Curtain Raiser

Excuse Me While I Hit the Road

Curtain Raiser

Remember Your Humanity, Colltalers

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine proceeds as tragic as expected, aggravated now by the illegal use of cluster bombs by Putin’s armies. Since the U.S., the U.K., and others have used these particularly brutal devices on civilian targets to universal condemnation, who has morals to stop the Russians now?
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the torture and 80 times waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah by American agents in a Polish so-called Black Site earlier in the Iraq invasion is a sanctioned “state secret.” Chile’s new president has hit the ground running. And why Brittney Griner is still locked up?
We begin in Saudi Arabia, the murderous regime President Biden is reportedly cozying it up to so to neuter Russia’s oil influence, announced that it has mass executed 81 people. The kingdom’s largest execution included Yemenis, Houthis, and Shiites among the executed. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has ordered the killing of American-Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, told The Atlantic that he’s “the real victim” of Khashoggi’s murder.
In Pakistan, an unarmed Indian missile landed near Mian Channu, luckily with no casualties, after being accidentally let off during maintenance. The incident revived for a moment Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

The Calamities & the Dream, Colltalers

With the precision of well-timed tragedies, Hurricane Ida’s hit New Orleans just about 15 years since Katrina had done the same. Will the levees hold? In Afghanistan, it looks like more U.S. troops than we were told will stay on even as a resurgent ISIS wants to take over the fight against the Taliban.
Covid has become the pandemic that came to stay, as cases rise worldwide, dozens of countries still haven’t got vaccines, and an influential minority continues to scare the unvaccinated. And Brazilians worry President Bolsonaro plans a Trump Jan. 6-style rampage on Sept 7, Brazil’s national day.
Let’s start with a local irony about penalizing 7.5 million Americans who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus: the “Emergency Unemployment Program” is set to expire on Labor Day! Another sign that this business-created fake holiday has nothing to do with the First of May celebrated all over the world but here. The irony is even crueler as the economy is far from firing on all cylinders and, wouldn’t they know it? Covid is getting stronger.
It’s also a sign that U.S. labor policies are fully dictated by corporate needs. And for that, they can always count on the invaluable help of the Supreme Court, which has just overturned a moratorium on evictions. For unless their goal was to increase the number of unhoused people living in the streets, itself a record now, or to make it particularly harder for them to get a new job, it’s a case for asking, what do they mean to accomplish with this ruling?
In Zimbabwe, Mapone, a 12-year-old lion was cowardly ambushed and executed by a “pleasure” hunter. Remember Cecil, killed with an arrow by a wealthy dentist in 2015 and left to agonize for 24 hours? It happened again. Nothing has changed: Zimbabwe Continue reading

Smothering Days

Glad to Miss the Scented
Candles & the Early Bird

Sundays ago, I’ve started but never finished reading an article about a retirement home, whose name I forgot, next to a cemetery in Queens, New York. Wouldn’t know the address even if I were to lay to rest there. Put aside the I article but not because it was numbingly sappy.
In its tightly wounded pinheadedness, it brought up a memory of my Mom to haunt me all over again. And she never spent a night in one of those depositories, or, bless her soul, went through her last years looking out the window facing the Long Island Expressway.
The post-war generation, emperors of the youth who lived lifetimes of celebration and spirited enthusiasm for the new age, is now living in senior facilities. And it’s quite likely that most of them, like me, are still not prepared to leave the world that no longer caters to them.
It takes a person some 30 years to complete the crossing to the other margin, to experience things from the opposite angle they did in their prime. And few enjoy the crash-landing, specially if they arrive there with only a small box of tiny joys, and a huge container of sorrows.
Some turn it into an occasion, expecting the fireworks that sent them off from the other side. But it takes just a few days of looking out that window, or expecting visitors, to strip anyone from vain notions that they still hold anything with any demand in the universe left behind.
They belong now to no guest lists, no attendance calls, no line up of performers warming up backstage. The far away noise of heartbeats is neither of their concern nor brings back the urge to join in the dance. No more nights without getting up to pee, or a full day without a nap.
The world is now a previous address, occupied by new tenants, and all maps leading back to it have been altered to reflect the new ways. An entire armada of desires was sank to make it to the other side, even the most alive among us drowned on the trip across. The crew that finally made it to final port had to be beaten up to disembark.
When you find yourself at that Tuesday Bingo, and most around you can’t remember who they are, is knowing your name really that important? Suddenly, your lifetime wish to be left alone is all you’ve got, and whatever they’re talking about, it’s sure as hell not about you.
People’s expiration date comes before their timely demise, and it’s supposed to be OK to file them in big concrete boxes at the border of city and burbs. Despoiled of their little nothings, deemed (more)
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* Freaky Friday
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Waters of March

A Fine Day to Salute
Hurricane Elis Regina

‘If she were still alive, Brazilian music wouldn’t be in such a bad shape.’ That’s guitar player Nathan Marques about Elis Regina, likely Brazil’s greatest singer, who’d be 76 today. She died of an accidental overdose in 1982, and the country’s rich musical tradition still mourns her loss.
Most survivors of Brazil’s golden generation of songwriters and musicians, from the 1960s on, would endorse her guitarist’s stinging comment. Besides being impossibly gifted as an artist, Elis is also missed for her uncanny talent scouting skills, as many a career was either launched or enhanced by her renditions.
Her rise from anonymity to national stardom was meteoric. At 20, with Vinicius de Moraes and Edu Lobo‘s Arrastão, she won the TV Excelsior Festival de Música, the first of a series of festivals that took the country by storm, and revealed a new batch of interpreters that would dominate Brazilian music for years to come.
She then co-hosted with Jair Rodrigues O Fino da Bossa and turned it into the most important music program on TV at the time. She seemed born to star in the medium, a crucial part of the young nation’s cultural integration, even as it also served well the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil between 1964 and 85.
In many cases, hers were the first recordings of composers who’d go on to become national treasuries, like Milton Nascimento, Ivan Lins, Beto Guedes, and João Bosco, among others. Or she added considerable wattage to the work of contemporaries, like Lobo, Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso, and Gilberto Gil, by recording their songs.

Even though they all wrote lyrics, she also helped usher an entirely new lineage of lyricists. Fernando Brant, Ronaldo Bastos, Aldir Blanc, and Victor Martins, to name but few, had their urban poetry-infused words first played on the radio and performed on TV by her, in a country whose majority by now were living in big cities.
By the 1970s, Brazilian music, or MPB, had several streams of high-quality output, and composers of talent to boot. As Bossa Nova entered its second decade, and Tropicália, its own maturity phase, even artists identified with purer musical idioms, such as samba and Chorinho, were registering on vinyl their arguably best work.
Thus as Tom Jobim, João Gilberto, Baden Powell, and so many others were consolidating the then most famous representative of the country’s music, Veloso, Gil, Tom Zé, and Os Mutantes, plus Buarque, Paulinho da Viola, Nascimento, and Bosco were hard at work rewriting popular music to a younger audience.
One of the most remarkable facts about Elis Regina’s trajectory was that she was developing her sophisticated interpretative touch while at the vanguard of all these currents. Credit must be also given to husband and partner Cesar Camargo Mariano, who contributed (more)
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Curtain Raiser

Dreamers Have the Power, Colltalers

The repulsive spectacle of our non-conceding president seeking to pre-pardon himself, his family, and friends, is not just an admission of guilt. It’s also why those related to 15 million dead and alive Americans with Covid-19 deserve full accountability for the Trump administration’s criminal ineptitude.
When 65 years ago last week Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery, AL, hers was neither a first for such a rebellious act nor the most dramatic but a turning point. Her courage still dwarfs our current resolve to set racial equality in the U.S.
More about that later but let’s start with ‘Make Amazon Pay,’ the movement to force the world’s largest online retailer to fulfill its social obligations. Launched on Black Friday by over 50 organizations, it demands better working conditions and full tax transparency (Amazon paid 0 taxes in 2018).
A letter by over 400 lawmakers from 34 countries to founder Jeff Bezos, who became a trillionaire exactly during the pandemic, says the company has ‘dodged and dismissed … debts to workers, societies, and the planet‘ on its way to market domination and to top the $11 billion profit it made last year.
Good news to those who were born in the U.S. but remain in the limbo of draconian immigration laws: a federal judge ordered the ‘Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,’ or DACA, to be restored to protect the so-called ‘Dreamers‘ from deportation while providing a path to their citizenship. Being but a fraction of undocumented immigrants living in the country, the ruling still benefits over a million and their families, currently terrorized by ICE raids.
An outpour of sadness has been expressed by scientists the world over about the destruction of Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

A Battle Won, More to Come, Colltalers 

It’s been a big ‘Aaaahhhhhh,’ an extended, cathartic, long-overdue sigh of relief. Joe Biden has thoroughly beaten Donald Trump, celebrations erupted across timezones, and America has finally caught its breath. Even the world’s sleeping better too. A swell party but this nightmare is not quite over yet.
For Covid-19 is on the offensive again and several countries are now back into lockdown. 10.2 million Americans got the virus, and worldwide over 1.2 million have already missed the new day. The election is done but the presidency ends only on Jan. 20, so a lot may happen between now and then.
Expect a backlash from the president, and Republicans still pretending to like him. Calls for recounting, lawsuits, desperate appeals to put out the fire. But unlike what many feared, there’s really no close-enough race to justify a recounting and no serious questioning of the system’s integrity. Not that this will keep them from trying. In the end, it’ll be the American people who will guarantee the legality of the process. And they have already decided.
Except for Trump of course. The president who has already turned the U.S. into a Banana Republic now threatens to muck up what makes America functional: the peaceful transition of power. It’s been abundantly clear that he’s not equipped Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

There’d Be Days Like These, Colltalers

We’re entering an extraordinary week in American history. Books, theories, films, college disciplines, and brand new laws will be written about what’s happening in the U.S. Billions of people, entire regimes, wildlife, and the planet itself will be impacted by it. Will Americans choose wisely or poorly?
The terrifying global spike of Covid-19 – the U.S.’ still on top with over 9.4 million cases – and a just-retooled Supreme Court on track to reelect Trump will certainly headline the period. That and the U.S. officially leaving the Paris Agreement. Oh, did we mention there’s a major election tomorrow?
We start the news roundup with the brutal murder of three in Nice, France, by a young Tunisian, supposedly in the name of Muhammad. It’s the third of such attacks in two months, but there were other near-miss tragedies averted by law enforcement. The attacker survived and will stand trial. All because the satirical Charlie Hebdo paper – itself targeted in 2015 – decided to republish cartoons of the prophet. 2020 can’t stop breaking our hearts.
In Poland, it’s been the second week of protests against the far-right Andrzej Duda administration, which has enforced a draconian abortion ban. It’s all part of an effort to cancel women’s reproductive rights, despite them being the majority of the population, by its mostly Catholic male demographics. But it won’t work for that’s a fight conservatives can’t win, neither in Poland nor anywhere else. When women rise, they usually get what they need.
Before going any further, let’s correctly identify the source linking both events: religious intolerance, the exact reason invoked by the Pilgrims to flee 16th century England and settle on its brand new colony. The difference is the degree of violence employed, which by no means is negligible. Still, it’s important to relate both incidents as pre-planned and executed to the letter by its perpetrators and not forget their common goal: to shut down dissent.
Let’s also mention yet another migrant tragedy at sea: the 140 people who drowned off the coast of West Africa last week. Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

A Witching Hour Is Upon Us, Colltalers

Many Americans haven’t been sleeping well lately. Some worry about Nov. 3; others about how early voting is beating records across the land. Those concerned about that were sure their anti-democratic efforts to prevent people from voting had been successful. They may be up to a rude awakening.
Yet it’s Covid-19’s record of 83,000 cases in a day that the majority is rightfully scared about. Or an FBI report confirming foreign interference in the elections. On the other hand, most people support an antitrust lawsuit against Google. And others are celebrating the United Nations’ 75th anniversary.
Other issues worrying folks everywhere are climate change-driven wildfires, rising sea levels-boosted coastal flooding, and pandemic-aggravated hunger. In this particular, there’s Brazil, ironically one of the world’s four-largest food producers. In fact, with the U.S. and India, it also shares the top spot of coronavirus-infected countries. Combined, these countries have less than two billion people but over half of the 43 million cases worldwide.
What’s behind the stats however is the brutality of income inequality and our insatiable war machines. Although food insecurity and starvation are old foes of poor Indians and Brazilians, there are more Americans in similar dire straits now than the 35 million with nothing to eat for most of last year.
Colombia’s indigenous peoples took the streets of Bogotá to protest the methodic extermination of natives and environmental activists that’s reaching a fever pitch in the country. Four years since an agreement with leftist guerillas, it’s now right-wing paramilitary groups that are crushing their dreams of peace and stability. More than 230 civic leaders have been killed this year, often in mass executions, to little or no action by President Iván Duque.
Still in South America, an E.U.’s trade accord with Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay, would boost meat and ethanol imports to Europe, and machinery, chemicals, and drugs to the Mercosur countries. But it’d also be bad news for the Amazon forest, which in case you’re wondering, is still burning. Continue reading

Grace Under Rain

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, a.k.a. Pelé, becomes 80 today. Still considered soccer’s G-O-A-T, his popularity is intact after half a century of retirement. Despite his difficult relationship with Brazil, he helped it win three out of five World Cups, the most of any other.
A wee lad in the 1960s, I’ve experienced his magic and seized the memory as one of my most precious. As his celebrated Santos played my Grêmio, I understood what means to embody the dreams of an entire nation with the grace of a generous king.  

As he walked off the field, crowd jeers turned into cheers. He held his head down until they grew louder to grant us his royal smile. It took him only a second for all of us to become his.

Pelé, football’s greatest player, had come to town to play my team. But by the end of the first half, there was no memorable greatness to report. It was just another league game, after all; rough skirmishes in the mud and a cold and unforgiving winter to boot. That night though there was also a shining knight among us. And he acted the part with aplomb.
Sports fans are rude, raw, and irrational the world over. Crude emotions are always at the ready but civility is usually checked at the turnstiles. Just like at the Colosseum: Christians and pagans crowded the pitch but to the beasts belong the hour.
The birthplace of  ‘jogo bonito‘ is no haven away from this world of unbounded brutality. The exquisite touch of skills, the artistry with the ball are reflected on the Mondo Cane sensibility at the bleaches, the cursing, the unholy screams, and every obscene gesture to match.
Let’s not get into the urine-bag throwing at random, the foul-smelling bathrooms, the fights that break at chance between rivaling factions. And the slurs throw at women, let’s just not go there.
In such a freezing and wet Wednesday, as only a place that close to Antarctica can be, 30,000 or so of us were braving elements and odds but for a glimpse of a special player, to whom songs, and toasts, and accolades are still being raised.
Chanting our undying commitment to follow our blue team ‘barefoot if necessary,’ as its Anthem promises, that’s where we were at that very night. And for a chance to see how memories are built to last.
Ours was the no-nonsense team, whose physical game had almost no room for finesse. We’d kick the ball and the opponent with gusto, and if we’d sneak an offensive play, it’d usually be like a cannon aimed at the other end of the field. All fancy schmancy and flair had no place in the squad.
It was 1969 and Pelé had already won two world championships with the national team. By then though, he was close to retirement, his great glory days left smashed in the grass of England three years earlier. For all it counted, he had nothing else to prove and a lot of reasons to just fade away.
No one knew then that a year later, he’d rise and enchant the world all over again. Football is a game for the minute. All else (more)
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* Pelé At 70
* National Tragedy
* Don Diego de La Argentina
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Marble & Heavenly Bodies

Michelangelo’s Grocery
List & the Finger of Galileo

What if future generations would wind up knowing famous people not for what we celebrate them for, but for something entirely unexpected? What if, in the big scheme, that’s what’s all about, or rather, how would you like to be known a century from now?
Michelangelo Buonarroti and Galileo Galilei, whose mastery of arts and sciences summarizes much of mankind’s greatness, may be safe from such a vexing fate. Nevertheless, recent news about them did make us wonder, over 400 years after their time.
In 2014, Illinois-based weapons maker ArmaLite had an awful idea: to outfit Michelangelo‘s masterpiece David with an assault rifle, committing not just an act of vandalism for profit, but also insulting four centuries of enlightenment to transcend our destructive nature.
Almost as offensive to any human who’s ever contemplated in awe the universe, let alone Galileo‘s memory, was a National Science Foundation study, that found that one in four Americans, or some 80 million of us, simply doesn’t know that the Earth orbits the Sun.

It’s very likely that both ArmaLite and those millions of our fellow voters remain unaware that Michelangelo died over 456 years ago, only three days after Galileo was born, both in the same region known today as Italy. Or even what greatness we’re talking about here.
After all, it’s really a coincidence that they were joined by such a happenstance of date and place. But it’s no casual fact that they both defined their age and set the standards to all others that followed it, in ways that still resonate with our world today.
And it’s a bit petty to castigate people for caring little whether Michelangelo‘s art makes us a bit more deserving of the wonders of our own time, or that Galileo‘s telescope introduced us to the stars, from which we inherited the dust that makes up our bodies.
But times, alas, are barely open to wonders, enigmas, or marvels of the physical world. While the Renaissance bred so many geniuses and they, in return, doted us with their indelible foresight and imagination, we got used to ignoring every star above us, as the song goes.
We’re content to juxtapose the sublime with the abhorrent, like David with a gun, and relish on the comfort of long-debunked beliefs, (more)
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Curtain Raiser

Sixteen Days to Reality, Colltalers

2020 could end now and still be one of the deadliest. Over a million Covid-19 deaths worldwide, a savage rise of hunger and dispossession, wildfires, climate change-driven superstorms, Democracy at risk, we thought we were done. But no, not until a religious zealotry murder had been committed.
Thousands of women marching over the weekend though offered a powerful counternarrative to the criminal negligence, hate incitement, and sheer malfeasance coming out of the White House lately. Paraphrasing Lincoln, another past, way more dignified occupant, they can’t fool us all, all the time.
It’s great to see a mass mobilization of women at such a crucial juncture. Given that the issue of reproductive rights has just landed at the core of the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election, any progressive change in the status quo has to necessarily go through how mankind treats half of the population.
But to be fair, women are already protesting in Belarus, France, Mexico, Brazil, and elsewhere, and their fight against corruption, domestic violence, for equal pay, racial justice, and yes, the right to safe, legal abortion, is one with the rest of society. For patriarchy can no longer deliver us our future.
Thus the significance of the re-election by a landslide of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Domestically, it was her outstanding leadership that neutralized the pandemic and kept Kiwi casualties to only five. But even before she’d already become Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Tainted As Sick Folk, Colltalers

It’s disturbing how President Trump’s knowingly contaminating supporters and cabinet members with the coronavirus. It’s execrable he’s spreading it to the press corps and White House staffers too. But it’s downright despicable that the GOP and those invested in his reelection remain oblivious to it all.
A domestic far-right terrorist plot caught by the FBI, to kidnap and harm a sitting governor, or 220,000 American lives lost on the president’s watch are not of their concern. Although history is never kind to lack of moral compass, sycophants and enemies of democracy are seldomly bothered about that.
We begin in Guatemala our news roundup with the calls for justice for Laura Daniela Hernández and Litzy Cordón, kidnapped and murdered a week apart from each other. 350 women are estimated to have been victims of femicide so far this year. Defined as ‘a sex-based hate crime,’ the term coined by author Diana E. H. Russell in 1976 identifies one of the most serious consequences of domestic abuse, which is rising throughout Latin America.
Why Do They Want To Kill Us?‘ The Amnesty report published last week is about the murder of activists in Colombia and the lack of action by the government. Some 223 social leaders Continue reading

Dear John

 No need to rewrite this post, published six years ago today. Its outdated references albeit encrusted, don't touch the meaning. New York City was then ignited by mass rallies demanding action against the climate emergency. As it still must be today and in a month. A few weeks before, passing by The Dakota I thought I saw you in the window, looking happy with your family. It could've seen that the revolution you'd dreamed about - even as being always ambivalent about it as anyone - had come to pay its respects. On that eve of Oct. 9, it'd all come into full-circle but like your life, it didn't last. The streets are now empty and our hearts, broken. Where are the ready-to-battle youthful multitudes who wanted so much a few years ago and now when most badly needed, they falter? The pull must be even stronger for all that push forward built up in 2014 didn't make it to the 2016 ballot. In a month, that battle becomes final. Maybe the grace and power of your comeback then, of your final 60 days on this planet, will rub off on us and we get us the reckoning we need, another time to dawn in a half that time. We'll still be devastated at the end of that last leg, something we're fated to feel it happening over and over, between the 10/9 and the 12/8. But we'll have new dreams to pursue together and new reasons to really give peace a chance.

You Are Me &
We’re All Together

The other day, when 400,000 people marched in front of your New York City home, I couldn’t help it but think how much you would’ve enjoyed seeing so many taking the streets for a cause – this time to fight Climate Change – just like you, marching against the war.
It also helped that it was the International Peace Day, but what was particularly poignant about Sept. 21st was to realize that many in the crowd had probably been there before, on a cold December night of 1980, to mourn your assassination on the steps of The Dakota.
You would’ve been 74 today, and almost certainly, equally as engaged in progressive causes as you were some forty years ago. And that’s what makes us so sad, that we can no longer hear your voice, and how much the crowd misses the guidance of people like you, and Pete Seeger, to name a like-minded artist.
The fact is, even at that time, such head-first dive into political activism and explicit protesting was not what many musicians considered the best way to go about seeking change. Bob Dylan comes to mind as another influential star who, like many of your contemporaries, was just not into singing songs, carrying slogans, and parading for peace.
But while they may have been a tad too concerned about the impact that an explicit anti-establishment attitude would’ve had on their careers, you were simply not in the same level of showbiz calculation. To you, it seemed only natural to be part of what the people in the streets were protesting about, warts and criticism notwithstanding.

And there were a lot of put-downs about your over-exposure to the media, your peace and bed-in campaigns, your stunts which, to a small segment of the intelligentsia, were perceived as opportunistic and self-promoting. Never mind that your efforts, as off-the-kilt as they were, became somewhat effective.
In perspective, all that fiery anti-war poster and newspaper ad placing, your tireless advocating and support of people such as Angela Davis, John Sinclair, Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, and others, are now an inextricably part of the historical record about mass movements that helped put an end to the Vietnam War.
You should’ve seen how many young, high-school kids were there too, possibly making that beautiful Sunday (more)

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Curtain Raiser

Time For Survivors Recharge, Colltalers

A handful of issues rose to the top of humanity’s woes at this wrapup of the year and decade. Climate crisis, income inequality, gender, race, and faith persecution, and a few others have all but prevented billions from living free, dignified, and peaceful lives, and life on this earth from having a future.
Still, we greet the new year with some hope and a few wishes, with heavy hearts but much resolve to turn the civilization around. That’s what’s at stake here. A lot to do on our own while street rallies continue until morale improves. But first, let’s vote out all the leaders who stand on our way forward.
Starting by the top: we must do what the Impeachment won’t and choose a new U.S. President in November. It’s clear that for as long as Donald Trump and his enabling sycophants remain in the White House, every one of those issues of concern has the potential of becoming unmanageable nightmares.
In three years, the president and his family grew richer as did the powerful who benefitted from his trillion-dollar tax break, while national poverty levels spiked. Immigrants and sexual and racial minorities were brutalized while white supremacists felt empowered. Environmental protection rules were dismantled as fossil fuel industries rejoiced. Women’s reproductive rights faced a threat and so did the Constitution and entire judicial system.
As a nation, we’re weakened and embarrassed by our overweight, unhinged, diatribe-prone ‘leader’ becoming a giant fatberg clogging global airwaves with the grease of his amorality. Save for misconception or lack of judgment, no decent American believes anything that he says unless their earnings depend Continue reading

Vessels of Tears

Beyond Memory, Three
Wrecks That Still Hurt

The schooner that brought the last 110 Africans to be American slaves, in 1860; a boxcar that carried many of the millions of Jews to Germany’s Auschwitz extermination camp, during WWII; a boat that sunk in the Mediterranean in 2015, killing over a thousand migrants.
For their riders, hope for breaking chains, breathe freedom, or find a future, was yanked out of their reach. But even stripped of their dignity, or forced to renounce name and identity, their lives were not wasted. Now, more than ever, they must be known by all.
It’s an intriguing coincidence. The Clotilda, a slave ship just-found in Alabama; a cattle car used in the Holocaust, being exhibited in Manhattan; and the rescued wreck of the Barca Nostra, on display at the Venice Biennale, are sharing a meaningful moment now.
Slavery. Racism. Xenophobia. Neither vanquished, as believed, nor gone. As their murderous spell threatens the world again, it’s timely that all three vessels have been given a new life as beacons of memory and resistance. History is not made to be repeated.
Some are weary of attributing to objects the significance of the pain and suffering experienced by actual human beings; it risks dehumanizing them further. But it beats forgetting it all. It jolts people out of complacency, and gives them agency over the immovable past.

The story of the Clotilda, the boat that transported kidnapped West Africans to Alabama, is well known. The last slave ship to reach the U.S., at the dawn of the Civil War, it was among other things, breaking the federal ban on ‘importation,’ in effect since 1808.
To avoid being caught, after delivering its heartbreaking cargo, the captain burned and sank the boat. But in a generation, the then former slaves founded Africatown, and helped build this country. They did not forget, though, and now there’s proof for the stories they’ve heard.
The discovery is worth being part of the national conversation about the black African-American experience, just like Reparations for Slavery, and prison and drug reforms. All are about giving people and their stories their due acknowledgement and place in history.

In America, circa 2019, when a white supremacist goes in a rampage, killing Jewish people, or another Latino child dies at an immigration facility, the president gives the first a nod, and ignores the other. No wonder that there’s been quite a few of both lately. People of a certain age know how this winds up.
Auschwitz, at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, a show about Germany’s biggest concentration camp between 1940-1945, features a railcar just like the ones Nazis used to ship thousands of Jews and others to gas chambers. But it teaches more than that.
Hate and murder are the stock and trade of psychopaths in power, but they rely on forgetfulness to come back again. If the murder of six million is no longer (more)
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Curtain Raiser

Profiteering From Misery, Colltalers

‘Breaking: Hurricane LeBron’s 200 mph winds drove the Atlantic to completely submerge long decaying Palm Beach, Fl, Mar-a-Lago Golf Club, once owed by ex-President Trump, who refused to comment. He’s serving a 5-year reduced term at N.Y. Rikers.’
‘Members of the once billionaire family, the Sacklers, start their prison sentences today, after being found guilty of profiting from the U.S.’s deadliest drug crisis: overdoses from the family-owned, Purdue Pharma-produced, OxyContin, an addictive painkiller.’
Sorry to interrupt almost a decade of fact-based discussion on this space, to sneak in a piece of karmic wishful thinking. Not that neither of the fictitious scenarios laid above could ever happen, if justice was to be served. But realistically, neither is likely to.
Those two opening graphs, though, touch some of the most crucial issues of our age, and to present them as fiction may ease the blunt of facing the nightmare they suggest: unbound government corruption, dead of democracy, and impeding global catastrophe.
The investigation into the president’s possible collusion, conspiring with a foreign power in exchange for personal business favors, has affected, when not already sentenced, virtually every one of his inner circle. Except him, who’s still unscathed and in control of the narrative, while even those not yet indicted may be destroying, or saving, self-incriminating records, as we speak, just in case.
By declaring a non-existent, probably unconstitutional, state of national emergency, Trump took another step towards full tyranny mode: ‘my wall or I’ll start a war,’ have been his terms all along. It’s up to adults left in Washington to challenge this act of power grab, hoping as well that the Supreme Court spares us from witnessing it issuing a shamefully-bias ruling on presidential powers.
Trump will have his way, though. Helped by Republicans – a small group of astonishingly rich and amoral Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

The Expediency of Tomahawks, Colltalers

It’s easier to bomb than to talk. The Trump administration has tried hard to get to this point, when headlines are about hitting another country. It’s already got North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran, on its crosshairs, but Syria has had the best excuse, so it got struck twice. More to come?
Very likely, indeed. Even that bombing changes nothing, only kills more people, at both times, timing was most convenient. But the strikes we’d rather support are those by teachers. For what they demand, from West Virginia to Arizona, will improve our life without killing anyone.
To this president, who dodged the draft and never had to fire a bullet to save a soul, war is always a handy diversion. Whenever lies, sex and incompetence threaten to derail his week, talk about bombing someone does the trick, playing the compliant media as Nero did with his lyre.
But alas, there are things that even Trump can’t be solely blamed for, even as he’d gladly take credit for them. For war, as a highly profitable business that it is, has always opportunities for all, from the aggressor to the invaded, except of course, the unarmed people on the ground.
It keeps the weapon industries solvent, the multi-billion defense contractor market well oiled, and Pentagon hawks and militaristic zealots quite happy. War is never about saving people, proving a point, or righting some perceived wrongs; it’s a self-feeding engine despots and tyrants can’t live without. Few see it that way but how can a massive loss of innocent lives be justified by some ephemeral ideal of justice?
Both times, the justification to strike Syria has been the alleged use of chemical weapons, with what’s called the ‘international community’ blaming both the regime of Bashar al-Assad and its Russian support for the attack. Pictures of victims, many children, are indeed devastating.
It wasn’t enough in the 1980s however for the U.S. to bomb the Saddam Hussein regime, which used it several times against Kurds, Iranian forces, and his own people, if intel of the time is to be trusted. The reason was pragmatic albeit not less inexcusable: he was then a U.S. ally.
Of course, the U.S. is not alone applying that kind of ‘measured’ hypocrisy as a foreign policy tool. Specially now, Continue reading

The Thriller Is Gone

Michael Jackson, Who’d
Be 59 Moonwalks Today

When he used to pop and flare up his dance moves and magnetism, no one could touch him. And when he crashed and burned, his ashes spread out quickly, and took with them the legend of a tainted Peter Pan. Still his talents remain unmatched.
He shot to fame during what now looks like tamed times, but just as he ascended, he was taking the unwitting steps that brought him down, like a defective Icarus. Musically, his legacy may have been all but relegated to obsolescence.
As he stretched that Motown sound that could be no longer, the deconstruction of rap was prescribing his irrelevance. But only a spiritual black son of Fred Astaire, breakthrough brother of Prince, and perennial stardust pixie, could reach such heights of divine entertainment.
Today we won’t remember the grotesque caricature he crafted, which ultimately consumed his gifts. Nor his despicable tabloid reign, or the misguided dream of racial reengineering. We’ll believe, for a moment, in that elusive delusion of eternal youth he pursued with abandon.
That he failed is the personal tragedy which he ultimately shared with the humanity that he fought so hard to be free of. He had already passed and gone way before the June, 2009, headlines that finally confirmed. At that point, he just switched coffins.
The moment in time he’s seized so brilliantly, though, has no expiration date. That’s why once, we all wanted to be Michael Jackson, the boy wonder who, despite captive to a nightmare, still managed to create a fairy tale out of pure dreams and sheer magic.

Curtain Raiser

Losing Cats & Whales, Colltalers

‘Scientific.’ That’s how Japan calls its annual slaughtering of minke whales, which it resumed last week, defying public opinion and a 1986 international ban. While it disregards current wild life preservation efforts, it’s not an isolated act.
Just as last summer’s unconscionable killing of Cecil, the beloved African lion, by a prize hunter, didn’t halt the booming bred-for-hunt industry, what follows grief over violence against animals is more often inaction than institutional change.
One of the most disturbing trends, captive breeding of big cats, is actually increasing in Africa and in the U.S., even as their numbers in the wild are quickly receding. It’s not just that the morals of raising such amazing animals for the enjoyment of a few wealthy individuals is utterly questionable. But that such practices result in poor genetic pools due to in-breeding.
It produces disease and physical deformities-prone animals, that could never survive if released. Unfit to replenish the diversity found in nature, they could also represent a high risk of rushing extinction if in contact with wild populations.
There are now more big cats living in the U.S. than anywhere in the world, but the great majority of them has been raised in captivity. Since, thank heavens, they’re not bred for being hunted, there’s also the issue of how to create enough sanctuaries to provide for aging animals whose amateur caretakers are no longer Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Behind the Killing of a Big Cat, Colltalers

It was as swift and definitive as the killing itself was not. And it showed just as effectively how the global media at times accurately reflects the bipolar aspects of our short attention span. And seemingly endless ability for changing the subject.
When news broke that Cecil, a supposedly protected lion in Zimbabwe, felled to an American amateur hunter’s high-powered bow, coverage of the universal grief that followed it immediately interrupted all the other news of the day.
Almost gone from the headlines was ISIL’s murderous campaign, Turkish air raids of Kurds in Iraq and Syria, change in Taliban leadership with Mullah Mohammed Omar’s death, the Palestinian toddler killed by Israeli settlers, and that’s just skimming through the usually bloody but limited and biased coverage of the Middle Eastern cauldron.
In the U.S., outrage provoked by the beloved feline’s killing has also managed to wipe from front covers the extremely rare indictment of a white police officer in the death of yet another unarmed black male. And divert speculation about the suspicions death of Sandra Bland, a black professional who hung herself in jail, following her arrest for a traffic violation.
Cecil’s death sent in fact such a powerful shockwave around the world that many decried it, on the assumption that people care more about animals than the preventable killing of innocent humans singled out for their race or social status.
But even if there’s some truth to that – after all, advocates say, animals would never be accused of a crime against humans -, such misperception is less about a supposed ranking of species with, you guessed it, us on top, than with the seemingly insurmountable precariousness of sustaining momentum for discussing race relations in the U.S. now or ever.
Specially when combined with the leeway law enforcement agents enjoy to make life and death decisions, shortcomings of their psychological training, centuries of racial injustice and, of course, the gun issue, arguably another non starter.
Two other issues, both converged under the general bracket of cruelty against animals, got bonus mileage on the back of Cecil’s headless carcass, and we’re not corroborating threats to the Minnesota dentist by the ever agreeable Internet trolls.
One, the rapid expanding endangered species list, Continue reading

Space Droppings

The High-Speed Junk Our
Dreams Left Above Earth

Look at that sky above you. See how the stars are bright tonight. Think about the immensity of the universe, quasars and nebulae, waiting to awe you, just beyond the reach of your fingers. And be careful with the falling debris of thousands of objects man placed on Earth’s orbit.
That’s right. We can’t seem to live without producing many times as much as we’re capable of consuming. And just like the oceans, all that floating garbage is choking us. Or, in the case of space, either falling often over our heads or racing around the planet at top speed.
So, hail poets and philosophers and astronomers and dreamers. But also, hail the new class of space cleaners that will have to be trained and sent to do what janitors have been doing since time immemorial, besides taking the blame for their bosses’ crimes: cleaning after us.
The U.S., and as a distant second, Russia (as in former Soviet Union), are by far the biggest producers of space junk around. But neophyte China‘s also doing its part, as it launched this week a monitoring center to protect its over 130 space objects in orbit.
Other countries are concerned too. A month ago, Japan announced that it’s studying the possibility of laser-blasting, Star Wars-style, all that junk out of existence, probably from the International Space Station itself. Just imagine George Lucas losing his sleep over this.
But theirs is only a slightly more sophisticated idea that’s been tried before, with disastrous results. We’ve covered that a few years ago. Then as now, there were few reasons Continue reading

We’re Not Alone!

The Secret, Trillion Lives
Crawling In & On Your Body

The late Carl Sagan may have said, we’re all made of starstuff. But deep down, what we really are is a multitude of microorganisms, 100 trillion of them, some part of our natural physiology, but most totally foreign. We wouldn’t have lasted this long on Earth without them.
While cells are the bricks that form our bodies, even before birth, an ever growing, self-renewing, array of microscopic creatures call us their home and, gasp, may also call the shots about everything we think we are, from how healthy or moody, to when we’ll finally expire.
So much for freewill. This invisible trillionaire community, living of our so well washed and fed bodies, shelters charitable organisms, which allow us to survive what would’ve killed us in the past, and downright lethal pathogens, for which there’s no defense. And yet others are content to just control whether we’ll follow that new Twitter trend.
To learn about these entities, simple but formidable enough to erase a city’s population, is to find multiple new questions to every doubt we may clarify. It’s also to wonder how come a brainless, single-cell being can play such a complex role in the evolutionary ladder.
Notice that we haven’t mentioned viruses, so much in the headlines lately with the Ebola outbreak. But if bacteria can be foreign to us, viruses are totally aliens, as they have no cell or internal structure. All killing’s done with the thinnest protein layer and a string of nucleic acid. We’d let those dogs lie for now, if we could.
Bacteria, however, can actually be our allies, and our guts hold enough of them to actually defeat an alien invasion, as H.G. Wells‘ illustrated so well in War of the Worlds. Not for long, though, as we overuse antibiotics, which kill both good and bad ones, and give rise to a new breed of superbugs. Watch out.

Speaking of evolution, a step above, more complex and considerably larger, are parasites, which are tiny insects, still invisible to our poor eye sights, but very capable all the same. Nature is full of them, and now we’re also learning that some can be pretty clever, controlling bigger creatures. Including us.
There’s one, for instance, that once inside a bumblebee, can force it to become food for its larvae, not before digging its own grave, though. They called it a Mafia Bug, but you haven’t heard it from us. Curiously, such approach to domination is emulated by other, larger creatures, such as some kind of wasps.
The Pompiliadae, a.k.a. Spider Wasp, is so called for a reason: it poisons and paralyzes without killing a spider, drags it to its burrow, bury it, and lay eggs on top of it, so it will be eaten still alive by its larvae. Pretty horrific. Another wasp does something similar: it turns the spider into a zombie construction worker.
Well, you may say, at least it teaches it a marketable skill. Except that it also paralyzes the spider and lays its eggs, etc. Not a fate one would think dignified enough for anyone, but, Continue reading


Happy 2014

Dr. Who?

Wanted: Mom for Neanderthal &
The Lecture That Shook the World

You may be convinced that science can’t pack heat, but it does and how. In part because new discoveries are inherently frightening, and often such fears are well founded. Also, it may sound stereotypical, but scientists are not really the most socially skillful people around.
Cases in point: a geneticist has announced that a woman could, potentially, give birth to a Neanderthal, a species that evolution selected out thousands of years ago. And you wouldn’t believe how a physiologist demonstrated publicly his erectile dysfunction therapy.
There’s no need for alarm, though. We’re not about to pile on the work of these incredibly gifted individuals, just because they wouldn’t know who the Kardashian are. Many members of the not-so-bright but sociable cognizant crowd like us spend a great deal of time trying to forget them too.
Still, in a profession where trial and error is essential for success, even if it takes decades if not centuries, some blatant examples of vexing lack of social awareness have already had their day in the sun. Thus at least theoretically, they wouldn’t need to be repeated ad nauseum as they do.
What those two examples above demonstrate, however, is that many of the very shining examples of human intellect can’t, well, pay attention for too long. Or that when Desperate Housewives is on, they’re simply peeping through some microscope, finding out how our world will change in the next millennium.

To underline this point, and add yet another layer of caution to the proceedings, take the L’Aquila earthquake, that struck Italy’s region of Abruzzo, in 2009. The country’s deadliest quake since 1980 killed 297 people and left hundreds of injured, besides causing the usual misery and widespread material destruction.
So, what did the Italian government under flamboyant billionaire Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi do? Persecuted seven seismologists at the Commission for Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks, of course. Continue reading

Try This At Home

Three Cases to Delay the World’s
Slow Slide Towards the Dark Side

A retiring owner decides to give away his business to employees. A cab driver returns a wad of cash left in his car. A mayor who’ll spend a week on Food Stamps. These sound like cliche plots for yet another boring season of television sitcoms. Except that they’re not.
Joe Lueken is really giving his 46-year-old grocery chain away to his 400-plus employees. Las Vegas cabbie Adam Woldemarin did return over $200 grand to a twice-lucky gambler. And Newark Mayor Cory Booker is indeed set to try living on a meager stipend.
Before going any further, though, let’s get some debris out of the way. We don’t know any of these people, never shopped at Village Foods in Bemidji, haven’t ridden a cab in Vegas, or even cast a vote in Jersey. In fact, readers of this blog know we’re no cheerleaders for anyone or anything.
But, let’s face it, this sort of stories are in terribly short supply these days, and heaven knows they’re so few and far between, we wonder whether someone is not pulling our leg this time too. If they are, you probably know the drill better than we, that shame-on-them, shame-on-us business.
We’re sure that for much less, many have been called heroes, and may even have believed for a moment that they were indeed special, just for doing the right thing. Because in an ideal word, there shouldn’t be Continue reading

Are We There Yet?

Billionaires’ Paradise Among Space
Debris & a Punch Heard on the Moon

For space aficionados, the good news is, here comes another age of orbital traveling. For science buffs, the bad news is that it’ll be geared towards tourism, not research. For star gazers, we’re about to resume our interrupted space adventure. For crazy wingers, that dream will cost more than an arm and a leg.
Up to now, space exploration has been the charge of rocket scientists. But what comes next is the luxury vacation extravaganza the majority will never be able to afford. It’s the trade-off of the times: either we had this less than perfect vision restored, of a future flying through galaxies, or postpone it all for generations.
If it doesn’t seem like a fair choice, and that the distance between an astronaut and a commercial pilot may be wider than the one between Earth and the moon, well, that’s just the way the world goes round.
On the other brighter and slightly radiation-exposed side, we may find that flying above the atmosphere and back, even if represents such a diminished glance of a once grand view, it still is a high-risk proposition not to be taken lightly.
And who knows? Perhaps boys and girls around the world will still dream of one day fly so high that their clock will slow down, and their hearts will race faster, and that this planet’s troubles will seem way smaller, even if for a moment.
In the meantime, commercial companies are already jockeying for Continue reading

Aussie Antihero

Time for Ned Kelly to 
Have His Third Burial

When Australian outlaw Ned Kelly was living his brief and tormented life, 158 or 157 years ago, depending on who you ask, there was probably little doubt about how it all would end. His death by hanging, on three counts of murder, would have been the final act in such a short life of a hapless character.
Not for Kelly, though. His body went through quite a few adventures of its own, as it turns out. First, his bones were moved in 1929, and then exhumed 80 years later, when his DNA was identified. But his skull has been always missing until recently. Now, a self-described witch claims to have it.
By now, much of what we believe we know about this contemporary of American Jesse James, also young and outlawed, is subjected to skepticism for lack of consistent records. In fact, we may never know how much of it is even based on fact, such as the Robin Hood bit, or just pure myth.
But it makes for good copy. News about Kelly have been as hot now as they were during the 1960s, when the potential of iconic antiheroes for selling T-shirts built a few small fortunes. It helped it too that a 1970 movie based on his life, starring Mick Jagger, was a minor hit of the era.
As any middle-schooler can tell you, when the British Empire was deciding what to do with the vast extension of the land ‘down under,’ its most ‘brilliant’ idea was to send to the continental-sized new country a band of convicted criminals. Let loose in the inhospitable territory, those who didn’t die, thrived.
Edward ‘Ned’ Kelly was the son of a first generation Irish con sent by the British to rot way down below the equator, an ‘award’ offered to him and his comrades, as an alternative to death in the northern Continue reading

Big Spill

While BP’s All But Done With It,
Wildlife in the Gulf’s Still Reeling

Two years ago today, the Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig operated by subcontractors working for BP Inc. in the Gulf of Mexico, exploded, caught fire and killed eleven people, in what became the U.S.’s biggest environmental disaster. It took 87 days for the giant British concern to cap the well, after an estimated five million barrels of oil had already spilled into once pristine gulf waters.
BP was forced to set aside a $20 billion fund to cover the cleanup efforts, which were undertaken along with U.S.’s environmental agencies and local organizations, and pay for reparations. Such amount’s still to be fully spent and legal battles still rage over who should pay what and to whom.
It may take years before we know for sure the true extent of the damage to wildlife, fisheries and the ecosystem the spill has caused. But disturbing reports about deformed shrimp and lung-damaged dolphins are no comfort for those who’ve been fighting for years against the use of fossil fuels, exactly to prevent what seems now statistically inevitable: another ecological disaster.
It won’t be easy. And it’s not just because BP, despite settling billions of dollars of claims from the spill, has again asked a U.S. judge for yet another delay to resolve remaining disputes. But energy policies in the U.S. and pretty much every other big western economy are still in large part controlled by the oil and gas industry.
Particularly in the U.S., such fight to end our oil dependency has been disheartening, and the Obama administration’s done less than expected supporting research of alternative energy sources. On the contrary, Continue reading

Battleground Masters

“You’re Welcome But
You Can’t Crash Here.”

If you’re one of the thousands of veterans returning to the U.S. from Iraq, welcome back. You’ve probably already heard it before, but let’s restate the fact of how grateful we all are for your sacrifice.
Now, there’re a number of facts that can be said about you: you’re coming back from a few tours in Iraq e possibly in Afghanistan too, but you know of many who did not.
You also know of some who did it but with serious physical and psychological wounds; you think you’re fine but perhaps have considered the possibility of seeing someone to help you cope, too. Despite the medals you’ve earned over there, you’re still not sure of what to do with your life from now on; and you’ve already been told at least twice, that there’re no jobs available.
Now, a few things you may not have heard about what’s going on around here, and we must warn you, they may hurt: regardless of what you’ve been told, most people have all but forgotten you were even there.
There’s a record number of Americans living under the poverty line, and the national unemployment levels match those of 70 years ago. Continue reading

Roma Walkaway

Europe Push Against Gypsies
May Set Dawn of New Diaspora

Em France,police forced some 160 of them out of a Marseille camp, in anticipation of the coming presidential elections.
In the U.K., 80 families have been fighting eviction from the Basildon district’s Dale Farms for almost a year now.
Elsewhere in Europe, the Romanies, or Gypsies, or British Travelers remain vilified and marginalized as they have been since their origin, which can be traced back to the Indian diaspora in the tenth century.
There’s something about these “Egyptians” and their nomadic lifestyle that strikes deep-seated suspicions and fear at heart of the mainstream of the European society. Continue reading

Edible Gore

Sweet Baking Goods
for Strong Stomachs

We haven’t met anyone who doesn’t love
the smell of freshly baked bread and cake.

Either because we associate it with our own childhood, or because bread is one of the oldest staples of the human diet, the fact is that we all seem easily captivated by the aroma of baked flour and sugar.
So it may take a very high level of craftsmanship, and a good deal of insight, for anyone to put a dent on such deep-seated reaction.
That’s what Dan Gentle, a designer and cake hobbyist, and Kittiwat Unarrom, a baker and sculptor, seemed to have Continue reading

(Not) Nice to Meat You

Eating Animals May
Be Coming To a Boil

The short-comings of public campaigns about people’s bad health habits are well known. The best example, of course, are the billions of dollars spent trying to warn people about the devastation that cigarette smoking may cause.
The graphic depictions of terminal diseases caused by the nasty habit, tough rhetoric and even government-sponsored draconian laws restricting its practice, as it happened in New York, have all but failed to make a real dent in the profits of the tobacco industry, let alone the smokers’ pleasure.
At the end of the day, scary tactics notwithstanding, to quit smoking remains a deeply personal decision, akin of choosing a particular diet regime, or becoming a vegetarian.
Which brings us to the age-old discussion over whether we should or are we even supposed to have the flesh of dead animals as so central a staple of our food consumption.
Since last century, growing criticism of the meat industry has reached strident levels. Beyond the usual health-minded Continue reading

Chew on This

When Someone’s Discarded
Bubble Gum Is An Art Canvas

Ah, the sidewalks of New York. Nothing like a stroll through the city streets, the lights, the noises and the smells, the colorful characters. At this time of the year, few other pleasures can beat the… wait, what’s that?
You just stepped on it. You lift your foot and take a good look at your sole. Thank goodness, it’s not what you’d feared. But it’s still going to take some work to scrape it all off.
The sticky black blob that’s now attached to the bottom of your shoe is one of the Big Apple’s most annoying nuisances: a discarded chewing gum. And unlike dog poop, there’s not a law Continue reading

On the Brink

Meet an Amur Leopard,
the World’s Rarest Cat

There may be only fewer than 50 individuals of this beautiful feline left in the wild. It shouldn’t be so, since they sit at the top of the food chain. Guess who’s been mercilessly hunting them for centuries?
Now the World Wildlife Fund has set an area covering 650,000 acres in Russia for the Land of the Leopard National Park, a last-ditch effort to prevent these magnificent creatures from extinction.
That’s why we dedicate this Caturday to the Amur, the rarest among the rarest. Click on the picture to watch the video. There are also many other ways you can help, including adopting one of them.

Amish Anguish

A Discreet Community Gets
Its Fair Share of Silly News

The Amish, that pious group founded in the 1600s, are known for simple living, plain clothing, and aversion to the conveniences of technology, according to Wikipedia. They are also very particular about facial hair styles. Just ask the Brothers Mullet.
A couple of weeks ago, the Ohio police arrested Johnny and Lester Mullet, plus their friends, Levi and Lester Miller (we swear, we’re not making this stuff up). The charge: kidnapping and burglary, which is very much out of character for a group with such a guarded reputation, if you’d ask us. But we’re glad you didn’t.
That’s because, what’s behind those charges is way more embarrassing to old Sam, the patriarch father of the Mullet brothers, than being associated with the name of a ridiculous 1980s hairstyle Continue reading

Much to Miss

Take a Detour

Hit the bottom? Go to ‘CONTENT’ (above, middle left) and find what’s been published on Colltales before. Or go ahead and check ‘Older Entries.’ ‘Curb Your God,’  ‘Curtain Raisers,’ ‘Page Openers,’ and the complete, exclusive coverage of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, along with the stories that got you going not so long ago are still around. So much good stuff, you’ll be surprised. Enjoy your search.

No, Wait

The Leap Second &
The Doomsday Clock

Just when you were ready to celebrate the fact that summer this year will last a bit longer, and we mean, a very tiny, teeny little bit longer, here comes the buzzkillers to tell you that we’re actually wasting it, meaning, that we’re in fact very late and even close to the end.
These are but just two of the ways that we obsess with measuring time, or at least, fool ourselves with the illusion that time can be measured. But at the end of the day, we’re no better than that Lewis Carroll rabbit, always rushing, insanely busy and ever so late.
And if you thought that such obsession is a mere product of our modern times, hum so over the top and, as that old Lennon song would say, running everywhere at top speed, you haven’t heard the one about the South Pacific.
As it turns out, a tiny, teeny sun-drenched island decided that it had to do some catch up with time of its own, and get in line with the same time zone of nearby Australia, New Zealand and Tonga. The good folks of Samoa did, then, some unheard of in a very long time: they’ve Continue reading

Ready to Roll By

This Rock Is About
to Zip By Above You

Yeah, it won’t be this time. Make a wish and thank your lucky stars.

Wild Wild West

Butch Cassidy and
The Snake Oil King

A recent movie about cowboys and aliens, although far from evoking classic westerns by John Ford and Howard Hawks, still managed, somehow, to inspire a revival of sorts of public interest in the genre and historical period.
Or at least, that’s what one would be led to believe with the recent bombshell news concerning one of the most beloved and mythical real legends of the old west: Butch Cassidy.
A 1934 manuscript, written by a machinist who died in Spokane three years later, has helped to ignite a furor over the legacy and mysterious fate of the famous character.
The manuscript, “Bandit Invincible: the Story of Butch Cassidy,” was written by William T. Phillips, and claims that the bank robber portrayed by Paul Newman in an immensely popular movie about him and Continue reading

Moon Over Prometheus

Frankenstein, Born Past the Witching
Hour & Under a Bright, Gibbous Moon

Since the waxing, gibbous moon will most definitely ruin the view of the Draconid meteor showers this weekend in the Northern Hemisphere, the next best thing is to find out who may have seen it from her window in the summer of 1816.
It turns out the author of one of the seminal pieces of horror literature, Mary Woollstonecraft Shelley, may have written her famous novel, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, in a warm, moonlit June night spent at Villa Diodati, on the shores of Lake Geneva.
That’s when Lord Byron famously challenged her, her future husband Percy, and John Polidori to each write a ghost tale. But no one succeeded like Mary, just 18 at that time.
Percy Shelley and Byron Continue reading

Seconds to None

Does This Tax
Make Me Look Fat?

According to the World Hunger Organization, 925 million people went to bed starving last year, including 13 million American children.
But before you drop your fork and choke with this opening slice of grim reality, we assure you, this post is not about that.
You wouldn’t care to go around beating about the bush, anyway, and most people would rather have seconds from the today’s special: rampant obesity in developed societies.
For despite all those stats about hunger, and the medical risks and social stigma associated with overeating, our collective girth keeps on growing.
Again, why preach to the already stuffed? That business Continue reading

Fuel for Torque

When to Serve O.J., Beer
Or Whiskey to Your Gadgets

In the future, you may not drink (god forbid) but you’ll still need whiskey for your home, orange peels for your car engine, and some beer, to improve Wi-Fi reception.
In other words, if now it’s already common to pump your ride with alcohol, are we too far away from rehab clinics for homes and public transportation?
Something is already happening in Scotland, where a pilot project will power about 9,000 homes with whiskey.
By the way, we’re favoring here the American spelling of the word. Natives of the British islands know a few differences between whisky and whiskey.
Everybody else would be happy if all the talk about names would simply go away, so they could have a drink already.
That being settled, haven’t you heard that Scots hold well their liquor? Nothing out of order, then, that they may live in homes fueled by their Continue reading

At Bat

Belzeebud, New Demon
Bat & the Vampire’s Kiss

For all the irrational fear and centuries of literature inspired by vampire bats, there has been only one death ever in the U.S. caused by their bites. And it happened last year.
Even though the Mexican teenager died after working in a scorching sugar plantation in Louisiana, authorities say he was probably bitten before entering this country.
He died of rabies, a potential fatal infection mainly carried by bats, which are becoming increasingly common in this country.
Going back to the fantastic literature of gore, rabies may be the original connection between vampires and their arch-enemies, werewolves, since dogs are also carriers of the disease.
In fact, much of the resilience of the myth of the blood sucker Continue reading

Suspended Animation

The Serene, Creepy Beauty
of Hyperrealist Sculptures

Perhaps, it’s the wax, a material that serves so well to depict the human body in such a lifelike manner as to scare the children out of the room.
Or it may be the scale accuracy of these sculptures, that could fool the untrained eye of a passerby into thinking that this person is only immerse in deep thought, to be so still in the middle of the crowd.
Maybe is the fact that they are all shown either sleeping or in a serene, contemplative mood, leading one to expect their eyes to pop open at any instant and stare back at you.
There’s something so elusive and so scary about the Sleeping Continue reading

Feral Children

Wild Boys of Europe &
Brazilian Child Brides

Apparently, children and cats share a common trait: both easily revert to a feral state, when left on their own.
That’s hard but still better than what happens to kids in certain countries: they’ve got jobs and marry early.
Two weeks ago, an English-speaking teenager showed up at Berlin’s City Hall claiming to have been living in a nearby forest with his father for five years.
Ray, as he identified himself, seems articulate enough and his story, including his father’s death and burial, if it hasn’t been confirmed yet, does make sense. So far, he has refused to offer other details about it though.
Meanwhile, census figures for 2010 revealed that Brazil has a staggering number of children, in fact over 40 thousand, who are married or living with a partner.
What’s somewhat ironic is that one child found living without parents in a jungle would generate so many news stories, while thousands of children living in abusive conditions within society can’t get a meaningful coverage by the media.
One, the myth of “l’enfant sauvage,” has a profound resonance in our collective awareness, and the few cases reported ignited a rich literature of ideas society holds dear since way before the Enlightened era.
The other extreme, though, is a much more prevalent phenomenon, and with much deeper impact on how we perceive ourselves as a civilization, and yet, can hardly muster Continue reading

Time Travelers

Travolta, Cage Did Face
Off But in the Mid 1800s

Places to Go

A Killer Garden, the Voodoo
Market & New Noodle Museum

Here are three places to go this weekend, after you stop by at the Zuccotti Park to support the Occupy Wall Street movement: stroll through a garden, go to the market, and visit a museum.
There are few occupations in life that can lead you straight back to your roots other than to be a gardener. For some, there’s nothing like sowing seeds to the earth and building a palette of colors and fragrances with exotic flora.
It’s also one of the reasons why backs are hardly straight these days, and chiropractors and orthopedic specialists are constantly on demand.
Something else entirely happens at Alnwick Poison Gardens in England. As its name leaves little doubt about it, you bend down and smell the flowers at your own risk.
Hand-picked by a certainly glove-clad English duchess, Continue reading

Gypsy King

Garcia Lorca, Who Was
Shot 75 Years Ago Today

A trench, dug by someone seeking water, near a farm called Cortijo de Gazpacho in Granada, between the villages of Viznar and Alfacar.
That’s where one of Spain’s greatest poets, Federico Garcia Lorca, is believed to have been buried 75 years ago today, after being shot by a right-wing firing squad.
That’s what historian Miguel Caballero Pérez has been able to piece together, after years sifting through the Spanish police and military archives.
It was early in the country’s civil war and future dictator Francisco Franco had just started his bloody cavalcade towards power, with help along the way from Hitler and other European Continue reading

Natural Gifts

Sperm Donor Trends, Breast Milk
Diet and Birth as Performance Art

A quick spin on the latest about conception and how those who can give, are giving it, those who already have it, are taking it in, and those who are expecting, are coping with the it all.
For when it comes to bring another human being to this world, no measure is large enough, and no gesture has the right dose of grandeur to match the experience.
Now that we managed to pack two simple sentences with a lot of bull, let’s just add that everything you’re about to read is dead serious, or rather, life affirming.
In other words, in a world of so much carnage, etc, etc, it’s always reassuring to see the business of life doing its thing Continue reading