Before Afterlife


Upon Departing, Would You
Tell a Story or Leave an App?

The flip side of living longer is that death now may also take longer to finally succeed. That drives some to rehearse their award acceptance speech, and others, to compose long goodbyes. Here’s to your own, self-penned obituary, and the app and avatar that’ll outlive you.
It’s like custom-making your own narrative. Soon there’ll be more Websites of the departed than the breathing kind like us (knock on wood). A not so silent majority dwarfing billions currently walking and cursing, who in turn are but a fraction of everyone who’s ever lived.
We should be careful about what we wish for, though. One of the gifts of being alive is that, mercifully, we have no idea when our time is up. The powerful industry of ‘cure,’ however, by making sure that we last, may be spoiling even that most gracious of nature’s charities.
Heaven forbid if we were to take away such a precious comfort from those on the death watch, though. After all, to have time to prepare one’s affairs, and everyone around, for that announced demise is no small miracle. Hence, the wills, the lists, the begging for forgiveness.
The same with this new realm we’ve created to keep our distance from others, the Internet. Who do you know who knows your passwords, Wed identities, and above all, your wishes about what to do with it all? Not many and most are not even slightly interested in knowing either.
You can always program, though. Better than to leave behind a wake of digital detritus, why not set something up, or find a way to terminate it all for good? A few predated posts may just do the trick. And there won’t be any need to deputize someone else to run things afterwards.
Granted, the person who’s gone won’t particularly care one way or another. So it’s just an ethical matter of some consideration, on whether you’d like to continue, so to speak, indefinitely, or would rather leave space for those who actually stand to be affected by it: the living.

BETWEEN TOMBSTONE & LIFEBOAT
Marilyn Johnson has helped disperse the common idea that newspaper obituaries, for instance, should be shallow and phony in their eulogy to the dead. In her intriguing The Dead Beat, she demonstrates how obituary writing is an important art form, usually assigned only to experienced journalists. One of the most read sections of any paper, the death notice must tell a compelling story starting by what’s (more)

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Read Also:
* Final Cut
* Ways to Go
* Went Before

Continue reading

Rain (Forest) Check

The Amazon’s Skydiving
Spiders & Other Updates

Wonder what’s up with that other, more vital Amazon? Turns out, not nearly as grand as with its namesake commercial enterprise. In fact, weak regulations and public apathy have made its country host Brazil far from a safe harbor to the world’s largest rainforest.
Illegal logging continues rampant all over. Then there’s a just-established, and disturbing, link between its wildfires and Atlantic hurricanes; plus an expected ‘Godzilla’ El Niño season. But never mind climate change: worst of all are those pesky skydiving spiders falling all over the place.
Wonders are never in short supply, though. Take the research showing that the Amazon is way more diverse than originally thought, for instance. A recent study found a ‘hidden tapestry‘ of plant-based chemicals that determines growth and direction of its luscious species.
Or the Matsés, a tribe based in Brazil and Peru, that’s just compiled a 500-page encyclopedia summarizing its traditional medicine. Put together by five shamans, it’s likely the first treatise of its kind, with entries for therapies indicated to a massive variety of illnesses.
And then there are the efforts of forest activists who, despite mortal danger represented by armed gangs who roam the place on big landowners’ account, have been able to sustain an unsung but absolutely heroic battle to preserve what used to be called the ‘lungs of the world.’
To be fair, Brazil’s slowed down deforestation in the Amazon, albeit not nearly enough. Still its vastness, potential, and significance can’t be overstated. If we could only match its ability to wonder with a few miracles of our own, we’ll be in better shape now.

TIMBER TRACKING & NOT MUCH ELSE
In the past decade, Brazil has cut down greenhouse gas emissions more than any other country, which is commendable. But a recent visit by embattled President Dilma Rousseff to Washington failed to (more)
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Read Also:
* Amazing Zone
* Damned Project
* Rainforest at Risk

Continue reading

Before Afterlife


Upon Departing, Would You
Tell a Story or Leave an App?

The flip side of living longer is that death now may also take longer to finally succeed. That allows some to rehearse their award acceptance speech, and others, to compose long goodbyes. Here’s to your own, self-penned obituary, and the app and avatar that’ll outlive you. People do wish to control their own narrative, and obituaries are potentially the final word about it. And soon there may be more Websites of those who went before than the breathing kind like us (knock on wood). Just like the current humanity, counting in the billions as it is, is but a fraction of everyone who’s ever lived.
We should be careful about what we wish for, though. One of the gifts of being alive is that, mercifully, we have no idea when our time is up. Long, extended diseases, and the industry of the ‘cure’ making sure that we last, however, may be changing even that most gracious of nature’s charities.
But heaven forbid if we were to take away such a precious comfort from those on the death watch. After all, to have time to prepare one’s affairs, and everyone around, for that announced demise is no small miracle. Hence, the wills, the lists, the requests for forgiveness, and the peaceful way to depart from this realm.
The same with this new, decades-old world we’ve created to keep our distance from each other, the Internet. How many of those you know know your passwords, your Wed identities, above all, your wishes about what to do with it all? Not many and most are not too eager to give that sort of advance notice away either.
You can always program, though. Better than to leave behind a wake of digital detritus, why not set something up, or find a way to terminate it all for good? A few predated posts may just do the trick. And there won’t be any need to deputize someone else to run things afterwards.
Granted, the person who’s gone won’t particularly care one way or another. So it’s just an ethical matter of some consideration, on whether you’d like to continue, so to speak, indefinitely, or would rather leave space for those who actually stand to be affected by it: the living.

BETWEEN TOMBSTONE & LIFEBOAT
Marilyn Johnson has helped disperse the common idea that newspaper obituaries, for instance, should be shallow and phony in their eulogy to the dead. In her intriguing The Dead Beat, she demonstrates how obituary writing is an important art form, usually assigned only to experienced journalists. One of the most read sections of any paper, the death notice must tell a compelling story starting by what’s known as Continue reading

Cold Cups II

The Fan Who Sold His Honor & the
World Cup Coach Who Can’t Drive

Even if Fifa were a model of probity, which recent allegations have shown it clearly is not, or street rallies against its costs had cooled off with the start of the games, which they haven’t, the World Cup in Brazil has already provided a whole plethora of political drama.
From the multicultural bleachers to the quarrels over refereeing, from the quality of the grass drainage to antiaircraft artillery on civilian buildings, matches and goals have been thrilling, for sure, but what’s going on beyond the pitch may as well upstage it all.
As Brazilians protest the money bacchanal, brokered by Fifa and funded by its mega sponsors, and the competition heats up with record goals and relatively few surprises so far, one wonders whether there’s even space on the coverage for anything else. As it turns out, we make room for just that sort of thing.
For appalling mistakes committed by field officials are as much a part of the game as its players’ cheap theatrics, and with all certainty, will remain the theme of late night, heated discussions over tears and beers for years to come. It’s what’s not so obvious, though, that we’re most interested.
Thus, while that Barcelona star may be executing a perfect curvy free kick, out of sight and in the middle of a sea of multicolored tribute jerseys, someone may be giving a whole country a black eye, or a sympathetic one, by just flicking their wrist. At times, cameras may capture the moment but mostly, they may miss it.
And, just as life itself, the so called ‘teaching moments’ go beyond the walls of these temples of football, or through another march against high ticket prices on a street nearby. World Cup-related news, not so breaking but weird just the same, may be happening right across from the stadium, atop some apartment building.
The reach of this tournament may have a surprising sway both at the confluence of sports and morality, and as far as some court decision across the ocean. Coming July 13, regardless of who’ll lift the trophy, we’ll have gone through a common experience of such a planetary scale that each of these stories may count as much as the goals scored.
And you may thank your lucky shirts for we’re skipping altogether anything about the tragic Nigeria blast, that killed several people (in a replay of Uganda four years ago, remember?) or the Mexican drugpin who got nabbed by the Feds after he bought a ticket to the World Cup… on his own name. Smart.

GREED & CIVILITY AT THE STANDS
Speaking of most Brazilians, they may be fighting the good fight against corruption, but apparently José Humberto Martins is yet to get the memo. Last week in Natal, he was one of the thousands wearing a plastic poncho during the rain soaked Mexico vs. Cameroon game.
According to his own account, at some point, he was approached by a drenched tourist who offered to buy his cheap garment, unaware it was on sale for $14 elsewhere at the stadium. Not one to let the chance to make a buck pass, torrential pouring notwithstanding, José agreed to sell it on the spot: for $200!
The good name of soccer fans everywhere was rescued from the mud the following day, though, Continue reading

Beneath the Waves

High Noon at Big Blue: Menopausal
Whales & Jellyfish-Murdering Robots

They stand far apart in the immense liquid yonder enveloping the planet. One massive and rare, the other transparent and quasi immaterial. Whales and jellyfish have been around for millions of years, but as one’s likely to outlive us, we miss the other already.
They’re both beautiful, no mistake about it. But while the Medusa and the Man of War are growing strong around the oceans, the majestic blue and the singing humpback, harmless as they are, are swimming to oblivion, and may not get to meet your great-grandchildren.

It doesn’t help that we know so little of either one, and that the very world they inhabit, from which we all draw our sustenance, is on the verge of collapse, victimized by pollution, climate change and overfishing. While we multiply, marine life dwindles, and its the fragile among us that’s going first.
For when it comes to survival, size may be a liability. Ours is in the numbers; the whales’ is in the scope of their physicality. Aliens on earth and sea stand a better chance: viruses, bacteria, bugs and jellyfish have proven way more adaptable to beat even a formidable foe as all species have found in ours.
The ocean is in fact so broken that a yachtsman from Newcastle, sailing from Melbourne to Osaka, was startled by an odd sight, or lack thereoff: in the middle of his trip, he couldn’t see or hear a single bird, Continue reading

Papal Imbroglio

Argentina Beats Brazil in
the Vatican World Cup Final

In the end, it was as predictable as always: Jorge Mario Bergoglio beat Brazilian Odilo Scherer, who shares the same background of Latin America’s bloody military dictatorships of the 1960s and 70s, and became the first non-European pope. No African came close.
The church quickly picked the cardinal with the slightly better conservative credentials, as it was well aware that it could not afford any uncertainty about its choice to fester. Thus Francis I will rule at least until the next scandal calls for another early retirement.
Immediately, along with all the sponsored joy in Roma and throughout the world, those who survived Argentina’s cruel Dirty War, waged by the successive military juntas against their political opponents, have protested the choice, mentioning Bergoglio’s possible role during those dark times.
And at least one well-documented instance has been invoked: the kidnapping of Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics, two Jesuit priests, in May of 1976, by paramilitary forces of the regime. They reappeared five months later, drugged and seminude, in the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
According to Horacio Verbitsky, a journalist who published an account of the episode in his ‘The Silence,’ Yorio accused Bergoglio, then a Society of Jesus official, in Argentina, of having refused to properly protect the priests, who were persecuted by the Junta for their work among the poor living in slum communities.
The generals, who ruled Argentina with an iron fist during the period, neither acknowledged their imprisonment, nor the reasons for it, naturally. Yorio passed away in 2000, and the case would be destined to become a footnote, if Bergoglio hadn’t now risen to the top position of the Catholic church. Then again, as pope, it’s even more unlikely that he’d have to defend his actions.
A SCHOOL OF INTOLERANCE
He offered his version of the events to his biographer, Sergio Rubin, portraying himself not as the facilitator, but as the liberator of the two priests from their harrowing experience. He told Rubin that he personally interceded on their behalf with the dictator of du jour, the infamous Jorge Villela, who then, completely out of character, granted the priests mercy.
But Bergoglio, as Francis I, may not need to deny the other, perhaps more relevant, charge against him: that of being a homophobic, who’s Continue reading

Valentine Way

When the Affair Is Over &
the Blues Hurt Your Heart

It’d seem virtually impossible to add yet another cliche to a day so full of them as Valentine’s. But we think we can still squeeze an extra one in. For a selected group of researchers seems to agree that heartbreak causes physical symptoms in those going through it.
We hate to say it, but we told you so, haven’t we? Doctors in New York, Michigan, and Beverly Hills believe that the body responds to the emotional pain of a breakup just like it would to any other kind of stress, and it may even enlarge your heart.
For Montefiore’s Director of Psychology Simon Rego, the reaction it’s a built-in defense mechanism that ‘keeps us alive.’ It’s ‘more than just a metaphorical feeling of pain,’ says University of Michigan Professor Ethan Kross, in what psychiatrist and author Carole Lieberman characterizes it as a particularly vulnerable time to physical illness.

Even the prestigious Mayo Clinic got into what’s known as ‘broken-heart syndrome,’ a condition in which the person experiences chest pains and firmly believes it’s a heart attack. That’s because research showed that the heart temporarily enlarges in response to the surge of stress hormones caused by the end of the affair.
By now, many of you may be experiencing some kind of heart-racing urge, alright, but just out of the desire to kill us. After all, why would we choose today to (chocolate) rain on everyone’s parade, right? We understand. But think of it as a public service and please don’t think ill of our feeble attempt at bringing you something fresh to such a by-the-numbers day.
Perhaps Dr. Rego can elaborate a bit, specially for those who may feel left out of all the fireworks of roses and rings that makes this a make or break kind of a day. ‘It’s important to remember that life is never constant,’ he says (please don’t cringe just yet). ‘It’s the blessing and the curse of it all,” he told the LATimes.

His pearl of wisdom should appear in small print on the back of all Valentine’s Day cards that millions are exchanging today. ‘We all will experience loss in our lives. It’s what it means to be human. But as low as we feel, it’s important to remember that things get better,’ and we think we may be having some kind of palpitation now.
Maybe that’s because we know we couldn’t possibly put it any better, without starting melting as a pile of white sugar under a heavy downpour of high fructose corn syrup.
We mean no disrespect to the good old doc, of course, or to any research on the emotional response to such an often devastating event in our lives as a breakup, for that matter. As Dr. Kross, who studied the effects of physical and emotional pain, says, ‘social rejection may actually have a bodily component to it.’
Let’s not go any further with the derogatory tinge for now. As many in history, we’ve tried and tried our hands at the stuff, and may have only managed to cross the part that ‘hurts and causes physical pain.’ So what’s a no-expert-at-love is left to do? try it over, of course. We’re foolish that way. The Valentine way.
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Read Also:
* Buzz Off
* Embraceable Hearts
* Broken Hearts
* Before & After