Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Belchite: a town destroyed in the Spanish Civil War

This is a town destroyed by house to house street fighting during the Spanish Civil War. It was never rebuilt. It was featured in the film Pan's Labyrith. A strange desolation. Very similar to the Orodour massacre in France, another town abandoned after a war.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

El Laberinto del fauno

A long time ago, in the underground realm, where there are no lies or pain, there lived a Princess who dreamed of the human world. She dreamed of blue skies, soft breeze, and sunshine. One day, eluding her keepers, the Princess escaped. Once outside, the brightness blinded her and erased every trace of the past from her memory. She forgot who she was and where she came from. Her body suffered cold, sickness, and pain. Eventually, she died. However, her father, the King, always knew that the Princess' soul would return, perhaps in another body, in another place, at another time. And he would wait for her, until he drew his last breath, until the world stopped turning...
This movie was incredible. I can't stop thinking about it: absolutely beautiful, sad, but so beautiful. I noticed it showing at Regent Square theater in the burgh last year, but I don't enjoy "fantasy" films. Its on HBO now, I saw the first few minutes, really good. It is set in 1944, Franco's fascist regime in Spain has been victorious, however, in some rural areas the resistance continues. The Spanish civil war was brutal, as is most civil wars. The killing and the revenge was of a great magnitude. Read Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls (a book that is unusual for Hemingway - not at all sentimental, but brutal, full of death, cruelty, futility - like the spanish civil war I guess). In this film a young girl, Ofelia, who is living with her mom and her step father, the evil Capitan Vidal. Ofelia's father was a tailor, he died, and Vidal had his suits made at the shop. Vidal marries Ofelia's mom, mostly because he wants to father a child (he isn't in love with the mom, in fact, is embarassed by her lowly status). Ofelia senses the violence and cruelty of Vidal, and that her mother is in danger. She escapes into a fantasy world to escape her fear. In her fantasy world she is brave, takes risks, and ultimately learns she doesn't have to follow adult rules (which in the civil war were crazy, cruel). The evil and fear that surrounds her is portrayed symbolically in the film, from the huge black cars the fascist soldiers drive, to the uniforms of the soldiers, to the violence of Capitan Vidal (several brutal scenes show him to be a sadistic psychopath in a soldier's uniform). I didn't anticipate the end, which was beautiful, sad, and heartbreaking. She really was a princess from the "other world"...
And it is said that the Princess returned to her father's kingdom. That she reigned there with justice and a kind heart for many centuries. That she was loved by her people. And that she left behind small traces of her time on Earth, visible only to those who know where to look.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hillary Nutcracker

I've got to buy a bunch of these for presents!

Holsten's - where Tony Soprano got whacked

I visited Noah in New Jersey and he drove me to Holsten's, the ice cream store/diner where supposedly Tony Soprano got killed in the final episode. It looked differently than the movie - the position of movie camera's affect POV. The food was great - I ordered a bowl of onion rings and ate them like Tony, sticking my tongue out and putting one whole on the tongue and eating it like a communion wafer. Really nice place, friendly, relaxed, just a great mood in the place. Teenagers wait tables, the grill cooks laught and joke and the owner visits with a regular customer. Simple menu. They have it perfect. BTW, the mural on the back wall is different than the movie version - there is no "cat" on the back wall, adding to the idea that the "cat" was an omen of impending doom. Oddly enough, we had trouble parallel parking out front, just like Meadow. It was worth the drive - fascinating driving through New Jersey, observing the different cities, boros, how different populations live different areas. Holsten's is in a residential neighborhood that is very stable - looks like it was always middle class residential neighborhood (Bloomsfield). It borders Lodi, an older factory town, where working people lived and worked in the factories - now Lodi's factories are closed (moved to china) and empty, and dominicans (not the religious order) live there, in a stable but struggling community.

The argument for Tony's death: fore shadowing. Bobby talks to Tony on the boat when they were vacationing. What happens to guys like us? They either end up in jail or dead. Bobby asks Tony: will be have any warning before we get whacked? Or does it all just go "black" - which is what happens at the end of the last episode. The cat that the gang adopts - it stares at a picture of christopher - is it christopher's ghost, or adrianna's? Dr. Melfi kicking Tony out of therapy: he is hopeless, pathological. The director of the movie substitutes the mural in Hostens with one that includes a cat! What is he telling us? The guy in the members only jacket - he comes out and shoots Tony just as Tony looks up at Meadow coming in through the door (BTW, there is really no "bell" on the Holsten's door). The assassin has a clear shot because Meadow is not sitting next to Tony - she was delayed because of the parallel parking problem (that is why the parking is included - why else would the director show us Meadow having trouble parking if it doesn't mean something?) The guy probably shoots AJ too. Carmella sits watching her husband and son die from head wounds, Meadow sees her dad and brother killed. Carmella is told by her Jewish psychiatrist and her catholic priest that she should end her marriage, take her kids away from Tony. But she continues because of the money, the spec house, the jewelry Tony gives her - the affluent life style. She has a contract with the devil, with evil, and she pays by losing her husband and her son. Meadow is interning with the local county prosecutor, investigating the HUD scam in Newark, which will eventually lead her to discover what a crook her father was. The movie end tragically - Tony gets whacked at Holsten's - which is in itself ironic, since it is such a sweet, pleasant place, far from the evil of organized crime.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Trabant for sale!

Hard to believe anyone would buy this! The famous east German car. You had to order it years in advance and then wait. This car was as plain and bureaucratic as the east german government. It would also kill you (like the east german government) because the fuel tank was in the front, between the engine and the driver! (Just like the piper cub I used to fly - the fuel tank was between the engine and the pilot).

Tata Car

India is planning to introduce a car for less than $2400 - the Tata. However, costs are rising (rubber) and it may cost more. This happens at a time when even Toyota is trying to figure how to market a new car for less than $3000.

Narcissism and George W. Bush

I have worked with people who have personality disorders, and I diagnose George W. Bush as a narcissistic personality disorder. Here is a recent quote: "I've got God's shoulder to cry on. And I cry a lot. I do a lot of crying in this job. I'll bet I've shed more tears than you can count, as president. I'll shed some tomorrow." He and God are buddies - if so, you'd think God would give him better advice. The thought that he is doing God's will, God's work, that God sympathesizes with him, is absolutely remarkable. If God gives him a shoulder to cry on, you'd think maybe God would speak up a little and give him some advice. I guess people have different ideas of God: there is God the Zeus, who interferes with everyone's lives (God is screwing with me again!); then, there is God-Santa, a god that brings you presents and answers your gift wish list. Then there is God who basically is you - God approves of everything I do, because he guides me in what do do. If God really directs Pres. Bush, then God is a real screw up!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Alpha Romeo

The perfect sports car, 1987 Alpha Romeo Quadrofiglio. Motor Trend mag says this is the best sports car for the money, under $10,000. I drove one once - incredible. This one is a really nice example.

Flight of the Conchords

great series on HBO - a band from New Zealand trying to make it big in NYC, with the help of Murray, a New Zealand consulate official who manages them "part time." They have one "fan" named Mel, and her blog is here.