Curtain Raiser

Banning Speech Empowers Hate, Colltalers

Terrorism, which in America is led now by a re-enabled white supremacy movement, seems to propose a challenge to the constitutional idea of free speech. But despite its complexities, it shouldn’t. The distinction between crime and freedom of expression is already in our DNA.
It’s actually been all by settled even before the Constitution, in what’s known as the Boston Massacre trials, by no other but a founding father, John Adams. Just as he defended in court a group British soldiers, the ACLU is fulfilling its role, by defending everyone’s right to congregate.
The issue has become a contentious one again, since the treasured, and nearly centenarian, civil liberties institution represented the organizer of the Nazi rally in Charlotesville. The violent gathering caused widespread injuries, and the death by car of rights activist Heather Heyer.
The ACLU, however, is not above criticism. It’s announced changes in the way it chooses to defend people and causes. But the obvious overriding issue is not which groups should be allowed to expose their vitriol. It’s whether they plan to break the law, which those ralliers did. Worst yet is that the police did nothing to prevent the violence. And that bringing loaded guns to a public gathering is not considered a crime.
There shouldn’t be much doubt about the distinction, then. Freedom of expression is a constitutional issue, not an ideological one, whereas crime is a crime, obviously, as law enforcement is accountable for omission. But the open and carry law, well, that’s just a horrendous law.
Guns, of course, were not central to what happened in Virginia – and in Barcelona, for that matter -, even as it seems an issue insulated from any challenges as the president himself. The right of anyone to express their opinion against the status quo is, and it should be, defended.
Six years before the Declaration of Independence, it was probably very easy to lose sight of what Americans want for a nation, and many had actually taken up arms to create one of their own. That ideal could, in theory, justify any act of injustice, committed in its name, right?
Not to John Adams, though, arguably the most important member of that extraordinary generation of leaders. For unlike most, he didn’t die a wealthy man, paid all his debts, did not owe slaves, and despite following a religion, was adamantly in favor of its separation from state.
In March 5, 1770, a British Captain, six of his soldiers, and four civilians, fired from Boston’s Custom House, into a crowd of some 400 protesters, killing six residents. They were to be trialled, and many expected, hanged, for the act. But Adams Continue reading

Moon Shadow

Here Comes the Darken Sun,
But Let’s Just Say, It’s Alright

So the great solar eclipse of 2017 is coming to America and we, for ones, are only too glad about it. What, with all that’s going on, the thought of spending time with such a fascinating cosmic event surely beats most of everything one’s been watching on the news lately.
By now, however, every media, the Internet, your close friends, and even your deranged uncle Bob, have already told you all that is to know about it, maybe more. So here’s just a few historical and/or interesting pics to entice and inform you. Call it your personal mini visual tour.
Hover over the photos and click on them and on the links, for data and stories. Eclipses have been teaching us since time immemorial, and while many feared that the sun, or the moon, wouldn’t survive the penumbra, others like Edmond Halley, were open to learn. The one in 1919, for instance, proved Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

The one visible in 1966 at the bottom of South America led NASA to launch 12 rockets from a beach some 30 miles from where a little boy risked losing his eyesight to watch it through a photo negative strip. Luckily, that pair of eyes survived to experience many others since.

All ancient civilizations studied and documented cosmic phenomena. Comets and meteors, supernovas and moon eclipses, all had tremendous impact on our history on this planet. But things heat up considerably whenever the sun is concerned, and when the day turns into night, well, that’s not to be ever taken lightly.

We gaze, therefore we are. To many of us, this may be our very last solar eclipse, so we’d better make it good, just in case. Choose well your eye wear, pick a good spot, and make up a decent excuse to be there. Gee, the way things are going, the sun coming back after just a few hours may be the best news we may be getting for a while.

Read Also:
* Tomorrow Never Knows

40 Years Ago Today

Read Also:
* Elvis Karaoke
* Long Live
* The Carney Behind the King

Curtain Raiser

Mourning & Fear in America, Colltalers

Unrealistic optimists and believers on a universal ‘fair and balanced’ order have been seriously challenged this past week. For how to respond to the president’s North Korean-style bombastic rhetoric towards North Korea, and to the deadly white supremacist Charlottesville rally?
Will we see the feared Atomic Clock needle move closer to midnight, as Kim Jong un has already answered in kind, threatening over 150 thousand Guamanians? Will the already critical U.S. racial relations take yet another turn to the worst? Should we all give it up already?
The short answer is obviously no, even without asking that receding group, bless their soul. At the same time, Americans are evidently doing a poor job showing the world that we’ve got it together. And that is as much a global threat as the escalation of the two egomaniacs’ diatribes.
One thing we all share with the Pollyanna subscribers, though: we’re afraid, very afraid indeed. Even those keeping their minds above the water – our salute to thee -, know that when their fears begin to coincide with those of doom proselytizers, something may really hit the fan.
It’s not that anything is possible, only that there are way too many realistic possibilities that things may go south, and we’re resisting having to list them here. Plus all the implicit unpredictability, since this is a battle of (evil?) wills between two powerful but deeply unsound leaders.
The president may not see this, but the Pentagon is in state of alert. If something happens, even and specially an ill-advised exchange between the two, we may all be dragged to the inevitable. Worse, some are already counting (hoping?) on that scenario, and preparing accordingly.
If we were to ask world citizens whether they trust either Trump or Kim Jong un to be aware of the implications of a first nuclear strike, the answer would probably be too distraught to be guessed. Let’s just say that it’d likely not to be one to be cheered upon, and leave it at that.
Domestically, many Americans are wondering if we’re following to the letter a recipe to disaster and what the hell can be done to derail it.
For the White House’s first six months have been an uncanny confirmation of every prediction – yes, offered by so-called pessimists – made even before the Oath of Office. With no governing accomplishment but a constant turmoil of inconsistencies, a brewing collusion and treason scandal, and approval ratings down the toilet, the administration, they said, would be likely to invoke a war of distraction just about now.
The Korean peninsula may be teeming with warships and fear, but it’s Guam, where the U.S. has military bases, that was mentioned by name by Kim, to be the first in the crosshairs of its ballistic nukes. The island at the centre of hate is supposed to be busy preparing for an attack.
But then again, how one ‘prepares’ for a nuclear explosion, other than fleeing to the other end of the world? If that’s even an option, that is. Besides, before even hitting Guam’s territorial waters, the retaliation will surely be already annihilating the vessel from which the rocket departed from. That means, war will have its first Continue reading

Amazon Via Acre

I Know Why the
Vultures Laughed

We were all set, strapped onto metal seats, when the captain announced: everybody out, we got stuck. After two days flying, and two flawless landings, only the Guajará Mirim ‘runaway’ mud to stop our fearless DC-3 on its tracks. Everyone got dirty pushing the plane.
On the sideways, Native Brazilian Indians laughed out loud. It was not their first time having a blast with visitors, but I never went back for seconds. Once we took off, my mind was racing towards the Acre State, where I’d spend three months with my friend Tonho and his family.
We got to know a stretch of the majestic Amazon Rainforest, three times as big then as it is now. I flew for free as a military officer’s son, aboard a Douglas from the National Air Mail. Tonho left Rio three days later, on a commercial flight, but we got to Rio Branco together.
My place was next to piles of letters and parcels, as DC-3s were still being used on regular post routes within Brazil. No complaints; I didn’t know then, but it turned out to be one of the greatest trips of my life, a real miracle, as I hadn’t a cent to my name but was treated like a king.
On the way, I’ve spent a night in Porto Velho, whose downtown area on that rainy winter of 1973, was occupied by a huge gypsy camp. I had already realized that I was visiting another country, but I felt even more foreigner having a hard time understanding them. Pure prejudice made me weary of the Roma and not to ask for directions.

Brazil’s vast distances and geographical north-south set up has a lot to do with the radical differences among its regions. Getting to the northwest, wild and racially mixed, coming from the south, urban and white European, is like a kick in the ass. You get on all your fours and it’s better to take your time getting up again.
Things seemed so odd, that the first thing the two teenagers got was cough medicine, which used to be unwittingly loaded with codeine. We were not into alcohol, and weed was rarer than snow, so pharma high was our tour guide exploring the sights and city blocks.
By far, the two weathers within a single day were our main source of amusement. The whole city life revolved around things happening before and after the rain. Dawn would break already in the 80s and while the thermometer would rise with the sun, sweat would drench us. Suddenly, all would change.
At just few degrees shy of the 100s, the sky would turn and a monsoon of biblical proportions would come down, all thunder and flood. It’d last less than an hour, though, and then, it’d be gone. Clouds would get quickly driven away and the sun would return to set, at the conclusion of yet another beautiful day.
Many a bottle of syrup we knocked down on our way to the movies – we may have watched the entire Sergio Leone collection, plus every one of the Zapata series – or the ‘boate,’ where a long-haired crooner singing Roberto Carlos‘ Amada Amante, was a nightly hit. What a life.

When we headed to Xapuri, to try Ayahuasca, we had no idea who Chico Mendes was. Deforestation was all around us, piles of downed trees by the side of the road. At one point, our bus stopped: ahead of us, a tractor-trailer was fully submerged in a small lagoon. Only the top of the cabin was out of the water.
We got to Brasiléia late at night, and rented a room in the back of a rest stop. There was no power and we were intrigued when the owner handed us a little fumigator, loaded with kerosene. It didn’t take long to know why: bugs were big as mice, and would fly around. We almost suffocated to death, trying to keep them away.
We woke up early, sweaty and nearly deaf. Heat was expected, but what was that loud noise, as if someone was scratching our zinc rooftop with metal nails. Zeeeep, zeeeep, zeeeep, one after another. (more)
Read Also:
* Chico Mendes
* Amazing Zone
* Rainforest Rundown

Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

When Fish Can’t Breathe, Colltalers

An alarming report found that an area in the Gulf of Mexico the size of New Jersey is completely devoid of life. In over 8,700 square miles of so-called dead zone, all marine life that could, left, while plankton died due to lack of oxygen, depleted by agricultural nutrients pollution.
The massive ‘desert in the water’ zone, a now annual phenomenon, comes from the reliance on chemical fertilizers by meat producers, such as Tyson Foods. And since Gulf of Mexico will be forever associated with oil spill, yes, that environmental disaster is also linked to the zone.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the largest dead zone ever measured has a huge algal growth, triggered by agricultural nutrients that consume oxygen, causing loss of fish habitat, decreasing their reproductive abilities, and shrinking shrimp size.
NOAA, an agency in the cross-hairs of the Trump Administration for its groundbreaking research on climate change, cites an increase in ‘nutrient discharges’ from the Mississippi River, caused by the agricultural industry as a whole and also the area’s land development projects.
Practically from the moment it exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, the BP-owned Deepwater Horizon drilling rig has created the conditions for dead zones. Spills usually trigger an oxygen loss in water by feeding microbes that consume oxygen and grow on oil.
It’s exactly this ability that is then channeled in the cleanup process that follows an oil spill. It was no different after the largest in history, which dumped some 4.9 million barrels of oil in the gulf waters. Although declared sealed, a 2012 report showed that the seal is still leaking.
It’s now part of standard procedures of ever increasing cleanup efforts to deploy a type of bacteria that ‘chews’ hydrocarbons, delivered in chemical dispersants, designed to break the oil Continue reading


When the End (of Summer)
Is All But Nigh, Improvise!

The sinking feeling is happening more often now. As soon as August hits, while some press on to finish the prep work for a memorable vacation, the rest of us is left to deal with the possibility, ever more concrete, that we’re not going anywhere. Now, now, cheer up, though.
Think how you’ll be spared of crowded airports, cesspool-suffused hotel rooms, displays of raw rage, from fellow flyers and underpaid airline staff, and those walks by the water’s edge start to feel pretty satisfying. Go ahead, have another sip of your lemon-wedged iced water.
Considering just such a possibility – and we’re not saying that you’re definitely out of luck – we raided our files for some encouraging season-appropriate stories. You know, to go along with the exquisite shots you took at the neighbor’s B-B-Q, or the sunset at the local park.
So here are three posts and a travelogue. They’re chockfull of tips for the weary tripper; unusual (and cheap) destinations; dos and don’ts for a seasonal pro such as yourself; and a few commute shots to help you prove to everyone how overrated vacations really are.
To take time off is a state of mind, a magical space you pry open and occupy free of thoughts, to reach deep relaxation and strength, and renew every fiber of your being. There’s no need to go anywhere. Not really, but we thought it’d be nice to end this post on that kind of note.
* Checking In
* Skim Vacations
* No Way Vacay
* Train of Moths