Sobrevuelos 2015 & 2016

Viggo-Works > Articles > Sobrevuelos 2015 & 2016 > The Beginning 2016

The Beginning 2016 - Impermanence

By Viggo Mortensen and Fabián Casas - translated by Ollie and Zoe

January 2016



Hello, Cuervo, we are already in Reñaca, Chile. I'm a Kerouac who committed the fatal error of reproducing himself. We go in the car, the four of us plus thousands of bags. We drove 12 hours to Mendoza, crossing the mountain range - an impressive beauty - and stayed in Santiago for three days because a new book of mine came out there and I went to collect it. We've left the holidays behind and now we are going along the Chilean roads toward the south, to Valdivia, to cross back to Argentina and stay in La Angostura. I have half of the Dinesen novel I wrote almost finished and ready to be delivered to the publisher. Where are you? Before leaving, I was with Lammens. We hugged each other and cried together, full of emotion over the return to Boedo.

P.S. Look at the photo my Spanish agent sent me:


That photo's great! Is that the name of the store or is there a town named Boedo? In Spain, there's a town named Almagro, where they do classical theatre every summer. Works of Lope de Vega, Calderón de la Barca, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Tirso de Molina, etc. Some companies from other countries present their versions of these works to complement those of the Spanish companies. This past July, for example, Tim Robbins' company from the US (The Actor's Gang), two Argentinian groups, and others from Chile, Mexico, the Republic of Korea and Greece. It's a beautiful spot. There's also quite a large garden center in Madrid that's called Casla. We talked about that in another column. But Boedo? I'm going to look into that! I hope you continue your journey along the mountain range with no problems. You're already almost back in Argentina then. One of the Christmas presents I received last week was a little book called Sobre el deporte [About Sports] that brings together the writings of the iconoclastic film director, Pier Paolo Pasolini, about soccer, boxing, cycling and the Olympic games. There's a very short interview that he does with the players on his beloved team, Bologna F.C., about the sexual inhibitions, or lack of them, that those young soccer players might have, finding a way of relating his suggestive questions to their way of playing soccer or their feeling on the pitch. The interview is a small part of the documentary, Comizi d'amore, filmed in 1963.

The players don't seem very inhibited when it comes to talking about sex or practicing it. I guess the questions weren't that difficult and they allowed these soccer players to act like conquering ladykillers. The two exceptions were Negri and Bulgarelli. The former says that at the time of playing, the subject of love or sex isn't important, that he doesn't think about those things. Bulgarelli, who seems to be more or less an intellectual type, says that the catechism makes everyone feel a certain amount of repression. I don't know if the players knew Pasolini's films or anything about the sexual predilections of the legendary director. In other pieces from this book, he compares Italian literature with the sports journalism of that country in an interesting way. What's clear is that he was a passionate Bologna supporter and loved playing soccer. The cover of the book has a lovely photo of Pasolini in a friendly game. And he's wearing the BFC colours, which are the same as ours.

In an article that was published in 1972, he speaks of the general differences between European soccer and that of South America. There he says that what happened in Mexico (the 1970 World Cup) is that "the aestheticizing Italian prose lost to Brazilian poetry." That sounds simple, but he explains quite clearly, even with schematic illustrations, what those differences mean for him. What happened in the following World Cup, the one played in Germany in 1974, was that the Dutch combined the two things that Pasolini describes - the collective play starting from the back with the individual soccer of touch and attack. The total soccer of Clockwork Orange coached by Rinus Michels, of whom we have spoken so much in this column.

The Clockwork Orange classic "Eleven"
The Clockwork Orange classic "Eleven"
Now I've found out that there are two places in Spain that include the name Boedo - the town of Boedo de Castrejón and the district Boedo-Ojeda. Maybe the store in the old photo that you sent me is found in one of those places? Or is it from our Buenos Aires Boedo? I suppose that if your agent in Spain sent you the photo, it was because it came from over here.

Speaking of Spain, in this country there are olive trees that are a thousand years old and continue producing fruit. Since they don't seem to have any protection for their historic value, there are those who buy them, dig them up and transport them whole to foreign places. Many of these ancient trees die on the journey to Asia, Europe or the Americas and those that arrive have much less hope of living than they would have had, if they hadn't been pulled out of their native soil. Today I read this detailed and somewhat discouraging article in that regard:

A Spanish olive tree more than two thousand years old
A Spanish olive tree more than two thousand years …
Another interesting - and somewhat cheerful - thing that I read in the pages of Mundo Azulgrana (Azulgrana World) about the scheduling of the next Argentine tournament:ás-17621.html


Hi Viggo,

I'm writing to you with Julián seated on my legs, touching everything. We're already in La Angostura after crossing Chile from north to south and stopping a few days in Valdivia. Now we're going to stay here for ten days, which is good because I haven't been in any place for more than three consecutive days and the whole time with the damned and beautiful family who give me beautiful moments and moments in which I want to kill them all. Did you see the scene from Reservoir Dogs in which all of the gangsters point and shoot at the same time and all of them fall down dead?

Shootout in <i>Reservoir Dogs</i>
Shootout in Reservoir Dogs
Well, that happens sometimes when we all quarrel among ourselves, including baby Julián. But I drove on rubble along the mountain range and I found a book I had been looking for for a long time by Gichin Funakoshi, the karate master who succeeded in unifying the karate chops, and I bought it and couldn't stop reading it with profound excitement. It was in a bookshop next door to the house that they lent us in Santiago de Chile. When I return, I can't wait to resume the karate I left a whole year ago. Traveling, I think, is a form of living impermanence: you are here, and at times you are there, and later somewhere else. As Funakoshi says, in this world nothing dies; everything returns to essential elements - unless man's vanity stops the process!


Hey, Cuervo, do you know the 1976 film Network? (in Argentina it´s called Poder que mata [Power that Kills] and in Spain Un mundo implacable [An Implacable World] - very bad versions of the title, in my opinion. It was written by the great screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet. The cast of actors, that includes Peter Finch, William Holden, Robert Duvall and Faye Dunaway, is awesome. It's a film that, to this day, is still amazing, daring and eloquent in the way it points out the vacuity and cynicism of the media as much as the passivity and thoughtless conformism of the audience. I saw it again yesterday for the first time in twenty years, and thought, "Nothing has changed; the great majority of people still allow themselves to be indoctrinated, taking part in a sort of self-brainwashing, through TV and their gadgets." The streets of all the towns and cities of the world seem to be peopled by zombies who spend almost all the hours of their days looking at the little screens on their phones, increasingly removing themselves from the present, from the immediate environment they are passing through, deaf and blind to the unrepeatable details of their lives. Human beings are learning to inform themselves and communicate everything they see, think and feel at speeds that, until recently, were unthinkable, but it seems to me that increasingly we are less "here"; increasingly we participate less in our own lives. Network deals with that. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it.

Peter Finch in <i>Network</i>
Peter Finch in Network
There's a song called "All the Lonely People," from the band America, from the same time period as Network, that brings to mind people that take risks, like the character of Peter Finch in the movie, to wonder, "Where am I really? What is happening here, right now? Who's in charge? Because I obey and what happens if I say, after understanding what my life and my body ask of me, that I'm not going to obey?" A song that, in spite of being a little insipid, speaks of the hope that gets us to start all over again, that makes us able to say "I'm here!" I'm sending you a video; I think it's from 1973:

America playing in England in 1973
America playing in England in 1973

Hello Cuervo,
No, I haven't seen the movie you told me about; I put it on my agenda to look for it and watch it. We just arrived yesterday from 25 days on the road through Chile and Argentina. It took us two long days in the car from the south, La Angostura, stopping in Santa Rosa de La Pampa and arriving in Buenos Aires at seven in the evening. It was an unforgettable trip that affirms the instability of families, like in that glorious film called Little Miss Sunshine.

Shot from <i>Little Miss Sunshine</i>, 2006
Shot from Little Miss Sunshine, 2006
Family is that - something dysfunctional and essential. Now, Cuervo, I have a FedEx notice here that tells me that what you sent me is being held in the Ezeiza Customs office because it breaks some asinine textile law. I can't believe it. To retrieve it, I have to go to an office, whose location is unknown to me, where I perform some formality and then go to Ezeiza to pay $100 plus costs, if, that is, the package is still there. You and I have bad luck sending things. What does get to me great are your beautiful postcards. Here we're concerned because we lost the first Clásico of the year with Huracán, although my brother told me that in the first period we could have scored several goals. Did you see it? I was in a cabin in the woods without WiFi, television, nothing. Hugs, Cuervo.


Yes, I saw the second half. I don't know what we did in the first, but in the second, San Lorenzo played horribly. What a fuck-up that thing about the Ezeiza customs duty! Just leave it. They'll return it to me and I'll give it to you when I see you, as happened with the Christmas gifts last year. The "illegal" textile that I sent is a CASLA t-shirt from the 90's and a handmade bag with the San Lorenzo emblem. Is Ciclón illegal now in Argentina? It could be a Bostero or Quemero customs agent, right? Incredible.


Last night after bathing Julian, feeding him and getting him to sleep, I turned on the TV to see the summer match between CASLA and River. I liked how we played in the first period and in the second, they fell apart. I liked that Guede could test the boys, that he would make San Lorenzo play offense (he seems to be more on offense than Pizzi) but it's still, as they say, "student loves are like the flowers of a summer." [tr. note: It won't last.] We'll have to wait. When River scored the third goal against us, I turned off the TV and started reading Tarkovsky's diaries which are great. Have you read them? At night I dreamt about you. I think we were in Boedo talking about how we'd played a match and suddenly, with those folds that dreams have, I realized that it was the post-game after we'd won the second Libertadores. Great!!! You said, "Ortigoza crushed it!"


Lovely dream, brother. Let's hope it happens!

Tarkovsky wrote very well, as well as he directed his films. I'm familiar with his diaries and his books of photographs. I have a really good one with Polaroids linked to his shoots. The book of his that I like the most - and one of the best books I have about cinema - is called Sculpting in Time.

The other day I read in the local paper (I'm back in the Northeast U.S. to accompany my old man to several medical appointments and to take advantage of the time that remains for us to understand each other face to face) an incredible story about a guy in Norway who hears at dawn through his bedroom window that someone is stealing his car. He goes out in his underwear and throws himself on top of the car as it pulls out onto the snowy road. The thief continues driving like a madman and goes 90 km/hour for several kilometers along an icy road, until the owner breaks the back window with his knee and gets into the car throwing punches as if it were an action film. They finally crash into a barrier. The police arrive and arrest the thief. Blood and snow everywhere. The owner is a Viking superhero. Here's the news reported by the BBC:

Our companion of absurd journeys has won another prize. The jury of the sixth annual Cinema Tropical Awards, the only American awards celebrating Latin American cinema, nominated Jauja as Best Latin American Film of the year. The ceremony was in New York. Congratulations, Lisandro!

Lisandro conquers in the USA
Lisandro conquers in the USA
The complete list of winners:
Best Latin American Film of the Year – Jauja (Argentina)
Best Documentary Film - Invasión (Panamá)
Best First Film - Ixcanul Volcano (Guatemala)
Best U.S. Latino Film - Mala Mala
Best Director of a Feature Film - Pablo Larraín, for The Club (Chile)
Best Director of a Documentary Film - Betzabé García, for Kings of Nowhere (México)

Our Nina is growing up. She´s already four months old.

© Viggo Mortensen.
Although it's old news (it happened a month ago), I mention Real Madrid´s shameful way of firing Rafael Benitez because it seems to me that the big clubs are increasingly behaving worse everywhere, and that people are accepting, almost without blinking, the disrespectful behaviour of disgraceful misers like Florentino Pérez, the president of Real Madrid. This time Florentino did it really badly, even worse that he had done it with Ancelotti, Casillas, Pellegrini, Raúl, or Vicente del Bosque on their deplorable departures. He has signed Zidane as the new coach, and things are going more or less well so far for the legendary French-Algerian. I want Zidane to succeed as coach, but what´s been done to Benitez is not right. This appeared in El País about the dismal outcome of the dismissal:

The Real Florentino
"We've made a difficult decision, how to resolve the issue of Rafael Benítez' first team contract. We have before us a magnificent professional and a great person. I want to thank him for his work over the last few months. The Board of Directors has decided to name Zidane as coach of the first team." With that, in just 22 seconds, Florentino Pérez dispatched Benítez' tenure as coach of the "Whites." [tr.note: Real Madrid]

Rafael Benítez
Rafael Benítez
But the treatment of the man from Madrid goes beyond that, since they had still not officially communicated to Benítez, at the time these words were being uttered, he'd stopped being Madrid's coach. In fact, during the same afternoon yesterday, they'd told him that the decision had not been made, but that he should come over to Bernabéu. Something that he didn't want to do to avoid having his picture taken while entering the stadium. In fact, his agent, Manolo García Quilón didn't go either. A clear conscience. The coach, who will get paid an additional six months of his contract, appeared surprised when he found out that Zidane's family was there. "One more of the many things they've done to me," he commented, resigned, to those close to him, who are sure that he leaves with a clear conscience. He repeats again that the club asked him to do what they didn't dare to do... punishing James or Jesé. "It's impossible to work like this," he told his closest associates.

Benítez, on the other hand, showed that he's an honorable man by saying good-bye to the club and to the Madrid supporters in writing (since Florentino didn't give him the opportunity to do it in person in a decent way):

"I want everyone that makes up this organization, from the Board of Directors to every last one of its fans, managers, workers, followers and sympathizers, to know that for me it has been an honor to hold this position in the club that has seen me grow as a soccer player, as a person and as a coach of the junior levels, moving up to the first team. I would like to thank in a special way all those people who helped me, from the first day that I set foot in the new "Real Madrid City" or our "Santiago Bernabéu," to all those who have made my job easier during these months, to so many that have given the best of themselves to try to achieve our common goal."

He also had nice words for Zidane, a remarkable gesture in that tough moment: "I would like to wish all kinds of luck to Zinadine Zidan, my substitute, and to all of his work team, as well as each and every one of the players, trainers and staff, those who work for the good of the Club as much in Valdebebas [tr. note: The Sports City where the training facilities are] as in Bernabeu [tr. note: RM stadium]. His luck will be that of our Real Madrid, to which I wish all the best."

That's the way things are done. In difficult moments, when the impermanence of things stands out, is when the character of people is put to the greatest test. I wish you well, Rafa.

P.S. We presented the movie Captain Fantastic, written and directed by Matt Ross, for the first time at the recent Sundance Festival in Park City, Utah. It's the one we shot last year in the north-western forest of the US and in New Mexico, right after CASLA won the Libertadores [Cup]. It's a bit similar to Little Miss Sunshine - our story also has a peculiar family that embarks on a long journey on the roads of North America - although it's my view that it's a little more profound in terms of serious questions about society and coexistence. I'm sending you a picture of the "family" that appeared in the Los Angeles Times the day of the opening, and another from the shoot:


Here there's a hell of a heat wave, with high humidity and mosquitoes. I just finished writing a column for the newspaper where I write, and I'm sending it to you because, somehow, it summarizes, more or less clearly, I think, what's been happening to me these days. On the other hand, if everything turns out OK, we are going to the countryside for four days that are holidays. CASLA debuts today against Patronato, and next we'll play the Supercopa against Boca. (I think this is an open match for either of the two.) Here's the column:

On the Path of Gichin Funakoshi

Today I saw a picture in the newspaper of Andrés D'Alessandro crying during a press conference. The guy was leaving Inter - on bad terms with the Board of Directors, according to the press - and was returning to River. I don't know why, when I saw the picture, I thought that Andrés was crying because of the emotion of returning to River. But it wasn't only that. He was crying because he loves the Brazilian club so much and was sorry he had to leave that way. D'Alessandro was crying about leaving one place and returning to another. I too was moved to tears last Tuesday, sitting in the locker room of Onbu Dojo to resume doing karate after being absent for a long year. I say doing karate because, in spite of practicing it for ten years and having a high belt, I still haven't gotten to the place where karate does me. I have "to do" karate, practice it, struggle against it, for it to accept me. I´m a karateka outlet. But despite that, despite not having the slightest ability to step firmly into the dojo, karate is already a part of me and I simply can´t stop practicing it, awake or asleep. I came back from the holidays with the conviction that not doing karate last year was a mistake. I mean, arguing that the successive setbacks of everyday life prevented me from going to the dojo - it's not true. It´s self-indulgence. I should have gone once a week or once a month; I shouldn't have stopped going. Karate, says Sensei Gichin Funakoshi in his advice on how to practice, is like hot water; it needs to always be under a flame, big or small, otherwise it gets cold. Many times what the conscious mind doesn't say, the unconscious does. During the holidays, I repeatedly dreamed I was in Sensei Mitsuo Inoue´s dojo - with whom I've practiced all this time - listening to his voice, trying to do one of his katas that are so difficult for me in real life but that are perfect in dreams. And I would wake up excited. Could I be a perfect karateka, with kime, who dreams he's a karateka outlet? Or vice versa? The thing is, as Carl Jung says, sometimes the unconscious sneaks into real life, modifying it. During the holidays we stayed for several days in a house that the genius Pedro Montes lent me in Santiago de Chile. Attached to the house there's a bookshop, and in the window, you could see the elderly face of Gichin Funakoshi on the cover of his book, Karate-Do: My Way of Life. Incredible. A book I had been searching for for years, that seemed untraceable and about which I knew things because my dojo colleagues had told me - was there, waiting for me. I read it in one sitting and it has accompanied me in mind and spirit until today. "Any place is a dojo," says Funakoshi, urging us to practice karate everywhere and applying the teachings of karate to anything we do in everyday life. "A karateka should seek weakness, not strength," he says at one point. And explains: "...this might not be fully understood, but to those who practice with care and concentration, it will become clear." There's something from Karate-Do that comes from Chinese teachings: not having a goal or a tactic to embed in real life, like joining together two Lego pieces, but rather that the vital strategy consists in action naturally taking the appropriate path. In the book Funakoshi talks about the teachers who trained him and about his life as a practitioner and promoter of martial arts. It's an enjoyable read and its pages hold a certain mineral freshness. Funakoshi is also careful to demystify the exploits of the karatekas. He is a realistic karateka and the tricks are for "Neo" fighting against the "Matrix"; there are no supermen here destroying bricks or guys flying through the air. In karate, the ultimate goal is spiritual; without that, the technical conditions become irrelevant. Funakoshi also writes poetry. With characters that look like paintings, he says: "Penetrating the old is understanding the new; the old and new is only a question of time. In every case man must have a clear mentality. This is the path: who will follow it correctly?"


Thanks, Fabián. When I see you again you must show me this book by the great Japanese master. I too am gradually resuming an old path, that of daily poetry. I cannot sleep and wrote this two minutes ago:

Son las cinco

de este invierno nervioso
abro la ventana de la oficina
salgo en manga corta al balcón
hay mucho borracho en la plaza
será que es viernes por la mañana
pero también hay algo primaveral
esta noche de recién febrero
están sentados en el cemento
riéndose y rodando sus botellas
por la acera sin temblar
no entiendo esta brisa
o que el roble esté brotando
y los castaños también
es muy temprano para eso
y me hace temer el verano
que ya pinta largo y letal
todavía no leí los dos libros
que recibí el Día de Reyes
hago cuenta atrás y coloco
los laburos, amores, muertos
y desencuentros olvidados
en un orden que entiendo
para ver cómo va la cosa,
cuánto me queda de tiempo
y memoria para armarme
contra el muro implacable
cosas del amanecer solitario
rutina perdida que me sorprende
y me anima
como el subir a un pingo
después de tantos inviernos
pensando ¡qué maravilla,
cuánto lo extrañé! sé
que tendré que hacer siesta
por haber dormido tan poco
quizá sacaré a la perrita
antes de que pueda cagar
en la cocina.


What a lovely poem, Viggo. It reminded me of the poems of Cesare Pavese. Have you read them? They have something of that everyday flow used by prosaic verse that yours has, although in other settings. Pavese writes a lot about his town, the fields, the hills, and your poem takes place, in part, in your apartment. Furthermore, I liked the ending, so simple and funny resembling that of humorous haiku.

Cesare Pavese
Cesare Pavese
Return From Deola

We will return to the streets to look at passersby
and we too will be passersby. We will consider
how to get up early, surrendering the disgust
of the night and go out with the step of other times.
We will bend the head of the work of other times.
Stunned we will smoke again, down there,
against the glass. But the eyes will be the same,
also the face and the gestures. That futile secret
that lingers in the body and gives us a vacant look
will slowly die in the rhythm of the blood
where everything disappears.
We will go out one morning,
we will no longer have a house, we will go out in the street;
the disgust of the night will abandon us;
we will shiver with loneliness. But we will want to be alone
We will stare at passersby with the dead smile
of the defeated, who neither shouts or hates
because he knows that since ancient times luck
- all it has been and will be - is in the blood,
the whispering of the blood. Alone, in the middle of the street,
we will lower our brow, listening for an echo
in our blood. And this echo will never vibrate.
We will look up, we will look at the street.
-Cesare Pavese
(translation by Ollie)


Yes, a new tournament started. It's tailor-made for Bosta [tr. note: Boca Juniors], obviously, with the two little groups - one that includes River, Central, Independiente and San Lorenzo and Boca in the other. What thieves the Bosteros are! How afraid they are of us and the Gallinas [tr.note: River] Shame on our children; how badly we raised them. With the one still ruling in AFA, and one who now is taking apart everything positive that was achieved by the federal government during the last decade. And I'm not the only one saying it as a Cuervo. Look at this which I recently found in Olé, a comment from a Boca Juniors supporter regarding the new format of the First Division tournament:

"Matías Campos - 11 hours ago:
As a Boca supporter, I've just seen which teams the zones are made of: ZONE 1 River, vélez, san lorenzo, independiente, racing, central… They handed Boca the championship (BOCA); could it be that the nation's president has something to do with it??? I already feel disgusted with Argentine soccer. Macri didn't win everything with Boca; it was the players!!! Those players who saw how that ass Macri was making deals out of their passes, stealing the 15% due to the player..."

Pavese! It´s an honour that you compare one of my poems with what he wrote. I haven't read him for a long time. What I remember is that Scott Wannberg, a poet friend from California, once told me that Pavese was like an American poet somehow - that he had something of Walt Whitman and William Carlos Williams, or Hart Crane - and he committed suicide rather young (like Crane.) When I later read a book of his poems translated from Italian into English, it seemed to me that Scott was right, that his simple, direct style, - so different from that of his Italian contemporaries - was a little Anglo-Saxon/North American.

Well, I just finished watching the match played in Entre Ríos. If it hadn't been for Pipi, we would have lost. A free kick great goal. Thank you Captain! San Lorenzo played much better in the second half, and Cauteruccio could have won the match with a bit of luck during the last few minutes, but it wasn't to be. Typical for us, suffering from the very start of the championship. But a point is a point. Hold on Ciclón!

Boca is tied against Temperley, without goals. Two minutes left. If it stays like that, it will be a big win for La Celeste. Like our tie was for Patronato. They already have played three additional minutes. They are still 0-0. How many more minutes are they going to give them for the Bosteros to score? Four, almost five... I can't believe it. And it's over, scoreless draw. Good. We'll see each other next week, sons.

Last year, we published a huge book of Scott Wannberg's poetry at Perceval Press. I think that we've talked about him and his death in 2011 before in this column. The new anthology of his poems, the third book of his poetry we have published, is called The Official Language of Yes. I think I gave it to you in Buenos Aires when I went to see Bauza's last match (against Temperley), right? I don't remember now. I'm not sleeping well these days, and although the confusion that this brings is useful for me in "receiving" poetry without judging it so much, it's not very good for remembering what happened yesterday and what I have to do today. I know that my intention was to bring you the book. If I didn't give it to you, tell me and I'll bring it to you. I don't want to send it because, as we are seeing, Customs is unpredictable. This is Scott's book:

© Perceval Press.
Speaking of Scott, I'm sending you an article written in the (northern) autumn of 2011 when Scott died, by a writer who knew him since they were kids in Venice, California. It's a special look at this singular poet and friend whom I miss so much.

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Last edited: 2 April 2016 09:09:58