Meat Market

The Gruesome & the Murderous in
the Global Demand for Body Parts

At the end of the day, it’s all in the eye of the beholder. There are at least two ways to consider the subject of today’s post: with outrage, shock and disgust; or with the detached POV of a fly on the wall of a possible future. Someday, the human body may be treated just like animal parts are now, and the same obliviousness, to serve as a harvestable source of replacement organs.
We’ll give a few for those on the front row seats to leave. Thanks for coming and come back soon; we’re working on a story about butterflies you may be interested. For those cold-bloodied enough to stay – you know who and what you are – boy, do we have a treat for you today. We may touch issues about free will, ritualistic killings, and fabrications of the pro-life movement.
Let’s get something out of the way, though: as long as you’re not doing anything to physically harm someone else, your body is yours for the taking. So you may stuff it, loaded with chemicals and smoke, starve it, mistreat it, twist it, or tattoo it, and negatively impress the kids by the way you abuse it.
It may not be nice, or healthy, or polite. Your neighbors may file complains against you. Family and friends may hold heated interventions about your rotten ways. You may find yourself in jail or having become the scorn of your generation. That’s terrible, we know, really ugly. But still, well within the confines of your right to inherit and dispose of your own body.

It’s what some people do to other people’s bodies, though, specifically when done to those who are not in agreement with the proceedings, however the justification being used, that may deserve the full (more)
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Aurora in New York

Lorca, the Voice of Spain
That Franco Could Not Kill

‘I realized they had murdered me. They ransacked the cafés, the graveyards, the churches… But they never found me? No. They never found me.’ This eerie Federico Garcia Lorca (mis)quote accurately describes what has actually happened for over half a century.
Until the early 2000s, when rumors were finally confirmed that he’d been shot and buried in a mass grave by a Spanish right-wing falange, 80 years ago this Friday, the mystery of Lorca’s demise only compounded to his allure. And his body still remains undiscovered.
In the meantime, the fascist regime that killed him, and ruled Spain until dictator Francisco Franco was finally dead in 1975, lasted too long but not nearly as long as will both Lorca‘s legacy and the world’s acknowledgement of his greatness. His stature has actually increased.
Before we pat each other’s back, though, on the assumption that poets always win over despots, let’s not forget the grim fate of thousands of Spaniard republicans, who were also murdered, but unlike Lorca, were buried along their names, personal history, and ideal of a free world.
While Franco, and so many others, died ‘peacefully’ in their sleep, the tormented lives of those they killed or sent to the gallows left plenty of grief to spare for generations. Luckily for Lorca, who was far from being a political animal, something else was going on for him.

Already well known in Spain for his folk-inflected poetry and popular plays, his disappearance spiked interest on his work abroad, and his collection Poet en Nueva York, of poems written during his 10-month-long U.S. visit, in 1929-30, granted him critical acclaim.
Slowly too, the acknowledgment of his homosexuality has taken a front role in the appreciation of his work. Salvador Dali, who’s believed to have been his lover, had no qualms admitting it, although typically adding that their relation had been ‘very painful.’
In the end, though, regardless of his sexual orientation, it’s on his 20-odd years body of work where answers about the endurance of his legacy may lay. That’s what happens when a life is cut short, but in the case of Lorca, much remains to be savored and subjected to wider exposure.
As for his death, many are ambivalent about the renewed search for his body. Ironically, it’s the kin of those who fought and perished in the Spanish Civil War that may have at least part of their (more)
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Curtain Raiser

Heat & the Fire Next Door, Colltalers

The heat is on. But that has little to do with current high temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere. Unlike those, climate change, and related global warming, is man made, a concept only reinforced by disturbing recent news. In fact, heat is the least of your concerns.
For the Olympics-unchallenged, who keep count of everything, mankind’s already low score in the fight to reverse climate change has just sunk lower: melting permafrost has triggered a deadly anthrax outbreak in Siberia, and exposed U.S.’s radioactive waste in Greenland.
The (bad) news adds up to an already alarming trend caused by the Arctic’s diminishing ice cap, reported last year: the exposure of ancient pools of methane, a heat-trapping gas that, when released into the atmosphere, packs more heat than fuel fossil-produced carbon dioxide.
Mankind’s count is down because, despite major steps to counter the effects of climate change, reducing emissions and phasing out coal and oil-based energy, for instance, taken by governments around the world, they have been systematically undermined by well known players.
First, there’s a global campaign to minimize those steps, fueled by a rising, right-wing nationalist sentiment, that threatens to turn back the clock. Behind it, energy industry-sponsored politicians have worked non-stop to enforce just such an agenda.
Then, there’s a still staggering economic and social gap between the industrialized world and developing nations, already plagued by an unfair wealth distribution system, and a corporate-driven globalization that has all but cheapen labor and sabotaged environmental efforts.
Lastly, everything takes time. While global temperatures have been breaking every record – 2015 was the warmest year in history, and last May, the warmest month ever – efforts to counter Continue reading

The 29

The Day I’ve Landed & the One
Question I’ve Been Always Asked

People like round numbers and big ‘Os’ are all the rage. Birthdays and anniversaries seem much louder if the date ends with a zero. But not me, I like fractured numbers. Evens are fine, but the odd ones hold a special slot on my book. Like 29, for instance.
It’s been that many years since I’ve arrived in Manhattan, in what was supposed to be a short season at the center of the world, and turned into the skin of a lifetime. 29 was also my roll call in grade school, before a classmate whose initial was ‘Y’. 
Just don’t ask about primes. For this special relationship with digits may be also why two major areas of the human experience have always been hostile to me: Math and lotto. Neither did me any favors, despite the fact that it’d love to be their pets. Numbers are cold that way.
While that’ll likely to remain the same, the New York where I’ve landed has changed many times over, though. And so have I, who lived, died, and reincarnated into so many different lives, none of which I’ve ever thought I’d pick, inherit, own. There may be some stats for those odds.
Here I’ve fell out of love, and fell right back in again; had a few changes of heart, and had it broken many times too, twice over losing my cats, all the while switching my tongue and aging into a cranky old man.
Departed parents, and a brother, and a few friends, could not inform the transformation taking place outside my sore eyes. But all it takes is a glance of that shrinking face staring back at me to see I was not spared: soon enough, my number too will be up.
I got to say, all these pretty pics of Rio and its games, being shown nightly, have made me jealous. A life can be crammed into a few strokes; any body can be stuffed into a piece of luggage. It’s what seeps through and stains the pavement that attracts notice.
I’ve always thought that my footprints were going to lead me all the way back to the Marvelous City. But now it’s another place oblivious to my run. In the end, 29 may number the things I did good while calculating the odds. I can’t think of a single one right now, though.
Why did I leave? I was asked over and over. When I was done dismissing it, I tried to settle the matter. At some point, I wrote a short essay about it. That’s what I’m sharing with you today. Hey, happy anniversary of my trip across the ocean. I have no regrets.


I left Brazil because I used to feel like a foreigner. Born in Rio but raised in the South, my accent sounds alien. A friend defined it for me, ‘you speak like someone who’s on the go.’ Years of living abroad have certainly not improved my situation. Most likely, I’m forgotten to all but a few, and to most, I never even existed. I left Brazil because we did not speak the same language.

I left Brazil, in part, because my name triggered jokes and personal grief. It’s not Brazilian enough, and people looked funny at me pronouncing it. Spelling mistakes plagued me whenever it there was a form to fill. Worse, some would size me up, suspicious that it was a ploy. As if Dad — an Episcopalian Reverend in a mostly Catholic country — had committed an act of sedition by calling us Norton, Norris, Wesley, and Joyce Mag. And I had to pay for his treason. I had to leave Brazil before someone accused me of unbrazilian activities.

I also left my country because, while most Brazilians are of mixed race, no one likes to admit it. Hot-iron treatment remains a staple of inner city beauty parlors. Living in the South didn’t help it either. Down there, the majority is of European heritage — have you heard of someone named Giselle something? For my blond, blue-eyed class, I was neither white nor black. ‘With a foot in Africa’, they would add, heavy on the innuendo. That I’ve been proud of my black blood was never the case. I had to leave Brazil after one too many, ‘Go back to Africa!’

I had to leave Brazil because Brazilian music is seldom heard on the radio. The country’s exquisite music tradition is today unfashionable. This may sound like whining. Whether contemporary music in Brazil is in a regressive mode or I am the one getting older and cranky, is irrelevant. As an experiment, round up a group of jazz players and question them about their favorite music. I assure you, four out of five will pick Brazilian. Do the same in Brazil and chances are, Justin and Eminem or Kanye will top the list. Not offense but I forced myself to leave Brazil so to enjoy and play Brazilian music.

Finally, I had to leave Brazil because I was unhappy. Simply put, I had a good job but had no money. I was close to family and friends but getting farther and farther from my dreams, which I sill have plenty, thanks for asking. Traveling and living abroad was in one of my first to-do lists, compiled while still in school. I had acquaintances telling me, ‘you lucky bastard, got a good job and a good woman; you’re set for life. Why leave?’ I’ve given myself the right to disagree. I left the job but kept the woman. Most come to America to find themselves. I had to leave Brazil to get lost.

Curtain Raiser

Rushing the Doomsday Clock, Colltalers

It may be hard to grasp this but the world was a bit safer on last year’s grim 70th anniversary of the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That’s because, unlike in 1945, there wasn’t a realistic possibility of a U.S. president to even think about using nuclear power for war again.
Not anymore. Suddenly, the thought of some 2,000 nuclear weapons being at the fingertips of a would-be president who’s currently on a nasty Twitter battle with a dead American soldier’s grieving family, became all too real, at least to those who know what it all implies.
Granted, that’s too much power to be granted to a single individual, and given a choice, most would have reservations, even if the Pope or the Dalai Lama were in control of them. Be as it may, however, in our world, someone does have the codes for that suitcase from hell.
Also, to peace and anti-nuke activists, there’s not much difference between Republican candidate Donald Trump’s cavalier, and supposedly rhetorical, line of questioning on ‘why can’t we use them?’ and Democrat Hillary Clinton’s expected reaction as a president, in case the U.S. is threatened by another nuclear power. Both responses could lead to the end of civilization. But the comparison is a false equivalence.
At the World Social Forum, which gathers in Toronto this week for a second annual conference, nuclear armaments and their inherent risks to world peace will be central to several of its panel discussions. Which goes along with its overall theme, ‘Another World Is Needed.’
Created in January 2001 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, as a humanistic alternative to the better-funded World Economic Forum, Continue reading

The Crying Games

Five Rings Above Misery (Telegraph/Getty)

A Bruised Rio Hosts Its
Low-Expectations Olympics

What a difference 10 years make. A decade ago, when Rio begun its cavalcade to host the Summer Olympics, Brazil was swimming in optimism. Unprecedented economic growth and a hard-earned period of political and social stability suddenly gave Brazilians much-sought global respect and the drive to dream that yes, they could.
In a country suffused with body culture, nothing would’ve marked that spirit as winning the bid for both the games and also the 2014 World Cup. From that point in history, only those two mega-sport events could represent a fitting coronation to what turned out to be an exceptional but miserably elusive moment.
The Olympics and Paralympics competitions that start officially Friday, however, are taking place in a radically different country. Long gone are the joy and effusiveness that fueled the celebrations for being chosen, in October 2009, by the International Olympic Committee, in Copenhagen.
It seems as if Brazil run out of the luck it never really had. Or that was too disappointingly brief. In one moment, it was a model of sustainable growth and the text book for social promotion policies, only to become, in the next, a continental-size pool of resentment and regret.
Not unlike voters for Brexit, Brazilians woke up suddenly and realized they may have thrown away the baby along the dirty bathwater. Two whole years of street protests against corruption, and all they got was a group of lousy politicians with police records who now occupies the government.
Competitors Will Jump in the Guanabara Bay, no Matter What. (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)
Deeply divided, Brazil is already suffering another global-scale public humiliation, just as it did two years ago, when the then celebrated national soccer team got thrashed by Germany in the World Cup. A look at global headlines about these games has been source of even deeper embarrassment.
Every media outlet, including the country’s own, has reported a corollary of staggering woes brought to light by the magnifying glare of the games. From raw sewage in Guanabara Bay, site of most water competitions, to fears of disease-carrier mosquitoes, it all looks pretty bleak now.
We will return to foes that everyone is hoping against hope won’t tarnish the innate Olympics beauty, but first, as if almost duty-driven, the focus must be on a few good, or fine, or at least, interesting and even inspiration things about the games, even before they start.

Ok, so we found three, but worth mentioning all the same. Like the 10-people Refugee Olympic Athletes team. Plucked from millions around the world, they will compete in several categories as independents. Since there should be many more, and there aren’t, they will be our own good-for-gold team.
Speaking of athletes, youth bodies, downtime, and a party city like Rio, it all may mean one thing: they’ll get laid. A lot. That’s why nine million ‘Rainforest friendly’ condoms will come in er handy. They’re sustainably-produced, made in Xapuri, the late Chico Mendes‘ hometown, in the Amazon state of Acre, and they’re free. Help yourself.
Finally, like many top world competitors, the third point of light is a cheat. Guilty as charged. But no less meaningful: it’s the (more)
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Curtain Raiser

The Hack, the Ignored, & the Unwise, Colltalers

Buried deep in the coverage of the latest hacking of the Democratic campaign computers, if mentioned at all, is the fact that cyber-snooping of U.S. politics is now a worldwide game, alongside more traditional defense moves such as military spying and industrial espionage.
Finger pointing (to Russia) and retaliation threats took center stage, besides much grandstanding about the stunt. Less reported was acknowledgement that hacking cuts both ways; no one has the monopoly of outrage, and U.S. intelligence is mostly gathered that way too.
Ultimately, as we enter a new age of high tech sophistication, digital security breaches are just the way the game is played these days, and the staggeringly costly and oh so secretive government spy community needs to be up to speed, or somebody will, for sure. After all, isn’t in the name of preventing just such breaches that those shady agencies so often break the law everybody else has to abide by?
Moreover, if a powerful organization such as the Democratic Party is vulnerable to have its files invaded by an alleged foreign power, what’s to be expected of regular stiffs like us, and our pitiful indiscretions and dick pics and online escapades? Well, don’t answer that.
There’s also no surprise that the media would run, almost without questioning, yet another spy agency’s prefab theory about a security breach. The administration’s efforts to portray Russia as a rogue state have gotten a free, uncritical ride for quite a stretch now.
Even when, as it seems to be the case, evidence points to the Putin regime – whose Machiavellian doctrine gets no sympathetic Continue reading