Pacing on the train

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A young man was pacing on the train, shouting, banging on the seats.

“Do you know what I’m doin’ when I get home? I’m gonna read the Bible.”

Passengers flooded out into neighboring cars.

“You gotta read it front to back, not back to front.”

Other passengers quietly continued their conversations and avoided eye contact. The train was stopped at the station, and the doors were still open.

“You might be a Muslim or believe in Buddha, but you still pronounce the Lord’s name when you stub your toe. Why?”

A blonde woman in a pink baseball cap stood up and peered out of the car.

“Hey! This fuckin’ asshole keeps hittin’ things and scarin’ people.”

The young man turned to her.

“Watch your language, lady!”

“I thought you stood for free speech.”

“You’re calling the cops on me.”

Two police officers stepped into the subway car on either side and grabbed the young man by his scrawny biceps.

A man in a suit stood up and faced them.

“I am a preacher too!”

The cops said they were just going to speak with the young man. He’d be able to take the next train.

The man in the suit sat down and the doors closed. I think he was Kenyan.

“God may not shout, but he’s still taking note of everything you do.”

He tapped the briefcase in his lap and sighed. The train started moving, and the passengers nervously studied each other.

An African-American man in blue shorts walked over.

“Look, brother, I get it, but you have to understand that in America you can’t force people to talk about God outside of church. People here believe in all sorts of things.”

A Salvadoran woman, who had been quietly listening, jumped in.

“But they didn’t do anything about the lady who was cursing.”

The train had reached maximum velocity, and the doors were rattling.

“Well… that’s true.”

On Protests and Unity

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Do people understand what politics is or how it works? When I see talk about how divisive politics has become or how bad we’ve gotten at listening to and respecting the other side, it makes me wonder.

The New York Times has an odd article called, “Are Liberals Helping Trump?” that features a handful of Trump supporters, who are put off by “Protests and righteous indignation on social media and in Hollywood” against Trump. The article ponders the lost opportunity.

One of the Trump supporters is described as “a small-business owner in South Carolina, [who] voted reluctantly for Donald Trump. As a conservative, he felt the need to choose the Republican.” The man “should be a natural ally for liberals” if only he weren’t “feeling battered by contempt and an attitude of moral superiority”. Another compares being a Trump supporter in today’s political climate to being gay in the 50s.

But should we really be shocked that a self-declared conservative is treated by liberal friends and acquaintances as though he “took sides”? Would a softer touch really turn another Trump voter who thinks protests are “destroying the country” and activists are worse than “Islamic terrorists”?  Maybe what’s shocking is that somebody would consider them natural allies of liberalism in the first place.

There’s a revealing passage in the middle of the article: “if political action is meant to persuade people that Mr. Trump is bad for the country, then people on the fence would seem a logical place to start. Yet many seemingly persuadable conservatives say that liberals are burning bridges rather than building them.”  Underlying this peculiar notion of who is “on the fence” is the erroneous assumption that the central work of politics is persuading the other side, that political victories are predominantly the fruit of dispassionate debates and expressions of unity.

This would make sense if every action a politician or bureaucrat took was a direct response to the will of their constituents, but even assuming the Platonic ideal of a responsive politician, who exactly are their constituents and how would they know their will? Moreover, how do these constituents even find each other to come together and guarantee their will is heard? A debate can’t fix a logistics problem. A vote doesn’t oblige a legislator to act.

Moral exhortations and protests aren’t supposed to change the hearts and minds of the other side — protestors didn’t flock to airports to sell wavering Trump supporters on rejecting the Muslim travel ban. Instead they’re supposed to pressure people in power to stop posturing and do something and to identify and embolden political allies.

The protests are also a direct challenge to the legitimacy of the President that Trump’s supporters chose, an attempt to wrest political power from them, to weaken and demoralize their political ideals. There is no pleasant way to do this. As the article goes on to say,“…for many Trump voters, even peaceful protests are unsettling.” But how else could it be? Should the opposition give Trump voters a hug and treat them to ice cream as they try to defeat everything they stand for?

Now obviously protests and political criticism aren’t enough to win elections. Nobody is arguing they are. A positive vision for the future also has to be developed that can attract some of the people who voted for Trump or who didn’t vote at all, a vision that concretely shows how they too will benefit. But not all political power is derived from elections. And elections are won with more than just personalized sales pitches and measured debates. They’re won in part because of existing political alliances and the logistical infrastructure they produced, alliances and infrastructure that formed and solidified through other political actions, such as… well, you get the idea.

There’s an appealing narrative out there that because Trump is so extreme, liberals and so called reasonable conservatives will have to set aside their differences and work together to defeat him. It’s cute, but one has to wonder what that would actually look like. Coalition building requires more than just recognition that the present is bad. What issue do the defenders of national unity imagine could bring together, for example, a white Evangelical small-business owner from the Midwest, a white Silicon Valley tech engineer, a white Wall Street banker and a minority fast food worker from Atlanta? Fake news? Sexism? Racism? Ties to Putin? Civic norms? Realistically somebody is going to have to be left out if common ground is to be reached.

Politics is definitionally divisive. It’s the contest of irreconcilable moral visions for how society should be organized and whom it should benefit. This is bound to be uncomfortable.

Yet the article would blame these divisions on something called “moral Bolshevism” or “the belief that the liberal vision for the country was the only right one”. It’s hard to know what to make of the notion that belief in a political vision makes one a Bolshevik. What kind of confused take on the world assumes that liberals (who are apparently communists?) are the only people who think themselves right?

I guess we’re supposed to conclude that having a political view and taking it seriously is bad, that is unless it’s really the views themselves we’re supposed to have a problem with and not how they’re being expressed.

The Other American Exceptionalism

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As the bus headed North leaving Mendoza, Argentina behind, I looked out my window at the mountains in the distance. In the seat next to me, my wife sat transfixed. The Andes impose their beauty on you. It’s no wonder they have inspired poets and novelists like César Vallejo, Mario Vargas Llosa and Pablo Neruda, who remarked about his trip across the mountain range to return from exile, “Todo era a la vez una naturaleza deslumbradora y secreta y a la vez una creciente amenaza de frío, nieve, persecución.” (Everything was simultaneously a dazzling secret natural world and an increasing threat of cold, snow and abuse). Even from the relative safety of the highway I understood him. The mountains seduce you with an otherworldliness and a capacity both to sustain life and to destroy it.

Not everybody enjoys the song of the unknown, those tempting murmurs of another world. A comfortable life is incompatible with multiple truths. But for those who do, its call is rapturous.

My tastes had always been a bit out of step. In college I was an odd kid who walked around campus with a hollowed out gourd filled with wet ground up leaves and danced salsa by himself in the middle of the quad. They must have thought I was crazy. I started describing myself as “half-Irish, half-Jewish, gringo by nationality, and latino at heart.” The phrase perfectly embodied the estrangement I felt at home in the US and the affinity and affection I felt towards Latin America. Nevertheless it’s a phrase I’ve recently come to see as inadequate.

My interest in Latin America began with funny words printed on plastic packaging and mysterious overheard conversations. What were these opaque jumbles of sounds?

It soon turned into stubborn hunger. So I improved my vocabulary and grammar, started watching telenovelas, chose a Mexican soccer team, ¡Vamos Águilas!, started drinking mate and tereré, devoured online newspapers, and struggled through books full of paranoid dictators, bitter intellectuals, shrunken-head exporters and bunny rabbit vomitters. I interned at a laboratory in Chile and befriended Mexicans, Argentinians, Brazilians, Colombians and Peruvians. Back home I deejayed a Latin American music show on the college radio and learned Portuguese, allowing me to study abroad in Brazil and have my heart-broken.

I even wrote a sprawling mess of a manifesto inspired by Cuban novelist and essayist Alejo Carpentier declaring the Americas the future center of the art and literary world. He was confident that Latin American artists would produce “los clásicos de un enorme mundo barroco que aún nos reserva, y reserva al mundo, las más extraordinarias sorpresas.” (the classics of an enormous Baroque world that would still reserve to us, reserve for the world, the most extraordinary surprises). And how could I disagree?

Where else could you find Indians speaking Dutch, Japanese speaking Spanish, Arabs speaking Portuguese and Germans speaking Guarani? Where else could you see the medieval, the colonial, the modern, the indigenous and the natural world mix together with such ease? Where else could you find nations, founded on the whip and the gun to bring fast gold and cheap sugar to European shores, that kept on living anyways like a condor nesting in the crevices of the side of a mountain, because humans were born to dream and not to serve? As Cuban poet and patriot José Martí said:

“De factores tan descompuestos, jamás, en menos tiempo histórico, se han creado naciones tan adelantadas y compactas… no hay patria en que pueda tener el hombre más orgullo que en nuestras dolorosas repúblicas americanas… vencedora veloz de un pasado sofocante, manchada sólo con sangre de abono que arranca a las manos la pelea con las ruinas, y la de las venas que nos dejaron picadas nuestros dueños.”

(From such disjointed elements, never, in less time, have such precocious and compact nations been created… there is no homeland of which man can be more proud than our painful American republics… the speedy victor of a suffocating past, stained only with the blood from a payment that strips the hands of their fight with ruins, and the blood from the veins that our masters left perforated).

Great art starts with the siren call of the unknown and the promise of a better world, and in Latin America, both were all around me. How could Europe and the US, lost in their futile self-indulgent search for the end of history, compete?

I reinterpreted the pan-Americanism of South American liberator Simón Bolivar and later Martí to include the US, dreaming of a future great continent with no economic, political or cultural center, and with pride, I declared myself just as much a Guatemalan, a Chilean or a Brazilian as an American.

Then I moved back to Brazil, fell in love and got married.

But as I settled into life in São Paulo, adjusted to living with somebody with a different view of the world and traveled more, something changed. I realized what was novel and romantic for me could be oppressively familiar to someone else. My wife didn’t have much patience for a foreigner extolling the beauty and virtue of her national traditions. From early childhood she’d been hearing variants of it. She wanted more.

I rethought my fervent Latin American boosterism. I didn’t want to be a cheerleader helping governments attract investors, helping travel agencies attract tourists. Nationalism needs myths to survive, but myths don’t need nations to grab us and make us wonder. My regional preferences were getting in the way of seeing what it was that I truly loved.

I looked upon the mountains now covered in an ethereal orange and thought about the people who were still loving and dancing and fucking and making music and writing poetry and taking care of each other and dreaming of more in spite of everything, in spite of every flaw outsiders claimed they had. That’s the America I wanted to be part of, a place that exists wherever people struggled to live together and overcome a cruel past.

Someday the frigid winds will come for me and bury me under the snow. They won’t ask me for my papers. They will only roar, and I’ll be gone. Just like everyone else. A memory of an unknown world, a whisper of what might have been. I hope when that day comes, I’ll be able to say I danced and dreamed and fought by my neighbors’ side.

Admit it! You’re a Polytheist!

I don't know what you're talking about, I woke up and the shell was just floating here.
I don’t know what you’re talking about, I woke up and the shell was just floating here.

This is the first in a series of articles called An Absurd Guide to Getting Your Heart Broken. You can read the second here.

I hated The Notebook. Few times have I ever felt such a strong desire to walk out of a movie theater. Unfortunately, when I went to see it, I was with friends and the girls they (and I) were interested in. I was stuck. I tried unsuccessfully to fall asleep. I laughed at all the wrong moments and received multiple dirty looks. It was traumatic. It was torture. It was like being stuck at the church your fundamentalist uncle belongs to.

I don’t mind romantic films as a genre. Some movies I’ve even enjoyed: Ten Things I Hate about You, Casablanca and Pride and Prejudice come to mind. I’m not a cold heartless bastard, but forced sentimentality has always felt like a personal affront. Call me a romantic doubter or an acolyte of Aphrodite, waging holy war on the heretics of love! I like my art to maintain the illusion of authenticity.

We commonly think of polytheism as a thing of the past, of the days when people believed in gods, who warred, tricked, rewarded, fooled around with and impregnated mortals, or of the exotic lands where gods have consorts, multiple arms, enjoy tobacco and hard liquor and the occasional ritualistic possession. Seldom does the modern Western subject consider his or her own polytheism. No, in the age of reason, the fewer gods one believes in the better. We’re intellectually superior to those primitive superstitions.

And yet, lesser gods still pervade our culture, shading the colors of our daily existence with their exuberance and charm. Their presence and cult worship is now so well hidden that one could mistakenly believe it native to the realm of rationality. The cleverest gods don’t go begging for us to come back to them. They simply change their name, prayers and associated iconography. There is no cultural shift a good rebranding can’t overcome.

Queen of all these lesser gods is Aphrodite: the Greek goddess of love. Thousands of years later and her appeal hasn’t faded. She is everywhere: on billboards, on magazine layouts, on runways, on the New York Times bestseller list, on the silver screen and on dimly-lit street corners. In her contemporary twin forms as the Aphrodite of True Love and the Aphrodite of Sexual Liberation, she is the object of devotion and adoration of millions of hormone-addled youths across the globe, her main temple of worship transplanted from her mythical birthplace at Paphos on the Cyprian coast to Hollywood Boulevard.

There are other gods, who have made their home in the hills of Los Angeles: Ares has his Die Hard’s and Rambo’s, Dionysius his Animal House and The Hangover’s and Athena her A Beautiful Mind, Pursuit of Happyness and Shawshenk Redemption. But in the pantheon of contemporary gods, no one else promises so much for so little. Aphrodite reigns above them all.

We’ve gone from consulting a priestess to consulting Cosmopolitan, self-help guides and Yahoo Answers!. When a Catholic prays to the Virgin Mary, they light a candle. When a Muslim prays to Allah, they face East. When a romantic is feeling inspired or lonely, they make popcorn and scan through stacks of DVDs or browse Netflix. Then they turn off the lights and piously watch as the divinity appears before them, imparting her wisdom, asserting her power and bathing them in her warm embrace. In a fit of passionate devotion, they may laugh, cry, jump for joy or even shout out, “I believe in you, oh goddess, my queen and one joy, my eternal, faithful and beautiful companion, True Love! Illuminate my path, oh goddess, for I am ready! Give me peace and strength and swiftly bring hither The One you’ve chosen for me.”

We know she is a fickle goddess, and nonetheless through theatrical ritualistic repetition we attempt to summon her to our aid. We watch the same movie or listen to the same song over and over again for weeks when we’re particularly desperate. For she only has to prove her existence once. Only once and then we’ll believe.

The modern man and woman are sensible creatures. Faith is limited to what we can see and touch ourselves. But what happens when you don’t see the things you want? You ask Hollywood to make them for you, of course! They’re not superstitions or religious creeds if your desire to believe is great enough and if mainstream society is willing to indulge these urges. Then it’s just human nature.

“I believe, oh goddess, I believe…”

A Tale of the Artist and the Monster: An unconventional take on the Azealia Banks – Iggy Azalea beef

The following is an experiment in absurdity. I’m not interested here in aesthetically judging the quality of either musician’s work nor ethically judging their artistic intentions, but merely examining what it means for an individual to decide they wish to become or that they already are an artist.

I first read about a feud between two rappers I’d never head of, Azealia Banks and Iggy Azalea, on Facebook. During a radio interview Ms. Banks had accused Ms. Azalea of exploiting racial biases to construct her musical career. Ms. Azalea responded on Twitter by calling Ms. Banks a whiny jealous idiot. My inner pretentious caveman growled, “Grumble, grumble, grumble. Pop music reflects everything that’s wrong with this country. Grumble, grumble.” The inner pretentious caveman is a cranky fellow.

But the argument was more interesting than it had appeared. Behind the celebrity gossip was a fundamental question: How does an artist decide what their responsibilities are to their audience and to society at-large?

In an ideal world, art would be pure and could be judged solely on its aesthetic qualities. In this artistic utopia, only the individual artist would exist. He or she should would sell their own art to themselves, write their own reviews, send themselves letters expressing gratitude for the enormous impact they had on their own lives, give themselves big contracts to keep making art, present themselves with important awards and take up posts at universities they had founded to pass on their legacy of great art to themselves.

Tragically this world does not exist. The artist isn’t alone. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an individual artist in possession of reasonable taste must be in want of an audience. However, sharing space with this monstrous quasi-human judgmental abstraction changes one’s priorities. It isn’t enough to make beautiful art. The artist desires that their efforts be recognized and validated by the monster, not to mention they need it to help them pay their bills!

This means that, aside from producing aesthetically-pleasing art, the artist must commit themselves to two additional tasks: attracting the quasi-human abstraction’s attention and leaving a positive mark on this abstraction for posterity, both requiring a heroic degree of vanity! By necessity artists are simultaneously politicians, marketing strategists, preachers and saviors, and it is up to the individual to mentally keeps these roles separate.

When they fail to do so, things get messy. Since the artist is also a marketing strategist and a politician, it becomes easy to confuse popularity with artistic achievement. At the extreme the individual creates merely to increase audience size. Because the artist is also a preacher and a savior, it becomes difficult to decide whether to act based on aesthetic or ethical priorities. At the extreme the individual creates merely to encourage the audience to take specific political action. In both cases the individual risks ceasing to be an artist altogether.

On the other hand, the artist may piously claim out of deception, denial or naivety that they are only interested in art for its own sake, but the monster smirking in the corner gives them away. It is indeed a troublemaker.

There is a great line in Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being that goes, “…Living in truth, lying neither to ourselves nor to others, was possible only away from the public: the moment someone keeps an eye on what we do, we involuntarily make allowances for that eye, and nothing we do is truthful. Having a public, keeping a public in mind, means living in lies.” An artist must possess enormous self-awareness to preserve their own artistic identity, sanity and general well-being, for once they expose themselves to the audience there is no turning back. They are changed forever.

We could easily imagine our mischievous friend causing an argument between two hypothetical musicians, something like this:

Musician One: I deserve the favor of The Audience monster because I worked hard to get here. The quality of what I’ve produced demonstrates this fact. The proof is in the monster’s unwavering gaze. If the monster hasn’t been kind to Musician Two then they must not have put enough effort into their work. They should stop complaining and do something about it.

Musician Two: It’s completely unjust the way the Audience Monster rewards individuals for trivialities that have nothing to do with artistic ability such as physical appearance and ethnic origins. That’s the only way to explain Musician One’s success. It’s not as though they possesses any artistic merits. I’m sick of the monster’s bullshit and of the would-be trainers who enable it. How many individuals must it have scared away from becoming artists? There ought to be safe arenas where its shenanigans can be reined in.

The monster’s central role in art means that misunderstandings are inevitable. As outsiders we can never be sure how much of an artist’s decisions were based on aesthetic, commercial or political concerns, but the monster isn’t interested in these distinctions. Its memory is too short, and its love of pungent odors is too strong. What does it matter to the monster whether it listens to an artistic masterpiece, war-time propaganda or a cereal jingle?

The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard tackled the problems of this abstract beast in the work Two Ages: A Literary Review where he says, “…A public is something anyone can pick up, even a drunken-sailor exhibiting a peep show… [it] is all and nothing, the most dangerous of all powers and the most meaningless… That sluggish crowd which understands nothing itself and is unwilling to do anything, that gallery-public, now seeks to be entertained and indulges in the notion that everything anyone does is done so that it may have something to gossip about.”

So then how does the artist keep their various roles straight and avoid being consumed by the monster? How does the artist regain artistic purity?

Purity starts not with rejecting the monster, but with placing it in its proper context. The monster is a means to an end. Who is the artist’s true target during their long hours of effort? Who does the artist mean when they cry out ‘beloved’ in the middle of the night? Whom do they desire with all the longing their little souls can muster? The individual artistic consumer, of course!

Only a person in the singular, with a name and a face, is cable of being influenced by art. That’s clear enough. But the artist wishes for too much. They hope to witness their art’s influence on the individual with their own eyes, an impossibility and a sacrilege at best. The act of artistic consumption is a moment of complete intimacy to which the artist has no access or rights. They can never be sure whom their work influenced and whom it did not, or even if they reached a single individual. It has to be taken on faith.

Once the artist realizes and accepts the individual as the legitimate object of their affections, they must commit themselves to the never-ending task of separating the individual from the monster. This is necessary because of the artist’s blindness at the moment of artistic consumption. Indeed art’s single greatest dilemma is that the individual can only be reached by first going through the monster.

This task involves recognizing the monster’s gaze for what it is, a conservative reflection of society’s present values. For this reason the monster looks to art only for gentle creative reminders that what it already knows of life is sufficient. The individual on the other hand has an aesthetic and spiritual need for more. No individual ever feels entirely represented by the oft-stated ideals of a collective abstraction. As such art can serve as a more perfect expression of ideals which the individual had previously been incapable of vocalizing, ideals which subvert the monster’s claim to universal appeal. The best artists are constant students and masters of deception, who exploit the monster’s confidence to pervert it and reform it in the name of the individual.

The preoccupation with influencing the individual artistic consumer also betrays an underlying interest in the individual’s wellbeing. The clear-headed artist cannot escape this fact in spite of all their self-righteous clamoring for aesthetic freedom. They too live in society.

The artist, in their concern for the wellbeing of others, may wish to use their stature as an artist to achieve genuine political change: encouraging their fans to donate money or lend support to a cause, to vote for a candidate, to support or reject a fellow artist, to write a letter, to come to a rally, to denounce an individual, action or systemic problem, etc. Sometimes nothing is more appropriate. Nonetheless they should know it is not the individual to whom they have directly appealed but the monster.

Likewise the artist can make a direct appeal to action within a work of art. This is fine because direct action can also improve the wellbeing of the individual. However, the artist should accept that in this case that their work would be rightfully criticized on aesthetic grounds. While direct artistic appeals are always intended for the monster, art’s true interest is the individual. It is a fine line between promotion of societal wellbeing and loss of artistic identity.

The battle to separate aesthetic, commercial and ethical needs continues as long as the individual persists as an artist. Artistic salvation lies in purity. And the individual who merely desires the monster’s attention desires nothing at all. For the monster isn’t real.

FAQ #2 – Gringo safadinho

7 Things On My Mind This Week – Fun with Coffee, Politics and Sex

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This is pretty much what it sounds like. Yes, I’ve sold my soul to the internet-fame demon. Deal with it. I can’t do posts like this every day.

1. Milan Kundera

I just finished reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Czech writer Milan Kundera. It’s a dark, nimble and thought-provoking novel about the Prague Spring and the subsequent Soviet invasion. Kundera is interesting in the way he relates sexuality to politics as different approaches to finding meaning in life. Sex promises a deeper understanding of the world by penetrating the social distinctions between us. Politics promises a deeper understanding of the world by denying the legitimacy of these same social distinctions. Neither activity fully delivers on its promise. It’s a fun ride. The dude is hooked on Nietzsche, but who isn’t? I’m debating whether to see the movie with Daniel Day-Lewis.

2. Modeling Portfolio

I’m working on a modeling portfolio to try to get work as a greeter at some events in São Paulo. A friend originally suggested the idea, and since I am in search of the absurd, I said why not? We’re all a little vain. Whatever happens I’m sure I’ll learn a lot and gain some interesting experiences. I just hope my younger idealistic self isn’t rolling over in his grave.

3. Rain in SP

It’s been raining a lot lately, which wouldn’t be so weird if it weren’t for all the catastrophic predictions about the city’s water running out. Extended droughts and political incompetence, you know how it goes. Now that it is raining, it’s shifted to the other extreme with water flooding some people out of their homes. At this rate Milan Kundera could probably write a book about rain and politicians. Plus I keep forgetting when I hang my clothes out to dry.

4. Art, Culture & the Weight of the Past

I was thinking about art and culture after reading a short story by a friend of mine. While visiting an art museum or a library, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the weight of our cultural heritage. Look at all these Great Writers and Painters! At the right time in your life, the experience is magical. But inevitably you leave these “sanctuaries of the past” and much to your disappointment, you return to your comparatively cold, empty contemporary reality. The Great Artists you loved suddenly seem inaccessible and out of touch. Were they wrong or are you? You’re faced with a choice: either preserve your heroes and be crushed by the weight of the past or rid yourself of your idols and suffer through, what our Czech friend calls, “the unbearable lightness of being”. In other words, the whole of modernity could be summed up with the question: politics or sex?

5. Coffee is never strong enough

Ever since I moved to Brazil, I’ve been drinking a lot more coffee. It really is tasty down here. We received a shiny red coffeemaker as a wedding present. Unfortunately, I probably have borderline narcolepsy, which means that whether I drink one shot of expresso or six, I still worry about chance encounters with the sleepy monster. At least it makes me feel artistic and intellectual when sipping on it. Maybe I should make another batch.

6. Torture in the CIA

So I haven’t read enough to write about the topic intelligently. But it doesn’t look good. The arguments in the US over what constitutes torture, whether torture is a useful tool for acquiring information and more fundamentally how you define an undemocratic use of force remind me of similar debates in Brazil (which also involve the CIA) on the fiftieth anniversary of the military dictatorship. How likely was it that deposed President João Goulart would have turned the country into the next Cuba? How dangerous and numerous were the leftist guerrillas? Who and how many were the victims? How much violence is permissible and/or necessary in the name of democracy? Brazilians seem to have made up their mind, reelecting Dilma Rousseff, herself a former Marxist guerrilla and victim of torture during the military dictatorship. Nonetheless there have been protests calling for her impeachment or even military intervention. We all tread a thin subjective line.

7. Looking at Honeymoon Photos

While preparing the modeling portfolio, my wife and I have been looking at photos from our backpacking trip around Europe. The experience was surprisingly intense, seeing which photos we did and didn’t remember, how our memories changed, how much we both wanted to go back. I’m not sure if I can adequately express it. There are some moments that are neither light nor heavy. How does one quantify looking at photos or sipping on coffee?