Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Flying S**t Sack

So I've got a choice to make.

I could write about one of three things.

  1. The graffiti I made last weekend, and the demise of one of my old pieces, or
  2. The movie I went to see this evening, or
  3. The bag of human excrement that was flung onto our property this afternoon.






You already know which one I'm choosing. But I'll briefly mention the other two.

Item one: the graffiti. I had basically decided that I wasn't going to add stencils to my repetoire of street stylz, particularly because I think they've gotten a bit too trendy, but then I had an idea for one, or two actually, so I went ahead and made them. And finally last Sunday I went out and painted some:

Earlier in the week I drove by my painting of the two snakes that I was beginning to suspect was immortal, since it had survived both an election and a Carnaval, when much to my surprise, it was gone! Something was strange though, it didn't look as though it had been painted over. When I drove by it again (okay, I actually doubled back so I could have another look) I noticed that the section of wall where it had been was gone. I went back a couple days later with my camera and found it on the ground:

I couldn't figure out what happened to it. I thought maybe it got hit by a car, but I couldn't find an impact anywhere. Evani thought maybe a tree fell on it during all the rain we had last week but there was no tree debris around. Maybe the cement just got brittle and it collapsed...

Item two: the film. I actually watched a romantic comedy tonight, the kind of film I generally avoid like the plague. But I kinda enjoyed it. I used to love to go to the movies by myself, and watch some Hollywood flick that wouldn't normally interest me, providing it was not dubbed. I took Ruan and two friends to see the new Dragonball movie, and went to see I Love You Man instead. I got a couple of good laughs out of it, even though what I really wanted to see was Milk, which was no longer playing. The only thing that was kind of depressing about it was that it made me realize how few friends I have here in Brazil at this point in my life, particularly male friends. Being married to a Brazilian, it's difficult for me to have female friends (at least not straight ones) which is a bummer- like the dude in the movie, I've always had lots of female friends. Unfortunately my only male expat 'buddy' is out of the country indefinitely.

So if you don't want to read about plastic bags with shit in them I suggest this site. But it's not really much of an improvement.

Today I was working at home, minding my own business, when all of a sudden I heard a loud WHACK outside my window. I looked out and saw a bag had landed on the plastic roof panels under which we dry our laundry. I already had an idea what was in it, just from the way the plastic was bulging. I hauled it down, and sure enough, someone had taken a dump in the bag and flung it, from somewhere, in our general direction. It was impossible to know from where, but our first guess was our neighbor Mario's house.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before, if not gone into detail about, the used condom trauma we experienced after we first moved in. Almost immediately after we first moved in. Used condoms, stuffed back into their wrappers, began falling in almost exactly the same spot on our patio. The reason for this became obvious when I checked it out- they were being pushed out a cement louver-thingie used for ventilation called a comongol, although I've probably spelled that wrong. I talked to Mario, the miserable fuck neighbor, about this and he denied they were coming from his house. Heatedly. And repeatedly. Which seemed odd that he could be so certain about it seeing as how he has about 12 roomers in there at any one time.

I set up a camera and tried catching the flinger on film, I covered up the comongol from the outside with mosquito netting, but the issue wasn't resolved until some guy who was working at our house actually got hit in the head with a used condom. That was disgusting, but fortunate because he looked up and saw somebody throw the condom wrapper, which had been separated from it's foul cargo, out of a window of Mario's house. This time when I went and confronted Mario about it it was difficult for him to deny that it hadn't come from his house, although he did try. The condom flinging stopped soon afterwards. We are pretty sure to this day that it was Mario himself who was the flinger.

Logically we figured the shit slingers were also somehow associated with Mario. Except for a couple things. One, we can't prove it. Two, it hit with a pretty loud bang, which makes me think it had flown farther than from just next door. Three, if it had fallen just two feet further to the left, it would have fallen in Mario's territory, not mine. This makes me wonder if he wasn't the intended target. Certainly there are a lot more people around here with reason to dislike him than me.

Not that my neighbors don't think I'm deranged myself. This Saturday, painting by myself alone in the house, after midnight, I flung an empty can of paint at my aluminum door. Just for fun. It made a very loud noise. Later, when I poked my head out to lock this same door, I saw a bunch of people looking at me and whispering. I found out later that they thought the noise was a shot, and that I'd killed my wife, and that I was looking for a way to escape. Evani explained this to me a few days later after she got the scoop from one of our neighbors. I laughed long and hard about that one.

Another item I don't believe I've mentioned on this blog is that some people showed up at Mario's house a couple weeks ago, from some acronymed department of the city or the state or the national government, and he was informed that he has to make improvements to the house or stop renting rooms. Hey- it's not up to code! What a surprise!! Apparently the tenants were notified that they are not obligated to pay rent any longer. I got very excited about this news at the time, but this has since passed, as I now expect nothing to change. He's clearly not making any improvements to the place, and he still has his 'rooms for rent' sign out front. He's spending his days like he always does- playing cards and dominos and wandering around the largo. Hopefully he's setting himself up for the big fall. Have I mentioned the other lawsuit against him?

Man would I love for him to get shut down.

And then buy his house.

If I could.

Which I can't.

We've had other things fall out of our neighbor's places into our 'area' or 'patio' or whatever you want to call it- it's not a yard, it's more like a concrete hole about 30 feet deep. Twice rotten boards have fallen in, and many many times laundry has flown down in. Cigarette butts. I found a roach (no, not a cockroach) one time. The worst was the rat that somehow toppled in but didn't quite die in the process...

I am only grateful to the shit slinger for one thing- s/he used a sturdy bag, which did not burst. I tried to examine said bag to see if it would give me any clues about the crapper, but I got too grossed out and instead tossed the bag in front of Mario's house.

Now I'm grossing myself out.

This whole post is kind of gross.

I'll try to write about something nicer next time.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Long-Distance Kidnapping

I hesitate to write this post because I don't have as many of the details as I'd like. Yesterday a friend of mine got a very alarming phone call- someone told her they'd kidnapped her son. And told her to pay 100 reis in credit for a certain cell phone number so they could negotiate his release.

They didn't have him, it was all a lie. They did have someone who pretended to be him, in distress, on the line for a second and it was enough to fool her. What was really strange is that the number was from Rio.

As soon as I got off the phone I told Evani what happened, and she'd already heard about the scam. Apparently these calls are being placed from prisons, by prisoners, to extort money from people. She told me about one person who got a call like this, and then used her other phone (many Brazilians have two or more cell phones with different providers) to call her kid, who was fine. She told the 'kidnappers' she'd get back to them or something similar and hung up.

What disturbs me about this whole thing is that they knew her name, and her kid's name, and obviously knew her number, which I don't think is listed. Unless they got the info off of some social networking site (Orkut is huge here) or something, somebody is feeding them that information.

Just one more scary thing to worry about...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Three Things

Three big things happened today.

The first was probably the most important- I got a call from Evani's cousin, now my accountant, who told me that my new company, MarkuzArtes, is finally official after many months of bureaucracy and nonsense. This is great for several reasons, not least of which that I can now get a business rate for my health insurance, and hopefully reduce my most onerous monthly payment. Hurrah!

The next item was the most alarming: Shortly after Ruan left for school today, he called me collect from a pay phone, crying. He'd just had his cell phone stolen by a guy who threatened to knife him if he didn't hand it over quick. There's probably a couple of you reading this that remember that this almost happened last year, but Ruan didn't have a cell phone at that point. Well, the good news is that he had two this year, so he still has one. But he reeeealy liked this one that got stolen. It had a camera. His dad gave it to him. And plus the guy scared the shit out of him. He had developed the habit, annoyingly popular around here, of playing mp3's over the speaker rather than the headphones, with the phone in his pocket. Apparently this makes him feel cool. Evani and I had both warned him that this was a bad idea and if he got his phone stolen that way it was his own fault. He claims he wasn't listening to it when it was taken, not that I think he'd admit it if he was. If he was, hopefully he learned a couple lessons- not least of which being that Evani and I know what we are talking about at least part of the time.

To make him feel better, I offered to to take him to the movies, which he's been bugging me to do for a while. We went and saw Monsters vs. Aliens, the 3D version, with Lucas. Lucas, the lucky guy, has only seen two movies in the theater and one of them was 3D.

It was during the movie that I got the third big item for the day. I was watching the movie and thoroughly enjoying myself, tripping out on the amazing 3D effects, which were the best I've ever seen. And I've seen a fair number of 3D movies- when I was a kid we went and saw Creature From The Black Lagoon and I saw an awful movie called Parasite or something that completely terrified me. I even saw a 3D porn flick at a midnight showing at some hip movie house in Chicago, the same place I saw my first Ren and Stimpy cartoon.

So anyways we're watching this movie and suddenly Ruan says to me "I don't see anything. It all looks normal to me." I immediately flashed to a story I heard on NPR about a month ago, about people who don't have stereo vision. If I remember correctly, the guy reporting the story had no depth perception because he had a lazy eye as a kid. Ruan doesn't have that, but when we took him to the eye doctor she informed us that he has a defect in one of his eyes that he's had since birth, and his vision is very limited in that eye. I remember getting the 'grab the wings of the fly' test in school (it was mentioned in the NPR story too), but apparently they don't do that here. So it's back to the eye doctor for him.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Evani's not here tonight- she went to Paripe because she's going to a funeral early tomorrow morning. Someone she knew and grew up with was killed early this morning on his way back from a Candomblé festival.

I knew him too- I remember him from my first visit here, and my very first Candomblé. At that festival he was taken by the spirit of an Erê, which are child spirits that play a very important role in the Candomblé. He was very animated and charismatic, a young guy. After that I saw him at a bunch of other festivals, and he was always there in the middle of things. At the Candomblé that I brought my dad and two brothers to, he was taken by the spirit of Maria Padilla, in a black and red dress singing raunchy songs. There is a certain amount of showmanship in the Candomblé, and Jairo had it. A year or so ago he became a Pai de Santo, or Candomblé priest. There was some whispering that he was too young to be a full Pai de Santo, but there's a lot of whispering that goes on around the Candomblé as well.

Jairo left a festival after three in the morning and was walking back to his house along a notoriously dangerous stretch of road, by himself. He was knifed to death. Apparently the killing was not a robbery, as nothing was taken. He was close to his house, where he had lived his whole life, and there is some question whether this was the end result of a reixa, or feud. My question is whether he might not have been killed because he was gay, or possibly even because of his involvement in the Candomblé.

They bury their dead quickly here in Brazil, and Jairo would have been interred already if he didn't have a sister coming up from São Paulo for the funeral. I didn't know him well but I'll miss him all the same. I know I have some photos of him somewhere, I'll try to dig one up and post it here on the blog.

RIP Jairo

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Saturday is Graffiti Day

I had better luck this time.

This was painted a short distance from my house, in a spot I'd been eyeing for some time. I had originally planned to paint a companion to the guy sitting in the chair (painted by some anonymous graffiteiro), but as so often happens I had a flash of inspiration earlier in the week that trumped all my previous schemes. Like so many of my pieces, this was done from a 30 second sketch.

This guy has a great spot- he gazes out over the ocean, and he's right across the street from the Museum of Modern Art. He's located right by a traffic light, so lots of people will get to check him out as they wait for the light to change. He also has the company of a few of Salvador's biggest names in graffiti and street art:

Bel Borba, whose tile mosaic work is all over the place,

and Limpo and Peace, two of the most prolific and abstract graffiteiros here in the city. Limpo, as I've mentioned before, is directly responsible for me getting into this scene. Unfortunately, he's moving to Sweden soon.

I painted this in the blazing sun, luckily I remembered my hat and sunblock this time. The most time consuming aspect of this piece was the latex undercoat, which took forever to apply to the unfinished concrete surface. Nobody bothered me, one homeless guy said "Oi, pintor!" which means "Hey painter!" but beyond that I got no comments except for those on Facebook, where I posted a photo.

I never had ambitions to do stencil work, but once again I was inspired and I made two on Friday. I had thought to go out and stencil up the town today, but I think I'll wait until next week- yesterday was a good day.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lucas' Fourth - The Batman Birthday

I said I was going to write a post about Lucas' birthday, and I will- right now. After a crazy week of work that included one 4:30 AM bedtime, I have a little more time for this kind of thing.

But first, let me reflect on the importance of not waiting a week to write about something. My blog is littered with posts that didn't get finished, and therefore didn't get published. And you didn't read them. The immediacy goes away, and life, like the river it is, sweeps the subject away in the current, or maybe it's me that gets swept by as the event remains on the shore. My best posts pour out of me in the urgency I feel when something intense has happened, or something I feel strongly about is ringing about in my head. If I wait too long, I won't write about it.

So enough waxing poetic and let's talk kid's birthday parties. 'Parties' plural is accurate, because Lucas had two parties on the same day, same as last year. One at school, and one at home. Two cakes. Two birthday songs. Two sets of guests. Two everything.

I warned in an earlier post from this week that I was going to complain a bit as I wrote about the birthday- let me get that out of the way. My wife spent three entire days preparing for Lucas' birthday- not just her, but she had the help of one person for the entire time, and two others for one day apiece. That's eight full days of preparation for a four year old. Back when I was a kid, my mom made a cake and bought some ice cream and all our friends came over (or in my little brother's case, the friends were mostly mine) and we sang happy birthday and ate cake and ice cream and maybe we went sledding and maybe we went swimming and that was the end of that. Admittedly, there were generally a lot more presents at our parties than Lucas gets (not a bad thing I think), but it was not a herculean effort to put on the party. I still, even after almost seven years here, can't relate to the amount of time and effort, and money, that goes into putting on a party. When Evani did this on Lucas' first birthday, I freaked out. She explained that first birthdays are a big deal here, much bigger than other years. This is true, and I relented. And although that was the biggest birthday, my feeling is that the following three birthdays have been far bigger than they needed to be.

Okay, enough about that. I wanted to talk about Lucas. I believe I've mentioned before on this blog that themed birthdays are a big deal here. It's The Incredibles or Power Rangers or Hello Kitty or in Lucas' case this year, it was Batman. It occurs to me that I've never seen the paraphernalia for a Woody Woodpecker birthday party, which is a surprise since he's so popular here. Last year it was Superman, this year Batman, and he's already put in for next year's theme- Spider Man.

So we went out and bought Batman cups. And party hats. And napkins. Well, not napkins. Not this year. But there were Batman cutouts to tape on the wall. And a special Batman candle. And of course two Batman cakes.

But most important of all was the Batman outfit. Lucas loves to wear costumes, and he'd been bugging me for weeks about his Batman costume. For some reason, he got it in his head that his Grammy was going to give him this outfit and we were going to go to her house to get it. Seeing as how Grammy lives a couple thousand miles away in Massachusetts this was logistically impractical, but that's hard to explain to a four year old. He practically did a back flip when I pulled out the costume on Monday morning. He doesn't want to take it off and probably won't for weeks yet.

In addition to all the aforementioned stuff there were also hundreds of tiny, bite-sized sweet things and tiny, bite-sized fried things. And baked things. That's what took all the preparation. Little kibes and empanados and pãozinhos and cochinhas and white chocolate goodies with raisins in them and milk chocolate goodies with prunes in them and who knows what else. I have to admit they were all quite delicious.

I'm going to spare you all the details of the events. It's late and I'm tired and some things have to remain private from the blogosphere. However, here are the highlights, as seen through a doting father's eyes:

  • Watching all 25 of Lucas' classmates line up to give him a hug for his birthday.
  • Hearing Lucas' teacher say how impressed she was that Lucas was being so generous with all the birthday stuff- apparently at the last birthday, the birthday boy kept crying whenever his dad tried to give something to the other kids
  • Seeing Lucas thank his mom and give her a big hug for all the work she did for his birthday.
  • Watching Lucas almost do a second backflip when he got his big present- a brand new Hot Wheels bicycle complete with training wheels!
  • Most importantly, seeing Lucas enjoy himself thoroughly.

Finally, I'm going to leave you with the Brazilian birthday song, which differs greatly from our version and has regional differences as well. This one is from the school party- you can see that we aren't sure how many times to sing each verse:

Happy Birthday Batman!!

Sunday is Graffiti Day - The One That Got Away

Today I planned to paint my biggest piece yet. I did quite a bit of planning for this one actually; making several sketches, buying spray and latex paint, mixing up an acceptable shade of light blue and getting all my cans, rollers and assorted gear together. Unfortunately, things didn't end up going according to plan.

As with my last big piece, I was pretty nervous setting out. The location I had picked out, and marked for myself some weeks ago, is right off a major artery in the city and directly in front of the huge supermarket where we get most of our groceries. It was going to get a lot of 'eyeballs' as they say in marketing. Evani told me, as she has in the past, that I was nuts to go out and do something like this by myself, but as it was a very public location and I was doing it during the day I wasn't worried.

When I set out with Evani (who I left at a bus stop on the way), I remarked at how lucky I am to have a car to lug all my stuff around. This was to be a big painting, and I had a five gallon bucket of latex paint, plus two single-gallon buckets, plus two bags of cans, a plastic stool to stand on, water to drink, etc. Much more than I could have lugged to the spot by hand. There was a 'striped-off' area of the asphalt right in front of the intended wall, so I just pulled my car into it and got started. Sunday is a very low traffic day here, so I didn't think I'd be causing any problems by parking there.

I had written Kuza vai voltar, which means 'Kuza will be back,' which I thought was pretty clever- I amuse myself quite easily.

Things started out pretty well- I spent a long time scraping off the shitty white paint that had been slapped on to cover the last round of political campaign nonsense and a lot of the many layers of posters and other political campainging beneath it. The area was free of big burners, although it did have some crappy throw-ups next to where I was painting, a couple of them by graffiteiros capable of much more polished work. I had a feeling the wall hadn't been messed with because of its lousy surface- as I mentioned in my last graffiti related post, the good graffiteiros turn their noses up at a wall that presents problems and may flake off. What was more surprising is that no pichadores have hit this wall yet with one of their fifty yard squiggly lines that makes the wall unavailable, according to local graffiti etiquette, to other artists. After about an hour I gave up scraping as the hopeless task that it was and started sketching, using up a bunch of almost empty cans I have had laying around forever.

As you can see, this one continues with the 'happy people' theme that was the subject of my last painting. I hope to do a bunch of these eventually. I kept moving everything to the left, because there was so much blank wall to work with. One guy I repainted four times. After finally getting the sketch to more or less where I wanted it, I started rolling the latex on. I had decided to fill up the background with arrows, partly because this is a classic element of graffiti, and partly because I have always loved arrows. When I was in seventh grade, I was kind of obsessed with them. I'm over that now. Pretty much.

As you can see, I was also finally getting out of the blast furnace of the tropical sun and very much looking forward to the shade. Having forgotten my hat and suntan lotion at home, I put a none too clean cloth that I keep in my car on my head and held it down with my respirator.

Luckily I had taken this off when The Guy came up to me.

The Guy asked, none too politely, if I had permission to paint there. I initially said yes, trying to feel out what was clearly a bad turn of events. The guy then told me that he was the owner of the wall, and the business contained within. I changed my story and told him I didn't actually have permission, and he changed his story and told me he wasn't the owner, he was actually the son of the owner.

There's a popular bumper sticker here in Brazil, or maybe it's just in Bahia, that reads Não sou dono do mundo, mas eu sou filho do dono, or: "I'm not the owner of the world, but I'm the son of the owner." I think this refers to the fact that the sons of bosses are often worse than the bosses themselves. Stories of the misdeeds of the children of the upper and middle classes are legion and bring new meaning to the term privileged, but The Guy clearly didn't fit into that category, he was way too scruffy looking.

I have had pretty good luck defusing confrontations with people by being extremely polite and reasonable. I called The Guy Senhor and stepped off the curb so I wasn't looking down at him. I said placating things. However, despite my best efforts The Guy wasn't going to be defused. To his credit, he didn't go batshit ballistic on me as I have seen Bahianos do with some frequency in my time here, and maybe my diplomacy helped in that regard. I told him I was going to make the wall look better, that what I was painting was a definite improvement to the present state it was in and would be much nicer than the throw-ups that were already painted there. He said no I wouldn't, and now I was going to pay, and he made the universal finger-rubbing 'pay' gesture. I was going to pay a fine. A five thousand real fine, which is about 2,270 USD according to my laptop. He wanted to know, again, who gave me permission to paint there. I told him nobody, but that folks constantly go out and paint graffiti without permission, which is true. He wanted to know who gave me permission to park my car there, and told me I'd get fined for that too.

This is when I started to get annoyed. I wasn't particularly concerned about a five thousand real fine, but he had no grounds to threaten me about my probably illegal parking job. Maybe The Guy really was the son of the owner of the wall, but sure as shit he's not the son of the owner of the road, and in a country where traffic laws are almost never enforced, especially non-moving violations on a Sunday, he was clearly power tripping and trying to scare me. When he made the finger rubbing gesture it occurred to me that he might have just been some random guy who saw a chance to shake me down for ten or twenty reis by threatening me with severe economic harm. If that was his intention, he was outta luck, as I had two reis in my pocket, and I wasn't prepared to give him a dime of it. I also didn't let him know I was annoyed.

What I did was offer to paint over what I had started. I told him I had plenty of white paint and I'd leave the wall just how I'd found it. We went back and forth a couple times until he was apparently satisfied and he told me he wanted to see my painting gone by tomorrow. As a parting shot he told me that they didn't accept this kind of vagabundagem around there. Vagabundagem describes the kind of thing a vagabundo would do, and calling someone a vagabundo (lowlife or vagrant, etc) is a pretty serious insult here in Brazil. I told him I was not a vagabundo and that I earn ten times more than he does. Actually, I only said half of that. It's also possible that I only earn five times what he does. I did call him an asshole under my breath as he finally walked away. But before that happened, he asked me again if Senhor Whoever, who was the actual owner of the place, had given me permission to paint there.

This last comment reinforced three doubts that had arisen during this confrontation: One, that he wasn't really the son of the owner, two, that maybe he'd been drinking and that's why he kept repeating himself, and three that he'd really only been after some money, perhaps to continue with his drinking. Or maybe he was wavering. I had another encounter with an owner where he ordered me to take something down and then changed his mind and said I could leave it up. But I wasn't going to take any chances- better to can the project and call it a day. If nothing else I'd get a good blog post out of it.

Now about that vagabundagem comment: this was silly for several reasons. First of all, clearly they did tolerate vagabundagem around there because part of the wall already had those throw-ups on it and nobody'd bothered to paint over them. Second, by not letting me paint there, he was guaranteeing more vagabundagem, because for sure some pichador is going to put some hideous squiggle down that wall before long. But as we respect the walls they have claimed, they likewise respect ours. Third, clearly this wall has been used many many times for political campaigning, and every Brazilian knows that politicians are the biggest vagabundos of all.

I had plenty of time to think about all this as I painted over what I'd started. Luckily, The Guy showed up before I had started using the good, expensive paint I'd bought- mostly I'd just used up those old cans that I've been trying to get rid of forever anyways. I thought about various things I could do to make the wall look nicer, but not upset the owner, like painting simple blue stripes or painting the name of the business in big letters where I'd been about to paint my piece. I discarded that idea since The Guy was such a jerk to me, but the next time a similar situation arises I might try it. I also considered, not for the first time, returning to the scene of the 'crime' in the guise of the pichador vagabundo that I'm not and painting a large erect phallus with a pair of hairy testicles on the wall. This was pleasing to think about, in a vengeful sort of way, but it goes against everything I believe about graffiti and what graffiti should be as part of a community, and also how to keep it popular with the general population. I wouldn't want my kid to have to walk by a six-foot painting of a penis every day.

So here's hoping two things: first, that I don't get any fines in the next couple days, and second, that the next painting makes it to completion. One more thing: my wife, from whom I expected a big I told you so when I told her what happened, was very sympathetic and said she was sorry the painting didn't happen.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Phone Company Hell

I keep hearing about companies that are "too big to fail." It seems clear that there is a second category of companies that are "too big to function." It seems there is an easy solution to this: make them smaller and let them die.

I met an anti-trust lawyer once, extremely nice guy, we had dinner together back in 2000 or 2001 I think. He told me that he spent most of his time arguing in court that breaking up companies was unneccesary, that the market would take care of itself. I found this very odd but I didn't say anything, after all, he and his wife were treating me to dinner. Well, we all know how that turned out.

I generally figure that corporations are fine until something goes wrong, and then watch out. Trying to get a corporation to make good on a fuckup is like a dinosaur searching for a tiny splinter in its ass.

Believe it or not I try to keep the complaining posts to a minimum on this blog, but I have to vent a little bit. I'll keep it short.

I just got off the phone, for the fourth time, with the big Brazilian telephone behemoth Telemar. I have been trying to cancel my previous plan with them as I transferred to a new company in search of better service. Well, the new company hasn't been tested yet for it's level of competence, but Telemar continues to prove itself utterly useless. They didn't cancel my rather expensive plan that covered my land line, my DSL, and two cell phones, and today they charged me, in full, for the entire plan. I have tried four times to cancel this account and every time they express surprise and tell me there's an error in the system, and nothing happens.

And now I have to argue over money with these people.

To add insult to injury, yesterday I received a bill for a modem that they claimed was not returned: luckily, I have a signed piece of paper with 'Receipt for Return of Modem' writ large across the top. With my last broadband provider, I realized they had been billing me for a much more expensive modem than they had given me- despite my returning the modem and getting the technician to sign a form that the fancier modem was not returned to him, they stubbornly insisted that 'it was in the computer' and I must be wrong. I don't do business with them anymore.

The other thing that I find really ironic about this whole thing is that every time I call, every time, invariably I get transfered three or four times and the last person I speak to sounds like they are talking on a cell phone, while walking down a busy street, with the phone held at arm's length from their head. Okay, it happens, but we're talking about the biggest phone company in Brazil. Don't you think they'd at least have their in-house phone lines in order? Or give their staff working headsets?

I will take these people to court if I have to. I am completely fed up with this crap.

Okay, I'm done now. I feel better. I really wanted my next post to be about Lucas' birthday, which was on Monday. I'll write that one too, I promise. But be warned, I'll probably complain some in that one too.