Curtain Raiser

For a New Brazil & U.S., Colltalers

To a considerable number of Brazilians and Americans, the past two years have been a cavalcade of back steps and heart breaking discouragement. But in a few weeks, they’ll all have a shot at disavowing and stopping this disastrous era, or gladly reaffirming it.
At stake, it’s whether the twin time bombs set by the Aug. 2016 coup that ousted Brazil’s one-and-a-half term president Dilma Rousseff, and the following Nov. election of popular-vote loser Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, can still be safely disarmed.
Millions, who feel as if living in a bizarro version of democracy, will go to the polls with a clear goal in mind: change. From South to North America, they’ll face off a loud pack of blind drones, assigned to shoot down any threat to the reining premeditated chaos.
Whatever the outcome, it’s bound to stir the sour continental soup of exceptions. While Brazil may push Latin America further into its conservative downward spin, the U.S.’ reenacting of Europe’s worst traits may wind up dragging down its hard-won stability.
Altogether, about a billion-plus may taste the bitterness of authoritarianism shoved down their throats, whether liking it or not.
Their fight to safeguard choice, civil rights, and the dignity of individual freedom, may be decided by what happens in the next couple of months. Casting a vote has seldom been so crucial Continue reading

Close Encounters

A Brush With Three
Magnificent Whales

A visual dialogue between a Big Blue and a man longing to understand it. A dead Pygmy ashore, and a two-million year old puzzle. And an eye-to-eye with a giant Right whale. As the alarms sound all across the land, deep underwater these mysterious creatures remain elusive.
While only a minority among us has managed to touch them, soon enough not even that will be possible. The Requiem is about the biggest animal on Earth on a fast track to disappearance. The dead one was not supposed to be around. And a Right one comes up close and personal.
As awareness grows about the impossibility of keeping in captivity wild animals em general, and marine mammals in particular, we face a quandary: how to reintroduce them back into their natural habitat, when it’s already depleted and has been steadily shrinking?
As we learn more about these stupendous creatures, we realize how inadequate zoos and seawater resorts are to provide for the wild life under their care. Dwindling funds and business constraints have often turned these facilities into the main factor conspiring against the animals’ own survival.
The case of cetaceans, specially, is particularly tragic. Despite their huge brains, and their presence on Earth for millions of years, we remain ignorant about basic facts concerning their evolutionary traits, social organization, and, let’s face it, how many of them are out there?
It’s been known for a while that some species are already in rapid decline, possibly due to our increasing occupation of their habitats. That’s what makes the occasional discovery of a new species, or a specimen of a kind thought to be extinct long time ago, so baffling.

A FLYING BLUE WHALE
The Dutch actor Rutger Hauer and film director Sil van der Woerd have created a stunning tale, Requiem 2019, that imagine the colossal mammoth floating about, its skin playing back bloody scenes of whalers on the hunt, while it closely observes a semi-paralyzed, and embarrassingly little, man on the ground.

The species, said to be reduced now to less than 10,000 individuals, from a couple of hundred thousand in the 1900s, has dwarfed every creature that has ever lived on this planet, including dinosaurs and other little-known species, felled by adverse evolutionary conditions.
They beat them all, but unfortunately met mankind. In the relative (more)

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Read Also:
* Thinking With Tentacles
* The Whale Report
* The Saddest Song

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Curtain Raiser

Losing Elephants & Compassion, Colltalers

We may be running out of Earth’s resources to provide to everyone’s survival, but we’re still far from totally lacking them. What’s in short supply, however, is compassion to channel help where it’s most needed, and power to prevent the haves from having more.
A flawed metaphor to invoke may be the quest for saving the elephants, those gentle giants we’re slaughtering to extinction for their tusks. Because just alluding to their proverbial good memory, and how fast they may be forgotten, is almost too much to bear.
The textbook example to such a social quagmire is, of course, the U.S., the richest country in the world. Despite its wealth, and recent employment reports, it continues to see a rising contingent of the destitute and the homeless to rival developing economies.
By reversing protective environmental policies, and opening public land to oil exploration, the Trump administration is making sure natural resources will be fast depleted. And worst, proceeds will be diverted to tax-deferred corporations that’ll rather reward shareholders than create wealth to the country as a whole. The economy that ran us to the ground once is about to do it (us) again.
As for that imprecise metaphor involving elephants, it kept its currency this past month. On Aug. 12, a day dedicated to awareness about them, their global population was tallied at about 800,000, and preservation efforts were dutifully praised. But the estimated average of 100 killings a day in Africa was confirmed on cue last Tuesday, when 90 were slaughtered for their tusks in Botswana.
It was a gruesome massacre, done with customary brutality, and predictable frequency. Poachers, however, who get the blunt of public disgust about the murdering of these and other beautiful creatures, are but just a visible end of a multimillion dollar trade.
Low-paid and poorly-trained park rangers are never a match to the high-level precision and lethal capacity of raider teams Continue reading

Sleeping Giant


Happy 196th Birthday, Brazil.
Tired of Breaking Hearts Yet?

It’s Independency Day for Latin America’s biggest country. So let’s blow some candles and sing sad songs of disappointment. Just like an unruly teenager, so young and yet so troubled already. The so-called growing pains are here to stay, it seems, but little of growing up.
Few are feeling that independent lately. Or big for that matter. Brazil acts as if it’s all new, and keeps repeating itself over and over. Fatigue and heartbreak is how most Brazilians have been living for so long. We swim and swim and still risk drowning by the shore.
The heart of this country is a centrifuge; try to embrace it and hold on to it, and it’ll toss you like a soccer ball. And yet, we come back for more. Our memory burns to the ground in neglected museums and roach-ridden historical districts. And yet, we keep on rising.
Our idealized future rots in jail, our dreams are ineligible to be elected. We’re bound to pick the wrong thief to run us. But it’s September 7, and but for a special favor of a Portuguese prince, we’ve been given an autonomy that we still don’t know what to do with it.
From north to south, the National Anthem will be sung about us, people who never ‘run away from a fight,’ but live on a land ‘eternally lying on splendid cradle.’ A napping giant, that is. Where up is actually down, that is, the bottom rules the top.

Like most things Brazilian, contradiction is our middle name. We’re big but can’t speak the language of the majority that surrounds us. Our race is mixed, tainted, blackish, but no one identifies as such. White is ‘beautiful,’ rich; black is just poor.
Oh, Brazil, you treat us like orphans, children from a broken home, thrown into the world to fend for ourselves. Meanwhile, a cast of stealers rides the wild mount of our rare soul, without success or grace. They will too be tossed, crash and burn. And we will laugh.
Here’s to you, República Federativa do Brasil. Have some cake and get drunk. We’ll cry a little for that spoiled vision of a glorious future that never comes. Don’t worry, we’re not quitting you, but boy, haven’t you have better things to do than to bust our balls?

Before Afterlife


Upon Departing, Would You
Tell a Story or Leave an App?

The flip side of living longer is that death now may also take longer to finally succeed. That drives some to rehearse their award acceptance speech, and others, to compose long goodbyes. Here’s to your own, self-penned obituary, and the app and avatar that’ll outlive you.
It’s like custom-making your own narrative. Soon there’ll be more Websites of the departed than the breathing kind like us (knock on wood). A not so silent majority dwarfing billions currently walking and cursing, who in turn are but a fraction of everyone who’s ever lived.
We should be careful about what we wish for, though. One of the gifts of being alive is that, mercifully, we have no idea when our time is up. The powerful industry of ‘cure,’ however, by making sure that we last, may be spoiling even that most gracious of nature’s charities.
Heaven forbid if we were to take away such a precious comfort from those on the death watch, though. After all, to have time to prepare one’s affairs, and everyone around, for that announced demise is no small miracle. Hence, the wills, the lists, the begging for forgiveness.
The same with this new realm we’ve created to keep our distance from others, the Internet. Who do you know who knows your passwords, Wed identities, and above all, your wishes about what to do with it all? Not many and most are not even slightly interested in knowing either.
You can always program, though. Better than to leave behind a wake of digital detritus, why not set something up, or find a way to terminate it all for good? A few predated posts may just do the trick. And there won’t be any need to deputize someone else to run things afterwards.
Granted, the person who’s gone won’t particularly care one way or another. So it’s just an ethical matter of some consideration, on whether you’d like to continue, so to speak, indefinitely, or would rather leave space for those who actually stand to be affected by it: the living.

BETWEEN TOMBSTONE & LIFEBOAT
Marilyn Johnson has helped disperse the common idea that newspaper obituaries, for instance, should be shallow and phony in their eulogy to the dead. In her intriguing The Dead Beat, she demonstrates how obituary writing is an important art form, usually assigned only to experienced journalists. One of the most read sections of any paper, the death notice must tell a compelling story starting by what’s (more)

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Read Also:
* Final Cut
* Ways to Go
* Went Before

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Curtain Raiser

Shame of a Trade’s Legacy, Colltales

The Age of Discovery, one the greatest moments of Western civilization, is arguably when Earth finally shrank to its real size, and the courage to brave new worlds became Europe’s manifest destiny. It’s also the age that triggered large scale slavery from Africa.
The Transatlantic Slave Trade, chartered 500 hundred years ago by Spain’s King Charles I, plundered Africa and, for the next three centuries, turned up to 12 million of its citizens into slaves to white Europeans and Americans. It was history’s biggest scourge.
Aug. 28 sad milestone may have passed unnoticed, but signs that at its racial core, it’s a still bleeding and festering wound, are all over the world these days. White supremacism is on the rise, and so is violence and oppression against blacks and people of color.
All progress mankind’s experienced since, from advances in the art of navigation, to medical and scientific breakthroughs, including the achievements of the Enlightenment Era, hasn’t been enough for us to evolve from that heart wrenching event. It ripped apart an entire continent, and spread out through the world like a disease: the despicable idea that one race has precedence over all others.
Despite all our ever growing understanding of the wonders of the human body and mind, we still act like our primitive ancestors when it comes to race: an assumed divine connection is all that’s needed for granting us the immoral authority to split the world according to skin color. And no other society did it with more cruelty and consistency than ours, possibly even in terms of length.
Rich nations still dispose of their vanquished peoples as if they’re properties, and a white self-attributed privilege still drives us to resist any kind of racial and class equality. As dominance is inseparable from economic power, it’s clear which social segment is fighting to hold on to an illegitimate control over all others, helped by Continue reading

Sunken Past

When a Drought Uncovered Ghost 
Towns & a Scary American Future 

At face value, these ruins hold a certain charm. Cities flooded for progress, they took to the depths a vanishing world of temples and playgrounds. Now they fire up the imagination about lives that laid dormant for so long.
But as they reemerge, a frightful vision of decay awakens, one that a climate gone awry may turn into routine. In Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and the U.S., what once stood impervious is now shadows on a beaten land.
Mankind has been using the age-old mechanical power of falling water for thousands of years. But the technological explosion of the Industrial Revolution made it possible to be harnessed in large scale, and the 20th century saw an acceleration of this process.
Soon, these machines were transforming even the most inhospitable areas into arable lands, and the age of massive, miles-wide crops was born. It was far from such a neat progression, but water turbines became as inexorable as the force of nature they were designed to harness.
With power, however, came great irresponsibility. Soon, they were large enough to divert the ancient course of rivers, and favor some land properties over others, richer states rather than needier ones (we’re looking at you, California).

THE GATES OF BLACK CANYON
The Hoover Dam, built to tame the Colorado River in 1935, is seen as one of the 20th century’s greatest architectural marvels, and still provides water and electricity to two million acres in three states. It also killed the town of St. Thomas, and drove some 500 souls away.
Drought conditions, which have worsen since 2002, have now rescued those ruins from the bottom of Lake Mead, and exposed a haunting landscape of half demolished buildings and silence. They’ve also (more)
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Read Also:
* The Third Rock
* Going Under
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