Saturday, June 30, 2007
As promised, I will tell you about the first dinner we had in Paris, courtesy of my host Analia and her boyfriend Nicolas, who took us to a great little bistro with very serious food.
The place is called Le Chateaubriand and is on Rue Parmentier. The chef is Basque and doing modern things to traditional dishes. For 40 euros (without wine) you get a fixed menu with four courses. No choices, although if you hate something or are allergic, they will make you something else. Let me say that the menu included foods that I never eat, but I decided to be adventurous and not a pest. Luckily for me.
First was an amuse bouche of cuttlefish in its own ink, with red onion and some mysterious mintlike herb and it was delicious. Then there were long, light, crunchy spring rolls stuffed with grilled sardines and there was a like a drop of sweet syrup on the side with mint flowers and an almond. They were incredible. I hated sardines until now.
Then there was Dorade, beautifully and simply grilled and garnished with a foam of mussels, that tasted exactly like mussels, and some asparagus and green fava beans. And then there was deliciously moist and yummy braised shredded meat with daikon and some Asian seasonings. It was unbelievable, although by then we were seriously stuffed. The only thing that didn't work out was dessert, which was a fruit salad swimming in something sudsy that tasted like mild dishwashing liquid. We had two bottles of the house wine, which was a splendid Cahors, and some of us had coffee. Now, for this amazing meal we paid 54 euros per person. I really think that in NY a meal of this generosity and quality would cost at least $100 each, if you could find it.
Lunch was had at the fantastic Brasserie d' lIle St Louis, where I had pork shank with applesauce and cream. Hearty peasant fare and delish. I promise I will not be telling you everything I eat on this trip so as not to bore you. But today, after hours spent in search of lost time trying to find the tomb of Marcel Proust in Pere Lachaise, which fittingly took like two hours to find, even though it was virtually in front of my nose, I ate a huge portion of steak tartare which comes with the ingredients on the side and a raw egg on top so that you can dress it yourself. Not only delicious, but great fun.
In Pere Lachaise we ran into the final resting place of Simone Signoret and Yves Montand. We paid our respects. George Melies is also there, as is Balzac, and Oscar Wilde and Piaf but we skipped them.
I am happy to report that dear Marcel has his fans, who leave flowers, or, according to Jewish custom, little stones. I left one, said hello darling and wished him well in Heaven.
I am proud to say that today I must have walked half the length of Paris. First in the cemetery, then from there to Belleville and Oberkampf, then from there to Rue St Denis then to the Gare D'el Est. Then a bus to the Arc de Triomphe and from there walking again all the way back to Notre Dame, by the river. My feet are screaming bloody murder. But the cloudy weather is mild and delicious, and you just have to walk this city.
Friday, June 29, 2007
You know you are in Paris when there's a baguette sitting next to you on the Metro.
This, mon cher lecteurs, is the school where I'm learning French. Mangez votre coeur out (eat your hearts out, for all you Cromagnons who don't speak le Francais)!
In fact, they are very clever at La Sorbonne, because they make you go here first and get you all excited and then they send you to the ugly part. But by the time you get to the ugly part, you're in love.
Two petit brushes with French bureaucracy:
1. The passport line at Charles De Gaulle is worse than the one in Mexico City. Meaning, there seems to be a certain sadistic pleasure vis a vis the incoming tourists in the way we are made to squeeze into one thin, gridlocked line, where there is clearly plenty of space for the hordes of tourists to form several lines, but I guess each country has its own way of torturing the visitors. Ever since 9/11, those coming to the US and those leaving are treated like potential terrorists all, so don't get me wrong.
2. Trying to buy tickets at the metro. Huge line of people for one of the automated machines. This being France there are 2 machines. One for the tickets and one that only works to refill their equivalent of the metrocard. Why that machine cannot dispense new metrocards to all is and will remain a mystery.
Two employees manning the booth decide it's time to close it, despite huge line of people. Then automated machine breaks down. French female asks the employees for help. Then the fun starts. With a dramatic, Gallic roll of the eyes, the long beleaguered employee says he is coming. Then nothing happens for a while until another citizen of the republic, this time a male, asks again, a bit more menacingly. Then the employee finally leaves his booth with the most hilarious display of unwillingness and chagrin, as if all of us were importuning him way beyond the call of duty. Look what I have to go through to make an honest living, his demeanor seems to say, I fucking have to help the passengers get on the metro. WTF, in French.
Then a very interesting dinner, to be described in the next post, as I have to run to my exam where they are going to tell me how badly I speak French.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
She claims the decor of her restaurant is her individual property. She claims that this chef, who used to work for her, has opened a copycat restaurant. She intends to fight him. But why bother? If her place is as good as everybody says (haven't been -- always packed) what is it to her? Take the high road and consider yourself flattered. No?
I can't imagine the guys at Swan's Oyster Depot suing her. They are too busy happily feeding people the best clam chowder on Earth.
She is pissed that the other chef is using her super special Caesar's salad dressing and calling it his own. With all due respect, she didn't invent Caesar salad either*. The guy who did (according to Mexican lore, Alex Cardini, in Mexico) could be suing her and so on and so forth, ad infinitum, or rather ad nauseam. But he's dead. In fact, he should be rising from the grave and suing everybody in this town for ruining his incredible dressing, which actually calls for a raw egg, fresh squeezed lime juice, anchovies and full leaves of romaine, not shreds with the porridgey crap that passes for a Caesar salad in New York.
Are recipes to be protected as individual property? In that case, are Benedictine monks going to sue every brunch joint in NY?
There are recipes that are strokes of genius from an individual. However, even if they try to be replicated exactly, most of the time they never taste as good as the original. My mom made the best chocolate cake (she got the recipe from her neighbor Rosita). Every time I make it, it doesn't taste quite like hers. But, like Alex Cardini, my mom is dead too and still we are able to enjoy something similar to her chocolate cake because Rosita gave the recipe to her and my sister gave it to me. When it's about food, the rule in my book is the more the merrier. Be generous. Let people enjoy.
The culinary arts would never evolve unless people were able to copy recipes. We'd all still be eating gruel if that was the case.
*Cf. the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode about who invented the Cobb salad. The horror.
A front page headline in the NYT today: "New Poll Finds That Young Americans Are Leaning Left".
Everybody stand up and sing the Internationale. You'd think our young are all sporting Che Guevara's beret and Fidel's fatigues, to judge from the ominous use of the word "left". What do you know, turns out the kids are a bunch of reds. See evidence above.
But, geez, aren't young people supposed to be liberal? Remember the peeps from the 60's and 70's in this country? Imagine a similar headline then: "Beware! Maoists in our Midst."
I think the right word would have been they are more liberal. Left is for Commies.
Did the poll expect to find 17 to 29 year olds voting for a party that uses them as cannon fodder, tries to take away their every human right when nobody's looking and messes with their private lives?
Of course the young should be more open minded. We are already in enough trouble as it is with their unbelievable indifference to the war in Iraq and their video-game induced torpor. I'd be totally freaking out if they announced en masse they are voting for Giuliani and taking up golf.
They, naively, in my view, think that a draft is more likely to happen with the Republicans.
Honeys, if Dick Cheney hasn't drafted you yet, it ain't going to happen.
However, if I and Charlie Rangel had our druthers, a draft would be in place tout suite. And all your tender asses would be required to show up at Fort Urfucked for compulsory military duty. Best way to end public support for a stupid war.
The results of the poll are not surprising. The young would vote for someone who had smoked marihuana. Duh. They would allow gay marriage or gay unions (very magnanimous on their part). They think global warming is very bad. They would vote for a black candidate or a woman (phew, progress in leaps and bounds). So far so good.
But 70% of them (and like all polls it's really like 650 people) said they would not vote for a gay or a lesbian. Why the fuck not?
What possible rationale makes them think a homosexual person is unfit for office?
Bring in the draft.
I know this may not endear me to some of my British friends on the other side of the pond, but I like Tony Blair. He could say several sentences in beautiful English, which is much more that we can say for what we have here. He is capable and intelligent and a leader, something we pine for over here, some sort of a miracle around these parts lately. Also, he was great in The Queen.
It is very sad that he will be remembered with bitterness for being loyal to an idiot who destroyed pretty much everything else he had accomplished. Certainly, he is solely responsible for not standing up to Bush and reading him the riot act. He could and should have. What was he thinking?
*Cf. "Chancellor of the Exchequer" with "Secretary of the Treasury". First one sounds so much better, sexier, snappier, less pedestrian, although I always imagine some guy in a powdered wig signing away checks in the Tower of London.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
How do they say "Yeehah" in French?
I will soon find out, for the purpose of the trip is I'm going to learn that maddening language once and for all.
Hold on a sec. The New York Times on the internets has a picture of Paris Hilton on the front page. Like this is the most important news of the day. Apparently, she is going to be interviewed (for no money!) by living cadaver Larry King, who scratched a scheduled interview with filmmaker Michael Moore to talk to the celebutard. Because Paris' time in the slammer is more important than healthcare in this country. Whatever. I've stopped caring.
I'm off to Paris and I will be blogging from there, internets connections willing. Au revoir, les enfants!
Monday, June 25, 2007
Just read this prophet of doom's dispatches from the New Yorker. The latest is about the cover up of the scandal of Abu Ghraib. There is nothing we didn't know already. We know that the rank and file paid for the offenses of high ranking officials who were never punished for it. But in this account of General Antonio Taguba's principled investigation and his subsequent demotion and humiliation, what we knew all along is manifestly clear: that Donald Rumsfeld is a lying succubus from hell. Not only that, he is mean spirited, cowardly and revolting, as is the Bush regime.
One of the reasons why I was happy to leave Enchiladaland was because I felt that as a citizen I had no recourse in a land of corruption and impunity. Naively, I thought that here in the US this would not be the case. And it isn't, unless it involves two utterly evil people: Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and whoever is beholden to them (which includes, in the case of Cheney, the President of the United States).
It is not only that they do whatever the hell they please, running roughshod over the laws of this country, but that the whole tenor of their government is suffused with nastiness. They are arrogant, contemptuous of the citizenry, and they make a mockery of the office in which they serve. They have completely eroded whatever shred of decency or integrity this country can lay claim to. Maybe they have not been the first and only ones, but they are certainly the most brazen. They have used a national tragedy to subvert the laws and to consolidate power. They have used it to instill fear and to stifle dissent (and to kill our own young in a mistaken war).
After them, how many years will it take to cleanse the scum off words like "freedom" and "liberty" and "democracy"? And I'm not even talking about the real, irreversible damage of their foreign policy.
Some tyrants have a modicum of charm, or likability, of, at the very least, some redeeming quality. Not these miscreants. It is unfathomable to me that we continue to abide them.
You would be able to see some pictures, dear readers, if I were able to find the tiny cable that allows that to happen. Instead, you will have to bear with my descriptions.
I love the idea of a Mermaid parade. Mermaids and Tritons and water nymphs and sea creatures are beautiful. New Yorkers never shy away from disguising themselves whenever given the chance, and Saturday was no exception. There were lovely mermaids, raunchy mermaids and a trio of long legged women who dressed up as pin up girls from the Forties, sort of living Varga girls. They were ravishing. And that's why I love New York. These women gave the most fitting homage, in my view, to the Coney Island that we are about to lose.
There were way too many people, but one thing that is wonderful about American crowds: they are so well-behaved. Even in the frustrating crush of paralyzed mobs, nobody panics and nobody pushes and everybody remains calm. Where I come from, the mass of people that was in evidence on Saturday could have easily given way to major chaos.
I was trapped in the crowd for about five minutes (which seemed much longer) in front of Nathan's Famous. Americans are also famously patient about lines. It looked that ordering a frank was an ordeal that could take the better part of the day, but there they were, standing quietly in line, waiting for their turn. You can say all you want about Americans, but their civilization when it comes to lines is quite admirable. Nobody has to yell at them to make a line. They have a gene that makes them stand in line for absolutely everything, even when there is no obvious need. In the case of Nathan's Famous, there was need. And the lines were long. No hot dog for me.
I took a deep breath in the crush of humanity and decided to chill until I could move an inch. And it worked. People found a way to cut across and I followed them. I am not a fan of huge crowds, which is why I saw the mermaids, and the glistening blue sea, and I promptly left, on an uncrowded subway back to Manhattan to avoid the later crush.
Our parades in NY are either about witches and zombies, mermaids, sundry nationalities or gays. We love a parade, it seems. In Enchiladaland parades used to be mostly military and very serious commemorations of some national honor -- not fun at all.
Friday, June 22, 2007
But to knight a gifted writer who has never killed anyone in the name of anything: this is blasphemy.
For a writer to put his thoughts to paper, (on this side of the world you are supposed to be able to do this simple act without fear of death): this is blasphemy.
The Queen of England is going to pin a little brooch on his chest and we are all going to call him Sir Salman from now on and the poor man has to worry as we have to worry that they're going to come and get us because he wrote a book almost twenty years ago.
This is the difference: he wrote a book. They decapitate people and shoot it in video.
You tell me what's the real blasphemy.
We are not dealing here with the forces of reason. We are dealing with the forces of terror and horror.
This is a battle between civilization and savagery. And civilization must win.
It really is revolting how mercenary these people are. Not like they are not loaded already. They are exploiting the idiotic misfortunes of their retarded miscreant for gain, whoring out their own daughter without shame. I do not feel an ounce of sympathy for this girl, and if I ever do please kick me in the ass, but I am almost starting to. If my parents pimped me out like that it would be very sad, to say the least.
Now, every time I think of a Hilton Hotel (of which, in the interest of full disclosure, I own a Gold VIP Card), I will think brothel, skank, pimps, vulgarity, crabs and puke, in that order.
Do these people still own the Hilton brand? Because if they do, it sure is no way to build a reputation.
I venture to guess that this is going to create a bit of a stir, and that because Paris found God in jail and now they are pals, God may advise her to give every penny of that hard earned interview money to charity. At least that's what I think God should do.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
I'm thrilled you are sending the Republicans packing. You were never really one of them anyway. Now it looks like you want to run for president as an independent. Cool. Knock yourself out (but you should finish your mandate here in the city first). But if you do run for POTUS, I may not vote for you (and I've voted for you twice now already) because of the following:
You want my vote? Get rid of street fairs NOW.
I'm sure they must bring some revenue to the city; otherwise I do not understand the reason for their continued insistence on making life in this city a living, breathing hell of putrid merchandise.
1. They all sell the same useless shit (stale cosmetics, Peruvian sweaters, bad linen, ugly socks)
2. They all have the same terrible food
3. They create horrid gridlock on weekends
4. They leave garbage in their wake
5. Nobody gives a shit about them
6. I feel like setting them on fire
A recent Saturday I had to make my way to midtown. In fact, I was going to direct my own film. I decided to take a cab because I was a little late and I wanted to be the first one there. I thought: Sixth ave on a Saturday is not so bad, the traffic flows. I'm sitting in the cab around 10th St and nothing's moving. Minutes go by. Traffic inches along not at all. What is the cause for this? An accident? A terrorist attack? Nah. An infernal street fair on none other than 6th Ave and 14th St. Not a little side street, either. Two huge thoroughfares totally blocked by stinky sausages and bad falafel and crepes.
This cannot be. So don't count on my vote unless you ban street fairs forever (only St. Gennaro's, St Anthony's and street fairs with cultural credibility should be allowed, and then again only for the sake of nostalgia).
The nazis understood the psychology of mob rule and they used fear, intimidation and their special breed of savagery to instill mob behavior in ordinary citizens. You see picture after picture of soldiers, police and regular citizens taunting and humiliating Jews and other unfortunates. You see mobs whipped to a frenzy by the hysterical growls of Hitler or Goebbels.
There is safety in numbers, which is why the nazis were able to do what they did.
Now, I may be jumping the gun here, because I have not heard more details about this bizarre, idiotic lynching, but the victim was Hispanic, to judge from his last name, Morales. I posit that the recent anti-immigrant discourse and mood in this country, which must be at a fever pitch in the border states, has something to do with this terrible thing.
There is huge resentment against Hispanics and though that is certainly not the sole reason for this crime, there seems to be some form of dehumanization going on. These kinds of things are not supposed to happen in this country and they better not start happening now.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
It is interesting to think about the contrasts between them. Yad Vashem I visited like 20 years ago and since it was the first one, I think it is still the one that made the biggest impression on me. The fact that it is in Jerusalem, in Israel, adds to how powerful the experience of visiting it is. After all, the fact that it is there is a testament to the failure of the Nazis to rid the world of us.
The very new one in Berlin is fascinating because of the psychology of it. First of all, it is underground, below the monument to the 6 million Jews murdered by the nazis. (Which took the Germans until like two years ago to finally commit to, after a lot of internal kvetching). Compared to the one in Israel and the one in Washington, it really is rather discreet in regards to the photographic material it exhibits. The unbelievable, bestial, inhumane cruelty the Nazis proudly documented themselves is not so in abundance. What's in abundance are exhaustive, sober explanations of how the Nazis came to power and then, and I guess fittingly, discreet, exhibits about the number of Jews murdered and the fates of 10 Jewish families.
I can understand why the Germans are so demure. When you see the footage, not only of what the liberating armies found as they arrived to the concentration camps, but the Nazi footage of medical experiments and pretty much everything they filmed, when you see a room full of human hair, I don't know how you would be able to live with yourself as a country. They should have followed their beloved leaders and committed seppukku en masse.
The Washington museum does a great job of explaining everything. Not only the fate of the Jews, but also what the Nazis did to everybody else, which was plenty. Surprisingly, and correctly, the museum does not shy away from talking about the very remiss attitude of the United States towards the atrocities: the refusal to bomb Auschwitz, the refusal to accept refugees, etc. I also learned that, before the Nazis, the US had the largest enforced sterilization program in the world.
Just looking at images of the Nuremberg rallies of compliant, hysterical masses, is enough to make your hair stand on end. For all those people who complain that we Jews are obsessed with the Holocaust, I can't think of a better reminder, not for our own suffering, but for the need to always protect individual liberties and to raise awareness that the most dangerous threat to human dignity and human life is their erosion.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
I think of Louis Armstrong, of Duke Ellington, of Elvis of Dylan of Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock and Phillip Roth and Martin Scorsese, and Mark Twain and so many writers and poets and artists and I remember we are not so dumb.
Still, I saw the White House, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial in the distance, the Jefferson Memorial, the lines of tourists waiting in the heat to get inside the obelisk, the tacky souvenir stands and the homeless.
I also saw the very imposing Department of the Treasury, which is the temple at which we all worship in this country, the Department of Commerce, with a quaint inscription from Benjamin Franklin, (either the most naive man in the world or the most cynical), saying something to the effect that commerce between the US and the rest of the nations has to be just and fair, and the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, which at first I mistook for an art museum but then learned they are the guys who actually print the money. The Benjamins, so to speak.
All this accompanied by the very American and appropriate sounds of Louis Armstrong and the Hot Five. Washington has a southern feeling, after all, and Louie is the best American musician ever, so his art made a fine, beautiful counterpoint to all these monuments to grandiosity.
Still, they will have a lot of supporters from certain Latinos that are as tired of the new influx of immigrants as the next redneck.
It so happens that a couple of times recently, I’ve heard evidence of resenment, if not outright prejudice, between the latinos who have and those who have not. Those whose families arrived ages ago, who paid their dues and who are now culturally and legally American resent that everybody thinks that all Hispanics are poor, brown, healthcare-services-abusing illegals. People like Jessica Alba, who don’t want to be identified or associated with Latinoness.
Memo to Jessica: Baby, the reason why you are hot and spicy, is because you are a cute Latinita, not because you are, like my dearly departed friend Rebecca used to say about some insipid gringos, tofu ice cream.
Or people like that Mexican-American restaurant owner in California who wants to ban the Tacomobiles because they compete with his business. Never mind that the Tacomobiles cater mostly to workers with less money in their pockets (and may serve better tacos as well).
Both Jessica and this guy exhibit an interesting trait of former immigrants or children of such: snobbishness against their own kind.
Now, this is not exclusive to Latinos. Apparently, in every immigrant group, the pioneers get all snotty with the recent arrivals. Look at us, we are now much more sophisticated, urbane and with it, while the new ones are just embarrassing, with their ignorance and their old country ways. The Jews called them "greenhorns". The established Cubans in Miami didn’t want to be confused with the Marielitos. Older arrivals simply do not want to be associated or confused with the great unwashed. It is understandable to a certain point. I can understand the frustration of many Hispanics at the wholesale stereotype that all Hispanics are Mexican jumping beans, all impoverished and desperate and illegal. But there is something chilling about the lack of empathy, or at least the recognition that your recent ancestors may have done exactly the same thing so you could now be a Hollywood star or a modest entrepeneur. But is it any wonder? Why should it be any different here than in any of our countries, where the divide between rich and poor is often, if not always, also racial, and where prejudice against the poor is rampant, unfair and as daily an ocurrence as rice and beans?
The difference between a country like Mexico and the US is that here somebody from the bottom of the barrel can aspire to become a Hollywood star or a modestly successful business owner, or at least to get a half decent wage for the sweat of their brow, whereas in Mexico pretty much only in their wildest hallucinations will they ever be allowed to climb up the bottom of the barrel. And for that reason alone, even though I agree that illegal immigration must stop, I can't stop empathizing and admiring those brave souls who come here looking for a better chance.
Makes sense, they type "Tristram Shandy" or "Sopa de Tortilla" on Google and find something I wrote. Cool. That is the nature of the internets. Whatever it is I say that offends people will live on forever. I am aware of that.
I welcome all comments unless they are truly, horribly offensive or massively stupid. Luckily, I have not had the need to censor but a few morons yet. You are entitled to your opinions and you are welcome to post them here in a civilized manner.
However, I would appreciate that if you are going to insult me, have some balls and state your name, like I do on my blog.
It's easy to be nasty when you can hide behind "anonymous". If you don't want to use your name, invent a pseudonym, but don't be such a pussy.
I'm here in an important mission, that's all I can tell you. It has nothing to do with POTUS (I say this in case the CIA and the FBI are reading. Hi, fellas!).
Which is why I'm not seeing the sights, but stuck in a windowless conference room all day.
We have to make a living, people. This blog here is a labor of self-love.
What I've seen so far of DC is the lovely Union Station, which is both a mall and a train station, and the tip of the Obelisk. Coming from NY, DC looks spotless clean and its avenues wide and roomy. Lots of tourists, and lots of homeless people. There are homeless everywhere in the cities of America and they always provide interesting contrast with the general impression of well-being in the most powerful country on Earth. But here in Washington, with all the big monuments to freedom and liberty, etc, with the White House and the Capitol looming around the corner, with an Abe Lincoln the size of Nebraska, the poor, unemployed, homeless do stick out like a very sore thumb. In fact, it occurred to me yesterday that they actually know it. They know their misfortune (whatever its complicated reasons) makes this place look bad. Not so great, not so fair, not so free.
And now, I'm off for an hour of fresh air before I'm back in the windowless conference room again.
Pray for me.
The pressure of such a meteoric rise to fame was becoming unbearable, I have to confess. The pressure of appealing to people in Estonia and Australia and my darling one reader in South Africa (hola Creon!) was starting to affect me. I guess I didn't help matters talking about subjects as dear to my heart as Janet Maslin and Hamas. But I only got myself to blame. I'm sure my opinion in these matters is probably unpopular. However, I could care less.
So it is a relief that the blinding spotlight of internet popularity is off this site again. Unless I mention Fushe Kruje, who knows, that may do the trick.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Meaning: they are the new unspeakably ugly shoe that for some unfathomable reason people think they can wear with abandon.
They are good for the boat and good for the swimming pool and good for the beach. Good for kiddies.
Good for a clown at the circus. Not good for the street.
I rest my case. Plus: Crocs with socks? Oh, boy.
Photo courtesy of I Hate Crocs Dot Com.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Iraq, we're no longer paying attention to; we just hear the body count rising every day.
How about Gaza? Hamas has basically overthrown Fatah in Gaza. They are killing each other over there. Somebody is probably blaming the Jews for this as we speak.
The fundamentalization of the Palestinian territories cannot be a good thing for anybody, starting with the Palestinians themselves.
You can say all you want about the Jews, and it's probably bad, (because that's what you are used to, repeating bad things about the Jews, like parrots, since the Middle Ages, if not earlier), but Jews, as much as we differ in opinion, and as much as you may loathe us, we don't go killing each other and blowing up each other's temples and killing our own civilians, and justifying the killing of children.
We also don't usually go killing other civilians unless we are provoked. And if we do, as in the recent invasion to Lebanon, there is much soul searching and reckoning after that. We are not a bloodthirsty people. We argue like crazy, but that's about it. When Itzhak Rabin was killed by another Jew for political-religious reasons, it was seen universally as an obscene, inexcusable aberration. If you've noticed, it hasn't happened since. Nobody really calls it like it is because everybody is afraid of sounding politically incorrect or of getting their head blown off in a fatwa, but how can you expect a peace process to happen when the Arabs can't even keep the peace among themselves?
Sometimes, unfortunately, we need to call attention to dreary stuff that is happening as we speak. Luckily, all one has to do is open the newspaper and voilá, we have a catalogue of calamities to choose from. Obviously, we need to do this in moderation, at the risk of becoming morose and ultimately suicidal. We do not like to be constantly reminded of one of our principal tenets, which is that the world is a disgusting cesspool of evil muck. We like to distract ourselves with art and beauty, but sometimes these things are hard to avoid. An example from today's news:
The BBC's headline: "Zimbabwe collapse in six months". Six months? From what I understand the country has already collapsed:
But it is typical of people to think collapse and utter chaos are just around the corner while they are living in the very midst of it. Life can get really bad and then some. There is always worse. Meanwhile, that evil, ancient pest, Robert Mugabe, is holding on, seemingly impervious to his wholessale destruction of the country and the suffering of his people.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
My question is: do we have some sort of contraption, in our venerable legal system, like a gong, or a trapdoor, or a cage full of hungry lions, that automatically dismisses obscene and retarded lawsuits?
If we don't, we should.
Here's my proposal: The person suing stands on the trapdoor, which then opens and they fall to their death. Thus, society is instantly mollified, taxpayers' money is saved and our reputation as thinking beings is somewhat restored.
Mexico City's Palace of Fine Arts is staging a comprehensive retrospective of the great Mexican painter Frida Kahlo this Summer, because it is her 100th birthday. Expect lots of feminists and women with facial hair to attend.
All kidding aside, Frida Kahlo was a great artist. So I urge you to drop everything and book yourself tickets to the D.F. so you can see it with your own eyes.
You will find she was her own favorite subject by far, but her self-portraits are unique in the history of art. She had a very interesting life and she was a fascinating, larger than life character, which is the reason why now there are t-shirts, and notebooks and doormats and tampons with her name and effigy on them. Here in the U.S. she was hijacked by some enterprising women who felt she symbolized true female independence, etc, and who marketed the shit out of her (something that would make the staunchly unrepentant communist Frida twist like a tornado in her grave).
But try to forget all that, and do forget that very Disneyfied movie with Salma Hayek, and just see the work. It will blow your mind.
I'm partial to her powerful still lives of Mexican fruit (with flies and all). It's like all of life and death and nature in a bowl.
Either Albania is the most popular blog topic on the planet, or I'm afraid I have bad news. It seems that since I employed the words Paris and Hilton in this blog my readership has mushroomed exponentially. Although I should be jumping for joy, it actually makes me rather sad that I have to thank this skank for anything. But I guess that's the way the world works today. You just put the words Paris and Hilton somewhere and you watch your business grow. It's either that, or it's Fushe Kruje.
In any case, welcome one and all!
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
I'm sure that the Tina book is most interesting, but this is not something we didn't know already. We saw it, beautifully in The Queen (the movie). You could tell, even in the eighties, that this woman craved the camera like I crave macaroni and cheese and Chinese food and onion rings and ice cream (and tortilla soup and tacos de carnitas from the Mercado de Medellin). Every coy smile and flutter of the eyelashes was calculated to elicit sympathy, as if she was a hungry orphan in Darfur and not a wealthy aristocrat living a fraudulent life of her own devising. I also freaking hated her hair.
Is it our fault that she married a guy who didn't love her and had huge ears? No. They had two kids. How did that happen? He closed his eyes and thought of England?
My acting teacher used to say that asking for pity or sympathy is the most boring choice for an actor. The kiss of death. Well, that's what happened to me with her. I could not tolerate her cloying goodness, her pretense of fresh scrubbed innocence. It was as sincere as a Hallmark card. But people bought it. Now, Paris Hilton has fans. Fans of what?
It is true, and sad and terrible that Diana's legacy is this: thanks to her we have to live with this celebrity frenzy that not only shows no sign of abating but that apparently knows no limits, no shame, no dignity, no curb. A freefall of vulgarity and banality and spin.
I was not around in the age of the heiresses like Doris Duke or Barbara Hutton. They were probably nuts, but I'm sure they had to have more class than what we see today. Whatever their skankiness, it probably happened safely behind closed doors, not in full view of the entire world.
I have an idea for the shortage of Army recruits: draft the p.r. people who work for these media whores. No need to thank me.
Witness the p.r. campaign the government of Kazahkstan unleashed to counter Borat. He, who in all good faith bore glad tidings from his beloved country to the rest of the world. How ungrateful of them.
No sense of humor whatsoever.
What about the land of Turkmenbashi, now rechristened Turkmenistan again? They had a leader over there until recently who changed the name of everything to Turkmenbashi, when he was not naming things after his mother. His name? Saparmurat Niyazov (no wonder he had nomenclature issues). He changed the names of the days of the week and the names of the months. Nobody ever remembered what they were supposed to be.
North Korea. Soon Yoon Moon or whatever his name is with the pompadour and the sunglasses -- very funny. Until he hits the red button and up in flames we all go, that is.
My point is, we are allowed to laugh at countries because countries are a riot. And not only the ones that end with IA or STAN (which by the way, happen to be in a list of countries that I won't go to).
Look at us! People here still think the world was made in seven days. People all over the world are having ruptured spleens making fun of us and we don't take it that much to heart. We just go back to watching American Idol, or The Next Top American Cheesehead. No big deal.
So, friends from Kreplachistan and environs, do lighten up.
Apparently, what got me lots of readers was the post about Bush being adored in Albania.
It seems some people in Australia, Finland, Estonia and Sweden (hi guys!) found it interesting.
I even got a very offended comment from an actual Albanian. She has a right to be miffed, although she seemed more offended about what she read in somebody else's blog than in mine.
Who knew people take geopolitics so seriously?
So now my two least favorite people, Paris Hilton and God, are BFF* (according to her; we haven't heard from Him in about 5000 years).
*That's Best Friends Forever to you.
Monday, June 11, 2007
Super mega wow.
Outside, the amazing racket of the Puerto Rican Day Parade was kind of awesome too. Major noise. La raza out in full force. The Museum was eerily empty for a Sunday afternoon. Lots of people may have sequestered themselves out of midtown for fear of the Boricua hordes, but actually it was a breeze to get there and to come back in the subway without a hitch.
Very cool Sunday.
More accurately, they are gaga about him in Fusche Kruje, as you can see from the picture.
But you know why? Because he is the only visitor they've ever had over there.
Maybe they love him too in Turkmenistan. Perhaps Borat may want to interview him in Kazakhstan, where he may also be extremely popular. You see, he is a very beloved leader in the boondocks, where the sun don't shine. In the rest of the civilized world, ah, it's a different story.
In the Judeo-Christian world, we have one rule: Thou shalt not kill.
True, we don't always follow it, but our society lives and survives by it.
It is the difference between civilization and savagery.
Yes, it was implied that Tony's time to face the music had come. But without seeing him fall, or react or learn or take it like a man, what is the freaking point of 86 episodes over 8 years? A freaking waste.
I had people at home over for this shit. People who had never seen the show and people who were skeptical. We were all dumbfounded and not in a good way.
Not only was the ending stupid, but the entire episode was worthless. Why concentrate on stupid AJ and his stupid antics? Who gives a flying fuck about fucking Meadow? (I have wished for someone to whack her for years). It was like an episode of the Partridge Family, it had no depth, no feeling, no punch, no wisdom: it just wasted 58 minutes of time until they came up with that moronic punchline. And I don't care about what anybody says about David Chase. This ending is not brilliant: it's lazy and insulting to the actors and to the viewers. Even when you happen to create the best TV show this country has ever seen, it seems that there is an unavoidable impulse for cheap, dumb, facile entertainment. That's why so many people think this is a dumb ass country.
Friday, June 08, 2007
I'm watching CNN at the gym and a title says "Bush's Stomach Flu getting better". And who is standing right next to Bush as this ticker appears? Our very own Felipe Calderón, Prez of Mex.
(We made it to the G8, yay! Then again, why exactly are we there?)
Well, I just hope people don't put two and two together and assume the stomach upset was the Mexican's fault. You know what they say about Mexican food...
Maybe Bush got his little flu because of how revolted he must be at this Senate's incomprehensible inability to freaking sign an immigration law. The issue is so complicated I defy anyone to explain it to me, but no matter how byzantine the law is, this just looks really bad. A year ago I was in LA in that massive, peaceful march for immigrant rights. And still, nothing has happened.
Also, while we are at it: In the Democratic debate, Wolf Blitzer asked the candidates whether they thought English should be the official language of the US. Only one of them raised his hand yes.
I don't see why English should not be the official language of this country. In Mexico, the official language is Spanish and in France it is French and in Israel it is Hebrew, so why the hell not. That doesn't mean that people can't speak or express themselves however they see fit, but there is a language that is of common use to all here and that should be English. The more immigrants think they don't need to speak it, the more damage they do to their own prospects. In order to progress and get better opportunities people need to speak English. Nobody is going to take away their native tongue, but geez, enough with the political correctness. Yuck.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Gotta love this mug shot. Mug shots are the new headshots, people! And jail is the new pijama party!
The ditz was released from jail into house arrest because SHE COULDN'T SLEEP! I thought she never slept already, what with the midnight porn videos and the general partying, but what do I know.
The LA Sheriff's Department's, fittingly histrionic, Hollywood cliché: "She has paid her debt to society."
No, she hasn't. This is what would pay her debt to society: send her to a Gulag in Siberia with no return ticket. Society would be forever grateful.
So this is what I have on my stack these days, dear readers, and feel free to recommend or opine on any glaring omissions or lapses of judgement to your taste.
• The Essential Kabbalah. Nothing to do with red thread bracelets, Esther-Madonna or mystical bottled water, this slim volume is a distillation of some of the key passages in the actual sources of Kabbalistic books (mostly all composed around the 12th Century in France and Germany). The writing is mysterious, but there are useful notes and the meditative, philosophical musings, make total sense (and work wonders before going to bed). I don't bring this book into the bathroom.
• Amuleto by Roberto Bolaño. Bolaño is hots right now, and with good reason. I saw the English translation of this slim volume (always into slim volumes, me). My method worked. I opened the book, read the first sentence, it totally grabbed me and I asked Little Enchiladita (who was coming to town) to bring me the original in Spanish from DF. It is a beautiful novel about an actual character I remember from my days as a university student in Mexico City. A woman, whose real name was Alcira, an illegal Uruguayan alien who survived the Army's taking of the National University campus in 1968 by staying for ten days in the bathroom of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, as we call the Humanities in Mexico. If you saw the bathrooms, you'd be impressed by her heroic feat of resistance. I remember Alcira (in the novel her name is Aurora) hanging around the campus, an old, loony lady without teeth, a poetic, raving mad, lefty dreamer from the sixties. By the time I was there, in 1981, the university's authorities let her wander around, vociferate in the hallways, sometimes interrupt classes. She was a living myth and she was untouchable. As someone generously describes her in the book, a female version of Don Quixote. Bolaño's book is a loving recollection of her and her times. As is usual with him, he doesn't go for the obvious, the telling of the ordeal. He goes into her mind, her feverish recollections, her memory and her visions and you can tell that his love of poetry sustains not only his language, but how he tells the story, in a gorgeous, unforced stream of consciousness. I can't think of any other novelist who gets the Mexico City bohemian culture, its crazy, violent nights, as wisely and sharply as Bolaño. Perhaps because he is an outsider, he is extraordinarily clear-eyed. He is brutal but sympathetic. A great writer. I want to read his big novel about the Savage Detectives but in the original Spanish.
• Very Good, Jeeves! by P.G. Wodehouse. Very funny, but a little at a time goes a long way.
• The Virgin's Guide to Mexico City by my friend Eric Martin. So far, I really like Eric's powers of observation and his sense of humor. And I recognize certain characters and situations, from when we coincided in Mexico City, which is neat-o.
Awaiting consumption (please chime in if you've read any of these)
Veronica by Mary Gaitskill
Falling Man by Don DeLillo
I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe (necessary Summer trashy reading, ok?)
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky (for my impending trip to Paris)
The Spider's Web by Joseph Roth (a fantastic German-Jewish writer. Love him)
We Wish To Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Phillip Gourevitch. It's taken me years to muster the courage to read this book about Rwanda.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
I think this is very fitting punishment, not for the driving violation, but for her annoying public life that she foists upon us at the slightest provocation. Spending some time alone for the first time in her life with her puny self should be punishment enough to last her a lifetime. Maybe the tenth circle of hell is actually being Paris Hilton in the company of herself.
Don't get me wrong: it is entirely possible that in person she is delightful, wise and urbane. However, the persona she has chosen to impress upon us is highly obnoxious, vapid and dumb. And even I, who try to ignore her to the best of my abilities, I'm sick of it.
As for the LA Sheriff department being so nice, I can imagine no other inmate has ever complained about this kind of behavior from them. It is revolting that celebrities get better treatment than everybody else. Revolting.
And somebody is going to tell me, well they have to treat them nice because celebrities could be made into picadillo in the slammer. Well you know what, they should think about that before they flaunt their disregard for the law, expecting, as they do, that special treatment is always going to save their ass.
Monday, June 04, 2007
We, in Enchiladaland, hired a master (I don't remember who, was it Milton Glaser?) to do that gorgeous, classic mexico68 beaut which to this day graces the t-shirts of the employees of La Esquina, and which I want to get my hands on, because it is so cool.
The Olympics in London. Sounds like such a bore anyway. They should have been here in NY.
Well, Bertie Wooster's inimitable voice will grab you from the get go. Even though they are trifles, I have been laughing out loud at some of the magnificently hilarious language of the book. Delightful. I love that all these brainless rich people are always asking Jeeves to deliver them from their silly predicaments. He does it with grace and a minute amount of elegant willfulness, which is lovely. I know you know that, but I didn't until Saturday. So it is news to me.
Friday, June 01, 2007
- Kevorkian Is Released From Prison 12:54 PM ET
- Top Bush Aide Is Leaving White House 1:32 PM ET
Mr. Bartlett told White House reporters he admires Mr. Bush because “the man I met almost 15 years ago is still the same person I know today,” one whose life-pillars are “faith, family and friends.”Fuck faith, fuck family and fuck friends. If you happen to be the POTUS, perhaps your "life-pillars" (puhleeze with the new agey, puke inducing evangelical speech) should be something along the lines of keeping this nation out of trouble with dignity and respect.
One would think that being Governor of Texas and then being President of the country would help you mature and improve over the irresponsible fratboy you used to be 15 years ago, but it is evident that this is not the case with Bush. So Perhaps Mr. Bartlett's comment is rather barbed, whether intentionally or not.
It reminds me of the British actor, I believe it was John Gielgud, who had to go backstage and offer an opinion after a colleague's particularly terrible performance on the boards. When asked by his thespian friend whether Gielgud thought he was good, Gielgud replied: "Good is not the word."
Mr. Speaker, 31, said he was told he was not contagious or a danger to anyone, but that officials would prefer that he did not fly. His father, also a lawyer, recorded the meeting, he said. “My father said, “OK, now, are you saying, prefer not to go on the trip because he’s a risk to anybody, or are you saying that to cover yourself,” he said. “And they said, we have to tell that to cover ourself, but he’s not a risk.”Covering ourselves seems to be the national pastime. Everything everybody ever does in this country is cover their ass first. Well, this time they didn't cover it enough. But then listen to one of the angry passengers:
Jason Vik, 21, a passenger on the outgoing flight who just graduated from the University of South Carolina, Aiken, is now waiting for results of a TB skin test. Mr. Vik spoke angrily about Mr. Speaker’s behavior. “He stepped on a plane with 487 people, one of the largest aircraft that Boeing makes, and he put us all at risk, just so he could go get married,” he said.
Not just so he could go have a vacation, and waste his time abroad, or just he could go sit on a plane and cough all over the pretzels, no. The poor man was getting married. Of course he wasn't going to change a simple little wedding in Greece because some people told him they would "prefer him not to fly". Geez. And this is a college graduate?
This is what I call a killer bargain.
Wikipedia, see link above, counts 10 guys in the running, not to mention those who are threatening, like Newt Gingrich and our very own Michael Bloomberg, who isn't really a Republican, as far as I'm concerned.
Not to be left behind, the Dems count 9 contenders, not to mention those potential candidates some people are inexplicably wishing for (like Al Gore*) and the guy who founded Tweezerman. Man, if the guy who founded Tweezerman runs, I'm voting for him. Thanks to him, there are now shocking pink tweezers and red tweezers and black tweezers and tweezers with the end this way or another, and none is cheaper than $10 bucks. I own a red pair and I have to say, they rule. The man took the cheapest, most pedestrian item in the world and packaged it into a beauty tool of desire. Imagine what he can do for the country!
And yet, as we survey those candidates with real chances, like Hillary, Barack and John Edwards, we are painfully aware and deathly afraid that the Dems are so spineless, gutless and cojonesless that they may lose. They may lose even as they are being handed the country on a silver platter. And then we'll have a president called Mitt, or even worse, one Rudy Giuliani, another bully.
*Michael Moore, the fat, unlikeable liberal documentarian, says that he wants Gore to run so he can get back the presidency they stole from him. To me, Gore is a fucking loser. He should have rioted and thrown the hissy fit to end all hissy fits when this happened and he just bent over with nary a fight. Why should he deserve to be president? He showed no leadership then and now of course it's easy for him to criticize Bush. Now. He should have been saying these things since at least two years ago. Sanctimonious loser.