When two forces collide

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Flores Raras (in English, Rare Flowers, although I believe the movie has been called Reaching For The Moon in the USA)  is a brazilian movie about the relationship between the american poet Elizabeth Bishop and the brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares, a movie I would dare to say I could only watch while visiting Brazil. Few opportunities I had while living in Ohio to watch foreign movies, mostly because they are not available in any theatre in a radius of 40 miles from my house. Even movies like this one, mainly spoke in English, would have a tough time to find its way to ohioan theaters.

The movie is not perfect, it actually has many flaws, one of them being the sometimes overly butch interpretation of Lota, performed by brazilian actress Gloria Pires, while trying to portray somebody confident, impetuous and strong minded. Lota’s character is a dissonant contrast in comparison to the brittle Elizabeth Bishop, performed by the australian actress Miranda Otto. Bishop is characterized as an alcoholic whose self esteem and confidence only grows during her 20 years relationship with Lota, despite their cultural and social differences that sometimes get in the way. This period is when her poetry reaches its full potential and the poet won the Pulitzer Prize, in 1956. It is also an intricate political and historical time for Brazil, something that is brought to light a few times during the narrative.

The relationship between the two women is beautifully portrayed, alternating delicate,  tender, loving scenes, with sexy scenes without appealing to the vulgar, cheap elements of sex, trying successfully not to become a source of harassment, or a porn movie.  According to the director, Bruno Barreto, that was one of the concerns during the shooting.

From my point of view, their encounter is much more interesting from the creative, professional point of view, like a collision between two gigantic forces from different natures and cultures. In their own way, two courageous, bold women who defied conventions by assuming their own lifestyle. In that sense, the movie satisfies my literary curiosity by showing a little bit about Elizabeth Bishop’s life, which is always interesting.

Finding a topic

I have been occupied with some bureaucratic things and trying to find a job, something I find very challenging, which lead me to stop posting texts on the blog this week. I did have a few posts already written, but reading them for the second and third times made me chose to delete them. They are not blog-material and definitely not topics worth writing about.

I always had problems trying to find stories worth telling from the journalistic point of view, mainly because sometimes I still find myself trapped in the same old approaches. Yes, sometimes, I feel I lack in creativity. I see myself trying to write pieces about how an authors life is related to his work or about literature and society, which are themes wildly explored from the theoretical and the journalistic perspective.

Those times, something that really helps me is to read newspapers and see what not-to-write-about topics, read blogs and see what they are talking about, research sources, go out for a walk. My teachers used to say it is impossible to be speechless if you are out there with pen, paper and maybe a recorder. Their answer to lack of creativity was to go out and live. Talk to poor people occupying empty buildings in the center of São Paulo to understand their point of view on housing public policies, just to learn more about real state speculation. Nothing new, but maybe you will meet an architect in the middle of the occupiers, or a teacher, who are there for moral and ethical reasons, not financial problems, and that catches your eye.

My teachers told me the world presents itself for somebody who is willing to get their feet dirty, walk around and just talk to people. Someone interested to get to know things, like how is it to live your life, your struggles, your political beliefs. I never understood that properly until I started traveling abroad and being a tourist. The kind of tourist that prefers experiencing a local’s life, not seeing a chinese walk around the Louvre with a camera on his shoulders, busier filming than actually living the present, enjoying the paintings, learning from it. I started appreciating more and more the french cafes and the talks people were having on the next table, the cab driver complaints, the moments where we find ourselves lost and the maps were all useless.

All I know is that I have been trying to follow their advices ever since, but sometimes I forget… This time I decided to write about it, to remind me of the importance of maintaining that fresh eye, curiosity and humility only a true tourist has. Even if the tourist is traveling on his hometown or the town he lives in.

What about you? What works for you when you want to find a topic to write about? 

Girls night out

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The four journalists got together for a happy hour, like they used to do before going to school every night years ago, all very talkative about their jobs and their lasts pieces. Sophie had been working for a travel guide ever since they graduated, Mary opened up her own Public Relations firm, Stella was working at a high end clothing store and Rita was a book editor at a small publishing house. It had been months they were able to get together, so they had a lot to talk about. Once the work related issues had been expurgated, they started talking about their relationships. Sophie was dating the same boyfriend since their second year at college, so everybody knew the couple and their story pretty well. But she had news that night. Before any of the other girls could start an endless talk about their own love lives, she blunted:

– I am engaged. We are getting married in a year or so. John proposed to me last night.

The others looked astonished for a little while, in part because they had witnessed their several nasty fights the year before. Realizing the almost uncomfortable silence, one by one they started talking excitedly:

– I can’t believe it! Congratulations, Soso! I am so happy for you guys, you are going to be the happiest couple ever. – said Stella.

– Congratulations, Soph! That’s awesome news. – said Rita, the one that couldn’t really berry her emotions and thoughts, although she tries very hard. This time, Sophie didn’t seem to notice the bit of worry in her voice. At least that was Rita’s first thought.

– Congrats, my friend! We need to start planing your bachelorette party! Oh, my! That’s going to be amazing. – was Mary’s reaction, always thinking ahead.

The surprise that had set the girls on fire was gone in a few minutes. The four journalists faced themselves in an awkward silence for a minute or two, before Sophie took the lead:

– I know you guys are very happy for me, but I can tell you are also worried about the wedding because of everything we went through. I understand. John and me, we are together for more than 4 years now. I know him, he knows me. We’ll always fight, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be happy. Fights are a big part of a healthy relationship. We are not perfect, but we have what it takes to make it work. And, if it doesn’t work, for any reason, we can always get a divorce.

– Don’t use the possibility of divorce to get married, Soph. That’s not a life. Marriage should be taken seriously, I want to see you happy, not having to deal with John’s bullshit every single day. I think he has a lot to learn before he is ready to make this sort of commitment, but at the same time, as you said, nobody knows him better than you. I’ll trust your judgement on that, but please take it seriously. Don’t get married because all our friends are either getting engaged or moving in together or having kids. Don’t underestimate marriage because you are not religious. Do you really believe, in your circumstances, love will be enough to make it work?

– Love should be always enough, Rita. Where do you think married people find the strength to forgive and forget the small little mistakes their loved ones make? How do you think the flaws are overlooked? The real question, for you, is: does he love Sophie or is he settling down because he is 7 years older than us and he doesn’t see any other choice? I think that, no matter what happened in the past, they will only learn how much they love each other if they take this leap of faith. Marriage is something you shouldn’t be too rationally obsessed about. It is all about feeling, and I seriously doubt they got engaged because of some…trend. They love each other in their own manners and standards, I just hope they can manage themselves not to fight as much and learn to let things go.

– I agree, Stella. They need to live to know. I don’t think any of us has the right to judge their relationship when it comes to how deeply they feel about each other. My main concern would be wether they can afford a life here. Our salaries as journalists are not enough for us to have our own place, we all still live with our parents. That’s going to be a rough start, sweety. Bare that in mind. Rent alone, for a small little apartment in a decent neighborhood is more than half of our paycheck. What sort of life do you plan to have? Are you willing to give things up? – the practical Mary was always concerned about material things first. No wonder she was the one to open her own business.

Sophie was just listening, but you could tell she was overwhelmed with all the questions and different points of view. After saying what they were really thinking, the three girls felt bad, mainly because they didn’t think on how their friend would feel about it. They realized Sophie was quiet for a long time. They all had another round of drinks, except for her. Nobody realized how strange that was, until Sophie lift her eyes of the bar table and said, relieved, with tears running down her checks:

– Actually, we are getting married because I am pregnant.