Brick By Brick

The Wall Came Down 25 Years
Ago But Others Remain Defiant

It was a typical public jubilation moment: thousands of happy people, front cover news around the world, an event of political resonance (and appropriation too) and catharsis like few. It happened a generation ago: on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall finally came down.
But just as other similar, long overdue moments have been before it and since, when the symbolic end of the Cold War arrived, it was swift, pregnant with hope, and just as quickly, deeply dissatisfying. A quarter of a century later, we’re bound to question even its relevance.
It didn’t even end the détente, that unbearably nervous post-war time between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that for years paralyzed the world with fear. We now can see it for what it was: just a pro-forma liberation hour, coming late to rubber-stamp its own obsolescence.
But it was a jubilation all the same. Those who endured 28 years of that cruel scar, splitting heart and country in the middle, surely deserved to celebrate it all with gusto. Before long, however, it all wound up in a museum.
Sunday will culminate a week long commemoration, and images of mostly young people climbing crumbling logs of concrete, and a few survivor old timers too, crying like happy babies, will make the headlines. Not as breaking news, though; but as a cultural landmark.
We’ll take it anyway, of course. Times have been hard on reasons to be cheerful, and saturated with the kind of heartbreak that built the wall in the first place. So, heaven forbid if we let such an occasion to be merry pass, and, by all means, let’s have a worldwide party.

KEEPING THEM PEOPLE OUTSIDE
For 20th century standards, the fall of the Berlin Wall was an unbeatable icon of optimism and hope in the future. Some would argue that bottled down anger Continue reading

John & João

JFK and Brazil’s Military
Coup, Set in His Own Words

When we wrote in November about the exhumation of João Goulart, the Brazilian president deposed by a 1964 military coup, and the spooky coincidence of that happening on the 50th year anniversary of John Kennedy’s assassination, we didn’t know half of it.
But now the audio of a meeting at the White House with Ambassador to Brazil Lincoln Gordon, on Oct. 7, 1963, confirms what has already been suspected for years: that JFK had openly considered the possibility of supporting a military intervention in Brazil.
The audio containing the bombshell revelation was released recently, without transcript, by the Kennedy Library, and became part of Italian-born Brazilian journalist Elio Gaspari‘s 4-volume exposé of the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil for 20-odd years.
The U.S.’s likely role is pivot to A Ditadura Envergonhada (The Ashamed Dictatorship in free Portuguese translation), and permeates Gaspari’s Archives of the Dictatorship, an extensive documentation and analysis of the time, now on the Internet and slated to be published next month.
In a wider context, the books join the effort of segments of the Brazilian society to understand and come to terms with this dark period of its history, still relatively untapped by historians and, not Continue reading

Dead Presidents

Exhumation of Brazil’s João
Set for Month of John in the U.S.

It’s just a coincidence, but as the U.S. President John Kennedy’s assassination 50 years ago this month spawned the mother of all conspiracies, the exhumation of João Goulart, Brazil’s last democratically elected president before the 1964 military coup, is indeed spooky.
We’re not making light of what’s pretty much one of Brazil’s first attempts at exhuming its own past. Goulart’s death in Mercedes, Argentina, on Dec. 6, 1976, has been the subject of popular suspicions that he was poisoned, not felled by his heart, ever since.

After all, the dictatorship that had deposed him was at the peak of its most ravaging efforts to eradicate from the national memory his leftist legacy of populism. Plus, less than four months earlier, his predecessor, Juscelino Kubitschek, had also died in mysterious circumstances.
Earlier this year, the National Truth Commission, which has a mandate to probe human rights violations during the military rule, said it’d been Continue reading

Fools’ Errand

The Cruelest Month & the
Wasteful Land of Hoaxers

April is here again, and that may be one of the few things you may be sure about its first day. Yes, it’s high time for jokesters of all stripes, including the miserable kind old Eliot may have alluded to in his epic. So all we can say is, be mindful out there today.
For in college dorms and at offices across the land, misguided tricksters may be tempting serious injury, and who can trust the sense of humor of digital avatars, these days. Better tread with caution, weary traveler, for no amount of solemnity may mend a catastrophic mishap.
On the other (sleight of) hand, though, we just can’t wait to see what will be the dominant hoax of the day, and, slow as we are, how long we’ll take to realize, hopefully in time, our endless gullibility. Lacking any insights to add, we’re republishing our 2012 post on deceiving and fooling as we saw it then.
May the cleverest and the most benign prevail this Monday, even though we doubt it. As it usually goes, someone always gets hurt, and their fall is the undue wage paid to devilish intent. In other words, we wish it were all fun and games, but the flesh is weak and we may find ourselves laughing at somebody’s expense. Damn us.

***
Sleight of Minds

In Leap Years, April Fool’s
Comes a Full Hoax Earlier

Who doesn’t know the expression, don’t fool yourself? And yet, we love to do just that. We go to great lengths pretending we don’t know what we should, and we don’t feel how it hurts. Aches, longings and desire, jealousy, hatred and grief, we’re all great at deceiving our own hearts into believing things can’t be that bad. Yet, they’re usually much worse.
We brag about how far we’ve got, how good we are, how much better is our god. Such gullibility makes the work of hoaxers not just easy, but necessary. So thank your phony stars for another April Fool’s Day, for it may provide respite and restore sanity.
You may fear if it ignites a conspiracy, a collective craze, the hysteric crowd. But those would have happened with or without pranksters. After all, paranoid buffs may believe they’ve uncovered the truth; everybody else is sure there’s no way of knowing it.
It may also look as if we’re a full day ahead of schedule, but in any but a Leap Year, today would be April 1. Which was once celebrated in January, and December, and March 32nd., which even in the 14th century was no longer possible.
So, either way, it’s a day of ambiguity and humor, even when at first you may feel like dismembering anyone who dares to punk you.

THE SHIP OF FOOLS SAILS ON
For some reason, the 20th century was plagued by all sorts of political conspiracy theories that arose from one too many behind-close-doors machinations. Many believe they’re are surely behind (excuse us if we Continue reading

Sleight of Minds

In Leap Years, April Fool’s
Comes a Full Hoax Earlier

Who doesn’t know the expression, don’t fool yourself? And yet, we love to do just that. We go to great lengths pretending we don’t know what we should, and we don’t feel how it hurts. Aches, longings and desire, jealousy, hatred and grief, we’re all great at deceiving our own hearts into believing things can’t be that bad. Yet, they’re usually much worse.
We brag about how far we’ve got, how good we are, how much better is our god. Such gullibility makes the work of hoaxers not just easy, but necessary. So thank your phony stars for another April Fool’s Day, for it may provide respite and restore sanity.
You may fear if it ignites a conspiracy, a collective craze, the hysteric crowd. But those would have happened with or without pranksters. After all, paranoid buffs may believe they’ve uncovered the truth; everybody else is sure there’s no way of knowing it. Continue reading

Half-Past Time

The Cat You May Pet
In the Quantum Tea Box

We may be closer to find out whether that cat that Schrödinger imagined 76 years ago is either dead or alive. It’s now both but we won’ attempt to explain how: we need to be somewhere else.
At a Shop of Cats in Tokyo. We can’t wait to have a tea and hope one of them will accept our petting. They really know what’s their place: somewhere above you.
For now, cat-deprived New Yorkers can have a virtual playdate with a trio of them, through Bideawee. Just press some controls on your computer to move the toys, and be ready to be ignored by the resident stars.
During the few minutes that your session lasts, you may notice two Continue reading

Cat & Dogs

Missing Pet in New York &
the Subway Strays of Moscow

A hunt is on for a lost cat at the JFK Airport. In the meantime, dogs have been riding Russian trains for ages.
First things first: Jack, the cat, disappeared from his kennel at JFK and missed the plane to California that his human companion boarded last Thursday.
The last we heard, he’s still missing and heartbroken Karen, the New Yorker who was flying to San Jose, is willing to lose her job to find Jack. Our Continue reading