24 fevereiro, 2015

Numa sala perto de mim #292

The Stranger (1946) tells the story of a newly arrived man in a small Connecticut town trying to hide his infamous past. Celebrating 100 years of Orson Welles.

23 fevereiro, 2015

22 fevereiro, 2015

Numa sala perto de mim #291

Antarctica: a year on ice* (2013) is a wonderful documentary about life in Antarctica. Scientists, engineers, helicopter pilots, IT people, firemen, sales people, cooks, all living in research stations, most only during the busy summer months when the sun is always up and some enduring the dark winter season. Other than showing daily routines, social interactions, animal life, climate and special weather phenomena, the movie also discusses logistics, isolation, and the psychological effects of living in such a remote and particular location. 

*It seemed the natural movie to watch after living in icy conditions throughout the week!

21 fevereiro, 2015

Parece que ainda estou a ouvir

Ontem à noite, no Coliseu, foi mais ou menos assim:

Espantos #419

For those of you who'd never seen iced rain:
this is my hat upon arriving home; these are tiny ice (not water) drops.
Para quem nunca viu neve gelada:
este é o meu chapéu ao chegar a casa; são gotículas de gelo, não água.

Inverno #37

Second ice storm in a week... oh rain please come down tomorrow and make us happy!
Segunda tempestade de gelo numa semana... por favor chuva, aparece amanhã e faz-nos felizes!

20 fevereiro, 2015

Numa sala perto de mim #290

Boyhood (2014) is a film like no other. With no particular story or remarkable episode to tell, it accompanies the life of a 6 year old boy until he turns 18 in a sequence of 12 episodes roughly a year apart from each other. The result is 165 minutes of somebody's childhood years with good and bad moments not necessarily worthy of cameras but overall worth of note, as the forming years of any ordinary person should be. 

The project took twelve years in the making (how many movies were done in those 12 years?) and required massive tracking of the individuals playing each of the characters, who met every year to shoot some scenes. Remarkable. Even if it doesn't win the oscar for best picture, Boyhood is one of a kind and already part of movie history.

19 fevereiro, 2015

Inverno #36

Depois da tempestade de gelo de segunda, seguiu-se o lento processo de derretimento na terça (apesar das temperaturas negativas) enquanto o sol brilhou ocasionalmente por entre as nuvens. Na madrugada de quarta nevou um pouco, por isso quando saí pela manhã pude ver a neve por cima do gelo. Lindas fotos, mas perigosas condições para peões e automobilistas. Hoje é o dia mais frio da semana (-7C a sentir-se -10C às 2pm), mas espero que o destemido sol acabe com a maior parte do gelo!
After Monday's ice storm, the slow defrosting process followed on Tuesday (despite the negative temperatures) while the sun shined only occasionally through the clouds. In the early hours of Wednesday morning it snowed lightly so when I got out in the morning I could see the snow on top of the ice. Pretty pictures but very hazardous walking and driving conditions. Today is the coldest day of the week (19F feeling like 14F at 2pm), but I hope today's unabated sunshine gets rid of most of the ice!

18 fevereiro, 2015

Retirado do contexto #195

Pobrezinho... mais parece que todo o dia chorou.

Numa sala perto de mim #289

Two days, one night (2014) tells the story of a factory employee who returns to work, after being on disability for four months, only to learn she has been laid off. Her co-workers were told the factory could not simultaneously keep her and give them bonuses so they were asked to chose between the two. Learning that a foreman threatened some of the workers into voting against her, she pleads for a second vote and tries, over the weekend, to convince her colleagues to help her keep her job. Marion Cotillard is one of the five nominees for best actress in a leading role.

17 fevereiro, 2015

Caprichos #354

Oh beautiful and chaotic thaw / Oh bela e caótica descongelação
may the tea and maple sugar never end while you're in progress!
que o chá e o açúcar mascavado nunca acabem enquanto aconteces!

Inverno #35

One more day iced in at home / Mais um dia em casa por causa do gelo
photos before and after sunrise / fotos antes e depois do sol nascer
keep shining for there's  a lot to melt!
que continue a brilhar porque há muito a derreter!

16 fevereiro, 2015

Inverno #34

Ice storms generate far more spectacular pictures than snow storms. Here's one of someone who ventured outside in Nashville today (any similarity is purely coincidental). Hopefully the ice/snow fall has ended round here, but the massive storm now marches north-east and is supposed to hit heavily battered Boston (that has yet to bounce back from last weekend's storm) by Wednesday.
Tempestades de gelo dão origem a fotos muitos mais espectaculares que tempestades de neve. Aqui está uma de alguém que se aventurou lá fora hoje em Nashville (qualquer semelhança é pura coincidência). Por aqui o gelo/neve já terão parado, mas a grande tempestade marcha agora para nordeste e deverá atingir a sacrificada Boston (que ainda não se recompôs da tempestade do fim de semana passado) na quarta-feira.

Inverno #33

Da minha janela vejo / From my window I see
não neve, mas gelo... / not snow, but ice...
há horas e não vai derreter tão cedo.
for hours now and it won't melt any time soon.

Inverno #32

Hoje é a nossa vez. Gelo agora, neve mais tarde... não é bonito.
Our turn today. Ice now, snow later... not pretty.

Numa sala perto de mim #288

The oscars are in one week so this is my last stretch to watch all the nominated movies (or actors) I wanted, but had no chance to see before.
Gone Girl (2014) is an intelligent thriller combining clever story telling back and forth, the search for a missing person, wanted/unwanted media attention and manipulation, intricate legal aspects, psychopat behavior, and reality tv, so dreadful, yet so followed. Excellent acting by Rosamund Pike!

15 fevereiro, 2015

Caprichos #353

Recomeçando a tradição (ida) de comprar flores frescas
Restarting the (gone) tradition of buying freshly cut flowers

Caprichos #352

Delicious Sunday lunch at Epice

14 fevereiro, 2015

Espantos #418

Nunca pensei vir a comprar um humidificador, mas com o frio e a secura que para aí vai foi uma boa opção!
Never thought I would buy a humidifier, but with the cold and dry weather we have it was a good choice!

13 fevereiro, 2015

Parece que estou a ouvir #201

In 1940s mode, a song about coffee by the Ink Spots... if you don't have coffee (or if you're just not into it) just think of (or have some) chocolate ;-)

The Ink Spots

I love coffee, I love tea
I love the java jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea and the java and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, boy

I love java, sweet and hot
Whoops, Mr. Moto, I'm a coffee pot
Shoot me the pot and I'll pour me a shot
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup

Oh, slip me a slug from the wonderful mug
I'll cut a rug till I'm snug in a jug
A slice of onion and a raw one, draw one
Waiter, waiter, percolator

I love coffee, I love tea
I love the java jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea and the java and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup

Ooh, Boston beans, soy beans
Green beans, cabbage and greens
I'm not keen of buying a bean
Unless it is a cheery, cheery bean boy

I love coffee, I love tea
I love the java jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea and the java and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, yeah

I love java, sweet and hot
Whoops, Mr. Moto, I'm a coffee pot
Shoot me the pot and I'll pour me a shot
A cup, a cup, a cup, yeah

Oh, trow me that slug from the wonderful mug
And I'll cut a rug till I'm snug in a jug
Drop a nickel in my pot, Joe, a take 'em slow
Waiter, waiter, percolator

I love coffee, I love tea
I love the java jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea and the java and me, yeah
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, bong

12 fevereiro, 2015

Caprichos #351

Celebrando a semana do chocolate!
Celebrating chocolate week!

Inverno #31

Em Nashville não estamos com neve até ao pescoço como em Boston (avé!), mas está fresquinho. Amanhã e domingo prometem!
In Nashville we don't have snow up to our ears as in Boston (thankfully!) but it's chilly. Tomorrow and Sunday will be cool!

10 fevereiro, 2015

Numa sala perto de mim #287

In this year's nominated live action shorts we have:

1) Parvaneh, on the unlikely friendship between a spoiled Swiss brat and a young illegal migrant from Afghanistan whose ways cross in Zurich. (Switzerland)
2) Phone Call, featuring the connection between two people on opposite ends of a phone line, a young respondent in crisis call center and an old widower at the end of his life. (UK)
3) The Butter Lamp, in which the said lamp is the improbable focus of the last moments of this 16 minute film packed with various people and backgrounds. (France and China)
4) Aya, tells the story of an unexpected driver of a passenger just arrived in Tel Aviv airport but bound to Jerusalem. (Israel and France)
5) Boogaloo and Graham, the lovely story of two Belfast brothers who receive unexpected live presents in the summer of 1978. (Northern Ireland)

All films are worthy of the distinction, should it be awarded to them!

09 fevereiro, 2015

Numa sala perto de mim #286

In this year's nominated documentary shorts we have:

1) The harsh reality of war veterans on the verge of suicide though the lens of the crises hotline center that handles the desperate calls of veterans and their families. (USA)
2) A young mother dying from cancer (1976-2012), though the movie is not about cancer but about her relationship with her 7-8 year old son. (Poland)
3) Oil rigging in White Earth ND, and the rush of workers to such inhospitable place from the perspective of their children. (USA)
4) The daily life of a worker in a slaughterhouse and his thoughts on what he does for a living. (Mexico)
5) The difficulties of a young couple whose newborn son has a very rare and life-threatening condition. (Poland)

07 fevereiro, 2015

Numa sala perto de mim #285

Still Alice (2014). We've all heard about Alzheimer's disease and its sad sequence of events through which, little by little, one ceases to be the person one once was. In Still Alice we see the disease unfolding in the middle of family life, early enough that career choices are being made, children are going through graduate school, grandchildren are being born. Slowly (yet so fast) losing one's mind must be excruciatingly difficult, but reaching a point when wishing one would have cancer instead is probably the end of one's world. Outstanding performance by Julianne Moore.

06 fevereiro, 2015

Caprichos #350

Janeiro veio e foi, Fevereiro já cá está e eu tenho um novo e lindo calendário de 2015!
January has come and gone, February is here and I have a beautiful new 2015 calendar!

04 fevereiro, 2015

Visiting Lisbon

Cloister of the Jerónimos Monastery, Lisbon

So many friends have visited Lisbon over the years, but especially last year (and this year... yes, friends have visited in 2015 already), that I've been frequently asked about what to do/see/eat in Lisbon. I am happy to help! Another friend is planning a visit for early summer so here is a copy of the email I sent her, if it can be of use to anyone else.

{NoteI should say I don't make a living on giving tourist tips to Lisbon or Porto or anywhere else; there are people with specific blogs on the matter that I highly recommend, and even link, below}

First things first --- Airport, cabs & metro

Something you should know about cabs in Lisbon. They are inexpensive and absolutely reliable if you catch them on the street or at the hotel. The only place where you cannot rely on the driver's honesty is at the arrivals section of the airport. You shouldn't have this problem because you're hotel is not super close to the airport, but usually they circulate around with tourists before they drop you at your hotel, or worse, they refuse taking people because the destination is too close.

There's a very easy way out of this trouble: taking a cab at departures instead of arrivals. So here's what you should do: 1) collect your luggage and walk out of the passengers area and into the arrivals hall, there's an automatic door separating these two areas, once you walk through it turn immediately to your right and go down the ramp; 2) keep going straight after the ramp ends, towards an esplanade with tables; 3) once you're close to the esplanade you'll see some long escalators to your right followed by a smaller escalator also on your right, take this second smaller escalator and you're in the departures hall; 4) the doors to the street will be towards your left. There will be plenty of reliable cabs outside who are used to pick up airport staff and not tourists so you can trust them.

The metro system reaches the airport so it's the cheapest and easiest way out. It's very functional and reliable (if they are not on strike) and covers a great part of the city... sadly not the Belém area (where many monuments are, see below) but you can charge your Lisboa card with money and use it on buses, cable cars (including Santa Justa's lift, see below), and trams too. You can transfer across various transportation systems within one hour on the same fare.

In Lisbon you should definitely see the following: 

- the castle which affords wonderful views of the city (hills and valley) by the river
- the views of the city from Chiado (a charming neighborhood in itself, next to another and very different neighborhood called Bairro Alto... you'll see that walking either's streets is a different experience) on the hill opposed to the castle, you can either walk or take the Santa Justa lift (inaugurated in 1902, the architect is from the school of Gustave Eiffel) or just walk uphill, the streets are charming. If you're tired afterwards, there are plenty of open air coffee shops to sit down, enjoy the view and have a lemonade... more pleasant in the summer, sure :-)
- the Baixa (or downtown) is the valley neighborhood between the castle and Chiado. It has many squares, the biggest of which is by the river. You should go up the monumental arch and see the view from there (bring your camera with loaded battery!). Walking along the river towards the west, you will find a completely renovated pedestrian waterfront with a wonderful view of the bridge (golden gate like, but smaller)
- the neighborhood of Belém for the architectural gems of the Belém Tower and the Jerónimos monastery; for the view of Padrão dos Descobrimentos, and ESPECIALLY for the custards! If you miss these I'll be personally offended... don't get discouraged by the long queues outside, just enter through the place and find an empty table in one of the many inner rooms and wait to be served the delicious custard tarts... start with two per person, you won't regret! The museum of modern and contemporary art is close by, in case you're interested, and I believe it's still free.
- Lisbon is a hilly city and there are several lifts you can take to go uphill. Santa Justa's is the only vertical one. There's three others that are also worth a note
- because of the hilly terrain you have roof top bars or terraces that afford excellent views of the city down below and from different perspectives. So I'd recommend planning a morning/afternoon walk and then just sit and stop at one of these places and enjoy a drink with a view. Lisbon is one of the few European capitals where you can eat and drink outside all year long (to have more sun hours a year you'd have to go to Tunis... no longer in Europe!) so take advantage of it!
- the #28 tram brings you up and down the beautiful hills and into very narrow streets where you doubt the tram will ever fit :-) It is very pretty, but you should be extremely aware of your belongings inside the tram. Because of the many tourists, there are also many pick-pocketers. Of all the pickpockets on Lisbon's entire transportation system (trams+buses+metro) half of them occur on the 28 tram.
- for going around, I hear the tuk tuk tours of the city are fun but I've never done it. It's supposed to take you through the narrow streets that the cabs won't fit!
- a cool and trendy place to see is the LX Factory, the new place for arts studios and other trendy places with shops with artsy stuff for sale, together with trendy places to eat, a cool bookstore, etc.
- if you're interested in cool, trendy and hip places to eat and drink (and go out at night), I'd recommend the neighborhoods of 1) Principe Real (along Rua da Misericórdia and Rua D. Pedro V -- "rua" means "street") is an up and coming neighborhood where new and trendy bars, restaurants, shops have opened recently and it's just an overall cool place to walk around and explore; 2) Bairro Alto (literally the high neighborhood), next to Chiado, where you'll find quiet narrow (very picturesque) streets during the day, and lively fado houses, restaurants and bars at night; and 3) Cais do Sodré.

Two charming places to visit outside of Lisbon but close enough (a good afternoon or day trip depending on the time you have):

Sintra, best reached by train (which you can take at Rossio station, the building of the station is architectonically remarkable) because it will be crowded and parking is notoriously difficult there. The train trip should take no more than an hour and it may be faster if you take one of the faster commuter trains. It's usually a place that foreigners like a lot.
Cascais (the sister village to Sintra) which I am far more familiar with because it's the head of the district where my parents live. It used to be a humble fishermen village, but in the 1930s and 1940s an incredible amount of foreigners moved there (it still has one of the oldest casinos in Europe and a race track, which attracted the tourists of the early twentieth century and also all sorts of wealthy refugees of the second world war as well as spies from both sides of the conflict... recall that Portugal was neutral) and today the place combines the old traditional buildings with nice houses, pedestrian streets, pleasant restaurants by the water front. It is also known for the beach, but there are nicer places to go if that's what you want to do. I like the combination of Sintra and Cascais because they offer more or less the same thing, but one is on the mountain with the castle and the other by the sea.

Places to go with children:

- Lisbon's Aquarium, one of the largest in Europe, built in 1998 for the international world fair that celebrated the oceans. It's very much worth it. The gift shop is nice! The aquarium is located in the eastern part of town far from the center but you can reach it by metro, train or bus. It's a very pleasant area to jog or walk by the river, you can also take an aerial tramway and enjoy the view, or shop in the Vasco da Gama mall.
- Lisbon's Planetarium, where you can learn more about the space, stars and galaxies. I haven't been in many years but I recall enjoying it even as an adult. It's the typical visit for school children. They have different shows for different ages.
- The Electricity Museum, I've never been but I've heard very good things, especially for the specific programs for children. Both the Planetarium and the Electricity Museum are located in Belém, the neighborhood that concentrates the highest density of monuments in Lisbon, so this is a must see area, more so if you've never been in Lisbon.

I know you like churches. Lisbon has an enormous quantity. Many are old and beautiful. Other than the obvious Jerónimos Monastery (the architectural gem of the sixteenth century that no one should miss, also in Belém), I select four:

- in Baixa (the downtown), a minuscule, but old chapel of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, in Rua de São Julião n. 40, right in Lisbon's historic center. You can miss it easily if you don't pay attention. It's worth it for the tile and ceiling work. I discovered it this October and posted some photos here.
- the cathedral, that you reach by following the tram line when you go from Baixa towards the castle (you can walk it). You'll see the mix of architectural styles on a building that is originally romanic. The cloister is gothic (this part is paid) and the main altar is baroque.
- in Chiado, the church of São Roque. Pay special attention to the chapel of Saint John the Baptist (the last one on the left, pictured here). When I stopped by in November (with some friends who were visiting LIsbon for the first time), the security guy was very nice and noticed I was explaining stuff in English to my friends so he offered to show us the sacristy that has been recently restored and it's very worthwhile for the wood work and the paintings.
- the cathedral of Estrela, on a hill to the west of Baixa (not the immediate one, which is Chiado, but the one after), but still within city limits. It's the largest church in Lisbon with impressive marble sculptures. You should visit the huge nativity scene (by Machado de Castro), in baroque style with an immense number of figures. This is not located inside the church but there's usually a nun that tells about it and asks if people want to see it in a back room. I believe you pay a small fee, but it's worth it. Also worth it is the view from the terrace of the cathedral (also paid but cheap... all of these extras are something like €2 or €3), you just have to walk up the spiral stair case.

40km (25 miles) from Lisbon you can visit the Royal Palace of Mafra, with convent and cathedral. A gigantic palace, built by order of the king who promised to build a monumental palace should God bless him with an heir (details here in Portuguese only, sorry, but there's even a famous novel with the background of the construction of this palace in the eighteenth century). The heir was born and the palace was built, at a time when the crown was flush with cash originating from Brazilian gold. Its magnitude is impressive.

Here are some general tips on visiting Portugal, some are repeats, sorry). Not sure how much more than Lisbon you're planning (or have time) to visit, but just in case!

Places to eat change all the time so I leave you with some final food tips:

- if you're in a Portuguese restaurant and they have anything with octopus (it's called "polvo") on the menu you should give it a try!
- one of the most traditional portuguese foods is the salted cod, which the Portuguese claim to make "a thousand different ways"... I think it's hard to go wrong with any of them
- any grilled fish should be very good. In the summer I'd recommend sardines, but the winter is not the season and they won't have them. Any place that happens to have sardines in the winter, got them frozen for a few months so having them will be a huge disappointment... you'll have to come back in summer time to try the real thing ;-)


03 fevereiro, 2015

Pormenores #122

In cold mornings, there's a marked difference between sun and shade
Nas manhãs frias há uma marcada diferença entre sol e sombra

02 fevereiro, 2015

Ditto #297

Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.

-- Nikita Khrushchev