Friday, January 27, 2006

Grand Ole Oprah

I'm glad you apologized, you cunning, masterful Goddess of Media. However, why is it you always get it wrong? Now every time somebody writes a memoir, and apparently there is one born every minute, including Nicole Ritchie's, the already verminlike, abominable, spineless, publishing industry is going to be in mortal fear of lawsuits and is going to investigate every colon and every comma in selfrighteous self-defense, thanks to you, you idiot. If somebody writes a memoir, (like I aspire to do one of these days), it's not the publisher's responsibility to put it through a congressional investigation.
Memoirs are not documentaries and they are not news reports, but personal recollections, told through the interpretive voice of the subject, and as memory is famously unreliable, all we can trust is that the author will have enough INTEGRITY not to lie and invent stuff that didn't happen to aggrandize his sorry, needy ass.
I'm sick of everything in this country being put through the hysterical, nonsensical, legal finetoothed comb, from fucking TV commercials, to hot cups of coffee in junk food dumps, to sprained ankles on the street, and apparently, thanks to Oprah now, literary memoirs.
You know, in Berlin and Prague, the public transportation system; that is, the buses, trams and subways, are based on a HONOR system. You buy your pass and you are supposed to validate it. True, it's easy to cheat. True, you may never be caught and ride for free till you kick the bucket. True, there may be ex-SS who may demand to see your pass or else. But people abide by and trust THE HONOR SYSTEM in the freaking subway!!!!
I don't believe we can expect that from this culture of attention-starved hucksters, snakeoil salesmen and greedy bastards, who apparently prefer to have a fact checking thought police instead.
Click on the title for a fun Oprah treat.

I have opinions about opera too...

...even if I don't know dick about it. Yesterday I saw Osvaldo Golijov's Ainadamar at Lincoln Center. He's supposed to be the cat's pajamas in modern classical music today. The opera is about the memories of actress Margarita Xingu of the murder of her friend, poet Federico García Lorca in the Spanish Civil War. It's about the attempt by totalitarian forces to murder art and freedom, with a libretto By David Henry Hwang. I loved the music of Ainadamar, a very accessible blend of flamenco and Spanish and Latin styles with beautiful, powerful melodies, and the use of tabla and a fantastic Flamenco "cantaor" and laptops and sound effects. Surprisingly, I expected something a little bit more challenging musically. Ainadamar really uses a lot of popular musical idioms, so it sounds relatively easy to digest. Still, it is very rewarding. Dawn Upshaw, in the role of Margarita, sang and acted her heart out with a magnificent soaring voice. So did Jessica Rivera, as Nuria, her student. Kelly O'Connor, the mezzosoprano in the role of Federico García Lorca, sang amazingly but I was hoping they would kill her off and fast. The problem, I believe, was in the staging by director Peter Sellars, who is also supposed to be, like we say in Mexico, the last Coca-Cola in the desert. The stage was empty, surrounded by a painting with Guernica overtones (pretty old hat, if you ask moi). There were no props. There is lots of jumping ahead and backwards in time and space, from Spain to Uruguay, to a dream of Havana in the plot but it's not easy to figure it out if you don't read Sellars explanatory notes in the program. Dude, if you have to explain that much, you're not doing your job, which is to communicate the story clearly to the audience. The one saving grace I saw in this interpretation is that the lack of conventional storytelling with the aid of scenery and props allowed the audience to really connect to the music, because not much was happening on the stage. There were a couple of nice images, like the women in the choir evoking pealing bells with their bodies, but most of the time the singers were just standing there or embracing each other, which has got to be the most boring thing an audience can see on a stage. In the little opera I've seen there always seems to be something ridiculous going on. In this case, most of it came from Ms. O'Connor's demeanor on stage. She was wearing what looked like a crumpled, ill fitting, seersucker suit, that distracted me to no end. The short jacket seemed to creep up her very wide hips, rendering useless the illusion that she's supposed to be a gay male poet, and an elegant, fastidious dresser at that. Her slicked back hair came undone after a few jerks of her head, so that didn't help either. Would it kill her to get a proper haircut for the role?
But most of all, in her suffering, she seemed to squirm like a clam under lime juice. She seemed pathetic, instead of dignified. Now, Garcia Lorca may have been a major faygeleh, but he is a heroic figure, and I don't appreciate watching him run aimlessly around the stage, bumping into the walls, crouching with his ass in the air, whimpering for mercy. I do not blame Ms. O'Connor, who does have an otherworldly voice, but the director. Another detail like something out of a high school production, was that the Spanish Civil Guard soldiers were dressed in flashy camouflage fatigues like bored Marines in Iraq. Really, that kind of symbolism seems to me infantile and heavy handed.
I was so bored with the production that I thought that maybe the truly radical idea would be to stage this opera in a conventional way, with more theatrical resources that could better evoke the painful sense of loss, and give the powerful, emotional music the dramatic impact it deserves.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A dark day for Israel

It's a dark day for Israel that Hamas won the Palestinian elections. Hamas organizes suicide bombings, the murder of its own citizens, to achieve their means. How can one trust people who do that to their own children is beyond my comprehension. Hamas also does not recognize Israel's right to exist and claim they won't negotiate with it. Many in Israel probably will take this as a sign to retrench in the hard line and continue provoking Palestinian unrest. Others probably will live in fear of renewed violence from both sides. Hamas won not only because of its pure hatred of Israel, which unfortunately is shared by most of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, but it also won because it has offered more social services and in a terrible, misguided way, more hope to the Palestinians than the corrupt and ineffective Fatah. They won because the area has steadily become more radicalized on both sides for years, Sharon's withdrawal of Gaza notwithstanding. Is the rise of Hamas' Israel's own fault? Perhaps. Is it Ariel Sharon's fault? Read Ari Shavit's fascinating, deeply ambivalent article in the New Yorker this week. Click on the title of this super serious blog entry to read an interview with Shavit about Sharon.
In a way, Sharon is lucky he's not conscious anymore to see what he has sown.
Hamas has won and I hope in my heart this will not bring a new era of violence and disaster for both peoples.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I'm stepping into the Frey

It's bad enough that the guy is a liar and a cheat and beneath contempt. What is truly galling is that his publisher and Oprah, (talk about the road to hell being paved with good intentions) instead of showing some backbone and admitting having being duped, instead of saying that outright lying and embellishing what is supposed to be a real story is unacceptable, DEFEND this bastard and spin themselves silly because all they want to do is save face and keep collecting their millions.
I am appalled, shocked, dismayed and frightened at the levels of spin, which is nothing but lying and distortion of the truth, the powerful in America are willing to engage in, from our moronically malevolent president, to the Grande Dame of TV and the publishers of A Million Little Pieces. But hell, that's how things in America work today: an editor told Mary Karr, who wrote a great memoir, The Liars Club, to insert a sappy goodbye scene with her mother, even though it never happened, to sell more copies. She refused. Read her opinion of this farce by clicking on the title.
People have no shame anymore, and that is accepted. It is accepted that in the name of money and fame, you can lie and cheat and grovel and debase yourself for your fifteen minutes of glory. And people understand; Oprah, in her all encompassing magnificence, has the power to forgive and so will many morons who watch her dreadful show. It's only natural. Everybody wants to be famous. Everybody wants to make it. It doesn't matter how. It's revolting.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A nose for trouble

Perhaps somebody wants to tell some of our European male brethren that if they are going to get on a plane for 9 hours, they may want to take a shower before departure. An antiperspirant may also come in handy. On top of every other indignity of tourist class, one has to endure a unique kind of Eastern European B.O which is pungent with notes of wrinkled salami, old and new sweat, digested garlic seeping through the epidermis, the sweet, cloying smell of years of the inhalation and exhalation of stale cigarette smoke and a top note of regurgitated beer, plus, the piece de resistance, stinky feet. I think it is criminal the way airlines cram 8 seats where there is really room for four and 40 rows where there is room for only 30. I hope people start having strokes on planes, so somebody does something about this horror. I'd like to put the chairman of Skyteam on coach on a transatlantic flight, preferably coming back, see how he likes it. It's inhumane.
As you may have surmised, I have a sensitive nose and can tell you that, compared to the homeless of Prague, our homegrown variety smells like eau de cologne. The bums of Prague have a smell of ancient rotting flesh cured in vinegar.
The beggars kneel on the hard cold stone and bow their bodies to the ground, hiding their faces, as if they were doing penance for being poor. They dress only with a light sweater and ratty canvas sneakers and they stretch their hands out on the pavement, which look like they're about to fall off from the cold. It looks very medieval, and at least in my case, fails to provoke more sympathy. I much prefer our jaunty, wiseass, confident panhandlers.

Back from Eastern Europe

And very happy, I might add, to see the grimy streets of my beloved New York once more. To see its modern buildings and its people of many colors. It's refreshing, after such a thorough bath in old country ways.

I don't know if this has ever happened to you, but it has happened to me in more than one occasion. You visit a city you've never been to before. You spend more than five days walking around. They speak a language you don't understand. I don't know if it takes time for one to get used to a new culture, but I always seem to find the locals far more likeable just as I'm about to leave. I don't know if they can sense I'm on my last days in their city and therefore start acting cute all of a sudden, or if I start discovering their charms just as my trip is coming to an end. In any case, this is what happened to me in Prague.

Yesterday, for my birthday, I went to see a famous church on the outskirts of Prague, decorated with 40 000 bones of some people who died of the Black Death in the middle ages. This has got to be the church in worst taste in human history (not that churches are the epitome of understated elegance, what with their predilection for storing sundered body parts of saints and other bloody objets). Still, it was a great day trip to the beautiful town of Kutna Hora, a place where many movies have been shot because it is so well preserved and picturesque. We had lunch in a great tavern with a fireplace and it was all so authentic I almost expected someone to burst in and burn me at the stake.
This is what happens in Prague. One walks on the old cobblestones among creepy gothic churches. One thinks of Kafka and the Golem and centuries of torturing the Jews and the hardships under Nazism and Communism (no wonder everyone's gray). The creepiness is then compounded by the godawful blight of tourism. There are many groups comprised only of men, who come to Prague to get cheap sex. They all loiter around Wenceslaus Square at night, negotiating with black guys who advertise for the whores, who, at least in winter, are nowhere to be seen.
Question to guys: can't you get a proper girlfriend? That would be even cheaper.
Then you have the freaking souvenir stores, and the tourist trap restaurants and black light and puppet theaters and the pickpockets who look like characters out of Dickens, you can spot their evil intentions a mile away.
With heaviness in my heart, I thus report to you dear readers, that even though I loved treading foreign asphalt and discovering the crazy town of Prague, even though I loved the beer, and the trams that are painted red and beige and some are still from the sixties, I marvelled at the architecture and liked the Lucerna Cafe and the Saint Nicholas and the Montmartre, I still could not warm up to Prague as much as I would have liked.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What I like about Prague

The cafes: There are a thousand of them, many with great character. You can eat all kinds of sucky food all day long and linger as much as you want. Some are nouveau, some are deco, some are bohemian, and I want to see them all. The service is sullen, the food is nothing to write home about and the Czech have an unfortunate penchant for really excrutiating pop music. Versions in Czech of gems like Grease and Take me Home Country Roads, par example. It must be an aftershock of living in communism for so long.
The beer: Peeps, you've been living in the dark. I had an epiphany: beer doesn't have to taste and smell like a putrid sock. After you try any Czech beer on tap -- extra cold, crisp, refreshing and freaking delicious -- you will never ever EVER want to order a beer on tap in NY again. Now you know.
The museum of communism: A funky little hole of hatred and resentment, and with good reason.
There are more working theaters in this town, considering its size, than anything I've ever seen. The Czechs are nuts for the stage. As for the quality, who knows. I'm not gonna sit into a Long Day's Journey into Night in Czech.
There are people who try to sell you tickets for classical music concerts as if they were trying to sell you ecstasy. They pester you so much I'm afraid to try.
Culture is cheap (museums are expensive). I went to a concert by the Prague Symphony in the amazing Municipal Theater, an art nouveau marvel, and I paid $30 bucks.

Booze is cheap.
And that's a good thing.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The sun came out

But that doesn´t mean it warmed up anything. Still, after four days in this magnificent town, I'm starting to get the hang of it. But since this blog is about kvetching, I feel it is my responsibility to kvetch. So here goes:
I hate this fucking keyboard where I can't figure out the colons, the apostrophes, the parenthesis, and the z is the y and viceversa.
I found the oranges. I'm much happier now. They wish they were in Valencia.
On the wall of the hostel where I´m staying there is a plaque that says:
"In this house the gestapo ran a secret prenatal clinic where they had Czech women give birth and they took their babies away to give them to German couples so they would raise them as Germans. The women were sent to concentration camps. We will never forget".
Apart from that sinister little detail, the place is tres charmant. Actually, darlings, I'm starting to be very fed up with Europe, beautiful buildings notwithstading. I look around and think that only sixty years ago what was going on around here was the worst calamity man ever inflicted upon man, the most barbaric, retrograde, savage, evil, bloody, sadistic, insane, but yet incredibly efficiently organized mass torture and murder of humans in history, considering it happened in what is supposed to be the apex of civilization. The children of the perpetrators beat their chests with guilt and their country is thriving. The victims, and I don't mean only the Jews, but all of Europe, are reduced to putting plaques everywhere and to try to give the impression that they had nothing to do with it. Some were heroic resisters, others were eager sympathizers. The Czech had it bad, first with the nazis and then with the communists. And most of what came out of Europe in the mid 20th Century was the disgrace of the human race. Those who actually gave humanity something to be proud of were expelled, persecuted or exterminated, either by Hitler or by Stalin. I'm not an American patriot, but these fucking Europeans have no right to dump on the US of A after what went on here.
Darlings, do not fret, you are not going blind or dyslexic. You read correctly, your very own Jewish Aztec Principessa is staying at a HOSTEL. And will live to tell the tale.
Actually, I'm occupying the suite, which has its own private and very minuscule bathroom. Because I'm a trooper, but I refuse to use a communal bathroom. I'm too old and too spoiled for that. The great Mexican singer songwriter Cuco Sanchez, wrote a slash-your-own-wrists song called La Cama de Piedra, The Bed of Stone, which makes me think he may have spent a night or two in my lovely Praguer hostel. Stone does not begin to describe it. Except for the fact that the walls are paper thin and we have these strange neighbors who look Japanese but speak Russian, which makes me think they may be Mongolian. They never seem to go out but drink beers in the hall and don't really make that much of a racket but still they like to prattle loudly until way past midnight. Despite the fact that the heating here is not a boiler like in the US because people need to conserve energy and not spend all of it all at once like we do over there, so that the rooms and bars and restaurants are only just warm enough, and the cold seeps into your bones in a very Eastern European kind of way, I believe I'm handling the hostel life with great dignity and aplomb.
I wish I could tell you more about the sights but even in the dead of winter there are too many hordes of tourists everywhere.
Those who live off them try as hard as is humanly possible to make everything beautiful ugly and everything meaningful, vulgar. Still, Prague is incredible and I don't understand how it managed to survive such human putrefaction.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Blogging from Prague

Dear Dears:

I know you've been waiting for your big fat enchilada to say something, after what was it, three days of respite from my garrulousness? And so here I am, in Prague, trying to muster the neurons necessary to regale you with amazing tales of my travels. Just don't expect too much. One, because it's freezing and I get all numb, brain included, from the cold. Two, because so far the food sucks and that makes your big, hopefully less fat enchilada quite ornery. I haven't seen a real orange in three days and I have no doubt they are somewhere in the vicinity, just not in the juice. My first breakfast consisted of liver goulash and weird white bread without a crust. But that was my fault: it was lunchtime in Prague, but in Enchiladaland it was still 8 in the morning.
So Prague. What is it like? Weird. It is medieval, gothic, baroque, nouveau, stalinistic, neoclassical, romanesque and all of this happens in one block. It's plenty overstimulation for the architecturally inclined. I like that.
Yesterday I went to see what is left of the Jews. This may also be the reason why I'm not in the best mood. I won't go into the entire history of the Jews of Prague, but they had been here since year 900. Endured the requisite pogroms, expulsions, etc, and always stayed, came back, thrived. In the middle of last century, they were almost all wiped out. So what is left are four empty shells of synagogues that now serve as museums (actually, I believe two of them are in use), a most sad and amazing cemetery with graves dating to the 14th century and people trying to sell you souvenirs about the Jews that are not there anymore. One of the synagogues, dating to the 1500's, has the names of 80,000 Czech Jews that were murdered by the Nazis. The names take up almost all the walls of the synagogue. They are inscribed packed once next to the other, in red and black paint, straight on the stones, with their places of provenance, dates of birth and death. Many, many names of people. In the meantime, every time you turn a corner in the Jewish museums, there seems to be a collection box because apparently the 12 dollar ticket is not enough. I understand museums also live from contributions but it seems to me in pretty bad taste to be squeezing you for money every time you blow your nose into your kleenex. It can be done in a more dignified way is all I'm saying. I missed the actual big Jewish museum, where I understand there is an amazing collection of manuscripts and things that survived because the Nazis were so perverse they wanted to keep a record of an exctinct inferior people for posterity. So between my recent trip to Berlin and now, I just keep thinking: what were the neighbors doing while the Jews were first humiliated, branded, ghettoized and then taken away?
Just curious. I am also curious about what would I be doing if my neighbors were suddenly in danger... it's none of my business is probably the answer. And I'm not happy about that.
Prague is cold and foggy and gloomy, which suits it well. I wouldn't call it beautiful, because it is more than that. It is a little sinister, with a huge eerie castle looming on the other side of the river. Its inhabitants are curtly polite and seem to me a bit morose. Well, between the food and the weather, I don't blame them.
I went to the Franz Kafka cafe, which is a lovely old place with inscriptions of the man's writings in German on the walls and pictures of the old Jewish ghetto and as background music none other than Celine Dion's Greatest Hits, including, if that isn't enough, a bloodcurling duet with Andrea Bocelli. Poor Kafka must be spinning in his grave. And now you know another reason why I'm ornery.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

2nd Ave Deli: I'm glad the dump is closing

I know I'm incurring the wrath of many, and I may even be the first subject of a Jewish lynch mob, but boy am I glad that overpriced dump is finally closing its doors. I hope it doesn't reopen. This is a restaurant so obnoxious it has a policy of demanding a minimum charge for lunch! A freaking deli with sticky floors, in the East Village! Last time I went there about two years ago with like six goy friends, looking forward to show them a little Jewish fressen, they made us order more than 8 dollars worth of food PER PERSON or refused to serve us. I vowed never to set foot in that place again. I don't care about their rent. Everybody in this town pays rent. And just admit it: the food wasn't that great. Bland and a freaking ripoff. The Second Avenue Deli deserves to close. In its place bring on some treif chazerai. Ribs with bacon and cream and shrimp and lobster. That'll show them.

ps: Now, if anything like this ever happens to Katz's or Russ and Daughters, I'm slitting my wrists.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Oh, no! Not again! Not AT&T again!

I don't know about you, dear readers, but the news that we have to see that pesky little blue soccer ball and endure those treacly, insufferable ads about touching yourself and reaching someone (or something like that) again, gives me absolutely no cause for rejoicing. Hadn't we managed as a culture to get rid of AT&T before? Didn't that, now that you think about it, feel like a great weight off our collective shoulders? Just when we finally managed to forget the dismal customer service and those treacly, insufferable ads, well here they are again. Except that now they are trying to tell us they have become more "personable" or they're going poetic imitating e.e. cummings, for they spell their giant name at&t. How cute. They probably conducted focus groups in Podunk and heard it from the mouths of actual people, or consumers, as companies are fond of calling us humans, that the old AT&T stood for Ancient, Terrible, and Transylvanian (as in either bloodcurling or bloodsucking, depending on your experience), so they lowercased themselves to connect better with us little people. Well, I'm very upset. I was happy to live without them and I will continue to do so, even if it means an ongoing battle to keep that pesky little blue ball out of my mind.

Disclosure: Many years ago I worked for AT&T as a senior copywriter. The people I dealt with there were for the most part a loony, disorganized, epically bored and highly unreliable bunch. In fact, every time I picked up the phone and heard a ringtone I thought it was a miracle that it actually worked.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Grande Enchilada gets censored!

Well, not really.
I did get a letter published in New York Magazine this week, the one with the stupid restaurant star ratings on the cover, and they took out all the charming parts. You can buy New York Magazine in newsstands right now and frame the letter for posterity, or for the full version of my epistolary masterpiece, click on the title.

I promptly got a call from the president of The New York Atheists (no, it's not a hockey team). How he got my number, God only knows. What he wants from me, I shudder to think, but I feel honored regardless.

When bad food happens to good people

We could not resist arguing and kvetching about some of New York Magazine's more dubious restaurant star ratings. I consider this to be a community service. You've been warned.

OTTO ENOTECA PIZZERIA got two stars when it deserves niente. It used to be good, now it sucks. It has been turned into the mess hall of NYU and a venue for obnoxious birthday and bachelorette celebrations where young, impressionable sluts can't hold their peach bellinis or keep their annoying cackles down. Strictly for amateurs. Last time I went, for a late dinner, I ordered pasta puttanesca. The pasta, which is served in a puny appetizer portion, arrived not only not al dente, but hard, almost fresh out of the box, and was covered with a sauce that seemed to hail from a tomato puree can stuck in a deep freezer in Wyoming. Just in case you think I'm a fineschmecker, I never send things back, but this was probably the worst plate of pasta I've ever had (and I lived almost my entire life in Mexico City, where only until recently they have stopped boiling pasta until it's mush). They still make great ice cream at Otto, but in the Summer you can get it from their cart on Washington Square Park (northwest corner).

FLEUR DE SEL. It is because of reviewers like Adam Platt, that hardworking, credulous New Yorkers take a risk on expensive, pretentious places like Fleur de Sel when they would be better off eating cereal at home. The food was the most boring, bland, tasteless thing I've had since hospital food. Two words: turnip soup.

The place is stunning (great for a drink), the service at the Bar Room extremely gracious, knowledgeable and professional, but when one is paying big bucks for half portions, one does not expect the steak to be hard and chewy like the elk on Brokeback Mountain. My relative from Mexico City kept staring at his two tiny pieces of perfectly cooked salmon and asking the waitress where was the rest of his food. For dessert, the waitress, a lovely Austrian girl, thankfully recommended the apple strudel, which was the best thing in the menu. The Modern is nice but chewy steak is unacceptable at those prices.

I wish I could say something about the food in TIA POL, but the night I went there the staff was so rude and indifferent as we asked for a table, that we didn't stick around to contribute further to the humiliation.

Blue Hill -- I don't remember anything I ate there.
Chanterelle -- super expensive and not that great.
Bread Bar at Tabla -- what my Mom would call "ongepatchket".

Because of my disinterested and philantropic nature, I am willing to share with you some of my favorite restaurants in NY:
Note that except for Jewel Bako, you won't have to sell your soul to eat well.

• Bar Pitti
• Lupa
• Jewel Bako
• New Pasteur - for great, cheap vietnamese on Baxter St.
• Soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai
• Roast duck at New York Noodletown
• Blue Ribbon Bakery
• Five Points
• Virgil's BBQ

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

My "blovel" won't be as bad

What's with all these bloggers with book contracts? Are they the new Tolstois? Today's Hemingways? Not according to one of the worst movie reviewers ever in the NYT, or anywhere else for that matter, Janet Maslin, who gives Wonkette's new novel a scathing, if typically shoddily written review.
So if I ever get a book contract out of this happy drudgery I call my blog, which by the way, is the only reason why I'm doing it, I promise my book will be better.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

So what else is new?

The Wall Street Journal had an editorial last Friday saying that Katrina and Tsunami and Earthquake in Pakistan and the Iraq mess notwithstanding, 2005 wasn't that bad a year. The nerve! And our very own POTUS thinks his disgraceful, utterly incompetent, pandering, dishonest, self-interested presidency is one for the history books. I hope he's right. I hope we're wrong and fifty years from now we all go (you, cause I don't think I'll last that long) "Man, that Bush was right: there is a Disneyland in Baghdad and a Starbucks in Karachi and we suckers had pegged him all wrong". As if.
(Those three dots next to the title mean there is a link waiting to scare the bejesus out of you).

In any case, I hope y'all had a great time last night and didn't start the year already regretting your excesses. I didn't, for once, which must mean I'm finally maturing (less charitable individuals would call it aging). What can I tell you, dear readers, with each passing year this new year's business leaves me less and less excited. Don't get me wrong, I am extremely happy to be alive and always grateful at the mere chance of breathing, but it seems to me that life is just an endless cycle of ups and downs to which we ascribe some meaningful dates to avoid going insane. Still, I was very lucky to spend the last hours of 2005 with my favorite people. But who are we kidding, the first day of the year is always a bummer.

So here's my wish list for 2006:

• If we have any natural disasters again, I wish they are not handled by any friends of POTUS. In fact, if we are due for another natural catastrophe, I wish it hits D.C. instead (around the vicinity of Capitol Hill and the White House, if you want to be precise). How 'bout a flood at the WSJ? Let's see if they still muster such a sunny disposition about other people's tragedies.
• It would be nice for a change if someone in the Middle East decided to cooperate with one another, instead of blowing each other up. Hey, guys, don't kill the messenger, it's just a thought.
• If the US Government indeed builds a wall at the border, I hope it collapses frequently from so many people climbing over it and burrowing under it. I also hope it gets defaced with tacky hand painted ads for norteño bands.
• I hope the media gives the already nauseating Brangelina, TomKat, two-bit celebrity bullshit a rest. Please.
• I hope Paris Hilton joins a convent and disappears from the public eye. The Olsen twins then follow suit.
• I hope Americans stop treating their TV sets and the sitcoms on them as if they were a member of the family. Read a book, for God's sake. Chicken Soup for the Couch Potato's Soul doesn't count.
• I hope both Judges Alito and Roberts turn out to be the right wingers' worst nightmares. I hope they all get constitutional conniptions, the lot of them.
• I hope Americans get some sense into their heads and say no to state imposed theocracy.
• I hope the spineless cowards of the mainstream media get some backbone and start doing their job.
• I hope the Democrats get smart (I know, I'm dreaming).
• I wish focus groups in any way, shape or form or for any purpose, are outlawed.
• I wish we curb our insatiable tendencies for evil.

A happy, healthy, loving, creative, peaceful 2006 to you.