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Monthly Archives: February 2011

This is Your Avó on YouTube

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I have personally discovered a whole new genre of cultural self-expression on YouTube.   And I believe it has been around awhile, ever since my brother and I filmed our Portuguese grandparents doing silly stuff (like singing Bob Hope songs to any waiter who would listen, GRANDPA!!  Those bartenders in Cascais aren’t thanking you for any memories!!).   We in the 1990’s however, had no YouTube to disseminate such private evidence of insanity.

Now everyone with an iPhone and a Portuguese grandparent can be a channel unto him or herself.   There are rapping grandmas, singing grandmas (and this is not Amália as your grandma….yeeessh), and observational videos of grandmas. As in “the Portuguese grandma likes to preen herself near but not at the picnic table at a festa, while talking to Mrs. Pereira, whom she detestes since the debacle at the beauty shop! Brought to you by Mutual of Omaha…..”  I just made that up.  It’s just old ladies at picnic tables.  There is an entire subgenre of old women being asked to say http://www.YouTube.com.  Why?  No really, WHY???

I apologize that this woman looks like she’s eleven.   Yes, I realize she’s Brazilian.  Shut up.

The best of all of them is a veritable YouTube library (which has been featured on Portuguese TV) by Jeffrey of Popsick Productions. Jeff might look like a Canadian Millennial with an iphone too many, but he really does capture the heart and soul of the comedic intergenerational tension within Portuguese diaspora.    As in Grandma really isn’t surprised or too sick of his shit, but she’s all about waving her arms and letting Jeff know what he REALLY should be doing.

Azorean by way of Toronto, Jeff’s grandmother is the subject of his 2-3 minute vignettes.  In most of them, Jeff is annoying her to the point of exhaustion with some silly but harmless construct, like making noise while she’s trying to balance her soup bowl or singing the Folger’s theme song when other people in the house are trying to sleep.  Grandma comes out with the speed and alacrity of a Pac Man ghost monster  to whack him back into place, but at the same time, we’re just left both laughing and crying as we recognize the similarities to our own grandmother’s gestures, nightgowns, black smocklike uniform, and doilies precipitating from every heavy piece of wooden furniture.  Sure, that’s hardly my Gramma, but it’s kinda like…. home.

There is a tension here; the boy Jeff is about to become Jeff the Man.  On the cusp of adulthood,  which no one is really ready for, lot less the precious male grandchild of a Portuguese grandmother, our Grandmother here appears to be feeling some tension that her charge is still, shall we say, boyish…..

Perhaps I judge the Popsick’s manhood too harshly.   A lot of comments on YouTube cut him down for showing great disrespect to his grandmother.  But I doubt his grandmother is not a conspirator.  I’d be shocked if she was some total bumpkin who thought Jeff’s light box was there to steal her soul.  Come on.     She knows full well why she’s the hilarious butt of Jeff’s practical jokes.    There is also a certain amount of affection in the videos-  she is never in a negative light; it’s more like looking at unposed family pictures, the ones that don’t make it into the frames.  It’s an edited, setup, slice o’ life that reveals something about who we are.

I am not a wiz at the history of humor in  Portuguese literature and filmic representation.  But I am a wiz at making Portuguese people to whom I’m related laugh until they pee.  And they are NOT just laughing at my language skills.   But I am going out on a limb here saying that absurdity in our humor IS OUR Humor.  From my grandfather running into a French throughfare screaming “I am the Bastard Son of  David Ben-Gurion” to  a houseful of papa secos, randomness is king.  We are the random  ones.  And why I am so amazingly random finally makes sense.  Or maybe I’m giving Jeff too much credit.  Oh…. well.

It also makes me a bit sad.  This will never work when my Portuguese-born mother becomes a grandmother.   I can see her.  She would just roll her eyes.

Being Chato* is Our Birthright!! Shine on, Papasick!

*It’s a word meaning boring, or flat, or exactly what Jeff was being when he kept repeating the Folgers theme song.

Deolinda is Awesome?? “Oui!”

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Deolinda Adao

2011 Winner: Most Generous Teacher (Prize is one of those #1 Mom coffee cups with "mom" sharpeed out)

Monday I went to our last Portuguese class, even though it in fact is and will be toast, and I have to say my teacher is more generous and kind than any other I’ve yet to have. Except maybe my high school history teacher who threw down his AmEx card at Orly Airport when we got stuck with bad tickets in Paris and charged our tickets home just to get us out of France. No, Deolinda wins, because the history teacher got paid back.   She is going to tutor us in the BCC library on Monday nights.  Wow.  I was expecting her to at least take up a collection if she was going to do that. But she didn’t even mention it.

In fact, when I clarified in English that we were only meeting Mondays, she looked a wee mite bit guilty she couldn’t do both days for free.  Um, frankly, I get working for free. Booooooy do I get it.  I am the queen of working for free.  But I certainly wouldn’t do it if I was driving all over tarnation to begin with just to work at all with my newly minted PHD like she does!!   I’m so honored and humbled by this that I can barely express it in words.

And then when she asks your intrepid author if she can come at 6pm  Monday nights, how did I answer?

“Oui!”

A half naked chick on a magazine called "Oui"

At least my "Oui" wasn't this obnoxious.

To which my dear, generous, loving teacher jokingly threatened to call my father.  BTW they do know each other from the Portuguese literary circuit that kind of exists in California.  Awesome.  I’m not sure if my dad will be proud French is so close to my heart or ashamed that I spurt it out while my teacher is offering free help in another language.

The thing is, I’d been dreading that moment for months.  I never ever had a problem mixing these two languages until recently.  When I lived in France, I took a Portuguese course and never had a single issue.  But somehow, when I was working on a movie this summer with all these random French speakers, suddenly I was spouting Portuguese phrases.  WTF?  Early Onset Alzheimers?  And then when I took Portuguese, there was this  guy who kept yapping in French during class,  including five minutes before I was about to give an oral presentation.  Thanks a lot.   Maybe I’m just losing it.   But of course, it comes at the moment my teacher is being beamed from Planet Generous.

I am so grateful I am still going to get some instruction in Portuguese.  It just sucks that it’s not going to help the teacher much…..