Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age


Tenerife Goes Hollywood Crazy

Fun this week, amidst the crappy stuff. Filming will begin in April or May for Clash of the Titans 2, and it seems as if the entire island has gone loca for the movies! Not surprising because the production company did a very good job of blanketing the island with posters and flyers advertising that casting for extras would take place this week, add to that the high unemployment rate and you can guess at the result!

This was the official trailer for the first movie, which was also filmed here:

Whilst I can promise you that there are no monsters here of any description (well, other than the human variety), those landscapes are very familiar. If you look at some of the photos of the Teide National Parque on my Tenerife page you will be able to spot some of them. The area around the volcanic crater at the summit of the island, where the movie was filmed, is most often described as a “moonscape”, obviously perfect for the atmosphere the makers needed to create.

Tenerife has been used frequently in the past for location shooting. Most famously in One Million Years BC – and I warn you, this trailer from 1968 is to be viewed only under advice – if you have had any surgery or dental work recently which precludes laughing for a while – DON’T watch it!

So, you guys, take your eyes of Raquel and look at the scenery. That’s Tenerife minus the monsters again, oh, and the volcano is dormant too!

So…..Cristina and I thought it might be fun to go to the casting (not to mention that the money would be useful!) to see what it was all about. Cristina is very knowledgable about the profession, but my interest is strictly amateur – going to the movies twice on a Saturday in my early teens, enthralled in Universal Studios and MGM, and a movie buff at one time, though circumstances changed that for a while.

Wednesday morning, the first call: I was busy until midday, but we met up shortly afterwards and drove up the TF1 towards Arico Viejo. Even though Cristina is Canarian, she hadn’t been there before and we weren’t totally sure where it was, but it was very easy to find (this is a small island, after all). We wound our way up from the autopista into the foothills, with that pleasant sensation of leaving the hustle and bustle behind, which I often get when I turn inland. Even when we arrived in this tiny village it didn’t seem too busy.

Then, we hit a crossroads with a policeman on traffic duty, and assumed that this wasn’t something that usually happened on a lazy Wednesday afternoon here, so we knew we were close. When we asked him where the casting was he laughed out loud, and told us that, yes, it was the road ahead, but there was gridlock, we would have to make a right and do our best to find parking. Not good, but we managed quite well, and walked back. By then we had realized that the village had been overwhelmed by the number of people who’d arrived, hoping for their “fifteen minutes of fame” (Andy Warhol was SO right, judging by the rest of what happened!). We turned a corner, the street wound upwards steeply, and as far as we could see there was a straggle of folk, waiting in the hot sunshine. We walked a little way, but with no end in sight, decided to go back and ask the first people in line how long they’d been waiting. It was around 1.30 by then, and it turned out that they had been waiting since 9.30 in the morning. “No way”, we thought. It just wasn’t worth it, so we turned back, down to the coast and lunch, and decided maybe it was worth a try the next day if we went earlier.

We checked out the location after lunch, and it turned out to be just around the corner from where I’m living, so we decided 8am was maybe early enough but not so early as to lose beauty sleep (at my age I need all I can get!). There was already, at 4pm Wednesday a guy waiting to be first in line when the place opened Thursday at 10am, and when I passed later, around 10pm, there were 20 or 30 people.

Thursday Morning, the Second Attempt: Normally at 8am I’m supping my first coffee of the day, but the next morning, bright and early, I put the coffee into a flask and strolled around the corner. Cristina arrived about the same time, and came prepared, as you can see!

Those chairs were pretty comfy. I almost fell asleep! I can’t ever remember queuing this way for anything in my life. I usually look with derision on people waiting to spot a gloved, royal hand as it waves from a limo, or for tickets to a concert, where they will be so far away from the action on stage that I can’t see the point of going, but, then, there is a difference between camping out on, say, London’s wet streets and a sunny promenade by a beach here. The atmosphere was quite cool in fact, almost party like, and the people watching was absolutely first class. The majority were “youngsters,” in most cases the girls with beautifully applied makeup and mini skirts, and the guys favoring looks which fell somewhere between smouldering Latino macho and punky rapper. I guess Hollywood is just full of people like these, hoping to be discovered and become the next big star, and reality tv has done everything to make them believe it will come true. They preened and checked their looks as the sun began to make the make-up greasy and melt the hair gel. El Médano being Tenerife’s hippie haven there was an abundance of Rastafarian hair, baggy pants and beards too. This look, in fact, is what the publicity had indicated was required, so I’m thinking these are the guys who will get the work most likely. The four-hour wait, to be truthful, passed quite quickly, what between the good company, the people watching and the guy who seemed to have taken it upon himself to provide entertainment for the crowd. A big, well-made fellow, he appeared in a couple of different Carnaval costumes, charging about with a plastic sword, and yelling with abandon. The tv cameras, there to film what people will do to be in movies,  loved him, or he loved them. I don’t know. I hid!

Then, all of a sudden our group was in. A while before we’d been given a form to complete which had a number at the top, we presented this and our other documentation at the first desk and proceeded to the next room where our measurements were taken. This tickled me. There was a space on the form for measurements, but we were told not to fill them in. I can only assume that people will usually lie about them! After that, a photo, holding our assigned number – not unlike those photos of criminals you see on tv shows, hard to stifle the giggles, and that was it. All done in time for lunch.

It was kind of fun, and it was certainly a new experience.  Local press reported 1,000 people Wednesday and 1,500 Thursday, plus those who turned up today in La Laguna, I didn’t see the news tonight.  I’d have put those stats the other way around, but it adds up to the same.  Probably around 3,000/4,000 people in all have applied for work, so I don’t expect that a fairly tall and pale woman of a certain age has much chance, but if I do this will be the first place I come to shout it out!


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Island of Cultural Variety : Robert Capa Retrospective in Santa Cruz

And tonight a cultural treat far removed from the world of folk music, plaster saints or island flora, the Caja Canarias is hosting a retrospective of Robert Capa’s work over the next couple of months.  As with other sociocultural projects in the past, like the magnificent Enciende Africa in 2008, there are other events based on the same theme.  In the case of this exhibit, a series of movies based on the theme of photo-journalism.  I can’t help thinking that a debate, like the ones we had at Enciende Africa,  on this subject would be fascinating.  The theme of when or if it’s morally correct to continue to take photos in tragic or dangerous situations is ongoing and very interesting. These islands are home to and/or have produced an amazing amount of talent in this area, and I don’t doubt that a lively debate could have been had.

I have to admit to a certain bias and no disinterest on the subject or in the work of Capa and those who came after.  The image of the  devil-may-care (and of course devastatingly handsome) war correspondent has always stirred my soul, and Capa could have been the mould from which Hollywood crafted all such characters.  Other heroes of mine include Don McCullin and Tim Page, and I think it’s safe to say that had there been no Capa they might never have attained the heights they did.

Capa, along with Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and David Seymour founded the photo agency which became the byword for excellence and professionalism in its field, Magnum.  Back in the days of video tapes I had programs about Cartier-Bresson and Eve Arnold over which I used to drool, and which, honestly, put me off buying a proper camera for years!  I also weaned myself on Hemingway in my teens, so that era and that lifestyle, were the stuff of my dreams.   I wasn’t in the least surprised, therefore, to learn that not only was Capa a contemporary of Hemingway, but also a colleague and friend, as was my greatest literary hero, John Steinbeck.

It is this quote from the exhibit by Steinbeck about his friend’s work which has stayed with me:

‘John Steinbeck once wrote that his friend Robert Capa knew that “you cannot photograph war, because it is largely an emotion.” However, continued Steinbeck, “he did photograph that emotion by shooting beside it. He could show the horror of a whole people in the face of a child.” ‘

Capa is best known as a “war photographer”, and he died, doing what he loved. He  stepped on a landmine in Vietnam in 1954.  In later years war photography became much more graphic, until in the present day, we think nothing of the sight of mutilated corpses and grieving parents along with our breakfast cereal.  Maybe we became so immune to photos like Capa’s, which portray powerfully the anguish of the victims of war, but  actually show us little of what being in the midst of it was like, that the art (if that is the right word) had to move up a notch, and then another and another.  Capa’s photography captures history, and has become history itself.

For this reason the exhibition can be viewed on different levels, and I fully intend to go back to take it in more deeply,  not only to admire Capa’s mastery of his craft and the window into the past, but as an insight into the history of photo-journalism.  Despite that most of the photographs depict some aspect of war, they belong to a time when a veil was drawn over the worst atrocities.  I’m not sure whether that was better or not.  It’s true that the excruciating photos both Page and McCullin, amongst others, shot in Vietnam fuelled anti-war feeling in the US, which possibly brought about a speedier end to the conflict, but, a generation on, it doesn’t seem as if reportage from Afghanistan has had a great deal of effect on us.

Tonight’s film “Triage” starring Colin Farrell highlighted the moral dilemas which journalists and, in fact, others  face in war zones, as well as the brutality and horror.  I’m newly a fan of Farrell, after seeing The Way Back (twice in one week actually – something I haven’t done since I was in my teens!), and his performance is excellent, and the movie’s message is clear, but it’s not a great film.  It lacks pace and from my limited knowledge of movies I can only blame the director.  Still, as a follow up to the exhibition it gave us plenty of pause for thought.

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Eat, Pray, Love

I come late to comment on this because it wasn’t released in Spain until the end of September, and yesterday was the first time I had chance to see it.

To be honest, I wrote about it after reading the book some months back, but then, everyone seemed to be talking about it, and I got bored and deleted it.  I bought it because it was recommended to me by a very close friend.  I’d read all the hype, and, as usual, it had put me off buying it rather than making me want to read it, but when Maria enjoyed it, I took that as a recommendation because so often our tastes are the same.  I bought it because it was a journal of an interior journey, but ended up putting it on the shelf with my travel books.  And therein, for me, lies the problem with the book/film, and I understand why it attracts such extreme opinions – where does it belong?

As a spiritual journey, it’s interesting, but neither the book nor the film made me sympathize with Elizabeth Gilbert.  I know it’s a true story, so she can’t pretend to have been/be something she wasn’t, but she isn’t an ” inspiring”  heroine.  She hasn’t overcome incredible odds to achieve anything.  She wasn’t abused.  She had an interesting and rewarding job.  She was comfortably off.  So she made a mistake in her first marriage……big deal.  Ah, maybe that’s the secret to the success of this book?  She’s an ordinary woman, who made a mistake and then took a rather glamorous way of getting over it?  Yep, I know she had the book deal sewn up before she went, but of course she wasn’t to know just how popular it would become.  Her style is almost blog-like, natural, chatty, which makes her more “ordinary” too.  Not only that, but having dissed the book as being uninspiring, I must say I found her quite inspiring in this TED Lecture!

As a travel narrative I don’t feel as if it works too well, either.  Both in the book and the film I enjoyed the first part of her journey most – Rome.  I’ve tried hard to analyze whether that’s because I know Rome a bit, but haven’t yet been to India or Bali, but I don’t think so.  I think it’s because Rome was a character in that part of the book in a way which neither Bali nor India were.

I love Rome.  I love Italian food.  So I can’t even try to be objective, but I don’t think that’s the problem.  I am endlessly curious about other countries and cultures, and both Bali and India are high up on my bucket list, and in my world that curiosity would trump the familiarity of Rome.

When I was reading the book I did begin to warm to her as a person more in the India section.  I began to understand a bit more where she was coming from, but not in the movie, for me that was the worst bit.  Hurried and lacking in the depth of the book……..and – yeah, WHAT was that bit with the elephant all about???

And Bali?  Well, a bit of a glimpse of the richness of the countryside and a love story, but then, that’s the impression I had of her time there from the book, too.  She didn’t engineer the love story.  It happened.  Feminists have criticized the story as breaking down there, because she came to rely on a man, she drew her strength from love, but WTF – it really happened, and she clearly isn’t a wilting violet, so I don’t see that as valid criticism.

What I came to realize is that there will be as many different perceptions of the story as there are different life experiences.  As a European I’ve been crossing borders since I was 15 (and today we do that from birth), whilst I adore travelling there is a sense in which it isn’t that big a deal. Gilbert, of course, was American (and was accustomed to travel too), but there are millions of American women for whom this journey would be a much bigger deal than it would be for a European.  Typically, Americans don’t cross borders that much in their travel.  Given the stunning variety of landscape they have at home I can understand why, but travel is about more than changing the landscape, it’s about experiencing other cultures too, more than we can do in a two-week vacation, in the first week of which it is necessary just to take time to wind down from the stress of work, commuting etc  However, the idea of travelling, especially alone, and especially long-term is really beginning to capture the imagination of Americans (not only women, of course!).  The thing which made me realize this was this movement, Meet, Plan, Go, which was created by a group of well-known travel bloggers.  Americans, typically, work longer hours and take less vacations than Europeans, and maybe taking some time out like this would not only aid understanding of other cultures and points of view, but would also reduce reliance on artificial ways of keeping down stress levels.  At the end of the day, that’s all Gilbert suffered from at the beginning, stress, just fairly ordinary stress.  She was very lucky to be able to turn her gap year into a small fortune, but there are countless benefits for everyone in claiming back oneself.

Back to the movie.  I thought Julia Roberts was a good choice, especially after seeing Gilbert talk and move about in that TED video.  Javier Bardem – drooling!  Like all movies, if you compare it to the book it doesn’t match up.  So much has to be left out of a movie, characters amalgamated or changed, and that’s always disappointing.  You’re waiting for something to happen or someone to make an appearance and it doesn’t/they don’t.  Everything seems to be in quick time, hurried.  So if you haven’t seen this yet, and enjoyed the book, you might prefer to skip the movie. I honestly can’t imagine how it seems to anyone who hasn’t read the book.  Of the group with whom I went, 3 of us had read it and 2 hadn’t, and they weren’t raving about it.  I think it comes across as “just another girly film”. …….  not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the book does have more depth.


The Cove

Last night I went to see “The Cove”. I probably shouldn’t be writing this now, because I don’t feel as if I have gotten over the emotional impact. I knew full well what it was about (the annual and covert massacre of thousands of dolphins), and yet it still hit me like a ton of bricks. Last night I was stunned, this morning I woke angry and frustrated and depressed.

I’m not even a vegetarian, I go along with an eastern philosophy I once read, which speaks of us all being connected, that when we eat flesh it becomes a part of us, and since we are all a part of each other that is natural. What we must do is be grateful for what we eat, and we must not inflict suffering in the process of killing what we eat. This last, I admit, is very hard to control in our personal lives these days of mass provision of foods. Whilst I might choose to buy from the finca, not everyone has the opportunity, it’s the same with whatever flesh we eat.

I’m also ambivalent about zoos and such. I do believe they have a role to play in the education of humans, in our respecting and better understanding animals. We can’t all go on safari or cruise to the Antarctic. It goes without saying that the exhibits have to be treated properly, and not simply as money-making objects. My perception (and I admit I might be totally wrong in this) is that these days zoos etc are quite strictly controlled, and the bad ones are rapidly being closed down. For one thing, people are better educated and will simply not go to places where the animals seem to be mistreated.

I stopped going to dolphin shows a while back. It was swimming with “wild” dolphins which influenced my decision. In Florida a couple of times I’ve swum in controlled conditions with dolphins. Not dolphins who have been trained to jump through hoops, but there are places in the Florida Keys which study dolphins, our relationship with them and the possibilities of more contact. One in particular I remember, studies the effects which contact with dolphins has on sick children. The studies are funded partly by allowing people like me to swim with the dolphins in a fenced off section of the ocean, but the only contact allowed is if the dolphins actually want to do it. They aren’t trained to entertain humans, but often initiate contact, and, apparently, it is often the ill or troubled they seek out.  I can’t do justice to the feeling I had doing this.  It was liberating and, yes, life-changing.

I’ve also, several times, laid on my belly on the deck of a boat whilst wild porpoises raced alongside us for miles. It’s the most amazing sensation, the sensing of connection, the feeling of freedom it gave. I’m lucky to have had that experience. I’m aware that it isn’t available to everyone.

Whilst I get what Richard O’Barry believes – that dolphins have no place in our land based society, that it is cruel to imprison them in tanks and pools, I am only about 85% convinced. I’m not sure whether the good of the species as a whole is better served by humans having the opportunity to see and relate and sometimes interact with them, and thus caring more about this dreadful slaughter which occurs every year in Japan. Would I care as much as I do if I’d never seen a real dolphin. I’d like to think so, but I’m not totally sure, and I can’t speak for others.  Given that there is a case to argue there, it goes without saying that it should be strictly controlled, probably much more strictly controlled than it is right now.

That debate aside, there can be no question about the cruelty of this annual massacre, and it appears to be a by-product of the capture of wild dolphins for zoos and shows. Silly me, imagined that these days only dolphins born in captivity were used.  The ultimate scenes, of the secretly filmed slaughter are heart-breaking.  If you love dolphins as much as many people seem to, you may never be the same again.

The other issue is the sale of the meat thus gained.  Very basically, the larger the fish or mammal the more mercury in its body, and the more dangerous it is for human consumption.  The movie proves that the meat is being sold, wrongly labelled, in Japan (no suggestion that it is exported).   In a society as apparently scrupulous as the Japanese it’s hard to understand how this can be allowed, but it clearly seems to be happening.  The whole thing is a mystery in a way.  This small group of fishermen in a remoteish village are poisoning their own people?  In fact, according to the movie, the meat was being sold to the school system, and since school meals are compulsory, then it meant that school children all over Japan were being affected.  Thankfully, at the end of the movie it states that thanks to the campaigning of two, brave Japanese men that has now stopped.

Clearly, though, there is still a lot to do to bring an end to this horrible practise.  If you haven’t seen the movie, if it isn’t coming to a cinema near you, have the dvd from just $9.78 and are offering the dvd from just 3.97 pounds.  I can’t drop everything and go to Japan, which is something I’d love to do!  But I’m going to look into what the ordinary person might be able to do, and I’m buying the dvd and passing it around to as many people as I can.

As a movie, it’s well-made, and holds the attention throughout.  It’s won an Oscar and a Sundance prize.  For some reason I couldn’t link to the page itself, so I’ve linked here to the trailer via YouTube, but, honestly the trailer only gives you the faintest idea.  I’m still lost for words.

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Él Hierro and La Gomera from Ilfonche

Él Hierro and La Gomera from Ilfonche

Originally uploaded by islandmommacanarias

The year is beginning nicely. The picture is one I took on the brief hike New Year’s Day. I love it when the air is as clear as this. The sky was incredibly blue, and the air was as still as a lazy Summer day in England, apart from scattered birdsong. It’s not often you can see the other islands so clearly. The closer one, to the right of the hill in the foreground is La Gomera, a wonderful quiet island with a slightly magical air to its forrests and mountains. To the left, further away, is Él Hierro, the smallest island, which I still haven’t visited, which is said to be the most peaceful, with wonderful marine life to be seen. Shame there wasn’t time that day to take a drive around our island and glimpse the others. La Palma and Gran Canaria can both be seen quite clearly on a day such as that.

Since working the 6th I am taking a short break. I need to take a breath, smell the roses and catch up on several things. I am taking the catching up easy. I made time to read, which I haven’t been doing for a while. I always fit in books in dribs and drabs, it’s a rare day I don’t read at all, but as for specifically making time for it? Well, I can’t remember the last time. To my delight, the book I chose had me hooked from the start, and I rediscovered that wonderful release of being totally lost in it, unaware of passing time, thirst or hunger. How marvellous to feel that way again!

And I promised to tell you about Baraka………it’s so hard to describe. In fact, the best explanation comes from the director in the extras at the end, when he calls it “A guided meditation”. When I heard that I gave a sharp intake of breath, because it did have on me the effect I expected mediation to have. I can’t meditate. I have tried and tried, but mostly I fall asleep, or my mind wanders and I can’t pull it back. The movie must have been around for a long time. I don’t want to say more than that there is an event in it which places it in time, a news story you will remember. Reason I don’t want to say more than that is because it would lose its impact if you see it. It is a documentary which lets the pictures tell the story. There is amazing music, and there are natural sounds, but no dialogue, no voiceover, no explanations of the stunningly beautiful scenes from nature, of the shattering pictures of the destruction man is causing to the planet, or of the telling scenes from everyday life in different parts of the globe. It is a photographic symphony, a record of the late 20th century, and a work of art. It takes your breath away one moment, and plunges you into the depths of despair the next. It sets your senses tingling, and soothes them at the same time. You might guess – I would highly recommend it to anyone.