Saturday, August 29, 2009

Still Walking

Of course The September Issue (that infomercial about Anna Wintour and Vogue) was sold out, so Marta and I rushed across Houston St to Japanese movie Still Walking, which was not only not sold out, but sadly, almost empty. However, nothing beats the pleasure of a near empty Angelika screen on a Friday night.
I have not seen the other films by Hirokazu Koreeda, but to judge from this one, I should. Still Walking is an intimate movie about a family reunion. Its observations about family dynamics are the most true to life I have ever seen. The movie paints the entire gamut of emotional family experience with delicate yet powerful brushstrokes but it's not a sentimental film, nor an opportunity for actors to grandstand. It's Japanese, so all the strong undercurrents of emotion are held in check by equally powerful restraint (both cultural and directorial). A brother and a sister attempting families of their own go to visit their parents in Yokohama. The parents have lost a son and the family's devastation hangs heavy in the air.  You can actually feel it bearing down on your shoulders from the first frame. Anybody who has ever spent the night at the house of relatives will feel the weight of family history that this film captures so truthfully.
The parents are engulfed by their quiet, ongoing grief and the surviving children resent all the attention given to the one who is not there anymore. The movie is surprisingly mordant, touching, cruel, sad, funny: human. The mother is this wonderful woman who cooks up a storm (I so wanted to be invited to that house). She is from an older generation, which means she has been forever in the shadow of her husband the doctor, cooking and cleaning and feeding the children, but she is not a pushover, nor a saint. She is mischievous, catty and petty, prejudiced, funny, generous and cruel at the same time.  She is a marvel, and the actress who plays her is astonishing.
This movie has many emotional surprises that make the audience gasp, but they are presented with a sure, light touch, never falling into easy sentiment, never shying away from human complexity. It's a film about family, and love and duty and regret and it is stunningly beautiful.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A la Recherche Du Chien Chaud Mexicain.

This fun article in the NY Times reminded me of the best hot dog I have ever eaten.
It was out of a cart on the way to the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City and it was simply known as "Los Hot Dogs del Güero".
Unless you were a student, you really had no other business going up the hills of the remote suburbs where the Ibero was lodged. El Güero was parked half way to the campus, in what I remember as a desolate stretch of treacherous road. But those hot dogs were worth the trip. The road may have been deserted but there was always a line of hungry people once you got there.
El Güero grilled his dogs. He didn't fish them out of funky, festering boiling water.
He would grill the sausage and everything else.
He'd grill the buns. He'd grill some chopped onions and tomatoes and green chilies -- a grilled pico de gallo. He'd grill slices of American cheese. He'd let the bacon sizzle in the grill. And then he would masterfully put all that into this glorious hot dog.
Mexicans are genius cooks. Period.


Look at this cutie!
This lovely ajolote lives in Xochimilco, the Venice of Mexico City. According to the BBC it is in danger of exctinction. If they have survived Mexico City, they can survive anything. 

Monday, August 24, 2009

Back to The Eighties: Help!

photos via New York Magazine


Are fashion designers clueless, insane, cruelly perverse or all of the above? Are they aware that we are in the middle of an awful economic crisis? If so, do they think that shoulder pads and frizzy female mullets are going to do the trick? Do they think that this will bring our shopping confidence back? Yikes.

Have I told you how much I loathe Marc Jacobs?

I was mildly alarmed at the beginning of our century, when they decided to send us all back to the 70s. But compared to the 80s, the 70s are the height of good taste (but don't tell that to the Russians in Brighton Beach. They seem to be permanently stuck on the 80s).
The 80s were the most obnoxious era of conspicuous consumption (well, before the 90s and the 00s). Now we can't afford to consume anything!
Are we supposed to part with our zealously protected money in order to secure neon clothes with shoulder pads? Hell, no.
We should be harking back to the 30s, to the golden days of the Great Depression, where nobody had anything to eat but the clothes were great. Even the clothes worn by the Joads were great.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Rich are Poor!

Not really, but the NYT claims that a lot of rich people have lost a lot of moolah because of the crisis. It is also true that they had become obscenely, disproportionately rich, so we're not shedding tears over their losses. The numbers are sobering. The Republican policies of this country were turning the USA into a bastion of inequality worthy of the Third World. The more the rich gained, the more the poor and the middle class lost. Unbridled capitalism in action. Not a pretty sight.
So now everybody's hurt. A bit of a readjustment, a bit of a shakedown, until the rich gain ground again, as they are wont to do.
As I luxuriated in the excruciating serenity of my Tai Chi class today (as my teacher says: I'm killing your thighs!), obscuring the placid morning view of the Hudson River was a big yacht with a helicopter parked on it, several jet skis and two flat screen TVs playing even though no one was watching (this gives me heartburn). Oh. And a servant swabbing.
Everybody gaped at this gigantic toy loaded with other big toys. Males more than females, but females ogled too (wondering, I wonder, whether this humongous phallic objet belonged to a bachelor?).
Besides blocking the view, it seemed totally anachronistic, stupid and ridiculous, but there it was, asserting its superiority over the little people like a big bully.
So if the rich are getting less rich, even if this means less donations to charitable causes, less of that petty trickle down, I do feel a refreshing shower of schadenfreude. I am happy that obnoxious fashions with astronomical price tags may sit there collecting dust for a little while longer. I am happy that maybe people, even rich ones, may find a $45 entreé offensive. Or a $25 million dollar home a bit de trop. Hopefully these are humbler times.
Just so you know, I am not a communist. I believe that people who work hard and are smart and ethical with their business should reap the fruits of their labor. I love money. I want to adopt it.
But the rich in this country are coddled by the government, while the rest are not.
We need a social democracy. We need a fairer distribution of wealth. We need better education, health care, investment in the arts and sciences. This should come from our taxes, so we can all have a good standard of living. Why is this scenario so horrifying in America? We need to move on and embrace the 21st century (as we embrace Century 21, the store). We are not the fucking pilgrims any more.
I don't understand people who marvel at the inability of the rich to call it quits when it comes to amassing money. They say: "Why do they need $200 million? Why can't they be happy with $100 million, or $50 or $1o million?" It doesn't work that way. Money begets money. (Have you noticed that the rich only marry the rich?) And they should make lots of money, but they should also give lots of it away. Through taxes, through tax deductible charitable contributions, through the goodness of their hearts, for all I care.
I am hoping the age of vulgar, ostentatious consumption will subside for a while. What kills me is the vulgarity.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Paletón Corona: The Metaphysical Saga Continues

Thanks, oh thanks to Anonymous for alerting me to the existence of The Candy Wrapper Museum in the wonderful world wide web.
Did you know that when I was in junior high, my friend Naty and I covered an entire blackboard with candy wrappers we collected from our classmates? It was all American candy wrappers and it was a beautiful collage. We thought it belonged at MoMa. So I'm very happy that a museum of candy wrappers exists. It is of aesthetic, cultural and ontological importance (whatever this means).
It is in this hallowed space that I was able to find the picture of my childhood that led to philosophical and metaphysical inquiry at a tender age and that now has been replaced by the banality of evil (aka marketing).
Take a look:

See? Me, a child holding a paletón that has a child holding a paletón that has a child holding a paletón... you get the picture. One of my super smart readers explained that this is called it the Droste Effect; you guessed it, thanks to another illustrious chocolate, Droste Cocoa, from Holland.

A nun and a nun and a nun (or is it a nurse?). Leave it to the Dutch to be slightly more perverse than the Mexicans. And there is a nun in the cup too! My brain is exploding.
EXCEPT, that if you think about it, not everybody is a nun or a nurse, but absolutely everybody has been a child, which makes the Paletón Corona a much more effective portal into metaphysical exploration. For my whole thing with the paletón was, "Am I just a girl trapped in a bigger paletón, which is in itself trapped in an even bigger paletón?"
You can't think this with a nun. Or a nurse.
Without having any awareness of the existence of the Droste Effect, but no doubt perfectly acquainted with the fluffy, chewy glories of the Paletón Corona, my friend Rubén had, also in junior high, a name for this phenomenon. He used to call it "La Teoría de los Weyayosh". The Theory of The Weyayoshes. Clearly, Ruben was ahead of his time.
And now take a look at this and tell me this is not devastatingly stupid and tragic:

A void, where wonder and curiosity used to thrive.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bye Bye Cable

The unthinkable has happened. I got rid of Cable TV. I was tired of spending almost 2oo bucks on nothing. I barely watch TV and what I watch (Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert) I can see on internet. So I disconnected myself from cable and now the TV is this huge wounded, blind eye. So far, so good. I may bring back Netflix.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Vendy Awards

There are culinary awards for our proliferating food vending trucks in NYC.
I have only tried the huaraches at Red Hook. But now that I know, I'll make sure to try the rest.

I also nominate:
• Van Leuuwen Ice Cream truck. Daytime: Greene and Spring St. Best Ice Cream in NY. Period.
• The Dessert Truck. Nighttime: Third Ave and 8th St.

Obama Caves In

I am disgusted.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Boycott Glenn Beck

I'm happy to hear that a campaign aimed at advertisers to make them pull their ads off the Glenn Beck Show is working. Somebody sent it to me via facebook and I signed the petition. Apparently, so far P&G, Sargento Cheese, Geico and Men's Wearhouse have pulled their ads. It's unfortunate that the audience needs to apply pressure on these marketers, who should know better than to spend money supporting a bigot, a hatemonger, and an insufferable, moronic windbag.
The African American organization who called for the boycott is called The Color of Change but you don't have to be Black, (and I'm sure many of those who signed are of every color in the human rainbow), to express your outrage at this idiot.
Yes, freedom of expression, yes. But we need to bring back the level of discourse to something that is not regressive, offensive and dangerous. Comparing Obama to the Nazis? It's so absurd, it's nauseating. It's worse: it's calculated, pre-emptive spin, since the Nazis have far more in common with the right wing nutjobs than with anybody in the Democratic party, much less Barack Obama.
But this is how propaganda works and it has done way too much damage in recent human history to give it a free pass. We are in the 21st Century. Those who don't like it should shut up and put up.
All the craziness about the health care debate, about this is not my America, about Sarah Palin's death panels, is nothing but unmitigated racism. Interestingly, the worms are coming out of the woodwork and America gets to show its ugly, ugly face once more. It is up to us, decent people of whatever political persuasion, to fight this kind of rhetoric.
Luckily, we have Stephen Colbert setting things straight in his very own way.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lazy Chilaquiles

To celebrate our national soccer victory (you'd think we won World War III), here's my recipe for super lazy chilaquiles. I tend to be a purist about Mexican food, particularly when I don't have to cook it myself. Mexican food is awesome precisely because it's labor intensive. If we were to do this from scratch, it would probably take two days. So here's this shortcut and may the goddess Coatlicue have mercy on me:

(You have to figure out the quantities. These are lazy for a reason).

• Santitas salted tortilla chips, about 1/4 of a bag.
• About 3/4 jar of Frontera cilantro/jalapeño cooking salsa.
(Truth is, this is what I had around at home. All the Frontera salsas are great. You can use whichever you like, depending on your tolerance for spice).
• Grated Monterey Jack cheese
• Optional: some thinly slivered onion and a dollop of creme fraiche or crema. Please, no sour cream.

Preheat oven to 450 F.

In a lightly oiled small pyrex dish (like for lasagna) put a layer of chips, pour some salsa over them and sprinkle some grated cheese.
Repeat for a second layer.
Stick in the oven.
When the cheese on top starts melting, take out of the oven (careful: super hot pyrex) and mix well with a fork.
Grate some more cheese on top.
Put back in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is totally melted and the chips are softened. Take out. Top with onion and cream if you wish.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Healthcare Mishegoss

It is very disheartening to see where the healthcare debate is going in this country.
What a bunch of losers Americans are. We have a chance to have a decent health system that protects most people and instead we got morons like Sarah Palin talking about death panels and people going to blows in stupid town hall meetings.
But Obama and the Democrats have not been able to communicate clearly what is this mishmash of a plan they are proposing.
Obama wants to have it both ways. It's called a "uniquely American" plan. In other words, a mess. A mess of conflicting interests, a mess of unnecessary pandering. If I was the President and I had a Democratic majority, I would pass single payer legislation, raise taxes and fuck everyone.
We are the laughingstock of the industrialized world. Ask a French citizen or a Brit or a Canadian how much they hate their healthcare. They may kvetch, but they don't have to pay one cent. And if they want extra care, they can pay for it.
This nation is so divided on everything, I wonder why we keep up the pretense. Let's split up into blue nation and red nation and live happily ever after.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Krugman Says it Better

So here it is.
Read it and weep.

Department of Unfathomable Idiocy

I got some sort of moronic prophecy yesterday via email (that's how we get them nowadays, together with asinine chain letters and Nigerian scams) in which, supposedly, the biblical book of Ezekiah foresees the destruction of Israel by a "black prince".
Now, some enterprising religious imbecile put it upon himself to find the Hebrew letters that spell Obama scattered through the text, totally at random. You can do the same and find the letters for "Burger King" or "Borscht" or "Mogo in the Gogogo" or whatever combination you desire. This is nothing but the most insidious, retarded, irresponsible fear and hate mongering.
Jews should know better than to do these kinds of things. For those with a short memory, let me remind you that it is precisely this kind of defamatory drivel that fanned antisemitism for centuries. Shame on you.
And why? Because Obama is demanding a freeze on settlements? Or because he's Black and has an Arab middle name? Or because it is always good business to keep the gullible pissing in their pants?
What angers me most is that the very selfsame Jews who consider the Bible sacred and untouchable and literal, are the ones who are quick to turn it into a cheap source of supersitious mumbo jumbo.
Beware of the holier than thou: they are the greatest scammers on Earth.
I have a picture of this thing, but I will not post it because that would defeat the purpose. This stuff should not be scattered around. It should be condemned and abhorred, if only for how transparently manipulative, evil and stupid it is.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

They Are Closing Hutto!

I wrote about this disgraceful prison for illegal immigrant detainees (and their children), after reading an alarming article in the New Yorker.
Apparently, the Obama administration is going to "reform" and make "more civil" the detention centers for illegal immigrants. I find it interesting that these news appeared exactly two days after the NY Times claimed that the Obama administration is continuing the inhumane policies of Bush's persecution of illegals. Things that make you go hhhmmm...
This is one case in which public outcry can bring about changes in policy and I feel like screaming hurray!, but I am wary of the Obama administration's claims of reform. Lately, they seem to be applying this word too liberally to stuff that isn't really changing all that much. Like health care, for example. Or torture. In Hutto's case I was exultant, until I read that they are going to transform it into a detention center for illegal female immigrants. Hutto was conceived as a maximum security prison, and the premises are not fit for the detainees, who are not dangerous criminals.
Still, it looks like we should count our blessings with this administration.
It's not change; it's change, kind of.

Department of Newfangled Etiquette

In Brazil, where they have always been progressive about the human body (behold their beachwear) , if not about anything else, there is an ad campaign encouraging people to pee in the shower in order to conserve water.
I have always found peeing in the shower a little gross, but leave it to the British to come up with very sensible rules in case you are feeling virtuous and want to do your part for the environment as you bathe.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Grading Obama

CNN has a fun and kinda stupid interactive report card for Obama's 200 days. It's interesting to look at the numbers. Everybody is unhappy with the performance so far. But the flaw of the grading system is that it doesn't say why. Both blue and red states give him bad marks on health care, but perhaps for totally opposite reasons. One can't tell from the poll. But a good thing is that except for 12 benighted states, the rest of the union gives the Republican party an F. This is encouraging.
CNN asks people to comment (read comments at your own peril.). Here is mine.

I give Obama an average of C-.
Obama has been disappointing for many of us liberals that voted for him for a number of reasons. The government bailout of the banks seems to have been conducted by insiders to benefit their banker pals, and even though it is possible that the measures may be helping stem our economic decline, unless more stringent regulation of banking practices in enacted, it's going to continue being business as usual and an ethical scandal.
I am extraordinarily disappointed with Obama and the Democrats' handling of health care reform. This country needs a single payer system, even if it means more taxes. Our health cannot be beholden to the greed of insurance companies. It's a pity that the people who are most affected by this unjust state of affairs are the ones who complain the loudest about getting health care for all. Obama is too busy trying to be liked by everybody to have the cojones to push real reform. In this case, he looks like politics as usual to me.
In terms of foreign affairs, anything is better than the preceding 8 years and we have regained some of our standing in the world. But he needs to stop the grandstanding and get down to brass tacks. Let's get out of Iraq as soon as possible. Let's push aggressively for a solution to the Palestinian issue. Let's understand exactly why we are in Afghanistan, what is it going to take, and if it's going to work. Let's look at our south of the border neighbor more actively, and push for improvements on the immigration problem and the drug war, which Mexico is waging on it's own to satisfy the insatiable demand for drugs of American citizens.
Obama promised to stop torture and close Guantanamo. It's not clear that this is happening.
The Republican leadership is an undignified freak show. They are imploding and they deserve it. They are completely out of touch. They are bizarre.
Congress in general is disgraceful. Our elected representatives work for the corporate lobbies and not for the citizens, regardless of party affiliation. There must be political reform.
The media is pathetic. There is no real coverage of what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. More time is devoted to Michael Jackson or to absurd and offensive fringe movements like "birthers", than to informing the American public of the real issues facing us. No news organization can be trusted, because none is delivering the news. The media is overrun by hysterical personalities that bring the lowest polarizing discourse to the table. Walter Cronkite and the likes of him are gone forever.
Obama needs to act on his promises and he needs to stop behaving as if he is still courting favor with red states and blue states. He is the president now. Time to put his foot down.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Remember Ice Cream?

...When it wasn't either gelato or guar gum? If you want to taste what pure ice cream should be, you can find it at the Van Leeuwen ice cream truck. I hope I'm spelling this right. I'm not Flemish.
During the day the van is on Greene and Prince in Soho. At night it's in front of the Saigon Grill at University Place. The sweet guy who serves the ice cream tells me they have 2 other trucks in Brooklyn, one of them in Williamsburg (undeserved, if you ask me).
$3.75 will get you a nicely sized small cup with two scoops or a cone. A small price to pay for such good stuff.
This is "artisanal" ice cream made with cream, milk, eggs and quality ingredients from small, wholesome providers. It seems to have no air, no guar gum or carrageenan, no coloring. I think it's what ice cream should be when they don't futz around too much with it, as they tend to do.
It's creamy but light, flavorful but subtle. The flavors are simple: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, pistacchio, gianduja, (hazelnut and choc), mint chip (not for me), espresso, ginger, and currants and cream, which is always sold out. I think they also have an Earl Grey flavor.
Plus, it's the only ice cream I've ever had that doesn't make me burp or bloat up like the Hindenburg.
A sure sign of its magnificence.
As long as they don't sell out to The Man...

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Bacon will Prevail

This article by Michael Pollan about the importance of homecooking and its demise in this country moved me to tears. (But then again, a good Parisian croissant or my mother's Orange Souffle could do the same). It's informative, fun, wise, right on the money and beautiful. Required reading.

Why no comments?

This is a pretty good op-ed piece by Thomas Friedman in the NYT about how it is time for Israel to freeze the settlements. I like that it is coming from a Jew and it is not toeing the stale line of most Jewish organizations which insist on defending Israel's self-destructive policies, no matter what.
The assertion by Netanyahu that David Axelrod and Rahm Emmanuel are self-hating Jews for supporting a moratorium on the settlements is despicable, inexcusable and offensive to say the least. His spokesman claims he didn't say it. He should be apologizing to them on his knees. What an asshole.
But what I find interesting is that there is no comments section for this article online. Why is that? Because this topic brings out the crazies on both sides? Views like Friedman's hopefully reflect the views of Jews, like me, who are tired of Israel being the villain, who are afraid of Israel becoming a theocratic, right-wing state overrun by maniacal religious freaks, and are tired of the conflict and the burden it puts on Israel and on Jews all over the world, let alone on the Palestinians who live in the territories and who need a state now.
Something like this would be my comment, if I could put it there.