The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'brazil'
Cross-cultural synergy of the day: ersatz Mexican-American gangsta culture seems to be popular in unusual places, such as Bangkok, where men who are civil servants and police officers by day get full-body tattoos and spend their spare time hanging tough East LA-style and bustin' rhymes about the thug life that they don't actually live in their day-to-day life. Or Brazil, where Mexican-American low-rider car culture spread via Japan, and those with the money and connections go to a lot of trouble to import the accoutrements of the lifestyle, from Dickies work pants to car parts.
Some recent random posts related to urbanism, urban planning, architecture, transport, infrastructure and such:
- The World's Strangest Housing Communities. Includes Chinese replicas of American suburbia, sadly derelict futuristic pod cities in Taiwan (alas, now destroyed), and rumours of midget villages in rural America. Not to mention Alphaville, the chain of high-security gated cities in which Brazil's professional élites live behind electrified fences, guarded by a private army and entering and leaving only by helicopter (and which inspired a Jean-Luc Godard film of the same name),
- A Berlin-based street artist calling themself EVOL uses photographic prints to convert utility boxes and planters into miniature replicas of decaying tower blocks:
- A piece on hand-drawn maps, and the situations in which they are particularly useful, when subjective psychogeographic experience is more important than objective accuracy.
- A piece in The Economist about Portland, Oregon, a city which "looks to Amsterdam, Helsinki and Stockholm for ideas" and is touted by some as a model for a more sustainable America (though also mocked for being the cultural epicentre for hipsters and White People.
- Another possible alternative for living: Inhabited balloon cities perched atop high-altitude wind systems.
Rio de Janeiro has won the 2016 Olympics. Our condolences to the Brazilian people; to the poor people who will undoubtedly be forcibly removed to make room, and everybody else who will have to endure the inevitable Olympic-related expenses and suspensions of civil liberties where such impinge on sponsors' profits.
Chicago was the favourite for the Olympics, but was eliminated first, getting only 18 of the 94 votes. Sime are speculating that this was partly due to heavy-handed passport control procedures brought in during the Bush administration:
Syed Shahid Ali, an I.O.C. member from Pakistan, in the question-and-answer session following Chicago’s official presentation, pointed out that entering the United States can be “a rather harrowing experience.”
International travel to the U.S. declined by 10 percent in the first quarter of 2009 according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. To lure visitors back, U.S. Travel has been pushing the Travel Promotion Act, which recently was passed in the Senate and is awaiting action in the House, to create a campaign to strengthen the image of the United States abroad.There are more horror stories about US Immigration here, with some commenters comparing their experience unfavourably to the former East Germany, and others speaking of great lengths taken to avoid the US when travelling. I must say that this has not been my experience. On both occasions when I visited the US, the entry process was quick (quicker than returning to Britain at Heathrow, on some occasions), and the staff were polite. Then again, on both occasions I had arrived at San Francisco; your mileage may vary.
(via Boing Boing)
Doing its part to cope with the global obesity epidemic, the subway system in Sao Paolo, Brazil, has introduced double-width, reinforced seats for fat people:
The seats are bright blue and have stickers above them marking them out as special seats for the use of obese persons. Strangely enough, they seem almost always empty; presumably, a lot of those who can fit into a regular seat or can bear standing are not keen to self-identify themselves as severely overweight.
One wonders how facility planners could cater for a widening population without coming up against against stigma and denial. They could, of course, go back to flat benches without divisions, except that those allow homeless people to sleep on them, which is unacceptable for various reasons. (Not all people are sufficiently enlightened and compassionate to share their daily commute with the aromatically homeless, and if public transport facilities adopted a secondary role as a homeless shelter, this would drive out many of those who are sufficiently well-off to avoid public transport, putting more cars on the road, and resulting in the money spent on running the actual trains being wasted, but I digress.) Possibly some sort of design with all seats being double-width with a low-key, or movable, divider in the middle, would do the trick; though that could have the unintended consequence of encouraging amorous couples.
In Brazil, the street finds its own uses for obsolescent US military satellites. For over a decade, Brazilians, from long-haul truck drivers and villagers out of the reach of the mobile phone networks of the cities to illegal loggers and organised crime factions, have been bouncing radio signals off a US Navy satellite system using jury-rigged off-the-shelf amateur radio equipment. The satellite system, known as FLTSATCOM to its owners, is colloquially referred to as "Bolinha", or "little ball".
To use the satellite, pirates typically take an ordinary ham radio transmitter, which operates in the 144- to 148-MHZ range, and add a frequency doubler cobbled from coils and a varactor diode. That lets the radio stretch into the lower end of FLTSATCOM's 292- to 317-MHz uplink range. All the gear can be bought near any truck stop for less than $500. Ads on specialized websites offer to perform the conversion for less than $100. Taught the ropes, even rough electricians can make Bolinha-ware.
Truck drivers love the birds because they provide better range and sound than ham radios. Rogue loggers in the Amazon use the satellites to transmit coded warnings when authorities threaten to close in. Drug dealers and organized criminal factions use them to coordinate operations.
When real criminals use these frequencies, it's easy to tell they're hiding something, but it's nearly impossible to know what it is. In one intercepted conversation posted to YouTube, a man alerts a friend that he should watch out, because things are getting "crispy" and "strong winds" are on their way. Sometimes loggers refer to the approach of authorities by saying, "Santa Claus is coming," says Brochi.One problem for the users is that the US military is still using the satellites (a replacement network isn't due online until later this year), and don't appreciate their communications being degraded by cheering football fans and random dodgy dealers. Bolinha activity is illegal, both in Brazil, and the US, and the authorities don't have too many problems triangulating the signals.
The crackdown, called "Operation Satellite," was Brazil's first large-scale enforcement against the problem. Police followed coordinates provided by the U.S. Department of Defense and confirmed by Anatel, Brazil's FCC. Among those charged were university professors, electricians, truckers and farmers, the police say. The suspects face up to four years and jail, but are more likely to be fined if convicted.("Operation Satellite?" Either something got lost in translation, or the people who name operations at the Brazilian federal police aren't the most imaginative bunch. Surely high-level operations should have cryptic, vaguely abstract names, redolent either of neo-Classical grandeur or square-jawed military machismo, like, say, "Operation Prometheus" or "Piranha December Blue" or something. But "Operation Satellite?")
In February of last year, FCC investigators used a mobile direction-finding vehicle to trace rogue transmissions to a Brazilian immigrant in New Jersey. When the investigators inspected his radio gear, they found a transceiver programmed to a FLTSAT frequency, connected to an antenna in the back of his house. Joaquim Barbosa was hit with a $20,000 fine.
(via Boing Boing)
This blog has been quiet recently because your humble correspondent has been in bed with a cold for the past two days (a state of affairs which may or may not have had something to do with watching indie bands on chilly railway station platforms in Derbyshire on the weekend). Anyway, in lieu of new content, here are a few old links and random things:
- Here is a photo gallery of eerily empty former advertising billboards and hoardings in São Paulo, Brazil, where all outdoor advertising is now banned. Not surprisingly, the advertising industry is concerned about the human rights of those who might want to be advertised at:
"I think this city is going to become a sadder, duller place," said Dalton Silvano, who cast the sole dissenting vote and is in the advertising business. "Advertising is both an art form and, when you're in your car or alone on foot, a form of entertainment that helps relieve solitude and boredom."
- Stylus Magazine has an interesting guided tour of the first 50 Sarah Records singles, going beyond the usual "twee/jangly indie pop" cliché that the label is often dismissed as. As for actually hearing the records, Clare Wadd said a while ago that there were plans to release the entire Sarah back-catalogue as downloads, though nothing seems to have come of that so far.
- And a few videos from The Blow's recent gig in London: Hey Boy, a spoken-word interlude, and an acapella version of The Long List Of Girls.
In the 1930s, Henry Ford built two planned towns in Brazil, to support rubber plantations; the towns were modelled on Michigan, all white picket fences and neat, American-style suburban sidewalks (in fact, they looked not unlike some place in Queensland). As well as harnessing Brazil's rubber resources, the project attempted to instill Anglo-American/Fordian values in their residents; in return for better pay, the residents had to work US-style hours, eat American-style food in self-service cafeterias (the last point causing a riot at one stage) and attend compulsory square-dancing social events.
Fenced in by jungle, Fordlandia was transformed into a modern suburb with rows of snug bungalows fed by power lines running to a diesel generator. The main street was paved and its residents collected well water from spigots in front of their homes--except for the U.S. staff and white-collar Brazilians, who had running water in their homes. The North Americans splashed in their outdoor swimming pool and the Brazilians escaped the sun by sliding into another pool designated for their use.
Generally, the company-imposed routine met hit-and-miss compliance. Children wore uniforms to school and workers responded favorably to suggestions they grow their own vegetables. But most ignored Ford's no liquor rule and, on paydays, boats filled with potent cachaca--the local sugar-can brew--pulled up at the dock. Poetry readings, weekend dances and English sing-alongs were among the disputed cultural activities.
Former Kalamazoo sheriff Curtis Pringle, a manager at Belterra, boosted labor relations when he eased off the Dearborn-style routine and deferred to local customs, especially when it came to meals and entertainment. Under Pringle, Belterra buildings did not contain the glass that made the powerhouse at Fordlandia unbearably hot, and weekend square dancing was optional. Alexander said Henry Ford balked at building a Catholic church at Fordlandia--even though Catholicism was the predominant Christian religion in Brazil. The Catholic chapel was erected right away at Belterra.The project was unsuccessful; humidity and malaria made life there unpleasant, rubber yields were low, and for some reason, the locals didn't see the inherent superiority of Anglo-American culture and stubbornly stuck to their customs, in defiance of the local authorities' best efforts. Ultimately, the project was sold to the Brazilian government, which has been stuck with the burden of keeping it from falling down ever since, and struggled to find uses for a transplanted piece of Michigan on the Amazon.
(via Boing Boing)
The Brazilian city of Sao Paolo may soon completely ban advertising billboards, which the city's mayor calls "visual pollution".
This past evening, I went to the Tropicália exhibition at the Barbican. It was an exhibition of artworks from Brazil in the 1960s, associated with the scene that grew around the Tropicália movement (which is most commonly associated with a home-grown psychedelic rock and art happenings, though also involved art installations, happenings and the like).
It was fairly interesting; as well as artworks from the heady days of the late 1960s (between the rise of Tropicália and the dictatorship's crackdown on all dissent that effectively destroyed it), there were earlier works, which put things in context, and contemporary Brazilian art following the spirit and inspiration of the movement. Works from the 1950s embodied a geometric modernist minimalism, much like that in Europe and elsewhere; by the 60s, many of the artists had moved on and taken up exploring the relationship between the artworks and their observer; there were tactile pieces meant to be touched (one exhibit had a video of the artist holding a stone, played back on an old camcorder mounted on the wall and plugged into a pocket TV; in the next room was a pair of headphones playing a song about holding a stone), as well as the "penetrables", an entire section of the gallery filled with sand and various booths. To enter, one had to take one's shoes off, walk on the sand, peel back tarpaulins and explore, experiencing the scene as an interactive experience. The artist Lygia Clark explored the theme of tactile interaction quite a bit; among her works were a pair of plastic suits, looking like hazardous environment suits, with zippers in various places, joined by a plastic umbilicus like that of a gas mask. The notional use of the suits apparently involved a man and a woman wearing them and touching each other by unzipping the access points, and this had been demonstrated at various happenings in Brazil in the 1960s. Nothing of the sort was demonstrated at the Barbican in 2006, and the suits remained hanging in a glass box. Another item was a mobius strip of cloth, and a photograph of two hands bound with (or playing with) it; I seem to recall having seen that photograph in the cover artwork of a Ninetynine album (one of the first two, I think).
One more recent work consisted of a number of wooden boxes, each containing some kind of LCD video player. When the door of a box was opened, it played video on its screen and a loop of sound over the central speakers.
There was also an interesting talk titled Anos de Chumbo: The Years of Lead, about the effects of the military dictatorship's heavy-handed repression on the artists working at the time in Brazil, presented by a Brazilian academic (based in Britain) and an Amnesty International official who worked on the Brazil desk at the time. The effects of the dictatorship apparently still linger in Brazil, and some people (such as one of the members of Os Mutantes) claim that it had effectively destroyed a generation or two worth of artistic creativity.
Since coming to power just over 10 years ago, Australia's unapologetically right-wing government has been at war with the culture of the Australian national broadcaster, the ABC (which, being a not-for-profit, government-funded entity, tends to attract people with left-wing ideals). Periodic purges of leftists and threats to its funding have kept it mostly timid and less than eager to make trouble for the government or question its agenda, though this is a less than permanent solution. Now the government's Communications Minister has announced plans to change its culture more permanently by introducing advertising.
If this goes through, Australia may soon lack a non-commercial broadcasting network funded on ideals of public service, with everything being turned into a colossal shopping mall of easily digestible mental junk food designed to attract the broadest possible audience, without the risk of challenging anyone's beliefs or requiring them to think. Those who dislike crass, loud, intelligence-insulting ads and programming designed for the lowest common denominator will be out of luck, but then again, such attitudes are fundamentally un-Australian, and have no place in a relaxed and comfortable society.
(As if by coincidence, The Soul Jazz Tropicália CD arrived in the mail today; the booklet, which gives a detailed history of the Tropicália movement and its suppression by the Brazilian military dictatorship, mentions at one stage that immediately after the military coup in 1964, the dictatorship encouraged a "television-based society" to reinforce social control. Television, it seems, is an ideal tool for instilling conformity and passivity, with its passive nature and narcotic pull; after all, why go out and do things in the mundane everyday world if you can involve yourself in the plot of Friends or Lost? And more channels of TV don't seem to be much of an answer; as has been claimed recently, all that replacing a few channels everyone watches with hundreds of niche lifestyle channels does is hasten social atomisation and encourage a sort of nihilistic solipsism and further withdrawal from any sort of social discourse. In short, the effects of television are great if one wants a passive, docile population delegating the consent of the governed to technocrats, not so good if one wants a vigorous social discourse. Discuss.)
And in other news from Australia: the country's political climate may be moving further to the right, with the Christian Fundamentalist Family First party set to win the balance of power in South Australia, getting the preferences of Labor ahead of the Democrats. Family First are the charming people whose policies involve reinforcing social discrimination against homosexuals, stepping up the War On Drugs, and installing a Saudi-style national internet firewall to protect Australians from seeing immoral content online. Now it looks like they may be leaping over the Greens and what's left of the Democrats to become the party of the balance of power for the Howard era.
Today's heartwarming story of interspecies friendship: In Brazil, a cat has befriended a bird which hurt itself when it fell out of its nest; the cat then raised the bird as its own. It is there that the story becomes somewhat twisted: the bird helps out its new friend and stepmother by luring other birds where she can catch and eat them, and has also learned to eat meat. (Whether the meat comes from other birds was not mentioned.)
The Brazilian city of Nova Iguacu has such a large transvestite population that the local council will require public facilities to provide them with separate lavatories.
"It was a real problem. The women didn't feel comfortable having them in the ladies' room, and the men didn't want them in their bathroom either," said Mr Moreira, who is married and the father of two children.
Mr Moreira said there were nearly 28,000 transvestites in Nova Iguacu, a poor city of about 800,000. He said many transvestites were reluctant to go out because there were no lavatory facilities for them. He denied that the cost of building a third room would pose a big problem for restaurant or club owners.Which adds up to about 3.5% of the population of Nova Iguacu being transvestites. I wonder whether this is some kind of local quirk specific to this city, or a common phenomenon in Brazil, perhaps analogous to Thailand's "ladyboys".
Not to mention what the icon on the door of the transvestites' toilet would look like.
An article looking at the console games scene in Brazil, where due to a number of factors, old systems killed off as obsolete in McWorld enjoy a new lease of life, and/or a freaky Frankensteinian afterlife:
Not only did Brazil embrace this marvel in video game history, but an increasing number of pirate consoles began appearing with additional features in an effort to beat the abundant competition. To differentiate between the two largest consumer bases, America and Japan, Nintendo had stemmed the import and export of games by employing different cartridge connections between the Famicom (Japanese version with a 60-pin connector) and the NES (American version with 72-pins). Since Brazil had never been properly established on Nintendo's world map, no marketing decision had been made to determine how sales would be controlled. Being stuck in the middle, with an increasing number of legal and illegal NES cartridges being shipped in from across the globe, clone consoles began appearing in Brazil with two connectors to accept either of the formats. On top of that, some pirate cartridge manufacturers began turning out double-ended casings, with 60-pins at one end and 72 on the other! Many of the NES and 2600 clones, still available today, even come with a multitude of games built into the system.
(via bOING bOING)
Brazil now leads the world in revolving apartment technology, with the first-ever such building, Suite Vollard, giving each of its 11 residents their choice of 360-degree views at the touch of a button. (via bOING bOING)
Gizmodo has a photoessay from São Paolo's Santa Ifigênia, the Brazilian city's somewhat dodgy electronics grey market. The city itself looks like some alternate New York of faded grandeur mixed with post-cyberpunk South-East Asia, with retailers setting up stalls on Toyota utilities under derelict art-nouveau buildings, ready to flee (leaving a wake of scattered electronic parts) should the police show up to confiscate their goods. And the market is ruthlessly efficient in filling any gaps left by busted traders.
Car accessories, speakers, car mp3 players - almost everything "used" can be found on the camelôs (street-salesmen). It is not uncommon for them to promise to fetch you the exact model of car stereo you want, returning triumphantly with the item: wires exposed, shards of glass and if you are lucky, blood.
Australia has come in in 41st place in Reporters Without Borders' annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index; which is below all EU members, several other Eastern European countries, South Africa and Hong Kong; in contrast, New Zealand ranked ninth, only slightly below the 8 nations sharing first place. Australia's dismal showing has to do partly with restricted press access to refugees, though chances are that media ownership concentration, defamation laws and attempts to force journalists to reveal their sources have also contributed.
The bottom of the list is held, predictably, by North Korea (at #167), with Cuba just above it. Saudi Arabia is at #159, three places ahead of China, while Singapore is at #147. Brazil, a popular recent poster child of the Third Way, languishes at #66. The US's arrest of journalists at anti-Bush protests and restrictions on journalistic visas have knocked it down to #22. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, Israel is at #36 (shared with Bulgaria), except in the occupied territories, where it is at #115 (shared with Gabon), though ahead of the Palestinian Authority (#127, slightly better than Egypt and Somalia).
First place is shared by Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia and Switzerland.
A funny thing has happened on social-network site Orkut: by some quirk of social network dynamics, Brazilian Portuguese speakers now outnumber English speakers 2 to 1, and the Anglophones are getting a sudden taste of what it's like to be in a marginalised linguistic minority:
"Orkut maps one's social prestige, and Brazilians are by nature gregarious," said Beth Saad, a professor at the University of Sao Paulo's School of Communications and Arts.
Tammy Soldaat, a Canadian, got a sample of Brazilian wrath recently when she posted a message asking whether her community site on body piercing should be exclusive to people who speak English. Brazilian Orkut users quickly labeled her a "nazi" and "xenophobe."
"Since we can invite anyone we want at Orkut, and my friends are Brazilians, it doesn't make sense talking to them in English," Reis said in Portuguese. "I use the language I know." His compatriot Pablo Miyazawa has a more moderate view. "Brazilians have the right to create anything they want in any language they want," Miyazawa said. "The problem is to invade forums with specific languages and write in Portuguese. Brazilians are still learning how to behave in the Net."
This posits a dilemma: if English is no longer the language of the majority on Orkut, what reasonable rationale could there be for asking Brazilian users to use English in non-Brazilian-specific forums, rather than asking English-speakers to learn Portuguese (the new majority language)? Not so much on one web site (where the management could, in theory, dictate the site's language) but on the internet at large. I wonder how long it will be until (American) English is displaced as the global language and Americans/Australians/Britons have to learn another language (be it Portuguese, Chinese or something else) to engage in the intellectual mainstream of internet discourse, or else become increasingly marginalised and ghettoised?
Apparently killing zoo animals isn't just an Adelaide thing; some nutter has been poisoning zoo animals in Sao Paolo, Brazil:
Victims over the past week include monkeys, golden-headed lion tamarinds and more than 30 porcupines. Three chimpanzees, an orang-utan, three tapirs, four camels, an elephant and a bison died during the previous month.
For the past few weeks, Warren Ellis' blog has been running predictions for 2004 from the various gonzo futurists, scifi writers, early adopters and scary goth camgirls he knows; Matt Jones' predictions are probably the most interesting of the series:
BrIC: 2004 is the year where the cultural and economic dominance by BrIC [Brazil, India, China] starts to emerge. More movies of the calibre of 'City of God' dominate the movie and soundtrack charts. Brazil's equivalent of the Neptunes dominate the global ringtone charts. Kids on the 8mile practice not rap, but capoeira battles.
CORMANRINGS: In 1977, Lucas unleashed Star Wars. There were a gazillion cheapo ripoffs on tv and screen including Roger Corman's awesomely bad-but-I-love-it "Battle beyond the stars": y'know the one with John-Boy Walton as the hero... The oscar-winning success of Peter Jackson's Tolkien trilogy coincides with the low-low price of pro-am digital video and film production to produce a bumper crop of copyright-skirting elvish nonsense of a similarly amusing/appalling ilk.
(Machinima meets Dungeons & Dragons, anyone?)
Update: There's more on BrIC in the news: a piece on the Brasilia Consensus replacing the Washington Consensus, and a piece on the G20 (which includes BrIC) and EU issuing a joint communique on global trade talks. (Though isn't the EU, economically speaking, an inherently neo-liberal construct?)
I recently read a very interesting book (Where You're At, by Patrick Neate) about the spread of hip-hop culture from the inner cities of America to places like Japan, Brazil and South Africa, becoming a sort of lingua franca of globalised pop culture. Today I found an article which ties in to that, about multi-ethnic hip-hop in Israel, a scene which includes everybody from marginalised Arabs to Ethiopians and Moroccan Jewish rappers rhyming in French. I saw another piece some time ago about Palestinian youths on the West Bank taking to rap to voice their grievances; perhaps we really do live on a hip-hop planet.
Vigorous competition in the global coffee-bean market has forced growers to find more ways of slashing costs and meeting ever-tighter margins. Some coffee growers in Brazil have found a way of running more efficiently: using slave labour. This typically involved "hiring" poor labourers in one part of the country, shipping them to another part and then neglecting to pay them; not having any money to get home, the labourers would have no choice but to work. Too bad for the growers that the meddling government decided to squash this sterling example of free-market ingenuity.
(Apparently coffee prices these days are unnaturally low, so non-slave-labour using plantations cannot compete on the market and end up going out of business. Not to worry; once all the plantations that are unfit to compete in this market go under and are bought out by an oligopoly of a few gigantic De Beers-like coffee multinationals, prices will go up to more sustainable levels and beyond. The wisdom of the free market corrects all mistakes.)
The street finds its own uses for social technologies, it seems: tourists in Brazil are targeted by swarm crime, where, upon emerging from their hotels, they are stripped of valuables by hordes of young children who suddenly appear and disappear just as suddenly. The children operate in fluid teams, coordinated with stolen (and thus untraceable) mobile phones by a teenaged recruiter/intermediary working for the organiser, who provides the phones and takes most of the proceeds.
If a law enforcement officer sees the crime and catches a child, the child can only talk about Neil. The mobile phone is not traceable. If the police catch Neil, he can only provide a mobile phone number. The adult allows Neill to collect the money ad jewelry, pay the kids, and then meet to pass over the loot to the adult. The adult is effectively "cut out" of the actual crime. Although some of the intermediaries like Neil or the children performing the crime may keep the money and jewelry for themselves, the adult repeats the process.
New problems for law enforcement officers to address: [a] fluidity of the crime and perpetrators, [b] spontaneous nature of the crimes, and [c] dealing with the children who commit the crime in the criminal justice system.
(via Die Puny Humans)
Wow! I just got mail telling me I've won the porn lotto. And I didn't even know there was such a thing as a porn lotto. Those Brazilians are so generous...
"Baile funk", the ultra-violent musical gang warfare scene from the slums of Brazil, is now headed for the US, with funk band Bonde do Tigrao embarking on their Stateside tour.
"I'm going to show you that I'm a tiger/I'm going to put on the pressure/And then hammer, hammer, hammer," Bonde do Tigrao chant on their most popular song, a mixture of rap and pop.
You know, that sounds, like a Prodigy lyric...
(I wonder whether Dr. Dre or someone from Interscope is taking notes; once the mook thing runs out of steam, Brazilian-style funk may be the Next Big Thing.) (via Robot Wisdom)