Elephant poacher truths

I was wrong in saying the poachers needed the money to live. Instead, according to news reports, the poachers who are destroying their own ecosystem are terrorists financing their insurgency with the ivory. It is so very painful to hear of these atrocities, which will continue as long as ivory markets flourish. It isn’t only the Chinese who are buying ivory jewelry and sculptures, but the Thais and other east Asians are just as bad. At $1500 a pound of the tusks the slaughter continues. 

And rhinos and tigers are dying for the most specious of reasons. Rhino horns do not cure illnesses; it is a myth the Chinese have endorsed for at least two centuries. I saw an affecting banner on an animal rescue site recently featuring a tiger and the caption: I AM NOT A RUG.

I cannot bear it. Where is God?



Interview for The Snake Woman of Ipanema

I sat for a video interview last Saturday for my novel The Snake Woman of Ipanema which proved, again, my powers of speech, meaning that I went constantly off topic, according to my interviewer Howard VanEs. I thought I was expanding on how and why I was led to researching and writing that book but I wasn’t the one having to edit the video to a final three-to-five minutes. 

Howard tried and tried to rein me in with various tics and subtle hand gestures but I went on, serenely confident in his editing prowess. There was so much to tell. Brazil is a country of many layers. Like the United States, she was settled by explorers of another land, and like the United States those settlers went to Africa and captured people there to bring back to work their plantations. And the slaves were forced to convert to Catholicism, but slyly converted their new religion in their own version.The difference between the two histories is that there was no war of emancipation. Under the reign of Dom Pedro II of Portugal, complete emancipation was decreed in 1888. 

Thus, bloodshed and bad feelings were averted, though a not-so-subtle division exists between the resulting mix-blood race and white people. At cocktail parties, the mostly pure caucasian engineers and businessmen, when I asked their opinion of the spirit rituals that take place in the thousands every night throughout Brazil, invariable opined that while they didn’t practice any of the rituals there was most definitely “something there.” It was known, however, through my other sources, that white office workers seeking to advance in their jobs did attend the terreiro (spirit ritual), commonly to “open their road” at work. There are less innocent terreiros (voodoo is a tourist term) and at least a dozen spirit sects, of which Umbanda and Candomble are the best known. The practice of Quimbanda, the black arts, is prohibited by the government, which of course is laughable. In Snake Woman Quimbanda is very much present.

There was so much to tell in the video interview. Poor Howard. 



Contraception vs. The Supreme Court

The clishmaclash running on in the news is reaching absurdity. The facts are obscured so that people are led to believe no contraceptive devices of any sort are allowed women under their health plans paid for by their employers. That is not true. There is a choice. And the fact that they have employers signifies they have an income and perhaps can afford to purchase their own contraceptives. 

The several Catholic clerics throwing their weight into this controversy, presumably protecting their flocks, prove their detachment from the real world. Or maybe they know very well how things stand but believe they can eliminate sexual intercourse by prohibiting the disbursement of contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act.

It certainly does not hurt to limit population growth, although that statistic in the United States has been declining as more people (those in control of themselves) delay having children. Worldwide, we are now over the 7 billion range and our worn-out, abused Earth is gasping for air. I hear Pope Francis tweets. If for no other reason, perhaps I should tweet him. But do you think that would make a dent in his dogged, dogmatic beliefs? As open to reform as this new pope proves himself to be, he still fails to see reality.

Elephants, Tigers, Rhinos, and Bears

I posted this rant elsewhere and am adding it here because of recent media reports:

The continued depredations on these hapless animals drive me mad. I can almost understand — no, actually, I do — the need of poachers to make a living, but the final recipients of those bloody spoils should have their teeth and bile extracted as well as their hands chopped off for trophies. My mother’s people the Chinese have exceeded their hellish materialistic graspings of the fruits of their new wealth to new depths.

When the commies marched into Shanghai, where I lived as a young teen, “capitalists” and landlords began jumping off high buildings. It was that, or arrest and torture. But no one mentions the irony of the billionaires who are as noxious as the old-time ones were not.

Yet world economics demand that we trade; we are linked, knotted together in mutual need and mistrust until the air we breathe has finally poisoned every single human being, rich or poor.

Number 10 Dixwell Road

Hongkew, where we lived at #10 Dixwell Road, was a district in Shanghai before the commies changed names drastically, most of the new ones commemorating their bloody revolution.
<br>There was a large Japanese community living there and during WWII pedestrians were frequently accosted by women and children asking you to contribute a single stroke of an ink brush on a white silk scarf. They showed you where to place the stroke, which was part of a Japanese ideogram signifying “Victory” or “Strength” or some such word for the Kamikaze pilot destined to wear the scarf.

I was eight or nine years old at the time and was ineligible to do anything of the sort, but my parents and 11-year-older sister were stopped. I don’t recall whether they added a stroke or not, but they were not sympathetic to the Japanese side of the war. Did they add a stroke on the scarf? I don’t know, and as a child didn’t have any interest in knowing. And I think the destinies of Kamikaze pilots were not so widely understood at the time. Think of it, though. The hapless men going up for the final time in their lives believing fiercely in their mission. If their war could have been won on their determination and sacrifice alone, it would have been.

And now, in the frequent turnarounds of history, they are our allies, and China — once the U.S.’s ally — is at a standoff with us and only friendly through commercial ties. And Russia? Never mind. Germany an ally as well, though our ties have become…..strained lately, in a diplomatic sense. Our globe spins faster and faster due to technology, populations pile upon each other, breathing good air is becoming a rarity, wildlife is killed off — elephants persecuted for the sake of money and art — and I don’t want to be around in this life much longer.

About Brazilian Airport Customs

A jeweler I know was about to travel to Brazil, and I was reminded of something important to tell him, something that happened to another jeweler, my brother-in-law, Franco. Actually, this warning could apply to anyone stopping over who decided to check valuables with customs on arrival rather than take them into town.

Franco was returning from a buying trip in Milano and stopped over in Rio de Janeiro before continuing to Paraguay, where he and his family had settled after leaving Italy. He checked his locked valise with customs. The valise contained $80,000 worth of merchandise. He returned to the airport next day, produced his receipt and passport, and retrieved the valise from customs.

On boarding his flight he realized the weight of the bag did not feel right. He then unlocked it — and found it filled with stones. The flight was taking off and he could not disembark.

Did he return later and file a complaint? Call the police? Fight the customs authorities? Find recourse through the government? Forget it. He was up against a wall of resistance and layers of bureaucracy, and he surrendered rather than fight.

It took him years to recover from that loss. He had not yet paid the manufacturers for the merchandise, expecting to do so routinely after sale of the goods. And he had thought to avoid being robbed in the city!

The Brazilian Beetle

While Renato worked on his hydroelectric project, I got myself a job at the American School of Rio de Janeiro in the headmaster’s office. The school sat on a steep hill across from the Rocinha favela (slum) and for a few months I got to work via bus–until Renato surprised me one day with a white Beetle bearing the license plates LB1111 (it hangs in our California garage today–the plate, not the car).

I found my own parking spot that no one else seemed to covet under a jaboticaba tree and soon discovered why not. In high season the cherry-shaped fruit rained down on my car and left near-indelible purple splotches all over it. Brazilian drivers passing me would chortle and call out “Caught you, estrangeira! (foreigner!)

I wondered why no one on the school staff thought to mention the perils of jaboticaba but realized it was a sort of rite of passage for the new hire. Even the American members of the faculty had kept mum. But I couldn’t keep a grudge because it was my turn next to watch a newbie park his/her car in that spot.

Then there were the spirit offerings under trees that intrigued me. I learned to distinguish which entity the various settings were for: a bowl of manioc grain with a chicken leg on top, accompanied by an opened bottle of Coca Cola was meant for Yemanja, the Virgin Mary; the manioc and a bottle of beer, for Oxala, Jesus; and the manioc with cachaca–cane liquor, for Exu, the devil. If one went into the woods there were more offerings and mystical messages etched in ribbons tied around trees. They were most potent if done by running water. All this, of course, induced me to research the spirit beliefs of many Brazilians when Renato and I returned to live in Califoria, which led to The Snake Woman of Ipanema, a novel of that world.