The Origin of Myths
By Viggo Mortensen and Fabián Casas - translated by Ollie, Rio and Zoe
18 March 2014
Cuervo, I'm in another airport, this time New York's La Guardia. I'm in the waiting room, watching the iconic skyline of downtown Manhattan, my home town. Clear skies, about 5 degrees. I'm going to fly to Dallas and then to Tucson, Arizona, to visit an old friend, Michael Blake, the writer of Dances With Wolves. I talk to him on the phone a lot, but I haven't seen him for a long time. He's had health problems, and he doesn't remember the names of everything, but he knows what they are and he continues laughing at them. My son Henry is coming from Los Angeles, and we'll get together with Michael in Tucson for a couple of days. He's Henry's godfather. Then I go back to Europe. Last night I was with director Ana Piterbarg at the Instituto Cervantes of New York to do a special presentation of the movie Everybody Has a Plan. We had a good time. She brought her Boca Juniors flag, but since the Argentine ambassador, who is a super Cuervo, was there too, we were able to put up with the Bostera [tr. note: female fan of Boca Juniors.] Everything was fine. And earlier I was in Toronto to present a prize to Cronenberg. I'm doing a strange tour of North America in order to see friends while I can. As if a great flood was about to arrive. This morning, before leaving for the airport, I went to MOMA (the Museum of Modern Art) and saw the Gauguin exhibit. It includes a painting that I like a lot called "The White Horse," borrowed from the Museé d'Orsay in Paris. The painting really has three horses - a white one, a chestnut and a bay - and two nude riders. The play of perspective in this painting is lovely and the colors are striking. It seems that the owner of a pharmacy in Tahiti commissioned it, but when he saw what Gauguin had painted, he didn't like it at all. He said that the white horse, reflecting the colors of the jungle, was too green. He refused to accept the painting. The thing about commissioned work, whether it's a painting, a film, a poem - anything that entails the pressure of expectations that the client could have - is an unpredictable business. It's better to do what one wants and if someone likes it afterward, perfect. If not, there's no rancour, that's it and everyone goes on with their lives.
"The White Horse" 1898.
© Museé d'Orsay .
Speaking of expectations, Ana's movie, already a year and half from the time of its premiere, now is generally accepted as an interesting work, without the earlier prejudices. To me, it's a very original first work, a story well told. As is the case with all of Cronenberg's movies when they premiere, what happened to Ana's is what almost always occurs when stories don't follow "norms" in the rhythm, the denouement, the characterizations of the roles. The critics and the public whinny and prefer to punish the new instead of trying to take it in without prejudice. It happens, as you know, with literature and with all kinds of artistic efforts. With philosophy and the sciences as well. I'm not saying a work exists that could please everyone. That would be very boring. I'm referring to the fear, or at least the resistance that any different thought and/or unexpected vision often provokes. I've spoken with people who'd earlier bashed Ana's movie and who now, seeing it again, say they like it. When you can pay attention to the object or the story in your own way, according to your own experiences and without the distractions/psychological threats that the opinions of others sometimes bring, you're able to appreciate almost any vision of the world. As the Welsh philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell said:
"If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way."
I don't know, I think that you have to keep thinking and creating without paying attention to immediate reactions, to initial results. If you do a good job, sooner or later it will bear fruit and it's even possible that the value of that labor will be recognized. The rest is superstition and fear. The same thing with San Lorenzo at the moment. Little by little Bauza's guys are putting together a nice campaign. CASLA always suffers along the way. They suffered during the last tournament that we won led by Pizzi and they're suffering now in the Libertadores and in the national tournament. We're there, enduring the ups and downs, but we never have it easy. The 1-1 against Union Española was a frustrating result, because CASLA was clearly the better team. This weekend they play a key match against Colon for the top [spot] of the Argentine championship. The important thing is that we keep fighting our way up to the top, the way we finished in the last championship. Hold on, Ciclón!
Hello Cuervo, impressive Gauguin horse!! Today I remained inside the car for a while, parked under some trees while a heavy rain was falling. I was listening to some CDs by Spinetta that are part of his work that I've listened to the least: "Los ojos" [The Eyes], "Para los árboles" [For the Trees], "Silver Sorgo", "Pan" [Bread]... There's something mineral in Spinetta's songs that makes them transcend time.
I realised while I listened to them and listened to the rain mastered by the trees and the wind, that a perfect song is unbeatable, that it can be translated into all languages precisely because it doesn't need translation. I thought this when I started listening to a disturbing song by Spinetta called "Ave seca" [Dry Bird] that goes like this: "The dog at home/ the wish to leave/ come and fly on my dry bird/ made with the shadow of ghosts". I remember that I thought that if a Japanese heard that song, he would unfortunately miss - no matter how much he liked the melody - the beautiful text by Spinetta that made it complete. I remained silent. And I realised how wrong my judgement was. Actually that Japanese, without knowing any Spanish, when listening to this loveliness, would understand exactly what I was feeling. It was revealing. Now it's still raining. On Saturday we're playing Colón, and against the Chileans again on Thursday for the Cup. The only good thing I get from the result of the match in the New Gasómetro [tr. note: in English in the original] is that now Bauza will have to attack whether he wants to or not because time is running out for us. Yesterday it came to me that instead of a technical talk or showing the players a motivating video, a few minutes before going out on the pitch I would have them listen to the song "Lonely Boy" from the great The Black Keys. It's so funny, exciting and irreverent that it has to make you go out and play without any responsibility, so you can begin to make your dreams come true - although, as Delmore Schwartz said, responsibilities begin in dreams…
Here's the great video from The Black Keys:
Thank you, very good song. For dancing without fear, which is what we have to do tonight in the match against the guys from Santa Fe. The guy from the video, with the sleeves of his white shirt rolled up, letting go on his own with the music in such an unremarkable place (I don't know if he's in front of a motel office) got me on my feet and made me smile. That's the way to play. I read that the gentleman is called Derrick Tuggle and that he was one of several who were going to dance in the video, but when the director saw him doing his screen test, he decided that Derrick had to dance alone. A very good decision. I took a photo of the last moment on the video; look at the certainty and calm the man transmits in that moment:
Derrick T. Tuggle
Image Videocap by Viggo Mortensen.
I woke up at 5 in the morning here in the old Congress Hotel, in one of their old rooms that it seems haven´t changed since 1919 when the establishment was founded. The rooms are small, without TV or anything, with narrow but comfortable beds. The Congress is in the old downtown of Tucson, next to the train station. A lot of good punk, reggae, folk, anything bands come here to sing and play in English and Spanish. The first time I passed through this place was at the end of the '80s to see X, the band of Exene, who is the mother of our son Henry. This morning I sent you a postcard with a picture of the Congress. I hope it reaches your home.
Exene in the 80s.
They also organise poetry festivals in the hotel. When I´ve come to Tucson to work, or just to see my friend Michael, I try to stay here. In January of 1934, they captured John Dillinger, the famous murderer and thief after he escaped from this hotel when the third floor, where the rooms of his criminal gang - who were with some women and drinking whisky - were located, caught fire. It seems that Dillinger paid a local cop, who didn´t know who he and his travelling companions were, to take their suitcases out of the rooms and to bring them to a house on Second Avenue where the gang had hidden. On opening the suitcases and finding a lot of stolen money and some weapons, the police realised that these guys were important thieves, and they arrested them. Back then the Tucson police were a bit wild. When they were transferring Dillinger to the Pima County jail, they didn´t handcuff him. One of the policemen, Mickey Nolan, asked why they were leaving such a dangerous criminal with his hands and feet free, and the policeman in charge of the transfer answered, "Let the son of a bitch run. That´s what we want. So we can shoot him in the back and save the county some money." Dillinger ended up escaping, but they killed him coming out of the Biograph Theatre in Chicago in July of that year. I don´t remember what movie he had gone to see.
The weekends in the Congress Hotel are pandemonium, with the noise from the concerts and the bar in the old lobby. On top of that, this weekend they are celebrating Saint Patrick´s Day (March 17th) in a crazy way, with almost everybody dressed in green in supposed honor of Ireland and everything Irish, and with everybody drunk until Monday. That´s why I didn´t sleep well, and also because in my mind, I´m still a little bit in the Northeast of the country where two days ago I was excavating my rented car that was covered with more than a meter of fresh snow so I could get to the airport where my flight to New York was leaving. I went from -26 degrees centigrade to 35 [tr. note: -15 to 95 F] here in the desert of the Southwest. From the cold night by the frozen Saint Lawrence river that marks the border with Canada to the clear dawn of the Sonoran Desert, a shot away from Mexico.
Well, now it´s Colón´s turn. We´ll talk after the match, brother. A hug with black wings.
Brother Cuervo: Saturday we were planning to leave Anita at her grandmother's house and while we were going there, where I was also going to watch the match with Colón on the TV, we came across a San Lorenzo supporter who was on the corner, waiting to cross; in fact, he was waiting for me to go by with the car in order to cross. The guy was a young, somewhat beardless man around 30 wearing a shirt from the last championship. I honked the horn and made him a "v" sign with the fingers of my left hand and he laughed and waved. My wife, next to me, asked me who he was. "A San Lorenzo supporter," I told her. "Ah, I thought he was someone you knew!" she told me and laughed. I continued driving in silence but it got me thinking: that the guy would be for CASLA makes him, in some special way, however much we have different lives and temperaments, someone familiar. There's an incredible history that we have in common (plays treasured in memory, the old stadium that resides there too, the shirts that have been changing and the names that often bring up many memories.) Just as for Proust the taste of a madeleine fires up the creative engine: Premicci, Rinaldi, Telch, Veglio, Chazarreta, Villar, Fisher… and thousands more... and Sunday, returning to my old man's house, I went walking down the side streets of Boedo and I came across a great mural that they made for Telch in which la Oveja or Cordero [tr. note: the Sheep or Lamb, Telch's nicknames] seems to fly through the air free as a bird. I remember that I thought that when you come, I'd take you to see it so that you can photograph it and I also thought that a book could be done with the murals and graffiti with Ciclón as a motif that there are in the suburbs of Boedo. Shall we do it when you come? In that way, too, the young man who crossed the street is a familiar person. He too, when he chose to be for San Lorenzo, was magnetized by all that extraordinary neighborhood and cutting-edge creativity that CASLA has. Later, during the night, I suppose that "familiar person" must have suffered like I that we didn't win against Colón, despite trying all the time. A shame, but there's still time. Yesterday Pipi - who crushed it against Colón - turned 30, Christ's age!
I saw the game on my laptop in the middle of the desert in the bedroom of my friend, Michael. He loves sports. He can no longer remember the names of the North American football and college basketball players from the US, but he knows the rules of those games and is passionate about watching the games on his TV. I don't think he'd seen our football [tr. note: soccer] in his life, but I convinced him that he had to see Ciclón on my laptop because they don't show that here on the TV and he was going to like it. He suffered through the tie like me. I thought that he was going to be bored by the lack of goals, but when the game ended at 0-0, he said, "I liked it. I don't know how they don't get tired running from one side to the other without stopping. It would have been better if your team had won, but it seems to me that they did everything possible, right?" I told him yes, that San Lorenzo fought and played quite true to form, and that the point we earned was welcome. I was reminded of a phrase from the Finnish film director, Aki Kaurismäki, "It could have been better, but then it wouldn't be me."
P.S.: Photos of the new murals - good idea. I´ve already photographed several of them. As you know, every time I go to Buenos Aires, coming from Ezeiza [airport], I pass by where the Viejo Gasómetro used to be in order to spit on Carrefour, and sometimes I take pictures around the neighbourhood. I think there are several photographs of San Lorenzo murals on the internet taken by different photographers. I don´t know if I sent you this one of you with Anita, in front of CASLA´s headquarters in Avenida La Plata a year ago, with the new pope freshly painted next to the club´s door:
P.P.P.S.: I woke up thinking that we are going to fight the championship final against River. I know it sounds absurd, seeing how badly the Gallinas are playing and how badly Ramón is managing. Actually I don´t give a damn whether it´s River or Colón or Newell´s or Vélez or Godoy Cruz or the Devil himself, as long as we come out champions, I´m just telling you what came into my head...
Last edited: 6 April 2014 20:07:52