Friday, June 30, 2006
That idiotic melee at the end of the game seemed to be a very nasty case of sore losing, which is inexcusable.
The Italians wiped out the Ukranians, easily and breezily and with their fabulous goalie Buffon (in Spanish that means "clown") saving some balls and hitting himself quite hard on the head in the process.
They came to the semis courtesy of a terrible call by the ref, which seemed to have been paid for la cosa nostra, but redeemed themselves today playing with skill and smarts against an Ukranian team that seemed incredibly inexperienced. There are teams who went home, like Mexico, Trinidad and Ghana that are better than that, in my humble opinion. What do I know?
Now, Italy is going to play the Germans and it may be a great game, if the Italians don't decide to win by hitting or doing operatic melodramas like they've done before. And it almost seems like a forgone conclusion that Germany will advance and perhaps win the Cup in their home turf.
Hopefully it will be Brazil-Italy. The Brazilians are adorable but, today, Univision showed Ronaldo's 15 World Cup goals, and it looked to me that except for the semis and finals, Brazil always has it too easy at the beginning, playing teams like Costa Rica and Turkey and Ranchipur. I wonder, if they had to fight harder from the beginning, would it be the same story?
Still, bless 'em, I'm rooting for them.
I had to rely on live play by play blogs in the internet, to get my bearings. I missed my crazy uncles from Univision screaming and telling us they went to the red district in Hamburg and how terrible the b.o. of some of their African colleagues the day England played Ecuador was (I kid you not).
The Guardian play by play blog is funny, shrewd and well written (by someone named Georgina! at least today). It captures the game and has personality. She was so rooting against the Germans...
The New York times blog play by play blog is not as smart.
The comments of the Guardian fans are always soccer related. The comments of the people reading the NY times today were a pissing contest about whether LA or NY is the capital of the world.
The Bush Administration's violation of the Constitution, the Geneva Convention and the rule of law sets a dangerous precedent for every American citizen and for this country's human rights record. Guantanamo's prison should be dismantled and the suspects treated according to the rules of war, or of the land.
The New York Times editorial states it better than me:
The key to the decision was the court's swing justice, Anthony Kennedy. He provided the fifth vote for the majority, and wrote a separate opinion that eloquently distilled the key principles: that "respect for laws" duly passed by Congress and signed into law by the president is particularly necessary in times of crisis, and that "the Constitution is best preserved by reliance on standards tested over time and insulated from the pressures of the moment."
This is the latest in a series of rebukes to the Bush administration. The court has already rejected its claim that the Guantánamo detainees have no right to be heard in American courts, and that an American citizen designated an enemy combatant can be held indefinitely without being brought before a judge.
The current conservative court is not hostile to law enforcement or presidential power. But it is proving to be admirably protective of individual freedom and the rule of law. Rather than continue having his policies struck down, President Bush should find a way to prosecute the war on terror within the bounds of the law.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
SO, last week I had some lovely friends in town who love to eat well. They actually had lunch at Per Se and I asked them to tell me every single thing they tried on their tasting menus, which probably cost the budget of a small country. They ate very well and came back happy and very full.
I decided to take them to Room 4 Dessert, the place Bill Buford wrote about in that week's New Yorker. I imagined that everyone was going to be clamoring to get in, but in fact, it was not so hard. Except we had to eat dessert at 8:30 pm. Chef Will Goldfarb answers the phone himself and takes the reservations. He is quite a character. He welcomes you in, he chats, he shows you his cookbook library and makes sure to tell you that he studied with the guy from El Bulli (which I thought was a bit much). It was his birthday so we sang him the Mexican birthday song, Las Mañanitas.
Room 4 Dessert is a really fun experience. We were 5 adults and one 11 year-old girl, which was great, because the more people, the more desserts you get to taste. We all had the dessert tasting menus and ooohed and aaahed passing the beautiful rectangular plates around. The wine list is excellent and affordable and some of the desserts are fun and fantastic. It's a great idea for a romantic date or to go with a couple of friends and have little paroxisms of sweetness.
My friends went crazy for a red Lambrusco sparkling red wine that was gorgeous and tasty and fun.
The desserts are newfangled, fun, intriguing and quite a few of them amazing (others not so great) They are never overly sweet, and some of them play with not being sweet almost at all. I ordered the red dessert plate: A vaccum packed raspberry meringue slab that was unbelievable. A beet sorbet that was sheer concentrated beet flavor, super-refreshing and strange and not that sweet, a vodka-hibiscus jell-o that was a perfect little cube of freshness, really subtle with the kick, not of the vodka, but of the hibiscus. There was a sort of cheesecake that wasn't that great but it was covered with a red wine glaze that was delicious. Those are the ones I remember. Other desserts were a pistachio financier which is one of the best cakes I've ever had, an incredible apricot sorbet, a delicious olive oil chocolate cake, an amazing foam of white beer and grapefruit, mango "gnocchi:" etc. The flavors and textures explode in your mouth and it really is a fun, delightful experience.
The piece de resistance was that I had sung the glories of the sushi bar at Jewel Bako to my friends so much that they wanted to go there. I hadn't been there in about 2 years and was afraid that maybe the amazing, handsome chef Masato was gone, or that with the Lambs opening other restaurants, the place could not be the same anymore. We were easily able to get a reservation at the sushi bar at 9 pm on a Monday, which made me wonder. To make a long story short, after having the omakase dinner, my friends said they liked the experience and the food of Jewel Bako better than Per Se. Jewel Bako and chef Masato rule. And again, it isn't only the food, which is the best sushi I've ever had, but the delightful, pleasant, civilized, wonderful, graceful experience of the place. If only more NY restaurants were like that.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Of course there are many things to bitch about: the government accusing the New York Times of unpatriotic reporting; the endless, idiotic cycle of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, the criminal incompetence of FEMA, the rise in rents, whatever.
So the flag desecration amendment didn't pass. Good. This is the only country I know where people are free to put the flag in their crotch and use it as a bra or a headrag, but the stupid senators get into a tizzy when it is used for actual purposes of self-expression.
And since I have miraculously returned to my ranting mood:
On Monday a man riding a bike was killed by a truck on Houston St. It was a horrible accident.
New York City needs to have bike lanes on every street, and bicycles need to be taken more seriously as modes of transportation. There are very few cities where riding a bike makes more sense than New York, and riding a car, less. But the car traffic continues to be ridiculous, and bikers are basically ignored. To ride a bike in the streets of New York is extremely dangerous, when it should actually be the norm.
New York should follow the example of cities like Amsterdam and Berlin and encourage bicycle use, and discourage motor vehicles. This would create less congestion, less pollution, less fuel use, less traffic, more space, healthier people.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
MONTERREY, Mexico - Health officials said Manuel Uribe weighed 1,235 pounds when he made a desperate plea for help on national television in January.Unable to leave his bed for five years, the 41-year-old mechanic in the northern industrial city of Monterrey longed to move again. His plea was answered by doctors and nutritionists who prescribed a high-protein diet, helping him lose about 200 pounds since then.
Gilberto Montiel, health secretary for Nuevo Leon state, said medical officials have been monitoring Uribe's weight and confirmed the loss."I feel better now, I can stretch and move a bit more," Uribe said Monday... Still, Uribe said he has just enough energy to sit up and move the sheet that covers his body. His goal is to lose another 770 pounds.For the last five years, Uribe has been bedridden. He keeps a television and a computer he uses to update his Web site near his iron bed.
There is always someone out there who makes you look good.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Is everyone blind? Am I going insane? Today's penalty against Australia was over a non-existent fault, designed to ease the Italian team's qualification into the next round (such as yesterday's free kick for England where Beckham bent it like genius). That was what the Univision guys were saying (plus adding that the Spanish referee was paying the Italians back for having robbed them against Korea last time around). I saw the mistaken call with my own eyes. What is the point of all this soccer mishegoss if the results are going to be rigged like that?
I seem to be the only person that is forgiving the Mexican team its dignified loss against Argentina. Mexicans are angry and frustrated. The catchphrase in Mexico right now is: "they played like they never had before and they lost like they always do". I'm just relieved the team didn't humiliate us altogether, because people don't forget that they played dismally and they happened to move ahead almost by sheer dumb luck. That is why I expected the worst. Mr. Ex-Enchilada sent me a very good article today written by Juan Villoro explaining very cogently all that's wrong with the Mexican team and their coach and sports in Mexico and the country in general. Still, the Mexico-Argentina match was a great match, well played by my countrymen, sloppily played by the Argentines, who are a much superior team. The first Argentinian goal seemed to have been aided by the head of one of the Mexican defenders. The second Argentinian goal was a thing of sheer poetry by Maxi Rodriguez, that no human power on Earth could stop.
By the way, the Italian referee of that game was voted by the female audience of the bar where I saw the match the handsomest man in the entire World Cup. Gorgeous.
It is now Argentina v Germany and I'm so rooting for the Tango Squad. I bet the referee will aid the Germans and I hope the Tango Squad surprises them and beats the hell out of them. They are an amazing team and they play beautiful soccer, with flair, not like boring machines, like the Panzers.
David Beckham seems to be a very nice guy, despite the fact that he married a Spice Girl. Not only did he provide a most spectacular, laws-of-physics-defying goal, (puking his guts thereafter on the field), but I saw him go to the Ecuatorian goalie after the match and embrace him with genuine respect and affection. A handshake would have sufficed; I was moved by his gesture.
A very different situation from that of the horrifying Holland-Portugal game. a) That Russian referee is a disaster and should not be allowed to handle games anymore, ever. It was not the first time he screwed up. b) The game was a disgrace of anger and filth. c) The Portuguese were dirty, disgusting and utterly unsportsmanlike so I'm hoping with all my might that the English crush them to bits. To pequenhos bitinhos de bacalao.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
By the way, this is not to be read as some kind of excuse for losing teams. I'm speaking of incontrovertible hideous calls that seem like pure evil. And the US is not the only victim.
Today, for instance, I learned that the next cup will take place in South Africa, so my Holmesian powers of deduction lead me to believe that perhaps African teams like Ghana, may be getting a hand from FIFA, so they can create excitement for the next venue. Because another thing that always happens is that the host country team, no matter how mediocre, always ends up making it closer to the finals, or even winning the cup. I can't believe that's purely because of home turf enthusiasm.
The referee who called one of the German games tried, in my view, to influence the game in favor of the Germans. They don't need any help, those Panzers, but maybe someone lends them a little invisible hand to make it easier to win in their home turf.
Now, I know you are thinking I'm nuts, but my capacity for cynicism is boundless. As boundless as the FIFA and the Olympic Committee leaders' capacity for graft. All I'm saying is that FIFA would like certain things to happen in certain ways. Not necessarily to give the cup to a particular team, but for certain teams to make it to the next rounds, and face each other, etc. Perhaps it's in the interest of FIFA that a team of million-dollar earning stars advance to the finals, rather than some little country that could, like Ecuador or Trinidad. Even though the teams with stars can do it perfectly well on their own. Obviously.
But just think about how much money is involved.
The evening started at the NY Public Library, with a sold-out talk by Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain and Bill Buford, all of them charmingly shilling their new books about cooking. It was a lot of fun, because they all are smart and sassy and articulate. Bourdain was a great moderator, and very funny. I love the way Buford writes about food in the New Yorker. He is delightful. And Molto Mario is intense and immense. A crowd of psyched New York foodies, by the way, is something to behold.
All those mentions of lard and duck fat made me hungry. We tried having dinner at Virgil's BBQ. I thought that at 8:30 pm it would be relatively free of tourists (who I assumed would be sitting their asses down at the overpriced Broadway show of their choice). I was mistaken. It was a mob in there, so we ended up at Ollie's, a marvel of slow but inexorable decline and a temple of Chinese greasy goop. However, a high point of the evening was that Wallace Shawn was waiting for a table at Virgil's (who knew?), looking very dapper in a black sweater and I told him that I love his play "Aunt Dan and Lemon". He beamed me a huge smile of surprise and relief that I wasn't bothering him about The Princess Bride.
So after unspeakably greasy and salty beef with broccoli and shrimp fried rice, we went down to Passersby, on W15st. The patrons at that early hour in the evening looked like a convention of golfers and CPAs from across the river, so we bolted and, to our surprise, voluntarily and with no one pointing a gun at our heads, walked south towards the much dreaded Meatpacking District, which was packed with the meat of many a ditz and a slut and B&Tunnelers and skeezy guys.
I remembered a friend told me about a place with a lovely patio, and sure enough we found it on Little W12, an oasis of calm and slightly better taste where we paid 16 buckaroos for a shot of Patron Gold (OUCH). It is armed robbery, but it is a testament to good tequila that it seemed worth the price. My companion observed that I was paying about two bucks a sip.
Then we met with lovely people from out of town who are here for the BDA conference (I don't know what that stands for exactly, but they are all motion graphics designers and animators).
We crossed the street to try (without begging. I wait behind no velvet rope for more than 5 minutes) to get into Buddha Bar, where a small gaggle of supplicants was attempting to arouse the compassion of two humongous bouncers. One of my friends, a natural charmer, spoke to the bouncer, said we were from MTV, technically not totally a lie, and too long a story to explain here. Bouncer asked for a business card. Card was produced, showing not MTV but a very cool animation studio. Upon which the bouncer said, and I quote: "Give me a hug". Turns out that the two human armored vehicles who guard the Buddha Bar love animation, so they were super sweet to us thereafter.
Buddha Bar is a striking looking place, populated by a lot of Ashlee Simpson and Paris lookalikes and the fat ugly rich obnoxious guys who buy them drinks. The second shot of the night must have cost twice as much there. I tried it chilled, but I hate when they serve you tequila in a tumbler. Hate it. Tequila is served in a shot glass called a caballito. I learned that chilled tequila is good for when you need endurance. The music at Buddha Bar was eurotrashy but borderline decent.
For some reason we went back to Passersby where we ran into a bunch of lovely friends. By then the golfers had decamped for other pastures. The music was a good mix of funk and punk. We proceeded to close the place down near 4 am. Today I woke up with a horrid cigarrette hangover (but not the other kind) and a black mood due to lack of sleep.
But I loved every minute of it, mainly because I kept threatening to go home all night long.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
• Tourists: LEARN TO WALK. Don't hog the sidewalks, don't walk three deep, don't saunter staring up at the cornices of buildings as if you were taking a stroll in a park. The biggest mode of transportation in New York are people's legs and you are the equivalent of a 90 year-old driver in a Cadillac (in Miami). I have a friend that thinks that sidewalks should observe the same rules of traffic as two lane roads; that is, people going in one direction walk on the right and people going in the other walk on the left. Move it or get out of the way.
• Cab drivers or other drivers who HONK should be executed on the spot. I can't stress this enough.
• So do people who urinate on the street. One night I found a particularly subhuman specimen of the B&T crowd peeing liberally right at my doorway.
I said: "Do I pee in front of your house?" He said: "I thought this was an office building". Oh, okay.
• Another night, I found a couple fornicating (doggie style) in full view near my building. This is not nice.
• Women: learn to use the bathroom quickly (and wipe your disgusting sprinkles from the seat when you are done). What the hell takes so long to pee? Are you having a child in there?
• Homeless people who rummage through garbage should have the courtesy to put the garbage back where they found it.
• If you come out of a bar at 3 am, don't scream like a banshee or laugh at decibel levels loud enough to wake up an entire neighborhood. Or I'll come and get you. (I have a fantasy that I own a long range firearm, such as sharpshooters use and I get trigger happy with people like you).
• Cars whose alarms start blasting unprovoked should be thrown into the East River. People who blast reggaeton or the equivalent with ear splitting bass boosters should be thrown into the East River together with their cars.
• Always remember to say hello, please and thank you.
Monday, June 19, 2006
All I could think of is, I want to write like Phillip Roth when I grow up. God, or whoever is in charge of these things, let me write such precise, incisive and graceful sentences one day.
The book is about death and decay. Lots of it. It is a short, keenly observed lament on the miseries of age, infirmity and the fear of death, and it is moving without being sentimental and very magnificently written. I'm still reeling trying to imagine in my head the structure of the book, because it flows as easily as water in a stream, yet it is not linear and far from simple.
I loved Everyman because it seems genuinely committed to its outrage. Also, because it makes a forceful statement about living without God and not doing too badly. The protagonist is simply a secular man who has chosen to be secular, and never for a moment does he wonder if he needs the company or assistance of God at the end of his life. This is a powerful antidote to the endlessly annoying God-fever that is racking this country. There is no implication that this man would be better off believing and for that, I'm forever grateful to Phillip Roth. Give him the Nobel prize already.
On the other hand, I don't know what possessed me to buy the latest book by Kazuo Ishiguro, a horrible, sloppy, disturbing, artless book about a future where human clones are made to donate their bodies to other humans. I hated that book so much that I gave it to the Salvation Army because I didn't want it in my house. I hated it so much I can't even remember the title.
The problem is that is is written in the voice of one of the clones and Ishiguro has chosen to make that person as interesting as a lamp, so the writing plods along painfully and there is nothing human or insightful to be learned.
I'm also reading Conversations with Billy Wilder by Cameron Crowe, who proves himself a charming and insightful interviewer of one of the greatest writer-directors that ever lived and a prickly, funny man. I'm still trying to recover from the shock of hearing Billy Wilder say that Forrest Gump was one of his favorite movies and that Tom Cruise is a great actor, but I ascribe it to the fact that he was 91 at the time and although he's feisty and witty as ever, he must have been losing it in that department.
The book is full of fun gossip and many fascinating observations about the nature of the filmmaking and screenwriting process. It is wonderful. And it has lots of pictures.
So as you can see, I have not been completely lobotomized by soccer yet.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Let's take a look at south of the MEXICAN border, which makes crossing the US border illegally seem like a trip to Disneyland. The Mexican government's chutzpah is boundless, because corruption reigns in Mexico, but before they start crying about the fence and mistreatment of immigrants they would do well to put a stop to the criminal abuses in their own southern border. In the end it's all about admitting that people need more opportunity, better living conditions, so that the Chipanec indians who pick mangoes don't all run over here, to be replaced by even poorer Guatemalan slave labor. As long as Mexico continues to exploit its own, this is never going to stop.
And speaking of fair play (this is about soccer):
Coach Arena, I take back everything I said. You can continue chewing your nails forever. The US team were huge yesterday, playing, not so much against a filthy Italian team, but against a referree that seemed hell bent in giving the game to the Italians. It crossed my mind that the 2 red cards he gave the US team could have been part of a bribe. One of them was blatantly unfair.
The Italians were disgusting. One of them gave a malicious zetz with his elbow to one of the Americans in the face, that I would not allow that man on a soccer field again in a year, let alone a game. Then, they self-goaled themselves, which serves them right for playing like that. The Americans regained their honor with massive amounts of balls and spirit. And I wish them the best.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
I am a closet enlightened despot (not so closeted, if you ask my dearest friends) and I think consensus is highly overrated, so I believe that indeed some people know more than others and their opinions should be valued more than others. I am usually always right, by the way.
I've consulted wikipedia and the information seemes quite legit, so as the article points out, the idea works for the most part. What I found amusing is the list of protected and semi-protected entries:
The copy in red is mine.
Cannot be edited.
2004 United States election voting controversies, Ohio:
But of course. How about Florida the election before?
No contentiousness there?
Florida crops up again, somehow. My suggestion is to separate Florida from the map and make it be an island next to Cuba. All our troubles would be over then, I guarantee you.
Written, I assume, by professional islamophobics (I am just an amateur)
You barbarians don't like it?
I thought we'd been through that already.
Human rights in the People's Republic of China
or lack thereof?
Military budget of the People's Republic of China
or should we all be scared shitless?
George Bernard Shaw
This one is funny. The man was a hoot.
Islam and anti-Semitism
This one is not funny.
As in suicide bomber? As in mini-mass murderer?
The last two I imagine are among the most controversial topics in human history.
Now, the next list almost sounds like a beat poem.
Users can edit only if they have been registered with the site for at least four days.
Four days will make you an expert on:
Republic of Moldova
Ku Klux Klan
September 11, 2001 attacks
Friday, June 16, 2006
Please, please, please don't go there.
Meanwhile, Argentina creams Serbia Montenegro: 6-0. Wow.
WTF is Serbia-Montenegro? When I was growing up, this is what there was, and it was easy: Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Two countries. Those were the days.
There have been reports in the news that people are overdosing on pain time-release medicinal patches. People are taking the patches, breaking them and sniffing, or cooking the very powerful drug inside, which is much stronger than heroin. That is utterly stupid.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Soccer is distracting me. I've become kind of a junkie, like when you smoke too many cigarettes and your throat is killing you and they taste like wet ash with cement but you want more. At least I know that once this thing is over, I won't give a damn about soccer until the next cup. And I'm not sure I'll make it to the end. I may have a backlash for so much useless soccer.
Right now, I'm watching the game between Trinidad and U.K and the Trinidadians are playing so fiercely and amazingly I'm really aching for them to win. Wouldn't it be cool for the tiny island to win against the Brits? It would be very cool.
Germany did not play that well against Poland either, and managed to score one goal at the very last minute. The Polish goalie was the hero of the game. I have no love for either one, but the Poles were fierce, and it would also be cool for the Germans not to win on their own turf. This is what I wish.
Another new distraction is I got a new toy called Final Draft, because now I'm going to attempt to write screenplays. I'm having lots of fun with my little toy and getting a headache by listening to Syd Field tell me how to structure a script. I'm sure it's very useful, but somehow it seems counterintuitive to me. Then, the movies he uses as examples are three movies that I can't care less for: Titanic, The Shawshank Redemption, a film I really hated, and Thelma and Louise, a film I did not believe for a second.
But I'm having lots of fun learning. And already thinking what to wear to the Oscars.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Mexico 3 Iran 1. Goody!
Czechs 3 USA 0. Very Baddy.
• WTF with coach Arena? He was biting his nails like a schoolboy and completely absent from the proceedings. He looked distracted and listless. I haven't heard the breast beating from anyone, and I'm not interested, but I prefer the Mexican coach, who is actually from Argentina, brazenly smoking a cigarette while the team runs their asses ragged on the very big soccer field.
• The ABC commentators SUUUUUUUCK. You wouldn't know if somebody scored because they barely fail to register the fact when it happens, they are too busy talking politics (in the Mexico-Iran game).
I hate Ahmadinejad as much as anybody, but freaking focus on the game! They spent most of the time talking about nuclear war and when not talking about that, they were going on and on and on and on about the two players in the Mexican team who are naturalized citizens, one from Argentina and one from Brazil. Meanwhile, let me tell you that the American obsession with stats does not translate to soccer. We don't give a shit how many times somebody kicked the ball with his left shin, ok?
• Maybe when you listen to Univision it's as if your deaf uncle is screaming in your ear all the time, but it does make it more exciting. The Univision guys have this thing they ask each other how they rate the referree and they give him a number from 0 to 10. Charming. They talk about the game and only the game, and today in a bit of a macho display, about the beauty of the Croatian women (which somehow much surprised them. I guess they imagined old babushkas with hairy moles on their noses). Then one guy says, and the Brazilian women too, and the other guy says, yes, but we knew that already.
• Meanwhile it is downright miraculous that there are no uplifting stories about players who were raised in the mud by their blind grandma or horrid travelogues about what's to like in Germany, besides the beer and the sausage. It's just about the game, which is how it should be.
• Brazil 1 Croatia 0
There were a few moments of beauty with Ronaldinho doing fancy footwork with the ball, but the Croats did not let the Brazilians breathe, they really crowded them and it was a closed and frustrating game. Good for the Croats, whose fans were so happy at how well they played that they were cheering like maniacs even though they lost. Brazil, they are my favorites, but I'm afraid there are too many stars in that team. They need to not show off so much and play like the soccer genii they are.
• This has nothing to do with soccer, but I don't understand why the hullaballoo about the circumstances in which that subhuman murderer, lowest of the low, Zarqawi died. He deserved that someone kick the living daylights out of him. If they did it, good for them and if they didn't it's fine too. He was a monster.
Monday, June 12, 2006
A film where you have Simone Signoret, Lino Ventura (Giants!) and Jean-Pierre Cassel is magnificent soul candy already. And then Melville displays such understated panache, such melancholy, such wisdom that the movie, even though it felt a bit long to me, is both extremely thrilling and moving. They just don't make 'em like that anymore. Gorgeous.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Almost any ex-communist country that ends with the diphtong IA:
Bad food, gray people and gypsy music. Not for me.
Plan B: Greenpoint.
However, I'd like to see Mother Russia, because they are such major tacky fuckups, they intrigue me.
Plan B: Brighton Beach.
Seriously, no Arab countries. They hate Jews and they treat women like shit.
Plan B: The Falafel guy near Union Sq.
No countries that end with AN:
Don't feel like wearing a burka.
Plan B: Texas?
The novelty of being doused with buckets of beer and multiculti sweat, or singed with cigarettes while dancing (or rather jumping like people trying to get out of a straitjacket) to extreme Bar Mitzvah music wore off pretty quickly after a number of fun times at the old Bulgarian bar on the corner of Broadway and Canal. Now it has risen from the ashes as a multilevel dump on Ludlow street, but it still offers the dancing schvitz bath. I liked going to the old one, late at night, when they would play more of a mix of "world" and disco music.
I must confess I truly loathe gypsy music. So sue me. I loathe renovated, extremely loud, punkish gypsy music a la Gogol Bordello even more, so perhaps this is not the place for me.
I went to check out the new digs with my adventurous friends on Thursday night.
Out on the street, cooling their profuse sweat off, were hordes of young smelly men. Inside, is an appropriately underdecorated room, which tries too damn hard to look like a dump, as opposed to the more genuine and much more insouciant diveyness of the old one. So that already pissed me off. We went down a flight of stairs to find the dancing shvitz bath, and if you ask me, potential mass cremation facility, in full swing, and the music so aggresively loud that I assume everyone who was there for more than five seconds is irredeemably deaf by now and will never recover their hearing.
I may be turning into an old fart, but noise like that should be criminalized. So we paid the ten dollar entrance fee (didn't it use to be five?) and fled ten minutes later. You can send me a postcard.
Friday, June 09, 2006
I am starting to succumb. Saw part of the two opening games today. Must confess, I cried when I saw El Rey Pele. I was seven years old in Mexico 70 and he was king and still is and always will be, forever. I liked the contrast of the former German soccer heroes parading like blocks of wood, and the Brazilians, who were full of emotion and joy, which is how they play. 5 time World Champions, I always root for them and their beautiful game.
It is now the time to see a lot of mostly stupid soccer ads, with just a couple of good ones. (I have one on the air, and it acquits itself quite decently among the competition, but what can I tell you, it's my baby). I like the Nike ads, with the tagline in Portuguese. That's about it. The one about the Mexicans traveling with what looks like a long schlong is nicely done, but I can't remember the brand it's for. I wish somebody should have limited the amount of ads where you see employees of a company pretending to play soccer. Those make me vomit.
The Univision sportcasters must have pledged to make us all deaf by the end of the Cup, but they are certainly much more fun, more human, and more excited and exciting than watching ESPN, who has some dudes who sound like they're drinking hot toddys in Manchester, England. Today, at Ecuador v. Poland, the Univision guys were unapologetically rooting for Ecuador, without the slightest pretense of objectivity. Good for them. Germany vs. Costa Rica was harder because everybody expected Costa Rica to get creamed.
Next time have a more fun country host the games: something like Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Italy, a Latin place where people really know how to party, not only to get drunk like cossacks. The opening ceremonies were excrutiatingly boring, a great contrast with those electrifying public rallies the Germans used to stage you know when. I guess they tried to keep that so low key, it was a snoozer.
I don't particularly care for the midwest, nor for Garrison Keillor and his down home shtick. But I do care for the films of Robert Altman. The last movie of his I saw, The Company, about the Joffrey Ballet, was so godawful, that I was thinking Altman should throw in the towel already. Happily, he has returned to form with this new one. As always, it's an uneven deal.
I was entertained by several things, the incredible palette of Ed Lachman's cinematography, the stunning fluidity of Altman's amazing style (kudos to the camera operators), and some of the performers, who were extremely alive amd wonderful.
I loved seeing Woody Harrelson and the great John C. Reilly play two singing cowboys. Both sing and play the guitar beautifully, and were excellent. I enjoyed watching Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin act off each other. La Streep is the kind of monster actress who has 27 emotional reactions in the time the others have just one, and this while singing a song. She is a great comedic actress and her choices are always surprising. She's a bit over the top, but she is amazing to watch. Lily Tomlin is fantastic, landing one liners with fabulous precision. La Lohan deports herself with great professionalism, sings well and does better than anybody has a right to expect. If she is a coke whore, fine, as long as it doesn't interfere with her acting. Tommy Lee jones just has to show up to make me happy. BUT. The movie is way too long. Nothing much happens and what does is quite silly. I didn't care for Kevin Kline playing a bumbling old-fashioned detective. He's funny, but seems way too self-conscious. I also didn't care for Virginia Madsen playing an angel. I hate whimsy. I hate angels even more.
One thing I can say, is this movie is not going to travel well. I can almost guarantee that nobody outside this country is going understand drat about this movie. They are going to shake their heads in bewilderment. It will seem to them like a reenactment of the Waltons or Little House on the Prairie. They will just not get it. Whatever it is that one must get.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
1. I don't have to deal with smartass video store clerks any more.
2. No late fees ever.
3. No need to retrieve the movie and physically bring it back. Just put it back in its red envelope and throw it down a mail box. This is huge, because going to the videostore to return stuff is odious.
4. They have a lot of excellent foreign and hard to find movies. (This should actually be number one on the list). You can get foreign and American classics, you can get obscure little independent movies from all over the world, they have every documentary known to man and they also carry TV shows on dvd.
For a while, I kept getting all Bollywood recommendations from Netflix. Because of my weirdass name, they must have decided I was a Paratha, not an Enchilada. But now, they look at what I rent and they know better.
At the beginning their list was limited, but now it is amazing. I have almost 300 movies on my "queue". Plus it's fun to build your movie list and to rate films. Also, they have improved the site to give people more information about the films.
5. The movies arrive a day or two after the last one is returned. It works like a charm. At least where I live.
6. Blockbuster SUCKS.
7. Netflix is glorious.
I don't understand why more people don't have it. It should be sweeping the nation. And I should be getting a commission for shilling it with such selfless enthusiasm.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
This is a letter I emailed yesterday to The New Yorker. Which just goes to show what goes on in the idle
mind of a freelance Enchilada.
Dear Mr. Remnick:
I love The New Yorker. My life is not complete without it. But here's my beef: almost every time that words
in Spanish appear in The New Yorker, they are misspelled. This drives me crazy. I am a native Spanish
speaker and I can forgive such lapses in other publications, but not in your esteemed magazine.
This past week it was "narcotraficantes", spelled with two efs. Recently, two opening exclamation points
and a comma were missing in Martin Amis' story about Mohammed Atta. The absence of this comma
changed the meaning of the sentence from "Come on, get up" to "let's go up". Not the same thing.
These errors break my heart. Somehow, I have a feeling that they do not happen in French, so why do they
happen in Spanish?
So I hereby volunteer, in all seriousness, to spell check for you any time there are words in Spanish
in the magazine. I feel I will be providing an invaluable service, both for the sake of the magazine's
excellence as well as for the many Spanish speakers like me, who love The New Yorker and go bonkers
every time this happens (it feels like a slap in the face). I will be delighted to speak to your factcheckers.
I take this opportunity to tell you that you are doing a fantastic job and that the magazine is brilliant.
(Despite my copious ass-kissing, I haven't heard from him yet).
Wait, maybe it's better if someone takes notes on 6/6/6666. That may be the day.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
People come up with all sorts of lame explanations to justify why Germans behave abominably towards people of color. Oh, they have unemployment in East Germany, oh, it's the alcohol. Maybe THEY ARE A BUNCH OF RACISTS. If they had a job and stopped drinking they would still be a bunch or racists.
The fact that they invented the Nazis, shouldn't that count for something? It is not a coincidence, you know.
Of course there are a lot of Germans who are not like that. We all know that everybody, including me, deep inside is a racist. There is always someone to fear, dislike, misunderstand and mistrust. In my case, if you must know, it's Arabs (and rednecks, and ultra-orthdox Jews and girls in Williamsburg who wear bangs and cowboy boots with shorts, and Germans, can't help it). In fact, I kind of hate mankind in general.
But in certain societies, like ours, the culture discourages such thinking, and as people of color are more integrated, the thinking loses power. It's not that it isn't there, but it is weaker.
Meanwhile in places like Germany and Spain, which have been mostly homogeneous for centuries, (and when they were not, they did everything in their power to remain so), they are not used to human variety, they are provincial and they are obtuse and they are unwelcoming. They are light-years away from the relative enlightenment we have in the US, but that does not prevent them from scorning the US and feeling superior to Americans.
I'll give you an example: I was in Madrid a couple of years ago. I met with some very nice friends of a friend who lives here. They were extremely charming and welcoming to me. They were all college educated, middle class, doing well. At some point we were discussing world affairs. 9/11. All of a sudden I am informed that Jews control the worldwide media. So I ask, do Jews own El Pais? No. Do they own Der Spiegel? No. Do they own Le Monde? No. Do they own the BBC? No. So? Well they still control the media. I said, "I can't believe that people like you can say such stupid things. What exactly is it that you imagine? Do you imagine a bunch of bearded Jews huddling over a table on top of the Empire State Building dictating what goes on in the newspapers?" WTF? They were rather taken aback because I guess that nobody had ever challenged their idiotic assumptions. And, this, I have to say, cannot be ascribed to ignorance, as it usually is. OK?
The following night, I get into a cab late at night and the cabbie starts, unaided:
The Chinese are pigs, they make this city filthy. Look at all the garbage they leave on the streets. It's disgusting.
(The "Chinese" sell street food to clubgoers.)
Well they come here to feed their families, I say, like most immigrants they are here to work and make a better life.
You are not from here, are you? What are you doing here?
That's how it is over there.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
Oriana Fallaci is not the first European writer that is critical about Islam and particularly about the way European nations and Western governments in general are handling the absorption, or rather lack thereof, of fundamentalist Muslims in their societies. Just last month I heard both Martin Amis and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a woman who was born a Muslim, say intelligent, articulate and extremely critical things about Islam. I believe that American audiences were shocked at their bluntness, for we liberals are used to the language of all-appeasing political correctness. I also happen to agree with both Martin Amis and Hirsi Ali that the Western world is wrong about offering so much tolerance to the intolerant. I agree with them that it is a mistake to think of Muslim fundamentalists as sort of a crazy, tiny fringe group. It is true that most Muslims are sensible, law abiding, moderate people. But it is also true that Muslim countries encourage, and in some cases, finance fundamentalism, antisemitism and hateful anti-Western sentiment. It is also true that there is not one single Muslim country that is not an awful tyranny of some sort. Not one single Muslim country is a democracy. Martin Amis is right to be outraged at the inhumane treatment of women by fundamentalist Islam and he is right to be outraged at the West's turning a blind eye to it. He claims we are undone by our multicultural relativism, which seeks to please everybody without regard to whether two clashing sets of values can coexist in the same place.
The way I see it is, if you emigrate to a secular Western country, you have to abide by the laws of that country. That means that you cannot kill your sister because she looked at a man in the eye. If you don't like the laws of your host country you can move to Iran or Saudi Arabia (those wonderful allies of ours who finance terrorists and antisemitic textbooks and who we should actually be directing more of our wrath against). Then you can witness the stoning of adulterers and the chopping off of thieves' hands till you are sated. By the way, this little rule of thumb applies, not only to the Muslims but also to ultra-orthodox Jews and any other religious zealots. You don't like it here? Go live in a theocracy. Just don't try to impose it on us.
Oriana Fallaci, who is a woman full of rage, believes this too, but in contrast to Amis and Ali, she does not distinguish between the religion and the ruling elites that sponsor it, and the Muslim people, whom she talks about in sickening terms:
She contends that contemporary immigration from Muslim countries to Europe amounts to the same thing—invasion—only this time with “children and boats” instead of “troops and cannons.” And, as Fallaci sees it, the “art of invading and conquering and subjugating” is “the only art at which the sons of Allah have always excelled.And this is where she and I part company. Because reading her virulent, hateful descriptions immediately brought to mind the way Nazis spoke about the Jews. All you have to do is substitute the word Jew or Black or Mexican or Gay in her invective and you feel sick in the gut. It is a shame that she goes all batshit, because she actually has some very good points to make about the issue.
”The rhetoric of Fallaci’s trilogy is intentionally intemperate and frequently offensive: in the first volume, she writes that Muslims “breed like rats”; in the second, she writes that this statement was “a little brutal” but “indisputably accurate.” She ascribes behavior to bloodlines—Spain, she writes, has been overly acquiescent to Muslim immigrants because “too many Spaniards still have the Koran in the blood”—and her political views are often expressed in the language of disgust. Images of soiling recur in the books: at one point in “The Rage and the Pride” she complains about Somali Muslims leaving “yellow streaks of urine that profaned the millenary marbles of the Baptistery” in Florence. “Good Heavens!” she writes. “They really take long shots, these sons of Allah! How could they succeed in hitting so well that target protected by a balcony and more than two yards distant from their urinary apparatus?” Six pages later, she describes urine streaks in the Piazza San Marco, in Venice, and wonders if Muslim men will one day “shit in the Sistine Chapel.”
The other thing that floored me about the article was this:
The magnificently rebellious Oriana Fallaci now cultivates, it seems, the prejudices of the petite bourgeoisie. She is opposed to abortion, unless she “were raped and made pregnant by a bin Laden or a Zarqawi.” She is fiercely opposed to gay marriage (“In the same way that the Muslims would like us all to become Muslims, they would like us all to become homosexuals”), and suspicious of immigration in general. The demonstrations by immigrants in the United States these past few months “disgust” her, especially when protesters displayed the Mexican flag. “I don’t love the Mexicans,” Fallaci said, invoking her nasty treatment at the hands of Mexican police in 1968. “If you hold a gun and say, ‘Choose who is worse between the Muslims and the Mexicans,’ I have a moment of hesitation. Then I choose the Muslims, because they have broken my balls.”At an earlier point in the article mentions that when she was left for dead, after being hit repeatedly by a Mexican firing squad, she was dumped in a room with others and a young man tried to protect her, covering her with his sweater. The doctor who took the bullets out of her body whispered to her, urging her to write everything she saw. Still, she sees fit to hate all Mexicans, and to egregiously conflate the innocent people with their torturers. She's doing the same with the Muslims.
Fallaci was rightly admired for her outspokeness. And there is still something bracing about her lack of remorse. She's old and dying of cancer and doesn't give a rat's ass, and you want to say, good for you Oriana, feisty to the end. But nothing can conceal the fact that she thinks like an angry, shrill, provincial racist. How anti-fascist is that?
It's all still a big billionaire boys' club.
The very wealthy Mexicans are not as heartless as they are portrayed in the soaps, but as far as I'm concerned, they're close. Mexico, if I'm not mistaken, is not like here, where companies and individuals can get tax deductions for charitable contributions. I have never for the life of me understood why this isn't so. The government would benefit from letting corporations underwrite health, education and arts programs, to name a few possibilities. I swear, up until I read this article, it had not even occurred to me to think how indeed do the obscenely wealthy in Mexico give back to their country. They are content to provide miserable paying jobs and maybe have a little foundation here and there for handicapped children. In the meantime, the whole country is handicapped by poverty. Are they doing anything about it?
The reason that the gap between their obscene wealth and that of most of the struggling population is so huge is that labor is cheap in Mexico and the living wages are pathetic.
For years, the ruling classes have been hand in hand with the government to protect the status quo.
But maybe there is a glimmer of hope in this new public phase of Mr. Slim. Maybe after seeing so many Mexicans trying to get across the border to feed their families, and people in Mexico slowly learning to fight for their dignity, and maybe after trembling about the possibility of another Hugo Chavez in the region, something is finally snapping. It is about time.
Friday, June 02, 2006
People I should like, but I don't:
People I should hate, but I don't:
People I really can't stand:
Jennifer Jason Leigh
People I like:
Spelling Bee contestants
The Daily Show
People I liked until they started getting on my nerves
CCL (Could'nt Care Less):
I hate lists.