Wednesday, April 28, 2010

From the AV Room: Portraits of a Megacity, Then and Now

Today, I return to São Paulo, my favorite megacity, for a weekend of sophistication and debauchery. Brazil's largest city presents me with ample opportunities to sate every aspect of my being. I love her for that. The four videos below juxtapose images of the world's largest underrated city from its adolescent growth spurt to its mammoth adulthood and accompanying developmental issues:

São Paulo, 1943: This propaganda-soaked documentary, produced by the US government in 1943 (when Sampa's population was a mere 1.3 million), highlights the seeds of industrial development that have served as a blessing and a curse for São Paulo. Despite the film being skewed towards an upper-class, light-skinned Brazil, it's still fun to see images of the bustling old downtown districts (my favorite parts of the city) in their heyday.

São Paulo 1954: This short film, with unfortunate sound editing (the rockem-sockem instrumental score should have been used to punctuate the footage of traffic and movement, not static skyscrapers), conveys the sense of emerging power and importance of the nascent metropolis.

São Paulo 2008: Featuring the modern metropole of 20 million that I know and love, this short film captures the vibrant realities of SP, good, bad, and ugly. Chaotic, inspirational, tough, profound, crowded, progressive, imposing, impressive, endless.

São Paulo 2009: Part of a National Geographic multi-part series on megacities, this 45-minute documentary features the green revolution taking place in São Paulo and the aspirations to sustainability as good business for Brazil's financial capital.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fly Favorites: April 2010

Faux-WWII posters for the fly-ass crib at Urban Bazaar Posters.

The New York Times on why French is indeed not an endangered language.

Jetrosexual expat Kiratiana helps deserving web designer Denise Jacobs get to Londontowne.

National Geographic Traveler offers a heart-tugging treatise on the goodbyes of travel.

NoDebtWorldTravel insists you shake off the Haterade and hit the road.

To the East: peep the Asia issue of Black Expat Magazine.

Fellow Florida A&M University alums Andrea and Teri go crazysexycool abroad at

's "Five In-Flight Things That Will Remain Free From Hidden Airline Fees" (for now).

Kick it in Paris or Costa Rica with the Black Atlas traveler sweepstakes.

Kelly of Travellious on "Why You Should Always Have a Trip Planned." Amen.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Brasília's Birthday Bash

With fighter jets, inflatable pools, Nigerian-Brazilian hip-hop artists, beach volleyball, politicized circus clowns, Daniela Mercury, and a Disney parade, the Brazilian capital celebrated its fiftieth birthday with a barrage of parades and concerts rivaling Carnival. Candangos (immigrants from the four corners of Brazil who came to build Brasília) and Brasilienses (successive generations born in the city) converged on the central axis of the Plano Piloto, bookended by the Eiffel-esque TV Tower and the bifurcated Brazilian Congress, to dance samba and forró, eat corn-on-the-cob and street meat, and, of course, drink gallons of Skol and Antárctica. A special free concert by electronica guru Moby served as a pre-show last weekend, but the official celebrations kicked off Tuesday night, with concerts by established and emerging pop, rock, hip-hop, and gospel acts (Tuesday, incidentally, was the not-widely-heralded Day of the Indian).

Wednesday, a nationally-recognized holiday honoring independence hero “Tiradentes” and the official date fifty years ago when Brasília opened for business, saw a bona fide Disney parade thunder down the Esplanade, the reverence for good ol' Walter Elias Disney echoing that for the similarly visionary President Juscelino Kubitschek (affectionately known as “JK,” Jota-Ka), whose controversial dream of a modern and futuristic capital came true out of, literally, thin air. Crowds in Brazil's trademarked rainbow of browns—from coal to cream—poured in and out of the mile-long party space, laughing, yelling, flirting, fighting, and mixing under a constantly morphing sky. Uniformed police ambled through the masses, eyeing bare midriffs while keeping order; vendors hawked beer and mangoes and prayer tickets, while Rihanna's “Take A Bow” blared from the speakers at the central bus terminal anchoring the action. As dusk descended and the puppet shows and folkloric indigenous and Afro-Brazilian dance presentations turned into rock and samba and jazz and MPB concerts on various stages, families with curly-haired youngins headed home as teenie-boppers and hipsters in skin-tight everything flooded the area in anticipation of the headliners Daniela Mercury and Milton Nascimento, and a tsumani of lower-profile but popular bands who rocked BSB until 4AM. If nothing else, Brasília's birthday bash is a testament to making something out of nothing, and to a youthful, energetic city poised for another fifty years of planned disorder and chaotic progress.

Parabéns, Brasília!

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Tracking Your Trips (a.k.a. Catnip for Airline Geeks)

For airline geeks like me, or for folks interested in keeping track of their air mileage or flying habits, German-based website,, records and organizes your travel data, offering whimsical statistics and personal route maps.

After entering destination, schedule, and seating information for about 90% of the flights I've ever taken, FlightMemory calculates how many times I could have circumnavigated the Earth (8.9), my longest and shortest flights (that Seoul-LA hop was a killa), and how often I've sat in the front, middle, or back of the plane (of 224 flights, I've flown first 3 times, business 9 times, and cattle class 211 times).I also get these lovely maps, plotting my flight paths within and outside of the US (you can tell I'm an East Coast boy with Latin American tendencies), and when I decide I like the looks of things, I can order a more colorful, detailed wall map so I can brag about my travels even more than I do now.Other trivial tidbits include my top ten airports, airlines, aircraft, and routes (BOG, Delta, Boeing 737, and Bogotá-Barranquilla, respectively) based on actual flights flown, not so much personal preference.
Innit cool? Track your trips at

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Fly Brother Podcast - Season 1, Episode 7: Especial Colombia!

In this episode of the Fly Brother Podcast:

Colombia, with two O's and no U

1. “Calle 19” - La Mojarra Eléctrica - (Spanish only)
2. “El Mapalé” - artist unknown
3. “Somos Pacífico” - Choc Quib Town -

Links mentioned in the podcast:
Fly Brother -
NEGES Foundation -

Official Colombia Travel Website -
Cartagena Tourism -
Bogotá Tourism -
Cali es Turismo (Spanish only) -
Medellín Tourist Guide -
San Andres and Providencia -

AIRES (Spanish only) -
Avianca -
Continental Airlines -
Delta Air Lines -
JetBlue Airways -
Spirit Airlines -
Copa Airlines -
LAN Airlines -
TACA Airlines -

Shoot me your comments, questions, suggestions, requests, or just a shout-out: flybrother [et] rocketmail [daht] kom.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Resurrecting the Jetrosexual

Five years ago, Virgin Atlantic Airways came up with an inspired and inspiring marketing campaign as a way to put the glamour and excitement back into air travelto spawn a new Jet Age, populated by a group of "high fliers" whose mission is "to achieve greatness" and "raise the bar in their industry or simply succeed where no one else could." These go-getters who get around were dubbed jetrosexuals. Can't get any flier than that.

Along with the designation came a list of eleven commandments to which Fly Brother tries his darnedest to adhere, and in order to advance to the level of a true jetrosexual, grasshoppers, you must not only commit these to memory (in theory, at least), but you must live by the mantras espoused here in your everyday actions as well:

11. Thou shall have thine passport ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Fly Brother says: Naturally.

10. Thou shalt have a favorite airport and be prepared to explain why it is thine fave.

Fly Brother says: Hong Kong International. A triumph of glass, steel, and light, HKG at Chek Lap Kok is a monumental yet supremely user-friendly temple to transcontinental air travel. You could get lost, but there’s plenty of English around to make sure you don’t wander onto the runway. If only they could keep the new terminal but bring back that classic Kai Tak landing.

9. Thou shalt not be a Chatty Cathy with thine seatmate.

Fly Brother says: Never. In fact, the eyes are lowered into a vintage Toni Morrison before the seatbelt light goes on.

8. Thou shalt never hold up the security line.

Fly Brother says: Even though it is ridiculous that only United States security personnel require shoes to be removed, it’s even more ridiculous to continually set off the alarm with the Herringbone you got last weekend at Flea Market USA.

7. Thou shalt be able to order a beer in at least six different languages.

Fly Brother says: Let’s up the ante a little on this one, shall we?
Vodka martini. Shaken, not stirred.
Martini de vodka. Sacudarido, no revuelto.
Vodka martini. Secoué, non remué.
Vodka martini. Ristet, ikke rørt.
Martini, που τινάζεται βότκα μην ανακατωμένος.

6. Thou shalt respect the five minute rule when using thine lavatory.

Fly Brother says: This is a tough one on those 17-hour New York to Bangkok flights. Just try to go before you leave home. And don't eat too much.

5. Thou shalt be able to pack a week’s worth of clothes into a single carry-on bag.

Fly Brother says: A good laundry service at your destination and appropriate clothing selection can stretch that week to a month if necessary.

4. Thou shalt not own one of those inflatable neck pillows.

Fly Brother says: While they may be comfortable, they look horrid. Style and comfort must be balanced.

3. Thou shalt have at least one passport stamp from a country that now goes by a different name.

Fly Brother says: This may be difficult for some of the less-seasoned jetrosexuals. A stamp from a country on the US State Department's travel advisory list will do.

2. Thou shalt travel Economy class, on rare occasions, just to keep thine self humble.

Fly Brother says: This is relatively easy when thou payeth for thine own ticket.

1. Thou shalt leave terra firma behind in order to move business and culture forward.

Fly Brother says: Done.

Now, copy and paste this handy pocket-sized list of jetrosexual commandments to print for quick reference in the event of kidnapping or memory loss.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

From the AV Room: Baby Brasília

Inaugurated in 1960 as Brazil's brand-spanking-new capital, Brasília was built on a high, semi-arid plateau in the mid-western region of the country to bring money and people into the vast and empty interior. The city has certainly filled-out since these images were filmed, but it's interesting to see life in my retro-futuristic home base during its first few years of existence.

Mostly what you see are government buildings and dormitory-style apartment blocks, punctuated by the twin towers of Congress, with the curved concrete spires of the unfinished cathedral shown toward the end. The soil here is the same red "Jawjah" clay many of us Southerners know well, though the film was recorded in the dry season (it's crazy wet these days, so the city's very much green), and you can see why Brasília's a bitch for pedestrians. Government salaries were tripled to get people to move with their families from the old capital, Rio, and there's a definite difference in dress and appearance between the stylish denizens of the new city proper and those at the bus terminal who came from other regions of the country to help build the place, but had to live in the poorer, far-flung satellite cities of the Federal District.

And it's not boring, folks. Really.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

On Fear, Frustration, and Freedom

It's been a month since I moved to Brasília. My apartment's set up (except for Internet) and I've already got a cleaning lady to spruce it up once a week. I've had my house-warming party, hung out at pool halls and nightclubs, done my first embassy event, developed a nascent group of friends, started Portuguese lessons. The job's going as jobs go—filled with meetings and paperwork and the counting of days until the next payday or holiday. And thirty days from the start, I look back on the journey thus far and ask myself if this is what I wanted.

After having lived in Latin America for four years already, I'm certainly not a novice to the concept of international relocation. But that doesn't make me immune to the fear and frustration that go hand-in-hand with sometimes unrealistic expectations. I mean, according to popular opinion, breathing the very air of Brazil is supposed to render all of life's woes trivial and moot, the closest thing to paradise on Earth, The Dream. But interminable bank lines don't factor into that paradisial opinion, or innumerable phone calls to get Internet hooked up at home, or having your name misspelled on important documents, or Subway charging twice as much for as sandwich as in the States and still running out of tuna. None of the frustrating aspects of establishing a life abroad factor into the romantic notion of moving abroad, of moving to Brazil. I'm even guilty of believing the hype a little bit, myself.

And along with that frustration comes the fear that I might not be making wise decisions, that I have less than a decade of “youth” left to make mistakes and figure things out, that pre-existing friendships and relationships with people in other places are in jeopardy due to my physical absence, that anything I've worked for up to this point in terms of building a life could disappear in an instant, or that everything I've worked for up to this point in terms of building a life doesn't amount to a real life at all. The fear of having nothing to give and everything to lose. The fear of insecurity and misunderstanding; that if I fuck this up—this grand, elusive, esoteric exercise—things are bound to consistently and irrevocably remain fucked up. There's nothing like the isolation of living in a foreign country by yourself, no matter how friendly the people or how open the society, to bring out neurotic introspection. It's an inextricable part of the process. Because moving to another country isn't just a corporal endeavor.

So for those random Tuesday nights when the weather sucks, friends are occupied, foolishness is on television, and frustration and fear begin to work on my mental and emotional well-being, I have this bit of literary inspiration that I copied down ages ago in Washington to pull it all back together:

When nothing in the world matters, when you've lost everything, there is perhaps a moment when the only thing that can count, the only thing you have left is choosing your own direction; looking your demons in the eye and proving to yourself that you are more than they. If only for a second, an hour, a day. That you are a man, that you have will, that there is something in you that they can not destroy, something that remains even if it is buried so deep you'll never see it again. That you can save something, even if it isn't yourself. And knowing, for the rest of your life, even as what you have is not a life, even as they reclaim you and send you back into their hell—knowing that, perhaps only for that one shining instant, you were free.

-Alan Howard

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Photo Essay: The Ass-Crack of Dawn in Brasilia (Coincidentally, the exact time I have to be up for work).

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