sábado, 28 de agosto de 2010

quarta-feira, 25 de agosto de 2010

A árvore enquanto jovem

Esforça-se por ganhar raízes, mas sente-se só. Invariavelmente só. É jovem, é certo, mas nem a seiva, bruta e cada vez mais resinosa, lhe vale. Muito pior: desgosta-a, e desgasta-a, ter de viver sempre em tronco nu.

Comércio bilingu(ü)e

Márcio vendia os seus óculos, lentes e armações apenas com o poder da mente. Como por milagre: em Belo Horizonte já lhe chamavam "O Psico-Lojista".

Durante una década Evo tuvo la tienda más famosa de Gran Vía, casi en Callao. Un exito tremendo entre los más jóvenes: muchos niños jamás habian visto un amerindio de verdad.

terça-feira, 24 de agosto de 2010

Why Estonia never stops surprising me

By João Lopes Marques (Eesti keeles)

At first I didn’t understand: “Estonia’s International Friends Meeting.” If the emailed PDF letter hadn’t been signed by the President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, and businessman Margus Reinsalu I would have never believed it. It was the first time I was receiving a letter of protocol via Internet...

“Why the hell are they inviting me to such an event?”, I questioned myself. Still suspicious of a hoax, I asked my colleagues in "Eesti Ekspress". "Do you know something about this?" Well, nobody knew, as if it were a well-kept secret. Publicity wasn't a priority.

I understand such initiatives are not that popular in times of crisis. Tax-payers are suspicious of any potentially irresponsible spending of their money and this “Estonia’s International Friends Meeting” was anything but conventional. Yet it seemed to me that everyone shared the burden: private players invested, Estonian institutions contributed, and participants paid for their own flight tickets.

To be honest, out of three dozen foreign co-participants, I had only heard the names of just two of them: Mrs. Vaire Vike-Freiberga and Mr. Ari Vatanen. “Who are all these friends of Estonia? Why me and where did they find my email address?” My curiosity mounted but I recalled Raili's words the week I moved to Tallinn: "We Estonians are silent and reserved people. But always bear in mind that we are great observers..."

Of course I accepted such an unexpected honor, though I adopted more journalistic and anthropological angles, impossible not to do so. Below you'll find some of my personal conclusions:

• Estonian is divided into two big political clans: the “Estonian one” and Saavisar's: no representative of Keskarakond was invited to the event;
• For a Western European used to political rows every week, it’s amazing to see how the Estonian political elite is today united in the common goal of making Estonia a great small country: President Ilves, Prime-Minister Ansip and Mart Laar spoke with a single voice;
• Most invitees there had an economic- and financially-based perspective of Estonia, which can bias the debate about the future of this country (flat tax, currencies, stockmarkets, etc.);
• Skype was mentioned too often, as is Nokia in Finland, which exposed the lack of alternatives — the "Estonian Nokia" is yet to be invented;
• After speaking with some Estonians living in the New World, especially USA and Canada, it seems to me that the potential of the Estonian diaspora is not fully exploited yet;
• The Spanish city of Marbella, in Andaluzia, second home of lots of European and Arabic fortunes, is a crucial hub for the Estonian economy;
• President Ilves is focusing on the right social and geopolitical topics, though I think sometimes it might actually be better for him to be less diplomatic;
• Prime-Minister Ansip boasted of a good image of Estonia, though he seems a bit stuck on the anti-Kremlin ideas and the e-governance phenomenon;
• Mart Laar is still the anchor (reference point) of post-Soviet Estonia: he is always praised as the inventor of the current Estonian economic model and I guess he is running a long-term race;
• There is a big guilt complex in Finland: several influential Finns still believe they didn’t support Estonia enough in the 1940-1991 period and they are eager to contribute for the sake of Estonia;
• Most foreigners have a very limited knowledge of Estonia, since good national branding filters the negative layers (age and gender gap, social exclusion, tensions between ethnic Russians and Estonians, a fifth of the population in poverty, etc.);
• Vike-Freiberga is, perhaps alongside former President Lennart Meri, the most prominent Baltic tribune ever. It’s impressive how she uses her skills as a former Psychologist;
• The dialogues and exchange of impressions amongst “Estonia’s friends” have a multiplying effect.

Of course, all this can seem extremely subjective and too rosy. Most visitors would feel pleased to be hosted in Steinbock House by Mr. Ansip, and to have lunch in Kadriorg Palace with Mr. and Mrs. Ilves on the 20th August, a rather symbolic date for Estonia. That's why I reserve the last paragraphs for some concrete hints. Not an easy thing to do: if one lives here, one understands better where propaganda and national branding end and where harsh daily reality starts.

Anyway, some of my not-so-modest suggestions for the near future of Estonia:

• Prepare for globalization using curious-minded and well-travelled Estonian youth: the Erasmus generation can be the best ambassador of Estonia to the world;
• Since there is a potential patriot in every Estonian, award them an official mission: increase their grants and create a programme where they can promote the country;
• Start solving the gender gap, a big shame for a Nordic nation that is making hopeless Estonian young women leave the country;
• It's time to move on from Skype’s example: something fresh and new is sorely needed;
• Why are Estonians still turning their back on Finland, which was recently considered by “Newsweek” as the best country in the world to live? Get closer is essential, these two nations could start speaking with a single voice more often, it's a positive connotation for Estonia;
• Europe is saturated. Ride on Finland’s current Asiafication process and make Estonia also a hub to Asia;
• Estonian Air should differentiate and launch an intercontinental network in order to send a global sign about Estonian priorities and connectivity. One flight per week would be enough, since we also need symbolism. For instance: Tbilisi (Georgia is a pet country), Singapore (a good case-study for Estonia), Bangalore (IT exchange), Shanghai (an icon of Asian emergence), Tokyo (it's essential to be connected to post-modernity cutting-edge practices, in addition to Japanese fashion and tourism industries), New York (a direct connection to USA) and Toronto (a concrete sign for the Estonian diaspora);
• Keep this meeting: it was organized in a way that just the ones who feel something for Estonia want to attend;

Small countries tend to be very delicate ecosystems where resources are limited. The one-shot theory usually prevails and we all know Estonia can't afford to miss stupid bullets. Nevertheless, paralysis and fear would be much worse. What did I like best in the event? Seeing how Estonia is deciding to attack the future.

More importantly: by integrating those aliens who, for either a very concrete or metaphysical reason, believe in this country.

Sumo

Proeza, proeza, conseguiu-a Hotaka. Tornou-se ozeki aos 16 anos sem nunca ter espremido uma laranja na vida (ou limão).

O Senhor e o seu Filho

Deus castiga sem pau nem pedra? Pois Jesus fá-lo com Paulo e Pedro.

segunda-feira, 23 de agosto de 2010

To feel guilty or not

By João Lopes Marques (Eesti keeles)

"Would I go for abortion?" "Will I pay for the scratch I inflicted in the gray Volkswagen while parking?" "Would I return back the wallet I found in Viru Keskus?" "Shall I tell mamma I am dating a Russian boy?"

That's unavoidable: moral dilemmas tend to consume lots of our time and energy. Everyday we have to negotiate with ourselves small decisions that trigger friction in our brains. If we except pathological criminals and some fools, every soul with basic principles holds an ethical dimension.

We all live in fear of moral failure: not a coincidence that Greek philosopher Plato dedicated part of his life theorizing about that. Great. However, most situations we reflect about happen to be too abstract. Usually, the most embarrassing moments occur when we don't expect them. Worse: they are exactly the very same ones we had never considered.

Before I share with you my embarrassing story — a benign one after all — I prefer to evoke one about a Chilean celebrity. A famous footballer: after having slept with a prostitute who stole his clothes, this man decided to run away. He would be caught by the municipal police while running naked in the street. What to say? To tell the truth? Never ever, he was too famous... Therefore, our sportsman decided to justify his nudity by saying he had been encountered an UFO.

Brilliant. Who could prove the opposite?

I wish I could have done the same that disturbing night. I'll describe it: I am having dinner in a popular Argentinean restaurant in Lisbon with two good Portuguese friends. The venue is fully packed and the next table there is a young beautiful couple in love. More romantic would be impossible. I even thought the young man would offer a fiancé ring to his girlfriend.

Unlike them, the three of us are partying. Some glasses of great red wine keep landing in our table. However, my third one has a decisive role to play: it breaks on the dark marble of our table and spills to the very white shirt of the young romantic guy the next table. I freeze. He freezes. Everybody freezes. My first instinct is to apologise — twice, five times — but no answer comes from the couple.

They are shocked, they stay some thousand seconds shooting me with their gazes.

Words just don't come, and I understand: that man in front of me is the perfect metaphor of my faux pas: the red wine in his white shirt resembles merciless blood. He is a Jesus, a restaurant martyr.

My first idea? To offer him a brand new shirt, though I wanted very concrete deeds that moment. Thus, I discreetly stood up and went to the restaurant owner to tell him I'd pay for the couple's bill. I didn't communicate them, of course, just returned even more discreetly to my table.

Half-hour later they left the table and I noticed the owner communicating them their vilain had already taken care of the dinner. They abandoned the restaurant right away and then comes the epilogue. Stunned, the owner ran to me to make sure what he had seen:

"How come? Don't tell me they left the restaurant without thanking you?!"

"Of course", I replied: "Why should they come here if I ruined their romantic night?"

"Come one, these accidents can happen to every single person... Those guys are lost! They should understand!", he insisted while adding: "But we share their bill, I also believe tables in my restaurant are too close to each others... I feel very sorry..."

It was a funny situation. A moral triangle: the revolted couple who decided not to thank for the dinner I decided to paid; the owner who felt guilty because of his greed; this author who felt even more guilty and just wanted an UFO to rescue him from such a stupid terror movie.

Yet things could have been rather different: if that moment I didn't have money to pay; if the wine had helped the couple to break the ice; if another waiter had used the opportunity to increase the bill.

This was the ultimate proof life is not black-and-white. Or red-and-white. We can react differently ways according to humor & circumstances & needs & possibilities. Ethics is a tricky issue and inconsistencies, small and big ones, are always around the corner. What can we do? There are no formulas. But to remind daily what are our core values can help a lot...

Eh, toro!

Bem lhe gritaram. Acenaram. Provocaram. Espicaçaram. Insinuaram. Mas nem por uma única vez aquele pequeno cepo esboçou reacção.

Os dois que não se entendiam

Ele com o latim e eu com o latir. É cada vez mais evidente que não nos vamos entender. A culpa? Tenho muitas dúvidas de que ele seja melhor dono do que eu sou cão.

segunda-feira, 16 de agosto de 2010

Éne motivos

No preciso dia em que cumpriu quatro décadas, Mauro decidiu deixar de pensar. Estava fartinho. Nada como dispensar aquele éne maldito: seria muitíssimo mais divertido começar a pesar.

domingo, 15 de agosto de 2010

Papeladas

Lá ao fundo, qual miragem, alguém lhe acenava com um papel bonito. Gustav limpou as gotas de suor e não conseguiu esconder a baralhação. Hesitação: fosse mesmo verdade, havia de o rabiscar com coloridas canetas de feltro ou, ao invés, representá-lo com toda a sua devoção?

sábado, 14 de agosto de 2010

Curiosidades do Planeta Tormeteus

Na riquísisma, e vívida, paleta de cores de Tormeteus, grinzel é uma cor fugidia, algures entre o amarelo torrado e o verde clarinho. Talvez por isso os seus habitantes se dividam ainda hoje em três grandes facções: os que insistem tratar-se mesmo de frilal; os que categoricamente advogam ser xambrilium; e os lúcidos que não têm qualquer dificuldade em perceber que é grinzel, apenas grinzel e nada mais do que grinzel. Paradoxalmente, e porque Tormeteus é um desses planetas injustos, continuam estes últimos a ser perseguidos e viperinamente apodados de "vesgúnios", étimo equiparável ao nosso "daltónicos", numa tradução mais livre.

sexta-feira, 13 de agosto de 2010

La Fille du Régiment



Uma ária fantástica interpretada com elegância extrema por Juan Diego Flores. Cenário e coreografia inatacáveis. Imperdível.

quarta-feira, 11 de agosto de 2010

Iluminismo

Eu cá nunca me fio. Talvez por isso nunca tenha visto a luz.

Vodka

"Errado é afirmarem que a Rússia não está habituada a temperaturas de 40 graus", sublinhou o sábio Vladimir, logo acrescentando na passada: "A grande diferença é que antes eram apenas servidas numa garrafa!"

Eu e tu, lembras-te?

Ele partiu, eu fiquei. Ou terá sido o contrário? Certo é que não havia muito mais a fazer. Dizer. Fiz questão de falar à índio e, mesmo com muita pena nossa, era ali que nos descruzávamos, ou deveríamos: "Tu, rismo; eu, tanásia!" E assim vi partir o meu querido e a sua camisa de coqueiros enquanto no meu doce leito me deixei amortecer feliz.

Negligência

Tentando libertar-se dos dejectos, os líquidos e os outros, Jacob carregou no que pensou ser um autoclismo. Era branquinho e com um botão cinza metalizado, muito redondinho até. Não obstante, toda a distracção tem um preço. E aquele autocataclismo continua a provocar inundações imensas. Trágicas.

quarta-feira, 4 de agosto de 2010

Hey! Estou a falar convosco...



Um terrível playback de um excelente playboy.

Estonia and Slovenia: half-sisters?

By João Lopes Marques (Eesti keeles)

"Tallinn is like Prague after the neutron bomb!" This funny and simplistic joke invented by my Dutch friend Thomas has proved quite popular among my Estonian network. We don't need an hermeneutical exercise to conclude locals tend to agree Prague shares lots of things with the capital of Estonia.

Yet today I decided to upgrade the challenge. The question: "What is the most similar country with Estonia?" A tough one, isn't it? Is it Czech Republic? Truth to tell, in my mind it has been clear for years.

Slovenia, of course.

"How come Slovenia has to do with Estonia?", you may ask. Well, the Germanic influence in the last thousand years. This is undeniable. Just visit Ljubljana: it's center is different, but the spirit reminds Old Tallinn's. Those are cities originally designed with human scale. The local castle it's a kind of Toompea and the only big difference would be the river Ljublianica.

You can even attack me because I am comparing one of the hilliest landscapes in Europe with flat Estonia. Yet my analysis goes beyond orography, as I will try to prove you in the next paragraphs:

1) Currency

Estonia's adoption of the euro currency, the 1st January 2011, reminds me the news when Slovenia became the 13th member of Euro zone, back in 2007. They were the first post-Communist country to do so, as Estonia is the first former Soviet republic. Both belong now to the first monetary league. It's been an obsession that reflects a mentality.

2) Transparency and finances

Surprisingly for most foreigners, Estonia is quite a transparent-and-non-corrupted country. And, like Slovenia, praises above all public finances discipline. Both countries value modesty and frugality, the secret of their success.

3) Vicinity

It's more than a coincidence so small countries — Slovenia has some 2 million inhabitants — stood out so fast in their respective regions. Neighbors played a crucial role. Tourism, best practices and foreign investment. Austria is Slovenia's Finland, while Italy is its own Sweden.

4) The "B" letter

Balkans and Baltic both start with a "B". And they also have a shared trauma: while Slovenia wants to get rid of such a Balkan connotation — mess, crime, war, mafia, Muslim influence, chaos, poverty —, Estonia hates to be depicted as "Baltic". Both countries are right, actually: Slovenia is a Central European republic as much as Estonia is Nordic.

5) Nostalgia

It may seem forced, but we all know a considerable percentage of older Estonians have some Soviet nostalgia. Not because of the occupation. It's more related to the social benefits from that era. Exactly the same in the former Yugoslav republic: "Yugo-Nostalgia" is a daily topic, though it reminds me always my friend Oleg's answer the day I asked him if he missed Soviet Republic of Ukraine: "Not at all, but I was younger..."

6) Minorities

The size is different, much less than the 25% or 30% of Slavs who live in Estonia. Still, Slovenia is also a one-country-two-systems republic. Two parallel ecosystems that almost never meet. The Serbs and other Cyrlic Slavs are the "Russians of Slovenia". Just pick a taxi in Ljubljana and prove it.

7) Identity

Although the majority is still Catholic there, Estonian-like atheism is on the rise in Slovenia. More importantly, the Estonian and Slovene identities have the same timings: they exists for more than one millennium though the idea of a State popped up just in the middle of the 19th Century. Like in Estonia, in Slovenia it became a reality in 1918 though for a short period. Likewise, full sovereignty would arrive just in 1991.

8) Go West!

In a Slovene mind there is an obsession to go west. Some Slovenes emulate the Latin world, others prefer the Germanic one. It's visible in such small things as the way one gets dressed. The car he buys. Most Estonians are also divided by an invisible line: either go Anglo-Saxonic ("Marita goes to Australia!") or to adopt Scandinavian models ("Marek got a job in Stockholm!").

9) Trade

Slovenia depends a lot on trade, which is oriented towards Germany, Austria, Italy and France. When the economic downturn came, they were the most affected after the Baltics and Finland (Slovene GDP shrank nearly 8%).

10) Sports

Their football team is incomparable better than Estonia's. But Slovenes speak two languages most Estonians know: ski and basketball.

And yes, I could continue with hospitality, stubbornness and adaptability. But these would be circular arguments: those features are shared by most European tiny countries.

domingo, 1 de agosto de 2010

Elefante ou talvez não


É conhecido o fascínio humano por baleias e paquidermes. Coisas grandes. Por vezes vemo-las nos locais mais inesperados. Uma mancha no chão pode muito bem ser um elefante. As suas orelhas e tromba são inconfundíveis... Mas neste caso até tenho dúvidas: será um coração? O mapa tosco do Brasil? Um esquisso de África? Ou... ou...

Moleiro

Tinha aveia para o negócio.