Saturday, February 26, 2011

Quote of the Week

As quoted in the movie Of Gods and Men:
"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it for religious conviction".
Blaise Pascal.
Amen, brother!

The Spark of Antisemitism

Apparently, it takes three drunk French people at a bar to get it started.
Fourth Musketeer wannabe John Galliano got suspended from Dior for allegedly hurling racial insults at a Jewish woman and an Asian man. It's all very confusing.
It turns out that the woman isn't even Jewish and furthermore, she works at the Institut du Monde Arabe. She filed the claim against Galliano because "she feels solidarity with Jews and Arabs".
To which I have to say: Gee thanks, pal. As usual, too much politically correct fervor paves the road to hell. Thanks to you, Yahoo News is now chock full of the vilest hate speech against Jews since the middle ages. Just scroll down to the comments section of the Galliano news story and let your stomach start churning. Anonymity allows pathetic losers to spew evil and inflammatory stuff in the internet.   Blood libels, conspiracy theories, anti-Zionist rants, "Hitler was right", "Henry Ford was right", poor, stupid "Helen Thomas was right" (she is now quite unfortunately in the company of the other two bozos), you name it. It's as if you put the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Mein Kampf, The International Jew, the anti-Israel hate brigade and the blood libels of yore in a shaker and stir.
Galliano is countersuing the attacked couple for defamation. And he should, if indeed they made the accusations up. This is as inexcusable as racially insulting people, maybe even worse. It is what in Jewish tradition is known as lashon hara, an evil tongue, a terrible sin which is not to be exercised by anybody.
The way the Galliano incident was reported in the media makes it seem that the hoopla is more about the antisemitism than about the other racial insults. I find this unfortunate, since both are equally racist and this gives the anti-Semites an opportunity to complain that the Jews are always kvetching about antisemitism. However, the fact that this happened in the Marais, a Jewish neighborhood, in a city that is still reckoning its collaboration with the Nazis, may have to do with the extra sensitivity. You can't walk two blocks in the Marais without running into a plaque commemorating the hundreds of Jewish people or schoolchildren who were deported to their deaths from those very homes. People in the USA have never seen their neighbors forcibly taken from their homes or attacked for ethnic reasons (except for Blacks in the South or if you were Japanese in the 1940s), so they think it's all an exaggeration.
So the new trope is that Jews are oversensitive, and that we overreact. I think it is true in some cases. But who is to decide what is an overreaction?  Because we have so much to complain about, we should not complain at all? Blacks have the same problem. Some people think they overreact. Who is to judge? How can anybody who doesn't share a history of persecution and humiliation, deem it an overreaction?
It's a delicate subject. Are we paranoid and oversensitive, or are we finely attuned to prejudice and hatefulness (not that we are not capable of it ourselves)?
I can tell you this: I know it when I see it. I feel it in my bones. And I can read between the lines. Sometimes it is carefully euphemistic and baroquely disguised (like Charlie Sheen's violent hatred of "Chaim Levine") and sometimes is outright nuts and transparent (see Yahoo comments). Many times it is an overly feverish disgust with Israel, as if Israel was the only country with behavioral issues in the world, but most of the time it's the banal, ignorant, prejudiced remarks about noses and greed and world domination.
I'm fucking tired of all of it, whatever its latest guise.

NEWS UPDATE: Here is evidence that Galliano did say horrible things. His defamation suit is bullshit. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Enigma of The Week: Churros

I wake up today to find that my recent post on fried dough delicacies aka as churros broke all records for queries in one day, getting hundreds of queries yesterday, and threatening to unseat the number one post of all time, which still is Mexican Japanese peanuts (followed by What Makes You Sick in Mexico and Shocking Nazi Photos).
Am I missing something? Why this sudden global interest in the magnificent, greasy churro? Is this a secret code for revolution?
For the queries come from every corner of the planet: from Arlington, Texas, to Campagnia, Puglia and Lazio in Italy, Munich, Germany; Charleston, West Virginia; Oxford, England; Pune, India; Saint Petersburg, Russia; Colombo, Sri Lanka; Auckland, New Zealand and various cities in Canada.
Juay de Churro? Juay?
For all those enquiring minds, I must humbly confess that the lovely churro is not a Mexican but a Spanish invention. By the way, the best churros I've ever eaten are  porras con chocolate at Casa Aranda, Málaga, Spain. Absolute heaven.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Juay De Rito

Once in a while, a catchphrase (I think they are called memes nowadays) captures the public's imagination, like Where's the Beef, remember?
The most recent case happened in Mexico as television anchorman Joaquín López Dóriga interviewed Sir Anthony Hopkins live about his latest movie, The Rite.
López Dóriga's English leaves much to be desired (apparently he more or less understands, but can't speak for shit), but for some reason no one thought to have a capable translator on hand. So this guy is talking to Hopkins in Spanish as if the actor is Cervantes himself, putting Hopkins in the very uncomfortable position of not understanding while trying to act gracious, and the first question he asks is the now infamous "Juay De Rito?" Translation from English into English: Why The Rite?
Twitter exploded. Juay De Dis, Juay De Dat? Juay Ask Juay?  The mashups didn't take long to appear. There seems to be a new one every day.
Mexicans have a very ingenious sense of humor. Now that You Tube exists, it will take us to the heights of hilarity. Here are two examples:

And continuing the tradition of making fun of poor Hitler and his downfall, jir is Jitler and Juay De Rito:

The subtitles made me cry with laughter. I can't do justice to Hitler's answers because the vernacular they use is impossible to translate accurately. But believe me, it's hilarious to hear Hitler speaking Mexican vernacular in your head:
The interview with Sir Hopkins has been confirmed.
Qué a toda madre! Awesome! Find the best (the most motherfucking) and most competent interviewer we have... I don't want us to look like those idiots at Televisa. We are better (más chingones) than them...

Now, besides the fact that it is a bit of a disgrace that a well known journalist like López Dóriga can't speak English, what is interesting is that this struck such an embarrassed national nerve, to which people reacted with the biggest collective joke in memory. People made fun of him with reason, because he reflects, not only a shaming ignorance, but worse, what we know we are capable of and dislike in ourselves: a useless flair for amateurish improvisation, which makes us look like hicks in front of a foreigner (never mind that he is starring in a crappy, tacky movie. He is a Sir).
In any case, this one is for the ages. It's the joke that keeps on giving. And we have to thank López Dóriga for providing us with years of laughing caustically and uncomfortably at ourselves.
Apparently, not without a sense of humor himself, (if indeed it was him) he tweeted:

"So now you know. If someone needs a simultaneous translation service, do not hesitate to call me".

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Not the wonderful movie with Alberto Sordi, but Silvio Berlusconi, who after being accused of having sex with an underage prostitute and abuse of power, now wants to reform Italian law:
The proposals include a curb on the use of wiretaps and the re-instatement of full parliamentary immunity.
Mr Berlusconi says the reforms, given initial cabinet approval on Friday, will make the system fairer and faster. Critics say the measures are intended to shield him from trials.
He must think all Italians were born yesterday, like most of the women he has sex with. As Jon Stewart points out, his nerve knows no bounds
I wonder why he is still in power. Italians should go out on the streets, a la Bahrain, and demand his head in a platter.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Magnificent Michelada

I am reposting this recipe from the dusty archives of this blog, so that those of you who have not been acquainted with this Mexican thirst-quenching marvel may attempt it at home. Unlike Mexican Japanese Peanuts, you can make a Michelada in your kitchen without fearing for the safety of the planet.
The Michelada is not only extremely refreshing, it also allows you to drink without keeling over too fast. I spent four months in Mexico a few years ago and basically subsisted on Micheladas to keep up with the bunch of professional alcoholics I called my friends.

Mexican beer

• Squeeze limes into lime juice. Get plump, juicy, sweet limes from Mexico, not the shriveled, puny, bitter limes they serve at most bars in NY.

• Rim the edge of a beer mug or highball glass with salt. You do this by moistening the rim with a lime cut in half. If you are adventurous and love a spicy kick, rim the glass with Tajin chili powder (it has lime and salt). This is how they do it at La Esquina.

• Put ice in the salt-rimmed glass. Add fresh squeezed lime juice to taste, about up to one third of the glass according to your tolerance for puckering up.

• Add Mexican beer. The blond beers like Corona, Sol, Pacifico, or Modelo Especial work great. I love it with Negra Modelo.



You know Mexico has arrived in the world when you go to a cocktail party in Manhattan and among the shrimp skewers and other fancy finger foods there is a waiter passing around a tray of mini churros.
Churros rule.
You can also find Mexican churros now on several subway stations. In 1992, when I moved to this fair city the panorama of Mexican food was abysmal, consisting of nachos, burritos the size of Sherman tanks and frozen margaritas. Now, ersatz taquerías open every week, there are tequila and mezcal bars and the beautiful people munch on Mexican corn on the cob sprinkled with chili (it's yellow corn, and thus not the real thing, alas). I ascribe this miracle to the influx of Mexican kitchen staff and the recognition that real, authentic Mexican food is astounding, and so much more sophisticated and tastier than the offensive glop people mistake for Mexican food. I still am extraordinarily picky when it comes to eating Mexican food in New York. I basically recommend one place, and that is Hecho en Dumbo, where I mostly stick to the appetizers (their carnitas are pretty good too). Their tamarindo margarita is killer.
There are still many places that either try to customize the flavors and sizes to the American palate (the horror), or misunderstand ingredients and use silly shortcuts and disgusting combinations. Most of the time, my biggest beef is that nobody understands the proportions of Mexican food: they supersize what's supposed to be small and they shrink what's supposed to be generous. Also, the day they understand the concept of the taco, and learn how to keep a tortilla warm, the day they become generous with juicy limes and accompanying salsas, ah, that'll be the day. 

Still, imagine my surprise a couple of days ago when I found an antojitos truck on Bleecker St! The truck advertises sopes, tlacoyos, tortas, tacos (barbacoa, carnitas, bistec, chuleta, pollo). They even have a phone number for deliveries. It sounds too good to be true, so I'm actually afraid to try it. Even though I've learned never to expect greatness, my heart always sinks when I have a subpar Mexican food experience.
After almost 20 years in New York, Mexican food has improved greatly, even if in some places they still screw up a simple michelada and can't serve a shot of tequila correctly, although they have the nerve to charge almost 20 bucks for it.
So whenever I run into my countrymen singing norteño songs, hawking churros, or selling mangoes with salsa Valentina on the street, I'm so very happy. Progress has been made. But we will not rest until we can find cacahuates japoneses in every corner deli.

Today On I've Had It With Hollywood

Yet another mumblecore masterpiece: Cold Weather.

Friday, February 18, 2011

When it Bahrains it Pours

Wow. The entire Arab world seems to have awakened all at the same time and this is getting hairy. Looks like tyrannosaur governments were asleep at the wheel while their people were looking at the free world through their computer screens and feeling depressed, abused, and left behind.
The internet, for better or for worse, is the single most astounding catalyst for human freedom and democracy the world has ever known. But if you are Mubarak or Gaddafi or a cruel, puny little "king" in the desert, you are so out of touch with the world that you don't know what hit you. Wasn't this the guy who decided to give every Bahraini citizen over $2000 a couple of weeks ago, to buy their acquiescence?
Didn't work. People want dignity.
Now the king has ordered the riot police and the military to shoot at sleeping civilians and mourners and to prevent doctors from tending to the wounded. And these are "our friends". Meanwhile, I'm sure I am not the only one waiting to hear from President Obama, who should be on the phone giving this motherfucker an ass-whooping; not that they give a fuck about what the US has to say in that part of the world. I think those friendly regimes die with laughter every time they hear our song and dance about democratic ideals. They are the worst kind of friend. They laugh at us behind our back. They say they are our friend and encourage their citizens to hate us. We seem to be more naive. We have the Sally Field complex and want everyone to adore us. We also believe our own bullshit. Nobody else does.
Obama should come out and publicly decry this assault against civilians with the strongest language. My heart sinks when I read the following: "The US is in an uncomfortable position"; Hillary Clinton is "very concerned". What kind of milquetoasty language is this? A pebble in your shoe is uncomfortable. This is downright unacceptable, and "concerned" is too mild a word. Pissed off is more like it.
Hell, a true friend is supposed to lay down the law when they see a friend acting in their own worst interest. A friend that stands aside when a friend is doing terrible things is not a friend. He is an accomplice.
Now, what choice do we have? The king quickly blames Iran, the bogeyman de rigeur, because many of the protesters are Shiite and he is a Sunni (as are the Saudi royal family bastards). Is Iran stoking the protests? Perhaps, although I don't get a feeling that the citizens of Bahrain are clamoring for a stone age theocracy. They want justice and respect, equality and laws. Some of them are saying that the Saudis are involved in the repression. And it is a fact that the riot police is imported from somewhere else because the Sunni king does not trust to have a Shia police force. Hence the brutality.
We cannot be so naive as to think that these countries, which have never known democracy, are beset by intractable sectarian conflict and which still adhere to certain codes that look barbaric in the eyes of the West (their treatment of women, to name one), all of a sudden are going to be fountains of freedom and democracy. But we have to stop thinking that we can be "friends" with corrupt, repressive, undemocratic regimes, be they Arab or otherwise. For all the bullshit we like to spew about freedom and democracy and morality, it's time we walk the walk. The entire international community (the US has to stop footing the bill for everyone) needs to pressure them to reform their laws, open their political system and change. If they tilt towards darkness instead of progress, too bad.
By the way, where are the UN resolutions condemning the attacks on civilian protesters in Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and Yemen?
I didn't think so.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Brutality Against Women

...unfortunately is not the exclusive province of troglodyte mobs in Islamic countries.
We just have to look at our very own armed forces:

Cliff Owen/Associated Press
Kori Cioca, in her lawyer's office on Sunday, described being raped while serving in the Coast Guard. She is one of 17 plaintiffs filing a federal lawsuit against the Department of Defense. 

The suit — brought by 2 men and 15 women, both veterans and active-duty service members — specifically claims that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, “ran institutions in which perpetrators were promoted and where military personnel openly mocked and flouted the modest Congressionally mandated institutional reforms.”
It also says the two defense secretaries failed “to take reasonable steps to prevent plaintiffs from being repeatedly raped, sexually assaulted and sexually harassed by federal military personnel.”
A lot of attention to the plight of Lara Logan, but is anyone reading this?
I think men everywhere (in some countries more than others) are totally oblivious to the pervasive, insidious and deeply ingrained culture against women. It goes pretty much unchallenged in many aspects of our lives. Or if women challenge it, if and when they themselves are aware of it, they are mocked as rabid feminists. Look at that ridiculous satyr Silvio Berlusconi. He is going on trial for underage sex and abuse of power. Women in Italy have had it with his offensive sexism. He offends, undermines and disrespects half the citizens of Italy. But he is still in power.
Everywhere you look, if you look closely, you find instances of the constant demeaning of women, sometimes violent and criminal, but most of the time daily and average.
As many others have pointed out before, this is very transparent in our media and entertainment industries.
For instance, today I read the A. O Scott's review of the new Adam Sandler movie, Just Go with It.  I thought it interesting that the story involves two extremely good looking women, Jennifer Aniston and Brooklyn Decker, whom we are supposed to believe have some sort of romantic attachment to an ugly, childish ball of fat like Adam Sandler.   Aniston plays his receptionist (!) in the movie, but he gets to play the doctor. I have nothing against Adam Sandler (I loved Don't Mess With The Zohan) but we take it for granted that in movies gorgeous women are always falling head over heels in love with older, fatter, balder, uglier men, while it's never the other way around. I'd like to see that, for a change. That is, a dreamboat like Daniel Craig or whatever male star strikes your fancy, having a romantic attachment to a woman his age or older who is not airbrushed, starved and surgically enhanced within an inch of her life. I defy you to give me one example of a movie or TV show where this happens. From A.O Scott:
The sexual politics of “Cactus Flower” are interestingly awkward, looking anxiously back to the ’50s and flinching at the onset of feminism, but this version occasionally lets loose an unacknowledged snarl of regression and resentment. None of the women have professional ambitions or money of their own; their primary asset is “hotness.” Ms. Aniston proudly shows herself off in a bikini — and looks great, it must be said — while Mr. Sandler keeps his shirt on, hanging loosely over his baggy pants. Yes, I know, the double standard is nothing new, but a wittier, less insecure movie might have at least had some fun with it.
But Mr. Sandler is not really willing to risk making fun of himself. He is too much of a bully for that. The infantile hostility that has always been part of his schtick seems increasingly tired, and “Just Go With It” is flecked with mean, lazy gags. There is some cheap homophobia at the end, and a lot of the kind of misogyny that treats the existence of nonthin, nonrich, nonwhite women as a joke in itself.
You would think we'd be past this but no. It goes on.  To maintain this travesty, the media, or whoever is responsible, will also have us believe that these glamorous women look the way they do because of their unearthly genes and nothing but. So actresses always put on a ridiculous and patently suspect show of stuffing their faces with lardy foods for the benefit of the press. Some of them look like they just emerged from a German dieting camp circa 1945, so I find it absurd every time they profess their love of bacon cheeseburgers and pounds of pasta Alfredo. Truth is, to look good in a movie, male or female, you have to starve yourself. But do we expect our leading men to share their love of lard with their fans? What a ridiculous notion. We are far more forgiving of lardiness, wrinkles and other signs of humanity on male actors than on females.
You may think it a stretch to relate sexual abuse to glamorous, anorexic blondes, but my point is that it is all part of the same continuum of lack of respect for women. Rabid feminists call it objectification. And it is so. The inability to see a woman in human terms. The lack of basic respect for her physical, mental and spiritual integrity.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Egypt: Now What?

So Mubarak finally moved over. But not before he gave a clueless and contemptuous speech and made the people angrier. Sorry to rain on everyone's parade, but there is not much cause for celebration yet. The army is in power. The guy in charge has been accused of personally torturing people and is connected to the abhorrent practice of rendition, by which Egypt tortures alleged terrorists for the US, plus, we have a military coup d'etat. Is the army going to ensure a peaceful transition to democracy or to yet another dictatorship?  This is a country that has never known democracy and it should start getting acquainted to it asap, but how?
Mohamed ElBaradei has some excellent ideas.
Let's hope that this will be the beginning of a new era of democracy for Egypt, a country who could well be a role model for other Middle Eastern transitions to better regimes, progress and peace in the region.

Mork from Ork

I finally finished reading Lawrence Wright's meticulous and extraordinarily damaging exposé of the bizarreness that is Scientology and boy, it gets better as you read along. Nothing new under the sun: Scientology is nothing other than a cult (we knew that). It separates people from their money and from their families and from their common sense. It is based on the loony science fiction ideas of a guy that looks like a Tupperware salesman circa 1950. But I think the reason it has been so successful is that, in contrast to other loony cults, which sometimes idolize charismatic con artists or believe in impossible utopias, this one couches its beliefs in the mumbo jumbo of self-help, a topic dear and inexhaustible to the citizens of this nation. Self-help gurus seem to be a quintessentially American travesty, and Scientology just seems better organized and wealthier than most.  In Germany it is banned and recognized as a cult. Here they should do the same. If the FBI finds evidence, as the article claims, of slave labor and financial shenanigans (it has protected tax status as a church), it should be prosecuted and penalized accordingly. What is amazing is that it has been allowed to thrive mostly unimpeded and this must be because of its shiny aura of success and its connection to celebrities, since as you all know being a celebrity in this country pretty much guarantees you can act outside the law. On the surface, Scientology doesn't seem to be utterly bat-shit like the Branch Davidians, or those people who drank the Kool-Aid. But some of their crazier teachings are hidden for a reason; they are wacky and sinister at the same time. A lot of people think that Scientology is a religion like any other, but one of the important differences between a religion and a cult is that in a religion you are not coerced to believe. You are free to profess your faith in your own personal way without punishment or coercion.
In any case, my advice to you dear readers is that you don't become scientologists.  You will be spending too much money to believe in stuff zanier than a sci-fi comic book.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


I know everybody is transfixed by Lawrence Wright's article in The New Yorker on the cult of Scientology, because it's science fictiony, Hollywoody, gossipy and bizarre-y (and looong) but let me gently coax you to read a far more flabbergasting one: the absurd, and eye opening Dexter Filkins article about how all the money we are giving to the Karzai government in Afghanistan is going to the Taliban, to drug lords and to Karzai's family and friends who build multimillion dollar villas in Dubai while that benighted country is at war. It is a riot.
You will choke with laughter of the bilious kind. I'm sure it's not even news, but once in a while it helps to shake us out of our TV coma induced torpor to perhaps demand the Obama administration to stop futzing around. We are giving gazillions of dollars to thieves.
Let's stop giving money to these bozos. It seems that everywhere we give money, the money is misused. So no more money. I wonder if the Chinese or the Russians would be so naive or cavalier when giving money to allow the disappearance of billions of their dollars and look the other way, as we are doing in Fuckedupistan. I think they'd make sure their yens and rubles were accounted for in as evil a way as possible. Why can't we make sure that our dollars are used in the best way possible? Alas, we bestow our largesse on dubious regimes under the innocent assumption that they are the best we've got going. Here comes idiot Uncle Sam bearing gifts. Everybody plunder!
Let someone else do it. Even if they are evil, it won't really make a difference. Because we are utterly ineffectual. We naively look at this money as some sort of building block for democracy. As if. These people look at this money as a source for their own personal investment. They could care less if their own citizens don't have a pot to piss on or if their country is going back to the Stone Age. They have mansions in Dubai! Built with our taxpayers money! They could care less if the money that they are giving to the Taliban is the same that is allocated to fighting it. They are laughing all the way to the bank. Or in this case, from the bank. So let them all rot together in that shithole. Enough. And let's get out of dodge.

David v. Goliath

In which yours truly plays the part of David.
Once upon a time, in April of last year, I started freelancing for a huge multinational company which shall remain nameless.  Even though this company is in the field of communicating, they did an extremely poor job at it, at least when it came to communicating with me. They did an even worse job at paying on time. They made me issue invoices for every little individual request, so that in the space of 6 months I had issued 70 invoices, but the money was not always forthcoming. At one point they owed me a considerable amount. So I had to start writing emails asking to get paid. They lost many of my invoices so I had to resend them over and over. They claimed that all my invoices had been "processed". I had to go to my bank and send them copies of all the checks they sent me. This went on for a couple of months until I decided, to my financial detriment, to stop working for them until they paid up. Checks for as little as $25 trickled in once in a while. My emails went from polite and patient to polite and desperate, to polite and exasperated. Then one day I got this:

An edible arrangement for my troubles! At this point, they owed me over $4000.
Except for the poor account executive who was left to fend for all my emails for herself, and who I assume was the spark behind the charitable brainstorm above, nobody of any authority at any point offered to reassure me that the money was coming. My queries were met with a stony silence (even though half the world was copied in those emails. I was aiming for collective shame). By December, I was sending ridiculous ultimatums: I expect to be paid in full by the end of the year, etc. By last week they still owed me about $1000.
January 15 rolled along and not a check was in the mail, which led me to issue an even more ridiculous threat to "seek legal recourse". As if. I got a $25 check a week later.
Desperate and angry, I perused the company's website. I was able to gather the email addresses of the very biggest honcho (imagine a Steve Jobs), and the officers for compliance and ethics and je ne se quoi corporate merde, plus the head of their New York office. An excerpt:
I find it appalling that a single individual like me has to expend such time consuming efforts trying to get paid by an enormous multinational company like REDACTED and its multinational client, REDACTED. I have been an independent consultant for over five years and I have never been treated with such lack of professionalism by any of my clients, big or small, nor have I ever experienced such an ordeal getting paid on time. I read carefully your ethics and values statement. It does not seem to correspond to reality.
I sent this last Sunday night around 11 pm, which turned out to be a good strategy, since the head honcho himself immediately sent a terse email instructing the little honcho to "pls. resolve this". No apology, but hey!
Yesterday, after months of bitter frustration, I got a check for the seven outstanding invoices they owed me since May 2010.
I should have written this letter 4 months ago.
How the puny bureaucrats tremble when the Big Kahuna is notified. These cubicled people get a paycheck every two weeks, whether they are incompetent or brilliant, rain or shine. They can't fathom in their pencil pushing little heads what it means for a person to have to beg to get paid in a timely fashion for good work delivered on time. They don't realize how unfair, humiliating and deeply wrong it is.
A pox on them all.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The Super Bowl Ads 2011

Is it just me or was this Super Bowl the biggest anticlimax in sports? I don't mean to cast aspersions, but what a boring game (and this one was actually good, I think). Is this game worth getting your head concussed for? I don't think so.
In any case, I was there for the ads. You can watch them all here. Except for a couple here and there and with the notable exception of the very best of them all, the VW Passat Darth Vader spot, the ads were dismal.
The Passat spot is an instant classic. What makes you laugh, beside the pitch-perfect deadpan, mock-heroic style is the subtext: Obviously this kid is going through a phase so long and monomaniacal that even the dog has lost interest. The parents bear this obsession with a welcome dash of sangfroid. The kid is not obnoxious or rude; in fact, he is rather awesome in his zeal, but by the time he tries to immobilize his sandwich, and worse, denies his father's embrace, he has crossed a line (in a meta storyline that could be derived from the Star Wars mythology!). I love the minimal reaction of the mother when he spurns the sandwich and of the father as he gets his revenge. I love how the kid emphatically spurns the father, and we never see the father's face, just his unrequited hug. When the force finally manifests itself and the kid jumps in fright,  where does he turn to first? The parents.  
How or why this has anything to do with the Passat is beyond me, except that if I ever buy a car, it's not going to be an Audi anymore (belabored and vulgar commercial), but one of these: smart, sophisticated, cool (and they don't break the bank).
Everybody remembers the brand it's for and better yet, they must have spent a pretty penny on the use of the music and the Darth Vader character, but otherwise, a fantastic story told simply with 3 actors, a dog and a car in one house. Way to go!
The Chrysler Detroit anthem ad with Eminem was very effective. Great music and some Diego Rivera murals thrown in for good measure. It made me want to go to Detroit, but not to buy a car from Detroit.
I also liked the VW beetle ad, although at this point I'm afraid I have developed incurable computer graphics fatigue. 
Meanwhile, I had trouble distinguishing between the dumb ass humor of Pepsi Max, Bud Light, and Snickers (Overkill. Just Richard Lewis would have been funny enough). What's with all that dumbass violence?
The "Reply All" commercial from Bridgestone really made me laugh.
I adore the E-trade babies but this year they felt forced, although I liked the tailor spot.
Coca-Cola was a huge disappointment. I absolutely loathe their "Siege" ad. Horrible, horrible, horrible computer animation, soulless, uglyass shit. This is Coca-Cola? The spot about the guards was also heavy and labored. A huge letdown from that fantastic commercial with the Thanksgiving air balloons a couple years back. 
The rest are not worth talking about. Many are a huge waste of money and resources with little storytelling. The Stella Artois spot is a good example. All they are saying is what all the other beers are saying: that men prefer beer to women.  They may couch this idea with as much "sophistication" as they can throw around, but it's a dumbass sentiment.
Give me mini Darth Vader any time.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Benny Hill vs Cantinflas

Whatever happened to our sense of humor?
Ah, "el orgullo nacional". Mexican national pride swells up like a panza de pulquero, the belly of a pulque drinker, whenever the soccer team makes the World Cup, a  lachrymose churro makes it to the Oscars, or a local beauty makes it to the semis in Miss Universo. Oh, but how deeply it smarts, what depths of feeling it suffers whenever someone makes fun of us. Never mind that Mexicans have absolutely no qualms, and in this we are certainly not alone in the world, when it comes to making fun of others. We do have a feisty sense of humor, usually applied to Blacks, Chinese (all Asian people), Jews, gays, aka as putos, nacos, politicians, etc. In fact, we are merciless with ourselves, given to calling our own national soccer team "The Little Green Mice", for instance, but God forbid someone else should make fun of us.
The rule of thumb still applies: we can joke about ourselves, whoever "we" are, but careful if the same joke is uttered by others. However, it is always advisable to consider the source. That is, if the Queen of England had said that Mexicans were lazy and flatulent and our food "refried sick", there would be a reason for the Mexican ambassador to demand an apology. However, if those pearls of wisdom come from a bunch of comedians in a show that is notorious for being outrageous, the Ambassador should know the difference and keep his mouth shut. Or were he not a classic Mexican bureaucrat bloated by pomposity, he could demand an ironic apology and say something outrageous in return, like "you hooligans wouldn't know good food if it bit you in your pasty ass; you eat cheap, greasy fish out of newspaper cones, your culinary claim to fame is kidney pie, for crying out loud, so at least our farts are gastronomically superior to yours", or something to that effect.
We should be good sports about it and get as good as we give. What is embarrassing is that our finely calibrated sense of irony, which works perfectly well stateside, is absent in the world arena. Which makes us look like total hicks.