Monday, August 29, 2011

Catholics in Brazil

Can't we all just get along?

I try not to be too political on this blog.  I know it will alienate some readers. But some issues (LGBT rights, human rights, women’s rights, freedom, etc.) get me going enough that I break my soft rule and make a post anyway.
This time it is about the Catholics. Sigh.
I was raised a Catholic. Being a devoted Catholic was encouraged in my family. My mother is a devoted Catholic, as is her life partner. But about 35 years ago I gave up Catholicism for Lent.  ;-)  Never to look back.
So here in Brazil, the oft-touted largest Catholic nation in the world (note to world: most people don’t actually believe or practice), it is news that the Catholic population is shrinking faster than people have thought or believed. In 2003, 74% of the Brazilian population identified as Catholic. In 2009 it was only 68%. [sad face…]
"That is a strong transformation rate. Changes that take place in 100 years are now taking place within ten. If this drop of one in 100 Catholics each year continues, in 20 years, less than half of the population will be Catholic," said Marcelo Neri, the head of Getulio Vargas Foundation. [sad face…]
Brazil remains the most Catholic country in the world, with 130 million adherents, but this is the first time in 140 years that less than 70 percent of the population is Catholic. [sad face…]
As a Gay Man looking for equality (not to mention women who need medical freedom or trans people who just need to be SEEN!) I say – happy us – that the so-called Christian church, the Catholics, are waning in power.
There – I said it.
Here is the source of the quotes.

Baking in season

It’s not exactly pineapple season, but the strawberries are coming in by the truckload. So I sought inspiration.

Virginia suggested strawberry-pineapple jam. I know she has a slow cooker, so I was a bit worried about whether I could cook down the fruit without one, without burning them. But I do have a fine pan for such things. I bet I could do it.
More importantly, how do you say “pectin” in Portuguese?
Then Luiz asserted we should just have a sweet strawberry-pineapple tart instead. (He loves my pie crust, so this is a predictable request.)

Personally, I don’t think I have ever tasted the strawberry-pineapple combination. I was worried about the acid content. But Virginia assured me the acidity cooks out…
So I went for the tart.

Basically you make a sweet crust, slice up the fruit and mix it with a bit of sugar (I used Splenda, Luiz is diabetic), cook the fruit down a bit to get it all soft and to infuse the sugar/sweetener, then make up a package of vanilla pudding. Mix the fruit and pudding, pour it into your crust, then refrigerate until set.

Then slice it up and eat it with late night television.
Sorry I don't have a pic of the final product. It was more tasty than beautiful... but it was certainly fabulous.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Niterói Gay Pride and Rio without Homophobia

The Niterói Gay Pride Parade was last night.  Half of me loved the street party that started at about 5:00 p.m. and continued until about midnight.  The other half of me was over the noise and revelry after we were home and trying to sleep at 11:00 p.m.

The huge street party, closing traffic on the avenue along Praia de Icaraí, had traffic rerouted to the street just below our bedroom window. Drivers were not happy and let us know with their horns (Brazilian drivers love to use their horns).
I love a good party. And we went to participate in this party.  But us older guys go home sooner than the young folks that dominate these sorts of events. (Very cute folks, I might add.)  I laid in bed for a very long time listening to drunken revelers making their way home under my bedroom window.  But goddess bless them – I was there once. It was not a big deal.
Sign me up as pro-Gay Pride Parade in Niterói!

More importantly, the theme was once again “Anti-Homophobia.”
There is a very well-funded campaign by the Rio state government to combat homophobia. Lots of media and collateral print materials.
The campaign is called “Rio without Homophobia.”  Nice to see. But as Luiz (in his professional tourism capacity points out) would remind us this is an economic strategy in the build up to the World Cup and the Olympics. It is a tourist publicity campaign.

But that’s OK by me. If you can get hotels to display “Rio sem Homofobia” stickers in their front windows (and on their websites) to try and attract more clients (and actually be less offensive) then I’m all in favor of a legislative or economic campaign that encourages merchants to be less offensive.  Call me practical.
I know you cannot legislate tolerance – but if you can educate folks to be less offensive in an effort to see their business grow – well, I’m all for that.

The Rio Sem Homophbia campaign is robust. It was all over the Niterói Gay Pride Parade yesterday. Let’s hope it catches even more traction.
Check out the Rio Sem Homofobia campaign here.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Gay Pride week in Rio

Note the text in the flag.
This Sunday is the Gay Pride event in Niterói. Luiz has invited a bunch of friends over for a lunchtime party, then we will join the street party in progress, just a few blocks away.

Gay Day in Rio is set for Sunday, October 9th in Copacabana. Mark your calendar. Here is the official program:

Official Program and Events| Rio de Janeiro Gay Pride 2011

Date: October 9, 2011.
Meeting Point : at 1 PM (13:00 hs.)
Posto 6 - Forte de Copacabana / Sofitel Hotel

This year, October is the month of LGBT Pride. Though the march is the most important event, a full week of activities is promoted by the Arco-Iris, the nonprofit organization that organizes the parade.

All dates are yet to be confirmed by Arco-Iris.

The official program of the 16th LGBT Pride Parade in Rio de Janeiro is yet to be released.
Considering last year's calendar, the events for 2011 are most likely to be as follows:

Date: October 4, at 7 PM
Venue: Teatro Carlos Gomes - Centro
Opening show of the 16th. LGBT Pride Parade-Rio 2011

Date: October 4 to 9
Location: Galeria do Centro Cultural Sergio Porto - Humaitá
Exhibition in 2009: "Our history, our strength, our voice: 15 years of LGBT Pride Parade-Rio"

Date: October 7 and 8, 2 PM - 10 PM
Location: Castelinho Flamengo
Movies Shows Metaphors of Diversity

Date: October 8, from 11:30 PM
Local: Cine Ideal - Downtown Rio
Ideal National Pride

Date: October 11 to 4 - 7 PM
Venue: Teatro Gláucio Gil - Copacabana
Self-Portraits - shows Resgate da Cultura Transformista do Rio

Date: October 1 4, 3 PM to 10 PM
Location: Castelinho Flamengo and other sites to confirm

Cycle Arco-Iris Thinking LGBT Citizenship and
State Seminar on AIDS and LGBT Health

Date: October 5 and 6 - 7 PM
Location: Sala Baden Powell - Copacabana
Voices of Diversity - musical show with LGBT singers

Date: October 7 - 9 PM
Local: Cine Ideal - Center
Official Opening Celebration and Party - 15th LGBT Pride Parade Rio - 2011

Date: October 7 - 8 PM
Venue: Teatro João Caetano - Downtown
8th Arco-Iris Awards for Human Rights

Date: October 8, from 10 AM to 10 PM
Location: Terreirão Samba and Centro de Artes Calouste Gulbenkian - Downtown (to be confirmed)
Culture Fair Arco-iris LGBT
Lesbifest - Festival of Culture and Diversity among lesbians and bisexual women

Date: October 8, at 10 PM
Location: Night Club 1140 - Praça Seca - Jacarepaguá
Pre-Parade Party

Date: October 9, 9 AM to 6 PM
Location: Copacabana, Posto 6
Action Pride, Citizenship and Human Rights (stalls and information services for the general population)

Date: October 9, at 1 PM
Location: Copacabana, Posto 6
16th LGBT Pride Parade-Rio 2011

Date: October 9, at 10 PM
Location: Le Boy - Copacabana
Closing Party of the 16th LGBT Pride Parade - Rio 2011

Keep checking here for final details.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New take on a standard Brazilian tune

I love me some classic Brazilian favorites - the ones everyone sings along to. Here's a different take on an old favorite - on the vibraphone, no less. Wild.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Eating Americana

From the first moment that I ate Brazilian food I was in love. Better said: Luiz cooked me a fantastic Brazilian meal the first time he invited me over for dinner. And I fell in love.

But there are some dishes I prefer in my "home" version.  I posted about so-called "American Lasagna" over on the Cooking in Brazil blog.  It's a terrific recipe. Check it out.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Missing US Gay Culture

I miss talkin’ trash, gay style. Throwin’ some shade; spillin’ some tea; workin’ my chicken neck (which I learned in high school in Detroit).

It’s not for everyone, but, Jonny McGovern is a gay comedian who produces a LONG podcast that is totally US gay, southern California/New York style.  Very fun when you are cooking all afternoon.
If you are not hip to gay/lesbian- speak and want to be a voyeur, check it out.
Go to iTunes and search for Gay Pimpin’ with Jonny McGovern.
Love you Jonny!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Father's Day in Brazil

Today is Father’s Day in Brazil. Today was a day to honor Senior Tonico. We lost him to a heart attack one and a half years ago – on a sidewalk we pass almost daily.

Zozó offered a luncheon at a nearby luncheonette.
It’s not easy to “celebrate” the loss of important family members. But it is good to be together.
You could definitely feel the reverence for fathers in the air.  In Brazil it is not hard to celebrate family members.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wonderful health update for Luiz

There is good news great news on the treatment front for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL). We care about this because Luiz is a CLL patient.

It has been all over the news, but I have been waiting for our trusted ally Chaya Venkat over at CLL Topics Updates (a top-notch CLL patient information and advocacy blog) to weigh in on the real story. She is brilliant on the subject and loved by many for her tireless advocacy and work translating medical research papers into plain English for the rest of us.

[Go to her blog and GIVE HER A DONATION! Medical conferences are expensive, and happen all over the world. She is a saint. Really.]

I will not pretend to be a medical researcher, but suffice it to say that some folks have figured out how to modify a CLL patient's own T-cells (the little guys who patrol your body and kill the bad cells) then reintroduce them into the patient whereupon they specifically attack and kill the cancer cells.

Preliminary results have been outstanding. So far patients have been in complete remission for 10 months (since shortly after the clinical trial was begun).
This is good news for our Luizinho.

Is this a cure? – no (not proven as such just yet). Is this available now? No, only in clinical trials. Is this a great breakthrough? Very smart people say YES. Are there risks? Yes.

Does this make us happy? YES!

News in the press is here: MSNBC ;   Yahoo News ;   New York Times ;  CBS News

Monday, August 8, 2011

You know you are in Brazil when

You know you are in Brazil when the city’s animal control department is rounding up hogs and horses from the streets.

I recently saw this item on Niterói’s municipal website (yes, I read their website). It seems there is an effort afoot to “clean up” the streets of large animals grazing along the edges of neighborhoods. The animals have owners, but the owners let them wander about to feed on grasses, etc.
On several occasions I have been on an urban bus in Central Niterói and have seen huge hogs lumbering about in public squares, presumably eating. The animals typically belong to poorer families living up on the hill that let them loose at night to fend for food. It is a real sight, let me tell you; unexpected. Niterói is a dense urban area – not a rural town.

In the case of this report from the City, seven horses and two pigs were recently rounded up. They will be held on a nearby farm for 10 days awaiting their owner’s arrival to reclaim them (including paying a fee). Then I suppose the owner will have to confirm they have more appropriate plans for the animals in the future.
The campaign to round up “stray” animals is meant to help avoid traffic accidents.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Brazilian models - the bomb

Rachel forgot to post "Hot Brazilians for Your Friday" so I will fill the gap.  Check it out. Go visit the Made in Basil website for all the latest on Brazilian models -- and for more of this guy - go here.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Gay Pride vs "Straight Pride" in São Paulo

The poor oppressed straight people in São Paulo are asking for a little relief. They want some time to stand in solidarity against the horribly oppressive (and supposedly powerful) LGBT lobby. They have been fighting for a so-called “Straight Pride” day. Poor things.

Like so many other indignant bigots, they want to change the subject from common-place violence against LGBT folks (which is at record levels in Brazil) to the terrible inconvenience of actually discussing diversity and tolerance in a civil society. They are so unhappy about having their “freedom” to impose their ignorance and blatant discrimination (often coded into law) over LGBT folks limited that they are taking to the streets.

And the São Paulo government has just co-signed their tirade, issuing a permit for the “parade”.

The good news is that the LGBT pride parade in São Paulo is the largest in the world, attracting something like 3 million participants every year. I’m pretty confident that, in spite of the news coverage, this effort by small-minded straight folks will not get much traction (even though the so-called Evangelicals are the fastest growing organized religious dogma in the country).

On the flip side - don’t forget that the Niterói Gay Pride March is August 21st and the Rio Dyke March is Sunday, August 28th.

History tells us that justice and freedom will win in the end. I just hope I get to see it. It is tiring to be always pushing back against the bigoted majority…

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Slackline at Whale Rock at Piratininga beach

Slacklines are all the rage. When you go to the beach there are practice lines pulled tight between palm trees all over.

Here's a great video showing this sport taken to a higher level - and at one of our favorite beaches.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Some thoughts on the healthcare system in Brazil

I have been repeatedly impressed with the “universal healthcare” system here in Brazil. That being said, coming from the US and our/their “get insurance or get screwed” system, it may not take much to impress me. Things here are not a bed of roses, for sure, but there are some important plusses and minuses.

On the plus side is the language in the Brazilian constitution that says (essentially):

Article 6. Education, health, work, leisure, security, social security, protection of motherhood and childhood, and assistance to the destitute, are social rights, as set forth by this Constitution.

Article 196. Health is a right of all and a duty of the State and shall be guaranteed by means of social and economic policies aimed at reducing the risk of illness and other hazards and at the universal and equal access to actions and services for its promotion, protection and recovery.

In short - healthcare is a citizen's right and it is the duty of the government to provide it.

The healthcare matrix here in Brazil is a complicated mix of public and private providers. Only about 25% of Brazilians have private health insurance, the rest access public clinics and hospitals (which vary wildly in terms of quality and efficiency depending mostly on whether they are in urban or rural areas). More than half of registered nurses and nearly half of doctors are public employees.

The stated principles of the Unified Health System (Sistema Único de Saúde or SUS) are universality, integral care, health promotion, and community participation, with public funds to provide free health care to all Brazilian citizens.

That’s the good news. And for many, many Brazilians it has been very good news. According to this summary article, over the past three decades infant mortality decreased by about 6.3% a year, and life expectancy increased by 10.6 years. Mortality due to infectious disease decreased from 23% of total deaths in 1970 to less than 4% in 2007.

But then there is the bad news. Well, let’s remember that nothing is perfect.

There is a wide gulf in service and efficiency between those with private health insurance, accessing private hospitals, and those going to public facilities. This is certainly not always the case, but in many poorer areas (urban or rural), the conditions at the “hospital” can be alarming.

But I think what I’ve found more disturbing in my reading on this subject is that there is an insidious dynamic at play within the university education system that is broadening the gap between public and private healthcare. No surprise, really, but it’s a bummer to see it studied and articulated.

Capitalism. There it is again, f*cking things up. Early on I saw the irony of the public university system here. It’s free, but only the privileged can access it (with notable exceptions, of course). Competition to get in is fierce and students take expensive preparatory classes to score their best on the entrance exam. No money, no prep course – no high score, no free university. The poor and working class pay to attend private universities.

But that’s not the real problem. The problem seems to be the ethos among the privileged class that financial reward and status are the end goal and working in the public sector is viewed essentially as a lower-paid job with little status. So many educated professionals are self-selecting out of the national healthcare system in favor of the more profitable private system. Many people will tell you that there is a shortage of healthcare providers in the public system.

So we have the ever-corrosive dynamic of private enterprise and personal desire for wealth working against the common good. Nothing too strange about that – but it would be a shame if it erased the benefits gained to date seen with the public healthcare system here in Brazil. I would prefer to see the momentum moving in the other direction.

So tell me – if you can afford it, would you choose to buy private health insurance here in Brazil? Why or why not? While it is cheap by USA standards, it still costs a lot. Is it worth it when you have universal coverage provided by the government? Is it necessary, or just a convenience?

[To view Brazil’s constitution in English, go here. It’s a good read.]