HMS Black Joke Seems Like A Hollywood Film Waiting To Be Written

HMS Black Joke (1827).jpg
via Wikipedia

I read about this historic ship today, built in Baltimore in the 1820s, used to transport slaves to Bahia, Brazil for a few years before the British Navy captured it. It was a fast, small and fierce ship, so they kept it in service as a slaver catcher.
From 1828 until it was decommissioned in 1832, HMS Black Joke freed thousands of slaves by capturing the boats transporting them.

When the Royal Navy ordered that Black Joke be burned, Peter Leonard, surgeon of HMS Dryad, wrote that she was the ship “which has done more towards putting an end to the vile traffic in slaves than all the ships of the station put together.”

Doesn’t this sound like the plot of a good movie? Maybe starring Idris Elba? Or someone like him in any case. In the Hollywood version, Elba is a slave, but freed, joins the crew, and rises through the ranks, yadda yadda. Who should the captain be? Russell Crowe already did a film based on the Master And Commander books, but maybe he’d make another navy epic? Maybe someone younger, like Robert Pattinson?

I’ll add it to my notebook of “Film Treatments I Really Should Write”, along with all the others…

Installation – Cildo Meireles – How to Build Cathedrals

Cildo Meireles -How to Build Cathedrals

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1948 –
Missão/Missões [Mission/Missions] (How to Build Cathedrals), 1987
600,000 coins, 800 communion wafers, 2,000 cattle bones, 80 paving stones, and black cloth

Cildo Meireles’s installation was first commissioned for an exhibition about the history of the Jesuits in southern Brazil. The artist created a contemplative space that functions as a critique of Jesuit missions established during colonial times to contain the indigenous Tupi-Guaraní people and convert them to Catholicism. The work’s symbolic elements reveal the complicit relationship between material power (coins), spiritual power (communion wafers), and tragedy (bones), while the black shroud and overhead lighting evoke ideas of life and death. Meireles’ use of cattle bones references the importance of ranching within the region’s colonial economy. Yet the bones’ physical resemblance to the human femur also alludes to the human losses associated with forced acculturation.

Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX

I took this photo April 2nd, 2017, and processed it in my digital darkroom on January 15, 2020.

I tried a few different versions of this photo (in my darkroom), one version brought up the mom’s visibility from the shadows, but I liked this one the best. The green of the background window added some additional color contrasts.

Drought-hit Sao Paulo Has Sixty Days Of Water Left

What Have We Done Wrong?
What Have We Done Wrong?

Wow, that’s crazy! Brazil is suffering through its worse drought in 80 years, but politics has impeded practical action being taken. Sound familiar? When are the water wars going to start getting violent in the US? Ten years? Five years? Twenty years?  

São Paulo, Brazil’s drought-hit megacity of 20 million, has about two months of guaranteed water supply remaining as it taps into the second of three emergency reserves, officials say.

The city began using its second so-called “technical reserve” 10 days ago to prevent a water crisis after reservoirs reached critically low levels last month.

This is the first time the state has resorted to using the reserves, experts say.

“If we take into account the same pattern of water extraction and rainfall that we’ve seen so far this month – and it’s been raining less than half of the average – we can say the (reserve) will last up to 60 days,” said Marussia Whately, a water resources specialist at environmental NGO Instituto Socioambiental.

But an expected increase in water usage during the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s holidays could easily reduce the time the reserve will last, she added.

After that period, there is no certainty over the water supply available to Brazil’s wealthiest city and financial center, Whately said.

A presidential election in October, which pitted the governing Workers Party (PT) against the opposition Social Democracy Party (PSDB), led São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin of the PSDB to delay taking action on the water shortage – such as ordering mandatory rationing – for fear of losing votes during his reelection campaign, experts say.


(click here to continue reading Drought-hit Sao Paulo may ‘get water from mud’: TRFN | Reuters.)

I’ve been watching the planet’s upcoming water crisis for many years, even before this blog existed, and other than desalinization becoming cheaper, or the vast oil/gas pipeline network being repurposed to carry water, there haven’t been many solutions proferred.  The next century will be interesting, in the sense of the (pseudo) Chinese proverb, “May You  Live In Interesting Times1

Looking Down Katie's Well
Looking Down Katie’s Well.

Dom Phillips writes in the Washington Post:

But critics say the state government, which controls the water company, played down the crisis because of October’s elections, in which the state’s governor, Geraldo Alckmin, was reelected. Critics say SABESP has failed to keep the population properly informed and to introduce enough effective measures to reduce consumption.

“It is not just the lack of water, which is critical, it is also not knowing how to manage the crisis,” said Carlos de Oliveira of the Brazilian Consumer Defense Institute in São Paulo. The institute only recently received key maps outlining the worst-hit areas — but they did not feature streets, just gradients. “Instead of supplying information, SABESP blames the consumer,” he said.

The water company said there is no rationing or rotating of the water supply — just nightly reductions in pressure to cut losses. Nobody believes it.

“There is rationing,” said Paulo Santos, manager of the elegant Condomínio Louvre building in São Paulo’s center, which has 320 apartments and 45 shops. Water is cut off most nights, starting about 10 p.m., Santos said. He maintains supply by keeping a 12,000-gallon tank full and is installing tanks to capture rainfall on a roof. “The residents are worried. They keep asking about the water,” he said.

(click here to continue reading Taps run dry in São Paulo drought, but water company barely shrugs – The Washington Post.)

Can You Show Me A Dream That's Better Than Mine?
Can You Show Me A Dream That’s Better Than Mine?

And more details from Bloomberg:

Brazil’s Jaguari reservoir has fallen to its lowest level ever, laying bare measurement posts that jut from exposed earth like a line of dominoes. The nation’s two biggest cities are fighting for what little water is left.

Sao Paulo state leaders want to tap Jaguari, which feeds Rio de Janeiro’s main source. Rio state officials say they shouldn’t suffer for others’ mismanagement. Supreme Court judges have summoned the parties to Brasilia for a mediation session this week.

The standoff in a nation with more water resources than any other country in the world portends further conflicts as the planet grows increasingly urban. One in three of the world’s 100 biggest cities is under water stress, according to The Nature Conservancy, a U.S.-based nonprofit.

“It’s unusual in that it’s two very large cities facing what could be a new, permanent conflict over the allocation of water,” said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a research organization in Oakland, California. “It’s a wake-up call that even places we think of as water-rich have to learn to do a better job of managing what’s ultimately a scarce resource. Nature doesn’t always cooperate with us.”

While Rio has so far remained mostly unaffected by the country’s worst drought in eight decades, that’s not the case for its neighbor to the south. More than half the Paulistas in a Datafolha poll last month said they had been without water at least once in the previous 30 days.

(click here to continue reading Water War Amid Brazil Drought Leads to Fight Over Puddles – Bloomberg.)

As The Evening Sky Grew Dark
As The Evening Sky Grew Dark…

Man-made destruction is at least partly to blame, of course

Antonio Nobre, a researcher at Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research and its National Institute for Amazonian Research, wrote in an e-mail that deforestation might be connected to the drought.

In October, Nobre published a scientific assessment report, which argued that clear-cutting has altered the Amazon forest’s climate — as evidenced by droughts in 2005 and 2010. The forest functions as a “biotic pump,” it said, channeling moisture down to São Paulo via “aerial rivers” that bounce off the Andes wall.

(click here to continue reading Taps run dry in São Paulo drought, but water company barely shrugs – The Washington Post.)

  1. The nearest related Chinese expression is “宁为太平犬,莫做乱世人” (níng wéi tàipíng quǎn, mò zuò luànshì rén) which conveys the sense that it is “better to live as a dog in an era of peace than a man in times of war.” []

Tim Maia – Nobody Can Live Forever

Tim Maia

Picked up a fun, buoyant new-to-me album of Brazilian funk and R&B, called The Existential Funk of Tim Maia, put out on the great Luaka Bop label in 2012. As a side note, I wish all music labels made web pages for every album they release, complete with liner notes, photos and lyrics.

In the early 1970’s, Brazilian popular music was approaching a high water mark of creativity and popularity. Artists like Elis Regina, Chico Buarque and Milton Nascimento were delivering top-shelf Brazilian pop, while tropicalists Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Os Mutantes (see World Psychedelic Classics 1) were entertaining the college set with avant-garde fuzz-pop poetry.

Enter Tim Maia with a massive cannonball into the pool. It was the only dive Tim knew. Standing just 5’7 (6′ with the Afro) Tim Maia was large, in charge and completely out of control. He was the personification of rock star excess, having lived through five marriages and at least six children, multiple prison sentences, voluminous drug habits and a stint in an UFO obsessed religious cult. Tim is also remembered as a fat, arrogant, overindulgent, barely tolerated, yet beloved man-child who died too young at the age of 55.

Painted Trees Overlooking LSD
Painted Trees Overlooking LSD

From the liner notes of the Tim Maia compilation, we laughed at this:

In 1971, fresh from the big hit of his first album, Tim went to London and spoiled himself. He smoked, inhaled, drank, traveled on acid, listened to music, argued with his wife and returned to Brazil with 200 doses of LSD to distribute amongst his friends. As soon as he arrived, he went to (recording company) Philips’ offices, which he called “Flips,” where he visited various departments, beginning with those he considered most “square,” like the accounting and legal departments, where he acknowledged the boss and repeated the same introduction, in a calm and friendly voice: “This here is LSD, which will open your mind, improve your life, and make you a better and happier person. It’s very simple: there are no side effects. It is not addictive and only does good. You take it like this . . . ”

He would place the acid in his mouth, swallow it and leave another at the front desk. Since he was one of the best-selling artists for the company, everyone thought it humorous. In the production and journalism departments, the gifts were a success. Even Andre Midani, the president of the company, received his.

Tim returned home in his jeep, certain that he had saved “Flips'” soul.

(click here to continue reading Tim Maia – Nobody Can Live Forever.)

The Caipirinha – New Favorite Summer Drink

The Caipirinha is my new favorite summer drink, replacing my old standby, a gin and tonic.

Wikipedia defines it thus:

Caipirinha (Portuguese pronunciation: [kajpiˈɾiɲɐ]) is Brazil’s national cocktail, made with cachaça (pronounced [kaˈʃasɐ]) (sugar cane rum), sugar and lime. Cachaça is Brazil’s most common distilled alcoholic beverage. While both rum and cachaça are made from sugarcane-derived products, most rum is made from molasses. Specifically with cachaça, the alcohol results from the fermentation of sugarcane juice that is afterwards distilled.

I made it for the first time for a small Rapture party, though I’ve had a caipirinha a couple of times at restaurants. A Flickr pal posted instructions on making this drink a few years ago, I loosely followed his instructions. His photos are better, so take a look if you need additional instructions.

I can see why they are such popular cocktails – fairly easy to make, very thirst quenching, and also easy to imbibe. Also easy to slurp down several before you realize it, so be careful. Luckily I have an Irish, green liver, and don’t feel any ill effects this morning.

Finally Bought a Bottle of Cachaça

The Cachaça itself: Velho Barreiro brand, which is briefly barrel aged.1 I bought it at Whole Foods of all places, but any liquor store worth visiting will have several varieties to choose from.

Limes, sliced

I took one lime, washed it, cut off the ends, and quartered it, twice. The juiciest lime will work the best of course, so don’t get those pale excuses for limes that litter produce sections.

Limes, Muddled with sugar

In a big and sturdy enough container, I added two sugar cubes to the lime bits, and muddled2 thoroughly. If I make caipirinhas on a regular basis, I might need a longer muddler, the one I own is a little too short to work well in my martini shaker. I ended up using the above pictured pyrex dish.

Crushed Ice For A Caipirinha

Threw a few ice cubes in the blender, and crushed them up.


Add about 2 oz of  Cachaça to your blend, drop in the glass, stir (I guess you could do all this in your martini shaker too, I was still figuring out proper portions, so used the glass as the final arbiter)

Caipirinha is too quickly gone

Drink! And repeat until you are doing the samba, bossa nova, or even the forró…

Postscript: I tried making a drink sans the sugar cubes, and while it was drinkable, it wasn’t as good. Cachaça is pretty strong, and the limes weren’t potent enough a mixer by themselves. But two sugar cubes3 are 20 calories worth of sugar, not a whole lot.

  1. I’d link to Velho Barreiro’s web site, but it seems to be only Adobe Flash files, with auto-playing music that can’t be turned off. So, no. []
  2. mashed, but with a muddler. I have one made by OXO, but there are other kinds []
  3. or if you get fancy, homemade powdered sugar – don’t use regular powdered sugar because it has additives like cornstarch – instead take some regular pure sugar and grind it up in  coffee grinder or similar []

Rio Wins 2016 Olympic Games

I’m with Andrew Huff of GapersBlock1, the Olympics games were not going to be a panacea for all the problems Chicago faces.

Went to Brazil

Not everyone was displeased. “My hope is that we’ll get back to paying attention to the problems that are facing the city on an ongoing basis,” said Andrew Huff, editor and publisher of Gaper’s Block, an independent Web site that covers local Chicago news. “We can concentrate on 2009 and 2010 instead of 2016. There are so many things we should be paying attention to rather than whether we’re going to host an event in the future.”

[Click to continue reading Rio Wins 2016 Olympic Games –]

Eric Zorn and Dennis Byrne expressed similar sentiments: funnel all the cash that would have been spent preparing for a two week event seven years from now into lasting improvements for the city right now.

Now that the U.S. Olympic Committee has killed Chicago’s fledgling bid for the 2016 Summer games, we’re free from all the fuss, headaches and financial risks of that event.

While Los Angeles stews and spends for the next 30 months until the International Olympic Committee choose a host city, Chicago can get on with the business of building and improving this region for people who live here rather than in preparation for a momentary burst of tourists, athletes and reporters nine summers from now.

an insider wrote into Talking Points Memo, one possible reason for Chicago not being chosen, the bad reputation the US Immigration policies have:

Id prefer to not have my name published if you post any of this, but I wanted to give you some inside perspective on the Olympic planning as I had the privilege to work and help with some of the architecture and planning proposal for Chicago’s Bid.
Mainly, this is just an email to say that regardless of the headline on Drudge, and your comment that the IOC might not enjoy being “big-footed” by Obama, that is not the case. In fact, it was probably helpful, even though we were voted out in the first round. Almost every other country has their leader making personal appearances in support of major international architecture and planning endeavors, but the American president. There have been a number of projects, New Mariinsky Theater in St Petersberg, Russia (for example), where all the finalists, were supported by the leader of their country in having a call placed to the committee, however, the US architect/planner never receives that level of support or interest from the President. So it can only be refreshing to have the President support its country in these types of selections.

A few months ago, (getting back to the Olympic selection) it was made clear to us that Chicago was going to have some difficulty in gaining the selection for a number of reasons including that we have had a large percentage of games hosted here, but most importantly, that we do not have the best international reputation at this time, and it is well known that it is a frustrating and difficult process compared to the other host countries for travelers to gain admittance into the US. There was not a lot that could be done with our planning about this, but it was still brought up as an unofficial “official” concern of the IOC. I think Obama’s visit was prob in some effort to help remove this concern from the selection committee. I would say from knowledge of work on this bid, as well as having produced work to assist with London’s planning effort for Foreign Office Architects in London (before starting my own practice in Chicago) that there was little chance that the decision would be able to be changed this late in the game, and that at this point (the last week), most of the IOC already knows their rankings, and are just discussing the top two. So, again, regardless of Obama’s influence (or lack of), at best, all he would have been able to do was help push over the top, or slightly hurt, but not much more. The decision was most likely already made that Chicago would not host it a few weeks ago by the IOC.

[Click to continue reading Not Their Kinda Town | Talking Points Memo]

Chicago 2016 Olympic

I hope Rio has a great Olympic games, I’ve always wanted to visit there actually.

  1. notice a link to them over on my sidebar? []

Reading Around on September 18th through September 21st

A few interesting links collected September 18th through September 21st:

  • Back Issues : The New Yorker

    “Today we launch Back Issues, formerly a department in our News Desk blog, as its own blog on In the coming weeks and months, we’ll use this space to delve through more than eighty years of New Yorker history, with an eye to relating that history to the happenings of the day. Our chief goal will be to make this vast resource approachable and useful to our readers.”

    maybe its just my inner historian, but I love looking at news coverage from years before I was born

    Melrose Park Speakeasy.jpg

  • Chicagoans for Rio 2016 – It would be exciting to host the Olympics here in Chicago. But you know what would be even better? Rio De Janeiro. Just let Rio host the 2016 Olympics. We don’t mind. Honest.
  • In defense of ACORN | Salon

    To claim that the stupid behavior of a half-dozen employees should discredit a national group with offices in more than 75 cities staffed by many thousands of employees and volunteers is like saying that Mark Sanford or John Ensign have discredited every Republican governor or senator. Indeed, the indignation of the congressional Republicans screaming about ACORN and the phony streetwalker is diluted by the presence of at least two confirmed prostitution clients — Rep. Ken Calvert and Sen. David Vitter — in their midst. Neither of those right-wing johns has been even mildly chastised by their moralistic peers. Nobody is cutting off their federal funding.


  • suburban romps.jpg
  • A Significant Bullet – From the press kit for Herzog’s new film Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans: “I call upon the theoreticians of cinema to go after this one. Go for it, losers.”

Psychedelic Tea Brewing In Santa Fe

Oh come on, I wonder how many opponents of this church’s sacrament know anything at all about hoasca? If their only information comes from the DEA, no wonder they are worried. They needn’t be.

A secretive religious group that fought a long legal battle for the right to drink hallucinogenic tea in pursuit of spiritual growth now plans to build a temple and greenhouse in a wealthy community here — to the dismay of local residents.

The church was founded in Brazil in 1961 and remains most popular there, but about 150 people in the U.S., including about 60 in Santa Fe, practice the faith, which goes by the Portuguese name Centro Espírita Beneficente União do Vegetal, or UDV. Members say the church is based on Christian theology but also borrows from other faiths and finds spirituality in nature.

Since the U.S. branch of the religion emerged in the late 1980s, practitioners have imported from Brazil their sacramental tea, known as hoasca, which is brewed from two Amazonian plants and contains the psychedelic compound dimethyltryptamine, or DMT. The U.S. government classifies DMT as a Schedule I controlled substance, the same designation given to heroin and marijuana. But in a unanimous ruling in 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the UDV had the right to use hoasca in its ceremonies.

Now, the Santa Fe branch has drawn up plans to build a greenhouse for growing their own sacred plants, a ceremonial kitchen for brewing the tea and a 7,100-square-foot temple, complete with a children’s nursery and foot-thick walls to ensure privacy.

[Click to continue reading Psychedelic Tea Brews Unease –]

Plants are not demons, treating farmers like they are the enemy of civilization is not a helpful attitude. Since eating the flesh and blood of your god is ok, why not a tea that opens up your consciousness?

[Aya-preparation, via Wikimedia Commons]

Hoasca, or as it is more frequently referred to, Ayahuasca is not a party drug, despite the morons in the DEA classifying it as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.

Ayahuasca (ayawaska pronounced [ajaˈwaska] in the Quechua language) is any of various psychoactive infusions or decoctions prepared from the Banisteriopsis spp. vine, usually mixed with the leaves of dimethyltryptamine-containing species of shrubs from the Psychotria genus. It was first described academically in the early 1950s by Harvard ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes who found it employed for divinatory and healing purposes by Amerindians of Amazonian Colombia.

Sections of B. cap vine are macerated and boiled alone or with leaves from any of a number of other plants, including Psychotria viridian (chacruna) or Diplopterys cabrerana (also known as chaliponga). The resulting brew contains the powerful hallucinogenic alkaloid N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), and MAO inhibiting harmala alkaloids, which are necessary to make the DMT orally active. Though B. cap is a central ingredient in traditional ayahuasca brews, harmala-containing plants from other plant-medicine cultures, such as Syrian Rue, can be used instead of the vine to make an ayahuasca analogue, yet it isn’t considered ayahuasca, as Caapi vine is considered the main plant in the brew.

Brews can also be made with no DMT-containing plants; Psychotria viridian being substituted by plants such as Justicia pectorals, Brugmansia, or sacred tobacco, also known as Mapacho (Nicotiana rustic), or sometimes left out with no replacement. The potency of this brew varies radically from one batch to the next, both in strength[clarification needed] and psychoactive effect, based mainly on the skill of the shaman or brewer, as well as other admixtures sometimes added and the intent of the ceremony.[citation needed] Natural variations in plant alkaloid content and profiles also affect the final concentration of alkaloids in the brew, and the physical act of cooking may also serve to modify the alkaloid profile of harmala alkaloids

[Click to continue reading Ayahuasca – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

Reading Around on July 2nd through July 3rd

A few interesting links collected July 2nd through July 3rd:

  • Dovecote Records Limewire is a bunch of hypocrites Gets mad at Us for stealing

    Woman: “Who the FUCK are you? And why are you eating our pizza?”

    Kosuke: Well our friend came in and told us there was free pizza at the bar. We are. So. Sorry. It was a misunderstanding.

    Woman: (with unbridled entitlement) This is a company party our CEO is here and you STOLE our pizza. Are you from out of town? Because let me tell you, NOTHING is free in New York City. Nothing is free… well maybe except for the condoms in Times Square.

    Paul and Kosuke continue apologizing. They offer to pay for the two slices.

    Woman: (didactically snobbish) We don’t want your money. No. Enjoy the pizza, but you can’t steal other people’s things. You can’t take what’s not yours

    Kosuke: What company do you guys work for?

    Woman: We work for Limewire.

    <Long pause> Kosuke’s eyes go wide. Anger festers in his pupils.

    Kosuke: Oh ok. Well I work at a record label so fuck you. You’ve stolen from us enough. (Bites pizza. Begins to walk away.)

  • That’s Right! I Said It’s Caipirinha Time! on Flickr – Photo Sharing! – Every time I look at Friendly Joe’s awesome caipirinha making instructional Flickr page, I get a mighty, mighty thirst.

    “Caipirinhas are the Brazilian national drink. That said, we won’t conject on the overall condition of the Brazilian populace at large. No worries- They’re refreshing and the weather’s warmin’ up –
    Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll be ready to samba in your neighbor’s flower beds in no time… “

  • Tour № 2 – Ogden Avenue Extension | Forgotten Chicago

    “Left: A brief aside, in case you forgot who built this damn city!

    Right: Remnants of Ogden’s bridge supports are still visible south of Division Street.”

  • Saddam And Goldman Sachs: Who Is The Student, And Who Is The Master?

    The funniest part is, you could legitimately argue that Goldman Sachs has killed more people than Saddam.

Cachaca, national drink of Brazil, is fire in a glass

I’ve only had caipirinhas twice, but I loved them (though, my head didn’t love me the next day). Unfortunately, I have yet to make a trek to Brazil, though it is on my short list.

Went to Brazil

“A pair of them will make you leap like [a] Playtex Girdle-gal,” wrote Charles H. Baker Jr. in his eccentric 1951 work, “The South American Gentleman’s Companion.”

His racy description captures the effect of cachaca (ka-SHA-sa), the Brazilian national drink with a sweet, fiery flavor that can pack a macho punch. Though often compared to a young white rum (both spring from sugar cane, though rum is made from molasses, a byproduct of refining cane into sugar, and cachaca is distilled from fermented cane), this spirit has a more devilish reputation all its own.

Indeed, though exported brands are roughly 80 proof, more potent bottles are the norm in Brazil. The spirit is popping up more and more here, with a movement toward higher-quality, more refined versions.

“The cheap stuff was all that was available for a long time in the United States,” says Joshua Pearson, beverage director of Sepia restaurant. “We’re definitely seeing more artisan products. … It becomes a nice spirit you can drink without adding tons of fruit juice or sugar.”

The most famous cachaca cocktail is the caipirinha (kai-pee-REEN-ya), a refreshing combo of cachaca, sugar and lime juice served on the rocks. Aged gold cachaca is often served neat.

[Click to read more Cachaca, Brazil’s national drink, is fire in a glass — Bill Daley,]

Wonder where to get the best cachaca in Chicago? Sams, perhaps?

Kassin +2 Touring

“Futurismo” (Kassin + 2)

Hitting the Old Town School of Folk here in the Big Potato, and other places too

December 13, 2008
Old Town School of Folk
Chicago, IL

Kassin + Domenico + Moreno = The Plus 2’s, LIVE!!!
For the past few years, Kassin has been one of the most exciting names in Brazilian music. From his Monoaural Studio in Gavea he has produced records by singers like Marisa Monte and Bebel Gilberto and made an album from the bleeps of a Gameboy. He has played bass for Caetano Veloso’s live shows and masterminded the Orchestra Imperial project, in which samba classics are given a modern twist by a loose and ever-expanding live band. And given his status as a leader of Brazil’s musical avant-garde, the biggest surprise from the +2’s latest release, Futurismo, which Kassin wrote and produced, is its bossa-rooted accessibility.

The tracks on Futurismo are melodic gems. They were written at different periods in Kassin’s life and recorded quickly, mostly on acoustic instruments with electronic flourishes added later. Fellow band members Moreno Veloso and Domenico Lancelott join Kassin for the live presentation of these songs.

Kassin told Yahoo’s Spinner blog: “The tour will be based on the last album (Futurismo) with parts of the previous 3 albums we have along with the new material we are writing. We have many new songs and have been playing this new material live. We are enjoying our lives a lot these days and we are pretty excited to go back to the USA.”

[From Welcome to Luaka Bop]

Sounds interesting, but not sure if I’ll be in town to see them. Bummer.

Forca Bruta

Another Quickie Review

“Forca Bruta” (Jorge Ben)

The guitar rhythms circle around a moving middle, makes me move my belly button in concentric ovals in my chair. Huge thumbs up.
From the Amazon blurb

First time on CD in the US – and first time in the world in over 15 years! A groundbreaking album from the young Jorge Ben – one of Brazil’s most soulful singers ever – heard here at a pivotal point in his career! Forca Bruta is a record forever transformed Brazilian music with its unique blend of samba and soul – and it features some tremendous rhythm work from Trio Mocoto – who bring in a wide variety of percussion techniques to make the whole thing groove. There’s an earthy, laidback feel to the whole set – one that makes the album feel like a spontaneous expression of genius, even at the few points when larger orchestrations slide into the mix. The album’s easily one of Jorge Ben’s greatest – and it’s a much-heralded Brazilian treasure that’s finally getting reissued!

Brazilian visionary Gilberto Gil

Banda Larga

We’ve expressed support for Gilberto Gil previously1, but the subject of technology and music is still newsworthy:

Artists such as Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails recently enjoyed huge publicity windfalls by distributing their music for free on-line, but they’ve got a way to go before catching up to Brazilian singer Gilberto Gil as digital visionaries.

Long before peer-to-peer file sharing turned the music world into a free-for-all, Gil was distributing his songs on the Internet.

He launched his own Web site in 1996, began streaming his music for listeners to audition, and officially released the first song by Brazilian artist through the new medium. It was a stage in a journey that has obsessed him for a half-century. In the ‘60s he wrote the song “Electric Brain,” which presaged his Internet breakthrough three decades later, and his latest album is titled “Banda Larga” (Warner), or “The Broad Band,” in part a manifesto for a more democratic future driven by technology.

“It has been a dream of mine for a long time, this world we live in now,” Gil said in an interview from his office in Brazil. “It is a natural outcome, a world in which technology allows universal access. It makes music and tools available to large parts of society that didn’t have that kind of access before.”

That “natural outcome” is still a few years off from reaching the poorest of the poor in Brazil, a vast country in which many citizens in the remote interior still do not have electricity, let alone computers.

Which is why Gil, in his latest guise as his country’s minister of culture, is spearheading a project to ensure that each child in the country has a laptop within the next few years.

[Click to read more of Turn It Up – Brazilian visionary Gilberto Gil leads a second revolution]

Viva Mr. Gil! Computer technology has been a commodity long enough so that the basic building materials are available for pennies. Why shouldn’t access to computers be a basic human right?

“The electronic culture is our future, and it needs to be open to everyone as quickly as possible,” he says. “I consider it my main goal as a politician.”

It’s not a role one would’ve predicted for Gil. In the ‘60s, he and fellow iconoclast Caetano Veloso were thrown out of Brazil by the dictatorial government for making music that openly questioned the status quo. Gil, Veloso and a handful of young artists led the subversive Tropicalia movement, which melded Brazilian sounds with rock and avant-garde music. Tropicalia embraced hybrids of seemingly incompatible styles, and tacitly celebrated the multiracial makeup of Brazil’s population. It was a time when music played a critical role in pushing a nation forward, at great personal risk.

“Gil himself, with his incredible ear and mastery of the guitar, his pulverizing sense of rhythm, was a constant promise that the limitations of our environment could be overcome,” Veloso wrote in his memoir, “Tropical Truth: A Story of Music and Revolution in Brazil” (Knopf).

  1. at this blog’s previous address, and one article republished already []

João Gilberto’s Pioneering Records In a Legal Limbo

“The Legendary João Gilberto” (João Gilberto)

This is really a shame, I’ve often wanted to hear these albums, and have hoped eventually the copyright issue would get settled.

A NUMBER of notable concerts of Brazilian music around the world this year, including one by João Gilberto next Sunday at Carnegie Hall as part of the JVC Jazz Festival, are being advertised with the line “50 Years of Bossa Nova.” Mr. Gilberto is considered by many to have defined the musical form, which was embraced internationally and has never really gone away in Brazil. Yet Mr. Gilberto’s first three albums, some of the best music of the 20th century, have largely been unavailable.

For 10 years or so they haven’t been in record stores, nor on (unless you’re willing to pay $100 or more for used copies) nor on iTunes. The only way you may have found them was through illegal file sharing, or, if you were lucky enough, to know someone who had copies. This is a weird turn of events in an age that keeps valuable cultural artifacts at close reach.

After 1997, when Mr. Gilberto sued EMI, his former record label, the company ceased manufacturing the albums. Mr. Gilberto and his manager declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but according to Ana Trajan, a lawyer at EMI Brazil, the music is still caught in a long legal process. There are no plans for its reissue, despite a 50th anniversary being the obvious moment.

Bossa nova, a subtle, rustling music with jazz harmony, chamber-music dynamics, samba rhythm and close-miked emphasis on voice and guitar, began when the Brazilian recording industry, and the Brazilian economy, was at a high. It may have gestated in 1957 in clubs around Rio’s borough of Copacabana, or even a year earlier in the state of Minas Geraes, in the confines Mr. Gilberto’s sister’s tiled bathroom, where Mr. Gilberto played in isolation for eight months, forming his intimate voice-and-guitar sound.

And then came Mr. Gilberto’s album, “Chega de Saudade,” recorded in 1958 and 1959. The songs on that record, and on his next two — “O Amor, o Sorriso e a Flor” and “João Gilberto” — were very nearly the first examples of a new musical style. More important, they permanently defined that style. Bossa nova is the rare example of a music whose lines of history and influence keep tracing, more or less, to one person — something you can’t say for blues or jazz or country or rock ’n’ roll. It’s rarer still that the person is still alive and performing.

[Click to read more of Music – João Gilberto’s Pioneering Bosso Nova Records Are Caught in a Legal Limbo –]

Glancing at my iTunes library, I only have one João Gilberto album, a extremely listenable collaboration with saxophonist Stan Getz, that you’ve probably heard snippets from in various films:

“Getz/Gilberto” (Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto, Astrud Gilberto)

Originally released in March 1964, this collaboration between saxophonist Stan Getz and guitarist João Gilberto came at seemingly the end of the bossa nova craze Getz himself had sparked in 1962 with Jazz Samba, his release with American guitarist Charlie Byrd. Jazz Samba remains the only jazz album to reach number one in the pop charts. In fact, the story goes that Getz had to push for the release of Getz/Gilberto since the company did not want to compete with its own hit; it was a good thing he did.Getz/Gilberto, which featured composer Antonio Carlos Jobim on piano, not only yielded the hit “Girl from Ipanema” (sung by Astrud Gilberto, the guitarist’s wife, who had no professional experience) but also “Corcovado” (“Quiet Night”)–an instant standard, and the definitive version of “Desafinado.” Getz/Gilberto spent 96 weeks in the charts and won four Grammys. It remains one of those rare cases in popular music where commercial success matches artistic merit. Bossa nova’s “cool” aesthetic–with its understated rhythms, rich harmonies, and slightly detached delivery–had been influenced, in part, by cool jazz. Gilberto in particular was a Stan Getz fan. Getz, with his lyricism, the bittersweet longing in his sound, and his restrained but strong swing, was the perfect fit. His lines, at once decisive and evanescent, focus the rest of the group’s performance without overpowering. A classic.

“Bossa Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music That Seduced the World” (Ruy Castro)

Oh, and I’ll have to look out for this book:

Ruy Castro’s authoritative history of bossa nova was published here in 2000 as “Bossa Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music That Seduced the World.” Naturally, its Brazilian title was “Chega de Saudade,” and naturally, a portrait of Mr. Gilberto was its centerpiece

When I make my long-awaited sojourn to Brazil, I’ll have to look for this version, remastered or not:

The three original LPs were collected together on a remastered, three-album vinyl version, called “O Mito” (“The Myth”), released by EMI Brazil in 1988 (a CD version was released in Brazil in 1992). In 1990 the collection was released in the English-language market by EMI’s World Pacific imprint, as “The Legendary João Gilberto.”

Mr. Gilberto sued EMI in 1997, contending that the old music had been poorly remastered. A statement by his lawyer at the time declared that the reissues contained sound effects that “did not pertain to the original recordings, banalizing the work of a great artist.”

There were also other issues. Luiz Bannitz, the legal director at EMI Brazil from 1999 to 2004, said that the royalty rate in EMI’s old contract with Mr. Gilberto, drawn up in the 1950s, was very low by current standards — “less than 5 percent,” he said. The court ruled in 2002 that EMI should raise his royalty rate to 18 percent, but Mr. Gilberto began a series of appeals on other decisions related to the case; the lawsuit is still pending a superior tribunal court decision.

For good or ill, it is the remastered, early ’90s CD version of this music that I keep in my head. I have heard an old, pre-remastering Brazilian LP pressing of the album “Chega de Saudade,” and the remastered version has some perhaps unnecessary reverb and a more spacious sound-picture, a result of turning mono originals into stereo — the standard practice during the early years of CD reissues. As a consequence the balance of instruments sounds slightly reshuffled; the percussion, for instance, is louder.

Gilberto Gil for head of the RIAA

As discussed previously in these parts, Mr. Gil has my vote to run (and change the corporate DNA) of the RIAA. Copyright law should not be used as a club to keep corporate control of content, for all time.

Expresso 2222
“Expresso 2222” (Gilberto Gil)

Music: Gilberto Gil Hears the Future, Some Rights Reserved :

Gilberto Passos Gil Moreira, part musician and part policymaker, has emerged as a central player in the global search for more flexible forms of distributing artistic works.

ON Wednesday the Brazilian minister of culture, Gilberto Gil, is scheduled to speak about intellectual property rights, digital media and related topics at the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference in Austin, Texas. Two nights later the singer, songwriter and pop star Gilberto Gil begins a three-week North American concert tour.

Rarely do the worlds of politics and the arts converge as unconventionally as in the person of Mr. Gil, whose itinerary includes a solo performance at Carnegie Hall on March 20. More than 40 years after he first picked up a guitar and sang in public, Gilberto Passos Gil Moreira is an anomaly: He doesn’t just make music, he also makes policy.

And as the music, film and publishing industries struggle to adapt to the challenge of content proliferating on the Internet, Mr. Gil has emerged as a central player in the global search for more flexible forms of distributing artistic works. In the process his twin roles have sometimes generated competing priorities that he has sought to harmonize.

As a creator of music, he is interested in protecting copyrights. But as a government official in a developing country celebrated for the creative pulse of its people, Mr. Gil also wants Brazilians to have unfettered access to new technologies to make and disseminate art, without having to surrender their rights to the large companies that dominate the culture industry.

After returning to Brazil in the 1970s he made records that urged black Brazilians to reconnect with their African roots, and was an early champion here of Bob Marley and reggae. But Mr. Gil has also read widely in Asian philosophy and religions and follows a macrobiotic diet, leading the songwriter, producer and critic Nelson Motta to describe his style as “Afro-Zen.”

In person Mr. Gil is warm, calm and engaging, a slim, dreadlocked figure with an elfin, humorous quality that tends to disarm critics. As both individual and artist he has always tended to be open-minded and eclectic in his tastes; the poet Torquato Neto once said of him, “There are many ways of singing and making Brazilian music, and Gilberto Gil prefers all of them.”