Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Over the past couple of days, I came up with a possible reason for why--though not an Anglopath by any means--I'm not exactly a huge Anglophile, either.

The reason? I practically grew up in England. An England with yet another dialect...

Monday, December 25, 2006

Qui Tollis Peccata Mundi

I sometimes wish I had a certain kind of faith. But sometimes... it just seems like we're living amongst a whole lotta peccata.

I do still believe in a certain kind of lux æterna...

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Homeward Bound

I'm in such a fuckin rush to get out of the office that I'm starting to get cranky. And I'm running late.

Anyway, I'm heading to NJ through the 31st, and looking forward to it as always. The reasons involve things like pierogi, kielbasa, chrusciki, platki, and other healthful Eastern European delights. Not to mention NJ pizza. Oh, and Mom and Nan.

On the off chance that there's anyone out there in the NY environs who reads this and might want to meet up for coffee, a drink, or suttum when I'm in the city around 12/29-30, drop me an email ( Thought I'd throw that out there.

I thought I'd leave you with the chorus of NJ's lame-assed "unofficial" state song. Seems NJ is the only state without an official state song. Figures. Then again, is one really necessary?

Be proud to be in New Jersey, New Jersey
Stand tall, sing out for New Jersey, New Jersey
From the farms to the sea there's no place I'd rather be
Be proud, New Jersey's proud of me

Friday, December 15, 2006

Doña Clarissa y Yo

"¡Qué zambullida!"

Early on during my stay in San Miguel, I started in on Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. I admit I felt vindicated at first in my decision to put it off for years for fear that it might be a little too stylistically "difficult." No, it's not exactly Middle English Chaucer, but I don't think I'm being too much of a philistine to claim Woolf has her quirks. However, I found myself pressing ahead gamely. Of course I had a vague idea of the plot and what was going on because I'd seen the film version with Vanessa Redgrave about seven years ago.

The sentences! Never having been a lit major, I don't know if the idea of "The Woolfian Sentence" is a well-worn topic, but I suspect the concept has been discussed at length. As is my usual reading habit, I found myself re-reading the same sentences, going back to the beginning and trying to make sense of thm. At some point I realized I needed to stop doing that, or I would never make any progress; so I decided to just read through and allow myself to be content with absorbing the gist—the feeling—of Woolf's convoluted phrases, clauses, and fragments. And yeah, that worked.

An example of what I'm talking about is below (this is all ONE sentence):
It was her life, and, bending her head over the hall table, she bowed beneath the influence, felt blessed and purified, saying to herself, as she took the pad with the telephone message on it, how moments like this are buds on the tree of life, flowers of darkness they are, she thought (as if some lovely rose had blossomed for her eyes only); not for a moment did she believe in God; but all the more, she thought, taking up the pad, must one repay in daily life to servants, yes, to dogs and canaries, above all to Richard her husband, who was the foundation of it—of the gay sounds, of the green lights, of the cook even whistling, for Mrs. Walker was Irish and whistled all day long—one must pay back from this secret deposit of exquisite moments, she thought, lifting the pad, while Lucy stood by her, trying to explain how.
I was in awe. It's almost a mess, but I think it takes absolute genius to write sentences like that. I thought I might try writing a few of my own just "for fun" sometime, but I can't see myself managing to pull off that kind of construction, even as an exercise. I love the idea of trying to throw out so much convention though. Screw whatever your tenth grade English teacher (or present-day anal-retentive proscriptive grammar wonks) tried to instill in you about the "proper paragraph."

I also couldn't help wonder about how revolutionary it might have been for Woolf to be doing this in 1925. Yes, I know James Joyce had been crazily screwing around with convention in the world of letters for awhile by then... so in that context, Woolf's and other Bloomsburians' daring probably makes perfect sense. [Interesting sidebar: just discovered that Woolf and Joyce were both born and both died within 2 months of each other. Hmm.]

However, I was thinking about the fact that I had just recently finished The House of Mirth, and the difference between Wharton's rigid formality and Woolf's language explosion is really striking, given the fact that the works are chronologically separated by only twenty years (and yes, I know, a very significant ocean). It's amazing to me that such a stylistic shift in prose could occur in such a short period of time. I'm sure history is full of radical changes in art that took place in relatively quick succession, but 20 years seems a fairly short interval.

Again, I'm far from a lit expert, but it feels to me that in recent years there hasn't been similar innovation and experimentation in writing that is so obvious. In terms of general American/British literature, most works written in 1980 or 1985 are likely not so radically different from those written in 2005. Or maybe—being out of the loop as I am—I'm incredibly, embarrassingly wrong, and someone who really knows what he's talking about should push me the hell off of this quasi-academic big chair I'm trying to sit in.

The point is that Woolf made me wonder if we've been in a fairly conservative, stagnant period in terms of the risk that writers are willing to take in their "art." Is this the fault of Big Publishing and The Marketplace (even the Woolfs, after all, had to publish themselves independently)? (When in doubt, why not blame the corporations...).

And I know this whole train of thinking is probably not very valid because I'm only comparing two very specific authors instead of looking at a range of writers on a continuum, in separate American and British contexts—and that Wharton was probably more wedded to older conventions as much as Woolf was potentially way ahead of her time. So, please, don't criticize and refute point by point the silly mental diversions that came over me while wading through Wacky Virginia's Headtrip.

In case I didn't say this yet, I enjoyed Mrs. Dalloway—as much for the content as the craft. I'm also realizing the danger of reading some of the "Great Books": in the presence of all that talent and art, the idea that I could ever put "pen to paper" and create something even a fraction as sublime seems... well... ridiculous.

Below is another bit of Dalloway that really pleased and challenged me. Thank you, Mrs. Woolf.

...Clarissa had a theory in those days—they had heaps of theories, always theories, as young people have. It was to explain the feeling they had of dissatisfaction; not knowing people; not being known. For how could they know each other? You met every day; then not for six months, or years. It was unsatisfactory, they agreed, how little one knew people. But she said, sitting on the bus going up Shaftesbury Avenue, she felt herself everywhere; not "here, here, here"; and she tapped the back of the seat; but everywhere. She waved her hand, going up Shaftesbury Avenue. She was all that. So that to know her, or any one, one must seek out people who completed them; even the places. Odd affinities she had with people she had never spoken to, some woman in the street, some man behind a counter—even trees, or barns. It ended in a transcendental theory which, with her horror of death, allowed her to believe, or say that she believed (for all her scepticism), that since our apparitions, the part of us which appears, are so momentary compared with the other, the unseen part of us, which spreads wide, the unseen might survive, be recovered somehow attached to this person or that, or even haunting certain places after death . . . perhaps—perhaps.

The unseen might survive.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Little Trite Hook

"There was a time
you and I were everything...
You'll never know the days and nights
I spent imagining...
But yesterday is the only place we'll ever know..."

Tuesday night's dinner left me feeling happy, with a sense of resolution and even optimism. Our perhaps-not-so-odd friendship feels solid, familiar, and comforting. Finally.

I felt unabashedly joyful and thrilled, even though we were saying goodbye until who can say when...

And of course I was reminded of — if somehow I had ever forgotten — all the reasons I had loved him so crazily and ambivalently once. And yes, I'm convinced there's such a thing as Ambivalent Love. Maybe it's the only kind there is.

Love is still there, but Wednesday morning I considered Fitzgerald's line about there being "all kinds of love in the world, but never the same love twice."

Also, Michael Cunningham's words continue to resonate and will, I believe, nag me forever: "He was the person she loved at her most optimistic moment."

I managed to scrawl a goodbye — some send-off wishes; an inscription in a book — and included a bit of verse of Hafiz:
"I see great parades with wildly colorful bands
Streaming from your mind and heart
Carrying wonderful and secret messages
To every corner of this world"

Has the most optimistic moment passed, or is it yet to arrive?

The most optimistic moment.

I am grateful to know you, I wrote.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Kring Jord som Sol'n Förlät

Happy Saint Lucia Day.

According to Wikipedia, Saint Lucy of Syracuse (b. 283AD) "is one of the very few saints celebrated by the Lutheran Swedes, Finland-Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians, in celebrations that retain many pre-Christian elements of a midwinter light festival."

I've come to realize that Christians were seriously into gore in the martyrdom stories of the saints. I guess it's all kind of exciting in a warped, operatic way. In the case of Saint Lucia, according to the BBC, she "was put to death after suffering various tortures. She was burned alive and came out miraculously unharmed. According to the somewhat fanciful thirteenth-century retelling found in The Golden Legend, despite being stabbed through the neck with a dagger she continued to prophesy the downfall of the governor, the emperor and his co-regent, all of which came to pass after her death. In other versions, Lucy's eyes were torn out and later healed by God, a legend that supports her association with the blind and explains why she is often pictured holding two eyes on a dish." Nice! (And if you think that's bad, you should read about what they did to Agatha...)

Anyway, all that wasn't meant to be the point of this post. The point was meant to be that I've always found the stories I've read about the tradition of Luciadag in Sweden to be sort of quaint and charming. A mid-winter celebration where a girl sticks lighted candles in her hair (how cool -- not to mention dangerous -- is that?) and wakes up her family in the dark early morning with a tray of Lussekatter (a kind of saffron sweet bun).

But my real fondness for the day comes from remembering learning the Luciasång in Prof. Lundell's Swedish class -- ten years ago now, for God's sake! It's the same Neapolitan melody that almost everyone knows, but I find something about it very touching, especially the following line. I think it's the minor key change that gets me all emotional every time...

So, even if you're not munching on Lussekatter, I give you Sankta Lucia, the song, and hope that everyone has a day full of whatever it is that lights you up...

Natten går tunga fjät,
runt gård och stuva.
Kring jord som sol'n förlät,
skuggorna ruva.
Då i vårt mörka hus,
stiger med tända ljus:
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

Natten var stor och stum.
Nu hör det svingar,
i alla tysta rum,
sus som av vingar.
Se på vår tröskel står
vitkläd, med ljus i hår:
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

Night stomps with heavy feet
Through farm and steading.
Round the earth, which sun forsakes,
shadows are spreading.
Then on our darkest night,
Comes with her shining light
Sankta Lucia! Sankta Lucia!

The night was huge and still.
Hark! something's stirring!
In all our silent rooms,
Wingbeats are whisp'ring!
See on our threshold there,
White clad, lights in her hair,
Sankta Lucia! Sankta Lucia!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Easy for Them to Say...

Thanks to Language Log.

Gringo con Flores

November 1, 2006

Featuring my second favorite word learned during the trip to San Miguel: cempazuchitl (alternately spelled cempaxuchitl, which I like better, cuz I've always been enamorado en equis). Pronouced 'sem-pah-SOO-cheel'. It's the word for marigold, the primary flower on Day of the Dead ofrendas.

[by the way... the reason some of these photos look like shite is that, ever the economizer, I used a few old rolls of film, thus some pics appear underexposed. And I don't have access to Photoshop. As grandma might say, "cheap is expensive."]

Friday, December 08, 2006

Dia de Muertos

November 1-2, 2006

Slowly but surely, I'm hoping to post more of these pics from S.Miguel de Allende....


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Discovery of the Day

Via Ultrabrown, was turned on to the Indian comic strip "This is Our Life" by Rajneesh Kapoor. Very worth checking out.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Cube - 6pm

This is what I get for blogsurfing all day.

Gotta get that website done...

Also had to test out the new cellphone cam.

And it's cold out. And dark.

Yeah, winter does exist in SoCal.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Dimarts: No ho entenc

I enjoyed this article from yesterday's LA Times about linguistic treachery in España.

I kind of giggled (and also sighed) at their description of Catalan as "a kind of French-sounding Spanish."

Of course, we could really go off on this...
- Norwegian: "a kind of Swedish-sounding Danish"
- Ukrainian: "a kind of Polish-sounding Russian"
- Macedonian: "a kind of Serbian-sounding Bulgarian"

They touch on the origins as "born of 11th century vulgar Latin," but don't bother to go into Occitane, la langue d'Oc, or any of that stuff -- which is, I guess, fine for an article of this scope.

Most of us know by now how touchy the Catalan/Basque autonomy issue is, but this piece was interesting in pointing out how this is politically and practically playing out. I thought lots of parallels could be drawn with Quebec, where I've heard English can get a fairly icy reception in certain areas. However, it seems a bit extreme to say that a national author would be greeted with cries of "fascist" when arriving to deliver an address, merely because of speaking Castellano.

All this is obviously proof of the adage about the consequences of oppressive dictatorship often lasting a long, long time. However, I find some of the Catalan and Basque tactics and attitudes to be just plain nuts (let's hope the thrill of pyrotechnics is permanently gone for ETA). I respect and agree with minority rights' movements and linguistic rejuvenation, but some of this stuff is as far out as the Chicano "Aztlan" scheme (which, incidentally, I think gets blown out of proportion by right wingers).

I'm not sure if this whole situation wasn't exaggerated a bit by the journalist; it would be interesting to talk to some barceloninas to find out how widespread this problem is. It does seem extreme if people "have to grovel to be served in Spanish, whether at the bank, the telephone company or other public offices," especially in a major cosmopolitan city like Barcelona, where there are surely huge numbers of migrants from around Spain. As the article says, a little over half of BCN residents are monolingual Spanish-speakers, so as a majority, how put upon can they be? Is this a tempest in a tassa, perpetrated by a hardcore fringe of independistas?

When I visited in 2003, it seems I definitely heard as much, if not much more Castellano being spoken than Catalan. And maybe we were immediately pegged as tourists, but I don't remember anyone being anything less than helpful when we spoke Spanish, and never once tried to address anyone with "Dispensi" because it would have seemed... I don't know... gratuitous?

That being said, I love listening to Catalan and still sometimes tune into Radio Catalunya on the internet just to hear it, even though I understand squat. I think it just takes me back to dreaming about Barcelona, the one city that, given the opportunity (which means to me a whole raft of silly requirements like, say, a job, legal status, and a certain level of economic security), I would move in one minute, without a bit of thought, deliberation, or hesitation. Yeah -- I'd be there tomorrow if I could. Hummmm.

[Later -- found another interesting commentary on this here:]

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Värför Gör De Så För?!

See Stockholm and die!

Coming in 2008.

"As a Stockholmer, this is what you have been missing..."

Yeah, baby.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

No Maltrate Las Señales

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I woke up about 30 or 40 minutes before we landed at "BJX" — León-Guanajuato Bajio International Airport. I've found myself able to sleep (or at least doze) more often on flights in the past few years. There was a time in the mid/late-1990s when almost every flight was a white-knuckle ride in which my imagination vividly took me into the vortex of a dizzying descent — sometimes fiery, sometimes eerily pitch-black and quiet — from a couple thousand feet above the ground. I'm really glad that I'm over that phobia. There's still a point during every flight when I have that "what if..." moment in which I over-empathize with poor unfortunate souls who've been in such harrowing mid-air "emergencies," but the feeling passes pretty quickly. And yeah, I'm now able to nap without starting awake in terror every time the captain flashes the seatbelt sign.

Waking up on the approach to Guanajuato, I looked out the window. It was about 9:00pm, so I couldn't see much. Yet, I was convinced somehow that the rooftops and the streetlights looked a little different somehow. The street patterns or something. The burst of a firework a few hundred yards from the airplane — yes, something was different. I thought briefly of another airplane descent, a long time ago, into Kano, Nigeria; I hadn't disembarked then, but I remember peering intently through the thick glass of the airplane, trying to take in everything that was different. I mostly wondered what this Mexican landscape would have looked like in the light of day.

Once we got to the airport and "deplaned" (is that really a verb?), there was still something so familiar yet "foreign" enough about the modern glass and metal terminal. Like the terminal in Lomé, Togo, which felt as if it could have been in Florida, but at the same time was clearly not in Florida at all.

Luckily, Bob was with me and, having made this trip so many times over the years, he was a pro at guiding me through anything that could have even remotely been an obstacle. Collected our luggage at the baggage carousel. Went through the customs document control line, then headed to the actual baggage-control area. This was potentially "fun": one's own personal game-of-chance in which you pushed a big button in order to find out if you were waved through (a friendly green light) or stopped and had your bags searched (a red light and you-picked-the-wrong-curtain-gameshow buzzer). I skated through on Bob's green light since we were "juntos."

We were picked up at the airport by Benito, a "friend of a friend's brother-in-law" (is there a kinship term for this in Latin America? Don't look at me, I was only an anthropology major...). I kept noticing important cultural differences in the airport parking lot: one of the Volkswagen models parked there was called a "Derby" (and I couldn't help wondering if the product marketing whizzes meant for it to be pronounced 'derby' or 'darby'...).

As we headed toward San Miguel via Guanajuato, I noticed the signs for other locales with intriguing names: One was Iratuapo. Another, Silao, looked vaguely Portuguese to my eye, but not particularly Mexican.

It was in Silao that we zoomed past a gargantuan real-live Mexican maquiladora — the kind one reads about in The Economist. It immediately occurred to me that it didn't look much different (if decidedly a bit newer and more sparkly) than the huge Ford plan on US-1 in Edison, New Jersey: You've seen one bone-crushing, soul-deadening arm of the industrio-capitalist machine, you've seen 'em all. I am so kidding! I totally love and embrace the manufacturing economy! All for naught did my own motherland become a notch in the rust belt.

As we skirted the edges of Guanajuato proper on the autopista (if that's what one could call the often-bumpy two-lane highway), I was (here we go again) reminded vaguely of Ghana. I can only distill my description of this feeling as a similarity — vague or vivid — in "developing world" landscapes and cityscapes. Some of the scenes that made me feel this way:
  • corrugated metal rolling doors on the front of all kinds of stores and establishments; these were very noticeable since most businesses were closed at that time of night, but this is just not something one sees a lot of in my experience in the U.S.
  • tiny "provisions shops" or tiendas that would pop up anywhere along the road; walk-in-closet-sized places with shelves stocked floor-to-ceiling with any and all types of food items, and inevitably sporting that beacon of the multinational food industry, a bright blue Nestlē logo.
  • al fresco taco stands every couple of blocks: nothing more than a big old charcoal brazier, sitting on the sidewalk or right on the dirt at the side of the road, ready to serve up myriad delights. So potentially lipsmackingly yummy, and yet soooo scary.

I have wondered a lot if this tendency to perceive similarities might be a completely patronizing "first-worlder" view of things — as if I'm seeing the "griminess" and "rusticity" as some kind of quaint and charming World's Fair Exhibition... When in fact Guanajuato and Accra may be about as similar as Helsinki and Topeka.

In the end, I don't think I'm being unfair or ethnocentric or a particularly ugly American by recognizing some amorphous "Third World" similarities on the surface of things. A day or so after I had been observing this stuff, Bob said as much to me — wondering if I might be seeing and enjoying some similarities between Mexico and Ghana. I replied that yes, in fact, I had been, but I again questioned whether it was in some way patronizing to lump all these "undeveloped" countries into one basket just because they have open-air food stands propped up in the dust at the side of the road.

I'm well aware that one doesn't need to be the type who looks down one's nose at the "filth" in another country to be an ugly, biased turista. It's just as much of a pitfall to be the hug-fest type of tourist who loves the "charm" of the "common people" and does everything to Enjoy! and Appreciate! the Authenticity! of the campo! Please, Lord, let me not be exactly the latter GlobalExchange/Rotary International type of traveler. Let me walk some kind of middle ground of being able to eat tamales on the street while also thoroughly enjoying an icy cocktail in the courtyard of a luxury multinational hotel.

In any case, the urban outskirts of Guanajuato gave way to the long, winding, rural road to San Miguel de Allende. It reminded me in its empty openness of Highway 1 to Lompoc or the twisting black stretch of Highway 33 deep in Ventura County.

I notice road signs whenever I travel, and I try to remember them, no matter how mundane. Favor Disminuya su Velocidad. Directional signs pointing out "Celaya," "S.Mig. de Allende," "D. Hidalgo." Signs declaring that one is entering "La Fragua de la Independencia Nacional"... the "anvil" of independence. I first thought fragua must mean cradle, since that's the popular idiom that sprang to mind, but then I realized that cradle would be cuna. Only the next day did I learn from Bob that fragua means anvil. Does the USA have an "anvil" of independence? If not, why not? Are we more comfortable with independence being cradled and nurtured into being rather than hammered out in a hot, sweltering iron forge?

Finally, some of the most perplexing signs: No Maltrate las Señales.

The ride was beautiful, the road dark and mostly empty, with the lights of the distant towns, including San Miguel, twinkling. There were only a couple of incidents in which I felt my heart beat a little faster, having noticed the speed of the oncoming traffic, including a few fiercely growling dump trucks, on the narrow two-lane road, and just a couple of glimmering white crosses sprouting out along the roadside here and there. Always, encouraging reminders for the adventurous traveler.

Finally, the road wound into San Miguel after circling it and offering a good glimpse of the illuminated spire of the Parroquia. We descended slightly down a narrow but busy cobblestone road — a main thoroughfare known only as La Salida de Queretaro — that felt to me as if it could have been in the Albaicín of Granada. More tiny, inviting little shops that made me think of tins of powdered milk, tomato paste, and chocolate bars.

The taxi let us off at the base of Callejon Cruz del Pueblo, Bob's "street" — an irregular, somewhat narrow stairway-paseo. We passed through the garden wall from the paseo into what I considered a true idyll: quiet and cozy, with an amazing second-story view of the Parroquia and the entire center of town spread out below.

I felt lucky to be there, and looked forward to curling up under a couple of wool blankets in the guest room. Sound sleep had been mostly ensured: no scorpions were found under the clothes hamper.

I awoke the next morning to pure vacation... [Pictures below: 'Casa Roberto']

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Queen & la Reine

It was a very, very royal Thanksgiving weekend at the movies for me.

Friday was Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. I think I am genuinely in love with Kirsten Dunst, even though she sort of has vampire fangs.

However, I am not into royalty. I do not have bookshelves lined with titles like The House of Plantagenet: Anjou by Any Other Name. I mean, the Habsburg part of this saga is all very interesting (Marianne Faithfull was great in all her gravel-voiced splendor as Empress Maria Theresa) -- interesting enough to make me want to pore over a book (or at least the Wikipedia entry) on the subject.
I liked this movie a lot, but I'm not convinced it's a "Great" film. It's not exactly dialogue-driven, which can certainly be an ok thing. In terms of imagery alone, it evoked, well, a certain degree of emotion. Much of it was pure confection, but still, some of the scenes and the photography did evoke feeling. I'm ambivalent about my attitude toward M.A.: was she just a pawn born and bred for her position as a consort and producer of heirs, or, as queen, could she have taken a different tack and an interest in the affairs of her nation, preventing the downfall of the monarchy?

The film definitely doesn't even come close to answering -- or even asking -- those questions. Which is fine; it makes me want to read up on this stuff. I liked the comment by J. Hoberman of the Village Voice, who wrote, "... the filmmaker's attempt to redeem her heroine's shallowness reveals her own." I don't think Coppola was as successful in this endeavor as she was with Lost in Translation. But yet... I liked it and found myself thinking about it a lot afterward. And, needless to say, it was visually amazing: cinematography, set design, and costumes are all award-worthy.

What was best about the film was making one realize that M.A. arrived at the French court as a girl of 15 and -- even though daughter of an Empress -- was thrust into a world of byzantine protocol and luxury without bounds. What was less believable (or even touched on) about the dramatization was the fact that M.A. aged from 15 to 38 during her time at Versailles. Maybe we are meant to believe that she was equally shallow and unquestioning as a middle-aged woman as she was as a teenager, but... something was lacking in that bit of the narrative.

In addition, poor, cute Jason Schwartzman fares badly as a sort of bumbling buffoon of a dauphin/king. I know that partly reflects the historical point of view, but in the end he was more of a caricature than a character (as were many figures in the film). And WTF was Molly Shannon doing here? I guess I respect her need to have a 'career', but all I can think when I see her pinched face is "Mary Katherine."

Saturday brought on The Queen. I can't say anything gushing about Helen Mirren than hasn't already been said. I also ended up liking the film a lot more than I expected to. I was anticipating a fairly dry "television-movie-of-the-week" treatment, but definitely got carried away into it pretty deeply and quickly.

Editorial note to Stephen Frears: Honestly, I think we could have done without the Introspective Symbology of The Stag.

I couldn't help thinking about some of the similarities between E.R. and Marie Antoinette in terms of the "monarchical crises" faced by both, as well as the respective states of "The Monarchy" in general. Again, I am not a big royal watcher, but I'm not a huge anti-monarchist either. I'm mostly indifferent (but in, like, a totally class-warfare informed, Marxist-Leninist sort of way), though definitely swayed now and then by the posh spectacle of it all. (T-shirt/bumpersticker idea: "I'm not Anti-Monarchist; I Hate All of The Rich")

One thing I did realize after seeing Marie Antoinette: I am more sympathetic to the friends I have (yes... I have them... well, at least one) who seem to get all misty-eyed when speaking about The Romanovs. Those silly royals were much more than treasury-depleting, peasant-bleeding, insurrection-crushing drains on the national coffers: they were Human Beings Too! (And I am totally being Serious.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Assassination Vacation

En route to León/San Miguel, Bob and I had a good six-and-a-half-hour, mid-day stopover in Dallas. Soooo, Bob had the idea of finding ground transportation into town, grabbing lunch, and maybe checking out the infamous Dealey Plaza. Personally, I had no interest in making a pilgrimage to the site of a bloody assassination by rifle, but Bob considered it a place of intrigue, and I was along for the ride, so what the hell.

We finally ended up renting a car since the daily rate was cheaper than any of the shuttle or taxi services (I always forget how basically damn cheap it is to rent a car). Had lunch at an unmemorable Tex-Mex place where the soup was better than the entree for which I had high hopes (quesadilla frita con flor de calabaza). That's what I get for being attracted by anything on a menu modified by the word "frita/o". Note to waiters: I am a totally easy-to-please (please, please me) customer -- just keep my @#$*&! water glass filled!!!!

We walked around the few blocks of the downtown area and over to Dealey Plaza. That photo in the upper right is the Texas School Book Depository, and maybe you can see that open window pane on the corner of the sixth floor. History made from such a mundane location.

I'm not going to try to wax poetic about JFK, but it was a fairly interesting way to spend an afternoon. As Americans, the newsreel footage of the motorcade is inescapably burned onto our minds' eyes; however, I hadn't any context -- the surrounding streets, buildings, plazas -- into which to put that motorcade, and now I do. Ever so conveniently, the street in front of Dealey Plaza has two white X marks painted on the blacktop to indicate the exact "points of impact". Yeeesh.

As for Dallas? Meh.

Anyone is more than welcome to invite me back for a return visit and to try to show me such a rip-roaring good ol' time that I'll wish I lived there. But for now, based on the info I have, no. The area in the heart of downtown where we ate maybe reminded me a little bit of Denver or even Colorado Springs -- just sort of generic with several "oldish," "warehouse-esque" brick buildings. Brick isn't something you see everywhere, so it can give a distinct feel. Yes it can.

There was just nothin' about the Dallas I saw that made me think, yep, I'd settle down here.

I have to thank GayProf for his recent commentaries on the Lone Star mentality, and especially regarding the Dallas Convention & Vistors' Bureau's marketing overtures toward the gays. And, hey, GayProf, I can attest that it was really pretty difficult to find the "GLBT" section of the CVB website, even when I knew what I was looking for! However, their site is totally entertaining! All marketingspeak, all the time. Check out the "Diverse Dallas" area for some chuckles.

I love this: "The GLBT community is also a large part of Dallas, which boasts the sixth largest gay population in the United States." Hmm, how much "boasting" about that fact is going on? Someone should totally poll Dallasites on the street regarding that one.

It's almost easy to imagine the writing/editing process that went into producing the copy for these promo materials:

Dallas was a once proud, White is a richly diverse American city - over the years it has become a magnet for more and more wetbacks, gooks, heathens and sodomites a melting pot of cultures, religions and lifestyles.

The history of Texas is deeply rooted in the Hispanic culture that was here before we whooped brown ass and pushed the border back to the Rio Grande. Originally called Tejas (jota is for jotos), the Spanish founded the state and today there are over six million Latinos (mostly a bunch of illegal aliens and their descendants) living in Texas.

In 1869, Chinese immigrated to Texas to work on the railroads at slave wages, considering the damn Yankees had just put an end to actual slavery, bringing with them a rich heritage. Dallas now has sixteen different Asian families nationalities living in the area.

Whew. That was fun. This final pic is (I just found out) the Hyatt Regency. I love how shiny and mirrored and clean it looks. All sparkly and sleek. My photo doesn't do it justice, but I really did enjoy its slick, mirrored skin. However, I have omitted the giant phallus that GayProf alluded to; it's part of the same hotel complex.

On the topic of diversity, though, I did notice that a lot of the DFW airport workers seemed to be of Ethiopian (or other Horn-of-African) extraction. I need to do some quick wikipedia research on that diaspora.

In the end, Tejas was a nice place to have lunch, but I was looking fondly forward to Guanaxuato...

Milkman of Human Kindness

Just kind of stumbled upon this today while infosnacking. If it doesn't manage to bring a tear to your eye, well, then just maybe you have no soul. That's all I have to say.

"now they are ours... and we're so happy..."

Monday, November 20, 2006


Don't sarcastically roll your eyes next time someone tells you "If you have your health, you have everything."

Spending the weekend in bed isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Oh, and don't ever do a search on Google Images for "staph". You will regret it.

Just send me to the leper colony now.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Llegada: "No Maltrate las Señales"

Monkey-Kibble for Thought

I like the summary made in a recent Language Log post regarding the recent shift in the balance of power of our Congress. This explanation is as valid to me as any other:

All in all, it seems unlikely that the number of voters swayed
by the Macacagate affair was less than the 7,000 margin. And if that is right, then the control of the US Senate and thus the entire legislature may have been turned over to a different party because of one thoughtless nickname choice by a tired and irritated candidate. (That's not an exculpation, by the way. Tired and irritable he was, but reprehensible nonetheless.) It was surely one of the biggest consequences of an on-the-fly nickname choice in all of history. Watch your mouth, politicians. It's a linguistic jungle out there.

Call me cynical (who, me?), but everyone talking about how the country has experienced such a wondrous, miraculous sea change in its outlook and values is mostly full of crap. Yes, it's a great thing that Congress now has a different leadership and balance of power -- and hopefully this will change the tone of the legislation that gets considered and/or passed.

However, plenty of the Democrats who gained seats had to do so by being just as anti-abortion, anti-gay-marriage, and anti-tax-and-spend as any Republican ever was. The truth is, huge swaths of this country will probably never be "liberal," and those of us living in coastal enclaves cannot assume that because Virginians or rural Pennsylvanians booted their Repubs out means that they'll ever come close to embracing our leftist selves.

Sure, I'm happy: who'd have guessed that South Dakotans would vote against their abortion ban and Arizonans would defeat their anti-gay-marriage amendment. Except those "victories" mostly seem like sighs of relief that the respective populations haven't gone totally off the deep end. It just still sucks to have to claw onto "anything we can get" instead of being able to make real "progress."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


I've been in a great mood. Really. I have. I just run into speed bumps from time to time, and I claw my way over them. This one's almost a mere memory. The animal puts the venlafaxine into its body...

My re-entry culture shock hasn't been too considerable after twelve days in "La Fragua de la Independencia Nacional."

Last night's polyglot concert by Pink Martini was definitely soothing to my mangled, dejected nerves, and I even found the inane couplets of their song "Hang On Little Tomato" to be somehow uplifting.

And I have to admit, even though I sometimes prance around my own house singing in Spanish, Portuguese, and Hindi, I find it very annoying that a group of people from Portland have managed to fashion a career out of doing exactly that (well, minus the Hindi). Meanwhile, I have to wake up and go work in an office every day. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. Jealousy debases all of us.

Somebody told me, I don't know who
Whenever you are sad and blue
And you're feelin' all alone and left behind
Just take a look inside and you will find

You gotta hold on, hold on through the night
Hang on, things will be all right
Even when it's dark
And not a bit of sparkling
Sing-song sunshine from above
Spreading rays of sunny love

Just hang on, hang on to the vine
Stay on, soon you'll be divine
If you start to cry, look up to the sky
Something's coming up ahead
To turn your tears to dew instead

And so I hold on to his advice
When change is hard and not so nice
You listen to your heart the whole night through
Your sunny someday will come one day soon to you

Coming soon: my probably-not-very-original observations about the aforementioned Fragua.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Voy Viajando

Three days and counting:
10 nights (including el Dia de los Muertos)
in San Miguel de Allende.

Informed Golden State Voter: An Update

OK. I think I'm leaning toward voting for all the bond measures on the California ballot. I know the blogosphere was on edge waiting for this news.

I guess the clincher was seeing how it's projected that with all these new bonds, the state's debt-service ratio ("DSR" for you wannabe economists who enjoy acronyms) will peak at about 6% of state revenues (see handy graph below).

Shit, if my DSR were 6%, I'd spring out of bed dancing every goddamn morning.

Start sellin' da bonds!

As Alan mentioned, aren't these decisions what we elect representatives for? I had to spend a whole HOUR looking at my voter guide last night.

Just don't get me started on the "Sex Offender" and "Abortion Notification" propositions...

Friday, October 20, 2006

Nobody's Business but Los Ucranianos

So, is it chicken Kyiv now?
Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The Ukrainian capital of Kiev is now Kyiv, as far as the U.S. government is concerned.

About half of Ukraine’s 47 million people are Russian speakers, and Kiev is the Russian spelling.

The State Department says the spelling change has nothing to do with American hopes of wooing the one-time Soviet republic more into the Western orbit.

Einigkeit, Recht, Freiheit... und wählen

Down. With. Props.

It's my familiar refrain: What the hell is a California voter to do? Why the hell do we have all these Propositii and Measures on the ballots?

How do the masses decide these things? Shit, this pro-proletarian is scared, since NPR recently broadcast some random interviews with residents of Washington D.C. about the population of the USA and people gave answers like "2 million" and "15 million". I hate to sound all uppity and snobbish about this, but how the hell do we expect these same kinds of people to make fiscal and legal decisions? Holy crap.

I mean, look at all this:

  • 1A: Transportation Funding Protection. Legislative Constitutional Amendment.
  • 1B: Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality, and Port Security Bond Act of 2006.
  • 1C: Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund Act of 2006.
  • 1D: Kindergarten–University Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2006.
  • 1E: Disaster Preparedness and Flood Prevention Bond Act of 2006.
  • 83: Sex Offenders. Sexually Violent Predators. Punishment, Residence Restrictions and Monitoring. Initiative Statute.
  • 84: Water Quality, Safety and Supply. Flood Control. Natural Resource Protection. Park Improvements. Bonds. Initiative Statute.
  • 85: Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor’s Pregnancy. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.
  • 86: Tax on Cigarettes. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.
  • 87: Alternative Energy. Research, Production, Incentives. Tax on California Oil Producers. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.
  • 88: Education Funding. Real Property Parcel Tax. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.
  • 89: Political Campaigns. Public Financing. Corporate Tax Increase. Campaign Contribution and Expenditure Limits. Initiative Statute.
  • 90: Government Acquisition, Regulation of Private Property. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Good thing I don't have cable TV: thus, I can spend my evenings kicked back with a cup of Darjeeling, reading my hefty "Voter Guide" instead of watching Nip/Tuck or Project Runway (damn, is the season over!?).

My biggest dilemmas are the bond acts. Bonds, Bonds, Bonds.

Public Education Facilities? Flood Prevention? Emergency Shelters? Who can vote against those! I guess it just worries me that it seems like interest payments on these bonds will only dig the state into a deeper and deeper budget crisis. How much interest is assessed on almost $40-billion of bonds over thirty years? Do we just assume the state economy will grow at a pace that will more than allow payment of all this interest?

Am I just plain thinking too hard? Will I hold my nose, check all the bond "YES" boxes on my absentee ballot, and let some future wonks worry about the fiscal impact? Probably.

Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times recently wrote a great column describing all the federal income tax sucked out of California, but not returned via federal funding. Apparently, the disparity between our tax contribution and federal funds returned has gotten worse over the last ten years. Obviously, I realize there are reasons why a "rich" state often subsidizes poorer ones (I'm usually all about the wealth redistribution), but Lopez makes some good points about whether California is getting the federal shaft in some ways, especially when we're floating all these bond acts.

In the end, if I vote for all this, I figure it's just someone else's future I'm mortgaging. Fuck the voter guide. Pass the Netflix.