Friday, February 27, 2009
I don't know what's wrong with moi. I come in every day to try to write something amusing for you, dear, loyal readers, and I can't. I think I am suffering of a mild case of bloggers' block, no doubt provoked by too much facebooking and e-mailing and spending way too much time in front of computer screens. Or perhaps by fretting about banks and the little money with my name on it that is in them. One is tempted to stuff the mattress these days.
Not that I don't try to do my homework.
Shall I write about the Korean tacos in LA? I should. Korean food reminds me of Mexican food. Both like spicy and pork and they are both delicious, so actually Korean tacos sound good to me. As opposed as Italian enchiladas, which don't. In fact, I am going to be in LA for one measly day next week and I'm seriously thinking of pursuing the Korean taco van.
Shall I write about some recent movies I've seen? I was about to write a review of Two Lovers, with budding rapper and potentially mentally deranged ex-actor Joaquin Phoenix. I liked the movie when I saw it. Was surprised that Gwyneth Paltrow was good in it, and so was Vinessa Shaw and I like the movies of James Gray. But then I kind of lost momentum. The movie is appealing as you sit there, but doesn't hold up as well after. Still, good acting, great, moody texture all around. I applaud James Gray for sticking to Brighton Beach and making American films that don't feel American but they are.
I also saw two movies in German at the Film Comment Selects minifestival in Lincoln Center.
Revanche, which was nominated for an Oscar this year, is a neat Austrian film noir. As film noirs go, the story is great but the movie is shot with such clinical detachment, I couldn't really get worked up over it. I bet there will be an American mauling of this film soon. It has a great plot.
And I also saw A Woman In Berlin, an adaptation of the anonymous diary of a German woman during the fall of Berlin in 1945. It's a good film, but it does not have the bitterness and the starkly brutal tone of the book. The book could be an apocryphal German version of the diary of Anne Frank, except that it was written by a journalist and the voice is that of a pretty decent writer. She has nothing but bitterness and scorn for the German men who were nowhere to be found when Berlin needed defending, while that stupid Fuhrer of theirs was hiding in the bunker like a coward. I must confess that watching German citizens of that era suffer for 2 hours gives me a slightly pleasurable frisson of schadenfraude. A small little sense of revenge that nurtures the soul. The movie is conceived to do the opposite. But here are these people, good upstanding citizens of the Nazi regime, devastated by their own government. They believed in it, hook, line and sinker. So there. They deserved that and much more as far as I'm concerned.
Considering what the Nazis did to the Soviets, I think the Russians were relatively restrained. Basically, the Russian army had orders to rape every German woman if possible. As we know, rape is a horrible strategy used to vanquish and humiliate the defeated. The Russian army raped more than 100,000 German women. So much for purity of race.
When the book came out in 1953, Germans were outraged because they saw it as staining the honor of German women (which were basically trying to survive), and no German man wanted to see himself in the mirror as an impotent (in every sense of the word) loser; so the author, duly enraged at this unbelievable but not unsurprising reception, forbid its publication until after her death. I recommend the book much more than the film.
See, bloggers' block is almost gone.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
They are vile and disgusting creatures.
As for the speech, it all sounds lovely, but I wonder how it's going to work?
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
I think neon signs should be protected as national landmarks.
I love them.
Shanghai, China has the best.
And the New York Times today, displays some of my favorites, the few, the proud remaining neon signs. All of Times Square should go back to neon.
Why would anybody remove the fabulous P&G sign?
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Now people are screaming that the body is a temple (to judge from our increasingly expanding bodies, each one the size of the Taj Mahal), how dare they, etc, etc. How very holier than thou.
I want to know how this is different from the people who pay money to wear logos all over their clothes.
They are walking billboards and yet they are stupid enough to pay for the privilege.
I refuse to wear outward logos if I can help it: I'm not a walking ad. I also think it is the height of tackiness.
I am the last person to defend ubiquitous advertising. I was appalled when CBS stamped its eye logo on supermarket eggs. I hate covert marketing (it's everywhere). I hate what they call branded entertainment, I hate product placement. I want to know when an ad is an ad, not a 2 hour Fedex commercial with Tom Hanks.
For instance, I love 30 Rock but their blatant shilling of products is disgusting to me, even when it's done in a relatively entertaining way.
But if some people want to shave their heads to advertise a paying brand? Why not? It's their conscious decision. So lighten up, you morally obsessed freaks.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Travis, a trained chimpanzee, was killed by the police after he mauled a friend of his owner, who had done nothing to provoke him, except apparently, wear her hair differently.
Travis (last name Bickle by any chance?) lived, not where he should, in the bush in Africa, but in a house in Hartford, Connecticut (no wonder he was pissed).
When he was younger, he was put to work on commercials for Old Navy and Coca-Cola and even tried out for a TV pilot. To judge from the photo, like pretty much every other American, Travis was grossly overweight and underexercised. He looks like a couch potato.
He lived in a cage inside the house. It may have been a big, pretty cage with many toys and his owners probably loved him but still, this is not right. Why should a chimpanzee live in the human world? And make money for his owners? Why should he be paraded in town wearing diapers?
Below, the news item. My comments in bold:
"There was no provocation that we know of. One thing that we're looking into is that we understand the chimpanzee has Lyme disease and has been ill from that, so maybe from the medications he was out of sorts. We really don't know," Conklin (chief of police) said.
Colleen McCann, a primatologist at the Bronx Zoo, said Tuesday that chimpanzees are unpredictable and dangerous even after living among humans for years.
....The chimpanzee... went after several of the officers, who retreated into their cars, Conklin said. Travis knocked the mirror off a cruiser before opening its door and starting to get in, trapping the officer.
That officer shot the chimpanzee several times, Conklin said.
The wounded chimpanzee fled the scene, but Conklin said police were able to follow the trail of his blood: down the driveway, into the open door of the home, through the house and to his living quarters, where he had retreated and died of his wounds. It's very moving that he went back to his lair to die. So sad.
Herold and two officers also received minor injuries, police said.
Conklin told reporters the chimp was acting so agitated earlier that afternoon that Herold gave him the anti-anxiety drug Xanax in some tea. Probably not a good idea. Conklin also suggested the animal may have attacked Nash because she was wearing her hair differently and perhaps wasn't recognized.
Police have dealt with him in the past, including an incident in 2003 when he escaped from his owners' vehicle in downtown Stamford for two hours. I'd be pissed if they left me in the car too. Officers used cookies, macadamia treats and ice cream in an attempt to lure him, but subdued him only after he became too tired to resist. Just so you know, if that happens to me, hold the macadamias.
At the time of the 2003 incident, police said the Herolds told them the chimpanzee was toilet trained, dressed himself, took his own bath, ate at the table and drank wine from a stemmed glass. He also brushed his teeth using a Water Pik, logged onto the computer to look at pictures, and watched television using the remote control, police said.
I heard he also made a mean martini. He was my friend in facebook. Geez!
Well, this may seem very cute to us, but it's not right. Chimps are very smart, but why should they ever come in contact with a Water Pik? People should leave animals alone. If you must live with an animal, it should be a dog or a cat or a goldfish. Everybody else in the animal kingdom needs to live in their own habitat with their own animal friends and foes. People abuse animals with the excuse of protecting them. With the excuse of love and companionship too. Leave them alone.
If I was the mauled friend, I'd seriously think of suing Travis' owner. She could not control him and there is no reason why those people should have an ape living at home. They were profiting from him too, no matter how expensive his upkeep.
By the way, why do we have to own animals? Who gave us the right to sell them and breed them for our own amusement? You see, I go PETA (which I loathe) one better. As part of the animal kingdom, we should kill animals for food (and shoes maybe). Everything else -- zoos, circuses, aquariums, performing animals and pets -- is not okay. Although I must say, I like zoos and aquariums because that's the only way we get to see the animals we keep extinguishing. The circus I hate.
You can't eat your animals and have them too.
• Hugo Chavez gets his referendum passed whereby he is potentially on the road to becoming another insane megalomaniac, two bit dictator. I'm just hoping oil prices drop and he starts getting on the last nerve of his people. Unfortunately, the pathetic opposition doesn't have a viable contender yet.
I think Chavez has indeed done some things for the poor people of Venezuela, whether the people who hate him admit it or not. The poor adore him. The middle class hates him. There are many more poor than not, so he wins.
On the other hand, there is a lot he hasn't done, like control rampant violent crime or curb the astonishing corruption of the government. Oil money can get a lot done, but he isn't really spreading it around.
Also, looking at things in retrospect, I find it quite interesting that his government-backed spurt of antisemitism happened right before the referendum. People like him and Ahmadinejad know that, unfortunately, hating Jews it's great PR.
I hate populists.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
According to the New York Times:
"For nearly 700 lucky Merrill Lynch employees, 2008 was a million-dollar year, even though the brokerage firm lost $27 billion.
“Merrill chose to make millionaires out of a select group of 700 employees,” Mr. Cuomo wrote in the letter, which was sent to the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday night.
Mr. Cuomo has homed in on the payments made to executives by banks that have received more than $350 billion from the federal government. That banks have collectively lost hundreds of billions of dollars has only fueled public scorn.If that $3.6 billion had been evenly disbursed among Merrill’s work force each person would have received about $91,000. Instead, the top four bonus recipients received a total of $121 million, Mr. Cuomo wrote."
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Then the McCarthy trials.
Now it's politicians who don't pay their taxes, stoner mermen, and skeezy ball players.
Whether they are right or wrong, the spectacle of everyone tearing their garments and scrutinizing these people is more disturbing than anything they may have done. Let me explain:
As if we didn't know already that politicians are utterly corrupt. Instead of screaming like banshees over the undecipherable tax code that not even accountants can ever hope to master, instead of scrutinizing the finances of the husband of one of the nominees, why don't we just do two things:
a) Change the tax code
b) Reform campaing financing and END lobbyism. (okay, three).
That should do the trick.
As if we were so naive as to think that A-Rod never took steroids. Puhleeeze! And why is this relevant now? Let me make things simple for you: if you run into a professional athlete that makes gazillions of dollars and whose abilities seem superhuman, chances are he's on the dope. GET OVER IT, you freaking crybabies! What did you think?
As for poor Michael Phelps, of the above, he's the saddest one, because there is absolutely nothing wrong with him puffing the peace pipes once in a while, like 3/4 of the human race. Whoever took that picture is a real asshole.
Decriminalize pot and presto. He can still be our hero.
What a country of hypocrites. I love America, but the hypocrisy, the holier than though puritanical streak, the morbid scrutiny of alleged malfeasance, it drives me crazy. This isn't the freaking seventeenth century, goddamit. Grow up.
Monday, February 09, 2009
When David told me he was doing this for Bourdain, I of course sent a list of places to take him to. It had the urgent desperation of a ransom note. YOU HAVE TO TAKE HIM TO, it read:
• The tacos de carnitas of the Mercado de Medellin on Saturdays.
• Or Carnitas Contreras in Polanco.
• The pozole of the Mercado de Coyoacán.
PLEASE I BESEECH YOU.
But David did excellent well, steering Bourdain to blue corn tlacoyos and some tacos al pastor I definitely need to try next time I'm there.
As I was telling him in an email, I think that one can only live without real Mexican food if you excise it from your mind on a daily basis; not an easy feat, and one which I had more or less began to accomplish after 16 years... until I saw this show.
Now I feel bereft, unmoored and slightly unhinged, for as much as Mexican food has improved in New York, we will never ever get the kind of miraculous stuff that Bourdain sampled on his show. This makes me immensely sad. For the genius of Mexican food is that the best is found on the street.
Carlos, the Mexican head chef at Les Halles, was saying on the show that he misses his family and the food. No offense, Enchilada family, but you are a very close second. A tie, almost. Give me the choice right now between communing with a plate of chicharrón en salsa verde or with you, and I'd go for the chicharrón in a heartbeat. I know you understand.
Only a Mexican could complain about food in New York, and that is because, as magnificent as this place is for food in general, it does not have the Mexican food we love and miss and crave and could possibly kill for. Things have definitely gotten better, now that hipsters are eating corn with chili and lime, now that we have La Superior (which I haven't tried), Hecho en Dumbo (fabulous) and La Esquina (does the trick in a pinch). Now that at least in the greatest city on Earth it has begun to dawn on people that Mexican food is one of the most amazingly magnificent and sophisticated cuisines on Earth, deserving of total respect. But still.
Do you know what I would give to be able to leave a movie or a bar late at night and have some decent tacos al pastor in Manhattan?
Do you know what it would mean for New York if we finally had that and real carnitas? Quite possibly, world domination.
I have news for you: pork belly, that precious new foodie fad, is nothing but glorified carnitas. And carnitas are cheaper and better.
If every vigilante minuteman in Arizona, every white person hollering against Mexican immigrants would have one bite of a real good Mexican dish, I can assure you nobody would have any qualms about any of my compatriots coming here. They'd be clamoring for more.
I have to go to Mexico and eat.
The New York Times reports today on the fiasco that is Florida's rapacious development.
And last week, the New Yorker ran a fantastic article by George Packer about the foreclosure disaster in that ridiculous state. He called it, quite accurately, "Florida:" The Ponzi State."
I do not smile on other people's misfortunes (unless they're Nazis, literally and at heart), but a Republican state, with zero regulation, Jeb Bush as governor, an economy based almost exclusively on speculation, and now look who's crying.
My own longstanding prescription for Florida is to saw it off and push it into the sea, but so far no one has taken it seriously. Perhaps they will now.
As I flew out of Miami on my way to Charlotte, a couple of weeks ago, I could see from the plane window these ugly developments of cookie cutter houses sitting on the edge of what looked like vast swampland, in the middle of nowhere, with no apparent center, park, school, downtown, bar, Hooters, mall, whatever. Looks like you need a car to go somewhere for a walk.
Why do people want to live like that? As some commenters point out in the NYT article, the suburban culture is a culture of unconscionable waste, social isolation and needless consumption, not of community or productivity. I hate the suburbs. They have always given me the creeps.
The other question is why do people spend money they don't have?
We all get swamped with credit offers, but does that mean we have to take them? What are we, morons?
Every time I shop at Macy's (less often than you think) or Bloomie's or Banana Republic (I'm trying to make a point here), I am offered a discount if I open a credit card with them. I've taken the discount once and never used the card. Why? Because I don't buy that shit on credit (they have usurious interest rates). I pay my credit cards in full. Every time. And if I can't pay in full for something, then guess what? I don't buy it.
Now, the only items I can understand buying on credit are a home and a car.
I will confess last year I was snooping around property. Not because I wanted to buy anything, but because you are supposed to own property. Everybody around me was buying property. I was looking at the possibilty as a safeguard, as a diversified investment in case stocks and mutual funds, should God forbid, tank. Well damned if you do and damned if you don't, because quite clearly, everything has tanked anyway.
I was not looking to live in the property I'd buy, which I now believe should be the only reason to buy a house in the first place. I was looking to rent it so the mortgage would almost pay itself. Prices in NY were insane. And as a freelancer without a steady job I was extremely concerned that if I bought the freaking thing, my entire life would be devoted to worrying about paying for it. I might need to take a full time job again in order to pay for the thing. I might be able to flip it at a modest profit a couple years down the line, but it may might have meant the end of my freedom. In any case, I did not feel comfortable with owing money. It was not only a monetary calculation, but also a deeply personal fear of becoming enslaved. And a deeply personal fear of bankers, mortgage lenders, lawyers, tenants, etc. The stock market, alas, is easier. So I didn't buy. Phew.
A seer friend of mine who used to work in the financial sector told me to wait a year, when things were really going to drop. That is about right now, but who needs to get into that mess right now?
The American Dream should be to have a good job and make a good income (to be decently remunerated whether you are blue collar or white collar or ring around the collar) so you and your family can afford a good life, with good schools, a good health system, decent leisure time, a nice sense of community and enough to yield you savings to send the kids to college, for retirement and for a rainy day. This I believe, used to be called France (where college is free, by the way). If owning a house can be part of that scheme, good. If not, renting will not make you into a loser and the American Constitution is not going to pulverize into thin air.
But that is considered socialism around these parts. So don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen.
Now, this may sound really naive. But why are we giving money to the banks that lent money to the foreclosed people instead of allowing the foreclosed people to retain the houses that they owe money on? Why are the banks benefiting from the repossession of the houses? I'm not saying that people should be awarded for defaulting on their payments, but foreclosing them only makes matters worse.
Some buyers, as Packer points out, bought for speculative reasons and deserve the fire and brimstone they are getting. But others were duped, they bought honestly and believed in the stupid dream.
I will never forget the case of the 90 year old Black woman whose house was already totally paid for and some unscrupulous lender convinced her to take a loan against her house and they ripped her off with horrible interest rates and foreclosed her.
Why are those people penalized? Why are the unscrupulous lenders not penalized?
Every day I get some prerecorded call from some criminal asking me to call him about my credit situation or my mortgage situation. They think I am an elderly person and they want to rip me off.
As David Mamet has eloquently illustrated in his plays, this is a nation of conmen and snake oil salesmen, from real estate offices to Capitol Hill, and the chickens are coming home to roost (or whatever it is that you say in these cases).
Thursday, February 05, 2009
However, Heim was captured by Americans after the war and he was released, one hopes, by mistake. He lived quietly in Germany and had a family and everything, until he had to flee. The man was a sickening sadist, and I will refrain to mention the horrible things he did, because people have a morbid fascination with abject topics like this (Nazis are always at the top of the list, after Mexican Japanese peanuts, in this blog). You can read the article here.
I went into the comments section, because it's always fun to see what comes out of the woodwork, and sure enough, among the many heartfelt expressions of outrage, there they are, the inevitable, pesky antisemites, who can't leave it alone after 5000 fucking years. You'd think they'd given up already. You'd think somebody would have realized by now that it is a futile, fruitless endeavor to hate the Jews.
But there is the classic guy who compares the Nazi Holocaust with the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and even worse, someone offering a link to the Institute for Historical Revision, which is, you guessed it, a hateful site insisting on denying the Holocaust and other vile antisemitic drivel.
The sheer amount of energy and stupidity these people spend on spewing crap is astounding. I am almost fascinated by people who must be so mentally, morally and emotionally weak, that all that sustains them is the irrational hatred of Jews. Pathetic, annoying, utterly boring pests.
Meanwhile, the very Pope, he with the breakfast name, got into a shitstorm (and rightly so) for rehabilitating some hideous excommunicated antisemitic priests who belong to a hideous antisemitic order inside the Catholic Church (so what else is new?). Priests that hated the Second Vatican Council that sought to mend the damage done by said Church to Jews throughout history. Priests that deny the Holocaust. He claimed, are you sitting down, "compassion". All hell broke loose in his birthplace, where even Angela Merkel criticized him for siding with, plainly, the wrong guys.
And then we have Hugo Chavez, cheap imitator of cheap tyrants, allowing antisemitism to escalate in his country (fanning the flames with his irrelevant anti-Israel rhetoric), for no other reason that it gives people enough distraction to blame all that reeks on the Jews. The oldest synagogue in Caracas gets viciously vandalized, by like 15 men with firearms, and then he blames it on the opposition trying to make him look bad. Geez! Antisemitism may look like good PR to bastards like him and Ahmadinejad, but it's really not that great a strategy.
I know that Jews in Venezuela are concerned and fearful. I wish they were deeply defiant.
Fuck the antisemites.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
I guess the picture says it all.
Or at least that's what Frank Bruni thinks is happening now in the NY restaurant world, which is nice to customers all of a sudden.
I remember trying to make a reservation at Nobu many years ago. You had to call about a month and a half in advance, but no sooner than that. You were asked to hold on for hours and then you'd talk to a reservationist that seemed to have been trained by the SS. You were told a set or rules you had to comply with, like actually giving out your credit card number and calling yourself to confirm, or you were verboten. I almost expected them to tell me to shine my boots and clean my rifle before arriving. It was a horrifying process (though the treatment once at the restaurant was fine.)
I hope indeed that times have changed. Meanwhile, I never went back to Nobu.
I hope that all those restaurants who have snotty welcome staff, reservationists from hell and rude service (and absurdly high prices) and who treat customers as if they could afford to lose them, I hope they gag on their own food.
Restaurants are courting customers, but who wants to spend the money? Everything is there for the taking and we just don't want it, or we can't afford it or it doesn't feel right. Hence, we're eating quesadillas at home. Not that prices at the supermarket are not insane. The Morton Williams down the street from me is armed robbery. I think it's cheaper to dine at Per Se.
You know what? There is always Chinatown, where you eat like a king for babkes.
Stores are giving stuff away, and still one doesn't have the gumption to buy. Last week I ran into three Mexicans in NY. What possessed them to come to NY in the middle of freezing winter? The shopping. They were so having a ball with the shopping, they didn't mind the cold, which is unusual for Mexicans.
I just bought a pair of Helmut Lang pants at Bloomingdale's for $126 reduced from like $400. I could not resist. I'm sure I'm never going to wear them, but I feel like Liz Lemon in 30 Rock, who bought a wedding dress just because it was on sale.
My darling, beloved new boyfriend (sorry Philip Gourevitch, you have been dethroned), Barack H. Obama, has just decided to cap the salaries of Wall Street machers at a paltry $500,000 a year.
And they can't cash in on their stock options until us taxpayers have been repaid (I'll believe that when I see it).
Poor little bankers! What will they do with such miserly crumbs?
In any case, you can read the wonderful remarks of my boy-o here.
He seems to be responding to the public anger over handing money to banks that are hoarding it instead of lending it, and people who buy $1500 wastebaskets for their office and continue to enrich themselves as everything turns to shit.
They are lucky we don't live in drawing and quartering times. I'd have them in the fucking stockade already, if it was up to me.
I am sure stocks will go way down after this announcement, but fuck it. Someone has to pay, and it should not just be the hardworking citizens of this country.
We didn't devise absurd mortgage based securities, selling people other people's debt. We didn't go around convincing the poor to buy stuff they could not afford and were never going to pay for.
Now let's institute universal health care for all and we'll be on our way to being a half decent country, and not the land of robber barons, as it stands right now.
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Monday, February 02, 2009
Hilarious, unforgettable, flawlessly executed, brilliant concept. Better by far than anything else in the running. I love that screaming lady in the car.
The Monster.com spot was also very funny and very well done, but it pales in comparison.
The Denny's mafiosi pancake spot, very funny.
The E-Trade with the two babies, lovely, funny, killer. I love that campaign. Go people, put some money in stocks right now!
I really like the Miller High Life One Second commercial (it's 2 seconds) and I like that campaign. The guy is fantastic.
I really liked the Coke ads better than the Pepsi. The Coke avatar ad was fun (though with a sappy ending) and the animated ad is a huge improvement, in my view, from last year's happiness factory which got on my nerves. Still, none of the Coke ads are as good as the Thanksgiving balloon spot, which I love. The new tagline, "open happiness" is just right for Coke. It bothers me that they ad the little jingle at the end of the music scores. No need.
Meanwhile, Pepsi feels like is trying too hard. The anthem spot using Will I. Am and American icons like Bob Dylan and gazillions of dollars in footage seemed underwhelming. I hate the ending with the split screen. We get the picture. No need to be so literal. Total anticlimax.
The McGruber spot was stupid and unfunny.
As for Bud Light, Drinkability is a leaden marketing concept and it reeks. The ads just seem to work around it, because there is little you can do with it. Not even the Conan ad was funny.
I hate the Clysdale ads.
The SoBe ballet dancing footballers. Stupid.
The Audi ad with Jason Statham. Love him, hate the ad.