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Virada Cultural Paulista | The Second Life Effect

Why we avoided the Sambodian Virada Cultural Paulista | 2012, or, traduttores traditores.

Neuza and I have not been consuming our fair share of Sambodian culture lately, owing both to ennui and to the odd work schedule of a traduttore traditore.

We are also somewhat puzzled over the latest pet project supported by federal and state Brazilian Reais — a Portuguese-language translation of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Our cable channels are blitzing subscribers while we scratch our heads over why you would present this example of transnational metrosexuality when there are perfectly good home grown works to musicalize — Eu Tu e Ele, maybe?

Anyhow, thus it was that we decided to skip this weekend’s Virada Cultural Paulista in the traditional city center, currently undergoing — controversial — economic and social reconstructive surgery.

A likely opposition candidate for the mayoral race later this year, for example, has announced he would review and possibly withdraw from the troubled Nova Luz urban design project aimed at recovering what has grown into Cracolândia — Crack CIty, Sambôdia, in recent years.

The current mayor is an engineer and real estate broker with strong ties to the local industry — he hired his brothers, with similar backgrounds, to key posts at the subway and bus authorities as soon as he assumed office.

Second Life Syndrome

The project suffers from Second Life syndrome — having produced nothing but a virtual reality experience so far, after several fresh starts producing nothing but the standard jokes about the New New Nova Luz 2.0.

The city planners have produced a portfolio of fantastic VR scenery without a single human figure to set the scale — a trait in common with the architectural and landscape studies of A. Hitler. The site is highly uninformative.

We have seen this tactic used before.

Several years ago, in our beloved Brooklyn, we took part in the Tour de Brooklyn, a cyclothon running from Prospect Park to the projects of Coney Island and back.

A heavy police presence ensured our safety, but it was embarrassing to see projects dwellers — fellow Brooklynites — cracked down on for our presumed safety. Start the tour at Coney Island and run it up to Atlantic Yards for a Brooklyn Nets game, Mayor Bloomberg!

More generally, the Virada — modeled on the White Nights of Madrid — is something of dress rehearsal for major international events later in the decade — the Cup, the Olympiad — and so does its best to evangelize the event.

No news is good news, as the saying goes.

[Further down, I will try to present an X-ray of the online mobilization behind this effort.]

Or barring that, get someone like Larry Rohter of the New York Times to write a puff piece on São Paulo state and its SESC sociocultural programs — programs we use with pleasure without abandoning our critical faculties.

The larger context for understanding sociocultural programming are recent political developments that create an environment of extreme mistrust around issues of governance.

First of all, a major contractor on public works for the Olympics and Cup — and for major federal economic growth (PAC) projects as well — finds itself at the heart of another wild and unpredictable political scandal along the lines of the “big monthly allowance” of 2005, which also began as a contracting scandal in the postal service.

Secondly, as to the big monthly — a case still without a verdict seven years later —  you do well to remember that a stream of under-the-table election finance was laundered at one point through one of the most notable international events in Brazil, Rock in Rio.

Or more specifically, through the ad agency in charge of publicity for this and other public-private partnerships.

As Fall Waterfalls, So Falls …

It is too early to tell exactly what will pan out of an investigation into the Charley Waterfall case –aptly named for the massive leaking of new angles to newspapers and TV, who introduce new characters to the 9 o’clock soap opera every day now.

It is interesting to see quite a few regional and sub-megalopolitan papers focusing on the regional angle — a fragmentation of coverage to contrast with the Ctl-C Ctl-V sameness of coverage in past cases of this kind.

Speaking of Rio,at any rate, and as the FSP reports,

Delta’s new CEO, Carlos Alberto Verdini, accuses former Rio mayor Cesar Maia (DEM) of refusing to pay what is owed on the Engenhão football stadium, inaugurated in 2007 for the Pan-American Games.

The project raised concerns by coming in at BRL 350 million out of an initial budget of BRL 60 million.

One remembers all too well the photos of Mayor “The Naked” Maia — a self-styled Lusophone acolyte at the Church of Dick Morris — in a grip and grin  with bicheiro — numbers racketeer — Captain Guimarães at the Sambadrome some years back.

The Captain is an accused former military torturer from the days of the dictatorship. This career trajectory is not without precedent — the infamous General Kruel, for example, who used the coup as a pretext for taking over the underground lottery and using it to finance black ops pre- and post-coup.

Tourism and the Post-Modern PPP

I find it interesting to study the organizational structuring and restructuring of the tourist industry at the national and regional level. It makes for an intriguing contrast between models of governance at the state and federal levels, even if Larry Rohter forgets to mention it.

São Paulo and Rio tend to govern themselves more in line with neoliberal models than does the federal government, and lately have found themselves on the lower end of a 60-40 split — prevailing with 60% at home and losing with 40% on the road, in newly important states such as Bahia — which is still at work consolidating its victory over Carlismo.

Lest we forget, the political machine of Antônio Carlos Magalhães, a dictatorship-era caudilho, was treating to a syrupy obit by Rother in which the reporter downloads the emotional tenor of Oriana Fallaci on Onassis.

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Campus Party

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