Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Well, some overly simplistic observations are in order:
1. I have come to the conclusion that hustlers are exactly the same breed everywhere on Earth. Whether they be Cuban or Moroccan or whatever, wherever there are poor people and tourists, you will be hustled in more or less exactly the same way; that is, the hustler will think you were born yesterday and you cannot put one foot in front of the other without his expert assistance. He will feign to purvey a charitable service that you never solicited and then get all bent out of shape when you politely tell him to bug off. Having said this, it has been a big and very welcome surprise to find much less hustling here than we three girls expected. There is quite a bit of it but it is not as annoying as apparently it used to be. Some of it is extremely charming and some of it is pushy. Pushy people for the most part have pushy faces, in my view. But the fact is that the young king of Morocco put an end to it, quite smartly too, for this town is up to the ramparts with tourists and we all seem to be having a ball.
2. In Morocco they have elevated selling stuff to an art, a ruse, absolutely engrossing theater, suspenseful drama and great fun. As is to be expected, you will haggle from three zillion dirhams to three and still you will feel ripped off (and you probably will be), but as long as you understand that you just underwent a transformative experience, you wont go home feeling like such a loser. I do have one piece of useful advice to the novice: first day out on the souk:
a) try to control the awe and amazement written all over your face, for you will be descended upon by henna tattoo artists, snake charmers and very wily hustlers. As Bea says, better put on a smile followed by your best fart face and do not strike up naive conversations until you know the lay of the land a little better.
b) do not set out to buy ANYTHING. You will be ripped off in the most amazing way and I say this with utmost admiration. Wait until you have walked around a bit and have learned to distinguish the tourist traps from the real McCoys.
3. The Hammam is one of the greatest hallmarks of civilization: I want to open one in NY.
4. Moroccan food is delish.
I know this is quite abrupt, but as I said, Marrakech and its semi-medieval chaos beckons.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
I've heard stories about a Latin American high school girl being bullied and taunted with death threats, a boy getting a bad beating, only because they hailed from South America. People I know who you could not physically distinguish from any other Spaniard, were unable to rent an apartment when they arrived because people would hear their accent and refuse to rent it to them. There is a term here used to describe people from Latin America and it is considered as derogatory as the n word: "sudaca", as from the south. This just confirms to me that the racism here is deeply ingrained. There is no respect for anything that is not local, not even those people who are a result of Spanish conquests centuries ago. For years Spain was a mostly homogeneous country and now you see more and more people of color. You see south Americans busing tables, Koreans behind the counters of delis, Chinese selling trinkets in stores and on the streets. Working class Spanish neighborhoods are now predominantly inhabited by immigrants. In terms of people, Madrid looks more like NY than it ever has. But they have a long way to go to become a more multicultural society.
Charming: The food rocks. You can have wonderful food in Paris, but it is never going to be as much fun as it is here. 1. It is non-stop. 24/7 there is food to be had in this town. Standing up, sitting down, while nursing a drink, you will not go hungry. Later on I will show you pictures. I´ve been taking pictures of the food so you can believe me. Who cares about anything else?
First meal out of the gate: Outdoors at the Plaza Santa Ana attended by rude and bickering waiters, enjoying the crisp, sunny winter day with a glass of El Coto that tastes much better here than when I buy it in NY. Our waiter was too busy flirting with an Argentinian mutant amazon who seemed to be some sort of surgically enhanced celebrity to pay much mind to us, but he did bring us an order of tender, outstanding shrimp al ajillo, fresh and perfectly cooked, not frozen and overcooked to death like in NY. Then I ordered something called Revuelto de la Casa, the House Scramble and it was one of those things that make you think that Spanish food is genius. A way undercooked scrambled egg with some sort of serrano ham made in heaven by the angels, potato slivers and wild mushrooms. Magnificent right out of the gate and every meal since then has been equally fantastic.
We've had thick, incredible hot chocolate with churros at famous Chocolateria San Gines, the best ever. Every single place in Madrid is like the subway at rush hour and there is no waiting for your hostess to sit you; you have to claim your place among the hungry. We had incredible cod fritters and ham croquettes with a crisp fresh beer at Casa Labra before having a fantastic lunch of tapas at Maxi, which is owned by the friend of a friend of mine. As you can imagine I can barely walk, I have eaten so much. Today was the apotheosis: cocido madrileño at the famed Taberna de la Bola. Cocido is a stew you eat in installments and then you die. First they give you the broth with vermicelli where the meat has been stewing for ages. This soup is the epitome of comfort food (the discomfort comes later). Then out of these lovely terracota jugs come out the tenderest, most flavorful garbanzo beans, meats, chorizo, bacon, potatoes, etc. It is so good I can't even describe it, but it is impossible to finish it (unless you are a pig). Light it ain't. Suffice it to say right now I feel like Moby Dick after a particularly heavy meal (and it´s been six hours since). After it you order another genius of simplicity dessert which helps you digest: fresh oranges in orujo (a sort of grappa) and burnt sugar. HEAVEN. Then you have to walk fifteen times around Madrid to settle down.
Charming: old fashioned stores, old fashioned bakeries, old fashioned bars, old fashioned everything. We have no such thing in NY, where there are really no traditions and nobody gives a damn.
However, as my friend Joaquin points out, and this is the not-charming aspect of the deal, it is also traditional of Spain to be racist, homophobic, antisemitic and resistant to change. They are making headway at least in the gay department (there is legal gay marriage here), the Jews they expelled and burned at the stake long ago and the racism is truly appalling, even though I have never seen more new, colored faces on the streets. There begins to be here a multicultural society and hopefully it will integrate better than some of its other European neighbors.
And now, I leave you to ponder this predicament, cause I have to go TO DINNER!!!!
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Got here safe and sound, despite a harrowing experience not on the air, but at the JFK Delta terminal, which has got to be the waiting room to hell. I have already sent a letter to Delta complaining about their ground services like a year ago and I got a typically cynical corporate response absolving themselves from any responsibility. Their neglect seems particularly directed towards international passengers. I must say the Delta ground employees were stretched to the limit and despite the fact that it was seven o clock at night and they hadn't had any lunch (which would have made me genocidal), they were polite and patient. So it is obvious that Delta, the company, evidences complete disregard and disrespect not only for their customers, but for their employees as well. It is beyond comprehension why they have their check-in counters at a narrow, most inhospitable terminal where passengers have to stand in the cold at the curb in interminable, chaotic lines. It is inexcusable that passengers that arrive, like idiots, 2 or more hours beforehand end up spending more time in line than those like me, who know the drill and know that if you get there an hour an a half in advance you will be allowed to skip the line so they can dispatch you sooner. I intend to write Delta another letter. Their horrible treatment of the passengers at check in makes everybody furious. Then the moronic Neanderthals who work as airport security at JFK exacerbate matters with their unfathomable stupidity and their lack of manners. Again, these people would make great supermarket cashiers, bur they are not fit to defend us from evil.
Sorry, I had to vent. I will tell you about Madrid, a capital city that is charmingly provincial, another time. Now I´m going to the Prado to see my Velazquezes and my Goyas. Ole!
Friday, December 15, 2006
Yesterday, before we could delicately spill the beans to him at dinner, he already knew. He was pained and outraged. Welcome to ruthless gentrification and the laws of free markets, my friend.
To tell the truth, it is a miracle that Brisas del Caribe lasted as long as it did. That area has been a mall for years now, and now of course they are building condos for gazillionaires right next door, who wouldn't know a good café con leche if it hit them in the ass. The little diner joint held on for dear life for quite a while, while all around it the funky textile shops that used to line that part of Broadway started caving in to Old Navy and Puma and Sephora, and H&M.
In fact, I believe that my dear friend Marcus may have been the sole reason for the continued survival of the place. I never saw anyone else in there, but Marcus swears there were peeps in suits stopping by for café and breakfast rolls before hitting their workdays.
So long Brisas del Caribe. I'm sure now you will be a Duane Reade. A pox on them.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
I have not read the book. I will opine regardless. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
I agree that the use of the word apartheid to describe the Israeli occupation is incorrect. To use it in a title called Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, sounds between naive and reactionary and really cheap.
“It was obviously going to be somewhat provocative,” Mr. Carter said of the title. “I could have said ‘A New Path to Peace’ or something like that.”Really cynical and cheap.
Apartheid is a system of separation that is racist in origin and intention. It was created by white people in South Africa to segregate the blacks within their own country and it was based on ideas of white supremacy. I think that the situation in the occuppied territories is simply not the same. The Palestinians live in territories that were occupied by Israel in the 1967 war. And though it is true that they experience harshness and injustice from the State of Israel, the reason for it is not racism, but politics. And the politics are extremely complicated. I understand if people bristle at the comparison.
But Mr. Carter's claim that there needs to be a more balanced perspective about this particular conflict here in the US is not farfetched.
Mr. Carter wrote in an essay in The Los Angeles Times on Friday that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s lobbying efforts have produced a reluctance to criticize the politics of the Israeli government. The editorial boards of major American newspapers and magazines, he continued, have exercised self-restraint on the subject of Israel and the Palestinians.Seems to me that Abraham Foxman from the ADL (when is that guy going to step down already?), seems a bit overzealous in his explanation. Saying that the debate is skewed is not the same thing as saying that the Jews control the media. That's seems to me a big jump. Let's face it: the debate is skewed. Jews in the diaspora are loath to criticize Israel. They are afraid criticism could be mistaken for disloyalty. I think it is more disloyal to continue abiding and supporting a deteriorating situation that does not benefit Israel at all. There is much more healthy debate about the Palestinian situation in Israel than there is here. People there are not afraid to take sides, criticize, demand change. It's a democracy and people are free to have different opinions.
A vocal pro-Palestinian viewpoint, he said, is “nonexistent in this country to any detectable degree.”
Which is the claim that Mr. Foxman said he found most offensive. “The reason he gives for why he wrote this book is this shameless, shameful canard that the Jews control the debate in this country, especially when it comes to the media,” he said. “What makes this serious is that he’s not just another pundit, and he’s not just another analyst. He is a former president of the United States.”
That Carter finds the living conditions of the Palestinians outrageous does not make him an antisemite. It is a known fact that life in the territories is harsh. Israel should be held up to a more exacting standard, not to make its already stressful life more difficult, but because it is a democracy and a free country, pretty much the only one in the region.
That is why I wish with every fiber of my being that Israel returns those freaking territories as soon as possible and is prepared to defend itself from the enemy OUTSIDE its borders.
Plus, why is the ADL putting ads on the newspaper? Seems a bit heavy handed to me. As are people screaming that Carter is an antisemite because he is criticizing Israel. If the book blames only Israel for the problem, then I would say yes, there may be prejudice in Carter's mind. But as the guy who brokered peace between Israel and Egypt, he of all people must know how complex and difficult the geopolitical reality is in the Middle East. In a way, I think it's good to create controversy. His books are going to sell like peanuts (!) but hopefully this will underscore the importance of everybody making every effort to try to find a solution to this problem soon.
Now, is that a drastic change, or what? I think it must be fascinating to go from the tropical, lush, sexy, disorganized, warm, unsafe, joyful, chaotic life in Brazil, to exactly the opposite; alpine, super regimented and organized, chilly, super safe and super methodical, like a Swiss watch.
She has three young kids and apparently they are adjusting well. They are very cosmopolitan and speak Spanish, Portuguese, English, some French and now they must learn German. All kids should be like that. Her husband works for a big company, and not to diminish his merits, but if you've seen one big company, you've pretty much seen them all.
As for my friend, well, she bemoans two things:
1. She was used to the friendly, helpful culture of Brazil, not to the do-it-yourself culture of the Swiss. This in translation means: No more maids. No more cheap labor.
As I was in Mexico recently, where anybody who can have a maid has two, I was thinking that people who are used to having maids (and this includes myself in my former life) become very lazy, or they expect the maids to do absolutely everything for them, to sometimes ridiculous extremes. Now, I'm sure that is not the case of my friend, who is a very sensible, decent person. This thought crossed my mind the other day, as I was lugging a bunch of very heavy supermarket bags all by myself. In Mexico nobody lugs anything unless they are poor and they are doing it for you.
I imagine that there must be maids in Switzerland but they must be outrageously expensive. I think it's going to be good for her kids and hubby to learn to pick up after themselves, something that many Latin Americans have no concept of. In Mexico, there is even a saying, "maids are the happiness of the home".
2. There are, apparently, a lot of rules in Switzerland. I'm going to have to ask her what they are.
Too many rules can be exasperating.
In Latin America, rules seem to exist so they can be broken; and broken, bent, circumvented, reinvented and ignored they are every single day. Latin America is a marvel of improvisation. When it works, it's called flexibility; when it doesn't, which is often, it's called chaos. I bet that once she vents her frustration at the unbendability of Swiss rules, she may actually enjoy the cleanliness and the order. Say what you will about the Germans, but it is lovely how everything is spic and span and runs on time.
She also sounded relatively astounded that she can send her kids to school alone on the train without fear of losing them to robbers or kidnappers. They can actually walk the streets without fear. That is a concept that is totally unknown to most children south of the border. For children in cities like Mexico or Sao Paulo or Caracas, fear and insecurity are as natural as breathing.
I am very curious as to how my friend eases into such a completely different culture. I'm sure she will miss the warmth of Brazil, not only its weather, but its people.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
• So far, my chum Hugo Chavez is at the lead. He seems to be the most interesting of them all and he is also undoubtedly the funniest. However, Venezuelans who hate him are sending overearnest, hysterical, ridiculous email entreaties for people not to vote for him. As if it meant anything. Ergo, I voted for him. Whatever you think of him, Chavez is a shrewd leader who, I remind his well-to-do haters, has won the popular vote, fair and square. And though his posturing and grandstanding are ridiculous, and he still needs to fight crime and corruption in Venezuela, he has done things for the poor. Something that nobody else ever does. As far as we can tell, Chavez is ruling with a very shrewd combination of demagoguery and practicality, and with very minimal evildoing. There is no violent repression in Venezuela, there is freedom of expression and the country is still a democracy with a capitalist economy. He's just lucky he's swimming in oil money. Let's hope he doesn't blow it.
• That unspeakable, acne-ridden, uglyass, revolting Nazi bastard from Iran is such a pathetic louse that it pains me to see him on the list. So far, all he is has done is raise outrage and fear. Nothing good for anybody has come from him. As an article in the BBC pointed out, it is the height of hypocrisy that he paints his stupid Holocaust conferences as being in a spirit of freedom of inquiry when Iran is a totalitarian regime with absolutely no freedom of expression or thought, where journalists are jailed and people persecuted if they dare say anything contrary. Mahmoud is full of shit and it would be nice if the world stopped paying attention to him. I also wish him (and the stupid Naturei Karta who went to kiss his pimply ass) a slow and painful death; right now, if possible.
• I love Nancy Pelosi. I think all Democrats should be as fierce as her. But she is not Person of The Year for a second.
• You Tube can kiss my ass.
• Ditto Bush. He should be named Plenipotentiary Moron of All Time, and so we can dispense with this charade. People of the Year should be very evil or very good, but stupidity at that level should not be rewarded, let alone considered.
• Al Gore had a chance to be Person of the Year when Bush stole his election. He blew it. Now his crying about warm milk, or something of the sort. Too late now. (Seriously, I think it's cool he is championing the environment, but I'm still upset at him for his political cowardice).
• Condi? Don't get me started. Unwavering toadies should have no merit. She has done absolutely nothing good or otherwise that anybody can see, except kiss and cover her bosses' ass. Fuck her.
• And our darling Lord of the Weird Sunglasses, Kim Jong Il, well if he decides to blow us all to pieces, then we could think about it.
33% Hugo Chavez
22% Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
12% Nancy Pelosi
10% The YouTube Guys
8% George W. Bush
8% Al Gore
5% Condoleezza Rice
2% Kim Jong Il
Monday, December 11, 2006
Of course, Mahmoud hosts the conference and everybody around the world starts screaming: "it was true, it happened, the Nazis left all the records", which somehow to me, right as it is, is undignified. It is undignified to even answer or rebut these people. I know it needs to be done, just in case someone out there believes it, but I wish it didn't.
Now, people who call this Iranian conference on Holocaust denial "a sick joke" are wrong. Sick it is, but it is not a joke.
David Menashri of the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University said Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust was linked to his nuclear ambitions.The spurious, sophistical argument Mahmoud raises, I've heard repeated by smart people in civilized circles, this conflation of why should the Palestinians pay for what the Jews suffered in WWII?
"Ahmadinejad's main concern today is to gain nuclear weapons for Iran. And somehow he believes that by raising the issues about Israel, wiping Israel out of the map, and denying the Holocaust, he will portray the image to countries like Germany and Europe that his main intention is against the Jews."
"He believes that if he is only against the Jews, then the world will be tolerant," Menashri said.
It is an easy jump to make, one that erases the political and historical context of an entire era, and it is an argument that needs to be countered forcefully, because its logic is that if the Holocaust is a fiction, Israel has no right or claim to existence.
The Palestinian problem must be solved, as I am now beyond exhausted from repeating, by the collective political will of many parties: Israel, the US, Europe, the Palestinians themselves, the terrorist groups who create chaos and division, and the Arab countries that do their utmost to prevent peace and stability from ever happening in the Middle East. It will not be solved by denying the Holocaust and scaring the shit out of the Jews with nuclear threats and vile antisemitism.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
With the right social and legal institutions you can more or less establish the first two. Liberté seems the easiest one: give people freedom of conscience, thought, expression, movement, etc (however, it won't do them much good if they are starving. To be free, first you need to eat). The second one, egalité, is harder, but you can try to apply the concept that everyone is equal under the law and has the same rights and obligations as their fellow citizens. Good luck with that one, if you don't have the money to hire a good lawyer. But we get brownie points for trying, at least on paper.
So far so good.
Yet Fraternité is where we are inevitably going to get stuck, because we seem to be humanly incapable of it. Just take a look around: sectarian murder in Iraq, ethnic cleansing in Darfur, and elsewhere in Africa. People just kill each other for the stupidest pretexts (religion, politics, greed) and it has been like this since day one. A few pages into the Bible, right after the part about Eden, the first two brothers are born and first thing that happens, one kills the other. Not the most auspicious of beginnings.
So Fraternité, which should be as natural to humans as the act of breathing, is the one that needs to be enforced by civilizing laws. People need to be constantly reminded: no, you can't kill your brother, no, you can't steal from your neighbor, no, you cannot abuse your workers, you can't persecute the different, the strong have to help out the weak. No, the world does not revolve around you and screw everybody else.
I have no hope for mankind. Here we are, after thousands of years of wars and discoveries and progress, and we still are killing each other like beasts; worse than beasts, because we have a conscience and they don't.
He was a murderer, a tyrant and a corrupt son of a bitch. For those who don't remember:
In September 1973, thousands of so-called subversives were rounded up in Santiago's national football stadium. Some of them were executed.
General Pinochet emerged from behind his dark glasses to lead the country. Before long, parliament was suspended and elections were banned.
As political opposition was crushed, riots, arrests and torture became commonplace. Thousands of people disappeared. Throughout, General Pinochet claimed he was saving Chile from communism.
Two months later, Allende appointed Pinochet commander-in-chief, believing he could rely on him. But in September, Pinochet told Allende to resign or face military action.
Allende refused and was found dead when troops entered the presidential palace. His widow said he had been killed by the rebels. Others said he had committed suicide.
Two days later Pinochet was named president of a ruling junta. Civil rights were suspended, Marxist political parties outlawed, the power of unions reduced, and heavy censorship introduced. Many intellectuals went abroad.It became known later that the CIA had spent millions to destabilise the Allende government.
So, like many other monsters before him, he goes to meet his maker having been spared of some highly deserved earthly justice.
He claims political responsibility for the outrages he committed, which is tantamount to claiming no responsibility at all. He should feel morally responsible, but if he did, he may not have been able to live with himself. Then he has the arrogant gall to say he holds no rancor towards anybody. Geez.
Goodbye and goodriddance.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Women are not less funny than men. Some women are a hoot, and they are not relegated to Lucille Ball or to Jews, fatsos or dykes. Humor is a universal human trait, and just as there are countless humorless pricks out there, there are equally countless hilarious women. I grew up surrounded with women who had a great sense of humor. My mom, my aunts, my sisters. Yes, I am Jewish, but you can't blame everything on this. I know many non-Jewish women with wicked senses of humor. I know married women, with children, gentile, good-looking, straight women who can be very funny. My friend Gloria is one of them. My aunt Maria Elena, who was Catholic and very attractive, was a really funny woman, with a sharp wit, perfect timing and dead-on delivery.
I think of a girl, Jahaira, who used to work at the ad agency where I used to work. She was a cross between Lucille Ball and Judy Holliday, a most naturally gifted funny person. Her wit wasn't razor sharp, a la Dorothy Parker, but she was just naturally expressive and funny and smart and alive and always making sweet fun of everything. She did not behave like a ditz only to curry favor with men, as some do. She was funny whether people were watching or not.
Humor is deployed many times to deflect human shortcomings, and I think this happens equally to men and to women. I learned to use humor often to try to belong, to try to survive, at school. What I lacked in motor coordination or in looks, I made up in wit and sass. I was then a Jew among Jews, so I don't think that this was a function of deploying humor because of the Jewish shortcoming, but of the human one: bad at sports, no tits; good at jokes. Period.
I defy anyone to find a woman who thinks the Three Stooges are funny, an argument that supports Mr. Hitchens' contention that men laugh at stupid things because they are stupid. But women laugh and make fun of all kinds of other things. Many of us are great at making others laugh. The problem is not that we are not funny but that this is not a trait men look for in women. According to the personals, which I have perused widely, believe me, men look for a sense of humor in women (they need someone to laugh at their jokes and validate their wit); but I don't think many men are looking for women who can compete with them in the humor department. Men don't like to compete with women, in case they are found wanting. They look for attributes where there is no competition, such as a good pair of tits. Still, some smart men like women who make them laugh, and who get their jokes. I can safely say that I have seduced more than one guy by brandishing my wit at them. They find it disarming.
Here's one paragraph that made smoke come out of my ears:
I am certain that this is also partly why, in all cultures, it is females who are the rank-and-file mainstay of religion, which in turn is the official enemy of all humor. One tiny snuffle that turns into a wheeze, one little cut that goes septic, one pathetically small coffin, and the woman's universe is left in ashes and ruin. Try being funny about that, if you like. Oscar Wilde was the only person ever to make a decent joke about the death of an infant, and that infant was fictional, and Wilde was (although twice a father) a queer. And because fear is the mother of superstition, and because they are partly ruled in any case by the moon and the tides, women also fall more heavily for dreams, for supposedly significant dates like birthdays and anniversaries, for romantic love, crystals and stones, lockets and relics, and other things that men know are fit mainly for mockery and limericks.Jesus H. Christ! The Victorian era has been over, what, for over 200 years? I agree that religion is the official enemy of all humor (and a very good source of it too), but if women are the mainstays of religion, who the fuck are the purveyors of religion? ALL MEN. Rabbis, Popes and Imams, they really have a lock on that one. Somehow, I don't think it is only for the purposes of influencing gullible, sentimental women who consult horoscopes. One word: Islamists.
As for the untimely death of a child, is that funny to anyone? The rule applies: you can tell Jewish jokes if you are a Jew, use the word nigger if you are black, make fun of your own, but others can't.
Crystals and stones? Lockets and relics? What are we, Wiccans?
I don't know what world Mr. Hitchens lives in, but last I heard, women still don't rule this world, and at this late point in time I'm not holding my breath to wait until we do. We still make less money than men, we still are judged by inferior standards, and in many places we are stoned to death, declitorized, sold to white slavery, abused, and generally manhandled because of this neverending, pathetic male inferiority complex. Get over it already and admit it: we are equals at least, or even slightly better.
After all the calamities we've had to endure from men through the ages, you are lucky we still have a sense of humor.
I don't think you will ever begin to fathom, my dear readers, how much I hate and resent this invasion of musical goo in my ears. And the worst part is, we're 20 days away! And it won't stop until the end of the year. Haven't you had enough already?
Christmas music sucks. It is dreadful. And I seriously doubt that people even like it. They just pretend they do. I think Bloomberg, in his crusading spirit, should ban the abuse of Xmas music. I find it a hazard to my mental health.
Yesterday night I went to a concert in midtown. I don't think I've been to midtown at Xmas in years.
The Xmas tree at Rockefeller Center does look lovely, I have to say. But across the street, at Saks, they suddenly blast some horrid Xmas music at full volume and one really feels there is nowhere to hide.
The concert, by the way, was an oasis of peace. A concert by the amazing Tallis Scholars, who sing choral music from the Renaissance. It took place at a church, which was fitting, and you could hear the subway rumble underneath, but the otherworldly voices of the singers, and the very soothing (not in a Kenny G kind of sense, but truly meditative) choral pieces, really chilled me out. For a while, at least.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Still, there is something very unsettling about a mayor who is in a crusade to restrict people from choosing their poison, instead of dealing with other quality of life issues where we simply don't seem to have a choice; such as THE RAT INFESTATION all over town, THE TONS OF GARBAGE THE RATS CALL HOME, and THE UNBELIEVABLE AMOUNT OF NOISE everywhere-- issues, which in my view, also affect our health greatly, and personally make me extremely cranky.
I don't think it is the government business to tell us what to eat. People who are fat and eat unhealthy foods will continue to do so. The poor, who can't afford to shop for ramps and baby arugula at the greenmarket, will continue to eat junk food and I can assure you that their health will pay for it, regardless of the kind of fat in their fries.
Meanwhile, 65 people got very sick with e.coli because of green onions at Taco Bell. I'm sorry but that is what happens to you for eating at Taco Bell in the first place. Who in their right mind considers Taco Bell food?
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Isn't it scary that Vladimir Putin, ex-KGB agent and ruling monster of Russia seems to deal with anybody who criticizes him by sending out people to murder his critics?
Isn't it scary that nobody can or will do anything about it?
If I was the Brits, I would be livid. Very upset, to say the least. Traces of polonium have been found in planes, and other places. in England. People are showing small to not so small traces of radioactivity. Imagine if you were one of the passengers sitting next to the poisoned guy. How can you know the poison will not affect you? How can you know you won't die of cancer brought by polonium poisoning?
The degree of roguishness and irresponsibility of the government in Russia is really worrisome.
Methinks the West should give the Russians a strong warning about not engaging in these kinds of spy novel shenanigans. If they wish to pollute themselves with polonium, they should do so at home.
Monday, December 04, 2006
Now Paul Mooney and Jesse Jackson want to ban the word. To me that is stupid. People know it is a charged word and they use it at their peril. Censoring it doesn't make any sense to me. According to the NYT:
...the Laugh Factory’s ban is not sitting well with all comics, including the groundbreaking comedian Dick Gregory, who was set to perform with Mr. Mooney last night) at the Lincoln Theater in Washington.
“Calling it ‘the “n” word’ is an insult,” said Mr. Gregory, whose 1964 memoir was titled “Nigger.” “It should be just as much an insult to Jews if they started changing concentration camp to ‘the “c” word’ and swastika to ‘the “s” word.’ You just destroyed history.”
He will not be joining Mr. Mooney’s boycott. “I’m going to walk out on stage,” Mr. Gregory, 75, said, “and hand my book to a white woman in the front and say, ‘Here, madam, take this “Nigger” to bed with you.’ ”
Mr. Gregory and many others are asking why stop at just one word, if purifying the comedy discourse is the goal. Why stop at protecting one aggrieved group?
Sunday, December 03, 2006
My friends consider me a good mingler. After one drink, I will talk to pretty much anyone and I can hold a conversation about pretty much anything. But I hate the fact that ninety-five percent of the time I am the one who always makes the effort. And when you are the one always starting the conversations, it can be exhausting. People don't know how to be gracious and social anymore. I found out not too long ago that the reason for this (people with the social graces of a wall) is mostly insecurity. Everybody that looks daunting and standoffish and aloof and superior is probably shitting in their pants thinking that everybody else there is better than them. However, we are adults and it is about time that we learned, especially if we live in what's supposed to be the greatest city in the planet, to behave graciously at a party. I've had it with rudeness.
I have started conversations with people who look like my approach is causing them internal bleeding; or even worse, with people so rude they don't even attempt to hide their indifference towards me (or is it paralyzing fear?). Sometimes, one strikes gold and talks to people who are nice, gregarious and gracious and this can be very lovely. But you have to know that as a rule, either you will be talking to your friends all night in your little inward clique, which is something I hate; or you risk being treated shabbily by assholes for no other reason than their own insecurity and lack of manners.
Now, the later you arrive, and the more inebriated the people, the far more amenable they are to opening up. The key is not to arrive so late that everybody is wasted and obnoxious, but just at the point where after probably three hours of social torture, people are starting to have a good time.
I have been to parties where after two hours people are still not talking to each other. It takes an average of more than three drinks to get people socially lubricated, which in my opinion is absurd.
I will also say that many men in NY are super lame. You can see them staring at you across the room, you can be standing right next to them and in my experience, they will not make the first move ever, unless they are from abroad. Europeans and foreigners tend to be far more adventurous than the homegrown variety when it comes to striking up a conversation. Men who stare but do not open their mouths exasperate me. Like we say in Spanish, did the mouse bite your tongue?
Some women also suck.
The other day, I saw a woman I had met at a party and with whom I thought I had a very interesting conversation. She seemed poised and intelligent and I was glad to have made her acquaintance. I saw her again at an event and though I did not remember her name (I'm great with faces, bad with names), I apologized for that and said hello anyway. She remembered my name. I asked her what she thought of a play I knew she had seen for I had seen her in the audience. She answered me in the most arrogant manner, looking down at me from the heights of her contempt. I was really taken aback. I remained cordial but I thought, WTF did I do to you?
In any case, I have met my share of women who have seen you seven hundred times at parties and still pretend you are not there. They say hi when they are alone and ignore you if they are with a date (in-ex-cu-sa-ble); they look down on you at certain parties but all of a sudden are your best friends at others, for no reason you can possibly discern. Obviously, none of these people are material for a budding friendship, and if this happens to you too often, you may want to consider switching to a social circle that is less insufferable. Luckily, I have a very nice bunch of friends who are warm and welcoming and fun and gregarious and who have quite impeccable social graces. Most of them happen to be from Latin countries. I am just saying.
Why? Because in countries where nobody abides by the law, it is easy to distrust the system. The system itself is tainted and the possibility of people believing in their own institutions is slim, if not nil. This is what happened in Mexico recently, with the very narrow win of Felipe Calderón. His party did use campaign tactics which are illegal in Mexico, which is why many of his opponents cried fraud. To me, electoral fraud is more narrowly defined, as illegal tactics committed at the voting booths, but I can understand why so many think the PAN stole the election. Still, there was no fraud at the voting booths themselves and the outcome should be respected. As I've said before, the opposition has six years to prepare its campaign and win next time by legitimate, democratic tactics, not by tantrum.
Today is election day in Venezuela, which most media expects Hugo Chavez to win by a good margin, because he has the support of the majority, which happens to be the poor. However, the opposition (mostly the middle class and the rich) has been crying fraud before the elections even started. My bet is that Chavez does not need to resort to fraud to win this election. The economy has improved, and he has established a lot of programs for the poor. Yes, crime and corruption are rampant and it is inexcusable that with the oil profits Venezuela is enjoying now, there are still huge gaps, and the state is not providing certain basic services like law and order or good roads or more jobs. It is also inexcusable that Chavez gives heating fuel to the people in the Bronx and neglects those at home.
Still, if the majority likes him, he will win again fair and square. The fear is that the opposition will accept this outcome.
Apparently, the US has a new method of influencing elections by conducting aggressive marketing campaigns and creating polls that give the impression that the opposition is broader and stronger than it actually is. This worked to a certain extent in Mexico, where Calderón had a very smart campaign against AMLO (basically, they compared him to Chavez to scare the hell out of people). This is happening in Venezuela, where I hear that Rosales, the opposition candidate, is a non-entity and a disgrace but he is the best that the opposition in Venezuela can come up with, which is rather pathetic considering how they have all the means at their disposal: the blanket, shrill endorsement of the private media and all the money in the world. Polls have him narrowing Chavez margins, but they are not very reliable.
I don't like Chavez (although I think he is charming in a roguish kind of way). But if he wins the majority vote cleanly, the opposition will have to accept it and try to find someone better equipped to challenge the hugely popular Chavez next time. People are afraid of violence, and in Caracas they are bracing for a crisis, stocking up on supplies and thinking of not showing up for work tomorrow and Tuesday. Hopefully, there will be a strong oppostition vote to send a message to Chavez to tone down his radical rhetoric and deal with the very legitimate discontent of many. Hopefully, whatever the outcome, it will be peaceful.
Friday, December 01, 2006
I would be surprised if even the most impoverished, ignorant Mexicans were not exasperated and ashamed at the sorry spectacle their chosen representatives in Congress are giving the civilized world.
Until yesterday, I was thinking that if AMLO or the members of his party at this juncture still threatened to derail the official presidential ceremony, it would be finally a good cause for arrest. What I didn't foresee, and what seems cowardly and stupid, is that Calderón, instead of facing these people and his entire country with the dignity of a newly elected president, chose to have his ceremony in private at midnight. This is insane. If he purports to be the legitimately elected president of Mexico, he should have gone on with the legitimate ceremony. Meanwhile, AMLO had his in broad daylight with thousands of people watching in the Zócalo. Even Cuban singer Silvio Rodriguez was in attendance (which just goes to show the kind of modern and progressive socialism we're talking about, but that is a subject for a different, even more exasperated post).
The Foxists have dealt with AMLO with typical Mexican passive aggression (a behavior in which Mexicans excel). The strategy seemed to work out for a while: it allowed AMLO to sink himself with his own antics and lose support from the majority of Mexicans. It was at great economic cost and it disrupted life for millions of Mexico City residents for months, but they didn't care about that. But at this juncture, the fact that they are still allowing AMLO to run rampant and are still hiding from him as if he was the big bad wolf, doesn't lend them any credibility. In fact, it makes it look like he's running the show. I understand they may be trying to avoid the violence that AMLO is seeking. But at a certain point, the people of Mexico would like to see law and order obeyed and respected. The presidential ceremony is not something you do at home at midnight. It needs to happen at Congress and in plain view of the whole country. This little private affair does not bode well.
This is not the first time when our politicos themselves are unable to follow or establish the law. In fact, the day any of them, from any party, does so, Mexico will become a true, mature democracy, not the pathetic circus it is right now.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
My friends here are commenting on the fracas we have at the Mexican congress, where the people's representatives went to blows in a disgraceful melee. Now they are camping out on the podium in order to disrupt the ceremony by which we have a new president. Let me know when you grow up, okay?
In the meantime, here are some of my favorite Mexican sights:
These are wonderful tacos de carnitas, buche and nana to be exact. At Contreras, which has been in Polanco forever. Yum.
My fantasy is to have a stomach made of iron and to be able to eat all the street food in Mexico without getting sick. We are the kings of food. Period.
I sometimes get grief for things like Israel's recent blow up in Lebanon, the fact that the Palestinian problem rages on, etc. I find myself apologizing or justifying Israel and the general apathy of world Jewry towards the Palestinians, among other things. But on the Jewish side of the equation, in Mexico for instance, my conversations with some Mexican Jews shock me.
Otherwise intelligent people really have a very narrow sense of debate when it comes to Israel. They forget that in Israel itself the country is extremely divided politically. You can be a supporter of Israel and have a political opinion. You don't have to agree with everything Israel does. And the fact that you don't agree, does not make you a self-hating Jew or an antisemite or an Israel-hater. You can be for or against the government and you can still support Israel, like Israelis do.
But I hear things like "CNN is antisemitic". Is CNN antisemitic because it reports what happened in Lebanon? As the recent misadventure in Lebanon showed, Israel can also make very costly, unnecessary mistakes. And it behooves Jews everywhere to hold Israel to a high moral standard, not to blindly applaud everything it does.
Or, even worse, I hear Bush is a great president because he supports Israel. And that is that. I'm afraid it doesn't work that way. It is not possible to continue thinking of the world in these terms: is it good for the Jews?
Believe it or not, Bush is not good for the Jews. He would be better for the Jews if, instead of doing nothing at all except waiting for the Second Coming, and inflaming anti-US and Israel passions in the Middle East, he'd actually push Israel and its neighbors to find diplomatic solutions to their problems. The fact that he is the worst president this country has ever had, but he is still a friend of Israel is actually really not good for the Jews. We need a good president who supports Israel wisely. Not an evangelical moron who probably doesn't give a rat's ass about the Jews or the Middle East as long as Jesus is coming.
I guess you can choose to live a very cloistered life in the midst of your Jewish community, wherever it might be, and lose touch with the world outside, like a voluntary ghetto. My life was like this for a long time, yet I was always curious about being a Jew living in the world. My parents were a little bit more open minded than most, in some respects, and I had a sense of Mexico and the world that was broader than just the Jewish environment in which I grew up. The world, after the Holocaust, supposedly, has changed now. Now Jews can live in it with less fear, as human beings surrounded by other human beings, not just by other Jews; Mahmoud Ahmadinejad notwithstanding. It's not easy to be a Jew out in the world, always waiting for the spiked remark, always worrying about the behavior of other Jews, etc, but it has got to be much easier today than it has ever been. I feel it's worth it how exhausting it can be, sometimes how frustrating, and maddening. If and when somebody forces us again to segregate, and to truly fear, if and when I have no other choice, I will become a Jew in a ghetto. But as long as I'm free, I am a Jew in the world.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Here, when you go into an elevator or anywhere with strangers, everybody greets you. Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening. That is very nice. Very civil and polite.
How people behave behind the wheels of their car is another story.
I am told there are 300,000 new cars in Mexico City every year. I can tell. The traffic is beyond belief. You cannot go anywhere without being stuck in a traffic jam. Apparently, car dealers have been giving very good, cheap credit to people so they can finally afford a car. Many of those who used the very insufficient, uncomfortable public transportation, are now the proud owners of a little carchik. I don't blame them for wanting to have a car like everyone else, but I wonder if the authorities are just going to let the city be paralyzed by rivers of cars.
I am appalled at the level of visual pollution all over town. It's not only Paris Hilton. There are billboards at eye level seemingly on every available wall, and incomprehensibly on the walls of big mansions in wealthy neighborhoods. That people would allow their property to be defaced like that and to uglify the city for money is very sad.
There are times where I feel really short of breath. The air here is super dry. Good for my hair, bad for everything else.
The food here rules. The fruit rules.
I go to the bank (Santander Serfin) to cash a check that's on my name. I give the guy my NY driver's license. He cannot accept it. He needs to see a passport or a Mexican issued document with my picture in it.
I don't live here and I don't have my passport on me, because I would not schlep it around Mexico City. It's not safe. I show him my business card, my credit cards, my insurance card, all with my name on it. But no way, Jose. He tells me to talk to the bank manager.
After waiting for about half an hour, this inexcusable individual, who is supposed to be there to help the customers, tells me, as he scrutinizes my license, that he cannot accept it as proof that I am me because it could be a fake. He doesn't know what American licenses look like. I offer to show him every other proof I have with me but he won't budge. As if by looking at me, his common sense having fled the premises, he decides that I could be a scam artist trying to rip his fucking bank off.
Just like the retarded neanderthals who man Security at the Delta terminal at JFK and decide you may be a card carrying member of Al Qaeda because you forgot to take the bottle of Poland Spring Water out of your bag before inspection. They also confiscate a small bottle of rosewater spray because you may use it to blow up the plane.
These are the ¨solutions¨the bank manager offers:
1. To have the check endorsed by someone else who does have a proper id. Like a family member. Right then and there. Aha.
2. I should have asked them to make the check to CASH.
Once again, I guess my civilized instincts prevailed because I did not start choking him to death, like he deserved. Can you believe it? He would trust a check made out to cash, which I could have stolen, before trusting a check with my name on it.
The reason for his intransigence, he then explains, lying through his miserable teeth, is that one day somebody came with a fake passport and they paid him out a check. So, I say, in that case even if I brought my passport you still would not trust it to be legitimate.
THIS IS WHY I DONT LIVE IN THIS FUCKED UP COUNTRY FROM BUREAUCRATIC KAFKIAN HELL.
Because this is a place where everybody thinks you are ripping them off, you are a liar and a crook.
Today, having learned my lesson, I bring my passport to another branch of the same bank and finally cash the check, but not without the cashier asking me to write my name, address and telephone and signature in the back of the check.
Mexicans: there is never ever going to be enough proof that anything is legitimate. Reams of signatures and endless documents will always be required to make sure that you are not being conned. It is PATHETIC.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Not so some people I´ve unfortunately come across in the past few days.
Exhibit A: Lunch at the always fabulous Bar Pitti. I already know what I want before I set foot in the door: the mixed salad and the eggplant parmigiana (best in NY). That´s what I order. A well dressed, selfconscious woman takes a seat in the table next to me and begins an interrogation process of the waiter that would make Torquemada proud. She is a vegetarian. She asks him what he recommends. He says what. He probably likes the oxtail and the pig's feet best, but now he has to come up with some ersatz recommendation to please her. She asks if what he answered is made with chicken stock, because she is almost certain it is. He goes to the kitchen to find out. Lo and behold, it is. Then she asks him to name his very favorite item in the menu. People who ask this question of waiters should be executed on the spot. It is one thing to ask for a recommendation, and another to insinuate yourself into the personal psychic space of the waiter. He is not your friend. The waiter hums and haws and wavers. She insists he has to tell her his absolute total favorite. I think he does but this is not enough for her. She then proceeds to go through every single item written in the specials blackboard, parsing it as if she was reading the Talmud. The waiter is extremely professional and patient, because she uses a totally fake seductive little act to win him over. I want to strangle her. A patron that demands such an inordinate level of attention in a busy restaurant is an inconsiderate asshole. Then she asks me if I like my eggplant. I tell her it's divine. But she still can't make up her mind. AAAARGHHHH!
Exhibit B: A packed Delta plane to Mexico City. The humiliations those of us stupid enough to still fly Delta are a subject for a different, lengthy post. A well to do Mexican woman is traveling with her two daughters and she is up in arms because they sat all of them in separate seats. She is raising holy hell and I think she has a point until it turns out that the children are 13 and 15 years old. Now, I understand you want to seat next to your loved ones in case this is your last day on earth. But, if the kids are old enough and they are seating right in front of you, close by, you can choose to vent a little and then deal with it. Not so fast, my friends. After she gives the very cool stewardess a long, indignant speech, the stewardess comes back and offers her and one of her daughters two seats in the emergency row. The thirteen year old is not allowed to sit there and the seats don't recline. ¨It's Thanksgiving, lady¨, says the stewardess, ¨this is the best I can do for you¨. This woman does not consider this offer viable. It takes her quite a while to make up her mind, scream across the aisle to her daughter (who probably would rather sit away from Mommy Dearest at this point) and finally decides not to take it, then asking for corroboration and solidarity from her fellow, exhausted passengers about how bad and stupid is this airline and no wonder they are going bankrupt. Then a gentleman, probably tired of this drama, moves to another seat, so she can sit with her daughter, but another woman reacts first and grabs the seat. So she makes one guy move to another seat so she can be with her daughter. She finally sits down and as we all emit a collective sigh of relief, she starts again about how unbelievable it is that this happens to her. It is a miracle, ladies and gentlemen, that I managed to keep my mouth shut and not tell her to shut the fuck up already.
We live in a world that is crammed with people and it seems that the more crammed, the less people know how to behave.
The lack of personal space is an excuse to behave as if the world revolves around you and there is no one else in it.
I cannot stand high maintenance people. Is that clear?
Yesterday night I went out to dinner with the lovely friends who are hosting me and we had a Mexican feast after 10 pm that made me stay up and read that master of horror, Seymour Hersh, in the New Yorker, until the wee hours. Luckily, I did not have Cheney nightmares.
I had my favorite soup, sopa de pasta, which is basically vermicelli in tomato broth, and I was so very happy. See? It does not take much to please me. We went to a very famous traditional Mexican restaurant, El Bajio, which has now opened a branch in swanky Polanco and which has all the fried corn masa stuff you could possibly think of. But what appealed most to me were the day to day items: the sopa de pasta, some red Mexican rice -- simple stuff. Even though it was expensive for Mexican food, the whole meal per person cost what two shots of good tequila would cost in New York.
What's in store for today? Who knows. More Mexican food, I hope.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
As in Caracas, one is assaulted by the humongous, horrid likeness of Paris Hilton shilling her perfume and her handbags with that retarded face of hers everywhere. There is simply no escape.
I'm staying at the house of some marvellous friends who live around the block from a taco place that specializes in cochinita pibil. Next door is a place that does barbacoa (goat stew) and next door are a couple of unassuming loncherias, with wonderful, cheap prix fixe menus. The smells emanating from that block alone are so delicious, I just want to stay there and eat breakfast lunch and dinner.
I have to leave now, but I will get back to you with a full report of my eats.
Monday, November 20, 2006
When you are Mexican, you are conditioned to suspend your disbelief every second of the day, because you know you live in a surreal country where the most outrageous, kafkaesque, absurd stuff happens and nobody bats an eye. However, this freaking AMLO is breaking all the records of buffoonish, embarrassing, inane, pathetic absurdity.
And frankly, the people who follow him, listen to me: poverty is not an excuse at this point. Insisting that major fraud was committed is useless. It was a close election and the other guy won. Deal with it. It is not possible to be so gullible, particularly after AMLO's pathetic performance since he lost the election. If you don't happen to be poor and you are one of those people with two maids and a foreign bank account that root for him, I don't think there are enough reserves of scorn and contempt in my being for the likes of you.
I know that those who like him may peg me as a little rich white girl with no empathy for the poor. Quite the contrary: the reason I hate his guts is because this man is cynically exploiting the meager hopes of the poor for his own megalomaniac political gain and I find this revolting. I find this kind of abuse of the poor, which manifests itself in pure demagoguery and irresponsible promises, utterly unethical, and the lowest of the low.
Marco Ramirez, 34, a university researcher watching the crowd from a sidewalk cafe, said he believed many of the demonstrators were receiving money from the Mexico City government, which is run by Lopez Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party.
"This affects the country's image," he said. "It puts out a very bad image."
As is typical, this may be entirely true or a rumor, but it is believable. They basically created that city campsite a few months ago with public money. Was this legal? Did anybody do anything to stop them?Never mind. I certainly hope that when the time comes to elect a new government for the Mexican capital, the citizens of D.F. will remember this abuse of power and throw out the PRD.
I speak to a friend in Mexico City today and he shrugs it off with a bitter laugh: "Well, we'll have two presidents. It's a riot".
Yeah, a barrel of laughs and just in time for my trip there.
This is why I'm particularly pissed off, if you must know. I am to spend this week in Mexico City and I was hoping I could enjoy seeing my family and friends and eating my favorite foods without all this crap.
I guess I should arm myself, like the defeños, with a shrug the size of Texas and endless patience. Where I'll find it, I don't know.
Yours truly has a bad lower back.
I had managed to keep my discomfort to a minimum until recently, when I don't know what (sitting too much in a bad chair, a new pair of boots, beats me) triggered some moderate lower back pain again.
I am very frustrated because it took me about a year and a half to control it and now I'm back to the beginning. So I went to a new doctor. I had to change all my doctors because of my new insurance. (That is a longer kvetch best reserved for another day).
So I tell this new doctor I have lower back pain. He tells me he is going to give me a muscle relaxant and something stronger than Advil. Then he suggests I have a diagnostic test that consists on giving me electric shocks in the legs. He doesn't really explain why, to find out if there is nerve damage, I believe, and he doesn't bother explaining to me what to expect. A nurse administers the test. The shocks are relatively painful, some like sharp jabs, others like burning jabs. Very unpleasant. If these minor shocks are so painful, imagine when they are increased and used to torture people. Or to burn them to a crisp in a chair. The test was useful to me to imagine a situation of torture.
In Mexico City, in Garibaldi Square, people like to hire a guy who has these two charged cylinders and everybody holds hands and an electric current passes from person to person while the guy increases the voltage until people can't bear the shock anymore. Why people find this amusing I will never fathom.
The test takes a while. The nurse leaves me alone with the machine pinching my legs hard for a while. When it's over, they leave me alone in the room and then after a long while the doctor comes in and triumphantly announces that there is nothing wrong with my nerves. Well, I sort of knew that without the shock treatment, but thank you. Without as much as asking where it hurts, or touching my back, he gives me two prescriptions, for the "thing stronger than Advil" and the muscle relaxant. I assume the first is an anti-inflammatory. It turns out it's a painkiller, a synthetic opiate that can cause dependency and a host of other alarming side effects (I checked it on WebMD). Both caution they cause drowsiness, not to use machinery, no alcohol, etc. I take the muscle relaxant before going to sleep and sure enough soon I feel nicely relaxed and I conk out. Except in the morning, I can't get up. I am completely groggy and almost disoriented. The muscle is certainly relaxed but the rest of me is pretty useless for the rest of the day. Then I try the pain killer, which is what I'm on while I write this. I feel a bit spaced out, I keep hitting the wrong keys on the board and the pain is still there, albeit less. But now my skin itches.
Meanwhile, yesterday I went out on my bike for an hour and of course when I dismounted I was in pain, so I iced the region and took two Advil. Advil works like a charm.
So the moral of this story is: I don't know if I want to take these drugs, but they'll come in handy in case I need to kill myself.
Are certain countries constitutionally incapable of not living in tyranny? Take a look at Russia. After the Tsars came the communists and after them, Putin, who is a tyrant just like everybody else before him.
I find it interesting to see that the free market economy has turned Russia into an world class exporter of prostitutes and lapdancers, a haven for a powerful, murderous mafia, their legendary penchant for corruption is not only undiminished but growing, and there is a new class of nouveau riche Russians unleashing an epidemic of bad taste around the world.
We had grander expectations for the USSR after the fall of communism. We are very disappointed.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
I like my gym.
1. It couldn't be any closer to my house, which is why I go there.
2. It's pretty low key, at least at the hours I go -- which are freelancer hours, when the gym is mostly empty. That is probably the reason why I like it so much, the lack of people.
3. The members are mostly homely. Only a couple of tall girls with flat tummies and excellent legs, not too many built up guys; lots of regular people with paunches, cellulite, short, ugly, old, etc. So I feel good about myself, like you are supposed to when you go to a gym.
But there is always something, or rather someone annoying:
There is a creepy guy who not only grunts and huffs and sighs, he does that while stretching on the mat, lifting nada. He looks like Lee Harvey Oswald. He tends to want to start conversations with women who are also stretching on the mat. It is obvious he doesn't talk to men and he tries to call attention to himself with the weird noises he makes. Icky predatory loser. He talked to me once and I was polite bordering on rude; that is, I answered the minimum required, putting on the best unfriendly face I could muster and continued working out so he could take the hint to leave me the hell alone. He has not pestered me anymore, but when I see him, I avoid him. The other day, a very good looking girl had a too polite conversation with him, as she stretched out. Of course, he wouldn't let her be, sticking to her like the goo on a snail. Then he gave her his phone number. Eeek!
There is a woman who shows up with a Fendi or some such horrific expensive bag and a fur trimmed leather jacket, as if she was going to the casino in Montecarlo, but with sweats. She leaves her all her shit sprawled around the treadmill, as if she was in her own home. Creep.
There is a guy who has not gotten the memo that there is such a thing as exercise clothes. He does his stuff wearing jeans with a belt and a button down shirt and sometimes sneakers, sometimes moccassins, sometimes Timberland booties. Go figure.
Then there are the people who talk on the phone while on the treadmill. I leave my cellphone at home. The point of the gym is to exercise, thereby relaxing from the pressures of the world outside. Or am I wrong?
Then there are the trainers. They may be the nicest, smartest people; in which case, my apologies, but most of them look really shmucky to me. There is one trainer girl who wears her hair like Pebbles Flintstone (something that only looks good on a 2 year-old) and chews gum distractedly while her trainees do the reps. You can tell she is bored out of her wits, as she chews like a cow out to pasture, so I can't imagine that she instills a lot of motivation on her charges. There is a bald, beefy guy with a goatee who just mills around doing absolutely nothing. He gives me the creeps.
I will not talk about those who seem entirely professional because that is boring.
But I have noticed that gym employees for the most part have verbissener ponims (fart faces for short) and can barely be counted on to give you a nice good morning greeting. I'm sure they get paid accordingly.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
• People who drive really noisy motorcycles.
• People who drive in Manhattan.
• People who stand in the door on the subway and don't move out of the way.
• People who bump into you because they have forgotten they are wearing a backpack the size of Wyoming.
• People who litter.
• Men who pee on the street.
• People who don't pick up their dog's poop.
• Homeless people who upend trash cans.
• Rats and roaches.
• The clearance sale at Tower Records, where they think a cd's regular price is $20. No wonder they're closing.
• Duane Reade.
• Women who wear bangs, a skirt, pants and cowboy boots all at the same time (happens in Williamsburg a lot).
• Marc Jacobs clothes. The frumpy housedress guaranteed to make you look like a retard.
• People who love cupcakes (I'm afraid they are the same people who love Marc Jacobs clothes).
• Amy Sedaris. I. Don't. Get. It.
• Overpriced cafés with snotty attitude, terrible service and mediocre food:
Bouchon Bakery at that monstrosity at Columbus Circle; Centovini on Houston St.
• Bad service.
• Rudeness by fellow civilians.
•Why do I get junk mail from Lord & Taylor?
• Still getting mail for people who died 15 years ago.
• Goddammit, people: it's not habañero, it's habanero.
• Dick Cheney.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
It looks like she may cop a plea. I say, off with her head already. Why is she still roaming around free, attacking people with cell phones?
On Monday, another maid, Gaby Gibson, filed a 35-page amended law suit against Campbell calling the British model a "violent super bigot."
Gibson alleges that Campbell poked fun at her broken English and yelled at Gibson because of her Romanian heritage, saying, 'You are not in the Third World any more, stupid."
Campbell was arrested in London last month over separate assault allegations.
The Sun tabloid reported the catwalk star was arrested for allegedly scratching her drugs counselor in her face, citing an unnamed source.
In 2000, she pleaded guilty in a Canadian court to assaulting another assistant, Georgina Galanis, while shooting a movie two years earlier.
Galanis had accused the model of grabbing her by the throat and hitting her on the head, also with a telephone.
I had a fantasy that I was the judge, (and the jurors and the prosecutor) and I made her pay for her unspeakable, recidivist behavior by sending her to a maximum security prison to be picked on by highly dangerous female inmates from the Third World and homegrown. Let's see if she is so tough in the slammer.
Then I saw myself at the jury selection process (oh, what goes through an idle mind...)
The defense attorney asks me:
Do you have anything against supermodels?
Well, besides the fact that they make too much money by putting one gorgeous, if underfed leg in front of the other, and take the wind out of my sails whenever I pass one down the street, and they can have all the cocaine they want and get rewarded for it, and except for a few shining exceptions they allow people to treat them like cattle, and they perpetuate the notion that women are objects for male consumption, no, I have nothing against them (except I wish they gain a lot of weight or die of anorexia, whichever comes first).
So would you be able to judge Ms. Campbell impartially and be fair minded?
Hell, no. I hate the byotch.
I don't want to disable my cookies, because things don't work when you do, but so far, for instance, in my email account I always get ads from the US Army in Arabic asking for people who speak the language to join. I assume it's because they think my name is Arabic. When I joined Netflix, at the beginning I would get only Bollywood recommendations, which flummoxed me, because I'm not a great fan of Bombay musicals in general. I figured that they thought my name was very exotic and Indian sounding. Now it's much better.
So is this new Blogger some kind of sinister ploy to hack on my private life or am I unduly paranoid?
The only reason why they have any interest in Israel is because they believe Jesus is coming back to establish his second kingdom on Earth there. In preparation for his return, everybody is supposed to turn into a Christian. Jews, as I have said before in these pages, are the most prized potential converts to Christianity for these people. Jews for Jesus is nothing but a Christian right organization devoted to evangelize Jews and turn them into goyim. We need them like a "loch in kop". Like a hole in the head.
Now, these are the same people who want to establish Christian prayer in public schools here, regardless of whether there are Jewish or other children at school who may not want to pray to Jesus. These are the same people who somewhere in Maryland told a Jewish family who complained about Christian coercion at school, that if they didn't like it they could leave, that America was a Christian nation. The Jewish children, who had recently moved from somewhere else, were taunted and called names. So don't for a minute think that these people, who think worse than neanderthals, have our best interests at heart. They are the worst possible friends we could have. We tend to welcome friends because we think we have none. Our preconditioned, knee-jerk reaction to welcome friends no matter how despicable they are is not helpful.
Right now it is not in the best interest of Israel not to have a comprehensive policy towards the solution of the unholy mess with the Palestinians. The US government should be forcing Israel and the other interested parties to sit down and find a workable solution. This, in the interest of the safety of the entire world. Instead, it lets Israel do whatever it pleases and the amelioration of the conflict is nowhere in sight.
Israel has every right to defend itself from those who want its demise. But if it is to survive, it needs to relinquish the Occupied Territories. The US, Europe, Israel and the ultra-rich Arab cynical as hell oil countries, need to create an infrastructure for the Palestinian state to work. Given what we've seen with the sectarian violence and general chaos of the Muslim world, it sounds easier said than done, but the first thing we need is to find is political will. Diplomats should be feverishly working to create, encourage and amass the political will needed to start solving this problem. Israel, who, so far, seems the only one of the participants to have taken some steps in that direction (Oslo accords, withdrawal from Gaza, etc) will not be able to be the modern, legitimate democracy it is supposed to be if it continues the occupation. The solution is not easy and it demands commitment from all sides, something that has not been in evidence at all from the Palestinian or the Arab side.
What we don't need, no matter how good it looks, is the crazyass help from the Evangelicals, which will only help to further radicalize the region. The Christian right has a dogmatic, unprogressive, and very particular agenda of their own, and they could not care less about the Jews in the long run.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Yesterday night, however, I was ornery and depressed already so I decided to channel surf from Channel 2 to channel Fourhundredandwhatever to see what I would find.
Now I know why I don't watch TV, except for Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report and Rescue Me, when I can find it. (I also like The Sopranos, Entourage, Big Love and Weeds, but those are not really TV).
In any case, some of my findings included an inane and shockingly vulgar reality show about mega-expensive real estate, 90210 M.D. an appalling "reality" show about brainless, clueless ditzes who want to have plastic surgery and the creepy doctors who oblige; House, which according to the critics is a marvel but to me it is no better than any other stupid hospital show on TV where they throw medical jargon at you with quizzical looks until you are dizzy, (poor Hugh Laurie who is crying all the way to the bank while seriously underusing his talent). And then I caught this chilling documentary on HBO called Hacking Democracy about the horrific, fraudulent way in which elections are conducted in this country.
People, you have to see this film. It will make the hairs on the back of your head stand on end.
Basically, the people who decide the machines that are used are the vendors who provide the machines, and who in turn contribute campaign donations to the running parties. This should not be kosher, right? Well, nobody cares. Worse of all, Diebold, who provided both machines and contributions to the elections in Ohio that were stolen by Bush in 2000, apparently manufactures memory cards that can be accessed and manipulated, so the results are false.
Now, I have never understood why elections aren't federally supervised, which would mean that the entire country has to adopt the same voting machines everywhere. In my opinion, these should be paper ballots or something that leaves a hard copy trace that can be manually counted. It is absurd, dangerous and insane that some states have chits, and others levers and others evil Hal 2000 spawn miscounting votes.
Why are certain things that seem obvious to the people, so difficult to reform?
Reform campaign contribution laws. Get rid of the electoral college. Standardize voting machines. Is this too much to ask? New Congress? Huh?
Monday, November 13, 2006
New York rats are probably miffed that there is one human being per each seven of them. They must think we are encroaching upon their turf with increasing alacrity.
One of my neighbors, meanwhile, asks me if I have mice, because she does and she is on the 22nd floor! The diabolical construction taking place on Houston St is causing the rodent inhabitants of Noho to seek asylum chez nous. I'm not a happy camper.
When I moved to New York, it did not cross my mind that I would have rats as my neighbors. I know that all big cities have vermin but I thought that NY, being the self-appointed Center Of The Universe, could surely control its rat population. I was wrong.
It may be a symptom of getting older, but NYC is getting on my nerves more and more each day. I, who was for many years a staunch despiser of suburbia; I, who have lived in big, chaotic cities for most of my life and who loves treading asphalt, I'm almost ready to throw in the towel. And this scares me, because the prospect of living in a house in the middle of the woods where you need to travel a mile by car to get some milk is petrifying.
But New York is becoming way obnoxious.
• As I stood in the platform and saw the rat, I thought: Well, if I live in a house in the woods, I will come across deer and bears and racoons and all kinds of things that fly and buzz and spiders and maybe snakes. But not rats. It's, for the very first time in my life, a thought.
• The noise in this city has reached apocalyptic proportions. I'm always threatening to send Bloomberg a letter, but I swear there should be a serious campaign to reduce noise in this town. You can't hear yourself think. Restaurants are huge offenders. Has anybody ever thought of the concept of a quiet meal? Taxi cabs; my fantasy is to own a dart gun and shoot every driver that honks. Trucks are deafening. Construction noise is unbearable and relentless.
As I have said before, if I were mayor, I would discourage the use of motor vehicles as much as possible and would encourage the use of bicycles. The nuttiness of some of the bike advocates notwithstanding, NY is potentially a perfect place for bicycles as a primary mean of transportation. People who need to come into the city with their cars should pay a hefty toll, like they do in London. I am sick of the traffic and the noise.
• WTF with the building boom? How many people can afford 1 bedroom apartments that are almost a million dollars? And most of the new buildings look like shit!
• I didn't think I would ever say it, but the cutification of New York is starting to piss me off. I do not complain about the city being quite safe, (that I can walk home by myself in the wee hours is something I cherish) and more livable than ever, but there has to be a limit to pharmacy chains and nail salons. We now feel like a huge suburb.
• When are we ever going to be less filthy? When are people going to stop throwing garbage on the streets? When are we going to have better garbage collection services? Perhaps if we disposed of our garbage better we wouldn't be so inviting to rats.
I am cranky.
I'm thinking L.A., people. No, I have even caught myself thinking upstate. That's how bad it's gotten.
Here's my list (not in order of preference):
1. Some Like it Hot. Billy Wilder
2. The 40 Year Old Virgin. Jude Apatow
3. The Laurel and Hardy collection (since we're talking DVD's, we can).
4. Big Deal on Madonna St. Mario Monicelli
5. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Pedro Almodovar
6. Love and Death. Woody Allen
7. The Buster Keaton Collection
8. Monty Python's Life of Brian.
9. A Fish Called Wanda. Charles Crichton
10. Amarcord. Federico Fellini.
Oh, but there are so many more...
Many times, when we are trying to make a commercial funny, which is a difficult task, because humor is quite subjective, and it tends to desert people who are paying for commercials once the cameras start rolling, I mention the word deadpan as an example of what I'm looking for, only to find that many people don't know what it means and I don't know how to describe it. Usually, all I can say is: Bill Murray, but that doesn't quite do the trick, since Mr. Murray is not only deadpan, but usually cranky and morose and as much as I love these qualities, they may not be the qualities that clients most appreciate in a commercial (upbeat, and/or uplifting are what they love). So, luckily, from the New York Times, here's Bob Balaban, to the rescue:
How to Do a Deadpan
Bob Balaban, actor
Deadpan: a vaudeville term coined in the 1920s to describe a comic with an expressionless face, pan being slang for face, and dead being dead. Think
Jack Benny. Buster Keaton. Christopher Guest. Deadpan is the double take without the take, the mysterious, hysterically funny nothing.
In “Steamboat Bill Jr.,” Buster Keaton walks into a neighborhood that has been devastated by a cyclone. He stops in front of a house. The house begins to fall. Keaton, of course, is unaware of it. The shot is wide enough for you to know that Keaton is really there and that the house is really falling. Audiences reportedly shouted: “Look out! Look out!” at the movie screen during this sequence. The house falls, the audience gasps, the dust rises, and when it clears, there is Keaton, expressionless, standing in the safety of an open attic window that has fallen around him. He walks away as if nothing has happened to him. That’s major deadpan.
Here are some rules for deadpan:
1. This thing works better the less you do. You could actually be dead and get pretty good results. Lowercase yourself — clear your mind, silence your inner voices, disappear, be nothing. Don’t forget, nothing can be really something. An accomplished deadpan can create a force field akin to a black hole.
2. Don’t act. Deadpan is, by definition, the antithesis of acting. Deadpan allows the audience to imagine your reaction. You are the ultimate Rorschach test. You are
Peter Sellersin “Being There.”
3. Like the proverbial dark gray suit, deadpan is appropriate for almost every occasion. It’s the way to go whether you are on the receiving end of spoonfuls of baby food thrown by a peckish infant, or in a speedboat and the female bass player to whom you have just proposed takes off her wig and tells you she’s a man, or if you are about to have a house fall on you.
4. And this is an absolute absolute — do not comment on the deadpan. The audience must never know that you know a house has fallen on you. You are not in on the joke, and the audience will love you for it. They will feel superior. Let them.
Doing nothing is not for everyone. A great deadpan is a rara avis. But who knows? In the brave new world of Botox and Restalane, today’s
Jim Carreymay become tomorrow’s master of the expressionless expression.