Thursday, November 30, 2006
My friends here are commenting on the fracas we have at the Mexican congress, where the people's representatives went to blows in a disgraceful melee. Now they are camping out on the podium in order to disrupt the ceremony by which we have a new president. Let me know when you grow up, okay?
In the meantime, here are some of my favorite Mexican sights:
These are wonderful tacos de carnitas, buche and nana to be exact. At Contreras, which has been in Polanco forever. Yum.
My fantasy is to have a stomach made of iron and to be able to eat all the street food in Mexico without getting sick. We are the kings of food. Period.
I sometimes get grief for things like Israel's recent blow up in Lebanon, the fact that the Palestinian problem rages on, etc. I find myself apologizing or justifying Israel and the general apathy of world Jewry towards the Palestinians, among other things. But on the Jewish side of the equation, in Mexico for instance, my conversations with some Mexican Jews shock me.
Otherwise intelligent people really have a very narrow sense of debate when it comes to Israel. They forget that in Israel itself the country is extremely divided politically. You can be a supporter of Israel and have a political opinion. You don't have to agree with everything Israel does. And the fact that you don't agree, does not make you a self-hating Jew or an antisemite or an Israel-hater. You can be for or against the government and you can still support Israel, like Israelis do.
But I hear things like "CNN is antisemitic". Is CNN antisemitic because it reports what happened in Lebanon? As the recent misadventure in Lebanon showed, Israel can also make very costly, unnecessary mistakes. And it behooves Jews everywhere to hold Israel to a high moral standard, not to blindly applaud everything it does.
Or, even worse, I hear Bush is a great president because he supports Israel. And that is that. I'm afraid it doesn't work that way. It is not possible to continue thinking of the world in these terms: is it good for the Jews?
Believe it or not, Bush is not good for the Jews. He would be better for the Jews if, instead of doing nothing at all except waiting for the Second Coming, and inflaming anti-US and Israel passions in the Middle East, he'd actually push Israel and its neighbors to find diplomatic solutions to their problems. The fact that he is the worst president this country has ever had, but he is still a friend of Israel is actually really not good for the Jews. We need a good president who supports Israel wisely. Not an evangelical moron who probably doesn't give a rat's ass about the Jews or the Middle East as long as Jesus is coming.
I guess you can choose to live a very cloistered life in the midst of your Jewish community, wherever it might be, and lose touch with the world outside, like a voluntary ghetto. My life was like this for a long time, yet I was always curious about being a Jew living in the world. My parents were a little bit more open minded than most, in some respects, and I had a sense of Mexico and the world that was broader than just the Jewish environment in which I grew up. The world, after the Holocaust, supposedly, has changed now. Now Jews can live in it with less fear, as human beings surrounded by other human beings, not just by other Jews; Mahmoud Ahmadinejad notwithstanding. It's not easy to be a Jew out in the world, always waiting for the spiked remark, always worrying about the behavior of other Jews, etc, but it has got to be much easier today than it has ever been. I feel it's worth it how exhausting it can be, sometimes how frustrating, and maddening. If and when somebody forces us again to segregate, and to truly fear, if and when I have no other choice, I will become a Jew in a ghetto. But as long as I'm free, I am a Jew in the world.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Here, when you go into an elevator or anywhere with strangers, everybody greets you. Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening. That is very nice. Very civil and polite.
How people behave behind the wheels of their car is another story.
I am told there are 300,000 new cars in Mexico City every year. I can tell. The traffic is beyond belief. You cannot go anywhere without being stuck in a traffic jam. Apparently, car dealers have been giving very good, cheap credit to people so they can finally afford a car. Many of those who used the very insufficient, uncomfortable public transportation, are now the proud owners of a little carchik. I don't blame them for wanting to have a car like everyone else, but I wonder if the authorities are just going to let the city be paralyzed by rivers of cars.
I am appalled at the level of visual pollution all over town. It's not only Paris Hilton. There are billboards at eye level seemingly on every available wall, and incomprehensibly on the walls of big mansions in wealthy neighborhoods. That people would allow their property to be defaced like that and to uglify the city for money is very sad.
There are times where I feel really short of breath. The air here is super dry. Good for my hair, bad for everything else.
The food here rules. The fruit rules.
I go to the bank (Santander Serfin) to cash a check that's on my name. I give the guy my NY driver's license. He cannot accept it. He needs to see a passport or a Mexican issued document with my picture in it.
I don't live here and I don't have my passport on me, because I would not schlep it around Mexico City. It's not safe. I show him my business card, my credit cards, my insurance card, all with my name on it. But no way, Jose. He tells me to talk to the bank manager.
After waiting for about half an hour, this inexcusable individual, who is supposed to be there to help the customers, tells me, as he scrutinizes my license, that he cannot accept it as proof that I am me because it could be a fake. He doesn't know what American licenses look like. I offer to show him every other proof I have with me but he won't budge. As if by looking at me, his common sense having fled the premises, he decides that I could be a scam artist trying to rip his fucking bank off.
Just like the retarded neanderthals who man Security at the Delta terminal at JFK and decide you may be a card carrying member of Al Qaeda because you forgot to take the bottle of Poland Spring Water out of your bag before inspection. They also confiscate a small bottle of rosewater spray because you may use it to blow up the plane.
These are the ¨solutions¨the bank manager offers:
1. To have the check endorsed by someone else who does have a proper id. Like a family member. Right then and there. Aha.
2. I should have asked them to make the check to CASH.
Once again, I guess my civilized instincts prevailed because I did not start choking him to death, like he deserved. Can you believe it? He would trust a check made out to cash, which I could have stolen, before trusting a check with my name on it.
The reason for his intransigence, he then explains, lying through his miserable teeth, is that one day somebody came with a fake passport and they paid him out a check. So, I say, in that case even if I brought my passport you still would not trust it to be legitimate.
THIS IS WHY I DONT LIVE IN THIS FUCKED UP COUNTRY FROM BUREAUCRATIC KAFKIAN HELL.
Because this is a place where everybody thinks you are ripping them off, you are a liar and a crook.
Today, having learned my lesson, I bring my passport to another branch of the same bank and finally cash the check, but not without the cashier asking me to write my name, address and telephone and signature in the back of the check.
Mexicans: there is never ever going to be enough proof that anything is legitimate. Reams of signatures and endless documents will always be required to make sure that you are not being conned. It is PATHETIC.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Not so some people I´ve unfortunately come across in the past few days.
Exhibit A: Lunch at the always fabulous Bar Pitti. I already know what I want before I set foot in the door: the mixed salad and the eggplant parmigiana (best in NY). That´s what I order. A well dressed, selfconscious woman takes a seat in the table next to me and begins an interrogation process of the waiter that would make Torquemada proud. She is a vegetarian. She asks him what he recommends. He says what. He probably likes the oxtail and the pig's feet best, but now he has to come up with some ersatz recommendation to please her. She asks if what he answered is made with chicken stock, because she is almost certain it is. He goes to the kitchen to find out. Lo and behold, it is. Then she asks him to name his very favorite item in the menu. People who ask this question of waiters should be executed on the spot. It is one thing to ask for a recommendation, and another to insinuate yourself into the personal psychic space of the waiter. He is not your friend. The waiter hums and haws and wavers. She insists he has to tell her his absolute total favorite. I think he does but this is not enough for her. She then proceeds to go through every single item written in the specials blackboard, parsing it as if she was reading the Talmud. The waiter is extremely professional and patient, because she uses a totally fake seductive little act to win him over. I want to strangle her. A patron that demands such an inordinate level of attention in a busy restaurant is an inconsiderate asshole. Then she asks me if I like my eggplant. I tell her it's divine. But she still can't make up her mind. AAAARGHHHH!
Exhibit B: A packed Delta plane to Mexico City. The humiliations those of us stupid enough to still fly Delta are a subject for a different, lengthy post. A well to do Mexican woman is traveling with her two daughters and she is up in arms because they sat all of them in separate seats. She is raising holy hell and I think she has a point until it turns out that the children are 13 and 15 years old. Now, I understand you want to seat next to your loved ones in case this is your last day on earth. But, if the kids are old enough and they are seating right in front of you, close by, you can choose to vent a little and then deal with it. Not so fast, my friends. After she gives the very cool stewardess a long, indignant speech, the stewardess comes back and offers her and one of her daughters two seats in the emergency row. The thirteen year old is not allowed to sit there and the seats don't recline. ¨It's Thanksgiving, lady¨, says the stewardess, ¨this is the best I can do for you¨. This woman does not consider this offer viable. It takes her quite a while to make up her mind, scream across the aisle to her daughter (who probably would rather sit away from Mommy Dearest at this point) and finally decides not to take it, then asking for corroboration and solidarity from her fellow, exhausted passengers about how bad and stupid is this airline and no wonder they are going bankrupt. Then a gentleman, probably tired of this drama, moves to another seat, so she can sit with her daughter, but another woman reacts first and grabs the seat. So she makes one guy move to another seat so she can be with her daughter. She finally sits down and as we all emit a collective sigh of relief, she starts again about how unbelievable it is that this happens to her. It is a miracle, ladies and gentlemen, that I managed to keep my mouth shut and not tell her to shut the fuck up already.
We live in a world that is crammed with people and it seems that the more crammed, the less people know how to behave.
The lack of personal space is an excuse to behave as if the world revolves around you and there is no one else in it.
I cannot stand high maintenance people. Is that clear?
Yesterday night I went out to dinner with the lovely friends who are hosting me and we had a Mexican feast after 10 pm that made me stay up and read that master of horror, Seymour Hersh, in the New Yorker, until the wee hours. Luckily, I did not have Cheney nightmares.
I had my favorite soup, sopa de pasta, which is basically vermicelli in tomato broth, and I was so very happy. See? It does not take much to please me. We went to a very famous traditional Mexican restaurant, El Bajio, which has now opened a branch in swanky Polanco and which has all the fried corn masa stuff you could possibly think of. But what appealed most to me were the day to day items: the sopa de pasta, some red Mexican rice -- simple stuff. Even though it was expensive for Mexican food, the whole meal per person cost what two shots of good tequila would cost in New York.
What's in store for today? Who knows. More Mexican food, I hope.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
As in Caracas, one is assaulted by the humongous, horrid likeness of Paris Hilton shilling her perfume and her handbags with that retarded face of hers everywhere. There is simply no escape.
I'm staying at the house of some marvellous friends who live around the block from a taco place that specializes in cochinita pibil. Next door is a place that does barbacoa (goat stew) and next door are a couple of unassuming loncherias, with wonderful, cheap prix fixe menus. The smells emanating from that block alone are so delicious, I just want to stay there and eat breakfast lunch and dinner.
I have to leave now, but I will get back to you with a full report of my eats.
Monday, November 20, 2006
When you are Mexican, you are conditioned to suspend your disbelief every second of the day, because you know you live in a surreal country where the most outrageous, kafkaesque, absurd stuff happens and nobody bats an eye. However, this freaking AMLO is breaking all the records of buffoonish, embarrassing, inane, pathetic absurdity.
And frankly, the people who follow him, listen to me: poverty is not an excuse at this point. Insisting that major fraud was committed is useless. It was a close election and the other guy won. Deal with it. It is not possible to be so gullible, particularly after AMLO's pathetic performance since he lost the election. If you don't happen to be poor and you are one of those people with two maids and a foreign bank account that root for him, I don't think there are enough reserves of scorn and contempt in my being for the likes of you.
I know that those who like him may peg me as a little rich white girl with no empathy for the poor. Quite the contrary: the reason I hate his guts is because this man is cynically exploiting the meager hopes of the poor for his own megalomaniac political gain and I find this revolting. I find this kind of abuse of the poor, which manifests itself in pure demagoguery and irresponsible promises, utterly unethical, and the lowest of the low.
Marco Ramirez, 34, a university researcher watching the crowd from a sidewalk cafe, said he believed many of the demonstrators were receiving money from the Mexico City government, which is run by Lopez Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party.
"This affects the country's image," he said. "It puts out a very bad image."
As is typical, this may be entirely true or a rumor, but it is believable. They basically created that city campsite a few months ago with public money. Was this legal? Did anybody do anything to stop them?Never mind. I certainly hope that when the time comes to elect a new government for the Mexican capital, the citizens of D.F. will remember this abuse of power and throw out the PRD.
I speak to a friend in Mexico City today and he shrugs it off with a bitter laugh: "Well, we'll have two presidents. It's a riot".
Yeah, a barrel of laughs and just in time for my trip there.
This is why I'm particularly pissed off, if you must know. I am to spend this week in Mexico City and I was hoping I could enjoy seeing my family and friends and eating my favorite foods without all this crap.
I guess I should arm myself, like the defeños, with a shrug the size of Texas and endless patience. Where I'll find it, I don't know.
Yours truly has a bad lower back.
I had managed to keep my discomfort to a minimum until recently, when I don't know what (sitting too much in a bad chair, a new pair of boots, beats me) triggered some moderate lower back pain again.
I am very frustrated because it took me about a year and a half to control it and now I'm back to the beginning. So I went to a new doctor. I had to change all my doctors because of my new insurance. (That is a longer kvetch best reserved for another day).
So I tell this new doctor I have lower back pain. He tells me he is going to give me a muscle relaxant and something stronger than Advil. Then he suggests I have a diagnostic test that consists on giving me electric shocks in the legs. He doesn't really explain why, to find out if there is nerve damage, I believe, and he doesn't bother explaining to me what to expect. A nurse administers the test. The shocks are relatively painful, some like sharp jabs, others like burning jabs. Very unpleasant. If these minor shocks are so painful, imagine when they are increased and used to torture people. Or to burn them to a crisp in a chair. The test was useful to me to imagine a situation of torture.
In Mexico City, in Garibaldi Square, people like to hire a guy who has these two charged cylinders and everybody holds hands and an electric current passes from person to person while the guy increases the voltage until people can't bear the shock anymore. Why people find this amusing I will never fathom.
The test takes a while. The nurse leaves me alone with the machine pinching my legs hard for a while. When it's over, they leave me alone in the room and then after a long while the doctor comes in and triumphantly announces that there is nothing wrong with my nerves. Well, I sort of knew that without the shock treatment, but thank you. Without as much as asking where it hurts, or touching my back, he gives me two prescriptions, for the "thing stronger than Advil" and the muscle relaxant. I assume the first is an anti-inflammatory. It turns out it's a painkiller, a synthetic opiate that can cause dependency and a host of other alarming side effects (I checked it on WebMD). Both caution they cause drowsiness, not to use machinery, no alcohol, etc. I take the muscle relaxant before going to sleep and sure enough soon I feel nicely relaxed and I conk out. Except in the morning, I can't get up. I am completely groggy and almost disoriented. The muscle is certainly relaxed but the rest of me is pretty useless for the rest of the day. Then I try the pain killer, which is what I'm on while I write this. I feel a bit spaced out, I keep hitting the wrong keys on the board and the pain is still there, albeit less. But now my skin itches.
Meanwhile, yesterday I went out on my bike for an hour and of course when I dismounted I was in pain, so I iced the region and took two Advil. Advil works like a charm.
So the moral of this story is: I don't know if I want to take these drugs, but they'll come in handy in case I need to kill myself.
Are certain countries constitutionally incapable of not living in tyranny? Take a look at Russia. After the Tsars came the communists and after them, Putin, who is a tyrant just like everybody else before him.
I find it interesting to see that the free market economy has turned Russia into an world class exporter of prostitutes and lapdancers, a haven for a powerful, murderous mafia, their legendary penchant for corruption is not only undiminished but growing, and there is a new class of nouveau riche Russians unleashing an epidemic of bad taste around the world.
We had grander expectations for the USSR after the fall of communism. We are very disappointed.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
I like my gym.
1. It couldn't be any closer to my house, which is why I go there.
2. It's pretty low key, at least at the hours I go -- which are freelancer hours, when the gym is mostly empty. That is probably the reason why I like it so much, the lack of people.
3. The members are mostly homely. Only a couple of tall girls with flat tummies and excellent legs, not too many built up guys; lots of regular people with paunches, cellulite, short, ugly, old, etc. So I feel good about myself, like you are supposed to when you go to a gym.
But there is always something, or rather someone annoying:
There is a creepy guy who not only grunts and huffs and sighs, he does that while stretching on the mat, lifting nada. He looks like Lee Harvey Oswald. He tends to want to start conversations with women who are also stretching on the mat. It is obvious he doesn't talk to men and he tries to call attention to himself with the weird noises he makes. Icky predatory loser. He talked to me once and I was polite bordering on rude; that is, I answered the minimum required, putting on the best unfriendly face I could muster and continued working out so he could take the hint to leave me the hell alone. He has not pestered me anymore, but when I see him, I avoid him. The other day, a very good looking girl had a too polite conversation with him, as she stretched out. Of course, he wouldn't let her be, sticking to her like the goo on a snail. Then he gave her his phone number. Eeek!
There is a woman who shows up with a Fendi or some such horrific expensive bag and a fur trimmed leather jacket, as if she was going to the casino in Montecarlo, but with sweats. She leaves her all her shit sprawled around the treadmill, as if she was in her own home. Creep.
There is a guy who has not gotten the memo that there is such a thing as exercise clothes. He does his stuff wearing jeans with a belt and a button down shirt and sometimes sneakers, sometimes moccassins, sometimes Timberland booties. Go figure.
Then there are the people who talk on the phone while on the treadmill. I leave my cellphone at home. The point of the gym is to exercise, thereby relaxing from the pressures of the world outside. Or am I wrong?
Then there are the trainers. They may be the nicest, smartest people; in which case, my apologies, but most of them look really shmucky to me. There is one trainer girl who wears her hair like Pebbles Flintstone (something that only looks good on a 2 year-old) and chews gum distractedly while her trainees do the reps. You can tell she is bored out of her wits, as she chews like a cow out to pasture, so I can't imagine that she instills a lot of motivation on her charges. There is a bald, beefy guy with a goatee who just mills around doing absolutely nothing. He gives me the creeps.
I will not talk about those who seem entirely professional because that is boring.
But I have noticed that gym employees for the most part have verbissener ponims (fart faces for short) and can barely be counted on to give you a nice good morning greeting. I'm sure they get paid accordingly.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
• People who drive really noisy motorcycles.
• People who drive in Manhattan.
• People who stand in the door on the subway and don't move out of the way.
• People who bump into you because they have forgotten they are wearing a backpack the size of Wyoming.
• People who litter.
• Men who pee on the street.
• People who don't pick up their dog's poop.
• Homeless people who upend trash cans.
• Rats and roaches.
• The clearance sale at Tower Records, where they think a cd's regular price is $20. No wonder they're closing.
• Duane Reade.
• Women who wear bangs, a skirt, pants and cowboy boots all at the same time (happens in Williamsburg a lot).
• Marc Jacobs clothes. The frumpy housedress guaranteed to make you look like a retard.
• People who love cupcakes (I'm afraid they are the same people who love Marc Jacobs clothes).
• Amy Sedaris. I. Don't. Get. It.
• Overpriced cafés with snotty attitude, terrible service and mediocre food:
Bouchon Bakery at that monstrosity at Columbus Circle; Centovini on Houston St.
• Bad service.
• Rudeness by fellow civilians.
•Why do I get junk mail from Lord & Taylor?
• Still getting mail for people who died 15 years ago.
• Goddammit, people: it's not habañero, it's habanero.
• Dick Cheney.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
It looks like she may cop a plea. I say, off with her head already. Why is she still roaming around free, attacking people with cell phones?
On Monday, another maid, Gaby Gibson, filed a 35-page amended law suit against Campbell calling the British model a "violent super bigot."
Gibson alleges that Campbell poked fun at her broken English and yelled at Gibson because of her Romanian heritage, saying, 'You are not in the Third World any more, stupid."
Campbell was arrested in London last month over separate assault allegations.
The Sun tabloid reported the catwalk star was arrested for allegedly scratching her drugs counselor in her face, citing an unnamed source.
In 2000, she pleaded guilty in a Canadian court to assaulting another assistant, Georgina Galanis, while shooting a movie two years earlier.
Galanis had accused the model of grabbing her by the throat and hitting her on the head, also with a telephone.
I had a fantasy that I was the judge, (and the jurors and the prosecutor) and I made her pay for her unspeakable, recidivist behavior by sending her to a maximum security prison to be picked on by highly dangerous female inmates from the Third World and homegrown. Let's see if she is so tough in the slammer.
Then I saw myself at the jury selection process (oh, what goes through an idle mind...)
The defense attorney asks me:
Do you have anything against supermodels?
Well, besides the fact that they make too much money by putting one gorgeous, if underfed leg in front of the other, and take the wind out of my sails whenever I pass one down the street, and they can have all the cocaine they want and get rewarded for it, and except for a few shining exceptions they allow people to treat them like cattle, and they perpetuate the notion that women are objects for male consumption, no, I have nothing against them (except I wish they gain a lot of weight or die of anorexia, whichever comes first).
So would you be able to judge Ms. Campbell impartially and be fair minded?
Hell, no. I hate the byotch.
I don't want to disable my cookies, because things don't work when you do, but so far, for instance, in my email account I always get ads from the US Army in Arabic asking for people who speak the language to join. I assume it's because they think my name is Arabic. When I joined Netflix, at the beginning I would get only Bollywood recommendations, which flummoxed me, because I'm not a great fan of Bombay musicals in general. I figured that they thought my name was very exotic and Indian sounding. Now it's much better.
So is this new Blogger some kind of sinister ploy to hack on my private life or am I unduly paranoid?
The only reason why they have any interest in Israel is because they believe Jesus is coming back to establish his second kingdom on Earth there. In preparation for his return, everybody is supposed to turn into a Christian. Jews, as I have said before in these pages, are the most prized potential converts to Christianity for these people. Jews for Jesus is nothing but a Christian right organization devoted to evangelize Jews and turn them into goyim. We need them like a "loch in kop". Like a hole in the head.
Now, these are the same people who want to establish Christian prayer in public schools here, regardless of whether there are Jewish or other children at school who may not want to pray to Jesus. These are the same people who somewhere in Maryland told a Jewish family who complained about Christian coercion at school, that if they didn't like it they could leave, that America was a Christian nation. The Jewish children, who had recently moved from somewhere else, were taunted and called names. So don't for a minute think that these people, who think worse than neanderthals, have our best interests at heart. They are the worst possible friends we could have. We tend to welcome friends because we think we have none. Our preconditioned, knee-jerk reaction to welcome friends no matter how despicable they are is not helpful.
Right now it is not in the best interest of Israel not to have a comprehensive policy towards the solution of the unholy mess with the Palestinians. The US government should be forcing Israel and the other interested parties to sit down and find a workable solution. This, in the interest of the safety of the entire world. Instead, it lets Israel do whatever it pleases and the amelioration of the conflict is nowhere in sight.
Israel has every right to defend itself from those who want its demise. But if it is to survive, it needs to relinquish the Occupied Territories. The US, Europe, Israel and the ultra-rich Arab cynical as hell oil countries, need to create an infrastructure for the Palestinian state to work. Given what we've seen with the sectarian violence and general chaos of the Muslim world, it sounds easier said than done, but the first thing we need is to find is political will. Diplomats should be feverishly working to create, encourage and amass the political will needed to start solving this problem. Israel, who, so far, seems the only one of the participants to have taken some steps in that direction (Oslo accords, withdrawal from Gaza, etc) will not be able to be the modern, legitimate democracy it is supposed to be if it continues the occupation. The solution is not easy and it demands commitment from all sides, something that has not been in evidence at all from the Palestinian or the Arab side.
What we don't need, no matter how good it looks, is the crazyass help from the Evangelicals, which will only help to further radicalize the region. The Christian right has a dogmatic, unprogressive, and very particular agenda of their own, and they could not care less about the Jews in the long run.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Yesterday night, however, I was ornery and depressed already so I decided to channel surf from Channel 2 to channel Fourhundredandwhatever to see what I would find.
Now I know why I don't watch TV, except for Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report and Rescue Me, when I can find it. (I also like The Sopranos, Entourage, Big Love and Weeds, but those are not really TV).
In any case, some of my findings included an inane and shockingly vulgar reality show about mega-expensive real estate, 90210 M.D. an appalling "reality" show about brainless, clueless ditzes who want to have plastic surgery and the creepy doctors who oblige; House, which according to the critics is a marvel but to me it is no better than any other stupid hospital show on TV where they throw medical jargon at you with quizzical looks until you are dizzy, (poor Hugh Laurie who is crying all the way to the bank while seriously underusing his talent). And then I caught this chilling documentary on HBO called Hacking Democracy about the horrific, fraudulent way in which elections are conducted in this country.
People, you have to see this film. It will make the hairs on the back of your head stand on end.
Basically, the people who decide the machines that are used are the vendors who provide the machines, and who in turn contribute campaign donations to the running parties. This should not be kosher, right? Well, nobody cares. Worse of all, Diebold, who provided both machines and contributions to the elections in Ohio that were stolen by Bush in 2000, apparently manufactures memory cards that can be accessed and manipulated, so the results are false.
Now, I have never understood why elections aren't federally supervised, which would mean that the entire country has to adopt the same voting machines everywhere. In my opinion, these should be paper ballots or something that leaves a hard copy trace that can be manually counted. It is absurd, dangerous and insane that some states have chits, and others levers and others evil Hal 2000 spawn miscounting votes.
Why are certain things that seem obvious to the people, so difficult to reform?
Reform campaign contribution laws. Get rid of the electoral college. Standardize voting machines. Is this too much to ask? New Congress? Huh?
Monday, November 13, 2006
New York rats are probably miffed that there is one human being per each seven of them. They must think we are encroaching upon their turf with increasing alacrity.
One of my neighbors, meanwhile, asks me if I have mice, because she does and she is on the 22nd floor! The diabolical construction taking place on Houston St is causing the rodent inhabitants of Noho to seek asylum chez nous. I'm not a happy camper.
When I moved to New York, it did not cross my mind that I would have rats as my neighbors. I know that all big cities have vermin but I thought that NY, being the self-appointed Center Of The Universe, could surely control its rat population. I was wrong.
It may be a symptom of getting older, but NYC is getting on my nerves more and more each day. I, who was for many years a staunch despiser of suburbia; I, who have lived in big, chaotic cities for most of my life and who loves treading asphalt, I'm almost ready to throw in the towel. And this scares me, because the prospect of living in a house in the middle of the woods where you need to travel a mile by car to get some milk is petrifying.
But New York is becoming way obnoxious.
• As I stood in the platform and saw the rat, I thought: Well, if I live in a house in the woods, I will come across deer and bears and racoons and all kinds of things that fly and buzz and spiders and maybe snakes. But not rats. It's, for the very first time in my life, a thought.
• The noise in this city has reached apocalyptic proportions. I'm always threatening to send Bloomberg a letter, but I swear there should be a serious campaign to reduce noise in this town. You can't hear yourself think. Restaurants are huge offenders. Has anybody ever thought of the concept of a quiet meal? Taxi cabs; my fantasy is to own a dart gun and shoot every driver that honks. Trucks are deafening. Construction noise is unbearable and relentless.
As I have said before, if I were mayor, I would discourage the use of motor vehicles as much as possible and would encourage the use of bicycles. The nuttiness of some of the bike advocates notwithstanding, NY is potentially a perfect place for bicycles as a primary mean of transportation. People who need to come into the city with their cars should pay a hefty toll, like they do in London. I am sick of the traffic and the noise.
• WTF with the building boom? How many people can afford 1 bedroom apartments that are almost a million dollars? And most of the new buildings look like shit!
• I didn't think I would ever say it, but the cutification of New York is starting to piss me off. I do not complain about the city being quite safe, (that I can walk home by myself in the wee hours is something I cherish) and more livable than ever, but there has to be a limit to pharmacy chains and nail salons. We now feel like a huge suburb.
• When are we ever going to be less filthy? When are people going to stop throwing garbage on the streets? When are we going to have better garbage collection services? Perhaps if we disposed of our garbage better we wouldn't be so inviting to rats.
I am cranky.
I'm thinking L.A., people. No, I have even caught myself thinking upstate. That's how bad it's gotten.
Here's my list (not in order of preference):
1. Some Like it Hot. Billy Wilder
2. The 40 Year Old Virgin. Jude Apatow
3. The Laurel and Hardy collection (since we're talking DVD's, we can).
4. Big Deal on Madonna St. Mario Monicelli
5. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Pedro Almodovar
6. Love and Death. Woody Allen
7. The Buster Keaton Collection
8. Monty Python's Life of Brian.
9. A Fish Called Wanda. Charles Crichton
10. Amarcord. Federico Fellini.
Oh, but there are so many more...
Many times, when we are trying to make a commercial funny, which is a difficult task, because humor is quite subjective, and it tends to desert people who are paying for commercials once the cameras start rolling, I mention the word deadpan as an example of what I'm looking for, only to find that many people don't know what it means and I don't know how to describe it. Usually, all I can say is: Bill Murray, but that doesn't quite do the trick, since Mr. Murray is not only deadpan, but usually cranky and morose and as much as I love these qualities, they may not be the qualities that clients most appreciate in a commercial (upbeat, and/or uplifting are what they love). So, luckily, from the New York Times, here's Bob Balaban, to the rescue:
How to Do a Deadpan
Bob Balaban, actor
Deadpan: a vaudeville term coined in the 1920s to describe a comic with an expressionless face, pan being slang for face, and dead being dead. Think
Jack Benny. Buster Keaton. Christopher Guest. Deadpan is the double take without the take, the mysterious, hysterically funny nothing.
In “Steamboat Bill Jr.,” Buster Keaton walks into a neighborhood that has been devastated by a cyclone. He stops in front of a house. The house begins to fall. Keaton, of course, is unaware of it. The shot is wide enough for you to know that Keaton is really there and that the house is really falling. Audiences reportedly shouted: “Look out! Look out!” at the movie screen during this sequence. The house falls, the audience gasps, the dust rises, and when it clears, there is Keaton, expressionless, standing in the safety of an open attic window that has fallen around him. He walks away as if nothing has happened to him. That’s major deadpan.
Here are some rules for deadpan:
1. This thing works better the less you do. You could actually be dead and get pretty good results. Lowercase yourself — clear your mind, silence your inner voices, disappear, be nothing. Don’t forget, nothing can be really something. An accomplished deadpan can create a force field akin to a black hole.
2. Don’t act. Deadpan is, by definition, the antithesis of acting. Deadpan allows the audience to imagine your reaction. You are the ultimate Rorschach test. You are
Peter Sellersin “Being There.”
3. Like the proverbial dark gray suit, deadpan is appropriate for almost every occasion. It’s the way to go whether you are on the receiving end of spoonfuls of baby food thrown by a peckish infant, or in a speedboat and the female bass player to whom you have just proposed takes off her wig and tells you she’s a man, or if you are about to have a house fall on you.
4. And this is an absolute absolute — do not comment on the deadpan. The audience must never know that you know a house has fallen on you. You are not in on the joke, and the audience will love you for it. They will feel superior. Let them.
Doing nothing is not for everyone. A great deadpan is a rara avis. But who knows? In the brave new world of Botox and Restalane, today’s
Jim Carreymay become tomorrow’s master of the expressionless expression.
Friday, November 10, 2006
• Britney and K-Fed
And that stupid-ass musical The Times They Are A Changing on Broadway.
Excuse me, but from the first moment I heard it mentioned as a notion, I thought it was the stupidest idea I've ever heard, as offensive as Springtime for Hitler, but with far less possibilities of success.
Why? Why would anybody think that Bob Dylan songs set to tacky dancers is something that works on a stage?
It is what my friend Orlando Leal calls "Inventicide". A suicidal invention. An idea so bad, everybody knows it's suicidal but they go ahead and do it anyway, only to confirm it sucks.
I never saw the Dylan show but I hate it for everything it stands for and I knew it was going to blow.
Why? The Billy Joel show was a piece of revolting crap, and I am being kind. I confess I saw it because I had friends from out of town and that's what they chose. I want to sue the critics who liked it for cruel and unusual punsihment and causing me mental anguish and painful embarrassment I have not been able to shake since. I don't know what they were smoking. Yet Billy Joel at least has enough of a tacky quotient to work on Broadway, for a Broad crowd with a Broad common denominator. Bob Dylan is another story.
Now, as much as I admire some of Dylan's music and his genius, it is pretty clear that the guy is an asshole. So if he can sell his music to sell Victoria's Secret bras and should not expect us to have a conniption about that, he must have thought wtf, I'll just whore myself out wholesale on Broadway.
Why, Bob? Need the money? Didn't you see what the freakishly overrated Miss Tharp did to poor Billy Joel?
Except for the heroic working stiffs who had to make this clunker work every night, I hope everybody else involved in this idiotic show lost their shirts. They deserve financial ruin.
There are no refugees in sight in the ad. You see Americans, adults and children, mostly white, reading first hand testimony of atrocities in Darfur. It works. But even if it didn't, one cannot remain indifferent to Darfur.
I urge you to visit the website, learn about the problem, contact your representative, donate:
Now, on the Save Darfur website there is a useful introduction to the problem, so we know why the place is such a disaster. However, I guess in the interest of not sounding too political or biased, they neglect to say that the Janjaweed, the marauding murderers who are committing the atrocities and who are sponsored and abetted by the Sudanese government are Muslims and they are killing other Muslims.
We can call on our congresspeople and senators and Bush all we want, but Muslim nations should also be part of the solution. Who better than them to pressure the Sudanese government to stop the genocide? Somehow, the gazillionaire, oil-rich Muslim countries seem quite unconcerned with the fate of their fellow Muslims in Darfur.
We could celebrate Virginia's win til there's no tomorrow. And we shall.
But since it's Friday, we are going to talk about El Emperador Elias, a favorite Dominican joint of mine on Broadway in Williamsburg. Why? Because it is important that you know that there is such a joint in this town. And it is even more important that you fight to the death the ridiculous notion that the city is going to ban transfats from restaurants. If they do that, as this piece in The New Yorker points out, that will be the anihilation of good food in this city. THIS CAN'T HAPPEN.
Until recently, as you got off the J train in Marcy Ave (yes, the J, get over it) and walked towards Peter Luger on Broadway, you walked by a pretty crummy storefront where you saw the usual yummy stuff swimming in grease. As you entered, mesmerized by the very good looking roast chicken and its attendant aromas, you realized you were in some sort of Mesopotamian temple with Greek influences that happens to serve Dominican food. The decor of the place is worth the stop, even if you are a vegan. This is one greasy spoon with imperial pretensions. Hence the name.
Well, they have spiffed up the storefront with a shiny new display case, meticulously Windexed, showing yummy stuff still swimming in grease.
Luckily, they have left the Mesopotamian-Egyptian-Nero's-Rome-by-way-of-the-Flintstones decor quite intact.
There are several worthy reasons to patronize Emperador Elias:
• The roast chicken is moist and delicious, the rice and beans are great and the rest of the food looks really good too.
• The waitresses call you "mami" (or papi), "corazón" or "mi amor".
• They have mofongo, the gastronomic plutonium bomb.
• For $16 you get a whole roast chicken, a huge container of excellent rice (white or yellow), a big container of fantastic red beans (miraculously non-flatulent, I might add), a generous side order of sweet plantains, aka "maduros " and a 2 liter bottle of Pepsi. Screw Peter Luger.
Also, because everything is ready in 2 minutes but for some reason you have to wait for the maduros like three hours, the man behind the counter, who I assume is Emperor Elias Jr., gave me a freebie (Greek coffee) cup of chicken noodle soup while I waited. He also hit on me big time. I noticed he didn't offer no freebie to the guy before me.
In any case, here's our seductive repartee, conducted in Spanish, and translated for your enjoyment:
- What is the lovely girl from el DF gonna want tonight?
- How did you know I'm from el DF?
- I hear the accent, mami.
I place my order.
- And your husband, he from Mexico?, he asks, utterly certain about my marital status. I realize now that this is a ploy to make me think he respects me so much, I must be married.
In the interest of self-preservation, I answer:
- No, he's from here.
He makes a dissappointed face. Like a sad clown in a velvet painting.
- White or "moreno"? (meaning Black).
- You don't like morenos?
- I like everything, but I just happened to like him.
- And how long you been married?
- 14 years.
- How many children?
- Not a one.
- Your husband is lazy. Does he have children?
- No. None that I know of.
This makes him laugh.
- And what do you do here, mami?
- I write commercials.
- Oh, you are a very intelligent young woman.
To the waitress:
- So where are the maduros for this child from Guadalajara?
- I'm not from Guadalajara, I'm from el DF.
- Oh. They're not the same?
Emperador Elias has something called Mexican Corner on the menu. Don't go there.
Otherwise, Emperador Elias is on Broadway and Marcy. Williamsburg.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
The Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography said the film could offend some viewers and contained material that "might seem disparaging in relation to certain ethnic groups and religions," according to Vadim Ivanov, theatrical sales director at Twentieth Century Fox C.I.S.
Perhaps it reflects them all too well.
I'm sure that a lot of conservative people had a heart attack, but the illegality of discriminating against somebody over their sexual orientation is incontrovertible and unfair and morally, legally and ethically wrong. So bravo to the assemblypeople who made it happen. Perhaps the rest of the country can follow suit.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Now that we are all so happy celebrating the midterms, let's not get too carried away. Because I'm pretty sure soon we are going back to business as usual in Washington. I just hope that the Democrats remember why we put them there and they do what we expect them to.
Nancy Pelosi, who for some people is like the Antichrist, is what some disparagingly call "a San Francisco Liberal". I think that's a neat thing to be and instead of it being some kind of insult, she should wear the distinction proudly. People are afraid that she is too radical:
The Republicans have already sought to play on conservative voters' fears by portraying her as the embodiment of everything they dislike most about the Democrats, with campaign ads suggesting she will raise taxes, help illegal immigrants and back same-sex marriage. ALL OF WHICH I AM IN FAVOR OF.
Meanwhile, for many within her party she represents a new hope that the Democrats can make their mark after a decade on the fringes of power.
In campaign speeches, Ms Pelosi has been setting out an agenda for the first 100 hours of a Democrat-led House. On the list are:
- bringing in rules to break links between lobbyists and legislation YEY!
- enacting all the 9/11 Commission recommendations YEY!
- raising the minimum wage YEY!
- expanding stem cell research YEY!
She has, however, ruled out attempting to impeach President George W Bush, as some in her party have suggested. BOO!
There are those within the Democrat camp who question whether she may prove too liberal for the moderates they hope to win over in the mid-term elections.
Democrats who think she is too liberal are cowards. I thought that her views are what the Democratic party is supposed to stand for and they are the only reason why I am a registered Democrat, although I'm telling you, every election I feel like registering as an independent, it's so depressing.
I think Karl Rove, Rummy and Cheney should be hanged for treason to this country. They could be good company for Saddam.
Still, at least we have the comfort that the people spoke and Bush had no choice but to do something about it, even though until before yesterday he had no intention of changing anything. The putz.
By the way, if you are having a conniption over Daniel Ortega winning in Nicaragua, you can blame the Bush administration. It is not a coincidence that so many south of the border nations are leaning left (Chavez, Lula, Evo, Kirchner, Bachelet and now Ortega). Inequality and poverty are rampant in Latin America and so is the US indifference to it. Obviously, the US is not only not providing any guidance or solidarity or even a perspective, it has basically abandoned any semblance of coherent, constructive foreign policy in it's own backyard. The building of a wall with Mexico does not help matters. The standing of the US in the world is at it's lowest possible nadir, and so these left-leaning choices are a reflection of this. Hopefully, things may change a bit with the new congress (don't get your hopes too high).
I once heard Comandante Daniel Ortega speak in Mexico City, aeons ago, sometime in the late 80's.
I was dragged there by a friend.
In the mold of his hero, Fidel, Ortega spoke numbingly, excrutiatingly for about two hours about nothing that was remotely connected to reality. He suffered from the kind of diarrhea of the mouth that afflicts leftist revolutionary leaders who have a penchant for fatigues (and for fatiguing their audiences with cliches). Not that I expected much, but he managed to disappoint me deeply.
Santorum is out, (which brought out a huge ovation at the Daily Show) Ohio is won, Kathleen Harris, the Florida Monster, is out too. There is so much to rejoice about... I don't know yet if the Dems got the 15 seats they needed to take control, but last I heard they had 12. Way to go.
Note to Bush: the fact that you are stupid doesn't mean this entire nation is stupider than you.
Perhaps now you will fire Rummy, not out of conviction, but to save some face, you disgraceful turd.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Imagine a regular conversation between neighbors or relatives, but instead of talking about the sins normal people commit (cheating, boozing, taking up smoking again, being a bulimic, not taking the garbage out), this was about criminal activity. Someone's seventy year-old mother got sent to jail because her sons were hiding the drugs in the house and the bastards let her take the rap, the poor woman. Then the guy recounts his many experiences with the lawless and gives the young girl a lesson on criminal ethics. "If I am carrying a revolver and you don't know and then you become an accessory, it's wrong for me not to tell you; but if you know it and you still want to stick around, well then that's your problem." Then he describes to her somebody who was knifed. "You should have seen how they left him, sister", he says, "any place where he didn't think he was going to get stabbed, they stabbed him." Our Eliza Doolitle doesn't bat an eye.
Then our Pygmalion here expounds at length about the reasons he got sent to jail several times, yet somehow he never had anything to do with it. The first time, he was just standing there; the second time, he got in with the wrong crowd; the third time, he swears by the most holy he had no idea, etc.
This, by the way, is not whispered discreetly as a shared secret. I was sitting two rows away and heard it loud and clear.
I'm sure you can think of many better ways, but I was very happy to visit this very working class neighborhood I had never set foot on.
It wasn't a very thorough tour, but I was able to identify at least one amazing restaurant I intend to go back to. The place in question is called Restaurante La Isla and it really is a counter where you can eat fabulous Dominican food at even more fabulous prices. Beef stew with plenty of rice and beans is five bucks. They have incredible roasted chicken and very moist, good looking pernil. They also sell the digestible plutonium bomb better known as Mofongo, which is mashed green plantains with pork rinds and tons of garlic. You eat one of those babies and three weeks later you are still trying to digest it. Needless to say, it is super yummy. For those in need of an urgent hangover cure, they have tripe soup, which I refuse to eat, but which looked fit to raise the dead. And for those who want to meet their maker a tad earlier, they have all sorts of fried stuff: cuchifritos, empanadas, alcapurrias, etc. At least you'll die a happy man, with some savings, to boot: the big beef empanada sets you back one buck.
The reason I need to go back to La Isla was that, incredibly, I didn't eat there, for I found myself with a bit of an upset stomach and didn't deem it prudent to run the risk of having the runs in the middle of Bushwick. That was the reason why yesterday was the first and probably last time in my life I've ever been happy to run into a very big and gleaming Burger King (I was in dire need of a bathroom). I didn't eat there either, but I must say it was almost the size of an airplane hangar, which is sad.
When in Bushwick, I recommend you cross the street and go to La Isla instead. Cheaper and better.
Bushwick is a mixed neighborhood of Blacks and Latinos. Myrtle St was very lively, with lots of beauty supply places furnishing hair extensions and the like, lots of little Mexican dives, Colombian and Dominican eateries, lots of tiny evangelical churches with weirdo names, etc.
I love exploring Brooklyn, because in contrast to Manhattan, it still retains some authenticity. We ended up in Bed Stuy, which is gentrifying, not necessarily a good thing, and also strolled around Clinton Hill, which is a beautiful neighborhood and apparently becoming very expensive (so what else is new?). Then we walked through the Satmar Hassidic planet in Williamsburg where I found once more the posters warning people in Yiddish about the Marathon that runs right through it. The warning in essence says that foolish men, women and children run half naked through the streets and foolish goyim stand and gawk at them. The warning is for the Hassidic men to stand clear of the streets on Marathon day so they don't see women running around with bare limbs and wild hair.
The little girls, however, are allowed to watch and some of them even give water to the runners.
When the runners hit that stretch of Williamsburg, they are greeted by silent Hassidic women and extremely thin crowds. It is eerie. But then right before they cross into Hipsterdom, there is a little Dominican stretch that makes up for the Hassidic stillness with the biggest racket they can muster. And believe me, they can muster. They have stereo-surround sound Merengue blasting and people screaming and everything gets back to semi-normal. Then the running throngs hit Hipsterville, where people cheer them on. And this is why I love New York.
Friday, November 03, 2006
The problem with Haggard is not that he is gay, but that he is a creep, a liar and a man who manipulates people into giving him money to build churches that look like football stadiums, but with less charm and even less real spirituality. According to Jesus Camp, he also talks to President Bush once a week. So there you have it.
This comes at a very good time; one week before the elections that are really meant to wrest political control away from the far right. I hope that, despite my friends' protestations to the contrary, conservative church going-people in America are not this massively, overwhelmingly stupid and must be sick of the hypocrisy and the imbecilic agenda of these people. I hope they show it at the voting booths.
Then we can all worry about that computer voting machines are going to have the election stolen from under the Democrats once more. Or that the Democrats still have less than a week, which is plenty of time, to fuck it up. They've been trying hard.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
So Bush and the Republicans are having a field day dumping on Kerry's remarks, but they are forgetting that what he is saying, in essence is true. There are many smart, educated soldiers in the Army. But it is also true that the Army seeks recruits among those who cannot afford a higher education. Somebody who has the resources to go to college, excuse me but what business do they need from the Army? Everybody knows that the US Army is mostly made up of the underprivileged of this country risking their lives for those who can afford not to. I say bring back the draft NOW, and make every eighteen year-old son and daughter of America, rich or poor, join the military, and you'll see how our enthusiasm for war gets greatly diminished in no time.
Measured against German, French and Italian youngsters, British 15-year-olds are drunk more often and involved in more fights, and a higher proportion have had sex. The institute says young Britons are marked out by how they spend their free time.
In England, 45% of 15-year-old boys spend most evenings out with their friends, and in Scotland the figure is 59%.
In France just 17% of boys spend their time in the same way.
On the other hand, European teenagers tend to sit down for meals with their parents far more often.
Some 93% of Italian teenagers eat regularly with their families; in the UK just 64% of 15-year-olds do the same.
Now, let's do some reading between the lines. Of course, Italian kids sit down for dinner. They eat Italian food!
Of course only 17% of French kids are out on the street, instead of eating Beef Bourgignon at home. If I was a British kid and had to eat fish fingers and peas every night (or worse), I'd probably get drunk too.