The truckers were the real heroes

Our plan last night was to put up shelves in our wardrobe and further reduce the chaos of our living conditions, which seems to involve shifting boxes from one room to another, until it becomes unmanageable, then redistributing the boxes to other rooms. Every few days we generate enough garbage to fill the bus and go to the dump, but the total amount of stuff in the house seems to be growing.

It’s quite dispiriting.

So much so that we were quickly distracted from shelves and boxes after I started playing Costa-Gavras’ Missing, recorded on our digital TV drive several months ago.

It’s a great movie. Confusing at the beginning only to reflect the chaos at the start of the coup d’├ętat. Jack Lemmon is fan-bloody-tastic as the conservative curmudgeon who, after a painful series of revelations, realizes that he has been more naive than his idealistic son, and that normal rules of behaviour don’t always apply.

The title above is a quote from one of the American military advisors during the Chilean coup. It stuck in my head, reminding me of other events where “heavy” labour was manipulated by conservative forces: mafia-controlled teamsters in the US; Romanian miners leading a counter-attack to the overthrow of Ceaucescu …

… Yeah my mind gets to thinking …

I had a Chilean cousin-in-common-law in France some years ago, an artist who made delicate mobiles hung before the painted canvas, who seemed to spend more time politicking in the ultra-cliques of Parisian ├ęcoles, who was put through the German highschool in Santiago by his hat-maker mother, who decried the Allende years as times of chaos and roadblocks (by those truckers), and who never understood the fuss about Pinochet.

I was very fond of him, nonetheless, for his naivety in life matters and his attention to detail in his art. He had lived uncomfortably in sin with his girlfriend in Paris for 20 years before he learned that his wife had unceremoniously divorced him in Chile almost as soon as he had left the country. All those years he had denied himself the right to marry and have children. At the age of 50, he was more surprised than disappointed.

After the movie finished, I cleared up the debris in the living room before trying a nightcap in the form of a dram of 37-year-old whisky that was mistakenly sent to us in a Christmas hamper (shortcake and champagne). Standing in the demi-gloom of the cupboard under the stairs, I raised the lid off the box, and it looked just like a coffin.

Maybe it was an association with the movie. Dead bodies splayed on the skylight of the morgue.

I’m sorry to say I didn’t enjoy the whisky.

Ghetto can’t hold you back

The athletics results this last week in Beijing represent the summum of success for Jamaican runners, putting them in first place in the gold medal league table, equal with Russia and ahead of the US.

Bear in mind that Jamaica has a population of only 2.7 million.

Jamaican athletics results

The first gold medal went to Shelly-Ann Fraser in the women’s 100m. Amid the thousands of news stories trying to come up with something original to say, AFP interviewed Shelly-Ann’s mother.

Shelly-Ann Fraser can thank her mother’s uneasy relationship with the Jamaican police for helping her become an Olympic Games sprint champion.

Maxine Fraser, who brought up her daughter in one of the Caribbean’s meanest ghettos, believes her quickfire genes have been passed on to the 21-year-old who led a Jamaican cleansweep in the 100m final in Beijing on Sunday.

Maxine has had to live on her wits all of her life and working as a street vendor she regularly has to put in a blinding turn of pace if police are chasing her for illegal trading.

“This is to show that something good can come out of the ghetto. Ghetto can’t hold you back as long as you have ambition,” said Maxine after watching her daughter take gold.

Source: AFP

The reference to running from the police reminded me of a post I wrote back in March 2006. I’ll give you advance warning: turn your speakers low before you watch the movie.

“[27 March 2006] The source of the sprinters’ success then is that Jamaicans know from a young age and from much experience that at the sound of gunshot …”

Some commentators wonder whether Jamaican runners are not getting a little extra kick from illegal doping …

However, locals have scoffed at suggestions that drugs may be the reason for the country’s recent success.

In fact, many argue that the heavy consumption of yam, banana and breadfruit have helped power the sprinters.

Source: AFP

Nyam yam, myam-myam!

Photos in motion

Here are a couple of examples of a very neat little program called Sqirlz, which makes water-related animations out of photos. In the first example, of Villa Sonsbeek in Arnhem, I tried to capture the slow swell of a breeze-blown lake. I’d give it 5/10.

In the second example, more appropriate for this time of year, I tried out the “snow” option, which is based on the “rain” option. I mention this because it is quite hard to generate a realistic impression of falling snow. In the program “Help” file, it states that speeds of under 1.0 will be jerky in the movie loop. The problem is that any speed over 0.6 is like a blizzard. As a compromise, I set the speed to 0.5, then when I saved the file as a Flash file, I set the frame rate to 10/sec, rather than the default 15, thereby slowing the movement.

What do you think? I’d give it 7.5/10.

For the eagle-eyed among you, this is the same tree-lined path that I photographed in autumn: Grimm Times and A walk in the woods.

Shaking Up Orange Street

Part II of my downtown tour should be loading below. It took a little longer to finish than I’d hoped, partly because I wanted to make it look better than my previous clip, and partly because uploading it to YouTube is very very slow.

As I’ve recommended previously, if your bandwidth is as bad as mine, I would click “play”, then the little “pause” button, and go and boil the kettle. That will give the clip some time to download and give you smoother playback.

Driver! Don’t stop at all

Drawing to the end of my series of images of downtown Kingston, I post below the first part of a drive I took last week with my good friend, Barry White.

I know, it’s the voice.

If all goes according to plan, Part II will include a drive round the main square, Sir William Grant Park (during which you will be grateful that the Internet cannot transmit the overpowering stench of urine and human feces), before heading up one of the most famous streets in music history: Orange Street. We’ll end up at Studio One and see the plan to develop a museum dedicated to the myriad stars who cut their teeth and their first records there.

Part III will begin with a cold one at the original Tastee patty restaurant, site of the Tastee Talent Competition, which most famously gave us Yellowman many moons yore, then scoot quickly through the garrisons of West Kingston: Arnette Gardens, Trench Town, Rema, Tivoli Gardens and Greenwich Town.

On with the show!