Earworm Tunes

When Humming a Dopey Song
Throws You Into a Mad Loop

A song stuck in the head is akin to Tickle Torture: a lethal pleasure with a level of agony measured in riffs and laughter. Both are hard to take seriously until the feather strikes, or the loop starts. I don’t know about torture, but I could be easily killed by a lovely song.
It’s called Earworm for a reason, but again, its power is deceiving, compared to, say, a spider literally stuck in the canal. Even more so if the song is, well, lovely. But we all know that’s bull; once that beat gets pounding, it’s either dance to it, or jump off the roof.
No way around it, the clickable bunch below is mostly preposterous. Maybe not to you, who may’ve heard them on your friend’s wake playlist. But they’ve spoiled the weather, and drove me to that parapet many a day, right to the moment when, suddenly, they were gone.
And yet, they carved, wormed if you would, a deep, warm burrow inside me, that when I’m free from their spell, I may dwell into a brief appreciation of their power. That is, right before I feel what ax murderers must feel whenever someone wishes them a nice day.
Studies and the Internet suggest solutions, strategies, and some comfort for the affliction. King among them is to start humming another tune, but that not always works: since lyrics often falter me, the words-and-music combo of loopy songs always reign supreme.
Here they are, with as much unvarnished commentary as a bad parent can offer of his children. Some notable performances, or impressive chart climbing, explain nothing of their appeal, or nauseating side effects. No order, only hope it’s the last I hear of them but doubt it.
PINK LEMONADE – Peppermint Rainbow
It’s embarrassing to think that I was once captivated by this extinct New England group of white kids, but it may had to do with the string quartet. Or The Beatles. It was 1968, after all. Even worse is to admit of searching for years, trying to locate this tune. Once I did, I was doomed. But pink lemonades, I do like them.
LOVE IS ALL – Malcolm Roberts
Song festivals were all the rage in Brazil of the 1960s, and when this unknown Brit won one, all big voice and arms widespread, some must’ve thought about a flash in the pan. Years later, I interviewed the nice chap, who went back to play much smaller venues. But my fav that year was, brace yourself, the ‘great’ Romuald, of Andorra.

QUASE FUI LHE PROCURAR – Roberto Carlos
Still in Brazil, RC was considered the king of rock during that time, but this corny song was what he did best. I Almost Went Looking For You shined for a few months, and then crashed down fast. But not before hooking me up for life. I still hum it on my mind, and once I start it, something inside stops working. The chorus, oh, that chorus.
OBLADI OBLADA – Beatles
This song may have split up the band for good, and I always hated it with a vengeance. But while I can listen to all their other ones, without tiring and never having enough, this one has probably played on my mind more than any other. Which crushes my soul. Every time. And you know what? it’s not a bad reggae. Actually, it is.

OH ME OH MY – B.J.Thomas
Hard to believe that Elvis felt threatened by this guy, but he did score a number of hits in the king’s backyard. For some reason, this one stuck with me, and I can’t even listen to the end of it. Actually, I don’t need it: just writing about it gets me going, all the way to the ‘my crazy babe’ part. To use a tired bromide, Sad.
IF – Bread
Two words that should’ve given it away, but millions fell for the cliche-ridden verses and saw-sounding guitar. Not that David Gates lacked talent, or a voice to melt housewives and secretaries alike. But after Telly Savalas talk-sang it to death, only Sinatra to finally (more)
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* The Standards
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Curtain Raiser

Voting to Kill Democracy, Colltalers

It’s a relatively new trend and it’s all the rage among would-be authoritarian rulers. Encouraged by what’s happened in the U.S. and elsewhere, they’ve caught another promising break yesterday in France. This may be the dawn of a new, dreadful time: dictators voted into office.
An army, to stage a coup, or a party machine, to funnel cash, seem now obsolete. All it takes is a media-savvy campaign, a populist platform of discontent, warnings against external threats, and job-stealing immigrants, and voilà, practically any (rich) person can now be a president.
Some say it’s the Putin way, as the Russian leader can claim that his ‘mandate’ was earned in the polls. And as such, it worked for Turkey’s Recep Erdogan too. In Brazil and South Korea, the power grab used legislative tricks to unseat presidents, all with some popular approval.
To be fair, none of it is completely new, and there’s no need to go beyond 1930s Germany, to prove it. But since the millennium, there’s a new consolidation of power that has become more common, and it is its own animal, concerning both seated and would-be ‘by-the-book’ leaders.
In the 20th century, it was common for rulers to remain in power for generations, specially in Asia and Africa, where they’d perform as loyal servers to Western interests. While the American electoral process had more subtle ways of maintaining the political status quo, and kept its Democracy functional, West-propped up dictators had carte blanch to get rich and oppress their people as long as they remained aligned.
That was the time when popular leaders rarely won, and to prevent disrupting the colonial order, were routinely assassinated when running for or while in office. That somehow changed with the independence wars of the second half of the century, but not by much. The new crop of pro-West leaders, who turned into long-term rulers, ran hundreds of newly named nations, which were just as impoverished as before.
Real change, or rather, reversal to a bygone time, as well as exposure to the inner workings of the world, circa 20th century, happened with the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and resulting killing of Saddan Hussein. Suddenly, ancient tribes and ethnicities kept at bay by Hussein, were unleashed and eager to regain their space. Similar situation may be playing out in Syria today, with predictable bloodshed as a result.
It’s a new era, when presidents get to rise to power no longer by bloody or lengthy battles, but with the support of those they successfully con into believing they’re the only answer. Religion used to fulfill this role, but apart from Iran’s theocracy, Continue reading

Rainforest Rundown

The Amazon’s Ancient Wonders,
Current Misery & Its Worst Foes

When Colltales started, seven years ago this Earth Day week, the environmental disaster du jour was BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We’ve survived that, but many species haven’t. Now the still living, breathing, exuberant Amazon Rainforest may be where our next big screwup will take place, as proof that little has changed.
We’re still as likely to discover a Stonehenge-like monument, or 2,000-year old earthworks, or a 3,600-square-mile coral reef where the Amazon meets the Atlantic, as we’re to find that our taste for burgers is killing the jungle, deforestation rates are again on the rise, or that the Brazilian president is actually out to to cash in the forest.
Did we mention the neck-breaking pace of murders of green activists? Or the river of flowing boiling water? Nothing in the Amazon is mild or accommodating; it’s either an explosion of millions of still unknown species, or the soul-crushing wildlife and climate change indifference, shared by many Brazilians.
That’s why scientists fear the worst: not just that we won’t get to learn all that’s there for millennia to be discovered, but that today’s staggering beauty and power of the Rainforest will be reduced to a vast desert of its sandy soil, unprotected by the canopy and terminally exposed to the elements.
It’s ironic, then, that a deranged Brazilian conspiracy theory, dear to xenophobic and fanatics alike, is about some secret society of wealthy individuals, that’s supposedly been working to yank the forest out Brazil’s control and ownership. Suddenly, that prospect seem better than the current reality.

STONEHENGE, GEOGLYPHS & REEFS
Think about indigenous tribes? think again, for it was a cattle ranch foreman who stumbled upon some rocks piled up on a curious position, in what it’s now known as a thousand-year Stonehenge formation, probably built for the same purpose as the one in the U.K. And just as mysterious.
Just like the even older miles of earthworks, geoglyphs as deep as 16 feet and wide as a mile, proving the forest as home to some busybodies centuries before Europeans came to loot it. The discovery opens a new chapter into the history of the Amazon, one that unfortunately we may not get to finish reading.
Nature kept pace with all this human activity, and in unexpected ways too. Where the mighty Amazon reaches the sea, the crash of two powerful forces is long known as the Pororoca. That’s where lies miles of previously undiscovered coral reefs, coated most of the year by the river’s thick mud. Ready for swim?

BURGERS, MINERS & SLAVES
Not so fast. That juicy staple of American cuisine, now massively popular all over the globe, has something else questionable about it, besides being made of slaughtered cows: its smoky, ashy, scorched-earth rainforest sauce. No other way of putting it: cattle in the Amazon was always a bad idea.
But the meat industry is not the only woe helping clearing the forest: mining projects may deliver another blow to the entire region, if environmental regulations are eased as the Brazilian government plans. Even as is, (more)
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* Rain (Forest) Check
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Curtain Raiser

Help Brazil Save the World, Colltalers

Eight Brazilian cabinet ministers and a dozen politicians, mostly from the multiparty base of President Michel Temer, have been named last week in a giant government corruption probe. But most major media outlets are covering it as if involving Workers’ Party members only.
PT, the party of former presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, impeached by Congress last year, is indeed among the 108 listed, but the majority belongs to the president’s PMDB, and PSDB, the party of another past leader and ally, Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
Brazil’s biggest political scandal has reached such a significant pitch in part due to the way the investigation, Lava Jato (Car Wash), as it’s known, is being conducted. In this stage, for instance, bosses and employees of once powerful Odebrecht Organization have been providing the Supreme Court names, in exchange for lesser penalties or no prosecution, in a process that, critics say, has become itself tainted.
It’s hard to bring down to a few, essential points, this dizzying array of conflicting views and possible bias, wrapped up into a multi year investigation that started at state-run oil giant Petrobras, and, one wouldn’t know it by the coverage, was encouraged by Lula and Dilma.
The first startling point is that Temer, so often associated with corruption, embezzlement, and secret Swiss bank accounts, is not on the list. That he successfully warded off all efforts to include him show how skilled a politician the former #2 on Dilma’s ticket has become.
The second point is how the Brazilian media, which is controlled by half a dozen powerful families and politicians of the religious right, remain king makers of the country’s politics. Pretty much every major news outlet was behind the public pressure and political manipulation that led to the impeachment of Brazil’s first female president, even as they failed to build a strong and independent legal case against her.
Similarly to what happens in Trump’s country, most of those who took the streets and banged kitchen pots against Dilma, for two straight years, starting by her 54 million-vote reelection, in 2014, remain unaware that the 24/7 negative media coverage against her was crucial to drive them into angry rallies. We may dedicate a future column to this and other similarities of the U.S. and Brazil’s political momentum.
Over the weekend, Estadão, one of Brazil’s biggest communications group, which along the O Globo organization was crucial in the movement to depose Dilma, found an unarguable way to defuse the aforementioned majority, and still keep its focus on demonizing PT.
It diluted the breaking Justice Luiz Edson Fachin’s list by headlining instead its own research, on the total number of Lava Jato interviewees. On that list, yes, PT has the majority. But the fact that’s not what’ll move the process along, but the Justice’s list, is another of Estadão’s trickery Brazilians have grown used to. And the week is likely to be dominated by the paper’s own report over the official document.
The third important point to be made about just such a momentum is, obviously, the economy. Even critics of PT recognize that during its 13 years in power, Brazil became the seventh-largest Continue reading

Bad Dads

When Poor Parenting
Gets Its Own Holiday

By all accounts, he could’ve lived his life as the son of a king, away from this mad world and having the whole universe as his playing pen. Instead, and for little reason, he was stripped of all privileges and sent to do his dad’s bidding in a hostile place where he got killed.
Sunday, 1.7 billion followers will celebrate Jesus’ life, in what looks, but no one admits it, like spite to his dad. But blatant lack of parenting skills is not a God’s monopoly, however. It just follows a long, ancient line of cruelty and child abuse powerful fathers have adopted to advance their own agenda for the world.
Not to pile up on God in such an important week, but doing it anyway, when his son called out for him, while being tortured and about to agonize to death, he was too busy to help. What father wouldn’t take his son’s phone calls in a time of need? Actually, don’t answer that.
Anyway, Jesus wasn’t even the only ‘son’ God had a problem with; remember Abraham? Leaving his own dad to serve the almighty was not good enough: to really prove his absolutely devotion, he had to get rid of his only son, Isaac. And the thing is, Abe almost did it.
There wouldn’t be a Bible today if he’d gone through it. Was God concerned about that when he stopped Abe from committing such an ignominious act? Nah. And despite claiming to love his first born, at the countdown, Abe was ready to plunge that shiny blade into his heart.
For god forbid to disappoint God. When suddenly he changed his mind, he didn’t bother telling the would-be murder; he sent an angel and a lamb to do his bidding. See the pattern? The angel broke the news, while the lamb, well, no lamb ever survived a biblical tale.

SETTING TRAPS ON JUNIOR’S WAY
Some fathers slave through life so to spare their children the misery, but see their legacy treated like an old shoe. Others, either by example or tyranny, turn their kids into duplicates. And the rich and famous are known for spawning spoiled brats, good only to suck up resources.
A few hide what and who they were, to allow their children a chance to find a path of their own. Often after kicking them out, or walking away themselves. These are but a sample of the myriad of experiences for bringing up a child into this world, father and son division.
And yet humankind usually takes their cue from particularly nasty progenitors, who enjoyed throwing son against son, took multiple wives, and demanded total dedication. Pity those closest to them, made to feel less important than the flock at large, easily swayed by arresting sermons and principled lectures.
This is not about dissing out your old man, which surely did the best he could to protect your hide. Most fathers go out of their way to assure their kids’ survival, not because they want to raise a clone, but because they see in them the fragile, vulnerable little boy they once were.

A TEMPLATE FOR MOST RELIGIONS
And yet, it seems almost inevitable that parents will crush their children’s spirit, prevent them for being what they really are, and make sure they’ll remain frightened and emotionally crippled as adults. It’s really a miracle anyone would survive what passes for parenthood.
God loved the world so much that he sent his one and only as a gift to it, said St. John, with misguided awe. Yeah, right. As if this valley of bloody tears was a garden of delights. For if he loved it so much, why couldn’t he come over himself? Or make it a lot better to begin with?
There are many altruistic stories about fathers and sons, tales of heroism, life-affirming accounts of benevolence and love. Myths that sourced most religions, however, are not about them. But given billions of believers, it’s undeniable that something about them clicks.
The myth of Christianity, for instance, from the humble birth to a virgin, in the manger, to becoming a living god, to martyrdom and resurrection, is not even original. There are several accounts of divinities that predated Jesus, born in the same circumstances, and even day of the year.
THE BOY THAT COULDN’T LIVE
Which means originality is overrated; the same idea had been tried before, apparently to public acclaim. Henry and John, another father and son account, seems to have much less takers. The fact that it appeals to us may explain why it’s a good thing we didn’t get into the business of founding a religion: no one would follow it.
In 1606, while searching for the Northwest passage, British navigator Henry Hudson discovered Manhattan, ‘the island at the center of the world‘ that birthed New York. To accompany him, he brought one of his sons, John, and left behind brothers Richard and Oliver.
It was a fateful decision that may’ve caused a ruckus among the boys, and followed the same pattern referred to above. Parents do play favorites, and no platitudes about fairness prevail when it comes down to it. And it did come down. Badly.
The discovery is celebrated as pivotal to the Enlightenment Era and all that came after. But it was the end to Henry and John. (more)
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Curtain Raiser

A Step Into the Quagmire, Colltalers

It’s hard to start a column with two cliches, ‘here we go again,’ and ‘we told you so.’ But the U.S. 59 Tomahawk missile strikes rained down on Syria this week was not just predictable, but in typical fashion, will accomplish many crucial goals benefiting only one person: Trump.
Again, he’s managed to drag the world into a narrative that artificially boosts his profile, while shoving aside every objection – and they’re still mounting – being raised domestically even by soon-to-be former supporters, and by an increasingly alarmed international community.
Yes, last Tuesday’s horrible Bashar al-Assad-ordered chemical attack on his own people did crush our ability to even comprehend such brutality. It was as if we were back in 1917, before chemical weapons were banned and were still being routinely used in the battlefield.
But the administration’s claim that weapons are the appropriate response to such act of terror, and that suddenly, we care about Syria, is both unacceptable and disingenuous. Worst, it’s likely that the strikes are not part of any thought out policy but a one-track minded, hasty gesture.
For a similar attack occurred back in 2013, and nothing was done to prevent it from happening again, neither by the U.S. nor its allies. Plus, one of the leading voices demanding President Obama not to act on impulse, despite the overwhelming aversion caused by similar footage of poor civilians gasping for their last breath that came out in its aftermath, was exactly a then conveniently much more restrained Trump’s.
The same one who, once elected, has locked all doors to Syrian refugees. And who lashed at the former president’s stance for being ‘weak’ in that and all the many conflicts around the world, where American troops are still being killed in the name Continue reading

World Snatchers

Relax, There’s a Chance It
Will All End Up With a Blast

The danger of normalizing something so terminally outrageous is that it makes us all numb, complacent, vulnerable. Suddenly, yesterday’s inconceivable is today’s inevitable, and what we’ve been resisting against for millennia finally breaks through and flips us all into ashes.
Take meteorites, for instance – what? you thought we were talking about something else? One just zapped by Earth this week and didn’t even make to the front pages. NASA says there may be a couple more with our street address on them, heading our way. What then?
There’s an underfunded agency tracking so-called near Earth objects, sizable enough to cause harm. But size was relative in the dinosaur demise, 65 million years ago. Bigger rocks have hit the planet before and after, with little notice or damage. Luck us.
Still, if the risk is in the angle and substance, not scope or even speed, so be it. Few remember but in 2013, the world was expecting an asteroid to pass at large, when out of the blue, another, unknown, exploded over the skies of Russia. Luck was indeed in the angle.
Call us paranoid but when the eruption of the Vesuvius finally made it to the headlines of the day, it’s likely that the lava was already eating the town by its borders. And even if it caught some overly worried like us in its wake, most of the cautious had already made out of the joint.

THE HARMLESS FLEET & THE UNDETECTED KILLER
The unsettling thing about 2017 FU102, the near-Earth asteroid that zapped by us Sunday, was not that it passed at 0.6 times the mean distance of the Moon, but that it’d been discovered only four days before. Ok, so it was a 10-meter rock, that at the most, would’ve probably smashed a car, if it’d crashed.
But by the same measure of anticipation, had it been a thousand times bigger, even with over a year of advanced notice, there’d still be little for us to do. What, with our current state of affairs, many would’ve likely spent millions trying to prove that it was all NASA’s invention.
At the end of the day, it is the luck of the draw that we haven’t been hit yet. And, to some extent, spending millions trying to come up with a way to divert these civilization killers may not count on many supporters. But the alternative sucks: what to do in the waiting months till the inexorable?

METEOR SHOWERS & THE NEW FIREBALL SEASON
There are many who appreciate regularly scheduled meteor showers, multiple annual night presentations sponsored by nature, going on since before we came into the picture. On the 22nd this month, for example, we’ll have the Lyrid Showers, and who knows what does heaven have in store for us.
But the er big stars of every year is the Perseid, on August, the November Leonid, and the Geminid in December. There are more, some not big enough to have a name. By all accounts, showers are benign and entertaining, when it doesn’t rain, of course. Kids love them, perhaps because they happen late in the evening.
Another thing altogether is dealing with the term Fireball Season, possibly coined by H.R. MacMillan Space Centre astronomer Derek Kief. One can’t help it but to fear the implicit ominousness of such (more)
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* Spacing Out
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