Friday, May 31, 2013

This Globe Oft Can Be

Another great review of my Dellas from The Boston Globe:

Listening to Della Mae’s assured new album, “This World Oft Can Be,” it’s funny to think this progressive five-piece string band based in Boston started almost as a gimmick.
Fiddler Kimber Ludiker initially had an idea for an ensemble that sounded good, at least in theory.
“She was at a festival probably about four years ago and thought, Wouldn’t it be fun to bring together a bunch of ladies who can pick real hard on their instruments and play what at the time they called ‘mangrass’ — just really fast, testosterone bluegrass,” says Celia Woodsmith, Della Mae’s singer and one of its primary songwriters.
They thought they’d call themselves Big Spike Hammer, after a song by the Osborne Brothers, and wear power suits and high heels. That lasted for one show, Woodsmith says, before they decided they wanted to be what they’ve finally become: a virtuosic modern bluegrass band with broad appeal. (The name Della Mae, by the way, also came from that Osborne Brothers song, as mentioned in the chorus. 
As the group’s founder, Ludiker gradually assembled the lineup over the years, which now includes Woodsmith, guitarist Courtney Hartman, bassist Shelby Means, and mandolin player Jenni Lyn Gardner. They play at the Lizard Lounge on Saturday, along with performances at Club Passim on Monday and the Middle East Upstairs on Tuesday.
“This World Oft Can Be” is the group’s second full-length, which also marks their debut on the venerable roots label Rounder Records. They turned to Bryan Sutton, a respected bluegrass guitarist who had known Hartman and Ludiker through the bluegrass community, to produce.
“One of the challenges we had was defining the roles because the lineup they now have was brand-new going into the record,” Sutton says. “Within that, it felt like everybody was just excited about being there. It didn’t feel like roles were so defined yet — this person picks the songs, this person does all the solos. Usually bands figure that stuff out after a while, but it was a clean slate [with Della Mae]. That’s what I liked about it: seeing the potential that was there and working with that.”
Woodsmith was already a fixture on the local roots-music scene when Ludiker invited her to join the band, having cut her teeth with the folk duo Avi & Celia, which later became Hey Mama before disbanding altogether. She was also aware of Della Mae, since the band had been playing one of her songs.
“I accepted basically on the premise that we’d play some cool festivals, and I could have a hobby,” Woodsmith says, laughing. “It happened very smoothly and almost without me knowing that this band had become incredibly special to me. Here we are 2½ years later and releasing a record on Rounder.”
With Woodsmith in the mix, they self-released their debut, “I Built This Heart,” in 2011, but she says the new record is a more accurate portrait of a fully formed band.
“I think there are a lot of differences, both subtle and pretty noticeable,” Woodsmith says, adding that she wrote 10 of the songs on the first album over a long span of time. “This new record is more of a collective group effort. We really worked hard together on these songs and came up with our sound, which had been building over a couple of years. There’s a lot of different influences on it, but it’s us. It’s finally who we are.”
As the lead singer, Woodsmith is quick to point out the strengths of her bandmates, ticking off a list of what makes each unique: Gardner comes from a straight bluegrass background; Ludiker is an award-winning Texas-style fiddle player; Means has excellent rhythm; Hartman’s great at arranging and coming up with ideas.
Woodsmith, the daughter of a mother who’s a poet, considers writing her strong suit, but also acknowledges Della Mae’s appeal boils down to a simple fact: “We all rely on each other.”
It also helps that their sound is both traditional and contemporary, right in line with what’s happening across the board with American roots music.
“The environment right now for modern string music is really exciting,” Sutton says. “I like the concept of doing bluegrass festivals and rock clubs in the same weekend. There’s a movement across the country that’s reflected a little bit in the bigger commercial bands like the Lumin-eers and Mumford. But it also filters into a lot of the energy of bands like Della Mae and Punch Brothers.”
“The thing about traditional music is that it’s strongest when you can turn the page and still understand where it came from,” Sutton adds. “And I think people are doing that today, and Della Mae is part of that.”

38 Wonderful Words

From Mentalfloss: 38 Words we could use in English.  No idea who 16 or 20 could apply to...
Sometimes we must turn to other languages to find le mot juste. Here are a whole bunch of foreign words with no direct English equivalent.
1. Kummerspeck (German)
Excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon.
2. Shemomedjamo (Georgian)
You know when you’re really full, but your meal is just so delicious, you can’t stop eating it? The Georgians feel your pain. This word means, “I accidentally ate the whole thing."
3. Tartle (Scots)
The nearly onomatopoeic word for that panicky hesitation just before you have to introduce someone whose name you can't quite remember.
4. Mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego)
This word captures that special look shared between two people, when both are wishing that the other would do something that they both want, but neither want to do.
5. Backpfeifengesicht (German)
A face badly in need of a fist.
6. Iktsuarpok (Inuit)
You know that feeling of anticipation when you’re waiting for someone to show up at your house and you keep going outside to see if they’re there yet? This is the word for it.
7. Pelinti (Buli, Ghana)
Your friend bites into a piece of piping hot pizza, then opens his mouth and sort of tilts his head around while making an “aaaarrrahh” noise. The Ghanaians have a word for that. More specifically, it means “to move hot food around in your mouth.”
8. Greng-jai (Thai)
That feeling you get when you don't want someone to do something for you because it would be a pain for them.
9. Mencolek (Indonesian) 
You know that old trick where you tap someone lightly on the opposite shoulder from behind to fool them? The Indonesians have a word for it.
10. Faamiti (Samoan) 
To make a squeaking sound by sucking air past the lips in order to gain the attention of a dog or child.
11. Gigil (Filipino)
The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is irresistibly cute.
12. Yuputka (Ulwa)
A word made for walking in the woods at night, it’s the phantom sensation of something crawling on your skin.
13. Zhaghzhagh (Persian) 
The chattering of teeth from the cold or from rage.
14. Vybafnout (Czech) 
A word tailor-made for annoying older brothers—it means to jump out and say boo.
15. Fremdschämen (German); Myötähäpeä (Finnish)
The kindler, gentler cousins of Schadenfreude, both these words mean something akin to "vicarious embarrassment.”
16. Lagom (Swedish)
Maybe Goldilocks was Swedish? This slippery little word is hard to define, but means something like, “Not too much, and not too little, but juuuuust right.”
17. Pålegg (Norweigian)
Sandwich Artists unite! The Norwegians have a non-specific descriptor for anything – ham, cheese, jam, Nutella, mustard, herring, pickles, Doritos, you name it – you might consider putting into a sandwich.
18. Layogenic (Tagalog)
Remember in Clueless when Cher describes someone as “a full-on Monet…from far away, it’s OK, but up close it’s a big old mess”? That’s exactly what this word means.
19. Bakku-shan (Japanese)
Or there's this Japanese slang term, which describes the experience of seeing a woman who appears pretty from behind but not from the front.
20. Seigneur-terraces (French)
Coffee shop dwellers who sit at tables a long time but spend little money.
21. Ya’arburnee (Arabic)
This word is the hopeful declaration that you will die before someone you love deeply, because you cannot stand to live without them. Literally, may you bury me.
22. Pana Po’o (Hawaiian) 
“Hmm, now where did I leave those keys?” he said, pana po’oing. It means to scratch your head in order to help you remember something you’ve forgotten.
23. Slampadato (Italian)
Addicted to the UV glow of tanning salons? This word describes you.
24. Zeg (Georgian)
It means “the day after tomorrow.” OK, we do have "overmorrow" in English, but when was the last time someone used that?
25. Cafune (Brazilian Portuguese)
Leave it to the Brazilians to come up with a word for “tenderly running your fingers through your lover’s hair.”
26. Koi No Yokan (Japanese)
The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall in love.
27. Kaelling (Danish)
You know that woman who stands on her doorstep (or in line at the supermarket, or at the park, or in a restaurant) cursing at her children? The Danes know her, too.
28. Boketto (Japanese) 
It’s nice to know that the Japanese think enough of the act of gazing vacantly into the distance without thinking to give it a name.
29. L’esprit de l’escalier (French)
Literally, stairwell wit—a too-late retort thought of only after departure.
30. Cotisuelto (Caribbean Spanish) 
A word that would aptly describe the prevailing fashion trend among American men under 40, it means one who wears the shirt tail outside of his trousers.
31. Packesel (German)
The packesel is the person who’s stuck carrying everyone else’s bags on a trip. Literally, a burro.
32. Hygge (Danish)
Denmark’s mantra, hygge is the pleasant, genial, and intimate feeling associated with sitting around a fire in the winter with close friends.
33. Cavoli Riscaldati (Italian)
The result of attempting to revive an unworkable relationship. Translates to "reheated cabbage."
34. Bilita Mpash (Bantu)
An amazing dream. Not just a "good" dream; the opposite of a nightmare.
35. Litost (Czech)
Milan Kundera described the emotion as “a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.”
36. Luftmensch (Yiddish)
There are several Yiddish words to describe social misfits. This one is for an impractical dreamer with no business sense.
37 & 38. Schlemiel and schlimazel (Yiddish)
Someone prone to bad luck. Yiddish distinguishes between the schlemiel and schlimazel, whose fates would probably be grouped under those of the klutz in other languages. The schlemiel is the traditional maladroit, who spills his coffee; the schlimazel is the one on whom it's spilled.

A PS on another word: knaidel, and whether or not its spelling bee answer was kosher.

Idiocy

"But I like being free
and that makes me
an idiot, I suppose."
-Stan Rogers, "The Idiot"

I gave my two weeks at American Voices today.  Said goodbye to what many have remarked was the best job in the world, and couldn't imagine a better job for me.  Yes, but...

On to new projects.  More info to come...time to move in.

"And Liberty, she pirouettes
when I think that I am free."
-Peter Gabriel, "Solsbury Hill"

Can Russia Export Soft Power?

The title of an excellent article from my friend Matt Wallin on an excellent panel from the Alfa Fellowship that featured some phenomenal Russian hands, including JB and Lena.  I think Matt might have written the article so he could employ the pic of Putin riding a bear.

You could ask the Dellas about Russian soft power in the ‘Stans. Russia still has a tremendous amount of soft power and cultural influence in the former Soviet states of Central Asia. Russia (/USSR) had one of the most profound socialization efforts of any empire in history in Central Asia, and the remnants of such efforts and its remaining soft power still exists today.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

This World Oft Can Be

Della Mae's new album "This World Oft Can Be" hit the stores and stands today.  The Boston Globe gave it an AMAZING review, and called it "one of the more anticipated albums."  I am such a proud Mama Hen!  Go get a copy (I-tunes, Amazon) of the stellar work of the finest cultural diplomatesses that have ever graced the bluegrass (and public diplomacy) stage.

We Fear What We Don’t Know

One of my most enduring, endearing memories of this last trip was chatting with Jacqueline- the manager of the Walk On The Beach Hostel about Central Asia. “Weren't you scared,” she asked, No, and I tried to explain that Tashkent was safer than Rio. Yes, more repressive but less crime. Less danger in my book. I tried to explain that Brazil was far more dangerous than the ‘Stans, but she couldn’t comprehend. We fear what we don’t know. The job of public diplomacy is to shine a light in the dark places so that we can know we don’t need to fear.

Here is why you should give me a free drink...

If I am back in the good ol US of A, that can only mean one thing: sweet-talking my way to free drinks on flights. Streak on.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Gal Costa

I spent my last day Sao Paulo taking it slow.  Around 10:30am, Cynthia’s boyfriend Bruno returned to their apartment.  Bruno was an interesting fellow.  He had sold his advertising firm, and was now involved in theraputics.  He also had a very good taste in electronica and trance, and played me some wonderful new music.  He offered to give me a ride, but as he was pulling out, the poor fellow noticed that his left mirror had been smashed.  Someone did some nice work hitting a parked car.

Bruno gave me a ride to meet my old friend Cynthia, whose apartment I had been occupying.  I met Cynthia when we were studying in Prague.  She is originally from Sao Paulo, and was doing her undergrad at GW.  Flaxen blond-haired and periwinkle blue-eyed, Cynthia was probably the first Brazilian I met who shattered my conceptions of what being Brazilian meant.  Before her, I probably thought all Brazilians were Brown- she explained to me the incredible diversity of Brazil, which I have come to love.  We kept in-touch over the years, and I finally got to see her again.  Cynthia had been working for the World Bank in fighting corruption and creating better transparency.  Now, after stints with some major consulting firms like E&Y and Deloitte, she was at a boutique consulting firm.  We had a grand time catching up on the present state of affairs.  She is a brilliant girl, who did a good job at initial tracking for my Brazilian Jewish wifey.

After lunch, I walked back to her apartment and collected my things to take a taxi to the bus stand for the bus to the airport.  I had a fun time with the taxi driver, who didn't know exactly the part of town and had a busted GPS.  I caught the bus out to the airport, watching the sun set brilliantly across the vertical sky of Sao Paulo,  The sun's fading light burnt golden across the horizon.

Brazil first entered my mindscape when my parents disappeared down there for a long weekend when I was a kid.  If I remember correctly, they had gone down to Miami for a few days, and left my sister and me with the housekeep34 Magdaline.  They proceeded to abandon us longer (I can still remember my anger that they were not coming back when promised, when the housekeeper broke the news to us), and headed further south.  They came back from Rio with colorful parrots made of gems, and brought back music of Gal Costa that would fill our living room.  I can remember the name "Brazil" meaning something exotic to me then.

My next encounter with Brazil came in New York, when I was out with my Uncle Tommy (Tuvia) and grandparents.  They were bickering over where to go to dinner, and finally we ended up at a Brazilian place. I can still see the samba queen pictures on the walls, something that had my 7 year-old eyes wide open.  And I can remember loving the food at that  place, it was so different than anything I ever had tried prior (I am such a foodie, I can ever remember eating the garlic butterfly shrimp, it was delicious).

My first real encounter with Brazil came with Carnival in 2005, as a gift of a ticket by my Uncle Tommy as a graduation gift from college that I held long enough to use well.  Rio oozed  sensuality that week, as I danced and sang like never before, and never again.  When I showed up back to the Israeli Consulate in a pastel double-breasted suite with a beard and sunglasses after my trip, the security almost didn't let me in.  The Rio I returned to still had sensuality, but was a tad more reserved than the Carnival days I remember.  But only a tad.

There is a book that offer 1,001 Places to See Before You Die, but I think that is too much, and most will never complete that bucket list.  I offer two: India and Brazil.  India for its color, other-worldliness and its peace; Brazil for its racial diversity, for its life so deeply infused with music and its alegria (joie de vivre).  

I am having a hard time leaving Brazil, there is so much I will miss.  I am sad to say (but I am being honest), there isn't a lot I have missed about America since I have been gone.  It has been a welcome break at a time of political discord (when isn't?), and I can't say I am exactly beaming to return.  But return, I will to Brazil. As McArthur once said: I will return.  Until then: Journey On! 

Sunday in São Paulo cont

I made my way down to Rua Santo Amaro and caught a bus to Avenida Paulista.  I arrived to Avenida Paulista, and while strolling down the street I caught a PD idea that literally had me bubbling with excitement. It was great, I was literally  babbling to myself walking down the grand Avenida Paulista while waving my pen as a baton as if conducting some PD symphony, I am sure all you readers can imagine this image.  Such details will be shared in the weeks and months to come.

Anyway, I made my way to MASP, past the Feria de Antiguos below the building.  There were groups of teens and a few adults offering abraços grátis (free hugs).  I snagged a group hug with three cute Brasileiras and squeezed them tight, before heading into the museum.

The museum was good.  There was an interesting exhibit on portraits.  There were some by the masters such as Titian, Goya, El Greco, among others.  My favorite was a self-portrait of a young Rembrandt.  As I wrote once prior the last time I found myself staring at an older Rembrandt: And then I found myself staring at genius. A self-portrait of Rembrandt, with a twinkle hidden in his eyes. It is not everyday you find yourself staring at genius, and find him staring back at you across the canvas of centuries. Nothing like staring into the eyes of genius through the ages.

I continued on to the Romantic exhibit.  Will we be granted to share the audacity of beauty? asked a prophet named Saul.  What I loved most from the exhibition was the line: Romanticism is also a stated longing for whatever is endless.  So true.

The exhibits were nice, but my mind was swimming in other thoughts.  But I did find an interesting exhibit of biblical chapters done in cubist style that was excellent.

After the museum, I wandered through the Feria de Antiguos in the day's fading light.  The sun cast beautiful shadows on the market's antique charm.  Afterwards, I went wandering down Avenida Paulista to find a cafe for an afternoon caiprinha as the sun set across the city.  Caiprinhas have a ton of vitamin C, and other good-for-you medicine to help find the cold I was battling.  I think Linus Pauling would approve.

After the evening caiprinha, I hopped the metro up to Liberdade to grab some ramen.  I wandered through the Brazilian-style version of Japanese bulbs, and found a busy ramen (lamen) joint.  The place had a wait out the door, but sometimes it is easier to get a place for one at the counter than a bigger table.  They told me it would be a twenty minute wait.  I put down my name then bounced around the corner to the local lonchette for a beer at a plastic table.

I returned to a seat at the ramen (lamen) bar for some incredible noodle soup.  I slurped my hot soup and hot sake as I dreamed of Japanese gastrodiplomacy outreach through ramen and other lesser known Japanese cuisine.

After a delicious bowl of soup, I headed back up to Liberdade Square, where I sat out at a plastic table, sipping a beer out of a small cup.  For someone who likes to talk, I love to listen.  What I love to listen to most is the sound of other languages pouring over me.  When I am the only foreigner about, in some cafe or bus or metro train, I love to listen to the sounds of local banter when I can't understand a word.  That is all it is: sound.  Not having the burden of understanding offers me the peace that I call silence amid sound.

But my silence didn't last.  The next table over befriended me, and poured me cup after cup as I chatted in portoñol.  What is portoñol?  It is the version of Spanish-Portuguese that I speak to fake not speaking Portuguese.  I can't count how many Brazilians have told me I spoke Portuguese well, to which I respond.  No, I speak Portuguese poorly, I speak portoñol well.   This always earns me a thumbs-up.

The unfriendly skies

With a flight home tonight, and the sound of jets landing over my head, this seemed too apt: the world's worst airlines.  I have flown on roughly a third of these, including three in the top ten and  the world's worst, Turkmenistan Airlines.  Turkmenistan Airlines, which did not take credit card- only cash, and came complete with pictures of Dear Leader staring back at us from the front of the plane.  I have a number of airlines I could add to the list that deserve to be on there.  But the article itself is a lil disappointing as doesn't give enough color to why the airlines are so terrible. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday in São Paulo

On a beautiful sunday in São Paulo, I woke up early and a lil sick.  Some caught up on Game of Thrones over some arbor red, as I dream of my own PD plans for Westeros.  Dreams of Rockower's Rebellion and at shot at the PD Iron Throne.  Send a raven.  Tweet.
A walk to the park with a coconut to refresh.  I will miss the coconuts when I am gone Brazil.  There are a lot of things I will miss.

Now, on a cloudless sunny sunday in São Paulo, I am heading out to take in some art at the MASP on Avenida Paulista.

The Golden Calf Today

“The financial crisis which we are experiencing makes us forget that its ultimate origin is to be found in a profound human crisis...We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.”

Karl Marx? Sartre? Amy Goodman? No, Pope Francis. Amen.

As I wrote when he was appointed, it wasn't a big deal he was from Latin America per se, but it was a big deal that he was a Jesuit, with loose ties to liberation theology.

 Rabbi Rockower is of the Jewish liberation theology school.

"And what, my dear brothers was the cause of all this discord, this conflict of interests, of all this degradation of public conduct? The cause of it was that a sordid materialism had spread through the country like an epidemic. And what is materialism if not a turning away from God."
-Sartre, Troubled Sleep

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Brazilian Rest Stop Luv

On the road between the River of January and Saint Paul, just finished lunch at a rest stop.  I am marveling at how good those meals can be.  It is never fast food, but rather real food that can be had pretty fast.  The Brazilian rest stop is generally a buffet that features fresh salads.  Often bowls of tomatoes, beets, quail eggs, potato salad, lettuce and spinach.  Meanwhile, there is hot food such as rice, fejoida (black bean stew), fried chicken filets and grilled meats.  I have been to rest stops that had full churrascarias (barbecuing meat on a metal spike).  For those who want something a little lighter, there are usually choices of salgados (empandas, coxinha, etc).  There are usually fresh fruits that can be bought.  And beer.  

It is never McDonalds or Burger King, but real, delicious food.  And because it is real food, I generally spend more money at these stops.  I never buy anything at the rest stops in America because it is generally gross and unappealingly greasy fare.  Maybe you spend $6-7 on some cardiac combo meal.  Meanwhile, here I generally drop $12-$15 on a real meal, because it is worth it.

Some smart Brazilian gastrodiplomacy investment might be to support some of the bigger companies that run these outlets to open up similar versions in America.


Rain in Rio

I was excited because on my search for falafel, I had found a synagogue.  Maybe I would find my kosher Amazonian queen at services.

Friday came, and I noticed it was getting dark.  I got dressed to go.  I came to the synagogue at 6pm, but was told services were at 7.

I grabbed some dinner at a nearby cafe.  Leek quiche and fresh squeezed orange juice that I doctored with sparkling water.  As I am oft to do, I ate half, and wrapped up the res to share.

I returned at 7pm, and saw the women walking upstairs.  Great, how was I to find my kosher Amazonian princess if we were a floor apart.  I entered the services, and immediately was disappointed.  An ortho service in all its mumbling glory.  I couldn't even figure out which page we were on.  I wasn't the only one. I have no problem following traditional services, I have participated in those the world over.  But ortho services are something foreign to me.  No community praying together, just individual mumblings.  I stayed for ten minutes then left in my disappointment.  Not the most disappointing service (see under: Mexico City) but not good.

I headed down to the beach, stopping to get a small bottle of wine and a small loaf of pão frances.  I sat on a stone bench facing the sea and I gave my own benediction.

The wine was abysmal, so I bought a coke and made catambas.

As I sat on the bench, I looked up in the tall florescent beach light.  Little drops lit looked like snow flakes in the incandescent glow.  It was beautiful.

But beauty quickly became a beast, as the heavens started to open up above me.

I took cover in a nearby beach bar, to have a beer and wait out the rain.

Then the heavens open.  Le deluge, apres moi.

We all huddled under metal conjoined umbrellas as the torrent came down, soaking the ground and our feet. I stood perched on a wooden chair as I sipped brahma beer and dodged the sideways rain.

But I was content, swimming through memories.  I had a rainy last night in Rio once before.  I was at a samba club.  I was dancing with a cute brasileira.  I can't quite remember her face, but I remember the silhouted dancer tattoo on the front of her left shoulder.  We were dancing together, but fumbling with communication.  I was getting ready to go, but made one last attempt at non-verbal communication through a kiss.  And kiss we did.

We locked lips, and didn't come up for air for an unexpected eternity.  When we finally pulled away, we both looked at each other with surprise, and mumbled: woah.  And then we dived back in.

Under the rain in Rio, with the pulsating samba beat, we remained locked in lips-oblivious to the rain coming down and soaking our white shirts (at least her white shirt, I remember).  Eyes-wide shut, teeth-clacking passion while we swayed in the samba beat as the rain poured down.  We were in our own lock-lipped world.

Eventually, we pried ourselves loose.  I, to go back to my hotel, alone but in love with Brazil.  Can't say that that love ever went away.

Baal zichronot- an untranslatable Hebrew word that could best be described as a guardian or keeper of memories.  I travel on to unlock the past from memory.  Journey on.

PS: After I returned to the hostel to take a hot shower after the cold rain, I headed back out.  A young orthodox father and his 2 kids were walking past.  I smiled, and said shabbat shalom.  He lit me up with a smile back and wished me the same.  And thus I found my shabbas peace.

Inhotim

I was up early on Sunday as I am oft to do. Marcos and Luiz had been out late the night before at a birthday party, so their father drove me to the bus station to catch the bus to Inhotim (In-ho-chim). I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from Inhotim. I had heard it was a huge manmade garden and modern art space created by a wealthy miner mineira. After an hour and change, in which I watched Game of Thrones to catch up, we arrived. While I was standing in line to buy the ticket, a tiny monkey appeared from the forest. I knew I was in for a treat.  I had no idea that my mind was gonna be blown.

I walked through a gradient grey gallery and into a chorus room that nearly brought a tear to my eye.  Forty individual speakers grouped in a large room in eight clusters of five speakers each in an oval around the white room.  Each speaker had an individual voice singing.  Together, they made a glorious chorus.  Each voice pouring out of each box, bouncing of the white walls.  White walls with raised white sound reflectors.  One wall had rectangular holes punched in with glass to look out into the jungle world.  After a silence, it turned into a cacophony of coughing.

Forty part motet by Janet Cardiff.  Dear Janet took the work of Thomas Tallis, an English composer of the 16th century. Thomas wrote spem in alium nunquam habus- the choral work of 8 choirs for five voices to celebrate the birthday of Queen Elizabeth in 1575.  The work was said to speak of transcendence and humility.

Once I found the strength to leave such beauty, I followed a path down to Galleria Lygia Pape, whose work Tteia 1c was magnificent.  In the cavernous darkness, golden copper strands strung down like the sun’s rays.  Rayando el sol.

Under the shade of palm, sitting on carved smooth wood benches, I ate a persimmon.  Its red-orange flesh tasted like candy- dulicinea persimonia.  The squat banana’s firm flesh and compacted sweetness reminded me of Madras, and made me scoff at the bland dole variety that are only known back home. 

I wandered my way up to a church on a hill with old congregants singing old hymns in an old tongue.

And I found botany without compare.  Gardens of palmeira.  Observatory decks shaded in bamboo and orchids. 
O mundo lindo- with the sublime smell of orange on my fingers.

I found a white fiberglass geodesic dome.  Inside, the door shut into the darkness- save for a bubbling fountain caught by a strobe light.  The alternating light made the head o the stream like a hissing water cobra. The loose drops of water like water diamonds. By means of sudden intuitive realizations by Olafur Eliasson.

And then I found the baby monkeys. I watched the baby monkeys wrestle. Then I broke out a sweet puffed corn snack and tempted the monkeys over.  Monkey see... 


I wandered on to the stellar sonic pavilion, which was a giant pavilion that conducted the sounds of the earth via a mine shaft drilled down.  I lay on the cool wood bench and listened to the rumblings of the earth reflected through the sphere, it was incredible.



I continued on through the wonderful world.  I was so impressed by the vegetation of the place.  Everything from endangered palmeira from Mozambique to fig and avocado trees.  It was equally a place of quiet reflection and tranquil meditation mixed with roaring thought borne out of engaging modern and contemporary art.

I wandered the whole place, beaming at the day.





One of my favorite exhibits was a giant kaleidoscope that looked out towards the mountains.




But the best, best part was an exhibit called Galleria Cosmococa.  It was a tripped out world of foam roams, and strange music and other decorations.  There was also a pool with green neon light in it.  There was a changing room with towels. I COULD GO IN!  I was running out of time because I had to be back to catch the 5pm bus back to Belo, and it was 4:30pm.  If I missed the bus, I would have had to hitchhike back or something.  So I had to be quick.  I disrobed, wrapped myself in a towel and jumped in the cold pool.  I did a quick lap and jumped back out to dry off and change.  Yes, I went swimming in an art museum!  Then I ran to catch the bus, which I just made.

A tremendous obregado Marco for knowing me too well.  One day of swimming through Brazilian history; the other swimming (literally) through contemporary art in paradise.

Mos Def

Speech is my hammer, bang the world into shape 
Now let it fall... (Hungh!!) 
My restlessness is my nemesis
 It's hard to really chill and sit still
 Committed to page, I write a rhyme
Sometimes won't finish for days
-Mos Def, "Hip Hop"

Friday, May 24, 2013

Things Found

After an early night, I got up for an early start on the day.  I walked down to the beach to take in Copacabana in its morning glory.  On the way, I stopped for café com leite and bread with butter.  I left half my pão for a sleeping Cairoca to give her breakfast in bed. 

At a little tienda, I spied a pocketwatch for sale.  As a collector of pocketwatches and time, I stopped to look at it.  This one was special.  Relógio Espinoza.  A blue watchface with gold Hebrew letters as numbers.  It reminded me of another pocketwatch I bought in Alexandria with hindi numerals on the face- yes, the Arabic world doesn’t use Arabic numerals.  But this one was truly special.  As Hebrew is right to left, the watch hands run counterclockwise.  Spinoza’s watch indeed. A clock that ticks backward, if ever there was a more apt Quijotean contraption.

As an itinerant wanderer, I look for things that let me know I am on the right path.  Little markers to know my direction is correct.  Things like Cervantes and Quixote.  Windmills.  Arco irises.  Gandhi. Pocketwatches.  Spinoza.  Little things that let me know I am on the path trod by many itinerant wanderers before me. Forever as a driven leaf.

I walked down to the empty beach.  Clouds were swirling above the majestic Pao de Azucar as the sun cast golden cracks through the morning mist.  I was walking slowly on the beach, when I noticed her. 

Walking in a slinky red cocktail dress that hugged her brown skin.  Highheels in hand, purse under the arm.  All of the trappings of a good night unended.  The contours of the beach brought us close, and as the swell rolled up to our feet, I wished her a good night.  She wished me a good morning. 

We continued down the beach, chatting as the cold waves tickled our bare feet.  Her name was Melanie, she was from the Amazon.  She had lived in Rio for three years.  I told her of my work in Brazil- she wanted to learn to hula. 

A big wave crashed and sent water high up our legs- getting the fringes of my shorts wet.  I offered my hand to steady her, and as the waves receded we continued to walk hand-in-hand down the beach.  Her warm hand offset the cold water at my feet.  We made plans for a midnight drink and date, as she bade me goodbye with two soft kisses from her red lips on either side of my bearded face.  She headed off the beach as I headed on to Ipanema.

We are young, 
so tonight let’s set the world on fire, 
we can burn brighter than the sun.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Explaining Brazilian happiness with a stalled economy

Parole, Parole

Not in the mood for Brazilian food, I asked the hostel owner where there was a Lebanese restaurant.  He pointed me in the direction of Pittas, not too far away.  When I found the place, I was ecstatic.  It was an Israeli falafel and shwarma shop.  I had a proper plate of falafel, with hummus, baba gannoush, matbouha, beet salad, onions covered in sumac, roasted egglants, all covered in tehina and schug.  I couldn't have been happier. Obregado to the Gods of Gastrodiplomacy

And then I heard them playing the Israeli station Galgalatz, and I was.  On came a song Parole, Parole, and I was transported back to an afternoon in Tel Aviv in the apartment of an Armenian girl once dear to me.  We laid on the couch while that song filled the sunlit apartment.

These fragments I have shored against my ruins.
-TS Elliot

Sinagoga de Ipanema

Wrapped in a mandala tapestry akin to a tallit, I stood on the stone pulpit pier of the beach of Ipanema.  Wrapped in clouds, the jagged mountains in the distance towered over the beach like giant stone minarets.  The fringes of my prayershawl fluttered in the sea breeze, and I offered my prayers to vast ocean, as my words were swallowed by the crashing white waves:

Oh Lord, My God,
I pray that these days never end
The sand and the seas
The rush of the water
The crash of the heavens
The prayers of man
-Hannah Szenes

On the past

"The future is only an indifferent void no one cares about, but the past is filled with life, and its countenance is irritating, repellent, wounding, to the point that we want to destroy or repaint it. We want to be masters of the future only for the power to change the past."
 -Milan Kundera, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being"

Lapa

Inappropriately grabbed by putas led to finding me finding Filhos de Gandhi (Sons of Gandhi) afro-brazilian dance school and religious movement.  Oh, the rains of Rio.  Far stranger than the rains in Afrika.  But such biz led me to inappropriately smoking cloves in the back of the bus passing through Ipanema, and back to Copacabana. Oh, Brazil, always an enigma.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

PD Undersec

Speaking of PD Undersec Sonenshine, although it is old news now, the news is that she is leaving her post this summer.  That is such a shame.  Out of all that have filled the position, I dare say she got it the best.  Undersecretary Sonenshine understood that public diplomacy is about listening.  Listening to your friends, your partners and your audience that you seek to engage.  She got that better than any of her predecessors, and I imagine, any that will follow to fill the position.

And she is leaving.  Why?  I am not privy to such conversations, but I can imagine.  Probably strung along over questions of her place in a Kerry State Dept since she was appointed by the previous secretary.  Mayhaps. 

Or maybe she was just tired after the strains of an unloved, overburdened position at State.  PD remains the redheaded stepchild of the State Department, in part because it has no business being there.  Public diplomacy is the antithesis of diplomacy. 

When she was appointed, I recommended that she march her staff back to her former stomping grounds at USIP and turn the place into USIPPD.  I can't say I feel any differently today.

Anyway, I wish Undersecretary Sonenshine all the best as she moves on.  I am sorry to see her go, but I truly understand such needs.  Her service in the realm of public diplomacy was a true benefit both to the field and to the country.

And on a final note, when the news came out, a PD friend nominated me on the APDS facebook page to takeover the position.  Actually, he nominated Prof. Nick Cull first, but that isn't even possible since Cull is a Brit.  But my name was next in the hat.  I gave my Sherman statement, and mentioned that rather I was angling for the Joint Secretary position at the Public Diplomacy Division at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.  Instead I nominated my friend and co-editor of Public Diplomacy Magazine, Leah Rousseau: a black lesbian public diplomat par excellance.  Undersec Rousseau has a nice ring to it.

DocuDiplomacy

Nice work by PD Undersec Tara Sonenshine in creating a partnership between the National Endowment for Humanities and the State Dept to share historical documentaries at American spaces around the world.  Such smart pd.  Somewhere, Murrow looks down with a smile.  Good public diplomacy and good luck.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hostels.

Case-in-point of why I love hostels: sandwiched on a bunkbed between frauleins.

Brazilian Banyans

Having a mango afternoon as I try to reboot my hard drive.  My soft drive got wet in the ocean.  The plastic bag holding my copious notes on my epiphany on the River of January didn’t hold so I am trying to recall.

A white Buddha passing through a brown world. 

I made my way this morning to the beaches of the River of January.  Not quite Tagore’s sea of dreams but the most stunning vista I know in the world.  The rugged mountains that frame the beaches of Rio were covered in the morning yellow grey haze. 

Hello Hio, as they say down here.

I found a memory. I tracked it down block by block until I cornered it.  I found the Hotel Biarritz, where I sojourned my last stint in Rio.  My smile cracked wide at my discovery.  But alas, inflation had hit and prices were nowhere near what I had paid some years prior.  I don’t remember exactly what I paid, but it was far less.  So I departed with a smile back to my hostel.  

Afternoon, I headed back to the beach.  A stop at the traffic light gave me the most incredible vista of Rio rugged beaches.  I stood under a banyan, not caring if traffic ever stopped.  The clouds hung on the mountaintops of the mountains that stretched down and into the ocean.  Rio has beaches without compare. 

I stopped under a yellow skol umbrella under the shade for a couple caprinhas and marveled at Rio’s majesty.  Cloves and Caprinhas.  I don’t think even Hemingway had it this good.

My blue ink poured out onto the pages I borrowed from the kind keeper of the beach bar.

A walk on the beach.

I walked along the beach, heading down the expanse of Copacabana.  And I saw it.  Amid my bubbling ideas, I saw the shape of a woman in the mountainscape and ocean drive of Rio.  I saw head lying sideways on the pillow.  I saw her ear.  I saw her supple breast.  Her wide hips.  And her knee up, softly bent. 

I walked towards her.  As far as I could go.  

I walked down the beach until I saw her.  I sunbather in the same position as the mountain range.  Basking in the sun.  Head turned sideways on a towel.  Supple breast exposed to the sun.  Her knee softly bent. 

At some point, I turned around.  There was Adam’s apple.  Or something else.  The far rock looked like a chub.  Can’t blame the mountain, I practically had one from the silhouted mountainscape.

Sao Paulo Picasso said “all you can imagine is real.”  So true.

I walked all the way down to her.  To where the beach ends.  

Along the rock wall, I touched her pietra sancta

From afar, the Corcovado’s arm were outstretch with a white cloud backdrop.  Jesus was said to levitate.  I put my hands out to catch the wind but had no expectations of levitation. 

Down to the end of the concrete pier, where the lines were cast.

And back under a banyan to stare into the vista.

I was bubbling with idea.  Percolating, really.  And I planned out next chapters and next steps.  And I was radiating; emitting joy. 

On my walk back, I checked and checked to make sure my plastic bag guarding my notes was closed.  It also had a key in it so I didn’t trust leaving it in my flipflops.  For years you were looking for the key, but the door was always open (The White Tiger).  I prayed the bag would hold.  It didn’t.

Sopping soaking notes.  I scurried back down the beach, talking to myself trying to hold onto thoughts and ideas.  I think I still have most. 

I past the stunning Copacabana Palace, where Marlene Dietrich once resided.  “Bring me a bucket of sand,” she asked the hotel staff.  Puzzled, they asked why.  “Where do you think I will go to the bathroom in a dress this tight?” she replied.

The white Palace of Copacabana stood majestic, the a Brazilian flag flapping in the breeze.  The outstretch Corvocado looked down from a cloud backdrop.  If ever the muse had a beach resort, this was her palace.

I passed four more fluttering flags, as my ideas fluttered in the wind.  A Brazilian flag, of green and yellow hue, Tiradentes’ flag, which now adorns the State of Minas Gerais (A red triangle on a white flag with the words: Libertas Quae Sera Tamen (Freedom Albeit Late); the flag of Galo- the Brazilian champions who Marcos and Luiz love, and the flag of Vasco de Gama.  Oh, Vasco, I know your final resting grounds in Cochin. But that is another memory.

At quickened pace, I returned to try to hold onto the Muse's precious gift.  She is always so hard to hold onto, especially when our devices of trapping her lie drying on a white china plate.  In her final imperious gift to me, the wet words now lie written backwards in blue ink, staining the hostel table.

The City of Black Gold and the Toothpuller

I woke up early on Saturday as I am oft to do. I had coffee and papaya with Marcos’ parents until he lumbered from slumber far earlier than usual. He drove me down to the bus station. We arrived at 5 minutes to 9am for a 9 o’clock bus departing for Ouro Preto. Marcos had recommended that I visit Ouro Preto. I did not know much about this city of Black Gold, but had heard it was on the UNESCO list. The ticket taker shooed me downstairs and said I could buy a ticket on the bus. So Marcos and I went downstairs and waited for the bus...which didn't come for thirty minutes. While I was waiting, we met a German backpacker named Svenya who was also headed to Ouro Preto.

We headed out of Belo, and into the countryside of rolling hills. I took a short nap and woke to the beautiful horizon under the gentle cover of clouds. We pulled into Ouro Preto and I started on with Svenya past an old church and down a giant hill towards a hostel for her. The hill was quite large and I thought the city was above so I planned to meet her back at the church in 30 minutes while I went to have a coffee. After we split, I found a map and realized that the city was below so I began to trudge down and figured I would catch her on her way back up. Down the cobbled streets, there was a Red Bull event with bikers riding down the cobbled slope and off ramps and jumps. CRAZY. I made my way down the tight street that was hemmed in with rails to cordon off the biker route.

I descended down to a cobbled beauty, and bumped into Svenya at the bottom of the hill. She was still looking for a hostel, so we agreed to meet in a few hours. I wandered through the cobbled alleyways, and up a tall hill to the Praca Tiradentes city center. I descended the hill to find some comida minheira, the famed food of the region that is every Brazilian's fav. A delicious lunch of stewed okra, rice and feijoada and some stewed chicken, and I found a beautiful view from the restaurant's deck of the city.

After the delicious lunch, I made my way back up the hill to the Museu da Inconfidência, which Marcos put on my list of things to visit.  I stopped outside the prison-turned-museum and snapped some shots of the city below.




The museum was absolutely fascinating.  First, it takes its name from the Inconfidencia rebellion, led by one Tiradentes (The tooth puller) which sought to stem the wholesale pillage of riches from the region back to the  Portuguese Empire.  Inspired by the American and French Revolutions, Tiradentes and his band sought to throw off the colonial yoke that was exploiting the region and create a Republic based on the ideas of enlightenment that were circulating.  Alas, they were caught and he was hung, but not before creating a spark that would one day bring freedom.

O' Tiradentes, 
Puller of teeth
Shaker of empires

The museum itself was fascinating.  It has articles from the life in that epoch, from furniture to slave manacles.  It chronicled the fight for independence that sprung from Ouro Preto, and held the re-interred graves of Tiradentes and his cadre.  It also had the original flag that the conspirators used.  Beyond that, it discussed the history of Ouro Preto onward, including its role after independence from Portugal (Brazil became an independent Empire) as an imperial city.  The city became an administrative, political and cultural center for the wealthy Minas region.  The city was described by foreign travelers as an exotic and decadent place.  All that shimmers in this world is sure to fade.  And I was reminded of my travels to a similarly once-important metropolis long since forgotten- Port Royal in Jamaica. 

The museum had a fascinating section on baroque architecture and its role in projecting power and socializing imperial culture:

Colonizing the New World did not just implant an economic system that was articulated to the Metropolis for wealth creation.  It also meant transporting elements of the European culture in order to assure the domain of values, lifestyles, and how to see and represent the colonizers in American territory.

I loved swimming through Brazil's history and the history of the Americas. It was a feeling I had missed.

After the museum, I met up with Svenya and we wandered around the lovely cobbled city.  While we were walking to another museum, a samba school came pounding and marching through the city streets.  The percussive beat bounced beautifully off the cobbled stone street and tight alleyways.

After watching the school, and Brazilians dancing to the beat, we went to Casa do Canto, a museum dedicated to Brazilian currency.  It had an interesting display of all the coins and notes that had been in circulation in Brazil.  I was fascinated by the notes that were in circulation during Brazil's period of hyperinflation when prices kept escalating to the point that in grocery stores, attendants would announce the shifting prices on bullhorns.

After the museums, Svenya and I sat out in a pub with graffitied walls on the hillside, and chatted about traveling and other bits of life's fun.  On the hilled street, college students sipped beer on the diagonal.  As the day faded, we made our way back up the treacherous hill to the bus station, and I caught the evening bus back to Belo, as she checked on her bus back to Rio for the following day.  All and all, a great day in a fascinating city.

On Truth

"The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable."
-James A. Garfield

Monday, May 20, 2013

é um pequeno mundo depois de tudo

I went out in Copacabana, searching for ghosts and memories.  Those I did not find.  What I found after a long stroll was a cafe and yakisobi stand.  Not in the mood for Brazilian food, I stopped in.

As mentioned, Brazil has a large Japanese population but the girl behind the counter wasn't.  The Chinese girl behind the counter smiled when I chatted her up in Mandarin. 

I ordered Lo Mien disguised as Yakisoba and chatted with Luciana as her adopted name stood.  She liked Brazil and had lived in Rio for 3 years.  The food came and she laughed when I asked: ne yao bu yao kweitza? Do you have any chopsticks?

No.

mas é muito mais difícil sem palitos chinos.

It is harder without chopsticks.

She agreed and brought a pijou (beer).

I wrapped up my leftovers to leave at the feet of a sleeping, hungry city and she bade me xie chien- bye bye.

The world is small, and I am working to make it smaller.

The story ends with one untruth from one unreliable narrator.  I did find one ghost and one memory.  Walking back, I found the bar where I found Alé.  She stroked my beard, and sang to me in Portuguese while she told me how beautiful I was.  Some ghosts and memories are too wonderful to stay buried.

All roads lead to Rio

Hello Rio my old friend, I've come to dance with you again.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Brazil, Japan, Sumo and food

Great article on cultural and culinary exchange through a Brazilian sumo.  Obregado Joao.

PS: a fascinating article on the health effects of immigrating to America.

Burek!

"When you touch the pastry, it must be as soft as an earlobe...even better if it's the earlobe of an old grandmother because their earlobes are softer."

Or how you make good Bosnian burek, and prospects for Bosnian gastrodiplomacy. Hvala, Jovan.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Simpsons invade Westeros!

Edible Nation Branding

Video from the google hangout panel I was on for the Wilson Foundation's Pickering Fellows.

Zero Dark Belo Horizonte


 I found Osama! I want my 40 million dollar reward! And Brazil is obviously a terrorist haven (and has oil)- we should invade...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Beautiful Horizons

I bade farewell to my charges, and returned back to Sao Paulo from the airport.  I stopped in a little local restaurant cafe and had a contrafile (steak) with a side of rice and beans and fries to celebrate the end of the tour.  I sat out on the street corner, sipping beer out of a small cup and watching Brazilian soap operas on the tv.

The next morning, I rose early, checked out of the airport and caught the subway to the bus station.  I arrived at 7:55 and found a bus company with an 8am but to Belo Horizonte.  But alas, I couldn't get the ticket bought in time, and purchased the 10am bus.  As I was walking away, I noticed another bus company called Cometa with buses to Belo Horizonte.  I inquired about their buses, and they had one at 9am to Belo. So with a bit of wrangling and a minor stupidity tax, I returned my other ticket and got on the earlier bus.  I boarded the marcopolo cruiser, and headed out of the city of St. Paul.

The bus worked its way through the city traffic, and soon we were in the verdant Brazilian countryside.  I sat in the back of the bus, staring out the window at the winding roads and lush hills.  The ride took roughly eight hours, including two minor stops.  It was nice to have some time to sit back and think.  The horizons were blue, and clouds sat neatly on the open skies.

I arrived to Belo Horizonte (Beautiful Horizon) to stay with my old roommates from USC, Dr. Roberto and Dr. Marcos.  Roberto and Marcos were Brazilian PhD students, who were at USC while I was there.  I lived with Roberto for one year, and Marcos for two.  I had often heard of the wonders of Belo Horizonte, and tried their comida minheira (cuisine from the state of Minhais Gerais- much loved among Brazilians).  I arrived to the bus station, and fumbled a bit with how to call my friends but eventually was able to connect.  I caught a taxi from the station through town.  It took a lil wrangling as well (Rua Major Lopes, pronounced Hua Maajoor Lops, not Hua Mayjur Lopez as I fumbled- once the driver looked at the written direction, my mispronounced Portuguese was smoothed over).  We drove through the surprisingly beautiful city of Belo Horizonte and over to my friend Roberto's place.

Surprisingly beautiful, as I had no idea how big Belo Horizonte was as a city.  Turns out it is Brazil's 6th largest (3rd by metro areas), and capital of its second biggest state.  We sped past lovely old colonial buildings and charming parks.  I met Roberto, and dropped my stuff.  I immediately knew I was on the right path as I saw on his coffee table a copy of Don Quixote.  We wandered down to a pedestrian block just south of his apartment, passing a Quixote cafe.  We sat out in the busy alley, sipping beer and cachaca, and eating Bahian acaraje- Salvador's version of falafel, and carne do sol- sun-cured salted beef with fried cassava.

I awoke the next morning, exhausted from the month's adventure and finally a lil free from responsibilities.  I took the day slowly, with my highlight being an afternoon coffee at the Quixote Livraria e Cafe. I sipped a Sancho for my compantion Harranza (espresso, cognac, cointreau, chantilly cream and dust)

There is nothing in life more powerful than this piece of fiction (Don Quixote). It is still the final and the greatest expression of human thought, the most bitter irony that a human is capable of expressing; and if the world came to an end and people were asked somewhere there: ‘Well, did you understand anything about your life on earth and draw any conclusion from it?’ a person could silently hand over Don Quixote. ‘Here is my conclusion about life. Can you condemn me for it?’
-Dostoevsky


Rio, Sao Paulo and Unintended Consequences


I have had some interesting conversations about the state of affairs in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo and the role of unintended consequences.

Rio had been Brazil’s capital until JK had a brilliant idea to move the capital to the middle of nowhere.  Brasilia was built and born, and became the new capital.  And in doing so, helped rob Rio of its raison d’etre.  Never a business hub like Sao Paulo (would become), Rio lived on the industry created by being the seat of government, and the bureaucratic jobs therein.  Once that was gone, it teetered without a real industry to support the city.  Tourism still exists, but that is hardly enough to support such a large city.  Thus, Rio fell into real dire straits in the 1960s and 1970s when it was robbed of a supporting engine.

Meanwhile, in the 1950s, JK turned Sao Paulo into Brasil’s industrial heart.  He invited numerous car companies, among other industries, to build their factories in the city and surrounding environs.  There are still a large number of car companies like Hyundai, Ford and others that have their Southern American factories in Sao Paulo today.  The industrial boom in Sao Paulo led waved of economic migrants to descend on the city…which was wholly unprepared to deal with crush  of people that arrived. 

Roads were (and are) not nearly large enough to deal with the sheer numbers as the city doubled and tripled in size.  Today, the roads are clogged.  One-fifth of drivers are forbidden to drive on certain days depending on corresponding digits on the license plates in a feeble attempt to limit motorists. 

Meanwhile, the environmental degradation on the city was profound.  The city has three rivers that one through it.  Decades ago, people could swim in the rivers; today as we drove along the riverside,  the water was black and oily.I had to put my shirt over my nose to ward off the fetid smell. 

Only after the last tree has been cut down,
Only after the last river has been poisoned,
Only after the last fish has been caught,
Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.
-Cree proverb