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Friday, May 31, 2013

Fancy Film Friday #4: Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders

Valerie A Týden Divu, 1970 (Czechoslovakia)
Inspired by fairy-tales, a surreal story in which love, fear, sex and religion merge into one fantastic world.

Here's a secret. I don't understand this movie. I understand the idea behind it, and the archetypes played by each character, but I can't follow the story and halfway I just get so distracted by Helena Anýzová (that would be the lady in black with the asymmetric hairdo and the neck brooch) and her frankly stunning face that I don't even know what's supposed to be happening.

But that's okay. This is still a very pretty movie, and a very nice way to spend a couple of hours. IMDB says it's referenced in The Company Of Wolves (1984), another very pretty movie, inspired by the writings of Angela Carter no less (though inspired may not be correct, since Carter got to write the actual script...), and I know the first time I read that I felt really outraged because how dare anyone say that movie was inspired by anything other than Angela Carter's own genius... but then, turns out, Carter watched this movie, was apparently "impressed with it", and "admitted Valerie heavily influenced her own script". Isn't it wonderful how these things connect to each other? I think it is.

Meanwhile, this movie is also relevant because it managed to get me interested in Czechoslovak cinema. This happened last year, and I regret to announce I still haven't watched that many movies... but I'm working on it, with a never-ending list of titles to watch in the summer.

As of now, I think it's safe to recommend The Cremator (1969), Morgiana (1972), and Daisies (1966).

That's in order of magnificence, by the way.
Thursday, May 30, 2013

365 Days Ago: May '12

Unlike April, May is usually a busy month. This is what I did last year:

I took a lot of photos of my little shoebox of an apartment. It was a good day, I was tending to my plants, and the weather looked beautiful. I will not be telling you what happened to the plants in the long run, though...

This photo happened. I think I took it one day after class, at lunch time... I was home, my hair looked nice, and I felt like freezing the moment for posterity. I'm glad I did, because it's been a year, and this is still my Facebook profile picture... even though it looks nothing like... well, like my current appearance.

I spent a nice hour or so wandering around the quintessential antique bookshop. If there's one thing I can say about this town, is that it's just... littered with them. I keep finding new ones, I swear it's like they pop up overnight. Unfortunately, tourists simply come, drop by Lello, take a picture or two hundred, walk a couple of doors over to buy a bar of expensive but exquisitely packaged portuguese soap, and leave. I won't blame anyone for any of the aforementioned actions, since I too have bought expensive but exquisitely packaged portuguese soap, but... there's plenty of fish and the sea and plenty of bookshops in Porto. It saddens me a little that one is always crowded and the others are always empty. Ah well. Jo from The Paper And Ink has compiled a list (with pictures!) of some of the prettiest antique bookshops around. Do as the lady (and I, too!) says and visit them.

But back to the bookshop above. Around a month after these pictures were taken, I went back to buy a book I couldn't get out of my mind. An annual activity report from the sanatoriums in Caramulo, dated 1951. I am a little obsessed with that place. A mountain range, in the middle of nowhere, with more abandoned sanatoriums than you can shake a camera at, and the looming thought that not so long ago, that was the place to go if you wanted to cure your tuberculosis. And how was TB treatment in the 40s, 50s, you ask? Lots of rest, good food, and fresh air. Or, as this patient's diary puts it: "Absolute and utter rest of mind and body—no bath, no movement except to toilet once a day, no sitting up except propped by pillows and semi-reclining, no deep breath. Lead the life of a log, in fact. Don't try, therefore, to sew, knit, or write, except as occasional relief from reading and sleeping." This is fascinating, to me. To think that this was considered treatment. To think that we had a whole mountain devoted to buildings where people would go to lie down. It sounds kind of dreamy and contemplative and melancholic. Better yet, to think that one family was in charge of this whole scheme - to think that one man was responsible for creating that town, and to think that someone in my extended family worked right up there in the sanatoriums for so many years. It feels real, and close to home. I can stand outside a barred door and put names and stories to the ruins. I guess, in the end, that's why I bought the report.

We could have skipped the wall o' text, though.

And last but not least, this photo. I took it on my way back from the bookshop... I'd say it looks kind of impressive, until you figure out the trick.

But enough of May. June's right around the corner.
Summer plans, anyone?
Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Appearances, Gender... & Possibly Sailor Mars

After skipping April's topic, here I am once again writing for the Carnival Of Aces! Maybe I should turn this into a regular event... after all, waxing lyrical about things helps me figure out my own stance on said things.

Anyway. This month's topic is Appearances, and I regret to say I got a little sidetracked and ended up writing about gender, as well. Right now, I can't see one without the other. Right now, I can't even see how anyone can see one without the other.

I'm deep into the subject, as you can tell.

Possible trigger warnings:
- There aren't any, this time. But I would like to apologise in advance for my... still very incomplete grasp of gender concepts, as a result of which I may have stepped on a crack or two. Do please call me out if that's the case? Thank you.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Fancy Film Friday #3: Goth

Goth, 2008 (Japan)
Initially happy to exchange books on morbid subjects, two high school students begin investigating a series of recent murders.

I'll admit it. I first watched this because of Kanata Hongo. He's kind of pretty but also kind of... creepy-looking, and that's always a good combo in my book. I ended up loving the movie for plenty of other reasons. The imagery, the plot twists... but mostly this relationship, guys. It kills me. I've seen the movie so many times, and I still don't know what to think about it. This is the kind of thing that keeps me coming back, you know. Dynamics. Relationships. Stares and snarls and smiles and the symbolism behind every little word and every little gesture.

There's a novel, too. Or, let me rephrase that, this movie is actually the adaptation of a novel - can't say I've read it yet, but I've read Summer, Fireworks, And My Corpse by the same author, and let me tell you, it was brilliant. Everything I've ever wanted from Japanese horror, and then some. I very nearly dropped a frying pan on my foot a few minutes after finishing the first short story - it's got that kind of ending. You read the story, you like the story, you put down the story.

And then five minutes later the story grabs you by the neck and pulls your eyes open and good lord, how did you miss that.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Butterfly House

Irrelevant but pretty photo of a fish. You're welcome.

Last year, I tried to raise butterflies. The completely average Pieris Brassicae, to be precise. I found caterpillars and a steady supply of their favorite food, I set up cute little jars with cute little mesh fabric wrapped around the top, and I went as far as to name one of the jars "Jar Of Success" (no really... I put a post-it on it) because it housed the fattest caterpillars of the bunch. It was a complete and utter disaster.

Fast forward a few days, I noticed the caterpillars were kind of... inactive. Fast forward a little more. There is no easy to say this. I started noticing tiny little things moving inside my precious caterpillars. Fast forward just a tiny bit, tiny bit more and they had eaten their way out and were building cocoons with the caterpillar's silk. Dear lord. I had nighmares about zombified caterpillars for two whole nights after that.

Turns out I'd been a victim of a parasitic wasp, the infamous Cotesia Glomerata. If you're interested in the mechanics of chemical warfare as employed by tiny little bugs, this is one great post on the subject - though the photos might be a bit graphic for those among us who are not particularly fond of crawling things that eat other crawling things from inside out. Around the end of the year, I had the opportunity to speak to a butterfly expert - who told me his caterpillars had met the same fate. I let out a sigh. Turns out it wasn't just me being completely inefficient after all.

But let's stop with the gloom and doom and talk about a place in Lisbon where people are actually doing this successfully! Aka the Borboletário, or The Butterfly House, of the National Museum Of Natural History. It opened to the public in 2006, and it's a small, enclosed garden of mediterranean host plants, where you can simply walk in and observe the different life stages of our most common butterflies, and their interaction with their environment. Sadly, I didn't see any new ones when I was there, but it's been a bad year for butterflies anyway. Maybe I'll go back once it's warmer.

Aaaaand... I'll leave you with pictures in the meantime.

(Borboletário do Jardim Botânico de Lisboa - Rua da Escola Politécnica, Lisboa)

I thought it was beyond cute how these butterflies wouldn't fly away from me - I could have touched them, that's how friendly they were. I don't actually know whether butterflies can be social with humans. But if there's a good place to run that research, this is it. Do visit if you have the chance! Cheaper tickets if you pay for the museum and the botanical garden as a package!

Do as I say!
Friday, May 17, 2013

Fancy Film Friday #2: Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch, 2011 (USA)
A young girl is institutionalized by her abusive stepfather. Retreating to an alternative reality as a coping strategy, she envisions a plan which will help her escape.

When I first watched this movie, I was in a nearly-empty movie theatre. The opening sequence chilled me to the bone, and the very end had me struggling for a tissue. My first words after the movie were... wanna go again?

It blew me away. It's an uncomfortable movie, yes. It's uncomfortable, and thought-provoking. It's a movie about rape, about coping, about sexuality, about freedom, about oppression, and you're being manipulated through most of it. The dragons, the corsets, the brothel, the katana and the helicopter and the zeppelin... none of that is real. We see our main character's fantasies, her projections, her pantomimes played by a persona who shares little more than her looks and her desire to escape - not even her name. She's so detached from herself, so curled up in her own inner world, that she doesn't let us see what's actually happening to her, behind that flimsy curtain of deception that we're not allowed to pull open until her quest is finished. Is it sucessful? That depends. From my perspective, yes, it is. Not fully, but enough. You can't always win everything, or save everyone. And to me, it's more than enough that she fought back until she couldn't anymore.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


So. I graduate in a few months, did you know that? Now you do.

For the past four years, I've been studying Criminology, and for the past seven days, I've been figuring out the best way to edit these photos. The event depicted is... well, it's our yearly student parade. It's probably a bit hard to explain to the unitiated in Portuguese academic traditions, but let's put it simply. The university is composed of different faculties. Each faculty has its own color (or combination of colors). And so each year, for one day in May, the students march around the city (most of them in their uniforms), in one big colorful academic pride parade. The near-graduates get to wear top hats, there are songs and games, and generally it takes everyone around six hours to walk a distance that would usually take ten minutes. Too much noise and too many people, but I can proudly say I lasted a whole three hours before calling it quits. Slow walking, man. Most certainly not my thing.

I don't know what was happening here, but I swear we didn't look that gloomy the whole time.

In which I hold my DSLR like a point-and-shoot and lose around 100% of my style cred.

"It doesn't have to be easy, it has to be worth it."

And on that bombshell... *spins chair* ...back to work.