Brazil's amazing, underground hot-air balloon subculture


As a Brazilian, I can tell you that this is more than moral panic. Those balloons are a major fire hazard. There are many, many instances of fires breaking out because of balloons in forests, homes, warehouses… They’re also a huge air traffic hazard (listen to ATC near major airports and you’re pretty much guaranteed to hear pilots complain about them). Just last week a balloon “landed” in the tarmac of Brazil’s largest airport, barely missing an airliner. To top that off, they’re annoying. These balloons usually carry fireworks and are launched late at night, so you’ll wake up at 2 AM to the awesome sounds of fireworks. Sure, they’re pretty to look at, but they’re also a really bad idea.


Indeed! The article should have mentioned this very simple fact.


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“Flying giant fuel-and-fireworks-filled paper kites on fire, that land wherever the wind takes them, all over densely populated cities? Whatever could go wrong?”

(Fellow Brazilian here. Not a fan. It’s underground for a reason.)

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Or maybe we’re too nanny state over here and lack the proper cultural perspective only foreign article writers can provide (with their exquisite research and everything).

So. Could the fire-kite subculture be so awesome it’s actually worth the risk of a few random forest fires, burned homes and businesses and people and so on? Discuss.

Edit. Not foreign, this one. Anyways.

Or maybe the fact that it’s a really terrible idea doesn’t make it uninteresting to learn about the people, the subculture around it, and its history. Wanting to read about subcultures like the mafia, rings of thieves, drug gangs, people who race cars on city streets, all kinds of people doing idiotic, antisocial, and dangerous things - doesn’t actually mean you have to support the activity at its centre; nor does it mean the writer supports the thing. It just means it’s a cultural phenomenon that’s interesting to write and read about

I recognize that it’s a totally bad idea, and the response of making it an illegal activity is probably the right one - and yet I found the article fascinating. The only one to bring up this “nanny state” nonsense was you.

You’re not really responding to what I said. I agree with your every statement. The article is good, reading about it is interesting, the author might or might not support it personally.

The nanny state nonsense I did bring up was a send-up on one thing only: the “moral panic” part that suggests that Brazilians who prefer their shit not burned as a result of someone else’s hobby/art/form of expression are, like, total square buzzkills, man.

That’s condescending as heck, with (to me) very annoying undertones of “oh, those silly ethnic folks can’t even recognize their own cool culture”. I happen to disagree.

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I see - I missed that reference. That’s fair.

Not knowing the tone of the public discussion or how the Brazilian authorities and media have been treating the issue, I can’t tell if the term “moral panic” is at all appropriate. Certainly it would imply that the reaction has been disproportionate to the problem, which you are in a better position to judge.

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Exactly. It is a very interesting read, no discussion about that. Like you, I just take umbrage at the whole “moral panic” / “hysterical news stories” thing. I find it hard to picture someone saying “Look at that beautifully crafted fireball slowly descending into that inconveniently placed oil refinery”.

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I cannot tell you how disappointed I am to find out that the hot-air balloons are not, in fact, underground…

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