Friday, February 29, 2008

Favorite Internet Topics

I check out my stats everyday to see what interests readers. People ask all sort of questions of the Google oracle. This week the most popular in this blog are:
• The Hong Kong celebrity porn scandal. A huge story, it seems. I've gotten more than 50% of my readers this week from the far East. Hello friends from Malaysia, Japan, Korea, Singapore and one lonely soul from Beijing (hopefully not from the censorship bureau). Nihao!
• The ever fascinating topic of Mexican Japanese peanuts, I kid you not, seems to be of great interest to readers in many Hispanic-heavy states here in the US, and someone in Britain.
There Will Be Blood. People want to know the name of the typeface. I have no idea.
• Albania, my old, trusted, pageview boosting friend, is still making appearances here and there.
• Once in a while, people inquire over Hoquy berets.
Me, I'm glad to be of service.

Nothing is ever closed on Easter

To the poor soul in the UK who was asking the oracle of the internets whether things close in NY on Easter, here's the answer: nothing ever closes in NY, period (well, okay, maybe the bank and the post office will be closed).
NY is not like Houston, where they close the shopping malls on Easter. New York is always open for your conspicuous consumption pleasures. New York, praise the Lord, is a godless town.
So come on over!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Alarming news

This week's issue of the New Yorker was one of those where most every article is great. I greatly enjoyed Calvin Trillin's super well written account of racial unrest in Long Island; I finally understood why me and math do not get along. I don't think my brain has that part where the math instinct is supposed to be (instead there lies my endless craving for Japanese Mexican peanuts). But I found it very interesting that multiplication, which is apparently one of the more verbal math functions, does come more easily to me than substraction or my dreaded foe, division. That article ruled.
But the one that made my jaw drop in anger and amazement was Margaret Talbot's excellent piece about the Hutto immigrant detention center in Texas which is basically a jail in which illegal aliens and their families live supposedly while waiting to clear their status.
I don't know why there isn't more of an outrage in this country about fucking Michael Chertoff and the fucking Department of Homeland Security, which should both disappear come November. I hope that when the Democrats win the Presidency, they will take a long hard look at the human rights disaster that the Bush administration has unleashed with this department and they will undo the damage. It's a pity that the article is not available online, but in short, the Bush Administration pays a private prison company 34 million dollars a year to run Hutto, a former jail, in which illegal immigrants are detained WITH THEIR CHILDREN, some for over five months. Until the ACLU sued their ass, this place in Texas was more suited for hardened criminals than for families, which were treated by employees as if they were maximum security risks, including the babies. Even the children had to wear prison uniforms, the families were living in cells with open toilets, the kids had school one hour a day. This particular prison company is owned by well-connected Southern politicians who, apparently disgruntled with the fact that they can't own slaves anymore, are now happy to profit from the private prison business, paying their employees less than than public prisons and even offering stock! (Satan's -- Dick Cheney to you -- own son in law is a lobbyist for this company).
Who in their right mind would buy shares of private prisons? You buy stock and pray for crime to rise? This detention center was on the brink of closing when it struck a deal with the government to make it a detention facility for immigrants instead, many of them who are actually seeking political asylum. Hutto is in a shithole town where there are no other jobs to be had. So people there think it's okay to keep children incarcerated as long as they can make a living off of them.
This is what Bush means by compassionate conservatism, people: they think they are Florence Nightingale because they are keeping the families together in jail instead of sending the children to foster homes, while the bureaucracy decides what to do with these immigrants. The reality is, they pander to those people who see illegal immigrants like common criminals and who just want them out of their sight, no matter what. Racists, in a word. Talbot mentions that a catch and release program is much less expensive and it works really well. After all, the immigrants want to stay here and thus they are on their best behavior. But this is not business, so we have shameful, debased, inhuman outrage instead.
This is an outrage on the level of the Japanese internment camps of WWII, but we don't hear about it.

By the way nobody at Hutto is a Mexican, because those just get sent right back across the border. Luckily for them.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I am Little Grasshopper

(That's me in the middle)

For I am taking Tai Chi lessons. I am becoming a veritable Buddha of calmness. NOT.
BUT. I do like the Tai Chi. I love that it looks deceptively simple but it takes concentration and mastery to do it well. It makes you aware of your body in a different way, somehow more organic. And it is beautiful and non-competitive (meaning, even a klutz like me can do it). It does not try to turn you into a human pretzel.
First week I was like: WTF is this?
Second week I was like: WTF is this that I still don't quite get it?
Third week: suddenly the body starts remembering on its own and certain movements follow others almost naturally.
The teacher tells me I'm adding a movement. And I am convinced he's on my case just because. But indeed I am adding a movement with the ball of my foot that I didn't even notice. This is how this exercise makes you conscious of how you move. I hope it will help me with my lower back pain, make me lose weight, give me great sex, make me look gorgeous, take away my cellulite, make me smarter, younger, calmer, better. If it doesn't do any of those things, I will still like it.
Best thing is nobody will come up with Power Tai Chi, although I'm sure there must be someone out there trying to market the hell out of it and make it what it is not.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The times they are a changing

The New York Times reports that Americans are abandoning:

Teenage Driving


A communist dynasty

So the Jefe Supremo resigns and who follows? His brother, the Jefe Supremito, at the tender young age of 76. What is the difference between this and a royal dynasty, like that of the Bourbon kings of France, or the British Royal family? None. Oh, yes, there is a difference, a royal dynasty could possibly allow free elections and a democracy.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I Find Patriotism Offensive

Patriotism is the first refuge of the scoundrel. And so if Republicans are going to attack Obama because he won't wear a pathetic American flag on his lapel, or he won't put his hand on his heart while singing the national anthem (puhleeze), anybody with two working brain cells understands that this is not what patriotism is about.
The man is running for president. This is patriotic.
If his wife said that this is the first time she felt proud about her country, we should appreciate the honesty. What should she be so proud about a place where there were no rights for people like her until after the mid 60's?
Patriotism is a cheap, fake, highly dangerous manipulative ploy. Totalitarian regimes are crazy about patriotism. The Nazis took patriotism to the nth degree.
When words like patriotic or patriotism start appearing, (as for instance in many cases wrongly and shamefully after 9/11), it's time to be very concerned. It means a full-blown bullshit attack is under way and we need to be protected from it. The Patriot Act. "Homeland" Security. We've been had, people.
On the opposite side of patriotism are common sense and a clear view of reality. You do much more for your country if you wear both in abundance near your lapel.

Friday, February 22, 2008

McCain and the two Barbies

They look exactly the same.

Likability Contest Winner:

Barack Obama, by miles.
I do not watch debates. They make me feel embarrassed for all of us. But I did watch the golden nuggets that CNN showed this morning (as I was happily sauntering on the treadmill). And boy, let me tell you, Obama may or may not have enough experience, but he seems more mature and so much more cool than Hills.
She chose to go for low blows and got booed by the audience in response. That Xerox comment comes from a sore loser, not a person who should be poised to be a dignified head of state. Meanwhile, he knew exactly what to say and how to say it. Her comment about the Iraq wounded may have come from the heart, but it did not sound so. It sounded like a sound bite that her staff told her to say. And that is the problem. She really cannot communicate in a sincere manner, at least to me.
When asked about Cuba, again, as far as I'm concerned, wrong answer. Pandering to the Cubans in Miami, answering the musty politics-as-usual bullshit, she said she would not speak with the new Cuban leader until there was evidence of change. Meanwhile, Obama, smartly, as far as I'm concerned, said, I would speak to them because not speaking is that classic thing in which we always appear to be imposing our standards on other nations, always the superior attitude (I'm wildly paraphrasing, but something to that effect). I think he trounced her. He seemed to sound like he is above petty politics (silly season, he called it) and she sounded petty and desperate.
Please do not give me that "if she wasn't a woman you wouldn't be saying that" routine.
Yesterday she did not help her own cause. Period.
I have never understood the strategy of personal attacks in American politics. They are in general, petty, embarrassing and childish and I would suggest, as Obama did, they concentrate on the issues. Nobody wants a pissing contest at this point. For that we can watch Jerry Springer reruns.
She may win Texas, I doubt she will win Ohio, and again, given the choice between her and McCain, I will vote for her. But my choice is Obama.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Headline in the NY Times:

More Americans are Giving Up Golf.

Good thing I never took it up.

Primary confusion

Can we all agree that this system is absurd?
From the BBC: US election - who's ahead?

(Answer: Obama, but not by much).

How close are the would-be US presidential candidates to securing their party's nomination?

Candidate States won Total delegates won
Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington state, Wisconsin
1,351 delegates
Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton
Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee
1,262 delegates

Delegate figures are AP projections, as of 1336 GMT Monday 18 February. They include pledged and unpledged delegates (superdelegates).

What is a superdelegate? Rhetorical question here, I don't really want to know. Just somebody win already and let's move on!

Department of Fundamentalist Notions

Darlings: As you may have noticed, I have been torturing you with Fidel's speech for way too long now. I was searching in the internets for something to write about and I was at a loss. The world is no better today than it was yesterday, the ridiculously long primaries are still going on, and not even the retirement of Fidel has raised anyone's heartbeat.
But today, I found a little item that made my blood simmer, if not quite boil:

Israeli MP blames quakes on gays
An Israeli MP has blamed parliament's tolerance of gays for earthquakes that have rocked the Holy Land recently.
Shlomo Benizri, of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Shas Party, said the tremors had been caused by lawmaking that gave "legitimacy to sodomy".
I have a splendid idea: Those in Israel who think gays are to blame for the earthquakes can move to Iran, where they will find likeminded people and a fundamentalist theocracy where they can exercise their unbelievable mishegoss to their hearts' content.

Mr Benizri made his comments while addressing a committee of the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, about the country's readiness for earthquakes. He called on lawmakers to stop "passing legislation on how to encourage homosexual activity in the state of Israel, which anyway brings about earthquakes". Israeli court rulings in recent years have granted inheritance rights to gay couples and recognised same-sex marriages performed abroad. Last week, Israel's attorney general ruled same-sex couples could adopt.

Not bad for the Holy Land.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Hasta la vista, baby

Short and to the point, as usual. Bla bla bla bla verbal diarrhea bla bla blo.
"I am not saying goodbye to you," he wrote. "I only wish to fight as a soldier of ideas."
Oy! As they say in Spanish, que Dios nos agarre confesados. God help us!
More ancient, decomposing rhetoric from the one who won't quit.

Castro: Gone...

...but not dead yet!
If my predictions are right, he ain't ever dying. Like the heartless grandmother of Sad Eréndira, this one is a tough bastard and not easily killed.
Time for Cuba to let go, already.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Scent seekers

According to the NYT, people are buying less perfume nowadays because of fragrance fatigue, which should not surprise to anyone who has ever been either at a Duane Reade, or a Sephora lately.
I am appalled at how many new perfumes there are and how cloying and disgusting, for the most part, they smell: caramel? vanilla? What am I, dessert?
Most new fragrances smell like bubble gum or detergent or both, and some of the pretentious really expensive ones smell like pee from an old, incontinent aristocrat. Americans love to smell clean, which is great when it's achieved with regular hygiene, not when it comes from a bottle.
A few perfumes are nice, yes, but we are not here to discuss those.
I love my nose. I love to smell stuff, even nasty stuff (briefly). I will smell anything. It connects me to the world outside and it is a wonderful source of memories. My mom used to wear a French perfume, Casaque, that is not made anymore. I would love to smell that smell once more. had a boyfriend in high school who wore one of the Halston for men colognes. After he dumped me, I'd go to a department store and smell the bottle, but it didn't quite smell like him. Great for masochism, too! Smell is like Proust's madeleine.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are smells lodged in my mind that I will never ever forget:
the infernal reek of a street bum on a bus in Prague, the smell of rotten feet of a classmate of mine at college -- filed securely in my brain since 1982. At first I thought it was me. I discreetly sniffed my armpits, down there, my feet. It wasn't me. I wondered if there was a dead animal somewhere in the classroom. I couldn't rest until I found out where it was coming from. Sometimes it was more faint, sometimes I felt I could faint. So one day I discreetly threw my pen down on the floor, got on all fours and started sniffing, in the middle of the class, mind you. And sure enough, I discovered the source. The sandaled, bare feet of a classmate, reeking of a combination of faint old vomit and moldy goat cheese and fart and sulphur and decomposed skin.
The smell was more faint when she wore regular shoes, but it was there allright. I wondered if she was unable to smell it on herself. I wondered if I was the only one going crazy. Some friends of mine advised me to tell this poor soul that her feet stank distractingly, offensively, dangerously, which of course I never did (I have trouble telling people they have lipstick on their teeth). I just sat as far away from her as I could while still being technically in the classroom.
But you see, I cherish these olfactory memories. I have memories from sweltering days in the Jerusalem Summer among certain people of questionable bathing habits, who insist on wearing black coats in 98 degree heat. There is the smell of a particularly sweet and nasty deodorant that some Israeli women used to favor that I will forever associate with my time there. But there is also the smell of spices from the souk in the Old City, the heady mix of curries and cardamom and cloves, or of the pungent incense at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, or the smell of eucaliptus trees in the forest near the city. If I want to relive my trip to Prague, all I have to do is think of the smell of wino street bums (even in the dead of winter), or of my fellow passengers on the plane, that collectively reeked of garlicky salami and beer. My trip to China? The latrine from hell in Mt. Taishan, or the metallic, gassy, smell of the air on the streets of Shanghai. The Chinese also tend to eat a lot of garlicky stuff for breakfast and their morning breath is their much very own. It smells like a gas leak with flowering chives.
But: wearing too much perfume is one of those things that should be punished with a stint in jail.
Women and men, please stop pouring half a bottle of 'fume every time you go out. It is disruptive, gives me a headache and it makes you reek.
Perfume well applied is a great pleasure, both for the wearer and for the smeller. Isn't it nice when people tell you you smell nice? I use perfume so that people remember my scent, unconsciously.
I like it when people smell good. I love people who wear a perfume that smells better on them than it smells on anybody else. They have chosen wisely. Never buy perfume because it smells great on your friend, chances are it won't smell the same on you.
I guess this topic is somehow related to Valentine's day. Another holiday I hate.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Whoever did it....

...well done.

Topics I could not care less about

• Roger Clemens and his steroid use.
• The Grammys
• The beagle who won the Westminster Dog Show (he's cute though).

The Hillary Debacle

Are there any more states left that need to vote yet? Can we call it a day already?
I'm sure the pundits will be squeezing their collective heads like a zit, trying to decode for us what it means that white people voted for Barack Obama before they voted for Hills.
I am almost certain that it has very little do to with the fact that she is "a woman" and more to do with the fact of the woman that she is. Those who never liked her were not about to start liking her now. Those who were on the fence, like me, were very turned off with the allegations of trying to rig the elections to her favor and some nasty racial comments, that inexcusable town hall meeting with planted questions, and Bill Clinton's undignified performance as cheerleader. That is not counting her stance on the war and her spineless record as a politician.
Also, we all know "change" is a a cliché, especially when used by a politician, but even without the conscious participation of the candidates in question, the gut feeling is that Hills represents politics as usual and Obama doesn't. (whether this is true or not we'll find out soon enough). So it's not that we are not ready for a woman (and please spare me the tearing of garments over this), it's that we simply do not trust this particular woman. And the reason for our distrust in this case, may lie more on her side than ours.
Now, does this mean that John McCain will be the next president of the US? It's quite likely. But the Democratic party should take note. The people have spoken and they are tired of the same old, same old.

Bernard and Doris... just worth looking at (on HBO) to see two amazing pros at work. Susan Sarandon is absolutely wonderful as Doris Duke. I miss her (Susan, not Doris). She should be in every movie, she is so good.
I predict Emmy.
I don't really care if she looks like Duke or acts like her. Hers is a portrayal of a smart, too wealthy lady who keeps people at bay, who is imperious and spoiled, and lonely of course, all because of her gazillions, but also capable of feeling. She is probably the only woman on Earth who had a soft spot for Imelda Marcos. And she was very fond of her butler, in her fashion.
And my darling, darling, Ralph Fiennes, like nobody has ever seen him before, playing not only a gay Irish guy with a hideous ponytail and dreadful clothes, but a soft, vulnerable, meek soul. He who has played princes and kings and nazis and dapper British soldiers and Voldemort is wonderful playing a devoted butler. A servant. It is a lovely characterization. He is not terribly flamboyant, opting for the more interesting ambiguous choice, but there is such deliberate softness in the way he moves, his every movement seems to be designed not to telegraph gayness, but to serve. When she leaves for months on end, he is desperate without her, even though, as he clarifies, he swings to the other side. I don't for the life of me understand the character of Bernard Lafferty, Ms. Duke's loyal butler. But the film is a solid exploration of their rather strange codependent relationship, very well directed by Bob Balaban. Fiennes is truly moving as this softspoken man, the epitome of subservience, who gets routinely wounded by Miss Duke's random insensitivity, when he is not softly deflecting her advances.
According to the film, Lafferty was accused of all but poisoning Duke, since she appointed him the sole executor of her enormous estate with a 5 million a year salary. Yes, money poisons everything. Is it possible that this man really aimed to please and was not in it but for the sake of tending to her? Can the greedy human mind comprehend the notion of loyalty and devotion on such a grand scale? Not really. One cannot escape wondering if indeed he didn't stick around for convenience. Not that he murdered her, or manipulated her, but that she was convenient to his submissiveness. The other question is about his unhappiness. Even with all that money, he drank himself to death at the age of 40, so there must have been something really sad and haunting and unfulfilled in all his servitude.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Jackie Hoffman is the better me

Thank God for Jackie Hoffman. If it wasn't for people like her, New York would be like Omaha.
I saw her show at Joe's Pub and I had a blast. She sings these really funny songs she makes up about being herself in all her ruthless, kvetchy glory. One song is called "Stop Making Out in Front of Me", another one is the hilarious "Shavuos" song, another one is "You are not a Buddhist, you are a Jew", and my favorite is a rousing faux gospel number called "No Child is Born", because Jackie, bless her soul, famously hates babies and children and the mothers and double strollers that go with them. She is right on point, she has perfect comic delivery, enormous wonderful chutzpah, she belts them out imperfectly but brazenly and I identify, because like her, but without her talent, I also pretty much have a beef against pretty much everything. And she just made me feel happy again that New York is still, if only barely, New York.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Shver tzu zayn a yid

Meaning: it's hard to be a Jew (I know you don't believe it, but it's true)
1. The article about the Hassidic principal of a troubled Bronx high school (I see movie coming with Seth Rogen in the title role). When she heard that they were going to have a Jewish principal, one of the mothers of the students said: "so now the children are going to have to pay for lunch?"
And there you have it in a nutshell: this is what comes to mind when people think of Jews. The brains of people have been polluted for so many years with this crap, it just comes naturally.

2. In Italy there is a brouhaha because they have a book fair and there are protests because Israel is invited as a guest of honor. And as we all know, Israel is really the only truly evil state in the world; the only state that deserves condemnation and reprobation in the entire community of nations. Everybody else gets a free pass from the arbiters of moral statehood, the usual contingent of lefty Israel haters and Arabs. But this is a book fair, and the writers represented are artists, not members of the Knesset. Apparently, there are also protests at a book fair soon to happen in Paris. So what else is new?

This broke my heart

What makes New York New York is disappearing.

The art of the interview

Today on the NYT, there is a post on Dick Cavett's blog about his interviews with chess champion Bobby Fischer, who died recently after years of being terribly unhinged and reclusive. What amazed me was the interview itself. It seems like an ancient artifact discovered by archaeologists from an era when we had longer attention spans. The interview lasts about eight minutes, which is an eternity for TV. But what pleasure to see two people talking instead of just hurling oneliners at each other. Whatever you think of Dick Cavett, man, he was a great interviewer. Supremely relaxed, very charming, he made his guests feel much at ease, but then he asked really interesting questions. And cunningly, he alternated more general questions about the sport, with more personal questions about Fischer's primadonna behavior.
I'm just floored that we don't have anything like this today. This is a lost art. Just think of the bunch of sorry schmucks that do the job on TV nowadays, and the formats in which they work. Charlie Rose likes to hear himself talk and blow hot air. I cannot abide him. Brownoser extraordinaire James Lipton is pathetic and as I have kvetched before in this blog, when you go to live interviews with actors, the interviewers either gush or kiss ass or in the case of a recent interview with Javier Bardem, the interviewerette in question was pushing her boobs in front of the actor and acting like a schoolgirl. And then it doesn't help matters that the only reason why anybody is on TV is because they are shilling something.
Which brings me to this point. Our culture of celebrity has reached critical mass. When a publication like the New York Times Magazine devotes an issue to actors, (and I have nothing against actors and I love them and could talk about them forever) in an arty, pretentious spread, with arty, pretentious videos, I think it is going way too far. The editrix at large of this magazine is the same interviewerette who was hitting on Bardem while talking to him in front of an audience. No amount of pretentious photographs can disguise the fact that this is professional gushing. I'm sick of it.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Gone Mitt the Wind

So that guy is out. All I know about him is he is rich, handsome, a Mormon and as from today, a has been.
So I'm afraid that this means it's gonna be McCain v Hillary. In which case I can almost predict 4 more years of a Republican presidency, Lord have mercy on us. If it is McCain v Obama, I think it would be more of a toss up. But anyway, McCain has always been the only viable (read this as not totally lunatic) Republican candidate and a guy who appeals to those who are not mentally insane, which I surmise is the majority of Republicans. I think that the crazy ass Republicans (the ultra right wing nutjobs) are like the Jews: everybody thinks there is more of them than is actually true. Huckabee is going to give McCain a good fight in the crazy ass states, but I think (read this as I pray and hope, teeth chattering and knees trembling) that sanity and moderation will prevail. If the general apathy and indifference of this country are any indication, it will be a white male protestant once again.
Question: Will the fact that there will be a horrible recession and people will be really pissed off about the economy make people vote Democrat or Republican come November?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

More of the same yet to come

Although it was great to see such high voter turnout, I wish the Democrats had emerged with a clear candidate so we could move on from this particular bit of crazy.
I have to say, I have been unnerved by the way people here proselytize for their favorite candidate.
If I were Emily Post and talked about voting etiquette, I would say that it is fine to encourage people to get out and vote on what their conscience dictates and that the vote is secret and universal. Nobody can demonize you for voting for whom you damn well please. If you want to vote for Mike Huckabee because you like the way his furniture happens to look just like a cross, by all means.
This is a very strong feeling I have: the nature of democracy is precisely to respect the individual vote of conscience. That is why the endless barrage of attacks between candidates is absurd to me. And even more absurd is the coaxing of friends and acquaintances to go one way or the other. I have a natural knee jerk reaction against that. I would not dream of telling anyone who to vote for or against. Am I nuts?
Yesterday I heard it all, and sadly, unfortunately, it was mostly between Democrats, for crying out loud: that Obama conceals the fact that he is a Muslim and we can't have one of those at the White House (maybe it would actually help, no?), that he snorted coke (Good. Then he knows what it's like: experience!).
Guys, chill the fuck out.
I got sent corny videos from Obama supporters and got shrill, way too long for an email, hysterical letters (more than once) from Hillary supporters, and I found both very off-putting. Actually, the shrill, Hillary-supporting rant that made the internet rounds was too much to bear. I didn't have the time, the inclination or the liver to read it all the way to the end because 1. it was waaaaay toooo looooong. 2. the tone was so angry and full of tired feminist clichés that couldn't possibly help the cause of women anywhere (gynocide?). It was also horribly written, even if a lot of what it said is true.
I too, have had it with the insidious misogyny in this country and I don't for a second doubt that women have it rougher than men each and every time, (but so do, actually, black people and gays and you name it). But I don't for a second doubt either that women are wholly complicit in this, many times by choice. The women as victims rhetoric does not sway me. If you really want to help Hillary Clinton get elected you have to be eloquent and moderately rational, not downright borderline having a feminist nervous breakdown. Don't do her any favors.
I am totally willing to vote for Hills when she runs for President. I don't think I have ever been on the fence for anything as I was this time around. Truth is, I don't believe either one of them, man or woman, black or white. I take my politicians with a giant grain of salt. Particularly in this wholly unpleasant circus.
However, even though I agree that Obama mainly sounds like a progressive Hallmark card, there is a part of my heart that believed in making a statement for fundamental change, the kind that would bring a black man, for instance, to the presidency of the US. Not that a woman would not be equally deserved, but that is the quandary in which we find ourselves right now. And as smart and capable as she is, she comes with a lot of baggage that has nothing to do with the fact that she is a woman. He, on the other hand, is fresher.
I had a very enlightening talk with a cab driver about the primaries. He had a thick accent and a Muslim sounding name but he told me he was a democrat and was going to vote for either Barack or Hillary at the end of his shift. Isn't this what makes this fucking country great? I say it is.
However, he was convinced that John McCain was going to win the general election, no matter who he faces, because this country is not ready yet for a woman or a black man at the helm. I think he may be right, unfortunately. To judge from the disgustingly unseemly infighting from the Democrats and their supporters, the only thing preventing a McCain victory is the mess the Republican party has left this country in. I pray that ordinary Americans everywhere think of this and not of ideology, when they pick next.
I wonder what would happen in the event that Hills and Barack decide to run together. That would be so rich.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Hispanics: let's kick some GOP butt!

Make them regret biting the hardworking hand that feeds them, cleans them and takes care of their cars, their yards and their babies. Make them rue the day when they picked you hardworking people as scapegoats to hide their own incompetence, corruption and mismanagement. Let them regret to the end of their days that they ever thought to mess with you in such a calculated racist, prejudiced, unfair, hysterical way.

An estimated 18.2 million Hispanics are eligible to vote.
“It is not inconceivable,” said Cesar Conde, executive vice-president of Univision, “that Hispanics will have the key role in electing the next president of the United States.”

Go get em!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Super Bowl 2008 Ads

I didn't see the game but I certainly heard the screaming in the bars downstairs on Bleecker when the Giants scored the winning touchdown. That's the nice thing about living in NY. You don't have to watch the game to keep score. You know if NY won by the amazing unison roar of the fans in every bar. It's pretty cool. Of course, after 1 am I had already had it with the stupid celebrations and the honking. Really, how long can you keep it up? Isn't it enough to say "The Giants won! Yay!"?
I think you are forcing it after two minutes of hollering, and that goes to fans of every sport. Yay! is enough.
But today I saw the ads in You Tube. Once more, not too impressed. I think we suffer from computer graphics abuse in general.

My favorites:
• Surprisingly, the Coca Cola ad with the New York balloon parade. It is beautifully done and the punch line in the end is really surprising and touching. Go Charlie Brown! Go losers! I think it's the first Coke ad I like in years (except for the ones I directed myself in Venezuela - blatant tooting of my own horn here, why the hell not?).
However, the sameself company's ad with Bill Frist and Serpenthead I found utterly revolting. How much were these guys paid? I certainly hope the greenbacks are going to charity. The ad reeks of cynicism disguised as good nature. Despicable on all counts and shame on all involved. AS IF.

• The E Trade ads with the baby. Hilarious and downright unintentionally scary. Has the ad agency looked at the stock market lately? It does feel like a bunch of babies is at the helm right now. N'est pas?

• Will Ferrell for Bud Light. I think it is shameless to combine the shilling of a movie with the shilling of beer, but what do I know, it's the new paradigm, bla bla bla. All I can say is remember George Orwell. The Future is Now. Still, Will Ferrell always cracks me up and the jokes in this ad are very funny, even if the concept is as old as stale beer.

• The Bud Light ads that promise men they can breathe fire and fly would be excellent if it wasn't for the overkill of the little buttons at the end that cancel the really strong punchlines. That really ruins them. It destroys them . It neuters them. On the other hand, the Bud Light ad with the cavemen is a blatant ripoff of last year's Fedex caveman commercial which is one of my all time favorites. It is amazing to me that people can steal ideas with such impunity from Super Bowl to Super Bowl. But it really doesn't matter, 'cause it's only advertising.
I liked Carlos Mencia's controversial ad last year. This year it's just stupid.

• The ad with the shrinking head guy is very funny. The other one is overkill.

• The Timberlake Pepsi ad. So much fire power for a promotion. Still Timberlake is very charming in it and the ad is very well done even if I am sick of CGI.

• The Audi Godfather ad is scary cool. But the coolest thing in it is the great Alex Rocco, (whom I just saw in this movie Find Me Guilty, which is so weird it deserves a whole other post), and who gives an outstanding performance as a prick mob guy.

The rest is silence.

The suspense is killing me

I'm still undecided for tomorrow, but leaning to the junior senator from Illinois. Even though my dear friend Katya directed me to a You Tube video of celebrities I mostly can't recognize singing one of Obama's speeches. This video was supposed to convince me to vote for the man, but it was so long and corny and pretentious I almost voted for Ron Paul instead (sorry, Katya).
I agree with George Clooney that unless you are Oprah, celebrity endorsements of politicos rarely help.
Case in point: Scarlett Johanssen supporting Obama in the video, complete with recording studio earphones a la We Are The World -- very bad.
Clooney supporting Obama -- where do I sign?
It really depends on who does the shilling.
But I will confess how my political mind is working right now:
I'm going to vote for Obama against my own very senator from New York because she represents politics as usual. This is not an easy choice, but by voting for Obama I will register my displeasure with politics as usual. Now, all the NY dems (the assembly members and congresspeople etc) are supporting Hillary for obvious reasons. They wrote me a letter telling me so. I figure they all want to be taken into account when and if she becomes president. Fuck em.
My instinct is that Hillary Clinton will win, just like the Giants did (NYers love to win in everything) and so, I will vote for her in the general election. But for now, I'm voting for the guy who is fresh and young and different, even despite that horrid video.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Happy Days

I think I got the last available seat in the house, a partial view orchestra ticket. Luckily, since the protagonist of Beckett's Happy Days is encrusted in a pile of rubble from which she can't escape, I saw the proceedings unimpaired. And I am so glad I did. Fiona Shaw is incredible as Winnie. Not only is her diction pure and pristine and clear as day, but her voice is a marvel of delicacy and power, a marvel of musicality and rhythm, of comic timing and ferocious struggle. Every word comes ringing out, imbued with feeling. This is what a stage actor should sound like. Wow. WOW.
As for the play, it is funny and poignant and, in this production, very entertaining. I have seen two recent productions of Beckett (Waiting for Godot and this) and I wonder if in our age of Prozac the funny is enhanced at the expense of the disturbing. Not that this is necessarily bad. The plays are very funny, and overzealous productions that don't get the clowning must be hell to sit through. Maybe we're finally getting it, that they are meant to be more funny than dark and gloomy?
I imagine that the existential malaise that afflicted people in the fifties or sixties, when the plays were written, right after WWII, with a sense of impending doom thanks to mass genocide and the Cold War, has now been replaced by a feeling of, "fuck it, I needn't worry too much about the meaninglessness of life, since I won't be here to pick up the mess we've created, anyway. I have to run to my yoga class. Ta ta".
We survived the dark period in which Beckett wrote his plays. We're still here, so let's not take it all so seriously.
I wonder if every subsequent age will interpret Beckett as we have interpreted Shakespeare, according to our neuroses du jour. However, Shakespeare does not seem to me to be aging as quickly as Beckett. Hmmm...
Happy Days is poignant in that this woman, who is encased in a pile of rubble, surrounded by destruction, still has the survival instinct to look at the bright side, to make the best of an untenable situation. Her hopes are small, her triumphs very humble (they mostly have to do with whether Willie, her mate, answers her, or even listens to her). Human beings can get used to the worst, sadly. Her moments of despair are intermittent but ferocious, but then she distracts herself with banter, to make it through another meaningless, scorching day. She gives meaning and dignity to these endless days, and that is her heroic effort. The more I think about the play, the more it resonates and the more it grows on me and the more I appreciate its gorgeous poetry. But as I was sitting there, it felt a little quaint. Not because of the production, which is a very realistic pile of concrete rubble and dust, but perhaps because of the heavy symbolism.
I would have loved to see Beckett's plays when they first came out and blew everyone away with their revolutionary modernity. Today, somehow, we've become inured to the poetics of the absurd, because others after him, notably Harold Pinter, have made the absurd something palpably real, not symbolic. Pinter somehow took the poetry of the absurd inside and made it more frightening. The absurd lives among us, within us, no need to encase people in symbolic garbage.
I recently saw the current, highly uneven, Broadway production of The Homecoming and I was blown away by the brutality of the play. The situation is realistic but what happens is absurd. What happens is horrifying, but it takes place in a house in London. We cannot hide behind the safe pretense that oh, this is supposed to be poetic, see? she is trapped in rubble, there is a bell that signifies night and day, or the passage of time. Somehow the poetics keep us at bay.
Still, if anybody can give Happy Days gorgeous life, and do justice to the amazing language of the play, that is Fiona Shaw and for that I'm grateful that I saw it.