Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Favorite Commercial 2008

I hate to say it, but it is this magnificent spot for Coca-Cola. The one where the Thanksgiving balloons fight for a bottle of Coke above the streets of New York. The one where the surprise loser wins.
It is so gorgeously made, so full of interesting details, so well done, I love it.

Japanese Guy Leaves Mexico City Airport

After living there for like 3 months.
You know, you could do worse than make Benito Juarez International Airport your home.
At least food is not bad. You can eat tacos al pastor or al carbón, or sopita de pasta, tortas Hipocampo and other Mexican goodies. You can buy overpriced Mexican Japanese peanuts! If you get bored, you can take the free monorail to the other terminal back and forth. Pretty neat.
If you happen to be staying at the new terminal, you could have breakfast, lunch and dinner at the fabulous Tortas Don Polo, the legendary tortas of my high school years, now with a miraculous outpost at the new, very cosmopolitan food court (they're right next to a sushi place and a horrible American fast food place). With Don Polo in the airport, I'm seriously considering moving there myself.
Imagine if some of the poorest inhabitants of Mexico City decided to make use of the unusual hospitality of the airport and camped there for months. I doubt they'd be given such a patient welcome.
But this is why I love Mexico. They let the guy live in the airport for months. They could not find a reason to send him somewhere else. If somebody tried to pull that stunt here -- they'd be sent to Guantanamo.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bring the Cannoli

"Become an entrepeneur... one who deals in anything and does business even with nothing... To be the center of every action, the center of power. To use everything as a means and themselves as the ends.
Whoever says that it's amoral, that life can't exist without ethics, that the economy has limits and must obey certain rules, is merely someone who has never been in command, who's been defeated by the market. Ethics are the limit of the loser, the protection of the defeated, the moral justification for those who haven't managed to gamble everything and win it all."

Are we talking about Wall Street, predatory lending banks, about government bailouts of incompetent crooks?

This quote is by Roberto Saviano in his book Gomorrah, about the Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Pinter Pause

I was perusing Gawker, which reported on the death of Harold Pinter (he and Eartha Kitt, jointly having martinis in Heaven, how cool is that?). Some of the commenters were saying he was a terrible playwright.
But this is what happens for reading the stuff lazy, petty, clueless idiots write in the internet.
In any case, for a very necessary and healthy dose of Pinteresque disturbance, I can recommend The Servant, the brutal film by Joseph Losey and written by Pinter.
Or The Homecoming, or Betrayal, or the two beautiful screenplays he wrote for the movies The French Lieutenant's Woman and The Go-Between.
I was happy when he won the Nobel Prize. He may have had obnoxious political views, but he is certainly not the only talented artist to espouse uncomfortable or shrill political views (and he at least was on the right side of the argument, sort of).
We cheered him when he won the Nobel Prize and we cheer him on today.

A Few Thoughts for the Holidays

A word of warning: If you are in a Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer kind of mood, you may not want to read the following.

The world reeks.
Make no mistake about it.
You may send yourself into a shopping induced oblivion of consumption, but do not for a moment forget we live in a world of gross injustice, where the powerful mock us every day. The more we bleed, the more they get away with it and the more they laugh at us. Because we let them.
Bush and Cheney are not only still at large, but still making deals and making sure they screw us till their last day in office and beyond.
That someone like Bernie Madoff exists should be proof enough of the lower reaches man is capable of. That man should be left to rot in jail til the end of days. Forget the ponzi scheme; he has singlehandedly brought Jews back to the middle ages by feeding the antisemitic hunger latent in so many. Just for that they should freaking feed him to Al Qaeda.
Our adored Obama looks like he's turning out to be a ravenous, hypocritical creep just like the rest of them, which brings no end of disappointment to me.
The banks won't say how they are spending the billions that have been handed to them in a silver platter. They hoard the money while people lose their jobs, businesses close, people lose their homes.
We live in a land of con men. And hypocrites.
We deserve everything that's coming to us because we allow it to happen. Gullible, contented people.
So merry fucking Christmas.

Just an Old Fashioned Girl

I grew up listening to Eartha Kitt sing Ces't Si Bon, Old Fashioned Girl (I loved that song) and fun songs in incomprehensible languages. I loved her voice, I loved that she sang in all the languages in the world, and I thought she came from an exotic planet of unabashed sexiness and fun.
I never saw her perform cabaret here in NY, though it crossed my mind many times. But I think I wanted to keep the memory of her young leopard-covered self as I saw it in the LP cover, and the youth of her inimitable voice intact.
They don't make them like her anymore.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

And the Best Actor Is...


The most touching, generous portrayals of decent people by two notorious real life assholes:
• Sean Penn in Milk
• Mickey Rourke in the Wrestler
A dead tie. Penn's win would be a nice political zets.
Rourke's shameless, vulgar campaigning may end up hurting his chances, but boy does he deserve it.
• Josh Brolin as W.
• Leonardo DiCaprio in Revolutionary Road. I thought he was much better than Kate Winslet.
• I haven't seen Richard Jenkins in The Visitor but I'm sure he rules. He deserves a prize for everything he's ever done.
• Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon


• Sally Hawkins in Happy Go Lucky. A miraculous performance and my absolute favorite.
• Kirsten Scott Thomas in I've Loved You So Long (in French, but she rocked)
• La Tía Meryl (that's Meryl Streep to you) in Doubt.
• Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Crazed and Funny.

Supporting mix:

• Eddie Marsan in Happy Go Lucky.
• The always perfect Dylan Baker in Revolutionary Road
• James Franco in Milk
• Josh Brolin in Milk.
• Robert Downey Jr in Tropic Thunder for sheer chutzpah.
• Zoe Kazan in Revolutionary Road. A star making turn.
• Amy Adams in Doubt. This girl always rocks.
• Tilda Swinton in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I'm so swamped with work I have been neglecting you. I am in fact, sitting in an office on a gray Saturday afternoon, waiting for work stuff to print out and so sending you a line or two to beg you not to abandon this blog, because it has not abandoned you.
Who can look the gift horse of work in the mouth in this dreadful economy?
I, who have an adversarial, love-hate relationship with work (I think it's highly overrated and here in America for some reason they confuse it with morality), I'm taking as much work as I can and I'm grateful for it.
Having said this, I hear rumblings at one of my workplaces about working over the holiday break. Avowed atheist that I am, I cannot feign an offensive attack on my faith., but I think this workaholic American mishegoss needs to stop somewhere (and the Xmas break is a good place to start).
In Mexico some people say that work is so bad that they pay you to do it. Here, work is some sort of misguided godliness that I can't understand.
I'm trying to meet both halfway.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

National Wholesale Liquidators RIP

In one word:

or actually:


I saw a sign on the corner of Houston and Broadway saying that the National Wholesale Liquidators are actually having a liquidation sale. "Everything Must Go!"
I think it's not the usual ploy 'cause I went in there recently and the place seemed forlorn of merchandise.
Not that I went there so much. Everything they sold in there was slightly suspect, mainly because it could not be possible to be so cheap and still be legitimate. However, I bought some cherished home appliances there. Everything always cost $19, no matter what it was.
• My first Dustbuster. I still miss it. Later versions were all duds.
• Several crappy toasters that either didn't toast or they burned everything to cinders.
• $19 blenders
• Suspicious Teflon cookware.
• Most recently, a $19 space heater because believe it or not, like a character out of Dickens, my heating at home doesn't always work.
I never bought food there. The expiration date was always ancient history. I was afraid that the beauty products were excavated from Cleopatra's tomb.
But for shit for the home, it was fabulous. It was a fantastically depressing place, except when you looked at the price tags and amazement would creep into your face.
One would think that with our depression a place like NWL would stand to make a killing, since now all Americans can afford has to cost $19 tops. But it has been encroached by higher end retailers and I bet the rent is astronomical.

I'm sad to see it go.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Greetings from Houston, TX

I like this meatpacking district better than the one in N.Y.

Not to be confused with Houston St (Howston, as we call it in NY).
I was checking Houston around yesterday, going to visit my Mexican homies.
Here are some examples of merchandise you can get at a convenience store in the Galena Park hood:

They are not called convenience stores for nothing. You can get your bag of Cheetos (or Sabritones in this case), your religious effigies, and your poor man's Viagra, all in one trip.

This is Texas.

I don't think you can find this drink even in Mexico:

Cueritos: pickled pork skins.

It's good to be in town under the auspices of a Mexican who knows his way around for culinary reasons.
For lunch he took us to Pappasitos, which he quickly caveated with: "It's Tex-Mex but it's good Tex-Mex". Indeed it was, particularly a concoction called Chili con Queso, which is like good melted Cheez Whiz with a nice poblano kick. Addictive stuff, believe it or not.
For dinner we went to Hugo's in the cute Montrose district. For years, the best Mexican restaurant in the US in my view was Rick Bayless' Topolobampo in Chicago. I'm afraid last night it was finally dethroned by Hugo's. It was so good, I'm seriously considering moving to Houston, which if you know me, it amounts to insanity. It was that good.
Did you know that if you order a shot of tequila, a shot glass of sangrita and a shot glass of lime juice, this is called a Bandera (the Mexican flag)? I didn't but I had two of those. My patriotic duty, of course.
The food in Hugo's is authentic and fabulously executed.
We had sopecitos (here spelled sopesitos, which drives me nuts) of chicharron with salsa verde, rabbit tinga and duck in mole poblano. You have no idea.
Then I had the cabrito, which came wrapped in banana leaf and was tender and succulent and came with excelent, smoky nopal salad and refried black beans and an habanero sauce (on the side) that was so good I didn't mind how hot it was (very).
For dessert I ordered a trio of ice cream of which a flavor called cinammon-coffee was incredible. The Mexican Vanilla and the Cajeta were fine too.
Hugo's made me so extremely happy.

This being Texas, I notice that in my humongous hotel room there is no trace of the "ecological" concerns many hotels have about sheets and towels. Here they don't believe in global warming so you can use as many towels as you like and leave the lights and a/c on all day if you so desire.

Goodbye to all that

This tab for an evening at the Pink Elephant last September just fell into my hands. I have secret friends in very high places. Alas, I was not invited to this bacchanal. :(

Behold an artifact of historical curiosity. Scrutinize it with the sagacity of an anthropologist.
After all, who knows when New York will see something like this ever again.

Most importantly: $6 for a Red Bull? The nerve. And who, for crying out loud, was drinking Heinekens?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Mexican Japanese Peanuts vs Shocking Nazi Photos

Who will win this fight to the death of most searched subjects in this humble blog?
So far the Mexican Japanese Peanuts have been the undisputed champions. But this week there is a clamoring for the Nazis, who can always be counted to bring in the crowds. MJP: fight back!

Monday, December 01, 2008

On the other hand...

...there is a very sad, interesting article in the same issue about a Mexican family living in Sunset Park and the plight of illegal aliens in this hypocritical country.
You know where I stand on the issue: if you don't want them here, send each and every single one of them out, build a freaking wall to keep them out, but you better not need their services and their cheap, relentless labor.
I am getting tired of the smug hypocrisy of this country. Everywhere you look it's all lip service and hot air and sheer duplicity. Health coverage, immigration, the economic catastrophe, I wonder how Americans can keep the charade up. Freedom, democracy, change, hope -- these words are cheap and getting cheaper by the second, like the stock market.
This is fast becoming a mean spirited country, full of whiny selfish people who can't understand the simple concept of paying taxes so we can all have better lives.
As I'm fond of saying, I only became a Marxist when I moved to the US.

New York Magazine made my day

New York Magazine announces in its latest issue that Gael Greene is not going to write her insufferable food reviews there ever again. I could not be happier.
There is something about her sentences that makes me want to tear my hair out.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


It's hard to talk about it. You know what I think of extremists and religious fanatics. They are the lowest scum because they attribute to and justify their criminal insanity by God. And because they are religious they think they have some kind of exemption. These are people who love the power that blood letting confers to them. They are lower than animals. They are obviously incapable and resentful of living in a civilized world. And those who fan their fires and fund their activities don't deserve to live.
It's not surprising they were Islamic extremists. These people seem to have a very high tolerance for utter depravity and sheer hatred, like burning women with acid, or killing a child in front of his parents or opening fire on innocent citizens. What is mainstream Islam doing to counter this madness? What are the zillionaire Islamic princes doing with their money that perhaps could help turn the tide against these crazed young idiots?
I think now would be a good time for the government of Pakistan, in concert with other injured parties in Mumbai, to get these people where it hurts. To find them and arrest them and, if that is the law of the land, execute them.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My only consolation

... in this unholy financial mess is that I hope that the rich, greedy bastards who got us here (Republicans, motor company executives, Citibank assholes) are losing a lot of money.
My mantra these days is: hang 'em by their balls.

Friday, November 14, 2008

American Buffalo

I'm very happy that there are two David Mamet plays now running on Broadway. If it was up to me, there would be Mamet plays running on a loop forever, I love him so much.
Quaint is not an adjective that should even come up when talking about a Mamet play, but that was the feeling I got yesterday from the new production of American Buffalo, directed, without the slightest edge, by Robert Falls.
There is the interesting multiculti casting, which, like many plays on Broadway today, brings movie or TV stars to buoy ticket sales. I have no problem with any of the gifted performers in American Buffalo. Cedric the Entertainer, the fabulous John Leguizamo, and I See Dead People, (Haley Joel Osment). Hey, we have a Black president, and yes, this is America, where corruption and greed and venality are everyone's God given right, regardless of skin tone (isn't America great?).
It's cool to mix it up. But it has to work.
What I love about Mamet is that he just cuts right through the American bullshit. What is American free enterprise if not permission to scam someone else? We are all pool sharks, con men, small time robbers. In Hollywood, in real estate, in antiques, doesn't matter. To see these three not upstanding Chicago citizens scheme is to think of people like Henry Paulson and whoever is still at large for the subprime mortgage catastrophe, no difference. This is the land of the massive con and the absolute genius at paying lip service to empty words like freedom and justice, and shit. I love Mamet for calling it out.
The play should and does resonate in these times where money, or its precipitous vanishing, is on everyone's mind. But something about the show feels strangely muted, and lacking sharpness. Not the text itself, with its gorgeously salty language and great humor. There is something off in the performances. It's like the actors are holding back. Like a paint by numbers show. Mamet plays should feel like someone is twisting a knife in your gut, not like a Hallmark movie of the week. The end violence felt contrived to me and I'm hoping it is not the fault of the play, but of how the production gets there.
Dennis Frantz, in the movie, gave a definitive performance of Donny, the junk shop owner. You could tell from his droopy eyelids he had been around the block and then some. Cedric, who has an amazing presence, is avuncular and wise but he is totally lacking edge. He could be running the cub scouts, yet he is supposed to be some sort of a shark and the disparity between his heartfelt concern for the kid and his ruthlessness is not as clear and horribly ironic as it should be. He is the center of the play and the unleasher of the action. He uses people. Being a nice little crook does not cut the mustard. Donny's calculating turns need to hurt, and they don't, so the play falls flat.
One nice thing about Cedric, however, is that the rhythms of the speech feel natural in his African American inflection. The actors all do a great job of getting the musicality of the speech right. In fact, in my experience, the only time when this hasn't happened is when Mamet directs his plays himself and the actors all sound like robots. I surmise that actors must love to wrap their tongues and voices around the sound of Mamet's cursing. It is delicious, and vicious and gorgeous.
As Teach, John Leguizamo is vibrant and funny and suitably sociopathic. He is a perfect small time hood, full of comic idiotic bluster, yet menacing enough. A live wire. I thought his was the best performance, though the audience (who doesn't know dick and gives standing ovations to the post) showed much more love for Cedric. If Leguizamo is trying to affect a Chicago accent, he should abandon the effort and just be himself. I think he can grow this into a great performance, but last night it felt as if he was holding back. The violence needs to be more convincing. When he goes on a rampage he needs to let it tear. I'm sure Dead People can stand a couple of good slaps in the face for the sake of thespian immortality (then again, if the play is a hit, I wouldn't blame him if he didn't). It should not feel like the actors are dicking around at acting. This is a Mamet play, for crying out loud. The guys in the Hollywood office a couple of blocks away display more ruthless, savage instinct than these street guys from Chicago. Now bring back the guys in the real estate office, and I'm in heaven.

New pet peeves

What is it with all the people dragging their wheeled luggage on the streets of New York? Is this an airport? Are we a Greyhound depot? Can somebody explain to me, if you are not actually traveling to a far-flung destination, why you need to drag luggage around like a homeless person of means?
Whatever the explanation is, I don't like it, so cease and desist.

Adult men over the age of 25 who wear baseball caps outside of a park on a Sunday or of a baseball field, should have their headgear confiscated, I don't care if they are Paul Simon or Ron Howard.
Yesterday at the theater I saw middle aged gentlemen wearing baseball caps. What are you, a child?
Wear a fedora. And take it off if you are inside.

By the way, I'm so glad Summer is over so I don't have to see a flip flop again for 6 months.
Flip flops outside the context of a beach or a pool should be banned. People who wear business clothes and flip flops (you are only temporarily excused if you just had a pedicure) should be castigated with expulsion from NY. (Half the population of the city would have to leave).

I've also had it with bands of teenagers who scream in the subway. Your hormonal mutations are not an excuse.

My friends*, it is not rocket science to learn how to use the Automatic Postage Centers, those magnificent wonders of human engineering, at the Post Office. Please do not stand there with your index finger hovering in the air like you are lost in the forest or stuck in slow motion for eternity. Ask for help from your fellow impatient shippers. A man cut in line to check a zip code. Apparently, his zip code existed only in planet Zardoz. So the machine asks him to type the address, and the guy starts typing the name of the people who live there. "Davey Johnson..." Three times, until I had to tell him to just type the address. Geez.

It's so nice to wake up in a peevish mood!

*My friend Katya says that we will never be able to say the phrase "my friends" without recoiling in horror. It's like in A Clockwork Orange. You can never hear the song "Singing in the Rain" innocently ever again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Death of Manners

I got a kick out of this article by Henry Alford on the decline of manners in NY (some people think there never were any manners to begin with). Alford has a tactic by which he apologizes to the people who were rude to him in the hopes that they will realize the error of their ways. It is very funny because they don't.
Alas, I do not have Mr. Alford's patient, pedagogical disposition. My tactic is to counter with a murderous stare and a sharp EXCUSE ME? or even a WHAT THE FUCK?
I once got an entire glass of ice water spilled on me by my next table neighbor at Blue Ribbon Bakery. I was totally soaked. The guy didn't say moo. He blithely continued chatting with his friend as if I did not exist. In instances like this, what I feel like doing, instead of didactically turning the other cheek as Mr. Alford counsels, is to harpoon the offender on the spot. To bash his brains out with a baseball bat, a la Al Capone in the Untouchables. That's how.
Most recently, I sat on a flight from Mexico City to JFK. The family in the row in front of me had two very fussy kids who screamed bloody murder intermittently during the entire flight. The parents were not effective at controlling them. I was surprised that having enjoyed the company of my darling Mini-Enchiladitos nephews the entire week, I was ready to strangle these two little pests a la Lady Macbeth (except wide awake and in full possession of my faculties). But that was not the worst part, since one understands that sometimes there is no reasoning with children. I was sitting next to a couple that simply did not have a concept of personal space. The guy next to me was fidgeting and moving and falling asleep on top of me and behaving, once again, as if I wasn't there, so I moved to another seat across the aisle that was empty. The owner of the window seat gave me a nasty look, but too bad, buddy. If you want to claim the row for yourself, you need to lie across it. Otherwise, it's finders, keepers.
Then finally, when we were able to leave that freaking plane (it takes people longer and longer to remove their shit from the overhead bins), and we were standing in line for the immigration officers, the couple, who turned out to be Israelis, were still on top of my hair. Not standing behind me in line, but right next to me. Breathing down my neck. Getting. On. My. Personal. Space. The woman was wearing a nicotine patch and demanded to speak to a manager. She demanded that there be more officers attending to "the customers", as if this was a supermarket line. Take it up with George Bush, lady, I wanted to say, but we all just snorted back at her. The Delta lady told her to zip it, it's the federal government you're talking about and you can get arrested (oh, I so wish). I wish I was like Henry Alford, but that would have made my day.

Excuses, excuses

I have been asked to put this on my blog:

"I can't go to the gym because I forgot my iPod in Mexico."

It's true. So I don't go.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Friday, November 07, 2008

Day of the Dead in Photos

Death is cool.

This is pan de yema, the traditional Day of the Dead bread. Too beautiful to eat.


At an exhibit of alternative altars. This one illustrates how I feel about PCs.

A more classic altar.

Servants, Anyone?

In case you are in dire need of servants, you can call this number, which I saw affixed to several trees and posts in the enclaves of the wealthy in Mexico City, and your staffing problems may be solved.
In Oaxaca, a much humbler place, there were many such signs advertising the services of clowns.

Mexico: Bizarroland

Every time one goes to Mexico, one can expect something to punch you in the gut.
Yesterday, my hour and a half trip to the airport was a fitting farewell. The cab driver decided to use an unorthodox route to get me there on time. Traffic chaos in Mexico is a daily occurrence but it was made even more hellish by the crash of a Lear Jet that was carrying the Mexican Minister of the Interior a couple of days before (everybody thinks it was done on purpose by drug lords). The plane crashed on top of a major artery of the city in rush hour. Two days later, traffic was hell. So my driver decided to take Reforma, our Champs Elysees, all the way to the airport. This was far more fun than driving on the freeways. The city government has put lovely sculptures by important Mexican artists on the Chapultepec stretch. They also have a photo exhibit of handicapped people. Then there was a stretch with colorful sculptures of giant alebrijes, who are dragon spirits, or as a cab driver in Oaxaca told me, somebody's dreams made art.

And then came the punch to the gut. On the intersection between Reforma and Insurgentes, the two major Mexico City avenues, appears a large group of men wearing only their underwear (briefs). They are stomping their feet and chanting. Most of them look young and fit. They are manifesting some displeasure with the government and the undersecretary of the interior. Big signs claim that the government lied to them (and this is strange, why?) They are also creating congestion. I snap a picture. One of them happily waves at me, another one seems to be carefully fishing something out of the deep recesses of his ass. It is all very disturbing.

Then I look out the other window and I see a couple of such men, this time older, tied to wooden crosses hanging from posts, which is not only way over the top, but frankly totally indecent. Then in the distance I see a bunch of women, absolutely buck naked, sans panties, sans bra, standing on a dais, chanting slogans. I was so shocked, I forgot I had a camera in my hands. None of them owned the airbrushed, hard-bodies nudes we expect to see when confronted with human nudity. They all seemed overnourished and underexercised, but my question is why are the women allowed, or why do they comply, to be totally naked while the men are not? Unless it's a Spencer Tunick photo, naked people in the middle of the day, in the middle of civilized life, is a very visceral, disturbing sight. The question of course is also, who the fuck are these ridiculous people and why the fuck are they not all thrown into police vans and ordered to dress? If you are Mexican you know the answer, which is coming, bear with me.
The cab driver calmly informs me that they have been there for weeks*. Someone must be paying for the show, I say, and we both surmise (I guess; he knows) it must be that freaking vantz, that pest of the left, our wannabe Hugo Chávez, AMLO (Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador). To me, this grotesquerie bears his signature.
As for the question why is this allowed to happen? For the same reason the government allowed a massive AMLO provoked camp out in the middle of downtown Mexico City for months. Tactics like this are designed as provocation. AMLO, or whoever comes up with these moronic obscenities, wants the government to bring in the police or the national guard and use violence against the protesters, who are supposed to be "the people" (the actual Mexican people are working to feed their families, every day). The government decides they are not going to fall into the trap, so they allow it. Knock yourselves out, is the government's M.O. Nobody can accuse them of trampling anybody's self-expression or their right to protest. It is also traditional for the government to pander and pay lip service to the left, instead of actually helping the poor.
Me, enlightened despot that I am (and getting more despotic by the minute), I would have these people arrested in less time they would take to pull their pants down. I'm sure there is an obscenity law buried somewhere not so deep in the Mexican laws. When I was a teenager, for crying out loud, you couldn't sit in a car with a date without fearing that the police would come and shake you up for committing "faults against morality", so give me a freaking break.
And if you are a bleeding heart liberal, you have to understand that in Mexico there is a traditional practice of paying "the people" to protest. I don't doubt that at the beginning there were actual peasants with legitimate grievances. Now it looks to me like someone is paying for the parade to continue. It took me a couple of minutes to realize I should have taken more pictures, but I swear I was too stunned.
* just google 400 pueblos and you will see many grotesque pictures. You will learn they are supposedly peasants from Veracruz who have been doing this since 2002. Mexicans are both a patient people and masters at passive aggression.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I'm not surprised about Prop 8

It is very sad indeed that the last bastion of deep seated prejudice in America is against gay people. It is difficult to connect the step toward real human progress that the vote for Obama represents with the passing of propositions that seek to ban gay marriage in America. Obama himself has not come out fully in favor of gay marriage and I'm sure that this is not out of personal conviction, but political reality.
But the fact is, people still cannot get over homosexuality. It apparently is too much to ask from men and women to understand that homosexuality exists in nature and that gay men and women need to be equally protected and served under the law.
Centuries of religious and social prejudice in pretty much every culture in the world make this a bias that is extremely difficult to overcome. If you are a racist, you can live your life segregated from those you hate or fear. However, the fear that you may be that which you fear or hate is a different story, and much harder to combat. The concept of homosexuality brings terrible private sexual anxiety to people. It is almost a physical, biological reaction, the absolute denial of the possibility of such an option in yourself. And allowing gay people to fully express such an option within the framework of society just fans those fears and ignorant hatreds all the more.
The hurdles to overcome this particular prejudice may be very similar to what certain minority groups have to deal with, but they are also very different. They are more visceral, more personal, and more private. Honestly, it surprises me that gay people treat this as if it was any other prejudice and they are shocked when the rest of society doesn't go along.
In order for homosexuals to gain the full equality they deserve under the law, they need to understand that the nature of the fight is different. I don't know exactly how you combat these deep seated fears and prejudices. I guess by education and example. And by making this a legal issue, a constitutional issue, an issue of equal rights. But it is clear that culturally it is not an easy fight and despite the progress that has been made so far, the puritanical, conservative majority in America, which in this case spans across race and class, is still not ready for a mature discussion and understanding of human sexuality, which is what this issue is about. It may and should be ultimately resolved via the law, but we are dealing with our own concept of human nature.
Spain, a country that was deeply Catholic and conservative for centuries, now has legalized gay marriage and nobody bats an eye. America, a country founded on the most progressive, humanistic principles on Earth, can't, for the life of it, see beyond its 0wn sexual hang ups. I am still waiting for fucking New York State to act, and I ain't holding my breath. This is one of the most difficult contradictions that we have in America and therefore I think this fight requires different thinking and different measures. Because as heroic as it is, and as much as it has achieved, we are still not there yet.

The joyful aftermath

Now that I have been able to collect my thoughts, scattered as they were by more powerful emotions such as joy and relief and pride and amazement, here they are:

McCain's concession speech was the greatest moment of his campaign. Had he sounded and acted like last night throughout, he may not have been trounced the way he was. Call me paranoid, but I thought that making it about African-Americans at the very beggining of the speech still had a whiff of scaremongering amongst his base. It was over 100 million people who voted, it was about more than African Americans. Thus, I didn't find the speech as gracious at the very beginning, but maybe it's just that there is a certain tone-deafness in McCain's camp in general. Then McCain corrected course. When alluding to the mistakes he made, I could not help but parse this as the major blunder of choosing Palin for a running mate (against his wishes, according to a New Yorker article). About her, there is no need to expound. She showed who she was, or rather who she wasn't from the very beginning and it just kept getting worse. The way she was manipulated by the campaign and used to unleash ugliness was not only cynical and disgusting but a terrible setback for women and for everybody in America. There were many other mistakes that showed McCain was out of touch with the reality of most people. The condescension towards Obama, the racial baiting, the patronizing tone towards the American people (Joe the Plumber?) but most damaging was the ideological tunnel vision of his campaign strategy. Their base, to which they pandered and because of which they floundered, is irrelevant today. Most American people have more common sense and more authentic decency and, as the results show, more pressing problems, than those fringe lunatics that Steve Schmidt and Karl Rove think can win them an election. Republicans showed that they live in a dangerous ideological bubble of their own making that has now felicitously (for us) and disastrously (for them) exploded. The fact that they pretended that G.W. Bush, the biggest elephant in the room in the history of the world, wasn't there, didn't help any. The entire McCain campaign symbolizes neatly and beautifully everything that is wrong with the Republican party. Now they have four years to regroup and fix it, and perhaps they can become a viable party again for those tax-obsessed people who believe in total self-reliance, not for evangelical loonies and intolerant bigots and ultra-rightist extremists.

I was struck by the cold indifference of McCain's body language as he patted Palin in the back and as he almost forgot that his Barbie wife was standing beside him (who must have been the most relieved American of all). He barely acknowledged her, and not for the first time. Compare that to what goes on with the Obamas and I'm just thrilled we have a power couple finally who seems to be having an actual, living, breathing intimate relationship. They are a real couple. I'm thankful just for that. I believe it is more important than it seems (think the Nixons, the Fords, the Clintons, the Bushes and the Bushies. I rest my case). I also love Biden's wife. She seems authentic.

And then we have our winner, who is not only intensely charismatic and capable and intelligent and a magnetic orator (and super duper handsome), but who ran, as he himself said, the best political campaign ever. If he runs this country with the intelligence and strategic acuity and steadfastness and nimbleness with which he ran his campaign, we may have a formidable president. For a spine-chilling comparison in leadership styles just think back to Hillary Clinton's debacle and/or the McCain campaign. Both seem rudderless and opportunistic and willing to shift and pander at any cost for the big prize. Meanwhile, "That One", breezes through on message, on point and without psychodrama. That's who we need at the helm.

I found it interesting that the victory music playing was no Motown or Stevie Wonder. It was a bombastic film score from John Williams for The Patriot. As an inside joke it works real well. But it is also a cunning choice because, like Obama's victory speech, it is about America, not about our different particularities. The Clintons used Fleetwood Mac (Don't Stop). It would have been a joyous get down and boogie had the Obamas used any of the magnificent music that is the African American legacy to this country, but it was politically right to use something generic, because this presidency, as Obama mentioned time and time again in the speech, needs to be about everybody, not about him being a Black man. Still, in the speech, he did not disappoint in this respect. Nobody can accuse this man of being an Oreo. The speech was perfectly nuanced between inclusiveness and the acknowledgment of his historical reality and its astounding implications for America and the world. When he mentioned what that 106 year old Black lady who got out and voted had been through to get to this day, through Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma (and I will add Katrina), he brought it all home.

But images can speak louder than words even as magnificent and adroit as our new President-Elect's. The faces in Grant Park, a veritable mosaic of color; the booing faces in Arizona, a sea of white. Guys, I have news for you: that is not America anymore. Hasn't been for a while now. America is more like Obama, an amalgam of races and nations and colors and creeds. Sasha and Malia beaming, their parents looking and acting like parents and like a couple. And I was surprised by Obama's gravitas, no doubt influenced by the sad loss of his grandmother, but also I'm sure by what he correctly deemed appropriate for the moment. He looks like a statesman, talks like a statesman and acts like a statesman. I'm in love.

I'm also in love with Michelle Obama. I can't wait for her to be the first lady. She rocks.

I have been reading the comments in the NY Times (the schmaltziness gets boring pretty fast). Apparently, Australians are uncommonly happy about the results. But I have not seen comments from Israel. Israel should be rejoicing just like the rest of the world. This man is committed to a foreign policy that will restore America's standing in the world and I'm sure this will include plans for a lasting peace in the Middle East (which means more peace for all the planet). Jews need to understand that he and Biden, not the macho bluster and evangelical craziness of Bush and the Satanic self-interest of Cheney, will be in the best interests of Israel and of the Palestinians.

Lastly, I heard the message that outgoing POTUS sent Obama. It sounded like a frat boy talking to a buddy. Awesome dude! I must agree, but it is so below the standards the occasion requires. Luckily, we can look forward to the winds of change from now on. Oh, happy day.

Barack Hussein Obama

I ran out of tissues. I think I ran out of snot.
I was stuck at the Middle Enchilada's home in Mexico City, unable to go to an election night party because of a terrible airplane accident that killed Mexico's Interior Minister (the number 2 man in power) and which blocked traffic in the city for hours.
So I watched by myself in amazement as the networks called the election for Obama relatively early into the night. By what looks to me like a landslide. Florida, Colorado, Ohio, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, for crying out loud. What a fitting reprieve.
And when I saw Obama and his formidable, beautiful, magnificent family on that stage, when I heard that sober, measured and fantastic speech, when I saw Biden's family mingle with the Obamas, well I just bawled like I haven't bawled in a looooong time.
My darling friends in New York called me to celebrate and congratulate and I could hear the joy and the noise and the relief and the happiness.
Americans, you did well. Finally.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I ate everything in sight

Because in Oaxaca, that's what you do. You eat and pray to the Lord that Moctezuma does not wish to revenge himself on you. There are certain things you have to taste while in Oaxaca. I can spare you the grasshoppers if you are squeamish. You are also forgiven the maguey worms. I don't expect you to eat something I won't.

Chapulines with tlayuda (grasshoppers, anyone?)

But you absolutely must go to the food market and have a fruit water from Doña Casilda, whose female heirs still run the stall. You should try a new flavor for every day you stay in town, but if this strikes you as too much, you must have the agua de tamarindo, which is the best tamarind water I have ever had and I ever expect to have. You must also have the agua de chilacayote, which, if someone like Ferran Adria or Joel Robuchon came up with it, you'd be very impressed and would pay lots of money for the privilege. Here it costs less than 1 USD and it is pumpkin water with piloncillo (raw brown sugar) and it is exquisite. You can also have horchata (rice water) with tuna (cactus fruit) or agua de zapote, a black fruit that I believe only exists in Mexico. Drink it to stay, or to go in an ingenious plastic bag with a straw.
You can thank me later.

Across from Casilda are the very popular ices of Chonita, the most fabulous ice cream parlor ever, bare bones and totally authentic. The Oaxacan nieves (snows) are lighter than sorbet and are unbelievable, and come in flavors like burnt milk, roses, avocado, corn, mezcal and every fruit known to Latin man. They are tasty, refreshing and hand churned.

The flavors of Oaxacan ices at Chonita.

Ices on the street. We had the Leche Quemada, which tastes exactly like burnt milk and sugar.

You of course, will try mezcal, which is an amazing smoky hard liquor that has become fancy schmancy but is the drink of the poor, made from maguey cactus and which will cure everything that ails you (in small doses). This you have as a shot like tequila, with sal de gusano (here pictured with a shot of tequila), which is salt with chili and powdered worm (I'm kicking myself for not having bought some) and slices of orange. Fabulous as an aperitif before lunch. Makes you feel like an Aztec warrior.
You will have mole, whether you like it or not. It can be negro, coloradito, amarillo, almendrado, verde. I had an amazing coloradito at La Casa de la Abuela. A little goes a long way, but this one was superb. The thing about Mexican food, the genius of it is that it is an explosion of flavors. There are so many things happening at once in your mouth that you don't know what hit you. Mexicans are not afraid of color, and they are not afraid of flavor. Neither should you be.
You will taste Quesillo, which is like the Mexican mozzarella, a fabulous string cheese that is the pride of Oaxaca (their queso fresco also rules). At the market, they sell little snack bags with little quesillo pellets, which you pop into your mouth. Addictive.
You will have traditional Mexican chocolate, which is not at all like the disgraceful shit that passes for hot chocolate in the States. In fact, you will witness the grinding of cacao at a chocolate mill, where it is ground and mixed with sugar, cinnamon and almond to your specifications. Then you will feel like Moctezuma before he had dreams of revenge.
If you are adventurous, you can try tejate, which is a weird precolumbian beverage made of corn meal and cocoa butter and which you drink from colorful gourds (although plastic cups are available to go). It is a watery milky thing that has a mix of cornmeal mixed with pure cocoa butter on top, which gives it a fatty texture. The drink itself is refreshing and I wish I could tell you what it tastes like, but I can't because, except for sweet, I can't possibly describe it. It's as if you eat chalk with sugar, corn and a bit of cinammon and something that tastes smoky and ancient. It's an acquired taste.
You will abandon your digestive system to fate and will try a corn on the cob or esquite (just the grain in a corn broth with lime, chili, salt, mayo, and cheese) from the street. Probably nothing will happen to you except sheer bliss.
Photos coming soonish.

Day of the Dead in Oaxaca

I know y'all want to read about the election, but that will be tomorrow when we know what happened. Suffice it to say that it's election day in the US and the Mexico City Airport is dead.
In the meantime, I will regale you with tales of my travels this past weekend in Oaxaca for Day of the Dead, which kicks Halloween's butt big time.
Only in Mexico are the dead celebrated with such a mix of wistfulness and colorful joy. This being Mexico, we could not fathom which cemetery to go to on the eve of the holiday to see the families communing with their dead, because everybody had a different story. Nobody could agree on the date or the place, so we ended up at Oaxaca's main cemetery on the night of November first, which was a bit disappointing. Mind you, outside the cemetery it was fabulous. There was a mini-amusement park and of course, street food galore. We had to have our hot cakes de la calle, which for some mysterious reason we have never been able to ascertain, are the best pancakes on Earth. Nothing comes close to the feathery, fragrant taste of these things. I had my street pancake slathered with cajeta (the Mexican version of dulce de leche, made with goat milk) and had paroxysms of unbridled joy.
Inside the cemetery, however, there were many altars, but not that many people.
I had been to the Xoco cemetery years ago, a humble place where the poor humbly sit on the simple tombs and quietly commune with their muertitos. The big place in Oaxaca, where the grandees are buried, is not humble in style nor deed. There were a couple of obnoxious upper middle class families bringing Mariachis and screaming from one stone to another as if they were at a party. I don't believe this is the true spirit of this holiday. It seemed to me typical of the kind of arrogant Mexican who lords over the rest of them with a bit more money and much more vulgarity. But the next morning, after our visit to the elegant ruins of Monte Alban, we went, on our cab driver's recommendation, to the Xoco cemetery, which has an inscription in the entrance that reads, "You are dust and to dust you shall return". The pillars of the greek-looking entrance are painted a day-glo lime green, so it's all good. The Xoco cemetery was ablaze with orange and red flowers, bursting with cempazuchitl, the traditional, fragant flower of the Day of the Dead. The explosion of color was magnificent. Entire generations were watering the flowers, and lovingly cleaning and upkeeping the graves, eating and drinking quietly. The graves had gorgeous altars and some had carpets made of colored sand with effigies of Jesus or the Virgin. But what is most touching about Xoco is that the graves are so humble. No marble monuments there. No screaming nouveau riche vulgarians. The most lavish graves are covered in simple tile. Some of them are plain mounds of earth. I saw many graves of little children, all decorated lovingly with toys and balloons. And there were lots of living little ones at the cemetery. For Mexicans the idea of death is not something you shelter a child from. It's part of life. There we are, walking amongst the graves, when we run into an little old man selling ice cream from a cart. And then who else should turn up but a clown in full clownish regalia, selling balloons for the kids. A clown in the cemetery and nobody finds this in the least strange.
Just as the precolumbian traditions melded with the Catholic rite to create rituals such as this one, Halloween has been coopted by Mexicans in a unique way so that it is now part of the holiday as well. The entire weekend children were wearing scary disguises. Impoverished parents send their kids trick or treating tourists for money and it is all a bit overwhelming, because the poverty and the exploitation of children is natural and overwhelming. Certain altars at the graves had Halloween decorations -- ghosts, pumpkins, orange and black trim, and half the children were dressed as Tim Burton's characters from Nightmare before Xmas or Corpse Bride (but with traditional regional costumes). Once upon a time, one would decry these horrifying intrusions of American marketing into the glorious vernacular traditions, but to the Mexicans' credit, a) they don´t give a shit where it comes from as long as it suits their purposes, and b) they take these Disney garbage and turn it into something uniquely Mexican (sad, funny, sordid, morbid, bizarre, amazing).
Photos are coming soon.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Splendiferous Mexican Eats

I must report that although I haven't gotten to my beloved tacos de carnitas yet, I have been enjoying some nifty tacos. I had excellent rib-eye tacos at a fancy place here in the boonies, which were probably the most expensive tacos ever, at $18 USD. But they were just too good, and generously served. I also loved the concept. Since the taco is a genius food, why not fill it with the most excellent meat you can get? Modern Mexican chefs are coming up with stuff like tuna sashimi tostadas, which are unbelievable, or rib-eye tacos. 
Then yesterday I went to a taquería with my friend Deby and of course, I overdid it. First I had my beloved Mexican chicken broth, the likes of which you pitiful people in the States will never understand. This miraculous soup had white rice, chicken, cilantro, onion and a squeeze of lime. Then I had four al pastor tacos with cilantro, onion and pineapple and two tacos of minced pork chops, bacon and onion. Way too much, but I can't help it.  
And wait 'til I get to Oaxaca, which is one of the most formidable regions in Mexico when it comes to food. I can't wait!
I also have been eating a lot at homes. Chez Les Petites Enchiladas the food is simple, Mexican and wonderful. 
In short: in Mexico you eat very well. 

Mexican Chilly

I have been freezing my ass off in Mexico City this past week. Temperatures are in the low 40s or upper 30s but the problem is there is no heating anywhere inside. I am staying with the Enchiladitas all the way up in the suburban mountains, where it is even colder. I'm hoping Oaxaca will be a little milder. 
In the meantime, the screenings for my short have been mostly delightful. One woman retold me my entire film ("and then the niece knocks on the door, and then the uncle opens the door..."), while another left me a note informing me that I am a genius (I'm having it framed). Some people have approached me with their take away and it is always very satisfying to get the audience's reaction, good or bad. 
But today I am looking forward to my trip to beautiful Oaxaca, Oax. where I am spending the Day of the Dead weekend. I'm looking forward to lots of magnificent eats, to strolling around that beautiful city, to perhaps visiting the ruins at Mitla and/or Monte Albán, to more magnificent eats at the restaurants and the markets, to visiting the cemetery tomorrow night and see the families communing with their dead and creating their gorgeous altars. 
Day of the Dead is a beautiful tradition in which you celebrate your lost ones by spending some quality time with them at their final resting places. You build an altar for them that includes their favorite foods, drinks, pastimes, and you cover it with cempazuchitl, an intense yellow flower that is typical of this day. My good friends Claudia and Josslyne actually make altars at home and apparently there is a magnificent altar now in display at the Zócalo in the Historic Center. Meanwhile, food shops display colorful sugar skulls with your name on them, or you can eat Pan de Muerto, (Bread of the Dead!) with a nice hot chocolate. 
This contrasts sharply with Halloween, which is about scary and mindless fun.  In the Mexican Day of the Dead, the dead are not scary, but wistful and fun.  Although Halloween has made deep inroads here, thanks to that poison known as marketing, people are aware of both. I frankly wish that in the school of the Mini-Enchiladitos they would acknowledge the Day of the Dead as well. 

Monday, October 27, 2008

The JAP at Home

Greetings from Mexico City, darlings, where I am shepherding my little short at the 6th International Jewish Film Festival. It is great to see the audience's reaction, which is very different than in the States. There, people laugh out loud, whereas here they just titter. Mr. Ex-Enchilada thinks it's because sexual innuendo and harrassment are way too common here. Perhaps.
I got a huge kick of showing the short at the Cineteca Nacional; the audience there was very appreciative and engaged. One guy gave me three optional endings, one of which struck me as quintessentially Mexican, as it involved the services of a lady of the night.
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, a woman demanded to know what my short and the other movie showing were about. Go in and find out, lady. Am I the only person who finds it annoying when people expect others to do all the work for them? War and Peace, what's it about?
I was pissed off, as in the second screening on the other side of town, the projectionist screwed up and showed my film with the wrong aspect ratio so everything looked scrunched and ugly. I raised hell but Mexico is the land of excuses (instead of solutions, for instance) and one just capitulates after too many of those. I participated in a very interesting talk with other Mexican Jewish filmmakers that soon turned into a polemic about the misperceptions between Mexicans and Mexican Jews, that had little to do with cinema. Such are the vagaries of living in a country that, tolerant and generous as it is, is not a melting pot. This is endlessly interesting and fodder for a lenghtier post.
In the meantime, I'm trying to organize my eating strategies so I can cram the most Mexican food in without going overboard (good luck to me).
All I know is I can't wait til Wednesday when I'm eating my tacos de carnitas right across from where the short is screening. Nana, buche and cuerito, here I come.


I would have paid good money to see the London version with Jeff Goldblum and Kevin Spacey.
Instead, I paid a lovely $35 to see the estimable Jeremy Piven and Raul Esparza, via TDF.
It was a Wednesday matinee the day before the opening. I thought I was going to be the only one there. It was packed. Such is the power of Cable TV
In any case, I had never seen this Mamet play and since he is one of my very favorite playwrights, I jumped at the chance. It takes place at a Hollywood studio in the 80's and it is the
power struggle between two studio minions. Of course, one expects Jeremy Piven to know this world inside out, because we love his Ari Gold, probably the most lovable hateful guy in the history of TV. But Piven does not do a live version of Ari Gold. His character in the play is not as brash, not as vulgar and not as intensely driven. He has arrived and wields his power with much more discretion. I thought he was pretty good, though sometimes he seemed to be talking to the audience instead of to the characters. Raul Esparza, who I last saw in The Homecoming, is very good as Fox, the guy who brings in a script to his boss only to see his boss collapse to love and yearning. The direction by Neil Pepe is sprightly and the famously difficult Mamet rhythms are very well navigated by the two male leads. If anything, sitting in the mezzanine I sometimes had trouble understanding Esparza, who shoots a verbal barrage at a vertiginous pace, but not always clearly. The one disappointment is Elizabeth Moss (from Mad Men) as Karen, the secretary. She plays her totally as an ingenue and an innocent, and what could be more boring? She seems very sincere, but I would have liked to see another facet to her.
In the end, this light, feral and funny play is not only about the evil, craven people in Hollywood that we now know so much about. Even though it seems to have aged a little bit, it still resonates beyond its Hollywood milieu since it is about the impossibility of human purity of purpose and as in every Mamet play, the savage dynamics of power. A very swift, enjoyable evening.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mexican Japanese Peanuts Addenda

Little Enchiladita offers this correction:

Te faltaron ingredientes en los cacahuates con rielito. Se les agrega Chamoy miguelito de agua, chamoy miguelito de polvo y el ingrediente secreto: jugo de naranja.
¿Cuánto? lo que considere cada quien. ¡Provecho!
Y si quieres le puedes agregar cazares, piñitas enchiladas deshidratadas,mangitos enchilados deshidratados, etc. Se llama "porqueria" y la ponen en las fiestas infantiles. Las comen las mares de los niños mientras platican a gusto.

Official translation:

You are missing ingredients in the peanuts with rielito. You have to add liquid chamoy miguelito, powdered chamoy miguelito and the secret ingredient: orange juice. How much? It's up to each.
Bon appetit!
And if you want you can add Cazares (fabulous Frito-like chips), dehydrated pineapple and mango with chili. etc. It is called "porquería" and served at children's parties. The mothers of the kids eat it while they shoot the breeze.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Colin Powell said it better

Well put. With all due respect, Mr. Powell finally grew a pair.
He is the only person so far that has made a point I have been waiting for someone to make:
Barack Obama is not a Muslim. But what if he were?
It's a smart, right, eloquent endorsement. Check it out.

Mexican Japanese Peanuts Report

As this is the number one topic on this blog (closely trailed by "why does one get sick in Mexico"), my readers may want to know that I have tasted the Mafer Mexican Japanese peanuts and here is my verdict:

The texture is really good. The coating is lighter, fluffier and crunchier than Nishikawas, and it resembles the coating of actual Japanese Japanese peanuts. The flavor is very good too, salty and satisfying; BUT the Mafers are made with MSG (monosodium glutamate) which leaves a strong aftertaste (and makes you salivate and want to eat an entire shipment of peanuts). I don't like the aftertaste and I don't like that they are made with MSG. But they're pretty good.
Now, at the behest of Middle Enchilada I am supposed to give you a recipe for dressing your cacahuates japoneses. To me it sounds like gilding the lily, but Middle Enchilada swears it's great.
(You know that you can eat them alone, with just lime, with lime and chili powder, with lime and chamoy, with liquid chamoy, with American style mustard, etc).
This is a newfangled recipe:
Lime juice, Maggi sauce, Worcestershire sauce (salsa inglesa), chili powder. Mix in bag and eat.
Another recipe for you to eat at your own risk (since apparently Rielitos have a high lead content):
Dissolve a Rielito (a Mexican tamarind-chili candy chew) in lime juice until the Rielito disintegrates and forms a thick sauce. Add that to the Japanese peanuts. Get lead in your brain. Enjoy.
I love the Mexican laissez faire attitude with regards to American claims that many Mexican chili/lime snacks have big quantities of lead and thus are deemed unsafe for importing into the US. Some of our favorite porquerías have been banned here in Obama country.
Mexicans are not fazed by this. "You can still get them in Mexico", they proudly, defiantly tell me.
So the Mexican government is not following the FDA's lead to protect its citizens from lead ingestion? My question is almost looked at with scorn and a whiff of pity. Nobody tells a Mexican to stop eating chamoys and those amazing porquerías. Nobody. We are still a sovereign country. Lead poisoning be damned!

Friday, October 17, 2008

I guess I was wrong

In my last post I said that no one in America, except KKK members, wants to be an inhabitant of a virtual Old South, no one, that is, except some Republican party officials. You gotta check this out.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Enchilada de Pundit

Photo by Jim Burg/Reuters

Since everyone is a pundit, here are my two cents:
Cent number 1:
Obama is very smartly not falling into the trap that the McCain campaign has tried to set up for him. They want to bring up civil rights, because they want him to behave like a put upon Black man and they incite this through terrible speeches and absurd accusations. But he is not taking the bait. He refuses to make it a race issue because he is not going to give them the satisfaction of confirming their stereotypical expectations of him, or of behaving like a victim or a whiner, which is what they are trying to provoke in order to remind those undecided of their own fear of a Black man.
The McCain campaign insidiously played the race card allowing and inciting the craziness at their rallies and it was a terrible miscalculation.
I'm sure our country is full of racist people and even more full of people who do not consider themselves racist but are very prejudiced. However, I don't think that anybody in this country, except for people with a penchant for wearing white pointy sheets on their heads, wants to turn back the clock and go back to the kinds of ugly racial divisions we have managed, through great sacrifice, to leave behind. Nobody wants to go back to pre-civil rights America, nobody wants to revisit the nastiness of racism and segregation, and most especially nobody wants the remote possibility of race riots. There was a very disturbing ghost of that ancient nastiness in the ugliness of Palin's rallies and it did not help. It actually hindered their cause. The McCain campaign may be in touch with the lunatic fringe base of the Republican party but they are hopelessly out of touch with the majority of Americans of both persuasions. And luckily, Barack Obama is intelligent and collected enough not to stoop to that level. I'm extremely impressed with the way he has handled himself.
Cent number 2:
The unfounded Muslim accusation leveled against Obama is a convenient way for prejudiced people to hide the fact that they don't want to vote for a Black man but they don't want to admit it. In this day and age, such opinions are so embarrassing that they are better left unsaid. So you can substitute the word "Muslim" for "Black" and voilá, you can smugly pretend yours is some sort of a patriotic concern. At this point, even though a lot of people may still believe in this canard, which is as nasty and effective as the worst kind of antisemitism in that it sticks no matter what the evidence is, the Muslim argument can't be really taking hold. And the reason for this is that it is plain to see that Obama, regardless of color or origin or middle name is simply a much superior candidate.
But even if Obama were a Muslim, why is this considered to be such a terrible thing? Islam is one of the three major monotheistic religions; as long as he was not a fundamentalist or a standing member of an Islamist terrorist organization, why would this be a problem? What if he were a Buddhist or a Mormon, like Mitt Romney, or a Jew (in which case he'd be in a very similar situation, lots of people just not ready to vote for a Jewish person)? I pine for the day when we can swear in a non-believer. That is the day I hope for with all my might.
Bonus cent:
I knew from the beginning, (not because I'm a seer, but because it was obvious), that the choice of Sarah Palin was beyond hubristic and inappropriate and it would come back to bite McCain in the ass. In fact, if there is one big reason for McCain's eventual loss, I think it could safely be chalked up to this one decision. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time (who said this?). The Palin debacle is a perfect emblem of the absolute collapse of the Republican party. They don't have a single fresh idea, not one serious, useful proposal, they have been taken hostage by extreme ideologues that do not represent the core of America's true values and now they are paying the price. They have been corrupt and arrogant and completely out of touch with the reality of Americans and no amount of cynical moralizing and revolting displays of empty patriotism can disguise their incompetence and their hypocrisy. And to top it all, this is their legacy: a country in the worst economic disarray in almost 100 years, a United States without credibility in the world, having lost its moral compass, a country dangerously diminished by their contempt for science and reason, an empire crashing to the ground. I don't know why we had to wait all these terrible years for the Republicans to finally crumble, but it is happening as we speak. The McCain campaign is just a pure reflection of who they are, and how low they have fallen.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Live Blogging the Debate, Sort of

I'm sitting here once again for this third and last ordeal.
Now they are sitting across a table from the moderator, I guess so you can't really see the body language. McCain still seems like a weirdo and is still talking to Americans as if they are illiterate retards (perhaps the ones who vote for him need to be spoken to like that). Joe the Plumber, give me a break.
I can't believe that neither one of these bozos (as much as I love 'Bama, it's driving me crazy) is acknowledging that everything has changed since the crisis hit. Schieffer asks the question about what would change from their plans and they don't fucking have a real answer.
McCain brings back the stupid overhead projector for the planetarium again. He really is in another planet.
Balancing the budget in four years: McCain says I'm not President Bush. You should have run four years ago. Good line but spurious. Four years ago my man really would not have a chance of winning.
For some reason, even though they are both repeating everything like broken records, Obama doesn't sound so much like a broken record as McCain does. Obama is a class act. He just doesn't stoop down to the nasty tone that McCain employs. The other one is an ornery asshole.
Schieffer is asking tough questions. Now he is asking about the nastiness of the campaigns.
McCain is not owning up to his responsibility. Now he is complaining about something John Lewis said.
Obama is answering this question with grace and dignity. Stop talking about the candidates' hurt feelings and blame it on not attending town hall meetings and talk about politics. But I wish he'd say that the pit bull was inciting the audience with her stupid talk.
McCain is addressing that Palin associated him with terrorists, but he is not apologizing for her.
So McCain is asking to know Obama's relationship with Ayers. Obama clarifies and lists his legitimate associations with talented people. Creams McCain. Creams him.
As for ACORN, which the Republicans are trying to turn into something resembling their own evil election stealing tactics, read this and weep.
McCain seems to be aggressive in desperation. I really fucking hope he loses. He has no dignity.
Schieffer on the running mates: Wow, he really is asking the best questions of all the debates.
McCain on Palin: she is a reformer and a role model. He is answering the question well, leaving out her polarizing stuff and her utter lack of experience. I love what Obama said at the end: "and if something, God forbid, should happen to me, I know Joe Biden would be an excellent president". Touché. And that's all folks!
The problem with this debate is that we can't see the weird shit that happens when John McCain is out of camera range. We hear some weird snickers once in a while. But what comes through from McCain when he is on camera is an ugly personality. His condescension is really hard for me to take, I don't know how Obama suffers it with such restraint. He is the coolest cat.
On the free trade stuff Obama is clear and concise and then McCain starts talking about Colombia and he doesn't make much sense and then sneaks in that Obama has never been south of the border (no Bammy? Come with me, I'll take you to my favorite tacos).
McCain is like a parrot, talking about free trade he sneaks in the fucking preconditions mantra.
Health care: Would you favor controlling costs? Obama explains pretty clearly what he intends to do. Doesn't sound half bad. McCain is so hokey with the Joe Plumber shtick. And I also don't understand how a $5000 tax credit is going to afford anybody health care. Why would I want to go to another state to get insurance?
McCain comes back and it's as if he didn't listen to anything my man said.
Roe v Wade and the Supreme Court: McCain believes the decision should be the states'. Here he is pretty good.
McCain wants to turn Obama's eloquence into sophistry. The word "health" is extreme? Huh? It ain't working.
Education: I wish Obama would bring the projector McCain complains so much about.
I also wish Obama would mention that during the last 8 years the contempt for science brought about by the right wing nut jobs, and the hostile attitude to science from the Bush administration are to blame for our sorry state of affairs in this department.
Sarah Palin's son has Down syndrome, not autism. So what's with this autism?
McCain doesn't want to spend money on anything, so I wonder, as Obama does, how is he going to achieve anything without paying for it.
Closing remarks:
McCain is trying to go back to what he used to be before he became the performing monkey of the Rovian puppeteers. He is for the first time, relatively eloquent.
Obama is just repeating his mantras. I'm kind of bored with them.
McCain telling Obama "good job". He can't avoid being condescending. It is revolting.
McCain was slightly better, but still incoherent. Obama was, as usual, very good.
Body language with the wives: the Obamas very loving, embracing, looking like a real couple; the McCains COLD and DISTANT and looking like a bad blind date. Cindy actually puts her arm on his shoulder after noticing the Obamas. Poor Cindy. I bet she's praying for him to lose, so she can go back to being invisible.
The worst part is watching the after commentary. Who the fuck are these undecided idiots? At this point, how could you possibly be undecided? There is a black guy leaning toward McCain! Where do they get these people? Gawd.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Department of Words that Come Back to Bite you in the Ass

Or: What was I thinking?

This is something I posted on August 30:

New York is going to the dogs. The rich dogs, that is. And I've had it with everything being obscenely overpriced. A friend visiting from Paris is appalled at the fact that New York is more expensive than Paris at this point, at least when it comes to food and wine.
They are turning the proles away. Now MetLife is selling Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village to turn it into expensive, unaffordable housing. Brooklyn is already fast becoming that. Who is going to live here? Just assholes with money?
The freaking millionaire mayor of this town should give a shit about this because if this town continues its inexorable turn into asshole central, I'm blaming him entirely for it.
A glass of wine now is 19 dollars. A shot of tequila 16 (and they don't even give you a good lime with it). Some places have the chutzpah of charging 8 bucks for a beer. Entrees at soso places now command upward of 25 bucks. And people are lining up to pay the prices.
You can't have a city of rich only. The LES sucks. The East Village sucks. Places that had some NY charm now look like malls. If I see one more nail salon I will go berserk.
We need a depression.

I was being hyperbolic, you guys!

Scam Artist Waitress from Hell

Allow me to share my chagrin over what happened to me at Le Gamin on Houston Street yesterday, a place I have frequented in the past, but will no more.
I ordered a crepe confiture, which means a crepe with jam or marmalade. The waitress brought me a crepe with fresh fruit. I said that this was not what I ordered. I have ordered the crepe confiture many times before and it is always made with jam. She insisted I was wrong, even though I said that I knew what confiture means in French. Still pretending I was a moron, she assured me that confiture means fresh fruit. I asked if she could exchange it, she said no. Impossible. I said she had to because that was not what I ordered. She went to the kitchen and brought back a tiny dish with jam on it, so I could do it myself. I said that was unacceptable. She then instructed me to go tell the cook what I wanted. As I foresaw, the cook was Mexican and indeed he told me that the confiture crepe was made with jam and promptly made one for me. Which leads me to believe she deliberately gave him the wrong order because the fresh fruit crepe is more expensive.
Then we asked for the check. On a 27 dollar check there was a 2 dollar unexplained charge and a 4 dollar tax. We told her she had overcharged the tax. Then she explained that the numbers were switched around, the tax was 2 dollars and there was a service charge of 4 dollars. It seems to me this woman was trying to rip us off. Usually, most people figure out the tip by doubling the tax amount.
I don't know why we left her a tip. Because I am a decent person and because the custom is ingrained. If there was a 4 dollar service charge, then that should have sufficed.
But what really makes me want to employ violence against this harpy was the absolute nonchalance with which she insulted our intelligence.
And I wonder if she's just a bad apple or that is the house policy, to mistreat and scam the customers. There was no manager on duty.

Monday, October 13, 2008

John Stuart Mill on the Subway

They took away my favorite Poetry in Motion posters, but now we have something called Train of Thought.
I read this on the subway:

"The only freedom deserving the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental and spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest".

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty.

What a cool dude. More modern than us today.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The sky is fallin' folks

I have been away from this blog because of the collapse of Wall Street. To put it simply: I'm losing my shirt. If my own little personal depression is any indication, the one that's coming to all of us is going to be a bitch.
But, when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping, and so I did my part as a citizen to stem the hemorrhage of the bleeding financial markets and I spent money I should be saving on a pair of boots (less expensive that the ones I really wanted), two pairs of earrings (on sale) and the cheapest hosiery ever made (Uniqlo, $4.50), probably by slave labor in China.
Then I panicked. But I didn't panic enough, like the rest of the cowardly bastards that are bringing us down, I didn't panic enough to cash out on my horrid losses.
If any of you out there has any financial advice, please feel free to contribute it. It will be appreciated.

Now, I do believe that this panic is exacerbated by the political situation in which we are in. Meaning: we have a useless retard as a President, and the candidates are behaving as if none of this is happening. We also have apparently a useless Congress and it is clear that nobody knows what to do. Whatever they are doing is not restoring confidence. How could it? Americans think they are decent, and ethical but they are crooks and have been crooks since day one. Snake oil salesmen and con men, since the first man landed in Plymouth rock. When everybody is making out like a bandit, no one gives a fuck about the incompetence of the president or the corruption or the greed, but the moment the shit hits the fan, then where is the famed American confidence, so close to arrogance? Everybody just runs for the hills.
I can understand that Obama cannot come up with a plan B right now to offer some sort of idea on how the hell he's going to deal with this lemon economy he'd be inheriting. I can understand that any specific utterance from him may create more anxiety. But surely, his plans have got to change. This crash is, to parrot the pundits, a game changer and I wish he'd acknowledge that already.
I don't talk about McCain because nothing he says is to be believed or trusted. He just condescends to Americans as if we were 5 year olds.
A couple of days ago I was channel surfing and I caught the end of the movie Recount on HBO.
It's about what happened in the Florida recount, when Bush stole the election from Al Gore.
And I was thinking (besides thinking that Kevin Spacey rocked) that I hope the stupid Supreme Court judges that contributed to this travesty of democracy are losing not only their shirts, but sleep and health and peace of mind over what they did to this country. I hope they can never rest. I hope guilt eats their entrails. There is not enough repentance they could show or feel to atone for what they unleashed upon this nation. Same goes for Alan Greenspan. And same goes of Al Gore, who should have kicked and screamed and fought until the last ballot was accounted for.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

What's with the second Holocaust?

I, for one, have had it with the Republicans', cynical, ridiculous implication that the crap that comes from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's mouth guarantees a "second Holocaust". What are they talking about?
I find it offensive that they make such a spurious claim. All of a sudden they seem to have trademarked the phrase "never again" for use in a context that is completely unsuitable. The vulgarity and the temerity of implying that only they can defend Israel, or that Israel could not defend itself from a country like Iran is appalling. Worse, the outright falsity of Iran being such a threat right now is unacceptable. Apart from Ahmadinejad's public relations campaigns, which is all his antisemitic, anti-Israel talk is, there is no evidence that Iran is on a mission to destroy Israel. It's Iran and not Israel who should be trembling. After all Israel does have nuclear weapons now. Iran does not yet. And I'm pretty sure that Israel will ensure it never gets them, long before there can even be a speck of a shade of a second Holocaust. AS IF!
How dare the Republicans even imagine that Iran could inflict total annihilation on the scale of the Holocaust on Israel? It's giving Iran too much credit, which is exactly what those words are meant to provoke. By making these parallels, the stupid McCain campaign has just fallen into Ahmadinejad's trap. It is pathetic, irresponsible and absurd.
This is fear mongering at its most abject and if you are a self-respecting Jew you should reject this deeply offensive nonsense. It is vile and disgusting.
Israel, my friends, can defend itself. McCain and Palin act as if Iran was the Third Reich. It's not. They act as if Iran was poised to push the button on Israel any minute now. It is most certainly not. They don't have a nuclear pot to piss on yet. The moment they do, Israel will do anything in its power to prevent them from using it, as it did with the nuclear factory in Iraq once upon a time.
This talk is as false and misleading and damaging and dangerous as lap dog Sarah Palin's nauseating implications that Obama consorts with terrorists. She has been unleashed, like a rabid pit bull indeed, by the McCain campaign to do the dirty, racist work for the old troll. She is so pathetic in her blind compliance, she hasn't thought of the harm and hatred she is sowing, and hasn't noticed that she is been used in the cheapest, most cynical way. She is a disgrace to women.
America, these people are poison. This "second Holocaust" absurdity is double speak. Jews, some of these people are secretly hoping for Israel's destruction so that they can finally have their Armaggedon. This talk of a "second Holocaust" must be bringing paroxysms of joy to the most lunatic evangelical Christians, who can't wait until that happens, no matter how friendly they seem to Israel right now. Don't make the mistake of thinking for a second that they have the best interests of Israel at heart.
Obama is talking about real politics, real diplomacy, real engagement with the international community to bring Iran to its knees, with the complexity and the seriousness the situation requires, not with childish, appalling fantasies of apocalyptic destruction.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Biden v Palin: It was Nucular!

So she didn't spontaneously self-combust. So, as everybody says with surprised admiration, as if it was an achievement of the highest order, "she held her own". Truth is, the bar was set so incredibly low, the expectations were so dismal, that a monkey could have passed the test with flying colors. It is deeply frightening that we are considering someone for the vicepresidency of this country and we are relieved by this performance. To me, there was nothing in her performance that did not confirm that she is still way out of her depth. It was a decent performance by high school debating standards, not by the standards of seeking the second highest office in the land.
In my estimation, Biden started rather cold and stiff and gained heat, clarity and momentum as the night wore on; she, on the contrary, started out pretty well and towards the end she sounded increasingly fake, shrill, desperate, incoherent and inarticulate. It's as if all the info she crammed in started to get all jumbled in her brain there (as she would put it). She reminded me a little of Hal the computer in 2001.
I give it to her, she applied herself and did her homework and memorized a bunch of facts and still had time to overuse to death that "aw, shucks" shtick that may work wonders in Alaska but is totally inappropriate for a Vice-head of state. At the sound of each grating, smug, small town inflected bullshit I was ready to put my fist through the TV set. Remember Bill Clinton? He knew how to wield that stuff. A smart man, he used down home speech naturally and smartly. With her, it's totally fake. Plus, she makes George Bush, with whom she shares the incapability of pronouncing the word "nuclear", sound like a scholar. This, contrary to what a lot of people think, is not a good thing in a vicepresident.
Do you expect your doctor, the teacher of your children, the architect that built your house, the engineer who builds roads and bridges to somewhere, surgeons, scientists, politicians, to be as dumb and ignorant and incurious as you are? I don't. I expect my leaders to be better prepared, more well read, well traveled and more intelligent than the rest of us. I've had it with this glorification of insularity and ignorance. As if being well educated all of a sudden has become a liability.
But let's talk about Joe Biden, 'cause he was freaking great.
1. He smartly did not stoop down to her level. He is a statesman, and he showed it. He did not have to belabor his experience or his qualifications. A couple of mentions here and there and it was plain for all to see.
2. He debated against John McCain and his party and not against her and her shortcomings. Classy.
3. While she was trying to do the cute bitch shtick with him, he was passionate, articulate, SPECIFIC and extraordinarily dignified.
He was vice-presidential. Hell, he was presidential. She was a hick.
4. He stuck to the strategy and he nailed it. And many of his answers were the real breath of fresh air:
• When asked about supporting equal civil rights for same sex couples, he did not hum and haw, and without hesitation he said: "Absolutely". And he explained why. By the way, I disagree with the Democrats' stance on civil gay marriage -- Biden saying that gays can marry through their faith is ridiculous -- but apparently this country is not evolved yet and these people have an election to win. Meanwhile, this petty, mean-spirited woman seemed a little thrown off by the whole deal. She assured us that she is very tolerant, as if homosexuals are a pest that needs to be tolerated. I found her response deeply offensive.
• At one point, when asked about what she'd do as vicepresident she said something like expanding the powers of the vicepresidency. AS IF!!! Biden really sank her on that one. He read her the riot act. He said that Dick Cheney was the most dangerous vicepresident that America ever had (prompting me to smooch him in the kisser), he explained the actual nature of the office, for her benefit, I'm sure, and said there was no reason to expand the powers of such office. He rocked.
• After Palin repeated her hockey mom cred like a parrot, as if that alone was sufficient to help run a country, Biden took the opportunity to remind her that he had been a single dad, that he had only one house, and that he too came from where everybody else comes from, he too has a son deploying to Iraq, and he reminded the American public (apparently, through the repeated use of the word "Scranton") that he was solidly in the camp of the working class (what the Democrats, afraid that they may be confused with communists, now call the middle class).
She tried to spin the disaster of the last 8 years into a looking back at the past, but I don't think that demagoguery convinces anyone. As Biden said, past is prologue, and the policies of the last 8 disastrous years are just coming back to haunt us NOW. Biden did well to not let people forget that. He also demonstrated impatience with the "maverick" fallacy.
In all, he creamed her. That she did not totally embarrass herself should not detract from the fact that he won this debate by a mile. It wasn't even a contest.