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.

workworkwork, twitter

A very busy day today at work. We had some scheduled maintenance performed on our UPS systems. That in and of itself is not a big deal, it is just that last time we did maintenance on our UPS system something went completely sideways on us. Once burned, twice shy as they say.

I did my usual documentation and communication gig, which kept me moving back and forth between the datacenter and my desk to post updates. At the urging of a few clients I also tried out a new coms channel, namely Twitter. If you wish to follow what’s happening at a micro-level at the d.f facilty, go here.

On a totally unrelated note, my back is killing me. In a way I’ve never felt before. It is like I have a knife stuck between my left shoulder blade and my spine. Nothing I do seems to make the constant pain go away. I’ve tried mild OTC pain killers, I’ve tried ice, & heat. I’m trying bourbon at the moment. I had a herniated disc once, and that was much more painful, but this is in some ways worse as it just won’t stop.

Site Update tonight

Update Friday, January 30, 2009: The planned upgrade did not happen last night. I came down with a nasty sinus headache, and just drove home and went to bed. The work has been postponed until the weekend

breakin' out the toolkit...

Just an FYI I’ll likely do a software upgrade on the site tonight. I successfully ran the WP upgrade on a test blog last night and it went well. That site though is much smaller than this one, so I expect things to take longer here, and the possibility of downtime is higher. If the site vanishes for an hour or two, you’ll know why.

(and yes, I make backups. if everything goes tango-uniform I can back out of the upgrade.)

Happy Birthday Macintosh!

Today is the Apple Macintosh’s 25th birthday. Time flies doesn’t it? I owe a lot in life to this little machine.

I first met the Macintosh in March of 1984. I was a Junior at Texas Tech University, studying Graphic & Package Design under Frank Cheatham. My Production class went to a computer store to have a look at one and get a demonstration. I can distinctly remember being impressed with the graphic capabilities of the machine and the quantum leap in the user interface from all other computer systems I’d seen before. My good friend and previous roommate was a Computer Science major, who built systems in our dorm room, so I was very familiar with computers, though not much of a user then. My other strong memory from that day was turning to a classmate and saying:

“When this thing gets “real” fonts, it will take off.”

I was referring of course to the early bitmapped “city name” (Monaco, Chicago, Geneva, etc) fonts that shipped with the Macintosh. “Real” fonts are just that, real. Typography that has been created and refined by masters over hundreds of years. Back when I went to school we had to learn to render typefaces by hand and I could write freehand in Garamond, Baskerville, Franklin, Helvetica, Century Schoolbook, and many other traditional fonts. Being able to just bang out a perfect typeface on a screen was a dream of every designer back then.

Well, either I was perceptive, or prophetic because not long after my graduation and entrance into the professional world Aldus shipped PageMaker, Adobe shipped PostScript and broke open the world of “real” fonts … on the Macintosh. I was present at the birth of “desktop publishing” as I was a young designer working in Seattle at the time, and all the “old guys” (as I called people my age back then) were terrified of computers and expected us kids to do all the technological heavy lifting. I learned everything I could about computers, software, networks, etc. Within a few years I was managing systems instead of designing things. By 1991 I was no longer a Graphic Designer, I was an IT guy. My design education has served me well however as the entire purpose of design, at least how it was taught to me, was the communication of complex concepts in visual/verbal form. Frank Cheatham insisted that we had to be able to EXPLAIN why we made the design choices we did. They had to make sense, otherwise, as he often said, “it was just decoration.” From that education I learned how to explain complex technology to non-technical people. I have also been able to explain non-technical things to technical people. (I’m a English-Geek translator.) This has allowed me to very successfully manage a class of people that many believe are unmanageable, “IT guys”.

I did my last professional graphic design job in 1994, designing the corporate identity of the company started by a friend of mine… a network geek I met “online” several years before on a Mac-focussed BBS. He was running the network at a local college, while I was running one at a department store‘s in-house Advertising agency. The company he started? digital.forest. That’s right, the company I joined six years later. Before that though my career took me to a publishing company headquartered in London. Along the way I learned UNIX (to manage Sun Sparcservers that ran The Bon’s OPI system), learned multi-protocol networking, people management, budget management, project management, etc. At The Bon I was telling “old white guys in ties” about this new thing called the Internet. I built my first DNS & web servers in 1995. Launched a web company of my own in 1998, and sold it in 2000.

If it were not for this little machine with a 9″ screen I’d still be drawing typefaces while designing things on paper. In a lot of ways I owe my whole professional career and adult life to this little computer from Cupertino. It changed my world. Changed my profession. Changed my career. Changed my life in some very profound ways. It even introduced me to most of my friends. It has been a very interesting 25 years. Happy Birthday Macintosh. I’ll drink a toast to you tonight.

Last thing I’ll post about the recent weather…

I love the Internet. The fact that data about anything you might even be slightly interested in is just out there just warms the cockles of my heart. My friend Dan sent me a link to this satellite image. It was taken on the morning of December 17th, 2008. While it is focussed on Oregon, and is cropped about 60 miles south of my house, it shows the nature of the snowfall that blanketed the Northwest before Christmas. This was the morning after the snow first fell. We were expecting a dusting of an inch or two, and instead received a dump of 12 to 14 inches. I drove the boys down to Seattle that day to fly to Colorado, and this high-pressure and clear skies vanished quickly. Thankfully I had already started my timelapse gear and captured the brilliant sunrise and clear morning before those clouds you see on the western edge of the photo barreled in and delivered another foot of snow that night. I struggled home the next evening, and then got stuck in my driveway. The following week of being snowbound was sort of fun, but as it stretched into three weeks our patience ran thin.

It appears the weather has settled back to rain and in fact has now cleared – perhaps a bit of sunshine and dry weather will bring the Jaguar out of it’s hibernation?