Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

Kansas Girl

{22/7/15}

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Kicked off the day at 06:45 in my office (third booth to right) at Mel’s Diner on Sunset, ready for a shoot north of LA [see LA Woman]. Nothing like a good diner omelette to get you fuelled up for porno production. The PA, Beatrice, picked me up and took a cool route out past Laurel Canyon onto the freeway. We picked up the producer-director, Ronan McCloskey, on the way.

We drove back to the gated community, the big innocuous house, and waited for the arrival of the ‘new girl’. She came through the white picket garden gate carrying her cloth bag of costumes which included an electric blue bra and various short dresses – none were used in the end, everything was selected for her by the boss-woman. Shortly after the boss-man arrived, casual in his jeans and T-shirt, looking relaxed, not at all thrown by the fact he was going to be nailing this 22 year old on camera within the hour.

We began shooting. As the producer-director was a bit short-handed and was self-shooting he asked me to do sound and then that morphed into doing the interviews. I had a ball – it’s been a while.

The wife&husband dynamic duo who were making this porno explained this was a very straight-forward kind – the Interview Video. The new girl gets interviewed, has some photos taken, does a “tease” (ie takes off her clothes) and then gets screwed on the couch (only two weeks old, shouldn’t we get some more easy to change covers?) The couch ends up getting covered in fake tan. The New Girl is wearing fake tan because she’s trying to cover up an injury from her first porno which was only 18 days ago. This is her fourth. Her knees are scabbed because she was doing a reverse cowgirl and got really bad friction burn off a rug. She’s done her best to disguise the wounds.

I get a chance to chat a bit by the pool before things start. She’s from the middle of the country and has flown to LA (her first visit) to do her debut five sessions of porn. She is using the money to pay her way through university. She wants to become a psychiatric nurse. She earns enough in this hour and a bit to outstrip two weeks normal work on double shifts.

Interesting details come out of the convo. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a stripper when I was quite fucked-up (in a good way) on my stag night, upstairs at El Parador. I can’t recall a word of that exchange (I couldn’t within two hours of it) but the vibe was similar to this. This New Girl has had body confidence issues. She doesn’t seem to see the probable connection with this new activity of taking all your clothes off, though I try to see if she’ll acknowledge the link.

She takes all her clothes off. Good body, even prettier face. The whole thing’s interesting to see – once. But somehow sad.

The stills are incredible – the boss-man/male performer is so close he must have the widest lens ever. From two inches from her arse how the hell is he getting her smiling face in?

When the time for sex arrives we withdraw to the other side of the white garage where the horses are. I read my book about Bob Dylan and Blood on the Tracks in the bright California sun, relieved to have a bit of another world and culture.

After the scene the boss-couple strip off the couch cover and I interview them. He has a natural gift for getting hard on camera and has a big dick. That’s how he got into porn while still a student in his native Europe. (She referred to this capability as “strong / strength” during our intro chat the day before.). She modelled, lost her clothes along the way, then felt the urge to have sex with guys like this on camera. She reads avidly and has a fine collection of books lying around the room in whose corner the fucking took place. She’s got a signed Richard Dawkins book of which she’s proud.

He is charming and friendly, animated and very helpful. She is pretty and practical, cares about story-telling and delights in her young family. I learnt a good lesson a while ago during my sabbatical about books and covers. This experience is related. I don’t feel compelled to make judgments moral or otherwise. These are decent people and they have a very professional attitude and pride. The same is true of the New Girl – she really wants to do a good job.

The second New Girl is postponed because the boss-man was feeling light-headed towards the end of the scene. The New Girl had talked during her interview for us about how she has clear boundaries about what she won’t do and she listed them – cream-pies (she politely explains what that is), group sex, ‘torture’, anal, etc. “Do you do anal in your own sex life?” asks the boss-man with disingenuous charm and out of the blue. She confirms she does. “I thought so.” “How did you know?” I asked with disingenuous charm. “I licked her ass-hole during the scene.” It was a point-of-view scene so he was filming it and licking away at the same time. It must be a bit like playing Twister. His question coming out of nowhere somehow punctured a veil of politeness or euphemism which us outsiders maintained. Anyhow, the second New Girl is coming tomorrow. Just as well, reckon I’d had enough for one day.

Watching and filming him saying goodbye to ‘Olivia’ was fascinating – slightly awkward given what they’d just been up to. We too took our leave and headed back to cold beer and guacamole out back of a Mexican on Sunset. An all-round exotic day…

LA Woman

{21/7/15}

Five Leaves Left : Nick Drake - back cover photo by Keith Morris

Five Leaves Left : Nick Drake – back cover photo by Keith Morris

Well, that was an interesting day. Got weirder and weirder. Started out from the rock-steeped Sunset Marquis hotel (shades of Joe Strummer and The Stones) past the Hockneyesque pool with my colleague Jody to explore the Sunset Strip. (Had already done half a day’s work in the overlap zone between PST and BST.) We checked out the Viper Room (I watched Running On Empty two nights ago and was reflecting on River Phoenix’s premature passing) and Whiskey-a-Go-Go (shades of Jim & The Doors). Pulled into an old-school bookstore and picked up some vinyl including Five Leaves Left, featuring a photo on the back by Keith Morris whose original hangs on our stairs at home.

[I’m writing this post at the junction of Mulholland Drive and Laurel Canyon (shades of Crosby and Young), driving out to a film shoot in Hidden Hills.]

Peeled off into Beverly Hills where we checked out residential LA with its fake-grass and fanciful flowers. Short pit-stop for an iced coffee where we people-watched – a male jogger with no top and tight lycra bottoms leaving nothing to the imagination, jogging being the operative word; a woman all in black with her friend all in white, Spy vs Spy, too old for their Porsche, faces distorted through Beverly Hills surgery. Then on to Melrose where we landed in the middle of a paparazzi ambush of Hollywood actress Hilary Duff, in a sheer shirt, carefully showing off her black lacy bra to the media collaborators (in this Princess Di style ‘accidental’ encounter going about her everyday business).

Hilary Duff photographed on Melrose Beverly Hills

So far so LA LA. Then we hook up with the director and PA of a short form series I’ve got shooting out here about the LA underworld. The PA can’t start her car without breathing into a breathalyzer device (very Lynchian) due to a past DUI. Every time she does a sharp manoeuvre, like rounding a tight bend, the thing goes off and she has to do a test on the fly. All a bit Blue Velvet.

[Now on Ventura Freeway, shades of America (the US band that made it big from Kentish Town). She’s sitting beside me now as I write, device across her lap.]

We head out for a meeting with our key interviewee, a porn star made good through the family-run porn business she’s set up  – both she and her hubby are leading stars. She’s pretty and delightful, lives in a gated community north of the city, loves reading and horses. She showed us around the house and facilities, all set up to be optimized for porn shooting – the pool, the living room, the out-buildings. Up in the office were the costumes – tiny skirts and huge heels. She shows us an 11-page script for a two and a half hour movie – the sex only takes up a line, the actors aren’t great with dialogue she explains. She opens the porn cupboard under the stairs – baby oil, condoms, hard drives, medication.

Back in the house we have a flowing chat which ranges from the impact of having a porn-star husband on their sex life (don’t ask if he’s done two scenes that day) to the two-weekly blood and urine tests (darn, there goes my hopes of a porn-star career, phobic about blood tests), from the reaction of her family to her vocation to her preference for working with only the four or five stars she actually fancies, from the rise of a Viagra generation of stars without the “strength” of the previous generation like her husband to her passage from nudie pics to porn films which she really felt a pull to do. She revealed that that cliché of young girl shows up in LA to became a starlet and drifts into porn is the wrong way round – girls with a bit of porn experience suddenly take up acting lessons and think why not take a crack at it. She described the experience of working with newbies who show up with a yeast infection, not fit for action, and little knowledge of their own bodies or sexual hygiene due to their roots in low socio-economic groups. All this over coffee at the dining table, not your everyday convo but a suitably weird adventure.

The crew and I repair to the bar of the Sunset Marquis to plan the shoot the next day. Two casting couch films. New girls. How LALA is that going to be …?

 neon sign man woman

Placeres Simples Dos

Palm trees. Browsing flea markets. Rum’n’Raisin ice cream (especially in South of France, seriously alcohol-soaked). Waves. Working away quietly with someone sleeping in the room. Chalky old-school mineral (Vichy) water. Collecting things. Collections. Traditional shops. Fresh sheets. Beautifully designed playing cards. Harbours. Breasts. Siestas. Playing backgammon in the shade after lunch. Strolling the city at sundown. Teaching your children stuff. Deep sleep.

bicycle playing cards civil war design

Boredom Boredom B’dum B’dum

spiral scratch buzzcocks record

Today is Record Shop Day. I’ve been frequenting mine (Alan’s in East Finchley) plenty recently so I’m just making an internal nod to indy record shops and I’ve just played a classic record Spiral Scratch by (the) Buzzcocks (albeit not on vinyl, I’m in the wrong room) – the track I played is Boredom because I’ve been thinking about it a lot yesterday and today.

I’m living in this movie
But it doesn’t move me
I’m the man that’s waiting for the phone to ring
Hear it ring-a-ding-a-fucking-ding

You know me, I’m acting dumb
You know the scene, very humdrum
Boredom, boredom, boredom

Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe

Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe

I was just out jogging, listening to a podcast with Irish writer John Banville talking about Raymond Chandler and Philip Marlowe. Banville, under his low-brow pen-name Benjamin Black (which I don’t much like – as fake as they come, a bit like Julian Barnes’ Dan Kavanagh), recently wrote a Marlowe book at the request of Chandler’s estate, The Black-Eyed Blonde. Marlowe stories usually start with the gumshoe sitting bored in his down-at-heel office waiting for something to happen, usually a dame walking through the door to give him a knight-errant mission.

Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe

Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe

Robert Donat as Richard Hannay

Robert Donat as Richard Hannay

Then late last night I was listening to a radio programme from BBC Radio 4 called The Buchan Tradition about John Buchan, marking the centenary year of The 39 Steps. Richard Hannay is bored in London at the start of that ripping yarn when lo and behold a spy dies on his living room carpet and the adventure begins.

Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes

Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes

That’s also often the case with Sherlock Holmes – he’s bored out of his brain, coked off his face, ennui has well and truly set in when a character shows up at 221b with a juicy mystery to solve.

Michael York and Simon Maccorkindale as Carruthers and Davies

Michael York and Simon Maccorkindale as Carruthers and Davies

One of my favourites, a resident of The Shelf of Honour, The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers, opens with the protagonist bored in the “dead and fermenting city”, London in the dog-days of late summer. When the opportunity crops up to sail around the Baltic and North Sea coasts, in spitting distance of imperial Germany, with an English eccentric in an Aran jumper, it’s the perfect cure not just to boredom, but also to the complacency and materialism of modern life. One of my favourite scenes is when Carruthers, the narrator, can’t fit his trunk through the opening into the Dulcibella, the boat he is due to go off for a trip in and he has to dump most of his stuff (which he never really needed).

Martin Sheen as Captain Willard

Martin Sheen as Captain Willard

Recently I watched again one of my all-time favourite movies, Apocalypse Now, with Enfant Terrible No. 1 (a convert to The Godfather movies). Damn it’s good. Great. Nearly perfect. It opens with Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) bored to near-death in a hotel room in Saigon. Waiting for a mission.

Saigon…shit. I’m only in Saigon.
Every time, I think I’m gonna wake up back in the jungle.

I’m here a week now.  Waiting for a mission.  Getting softer.  Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker.  And every minute Charlie squats in the bush…he gets stronger.  Each time I looked around…the walls moved in a little tighter.

Bored to death

Bored to death

There’s boredom as debilitating ennui as in Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal. But there’s also boredom as a motivator, a prompt into adventure. The question is whether in real life the blonde walks through the door or the spy expires on your carpet? Does the ring-a-ding-a-fucking-ding really come?

Lauren-Bacalls-style-The-Big-Sleep Bogart office Marlowe

bogart film noir phone maltese falcon

Joie de Vivre revisited

view from the picasso museum antibes

I’m standing on the terrace of the Château Grimaldi in Vieil Antibes (aka le Musee Picasso). Below is an expanse of azure sea punctuated with dozens of white sails travelling in various incomprehensible lines as they race from whoknowswhere to somewhereelse. I couldn’t be happier being back in Antibes/Juan Les Pins. I’m here for the MIP TV market/Digital Emmys, my usual reason for being in this neck of the woods, but as a veteran of such things, I know to stay in Juan rather than Cannes.

Juan-les-Pins has two particular resonances for me – my European grandparents and jazz. The former, a Germano-Polish alliance, used to come here in the 50s and 60s as it was à la mode, the In place. They both enjoyed gambling so I expect the casino was a significant attraction. The latter I suspect was not unrelated to this modishness as it was the golden age of modal jazz and other such modern experimentation. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen stuff about Miles and Coltrane playing here. This hotel (I’m now on the balcony of my room at Le Grand Pavois as my phone ran out of juice at the end of the first paragraph) has a Sidney Bechet room. Somewhere near the patch of sea I can see through the pines is a commemoration of the international jazz festival they used to hold in town.

A quick bit of Googling shows that Trane played at the festival in 1965 and a live LP was recorded, and Miles played here in July 1969. That probably makes the Trane performance within 6 months of the release of ‘A Love Supreme’.

A bit more Googling reveals that Coltrane, Tyner, Garrison & Jones (the recorders/creators of ‘A Love Supreme’) were the band who played in Juan on 26/27 July 1965 and they played A Love Supreme, Impressions and Naima, which makes it I believe the one and only live performance of ‘A Love Supreme’, one of my favourite records, the opening track of which I’ve left a request to have played at my funeral (on the way in).

view from the hotel grand pavois  juan les pins sunset

Back in the land very much of the living, today has been a pretty blessed one. The taxi driver who picked me up in Nice had a PhD in history of art from the Sorbonne and taught there. Cue interesting conversation about Fragonard, Boucher, etc. The hotel room they put me in is a corner room and because of its odd shape is big enough to play football in and has this huge sweeping balcony hugging the curved corner of the building where I’m now sitting in the golden rays of the evening sun in just a clean white towel (refreshing after the London winter).

around provencal market old antibes

So I dumped my coat and baggage, changed into shorts and my Save Ferris T-shirt and headed over the hill to Old Antibes. Steak frites for lunch with a glass of rosé. Crêpe citrone and café crême. Reading The Bone Clocks (David Mitchell), my book club choice. Then into the back streets by the marché provençale to the Musée Picasso, like an annual pilgrimage. It’s one of my favourite places.

picasso nu assis sur fond vert 1946 musee picasso antibes

I delighted in revisiting the fabulously Mediterranean ‘Joie de Vivre” (1946) which Picasso painted in the building after the war and about which I’ve written at length. This time the work that really stood out for me was ‘Nu Assis sur font vert’ (1946) which is a good example of Picasso capturing the human body in geometric, sculptural forms.

jaume plensa nomade antibes sculpture

From there I passed a happy hour reading, snoozing, listening on the small harbour beach beside the marina. A walk over to Jaume Plensa’s Nomade sculpture (2010) on the harbour wall. Pleasant memories of one of my best days at Channel 4, rounding the corner of a wood to see for the first time ‘Dream’, which Plensa made as part of the ‘Big Art Project’ series. I met him that day.

On the late afternoon walk home I had one of the best ice-creams I’ve ever had (rum & raisin and coffee if you want to know).

The feeling that came to me walking over that hill on the way out at noon was that for all the crap going on in the world (and there’s no end of it) we need to stay in touch with the joys of living and appreciate them each and every day. That’s the only way to live. Otherwise it’s a road to madness.

Blitzed Again

11th September 1940

11th September 1940

I’m a Londoner born&bred. A total Londonphile. I’d have a London passport if I could. And my hobby is being a flaneur with a camera, wandering around the city aimlessly taking photos.

Today I’m taking a staycation and headed off for Paddington. I’m now sat on the bank of the Grand Union Canal a bit beyond Little Venice in the Spring sunshine.

When I went on a similar (un)mission on Saturday it struck me for the first time that London really is in danger. I headed to Borough as a starting point. I really couldn’t find any real people to photograph – just sheepish tourists in queues at a market with no proper stalls selling largely non-local food. I remember enjoying eating in the shadow of Southwark Cathedral not that many years ago – I couldn’t even find where that was. There were just wall-to-wall visitors chowing down legs crossed, penned in. I couldn’t find anything worth eating.

I retreated onto London Bridge and headed over into the weekend City. It was punctuated with cranes. Building sites everywhere. Fox, a shop established in 1868, with its silver Art Deco frontage was empty.

I bussed out to The Angel to the canal. Rammed with French speakers (and I’m happy London is now the 5th or 6th biggest French city) adding, in the lack of variety, to the feel of a city being smoothed over and having the edges knocked off. I managed to get some good shots with the camera I just bought the Enfants Terribles but it was an unusual struggle.

On my way out today I picked up a copy of Time Out. The cover was Save London. So it’s obviously not just me feeling this vibe. This is the first time in my life London feels under real threat on a Blitz scale. Property developers who don’t care; dirty money playing Monopoly; Euroblandness; buy-to-let neglect; chain everything death by consumerism; a wash of global sameness from the Internet age and Capitalism eating itself.

The city I love is in real peril. Better a Dornier than a Subway.

Brave New London (complete with crane)

Brave New London (complete with crane)

The Imitation Game – art imitating real life?

ArkAngel:

A special evening at the Phoenix

Originally posted on Dr Sue Black:

Having spearheaded the most recent campaign to save Bletchley Park and being part of the campaign to get Alan Turing on a banknote I was very apprehensive about seeing the new film “The Imitation Game” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. The Imitation Game is based on Andrew Hodges biography of Alan Turing and his codebreaking work at Bletchley Park during WW2.

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 00.05.56

I spent several years of my life trying to raise public awareness of Bletchley Park and the contribution of the more than ten thousand people who worked there and have learnt a lot along the way. I’ve had conversations with several people who knew Turing, including his nephew and nieces and have spoken to many Bletchley Park veterans over the years.

I was apprehensive about seeing the film because I really didn’t want to see a film like “Enigma” again, a film which I’ve never actually managed to…

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South America Day 8 – Uruguay/Montevideo to Argentina/Buenos Aires: The Full Monte

montevideo

Passed a poster on the street of the president of Uruguay – he looks like a friendly granddad. Seemingly he lives in a modest house in the country, drives a VW Beetle and has a dog with three legs. After a harsh Mandela-like imprisonment for years, he came to power and leads what I understand is a benign, liberal regime. Certainly the city has a good vibe, a bit slower than Buenos Aires, sunny disposition.

Another thing I saw on the street was ‘mate’. People young and old were walking along with a small, rounded glass in one hand holding a silver spoony thing with perforations and in the other a thermos of hot water. Nothing like a nice hot cuppa sitting in a car park with a blanket on your lap. This is the world of trendy students and enamoured young couples and they’re all sucking at their infusion of dried leaves of yerba mate.

Talking of leaves, we took ours of Uruguay before noon, back on the boat. Luckily there’s still some proper old-school bureaucracy in Argentina/Uruguay so I’ve managed to amass a decent set of stamps in my new passport. The immigration officer I just encountered had a slightly daunting look with Amy Winehouse type tattoos on her upper chest and knuckles – turned out to be as charming as can be.

The full "Monte"

The full “Monte”

As we pulled out of Montevideo we got to see the ‘monte’ in question, a green hill overlooking the city, now surrounded by favelas. I didn’t see much poverty on my visit but that’s tourist life for you – I often heard references in MV and BA to areas being safe or not. A bunch of Mexicans were playing a raucous game of cards on the boat back, adding a bit of analogue to the digital life of cameras and phones around them.

mexicans playing cards

Took my leave of Damian back at the Hotel Plaza. Saw a sepia image of it with the Graf Zeppelin flying above this morning. I’ll catch up with Damian again in London when he comes over for Power to the Pixel and Mipcom in a couple of weeks. Also said by to Vale, who may be over in London in a while. Great trip, fine travel companions.

buenas aires argentina

For my last half-day in South America for now I headed over to Palermo Hollywood, the chi-chi quarter of cafes and design/clothes shops. Had a late lunch which turned out to be the best meal I ate in Argentina – coated chicken in orange and tequila sauce. Combined with some cool jazz, a bit of birdsong and a great people-watching crossroads at Borges and El Salvador everything aligned for a beautiful meal. Wandered the tree-lined streets after taking a few pics and looking for a couple of gifts for the Mrs and the Enfants Terribles.

crossroads buenas aires

Headed back to the Plaza for a quiet evening and a not too late night. Very comfy beds by the way if you’re into sleeping equipment.

graf zeppelin flying over buenas aires 1934 airship german

South America Day 9 – BA-LHR: Adios Amigos

adam gee el cairo cinema rosario

So here I sit at Puerto 9 awaiting the plane home. Nothing much to report – pack, breakfast, taxi, airport. It’s a grey day in Buenos Aires so ideal for leaving.

What do I take away with me?

This is a (surprisingly) friendly country. Everyone I met here and in Uruguay was invariably warm and polite. They do this one cheek kiss all the time which beats a handshake. All friendly except a single grumpy taxi driver who can kiss my Irish arse ;-)

There’s a terrific enthusiasm for learning and competing, developing and pushing the boundaries in digital media and beyond. Whatever the economic pressures, it seems a well organised country which should have everything it needs to thrive, not least a terrific younger generation.

Bottom line, a fabulous trip sweetened by lovely people.

And then the sun came out…

And then I got three empty seats in a row on the plane…

South America Day 7 – Uruguay, Montevideo: On The Town

film movie projector shadow

Argentina is separated from Uruguay by the River Plate, which from the shore looks like a sea. On the Argentina side it is muddy brown. On the Uruguay side, a bit bluer. It takes around two hours to cross by boat. Valeria, Damian and I boarded from the modern passenger terminal in Buenos Aires, built only two years ago, complete with a wall of falling water.

I spent much of the journey doing my Spanish lessons on Duolinguo. Lo siento, no hablo Espagnol. Funnily enough, I got to use that phrase on Uruguayan television later in the day.

uruguay navy in port montevideo

The journey is a flat expanse of calm river, punctuated with the odd vessel but otherwise without features. Eventually the Uruguayan mainland looms into view, and then Montevideo, a largely low-rise city. On disembarking we passed pretty much the whole of the country’s navy in port, grey hulks labelled 1 to 24 under huge yellow cranes.

makeup room studio 10 montevideo uruguay damian kirzner

We were picked up by a colleague of Damian’s from TV station Estudio 9. She drove us along the coastal road, the Ramblas, a crescent promenade bordering the river-sea. We went first to Channel 10 where Damian did an interview on a daytime show. He was preceeded by Chico Novarro, a famous Argentine romantic singer of boleros, and his leather-trousered son, a well-known actor. The two presenters and crew were really welcoming and friendly, especially the older host who couldn’t have been warmer.

studio set studio 10 montevideo uruguay damian kirzner

Everyone in the crew, cameramen, sound, the works, were on their phones the whole time they were shooting. I watched a voice-over artist at the side of the set do the sponsor presentation live, delivering each bit perfectly and on time then returning to his magazine the second the mike went off.

The set was a comfortable house with living room, kitchen and (fake) garden beyond the French doors. Damian chatted in the kitchen with the younger host (with whom he made the multiplatform show Conectados a couple of years ago) and efficiently got across his activities with Mediamorfosis.

montevideo uruguay

We left the beautiful shade-dappled side street where Channel 10’s studio is located for a hotel in the city centre, not far away, it’s a bijou city. After dumping our stuff, the three of us walked ten blocks to the old city centred on Independence Square (this is Uruguay independence from Argentina). It is defined by the old theatre Solis, a strange masonic tower and a stone arch – very atmospheric and typically hispanic.

We had a late lunch outdoors (a lovely fresh white sea fish steamed with carrots and onions). Then I dragged them in to a beautiful late 19C book shop with high shelves, a book-lined balcony, a stained glass window half-way up the stairs and a café up above. If I lived in Montevideo, this would be my HQ.

Also at my request we popped into the Torres Garcia museum next door in a tall old townhouse, five or six narrow floors high. Joaquin Torres Garcia is Uruguay’s most famous Modernist artist. The early work on display (like Adam & Eve) shows the influence of Cezanne, Picasso and Gauguin. He lived in Paris, Barcelona and New York. Other roots seem to be Klee (searching for a symbolic universal picture language) and native South American Indian art (flat hieroglyphic planes). He was clearly both a restless experimenter and a relentless theorist. Note to self: pick up a book about him on my return.

el observador newspaper montevideo uruguay

We then headed off to El Observador newspaper in a quiet, more industrial quarter, beautifully designed offices in black and white, stylish. I had a look around the newsroom, then got roped into an interview despite my Duolinguo Spanish. That’s when I got to say “Lo siento, no hablo Espagnol” on air. We talked about the future of TV and media with a similarly stylish young journalist with blue glasses (Dame Edna Everage-style but dialed down and cool).

estudio 9 studio montevideo uruguay

Off for a siesta listening to Kind of Blue (= perfect siesta length, finishing on flamenco vibe) then over to Estudio 9 where Damian and I were doing a two-hander evangelising transmedia. The venue was a black-curtained studio, subtly lit in the beautifully lit and decorated former dance hall. We had fun doing it, it seemed to go down very well.

tango montevideo uruguay

From the studio we headed out for a suitably late a l’Espagnol supper in a former market with various folk from the British Council Uruguay office. In the corner of the open-to-the-air market (a bit like Spitalfields market) was an enclosed space with windows housing a tango school. Tonight was tango night so I got a chance to watch some regular couples at work. I liked their ambition. When I eventually got back to my 8th floor room I realised what I was looking down on was the corrugated iron roof of the mercado. So I fell asleep in Montevideo listening to the sounds of tango from below.

South America Day 4: Rosario – 50 shades of green

el cairo cinema sign rosario argentina

It’s been a good while since I’ve been on a plane with propellors. This one was quite magical. It flew low (i.e. in clear sight of the ground) out over the River Plate / Rio de la Plata, a rich muddy brown colour, as extensive as a sea, Uruguay visible only as a thin strip in the distance on the other side; along the muddy water (which of course is silvery or argentine in the sunlight) into the enormous delta region; and on over water-level land bisected by the meanders of the river (Rio Parana) and divided by myriad channels, very little sign of habitation or human presence.

river plate argentina from plane

We landed in Rosario, Argentina’s second city, 50 minutes north-west of Buenos Aires. It’s largely a human scale, two-storey urban sprawl, all in square city blocks, with very varied architecture (very little sign of any planning control or heritage building restoration). Some very elegant buildings among the hideous blocks. My companions Damian, Valeria and Robert and I landed in one of the class ones – the El Cairo cafe, once the cultural and literary hub of Rosario thanks to the writer Roberto Fontanarrosa, El Negro, a son of the city who hung out every afternoon with his compadres to talk culture, politics, football and all the stuff of life. Damian once optioned some of his short stories but found them impossible to realise in practice due to their fantastical nature – Mars is not an easy location.

el cairo cinema rosario argentina

A couple of doors down is the El Cairo cinema, a beautiful 40s art deco picture palace decorated with palm trees and orientalist details, redolent of Casablanca, Rick’s, the Blue Parrot, all those usual suspects. It has a huge screen and a rich crimson womb-like vibe. The boss of the cinema, the charming Arielo Vicente, took us down to the old railway station by the river. In the British-built, red brick railway terminal, which was specially opened for us, is now a fabulous children’s project, a space for children and their parents to come at no cost to hang out together and do arts activities from making clothes to welding scrap-metal sculptures, from manufacturing paper to reflecting on memories.

old railway terminus rosario argentina

Adding to yesterday’s list of things that have cemented themselves in my head about this place and its people:

  • Argentines think a lot about what’s public
  • The advent of democracy in the mid-80s is a major watershed in their consciousness
  • They are very good at crafting attractive environments
  • They seem remarkably friendly and warm to each other too (I watched an emblematic scene in the airport today of a man and woman returning the mobile phone of an old fella who hadn’t realised he’d lost it – lots of goodwill and smiles).

There were lovely details in the old railway building – a glass wall at the tracks end creating a compelling view along the still extant tracks, the old ticket windows, some well worn wooden stairs up to the first floor (where there’s an animation workshop with a refreshingly analogue, hands-on focus).

rio parana rosario argentina

We had a drink at the riverside (Rio Parana) before returning to the Cairo where I followed Damian giving a talk to an audience largely of students and young Rosarians about what’s exciting about ‘transmedia’. The queue for the event was out the door and down the block. Really enjoyed chatting to the young folk afterwards and joining them in their selfies.

davis silos rosario argentina

As the red neon El Cairo sign illuminated (a distant relative of the Phoenix sign in East Finchley) Arielo took us back to the river, beside some massive, beautifully painted grain silos (now a modern art museum) to a fantastic modern restaurant where I ate paku, a river fish that really tastes of river, a fascinating muddy aspect to the taste which I enjoyed more than the natives (not to be confused with pako, the cheapest, nastiest derivative of cocaine, which was the subject of my attempt at Spanish wordplay, feeble but given how little Spanish I know not altogether unworthy. I started learning Spanish today in the footsteps of 20.2M other Duolinguo users. I’ll try it out on my Argentine amigos on Monday.) Washed it down with a beer, the right drink at the right time, although no native cerveza to be had.

paku river fish argentina

Though no beer was really needed, we all felt buzzed by the positive response to the El Cairo event and the youthful energy in the air.

adam gee el cairo cinema rosario

courtesy of @yazmin_pacifico

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