Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's just...

It's just a couple things, tonight.

1. Imperadores do Samba did win Carnaval after all. Nice.

2. I watched Irina Palm last night, and loved it. Marianne Faithfull is super cool. Anyway, it made me think: I've been meaning to list my other favorite films (old or new) that I've recently watched.

Even though I now carry a card for the ultra-hip
Espaço Vídeo, I do miss Netflix.
Take my advice and you will be satisfied until Spring.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Imperadores do Samba: Carnaval Porto Alegrense 2009

Friday started innocently enough. We celebrated Shelley’s 25th birthday at Na Brasa with her delightful parents, Dr. and Mrs. Pessa. (I’d like to thank them again for treating us all to such a nice dinner and the pleasure of their company!) We scored the private room adjacent the wine cellar, of which, if you recall, I was given a tour on my first trip to the divine churrascaria. My then-waiter appeared to greet me and when I went to the salad bar shortly thereafter, I received plenty of winks, nudges, and sideways glances from the group. Come on guys! Oh, that my life should be so interesting.

Rafael and Birthday Girl, Dr. and Mrs. Pessa, Tapi and Ivan
Afterwards, we headed to the Sambódromo for the first night of the Carnaval desfiles, or samba school parades. The event facility, on the outskirts of the city and purpose-built for the February festivities, is roughly a one-kilometer straightway edged by bleachers and camarotes (a sorta-skybox).
In Porto Alegre, the evening works like this: each samba school is given one hour to present their show. The frenzy begins with the trip of a timer and the explosion of colorful rockets. The band launches into their samba—with original lyrics, music, and theme each year. The desfile begins with some ringleaders, a float, some scantily-clad dancarinas, some baianas (older ladies in ornately patterned dresses with giant hoop skirts that flare as they spin, and then spin some more)—after which there are more floats, more dancers, more costumes (or lack thereof). Bringing up the tail of each procession is the band: a group of four to six men singing the theme (over and over) and, my personal favorite, the bateristas, or percussion section.
Lest I forget to mention, Carnaval is a contest. On Friday night, there were seven schools competing (with seven more scheduled for Saturday night). When we arrived around midnight, we had already missed the first school’s performance. We saw Estado Maior da Restinga (which was very impressive)...
(Video of the) First float of Estado Maior da Restinga
...and Embaixadores do Ritmo (which was less so) before heading to the beer tent for a break from the rain that began falling sometime after 2am.
Around 4am it was time for Imperadores do Samba. I was very eager to see their show for two reasons: 1) we had visited a rehearsal in a warehouse a few weeks earlier, and 2) their theme this year was close to home for me—“150 Years of Happiness: Red & White”. The Imperadores school colors are the same as my darling Internacional’s, and both are celebrating birthdays this year, 50 years and 100 years, respectively.
They. Did. Not. Disappoint.
First float of Imperadores do Samba
(the lions roared and the Emperor gestured, smiled, and blinked-neat!)

My best guess is that there were 1,000 people in the Imperadores desfile, and it was incredible. Colorful, entertaining, well-paced, with five incredible floats and a catchy samba that—as you'll hear—was supported by the mania of the crowd.

(Video of) Dancarinas shaking it, um, all of it.

(Video of the) Second float of Imperadores do Samba -->

It is difficult to photograph the moving parade, particularly given my layman’s camera and skills. But it’s even harder when the bleachers you are standing on are shaking. You can actually sense the movement of them in this video (i.e., I was not jumping, as it appears):
(Video of) The bateristas of Imperadores do Samba: my choice for 2009 Campeão.
(Video of) The bateristas (told you I loved 'em) and the final float
A cursory glance at today's news tells me that they were not the winner's based on the judges count, though they did win popular vote in the media polls. They brought the house DOWN, cara.

Samba #3, Carnaval 2009
Bate mais forte o meu coração
Vermelho e branco hoje invade a cidade
Sou colorado sou imperador
Nesse mar eu vou, que felicidade!
Oh terra mãe, do futebol, do carnaval, da fantasia
Na terra mãe, um grande clube "Internacional" nascia
De uma família surge um sonho a desbravar
Que uma multidão concretizou
Batalhas e batalhas nos gramados
Brilhou, brilhou, brilhou...
Nos "Eucaliptos" o palco da magia, "Rao," hilariante
Fazia o rolo compressor vibrar
com "A maior torcida do Rio Grande"

"Papai é o maior, papai que é o tal"
Canta forte a galera pula saci
*Domingo de festa delírio total
Vamo, vamo Inter! Faz "O gigante" explodir

Feitos relevantes sendas de glorias,"o vencedor"
"Colorado celeiro de craques"
O mundo conheceu o teu valor
E hoje o centenário se anuncia
Imperadores vem te homenagear
a escola de "bambas," "resistência do samba"
Orgulho da cultura popular
Vem povo meu comemorar
"Que ainda resta um lugar na nossa escola"
Desça da arquibancada e caia na folia
150 de alegria

Bate mais forte o meu coração
Vermelho e branco hoje invade a cidade
Sou colorado sou imperador
Nesse mar eu vou, que felicidade!

Most Porto-Alegrenses I know have never been to the city's Carnaval. What a shame! Sure, it's no rival to Rio or Salvador in terms of financial backing. On the other hand, nor is it a rival in terms of overwhelming crowds. The schools put on a great show and I thoroughly enjoyed myself!
Sigh. As Los Hermanos sings, “Todo Carnaval Tem Seu Fim,” every Carnaval has its end. Ours was a little after sunrise.
Tudo beleza,
Afterthought: I decided to loosely (ahem) translate the song for you. It will give you an indication of my linguistic progress, and some idea of what's going on. That is, if you have faith in my translation capabilities.
My heart beats strong
Red and white invade the city today
I am Colorado / I am Imperador [1]
In this sea [of color] I go, what happiness!

Oh motherland, of football [soccer], of the carnival, of fantasy
In the motherland, a great club "Internacional" was born
From one family arose a dream to confront [2]
What a crowd materialized
In battles and battles on the field
They shone, shone, shone ...
In "Eucalyptus"
[3] the stage of the magic / Rao, [4] hilarious,
Made the Rolo Compressor [5]
With the greatest fans of Rio Grande [the state, duh]

"Papai is the greatest,
Papai is the best" [6] Sing strong people! Jump Saci! [7]
[8] of celebration / total delirium Vamo, Vamo Inter! [9], Make "Gigante" explode [10]
Made relevant (by its) paths of glory, "the winner"
"Colorado, home of the aces"
The world learned your value [11] And today is announcing the centennial
The Emperors come to honor you
The school of "bambas," "strength of the samba"
[12] The pride of popular culture
Come celebrate, my people
What still remains a place in our school
Get off the bleachers and fall into the fun
[13] 150 years of joy

1. Colorado = a fan of Internacional, Imperador = a member of the samba school

2. Internacional
is known as "O time do povo" that is,
the people's team, the team of the masses, the team of the downtrodden
3. Eucalyptus is the name of the old Inter stadium here in POA. The new one is called Beira-Rio (or Riverside)
4. A reference to Vicente Rao, who created the first organized torcida (fan group) of the soccer club and is credited with introducing all sorts of hyjinx, like fireworks, to "carnaval-ize" the game-watching experience.
5. The Rolo Compressor was a nickname give to the stadium (then, in the 1940's, Eucalyptus) in a newspaper cartoon by said Vicente Rao--because, with 8 state championships in 10 years, it had a way of chewing up and spitting out opponents. It's kinda like Chicago being dubbed The Windy City because of its political history.
6. Forget about it, that's a-whole-nother song. It's a quote from a chant the fans used to sing called Rolo Compressor.
7. Ahhh, I was wondering when would be the time to teach you about "O Saci" (grin). O Saci is basically the Brazilian equivalent to the Irish leprechaun, that is, a good luck charm. O Saci (pronounced SAH-cee) was a character in a childrens' book by famed author Monteiro Lobato, a little black kid with one leg who smokes a "magic pipe." There. I said it. Yeah, I had the same reaction. Somehow (suspend your disbelief and hold your comments, please), Saci brings luck or magic or whatever. On one of my first trips to POA, I saw a TV commercial for Internacional one day and I swore I saw a one-legged cartoon figure hopping across the screen. When I inquired later, I learned about the...superstition/icon that is Saci, but to this day it seems a hard-to-reconcile choice for a soccer mascot.
8. The Carnaval desfiles are usually Sunday and Monday night, so I think this was supposed to reference the event--though in the end it occured on Friday this year. Alternatively, many games are played on Sunday. I dunno, you tell me.
9. Vamo Vamo Inter! for those of you who have not been paying attention, is the 1st string cheer line for any Colorado. It is gramatically incorrect Portuguese--and should be Vamos, Vamos Inter! for Let's go, let's go, Inter!
10. Gigante (The Giant) is the nickname for Beira-Rio, the current stadium.
11. Inter won the World Cup (of Club Teams) in Japan in 2006 against the very strong adversary, Barcelona.
12. bamba is a courageous person
13. As this phrase was in quotes, I think it's another historical reference but couldn't find anything. Any Porto-Alegrenses want to assist?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ivan makes me laugh.

I have a lot to report that will probably never be told on account of the ridiculous amount of "socializing" I've been doing. Sem problema. It's summertime, and if no one else in Brazil achieves anything, why should I?

Actually, I should have ample time in the coming days to fill you in, at least in part. Tomorrow (err, later today) is both Shelley's birthday and the beginning of Carnaval. We (that is, Shelley and her parents [imported from Florida, one week only], Rafael, Ivan [which I finally mastered in English: ee-BAHN], and Tapi [visiting from Barcelona-ish]), and I will celebrate with some top-notch churrasco at Na Brasa tomorrow night. Yum. Around midnight we'll head to the Carnaval parades. They go on until 6am. (Insert half-delighted, half-frightened grimace here.) After that, though, everyone is buggering off out of town. I will welcome the rest and regroup--time to catch up with family and friends on Skype and get some writing done.

The last couple weeks have been filled with lessons, pub crawls, a samba school rehearsal, and other hyjinx. I have pictures but lack the will to pass them along at the moment. Tonight, I just wanted to "check in," say that I'm well, and relay two things that Ivan
recently said that made me laugh. Granted they were probably funnier in the moment, without accompanying backstory, but...

On hot and breezy February 14th, I was sitting at one of many streetside cafe/bars in Porto Alegre, chatting in an interesting mix of English, Spanish, and Portuguese with friends. We ordered a few beers and some appetizers, including a plate of the local delicacy-chicken hearts. Tapi--new on the scene--was reluctant at first, but tuned into his adventurous spirit when Ivan exclaimed, "It's Valentines Day, you have to eat chicken hearts!"

Then, tonight, out with roughly the same crew of mischief-makers, some dance club chatter began about the time that Santissimo was closing. Poor Ivan, who hasn't slept in about two weeks, agreed to tag along for the after-hours. His reasoning: "Well. If you're going to cross the line, you've got to cross it properly."

Words I plan to start living by.
Tim tim (ching ching, or, cheers!),

Thursday, February 12, 2009


A combination of obligations and writers' block has kept me from you. Oops.
I have an upcoming contest deadline which I might miss if I don't muster a little brain juice soon. But here's a smidge... I'll cover the Samba School Rehearsal and other bits later.

I happily report that the two home games I attended at Beira Rio (contra o Sapucaiense no primeiro de fevereiro que terminou 4x0, e contra o Ulbra no dia 5 que fechou 4x1) both ended in victory for Inter. More importantly, so did the hair-raising first GreNal* duel of 2009. I dragged my Aussie friend, Lisa, to a bar on Goethe--which is kinda like Chicago's Lincoln Avenue between Armitage and Diversy--for the game. The crowds gathered outside the stuffed bars spilled over the sidewalks and into the streets, seriously. Even more shockingly, they were mixed: half wore red, half wore blue. Eventually we scored some chairs and joined my Gremista friends at a table in front of the giant projection screen. Lisa, heretofore not a soccer fan, was more than a little amused by the antics of the passionate masses, and I enjoyed seeing the sparkle in her eyes as she experienced the chaos for the first time. It's worth noting that in the newspapers the following day, the town of Erechim (where the game had been played) praised fans for the playful but peaceful Sunday afternoon, without injuries or violence between sides.

It's great to have futebol season back in swing.


* GreNal = a rivalry unlike any sporting event, ever!