Night Live will appreciate this one

WordPress will will not display the Audio Player, even though it appears in the Options menu of my admin panel:
[audio:Cowbell Fever.mp3]

However I can use an embed tag to display the mp3:

Sorry, your browser doesn’t support the embedding of multimedia.

Now I’m trying Podpress.The player should appear…now!

Dust, Sweat and Iron: An Introduction

Alcazar stained glassOn a recent trip to Spain, I passed a used car lot on the way from the airport to my hotel in Madrid’s Sanchinarro district. A proud billboard above the lot proclaimed it to be a “Centro de Vehiculos Semi-Nuevos”…Uh-oh. Since when is a used car lot a “Semi-New Vehicle Center?” Maybe since American used cars became “certified pre-owned vehicles”.

The young American tourists and Summer-abroad students I met in Spain seemed to take the growing Americanization for granted, while the young Spaniards seemed unaware of it as such. If you don’t think America is an empire, just leave the country and look around.

So Spain colonized my native state of California, and now California is recolonizing Spain in the form of Hollywood and “The OC”.

As a former empire, Spain has already dealt with a lot of the issues the US faces today, and now grapples with the same fears of globalization and uber-capitalism that affect the US and the EU. Yet when I meet young Americans just back from Spain, France or Italy, all I hear is how bad our coffee is in comparison. And that’s the tiny minority of people who are actually getting out of the US and “seeing the world”.

We need to think a little bit harder about America in a global historical context.

Language is a good window on how people think. When you study another language, you see how linguistic conventions and idioms have co-evolved with the culture. And then you begin to examine your own culture through the words you use.

A Spanish friend of mine and I have begun just such an exercise by translating one another’s writing. The effort has a lot to teach us not only about language and culture, but cognition as well. Recent research explores the cognitive-protective effects of bilingualism. When I am taking dictation in Spanish or struggling to translate a phrase, I swear I can feel the glucose squeezing into stuffy, dimly-lit gyri, airing my whole brain out.

So, this blog is an attempt at a bicultural, bilingual examination of life on two continents and the effects of each upon the other.