One year later

It is almost one year that I wrote the first post in my blog. Like most blogs it died out. When I started blogging I was going through a very quiet phase at work. Lots of free time, which meant I could do a lot of writing.

I like to write. Even though I am working in the IT field, my university degree was in Journalism. Unfortunately life takes you to different places and as you grow older the need to survive is bigger than the need to write.

A lot of things happened in one year. I have left Brussels and moved to Munich, Germany. Munich is a nice town, very clean, organized and green – basically the antithesis of Brussels. Even though it has everything to be the perfect city to live, it is definitively worse than the lovely Brussels.

It is a mix of everything you see and experience, the German culture, the close mind of Bavarians, the extreme friendliness followed by the opposite extreme coldness, the artificiality of people from Munich, the lack of free creative thinking, and it goes on – when adding everything up it is just weird and uncomfortable. I will try to share more of my life in Germany in future posts.

Even though there will not be as many posts as before, I will try to update this blog more from time to time.

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The dottore

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, I worked in a pan European call center responsible to provide support to a Japanese laptop maker. Those were the days. People working in call centers are usually not very normal. A lot of them will have some kind of addiction. Others would just be crazy. I had a colleague once telling me he did not come to work because a black bird told him not to leave his house. Ok.

The Italians were a large number in the call center – about 20 colleagues. As good italians, they were quite excited and noisy. I remember that some of them would refer to their clients over the phone as “dottore”. It seems that in Italy, the salutation “doctor” is quite commonly used to anyone that you wish to show some respect. This also happens in Brazil where a lot of people are referred as doctor without even ever being inside a university. If you hold some power and/or have some money, you will gain the title.

Most nations in the world will have a similar approach on who gainfully deserves and can use the title. Medical praticioners and academics with PhD are always considered doctors.  In some countries, like France, the use of the term is extented to dentists, farmacists and veterinarians.

Very soon we are moving to Germany where the use of “doctor” is completely different. The Germans are very respectful of titles, diplomas and certifications. If your doctor´s degree was not completed in Europe, you cannot refer to yourself as a doctor before completing the validation of your study. Some time ago, some American researchers, with PhDs from top universities, were prosecuted in Germany for using the “Dr.” acronym in their business cards and websites. Nowadays, foreign PhDs in Germany can be referred as a doctor only if their university is party of the Carnegie List or if an equivalence was completed.

Still in Germany, if you hold two or three PhDs, you can possess the amazing title of “Dr. Dr. Dr.” Cool isn´t it?

There are some bizarre uses of the term around the world. In Hungary people change their names to legally contain the acronym in their documents. Again in Brazil, lawyers and judges found a way to legally be called doctors – it is not uncommon to hear about brawls originated from a mortal not referring to a lawyer as doctor.

I find despicable the use of the doctor term by people who do not deserve it. Back in Brazil, if someone referred to me this way, I would ask them not to do it. Doctors, in most cases, have worked hard for many years to achieve their results. My girlfriend just finished her PhD after five years of working 10 hours a days and uncountable weekends in her laboratory.

If I wore to use a title that I did not have, I would go for Baron or Duke – at least no one has to work to get these.

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The language wars

Zaventem is mostly known in Europe for being Brussels main airport and home to the local airline. In fact, Zaventem lays next to Brussels but is a completely different village located in the Flemish part of the country.

Today 31,0000 people live in the city of Zaventem. According to the Wikipedia article 17% of the population is non-Belgian.  Zaventem is also home of many international companies such as Microsoft, Sony, Bridgestone and others.

As mentioned before, Zaventem is geographically located in Flanders. Belgium is divided in 3 regions: Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. Each of these regions speak their own language. In Flanders they speak Flemish – a language very similar to Dutch. In Wallonia they speak Walloon – a language very similar to French. Finally, Brussels is a bi-lingual region, but most people living in the region speak French.

Last week I was shocked by the news that the Zaventem council, using the argument of improving integration, decided that in public parks child carers, parents and children should have conversations in no other language than Flemish.  It was emphasized that even the children among themselves should only play in the determined language. Human rights groups shouted that this violates not only the European Charter, but also the Belgian constitution, which allows free use of the language. A few years ago, the same commune of Zaventem was one of the first Flemish adminstrations to ban the use of foreign languages in the local council claiming that it was illegal to use other dialect.

This kind of attitude is not exclusive to Zaventem. In fact, a lot of cities in Flanders have weird laws ranging from obligatory integration courses to very restrictive property buying rights. Some cities will only allow you to buy a house if you can prove Flemish blood or strong ties with the community, such as many years working in the village and a group of local friends.

Even though Flanders was always a trade centre throughout history, during the industrial revolution era, the country economy was largely based in the coal and steel industry of the Walloon region (and of course a lot came from the pillage of Congo).

After the end of the second world war, the language problems in Belgium flourished when Flanders became the financial powerhouse of the country. Due to their trading nature, they managed to secure much better foreign investment deals. In the 1960´s the Flemish were richer, better organized, more advanced technologically and in larger numbers.

In the last decades Flanders believes, correctly, that their population taxes are sustaining the rest of the nation. 5% unemployment in the north and 20% unemployment in the south are just one of the numbers that show the differences of the country.

These scenarios initiated a nationalist superiority feeling that triggered stupid decision such as forced integration and territory protectionism. Polls show that most Flemish want to have Belgium continuing to exist, but only under their financial and cultural terms. The problem is that currently a lot of Flemish decisions are bordering the unacceptable. Controlling the language spoken in public places is a very dangerous precedent.

Unfortunately I don´t foresee a good future. Europe´s economy is in shambles. The mentality in the Walloon region is almost communist. Flanders will establish its financial ruling more and more. Stupid laws and regulations will become more common, which is a pity, because this will increase the discomfort between the regions. The Belgian motto “L´union fait la force” – The union makes the strength – will someday just be another part of history. Each passing day there is less of Belgium and more of Flanders and Wallonia.

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The Atomium

Last night I had dinner with a good friend of mine, Declan, and his family. They live in England and came to Brussels for a day-trip. He has a 6-year-old kid and I wanted to find a gift for him. I went in one of those souvenir stores and bought a miniature of the most amazing thing ever done by Belgian minds – The Atomium.

The Atomium is a monument located in the outskirts of Brussels. A lot of tourists will not visit the structure because it is indeed a bit out-of-the-way. I consider that coming to Brussels and not seeing it like going to Paris and not checking the Eiffel Tower. Well, it is not as big as the Parisian symbol, but I find it much prettier.

This is a picture that my friend Daniel took when visiting me last april (© http://www.atomium.be – SABAM 2012 – Daniel Edmundosn):

The Atomium was constructed in 1958 for the world exposition.  These events in the past were more charming and important than they are today. There was no internet, no satellites… information travelled in much slower methods. The world fairs were the moment for each country to display their technological advances and cultural highlights. The Atomium was built in an era were the discussions of the use of nuclear energy were at full speed – for the good and for the bad. It is fun to think that after more than 50 years, the world is still discussing the same thing.

The monument was conceptualized by an engineer – Mr. André Waterkeyn. The idea was then put to existence by the architects André and Jean Polak. The Atomium is composed of nine interconnected spherical pieces. The top sphere is located at 102 meters – where you can get a reasonable view of Brussels. Now a days, the Atomium is used for different temporary expositions and private events.

The rights of the Atomium image were transferred from Mr. Waterkeyn to the Belgian Society of Authors (SABAM) – the organ responsible for the ownership of films, music, etc. Since then, they have being monitoring the use of the image of the Atomium.

According to the official website, any use of the image of the monument must be approved by the SABAM. The approval, of course, will be given only after a price of usage is set depending if the purpose is cultural, educational or commercial. Still according to the website, the exception is “In the case where photographs are taken by private individuals and shown on private websites for no commercial purpose (the current trend for photo albums), as long as these pictures are displayed at a low resolution (600 pixels maximum, resolution of 72dpi) to avoid abusive usage and downloads.” Furthermore, the image must contain “© http://www.atomium.be – SABAM 2012 – photographers name”.

Rightholder groups, such as SABAM, live in a parallel world. In March 2012 they tried to demand fees for public libraries that were organizing book readings.  In their weird understanding of the world, they were expecting a public non-profit library to pay 250 euro a year to have the privilege of having people reading books to young kids!

This shows how a sad and boring place the world is becoming. I cannot imagine that Mr Waterkey and the Polak brothers could be happy by such unnecessary greed. This is a symbol of Belgium, but because of stupid political decisions, until 2075, the image belong to a group of private individuals. I can not imagine that in 1958 any living person could imagine how our rights would be so easily taken away. Not by the government, or by the communists, but by private groups that now rule our way of thinking and decide what we can or cannot do.

Still, go visit the Atomium and if you live in Russia take a very high-resolution picture and make it available in the Internet – the world deserves to see this.

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In the end it could be worse

Some posts ago I expressed all my anger with Michel Teló and his one hit wonder “Ai se eu te pego” in http://needtowrite.com/2012/05/24/nossa-nossa-no/

Friday I was walking back home and felt tired of the songs in my MP3 player, so I decided to hear some FM radio. I am a bit schizophrenic when listening to radio or watching TV – I like to zap zap zap. During my 30 minute walk, the radios of Brussels played for 4 times the tune that seems to be the new brazilian hit in Europe: Gusttavo Lima – Balada. Here is the song:

Well, I don´t have a lot to say besides that I also don´t like this one.

Last week I was discussing with some international colleagues about brazilian music and they all said how much they liked “Ai se eu te pego”. I quickly expressed how much I hated the song. Among this international group, there were some Brazilians that reminded me that it could be worse, much worse.

And indeed, this is a possibility. Michel Teló and Gusttavo Lima are horrible, but they are still light years ahead of other big hits in Brazil in the last years.

Four years ago we were provided with the amazing “Dança do Créu”:

I don´t have words to describe how horrible this is, but it was for real a big hit in the radios and tv shows. By the way,  “Créu” is a slang for sexual intercourse.

One of the most played songs in Brazil last year was “Minha Mulher Não Deixa Não”:

This can easily be given an award for the most ridiculous dance moves ever done in a video clip. More than 3 million people saw this video, not that it means anything as this other masterpiece also had this amount of views:

Ok, this one was only a YouTube hit, mostly because it was bizarre and completely wrong. Brazilians have a doubtful musical taste, but we know how to understand when something is really bad.

The lesson here is that I should not complaint – it could easily be this kind of higher crap music playing all over Europe.

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The frustration of New Order playing live

Yesterday I was watching BBC at home. Even though I live in Brussels, our TV provider Belgacom, provides BBC1 and BBC2 in their most basic package. This is probably a reflection of the big number of foreigners that live in the city.

For some weeks, the british tv network has being showing some classical moments of their Top of The Pops show where bands play their greatest hits. Last night one of this great moments was New Order playing Blue Monday … live.

Well, I have always been a fan of New Order. My first contact with the band happened in 1994. Back then I still had a very discussable music taste. Well, the Internet was slow and MP3 was taking the first steps. Access to quality material was not as easy was it is today. In my city, Recife, there were three type of radios: The ones playing popular brazilian music, the ones playing easy listening crap and the ones playing international tuntz dance tunes. Shamefully, I stuck to the last one.

I bought the “Republic” album in a sale. One of the biggest brazilian supermarket chains probably was tricked to acquire hundreds of thousand of copies and ended up having to burn them cheaply. “Republic” is not New Order´s best album – but it helped a lot to purify my musical taste from the disposable euro dance to good quality electronic. I started to learn about Depeche Mode, Joy Division, The Human League, Soft Cell and many other – my eyes were open. Thankfully, at the same time, MP3 became popular and the speed of internet connections improved. The sky was the limit (so cliché).

In the end of last year, I was amazed by the news that New Order decided to come back (ok, without Peter Hook) to perform two benefit concerts. And even more incredible was that one of those gigs would be in Brussels! I thought to myself that this was an opportunity not to be missed. Tickets were sold out in 5 minutes, but fortunately I got two.

The reviews of the performance were overall very positive, but I was far from impressed. I do understand that it is complicated to play electronic music live, but overall it just felt so wrong. This was their first songs Elegia + Crystal:

It just felt so out of rhythm, like something was missing. Some will say Peter Hook was missing, but let´s go on. Other pieces, like 1963, were just embarrassing. Really, I felt physically ashamed of this:

Of course, there were great moments like Regret, Temptation and the fantastic Love Will Tear Us Apart, but overall I did not find them so great. I have a colleague from work who attended this gig and he said it was amazing. When I exposed him my thoughts, he told me that they were always sort of weak when playing live. And that was confirmed when I watched Top of the Pops last night. This was 1983, with Peter Hook, when they were supposed to be in their top form:

The band is great and their albums are amazing. They do suck when playing live, but, whatever, I still love New Order.

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The 1000th visit!

Well, this is a small post just to celebrate the landmark of the 1000th visit.

I am very happy with the number of visitors! In the end, this blog is basically just for my own fun and pleasure of writing.

Thank you everyone who read these stupid articles and clicked on like 🙂

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