Monday, February 19, 2007

Playmates who didn't live to age 50

The news of the death of Playmate Anna Nicole Smith, seems to have sparked discussion about about the many Playmates who have made the headlines for their untimely deaths.

In this, I suppose, the kind of lifestyle a Playmate leads, generally tends towards to more adventure and more risk.

However, until a commentor pointed it out, I had not been aware that someone with "celebrity status" had died in the runway collision at Tenerife in 1977.

Here is the article, which talks about the grisly club of Playmates who didn't live to age 50. As Anna Nicole joins a macabre list, it also mentions "Eve Meyer, a 1955 Playmate, was one of more than 550 people killed when two airliners collided on takeoff at Tenerife in the Canary Islands in 1977. She was 46."

Eve Meyer (born December 13, 1928 in Griffin, Georgia, died March 27, 1977) was an American pin-up model, motion picture actor and, later, film producer. Much of her work was done in conjunction with exploitation filmmaker Russ Meyer to whom she was married from April 2, 1952 until 1969.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Almond Flower Route 2007

Delightful pictorial souvenir from the excursion organized by El Cardón and the town hall of Santiago del Teide, on Sunday, February 11th, 2007.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Carnaval Queen Gala Leaves Bitter Taste

Belén Esteban as a low budget Madonna

Whilst it was probably a fact that, after all the controversy that led up to it, many went to the gala already predisposed to dislike it, I doubt even Rafael Amargo's (amargo means bitter) worst critics could have expected such an insulting, pathetic and ridiculous bungle.

Or, to put it in the words of one viewer, "Rafael Amargo should be led out at dawn and shot! It was so bad it was funny." Believe it too: I sat through last night's 3 hour, 40 minute spectacle, transfixed, thinking it could never get any worse - but it did.

That it kept getting worse and worse was it's only consistent feature.

News reports also called it a ridiculous spectacle and public opinion seems to be unanimous in this evaluation of the event, with even the mayor of Santa Cruz, Miguel Zerolo, who participated in a phone-in program on TV this morning said it was a "fracaso" (failure) and was more like an Operación Triunfo (Star Academy) gala than a Carnival Gala. One could say that he recognized the wisdom of saying that first, before he was publicly lynched over it. Just as Rafael Amargo himself must have concluded, having, reportedly, left the venue 45 minutes before the gala's end. The public booed and whistled and winning murga group, Los Diablos Locos (The Crazy Devils), even refused to participate and walked off the stage during the live event. This was one of the public's favorite parts of the show. 

Video: Los Diablos Locos walk off and the crowd goes wild.

Then the public booed the dance troupe, Los Cariocas, who followed them, because they did participate. Unfairly, I think, as I did notice that they (or someone) had decided to bring the most "buxom" girls on first - obviously in pointed defiance of Amargo's "castings" to weed out "the fat ones and the ones who can't dance."

Whilst I won't criticize anyone's individual performance (I've been on stage enough times myself), what was clear was that there were too many acts; they were not of the "international calibre" we were told to expect - neither Rosa, nor Gloria Gaynor, nor an "international artist" materialized - most of them had nothing whatsoever to do with Carnaval either and, the whole show was disjointed with pregnant pauses or murdered in cold blood by the wrong style of music, wrong tempo, etc., at all the wrong times.

No, I lied. I will criticize the performance of Belén Esteban, the show's all time low point. She didn't so much emulate Madona, as emulate a pole dancer in a sleazy club. She was embarrassing cavorting in a pink leotard and about as sexy as a wet fish.

They managed to have five presenters, sorry six if you add Bibiana Fernández (Bibí Andersen), along with the unannounced Xavi Deltell (who could have done it much better alone), yet, the candidates for the title of Carnaval Queen had to announce themselves, via videos. They say that the sound on those was so bad in the congress center that it left people none the wiser, well, it wasn't much better on TV either.

At the end of the show, the envelope with the winners was delayed for some time, Bibí practically had to calm an imminent riot and the announcement of the winner - Elizabet Garcia representing El Dia - was so overshadowed as to look like an afterthought.

Video: The end of the fiasco as Bibi calls for calm.

If anyone did catch this awful spectacle on international TV channels, all I can hope is that they switched over quickly enough so that the images will not have left a lasting impression. If you did see it, this was not representative of Tenerife's Carnaval.

Abucheos en la gala de la Reina de Tenerife

Bitterness continues over Carnaval Gala

Whenever Tenerife gets into a bit of a controversy, it certainly never does it by halves! And the plot continues to thicken over the disastrous Gala for the Selection of the Carnaval Queen that took place in Santa Cruz on Wednesday night. Now, it seems that the town hall are asking (maybe begging might be more accurate) Spanish Television to edit out the negative aspects before showing it at national level.

This, actually, seems to me to be a pointless exercise in futility, since those very aspects are the ones that have already been picked out and commented on by national programs and, there are a plethora of clips at YouTube and elsewhere online, already doing the rounds of the planet, as people discuss them using words like embarrassing, pathetic or stupid, or the more direct, "pure shit." That's not forgetting that there are some 100 members of the national and international press and media in the Tenerife capital currently for the carnival, who will have seen it first hand and are bound to have reported on it already.

It's also a good job there were 18 candidates, otherwise, if they do edit the program down to just the positive and relevant parts, there wouldn't be much left.

Meanwhile, Rafael Amargo, who directed the fiasco, seems to be the only person who is "satisfied with the work done" and is already defending himself - in a note signed by his representation - saying that he "scrupulously fulfilled the conditions of his contract with the fiesta organizers". He would say that. The town hall are talking about finding the legal means to not only deduct an "important" amount from his outstanding fees, but also considering suing the dancer for damages.

Elsewhere, the Popular Party candidate for mayor in Santa Cruz says that the whole Carnaval fiasco over the last few days was just a maneuver to draw attention away from the potential problems the current mayor, Miguel Zerolo, has with the law.

For others, the real problem, it has been said - adding yet more gross insult to serious injury - is that we simpletons in Tenerife didn't appreciate the gala's content as we just wouldn't know art when we see it. So, I'll leave you with a little piece of that "art", as performed by "artist" Belén Esteban - who, for overseas viewers who are unaware, has only one previous claim to fame: that she slept with a bullfighter. What do you think, did we miss something in this "outstanding performance? The original version I had of this performance - since deleted from the web - appeared to have been manipulated in that you could hear applause and laughter in the background. Watching live, all you heard was booing.

Belén Esteban crowned Queen of Booing

There are many articles online saying that the Carnaval in Tenerife in 2007 will always be remembered for controversy and, which "crown" Belén Esteban as the "Queen of Booing" at the hapless Gala for the Selection of the Carnaval Queen.

Poor girl, she says, "I feel bad, because they've never booed me before".

Well, there's always a first time for everything love! Being "crucified", seems to me, to invite it really, but ... It seems she's been pouting on TV about her ill fortune too. I'm so glad I've missed that, but Colin Davies in Galicia sums it up nicely:

"Needless to say, the goings-on down in Tenerife provided un-missable material for the endless TV gossip shows. The one I was unlucky enough to zap into offered us the inane musings of one of the performers who’d been received badly. Having seen the act in question, it was clear her ego was in inverse proportion to her talents so I was rather nonplussed by her celebrity status. Plus, she was rather ugly and clearly very reconstructed from her [blond] hair down. I later learned she was the ex-girlfriend of a bullfighter. And possessed of a big mouth. In Spain, this explains everything."
Oh and in the edited version of the Gala televised very late on Saturday night by TVE1, probably against the wishes of the Santa Cruz town hall who wanted the damaging parts cut, Esteban's crucifying performance was shown again.

Her performance also made a list of Los 7 momentos más ridículos de Belén Esteban (The 7 Most Ridiculous Moments of Belén Esteban), where at number 5, it says, "Nobody will forget the boos and insults that Esteban suffered at the carnival in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 2007, when he imitated Madonna on stage. The dancer Rafael Amargo was in charge of making the number and was severely criticized for it."

Video: Belen Esteban al estilo Madonna en carnaval buuu

Carnaval Queen in Santa Cruz de Tenerife 2007

Elizabet García Carnival Queen in Santa Cruz de Tenerife 2007

Elizabet García, 21, as "Miss Dior", costume designed by Leo Martínez and representing newspaper El Día, was chosen as Carnival Queen in the capital of Tenerife in 2007.

Coronación Reina del Carnaval de S/C de Tenerife 2007

Monday, February 12, 2007

Carnaval in Santa Cruz Streets Cancelled?

Noise Makers

Well, we'll see ... I seem to remember exactly the same pantomime acted out in the run up to last year's Carnaval too. First it's off, then it's saved at the last minute.

Anyway, Canarias7 report that the judge of the Contentious Administrative Court Number One (an apt name?) in Santa Cruz, has communicated today to the town hall in Tenerife's capital, an injunction that orders the the prevention of the fiestas and dances in the streets where they had been planned during the carnival. This is in response to petitions from a group of residents who complain about the noise (again).

This injunction has been awarded eight days after the Superior Court of Justice had recognized that the celebration of the fiestas in the center of the city "violated citizens' fundamental right to rest" and had declared that the fiestas could go ahead, but that the noise level must not exceed 55 decibels (the level of a conversation).

Is Carnaval Prejudicial to health?

The 55 decibel limit ordered by the court, is actually 30 decibels below the level of the noise of city traffic. Have you seen / heard the traffic in Santa Cruz? It seems laughable to award a decision against a once-yearly event in light of that.

So, what does fit the description of an "atmosphere of little noise" that is below the 55 decibel limit? Well, according to an article at ABC; silence, footsteps, the sound of leaves rustling on the trees, a conversation in low voices and the quiet of a library are the only things that maintain their sound below that limit. Of course Carnaval is louder than that, but so is the TV and conversation inside people's homes, never mind what's going on outside with the traffic, industry, construction works ...

Press buzzing with Carnaval Hysteria

And, they're doing it in at least two languages. The earlier story being covered by Reuters, both in the international news, UK news and on their blog.

The New York Times in the US "ledes" with Please Keep Your Carnival Quiet.
The Guardian in the UKCourt shuts down Tenerife's all-night fiestas
Weblogs Inc. Gadling traveller's weblog in the USTenerife Just Got Lame.
In The Age, in Australia Fiesta ruled too much of a racket.

Meanwhile, the president of the carnival organizers in Cádiz, says that the judges decision "sounds more like a desire to annoy, than anything else." He also makes the valid point that carnival is only once a year and says that for noise to be a nuisance, it would have to be something that happened every day. Even the so called Ley del botellón - that restricts the consumption of alcohol in the streets - excludes fiestas, carnivals or romerias.

Tenerife in uproar because of just 15 killjoys

The above are not all, of course, but a pretty representative sample. My prize though, has to go to the German Press Agency for their thorough and efficient coverage in TheRawStory, "Tenerife in uproar over cancellation of carnival", where we learn that "About 15 local residents lodged a complaint". Yes, count them, fifteen!

Is Tenerife's Carnaval really off?

First, it still remains to be seen if the injunction sticks after negotiations are resumed in the courts on Monday, but in any case does not affect all of the events.

The injunction only affects late-night carnaval revels: music on the streets, after 10.00 p.m. We are told, "The big galas are unaffected as they take place in the city's exhibition centre, and daytime parades and events can go ahead as normal."

Revellers protest against Carnaval suspension

With banners that read "Carnaval YES, timewasting neighbours, NO" - well, the word they used for timewasting was a little more "colorful", but I didn't have the "balls" to translate it that literally - around 400 people demonstrated against the injunction. The protest kicked off from the Plaza de Weyler in Santa Cruz. Protesters marched through the very same streets where carnaval is normally celebrated. Dozens of carnival fans and members of carnival groups protested outside the town hall against the injunction and in sarcastic irony, they made their protest by singing, shouting & tooting horns!

Spectators for the murga contests this week have been wearing supporting slogans on their t-shirts, as have some of the murgas themselves, even down to pointed references in the lyrics of their songs, like "Wake your neighbor up".

Carnaval awaits a resulotion

The news we were all waiting for today, was the decision from the "contentious" court in Santa Cruz over the fate of the nighttime revelries for the capital's Carnaval. "There will be Carnaval in the streets and with all the noise possible," report Canarias7.

The judge lifted the precautionary suspension and declared that the residents' case was "inadmissible". Rejecting the injunction based on an appeal lodged by a group of residents who said the carnival was too noisy, judge Jaime Guilarte Martin-Calero said that the issue had already been settled by a 2006 court ruling.

The lawyer acting for the residents, Felipe Campos, had to be escorted by several police when leaving the court today. Earlier, Campos had complained of "a possible manipulation of public opinion to generate a hostile climate against his clients."

Tenerife Carnaval: The party is back on

Carnaval events will resume on Wednesday night with the Gala for the Selection of the Carnaval Queen and, will continue on Friday, when the Cabalgata Anunciadora (Opening Parade) officially brings the carnival into the streets. Parade starts at 8 p.m.

Residents to complain about the noise again

Despite the Canary Islands Government's measures to "arm" the fiestas, by unanimously declaring that noise regulations are suspended during these events and, despite the judge lifting the earlier suspension of late night revelries, saying that the the issue had already been settled by a 2006 court ruling, ABC report that the lawyer acting for the 15 residents, Felipe Campos, says that noise levels measured on the first night of the festivities in Santa Cruz measured greater than the "permitted" 55 decibels and, that they intend to denounce the situation again.

This article at Canarias7 points out that the suspension is not definitive. It also reiterates the history of carnival arriving with the conquistadores and being prohibited on various occasions; by King Carlos I in 1523 and by King Felipe II, as well as during the time of the Civil War. If Franco's dictatorship couldn't suppress it, then the injunction has a snowball in hell's chance.

Carnival was declared as national tourist interest in 1967 and, internationally in 1980. At the end of the day, carnival is popular with far more people than it is unpopular. It also puts too much food into too many mouths - the expensive stalls that are erected all around the city center, as well as all the ongoing tourist revenue - to get squashed.

And it's mystifying that none of these 15 knew about the carnival that has been going for hundreds of years when they bought their apartments in the city.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Six dead in cavern on Tenerife

Entrance to the gallery at Piedra de los Cochinos

Agence France-Presse report that fifteen people were trapped underground in a shaft on the Spanish island of Tenerife and rescuers were having difficulty evacuating them. The shaft, known as the "Piedra de los Cochinos" or Pig's Stone is in the locality of Los Silos, on the north of Tenerife. Civil Guard mountain rescue teams were mobilized to the scene.

Rescuers, although awaiting the recuperation of the last body, have confirmed the death of six people, due to lack of oxygen and inhalation of volcanic gasses, who were trapped "by error" in the Piedra de los Cochinos shaft. The six, five men and one woman, were part of a group of 30, including scientists and members of a nature organization, who entered the gallery on Saturday.

Rescue teams had not been able to reach the point where these persons were trapped, some 2,000 meters from the entrance to the gallery, although they had tried to get oxygen to them. During the night and early morning, Civil Guard rescued 23 of the 30, who had been trapped for close to 16 hours. Underwater teams with oxygen supplies reached those, 1,200 and 1,400 meters inside the gallery.

Six others, with breathing difficulties, were taken to hospital by helicopter. Three of those rescued, two women and a man, are in a serious condition.

Civil Guard, fire services, Red Cross and a helicopter from the Government Emergency Services have all been deployed in the rescue, which is in an area with already difficult access. At the gallery site, there is no mobile phone coverage, making it difficult for different rescue teams to remain in contact.

The two groups on the excursion, among whom are both Spanish and foreign scientists, from the Canarian Astrophysics Institute (IAC) and the Tenerife Association of Friends of Nature (ATAN), who were walking the route from Erjos - Cuevas Negras - Los Silos, in the Teno Rural Park on Saturday.

The brother of one of the party indicted that the walkers were accompanied by three guides, however the person who knew the area best had been unable to go on the trip. It had been explained to them by phone how to find the tunnel that connects the two gorges in which they were lost, nevertheless, the walkers made a mistake and entered the water gallery known as Piedra de los Cochinos instead.

The alarm was raised at around 16:45 on Saturday, when one of the party managed to escape, after they had entered the gallery at around 14:00 and an hour later began to faint. When they regained consciousness, they began their attempts to get out.

The 1.9 m high and 1.8 meter wide Piedra de los Cochinos water gallery, which was opened around 200 years ago and closed in 1964, is within the Monte del Agua - one of the largest laurisilva (subtropical cloud forests) in the Canary Islands - between Erjos and Los Silos. Access to the area is via Las Portelas - where a rescue coordination center has been set up - here in the El Palmar valley.

This is not the first accident to have occurred in the area, where there are various footpaths and walkers mistake the galleries for tunnels.

Balance at the end of a sad day in Tenerife

After the last of the six bodies had been recovered from the Piedra de los Cochinos gallery Sunday afternoon, the rescue helicopter passed over the house for the last time to land at the Finca Los Pedregales complex here in El Palmar, where emergency services had set up a temporary base.

The six dead have now been identified as being five Spanish nationals; four men and one woman and, one Italian male, all between the ages of just 22 and 36.

The town halls in Buenavista del Norte and Los Silos called emergency meetings Sunday and have declared three days of mourning in the district for the dead.

According to agency and TV reports, one of the six survivors who had needed to be taken to hospital by helicopter, has been discharged, however, another's situation had worsened. Two remain in a serious condition with symptoms of muscular destruction from having been in a fixed position for such a length of time, but are not in danger.

The rescue helicopters, as well as fire engines, Civil Guard vehicles and ambulances had been buzzing thorough the valley for most of the almost 24 hours it took to complete the difficult rescue operation. The coordination point on the entrance to the single track road which leads to the Monte del Agua, was actually my friends' house, so you can see how rather "close to home" this tragic event has been.

As Los Silos mayor, Santiago Martín, observed, this beautiful area deserves to be on the front pages of the world's media also for other [better] motives.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Understanding Carnaval: Murga

Murga Group Afilarmónica NiFú-NiFá

Yeah, you turn up in costume, you party ... what's to understand?

However, there are all sorts of different components and participants in Carnaval and the Murga groups are one of them. You may see them - you'll know if you hear them - and wonder what it's about. I liked this description, which is kinda Murga 101:
"Murgas are a key part of Carnaval in Las Palmas and elsewhere in the Canary Islands. They’re choirs who sing along with a sort of kazoo band (the sound is an acquired taste) and their songs are a satirical commentary on the year’s news. They are not known for being politically correct, which is hardly a Carnaval tradition."

The longer version:

The murgas in the Canarian carnivals consist of a group of people who sing with lyrics that are generally critical of politics, but also of the problems of society in general. Frequently developed with humor and irony, the compositions are based on popular songs, whose lyrics are changed, with the murguero whistles (kazoo) carried by each of the members. The group is usually large (more than 20 people) and is accompanied only by percussion. They are one of the most popular elements of carnivals and contests are held where the most outstanding murgas in costumes, lyrics and interpretation are awarded.

The murga is the most popular element of the Santa Cruz de Tenerife carnival.

The Afilarmónica NiFú-NiFá (Tenerife) is the oldest of these groups, and is considered the grandfather of the Canarian murgas. Its creator, Enrique González Bethencourt, was awarded in 2001 by the King of Spain, after his intense dedication to developing the carnival even during the dictatorial regime of Francisco Franco. The murgas contests are one of the most popular acts of the Carnival. So much so, that the tickets for the adult murgas contest for the final usually sell out a few hours after going on sale, and on the day of the contest, people line up, even from the day before to be able to enjoy the best seats. 

Murga en Canarias

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Almond Flower Route 2007

Almond BlossomThe notice board at the Albergue de Bolico - the rural hostel at the head of the El Palmar valley - brings us the news that, "Once again, the beginning of the year offers us the possibility to enjoy an emotional experience: the flowering of the almonds." And so it is.

The Tenth Edition of the Almond Flower Route is organized jointly by the Council of Culture at Santiago del Teide Town Hall, the Council for the Environment of the Tenerife Island Corporation, the Teno Rural Park, the company El Cardón and the Los Poleos association.

This year, due to the increase in participation in recent years, two guided walks are offered, on Saturday and Sunday, February 10th and 11th 2007, through the higher areas of Santiago del Teide, on an old footpath that runs from the village center to Arguayo. The spectacular sight of hundreds of almond trees, with their white blossoms and blue tinted leaves, can be seen in this singular landscape, marked by the lava flows left by the eruption of the Chinyero volcano in 1909.

Before arriving at Arguayo, the walk passes through the Valle de Arriba to reach El Calvario, which, according to reports by the local people, is where the Cristo del Valle (the valley's figure of Christ) stopped the lava flow that threatened to bury the houses.

The itinerary is of low difficulty and a duration of approximately four hours (09:00 to 13:00), which allows the visitor to enjoy the rich heritage of this part of the island, where once, the cultivation of almonds was an important part of the area's activities.

Bookings for the walk on Saturday, February 10th 2007, can be made via the Council of Culture at Santiago del Teide Town Hall, on 922 863 127.

For the second walk on Sunday, 11th February 2007, bookings can be made via the Central Booking office for Canary Islands Hostels, on 902 455 550.

There is also a X Concurso Fotográfico “Almendro en Flor" (Tenth Almond in Flower Photo Contest) to compliment the walks, with a top prize of 300 Euros. Also, all of the entries will be exhibited in the patio of Santiago del Teide's town hall between March 9th and 23rd - making a nice visit also for those who cannot make the walks.