I’ve Been Tagged…So Here Are Six Things About Me….

A few days ago (or was it MANY days ago…I forget, I’m losing track of time these days), I was TAGGED by our ex-pat in Italy (my ancestral homeland), American Indy in Italy….

Which means I have to write 6 things about myself and write to 6 other people. I’m going to include the crew at IA in this, too, just to cover all the bases here at IA.  I’ve probably broken the chain, but here goes:

1) I graduated #1 in my class in Automotive Technology back in the mid-80’s and then was given jobs like fixing water leaks on convertibles instead of the money jobs like brakes.  See how long my being pissed goes back??? (and it goes back even further, believe me!) (At least to my undergrad and graduate student days at Cornell and Rutgers School of Library and Information Studies, which is now called something else…)

2) I really love COOKING!  My latest kick is watching Gillian McKeith on BBC America. The show is “You Are What You Eat” and it is brilliant!  The one recipe that I have adopted with gusto is here Sweet Potato Pie Pizza….that crust is AMAZING!!  I top it with greens like fresh-from-the garden steamed mustard, kale or collards, or stir-fry up some broccoli and top the crust with that and lots of olive oil and garlic.   I’m making it tonight!!

3) I’ve gardened for at least 25 years and really got into it while recovering from foot surgery. I read lots of books since I couldn’t walk for awhile.  I had a huge garden in Jersey complete with a Troy-built rototiller. I canned tomatoes for the whole winter.  I’ve had to re-learn everything for the Southwest (high desert) and have two raised beds (about 3 feet high) to spare my back (had surgery 9 years ago).  You can see pictures of my winter garden on this site in various places.  I planted more lettuce yesterday, by the way.

4) My doggies and betta fish are my babies. Toro, the oldest and the one we bought via the vet, a chi but with lots of rat terrier in him (a “deer chi”).  Tico, who is probably a mix of chi and Pembroke Welsh Corgi, and Slick, the min pin rescued from the street.  The fish is still unnamed and I could use a  few suggestions.  I’m trying to learn chess, and still listen to shortwave radio.  But I’ve just found a new site that I will be writing about that is really great…foreign TV!  My favorite TV channel is Turner Classic Movies, especially anything they air that’s pre-1970.  Preferably black and white.

5) I lived in London during the mid-80’s and made a lot of trips there before and after that experience (and the rest of Europe, too, including behind the Iron Curtain, including a foray alone into East Berlin). I had a work permit and had a blast working around London. I also attended Vidal Sassoon to perfect my haircutting (I had graduated from a local “academy” and got a work permit for the UK since I had been a student at 35!)  The only time I ever got sick traveling was when I went to Paris for a quick few days. On the train to the Hovercraft, it started.  So, I actually got sick in London, not from the traveling!!  I had also planned to go to Moscow and Leningrad and had my tickets all set from the official tourist bureau…but Chernobyl blew up.  The Russians decided to refund my money….I guess I was caught in the radioactive cloud as I walked around Kew Gardens that day…

6) I started inviting folks to contribute to the blog and wound up with the crew you see on the sidebar! Kenosha Marge is a really talented seamstress!  Grail Guardian is a history buff and works with computers!  American Lassie has worked in the tax field!  And Leslie works in a Chicago hospital setting and is a long sufferer as she deals with the media there!

So now I have to write to 6 bloggers…I don’t know who’s been tagged, but I’ll find some folks and tag them as soon as I eat lunch!!!

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“The Black President”: A 1926 Novel “Predicts” the Politics of 2008 with Some Eerily Similar Details

~~By InsightAnaltyical-GRL

On the morning of January 3rd, a Saturday, I lingered in bed listening to the BBC World Service on my shortwave radio.  I had tuned in in time to catch the weekly “roundup” edition of  the BBC World Service’s daily show on arts and entertainment called “The Strand.”

Suddenly, near the end of the program a woman, who was apparently a critic from Brazil, was talking about an author who wrote a book back in the 1920’s about a black man who became President of the United States.  The host commented on all the uncanny similarities between the events in the book and 2008’s Presidential campaign.

I scribbled a few notes, then later that day went back to the BBC World Service site to try to “re-listen” to the broadcast.  Couldn’t find it.  To this day, I still can’t find it. The site hasn’t been updated since January 3 and I’ve looked through all the full daily programs as well as the show I heard that Saturday morning. I’ve listened to the whole thing, but there is NO discussion of the book…and there is nothing mentioned about it in the show descriptions, either.

So, what’s up with the missing program segment on this story?

All this mystery prompted me to go searching. It took me quite awhile, but I came up with a few bits and pieces of information.  (What I’ve cited in this post is basically all I found.) Curiously, the very last thing I dredged up was a story from Slate dating from this past September.

Finally, I had found out more details on this book!  The author is apparently much better known as a children’s writer, but about half of his output was geared toward adult readers.  This book is one of his adult works, which is described as being on of Brazil’s earliest science-fiction novels. According to the critic I heard, the book was never published in the U.S. and only a few chapters have been translated into English.

Take a peek (my highlighting):

The Black President A 1926 Brazilian sci-fi novel predicts a U.S. election determined by race and gender.

O Presidente Negro (The Black President).Monteiro Lobato is a household name in his native Brazil, best-known for “Sítio do Picapau Amarelo” (“Yellow Woodpecker’s Ranch”), a series of children’s books that has been adapted for television on several occasions. He was an active businessman and libertarian and is considered the founder of Brazil’s publishing industry, but his 1926 science-fiction novel, O Presidente Negro (The Black President)—which foresaw technological, geopolitical, and environmental transformations—is attracting the most interest this year, since it anticipated a political landscape in which gender and race would determine the outcome of a U.S. presidential election.

O Presidente Negro envisions the 2228 U.S. presidential election. In that race, the white male incumbent, President Kerlog, finds himself running against Evelyn Astor, a white feminist, and James Roy Wilde, the cultivated and brilliant leader of the Black Association, “a man who is more than just a single man … what we call a leader of the masses.”

You may notice some similarities to the John McCain-Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama face-off; and so did Editora Globo, the publisher of O Presidente Negro, which reissued the novel during the Democratic primaries in a stroke of marketing genius…

Of course, there are several differences between Lobato’s story and the circumstances surrounding the 2008 election.

(MORE)

I’m not going to go into more detail.  The Slate article includes a FULL PLOT SUMMARY. Let’s just say that the critic I heard on that Saturday morning a couple of weeks back said that there were lessons to be learned and that Barack Obama, hopefully, would be attentive to situations that could be full of threatening tensions, some that could have a personal impact on his life.

Here’s some more background on Monteiro Lobato, his writings and his political views:

From the site, Vidas Lusófonas (translated)

In 1918, he successfully published his first volume of short stories, Urupês. He founded the publishing house Editora Monteiro Lobato & Cia., introducing new standards for printing quality, bringing out new authors and, finally, going bankrupt. In 1920, he published A menina do nariz arrebitado (The Little Girl with the Turned Up Nose), with cover design and illustrations by Voltolino, and managed to have it adopted as a school text, with a record first printing of 50,000 copies. He set up the Companhia Editora Nacional, another publishing firm, in Rio de Janeiro. He was invited to be the commercial attaché in New York, where he served for four years (between 1927 and 1931). He was fascinated by Henry Ford, by metallurgy and by the oil industry. He lost all his money in the 1929 stock market crash. He returned to Brazil and threw himself into the Campaign for the Protection of Brazilian Oil, delivering speeches, sending letters and making the whole country aware of the importance of oil to national development. It was then that he realized how popular and well-known he really was. He was arrested! His feelings about Brazil wavered between enthusiasm and depression. – He was active in Editora Brasiliense, a book publisher, lived in Buenos Aires, became a communist sympathizer…

From Brazzil magazine, March 2001 (translated from the Portuguese)

Lobato thought about development as translated into the image of the machine. In order to build those machines, you needed iron. To move the machinery, you needed oil. For him, the two fundamental pillars are these two things, and the third was bread, that is, food. These are the three elements of modern economic infrastructure.

Let’s talk now about Lobato the children’s author. How did he revolutionize the universe of children universe through literature?

If Monteiro Lobato had written in English, there’s no doubt that today he would be one of the great universal fabulists. First because he gathered all world fables together in his stories. Second, his stories include the fantastic element but it was not the oppressive fantastic, as in most imported fables, but the delirious fantastic. Lobato’s formula has one foot in reality but also has an opening for fiction and dreams. Observe that Lobato, when he produces his fables, he also subverts the relations between children and adults. Suddenly children are interlocutors capable of talking with adults and the adults have to be available and to look at the child as a little human being who is intelligent and thinks. He used to say that he was a children’s writer, not a writer of childish things. There is, in fact, a project behind all his children’s literature. At the end of his life, when he was tired, the oil didn’t work, the iron didn’t work, Getúlio Vargas’s dictatorship censured him, he said he was tired of writing for grown-ups. “What boring people!”, he used to say, “let’s see if I can help train better adults by writing for children”.

More details on his political views from Wikipedia:

Politically, Lobato was strongly in favor of a state monopoly for iron and oil exploration in Brazil and battled publicly for it between 1931 and 1939. For his libertarian views, he was arrested by the then dictatorial government of Getúlio Dornelles Vargas in 1941. This movement, called O Petróleo é Nosso (Oil Belongs to Us) was highly successful, and the same Getúlio Vargas, after being democratically elected president, created Petrobras in 1952.

He died in São Paulo in 1948.

Political ideas

Lobato was really a man ahead of his time, and paid dearly for this, being ridiculed by part of the public and even arrested by the government. His ideas included:

  • English should be taught at schools because it was more important[citation needed] than French or Latin (So he had the children characters learn English in one of its books)
  • Ores and Oil should be managed by the state to prevent their control by international corporations not interested in developing Brazil but in keeping it as consumer market (Viscount’s Oil)
  • The Brazilian folk traditions were the cornerstone of national identity, they should be preserved and more cherished
  • The world was changing fast and those who could not adapt to its pace would end up being “eaten” (The Size Switch)
  • That scientific research could eventually enable man to make deeper changes to nature, and that such changes, if not wisely directed, could result in disasters
  • That war exists only because of corporate greed, political alienation of the masses and racial prejudice (The Size Switch)

All these ideas were published between 1923 and 1944, which makes them even more notable.

Read the full,  detailed description of the book from the article in Slate. And wonder why the BBC seems to have “lost” the interview I heard two weeks ago.

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Additional Information:

Encyclopedia Brittanica, José Bento Monteiro Lobato (very brief bio)


After “Aunt Benazir’s” Assassination, Fatima Bhutto Still Fighting to Reveal the Truth

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

One year ago today on December 27, 2007 I woke up to the BBC World Service on my shortwave radio and heard the news that Benazir Bhutto had been assassinated. It didn’t suprise me at all, given the political situation in Pakistan at the time, her family’s political history, her own political past (holding the office of  Prime Minister twice) and her return to Pakistan from exile.

I wasn’t exactly sure I would write about Benazir Bhutto until I came across an March 2008 interview with Bhutto’s niece, poet and author, Fatima Bhutto.

Fatima Bhutto

Fatima Bhutto

During the interview which was taped for CNN  “Talk Asia” program (hosted by Anjali Rao), Fatima Bhutto discussed her aunt, as a politician and as a relative, as well as her own activism.  Along the way, she had some very interesting comments that ring very true for me today in our current political environment.

In Part 1, a brief history of the Bhutto family recounts how Ms. Bhutto’s grandfather, founder of the Pakistan People’s Party and first democratically-elected leader of the country, was executed by the military and how Ms. Bhutto’s father, Mir Mataza Bhutto  (Benazir’s younger brother and a member of Parliament), was gunned down in 1996 after he split from his sister and became critical of her government’s corruption (more later on this topic).

Here is Part I of the interview:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Bhuto 2“, posted with vodpod

Key observations from Ms. Bhutto about her aunt include how:

“…in power, she caused a lot suffering…unrecognizable.”

“People placed hope with her…(she) spoke to hope and change…in power, she was no different than what had been before” (cited large-scale corruption, human rights issues and her dealings with the Taliban).

The “lack of accountability as she returned…deal with a dictator erased 20 years of corruption and a provision…makes it impossible to file charges against future parliamentarians” (National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).

During Part 1 Ms. Bhutto was asked if she had any political aspirations of her own (at the time of the interview some in Pakistan saw her as the person to take over her aunt’s party), but explained that wanted to remain an activist on the local level, without any association with any party. She said there were other ways to be active outside of politics and that shes was not interested in “power politics.”

Asked about fears for her own safety because of her being so outspoken, she said all Pakistanis lived in fear and added:

“Once you begin to self-censor, you’ve done the state’s job…and they can rest quite easily.”

In Part 2 of the interview Ms. Bhutto describes how her father and six others were gunned down in 1996 by the police outside the family home (Fatima was 14 and in the house at the time and heard the shots), just a few of the thousands killed in what was called “state terrorism” in some quarters.  Her father was from the PPP’s left-wing and he broke with his sister who was Prime Minister at the time and accused her government as being corrupt.  Benazir Bhutto was accused of trying to cover-up the role of her husband in the murders.  Among the findings of an investigation by a tribunal was the conclusion that the murders could never have taken place without the “approval from the highest levels of government.”

(See” “Living on the Edge,” The Times (UK), 05/08/2008  (“Six months after her aunt Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, Fatima Bhutto is fighting to reveal the truth surrounding the murder of her father in 1996 — and making some very dangerous enemies.”)

According to Ms. Bhutto, this was a turning point in her life as she became the issues of  justice and violence became central to her life, as did the need for accountability so that political violence in Pakistan could come to an end.

When asked if there would be real change if the PPP took power again, Ms. Bhutto had these words:

“In Pakistan, it seems, that power doesn’t really change hands, it’s the faces that change.  But ultimately, their goal is the same.”

Part 2:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Fatima Bhutto CNN Talk Asia Part2“, posted with vodpod

Who was she talking about in March 2008?  The United States’ “democracy” as it really is today?

If you have time, do watch Parts 1 and 2 of this interview with this brilliant, courageous young woman. You’ll admire her…I know I do!

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(Part 3 of the interview deals with Bhutto’s book about the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.)

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For more on Fatima Bhutto and her books and newspaper columns, see her website.

“Aunt Benazir’s false promises,” by Fatima Bhutto,  Los Angeles Times, 11/14/2007