Monday, February 25, 2008

Finally, "Peperone" Pizza.

If there is one story my father told me about his adjusting to life in the States after leaving Cuba sticks out in my mind, it's the "Pepperoni Pizza" story. My father told me how he loved it, but he did not know what it was called. He would go and ask for a slice, but he never got what he wanted. He would try to describe it, but he would get ham. He tried translating it (I guess he thought it was 'salsicha', but he would get sausage. One day the person at the counter walked away with a slice and he said "That. That is what I want". At the time, I never thought I would live in another country, and go through a similar experience. Obviously, my adaptation is "not the same" as his. For one, I "wanted" to move to Brazil, and was not forced to leave because of a revolution. I was already fluent in Portuguese, enough to go around the country being able to communicate most requests. Still, there were words I did not know, mostly names of specific foods. I repeated a lot of meals because it was all I knew how to say. Early on when my accent was thick, I got a lot of orders wrong. With time things got better and today it is pretty rare when I encounter a similar situation.

On to the pepperoni pizza. First, you need to understand that Brazilian pizza is very different from pizza in the States. The dough is thicker, more so than deep dish style. It is loaded, I mean loaded with toppings. The very first time I had a pizza here I grabbed it with my hands and it was so thick and full of toppings that it fell apart. They usually do not use tomato sauce. It is common to see people put ketchup and mayonnaise. The toppings are VERY different. These are a few pizzas on the menu:

Tomato sauce, tuna, 'palmito' (palm heart), peas, onions, mozzarella
Note that they specifically mention it has tomato sauce, and despite the fact that they say this is an "American" pizza, the only toppings I have seen on a pizza in the States from that list is the sauce, cheese, and onions.

Strombolli type, stuffed with ricotta, escarola, mozzarella, garlic, anchovies, parmesean, and oregano

"Carne Seca"
Tomato sauce, dried beef (kinda like beef jerky), mozzarella and oregano

They even have dessert and sweet pizzas:
"Romeu e Juieta"
Mozzarella cheese and Guava (no sauce)

"Pizza Doce"
Bananas, sugar, and cinnamon

"Chocofesta I and II"
Chocolate and your choice of strawberries or coconut.

Despite all this choice of toppings, I could not get pepperoni pizza. Not because I did not know how to say it, it just was not a common topping in this region. The closest thing is "calabresa" which is like salami. I would try and describe it, but most people had no idea what I was talking about. The pizza was good, but it really wasn't what I wanted. I swear I thought about my father every time I went to have pizza and could not get pepperoni.

Not too long ago one of my favorite bars closed and a pizzaria opened up in its place. Saturday night I went with Adriana to try it out, and much to my delight I read:

"Peperone "
Molho de tomate (Tomato sauce) mussarela, peperone e oregano

I was so friggin happy. I could not believe it. The waiter even asked me if I wanted it with tomato sauce (OF-FRIGGIN-COURSE). Much like my father must have been that day, I was so happy to finally be able to eat what I wanted in the first place.

All this being said, anyone comes down to Garanhuns and we can go down to "Pizzaria Due Fratelli" for some really interesting pies!!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Brent Bozell Sticks It To The MSM On Castro

Brent Bozell says it better than I could, and without resorting to obscenity and name calling either!!

Castro: Not a President

"Fidel Castro Resigns." That's a fantastic headline, and should be cause for celebration. But just because the doddering dictator is stepping aside doesn't mean that Cuba's abandoning tyranny. And just because he's leaving doesn't mean the media are dropping their fictions about Castro, the Cuban "president." Glancing at a TV set, I caught this CNN screen graphic: "Fidel Castro Resigns: Cuban Pres. Rejects New Term." Where on Earth is the media's regard for accuracy?

A "new term"? This murderous despot has only had one long, abusive term, and it's lasted 49 years. Anyone who says otherwise, that the Cuban "parliament" would be setting another "election," is not just a useful idiot. He's simply an idiot.

AP reporter Anita Snow suggested using the word "dictator" to describe Castro is tantamount to mudslinging. While "Castro's supporters admired his ability to provide a high level of health care and education for citizens," his "detractors called him a dictator." The American media was absolutely allergic to words like "dictator." Rudy Giuliani can be routinely attacked by liberal reporters as "despotic," "authoritarian" and "totalitarian," but Fidel Castro is just a "president" or a "Cuban leader."

For decades, this has been an easy display of the media's foreign affections. Every right-wing dictator, like Chile's Pinochet, is a "dictator," while every left-wing dictator is merely a "leader" or, in Castro's case, a "dashing revolutionary" and a "rock star." That was ABC's Diane Sawyer on the morning of Castro's abdication announcement.

It was nauseating to watch ABC's Robin Roberts assert that so-called "Cuban President" Castro was stepping down, and then see reporter Jeffrey Kofman suggest that the "so-called" sneer should be leveled against his opponents! "The fervently anti-Castro community of so-called Cuban exiles here in Miami erupted in celebration" when Castro grew ill in 2006.

Cubans living in Miami are "so-called exiles"? They traveled on "so-called" boats, risking "so-called" death at the hands of a regime that promised to "so-called" kill them if they were caught escaping, too.

Kofman added insult to injury by dragging out the ancient trope that Castro outlasted our pathetic presidents and their bungling attempts to damage him: "The world's longest-serving political leader is leaving on his own terms, having survived efforts by 10 different U.S. presidents to bring him down, including a disastrous CIA-backed invasion in 1961 and a missile crisis that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in 1962." Everything wrong with Cuba-U.S. relations is the fault of American presidents.

How, to a media that would claim to favor democracy as a political ideal, is it a virtue to "outlast" freely elected presidents who have submitted their office to the people by killing or imprisoning all your political opponents?

Throughout Castro's long history of dominating Cuba, he has also dominated the American media, who have covered him with a sickening parade of ardor and accolades, even after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Consider these morally bankrupt valentines:

1. Barbara Walters on ABC in 2002: "For Castro, freedom starts with education. And if literacy alone were the yardstick, Cuba would rank as one of the freest nations on Earth."

2. Dan Rather on CBS feeling all warm after Elian Gonzalez was ripped away from those "so-called Cuban exiles" in 2000: "There is no question that Castro feels a very deep and abiding connection to those Cubans who are still in Cuba."

3. Katie Couric applauding communist achievements on NBC in 1992: "Considered one of the most charismatic leaders of the 20th century. … Castro traveled the country cultivating his image, and his revolution delivered. Campaigns stamped out illiteracy and even today, Cuba has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world."

4. Peter Jennings on ABC in 1989: "Castro has delivered the most to those who had the least, and for much of the Third World, Cuba is actually a model of development."

5. Even sportscasters darkened their reputations. In a 1991 special covering the Pan Am Games, ABC's Jim McKay could have been speaking for the media in 2008: "You have brought a new system of government, obviously, to Cuba, but the Cuban people do think of you, I think, as their father. One day, you're going to retire. Or, one day, all of us die. Won't there be a great vacuum there? Won't there be something that will be difficult to fill? Can they do it on their own?"

Castro has announced his retirement. I'm happy he'll be gone, and hope he'll spend his final days on Earth contemplating his eternity in hell.

L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. To find out more about Brent Bozell III, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Everything You Needed to Know About Communism You Could have Learned From Lego's

To quote Dave Barry, I swear I am not making this up. It seems "Lego Time" turned into a lesson on Lenin and Marx. And let me say upfront, if my kids were in that class, I'd have yanked them out of there so fast heads would spin, preferably the teachers. Funny how they can impose THESE values on the kids, but others are legally prevented from even being mentioned in schools. Here is a capsule, which I found on the Mises site:

From Legotown to Communist Utopia
Jeffery Tucker

A commentator on this blog draws our attention to this piece on the site Rethinking Schools. It is called "Why We Banned Legos." It is indeed an amazing piece of work, a perfect distillation of the romantic attachment that bourgeois educators in a prosperous society have for a communist ideal they have never experienced or seen or, apparently, read about.

In the short version, the teachers allowed the children in an after-school program to build a massive and growing Legotown. As kids will do, they students tended to homestead certain pieces and structures, and then barter them. Eventually resentments over who owns what emerge, and, after some inadvertent destruction of some buildings took place, conflicts arose.

The teachers then used the occasion to teach a lesson straight from old-time communist ideology, bringing the kids around to the view that all structures must be public structures, that nothing can be owned but by groups, and that all structures will be standard sizes.

It is an engaging if very alarming read! I would be curious to know to what extent the kids absorb the "lesson" they were given, or, if their heart of hearts, they really do miss the excitement and beauty of the real Legotown.

In any case, reading this piece, you can understand how it is that Castro's resignation has unleashed mind-boggling statements about the glories of the society he created, and its "immense achievements in terms of healthcare, poverty reduction and education."

The link to the article is here. Now you really need to read and follow the piece. Early on:

"I'm making an airport and landing strip for my guy's house. He has his own airplane," said Oliver.

"That's not fair!" said Carl. "That takes too many cool pieces and leaves not enough for me."

"Well, I can let other people use the landing strip, if they have airplanes," said Oliver. "Then it's fair for me to use more cool pieces, because it's for public use."

Never was a fan of Eminent Domain. It "was not fair" to use the "cool pieces" for a private house or structure, but for public use, it was OK. It seemed there was hope for the kids:

Children dug through hefty-sized bins of Legos, sought "cool pieces," and bartered and exchanged until they established a collection of homes, shops, public facilities, and community meeting places.

Barter and exchange. Sems to me to be the cornerstone of a free economy. After all the piece one kids values may mean nothing to the kid that has it and worth a trade. He may want it more than the pieces he has. I remember learning about trade with baseball cards.

Legotown grew and grew. Space and lego pieces grew scarce (and more valuable and desirable):

Occasionally, Legotown leaders explicitly rebuffed children, telling them that they couldn't play. Typically the exclusion was more subtle, growing from a climate in which Legotown was seen as the turf of particular kids. The other children didn't complain much about this; when asked about Legos, they'd often comment vaguely that they just weren't interested in playing with Legos anymore. As they closed doors to other children, the Legotown builders turned their attention to complex negotiations among themselves about what sorts of structures to build, whether these ought to be primarily privately owned or collectively used, and how "cool pieces" would be distributed and protected. These negotiations gave rise to heated conflict and to insightful conversation. Into their coffee shops and houses, the children were building their assumptions about ownership and the social power it conveys — assumptions that mirrored those of a class-based, capitalist society — a society that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive. As we watched the children build, we became increasingly concerned.

Kids being kids, tragedy struck. I remember making huge Lego layouts and playing Godzilla (rahr, rahr) or some other freak force and destroying my towns and meek residents. Loads of fun. Despite the article saying it was an "accident", I kinda like to think some kid played Godzilla like I use to and smashed that town to bits. So now, like Katrina, devastation leads to rebuilding:

When the children discovered the decimated Legotown, they reacted with shock and grief. Children moaned and fell to their knees to inspect the damage; many were near tears. The builders were devastated, and the other children were deeply sympathetic. We gathered as a full group to talk about what had happened; at one point in the conversation, Kendra suggested a big cleanup of the loose Legos on the floor. The Legotown builders were fierce in their opposition. They explained that particular children "owned" those pieces and it would be unfair to put them back in the bins where other children might use them. As we talked, the issues of ownership and power that had been hidden became explicit to the whole group.

We met as a teaching staff later that day. We saw the decimation of Lego-town as an opportunity to launch a critical evaluation of Legotown and the inequities of private ownership and hierarchical authority on which it was founded. Our intention was to promote a contrasting set of values: collectivity, collaboration, resource-sharing, and full democratic participation.

Again, who are they to decide WHAT VALUES will be taught? What separates "social" values from "religious"? The next part of the article goes on to say "how" Legotown was rebuilt, the new "rules" the kids had to abide by in rebuilding Legotown. The missed good opportunities to teach how the free market works. They decided to turn it into a lovefest, everybody shares, everybody happy, everybody wins. It is one of my biggest complaints about AYSO and youth soccer in the States, where "everybody" hasd to get a chance to play, and "everybody" wins, you can't have a losing team because it leads to hurt feelings. Kids need to learn the reality of life, and the sooner the better.

Here are "the themes" the teachers and kids learned from each other in the "new, better" Legotown:

  • Collectivity is a good thing:

"You get to build and you have a lot of fun and people get to build onto your structure with you, and it doesn't have to be the same way as when you left it.... A house is good because it is a community house."

  • Personal expression matters:

"It's important that the little Lego plastic person has some identity. Lego houses might be all the same except for the people. A kid should have their own Lego character to live in the house so it makes the house different."

  • Shared power is a valued goal:

"It's important to have the same amount of power as other people over your building. And it's important to have the same priorities."

"Before, it was the older kids who had the power because they used Legos most. Little kids have more rights now than they used to and older kids have half the rights."

  • Moderation and equal access to resources are things to strive for:

"We should have equal houses. They should be standard sizes.... We should all just have the same number of pieces, like 15 or 28 pieces."

You wanna know why things are so f'd up just look at who and what they are teaching kids today. Yes, in playtime it may have made for a wonderful solution, but in the real world history has shown us it is a failed experiment.

On Fidel "Stepping Down"

Quite a bit on the web and news about Fidel "retiring". In this post here I have links to a few articles I found via my Google Reader. For Cuba related news, you can find plenty at Babalu Blog and Review of Cuban American Blogs. I may not always agree with the positions and views they take, but there is news and conversation a plenty there. Two more articles/ posts I want to call attention to is this one, from The Economist, and this one, at Marginal Revolution. What does this mean for Cuba? Probably nothing. At least not now. Raul is in charge. There is still a dictatorship in place. There are political prisoners and no civil liberties. Until that changes, same shit different smell.

Assortment Of Links and Articles

Here is a collection of stuff that popped up on my "Google Reader" rss feed thingamajigger:

From The New York Post:

Cuba Libre, Someday

Fidel Steps down

A hero's welcome for Dubya

From The New York Sun:

Farewell to Fidel

On Cuba Policy, Copy Poppy

From Fidel, a farewell or a fraud?

From The Washington Times:

Castro, Cuba, and the future

Economic Duldrums

From Little Green Footballs:

Castro Bails

From Google Blogoscoped:

Really interesting post about lost and found on Google. Searches people have typed looking for, or saying they have found certain items:

Google's Lost and Found

The price of a can of Pepsi? 10 gum balls and 5 chocolates.

There is a coin shortage in Brazil. A big problem for stores, bars, businesses in general is getting change from the banks. A common practice is rounding up or down 5 cents: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I really don't have a problem with that. I figure on average it all balances out. There are even times where I come up 5 or 10 cents short and the keeper just waves me off and rings up the purchase. But there is a really weird practice of giving candy and the like as "change". At most registers and counters you will see types of candy, chocolate, gum, etc for sale. There are times, when the register just does not have enough coins to give change so they "offer" the candy. Supposedly this practice is illegal. The curious thing is, if a store does this, then the store "is required" to accept the candy as payment, even though the issuing of the candy as change is not permitted in the first place. This is supposedly "law" but no one can point me to the statute. I have seen customers at the counter make a point about it, and the person at the register backs down. (Both ways, I have seen a person refuse the candy, and the coins that the store "did not have" magically appear, and I have seen people say "you gave me a 5 cent candy 10 times as change, so here they are in lieu of 50 cents") The problem is I cannot use the candy on the bus to pay the fare, use it to pay a light bill, etc. You can only "do this" at the same place that did it to you. And I really have a problem when they do it to kids. Despite Brazil's reputation for violence, it is very common (at least where I live, and have seen) to send kids over to the store to buy bread, milk, eggs, etc. They even sell cigarettes and alcohol (although it is against the law) to them, if the store keeper knows the kid and the family, and know it is for an adult. Of course a kid is going to accept the candy, and I am sure this has caused problems at times. Brazil!?! I love this place, but this is one of the many things that makes me scratch my head at times.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

SSEC Roundup

It's been a while since I wrote about the team, and a lot has happened. Results were just not positive. We played well, but ended up a little short each time. The second round of the first phase has us grouped with Nauticio, one of the "Big Three" in the state, Petrolina, and an old rival, Centro Limoeirense, which we faced last year in the second division. In our game against Petrolina, even though we were the home team we had to play away, in Ypiranga's statdium, due to problems with our stadium and the Federation. We got an early lead, but ended up giving points away on a late own goal. Our next game was against Nautico in Recife. Again, we played great. We fell behind 1-0 but kept fighting. We tied it in the 44th minute, and when it looked like we would secure a tie, Nautico nailed a free kick and got the victory 2-1. This brought a major change. Our old coach was brought back. Last year we had an Argentine coach, Marcelo Neveleff, who led the team into the first division. He left at the end of the season. After the poor results, many fans asked for his return, and finally a deal was worked out. Everyone was happy to see him back. Yesterday was his first game since his return. Our old friends Centro. Last year in four games we took 3 wins and a tie in hard fought matches. We fell behind early but managed a tie. 1-1. In the first half we had to use our 3 substitutions due to injuries, and lost a player to a red card. Before the half ended, Centro scored and the score was 2-1, a man down, and no substitutions left at the half. It looked grim. Sete played like champs. We tied it, only to fall behind again, 3-2. We tied it again, 3-3. Each time we fell behind, the team played with more heart. With about 5 minutes left we grabbed the lead 4-3, and thats the way it ended. Our first victory of the season. It gives new blood and hope for our chances of remaining in the first division.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What's In A Name

When I first got to Brazil, I kept another blog, and made a post with the same title. One of the things in Brazil that fascinates me are the names parents give their kids. Another is the nicknames people have, and the way they are used in day to day life here. There are two main "types" of names here. One is the "family tradition", of naming all your kids with the same type of beginning. For example, my wife (soon to be, whenever we get around to it) has three kids from her first marriage. They are named Erito Junior (who goes by Junior, I will explain that in the nicknames), Ericka, and Eric. All start with "Er". There are familes with 10 or more kids, and all start the same way. It is common to see something like a set of kids named like this : Jose, Josefa, Jomilson, Joelma, Jonara, Josantos, etc. The "start" of the name is usually taken from either parents name, or a combination of the two. There is also a fascination here with "pop culture" or "historical names". US Presidents as names are extremely popular. The most common are Jackson, Jefferson, Lincoln, Adams, Kennedy, and Washington. Sometimes, this leads to another phenomena, misspellings or misunderstandings. Now, illiteracy is a common problem here. Sometimes parents go register their children and when they give the name, either they, or the person registering the child may not know how the name is spelled. You might see someone named "Washington" who spells his name "Uashinton". Sometimes, a name is misunderstood, and the kid gets a name you never wanted in the first place. Pop culture names are popular. Micheal Jackson is a popular name, commonly seen as "Maicon". There is a family in my neighborhood with four boys named : Jonleno, Paumacatiney, Joeharrison, and Hingostarre. Hingostarre is curious one. In Portuguese, the "R" is mostly silent. Soccer player "Ronaldo" is pronounced "Honaldo". When "Hingo" was registered, either the parent or the person at the registry didn't realize there was supposed to be an "r" there. There is a soccer player whose name is "Creedence Clearwater" (like Dave Barry says, I swear I am not making this up, his full name is Creedence Clearwater Couto). There is another player named "Olywood". In the town where I live, there is not one, but two guys named "Moshe Dianne".
Another popular tradition here is nicknames. There are three very common ones that are actually part of the name. "Junior", "Neto", and "Sobrinho", which mean "Junior", "Grandson", and "Nephew", and are used appropriately. So if a guy named Paulo names his son Paulo, he is known as Paulo Junior. Paulo Junior names his kid Paulo, he is known as Paulo Neto. and if either of the first two Paulo's have a brother, and he names his kid Paulo, he is Paulo Sobrinho, since his uncle is also Paulo (confused yet?). Despite all the thought and originality that goes into these names, it is common to know someone for years and not know their real name. You might be known by your appearance, or your job. It is almost like a mafia gathering. Pedro da pipoca is Pedro, the guy that sells popcorn. Felipe do cafe is Felipe, the dude that works at the coffee factory. Manoel da fuskinha is Manny, the guy that drives the Beetle (Beetle Bugs are known as Fusca in Brazil). "Magro" is a skinny person. Sandro Pequeno is a short person named Sandro. Sometimes, you are known by the city or place you are from. You know Saul Caricoa is from Rio, because people from Rio are known as "Carioca's". Paulista is from Sao Paulo. Some of the players I work with have no idea my name is Daniel, they just know me as "Cubano" or "Cuba". When the team has closed door practices, there is a list of certain fans that are allowed in. When they put the list together, some didn't know the name of others. The list said stuff like "Joe, the guy that sells peanuts" or Franklin (another historical US name) the guy that roots for Flamengo (a popular team in Rio, in fact, the most popular team in Brazil). And these are people who have known each other for years, they get together everyday to watch the team practice. Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite parts of life here in Brazil.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Recession? What Recession?

Location, location, location goes the saying. All politics is local is another. This article from The Economist shows how some areas of the US are in a boom, and others are a bust:

YOU won't hear the
R-word much in the modest governor's mansion in Helena, Montana. The occupant, Brian Schweitzer, insists that Montana's economy is in better shape than it has ever been. It has had one of the fastest rates of job growth in the country. The state is prospering on the back of booms in mining and farming, as well as steady growth in tourism. Paul Polzin of the University of Montana forecasts that the state's economy will grow by 4.1% this year, the fifth consecutive year of growth above 4%. “We've been searching for realistic doomsday scenarios,” he says, “and we just can't find any.”

Go to Michigan, by contrast, and it is hard to find anything but gloom. The collapse of America's car industry, coupled with a nasty subprime mortgage bust, has left the state reeling. It has the highest unemployment rate in the country (7.6%) and the third-highest foreclosure rate, and was the only state to lose a large number of jobs in 2007. In the run-up to the state's Republican primary (which he won) Mitt Romney traversed Michigan, promising to save voters from a “one-state recession”.

The infographic they have is pretty interesting too. Miami and Tampa among others have a more than 10% drop in housing prices, while others have zero or even positive growth. Unemployment rates are varying as well.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bernard Hopkins Thinks Obama May Be Assassinated

Boxer Bernard Hopkins thinks Barack Obama may be assassinated if he is elected President

"If he gets the nomination they won't let him become president, but if they do, it will be for a short time, maybe less than a month or two," he said.

Philadelphia-born Hopkins, known in the ring as The Executioner told the Independent on Sunday newspaper in Britain that he did not think the US was ready for an African-American president.

Sadly, I agree with the part of the US not being "ready" for a black President. I don't think it is ready for a woman either. I have been away from the US for almost three years now, but I do not think the landscape has changed that much. There are still pockets of deep prejudice. Remember, David Duke got elected, and everyone knew his background.

IPL Puts The Pressure On The Aussies

IPL says "sign up, or else" to the Australian players who want to participate:

Australia's cricketers have been told to join the Indian Premier League by Sunday, even if it means defying their own board, or face a three-year ban from the tournament.

Interesting to see the IPL being the one making threats now.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

BCCI, CA, and Most Any Other Cricket Body vs the IPL

Plenty of articles all over the net on the governing cricket bodies versus the IPL. You can read some here, or here. You can read about the IPL player auction here. Now, what I want to know is, why the cricket bodies get all worked up over the IPL, which so far seems to be working in the interest of promoting the sport, but let things like the Bucknor/ monkey, he said-he said, controversy slide.

Ricardinho Adjusts To Life In Detroit

Article on Brazilian soccer player Ricardinho adjusting to life in a new country, and a different version of "futebol", indoor soccer in the MISL.

So Good It's Illegal

Hat tip to George the "pitbull" over at Babalu Blog for this piece on "illegal" bacon wrapped dogs in Los Angeles. I understand that the crux of the problem is sanitary cooking conditions, and not so much the health aspect (from a fat content point of view) like the transfat or smoking controversies, but when will people say "enough is enough". They regulate the small stuff and turn a blind eye to real problems.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Stanford Twenty/20 through the eyes of a 10 year old.

Via the West Indies Cricket blog, I found out about this blog, belonging to a 10 year old named "Dumani" who is blogging about the Twenty/20 at Stanford. Nice work for a 10 year old!!

Stanford Twenty/20 round up

Soulberry at The Cricket Watcher's Journal has a nice roundup of the action here.

Tendulkar gets 16,000

Big ups to Sachin Tendulkar for reaching an extraordinary mark of 16,000 runs in ODI. Now, as a kid, I remember thinking no one would ever displace Hank Aaron in baseball as the home run king, and we saw that record fall, so it will be exciting several years from now seeing someone reach this mark in Cricket.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Super Bowl In Brazil

As a kid, I always got a kick during the Super Bowl broadcast when they would switch to the international feed for a play or two. I always wondered, what it is like to watch the game in another country. Well, last night, after more than two years in Brazil, I watched my first NFL game in as long a time. Of all the sports, NFL is probably the one I miss the least, I would much rather watch an NBA or NHL game, and a NASCAR race would be awesome. On the "pay networks" they do show a good amount of NBA, and some NFL, especially on ESPN. The game was shown live on one of those networks, I think ESPN, but I got the "free feed" and that is the one I will review.

For starters, I turned the game on half way through the second quarter. I live in the northeast of Brazil, and the rest of Brazil is in DST, so we are one hour ahead of the rest of the country. When they announced the game would be on at 1 AM (we are -3 GMT, and that means I am 2 hours ahead of whatever time it is in New York when they are in DST) I totally forgot to adjust the time. What they did was broadcast the game. Just the game, plays, none of the "down time". You can't believe how much useless stuff adds to the length of the game. They stopped as soon as the play was dead, and started when the ball was snapped. The entire broadcast took an hour and a half. They only showed commercials (they showed 'local' commercials, not the ones from the regular broadcast) at halftime. They showed replays, for key plays only, and as far as the halftime show, all I got to see was "American Girl" by Tom Petty. The commentators were enjoyable. Most everything is pronounced the "same", albeit in Portuguese, sack, field goal, pass, etc, they names don't change, they are just said with an accent. Same with the player names. The best was any time a "bomb" or long pass was thrown, and they would yell "FOGO NA BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMBAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA" which literally translates to "Fire on the bomb" but they would strech it out much like they do with a goal in soccer. The commentators were pretty informed about the NFL, they would explain the ins and outs of the game, explain rules quickly, and they really seemed to enjoy the "first down" marker that the broadcasts superimpose on the field, they would explain to the viewers that the yellow line really "does not exist", it is just there for the viewers, and that the official sport is kept with the field markers. I was impressed with the quality of the commentators and how they explained the game to the viewers, and I was really impressed that the whole broadcasts was over in less than an hour and a half.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Old Traditions Live At Brazil's Carnival

Wanted to pass this along since it mentions Carnival traditions in Pernambuco, the state I live in


NAZARE DA MATA, Brazil (AP) — As morning breaks over the rolling green cane fields, the 19-year-old sugar cane cutter takes an herbal bath and offers a prayer to indigenous and African spirits before transforming himself into something resembling an electric, Day-Glo lion from outer space.

Josenildo Estevao da Silva dons colorful pantaloons, hoists a rack of cow bells onto his back and tops off the outfit with a brilliantly sequined poncho and a screaming headdress of neon ribbons. Then he marches several miles down dirt roads to rehearse with hundreds of other lance-wielding revelers who will converge on the state capital of Recife Sunday.

"When I'm all dressed up I become a warrior. It's a very powerful feeling," says Silva, a member of Cambinda Brasileira, a group of Maracatu revelers founded in 1898.

The most visible manifestation of carnival occurs more than 1,000 miles to the south in Rio de Janeiro, where nationally televised samba parades have fans rooting for their favorite groups with a passion usually reserved for soccer teams.

But nearly every region of Brazil has its own carnival traditions. In recent years, a growing number of revelers turned off by the commercialism of Rio's grand spectacle have begun looking elsewhere, to states such as Bahia and Pernambuco, where more homegrown rhythms dominate the celebrations.

Perhaps none of these traditions has benefited as much from renewed attention as maracatu, a deeply secret, semi-religious ritual born among former slaves in the sugarcane fields of Pernambuco state, with roots stretching back to African and indigenous cultures.

"We have the most democratic carnival in Brazil. It's open to everyone and it's free. You don't have to sit in a stadium like in Rio or pay to party in a cordoned-off area like in Bahia," says Recife Mayor Joao Paulo Lima Silva, who for eight years has dressed up as a maracatu lance-bearer to kick off the party.

Anthropologists say the origins of the ritual are mysterious, a mixture of several traditions with the dancers fancying themselves warrior members of an Indian tribe for reasons that are not entirely clear.

The music of maracatu consists of improvised verses sung a capella and answered by the thundering of trumpets, trombones and host of percussion instruments — a very different sound from the drums of Rio's samba schools.

Maracatu was disappearing in the 1980s, and in 1989 only 11 groups remained in Pernambuco state.

But then an association was formed to promote the tradition, and authorities cracked down on violence by maracatu groups who would often attack their rivals to steal their costumes.

The number of groups grew to 112 as they admitted women and children. Women cannot perform as lance-bearers, but take on roles that had previously been performed by men in drag.

Maracatu also received a boost from popular musicians Chico Science and Nacao Zumbi, who dressed as maracatu lance-bearers in their video for "Maracatu Atomico," a huge hit on MTV Brazil. Science died in a car crash in 1997, after working to restore Brazilian music's reliance on traditional rhythms rather than American pop.

The success of that movement sent hordes of middle-class Pernambuco residents into rural areas and slums to study at the feet of long-forgotten masters, breathing new life into maracatu and other traditions.

But some say the growing popularity of maracatu is watering down the tradition.

"Some groups today have lost their religious link and a lot of the younger people no longer respect the rules. They are interested in the look (of the costumes) but have no interest in sustaining the meaning of the ritual," said Sumaia Viera, a researcher of traditional cultures at the Federal University of Pernambuco.

The groups themselves are secretive about their spiritual preparations, which include abstaining from sex for two weeks and imbibing special potions, including one made of sugarcane brandy and gun powder.

But many maracatu supporters welcome the newcomers.

"If you're going to be picky about who is going to dance, you're not going to have too many people dancing," says Manoelzinho Salustiano, vice president of the Association of Maracatus Baque Solto of Pernambuco. He says old-timers teach the new arrivals about the rituals, and "the more they learn about it the more interested they get."

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