Below the Equator

Sexing for the Rainforest & Saharan
Sands Sweeping Over South America

There is no sin on the low side of the equator. The loosely translated sentence is from a 1970s Brazilian song that plays with preconceived notions about South America being a paradise of promiscuity, exoticism and wild animals. It should have said Norway instead.
That’s where a troupe devised a novel way to support the Rainforest: having sex for it. As this peculiar notion penetrates the deep cavity of your brain, let’s add another piece of the puzzle: every summer, a Sahara dust cloud comes to visit the continent’s shores.
There’s obviously no connection between the two facts, except that they both relate to that massive tropical land, where Americans speak Portuguese and Spanish, and little English, and that seems at times to offer an odd counterpart to its big brother in the North.
Again, let’s make yet another detour. One of the pleasures of writing a blog is to set oneself challenges in order to tell stories that one hopes, can’t be found anywhere else. How we’re going to find a common sense between these two strands of narrative is today’s quest. You’ll be the judge as to whether we’ll manage it.
We keep collecting stories in a dusty file, any of which could strike our fancy and serve us well as a springboard to talk about our favorite themes. You know, life, the universe, and all the fish, issues we hardly know anything about and shouldn’t even be allowed to tackle. But why make it easy to ourselves?
We could always offer our absolutely worthless take on the Brazilian government’s new homegrown email system, an attempt to ward off spying from the NSA, Canada, everyone and their mothers-in-law, which according to recent files leaked by Edward Snowden, has been rampant for years. The spying, not the mothers. Or have they too?
We could also add our two cents to the apparent Latin American trend of digging up dead people. Nothing to top a good Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s story, for the record. But if it means to understand the Continue reading

Dr. Who?

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

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

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