Team Brazil: Brazilian Models Talk to Vogue About Soccer and Their Homeland

This post is going up on a Saturday, so I hope I can be forgiven for sharing something so insubstantial. A few Brazilian models recently shared their thoughts on Brazil and soccer with Vogue. This was for the June issue of that magazine. Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrósio, Isabeli Fontana, and Raquel Zimmermann don’t have anything profound to say in this video about Brazil’s history, current status or future, but they do share a light, personal perspective on their homeland.

One comment in particular that caught my attention was regarding soccer being for the boys, and fashion for the girls. This is, in fact, reality. Brazilian boys dream of becoming soccer stars, and the girls want to be fashion models. Fortunately in modern Brazil many outgrow these notions and are able to pursue other professions with more likelihood of success. It would be nice to see the country progress to the point where girls and boys dream of becoming astronauts, scientists and leaders in technology. This nation has its own Catholic saints, so now how about some Nobel Prize winners?

Note: I worked in the past for Condé Nast, owner of the Vogue brand, as a project manager.


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Bringing Brazilian Youth and U.S. Seniors Together In Language Learning

It’s such a simple idea, I don’t know how it hasn’t already been done. In Brazil there’s a strong demand for native English speakers in language courses (the demand is not generally reflected in what native speakers actually earn, mind you). In the United States there are many older people in nursing homes that have a lifetime of experience to share and a desire to talk. CNA, a language school chain in Brazil, has created a program to bring Brazilians students and American nursing home residents together to talk. I’m sure there’s something critical to be said about it and there are probably misunderstandings at times, but I’d rather focus on the positives. In so many ways this is a win-win for everyone involved.

RubyConf Brasil 2014

A few of the most formative years of my rebooted career in technology took place at a startup in New York. I learned a lot in my role there, so much that I became a web producer and later found my way into project management. This for a man who’s only prior experience in life outside of school was as as a clergyman, English teacher and in customer service. My only regret from that time is that I didn’t take full advantage of the opportunity to work in a Ruby shop and learn that programming language. I gave it a try after leaving that company, studying on my own and also attending classes and several Ruby on Rails meetups, but it ultimately didn’t go very far. My first experience with a programming was Python, which I enjoyed, by Ruby will always hold a special place for me.
That said, I’m glad to share the news that Brazil’s RubyConf will be taking place August 28-29 in São Paulo.  It is being put on by Locaweb and Code Miner 42, two fantastic Brazilian tech companies. I wish I could say I’ll be attending, but at this point nothing can be confirmed. If you are into Ruby and will be or can be in Brazil this August, it should be a great conference.

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Sambaland: Brazil in Stereotypes

Click image for enlarged view.

The image above was taken from a world map created by artist Martin Vargic. He spent a few months creating an incredibly detailed map displaying the stereotypes Westerners tend to have in mind regarding various locations around the world. He stresses that he does not share all these opinions, and has done this project to highlight negative outlooks. For more, you can view the full map and visit the page on his site where he explains the project in more depth.

As for Brazil, some of the descriptions seemed spot-on, which probably says more than about me (and not in a good way perhaps) than the map itself. Brazilians often complain to me that foreigners think Brazil is all jungle, or else that it’s just samba and soccer. Indeed, this is a nation rich in history, tradition and vibrant creativity that goes far beyond beaches. What do you think?


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Is Brazil ‘Too Crazy’?

The other day a friend from the U.S. saw the photo below, which I’d shared on Google+, and commented that he hoped it isn’t “getting too crazy down there” for me.

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No, it isn’t “too crazy,” although to hear the foreign press tell it you’d think the country was coming apart at the seams.
In my opinion, Brazil hosting the World Cup 2014 has long appeared to be the setup for a comedy of errors. The nation has been gaining ground against poverty and the people here are more connected with the outside world than ever before. People are making more trips overseas and are seeing how much cheaper and simpler it can be. Even those who don’t travel have access to the wider world via Internet. Slowly, people who have long known things weren’t quite right here are waking up to just how much better it could be. 
This scenario of a slightly better standard of living in general combined with more familiarity with life in the developed world is fueling anger against the existing system. Still, that isn’t the only reason for all the protests and strikes we’re seeing recently. It’s likely not even a primary motivation.
2014 is an election year, and the unions are tightly bound up with political parties and government officials. This would be a “strike season” anyway, and having so much at stake for the present powers that be with the upcoming World Cup just gives strikers that much more leverage. No one wants the buses parked and immigration offline when spectators start arriving next month. Further, the landless and homeless movements have a message that syncs up with the ongoing complaints from the general population over the World Cup and Olympics: Why billions for stadiums and so little for homes, schools and hospitals.
The government has tried to respond by showing that spending for the World Cup is only equivalent to around 10% of annual spending on education and public health. That’s not a very impressive reply, however. Combining school and hospital budgets inflates the numbers used in comparison, and in any case the World Cup preparations benefit an extremely small number of people. 
Still, it isn’t “too crazy.” As I said, we’d be seeing strikes right now no matter what. The proximity of the World Cup only aggravates the matter. I tend to suspect that once the 12th of June arrives the strikes will be mostly set aside, protests will be minimal and most Brazilians will just want to see the games. Tourists will arrive to incomplete airports and have to deal with poor mobile Internet reception and myriad other indignities of life in this country, but they’ll see past it. The charm of this country and the warmth of its people will overcome most of the negatives.

Brazil: Beyond Samba, Soccer and Beaches

His TED speaker page describes Misha Glenny as an “Underworld Investigator.” His talk, below, is one of the most accurate summaries of Brazilian history that I’ve ever heard from a non-Brazilian. Though, of course, my opinion has be be held suspect since I am also a foreigner in this country!

Currently in Brazil doing research for a book on the drug trade in Rio de Janeiro, Glenny has gained insight through extensive travels and deep conversations throughout this vast country. His talk urges visitors from other nations to see beyond the superficial and take in more of the rich and conflicted heritage of Brazil.


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Has Richard Dawkins Never Heard of Religious Humanism?

This seems really odd to me. Evolutionary scientist and outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins has expressed nostalgia for religious traditions, while still rejecting the supernatural aspect of religious faith. That part doesn’t surprise me at all, as it seems to me that ceremony, tradition and community are part of what makes human societies cohere and provides a sense of individual and collective meaning. What bothers me is that in referring to himself as a “secular Christian” he appears to be displaying a complete lack of familiarity with religious humanism.

In comments at the Hay Festival made in response to a Christian minister who shared that he does not accept the supernatural and instead focuses on the teachings of Jesus, Dawkins said: "“I would describe myself as a secular Christian in the same sense as secular Jews have a feeling for nostalgia and ceremonies.”

Perhaps we could assume that this “Distinguished Supporter” and Vice-President of the British Humanist Society knows about religious humanism, but thought it best to express his personal feelings in terms of a connection to Christianity. All well and good, except that he went on to say to the clergyman: “But if you don’t have the supernatural, it’s not clear to me why you would call yourself a minister.”

Many of the founders of the American Humanist Association were ministers with a predecessor to the Unitarian Universalist Association. Humanists and religious leaders, they also took a leading role in creating the first Humanist Manifesto in 1933. These people rejected supernatural beings but continued to see value in community and service. A “minister” at his or her best is someone who serves, and so there’s no reason I can see for Dawkins or anyone else to think that faith in the unseen is a prerequisite to ministerial work.

Is it possible that Richard Dawkins spent so much time arguing with theists that he hasn’t become familiar with the rich diversity of nontheists? Skeptics, freethinkers, humanists, atheists and agnostics come from a variety of backgrounds, possess a wealth of (sometimes conflicting) viewpoints and represent divergent histories of doubt. Religious humanism is most definitely a part of this picture.

For more on religious humanism:

Book Review: Becoming More Fully Human
Humanist Sermons from First Unitarian Society – Minneapolis
Unbelievers Assembled