Sunday, October 31, 2010

The new Brazilian President

Dilma Rousseff is the first woman president of Brazil. Approved by Lula.


What a perfect combination: Halloween and Wicked.
The show about wicked witches, flying monkeys and the lasting consequences of bad PR comes to Toronto for the third time in five years. And it's easy to understand why the prequel to Wizard of Oz is such a crowd-pleaser. Like Harry Potter, Wicked captured a magic zeitgeist that put audiences under an unbreakable spell. There are currently eight productions of the show worldwide.
Of course, it all depends on the witches and both Jackie Burns and Chandra Lee Schwartz are excellent in this production.
The script doesn't exactly make sense (if Elphaba was such a talented witch, why couldn't she turn herself un-green?) but who cares? The show is imaginative, the acting and singing superb and the whole thing is wicked fun. (Sorry, couldn't resist...)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Biological Exuberance

Some fascinating facts from Biological Exuberance, a book by Canadian biologist and linguist Dr. Bruce Bagemihl about the variety of sexual behaviours in different species and how animals engage in an "assortment of non-procreative sexual activities."

Female grizzly bears, for instance, form couples and help raise each other's cubs.

Most male orcas, dolphins, Amazon botos, whales and other cetaceans masturbate each other.

Pretty much all female langurs are bisexual.

Male flamingo couples incubate, hatch and successfully raise foster chicks.

Coupled male Humboldt penguins on the other hand never acquire eggs to hatch together.

Male giraffes love "necking" with each other.

Transgendered deer are called "velvet horns."

Male bighorns are so into each other that females needs to pretend to be male to attract a mate.

Some elephant seals are transvestites, trying to act and look like females.

And of course female hyenas can mount each other.

Not to mention what all that waterfowl, shore birds, perching birds and songbirds get up to.

Nature has "heterosexual animals that never reproduce, homosexual animals that regularly procreate -- breeding and sexual orientation often combine in unexpected and paradoxical ways." Dr. Bagemihl's book points to a different way of seeing the natural world, and "perceiving broader patterns in nature and human society."

Friday, October 29, 2010

Only in Brazil

A fast-food manager in Porto Alegre sued McDonald's and won for having become fat over the 13 years he worked for the company. He claims he was forced to taste highly sweet and salty foods and that the meals provided to him were highly caloric. His name and picture were not released.

Word map

By German designer Dirk Schächter.

Tibet In Song

Still in the wake of the Dalai Lama, comes this amazing documentary about the slow and systematic demise of Tibetan culture by the Chinese government. Filmmaker Ngawang Choephel returned to Tibet to record the last folk songs of his people before they were all substituted for Chinese communist songs. All day long, loudspeakers blast obnoxious communist propaganda. The Tibetans, who used to have a song for pretty much every activity of the day, from milking cows to roofing -- simple melodies with haiku-like lyrics -- are caught between the death of their culture and oppressive tyranny and torture to adhere to the Chinese regime. Choephel himself spent 5 years in prison for recording these images, and many of his tapes were apprehended. Still, with what he had left, he was able to craft an immensely powerful testament to the genocide of a culture.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Museum of digital media

Adobe just inaugurated the first virtual museum dedicated to art created in the digital dimension: The Adobe Museum of Digital Media.

The virtual building, designed by Italian architect Filippo Innocenti, could actually be built and would span 50 stories in the real world.

The visuals are very slick and a tour of the building is a must. The tour guides are like flying jellyfish with a mechanical eye. Kinda creepy, but efficient.

Even though the Museum only has one exhibit so far, the intro video tour is really cool and what Adobe proposes is very promising. Since the Digital Revolution started, there has been no depository of art created for the medium. Besides, you can visit a museum without taking your butt off your chair.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My new favorite image

In the Amazon, a new species is found every three days.

The Trotsky

This Québécois production just got released on DVD and it might be the best high school comedy since Election. A super smart script and Jay Baruchel is excellent as always, playing the kid who thinks he's Leon Trotsky reincarnated.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Zélia Duncan

The Brazil Film Fest ended Sunday night with an intimate performance by Brazilian pop star Zélia Duncan. It ended a musical day at the Fest, which screened documetaries on Brazilian Music earlier in the day.

I had already watched Beyond Ipanema, but it was a great chance to enjoy once again this well-cut and energetic primer on Brazilian Music. The other doc, A Night in 67, was almost a re-broadcast of the Brazilian Music Festival of 1967, when some of the classics of Brazilian Music were being born. Brazil had a tradition of having very popular and heated music competitions like this in the 60s and 70s. Here you can see icons like Caetano Veloso, Chico Buarque, Gilberto Gil, Roberto Carlos and Os Mutantes in their early 20s and already producing amazing music. And everybody smoked in the set.

Zélia took the stage accompanied by two musicians and a diverse repertoire that went from samba to rap, a mix that is typical of her mixed-up career, as she likes to say. Her sound is more folksy than pop (her greatest idol is Canadian Joni Mitchell) but with enough hooks and melodic sensibility to make you sing along. And then there are the lyrics. Zélia is not only an accomplished composer, but also a very smart poet who bends Portuguese at her will.

Here's her performance of a hit from the Mutantes, a band she became part of in 2006 during their comeback sans Rita Lee.

She was very approachable at the end of the show and seemed genuinely interested in meeting her fans abroad. Zélia is also involved with a variety of cultural projects and it seems only natural that she would expand her reach overseas with her brand of Brazilian sound.

Wonder Woman Day

Yesterday was Wonder Woman Day. Here's to the most exceptional woman of all.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Religiously incorrect

The Dalai Lama seems ready to apply for a job at the McDonald's drive-through.

And isn't Jesus the ultimate zombie?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Zombie Walk

Some of the horrifying sights at Toronto's yearly walk of the undead.

The Dalai Lama

He's easy to love. He is friendly, humorous, humble and cuddly. He wears a visor and laughs often. The Pope he's not -- the Dalai Lama is way more popular. And the house was packed at the Rogers Centre Friday afternoon to prove it.

Before he gave us one hour and twenty-four minutes of his holy time, we were graced with some great dance and music from Tibet. While in town, the Dalai also inaugurated the new Canadian Tibetan Cultural Centre. Toronto is home to a large number of Tibetans in exile.

When the "Ocean of Wisdom" took his throne, his message was simple. Maybe a little too simple. Talk of peace, truth, justice, tolerance, even though a necessity, has become almost commonplace. His speech wasn't too different from what the Pope would deliver, for instance. His key word is compassion, and yes the world is in need of that more than ever right now. But we hear that so many times, that the message risks getting diluted and losing its effectiveness.

But he did deliver a few pearls too. He told us that too much self-centeredness creates fear, the demarcation between "us" and "them" in humankind is silly and how important it is to maintain enthusiasm and optimism.

Yes, the message is, and should be, simple -- but by turning it into a cliché, it risks becoming meaningless. As The Holy One himself told us, "words are empty without action."