Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Vulnerability

The blue dots that are overlayed on this map of the United States represent one of the most vulnerable countries on earth. 


I created this image using the web site TheTrueSize.com, which I often use to make size comparisons among countries and/or U.S. states. The site is especially useful for illustrating the misperceptions that arise from our overuse of the Mercator projection, but it is also just a convenient way to make comparisons among all kinds of landmasses. The results can be especially surprising when archipelagos are examined.

To create the image, I cleared the map and then entered "Kiribati" in the search box. This highlighted all of the islands of this Pacific archipelago, which I carefully clicked and dragged toward the continental United States. I positioned it so that the bulk of the islands were superimposed on California. This would result in several islands being in New Mexico and Texas, with others as far away as Indiana and Florida. Kiribati, is spread over an area more than half the stze of the "lower 48" states. 

The blue does exaggerate its landmass, however, as each outlines an island that would be invisible at the scale of this map. The total size of all of the islands of Kiribati is only 313 square miles -- less than one-third the size of Plymouth County, Massachusetts.

This word is an unusual spelling of "Gilbert" and is pronounced "Kiribahs." I have written about its vulnerability as a low-lying island nation, most notably in my 2015 post Climate Attack.



Thursday, March 02, 2023

Music and Resistance

In today's session of my Latin American geography course, we are discussing a few aspects of the military period in Brazil -- and artistic resistance to it. The discussion will include my 1996 visit with the artist Anka, which is detailed in the Folha da Fronteira newsletter I sent to friends at the time. In that account, I mention a small joke he shared. It was more than 20 years later that I realized he was not joking, and that the obscurity of his existence was almost certainly connected to the precarious position artists had been in only a few years before I visited his hermitage.

We will also explore the unbelievable but true story of Calice, a song title whose two meanings provide deep insight into artistic resistance. The story of musical resistance throughout the region is told in more detail in the 2020 Netflix limited series Break it All

But we will begin today's class with something a bit more relaxed -- former Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil performing Rio Eu Te Amo (Rio I Love You). I had the great privilege of hearing an entire evening of such work when he visited the Zeiterion Theater in New Bedford in 2007. He is the only performer I have seen there who was traveling with a Secret Service detail, because the concert was during a break in his attendance of the U.N. General Assembly. 

I have spoken of that encounter often -- even with these students -- without realizing the true importance of his career. Fortunately, this morning's installment of BBC Forum was a deep exploration of Tropicalia -- his two-person group that had a profound impact on the military regime.

We also discussed the 1985 British farce Brazil, which makes no direct mention of the country, but is clearly all about the regime.

We rounded out class with three vocabulary words: jeito, palanca, and mordida!

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