Thursday, 10 March 2011

Do the evolution!


Woo...
I'm ahead, I'm a man
I'm the first mammal to wear pants, yeah
I'm at peace with my lust
I can kill 'cause in God I trust, yeah
It's evolution, baby

"Do the evolution", Gossard & Vedder

This year's theme of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil's Fraternity Campaign is "Fraternity and life on the planet", which was officially endorsed by the Pope Benedict XVI.

In other words, ecology and environmentalism are on the Roman Catholic agenda. But - don't worry! - we humans are not contributing to the coming of the Apocalypse: we are created beings and not creators. The flip-side thus must be true: we can be destroyed but not destroyers of the planet. Or can we?

Monday, 26 October 2009

Best man speech

Last Friday I was for the first time the best man in a wedding. It was the marriage of my great friend Rodrigo and the wonderful Hannah - now Mr. and Mrs. Schwabe.

As the tradition goes, I had to make a speech during the occasion. And normally the best man's speech is the most anticipated wedding speech. Luckily, Rodrigo's brother Walter was sharing the best man responsibility with me. But until Wednesday morning we hadn't written our speech. It took just a few hours to write it though.

Our idea was to make it together: I would tell a story, he would then make a joke, I would reply and so on. Finalizing with each one's personal touch. I think we actually did it quite well. We both were slightly nervous, but all went fine: people laughed more than we expected, and there were even tears in some eyes.

Of course, reading it now might not be as funny or as touching as during the wedding (I'll try to publish the video later). Anyway, here it is: the best man speech for the wedding of Hannah & Rodrigo.


(We spoke right after the groom, who thanked everyone for their presence and, in special, the bridesmaids for their help and support.)

Walter: Thank you, brother, your speech was beautiful! And talking about beauty, I must say that our three bridesmaids look gorgeous today! Rachel, Patricia and Beth*, you are simply breathtaking! Well, maybe I’m breathless because I’m a little bit nervous. I’m happy that Beth* gave us the book Wedding speeches and toasts. It helped a lot, thank you!

So, according to it, we should now say something about Hannah’s beauty and Rodrigo’s luck. The book even has a sample of what to say…

Caetano: Oh yes, it goes something like this: “Doesn’t Hannah look gorgeous? Rod is a very lucky man – it’s good job that I didn’t meet her first, because then it would be me getting married today and he would be making this embarrassing speech!”

Walter: I find this awful, don’t you? But she is gorgeous and Rodrigo is lucky…

Caetano: Indeed, they are. I imagine that Hannah was as pretty as today the night they met. Do you know how the story goes? Both were at the same local pub, but they didn’t know each other. Rod saw her and thought: “Woo, what a nice outfit!” (well, something like this…) Coincidently, both went to the same night club afterwards, and Rod saw her alone at the bar. Some men were surrounding her, but they didn’t paid attention to her. So Rod came and asked: “What is such a beautiful woman doing alone at the bar?” Quite a common-place, cheesy approach, I know, but it worked out. He has always been better than me in flirting, probably learned with Walter…

Walter: Oh yes, he learned well! Their conversation went on and Hannah asked: “So, where are you from?” Rodrigo replied: “Try to guess…” Hannah thought carefully and said full of herself: “You are from Argentina!” Well, you know, Argentina is the worst guess that she could possibly make for a Brazilian!

Anyway, here is a toast to Hannah and the Argentinean. Even being Argentinean, brother, I love you!

Caetano: I love you all too, my dears! And I feel part of this brotherhood; I shared with Rod all the slaps only brothers get!

I met Rod in kindergarten, can you believe this? We studied in the same school from four to fourteen, when he changed to another school. But I think that this change was what made us so good friends. We were not studying together anymore but we still lived in the same neighbourhood. I then paid him a visit almost everyday, because I missed him so much…

Walter: You missed him? What you missed was our five o’clock tea and the delicious snacks and cakes mom baked!

Caetano: Oh, yes, you got me there! Food was one of the triggers of our friendship: he always went to eat ice-cream at my place too… and my cat returned Walter’s slaps by attacking Rod!

But then Rod left Brazil. We were 17. Even separated, our friendship only got stronger. Rod is one of my only friends that I can always count upon, and he knows he can always count on me too.

I’ve told them this before, but I’d like to repeat it aloud now: “In high seas or in low seas/ I'm gonna be your friend/ In high tide or in low tide/ I'll be by your side”. This is Bob Marley. I don’t say it just to Rod anymore, today I say it to him and Hannah. Today, I can’t imagine Rod without Hannah! My dearest friends, you are a perfect match, and I mean it. A lovely couple, which I admire a lot. Hannah and Rod, I love you!

Walter: Well spoken! But I’d like to add some final words of wisdom. Rodrigo, my beloved brother, I know what you are feeling right now. Butterflies in your belly – a mixture of jitters with happiness. This is a unique magic moment when you express to friends and family how much you love the woman that destiny placed in your path and that you chose for the rest of your life.

As a “brather”, a mix of brother and father, I must advise Hannah and you: the biggest responsibility you have is not to let routine reduce your mutual love and tolerance. This last word, tolerance, is probably the most important quality of a marriage. At all the time during your marriage you have to concede! By accepting each other, the flame of love between you is always kept alive! My brother and my new sister, the secret word for everything in our lives is tolerance. And I wish that you will be as happy as I am with my wife!

Please stand up, raise your glasses and join us in toasting the bride and groom. To their happiness!
(*As usual, one of the funniest moments was unplanned: Walter didn't know Beth-the-bridesmaid was different than Beth-the-mother-of-the-groom - i.e. Walter's own mother too. So that he actually said something like "Rachel, Hannah's sister, Patricia, my little sister, and Beth, my dear mom, you are simply breathtaking!" By the way, it was Beth-the-mother-of-the-groom who gave us the book.)

Thursday, 9 July 2009

With a little help from my friends

To all my friends, but in special, to the ones I’ve met again in Tallinn

For the last several years, I’ve been publishing a birthday discourse in my blog(s). This year, however, I didn’t make any speech. Yet, if I had to do a speech during my graduation ceremony – which took place on the 29th of June – I would say something like:

Vabandust, ma ei räägi eesti keelt. Aga ma räägin ladina: vini, vidi, vici! Tänan!
Translating from Estonian it means:
I’m sorry, I don’t speak Estonian. But I do speak Latin: vini, vidi, vici! Thank you!
(Vini, vidi, vici = I came, I saw, I conquered)

But this would only be my graduation speech, and not my declaration of love to all my friends, which is something I always like to reinforce on my birthdays...

Well, it’s still time to do so then! This week, a long-time-no-see friend sent an email recommending the new project by the reggae collective Easy Star All-Stars: the Easy Star's Lonely Hearts Dub Band. As you may imagine, it is a re-reading of The Beatles’ masterpiece concept album St. Pepper’s.

A sacrilege or heresy? Not at all. A very good reggae updating of a classic, I say. And one of the best versions, in my opinion, is the second track of the album: With a little help from my friends, featuring Luciano in the leading vocals.

After a fabulous week in Tallinn with friends I adore, this song is making more sense then ever. It is for all my friends – but in special for the ones I was happy to meet again in Estonia – that I dedicate this entry.

Thank you! Love you all, my friends, from the heart!

P.S.: Check out the Easy Star's version in the YouTube!

-x-x-x-

With a little help from my friends
Lennon & McCartney

What would you think if I sang out of tune,
Would you stand up and walk out on me.
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song,
And I'll try not to sing out of key.
Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, I get high with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, I'm gonna try with a little help from my friends.

What do I do when my love is away.
(Does it worry you to be alone)
How do I feel by the end of the day
(Are you sad because you're on your own)
No, I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, get high with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, gonna to try with a little help from my friends

Do you need anybody?
I need somebody to love.
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love.

Would you believe in a love at first sight?
Yes, I'm certain that it happens all the time.
What do you see when you turn out the light?
I can't tell you, but I know it's mine.
Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, I get high with a little help from my friends,
Oh, I'm gonna try with a little help from my friends

Do you need anybody?
I just need someone to love.
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, gonna try with a little help from my friends
Ooh, I get high with a little help from my friends
Yes I get by with a little help from my friends,
with a little help from my friends

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Epic

Very imposing or impressive; surpassing the ordinary (especially in size or scale); "an epic voyage"; "of heroic proportions"; "heroic sculpture"... (Princeton's WordNet)
As the topic of the moment is the Olympics in Beijing, I will post a comment on that. Specifically, on the epic conquer of the gold medal by the US team at the men's 4 x 100m freestyle relay swimming competition. This time, Michael Phelps - together with the other two swimmers - owes to Jason Lezak the medal, as this athlete simply made a recovery swimming when nobody imagined it would be possible. I watched this historical moment live. And what impressed me most was the explosion of Phelps after the victory, releasing all his anguish, as until the last five meters it looked that his dream of conquering eight gold medals in one edition of the games had gone away. Immediately, I remembered another explosion by an athlete: it was Maradona's at the US World Cup of Soccer in 1994, after the goal he scored in the match against Greece. Of course, I doubt Phelps will test positive for the anti-doping - as the Argentinean did. Moreover, one single feature contrasts in their faces: the eyes. Whilst Maradona's resembles a beast full of hatred, Phelps' eyes is of someone who went from a quasi-depression to rapturous delight in just a few seconds.


Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Hey, (don't) do that sad face!



All started with me asking my brother-in-law to do that sad-sick face he did the night we canceled the trip to Granada... Then I recalled it in Estonia, during the time we all were sad with the sequence of farewell. In the end, I've made several pictures asking people to do-that-sad-face that I don't want to see you doing!

This means: keep up your smile, people! Positive vibrations, always!

Monday, 12 May 2008

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Killing warmth in Estonia

It was in fact 22 degrees celcius some minutes before...
Posted by Picasa

Monday, 28 April 2008

To the Estonian girl

You are so shy...
But you do smile!
And then you shine
With your blue eyes.

And you're as bright,
As sun in sky.
I can’t deny:
I want you mine.

Oh, no, don’t blush!
Com'on and see:
I will save you
From what you fear.

So please don’t rush –
Do trust on me.

Friday, 11 April 2008

My European Round Tour

From Tallinn to Tallinn, via England, Spain & Holland (landing in Finland for the ferry!)

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Friday, 4 April 2008

Déjà vu

This week, the classes on small states have started. It's a curious subject, specially for someone who comes from a big country. Of course, some features from Brazil resembles a small society, particularly in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro, where "everybody knows everybody who knows each other". What I'd like to write today, however, is not on big Brazil - it's on small Estonia. Or, more precisely, on the Estonians.

Today's class was on "small states in European Union", and the case of Estonia was discussed. The professor brought up some facts from a research carried out by the time of the referendum on whether Estonia should join EU or not. It was a research to access what were the "sacred values" for Estonians; to be used as support for the "yes" campaign (by the time directed by today's member of Estonian parliament Hannes Ruum, according to the professor).

Well, well... when I heard what the "five values" were, I could not avoid my ironic smile, and the professor asked: "what's happened, Caetano?". I had to tell her that those features of Estonians weren't totally new for me, I had identified them before, although my Estonian friends couldn't admit them. To listen to the list was a déjà vu - and it only confirmed my sensibility:

  • Estonians have high esteem for horizontal relations;
  • Estonians are very nationalist; but
  • Estonians have very little readiness to act for the society (their individuality above all);
  • Estonians are not ready to take risk or to be responsible, and are afraid of changes (specially the ones not well understood);
  • Estonians tend to see the world from materialistic perspective (money issues are very important).

(In the "yes" campaign, these values were translated in avoiding the government and using famous celebrities to convince people; using as much as possible Estonian national colours and not EU flag; making clear the individual gains/ focusing away from social gains; emphasizing that the unknown changes were in the side of the “no”; and highlighting the specific positive things that would be brought about when joining the EU.)

Of course, any generalization is dumb, and I will not dare to say that every single Estonian values the same things, or that they share all these values at the same time. But that the list makes at least a little sense, this I cannot deny.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

A fish outside the water

Some weeks ago my little sister Elisa told I had to watch Into the wild, the movie by Sean Penn - a movie which has touched her "as no other since Fight Club". Also, first I checked if it would be released in Estonia, as it seemed it wasn't, I downloaded it. And watched alone at my place last weekend. And it really touched me as well.

The plot summary at IMDB goes like this: "Based on a true story. After graduating from Emory University in 1992, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandoned his possessions, gave his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhiked to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters who shape his life".

As my sis says, it would be just another "road movie" if it wasn't for some details: 1. it's based on a true story; 2. it was filmed by Sean Penn, who is able to impose an amazing narrative; 3. the soundtrack is by Eddie Vedder, what adds even more emotion to the plot.

Thus, the spectator gets involved with the story and, most of all, with Chris, who seems to be getting better and better and maturing (don't read this if you don't want a spoiler of the end of the movie - to read, select with the cursor) until an anticlimax is reached.

With his journey, Chris concluded that "happiness is only real when shared" - and all his journey was indeed focused in searching for himself, being self-suficient, so that his conclusion opens his mind to what was left.

I am not so inspired today to develop the philosophical aspect of "happiness is only real when shared", but I will quote my favourite philosopher and one of my favourites composers:

I am I and my circumstance, and if I don't save it, I don't save myself.
- José Ortega y Gasset -

It's impossible to be happy alone.
- Tom Jobim -
-x-x-x-

The movie touched me even more as I'm living a lonely journey right now; by having chosen to study in Estonia, whose culture contrasts with the one from my beloved country Brazil. Sometimes I feel like a fish outside the water; people don't get me, and I don't get the people. For them, I am 100% love (the irony is that for a particular friend in Brazil, I'm mostly reason and cold), but the fact is that I simply don't fear love, to love, and to be loved. And some people simply ignore something learned centuries ago:
The heart has its reasons, which reasons does not know.
- Blaise Pascal -
-x-x-x-

Finally, as I mentioned, the soundtrack is by Eddie Vedder, from the Pearl Jam, a band I like very much. And Eddie Vedder just proved once again he is a hell of a singer. The song of the soundtrack I like most is not written by him, though, it is by Jerry Hannan, who performs the guitar and the backing vocal in Vedder's version. There is no official videoclip released yet, so enjoy this two here: one with the "clip" from Into the wild; the other with a performance by Jerry Hannan (lyrics below).





Society
Jerry Hannan

Oh it's a mystery to me.
We have a greed, with which we have agreed...
and you think you have to want more than you need...
until you have it all, you won't be free.

Society, you're a crazy breed.
I hope you're not lonely, without me.

When you want more than you have, you think you need...
and when you think more then you want, your thoughts begin to bleed.
I think I need to find a bigger place...
cause when you have more than you think, you need more space.

Society, you're a crazy breed.
I hope you're not lonely, without me.
Society, crazy indeed...
I hope you're not lonely, without me.

There's those thinkin' more or less, less is more,
but if less is more, how you keepin' score?
It means for every point you make, your level drops.
Kinda like you're startin' from the top...
and you can't do that.

Society, you're a crazy breed.
I hope you're not lonely, without me.
Society, crazy indeed...
I hope you're not lonely, without me
Society, have mercy on me.
I hope you're not angry, if I disagree.
Society, crazy indeed.
I hope you're not lonely...
without me.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Words won’t change

That's it /There's no way / It's over, good luck/ I've nothing left to say/ It's only words/ And what l feel/ Won't change
- Boa sorte (Good luck), Vanessa da Mata & Ben Harper -
Words, words, words:
They won’t change –
What I feel
Is the same.

Words, words, words:
Don’t pretend –
What you feel
Is in vain.

From your wound
Set me free.
Where you found

Just let me.
Don’t rebound:
That’s my plea.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Almost a film festival

On the last seven days I've watched four different movies – a sequence the made me recall my golden days of Festival do Rio (Film Festival of Rio de Janeiro). This inspired me to write some thoughts on the films. Let's go to it!

Charlie Wilson's War
Directed by Mike Nichols. With Tom Hanks, Amy Adams, Julia Roberts. A drama based on a Texas congressman Charlie Wilson's covert dealings in Afghanistan, where his efforts to assist rebels in their war with the Soviets have some unforeseen and long-reaching effects.

I went to watch this one in the cinema with an Estonian friend. I knew nothing about it; I hadn't read or heard anything about the movie; didn't even know it was with Tom Hanks. I went for the programme; I wanted to go to meet this friend, and we went to the cinema. Well, it's a so-so movie. Nothing special. And after watching it I realized that Tom Hanks is the propaganda-boy of America. Everybody loves him – and many all his movies are pro-America: Forrest Gump; Saving Private Ryan; Apollo 13, the TV series Freedom: A History of Us (and, of course, Charlie Wilson's)... these are some that come to my mind now. Ok, one can say that Charlie Wilson's War, although totally anti-Soviet, shows that the US armed the Afghanis, against whom they fought just some years ago. This point is indeed interesting. Maybe the only worthy feature of the film (oh, yeas, and also Julia Roberts getting out of the swimming pool, revealing that she still is a pretty woman). For me it was even more interesting as I watched in Estonia, where a Russian minority lives (and the subtitles were both in Estonian and Russian). All in all, it's not a movie I would recommend. Watch it if there's nothing better.

I am legend
Directed by Francis Lawrence. With Will Smith, Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan. Years after a plague kills most of humanity and transforms the rest into monsters, the sole survivor in New York City struggles valiantly to find a cure.

According to my dad, I would like this one, because I would be "just like Will Smith's character" – don't know in what sense. If it's in the sense that we both love Bob Marley, ok. But this doesn't mean I should like the film. I watched it at home, having downloaded it in the Internet. And it's a good movie, an entertainment – to watch at home when you are bored. Don't see it as nothing special as well. Good special effects – it's really cool to see an empty New York – and that's it. Because the movie seems to go well, but then it starts to decay, and the end is miserable. I've read somewhere that not even the director (?!) liked the ending, and, thus, he would include an alternative ending in the DVD. But if Lawrence did not like it, why keep it that way? Some details: Alice Braga (Anna, in the film) is Brazilian, both in the reality and in the movie; she worked in Cidade de Deus (City of God). And the best detail: Robert Neville (Will Smith, the sole survivor) stole many paintings of MoMA, and hung them on the walls of his house – so cool! I would do it myself. Of course, The Starry Night, by Vincent van Gogh, was one of them. This detail is probably something just a few persons have noticed...

The Singing revolution
Directed by James Tusty. Most people don't think about singing when they think about revolutions. But song was the weapon of choice when, between 1986 and 1991, Estonians sought to free themselves from decades of Soviet occupation. During those years, hundreds of thousands gathered in public to sing forbidden patriotic songs and to rally for independence.

Things got really better with this documentary. I mean, The Singing Revolution, contrary to the other two above, is a great movie, which really touched me. It shows how the new independence of Estonia in 1991 was a non-violent revolution. The act of singing in chorus, and the institution of song festivals where huge masses of Estonians sang, created a sense of national unity/identity that ultimately led to the independence of the country from the Russian dominion. Of course, as a Brazilian, I at once recalled the great Chico Science, who wrote the following verses:

Modernizar o passado é uma evolução musical...
Cadê as notas que estavam aqui?
Não preciso delas!
Basta deixar tudo soando bem aos ouvidos.

O medo dá origem ao mal;
O homem coletivo sente a necessidade de lutar.
O orgulho, a arrogância, a glória enchem a imaginação de domínio.
São demônios, os que destroem o poder bravio da humanidade!

Viva Zapata! Viva Sandino! Viva Zumbi!
Antônio Conselheiro!
Todos os Panteras Negras!
Lampião, sua imagem e semelhança...
Eu tenho certeza, eles também cantaram um dia.
– 'Monólogo ao pé do ouvido', Chico Science –

I won't translate word by word what's said above. In my view, Chico is proclaiming the musical revolution he did himself, by mixing regional styles with world tendencies (rock guitars; dub...). But most important, what brought this passage to my mind are the last verses: he is hailing some Latin-American/Brazilian revolutionaries, ending by stating "I am sure, they also sang one day". Oh, yes, every revolutionary sang songs of freedom. Bob Marley was one who tried to spread his words of wisdom, his songs throughout the world – and here may be a ling with I am legend, as Will Smith's character emphasizes that aspect of Marley.

Back to The Singing Revolution, I was not only touched, but impressed (or vice-versa) with the scenes. Especially when Toompea Castle (where the leaders of the revolution established a non-official congress, and where is the Estonian Parliament nowadays) was surrounded by the Russian population who felt threatened by the ongoing liberty movement: these leaders broadcasted a note for the population, alerting what was happening. In a few moments a big crowed surrounded de Russians, but there was no violence: they – the Estonians – only imposed themselves solely by their presence and the Russians walked back home "with their tails between their legs" (Brazilian expression). Anyway, I see this one as a very important movie for everybody, in especial Brazilians, a peaceful but still oppressed people (although we don't have an obvious "enemy" to focus). By the way, the problem is that this once "obvious enemy" – i.e., the Russians for the Estonians – is still seen as thus by the Estonians, which crates a huge cleavage in the society. But this shall be a topic for a further post.

-x-x-x-

The last movie of the cinematographic week was Waking Life, which I had seen before and I love! So philosophical! So profound! Therefore, I will discuss it in another opportunity. By now, I will only quote one of my favourites passages of the film:

It's like you come onto this planet with a crayon box.

You may get the eight-pack or the 16-pack...

...but it's all in what you do with the crayons, the colors you're given.

Don't worry about coloring within the lines.

Color outside the lines and off the page! Don't box me in!

We're in motion to the ocean. We are not landlocked!

– 'Waking Life', written and directed by Richard Linklater –

Sunday, 3 February 2008

The Cat

Remembering Leokádio - Inspired by Princess

And there goes the cat
Happy, and errant,
As no other pet.
Fully elegant,

In his own velvet.
Fancy, and bouffant,
So much arrogant,
As a little brat.

Some call it silly;
Others hate it. Yet,
It walks on smoothly;

And it fears no threat.
Complete mystery –
There it goes: the cat.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Why Estonia?

This text I wrote to be published in promoting materials of my university in Tallinn.

Tere!

I'm Caetano, probably one of the few Brazilians who live in Estonia. Before arriving in the country, still in Brazil, the question everybody did was: why Estonia?

When I arrived, I thought that I wouldn't hear this question anymore - but I was wrong! Everybody still asks: why Estonia? How could you move from warm & sunny Brazil to cold & rainy Estonia?

Well, I have two versions for an answer: the first one is "poetic", the second, "rational". The poetic is that I would go for the unknown, to live different experiences, in a country up north, whose capital city is heritage of the humanity... precisasely because of the cultural and climate differences with my country, I saw Estonia as a place where I would grow up a lot. I illustrate this version with the following verse:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
- Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”, st. 4 (1916) -

But this "poetic" answer, though it is true, is not the main reason. My choice was not first the country and then a study programme. On the contrary: I was looking for a master programme that was based in an alternative view of economics, that wasn't mainstream. A programme founded in history and theory, which could provide me with a different perspective of the world order. And guess where did I find the best programme of such kind? Yes, in Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia!

It's the master programme in Technology Governance, granted by the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences. As it is said in their website: because the programme "is based in Public Management and not in Economics, it can proceed unstraddled by the typical mainstream economic skepticism towards technology, growth, and innovation". Just in the first term I have already learned a lot, and with the best scholars in the field, such as professors Carlota Perez, Erik Reinert, Wolfgang Drechsler, Rainer Kattel, Jan Kregel and Veiko Lember, among others.

And, for my pleasure, I met many new friends, from all over the world! Moreover, all the staff that receives the foreigner students, from the Internation Study Centre to the International Club, have made my life easier (and happier!) than I thought it would be. All in all, I have made the right decision when I left Brazil to this northern country called Estonia!

Thursday, 27 December 2007

A Christmas Story

A Magic Christmas: Fly Agaric Mushrooms

There is no direct evidence that British witches used toadstools as part of their flying potion, but shamans (and others) from parts of Siberia and Lapland do consume the red and white-spotted Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria). This distinctive fungus contains the toxins muscimol and ibotenic acid, which cause the senses to become heightened and lead to feelings of drunkenness. Mordecai Cooke’s 1862 publication Plain and Easy Account of British Fungi described the inebriated state that follows ingestion of the carefully prepared toadstool, listing symptoms such as erroneous impressions of size and distance. This book is the likely source for the fictional mushroom that produces the same effects when eaten by Alice in Lewis Carroll’s 1865 classic.

Cooke’s account of Fly Agaric consumption says, ‘The property is imparted to the fluid excretion of rendering it intoxicating, which property it retains for considerable time’. Fluid excretion is a polite phrase for urine, meaning that inebriation also results if you drink urine of someone who has eaten a Fly Agaric. This has since given rise to the term ‘getting pissed’, now linked with the effects of alcohol.

Knowledge of the antics of the Fly Agaric-fuelled shamans from the reindeer-herding Saami tribes of Lapland is thought to have inspired other autheor, Clement Clarke Moore. His poem, first published in 1823, begins ‘Twas the night before Christmas’. It transforms the saintly, sober, horse-riding St Nicholas into an inebriated, fur-clad figure flying high on a sleigh pulled by reindeer. The origin of the red and white colour of the modern-day Santa’s coat may owe more to the red and white mushroom than to the advertising campaign of a well-known fizzy drink. For a more detailed account of this, see my book The Magic of Christmas (2004).

In: HARDING, Patrick. Mushroom Hunting (need to know?). Pp: 174-176. London: Collins, 2006.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Where there's a will, there's always a way

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

- Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”, st. 4 (1916) -

Once again I’ll talk about ways and choices. I have written that “life is drama because in every moment you are pushed to choose what you are doing next; which way will you follow; in which direction will be your next step. And most of the times there's a trade-off, a so-called 'cost of opportunity': choosing 'A' means not having 'B', and vice-versa”. It happens that many times the two possible ways present different rewards: ‘A’ has a short term material pay-off; whilst ‘B’ has no pay-off at all in sight: it has only the promise of a possible reward in the future – and maybe this reward is not material, but only spiritual; maybe the reward is only to walk the way along.

Anyway (withou pun!), many persons, by impulse, tend to take the safe way. They are not able or willing to open hand of their material possessions for a doubtful journey. They think that their material necessities need to be fulfilled first, in order for them to be able to take a more risky stance. Well, this is not true for me. For instance, Buddhists fulfil their spiritual necessities no matter what, just to give one example. For me, this is only a simplistic-western-materialistic-utilitarian view!

Where there’s a will, there’s always a way, I repeat and repeat again. I have many examples (which I shall not present here) in my family of choices made based on spirituality and dreams and love, and not in material necessities. And everybody somehow succeeded. We did not become millionaires, we indeed struggled for a while because of the lack of money, but we always were and still are happy. Even the cases of ‘failure’ were also a victory, because of the learning, because of just walking the way along; because at least we’ve tried – and we know we’ve tried: there won’t ever be a sad ‘what if...’ feeling in our hearts.

I can give a very present example: I came to Estonia with own funds to maintain myself one semester (of course I could always contract a debt, but who likes to do it?). But my will was definitely to take “the road less travelled by”; to do the Technology Governance Master with the best scholars in the field. What if I would find myself alone and with no money in the middle of a cold country? Well, the airport is fifteen minutes from everywhere – and I have the return ticket. If I was forced by circumstance to return tomorrow, my family and friends would receive me with their arms wide open for sure. I would already be (I am) a different person, who has ‘earned’ a lot – spiritually. It has certainly worth every while.

Remember: there’s no gold along the rainbow, only in its end! So go out and chase it!

Which man can save his brother's soul
Oh man, it's just self control.
Don't gain the world and lose your soul
Wisdom is better than silver and gold

(...)

Oh, where there's a will,
There's always a way.
Where there's a will,
There's always a way.

- Robert Nesta Marley, the proverbial Bob Marley, “Zion Train” -

P.S.: This post is dedicated to my beloved little sister Elisa.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

My mom doesn't know how to write my name...


...neither of the city where I live! It seems like her problem is, in fact, with the letter "N"!

Sunday, 2 December 2007

The next step is never safe

Proverbios y cantares XXIX
Antonio Machado
Translated by Betty Jean Craige, University of Georgia [published by Louisiana State University Press, 1978]

Wanderer, your footsteps are
the road, and nothing more;
wanderer, there is no road,
the road is made by walking.
By walking one makes the road,
and upon glancing behind
one sees the path
that never will be trod again.
Wanderer, there is no road--
Only wakes upon the sea.

**************************

Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino, y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante, no hay camino,
sino estelas en la mar.


-x-x-x-

This is one of my favourites poems (actually, it's just part of a longer one), and I was very happy that I found its translation, so that I didn't have to translate it myself. It represents what I understand (apud José Ortega y Gasset*) as being life: pure drama. Life is drama because in every moment you are pushed to choose what you are doing next; which way will you follow; in which direction will be your next step. And most of the times there's a trade-off, a so-called 'cost of opportunity': choosing 'A' means not having 'B', and vice-versa. Dramatic. Life is hard. But nobody said it was easy. It is surely beatiful though.

But some people are so afraid to take the next step that they symply choose not to take it, so to keep on living in their limited, safe and predictable world. It means they choose not to choose, which is also a choice. This kind of behaviour seems to turn life easier, but it's not. It's just the less resistant way to live, which is also dramatic. But in this case, a lot painful, as the question will always be: "what if"? And there will be no answer.

You never cross the same river; you never take the same road. That's why I try to lead my life always making active decisions, without fear of failing or of reaching dead-ends. I change. If I fail, I turn back and change again. And again. And again. I change a lot, and, for some people, I seem contradictory - which I
may be, but they fail to see my inner coherence. I try to gear my life with active choices. I won't avoid the road because, from the beginning, it looks to lead me to a difficulty - that's how I will evolve and grow up: facing difficulties. There is no way to avoid the drama. Life is drama, pure drama.

*It's interesting that Antonio Machado was a Spanish poet and one of the leading figures of the Spanish literary movement known as the Generation of '98, which (the movement) later on was analysed by Ortega y Gasset.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Estonia

Ok, the deal was to publish pictures at Photosophia, but I changed my mind...

Monday, 19 November 2007

Know yourself

Guard your thoughts, they become words.
Choose your words, they become actions.
Understand your actions, they become habits.
Study your habits, they mould your character:
It will be your fate.

(Norwegian saying, presented in Vigelandsparken)

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Do you miss or do you feel saudades?

Do you know what the Portuguese word ‘saudade’ means? Well, if you look into a Portuguese online dictionary, such as Michaelis or Priberam – sorry, could not search in the best and in the most famous Brazilian dictionaries: Houaiss and Aurélio, respectively – you will find a definition more or less like this:

Saudade – sf (lat. solitate) 1 Recordação nostálgica e suave de pessoas ou coisas distantes, ou de coisas passadas. 2 Nostalgia. (...)

[This definition is from Michaelis. The other meanings do not come to the case.]

Translated, this means:

Saudade – feminine noun (from Latin, solitate) 1. Nostalgic and smooth remembrance of distant people or things, or of past things. 2. Nostalgia. (...)

On the other hand, if you look for its translation, also in a web-based dictionary, such as Babylon, what you will get is:

Saudade (f) – n. missing, nostalgia; longing, yearning.

So, usually, if in a Portuguese text there are sentences like: “Estou com saudades” or “Sinto sua falta”, they both will probably be translated into “I miss you”.

-x-x-x-

In many internet sources, I could find indications of similar words in other languages that should mean the same as saudades – the linguist Bernard Christophe, who sometimes visits this blog, can tell us if it’s true or not that they mean the same (or, maybe, I can try to anticipate: “there are no true synonyms, specially between languages”) – here I pinpoint only a few of these words:

  • Finnish: kaiho;
  • German: Sehnsucht;
  • Hebrew: ergah;
  • Spanish: extrañar.

-x-x-x-

The English Wikipedia has an interesting explanation of the term, and, curiously, the entry is longer than the Portuguese equivalent. A noteworthy mistake of the English entry is, nonetheless, that, on the contrary of what is stated there, we do say to someone in his/her presence – right before you hug this person very tightly : “tô com saudade de você, meu amigo!” (“I feel saudade of you, my friend”); ou “cara, que saudade!” (“man, what a saudade [I have of you]!”) – in that same moment, saudades vanish by the person’s presence. But then, it can come back again pretty soon...

-x-x-x-

And two curiosities about saudade:

  1. It was voted the most beautiful word of the Portuguese/Brazilian language, in a poll carried out by a bookshop in Rio de Janeiro (Livraria da Conde);
  2. It was selected by the British company Today Translations as the seventh most difficult word to be translated (see the article in Portuguese about this selection).

-x-x-x-

Well, here I do not care much about those ‘Webster’s definitions’. Saudades – which in plural is in a certain sense even stronger, meaning “tender remembrance of absent people” (according to Priberam) – saudades, I repeat, is, in my view, also a ‘philosophical term’ that defines the Portuguese society – this characteristic was more or less inherited by the Brazilians. If my mind is not playing tricks on me, the Portuguese philosopher Agostinho da Silva – who also lectured in Brazil – discourses about saudades in his works: his view should be seen especially in “Reflexões” (“Reflections” – or would it be “Reflexão”/”Reflection”? Never mind, the title of the book is something like that I think...).

One can say that the Portuguese attempts towards the 'Tenebrous Sea', during the Great Navigations era (which resulted in the “discover” of Brazil), was pushed by saudades, as well as (it was) reinforced it (by it). In Portugal, their traditional music genre Fado is directly related to saudades. In the proslavery Brazil, the slaves committed suicide because of saudades of Africa: this act of suicide caused by saudades is known in Portuguese as 'banzo'.

-x-x-x-

Anyway, what I would like to say here – and that’s why I don’t care about those definitions – is what I feel as being saudades, and the difference in relation to ‘missing’:

In my view, saudades is not a negative feeling, as ‘missing’ seems to be. When you miss someone, you feel sad because you don’t have the person by your side, as you’d like to. Though saudades carry in part this negative feeling of ‘missing’, when you feel saudades, you feel the person’s (object’s) energy in you – and this is a positive, warm feeling of virtual presence. This feeling is a happy, positive remembrance that comforts your sad, negative missing, counterbalancing it.

Although in those sources that I pointed the sad aspect seems to arise more relevant in the concept of saudades, in my perspective, this feeling encompasses a balance of negative and positive aspect. And it concerns only to the person who feels it to stick with one of the pans of the scale.

-x-x-x-

Here in Estonia I had felt - and feel - much saudades. A recurring one is towards ‘my dreamland’ Paraty-Mirim. Thus, I can feel the sensation of the cold steps made out of rough cement that leads to the deck of our paradisiacal summerhouse. I can feel the salty air running into my nostrils. I can hear the squeaking sound of the balancing hammock. I can feel the coolness of the morning shadow of our home site. I can feel the warmth of the sun in my face, cooled out by the soft breeze... All this ends with a sigh, but not a sad one – it’s a smiling sigh.

-x-x-x-

Therefore, my piece of advice: don’t miss the one you love, just feel saudades!

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Clues

Ok, nobody commented my sonnet. No problem, though I expected that someone would guess the hidden features it has. Anyway, I'll reveal them.

1. It is a 4-4-4-2 sonnet, as I said, and this is more or less known as the "English sonnet" (the number of poetic syllables is different from what I made, as well as the structure of the rhymes). Anyway, Shakespeare himself used to write sonnets in this form.

2. The title - "Words, words, words" - is a quote from Hamlet:

Lord Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words.
(William Shakespeare's Hamlet, Scene II)


So, hope I'm not disturbing the English master too much...

Monday, 15 October 2007

Words, words, words

Pari siamo! ...io la lingua, egli ha il pugnale*
Rigoletto - Giuseppe Verdi

The words are knives, they cut the soul;
They hurt the ones you like the most;
They may disturb your self-control;
And break the past you’d like to boast.

To mute may be the sharpest blade;
It may distress so much as them;
In times when words just seem to fade;
And verbs have lost their proper stem.

But don’t mistake the lack of sound:
Silence is not an inner moan;
It hides the truth of lonely heart;
It builds a wall and sets apart.

In chest is put the coldest stone,
Displacing what has grown as wound.


-x-x-x-

*We are even! ...I [have] the tongue, he has the poniard
(I thank my uncle B. for the suggestion.)

-x-x-x-

This should be my first sonnet in English. Had to learn how to split syllables - therefore, phonic rules of the English language - to write it. Hope I have managed. By the way, this should be my first sonnet ever made of three quartets and one couplet (which is unusual – normal is two quartets and two triplets).

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Land of superficiality?

In one of his books (“the name of which I have no desire to call to mind”), the great Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset reproduced an interesting insight about how each people could be characterized by its vicious (the translation bellow is mine, don’t know how it goes in a possible English edition of the book – and it’s based on what I kept in my Moleskine notebook*):

According to Kant, the Turks, when travelling, use to classify the countries by their genuine vicious: 1st) Land of the fashion (French); 2nd) Land of the bad-mood (England); 3rd) Land of the ancestors (Spain); 4th) Land of the ostentation (Italy); 5th) Land of the titles (Germany); 6th) Land of the lords (Poland).

Reading this, I of course remembered of my country, and I imagined how Brazil could be classified. “Land of the appearance” or “Land of superficiality”, I thought.

Coincidently, some paragraphs further, Ortega y Gasset, back to the main subject in discussion, observed:

All profound things are of similar condition. Material objects (...) have a third condition that constitutes their profundity, their interiority. None the less, this third condition (...), we neither view it, nor we touch it. (...) And if we come to obtain coats so delicate through which the sight shall penetrate, then, we won’t see neither the profound, nor the shallow, but a perfect transparency, or, what is the same, nothing. For the profound requires surfaces [superficies] behind which to hide itself, it needs the surfaces [superficies] or appearance to be profound, something to unroll itself over and that it intercepts.

Take your own conclusions. Mine came out in two verses:

We’re just an allegory of ourselves, a sigh of what we could be.

-x-x-x-

* Moleskine notebooks are now "fashion" among "in" Brazilians. Mine was given to me in 2003, when I completed twentie three years of existance, by my dear italian friend Ester (grazie, bellina!). By those days, I had never heard of a Moleskine notebook...

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

My Northern Face

Well, here I begin my new project: a blog in English - Latin of our days. As it’s not my mother tongue, you shall excuse any mistake that will certainly occur.

I’m not I thinker, I’m not a poet; but I do think, and I do write some “infamy verses”. Besides, I also take pictures, but as these are in the universal language of colours, they will keep on being posted in Photosophia.

P.S.: The wonderful name of this blog was suggested by my uncle Bernard Christophe - danke schön!

-x-x-x-

For now, I let you know my one and only piece of poetry in Shakespeare’s language – he’s probably turning upside down in his tomb by now...

-x-x-x-

According to the music

You say: "I don't play".
I say: "At least you dance".
That is what I see.
'Cause day after day,
You don't give the chance
To reveal yourself to me.

You say: "I'm not afraid".
I say: "You do have fear".
There's a big difference,
Which you have ignored.
You than need to gear
To completely new force.

You say: "I don't lie".
I say: "You don't know truth".
That you should have learned.
The problem isn't mine,
It belongs to you,
In you it is concerned.

Don't make me play your music,
I only loose your game,
In this world of competition,
My heart will die again.

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