I’m not much of a photographer, which the various photos I post on this blog make abundantly clear. But I try, even if I mostly depend these days on my iPhone.
That’s my attempt at apologizing for the above photo (taken not with my iPhone but with my new Canon PowerShot SX150 IS, which I bought at Best Buy especially for this trip).
The photo is of the world-famous Ipanema Beach, where we spent much of last week. I took other photos, but they mostly just show people lounging on the sand or playing beach volleyball (very big sport here, which is why they did so well in the Olympics) or surfing or doing any number of activities you can see at virtually every other beach in the world.
But Ipanema is different. For one, it is one of the most beautiful public beaches I have ever experienced. The sand is clean, the waves are lively, the sun on the days we visited burned away any vestige of clouds and the beach vendors were far less annoying than you’re likely to find in, for example, Mexico – just to pick at random another beach-famous country from the Western Hemisphere.
Another reason for Ipanema’s distinction, of course, is that famous song. The one written by Antonio Carlos Jobim (music) and Vinicius de Moraes (lyrics) and made famous by Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto and Gilberto’s singer wife, Astrud Gilberto.
We stayed in Ipanema barely a block from the restaurant where the song is supposed to have been written. And this time, under a poster bearing a facsimile of the song’s original composition, I ordered a salad only. Still, it was too huge to finish, being filled with roast chicken, chunks of cheese, olives, greens and enough corn to cause a rise in ethanol prices.
I was still full an hour later when I Googled the song and saw a version of the lyrics translated from the original Portuguese. You can access it here.
And not for the first time (I did, after all, study comparative literature at UC-San Diego), I noticed the difference between the poetry of another language and the pure pop sensibilities of its English translation.
The English version of The Girl from Ipanema profiles a self-absorbed hottie who doesn’t know we’re alive. The Brazilian Girl has a beauty so incandescent that her passing causes us to feel a wave of grief caused by the essential aloneness lurking at the very heart of the human condition.
If I could put the difference into a pair of photos, one shot might be of a kid who’s lost his pet puppy. The other, though, might be more akin to that same kid’s parents bemoaning the fact that they live in a world where not just puppies but children and even the idea of children are lost even before they are born.
That may be overstating the difference just a wee bit. But, then, I’m not a poet.
Then again, as I say, I’m not much of a photographer, either.