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 belongs 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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Read Also:
* Pelé At 70
* National Tragedy
* Don Diego de La Argentina
Continue reading

’16, How I Still Loathe Thee

To Scare Witches? For Sure.
Worst Year Ever? Not Even Close

The thing about reruns is that they rewind our enthusiasm. That is, if there’s any left. We’re about to hit the homestretch of 2019 with no winners in the fastest lane. It’s looking pretty grim from the inside and the toxic dust may choke us all before the finishing line.
Now, for those about to call this a terrible year, since it’s really been the worst so far in many areas (See Emergency, Climate et al), we must invoke another, one that got ‘all this’ started in the first place. It’s been a tight race but our money is still in 2016.
And that’s that fib about rewinding, that it makes it all look rosier. ‘Hogwash,’ as Robert Hughes once told me about authorship challenges on Goya‘s final works. It’s been three years since and it’s been a hell of a nightmare. All over. World out of whack and all that.
It did get worse with few redeeming qualities. But the funny thing is, it feels perversely better if compared to the year that spawned the Rotten Orange and killed heroes by the dozen. Remember? Yes, there was that, as a radioactive cherry on top of the crapcake.
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Read Also:
* Heard That?
* Call Upon You?
* Gone With Goya

So for no reason at all, except a few implied above, it’s as good a time to repost as any. As if reaching back into Hades to gain strength for the year’s final push. It goes fast now, and the once fun holiday season is about to hammer us into submission with its sales pitch.
So grab a beverage and enjoy the syndication.

Guilty As Charged

World Indicts 2016 For
Crimes Against Humanity

We found it. For a while, it was as if another year would’ve gone by and we’d be still at lost finding the source of the world’s ills. Not this time. 2016 has been universally named the evilest on record. Now we can all go back to our business of turning it all worst that it ever was.
It started deceivingly like any other year, but not for long. Looking back, by March it was clear that there wouldn’t be a contest, but some were still hesitant to make such an early call. Now there’s hardly anyone disagreeing about the choice. Well done everybody.
Here are, in no particular order, the Top 10 Counts brought forth against 2016, whose powerful punch has managed to beat to a pulp some of history’s most notoriously perverse, and blood-thirsty, years:
1. Failure to interrupt and/or reverse rising global temperatures, and resulting increased glacier melting, wildfires, and extreme weather.
2. Neglect to interrupt, minimize, or do away with the harrowing intensity of the era’s ever more numerous wars, carnage, and mayhem.
3. Criminal extermination of countless animal and plant species, some of which we may never have even known they existed.
4. Inability to promote a healthy, all-inclusive, comprehensive worldwide discussion of ways to improve the well being of humankind.
5. Incompetence to prioritize the fight against inequality, boosting instead the prospect of a parasitic minority to grow even wealthier.
6. All-time record for excessive casualties of well known, excellent human beings, who made the world a better place.
7. Creating conditions that conspired and befell female world leaders from positions of power, replacing them with corrupted males.
8. Relentless persecution of races, social strata, Continue reading

Snow & Zuck

There’s a WebCam
Hidden in the Toilet

Edward Snowden and Mark Zuckerberg shared a week in the headlines. The whistleblower who exposed the National Security Agency’s dirty secrets has a memoir out. And the Facebook’s inventor was caught on tape expressing fears of a future of greater scrutiny and accountability.
Apart from that, their notoriety, and the fact they were born within a year of each other, they’ve got little in common. One, whose daring act cost him his freedom, is an example of moral clarity, while the other embodies the very disregard for principles driving the ownership class.
The fate of their parallel lives, however, is an imperfect but still fitting metaphor for these times: follow your conscience and face exile and the hounds of the establishment. Use your privilege to generate wealth and soon you’ll get to rub elbows with the rich and the powerful.
Snowden‘s ‘Permanent Record,’ rather than boasting his ‘good guy’ image, as a slayer of sinister state-surveillance agencies, zeroes in on the fractured and the personal. It’s a humble account of surviving the pushback while still honoring ethical and private choices.
The leaked audio of Zuckerberg‘s raging about presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, throws a glare on his shrewd political calculations. As in the 2016 elections, he’s prepping his social media mammoth to play again the role of king’s maker.

TWO WHO REWROTE OUR TIMES
Six years ago this November, they were the focus of a Colltales’ Curtain Raiser, an excerpt of which is adapted and reposted below. To many, Snowden’s woes have somehow anticipated our current reality, where a U.S. president uses the government to go after his political enemies.
Or that Facebook, which Zuck started in 2004 – a decade before the NSA scandal broke – would go on to become more powerful than many nations. After all, free, non-regulated access to private citizen’s data is now as common as using cellphones to track people down.
As in 2014, they’re still frozen together in amber: Snowden in the White House’s hit list, unlikely to receive a fair trial if he ever comes back from Russia to fight for his rights; and Zuckerberg, who along the top 0.01% of the population, controls 80% of all the planet’s resources.

CHANGE THE WORLD OR MAKE A BUCK
‘The Big Brother age has produced its first titans whose duality mirrors the ambiguity and radical change of the way we live now. Born within a year of each other, Snow and Zuck have perhaps unwittingly, defined the times: a reboot of government accountability, or our downgrade to a totalitarian society.
They made their choices and so will we. Zuck’s created FB with one thought on his mind, besides getting dates: get rich. He achieved that by eliminating early collaborators and potential competitors, and swiftly establishing his wraparound, impenetrable hold of a niche market.
He succeeded beyond his most outlandish visions of power by conceiving and enforcing the tenet of his business model: the complete eradication of any notion of personal privacy, except his, and (more)
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* Memberships
* Call Upon You
* Middle Brother

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Dear Mr. Mayor

A Quick Reminder to
NYC Mayor de Blasio

The personal safety, unalienable freedom of expression, and integrity of each one of the thousands of Climate Emergency activists that’ll descend upon New York City today and next Friday are entirely on your hands, Bill. Here’s hoping you’re getting ready as we speak.
That means that today we need you to be on the streets playing the top cop. And the NYPD will do strictly as it’s told. By you. Hold your batons, Bravest, and let the world speak through the young and the old, the poor and the would-never be rich: Climate Action Now.
There must be absolutely no arrests for protesting, no attempt to corral people marching to save the Earth. No harassment, no tear gas or pepper spray against those brave enough to face multibillion-dollar interests with only the power of their conviction.
No police-state threat or intimidation. No A.I. facial recognition of those a misguided law enforcement establishment may intend to persecute. Turn off the too many surveillance cameras everywhere. Curb your worst offenders, ban ICE from even showing up.
The world will be watching more than the usual, and marching along. So be there, on the ground, making sure the voice of the Earth is heard obscenely loud. Forget 2020 for a moment; it’s not your ‘moment to shine,’ but to take responsibility. Show up and scream along.
History won’t forget or forgive those who are betraying the planet now and cashing in while the circus is burned to the ground. Your grandchildren must hear how great you once were, not that you were out there, slandering the faith put upon you to be the mayor of change.
There’s no need for speeches from you or any other fat cat; your job is to safeguard what’s left of the greatness of this city, its immigrant, working-class roots, and its legacy of dissent. New Yorkers don’t expect anything less from you. Don’t screw this up.

Amazon Via Acre

I Know Why the
Vultures Laughed

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

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

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

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The Quiet Knight

Farewell, João Gilberto,
Master of the Silent Music

João is gone. His passing, on July 6, hit the final chords for Bossa Nova as Brazil’s national musical expression. The precision of his nylon-string playing and subtleness of the nearly mute overtones of his voice challenged traditions and forged a place of his own.
When he, his lifelong musical partner Antonio Carlos ‘Tom’ Jobim and others, took the New York Carnegie Hall stage, in 1962, for a historic concert, it marked the moment when a quiet artistic revolution in Brazil got introduced to the world. It was an instant hit.

Bossa Nova became the very sound of the Portuguese-speaking South American nation, Jobim and João as its top ambassadors. The jazz-tinged but unmistakenly Brazilian melodies of one, seamlessly merged with the syncopated guitar beat and well-timed phrasing of the other.
João was the ultimate perfectionist, and a fiery idiosyncratic performer, whose increasingly rarer appearances would convey an almost cult-like devotion from his audience. Declining physical and mental health though led him to spend his last years alone in his apartment in Rio.
Which was fitting for an artist whose rise coincided with Brazil’s quick urbanization. His art spoke to an ascendant intellectual and politically engaged middle class, even though neither Bossa nor João were integral to the social unrest of the 1960s.
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Read Also:
* Stone Flower
* 50 Summers
* Multi-Note Samba

João Gilberto, a Brazilian treasure, has elevated popular music to a sophisticated art form, capable of expressing the entire soul of a nation. Despite the current president’s refusal to call this a time for mourning, his voice and guitar will forever be the beating heart of Brazil. R.I.P.

Vice to Meat Ya

Eating Animals May
Be Coming To a Boil

The short-comings of public campaigns about bad health habits are well known.  One the best selling foods ever is not even food – cheerios. But despite knowing that full well, those who eat it, eat it. Period.
That may illustrate without explaining why chastising people only makes them double down on their ways. Rightly so. After all, healthy eaters don’t necessarily preach about it. They just, well, eat.
In 2017, Brazil got embroiled in a stinky scandal of rotten meat, which was already packaged to be shipped to schools, and exported to its trading partners. Major plants were raided and low management was paraded like criminals straight to jail. Of course, they’re all out now.
The affair is particularly putrid because involves government corruption, and wouldn’t you know it?, and because it exposes once again a multibillion industry which consistently cares little about public health.
But, like the billions spent shaming people about cigarette smoking, with little impact on global tobacco sales, scandals don’t usually dismantle a malodorous industry. Education and awareness do.
Graphic depictions of terminal diseases caused by some nasty habit, tough rhetoric, and draconian laws restricting its practice, do little to curb social habits. A turnaround in public sentiment is all it takes.

NOTHING TO SEE HERE, SAYS THE FOX
In Brazil, social networks reacted to the ‘Carne Fraca’ (weak flesh, as the scandal was called, for some reason) in typical fashion: blame meat eaters. Meat eaters replied in kind. Nastiness ensued, trolls jubilated.
Meanwhile, then pseudo-president Michel Temer (just released on a five-day jail stint) went to a churrascaria to show buyers of Brazilian steak that all was fine. He would’ve gotten away with it, if he wasn’t dumb enough to eat meat imported from Argentina.
Trade partners pressured on, and prices of the commodity collapsed, which is the least that should happen. But will the crisis lead to tighten regulations and stiffen penalties and jail terms and, shock, the closing of some plants? Not likely, of course.
No one was cast out from society for smoking; they just had to take their business to the curb and open air. And restaurant and service workers thanked it all, very much; finally their underwear stopped smelling like an ashtray at the end of the night.
But in major economies, the tobacco industry did take a hit when smoke was stripped of its glamour, and the price tag of the public health damage it causes came finally into light. That happened only after stricter laws went into effect and were dutifully enforced.
Government officials and politicians who lied and hid they were sponsored by big tobacco, were also exposed and put out of business. As for smokers, it’s their business what they take a drag on. No one else needs to follow suit, or berate them.
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.
ARE YOU GOING TO FINISH THAT?
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.
Growing criticism of the meat industry has reached strident levels. Beyond the usual health-minded professionals, the anti-meat activist movement, and the slow build-up of awareness about animal rights, the industry now is facing a new, formidable foe: climate change.
Scientists are already compiling comprehensive lists of all other contributing factors to climate change, besides our still all-too-encompassing reliance on carbon fuels for energy.
Topping such lists is usually the cycle of raising cattle for human consumption. All over the planet, millions of herds (more)
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Read Also:
* The Beef Of Going Meatless
* Meatless Time
Continue reading

The Bug Report

A New Unicorn Praying Mantis
& the Rediscovered Queen Bee

Without fuss, our relationship with insects has been wildly changing lately. First, we considered eating them in case of an apocalyptic scenario. Then came the worldwide alert: bugs are disappearing – led by a bee catastrophic fallout. Whatever happened to our lunch?
Then again, the same science that predicts climate change may cause the extinction of critters and humans alike, keeps finding new species to amaze us all. The latest: a stunning praying mantis, and the reappearance of the giant Wallace bee, not seen since 1981.
Bugs’ otherworldly beauty and, based on what we now know, crucial role in the food chain, reassigns our appreciation of these creatures. So utterly distinct from us, and yet, so essential to life. The poignant note about it all is that we may not get to discover them in time.
It was surprising, for instance, to find out that spiders eat in a year the weight of the entire mankind. Or that beetles, with over 380,000 species, are the most biodiverse, making up to 40% of all insects on Earth. Some would say, no wonder The Beatles are still so dominant.
But even before the troubling notion that we’d need to start eating them – ‘for the protein, they said’ -, they began to vanish. It’s still unclear how they’re being affected by the changing climate, but one thing is for sure: if they go, we all go right after.

A UNICORN IN A BRAZILIAN FOREST
Brazil’s Mata Atlântica, near Rio, is one of the world’s most diverse forests. Older than the Amazon, only 10% is now left from its original size. In this doomed place, however, life thrives, and it’s where a magical creature was discovered, among half a dozen new species.
Science has no place for praying, except for the praying mantis (pardon the poor pun). Their alien appearance is not very popular, though, even when looking like a dead leaf, or an orchid. And then, there’s that business of having their heads eaten while copulating.
Maybe that’s how evolution treated such a mortal threat: by developing horns. The hand-sized Zoolea praying mantis has one, along a pair of imposing metallic-red limbs. Thus, next time you see one, before running, check for the unicorn. And make a wish or something.

THE BEE MISSING FOR 38 YEARS
Over a decade ago, what became known as Colony Collapse Disorder was so serious that scientists feared for our food crops, without bees to pollinate them. Luckily, it wasn’t to be, not because of that, anyway. But bee populations are still declining, and now, other insects too.
That’s why the rediscovery of the Wallace‘s giant bee (Megachile Pluto) in Indonesia is so auspicious. Four times as big as a honeybee, it does not produce honey or live in hives. Also, confirming a trend (more)
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* Racy Meals
* Heat Riders
* Honey, We’ve Shrunk the Bees

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Heard That?

New Reasons to Have
Nightmares in October

Times have been so scary that not even Halloween spooks kids anymore. Which is fine and won’t spoil the fun out of it. Fake blood? Phony zombies? Made-up vampires? Bring them all on, for who isn’t in badly need of a break these days?
And yet, unlike the ‘horrors’ summoned on Oct. 31, nightmares do exist to torment us. Having one at sleep is haunting, but it’s worst when it keeps vigil and frightens the daylights out of us when we’re wide awaken. Nicely, we prepared a short list of them.
Let’s let the former lie quietly for now, as no one can foresee what a tired mind may conjure when the body finally finds comfort under blankets. Some dreams rattle on, while others slip by unnoticed. But there’s no telling what they’re really about.
The other kind is all around, though. Disturbing visions that palpable reality urges us to bear from dawn to dusk have the added weight of shared experience. How some react to them has often been the stuff wars are fought for, and children are beheaded.
Here are five of the most petrifying, or almost. Not for the feeble of spirit, if there’s even anyone left with such a luxurious prerogative, the bullets of this season’s list are saturated with the fear that a rabid future biting its own tail lies ahead.
It’s not that All Hallows Eve ceased to be a playful way for kids to get acquainted with their ‘dark side.’ Or that there’s no longer sense in make-believe terror. It’s just that the whole world now has gone well beyond what Halloween used to suggest.

A DARK MATTER GHOST CALLED WIMP
Oct. 31 has also been turned into a celebration of the unseen. So-called Dark Matter, that is. 85% of the total mass of the universe remains invisible and undetected, so what you think you know wouldn’t explain the size of the cosmos. Or yours.
It’s out there, though, and one day, yup, it may get you good. For if for an unforeseen event, you’d come into contact with a field full of Wimps, nuclear forces holding your nuclei and protons together would simply vanish, leaving you looking like, well, nothing.
Without something to hold your cells, organs, and body together, needless to say, you’d lose your you-know-what for the very last time. So keep pretending that what you can’t see can’t hurt you at your own risk; the universe doesn’t give a flying… shooting star.

A SPIDER WEB-COVERED LAKEFRONT
That’s a classic, the creature that shares with bats and black cats the iconographic triad of horror. Except that they’re paralyzingly frightening to over 30% of humans. Now imagine the phobic landing on Aitoliko lagoon, in Greece.
Recently, its lakeside got fully covered by Tetragnatha spider webs. The tiny species, which is not the only one periodically taking over acres of land, does like to spook distracted travelers such as yourself.
Picture yourself sinking your feet into the sticky trends and watching thousands of spiderlings crawling up your legs and calling you daddy. Now, now, they’re not poisonous. And consider it your personal experience of the true spirit of Halloween.

INSOMNIA-INDUCING BUGPOCALYPSE
Speaking of weakly particles, as T.S. Eliot once said, the world ends not with a bang but a whimper. For most of us, the prospects for a mass bug extinction may sound more like a relief, and good riddance at that, and not something to care about.
That is, if you’re not into food. Or wouldn’t mind coming across dead bodies laying all over, unable to decay. Animals starving to death and a global collapse of agriculture. And the end for our last food source in case of a climate change-triggered famine. Apart from that, you’d be fine
So, insects may multiply with global warming, but in the end, just like us, may perish exactly because of it. So be careful (more)
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Read Also:
* Stay Awake
* Everything Must Go

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A Cup of Russia

Obscure Blogger Breaks
Silence About World Cup

Many readers – ok, three – have asked about Colltales’ lack of World Cup coverage this year. Flattered that they even care to ask, I can only offer that I’m a lazy bone by nature. Deep down though I could come up with a corollary of excuses to justify my apathy.
Like, this team doesn’t make my heart beat faster (a lie); it doesn’t hold a candle to past Brazilian soccer players (that’s actually relative); their win will boost a terrible government (it always does). The reality, however, is that when they step on the pitch, I lose my mind.
I’m sorry that Germany is out, after what they did to the game, and to us, four years ago in Brazil. Their fine display of football had the rare quality of matching their generosity off the grass. The community that hosted them won’t forget their dignity, and donations, for long.
Also, despite my little faith, I’d hoped for a rematch of their 2014 7×1 thrashing of the home team. The upside for Brazilians, though, is that their premature exit represented a big relief: Brazil’s unmatched five-times world title record will remain unchallenged for another four years.
Apart from them, all teams expected to get this far, have made it into the round-robin stage. On its twisted way, the cup is a predictable affair. Past champions Argentina, England, France, Spain, and Uruguay are still pretty much alive, at least until next week. Can’t wait.

THE TEAMS, THE GAME & EVERYTHING
By far, everybody’s sentimental favorite seems to be Mexico, this time around – albeit there’s a place in my heart for Japan too. They’ve been playing with gusto, and Sweden aside, are hot for a first title. Plus, they play next, and are always reeling to beat, Brazil. You’re on.
Up to now, the best game was the early thriller Portugal 3×3 Spain. And Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo has the edge over Argentine Messi and Brazilian Neymar as MVP. That can change but it’s unlikely. It may not be feasible but a Portugal versus Mexico final would be great.
Speaking of coverage, the media has been predictably biased and disappointingly sparse. News organizations, which have spend lots of ink demonizing Russia, seem set on not showing the country’s so-called human side, as it’s customary in this sort of world class sports event.

THE MYSTIQUE OF THE YELLOW JERSEYS
Disgusting displays of hate and racism happened too, but none from host Russians. Scenes of ugly sex abuse of female fans and reporters, burning of country flags, and xenophobic celebrations went viral and caused the appropriate repulse around the world.
But I daydream, sort of. Despite FIFA’s ingrained corruption, referee mistakes, fake injuries, and some boring games, the cup always manages to thrill those, like me, helplessly hooked on its appeal. My, I even consider those world titles my own personal achievements.
I grew up with Pelé, Garrincha, Gerson, Rivelino, Jairzinho, Sócrates, Zico, Falcão, Renato Portalupi, Careca, Romário, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho Gaúcho, Kaká, – and now, the pickings become slim – Marcelo, Dani Alves, and, fine, Neymar, and Coutinho.
I can’t help it, I’m lucky that way and yes, you may hate me for it. So when friends say they’re rooting against Brazil, I tell them (more)
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Read Also:
* Grace Under Rain
* Out of This World (Cup)
* Cold Cups II Continue reading

Sky-Bound Arrow

The Woman Who Carried
a Son Who Still Carries Her

Gentle Maria Eva of Sagittarius could be a fitting epitaph gracing her tombstone. A code message to strangers to be. Yet, her repouse is all I need to hold a life that expired long ago – squeezed in my hands like wilted flowers and my own past-expiration heart.
At the graveside of an unknown child she chose to speak and weep for her own lost girl, while the boy pretended to pray, her tears dripped ever so tenderly onto the humid grass. At a corner inside me, I now quietly sip the brew of the 12 years since she’s gone.
We’re put to run all over the Earth, bouncing on edges of countries and tongues, yet we all come to dive into a hole on the ground, dug by the few who love us. Mariazinha was the unfinished symphony whose more touching segments were left to be written. Or heard. Or lived.
When she departed, that lifetime well was already open, on the same wall where her love already rested waiting on her. I’ve helped shove her brittle body and mind into that place, at the same echoing gallery we’d walked together just a few years earlier.
There lies the first of the many Marias that ruled my life, where I came from and one day will return. From that deep cave, she still looks after me, trying to honor the justice she longed so hard to shine on her own existence. The very first one, just like Eve, her fitting second name.
I once questioned how much of my mother I carried with me; now I’m not sure where she ended and I started. As my own well approaches, I hope she’ll ease me into the great unknown. It takes long to grow old, then we speed towards the end by receding back to the beginning.
I never gave her a Mother’s Day card, never once thought I was going
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to miss her as I do the parts of me I no longer control. But here I am, wishing I could ask her, at least once, how come she’s now living inside me. Thus this post, this memento I won’t carry any longer with me.
Make room, mother, prepare my bed as you used to. Soon, I’ll be coming over for my last visit, even without being sure I’ll see you there. It won’t matter, I already have you within me, I already have you anytime. Happy may be your day of all the days that came and went. It won’t take long now, Mom. Love you.

Middle Brother

Thanks to Him, I Got My
First Yellow Plastic Bus

Norris Coll would’ve been 68 today. Eighteen years since he’s gone, I still struggle to place his life in a coherent timeline, one that would make him justice, and ease my heartfelt emotions.
Fact is, I could never draw a decent portrait of my brother, whose sharp wit I still hear at times. Like a blade sliding through soft butter, even in the most casual of the moments, there was always a chance for bleedings.
And there were quite a few of them, along with flareups, recriminations, little betrayals, and several years squeezed between our times together and apart.
Fortunately, there were laughter too, and joy, and discoveries shared and explored. And much of what I am today, I thank to Dois, who at least once, played the big brother to my advantage, and chased some bullies away from me.
In the perforated fabric of my memories, none forms a complete picture, but many have an underlying narrative of challenge, of daring to be bold and get away with it, or almost. He certainly would’ve never looked back, like I’m doing now.
***
I was there the morning he got married by a judge. And we were together in the afternoon too, when he decided not to show up for his own wedding. Once he made up his mind, I couldn’t change it back.
Somehow, he made me his emissary to the puzzled guests crowding the sidewalk in front of the church. Even though I managed to face them all, I never had the guts to ask his wife why she stood by him as she did. Till the end.
There must be some measure of irony and good karma in the fact that their baby girl is now an accomplished trapezist, an aerial performer, and the only certified artist of the whole family.
***
In the early 1980s, we would often walk down a busy São Paulo avenue, smoking joints and watching thundering planes passing overhead on their way to land at his neighborhood airport.
That’s when his volatility would run the gamut, reaching its highest point even before a single airliner would touch down. But our sibling fights never lasted too long, and we’d wake up the next day with no hangovers.
Because we were so different, they could never be as vicious as the ones he battled with our old man, who was truly his double in candor
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and determination. I’ll never know who broke the other one first, but neither quite recovered from their clashes.
In hindsight, he must’ve treasured our times together, as I did, since he always knew he could trust me like no one else. Things I’m telling you now I’ve told no soul for all these years. It was a thought I had the day I became ‘older’ than him, too.
***
We both also knew when the last of those times finally got behind us. We’ve cried our goodbyes in a cool hospital corner, a few months before he left us. He was gone before the first dawn of the 21th century.
It was the year my first born came to this world, and a decade from Dad’s own passing. Numbers can never make up for missing words, though. And about this great guy, there are so many. In all his youthful eloquence, when the end came, he didn’t care to say much.
***
We were with father once when I got one of the toys that defined my childhood, a bus. We used to make constant short trips to the countryside, where Dad would tend to small missions, as a pastor.

So I loved buses back then, and immediately got attracted to one at the children’s section. It was yellow and plastic and, gosh so simple, and so beautiful. Naturally, I had to have it. Not so, said Father Heitor.
That’s when Norris, still a teenager, stepped up and pleaded my case, saying something like, come on, Dad. I think that was my puppy eyes moment, because the pastor looked at me and actually asked me, do you really want this?
And how? I’ve kept it, and played with it even when it’d lost its wheels, was always covered in mud, and its once bright yellow had all but faded. I don’t think I ever got to thank my brother for such a gesture.
***
So, if you don’t mind, let me take this moment to say, thank you for that bus, Norris. Thank you for your life, for giving me this moment to share with the world, for having been such a loving and caring partner.
You’ll always be missed. Happy Birthday, my ‘little’ brother.

(*) Originally published on Oct. 4, 2012.

Amazon Via Acre

I Know Why the
Vultures Laughed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eating Animals May
Be Coming To a Boil

The short-comings of public campaigns about bad health habits are well known.  One the best selling foods ever is not even food – cheerios. But despite knowing that full well, those who eat it, eat it. Period.
That may illustrate without explaining why chastising people only makes them double down on their ways. Rightly so. After all, healthy eaters don’t necessarily preach about it. They just, well, eat.
A week ago, Brazil got embroiled in a stinky scandal of rotten meat, which was already packaged to be shipped to schools, and exported to its trading partners. Major plants were raided and low management was paraded like criminals straight to jail.
The affair is particularly putrid because involves government corruption, and wouldn’t you know it?, and because it exposes once again a multibillion industry which consistently cares little about public health.
But, like the billions spent shaming people about cigarette smoking, with little impact on global tobacco sales, scandals don’t usually dismantle a malodorous industry. Education and awareness do.
Graphic depictions of terminal diseases caused by some nasty habit, tough rhetoric, and draconian laws restricting its practice, do little to curb social habits. A turnaround in public sentiment is all it takes.

NOTHING TO SEE HERE, SAYS THE FOX
In Brazil, social networks reacted to the ‘Carne Fraca’ (weak flesh, as the scandal was called, for some reason) in typical fashion: blame meat eaters. Meat eaters replied in kind. Nastiness ensued, trolls jubilated.
Meanwhile, the pseud0-president went to a churrascaria to show buyers of Brazilian steak, that all was fine, and would’ve gotten away with it, if he wasn’t dumb enough to eat meat imported from Argentina.
Trade partners pressured on, and prices of the commodity collapsed, which is the least that should happen. But will the crisis lead to tighten regulations and stiffen penalties and jail terms and, shock, the closing of some plants? No likely, of course.
No one was cast out from society for smoking; they just had to take their business to the curb and open air. And restaurant and service workers thanked it all, very much; finally their underwear stopped smelling like an ashtray at the end of the night.
But in major economies, the tobacco industry did take a hit when smoked was stripped of its glamour, and the price tag of the public health damage it causes came finally into light. That happened only after stricter laws went into effect and were dutifully enforced.
Government officials and politicians who lied and hid they were sponsored by big tobacco, were also exposed and put out of business. As for smokers, it’s their business what they take a drag on. No one else needs to follow suit, or berate them.
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.
ARE YOU GOING TO FINISH THAT?
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.
Growing criticism of the meat industry has reached strident levels. Beyond the usual health-minded professionals, the anti-meat activist movement, and the slow build-up of awareness about animal rights, the industry now is facing a new, formidable foe: climate change.
Scientists are already compiling comprehensive lists of all other contributing factors to climate change, besides our still all-too-encompassing reliance on carbon fuels for energy.
Topping such lists is usually the cycle of raising cattle for human consumption. All over the planet, millions of herds (more)
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Guilty As Charged

World Indicts 2016 For
Crimes Against Humanity

We found it. For a while, it was as if another year would’ve gone by and we’d be still at lost finding the source of the world’s ills. Not this time. 2016 has been universally named the evilest on record. Now we can all go back to our business of turning it all worst that it ever was.
It started deceivingly like any other year, but not for long. Looking back, by March it was clear that there wouldn’t be a contest, but some were still hesitant to make such an early call. Now there’s hardly anyone disagreeing about the choice. Well done everybody.
Here are, in no particular order, the Top 10 Counts brought forth against 2016, whose powerful punch has managed to beat to a pulp some of history’s most notoriously perverse, and blood-thirsty, years:
1. Failure to interrupt and/or reverse rising global temperatures, and resulting increased glacier melting, wildfires, and extreme weather.
2. Neglect to interrupt, minimize, or do away with the harrowing intensity of the era’s ever more numerous wars, carnage, and mayhem.
3. Criminal extermination of countless animal and plant species, some of which we may never have even known they existed.
4. Inability to promote a healthy, all-inclusive, comprehensive worldwide discussion of ways to improve the well being of humankind.
5. Incompetence to prioritize the fight against inequality, boosting instead the prospect of a parasitic minority to grow even wealthier.
6. All-time record for excessive casualties of well known, excellent human beings, whose lives have made the world a better place.
7. Creating conditions that conspired and befell female world leaders from positions of power, replacing them with corrupted males.
8. Relentless persecution of races, social strata, and ethnic groups, with special cruelty towards the poor, blacks, and non-white faiths.
9. Rehabilitation and promotion of hate speech and discriminatory ideologies, charged for past genocides, to the mainstream of society.
10. Shameless persecution of fact-based common truth and reality, and advancement of false theories and fake news for profit.

As we said, for a moment it seemed that we’re making the same mistake we’ve done over and over again: choosing the wrong scapegoat to blame for our disgraceful lot in life. But experts and analysts agree, all evidence does point to this malodorous 2016.
We’re so pleased to finally lift this burden off our shoulders that it’s now almost pointless to reveal the password to access this year: mankind.
Aren’t you glad that 2017’s on deck, ready to pounce? Happy New Year.

Crappy Holidays

To Those Who’ll Get Coal
& Little Else to Cheer About

Many are piling up about how bad 2016 was. We agree. Almost nothing has gone our way, the world became considerably worst, even if some disagree, and unless our brains are fooling us, we’ve lost too many great humans, who used to make this place more bearable.
These are all good but arguable points, though. To millions, this wasn’t just a bad year, but their worse. Our kind thoughts to those broken hearts, to whom a cheerful season tastes like a bitter joke. For they survived not to feel any better but to endure even more of the same.
It’s our condition to mourn and grieve; to lose what we love most, and hold on to what murders our soul. We let go when we’d love to hang on to, and look after what will finally stab us. But there’s payback due even to the afflicted: when we pass away, our troubles are over.
We leave lovers and children behind; a legacy of shattered dreams and failed hopes. But as they cry, we settle; we no longer care even as they may despair. To ashes, as they say, our bodies, clothes, and deeds. But to the left over, misery is the keeper of another day.
There are many whose absence will make us scream. But to others, tomorrow comes out of screams. We may dutifully memorialize our dead, while they have the living wounded to care about. While we lay to rest and say goodbye to dear ones, to those still standing, we may offer are our deepest sentiments.

TO ALEPPO CIVILIANS & DUMPSTER FAMILIES
As we make plans and shop and get happily drunk for the holidays, civilians in Aleppo, Syria, face carnage, ethnic cleansing, random sniper fire, and air raids by government forces, many countries and assorted  militias, plus mercenaries, out waging war to make a buck or two.
Think 2016 was bad? Over 12,000 have already been killed in the country this year, and the survivors wonder whether they’ll be next, just as your sweet niece wonders if she’ll get a brand new phone, or you’ll finally get something decent this time around.
Of course, your family could be one of thousands making a living, and actually residing, in urban garbage heaps around the world. From Cambodia to India, from Brazil to the Philippines, they breathe and, often die, picking through our dejects. Merry, merry, merry.

TO REFUGEE KIDS & VICTIMS OF HATRED
Last year, it was the photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, face down on a Turkish beach, that went viral. Now it was the bloodied but alive 5-year-old Mahmoud Raslan. Both Syrian boys unwittingly became symbols of our era’s biggest wound: the fate of millions of refugees.
They could’ve come from anywhere, as the state of permanent war keeps spreading to ever wider swaths of the world. While hawks and weapon makers profit, boys, girls, their families, relatives, friends and neighbors, flee or perish in the crossfire. Once in a while, an image floods our screens. But mostly, they shout but no one hears.
Meanwhile, hate is a booming business in the U.S., and like the Aleppo kids, the 49 shot dead at the Orlando nightclub in June didn’t deserve to stand in from all others still victimized for following their lot in life. To the ones they’ve left behind, this is a season in hell.

TO DEAD WHILE BLACK & FUTURE UNDER ATTACK
The police won’t keep track but over 200 black people were shot dead by cops in 2016. Most were unarmed, whose deaths won’t be vindicated in the court of law. Perhaps in a few years we’ll know how many more could’ve been killed too, if President Obama wasn’t in charge.
It may not seem so but the needle did move forward, and awareness has increased; not even a white supremacist-supported president will prevent the march to justice. We may suffer (more)
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Nobody’s Children

Argentina’s Stolen Babies & the
Unfair Legacy Thrust Upon Them

As far as G. knew, his was a great upbringing. Only child of a wealthy elderly couple, he grew up in a big house in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, with all the toys he ever wanted, many a happy summer spent in the Alps, and the occasional trip to Disneyland. Papá worked for the president, so he even got to play at the Casa Rosada sometimes.
It was there that he saw the old ladies. Everybody knew about ‘Las Locas de Jueves,’ as mamá used to call them. But now they were often on the evening news, ever so briefly. Then papá got arrested and G.’s world went into a downward spiral. Specially when he learned that his grandmother could be one of those Thursday Crazies.

Not the one he loved so much, and laid to rest at La Recoleta years ago. Someone else. Someone who helped sent his godfather to prison. Someone who called papá a torturer and a thief of kids. From then on, the life he knew began to unravel and almost nothing he ever thought was true, was. That was not his father. That was not his mother.
One day, someone knocked on his college dorm door. He opened it to a spitting image of his, staring back at him. ‘I’m Juan. I’m your twin,’ he said. It was the end of his studies and beginning of a heart-wrenching, gut-spilling, mind-twisting existence. It’d take long, if ever, for G., now, P., to either put pieces together or throw them all out for good.
That year, he’d part with being a teen, and with his entire history, family, and full name. He’d meet a whole new set of relatives he never knew existed, and is still not sure he’ll ever love; come to terms with his parents being monsters even as he wouldn’t be about to ever hate them; and replace his own personal, lived experience, with a narrative told by others.
He would also find out that he’s unwittingly part of one of the greatest tragedies that befell his country, and there won’t be a place for him to hide, or disappear, like what happened to his biological parents. As they, he’s now forever trapped within a tale not of his own making, and likely much bigger than his own life will ever be.
Speaking of life, his still unsure about what his is supposed to be. For the burning intensity of having an organic connection with a group of strangers, who suffered through hell to find and make him one of their own again, has no bearing on or anticipate whether any of his double lives – one of absence and the other, obliviousness – will ever belong to him.

THE SEARCH FOR THE NETOS
This fictional account of G., or P., or A., or K., has been multiplied more than a hundred times in Argentina. Ever since The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo picked a Thursday in 1977 to protest the disappearance of their sons and daughters, murdered by the military juntas that took over the country three years before, and lasted till 1983.
When it was obvious they would never return, the madres pressed for their children, many related to them, a humanitarian quest that’d sure to offer everyone hope. Historically, the theft of babies ordered by dictators is akin to the grotesque rape of women by every invading force since Antiquity, on their way to total domination and control of the blood lines of those they’ve vanquished.
It was integral to the wave of right-wing, fascist coups that swept Latin America from the 1960s on, few with the ferocity adopted in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. Such nefarious weapon of subjugation (more)
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Rousseff Is Ousted


In the end, it was all just a matter of time. After a few pro forma procedures, which paralyzed the country for most of the year, the Brazilian Congress voted today to oust President Dilma Rousseff.
For a 61 to 20 count, 81 Senators ignored calls inside and abroad against the measure, and impeached a leader who, less than two years ago, had been re-elected with over 54 million votes.
It was the end of a serendipitous and embarrassing process, which produced no recognized proof to justify such radical step, and wound up exposing the shameful underbelly of Brazil’s politics.
Accused on a technicality by a group of legislators with a particularly long rap sheet of law-breaking and misconduct, Rousseff goes down along a political project led by her Workers’ Party, that momentarily placed Brazil among the world’s most progressive nations.
Before being itself completely overwhelmed by its own misconduct and abuse of power, the party, known as PT, managed what many thought was impossible, and now more than ever, is unlikely to be repeated: lift an estimated 30 million out of extreme poverty.

BACK TO THE PAST, PART TWO
As that was happening, though, it’s now obvious that an influential segment of the upper classes was not about to give up what it had consistently lost in the polls: government access. All it took was to channel popular dissatisfaction with PT to get it all neatly done.
It was, by all accounts, a coup, orchestrated by a coalition of parties that share one trait: none have convinced the electoral majority that they should be entrusted the reins of Brazil, (more)
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The Crying Games

Five Rings Above Misery (Telegraph/Getty)

A Bruised Rio Hosts Its
Low-Expectations Olympics

What a difference 10 years make. A decade ago, when Rio begun its cavalcade to host the Summer Olympics, Brazil was swimming in optimism. Unprecedented economic growth and a hard-earned period of political and social stability suddenly gave Brazilians much-sought global respect and the drive to dream that yes, they could.
In a country suffused with body culture, nothing would’ve marked that spirit as winning the bid for both the games and also the 2014 World Cup. From that point in history, only those two mega-sport events could represent a fitting coronation to what turned out to be an exceptional but miserably elusive moment.
The Olympics and Paralympics competitions that start officially Friday, however, are taking place in a radically different country. Long gone are the joy and effusiveness that fueled the celebrations for being chosen, in October 2009, by the International Olympic Committee, in Copenhagen.
It seems as if Brazil run out of the luck it never really had. Or that was too disappointingly brief. In one moment, it was a model of sustainable growth and the text book for social promotion policies, only to become, in the next, a continental-size pool of resentment and regret.
Not unlike voters for Brexit, Brazilians woke up suddenly and realized they may have thrown away the baby along the dirty bathwater. Two whole years of street protests against corruption, and all they got was a group of lousy politicians with police records who now occupies the government.
Competitors Will Jump in the Guanabara Bay, no Matter What. (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)
WAIT, WE MAY STILL WIN THIS
Deeply divided, Brazil is already suffering another global-scale public humiliation, just as it did two years ago, when the then celebrated national soccer team got thrashed by Germany in the World Cup. A look at global headlines about these games has been source of even deeper embarrassment.
Every media outlet, including the country’s own, has reported a corollary of staggering woes brought to light by the magnifying glare of the games. From raw sewage in Guanabara Bay, site of most water competitions, to fears of disease-carrier mosquitoes, it all looks pretty bleak now.
We will return to foes that everyone is hoping against hope won’t tarnish the innate Olympics beauty, but first, as if almost duty-driven, the focus must be on a few good, or fine, or at least, interesting and even inspiration things about the games, even before they start.

SOME SHINING POINTS OF LIGHT
Ok, so we found three, but worth mentioning all the same. Like the 10-people Refugee Olympic Athletes team. Plucked from millions around the world, they will compete in several categories as independents. Since there should be many more, and there aren’t, they will be our own good-for-gold team.
Speaking of athletes, youth bodies, downtime, and a party city like Rio, it all may mean one thing: they’ll get laid. A lot. That’s why nine million ‘Rainforest friendly’ condoms will come in er handy. They’re sustainably-produced, made in Xapuri, the late Chico Mendes‘ hometown, in the Amazon state of Acre, and they’re free. Help yourself.
Finally, like many top world competitors, the third point of light is a cheat. Guilty as charged. But no less meaningful: it’s the (more)
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Is It Raining Yet?

St. Paddy Is Fine But
to Parade Is Optional

New Yorkers don’t usually complain about their city. They may not like what it’s becoming, but to speak evil of tourists, or say, The Bronx, may be grounds for a punch. Just don’t get them started about malls. Or the MTA. Tell no soul, but in certain quarters, parades belong to this list too.
Sorry, St. Paddy, and all those who helped build New York, but a lot of locals simply detest parades. And religious processions. Ticker-tape parades and dignitary visits too. Apart from marches, if there’s a crowd in one part of the town, I’ll be quick to run to the other side.
In the case of St. Patrick’s Day, for instance, such dislike has nothing to do with some moralistic aversion of public drunkenness, or all those incoherent ‘bros,’ or the retrograde core that fought, tooth and nail but lost, thank goodness, to prevent LGBT people from joining in, gladly.
The same about all the St. Pat’s related parades, the Eastern, the Tartan, and I’m sorry, but let’s include those ethnic and country-themed displays of people wearing funny hats, and yes, Thanksgiving too. There’s just no way I’ll withstand the elements and waste my day gawking at strangers.
If it sounds sullen, by all means, don’t let me stop you from going out there and do it like the Greeks and Romans; I’m just staying behind. And as I do when the United Nations is having one of those world leader summits, I’ll be at that cafe the other side of the park, bidding my time.

DO WE HAVE TO SING TOO?
I’m probably one of those sorry sods who don’t see the point. Or maybe they evoke the frightening sound of military boots hitting the pavement, troops carrying heavy artillery, marching in unison, stupid displays of menacing power. Being from Latin America, I’ve learned to fear what comes next.
I can understand, and even join, a good Puerto Rican party in one of the boroughs, or a festive roda de samba and capoeira, full of happy Brazilians. Invite me for Margaritas at your backyards, on Cinco de Mayo, and I’ll show up with some friends too. Maybe I just can’t stand crowds.
We all have done it, at least once, usually dragged by some out-of-town relative. Yes, I’ve frozen my behind, behind a four-deep (more)
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Golden Balls

An Award Ceremony to
Mask FIFA’s Horror Show

No offense to Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Neymar, top contenders to this year’s Ballon d’Or award – and arguably three of the greatest footballers ever – but Monday’s ceremony in Zürich may not be all about rewarding the deserving and honoring the honorable.
Not that we should expect any mention of FIFA’s annus horribilis (and we’re not getting anywhere near that stinky pun either). After all, this is the time to pay homage to these players’ artistry, and whoever wins has proven their worth on the pitch.
It’s just that such artistry, talent, and exuberance, shown throughout an ever more demanding, year-round season, are in stark contrast to the staggering catalog of behind-closed-doors misdeeds FIFA officials have perpetrated on their account.
As of now, former president Sepp Blatter, and the ex-head of UEFA, its European arm, Michel Platini, continue fighting their 8-year ban from the sport, and a stretching number of officials, in many countries, face criminal charges.
It’s also emblematic that the corruption dragnet has caught both Platini, who’s all but squandered his past as a great player, and (more)
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Read Also:
* Frozen in Time
* Trick or Truce?
Continue reading

We’ve Kept You Posted

Yearly Recall Takes
a Blurry 2015 Picture

It was a year of record refugee waves, with boatloads of heartbreaking stories landing en masse on European shores. Greeting them, equal parts of compassion and vile political pettiness, and a stunned world reacting as it usually does: with violence.
As usual too, there were plenty of staggering deaths – massive, laser-focused, or undiscriminated – due to terrorism, war strikes, stampedes, and in the U.S., racism and too many guns. And, of course, a fair share of encouraging news about climate change, for instance.
This post hardly covers them all, though. For these Colltales stories we’ve picked are more of a counterpoint to what was going on then. Rather than rehashing what was on everyone’s devices in 2015, they run a parallel track of commentary, criticism, and even comic relief.
Just as global temperatures kept rising, our pulse on the year’s events was better reflected on the weekly editorial Newsletter/Curtain Raiser. So we were free to report another kind of news, neither Pollyanna nor downright depressing. You know, the Colltalers preferable way. Enjoy.

ELVIS, CATS & RIO IN WINTER
The terrorist attack that killed nine journalists at the Paris offices of the Charlie Hebdo, on Jan. 7, was arguably the biggest news of the first three months of 2015. But the following day, we featured Elvis Presley‘s 80th birthday. And never looked back.
Stories about crows, unemployment, that old fave Voynich Manuscript, and a quirky take on Valentine Day followed. A personal darling was the 450th anniversary of Rio, our city of birth. Bandit Maria Bonita, cats, caturally, and life after death, online, completed the bunch.

A SPRING OF RACE & TIME
By then, the biggest refugee crisis of our era was already creeping in, but within the U.S., an old scourge was robbing the headlines: racism. Our own second quarter, though, was deep into Continue reading

Papa Was a Soccer Star

Transgender Model
Breaks New Grounds

How do you tell your world famous father that you’re about to change genders? And that you’re famous too, as a high-fashion model? What if he, despite fame and fortune as a soccer player, remains private and very much in touch with his poor, deeply devout upbringing?
Meet Lea T, who had to go through all of that to become the world’s possible first transgender supermodel. While her father, Brazilian great Toninho Cerezo, reportedly wishes it all would just go away, that’s not an option. Not now that Lea is well on her way to a high-profile, full-fledged fashion career, on international runaways and magazine covers.
And absolutely Toninho Cerezo (Eugenio Savio) Now & Playing for Brazil's National Team (CBF)not now that she’s become a symbol for transsexuals the world over. To counter the pull of her family’s Catholic roots, it helped she grew up in Italy. But never doubt for a minute the hardships she may’ve had to endure before her sexual identity, and a body to go with, were finally in synch with her own sense of purpose in life.
It also helps that her face is worlds away from being merely pretty. Tall and thin and wearing the signature aloofness that seems to be required to be a supermodel, Lea‘s already attracting the attention of high-fashion publications such as Vogue and Vanity Fair. And the fat checks that come with it. Deservedly so, say transgender organizations, fashionistas of all stripes and her friends in Belo Horizonte, her city of birth.
So what if there’s a certain level of exploitation of her by the fashion industry, always on the lookout for shock value and maximum impact from its high-paid laborers? Critics are already rehashing Continue reading

Marvelous City

At 450, Rio de Janeiro Does
Not Look a Day Older Than Me

According to family records, Maria and Heitor were watching the Carnival parade on a Rio de Janeiro street, an early Ash Wednesday, when she went into labor. A rush to the military hospital was all it took for her third and last son to be born, a couple of hours later.
That’s probably why I never really liked Carnival. As for Rio, whose 450th anniversary is Sunday March 1, is not just Brazil’s premier party town – even when Cariocas decide to have fun with you – but where physical beauty and pleasure are steeped into its DNA.
The Saturnian nature of that night, and the subconscious background of music, rhythm and drums, was all I took from the city by the sea when we left it five years down the road. Oh, yes, I took something else too: in 1960, it ceased to be Brazil’s capital, a title transferred to Brasília.
Still one never really leaves Rio. I went back a few times – as if some insatiable thirst could only be quenched at that source -, lived there again for a few years, but since then, the city and I went our separated ways. One side misses the other more but there’s no bitterness.
My place of birth is no longer, anyway. From its then 2.5 million, it’s metastasized into a megalopolis of over 6 million people, pollution, urban violence, extreme income disparity, guns, drugs, corruption, you know, the full range of ills most South American cities know so well.

NATIVE FOREIGNER AT THE FAVELA REALM
But there are mysteries worth probing, hiding in its plain, 100 degrees average heat. The name, for instance: River of January? That’s got to be an inside joke: it’s not a river, but miles of seashore just a walking distance from downtown businesses. How do they mix? Don’t ask.
Also, it was officially founded on the third month of the year, not the first. Again, someone must have had a laugh about that. And for all the good vibes it inspires on people all over the world, reality on the ground in Rio is often more brutal than in New York. Now, go figure.
On a day in February I’ve left the 50s for the second time in my life, just like I’d done with Rio. As a dragged my own private Rio around the globe, mostly being a heavy-accented foreigner wherever I went, when I settled in the only city I’ve consciously chosen, New York, I finally knew where I’d come from.

TWO FEET IN THE 50S, TWICE LIVING IN THE CITY
Guanabara Bay will always inform everything feel about this life, even if now we speak different languages, and natives admire my perfect pronunciation of Portuguese, better than many a legal alien. But this transitional state is the ground I’ve made of by now, and will probably be laid to rest onto it too, someday.
I was born to the syncopated sway of Bossa Nova, Continue reading

Hit Parade

Hey, Hello There.
Nice of You to Stop By

Dear readers: Thank you. For some crazy reason, Colltales’ readership hits are kissing the sky today. Since I haven’t done anything to spike the stats, I assume it’s some kind of fluke, some search engine going awry and drawing people to come and visit. So, welcome you all.
Still, if you have any idea, feel free to speak up. I see that our dear people in Turkey are leading the way, so perhaps something in Istanbul or Ankara is driving attention to our humble site. Well, now that you’re all here, make yourselves comfortable and take a good look around.
Let me tell you a little bit about ourselves. We’ve been on for four years, give or take, and our posts, as you can see, cover a wide variety of subjects. So, after scrolling down for a little bit, perhaps you may want to look up favorite themes through our own search engine (middle bottom left).
Our guess is that among, say, five choices of issues you’re interested in, we have at least one post about or related to one of them. That’s because there are over 1,300 hundred articles on this site, including news stories, curiosities, current affairs, and even non fiction.
Try Children, or Space, for instance. Maybe Brazil, or Poverty, Cats, even Religion. There are headlined stories and opinion pieces, as the Curtain Raiser series. Hope you enjoy it. We put a lot of effort on this space, which you probably noticed, is independent and ad free.
Of course, we could never compete with a giant such as the Huffington Post. Or Justin Bieber. Compared to them, over 600 hits in a single day is no big deal. But as we say, if this blog were about people taking the NYC subway F line at 10am, everyday, it’d be a smash hit.
Then again, how would we be writing about the Amazon Rainforest? or the mysteries of space and time? Even the NYC subway F line. To each, its own, then. We hope you make stopping by here a daily habit; there’ll be always something new to be discovered in these pages.
Thanks again for the nice feeling you’ve given us. Specially you, Turkey. It’s almost like having a warm meal in your belly after going hungry for so long. Almost like an early Thanksgiving, without the family fights. Feel free to tell your loved ones about this friend you now have in New York. Hey, we may even hit the 1000 mark today. And leave your comments, so we know you’re there. All the best to everyone. WC

Dime a Dozen

Who’ll Notice If These
12 Street Kids Are Gone?

Take a good look at these faces. If we were to pull your heartstrings, picture them dreaming of being doctors, artists, teachers, even presidents of their countries. Chances are, however, they’ll never make it. Both statistically and in real life, it’s likely they’re already gone.
Despite their resemblance to kids you know, they only count as dehumanized figures of ignored treatises on the homeless, the war, infant mortality, hunger, prostitution, slavery. Not to break those strings, but you may pass daily by them and not even notice.
Yes, they have stories, and much good to contribute to the world, and who knows, maybe among them there’s someone who one day could even save your life. But that doesn’t mean much.
And yes, there are a lot of people who spend their waking hours, and sleepless nights, working and wondering what to do, so unrelated children will be cared for just as if they belong to families and loving friends and an empathetic society. But most of them do not, and won’t get a chance to even know what that means.

You’re still free to wonder about whatever happened to Alex or Indira, after they posed with their sleeping cots, and you may search on the Internet for the identity of those two Cambodian boys, sleeping embraced on a set of steps. We added the photographers’ names just in case.
You may also inquire around about those two girls, among thousands of others, who seemed so happy with the bottles of water they’ve retrieved amid the rubble of Gaza. Or you may wish that those two boys, who’ve crossed the border of Syria to Turkey with their families, have found shelter.
We won’t stand on your way. In fact, we’d even appreciate if you could help finding out who are those four American kids, sleeping in what seems to be an abandoned room, Continue reading

Spilled Expectations

A Site Flags the Unpunished
& the Wonders of What’s Next

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst in U.S. history, coincided with Colltales’ birth four years ago, and helped establish both the site’s green credentials and its status as a breaking news destination. A bittersweet landmark, for sure, but a landmark all the same.
Over 1,300 hundred posts later, increased readership and considerable growing pains, Colltales remains a source of constant renewal. As for the state of the environment at the gulf and BP, the corporation responsible for the spill, the news are diametrically opposed.
Despite company and official claims to the contrary, recovery of marine and marshland life, and cleanup of miles of severely impacted coastlines continues to lag. Very unlike the record profits posted by the British giant concern since the April 20, 2010 disaster.
In fact, BP has been spending a large chunk of such profits fighting claims by individuals and local businesses affected by the spill, even though the Obama administration had forced it to put up a $20 billion compensation fund for the victims of its mismanagement.
As it turned out, what happened was an accident only by definition. Long before (and, sadly, ever since) the aging equipment used to pump oil out of the gulf, that sub-contractors operate for BP and other companies, is still highly vulnerable to tragic events just likely.
The defective cement supposed to seal the well feeding the Deepwater Horizon oil rig was already under much more pressure that it could handle, a government report found out, and when it failed, it caused the rig to explode and sink, claiming the lives of 11 workers.
Far from an ‘accident,’ what happened was a tragic confluence of predictable negligence and cost-cutting measures by BP and its partners, Transocean and Halliburton, resulting in the record spill of an estimated 4.9 million barrels for three full months, until the well was capped in July of 2010.
By then, the devastation to wild life and local economies was all too apparent: massive numbers of birds perished, entire micro ecosystems went into disarray and a still unknown number of marine animals were wiped from waters washing the beaches of all five gulf states.

A HOLE TOO DEEP TO FILL
As it’s becoming a habit when it comes to corporate crimes and malfeasance, despite a tacit admission of guilt and heavy dollar-figure penalties, no one went to jail. It took BP less than two years to go back to profitability, while many local business simply folded.
The event also marked one of the saddest and most ironic Earth Days in its now forty four year tradition, and
Continue reading

Grace Under Rain


The World Cup starts in June in Brazil, the country that has won it five times, the most of any other. Three of such conquests are fully owned by Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pelé, the game’s top scorer and, arguably, the greatest player who’s ever played it.
Back in the 1960s, as a wee fan I got a taste of his magic and seized that memory as one of my most precious. Four years ago, I’ve committed that virtually indescribable experience to words and now, I’m sharing it with you as a personal tribute to Pelé. Enjoy it.

As he walked off the field, head down, oblivious, the crowd jeers turned into cheers. He waited until they grew louder and finally acknowledged us like the king he already was. It took him a second and we were all his forever.

Pelé, football’s greatest player, had come to my hometown to play against my team. The rough first half had just ended, with no fancy plays or memorable greatness. Just another mid-week league game, in a cold and unforgiving winter. No other redeeming memory to speak of.
But no ordinary knight was among us that night. And he acted the part with style.
Sport fans are rude, raw, irrational the world over. Crude emotions always trace them, but civility is left out at the turnstiles. Just like at the Parthenon: Christians and pagans crowd the pit but to the beasts belongs the hour.
The land of the “jogo bonito” is no exception in this world of unbounded brutality. The exquisite touch of skills, the artistry with the ball have their own bizarro mirror reflected at the bleaches, all screams and cursing and obscene gestures 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 cold and raining Wednesday, as only a place too close to Antarctica can be, 30 thousand or so of us were braving elements and
Continue reading

John & João

JFK and Brazil’s Military
Coup, Set in His Own Words

When we wrote in November about the exhumation of João Goulart, the Brazilian president deposed by a 1964 military coup, and the spooky coincidence of that happening on the 50th year anniversary of John Kennedy’s assassination, we didn’t know half of it.
But now the audio of a meeting at the White House with Ambassador to Brazil Lincoln Gordon, on Oct. 7, 1963, confirms what has already been suspected for years: that JFK had openly considered the possibility of supporting a military intervention in Brazil.
The audio containing the bombshell revelation was released recently, without transcript, by the Kennedy Library, and became part of Italian-born Brazilian journalist Elio Gaspari‘s 4-volume exposé of the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil for 20-odd years.
The U.S.’s likely role is pivot to A Ditadura Envergonhada (The Ashamed Dictatorship in free Portuguese translation), and permeates Gaspari’s Archives of the Dictatorship, an extensive documentation and analysis of the time, now on the Internet and slated to be published next month.
In a wider context, the books join the effort of segments of the Brazilian society to understand and come to terms with this dark period of its history, still relatively untapped by historians and, not Continue reading

Brazuca

World Cup Groups Set, a Weary
Brazil Braces for the June Kickoff

The last regulation act before the start of next summer’s World Cup in Brazil took place yesterday: the tournament’s group drawing and first round schedule. It was pretty much one of the few things that happened on schedule. All else is far from running as smooth.
In fact, all six stadiums being built or redone for the games will miss the December deadline, despite staggering costs (and so far, two casualties). Thus, if one could name a single thing that, for sure, will be doing its part, even if all else fails, that’d be the ball.
But apart from that, an engineering feat named Brazuca, Brazilians remain weary about this tournament, despite their now proverbial, and much manipulated, passion for ‘futebol,’ and of course, that it’s taking place in their land. Not many more reasons to celebrate, otherwise.
In June, dissatisfied with the way billions of dollars were being spent with the cup, while a decrepit network of hospitals and chronically underfunded schools were left to rot, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in mass rallies not seen since the 1980s, when similar crowds effectively ended 20-plus years of military dictatorship.
Such dissatisfaction continues to brew, and by the time the ball starts to roll, pent up anger may be virtually impossible to contain. Some expect that a Brazil win could quell such feelings. Others are not so sure. In fact, while many think a win would be great, nice and all that, there seems to be a better sense of proportion this time around.

READY FOR AN UPSET?
Feeling they’ve been taken for a ride, which is reflected in every aspect of FIFA’s fingers on the setup of the games, from the way the competition is being sold to big wig sponsors to ticket prices, prohibitive to most locals, organizers may not have a clear idea what’s coming on their way.
The case of last month’s spectacular collapse in São Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, of the multi-million dollar, overbudget stadium that’s to host the cup opener, which killed two workers and caused significant Continue reading

Dead Presidents

Exhumation of Brazil’s João
Set for Month of John in the U.S.

It’s just a coincidence, but as the U.S. President John Kennedy’s assassination 50 years ago this month spawned the mother of all conspiracies, the exhumation of João Goulart, Brazil’s last democratically elected president before the 1964 military coup, is indeed spooky.
We’re not making light of what’s pretty much one of Brazil’s first attempts at exhuming its own past. Goulart’s death in Mercedes, Argentina, on Dec. 6, 1976, has been the subject of popular suspicions that he was poisoned, not felled by his heart, ever since.

After all, the dictatorship that had deposed him was at the peak of its most ravaging efforts to eradicate from the national memory his leftist legacy of populism. Plus, less than four months earlier, his predecessor, Juscelino Kubitschek, had also died in mysterious circumstances.
Earlier this year, the National Truth Commission, which has a mandate to probe human rights violations during the military rule, said it’d been Continue reading

Evolving Mores

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

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

CAGE-FREE-RANGE PANTIES
It seems that everywhere you look, everything is getting an organic version of it. This wave of labels may have started with food, but now it’s spreading like a malware throughout the fabric of our society, to use a pompous old-fashioned dictum. To the point that such labels may as Continue reading

Rainforest Mezzanine

Gold Threatens Slice of Amazon
& Crowdfunding Saves Another

A gold rush in Peru is the latest threat to the Amazon Rainforest, as record prices attract speculators.
But in Ecuador a $116 million trust fund has preserved hundreds of square miles from oil exploration.
The most entertaining news about the forest, though, is the discovery that, not unlike most theaters and arenas in the world, it too has vantage observation points.
So step right in for the show is about to begin. Between ground floor and the nose-bleed section, here are…
THE BEST SEATS IN THE HOUSE
Between its high treetops and the 20-inch decaying-matter thick floor, the rainforest has a previously overlooked layer: call it a luscious mezzanine.
While the majority of the canopy leaves falls to the forest’s floor, a great many get trapped mid-air by the almost-invisible filaments of the fungus Marasmius, which provides room and board to insects, Continue reading

Lil’ Pepper


30 Years Since Brazil,
World Lost Elis Regina

The singer arguably considered Brazil’s greatest, Elis Regina, died of an Continue reading

Brews & Brains

When You Spell Hot Coffee &
Taste the Words in Your Mouth

Imagine if you knew words by their flavor, or colors by their sounds? What about if you could speak ‘coffee’ fluently as if it were a foreign language?
It’s not always easy to combine the particulars of a world-class commodity with the strangeness of a neurological condition. But now that we brought you all the way here, there’s no way back.
That delicious, vital, customary cup of hot arabica, that promptly elicits a world of sensations to your tasting buds, and a jolt to your brain, may be getting ever more expensive.
That’s because a roster of factors, from environmental conditions, to climate change, to labor regulations around the world, to the fragility of most coffee beans, seem to be conspiring against your daily rush ritual.
Plus, not to put too fine a print on it, it may also make us all get dementia, judging by recent studies linking the benefits of drinking Continue reading

Rain Check

Dams, Killing of Activists Undermine
Brazil’s Vow to Protect Amazon Forest

The approval, by the Brazilian Congress’ lower house, of a bill to change the country’s 1965 Forest Code, has caused a public outcry within and outside the borders of South America’s largest economy.
Seen as a victory for powerful agribusiness interests, the bill that now heads to the Senate may undermine decades-long efforts to protect the Amazon rainforest, according to environment organizations, ecology activists and community leaders.
One of the changes proposed to the code would be to allow farmers and ranchers to clear vast swaths of the rainforest to Continue reading

Farra do Boi

Holy Week in Brazil: Sacred
for Christians, Cruel for Oxen

Easter Sunday brings to a celebratory close the Holy Week for Christians all over. But to many Portuguese descendants in Brazil, it also means to be part of one of the most barbaric popular feasts connected to the Passion of Christ, the 200-year Farra do Boi.
Although illegal, the practice that marks the torture and killing of hundreds of oxen by a mob of believers, is still alive and Continue reading

EcoViews

Mantega Sees Brazil, Emerging
Economies Leading World Recovery

The Brazilian economy is on track for a sustainable rate of growth, boosted by strong domestic demand, Brazil’s Finance Minister Guido Mantega said in his keynote speech at the 2011 Brazil Summit, sponsored by the Brazilian American Chamber of Commerce.
He said that Latin America’s biggest economy may grow at a 4.4% rate, which is considered a sustainable rate, based on the latest estimates for the country and the outlook Continue reading

Fly Me to Alemão

A Sky Ride Above
Rio’s Shantytown

Just in time for its 446th birthday — and three years ahead of the opening game of the World Cup — Rio de Janeiro is launching this month its new public transportation system: a sky ride above stunning vistas of one of its biggest shantytowns, the Complexo do Alemão.
The $74 million project is expected to carry 30 thousand Continue reading

X-Rated Fruit

When a Passion Fruit
Has a Suggestive Shape

These penis-shaped passion fruits are the current favorite conversation topic in São José de Ribamar, Brazil. No one can explain how come the fruits of a tree Maria Rodrigues de Aguiar Farias planted two years ago came out so suggestively formatted. But everyone seems eager to taste it.
Dona Maria, as she is locally known, wasn’t even sure whether Continue reading

Their Very Breast

Brazilian Indians Share Milk
With Their Babies & Animals

For centuries, babies have been breast fed by their mammal mothers as a normal part of their upbringing, and that includes both humans and animals. It’s considered the best food an infant can have and most scientific studies have confirmed the fact.
Except when they don’t, as was the case of the online version of the British Medical Journal, which questioned last week the benefits of the practice on a recent study. Or when, openly or not, the baby food industry Continue reading

Exclusive

SUMMER TRAGEDY

Flood and Mudslides
Kill Hundreds in Brazil

Over 500 people got killed in the past few days, as intense rains caused floods and mudslides in five towns around Rio de Janeiro. The death toll is expected to rise as more rain is forecast and an unknown number of victims remains buried under land and debris from collapsed buildings. Here’s a report from a resident of Nova Friburgo, one of the most affected cities.

“Hi Chico,

Things here are really horrible. The rain inundated my mom’s house, she lost almost everything, many barriers broke down, there are many deaths, relatives of Fabio (my husband) lost everything and were left only with the clothes they’re wearing.
We had to leave home because things were getting pretty bad, without running water, power and risking getting sick, for the mud was already at the fourth step leading to my apartment. But thank god, we’re fine now.
We went back today. We now have power but there’s still no water and worse, we can’t find bottled water in the city. There are still a lot of people buried all over.
Here in downtown, two or three buildings have collapsed, we still don’t know how many died in them. There’s a street that was Continue reading

Five Fine Stamps

Postal Service Pays Homage
to Latin American Music Titans

To label as “Latin” the music made by Latin American artists is nothing short than an empty generalization. But as the U.S. Postal Service stamp collection of five such legends shows, it’s clear that the endurance of their work went way beyond the limitations of the label and turned irrelevant even the Spanish and Portuguese languages through which they mostly Continue reading

No Laughing Matter

Brazilians Elect Clown to Congress,
Now Fidget With His Politician Wages

When the illiterate entertainer Tiririca decided to run for a seat as a federal deputy of Sao Paulo Congress, many laughed. But as his 1,300 million votes have guaranteed him at least four years of living comfortably as a Brazilian politician, very few are still amused.
A recent increase of his wages as a public servant, along with all political rookies taking the oath of office this January, has exacerbated public frustration with the way Brazil rewards its political classes. And some Continue reading

Eye on the Year

RECORDS BROKEN &
VERY LITTLE CHANGE

————————
The Earth Shook & Burn But
The World Only Moved Sideways
————————

A year of extremes but no breakthroughs. Records of the wrong kind (U.S.’s longest armed conflict in Afghanistan and worst environmental disaster ever, highest temperature indexes in several regions of the world, increased infection diseases mortality rates in the Caribbean and Africa, and staggering drug trafficking casualties in Latin America) plagued the world, with the additional bonus of a certified freak: a snowstorm in the middle of the Australian summer.
But there was no progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks; no curbs on Iranian and North Korean authoritarian antics or scary nuclear ambitions; no meaningful proposals to solve political impasses in the Ivory Coast, Sudan, Rwanda, Nigeria or Zimbabwe.
Disturbing tactics did get deployed, though, by the world’s superpowers but with the only intention of curbing whistle blowers and freedom of information acts such as WikiLeaks. It gave civil rights activists of every stripe a chilling pause to see Continue reading

Difficult Conversations – Special Edition

Earthquake, Oil Spill &
Dangerous War Secrets

____________

A Short List of What Have Kept Us Awake in 2010,

and What We May Need to Awake From in the New Year.

________

THE TOPS
1) July 26, December 19. The biggest story of the year, the two-punch WikiLeaks revelations about our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the startlingly dispirited diplomacy used to achieve them, had all the limitations of an attack led by drones: all fire, no eyesight.
What was far more revealing was the swift counter punch by the U.S. and its allies in reaction to them. Within days, a case of free speech was turned into a terrorist witch-hunt of the organization’s founder, Julian Assange, the Interpol was brought in and a personal misdeed in Sweden was quickly rolled in for good measure.
The effort to punish the messenger was enough to temporarily derail the essence of the allegations, force Assange to fight expatriation and jail term threats, and land Pvt Bradley Manning, his supposedly source, into an insalubrious location Continue reading

Born Again

Funeral of Brazilian
Woman Is Called Off

Hey, have you heard the one about the graveyard shift? It used to be all about whistles and bells, but now they’ve just improved the system; they use cellphones. Or Tweet it. But we’ll get back to that in a minute.
First, let’s revisit an old fright that every once in a while seems to get to a precious few: they’re preparing a loved one, say, for burial, and then the person moves. Whoa, a scare ensues, confusion, a scream or Continue reading

Booze Brothers

Companionship for
Lonesome Drinkers

It may have been the Ukrainian winter. It gets pretty nippy at this time of the year over there. Like, North Pole nippy. So the Kind Fairy had a great idea: why not offer a specialized staff to entertain those lonesome souls, who seek refuge from the cold in the warmth and comfort of the local pubs?
Such a jolly team can tell stories, play guitar, and dance. They can even listen to the loopy tales addled minds love to retell ever Continue reading

Torture 101

Less Protesters at the Gates of
School That Trained Dictators

In the 1960s and 1970s, no South or Central American military dictator worth his boots lacked a diploma from the School of the Americas, a U.S. Department of Defense center that, human rights activists say, provided training for military leaders who went on to become infamous tyrants, led regimes of terror and indiscriminately ordered abductions, torture and killings of political enemies to achieve their goals.
Among the school’s alumni, there were scores of uniformed officers who sat and learned their illegal craft on its benches and went on to help stage violent coups all over the continent, provide the muscle to subjugate and crush millions of frightened Continue reading