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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Patricio in Maracaibo With Arepas

My friend Patricio (no, not that one) flew to Maracaibo last week, and just got around to calling me, thanking me for the info I provided him from some Venezuelan friends on what to eat whilst there.

The main staple of Venezuelan diets seems to centre around arepas. This is also true of Colombia, if not more so.

Patricio's had arepas before, but never liked really cared for them, which is similar to me with the exception that I absolutely hate them.

But he assures me they're not at all bad, there in Maracaibo at least, so he urges me to re-think my analysis, especially as he'll try to secrete some out of the country, on his last day there.

Hmm.

I'm not sure, even though I'm willing to give most things a second chance.

To me, arepas are a cross between a scone, a pita, a Mexican tortilla with more than a passing resemblence to a chipati.

Or an 'English muffin'

Since I'm on a cookery kick these days, I looked up arepa recipes online to prepare them myself. Maybe you might try your hand at making them and let me know how much work was involved.

HOW TO MAKE AN AREPA

Take a cup of finely ground, pre-cooked, corn meal (white is preferable, but yellow is also used), add an equal amount of water, a dash of salt and a teaspoon of cooking oil.

Kneed the mixture with your hands until it is thoroughly blended into a dough.

Take a small amount of the dough and pat it into a flat, round cake, about the size of the palm of your hand, or slightly smaller. It should be about a quarter of an inch thick. Shape and press it around the edges to make it even and smooth. Continue making more cakes until the dough is used up.

Grease a heavy skillet or griddle and place it over a low flame. It should not be too hot. When the surface is hot place the cakes, one or two at a time, on the griddle to brown on both sides. Put them in the oven to bake for about 15 minutes.


(You may also fry them, turning once, in about a quarter inch of hot oil.)

TO SERVE: Slice the arepa like a hamburger bun, discard some of the steaming meal that is still soft in the middle, fill with choice of filling, close the arepa and serve immediately.


Doesn't sound too hard, but then I said the same thing about Ropa Vieja.

What a disaster.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Oregano of Arrogance

For the past week, I've been haranguing my friends to read Buzz Bissinger's book about Tony La Russa's St. Louis Cardinals, 3 Nights in August.

Not because the book is so good, but because the writing is so so so laughably bad. And this chap won a Pulitzer for Friday Night Lights!

The book tells the first-hand account of baseball's most innovative but highly internalised manager, who furthermore holds a law degree and is known for being one OCD tic away from outright lunacy.

Obviously, a very normal baseball man.

Whilst there is no doubt that books on baseball are the most fantastic reads, since they seem to attract the best sport writers around from David Halberstam to George Will to Studs Terkel (not to mention my childhood hero, Ring Lardner Sr.), this ain't one of them.

Still, I urge you to read it. Really. And when you do, turn to page 53 and savour this lovely line:

"An oregano of arrogance"

...when speaking of Sammy Sosa. That's just before he steps up to the plate as "if he were the Pope".

Oh, and Mark Prior has legs like redwoods. His calves are so big they should be called Calfzilla.

Oy.

Now Moneyball -- that was a book on baseball that read like a dream.

But Buzz (Buzz! I ask you) Bissinger's book is a study on how not to use similes, but if you do, don't evoke spices and/or herbs if at all possible.

If that's all it takes to write a bestseller, I'm going to get two Pulitzers in my lifetime yet.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

.xxx

All you gentlemen (and yes, some of us ladies too) who frequent pr0n sites now get to do so with a new internet domain of your own, the just-approved ".xxx".

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers -- of whose existence I didn't know until this very moment -- approved this new URL-endings after originally turning it down in 2000.

"Research shows that the online adult-entertainment industry is one of the largest and fastest-growing parts of the Web. More than 10 percent of all online traffic and 25 percent of all global Internet surfing is for adult-oriented material."

25%!

That means one out of every 4 internet users are porn zombies. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Now, if you'll excuse me I have to go to erase my browser history.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

If You Can't Get Enough of Spelling Bees

And who amongst us can't, you can tune into ESPN'S coverage of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee on ESPN1 this Thursday, 2 June.

I personally love this American tradition, but am mystified why it's transmitted on a sports cable network. This must be the same logic which propelled Australia to suggest bridge (not the structure, the card game) as an Olympic sport.

As you WTF alongside me, let me just add that one of the best documentaries I've ever seen was based on following a group of spelling bee hopefuls as they tried to win the title one year.

If you thought kiddie beauty pageant mums or backstage parents like Macaulay Culkin's folks were annoying, not to say creepy, you have NO idea what awaits you in Spellbound.

One poor youngster studied up to 8 hours a day, had French and German tutors, and his grandfather even paid a group of people in India to chant 24 hours a day for good karma a full year before the event.

And as usual, the dad says it's nothing to do with him, but rather because his son wanted to.

Sure he did.

Just like my mother had me holding a tennis racket at the age of 2, with private coaches as early as age 4.

I still can't hit a return volley.

UPDATE: Anurag Kashyap, 2005 Champion. Winning Word: appoggiatura. I knew that.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Watching the Watchdogs

The most vital innovations to hit Blogosphere have been the media watchdogs.

And though all bloggers act like that at times, there are certain blogs which are devoted to keeping an eye on MSM, either from their countries or from around the world.

One of my favourites has to be David Kaspar's MedienKritik of Germany, which JSU mentioned some time ago.

So when I found this blog from Spain, called Periodista Digital, I knew I had to share it immediately.

What I find innovative is that they have a section called Blog Zone, highlighting commentary blogs in Spanish with all kinds of topics, such as film, theatre, television, politics, etc.

(I like this one which actually reunites two topics: The Cine y Politica blog)

I am always on the lookout for these types of Watchdogs of MSM in different languages, so if you have any blogrolled, please let me know.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Desperately Seeking Ratzinger

Ooh! I just found a live viddie on the Habemus Papam announcement.

It was taken by a 1L Notre Dame student named Brendan Loy, in the student lounge area of the Notre Dame Law School campus. He was even Instalanched for his efforts.

He also has screenshots, to go along with the live student reaction to the Estevez Medina balcony pronouncement.

Apparently, he also isn't at all afraid of identity theft, since in his "About Me" section, he lists his DOB, birthplace, his full name, and mum's maiden name. Heh.

Perhaps he's heard that God protects, fools, drunkards, and lawyers.

(How else can one explain F. Lee Bailey? ...oh hush)

Anyhoo. If you happen to find a live video reaction mpeg online, of any public Habemus Papam situation, or have one yourself, please let me know toute-de-suite.

I'm collecting them for posterity and all that jazz.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Devil Makes the Pots

Fear not -- not another "grandpa sayings" post for your reading enjoyment.

Rather, a brief mention on the Champions League Final between AC Milan versus Liverpool FC, Wednesday in Istanbul.

Istanbul - it's nobody's business but the Turks

A match for the ages.

A match made to be savoured, wept over, moaned about, teased over, raised to the heavens of hyperbole, because it was that kind of match. It had it all.

For one half, AC Milan -- the darlings of Italian calcio, as pampered and fussed over as a parlour of poodles -- were the cringingly triumphant better team in a very one-sided affair.

As an erstwhile Milanista, I was over the moon.

I thought "we" had it won, since who on earth can score 3 goals to come back and draw a match versus, as some call them, The Great Scented Ones? No one. They had Sheva, they had Kaká, they had Dida, they had Paolo Maldini, for pete's sakes.

It was ovah. Ovah!

So Silvio Berlusconi, Italian Premier and owner of AC Milan, was certainly thinking in the VIP stands, having already disparaged Liverpool before the match had even begun, saying that Milan had too much "class" for the working-class team from Merseyside.

Silvio, Silvio...have you learnt no humility from that recent no-confidence vote scare?

Apparently, he hadn't.

But what could Rafael Benitez, their manager, say to Liverpool in the dressing room at the half?

What impossible combination of mad self-belief in himself, and his squad could he have relayed to them, as they faced another 45 minutes of sure obliteration by the princes of Milan?

Never mind the Gipper. I want to hear that half-time speech!

...because score 3 electrifying goals they did, forcing Extra Time, and then unto penalties, to hoist their first European Cup in 21 years.

21 long years of Heysel, Fowler/Owen hype, and Premiership heartbreak. Gone. All smeared by the same hand of fate that lowered them into an abyss, now lifts them to the summit of club football.

Liverpool FC European Champions 2004-5

Of course, no coronation is complete without the court jester making his appearance.

Diego Armando Maradona, who was doing commentary ironically for one of Berlusconi's many television channels in Italy, paid the English side the ultimate compliment, with this charmingly back-handed compliment:

"Not even the Brazil team that won the 1970 World Cup final would have been able to come back from 3-0 down like that."

In the Liverpool newsgroup, there came a shower of grateful thanks from many Italian residents, not only Juventini either, gushing relief that Berlusco's team hadn't won the Champions League title.

One person said simply:

"The Devil makes the pots but not the cover. Thanks Liverpool."

Ah well. We'll get 'em next time.

Reds Everywhere!

EERILY INTERESTING FACTOIDS

1978:

Wales win the Grand Slam in Rugby
The Pope Dies
Liverpool lose in the League Cup final to the eventual League
Scudetto Champions that year -- Juventus
Liverpool win the European Cup


2005:

Wales win the Grand Slam in Rugby
The Pope Dies
Liverpool lose in the League Cup final to the eventual League
Scudetto Champions that year -- Juventus
Liverpool win the European Cup

And of course, petrol prices were through the roof.

If you haven't seen this match. Do. It's the game of our generation.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

More Cockroaches Than Feet

I had two very different kinds of grandfathers.

I suppose this is true of many people, whose sets of grandparents often seem to be mirror-opposites of each other. One set, warm, generous and lax. The other set colder, stricter, more strangers than close family members, despite their best efforts.

But as often happens too, neither set conformed to such outright stereotypes, except maybe superficially.

My British (paternal) grandfather was strict, dour, and yet generous, often making up for thrifty Christmas presents his wife, my grandmother, gave us by indulging his progeny in private. To the end of her days, she would give my father a £5 note every Christmas, with a completely straight face, good Presbyterian that she was, and he would later privately add a morocco-bound set of books to sweeten the vinegar.

My Austro-German (maternal) grandfather was sociable, hearty, with a tremendous will to live and let live, and yet was often unexpectedly fierce, with the kind of Teutonic hatred of weakness or inferiority, perceived or real, which made him a terror to his children and staff.

Grandpapa loved everything to do with the underdog, or those treated unfairly by society or history, such as black people, and often visited Africa with my grandmother -- losing themselves for months in remote hideaways, deep in bush country. Since he too was a physician, he acted as a kind of one-man Médécin sans Frontière, long before his son actually joined that organisation.

It's not surprising then, that of the South American countries, he began a long love affair with Brazil, back when his father visited it in the late 1920's, an official guest of the then Brazilian government via the British Council.

Later, he took my grandmother on a South American honeymoon, back in the days when you requested leave from the Army for such a purpose, and they granted it understandingly...for a whole YEAR. What a different world it was.

But as happens with people, not everything is as straightforward or logical as it would appear.

I recall telling my father that his dad may have been ahead of his time in certain respects (a vegetarian, e.g.), but if he was so egalitarian and unracist, why was it that I had never seen a black person cross the threshold of his house, except to clean it?

He had no reply.

Opa was a different kind of man. A boulevardier, complete with David Niven moustache, his ever-present impeccable Homburg hat, and lemon gloves in his hands whenever he went riding, which was daily until he died.

The story everyone in my family told of him was that if he found the least imperfection with his clothes, despite them coming fresh from the laundry, he would throw them disgustedly to the floor, and have them laundered again, without ever wearing them.

Unsurprisingly, his bedroom seemed like a male wonderland to me, with drawers and drawers, and Schrank after Schrank (those heavy Germanic mahogony dressers) filled with clothes, handkerchiefs, hats, and treehorned shoes polished to a sheen. There were discrete manly scents dripping vetiver and verbena, which he sprinkled on his hands. He liked being watched by the whole family just before dinner, as he did so. When he died, they discovered steamer trunks full of bespoke shirts, dated decades before.

And yet this fastidious worldly man was devoutly Catholic, and often (as a bachelor, but also later as a married man) went on pilgrimages to Lourdes, Fatima, Santiago de Compostela, braving travelling discomfort, and the press and acrid odour of humanity, from which he normally recoiled.

He meekly volunteered to push invalids to the Shrines, grottoes, and altars, lifting them in his arms when they were too weak, and he thought nothing of sleeping in the open air, rather than deprive someone less fit than himself, shelter for the night in bursting towns.

But again, as it happens in this illogical world, he hated infirmity, germs, disabilities, and thought it almost a slur to his honour when he or his family got sick. Even worse, was his distaste of ugliness or disagreeable features, taking a violent dislike to anyone around him who was fat, or had a big nose, stuttered, or limped.

When one of my aunts was born, the youngest, he took one look at her rather stiff "Chinese" black hair (which ironically fell off, producing a shock of wavy blonde after a few months), bristled, and walked out of the house, not to return for a week.

Even worse than that, he used to remind her of the fact with gusto years later. Poor dear.

So when I was thinking of them today, after a friend quoted an impossibly hilarious line from Conan the Barbarian, I thought of a saying I associate with each of these very individual, not to say particular men.

These sayings resonate with their spirit whenever I think of them.

And they tended to repeat them, as older people sometimes do. I suppose they think it sums up their personal philosophies, and maybe you can learn from them into the bargain.

Let's see if you can pick out which man said what, based on my descriptions of each above.

"There are two types of people in this world. Those who are hammers. And those who are nails. You choose which one you want to be."

"Always remember. There are more cockroaches...than feet."

If I did my job well as a writer, you'll know immediately.

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Heat is On!

I told my neighbour around 7 PM tonight, why don't we go to the Miami Heat v. Detroit Pistons game, and she said, "You crazy? Those tickets are sold out!".

What I meant was, just let's go hang outside and soak in the atmosphere, of this big big NBA Eastern Conference Final series, which started tonight at the Triple-A (American Airlines Arena) -- which isn't 5 minutes away from our residence.

So we went, and the atmosphere was absolutely delicious!

Heat is On!

...next best thing to being at the game.

(I'm just amazed it's not raining in Miami/Miami beach today, after a wet weekend. See, it rarely rains here, despite what people imagine is a sub-tropical climate. We have rainy seasons from late July to August, but other than that, it's sunny. And yet WHENEVER THERE IS A NATIONALLY TELEVISED EVENT...it seems to rain, giving people a completely false impression. This is also true of friends who visit -- weird)

I saw a woman with an aerosol can, painting fans' hair the requisite red and black colours ($10 for the hair/$15 for the face or body paint), but alas, I chickened out. Instead, I got a slap-on tattoo featuring "Red Hot" and the Heat logo on my wrist.

Itchy. But fun.

Oh and we also saw a man lugging a huge Burnie costume in dry cleaning wrappers over his back, entering the Arena through the rear entrance.

Burnice, Burnie's wife, will be jealous

Sometimes, it's better not to know too much, you know?

My prediction for the series: Pistons in 6.

It's been a nice ride, but the Pistons have more game, and Shaq is ailing.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

When I'm Down - Part Two

I just have to look at this picture...

Cross your Teletubby Bra

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

Saturday, May 21, 2005

In Hitler's Bunker

Adolf Hitler's last meal was ravioli.

Startling, when put this way, isn't it? Reminding one of Hannah Arendt's famous phrase of "the banality of evil".

But so it was pictured in the Oscar-nominated film from Germany, Der Untergang (Downfall), of which this post isn't quite a review of, but rather, a few impressions only.

First off, I have to say that I didn't know what to expect from this film, since Germans have a kriegsschuld (war guilt) that often prevents them from portraying the events of the Third Reich in anything but a maudlin or hysterical manner.

(The one exception is the endlessly fascinating 42-hour television series, Heimat, which if you haven't seen, you absolutely MUST)

This film is based on a biography by Germany's most noted Hitler historian (who I have met), Joachim Fest, an elegant, deeply reflective author, but one who also finds it awkward to write about Hitler with objectivity, often resorting to clumsy phrases in his biographies like "the young fool then left Vienna...", or, "which we know this country bumpkin enjoyed".

Now before you start squirming in your seats, wondering about me, it's not objectivity or fairness to a monster that I wished to see.

À priori, we all know the tremendous well of evil this man dipped into, and launched unto the world with his mechanised killing machines.

Heaven forbid any human should ever forget that, least of all Germans or Austrians, who had the infinite bad luck to be his compatriots. And being half-German, I am certainly not absolved from this Damocletian sword of history either, if only in terms of memory.

It's just that if I was going to be treated to yet another round of "Let's caricature ole Adolf to make ourselves feel better", I could think of better ways to spend 2 hours.

There were two things going for this film, apart from the Oscar nomination (normally the Academy finds way to dumb down their choices, but I find they usually get it very right in their foreign film nominations), which reassured me:

  • 1- Bruno Ganz in the lead role

  • 2- The elapse of 60 years, and the deaths of the main witnesses

The first is what Americans term a "no-brainer".

The Swiss-born Bruno Ganz is the Iffland Ring holder, a half-secretive honour given to the greatest living actor of the German language of his day. Ganz inherited it from the inestimably talented Austrian actor, Josef Meinrad, and few contemporaries of stage and screen could challenge his skillful métier.

Secondly, there is a price one pays for objectivity, and that is the death of first-hand witnesses to an event, with their priceless knowledge yes, but also with their heavy conscience.

As this inverse of "The Greatest Generation" dies, I feel that the Volkdeutsch will find it easier to explore a topic so difficult to do so than when it relates to grannies and grandpas still alive.

If I could mention one overriding feeling I got from Der Untergang, it was this feeling of oppressiveness was almost completely absent, and a painful topic explored with almost a cobweb-clearing gusto. It felt clean, healthy.

Ironic, of course, when you remember how unhealthy Hitler was in his last days, as the Soviets pounded the streets of Berlin, (making a permanent movie soundtrack of bombing, and artillery fire), as this morphia-addict, Parkinson's diseased neuropath closeted himself with his staff and mistress, Eva Braun.

The story is actually told through the taped memories of Traudl Junge, who opens the film in a lineup gaggle of secretary candidates, chosen by Hitler personally for the unspoken but obvious reason of her being Bavarian.

Hitler was comfortable with Bavarians, having served in WWI in a Bavarian regiment, launched his political career there with the aborted Beer Hall Putsch, and ultimately choose a Bavarian woman with whom to share his life, and death.

Where Prussians are strict, narrow-minded, and hard-working, Bavarians are happy-go-lucky: bons vivants who make life light and easy, and I daresay, that's what Hitler needed most after a heavy day of blitzkrieging.

And having mentioned Bavarians, here I cannot fail to mention the lack of regional accents I found in this film, with almost the sole and absolutely wonderfully startling exception of Adolf Hitler himself.

Berliners, who you would expect to overpopulate this film, were underrepresented accent-wise. They have a distinctive way of changing the hard "g" sound in German, into a soft "y" sound. E.G., Guten Morgen becomes something like, "Yuten Moyrn".

Bavarians and Austrians themselves have a sing-songy cadence to their German, and neither actress playing Traudl Junge or Eva Braun exhibited that at all. So I got to wondering afterward why that was, since the real-life characters most certainly did.

In fact, I think it was a deliberate attempt to minimise accents around Hitler, since then Bruno Ganz' impersonation could stand out that much more.

This is one of the first shocks of the film.

I had heard that Ganz had worked on his North Austrian accent with a young actor from Hitler's hometown of Branau, but I had NEVER expected the accent I got as a viewer.

Everyone alive today has heard excerpts of Hitler's speech-making voice. It is quite simply demonic.

His voice rises and falls maniacally; his gutteral accent becomes an emory-board of irritation; his mannerisms and eyeball rolls lend it an unintended comedic effect, but one which has made generations of people wonder...

How did Germans fall under this clown's spell?

So it was doubly amazing to hear that his real voice was nothing like his oratical voice: it was soft, low-pitched, not whiney, and yet very very unrefined. It was a peasant's voice, with bad grammar, and even worse diction.

I am used to Austrian regional accents, but even I had to resort to reading the subtitles because his accent was so thick as to be unintelligible in parts.

After researching online, I found out that Bruno Ganz not only used the Braunau actor as his tutor, but also a secret taping done of Hitler in Finland, by a Radio Finland technician who put his life on the line to do so.

Hitler never wanted his speaking voice to be taped, and now we know why. It was distressingly common which wouldn't make the listener think of the hyper-Lohengrin aura he wanted to project.

Here is a Real Audio link of this conversation, which appeared on Radio Finland's site in October 2004. It is heavily editted, as in a Fisking, but if you go to minute 8:00 of the 29:00 minute clip, you can hear for yourself the accent Ganz did to perfection.

Hitler Conversing with General von Mannerheim of Finland

The other surprise is that no matter how involved we as viewers become with the story, and there are enough good characters (Traudl herself, a practical, non-ideologue soldier-physician who asks to stay behind in Berlin and saves countless people, a little boy based loosely on a Hitler Jugend lad decorated by Hitler himself, the scene of which is reproduced perfectly in this film) to justify a spectator sympathy, yet one never feels any connexion or emotion at all towards them.

But yet the same is true for the villains! I was surprised at how little disgust I felt throughout, even towards Hitler himself.

In perhaps the best scene of all in this film, the actrees portraying Magda Goebbels has the onerous task of killing her six children in their sleep, after she has personally fed them drinks laced with barbituates, a la Jim Jones in Jonestown.

She slowly, without emotion, sticks the cyanide capsule in her children's mouth, and as we hear that chilling "crunch" each time, we marvel at the deft hand and emotionless demeanour, not at the contemptibleness of the act itself.

And I think I know why that is.

If you imagine Susan Smith, the woman who drowned her two sons in a lake, doing what she did, you are liable to hate her and her inordinate selfish lack of humanity. She is an unnatural mother, fit only to be reviled.

But not Magda Goebbels. Why? I kept thinking.

Because she followed her children later into oblivion, and thus showed that she was less unnatural mother, than demented by an idea and seduced by the power she had attained. In real life, this woman was photographed, idolised, lionised, held up as the ideal embodiment of all that was Nazi, her life a choreographed procession of wealth, influence and glamour. She was a cross between Evita Peron and a Ruritanian Queen.

And quite literally, she was faced with the end of her whole existence, never mind her life. She never hesitated.

Think of all the historical moments you know or can imagine regarding Hitler's last days in that bunker:

  • The killing of Blondi, Hitler's beloved German shepherd, the first to test the effectiveness of the cyanide

  • The suicide and later murder of the of the whole Goebbels clan

  • The suicide and later murder of Adolf Hilter and Eva Braun

The viewer never feels the remotest sense of emotional release at all. Neither happiness, revenge, elation, anger, or less probably, sadness.

(Sadness because one could have fallen for an actor's portrayal of an historical personage, such as the case with the air-headed Eva Braun. Even then, though she was a pawn and just a silly boob of a woman, she was generous and loving all the same, and yet one felt nothing)

And this is when I knew the film, through the elapsed 60 years I have mentioned on top, had finally bridged that divide, that chasm of history, which allows a people to look at their own desreputable sides, and instead of showing remorse, guilt, or even anger, can portay it with precision, with accuracy, and without any hyperbolic emotion at all.

It's as if the director could say to us, "This is history. This is the way we think it happened", with no forced feelings of guilt, either from within or without.

After 2 hours of being a fly on the wall of Hitler's bunker, you walk away edified, slightly aroused, like overhearing a conversation about a person who has no connexion to you, and getting the thrill such a voyeurism usually gives one...but with nothing else to cloud it.

Yes. This was a healthy film.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Iraq Liberation - 192 Billion Dollars; Purple Fingers - 14 Million

Seeing a vicious dictator cavorting inside his prison cell wearing nothing but his sagging y-fronts -

Priceless.

I'm too sexy for this gaol

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Showgirl

Poor old Kylie Minogue.

An official press release from her agent confirms that the Aussie songstress and Neighbours star has been diagnosed with breast CA.

She was due to appear at the Glastonbury Festival, but her Showgirls tour has been cancelled now, obviously.

If it's better to be "lucky" than good, I'm sure Kylie would choose to be good at the moment...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Star Wars Geekette

Have Star Wars III tickets, will attend midnight naught 1 Thursday showing of this film, and then blogging about it next week.

One has to allow the impressions to be digested properly, you know.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Daring French Television

On 23 May 2005, they will premiere a two-part fictional series on a 9/11-type terrorist attack in France, called Nom de code DP by Patrick Dewolf.

The series will explore the possible terrorist cells which may be operating in France, leading to such an event.

If the reaction to the now discredited Newsweek story about the Qu'ran defilement is anything to go by (and Salman Rushdie, and Claudia Schiffer, and...), I daresay the attention they get may be more than they bargained for.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Cinémathèque

Just in case you haven't noticed, I have added a new Sidebar to my blog.

I'm a voracious reader, but until I went on my Med School sabbatical, I really couldn't indulge in my equal love of film.

Now I can, and you can follow my choices and perhaps comment on them as you see them.

My preferences: "Foreign" Film, classics, indies, and documentaries.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Downfall of the Geeks

Today was another beautiful day.

Sun shiny, me and my doggie in the park, then frapuccino and a film with a friend. Life doesn't get any better than that...except maybe with aromatherapy candles.

But on the way to the cinema, I happened to tune into everyone's favourite knee-jerk, bleeding heart radio station, NPR, and it's for moments like the one I overheard, which keeps this cosmopolitan arch-traditionalist coming back to listen.

During their Motley Fool hour, they interviewed a man in Seattle, Jeff Tweiten, who is waiting for tickets to the new Star Wars film, and like all proud geeks, he's wi-fi'ed and blogging about it:

Waiting For Star Wars Blog

Did I mention the word geek yet? Good. Because it gets better. HE'S BEEN WAITING FOR 5 MONTHS IN THE QUEUE.

If you don't believe me, lookie-here.

Come Poop with Me!

What I wouldn't give to be Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog in moments like this.

Oh, and the film we saw is Der Untergang (Downfall).

Malicious tongues say Star Wars owes a lot to Der Führer and his elegantly evil-uniformed SS troops, but they're just jealous -- after all, black is so slimming. Who wants a fat Darth Vader?

A fuller review of the "Hitler offs himself in the bunker" film on Monday.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

What happens when...

...you mix Keanu Reeves?

Dude

And

I Tumble 4 Ya

...Boy George?

Why, King Tut of course!

I walk like an Egyptian

And now tomorrow, Sunday the 15th May 2005 at 2100 EDT, on the National Georgraphic cable channel, we can see the transformation happen. Hurrah! I love a good makeover show.

Mind you, it's a wonder Dr. Zahi Hawass allowed this 2-hour special to happen. He's legendary for being a bit picky about access to Egyptian artifacts.

He almost had my ex-prof of Egyptian history arrested when he was accused of taking out tools from a dig site near Luxor.

See, that's why you always keep Home Depot receipts.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Santo Subito!

On the 24th anniversary of the attempt on his life in St. Peter's Square, John Paul II (already called by many, "Pope John Paul the Great"), has been given an official dispensation by Pope Benedict XVI for the 5-year period before the beatification process begins.

I've read many accounts in the newswires calling this "the fast track" to sainthood, and in a sense it is.

But in effect, when amazing Catholics have died, and there rises a populist movement to have them beatified and canonised faster than most, as what happened to St. Thérèse of Lisieux (who by the way, will have a major motion picture on her life story out soon), that completely conforms to Catholic history and culture.

The Little Flower died in 1897. She was beatified in 1914, and canonised in 1925.

The same thing happened to the famous stigmatic, Padre Pio, who died in 1968, and was canonised by the late Pope in 2002.

And I've no doubt Mother Teresa of Calcutta is on her way to sainthood as well.

When news media outlets complain or intimate that this is unfair (as I read on the BBC Forum and heard on CNN), or that it's the current Pope trying to "cloak" himself in his predecessor's popularity, that's the bitterness we all saw when Pope Benedict XVI was elected.

So let me get this straight:

When the people demand the Church listen to their changing needs like birth control, it's important to listen to them, but when all of St. Peter's Square was wall-to-wall "Santo Subito" banners, that's demagoguery?

Please.

Of course, for many of us, myself included it goes without saying, the late John Paul II is already a saint.

The actual ecclesiastical red-tape is just a formality.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The White Noise of Rainer Linz

One of my more obscure likes is that crackly sound emitted by radios or televisions when not tuned to a station -- the now almost obsolescent White Noise.

In fact, when they were all the rage as secret Santa gifts back in 2000, I received a pseudo-futuristic white alarm clock-cum-radio which also featured sound settings.

Mine was white

For the insomniac amongst you, one could fall asleep to:

  • Forest Woodland
  • Humpback Whales
  • Rainforest Idyll
  • White Noise

And invariably the latter was my kip sound of choice.

Possibly because of its hypnotic effect, it also can be quite irritating to listen to, I recognise that.

But there's another reason I like white noise: it sounds futuristic -- a bit like you've tapped into the dying moments of a white dwarf. Let's just say, there's no organic occuring sound like it anywhere in nature.

That's why finding this site made my day today. The name is very similar to what I do on this blog too, I'm sure you'll agree.

It's called...

Infonoise

They've even got, on their frontispiece, a spinning coil pic that "looks" as if white noise had taken shape somehow. Veddy veddy cool.

Even better were the sound .wavs available, almost all it seems, the brainchild of one Rainer Linz, the Essen-born Australian composer and 'sound musician' from Melbourne.

One of them particularly caught my ear.

It sounds as if white noise had been captured in a crowd, mixing with the muffled conversations, movements, and edgy nervous tensions of a vernissage or theatrical first night -- unsurprisingly, since it was called...

Belgrade Opening

That's one sample. But this other one sounds as if a Soviet-bloc rocket launch were being counted down by the unforgettable Kraftwerk.

Announcement

You can almost picture chubby cosmonauts in their Michelin Man costumes wading to the launch pad as their names are announced, can't you?

Comrade Gordana Novakovic
Comrade Zoran Milkovic
Comrade Group Captain Rainer Linz


And if ever I have to compose a soundtrack for TCM's silent film series, say for Fritz Lang's Metropolis, I'm ripping off this .wav in its entirety. I think I'll rename it though, let's say:

Retro-Futura Frenesì

Run Maria Run!

Ah well. I never did find my white noise .wav to replace my defunct alarm clock with chipmunk woodsy sounds. I did find this downloadable programme though, which at 632K, shouldn't hog system resources unduly.

Now if I could only find a screenshot of that crackle-and-pop, I'd be sleeping as sound as a magpie tonight.

Tracking Traffic

It's funny when you look at your hit counter, and check out the blogposts that are attracting readers, isn't it?

I've been looking at the Traffic Report, and it seems my Copacabana Trannies post as well as the Prince Albert-Togolese Love Child one are reeling them in today faster than you can say "Royal Bastards".

I can only presume the Monagasque story broke world-wide in a big way today, but what's up with all the Tranny traffic?

There's no rhyme nor reason since the countries of origin are all over the place: Argentina, Sweden, Norway, France. All bitin' on the half-comical Trannies post.

Actually, never mind. I don't want to know.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Mahjong Parlours

When reading of Kung Fu Hustle star, Yuen Qiu, having been arrested at an underground mahjong parlour, I was quite intrigued.

Maybe it's the combination of "mahjong" "underground" and the always salacious "parlour" in close proximity, but I have visions of opium dens where the frenzied click of the tiles can barely be heard over smokey conversations.

So I'm starting here and now, a quest to find the best mahjong parlour of them all. Hong Kong, Boston, Kyoto, London or Macau. It makes no difference.

Please submit all locales for consideration.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Pasolini Uncovered

(Arrgh. Blogger.com was again down long after their "sorry" page was supposed to expire)

It's been almost 30 years since Pier Paolo Pasolini's murdered body was found in the low-rent Roman beach suburb known as Ostia.

At the time, it was labelled a "homocide" by the weary Italian public, since it seemed a street-hustler by the name of Pino Pelosi (no relation to Nancy...I think) had run him over several times with his car.

Italy in the 1970's was awash with salacious news stories, political crisises, and high-profile kidnappings and murders, many of them at the hands of the "Brigada Rossa" whose aim was to bring down the Italian system of government, seemingly daily.

That a gay Marxist director, no matter how infamous in life, had been killed at the hands of a possible deranged lover caused more than a ripple in the news, since to some he was the heir of De Sica, Rossellini and Fellini, but ultimately (rather like the ongoing Michael Jackson saga today), the details of the director's life were not easily stomached during the subsequent trial.

This past Saturday, however, Pelosi gave an interview from his cell to television channel, Rai Tre, saying that "3 young people with Southern accents" were the ones who actually killed Pasolini -- he was just the patsy.

Fellow cineaste Sergio Citti threw another spanner in the works by telling La Repubblica, the influencial daily, that the motives for his killing were far from sensual, but rather political.

"His death was convenient to many, to all those who were afraid of his mind and free spirit."

(Geez. You'd think we were talking of Gandhi)

It may be his far-left ideals shone through in his films, but I certainly rarely if ever saw evidence of this. They were political like Woody Allen's films may be termed political -- if they are, it's only secondary to his life's observations, rather than any forced ideological agenda. Visconti, yes. Pasolini, no.

Most of PPP's works, from Porcile (Pigsty), to the Thousand and One Arabian Nights, or the most renowned of his films, Salò: or the 120 Days of Sodom, veered from the boringly self-indulgent to frenzied gutter schlock.

In fact, back in the early days when DVD's were still relatively new things, around 1999/2000, one could find DVD copies of Salò being hocked on eBay for no less than U$500; and still today, it's difficult for you to find them going under U$125.

This to me is the ultimate and most delicious irony of them all.

That grasping speculators are making a killing reselling this film in the free-market whirligig that is eBay, is some kind of wonderful.

Similar to the well-known anecdote of his father, back when he was a leftist Friulian soldier in Mussolini's army, was credited with saving Benito from certain death one day.

The moral of the story is, as ever:

Not only is there a God, but He has a wicked sense of humour.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Best Afghan Girl Rocker Band...Ever

Occasionally in life, you get blown away by an image which completely summarises everything you find wonderful, arcane, and hilarious all in one.

These are not moments to be missed, like Nikita Krushchev's shoe-banging on the UN podium.

Such was my reaction when I saw the photo below, which I'll take my time in showing you. But before, a little preamble to set the mood.

As we all know, the Taliban were a merry group of Commie/stroke/Infidel fighters back in the day, who stuck around Afghanistan after the showdown despite not being necessarily composed of Afghanis proper.

They wanted the world to be as it used to be, in the days of, oh I don't know, the Paleolithic Age? Anyway, one of those -ithic eras, when men were men and women were dinosaur bait.

So when a Texan named Georgie broke up their cosy setup, the more Neanderthal of the customs started to fall by the wayside -- but not all.

One doesn't undo two decades of enforcement of hundreds of years of local custom overnight, after all.

For anyone who has read Norwegian journalist Asne Seierstad's The Bookseller of Kabul, or the Afghani girl named Latifa's, My Fordbidden Face, you know this transition from the primeval to the primetime, ain't gonna be easy.

But a journey of a thousand miles is begun with one step, or in Burka Band's case, with one drum cord.

Though they've been around since 2003, it's only now that their hit-single has reached starry heights in the German Billboard.

It's all about 3 girls, 3 voices, and 3 dreams of being in a rock-and-roll band in Afghanistan, and brother, I don't know about you, but that's sweet music to me.

For those of you curious about how they sound, I have a treat in store for all. Here is an mp3 of their biggest hit:

Burka Blue

And as promised, here is the image that makes the Afghanistan Liberation completely worthwhile, if for nothing else than seeing this photo with your own two eyes:

Mick Jagger never looked so good

Come on. How cool is that?!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

I'll Huff and I'll Puff

The best line of the California Gubernatorial race went to Arianna Huffington, who narrowly beat out Arnold Schwarzenegger's line about her -- "I could drive my Hummer through your tax loophole" -- with this tasty morsel:

"Vote for me. I have a better accent"

Ahh, politics. Some like me may hate it, but it's the best free circus out there.

So what does a girl do when she gets trounced by a cynical, hyper-populist Austrian (everyone can respond, except Leni Riefenstahl)?

Why, launch her own blog, naturellement!

In fact, The Huffington Post starts up Monday 9 May, and those of us who have been blogging for some time now, would like to extend a cordial hand of welcome to everyone's favourite right-wing nutter turned progressive-liberal harpy moonbat.

And having been taunted by Ahnuld was good practise for her blogosphere career, since of course, the spoof blogsites are already vibrating with comments...since like fellow female blogueras Wonkette, and Michelle Malkin, the Greek Buffoon doesn't allow commentaries on her blog.

But I do! I also am dying to be spoofed, so hop to it!

Do please try to find a better title for the spoof than The Puffington Host did, though. That's just lame.

Finally, ex-Mrs. Huff, you know you're in trouble when the best spoof blogsite is done by the Grauniad, such as their idea of what probable entries by your celeb-pals may look like:

I can't think of anything to say, posted by G Paltrow on Mon May 9 at 09:21 PDT

Arianna: its rlly uncool whn my cell rings during pilates. i said id post whn & if i had something to say. rt now im just too busy. stop bugging me.

Gwynniex

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Saturday, May 07, 2005

I Knew Her Name

Haven't you noticed how blogging is a bit like stamp collecting?

Due to your hobby, you get amazing pieces of information, about peoples, places, and things you normally might've died without knowing. Shame. When there is so much knowledge to be culled, just waiting for the right tongue to lick it.

One such moment was when President Bush visited Latvia on his whirlwind World War II stop around Europe this weekend. And who was there to greet him, actually going inside Air Force One to get him (maybe she thought he would get lost otherwise)?

Why President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, of course!

Those of you who remember my Heroine Chic 3-part series on female world leaders will surely remember Madame President in The Bad section.

Wait 'til you see my getup tomorrow, Mr. Bush

Granted the first outfit she wore was a safe black ensemble (maybe she didn't want to clash with Mrs. Bush's electric blue pantsuit), but the next day, she was up to her old tricks with a beige picnic tablecloth thingie, which totally did Estonian President Ruutu's head in.

Alright, alright I'll play nice.

One thing I can say about President Vike-Freiberga is that like President Adamkus of Lithuania, she spoke flawless English at the press conference. That way she got to enjoy the US President's fratboy antics better than most.

"Maybe 60 years is a lot for a 30 year-old girl like you [to a female Latvian reporter], but not to an old guy like President Adamkus here".

Oy.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Tony's Hattrick

New Labour held on by the skin o' their skinny teeth to retain their majority in Parliament, and thereto the Premiership last night.

Here's Tony Blair celebrating his historic threepeat in Sedgefield.

Babalu Blog Guest on Tony Blair Halloween Night

Oops. Sorry. That was Cherie Blair during her recent Australasia tour.

Here's Tony below, having promised free NHS Dentist coverage, if returned to Number 10. And not a moment too soon, if you ask me.

Big Head Tony

For more in-depth coverage of the general election (the second I've missed since emigrating in 1998), here is the BBC Elections Special page.

Addendum: Sadly, one loser many of us were touting for a small upset was UKIP hopeful (Wantage, Oxon), Count Nikolai Tolstoy-Miloslavsky, direct descendant of Leo Tolstoy, and scion of two of the leading White Russian families in Britain since 1920.

Name Party Votes

Ed Vaizey Conservative 22,354
Andrew Crawford Liberal Democrat 14,337
Mark McDonald Labour 12,464
Adam Twine Green 1,332
Nikolai Tolstoy-Miloslavsky UK Independence Party 798
Gerald Lambourne English Democrats 646

I'm sure I'm not alone wishing he had been elected and gone on to grace the backbenches of the Opposition in his Cossack Ataman uniform.

Nikolai in casual wear

Things just haven't been the same without Michael Portillo.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

BBC Election Night Wheel of Misfortune

Bleedin' 'heck.

If you thought the cheesy graphics from the 1997 General Election were bad, check out the brand-new Election Result Swing-o-Metre on the BBC.

BBC (Real Audio, Lo-Speed)
BBC (WMP, Lo-Speed)

And those of you interested in live blogging the results, here's the BBC'S very own weblog, although I'm not very sold on it's "live" status.

Finally, here is a Live Results streaming popup for your convenience.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Could Europe be Ready for another Black Prince?

This bombshell is just hitting the French-language newswires, but not as yet, the US ones, although the British tabloids have unsurprisngly led with the story today:

France's premier weekly magazine, Paris Match, has broken in their Wednesday issue the astonishing tale of Albert II of Monaco's possible paternity of a love-child.

That's part one of the bombshell. Usually a revelation of a love-child in princely or royal families would be a 10 on their Richter Scale, since their legitimacy rests on their LEGITIMACY.

What makes this a 10 x 10 is that the child is half-black.



According to the 4-page interview accorded by the mother of 20-month old Alexandre, Togo-born ex-stewardess Nicole Coste, Prince Albert had submitted to a paternity test which proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was the father of the child.

(As an aside, what is it about Togo recently? From being news lepers, suddenly Togo is everywhere)

She granted the interview to the glossy rag, which has made a killing from the misadventures of the Prince's two sisters throughout the years, because she said she was tired of keeping the affair a secret.

The statuesque but not overly beautiful airline hostess met the Prince during a Paris-Nice flight in 1997, and soon was given the keys to his Monagasque flat.

It was in the midst of his birthday night celebration in December 2002 that their child was apparently conceived. When the late Prince Rainier was told of the relationship, never mind the child, he was said to be aghast.

I presume he was very disappointed in his son, since the personable, sporty 47-year old heir rarely gave his parents any trouble, unless you count persistent rumours that he was gay and unlikely ever to marry.

Nothing like a little love-child to scotch those rumours right up.

The DNA tests were said to have been done at the prestigious Parisian hospital, Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, and Prince Albert was said to have recognised the child immediately after, if only to the mother herself.

Now the question remains, will Prince Albert, the recently ascended hereditary prince of Monaco recognise his son? And if and when he does, will he legitimise his extra-curricular child, usurping his eldest sister and her children's rights to the princely title?

And finally, how will the tiny Monagasque principality react if he does?

So far, the reactions from his subjects are not incredibly encouraging. Their opinions were scoped in the France2 newscast today, and most simply didn't believe the story, and were not at all supportive of the child's tenuous claim on the throne.

I personally do not think Prince Albert will legitimise this child, even though his hand may be forced in the coming weeks to acknowledge paternity.

There isn't anything nefarious about this, or racist, despite the intimations from certain quarters (such as Paris-Match stalwart Henry-Jean Servat, of all people, who says if the mother were the King of Sweden's daughter, rather than a black "stew", people would be swooning to accept the kid. Yeah sure).

Royal or aristocratic bastards are nothing new under the sun.

After all, the present ex-King of Romania also had an illegitimate elder brother, and his short-lived ascension to the throne was never in doubt. Twice.

And you didn't hear one peep from Denmark or on the continent when cadet prince, Joachim, then second-in-line to the throne, married a half-Asian lady from Hong Kong.

So just to irritate the PC crowd, I'll end with these immortal words, "Dude, Grace Kelly has a black grandbaby!".

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Cordon Bluestreak

What happens when you mix good food, the ruthless frankness of American Idol's Simon Cowell, and an US Television network?

Why, Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen on the FOX Channel, is what.

Yes, the über-grumpy, potty-mouthed Scots chef will try to become the new man Americans love to hate this 30 May.

The thing about Gordon Ramsay is his uncompromising honesty, which he uses to bulldoze his way over anyone and anything which stands in his way. When dealing with his staff, he turns it on 100 degrees, in a quest to be known as the world's most unpleasant boss.

Oh Americans can take the hokey "You're fired" catchphrase shout of a Donald Trump, but you have no idea -- if you've never seen or, more importantly, heard Gordon Ramsay, you are in for a cold shower of abuse.

And Americans are simply unused to that.

I don't know how he will translate in the US, but if Simon is anything to go by, Americans will be at first repelled, and then, will grow to like his extreme nastiness because at least it's said with a "British accent".

Heh. Lucky me.

But what I will find interesting to see is if the chefs under him shout back, because the one cultural difference between us and Americans (even apprentice chefs, who are used to abuse), is the American penchant to answer back in kind. Ooh, I can't wait!

Though how the network will curb his actual torrid language is another matter, given network television's strict enforcement of swearing, via the FCC.

"You're bleeping useless, you know that young man, yeah. Bleep off! Just bleep off back to France, you fat bastard, yeah. You're bleeping fired, you wanking pig's bucket, bleep bleep. Bleep!"

If you can imagine a Glaswegian, boot camp version of Julia Child after doing crystal-meth for a week solid, and with a massive case of PMS, you have a so-so idea of how Gordon Ramsay is. The reality is much much worse.

As the French say, ça promet.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Kosher Tours

You know, in a way it's sad observant Catholics have very few dietary restrictions; in fact, the one religious dietary no-no we had, no meat on Fridays, was unceremoniously dumped after the Second Vatican Council.

(And I'm sure I'm not the only one who wonders what happened to all those dead sinners who had snuck a bit of bacon on Fridays. Did St. Peter come 'round and say, "Right you lot. Out of purgatory, all of you. Meat on Fridays is no longer a sin. You condom users will have to wait a bit longer")

And it's precisely the law of keeping kosher that I envy about Jews.

Now, I used to date a Jewish guy, whose family might be called "Conservative"; they could date verklempt shickses like me, but when it came to foodstuffs, it was glatt kosher or bust.

When scanning a touring website just now, since my parents are considering taking a cruise around the Caribbean this summer, I saw this awesome site:

Kosher Cruises

The first thing that jumps out at us non-Jews are speciality words like "Chagim", "Sukkot", and "Shavuot", made more mysterious by the fact that entire cruises are planned around them!

(This is how non-Catholics might feel when we drop a sentence on them like, "Of course, the Tridentine liturgy is phenomenal, really making you sit up and notice the pro vobis and pro multis. Shh. The Angelus is starting")

Eddies Travel offers you a new appreciation of "Simchat Yom-Tov" at a hotel in Israel

Aww. I want to have a whole new appreciation of a Simchat Yom-Tov too, no fair.

For a girl who studied Ladino to mix better with her boyfriend's family (originally from Iraq), I feel I would fit right in with the blue-hair kosher crowd.

Ooh. I think I found my dream cruise right now!

Panama Canal Glatt Kosher Cruise

January/February 2006
With on-board theme & Chazzanim in Live Concert.

This cruise featuring: Moshe Schulhof & Benjamin Warschawski

Magical sights and sounds, magnificent destinations, tropical ports and countless new experiences await you on this unforgettable Glatt kosher cruise aboard the luxurious MSC Lirica. Sail from Florida - Mexico - Costa Rica - Panama - Columbia - Jamaica back to Florida.


On-board Chazzanim around the Panama Canal enjoying the terpsichory rhythms of Moshe Schulhof and Benjamin Warschawski -- who insiders tell me are the Israeli equivalent of Nicola di Bari and Rocco del Sud.

Ah well. Maybe next year...ooh, what's this? 'Boogie in Bavaria'. I'm so there!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Remember when May Day...

Meant tacky Russian tanks being reviewed by grizzled Politburo members in tacky suits? Ah, for the good old days.

After the Fall, not to say Implosion of Communism behind the Iron Curtain, we're now saddled with May Days which feature nothing more than limpid banners touting, "No more Hiroshimas", and "Tear down this Dubya!".

Unfortunately for Oxford, we would much rather have tree-huggers than the age-old custom of Magdalen Bridge jumping into the Cherwell on 1st May.

Now in my "day" at Oxford, the tradition had really declined, falling the way of totem-pole climbing, and dunking freshers into Mercury if they misbehaved.

So the answer is no, I never decided to brave the frigid waters of the old 'well, meself.

Would that the over 100 boozed-up "gownies" had done the same this Sunday. They would've been saved many broken legs.

Free Booze to the First 1000 Swimmers

I mean, don't they know, even with a crate full of Boddies in them, that if they jump from a height of 30 feet into water no deeper than up to your waist, something's got to give -- and that something is rarely the water.

At least they wore clean Calvin Kleins.


 




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