Food for Thought
Even for Brazilians, who are used to all kinds of low blows on the boob tube, the recent war for viewing audience waged by the Globo network against the far-behind, second-place SBT (Sistema Brasileiro de TelevisãoBrazilian System of Television) has been a little too much to swallow. The guerrilla war became an all-out conflagration on a recent Sunday when TV Globo, which has a virtual monopoly over the broadcast waves, just couldn't take the news that SBT had won the ratings jihad by a slim margin. Nobody was quite ready for what Globo had in its bag of tricks for the ensuing Sunday.
On Brazilian TV, traditionally, Sundays have been the realm of hours-long, auditorium-driven live shows. Since March 1989, the chubby and irreverent host Fausto Silva has been the undisputed leader of Sunday afternoons on Globo with his "Domingo do Faustão" (Faustão's Sunday). The challenge came in the shape of another roly-poly character called Gugu Liberato and his "Domingo Legal" (Cool Sunday).
[FrontPage Image Map Component]When its dominance came to a halt in October, Globo counter-attacked with a much-anticipated show that kept the so-called "serious" media abuzz. The comments went on for several days before the program and have continued since. The D-Day show offered a measurement of the most coveted derrière in the country, that of singer-dancer Carla Perez, and to keep the female audience also glued to the tube it promoted a competition to find the prettiest male buttocks.
But the pièce de résistance were three naked young ladies extended over a Japanese restaurant table, serving as tray, tablecloth, napkin and apéritif to three histrionic and hungry actors, who at times would consume the sushi, raw fish, and other dainties, touching the naked bodies with their mouths. During the three-hour program, the 20-minute sushi showsimilar to those presented in some Japanese bordelloswas the only time Globo was able to win in the ratings.
Globo won 29 to 22 while SBT showed the É o Tchan band singing to a group of HIV-positive orphans. The sushi segment gave bigger ratings to Globo, but overall the TV Goliath had to suffer another ratings thrashing: 26 points against 23. Everyone knew Globo had hit bottom when during the following days the only response that came from the TV network was an embarrassing silence.
[FrontPage Image Map Component]As is customary for live shows on TV, the Gugu vs. Faustão catch-as-catch can was fought inch by inch, minute by minute. Both sides played it following on their monitors the instantaneous ratings delivered by Ibope, the Brazilian Nielsen system. Competing with the erotic sushi, SBT, among other attractions, presented model Luíza Ambiel clad in a tight bikini in a water-filled bathtub doing her best to prevent children's singer Tiririca, in a thong, from finding a soap bar in the bottom of the bathtub. It is common that these soapy fights end up with the skimpy clothes revealingly out of place.
One of the naked live hors d'oeuvresit was later revealedwas Cleuza Mariko Kaneko, 34, who with husband Oswaldo Kaneco, is the owner of the São Paulo restaurant shown on TV, the Kazumi. Mariko, also known as Mari, it seems, does the show to please the husband whom she married 18 years ago.
"This is something very intimate," she said. "Oswaldo likes to see other men lusting for me. We do what many couples would love to do but have no courage." According to Mrs. Kaneko, her husband gets a big kick out of this fetish. In an interview with Brazil's most influential newspaper, Folha de São Paulo, she talked about the respect with which most men approach her when doing her act: "I think most of them see that as a sophisticated erotic ritual." And she made her point: "Brazilians like to watch. Why not let them see then? In the same interview, hubby Oswaldo revealed: "I like when she is desired. There is a female model whom I would like to see touching my woman. I would sit there, just watching."
The new salvo of coarseness drew intellectuals and legal scholars to the discussion if there should be limits to the exhibiting of the grotesque and tasteless. Some people were even clamoring for some kind of censorship, forgetting that for decades the generals had a grip on the country's intellectual production. Siro Darlan, a judge from Rio, told Jornal do Brasil: "The Justice ministry cannot ignore this type of abuse and this has to be discussed with the host at the government level." To which psychoanalyst Chaim Samuel Katz added: "The two largest Brazilian TV networks scuffle in a spectacle in which it is not human communication that circulates but exposed objects, typical fragments of the psychotics' language. Due to this war for audience, we are living the libidinal field and entering the field of eschatology and of pure and shameless pornography."
Roberto Marinho, the devoted Catholic and all-powerful owner of Globo, was cited as being outraged by the program. Most of the people were less worried with the Japanese-whorehouse-style exhibition than the fact that it occurred on a Sunday afternoon with the whole family in front of the TV set. In a biting essay in the weekly newsmagazine Veja (circulation: 1.2 million), Eugênio Bucci talked about an imaginary invitation made by Marinho to the reader to have lunch at the Globo's honcho mansion.
"After the apéritif, polite talk about amenities, the food is ready to be served," Bucci writes. "The entrée arrives: a young lady lays on the table, a svelte young lady who would be naked if it weren't for tiny pieces of raw fish covering her parts." And he continues: "Evidently, the scene is impossible. Mainly due to the bad taste. Roberto Marinho would not commit such a coarseness in his house. Nevertheless, Globo network, shamelessly, serves raw fish over naked women at somebody else's house."
Soon after all this bungling, José Bonifácio de Oliveira Sobrinhobetter known as Bonifor 16 years the real conductor of Globo's fate, was released from his post of vice-president of operations. Without any apparent bitterness, he declared: "The model of TV that exists today in Brazil is extinct." According to him there is no reason to be nostalgic for golden TV periods. "Television is just starting." After stooping to the lowest level, Carlos Manga, the program director for Domingo do Faustão, before resigning from his post, declared: "We lost this war. We don't know how to do shows with this kind of trash." Anyway, he tried his best.
Top of the Hip
"The Girl from Ipanema" didn't make the list of the 14 best Brazilian songs of the century. Neither did other perennial favorites like "Tico-Tico no Fubá" or "Foi um Rio que Passou em Minha Vida." Not even one song from the eighties or the nineties got a place among the best, according to a panel of 13 Brazilian music experts and critics. To the surprise of many, Ary Barroso's 1939 tune "Aquarela do Brasil" came out on top as the `song of the century' with 12 of the 13 votes.
This exercise in search of excellence was initiated by the Academia Brasileira de Letras, which is celebrating its centennial this year. The Letters Academy invited music historian Ricardo Cravo Albin to come up with the list. Albin has just released his book MPBA História de um Século (Brazilian Popular MusicThe History of a Century). Why 14 songs? That's the traditional number of tracks on a CD, and several recording companies have already announced that they will release an album including all the selections.
The jury: Alvin himself plus music critics Okky de Souza (from Veja magazine), Ruy Castro (newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo), Carlos Rennó (newspaper Folha de São Paulo), Tárik de Souza (Rio's newspaper Jornal do Brasil), João Máximo (Rio's newspaper O Globo), and Joaquim Ferreira dos Santos (Rio's newspaper O Dia). The six experts were Sérgio Cabral, Lena Frias, Albino Pereira, Jairo Severiano, Ary Vasconcelos, and Luiz Fernando Vieira.
The chosen: Besides "Aquarela," the winning ditties were "Carinhoso" (1937, by Pixinguinha and Braguinha, with nine votes); "Asa Branca" (1947, by Luiz Gonzaga and Humberto Teixeira, also with nine votes); "Último Desejo" (1937, by Noel Rosa, with eight votes); "Chega de Saudade" (1957, Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, with seven votes); "O Que Será, Que Será" (1976, Chico Buarque, with the same seven votes); "Alegria, Alegria" (1967, Caetano Veloso, with six votes); "Se Você Jurar" (1931, Ismael Silva, Nilton Bastos, and Francisco Alves, with six votes); "As Rosas Não Falam" (1975, Cartola, with six votes); "Chão de Estrelas" (1937, Orestes Barbosa and Sílvio Caldas with six votes); "O Mar" (1939, Dorival Caymmi with five votes); "Abre Alas" (1900, Chiquinha Gonzaga with five votes); "O Bêbado e o Equilibrista" (1979, João Bosco and Aldir Blanco, with four votes); and "Pelo Telefone" (1917, Donga and Mário de Almeida with four votes).
The results are already provoking controversy. The best of Brazilian music is too rich to be confined to 14 songs. The jurors themselves cited 53 other songs that didn't make the final cut. For Ary Barroso, however, who died in 1964, the victory was sweet revenge. As of late, he had been criticized as too campy, old-fashioned, and too cozy with the Getúlio Vargas dictatorship (1930-1945). Mariuza Barroso, the composer's daughter, who was present when the results were announced, was thrilled with her father's victory but revealed: "My father's favorite song was "Terra Seca" (Dry Land)."
Irreverent, well-informed, attentive to almost every corner of the Brazilian culture, the Zózimo column, started in 1969 in Rio's daily Jornal do Brasil, helped to rewrite the history of journalism and social columns in Brazil. For almost three decades, the daily piecechockfull of tidbits on the beautiful, powerful and newsmakers in generalbecame an obligatory stop for all those interested in learning from and to where the wind was blowing.
A page of Brazilian journalism closed on November 18 with Zózimo Barrozo do Amaral's death from cancer at age 56of . Rio's daily newspaper O Globo, which had been publishing his column since 1993, decided to interrupt it even though for the last few months, while Zózimo was at Miami's Mount Sinai Hospital, the notes were written by the journalist's collaborators.
Born to a traditional and wealthy Carioca family, Barrozo do Amaral inherited from his father the bohemian style and the tongue-in-cheek manner of writing. A heavy drinker and smoker, Zózimo waged a futile fight against these addictions in his later days. But something he never tried to reign in was his sometimes venomous tongue, which spared neither friend nor foe. In 1994, when he heard that socialite and good friend Regina Marcondes Ferraz was going to run for office, Zózimo wrote: "Her platform will be her high heels." Ferraz called him and swore she would never talk to him again. The journalist recanted the next day, adding that Ferraz would have his vote if she ever became a candidate.
Twice, during the military dictatorship that started in 1964, however, his indiscretions landed him in jail. The first time was when he wrote that Army minister general Aurélio de Lyra Tavares had been pushed by Paraguayan security agents for Dictator Alfredo Stroessner. A cell companion, an activist from the left, commented to him: "The government went crazy. They are putting themselves in jail." He went back to the slammer after revealing that a colonel had watched three times in one week "Tem Banana na Banda" (There Is Banana in the Banda), a burlesque show with actress Leila Diniz, a well-known foe of the military regime.
Zózimo used to work at least 11 hours a day. In 1992, after a series of threats of kidnapping against his step-daughter, Zózimo moved to Miami from where he continued to fire up his daily petards. "I am an extremely sad, disappointed, and emotionally fragile individual," he then declared. "I went through a process of near kidnapping and I am here destroyed, in pieces." Most of the time however, even in his last days, it was the upbeat spirit that mostly shined through. As when he told a friend while drinking water after days of being deprived of food and drinks: "This is nectar as good as a Chateau Petrus Bordeaux."
Why did Bocaiúva do Sul's mayor Élcio Berti issue a decree banning the sale of birth control pills and condoms in this- town of 8,500 in the southern state of Paraná? It wasn't on religious grounds. Berti, 48, father of two children, said this was the only way to avoid bankruptcy. Bocaiúva do Sul has been receiving $120,000 a month from the federal government on account of its share of the FPM (Fundo de Participação dos MunicípiosMunicipalities Participation Fund). This amount was based, however, on the 1991 census when the population was 12,000 people.
The new count would reduce federal help to $72,000. Without industries and very little commerce, the federal subsidy is the main income of Bocaiúva, where public jobs alone consume $110,000 a month. While political opponents, people worried about AIDS, and legal experts were betting that the new law would be short-lived, Berti was enjoying the sudden celebrity brought on by his decree. The mayor is also offering a five-year tax exemption to anyone interested in opening motels, which in Brazil are synonymous with sexual encounters. "Anyone over the age of 14 will be allowed in these motels," said Berti, adding: "Prohibiting birth control devices makes me persona grata with the pope, besides fomenting the commerce of whiskey and flowers for lovers."
Thirty years after American and European feminists promoted bra-burning as a symbol of women's liberation, about 200 students from Rio's Instituto de Educação (IERJ) burned some 40 of their own brassieres as a protest for being forbidden to wear colored bras. The Institute had already been warned three times by the Council of Children and Adolescents Affairs after receiving complaints that the female students were being forced to show the straps of their bras upon entering the school.
In his fight against AIDS, Almir Santana, 44, a doctor from Sergipe in the Brazilian Northeast, has no fear of the ridiculous. He cruises his state in a red bus with an inflatable condom that he uses to mark his presence. In distributing hundreds of condoms every day, he has become known as Doutor Camisinha (Doctor Condom). He has plenty of stories to tell: the day when a traffic cop stopped him, took his ticket notebook out and asked for three condoms, for example; or during the funeral for his grandmother when a youngster after expressing his condolences asked for a rubber. Santana always has some handy. He leaves home with 300 every morning and rarely are there any left when he comes back at night.. Dr. Condom is now involved in a soaring project, the Camisildo, a giant condom built over a mini-van that is supposed to debut during Carnaval as a float.
The British government has lost all hope of laying its hands on Ronald Biggs, 68, who took refuge in Rio in 1970 after robbing the equivalent of $5 million from the Glasgow-London postal train with 14 other companions in August 1963.. The bandit was condemned to 30 years in prison. He spectacularly broke out of prison after serving a little more than a year. The Brazilian Supreme Court has unanimously voted in favor of Biggs's stay, arguing that the 20-year statute of limitations had elapsed in this case.
Celso de Mello, the president of the Supreme Court and the author of the decision, anticipating protests, wrote: "Brazil is not a refuge for delinquents." He noted that of 174 cases of extradition dealt with by the Supreme Court in the last eight years, 149 (86%) were accepted by the highest tribunal.
For decades, the British government had been trying to repatriate Biggs. This almost happened in 1974 when a Scotland Yard man went to Rio to capture the robber. The Brazilian authorities refused to let Biggs go, however, when it was revealed that he would soon father a Brazilian child. This son, Mike, has had his own kind of fame, singing with Balão Vermelho, a band that plays children's tunes.
The British bandit, who is a Brazilian citizen, has become a Carioca (from Rio) institution, surviving thanks to a series of odd jobs such as tour guide. Biggs has written two books in the past and has now recorded a CD to be released in Europe. The disc contains only two suggestively-titled songs: "Police and Thieves," an old hit from The Clash, and "Run to Rio," an original from British artist Robert Nadkarni.
Chiquititas is all the rage in Brazil these days. The song-and-dance syrupy story of 13 children of an orphanage and a kind young maid who falls in love with the son of her boss has struck a chord among Brazilian children. Co-produced with Argentinean Telefe, the novela (soap opera) is presented at 8:00 PM from Monday through Saturday on SBT (Sistema Brasileiro de TelevisãoBrazilian System of Television). The show has been drawing an average rating of 17 points, just behind perennial first place Globo network's own novela.
Released in September by Sony, the soundtrack CD has already sold more than one million copies, reaching the top of the charts as the best-selling album and entrenched there since. Different from other soap operas, Chiquititas, which is shot in Buenos Aires, has a story line that starts on Mondays and comes to a conclusion on Saturday. Why the success? Débora Olivieri, the actress who plays Carmen, the mean orphanage owner, attempts to explain: "The novela stirs children's imaginations a lot. In every segment there are people singing and dancing as if it were a theatrical play."
A millenary practice from India reinvented during the Napoleonic era in France has become Brazilian's summer dernier cri: the foot ring. It has been decreed that sabots and sandals are back. The new rings can be from almost anything (plastic, silver, gold) and have all kinds of shapes (stars, spirals, with bead) and colors. TV star Xuxa, for example, has sported a little serpent on her foot during a recent show in Fortaleza, state of Ceará.. Not only small shops and artisans have adhered to the new fashion statement. Traditional jewelry companies like H. Stern and Amsterdam Sauer have also included the novelty in their catalogues.
Jogo do Bicho (Animal Lottery), an illegal and common numbers game played mostly discreetly across the country, has gained privileged status in Bahia, where the lawwe must assumeshould not be different. In that state the game is played openly, with stores accepting credit cards for making the bets and the results shown on TV.
Sixty five seconds: that's how long the Brazilian dream to join the restricted rocket-launching-countries club lasted. Brazil's first rocket, launched from the Alcântara base in the northeastern state of Maranhão, was destroyed in mid-air after one of the vehicle's four engines failed to ignite. The $6.5-million VLS (Veículo Lançador de SatélitesSatellite Launching Vehicle) had been developed for 15 years and was carrying a Brazilian-made surveying satellite, the SCD2 (Satélite de Coleta de Dados 2Data Gathering Satellite 2).. The project had been thwarted by lack of funds and an international embargo on sensitive technology.
Trying to put the best twist on the failure, Brazilian Space Agency president, Luiz Gilvan Meira declared: "This is a complicated process and problems are inevitable. We will study what went wrong and try again." Brazil has scheduled rocket launchings for each of the next three years. As a consoling thought, Brazilians were reminded that, with the exception of the former Soviet Union, none of the eight countries belonging to the rocket club (Russia, USA, China, France, Japan, Ukraine, Israel and India) had a successful launching on its first attempt.
German adventurer Fitzcarraldo's frantic dreams as shown in Werner Herzog's movie should soon be fulfilled. The just-created Amazonas Filarmônica is planning to soon play Verdi's Aida on the margin of the Amazon. Does the whole concept of an orchestra on the Amazon seem like a delirious enterprise? Many are betting the initiative will not survive after Governor Amazonino Mendes, the idea's author, leaves his post.
The project is starting off on the right foot, however. The direction of the philharmonic was given to renowned maestro Julio Medaglia, who has already conducted São Paulo's Municipal Theater Orchestra and Brasília's National Theater Orchestra. More than $1 million is being invested to start the musical group, which has recruited its musiciansall professionalsfrom Brazil and Eastern Europe. With salaries between $2,500 and $4,000 they make more than the best-paid professionals in Rio and São Paulo. Of the 44 artists, 26 are foreigners, mostly from Belo Russia and Bulgaria.
Despite all the obstacles, starting with the language, these musicians accepted moving to Brazil in large part because of the big salary as compared to the average of $100 they were getting in their own country. As part of the deal, the musicians, who will be presenting themselves three times a week, will also teach at least three students as a way of giving continuity to the project. The two-and-a-half hour open-air philharmonic's premiere in Manaus in November, to a crowd of locals and foreign visitors, was a resounding success.
"Nothing is cheaper than trusting people," he used to say. His first Cabinet post was as planning minister for President General Arthur da Costa e Silva (1967-1969), the second president during Brazil's military dictatorship (1964-1985). He was also minister of social welfare and president of the state oil monopoly Petrobrás.
But Hélio Beltrão, who died from brain cancer at age 81 at the end of October, is best remembered for his ultimate failure to reduce Brazil's Byzantine bureaucracy. In 1982, Beltrão was chosen by President General João Batista Figueiredo for the specially-created-for-him post of debureaucratization minister. During his stint as minister, Brazil got its first Small Claims Court and several documents used in transactions were deemed unnecessary, including proof of residence, certificate of good behavior, and the life certificate, which attested that the person was alive.
Thirty-six years after losing the status of federal capital to Brasília, Rio de Janeiro continues to be the locomotive of fashions and behaviors in the country. Rio has been a rich field for the creation of new expressions that spread throughout the country. Among the recent ones: sangue bom (good blood, cool guy) and ah, eu tô maluco (ah, I am feeling crazy). Even though more local, slang production is very much alive among Paulistano (from São Paulo) high schoolers. Daily O Estado de S. Paulo recently published a list of the latest slang among youngsters from São Paulo:
Belê?How is it?
Dar um megatonto sock
Dar um tiro(lit. to shoot) to snort cocaine
E aí, tru (or truta); Fala, manoHow is it going, friend?
É novasFor sure
Empinar pipa(lit. to fly a kite) to smoke pot
Estar feio na foto(lit. to look ugly in the picture) to be high on drugs
Estar na fita(lit. to be in the movie) to participate
Gambá(lit. skunk, policeman)
Ir nesta barca(lit. to take this boat) to join someone
Ir pá e bolato go fast
Maior falhato make a mistake
Mala véia-(lit. old luggage) ugly
Miar a idéiato close the subject
Nóia or noinhahigh on drugs
Pá e talheavy petting
Parar com as drogas(lit. to give up drugs) to stop going out with someone
Pico(lit. summit) place
Pedreiro(lit. bricklayer) crack addict
Powerful something very good
Porco fardado(lit. pig in uniform) policeman
Ração(lit. ration) marijuana
Rato cinza(lit. gray rat) policeman
Sarado(lit. cured) pretty, sexy
Subir o gás(lit, to raise the gas) to beat up, to kill
Surfar(lit. to surf) have sex
Taradonasexy pretty girl
Tipo assima filler like `You know'
Tosco(lit. uncouth) ugly, bad, disgusting
Trocar um procedêto have a chat
This one was published in weekly magazine Manchete, the favorite publication in doctors' and hairstylists' waiting rooms. It is a richly-illustrated, how-to-do-it-yourself piece with Luciane Thomas, 27, a former PR professional, who now makes a living teaching courses of domestic strip-tease. Thomas, says Manchete, felt like an ugly duckling with very little self-respect before she started stripping for her new husband (the former one was always criticizing her for legs too thin an her lack of sensuality.).
What started as a prelude to matrimonial sex soon stirred the interest of friends who also wanted to add a little spice in their bedrooms. The amateur stripper, attracted by the idea of making some money teaching homemakers how to sensually disrobe, did interviews with some experts and frequented stripping joints to perfect her technique. Luciane now spends her weekends travelling around Brazil teaching what she learned. She may have as many as 60 women in some classes, which last eight hours and cost $77.
For $27 more the women can take home a stripper kit, a little box containing a black diminutive panty and an audio tape with sensual music. One of the steps illustrated by Manchete: "Facing the man, the woman lowers the bra's straps letting them fall down over the shoulders. She then caresses her body with the piece before letting it fall down to the floor."