Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Now Showing At A Theater Near You

David Fincher's stylish The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
The fog of war: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. 

Jewish Aztec Cuisine

My friend Cathy alerted me to this story on NPR about Jewish Mexican Cooking. This is what I commented on the NPR page, expanded here for your enjoyment:

When I read the headline of this story, my heart stopped. I thought it was about my grandfather Samuel Gmora, who used to be the caterer at Temple Bet El, and also had a Jewish food restaurant in the Condesa neighborhood, called Taam Tov Kosher, when I was a little girl. Of course, the Shlejters preceded him for many years, because by the time he catered in Bet-El nobody ever went to Justo Sierra anymore. My bobe taught my zeide how to cook Jewish food and many Mexican Jews, including myself, still remember his delicious banquets. In my family, we still have Gefilte Fish Veracruzana, which is the greatest fusion food ever: Gefilte Fish with a sauce of tomatoes, onions, olives, capers and blond chiles.

There is also a Mole-Matzoh Gratin at the Passover Seder. And according to legend, my bobe made the meanest kosher mole in Mexico City.

I remember Sra. Dora Schmidt from when we all used to live in la Condesa. She and my mom, and other Jewish ladies used to have coffee at the undulating counter at Woolworth's! I'm happy to see she is healthy and well and glad to see these delicious traditions getting the attention they deserve.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Shoshana Parks

A lot has been made in the US about Tanya Rosenblitt, a young Israeli who refused to sit in the back of a public bus as demanded by some Ultraorthodox men. It is a harpe un a shande, a disgrace, that the bus driver took their side and a police officer tried to placate them by attempting to convince her to comply, instead of reading them the riot act. But she stood her ground.
This is not only about women's rights, this is about the very essence of the State of Israel. Is it going to be a modern democracy with equal rights and civil laws, or a theocracy ruled by maniacs? Rosenblitt has been labeled the Israeli Rosa Parks and her sensible defiance has sparked other secular Israelis to demand a stop to the Orthodox lunacy. I don't know what has taken Israeli secular society (the majority, still) so long to fight the encroachment of insane religious dogma into daily life. The problem with religious fanatics is that they don't listen to reason. So as far as I'm concerned, they need to start listening to the law of the land, and that law has to be secular.
If they want segregated buses, they should own them privately and behave like Stone Age troglodytes all they want on their own buses and their own dime. They cannot expect to behave like that on state buses. They cannot coerce others to behave like them. They cannot continue holding Israeli society hostage with their unreasonable demands. Israel is a modern society which should be governed by secular laws. It's about time that Israel institutes civil marriage and divorce. As long as this doesn't happen, it will be still mired in the Middle Ages, all its modern achievements notwithstanding.
As for those who worry that if Israel secularizes all its laws it will cease being a Jewish state, I guess they prefer Israel to be a Stone Age theocracy rather than a modern democracy with secular laws for all. Let the religious nutcases run rampant and soon there may be no Jewish state either.
Unfortunately, Orthodox Jews do not use family planning, so they may end up calling the shots. But as long as they are not a majority, they need to respect democratic rule. Enough with their special treatment, which is an insult to those Israelis who do pay taxes, serve in the Army and contribute to the progress of the country. Enough with their parasitical abuse of the state and their contempt for their fellow citizens. I'm happy to see Tanya's stance galvanized others into a movement to ensure that Israel is defined as a modern state with equal rights and responsibilities for all its citizens.

On Christmas Day, as we waited to go to a movie in Union Square, everything was closed, but music was coming out of speakers. Turns out young Hassids were celebrating Hannukah. They were dancing to some modern sounding music in Hebrew, in what seemed to me a bit of enforced merriment. Six measly young males pretending to have more fun than what they could possibly be having. I think there was a little cluster of orthodox women standing around watching them. Because God forbid men and women should sing and dance together. This ridiculous, offensive, abusive form of segregation by the Orthodox is called, in a fit of Orwellian euphemism, tzniut; modesty. But this is not about modesty, this is about the control of women. Why do women have to be modest and not men? What does that say about women: that if they don't dress like circus tents they are what? Immodest, whores, the devil? Why do women put up with this contemptuous crap?

Monday, December 26, 2011

DSK: The Potage Thickens

Thanks to Mr. Ex-Enchilada for sharing a very interesting article in the New York Review of Books about some new discoveries in the DSK rape case in New York. The writer, Edward Jay Epstein, brings to light some interesting facts that may hint to the theory, which many in the French Left had at the time, that DSK had been framed by Sarkozy because he was surging ahead in the polls. It is fun detective reading:  DSK's Blackberry (one of many), the reason why he called the Sofitel and let them know where he was, so they would return it to him, appears to have been disabled -- not just turned off -- but its GPS capabilities disabled, at 12:51 pm, about half an hour after the alleged rape occurred. DSK was not just simply concerned about his lost phone. As head of the IMF and very important VIP person, he has lots of phones. He was greatly concerned about this one phone, which he used only for IMF business, because somebody in his staff had alerted him to the possibility that it had been hacked. Hmmm...
His accusers' inconsistencies, which are the reason the prosecution dropped the case, include her lies about having visited the adjoining room after the rape, but not before it. However, the electronic key records show that she was in that room twice but did not confess to the second time, which is why the police did not search that room and treat it as a crime scene. There's more: a room service employee was also in DSK's room at a certain point around the time of the crime but he refuses to talk to anyone. The hotel refused to tell the police who was staying in that room for privacy reasons (couldn't the police get a search warrant or something? Hmmm...). Also, a long time elapsed between Diallo's alleged rape and how long she took to disclose it, but more importantly, Sofitel management placed several suspicious phone calls and took its sweet time to finally call the police (kind of understandable, if not justifiable, since they are a French chain dealing with a very important French VIP).  Diallo was allegedly raped between 12:07 and 12:15 pm and ended up at the hospital about 4 pm. There's even more: the head of security operations for the Accor hotel chain, which owns Sofitel, "had worked closely in the police with Ange Mancini, who is now coordinator for intelligence for President Sarkozy", and that very day he happened to be sharing Sarko's box at a soccer match in France. Hmmm...
There is too, a bizarre little dance of celebration between two high ranking employees of the hotel after Diallo speaks to them, and many other loose ends that hint to a web of conspiracy. What is a little befuddling is that Epstein wrote that the dance lasted 3 minutes, when as you can see above, it lasts less than 15 seconds. In any case, the little dance is explainable in a different way from "Yay! Conspiracy successful -- mission accomplished!": if it is true that since his arrival to the hotel, DSK had been hounding every female employee that crossed his path, they may have harbored some antipathy to such a guest and were happy to see him nailed. Still, such victorious joyousness aprés a rape is a bit hard to fathom from usually stone faced security staff, nes't pas?
Harder to understand, in the light of these discoveries, however, is the fact that if indeed DSK committed a violent rape, why would he be calling the scene of his crime and letting Sofitel know exactly where he was so that they could bring him his phone? Even as coddled by power as he is, if he had committed a violent rape, he'd have thunk "screw the phone and the IMF, I'm outta here!" It turns out he was preoccupied by what turned out to be a prostitution ring scandal in which he is also involved as head of the IMF, among other things. This may explain why he was so hysterical about losing that phone. But if the phone was so important to him, how come he lost it? Hmmm....
I feel an irresistible urge to write the following sentence in the voice of Inspecteur Closeau: The pheune was never recovered. Hmmm...
If you think about it, would DSK even have had lunch with his daughter before leaving for the airport? We all knew this is what he did, and many of us still thought he was such an entitled bully, he was just brazen about it. He had acted with impunity before, why not this time? I must admit, knowing this string of strange facts makes him look like indeed he had nothing to hide. There is incontrovertible evidence that sex took place, (his semen mixed with her saliva on the carpet), but as far as he was concerned, it was kosher. We will never know if it was consensual or not. There is no point on taking sides. One thing is clear: he's still disgusting.
After reading Philip Gourevitch's profile of Sarko in the New Yorker, and given the nastiness and corruption of French politics, a conspiracy, although farfetched, bizarre and unseemly, is not inconceivable. Still, this does not disprove that DSK is a gros cochon. If indeed this was a conspiracy, it was brilliant: they used his Achilles heel, his uncontrollable sexual addiction, to nail him. They made him an offer he could not refuse, and he took the bait.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Mexican Memes

Mexicans have always been known for their sense of humor. Mexican culture is awash with jokes, puns, double entendres and what we call ingenio, which is something as funny as wit, but less dry. Yet I don't think anyone foresaw how much mileage Mexican humor was going to get out of new technologies like Photoshop, You Tube and social media, which are starting to make Mexico look like the capital of memes. 

About a week after 9/11, if not sooner, I get an urgent email from my friend Pancho, with the following subject: "They found Osama Bin Laden". I open it, my heart racing, and I see a picture of Osama sitting placidly in a gondola in Xochimilco, a place where Mexican families go to have Sunday picnics on the water. To this day, it's the best thing I ever saw.
Apparently, it's the gift that keeps on giving:

Same when they couldn't find Ghadaffi:

Looks like the taquero from hell to me, even though, true to his Middle Eastern roots, he is hiding behind a spit of shwarma.
Any time a Mexican public figure makes a gigantic blunder, Mexicans and their ingenio take over cyberspace. A meme was created when newsanchor Joaquín López Dóriga attempted to interview Sir Anthony Hopkins and asked him "Juay De Rito" (Why The Rite?).
More recently, the PRI's candidate for president, a pompadoured calamity called Enrique Peña Nieto, was taken to task for not being able to answer correctly what three books have most influenced him, as he made an appearance at the International Book Fair in Guadalajara, the most important event of its kind in the Spanish-speaking world. You would think he'd brush up on his reading, given the nature of the event, but true to the caste of patronizing demagogues of his party, who are used to blathering from above and are completely unable to speak off the cuff, he was taken aback by the question and proceeded to pontificate without saying absolutely anything or remembering correctly the title of at least one book (not counting the Bible, which he said he had read parts of).
The barrage of tweets and doctored photos that invaded the net show no sign of abating.
His daughter then posted a tweet saying "a greeting to the bunch of fuckheads that are part of the prole (tariat) and who only criticize who they envy".
Now all of Mexico is claiming prolehood.
Gandhi, a chain of bookstores, famous for their clever ads, did not waste any time coming up with some funny print ads. Because their ads are easy to copy, Mexicans went to work on dozens of alternate versions:

There are pictures of Peña Nieto conferring with the actual Gandhi, with the Pope, and one of him as the swaddled baby of two of the most notoriously corrupt and sinister members of the PRI, ex-president Carlos Salinas and undying PRI fixture Elba Esther Gordillo.
Among the tweets:
"Let's read something by Martin Burger King #PeñaNietoBookstore"
"What is your favorite Benedetti? The pepperoni one, of course". #PeñaNietoBookstore"

"Three books that marked me for life: 1) Los Reebook, 2) La Notebook, y 3) El Facebook. #PeñaNietoBookstore"
 There are also many hashtags for the "prole" comment.

Apparently, at the PRI's behest, which is revolting business as usual, Twitter tried to censor the PeñaNietoBookstore# hashtag after it started trending with over 60,000 tweets. There was a huge outcry and they allowed it again. One thing these lamentable politicos do not appreciate is freedom of expression. They are used to despotism, but Mexico is changing. There is no more delicious schadenfreude than to see these corrupt bozos exposed by the citizenry for the frauds they are. It may not be funny to them, but it is seriously funny for us.
Social media can change things. Hopefully this idiot will not become the President of Mexico after this.