if you can’t say anything nice…

Back from Bahia!The above is a metaphorical representation of Salvador’s effect on our bedraggled tour group.  A slew of posts to come on everything from caruru to capoeira to candomblé, as soon as I get my affairs in order and my quads stop hurting.  I might not be able to wait for the latter, however, as I suspect that will take quite a while indeed.

(If you’re reading this, MM, I apologize for the fish, but it was necessary.)


found in the IMS 4: snow in the tropics

Brazilians are so cute about snow.  This is a two-page feature I found in the Revista da Semana, from the winter of 1928.  Also, happy 100th blog post to me!

A scene from the film "Curityba sob a neve," a documentary about the storm of 1928. Link after the jump.


If you have not seen snow, you cannot know what whiteness is.  Neither milk nor sea-foam, neither linen nor camellia blossoms, not even a grandmother’s head bowed in prayer or remembrance – nothing rivals snow’s prodigious hue in either grace or spectacle.

Looking upon snow, one feels keenly the sacred presence of something fallen from heaven, come to beautify and purify the earth.  In truth, snow falls like a sweeping pardon from on high, hiding all roughness and defects, giving rude and misshapen forms a sweet, soft covering… And even as it hides rot and ugliness, it brings to light all the majesty the enchantment of Nature or the genius of Man has managed to create. Continue reading

even more vocabulary

“He collected all the dirty words he liked so much.  He applied himself.  In the blink of an eye he brought together thousands of them, in all the living languages and even in Greek and Latin because he was studying them a bit too.  The Italian collection was complete, with words for all hours of the day, all the days of the year, all the circumstances of life and all human feelings…” (Macunaíma)

Ok, only one of these is remotely dirty, but here are a few phrases I picked up last week, all in the space of about 15 minutes.  Sometimes I feel like I am collecting palavras-feias, though.

Dançar conforme a música:  Literally, “dance along to the music” – the slightly less stuffy Portuguese way of saying, “When in Rome…”

Muita água ainda vai rolar: “still a lot of water left to flow”; you’re just getting started.  This was mistakenly represented to me at first as “water under the bridge,” which is actually águas passadas.

Tarado/a (adj.): literally “horny,” but ser tarado por something is to be crazy about it.  Elementary Portuguese students: this is why the difference between ser and estar is important in colloquial language.  It’s the difference between liking a book and being sexually attracted to it.

At one point in Caryl Phillips’ talk at FLIP he used the phrase “disharmonious synchronicity,” and then paused a beat and said, “The translator’s going to have fun with that.”  I would like to say on behalf of all translators that that is not cool.

found in the IMS 3: blast from the past

It’s funny, by now Christ Redeemer is such an indelible part of the Rio landscape that I hadn’t stopped to think about what a technical feat it was to put a massive statue on top of a mountain in 1928.  This article from A Revista da Semana, October 1928, seems much less concerned with spectacle (or the Lord) than with the prospect that Cristo could be blown off the top of Corcovado and crush Humaitá.


The highest hope of the Christian people of Rio de Janeiro will soon be realized.  As soon as in a year… the monument to Christ Redeemer will tower over the city and the sea, at an altitude of over 700 meters on the peak of the Corcovado.

Paris is known for the Eiffel Tower; New York for the Statue of Liberty; Rio will be considerably more so for its Christ.  The statue, which is on the verge of being assembled, was envisioned by the illustrious architect dr. Silva Costa and executed by the sculptor Paul Landowski.  With a total height of around 40 meters, the monument will have the following approximate dimensions:  height of the statue, 30m; height of the head, 3.75m; length of the hand, 3.2m; distance between right and left fingertips, 30m; base of the pedestal, 100 sq. m.; volume, 419 cubic m; weight, 1,145 tons; total weight, 1,680 tons.

Nothing like this monument has yet been attempted in the history of the world.  And we would do well to reproduce the words of the speech given by dr. Silva Costa at the Rotary Club, in July of last year:

“The State of Liberty raises her right arm vertically, the hand of which holds a torch; the statue of Notre Dame du Puy and Saint John forms a single figure with the Christ Child; the statue of St. Carlos Borromeo holds only the forearm away from the body.  The vast bulk of the body, due to its circular form, offers relatively little resistance to the wind…”

[And he goes on at length about measurements…]

“The wind blows with great force on the Corcovado, and, if we consider that its velocity could double during a cyclone, we see that this is indeed a daring construction, in its form just as much as its location – given that during the execution of the most difficult element, the arms, I have no firm ground upon which to erect the scaffolding.”

paraty II: photo finish


Highlights from the FLIP closing ceremonies.

found in the IMS 2: Octavio Tavares would like to make it clear that he does not approve of modernist art.

Revista da Semana, August 17, 1929.


Very few people can claim to have “understood” the paintings from the exhibition that sra. Tarsila do Amaral recently put on in our city.  As a matter of fact, the paintings cannot be understood because they have no meaning whatsoever.

Forest (???) – “Painting” by senhora Tarsila do Amaral

Senhora Tarsila gives the impression of a peerless satirist, capable of mocking her colleagues and subsequently enjoying the fruits of her profound irony.  There is something of Juvenal and Voltaire in senhora Tarsila.  The pen has been replaced by the paintbrush, however, and the “painter” now laughs at the expense of others.  There can be no other reason for this odd and childish art, which any person of good conscience will never be able to understand, much less admire.  Some excesses can easily be understood, and these can be forgiven; senhora Tarsila’s defy all understanding and do not merit our mercy.  I do not believe that a single person is so gifted as to be able to understand this satirist-painter’s ideas.  Many have surely said that they understand and admire her work.  They, however, are only getting back at senhora Tarsila; for, instead of allowing her to laugh at their expense, they laugh at her, praising her to the heavens, as if it were possible that human intelligence had suffered such radical changes in the past few years as to allow for the representation of what is square in nature by what is round on the canvas. Continue reading