Curtain Raiser

Fear of Reliving the Past, Colltalers

At the end of last Thursday’s darker-than-thy-soul Donald Trump’s speech, ‘accepting’ the Republican Party’s presidential candidate nomination, a truly disquieting notion – at least for many Americans and people around the world – began to settle in: he may really win.
It’s a disturbing fear because we seem to be entering an alt-reality, one of hyperbole and scary comparisons with the past. The most recurrent of them, that of an official rise of fascism in America, is actually beginning to fit the narrative, as his popular appeal increases.
The convention itself had plenty of ugly displays at critical moments. As when the crowd cheered on calls for Hillary Clinton’s arrest, with almost no hint of hyperbole. Or when Ted Cruz, of all people, spoke of ‘conscience’ while voting, and was booed off the stage.
And it was present throughout the week when all the right buttons – from public dissatisfaction with politicians, to the increasing number of Americans feeling left out, to the paralyzing fear of terrorism – were being pushed. But only to justify a totalitarian vision of the world. Permeating every speech was this idea that the U.S. has been slighted and it’s time to crush its enemies. And the man for the job is ready to embrace his role as the nation’s sole savior. That sort of rhetoric has lent some legitimacy to those comparing Trump with Mussolini.
In fact, his theatrical repertoire of gestures and facial Continue reading

Empire of Only One

When You Build in Solitude
That Which Will Outlast You

No man is an island, wrote John Donne, in what’s now a big, fat cliché. Yet, there’s David Glasheen, living alone on a island for 23 years. And Jadav Payeng, who planted a whole forest on his own. Or Justo Gallego, who built a cathedral by hand.
Then, there’s a man who’s surely envious of the solitude all three find comfort on. Accused of bilking people of their money, his victims found a way of placing his face all over the world, as a casualty of various acts of terrorism, even as he wasn’t near any of them.
Undue exposure as an act of revenge is certainly a modern phenomenon, with social media, and news report manipulation, replacing the shame of standing naked in the public square of Donne‘s times. But each man plays an unwitting, and extreme, role in contemporary society’s drama.
While Glasheen has just about enough of all of us, Payeng has dedicated his life to leaving us a legacy. As Gallego was erecting his monument to devotion, others devised a devilish prank as the only alternative to denounce and get something back out of a con man.

Not that many would’ve noticed, or cared about it, but when the stock market crashed, on October of 1987, the world lost a few millionaires. Most got quickly back in the saddle, as financiers are won to do. Australian businessman Glasheen took the hint to drop out, and instead, moved to a desert island.
But his is no epic tale, all heart-warming quotes of inspiration and non-conformism. For starters, like most hermits, he’s not very fond of the likes of us. Which is a feeling that comes in handy if  (more)
Read Also:
* Off the Grid
* Hot Water
* Going Under
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Curtain Raiser

When We Lost Catalonia, Colltalers

Today marks the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Spanish civil war, the seminal event that led Francisco Franco to power, after crushing a democratic elected leftist coalition. It was arguably the last great revolution to polarize the world in two clearly defined sides.
One, the Republicans, attracted unprecedented global support from progressive forces and artists, who defined their lives and times by the idealistic (Quixotic?) fight for restoring democracy in Spain. The other, the winner side, was that of Franco, helped by Nazis and fascists.
The world was never to be so cleanly ideologically split. Even WWII, which followed, took years of political calculation by world powers before enlisting to it, (while Germany was already engaged in racial cleansing), to become the war won by the ‘just’ side.
Not that eight decades have taught us much. After a particularly gruesome week in America, with race and hatred-tinged murders, the world responded in kind the following one, with the horrific trunk rampage in Nice, and the attempt coup in Turkey early Saturday.
The anniversary of the Franco’s uprising in Spain offers a rare glance at how an uncomplicated a fight for justice and restoring the rule of law could be then. Such an approach would be unpractical these days, of course, with the complex motivations that lead nations to war, and the kind of resistance they create and have to fight back, as Daesh, al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are eager to show.
When it became clear that Spanish republicans were going to be crushed by generous support of the Hitler’s Luftwaffe and Mussolini’s Black Shirts, it was one of those historical moments when intellectuals, artists, and humanists the world over felt personally accountable to a positive outcome which was not to be: Franco not just won but ruled unchallenged until his peaceful death of old age in 1975.
His campaign of horror left half a million Spaniards and freedom fighters dead, including one of Spain’s most celebrated authors, Federico Garcia Lorca, shot and anonymously Continue reading

No Way, Vacay

Cheap Thrills for the
Broke & the Uninsured

Here are three fresh suggestions for you to spend the dog days of the season, all in North America. Since most of us have no tax-haven accounts to protect or offshore mansions to hide, so to avoid pesky inquiries about our personal wealth, we have to go for the jugular of the unvarnished entertainment, the raw sensations, the truly unexpected. Or as they say back home, the cheap seats.
Up north, there’s a former prison with all the lack of amenities a growing number of Americans ‘enjoy’ these days, including one-ply toilet paper, except that no one may hurt you at night. Head down south to reenact the gruesome experience of illegal immigrants coming to the U.S. Or you can always choose to visit any of the continent’s dirtiest and worst-kept beaches. Bon Voyage.
Or rather, not so fast. Let’s check our luggage first, and see whether we’re up to the task ahead. You know what that means: anywhere you go, you’ll need some cash. Perhaps one of those dozens of credit card offers you’ve been getting lately would come handy. We’re not saying anything, and if you quote us on that, we’ll deny it.
Also, since you’re probably living off odd jobs for a while, you may think that no one will notice that you’re missing. Don’t make that mistake, for as soon as you take your seat on that cross-country bus, for the five or six hours trip, you phone will be ringing off, well, the battery. So you may want to take your time and let everyone know, just in case.
Not that it’ll make much of a difference. That last job, two weeks ago, didn’t really go as well as you’d planned, and we have a feeling that you haven’t had the heart to tell you significant other about the pay cut either. In any case, just because you told them you’d be away, it doesn’t mean it will still be there for you. Pray that it will or prepare for if it’s not.
As a last resort, and we know what you’re going to say, there’s always Uncle Bob. Come on, you haven’t forgiven him for raiding little Timmy’s pig bank when you still had a decent job. What was that he used to call you then? High roller or something. Well, he’s always scratching those cards, so maybe he got lucky. So, pay him a visit. You just have to find him first. Good luck.
Finally, you may want to instruct everyone that these are no ordinary vacations. So there’s going to be a lot of junk food, cold buffet, hanging at the pool of the Marriott without being a guest, the works. Teach them well, so you won’t be too embarrassed if they get caught. Which, if happens, will be by someone who’s just as broke as you, but at least, has got a summer job.
And think positive, will ya? Enough of this funky attitude. Time to kick back and have your ice cup of fountain water as if you own it. (more)
Read Also:
* Skim Vacations
* Booking the Summer
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Curtain Raiser

Hurt & Loathing in America, Colltalers

Racism. Police violence. Guns. Grief. Inequality. Americans have been desperately trying to find the words that’d lend sense to what happened last week. It’s an almost impossible task: it was not just one of its most brutal, but amid all the acrid smell of spilled blood and gunpowder, it also reeked of repetition and escalation.
When Alton Sterling, of Louisiana, and Philando Castille, of Minnesota, both black and unarmed young men, were shot and killed by cops, it ignited a visceral but expected countrywide reaction of anger and disgust. But then, a black Army vet ambushed and killed five Dallas policemen, and suddenly we landed on new territory.
America’s infected, festering wound, which in over two centuries, never quite healed, is once again bleeding, and while racism oozes, society agonizes in pain, trapped in a vicious cycle with no discerning end. Many of us commiserate, grieving either direct or indirectly, over why we’re still stuck in this, even though we know very well why.
For most of us know exactly why and what has to be done to end this madness. But just as we watch hopelessly another unjustifiable killing followed by another massacre, we remain numb and desensitized, convinced that there’s little that can be done, and what there is won’t be probably put into effect, even if hell and high water is all we see.
A self-defeating delusion, to be sure, but one that holds some logic to it, since it’d take more than the proverbial ‘little things’ Continue reading

Heat Riders

A Genetically-Altered Mosquito   
& the Arrival of Heat Wave Pests

As if a punishing drought in the middle west, and the threat of freak tornadoes in the east were not enough, now experts are warning us that such conditions may be ideal to a another wave of undesired guests arriving at our doorsteps: bugs. But unlike (most) of out of towners willing to camp in our cramped quarters, these visitors bite.
So since heat-seeker crawlers, such as ticks, bedbugs, and (dear lord) black widows, are expected to find shelter under our roofs, we may need protection. Some countries are already unleashing an army of genetically-modified mosquitoes, or coating whole villages with a special paint, and there’re home-made repellents too.
If none of these tactics seem appealing or even practical to a discriminating city dweller such as yourself, there’s always the old-fashioned swatter, and the screen window, and the round the clock vigilance. For those fortunate enough to not having to live in a hut, that should suffice, since our bug problem is mainly an annoyance.
But to large swaths of the planet, specially those facing a quickly changing weather pattern, it’s all a matter of survival. When serious diseases such as Dengue fever, or Malaria, or Chagas, and so many others, are real threats, almost everything is worth trying to stop them, even when some of the remedies create a whole new set of challenges.
As the climate continues to change in unexpected, and truly frightening, ways, insects have more than a leg up over us. They adapt faster and our homes offer them almost everything they’d ever want to remain alive and reproducing. That means that technology and human ingenuity – if not our changing appetites, if you catch the drift – will all be tested to the limit, to produce reliable ways to cope with their explosion.
In fact, if it serves to give you any perspective, among the huge variety of themes and issues Colltales has been covering, the subject of critters is one that has deserved almost the most posts. Everything seems to indicate that the trend will continue, so we’ll try to be brief about what’s out there about them, and how it may affect you.

There are many sites online that correctly point to the importance of bugs to our own survival. Some have more of a sympathetic ring to them, such as bees, and others just get all the bad press, and for as many reasons as they usually have limbs. Most of such sites also praise nature for having created such an amazing system surrounding us.
You won’t find any of that here. Which doesn’t mean that we consider them our enemies. But for as much as we understand their right to live and thrive, when a cockroach shows up at our home, we admit it: we crush it. Sorry, but we could invoke many sanitary reasons as to why we do that almost by instinct. The real reason, though, is that we’re simply not that evolved.
The National Pest Management Association seems to agree with us. In a stern warning, they stated that ‘homeowners (or renters; bugs are not pickers) will likely encounter more pests than usual. Even areas of the country that are receiving rain aren’t in the clear, as standing rain water breeds mosquitoes, which can spread West Nile virus.’
Oh, yes, there are plenty of virus too, those microscopic versions of the same thing. But we’ll leave that for yet another post, for now. Their list of threats also includes scorpions, but we have our eye out (and hair standing in the back of our necks) for spiders, of course. The point is, though, how can you prevent that from happening?

To many people, who’d rather live an uncomplicated life (bless them), going camping, or swimming, or picnicking mean only an extra stop at the local drugstore, for some bug spray. But despite makers of the oily solution have improved its smell, most of them are rich in something that we shouldn’t be slathering our bodies with: DEET.
The initials stand for an almost unpronounceable product developed by the U.S. Army for jungle warfare. Tested as a pesticide in the late 1940s, it’s used ever since, even though it’s proven to be toxic to birds and aquatic life. Even that you may use it sparsely (more)
Read Also:
* Bug Time
* Airborne Bites
* It Bugs Them
* Honey, We’ve Shrunk the Bees
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Curtain Raiser

Let’s Not Play Games in Rio, Colltalers

The beauty of Rio de Janeiro has been celebrated in song, dance, and literature. It’s the main cash cow of Brazil’s tourism industry. But in about a month, it may also be exposed as a symbol of Brazilian officials’ despicable disregard for the city’s natural treasuries.
When the 2016 Summer Olympics opens on Aug. 5, the expected half a million visitors may have a disturbing glance of what lies behind the world famous postcards of the gorgeous Guanabara Bay. Hint: they may have to literally cover their noses against the stench.
Two major failures can already be pointed about the preparation for these games, with potential to doom them or at least, mar their success: failure in dealing fairly with community relocation, and lack of environmental measures to address toxic and raw sewage pollution at sites cleared for building its facilities. These two factors may trigger a nightmare of security and health issues for both athletes and the public.
The games, which cap a decade of mega sport events in Brazil, starting in 2007 with the Pan American, and including the 2014 FIFA World Cup, were supposed to crown the country as a destination for world class competitions. Instead, it may be remembered for what clearly won’t be able to deliver: a safe and healthy environment for tourists and visitors, who’ll pay serious cash to attend them.
Part of the blame, if such a rare south-of-equator edition of the Olympics fails to meet expectations, may be entirely circumstantial: a worldwide economic slowdown, which provoked Continue reading