Living in Brazil is Far Different from Visiting There

Recently I read with interest Danielle Restivo’s observations about lessons learned while working in Brazil for 7 weeks. Danielle is with LinkedIn in Canada, and was sent to São Paulo to work with the team there for a couple of months. Although she’d been to Brazil before, she found the experience to be different from merely visiting as a tourist. I dare say that if she were to spend more than a couple of months there she would have far deeper revelations that what she shared.

Rather than go into details now about my own experiences (I’ll leave that to future posts), I’ll simply offer here Danielle’s slideshow, as well as this link to her article. What she says I can fully confirm from personal observation.

Book Review: Because We Are

A few months ago, while attending The Justice Conference in Philadelphia, I saw a tweet about a new novel set in Haiti. I promptly downloaded it, and then just as quickly forgot about it. Just a couple of days ago I found it listed on my Kindle, and decided to give it a read. It turns out this is one of those books that, once you pick it up, is difficult to put down.

Because We Are: A Novel of Haiti” is far from what I expected. Though written by a white American man whose only apparent connection with the country is human rights work he did in-country in 2010, the story is told from the perspective of a preteen Haitian girl. Surprisingly, the author (Ted Oswald) somehow pulls it off.

This is no mere tale of woe about everyday misery. Rather, it’s a story of solidarity, a struggle against corrupt powers and overcoming against all odds. Even more unexpectedly, it’s a murder mystery.

The protagonist is Libéte, a young girl forced from her home when her mother dies of AIDS and forced to serve her aunt as a slave in the infamous Cité Soleil slum in Port-au-Prince. Written in a flash-forward, flash-back style that I’ve only seen in one other book I’ve read, Libéte’s story is told from her past and present in alternating sections. The other book I’ve read that was written in this fashion did not do it well, but “Because We Are” made sense with this format.

The novel covers a period starting a few years before the massive 2010 earthquake and ending perhaps a year or so afterward. It was gut-wrenching at times, and gave me a renewed respect for the struggles of the Haitian people.

All net proceeds from sales of this book go to human rights and development organizations in Haiti, but don’t buy it just for that reason. Buy it and read it because it is engaging food for the soul.

Film Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

Last Friday I went with a few friends to see the new “Star Trek Into Darkness” movie. Here are just a few thoughts.

First, there was a lot of action. Maybe too much, but that’s a matter of personal taste. What I found distracting was the repeated cycles of rising action, climax and resolution throughout the movie. All that action made the conclusion seem like a whisper by comparison.

Second, the logistics of the film make little sense. In the first movie of the rebooted franchise, the Enterprise seemed to make it to Vulcan in a matter of minutes. In this movie the situation was the same, with the ship seeming to arrive at Kronos also after only a few minutes. It didn’t look like lost time that could be implied. In the TV series and prior movies some trips, like these, could take days. It appears that in order to make the story work, the question of travel time had to be glossed over or ignored.

Third, lens flare. That is all.

Having said all of that, I actually did enjoy the movie. I enjoy the Star Trek franchise but have long found it to be full of shoddy science and overly-dramatic characters. That’s part of the fun. After all, it is supposed to be fun. This is entertainment, and I considered it well worth the price of admission.

A Temple on Stilts

Though I’m not “Mormon” and my beliefs differ significantly from those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have to admire the engineering involved in their rebuilding of the Provo Tabernacle. This building was gutted by fire in 2010, and subsequently the denominational leaders decided to rebuild and rededicate it as a full-fledged temple.

For those of you unfamiliar with Mormon ways, the difference between a tabernacle and a temple is that the former is open to the public and is used for communal worship and other events, while the latter is only open to the general public prior to its official consecration. LDS temples after consecration are only to be entered by full-fledged members in good standing with their church.

To function as a temple where all the secret ceremonies can be performed, the Provo structure will have to be given a basement. Thus, the “stilts.”

Critics point out all the money that is being spent on this that could be spent on the poor. Again, although I disagree with large portions of LDS doctrine, I am uncomfortable with those types of comments. First, because Judas Iscariot said something along those lines to Jesus. Second, because it leaves the critic open to the question, “what are you doing for the poor, then?”

Enjoy the video.

Clothe the Homeless with Abercrombie & Fitch

Abercrombie & Fitch has never been my kind of place. Aside from the fact I’m a man approaching middle age and so definitely not part of their target demographic, the place smells. Stinks, really. My daughter loves the store but I can’t stand to be in it very long because of the boys locker room odor that is apparently part of the brand identity. Every Abercrombie & Fitch store has the same stench. My reaction may be exactly what the clothing chain is going for, because as a self-described (and undisputed) geek, “boys locker room” does not bring back a lot of great memories for me. I imagine it does, however, for the “cool kids.” According to comments made by CEO Mike Jeffries, the store only wants the “cool kids” as customers.

Fine by me.

In response to Abercrombie & Fitch’s position, Greg Karber has called for a re-brand. He wants to make Abercrombie the brand of choice for America’s homeless.

I’m divided on this approach. On the one hand, I’m all for clothing those in need, and it’s certainly a poke in the eye for the down-and-out to be identified with the Abercrombie brand. On the other hand, it certainly seems exploitative towards the poor.

Here’s the video where Greg lays out his proposal for giving Abercrombie clothes to the homeless. What’s your opinion?