Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Stop that Cab!

I'm glad to know I am not the only one that hates the new taxi logos. They are godawful. This city has some of the best design firms on Earth and this is what we get?

Two different typefaces of different sizes, both ghastly. And why circle the T? Horrible. Contemptible.
The Times asked readers to create their own designs and except for a couple of clunkers, they are all way better than the new one.
Here are my faves:

Now, this wouldn't be New York if we were all not bitching about it. That is why we live here.
For instance, some genius decided to paint psychedelic flowers with garish day-glo colors on the hoods of the cabs. Apparently it's related to a charity. Like we give a shit. Refreshingly, every single person I have talked to seems to be deeply disgusted by the flowers. Indeed, the flowers suck. They suck because New York is not yet, despite Mayor Bloomberg's best efforts, a day glo kind of town. We resist flowerification and daygloification and badlogoification. We are unable to resist duanereadeification and dunkindonutsification and nailsalonization, and bankbranchification and ridiculously expensive and pretentious condoification, but that's because of market forces and market forces, unfortunately, are our middle name, and probably the potential for our own well-deserved demise.
I am deeply disturbed, for instance, by the fact that we are not wearing black as much as we used to, in the glory days of crime and crackheads. Now we all look like we belong in a mall in Podunk on a sunny day.
It's terrible.

Elmer Fudd or Satan?

You decide.

Spitzer is a Schvitzer*

I have been following Gov. Spitzer's sensible idea of allowing illegals to have a driver's license in New York State with interest because I was counting the seconds in which hysteria, xenophobia and politics would rear their ugly heads and the plan would come to a screeching halt. About a second and a half is all it took. I guess it is naive of us to expect a good idea to stick, when everything is politics and when the Republicans upstate will do anything to discredit the Governor, regardless of whether he has the best interests of all the citizens at stake. The New York Times gives Spitzer hell for backing down today, and rightly so. He should not have proposed instead a stupid, messy, unfair, ridiculous alternative, which of course, was welcomed with open arms by the Department of Homeland Security, a freaking fiasco, if there ever was one.
Nothing ever gets done in this State. Who votes for people like Joe Bruno? Why are those ancient power hoggers like him still entrenched in Albany? We need to clean Albany up!

*A schvitzer in yiddish is literally someone who sweats buckets, but it's used to describe people who are all talk but no action.

Bad Product Awards

According to HispanicAd.com,
The world federation of consumer organizations, Consumers International (CI) today announced the winners of the International Bad Product Awards....

This year’s winners* are:

Coca-Cola – for continuing the international marketing of its bottled water, Dasani, despite admitting it comes from the same sources as local tap water.

Kellogg’s – for the worldwide use of cartoon-type characters and product tie-ins aimed at children, despite high levels of sugar and salt in their food products.

Mattel – for stonewalling US congressional investigations and avoiding overall responsibility for the global recall of 21 million products.

With the overall prize going to:

Takeda Pharmaceuticals – for taking advantage of poor US regulation and advertising sleeping pills to children, despite health warnings about pediatric use.

Very evil indeed, but certainly not so absolutely horrifying as everything else we buy that comes in a box. Kellogg's and Coca Cola are not the only companies who do those evil deeds. Every mainstream cereal marketer is guilty of same. Those companies just get picked on because they are bigger.

Here are my nominees:

• The entire cosmetic industry for exaggerating anti-ageing, anti-cellulite, anti-rot and decay benefits that are completely false. And charging over a hundred dollars for a jar of cream that probably has the same benefits as a tub of Jergens. The other day I was milling around at Sephora and I tried one of those extreme collagen lip plumpers, hoping that my Kenneth Branagh lips would immediately transform themselves into Amanda Lepore's. All I got was a nasty minty taste and mild burning.

• The makers of SUVs, particularly the Hummer. Wherefore? Why?

• Food companies that come up with crap like soups on-the-go and cereal bars "with milk". Because we don't have time to park our beleaguered asses down for a freaking bowl of food, we're so busy working so we can afford to buy all your other crap.

• The makers of energy bars. That shit is loaded with calories and it tastes like compost.

• The makers of cold remedies. They make you feel better for a while and then your snot comes back with a vengeance.

• Airlines, particularly American carriers. They all stink.

•Most hair care products have so many chemicals, they damage your hair. Have you actually read the ingredients of the different shampoos supposed to do different things for different types of hair? They all contain the same crap.

Marketers think we're all suckers and they are not wrong. We let them fool us.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Evita, Isabelita, Cristina

I think it's neat-o that Argentina has voted for a female President. They like dynasties over there (see Peron), and so the Kirchners are one. Cristina Kirchner is supposed to be super smart, and her husband bailed Argentina out from major economic disaster, so let's hope she shines.
It's very interesting to me that in countries where machismo is still rampant, like Chile and Argentina, people vote for female presidents. I don't think this could happen in Mexico, for instance.
I've spent around 20 days visiting Buenos Aires, and my interactions with Argentine machos were of this order.
1. A cabdriver who took us to the Boca neighborhood told us that by no means could we go unaccompanied as two women to a soccer match at Boca stadium. He made it sound like we would be torn apart by packs of wild dogs. We decided not to find out whether he was right.
2. Men on the street ogled, but that is common everywhere in Latin America. They were much more forward than anybody is used to here and they were extremely flirtatious, and sometimes hilarious. We're walking around the Recoleta neighborhood, a tony part of town, as two middle aged men walk by us. One of them turns to us and says:
Excuse me ladies, but do you know how we can go out to Avenida Pueyrredon from here?
No idea.
And how can we go out with you?
Compared to the vulgarities you sometimes hear from oglers, this was like Shakespeare. As Larry David would say, "pretty, pretty good".

So felicidades to all of you gauchos down there. Eat a lot of steak, drink a lot of Malbec, and have a great female president.

My blood boils

Reading in the New York Times about the fates of many of the illegal workers caught in the fires in Southern California, I can't believe people can be so heartless and so exploitative. Let me rephrase that: I can believe it, but it makes me want to scream.
Immigrants from south of the border, many illegal, provide the backbone of menial labor in San Diego, picking fruit, cleaning hotel rooms, sweeping walks and mowing lawns.

The wildfires, one of the biggest disasters to strike the county, exposed their often-invisible existence in ways that were sometimes deadly.

Maybe these fires will do what the hateful rhetoric and the racism and the wall and the stupid policies of this administration have not been able to do (although it is working). Maybe Mexicans will figure out they are not wanted here and they will stop coming. Maybe they will start demanding a better life in their own country. I seriously suggest none of you holds your breath while waiting for this to happen. Mexicans would rather literally go through rings of fire and find dignified work somewhere else, than stand up for their rights in their own country. That they are paid for their hard work, both at home and here, with such callous disregard is tragically unfair, but I wonder when will they finally refocus their energies. To fight hunger, these Mexicans don't beg, they don't steal, they look for work that will feed them.

Ms. Trujillo and others who help the immigrants said they saw several out in the fields as the fires approached and ash fell on them. She said many were afraid to lose their jobs.

“There were Mercedeses and Jaguars pulling out, people evacuating, and the migrants were still working,” said Enrique Morones, who takes food and blankets to the immigrants’ camps. “It’s outrageous.”

Some of the illegal workers who sought help from the authorities were arrested and deported. Opponents of illegal immigration, including civilian border watch groups, seized on news that immigrants had been detained at the Qualcomm Stadium evacuation center as evidence of trouble that illegal immigrants cause.

The Border Patrol also arrested scores of illegal immigrants made visible by the fires.

I know this sounds like a broken record, but I just wish that one day that freaking state would find itself without all the hired help.

Some people have speculated, including on the Web, that immigrants might have set some of the fires, as has occurred with campfires lighted in fields. The authorities have not given any causes linked to immigration.
And why would these people want to do such a thing, when their livelihoods depend on those houses and those gardens? Out of frustration and hatred? That is what people who have a nasty conscience would think.

“San Diego likes its illegal migrants as invisible as possible,” Mr. Cornelius said. “So whenever something happens that calls attention to their presence, it is fodder for the local anti-immigration forces.”

For the immigrants, the fires may have dried up some work. But some speculate on strong work prospects like cleanups. By early afternoon near a heavily damaged neighborhood in the Rancho Bernardo area, four men stood on a corner, waiting for work offers.

“It is a shame what happened,” said a man who gave just his first name, Miguelito. “But we think there will be jobs to clean or build.”

That is right, Miguelito. In New Orleans, after the spectacularly coordinated and efficient services of the federal relief agency, the natives wore t-shirts that said:

FEMA: Find Every Mexican Available.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Jackhammering at 1:15 AM

People, this is official confirmation that this City is bent on making me lose my mind. But at least they're being nice about it.
Yesterday, I'm about to call it a night around 1 am and I realize that there is intense jackhammering activity on my corner. I look at my window and sure enough, there are two guys in bright orange vests ripping up the asphalt, plus there is enough running trucks and machinery to make a toddler insane with joy. I'm like, why are they doing this at 1 AM? Because, like the proverbial dog with an itch down there, they can. So I call 311. And lo and behold, they answer. And a lovely man tells me that indeed construction work may not happen on weekdays after 6 pm. I'm sure however, that the city can drive us all crazy at all hours of the day and night. He then transfers me to the Dept. of Environmental Protection, who, lo and behold, also answers their phone.
I'm from Mexico, which is the reason for all the loing and beholding. Where I come from, they don't answer the phone in broad daylight, let alone at 1 am. And then a miracle. Whether as a complete coincidence or by design, (but not, God forbid, because I had anything to do with it) the jackhammering stops precisely at 1:30 am. Apparently, the construction work continues unabated further up the street. But the demonic drills are quiet.
Me and the poor rats, who are probably scampering all over my building now, uprooted by the unholy noise, can finally go to sleep.


Between news that Paris Hilton's trip to Rwanda was canceled (to the great good fortune of those poor people), and the truly scary new video of Anna Nicole in really disturbing clown makeup, I think it's safe to say that this is ghoul season allright.
Paris Hilton is one of those LA Things I wish We Lost In The Fire (a movie, by the way, which I haven't seen but which I wouldn't piss on if it was on fire).
And as far as Anna Nicole is concerned, I never thought I could feel sorry for her trashy ass, but I stand corrected. She was too dumb to protect herself from a succubus like Howard K. Stern; basically, a man who is very bad for the Jews.

Guilt Trip

Here I am, breezily writing about the expensive real estate being burned to cinders in LA, but today I woke up with the sudden realization (and subsequent pangs of guilt) that I know a bunch of people there and even some in San Diego and that perhaps I should be worrying about them.
I can't promise I will pray for them, like so many of my compatriots, but I certainly hope everybody is well, those I know and those I don't.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Futalognkosaurus is gone...

...and now nobody visits me anymore. :(

As it was posted as a comment by dear reader A.B. Curtiss, and we know how lazy about comments you all are, I'm posting his or her poem in honor of Futalgnkosaurus for posterity right here.
Move over, T.S. Eliot. Get a life, W.H. Auden. Quit your day job, W.B. Yeats:
A.B. Curtiss rules.

Ode to the Futalognkosaurus

By A. B. Curtiss

They now have discovered a new dinosaur.
All the papers were swift to announce it.
It has such a strange name I couldn’t believe
I would ever learn how to pronounce it.

My teacher suggested I make up a song
That used FOO-ta-long-koh-SOHR-us.
And since I wanted to learn it quick
I repeated the name in the chorus.

Eighty million years or more
This creature lived before us.
He stands more than four stories high,
He’s one humungus-saurus.
His length is plus one hundred feet,
Head to posteri-or-us.
He has at least three hundred teeth,
But probably wouldn’t gore us.
Even if he saw us, chances are
He would ignore us.
He’s mainly interested in plants.
Because he’s herbivorous.

This is the song, this is the song
Of the FOO-ta-long-koh-SOHR-us.
The FOO-ta-long, the FOO-ta-long
The FOO-ta-long-koh-SOHR-us.

Katrina v. SoCal

A very useful chart from the New York Times. This says it all.

Where's the fire?

The fact that Bush has gotten off his lazy ass (anatomically, the part where his brains are lodged) and gone racing to California just makes his whole response to Katrina worse, not better. He wouldn't touch the Black residents of New Orleans with a ten foot pole, but he is there in no time for the wealthy of Malibu. No amount of presidential concerned shtick is going to change the fact that he and his administration didn't give a shit about New Orleans, because it was poor and Black. So why fucking bother?
I'm sure that it's not only the rich who have suffered from the fires (it's their maids, gardeners, nannies, etc, too) but it does seem like most of the property affected belongs to wealthy people.
It is mighty interesting to read the readers' comments in the Times. Two idiots saying all they could do is bake cupcakes, makes them prime material for roasting, if you ask me. There are sundry blatantly schadenfreude responses that bring up the real estate market value of homes, completely unconcealed resentment about insurance premiums that are higher for the rest of us because those people choose to live in dangerous ground, contempt for developers that build in zones that always get fires and mudslides, and the inevitable idiots who pray for those in California and use words like tragedy, holocaust and Hiroshima. The penchant for overblown sentimentality in this country is getting way out of hand.
But surely, every year there is either a mudslide or a fire. What gives?

Tex Shmex

Being a Big Enchilada, I am a huge snob when it comes to Mexican food. I truly resent when people think Tex Mex is Mexican food, 'cause it ain't. The humongous blobs known as So Cal burritos are not Mexican food either. Nachos are not Mexican food. They are Americanized travesties of Mexican food. I'm not saying they are not good, like a bag of Cheetos can be good, but it's like comparing a Rembrandt (Mexican food) with a Leroy Neiman (Nachos). It's like comparing a Bach tocatta, with Hannah Montana. You get the point.
So I'm glad that the NY Times sees fit to disabuse people of the notion, I wish it was once and for all, but such perceptions are truly hard to fight:

“Tex-Mex isn’t Mexican food,” said Mr. Walsh. “It is an American regional cuisine. So why do we have to apologize to Mexico for it?”

Mr. Walsh said the late food writer Waverley Root got it right when he described Tex-Mex as “native foreign food.”

“It is native, for it does not exist elsewhere; it was born on this soil,” Root wrote in “Eating in America: A History”(William Morrow & Co., 1976), with Richard de Rochemont. “But it is foreign in that its inspiration came from an alien cuisine.”

After the book was published, of course, Tex-Mex moved into the mainstream, and that was where the trouble started. Between microwaved burritos in convenience stores and nacho platters served with two-for-one margaritas in casual chains across the land, Tex-Mex got itself a bad reputation.
And quite rightly, because those things are perversions of actual food. No need to apologize as long as people know that what they are eating is Tex Mex and not Mexican food. The problem is people don't know the difference. Things have gotten much better in NY, I bet thanks to the surge of Mexican workers in the kitchens of every restaurant in town, but it used to drive me crazy, and still does in some places, that people thought that if it was Mexican, it had to have a ton of cumin in it. Or that everything has to be drowned in sour cream, which is disgusting. Mexicans, we use crema, which is much closer to creme fraiche, and in much sparer quantities. And what's with the shredded lettuce on everything? Chips and salsa? Bullshit American custom. We used to eat our tortilla chips, totopos, with scoops of refried beans. Don't get me started on the margaritas. The worst part is, you go to Mexico now and damned if you don't find these things imported right back in certain places. Cultural imperialism stops at nothing.
It stands to reason that the author of this paean to Tex Mex can't even spell the name of his beer right, but that is something we Mexicans are used to. It's NegrA Modelo, not Negro Modelo, for cryin' out loud. And there is a picture of sopa de lima, which last I heard is still an authentic soup, not from Texas but from the state of Yucatán. Bill Buford, on his fascinating article on chocolate on the New Yorker this week, butchers the word Moctezuma, the chocolate-drinking Aztec emperor, and then has it translated to English, so y'all can get it.

Stolen Tamayo

Dang! I'd have kept it at home. It's so pretty.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Why these things never happen to me?

All I've ever found in the NY garbage that was valuable is a copy of a book by Simon Schama. And here is this woman who sees a painting stuck in the garbage and it turns out to be a stolen Rufino Tamayo from 1970 that is worth about a million dollars or more. It's unbelievable.
She has returned it and gotten a finders fee of $15,000. The painting is going up for auction at Sotheby's. It is beautiful.

Bad Seed

That Robert Chambers guy, who spent a puny 15 years in jail for killing Jennifer Lewin, is such bad news.
Now he's been arrested for dealing coke out of his girlfriend's apartment. How did the police find out? Apparently, the two crime geniuses had a lot of visitors at all hours of the night. Really smart.
In any case, perhaps this time they will lock him up and throw away the key. He should be given the max of 30 years in prison.
He is an unrepentant scumbag. Do I sound like the NY Post, or what?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Lost in NY

The city is going to put navigational decals on busy subway exits so that you know which way you are going. And it's not only for the tourists. Many New Yorkers are sometimes disoriented when exiting a subway station, including moi. You need to know the direction of the traffic flow, or gape into the next street sign to see if your are facing north or south, east or west. You need to search for a landmark. Twin Towers used to be one, now they're gone. In Midtown, I use the Chrysler or the PanAm building or the Citicorp building.
So I think it's somewhat cool to put these on the sidewalk. Although, on the other hand, do we want New York to be so easy? Are we in danger of totally losing our edge and becoming like Bloomington, Indiana?
Part of the challenge is to figure it out. I am most proud when someone asks me. I am most proud, after 15 years here, when I know exactly what's where.
Usually it is non-tourists who ask as, they are less intimidated. Tourists rarely ask. They stand in the middle of the corner and parse their maps as if they were deciphering the Rosetta Stone.
I had this exchange with some tourists the other day. They are standing on Wooster and Prince and want to know how to go to Times Square.
Walk east towards Broadway 3 blocks and get on the N, R, W going uptown.
But West Broadway is to my left.
Yes, but that's West Broadway, not Broadway. They are two different streets not really near one another. The N,R goes straight to Times Square.
But, what about the 1 and 9?
Listen to me, you fucking putz, just so you know, we also have East Broadway, and that is in Chinatown. And there is another Broadway in Williamsburg. So shut the fuck up and do as I say.
(Something like that, but much more nicely.) I am very nice to tourists. I truly am. My dream is to help them all out figure out their maps and make them feel at home in NY, and think that we New Yorkers are really nice, helpful people, but we're not pushovers.

Convict the Bastard

Contrary to what I bet is the majority of public opinion, I state in no uncertain terms that the guy who was arrested for standing in the middle of Times Square at 2 am with his friends, and obstructing the flow of the passersby, should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
My war cry, as I navigate our pedestrian infested streets, is and always has been:
Get the fuck out of the way!
So, if you and your friends decide to plotz down in the middle of our streets and block pedestrian traffic because you can't figure out the restaurant, or you are looking at the neon lights, or you are taking a picture, or you are telling a joke, you need to move to the side.
We have places to go, people to see.

Futalognkosaurus: 50 - James Lipton: 0

Forget Britney Spears, forget Paris Hilton. Futalongkosaurus is currently the most famous celebrity in the planet, at least according to the hits on my blog. Since I mentioned Futi, as we will call him from now on for the sake of brevity, the hits on my blog have increased dramatically.
The same cannot be said of James Lipton, who nobody cares about and rightly so.
Thanks Futi! You rule!

I'm with the French People! Resist Change!

Sarko and his Finance minister, Christine Lagarde, want to impose on France the American work ethic. My heart goes out to the French. Their sweet, unhurried life is about to come to an end, (and now we're going to have to deal with French disgruntlement that is actually justified. I shudder to think).
As Roger Cohen writes in the NYT:

Deep in the Gallic soul resides the notion that work is exploitation, a ruse concocted by American robber barons, best regulated and minimized and offset by hours of idleness.
And what exactly is wrong with this assessment? Voltaire couldn't have been more accurate.
Lagarde says that more than two decades at a U.S. corporation taught her: “The more hours you worked, the more hours you billed, the more profit you could generate for yourself and your firm. That was the mantra.”

The equivalent mantra in the French bureaucracy might be: the fewer hours you work, the more vacation you take, the more time you have to grumble about the state of the universe and the smarter you feel, especially compared to workaholic dingbats across the Atlantic with no time for boules.

Exactly. But you have a life. A good life. With seventy hours a week spent in a cafe drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, while your taxes pay for your school, your healthcare and your vacations and your culture. The French are smart.

And by the way, Sarko is the President of France and he is getting a divorce. Apparently, they are grown up enough over there, that nobody gives a damn. Imagine an American president getting a divorce while in office. It would never happen. Bunch of hypocrites.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I will vote for you, Colbert

I hope Stephen Colbert takes his presidential bid as far as he can. Imagine if he won...
Imagine the debates!
Imagine if many people voted for him, to register their dissatisfaction with a two party system in which you can barely distinguish one side from the other. It would be too rich.
What Would The Supreme Court Do?

Deafening Noise

Is it me going insane, or is New York City increasingly noisy? Is it that I'm aging or is there more noise from trucks and construction and honking and idiots in Harleys and restaurants who think they are discos and more people who have to scream above the infernal din than ever before?
Seriously, I'm thinking of buying myself a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, yes, the ones with the huge earplugs, and walking around Manhattan with them on my head at all times. In the winter, they will double as earmuffs.
I want to take Mayor Bloomberg on a noise tour of Manhattan. It really is fucking frightening. You can't have a normal conversation on the street, it's so noisy. It is a miracle that someone doesn't lose it and starts blasting people away (which frankly is my dearest fantasy). Every time a cabbie honks, I want to strangle them. Forget about air guitar. I have a high-powered, state of the art air rifle and I wield it every time I get blasted with a honk, or the idling engine of the ice cream truck, or the unholy noise trucks make.
Whatever happened to that plan to have noise regulations in this town? Restaurants should be fined if their music surpasses a certain amount of decibels, making their diners scream for their dinner. They amp up the volume because it makes people more anxious which in turn makes them drink more booze. It is a fact. So don't give me that holier than thou trans fat bullshit and the smoking ban. Do something about the freaking noise. It's driving me crazy.

Lipton Soup - Review of a book I would not touch with a ten foot pole

What can possibly be worse than James Lipton on TV?
James Lipton in a book.
Can you imagine all that pompous fawning and brown-nosing on the printed page? The moist-eyed gushing, the slimy frisson he gets every time he pronounces "bouillion de culture" and "apostrophe"? GAWD.
The horror.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

So if Mexico was communist you'd invite us all in?

Did you know that there is a big influx of Cubans crossing the Mexican border and coming into the US, like we say in Spanish, como Pedro por su casa? They don't have to sneak in because they live in a communist country. I deeply sympathize with the plight of the Cubans. But why is poverty less considered as a human affliction than lack of freedom?
As my dear Arepita says, there is no real freedom when you are starving. Ain't that the truth.
Mexicans get hounded, demonized, deported and persecuted, while Cubans walk right in (at least through the back door).
I know, I know. Cubans are prisoners in their own country. They live under a dictator who is never going to die. But the fact they are allowed in is pure ideology, and feels like a throwback to the days of the cold war, which as far as I can tell are long gone. It feels hypocritical and anachronistic.
Just something to think about.


If I was a dinosaur, I'd not be happy with the naming process, I can tell you that.
Why not Humongousaurus, or Cutiesaurus, or Scarethelivingdaylightsoutofyousaurus?
But isn't it great we now have a "new" species of dino we can hope to see the bones of in a museum soon? These giant Dinos come mostly from Argentina. They leave our North American Dinos in the dust when it comes to size. I personally think it's all that steak over there. When I was there I mushroomed to the size of a small dino myself, precisely because of the steak.

Department of Good Communications

That settles it, then.

Richard Serra is going home

But where?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Colbert for President!

Read his Op-Ed in the New York Times. I can't think of a better option:

Well, suddenly an option is looming on the horizon. And I don’t mean Al Gore (though he’s a world-class loomer). First of all, I don’t think Nobel Prizes should go to people I was seated next to at the Emmys. Second, winning the Nobel Prize does not automatically qualify you to be commander in chief. I think George Bush has proved definitively that to be president, you don’t need to care about science, literature or peace.

Look at the moral guidance I offer. On faith: “After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up.” On gender: “The sooner we accept the basic differences between men and women, the sooner we can stop arguing about it and start having sex.” On race: “While skin and race are often synonymous, skin cleansing is good, race cleansing is bad.” On the elderly: “They look like lizards.”

I could vote for that.

My favorite subject: poop

Thanks to Cynthia for alerting me to the fact that a chick in Slate magazine is all bent out of shape because of a new All Bran ad that sports a little bathroom humor. You can watch it here. It has been seen in You Tube zillions of times and as far as I'm concerned, if people are talking about it on Internet, hell if it merits an article on Slate, it's really doing its job.
The chick from Slate needs to lighten up. Pun intended.
Why on earth would anybody eat a bowl of All Bran, which looks like rabbit turds already, and doesn't taste that great if it isn't because of constipation? This ad is a perfect example of advertising that tells you the product benefit. You will never confuse this product with anything else. So as far as I'm concerned, it works. It's funny (at least for me; I'm a sucker for eschatology) and it's memorable. And it will make you think that next time you're all stopped up, you'll reach for that yummy bowl of All-Bran in the morning. The reason why people in other countries have better advertising is because they take these kinds of risks, so loosen up already.

Only in New York

A wonderful Sunday in New York:
1. An afternoon in Washington Square Park. I've lived in this city for 15 years and crossed the park countless times and sometimes sat in the grass and read a book. But I've never really spent time just observing the motley crew of weirdos that makes this park unique. The hippie aura is alive and well in Washington Square, where one sees characters you don't see anywhere else. I live around the corner, and the kind of people you see in the park, you don't see on the street. It's as if they materialize out of the trees.
2. Blade Runner, the Final Cut at the Ziegfield. Oh, the joy of a bigass theater and a big screen. The luxury! The Ziegfield also boasts an enterprising usher that greets you with a booming, theatrical voice. Even the popcorn tastes better. Now, it is worth revisiting Blade Runner just because it is so visually stunning. I remember the first time I saw it, I was blown away by the noodle stands in perpetual night and rain, and by the floating geishas. The movie still gets the future right: dark, damp, cluttered and dirty -- it is magnificent. Ridley Scott did have a bit of an obsession with ceiling fans and window shades, and fog coming in through the slats at all times. But the set design and the whole visual concept of the movie are so unique and atmospheric and disturbing, it is gorgeous. Harrison Ford is totally wooden as Deckerd, the Blade Runner. He is more robotic than the replicants, but that may just be the point. How do you trust anyone in a world where robots are so human looking? I'm not a huge fan of science fiction but the premise of this movie is very cool. Sean Young wears huge shoulder pads and Daryl Hannah looks suitably punkish and Rutger Hauer is still very scary and Eddie Olmos wears blue contact lenses. I don't remember the original in much detail, but this cut seems much more atmospheric, the pace more stately, more ruminative. Also, there is an eye gouging a la King Lear that I don't remember from the original. Very violent but effective. And the original end, if I remember correctly, Sean and Harrison escaped into some lush green mountains that had nothing to do with the world he had just witnessed. No longer. The ending is much subtler and better now.
3. After such a wonderful time, it was time for a cocktail at the Old King Cole bar at the St. Regis. The best part was that on our way there we saw the Richard Serra sculptures being dismantled from MoMa. The huge segments of burnt orange steel were resting on trucks the length of the street and it was a miraculous find, a little New York marvel and quite Blade Runnerian in a way.
4. I had an $18 martini at the King Cole bar, that was so good, so dry, so crisp, so huge, with three fat olives (dinner) making sure I didn't just tip over from all that bracing alcohol. The King Cole is expensive. A Corona beer is $12 but then you'd be an ass to go to this bar and order a Corona. They give you generous amounts of great crunchy things to munch on. The service is charming and the martini perfect, so it's worth the money. I congratulated the bartender on his martini and he lit up. So cute. A taste of old New York (except with everybody, including us, dressed like schleppers).
Is that a good way to spend a Sunday, or what?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Nasty post of the day

I confess:
Today I boarded the subway to go to a freelance gig in midtown. It's 9:30 am and I am groggy cause I didn't have much sleep after watching Redacted. I'm sitting in silence with my fellow subway passengers, in that comfy lull of people deeply into their thoughts or their newspapers, when a stentorian voice shakes us all up and starts giving us all a strident lecture on how we have to give him money to feed his wife and five kids. He explains that he has either been in this city or panhandling since the mid-nineties. He seems healthy and strong and not shabbily dressed, but even if he were a sorry sack of bones, I'd still want him to shut the fuck up. How dare he disturb my hard earned silence? What gives him the right to hold us hostage to his absurd riff?
He was using the wrong strategy. Berating people can't possibly make them open their wallets. Much less at an early hour when everybody is miserable with the prospect of going to work. I didn't see a soul giving him money. But more obnoxious than his delusional speech, was that he broke the silence. That is unforgiveable.

Consolation Prize

Al Gore got the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts against global warming. Cool, as far as I'm concerned. It does seem to be a defiant kick in the face of the Bush administration, given their total disregard for the topic. But it also adds credibility and gravitas to the one guy who actually won the Presidency of this country, and who should have been sitting in the White House instead. It's as if it makes it clear: Gore v. Bozo.
And also, it creates awareness. Now every schoolchild in the world will know, if only for all of two seconds, that the guy who won the Nobel Peace prize is fighting to keep this planet safe from environmental destruction. Which is what my poor Mini Enchiladitos will have to deal with when they come of age if we don't take serious measures soon.
Maybe he should run for president again.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bite Me

Soon we won't be able to make fun of bad British teeth anymore. America is going to be a land of people with bad teeth, and if that is not a sure omen of the Decline and Fall of the American Empire, I don't know what is. According to the NYT, this country is going through a serious dental crisis, while dentists are laughing all the way to the bank.
When I was a little girl travelling here from Enchilada Land, I was always amazed at the whiteness and straightness and perfection of the American mouth. People had teeth as white and strong as the cliffs of Dover and they made sure they showed them to you, luckily with a smile, at the slightest provocation. My mother used to say it was due to the good American milk, not the watery stuff that we drank in Mexico.
Alas, good American teeth may soon become an icon from the past, like three martini lunches, Marilyn Monroe standing on a grate and other great long gone American inventions.
Just another sign that we are going down the drain, people.
The article claims that lots of people don't have dental insurance and they let their teeth go to seed. But I bet it is more than that. Show me a person who enjoys going to the dentist (who is not a demented pervert). Going to the dentist is hateful, even if you happen to have a nice dentist with a soft touch. So lots of people with seemingly healthy teeth just don't go. And who can blame them?
Dentistry has got to be one of the most unglamorous professions out there, (when I think of two things I couldn't possibly do for a living, one is dentistry and the other is flight attendant) but they do make out like bandits. And why shouldn't they? Would you like to stick your hands on people's stinky mouths all day long?
And what's with the drill? Do dentists not hear that torturing, screeching sound? Are dentists secret sadists?

Just admit it

So the Turkish government is furious because the House of Representatives has decided to pass a resolution condemning Turkey for the genocide of Armenians 92 years ago. It's taken that long. They are throwing a major hissy fit as they always do when the topic arises. I find it interesting, the cowardly, obsessive denial, when everybody knows they did it and it was a genocide.
So they can threaten the US with lack of support in that convoluted region, but they should own up to the appaling crimes of their forebears. Perhaps they would find that it's easier to live as a nation with a clear conscience and a sense of shame than with lies and obfuscations and ridiculous protestations that make them look like major assholes.

This sporting life

Is it any wonder? A Mexican politician runs a marathon, gets there first and then gets disqualified for taking a 9 mile shortcut.
Oh, this is too rich, and it would be funnier if it wasn't so pathetic.
Perhaps he is telling the truth and he never intended to finish the race.
Perhaps he thought he could cheat everybody as he has always done in his less than virtuous political career (not that he is the only one). In a way, it doesn't matter. The incident just shows the political immaturity of my birthplace, a country where nobody can trust anybody, precisely because of widespread cheating and corruption in every area of life.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Sorry, Torre

My knowledge of baseball is absolutely dismal, my passion for it, close to zero.
I never watch baseball except if the Yankees or the Mets make it to the world series, and then barely. The only time I've ever been to Yankee Stadium nothing happened for about three hours but then I went to buy a pretzel and there was a double play and a run. Oh, well. Being brought up with soccer did not endear me to the slow mysteries of baseball, with its fat players who chew stuff.
I started rooting for the Yankees one day I saw Mariano Rivera close a game and I fell in love. I loved that he betrayed no emotion, his face as calm as the water on a lake, and then he ripped the air with those scary pitches of his. I would not want to be on the receiving end of his arm, when armed with a baseball. I love Mo.
I also understand that the owner of the Yankees is an asshole. He certainly looks like one.
But one thing I know, is I like Joe Torre. He seems to have been a great coach, and rare in New York, a gentleman. And now people are saying he is leaving. I'm very sad to see him go. And I don't even care about baseball.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sign of the Times

What's he gonna do, the Can-Can?

Heart of Darkness

What to do with a place like Africa? If it's not Darfur, it's Ebola, and if it's not that, it's the horrifying reports of an epidemic of brutal, indiscriminate raping in the Congo.
I read the report with revulsion. I couldn't sleep. Apparently in the Congo there is not even the semblance, not even the pretense of social institutions. There is no social fabric, there is nothing but rampant anarchy and subhuman brutality. Are we to still blame the Belgians for it?
The white man did untold damage to the continent but it seems to me that somehow the basic guarantees of peaceful human coexistence have never been in place. I'm just reading The Emperor, Ryszard Kapuscinski's amazing book on Haile Selassie and his despotic ways. And so it has been ever since. Rapacious, cruel dictators stealing millions in the face of abject hunger and poverty, horrid ethnic bloodbaths, endless brutal misery and colonial interests pretty much just making it all worse. Is the rest of the world just wating for Africa to totally implode so they can get their greedy paws on the rich natural resources there (whatever has not been plundered yet)? Is Africa the first place that's going to go on the list of human extinction? It is entirely possible. Because the thugs who run rampant are not only murdering the people but the human soul. The place has gone to the the dogs. There are about 17, 000 UN peacekeeping forces and they do absolutely nothing as thousands of women and children are savagely raped by gangs. Who can understand this? What new nadir of human depravity is at work in the Congo? Just a couple of days ago I was hearing writers speak about the big monster bullies of History, the usual suspects. It's somehow reassuring when you can ascribe the depths of human evil to some accidental freak of nature like Hitler or Pol Pot or Stalin. But what happens when you can't? What about the anonymous rapists, what about the gangs of youths who humiliate, torture, maim, kill and plunder with total impunity? They are being goaded by the monster of their own self-loathing and cowardly seek impunity in numbers. People try to make sense of it: it's the displaced Hutus; it's the Congolese government forces. It doesn't matter who it is. Men in Africa hate themselves so much that they turn against those who give them life and succor. They turn like rabid dogs against their mothers and their sisters and their wives and their daughters. I swear I read this shit and my first reaction, as if I were God having one of His usual conniptions about human bad behavior in the Old Testament, is burn that fucking place to cinders. Treat it like fucking Amalek and let no one survive. They don't deserve to live.

If only the women and children could be saved.

New Yorker Festival II

A conversation with Ian McEwan. Another British subject with impeccable eloquence. What is it about these guys that listening to them seems a higher form of conversation? They really use language beautifully, precisely, incisively. This event was hosted by David Remnick, who may be a wonderful editor, but is not that great an interviewer. The questions he asked were mostly irrelevant. Frankly, I do not care to know where Ian McEwan went to college, a topic in which countless minutes were spent. I want to hear him talk about his books or his process or the topics that fascinate him. At one point McEwan was about to explain why Portnoy's Complaint was a huge influence, but Remnick cut him off so we never found out. It was really frustrating. Luckily, McEwan was smart and generous enough to work around that. He seems to be a much less ornery man than Martin Amis, and very gracious, as elegant as his prose.

Encounters at the End of The World, a film and conversation with Werner Herzog.
Man, for the grief he gets into on every film he makes, Werner Herzog looks fantastically youthful. He is full of life and vim and many opinions. In his latest, wonderful documentary, Herzog goes to the South Pole and points his boundless curiosity at everything. What seems at first like a classic Discovery Channel documentary about scientists in the South Pole, turns out to be a highly idiosyncratic film. (NOTE: Everybody needs to see Grizzly Man).
Herzog brings his camera and adjusts his interests to whatever happens to cross his way. There seems to be no overarching structure but that of living in the moment and seizing opportunities, finding unexpected things and people in unexpected places, and yet the film is hugely entertaining. Herzog is fascinated by the motley bunch of eccentric explorers and scientists who have seemingly fallen to the bottom of the Earth and who share a desire to leave the world behind. His narration has a wonderful sense of humor and irony. None of that stentorian, heroic voice a la Morgan Freeman, waxing poetic about the wonders of nature. He has great comic timing, the freshness of a child running around with a camera and the sophistication of a mature artist. Herzog knows that the breadth of human experience in the natural world is painful and complex, and he refuses to fall into cliches. His choices are always fascinating. There is a marvelous business with emergency training for snow storms where people run around Antartica with their heads inside buckets (to simulate zero visibility conditions) and he lingers lovingly, bemusedly in the cartoony hilarity of something that would be horribly tragic if it actually came to pass. When he gets to cover the penguins, he asks a taciturn penguin watcher if penguins can go crazy and then happens to find one who apparently does. As he emphatically explained in conversation, he has little patience for people who think the universe is in harmony. He says it is a violent, disturbing place, but still he finds grace and wonder, both in humans and in nature. He is refleshingly wary of tree huggers and animal lovers who whine about global warming but don't care about the death of human languages. He is a true eclectic with a mischievous streak, announcing gleefully to the audience that he staged some of the scenes of the film, albeit with the purpose of getting to a deeper truth. He has a very poetic way with images. Everything with him feeds into a sense of wonder, and that is what he communicates. Fortunately, he is not a sentimentalist and has no patience for manipulative drivel on the order of March of the Penguins (which I find as repulsive as he does in its shameless antropomorphism).

Sunday, October 07, 2007

New Yorker Festival

First, the rant: This festival always seems to smack of elitism. First, it is nearly impossible to get tickets. If they open the box office at Ticketmaster (do not get me started) say, at noon, by 12:01 everything is sold out. It's very suspicious. Then they have all these reserved seats that never fill up. And the fact that they use Ticketmaster, which is not only usurious but has an actually hostile interface, makes me want to tell The New Yorker to go screw itself and its stupid festival. I have a major complain about the fact that they scheduled the Simon Schama - Anthony Lane talk about history in the movies in a very small venue. They should know better. Having said this, I succumbed and got tickets for a number of events.
It did not disappoint.
1. The panel about Iraq at Town Hall. This is the first public discussion about the state of the war I've attended that was of a dignified level and that was not political but pragmatic. The panelists were super impressive. The super smart George Packer was the moderator and he did a splendid job (given that most moderators at these kinds of events are usually quite underwhelming). He asked great questions from Ali Abdul-Amir Allawi, Jon Lee Anderson, David Kilcullen, and Phebe Marr. Jon Lee Anderson provided some fascinating eye-witness reportage about what he saw there recently, Professor Marr wrote The Modern History of Iraq so she knows everything about it, Mr. Allawi is an Iraqi opposition politician who was smart and articulate and evidently exhausted from the whole thing, and David Kilcullen is one of the architects of the new strategy of counterinsurgency and, now that he works for the Pentagon, struck me as a bit of a PR man.
But the best part was that I was sitting right behind none other than NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who took copious notes. I thought either this is the safest seat in the house, or it is boobytrapped. I don't know what our Commish has in mind but I liked that he came to listen and learn, like Mini Enchiladito likes to say. I think I have said before in this blog that the Police Commisioner of N.Y. (not specifically Ray Kelly with his face fit for a Daumier portrait, but the job), reminds me of Batman. I feel like I live in Gotham and I'm Catwoman. Meow! I have to say it was fun to sit right behind one of the most powerful men in this town. I was feeling the power vibes right there.
Some people go to volcanoes to get vibes, I strongly reccommend you sit behind Ray Kelly.
2. Martin Amis and Ian Buruma on Monsters. I think I'm a bigger fan of Amis the public speaker than of Amis the writer. He is not only a riot, but incredibly smart and provocative and doesn't give a rat's ass, in fact, he probably relishes hearing the audience gasp when he is at his most politically incorrect, disparaging Islamism, and to some extent Islam with utmost honesty. It is beyond delightful to hear him speak. Only he can say things like (imagine the plummiest British accent here): "There is a charming story about Stalin's mother. She lived in a 140 room palace in Georgia, but she occuppied only one room because, and here he delivers the punch line in a devastatingly mocking tone, she didn't want to be in the way. The end of the story is Stalin visits her at the palace and asks her why did she beat him up so much when he was a child, to which she replies, but look how well you turned out!
I LOVE Martin Amis, I love his mind and his brilliant wit and his anger, and his impatience with political correctness and I want him to speak to us every night. One hour of Martin Amis speaking every night I'm sure will increase your IQ, let alone your vocabulary. Because he is funny, but he is also deeply thoughtful about our present evils and he is capable of distilling some of its reasons in incredibly clear terms. Both he and the much less intimidating Ian Buruma agreed that looking for abusive childhoods in the case of human monsters like Hitler and Stalin, is useless. Since I am fascinated with evil, I was in heaven hearing them expound psychologically, but more interestingly, philosophically, about the nature of evil leaders and those who follow them. These two writers are as clear eyed about human nature as you will find, and despite a bumbling moderator they steered themselves into hugely rewarding territory.