Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Happy Birthday Mom from Rio....
I wish you could see all this up close...

My Mom was born April 1, which is NOT April Fool's Day here (December 28th is, and they call it Day Of The Innocents) Ah Rio ....beats the hell out of my cubicle!

Speak of the Dictator... It was 40 years ago today Brazil saw a military coup that would last 21 years. Newspaper ran a special section which I found fascinating. Will talk more about this era when I'm back. It's something Americans never got the whole picture of....

Lovely scenery all around as the cab took us back and forth across the 10 miles of sprawling coastline that IS Rio de Janeiro. For those unfamiliar, 10-20 blocks from the beach are huge hills that are sharp, steep, and covered with vegetation, an explosion of green and brown. So Rio is very long and very thin at some points. The bay surrounding Rio is peppered with these same hills, jutting right up out of the water.

The largest of these is called Paõ de Açucar, or Sugarloaf, after its shape, and offers a gorgeous view to those who brave two successive cable car rides. Sugarloaf also houses a mini-zoo and mini-botanic garden.

We ate at Porcão, literally, Fat Pig, a meat restaurant arranged so that waiters keep bringing you different cuts of meat until you can eat no more. You then turn your green signal to red, and beg for coffee. Porcão has an amazing view of Sugarloaf. Here's Porcão from the inside

Of course, I just admired Rio's sights from afar, busy as I was exploring the wonders of Brazilian telecommunications, petroleum, and mining. Here's the building of Petrobras, the state oil company, a wonderful funky modernist assortment of cubes:

Tomorrow I have a day trip to Porto Alegre, about 600 miles south of here, halfway to Argentina, to see a steel company. Like the Argentines, people here call themselves "gauchos" and eat a lot of meat. Many Germans settled here in the 1800s, and there are many, many blonde people....

Friday, before leaving, I have a day trip to Belo Horizonte, about 400 miles north of here, to visit another steel company. People from this state, Minas Gerais, are legendary for being cautious, laconic, and stubborn. Minas was the cradle of Brazil's independence.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Alice The Cook R.I.P.

This dish is called "Muqueca," fish, spices, and vegetables in a rich, thick broth. Many regions of Brazil claim its authorship, and each has a unique recipé. More good meetings today. People remember me. : - )

While I was busy having my diapers changed, in 1960, a newly-constructed Brasilia replaced Rio de Janeiro as Brazil's capital. President Juscelino Kubitschek (koobie-checkie) ran for President promissing to build this miracle city within four years. His good pal, modernist architect / visionary Oscar Niemeyer, created the basic design. But the seed was planted when Brazil became a republic in 1889 - I never knew this It was actually written into the constitution that a new capital was to be founded inland, to drag Brazil's population away from the coast (to this day, 85% of Brazil live within 150 miles of the Atlantic, even though Brazil is the size of the U.S. without Alaska.)

One huge irony of Brasilia is that even though its art and architecture are a valentine to progress, forward-thinking, and democratic institutions, Brazil became a dictatorship in 1964, just four years after Brasilia's inauguration, a situation which was to last 21 years and five dictators. Since the military always justified a coup with promises to reinstate democracy when "it was safe," these inscriptions were never altered, in Brazil or elsewhere. Incidentally, voting is compulsory in Brazil and in most of Latin America. It is considered a duty as much as a right.

Tomorrow I'm up at 5:30am, flight to Rio, four long meetings, and back to Sao Paolo at 7pm. If I post at all, it'll be brief. My hotel, L'Hotel (which they pronounce Ellie Hotellie) has cable TV, and I recieve the news in five languages. In all cases, the perspective seems more international and more balanced. We Americans, for all our world dominance, have a very inward, parochial perspective, reinforced by our media.... Alice The Cook, of course, is who Archie Bunker thought Mike and Gloria were referring to when they mentioned Alistair Cooke. : - )

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¡Feliz Cumple, Tomás!

Here's a plate of empanadas to celebrate... It's a funky morning in Brazil. In the atrium of our corporate HQ a throng of women are practicing Tai-Chi in gym suits. Steam is rising from the grey and white mosaic stones of the sidewalks as the Paulistas scurry off to work. On my menu today: beer and petrochemicals. More to follow...

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Monday, March 29, 2004

Good first day. Lots of hand-shaking, card-distributing, and self-promotion. Learned a lot about sewage management and had a great session with VCP, Brazil's leading paper company. This will intensify, especially Wednesday, with four meetings on a day trip to Rio.

Modernist Ghost Town

Digesting Brasilia (and lunch) Brasilia has some wonderfully creative modernist buildings, such as this Cathedral, but on the whole, as a city it left me cold. Perhaps the most strictly zoned capital on earth, Brasilia was built in the form of an airplane, with the government in the cockpit, residential sections in the wings, and commerce in the main cabin. Six-lane highways criss-cross around this outline, distances are enormous, leaving the pedestrian at a disadvantage. Thus, we have a car city where at least two-thirds of the people are probably too poor to own one.

Brasilia's glories are clustered around the "Plaza of The Three Powers" This refers to the three branches of government, represented by two out-sized pavillions with futuristic white columns that serve as the Presidential Palace and Supreme Court, and in between are the twin towers of Congress and their half-dome lawn ornaments. The grass-free concrete plaza also contains sculptures, a pantheon of national heroes, two museums, of which one contains a scale model of the city, and an odd brown pigeon shelter shaped like a clothespin.

Like so many dominoes, the dozen or so ministries are stacked up on both sides of the wide highway that leads to the Plaza. The ministries are identical white marble rectangles with green shutters, and on a Sunday there was almost nobody around, and it felt oddly like some eerie housing project right after a neutron bomb explosion. Two ministries, Justice and Foreign Affairs, have distinct and beautiful pavillions, the latter surrounded by a pond with greenery and sculpture. More on Brasilia to come...

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Getting Down To Business

It's going to be an action-packed week. My meetings are wall-to-wall, and all in Portuguese. My Brazilian co-workers are very nice. This morning we visited Sabesp, Sao Paolo's water and sewage company, housed in a beautiful modern chrome-and-glass building on red columns, near the University. You'll be happy to hear that Sao Paolo's two rivers, puny as they are, are becoming less polluted thanks to Sabesp, and the fish count is steadily rising. Next time, maybe we'll get to see the sewage plant. Lunchtime! I'm getting hungry. More later, especially about my Brasilia visit

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Sunday, March 28, 2004

I made it to Brasilia! On my 17th visit to this country, I´ve final seen its capital. How can I describe it? The set of Star Trek IV? A gleaming white UNESCO-protected love letter to modernism? A white elephant of galactic proportions? A quirky curiosity? Failed urban planning? Probably, all of the above.. Further details when I'm back in Sao Paolo. Até logo, chauzinho....

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Run, Run, Run.... Well, slept through my 6am alarm, missed my 8:20am flight to Brasilia. But no matter. Improvise, improvise. I´m off to Congonhas airport, I should be able to buy my way on to the 12:45pm flight for $150 or so. You only live once!
More later, stay tuned!

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Saturday, March 27, 2004

Back In Bwazeew!

They actually pronounce it that way here! It´s nice to be back here! I missed the color, the flavor, the chaos, and the contrasts. Sao Paolo is bursting with life, bold postmodern buildings everywhere reflect tropical flora and rushing traffic on Avenida Paulista, where my hotel and the bank are located.

I strolled through hilly, sloping Trianon gardens, a lush green haven in the midst of the hubbub where thick green vegetation filters out the noise, children play, young lovers make out, and friends talk heart-to-heart. Outside the gate, a vendor turns coconuts into giant take-out drinks by punching a hole and inserting a straw. I visited MASP, Sao Paolo´s beautifully designed and endowed museum, a red and grey rectangle on cement stilts, and enjoyed its small but impressive collection of French Impressionists, other European artists, and Brazilian 20th century art.

Fingerprinted at the airport and subjected to a 2 hour immigration line, Americans are paying here for Bush´s decision to do the same to South Americans. Brazilians have pride and stand up for it. I was sad when one Argentine youth complained loudly about the line, and the immigration guards decided, as a lesson, not to let him into the country.. Someone asked "Don´t we have freedom of speech here?" and the reply was "Not on this line, you don´t!" I was sure glad I had eaten breakfast on the plane, and brought music to while away the time. Lunch was thin steak filet with rice, veggies, and "farofa," which is basically mandioc flour fried with sundry ingredients. Very filling. That´s all for now. Will probably make it an early night, since I´m getting up at 6am tomorrow to go to Brasilia for the day! Chauzinho!

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Friday, March 26, 2004

Happy Birthday, Celia! Enjoy!

Celia's cumple is actually tomorrow March 27. And, it's Galería time! So, I'm off to Brazil! I'm falling asleep I'm so tired... But it's a good thing. I will be posting daily as technology permits, and I think it will.. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this ‘roundup’ of wonderful photos taken from some of my favorite photoblogs. The artists are: Pixpopuli, Mused Pixelflake, TopLeftPixel, Myopic, ExitWound, InConduit, Funny Time Of Year,Chromogenic, and Holland’s Martijn Lammerts. All of these are consistently great.

Brazilian sayings:

Quem com porcos se mistura, farelos come.
Who with pigs mixes (gets together), crumbs (must) eat.

Em boca fechada nao entra mosca.
In a closed mouth a fly never enters.


"Military justice is to justice what military music is to music." - Groucho Marx
"It used to be a good hotel, but that proves nothing- I used to be a good boy." - Mark Twain

stealth parenting - (STELTH payr.un.ting) n. Performing childcare duties while pretending to be at a business meeting or other work-related function. See also stealth errands.

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Thursday, March 25, 2004

Czech Out These Great Films

In the mid-60s what was then Czechoslovakia won two best foreign film Oscars in 1965 and 1967, a powerful one-two knock-out from a country which was about to get knocked pretty badly itself. I finally saw the later of these films, “Closely Watched Trains,” which keenly observes the lives and lusts of a sleepy backwater train station in Nazi-occupied Czech-land. We meet the unforgettable matchstick-shaped young Milos and live through his frustrated attempts to lose his virginity. What’s striking is how honestly human sexuality is presented, at a time when Hollywood labored under a morals code that all but banished the subject from the screen. And I don’t mean explicitly showing sex acts or nude bodies, but rather showing how sexuality informs human behavior, feeling, communication, and self-image.

”Shop On Main Street” is also a masterpiece with a very different Nazi occupation story. It concerns an old, nearly deaf Jewish lady who owns a button shop and the Mayor’s brother-in-law, who hopes to get rich being the shop’s “Aryan owner;” it turns out the shop is broke, and only exists out of the kindness of Jewish neighbors, who buy what they don’t need to help the lady out. The relationship that ensues, and where it leads, are a powerful story and the acting is nothing short of miraculous

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Celebrity Sighting!

Walked right into a Queer Eye location shooting and met Carson personally…
… while buying a well-needed work shirt at Brooks Brothers. The straight guy looked really stereotypical, baseball cap and all. Carson is equally queeny when the camera’s off. Alas, I totally forgot that I had my digital camera with me in my bag. Darn! I saw the catered food for the crew outside under a canopy to protect it from heavy rain. Everyone looked like they were having grand fun.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Brasilia Bound!

I’m rewarding myself for this work crunch with a day trip to Brasilia, the retro-futuristic urban conundrum that replaced Rio de Janeiro as Brazil’s capital in 1960. I’ve never been there before, and it’s an hour’s flight from my base in Sao Paulo. I will be writing you from Brazil, but since I won’t have time for many pictures and links, I thought I’d treat you to a brief pictorial Brasilia visit below. Check out as well Thomas' excellent Brasilia fotos from his old site.


Cathedral and Government Buildings:

Inside of Cathedral:

Brasilia Postcard:

Statue of Brasilia’s founder, former President Juscelino Kubitschek (pronounced Kubi-checkie) : - )

Their White House – The Palacio do Planalto:

And by night, again, The Palacio do Planalto:

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"It's a beautiful day, don't let it slip away..." - U2, 2000
"It's a friggin' roller-coaster..." - Aaron Holsberg, 3/24/2004
Have just seen the two extremes in less than three hours. At 1pm, I had a surprise lunch with Fitch at Tao, the nicest Asian place in town. At 2:30pm, I met some new co-workers, and was given major new projects on a very tight deadline, and was told about some major difficulties in this place. That's Wall Street for you, to a T...

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Tuesday, March 23, 2004

I Dream Of Blonde Iraqis...

The first I heard of Baghdad was at age 5, on the TV series "I Dream Of Jeannie"... : - ) True to mid-1960s TV "realism", Jeannie made constant references to her childhood, family, etc being in Baghdad. So I guess she was my first exposure to the Iraqi people (and probably to the female belly button as well). "Jeannie" was created, btw, by trashy novelist Sidney Sheldon.

What’s the biggest creature that ever lived on earth? T-Rex? Brontosaurus? Nope… At 100 feet long and 125 tons, the Blue Whale, alive today in an ocean near you, is double the size of the largest dinosaur. Its heart is the size of a Volvo and pumps 10 tons of blood! And its penis… well, twelve feet long, supported by two tons of testes. Despite these foreboding dimensions, the Blue Whale is threatened, hunting has reduced the population to 2,000, and it will require decades of protection to be safe from extinction… I learned this watching "Life Of Mammals", a superb 10-part documentary by Sir David Attenborough available on DVD.
I'm a big fan of Sir David, and my collection also includes "Life Of Birds" and "Blue Planet"; some of you will recognize "Planet" from your visits to my place as the marine life on the muted TV that I use as "ambient video"

"If you want the last word, apologize." - Anonymous
"A moment's thinking is an hour in words." - Thomas Hood
"What's another word for Thesaurus?" - Stephen Wright

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Monday, March 22, 2004

Paulista Vistas, For You Armchair Turistas

On my Brazil business trip, my base will be Sao Paulo, its biggest city and center of business and culture. I will be staying near fabled Avenida Paulista, which in 1902 was a tree-lined row of coffee baron mansions, but in the 1960s became their 'Park Avenue meets Wall Street.' Paulista, then and now:

"When a poor man eats a chicken, it means one of them has been ill..." - Brazilian Proverb

Sao Paulo's treasure-filled art museum is called MASP, pronounced Masp-ee (rhymes with raspy) because Brazilians are loathe to end any word with a hard consonant. Trying to pronounce English, they say desk (desk-ie), flashback (flashie-backie) and my favorite, the mega-movie Titanic (chee-ta-nee-kee) :- )

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Sunday, March 21, 2004

This Is My View!

One of my party guests from last week, Luc, posted my panoramic window view on his blog (which is in French, btw)! Here it is:

Here's your gracious host, with Luc in the chair, and catered food, books, and CDs in the background : - )

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