Wednesday, May 31, 2006


How unconceivably stupid can the folks at the Department of Homeland Security be?
It's allright by me if they want to give Omaha and Louisville and Charlotte a bunch of extra moolah to protect themselves from the mullahs (he, he).
Just don't cut 40% of the grant money from New York and Washington. What are you thinking?
Wait a second, you can cut it out from Washington, it's useless, anyway.
But not from NY!
There is a reason why terrorists attack big, important, crowded cities like NY, London, Washington and Madrid. That's because the impact is much bigger, and they look more terrifying if they carry out an attack successfully in a big, important city. Big, important cities are also the centers of finance and commerce and tourism and all kinds of things that terrorists ache to disrupt.
I think we need security everywhere, because, as they say in the movies "They Are Among Us". But how likely is it that they're going to try to blow up Omaha? They may be living there, and planning stuff, like the guys who lived and took flying lessons in Florida, and look what happened. But don't take money away from the big ass cities. Your unbelievable stupidity may just make them bolder.

I hate this woman

No, not Katie Couric (not in love with her either).
I hate so much the way Gael Greene writes, I even hate that little horrid drawing of her with the wide-brimmed hat and the drunkard's nose. What is it about her style that makes me want to scream? I'm hoping she goes the way of that other terrible critic, John Simon: a miserable bastard, but a slightly better writer. Please retire this woman already, NYM, I beg you.

Listen to her current kvelling about Le Cirque:
(The italics are mine, like I have to clarify)

A dozen chefs dance silently on the kitchen stage at Le Cirque, fluffing up frisée on plates that look like bridal bouquets.
Enough with the alliteration and the cute rhyming already. Please leave poetry to the poets.

It’s the night of the very first friends-and-family tasting at the resin-coated ebony chef’s table.
What is this sentence? Editing, anyone?
Just friends and family, huh? Just the chosen few, that happen to include you. If you're so friendly and familiar with Le Cirque, Iteration 568, why should the readers trust you? You're so happy to be invited, you're just kissing ass.

I definitely do not recall starters quite so boldly sprouty and frondful (Just holding on to my gag reflex here) at the old Le Cirque 2000. English peas and wild mushrooms three ways: chilled pea soup with chanterelles, peas in casserole with morels, pea ravioli and porcini. Tomato in a trio of incarnations.
I hate her incomplete sentences.

Tomato sorbet is a surprise in the sprightly gazpacho.

Alsatian-born chef Pierre Schaedelin spent his downtime cooking for Martha Stewart when prison probation kept her home after dark, and it shows. “He fell in love with my garden,” (OOOOH)... says Stewart, on my right.
Gag reflex turns to full-fledged vomit at the sight of the usual trying-really- hard-to-be-casual-about-it namedropping, this time of another public harridan.

“Pierre came back a different man,” (What did you do to him, Martha?) Sirio Maccioni says, with a nod to the evening’s leafiness.

Too precious by far.

Le Cirque old-timers will be relieved to find crispy pig’s feet, tête de veau vinaigrette, and unabashedly retro quenelles de brochet as well as the meaty orange-honey-glazed duck breast with sweet-and-sour baby turnips, and the wondrously crusty braised lamb shoulder we’re (the inner circle and don't you forget it) tasting tonight.
Tippling from the new 50-ounce wine goblets is a challenge.
Do they serve you 40 ounces of wine per glass? Is this a criticism?

I tilt my head way back as if for a beauty salon shampoo.
I don't care how you tipple, I hate that present tense thing you do, like you never go away.

(Prediction: The glasses will shrink.) Can’t afford $42-to-$48 entrées?
It's not a matter of affording; it's a matter of self-respect. Why submit voluntarily to highway robbery?

Lunch in the bar: There’s a $39 prix fixe or a three-course box lunch to go.

Cool, for forty bucks you get a dogie bag.

Too stubborn to retire, Sirio is back, eager to seduce toot New York.

TOOT???? TOOT??? Le tout New York, you mean.

I think I'm about to retch.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

You can call me Al

An Inconvenient Truth is a lecture. As a movie it leaves much to be desired. However, it has the correct instinct of letting the material speak for itself. The material is of course, Albert Gore's travelling slide show about the very real possibility of impending doom due to global warming. Gore is a little less stiff these days. He is not a very charismatic speaker, but his commitment and his intelligence are compelling. And I love his Tennessee accent. It is not put on for show, like you-know-whose. Plus, the data he has to share with his audiences is enough to scare the bejesus out of anybody. One learns many interesting things in this movie.
In order to make the movie less of a filmed lecture, sometimes Gore is seen fiddling around on his computer, or driving a modest car. There is one moment when they show when he WON THE POPULAR VOTE, and then how he eventually lost the Presidency. That footage, of his concession and his applauding as The Calamity We Now Have For a President takes office, is probably the saddest, most stomach-churning thing I have seen in movies in a long time. It just makes you think: what if Al was there now instead of The Decider? You know that the worst Al could ever do would be a zillion times less bad than what we've been through till now. PAINFUL.
The movie is produced by Mrs. Larry David, who is crazy about global warming. At the end they urge you to mend your ways and they tell you exactly how. I found it a bit preachy, but useful. The US wastes more energy than any other nation on Earth. If the Earth melts down, it's going to be mostly our fault. So go see this movie, and turn the ac and the lights out while you are out.

United 93

It took me this long to finally muster the energy (and courage) to go see this movie. Like most of this country's moviegoers, I really wasn't sure if I wanted to see it. To begin with, I am not fond of flying and to experience, albeit vicariously, the horrible sensation of knowing your plane is going to slam into the ground, already filled me with terror. Plus, having been in NY that fateful day, I was not finding myself in the mood to relive it, even if it was through a movie screen. However, being a fan of director's Paul Greengrass excellent Bloody Sunday, and having read the almost unanimously glowing reviews, I went.
Apparently, not many people have followed suit. So far, United 93 has only grossed about 30 million dollars. If you compare that to the opening of the latest installment of futile spectacles like X-Men or Mission Impossible, it is quite a modest number.
United 93 is a very good film. And it raises many interesting questions.
Are Americans ready to watch a film about this subject five years after that terrible day? To me, if they are ready to watch the crap they do on a routine basis, they should be ready to watch a serious film about the day that changed this country's fate. But moviegoers in America seem to prefer their movies light and simplistic, if not downright stupid. People claim they don't like to go to the movies to suffer. Well, maybe they should. They might learn something.
Here we are, rehashing cheesy disaster films like the Poseidon Adventure, when United 93 is the disaster movie to end all disaster movies. You sit through this film trying to soothe yourself silly by repeating the mantra it's only a movie, when you know full well it isn't. This makes it almost excrutiating to watch, and I'm almost ashamed to confess, extremely suspenseful. We all know how it ends, and still, even though the film has the feel of a documentary, it is written by Paul Greengrass with a beautiful and horrible dramatic arc that is extremely gripping. What I most admire is how spare and direct and powerful the drama is. It is not nationalistic, jingoistic, patriotic or any of the crap we are used to expect from movies about terrible disasters. Mercifully, there are no famous movie stars playing superhuman American heroes, no Arab villains that are caricatures of evil. Everyone in this movie is human, including, surprisingly, and extremely effectively, the hijackers (it just makes their choices all the more pointless, all the more impossible to understand) . There are no speeches, no poetry, nothing that sounds like words on a page, just the urgent, clipped language used in a time of crisis. Somehow, the words uttered by the people on the command control on the ground as well as the passengers and crew in the air, reminded me of the sparseness of Mamet (without the cursing) or of Harold Pinter. The movie is an existential drama and that is its greatest strength.
One of my very smart friends pointed out that the real events of 9/11 seemed like a disaster movie to begin with. On the crowded, stunned streets of New York, one half expected Godzilla to appear in the horizon. It was a shocking realization how much like a movie it was: so unbelievable, so over the top. What's really interesting is that United 93 is as realistic and documentary-like as a fictional recreation of a real event can be. Instead of going for the Good vs Evil cliché that has been the mark of American film since day one, the filmmakers had the guts, the brains and the decency to try to recreate the experience of that day as intimately and realistically as possible. In my view, they succeeded in a way that no other film about real human calamity ever has (try to think about any truly worthy film about the Holocaust, for instance). The creative choices must be unsoiled by superficiality or preachiness.
Here there are so many thoughtful, brilliant choices: for instance, the use of some of the real controllers on the ground. They must be the only people who can say their own jargon convincingly. I wonder how difficult it must have been for them to act out again that horrible nightmare of a day. The editing is magnificent, the mostly handheld frantic photography, crammed with subtle details. I even liked the music, except for a couple of key moments where it felt like an unwelcome intrusion. The movie is violent in itself, but it does not dwell on the violence. It is shot as if you were there. It is a cathartic experience.
So how much does film influence our perception of reality? Would the scope, the grandeur almost, of the attacks have been possible without the crazy things that happen in the movies? Once more, it seems that truth is way harder, stranger and exaggerated than fiction, and thus, to make it into a movie, Greengrass and his team went for the real. He turned out to be the perfect director for this film. Besides his mastery at pushing the story forward with almost unbearable tension, perhaps the fact that he is not an American also helps. There is a cool rationality in his sparse, stripped down delivery, yet there is also true empathy for the human predicament. He deserves a nomination both for writing and directing.
It has been conjectured that the passengers in that flight knew they were going to die and they decided to die fighting. They must have understood that the hijackers intended to damage another crucial landmark. The movie does not dwell too much on their motives. It makes their rebellion, if indeed it happened, seem logical and heroic at a believable human scale.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Cannes't wait to see them

So Ken Loach won the Cannes Film Festival. Good for him. With a movie about the British war against the Irish. Cool.
I have to confess, I've only seen two movies by him, Bread and Roses, with Adrien Brody, which seemed to me preachy and didactic, and My Name is Joe, with Peter Mullan, which was a good, solid drama. We'll have to check him out.
Apparently a lot of people were disappointed that Pedro Almodovar's movie Volver, didn't win the prize, yet he got a best screenplay nod and an ensemble best acting prize for all his actresses.
In recent years I find his movies to be repetitive and shticky, and my favorites continue to be among his first. However, Volver features Carmen Maura again, for which we all should be immensely grateful.
Best director went to my fellow countryman Alejandro González Iñárritu for his work on Babel. Way to go "Negro"! The movie was written by Mexican screenwriter du jour Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada), in his favored mode of interlocking stories. A look at the cast and crew confirms that a lot of other extremely talented Mexicans worked in the movie, among them awesome DP Rodrigo Prieto and Brigitte Broch, an amazing art director whom I adore (she worked on some of my little commercials before she became super busy and rightly famous and she was always THE BEST). I'm crossing my fingers for Oscar time again, Brigitte, poniendo changuitos, like we say in Mexico.

I want my Imdb

What's with the Brits? First, it was a Brit who invented the internet. Then it was a Brit who invented one of my favorite places to visit there,, The Internet Movie Database.
(Hear, hear, old chaps!)
I remember the days when Imdb had not been bought by and it was just the neatest site. Nobody tried to sell you anything, and it was most useful as the most amazing crossreference of movie data available. For movie freaks like me Imdb is sheer heaven.
Suppose you want to know what was the name of a movie you just caught up with on AMC starring Claude Rains, well you just type Claude Rains and you have his entire film carreer on the screen crossreferenced with that of anybody who ever worked with him, entire cast and crew. In a word: joy.
Imdb still does this and more, but I disagree with the NYT that the amazon sales pitch is "subtle". It is not. Imdb does not feel anymore like a serious, useful site for movie freaks. I still love it dearly, but I resent the Imdb pro, and the Hollywood celebrity gossip (yet I can't turn away), and the amazon ads, and other frivolous crap, though I still adore the Studio Briefing news.
It's lots of fun also to rate your favorite movies and see how many movies you've seen, read other movie freaks reviews, (in many cases, longwinded and pretentious, if you ask me), or write your own (I always wonder, who has the time?).
Imdb is still a fantastic site and I hope they keep it that way. Are you listening, British guy who invented it?

You see, that's why the Grande Enchilada will never sell out.

Keep it free...

...and demand that it BE free.

Why am I not surprised that the CEO of AT&T (among other greedy telecommunications bastards) wants the world to pay for website access? Because when you are a horribly mismananged humongous irrelevant company, the best you can do is try to get money wherever you can find it.

According to the NYT:

Last year, the chief executive of what is now AT&T sent shock waves through cyberspace when he asked why Web sites should be able to "use my pipes free." Internet service providers would like to be able to charge Web sites for access to their customers. Web sites that could not pay the new fees would be accessible at a slower speed, or perhaps not be accessible at all.

A tiered Internet poses a threat at many levels. Service providers could, for example, shut out Web sites whose politics they dislike. Even if they did not discriminate on the basis of content, access fees would automatically marginalize smaller, poorer Web sites.

Obviously, this idea is loathed by everybody in the world, except for the greedy bastards, so hopefully it will not come to pass. However, they are wily and they have tons of money:

The companies fighting net neutrality have been waging a misleading campaign, with the slogan "hands off the Internet," that tries to look like a grass-roots effort to protect the Internet in its current form. What they actually favor is stopping the government from protecting the Internet, so they can get their own hands on it.
So be aware of the ruse and don't let idiot companies like AT&T push you around.

By the way, that British guy Tim, who invented the internet, shouldn't he be like Man of the Century or something?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

What? No makeup?

Read this carefully because you won't hear me say it again: the French are right.
They are right that American women use too much make up (that's because they haven't been to Mexico City).
Full disclosure: I use makeup because I come from Mexico City, where the well to do, like Catharine Deneuve, don't do their gardening without makeup on (or rather, they don't ask their gardener to do the gardening without makeup). When you come from Mexico City you get so used to makeup that without it you feel like a peeled potato. In Mexico, going out without makeup is like going out with hair rollers here. Then there are the señoras who go out with make up and rollers.
My Mom would ask me to check her out as she was getting ready to go out (sans rollers), summing it up this way: Se me cayó el payaso encima? Did the clown fall on my face?
Here in NY it is a little different. The out of towners use more make up than the natives. However, LA is makeup crazy, as the article points out, which is one of the reasons why, besides the presence of millions of Mexicans, LA reminds me of Mexico City so much.

I use make up because my skin is too pale and has lots of uneven freckles and red spots and discolorations. My lashes are nothing to write home about without mascara. My lips are thin (Mr. Ex-Enchilado referred to them as Kenneth Brannagh lips). You get the picture. Yet I agree with Le French that bare, beautiful skin is tops, and my friends here in NY look gorgeous without it. Why can't I be like them?

I have always envied the French style, which is studiedly unstudied, like they just fell out of bed, but everything is somehow in its place. As far as I'm concerned, they are the only women on Earth that know how to tie a scarf, a foulard, correctly on their slender necks. I used to have a French roomate in Mexico City whose entire wardrobe consisted of clothes from the Salvation Army, and still, she was kind of chic. So I disagree that French women don't care. They are more insouciant.

I'm going to try to reduce my makeup usage now that it's going to melt down anyway, with the advent of global warming.

Friday, May 26, 2006

My little victory dance

Picture your Grande Enchilada doing a little victory dance in celebration of the Enron verdicts.
I salute the jury. This jury did their homework, and their verdict sends a message not only to the accused, but to every single big cheese corporate executive: we are not morons. You are accountable. You cannot run rampant with impunity.
I'm so happy, glad, full of joy, that at least for now, justice has spoken. And the good news is that experts think that the appeal process is not going to be a piece of cake. Now let's hope that the sentencing reflects the severity of the destruction these two people caused.
I'm not gloating over the destruction of the lives of Skilling and Lay; I am even surprised that there is a tiny space in my heart that pities them for their terrible fall, but after what Enron did to thousands of retirees, shareholders, employees and their families and the entire state of California, they deserve no less. The corporate attitude and psychology of companies trickle down from the top and if you have arrogant bastards at the top, it is felt in every nook and cranny of the place: you get an arrogant bastard company.
For further edification you may want to check out the excellent documentary Enron: the smartest guys in the room. Even if you think that the film may be biased, the cold hard facts of the humongous fraud are hard to dismiss.
Lay and Skilling got the best lawyers money can buy and they may still try to appeal the verdicts, but despite that, to me, this is an example of the American justice system at its best.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A touch of Venus

I don't like pets. But I am friends with a dog called Venus. Venus is, I believe, a Yorkshire Terrier (what do I know from breeds?) She is like 8 years old, which makes her like 56 in human years. Venus is a true lady and that is the reason that I like her. She is very well behaved. She does not bother anyone. She likes to be petted in the neck. She likes to stand in one's lap. She looks at me with a mix of fear and longing. I never had a dog so I don't understand what they mean when they try to communicate. They are so smart, they should be able to speak. Does she want to pee? Does she want to play? Is she happy to see me or is she in mortal fear of me? No idea. Venus hates going out on the street. At least she refuses to go out with me. She is also a bit incontinent (ever heard of Depends, Venus?), especially when she gets excited to see her human friends. She leaves little poodles of pee all over my friend's apartment. Otherwise, Venus is an absolute sweetheart. She is quiet and discreet. A lady. She speaks French but not Spanish. She used to get super excited when she saw me. Now she acts all coy, almost hiding from me. She is inconsistent in that way. She comes over when I call her but I don't get the sense she really wants to do it. She's just being polite. When she sees me, she starts alerting my friend in great excitement, but I don't know if she means: look who's here or if she means, please get that bitch away from me.
She has terrible breath and she insists on licking my hands, which I hate. I wash my hands almost every time I touch her. We have a complicated friendship.

The New York Virus

Recently I've talked to several people that have been attacked by some kind of 24 hour illness similar to what I kvetched about a couple of weeks ago. I've decided that this is a virus that behaves in a typical New York fashion and therefore is a virus indigenous to NY. This virus settles in quickly, and soon makes its presence felt like a surprise visit from your neighborhood friends, the Mafia. You start by feeling chills and body aches and then you are either barfing or with the runs. It gives you an evil headache and your body feels as if it had been stuffed into a duffel bag and dumped down a craggy mountain. You have a fever and you can barely move your joints. Yet less than 24 hours later it is gone, probably looking for more New Yorkers to pester. No thank you note. Nada. Rude bastard.
People to see, places to go. It's not a virus that lingers for 7 to 10 days, like some Mexican viruses I know that make themselves at home in your body for a nice, long stretch, like obnoxious house guests that overstay their welcome. Not the NY virus. Get out of its way, don't hog the sidewalks, and move your ass already, 'cause it's busy. So much to do, so little time. NEXT!

So I'm not crazy

An article today by Ginger Thompson of the NYT at least doesn't make me feel like I'm the only one kvetching that Mexico is not doing anything to discourage its own citizens from leaving.

The old blame game — in which Mexico attributed illegal migration to the voracious American demand for labor and accused lawmakers of xenophobia — has given way to a far more soul-searching discussion, at least in quarters where policies are made and influenced, about how little Mexico has done to try to keep its people home.

"For too long, Mexico has boasted about immigrants leaving, calling them national heroes, instead of describing them as actors in a national tragedy," said Jorge Santibáñez, president of the College of the Northern Border. "And it has boasted about the growth in remittances" — the money immigrants send home — "as an indicator of success, when it is really an indicator of failure."

That's right. The article then quotes some of the current candidates for the presidency spewing out their usual bullshit. It amazes me how Mexicans have not tired yet of the demagoguery of their leaders, but it looks that some people are thinking about this issue more realistically, including the Mexican government.

...the Fox government said that if the United States committed itself to establishing legal channels for the flow of immigrant workers, Mexico would take new steps to keep its people from leaving illegally.

"If a guest country offers a sufficient number of appropriate visas to cover the largest possible number of workers and their families," the document read, "Mexico should be responsible for guaranteeing that each person who decides to leave does so following legal channels."

In a column in the Mexican newspaper Reforma, Jorge G. Castañeda, a former foreign minister, suggested a "series of incentives," rather than law enforcement strategies to keep Mexicans from migrating. They included welfare benefits to mothers whose husbands remained in Mexico, scholarships for high school students with both parents at home, and the loss of land rights for people who were absent from their property for extended periods of time.

..."But the elites here should reflect on this matter," he went on, "whether we want something in exchange for nothing?"

I agree with that last statement, but I don't think it's a matter of incentives for those who are thinking of leaving or who have families across the border. It's a matter of creating jobs and trying to give people in general a better standard of living.

Mexico needs to take care of its own.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Baghdad ER

It was excrutiating to watch, but I'm glad I did.
The documentary Baghdad ER, shown yesterday on HBO, should be sent to Bush, Cheney and Rummy in gift wrapped boxes with a big red ribbon on top.
The Army allowed documentarians Matthew O'Neill and Jon Alpert close access to shoot 2 months in the life of its military hospital in Baghdad. The filmmakers capture the heroic sacrifice of both doctors and soldiers, which is probably what the Army wanted. They also did not flinch from recording live and up close the terrible carnage of the wounds suffered by mostly very young, inexperienced soldiers. Baghdad ER is probably the only testimony shown in the media as to how atrocious the Iraq war is. And we barely see the wounded civilian population.
So far, more than 17,000 American soldiers have been wounded. About 2400 killed. Just to watch a minute of this film makes these numbers impossible to accept. The little disclaimer at the beginning of the program does not prepare anybody for the gruesomeness of the images. And yet, through the oozing blood and the severed limbs and the torn flesh, you are always in the presence of sentient humanity. I haven't been able to get some of the images out of my head.
The filmmakers wisely refrain from speechifying or creating polemics. They train their cameras on the American soldiers. They let the decency and integrity of those people speak for themselves. The footage is so horribly raw that the Army's Surgeon General has advised soldiers who are on tour of duty or have been to refrain from watching because it could trigger trauma and nightmares.
Trauma and nightmares is what the leaders of this country should be having.

The Klutz Myth

I had a revelation yesterday. All these years thinking that my klutziness was a proud family heritage that survived in me for generations of clueless Jews when it comes to hand-eye coordination, were pulverized in a couple of racquet strokes.
I took a racquet in my hand for the first time since I was six years old and I was able to hit the day-glo yellow tennis ball in front of me and bounce it several times off a wall. This was virtually a miracle, because all this time I was convinced that clumsiness in sports is as genetical a trait in my family as eating sloppily and having high cholesterol.
I trudged through my school years always being among the last to be chosen for the sports teams and convinced that I was fundamentally unable to hold on to a ball with any of my limbs, let alone a bat or a racquet.
When I was six my mom enrolled me in a Tennis class at the Jewish Sports Center in Mexico City. I was a puny child, thin as a rake and not enthusiastic about physical activity. The wooden racquet was so heavy, I felt my arm was going to fall off. The teacher patiently tried to get me to hit the ball and I don't think I mustered enough strength but for the weakest, half-assed volleys. I promptly decided I hated tennis and never touched a racquet again (unless it was for badminton). Until yesterday.
So it turns out that according to my encouraging friends, I seem to have a knack for hitting the ball and I'm a natural, albeit way hidden, Chris Evert. Who knew?
I bounced that ball off that wall until I could not raise my arm anymore, imitating the sexy, powerful tennis star stances that I've watched countless times on TV. I felt like Navratilova at Wimbledon, even though to the innocent bystanders, I still looked like a klutz.
When it was her turn, I watched my friend bounce the ball off the wall with strength and agility. Then she informed me that she was terrible at all other sports. I was incredulous. If she could look like a tennis pro, she could play every other sport just as well. We decided that it's not that we were utter klutzes, but that we were made to believe so by our respective environments and our own image of ourselves. We had been klutzes because of fear, not ability.
She was a painfully shy child who wished to be invisible to others, and thus was mortified every time she had to play team sports. I was a klutz because my father before me was one, period. He encouraged me plenty to exercise my brain, and it was my mom that pushed me toward sports, not because she liked them, but because they were healthy. I was awkward and insecure. Once, when I was around eight or nine, a basketball landed right below my ribcage and sucked the air out of me. I remember the panicky, hard feeling of not being able to breathe and people (especially the fat bully who had sent the projectile my way) staring at me with both concern and contempt while I gasped. I was afraid of balls and the people who kicked them. No wonder I could not hit a ball if it hit me in the head.
Yet yesterday, instead of watching my friend play while I read, I took her up on the offer and had enormous fun. The idea of my physical inadequacy was finally banished from my mind.
Tennis, anyone?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Couldn't have said it better

Here's an editorial on the immigration bill from the NY times that articulates exactly what I think about this issue. From reading it, I can already imagine the disastrous consequences the enforcement of the bill will have and the very possible damage to the social fabric in general of this country, as people let their nationalistic and xenophobic instincts rule. Illegal immigrants have not come out of the shadows (those who have been here for five years and need to start being "guest workers") and will certainly not come out of the shadows now in an environment of even worse fear of detention and deportation.
I insist: instead of putting all the onus on and punishing the migrants, the Bush Administration should read the riot act to the Mexican government as well. They need to cooperate to curb this problem, not just send everybody packing and expect the gringos to take care of it. I insist that the Mexican government has nothing but contempt and disrespect for their own citizenry and is ensconced in the exploitation and indifference towards its own people. When is this going to change?
You should see the lines of people every day looking for a visa at the US embassy in Mexico City. Sometimes it's the rich, who want to go to Disneyland or who want to study in the US, but there are many others who try the legal way and are almost invariably sent away. A lot of people try the legal way. Not everyone's a wetback.
By the way, why do people make issues of things that are so self-evident as to be completely stupid? English should certainly be the official language of this country, like French is in France, and Spanish in Mexico. I don't see what the hullaballoo is about that. Of course English should be the official language, and of course the national anthem should be in English. And of course the people who come here should learn the language, if they don't want to remain marginalized forever.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

I'm staying put

Good luck if you are travelling this summer. Have you noticed how flying now completely sucks? It has got to be the most disagreeable experience, from leaving your doorstep to arriving to where you are going. I hate paying more than $50 for a car service to the airport. Airtrain works wonders when you are not lugging a lot and when your flight doesn't leave at an ungodly hour.
Then at the airport, mobs of slow people, terrible, stupid, screening procedures, including that greatest hit of idiocy, the taking off of shoes. Having to spend even half an hour in most any of this country's airports is already punishment enough, with their terrible food choices and their the generic environments that suck the life right out of you. And then, the piece de resistance, the freaking plane ride, with many increasingly surly, neurotic flight attendants, cramped seats, annoyed and annoying passengers.
Now, on an American Airlines flight from JFK to LA, which takes as much time almost as going to Paris, there is barely room for me at my seat, and I'm a petite 5'4 and 130 pounds (on a good day). They don't give you food anymore, which in itself is not that bad, considering that what they used to give you could not qualify as such to begin with. However, passengers should not only be advised to make their own meal arrangements in the air prior to flying on an empty stomach, but the airlines should then provide service to accommodate those eating from their lunch bags (like pick up the garbage and give you utensils, at least). American sells like a box lunch for $4 and a horrid chicken wrap for $5. You think four bucks is a decent price until you open your lunch box and find travel sized packets of raisins and other inedible airborne crap that should not be worth 75 cents. It's always a ripoff, no matter what.
Let's rent a car or take a train and screw the airlines.

A dose of reality

What really happens at the border, from an article by Ginger Thompson in the NYT:

Looking out at the vast parched landscape ahead, Mr. Espindola, a coffee farmer, talked about the poverty he had left behind, and said: "Our damned government forces us to leave our country because it does not give us good salaries. The United States forces us to go this way."

The bold lettering is mine. Then:

A couple miles down the road, two sunburned men, their clothes tattered and their lips severely chapped, look the image of needy. Raúl Calderón, 60, and his 22-year-old son Samuel, had been walking in the desert heat for four days.

Natives of the western Mexican state of Michoacán, they said they had been abandoned by the smuggler — known among immigrants here as "coyotes" — they had hired on the second day of their journey.

On the third night, the men said, they lost track of the 10 other people traveling with them in the darkness. And by the fourth morning, they had run out of food and water.

"Our government has forgotten about us," the father said. Then nodding toward his son, he added, "Each generation stays as poor as the last."

So I ask: why should the US government shoulder this burden alone? Is anybody asking what can Mexico do to stop the influx of poor, desperate people into this country? Or rather what can both the US and Mexico do to try to raise the standard of living in Mexico? Or to try to give the inflexible, hierarchical Mexican society at least some upward mobility? They certainly have agreed to keep wages substandard for Mexican citizens. Mexico is a tremendously wealthy country. The abysmal disparity between the haves and have nots could be gradually narrowed. Except no one wants to do that. And as long as things do not improve for the forgotten in Mexico, you can build a fortress around this nation, they will keep on risking their lives for a better life on this side.

On the Mexican side of the border, where remittances have become the second-largest source of income after oil, Mexican immigration agents said they felt helpless in stopping the immigrants, even though the law prohibits citizens from leaving through unofficial ports.

Bottom line is, the exodus is huge business for the Mexican government. I am surprised that Bush has not exerted more pressure on Mexico to curb the illegal immigration.

Hundreds of people, carrying backpacks and gallon jugs of water, filed into the desert on Thursday. Among them, were Karla and Miguelito, neither one of them more than four feet tall.

In a speech cut short so that the migrants could be on their way before sundown, Mario López, an agent in Grupo Beta, a Mexican government agency that seeks to protect the migrants, advised the men, women and children about the dangers of their illegal journey and advised them of their rights in case they were apprehended by the Border Patrol.

"This is a sad reality," he said. "We hate to see our people leaving this way. But what can we do, except wish them luck."

What can you do? You can start by trying to give them a better life.

Boob tube blues

I don't dislike TV but I am always shocked at the way people in this country treat it as if it was a member of their family. My first exposure to this TV attachment came the first time I was ever invited to a Thanksgiving dinner. It was a family ocassion, with the bird, the string beans, the yams, the stuffing, etc. The TV set was on in the living room for the entire time and after we all stuffed ourselves, we were expected to all sit in front of the idiot box and watch a football game. This may seem normal to you all, but in many countries it is considered the worst possible manners to turn on the appliance while engaging in a social occassion. My shock became disbelief when I started working at an office and hearing people talking about their favorite shows as if they were gossiping about real people. Not only that, in the pretivoian period people went out of their way to tape the episodes they missed (Sex and the City had just started and people were having conniptions over it). In the internet bulletin board of the company, people would plead to borrow tapes as if they were searching for a missing child. This was amazing to me. I liked some shows but I wouldn't dream of taping them. If I missed them, I missed them.
(The only exception is this last season of The Sopranos, which I am following devoutly, I don't even know why).
I had a client once, who at a shoot for a TV commercial in Mexico City, said that he didn't care how or when we did things as long as he was back at the hotel to watch Law and Order at 10 pm every night. And he meant it. He didn't care to go to dinner or have drinks or be taken for a spin in a city he didn't know. He wanted his Law and Order.
TV is culture in this country much more than it is elsewhere. I don't watch reality shows, so I don't know who half the nobodies that appear in the tabloids are. I don't follow series so I don't care if Mischa Barton died or if Will and Grace is ending and what that means. I don't care.
I watch, when I remember, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report, and I watch The Sopranos. I like, but can never seem to know when that show happens, Rescue Me with Dennis Leary. I love the actors in Big Love, but I'm not home on Sunday evenings and I'm too lazy to look for it elsewhere in the week. I like Entourage and look forward to catching it if and when I remember to (I love Ari Gold).
Tivo would be completely superfluous to me. In New York there is so much to see and do and avoid, that I'd rather be outside, dining, partying, moviegoing, shpatziring, or, if at home, reading a book.

Chill, Chavez

Hugo Chavez is starting to grate everyone's nerves, and that is in Latin America, according to this article in the NYT.
One good corollary of this is that the lefty candidate for the Mexican presidency, Jose Manuel Lopez Obrador, mayor of Mexico City and overall pest, has lost his lead in the polls because people are afraid of his Chavez-style populism. Chavez may have done some good things for the poor people of his country, but increasingly he's turning into a nutcase and he's insulting and interfering in the internal affairs of his Latin American neighbors. Even with the pathetic admiration for tyrants like Fidel Castro that still runs rampant among Latin America's leftists, most people are realists (when they are not being morons) and they probably do not like the prospect of a megalomaniac clown in fatigues as a leader of their country.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The gall

The Mexican foreign minister talks about monitoring the newfangled presence of the US National Guard at the border for human rights abuses exactly the same week that a Human Rights Watch report expresses disappointment with the Fox government for its inability to curb the sheer impunity that operates in Mexico. Fox has not done squat to find and bring to justice whoever has been killing and torturing about 400 women in Ciudad Juarez, and the Mexican legal and judicial systems are barbaric and in urgent need of reform. The militarization of the border is a horrible idea and it will strain relationships between the two countries, but as long as Mexico remains a lawless land, ruled by corruption and impunity, where citizens are not protected inside their own borders, the Mexican government has some nerve kvetching about protecting the human rights of those who choose to leave.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Divorce New York Style

A friend of a friend of a friend of mine is getting a divorce in NY state. It turns out that this is one of the few, if not the only state in the country that does not have a no-fault divorce. To file for divorce in New York, you must claim and prove, I guess, either adultery, abandonment or cruel and abusive treatment at the hands of your spouse. If you just can't stand each other anymore and mutually want to call it quits, you're fucked.
Apparently, this is due to interference from Catholic and women's groups and the laziest, most ineffective and disgraceful legislature known to man. WTF are they doing all the way in the boondocks in Albany anyway? I bet you that if we brought their lazy asses down to NYC, they'd wake up and smell the aroma of human endeavor, which seems to be unkown to them over there.
This issue has been brought up many times but the laws haven't changed, despite the fact that studies show that no-fault divorce actually decreases female suicide rates and domestic violence. Meanwhile, snotfaced Gov. Pataki (you are so out of office soon) can't be bothered to look at the recommendations of a commission that strongly urges the State to change the laws for the benefit of all concerned: the courts, the estranged couples and their poor, innocent children. It is inconceivable that we have laws like this still in effect in this day and age (are you listening, Elliot Spitzer?)
What's my poor friend of a friend of a friend to do?

Department of Human Folly

Today, a sampling of quotidian human idiocy, courtesy of the New York Times:

1. Hold on to your pants! Da Vinci Code sucks:
Not that we expected otherwise. Ron Howard has become a master of the ponderous drama (A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man). His motto seems to be: It shall not have a sense of humor and if it does, it will be painful.
The review by AO Scott is probably more fun than the movie. Enjoy.

2. What about Hsub? or Yenehc? Or Qari?
We have some idiot Christian rocker to thank for the appalling fashion of calling your poor, unsuspecting kid who didn't ask to be born Heaven in reverse. In case Martians come to town and you need to illustrate the shortcomings of the human brain, this is a perfect example.

3. What is there to deliberate?
After 56 days of testimony, the jury in the Enron trial starts scratching their collective heads today. If I was there, the deliberations would take less than it's taking me to write this sentence. Fry 'em in deep lard and dunk them in BBQ sauce laced with habaneros. Till the end of time.

4. Never squander a good business opportunity.
Or: if you build it, they will come anyway.
Even if it's a simple fence you are building to protect you from your encroaching brown neighbors, you may want to give your business to your friends in the military-industrial complex.
I bet Boeing and Lockheed-Martin can't compete with Mexican wetback ingenuity.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Modern Westerns

Who shall I ask for my money back? The producers of Down in the Valley, or the critics who said it was worth seeing? I'm leaning towards the critics. The guy from New York Magazine owes me $10.75. What was he smoking? 85% of what happens in this movie is not only thoroughly unauthentic, but completely implausible. Down in the Valley is a potentially good story of a drifter with cowboy fantasies who hangs around somewhere in the San Fernando Valley and meets a restless teenager and things go very wrong. The movie wants to be very poetic and ends up being rather dull, long and opaque. Yet, according to the NYM critic:
Down in the Valley has an authentic emotional vibe that almost carries you past the movie’s swerve from plaintive romance to something more unhinged. The writer-director, David Jacobson, has caught hold of a great idea and done it justice.
Well, I thought actually he'd done precisely the opposite. There is nothing authentic and everything is contrived about it, the "great idea" part is true, but the "done it justice" isn't. Edward Norton is quite good as Harlan, a drifter with cowboy fantasies, but after two extremely slow hours he seems to be doing a one note performance real well, which is a waste of his mercurial talents. It doesn't help him that his romantic interest is Evan Rachel Wood, a beautiful teen actor (Thirteen) whose every reaction is strenously strident and faked. Even worse is her brother, played with sullen, unbearable, charmless monotony by Rory Culkin, the youngest (and I hope the last) of the Culkin acting brood.
The screen comes alive when Norton is around doing his aw shucks shtick and also with the great David Morse, excellent as the kids' stepfather or guardian or something; the movie doesn't bother to explain what he is to those kids or why. And I'll pay full price of admission to watch Bruce Dern just show up for five minutes. He is fantastic. But the movie is pretentious and long. Everything is dealt in elliptical fashion as if it's cool to keep the audience guessing stuff that actually could add more depth to the drama. There is a ridiculous, underexplained sequence where Norton ends up at an LA synagogue full of ultra-orthodox Jews, which could have been lovely in its surreal quality, but instead it is muddled and overwrought. He then goes into a house next door and absconds with the Menorah and everything of value, leaving behind a letter for his dad. Huh? I got it, this is where he comes from, but the way it's set up is so weak, it just goes by in a blur. Even though the movie gets more implausible as it progresses, it feels like it's been sucked out of life. It is strangely static and muted and annoying.
There have been a few recent interesting current westerns, some which happen in today's world. The best I've seen so far is Tommy Lee Jones' directorial debut: The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. A movie that, in contrast to Down in the Valley, does succeed in creating a melancholy Western mood.
Then I went to see the Australian film The Proposition, recommended thus by Anthony Lane in the New Yorker:
John Hillcoat’s sweat-stained movie is set in the Australian outback at the tail end of the nineteenth century. Here, outside a remote settlement, live Captain Morris Stanley (Ray Winstone), the chief of police, and his wife, Martha (Emily Watson), who are striving to maintain a British decorum, complete with Christmas dinner, in an untamable land. Hence the determination with which Stanley pursues the Burns gang—three brothers (Richard Wilson, Guy Pearce, and Danny Huston) who have murdered a local family. The title refers to Stanley’s risky offer: if the middle brother can find and kill the eldest and most savage, the youngest will be spared. What ensues is a strange blend of manhunt and tone poem, in which even the most brutal characters seem rapt in the face of red earth and endless sky. The film was written by Nick Cave, who, not surprisingly, supplied the music; the result may feel confused as a narrative, but, as a portrait of a riven culture, bred on racial conflict, it is formidably hard to ignore.

He's pretty much on the ball, although "formidably hard to ignore" (see Da Vinci Code) doesn't mean it's good. I went to see it because it promised an acting feast: Ray Winstone, Danny Houston, Guy Pearce and Emily Watson. I wish that the people who are making westerns today would be less concerned with giving us tone poems and more with giving us characters that are actual human beings with dialogues that don't seem to have been written by stoned teenagers. The Proposition is a much better movie than Down in the Valley, but the fantastic actors all seem a bit stranded since they don't have much to hold on to in the way of dialogue. Being the asskicking pros that they all are, they do their best, but no cigar.
Perhaps I'm being a bitch because last Sunday at our movie club we saw Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity and I'm still trying to recover from the brilliance of the writing: luminous, sparkling, dark and funny and utterly coherent. As over the top as the noir is, it is always refreshingly human. What a joy.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

You can count on Bush... fuck it up. Over and over. So the immigration speech last night, instead of trying to create an immigration law that works, just panders to the lunatic fringe.
Go on, send half the National Guard to the border, and use every gadget and toy you have available to zap the Mexicans coming through and make them chicharrón. As long as you don't come up for a sensible plan to naturalize those who are already here, you won't be solving the problem. Plus, that guest worker plan: not a good idea. Think Germany with the Turks.
Bush says: "Part of my job is to lead and last night I did".
Part of my job? Isn't that the entire job description of POTUS? To be a leader?
Every time I listen to him, I feel like we are mired deep in the sandbox in the kindergarden, listening to the classroom bully. Somebody deliver us from this idiot soon, please.

The culture of entitlement

Everyone is a spoiled brat nowadays; everybody thinks their majesties deserve, for unexplained reasons, very special treatment, starting with people who expect restaurants to customize their food (see Burrito Rage in this very blog), and ending with people who expect the rest of us to endure their "emotional support" pets.
Nobody is denying that pets may help people with depression. AT HOME. IN THE PARK. You want to have an emotional support tarantula? Just don't bring it to the restaurant where I'll be eating. I don't want to eat next to your dog or your cat or your pet snake. And if you are so depressed, I don't want to be eating next to you either.
How about I bring my "emotional support" bottle of scotch with me to the restaurant for brunch, or to the plane?
I'm so fragile and special and needy and vulnerable. The rest of the world can kiss my ass.
People behave as if they live alone in the world. They think the rest of us are under the obligation to endure their every quirk. I've had it.


Summer is almost here and with it comes one of my most unattended pet peeves: the American obsession with air conditioning. Luckily, I don't work at an office anymore and thus I don't have to endure subzero temperatures for nine hours a day. Come the Summer, every public place in America is set to a thermostat that seems controlled by a sadist in the Arctic Tundra. You can't go to a movie without bringing your thermal gear. Then we get blackouts, like last year's, because many geniuses leave their air conditioning on all day in an empty house, so that when they wring themselves out of the Subway, they can feel as if they are entering a meat freezer. People who do that should be shot.
Yesterday I watched a very informative and highly scary HBO documentary about global warming. It explained what it is and why it is so dangerous. It is extremely alarming how spoiled we are in this country where we think we have a God given right to squander energy with utter abandon. We in the States waste most of the world's energy. It's not only gas guzzling SUV's, but also terrible habits like leaving the lights on at all times, putting the ac at maximum power until someone dies of hypothermia, leaving the computers on overnight at the office. You know, in other countries (like in Europe) they save energy. They have timers for the common area lights in buildings, they heat their water with solar energy, they drive small, energy efficient cars, they have limited hours for heating in the winter. They have a conscience. Plus energy is too expensive.
Global warming is one of those scary issues in which individual behavior can actually have significant consequences. Unlike the horrid unrest in Darfur or the war in Iraq, or Donald Rumsfeld, with global warming you can actually do something that will make a difference in the world:
Don't drive a car if you don't have to. Use a bike, use your legs, use public transportation, have a carpool.
Turn off the lights and electrical appliances when you are not using them. Don't leave the tap running while you take 10 minutes to massage your teeth and gums or while you get ready for the shower.
And for the love of God, don't go nuts with the ac.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Here's another list

Stuff I could not care less about:

1. The DaVinci Code, either book or movie or Happy Meal.
2. What the Vatican thinks of aforementioned.
3. What Tom Hanks thinks of what the Vatican thinks of aformentioned.
4. Tom Cruise and his life from outer space
5. Brangelina and their impending spawn
6. American Idol
7. Reality Shows
8. Linsday Lohan: Drug Use. Obnoxious parents. Catfights with other hos.
9. Katie Couric's comings and goings.
10. The plagiarist Indian kid.
Actually, I do have an opinion about this. The kid thought she could fool everybody by borrowing freely from other inconsequential novelists. But I blame the greedy publishing industry that creates talent where there is none, just because some girl is cute and ethnic and will look good in the promotional photos. Serves all of them right. Assholes.
Meanwhile, James Frey's infamous book is still number 7 in the paperback bestseller list in the NYT. Crying all the way to the bank...

My literary 2 cents

So what is the best American fiction work of the last 25 years?
A bunch of smartypants decided it was Toni Morrison's Beloved. I read it in college and didn't like it then. Too florid for my taste. I guess I should give it another chance.
My own favorite is Libra, by Don DeLillo. Underworld, which is the runner up, I could not finish. So sue me. White Noise, another disturbing, premonitory DeLillo gem is also on the list. You go, Don!
Phillip Roth's got six novels on the list. Has he won the Nobel Prize yet? because he's looking more and more like a contender. I really liked Operation Shylock but I confess that American Pastoral was a huge yawn to me. If the list was for over 25 years, I would nominate Portnoy's Complaint, The Catcher in the Rye, The Stories of John Cheever, among others. (Like someone would ask me, but see, that's what this blog is for).
Cormac McCarthy got a bunch of them too (I'm not into cowboys), and so did John Updike. I read some of the Rabbit books when I was a teenager and liked them.
And why 25 and not 30 years ago? So that Phillip Roth couldn't have more books in there? Some of the books on the list were written years before they were published, like the great Confederacy of Dunces, and some titles in the Updike collection. Is that fair?
This is the problem with lists.

Back to normal

I must be feeling better; I woke up this morning with plenty of reasons to kvetch about. The first one that comes to mind is those hideous telephone companies (Bell South, AT&T and Verizon) that allowed the government to get private citizens' phone call records, tens of millions of them, including Verizon, a company in which I have eternally losing shares, plus a cell phone contract. I am not a happy camper about this, Verizon people, and I'm going to write you a scathing letter. Maybe. (Kudos to Qwest, the only company that refused to comply).
There are people who spend many hours of their lives writing complaint letters. I'm one of them, but only in my mind. I'm always composing letters to Mayor Bloomberg, our hapless NY senators, Bush (I've actually written to him asking him to step down for the good of the nation), the NY Taxi and Limo Commission, the horrible national airlines, etc. Very few of my indignant compositions ever make it to the page or the email form, but I'm seriously thinking of expressing my huge dissatisfaction with Verizon. Just don't hold your breath.

It comes as no surprise that the Son of Satan himself, Dick Cheney:

In the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney and his top legal adviser argued that the National Security Agency should intercept purely domestic telephone calls and e-mail messages without warrants in the hunt for terrorists, according to two senior intelligence officials.

But N.S.A. lawyers, trained in the agency's strict rules against domestic spying and reluctant to approve any warrantless eavesdropping, insisted that it should be limited to communications into and out of the country, said the officials, who were granted anonymity to discuss the debate inside the Bush administration late in 2001.

The N.S.A.'s position ultimately prevailed. Details have not emerged publicly of how the director of the agency at the time, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, designed the program, persuaded wary N.S.A. officers to accept it and sold the White House on its limits.

But if this is not enough to make the hairs on the back of your head spike up, you will be relieved to know that, according to the NYT:

An investigation by the Justice Department ethics office into the conduct of department lawyers who approved the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program has been closed because investigators were denied security clearances, according to a letter sent to Congress on Wednesday.

The head of the department's Office of Professional Responsibility, H. Marshall Jarrett, wrote in the letter to Representative Maurice D. Hinchey, Democrat of New York, that "we have been unable to make meaningful progress in our investigation because O.P.R. has been denied security clearances for access to information about the N.S.A. program."

Mr. Jarrett said his office had requested clearances since January, when it began an investigation, and was told on Tuesday that they had been denied. "Without these clearances, we cannot investigate this matter and therefore have closed our investigation," the letter said.

Mr. Hinchey said the denial of clearances was "hard to believe" and compounded what he called a violation of the law by the program itself, which eavesdrops without court warrants on people in the United States suspected of ties to Al Qaeda.

Now, before I am accused of being a bleeding heart liberal living in Fantasyland, let me point out that I want those Al Qaeda bastards pulverized and ground to a fine dust as much as anybody else, but is it too much to ask for the government to conduct their fruitless, incompetent fight against them according to the law? How freaking hard is it to ask for a court warrant on justifiable suspects? Or to paraphrase senator Patrick Leahy, you mean to tell me that tens of millions of Americans are suspected Al Qaeda conspirators? Can your intelligence operations be creative, proactive, effective and law abiding at the same time? Apparently not. These bastards have the supreme gall to be both arrogant and incompetent.
The problem is not that liberals or Bush haters are soft on terrorists, the problem is a lying government which thinks it can ignore the Constitution and the rule of law. This should be as scary to the American people as are the terrorists themselves. The Bush Administration has systematically eroded and disregarded the law, lied to the citizenry and basically continues to act with impunity.
I didn't come all the way from Mexico (legally, just so you know) and became an American citizen, to live in a rogue regime.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I'm very sick

One of the wonderful things about blogging is that you can kvetch about everything with complete abandon. And so, today, dear readers, you must know I'm very sick. It looks like a brutal little virus invaded my stomach and is having a rather rowdy party in there without my consent since yesterday and with no sign of abatement. As every Mexican worth his or her salt, I immediately looked for the cause of the destruction, like Sherlock Holmes searching for clues. In Mexico, friends and acquaintances discuss, usually at lunchtime, the reasons and origins of their various gastrointestinal ailments like people in other countries talk about movies or the weather. The frequency, consistency, and hardship of evacuation of poop is discussed, as are the myriad probable causes (I just had an oyster cocktail from a shack on the street. It looked clean!)
Living in NY, my extensive descriptions of my malady and its origins are apt to bore, if not alarm, my dearest friends. So this is the forum whereby I will discuss my own symptoms with myself. You are cordially invited to stick around and offer your own theories.
First of all, it embarrasses me to say that I cannot blame an outside establishment for my illness. Yesterday I made lunch and dinner for myself, so I must be to blame somehow. My suspicions are directed primarily to the salad I made for lunch. There are three hypotheses currently in vogue:
1. The red leaf lettuce, which looked slightly dejected (but nevertheless overpriced) at the supermarket downstairs. It did come covered in brown soil but I washed it thoroughly. This is my strongest suspicion.
2. I used a Gouda cheese that had been in my fridge from time immemorial but which didn't smell funky, although it did have a slightly disgusting aftertaste, like boiled socks.
3. There was some shrivelled chopped onion left over from another salad.
So I got the runs and decided to pop a Mexican version of Immodium which not only did not help in the least but also gave me terrible gas pains. By the time I took the second pill one and a half hour later I was starting to shiver. I didn't sleep all night.
At this point I've a fever of 100.8, the shivers, joint pain, a headache, my body feels like somebody used it for a punching bag and I've difficulty breathing. It is entirely possible that I poisoned myself because those pills had no expiration date. If I still feel this way tomorrow, I may go to the emerg

Just kidding.

Something to offend everyone

This one is not going to endear me to a lot of people, but I have to say it. I have never understood the penchant that otherwise intelligent, sensible people have for sending frequently inane chain letters via email*.
*Disclaimer: I do have a few friends who occasionally send intelligent, fun, quirky, interesting stuff.
Do not ever send me anything that says I have to send it in turn to another 10 people. I don't care if it's a baby with leukemia in Nova Scotia, or 55 years of bad luck, or the Buddha himself bringing enlightenment to me personally, or else. If I could sue you over it, I would. At one point, I asked friends and relatives to refrain from sending me those pesky chain mails. Some people took it badly and I've never heard from them since.
But once in a while, I still get mostly the ones by Jews, about Jews.
Email has been great for the Jews. There are entire collections of Jewish jokes, and to our endless self-mortification, equally big numbers of emails about somebody somewhere being evil to the Jews and exhortations to boycott whoever is being evil to the Jews that week. I don't think there is anything wrong in alerting your correligionaries that evil idiots continue to lurk in your midst, but what bothers me is the tone. What bothers me in many instances is the lack of proper context, the lack of nuance, shading or analysis, the kneejerk, over-the-top reactions. For instance, several people sent me one about a man who lost his son in a suicide bombing and therefore saw it fit to attack the movie Munich as if Steven Spielberg had suddenly become a card-carrying member of Hamas. Munich is a flawed movie and you may like it or not, but Steve-O had every right to express his point of view without people turning him into some kind of traitor. I find that many Jews who live outside of Israel are far less inclined to accept open political debate or even mild dissent. This is not good for the Jews. The sooner some Jews open their shtetl-like minds to more complex, rational debate, the better it will be for all of us.
Another email I got was some triumphant poem on how we have survived through centuries of persecution. There is no arguing with that. But at one point it said that we vanquished the Nazis. Excuse me, but we didn't vanquish the Nazis. The Red Army and the American Army and the RAF and the Nazis' own lunacy vanquished the Nazis. We survived the Nazis, which is very different.
Jews live now in more freedom, prosperity and peace than they have ever known before. Shouldn't we at least enjoy it? While we can? Woudn't it be great to shake that eternally persecuted feeling for one full minute? Shouldn't we be saving that kind of thinking for if and when the shit hits the fan again?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

It's called Schadenfraude

So it looks that Mission Impossible 3 did not do that well at the box office. I, for one, couldn't be happier. They expected 65 million dollars and they got about 48. Don't all start crying for Paramount just yet. They are going to make a zillion dollars in the foreign run of the movie. Yet everybody knows it: people are sick of Tom Cruise and his creepy dianetical antics.
I have never liked the guy. Ever. To me, he is the human version of the famous Gertrude Stein dictum about Oakland: there is no there there. At least, that's how I used to feel about Cruise when he was carefully and successfully controlled by his publicist of yore (wisely, she barely let him open his yap). Now that he has unleashed himself upon the world, we find that the there that is there is rather creepy in an embarassing, cringe-inducing way. And who wants to go to the movies to see that?
The only times when Cruise has been good is when he plays self-involved, narcissistic assholes, like in Magnolia, a brilliant piece of casting by PT Anderson, and like in Collateral by Michael Mann, where he also plays a smug bastard. Every other performance of his is always marked by intense straining and unconvincing fakery of the most basic human emotions.
As the article in the NYT points out, because of his moronic and hostile pronouncements on subjects he has no clue about, such as psychiatry and motherhood, this creep has managed to alienate a huge chunk of his fan base, who used to be women. The one thing the guy had going for him were his good looks. He had a great smile and a wholesome cuteness. He had baby fat and still looked good. But when he acts like an envoy from a sect of evil aliens he just doesn't look that hot. He just seems creepy. This is compounded by the fact that Katie Holmes seems to have been Stepfordized into submission, that nobody has seen the purported Suri baby, and that the overexposure has become too much to bear, even for our insatiable culture of oglers.
If you haven't noticed, I hate his guts and the less we see and hear of him, the better.

That should make us feel right at ease

Rummy is trying to calm down the fears of many by defending the choice of a military man for the CIA top job. That should come as a huge relief. If Rummy says so, then it must be true, no? Now we can all go back to sleep, the country is in good, safe hands. Phew!
The NYT:
"Good soldiers are trained to follow their orders, and General Hayden is a good soldier," said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. "I am concerned that General Hayden may not be able to provide the president with the independent voice he needs at the C.I.A."
Well, who cares, now that absolute power is consolidated with a bunch of yes men who have their sticky fingers in everything. Yet I see a bit of a silver lining in the appointment of Hayden, who looks exactly like the guy who plays the dad in That 70's Show.
I never thought I would hear me say this, but maybe Hayden could engineer a coup d'etat with the seven disgruntled retired generals and get those incompetent, dangerous bozos out of office and then restore democracy in this great nation.
One can dream.

ps: Yesterday Jon Stewart showed that Bush used the exact same words to describe the ousted Porter Goss when he nominated him, as he used for his new boy Hayden. What a pathetic loser this President. I can't stand it anymore. I don't know how you can.

Party poopers!

We knew it wouldn't last, didn't we? It was too good to be true, that new Mexican law allowing people to have small quantities of whatever drug their hearts desired. My main concern was that Mexico, an already surreal, illogical country, would outwonder Wonderland in bizarreness, but apparently killjoy American officials basically hit the roofo and promptly put a stop to Mexico's narcotic shenanigans. Omigod! All those gringos were going to descend upon Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez enmasse to partaay themselves to oblivion. Danger, Will Robinson!
Officials feared those two urban eyesores would become "the Amsterdam of Mexico". We wish! But not so fast. You can count on the good old US of A to kill the potential joy of thousands in an instant.
According to the NYT:

Judith Bryan, a spokeswoman for the American Embassy here, said the officials in Washington had urged Mexico "to review the legislation and to avoid the perception that drug use would be tolerated in Mexico and to prevent drug tourism."

It is unusual for American officials to try to influence internal Mexican legislation.

HA! That is the funniest statement I've read all week. And because this happens once in a blue moon, our very sovereign President, Vicente Fox, duly backtracked.
I think this law is a stupid idea (it's a good law for countries where the laws are actually followed), and that should be the reason to backtrack, not that gringo officials had a conniption over it. People should stop pretending that drugs are hard to find, here and in China. Whoever wants drugs will find them and will buy them and will use them, whether the law likes it or not. Legalize them and make those evil assholes who distribute them pay taxes like everybody else.

As this smart article from Camilla Cavendish in The London Times points out, the war on drugs is a losing proposition:

The Church of Prohibition cannot just keep chanting “war on drugs”. The narcotics industry can only be beaten by governments taking over its market. Give Boots and Superdrug the right to supply cocaine, and the price would plummet. Place it next to the support tights, and it would cease to be glamorous. Take away the illicit profits and you would remove the associated violence, corruption and prostitution too. Some people will always be irresponsible, whether they are drinking gin or sniffing glue. So take aim at the law, not at Tijuana. Otherwise we’ll just have another blinkered, pointless, violent Mexican standoff.

I feel sorry for the idiots who were already packing their bags...

Monday, May 08, 2006

Viva Colbert!

I know I'm way behind the times, but I only saw Stephen Colbert's address at the White House Correspondent's dinner today. The link will take you to the entire show, but you can fast forward to the Colbert appearance at the end.
Apparently, some people have attacked him for not being that funny. Losers!
I think that is beside the point. First of all, to me it seems in the worst taste that these so called journalists have an evening of fun and camaraderie with the prez when American kids are dying in Iraq for no discernible reason. But that's just me. In this context, Colbert's speech was right on target and he is my hero for being appropriately satyrical. This is not the time to endear yourself to the worst president in the history of this country. So if he was harsh on Bush and harsh on the journalists, they both deserve it and good for him.
So what if he wasn't that funny? He spoke truth to power, which is actually what comedians traditionally are supposed to do.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Dudes, I'm back in my beloved New York after five splendid days in LA, where it was colder than here. LA fascinates me and I want to go back to check out a bunch of places that I didn't have a chance to. We went by the unfortunately named Disney Symphony Hall, a magnificent Frank Gehry building that shimmers in the afternoon sun and a place where I would love to hear a concert. Somehow, Avery Fisher Hall or Carnegie Hall sound distinguished, whereas Disney Hall I'm afraid you walk in the door to be greeted by Goofy with cotton candy and a giant tub of popcorn. Not a name with distinguished cultural connotations.
Downtown LA is being revamped and that is great news for it feels like a proper downtown. There are hip restaurants and hotels and lots of old buildings are being turned into lofts. We did a quick car tour down Broadway, Downtown, with its beautiful delapidated old movie palace marquees and its tacky Mexican stores. Broadway is funky and I want to go back to explore more around there. I'd love to check out the Metro, their version of the subway. At least from outside those signs look like its fun. I took a peek at the H O L L Y W O O D sign. I love getting the creeps from that sign. I don't know if it's because they say some like to commit suicide there (probably urban legend) or because I associate it with the notorious book Hollywood Babylon that illustrates all kinds of sinister Hollywood stories.
Also, LA sports a bunch of interesting museums I haven't been to yet: LACMA, MOCA and other silly acronyms. The old Max Factor Museum in Hollywood has been turned into a Hollywood movie museum and you know I'm crazy for that stuff. Our friends from Altavista Films took us to an amazing CD and DVD store called Amoeba, which has a huge selection of new and used CDs, DVDs and LPs and amazing original rock posters from the Hippie age.
We ate splendidly well, as I've reported; from Matsuhisa, where we had the opportunity to meet Mr. Nobu himself who was quite charming, to Chaya Brasserie (superb), to a fantastic place called King Taco in East LA, (thanks again to David Lozano) and where we were in the upper reaches of heaven having $1.50 tacos: buche, carnitas, pastor, suadero, and a splendid agua de horchata (rice water with sugar and cinnammon).
The LA homeless are far more talkative than their NY counterparts. I guess when they see a lonesome pedestrian they take their chance to gab. They are also extremely disheveled and ragged. Ours seem a little bit more put together, if you can believe that. One day I saw a guy on the corner of Sunset and La Brea, who was wearing his extremely ratty hair down to his waist, had a long beard separated into two long cones and was dressed in a foul pijama-terry bathrobe combo. He was furiously scratching his head, probably giving the lice a nice workout. The next day I saw him strolling down Broadway in Santa Monica. I guess he must have taken the bus. We don't have bums like those here.
Next time, I'm going to LA for fun.

Control of women

First it was abortion, now it's also birth control. The religious right will stop at nothing until we are safely back at the Dark Ages. One of their most spurious claims is that contraception makes whores out of wives, an argument that Daniel Defoe made as recently as the Eighteenth century. When sex is not for procreation only, it is assumed that only the man will benefit from and abuse the pursuit of pleasure per se. This drives me crazy. Women are not only vessels for sperm. Women love pleasure too. They seek it, they deserve it and if they wish to gorge on it without becoming pregnant they have a right to do so. No man or woman has a right to tell a woman what to do with her body. For me it is that simple.
These people who claim to be defending a life-affirming culture are doing the exact opposite. The life they so passionately defend is one where a baby runs the risk to being born with AIDS in Africa to an infected single mother because they are against the distribution of condoms, or one where a woman of no means will be indentured with her children to eternal poverty and social disadvantage for not protecting herself from unwanted pregnancy. And don't give me that abstinence bullshit, when not even some members of the fucking clergy can keep their hands off little boys and girls. I've had it with the mind control and the hypocritical piousness of these maniacs, and that goes for all religions. But this leads me to a related topic.
I just spent five days in LA listening to guys talk about women as if they were juicy pieces of steak. Look at that ass, look at those boobs, look at those legs, look at that face, etc. I have to point out that I am not a prude or a feminist or easily offended. I grew up in a macho country. I am not a wallflower. However, there are limits. It gets tiresome. I never understood what the feminists meant with the objectification of women, but I think I know now. All this salivating robs women of other attributes that should be as attractive, like intellect and personality and soul. Without that, women are just pieces of ass to be consumed. At one point I said to one of the guys to think how he would feel if he was in my shoes. How would it feel for men to listen to women constantly talk about other males like that, look at that ass, those pecs, those buns, how yummy. I bet it wouldn't be that easy to swallow.
I was at a zoo recently. Apparently, in the animal world it is the male that has to primp himself up to impress the female. That's how nature works. Males are the ones with the most colorful plummage, with the most beautiful features, with the most striking colors, because they need them to attract the female. In human culture, and I don't know if it was ever different, it is the opposite. Men just have to show up, yet women will primp themselves up and do everything in their power to attract the male. This you won't find in the Discovery Channel. All you have to do is go to any dance club. This is what you will see: women beautified to the nth degree, from make up and sexy outfits, to plastic surgery. Most of the men stand around and ogle. Most of the women perform the mating dance for the benefit of the male audience. It has become custom for girls to bump and grind their asses as if they were professional strip dancers, and it is de rigeur to do it with at least another female... all that sexual teasing designed to arouse the men who stand around and drool. There is nothing wrong with making yourself pretty, but as long as women allow men to treat them like pieces of meat, as long as they don't assert themselves as equals in every department, including that of the pursuit of pleasure, they are always going to get the short end of the stick.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Greetings, Earthlings

So we've been having Japanese food for three days straight, the LA version of it which comes with gimmicky Japanese greetings screamed by the staff every time you walk into a place, and for some reason, lots of butter. Food has been yummy, and excessive and newfangled. Tonight supposedly we're having dinner at Matsuhisa (Nobu to you) and more sushi. I ain't complaining. Last night we had a nightcap at the Standard on Sunset and had the opportunity to witness the LA equivalent to the Bridge and Tunnel crowd, except that these peeps made our New York invaders seem as classy and debonair as Rogers and Astaire. Man, when people here are tacky, they are blockbuster tacky. I suddenly realized that even the skankiest, sluttiest New Yorkers are grungy and demure in comparison. A lot of the cyberwomen wear clothes which would not look out of place on a transvestite hooker in the meatpacking district circa 1989. I know it's a cliche, but there are a lot of surgically enhanced bodies, both male and female. People have too-white teeth, too solid boobs (O, that this too too solid flesh would melt), too-skinny waists, too-huge pecs, etc.
However, I admire the unbridled fashion enthusiasm, even if it all seems to come from the sales rack at Patricia Field. Apparently, the Hollywood glow hits the mere mortals hard and everybody is trashy-glam.
LA wakes up to foggy, grey damp weather, which seems fitting considering how foggy things can get with so much fun to be had. The skies open up in the afternoons and the famed LA sunshine peeps out. At around six o'clock the fog sets in again, right on time for things to start getting suitably cloudy.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Hola from LA

Yesterday I went out with my colleagues to have some drinks at the spectacular terrace bar of The Standard in Downtown LA and today I just had to swim in the pool of our avocado colored little hotel, despite the fact that it was cold, gray and drizzling, and so now I'm in dire need of a nap. For coming to LA, we intend to go out every night to see the fame-seeking, the fabulous few and the many who fawn over them. In the spirit of LA, I will point out that the clothes shopping here is far superior than that in New York, there are simply far many more schmattes for women to wear and look like celebrity look alikes. There is that dreamy California aesthetic that is full of whimsy and somehow works well, especially when worn by those who have those buffed California bodies and tans, who are legion. (I loathe every single one of them). The sales here are much more generous than in NY, too.
I will also tell you that as we arrived at the Grafton, (which sounds way more swank than it is but which is right next to the Mondrian on Sunset, a perfect locaction for immersing oneself in the blissfully solipsistic life of Hollywood) I believe that the members of The Strokes were at the lobby with long, hungover faces. But I'm not quite sure it was them. I can't tell The Strokes from other bands with similarly pithy names. Only in a place like LA does a guest show up for breakfast at the restaurant barefoot and wearing his jammies, bed hair and morning breath intact, with the studied nonchalance of a wannabe rock star. I thought it disgusting to eat anywhere near this individual's feet, but he must think it gives him some kind of rock cred, the schmuck.
I will also tell you the fabulous celebrity gazing I engaged in at the immigration rally I attended, where among the half million people Martin Sheen and Jeremy Davies marched, happy as clams, and without at all calling attention to themselves. I'd love to know if Salma was there too.
We've been savoring the always welcome freshness of California cuisine (with its inevitable quirky mishegoss, such as linguini with ajillo sauce or Mexican bean spring rolls. Why?), and lots of good sushi. The prices here are less abusive than in New York. Or perhaps they just seem that way because I will expense everything.

Marching in LaLa Land

My darlings:
Your Grande Enchilada is proud to announce that she participated in one of the LA marches together with another half a million peeps. We caught the march at the end on Wiltshire and La Brea (This being LA, we actually drove to the march, parked near the march and then only really walked like four and a half steps before being surrounded by peaceful oceans of people and many young children) and heard Mayor Villarraigosa speak quite eloquently. I was on the phone, listening to the tens of thousands of peeps in NY. Hopefully this will encourage the vermin from both sides who work in the Senate to take them more seriously and treat them with the respect they deserve. The NYT editorial is a very sensible perspective on the marches.
It seemed to me that a lot of those around me did not speak English and the sooner they start learning it the better, if they truly want to become part of this country.
But we are smack in the middle of glamorous, skanky Hollywood, and so yours truly hopes to fill you in on her celebrity filled halcyon days on the Sunset Strip. But not right now because I'm here working, and duty calls me.
Ta ta...