Category Archives: Emerging Events

The Waters of March

WatersOfMarchIn the final days of the month, as the sky opens and empties an ongoing downpour on the riverside Liberty Liberty Fest (so nice, they named it twice), the bossa nova song stuck in my head offers itself as a theme: "The Waters of March" by Antonio Carlos Jobim.

And the riverbank talks

Of the waters of March

It’s the promise of life

It’s the joy in your heart.

I’m probably most familiar with the David Byrne rendition with Marisa Monte on the 1996 album Red Hot + Rio. But I listen to enough bossa nova to know Brazilian versions as well. That is, I know the sound of them, but I don’t speak Portuguese, so I just imagine the English version as I listen to the Brazilian singers. After all, Jobim wrote both sets of lyrics.

For years the song has lifted my spirits and helped me endure the feeling of unending late winter. Yes, March is dismal, with trees still skeletal against a steel-colored sky and unending mud underfoot, but spring is on its way. The waters of March signal the promise of life and let joy return to my heart.

But, silly me, I’d never thought before of how different March is in the Southern Hemisphere, where the seasons are reversed. March, in Jobim’s Brazil, marks the onset of winter, not spring.

"The inspiration for ‘Águas de Março,’" Wikipedia informs us, "comes from Rio de Janeiro’s rainiest month. March is typically marked by sudden storms with heavy rains and strong winds that cause flooding in many places around the city."

A stick, a stone, a sliver of glass, these seemingly random bits in the lyrics are examples of all that gets churned up and washed away in the floods. The Brazilian waters of March are full of refuse. It is not a washing away of the detritus so much as a threat of chaos before the oncoming cold.

Wikipedia explains: "All these details swirling around the central metaphor of ‘the waters of March’ can give the impression of the passing of daily life and its continual, inevitable progression towards death, just as the rains of March mark the end of a Brazilian summer."

Did I just get it backwards? Is my song of hope really a song of despair, misinterpreted because of cultural narrowness?

Apparently that’s not the whole story. Jobim added additional phrases to the English lyrics to make them fit better with the Northern Hemisphere’s conception of March: "the joy in your heart" and "the promise of spring."

As I’ve written in a different context, "the message sent is not always the same as the message received," but in this case, we have multiple messages at the source. The life-affirming lyrics are Jobim’s gift to his English-speaking audience, and I’m grateful for them. After an unusually long and cold winter, when I find myself standing in mud, huddled among my comrades, discussing liberty in the downpour, I need the waters of March to speak of hope for a future that is no longer some abstract distance on the calendar, but just around the next bend in the deep river.


[Cross-posted at bkmarcus.com.]

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Capitalism as Epic Rap Battle

Who would win in a rap battle, Adolf Hitler or Darth Vader? Maybe that question hasn’t exactly been gnawing at you, but in the cutthroat emerging market of Internet entertainment, writers, actors, and producers innovate tirelessly to get your attention.

One of the strangest commercial successes to rise from this crucible is the Epic Rap Battles of History, a YouTube musical-comedy series that now has more than 1.8 million subscribers. That’s a block of loyal fans that most TV stations would kill for.

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Respect Indigenous Property Rights

Environmentalists and mining companies are fighting over the fate of the remote Klappan Valley in northern British Columbia. The different sides struggle for government approval of their particular plans, but almost no one fully acknowledges the property rights of the first owners of the valley, the indigenous Tahltan people.

The Tahltan have lived in and around the Klappan Valley since before there were any states at all in North America. They defended this rich territory against rival tribes, as Tahltan leaders put it, “from time immemorial, at the cost of our own blood,” long before European contact.[1] They defended it against the mercantilist Hudson’s Bay Company in the 1800s. And now they are defending it against the corporate cronies of the central government.

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In Praise of Government Gridlock

In California, a law that promised to control politicians is now being used to control the public.

California’s Proposition 25 promised to rein in runaway spending and "end budget gridlock" by hitting politicians’ pocketbooks. Every day on which lawmakers failed to pass a balanced budget after their June 15 deadline each year would be a day of pay they lost.

This was an attempt to increase government "efficiency" — to make government conform to the laws of business: you must give people the things they want on time or you do not get paid. But, as Mises wrote, "government efficiency and industrial efficiency are entirely different things."

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Capitalist Contortions: How Amazon Survives the State

Here’s a snapshot from the American landscape of convoluted crony capitalism: starting this September, if a man in Los Angeles buys a book from Amazon.com, the local sales tax he pays could go to the city of San Bernardino, which will then give 80 percent of the tax money back to Amazon itself.

Such roundabout arrangements of redistributive robbery are in fact an unavoidable consequence of the doctrine Mises called "interventionism." Nowadays, it is more often called "economic development," but it still means the same thing: government manipulations with the stated goal of improving on the free market.

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California City Gets Amazon.com Sales Tax — and Gives It to Amazon.com

Amazon.com Inc. is planning to partner with at least one California city to collect sales taxes from the entire state. Most of the collected tax money would go back to Amazon.

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The Future of High-IQ Education

This article was originally published on Whiskey & Gunpowder.

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Wonderful developments in education are on the horizon.

Mensa, the international association for people much smarter than I am, has just accepted its newest member: a toddler with an IQ of 154. Calgary’s Anthony Popa Urria is now almost three years old. Before he was one, he could sound out the English alphabet. He can now speak English, Spanish, and some Romanian, and he enjoys afternoons spent studying his giant atlas.
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