Friday, March 31, 2006

Soccer Sieg Heil!

This is one of the unintended consequences of hosting the 2006 World Cup in a formerly Nazi country:
Fans who perform Nazi salutes at this summer's World Cup will be arrested and prosecuted, Germany's interior minister warned England supporters yesterday.
The Germans are more concerned about British fans doing this for fun: it's how you stick out your tongue at the Germans. That's because displaying Nazi symbols or giving a Hitler salute are illegal in Germany.

However it was this little quote that made my Jewish Mexican blood boil:
Franz Beckenbauer, president of the World Cup organising committee, said that security at previous tournaments had not always been strict. "I remember the 1966 World Cup in England," he said yesterday. "There were very few policemen there. The only ones I saw were directing traffic.

"It was the same in 1972 in Mexico. There was one policeman on duty wearing a sombrero and clutching an ancient machine gun. During the siesta period he fell asleep."

First, the world cup in Mexico City was in 1970, not 1972. Secondly, I assure you that whatever horrendous stories you've heard about the Mexican police, this blatantly stereotypical recollection Beckenbauer just made up out of his unapologetically teutonic ass.


Then the Germans complain that the world makes fun of their Nazi inclinations.
And just to remind us of why Germany may not be the best idea:

According to the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel, far-right German extremists intend to link up with anti-semitic hooligans from neighbouring Poland (SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW?).
German far-right groups have already announced their intention to stage five demonstrations expressing solidarity with Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who last year denied the Holocaust.
This is a gem: the skinheads in bed with the extremist turbanhead, united in their hatred of the Jews.

Security throughout the world had been transformed in the wake of the attack by Palestinian terrorists on Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympics. "In the 1974 World Cup in Germany we were surrounded by police," Beckenbauer recalled. "They wouldn't let us out for excursions [to the pub], which is why we played so badly in the first three games. Eventually they came with us. Then we won."

He may have been a great soccer player, but the guy is a complete moron.

The Wizard of Oz

This article by Amos Oz in The Guardian is only an excuse, dear readers, to tell you that this very blog was quoted today in no other than the selfsame Guardian newspaper, London, England, right across the pond.
Of course I'm kvelling so much that my ever expanding Enchiladaness threatens to engulf lower Manhattan and entire chunks of New Jersey.
I was quoted on the second page on a section called Today on the web, that reproduces quotes from several bloggers around the world about the results of the Israeli elections. Mine is the first quote, right below a picture of Mr. Ehud Olmert, new big kosher cheese in charge. It looks beautiful (the quote, not the big cheese).
Unfortunately, I have scoured the internet edition of the Guardian looking for the link so I can hurl it at the cyberwinds, and either I'm hopeless or it isn't there. You will have to trust me.
However, as an exclusive service to you, dear readers, you get to see the whole item right here. The actual quote is in bold letters:
• Israel voted for the Centrist Kadima party, sending the rightwing Likud to the dumps in a historic vote. The people have spoken and most of them want to "separate" Israel from the occupied territories. This being Israel, this really means that the squabbles between 10 zillion ridiculous parties are about to begin yet again. Hopefully Olmert will be able to do as he says and get rid of the occupation soon. What is amazing to me is that the voters registered quite a low turnout. The rest of the world is waiting with bated breath to have this freaking problem resolved and Israelis are either too tired or too cynical to go vote. Really.
If I were Olmert, this is what I'd do with the Jews who insist on living in the territories where they are not welcome, for purely Biblical reasons:
"Fanatical Jews who insist on living where you are not welcome: we are moving out of the territories by X date. You can start packing now. You will be very welcome to move back into your choice of Biblical condos within our safe borders. If you choose to stay behind, knock yourselves out. I won't be sending soldiers to retrieve you by the ears and by the hair, as has been the custom the past few dismantlings. Nor will I be sending soldiers to defend you after said deadline. You are on your own. Shalom. Ehud".
Once again my dreams of glory are squashed by the fact that since the quote is not in the internet, millions of people around the world won't read it, not making me rich and/or famous.
Still, it's not every day one gets quoted in The Guardian.
A special thanks to dear Nick for alerting me to my little 15 minutes.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

One word: disgusting

I find the use of dead celebrities in advertising absolutely appalling. The image of Fred Astaire dancing with a Red Devil vacuum cleaner and Steve McQueen hawking the new ugly ass Mustang seem to me to be in the creepiest, worst possible taste. Celebrity family members who profit from selling permission to brands to appropriate their ghosts give me the cooties. So I'm not buying the fact that the family of this demented fat fuck is trying to do something for the sake of humanity. They are peddling a treatment, not doing a public service announcement.
And how can they be so sure he'd have approved?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Some goodish news

Perhaps it was the total solar eclipse that happened nowhere near here, perhaps it just so happened that things can only be awful for limited periods of time, like 2 for 1 offers at fast food joints, but today we woke up to a veritable rash of goodish news. To wit:

• The Senate, acting like they have brains for the first time in a long time, rejected the proposal to make illegal immigrants felons. Way to go, guys. Now the tough part is to ignore the shrill braying of rightwing banshees.

• Charles Taylor, the horrid murderous leader of Liberia was caught trying to sneak into Cameroon. Now he will be duly tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity as he deserves.

• Scumbag Abramoff gets 70 months in prison; the loony Afghan convert to Christianity who was about to be roasted on a spit for forsaking Islam, gets to go to Italy instead (an incredible show of Italian pious muscle for ONE guy).

• Israel voted for the Centrist Kadima party, sending the rightwing Likud to the dumps in a historic vote. The people have spoken and most of them want to "separate" Israel from the occupied territories. This being Israel, this really means that the squabbles between 10 zillion ridiculous parties are about to begin yet again. Hopefully Olmert will be able to do as he says and get rid of the occupation soon. What is amazing to me is that the voters registered quite a low turnout. The rest of the world is waiting with bated breath to have this freaking problem resolved and Israelis are either too tired or too cynical to go vote. Really.
If I were Olmert, this is what I'd do with the Jews who insist on living in the territories where they are not welcome, for purely Biblical reasons:
"Fanatical Jews who insist on living where you are not welcome: we are moving out of the territories by X date. You can start packing now. You will be very welcome to move back into your choice of Biblical condos within our safe borders. If you choose to stay behind, knock yourselves out. I won't be sending soldiers to retrieve you by the ears and by the hair, as has been the custom the past few dismantlings. Nor will I be sending soldiers to defend you after said deadline. You are on your own. Shalom. Ehud".

So all in all, things could be worse.

Creepy Mexican Curios

These are the distinguished inhabitants of a store in Mexico City called Uniformes Oskar's. They sell uniforms for everybody from nurses, to dental assistants, to gardeners to chefs. They do brisk business, unaware that their store has achieved quasi-mythical status among the connoisseurs of the weird in DF. The place is a shrine.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

There are immigrants and immigrants

This week's New Yorker has a fascinating article by Jane Kramer about the immigration crisis in Holland, of all places. Kramer's article shows an interesting paradox. Political correctness does not equal real tolerance. It is instead a perfect example of the road to hell being paved with good intentions.
Given that we seem to be having a little immigration crisis of our own, all I can say is look at their immigrants and look at ours. Europe would not be going through such social calamities if instead of inviting Muslim peasants to work jobs that the natives didn't want, they had invited Mexicans and Latin Americans instead. Probably a bit of culture shock (in the form of loud music, cheesy soap operas and trenchant conservatism) but no fatwas, no sharia, no fear, no intimidation. All I'm saying is we should be grateful we have such nice immigrants who are happy to be exploited and don't try to blow us up just because we believe in something else.
But having said that, I believe that if people choose to make a living in a country not their own, they have to respect the customs of that country, whether they like it or not. I know I'm going to sound like a right winger, but the Muslims in Europe who, with their violent religious intolerance, are terrorizing the entire population, among them mostly moderate Muslims who dare contravene them, have to understand that the West is a free secular society. If they don't like it, they can go back to their countries of origin and stone everyone they want to death to their hearts content. When in Rome, shut the fuck up and follow the rules like everybody else.

In a way, the same goes for my compatriots who come here. Learn English, try to understand the culture. You don't have to like it, you don't have to accept it, but it is in your best interest not to marginalize yourself and remain clueless and unguarded while you are living in the most powerful country on Earth. I have known immigrants who have been here for twenty years and they still don't speak English. That is the reason why they can't get a decent job, better wages, and they remain mired in poverty, even if they are much better off than where they came from. If you have come all the way from rural Mexico, which might as well be a different galaxy, and you have gone through incredible danger and risk to get a better life, then get a life as good as you possibly can, because, believe it or not, the US is a beacon of real tolerance, as opposed to other countries. Here what counts is your pluck and your ambition and your desire to work hard. True, you'll be exploited, but paradoxically, in this land where the motto should be "scratch your own back", you will be given more of a chance to thrive.


I wasn't going to write anything today. I scanned the headlines and was gripped by a profound sense of ennui. I was not in the mood to kvetch, despite the fact that there is plenty to gripe about. And voila, I just found a little item that provoked the urge to rant once again. There will never be a shortage, I'm afraid.
Used to be, in the days before the world was disposable, not that long ago, that if you wanted to be a writer, you sat on your ass and wrote. Now apparently, all it takes is going to Wal-Mart for 41 hours.
What revolts me is not the guy who had the idea to write about his quick sojourn in hell, but the fact that the media came knocking as if the guy was the next Phillip Roth.

Then, The Des Moines Register, which had been contacted by Spaulding-Kruse, called to ask him about the experience. Once the story ran, ABC and other networks began calling.

He started his day Tuesday talking with Diane Sawyer on ABC's "Good Morning America" and told The Associated Press he had decided the stunt wasn't such a failure after all.

He's talked with a book agent after a Penguin books author saw the story on the Internet. He also has been contacted by New Line Cinema about a movie concept.

Tuesday afternoon he did a radio interview with National Public Radio, and CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman" was arranging a flight to New York for an appearance later in the week.

Of course the guy is both revolted and amused at the circus he unwittingly created. However, he's not revolted enough not to use his 15 minutes of fame accordingly. And who can blame him?
Bartels said he's surprised by the attention, but it's like a dream for anyone with hopes of ever becoming a writer.

"Whereas, I think the project itself is a failure, I could use this media stuff as a third leg of a book if I wrote it, about how America eats this stuff up," he said. "I'm incredibly happy with the press coverage. It would be kind of silly not to accept it with open arms."

Wal Mart immediately tried to spin the incident in their favor, willfully oblivious to the fact that if someone chooses to spend 41 hours of his time at Wal Mart, he is either clinically insane or fishing for a book contract.

...Spokesman Kevin Thornton... said the story has taken off because of Wal-Mart's stature.

"We have 3,800 locations in the U.S. One-hundred million people go through our stores every week," he said. "Wal-Mart is part of the fabric of life and this kind of reiterates that."

Yeah, right.

Monday, March 27, 2006

When Israel sneezes...

Now that Israel is ready to vote, most probably for Ehud Olmert, hopefully we'll begin to see meaningful change towards peace in the region. All my freaking fingers are crossed so hard it hurts.
It used to be that what happened in that tiny country seemed to have implications only for the Jews who lived there. It was they had to serve in the Army, got bombed, lived in fear. Not anymore. After decades of occupation, intifadas and the gradual radicalization of Islam, Israel's policies towards the Palestinians have provoked a new and harsh wave of antisemitism, that is being exported around the globe, as this chilling article about antisemitism among French immigrant youth points out.
How Israel behaves today has consequences far beyond its borders for Jews and non-Jews around the world. Most of the extreme Islamic fundamentalist rhetoric which has fanned the flames of global terrorism, with 9/11, and incidents in London, Amman and Madrid among other cities, is closely linked to virulent anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment.
Used to be that Jews defended Israel no matter what. They were loyal to its leaders without as much pausing to consider whether they were from the left of the right, or what their policies were. They defended Israel's every move, whether it was morally defensible or not.
This will not work anymore. Jews need to start looking at Israel with a realistic political point of view and, since the survival of the State of Israel is not under discussion, they may want to consider supporting ending an occupation which has turned Israel from an exemplary democracy and a state full of promise, to a country that oppresses and wages an unending war against an entire civilian population and is therefore despised around the world.
I'm personally tired of apologizing for Israel. I'm tired of hearing Israel compared to disgusting regimes that should not be mentioned in the same breath, like apartheid in South Africa and mistakenly, but commonly, the nazis. I want to be unequivocally proud of Israel. I want it to be utterly free of blame. I was not born yesterday and I know that Jews could be literal angels with wings and sugar on top, and somebody would still find reason to scorn, fault and hate us. But it is time to acknowledge, as Sharon (of all people!) did, that something must be done for the State of Israel not only to survive, but to strive to exist with moral dignity and in peace with its neighbors.

Things that make you go hhhmmm...

A few days ago I posted some musings about hearing Harry Belafonte and reading in the paper about the dismal prospects for young Black males in America. There is a very interesting editorial today by Orlando Patterson that adds a different dimension to the debate.
According to Patterson, academics refuse to look at cultural cues when trying to decipher why young Black males are not jumping at the chance to improve themselves and their communities. He claims that socioeconomic factors are not enough to explain why Black males are behind everybody else. He blames it on their own culture. Others have complained about that before, notably people like Bill Cosby, who has shown a deep disdain for a culture that celebrates violence, misogyny and anti-social behavior. Nobody has paid him no mind. I think he was openly derided for it. Patterson alludes to the same thing much more seriously. Check it out.

And these people are felons?

Check out the story in pictures of a Mexican migrant worker from Oaxaca, who picks tomatoes in the state of Florida, another smug Bush enclave.
Who are the felons here, the illegals searching for work or the rapacious bosses who hire them?
There's Bush's German-sounding, business-friendly idea of letting people come in to perform underpaid work with no benefits, but why should they leave? Why can't they stay, those who want to, and get their situations normalized? Why create a class of marginalized, second class citizens like the Turks in Germany? Has anybody noticed that isn't exactly working out?
The illegal immigration issue is extremely complicated, but one of the things it clearly does is create an underclass of exploited people of color who then are blamed for all of society's ills by disaffected Americans who wouldn't get up in the morning for less than the minimum wage.
Some people complain that the illegals are willing to work for much less than them and they take their jobs away from them. They have a point. They should make sure employers don't hire illegals. They should demand to have those jobs. That's where the law enforcement would probably work best and it would probably help curb the immigration tsunami more than threatening to convict people crossing the border illegally or helping those who do. How exactly is the government going to enforce millions of felony charges? Mass deportations? Mass incarcerations? Can you imagine what it would do to the court and the jail systems?
And all because of some very miscalculated political blundering from the Republicans. They are trying to act tough on immigration to appease their white constituents and they didn't count on major business interests, plus a substantial amount of immigrants who can actually vote and potential citizens who see these anti-immigration measures as a huge betrayal. This is a political gift for the Democrats which they will probably screw up, as they do everything else.

According to the NYT:
"It's an entirely predictable example of the law of unintended consequences," said Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, who helped organize the Chicago rally and who said he was shocked by the size of the turnout. "The Republican party made a decision to use illegal immigration as the wedge issue of 2006, and the Mexican community was profoundly offended."...

Others... noting that foreign-born Latinos voted for President Bush in 2004 at a 40 percent greater rate than Latinos born in the United States, said that by pursuing the proposed legislation, Republican leaders might have squandered the party's inroads with an emerging bloc of voters and pushed them into the Democratic camp.

Frankly, given the dismal choice of a country overrun by white Protestant right wing Republicans or one overrun by brown Catholic Democrats, I'd much prefer the second one.
(You know: Better food, better parties, better music... etc)

You cannot have your cake and eat it too. You can't exploit people and then criminalize them for it. Something's gotta give and I fail to see why, in this equation it's the hardworking people who stand to suffer the most.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Ungrateful bastards

I'm so glad the immigration rally in LA was the hugest concentration of people yet achieved for a single cause. It is the height of ungratefulness to treat as felons illegal immigrants that power many American businesses and reap them big profits. Hey, if you don't want them here, stop hiring them. But don't be such racist hypocrites.
If the government wants to punish someone, maybe it should treat as felons the employers who hire illegals so they don't have to pay minimum wages or give workers basic benefits.
It is really the height of chutzpah.
Who's going to pick your produce, wash your clothes, tend your gardens, build your buildings, cook your food and deliver it, while you exploit these people's illegal condition?
The hypocrisy lies in the fact that if the illegals are naturalized then they have to be treated fairly with the same rights as American citizens, and that is not in the interest of big business.
And don't be fooled because this is nothing but a racial issue. People are afraid this country will become brown. That's where the problem lies. Business owners are happy to exploit illegals. Illegals need the work so they can feed their families. It's only a bunch of racists who wants these people out.

The Whitney Biennial

Here are my 2 cents:
Saturday afternoon and it's more crowded than Trader Joe's on opening day. The social x-ray volunteers who man the ticket booth are real snotty bitches and they bark. Now, I can understand that they are overwhelmed by the mobs, but the Met and MoMa are always crowded and nobody ever treats you like that over there. The Whitney with mobs is a very unpleasant experience. In fact, the Whitney is a very unpleasant museum.
Now, as for the Biennial: I did not see the whole thing. That would require repeated visits. I saw only the first and part of the second floor. I know it's a tradition to bitch about Biennials and I must confess this was my first one. It did not disappoint my expectations, which were "there is probably going to be a lot of self-indulgent crap and a few interesting pieces".
Call me an old fogey, but I like my art to be about craftsmanship and emotion, and an ineffable aesthetic quality, not about half-baked conceptual ideas. I work in advertising. If concepts is what I want, I can watch commercials or music videos, some of which frankly are far more visually interesting than most of the video offerings at the Biennial. I don't know how people don't get tired of simplistic installations with supposedly outrageous political topics. They bore me to tears and they are ugly to boot.
For instance, the Caligula trailer by Francesco Vezzoli, a piece that has been much talked about. I was very underwhelmed by it. It was horribly lit, badly acted, looked cheesy and I don't think it made its point (whatever it was) compellingly. If it's supposed to be an ironic comment on the Bush Era, anything viral you see on the internet or, for that matter, the spoofs of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart are more interesting, funnier and less calculated. So you can see Karen Black and Benicio del Toro and Courtney Love and Milla Jovovich hamming it up, so the indifferent costumes are by Donatella Versace, so what? Any of the Brokeback spoofs, like the one about Top Gun with Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, are more biting and funnier and actually have more to say about our culture than this pretentious piece.
On the first floor there was a lot of stuff that made me feel like I wandered into a gallery in Williamsburg specializing on untalented hipsters that was having a yard sale. Puerile, self-indulgent, extremely OBVIOUS stuff with lengthy curatorial explanations where really none are needed. My feeling is that if there is such a compulsion to have to explain a piece with such minute pretentiousness, we are in the realm of what is commonly known as mental masturbation. That may qualify as art, but not in my book. I have higher standards. I want art to amaze me, move me, enthrall me. I don't want to have to think about it too much. It's a visceral reaction. Either it speaks to you and draws you in or it doesn't. A lot of the stuff at the Biennial seems calculated to drive you away.
There is a mildly interesting video about some kids jumping rope to several versions of a Bob Dylan song. You can sit there forever but it isn't either enthralling, nor particularly moving, not competently made. There is an explanation about it almost as lengthy as the video itself. It still doesn't do anything for me.
However, I spent a long time watching Zoe Strauss' slideshow. She took many pictures of the damage of Katrina in Gulfport and Biloxi and others of the very depressed inner city of South Philly. The pictures were not photojournalistic. There was an artistic coherence and a strong point of view to them and the cumulative experience of seeing empty streets with ironic signs intertwined with photos of the forgotten poor of America was very powerful. It certainly was more eloquent than many of the strident agitprop pieces around it. I liked Richard Serra's iconic image of the Abu Ghraib hooded guy. You've seen that image a hundred thousand times already, but it was beautifully executed, with an urgent, strong, almost violent hand.
The other piece I liked was a video of a hanging crystal chandelier that twists one way and then another. It was shot on 35 mm at 48 frames per second, which made it look sharp and magnificent. The quality of the image was hypnotic and I thought it was absolutely beautiful.
If I were filthy rich I would get it for my mansion and project it on a wall.
There were photographs made by a woman who used to be a forensic photographer. I thought they were creepy, disturbing and lovely. There was also a guy who has jars of pickled film. I thought that was well done and mildly amusing. I guess it speaks to the sorry state of the video arts, if the Biennial is any indication.
But then there are artists like the woman who does big watercolors of men in rubber suits in fetishistic S&M poses. There is craftsmanship to them, but there is also a lengthy pretentious explanation about what they mean. Why does everything need to mean something so desperately? Do I give a fuck? No.
Most of the rooms with video installations gave me a headache and put me in a bad mood.
But I'm going back, because I want to understand if I am completely missing the point or if the curators of this unwieldy show are just yanking our collective chain.

Everything you always wanted to know about God

...but were afraid to ask because it is such a taboo. Well here it is, in the words of the fantastic Argentinean writer Ernesto Sábato: a theory of who God really is, and one I subscribe to more than all the others. The translation from the Spanish is mine:

1. God does not exist.
2. God exists and he is a scoundrel.
3. God exists, but sometimes he sleeps: his nightmares are our existence.
4. God exists, but has fits of madness; those fits are our existence.
5. God is not omnipresent, he can't be everywhere at once. Sometimes he is absent; perhaps in other worlds? In other things?
6. God is a poor devil, with a problem too complicated for his own strength. He fights against matter as an artist fights with his work. Sometimes, at a given moment, he can be Goya, but generally he's a disaster.
7. God was vanquished before the beginning of History by the Prince of Darkness. And, turned into a mere devil, his reputation is doubly lost, because this calamitous universe is attributed to him.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Darth Vader speaks out

Legendary "Star Wars" film creator George Lucas told a packed house the United States is a provincial country with a culture that has invaded the world via Hollywood.
Look who's talking! I agree with George Lucas, but it seems to me that he was majorly responsible for the Hollywood blockbuster phenomenon that now threatens other film industries in the rest of the world. But then he deftly dodges the issue and blames it on television:

People see shows such as "Dallas," about a wealthy Texas oil family, and decide they want the grand lifestyles portrayed, according to Lucas.

"They say that is what I want to be," Lucas said. "That destabilizes a lot of the world."

If I remember correctly, it was the whole Star Wars phenomenon (plus Jaws) that provoked the new era of Hollywood's global domination exemplified by films that felt more like roller coaster rides than stories about real humans.
I cannot begin to impress upon you how much I despise, loathe, abhor, and hate Star Wars. I hated it when it opened and I was still a very young Enchiladita. I stood two hours in sweltering heat on a line outside el Cine Hollywood in Mexico City and when I finally watched the movie, it seemed so puerile, lame, superficial and empty I could not believe it. Having been a huge fan of Kubrick's A Space Odyssey, I was not that impressed with the spaceships. Why were we exporting car chases and explosions into space? Why was Princess Leia not only ugly and wearing a bedsheet, but also the stupidest hair ever seen on screen? Mark Hamill was, as we say in Mexico, un cero a la izquierda, a zero to the left.
The only thing I liked was Harrison Ford.
Certainly, there were many stupid movies before Star Wars, but Star Wars gave Hollywood the idea to make only big, fat stupid movies with a zillion useless sequels. And that's pretty much where we are today.
However, I agree with Mr. Lucas on this issue:

Lucas endorsed US students studying abroad to help imbue them with more global perspectives.

"Study abroad is extremely important; just for kids to get outside this country and experience the fact there is a big world out there," Lucas said.

"We are a provincial country. Our president has barely been out of the country."

An onus is on film makers to be careful with the messages they send because they speak "with a very loud voice," the famed movie director said.

California congresswoman Nancy Pelosi presented Lucas his council award, likening him to renowned classical music composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The council crowned Lucas "the father of digital film" with profound insights into the globalization of culture.

"Like Mozart, George Lucas is no ordinary genius," Pelosi said. "He is a magician. He will be remembered as a legend."

Now, I usually like spunky Nancy Pelosi, but not when she's gratuituously kissing ass. To compare Lucas with Mozart is a bit de trop. Lucas has contributed immeasurably to the technical revolution in filmmaking and that should be recognized. But
no Star Wars film is the equivalent of two notes of Mozart's music. Lucas is a technical whiz, but as an artist he doesn't show much soul.

But according to Bush, everything's coming up roses

When does a civil war officially start? How many people have to die horrific deaths for the current administration to acknowledge the mayhem that's going on in Iraq right now? To admit that they have brought civil war to Iraq. Not peace, not freedom and no democracy.
So now we send in more troops. Too late.
And Russell Feingold is demonized and ostracized by his own spineless, pathetic, morally repulsive Democrat colleagues for mildly suggesting to censure Bush (and not even for the war, but for the surveillance scandal).
Bush should be impeached and removed from office and Cheney and Rumsfeld (particularly him) tried or sued or whatever you do in this country to demand accountability not only for the Iraqi and American blood they have shed, but for the disaster in foreign policy they have unleashed. They are criminally incompetent and unfit for office. They are brazenly callous and arrogant and unrepentant. Why are they still there?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Dwarf tossing?

USA Today asks the question:
Should business be conducted at strip clubs?
If you ask swinish men, I bet they see nothing wrong with that. If you ask me, the answer is hell, no. Wall Streeters and other members of the overgrown boys club think it is a swell tradition to have. Want to conduct business with a woman's naked butt up your face, you have to bring your female colleagues with you. But you cannot seriously expect your female colleagues to sit and wait patiently while you take business away from them and forge relationships with the clients they are unjustly deprived of. And how about your gay colleagues? Oops, sorry, no gay men on Wall St, right? According to USA Today:
It was a Fidelity Investments trader's 2003 bachelor party, paid for by brokerage firms including Jeffries & Co., that prompted NASD to consider tightening its rules. The party allegedly included dwarf-tossing and paid female escorts, according to news accounts and investigators.
Dwarf tossing? What is this, Nero's Rome?
Earlier this month, Manhattan strip club Scores settled a lawsuit over a contested $241,000 bill racked up by the former CEO of St. Louis information technology company Savvis. Robert McCormick resigned amid an investigation into the bill, which was charged to his corporate American Express card.
Who are these people?
I'm not a prude and not a wallflower. I can drink, smoke cigars and curse like a sailor if needs be. I have been to strip clubs and I find them the most unerotic places on earth. Guys, if that's your idea of erotism, surgically enhanced plasticky bimbos shaking their soccer ball boobs in your faces, I pity you. If that's your idea of bonding with clients, quite frankly you and your clients are pathetic.
Once upon a time, a client wanted us to take him to a strip club in Mexico City after dinner and I said to him: "what am I, chopped liver?" To his credit, he invited me to come, but he promptly understood it wasn't going to be that conducive to us getting along like a house on fire, so instead we went to a hip and happening bar and got happily shitfaced and bonded and all that jazz. Believe you me, if he had insisted on the strip club I wouldn't have gone back to the hotel to suck my thumb all night, I'd have come right along. But I bet our rapport would not have been that great.
With all due respect to guys: what a fucking idiot power trip.
These rules came about, mind you, not because anybody thought there was anything wrong with going to titty bars on the company's dime, but because of multimillion dollar gender discrimination lawsuits by female employees. Apparently, money is the only language these people speak:
• Last April, a jury found in Laura Zubulake's favor in a sex discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against UBS and awarded her $29 million. In October, the parties settled the lawsuit privately. Zubulake, a former director in international equities, alleged in the lawsuit that she was not considered for promotion, was removed from client responsibilities, was undermined professionally and was excluded from client outings. Trial testimony alleged she had been invited to a bottomless club by a manager. UBS says it has policies on business entertainment and "appropriate professional conduct."

Several financial companies say the proposed rules are too burdensome. John Goodwin of Albuquerque-based Goodwin Browning & Luna Securities, complained to NASD that it is "legislating morality."

What the hell does that mean? Is it moral to exclude your colleagues from equal opportunity because of the sleazy place you choose to conduct your business in?
It's very simple, if these entertainment expenses were not allowed as deductions by the IRS, this would be the end of the story or close to it. I can't deduct my health expenses but you sleazebags can deduct your visits to strip clubs? What gives?
But listen to this one, 'cause this one takes the cake:
In her lawsuit, Schieffelin says she learned two clients were invited by male colleagues to attend a weekend in Las Vegas approved by their manager. When she asked why she wasn't included, she was told it was "because the men would be uncomfortable participating in sexually oriented entertainment with a woman colleague present, especially one who knew their wives"...
As a woman I would like to know if the companies where I keep my investments hold these kind of moronic business practices, because if they do, I may take my business (all of my two cents) somewhere else. Women have got to stop putting up with this crap.

Grey Gardens, The Videogame

Now there's an idea! The world seems to be on a Grey Gardens tear, with a musical currently getting iffy reviews on Broadway and soon to be a major motion picture starring none other than Jessica (Queen of Hams) Lange and Drew Barrymore as Big and Little Edie Beale.
Well, I had never seen the film before until last Sunday and I can see why people want to get on the crazy Grey Gardens bandwagon, but what I don't know is what took them so long.
We saw the film at our weekly movie club, with a very discerning audience. There was an interesting discussion about whether the filmmakers, the Brothers Maysles, exploited those two crazy gals, not only because they were two completely insane aristocrats and they lived in East Hampton, but because they happened to be cousins of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. I was in the camp that no, they weren't exploited, although training the camera on their eccentric antics for an hour and a half did give me a huge, icky feeling of unabashed voyeurism. Both Big and Little Edie seemed starved for attention and ecstatic to get some, and one of the most interesting aspects of the film is that they openly relate to Albert and David Maysles with whom they flirt and for whom they put on a splendid show, only occasionally forgetting that the camera is recording their every mishegoss. What surprised me about the film was that it was so funny, because the Beales had a mean, warped sense of humor, especially Big Edie, a monster of egotism that made it feel more like a horror film, as our resident philosopher pointed out. Of course it is also quite sad, to see two lives destroyed by minds gone cuckoo. Or rather, a mother who destroyed her child and the child who allowed her to do it. This has got to be the looniest example of codependency ever filmed.
The film makes you ponder many delicious questions such as where is the line between eccentricity and madness? Is it ok to pry into people's lives in such a raw way? Is this a noble enough subject for a documentary? Is there such a thing as a pure documentary? My opinion is no. There is no subjectivity -- there are always narrative, dramatic and aesthetic choices. There is always manipulation.
In a way Grey Gardens is quite a subversive film. I don't know if the Maysles intended it to be that way, but the raw nonchalance with which they invade that house, not even bothering to pretend that they aren't there, and recording every nuance of that tortured relationship is quite daring, particularly when so many documentaries are about socially conscious issues. Them being the Maysles, I'm sure it must have crossed their minds, so the choice to show the transparency of the process is utterly fascinating. Now, for some of our audience, Grey Gardens was impossible to imagine as a musical. I have more trouble imagining it as a movie. The moment you know it's two famous actresses on a sort of celebrity death match of emoting, someone enlighten me because I fail to see the point. The Beales allowed a camera into their filthy home and into their unraveled lives so we could see how the other half of the other half lives. Having two actresses playing pretend seems superfluous to me, but maybe in the right hands it may turn out to be something. Yet already the casting casts (!) serious doubts as far as I'm concerned. Both actresses are much younger than the originals. Lange should be playing Little Edie, not her mother.
As I said, can't wait for the videogame.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Marketing folly in a nutshell

What would happen if the iPod box was designed by Microsoft? Check it out!
Thanks to Conchita for sending it...

An offer they couldn't refuse

Yesterday I saw an ad for "The Godfather", the video game. They used that beautiful music by Nino Rota and the likenesses of Brando and some of the actors of the film. I was disgusted. Nothing is sacred anymore. When Tom's of Maine, purveyor of nasty tasting all-natural toothpaste is bought by Colgate, and Ben and Jerry's by Unilever and Kiehl's by Loreal and when The Godfather becomes a violent, completely unnecessary videogame, it just confirms that this world is going to the big dogs.
Shame on Paramount Pictures. Haven't they made enough money with The Godfather franchise already? Is there no leaving well enough alone?
At least Variety reports that Francis Ford Coppola was against the game and refused to collaborate, which is good to know. Most of the actors lent themselves to the voiceovers except for Al Pacino (bless him). Even Brando did, but was too sick and died before he completed the taping.
I'm not a naive person who was born yesterday and thinks movies are untouchable works of art. But The Godfathers I and II were actually magnificent artistic achievements and important milestones in American cinema (III should have never happened). Why sully everything for cash?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Spring is here

And the BBC goes to Mexico to check out the pilgrims celebrating the vernal equinox at the pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan.
There is a video on the same page where you can see pilgrims dressed in white stretching their arms to the sun. Ah, this new agey world we live in. The reporter could not be bothered to check that it is not a Mayan temple, as he mentions, but an Aztec one. This drives me crazy.
Somehow the punctilious standards prestigious media proudly use are totally ignored when it comes to spelling things in other languages, particularly Spanish. I don't care how prestigious you are, it makes you look real cheesy. There was an article about surfing in Baja in the NYT last Sunday that had plenty of stupid spelling mistakes. Spanish is not Italian, ok? We say café, not caffé and it's a Federal (scary police guy), not a Federale.
It happens frequently at The New Yorker too. It drives me nuts. C'mon, it's not that difficult to get it right. I hereby volunteer to spell check their Spanish.

Monday, March 20, 2006

More scary thoughts

Did you guys read the article in the NYT about women shopping for sperm?
Am I the only one to be totally creeped out by the fact that sperm banks don't have short donors? Women only want tall guys to be the biological fathers of their überchildren. Or that women are shopping around for sperm as if they were Goebbels trying to create the perfect human specimen? Am I nuts or this is kinda creepy?
Listen to this German woman:
"I would probably choose somebody with a darker skin color so I don't have to slather sunblock on my kid all the time. I want it to be a healthy mix. You know how mixed dogs are always the nicest and the friendliest and the healthiest? If you get a clear race, they have all the problems. Mutts are always the friendly ones, the intelligent ones, the ones who don't bark and have a good character. I want a mutt."
At least we have progressed since the concept of the superior race. But is this woman a moron? Is that why you choose someone from another race? So you won't have to slather sunscreen on them? WTF? Not to be outdone, there's the Jewish woman who goes for the Aryan fantasy genes because Jews are bald, wear glasses and have a tendency to burp too much, or something like that.
Hey, listen. I know people who got their beautiful babies through American Express. They surfed the net, found a donor, bought the sperm with their credit card and were lucky enough to get pregnant fast. If that's what makes you happy, knock yourself out.
But the new fertility practices raise a lot of interesting questions. It is now a fact of life that women don't need men anymore except as producers of sperm. And why should they? They can conceive by themselves, they support themselves already and many think that men cause them nothing but grief. If they want better sex, they can sleep around as freely as men or become lesbians. But there is something disturbing about the way some women pursue the getting of a child as if it was some great item at auction on eBay.
Like the woman who gave a friend her unused embryos from 2 donor parents. So now her friend is pregnant with a child that will be a full sibling of that woman's kids. Or the guy who has fathered like 19 kids because his sperm is so good. Are those kids siblings? What is a family today? I guess family is really more about upbringing than biology (except for the unfortunate tendency to burp too much and other genetic inheritances). As long as the kids are loved and grow up healthy and not totally screwed up, fine by me. However, fertility science has evolved much faster than society has been able to catch up with this new paradigm. So as long as we still have the nuclear heterosexual family as a legal and social model, there are going to be a lot of kids with heavy issues running around in the future. And if the tendency in this country continues veering towards evangelical conservatism, it may be quite horrible for them.
Another thing that struck me was that some women talk dismissively about having to deal with the father. "I won't have to deal with the father", says one. Well you won't and you may congratulate yourself about how smart you are. But what about your kid? He or she may need to have a second parent. I'm not advocating the traditional family here. If somebody has 2 mommies or 2 daddies or one loving parent it's alright by me, as long as the children are loved and cared for and brought up to be atheists. But it's not all about you.
I also think of stuff like alimony and child support. I'm sure that these developments are going to have an influence in the way parental responsibility is perceived by the law. There are already idiot guys that are invoking some sort of roe v wade for men, simply because they don't want to pay child support. Women are not going to be able to have it both ways. And divorced women with children who are not single mothers by choice may be very affected by these developments. Looks like the law and the culture have a lot of catching up to do for the sake of the kids.

Where in the hell?

It's easy for us to be outraged at the fact that in Afghanistan a man can be condemned to death for refusing Islam and converting to Christianity. It seems to us these things happen in a very distant wacky planet called Afghanistan, despite the fact, as the BBC points out, that there is a bozo in power called Hamid Karzai, installed there by the US and that the West is pumping a lot of moolah to get that godforsaken country out of its stone age ways. Have I mentioned how much I truly loathe religion? Don't get me started.
But, as I like to point out as frequently as I possibly can, if we continue allowing the religious right to hijack government policy in this country, we may not be far from such outrageous notions in the not too distant future right here in our own backyards.
Just check out one of the most emailed articles in the NYT this week. A review about a book ominously called "American Theocracy" which is spreading panic on the secular streets and rightly so. This phrase in itself, American Theocracy, runs contrary to everything this country stands for. I hope it does not become a household phrase. It's downright scary.

Who's going to pay for it?

Not Bush, you can be certain of that. Not him, not his daddy, not his mommy, not Jeb, not his vicepresident. Your children are going to pay for this disaster.
We are amassing more and more debt to pay, without raising taxes, for the Bush administration debacle in Iraq. We are not feeling the pain now, but will certainly feel it later and then we'll all be crying bloody murder.

According to the BBC:

US President George W Bush has signed a bill to raise the national debt ceiling to nearly $9 trillion.

The bill means the government can borrow a further $781 billion and stops what would have been a first ever default of Treasury notes.

In addition, it permits the US to pay for the war in Iraq without increasing taxes or making domestic cuts.

The debt increase, the fourth since Mr Bush came to power, comes as the budget deficit reaches near record levels.

An additional increase in the debt limit next year is likely, the Associated Press news agency said.

The latest measure enables the debt limit to increase to $8.96 trillion from its previous level of $8.18 trillion.

When is this asshole going to pay for his ruining of this country is what I want to know.


Barring some future horrible revelation about his spinelessness, or other unknown unsavory aspect to be revealed sooner or later, I would vote for Barack Obama any day before I'd vote for Hillary Clinton for President.
This article in the NYT is already handicapping the guy, and it's saying that the less they know you as a politician the more they like you, in which case he should be the man.

I'm with Susan Sarandon on this one:

“I find Hillary Clinton to be a great disappointment . . . she’s lost her progressive following because of her caution and centrist approach,” Sarandon said. “What America is looking for is authentic people who want to go into public service because they believe strongly in something, not people who are trying to get elected.”

My sentiments exactly. Let's see how the Democrats fuck it all up once again. Can't wait.

Day-O II

Funny, just listening to Harry Belafonte speak about the inequality of opportunity for black men in America, a couple of days ago and this sobering article comes out confirming everything the guy is talking about. He isn't making anything up.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Check out this interesting article in Salon about Jewish Orthodox dating online. It was about time they started getting rid of the matchmakers and got with the program. I guess there are prohibitions for everything, but as long as the subject is marriage, everything is permitted. Marriage is the ultimate goal. Nothing else matters. Apparently, 55% of all internet contacts are initiated by the woman, which is a good thing because in Orthodox Jewish circles nothing ever is, unless it is homemaking. What I thought amusing about the item is that the ad next to it is one for Basic Instinct II with Sharon Stone in a pose reminiscent of her infamous beaver shot way back when there was no online dating for frums.


Yesterday I was dragged to attend the 10th anniversary of Democracy Now, the independent radio show, which featured an evening with Harry Belafonte. I was dragged because, as a pragmatic liberal, I'm skeptical of radicals. I'm not enamored of their passion for idealism and their sloganeering irritates me.
I was aware that Mr. Belafonte was a civil rights activist and I knew he had been a huge star in the fifties, famous for the Banana Boat Song. Mr. Belafonte has said very many controversial things and he has been accused of being a bigot for intimating that Colin Powell "served his masters well", a comment that unleashed a shitstorm of controversy.
I have always been skeptical of saints, and it must not be easy to be a person whom many admire for their political commitment, but I take my hat off to Mr. Belafonte for being of such an outspoken and independent mind and for speaking truth to power in a way that many wouldn't dare. Somehow, coming from him, given his experience and his history, it seems just. I was not prepared to hear such an amazing orator speak. I was completely seduced by his incredible lucidity and his eloquence. He spoke beautifully. He held the audience in thrall and he said a couple of things that made an impression on me.
One: he joined the army in WWII in order to fight against fascism. He said that at 17 he was seduced by the adventure of war. He came back home, a black soldier, to utter ungratefulness and indifference, and worse, to have to deal with in America what he was supposed to be fighting against in Europe. It's something we don't really think about: not only about the minorities who served in the Army but the country they came back to, a place that allowed the most unspeakable racism and humiliation of an entire people, Americans all, as a way of life. Thankfully, he converted the bitterness he may have rightly felt into action for the cause of the civil rights movement.
Two, he basically told us that we have done nothing to stop the Bush administration. That nobody is going to do it for us. That we are responsible for putting that man there and for keeping him there, and he is right.
One can feel how palpable and deep the sense of impotence is, not only among hippie radicals, who were clapping and oohing and aahing in despair and outrage every two seconds (myself included, I confess), but among many decent people in this country who have all but thrown their hands up in the air while business goes on as usual and keeps getting worse and worse. And as Mr. Belafonte said, it's not about staging a march, (which we won't even do). It's about many marches, a movement with a sense of purpose, with a focus on one thing, like the civil rights movement was. We seem aimless, leaderless, rudderless, apathetic, defanged, cynical and lazy. We all bitch and moan but few take a stand, few do anything. I guess that in a rich, wealthy, powerful society such as ours, one gets, as Pink Floyd would say, "comfortably numb".
We have been lobotomized by our own complacency.
Belafonte spoke admiringly of Hugo Chavez for a good while. Hugo Chavez offered oil to the Bronx in the winter months and tons of relief to Katrina's victims. Belafonte said he was arrogantly rebuffed by the US government, but forgot that when Venezuela had catastrophic floods and the US sent two ships with aid, Chavez turned them away, in a classic move of who is mas macho. Hugo Chavez irritates the Bush Administration for sport every day and he is seriously trying to change the dynamics of the region; he seriously thinks that the economic and political game can be played without the US setting all the rules. It remains to be seen whether he is truly a leader of the people with Venezuela's best interests at heart or a despotic maniac with a cult of personality like his friend and mentor, the perverse Fidel Castro.
I was relieved to hear Belafonte say that he is not that naive and he doesn't yet know how Chavez is going to turn out. It would have been disappointing that such a clear-headed man would suffer from political naivete.
Still, hearing Belafonte yesterday night was a painful reminder of how pathetic we are.
I wonder why he was not chosen to lead the movement after MLK died. He certainly seems more intelligent, charismatic and with a real natural quality of leadership than Jesse Jackson, for instance. Perhaps they feared no one would take the Day-O singer seriously. Yet in an age where we had Reagan as President and Jesse Ventura and the Governator, I don't see why Belafonte couldn't have played a more central role in continuing the leadership of Dr. King. Perhaps he didn't want it. Listening to him yesterday I felt today we have no one like him. Maybe not always right, but fierce and committed and articulate and inspiring.
It's very sad.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Protests Anyone?

Apparently, on the third anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, there are protests against the Iraq War everywhere around the world. Everywhere, except here.

It matters everywhere else but here

I have searched the NYT for news on the International Water Forum taking place in Mexico City, to no avail. Haven't found any. However, breaking news on the front page: designer Oleg Cassini is dead at the age of 92.
If you really want to know what is happening in the world, better go with the BBC. They have like six articles just on this topic. And they are not even close to Mexico.
I first learned that Mexico City was having said forum because my sister, Pequeña Enchilada, told me she could not get out of her house. Due to the conference, Mexico City's authorities had closed important avenues, creating even more absolute gridlock than there already is in that impossible city. On top of that, one could expect the proverbial marches that routinely paralyze the city creating eternal road rage on every Mexico City driver, and I mean everyone.
She also said that it was hot as hell in Mexico City, which I have noticed is a current trend, no doubt attributable to global warming, which as you know is George Bush's fault. When I was growing up there, Mexico City had really temperate weather. I don't remember heat waves of any kind. But in recent years it has gotten hotter. And there is no air conditioning anywhere because it has not been really needed until now. Many people think that Mexico City's weather is that of a tropical paradise. They are quite mistaken. Mexico City has high altitude and very dry weather. There is almost no humidity and the weather, environmental catasrophes notwithstanding, is quite mild. There are 2 seasons -- rain and no rain. Rainy season goes from about June to September. The rest of the year is very mild, except for cold spells in the winter months. So if you are planning to visit Mexico City, besides your Hawaiian shirt and your shorts, you may want to bring a jacket or a sweater. It's chilly in the mornings.
(I love talking about weather. For a while I was glued to the Weather Channel every day. Fascinated to know what the weather was like in Topeka.)
In any case, there is a big global conference on water, or actually lack thereof. According to the BBC,

Many of Mexico City's inhabitants get by on just one hour of running water per week.

And, most people consider the city's tap water to be undrinkable - though water officials say it is now safe to drink - so Mexico has become the second-highest consumer of bottled drinking water in the world.

One hour of running water per week. That of course, only happens to the poor, who happen to be a lot of people. But the rich have water tsuris too. There are frequent shortages, even in the toniest neighborhoods. Meanwhile, here we are too busy wasting every resource known to man as if they are giving them away to even think that there is a problem with water supplies in the world.
Now, I must say something about the drinkability of Mexico City's tap water. It makes Mexicans immune to all kinds of bacteria, which is why, when tourists come, they tend to fall prey to Moctezuma's Revenge. They simply don't have the antibodies to fight what Mexicans coexist with in precarious harmony every day. I remember tap water being quite tasty in Mexico (a whiff of rusty metal, a tinge of sulphur), but it's been years since I dared have a glass. However, I'm not as crazy as some people who will not brush their teeth with it or go into the shower with their mouths shut tight. That is absurd.
I'm very proud when we Mexicans can boast of being the best at something:

With a population of more than 20 million people, and dwindling water supplies, the Mexican capital is a stark example of the severe water supply issues facing many of the world's rapidly developing mega-cities.

The parched ground crunches beneath your feet as you walk through the Texcoco area on the outskirts of the city. The bleached, cracked terrain stretches out in all directions. Nothing can grow here.

It is very difficult to imagine that, just 70 years ago, this area was filled with water. This was one of five lakes that used to enrich the Mexico City valley.

Today, in a prime example of what more than a century of water mismanagement can do, they have all but disappeared.

Population growth, the over-exploitation of subterranean aquifers, and a failure to recycle limited water supplies have turned a once-fertile region into a barren desert.

The BBC goes on to explain that while London recycles 90% of its water, Mexico City, recycles only 10%.

At one of the city's few sewage treatment plants, a pungent smell fills the air.

The manager of the site says that they manage to process half a cubic metre of waste per second.

However, he points out that the metropolis produces 50 cubic metres per second.

Less than 10% of Mexico City's waste water is recycled, compared with London where that figure is more than 90%. Most rain water is also lost.

So people in Mexico City are obsessed with rampant crime, but it's a good thing this conference will add another very real problem they can be completely paranoid about.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Mexico 2 USA 1

Read it again, amigos, because this does not happen very often. Mexico beat the US at baseball 2 to 1 in the World Baseball Classic or what should actually be called the World Series.
Playing for the US, among others: Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter. Pitching for the US, Roger Clemens. Goddamn, it feels good.

Control, niñas

Apparently, several women have died of lethal bacterial infections after taking the morning after abortion pill. Taking the pill is probably no Sunday in the country. Neither are abortions.
So unless you have been raped or your life is at risk because of an unwanted pregnancy, niñas, chicas, girls, amigas:
Protect yourselves! There is such a thing as contraception. It works. So do condoms. Use them. It is not rocket science. Take control of your bodies so you can avoid the painful and unnecessary step of abortion. Is it so hard to understand? Why put yourself through such a terrible situation as having to get rid of a pregnancy when avoiding one is really not that difficult?

Screw St. Patrick's

To the chairman of the Ancient Order of Hibernians that will not allow Irish gays to march on their St. Paddy's day parade: It's your stinking parade and you can invite whoever you want. However, comparing gays to neo-nazis and klansmen IS A BIT MUCH.

Dunleavy set off a firestorm when he told The Irish Times: "If an Israeli group wants to march in New York, do you allow Neo-Nazis into their parade? If African Americans are marching in Harlem, do they have to let the Ku Klux Klan into their parade?"

Referring to the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization, Dunleavy said, "People have rights. If we let the ILGO in, is it the Irish Prostitute Association next?"

How about the Benighted Irish Asshole Association? Are they marching?

On the other hand, Irish gays have not been allowed on this stupid parade for 16 years so they should get the hint. March on your own parade.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I don't get it but it's awesome

Scientists apparently just found "the smoking gun" that shows that the Big Bang, that is, the moment our universe was created, actually happened. And no, it didn't take one day, like some Bible thumping morons claim. In fact, the very beginning of the universe took less than one trillion-trillionth of a second.
Maybe creationists can explain it like this: God farted. (I find this, by the way, a very plausible explanation).

According to the NYT:
"Physicists announced Thursday that they now have the smoking gun that shows the universe went through extremely rapid expansion in the moments after the big bang, growing from the size of a marble to a volume larger than all of observable space in less than a trillion-trillionth of a second.
The discovery -- which involves an analysis of variations in the brightness of microwave radiation -- is the first direct evidence to support the two-decade-old theory that the universe went through what is called inflation.
It also helps explain how matter eventually clumped together into planets, stars and galaxies (OH, SO THAT WAS IT...) in a universe that began as a remarkably smooth, superhot soup.
''It's giving us our first clues about how inflation took place,'' said Michael Turner, assistant director for mathematics and physical sciences at the National Science Foundation. ''This is absolutely amazing.''
Brian Greene, a Columbia University physicist, said: ''The observations are spectacular and the conclusions are stunning.''
Researchers found the evidence for inflation by looking at a faint glow that permeates the universe. That glow, known as the cosmic microwave background, was produced when the universe was about 300,000 years old - -- long after inflation had done its work.
But just as a fossil tells a paleontologist about long-extinct life, the pattern of light in the cosmic microwave background offers clues about what came before it. Of specific interest to physicists are subtle brightness variations that give images of the microwave background a lumpy appearance.
Physicists presented new measurements of those variations during a news conference at Princeton University. The measurements were made by a spaceborne instrument called the Wilkinson Microwave Anistropy Probe, or WMAP, launched by NASA in 2001.
Earlier studies of WMAP data have determined that the universe is 13.7 billion years old, give or take a few hundred thousand years.
WMAP also measured variations in the cosmic microwave background so huge that they stretch across the entire sky. Those earlier observations are strong indicators of inflation, but no smoking gun, said Turner, who was not involved in the research.
The new analysis looked at variations in the microwave background over smaller patches of sky -- only billions of light-years across, instead of hundreds of billions.
Without inflation, the brightness variations over small patches of the sky would be the same as those observed over larger areas of the heavens. But the researchers found considerable differences in the brightness variations.
''The data favors inflation,'' said Charles Bennett, a Johns Hopkins University physicist who announced the discovery. He was joined by two Princeton colleagues, Lyman Page and David Spergel, who also contributed to the research.
Bennett added: ''It amazes me that we can say anything at all about what transpired in the first trillionth of a second of the universe.''
The physicists said small lumps in the microwave background began during inflation. Those lumps eventually coalesced into stars, galaxies and planets.
The measurements are scheduled to be published in a future issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

Meet the real Sopranos

Somehow, when you read about the real mob in real life it is not half as pretty as when you watch Gandolfini and Co. put on a great show. Check out this gory, fascinating (at least to me) item about two real hitmen for the mob. It is quite horrifying. Click on the dots. Or else.
By the way, I just want to express my love for Gandolfini and what he's done with the character of Tony Soprano. A masterpiece of character creation. I love it when he's funny, and he's very funny a lot. Salute, Gandolfini. You kick TV acting butt.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Roe v Wade for Men, my ass

It's not like abortion is "Hair Club for Women". The guy who is whining about having no equal rights because he didn't want to father a child, his girlfriend had one anyway and now he has to pay child support, is such a loser it boggles the mind. As you will see, all of America is weighing in on the issue. My problem with this entire circus is very simple: this idiot and his genius attorney should not be calling this "Roe v Wade for Men". It is misleading, stupid and wrong. Men can have their Roe v Wade for Men the day they can actually get pregnant and can actually decide, if the government will let them, to terminate a pregnancy inside their own bodies.
Until that happens, this case is not about abortion but about a guy who does not want to pay child support. The woman told him she couldn't get pregnant because of a condition, the guy believed her and didn't use a rubber. Well, duh, if he was so sensitive about the pregnancy issue, he should have used one anyway. Men who are truly serious about these things are usually extra careful. They don't rely on women taking care of the contraception all by themselves.
And no, I don't think men should have equal rights on this matter, since their bodies are not equal, and therefore their burden is not equal to that of a pregnant woman. To talk about equality in this sense is ludicrous.
To the people who ask: what if the woman wants to abort and the guy wants to keep his baby?
Well, boo hoo. Tough. Try your best to convince her to have it, is all you can do. But it is still her decision. Why? Because you shot your load for a split second of glory and she has to carry a child to term inside her body for 9 months and then give birth (apparently not a picnic) and then care for it. Meanwhile she is at risk for her health, her job and her financial security. So give me a break. Not the same. Not equal. Not ever.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Great minds think alike

According to a friend, I have something in common with none other than Heidi Fleiss, convicted felon, anorexic cokehead and former Hollywood madam. No, it is none of the above, dears. We thought up the same business scheme. All I can say is: yikes.
Will women be willing to schlep to somewhere near Parhump, Nevada, 80 miles from Vegas, to get laid?
Are we so freaking desperate?

ABC News
Fleiss Plans Makeover for Nevada Brothel
'Hollywood Madam' Fleiss Plans to Remake Nevada Brothel Into Resort Featuring Male Prostitutes
The Associated Press

LAS VEGAS - Former "Hollywood Madam" Heidi Fleiss says she's bound for a brothel in the southern Nevada desert that she wants to help remake into a resort featuring male prostitutes serving female customers.

"I am moving to Crystal," Fleiss said Wednesday of a desert crossroads 20 miles north of Pahrump and about 80 miles outside Las Vegas. It features two bordellos and little else.

"I am opening up a stud farm," Fleiss declared from her Hollywood home overlooking the Sunset Strip. "I am going to have the sexiest men on earth. Women are going to love it."

Joe Richards, who owns the Cherry Patch Ranch and Mabel's Ranch in Crystal, said he sent a "courtesy" letter Tuesday to inform the Nye County Commission that Fleiss will work for him.

"She's going to be madam hostess of Cherry Patch Ranch," Richards told The Associated Press by telephone. He called her an employee rather than a partner.

There's one possible problem, though. County Sheriff Tony DeMeo said that because Fleiss is a convicted felon, she could be banned from the county's legal sex trade. DeMeo sits with the five county commissioners on a six-member brothel licensing board.

Fleiss, 39, was released from a California prison in 1999 after serving 21 months for money laundering, tax evasion and attempted pandering.

Fleiss was convicted in 1995 of running a prostitution ring in which models-turned-prostitutes were flown around the world to meet wealthy actors and clients who paid as much as $10,000 for a single meeting.

DeMeo said he'd heard several reports in his three years as sheriff about Fleiss' plans, including a failed proposal by an Australian firm that hired Fleiss in 2003 to promote a 50-room brothel-hotel.

"This is different," Fleiss insisted Wednesday, describing movers packing her belongings and her plan to arrive in Nevada later this week. "I'm moving."

Nye County is among 10 rural Nevada counties in which prostitution is legal under county and state oversight. Prostitution is illegal in Clark County surrounding Las Vegas, and Washoe County around Reno.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

What's with all the product placement?

You would think that since you are paying too much for cable already, you have the luxury of not having to look at brands while you watch TV, but if the first episode of this season of The Sopranos is any indication, we are going to be subject to more insidious brand porn. Perhaps it was unusually heavyhanded because it was the first episode and HBO knew it would have a huge audience, but it was really distracting (and apparently successful). To wit:
Off the top of my head: Phillips TV set, Cingular cell phone with low battery, some Post Breakfast Morning Crunchy Orgasm (or something like that) cereal, Corvette, Porsche Cayenne mentioned 582 times by Carmela, who was acting as if indeed she was in a car commercial. There was more, but luckily, I forget.
What are they going to do next, product placement in Rome?
I HATE product placement. I think it is loathsome and dishonest, particularly when it's used in entertainments, such as The Sopranos, that don't really need the money.
Meanwhile, apparently the Mormons in Big Love only buy generic store brands because there was not one recognizable showcased product in their surreally chaotic household, which in itself makes me a fan of the show. As long as it's deemed controversial, pussy advertisers will keep their claws off the show, which will allow me to admire the always fabulous Harry Dean Stanton* and Bruce Dern (blast from the 70's past!) undistracted. Thank you for giving jobs to these amazing actors, plus Mary Kay Place, Melora Walters and Grace Zabriskie (ultra creepy), Ginnifer Goodwin and Tina Majorino. Great cast. Will keep watching.

*I love that man.

Monday, March 13, 2006

God+Politics=Holy Shit

I once went to hear this Zizek guy and he was so intense I thought he either was on coke or his brain is way faster than the rest of him. He is a very interesting guy if you manage to figure out what he's talking about. He can mention Home Alone II, Stalinism, Freud, God and jokes in one sentence, and somehow make sense, for which he is adored by young eggheads. A philosopher for our time.
In this editorial in the NYT, Zizek speaks glowingly and rightly about atheism, which means that hopefully soon it will finally become hip and everybody will embrace it. It's about time.
As Zizek points out, religious zealotry is giving religion a really bad name. He singles out the Muslim fundamentalists because of their violent extremism, but frankly, religious intransigence has become quite intolerable in all faiths.
In this here country, we're all being taken hostage by the very well organized, politically connected, FOBs (Friends of Bush) nutjobs of the religious right. This entire country is letting these people get away with murder. We're asleep at the wheel... Don't come crying to me when you wake up one morning in the very near future to find that you live under the American version of the Taliban. You've been warned.
In the Middle East, well, you know the drill. The world has become dangerously absurd. People print out some idiot cartoons and the whole world has to tremble. A courageous Syrian doctor speaks out against violent Muslim fundamentalism and she starts getting death threats immediately.
Israel also has allowed a bunch of fanatical idiots who live in settlements in the occupied territories take the peace process hostage.
I am sick and tired of each and every one of the fundamentalists. I cannot take this religious bullshit anymore, I don't care where it comes from.
If you want to do something about it, other than tear your hair out in despair, you can donate to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

A catalogue of horrors

In this week's New Yorker, there is an article by Michael Specter that made me want to tear my hair out. If you are looking for the worst weapon of mass destruction, look no further: it's George Bush and his murderous assault on science. What this administration is unleashing against scientific progress and public health and environmental issues in this country and the rest of the world is an even potentially more dangerous, genocidal policy than the war in Iraq and all the other disasters it has wreaked upon this nation.
The article begins by saying that there is now a vaccine against the human papilloma virus, which is mainly responsible for cervical cancer. This vaccine has had an amazing rate of success, but in order to work, women need to be innoculated at an early age. But if the Bush Administration has its way, it won't be approved by the FDA because innoculating young girls will give them the idea that they can have all the sex they want. Instead, this administration pretends that cancer and HIV can be fought with abstinence, despite the fact that studies have proven that abstinence is no match for condoms when it comes to preventing unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Bush has given the majority of its funds to abstinence programs instead of to scientifically designed programs that actually have better rates of success. What is this? The stone age? In fact, if a succesful AIDS vaccine is created, Bush and the far right will try to impede its approval on the same grounds. An AIDS vaccine could signal to people that they can have orgiastic sex 24/7 and be immune.
I want to throw myself out the window.
And it gets worse from there. The Administration cuts off aid to any NGOs working in the Third World that so much as mention abortion. The Administration is against the distribution of condoms. It has started to curtail the freedoms of American scientists to speak openly about any issues that are at odds with our zealot evangelical president, whether it's stem cell research, global warming initiatives, and effective policies for controlling the spread of AIDS. Scores of prominent, respected scientists have had to resign due to constrictions and interference from the Administration on how to conduct their research. Now, if they want to attend international scientific conferences, they need to request permission beforehand.
I wish scientists, many of whom have been quite outspoken in their outrage, would get together and march or strike or do something that would catch the media's attention and the turn the public focus off American Idol and Project Runway, for one second. I know it sounds naive, but scientists are not making enough of a racket; they are screaming at the wind by publishing their anguished warnings in scientific journals that only they read. They need to engage the American public in their fight. Somebody has to do something.
Forget about the war on terror, this administration's war on science will have negative effects that will be felt for generations to come. These policies could actually help kill millions of people in America and around the world. And the US is reverting from one of the most scientifically progressive countries on Earth, to something more akin to Afganistan in spirit and in deed.
We still have three more years of this criminally irresponsible man in office.
I'm tearing my hair out.

Friday, March 10, 2006

It's the Cuban version of the Cartoons

Memo to Fidel: In the rest of the world, you cannot control what your people watch or read or think. Not even in a baseball game. Time to step down, amigo.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I've never understood prostitution, or: men are pigs

Since we're on this cheerful topic:
The whole concept of prostitution is very suspect to me. I know it's ancient, and despite the fact that, at least in this country, many young women already dress, speak, writhe and put out like hos (and mega-sluts like Paris Hilton are on magazine covers), the demise of prostitution is not happening anytime soon. Quite the contrary, prostitution is thriving, one of the most successful byproducts of globalization. Nowadays, former Soviet Republics are exporting fresh young Slavic whores to all the corners of the globe. And men traverse the planet in search of young hungry flesh and commit chazerai in other countries that is illegal and penalized at home.
I don't think prostitution should be illegal. I think it should not exist, period, but I wasn't born yesterday. Therefore, it should be legalized so everybody who engages in it pays taxes on it. Particularly the johns, I should say. Everybody always talks about how the prostitutes should pay taxes. Fair enough, but those who use them should pay too. If we pay a special tax for smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol, why not pay a tax for sex?
But really, why do we need prostitution? The only reason seems to be because it is there for men to exploit. It seems to me that in this day and age where women, at least in the developed world, have achieved considerable sexual freedom, and where contraceptives and condoms are cheap and easily available, there is no more need for whores. Why do you need to go to Thailand or Cuba or Costa Rica, or Prague and pay to have sex with a white slave or an underage child? Can't you get a freaking girlfriend who will happily put out for free? Pig.
If your wife bores you, get a lover. Do it with someone who wants to do it with you too. Is it that difficult? If you are so disgusting that no one will bed you, you have a hand. Use it.
What bothers me about prostitution is that it mostly seems to be a one way street. Or a narrow two lane road, to be exact. Most of the prostitutes are women and most of the johns are men. Then there are the homosexual prostitutes, again mostly men who pay for men.
I would be more inclined to tolerate prostitution if it was more of an equal playing field. In the age of Viagra and sexual "revolution", what prevents women from demanding to pay for sex too? Women who are bored with their husbands, lonely women, women who want a quick fuck, or just to indulge in the fantasy, why not have a service as easily available as there are for men?
So, to level things out a bit, imagine a male brothel for service to female clients. The boytoys could be handsome, squeaky clean guys with great physiques, (out of work actors, etc), who in a pinch could pop some viagra (or not) and voilá, make a woman happy. They could even bring roses, or chocolates or dress up as the client's fantasy of choice. Condoms would be on the house (and obligatory). But here is the question: Would there be decent men lining up for the chance to be male whores to women? And then how much would a woman be willing to pay for a male prostitute? Probably not much. I bet that less than she pays for a pair of good shoes or a leather handbag. Somebody told me that this wouldn't work because women would fall in love with their whores and become attached to them. They would pay the same guy over and over to have a reasonable facsimile of a boyfriend. Pathetic. But the bottom line is, as a very smart male friend points out to me, that women don't need to pay to have sex. We just need to part our legs and evince a modicum of willingness and we can probably get safely laid.
We don't live in the Victorian era anymore, but sexual exploitation still seems to go mostly one way. Can you imagine places like Scores, but inverted? The men are writhing around the poles and lap dancing on women's laps. And I'm not talking about Chippendale's. (Does it even exist still?). Can you imagine the same amount of male and female flesh in porn? The deck is clearly stacked against women. I know, I know: why should a woman be a seamstress in a sweatshop or perform other backbreaking, mindnumbing labor, and make 1 dollar an hour, when she can be a whore and make 100 dollars an hour? Why do they pay advertising copywriters more than they pay school teachers? That's how the world works.
Do women who become whores think it's easy money? I doubt it. Perhaps the "high class" ones that charge a gazillion dollars for a bj do. There may be some prostitutes who really like sex, or who are sex addicts (if life gives you lemons, make lemonade) and who love their jobs. I want to know how many are really like that. Most prostitutes probably already come from a long cycle of humiliation and abuse and without an education, without self-esteem, they may see no other option. We are talking about those who actually make the decision themselves, not those who are increasingly forced, sold, intimidated into it.
We have been fed the male fantasy that some prostitutes actually love their jobs. Just see that Cathouse series on HBO, which takes huge pains to make it look like these women stuck in a henhouse in the middle of nowhere in Nevada are actually having the times of their lives. Do they ever quit? What do they do with all that money? And for those men who entertain the absurd notion that their whore loves and understands them, you didn't read the memo. All they love and understand and want to stroke is your wallet. Get a wife.
I do not begrudge a woman the right to support herself as she sees fit, when she's the one making the decision. But most prostitution is a form of slavery. And the whole world is a cesspool for allowing it to happen. I don't care how much people talk about the great advances in gender equality, as long as female prostitution is around, we're still in the dark ages.
Plus, sex should be free of charge.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The ugly Americanas

Only in America does the American Medical Association caution female springbreakers on the dangers of drinking themselves into a coma, behaving altogether obnoxiously and sleeping around like nymphomaniac hos. In other countries, what you do with your drunken, overshaken booty is considered to be solely your problem. In other countries, in fact, there is no such thing as Spring break, in the American sense. Students behave as if they actually had brains between their ears.
I wish the AMA had also mentioned something, not only about the risks of alcohol poisoning and the spreading of VD, but about the general unseemliness of alighting on foreign soil, usually Cancún, México, and behaving like boorish pigs. My parents taught me that when you go to someone else's house or country, you represent the place you come from and people will judge your home and your country according to what they see in you. In that sense, besides Bush, Cheney and Ashcroft, springbreakers are the worst possible PR the US can have.
I am no party pooper. Drink and have sex to your heart's content, but do it with style.
There is nothing more hideous than a girl who can't hold her liquor. Learn to drink, you sluts.
Learn to control yourselves. Mexico, for those of you about to go there for spring break, is a very conservative, traditional, Catholic country. You shaking your tits in the air at the slightest provocation for a whole week is considered very rude.
Also, you may want to know that it is not a country where people make money. Those who bring you food and pick up your dirty underwear and ply you with drinks, make very little a week. Think about it for a second.
I wish these kids could see and hear how the people who serve them at these hotels see them. Imagine if you were a Mexican hotel maid and had to clean up after these brats.
True, the managements of hotels and restaurants and discos encourage the rampage, and for all that Mexicans complain, Spring break brings a pretty penny every spring.
That's what's troubling about tourism, that people go to other countries and think these countries are there solely for their cheap amusement. They think that because things are cheap, the whole country is cheap. Americans do it in Mexico at Spring break, but they are by no means alone. The entire country of Cuba is a brothel for tourists from Latin America, Canada and Europe looking for cheap, sometimes underage sex. Everywhere you go that is not an A-list country, you will find the blight of sleazy tourism. In Prague, which has a nasty sex boom, there are bars who refuse to serve stag parties from England, because of their lousy behavior. Has anyone heard of manners?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

That should be a windfall for moi!

A friend sent me this item on Ad Age about how the NY Commission for Human Rights (who knew?) is conducting a probe of the advertising industry's apparently bad record of hiring minorities here in NY.
Well, Advertising Industry of New York, your troubles are over. You can hire me. What could be more minority than a Jewish Aztec Princess?
All kidding aside (I'm not kidding: HIRE. ME.), the issue brings up certain interesting points. I don't know exactly what they are but one seems to be making a whirring noise in my brain: People categorize others too much and too broadly. This happens to me every time I have to fill out a form that asks for ethnicity. I am given several monolithic choices, and I always feel I could fit in more than one: Caucasian (check: I'm as white as Wonder Bread and family hails from near the Caucasus in Eastern Europe). Hispanic: Born and raised in Mexico City, I am deeply attuned to Mexican culture and also to the culture of other Hispanics. I am certainly more Mexican than I am Lithuanian/Belorussian, but because I have been living in New York for 14 years, and I love this city to bits, I have embraced and adopted the more tolerant, diverse, liberal mentality of NY. I am very Americanized, as some friends point out when I exhibit deep impatience with impunctuality, incompetence, corruption and sundry Third World traits that others find charming and I can't really abide. I have less spelling mistakes and more vocabulary in English than many a native and my knowledge of American pop culture freaks out some peeps. So culturally I identify much more with New York than with Mexico City (except for the food: Mexican food rules and there's still none good enough to be had in this town yet. Getting close, but no cigar). If to that I add the Jewish thing (and a 4 year stint of college in Jerusalem), then I'm a sort of Taco Eating Female Woody Allen (albeit much prettier). Obviously, all this doesn't fit in a little box. And I suspect; in fact, I know this happens to a lot of people. People are boxed into absolute categories that do not quite describe them or do justice to them. I wonder if, when it comes to hiring, people unconsciously guide themselves by very crude stereotypes.
I swear to God, the other day a neighbor of mine, a man I only know from sharing the elevator but who is always extremely courteous and seems well educated, told me he thought that in Mexico City all the houses were made of adobe. OMG! The biggest freaking metropolis in the world and people still think it's Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia! People ask me if Mexico City residents take the siesta in the afternoons. GET WITH THE PROGRAM, PEOPLE, IT'S NOT THAT HARD. With all due respect, Americans, God love em, tend to grossly oversimplify whatever lies outside their borders. A bit more curiosity about the world at large could come in handy. (And by the way, just so you know, it's "bandidos", not "banditos").
So my point is that people should expand their horizons, get a little info, look a little deeper. They may be astonished to find that among the darker of skin, heavy of accent, different of gender, there may be very talented, smart, sophisticated, urbane, hip people, who can certainly bring much more to the advertising party than it is generally believed.
I must add, however, that I believe that people should be hired for their talent and their smarts and their promise, not to fill out a quota. I am confident that you can be as ethnically diverse as Jackson Heights, Queens and kick total ass -- if you learn to look deeper.