Sunday, July 27, 2008

For a Magical Hour

I heard from mum that Tim had had no communications from me about terra preta so I sent him an email, then fossicked around with more links, and here I sit two hours later, full of coffee and fizzing with all I have read. The link above is the most romantic, and this one

is a wonderful overview and the first I have found with a map.

I have obviously lost the blog I thought I wrote on 1491, the book about pre-Columbian civilisations. 1491 is annoyingly written in journalistic rather than scholarly style - or maybe I just don't like his writing. It brings to mind Tom Stoppard's wonderful rant comparing prose to a cricket bat, which reminds me of seeing Diana Rigg and Michael Horden in Jumpers.

I didn't understand back then that life was about collecting enriching experiences. I was such a dreary Puritan, I thought it superior to work rather than gallivant, and could never understand Rosemary's theatre and concert habit, thought it was sheer indulgence. I feel differently now.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Thinking of Terra Preta

With a South American flavour (like "xocolat"): xar or bioxar as a brand name for the product of the solar kiln...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Aguirre Wrath of God

We are deep into our Werner Hertzog season with Aguirre Wrath of God. I could have immersed myself into it better had I realised that it was inspired by Carvajal's diary, not based on it. So I was waiting patiently for scenes which never came, which distracted me from the magnificence of the film.

We watched Cobra Verde twice and I think maybe Aguirre will get a rerun too. Fitzcarraldo next, can hardly wait.

Long quote from Wikipedia:,_the_Wrath_of_God

Historical accuracy

Although plot details and many of the characters in Aguirre come directly from Herzog’s own imagination, historians have pointed out that the film fairly accurately incorporates some 16th century events and historical personages into a fictional narrative.

The film’s major characters, Aguirre, Ursúa, Guzman, Inez, and Florés, were indeed involved in a 1560 expedition that left Peru to find the city of El Dorado. Commissioned by Peru’s governor, Ursúa organized an expeditionary group of 300 men to travel by way of the Amazon River. He was accompanied by his mixed-race mistress, Dona Inez. At one point during the journey, Aguirre, a professional soldier, decided that he could use the 300 men to overthrow the Spanish rule of Peru. Aguirre had Ursúa murdered and proclaimed Guzman as “The Prince of Peru”. Guzman himself was eventually murdered when he questioned Aguirre’s scheme of sailing to the Atlantic, conquering Panama, crossing the isthmus and invading Peru. Many others who attempted to rebel against Aguirre were also killed. The surviving soldiers conquered Isla Margarita off the coast of Venezuela and made preparations to attack the mainland. However, by that time Spanish authorities had learned of Aguirre’s plans, and when the rebels arrived in Venezuela, government agents offered full pardons to Aguirre’s men. All of them accepted the deal. Immediately prior to his arrest, Aguirre murdered his daughter Florés, who had remained by his side during the entire journey. He was then captured and dismembered.[43]

Herzog’s screenplay merged the 1560 expedition with the events of an earlier Amazonian journey in 1541 – 1542. Like Ursúa, Gonzalo Pizarro and his men entered the Amazon basin in search of El Dorado. Various troubles afflicted the expedition and, sure that El Dorado was very close, Pizarro set up a smaller group led by Francisco de Orellana to break off from the main force and forge ahead, then return with news of what they had found. This group utilized a brigantine to journey down the river. Accompanying Orellana was Gaspar de Carvajal, who kept a journal of the group’s experiences. After failing to find the legendary city, Orellana was unable to return because of the current, and he and his men continued to follow the river until he reached the estuary of the Amazon in 1542.[4]

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Driving Through Paradise

Sunday took us up through Chico and the heart of the Paradise fires, filming almond and plum orchards, then fields of tomatoes and sweet potatoes. I have been in the Central Valley before of course, but it is always different when you are working with the people who live and work there. Flat, flat, flat, and hot, but plenty of water for irrigation and some of the most luscious soils I have ever seen, chocolatey and friable like brownie mix. The fruit basket of America. We saw evidence of countless fires but only one big one. Bad enough, and the air is full of smoke, and Holiday Inn full of fire fighters.

The photo above comes from the polecam, which I set up in the back of the farmer's truck. I am getting more practiced at it, and better at the high slow pans which give a good establishing shot with a lot of production value. Client likes it very much, so we are pleased.

We got back round about ten last night, but I had heedlessly drunk coffee when we finished shooting at five, so despite the hard work I could NOT sleep until about three. Then up at six to meet with the whole family to see Felix get his American citizenship in San Francisco (and I didn't cry). We had a rumbustuous brunch, then home, and I am trying to stay awake but it is too hot to garden or load wood and planters, or even to spread the bag of Product I scored - 50lbs of sulphate of potash to share with John.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Obi Wan

I think I can say with some certainty that I shall be spending today in bed.

That wasn't the master plan at all, as all week I have been inching like Little Red Hen towards my goal: not the perfect loaf of bread, but the making of two glorious white linen sofa covers. First I ordered it, then it arrived, then I measured it, then I edged and halved it, then I pre-shrank it, then I dried it (in 100 degree heat, even a ten yard wodge dried in an afternoon).

This may not sound like much of an achievement for a week but we have also been working, which has involved a lot of charging about in fields with equipment.

So, today, a free day except for the dentist at four, was to be cutting out day. However we have a sudden cold front which has caught the weather people completely off guard (do they know anything?), and all night long I lay listening to my fine new Kenopi flapping in a stiff wind, wondering if it could pull the poles clear out of their mooring to smash into whatever in their path was frail. It is unwise to leave even an umbrella outside when these winds spring up, and my beloved new hostage to fortune is 8x10.

White linen is perfectly practical by the way. I made white cotton damask slip-covers for Judith specifically to cope with the odd chocolate biscuit/grandson combination. And the natural hemp covers for Norma when she was selling her house. I think I would have preferred the hemp but got a deal on the linen, and I'm content.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Holy Cow

This is where we have been filming every few weeks, with Karen and Chris, the owners. The Highland cattle are too photogenic for words, especially the calves, the latest born just this week.

It has been far too hot, so I was helping Karen water them, then we led them to shade. They were huffing and puffing so much their heads were nodding in unison, they looked as though they were grooving to their iPods, but the heat was actually dangerous. We hosed down the youngest calf (she held and I hosed, so we were all much cooler).

Yesterday we were doing the aerial footage, Chris and Stefan up in the Cessna, I stationed between the two sides of the vineyard with the second camera for the reverse angle. After about quarter of an hour in the sun I realised I might die, so stayed in the shade of the vines, lurking, slightly embarrassed. Two hares were playing way down the end of the rows, elegant curved taupe bodies and Nefertiti ears. They reminded me of Joey, Annie's whippet, same heraldic elegance.

Once again I was surprised to feel the temperature drop as we approached the bay, then surprised again to step inside the house to feel that blessed sea breeze. Never get used to it. I have rigged a giant canopy over the deck, bright blue, and I wonder why I hadn't done it sooner. Tomorrow the heat is meant to peak at about 120.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

At the County Fair

We think Marin is a sophisticated place -no! There's Betty McCluskey sweeping the board with her breads, pies, cakes, cookies and preserves, G. Trimble with her champion roses, and bonsai, sculpture, painting, quilts, some horrific knitting, a skein of wool labelled only "cat"... The county fair is a wonderful place.

Like everyone else I like the animals best, and top of the list are the sheepdog trials. Second is pig racing - four times four piglets with racing silks and atrocious pun names - Britney Spare-Ribs, Lindsay Loham, Arnold Schwartzen-ham-mer (he won). It is so much fun. And when we came home from the heat and the crowds there was a delicious sea-breeze blowing in, and I settled under my parasol on the deck and watched the water.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Salt Mine

From the dubious comforts of the Holiday Inn at Salt Lake!

For the last two days we have been filming the extraction of potash from lake brine, and it is unexpectedly beautiful. The lake is ringed by mountains and from the top of the hill behind the plant you look over acres and acres of salt pans in various stages of liquidity. Most are white, some are turquoise and others a clear coral pink from the growth of algae. There are birds too surprisingly enough, in the less brackish waters, pelicans, avocets, ducks, and seagulls, and more swallows than I have ever seen.

It has been hard work, long days, and incredible heat - inside the salt tower it was 160 degrees. The salt gets all over everything, into the camera and lenses, our hair, our shoes. Lick your lips and taste salt.

Off for a steak dinner.