Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Visit to Pampulha and Inhotim, Minas Gerais, Brasil

The past two days have really shown me more of Belo Horizonte than I have seen on previous trips to the city. Yesterday I was in Pampulha, a wealthy neighborhood of Belo that has more of a suburban vibe. We went to look at several buildings of note that encircle a man-made lake, of particular note are: Igreja Sao Fancisco de Assis (Church of Saint Francis of Assisi), Museu De Arte Da Pampulha (Pampulha Museum of Art), Iate Clube (Yacht Club) and Caso Do Baile (Ballroom House). When I return home I will add photographs to show the buildings, artwork and landscaping all of which were meticulously thought out in advance and showcase Oscar Niemeyer (architect/designer) and Roberto Burle-Marx (landscape architect/designer) genius. Oscar Niemeyer is Brasil~s most celebrated architect and is still alive and working. He celebrates his 100th birthday this year. To acknowledge his contributions, the Brasilian government has placed a statue of a man (presumably of Sr. Niemeyer) with a large red balloon in front of buildings he designed. Belo Horizonte is awash with Niemeyer buildings and any fan of his should certainly consider making a stop here if only to see Igreja Sao Fancisco de Assis.

Today, Thanksgiving, I ventured about 30km south of Belo Horizonte, to the small town of Brumadinho. Brumadinho happens to have a rather extraordinary contemporary art museum & gardens. The more than 85 acres of Inhotim contain approximatly a half dozen 1-story buildings to showcase their semi-permanent collection of modern artwork (the collection changes every 2 years); many eye-catching outdoor sculptures; and a delicious restaurant. By far, my favorite art installation is from the Canadian artist Janet Cardiff. 40 Part Motet, originally housed in the Tate Museum in London, the exhibit is now at Inhotim. The installation is set in a sterile white room with chairs in the center. Surrounding the chairs are 40 speakers aligned in a large circle clustered in 8 separate groupings of 5 speakers set side-by-side. Each speaker represents a single voice in a church choir.

Although the drive is a bit remote; it was worth the trip.

Happy Thanksgiving

I wanted to acknowledge the Thanksgiving holiday which has always been a personal favorite of mine. In recent years I have used the time off to travel abroad and visit new places. This year is no exception. My partner and I find ourselves back in Brasil celebrating the day with his family. Later this week we will leave to travel to Salvador, Brasil.

Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Beautiful in Belo

Well we arrived in Belo Horizonte yesterday afternoon. Our flights in the U.S. all took off without a hitch and we were able to stretch out a bit more comfortably in the EconomyPlus section of our United Airlines flight. Sadly, these seats can not compare to the comforts available in First or Business Class and after becoming accustomed to such travel for the past several years, it is difficult to be thankful but after travelling to Brazil in economy for the first time last year - the extra leg room and the empty seat between my partner and I was heaven. We had to wait for a few hours in S.P.s busy city airport while heavy rains fell. After the tragedy at the airport a few months ago, everyone who works at Congonhas aeroporto is rightly cautious when the weather is bad. The landing strips at Congonhas are much shorter (or so it seems) than the ever so short runways at NYC LaGuardia airport so we did not complain much when rain caused the airport to close briefly.

The picture above shows how urban Belo Horizonte is. The city which has a downtown population of approximately 2.5M is very modern with architecture to match, and has some of the steepest hills I~ve ever seen in a city. For those who have travelled to San Francisco, you will appreciate my description when I explain that parts of Belo are far steeper. Combine the fact that many of these cobbled streets can have rain come gushing down these massive inclines and you will understand why driving in bad weather in this city is not for the faint of heart. Hopefully I will be able to log on again and have something more interesting to write about then our flight down to Brazil or our two-hour delay in S.P. airport.

Incidentally, it is warm and sunny here today...31 degrees Celsius or approximately 85-90 degrees Farenheight with a gentle breeze and plenty of sun.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Boa Viagem

This weekend I leave for Brasil, and I can hardly wait. The two week trip will take me to my partner's hometown, Belo Horizonte, as well as to Salvador, Morro de Sao Paolo, and Sao Paolo.

I think travelling to Brasil this time of year is perfect. The weather is already warm and inviting but there are far fewer crowds and it is easier to make hotel and airline reservations.

While on vacation my access to a computer will be limited so I don't think I'll be adding many posts while travelling. However, I will make it a point to post some pictures after I return.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What are values?

I hear a lot about values in the news and from political and religious leaders, so I looked up the definition on and it reads, “any object or quality desirable as a means or as an end in itself”. After more thought I came up with my own definition, “a quality which one holds dear and helps define the character of an individual”.

Let me explain... Based on my definition, a person can value honesty but not always act honestly. However, one does not ‘value’ that trait conditionally by only exhibting that 'value' when it is convenient. I believe that is an important distinction. I don't think one would 'value' honesty if it was contextual. An individual might think honesty is a noble trait, but if a person is only honest when it suits them then maybe it is not "a quality they hold dear and which defines their character" to paraphrase my definition. The idea that one's values change based on context I find frightening. I recognize that I am an audience of one reading my blog, but I can not help but ask back, “Do you agree?” Am I the only one to find this troubling?

The reason I have been thinking about this is because I am bothered by what I’ll refer to as “shifting values”. An example of this is the current issue of waterboarding by our military to extract information from terrorists. I understand that for many Americans they no longer are bothered by the idea of torturing terrorists – esp. if it might yield life-saving information. It is true that I find this change in attitude troubling – but I get it. The problem I have is when people start changing the definition of what constitutes torture because they are uncomfortable saying “I support torture” or to be more offensive "I have no problem torturing people". This is what I mean by "shifting values". Most people (including many who would support waterboarding in certain situations) are uncomfortable verbalizing their support for torture so they place caveats on the practice to intellectualize or justify their position. I don't buy that argument anymore than I agree with a person who says they value honesty but justify situations where it is palatable to lie.

Something I find interesting about values is that we sometimes delude ourselves into thinking we value honesty, integrity, human rights, (insert whatever value-language you like), but until those values are challenged it is hard to say with certainty if we really live them. Anyone can be a pillar of integrity when posed with an hypothetical - when we are forced to live those values is when I think you truly understand the character of an individual. When tested - do you live your values or do you momentarily forget about them or make exceptions because you find them inconvenient?

I’ll get off my soap box as I continue to work through this and maybe in time I’ll be able to more eloquently explain my concerns – I feel I’ve done a poor job, but it has been a bit cathartic to get it out on paper (well its not exactly on paper…)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Everything they sang was magic...

On Sunday, November 11th I went to see the Police on the second leg of their farewell tour. They came to Boston earlier this summer and played Fenway Park, but I was unable to get tickets to that event.

This weekend, I was able to score tickets to see the band as they rocked Boston one last time and it was worth every penny. They played most of their hits and the show was great. If you get the chance to see them on any of their remaining dates, I would definitely recommend seeing them.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Party, Party, Party...

On Wednesday, November 7th Emporio Armani hosted a party to celebrate the opening of their new store in the Copley Mall, Boston. The store is a definite step down from the space previously occupied on Newbury Street but you would not know it from the smiling crowd which jammed themselves into the store. The event, co-sponsored by Boston Common Magazine, included a DJ, plenty of passed champagne and pretty pink drinks along with two bars. I was pleased to see the former GM for Emporio Armani, Boston – Mary Nobile-King – now the current boutique director for Chanel-Boston. Former co-workers, fashionistas and others made Mary seem like a local celebrity so I was touched when she came over to say hello and find out how I was doing. The store’s party exceeded my expectations even if the actual storefront is a bit of a disappointment.

The following night, Thursday, November 8th, I attended the opening of DScale which according to the website is a “new and provocative luxury furnishing atelier”. However you want to describe it, I want to thank Dennis Duffy, Duffy Design Group, for opening such a beautiful store on Harrison Avenue in Boston’s South End neighborhood.

The opening party was absolutely packed on Thursday night. Passed hors d’oeuvres, white wine and champagne provided by Rocca (a restaurant designed by Dennis’design firm) helped make the party a feast for both the eyes and taste buds. Dennis has raised the bar with the opening of DScale and it will be the envy of retailers in the neighborhood.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Gay or Straight?

If you meet someone for the first time and you find them attractive or interesting do you find yourself automatically assuming they are gay? I noticed and not for the first time that I do and it is terribly distracting.

Earlier this morning such a situation occurred. I was attending a class and I thought one of the guest speakers was quite charming. Within the first few minutes of his speaking, I found my attention wandering looking for clues to either affirm or challenge my assumption. My attention wandered from the subject matter - to how handsome he looked - back to the subject again - to how soothing his voice sounded and so on and so forth all the while quietly asserting or refuting my initial assumption that the speaker was gay.

I had no intention of flirting with the speaker, and I doubt I will see the person again. So why was his sexual orientation of such great interest to me and why does this happen? These situations never play out when I meet a woman. I never assume a sexual orientation or seek clues to validate my assumption. Although I’ve never asked any of my heterosexual male friends, I’m fairly confident that this is not something that crosses their mind. Make no mistake, they might fantasize about an attractive woman being a lesbian (I still don’t understand that fantasy), but I don’t believe they obsess over the ambiguity of an individual’s sexual identity.

I think part of the reason this happens is because on a very base / fundamental level, it is really hard for me to believe (ironically this only applies to people I’m attracted to) that they would not be gay. I always find myself wondering “How could they not be attracted to a man?” This is an odd epiphany, considering for years the gay community has asked the world to take note that sexual identity is not a choice and here I am confessing on some level, I would like these attractive men only (of course – how shallow is that) to reconsider – so to speak. Wishful thinking or not, I doubt these distractions of mine will subside – there is no easy way for me to intellectualize my sex drive.