TEA WITH BRAZIL'S LITERARY ELITE: Reporter Andrew Downie was invited to visit the Brazilian Academy of Letters in downtown Rio de Janeiro one recent Thursday. That's the day the academicians gather for afternoon tea before the weekly meeting. "I was led into the tearoom, or whatever it's called, to talk with the president at the long table with the finger sandwiches and cakes. It felt like I was entering a sanctum, the way everyone else stood at the door and didn't dare enter. It was a little surreal," he says.
"The academicians were all very friendly. It's hard to believe that these guys are so well known. They all looked like that old uncle we all used to have when we were growing up."
Author Paulo Coelho was there the same day, and Andrew spoke briefly with him. "I watched him from the sidelines, it was noticeable how solicitous he was, especially considering he's sold more books than the rest of the academicians put together (page 1). He wants to be a member of the academy. He initially agreed to an interview with me, but then called to cancel, saying it might jeopardize his chances of getting in."
MILITARY OR AD CAMPAIGN? Presumably advertising executives have their finger on the pulse of a society. If so, war must be top of mind in the Indonesian province of Aceh, notes reporter Dan Murphy. On his first visit in more than a year (page 7), he was surprised at the name of the new cigarette brand and the ad campaign that's blanketed the city: "Combat Enjoy Victory."
"The billboard has a mercenary looking fellow in aviator glasses apparently enjoying one of his victories," says Dan. "An odd thing to look at after a day of interviews with people talking about how awful the killing is."
David Clark Scott