Sob céu tranqüilo no Xingú à foz do Tapajós, os avôs índios levantarão a âncora para o caçula metê-la no chá do Solimões.
              (Portuguese-language typing exercise I made up. In English, and more veracious, are other things I made up, below.)

Peter Fleming's Brazilian Adventure (1933) is not merely the best book ever written about Brazil, it is the only good book ever written about Brazil. The best I can claim is: he never got to THESE places. Well, the ones covered in the first three pieces. He did pass through the fourth-described area, and was far less lyrical about it than I was.

Canada, quondam superpower, deserves better than the attached. Attaching them here in particular is my way of suggesting the country is most certainly NOT an American alternate universe. Brazil has a far better claim to that, not least because Brazil doesn't touch us.

Speaking purely as a programmer, I think there should be an HTML tag that italicizes AND applies a question mark. Portugal? Have you ever read anything about the place? I mean, that you can remember. Yeah, well, me neither.

EASTERN Europe, on the other hand, is a gimme: you almost can't write badly about the place. And it's still worth watching. And yet as much as I enjoy diversity-celebration-excoriation - it is my hopeful prediction that in the speech of recent retirees, diversity diorama will supplant rat race - I cannot be sure that Yugoslavia really was a failure of multiculturalism. That it had a lot of cultures and it blew up, I cannot deny. Yet as far as I can tell, it sought to enforce uniculturalism, and that is what infuriated people. "Yugoslavian" just isn't as sexy as "American." "Slovene" isn't sexy either, but it does seem to have satisfied Slovenes, who have always known who they are. Herewith, a fund of chitchat about them and their land.

And speaking of jokes that need only their punchlines told, how about this: "I thought you said 72 virgin girls!" At the time, I could not have put the feeling into words, but now quite a few of us can: 9/11 was totally beyond the comprehension of the pulp media. They would NEVER figure that one out. Almost anything non-mainstream on the subject of the Middle East is interesting, and fresh: the competition is that weak. For a website about Turkish, it may be a little odd that I'm offering hardly anything about Turkey itself. But the subject is a thin one, and "interesting" and "fresh" both entail "brief." A note: none of these compositions ends with the sentence So finally I just said the hell with it, and medicated every damn one of 'em.

"What," you groan, "another website, and I still have never read anything about Africa that captures the Katrina-vibe of the place?" Not so fast. Here's a little piece on Africa's second-littlest country, São Tomé e Príncipe. Helplessness is scarcely recognized as a big topic, and even less recognized as an expanding topic. Even to try to measure its size causes its size to increase: whatever you imagine helpless people doing, you just lengthen The List Of Things They Don't Do.

Late addition: just having spent a week in New Orleans, I must state that it had no Katrina-vibe, that it was all around pretty nice, and that if anyone is pursuing lifelong professional victimhood, they are doing so largely outside the city limits. Hooray. But the city's obviously substantial depopulation reminded me of post-civil war Maputo, and so I have introduced the attached. Rereading it after 13 years, I see I'd better be careful not to overstate the case - the two cities really aren't a duo - but here's the piece anyway. Since nobody I've talked to has ever heard of Maputo, I thought that was reason enough to hang up something on the subject.

The following is just a summary of nearly all the domestic bicycle rides I've taken. It's here only because I once interviewed with the Foreign Service and it gave me the idea that diplomats should have traveled widely in their own countries as well as, or even instead of, foreign countries. Like most solo physical undertakings, bicycle rides don't really come out well in linear, narrative form (neither do bus rides, come to think of it, and I have taken a lot of those too), but you can list 'em, and I have.

Late entry: a hitchhiking compendium. Does anybody even do this anymore? I would not overstate the insights afforded by the activity (or is it "passivity"?). Indeed, those who claim to have learned great things from cabdrivers are being the less boastful. Here, I do not propose to boast. I'd just like to report I had some fun, and was treated very, very generously!

I like to think that what I've said above about the lusophone countries, Turkey, Slovenia, and the U.S. is possessed of insight, which it ought to be, since I've spent a lot of time studying these places. What follows here is material which can't be so described because I not only didn't spend much time but pointedly sought to limit it. They're as close as I get to journalism, to humor columns specifically. But that's not very close. Is it me, or do all humor columnists now sound like homeless guys? That routine: laboriously teeing up an idea, then thwacking it with a broom, then in one's exaggerated followthrough tangling one's legs and falling over. No - whatever my stuff is, it isn't that.

Because these inclusions are so questionable, I figured I had nothing to lose by footnoting the things. A sure sign of undisciplined writing, in case you miss all the other signs.