Category: Thoughts

An inversion of values

We live in a society that values social status, appearances and professional success. Success in most situations is measured by number of works done, no matter the quality or by the amount of financial resources one accumulates over time, no matter how.

Even saintly beings, like Divaldo Franco, are depicted showing the huge work they have accomplished with very little attention to the content of his endearing messages.

These yardsticks produce a skewed set of values where we make our kids grow and feed a sick society full of social, economical and psychological problems, to mention a few. This conducts us towards more corruption, more crime and less integration with “thy neighbor”.

Here in Brazil the consequences are dear. Destruction of natural habitats, killings for the possession of land, abandoned kids on the streets left to their own luck. A broth that will show its violent face, suddenly at an unexpected corner anywhere, by a human being whose values are so distorted away from humanism that the behavior of not even hunting wild animals could be used as comparison.

A model that values production of “exportable” commodities leaves the exposed human beings involved in a limbo, making them migrate to nearby towns and, if they survive, to  big centers, bloated day by day. A collective murder of local culture, pushed aside by the greed of big and small corporations.

Young souls are then drawn towards drugs that sell the illusion of nirvana within hell, producing a vicious cycle that is swallowing families and good values that allow us to live peacefully in a society, the very definition of civilization. The older souls are also drawn towards drugs, the legal ones, that will lengthen their suffering while destroying families and draining their feeble financial resources. Afterwards they are thrown in the common ditch of oblivion.

Fortunately some enlightened souls have noticed these trends (not hard to do, I must confess) and are creating movements towards enhancing the value of human beings, the environment and life in society. They are fighting this madness of self destruction that has dominated our western culture and hopefully will be able to overcome this suicidal route society has taken.

With proposals that seem a little “cuco” for our distorted values, they are showing that the agricultural model of exporting resources is unsustainable and that it’s possible to produce a healthier model to live by. Smaller scale farming, preservation of the environment and appropriate valuation of resources will eventually start a trend that may save our souls.

Let’s hope it’s not too late!


Political Turmoil in Brazil

The feeble belief that the Worker`s Party in Brazil (PT) is a leftist one has led many well intentioned people to become their supporters.
Brazilian intellectuals who sympathize with communism are now in a Catch 22 situation. They don`t know where to go.

A great amount of social injustice has survived PT`s 13 years of government showing that only being a leftist isn’t enough to lead a society, based on a  social justice agenda, into a feasible and just economy for all, distributing wealth and providing a better society for all. In many aspects the country is much worse off than it was at the beginning of this adventure.
This term (communism) is so complex that even Marx had a hard time understanding it. He obviously didn’t, which is very unfortunate.
It leaves us “only” with Democracy to deal with. Unfortunately Democracy isn’t just a political direction, it`s also an ever changing process. An ever evolving process. It actually isn’t possible if the people aren’t well educated and institutions aren’t fairly and solidly established. It’s also an utopia if the economic difference between social classes is so big as it is in Brazil. Worse yet, when there is so much distance between socioeconomic groups, not only money wise.

Initial intentions of PT, which they concealed pretty well from the more distracted voters (50% of our population) who have elected them at least twice (there is serious doubt about fraud in the last elections in 2014), were pretty lame.

Just like in Venezuela, PT started to intimidate and persecute the few voices who started to broadcast their opinions and question PT’s real intentions. PT officials were doing anything they could to bring money into their campaigns, especially jeopardizing one of the few companies that were still under our government’s control: Petrobras (the Brazilian Oil Company). They were so incompetent running this company that they ended up telling on themselves. The fact that an Oil Company like Petrobras could swallow losses in a completely favorable market woke our society up. It took long, but finally a federal judge, Sergio Moro, in Parana (a state in the south region of Brazil) decided to act. See the Pasadena Refinery scandal and the Port of Cuba.

Mr. Moro had already worked on another corruption case, where politicians were selling their votes, bought with corruption money (including Petrobras as a source). At that time, about 4 or 5 years ago, he made a few mistakes and the whole process ended up in a huge pizza (a term Brazilians use to denote that no punishment results from certain crimes, usually committed by white-collar criminals).

This time Mr Moro is being very careful and has succeeded in putting in prison top executives from many big contractors’ firms. Even some owners! These companies paid huge bribes (added to over 800 million dollars, perhaps much more) to be able to get government contracts which in turn were overpriced so that they could get the corruption money back. A simple but intricate process that Mr. Moro went to great pains to dismantle, collecting evidence in the quiet of the night for months, until he had enough to line these executives and some politicians into prison.

The pivot of all this mess has been PT, mostly in the person of Brazilian ex-president, Lula. He’s just a few days from getting arrested but many sectors of our society are afraid that there will be a huge turmoil when that eventually happens. I don’t share this fear. There will be some localized paid protests and that will be it.

I myself was very surprised to see that Mr. Moro hasn’t met the same destiny that Mr. Nuzmann did in Argentina (another whole mess in our neighboring country). Recently I found out why that is the case. Wisely counseled, Mr. Moro cut a pact with the former military intelligence agency as well as with the leadership at the Federal Police Dept. As weak as this protection may seem it is still working and Mr. Moro is being regarded as a hero! We do still live in the far west down here.

Needless to say, foreign and Brazilian investors have become very shy and have taken billions of dollars away into safer places (is there such a thing?), leaving our economic activity in a mere inertia, bringing back inflation (over 10% per year so far), unemployment and deterioration of all infrastructure (hospitals, schools, roads, electricity, water, sewage etc.). Once again we are paying for our ignorance and lack of interest in politics.

I’ve come to realize we cannot afford the luxury of not getting involved in politics. As our present history shows it can have dire consequences on everyone’s lives.

Fortunately it seems that we are finally getting the grips of our country again and leaving politicians to their own demise. I’m still not confident it will happen. Even if it does, we are left with a corrupt society whose culture is to not work and get benefits from the government. Perhaps Brazil will continue to be, forever, the country of the future.

Our only hope is to invest heavily in education, research and technology. But this is a long road and I don’t know if I’m willing to give up my life before I see something good happening around me. I don’t have Trotsky’s selflessness and I’m sure no hero. All I want is a good future for our children!

Nuclear warfare

I’m wondering if Iran is going to start a nuclear war in the near future.

Fundamentalists are stupid enough… first, to be fundamentalist and second to find stupid excuses to do whatever they find fit!

Should Israel do what it did with Iraq? Execrated at the time and congratulated a few years later…

This nuclear toys are not toys at all, but are seen as such by inconsequent people who believe in the beauty of death for a “just” cause…

Are we heading towards the Middle Ages 2.0?

Social Turmoil

To those who have any interest in foreign events, Brazil has been going through some social unrest.

Present government has its base of support in the usually corrupt Unions who promote noisy protests whenever government asks them to.

The present turmoil and street demonstrations are not originated from these “purchased” Unions. They are a genuine indignation of the middle class that got tired of watching helplessly to the slow and steady destruction of our economy, infrastructure and morality.

What we see in the streets is a big contingent of young people who lost hope in government, political parties and Brazilian style democracy, that doesn’t actually work as one with such a huge percentage of its population being illiterate and ignorant.

Voting is mandatory here, so previous governments buy these votes providing an official monthly financial help to families who ask for it and can prove that are poor and in need. Needless to say this serves as a perpetuation of the parties in power and the deterioration of the production base.

The inefficient government has gone from 12 Ministries to 40, from Fernando Henrique’s government, through Lula (a deeply corrupt politician turned into Myth) up to the incompetent Dilma government that has grown tax collection to unbearable levels.

Capitalism in itself is prone to corruption and the modern democracies have been able to reduce this aspect to a livable minimum. According to philosophers it will never end.

In Brazil corruption is a way of life and it’s very unlikely to become successful if one is not involved in some type of mischievous scheme.

Brazilian economy isn’t going anywhere, since investment in security, health and education is much less than what it should be. Public schools are not a possibility for someone like me who demands a good level of education for kids. Even USP, the famed University of São Paulo, has suffered from several years of negligence… not only from government but also from its own ranks. No education, no future! As simple as that! Just look at the old Soviet Union. They had very bad quality education and that will cost them decades to pick up, before they can be called a world power again.

Our judiciary system also sucks and is overloaded with useless processes. Judges are overwhelmed and cannot get anywhere near meeting the needs of society. Even if they wanted to, which they don’t. Really!

Just now we had, for example, to decide if we rented a house for commercial purposes. It has some legal issues, from bad management in the past. To fix this we’ll need to go through city officials (who will ask for money), judiciary system (that doesn’t work) and fixing stuff we didn’t even brake. So, property owners are in the hands of corrupt regulators. Even with the PT government having become the leading party in Sao Paulo city, things didn’t get any better. If anything, they got worse! A political party who is in power just to be in power and whose moves denounce that all they want is to stay in power… bribing the people with false propaganda and tax money they collect from the economy.

Doing charity with tax money will slowly bring inflation back, jeopardize infrastructure and produce a society of lazy people.

Labor laws are another huge problem here. A business owner needs lots of cash if he wants to fire someone for whatever reason. He cannot lower wages to save jobs and the business itself. A Labor Law system benefits perfidious employees who lie to a senseless judge and many times produce decisions that break the company, leaving no hope of recuperation or further employment.

We are living a Chavism in Brazil, where there is a Myth built around one person who has been armored by its accomplices with the objective of keeping them in power.

The traditional formula of bread and circus is being taken to its maximum here. They give soccer to the people, with athletes being paid hundreds of times more than the common worker who actually carries this country on their backs. A common worker gets a 1,000 Real pay per month, while an average soccer player gets paid 100k Real, going up to 5 million!

This craziness and stupidity also happens in the USA and Europe, so we are merely importing it, but even then, it’s an outrage to have a woman put in prison for stealing a butter bar while our previous president has enriched his son thousands of times and isn’t even being prosecuted!!!

Professional sports, in my opinion, have become a cancer to our society. Nothing morally justifies the money involved in these activities. No one will convince me that Tiger Woods can get a check of 1 million dollars while there are children dying of cancer, unattended for lack of conditions, in a public hospital somewhere in the world and even somewhere in the USA… a country of contrasts… and more and more unjust.

Corporations are governing this world and, allied to corrupt politicians, morally dysfunctional, have unlimited power.

A lawyer that saves millions from tax benefits for his client, receives millions as pay while the person who plants the corn that he eats cannot afford to put his kids in a decent school.

Where have we gone wrong?

Downtown São Paulo

Summer in São Paulo, my home town.
I love it. I hate it!
Walking through a popular gallery, as we call small groups of cheap shops, in old downtown… very close to where kings and princes used to come listen to Opera we trip on culture.
This beautiful mosaic panel was done by the artist himself: Portinari… an Italian born painter/sculptor who lived here.

It is about 7 m tall by around 18 m wide. A non contained element mix… an attempt to modernity…

Art amidst caos

Art amidst caos

Walking further in the old downtown mess, cars and buses buzzing and screaming around you, popular fairs, burglars, old derelict buildings we come by another beautiful intervention. This time by Di Cavalcanti another imported artist who adopted this once beautiful land, now covered by populist and corrupt polititians.

Take in this marvel, free for show at the corner of Rua Augusta and Avenida São Luis. This one is about 2 x 8 m and was an order from the building owner who ran a newspaper print in it.

Colorful Cubist Modernist Wonderful

Colorful Cubist Modernist Wonderful


We came home for a quick visit.
Sao Paulo is a jungle of concrete! Ugly and beautiful…
Now I have four places to miss… with Baton Rouge entering the roster… and hopefully many more.
New Zealand and Israel live deeply in my heart. Great memories…
A trend of older folks… and this makes me feel “experienced” and knowledgeable.
This last year has been a huge change in my life, approach to work and understanding of my own mission. Great and not so great work companions… like everything in life!
Don’t be a stranger…

Reviews and thoughts

Yesterday our Studio had its final revie (I write Studio with a capital letter… such an important word… a great work environment and an intelligent setup).
Exciting and frustrating.
Exciting to have your work looked into by several competent professionals and frustrating for not finding the time to finish off everything and being able to show in graphics what goes in our minds.
Also not sure about what really goes in my mind, complicating it a bit too much and being surprised at how much more simple some solutions and representations could have been.
A few brush strokes and you are done.
Today I had the opportunity to see last year grads presenting their work for Allen’s Studio.
They were dealing with projects for the Lower 9th Ward in N.Orleans.
Data presented showed me that the neighborhood is losing people and one port business, dealing with metal trade, is thriving next to the water, using the waterway for transportation and transferring materials from their warehouse to trucks.
One of the presentations dealt with the fact that this thriving business was causing big damage to the neighborhood. Too many heavy trucks and a disassociation with the rest of the residential community.
It crossed my mind that the whole approach of the projects was missing out on the fact that perhaps the neighborhood won’t ever go back to what it used to be. Perhaps its calling has turned towards an industrial site, since the land value has gone so far down and the population has abandoned the place voluntarily… of course forced by the tragic events of 1997 and the slow recovery or should I say, no recovery of the whole neighborhood.
Without any deep analysis it seems to me that, since port/commerce is thriving, why not favor those types of activities and shift the site zoning towards that type of use? Why not reseving less space for residential use, occupy land next to the water with warehouses, public parks and services, reserving historical parts separate from the heavy traffic that occurs due to industrialization and perhaps lose some historical heritage in favor of a more robust economy that would, in the end, benefit all types of innitiatives, shifting the face of the neighborhood from residential (today it’s more like a ghost town) to mixed use, better integrated to what it’s calling for?
Just thoughts…

DeSoto Thoughts

The search for open space, that’s protected, organized, structured and comfortable, is one of the main motivations for the creation of Public space.
To see and to be seen. Public space forms have taken all shapes and forms along these years. Some more structured, more formal. Some just happen on the streets as matter of fact.
Space includes traditional social concepts as well as the recreation demanded for. Design from a human perspective. Adjust needs to space use. Imagine the use that people will make of outdoor space.
How will they come? What type of access? What are their
It’s unavoidable to consider my own experience as a park user. Successful recreational parks, reflected in their high frequency and popularity, include several characteristics. Which is most important: Location? Maintenance? Safety? Sensations? Perceived threats? Views? Attendance?
Who will be the users? What do they need/desire? How to deal with the potential tensions established? What are the best opportunities? How much flexibility? How to create flexible space?
Active and passive recreation. Both need to be considered.
Provide a healthy social environment. Create spaces that inspire contemplation and harmony.

Assumptions need to be made when choosing what type of activities will be included in the recreational portfolio. A general approach at this level of study induces me to choose popular hardcourt sports, such as basketball and volleyball as well as more passive activities, such as fishing and family outings for picnics.
A very popular choice among teenagers and kids is a skate park and the climate of the place asks for water activities, such as swimming pools, water features to get into and refresh the body.
Moms tending for their babies need space to let them play on grass in a protected environment, putting them to sleep and strolling within a quiet and peaceful environment, protected by shade and choice exposure to sun. Such facility also asks for a rest house with structure for taking full care of toddlers.
Active sports need to be separated from these passive environments that, in turn, can be more appropriately connected to the riverside vegetation that will be included in the space that separates them from the river.
Being a treacherous and dangerous river, the Mississippi at Baton Rouge is something to fear. A clear message that one needs to stay away from water needs to be conveyed. My idea is to create clear cut edges, with sharp falls of at least 8-10 feet, producing a gabion wall that will also work as a stabilizing structure.
Spanish town residents and the residential neighborhood on the northeast side of the Capitol building will most likely be the frequent users of the park.
Surrounding parks are extremely limited and offer a small range of activities.
The only parks West of I 110 and North of I 10, i.e. close to DeSoto Park, are two, very simple, small and nonequiped BREC facilities: Seventh St. Park (0.3 acres and a playground) and Convention Street Park (0.73 acres).
Other open spaces provide for some relaxation on grass but in a non-structured manner except perhaps for Spanish Town Park, 2.05 acres big with playground, basketball court and a baseball field and Kerr Warren Recreation Center, about 2 miles from Spanish Town and 3 miles from our site. Spanish Town itself is in the 1.5 mile range from DeSoto Park, usually not a walking distance in the heat of summer.
Further away one will find well-structured parks with several soccer fields, community centers, adult activity centers, extensive playgrounds, tennis courts, skateboard tracks, sheltered pavilions, sand courts, water playing features, decent maintenance and good use. Especially on weekends.
Being close to the water and at an advantageous high point in town, DeSoto park has a great potential for views of the river as well as the landscape in the horizon, including the I 10 bridge, about a mile away as the crow flies and the productive industrial/agricultural park that surrounds Baton Rouge.

As part of the research on Riparian Ecological Succession, I found this list of plants from the Center for Watershed Protection .
We may already know some of these trees (it’s mainly trees), but organized data listing them by tolerance to several environmental conditions is a great resource, for obvious reasons.

Tree Selection Guide

Today’s desk crit with Gary Smith was very productive!
I was overloaded with scientific data and was lost on how to represent it.
He suggested that what I produce could be viewed as an inspiration for designing future work.
So, if you’re in a batture level where there is no flooding, the tendency for the vegetation is to mature into a high canopy, shading the undergrowth and creating 3 to 4 strata layers.
According to vegetative growth it would evolve (succession) slowly to this condition, but as designers we need to realize that there is all this time before this maturity arrives.
With that in mind, the design process can compensate for the immaturity of the successional phase with architectural elements or plant choice in such a way that the experience of place would still be close to a mature situation.
He observed that many designs forget to take this immaturity period into account and we end up with “empty” spaces in the beginning of a garden’s life. So design should take this into consideration.
Same thought process can be repeated for the two other main regions in the batture situation: commonly flooded region and eventually (for short periods of time) flooded regions.
Now all I need to figure out is how to put that in an illustration! Any suggestions?

Contemplation c…

Contemplation can be a healing process. Turning off all else and immersing into the observation task.

Notation. To note. To notice. From latin: notare – to write, to mark.

Absorb lives of little beings, not so little beings.

The unavoidable immobility of a tree and its exposure to the elements.

A waiting ground for the weathers to come. Its effects recorded in the landscape.

Man’s notation on its landscape.

Most times deleterious. Sometimes constructive.

Inclement weather marks. Reconstruction by resilience.

Above and under surface. Submerged or emerged. Fast or slow. Pertaining or not.

Art or engineering?… or both?

Engage human into understanding its surrounds… long term endeavour. Cultural. Fast paced society.

Task at hand. Just do it!

Take a look at this guy!!!