Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mexican Japanese Peanuts: The Saga Continues

Beloved readers: I have a stash of three big bags of Nishikawa Mexican Japanese Peanuts.
I doubt they will last until the weekend.

Max Roach

Unfortunately, I'm not talking about the famed Jazz drummer, but about a humongous cockroach, lying on her back in my kitchen floor, a la Gregor Samsa, upon my return from Mexico. I greeted her with a piercing scream.
Why are these creatures so big, so vile and so ugly? The roach appeared very dead, but then it started moving and squirming. How did she get on her back, I have no idea. I also had no idea about how I was going to get rid of her, as I was paralyzed with disgust. I sprayed her with a pretty generous dose of anti-roach poison, which I breathed in as well. She contorted, agonized briefly and died. I threw a paper towel on her in lieu of Christian burial, then sprayed some more poison over that, and then scooped the whole thing with a scooper and threw her down the chute.
Roaches disturb me greatly. I'm very upset.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Let's Boycott Red Bull

For the height of marketing stupidity, nothing can beat what I saw happen on a Friday afternoon in Mexico City.
As a prelude, I must tell you that the traffic in Mexico city is now officially a giant knot without exit, end or solution. If people thought it could not get any worse, it has and it is beyond human comprehension.
It is not helped by the absolutely stupid attitude of drivers, who contribute to it by throwing their cars at any free space without any regard for traffic laws or the right of way or even daredevil pedestrians.
So in comes some marketing/advertising genius who decides to unleash a flotilla of about 15 Minis decorated with the Red Bull colors, driven and peopled by a bunch of third rate female models (as is customary of all marketing promotions in Mexico), all the cars bearing a giant Red Bull can in the back, all honking their horns doing spins around the block, creating more traffic, more noise and more pollution, as if Mexico City didn't have enough already. I was hoping the police would stop them, but no such luck. Who gave, if any, permission for such a retarded stunt? I was sitting at an outdoor cafe when this happened and to judge from everybody else's grimaces this moronic campaign did not do much to endear us consumers to Red Bull. Quite the contrary. To which I say, I'm never drinking that shit again. And I urge you to do the same.

Ces't ne pas possible!

Only in Mexico:

I am taking my morning constitutional at the magnificent Parque México in the fabulous Colonia Condesa where I was born and raised. I run into my old dance teacher, who still is and looks stupendous. I visit that fabulous fountain with the mini-waterfalls, I say hello to the ducks and the geese in the pond, I even do some tai chi in the shade of this gorgeous art deco park.
As I'm walking home, two women approach me and ask if I speak French. "Badly" I say. Do I read it, they ask and I say yes. So they give me this little magazine, a pamphlet in French about the perils of the internet for the jeunesse. Published by none other than the Watchtower Society. That is, the Jehovas' Witnesses.
It was great reading, and wonderful practice for my (as we say in Mexico) macarronic (puny) French, but can somebody explain to me WTF? Why distribute pamphlets in French randomly at passersby in a park in Mexico?
Such are the surreal mysteries of my country.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Greetings from the "failed state"

It sure don't look that failed to me. Mexico City is magnificent and thriving, the jacaranda trees are in bloom. It certainly doesn't feel like Iraq, a truly failed state thanks to American intervention there, hello?, or like Afghanistan, which is a medieval dump. Or like Zimbabwe, or Sudan which are still rotting and festering like open wounds without anybody doing anything about it. Mexico is nowhere near that.
So there is absolutely no justification calling Mexico a failed state. It is grossly offensive in fact to call it that. But it just goes to show the ugly American aspect of the gringo. Not only more than half responsible for the problem, but hypocritical, arrogant and ignorant, to boot. I have never been an anti-yankee. I'm not the kind to blame America for everything. But this is too much. You guys should take a good look at yourselves before casting such aspersions. Why is there so much demand for drugs in America? Why can't anybody come up with an intelligent solution to cripple the drug business? Instead, it's blame it on Mexico. Patronizing, toxic bullshit is what it is.
Mexico has a lot of problems, but it is also a great country. With a great history and a great culture and great people, so fuck off.
It is amazing to me that Americans still have not a clue about Mexico. Mexico gets absolutely no respect from the US. None. Americans think it's a third world country like all of them are the same, they think it's Spring break and mordida and banditos and slushy margaritas. But I guess Americans treat the rest of the world as some kind of lowly subordinate that exists just for the amusement and enrichment of America.
I've had it with this crap.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hitting your head hard

Poor Natasha Richardson. My sympathies to her illustrious thespian family.
Her story reminds me of something I witnessed recently and now I am mortified about.
I went ice skating at the rink in the Houston Galleria shopping mall a couple of months ago. In this particular rink you skate at your own risk. There is nobody on the ice to keep order or give aid, which I think is extremely wrong. The rink was almost empty, but as is usual with skating rinks, there were several groups of people who had never skated on ice before. There was a small group of Latino kids who were hanging from each other for dear life. They were all very annoying, as teenagers always are. This slightly chunky girl kept falling over and over. She was hopeless. They were all laughing their heads off. At one point, this girl fell head first onto the ice. She hit herself hard on the back of the head. It sounded like a wrecking ball hitting concrete; a thump so loud and sharp and dry, it made my own skull hurt. I could tell it hurt a lot, from her trying to save face while rubbing the spot, but they were all laughing like idiots, and she seemed to be fine. She was trying to laugh too. A few seconds later, she was back on her feet again, looking normal.
Today I'm thinking, first, I should have asked her if she was okay. Second, I should have told her to go to first aid and have her head checked. I hope she is not dead or in a coma.
And from now on, I'm wearing that stupid helmet when I bike.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Iron-Clad Stupidity

Obviously, the talented executives at AIG have absolutely no regard for the public relations catastrophe that their obscene behavior is inflicting to the company. After this bizarre performance, who in their right mind would consider doing business with these bozos? Would you trust them as your insurance company?
Bank of America was the first to air a grossly indecent (and very expensive looking) commercial about this being America and the bank helping to open doors, presumably to all those people it foreclosed by selling them evil mortgages. It's called spin, advertising, brainwashing, however you want to name it. I'm sure that right now nobody is so gullible or clueless as to believe it, but B of A thinks it has to do it to keep afloat what's left of their good name. That it makes people gag is another story.
Yesterday I saw another such commercial, an epic, fake-emotional wonder from General Electric, trying to remind people why their stock should not be costing 9 bucks. "Imagination at work" is right.
AIG seems oblivious to such concerns.
Which makes me wonder whether the man who is leading it is not damaging it even more. Instead of claiming "iron-clad" legal obligations, which legal experts have all debunked as utter crock, he should be setting an example for his troops and either firing them or telling them to surrender their bonuses voluntarily. Or as that senator said, politely suggest they commit hara-kiri. He should be fired as well.
The American public is outraged not only at the sheer audacity of the nerve, but also at being treated like morons by these people. As if insurance companies don't do whatever is in their power not to respect their side of the contract when someone comes down with a catastrophic illness or has a "preexisting condition" or there is an "act of God" like Katrina. There is no lost love between those creeps and the American customer, but if you look at the tropes of insurance advertising they are all about honesty and trust and safety and empathy and being in good hands and all that crock of bullshit designed to make people think they are not putting their lives and limbs at the mercy of ruthless, heartless crooks. As Jay Leno said, AIG stands for Adventures In Greed.
We may be bailing out this stupid company, but will it ever survive its bad name?*

*And will the Obama administration ever survive it, now coyly feigning innocence and outrage.
Larry Summers is a chazer (a pig; everybody must learn Yiddish already) and Geithner is no better.

Monday, March 16, 2009

I Love Class Warfare

One happy corollary (in my perverse opinion) of the current economic "contraction" is that there is new class warfare in America. Used to be the entrepeneurial, can do spirit of the rich was admired. Nobody ever bothered the rich. They were our poster boys. Our role models. Now the rich are being besieged. I find it nothing less than thrilling.
I, as many other citizens of the Confederacy of Con Artists a.k.a the USA, had to pick up my jaw from the floor as I read yesterday that AIG could or would not rescind its planned giveaway of millions of dollars in bonuses because they were protected by "iron clad" contracts.
The nerve.
Red hot iron up their malevolent asses is what they should be getting instead.
I guess we should not expect any of those talented executives who ran AIG to the ground to come forward and refuse their bonuses in good faith towards us, the little people, and current owners of AIG. Instead, the boss at AIG is afraid of lawsuits. No can do, he claims.
So our Beloved Leader has to come out (in a magnificently machiavellian populist pr move right on the day of his appearance on Leno) and instruct Geithner, who looks increasingly like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons, to do whatever is in our legal power to stop the bonuses.
We should have a Roman Colosseum and throw the bankers, the AIG men and the lawyers to the lions.
Bread and Circus time, folks!
By the way, the other day I walked right by the AIG building. Creepy. All of Wall Street is very creepy now. It looks forlorn and unloved. (It was a Saturday, but still).
Also, as I walked along the Hudson River, I noticed this absurd building called Truffles, a new eyesore the color of a subway platform, which used to advertise to bonus babies with totally arrogant taglines invoking pigs amd luxury, now looking almost abandoned except for some ridiculous mannequins they stuck in the terraces to entice customers. These exclusive condos for the unfairly entitled are now RENTALS.
Screw them. Screw the developers, screw the tenants, screw the entire lot of them.
Even Saks Fifth Ave is coming out with a Bolshevik campaign, courtesy of Shepard Fairey.
We are all Trotskyists now!
My glee has no end.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Everything is Hazardous to your Health

It seems there always needs to be some sort of bogeyman to keep Americans in agita pretty much the whole time. Things have hidden evil powers that can turn against us at any moment. Cellphones give you cancer, lipstick has lead, toys are toxic, cows contaminate the planet.
Americans are expected to worry about the contents of everything they put in their mouths, or touch with their hands (and probably with good reason given the shady nature of corporate America).
But these things tend to change with the times (and, I assume, the yearly budgets of lobbyists):

Used to be chocolate was bad for you; now it's good. (yay!)
Wine was bad for you, now it's good. (double yay!)
Coffee: bad, good, bad, good, bad, good...
Tequila? Very good for you. Said who? Said I.
I'm still hoping for the day where the Surgeon General announces they've made a terrible mistake and smoking is actually good for you; it destroys cellulite, improves your sex life and makes you 10 years younger. One can dream.
Eggs were good from the beginning of time until someone invented cholesterol; currently bad.
A safe rule of thumb for me, is whatever they say is bad, I do the opposite. I eat eggs, I eat red meat and shrimp and grits when I feel like it.
Isn't it too much of a coincidence that the things that are supposed to be very bad for you also happen to be the yummiest? I eat plenty of those (salt, sugar and fat) because they make me happy, and being happy is definitely healthier in the long run to being miserable. It is a proven scientific fact that miserable, depressed and unsatisfied people get sick more often and die younger.
So there.
Lately, as some puritanical food paranoias are being relaxed (coffee, wine and chocolate are all on the good list now), the environment is the new bogeyman.
I am not disputing that we are turning the earth into a giant garbage dump and a soon to be collapsed planet. I'm the first one to deplore the unconscionable amount of waste that America, a spoiled nation of spoiled people that have never really endured hardship, produces. I'm just saying that the environmental crisis provides seamless continuity to the paranoia. It even turns it up a notch. McDonald's is now not only bad for your gut, but bad for life on Earth.
We want our American way of life to continue as is, (that is, to live with the maximum of comfort and waste, with the minimum of effort) and in exchange we worry and we fret about hidden evils in absolutely everything. Nothing is ever good. Everything has suspect origins. Everything is bad and inmoral. Be it far from us to consider adding and using public transportation or riding bikes instead of using an SUV all by ourselves to go buy a quart of milk. We'd rather fret about lead in lipstick (which, I must say, worries me to no end).
By the way, it now turns out that multivitamins, those marvels of nature that the doctor is always telling you to take every day, well those are not really doing anything good for you anyway.
Also, it turns out that toilet paper, one of mankind's greatest inventions, is now very, very bad.
Apparently, the softer the paper, the more trees get killed. So now, every time you wipe your ass, you are also faced with a moral conundrum, the way our Puritan forefathers would have liked it.
I buy sandpaperish toilet paper because I find it obscene to pay almost six bucks for toilet paper.
But now I can claim some sort of moral purity and assuage my environmental conscience.
Speaking of which, don't buy dyed toilet paper or tissues or paper towels with colors or little butterflies and rainbows. The dyes are terrible pollutants.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Up in Arms

Why are people suggesting that Michelle Obama should cover her arms and wear dresses with sleeves?
She looks fit and fabulous and for a change she is not the typical Stepfordian wife, dowdy, horribly dressed and no personality (think of all of them except for Hillary and Eleanor Roosevelt).
Also, I want those arms.
I exert myself at the gym thrice a week and my biceps look like shriveled peas. I usually need help opening jars and uncapping bottles. Why?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Shakespeare was a handsome dude...


...to judge from the new picture of him, that has him looking much better than the schmo he always looks like in the other pictures.
So brilliant, rich and handsome. Quite a catch, he was.

Will eat for food

Michael Pollan is asking people about their food rules in the NYT.
Here's my contribution:

Dear Mr. Pollan:
I grew up Jewish in Mexico City. In such circumstances, there is no such thing as leaving food on your plate.
For instance, my mom used to point out a friend of hers who was rather portly and say " he survived the extermination camps as a child and since then, he doesn't leave anything on his plate". If I left food on the plate, she would immediately invoke said friend or the malnourished children of Africa.
On the Mexican side, the deliciousness of the food makes it very hard, as well as the surrounding poverty. Again, it is insensitive to waste food when so many around you find it hard to come by.
America has created all kinds of products that resemble food and then given the world the newfangled chance of looking at food with suspicion, as if food was out to get us. "It has gluten, it has cholesterol, it's bad for you". In countries less bloated with abundance, food is welcome and sacred. Food is not seen as the enemy. As Chris Rock has pointed out, who in Africa would be lactose intolerant or allergic to gluten? However, food has become the enemy thanks to the invasion of American style processed junk food. Now people are suspicious of their own food culture, which is dangerous and appalling.
Good food is good for you.

In Latin countries, and I assume many others, the time for eating meals is respected, anticipated and savored. Eating is a social activity. Mealtimes are sacred. My biggest culture shock when I came to this country was to see people eating a pretzel in the subway or a sandwich at their desks, and calling that lunch.
One should eat at the table, usually in the company of others, be it family or colleagues or friends. But even when alone, you should be able to sit for at least half an hour and enjoy your meal in peace. What could be more important?
Never multitask while you eat.

Contrary to what many Americans think, food is not fuel.
Eating is not about cramming for energy.
One eats for pleasure and nourishment.
Food is pleasure, culture and civilization.
Hence, power bars and meals "on-the-go" are not food.
Because food is not fuel, portions don't need to be gigantic.
It's not quantity, it's quality.
Fast food can be fresh and delicious. i.e Mexican street food.
I find American processed foods and extreme vegan macrobiotic stuff equally scary. Neither qualifies as food.
Good food (and by good I mean tasty food, not tofu) will leave you happy and sated. Bad food will leave you in a foul mood and craving more.
Food is not sinful.
I eat what I love and enjoy it. My life is blessed.

Right Wing Circus Freaks

To continue with the R-bashing, I saw that ridiculous teenage conservative on CNN the other day.
He symbolizes exactly everything that is wrong with the Republicans/conservatives: inanity and immaturity.
I was not impressed. He's a performing seal, and can be added to the current disgraceful sideshow that is the Republican party.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Republicans are losers

When Sarah Palin appeared on the scene, I thought the Republican party had hit its lowest nadir.
The lowest of the low of condescending to the American people. Little did I know how far from that they still were in those unbearable days.
It's nothing short of amazing (and somehow disturbingly lovely) to watch them continue free-fall and implode today, even in worse shape than before. Their absurdity, their utter disconnection with the real psychology of this country, their disregard for the well being of the citizens, their idiotic ideological impasses, their lame attempts to connect to the people, their stupid and stubborn refusal to get with the program. They are pathetic and people know it. They are a disgrace. It is not a coincidence that they do not have viable leaders. How can you be a viable leader of lies and corruption and stupidity? Most certainly Abe Lincoln they are not.
And if a fat, inflated fuck like Rush Limbaugh (and the rest of the slimy rightist pundits) is the best they can do, they have really dug their own grave.
I'm happy to see them flail and disgrace themselves deeper into the hole.
People are dumb but they can't be so dumb as to forget who got us here in the first place, with their unstoppable greed and their disgusting disregard for a more fair and humane society.
Investigate Bush and Cheney and prosecute the bastards.
Regulate the banks. Send the CEO's to jail. Get those bonuses back.
Nationalize health care.
Let's be a socialized democracy. YAY!
Fuck the Republicans. My only consolation is that I hope they have all lost their fucking shirts, just like the rest of us.
*Not that I think the Democrats are much better.

Gay Marriage

To the gay people fighting for the right to be married by a secular court, those cute posters with the love is love bullshit are not going to help the cause. The right to marry is a practical, legal issue of equal rights, not of romance, or love or any of that crap.
Sometimes I feel that the American public only understands certain issues when things like money and material benefits are involved. So it is in this case. Straight people don't give a flying fuck whether gay couples love each other. However, they should be appalled at the discrimination and the terrible financial, legal and social limitations that come to gay couples and gay families from not being protected under the same laws as everybody else. It's as simple as that.
Precisely because marriage was supposedly created to protect children and families and the social fabric, gay families, which are now an unquestionable reality in this country, are fighting to get married. Not for love, not because marriage is sacred, but because only as married can they ensure that they and their children will have equal rights under the law. This has more to do with practical issues like visitation rights, estate problems, and insurance eligibility than any romantic or sacred notion.
Marriage is not sacred. Ask the 50% of people who get a divorce. Marriage is a practical social institution. That in our age people choose to marry for love (like that crazy bitch, the second wife of Sir Paul McCartney, remember her?) is a new development. Marriage impacts the taxes you pay, the insurance you are eligible to get, the right to care for someone dying in a hospital, etc.
As such, it should be legal for people of whatever sexual orientation to marry in a secular court of law and have the same legal rights as every other taxpaying citizen of this country.
This has nothing to do with religion, which is a pox on mankind.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Mexican Japanese Peanuts Warning

I am utterly amazed that this topic is still number one on this blog.
However, I am very concerned by the fact that people want to make Cacahuates Japoneses at home. The warning thing in the title is just there to scare the bejesus out of people. Don't tell me your heart didn't stop when you read that. Mine would.
It would not cross my mind to do such a thing (make them from scratch).
As I cautioned the first reader who inquired about a recipe, I have a feeling that Mexican Japanese peanuts are actually manufactured through nuclear fusion in secret facilities.
I don't understand how you could make them at home 1) without making a mess, 2) without making your building explode.
Plus, we need to support the continued existence of Nishikawa. If everybody starts making them at home, we may lose them. Look at what happened to the music industry.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Annex Mexico?

Today, as I was sweating on the elliptical machine at the gym I almost fell off as I heard that McLaughlin mummy from the Sunday news show ask whether the US should annex Mexico, given the latter's lack of control over the drug war. As long as the chaos remains within Mexico's borders, the gringos don't say a peep, but the moment someone is hurt del otro lado, all hell breaks loose.
He then said it wasn't a serious question, but not even in jest should this thought be ever entertained. Clean up the carnitas? Put corn syrup in the Coca-Cola? Never.
Watching the news is an exercise in raising blood pressure and in welcoming unnecessary paranoia into our daily lives. These programs thrive on scaring the hell out of people. To wit: this dessicated bastard was saying that the chaos of the drug wars in Mexico is a welcome mat for Al Qaeda, which I think is a bit de trop (although the drug-terror-money-laundering connection should not be discounted). The terror of the drug war is awful enough as it is without having to invoke the meanest meanies around.
However, as Mexicans watch helplessly as their country turns into another Colombia, it is worth asking why, as guest Mortimer Zuckerman said, the US is spending like 180 billion dollars in Iraq, while Mexico gets about 400 million measly dollars (probably what the drug lords make in a day) to fight the war against the raving hunger for drugs in the US.
The violence in Mexico has become untenable. What was internecine warfare now spills out and claims innocent people's lives. There is extortion and kidnappings and generalized fear.
The drug lords are evil incarnate, worse even than Dick Cheney, if you can imagine that, but no one who blows lines up their nose or puffs on weed or trips on drugs ever really thinks about where the stuff comes from and how many lives it destroys every day to get where it is. Just for that reason alone, recreational users of drugs should seriously consider boycotting the business.
The shoppers who sustain the business, both here and in Mexico, are the kind of people who are ready to put cooking oil into their cars to help the environment, and eschew McDonald's for fear of clogging the arteries, and go vegan for the sake of the planet. They would be horrified to learn that a blind five year old in some horrendous third world slum stitched their precious Nikes, so why aren't they equally horrified every time they shell out cash to their dealer? This too, goes for all you potheads, even those of you who are occasional consumers. Unless you know that the weed comes from some ashram in California, or Saul from Pineapple Express is your dealer, you should have some serious misgivings about smoking weed you don't know whence it came from. Just as you like your chicken to have roamed free, and your milk to be without hormones, you should seriously question the moral purity of your weed. Know that most likely, every time you use drugs, you are abetting monstrous violence.
As for Mexico's bitter fight against these creeps, it needs all the help it can get. Forget Afghanistan; this is right on our backyard. The supply, after all, is only the response to gluttonous demand on this side. But it's always more convenient for the politicians to target the producers with moralistic scenarios of good and evil, always increasing the violence, than to find a way to take the allure out of the consumption; i.e., make it as legal, as taxable, as cheap and as available as a McFlurry.
If I was president Calderón, I'd go even further than he already has and engage the full powers of the army and the Mexican air force (provided we have one) and bomb the shit out of the narcos' ostentatious mansions. Raze them to the ground. Bring the heavy artillery, provide safe shelter to the surrounding innocent civilians, and destroy the motherfuckers. Use overwhelming force. They have no qualms; they deserve none. This would be awesome if there was guarantee of no collateral damage. But war is messy.
So far, the entire burden of the war on drugs is falling on Mexico. This is unfair. The overwhelming market is on this side of the border.
In the meantime, a good plan B would be for people who really don't need to use drugs, to stop buying them. En masse.