Archive for December, 2005

Two undiscovered gems in Brasil

I´ve stayed in 2 off the normal beaten track tourist sites while in Brasil, and thought I would recommend them.

One is a resort town called Guaraparri, outside the city of Vitoria, which caters mostly to Brazilians. It´s a place where not much English is spoken, nor German, nor Italian, which is unusual. The beaches are beautiful, the pace is slow and relaxed. No fancy hotels, mostly small ones and apartments for rent. It´s a bit of a schlep to get here, and I won´t get into my own travails, because I obviously didn´t find the best routing. The entire state of Espirito Santos seems neglected by most of the tourist books, in fact it is not even mentioned in my new Frommer´s Guide.

The main thing is that it is extremely safe, the beaches are beautiful and well-lighted at night, there are plenty of cheap places to eat. Definitely a get away. If you are interested I could privately put you in touch with a few people.

Salvador is not off the beaten track at all, as a visit to the old section of town will readily show you. This city has grown incredibly in the past 10 years and their airport is even more modern than Sao Paolo´s. But if you are interested in getting away from the city to some of the most beautiful beaches anywhere, head north, the further the better. Or south I have also been told.

I am staying at a gem of a hotel, brand new just opened a few weeks. It´s called the ::::COCOON::::: . It´s Italian and very modern, only about 28 rooms, located 15 km north of Salvador across the street from a beautiful beach. You also won´t find it listed in any guide books since it just opened. I lucked out because it is located smack dab in a suburban area that my Brazilian friends live in and they told me about it.

They gave me an introductory rate of $60 a night including breakfast. I suspect that eventually it will be more like $100. So grab it if you can. Go to the web page and write to them and you will receive an enthusiastic email back from a friendly guy named Maximo. They might ask for a deposit in Euros because they aren´t too familiar with American tourists yet.

The hotel is very intimate and friendly. The concept is that of a spaceship that just happens to plop down in an ordinary suburban neighborhood. The rooms are like pods, very modern and minimalist. I love it and the workers here, too.

Feliz natal to all of you!

UPDATE: Maximo at the hotel tells me the rates will stay the same for the next year except for 10% more during the upcoming Carnivale season.

Bret Boone in Brasil?

In the total rumour and innuendo category, yesterday I spotted a dude on the beach who sure looks like Bret Boone, former 2nd baseman for the Seattle Mariners. If this is indeed him, it would indicate that he has given up on his baseball career and accepted the life of retired bliss.

He looked very happy, hanging out with 3 beautiful girls, tanned and very skinny, which would also indicate no steroids.

Like I said, don´t put any faith in this report, just saying what I saw! Or thought I maybe saw.

Brasil = Beach

On any given summer weekend I would not be surprised if at least 50% of the population of Brasil was on the beach! Probably 90% of the population lives in proximity to the beach and they all head there as often as possible.

Beach kiosks are a staple here. They consist of a hut, usually with a thatched roof, with a kitchen and large freezer. Chairs and umbrellas are put out everyday and the people sit here for hours, drinking beer and eating fried fish. Vendors come by regularly with everything from fresh oysters, cocktails, shish-kabob, music CD´s and beach cover-ups. The people who are not lounging on the beach, tanning, swimming and boogie-boarding are selling to them.

Modesty? Forget about it. Men and women of all shapes and sizes wear the tiniest swimsuits possible. You get used to it really quickly. Still, there are obviously an amazing amount of beautiful women here. They all are comfortable and carry themselves proud and erect, their lovely round butts displayed to all. I don´t know how it has happened, but most Brasilieras (female Brazilians) have these very round butts. They somehow have developed it through mutations I guess, although some certainly use plastic surgery. Breasts are not as important to them, although there do seem to be larger ones than there were 10 years ago when I last visited.

With my round butt that sticks out, I think I must have some Brazilian in me, too.

Even the store mannequins have these lovely round butts. Funny!

My American buddy Richard, who is now living in Guaraparri with his lovely girlfriend is working on opening his own beach kiosk next week. I had a great time visiting him, although I found it difficult to keep up with all the fun we were having and at the same time get enough rest and sleep. This is going to be one of those vacations that require 2 weeks of rest and relaxation to recover after I return home.

I have volunteered to come and work in his kiosk. Of course it won´t pay much. The tradition here is to add a 10% service charge to any restaurant bill, which is the amount that the waiter is paid. That is a very civilized way to tip if you ask me. It works quite well here.

World still appalled by election of Bush

Brazil is an overwhelmingly Catholic country, although certainly not what our concept of Catholic means. For one thing, they would NEVER elect a president who claims to be directed by God. The people I meet here invariably express an utter hatred for George Bush. In fact in my experiences, you would get this reaction in practically every country of the world.

Other than that, I receive only positive reactions when people hear that I am an American. They can still distinguish. People want to practice their English on me, they practically dote on me, wanting to talk about movies and films and all sorts of things American.

I´ve always considered Brazil to be sort of a mirror image of the United States. A country of over 200 million people speaking Portuguese, they are the majority of South Americans. They don´t really appreciate the occasional Spanish that creeps out of my mouth. They are proud Brazilians. And well they should be. This is a large, extremely diverse country. Like us, they are made up of many immigrant groups. The blacks are former slaves, too, although they have been freed for many more years and are much more assimilated.

When you ask them what their inheritance is, or what ethnic group they belong to, they ALWAYS answer that they are Brazilian. They don´t really have the concept of African-American or Irish or Italian slash something. They are Brazilian pure and simple.

Our continuing Europe-directed foreign policies in the United States is a big mistake. Our future is in our own hemisphere. It´s about time we started to appreciate that. This is a wonderful part of the world, a part of us, and a special part of our future.

Viva Brasil!

I am off to Brasil (the way they spell it) for 2 weeks. Yay! I will try to do some posting, but I am not sure how often I will have access to a computer.

The last time I was in Brazil, almost 10 years ago, they were having an election. Fernando Color (sp?) was the leading candidate; he was a good-looking youngish governor of a small state, who ran kind of an MTV campaign. It was effective, probably because half the voters in Brasil are under 25 and they are required to vote. Imagine what would happen here if all the kids over 18 had to vote. There was a huge scandal in his administration and he resigned in disgrace, to be followed by Fernando Cardoso, an economist, who managed to tame Brasil’s run-away inflation and was relatively successful, although also experiencing corruption problems towards the end of his tenure.

The losing candidate that year was a bearded socialist named Lula, full name Luis Lula da Silva, who is now the President. He was elected on a great wave of optimism, but unfortunately his administration has also been plagued by corruption. I will be interested in seeing how my friends, big supporters of Lula back then, are seeing things now.

The other big issue, of course, is the Amazon and what is to become of it. I will be spending the final few days of my trip in Belem, where 2 men were just recently convicted of killing an American nun. Supposedly now the authorities are going after the money-men, land-owners who paid to have her killed.

But of course that is not the main reason I am visiting Brasil. The people of Brasil are so charming, so full of life, that is the main atraction of Brasil. Not to mention the weather, the beaches, the swimsuits, the great old tropical cities, condoble, cashasha, the roadside food peddlers, and the music.

Allan Prell Writes a Book

Judging by the emails I have received from my Allan Prell columns, they are the most widely read blogs I have yet written. So I am happy to report that Allan has sent out an email to his supporters with a couple of chapters of a book he is writing about his experiences with KIRO, from which he was unceremoniously fired, and other radio stations he has worked at.

Just in case you aren’t on Allan’s mailing list, you may contact him at allanprell@gmail.com and I’m sure he would be happy to send it to you, too. Ultimately he hopes to find a publisher for his book.

I have enjoyed reading it so far. According to Allan, Thom Clendening, the man who fired him, was Allan’s best friend at the station and had promised him a year to find his audience. Unfortunately, the big mucky-mucks at Entercom didn’t feel so charitable and made it clear that Clendening would be fired, too, if he didn’t get rid of Allan .

Allan blames the focus group that KIRO had held a few weeks earlier, and a sales manager (Sales Weasel) who said he couldn’t sell advertising on Allan’s show.

He also gives us a look into how talk radio works, in particular how Rush Limbaugh bullies the radio market.

Allan was at WBAL in Baltimore for 7 years, sometimes holding down the #1 rating in that market, before he suddenly walked out. In the excerpts he doesn’t explain what happened there, but it is promised in a forthcoming chapter.

None of my other columns have come close to inspiring as many “hits” and comments from fans in Seattle and in Baltimore, where many listeners also still miss him a year later. blatherWatch reports the same thing, their most popular blogs ever.

Surely there is a place in talk radio for somebody with Allan’s talents. I hope it turns out to be a station in Seattle, and I think Allan feels the same way.

Bring back Allan Prell, somebody!

Eugene McCarthy, RIP

The death of Eugene McCarthy today at the age of 89 brought back many memories for me today. As an idealistic college student and opponent of the Vietnam War, I was an early supporter of Gene McCarthy during the 1968 election, and in fact, I still have a McCarthy Daisy bumpersticker on an old steamer trunk in my garage .

We think politics are nasty now, but what a tumultous time that was. Lyndon Johnson was a decent man who pushed the Civil Rights Bill through Congress, something Kennedy had been unable to accomplish. The Vietnam War proved to be the defining failure of his presidency, however. McCarthy challenged him in the New Hampshire primary and damn-near defeated him, bringing Bobby Kennedy into the race, too. LBJ saw the writing on the wall and dropped out. We all loved Bobby and maybe secretly wanted him to win, but we were in love with McCarthy, too, for having the balls to challenge LBJ. It was quite the dilemna for liberal Democrats.

Then Kennedy won the California primary and seemed to be on his way to the nomination, but he was assassinated that very same night.

Things were never the same after that. We had lost 2 Kennedys and shortly later Martin Luther King, too. The liberals never really recovered. Hubert Humphrey, LBJ’s vice-president won the nomination and was easily defeated by Richard Nixon, of all people. Five years later Nixon himself would be brought down by Watergate less than a year after defeating another idealistic liberal, George McGovern.

What a time to be living in and a time to be involved in Democratic politics. I’ll never forget it.

Former Seattle Police Chief Says Decriminalize Drugs — all of them

In a column printed in today’s Seattle Times and originally published in the LA Times, former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper courageously and unequivocally comes out in favor of decriminalizing not just pot, but all drugs.

“I’ve never understood why adults shouldn’t enjoy the same right to use verboten drugs as they have to suck on a Marlboro or knock back a scotch and water,” says Stamper. “Will we be able to recognize the abuse of drugs, including alcohol, for what it is: a medical, not a criminal, matter?” he asks.

He further points out the rapidly increasing amount of prisoners in this country for drug charges. In 2003 over 1.6 million Americans were arrested on drug charges, triple the number 20 years earlier.

What a waste of resources; this is more than those arrests for murder, manslaughter, forcible rape and aggravated assault combined, not to mention more damaging corporate and white collar crimes.

Stamper, who has a new book out Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Expose of the Dark Side of American Policing, has always been a different kind of cop. He was very popular in Seattle until the World Trade Organization riots led him to resign. Now he lives quietly on an island in the Puget Sound when he is not out promoting his book.

He is a brave man and his ideas are worth discussing.

In one fell swoop he would get rid of the illicit profits that making drugs illegal has caused, not to mention the crimes and violence associated with illegal drugs. He also would free up billions of dollars currently spent enforcing the laws with the huge bureaucracy of the American justice system.

This is not to mention the medical benefits of marijuana and the added tax revenues that could be used for worthwhile purposes.