Monday, 30 May 2011

Street Art in São Paulo Part 2

Nobody has been able to explain why but there is a custom of painting lamp posts in many parts of the city. Here are some examples:

Pinheiros region

Faria Lima

Alto Pinheiros
Vila Madalena
If you know why lamp posts are painted like this please leave a comment!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Helpful street objects around Pinheiros

Despite what is usually said about big cities and what I have heard about São Paulo's residents, in my experience Paulistanos have been extremely proactive, thoughtful, considerate and helpful. In fact, I often notice small details on the street which are put there to make life easier for another Pauistano. Here are some interesting examples:

On a street corner in Pinheiros the newspaper stand has a lighter attached to it for passers by to grab a "light" or for customers who have just purchased cigarattes:

The same stand also has a pen for you to use:

And further down the street there are public telephone booths, called orelhãos, portuguese for big ears, as they look like oversized ears. Notice that they have built a lower one for disabled access:

Compare that with the thought of a disabled person trying to get a wheelchair inside the traditional telephone boxes in London and the orelhão wins hands down.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

A Top 10 mushroom in São Paulo

Living in São Paulo is an urban overdose of all things man-made so it’s easy to forget that the surrounding areas are dotted with lakes, beaches and Alantic forest.

And that’s exactly why São Paulo made an appearance yesterday in the International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE) annual Top 10 New Species 2010. One of the 10 most extraordinary finds is apparently the Mycena luxaeterna, a bioluminescent mushroom which emits a bright yellow-green light and was discovered in Iporanga at the Parque Estadual Turístico do Alto Ribeira. The Latin name means "eternal light" which in turn is a movement in Mozart's "Requiem". And before this turns too highbrow here are the photos of the shroom by day and by night:

Technical details follow:

Name:  Mycena luxaeterna

Common Name:  Eternal light mushroom

Family:  Mycenaceae

How it made the Top 10:  This new species, collected from some of the last remaining Atlantic forest habitat near São Paulo, Brazil, emits very bright yellowish green light 24 hours per day from its gel-covered stems.  DNA sequences of this species
(from 5 gene regions) are helping us to understand the origin and evolution of bioluminescence in the fungi.  Of the estimated 1.5 million species of fungi on earth, only 71 species are known to be bioluminescence and Mycena luxaeterna is one of the most visually striking species.

Reference:  Desjardin, D.E., B.A. Perry, D.J. Lodge, C.V. Stevani, and E. Nagasawa. 2010. Luminescent Mycena: new and noteworthy species. Mycologia 102(2):459- 477.

Type Material:  Holotype – Instituto de Botânica Herbário (SP), São Paulo, Brazil.  Isotype – San Francisco State University Thiers Herbarium (SFSU), San Francisco, California, USA. Paratypes – SP and SFSU.

Type Locality:  Brazil, São Paulo state, Iporanga, Parque Estadual Turístico do Alto Ribeira, Poço da Viúva, 24°35.220'S, 48°37.840'W.

Etymology:  lux = light (L.), aeterna = eternal (L.), referring to the constant light emitted by the basidiomes. The epithet was inspired by and borrowed from Mozart’s Requiem (Communio).

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Policía Militar, A rough introduction to freedom of speech

Today the news back “home” was heavy with the announcement that PC Simon Harwood would becharged for the manslaughter of Ian Tomlinson, a passerby at the G20 summit protests in London a couple of years ago who was pushed to the floor by police and ended up dying shortly afterwards. There has been considerable debate about the amount of police force allowed during civil unrest but this ne caught many people’s eyes because the protestor was not actually a protestor but a newspaper seller who was apparently peacefully attempting to make his way home. 

Back in my other “home” in São Paulo a peaceful march was planned for Saturday dubbed the Marcha da Maconha which demanded the legalization of marihuana. However it was banned and the organizers met with police and mutually agreed they would modify their march and instead march to defend freedom of expression with a view to promoting debate around drug policy. Somewhat strangely both sides agreed there could therefore be no mention of the word marihuana written or spoken at any point during the event by any participants or otherwise. Inevitably this was not fully upheld and the Policía Militar (PM) let loose. Take a deep breath, forward to about 60seconds in and watch:

Unlike the court proceedings the other side of the Atlantic, yesterday this was officially defended by a PM spokesman as entirely justified given that the protestors "were making an apology for drug use" So much for freedom of speech..  

Different country, different era and a much more lighthearted situation but this very much reminds me of the now classic appearance by Frank Zappa on CNN's Crossfire in 1986 who bravely tried to defend the free use of “words” whilst being shouted down under a barrage of criticism including bizaare accusations of encouraging incest due his defence of what at the time was considered provocative music lyrics…

Sunday, 22 May 2011

It's 23ºC (73ºF) in São Paulo, turn on your heaters please

Temperature like most other measurements is relative because although feeling hot or cold feels more like a natural instinct than a personal opinion there can great differences in perception. Presumably this is guided by our known temperature range, the maximums and minimums that we our accustomed to experience.

AT least this is the only reasonable explanation for why every Paulistano I have met recently has at some point started complaining about the cold weather and the imminent arrival of winter. “But, it’s not cold here” I’ve been telling them as I struggle to understand how you can simultaneously complain about cold temperature whilst wearing shorts. And it’s not that I keep a temperature conscious social circle. An article appeared on the Folha de São Paulo today which is headlined “Para aplacar o frio, padarias servem cremes e sopas” roughly translated as “Bakeries serving soups, to counter the cold” so I hurriedly rushed on to Google to check the onslaught of Siberian weather up ahead. Here´s a screen shot of Google’s response:

That very effectively allayed my immediate fears but I am now dreading the summer. If they think 23ºC (73ºF) is cold, we’re in for a roasting when the summer comes round!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Book vending machines in the metró

When I first saw them I though they were snack machines but when I got closer I realised there were no Mars bars, Coca-Cola or M&Ms and in their place were books! In fact in many central stations in São Paulo you can only find book vending machines, nothing else is for sale on the platforms or hallways. And they're quite affordable too at between R$2 and R$5 (1 to 2€) although there does seem to be a disproportionate number of religious books making me wonder if this is another covert money making operation by the IURD (see old post on drive-through churches..)

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Bradesco's biometric blood vessel recognition

One of the misconceptions in the so-called industrialised world is that developing countries are necessarily less technologically advanced. Wrong.

Having previously written about their drive through banking I risk sounding like a Bradesco corporate evangelist, but their embrace of new security technologies are worthy of another mention. Due to the inordinate amount of local admin I have endured in my first few weeks I have visited at least one branch of most Brazilian banks operating in São Paulo and noticed that Bradesco's ATMs are a little different. Here's a picture of an ATM on Amazonas street right next to my hotel in Vila Olimpia:

You will notice that there is a red contraption on the right hand side. Take a closer look:

What it does is permit the bank to read your vein signature and depending on whether it matched correctly decide whether to allow the transaction to take place. From a user point of view it's quite a simple process once you have registered your blood vessel pattern. When you go to a Bradesco cashpoint you place your hand in the red area and press the "pulso" button. Infrared light will be emitted allowing the machine to record the blood vessel patterns in your hand and match it back to their database.

Nature and biology plays a helping hand (excuse the pun) with veins guaranteed to create intricate anatomical variations both within the same species and in case you were wondering, between different species (your pet would probably struggle with other aspects of the cashpoint anyway). This means the pattern of veins is much more variable from person to person than arteries for example and can be used as a unique identifier. Interesting, huh?

And for you techies the service itself is called Palmsecure and is developed by Fujitsu which also partners with Bank of Tokyo in its home country, Japan. They mention that as it is the deoxidized hemoglobin in the palm vein which absorbs the infrared rays, "the sensor of the palm vein device can only recognize the pattern if the deoxidized hemoglobin is actively flowing within the individual's veins". Technically true but frankly, if your veins are not taking deoxygenated blood back to your heart, you've got a pretty major problem and cashpoint security is going to be the least of your short term worries..

Presumably if there were a cheap way to expand this technology you could get rid of physical money altogether and scan your hand anytime you needed to identify yourself and pay. Wow, how very new, you might say. This year Brazil has snuck one step ahead of us. Wrong again. Palmsecure has been in use at cashpoints for 5 years already as shown by this article and is therefore already old school technology over here..

Monday, 16 May 2011

Street Art in São Paulo Part 1

Here are some graffiti seen this weekend in the downtown centro region around República and Anhangabaú

Friday, 13 May 2011

Slavery, economic apartheid & barbecue protests

123 years ago today Isabel, Princess Imperial of Brazil signed the Lei Áurea, or Golden Law in Rio de Janeiro and thereby ended a phenomena which to a large extent has formed and influenced the Brazilian population and society we have today. That phenomena was slavery. And perhaps unsurprisingly for a country which left it that late to abolish the practice and which only did so, long after its independence from colonial Portugal and at a time when it by in large no longer needed slaves (cheap European workers were starting to fill the gap) the great inequalities left behind are still clearly visible today. Some of them are quite shocking to the outsider:

One of the first things you notice when in São Paulo is that there is an incredible gap in the wealth of its inhabitants and that society is effectively divided into economic strata. Of course there have always been the haves and the have nots, and this not the place to descend into socio-political theory, but in São Paulo it feels more like the have everythings and the have jackshits, pardon my language. Evidently it is somewhat more complex than this and there are many strata but what is really interesting is the way in which, even residing in close proximity, sharing the same city, the same resources, the upper ones have virtually no contact with the lower ones. The “uppers” do not even contemplate the use of public transport, they don’t move outside of “upper” districts, and certainly don’t socialize with anyone other than other “upper”. Obviously the “lowers” primarily for economic reasons don’t use private transport, frequent upper districts or socialize with uppers and in many buildings to avoid the uncomfortable situation of having to mix with somebody of a different social echelon architects specifically build separate entrances, separate lifts, separate gateways. The recently departed president, Lula, called it “economic apartheid” and there are some who read in racial undertones (skin colour gets lighter as you work your way up the echelons) although my gut feeling is that economics is indeed a far greater factor.
But as much as the theory is interpretable and arguable the practice is stark and blunt. A curious example I have to hand is the recent protests in the very clean-sounding “upper” neighbourhood of Higienopolis described by Mark Kobayashi Hillary in Computer Weekly. As is well known São Paulo has desperate transportation problems, a huge overdependence on private vehicles and an urgent need for improved public transport infrastructure (shhhh what do you mean, how on earth are they going to host the World Cup?!). Fortunately the new line 4 is already under construction and partially open and there are plans for a line 6 which runs from Vila Clarice to Anália Franco passing through Higienopolis-Mackenzie. Yes this is where we come back to the “uppers” and the “lowers” because the residents of Higienopolis are up in arms at the prospect of having “lowers” reach their neighbourhood through the horrors of an efficient public transport system. So whilst in other parts of the world there would be protests at the lack of access to public transport in your neighbourhood in São Paulo we have reverse protests whereby the residents try to block any plans to build a station in the affluent parts of town. As Hillary calls it this is a full scale reverse class war which has made the local administration succumb and reroute the line. I have heard similar stories of re-routed buslines so that bus stops are kept well away from high-end shops and restaurants of another “upper” neighbourhood, Itaim Bibi.

Now, no post is fun without a good finish so let me know your thoughts on this Facebook event which plans to host a huge street barbecue and party tomorrow afternoon outside the main shopping mall in Higienopolis complete with street food, street music open to all residents (upper and lower) of São Paulo in order to create a semi-spontaneous event so large the authorities will have to respond to the event manifesto: a full investigation into the cancelling of the metro station and a formal response from Governor Geraldo Alckmin. I just checked and there are 54,000 attendees. Now that's a lot of burgers amd sausages….

Maybe they are preparing for tomorrow's barbecue..

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Beauty is in the nail of the beholder

Although São Paulo itself cannot be considered a beautiful city in anything other than a metaphorical sense that doesn’t mean it’s inhabitants are not beauty conscious. This year Miss Universe is held in São Paulo, Brazil being a proud member of the top 5 all time winners list but beyond formalized beauty  contests on a day to day level it’s quite common to see people, particularly and especially women, who have made an enormous effort to look beautiful.

Particularly noticeable is the nail culture. Painted nails are everywhere and although I’m not a big fan myself it’s still impressive to see the effort put in to these intricate designs and the variety of different patterns available. Actually I am already quite used to them so I wasn’t so surprised to meet a “painted” lady the other day but when I found out what she’d done to her dog I realized there’s a whole other level to nail painting.

Check it out:

Ps. The dog, which is presumably a she, was also sprayed with perfume. Amusing and frightening in equal doses..

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Keeping it simple on Saturday night

Every now and again, even in hectic São Paulo, we are reminded that keeping things simple is often a good recipe for success.

Last Saturday whilst crawling through some of the neighbourhood bars of the Centro district I came across this lively table providing entertainment from their pavement table, hats off to them:

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Coca-Cola Shoes are in/back/out/here/everywhere (delete as appropriate)

Ok so I’m walking down the street and I glance into a shoestore and see some new Converses I have never seen before. Looking closer I realize they’r e not Converse, they are a different brand, a brand I know very well but don’t associate with footwear… Coca-Cola! Here are the photos I took:

Now being an arrogant Westerner (capital W for emphasis) I immediately assumed these were bootleg and tut tutted  - what would The Coca-Cola Company say if they found out.  Major brand infringement lawsuit coming your way Mr São Paulo Shoe Shop Owner. But no – I was wrong, these are legitimate, official Coca-Cola products. I can think of a million product areas Coca-Cola could easily move towards but I must say shoes is not high up the list although when you see it it kind of works.

After researching this I have found not only that they are readily available on many Brazilian shoe retailers such as Leader  which have fancy ones like these:

but they also have their own website 

And it could be that I don't shop a lot and hadn't noticed till now but until I came to Brazil I didn't realise Coca-Cola had expanded into clothing proper so if you really feel the need you can deck out entirely in Coca-Cola clothing.

Now before you all go off and read another post in disgust, I should inform you that, according to the Coca-Cola freaks out there, there was a time in the 80s when Coca-Cola shoes got fashionable and as we all know.. the late 80s are “in again”. Need I say more, Leader awaits all you moderninhos…

And if not there's always Lou Bega to keep you sweet..

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

This is what 500,000 post-its look like

Melissa is Brazilian store which sells fashionable shoewear for women whose façade displays recently caught my eye. It’s flagship store is on no other street than Rua Oscar Freire in São Paulo referred to, tongue in cheek, by a friend of mine as the Beverly Hills of São Paulo and occupant of the most expensive dark blue square on the Brazilian monopoly board (on the English board it would be Mayfair). You get the idea.

And like any other store which needs to justify high prices Melissa has a strong marketing team which recently hired the agency Casa Darwin to completely paste the entire shop façade with post-it notes as co-marketing action with 3M. I am not in a position to evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign but it is certainly eye catching and not only did they do it once, they are repeating it 6 times with different designs, each post-it intended to be a single pixel in the grand display. A whopping 500,000 post-its have been used in total (don’t worry I’m sure 3M gave them a bulk discount :)) along with 40km of adhesive tape.

The address is below if you want to stop by and if not see my pictures even further below, there was a post-it elephant on view when I stopped by!

Galeria Melissa
Rua Oscar Freire, 827 - São Paulo / SP

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Skating through traffic on Rua Augusta and hitching a ride back up

Skateboarding is probably not the first thing you think of when you think of São Paulo's streets. High traffic congestion, aggressive lane switching, speeding through red lights and, according to Time maagazine, the world's worst traffic jams do not create the most conducive environment for your average rollerblader, cyclist or skater.

São Paulo is also far more hilly than first impressions would have you believe so I was surprised to see so many skaters hanging out on Saturday night on the central Rua Augusta. Then I noticed the traffic can also be used to your advantage to catch a handy lift up the hills. Check it out:

ps. This is the National Geographic picture my good friends Isaac and Shiraz recalled when they saw the above video. São Paulo 2011 vs Mexico DF 1981, 30 years and not so much has changed...
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