Friday, December 23, 2005

Hot Christmas

The sun is shining,
the grass is green

The orange and palm trees sway
There's never been such a day
In Beverly Hills, L.A.

But it's December the twenty-fourth
And I am longing to be up north

Who can tell me what follows here?

Chilean Christmas is a deeply religious holiday. Normally, you´ll attend mass at least once on the 24th and 25th. And were talking long bench-sittings. There is music, candles and prayers to the Lord. So far, all is good.
It´s when you enter the shopping centers that things get really perverted. Where to start... The Christmas tree is at least 10 m tall and with enough blinking lights to give blind people epilepsy. It´s surrounded by red carpets and drapings, weird interpretations of the reindeer species, and finally a live Santa, swetting away in full costume as he receives the young consumers-of-tomorrow. To his aid, some petite girls in short Christmas dresses. Add to this the catchy pop/rock versions of Holy Night. Just horrible.
If you for a moment felt swept away by the festive ambient, you´ll be abruptly deprogrammed the moment you step out the automatic doors. Swaying palms, the sun at zenith and reggaeton spilling out from every car around you. Talk about culture clash.
Ok, so the Christmas spirit is totally messed up, but you can lie in a swimming pool all day if you want.
So maybe it´s not so bad after all.

... but, come on, Santa selling Bar-B-Ques?

Merry Christmas

It´s Christmas, a time of generosity and solidarity.
Being so, we went to give breakfast and spread the holiday spirit to the people that sleep on the streets. You don´t see them very often, but there are plenty.
We concentrated our efforts to those lying under the roofs of a large fruit and vegetable market, La Vega. The trick is to get there early, before sunrise and before the people sleeping are ousted by the merchants.
The first we encountered was a family with two teenage daughters. We gave them coffee, sandwiches and fruitcake. A few paces away was a mother with her 8 month-old infant. Sleeping on cardboard.
Our usual route ends in an alley with several clandestine pubs. When we are all out of givings we stay and chat with the residents. They are always keen to make conversation. My uncle Luchin, who is one of the organizers, enriches our presence with his violin playing.
We found one man lying on his side. When we left he was sitting on a chair, with coffee and a sandwich in his hands. That´s what this is about.
Not to change their lives, but to give them a break.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

For the Organ

The Organ. You see it in the back of the church,
always with a broad, metallic grin.

It´s celestial harmonies can soften your emotions.
It´s trumpets and bass pipes can knock you off the bench.
It can decorate or dominate.
What can´t it do?
Be ignored.
The Organ is the King of all instruments.

I started taking organ lessons in April, and this Friday we had our latest presentation. I performed three pieces by Matthew Locke, entitled "For the Organ", a toccata by Buxtehude (BuxWV165) as well as a piece written by myself, "Variations of a theme".
The organ in question is located in the chapel of Hospital del Salvador, a public hospital. The chapel is seen after by a religious community of nuns. The poor souls have to bare with our constant organ practising, which at times is far from heavenly.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

I live here

You must have Quicktime installed to see this 360-degrees image.
It was assembled from 37 photos, which is way more than needed...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Santa Lucia

Don´t they look sweet?

Swedish traditions reach as far as their followers, and Lucia is no exception. It´s normally celebrated on the morning of the 13th, but the Swedish community in Santiago had chosen to hold it today since it´s a national holiday. It took place in the German church "El Buen Pastor". I went as a mere spectator but was called in for duty and soon found myself in the traditional outfit: white cape, cone-hat and star-on-a-stick in hand. We sang the usual tunes, accompanied on the piano by a very skilled guy. I really enjoyed the songs, the candles and everything. Christmas is a-coming!
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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Three days by the sea

Last Thursday Macarena and I set sail to Viña del Mar and the Pacific Coast. Already there were Patricia, my mother and sister. We had been invited to stay in Patty's apartment in Reñaca for a few days, and naturally we accepted without objection.
We watched the sunset from the beach, how the sun slowly drowned in the horizon to the immortal sound of dying waves. (Sorry about all the death metaphors.)
Only Isabel dared to enter the water, and she stayed for about one second. You see, it can be really warm and nice on the beach, but the water is cold as ice. This is due to a current coming from the Antarctic. Further north it gets a lot nicer.
One night as we dwelled in the apartment, peacefully watching television, we were startled by the sound of AA-guns. We threw ourselves to the windows and saw tracer rounds lighting up the bay. Apparently they were practising their aim on beacons in the night sky. So much for the Pacific coast. It was quite entertaining though. We also saw a lot of helicopters hovering over the beach. It seems the Chilean Navy's very motivated these days.

Alas, this dream came to it's end, we returned to the capital and the next day my mother boarded the plane back to Sweden. One day later she reported gloomy weather from Eriksberg, Uppsala. She had travelled around 13 000 kms in 24 hours, that gives an average speed of 541 km/h.
Quite remarkable.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Good morning, I´m going home.

That´s what I could say to a colleague if I were to meet one on my way out the door. You see, I´ve just finished a project, together with Benjamin, and I´m leaving the office. It´s 6.30 AM, and a new week has just been born.
In a few hours the post producer will come in and assemble all our little sequences together and make a lovely little commercial about yoghurt.
Aside from all the work, this weekend has been really good. On Saturday we went to see Les Luthiers in the great Teatro Municipal. They are just unbeatable. A show of music and humour of world class. When the show was over I found myself wishing for them to step out on the stage again, if just for a brief moment. I don´t think I´ve ever felt like that about any stage artist before.

If you were on our street right now, you´d soon see me exiting the building and making my way toward the bus. If you were a stalker, you´d see me getting a seat and stare blankly before me until reaching my stop. If you were a burglar, you might also see me entering my house and later my room. Now, to see me getting undressed and into bed, you would have to be out of hobbies or something... And hopefully I would have noticed your unexpected presence.
I might say:
"Who are you? Did you say you came from my blog?!"

Need sleep, now.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Some pictures from the last two days.

Isabel is talking about something.

A family´s burden should be carried equally by the parents, I think.
But maybe they found a better model?

Is the cab moving -- or is it the world that´s moving?

My mother, interacting with the wind in Parque O´Higgins.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Just arrived: Mother and sister

Without any complications whatsoever and to the great amusement of everyone here in Santiago, my mother Britta and sister Isabel landed on chilean soil today. They switched gloomy Nordic November for sun and palm trees by the Pacific Ocean.

It´s been more than a year since I saw them, so we have a lot to catch up on. It feels just wonderful to have them here. They brought me Swedish kaviar, which is always nice. Oh, and some electronics. Let´s just say the photographic quality of this blog will improve slightly...

We didn´t do much today, they settled in and rested mostly. The plane trip is quite long, over 24 hours. You actually win four hours when you travel with the rotation of the Earth. That´s swell, you might think, but when you go back those hours are naturally lost. UNLESS you wait until Daylight Savings Time sets in/ends, then it gets really complicated.

People on the picture, from left: Mother, aunt Adriana, grandmother Ines, Isabel and uncle Luchin. The four-legged character is named Eliott.

Now, enjoy this picture of Isabel.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Sunset over Santiago. My little Nikon Coolpix still got it.

And a photo of the view from our office.
The guy blocking the view is Benjamin, head of 3D, and sitting down is Mauricio, a talented modeller.
What is the view from your office?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Mountain climbing

On Sunday me and Macarena climbed Cerro La Campana, which is located some 70 kms NW of Santiago. We reached the top after 5 hours of climbing. Considering we started at around 500 m above sea level and the peak is 1880 m, it was a rather long ascent. From there we saw the Andes in one direction and the Pacific Ocean in the other. On the way up we encountered among other things a plate in honour of Charles Darwin, who climbed the hill in 1834.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A special greeting to all my readers on the northern hemisphere.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

There's a new bus in town

Designed in Sweden
built in Brazil
deployed in Santiago.
Their destination?

This is more or less how I felt when I first saw them. The bus drivers' pride was unmistakable as they test drove the new vehicles around the capital during this last month.
The electronic sign on the front simply read CHILE 2005.

They are white and green, low and fairly silent. To anyone in Europe this may not sound like such big news, but to the South American continent they are a novelty.
If you consider the bus fleet to be a good indicator of a city's level of development, then this is a mayor boost for the Chilean capital.
The drivers of the old buses are not too happy though, as they rightfully see the new buses as a threatening alternative to their noisy, uncomfortable transports. They are not keen to give way and announced they would go on strike for a full day. Most bus-riders don't have cars, so this would mean severe complications for them. Luckily, a good part of the bus lines didn't obey the strike, showing the once strong "mafia" is steadily losing it's force.
One person that will definitely celebrate today is Patricia, who has little less than declared open war on the "nice" bus drivers.
Patty, congratulations, you won!!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Andy Warhol in Santiago

Last night, everything was pop.
My friend Macarena had invited me and Bernardita to attend to the opening of an Andy Warhol (or Andrew Warhola as his name was originally) exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts. It consisted of prints, photographs and film. Oh, and the fine deserts he concieved, recreated by students of Ecole Francaise Culinaire. Foolishly, I missed to snap a photo of them but they sure didn't look tasty. The culinary approach was broadened with all kinds of alternative cocktail snacks, which were outlined in detail by the chef in the opening speech. While the other speakers - a bank official, the museum director and some others had laid out the meaning of Warhol's work and his motivation, the chef wetted our lips describing what part of the exhibit was eatable and what wasn't, receiving the most enthusiastic applause.
By the way, we never saw any snacks, they were devoured rapidly by the masses. The frenzy for free food was so great that a guy picked up a 75 %-eaten sandwich, removed it's wrinkly napkin wrapping and consumed it, enjoying the refined cultural ambient.
Later, we moved on to my cousin Tomás' birthday/screen workshop inauguration party. He and his pal Diego are entering the screen business. Lots of people showed up and it was a lot of fun.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Bicycling on a birthday

Today was the first really hot day of spring. With 25º, it was a welcomed hint of what is to come.
My uncle Luchin and cousin Juan Pablo swung by on their fashionable Husqvarna bikes and I hooked up on a less elegant mountain bike. Yes, that's right, they are the proud owners and care takers of these vintage bicycles, who were brought from Sweden by my grandfather in the 50's. They cherish them, repairing every failing detail with equal care and concern.

We laid the route to a nearby park, where young and old people dreamt themselves away, watching the sky, pressing lips to lips... There was an aviary where we spotted a rather large bird, obviously flightless. "It has the aerodynamic properties of a vertical piano", noted Luchin. How it had managed to reach a branch some two meters from the ground remained a mystery.
After this twin-wheeled escapade we went to celebrate my cousin Andrés' 18th birthday, enjoying cakes and familiar company.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The (in)Voluntary Castaway

The story of Alexander Selkirk

He was a large and strong sailor, not yet 30 years old, serving on board the galleon Cinque Ports on it´s voyage on the Pacific Ocean. Captain William Dampier had the ship some 600 kms off the coast of South America, more specifically of what would become Chile.
Alexander was not an easy-going person, he often came into conflict with the people around him, stubborn and unruly as he was. Expectedly, he fell in disagreement with the other sailors. Arguing with the captain himself, he claimed he would rather live on a deserted island than continue the journey on board.
The captain acknowledged his request and presented him Juan Fernandez, an uninhabited island in plain view from the deck. Selkirk approved to be set ashore, requiring only a few tools and some food to ensure his well being.
To Alexander this was just an opportunity to get some peace of mind, as he was certain another ship would soon pass to pick him up. Four sailors rowed him to the island, where he set foot on the sand beach.
However, a great regret struck him instantly. He called to the small boat to be returned to the ship, and that he wouldn´t make any more trouble. But the four men rowing away easily ignored Selkirk´s voice and the Cinque Ports soon vanished beyond the horizon.

The year was 1704, and Alexander counted a musket, gunpowder, carpenter´s tools, a knife, a Bible and some clothing in his equipment.
During an initial period he stayed on the beach, fearing the sounds of "beasts" from within the island. He dwelled in a small cave, fed himself with shellfish and kept a nervous look-out for any naval traffic. We can only imagine how lonely, depressed and remorseful he must´ve felt.
Later he would move to discover the interior of the island, as hordes of sea lions swam ashore and disturbed his habitat.
This proved wise, the inland forests offered a variety of food, which Alexander would never be in shortage of. Wild goats that had been introduced by earlier sailors granted him milk and meat. He brought them down with his musket and cleaned them with the knife. Alas, he soon ran out of gunpowder and was forced to approach them on foot. In the pursuit, he stumbled and fell off a cliff, rendering him severe injury and unconsciousness for two days. Fortunately, the prey had dampened his fall and probably saved his life.

The poor castaway turned to his Bible for emotional support.
"If I ever have the good fortune to escape from this island," he said to himself, "I will be kind and obliging to every one. I will try to make friends instead of enemies."
The Good Book also helped him not to forget his native English.

Two ships anchored in Juan Fernandez during Selkirk´s stay. But since he was a privateer, and the ships were both Spanish, he was forced to hide from their crews. Aboard those ships he would have faced a worse fate than death.
As the situation demanded of him, he made extraordinary use of the equipment at hand. He carpented two huts of wood and stone and designed a knife from barrel rings found on the beach. For clothing he sew goat skins with a nail.
It had been four years and four months from the day he arrived, when finally a friendly vessel entered the small harbor. It was the Duke, coincidentally piloted by the very same William Dampier. The crew spotted the castaway and greeted him, and Alexander was incoherent with joy.
He was able to return to his homeland, where he would reconcile with the people in his village and become famous.
The story of Alexander Selkirk inspired Daniel Defoe to write his novel about Robinson Crusoe, which became one of the most recognized adventures around the world.

Just recently, the National Geographic has performed an extensive archeological study of Juan Fernandez and made several interesting findings. They were able to establish the location of the two huts (see image). Also, by analyzing ashes from a nearby fireplace, human presence could be confirmed for the first decade of the 18th century. Finally, a compass needle recovered beneath the soil was identified as a belonging of Alexander Selkirk after thourough research in Scotland. The full results of the study will be published in the October issue of the magazine.

Today, Isla Juan Fernandez is open for tourism, and can be reached with a twin-propeller flight of two hours, or 760 kms, westbound from Santiago.

Links of interest:
Isla Juan Fernandez Google Earth Placemark
Tourism on Juan Fernandez

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I promised you a woman

If you search on Google Images for "woman face", you will find the reference on page 3.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Roof cats

These cats spread peace and harmony while dozing in the sun on our rooftops.

Until our dog spots one of them, and all hell breaks loose.
At least to him. The cats couldn´t care less.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The King of Patagonia

A quick portrait of Orélie-Antoine I

The self-announced monarch arrived to these lands in 1858 with his mind set from years before to claim what he believed was rightfully his - the southern territories of Chile; Araucania and Patagonia. He was 33 year-old French lawyer Orélie-Antoine de Tounens, who believed the area wasn´t automatically the property of Chile or Argentina, young independent states at the time. In 1860 he signed a declaration of independence, created a hymn and a flag, alerted the press and awaited an official response from the Chilean government. But all he got were ironic comments and slammed doors. And a ticket home offered by the French consul.

Nevertheless, after studying the language and raising funds for his quest, he travelled south to acquaint himself with "his" lands. On the way he had to cross a heavily guarded frontier, the one where the advance of the Chilean troops faced resistance of indigenous people, the Mapuches. How he managed this remains unknown.
To win the support of the Mapuche tribes, he presented himself through an interpreter to some chiefs. Incredible as it may seem he was accepted by this community at war, and in front of a small gathering he made the following statement:

"Make of me the King of Araucania and I will unite the strength of the Araucanian nation, Shout with me: Long live the King!" (freely translated)

How did the son of a peasant come to believe he was the king of a foreign land and people?
One must perhaps think of the romantic and idealist time he lived in, when the world dreamed of discoveries in remote places, and that our Orélie most probably was nuts.

In any case, it wasn´t long before the "monarch" was found by a patrol of the Chilean Army. They spotted him resting under a tree on a beach and watched him for several moments to ensure he wasn´t aware he´d been sighted. Then he was approached, lifted to his feet and demanded to accompany them.
Orélie Antoine de Tounens, 36 years of age, carrying a suitcase, a mattress and a french-spanish dictionary, was being arrested for usurping Chilean territory by claiming himself King of Araucania and Patagonia. Much later, when he would be asked why he didn´t at least think of founding a republic, he would say "that form of government was turned down by the araucanians, who have a fond memory of the Spanish royalty".

He was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in an insane asylum, but thanks to the efforts of the French government he was eventually deported. Before boarding the ship back he had to swear to never come back. But just as he arrived in France he began to prepare for his return, by writing manifests and letters, forging coins, appointing officials, founding two periodicals with short lifespans and applying to meet with Napoleon III.
His efforts to win sympathies and financial support were successful and six years after his expulsion from Chile he was returning to Araucania.
This time entering through Argentina, he faced a situation quite unlike the one he had left. The Army´s "pacification" of the lands had been devastating to the indigenous tribes. The Mapuches were surprised as well, since the Chileans had informed them their king was executed. De Tounens began to mobilize his subjects and attracted the attention of the Chilean authorities once more. This time a price was put on his head, but Orélie was protected by the Mapuches.
After a few years and due to a financial drought, he was forced to return to France. He announced to be seeking a bride so he could ensure his legacy would be carried on. But he never had any children nor managed to return to his realm, despite several attempts on the latter.
He died alone in 1878 and was buried in anonymity, not far from his native village.
More than 50 years later, the township gave him a tomb stone which reads: "Here rests Tounens Orélie-Antoine I, King of Araucania and Patagonia."

But this was not the end, as Orélie I has had many successors. When he died, a relative assumed the post as Achille I, later came Antoine II and Antoine III, who in turn handed the title over to the current holder, Prince Philippe I who resides in Paris, now at the age of 79.

Long live the King, as imaginary as his kingdom might be!

Freely translated from an article by Cristóbal Peña and other sources on the Web.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Evening light

View from our offices this evening. Note the snowy peak behind the hills.
This is Cerro Manquehue, reaching 1500 m above sea level
(900 m above Santiago). The snow indicates how cold it is,
just 5-6 degrees when I left home, this must be
one of the coldest days of this year.
Manquehue means "Place of Condors"
in the native tongue.

I captured this scene on my way
to the bus one morning.
The name Andes comes from Quechua,
the language of the Incas, and means
Ribbon of Fire. A suiting name,
considering 10 % of the world´s
active volcanoes are found in Chile.

Friday, September 02, 2005

My job

I think it´s time I told you what I do all day here. After all, my job occupies most of my time and energy so it should receive some attention on the blog.
I will take today as an example of a normal day at work:
I got in by 9.30 and greeted the nice men who are painting our new office space. Yes, I´m the first to move in here. It´s just next door the old office. So I´m enjoying some peace and quiet, which is great for concentration. I´m also experiencing the fumes from the paint. If they influence me or not, I´m not sure. The walls are painted in white and neon green, and that will surely have an effect on me sooner or later.
Today we are working on a television commercial for a large Asian car maker. My job is to create a white road that becomes a curve of the logo, and append this to a filmed shot of a road, thus ending the commercial. I do this with a 3D graphics program.
So I check on the rendering (calculation) I´ve left on during the night. It turned out as I wanted.
I´ve been on this project since late last week, and today we are presenting it to our clients.

The chain of command is this:
- A client wishes to make a tv spot, so they contact their advertising agency.
- The agency comes up with the idea behind the commercial, which is approved by the client, and contracts a commercial producing company and the director for the project.
- The director does the necessary filming and appoints a post producer to supervise the post production, which includes everything from color correction, editing, overlaid graphics, sound, music and speaker.
- The post producer turns to the 3D department requesting visual elements to be added.
- The 3D department (in this case, me) gets on the job.

Yep, that´s how it works.
Naturally, all instances must approve the spot before it can be aired. But don´t kid yourself - this process can go awfully fast! It has happened more than once that I´ve laid the final hand to something by lunch time and when I turn on my tv that same night it´s already being broadcast!
Everything is fast in this business, for a normal project you will probably have no more than 3-4 days. On one hand it means working in a hurry until late hours, but on the other you know when you will be "free" again. The projects can´t mess you up for long periods of time.

We eat lunch in a really small meeting room. For a chilean, eating alone is depressing so everyone tries to fit at the table. Quite different from the culture I´m used to. As well as the topics of conversation, which really don´t have a lower limit. You may hear things a Swede would never share about himself or his personal life, and I quite admire their openness with each other.

So, right now I´m expecting news from the presentation. What will the people from the agency say? It will have a great impact on the days to come, I sense. Let´s hope they´ll only ask for minor changes, because I really need to start on the next project - a classic ladies´ commercial including blue liquid absorbation.

Whatever happens, I´ll be closing the shop in a few hours and heading home.
Fridays are special.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Stormy weather

This weekend, Santiago was showered. Between Friday night and Sunday morning, one third of the annual rain quota had been filled (121 mm). And it kept on raining.
But on Monday it cleared up nicely, and by sunset a most unusual light struck the view outside my office window.

(I could've done a panorama shot but it didn't occur to me at the time, sorry!)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The best ventilated car in Santiago

Imagine this guy´s luck! The side impact must´ve been really violent, even the roof is deformed.

People drive really bad here, I´m sad to say.
Once I was walking on a zebra crossing and a lady slowed down to let me pass. The guy behind her was so unprepared for this law abiding gesture that he had to screech to a halt. Then as he passed he insinuated it was My fault that an accident had almost occured!

It´s not uncommon to see people driving around in more or less wrecked cars.
But this is just ridiculous.