Saturday, May 31, 2008

And this one....

Que chulo tu chucho colocho!

There's a great new series of ads for Tortrix airing in Guatemala at the moment. This one filmed in Antigua:

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Adams Family Residence

If there's a worse example of DIY architecture in Antigua and its environs, I'm yet to find it!

This house in San Bartolo with its bizarre Hellenistic details is obviously one that the consejo has somehow managed to overlook. The statues on pedestals are a particularly un-fetching feature and the cupulas are doubly pointless in that there is nothing beneath them and they have been surrounded by particularly nasty classical-effect barrandales.

Yuca Shuca

We're both getting a bit sick of eating yuca after V bought 15 sticks of the stuff last week in Alotenango: "Me fui de boca."

Due to a bad back I haven't been into town much since the Champions League Final on Wednesday. Not only did John Terry miss the penalty and lose the cup for Chelsea, he blew a golden opportunity to make Cristiano Ronaldo the laughing stock of European football. Shame.

The rains have come, but so far Antigua has avoided the worst of the downpours. The other night lightning was flashing away behind the volcano like a faulty lamp and in the morning we learned of serious flood damage in Palín. Still, it amuses me how this kind of weather is reported on the local news stations as if it didn't turn up around this time every year.

Wandering around Antigua today I've noticed a couple of interesting 'hooks' from local establishments such as the "as much wine as you can drink" offer advertised on Fridays at the Cine Lounge. The trick there would seem to be to pick the right movie to accompany a vino tinto bender. Then there's the Martini Night at Nokiate sushi bar: Q100 (approx six pounds fifty) for as many martinis as you can gulp down. Of course it only really becomes value for money after the fourth!

There's also a newish Korean restaurant called Casa Veronica which shows fairly current movies every Tuedsay night which should be worth trying out.

The other night we watched I am Legend, at best half of a good movie. It's great until the dog develops fangs and then the arrival of random Brazilian woman provokes a discomfiting outburst of bollocks about God and Bob Marley.

My blogging will remain intermittent until we get a land line and an Internet connection at home: at least a month away I'd say.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

¿Y si cae el avion???

I was sitting in front of two rather nervous Chapines on the creaky old A300 Airbus that took me from Miami to Guatemala City.

The plane was generally empty of passengers, and to some extent of crew too. Those there were had arrived late on a flight from Montego Bay and held us up. Then a passenger who was "unfit to fly" had to be forcibly disembarked while we were still at the gate and a further delay ensued as his hold baggage was located and removed.

"Que peludo eso," groaned one of the pair behind me as we clonked down onto runway, coming in unusually from the north with the barranco in front of us.

I had broken my oath not to fly AA again and paid the consequences, but it was kind of worth it for the quality of service and conditions on the Virgin Atlantic flight. I watched three movies. First Beowulf, intentionally stunning and unintentionally hilarious ("Oiv come to kill youar monstah!"). Then Stardust, a delightful kidadult fantasy with great turns from Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert de Niro and others, and cleverly co-scripted by Jonathan Woss´s wife. The way the different groups of characters and narrative strands were woven together was a large part of the viewing pleasure. And lastly Cloverfield, which may be easier to follow on a big screen, or at least a TV with a better brightness control. I can see why Kermode said you can´t wait for the giant lizards to get to work on these particular young New Yorkers.

I rode home with V and Jeannette in the Peugeot that V had hired that morning. They were both recovering from excesses the night before at the monthly gathering at the Panzon Verde. It had all ended in a ´despelote total´with the exhibiting artist Russell stripping naked and jumping into the pool in the middle of the restaurant.

The rise in grain prices is clearly being felt here already. A piece of local bread (Frances) now costs Q0.50 at our local shop, compared to Q0.15 just a year ago. I remain gobsmacked however that you can still buy ten great avocados for the equivalent of around one pound Sterling.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Iron Man

"Gadget porn," pronounced a review which Alex read to me last week. It certainly has a couple of truly gadgeterotic sequences and these coupled with the very-watchable wetware performances of Downey Junior and Jeff Bridges make Iron Man a fun movie; it's just not as fun or exciting as the trailer had led me to believe.

An overlong set-up phase gives way to a short and simplistic cartoon action phase. If these had been evened out a bit more, I'm sure I'd have been happier that I made the effort to see it on the big screen.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

So it goes

I started reading Slaughterhouse 5 this morning. What a great book! Ian Lee and co on The Lost Initiative podcast had recommended it as "like a Desmond episode" and indeed, a few weeks ago on Lost there was a TV game-show on in the background where the answer to a question was the name of Kurt Vonnegut's novel!


There are a pair of '14-'18 biplanes high up in the sky above the farm this afternoon performing loops and other acrobatic manoeuvres (Immelman turns?). Maybe someone is making a movie.

Earlier I watched a red kite trying its best to soar gracefully whilst a crow repeatedly niggled it from the side, pecking at the larger bird's head, presumably in defence of a nearby nest.

The red kites first appeared in these parts two or three years ago and, like the Poles, are now a good deal less rare. Maggie leaves out bacon for them on the summer house wall.

There's a dead bunny on the lawn close to a bed of tulips with its guts at full extension. A big black crow has landed at a safe distance and keeps hopping towards the carcass, but every time I shift my position it reluctantly turns its back and retreats. The lawn has that freshly-mowed smell because my father was out on his tractor-mower a little earlier.

The Housemartins returned from their winter break in the Med a fortnight ago. George the stallion had bird-crap on his whithers again.

Once the horses here are patas arriba, their remains are fed to the lions and tigers at Longleat. George is getting on a bit at 35. Through him I've learned that horses can be wonderfully characterful and demonstrative creatures.

My favourite tree in the garden used to be the Japanese Cherry, which used to blossom beautifully around this time of year. When it inexplicably died in 2006, my father bought Maggie a weeping willow sapling, which is now doing just fine a few feet away from its predecessor's stump, around which the grass has been left to grow long.

The tulips are past their prime; a pity because my final farewell BBQ has been organised for next Sunday. I've advertised it as a pool party. That's "very LA," quips Surfer. "Shall I bring some bling?"

The air is suddenly thudding now as a big Chinook passes over the valley. Prince William dropping in on his bird in Chapel Row again?

Monday, May 05, 2008

New additions

Mayday Mayday

Was dragged along to the Mayfayre in Bradfield this afternoon. As all of us townies know, English country people do some very strange things around this time each year. Pig racing was the stand-out non-urban activity on the programme. There was also a fair bit of maypole-dancing, sheep-shearing, and gun dog parading.

Maggie supplied Stacy and Duke for a bit of dressage. Duke is one quarter thoroughbred and three quarters shire. Four-legged entertainment was followed by the two-wheeled kind, courtesy of the stunt mountain-bikers of MAD. My personal favourite exhibit was the rather more static selection of birds of prey.

A full set of pics here.

Child 44

The word on Tom Rob Smith's debut novel was that as soon as it reached the shops, Ridley Scott personally rang up the author to bag the film rights. It's not hard to see why, because the spine of the plot consists of a series of highly exciting and undoubtedly cinematic set pieces, all but the very last delivered faultlessly.

The trouble with the finale is that it requires Rob Smith to draw together the two separate premises for his story. The first of these is a fictional reworking of the career of Ukrainian mass-murderer Andrei Chikatilo, shifted backwards 30 or so years to the last few months of Stalin's regime.

This relentless series of child killings connects with the more central disequilibrium: that in the personal and professional life of MGB agent Leo Demikov, driven to oppose the system he has upheld so zealously by the machinations of a vindictive subordinate and, ultimately, by a realisation that the Soviet Union's denial of all forms of crime except those committed by certain pre-defined deviants, may well have been providing the perfect cover for serial murder.

Leo's career (and domestic) downturn is the real engine of this story, and although his life sheds its stability largely through no fault of his own other than a certain amount of tunnel vision, you are left wondering (as in The Lives of Others) just how this unthinking servant of the totalist state is able to make such a rapid transition to free thinker. But this novel is so fast paced the reader is left with little time to reflect on this, or indeed on some of the other interesting themes that lurk just beneath the surface.

I for one thought there was more to be had out of the relationship between Leo and his wife Raysa, but the right kind of nuanced dialogue that was absent on these pages will, with luck, be supplied by Ridley Scott's chosen screenwriter before Child 44 takes its place as a screen hit. Anyway, Rob Smith has undoubtedly achieved a bit of a coup by fabricating so artfully the sort of situation where a husband are forced by almost impossibly tricky circumstances to rediscover the kind of tension that drives cinematic romance.

The climax was the only real disappointment in this gripping novel. Not only does the drawing together of the two main plot strands appear artificial, but the final confrontation which provides the necessary reveal is more worthy of hackneyed TV drama than the often highly original and thrilling sequences which preceded it.