Curtain Raiser

U.S. & Brazil At a Similar Hub, Colltalers

There are many studies pointing to the benefits of being multicultural, that is, a person with more than one country to call their own. But those with that particular point of reference are fully aware of its trappings. One of them is the temptation to engage in generalized comparisons.
So we’re going against the grain here, to find some arguably common denominators between the U.S. and Brazil. For both are indeed facing similar challenges – ignoring for a second their truck full of differences – which may shed some light into the complexities of their politics.
Starting by their presidents, the extreme polarization that brought them both to power, and the coincident timing of their current major crisis. Not many will agree that Donald Trump and Michel Temer are facing the first serious threat to their very position as commanders-in-chief.
But few dispute that they’re fighting for their political future, and that legitimacy, impropriety, and corruption, are issues often strong enough to depose a sitting president. Even those overwhelmingly popular, which they aren’t. They’re both skillful politicians, though, so we’re on.
The catalog of certified lies, incompetent mistakes, intrigue, firings, and increased fear that, if a major global crisis arises, the administration is incapable to protect Americans, which has characterized the Trump presidency in just over four months, has no parallel in U.S. politics.
From nominating a clearly unprepared cabinet, to a number of deeply disturbing executive orders, most of them so far reversed, to failing to unify his Republican Party, which seems poised to back his every diatribe, until his boat is no longer sea-worthy, Trump made a mess of pretty much everything he’s touched (no pun intended). Except for his one sole score: the Neil Gorsuch nomination to the Supreme Court.
But the appointment of former FBI chief Robert Mueller as Special Prosecutor, to investigate his possible ties with Russia, may be the very first warning sign that his support base is treading water. No wonder he’s mad about leaks. To impeachment, though, it’s a long way.
Temer, the vice president who became chief by leading a conspiracy to oust the head of his ticket, Dilma Rousseff, like Trump, Continue reading

Earth Cavities

Worlds Inside, Real & Imagined,
Offer Insights Into Human Psyche

‘Why may we not suppose four ninths of our globe to be cavity?’ Edmond Halley’s 1692 Hollow Earth theory was rightly debunked for its faulty science. But it did lend, at least for a while, credence to a recurrent feature in ancient mythology, folklore, and legends.
No pun intended but underneath it all, he too was drawn to the allure of tunnels, caves, and the underground. The hidden and the obscure are innate to our psyche and beliefs, just as natural or manufactured burrows, are ideal temples for practical and mystical needs.
‘Descend, bold traveller, into the crater of the jökull of Snæfell, (…) to attain the centre of the earth. I did it. Arne Saknussemm.’ Two centuries after the Isaac Newton collaborator made famous by a comet had given up on his idea, Jules Verne concocted his own atemporal version of the enduring myth, in the best-selling novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Halley, an accomplished scientist thought to have been instrumental for the 1687 publishing of the Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, was ironically betrayed by what’s deemed a flaw of the revolutionary treatise: Newton’s erroneous attribution for the mass of the Moon.
By overweighting that mass in relation to Earth, by a factor of 1 to 26, instead of 1:81, the man responsible to our understanding of gravity laws unwittingly gave room to Halley’s supposition: Earth should be hollow, possibly inhabited. And the source of the Aurora Borealis, too.
None of this is detrimental to the two genius of science, or our debt to them. But Halley’s hypothesis did hit a resonant note, if not for its sacred past, then for a long string of mentally ill visionaries and phony prophets, way back from the Enlightenment to, sadly, our days.
Even before antiquity, caverns were considered places of power, dwelling of spirits of good and evil, passages to other worlds. Many peoples and tribes, some whose descendants still walk among us, believed that the’d come from the Earth’s insides, and were supposed to return there someday.
All civilizations had some reference to the underworld, the Hades, the place where the dead lived. Dante Alighieri placed the Christian hell under our feet, so the faithful would live in fear and don’t stray. Throughout history, burials may have been so popular presumably for reasons other than just recycling.
Even today, some believe that UFOs actually come from beneath us. And just like vampires, fly out at night from hidden entrances in the poles. But the fact is, even if it were scientifically possible for this rock to have a giant hole inside, without cracking, it wouldn’t be big enough to accommodate all theories about it.
To be sure, nature is not shy of keeping us away from its secrets, and often land or underwater caves are as inaccessible to most humans as the outer space is. Vietnam’s Hang Son Doong, the world’s largest cave, has its own jungle, rivers, and climate. And lethal challenges and a roll call of dead people too.
Its exploration is beyond most people’s athleticism and endurance. Just like astronauts are a special breed, so are cave enthusiasts. Also, due to Earth’s volatile geological and seismic configuration, while there may be even bigger caves yet to be discovered, some may suddenly cave in or shape up overnight.
Just as their enclosed universe will remain intimate and challenging, so will one’s connexion with those places. They may serve as a meditation sanctuary or a spot to hide, and the strength of one’s (more)
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* Whole Shebang
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Curtain Raiser

Eyes on the Prize, Colltalers

It’s been increasingly challenging to know, among the daily news onslaught, what’s relevant to us and what’s corporate interest. And yet we must. It may be harder now to distinguish the news from fake and biased reporting, and yet it’s our duty to keep our human priorities straight.
For getting blindsided is not an option. Due in part to Trump’s dysfunctional presidency, the U.S. seems to be leading the world into a neck-breaking race back to Cold War paranoia, combined with modern fears of widespread terrorism and xenophobia. But we must know better.
The past week was no different than all weeks since January. The firing of FBI chief James Comey, likely done to derail his probe into a possible collusion of the president with a foreign power, a real, stunning piece of news, got immediately buried by a tsunami of excuses.
That it failed to erase its obvious impact, as Trump wished, is completely beside the point. What the denials were designed to accomplished, they did: to occupy valuable real estate on the headlines and public attention. Space that could obviously be used by other relevant news.
Not that they were in any shortage. During the same news cycle, fewer people than needed became aware that the Pentagon is again pushing to send an additional 5,000 troops to America’s longest war, Afghanistan, to join the 8,000 who see no talk about getting out of there. In what this would contribute to any meaningful solution to that now pointless conflict would certainly deserve to be part of a national conversation.
But it’s not. Just like the unreported oil leak in the Dakota Access Pipeline construction, one of the many in the past year at the project that’s been the focus of protests by native American groups, whose land it’s irreversibly polluting, and a coalition of Veterans and environmental organizations. But neither those following closely the issue, nor the public at large would know it, if they’re to rely on media outlets.
On the international front, a global, coordinated hacking attack affected businesses and healthcare facilities in over 90 countries, and experts are bracing for more of the same this week. The incident, even if it’s somehow contained today, which is unlikely, exposed vulnerabilities of under-funded health institutions and the contemporary nature of modern hacking: dangerously powerful and yet, non-ideological based. While it’s important to keep an eye on the latest diatribe of North Korea, and call for urgent high-level diplomacy, and no Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

The Bitter-Sweetest of Times, Colltalers

This era mirrors what being an adult is about. Take good news, for instance: receiving it is, well, great, for it means that, for a moment, things did take a turn your way. But, and that’s the thing: there’s always a qualifier ‘but,’ following it, and more than ever, what follows cancels it.
Our sense of fulfillment with reality has to be tempered and weather resistant, so we can survive the far more numerous times when it’s not. Life often happens when we’re making those ‘other plans,’ as someone who was killed doing just that, put it on a song. And we carry on.
Good news is that French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen was defeated yesterday. But the next president, Emmanuel Macron, is no poster boy of France’s humanistic ideals. In fact, he may proceed with dismantling them. Besides, Le Pen is in no way done with it.
Make no mistake: Americans wouldn’t be dealing with the onslaught of bad news unleashed by Trump, if Hillary Clinton were the president, and that’s a fact. So, her election would’ve been good news to most. Then again, by now, she’d be facing impeachment for a fraction of flaws she shares with the current president. And just as her GOP opposition has been shameless while in power, it’d arguably be too, if it were not.
It’s all a matter of perspective, one would say. But that’s the false equivalence that fools those who ‘couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Clinton’ then but now don’t have to deal with losing healthcare either, or having to go out of state to have an abortion, or, out of the country for not having papers. Many also like to say that there’s no difference between the two parties, and if the discussion veers that way, run.
Yes, American politics in general, and the two political parties in particular, are money making machines and neither represents fully the people who vote for them. Yes, millions tossed around, to ‘purchase,’ er, fund candidates could boost the economy of many a small country.
And yes, often the realities of being a political leader, or rather, a condition that some are built for them, can change any idealist, if he or she are not swift on their feet, or adapting to new realities without betraying principles. But, and here’s it again, most of them do not, or won’t.
When Trump had his own infamous Mission Accomplished moment, last week, 14 years almost to the day when George W. played dressed up on an aircraft carrier, many of us had trouble holding our meals. A percentage couldn’t do it any longer, when the media showed their smiling beer-swollen faces celebrating a ‘healthcare’ bill that would give a $765 billion tax cut to the very wealthy, over 10 years.
Now, many are still puzzling that a big percentage of Trump supporters are women and an aging, disenfranchised and uneducated white demographics, that’d be hit by some of his campaign promises, but didn’t seem to realize it. Now that both segments are actually facing that reality, and it’s unmistakable who’s responsible f Continue reading

Evolving Mores

Undies, Mother Teresa & Brazilian
Prostitutes: They All Got Upgrades

We all have expiration dates. In fact, pretty much everything about us, life and everything has a rotting point, beyond which it must evolve or it’ll dissipate. The same with clothing, reputations, and things people do for a living: it’s either reboot, or become as good as an old BlackBerry.
Take underwear, for instance. There’s no telling what they mean to so many, even those who don’t consider them a priority. Or Princess Di’s favorite poor of West Bengal, whose notoriety is under heavy artillery right now. As for the Brazilians, it’s all about professional improvement.
More often than not, change is good. One needs to keep on tiptoes if something will ever get done, and many a fine and exquisite way of doing things, in a certain, exquisite way, well, went the way of the Dodo. It simply couldn’t withstand these times of instant reward and viral videos.
Then again, some industries take advantage of this natural cycle to push their wares, as anyone who’s ever wondered why they wound up being stuck with this year’s model, when the one parked nearby is still running, would rush to tell you. We’d tell you more, but your smartphone probably would need an upgrade to put up with so much data.
In any event, we can’t help it. We crave the new, as long as it’s shiny, and smells fresh, and has a big logo, or set of functions, we’ve convinced ourselves we absolutely can’t live without. Even if last year’s is still perfectly fine, and running, and takes all calls, thank you very much. We just never care to pick it up.
So in anticipation of the new season, and whatever new crap they have in store for us, at a premium price, we’re got this first-world problems thing really down. After all, there’s something else common about these three themes that follow: they’re all much older than your mother.

It seems that everywhere you look, everything is getting an organic version of it. This wave of labels may have started with food, but now it’s spreading like a malware throughout the fabric of our society, to use a pompous old-fashioned dictum. To the point that such labels may as (more)
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* Old Underwear
* Freaky Links

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Curtain Raiser

Beyond Labor Day, Colltalers

First of May is back to relevance in America, it seems, after decades of being vilified and relegated to almost oblivion by corporations and conservative politics. There’s even some expectation for record attendance at nationwide rallies and acts of protest scheduled for today.
While celebrated as a holiday all over the world, it’s disheartening how Labor Day’s been stripped of political substance in its country of origin. The renewed focus is obviously due to the man who’s just completed one the most bizarre 100 days in office by any U.S. president.
Most Americans don’t know that the date traces back to what’s now known as the Haymarket Affair, on May, 4, 1886 (look it up) and that it was a coalition of worker groups and left-leaning parties what set it up as a labor movement symbol. And that the first Monday of September, when the date is officially marked in the U.S., was a deliberate presidential decision aimed solely at diluting its meaning.
It is appropriate to be a bit hopeful that the damage already inflicted by Trump and his administration has at least one possible silver lining: the American people may be experiencing an awakening of sorts, an urgency about the need to regain control over their nation’s destiny.
Or it may rain heavily all over, so to give would-be protesters a perfect excuse to stay at work – did we mention that May Day is not a holiday in the U.S.? -, but we cautiously doubt it. In fact, the coincidence of coming at the tail end of that artificial presidential timeframe may actually add an extra layer of importance Continue reading