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Category Archives: Pop Culture

Slow And Low, That Is The Tempo

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In America, I’m different.  I didn’t  grow up the way everybody else did because my mother was not like everybody else.  In Portugal, you’d expect it to be more like a homecoming, where I’d have these things in common with others.  Um…. no. For one, all of those things about my childhood had to do with a Portugal that hasn’t existed since 1958, but that is another post.  Two, everyone thinks I am completely deficient by default and that the US is basically the moon populated by crack whores with no long-term memories who freebase burger patties.  During my trip to Portugal, I was asked:

If I knew what cough syrup was and if we had it in America.

If I knew what a delivery driver was.  When I remarked that pizza delivery drivers rode motorbikes instead of cars, my cousin spent about a full five minutes mansplaining pizza transport in shaky English.  One, I’d have understood the Portuguese.  Two, I realize pizza isn’t from Hogwarts.

I was asked if I knew what “faldas” were.  They’re diapers.  My Portuguese grandmother died at 94.  You bet your incontinent relative’s ass I know what a falda is.

If I’d seen a Lamborghini.  My cousin got in a car accident (A CAR ACCIDENT!!) while pointing out a Lamborghini at about 40 mph.  I went to college in La Jolla.  There is a dealership there.  I nervously sidled up to many a Lamborghini in my half-unpainted 1991 Dodge Shadow.

If I could possibly know anything in Portuguese to begin with. My cousin and her mother were shocked I could read the inter titles in the news on Portuguese TV.  Um… Hello.  Those words are almost identical in English and French; “primeiro-ministro” isn’t a huge challenge to understand with someone with any sort of brain activity.

If I figured out how to feed myself.  One cousin declared, with some grave concern, that I must be so fat because I eat rissois for breakfast.  Dude, I haven’t had a real rissol in 18 years, so I’m not holding back.  And despite shoving rissois in my mouth at all hours, Portugal is a giant stair master where I dropped ten whole pounds while eating dessert for breakfast.  BTW, folks, he’s in his 345th trimester.

If I had ever seen fish.  I was asked numerous times if I had seen any dish you can imagine eating in Portugal.  Um… yeah…  the LAST time I came to Portugal, the sardines and cod were not hiding.

Someone asked me once if I’d ever had broth.  Seriously.   America, no soup for you!!!

If I understood the function of the suburbs.  Several cousins seriously thought that because I went to stay with a cousin in Oeiras, I would never venture into Lisbon again.  Let’s review the reasons why Oeiras exists in the first place….

If I knew basic stories about my family.  You should have seen the shock on my 83 year old cousin’s face when I spouted off names of peripheral relatives.  Um… I’ve met these people!!

If I could handle watching international television.  I was perusing the channels and stumbled on a version of the Golden Girls’ episode where Blanche dates the younger jazzercise instructor reenacted by a Spanish cast.  They made comments the ENTIRE time I watched it as to why I would do so if I was not a Spanish speaker.  Come on, transposed Golden Girls?  HOW COULD I NOT WATCH THAT IN ANY LANGUAGE?!?!?

If I ate anything else but hamburgers.  This was because they saw Americans only eat hamburgers on a cruise.  Because I was on that cruise?  If only they knew what I spend on cheese at Whole Foods.

If I could figure out my own reproductive system.  One cousin gave me a speech about the dangers of giving birth after 40.  Someone should tell him that the most dangerous thing about motherhood after 40 is repeating that speech to someone facing down that illustrious birthday.

IF I COULD REGULATE MY OWN MEMORIES.  I was there because I wrote about my memories of Portugal and of stories about my family.  But many relatives said to me and to my mother “OH  HOW COULD SHE REMEMBER, SHE WAS SO LITTLE!!”  The last time I was in Portugal, I was almost 21.  I went there also at age 8, and remember it like it was yesterday.

And of course, it was assumed I have 392,384,298 guns in my house.  Obviously.  In America, I am an anachronistic freak.  In Portugal, it is assumed that I am Ted Nugent.


I have no suggestions as to why people believe such silly things.  I don’t remember having conversations like this when I was a student in France.  And you would think that people who know and speak to my mother on a regular basis would realize that if she is intelligent, her daughter might not be stupid.  And they know my mother is a damn brain trust.  Some of them even make fun of her for it.   But some of them are shocked I can remember being 21.  I don’t get it.




If the Portuguese Wrote Power Rangers

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If the Portuguese Wrote Power Rangers

The troupe The Portuguese Kids, who performed yesterday (well, like four hours ago) in San Jose, pretend to be the Power Rangers. I was laughing too hard to hear exactly what they said at this point, but I think the dude on the chairs says it all!

Sh*t Portuguese People Say

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You know SOMEONE had to do this, and who better than The Portuguese Kids?

Check out more from these guys on their YouTube channel or their website.   They’re so funny, you may choke on your bica.


RTP Gems: Episode One

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I have to share with you this gem that my mother and I witnessed while flipping channels.  Comcast had not correctly marked the show, as it often fails to do, so I have no way of knowing what it was to look it up or grab a photo or watch it again.

Which definitely pisses me off.

But it’s cool; I still have the story:

The scene is a cheesy “nice” Portuguese city apartment – “grandma” nice, not “on the edge of fashion” nice –  and there’s an old guy and two of his obviously returned-to-the-empty-nest kids.   Seriously.  They are fully middle-aged.  Even so, the fact that the peri-menopausal daughter is wearing pigtails (and not in an ironic Gen-X kind of way, either) does not get so much as a batted eyelash.  No, instead, for some odd reason, all the attention is being exerted on attempting to trick a priest into believing their saint statue is really crying.

Can you imagine this being a plot on “Who’s the Boss?”   This is the very reason why getting RTP is so beyond awesome.  But I digress.

Cut to behind the statue, where one of the (obviously darker skinned….hmmmmm) maids or workmen or whatever is pumping the hell out of some plastic contraption.  And no tears are coming out of the saint.

Back to the priest in front of the statue.  Someone asks why the heck the room has begun to strongly smell….. of ketchup.

Cut back to the pumping.  The guy is pumping HARDER.  Obviously, there is something stuck in the pump.  Uh-oh!

It's a ketchup bottle, plus the lettering saying "I put Ketchup on my Ketchup"

Why do I smell ketchup coming from that church?

Ketchup shoots out the eyes of the holy statue like Our Lady herself was trying to win an olympic archery medal with eye-catapulted condiments instead of well, arrows.

And the priest totally buys it.  As far as he’s concerned, it is holy blood.  He doesn’t even want to wipe it off his toupee, which is by now, crooked.

The last shot is of him in a towel, still stained in the holy sugary tomato-pasty stuff that is making half of America fat.

Maybe you just had to be there.

Inside Poke.

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Poster of HP's Patronus rewritten if JK Rowling was really Portuguese.

Sausage: The non-magical patronus! It has to be better for a dementor attack than mere chocolate. Did the books tell you that? No. Come on, JK, you lived in Portugal. Throw us a bone from your billion dollar Scottish castle!


And how poorer are you who do not understand.  And I mean this both the luso-ignorant and those who don’t read Harry Potter.  I mean, if you’ve never choked on the stench of the neighbors curing the intestines for sausage, you, my friend, have not lived.  And HP speaks for itself.   I love my Harry Potter, but with a half-billion in box office sales, he can afford someone poking fun at him.

Sorry for the terrible graphic.  It wouldn’t let me steal the BIG graphic off Facebook.   But you can see more with the lovely link under the poster.

It’s from The Portuguese Kids, of course, everybody’s favorite Portuguese East Coast comedy troupe.  Oh, when will they yet again come to Cali?  They were in San Jose two days after I had surgery… so that wasn’t going to happen.  It would have been tragic to see a show and not have been physically able to laugh.  They hail from Fall River, Massachusetts, which apparently is teeming with lusophones who never have to go prodigal like Yours Truly here.  They do incredibly funny imitations of their immigrant parents as they were raising children and working in this odd landscape of America.  “What better way to celebrate the Portuguese Culture than to laugh and remember your childhood?”  they ask in their bio.  And yes, what better way?

When I read that, however, a chill comes over me thinking of my mission of  breaking past the guns, germs, and steel about why nobody outside the community understands who we are… No Bombs.  No Fast food.  No Crime families.

Here’s my downer for the day:  this humor is still an inside joke.   It’s Portuguese comedy for other Portuguese people, mostly people who had immigrant parents.   It’s barely even for the immigrants themselves!!

I’m certainly not saying that these guys are not brilliant and can’t go far with their talent.  “The Back to the Festa” YouTube clip had me in stitches.  I just wish we could somehow tweak this and make it for a wider audience.  It would sell us better than anything else I’ve seen to those in America who, when you say you’re eating Portuguese food, make jokes about consuming cork.   They will no longer HAVE to joke, due to the  brand new, clear picture in their head of creamy, lovely cod and potatoes.

This stuff should be just funny anyway; the immigrant-first generation child conflict is centuries old and is always the same, even with the quirk of each culture who dips its collective toe in the American pond.  Come on, out there.  If this was a bunch of Italians doing the same thing, you would laugh.  You wouldn’t be any more or less clued in.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding was accepted by an American audience.   But damn it, those Greeks got the fast food down.  So the bastards had SOME name recognition.

Just enjoy and support the Portuguese Kids.  They’re hilarious.  And they are going to be part of the Guns, Germs and Steel of our eventual recognition and takeover of American pop culture.  Okay, really, just recognition.   Without anyone bombing anywhere or being to blame for the obesity crisis.

This poster also reminds me of something that’s been bugging me for a while.  Everybody write a nasty letter  to J.K. Rowling (or don’t since I know personally I’d end up apologizing in it and telling her how much I loved her books) for her making the only reference to Portugal in the entire eight book series was the evil founder of Slytherin House, pureblood aficionado, and eventual ancestor of Voldemort, Salazar Slytherin.  Really?  It goes over 90% of the readers’ heads but for those who it doesn’t, was I just revving myself up this morn for thinking about political oppression?  For the stories my mom would tell of her having to shove towels under the door jamb if her parents were talking about politics so the PIDE wouldn’t hear?   I’m not saying you can’t use Salazar’s name, I’m just saying geez.  You lived there for years.  You had a child there.  And you couldn’t throw in any other more…. positive references?  Why couldn’t Harry find one of the horcruxes with help from the Cock of Barcelos or something?

I guess we should just take what we can get.  She could hardly name it “Hitler” house. Too obvious.   Just go with Hitler’s fascist colleague, I guess.

I leave you with a treat.   The images aren’t stellar, but the line “we can hear you on the other side of the store!!” should ring a few bells for more Euro types than just Luso-types!

And no SPELL CHECK, I did not mean BARCELONA two paragraphs up!!  Ah, the trouble I’ve seen….

“Cidade Despida” Snuck Out The Back, Jack

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Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen the end of this, and think you might, go away.  I’m not holding back, folks!

So my mom and her RTP-palooza has broken my heart.  Kind of.  I mean, don’t send flowers or anything, but if there’s one thing my mom and I love, it’s a detective show.  And if there’s another thing she loves, it’s one in Portuguese where for some weird reason, I can understand a large portion of the dialogue and don’t have to ask a million questions.  Why I understand better a show about mayhem and murder rather than shows about say, kids and their grandparents (Pai a Força might as well be in Russian), I have no idea.  My grandparents didn’t bequeath me a huge vocabulary concerning police blotters and arrest warrants.

Cidade Despida  (The Naked City) was the story of a policewoman who is head of a unit in Lisbon.  Apparently (I didn’t see this part) when she is transferred in from Porto as the lead cop, the boys’ club of her police station doesn’t respect her, but she is awesome and prevails over the sexist twats.  And their twattiness begins to melt away.  Kind of like S. Epatha Merkerson as Lt. Van Buren in the original Law and Order with Lenny and Benjamin Bratt.  Except this one looks and dresses like Aeon Flux grew her hair out so much it won’t do the cool flip thing anymore.

Seriously, the whole time I was watching, I wondered, why did it take Van Buren till almost 50 to be sporting lines like “You don’t like me because I’m in a skirt?”  when Ana (Caterina Furtado) is doing it at, say, maybe 30.

Ana has felt for a long time that someone is watching her.  She doesn’t sleep.  She habitually runs- I mean, really RUNS–  in the wee hours of the night in locales so beautiful you will have your fingers on your dial to your travel agent.  If there were affordable flights.  Or still travel agents….

But she can take care of herself.  She packs heat.  I’m not sure what the gun laws are in Portugal, but I’m pretty sure that my mother’s fear of knife-weilding white slave traders says something about the relative rarity of the heat-packing over there….  at least it 50 years ago (laugh at me now…).  Ana’s boyfriend, an arty, sweet, concert pianist, regularly makes her dinner with all the wine and roses fixings a woman could hope for, but she prefers to let work-related stress eat her alive.  In the shower.  Fully clothed.

But this is just the story arc that runs over the whole series – each week has (had) its own separate plot.  Episodes have a beginning, middle, and end and a social message.  For example, “orgies are a complicated emotional minefield that can end in murder after 30 odd years of being forced to partake unwillingly.”   Okay, I’m being a bit flippant about it, but seriously, this isn’t just a junk soap opera where you get a tiny morsel of goodies each time you watch.  This is a whole, juicy sandwich with a pickle spear garnish.  Each episode, the viewer is teased with a haunting detail of the  larger story of who exactly is haunting this woman.  MMMMM!!   Each week, I got ready to order a bigger and bigger sandwich.

She just found out about the boyfriend.

So imagine my surprise when I figured that last week, when it was revealed that (Woah!) it was her BOYFRIEND who was  taking pictures of  women he murdered in puddles and then submitting them to art galleries anonymously.  His ultimate goal was to eventually square the collection off with a picture of her body….  I thought it was just another episode.  I thought that next week, she’d simply show up, just like Lt. Van Buren after she fired on a suspect at an ATM, with her kids on the scene in the family minivan.  She had some ‘splaining to do to the mucky mucks, but Van Buren stayed afloat, even in her skirt.  Ana would hold her head up high and come back to work and just be single now, solving crime. Eating sexism.  That really old guy that didn’t like her, he’d be arguing for her not to get transferred back to her native Porto by the end of August.

No.  Not so.  This week, instead, the same actress was in a period piece about Porto in the 19th Century.  That last shot of Despidea, of her finally getting some sleep in her bed, in the apartment with the amazingly hot, brown, mod (MOD!) wallpaper, that was it!  

Dick Wolf has totally skewed my expectations.

But on the bright side, this series did win “Best Detective Series” at the Moscow TV and Film Festival in April.  I’m glad for them.    And I wish, wish, WISH they were all so easy to understand.  And had fewer women acting like crying fools and more women kicking ass.

Yes, I mean you, lady who looks like Melissa Gilbert on Vingança.

This morning, I had to be content to watch João Baião introduce the Museu do Porco.  Yes, that means “Pig Museum.”  It was reminiscent of a collection of merdinhas collected by a crazy person in an attempt to fill their empty lives with cute, pink animals.  I was crying inside.

Vingança’s “Things You Will Never See on American Soap Operas”

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Cross-cultural soap opera viewing is always delicious.  You do not need Spanish to enjoy the wonder of the telenovela. Even Psych knows that. Not only does it shock you with another culture’s video grammar and expectations, it shows you a little slice of what the other culture sees as over the top.   Because nobody lives how they live on a soap opera, right?

So my mom watches Vingança on RTP daily, so I watch Vingança now too.  She won’t tell me much about it, because I am a pesky question-asker when I watch a new soap opera, and she does not want to spend the entire 45 minutes saying “AAAAA, you made me miss it!  Now I have to pass it back!!”

So not only do I have no idea who these people are, I have no way to figure it out without months of total immersion in Portugal.  If you’d like to donate to my “Full Immersion In Lisbon So A. Can Watch RTP Telenovelas With Her Mother,” drop me an email.

  • The logo of the series is its title with a line through it – that’s balls!  In the U.S., they would have a small-print disclaimer like “Show Will Proceed Despite Line” to cover the networks asses if people who missed it decided to sue.
photo of title of soap opera vingança.
  • Remember this haircut on a certain mom with sextuplets?  Someone is keeping it alive.
Photo of Portuguese soap opera with woman with Kate from Jon and Kate Plus 8's old haircut.
Now we know where Kate’s haircut a la 2009 went.
  • On-location scenes featuring highly verbal arguments – next to the Tagus, showing the Vasco de Gama Bridge.  When it’s windy.  Wow. OLTL would never, never pay to fix the sound.  They’d just shoot it in one of the “outside” sets, since it’s set in a fake town anyway with no landmarks.
  • Major characters dusting umbrella plants with a rag.    I don’t have a photo.  My mom taped over it before I realized how awesome it was.
  • A much more realistic portrayal of cigar-smoking, sinister men.    I’m sure this isn’t only in Portugal, but it certainly isn’t in America!

I am not scary enough for you.....


  • A shiny crow on someone’s head.  Look at his big brown eyes!  I’ll tune in tomorrow!

My mom swears it's not his real hair.


  • NO COMMERCIALS!!!  I’m not lying!  Portuguese TV shows the commercials between shows, not during.  I’m thinking if I could understand the dialogue, this might actually make for better shows that aren’t constrained by three breaks a half hour.   But at this point, I won’t know the difference!