Two Sisters

peewee-and-mollie

Peewee and Mollie are two sweet sisters. They may not play together but they still chase each other for food, or choose close steps in the long starcaise inside the house to relax and enjoy the sunlight. They look completely different, yet you can feel the love.

Pewee and Mollie human-mum told me their story. They were found in an animal shelter.  Sisters from the same litter, they had been born in a house where a woman kept sixty cats. Human-mum said that when she went into the shelter with her human-son they set their eyes first on two brothers – black kittens – that came from the same house. Peewee and Mollie were one year and a half by then.

Kittens are obviously the easy option. They are balls of fur that will easily get used to be around you and,suck your finger, fell asleep in your lap… Mollie and Pewee were shy, wild cats that had already been returned to the animal shelter by a family that was astonished when the sisters refused to leave from under the sofa during three days in a row.

I can’t imagine what it is to be born in a house with other sixty cats around where you have little or none human contact. I can’t imagine living inside a cage in the animal shelter or being tossed in a complete new house where humans try to touch you all the time. But the fact is that the sisters were chosen by this other human-family. They realised the black kittens would find a home easily, but for the sisters was far more challenging. Not everybody takes the time to understand, respect and get to know animals.

The first time I met Peewee and Mollie was two years ago. They were very shy and ran away just  by hearing me approaching. This year they are a bit more playful and they even allowed me to pet them a couple of times. Their human-mum told me she had to bribe them out from down the sofa by learning a cat-communication technique – this was the first time they brought them to their current home and sisters refused to make any contact. This techinique consists on looking at a cat in the eye blinking really slowly. Apparently, cats do this when they feel relaxed, so if they see you relaxed, they understand there is no danger.

I’m so happy Mollie and Peewee got a third chance. They are not playful or friendly cats, but who says you have to be all laughs to be loved?


Pewee y Mollie son dos preciosas hermanas. Puede que no suelan jugar juntas, pero aun se pelean por la comida y eligen dos escalones juntos en la larga escalera dentro de casa para relajarse y disfrutar de los rayos de sol.

La mamá-humana de Pewee and Mollie me contó su historia. Las gatitas – de la misma camada – nacieron en una casa donde una mujer acogía sesenta gatos. Mamá-huma me dijo que cuando ella y su hijo-humano fueron al refugio de animales estuvieron a punto de llevarse dos hermanitos – gatitos negros – que venían de la misma casa. Peewee y Mollie tenían ya más de un año y medio.

Los cachorros de gato era la opción más sencilla: unas pelusillas negras que se habrían acostumbrado a la compañía humana sin ningún problema. Mollie y Peewee eran unas criaturas asustadizas y salvajes. Otra familia ya las había devuelto al refugio en solo tres días – al ver que las hermanas se negaban a salir de debajo del sofá.No me puedo imaginar lo que es nacer en una casa con otros sesenta gatos donde una tiene poco o ningún contacto con humanos. No me puedo imaginar lo que es tener que sobrevivir en un refugio o que te arrojen a una nueva casa donde los humanos se empeñan en tocarte todo el rato. Pero la cosa es que esta nueva familia (mamá-humana, papá-humano e hijo-humano) se dio cuenta de que los gatitos negros encontrarían un hogar enseguida, mientras que la situación de las hermanas era mucho más complicada. No todo el mundo se molesta en comprender, respetar o llegar a conocer a un animal.

Hace dos años conocí a Peewee and Mollie por primera vez. Eran tan tímidas que salían corriendo solo al oírme andar. Este año son un poco más juguetonas e inlcuso me dejaron que las acariciase un par de veces. Su madre-humana me explicó como había conseguido sacarlas de debajo del sofá la primera vez que llegaron casa. Resulta que hay una técnica de comunicación con gatos según la cual tienes que mirar al felino directamente a los ojos mientras parpadeas muy lentamente. Al parecer esto es lo que hacen los gatos cuando están relajados – con lo que, si te ven haciéndolo, entienden que no hay peligro.

Estoy muy contenta de que Mollie y Peewee tuvieran una tercera oportunidad. No son gatas juguetonas o amigables pero, ¿quién dice que una tiene que ser todo sonrisas para ser amada?

London

london

I visited London for the first time in 2011. I was 18. It looked like a weird, mysterious, eccentric place. It had daker vibes than Paris – the other big capital I had visited so far – but I loved it. Every stone, every mouldy monument, every dirty corner.

Back in October this year. London again. Westminster Abbey. The House of Lords. The Big Ben. I felt sad. Angry. Upset. Betrayed. I had been checking out twitter, FB and reading all sort of disturbing news.

London, you’re full of shit, I thought. You’re all full of shit. I just want to go but I’m trapped here for at least two years to finsih my PhD. Fuck.

I was with my mother. She said, ‘don’t worry. History swings. When I was young it was a moment of freedom… new values… liberation… we’re going back the dark times I guess. It’s all the same, all the time.’

I got annoyed at her. I’m 23, for God’s sake. You’re going, mum, I thought. You’re going some time in the next twenty, thirty years. I’m stuck here. I don’t want to be here.

Frustration. I feel uproted in every possible sense. I’m a ‘woman’ and I put that in quotations because I don’t see myself in the word – not much – I think we should invent another word for a third genre that is not cursed . That is not artificial. I’m bisexual. I’m an immigrant. I demand absolute freedom on my body and my life. And oustide, the stories we heard in the media are stories of opression. Stories that deny what I feel I am.

London. I love you. It’s not your fault.

 


 

Visité Londres por primera vez, hallá por 2011, con 18 años. Todo era tan extraño, excéntrico, misterioso. Encontré vibraciones mucho más oscuras que en París – la única otra capital que había visto hasta la fecha – pero se ganó mi corazón. Cada piedra. cada monumento castigado por la lluvia, cada sucia esquina.

Octubre 2016. Londres. Westminster Abbey. The House of Lords. The Big Ben. Rabia. Enfado. Traición. Justo después de mirar Twitter y FB para leer toda clase de noticias desagradables.

Londres, estás lleno de mierda, pensé. Todos estáis llenos de mierda. Solo me quiero ir pero no puedo, estoy aquí atrapada por lo menos por otros dos años, hasta que termine el doctorado. Mierda.

Mi madre estaba a mi lado aquella mañana, y me dijo, ‘no te preocupes. La historia es así, ciclos… van y vienen… cuando yo era joven eran tiempos de libertad, valores nuevos… y ahora nos toca volver a los tiempos oscuros. Es siempre la misma historia.’

Me sentó fatal lo que dijo. Tengo 23 años, por Dios. Tú te irás más pronto, pensé, mamá, a ti te quedan qué, ¿veinte o treinta años? Pero a mí me toca quedarme. Y no quiero.

Frustración. Me siento desarraigada, dentro y fuera. Soy una ‘mujer’ – y lo pongo entre comas porque no me veo en esa palabra, creo que deberíamos inventar otra para un tercer género que no esté maldito. Que no sea tan artificial. Soy bisexual. Soy immigrante. Exigo absoluta libertad sobre mi cuepro y mi vida. Y fuera, las historias que me llegan son historias de opresión, historias que niegan lo que siento y lo que soy.

Londres. Te quiero. No es culpa tuya.

 

‘Elk Tongue’ and The Revenant

therevenant

 

“The main character, his name was Elk Tongue. I went to the director and said, ‘What parent in their right mind would name their kid Elk Tongue? It’s like naming your kid ‘dumb ass’ (…)”

Leonardo DiCabrio has earned his Oscar. Not only because he ate raw bison liver but he also learned two new languages for his role: Pawnee and Arikara – spoken by Native Americans in Oklahoma and Dakota.

This was something I liked a lot in The Revenant – apart from the beautiful landscapes and its intensity. I think the reason behind it is that Alejandro Iñárritu is its director. He’s not American, but Mexican, so he had to learn English first to be where he’s now – in one of the highest postions in Hollywood, I’d say.

Iñárritu is a multilingual director – yey, we’re an increasing number! He has made films both in Spanish – Amores Perros, Biutiful – and English – Birdman and Babel, a film that has much to do with languages and communication.

We’ve lots of languages in this film, including French and Hardy’s own personal dialect – seriously, I could barely understand his character, John Figtzerald.

In The Revenant   US is no man’s land, where invasors – French and English – figh their way, massacring the Native American’s tribes, who in turn attack back the best they can. In this not very welcoming place Hugh Glass – who apparently existed back in the time – stands out as a man who married a  Pawnee woman and is taking care of their son – although nothing of this seems to be historically accurated.

At the beginning he’s attacked my a bear protecting her two cubs – wonderful CGI, for a change. To me this violent attack was a metaphor of the North American’s invasion. Can be blame the bear that is trying to protect her offsprings? Native Americans were protrayed as the bad guys in so many US Westerns – I think it’s outrageous. At least Iñárritu is giving them a much decent role in his story.

Coming back to Hugh Glass, he’s a very literate man: he speaks Pawnee, and it’s this language precisely – and not his native English – the one that  brings him encouragement in his darkest moments – he imagines his wife talking to him. He also speaks Arikara which, arguibly, brings him his much desired revenge.

Alejandro Iñárritu took special care of the accuracy of Native American languages in the film. Here it is an interview made to one of his advisors, who explained to him why calling his main character ‘Elk Tongue’ was not the brightest idea.

So there you go. If you go to a foreign, dangerous land, bring with yourself a conversational phrase book. You never know when you have to scream for help or ask permision to share a raw bison recently hunted…

Have you watched The Revenant? Could you understand Tom Hardy?

 

 

Diving in a Dutch film: Nova Zembla.

Nova Zembla

So it was New Year’s eve and I was spending the night in the Netherlands with a Dutch family. We ate oliebollen – if you don’t know what it is you’re missing the greatest fried sweet after Spanish churros – and plaid sjoebak,  which helped me to release all the bad vibes from 2015. Then we had to wait until 12am to open the champaign and, naturally, watching a movie was the best idea. Because technology is brilliant – when it cooperates – we couldn’t quite work out how to put the English subtitles on. Finally I said I didn’t mind watching the film – Nova Zembla – in Dutch – even if I had just started studying the language.

So, did I enjoy it even if I missed 100% of the dialogues? Of course! Let’s not forget that cinema started as a silent art…

1. The plot. You don’t need dialogue to understand the plot. In most films – unless they are like Saraband – the characters movements and the change of setting tells us what’s going on in a clear way. For example, in Nova Zembla  there’s a scene in which the characters are being chased by a massive polar bear and, as everyone in the room, I was suffering for them – I am not a psycho!

2. The characters.  The human face is a great map of expressions and if the actors know how to do their job properly we get if they are happy, needy, angry… It’s also easy to see who is the good guy – if he’s clean and seems stupidly innocent – and the bad guy – dirty, a messy beard, giving suspicious looks over his shoulder… etc.

3. Landscape and photography. Nova Zembla  tells the story of a ship and her crew during the 16th century. The visual aspect of the film was impressive and I really enjoyed being trapped inside the ship’s gutters or wandering in the vast whiteness of the Pole North. Images are breathtaking on their own: when watching The Revenant I could barely understand Tom Hardy’s accent yet the film traumatised me all the same.

4.Chance to feel smart. When you’re starting with a new language you obviously haven’t acquired the necessary skills to understand a full lenght movie. Yet it’s so much fun trying to ‘tame’ your ear to the new sounds. And when you recognise small words you get all excited – it’s very rewarding.

5. Let’s explore. We’re so used to the American and perhaps English way of doing films that I think we forget there is a complete different cinema world out there. It’s so interesting watching what other countries do, how they tell stories, how they incorporate their own culture and history to their plots… Nova Zembla narrates a discovery trip, because Dutch people were intrepid sailors in the 16th century. We can also have an insight of the way of living, the way the percieved religion, love and morality… – for example, the wide neckline of the female protagonist might suggest that the Netherlands were in no way as puritanical at people in 16th’s Spain, for example.

So defenitely, if you love cinema and you’re also learning a new language, I would encourage you to start watching films from that country or culture as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid of getting lost without subtitles, because it can be great fun. Check out the trailer and see by yourself!

Do you watch movies in different languages? Have you been brave enough to watch them without subtitles?

 

 

About Carol and spelling your name

 

Carol

I went to watch Carol last December in York. I had great expectations with this movie and I wasn’t disappointed in the slightlest.

The price of Salt – the novel in which the film is based –  is way more than a classic lesbian story to me. When I found myself in love with another woman I was really lost. I had so many questions, so many emotions, fears and doubts boiling inside. Then I came to read this book and it reafirmed what I was feeling. To me, it was also important that it was written by one of my literary idols, Patricia Highsmith. Her stories are dark and twisted, like The Talented Mister Ripley – many of you will know at least the film adaptation. The price of Salt is not spooky but still powerful, one of these novels I cannot forget.

The is told from Therese’s point of view. She’s a young woman working in a shopping Center at Christmas time, where she meets  Carol, who is looking for a toy for her daughter. Carol is definitely the protagonist of both the novel and the film – Cate Blanchett is simply superb, anyone would fall in love with her. However, Carol herself cannot resist Therese’s mysterious aura.

Therese.

There is a scene in which Carol asks Therese about the strange spelling of her name – while both are flirting. ‘Therese’ has, for sure, the resonance from distant lands and that is because her parents are from Czech Republic. Can language or spelling make someone even more attractive? I wish so, as I always have to spell my name wherever I go these days.

Therese is not a common girl. She has a strong, non-apologetic personality, she’s one of these people who knows what she wants and simply goes there and takes it, no matter the price. I admire people like her because it’s so easy to sucumb to ease and laziness in life.

We do so many things a day – we wake up, we go to work or study, we switch on thousand devices, we spend money… – but do we do what we really want to do? No, because it’s complicated. There are so many things that provide instant relief – checking  emails, social media, or buying a sweet – that we have forgotten that the most important things are those difficult to get. We must endure suffering before embracing happiness, it’s always a cycle – I like to think this when things are not going that well.

Therese falls in love and she dares to do so – it is so challenging to open oneself to a stranger, to offer all that we are in exchange of nothing. She ends an unsatisfying relationship with her boyfriend – you also have to be strong to get rid of people who waste your energy instead of enriching it.  And she leaves her part-time job to pursue her dream of being a set designer – or photograph in the movie.

Therese comes a foreign background. I wonder why Patricia Highsmith did this. Perhaps because she knew that when you are from another country you feel like dancing between two worlds: the here and there. Languages and rites are separated and things don’t feel as they should sometimes. You know that no matter how hard you try, you’d never feel what’s to ‘fit in’.

That’s the same I felt when I started writing in English. I know I’m never going to write as well as a native, so I may as well have fun and do it shamelessly and just for the sake of it.

Therese sees in Carol’s love and – spoiler here – rejection a way of finding her own freedom. When you had it all and then lose it all and you discover you are still alive, then I guess everything seems simpler. Since the first second we stepped on this life we walked towards our own end – unavoidably. We should remember that more often to keep trying new things, meeting new people, travelling to distant places.

And those like Therese who are dancing between worlds… sometimes it is a bit sad when you cannot feel completely connected anywhere. But then, I always tell myself, because we are strange, strange things will happen to us. And I like that adjective, beacause strange means not boring. And boring… that’s death in life.

Die Hard and the Germans

die-hard-movie-poster-1988

 

Last week Alan Rickman left us – he was one of my favourite actors ever. Because yes, I’m  the kind of people who prefer a charismatic villain than the always boring good guys. That is why I loved him as a Snape in the Harry Potter films, for example or as the perverted Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd. Last Friday I watched his first debut movie, which turned out to be the first of another famous saga, Die Hard.

how-the-die-hard-director-tricked-alan-rickman-into-making-the-best-scene-of-his-career

Die Hard is an action film and not something I would have choose to watch before, to be honest. Although I have to say that despite its many clichés, I enjoyed it, specially because in the old days the action scenes were really filmed – no computers but flesh and hard floors. For example, poor Alan Rickman was really thrown no less than 20 meters down at the end of the film – which explains why his horror face seems so believable.

I’m sure many of you are familiarised with the plot, that narrates the adventures of John McLean, a NY cop that finds himself locked up in a luxurious skycraper taken by a band of thieves. We have here a young Bruce Willis.

Does his character’s surname – McLean – suggest some Scottish heritage?

The skycraper’s owner is no other than one Mr Takagi – he has the same surname than one of Japanese teachers. When I first saw the character I thought he would be one of the evil ones. Japan was at war with US and they paid for that as in most of US’ movies Japanese guys are crazy assholes – sorry for the word. Kill Bill could be an example.

But no, in Die Hard it gets clear from the very beginning that Mr Takagi is a powerless victim. His whole story is narrated in a few lines – child of Japanese immigrants in US that made himself through scholarships in different Californian universities. So he’s more American than Japanese in the end…

Then the thieves appear. An attractive Alan Rickman followed by a tribe of –mostly– super tall, blond, long-haired men. At the beginning I thought they were Russian. In American movies the bad guys are Japanese… or Russian… or Spaniards. However, when they started speaking I discovered they were… Germans. No less.

Now, I have to thank the scripwriter of this movie, who at least took the bothers to make his characters to speak real German – which always adds some veracity to the screen. They argue with each other in this language, and it’s wonderful to hear Alan Rickman giving them orders in German with his sharp voice. I say I feel grateful because – sadly – in many US movies they don’t really care about other languages apart from English. In The Reader, an adaptation of a novel that is set in Germany, there is one scene that struck me: the main character reading from an English book. Not that German people cannot read English – not at all, I’m jealous of all my German friends for their perfect English accents – but it was obvious that in that particular story at that particular moment the chacter should have been reading a book in his mother tongue. Not mentioning US films set in Ancient Greece where you can see their old manuscripts… in English as well. It completely blows up the great lie that cinema is.

Now, I was wondering, why are the thieves/criminals/terrorists in US movies always Asian or European? Why US does not have its own thieves – as we all have? Why do they feel this urgency of ‘importing’ the bad guys into his movies?

As a curiosity, in the German version of Die Hard the thieves are not German – of course not – but members of the IRA. Don’t you think that’s wonderful? Enemies always come from far, far away, so we don’t feel specially sad when Bruce Willis breaks their necks or throws them through the window of the 38th floor.

But the best thing is that the most German person in the movie is indeed… our Bruce Willis. Born in Germany from a German mother.

That’s how he defeated the super evil Hans Gruber/Alan Rickman?

 

 

 

 

The story of a return – Persepolis

Persepolis

I read Persepolis when I was 14. I lived in Spain and I went to my first Comic-Con – after begging my parents during days. Finally my father agreed to take my sister, my best friend and I to the place of the event. To be fair, it was quite far away from home, and he thought we wouldn’t  be safe in a place full of thousands of friquis – that’s how we call in Spain the people who like reading comics and manga, play videogames and watch Japanese animation.

We arrived and all that I wanted was merchandasing from Naruto or Death Note – back then, my favourite mangas. My dad picked Persepolis for me and bought it as a present thinking that if I wanted to read comincs at least should read a true graphic novel – the fancy word for comics for adults who don’t like to say they read comics.

I read it and loved. But I hadn’t understood it properly until last week, when I got the English translation – I bought the paperback version for 3 pounds in a charity shop.

This is the story of a young girl who recieves a liberal education – because educations one can have many, and some of them intend to send the brain to sleep instead of awake it – and lives in Iran after the Islamic Revoluti0n. What is this? Well, basically consists in closing universities, separating boys and girls in schools, making the veil compulsory… to sum up, applying all the –human interpreted – religious principles of Islam to the every day lives of Iran citizens.

Majarne – that is the name of the author and the main character, because Persepolis is a memoir – grows up reading Simone de Beauvoir, so you can imagine it’s very hard for her to accept the principles from the Islamic Revolution. Because she’s bilingual in French she can move out from the country during the war against Iraq to study her secondary education in the Licée Français in Vienna. Afterwards, she moves to Strasbourg at 23 to study graphic design. She never comes back to Iran.

French saved Majarne and allowed her to find a home in a place where her values and beliefs were not questioned. But, how many languages can one find in Persepolis?

Persian: A very ancient and unique language. It’s spoken in Iran and it’s Majarne’s first language. We can just find it when the characters curse each other. It’s as if she was suggesting that the visceral feelings of anger they are experienced cannot be translated – these feelings that are indeed a consequence of war and discrimination.

For instance, in a chapter called Pasta, a nun in the Catholic student accomodation where Majarne is staying suggests that she’s a thief as every other Iranian. She replies something in Persian – and for the way she’s screaming at the nun we can be sure it’s not something nice.

French: Majarne goes to a bilingual school as a child until the government shuts them all down saying that they promote a decadent education. Later she goes to the Licée Français is Vienna where she studies French culture. She currently lives in France and sometimes call herself a French artist.

German: In her years in Vienna – from 14 to 18 – Majarne has to learn German to communicate in her every day life. When she goes on holidays to the Tyrol – her roomate is from there – she encounters a special difficult accent.

English: Majarne’s teenage idols are all from the English speaking world – from Bruce Lee to Kim Wilde. As many of us, she cannot detach herself from the English speaking culture – music, cinema and so on. I feel English is a lingua franca because one can gain much more freedom by speaking it. English brings you access to a wider culture while allows you to communicate with people from all over the world. How could a language like this be out from Persepolis, which is indeed a story about gaining freedom?

Arabic: Iranian people have to study the religious texts in Arabic instead of in Persian. This is very demanding, and I guess not everyone undertands the prayers if they haven’t had time to study the language. It reminded me to those times when  mass was given in Latin in Spain. People had to seat in church for a long time – this was at the beginning to the 20th century, they listened to something that they knew it was important yet they couldn’t understand it. Is this a hidden form of opression? For some people, getting the bread home each day is a full-time task – they don’t necessarily have time to educate themselves. And learning a new language – as you probably now – is not easy. Acquiring another tongue is like planting a very rare kind of flower. Unless you take proper care of it it’s going to die. Almost everything can kill this flower so you’ve to make sure you are there to prevent it – everyday. Also, religion is suppose to create a sense of communion and bring people together. But a language one cannot understand can be the strongest barrier. Then, teaching people religion in another language might be a contradiction in itself…

persepolis-veil

Persepolis is a very good graphic novel. If you have left your home pursuing more freedom in life and choices, then you’re going to be identified with it. It’s also an iteresting story if you actually want to know more about Iran and its culture. And even if nothing of these specially appeals to you still go and read it, because this is a piece that will make you laugh even if talks about really dark stuff. I think it should be a classic…

Have you read it? Or watched the film? What do you think about it? Have you ever felt like a foreigner – even in your own country?