Wednesday, February 28, 2007
First, the sadly defunct, but still stately, Coconut Grove Playhouse.
Graffiti artists, who by the way are my personal bugbear, have already gotten to it, on the side scaffolding.
Second, the still vibrant, repertory Actor's Playhouse At The Miracle Theatre on Miracle Mile (once a good old-fashioned movie palace, complete with period box office outside).
The demise of the former theatre is of particular sadness to us who love the boards, since it always hosted the best in stage talent -- from Tony Randall, to Edward Albee, Elaine Stritch, Jessica Tandy, et. al.
Though it went out with Lucie Arnaz' rather forgettable, Susie Flew, whose sign advertising the play can still be seen on the other side, it is still greatly missed.
You know, Miami is not like London or New York, or even sunny Los Angeles.
Things cultural don't shout in your face.
You have to hoof around looking for them, although they ARE there -- don't let anyone tell you otherwise, out of ignorance.
Let's just say, the cultural in Miami whispers seductively in your ear. And often, I am seduced.
Labels: South Florida Snapshot
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
I Still Haven't Watched The Oscars
Yes, it's been a completely hectic three days, guys, so forgive the lack of responsiveness.
I did want to clarify one thing -- since it's the only moment of the Oscars Ceremony I actually caught.
When Helen Mirren raised her well-deserved Oscar statuette, she ended her rather meandering, but still hurried speech with, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you THE QUEEN!".
Which, if not exactly cricket sounds from the audience, didn't go down nearly as well as she thought.
Later, Renato (who is otherwise very cosmopolitan) told me he thought she did that rather awkwardly, and for a moment, he thought the real Queen would come out!
I almost died laughing. The Queen at the Oscars. Oh my. Wolfgang Puck would've soiled himself.
Wiping tears here.
So, on the off-chance you didn't know, Helen Mirren referenced The Loyal Toast, which always bookends a formal meal in the UK.
"Muhlawds, ladies and gentlemen, please be upstanding and raise your glasses. The Queen!!"
Even my granddad used to do that, before Christmas pud.
No wonder the California fruits and nuts didn't get it.
Anyway, I intend on watching the whole ceremony tonight. Stay tuned.
P.S.: I know Algore won, but that's it. No clue even what they wore on the red carpet. Anyway, I miss Melissa and Joan, and yes, I never thought I'd say that.
Because It's Never Too Late
"My name is Olive Riley. I live in Australia near Sydney. I was born in Broken Hill on Oct. 20th 1899.Broken Hill is a mining town, far away in the centre of Australia. My Friend, Mike, has arranged this blog for me. He is doing the typing and I am telling the stories."
Now, I know what you're thinking: What would she call her blog?
- "Better Really Really Late, Than Never"
- "At Least I'm Not Out There Driving"
- "Senior Moment"
- "Speak Up, Dearie"
- "Blogosphere Is Faster Than Even My Walker"
Well, no. Her blog name is:
All About To Live
Website is down, probably Instalanched already, bless her heart.
But I definitely encourage you to go over there, and give her a warm bloggerly embrace when you can.
If Jeff Bridges can have a blog, and a very Lebowski-looking blog it is, with his handscribbles and doodly buttons, then so can an 107-year old sweetheart.
Labels: Blogger Colleague
Arrgh, I hate this part of Miami, corner of Macdonald Avenue and La Calle Ocho.
I think it's a bloody eyesore, this trailer park, and one which you can imagine, always gets the worst brunt of any hurricane here.
According to an ex-classmate whose family actually lived there, they suspect that the trailer park is built over graves, since right next door to it is Miami's most famous cemetery, Woodland Memorial Park.
What with the corpses, and the rats, and the fact that you could get blown away at any opportunity due to our precarious weather 6 months out of the year, it's a wonder people decide to stay there.
Although I do have to say...
Even the trailer parks here, look mignon. Pink! Love it.
And you can't fail but to notice in one of the driveways, that vintage Mercedes, sporting a pear green colour which was all the rage in 1979.
You know what the worst part of this place is?
That whenever I go through there, I always remember and weep over the demise of Miami's finest Cuban pork joint -- La Lechonera.
I'm not much for pulled pork, or pork in general, but every meal I had there, was to die for.
Now it's some Salvadorean eatery, which I refuse to frequent.
Mariscadas y Pupusas...what on earth.
No, sir. I'm still in mourning for La Lechonera.
Labels: South Florida Snapshot
Monday, February 26, 2007
What's The Under/Over On Youtube These Days
I'm guessing by the time you read this, and click on the link, you'll be staring at that red violation line. Sucks.
P.S.: I used to love Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker on the Muppet Show!
There Oughta Be A Law
Don't get me wrong.
I have nothing against mothers pushing their kiddies in their prams, very very slowly, as the light changes from red, to green -- WHILST talking on their cellphones.
But this is precisely the kind of act which would've provoked my old Rhodie college roommate, Scott, to say with serio-comic timing:
"There oughta be a law!!"
Which sometimes varied as, "There oughta be a muthafu****' law!", if he gauged the offence very reprehensible...
...like waiters shooing customers away from restaurants, by putting up chairs on top of tables in a desperate bid to get rid of them.
So for you Scotts out there, with your own levels of frustration at the random craziness in the world, this mutha is for you.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Tossing For Britain
It is a mobile sperm bank, now that you ask.
P.S.: These puppies are not just trolling for sperm in any old place. I'll stake everything I own to state that this AirStream sperm caravan is either in Oxford or Cambridge, trying to lull willing brainiacs into their den of iniquities.
Those St. Scholastica Fire-scarred ochre walls are unmistakable, since I used to crawl back to my college with their aid many of a given night...
Years ago, I recall reading that a major sperm website was swamped on its first day.
This Lesbian-only site, Mannotincluded.com, is still going strong, I'm happy to report. Back then 5,000 blokes signed up on the first day, to service 3,000 lesbian couples (as it were).
"Introductory" fees, which one shudders to inquire too closely what they entail, were £500 per squirt job.
Here is the happy result of such a Tossing for Britain session.
I know what you're thinking.
Whatta cutie! And that baby the gorgeous lipstick lesbian is caressing ain't half bad, either.
IN THE COMMENTS: Sundries commenter, Scott, clarifies that this Sperm Van is indeed, in Oxford, as I suspected. He also states that due to its rather seedy quality (groan, sorry) there were few tossers volunteering.
Labels: Batsheet Craziness
It just wasn't working with Blogger, since I believe I would have to switch to New Blogger's more updated templates which use JSON, to have it work properly (maybe, I'm not sure even then).
I have kept the Digg newsfeed to the right of my Sundries sidebar, though, just to keep abreast of the more popular stories out there, which sometimes escape my attention.
Like this story, about the poshest gas station in Los Angeles.
By the way. --
Since when do Americans drop the word "posh" just like that? It sounds affected when not followed by "petrol station".
And yes, I know, it's probably to do with Victoria Beckham's David now being an LA Galactico. Cool Britannia has hit Rodeo Drive.
Good. Better. Best.
There, finally, someone had the audacity to call a spade a spade, instead of "Regular. Premium. Super Premium", which sounds too PC for words.
Reminds me of that godawful, but still rather enjoyable film with Tom Arnold called "Soul Plane" -- a black-run airlines featuring different classes of seating available.
High Class, where the cool white people are at. Business Class, with flight attendant strippers. And of course, Low Class.
...with bus hang-straps and a profusion of do-rags.
You get what you pay for!
Labels: Oh I Don't Know
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Our Daily Bread
In the latest travellogue installment to his post on Zingermans -- surely Ann Arbor's premier deli-cum-gourmet market -- he highlights that naughtiest of all comestibles, in these Atkins Diet times.
There is nothing more savoury in this world than biting into freshly baked bread, perhaps a pain de campagne like what you see above, with a suitably Catholic flourish of a cross on them.
Cracking one open, your nose receives its hot doughy swirls and you inhale the aroma hungrily, reaching for a knife.
I don't know what person discovered that bread and butter go together like nobody's business, but that person is surely up there with the discoverer of soccer, and the chap what invented zippers.
And since we're flinging hosannas around, kudos to the man or woman who reunited the bread, the butter, and the scalding, rich coffee all together, 'cause you know -- man cannot live by bread alone.
Ron has gone above and beyond the call of duty, with his Zingerdough photographs.
But it's the cookie shots that will SLAY you.
God, please grant me the power to have this yeasty goodness before my hips implode when I'm 40.
Thanks, Ron, ole buddy!
Eternal Spotlight of the Sundries of the Mind
I am a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa. I can say that now, because I have a little piece of paper that backs me up. But the Blog isn't about work, or Africa, or education. It's just me, looking around, playing with words and pictures.
Having found this Peace Corps blogger quite by chance, I am entranced now looking at her gorgeous photos on Flickr.
And sometimes looking at this hennaed foot, about to be given a much-needed and yet at the same time, sorrowful bath, it's precisely then when it hits you...
...what the hell are you doing with your life, Vic?
What are you doing frittering your life away, writing in blogs at ungodly hours of the day?
When you could use that god-given talent you have to teach, and for it to be received with grateful thanks?
Once upon a time, I went to South America and did something similar for a summer. We built a water tank system to give serrano Peruvians potable water.
Unlike Britain, where water supply is completely privatised, many South American countries have municipal (public) utilities that are completely broken down, and to say they are inefficient would be to compliment them.
They were doing good work, and it's times like that I don't at all mind the hippy-activists which I encountered there as a matter-of-course. There are 1 billion people around the world without safe drinking water, and Peru is ravaged by cholera, because of it.
We can tolerate tie-dye t-shirts for such a worthy cause.
But before you annoint me the new Mother Teresa, let me clarify -- it was merely to pad my resumé for Med School.
It worked, too.
But for people who go to into the real Peace Corps, who do this for all the right reasons, well, I cannot imagine a more rewarding experience.
When I'm Down - Part Four
...and I'm a little less down.
P.S.: Don't worry, I'm not that down. It's just that today I went to the dentist, and was told I need a root canal.
I told the dentist that I'm petrified of any dental work, being one of those rare, non-Native Americans who have only ever had one cavity in their lives.
And you know what the bastard said about the anticipated pain?
"I'm fillin' you. Heh. That's a little dentist humour for you."
I almost spat the Novocaine back in his mush.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Mama Don't Preach
This story was simply too good to pass up on this lazy Friday afternoon, which is the perfect wind-down time to be "chismosa" (gossipy, as my Cuban friends say).
Did you know that Madonna, the woman who gave the world The Sex Book, has banned her eldest daughter, Lourdes, from having boyfriends until the lass is 18?
Ohhh, there is a God.
Speculation amongst the more brain-addled is rife as to why, but no less than an authority as The National Enquirer suggests this:
"A source told the National Enquirer magazine, 'it must come from her strict Catholic upbringing'.
Everyone told Lourdes how gorgeous she is at the 'Arthur and the Invisibles' premiere, which sent a red alert to Madonna! It made her nervous to think that in just a few years guys would be hitting on her only girl."
Despite her being a Kabbalist now, once a Catholic always a Catholic.
It haunts you forever, Madge! Muahahaha!
Recently, young Lourdes became obsessed with homosexuality, and read up on it to the point where her mother, once the bosom buddy of no less a fishmongers than Sandra Bernhardt, Ingrid Caseres (a graduate of The Church of The Little Flower School, as an aside), and Rosie O'Donnell, became very alarmed.
All the girl wanted to do, was to talk about gays. She even went so far as to interview gay friends of her mum, about what they did and stuff.
Being as I am, the daughter of a beautiful, and frankly sexy mother, I know how hard it can be to match that theatrical spark, so what Lourdes did was perhaps to understand it, so she could then sort it out inside herself later.
But I would caution Madonna, in the unlikely event she and I were ever to have a chinwag over this, that if you are too doctrinaire, that you will be in for a rude surprise.
Let's not forget that Cher, that other dazzling, larger-than-life mum, was also way strict with little Chastity, and look how that turned out.
It seems Madonna isn't the listening kind though, and is rather strict, to say the least.
"My kids don't watch TV. We have televisions but they're not hooked up to anything but movies. TV is trash. I was raised without it. We don't have magazines or newspapers in the house either."
She added, "My daughter has a problem picking things up in her room. So if you leave your clothes on the floor, we put them in a trash bag. She has to earn them back by being tidy. I'm a disciplinarian. Guy's the spoiler."
That's where her menage and my parents differed.
My father was the enforcer, and he was the One Who Must Be Obeyed, not my mother, who was the spoiler (and that's why I adore her!). He also had strict rules about only one hour of television per day, and no boys until I was 16.
To this day, one look from his ice-blue eyes, and I still feel yae big. Shiver.
Still, I'm sorry for young Lola.
It's one thing to have an overly protective father, but though it wouldn't be the first time this happened, it must suck to have an mother with a Whore/Madonna complex.
Hang in there, Lourdita!
P.S.: Apparently, Cuban dad Carlos Leon, is less than thrilled with Lourdes' "full on British accent".
He says it makes her sound affected, though I'm sure he used the Cuban for it, "pes'a" -- pesada.
The Cutest Little House In Miami
Located in the Shenandoah area of Miami, a traditional, middle-class Cuban-American neighbourhood, this little house sticks out like a sore thumb in the sedate, prosperous area.
From its orange ochre paint, to vague but impressive Islamic lines, and a rather stubby palm tree in its tiny lawn, this house is a sweetie, though I have to warn you...
...it probably still costs in the range of $250,000.
Yes, mignon though it is, it is located in precisely the most sought-after middle income area in Miami, which old time Cubans who fled Castro's regime in the 1960s, took up residence because of its safety, and proximity to the many Catholic churches around it.
Speaking of Catholic, I tried to get a photo of a house with one of those outside memorials to the Virgin Mary, or to Our Sacred Heart of Jesus, without success!
My God, they used to be a dime a dozen, in that neighbourhood, but now, I suppose the yuppy YUCAs (Young Urban Cuban Americans), think they're a tad sentimental and perhaps dowdy.
A Santa Barbara a Caballo statue outside this house would be perfect.
Like icing on top of its orangey velvetness.
Labels: South Florida Snapshot
Cafecito y Pelucas
Little Havana has much changed since the 1980s, but it still retains that old-timer quality of Miami before the Vice.
Take this estabishment.
"Cafeteria & Beauty Salon"
(Cafe Cubano - Pan Fresco - Sandwichitos - Jugos - Batidos)
So ladies, if your moños are virados, but you can't stop for a bite to eat, don't worry!
Have we got a place for you in Miami.
Labels: South Florida Snapshot
The City Hall Beautiful
My favourite building in Miami, bar none -- Coral Gables City Hall.
You've already witnessed my love for Coral Gables, in my previous travellogue, but I wanted to highlight this building, on its lonesome.
The people who run the City Beautiful inside this edifice are, as follows:
· Mayor Don Slesnick, II
Here's another random beef, why do American politicians add their nickname in inverted commas, to the middle of their names? Argh, it's so dopey.
I can't say anything about this group of commissioners, since I don't live near them to judge, save for the fact that in very few areas of this city, will you find only one Cuban-American name listed in the roster of elected politicians.
It's like going to Boston, and finding only one Irish name in the bunch.
The good thing about having visited the official City Hall website, is that though I didn't find out who that chap in the statue is (I'm guessing it's Coral Gables founder, George Merrick), I did find out that we are to have a new,
Coral Gables Museum
Not much is known so far, but the blurb says this:
"The Coral Gables Museum will be housed in the historic Phineas Paist Police and Fire station built in 1936. The unique W.P.A. era coral stone structure will be restored and updated to serve its new purpose and new gallery spaces will be added to produce 7,000 square feet of exhibition space."
I'm sure it will be as elegant and gracious, as the rest of the city.
BONUS SHOT: Coral Gables City Hall, from Miracle Mile, at dusk.
Macarthur Causeway In French
Macarthur Causeway, as I have tirelessly told you, is America's most photographed bridge next to the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City.
Here is my mother's capture of a quick jaunt down Macarthur Causeway during rush hour.
Those cerulean skies have been blessing us for a week, after piddling down solidly for a while, hurrah!
N.B.: What is the song? I don't know (Jean-Jacques Goldman?).
On the weekends, jazz radio station, WDNA 88.9FM, becomes an international music mecca station, from Chutney, to Brazilian MPB, to reggae calypso, to French pop. I'm guessing she was with her newest French buddy in the car, at the time.
Heh, just saw at the end of the Youtube video, this "advertising" truck -- whose sole purpose is to go up and down, with two ads on each side of his vehicle.
We've actually rented from Prestige Cars once, when my mother's brother came to town, and God forbid he should rent a Grand Am like the rest of the world.
He got a Ferrari...
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Take a good look at this fresh-cheeked young man in his Sandhurst dress uniform.
He is H.R.H. Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales, dit Prince Harry, third heartbeat in line to the British Throne, and as of yesterday, is awaiting DEFINITIVE transportation to the Iraq theatre of war.
His regiment, The Blues and Royals (motto: Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense -- Shame on him who thinks it evil), are part of the Regiment of Guards, which are the most socially, and militarily elite regiments in the British Armed Forces.
Of course, Old Etonians, later Sandhurst graduates, are a dime a dozen in the Guards. He doesn't stand out for that, one whit.
Even my father, an old Wykhemist, later Oxford grad, went into the Coldstream Guards (motto: Nulli Secundus -- Second to None), which had been his father's and his father's father's regiment, since before the turn of the last century. Like him, his brothers are all medical doctors who served in either the Senior Service, the Royal Navy, or in other regiments.
Now, we are not aristocratic, but our family share one thing in common with the Royal Family.
An unwavering dedication, not just in code of honour, but in practise, to preserve the Realm and to keep its subjects safe from invasion or worse, subjugation.
As Nancy Mitford once said of this warrioring breed:
"Say what you want about this class, but they have never failed to put their money where their mouth is, when it comes to fighting for England."
And today, that dictum was borne out yet again by this young man's decision to stay put with his regimental comrades.
Now, you may be asking yourself, does this make Harry more worthy of being admired because of this decision?
No, it doesn't.
- Does this make him a more decent guy than he has been proved to be, before?
- Should we care about this situation in the great scheme of things?
You can also ask, will Harry's military duty eradicate visions of him admitting to having smoked pot, of dressing up as a Nazi for a fancy dress party, or of drinking and carousing with his mates in stripper clubs, or of this decidedly poor choice of T-shirt?
Chances are, it may not for you. Or for me, come to that.
But I will tell you one thing.
Prince Harry easily could've resigned from his regiment, as his uncle Prince Edward did when the Royal Marines got to be too much for his delicate personality.
Indeed, the Royal Family could have insisted that he be transferred out of The Blues and Royals, due to their scheduled deployment to the most dangerous place on earth -- Iraq.
But they didn't.
And you know why that is?
Because after you strip away all the royal palavah, with the funny hats, the stuffy protocol, and oft-ridiculous customs, they have never shirked their duty when it comes to being front-and-centre in times of military action.
Obviously, the monarchy and the military are intertwined and in fact, are indissoluble from one another -- a once and forever link to their feudal past.
The Queen is the Supreme Head of the Armed Forces, and holds the highest rank in all its branches.
She herself served, as millions of other girls did in Britain at the time, in the A.T.S. during World War II, and not just for show, either.
As the film, The Queen, showed so vividly, she is a mean car mechanic when push comes to shove.
In doing so, she and today her grandson were following the natural course of service any member of the Royal Family is expected to give, during their lifetimes.
In fact, rare is the Royal personage who HASN'T or DOESN'T serve in some military capacity.
And though most people do not know this, rare is the Royal generation who hasn't given to his country the ultimate sacrifice, of giving his life for it.
Below is a list of men in the immediate Royal Family of their time, who have all died in action, often in pitched battle.
1. Prince Henry of Battenberg: Son-in-law to Queen Victoria, daughter of her youngest daughter Beatrice, Prince Henry died during the Ashanti campaign, in 1895.
2. Prince Christian Victor of Schleswig-Holstein: Grandson of Queen Victoria, son of her daughter Helena, Prince Christian Victor perished in Pretoria in 1900 whilst serving with his regiment the 4th King's Royal Rifle Corps, a victim of the Second Boer War.
3. Prince Maurice of Battenberg: Son of Prince Henry, Prince Maurice was killed in action whilst serving with the 60th King's Royal Rifles in 1914, one of the very first victim's of the First World War.
4. H.R.H. George, Duke of Kent: Son of King George V, the Duke of Kent was killed when his R.A.F. plane hit a mountain in Scotland in 1942, en route to Iceland during military service.
Then there are male members of the Royal Family, who served valiantly during the course of their military careers.
George, Lord Lascelles (future Earl of Harewood): Grandson of King George V, Lord Lascelles was captured by German forces, whilst serving with the 60th King's Royal Rifles, and held in notorious Colditz prison. He escaped...TWICE. His mother, Mary, the Princess Royal, had been notified twice of his death, but she later said she never believed it.
H.R.H. Edward, Duke of Kent: Grandson of King George V, son of George, Duke of Kent, who served in Northern Ireland, when his regiment the Royal Scots Greys, were deployed to Belfast at the height of the Troubles. When there was a suggestion by his Colonel-in-Chief that he perhaps resign his commission, rather than to subject either he or his regiment to unncessary murderous attention, his battalion threatened to resign EN MASSE, if he were not allowed to serve with them. He stayed.
H.R.H. Prince Andrew (future Duke of York): Served as a helicopter pilot in the Royal Navy and saw heavy action during the Falkland Islands campaign, in Port Stanley.
Since the 1890s at the very least, members of the Royal Family have been in the thick of action, wherever the Union Jack was hoisted during battle.
This list is by no means exhaustive, since I have failed to include many, many other extended members of the Royal Family, who died or served in the military, not all of them for the British cause.
Princess Margarethe of Prussia, sister of the last Kaiser of Germany (yet another grandchild of Queen Victoria), and mother of the only two known sets of royal twins in history, lost FOUR of her six sons fighting for their country.
Why even Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Harry's blustery granddad, won a row of medals for his participation in battle as a Royal Navy lieutenant in WWII, and was even present on a British cruiser during the Japanese surrender, in Tokyo Bay.
But perhaps most tellingly of all, for our purposes to highlight royal duty in the field of warfare, the future King who abdicated, Edward, Prince of Wales, put his life in danger during his visits to the front line, during World War I.
This despite the fact that he had been categorically refused from serving with his regiment, the Grenadier Guards, in battle.
When he went in person to protest to Lord Kitchener, the man whose very image of outstretched hand and pointing finger, was the focus of the most successful recruiting programme in British history, told the naive princeling...
"Sir, if I could be assured that you would be killed in battle, I wouldn't hesitate to authorise you to join your regiment in the front-line. You have four brothers living, after all.
But we cannot take the risk of you being a propaganda tool by falling into enemy hands."
Years later, I remember putting down the Duke of Windsor's memoirs after having read this paragraph, and saying to myself, Lord Kitchener was right.
As horrible a thing as it is to be able to tell a young man, eager and willing to fight as part of his chosen career path, that his death was not so much important -- it's as nothing as the embarrassment his capture by his sworn enemy, would be to his country.
Besides, the times of the ransoming of kings, are long since over.
No, Prince Harry isn't notable amongst his royal brethern for his stance in wanting to serve in Iraq.
Nor is he particularly noble because of it, because it's expected of him by tradition, and by conviction.
But nevertheless, Prince Harry is one brave young man.
He is worthy, at least, of our respect for his decision...not to be killed, so much as to the possibility of his being captured by dozens of men, who then would parade him happily on Al-Jezeera.
Let's hope this never comes to pass for this spirited young officer.
Give 'em hell, Harry!
UPDATE: My blogger colleague, and Sundries commenter, Ron points us to this link -- which gives the young Prince's military minders a few pointers on how to best protect the prince in Iraq. It's very interesting!
Al Gore at the University of Miami
The day before President Bill Clinton's scheduled appearance!
Tickets already sold out, before I even got a chance to apply for them...
But man, are the University of Miami and Dr. Shalala doing everything they can, to raise political awareness towards the Democratic side, this year, or what?
On the other hand, maybe it's a cagey move by our former Vice-President, who is said to be on the outs with both Clintons, husband and wife.
He doesn't want them to grab all the local Miami limelight, from his possible re-run for the White House.
Or maybe he just wants to get more Oscar votes.
More Info: Al Gore Talks About An Inconvenient Truth to UM
UPDATE: You know how much I love films, and I have only seen snippets of an Incontinent Truth so far, so technically, you might think I would be more interested in this presentation, than the former President's, right?
Plus, there's no pesky moral question with Al Gore such as what fellow blogger, JSU, brought up, you know?
But no. Honestly, if I had to choose, I'd choose to go see President Clinton.
That really says it all, even 7 years later.
As a commenter in the Howard Dean-Joe Trippi Blog for America (!) said back in 2004, "This guy stinks of loser".
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Beija-Flor 2007 Champs!
Now, I love giving you gratuitous boob shots and booty wide-angles, not to mention crotch close-ups.
I love showing you the finest bodies on the planet, especially since they are almost all tat-free, which should count for something these days, right?
But Brazil and more specifically, the city closest my heart for Carnival, Rio de Janeiro, cultural capital of Brazil, isn't only about plumes, babes, and tan lines.
Cariocas themselves rarely will step foot in the Sambodromo, which is kinda ironic, actually.
You see, back in the mid-80s, that site was planned by Governor Lionel Brizola the better to charge tourists a fee to enter, to see this traditional carnival display in all its glory -- but also to give a more organised feel to the parades of the Samba Schools.
Previous to the Sambodromo, the Schools would parade past in downtown Rio, called the "Centro".
Today, downtown Rio, as well as almost every neighbourhood and suburb of Rio, carries on their "bloco" tradition, of planned or impromptu street carnivals.
Here below, then, are some of the best shots of these block parties, where it's not fancy costumes, but creativity at work.
It's that kinky, topsy-turvy quality that carnival represents in Catholic countries, a relic of its pagan past. Enjoy!
RIO DE JANEIRO STREET CARNIVAL
No, they're not transvestites, for which Brazil is actually known. Heh.
One of the greatest traditions of any carnival, is that men and women trade genders for the week, and even in fusty countries like Germany back in the day, women could go up to men and proposition them -- whilst in Brazil, men dress up as women.
I'm calling this shot, "Lady and The Other Tramps".
These typical little Carioca kids are hanging around downtown Rio, waiting for someone to spray them with crazy foam.
The one to the left looks like Taylor Hanson, so I guess he's already prepping to look like a woman.
This is Sister Ostrogoda.
She has brought her Holy Water ("agua benta") and her crucifix to bless these heathens, and to pray for their many carnival sins.
But Sister Ostrogoda has a secret...
...at night, she comes out of the convent dressed like this!
(Vatican disclaimer: I would like to categorically deny that nuns are in any way lascivious, and it is not my intent to portray them as such. In reality, this photo is posted here to see if my readership is still paying attention. Thank you)
And speaking of coming out...
Actually, his Catholic schoolgirl look is quite becoming. Or at least that's what I told myself when I was in 11th grade.
Hey, guess who made it to Rio this year for carnival?
No, not Kate Winslet, sheesh.
That's 2005 Oscar winner, Rachel Weisz, visiting the Santa Teresa neighbourhood in Rio, famous for its tram cars, and aristocratic mansions.
I wonder if she knows someone there?
She doesn't look all that excited, nor do the citizens behind her because last year, they had Naomi Campbell.
Get a tan, Rache!
She should go amongst the real people, not the perverted knobs of Santa Teresa.
Like for example, these good folk celebrating elbow-to-elbow in downtown Rio, near Praça XV de Novembro.
Back when I was there, it wasn't the safest place in the world, but I notice Rio has really cleaned up its act. Good on them.
Carnival, for Brazilians, is the equivalent of the Super Bowl and the Fourth of July to Americans. It means A LOT.
Interestingly, though, a lot of the Cariocas hate carnival, and frequently flee their tourist-bogged city to more authentic carnival places, like Olinda up North.
I myself never did. Are you kidding me! I was in Rio FOR CARNIVAL! You ain't lived, if you ain't been.
These characters in famed Rio neighbourhood, Ipanema, are dressed as old-time musicians.
The one on the left is playing the cavaquinho (a tinIER ukelele), which a Brazilian boyfriend once tried to teach me to play!
Didn't work out so well. He dumped me.
Carmen Miranda and carnival are never far apart, even in her homeland which notoriously has always resented poor Carmen (she left for the States and Hollywood -- ergo, she's a traitor).
Here are some American coppers arresting a "lady" who looks like she just five-finger discounted a Victoria's Secret shop.
You go girl!
Since Brazil has an animistic tradition, a black arts religion called "macumba", during carnival you'll see a lot of people wearing white (the traditional costume of the voodoo priests and priestesses) plus wearing shells on a collar to ward off evil spirits.
Cubans have many of the same customs, since of course, they share a slave culture as well, perhaps the only two really strong predominantly-white cultures in the Americas to do so, after the US.
Here are some black celebrants acting the role of one of the gods of Candomblé/Umbanda/Macumba, the so-called "Preto Velho" (old black guy).
They intercede for you, with the "Orixas". Trust me, it's complicated...
...but this is easy.
Could never happen in the US, this costume, and for that, you can see how much I love Brazil! I mean, it's carnival. Relax.
Thanks, everyone, for reading my Carnival stories.
Have a good, blessed Lent, and Easter, everyone!
IN THE COMMENTS: A gracious Brazilian came to my blog with honeyed words of praise (not always the case, as you might notice above), and when I clicked on his blog, I was entranced to see photographs of his youth, dressed up in Carnival costumes -- a precious snapshot of the Brazil of yesteryear.
Check out Geraldo's blogpost here.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Carnival isn't all Brazil, you know.
My mother's homeland does carnival, and how, but it's a little different. Instead of the sensuous, they go for the humourous.
Here is a Köln carnival float showing President George W. Bush and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, leader of the latest Axis of Evil.
Only the carnavalescos of Germany have riffed on the word, by translating it as the Achsel des Bösen:
Armitpit of Evil
ADDENDUM: Some more funny Cologne Carnival 2007 photos of floats.
Jew and Arab -- Can't we all just get along, as Rodney King once said?
Duck!! It's Hamas, Liebling!
And just to show you it's not all Islamofascist-centric, here are Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royale as battling cocks for the upcoming France Presidential election this April.
Samba Schools 2007
Here is a photo collection of the BEST SHOTS OF CARNIVAL 2007 at the Sambódromo, in Rio de Janeiro.
As requested by a reader, lots of shots of 'nekkid women', although safe enough for work (hopefully).
This is from Monday, Day 2, in order of presentation.
The lady holding the Samba School banner is Selmynha SorrisoZ, and that's her partner, the Mestre-Sala, and real-life husband, Claudinho.
In my not so humble opinion, she is THE finest Porta Bandeira that has ever been. Literally, flawless in her execution and intricacy of her movements, which of course are being graded by Sambodromo judges splayed out in secret, all over the catwalks.
"SorrisoZ" is her special nickname, a play on the Portuguese word for "smiles", which in this case translates as Selmynha Smiley-Face.
Not only is she graceful beyond compare, but after a stint as in the Corps of Firemen, she decided later to become a lawyer, having just graduated from Law School last year.
All that, and a brain! Can you tell I'm her Number 1 British fan?
Beija-Flor means "hummingbird" in Portuguese -- itself a reason why I love the language.
It literally means "to kiss a flower", an act which catches the hummingbird's raison d'etre mid-flight, captured in this gorgeously lighted float.
I have to tell you that after my initial excitement last night, I was less than impressed by my favourite Samba School's outting, the last of the final Day 2.
Africa again. Snore.
The evening started out with Africa, and ended with it. Frankly, I thought Salgueiro had a better, richer "Africa" theme, overall, so it was anti-climactic perhaps.
Still, the standards are high for Beija-Flor, the darling of the catwalk and High Society, not to mention perennial 2nd place winner.
Just to show you that pregnant women CAN and DO walk that mile-long passarella great with child.
Astonishing, isn't it?
I've often fantasised about my mother having done so with me, when I was in her belly.
Typical of me, I would've decided to have been born just as the judge was watching, though I had a great somersault planned to get my Samba School extra points.
This is famed Brazilian soap (novela) actor, Jose Wilker, who has played every role known to man, from Oedipus to Brasilia-founder, Juscelino Kubitschek, and seen here reprising his role as Tenorio Cavalcanti.
Who was this guy, you ask? Well, in short, a Duque de Caxias (Rio suburb) politician who was famous for wearing a black cape wherever he went, like Franklin Roosevelt.
Unlike Franklin Roosevelt, the cape was a good hiding location for his machine gun, used to intimidate the voters and his rivals alike, which he called "Lurdinha" (little Lourdes -- he was very religious).
People, you can't make this stuff up. Seriously.
Remember I mentioned in the comments how the guys who are driving the floats have the best seat in the house, but don't get to see a THING during Carnival.
Well, these guys, Grande Rio's choreographers, have a great seat, but they're upside down.
Not too sure why, but it must really suck.
Imperatriz! My second favourite Samba School gave a knockout, and highly quirky performance on the night.
This however, isn't quirky but she is a knockout.
That's model/actress Luciana Guimenez (she must be of Spanish origin, which is unusual), as the Imperatriz Leopoldinense Rainha da Bateria.
Your requisite cheesecake shot, fellas. Enjoy!
Imperatriz were celebrating a few themes tonight, and one of them was honouring the equivalent of American variety show presenter, Ed Sullivan, called Chacrinha.
Only Chacrinha had some Harpo Marx in him, and throw in a little smarty-pants, W.C. Fields too.
Like Sullivan's "We have a really good show for you tonight" catchphrase, Chacrinha was known for his "Teresinha!! Ooh, hooo, hooo!" catchphrase, which sent his audience into spasms of laughter -- this catchphrase was Imperatriz' song theme tonight.
The much loved presenter wore a funny wig, made the show's contestants do silly stuff to win prizes, and loved Rio football club, Botafogo.
Simpler, but oh so much happier times.
Check out Chacrinha in action here, on Youtube!
Rosa Magalhães, to my mind, is A WORLD TREASURE.
Not only is she the most prestigious carnavalesca of the Rio Carnival since the retirement of Joãozinho Trinta, but since she's a Professor of Art at a Rio university, she's also a HIGHLY cultivated woman, whose research for the float themes goes above-and-beyond the call of craziness.
When everyone and their grandmothers were choosing Africa to honour this carnival, she chose Norway (two years back she chose Denmark's Hans Christian Andersen)...
Yeah, you heard me -- cod.
Here they are, strutting their codhood on the catwalk.
Only Rosa Magalhães. Mwah!
One of the most amazing floats I've seen, was this one Rosa decided to squeeze in after she was done with the fishies.
Not to sure why, but four black guys are drumming the lava from a volcano.
Maybe it makes cod taste better?
Either way, as Brazilians say -- genial!
To my mind, this is the most perfect body not only of any Rainha da Bateria in the Sambodromo tonight -- but of any woman I've seen in the carnival so far.
Here is Adriana Bombom ("bonbon" or piece of candy), who was in São Paulo for their carnival last Saturday, doing exactly the same thing there as she is here -- being a stellar Queen of the Band!
Beyoncé has nothing on her. Look at that face, that skin and those abs. Butter.
Portela's theme was tied to athletics, the Olympic Games, and the idealisation of the human form in all its glory.
But even I wasn't expecting these skaters in one of their floats, doing the most outrageous flips and 900s, as the ground underneath them moved!
God, how dangerous. And speaking of which...
Here's Brazilian Olympic medalist, Diego Hypolito, doing his trademark parallel bar exercises, likewise, as the float moved under him.
These people are nuts!
Can you imagine the lawsuits if Kerri Strug and Mary Lou Retton got on a Mardi Gras float in New Orleans, and started doing flips?
You know, carnival is fun, but it really is like a gift from God to males the world over. I'm sitting here blogging about nekkid ladies, for your pleasure.
But just like that, God decides to reward me for my patience with this sight:
10 blond Greek gods re-incarnated in Rio tonight.
Holy Washboard stomachs, Batman!
But back to my duties. Another passista lovely from the Avenida de Sapucaí.
Call me crazy, not that you don't already, but I rather think I look like her. I mean, not NOW.
But if I hit the gym, did my Pilates religiously, and painted my body gold...
All I need are the posties, and I'm off to carnaval!
But enough of representations, and allegories. Sometimes you have to see the real goods!
There is this "destaque" from Salgueiro, who had a very strong showing just now.
Their theme, once again for tonight, was Africa, but for Salgueiro it is used with a hope that they will once again, be Rio Carnival champions.
See, 4 of the 8 times they have won the title, they've done so with an Africa theme to their allegorical floats.
And here is their Queen Nefertiti float, which looked even better on television, never mind what it might've looked live.
She had a face for the ages, but I believe this below...
...is called a body that won't quit.
Brazilians have a term for a woman whose body is like a statue of perfection.
They call this type of woman, "um monumento". Or "uma catedral".
A monument and a cathedral.
That's quite a pile of bricks keeping up those flying buttresses.
UNIDOS DA TIJUCA
A plumed lady destaque in the second Samba School to file past, this Monday.
Unidos da Tijuca have been threatening to win the title for a few years now, and a lot of the Globo TV presenters were wowed by this presentation.
Instead of the popular African theme this Brazilian Carnival 2007, Unidos da Tijuca had as their theme world images -- like paintings and photography.
To that end, they truly impressed me, and sometimes...
...they made me laugh.
I told you below that not always do you get to choose your costume, whether you're a man or a woman!
You take what they give you.
By the way, as you can see, the burkha was highlighted in this photograph, to show how beautiful a woman is when her face and eyes are uncovered.
They say the Cologne carnival this year saw the return of the satirical floats where NO ONE is a sacred cow -- not even the Imams and the Mullahs, which they banned last year after the Danish Cartoon brouhaha.
And I can't help but think that Brazilians got the memo, too.
That's Mona Lisa as she would've looked if she had been covered by a burkha.
The emphasis becomes, what beautiful women and unforgettable images are we missing, because of this veil custom?
Hundreds, thousands, if not millions of images, lost to world culture.
As for the next allegorical representation of a photograph, who can forget the little Vietnamese girl running away from an explosion, naked and crying.
So here you go.
But the representation which most touched me, as it would any American reading this, was this evocative "capture" of the flag raising on Mount Surabachi, during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Wow! That I didn't expect.
And I deeply appreciate it, considering that last year, the winning Samba School, Vila Isabel, had a float called "The Americas" -- where the only flag missing was...the United States of America.
A float paid for by President Hugo Chavez, it goes without saying.
So for this lovely touch, I say:
Valeu, Unidos da Tijuca!!
PORTO DA PEDRA
Poor Angela Bismarck, the 6-foot Rainha da Bateria of Porto da Pedra, a minor Samba School which got the unprestigious first spot, for Day 2.
She lost her crotch coverlet, which Brazilians call with wicked humour and honesty, "o tapa sexo" (sex manhole cover).
The show goes on. It just goes on a little happier now.
There. All better now.
Elaine Ribeiro and Angela Bismarck, the Godmother and Queen of the Band, together and most importantly -- intact!
This is from Sunday, Day 1, in order of my preference.
So far, the punter's favourite to win the Samba Schools Championship are Viradouro.
Their highly inventive display had a "Vegas" gambling type theme, and above you can see the jackpot if you're a very very good boy.
That's Rainha da Bateria, Juliana Paes, dazzling again this year, as she leads the Viradouro band.
Viradouro strike me as having one of those better parades when you were watching them live, than they actually had.
This is especially true when you look at the photos later.
But I tell you, this upside down float, with the wheels on top, and the people upside down -- well, pure genius.
That's some headache that guy is going to have!
MOCIDADE INDEPENDENTE DE PADRE MIGUEL
But when your body grows old and sags, but you still want to pretend you're leading the band of a samba school, you can become a "Madrinha da Bateria" or their Godmother, instead of Queen.
This is Janaina Barbosa doing just that.
And yes, if she was judged to have been a little too old in the tooth to have a proper body for a Rainha, you can imagine the standards of beauty excellence in Brazil.
One of the most original themes of this carnival, Mocidade wowed the Avenida de Sapucaí with this amazing tryptich this year.
This series of photos is showing a page of the Bible.
That's a rather feminine looking Jehovah casting Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.
And that's Adam saying, "Stop! You can't touch this!", and jumping out, Hammer-style.
Adam says, Who needs the Garden of Eden, when I have the Passarella to myself!
I have so many shots of Mocidade I could show you, but this was one of the best. A long shot of their Porta-Bandeira and Mestre-Sala, with the second float behind them.
VILA ISABEL (REIGNING CHAMPS)
How do people get on those floats, you ask?
Simple. The people from each of the poor neighbourhoods where these Samba Schools traditionally come from, prepare for the next carnival in terms of costumery, ideas, songs, THE VERY NEXT DAY AFTER CARNIVAL ENDS.
So they've been signed up all that time, and the commitment is very binding, trust me.
But just folks like you and I, including tourists if they can commit to the timeline, can pay a fee and be assigned a costume (you don't always get to choose where and what).
Each costume is luxurious to the nth degree, and it depends what you are wearing but it usually runs from 100 US dollars to 1000 US dollars.
Consider that an average poor family of 4 in Brazil earns 100-150 US dollars PER MONTH, you can imagine what kind of a monetary sacrifice this is on the family budget.
But for carnival, Cariocas would eat dog food for a month to afford it!
Hey, it's an once a year, and you get 80 minutes on that catwalk. When you have no teeth, are illiterate, and have a lot of heartache in your life otherwise, it's worth it.
Here is Viviane Araujo just chillin' during the Vila Isabel presentation.
Famous people such as actors, actresses, singers, politicians, and high society celebs don't do the months of rehearsals expected of the regulars, but they do pay for their costumes in full.
No freebies, and they can't "add on" or change them in ANY WAY, else they'll be barred from going on the floats or appearing in the walk-through.
This woman in the Vila Isabel parade isn't famous, to the best of my knowledge, but I bet you all the clothes I'm wearing (and it's cold today again, so I'm actually dressed for a change), that she's from the High Society of Rio.
How do I know this?
Just a hunch, but she has the requisite tell-tale signs. For one, she's blonde.
For you to be a member of Brazilian café society, you don't need much. But you need to be white.
Even having money isn't as important as that.
But there IS only one thing which trumps race and money in Brazil -- and that's beauty.
This carnival is living proof of that obsession with the body, that Brazilians worship as you and I worship the other gods, which resonate more in our cultures.
Those of you in the United States of America may now stop reading this, and go back to work, so you can worship the god of success.
ESTÁCIO DE SÁ
Poor Estácio. They had the jejum (bad luck) of having to be the first Samba School to start the night off.
And yes, as you are thinking, that's because they sucked last year, and are "rewarded" by this unpromising position because of that.
Have there ever been a champion come out of first parade place? I don't think so.
And Estácio's rather dismal display, big lions notwithstanding, didn't do anything to alter this bad luck placement.
Check out the dangling feet of the tourists in the box seats -- the so-called "Camarotes" (kah-mah-raw-cheese).
Can you imagine this death-defying position happening anywhere outside the Third World?
It's a 30-foot plunge below, people.
Heck, in the US, the most you can do is dangle from college football uprights, and if you fall, you got no one else to sue but your sorry self.
Is that Einstein?
I know what E=mc2 means now.
It means having your face on top of a Brazilian beauty's cootch. That's gotta be as good as the Nobel Prize.
As you can see, Império Serrano (which means Valley Empire), didn't exactly bring their A-game to the Sambodromo this year.
They did have an excellent and rather touching innovation in their programme, when they invited kids with Down Syndrome as part of their parade.
But mostly, their theme could be summarised by this rather downhome but universal sign,
Mãe Te Amo!
Yep, you guessed it.
"I love ya, Ma!".
One more fat black guy wearing funny clothes, and Império Serrano could've passed for Al Roker pimping the crowds in The Today Show.
Mangueira are touted as the second favourites of night 1, just after Viradouro.
But I tells ya, they didn't impress me.
And in trying to highlight their parade for you in photos, I STRUGGLED to find adequately cute pics to show you.
Try to wow yourselves with this shot above of the Porta-Bandeira (flag-bearer) and the Mestre-Sala (Salon Gentleman, her cavalier), which IS rather colourful.
But I simply refuse to place that fat Rainha da Bateria that Mangueira had, which shows you just how much McDonald's has come to mean to Brazilian society, so instead here is one of their better floats.
As a gossip aside, legendary samba singer, the already aged Beth Carvalho, caused a scandale royale because she wanted to go on one of the floats, instead of the scheduled walking role she had in the "Baluarte" wing -- the one dedicated to the famous fans of Mangueira, from the world of the arts.
Well, the President of Mangueira, Max Lopes, said no way, get off, and also dissed her make-up.
Beth (pronounced Brazilian-style, Beh-chee) walked off in a snit, and said that her relationship with Mangueira was over and done with, at the Sambódromo.
Ooh, handbags at the Brazilian Carnival! Meow!
If you've ever wondered how these ladies in carnival costumes look so perfect...well, it's not all due to God's gifts.
As ever with us ladies, we have our secrets of the trade, and here is Tathiana Pagung getting prepped to enter her Viradouro costume back in 2005.
What are they using to hide her tan lines, and spider veins, you ask?
Why, just hair spray, is all.
Apparently, it makes the skin glisten, reducing the imperfections of the skin.
I swear to you, you could douse hairspray on my whole body, AND Grecian Formula, and I'd still wouldn't look that great.
Here's Tathiana this weekend on Copacabana Beach, doing her finest Daryl Hannah impersonation.
Pagung sounds Thai or at least, East Asian, so I think she's Eurasian, with perhaps a little black inside her too.
But whatever the combination, you can't deny, she carries it well.
Just look at the kids' expressions (and their dads').
The Brazilian Britney Spears?
That's singer, Ivete Sangalo, looking eeriely like the pre-bald Louisiana songstress, pumping the carnival crowds in Salvador, Bahia.
Hangliding perilously close to the Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) statue, the very symbol of Rio de Janeiro on top of Corcovado mountain.
I've been THIS close to Our Lord's face, since my dad took us on one of those helicopter tourist rides.
Remember when I told you that I suffered from Stendahl's Syndrome, and almost fainted in front of the David statue, in Florence?
Well, guess what happened inside that helicopter? Not pretty.
Paris Hilton does the Viennese Carnival -- Fasching!
Yes, America's most notable intellectual, Paris Hilton, had the honour of having been chosen the Guest of Honour at the HIGHLY prestigious Opernball in Vienna...
...which, by the way, I once attended at the age of 18 -- having been taught to dance the waltz, minuet, and other intricate court dances, in a special dance academy for 2 weeks straight, in preparation of the ball afterwards. Trust me, the Viennese take this VERY SERIOUSLY. I had to wear white gloves up to here!
So, how did Paris get into this joint?? Oh, I remember. She was the invited guest of a local, elderly playboy millionaire.
Here is Paris Hilton in the Imperial Box which once contained such worthies as Kaiser Franz Joseph and his gorgeous consort, the Empress "Sissi" Elisabeth.
If you think she looks bored with the formalities, and the Opernball is VERY formal in the most Old World sense, you would be right.
Earlier that day though, she went to a scheduled appearance at a local mall, where she could hang out with kids more her own age and speed.
So guess what happened?
They threw lipstick, cigarette boxes, and shopping bags on top of her, in riotous protest.
But don't worry, Paris graciously replied when asked about the incident, "I love my fans".
Stick to the Opera crowd, Paris.
They might have less rotten tomatoes on them.
Rio Carnival 2007
Rio Carnival 2006
UPDATED LINK: Check out Made In Brazil's insider photos, which he took inside the VIP camarotes ("executive" boxes, if you will). He is a great resource for all things Brazilian, and I happen to like his blog a lot, since we share a love of fine-looking guys, but usually I don't link to his blog for pics, because being explicitly-gay they are not work-place friendly. These are though!