Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Bah! Humbug! Sure, Carnival is the “greatest show on earth” south of Munich or New Orleans. Sure, bunches of people parade around wearing funny costumes. But The Curmudgeon Liketh Carnival Not! So he hath prepared a curmudgeonly list of reasons NOT to like Carnival.
1) “Ouch! That hurts!” Many decades ago, in Timbaúba PE, the Curmudgeon was taught the semi-official Carnival dance in the Brazilian Northeast—the “frevo”. It’s a two-step, so the Curmudgeon, who can’t Samba, or Mambo or Rumba, bounced along for about one hour into the party, when he noticed his knee hurt. About 30 minutes later, he couldn’t walk on that leg. The doctor diagnosed a bone bruise, whose only cure was to stay abed for the next two weeks.
2) “You can’t get there from here!” We refer to the “blocos” or block parties that infest Rio streets and squares, where dozens to thousands of revelers insist upon taking up space where, normally, motorized vehicles go. If you’re trying to get somewhere else, you will soon discover that’s a lost cause. This is of course why the block parties have multiplied—people in Flamengo who wanted to go to Ipanema couldn’t, so they invented their own parties. And vice versa.
3) “Damn! That’s LOUD!” We refer, of course, to that egregious misnomer called a “trio elétrico”. There’s no trio, there’s nothing electric, except for the nine gazillion watts of noise it emits, deafening all within range. It’s just a sound truck, with people on top carrying microphones and dancing. In Bahia, these modern day Pied Pipers attract loads of lemming-like losers who follow them until their hearing is seriously impaired.
4) “Ouch! That hurts!” We will mention only briefly the trio that went electric in a small town in São Paulo state last month, hitting a power line, electrocuting fourteen people.
5) “ZZZ-Zzzz-ZZzzzZZ…” That’s the Curmudgeon sawing off logs after listening to the “nth” Samba school, exactly like its predecessors in type and number of instruments, rhythm, chords and key. You thought New Age music was same old, same old? Come to Rio and be felled by the numbingly boring, albeit soporific, “samba enredo” sound, over and over, ad nauseam.
6) “2, 4, 6, 8! Who do we appreciate? Mangueira!” Have you ever paid attention to the words sung by the paraders? They are variations on one theme—we love our Samba school. Back in high school, cute cheerleaders would lead us in this and other inanities, e.g. “Gimme an M!” During the Rio and São Paulo Carnival, it’s cute TV presenters, wearing much skimpier clothes, who lead us. Such is progress.
7) “Follow the money!” Alas, the Curmudgeon is not an investigative reporter, nor an undercover detective. He has, however, noticed how Samba schools find sponsors from abroad. In 2006, Champion Vila Isabel, underwritten by the Venezuelan state oil company, praised Venezuela and Bolivar. This year Vila Isabel has the support of US giant Proctor & Gamble. The prize champion money-grubber for 2011, however, is Gaviões da Fiel, a São Paulo Samba school, which has chosen the country of Dubai as its theme, undeterred by the fact that if its cheerleaders (see # 6 above) dared appear in public in Dubai itself, thus skimpily clad, they would be horsewhipped (or worse).
Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, moved here thirty-plus years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)