Movie Review: Mi Mejor Enemigo (My Best Enemy)

I am a movie junkie and I have a huge NetFlix queue. I love to watch movies as I appreciate them as an art form. I imagine if I had any exposure to a movie camera as a boy I would have pursued a career in film making, likely as a cinematographer. I have no desire to act or direct or anything like that, but I love seeing life, light, and space through a lens. I can watch a movie in any language and appreciate it for what is on the screen. My NetFlix queue started out several years ago as this huge “gotta see everything ever made” pile of eccentricities and is now down to “only” a few hundred films.

When Christopher was in Chile (two years ago now… amazing how time flies) I threw some examples of Chilean cinema into the queue. Machuca is one I actually watched while Chris was in Chile, and I found it a wonderful view of astounding historical events from a perspective that provides a unique vision: that of a child. I highly recommend seeing it. I did not know of Mi Mejor Enemigo until I saw it mentioned in Wayne Bernhardson’s blog in a post last month. I tossed into my queue and set it to a place that would coincide with Christopher’s Spring Break home from College. I watched it the other night and found it to be a very nice movie. VERY well photographed, and a good story. I had to resort to subtitles, as my Spanish stops at “Dos grandes cerveças por favor.” The tragicomic story takes place in the midst of the Beagle Conflict which occurred at the end of 1978, where Argentina was preparing to invade Chile over a border dispute concerning 3 islands at the southern tip of the continent. Rather than focus on the broader conflict, this movie revolves around 12 men, two squads of 6, from either nation, essentially lost in the featureless plains of southern Patagonia. Each is lead by a practical Sergeant, and filled with semi-stereotypical soldiers. The shy & sensitive city kid pining for his girl; the hard-core soldier ready to die for his country; the country bumpkin – in this case a more indigenous, less-European looking fisherman from Chiloe. While stereotypical in nature, the characters are not caricatures however and each is very believable and sympathetic. Through accident, and the sheer expansive and featureless space they occupy the Chilean squad has no real idea of their location, but somehow find themselves in a trench opposite a squad of Argentines. A unique aspect here is that unlike many international conflicts the soldiers share a common language, and are able to relate to each other. First they trade tea for cigarettes, using a sheep dog to run between their trenches. They then come together to assist an injured soldier. Food is shared, along with water, though the dog is lost in the process (I won’t share how though.) This escalates into football matches, and settles into an easy truce after they establish, through mutual agreement a “border” between them. (Something the two countries themselves did with the mediation of the Pope at the same time.) While neither is the “main character” the two Sergeants, wonderfully played by Erto Pantoja (Chile) and Miguel Dedovich (Argentina) are really what hold this movie together. They represent the practical and reasonable while the emotional and unreasonable soldiers they lead, and countries they represent ride a seesaw. There is all sorts of subtle humor here, as well as pathos. I imagine for those who fully understand the language and cultures involved there is even more.

I haven’t had a chance to confer with Christopher about the movie yet (he’s spent the majority of his Spring Break borrowing my car and visiting friends he has not seen since summer!) to see how well it dovetails with his experiences with Chileans. I did note a character referring to all of the Chileans as “northerners” despite every one of them being from places in what I would consider southern or central Chile. Christopher’s time in Chile was indeed spent in northern Chile, a place the Chilean’s call “the little North” as it is situated in the southern half of the Atacama desert, specifically the town of Copiapo. Of course given Chile’s unique geography and extreme length the characters may have been using the term “northern” in a relativistic way, since they were so far from anything really feeling like home. An analogy for an American would be one of our soldiers standing on Adak calling somebody from Idaho as being “from the south”, since in that context they’d be right.

Here is the movie’s trailer (sans subtites) from YouTube. If your Spanish is up to snuff you can watch the entire movie (in 11 parts) on YouTube. If you are like me and can’t comprende Español, or prefer to watch the excellent cinematography in high quality, then grab the DVD from your local video store or NetFlix. It is a great film from a source rarely recognized in this hemisphere. The tale has universal truths about human nature. You’ll love it.

I just got pushed…

…over to the Anti-DRM side of the debate.

Chris is compiling a Christmas gift package to send to his Chilean host family. He wanted to include a few DVDs for his host parents. He asked me to help him buy some online. I vaguely recall that DVDs might have some sort of region-based anti-copying bit in them… something that would make a DVD bought in one part of the world un-playable in another part of the world. I look around and sure enough, it is true. Not only is it true, but South America is a completely different region with regards to DVD. Oh well.

Ironically the only way we could realistically send them a DVD is to copy one on my computer, remove the region encoding, and rip it back to a DVD… basically PIRATING IT. Go figure.

Has this anti-pirating technology stopped any video “piracy”?? No. You can go online and find software copies of any movie you would ever want to see, available for download. Even movies that are currently in theaters! But here is a scenario where we’d like to legitimately BUY a DVD, but because the Studios/MPAA/whoever are so damn paranoid of piracy they’ve made it so we can’t… so the only thing we can resort to is piracy! What moron thought this scheme up?

Up until today I had never really had a real stance on the whole DRM debate. Mostly because it had not affected me yet. Yes, I’ve bought many songs from iTunes, but have never had a situation where I could not use it the way I wanted. Gifts are not an issue either because Apple has made it easy to give iTunes data away as a gift. Too bad the bozos who make DVDs haven’t figured out how we want to use them.

Oh well. Our online search came up empty, so we went to a store and scoured the racks for something interesting without the region coding hard wired into the disc. It was damn near impossible to find anything!

The morons in Hollywood really need to reverse their cranial-rectal inversion.

Chris in Chile: Photographs

Chris & his host parents

We’re finally getting around to sorting through the 1000 or so pictures that Chris brought back from Chile. Unfortunately one of his memory cards was lost in the mail, so some 450 or so images were lost. 🙁

We do have a few good ones, among the ones that did make it here. If you are dying to look at them all, you can sift through the haystack here. The first 15 pages are repeats from the last time I posted. Chris’ camera broke shortly after he arrived in Chile, so many of the images are blurry. Add to that his photo skill inherited from his mother and you have well… what you have. 😉

But for your viewing pleasure here are a few needles from the haystack. As soon as Chris has the time to tell me what they are in more detail, I’ll post captions. (note: As of 8/14/07 they now have captions provided by Chris!)

backyard BBQ

Continue reading “Chris in Chile: Photographs”

Chris is home from Chile!

chris at Sea-Tac

I picked up Christopher at Sea-Tac today. The above photo is one I snapped as he emerged from behind the security cordon at Alaska Airlines’ D-concourse.

It was wonderful to see him again.

talking to his mom

Here he is talking to his mom on my cell phone while we wait for his bag.

More info later… right now we’re just enjoying being reunited.

Christopher’s mail from Chile


Two packages arrived from Chile this week. Mostly books which Christopher has read and doesn’t want/need to carry them back home in his luggage. It also contained a memory card from his camera, filled with almost 500 pictures. Unfortunately, it appears his camera was damaged not long after he arrived in Chile, and the focussing mechanism isn’t working well. Most of the photos are blurry. 🙁

There are a few choice ones though, and I’ll share them here.

Chris in Chile

Above: Christopher about a week after he arrived in Chile, and camping on the beach with his host family


Above: This is Gerardo, Christopher’s host father. “Yayo” as he is known, speaks very good English and he and I have conversed a lot over the past several months. Gerardo was an exchange student himself, in North Carolina, when he was in high school, so he understands a lot of what Chris is experiencing. I owe a great debt to Gerardo, as from what I can tell he is doing a wonderful job with Chris.

Yayo y Lorena

Above: This is Yayo and Lorena. Lorena is Chris’ host mother. She speaks about as much English as I do Spanish, so the one time she and I spoke on the phone was… hilarious. We both spoke slowly and loudly, and neither of us understood a word, other than “Christopher” and “Gerardo”. 😉

I have bought Chris another camera, which I will send down to him next week, along with his memory card. I think I also need to provide a little long distance Art Direction, as most of his shots fail to capture what people want to see. Of course, I look at my photography when I was 17, and it wasn’t much better. But then again, I had some people teach me how to compose and what not, so now is the time I guess. I do really like the shot at the top here of the sand and sun. It is a very evocative photo for me. Looking at it in context of the pictures taken at the same time though, you can see that it is a happy compositional accident… just one image in a series of sweeping panorama shots. The key to good photography is SEEING what is in the viewfinder as a complete image. We’ll see how that concept can be transmitted 10,000km via email!

I will post the rest of Chris’ photos from Chile later on today, with a password protecting them, to share with friends and family.

How I spent my Sunday

If you recall, last December we had a huge windstorm that felled a 103′ tall Douglas Fir tree in our back yard. This happened literally days after we finished the cleanup from the big snow storm a few weeks before. That storm had most of our trees breaking branches off and falling (due to the weight of the snow) and we hired a landscaper to come saw them up and put them into a huge pile. We tried to do it ourselves but it was just too much work and we are short on time and the tools required.

The tree was another matter. My friend and coworker Shawn Hammer came and sawed up the tree into manageable chunks a couple of months ago. The remaining work is to just split and stack it to dry for use as firewood (for next time we lose electricity for a week!) I can do this job myself. But unlike other jobs, where it was important for issues of safety or whatnot to get it done swiftly, this job can be done at a leisurely pace.

An odd fact about me is that I don’t really like power tools. I’m not a luddite by any stretch of the imagination, I just don’t really mind using hand tools for a task like this. I was thinking about this while I was splitting these very heavy logs with an axe, a splitting wedge, and a 5lb short sledge hammer; we invented power tools to make human effort scale to meet commercial need. Power tools enabled us to get things done more efficiently. In this case, efficiency would be a luxury, not a NEED. I don’t have to have this wood split and stacked anytime soon. It could literally wait forever. My family might not want to have this stuff littering our yard, but in reality there is no pressing need to get it done. So why haul in some gas-powered splitter or something? The physical act of using hand tools to do the job is so much more engaging for me mentally. Looking at the wood grain, and knots and finding the just right spot to place the wedge. That moment of Zen-like calm as I relax, adjust the grip on the handle of the Collins Axe as it dangles behind my back… concentrating on the spot of wood that I wish to strike, before snapping it through the arc and (hopefully) through the log just right. The rhythm of the hammer on the wedge, and the tell-tale changes in pitch as it digs deeper into the wood, and then changes again as the pressure releases and the splitting starts. You cannot get this sort of VARIABLE connection to a task when just feeding a machine. The rhythms of feeding machinery can be theraputic, but it isn’t quite the same as doing the work by hand.

So I wandered out after breakfast and spent the better part of the day splitting wood. After I started I thought it would be fun to capture it in a timelapse; so I went and set up my laptop and iSight camera on the deck and fired up iStopMotion and got what you see above. That is about four and a half hours of work, condensed into a few seconds. Sorry about the out of focus-ness about it, but the iSight is obviously not really meant to be a long-range lens! My duct tape “tripod” also failed me, as you can see the camera shifted over time.

You can see the logs vanishing from the lower right and the pile of split wood growing in the upper right as the day goes on. Each log segment would yield about eight bits of firewood after splitting. I vanish about a third of the way in for a while… off to the barn to sharpen the splitting wedge (with a Dremel tool… see I’m not completely averse to power tools!) I’m also joined by Nick & Sue later in the day, and eventually they convince me to stop and go inside (but not until I split two more logs!) Sue brought me some iced tea at one point, and she runs the mower for a while too. Nick helps collect and stack the wood for me. The dogs just wander around being useless… and occasionally steal bits of wood to chew on. Christopher is no doubt very happy to be six-thousand miles away right now, or he’d be helping me too!

I managed to get over half of it done, so maybe next weekend I can wrap it up. Then we’ll have to stack the big pile.

The camera is pointing SW.

You would think that I’d be really sore, but I’m not. We’ll see what tomorrow brings! It helps that I’m ambidextrous (another little known fact about me: I can do just about everything with either hand. I write right-handed, as for some reason when I write left-handed I write backwards. The handwriting looks pretty much identical, but just backwards. I can draw, paint, play sports, swing a hammer or use other hand tools, operate a mouse, etc with either hand just fine. I usually go months at a time using the mouse with one hand or another… then suddenly switch. Lately I’ve been mousing lefty.) For me there is a sort of mental switch of gears when I change hands… it is really an adjustment to how I SEE things more than concentrating on my arms and hands. This allows me to work longer at things like swinging a hammer as I can just swap hands if I get tired. I never told my dad that when I was a teenager though. Funny how that works. 😉