Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mrs. Boobs goes to Washington

I've been having trouble concentrating, darlings, which is why there have been no recent posts. Truth is, I'm in a black mood and don't know exactly why. It's not PMS, so it must be the bizarre spectacle of Anna Nicole Smith getting a hearing from the US Supreme Court. Frankly, after they helped Bush steal the election the first time around, they lost their dignified standing with me, so I'm not tearing my hair out over the media circus around it.
Nicole's 587 year-old husband was so goddamned rich, that if that buxom trailer trash skank and her stepson were to share a little itty bitty part of his wealth they'd still be unimaginably and unjustly rich and maybe we wouldn't have to see her terrifying likeness in Trimspa ads or reality shows, or anywhere, which would qualify as progress for mankind. But no, the stepson doesn't want to share his father's gazillions, and I say, even though it is perfectly clear to someone with two neurons that she is a golddigger, and the dad was a putz, let her have her day in Court. God knows she's been everywhere else.
As you may have noticed, this blog has now solved the problem of links between the text, thanks to the gallant advice of a blogonnaire friend who shall remain nameless. And so I'm gonna be so link drunk, you may want me to lay off the linking for a while. It turns out that for some reason, some of the editing functions of the foolproof interface known as Blogger were not appearing for yours truly. I suspect a right-wing conspiracy. But the problem has been solved and supposedly I should be able to do bold, italics, insert links, and coming soon, images.
None of which will be of Anna Nicole Smith, that I can promise.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Impeach Somebody!

Take your pick. Between Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, at least one of them should pay for the moral ruination of this country. In this excellent, chilling article by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker, Cheney and particularly Rumsfeld are prime candidates for a massive public spanking (the kind they like to inflict on enemy combatants). Rumsfeld is a cruel, conniving, lying bastard. So is the asshole who shoots people in the face and you can believe that he is the one calling the shots in this country right now, by every possible subterfuge available. Under the pretext of caring for national security, these terrible people are having an unbridled orgy with their own power and they are more concerned about having total power, than they are for our well being. Because if they were, incidents like Abu Ghraib and what goes on at Guantanamo every day would not be happening, further fanning the flames of hatred that make people bomb themselves to shreds in our presence. And since they have a moron in the White House who is loyal to them as a dog, they go about their criminal behavior without a slap on the wrist by anyone. They make a mockery of Congress (and who could blame them) and of the Constitution and of everything good this country is supposed to stand for. They are getting away with murder.
Read about the heroic Counsel for the Navy, Alberto Mora, and his fight to stop these two from making torture a daily occurrence. Now that Mora's been hired as General Counsel for Wal-Mart, perhaps he will bring his sense of fairness and decency to a company that is perceived as having neither.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Debate Continues

And this is a response to the response. I'm lucky to have such passionately articulate readers (although the topic at hand is not a barrel of laughs).
This concludes the part where I post things readers send me via email. You are all welcome to continue this fascinating discussion by posting your comments directly.

"The reader’s note that commented on the “controversial topic” confused me. Perhaps I am misinterpreting, but she seems to be saying explicitly that freedom of the press, and implicitly that freedom of speech, are sacrosanct, except in the case of Holocaust deniers. I’ll try to express my misgivings point by point.

1. She writes: “To compare the right of the newspaper to publish anti-muslim cartoons while having laws that restrict holocaust denial is truly to compare apples and oranges.”
They’re apples and apples. Either one has the right to free speech or one doesn’t. If anyone has the right to free speech, then everyone has to have it, or it’s a sham. As heinous as Holocaust deniers are, free speech laws cannot apply to everyone minus them.

2. She writes: “The idea that the hurt caused by denying the holocaust can be equated to the pain
triggered by the drawing of a cartoon is insulting to me.” The “insult” merely shows where her sympathies lie and what her blind spots are. No doubt the pain that the cartoons triggered toward many Muslims is equal to the pain triggered by the Holocaust deniers to many Jews and their sympathizers. She seems to have a blind spot for the pain caused by the cartoons. To some Muslim readers they were clearly tantamount to a hate crime.

3. As the reader indicates, Holocaust denial is among the purest forms of anti-Semitism. And the tide of anti-Semitism is rising, principally in Europe, where in the past few years synagogues have been firebombed, Jewish cemeteries have been defaced, Jewish children have been beat up on their way home from school, etc. As time passes and fewer witnesses to World War II remain alive, the Holocaust deniers’ view of history might well become more acceptable, particularly by
ignorant and benighted people. However, that doesn’t mean their views should beoutlawed. They should be denounced, roundly, loudly and clearly, as most governments, for example, denounced the new president of Iran’s espousal of Holocaust denial.

4. I have some, albeit limited, experience with Holocaust deniers. I am a reporter, and I interviewed a handful of them for two articles I wrote. The most frustrating and unnerving problem is that they have a prepared counterargument for whatever evidence is presented to them that the Holocaust indeed occurred. They quote chapter and verse from dozens of books, by the vile David Irving and various others, that spuriously refute any and all evidence of the Holocaust. That most of the world treats their views as absurd is, to them, mere proof that the Jews control the media, and thus the hearts and minds, of the world. They cannot be swayed. What’s more, the conviction and jail sentence of the despicable David Irving only serves their – his – arguments. His place behind bars will not make the deniers reconsider their point of view. Irving becomes in their eyes a Christian martyr, prosecuted and crucified for telling “the truth.”
Frighteningly, his conviction might make others come around to the deniers’ point of view, partly because they see the Holocaust deniers being denied their right to free speech.
5. For the record, my mother was a Holocaust survivor. Most of her family was killed in the concentration camps. Personally, I’d like to see David Irving roasted on a spit with an apple in his mouth, in my view fitting, given the pig that he is. Luckily I
don’t make the laws. As hateful as I believe him to be, I cannot deny that he has the same right to free speech that I have. She’s dead now, but I daresay my mother would have felt the same."

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Putz and The Ports

Man, our President is really a danger to this country. He makes our trigger-happy Veep look tame by comparison. As the linked editorial in the NYT points out, the Putz Administration is keen on persecuting, torturing and illegally eavesdropping on individuals, in the name of "homeland security", but when it is about making business deals with oil-rich so called allies, they are ready to leave our ports (I live in such a one) in the hands of countries that at the very least deserve a very major security clearance. This is so outrageous that even guys like Bill Frist are tearing the hair on their mops about it.
You know, it wasn't a good idea to bring to office a guy whose entire family is fed and has made its fortune by and from Arab oil. The love affair the Bush dynasty has with unsavory, undemocratic oil tyrannies has brought nothing but grief to this country. There should be a statute of limitations as to how many Bushes can ruin this country in any given century, because let me remind you, there is still a Jeb out there with presidential aspirations.

A response to "A controversial topic"

I'm taking the liberty of reproducing an email that one of my astute readers sent to me as response to my posting on the historian who went to jail for denying the Holocaust. I admit I was intellectually lazy and was so exhausted of talking about the Jews these past few days, I didn't do my homework. A lot of what this reader says makes perfect sense to me. NOTE: Before anybody of any persuasion has a conniption, I believe the reader in question is not Jewish.

""Wanted to comment on a specific post however. One that kind of surprised me. And with which I beg to differ.... Bout the controversial topic when you agree with your friend that "the law against denying the holocaust is stupid."
Is it really? But let me regress for a moment...
This comparison between the right to publish the cartoons and the holocaust law is not a mere coincidence. It very interestingly appeared soon after the controversy arose and was originally used by islamists who were advocating the need to curtail the paper's right to publish the cartoons -as if outlawing holocaust denial was a "religious protection" law.
Interestingly, this argument has caught on more than any other one.
To compare the right of the newspaper to publish anti-muslim cartoons while having laws that restrict holocaust denial is truly to compare apples and oranges. A proper comparison would have been if papers were not allowed to publish any anti-jewish cartoons but were told there were no restriction on anti-muslim ones.
The idea that the hurt caused by denying the holocaust can be equated to the pain triggered by the drawing of a cartoon is insulting to me. To therefore request that both "events" be treated equally, non sensical.
So is this law stupid? Nobody is denying the death of 20 million Russians. That is why it is not a World War II denial law. What Holocaust deniers question is the systematic elimination of 6 million Jews, perpetuating the idea that Jews deserve a different treatment even when it comes to the interpretation of historical events. Can there be a purer form of antisemitism?
Also, as time passes and people forget this law is not necessary it is vital. The fact is that if there were given more press, chances are that deniers' view of history, would become more acceptable. The image of jews as victims is annoying enough to many (yours included at times) and it would be very easy to minimize what happened, why, and the meaning of it.
In summary: in my opinion, to accept the argument that the newspaper committed a crime equal to that of denying the holocaust, hence that its freedom should be curtailed, is not to defend freedom of the press but to play in the hands of intelligent propagandists who knew that by focusing on what one could perceive as a special treatment for Jews they would get people interested and to agree. In fact, freedom of the press is oftencurtailed. It is illegal for example to defame an individual and I wouldtrust that most countries have laws on the books regarding slander and libel; it is also illegal, in this country for ex., to publish the name of a rape victim or an underage criminal...is anybody questioning those restrictions? Don't think so. (that's why those are not being used as argument btw)

Finally, I must state for the record, that I am a harsh defendant of freedom of the press. And I would personally rather do away with the denial law than curtail the right of the press to publish cartoons...as offensive and mean as they might be".

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

So that explains why the French are not fat

Where is the Sopa de Tortilla? Bring me the Foie Gras! Have you heard? What you love is good for you.
I always knew that, at least in regards to food. Now the NYT has confirmed it. You can fress and eat what you love instead of tofu and wheatgrass and sprouts and spelt and you will stay healthy, or if not, at least you will be much happier.
It turns out that your body digests nutrients better if you like what you are eating, which makes total sense to me. When I eat a crappy meal: one, I don't feel sated and I tend to go on rampages looking for stuff that can satisfy me, and two, I get very cranky and my friends run away from me. But when you eat something yummy it brings a smile on your face, warmth in your heart, and in my case, almost a love for humanity. Almost.
This explains why the French eat butter, creme fraiche, all those fabulous stinky cheeses, foie gras, wine, eclairs, Berthillon glaces (YUM!) with abandon and they don't look like human balloons. Their sex lives seem better too, for some reason. It makes you almost love the French. Almost.
While here in the US we are made to believe that a protein bar that tastes like cigarette ash with peanut butter and has the consistency of wet concrete and looks like a flattened turd is a meal. Not even close.
It is appalling to me how many people buy frozen, processed, canned, vaccum packed, dehydrated, enriched, "food" before they buy a single leaf of something fresh and natural. Then everybody runs around like a headless chicken screaming about the obesity epidemic and the increase in diabetes and heart disease.
One of the most evil contrivances recently unleashed upon us by food marketers is the on-the-go meal. As the on-the-go soups. WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WANTS TO DRINK SOUP FROM A CUP WITH A LID LIKE A PATIENT IN A HOSPITAL, WHILE WALKING ON THE STREET OR IN THE CAR? SOUP!! Oh, very busy Americans. Okay.
There are also on-the-go cereal bars that are supposed to include the milk! BECAUSE MOM IS TOO FREAKING OVERWHELMED WITH BUSYNESS TO DUMP SOME CHEERIOS INTO A BOWL AND SPLASH SOME MILK OVER IT. The nerve!
Memo to people: Food is not fuel and you are not a car. You are not meant to eat on the subway, while on the phone, at your desk or while tottering on a balancing wire across the East River. Eating well is one of the most wonderful pleasures in life.
Try it. You may like it.

Go Francis! Go Francis! Go Francis!

Yo Mama, Fukuyama! Way to go, Francis! In this incredibly clear and cogent little manifesto in the NYT, Francis Fukuyama has singlehandedly killed neoconservatism, (of which he was, until recently, a pretty important acolyte).
Regular mortals like you and I can kvetch about Iraq, and Bush and Blibliblublu all we want, but it's good when influential thinkers like Francis come out and express their discontent in public, clearly and emphatically. I mean, if Francis says so...
I felt good reading this piece. It somehow makes one feel vindicated.
I love it when he says:
"Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support".

See? There's a really smart guy who also doesn't like your stupid, dangerous, irresponsible, destructive policy, and he is one of yours!
Click on the link and enjoy...

Monday, February 20, 2006

A controversial topic

A friend of mine writes about David Irving, a British historian that was sent to jail in Austria 3 years for denying the Holocaust:
"In many European countries it is illegal to deny the Holocaust (click on the title to learn which) and you can go to jail if you do. In the meantime, apparently you can say whatever you want about the Arabs or the Muslims. Personally I think the law is a farce. Freedom of expression should not be selective. And then those idiots can become martyrs if they go to jail".
If any Jews reading this are about to have a conniption, let me point out that the writer of these sentiments is Jewish.
I agree that the law is stupid. But it is not surprising that most of the European countries that have this law also have lots of neonazis and don't know what to do with them. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
I agree that freedom of expression should be equal for all, whether we like it or not.
It seems to me that this very unsavory character David Irving is using this trial to sell books. He got himself pictured in newspapers across the world with a copy of his book "Hitler's War" prominently displayed for everyone to see. He's gonna cry all the way to the bank. It's the James Frey school of self-promotion.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Biting the hand that feeds me

The other day, one of my (three) faithful readers asked me why oh why I never write about the industry that feeds me; that is, advertising. The simple answer is because I would like to continue being fed. However, my reader's curiosity inspired me, so from now on I will run the risk of utter destitution and I will start kvetching about the hand that feeds me. Should be fun.
Having said this, I believe marketing is evil. Focus groups are superduper evil. It gives me the heebie jeebies to go to research meetings and hear the Orwellian way that research people have of talking about "the consumer", as if "the consumer" was not quite a fully human entity but just a creature of enormous unsatisfied wants. People are categorized as "scent seekers" (I'm one of those: I sniff everything), "early adapters", "young urban males" (that's Black to you) and who knows what else. To me, frankly, the most apt descriptor would be "mongoloids", to judge from the people present at my focus groups, ready to disembowel our hard work in one fell swoop, for the sum of fifty dollars, the promise of tepid free soda and an inflated ego.
I respect research that attempts to understand how people use and perceive a certain brand. That kind of research actually helps marketers and agencies create better ads. But I have never fathomed why storyboards are shown to ten strangers who sit around a conference room table (something that gives most human beings a very distorted sense of their own power) and are asked to criticize commercial ideas rendered in little drawings.
Despite the fact that it is well documented that there are professional focus group goers, and that people tend to talk out of their ass, and that the dynamics of focus groups do not even remotely resemble reality, marketers listen to these morons as if they were the Delphic oracle.
Do you usually watch TV with ten strangers sitting around your kitchen table? I doubt it. So why are we supposed to believe that this is how people will react when they see an ad at home? In almost every focus group I've ever been to, there is always one nefarious wiseass who likes to intimidate the rest of the group. Or then you get people who say what they think you want to hear. If you don't have a moderator that knows what they're doing, people like that can hijack the proceedings. Therefore, as science, focus groups are totally bogus. Every single person who sits behind that mirrored window for twelve hours eating m&m's, farting quietly and taking "notes", will interpret and spin what the murgatroids say according to his or her agenda. So the clients hear one thing, and the agencies another and the moderator will chime in, too, hoping to get hired again. It is an utter waste of time, money and effort.
One academic study came to the conclusion that the only reason focus groups exist is to save corporate ass. Nobody wants to trust their instincts and make a decision. Brand managers are afraid, so they pay the murgatroids to do it for them. Agencies agree to focus groups because if their ads tank, they can blame "the consumers" who picked them out of a lineup.
Consensus is highly overrated. Experts are paid big bucks to make decisions and stand by them. Focus groups and consensus have become ways in which upper management deflects their responsibility unto their subordinates, which range from the assistant assistant account executive to the janitor. Have some backbone and defend what you believe in. Put your MBA to good use. That's why they pay you the big bucks for, no?

Friday, February 17, 2006

Boy, does the world suck today

A quick scan of the headlines today was enough to make me gag:
1. CNN reports that fetuses and newborns are found regularly in Zimbabwe's sewers. Sorry to rain on your parade, dear readers, but the world is crap indeed. Meanwhile, Condi Rice is too busy going after Hugo "Showman Extraordinario" Chavez, claiming he is a danger to Latin American democracies. Maybe we should stop carping about freaking democracy for two full seconds and turn our gaze to godforsaken countries like Zimbabwe, where the situation is so hellish people are literally throwing their babies down the drain. People are so poor that they can't buy soap to wash things so they do it with sand, clogging the sewers; they brush their teeth with salt. What the fuck are we doing about that, eh?
2. A Muslim cleric asshole has promised a one million dollar reward (which I bet he doesn't even have) to whoever kills the "cartoonist" that drew those stupid doodles that are going to start WWIII any minute now. He didn't even know that there was more than one Scandinavian clueless doodler. Meanwhile, the sorry, ignorant men who live in dire poverty in Islamabad are happily throwing rocks, burning and looting, whatever. Apparently these people have no concept of "old hat".
3. The NYT reports on the smug, creepy musings of Wal-Mart's CEO on his confidential webpage to employees. The guy accuses a manager of disloyalty and basically suggests he should find work elsewhere for bringing up the question of why Wal-Mart's employees can't have a less stingy medical retirement benefit package. Meanwhile this creep makes 17 million dollars a year and travels around the world in a private jet trying to dispel the popular notion that Wal-Mart is a dreadful company that abuses its employees routinely in the name of profits and low prices. They better not come to New York.
4. There was a terrible mudslide in the Philipines that covered an entire village. It looks real bad.
5. The whites in New Orleans are going ahead with Mardi Gras as planned. The blacks may not be able to reach home in time for the festivities. I quote the NYT:
"Fewer than half of the city's 465,000 residents have returned from the storm-induced diaspora — but more are coming home every day, and faster than expected. Still, many black residents are absent, suggesting a demographic and cultural shift in the offing for a city that now has more whites than blacks for the first time in decades. The city government has no money, but chic restaurants hummed for Valentine's Day. About half the city's traffic lights remain out of order, but those working along Magazine Street control the growing traffic in Uptown". Business as usual, it seems.
6. I saw a picture of the Olsen twins.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

No pity for hunters

Before I get letters of complaint about how dare I call that poor schmo that got shot in the face an old fart, let me tell you something. I have no pity for hunters. That pastime is for idiots. They dress like idiots and they behave like idiots.
Don't get me wrong: I'm no animal lover either. I hate pets and the people who have them. I hate the people who have pets more than I hate the pets. I hate the dog owners in NYC that think that the biggest snowfall in memory is a reason not to pick their dog turds off the snow. Dudes, if you can pick it off the thoroughly disgusting NYC asphalt, why can't you scoop it off the formerly pristine snow? Too cold?
In fact, in this respect, I do PETA one better (I loathe them as well):
I think that all people who have pets are animal abusers. Human beings should leave animals alone.
It is the apex of arrogance to leave a poor dog slumped at home all day and then feel like a hero when you deign to come back a trillion hours later and take the poor schmo for a pee and a dump. What gives you the right? Dogs can't read, watch TV, have a beer, or call their friends. Neither can cats, or guppies or tarantulas or hamsters. You are boring them to death. Think about it: maybe there are other ways that can make you feel that you are the center of the universe.

And before all my friends who have pets stop talking to me, you know I adore you. But I do hate pets.

None of my friends are hunters.

The Times is funny about Dick

What's in a headline? This one is so perfect, you'd think it belongs to The Onion. From the New York Times:
"Silence broken as Cheney points only to himself". BADABING!
Phew! I'm glad he ain't pointing at nobody else! And if he were, wouldn't it be nice for him to point at Bush? If you can confuse a 78 year-old old fart with a bird, you can certainly confuse a birdbrain with a bird. No?
Wouldn't it be nice, in fact, if Dick had indeed pointed only to himself. He'd done this nation a great favor.
Alas, it's only a figure of speech...
Hell, I didn't even want to get into the Cheney free for all. Too easy, too many commentators. And none better than the original segment on The Daily Show. But I could not resist. I detect a conspiracy, you see:
1. Chinese skating couple falls on their ass -- they get a silver medal.
2. US Vicepresident shoots a 78 year old man in the face APPARENTLY WITHOUT A WEAPONS PERMIT -- judge in Texas says he won't be charged.
Apparently, Evil lurks everywhere. The axis of weasel, indeed.

Memo to everybody:
Please stop using the word "covey". It makes me sick. All of a sudden, everybody pretends like it's a household word they use every day. Like they PEPPER their language with it every now and then, to use another suddenly fashionable verb. Like they SPRAY it around with utter nonchalance every other sentence as if they always knew what the hell it meant. We were all perfectly fine without the word "covey" in our lives up to this moment. I beg you to stop.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Cheeky Nice Guy

Alright, so in order to lift our spirits today, here's the story of an Olympian who is not only thinking of endorsements, and if he is, he's smarter about it than anybody else. Joey Cheek, whose name sounds like he belongs in The Sopranos, is donating his $25,000 bonus for the poor people of Darfur in the Sudan because he won a gold medal. He's also going to ask his sponsors to donate too. Nice! Way to go, dude. I have nothing but praise for you. It makes your teammates look like solipsistic greedpots.
And since we're talking Winter Olympics, may I just say how much I hate the NBC sappy, overwrought coverage of both the Winter and the Summer games? Have they ever heard of other countries? They have to fashion inspiring stories out of where there aren't any, like that speedskater who had an epiphany while playing blackjack in Las Vegas and decided to switch from rollerblades to iceskates. Ooooh! I'm melting with inspiration.
And just to be an evil, bitter contrarian: if you throw your partner into the air, she attempts to do 4 impossible spins but crashes into the ice instead and takes 5 minutes recovering instead of the allowed 2, and you bravely continue your routine, to the understandable adoration of the crowd, that still is not a reason to win a silver medal. You fell, you took longer than the rules to recover. Why the medal? The skating judges are incomprehensible, whether the rules are new or old.

It's The War vs Valentine's Day

Bill O'Reilly can hyperventilate about Xmas. I hate Valentine's Day. And always have. With or without a boyfriend, husband, lover or significant other, it's a pain in the ass. Yeah, so I'm a verbissener hater of completely manufactured holidays cynically designed to make you part with your hard earned cash for no discernible reason. So what?
But do I hate V-day more than Cinco de Mayo? Don't get me started. Or freaking St Patrick's day with the green beer and pasty drunks wearing vomit-green sweaters? I love it how gringos get plastered on 2 x1 frozen margaritas and eat unspeakably terrible "Mexican" food for a holiday that no one in Mexico gives a shit about. Well, okay, it's when we Mexicans celebrate the only battle we ever won against foreign invaders (the French, which actually makes it qualify as an international holiday). Let me disabuse you of this notion: Cinco de Mayo was created by some gringo to make people buy more nachos and salsas and beer and bad tequila that gives you evil hangovers. The actual Mexican version of the 4th of July happens September 15 and it's Independence Day. Get plastered on that day instead and confound the marketers. It's more fun that way.
The US is really good at exporting stupid, ugly holidays (Halloween, anyone?) to the rest of the world and then, as in Japan, they make the local version even worse (click on the dots).

Monday, February 13, 2006

Paradise when?

Yesterday I saw the movie Paradise Now, a Palestinian film which is the first to be nominated for an Oscar in the foreign film category. The movie is not as great as the reviews and the nominations make it out to be, but it is an interesting approach to a thorny subject. Its point of view reminded me of Munich, the Spielberg film he calls his "prayer for peace". Both films question the moral validity and ultimately the effectiveness of answering violence with violence.
After watching the movie with friends who are most dear to me, we had a bitter argument about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I don't really want to go into the who said what. My dear readers will have to trust me that what started as an attempt to explain the historical context, soon developed into a heated, personal discussion. I must confess I got very defensive and took it personally. I said things that were certainly not valid arguments to defend any posture, right or wrong. And for that I'm deeply sorry. But what kept me awake all night was that I couldn't shake my deep frustration, and even deeper sense of failure at trying to make my non-Jewish friends understand why their being hostile to Israel triggered such a deeply personal reaction in me.
Yesterday it was said that the establishment of the State of Israel was unjust. It was unjust to the Arabs who lived in the region and had nothing to do with the Holocaust, which left hundreds of thousands of displaced refugees, many of whom had just survived hell on Earth. Yesterday I heard things like "Jews go about like they're always victims", or "why didn't they go back to their countries after the Holocaust?", or "Israel has killed as many Arabs as there were Jewish deaths in the Holocaust", which is as unacceptable as saying that Hugo Chavez is like Hitler. Once the argument got out of hand, we were saying stupid things on both sides.
So I, who pride myself in being a cosmopolitan who chooses to share my life not only with Jews but with the world at large, who has always opposed the Occupation on the principle that historically the Jews are the last people on Earth who should oppress others, tried to explain that the reason for picking that arid sliver of land between the desert and the ocean was not an arbitrary whim but a historical, geographical attachment to the place where Jews originated. This argument was found to be unconvincing. Last night, as I reflected at home, I found myself thinking of the possibility that perhaps having a Jewish state was indeed unfair, that perhaps it was a mistake.
I always joke, half seriously, that instead they should have established the Jewish state in a remote, deserted island in the Pacific, surrounded only by the ocean, away from everybody, so we'd stop annoying the hell out of the world. The Jewish people dreamed of having their own country, of returning to their roots, because the logic was that in their own state persecution and violence would finally come to an end. This was what Zionism was about. Unfortunately, the ideal of a free nation living in peace with its neighbors has not come to pass yet for reasons in which both Israel and its enemies bear responsibility. Me, I'm convinced that Jews and Arabs can live side by side in peace. It seems impossible, but having lived in Jerusalem, I think it is possible. Hopefully sooner rather than later, both sides will tire of the useless bloodshed and agree to accept each other and let each other live.
It occurred to me that Jews have only had their own state in two occasions in their millenial history. The first one was when the Hebrew tribes consolidated themselves into a nation after their exodus from Egypt and in time Israel became a kingdom. It wasn't peaceful either. There were always wars, invasions, expulsions. The second is right now. In between the destruction of the second temple by the Romans and 1948, give or take 2000 years, Jews lived, meek and fearful, in foreign lands, always depending on the whims of the rulers, on the discriminatory laws that kept them from fully participating in society, always expecting relentless violence, abuse and persecution, punctuated here and there by periods of relative stability and peace. They protected themselves from harm by stubbornly sticking to each other and their ancient books. Is this what bothers people? It would have been easier to just drop it, no? Convert to Christianity, blend into the population and forget all the pain. Many did. It could be very easy for me to do the same. I don't need to convert to anything in this day and age where religion is irrelevant. I could pretend the state of Israel and being Jewish mean nothing to me, I could deny my origins, who could care less? That would certainly save me lots of grief, yet I can't do that. I am a self-described atheist, a thoroughly non-religious, even anti-religious person, and yet I am a Jew and will be to the end of my days. And it is hard for me to explain to my non-Jewish friends how this feels and what it means to me.
My family was very fortunate that most of it left Europe way before the rise of Hitler. But I have always considered what it must have taken for generations of my ancestors to get me to be born Jewish, free and into peace in sunny, welcoming Mexico. It must have been a heroic, monumental effort. If only to honor their memory, I cannot pretend it's nothing to me.
Jewishness is not just a religion. I'm the perfect case in point. Jewishness is not a nationality either. I lived in Israel for four years, gave it a shot, and did not feel quite at home. Luckily, today we live in a world where Jews can live uneventful lives in other places, places that don't require endless sacrifice and lives of strife and conflict. But if the day ever comes when the tide turns, I can tell you, we're all going to go running back to Israel to save our ass. Because that's what it's there for.
I'm not one of those Jews who loves Israel no matter what. But because I believe it is just and necessary that it exist, I hold it accountable for its mistakes. It pains me that the untenable reality of the Occupation undermines everything that Jewish history and ethics stand for. But sometimes I feel that no matter how much one tries to assuage the righteous indignation against Israel, it's never enough. I know I'm not responsible for the Occupation or the intifada or the suicide bombers, but the fact that Israel is generally regarded as the villain of the story pains me. I take it personal.
Some people think Jews insist on being different as a way to rub in some sense of superiority or victimhood; that "chosen people" slogan has cost us much misunderstanding. I don't feel like I'm a victim and I don't feel I'm superior either. I just feel different because I know I am. Being Jewish is in my past, in my history, in my own wanderings, in my dreams at night. I take it personal.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The US is mas macho!

As a supersmart friend points out in a note written in Spanish, which I take the liberty of very loosely paraphrasing for the enlightenment of my dear readers, the pathetic, inexcusable Mexican lefties have no qualms about taking away the jobs of 500 hardworking Mexican employees of the Sheraton, in order to demonstrate their hysterical, shrill, absurd, infantile attachment to the Old Bearded One and their contempt for the US, (which, as is worth reminding them, is where many, many Mexicans prefer to live anyway, since here they can actually make a decent living).
Have the revolting, anachronistic, Mexican reds, who continue to behave as if the Berlin Wall is still standing, ever done anything to improve the lives of their own countrymen? Hell no, they're too busy worshipping the dictatorial asshole that is Fidel and doing their voodoo dances against the United States. That's all they do, all the time.
To wit, quoted from AP:
"Mexico City officials had said earlier the Hotel Maria Isabel Sheraton in Mexico City might be closed because an inspection purportedly unrelated to the Cuban incident revealed some obscure code violations, including THE ALLEGED LACK OF BRAILLE MENUS AT A HOTEL RESTAURANT...."
Peeps, this is Mexico in a nutshell for you. This is the surreal nightmare that the average Mexican citizen has to deal with every day. This is how Mexican politicians treat their own people. With nothing but contempt.
But then, the reds are not alone in their utter pointlessness. For all the chest-beating of the Mexican Foreign Ministry, it turns out that the Mexican government may close and fine the hotel, but they are not going to send an official diplomatic hissy fit to Washington bitching about the US intromission in Mexico's national affairs and initiate WWIV against the US. That will not be necessary. Easier to mess with Sheraton than to mess with the State Department, isn't it?
Not only are they cowards but they are stupid cowards.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

USA vs MEX or Quien Es Mas Macho part II

As Cubans would say, coñooo! The Mexican government is in a tizzy because some Cubans who were participating in a suspicious energy conference organized by the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association (huh?), were expelled from the Sheraton in Mexico City over instructions from the US State Department, which bars any American interests from even tangentially intersecting with anything connected to the Old Bearded One, including his chomped cigar covered in rancid drool.
So out went the Cubans on the street and next thing you know, the Mexican government is ordering the Sheraton closed.
A veritable international incident of epic proportions.
What I love about the story, what makes it quintessentially Mexican, is that at first the hotel was closed allegedly because of building violations:
"Municipal inspectors who carried out a check of the hotel after the Cubans' expulsion found it had infringed local safety and licensing laws, district council head Virginia Jaramillo said on Wednesday. "I expect imminent closure of the hotel," said Jaramillo, of the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution... Jaramillo... said the hotel had carried out construction without permission and has two bars that were not licensed.."
All of Mexico City is a freaking safety and licensing violation, for crying out loud! The Foreign Ministry must have realized how rinky dink they looked letting the pathetic pinkos have their little revenge on behalf of La Revolución, and actually made it into a diplomatic tiff worthy of Remember the Alamo, by using the word sovereignity, and the phrase "foreign interference on Mexican soil". That, I agree, sounds much better than "the bars have no license".
I believe in this case the question is not who is más macho, but who is más estúpido. The idiots at the State Department for butting their nose where they are not invited or the Mexicans for being so ridiculous. As is traditional, also in hand were the classic idiots, (always the same idiots) burning the American flag and chanting commie slogans in front of the Sheraton, which is right next to the US Embassy, where they usually hold court, so they only had to transfer their lazy asses for half a city block.

Quien es mas macho?

Gawker reports that the NYT may have challenged the macho quotient of its Superbowl watching fans by printing a recipe asking for one to two CANS of fiery chipotles chiles. Ay Caramba!
I would have loved to have been there to witness the first bite of the unsuspecting poor soul that followed the recipe to a T...
Although I hail from the land of the jalapeño, my mother always berated me as being from Switzerland because, unlike her, whose Aztec lineage extends to a shtetl in Belorus which is not in any map, I refused to bite into raw serrano chiles with my bare teeth.
You can attempt the correct recipe, which actually doesn't sound half bad, by clicking on the link.
Tip from the Grande Enchilada, Selfproclaimed Foremost Expert on Mexican Food in New York and Perhaps the Entire Cosmos: if you want it mild use one chile; hotter, two. Three is muy macho. And I'm Swiss.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Super Bawl

So Bob Garfield at Ad Age hated the Toyota Hybrid ad, which has the distinction of being the first Super Bowl ad to be conceived by a Hispanic agency. I can already imagine the scores of mentadas de madre he'll be getting from here to eternity from outraged, misunderstood Hispanics who were feeling real proud we finally scored a Super Bowl ad. Not so fast.
I was not as disgusted with the ad as Mr. Garfield, who was particularly enraged by it, and who did not seem to get the point -- that the car runs on two languages, gas and battery power, like Hispanics speak in English and Spanish and seem to run just fine. I don't think this spot was intended to appeal only to Hispanics, but had it been more clever and lived up to the promise of the concept, it would have appealed to everybody, like that effective Salma Hayek ad for Coca-Cola a couple years back. As it is, it's a huge disappointment. It's sappy and it's lazy and it's boring. It wouldn't have hurt to have some humor in the spot, some clever writing, some good acting, instead of an overly eager, grating kid and a dad who seems made out of cardboard, like a cutout version of Ricardo Montalban. Then when one expects a nice little punchline, the kid asks a question I'm still trying to understand the meaning of. He asks his dad, in perfect English: "papá, why did you learn English?" Why does he ask that question? What is that about? Is this an ad for Toyota or an ad to get Hispanics to sign up for ESL classes? At first I thought Bob Garfield was exaggerating by saying the ad is condescending, but the more I think about it, the more I agree.

Friday, February 03, 2006


Lest anybody think that I'm blaming the Europeans for everything, let's consider Muslim anger. Imagine if the citizens of New York City, London, Madrid, Amman, where a bomb in a hotel killed most of the Jordanian members of a wedding party, were to display the standards of Muslim outrage leveled at some unfunny, stupid caricatures in a Danish newspaper. Imagine.
I remember right after 9/11 when the streets of New York were quieted by shock and disbelief, there were some scattered incidents of bullies threatening people who looked like Arabs. They were few and far between and promptly condemned, not only by the media, but by average citizens of every stripe. Pleas for tolerance were immediately unfurled. But we happen to live in an open, pluralistic society.
The problem with fanatical Muslims is that they can't imagine that the rest of the world may be a little sore at them for turning it into a paranoid nightmare where you can't get on a plane without thinking of it slamming into a tall building, or on a subway, metro, bus or tube for fear of dying a horrible death. So excuse me if the cartoons offend your sensibilities. The civilized world is uncomfortable with you and it is afraid of you. Perhaps you should stop your cries of bloody jihad for a second and ponder why.
But then again, many Muslims live and practice their faith under repressive, undemocratic regimes and societies that keep them shrouded in ignorance and poverty. They have not been exposed to the ways of democracy and a free press. Many of those regimes exploit hatred of Israel, the Jews and the West to distract their citizens from their own dismal conditions, further alienating them from the rest of the world, while at the same time boasting hypocritically that they're our allies.
Many of those regimes, like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan or Syria, are themselves in mortal fear of the tide of Islamic fundamentalism threatening their stability (enforced by iron rule) so they let people vent the hatreds that they themselves help fan.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Let's start WWIII on account of some cartoons, why don't we.

I'll tell you what offends me: religion offends me. Religious zealots from the dark ages offend me. I'm an equal opportunity fundamentalist loather, I don't care what religion a zealot belongs to, for they are all the same: narrowminded, primitive, bigoted and stupid. A pox on all of them!
The secular majority of people in the world are very wrong about their laissez faire, what-ever, attitude towards religious intolerance. We should be fighting tooth and nail against it, but nobody gives a damn because they are too busy watching American Idol. Well, we are well on our way back to the darkest ages of persecution and massive mental retardation, so we are reaping what we've sown. Happy now?
Now, is it any wonder that this cartoon debacle happened in Europe? No, because they are a bunch of racists even as they scream like banshees about their love for democracy. These are societies that were racially homogeneous for very long (they were happy to kick Jews around and enslave darker people in other continents) and who have not allowed their immigrants to assimilate or even adapt to their beloved democracies. They raped, plundered, humiliated and brought disease, chaos and destruction to Africa and Asia in colonial times and now they're crying. They are still as arrogant and clueless as before, and as unrepentant of the disasters they unleashed upon the world, but now they're shitting in their pants about their new boarders.
I loathe political correctness probably as much as I loathe fundamentalism, but I will say this in its defense: it trains people to be sensitive to others. This means that you can still be a prejudiced, bigoted racist, and you can have ignorant ideas about certain kinds of people or groups in the privacy of your own brain, without being stupid enough to advertise them to the entire world. We may still be a land of prejudice and increasing inequality, but we score way better than Europe in that respect (Elton John's wedding notwithstanding).
As for the cartoons... if you want to check out what the fuss is about, they are not easy to find. Is the decision not to publish them on national and international newssites based on respect or on fear? I bet that option b plays a big role.

I leave you with a Randy Newman song:

The great nations of Europe had gathered on the shore
They'd conquered what was behind them and now they wanted more
So they looked to the mighty ocean and took to the western sea
The great nations of Europe in the sixteenth century

Hide your wives and daughters
Hide the groceries too
The great nations of Europe coming through!

The Grand Canary Islands, first land to which they came,
They slaughtered all the canaries which gave the land its name
There were natives there called Guanches, Guanches by the score,
Bullets, disease, the Portuguese, and they weren't there anymore.

Now they're gone, they're gone, they're really gone,
You've never seen anyone so gone
They're a picture in a museum, some lines within a book,
But you won't find a live one, no matter where you look.

Hide your wives and daughters
Hide the groceries too
The great nations of Europe coming through!

Columbus sailed for India, found Salvador instead,
He shook hands with some Indians and soon they all were dead
They got TB and typhoid and athlete's foot, diphteria and the flu,
'Scuse me, Great Nations coming through!

Balboa found the Pacific, and on the trail one day
He met some friendly Indians whom he was told were gay
So he had them torn apart by dogs on religious grounds they say
The great nations of Europe were quite holy in their way

Now they're gone, they're gone, they're really gone,
You've never seen anyone so gone
Some bones hidden in a canyon, some paintings in a cave,
There's no use trying to save them, there's nothing left to save.

Hide your wives and daughters
Hide your sons as well
With the great nations of Europe you never can tell.

From where you and I are standing at the end of the century
Europes have sprung up everywhere as far as the eye can see
But there on the horizon as a possibility
Some bug from out of Africa might come for you and me
Destroying everything in its path from sea to shining sea
Like the great nations of Europe in the Sixteenth Century.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I loooove the The New Yorker

Dudes: sometimes I am at a loss for words, believe it or not. So I leave you with this week's New Yorker charming Shouts & Murmurs piece by Zev Borow on the kind of evil people the government intends to wiretap for our collective safety. I usually don't find that section as amusing as they do at The New Yorker, but this time they nailed it.
By the way (words are coming back to me, it seems), I will never pretend to be hipper than thou by dumping on The New Yorker. Everything I know lately comes from the New Yorker. If you are ever at a loss for words at a social event, you can count on The New Yorker to provide the most fascinating conversation topics such as pit bulls, Hamas, Ariel Sharon, Beethoven's Grosse Fugue, Alan Turing, the man who broke the Enigma code, saved Britain, almost invented the computer and was convicted of gross indecency and given hormone treatments for being a homosexual, or if this is too depressing, you can talk about the increasingly unfunny winners of the cartoon contest, which stumps me every time. It's fascinating stuff to stuff your brain with.
Yesterday, for instance, I went to hear the admirable Dr. Oliver Sacks at a free talk with Larissa McFarquhar, sponsored by The New Yorker. Dr. Sacks is a remarkable human being. He's funny, self-effacing, eloquent and extramegasmart. He has an insatiable curiosity and awe for the way nature works, but most impressively, he has true empathy and hope in the face of darkness (something I find almost impossible to muster, being the misanthrope I am). Hearing him speak I thought he would have been a great Rabbi, in the best sense of the word, a great teacher and moral guide. A man whose life is about finding the transcendent in everything human, not through dogma and intransigence but through tolerance, joyful curiosity and investigation.
He spoke about synesthesia, aphasia, agnosia, tourette's, stereovision, and many other quirks of the brain. He's a serious scientist with the soul of a writer, therefore he is lucid and compelling and accesible. He said imagination is our most precious faculty. He spoke forcefully about the mishandling of religion being the most dangerous force in the world today (hear, hear!). He was aghast that 80% of Americans think the Bible is a geology book. He recently won a prize as Best Atheist (where do I sign?). I propose we give Oliver Sacks a prize for Best Human Being All Around.