Forgive me avid viewers of Big Brother Brazil

Not that I wish to go against my new plan of just publishing my own articles, but someone sent me a good write-up from last year by Luiz Fernando Veríssimo (oops) an anonymous writer about Big Brother Brazil and I thought I’d translate it and make it an exception.


Forgive me avid viewers of Big Brother Brazil (BBB), produced and organized by our distinguished Rede Globo, but we managed to sink to the bottom … The eleventh (it keeps going!) edition of BBB is a summary of the worst in Brazilian television. It is rather difficult to find adequate words to describe the size of such an attack on our modest intelligence.

They say that Rome, one of the largest empires the world has known, saw its end marked by the depravity of the moral values of its people, especially the trivialization of sex. BBB 11 is the pure and ultimate trivialization of sex. Impossible to watch, to see this program alongside one’s children. Gays, lesbians, straight people … all in the same house, the house of “heroes” as they are called by Pedro Bial. I have nothing against gays, I think each one does for a living what they want, but I am against live depravity on TV, whether gay or heterosexual. BBB 11 is reality in search of IBOPE…

See how Pedro Bial treated the participants of the BBB 11. He promised a “human zoo of fun.” I do not know if it will be fun, but it seems quite varied in its mix of cliches and typical figures.

If I understand the presentations correctly, there are 15 “animals” in the “zoo”: the Jewish pervert, the effeminate gay, the sexy dentist, the swinging black guy, the shy nerd, the hottie with a big butt, the “I’m not a bitch but I’m not holy ” girl, the model Mr. Maringa, the confident lesbian, the intellectual DJ, the cocky carioca, the makeup artist drag-queen and the female MP who likes to get beat up.

I wonder, for example, as a journalist, documentary maker and writer, how Pedro Bial, to do him justice, covered the fall of the Berlin Wall, bows to be host of a program of that level. In an e-mail I received recently, Bial writes wonderfully well about the loss of comedian Bussunda referring to the pain of dying so young. I would like to ask him if he thinks his program is the death of culture, values and principles, morals, ethics and dignity.

The other day, during a break in Globo programming, another brainless BBB reporter said that, to win the prize of one and a half million dollars, a Big Brother member has an arduous road ahead, calling them heroes. Arduous? Heroes?

Are these examples of our heroes?

An arduous road to me is one that is traversed by millions of Brazilians, health professionals, public school teachers (indeed, all teachers), postmen, garbage collectors and many other tireless workers who, daily, spend hours exercising their duties with dedication, competence and love, almost always underpaid…

Heroes, are thousands of Brazilians who don’t even have a single meal a day and a decent bed to sleep on and can survive on that, every single day. Heroes are children and adults who struggle with very complicated diseases because they never had a chance to have a healthier and more dignified life.

Heroes are countless people, social organizations and charities, NGOs, volunteers, churches and hospitals that are dedicated to the care of the sick and needy (let’s remember our eternal heroine, Zilda Arns). Heroes are those who, despite earning a minimum wage, pay their bills, leaving only sixteen Reals for feeding themselves, as shown in another report submitted months ago by Globo itself.

Big Brother Brazil is not a cultural or educational program, neither does it spread information and knowledge to its viewers or participants, and there is no other incentive, for example, encouraging sports, music, or creativity, nor teaching concepts such as values, ethics, work and morals.

And then comes the vanguard psychologist and tells me that BBB helps us to “understand human behavior.” Oh, have pity! Look at what’s really behind BBB ($$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$): José Neuman from Radio Jovem Pan, calculated that if twenty-nine million people call each time someone is voted off, with the cost of thirty cents per vote, Globo and Telefonica make eight million, seven hundred thousand dollars. I’ll repeat: eight million, seven hundred thousand dollars each time someone gets kicked off the show.

Can you imagine how much could be done with that amount if it were dedicated to programs of social inclusion, housing, food, education and the health of many Brazilians? (More than 520 housing units could be created, or more than 5,000 computers could be bought!) These words are not for riot or protest, but with shame and indignation at seeing that such a freak show has millions of viewers.

Instead of watching BBB, how about reading a book, a poem by Mario Quintana or Neruda or anything else, go to the movies, study, listen to good music, plant flowers and work on a garden, call a friend, visit grandparents, go fishing, play with the kids, date or just sleep.

Watching BBB just helps Globo make lots of money and destroy what remains of the values on which our society was built.

Wish – Drummond

Wish/Synthesis of Happiness
by Carlos Drummond de Andrade*

I wish for you …
Fruit from the jungle
The scent of the garden
Flirting at the front gate
Sunday without rain
Monday without a bad mood
Saturday with your love
To hear a kind word
To have a pleasant surprise
A full moon
Re-examining an old friendship
To have faith in God
Not having to hear the word ‘no’
Nor ‘never’, ‘never ever’ or ‘goodbye’.
Laughing like a child
Listening to a bird song
To write a poem of love
That will never be torn
To form an ideal pair
Bathing in the waterfall
To learn a new song
To expect someone at the station
Cheese with guava
Sunset on the farm
A feast
A guitar
A serenade
To remember an old love
To always have a friendly shoulder
Clapping with joy
A mild afternoon
To put on old slippers
Sitting in an old armchair
Play guitar for someone
To listen to the rain on the roof
White wine
Bolero by Ravel …
And my great affection.

Apparently, there are two versions, one with a little more cultural reference and the one above. Here’s the former in Portuguese, which also goes by the name “Síntese da felicidade”. Also, this is a poem that has been attributed to Drummond but lacks proper citation*.

How I Think In Portuguese

I want to address how I think in Portuguese, which is to say, how I translate words I see and interpret words I hear. The initial misconception on how this works is that I see maçã (apple), for example, and then my brain searches for the word, then the translation, and then the word ‘apple’ appears in my mind. Well, that’s actually not how it works. Let me explain.

For me, and maybe this goes for everyone or most people or maybe no one else, but for me, English pretty much goes out the door when I’m thinking in Portuguese. It’s as if my left brain is Portuguese-speaking and my right brain is English-speaking and one side gets turned off while I process things in the language of the opposite side. Make sense?

I’m trying right now to think back on my learning process and if there was a point when I did translate word for word where the phrase ‘eu comi a maçã’ would become something like ‘eu/I…comi/ate…a/the…maçã/apple’. Perhaps in the very beginning, I’m not sure anymore.

When I have to interpret for someone or when subtitles on a movie are in the other language, it’s like my mind doesn’t naturally want to do that work, which tells me that either profession is about training your mind to automatically do the extra level of processing on top of the foreign language side of the brain processing. If you’ve ever spoken with either interpreters or translators, you’d know that they do not appreciate non-professionals even though practically-speaking, knowing another language means you can do either job (notice I didn’t say well). Technically-speaking, though, what they strongly dislike about someone not-highly trained doing such work is that they are taking away work from a professional while doing a worse job at it.

Going back to the main subject, I’d say that once you hit about 85% fluency, you can start to automatically think in that language but if you are finding it hard, try to force yourself to do it. All the things you say to yourself during the day, just think of those very things in Portuguese. Whether you ‘say’ it right is one thing, but there’s also the other side of the coin which is that you are still training your brain to think in that foreign language. 

Song by Cecília Meireles

by Cecília Meireles
translation by me

I placed my dream on a boat
and the boat on the sea;
– afterwards, I opened the sea with my hands,
so that my dream would sink

My hands are still wet
from the blue of the dissonant waves
and the color that flows from my fingers
colors the deserted sands.

The wind comes from afar,
the night buckles from the cold;
under the water it is dying
my dream, inside the boat…

I will cry as much as is needed
to make my sea become bigger,
and my boat sink to the bottom
and my dream disappear.

After, all will be perfect;
a smooth beach, ordered waters,
my dry eyes like stones
and my two hands broken.

Por Cecília Meireles

Pus o meu sonho num navio
e o navio em cima do mar;
– depois, abri o mar com as mãos,
para o meu sonho naufragar

Minhas mãos ainda estão molhadas
do azul das ondas entreabertas,
e a cor que escorre de meus dedos
colore as areias desertas.

O vento vem vindo de longe,
a noite se curva de frio;
debaixo da água vai morrendo
meu sonho, dentro de um navio…

Chorarei quanto for preciso,
para fazer com que o mar cresça,
e o meu navio chegue ao fundo
e o meu sonho desapareça.

Depois, tudo estará perfeito;
praia lisa, águas ordenadas,
meus olhos secos como pedras
e as minhas duas mãos quebradas.

One can see by reading the poem that the poet is expressing the need for calmness in a world where desire causes the commotion of the waters. She is essentially preferring to give up on her dream, to sink her boat either because she doesn’t like to dream or perhaps she does but she is not capable of living with them (while still unattained). She gives up because dreams mean hard work and dedication as well as pain. One can also see the difference between a dream that may not work out for one reason or another and a dream that is purposefully killed by the dreamer, which is what she does.

The Song of Exile – Gonçalves Dias

The Song of Exile
by Antônio Gonçalves Dias
translated by Nelson Ascher

My homeland has many palm-trees
and the thrush-song fills its air;
no bird here can sing as well
as the birds sing over there.

We have fields more full of flowers
and a starrier sky above,
we have woods more full of life
and a life more full of love.

Lonely night-time meditations
please me more when I am there;
my homeland has many palm-trees
and the thrush-song fills its air.

Such delights as my land offers
Are not found here nor elsewhere;
lonely night-time meditations
please me more when I am there;
My homeland has many palm-trees
and the thrush-song fills its air.

Don’t allow me, God, to die
without getting back to where
I belong, without enjoying
the delights found only there,
without seeing all those palm-trees,
hearing thrush-songs fill the air.

The original can be found here and the translation above is here.

Antônio Gonçalves Dias

Antônio (born in the state of Maranhão) was a Brazilian poet. A respected ethnologist and scholar, he lived much of the time abroad but drowned at age 41 on his way back to Maranhão. His songs, collected in First Poems (1847), More Poems (1848), and Last Poems (1851), which display both exuberance and longing, are a celebration of the New World as a tropical paradise and a glorification of the indigenous people. While in Europe, he wrote a dictionary of the Tupi language. His “Song of Exile” (Canção do Exílio, 1843) is known to every Brazilian schoolchild, and he is regarded as the national poet of Brazil.

Motive – Cecília Meireles

by Cecília Meireles
Translation by John Nist

I sing because the moment exists
And my life is complete.
I am not gay, I am not sad:
I am a poet.

Brother of fugitive things,
I feel no delight or torment.
I cross nights and days
In the wind.

Whether I destroy or build,
Whether I persist or disperse,
— I don´t know, I don´t know.
I don´t know if I stay or go.

I know that I sing.
The song is everything.
The rhythmic wing has eternal blood,
And I know that one day I shall be dumb:
— Nothing more.

About the Author

Born a carioca (from Rio de janeiro) on November 7, 1901, by the time of the first phase of the Modernist Movement in Brazil, she already belonged to the Spiritualists, a group of writers who were direct descendente of the Symbolists of Paraná. Friend of the Chilean Nobel laureate Gabriela Mistral, Cecilia Meireles has constantly fortered two aesthetic forces in her poetry: tradition and mistery. Perhaps the most dedicated craftsman of the generation, greatly amired in India, Israel, and the Latin countries of Western Europe, she has created a dozen of volumes of lyrics so limpid and intense as to be the envy of her male contemporaries. These volumes, collected in Obra Poética (1958), run to better than a thousand pages. The union of such quantitly with such quality is one reason why she has twice been nominated for the Nobel Prize. – Source