Friday, December 24, 2010

Witness the Christmas

            The temperature was 38 degrees Celsius in the Centro area of Rio de Janeiro just a few days ago. Summer has merely begun to warm up the massive oven called Brazil. What better time to go hunting for prezzies and the spirit of a holiday that thrives in the harsh winter conditions of more northern climes? This activity will be pursued after frolicking in the waves and drinking a good number of half-frozen cervejas on the beach over the next six hours.

            If you are here and writhing in desperation to see something related to Natal (Christmas in Portuguese), then simply wander over to any ol’ shopping center or department store.  In some of these places you can pretty much forget that you’re not at Yorkdale Mall or the Eaton Center.  However, do not buy electronics or clothing because your wallet will get a thorough milking.  Turn on the television. It won’t be long before you find a seasonal flick, a heart-warming show that involves Jesus, or someone in an elf costume encouraging everyone to make a purchase.  You may also head over to the Lagoa, Rio’s large lake, to marvel (half in awe, half in disgust) at the 85 meter, floating metallic Christmas tree.  It’s not really a tree, of course, but it does emit a lot of light and colour.

            Centro is a portion of the city that can instill a more genuine sensation of Christmas upon one’s soul.  When exiting Carioca metro station, there is sometimes a gentleman who wields a saxophone and honks out familiar carols with an admirable amount of proficiency.  His between-carol laughter and indecipherable commentary make the package complete.  A few blocks away, a mechanical Santa is perched high on a ledge above the hoards of humans bustling and sweating down below.  He rotates and waves happily enough, but if the real Santa decided to come here wearing that outfit, he would be lucky to continue living for more than thirty minutes.  Not too many steps away from the robotic Santa, an inflatable Rudolph stands on a mound of cotton inside a giant plastic sphere and looks to the next shop, which has undressed, fake pine trees out front.  In this place you can track down all the decorations, cards, presents and personalized wrapping you could possibly require.  It is a busy and lively spot that is made better by being able to haggle with the vendors to save a few reais.
             Around our home, in the upper parts of the Santa Teresa neighbourhood, it is also possible to identify significant evidence of Christmas.  Outside a small bar, a woman is demonstrating how an advent calendar functions to her chums and a car tootles by not long after that which contains an elderly gentleman pumping out an instrumental jazz version of Jingle Bells.  We also witness a plump lady with tight-fighting garments strolling around with the family dachshund.  This pooch is not bothered by either it’s red and green boots or it’s Santa hat. Looking to the distance behind the festive dog, you can view the favela (slum) of Prazeres and see that even in the poor, run down communities, Christmas lights attached to homes are a fairly common sight. 

              In short, as soon as you try to seek out Yule, you’ll walk right into it.  This country is heavily Catholic, and the people here have had a long time to figure out how to do Christmas when most of the population has never encountered snow.   In addition, It must be tremendously difficult to feel sorry for someone in Brazil during Canadian winter.  The woe of not having quality time with family or receiving presents can be dismantled by hiking through a rainforest to gorgeous waterfalls or gawking at the skimpy swimwear many humans wear to the beaches of paradise. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

More Music Than You Need

Just to save you some of the work you wouldn't have done, here's some recent mixes all gathered in one place.  Pay attention or ignore them at your leisure.

This is a mix called The CR8 APEscape for the top notch and musically aware people at Invisible Friends/Cr8Apes that just went up today.  With your permission, I'd love to toot my own horn on this one.–-the-cr8-apescape/
Mogpaws – The CR8 APEscape

This is a mix put together for Laid Back Radio out Belgium, a big thanks to them as this has already garnered more than 1500 listens.  They host a whole lot of really quality music, worth some clicks and attention.

The mandatory Christmas mix.  There is another few days where it may sound good, but on the 26th you'd probably rather vomit blood into your own eyes than listen to all these seasonal jams.

Lastly, a set recorded in L.A. for Dublab by our chum Will Holland a.ka. of the most talented and prolific producers/musicians currently crafting sound.  I avoided putting the interview we did with him up because I didn't like the sound of my voice in the beginning, but I'll do a little editing and hook you up.
New n' Old, afro-latin-brazilian funky business

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Short Tale of Favela Claus

It's sad to say, but jolly Santa probably skips many houses of poor kids who live in neighbourhoods where fat white guys are targets for criminals.  This is just a kind of unintentionally morbid Christmas poem crafted while thinking about a Santa alternative who could relate better to impoverished communities, specifically the favelas of Rio.  Trying to sound like Batman in the recording was deliberate as my true dream is make the following list a reality.
Adam West 
Michael Keaton
Val Kilmer
George Clooney
Christian Bale
James Bamberger

The Short Tale of Favela Claus

Saint Nick, this fat man surely you know, he resides in a land with
Numerous reindeer and ample snow

He takes but one night to cover the Earth… to bestow, on all, gifts
And the sensation of mirth.
But peer rather closely, soon you’ll notice some gaps….
The poor kids get squat from within Santa’s sacks.

One man from Brazil did notice these flaws and attempted to become
a new hero, one aptly called Favela Claus.

Red & white were the choice of his garments & he stole a small
Van from the fire department.  He spent 1 year thieving toys
From kids with more money, he procured remote control cars
And cute, little stuffed bunnies.

This story is short & very much broken, dear Favela Claus
Would never become a holiday token.  Wished as he did, he could never ever commit, intentions and reality are different, you must admit.

On the joyous eve before Christmas, he was highly pressured to party,
By an unsavory human the locals called Marty.
They sang baile carols & danced real dirty, they stayed up late til much
Past the hour of 4:30.
Favela Claus didn’t go round the slums like he planned, instead he got so stoned
That he could not hardly stand.

He lay next to a woman with significant thighs, something displeasing
To her husband, a man twice his size. 
Before the sun came up, in the head he got shot, out came blood,
Not a little, but a lot!
The curb was a colour, the same as his suit, but the heavy rain fell
And made it dilute.

When the kids awoke later that morn,  they found nothing at all
And became depressed and forlorn.  Thus no gifts did they get that
Year or others, but not really due to Favela Claus nor their fathers
or mothers.

While looking for information on Father Christmas's influence on the favelas, I came
across this Globo article from a couple years ago.  It's in Portuguese, though.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Terrace Primates

The last two days were spent ill at home. While in bed, scarfing down Pepto Bismol & groaning to nobody, several of these little monkeys (micos) appeared outside the window. Jasmine was at class, the house was empty and I knew the ripe bananas in the kitchen could be my only hope for some kind of encounter with another life form that day. Fortunately the stereotype of monkeys liking bananas held true.  

The attitude towards these monkeys for many people here is similar to the view we have on squirrels in Toronto. 

Toronto: "Why the hell would you want to capture the moment of a dirty rodent gnawing on an old muffin wrapper?" 
Rio: "Why the hell would you waste perfectly good fruit & risk getting ebola from one of these annoying scavengers?"

This smaller species actually comes into the urban areas while the larger species just hang out in the national park (which we can still see whenever we want because our new place is right next to the entrance of the park)

I'm sorry, but being from a monkiless country makes any form of primate pretty awesome.  Their little faces and nimble fingers, their public fornication and thieving nature are truly awe-inspiring things that act as a reminder that we are in a tropical environment (the 30+ temperatures, rainforest, beaches, exotic fruit, subpar transport, slowness, frequency of beer intake, shirtlessness, giant insects, pictures of cold people back home etc.... are also reminders)

So, here's just a small video of our two new friends, Wagner & Wilson, who consented to being put on the internet the moment they accepted my offering of ripe, peeled fruit.  It sure did take them a long time to eat a single banana and they refused to hold it themselves, the lazy bastards.  

Duration: 53 seconds
Music: Azaxx - Lounging Place (feat Larry Stabbins) from the great new Shapes 10:02 compilation on Tru Thoughts

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Trem Do Samba (Samba Train)

"Transportainment" (n.):  The merging of pastimes or leisure activities with a vehicle in motion.

Ex. i) Cocktail party on a yacht bound for Costa Rica (Yachts mustn't be docked or anchored)
      ii) Watching a football game with friends while riding a horse 
      iii) High-stakes poker tournaments on hovercrafts 
      iv) Live samba groups in every car of a train destined for Oswald Cruz station, Rio de Janeiro

Please draw your attention to the 4th example of transportainment, it is the pertinent example for this blog post.

Hopefully when we put the words "Samba" & "Train" together, you can make some kind of mental picture because there's really no time or willingness to explain those terms further. An audio recording mixed with photos & a video have been included to grant you a more vivid overview of the experience.  

There was a mild, throbbing excitement to do a thorough review of "Trem do Samba"  because it was utterly fantastic... but something recently crept into the room, came up behind my motivation and slit open it's throat with a machete.  Now, the only energy left is reserved for watching funny animal videos on Youtube, like the one Jasmine showed me where a mother duck and ALL her ducklings get blown away by the wind.  Heart-breaking and hilarious, just like life.

So, instead of wasting everyone's time, let's just say 90% of this event was completely phenomenal and you should go sometime. I'll wrap up the post by telling you about the 10% that was not so brilliant.

1) At the meat place, you'll see it in the video, you're led to believe that the meat is delicious, plentiful and cheap.  It ended up being mediocre, inadequate and expensive.  We're not sure if it was expensive for everyone or we'd been hit by the "gringo tax" that seems to rear it's head semi-frequently.

2) We met a friendly, older gentleman who conversed with us at length in Portuguese.  We liked him.  The peculiar part was when he introduced us to his daughter like this....... "this is my daughter, she's 13, she has a baby." She then fetched the infant, which had probably been born 15 minutes earlier. Why was it so floppy and pink? The awkwardness left when they did.  I joke because it's the only way not to cry (seriously!)

If you get through the first 1:30 of video and sound, then be prepared for a special treat at the end.  It's included because some things are just too sexy to keep locked away from the world.  Also enjoy the unrelated duck-blowing video that is the main culprit for causing a mediocre blog post.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

O Som Das Armas

When the gunfire started up last week in Prazeres, we stood by the window and absorbed sounds that through our lives have only come at us from televisions, radios and cinemas.

My Edirol R-09 digital audio recorder is never far from reach and it captured some of the bursts of shots over the two most active mornings.  We were still drinking our coffees at about 10:30am when people started pulling triggers.  See the divshare link at the top of the post

Truthfully, I was hoping to hear those sounds before coming here.  After listening back to the recordings, I don’t care to hear them again.  Out of all those flying bits of metal, how many hit a target?  Did people just die over there?  Did kids just kill other kids?  That’s fucked up.  Of course, whatever happened over here was nothing compared to what was happening in other parts of the city, and thus it wasn’t covered by any media.  I don’t know if we would’ve learnt much if it had.

I doubt it’s everyone’s feeling, but 4 or 5 people we’ve spoken to said that what happened last week in the city was a good thing because it showed the police actually doing something. They were able to finally take over a big swath of drug dealer territory and the tanks/soldiers signified that the federal government was collaborating with the local forces to assist with the clean up.  They said it was maybe the first step they’d seen towards making Rio a suitable place for the Olympics & World Cup.  They also made it quite clear that they were  avoiding too much optimism.  

While recording the bouts of gunfire, a putrid aroma arose that Jasmine blamed on me, but I'm pretty sure it was just the eggy scent of gun smoke wafting in the window. We couldn't make the post too serious now could we? Apologies to relatives and loved ones who interpret the proximate sound of weapons discharging as something dangerous to our well being.

Photo 1:  Us bewildered at the window, recording
Photo 2:  Jasmine’s brass monkey’s opinion of the situation
Photo 3:  View of Prazeres favela from our yard
Photo 4: More professional photo of Prazeres from a great website dedicated to the favela existence