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

Empire of Only One

When You Build in Solitude
That Which Will Outlast You

No man is an island, wrote John Donne, in what’s now a big, fat cliché. Yet, there’s David Glasheen, living alone on a island for 23 years. And Jadav Payeng, who planted a whole forest on his own. Or Justo Gallego, who built a cathedral by hand.
Then, there’s a man who’s surely envious of the solitude all three find comfort on. Accused of bilking people of their money, his victims found a way of placing his face all over the world, as a casualty of various acts of terrorism, even as he wasn’t near any of them.
Undue exposure as an act of revenge is certainly a modern phenomenon, with social media, and news report manipulation, replacing the shame of standing naked in the public square of Donne‘s times. But each man plays an unwitting, and extreme, role in contemporary society’s drama.
While Glasheen has just about enough of all of us, Payeng has dedicated his life to leaving us a legacy. As Gallego was erecting his monument to devotion, others devised a devilish prank as the only alternative to denounce and get something back out of a con man.

TO WALK OUT OF IT ALL
Not that many would’ve noticed, or cared about it, but when the stock market crashed, on October of 1987, the world lost a few millionaires. Most got quickly back in the saddle, as financiers are won to do. Australian businessman Glasheen took the hint to drop out, and instead, moved to a desert island.
But his is no epic tale, all heart-warming quotes of inspiration and non-conformism. For starters, like most hermits, he’s not very fond of the likes of us. Which is a feeling that comes in handy if  (more)
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Read Also:
* Off the Grid
* Hot Water
* Going Under
Continue reading

In Their Own Rites

Brides, Babies, the
Dead & Your Ex-Lovers

And now for something completely different: need to cry a lot at your wedding? Check. Thought about giving the bones of your deceased relatives a brush? Check. What about dropping your baby off a balcony? Check that too. Aren’t we dizzy yet? Wait, the best is always last.
Ever thought of introducing your lover to your former partners? There’s a whole fair for that. Not to worry, though; each of these rituals is confined to a different culture; few partake of more than one of them. Besides, most of the population, of course, simply skip them all.
It’s not that we’re about to go all NatGeo on you, after the week we all just had. But this being Friday, reading about what people do around the world to give their lives meaning may feel just like putting out our own skin to dry: we have no choice but to be ‘us’ most of the time, but no one says we can’t get out of ourselves and enjoy the pasture.
Or something, we’re not sure. The only thing that may be undeniable about all these, though, is that none of this community rites you’re about to read below are harmful to those who enjoy participating in them. On the contrary, they’re are important cultural signposts that bring everyone together, and boy, don’t we need more examples like that?
So let’s get to it without bias, shall we? After all, heaven knows we all have our share of strange and mostly hardly logical rites and little Continue reading

Last of the Apaches

Geronimo, a Feared Warrior
Whose Skull May Be Missing

A century and three days ago today, the chief native American known as Geronimo passed away of pneumonia at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He died a prisoner, having surrendered to the U.S. in 1886. But revisions about the conquest of the West, the circumstances of his life and even his name had already started way before his death.
Even among other distinguished tribal chiefs, the man born in 1829 as Goyathlay occupies his own place in the origins of this nation. And as such, personifies the ambivalence, misconception and extreme brutality that marked its unification.
Geronimo fought both Mexican and U.S. armies and became know for his bravery and rebellious spirit. But as ‘Indians’ were considered then devoid of soul or natural rights, and as European descendants began to outnumber the native tribes of North America, their fate was already sealed even before the first clash between them started.
In his long and storied life, which outlasted some of his many wives and children, he went from feared leader in combat to the tamed, most valuable captive prize of the American army at that time. He managed to dictate his memories in the end and became a sort of a minor celebrity. But he was never to set foot again on the land of his birth, in Gila River, Bedonkoheland.
UNFULFILLED REVENGE
To many, the genesis of his rebelliousness, against what was perceived by native Americans as the occupation forces of European descendants, can be traced back to a bloody attack by a company of Mexican soldiers Continue reading

No Cry Wolves

Scientists May Have Found
Cure for Excessive Hairiness

It’s a fact of the human condition that one is never satisfied with what nature gave him or her. Bald people miss terribly the days when their flocks would fly in the wind and the bathroom sink would clog up with their hair. Short, or rather, vertically-challenged citizens would love to add a few inches to their stature. And they often do, with the help of discreet high heels.
But you won’t hear a single complaint from Supatra “Nat” Sasuphan, a smiling 11-year old from Thailand, who has “hypertrichosis,” which causes excessive hairiness and is sometimes referred to as werewolf syndrome. And Mexico-born Larry Gomez, well, if he once disliked his own hairiness, he got over it and today makes a living out of it: he’s Continue reading

Vanishing Words

Last Keepers of Lost Tongue
Will Not Speak to Each Other

If verbal expression is the most crucial distinction between human beings and animals, then when a language disappears, a fundamental part of what define us as species is also lost.
The path of technological development, current evolutionary patterns, even the so called globalization, all contribute to the depletion of the languages spoken nowadays, estimated to be between 6,000 to 7,000.
It’s virtually impossible to assess the damage caused to our civilization by the extinction of languages. But anthropologists agree that its pace is accelerating along with the disappearance of tribes and cultures.
In Mexico, for example, Ayapaneco, a language that has been spoken for centuries, is in serious risk of extinction. In fact, there are only two known people fluent in this ancient tongue and they are not speaking to each other.
No one knows why, but Manuel Segovia and Isidro Velazquez who live 500 meters apart Continue reading

Unrequited Love

Sorry, Estibalis, But They
Are Just Not That Into You

Someone is asking to be invited to the next wedding at Buckingham Palace, of one Prince William and Kate Middleton, and she’s neither taking a no nor a cake for an answer.
Let’s say, you have this friend from England, who’s either visiting or lives in the U.S. for a while. Nice chap, good to be around, fun do to things with. Oh, and don’t get him started into politics: he’s not just engaged in current affairs; he’s perfectly 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

Eye on the Year

RECORDS BROKEN &
VERY LITTLE CHANGE

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The Earth Shook & Burn But
The World Only Moved Sideways
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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

Murder Inc.

Drug War in Mexico Breeds
Murder, Art & Acts of Courage

The Mexican government’s catastrophically misguided efforts to curb drug trafficking has won no battle or shown little progress so far. On the contrary, the indiscriminate body count keeps multiplying, entire cities are being ravaged by impunity and corruption, and a once promising youth is trapped in the middle of its lethal crossfire.
While the Calderon administration, with no small help of the U.S., dump obscene amounts of dollars and human resources into sheer repression, growing demand from Continue reading

Don Diego de la Argentina

Brilliance & Controversy,
Maradona’s Legacy at 50

One of the greatest soccer players of all time, Argentine Diego Armando Maradona, reaches his 50th birthday, marked by unique achievements on the field and embarrassing mistakes off of it.
His playing ability and skills remain unmatched and it’s his arguably the most beautiful goal ever scored in a World Cup, against England in 1986, Mexico, in the second title won by Argentina.
It’s also his one of his country’s most vexing moments, in the 1994 cup when Maradona failed a drug test and was banned from the competition. Since that quick exit, Argentina’s still to win another trophy.
His volatile personality, a magnet to controversy, threatened at times to obscure his achievements as a player. It also doesn’t help that to most he plays second fiddle to Brazil’s Pelé, who won two more tournaments than him, and far outscores everyone else in the game, almost 40 years after retiring.
In fact, Maradona’s public feud with Pelé is now part of the lore of the world’s most popular sport and a polarizing issue for its fans. Even his biggest victories seem to be multiplied by those of Pelé, except in what run-ins with the law and fan devotion verging on the bizarre are concerned.
His trials with illegal drugs and personal drama were often played out in public, and yet Argentines of all stripes would gladly light up candles for him anytime. Some went as far as to create the Church of Maradona, founded in 1998, and that counts 2010 as the year 50 D.D., Después de Diego (After Diego).
Still, to soccer lovers the world over, it’s more than simply coincidence that its two greatest idols were born exactly 20 years and a week apart, in two countries known for their petty but intense rivalry.
Thus, Maradona would be the Dionysius to Pelé’s Apollo, the dark, younger, unbound tango god and the sunny, wiser, hedonistic king of samba. Such over-the-top characterization, though, always gets in the way of a fully appreciation of such a complex and vulnerable public figure represented by the one once known as ‘Dieguito.’
But it seems appropriate that unlike Pelé’s 70th birthday celebrations last week, Maradona’s will be considerably more subdued because of the national mourning in Argentina for the sudden death of its former President Nestor Kirchner.
Once again, for a freak of destiny, his long-anticipated coronation will be somewhat shortchanged, and he won’t be able to completely rule the headlines in his own birthday, sharing them instead, with the commentary and reflective news on the death of another powerful populist figure.
Or it may all be a bit of payback from that infamous ‘Hand of God.‘ Whereas it once graced Maradona with an illegal and crucial goal, now it may be reminding him of its moody, counterbalancing whims. For if anyone’s greatness or disgrace would be close enough to be touched by the powers that be themselves, that would clearly be El Pibe de Oro.

(*) Originally published on Oct. 30, 2010. 

May Cinco de Mayo Last

Have You Started Drinking Yet?

It’s been repeated and publicized and, thank goodness, completely ignored every year by revelers and party lovers alike: Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s independence day. But who cares?

Historically, the date marks a Mexican rag-tag army’s victory over the French in 1862. They called it the Battle of Puebla, where the drinking and the singing and the dancing goes on stronger than most places in Mexico.
Some say it helped the U.S. close the deal on the Civil War. Others that the defeat humiliated Napoleon III. And there’re those who think this should be considered an American celebration, who knows why.
The Mexican and the U.S.’s cultures are so entwined for so long that we forget Continue reading