Saturday, October 10, 2009

Back after 3 long months...

I am back again, after a long hiatus of 3 months or so, namely, since I moved to the new house. Why is that, one might wonder... Moving to a new place really messed me up: new surroundings, stairs to climb all the time, getting used to it... It takes some time, really, to settle in, and the whole process is quite tiresome for me. I am not very fond of changes.

But now, I am OK. Mostly OK. I am settled, yes, but starting to feel a bit depressed: it's one year since I went to Rio last, and I miss it a lot. We will go there for Christmas, true. But whenever I stay more than 10-11 months away, I start to feel depressed and anxious. So, that's why.

The house is now looking great (I think!), but of course there are still some bits and ends left (hanging pictures, for example).

I still haven't restarted the jewelry though, but at least all my stones and beads are well-organised and in the right places right now.

What have I been up to, during these 3 months then? Well, not much, really, except for the usual: watching DVDs, reading manga and books, organising my little things (Kitty collection, stationery, perfumes, magazines etc) and playing with Super Poke Pets on Facebook. I must say I turned out to be quite an addict, for the pets and objects you buy and collect are so lovely, that it's really very hard to resist!

The manga I've been reading lately are: Nodame Cantabile (Sapphire's recommendation, really great), Inuyasha (yes, yes, still!), Chibi Vampire (which just ended in a rather abrupt/hurried way), XXXHolic (which quickly became one of my favourites), and some others. As for the books, mostly Japanese authors: Natsume Soseki, Natsuo Kirino, Yoko Ogawa. Special mention of course goes to Natsume Soseki, a wonderful Japanese classic. I started by reading his "Kokoro", which is very moving and very hard to put down. I was wanting to read him for some time already, since I read Murakami's (indirect) praises of his work in "Kafka on the Shore" some years ago. At the time I thought: well, if it's something Murakami (his characters, in this case) waxes lyrical about it, of course I am bound to love it. And I was right. It's not a light reading, but one that really makes you think and consider a series of things. And if you enjoy Japanese culture, even better, however the chore of this specific work was rather universal , global, ie, things that anyone (in spite of cultural differences, backgrounds, religion, gender etc) can feel, live and why not, die for. But that was his first book I read, and quickly bought some others: "The Three-Cornered World", "The Gate" and "I Am a Cat" - but am only starting the former tonight.

Talking of books then... Our Play Room (aka library, aka computer room, aka...) is finally ready. Mark finished the book shelves that we bought in Ikea (my favourite place for house stuff, for sure!) and I am very happy to report that our book organising issues are all sorted (for now, ha ha! Nah, just kidding...)...

If you want to have a better look, please click the thumbnails for a magnified view...

And some details here...

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 5:28 PM 2 comments

Sunday, July 08, 2007

"Tales from Earthsea", the film...

We have received Gedo no Senki DVD yesterday from CDJapan and watched it tonight. It marks the debut of Goro Miyazaki (Hayao Miyazaki's son) as a director for Studio Ghibli, and is based in Ursula LeGuin's book "Tales of Earthsea".

I haven't read the book, so I cannot judge how faithful the film is to it, but I loved it. It's a much darker and gloomier film than the other Ghiblis, which may perhaps characterise Goros' style of direction. Then again, I am not an expert, just a big Ghibli fan, so if it's his style or if the story itself required so, I cannot tell.

At any rate, the film is very pretty overall (as one may certainly expect from a Ghibli production) and quite sad in parts. I am very impressed by the expressions and how well they transmit the characters' range of emotions. It is serious stuff and there is no place for cute sidekicks here - no dustbunnies or talking kittens, I'm afraid! It is an exquisitely crafted production and the attention to details is enormous. The soundtrack plays no minor role here, although it's not by Joe Hisaishi this time, but Terashima Tamiya instead, who also counted with the talented performance and collaboration of Galician piper Carlos Nunez.

I must say that what impressed me the most was the film's main song, "Teru No Uta" ("Teru's Song"), which is sung by the voice actress Teshima Aoi (in the role of Teru, of course). It is a delightful song, almost like a lullaby, perhaps a bit on the melancholy side, but beautiful.

Here's the YouTube video, so you can see what I mean (the lyrics are by our very own Goro Miyazaki, by the way):

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 12:49 AM 1 comments

Friday, June 22, 2007

Shiba Wanko Books

I bought 2 of these books on EBay (where else!), and they are just gorgeous. These days I am quite obsessed with Shiba Inu puppies, and just could not resist to them. Since I cannot have the real pups, why not the books at least? And it can also help me to start drawing again, since it's very much the style I love, very colourful and detailed.

Hannari-Ya is the lovely Seller. I like buying from them because everything arrives super-fast and they have a great collection of Japanese goodies.

Well the 1st book in the series is called Wa no Kokoro, and explains the traditions and customs related to each season and holiday in Japan, from Tanabata to the Hanami season, and also how to hold chopsticks or to pray in a shrine, for example. The main characters are Shiba Wanko and his little kitty friend, Miike Nyanko, who introduce us to a typical day in the country and all its symbols and rich cultural background.

The 2nd one, Wa no Kokoro 2, demonstrates how to wear a kimono, and explains about Hina Matsuri (Girls Festival) and the traditional Kabuki theatre, among other customs. It also describes how to make incense for the Summer days, and how pleasant it must be to savour the colourful and exquisite wagashi (sweets). Ahhhh, that makes me think of Minamoto Kitchoan's delicacies... How I miss it!

The books are all in Japanese, no translation so far (let's hope!). However, the illustrations are so detailed that you don't even need a text to know (more or less!) what is going on, or what the meanings of such and such tradition or celebration may be. Of course, if you are already familiar with some aspects of Japanese culture it gets easier since you can recognise what it's all about. Otherwise, just don't worry, but relax and enjoy the lovely pictures. Not to be missed!

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 9:31 PM 0 comments

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

New Comic Books (by Joann Sfar)

Yesterday we have been to Academia da Cachaça and, while waiting for my Mom to join us, we decided to check on the bookshop nearby, Da Conde. This bookshop is open quite late, until 1am from Thursdays to Saturdays and then up to midnight the other days. They always have the best DVD's and newest books and comics, as well as lots of art and philosophy. Very cool...

I was looking at the comics section and something immediately caught my interest. A series called "O Gato do Rabino" ("The Rabbi's Cat", check this Amazon page for reviews) by Joann Sfar. I decided to buy volumes 1 and 2 after having a quick browse at the artwork, which seemed outstanding.

I read it when we arrived home and it is simply brilliant. The story is told by a cat belonging to a Rabbi and his daughter, living in Algeria in the beginning of the XXth Century. The cat starts talking after swallowing the Rabbi's pet parrot and, on receiving the gift of the (spoken) word, he starts questioning his own Jewish identity, since he considers himself a "Jewish" cat. He discusses religious and philosophical matters with his master the Rabbi and decides he wants his bar-mitzvah - for he never had it. He also wants to start studying the Kabbalah (instead of the Torah) because "I like starting things from the end", he says.

The whole book is a very well-spotted tribute to Judaism and the life of Jews in Algeria and the Sepharad community in Northern Africa, full of humour and very cute moments as well. The cat is a strange one, of the Sphinx variety, and has expessive long ears and huge eyes. He is witty, intelligent and sarcastic, and loves questioning the world and those humans around him.

The book is also very touching in moments, for example, when the Rabbi leaves home and wanders around, depressed, until he finally meets a old acquaintance of his, the Sheikh Sfar (a wise man from the Arab community). Both of them travel together and chat and sleep and end up praying and celebrating the good news that the Rabbi has received in a letter from Paris. At the same time, the Cat and the Sheikh's Donkey (who also talks and sings) are having an argument on the origin of the names: is the name Sfar a Jewish or an Arab name? It ends up that it's both!

The translation (to Portuguese) is perfect and very, very funny; pretty much in the way we actually speak, with all the expressions and some hilarious slang. all in one, this book is indeed a little gem, mixing naivety and wisdom in equal measures.

I want to get the English version so Mark can enjoy it as well!


posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 11:45 PM 0 comments

Sunday, January 07, 2007

I'm back!

After a very, very long break from blogs and Internet in general, I am back! Happy New Year for everybody! I'm sure 2007 will be a great one!

What was I up to these days? Hhhhmmm... Let's see... Some highlights of the past few weeks...

Christmas - we spent some days with Mark's family in Ballina and it was nice. We've been there for Christmas and St. Stephen's Day too. I got lovely Christmas presents, including lots of Hello Kitty things, the DVD collection "Himalaya" (BBC/Michael Palin), a cool handbag, chocolates, and the new Sony MP3 player NW-S705F (see details below!).

New Year - we finally met my friend Monica, her boyfriend and fantastic son! We've been to La Strada for dinner and it was, as ever, gorgeous.

Gym - yes! Still going! Increasing the weights and so on. I just love it. Actually, I hate the cardio workout and LOVE the weights and stretches. I found out that my left leg is much weaker than the right one, but who cares... Anyway, it's very, very good!

Health - seems to be OK, better perhaps due to the gym, but I've been having lots of headaches, especially on the left side of my head, including teeth sensitivitya and ear ache. But I seriously suspect it's got to do with my sinuses, since I am always very blocked when I wake up! D'oh...

The Perfume - I restarted reading "The Perfume" by Patrick Susskind and, yesterday, we went to the IMC to watch it. It is a great film, very faithful to the book, especially when depicting the odours and landscapes. Dustin Hoffmann is brilliant as Maitre Baldini, and the guy who plays Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is an amazingly talented young actor. I would not be surprised if he got an indication for the Oscar as best actor (and Hoffmann as best supporting actor). There is also a Le Parfum coffret of scents that has been launched by Thierry Mugler, to coincide with the film release. I am very curious about it and think the idea is fantastic, although a bit too "conceptual" perhaps. For example: what can we expect from a scent called "Human Existence" ? If you read the book, you will know what I mean... Anyway, the descriptions of the scents are on the website, in case you are interested. However, the collection is a bit too dear, I'm afraid.

My MP3 Player - it's the cutest thing ever! When I opened it I said to Mark: "But it looks like a cigarette lightener..." and, I must admit, was a bit disappointed. However, it turns out to be the best thing ever! Especially when I go to the gym! Here it is...

Pink, slim and pretty!

Well, these are the news for today. I will be back soon, hopefully, if I'm not too lazy, that is!

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 7:40 PM 0 comments

Monday, June 26, 2006

"The Devil Wears Prada"

I am mora than halfway through this book, "The Devil Wears Prada" by Lauren Weisberger. It will be a film starring Meryl Streep as the abominable "Devil" Miranda Priestly, but I am not sure when it starts here in Ireland. Of course I am looking forward to it.

I am liking it. It is not hilarious though. I could indeed believe she based her book in her own experience and job (or jobs). Some parts are written with such resentment, that it is hard to imagine it not being based in real life events, painful ones for that matter.

Some parts however are quite funny and very sarcastic - and I like those. As for the character herself (the narrator, Ahn-dre-ah, like yours truly here), you can easily picture all the humiliation and embarrassment she went through in the Elias-Clark's headquarters and under Miranda's heels. It is well-described, and sometimes a bit painful to read even! But bear in mind this is not a perfect book, it has its flaws (the pace mostly), but it is entertaining nonetheless.

Bosses like Miranda do exist, I firmly believe that. It's not just a creation of a writer, no. They are for real. The closer I got to that kind of species was to a woman/boss who used to order me, literally, to wear "some lipstick" to the office. "Some makeup won't do you any harm, at least you will look healthier, Andrea". Of course, I will not mention names here, nor the company where it used to take place, ha ha! It was also well before my obsession with high-end cosmetics, of course. And that woman... She was a real tyrant though, and I was really glad when I got out of her claws, relieved, re-born, well, you can picture it!

So, Mirandas are not fiction, unfortunately. However the one pictured in the book is a very, very extreme case of ugliness and bitchiness. They do exist though. Worth having a read of this book. Not the most brilliant as I said, but funny enough to keep you going while having a cold or just a dull weekend.


posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 6:47 PM 0 comments

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Koji Suzuki part 2: a brief comment...

I am almost past the 1st half of "Loop". I was reading it last night, after writing about Koji Suzuki's work.

Actually, this book seems now rather like a sci-fi story than a horror one. Or a sci-fi-horror mixed altogether.

Right now, it is a bit like an episode of the "X Files" blended with "The Matrix". Some things are not what they seemed to be! I am a bit shaken myself!

Again, no more details on that. Go and read it by yourself kudasai!

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 11:44 AM 0 comments

Koji Suzuki's Books...

This scene is a classic. Taken from "Ringu" (aka "Ring"). Sadako coming out of the telly, crawling, hair on her face, bleeding nails, desperate, vengeful.

I love Koji Suzuki's books. The film (the original Japanese, of course) was very, very good, and I don't tire of watching it. From the Ringu trilogy (the films) my favourites are, with no doubt, "Ring" and "Ring 0".

As for the books, I am now reading the 3rd one: "Loop". The first two were "Ring", of course, and "Spiral". "Spiral" was quite good and you start to understand Sadako Yamamura's motivations and actually empathise with her. I did, at least. She is a fascinating character. She is very well portrayed in "Ring 0", by the way.

You see more of her in "Spiral" and there are some freaky scenes that can make your blood chill. But what I like about KS's style is the way he writes about things as a journalist would do, namely, very normal things (or apparently so). Yet suddenly you will start to feel the chill underlining every one of these normal, run-of-the mill situations, as if some time soon, blood would come out of the pages of your own book. That scene of Sadako's coming out of a TV set is quite similar to Koji's storytelling style. When reading "Ring", the book becomes your very own haunted TV set, and spectral Sadako will make her appearance pretty soon. So it seems to me. Is there anything creepier than that? I'm afraid not. The man is good. Real good.

"Ring" the film, by its turn, set a new standard for horror films: the dishevelled woman seeking for revenge. Dishevelled, hair on her face, wet, crawling, crackling almost, and coming out of some unexpected device or place (a well) or window, from a "little darkness" somewhere. As a broken puppet.

That image can be proudly put beside some other horror classics: Jack Nicholson's face in "The Shining"("Here's Johnny!"), the stabbing in the shower scene from "Psycho", Regan's rotating head in "The Exorcist" etc... And of course has influenced a countless number of other Asian horror scenes. And hilarious satyres, naturally.

As for "Loop", I am still sort of "getting acquainted" to the story and new characters. I hope Ando, Sadako and Ryuji will be there! I am feeling a bit lost without them. New characters (some interesting ones) are being introduced little by little. There's lots of science, human conflicts, emotions, diseases, conspirations etc, so far. But I cannot tell more, otherwise I may spoil it.

By the end of the year, a new book from KS will be released in the US and UK: "Birthday". I am waiting anxiously, needless to say.

(By the way I haven't yet read the manga based on KS's books. Hope to do so sometime soon though).

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 1:13 AM 0 comments

Friday, December 30, 2005

Shiseido Forever...

We are just back from our Christmas holidays in Ballina. Actually, we came back on Tuesday the 27th. Unfortunately, I got (another) cold there and was quite bad since then. I did not come to the office this week, i.e., from Wednesday until today and stayed in bed most of this time. I have been having lots of colds lately, and this time it was quite bad. The worse for me is the cough. Besides that I managed to burn my tummy once again while preparing for the injections! It looks horrible and I need to change the dressing every so often. It doesn't seem to be healing very well this time and, if it's still bad next week, I will probably need to go to Dr. Kavanagh again.

Christmas, apart from the cold, was fine, and relaxing. I had the chance of starting my new Murakami book, "Wind-up Bird Chronicles" and, once again, it's a book that I cannot put down. What I love about him (Murakami and, of course, his translator) is the way he describes things so well. You can easily picture locations, characters, smells, everything. Sometimes when you are reading other books it is not so easy, but with his work it just flows and everything is pictured so vividly and perfectly. He doesn't cease to amaze me in this regard. I love this book now because it is funny, poetic and very surreal.

Mark gave me some wonderful gifts, as always. He is just great to get the right things for me! I got a fantastic Canon scanner that virtually does everything: scans negatives, can be used as a copier, is super-fast and comes with a great little software package. The model, in case you are interested is CanoScan Lide 500F. Perfect! I don't know how I survived for all these without a scanner, really...

And he also gave me the new Shiseido perfume, available in Japan only. Rose Rouge. It is pure parfum and comes in a very exquisite box and a lovely iridescent red bottle (32ml to be precise). Mark also got from the sales person a beautiful enameled purse atomiser, black metal with tiny roses, same design as the box. It came with a pipette to make decanting easier. The bottle as you may have guessed is not a spray one - which I prefer when it comes to pure parfum anyway.

The perfume itself is a joy: it's got great staying power and the main note (or should I say "theme") is the red Bulgarian rose. It is sparkly and comfortable, starting up with that lovely rose note and some other fruity accords, like blackberries and raspberries as far as I can tell. Then it settles into a subtly powdery heart of Moroccan rose, heliotropin and irises. In the end, I am left with the evanescent, faint aroma of a million roses, laying on a persistent base of velvety musk and sandalwood. It reminds me of the delectable Bulgarian rose jams, that I used to buy in Rio some years ago (and cannot find anymore). It had a lovely, very deep rose colour and you could see the transparent tiny petals of delicate roses floating on it. The Fauchon jam is quite good, but doesn't compare to that Bulgarian delicacy! Pity I cannot remember the brand now. Here is a picture of my Rose Rouge:

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 11:26 PM 4 comments