21 February 2008

Gone Fishing

Here is my attempt to capture last night's full lunar eclipse. No, the moon doesn't jiggle and squirm across the night sky in the Southern Hemisphere. I like the effect, though.

We're off to
Villarrica/Pucón for the next week to swim, fish, explore, eat, drink, etc. It's the last week before the summer officially ends and everyone heads back to school. I would say it's like Labor Day weekend in the US but it sounds like for most this is the last week to be spent away from home. Many people return to Santiago next week to prepare for the new school year. Hopefully we'll get lucky and it will feel slow and sleepy down there. No matter, I'm pretty excited.

The Villarrica/Pucón area constitutes the northern top of the Chilean Lake District, land of volcanoes, indigenous forests, and the Mapuche. The Lake District extends south down to Puerto Montt which is considered the northern top of Patagonia. There are something like a dozen or so major lakes in this region and hundreds of minor ones, all glacial, and many date back to the last era of glaciation, roughly 10,000 years ago. It's also home to the second longest-lived tree on the planet (following the sequoia), the alerce tree. Known as lahuen and considered sacred to the Mapuches it was nearly harvested to extinction by the Europeans.

The rich and fertile soil of this region was quite attractive to the Spanish Conquistadors of the mid-16th century and they fought the Mapuches for it for nearly one hundred years. It wasn't until the early 19th century and the inexhaustible work of the Jesuits that the Maphuche dominance began to wane. It was during this time, about the 1850s, that the tide of German immigrants waxed. Today this is reflected in the architecture of the region as well as some of the vocabulary:
küchen anyone?

Conflicts with the Maphuches still continue, though it's more a war of cultural, political, and economic attrition than outright genocide like the days of yore. There seems to be constant problems between traditional land holdings and private developers, lumber and other exploitative resource companies, the Chilean government in general, as well as the tourist industry. Read all about their struggles on their website. Not a pretty picture.

I don't think I'll try to summit the volcano this go-around. I see no reason to walk around on snow without the benefit of skis and I'm pretty sure what white stuff remains up there would resemble many things but snow. No, I think I'll concentrate on renewing my love for standing in rivers and casting microscopic fuzzy things into their ripples all with the patience and hope that I can fool an ancient creature into thinking that the fuzzy thing is something to eat. If I can lure a few silver flashes out of their water and rock holdings and convince them that what I'm offering is something delectable and sweet and not pointed and sharp then I will be content to stare up at the also ancient cone and imagine what it will be like to ski down from it sometime this winter.

Until then, saludos!

Henry Thomas: Fishing Blues.mp3

Like Henry "Ragtime" Thomas? Support the people who put him on records! Buy Folkways Records here. Buy Yazoo Records here.

19 February 2008

More More Me!

And to round out the low-res, low-quality test videos, I dusted this one off from 2003 taken in the very southern tip of Idaho's Pioneer Mountains. The ever-present Bob was behind the camera (was that a phone you filmed this with?) and leaves the memorable quote at the very end. We named the little stash Lizzie's Bowl after the insane border collie that does not quit. If you look closely you can see her turning my S-turns into $-turns.

Yes, some would derisively call this "meadow skipping". I would call it a helluva day--a helluva two weeks--skiing great snow with great friends in a very beautiful and very quiet part of the world. There are few things more enjoyable than meadow skipping at the edge of a desert.

Those two weeks also remind me of my beloved 190 Black Diamond Arc Angels and perhaps now is a good time to pay tribute. What a pair of skis! They were my one and only pair for about four years running. I even took them to Kazakhstan in 2006 where they faithfully served as my early season exploration skis. Sadly, however, the Tien Shan took the best from them. I honored them by attaching them to some sort of a handcrafted bench that had also seen better days. The bench was situated in a pretty apple grove not far from our house. It cried out for a new seat and I gave it one. I hope it's still there though I can certainly see someone ripping them off the frame and skiing on them or using them as scrap wood for their homes or something of the like. RIP.

This is the best I can do during these relentless wake and bake days that have settled into the Central Cordillera. By all accounts the western half of the US is experiencing the best winter in something like 1748 years. I need all the relief I can muster. And for the faithful up north here are a few maudlin snow songs for you:

Leonard Cohen: Avalanche.mp3
Galaxie 500: Snowstorm.mp3

And one for me!

Townes Van Zandt: Snow Don't Fall.mp3

12 February 2008

New Feature: More Me!

I've been tinkering for a bit and I think I've figured out how to post videos (yes, that's me, right there on the cutting edge of technology!). I'll throw these two up as a test and a testament that, in fact, at some point during the year there is real snow down here. From there we'll see what becomes of this.

The first should be a short video of me climbing the last little bit of Cerro San Gabriel. The cinematographer and wise-guy commentator is mi amigo, Andres. Note: From our vantage point below the peak it didn't appear the snow was continuous from the top. We were wrong and we should have carried our skis the entire way up. Even still, we had a great descent.

Yes, action-packed and terribly exciting. I know.

The next "film" was shot by another travieso, Pablo, on our first trip up to El Monumento Cristo del Redentor on the Chilean/Argentinean border--just up the highway from Portillo ski resort. I was, ahem, waiting for my
compañeros, found myself a little bored and restless, so decided to climb up an apron and ski it down. Pablo arrived just as I started my descent and decided to get it down on film, or Xs and Os, +s and -s, or cyber-stuff, or whatever. Again, not real exciting but think of them as trailers to something much bigger and much more exciting! Maybe.

11 February 2008

Please Visit Your National Parks Part Two

Ok, I mean it. Like, seriously. If you haven't visited a state or national forest and/or park recently then do it. Now. Or soon. If there is one thing those of us from the US and Canada have to be thankful for it's the giant stretches of beautiful land that are open and mostly free to the public. Sure, they're mismanaged and, sure, there aren't enough of them and, sure, some of them have too many roads and whatever and whatever. But they're there and they're available to you and there is no question many of them contain some of the most inspiring geography on the planet. There are also few countries on the planet with the resources available even to consider the idea of open and protected space. Whatever you do or don't do, do not ever, ever take these places for granted.

Witness the next reportable mis-adventure:

What to do on a sleepy summer Sunday in Santiago? Go fishing? Why not? I haven't fished in probably at least two full years, maybe more. (Sad, yes?) And while Chile's Central Zone is not exactly known for it's trout streams--most of the river systems blow out of the Andes with substantial force and cloudy glacial run-off water--there are (reportedly) a few places that clear up and slow down enough to pitch a fly or two.

I've even seen proof of this: roadside shacks on the Rio Aconcagua will sometimes feature truchas with their empanadas and pas asado. And, most tellingly, I've seen bottled, pickled trout concoctions here and there labeled Truchas Rio Clarillo. I don't know if I've ever had pickled trout before, and certainly none from the Rio Clarillo--is there any difference between pickled trout from the Rio Clarillo and, say, the Rio Aconcagua?--but it's a pretty sure sign that something swims below the surface of those rivulets.

So I headed for the Reserva Nacional Rio Clarillo whose name graces the famous pickled trout concoction and is also home to a rare Chilean iguana. The Rio Clarillo is a tributary of the Rio Maipo, the watershed for the vineyards of the Maipo Valley as well as much of the agriculture for the very rich Central Valleys. It's a 33,000 acre reserve that butts up against the cordillera proper and notable for it's biodiversity, birds, and granite-lined swimming holes. Hadn't been there but all the pieces put together made it sound intriguing enough.

The first difficulty of any excursion is getting through and out of the damn city. Santiago is big (about five million) and we live in a far corner of it. It seems that no matter where we want to go we always have to bisect the city first, hitting every stop light and sign, before we're under way. This occupies the first hour of driving. Once out of Santiago, however, roads, roadsigns, logic, and patience all deteriorate quickly. This occupied most of the rest of another hour. The reserve is only thirty kilometers from downtown Santiago but as anybody will tell you, once you leave Santiago you enter a different country, a different mindset, altogether. This comes with advantages as well as disadvantages.

As you drive by the massive Concha y Toro winery located on the outskirts of Santiago the road twists and turns and shrinks. Traffic disappears, people smile; it's always nice to leave the city. The dogs were awake and happy. I put in Pete Krebs & the Gossamer Wings's blissful Sweet Ona Rose. I felt like the day was saved.

It wasn't. Thirty minutes later I and three other cars came to an abrupt end of our road. The gate to the Reserva Nacional was closed and, apparently, locked. A medium-sized sign with the letters C, E,
R, R, A, D, and O hung on the gate. Then I noticed the smaller-sized sign that stated dogs were not allowed in the Reserve. So even if the park sign read A-B-I-E-R-T-O I would have been turned around. But it wasn't. The Reserva Nacional Rio Clarillo was closed on a sleepy, sunny, summer day.

Why, I asked to some guy with a look of bewilderment on his face as he walked back to his car, was the park closed? Too many people, he said. Too many people. Too many people inside the park. And because even if there weren't too many people inside the park I had two dogs inside my car, and two dogs were two too many for the Reserva Nacional, I turned the car around and drove the hour and a half back home. Right back through the city. And the streetlights. And ninety-five degree weather. And that's the end of my story.

My only question to someone, anyone, was exactly how many people were inside the park yesterday? I mean, there are five million people in Santiago and it's safe to say that four million of them are in Valparaiso and
Viña del Mar this time of year. Fine. That leaves one million. Were there one million people in Reserva Nacional Rio Clarillo yesterday? Half that? Were there one hundred? How many people does it take to close a National Reserve? I'm sure I'll never know the answer. I'm also fairly sure I'll never catch a trout from the Rio Clarillo.

Oh well, at least DeVotchka has a new album coming out next month. Here's "Transliterator" from
A Mad and Faithful Telling.


Here's some guy's blog who was able to get inside the park and take some photos. And below is an informative video made by CONAF (basically the Chilean Forest Service) that depicts the pleasures and profundities of the Rio Clarillo. It also features some additional shots of the surrounding flora as well as an inspirational soundtrack.

Nice condor!

02 February 2008

Lolita Update!

If ever there was a band that could and should compose the score for the soundtrack of another film version of Lolita it's the Tindersticks. Their blend of melancholic romanticism and seedy theatrics would set the perfect tone. They're a bit literary, a touch dark, more than a little sensual, and a tad creepy. Add their brushes with sadness, humor, elegance, and a nod to the tragic and you'd have it all. In fact, their aesthetic blend of music has already landed them two very cool soundtracks for the equally provocative Claire Denis: Trouble Every Day (2001) and Nénette et Boni (1996).

Well, the groop has posted their new single for their new album The Hungry Saw on their MySpace page. And wouldn't you know it, the title, "The Flicker of a Little Girl," sounds awfully Lolita-like. While I haven't gone over the lyrics to the new song yet I wonder if the gang (now, apparently, paired down
only to three) have been perusing Nabokov as well.

By the way, Stuart, when you're ready to start this new project of mine let me know. Thing is, I have someone in mind for the role of Humbert Humbert. In fact, he may already be playing him!

Until then: The Flicker Of A Little Girl.mp3

(Note: The Humbert Humbert-Humbert seen in the last link mentioned above most certainly does not live with the wife/poet/teacher woman mentioned as well. That special bedspace is now reserved for a someone most definitely his junior.)

01 February 2008

Cloud Music

I heard thunder yesterday. Under most circumstances, and certainly back in Idaho, Nevada, Utah, or Colorado, a passing late afternoon thunderstorm would not cause such excitement. In Chile's Central Cordillera, however, these events seem a rarity. From sometime around the end of November until May-ish the weather patterns are constant. Temperatures rise during the day, humidity drops severely (into the teens), the sun opens up and bears down. It's a little like north and central Mexico, a little like the Western US without the intensity of the sun. The weather stagnates.

The evening brings down-canyon winds that blow from the upper elevations of the Andes and this cools everything off. It's pleasant and it's good for sleeping but it doesn't change for months on end. So the sound of thunder surprised me and caused me to stop what I was doing, go outside, and search for signs of life. There were plenty. All over the foothills and high peaks. El Plomo was lost to the clouds. The espino trees of the foothills all turned a foreboding black. Change was in the air and it felt good. Hank and I ran around the house trying to get the best shots of a very fleeting moment.

And as soon as it started it was all over. Then it was time to play music! The first band that came to mind was the Kingsbury Manx because their albums come complete with the often larger than life cloud and tree and mountain paintings of Scott Myers who also plays bass and keyboards in the band.

Their second album, Let You Down, is a great late afternoon soundtrack. Pastoral harmonies; strumming, shimmering guitars; mildly hypnotic melodies; and light as air sonic textures. What more could you ask for? The distant sound of thunder, perhaps?

Patterns Shape The Mile.mp3
My Shaky Hand.mp3 From the Japanese Bonus Tracks Version

Then I remembered what could be the best and most appropriate soundtrack to a summer thunderhead, Andrew Bird's Weather Systems EP.

At only thirty-four minutes it passes almost as quickly as a thunderstorm and it's at least as pretty. The layering and looping of his violin mirrors the climbing levels of the cumulus clouds; the lyrical and sometimes somber moodiness imitates the oncoming mass of electricity, power, and breathtaking elegance. Everything about this short album is perfectly suited for a reflective late afternoon climatic change. I only wish it, like the clouds themselves, would have lasted a little longer.

Weather Systems.mp3
Don't Be Scared.mp3

You like? You buy. Support the troops!
The Kingsbury Manx at Amazon and Insound
Andrew Bird at Amazon and Insound