Monday, September 23, 2013

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Still waiting

“I will say no more about it because the element of surprise is one of the constituents of fear. It is the unknown dangers that are the worst, that bear most heavily on the reserves of courage.”

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Brazil (still) ♥ USA

Source: KAL for The Economist

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Don’t forget to play

“By about 1900, the need for child labour had declined, so children had a good deal of free time. But then, beginning around 1960 or a little before, adults began chipping away at that freedom by increasing the time that children had to spend at schoolwork and, even more significantly, by reducing children’s freedom to play on their own, even when they were out of school and not doing homework. 

Adult-directed sports for children began to replace ‘pickup’ games; adult-directed classes out of school began to replace hobbies; and parents’ fears led them, ever more, to forbid children from going out to play with other kids, away from home, unsupervised. There are lots of reasons for these changes but the effect, over the decades, has been a continuous and ultimately dramatic decline in children’s opportunities to play and explore in their own chosen ways.

Over the same decades that children’s play has been declining, childhood mental disorders have been increasing.”

Monday, September 16, 2013

Road Kill

There was a dead capivara by the roadside this morning. It must have been hit in the early hours and was lying there lifeless by the curb. 

They are one of the coolest creatures I know. The largest rodent in the world (and almost exclusively Brazilian), they roam in families along the stinky river that circumnavigates the city. Brave souls, but surprisingly tame and (in the words of Wikipedia) gregarious.

It must have strayed from its family and sadly was (from its size) almost certainly a parent.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013

I can’t tell them I don’t want to wake up tomorrow

“It’s very much like the experience we’ve had at Child Line
Children protect their parents and older people protect their kids.”

Thursday, September 12, 2013

You can leave now

The manageress at the diner gave me such a warm welcome - with her hand on my shoulder - that I thought there was a problem and she was going to ask me to leave.

Truly I have become a regular.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Monday, September 9, 2013

Hell = Buy Now x Pay Later

The television I get to see these days is mainly via a small box in the corner of the room - usually the hairdressers, the doctor’s waiting area or a local diner. I caught a glimpse of a celebrity-fixes-your-life type programme where a well-known television star was turning one familys grim slum reality into a middle-class paradigm. Cue the tears as the lady of the house is handed the keys to her front door (wait, what?).

This particularly grating TV format will never grow old: cheap, popular and makes the D-Listers look compassionate. Everyone’s a winner, but such programmes invariably serve to reinforce the misconception that one’s dreams can be realised merely by a lick of paint in the lounge and a modern appliance in the kitchen.
An Understandable Escape: satellite dishes in the favelas

Dont get me wrong. Credit to the masses (a trend which took-off in the 70s with mass migration from rural areas in the north to the more prosperous urban south) is not of course a bad thing in itself - it just needs to be managed well if it is to stimulate wealth creation and not simply inflate a bubble of consumer debt.
“Our mothers knew all that, and even as they voted Labor they were careful to warn us against any voices who preached against prosperity. Prosperity didn’t guarantee freedom but there could be no widespread freedom without it. Knowledge like that was handed down, from the generation that had once suffered to the next generation which would not.”
Clive James, A Point of View (BBC Radio 4, 27th Dec 2009).
By way of example, you can pay for almost anything here - from your taxes to your fridge freezer - parcelado (in installments), but not all consumers realise that buying in installments is far more expensive than paying up-front. 

In other words, cheap credit combined with a widespread lack of education in financial matters among the most vulnerable risks making access to such credit akin to (at best) mis-selling and (at worst) exploitation. It has sad echoes of the Clinton Administrations misguided home-ownership drive in the Southern States (ah, the soft outer layer of credit before the crunch).

I guess Voltaire (or, more recently, Spiderman) said it best: with much power comes much responsibility. Power to the consumer, but buyer beware. An interesting - and more timely - manifestation of the adage can be seen in the behaviour of the new-monied additions to the G20: powerful economically, but unwilling (or unable) to assume the moral responsibilities that come with such status.

I am not a proponent of what Scruton calls the zero sum fallacy - the leftist illusion which holds that every winner has an equal and opposite loser, and so the rich are by definition profiting from the poverty of others. What I desperately want for this country (considering that ours is now officially one of the Fragile 5 currencies) is a fundamental improvement in the general level of education of its people.

BONUS American Beauty (1999):

it's just a couch!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Puckering up

“If you have reasons to love someone, you don’t love them.” ~ Slavoj Žižek

Friday, September 6, 2013

Jamie Oliver in São Paulo

Just when I thought I could escape you