The second of an on-going series, Urban Buzz, looks at what people from around the world are chatting about.
New York: Francis Fukuyama, who is to the 1990s what George F. Kennan was to the Cold War era (its guru, its definer), has come out with an essay called The Calvinist Manifesto, in this Sunday's New York Times.
He revisits Max Weber's seminal, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, by putting it into the modern-day context when nation-building is once again to the fore. He doesn't trumpet Weber's ideas that religion went a long way to explain why certain countries fared better in Capitalist economies than did others, but in fact, starts out by rubbishing them.
It's not culture, which religion produces and then is reproduced in it, which accounts for success or failure in free-market economies, but the institutional malleability each country has. What holds countries back, therefore, is not religion "but stifling institutions, bad politics and misguided policies. Once these were fixed, both [China/Japan] societies took off". Can this then, be the hope of the Middle East and economic progress?
Sounds easier said than done, obviously, but should prove to be worth an hour or two of animated conversations all around the campus water coolers, especially at the University of Tennessee Law School.
Rio de Janeiro: GLOBO Television, the world's 4th largest television network after the Big 3 (ABC, CBS, NBC), are coming out with a new "novela das oito", called simply America. The nightly soap debuts this Monday the 14th of March, and should be worth watching if only to see how they do this brega-chique production.
The story revolves around several characters and their desire to leave Brazil and its economic challenges, and move to America, specifically, Miami (even more specifically Miami Beach, and even MORE specifically than that, Fisher Island -- the last resting place of the expat elite). This obviously hits very close to home with me, so even though I hate soaps of any country, I might just watch the first "capitulos".
What I find glaring here is the very word America being used for the United States. To anyone who knows Brazilians, as all Central and South Americans, they are notoriously picky about being called "Americans"* too, which of course they are, but sometimes their constant pointing to this fact borders on the childish and resentful. I wonder if the Marinho Family, who have huge mansions in Fisher Island, argued for America instead of Miami.
*If you recall in the film, Barcelona, the Chris Eigeman character confounds himself with the alternate word in Spanish, "Estadunidense" -- "Dense. D-E-N-S-E...it's a direct slap to the face". Heh. I love Whit Stillman.
Guatemala City: The cramped Teatro Municipal (seating a few hundred) was at standing room only for Eve Ensler's pudenda feminist-anthem The Vagina Monologues, on 8 March.
As a young Canadian blogger, currently teaching there, relates the show was organised by female textile workers but had a significant portion of Ladinos and "Gringos" present. He mentions young schoolgirls being part of the audience too, and that much giggling and hilarity ensued in the Spanish-language translation of this now old theatre circuit standby. I wonder if they were there for homework extra credit.
Mexico City: Do you love anything even remotely futuristic? Finally, you may have the washer and dryer that goes with your Bender action figures, since Samsung's Silver Nano products have launched in a big way in the capital city.
These pricey appliances build on the ancient Greek theory of purifying water by using silver. I bet you the Greeks never had to pay U$ 2,000 for a spin-cycle.
I think I'll just to stick to the soap.
Paris: French-born Prince Consort Henrik of Denmark was on hand in France to launch Hans Christian Andersen's bicentenary celebrations there.
During the Brazilian Carnival this past February, I was going to mention in my aborted Carnaval wrap-up post that samba school, Imperatriz Leopoldinense's theme was a tribute to the legendary Danish writer, and had been co-sponsored by the Danish Embassy in Brazil. The carnavalesca, Rosa Magalhães, was personally invited to Denmark last year, the better to hone her knowledge of Hans Christian Andersen. She must be a quick study, because their presentation was BY FAR the best of the hallowed Carioca event. Shame they didn't win.
Hans Christian Andersen and samba? Why not indeed.
England: Top DVD Rentals this week are...
1. Bridget Jones - The Edge Of Reason
2. Ladies In Lavender
3. Little Britain - Comic Relief 2005
4. Bridget Jones'S Diary/The Edge Of Reason
6. Shark Tale
9. The Princess Diaries 2 - Royal
Yikes. Not a film I would like to watch. Mind you, Little Britain, the television series, is excellent. But looking at this list reminds me once again why the Oscars a fortnight ago were so particularly awful. There simply was a dearth of quality films last year.
And speaking of which, The Passion Recut opened today in US cinemas. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks they should've given a little more thought to the title. Ouch.