Call Upon You

Casting Gentle Spells
On a Cursing President

In strange times, people think about strange things. And see them anew. Take human sacrifice: it was about social control, new research shows, not pleasing gods. And witchcraft couldn’t be about Satanism, for that’s a clearly Christian-derived concept. Who knew?
That brings us to Donald Trump. No, he’s not considering reviving ritualistic killings. Or the Colosseum, for that matter. Not yet, anyway. But casting spells are indeed back, and against him. Since that’s at least linked to medieval witchcraft, what now: the Earth’s flat?
Actually, this is pernicious idiocy with surprising adopters. Along your usual conspiracy nuts, it now includes people who travel by plane or boat, and still deny the planet’s curvature they see from above, or the fact that no one ever fell off the ‘edge’ of the ocean.
They’re obviously creating their own facts and should be stopped, immediately. In fact, those who find rationality still reliable, and reality a common experience, fear we’re entering the pre-dawn of a retrograde age, a stop short of murdering the educated by decree.
While they discredit empirical science and equate lies to observable fact, others forget that the Khmer Rouge sent children to patrol the Killing Fields and hunt down those who could read and write. In one generation, they’ve exterminated teachers, doctors and nurses.

IMMORTALITY TICKETS & CARNIVAL FLOATS
There’s more to throwing virgins off a cliff than folklore would allow, of course. Even before blood sacrifices spread out, there was already a sanctioned form of killing human beings, with little legal consequence, and the possible bonus of becoming a hero in the process: war.
Kings and queens, royalty and clergy have all been the target (more)
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Read Also:
* Freaky Friday News
* The Weekly Weird

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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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Read Also:
* Marvelous City
* Fly me to the Alemão
* Games People Play
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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

Ah, Those Brazilians

Crab-Killer Waxing, Showers and the
Economy, & Fake Facebook Girlfriends

Blame it on Carnival. If you were in Brazil right now, you couldn’t possibly miss the countrywide preparations for the pagan celebration-turned-to-multi-billion dollar extravagance, which starts in a month. Since it impacts the whole country, why not its news cycle too?
It remains arguably the biggest Brazilian cultural export, and also the annual excuse for wackiness in the streets, and dreams of redemption and glory in people’s imagination. Either that or something else. Otherwise, how to explain the three themes of today’s post?
We exaggerate, of course. The expensive pre-fab debauchery now known as Carnival has little to do with what was once the cultural confluence of African slaves and their dizzying beat-driven music, and over-dressed Europeans, wishing to get lost (see: Veneza, Carnevale).
If it all sounds like a colonizer’s idealization of an ancient rite he could not understand, preserved by the official story as something the ‘natives’ used to amuse themselves, well, that’s because it sadly was. What’s left of it now is a sumptuous but ultimately kitchy visually massive parade of costumes, best experienced with an American Express expense account card.
So, what does Carnival have to do with the latest news sporting the word ‘Brazilian’ on their headlines? Not much, really, except for the general feeling that if you were in Rio at this time of the year, it’d all make sense. Since you’re apparently not, let’s hope these three stories set you up with the right mood, just in case.

THE INTIMATE ITCH
In public health arenas, the past couple of decades have seen a spate of stories about the supposed negative effects the cosmetic technique known as Brazilian Waxing may cause. Mainly risks of infection, since as it totally removes pubic hair, it can also leave the body open to all sorts of parasites and micro pests.
Allegedly. There’s also a certain resistance to the very concept of going through such an extreme procedure, just to be able to publicly flaunt 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

Only in Rio

Man Makes His Bed
On the Side of a Wall

Housing is not easy to find, no matter where you are on earth. Specially if you’re penniless. Some wind up living under a bridge. Some are forced to a park bench. All are subjected to daily harassment and the indignities typical of street life.
Yet there are those who come up with unusual solutions and, taking a page from the public performance art book, make their beds where no one else would.
Take this Carioca, for example (that is how a Rio de Janeiro dweller is called). He chose one of the city’s busiest arteries, Rua Luis de Camoes, to set up his bedroom. Not on the street itself, mind you, but on a vertical wall.
There’s his bed, his little set of drawers, an old fashioned record player, even a hammock for quiet afternoon readings. He obviously has no problem with heights. Or public exposure.
He seems to have everything he needs, this side of outdoor plumbing and private toilets. Street lights are doing just fine for him and other amenities can be easily arranged.
It’s all for show, of course, and it looks. But it’s pretty, nonetheless. Passers by are known to stop and stare, even if just for a minute, on their way to work or to their own not so special bedroom.
It may be the summer. After all, it’s Rio and Carnival is right around the corner, so one shouldn’t be too surprised. But it certainly beats the below freezing temperature we’ve been having in the North. (Thanks, Norton.)