Tuesday, July 26, 2005


kids in paraty

Tuesday, June 28, 2005



Jamie recently put up a post on Japanese kinesthetics, by which he means the postures and gestures that constitute extra-verbal communication in Japan. This has inspired me to do a similar post on Brazil.

Let's start with greetings. The standard male/female greeting is the beijinho, or "little kiss." There is some regional variation (São Paulo, for instance, does one cheek only) but in Rio, as in most of the country, it's a two-cheeker. The key is it's not actually a kiss. Rather, you place your cheek against your friend's cheek and emit a kiss sound, vaguely in the region of the ear. Then repeat on the other side. Female/female meetings are quite the same, but male/male pairs favor the abraço, or hug. This, similarly, is usually not a hug but a handshake accompanied by a back-patting reach-around. Particularly close male friends will usually bump collarbones, while people who have never met may well leave each other at an arm's length.

It is worth noting that these are such common forms of greeting and leavetaking that they have spilled over into writing and telephone. The common email or text message signoff when writing girl-girl or boy-girl is "beijos", often abreviated "bjs," which every time makes me think unsettlingly of blowjobs. With guys it's often "abçs" or "abs". On the phone you say bye by saying "um beijo" or "um abraço."

Speaking of kissing, the negative connotation of PDAs (public displays of affection) does not exist here. To the contrary, it is considered rude to your companion if you are unwilling to make out with him or her on the street. It's like saying you don't want to be seen with them. Some people have made a big deal about different concepts of personal space, and tell stories of gringos at parties being backed around the room by Brazilians who talk too close. I haven't seen much of this myself. I think perhaps some overeager amateur social anthropologist (like moi?) saw one socially awkward dude and drew a few too many conclusions.

Moving on, the "come hither" gesture seems to be identical in Japan and Brazil, a outstretched arm with fingers flapping down as if scooping sand toward oneself. Another common gesture is the finger wag. Index finger extended, the hand windshield-wipers back and forth while the head shakes a sad, slow "no." This gesture looks very grave, like you are reprimanding a youngster for supergluing the cat to the TV screen, but it reality it's a pretty light negatory. Like no, I don't want another beer yet.

Yet another thing you can do with your hands is to make one into a fist and then smack the top of that fist with an open palm. This means "fucked!" As in, "you ought to be fucked!" but more commonly the less-confrontational "man, am I fucked!" Thumb and index making a circle, with palm facing the body, is another possibly rude gesture. It means "ass," as in "go take it in the ass!"

One gesture that confused me for many months, but that now I find myself doing involuntarily, is the following: two hands face each other fingertip to fingertip, palms in. Then the hands begin to wave forward and back, fingers smacking into each other like a set of ill-fitting saloon doors. This means, roughly, "it doesn't matter" or "there was nothing I could do." It's sort of a resignation gesture, somewhat akin to a shoulder shrug.

There are myriad minor strange ones. An earlobe is often tugged when describing a tasty food. Snapping can mean "it took a long time," whereas a thumb and forefinger held an half-inch apart means "just a moment." I've never actually seen this, but my dinner companion tonight (a native) swore that rubbing one's elbow and forearm is code for "heartbroken."

Then there is the Special Brazilian Snap Action, which people do whenever they get excited for whatever reason. It's not snapping like we know it in the US; rather, the index finger goes limp and, by whipping the arm, is snapped against the thumb and middle finger. Seemingly all Brazilians can do this at will, at high volume, and many times in rapid succession. After several months of practice I have about a 20% success rate, and only perhaps a third of those reach a satisfying volume. If I ever become truly proficient I'll know I have finally arrived.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


save charmin' and brawny for the trailer parks

Friday, May 13, 2005


various morsels

Y'all should take it as a good sign whenever I don't write much -- it means my life is actually a little bit exciting. Still, for reasons I don't entirely understand, I like to troll the internet in my free time and find dumb things. Case in point.

Also, two people actually having a reasonable debate about women in the sciences.

Sunday, May 08, 2005


off topic some more

Again, not about Brazil, but interesting nonetheless. A guy's memories of his mother's boyfriend, the serial killer.

Friday, May 06, 2005


kashi good friends

Ever wonder about those Kashi Good Friends cereal boxes? Well here, at last, is the story.

(via American Scene)

Thursday, May 05, 2005


my new apartment

Various people (read: my parents) have been urging me to send pictures of my new apartment, so now that I have internet I will oblige them. I really like my new apartment. It is simultaneously cozy and airy. It manages this combination by being a) owned and decorated by a lovely hippie-ish woman who is extremely into raw and sprouted foods, and by b) missing a wall. Look at the "table" picture closely and you will see the tarp that is my east-facing barrier to the world. Safety-wise this isn't much of a problem, since I live on the fourth floor of a four-floor building. If the thieves really want to do the grappling hook and zip line work needed to get in here, they might as well just have my stuff. (Knock on wood, if it would happen anywhere it would happen in Rio.) The rest of the apartment isn't exactly air-tight either. The "windows" in the first kitchen picture are in fact no more than empty panes of wood, and there are significant gaps between the roof and the extant walls as well.

My apartment makes me happy, which is what a good apartment should do. Except for the easy permeation by ants and mosquitos, and for a while birds (when my landlord still had her wheat-grass-growing trays in here I'd wake up in the mornings to like fifteen birds munching on them, then bolting out my windows, leaving bird shit on my floor), the place is great. It's a block from the beach (which I stupidly never go to) and costs about as much as a Cambridge walk-in closet. Satisfied customer.

The only problem is occasional loneliness. I live alone now, and it's kind of quiet. Life with Márcia was never quiet. I loved it, but there was no privacy, and I used to long for solitude like this. Now that I have it it's a mixed blessing. I miss Márcia.






communications nerve center


more kitchen




arcade fire: pure freaking gold

Whenever I feel bored, which is much of the time, I monitor the progress of the Arcade Fire from afar. I do this for three reasons. First, I really like their music. Second, the lead singer, Win, was a good friend of mine in high school. We wrote a play together, edited a poetry journal together, started Winter Thaw Weekend together, created an improv comedy troupe together, etc. It is very fun to see a friend of mine famous, and to read various accounts of hipsters... gasp... being three inches away from him!!!! The third reason is that, although I have an outwardly globe-trotting life, in fact things have been pretty sedate for me lately and so I read of the Arcade Fire's exploits, their European tours, and I live vicariously the rock star life. Of course, Win is married and quite religious so his rock star life is probably slightly different from the rock star life of my imagination, yet it works for me all the same.

Another reason, unmentioned above, is that though I've listened to their CD countless times, and heard Win and Regine fooling around in their own living room, I've never actually seen the band perform. My one attempt, summer 2004, was foiled. They were opening for the Unicorns somewhere in Boston, and I'd been told that they were going on at 8:30pm. Dutifully, I arrived at 8:30 sharp, only to find them packing up their instruments. They'd gone on at 8, and now were done. This is before people gave a shit about them. I then had to suffer a set of the Unicorns themselves, but was rewarded by a nice sleepover in Boston with the high-school crew that had come to see them. Now I read the rapturous accounts of their shows, written by the hippest hipsters in the blogosphere, and my mouth can only salivate. This is their golden era, and I have a fear that by the time I come back stateside all the love will be gone. They'll be playing stadiums with the can-do attitude of a post-rehab Axl Rose. Win himself will be rancorous and morbidly obese, throwing beer bottles at reporters and fans alike. They'll be on their seventh drummer, and Win his third wife/collaborator. Regine will have divorced him, written a tell-all biography, and started her own psychic hotline.

Or not. I think they'll be fine, actually.

Photos via Us Kids Know, le blog exuberance, and me.


crowd surfing at coachella

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


it's the canadian edition, but still...


win in ego-stroking stereo, also at coachella


quieter days: new year's eve 2003


supreme court of laffs

Is this funny? Why is this the first thing I think to post? In any event, Volokh Conspiracy has a thread about "funny" passages in Supreme Court decisions, such decisions, of course, being typically stroke-inducingly boring. These are moments in which the justices, punch-drunk surely after a wacky all-nighter of deliberation, realized that nobody really read these things that carefully, and anyway they had tenure. Some selections:

Justice Stevens' concurrence in Widmar v. Vincent (1980):

Because every university's resources are limited, an educational institution must routinely make decisions concerning the use of the time and space that is available for extracurricular activities. In my judgment, it is both necessary and appropriate for those decisions to evaluate the content of a proposed student activity. I should think it obvious, for example, that if two groups of 25 students requested the use of a room at a particular time -- one to view Mickey Mouse cartoons and the other to rehearse an amateur performance of Hamlet -- the First Amendment would not require that the room be reserved for the group that submitted its application first. Nor do I see why a university should have to establish a "compelling state interest" to defend its decision to permit one group to use the facility and not the other. In my opinion, a university should be allowed to decide for itself whether a program that illuminates the genius of Walt Disney should be given precedence over one that may duplicate material adequately covered in the classroom.

Scalia's dissent in Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419, 466-67 (1995):

Facial features are the primary means by which human beings recognize one another. That is why police departments distribute "mug" shots of wanted felons, rather than Ivy-League-type posture pictures; it is why bank robbers wear stockings over their faces instead of floor-length capes over their shoulders; it is why the Lone Ranger wears a mask instead of a poncho; and it is why a criminal defense lawyer who seeks to destroy an identifying witness by asking "You admit that you saw only the killer's face?" will be laughed out of the courtroom.

Ginsburg in her dissent in Muscarello v. United States:

"Popular films and television productions provide corroborative illustrations. In 'The Magnificent Seven,' for example, O'Reilly (played by Charles Bronson) says: 'You think I am brave because I carry a gun; well, your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility, for you, your brothers, your sisters, and your mothers.' See http://us.imdb.com/M/search_quotes?for=carry. And in the television series 'M*A*S*H,' Hawkeye Pierce (played by Alan Alda) presciently proclaims: 'I will not carry a gun. . . . I'll carry your books, I'll carry a torch, I'll carry a tune, I'll carry on, carry over, carry forward, Cary Grant, cash and carry, carry me back to Old Virginia, I'll even "hari-kari" if you show me how, but I will not carry a gun!'"

Scalia again, in Blakely v. Washington, 124 S. Ct. 2531, 2542 n.12 (2004):

To be sure, Justice Breyer and the other dissenters would forbid those increases of sentence that violate the constitutional principle that tail shall not wag dog. The source of this principle is entirely unclear. Its precise effect, if precise effect it has, is presumably to require that the ratio of sentencing-factor add-on to basic criminal sentence be no greater than the ratio of caudal vertebrae to body in the breed of canine with the longest tail. Or perhaps no greater than the average such ratio for all breeds. Or perhaps the median.

Scalia yet again, in Chicago v Morales:

My contribution would go something like this: Tony, a member of the Jets criminal street gang, is standing alongside and chatting with fellow gang members while staking out their turf at Promontory Point on the South Side of Chicago; the group is flashing gang signs and displaying their distinctive tattoos to passersby. Officer Krupke, applying the Ordinance at issue here, orders the group to disperse. After some speculative discussion (probably irrelevant here) over whether the Jets are depraved because they are deprived, Tony and the other gang members break off further conversation with the statement–not entirely coherent, but evidently intended to be rude–"Gee, Officer Krupke, krup you." A tense standoff ensues until Officer Krupke arrests the group for failing to obey his dispersal order.


blogging back from the dead

Creeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek. The coffin lid swings slowly open, and one emaciated hand, its flesh greened and decaying, reaches out into the darkness... grasping toward... the keyboard!

I'm currently listening to Michael Jackson's Thriller, and recently read Dan Savage's advice to a zombie fetishist, if that's any explanation. Also, I'm returning to blogging.

Why the no blogging? (You might ask, if anyone is still coming here, which is doubtful.) Well, I've got a simple explanation: no internet. I moved to a new city, and took a trip to the States, and it wasn't until this week that I got internet connected at my new apartment. Sure I frequented the odd internet café, and sponged access off a friend or two, but it just wasn't the same. I need to be in my pajamas to blog. And they look at you weird if you wear them at the public library terminals.

The short summary of my life is that I am now pleasantly ensconced in Rio de Janeiro, in the swank neighborhood of Ipanema, and am working at Viva Cred, an NGO that is Rio's largest microlender. I have been here about a month now, subtracting out my US trip, and I am enjoying myself. Still working on building up a friend base, as everyone I knew I left behind in Salvador. But all together, things are good. Good. Now begins the process of unpacking leftovers from the last couple months...

Friday, March 25, 2005


friends on the web, and news of me

Some friends of mine have recently had notable web-events. The good folks at Third Ward Community Bike Center have just put up a new website, handmade in the style of 1997 homepages, featuring far more and better information than their old site and many photos of adorable children operating spot-welders. Also neo-neocon, who has been blogging far more prolifically than anyone else I know, just got profiled by bigtime blogger Norman Geras. Read the interview.

As for me I'm in the US right now, checking out econ PhD programs, visiting friends, and trying to make big decisions about the next 5+ years of my life. So far it's been a fun and completely hectic trip. It's something of a relief to be back in the States for a little while, and to get to speak English to everyone. (Though for a while I was still saying "excuse me" in Portuguese whenever I bumped into someone, and it took me nearly a week to break the habit of throwing used toilet paper in the wastebasket.) Life is easier here in the States, at least for someone like me who grew up here, and it's been wonderful to see friends. But I'm also eager to get back. I find myself doing that annoying thing where I start every sentence with "In Brazil..."

I'm going to be in the Bay area Saturday the 26th to Tuesday the 29th, New Hampshire Wed nesday the 30th to Friday the 1st, and Boston Saturday the 2nd to Friday the 8th. If you're in any of those places and want to hang out, please give a holler.

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