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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Three Lives

I'm sure you've noticed by now that I rarely comment on the cotidian, the mundane, the headline news. I do so on purpose, and it has to do with my personality as much as anything.

Perhaps this response goes some way into explaining why I don't comment on my medical career, unlike this eponymous blogger. Ech. Just looking at that blog makes me wince. My blog is a safe haven, a bit of fun on the side, a merry gambol in blogosphere. It is not topical.

Except for today.

Three people whose names are being flashed all over the wires will get my attention today, because I admit to you, I am the kind of person who is affected by death...deeply. I can forgive just about any silliness in life, except where death is concerned. Any person who I reviled in life will get my silence on the day of his passing, just because. I've always been like that, too. Even as a child.

Terri Schiavo, the 42-year-old woman in a coma here in Central Florida, has passed away Thursday.

She was presumed to be in a persistent vegetative state after 15 years, and only a bitter dispute between her husband and her parents, allowed this situation to decline into notoriety. Her death was demi-politicised, with a battle royale being waged in her name by the 3 branches of US government: the Legislative, the Judiciary, the Executive. Add to that the Fourth Estate, with their predatory role, and we the general public, its often passive audience, and you can imagine the drama we've lived through for a fortnight.

I will put your curiosity to an end -- I was against letting her die, full stop.

When confronted with a choice between life or death in the innocent, let them live I say. And not to be maudlin, but I've today written out, in a little bit of paper lying around, a Living Will, spurred on by the ramifications of this case. Of course, my parents already know my wishes...but Courts tend to err on the side of writing. Allegedly.

Like the Elian case, this has provoked a wide-range of reactions nearer to home in Florida. Some were against legislative interventions. Some were for them. And unlike the Blue-Red State divides, (unreliable though they are) polls consistently showed an uneven sprinkling of viewpoints not based on political parties. I myself didn't know what to think.

But today one of my attending physicians, a vociferous Democrat who still sports a Kerry sticker on his Gladstone bag, said he was aghast at these poll results, and perhaps they showed that maybe the "Christian looneys" didn't have a death grip on the electorate after all. I just rolled my eyes and walked away.

If there was one occasion not to make some politically charged comment or even to reach out to the other side by meeting them half way, this day was it. Shame Congresswoman Pelosi didn't see it that way, despite Rev. Jesse Jackson (is he a Christian looney too, I wonder) showing that the two viewpoints need not be entrenched in "platforms".

I see she and others didn't have much against the government intervening to forcibly alter a little Cuban boy's life, despite his dead mother's wishes. I suppose hearsay didn't count then, but it counts today. How vile.

But there it is.

Government only has some power in this country, and as each bid to reappeal the judicial decisions mounted, their limitation vis-à-vis the Courts was there for all to see. The President, his brother, the Governor of Florida, and their wishes were as nothing compared to the balance of power reaffirmed in this case. Maybe tomorrow the law will be changed. But today the law was upheld. If there can be said to be a "winner" in this vulgar contest of wills, it is the system which comes out victorious. The textbook definition of a pyrrhic victory.

As I write, it's possible that the last hours of the Pope, John Paul II, are here.

You've seen me irreverently wonder who his successor would be in another post, a thread I really liked at that, but today the situation is a little graver.

The Last Rites have been read him, just like moments after he was shot in St. Peter's Square, back in 1981. For an 83-year old man to have 4 continous months of bad health, 2 spells in hospital, including a tracheaotomy, and to acquire UTI of a sudden...well, let's just say I'd be surprised if he lives over the weekend. May God preserve him as long as he's able to though.

And finally, Prince Albert of Monaco today assumed full sovereign powers in the small State of Monaco. His 81-year-old father, Prince Rainier III, named by his subjects "Le Prince Batisseur" for being present at the "christenings" of so many buildings in his long 49 year reign, is in critical condition, even having been pronounced dead by Time Magazine. That Tuesday deadline can be a biotch.

But no, to the best of our knowledge, the widower of the beautiful Grace Kelly, lives. Just.

A young American woman, two aged European men. 3 very different people. 3 very different lives. I don't suppose their existences mean anything in the great scheme of things, but for one moment, they intersected in this world.

And that day was today.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Book Mobile

Some societies are more receptive than others to technology, but not even the tech-mad Americans are quite as much as the Japanese. Their number one tech-article of choice -- the mobile or cell phone. And since I am working on a longer piece about Japan later this week, when I saw this news wire article, I knew it would be a good preamble.

50,000 available books, including Classics, uploadable to your mobile phone.

It strikes me that that is a great idea for train-bound people, but that simply isn't the case for the US, who are a car-centric society, don't you think?

They say half the readership of the company, Bandai, are women.

Hmm, interesting. I wonder what kinds of books these read in Japan, since though everyone reads manga, it would be curious to know if there's a Japanese Barbara Cartland around.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Harvey Nicks Maternity Ward

I've always wondered how urban legends get born, haven't you?

It seems expectant mothers in Edinburgh have been told at their OB-GYN surgery that they will be given £500 if their waters break whilst shopping at Harvey Nichols, the department store of choice for every Sloaney and green-wellie crowd wannabe.

As we speak, there are dozens of mothers heavy with child loitering around the Harvey Nicks lobby, trying to induce labour by looking at this '70s Pucci Farfala silk dress, making a mini-comeback these days.

It's a snip at 1250 dollars

Dear God.

Did anyone ever look good in this...that is, other than my mother and Diane von Fürstenberg?

Let's just hope these mums stick to their computers and shop online at Net-A-Porter.

You just don't want to chance a C-section whilst trying on some Jimmy Choos.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Two Things I Bet You Thought You'd Never See

- A male Prime Minister dancing with a male Hollywood actor (in public).

Emperor Akihito: I got next!

- A Hollywood actor, who is an American, use a trip outside of his country to criticise a country not his own (freebie surprise: actually criticising the EU instead).

I'll take it!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter Way

Easter means a lot of things to many people. But to Christians, it's a time of renewal of faith and interaction with one's fellow adherents, if only for a week, or for some a day -- Easter Sunday.

To some, this once-a-year Christianity may seem hypocritical, and such was my dilemma on Saturday, when I was feeding the few indigent of my church, having promised to help with Saturday's traditional free breakfast in the parish kitchen.

Now before you annoint me as the next Mother Teresa, let me fess up -- my mother made me volunteer.

See, like so many people, I often forget what it means to be a Catholic, thinking my "good works" of being polite to strangers, being loosely involved with health care, and giving a fiver to a homeless person every once in a while can see me through the year, Christian-wise.

I'm not quite sure how to solve this problem, since it's about my personality as much as anything. So let me do a couple of things here which may inch towards a kind of solution.

Tim Worstall, my blogging colleague, is in need of our help. Click on his link HERE.

Read what he has to say -- it won't take a moment of your time. And if you should happen to have a little extra time, please wish him a Happy Birthday. He'll feel great, and so will you.

And now, since I have your gracious attention, I'd like to tell you of a priest I know. Let's call him Father José, who came to South Florida from Rio de Janeiro some years ago.

Father José is one of the hardest working guys I know. He's not a young man either, being about 55.

He works at Camillus House, our local homeless shelter, as well as attending to his pastoring duties in several parishes, since if you have been living as a hermit for 50 years, Catholic priesthood is dwindling and they have to spread themselves thin all over. He drives around in the parish car, an unreliable little Ford, and frequently takes the bus or even walks, when it fails him.

One day, when my mother and I were talking to him, he seemed to be close to a faint, but he didn't hurry us away, but you know, we did notice it.

So my mother goes to pick me up from my Saturday "volunteering", and she seems very emotional. I ask what is wrong, and she says Father José isn't well. He has cancer, and isn't expected to live much longer.

I was shocked, but I reminded her of that incident, when he almost keeled over as he spoke to us, and I said, "I suppose he was feeling the effects of his illness then".

She looked at me and said, in a voice cracking with pain, that she had only just found out that often he skips meals, since his Order has stricter vows about that than most. He only has one full meal a day, and it's a sparse one at that.

So every time my mother and I tarried and spoke to him, he was sacrificing that meal to chat with us.

I'm sure that we weren't the only ones to whom he gave his time, and thereto, his sustenance, either.

You know, in this day in age where you hear only revolting stories about priests and nuns, and those who have given their lives to something they can't see, nor can they hear, based on faith alone to a man who lived 2000 years ago, such incidences seem rare.

But they're not.

They happen every day, we just don't hear about it. People sacrifice themselves every day for us, for our welfare, our bounty, and our solace, and they never tell you about it.

So for those persons, I dedicate this post, and thank God they exist, so that I may feel good about myself once a year.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Heroine Chic - Part Three

THE DOWNRIGHT UGLY

I feel very good about myself, vis-à-vis this 3 part series on the Good, The Bad, and the Downright Ugly of female world leaders.

Next time someone asks you, with a hint of superiority in their expression, "Have you seen that get-up Senator Ana Julia Carepa was wearing the other day?", you can look them straight in the eye, and say, "Why yes, yes I have. She looked like the losing QB in the Lingerie Bowl."

They'll seethe inside and walk away, as you high-five me allegorically. Life's good.

Now comes the hard part -- the Ugly Ducklings of the female leadership community.

You know how they say comedy is harder than drama? I never knew what a truism that was until today. How do you sustain that much vitriol and not make your readership hate you?

Oh right. Women are supposed to be good at that, and even use vague biological "disorders" to warrant them. Never mind then, on with the show!

Luisa Diogo, President of Mozambique



You know how when you were 5-years old, and were at Great Ormands getting your tonsils out, when, suddenly, into your ward walked a clown? Not just any clown, but one with the loudest combination of inappropriate objects ever worn by a human not named Tammy Faye Bakker?

Well, it's deja-vu all over again, baby!

I often fantasise about interviewing women so outlandishly dressed as Luisa Diogo. This is how the transcript of said meeting would look like:

"Hey, wat up."

"Please get to the point quickly. I'm a President of a country, and don't have the time you bloggers so obviously do on your hands." (sneer)

"Oh. Right. So, what's the deal with choosing clothes fabric and colours which clash with every known skin-complexion known to mankind? Are you an anarcho-fashion-terrorist like Yoko Ono or what?"



"Listen, we all need a schtick. Margaret Thatcher had her Texas Big Hair. Indira Gandhi had her too-tasteful saris and the camera loved Benazir-of-the-Seven-Veils. Well, this is my schtick: I wear bright happy LSD-induced colours, sue me."

Many years of litigation later, and I still don't get it. Possibly why has to do with my inability of imagining my body in dresses like that, even under the threat of a junta-collapse.



As the saying goes though, "Walk a mile in my Vera Wang muu-muus". You go Luisa!

Dr. Angela Merkel, CDU Leader



Stop the casting calls for The Hobbit! We have found the once, the future, the only Bilbo Baggins!

Now I know what you're thinking. "Hey, cool bobblehead of Rue McClanahan".

But I have to burst your bobble. That's Dr. Angela Merkel, the feisty CDU Leader of Germany.

And let me just say, I've tried my level best to be fair to Angie, I really have. Here are my Photoshop efforts trying to re-arrange her face to make it more palatable to you.



Actually that last stretch isn't so bad.

How far do you think we could go with her left eyebrow before she looks like Mark McGwire with a mop? Before Balco.

There...ooh...no...wait...oops...a bit more...finally...argh! I lost it. She looked GREAT there for a second, honest.

Ooh, caption contest time again, me next!



Gerhard Schröder: "I have a fubar headache just looking at her."

You know, I wonder how many politicos had their sure ascent to the top ruined by people echoing those very sentiments? And European office terms last longer, too.

I'm not sure people are ready to stare at Dr. Angie Merkel for 5 years, when even we can't do it a full 5 minutes. Don't forget the Bayer aspirin goodie-bags as you exit.

Dr. Masoumek Ebtekar, Vice-President of Iran

This is Masoumek Ebtekar of Iran.



This is Masoumek Ebtekar of Iran on drugs.



Remember kids, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand



Remind me again: was New Zealand ever a penal colony? Like, in the past 3 years? So why does Helen Clark look like the Warden of a woman's prison?

Actually, when I first laid eyes on Helen Clark a few years ago, I thought to myself -- wow, she looks like a nun I once had for maths at school, who had left her Order, and who I bumped into shopping quite casually at Tesco's one evening.

You never really know a person, until you've stared into their shopping basket, you know?

Anyway, Helen Clark looks mighty uncomfortable with earthly possessions -- like a good haircut. You instinctively feel she would call such things "fripperies".

Fripperies would also include bath nights on any day not starting with the word "Saturday", underwear made of anything but calico, and possibly, but not exclusively, Kylie Minogue.

Here's Helen in one of her more daring outfits.



Deep down inside, Helen Clark wishes she could be as comfortable with her body as Dolly Parton is with hers.

Until then, we all just have to enjoy blue rayon and pray for parole.

Ann Widdecombe, MP, Shadow Home Secretary

I did say I wasn't doing the bleeding obvious, but since I'm talking about politicians, I should be allowed a weency white lie. Ann Widdecombe is my meal ticket to Vanity Fair, and I'm taking it!



As you can see, Ann is like the polar opposite of Helen Clark.

She's a tigress, unafraid of mixing red lipstick with a mottled kabuki complexion and the worst dye-job this side of Maradona in his post-Boca Junior days.



Like Maradona though, she has survived her share of health scares, so one shouldn't judge too harshly. I too wanted to wear nothing more than a tartan pup-tent upon release from hospital once.



Above you can see Ann Widdecombe in her leisure hours, an avid frequenter of seaside fairs, with its many funhouse mirrors, thinking, "I'm tall, skinny, and male. What a lark!"

I myself shun fairs for more brainy pursuits, as my readers know too well -- and there's nothing like an anagramme for intellectual stimulii.

Here are my efforts for "Right Honourable Ann Widdecombe":

1- Broad broom-handle, genuine witch

2- Big ass knockers, Wimpie cheeseburgers

3- Whoomp! There it is, you scum asylum seekers!

Interestingly, my full name in anagramme form yields this nugget of hilarity:

"Vanity, thy name is slapper, and thy tool is blog"

Dayum! That hit too close to the knuckle for my liking.

Dr. Condoleeza Rice, US Secretary of State

In the unholy cannon of photo-ops, there are some pictures that stand out more than others, you'll agree.

Who can forget Lyndon Johnson showing the world his gallbladder scar?

Or Nikita Krushchev banging his shoe on the UN podium?

Or Winston Churchill giving Clement Atlee the bird as he left 10 Downing, cleverly disguised though it was as a "victory sign"?

But few photos in world history have had the power to amuse to the point of nose-spillage as the infamous one of US Presidential hopeful, Governor Michael Dukakis.



Until now.



Condi, Condi. Why?

AFTERMATH

And so ends a quixotic 3-part series on female world leaders and their collective bad hair days. I hope you've had as much fun as I have gathering this list of Raggedy Annies for your pleasure, and I'm sure many of us learned a thing or two from the experience.

I know I did -- never to run for office, because if I do, I know I'm a dead duck.

Finally, for those of you who thought I was too hard on my sisterhood, let me tell you -- I would be deadly to male leaders too, especially those who have what Wolfgang Joop once called that "mummy dressed me look".

So before you get too smug, fellas, I leave you with this below.



Look! It's Sgt. Stryker's Lonelihearts Club Band!

Friday, March 25, 2005

Heroine Chic - Part Two

The Bad

You know the drill. We're in Part 2 of a 3-part look at the leading political ladies of the world. If you want reasoned discourse about their platforms, I direct you to Chez Malkin. If you want a waspish running commentary on their platform shoes, man have you come to the right gal.

Well, now that you've seen powerful women showing a little vanity in the velvet glove, it's time to dig a little deeper for the beauties.

The following women are not drowning in awfulness, it is true. Rather, it's more like someone should've taken them in hand, and said, "Come on, dollink. You're not going to wear that to your inauguration, are you?".

But no. They're just the opposite of that Moen ad campaign slogan, "Buy it for looks. Buy it for life".

Fortunately, we have term-limits.

Margaret Beckett, MP, Environmental Minister



Whenever I think of Margaret Beckett, I keep thinking of that age-old condescending lament, "Bless her, she does try".

And she does! She just can't help looking like Grannie Clampett's bloodhound.

Or Mrs. Fritz Mondale.



Or, for that matter, Miss Hathaway.

In fact, Margaret Beckett has exactly the air of a competent maiden secretary; a little mannish perhaps, but not without her good qualities -- like indexing her undies drawer by stock market abbreviation. She's a pearl, who few men want to go diving for. Totally their loss.

I once read a poll saying that she was a woman many men in Britain would secretly like a tumble with, and if that doesn't explain Prince Charles' attraction to Mrs. Parker-Bowles to foreigners, I don't know what does.

One thing though. If Tony loses the Premiership this May, I'll bet you anything he'll lay the blame on Margaret Beckett, his Minister for the Environment. Not the first time a fox would be a politician's undoing -- only usually he's sleeping with her not calling the RSPCA.

Ana Julia Carepa, Senator (Pará)



Remember in my introduction when I said, if some cleavage shows, that's just gravy? Well, I was hoping the gravy wouldn't be so lumpy.

The picture above is of Ana Julia Carepa, a SENATOR mind you, from the poor state of Pará in Brazil. Now tell me -- what is wrong with this photo?

If your answer is, "Dude, she used that pic for her official Brazilian Senate bio!", you get another cookie.

I don't know about you, but when I think of a female Senator, I think of a person not unlike Elizabeth Dole: a spunky lady, sure, and not above a little shenanigans with her Viagra'ed hubby (I apologise for the visual).

But not a woman wearing a see-thru' gold blouse, with sparkly dangle earrings, Denny Terrio medallion and a zip up flesh-toned bra.

Geez. She's a Senator, and it looks like she's trying out for "Hot or Not". Not!

And just in case you think, well, maybe that's an one-off, give her a break, have I got a photo for you. One time, it's a bad Anna Nicole Smith day. Twice, she's got augmentation issues.



She's not only tanned, either, she's flame-broiled. *tssss* Ooh! Caption Contest. Me first!

"May I hand you some Calamine, Senator?"

Milagros Ortiz Bosch, Vice-President of the Dominican Republic



"And then there's Maude. That old compromisin', enterprisin', anything but tranquilisin'...Right on Maude!".

Wow. That's scary. It's like someone said, "I wonder what would happen if we gave Bea Arthur...



...Nadia Comaneci's teeth?".



I don't know. But if we're still playing Hot or Not, I'd like to give her a negative 10.

It's a cruel world out there, Milagros. At least you have Secret Service.

Condoleeza Rice, US Secretary of State

Yes, Condoleeza Rice again. I love me some Condi! Don't nobody say nuthin' about Miss Condi!

But as I mentioned earlier, sometimes her enthusiastic patriotism influences her sense of fashion, making her stumble down the world stage catwalk like Sarah Jessica Parker did in that episode of Sex and the City.



"Oh My God. She's fashion roadkill!". Incoming!

Poor Condi. It's not her fault.

How to look tough yet feminine has bedevilled more than one female world leader, I can tell you. At least unlike ex-President Sukarno's little girl, she doesn't look like Michael Jackson's fashion guru.

I like Bubbles

Vaira Vike-Freiberga, President of Latvia



It's amazing what working women can do in a 24-hour day. Look at President Vike-Freiberga of Latvia.

Not only is she leader of an energetic, up-and-coming country, but she also moonlights as Lufthansa's oldest stewardess by night.

Here she is fresh from Mikhail Gorbachev's "Adopt-an-Ex-Communist-For-a-Day" Jumble sale.



Oh well done having nabbed that tasteful floral blouse from under Mrs. Enver Hoxha's nose!

And though those waves in her hair look like someone's ploughed a pasta fork through them, she does scrub up better than most, despite the quality of dry cleaning available in Latvia.



Only one question remains -- why is it when women get any type of power, they think putting a gold pin on their left bosom will make them look better?

I guess it's one of those imponderables like Janeane Garofalo's decreasing sense of humour-to-nose ring ratio.

So you see, there are plenty of the "inbetweenies" -- women not bofu enough or not sartorially-challenged enough to have made my Downright Ugly category, and yet, could stand to have a girl's day at the spa once in a while.

And for those of you expecting an Elizabeth II sighting tomorrow, I hate to disappoint you, but I don't do the bleeding obvious.

Brenda may not be beyond Helen Mirren's comedic talents, but she's beyond even my poison keyboard.

Cover me

As my Cuban friends would say, "ño!".

Saturday - THE DOWNRIGHT UGLY

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Heroine Chic

Women have finally reached the highest pinnacles of power and influence our world has to offer.

We women are everywhere now: in the boardrooms, in the newsrooms, in the operating theatres, before the bench, on the bench, and quite often, appointing the bench. And not just in the West, either. Women are holding positions of worth everywhere these days.

Yes, women have come a long way, baby. Pass the Virginia Slims, please. *cough*

But I don't know what it is about women -- we can never pass up a moment to critique and carp about what we wear and how we look.

I call it the Harem Syndrome, where enforced confinement with other women vying for the affections of one man led to an ultra-cattiness, the better to compare favourably when he came a-smooching.

(Not too sure there were harems in Accrington, but there you are)

PREMISE

Take Luiza Erundina...

Madame Presidente

...please.

This would-be first female President of Brazil, PT (Labour Party) icon, Lula-crony and ex-mayor of and current congresswoman from São Paulo, looks spiffy here, with the requisite debate makeover and possible Ivo Pitanguy interventions.

This is Luiza today, chillin'.

Ivo? Help!!

I have it on good authority from Renato that half of Southern Italy looks like this -- including some women.

So you see, this is what I propose to do in this blogpiece. I'm not Trinny Woodall or Susanah Constantine. Neither Joan nor heaven forbid, Melissa Rivers. My mission is to not slim down nor even to tear down, but rather to investigate if Paul Begala's oft-quoted remark is true, especially about women who presently hold some kind of office:

Politics is showbiz for ugly people

THE GOOD

It's always important to comfort the politically correct first, since you know, they're weenies.

Listen, none of these women need to look beautiful or even comely to hold office, okay? It doesn't mean they're not capable, strong or intelligent individuals with great self-worth. They're all heroines, even the really crappy politicians. You know who you are, Megawati Sukarnoputri.

What it does mean, is that these women below scrub up nicely. And if some cleavage peeps out, hey, that's just gravy.

Luizianne Lins, Mayor of Fortaleza (Ceará)



What I like about "Petista" Luizianne Lins is that her cultural heritage is written all over her. Brazil is more racially mixed than most South American countries because of the African infusion, creating a collage of hair colours, textures, and features -- and by the looks of her, Luizianne could well be of African, and Dutch origin, since that area of Brazil was dominated by Holland for over 30 years. She's not afraid to look feminine either, like recently unseated Mayor of São Paulo, Marta Suplicy -- who merits a wee mention here.



And since São Paulo is a megalopolis of 20 million people, Marta must have been the lady mayor with the biggest population in the world, ever. With a 49% approval rating the day she stepped down, I daresay she'll be back.

Mary McAleese, 8th President of Ireland



It's difficult to wear beige sofa plush fabric, big black bangles, and lady-killer red lipstick with that Cruella DeVille complexion, and come off as demure, but this Belfast-born, twice elected President of Ireland somehow pulls it off.

And here is Madame Prez reviewing brawny hurlers before a match, having raided Hillary Clinton's wardrobe and shoerack moments before.



You didn't expect me to be nice all the time, did you? Alrighty then.

Adrienne Clarkson, Governor-General of Canada



What polish. What style. What class. What an airbrushed photo.

But it's important to show the idealised version of women since we all know how wrinkly Cybill Shepherd would've looked in Moonlighting without the soft-focus.

Here's the Lady Gov of Canaduh looking pert in more dashing colours. Remember these hues when you get to Luisa Diogo of Mozambique further on.



THIS is how you wear bright orange and yet never look like the dragon float on Chinese New Year's.

H.M. Margrethe II of Denmark



There are two knocks on the 6'2" Queen of Denmark: she decided to go to Girton College in that OTHER University. And she has Shrek-green teeth, due to being a two-pack-a-dayer...Karelia filterless yet. Ick. But being a monarch she has a personal lackey who follows her around with an ashtray. Come on, how cool is that?

Other than the cancer sticks, she's perfect.

She loves to dance, sing, and is a great conversationalist. She translated Simone de Beauvoir into Danish. She paints in oils and watercolours. She personally decorated all the moth-worn royal palaces under budget, and has not only designed ballet costumes for the Royal Danish Theatre, but her recent "Lord of the Rings" illustrations might bring her millions of fans from Geek World.

And what a snappy dresser! Here she is, towering over Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan (yeah, like that's so hard).

I need a fag. Where's my lackey?

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, 14th President of The Phillipines



She's purty.

It must be something in the water in the Phillipines, because they are known for having above-average looking women -- the Venezuelans of Asia, if you will. In my grandmother's generation, before the shoe-scandals and sons called Bong-Bong, there was beauty pageant queen, Imelda Marcos; plus that Hola! magazine favourite, ex-Mrs. Julio Iglesias, Isabel Preysler.

And like a lot of the women portrayed here, President Arroyo comes from a powerfully political family. Her father was also a Filipino President, Diosdado Macapagal. Hmm, "God-Given"? Eh. A little megalomania never hurt anyone.

Below we have the Presidenta looking relaxed, greeting the military, in informal Gap attire. Can't beat those Phillipine sweatshops.



Condoleeza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State

Finally, we have my Top Heroine of Today, a lady I'm all over like Condi on Rice.

I LOVE her. She's just smashing. Imagine playing the piano, being able to tell Jacques Chirac to sod off in Russian, go shopping for Prada and know if you get a knockoff you can send in the Marines, and still have time for a little fantasy football at night. Wow. No wonder she's not married.

This is the Condi Rice we know and love (or know and loathe, depending which way you lean out of the Gulag), radiant in Versace black, next to Yo-Yo Ma.



But Dr. Rice, it is true, has had some fashion missteps, or should I say goosesteps.

Her recent inspection of US troops wearing Darth Vadery togs and hobnailed boots struck an otherwise discordant note, in who surely has been the most elegant dresser Washington has seen since Jackie Kennedy gossipped with Oleg Cassini on her chaise-longue.

You'll just have to wait for tomorrow's installment, and the day after that, to see them. Stay tuned!

Friday - THE BAD

Saturday - THE DOWNRIGHT UGLY

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

More BritBloggies

The still wondrous Tim Worstall has come out with the 5th installment of his BritBlog Roundup, which have many worthy links for your perusal.

I've done my own bit of apple-polishing by nominating Patricio Lopez' delicious film-centric blog, Post-Hipnótico, and what do you know, it made it, huzzah!

So we finally have our answer if a blog written in Spanish, by a Mexican resident, who hasn't spent any significant time in the British Isles, and yet is British, can make the big-time. It can indeed.

Congrats Patricio, cheers Tim!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Quintessentially

The name Maud has been following me around all week. You know the kind of thing: you never saw a specific car before, and suddenly, everywhere you turn, it's staring you in the face.

In my case I think, it's because my cousin Maudie emailed me out of the blue, saying she was in NYC, and would I like a job?

Once I got my breath back, and emailed her, "No thanks. You are a queer duck, you know that, don't you?", she replied she had landed me a possible at a kind of concierge service, which the fine folks at A Small World would instantly recognise as one of their own.

The firm is called, Quintessentially. Oh dear. How Hyacinth Bucket.

Maudie was all agog that I should join, and though I had to gently remind her that I wasn't at a loose-end, thank you very much, she said I would be in my element since they even had a South Florida office AND Tom Parker-Bowles, the firm's partner, sometimes visited it.

That's all I needed to know. The Rotweiller's son. Next.

In many ways, Maudie reminds me of our dear old Aunt Maud, for whom she is named. She loved name-dropping, less as a starry-eyed reader of Tatler, than a participant of the right type of social set to which their readers aspired. This Maudie and that Maud knew tout le monde, and seemingly, tout le monde knew them.

One of my favourite Aunt Maud anecdotes was a rollicking story she herself told whenever she dropped by for tea, conveniently so just before 4 o'clock every afternoon (and to those of you unaccustomed to full teas, they are not just petit-fours and tepid teabags, but often a substantial meal). My grandmother wryly observed that fact, since she was the one feeding her every other day.

But like all good moochers, Aunt Maud had a bag of tricks which to entertain her hosts. Her spirited guitar renditions of "Viva España!" are a family favourite to this day.

At the end of her life, when female alopecia was doing its worse, she wore a red wig on her balding pate, and every time she VIVA!'ed, it would go slightly askew, sending us in peels of laughter from the room. She sang on, completely unchastened.

Afterwards, she would reminisce about her friends in high places. My grandfather, her brother, and she would sally back and forth in the conversation, whilst the family were laughing into their hankies. It was as good as a play.

"This reminds me of that time when the Duke of Windsor and that awful woman were staying at the Everglades Hotel in Miami", she would start, àpropos of nothing.

"Does it, indeed", said granddad, not looking up from his teacup.

"My dears, too awful. He came down the staircase, without a STITCH." (Snort from granddad) "And you'll never guess what he had in his hands!".

"The British Boy's Annual?".

"NO! A twelve-bore!".

"That American woman was certainly a lucky lady."

That was Aunt Maud, and is Maudie today, all over. God bless 'em.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Hello Mullah, Hello Fatwa

I tried very hard to read Jonathan Randal's biography, Osama: The Making of a Terrorist, this weekend, but failed miserably.

On closer inspection though, of the one tiny photo of UBL -- as Fox News would have it -- on the book cover, I was struck to find that he bears an uncannily physical resemblence to another man in history who was reviled, had little actual knowledge of his religion -- but had a mesmerising presence, and a smooth tongue when proseletising, able to hold his followers spell-bound for hours. He also proved damn difficult to kill in the end.

Have you guessed who by now?


Cave-dweller

And...

What are those small ferrets doing in my beard?

Freaks.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

So Proudly We Hate

In the history of the world, we have had more "anti" and "phobia" sentiments about peoples, than those which are "pro"-something.

Case in point: How many of you know the opposite of "anti-Semitic"? If you answered Philosemitic, you get a cookie.

Now, how many times have you heard Philosemitic used, whether written out or in conversation? Exactly. Further, for those of you who got the cookie, how many times have you heard it, as opposed to anti-Semitic?

Were I Perry Mason, I would rest my case comfortably at this point -- but I'm just getting started.

Me, the first and seemingly only time I've heard this term used outright was in David Frum's book on President Bush the Younger, The Right Man. He mentioned that President Clinton's administration was the most aboveboard Philosemitic administration in US History. I distinctly recall thinking -- after 3 years at Oxford, how come I have never heard this word before? Especially since I have long known, I myself am Philosemitic.

Though it could say something about me, I doubt it as much as it says something about human nature: that perhaps in ordinary, everyday life we are much more subject to negativity about others, including being aware of self-reproaching phrases, than of those which tout the positive.

It is in this spirit that I read Professor Bainbridge's recent post on Francophobia, as it pertains to its opposite complaint, Anti-Americanism.

Coincidentally, one of the few "phile" names in common usage is "Francophilia". For example, I myself am an unabashed Francophile. I love French history, French culture, and I love speaking French. Paris, I know like the back of my hand. I'm eminently comfortable in France.

As for the French, they have long had a fascination with the upper-classes of Britain, psychologically lending me a comfort-making hand. If today you were to walk into a country club in France, or were invited for a Battenburg at the Crillon Hôtel, you would be immediately transported to England.

Not the England of the terraces, the chavs and the Butlin's Camps, it's true -- but the England of the cream teas, the Harris tweeds, of Cowes Week, of Badminton, of the unhurried air of visiting royalty. To these French, everything British is considered "BCBG" (bon chic, bon genre).

How disinflating it must be, then, to find out the English upper-classes have a sneeringly superior attitude towards the French. Just as the English working-classes still seethe with resentment and distrust towards Germans who obliterated the East End, the county set find themselves barely able to stomach, as they see it, their slightly ridiculous neighbours to the South. The French are "too too", as my grandmother once proclaimed. Mind you, her neck was swathed with an Hermès scarf as she said it.

And not all French have a cultural affaire with Britain. There are some to whom the British are the peculiar, doltish offspring of the continent. They're like Germans, with less intelligence and even worse food, as my old French tutor at school liked to say. Mind you, he was happily teaching English girls in Oxfordshire as he said it.

In the distancing of General De Gaulle from the "Anglo bloc" of Roosevelt and Churchill, you can see traces of this attitude, even moreso, since it threatened to make France a second-rate partner in a post-war English-speaking world. As Britain's empire disintegrated by mutual consent, there came a more vigourous version of it -- these United States of America. An America who had roots in old Europe, without ever wanting to be a part of it, as even the British were by must needs forced to, if only geographically.

Why?

Well, because the United States of America was founded on principles which were antithetical in its time to nations in Europe -- they are emblazoned on pieces of parchment whose words still define its children 200 years later. People came as much for economic opportunity, as social freedoms unimagined in their own countries, since tabula rasas are hard to come by in old worlds. After the wrench from the Motherland, America set forth to conquer itself, with no counterbalance in its own hemisphere to apply the brakes. Though it could have failed a hundred times from birth, it survived a Civil War to prosper, outdoing itself, bettering itself more in each new century. The American Experiment is a success.

France the first republic, was born of fierce, liberating ideals, just as vital to its self-image as the United States' Constitution is to it. But the revolution which pupped it was unaccountably bloody, and most importantly, its form of government didn't last. Monarchies came, republics went. France warred with and was warred countless times by its neighbours. Napoleon in his time was as demonic as Hitler, but Hitler doesn't today lie entombed under a dome of gold.

What would've happened to this fledgling republic had it had a Washington, a Jefferson, and later a Lincoln, instead of a Robespierre, a Napoleon, and later a Napoleon III? These are not names which are committed to the republic, but rather to French glory. Therefore, France, a new republic, was unstable whilst participating in the most unstable form of government there is. We are in its 5th incarnation, with some predicting its end after President Chirac's political demise. Is France a success?

Whilst this question is pondered, you may ask yourself -- why the compare and contrast with the United States? Why do we always have to compare one to the other, which necessitates a winner-loser situation almost by defintion.

It is, to some, even a question which borders on the unsophisticated -- the worse lese-majesté a person can embody. Children in playgrounds compare. Intelligent, cosmopolitan adults see the whole sweep of history instead.

But we in the West have a linear sense of history, and the linear is the perfect conduit for a compare-contrast vision of the world. Let's at least just admit this to ourselves straight off, being philosophically honest for once. As Robert Kagan said in his monograph, Of Paradise and Power, it's time to stop pretending.

What he was referring to was specifically "that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world...". Not that they did. But that in fact, they don't. Anymore.

Wholesale statements of this kind often tend to alienate readers, especially Aristotelians like myself, who always seek to balance extremes. For every example of anti-Americanism or Francophobia, one can think of many others, especially personal ones such as I used earlier.

It's important, then, to note that not all Americans feel aggrieved at the French. And not all Frenchmen dislike the American way of life. We do have shared values. We do have admiration for one another. We do visit, talk, romance, marvel at and often just coexist peacefully with each other, free from news pundits or intelligentsia roaring otherwise.

What can harm then are not critics, but the criticisms themselves. And if by chance, it's not criticism but bigotry, then it can harm more than just feelings.

When I was in France a few years ago (pre-9/11), I was asked by a French acquaintance why I wanted to "exile" myself to the US, especially since I was aiming south, not to NYC (the only civilised option, apparently). Before I opened my mouth to respond, I was greeted by a litany of complaints about Americans, all-too familiar as they are to us all.

Americans were fat, uncultured, violent, controlling, conservative, provincial, self-obsessed, sports-mad pea brains with no knowledge of geography or knew how to make conversation. They had no "esprit", no history, they were "nulles".

As if that weren't enough, all the people at the table concurred. There must've been thunder in my eyes since one person piped up, "Of course, not all Americans are like this. But too many are." I looked away, so another explained, "It's not Americans we dislike, but their government." Everyone nodded. Governments are easy to loathe. Surely, I understood that.

It's then that I walked away from the table.

One can tolerate criticisms. One can even tolerate insults. But when you try to cloak them with a hypocritical veneer of "truth", you are in the presence of bigots and that's no good place to be.

Earlier last year, when I first became a pollworker, one of my colleagues was a 50-something lady. Her mother came from Russia as a war bride in the 40's. She herself had travelled all over Europe when younger. She was a registered Democrat, as I found out in due time. And she told me she'd never go back to France again, or buy anything French if she could help it.

"Why not?". Because they are ingrates. And arrogant. "And?". And? And that's it.

Less words, similar sentiments, same bigotry.

What struck me on reflection was that this American's dislike was less detailed. Ingratitude, arrogance. Quick, easy, also built on a coating of "truth". But not targeted the same way. It was...amorphous, and felt less visceral because of it. It made me more curious therefore, since her background could not (easily) explain away her attitudes.

I wish in retrospect I had sought her out about it. I didn't. But the incident has stayed with me.

Is Anti-Americanism then, more entrenched socially with the French, than Francophobia is with Americans? You betcha.

Now if you believe that the French, en masse, have a wider culture and place more emphasis on appreciating the intellectual realm than Americans do in their world (as I do, by the way), why is it that that supra-ignorant attitude known as bigotry has taken root in the two most intellectual countries in Europe -- namely, France and Germany?

That kind of disgust, that level of disdain, that overpowering spite -- surely, this isn't rational, and yet French intellectuals to a man and woman seemed possessed by it. Sartre loathed the US, perhaps because it's that godlike substitute on earth.

Yet, other Empires have existed much worse than the US' could ever hope to be, and indeed, were embodied most recently by France and Germany themselves, so could it be a fear of recognition which fuels this antipathy?

The answers are too detailed for a blogpiece which merely questions, rather than provides solutions. One can even only guess at the reasons, since supposition here triumphs when no real data is present.

The hysterical anti-Americanism then may be traced to, but isn't exclusive to:

1) The American Government post-World War II. Regardless of administration, the Americans have taken on generational duties vis-a-vis Europe, such as defence and budget in the form of the Marshall Plan. This breeds resentment of the anti-caretaker kind: one resents one's own dependence, obligation, gratitude. The only way to change that legitimately is if one objectifies the bad, and lessens the good of said caretaker. In their eyes, America with all its faults is worse than the worst empires of yore, precisely because their statehood ideals are high. They've set themselves up. People understand evil rogue states. But evil rogue states tend not to survive unchallenged. Is Europe then the challenger?

2) Ideological divide. Americans know their system is imperfect, but can be tweaked to better perform without need of outside intervention or disbanding it. Neither France nor Germany had that luxury historically. Americans were at the forefront versus Communism. Many French and German intellectuals then and now find that unacceptable. The same is true with a newer generation of those committed to international law and institutions, as well as those more environmentally aware than Americans are said to be. The European Union also is not anything more than hybrid -- a cultural and economic unity of people, whose primary interest is peace amongst its membership. It is by definition, anti-military. They have that luxury when the United States was duty bound to defend them.

3) Feelings of Guilt. France came to the Colonials aid early on, but they didn't actually fight for their freedom from the British Crown with the Americans merely looking on (this is exactly what happened in France, Germany, Japan, and now Iraq -- liberation isn't as straightforward a matter to the liberated). France capitulated to the German blitzkrieg with amazing alacrity, thus unfairly damning them historically ever since in Americans' eyes, and perhaps in their own. France has been on the losing end militarily for a while. Germans were more adept, but consequently had more to lose in the end. But divesting oneself of guilt gets easier if the generations which did the original sinning, die.

3) Sense of Superiority. Americans are cowboys, a mixed undefined "race" of people with less than 250 years of history. How can they possibly match the grandeur of European civilisation? Even Peruvians had the Incas and Central Americans Aztecs and Mayans, advanced cultures which contrast favourably with anything on the North American continent. America is unworthy to lead the world. It's almost as if Americans were homunculii, with no past, who came from no where out of thin air. Cynically though, if that counterargument is brought before them, they then say that Americans had no "original" thoughts; they're just a derivative, therefore second-rate culture. Bigotry always likes to have it both ways.

4) Traitors. Many Europeans receive visiting relatives from the US with less than enthusiasm. Americans are often hurt and puzzled by this attitude. They shouldn't be. Their ancestors left their homelands for a BETTER place. America was the golden door. So what did that make those who didn't open that door? Losers by inference. Europeans suffered horrors in two World Wars, whereas American land was largely untouched for a century. Not only was the path different, but there is an element of betrayal to it. You left. You took the easy way out. You're a traitor. All emigrants face trouble and heartache in adapting to new countries, but the ones left behind cannot, a priori, ever fully comprehend that.

5) Fear of the Modern. When you represent the Old World, sometimes you feel yourself old, outdated. Ideas which once came gushing out have become a trickle comparatively. Europeans invented the importance of inventions, but Americans took those ideas and absolutely ran with them. Look around you. Even the blog which we write daily is from the well-spring of the American mind. Luddites are everywhere, but those who fear that modernity means Americanisation are legion.

6) Jealousy. America works. Other places don't work as well. If bad things have to happen, it's better if they happen in America, since the solutions, the turnaround time, the money are there. Others wish to have what America has, but only on their own terms, and even worse, they suspect they don't have what it takes. Some countries have even been given a chance, and some have squandered it. That's hard to accept for many.

7) Strength. America is strong. Militarily strong. Economically strong. Culturally strong. It dwarves the world with its might. And it's just one country. Many Europeans have been waiting for a counter to the American hegemon, since they are used to that ole balance of power system. Some championed the Soviet Union, despite what it stood for. It fell. Then Japan was going to cook the US' economic goose. It stagnates. Now it's China's turn. Almost 2 billion strong. The Chinese Century? We'll see. All the while, the most obvious solution is staring at them in their faces -- Europe. But Europeans lack the will to compete militarily. Indeed, that is now their raison d'être, invoking reason 2 above.

If as Professor Philippe Roger of the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales is right, anti-Americanism in France is a "discourse", to use a post-modern Foucaultian term, maybe it can be analysed in future.

But as in all discourse, its premise lies in power structure.

Who wields power, who manipulates it, who uses it. And in each situation, though the appearance of power seems to lie within the stronger actor, sometimes the weaker can undermine that position by constantly questioning it. By being a nuisance, the anti-hero becomes heroic to the audience, at once actors and critics. In other words, instead of being passive, the challenger wrenches some power away from the powerful.

This is the role which the French have played since the late 1940's. And the rest of the world is enthralled whenever it happens.

Anti-Americanism is as pervasive today as anti-Semitism, and indeed, are eerily intertwined in some people's minds. It's not enough to shame people into not believing lies. One must also not believe them in part or in toto. The same is true of Francophobia. Or of any self-perpetuating hatred.

If conspriacy theories are graveyards of the intellect, so too are prejudices lifelines for demagogues.

That's one souffle de la vie we can extinguish together.

Further Reading

Sixty Million Frenchmen can't Be Wrong: What makes the French so French?
The American Enemy: The History of French Anti-Americanism Coming April 22, 2005.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

You want to buy a Castle?

I can't find that story of a Castle for sale on eBay, but it got me to thinking: where do you go if you want to buy a Castle?

Yes, presumably well-connected Estate Agents, but there are legal ramifications in each country (in Austria, the rule was the owners had to live there for 9 months out of the year).

So I found this link.

Hurry, before Madonna and Luciano Pavarotti buy them all up.

Friday, March 18, 2005

When I'm Down

I just have to look at this picture...

Maricas se llama -- la foto!

...and I'm a little less down.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Old Family Friend


28 February 1994 - 17 March 2005
R.I.P.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Intermission

That's it. I won't compose a blogpiece tonight. I've tried to post it three times, each time losing it in the process of updating. Argh.

So instead, please read this interesting study finding: it seems one of my X chromosomes, which makes me and others a female, isn't as silent as thought.

And hey, maybe poor Larry Summers can be hauled down his crucifix at last.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Blog Fly

Spring Break has a way of sneaking up on you, as you sit in front of your computer awash with possibilities of a 24-hour day without duties. That is, until you're in your second day of devil-may-care-but-I-don'tedness and say, "Now what?".

Well this is what. I've become a Blog Fly for a day!

I will be blogging about what the Top Bloggers are talking about today, even though it's early. Consider an update later in the day a given. And if you like the idea, I could consider doing it once in a while.

First, let's get out our Blogosphere Ecosystem charts. Ready. Steady. We're off!

- INSTAPUNDIT: Glenn is, as ever, informational rather than ranting, unlike other bloggers I could mention, Daily Kos; and today is no different. He recommends a book which just came out on Atomic Iran, and gives you a link with pointers to how to spot a nascent political movement. And in a topic close to my heart, as it were, he Instalinks to a colonoscopy blog. (A Colonoscopy Blog? Dude). Oh, and just in case you forgot Insty is a Libertarian, he dispels those your notions by linking to Julia Gory's piece where she asks if Libertarians Have More Fun. I'm so telling the Instawife.

- WONKETTE: Has Ana-Marie Cox ever seriously considered becoming the NY Post Gossip Columnist when Cindy Adams kicks the proverbial bucket? Seriously. Which is not to say I snub my nose at her gossip links, but there's more to blogging than knowing who the Clintons were dining with last night at Le Cirque. In today's gossip roundup, we learn that "Laura" had the lobster risotto at Teatro Goldoni last night. Now I ask you, why is it that women more than men tend to be known by their first names? Jackie, Hillary, Monica, Rosalyn, Laura, but not, I note, Susan Sontag. Or Ana-Marie Cox. Heh.

- DAILY KOS: Wow! The site is down. Jeff Gannon must've come out with a new 2005 calender. Stay tuned.

- LITTLE GREEN FOOTBALLS: Lgf seem not to have survived the November elections too well, because they are the only right-of-centre blog which still constantly mention it. Relax guys! You won. Today's piece on PJ O'Rourke's spin on John Kerry and MSM is a case in point. And their two lead blog stories on Muslims just reinforce people's ideas that they are anti-Muslim, rather than the more correct, anti-Islamofascist. Oh well. They still have the best free comedy posing as blog commentary on the 'net.

- JEFF JARVIS: Jeff weighs in on the topic which I first saw on Vodkapundit's site, namely, Steve Levy's hand-wringing question in Newsweek of why there are so many White Male Bloggers in Blogosphere. Tell me, why do people do this to themselves? How guilty do some people feel? Sheesh. I commented that surely there are better things to be worried about, like pestilence and Marilyn Manson.

- POWERLINE: Fresh from their scorchingly good C-SPAN presentation at the weekend, the Powerline crowd mourn the loss of fierce anti-Communist journalist, John Barron. They also get Rovian and point out the Richard Vigilante piece where the latter suggests Hillary Clinton may be moving centre on family values, just on cue, with an eye to the Oval Office. I guess she wants to go back and Lysol that desk.

- MICHELLE MALKIN: And no blog roundup would be complete without a look at that Steve Levy-theory debunker, the still suspended Michelle Malkin. No semen-stained brownie references today, thankfully. Just a heck of a lot of links on the anthrax scare in D.C. Oh, and this Girl Guide (me, not Michelle) can't forget her origins -- that harassed Girl Scout story has a very happy ending. And hey, is that Courtney Love in Lebanon? No, Michelle ma belle. That's Donatella Versace.

Who says blogs aren't informative, right?

WEDNESDAY UDPATE: Pfff. Who can update blogs during the day, if the servers are always down. I'm very peeved.

SUNDAY UPDATE: I read later that Daily Kos' site was either hacked or mistakenly shutdown. And this reminds me of what a friend of mine told me after Instapundit linked to my Burger story -- that Daily Kos has twice his daily traffic, and I would've been twice as deluged had he linked to me. Isn't that because of the Top 20 bloggers in the political Ecosystem, there aren't that many liberals of note, as opposed to conservative ones? I sense mass frowning from the Kossites.

Monday, March 14, 2005

The Era of "Video-Papa"

Do you know what is one cool country code? .va for the Vatican. Why did I never notice that before?

Shh! I'm on

Just now, as I was reading the news on the Pontiff's health, I went to the Vatican's official site, and saw that John Paul II is doing well. So much so the Vatican will discontinue it's daily updates since the acute phase of his illness is over. I hope this means that nice CNN beat reporter can finally go back to lounging around the Via Veneto, because he deserves it. Watch out for those 6 foot 'blondes' from Brazil though!

But what I guess is on everyone's mind right now is -- will the Pope be able to officiate in the upcoming Holy Week ceremonies, the most important part of the religious calender? The answer is a big Yes.

Tracheotomy or no, the Pope will be taped daily in a series of Easter Week cameo appearances already being called by the faithful, Video-Papa.

You know, for a man who represents the most ossified and traditional of institutions, The Holy See, this Pope is no Luddite.

He websurfs.

He calls in to Italian game shows.

He frequently reads Gazzetta dello Sport following his beloved Lazio with zeal.

And lest we forget, he is the most travelled Pope in history, having given the world the visual of him in that glass-golf-cart-coach thingie, which is in our lexicon as the Popemobile.

Now he's launched the era of the Video-Papa. If the mountain can't come to Mohammed, as it were...

In my opinion, this is great. This should also quell some of the nastier calls for his resignation as Pope, since one of the requisites everyone deems necessary to hold office is visibility. You must be seen to be followed, goes their thinking.

I seem to recall that when the Emperor Frederick III of Germany lay dying of throat cancer in 1888, the first famous victim of cancer due to smoking, Bismarck was heard to sneer, "A man can't be Emperor if he can't be heard".

It even has been suggested that efforts were made to rid themselves of a troublesome and liberal sovereign, and in their haste to get a speaking Kaiser, they got Wilhelm II. And we all know how THAT turned out, don't we.

No, I'd rather have a Pope who videotapes his homilies to the faithful, than any rush to abdication or retirement. What's the hurry? Better to have a hoarse Pope, than a Pope with really bad moustachios and a world-domination complex.

Anyway. Maybe Video-Papa can be made interactive, perhaps via email or stripper-slot wotsit. Put in a fiver, and get to ask the Pope your choice of any Vatican vetted and sanctioned question you desire.

It's a gold mine.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Quick Poll


What are the TWO Top Reasons you Blog or read Blogs?

Disillusioned w/ Main Stream Media (MSM)
I'm addicted!
Transparency of Political Viewpoints, Agendas
Love Reading/Writing
Ego Trip
Friends, Family, or Travel blog
Immediacy factor (quickest medium around)
Like/Admire certain Bloggers
Free polls from Pollhost.com

To View Results, Vote Again. It'll only count once.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Urban Buzz

The second of an on-going series, Urban Buzz, looks at what people from around the world are chatting about.

New York: Francis Fukuyama, who is to the 1990s what George F. Kennan was to the Cold War era (its guru, its definer), has come out with an essay called The Calvinist Manifesto, in this Sunday's New York Times.

He revisits Max Weber's seminal, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, by putting it into the modern-day context when nation-building is once again to the fore. He doesn't trumpet Weber's ideas that religion went a long way to explain why certain countries fared better in Capitalist economies than did others, but in fact, starts out by rubbishing them.

It's not culture, which religion produces and then is reproduced in it, which accounts for success or failure in free-market economies, but the institutional malleability each country has. What holds countries back, therefore, is not religion "but stifling institutions, bad politics and misguided policies. Once these were fixed, both [China/Japan] societies took off". Can this then, be the hope of the Middle East and economic progress?

Sounds easier said than done, obviously, but should prove to be worth an hour or two of animated conversations all around the campus water coolers, especially at the University of Tennessee Law School.

Rio de Janeiro: GLOBO Television, the world's 4th largest television network after the Big 3 (ABC, CBS, NBC), are coming out with a new "novela das oito", called simply America. The nightly soap debuts this Monday the 14th of March, and should be worth watching if only to see how they do this brega-chique production.

The story revolves around several characters and their desire to leave Brazil and its economic challenges, and move to America, specifically, Miami (even more specifically Miami Beach, and even MORE specifically than that, Fisher Island -- the last resting place of the expat elite). This obviously hits very close to home with me, so even though I hate soaps of any country, I might just watch the first "capitulos".

What I find glaring here is the very word America being used for the United States. To anyone who knows Brazilians, as all Central and South Americans, they are notoriously picky about being called "Americans"* too, which of course they are, but sometimes their constant pointing to this fact borders on the childish and resentful. I wonder if the Marinho Family, who have huge mansions in Fisher Island, argued for America instead of Miami.

*If you recall in the film, Barcelona, the Chris Eigeman character confounds himself with the alternate word in Spanish, "Estadunidense" -- "Dense. D-E-N-S-E...it's a direct slap to the face". Heh. I love Whit Stillman.

Guatemala City: The cramped Teatro Municipal (seating a few hundred) was at standing room only for Eve Ensler's pudenda feminist-anthem The Vagina Monologues, on 8 March.

As a young Canadian blogger, currently teaching there, relates the show was organised by female textile workers but had a significant portion of Ladinos and "Gringos" present. He mentions young schoolgirls being part of the audience too, and that much giggling and hilarity ensued in the Spanish-language translation of this now old theatre circuit standby. I wonder if they were there for homework extra credit.

Mexico City: Do you love anything even remotely futuristic? Finally, you may have the washer and dryer that goes with your Bender action figures, since Samsung's Silver Nano products have launched in a big way in the capital city.

These pricey appliances build on the ancient Greek theory of purifying water by using silver. I bet you the Greeks never had to pay U$ 2,000 for a spin-cycle.

I think I'll just to stick to the soap.

Limpid? Is that like the anti-Viagra?

Paris: French-born Prince Consort Henrik of Denmark was on hand in France to launch Hans Christian Andersen's bicentenary celebrations there.

During the Brazilian Carnival this past February, I was going to mention in my aborted Carnaval wrap-up post that samba school, Imperatriz Leopoldinense's theme was a tribute to the legendary Danish writer, and had been co-sponsored by the Danish Embassy in Brazil. The carnavalesca, Rosa Magalhães, was personally invited to Denmark last year, the better to hone her knowledge of Hans Christian Andersen. She must be a quick study, because their presentation was BY FAR the best of the hallowed Carioca event. Shame they didn't win.

Hans Christian Andersen and samba? Why not indeed.

England: Top DVD Rentals this week are...

1. Bridget Jones - The Edge Of Reason
2. Ladies In Lavender
3. Little Britain - Comic Relief 2005
4. Bridget Jones'S Diary/The Edge Of Reason
5. Bambi
6. Shark Tale
7. Hero
8. Saw
9. The Princess Diaries 2 - Royal
10. Alfie

Yikes. Not a film I would like to watch. Mind you, Little Britain, the television series, is excellent. But looking at this list reminds me once again why the Oscars a fortnight ago were so particularly awful. There simply was a dearth of quality films last year.

And speaking of which, The Passion Recut opened today in US cinemas. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks they should've given a little more thought to the title. Ouch.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Blogger.com

Question: Is it me, or does everyone else here experience difficulties in posting, replying, and updating blogs at key times of the day? Geez.

Come on now, Blogger.com, update your servers!

This inability to post, or reply to Blogspot sites during the hot spot times (midday EST, 5 PM, anywhere close to midnight EST), frustrates me enormously -- yesterday I lost the first draft of "Pollrats" because of their server problems. Argh.

They also have a nasty trick when in Compose mode that when you ctrl-A for "all", and then try to copy what you've just written (trying to save it just in case), your post disappears before your very eyes!

Yes, I know, it's free. If I want a more reliable blog host, I could try Typepad for one. But don't mind me, I'm just having a moan.

And yes, I will post a proper piece later Friday.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Blogmarathon no April Fool's

Have you ever wanted to be a part of the Guiness World Book of Records? Well, now you can -- maybe.

A blogger has brainstormed a Blogmarathon Day on 1st April, 2005 starting at 7:30 PM "UK Time", when bloggers who have signed up at the site below, will be blogging for 26.5 hours, updating their blogs on any topic they like, every 30 minutes.

Blogger Marathon on 1 April

Please note that the date was changed from 11th April to 1st April, because it's Red Nose Day in the UK on the 11th, so update your Palm Pilots in case you signed up back in February.

Like all good ideas involving record-breaking feats, the idea is both marvellous and geeky.

In a way, this endeavour reminds me of those Non-stop Dance Contests so popular during the Great Depression. You know the kind -- last couple left standing gets an apple.

Terpsichory Marathon

I'm sure someone will have a live webcam or Flickr their marathon blogation for all of us to see, as they sustain themselves on Smarties and Starbucks, wiping the sleep from their eyes -- "must Publish Post! must Publish Post!".

Did I use the word geeky yet? Good.

Now I know what you're thinking: You're asking yourselves, will I participate in this worthy marathon?

I don't think so, since 1st April is a Friday, and I have no idea how intense my future Med School rotation will be after Spring Break next week.

Otherwise I'd be in there like a shot.


 




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