Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Today On I've Had It With Hollywood

A Halloween film guide for your consideration.

Kimchi Taco Vs. Tacos El Idolo

After my French class (oui, mesdames et messieurs, I continue to grapple with this sadistic language), I could not resist stopping at the Kimchee Taco truck parked on Astor Place. Just so you know, Korean tacos are pretty much the only fusion taco I'm willing to accept, except for tacos árabes, Arab tacos, which are a Mexican invention. Why Korean? Because their barbecued beef and pork work well inside a tortilla, and some of the Korean flavors overlap with the Mexican palate.
The Kimchee Taco truck offers three assorted tacos for $7. I chose BBQ beef and shredded pork. The pork filling was excellent. The beef filling was tasty but ice cold. I told as much to the nice owner guy and he chose not to believe me. The tortillas were tiny, which is okay, but what is not okay is that they were cold and stiff and tasted like corrugated cardboard. Non-Mexicans still do not understand how to serve a tortilla soft and warm. The day they do may be the day the world finally comes to an end.
Kimchi Taco serves the tacos with something they call pico de gallo which is super spicy and tangy and not bad, I surmise made with radishes and scallions. Luckily I ordered the kimchi on the side because both salsas would have completely seared my mouth and overpowered the taco itself. The problem with the Korean pico de gallo is that it also comes straight from the fridge so dudes, (and this goes for Chipotle too) please understand that you can't put frigid stuff on top of a hot taco.
I had an epiphany last night which may help explain why most gringo taco concepts will never work here: hygiene laws. If the city demands that the food be kept in the fridge until the last possible minute, you are never going to get a decent taco experience. That is the only explanation I can find for tacos being cold. This can be easily circumvented by making the fixings less vulnerable to spoiling and appropriate for room temperature. Whatever you put on top of a taco has to be room temperature, otherwise you completely ruin the taco, no matter how tasty.

I felt guilty as I passed by the Tacos El Idolo truck, which is parked right on the corner. So I ordered an agua de horchata because of the Korean lingering spiciness, and then stayed for a taco de carnitas. This taco was $2.50, but it was at least twice as big and plump and had two much better, warm slightly greased tortillas. It was dressed with chopped onions and cilantro as it should be, and was served with a slice of unfortunately dessicated lime and radish (which I find unnecessary). It was pretty tasty. If you do the math, El Idolo is a much better deal because it is much more food and more satisfying. You can't possibly have room for three such tacos, and you will only be paying 50 cents more. The tortillas are warm, so is the filling and all is good with the world.
Now that going to restaurants in New York has become an activity that only the 1% can afford, food trucks provide excellent cheap alternatives. The taco trucks make New York an even better city, if that is even possible.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lost in Detention

Yesterday I was flippantly flipping TV channels when I landed on this devastating Frontline documentary about the horrible policies of the Obama administration re the deportation and incarceration of illegal immigrants in this country. This dismal state of human rights abuses is going on in this country every day, and gets reported regularly by the Spanish broadcast media in the US, but it is as if it did not exist at all on the mainstream media. It is a hidden shameful secret, sort of like the Japanese internment camps in WWII. Particularly shameful, since it is happening on the watch of Barack Obama, who should have the decency to know better.
Because of the unwillingness and the inability of Congress and this hypocritical president to enact immigration law reform, what is happening right now is sheer enforcement without legal reform; that is, a police state nightmare. The amount of human rights abuses committed against illegal immigrants has soared. The Bush administration privatized immigrant detention centers, and currently there are 250 of them, some of which are notorious for having housed hardcore criminals in the past. These centers are not under public scrutiny, nor are immigration detainees guaranteed the right to a lawyer. The documentary focuses on one specific center in Texas (hellhole of the Western world, it seems), where scores of sexual abuses of female inmates as well as beatings and racist taunts have been denounced.
A program called Secure Communities is supposed to deport criminal illegal aliens exclusively, but instead stops people because they had a broken taillight or did not signal a turn, and if they find they are undocumented, it sends them to detention centers that treat them as hard core criminals.  The Obama administration has made this program mandatory in every state and it requires the cooperation of local law enforcement, which basically turns the local police force into informers for the immigration authorities. There is something about this entire exercise that seems a violation of human rights. If a cop stops you for a broken taillight, and finds you are undocumented, is that his job, to rat you out to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (the cynically named ICE) so that they can detain or deport you?  There are many hardworking men and women who get separated from their families in this way. If you see this movie without sound, you'd think it takes place in China or the former Soviet Union or some such totalitarian nightmare.
The Obama administration has not only ignored the promises it made to the Hispanic community about immigration reform, it has hardened its stance on illegal immigrants, surpassing the number of deportees and detainees of the Bush years. ICE needs to fill a quota of 400,000 deportees a year, so innocent people get swept into this nightmare. This may include people who entered the country legally but let their visas expire, or simply good people without papers. 46% of illegal immigrants now have families in the US, many of which are comprised of American born children. Mothers and fathers are being deported and held in detention indefinitely, never told when they are going to be deported or released. Families are destroyed, and all this is because Congress and the White House refuse to deal with this dire national policy crisis.
Now, those on the right say that illegal immigrants are criminals and are breaking the law. But as Anthony Romero of the ACLU points out, immigration enforcement is an administrative matter, not a criminal matter. Coming into a country illegally cannot be treated in the same scale as other more heinous crimes. There are degrees of malfeasance; anti-immigration hysterics have got to stop pretending that coming here illegally is tantamount to murder, rape, or other hard crimes.
And why are only the workers penalized for illegality and not the businesses who hire them and encourage them to stay? The people who give illegals jobs are also breaking the law and should also be punished. But Americans want to have their cake and eat it too. They want cheap, unregulated labor for their businesses but at the same time they want to criminalize the workers who are trying to make a living. The sheer hypocrisy is revolting.
I am disgusted with Obama for many other reasons, but this is more than a disappointment; it feels like a huge betrayal. Democrats think that liberals don't have a choice in this coming election, and are scared of a Republican victory so they are going to vote Obama whether they are disenchanted or not. This should not be the case. Hispanics, as one expert said, are not going to vote Republican, since that would continue the same inhumane policy, but they can certainly threaten to withhold their very significant vote until something gets done to correct this situation.
I will not vote for this president unless I see real change, and from what I've seen so far, this is very unlikely. So what if the Republicans win? A Republican administration could not be much worse than what we already have.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Today On I've Had It With Hollywood

A love letter to the movies, the lovely The Artist.

Vini Vidi Video: OWS @ Times Square

The fearless Magnificent Arepa brandished her camera to shoot these images of Saturday's OWS protest at Times Square.
You can see how a festive and peaceful demonstration was soured and endangered by the crowd control tactics of the NYPD.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I Ain't No Revolutionary

...and usually I excuse myself from protests. I have zero patience with flower children, people who do not understand the concept of being on message, and people who take the opportunity to act out their authority issues. However, I gotta say, Saturday night's crowd at Times Square in support of Occupy Wall Street was much better than that. There were people of all ages, neighborhoods, incomes.
It felt like a party until the NYPD arrived to squash the fun out of it.
Their crowd control methods, like barricading people into separate pens, so as to impede the concentration to be unified in one large mass, is really frustrating, and since Americans are the best behaved crowds in the world, and New Yorkers so far the paragon of a smart crowd, the police's shtick is redundant, unnecessary and particularly offensive when the crowd exhibits stellar behavior. 
The crowd was demonstrating happily and peacefully until a completely over the top show of macho force arrived in the shape of police in motorcycles, followed by officers brandishing the infamous orange netting, mounted police and even riot police. This was an overreaction, given the fact that the crowd was as chill as it is humanly possible to be as a crowd. I was right at the barricade in front of a line of police officers. Most of them were cool and restrained. One asshole policeman, a senior guy, pushed a protester quite violently for no apparent reason and everybody started screaming at him.

Absolutely everybody had some sort of camera, which made the histrionic and absurd police charade of videotaping the crowd, this pantomime of intimidation, seem even more ridiculous. I thought, if they videotape me, I'll blow them a kiss. The police pantomime is pure pageantry: at one point the officers deployed the white plastic handcuffs, in a sort of silent threat to the crowd. But every time I turned back to look at the crowd behind me, all I saw were the kind of people, like me, who could not get arrested if their life depended on it. Nobody was doing anything to provoke any sort of police response, except for a drunk, lice-infested Belgian hooliganette I kept wishing the police would arrest, beat the crap out of and send to some CIA prison abroad for more of the same.

What's with the police videotaping the protesters and the forbidding of megaphones or amplification? This last one has spawned that chanting method where the crowd repeats what someone says in lieu of amplification, that everyone but me seems to be enamored of. I find it corny and too self-ingratiating, even if it is effective. I guess I just really hate crowds. Luckily, I was standing on the west side of the plaza, where there was more space and we didn't feel so penned in. But the people across us who wanted to join us, had to deal with horses and police pushing the barricades and quite a bit of unpleasantness. If the police would allow the crowd to spill over Times Square instead of forcing it on the sidewalks, there would have been no tension. After about 15 minutes of the mood souring very fast, somehow the tension subsided. I assume the police wisely decided to push back their ball breaking tactics. I tell you, had this happened in a more hot blooded, less orderly country, there would have been severe abuses on both sides. Americans are way too well behaved, and the police, assholes that they are, could actually be much worse. I read that in Rome, where there were violent riots, there were 20 arrests. In NYC yesterday, between Times Square and Washington Square Park, where there was no real violence whatsoever, according to the New York Times, "at least 88 people were arrested". A bit too much, the NYPD, creating drama where there's no need for it.
It was very cool to see how many people showed up to support the OWS movement and the ideas behind it. And it was particularly cool that it happened in Times Square, a much more dramatically symbolic place than puny Zuccotti Park. Even though I understand the symbolism of camping out at Zuccotti Park, that place is too small and too insignificant, even if it is across the street from Wall Street. There is something about the camping that may quickly create public opinion fatigue, but if the movement can somehow continue to bring the support of a lot more people, as it did on Saturday, willing to concentrate in different significant public spaces; for instance, Battery Park, across the river from the Statue of Liberty; Central Park, where it is possible to bring together a lot of people, and in front of the White House in Washington, it may grow and resonate more. I'm not advocating that people go camp on Times Square, but that space was truly powerful, it was spectacular and dramatic, for the visual ironies were rich: below was a sea of flesh and blood protesters, and above them all the blazing neon logos of the American corporations who effectively rule this country.
In the end, protests are for nothing if there is no effective public pressure to really effect concrete change. The grievances of OWS are pretty clear: pursue accountability for those responsible for the financial debacle, bring back the Glass-Steagall Act, tax the rich more fairly, abolish the corporations are people law, reform campaign finance laws. All of these are rational and doable. There should be at least a third party or independent candidate, the American people should fire every sitting member of Congress regardless of party affiliation, and this popular discontent should leave the realm of the quaint sloganeering and somehow coalesce into concrete results in realpolitik. If you know how to do that, you may want to be the leader of this movement.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Apple of my Eye

I am more sad about Steve Jobs than I expected to be.
Maybe it's because I'm writing this on a Mac; I text, tweet, read email and send photos from an iPhone, I listen to new and old music on an iPod, and I'm pondering whether I should buy an iPad.
I have always been a devoted Apple fan, the kind who doesn't understand why anyone would want to use anything else, even despite the high prices and the planned obsolescence. At one point I had to buy a laptop just so I could upgrade my iPod, but you know what? I was happy to do it. How many companies can boast of having so many people in love with their products? Every Apple device that I own makes my life easier and more creative and is a thing of beauty.
I am sad to learn that Steve Jobs was only 56, so very young, and so ill for a long time. But it feels good to see that the world deeply mourns an innovator.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Today On I've Had It With Hollywood

An absolute must see: A Separation.

Today on I've Had It With Hollywood

Dear readers, it's that time of year again when yours truly willingly enters a movie marathon (20 movies in 15 days and one talk with Alexander Payne) with the hopes of finding awesome movies worth talking about. You can find the reviews of most of those 20 movies at the New York Film Festival in my film blog I've Had It With Hollywood.

Here's my review of Miss Bala, Mexico's official entry to the Academy Awards.