Posts tagged portugal

Twenty sixteen ramblings

It took me forever just to write this short sentence about 2016, such a year it was. Surely it wasn’t the worst year in human history, as many hyperbolic posts on social media would have me believe, but it wasn’t just a fine year in which, by coincidence, too many esteemed celebrities died. For 2016 was a year of horrible politics, the kind of hair-raising, chilling politics one thought was in the fringe; remote ideas unable to overcome a common sense shared by a large majority. Brexit and the election of Donald trumped whatever confidence one could have that our neighbors in Western Civilization (if such a thing ever existed) wouldn’t send the Gestapo on us just because.

One can try to frame those bad things that happened in 2016 as dark jokes, as Charlie Brooker does so eloquently in his 2016 Wipe end of year rant, but there is no entertainment to be had.

2016 shattered the belief, even in a faraway corner such as Portugal, that the nicest people one knew wouldn’t become racist, classist, sexist trolls once they opened Twitter or Facebook or a newspaper’s website. I really started to question the benefits of hyper-connectedness, much before I even heard a friend, hooked on confirmation bias, state that vigilance against ‘fake news’ is all about censoring the 'real news’ fake news sites provide. To which I say, it’s all real for all I care, because real or fake, local or international, it’s all horrible. The comments do feel real and make me wonder: should I drop dead because I’m from Southern Europe in a country where they have a Socialist government? Should I drop dead because I’m in academia? Am I an insect, a leech, because I was for a couple of months on benefits before being a public servant with a meager paycheck and a temporary contract? 

In 2016 it often felt as if harassment was being legitimized, then vindicated by politics. And as a cis-hetero white male, what to do? Speaking out with the best intentions is often framed as illegitimate _splaining, a ridiculous way to frame things in a year in which we found out arguments don’t matter, much less the writer. I’ll just leave this here:

Judging people whose lives and actions you don’t know anything about is wrong.

(Except in traffic. Tailgating assholes deserve judgement.)

In Portugal in 2011 we had a very nasty election in which the prevailing right-wing turned old against new, public workers against private workers, rich against poor. Our current government is, against all odds, managing to heal these divides bit by bit, against all the fanaticism of a media thirsty for some kind of war. However in 2016 all those rifts exploded everywhere, across every single line that could become contentious — race, nationality, gender, sex, religion. That Dark Enlightenment which openly articulates a desire to go back to absolutism, as recently as a couple of years ago was just a lunatic twinkle in some solipsists’ eye (long live King Thiel I). Then comes 2016 and it seems to have become public policy from the United States to Brazil, from Hungary to Russia, from Turkey to the Philippines. Can we trust each other? It’s as if while our societies were made deeply afraid of the Islamic State, our own next door neighbors became as radicalized, only about things other than religion, and mercifully still only wielding tweets and votes rather than explosives.

Is this social media’s endgame? Filter bubbles and confirmation biases so heavy they implode into black holes of hatred?

Is that why we haven’t found alien civilizations? They go extinct because they invented nuclear weapons, poison their climates, and then invent Facebook? That which extra-dimensional archaeologists call the Technological Sandwich of Doom? 

Then fuck social media.

Fuck it. Fill social networks with bots and IFTTT recipes, feed Facebook and Twitter back to themselves until they too implode in a blackhole of bullshit that vacuums all the fake news, along with a few media conglomerates just for safety.

Ahem.

Progress?

Hence the despair, often feigned, but often real, at the deaths of beloved celebrities like David Bowie, Prince, or Carrie Fisher. Those were artists and performers of The Future, therefore a literally dying Future, crashing our old but reassuring collective belief in a Whig sense of Progress. Without Bowie or Prince, who or what stands for A Better Future?

Vaporwave? C'mon.


So it was bit weird to be living in Portugal while 2016 happened. Internal politics were the opposite of whatever happened in international news: in 2016 we had a Socialist government supported by Communists and Trotskiites in parliament and by a hyperactive right-wing President (and former TV personality!) who has so far been doing the utmost to be decent and respectful of differences. Such good karma visited Portugal that its football national team even won the Euro, in the bestest! imaginable victory (winning < against France < in France < without Ronaldo < with a goal scored by Éder, who has the footballing ability of Ronaldo’s right kidney).

Not that everything was rosy. Job precarity remains the norm, salaries remain miserable for the bottom 90%, and the government’s left-wing peers are still focused on employment rather than what comes next. Porto is being Disneyfied and Disrupted beyond recognition by an unholy alliance of AirBnB, speculators local and foreign, and, again, a local citizenry more than happy in screwing over their neighbors whenever the time comes to renew a lease, or to price the food in their artisanal gourmet tapas bar restaurant bistro. But hey, at least we’ve got a brand new city centre which the tourists and the petty bourgeois can enjoy mostly free of locals, as the city lost 10% of its inhabitants in just these last four vigorous years. That an untold number of businesses in the periphery had to close is something almost nobody notices. 

Yay for growth!

May the tourists never cease touring the brand new hotels standing on the ruins of our heritage. Nobody can make a living here, but those TripAdvisor rankings are unmatched.

This is worth reposting as there’s only one week to go on the Indiegogo fundraiser:

RU+A (Facebook link) is a project that aims to qualify a run-down area at the center of Porto by inviting local visual artists to paint the area stores’ metal shutters in an event that will be taking place September 15th. There’s also going to be some live music in the street, a graffiti workshop and more — even possibly a barbecue.

Friends, Joana and the RU+A gals need to provide all the materials (paint, brushes & etc.) and all the permits for that event to happen. They’ve set up this fundraiser for both private and small-business sponsors. Perks include, besides a shout-out / some advertising for you, unique traditional portuguese ceramic tiles painted and signed by one of the artists. If you can, please help them out! Time is running out!

Casa da Musica IV Oct 25th

Casa da Musica I Oct 25th

Casa da Musica II Oct 25th

Casa da Musica III Oct 25th

After a few years of relative distance, in 2012 I went again on a camera-collecting spree. Recently I got an Asahi/Pentax Spotmatic SP from the 1960s, along with an East German 50mm Carl Zeiss clone which might be the best lens I've got (testing on my DSLR suggests so!). I exposed a couple of rolls in it, and I sure liked the results.

Here are a few photos taken around Rem Koolhaas' concert hall. These are somewhat touristy, but what the hell — I like them. Nostalgia for the years of public money spent on lavish construction projects?

Boavista Blvd Oct 15th

Garage Oct 15th

Douro Oct 15th

Douple exposure Oct 15th

Gate Oct 15th

D. Luis Bridge Oct 15th

Burnt film Oct 15th

Taken with my Voigtlander Bessa-L and an adapted Tamron 28mm lens that makes the camera look quite badass.

My mind was somewhere else at the end of the roll of so I briefly opened the camera before rewinding, ruining some of the exposures. Oops, my bad. Anyway, when I took the film to the lab I specifically requested that they digitize every single exposure, no matter how awful it looked. And as (unfortunately) expected, they instead decided to curate my own photos for me, so I had to digitize some of the damage I found interesting (examples one and two) using my own terrible flatbed scanner. Next time I'll take my business elsewhere.

Mail and Toys Aug 4th

Submarine Aug 4th

Closed IV Aug 4th

Legs Aug 4th

Yellow doors Aug 4th

Rua da Boavista Aug 4th

Closed V Aug 4th

Bikes Aug 4th

Closed II Aug 4th

Closed I Aug 4th

Closed III Aug 4th

Triangle Aug 4th

More photos taken with the Voigtlander Bessa-L, this time without the faux black & white.

This photo makes perfectly clear how the Industar lens, made before advanced optical coatings were commonplace, is soft: the diffusion in the edges around the sky isn't due to any kind of post-production effect. The soviet lens does hold very well in the other pictures, though.

Van Aug 2nd

Kiosk Aug 2nd

Steps Aug 2nd

Mural Aug 2nd

Tiling Aug 2nd

Recently I bought a Voigtlander Bessa-L camera body, getting it for quite cheap at a used cameras shop here in Porto. I found it the kind of incredibly well-made object I had to own, but of course a camera body is useless without a lens, so I had to find one. Voigtlander has incredible wide-angle lenses for it, but at more than $500 that's more than I ever paid for one, even for my frequent use Canon DSLRs. I scoured eBay for cheap compatible Soviet lenses, and found a mint Industar-61 LD for $30. At 55mm, it's perhaps too narrow-angle for use with a finderless camera, but luckly I have the viewfinder from my Yashica Electro35 kit, with 38 and 58mm guides, so the final setup works like a charm, even if it looks like a retro mutant camera.

Since M39 (or LTM — Leica Thread Mount) lenses are incredibly expensive unless you go for the Soviet stuff, I'll also want to try a couple of M42 lenses I own, and perhaps stay on the lookout for a M42 wide-angle. If you plan on doing the same, beware though: you need a real M42 to M39 adapter, not the cheap stuff sold in kilograms on eBay. Since M42s are SLR lenses, in order to focus properly (or at all!) they need to sit much farther from the Bessa-L body than where a simple adapter would place them. The proper adapters will cost around $50 and are rare so you'll need to Google for them — just confirm they're around 2cm thick in order to compensate for the flange distance!

The Bessa-L having no finder means you have absolutely no way to focus other than estimating distances and dialing those in — which is yet another good reason to use a wide-angle lens. As I took my camera for a test walk I had to make do with what I had, though: an overcast day and the slow 100 ISO film (so I couldn't stop down the aperture much) made things even more difficult. Anyway, I'm pleased with the first results. The lens seems a bit soft but still better than expected considering how cheap it was, and the exposure metering seems almost as accurate as its reigning champion in my collection — the Electro35, with its analog rather than discrete shutter speeds (a feature which will always be on top of my digital camera wishlist). And I'm especially pleased I didn't make many focusing mistakes.

The Bessa-L is becoming my favourite film camera from my colection, even if using it is highly technical: that means serendipity is strong with this one.

This day in 1974 a military coup ended the fascist regime that had dominated Portugal for forty-eight years — the longest duration of a 20th century far-right government anywhere in Europe. The ‘Carnation Revolution’ and the period that followed went on with admirable restraint, given the stakes involved and the Cold War context. Thirty-eight years later, in the face of rampant corruption and economic inequality, some argue the April 25th fell short of its aims (eg. reforming the judicial system or preventing private monopolies) and is still a work in progress. The revolution day’s frontpage in the image proudly states “this newspaper didn’t go through any censorship commitee”, while today press freedom quite often caves to the subtler censorship of corporate pressures. But despite all that, today is a day of celebration.

On a related note, Es.col.a (previously) has been reoccupied today. I hope this time it lasts.

Update 26/04: It didn’t last. Showing that ‘freedom’ and ‘popular initiative’ are only tolerated in their dedicated national holiday, city police again evicted Es.col.a early this morning. And it seems that this time the Mayor’s office ordered the destruction of the building’s plumbing and facilities, furthering the destruction of public property inflicted by those who were elected to protect public interests. But I guess nothing can stand in the way of dogma, so scorched earth it is.

This piece of retro advertising is almost perfect (-ly wrong) on so many levels. And I love the texts — “For responsible work” / “Porto Cigarettes — the base of your decision”. It only lacks one thing: booze. (via Pedro Quintas)