Sunday, January 20, 2008

Through the Looking-Glass

Well, a week later and I'm still not 100%. Nor is Rio...far from it, actually. Now there's a bit of civil unrest: people fed up with paying high real estate taxes while they watch their property value take a dive, due to mushrooming favelas, widespread drug traffic-related crime, and non-responsive city agencies, are actually refusing to pay their bills and putting the money in escrow. Who knows if they have any chance of success; the Mayor's reaction, so far, has been to thumb his nose at the citizenry. The city is indeed suffering from years without a decent administration, both in the municipal and the state spheres. All you need to do is walk around and you'll see what I mean: signs of neglect mar the cityscape everywhere. On top of that, officials seem to be incapable of curbing unlawful activity, from illegal utility connections for water, electricity, and cable, to unlicensed and unregulated transportation. And don't get me started on the number of people living on the streets, parks, and squares. Everything seems to be the reverse of what it should be, if there was someone good running the show! Sad state of affairs...

Meanwhile, Carnaval is fast approaching and there's dancing in the streets everywhere. Music is one of the things that keeps this place from becoming a complete disaster, I think. A couple of weeks ago, I went to hear an all-female band called Orquestra Lunar. Boy, do these ladies rock and, as my friend Ellen says, how cool can they be? Here's a picture taken at their CD release concert. Enjoy!

Photo Credit: Ana Paula Oliveira

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Surreal Rio!

I have been sick with a flu for a few days now and catching up on my reading. The pile in the living-room includes several past editions of the daily O Globo. And what do you know? For the first time, (and I can mentally hear a collective "DUH!" from my Brazilian friends), it has struck me that Rio is totally surreal. I offer you a couple of examples only, because I need to go lie down again:

A musician from a popular Brazilian rock band came across an illegal street vendor hawking pirated copies of his work downtown. He picks up all the copies this guy has and walks away. The guy shouts: Hey, come back, you've got to pay me for those! He walks back and gives the man a lecture on piracy and so on, telling him, so should he, the artist, be paid for these, and leaves!!!

Second instance of seemingly widespread insanity: A series of car robberies, assaults, and attempted murders are committed by young men on (mostly stolen) motorcycles. The solution proposed by the state governor: to prohibit bikers from carrying passengers (the reason being that they're the ones carrying the guns). I kid you not! And, on top of that, he was totally peeved when the public and assorted authorities objected on grounds that his fix just might restrict civil liberties, constitutional rights, and so on.

I can imagine you'll be as baffled as I am or, not having spent time in Brazil, perhaps considerably more so. I must tell you that I have been talking over these topics with my carioca friends, asking why didn't the musician call the police or why don't they increase police presence in the streets and take other repressive measures to protect life and property? The almost universal answer is "não adianta!" or "what's the point?" Which inevitably leads to further discussion about a corrupt police force and crooked politicians and...I could go on, but I really must rest and recover!