You probably know the story of Ugly Duckling , but just to be sure: Danish author Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875) first published it on November 11, 1843. The tale was part of the the first volume of “New Fairy Tales”, and it has been been adapted for various media, including opera, musical, and animated film.

In the plot, a baby duck suffers a lot of verbal and physical abuse because of his appearence. After a classic “hero’s journey”, during which he goes through a harsh winter hiding in a cave on the partially frozen lake, the ugly duckling, now grown, finally discovers that it was, in fact, a majestic swan.

The way I see it, Ugly Duckling and Superman have a lot in common. I talked about super heros here already, but today I would like to talk specifically about Superman, more specifically about the Kryptonite x Superman relationship. And his relationship to Ugly Duckling.

You see, in both cases the first source of destabilization came from the family. The parents of Superman and the solo mother in Ugly Duckling both tried, in some way, to protect them, but their efforts were not enough to free our characters from the terrible suffering caused by their origins, whether in the form of bullying or as a symbolic artifact. WActually, we could sumarize both plots in two words: family, caution.

Maybe the reason for the huge success of these characters is related to the fact that we feel represented, when we realize that families/environments of origin in general, and not only ours, can be the source of much of our joys and good memories, but they might also become the first element of oppression one must face.

I am particularly impressed by the number of people who claim to have their most fervent supporters among their family members. People who believed in and supported their ideas and encouraged their careers from the ground up. Very beautiful stories indeed, but they do not even remotely resemble mine. Some of us need to get things done without the extra support of family members.

Despite what the gossip magazines say, a significant part of us needs to go on even without standing ovations, without huge financial sums involved in our contracts. The truth is that a huge number of performers have a routine much closer to a factory worker than a fairy tale princess.

Perhaps people get confused by the way the life of many artists is represented on screen and in literature: they are either starving bodies carrying tormented souls, or millionaires followed by paparazzi day and night. The dichotomy confuses our family and closest friends, who think that if you are not rich or famous like that guy they showed on TV, so maybe this thing you do is just a hobby, and you should probably get yourself a real job.

Most of the time, this distorted view is not even expressed in words. Non-verbal signals include disapproving looks or small gestures (rolling eyes come to mind) that can be quite painful for those at whom they are directed.

If you are part of the happy 100%-family support bunch, you probably have no idea what I am talking about. For the rest of us is either Ugly Duckling or Superman.

I do not know how you handle your kryptonite, but I really wish you would not give up on your swan flight.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Life is a lot like jazz – it´s best when you improvise.’

— George Gershwin

Last week I was saved by the extension of a deadline for submitting a project that I really want to happen.
I never count on the possibility of extending the submission date, so I just kept on working as crazy until the last moment, and when it came to the very hard moment, when I had to decide between sending a version of my project that I was not pleased with, or simply losing the gig, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel in a social media post: “application deadline had been extended for another week”. Such beautiful words…

The effect on my body was quie peculiar. Suddenly, I felt as if my muscles had realized all the pressure they had subjected to. The endless hours in front of the computer, the less than ideal moving pattern, the lack of sunlight… My body became self-aware and decided to rebel. I felt extremely tired and, as much as I tried to keep working, it was pretty obvious that I needed some extra sleep. Who does not, right?

The funny thing about deadline extensions is that they do not generate a domino effect. A postponed deadline does not necessarily cause your next tasks to be shifted accordingly. Usually, the euphoria stage passes quickly. After discovering that, yes, you will have time to finish reviewing your project and calmly complete the form and submit the millions of requested attachments, in a very short time, you will likely find yourself again tangled up with other deadlines that will now collide.

It is all very complicated already as it is, but I insist on making the situation worse, by maintaining an unshakable belief in the fact that I am very smart. So very smart that I can get out of any tangle of tasks unscathed. I am not sure if this happens to everyone (hope so), but I tend to think that I am going to get rid of tasks much faster than I actually do. Either that, or I plan too much for one day. Both things, probably.

One should never forget that life is a lot like jazz. Even if you try your best to have everything organized, the probability that you will have to improvise at some point is, well, one hundred percent. And any jazz cat knows that to really improvise well, it takes a lot of time and a lot of practice. No one flies without first learning to walk. To be able to put your personal stamp on an interpretation, you need to be so familiar with the original version that you can transcend it.

I know that perfectionism is a bit out of date, and that the order is to deliver a lot of content, as quickly as possible. I also know that there is a time when it is necessary to stop correcting and simply finish the work, but between the inability to put an end to projects and doing stuff in a careless way, there is a vast field to conquer.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Anyone who has ever worked with audio editing deserves my full respect and understanding. I am with you, folks! The reason I find audio editing tasks more strenuous than any other is that I cannot get the help of a companion that I consider essential: music. You give me some chore to do, and I will not complain a bit, as long as I can do listening to some cool music. Always works unless you are editing audio. Got my point?

Audio editing tasks demand a wicked degree of attention. The kind that sucks you into a dark pit, where there is nothing but sounds floating around you. Well, I mean, if you do not live in my apartment, of course. I’ve written here before about my noisy neighbors, but the truth, which I’ve only discovered over the years, is that my apartment is located in a prime location, probably impossible to get on purpose.

Apparently the configuration of my apartment in relation to my building and the buildings around it fulfills the same function of an acoustic shell, which makes me hear from the coffee spoon hitting the rim of the cup of the neighbor next door, to the discussions of the couple who live downstairs about the fate of their cats, not to mention the intense training with B., the dog that belongs to the couple on the top floor, forced to accompany their crazy things, which include walks at seven in the morning on Sunday. And let us not even get into the “wild animals” of the woods in the back street. I just hear everything!

Yes, I admit that sometimes it can be fun to live in the exact spot where all sounds converge. Only sometimes. Most of the time, I feel like I am fighting with half the world to do simple things like listen to a podcast or make a video call. Recording or editing videos in these conditions is extremely tiring and I often say no to some activities I am invited to, simply to save myself the stress of trying to guess (always unsuccessfully) where the noise of the day is coming from.

I plan to move to less strenuous sound conditions as soon as possible, but in the meantime, I try to make the best of my condition by not entirely going against the flow. Let us say that I almost cooperate with it. When the noise is too much, I step away from the computer and complete tasks more accordingly. Using the blender is always a good option to swap one annoying sound for another, more useful one. The washing machine will do the trick as well.

Anything to keep this sound editing going, albeit slowly.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

When I was twenty-eight years old I took driving lessons. It was actually the first time in my life I experienced being behind the wheel of a vehicle. For some people, this might have been a magical moment, a transcendent empowering experience, but for me it was the incepction of a decision I would fully understand and fiercely take months later, on a pouring late morning, after coming back from my sucessful driving test at the DMV. Let us start at the beginning, shall we?

It is possible that where you live it is very important to have your own means of transport. I have lived in places with varying levels of access to public transport, but frankly, it would be a big lie if I told you that not having a driver’s license hold me back me in any sense. I never missed an opportunity in my life for not being a driver, nor did I have to stop any activity because I never owned a car.

Anyway, despite all this being very clear to me today, at the time I confess that I gave in to the old argument that driving a car is an indisputable proof of success, and learning how to drive it is a ritual towards maturity, a V.I.P. pass to the world of motorized grown-ups. A happy nation of drivers, free to go wherever they want. Naturally, the ecological and economic impacts of such, let us say, mindset, were never mentioned, but anyway, they were good arguments. Not realistic, not sustainable, but good, in a Hollywood-esque way.

So, I convinced myself that driving would be like described in the songs and enrolled in a driving school. What was I looking lor? First of all, a bit of approaval from the “normal people” (one of uthem, finally!), but I was also curious. The idyllic aura of freedom, the feeling of being able to get lost in the vastness of the roads and live many adventures, was it really true, as so many representations (novels, tunes, films) advertised?

Controlling the machinery of a vehicle is usually portrayed as a superpower and the incessant search for speed appears as a value per se in the history of humanity since the Modern Era. The idea of experiencing it myself seemed very compelling. When I thought about driving, what came to my mind were songs like: Across 110th StreetI (or any theme from the movie Jackie Brown) or BR-3. As you can see, I had a very, very wrong idea about driving.

You may find it funny, but the truth is that, the moment the DMV employee said I had passed the practical test, I thought: “That is all good and well, but this stuff is really not for me.” Now if you ask me, I do not regret the time, nor the investment in the classes at all. I see them the tools that allowed me to learn a very important lesson: never do things that do not make sense to you, just because “everyone says it has to be that way”.

I have followed that lesson to the letter ever since. Perhaps you have learned it already a long time ago, or maybe you are just starting your journey and my words do not make much sense to you yet. No matter where you stand in life right now, it is always a good idea to refresh useful knowledge.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

I recently talked about this podcast I produced for a research group on Comic Art. I asked research colleagues to talk about their experiences in the group, with no limit of time. The result: a very different use of the total time freedom.

If you are invited to participate on a podcast, the golden rule is to check the average length of episodes and act accordingly. To tell you the truth, this rule could also be applied to videos, articles, lectures etc (talking about podcasts, in case you are interested in more hints, I have given a few others on the second part of the last episode of QuaranJazz )

I have always found it a shame that people waste a good chance to express themselves, and since we are talking about comics, I once read a comic strip that said: “no matter what you’re doing, having done it is better.” So funny and yet so true.

Each and every activity well done requires effort (preparing what is going to be said, training, correcting errors, improving the text, recording) and time. To make things worse, most of such participations “as a guest” do not involve any kind of financial compensation. So, after all, why is it important to accept such invitations?

Well, first of all, because they are part of the networking game that any professional has (or should know) to play. Honestly, this argument should be enough on its own, but in case you are the hard-to-be-convinced type, I have others. My favourite is: you have to grab the opportunity when it comes, because there is no certainty that it will return. Ever.

I know we all like to think that nothing and no one can change what fate has in store for us, but if there is one thing life has taught me, it is that, it is always better to have a plan B, in case fate does not honor its part of the deal.

Having a plan B sometimes means to do “boring” stuff (if compared to the thrill of the stage) we would rather not, such as getting a degree or some sort of formal education. This is just an example, but you would not believe how needed good musicians are at schools and universities!

I see so many vacancies being filled by mediocre musicians, but who strive to fulfill the steps that a graduate degree requires, while highly talented musicians do not achieve the deserved recognition, simply because the market is cruel and, let us face the truth, it does not always reward the best and they lack that “piece of paper” to get the job.

Anyway, my two cents are: even if you are invited for a short participation in a small event, or if the invitation is for a short-range program or, say, a local magazine, once you agreed to take part in it, do your best. That includes using all the space you have the right to, always with common sense, obviously.

After the advent of the internet, information just circulates on and on, and you can never know where your message will end up, and by whom it will be seen. Actually, the paradox of the perpetual digital present is that the average opportunity of yesterday is literaly just a click away from becoming the big chance of tomorrow.

It is said that in politics there are no vacant spaces, but I believe the same goes for the opportunities that arise in our lives: if one came your way and you did not use it, someone else will.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

The Gavião (Hawk) people is one of the Brazilian indigenous groups. They live in the Northeast of the country, in the central region of the State of Maranhão and they managed to preserve a significant part of their ancient rituals. In a very interesting example of their ability to mix their tradition with elements of contemporary life, tribe youths record on their cell phones the ancestral songs sung by the elders.

Some of them also have profiles on socials portraying the routine of the group. The passage from childhood to the teenage years, for instance, is marked by a period of six months, during which the teenager can only leave the house covered by a wicker mat.

The idea that transition times, such as puberty, demand retreat and self-communion (in other words: time to adapt) is a lesson nature is frequently trying to teach us. Butterflies and their journey from egg to larva, then the amazing pupa period and, finally, adulthood is one of the most beautiful expressons of it. Another way of dealing with changes it through silence.

From the respectful minute of silence in solemn ceremonies to the the vow of silence present in various religions orders, there are many different cultural manifestations of silence as a method or a means to achieve something. After a hard week and a even ahrder weekend, I tried the silence game à la G., which consists of talking only the strictly necessary, no social networks and, most important, no news for 48 hours.

I cannot say my detox days were easy, but the experience was totally worth it. The first impact is that time seems to grow, when we are in silence: suddenly you will have some extra hours in your hand. In my case, those were probably the hours that I would had spend reading the news or checking hashtags and getting angry on Twitter. Anyway, the fact is that instead I had time for long, guiltless, refreshing naps.

The real surprise, though came after my silent days, on my way back to normal, noisy routine: after my “unplugged” period, I did not feel the urge to read all the news, nor to post on my socials. While checking the headlines, I have selected three of four news that really interested me and read them throughfully. After that, I was ready to go back to my things, no trace of F.O.M.O whatsoever.

You might find it funny to have a singer writing an ode to silence, but deaing with sounds is precisaly the reason why I cherish my quiet moments so much. Keeping the communication noise down from time to time helps me a lot to curate my interests in music, just like it happenned with the news. In other words: it helps me to focus on what is really important.

The rest is silence.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Everybody’s got a thing
But some don’t know how to handle it.

– Stevie Wonder

Last week I have mentioned a new podcast project I was work on, and today I would like to talk a bit about it, but be prepared, because you mught be surprised with my bombastic revelation! Drum roll, please: it is not about music, but about comics. Research on comic art, as a matter of fact.

How come? Although I have always been involved with music, my academic background is not in the field of music. I have a degree in History, a Masters in Communication and Culture and a PhD in Communication Sciences. The reason why I changed areas was precisely my object of research: comic books. Now you are probably thinking about superheroes or graphic novels. Of course these are also on my radar, but my area of expertise is caricatures and cartoons, especially those with political and satirical content.


Among the many comic-related activities that I have already carried out, perhaps the one that most impacted my life was my term as chair of a research group on the Ninth Art called Comic Art Working Group, created by Prof. John A. Lent, who is also responsible for the International Journal of Comic Art an essential publication for any researcher in the field. The Comic Art Working Group is part of the IAMCR International Association for media and Communication Research.

I shalll say no more for my story in the group is precisely the subject of the second episode of the podcast Comments on the Top, created to celebrate the 35 years of the group celebrated in 2019. You can listen to all ten episodes on your preferred streaming platform or just click here.

For a long time I insisted on keeping music activities completely separate from research activities, and I came to think that they would never meet, but my friend S. was right when he said that, with time (and a lot of commitment, too) the loose ends in our lives end up coming together.

And now that you know all about the other me, how about you telling me about the other you?

Be seeing you!

G. F.

Do you have the feeling that much of your time is being used to return to old projects, review pending issues and, on the other hand, some people you thought you had left completely behind in your life decide to make contact? If your answer is yes, I have two pieces of information for you:

  1. you are not alone and
  2. it is not your fault

In fact, it is nobody’s fault, just a planetary, astrological condition: Mercury is in full retrogradation movement. In other words, looking from our (that is, from Earth´s) point of view, Mercury seems to be moving backwards on its trajectory. Do not be alarmed: everything will return to normal by mid-October, ok?

Until then, my special recipe for those periods that come repeatedly three or four times a year is to simply go with the flow, which in this case means it is time to review, redo, reschedule, repeat, rethink. re… you got the idea. You will be amazed at how productive this cosmic break can be, if you allow yourself to take two steps back and say to your past self: “Honey, we were wrong.” (always be kind to your yourself, remember?)

Recently checking out a project for a podcast, I have found that all the audios needed some sort of review. Details such as the pronunciation of the name of the guest or the fade out effect of the vignette, which had gone completely unnoticed by me, immediately jumped to my eye (or better saying, ears), when I allowed myself to review them with a frrank attitude.

I know that in a world obsessed with the quantity and speed of content production and very little concerned about the quality of that production, proposing a joyful stroll through the land of review can seem strange, to say the least. But how about being different from the crowd just by being careful with what you do? Does it sound too revolutionary to you?

Well, you know, it is like Lou Reed says: sometimes you need to take a walk on the wild side.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Superwoman (Where were you, when I needed you) is a 1972 song by Stevie Wonder and one of my favourites from his vast repertoire. Musically complex and refined, the long history of loss and resentment speaks straight to the heart, as is often the case in the work of this genius musician.

The love story cut short because “Mary wants to be a Superwoman” and the pain-filled, resentful acceptance that follows also seemed like an interesting parallel to the plot twist of last week.

After weeks of hard work, everything seemed to go as planned: I had drawn up a long, detailed work plan for the month and stuck to it, much to my delight. Such a success had not been achieved without effort. I had not slept properly for days, my meal breaks were no real breaks and in the last 48 hours I had not even had time to comb my hair, which gave me the looks of an abominable tropical woman, but did I manage to follow my plan!

I was really feeling like a super woman (resting is for the weak!), when the harsh reality reminded me that even super women need to take care of themselves. I caught a cold, which while far from being a tragedy, can change your productive capacity overnight, not to mention the immediate effect on the voice and singing capacity (after all, singing is air, remember?).

In other words: to fulfill a previously established work plan, I put the final activity (singing) at risk. Seeing it that way, my over busy routine did not make much sense.

Regardless of your area of expertise, I am sure that you, like me, often feel in the middle of a race. Well, we are not. Do not know which practical use these words will have in your life. Probably none, but if you can make room in your heart for things that have no practical use, then maybe someday this statement will be of great value.

Being always busy, running from task to task will not make you live longer, or better. Maybe we should try to weigh more often whether the ends really justify the means. Sometimes the answer is yes, so go for it, and other times it is just not worth it.

Take my superwoman word on that.

Be seeing you!

G. F.

Why we do stuff? I am sure your answer involves some kind of rewarding definition. From losing weight to making money; from prestige to the smile of a beloved one. We do stuff because we want something in return, do not trust me, trust Sociology on that.

One of my favourite reasons to do things is just… to feel good. Sounds silly to you? Maybe, but think about the number of times we have to do things that don’t make any sense to us and you will understand what I mean. This is why I am always very grateful for the moments when I can do things that make me happy and singing is what makes me the happiest in this life.

I have participated in four different editions of International Jazz Day producing local events (and counting!), but every time I receive the certificate of participation, the six-year-old girl in me jumps for joy and delight. And I do not even care if every participant gets the same letter. In my heart, I feel as if Mr. Herbie Hancock had written those lines only for me. Check it out.

The feeling of reward is sky high, especially because the performance on Jazz & Comics represents a fusion between my academic background and the experience of being a singer and songwriter. This edition was actualy a double treat, as it was also my first in person peformance since the world turned upside down in 2020.

Starting over is always difficult and I remember that on that day (April 30th, when International Jazz Day is celebrated) not even the weather helped, but in the end it was all worth it. Although I do not need a certificate to know that, it has an enormous value to me, because even the things we know for sure can be forgotten im moments of trouble.

On these occasions, the letter signed by Mr. Hancock will be my reminder that, once again, despite the difficulties, I managed to do what was important, what really made sense to me.

I cannot think of a better reward.

Be seeing you!

G.F.