blame it on the

Through some fatal alchemy, São Paulo beat its own awful record yesterday: the longest traffic jam in the city’s history, perhaps in the world, 344 km of frustrated, idling motors. Worst of all, at least in terms of finger-pointing, is that there were no protests that day, no demonstrators blocking highways — just a broken city and bumpers stretching the distance between Washington and New York. (What a caravan that would be.)

The same rains that pushed paulistas into their cars have come to Rio. The Saturday feira was both underpopulated and more crowded than usual, garlic sellers and bag-laden shoppers jostling for space under the vendors’ covered stalls. The banana lady, whose table groans under her green-and-yellow display, was rushing to deal with a small line of customers. A woman walked by and asked if she had any banana-da-terra. “Not today. Banana-da terra‘s on strike.” At least in this case, you can direct your complaints to the union.


a countdown to what?

“Why don’t you keep a diary about the World Cup?”


With less than a month left before kickoff, and although I’m too preoccupied with my own impossible tasks to even consider going to either the matches or the popular assemblies, I might as well write something.

The government claims that in two weeks (make that one week, now), Brazil will get in the mood for the Cup. But in the non-activist circles I frequent, the air is more of resignation than jubilation. The forward-moving outrage of last year has slipped into browbeating, a refrain of caveat emptor: we asked for a Copa and we got one, all right. My half-joking “Não vai ter Copa” was met yesterday with a “Vai ter Copa, sim. There won’t be hospitals or working stadiums or anything useful, but there will be a Copa.” One cabbie was already looking to August with dread: once the cameras are gone, what will become of us? Another ingredient in the mix is the perverse, thrilling anticipation of disaster, as if before a high school fight scheduled that afternoon in the hallway.

At first I saw two streets, one in Glória and one in Flamengo, all painted and bestreamered in green and yellow. Then more. My supermarket was soon festooned with decorations and images of the Cup’s armadillo mascot showing a remarkable degree of coordination in holding a soccer ball. Then another shop hung yellow-and-green soccer balls in its display window. It feels like a slow-moving landslide, something beyond people’s control. Pure inexorable capitalism? Habit? Peer pressure? Defeat?

In Cinelândia, activists hold a pick-up game in front of the City Council chambers, after dark, with the perennially vigilant police as their spectators. The teams are called FIFA Terrorista and Fuck the Cup. Neither side wins, though, because the police wind up telling them that they can’t play football in the Praça Floriano. The police are shown a red card by the ref, but refuse to leave the pitch.

The Brazilian giant, once sleeping, then awoken, now dozing fitfully, seems to be waiting for a sign to rise. It may never come. Buses are burned in São Paulo, the police cross their arms in Recife, and Dona FIFA rolls on sternly but serenely, trademarking the terms “Brasil 2014” and even “Pagode,” dispatching cease and desist notices with impressive zeal. The cabbie waxes almost nostalgic for the days of military interventions.

Karim Aïnouz has a new film out; last week it opened in cinemas all across the Zona Sul. It has an exciting title and an elliptical trailer, and the posters are eager to highlight the popular, handsome actor who stars in it. Within days of the premiere, one movie theater started instituting a screening process of sorts for would-be spectators. “You know that this movie has gay sex scenes in it, right?” If the spectator didn’t walk away from the ticket office in disgust, then their ticket would be printed and stamped with the word AVISADO. Forewarned. No getting your money back after steely-eyed Wagner Moura falls in love with another man. No more people walking out of the theaters (hopefully).*

The film’s distribution was cut to limited screenings in just two theaters in Rio.

(Some things, everyone is willing to protest about.)

If only FIFA had used a similar system during the bidding process. “You know that more than half of the promised infrastructure won’t be done in time (or at all), seemingly impressive projects won’t even be started, thousands of families will lose their homes, and this whole mess will wind up supported by torrents of public money, right?” AVISADO. Enjoy the show.



*The theater says they did warn people about the scenes, but that the stamp was related to a half-off discount. Regardless, when a film with Wagner Moura tanks this badly at the box office, you’ve got to imagine that plenty of Tropa de Elite fans must have walked out.