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...a sweatshop of moxie

Friday, March 31, 2006

Rumours Of My Demise

Are not only much exaggerated, but are downright false!

Although you can be forgiven for thinking, "Wow, Vicky self-imploded after that Castro thread. She must've been really cheesed!"

Don't worry guys. I'm fine, and just got very busy.

In fact, I have been hard at work for you all, as you will see in the forthcoming days, when the famed Sundries travellogues continue.

There is a problem with the uploading of the pics, so this is why I have been quite frustrated in my attempts to post something for you, although to be sure, that's no excuse.

But here I am, anew, and raring to go with my commentaries to you all.

Scroll up and down for updates!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

What Will Happen When Castro Dies

(Welcome Babalublog, and Kill Castro readers!)

N.B.: This March 2006 blogpost was linked by Michelle Malkin on 31 July 2006. If you've come from Michelle's blog, please click on "Sundries" above, since I will have photographs of Miami celebrations, all this week!

*PHOTO UPDATE* El Chou De La Calle Ocho, August 2, 2006

Commenter Benning alerted me to the startling news, being reported by many Latin American press outlets, that Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro Ruz, might have died today.

Now, you may think this is wishful thinking on the part of many people who hold very anti-Castrista views, but in fact, and rather interestingly, the rumours of his death are being reported by Indymedia.

I didn't know who they were, either, so I read the Spanish-language news link Benning sent me.

Publius Pundit has the story here.

The news, strangely, has been given by several news sites, among which the far-leftist Indymedia in Argentina, which quoted some Latin American media as having reported the news. The Cuban regime has immediately dismissed the claims.

Publius responds by opining:

I assume that the regime won’t let know about the dictator’s death as soon as he dies.

Indeed, they would not, and not just because that's the traditional modus operandi of all authoritarian, not to mention, Communist regimes.

Let me try to show you, based on educated guesses, what would happen when Fidel Castro dies.

The newswire Newsflash might look like this:

"It is being reported by Granma, the official Cuban news organ, that long-time Cuban President, Fidel Castro, 76, has died in his compound of El Laguito, in Havana, Cuba today.

His brother, General Raul Castro Ruz, is poised to succeed his brother as Comandante-en-Jefe of the Caribbean island nation.

Immediate response from the U.S. State Department is expected shortly.

The United States and Cuba have been embroiled in strategic deadlock since the late Cuban strongman took over the island, and declared himself a Marxist-Leninist, shortly after taking over, in 1959."

The Cuban Revolution has been both widely condemned, but also widely supported around the world.

It was seen by many as models of education, health care, and increased living standards of the Cuban people, since President Castro took over.

This kind of newsflash, especially by the AP, is both factual, but as ever with Mainstream Media, leaves the reader with a positive last statement, with which to ponder.

(Always pay attention to the very last statement in any news story, from any news media. The way they end a report, more often than not, reflects their world view)

It is always in poor taste to kick a man when he is down, and there is no situation more down than being dead, but many media always leave a subtle imprint of their views, based on whether they are Left or Right, on their news stories.

You can be sure that these newsflashes, and the subsequent obituaries which would derive from Fidel Castro's death, would be no different.

Depending on their ideological viewpoint, each news organisation will either completely ignore the tremendous evil this man had foisted on a nation of 10 million plus for almost 50 years, or to reduce their significance, by comparing the then and now, in as positive a light as they can.

The latter will include always mentioning the 99% literacy rates, and the free health care, his Socialist Revolution brought about.

No word about the lack of free elections during all this time; indeed, the fact this rich man's son, this ex-altar boy-turned lawyer-turned revolutionary, Fidel Castro has never once been elected to any position in Cuba, yet he, however, is the font of all power in his country.

They will not mention all the thousands and thousands of people he has imprisoned, nor the mock trials held to condemn his opponents to death, nor of the civil liberties he has taken away, such as freedoms of speech, assembly, association and religion, all these years.

The negative column is so bristling to capacity with infringements of the most basic kinds of liberties which most people not living in Communist dictatorships have, yet who are always prostesting they have little, or that that they are under siege by whatever current administration is in power.

If these self-same people had to endure EVEN ONE MOMENT of the very real lack of civil liberties Cubans have undergone these many years, they would find out how very lucky they truly are.

Of course, such people people are usually the ones who would not hesitate to bring out the negatives of entities or people whose ideological positions they very much disagree with, such as the paedophilia scandals during the reign of the late John Paul II, but who would mention haltingly the abuses by Fidel Castro...

...almost as if they suddenly rememebered that it is in extreme poor taste to rag on the dead, when they have just passed away.

I can guarantee you, GUARANTEE mind you, that the outrage and news media attention given to Fidel Castro's passing, will in no way shape, or form, compare to the vitriolic acid tongues immediately upon hearing of the death of General Augusto Pinochet, of Chile.

Being a lover of democracy, I am not partial at all to General Pinochet and what he did in his country, but I can tell you that I do not for a minute compare the two men, so that the bearded Cuban dictator comes up smelling of roses next to the Chilean.

As awful a time as many who suffered during Chile's dictatorship in the mid-70s to mid-80s had, it in NO WAY compares to the house-arrest of an entire people stuck in an island, have had in almost 47 years.

Almost as a rubric of comparison, today, Chile is a prosperous, stable democracy, who furthermore, has just elected its first woman, and Socialist president, Michelle Bachelet.

Contrast this to Cuba today, a country which is still is in the grips of one man's personal reign of horror, which ironically, his very death is the only thing preventing them from tearing down the cobwebs of Communism.

Yet these people would laud the one dictator, whilst heaping condemnation on the other for almost identical abuses.

THIS is what many of us who abhor Fidel Castro, ESPECIALLY hate about news media, or its like-minded advocates.

The implicit approval given a man, that despite his being worse than any hated figure of repression in South America, is still given a pass despite the almost half-century of proof to the contrary.

Finally, I can tell you what would happen in South Florida, in Chicago, in New Orleans, in all the places where Cubans have been exiled, because this man took away their country from them.


Glorious, happy, joyful, orgasmic, incredible chaos.

Waving Cuban flags! People outside of their cafecito bars! People dancing a conga in the streets, outside of Versailles.


Furthermore, I pledge to all who read this, that wherever I am, when I hear that Fidel Castro has died, I will head immediately to 8th Street, La Calle Ocho, and shout to the heavens, giving thanks that this person has finally died.

I may not even say much about it on the blog because at the end of the day, I don't like crowing about any man's death, even that of someone I consider a monster.

But nothing will prevent me from cheering the death of a madman with the people whose very existence in those dancing conga lines, owe directly to the life lived in their country, by one man, and one man only:

Fidel Freaking Castro.

UPDATE: It seems that the rumours have been disproven as he met in coucil with some OLADE represantives today, but no matter.

Death will not be robbed, one day.

GRAMMATICAL UPDATE: I have cleaned up the post for grammar, and even straightened out some of the more disjointed paragraphs, as I had composed this post on the run, whilst out shopping.

Benning has noted that a Cuban blogger he emailed has said that the news of Castro's death would spread like wildfire around the island, and that the phone lines to Miami, especially, would be ringing off the hook.

I had, of course, meant to mention this myself, as I can vouch for the people I know, who have discussed this imagined series of events in detail with me.

What that person said is 100% correct.

Cubans are huge chismeros (chisme = gossip), and though official word might be slow in coming, when Castro dies, you can bet the farm the phone lines would be melting from overuse, and there would be such an outpouring of hatred towards him by the people IN CUBA (hardly the hated Miami Mafia, which they sneer at), that news media will be caught completely off-guard.

You will see a scramble to interpret what you and I already know, out of common sense.

That no amount of improving literacy levels, or "free health care", could ever EVER make up for what this man has taken away:

Any and every freedom of choice you can think of.

P.S.: In case you cannot be with us in Calle Ocho, when the deal goes down, don't worry.

Turn on your local Univision or Telemundo channels, which are available to about 90% of all Americans, I have heard.

Especially the pro-Cuban-American Telemundo, will be covering the story in such a way, as to make everyone feel the elation, relief, and joy of Cuban exiles the world over.

Please note that this event will not mean that Cubans will, en masse, be re-emigrating to their countries, as some snidely might presume.

Although there are historic parallels to the White Russians, Cubans in South Florida, or the United States, won't have to wait for the death of a system, but only the death of a man, which by definition, is a shorter wait than the White Russians have had to endure.

Their proximity to the island, and the deep and abiding strength of their allegiance to their homeland, even in third or fourth generations now, will make it a given that some may see perhaps a partial return to Cuba, say as a second home, a possibility.

(Of course, many in South Florida, for example, are vastly jealous or fed up with Cubans here. Their tom-toms of "send them all back", will be heard loud and clear, just like during the aftermath of the Elian debacle, when racist epithets about Cubans flew from all mouths, "Anglo" and black alike...sadly)

What the death of Fidel Castro does mean, is that they can at least begin to forge a dialogue with their culture, lost through upheaval and uprooting, which you or I take for granted, in ours.

And from that situation, anything can happen.

Happy Birthday, Renato!

I am almost in Nyquiland, but with my last effort overnight, I want to wish:

A Very Happy Birthday to...Renato, my Sundries co-blogger par excellence!

Please append your good wishes below, as I continue to wrap my surprise gift to Renato.

(snip, snip, tying bow, patting box, nervous sigh)


Gosh, I hope he likes it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Your Handy Sure-Fire Pre-Cold Remedy

Arriving home from doing my morning chores, I decided to take a dip in the pool, since the day was crisp, but gorgeously sunny.


A brisk east-west wind knifed through my wet body, as I got out.

With my defences down, I have caught what we call in U-speak, "chill", and what everyone else calls a cold.

But hang on!

I don't have a cold just yet. I'm just at that stage where the cold is starting.

You know how it is:

Your temple is clammy, your throat is itchy, your muscles feel like collapsing into a dreamy sleep. A feeling of always wanting to sneeze overwhelms you.

I'm exactly at that point now, so tonight, I have two choices.

Take a warm, oatmeal bubble bath, lather my throat with Vicks Vapour Rub (vibaparu in "Cuban"), and put on my very unsexy, un-Naked Twister cashmere socks, and drop off into a gentle slumber.

Tomorrow, I will surely awake sounding like Harvey Firestein, and feel like somebody passed my body through the meat grinder.

Or I can do as the Brazilians do, and "cut" the cold before it starts.

Now I know what you're thinking.

There is no cure for the common cold!

True, there isn't, but when I was in Rio de Janeiro some years ago, I was in very much the same position I am in now: that achy bones first day of a cold.

That's when the local corner "Vitamina" guy took one look at me, and "prescribed" what he said was a sure-fire pre-cold remedy.

"You take it, and the next day, you're as good as new!"

If you're sceptical, I was doubly so.

First, let me explain what a vitamina is.

It's not exactly a vitamin, like a Flintstones Chewable (I love those!).

A vitamina is basically a fruit concoction, but depending on the fruit, it can have milk or cream added unto it.

You can call it a fruit shake if you want, but I just call it what they do, a Vitamina (vee-tah-mee-nah).

So for the benefit of mankind, I blog the super simple recipe below, so that you too may make it, in hopes one day, of staving off a nasty cold.


(Courtesy of that Vitamina Guy in Copacabana's Prado Junior Corner Cafe)

6 whole Valencia oranges
3 whole Lemons
2 whole Limes
1 Grapefruit
2 Tbsp Sugar / 4 sugarcubes

Express each of these citrus fruits by hand. Do not use store-bought concentrate.

The key is the order.

First, Lemon, then Lime, then Grapefruit, finally Orange.

Using a blender, mix it for 2 minutes, whilst adding the sugar slowly, so that the bitter taste, and believe me, it's very bitter, is lessened. It should come out frothy, with a lovely "head".


Get better!

P.S.: If you see me blogging tomorrow, it worked. If not, shoot the Vitamina Guy for me.

Summer Of Hate, Spring Of Protest

The University of Miami community are today involved in the latest trend all over the Western World -- protests.

But let's back up a bit.

Do you remember the Summer of 2005? How could you not. It was AWFUL.

Just thinking of that summer, depresses me anew.

This was the summer MSM decided they were not standing idly by, but actively trying to help to bury their arch-nemesis, the Bush Administration.

  • The Cindy Sheehan Hate Circus came to town, hoping to corral President Bush during his summer holidays in Crawford...again.

  • Following the death of the charismatic Pope John Paul II, the lingering bad taste towards the "conservative" Pope Benedict XVI still resonated. The World Youth Day in Cologne was minimally covered by cable MSM in the US, almost as if to re-emphasise the media's disdain for this latest ideological defeat.

  • Katrina -- MSM's "Finest" Hour.

  • And then there were these events:

  • The Live-8 Concert which tried to help Africans by raising awareness of their economic and social woes, but all the while, allowing the usual umbrella of groups to once again vent their grievances on familiar topics

  • The anti-G-8 protests in Scotland

  • The tragedy of London Underground bombings, and subsequent manhunts for the perpetruators.

  • The death of Jean-Charles Menezes, the Brazilian shot by mistake by London police

  • The ongoing Parisian and French riots, by disaffected urban youth. Thousands of cars were torched, and the protests continue to this day.

    I'm sure I've missed many other events, which made the Summer of 2005 just one media frenzied spillage of bile, after the other.

  • 2005 wasn't exactly 1968, but it was a harbinger for perhaps, more protest, more strife, more hatred to come.

    This young spring, we already have a series of events which are fast becoming a pattern:

    Everywhere, people are re-discovering the art of the strike as protest.

    In California, almost a million strong piled into the streets all around the state, to protest the proposed tougher immigration laws, which like it or not, are coming.

    First teachers, and then students, have walked out of classrooms, in cat-strikes which may wreck havoc with the school year, amongst many things.

    In France, current Prime Minister and ex-Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, might have overplayed his hand this winter, by furtively passing a law which gives more leeway to employers, in job contracts, and firing personnel.

    This has escalated these past two weeks, into a series of national strikes, and more continued rampage on the streets of Paris.

    In London, continued protest marches by anti-US policy in Iraq groups, have grown from peaceful carnival-like affairs, to those brandishing posters asking for heads to be cut off, in retaliation for the Mohammed cartoons published in a Danish newspaper.

    But now, the protests have struck closer to home.

    Some students at the University of Miami, have decided to strike in solidarity with the ongoing strike by the janitors, who are protesting their lack of health coverage, and adequate compensation.

    They also wish to unionise themselves, which is being met by the private University, with a gravyboat of silence.

    They are at loggerheads with University President, Donna Shalala, who it should be remembered, was President Clinton's Secretary of Health and Human Services, and a lifelong progressive Democrat.

    It's intersting that recently, the New York Times Magazine had a magnificent article about her new 9,000 sq ft home, where she boasted her dog had access to 4 beds to lie in.

    She was shown, bathed in smiles, living the life of Riley, courtesy of the position she holds at the University.

    On Tuesday, she held many meetings trying to ameliorate the situation.

    However, she was adamant about one aspect of the student strike.

    ''They have a right to protest, but not a right to interrupt the business of the university,'' she said.

    And that's not all. According to the Miami Herald article:

    By midafternoon the air-conditioning in the admissions office had been shut off, students said, adding they were denied use of bathrooms and access to drinking water.

    Earlier in the day, 17 union sympathizers were arrested for blocking traffic on U.S. 1 near the university, a Coral Gables Police Department spokesman said.

    The student sit-in began around noon Tuesday. The building was quickly closed off, so dozens of those same union supporters, clad in the purple shirts of the SEIU, shouted their support outside.

    ''Escucha, Unicco, (Listen, Unicco),'' they shouted. ``Estamos en la lucha (We're in the fight).''

    Listen, let's not make this into more than what it is.

    People protest all the time, and though these protests seem to be rather more far-flung and weightier than past protests have been, the Vietnam Era is over.

    The culture of the moment is not receptive to hippie-like sit-ins, and Cesar Chavez-inspired protest marches, as much as it wants painless resolution to difficult problems.

    It's not that Americans, especially, are weary of protests, it's just that the causes these protesters are espousing, only resonate with a minority of the people involved.

    South Floridians are the least political of people, as this No Fault State is the quintessential laissez-faire community.

    The University of Miami is still the last bastion of the conservative, upper-middle class "Anglo" and Cuban residents of South Florida, who just want things to be resolved amicably, so people can get on with life.

    The protests in California, make the immigrants there look bad, and not the policies they wish to strike down.

    France is a special case.

    The aristocratic Mr. de Villepin has emerged battered from these protests, and yet, only a sobering tough look at themselves and their society, will make the French realise the medicine is going to be very bitter, but that's the only way the patient will get better.

    Perhaps this spring is one of protest.

    But the summer may yet bring more surprises, which could make even hardened protesters, rethink their priorities.

    If we're not careful, that is.

    Tuesday, March 28, 2006

    When Did Toys R Us...

    ...become a dealership?

    I don't know about you, but I am of that very last Slinky and Game of Life generation, which thought Atari was like dying and going to rec room heaven.

    One of my happiest moments, growing up, was going to check out the Hamley's classic board game floor, where I would peer with longing at that Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head for hours.

    You have to understand -- my parents were exceptionally, exceptionally generous with me.

    Only children are often pampered, but even so, their guilt-trip gift-giving was extraordinary.

    Not all kids have a room of their own, let alone a room just for their TOYS, but I did.

    Toys are a good way for an only child to make friends, since every girl within spitting distance would come to play with me, since I had the only Malibu Barbie for miles.

    But even so, there were some toys my parents refused to buy me, and Mr. Potato Head was one of them.

    To this day, I hold it against them. Dammit.

    So when the other day, I was passing by a Toys R Us store, I said, what the hay, haven't been in there for a while.

    I went in.

    First up, Toys R Us try to bedazzle the kid with their cheap toy collections.

    This is where you can find everything from jacks to marbles, to swimming flippers. Obviously, most tweens and younger flee when they get there.

    Then, you see the sports equipment, which is also not for me.

    I have a lot of bats and quite a few balls, already.

    That's when I saw it, near my favourite place at any Toys R Us -- the bicycle racks.

    Mama mia! Che bella.

    A purple Jeep Wrangler, looking not dissimilar to my Malibu Barbie Dream House.

    Alas, for greed. It comes before a fall:

    Sticker price shock-itis. This lovely semi-motorised kiddie Jeep was all of U$299!

    Three hundred dollars, for a kid's toy? My dad would've freaked.

    And get this, they were sold out! It had a rain cheque tag on it, as did its masculine cousin.

    Dear me, toys had really come a long way from Parcheesi and UNO...

    Of course, that's when I remembered the board game aisle.

    Speaking of which, here I am playing Naked Twister, with two girlfriends beside me.

    I told you I was popular.

    Looking everywhere, I finally caught a glimpse of it, tucked unceremoniously to the corner: about 3 rows worth of board games.

    Wow, things had really changed since I was a kid.

    There used to be stacks of them, as far as the eye could see -- and kid eyes can see a lot because of their Lite-Brite vision.

    Gone were the days where you had at least 5 versions of Monopoly and Clue (which we in the UK call "Cluedo" by the way, not sure why you call it just "Clue").

    I didn't even see one RISK set, and never mind Stratego!

    In fact, this game was a sobering sight for us Gen-X'er arrepentidos.

    Oh brother -- even Toys R Us are trying to cash in on Dan Brown and his Da Vinci Code phenomenon.

    After grabbing a 70th edition tin of Monopoly (real cast iron pieces! I'm always either the thimble or the hunter, by the way), I scooted out of there, feeling very much my age.

    These puppies might be amazing for any 8 year-old to have...

    ...but nothing beats a quick game of clothing-optional Scrabble with your friends.

    Monday, March 27, 2006

    Go'mint Cheese

    Heh. I can be such a naughty girl sometimes.

    Monday was a busy busy day for me, compounded by the fact that I had to buy a lot of groceries for this weekend, since I am hosting a small get-together on Saturday.

    (Oh, as an aside, the 1980's Birthday Theme Party, which my soon-to-be 35 year-old chum had so enthusiastically received only a few weeks ago, is off. He's going on a Caribbean cruise instead. Oh well. I guess I'll never be able to wear those Molly Ringwald brooches, and Madonna pink half-gloves...again)

    So I stopped at a Winn-Dixie ("The Beef People").

    This chain became known to millions of Americans who don't have one near them, because of that abysmal dog film of the same name.

    It was really bad. Trust me.

    The two competing chains in my neck of the woods, are Publix and Winn-Dixie.

    Publix are decidedly more up-market (pun intended) than Winn-Dixie, not only because of the quality of their generic inhouse brands, which are often better than the leading name brands, but because they have huge supermarket stores, always well-stocked, well-lit and clean.

    Or at least, cleaner than Winn-Dixie.

    This despite that many people like to riff on their name, by pronouncing it Pube-lix.

    As Cleveland might say, that's just nasty.

    On the other hand, Winn-Dixie, as their slogan implies, have exactly three good things going for them:

    A) Their beef is excellent. Not sure how this works, but they consistently have better beef and poultry than Publix, although their produce section usually sucks.

    B) They have a Winn-Dixie Rewards card, which does really save people lots of money, so that's nice.

    C) They have those express self-checkout machines, which talk to you.

    They say things like:

    "Please stand by! Help is on the way!"


    "The weight of this item is not correct. Please stand by! Help is on the way!"


    "You have not scanned the last item. Please stand by! Police are on the way!"

    (I made that last bit up. So far, no one has nabbed me with my unscanned items)

    However, thanks to this innovation, I've seen hulking grown men transform before me into blubbering heaps of jelly, completely bedevilled by what amounts to a talking scanner.

    Of course, most people like these machines, which cheerily combine the two most important attributes Americans hold sacred -- independence, and speed.

    Winn-Dixie rawks!!

    When they're not in bankruptcy, obviously.

    Perhaps because of their cheaper prices, and less toney locations, Winn-Dixie also caters more to the blue-collar, and minority crowds.

    (I even heard people get held up in the ketchup aisle at one Winn-Dixie in Ft. Lauderdale, but I'm not going there to confirm that)

    So there I was, minding my own biness in the regular checkout queue at Winn-Dixie, when I saw the person in front of me throw the most tremendous hissy fit you have ever seen.

    It was a black lady, yae big to a grasshopper, and all of 350 lbs.

    She looked like a 4x4.

    Apparently, as I heard it from the lady in front of me, who heard it from the guy in front of her, her EBT card was out of credits. Or something.

    Now, I don't know about you, but I had no clue what an EBT card was -- until that moment.

    Instinctively, I felt it was what it turned out to be, a food stamp thingie wotsit.


    Well, because her voice was not so much shrill, as resentfully embarrassed and defensive.

    You know the kind -- the voice we have, when someone tells us we have bald tires. Please don't tell me I'm the only one.

    Well, I'm sorry, but I just had to act, the better to speed things up.

    Since the manager was slow to calm her down (unfortunately, the acting manager's English was less than fluent...how do people with little English get managerial jobs?? she says innocently), I tried to soothe her.

    She was doing that whirligig thing with her neck, like bobblehead dolls you see at Juneteenth celebrations in Atlanta, you know, when she yelled at the top of her voice,

    "B*tch! I got kids to feed!"

    Which I thought was just awesome, since I never thought I'd hear that outside of a BET Comedy Hour marathon.

    So, as the two people in front of me had wisely changed lanes, freeing up the queue space in front, I addressed her.

    "Ma'am, I totally understand where you are coming from.

    Sometimes when my EBT card malfunctions, I get irate too, but you have to understand that the problem isn't at Winn-Dixie but at whatever government office emits them.

    Perhaps you could call the 1-800 number they've provided you, to ascertain your next move."

    As long as I live, I'll never forget the look she gave me.

    It must be very similar to what many 16-year olds have, when they open the verbal portion of their SATs.

    So, of course, her only possible retort, to save face, was:

    "B*tch, mind your own biness!"

    This woman was something else. She had spunk! I hate spunk.

    Without blinking an eye, I decided two can play that game.

    And I play it better than most.

    "Ma'am, trust me when I tell you, I'd be fit to be tied if this happened to me. I mean, before EBT cards came out, I had to take my Radio Flyer wagon to the government office to pick up my go'mint cheese, and haul it back in front of EVERYONE. That's humiliating."

    She replied, quietly, "Uh, yeah. But youse white."

    Which was a lovely non sequiter, if ever I heard one.

    "I may be white, but I am 100% Chippewah Casino and Gaming Room on my mother's side. It's not the Middle Passage, but my people suffered too."

    She took one look at me, the cashier, the manager, and hightailed it out of there faster than you can say Wanda Sykes.

    Once upon a time, I had a friend you might remember, called Penelope.

    She taught me the best way to handle an irate crazed individual who just won't see sense, is by being more crazy than they.

    The trick is to pretend to be on their side, but in such a way, that you come out looking even more doolally than they are.

    It helps if you're a very very quick thinker and have a way with words.

    So please do not try this at home. I am a professional.

    Help is on the way.

    Sunday, March 26, 2006

    The Feminist Dilemma

    The Althouse blog has been jumping with a thread topic on arranged marriages.

    In the thread, I mentioned in passing that I thought that arranged marriages and feminism were not compatible.

    So far, I have not read one example which would convince me that a true feminist, and not just a convenient one (who remembers her precepts of equality when it suits her to) would consider arranged marriages as anything but antithetical to her convictions.

    Put it this way:

    The arguments in favour of abortion are very hotly defended by feminists, who proclaim that a woman has the absolute right to choose, since it involves her bodily and intellectual freedom of choice.

    When people try to argue otherwise, feminists specifically, have a very negative reaction to taking away a woman's right to choose.

    Can anyone honestly tell me a person who thinks this way, would find arranged marriages, a system which cedes her freedom of choice in partnership, her very FUTURE, any the less intolerable?

    I don't think so.

    Let me build on this argument, and perhaps, throw a followup situation, into argumentative disrarray.

    Recently, there was a segment on NPR regarding abortions in India, which are indeed legal.

    Not only are they legal, but Indian women of high caste, and of low caste, often have not one, but several abortions, thereby risking their health, sometimes their very lives.

    And do you know what is the most common reason they have abortions?

    To abort females.

    Only female foeti, mind.

    Obviously, in a society where arranged marriages can make or break a family's fortune, since it is the woman's family who provides the husband or his family with a dowry, having too many female children is a hardship.

    In fact, having ANY female children, is a hardship to many families.

    They wish to have male children, not only because of societal positives attached to men (greater earning power, greater freedoms, greater success), but to be on the receiving end of dowries, not on the giving end.

    So, my question to committed feminists, or to anyone who would like to argue the point is:

    What is the feminist position when an abortion targets only females?

    This can hardly be a desirable state-of-affairs, for women.

    So, is it still seen as a woman's absolute right to choose, even if she doesn't choose to give birth to a gender she herself shares?

    And are there any qualms feminists have, in encouraging to what amounts to population extermination given the probable dwindling of their own sex?

    I wonder if then, when a nation has such a preternatural insistence on male children, who by definition, would make up a more patriachal society with all its attendant inequities for women (according to feminists)...

    ...would abortion be defendable by feminists?

    The NPR story had some very interesting details to it, which I encourage you to read.

    This female infanticide situation is complex.

    Amongst other things, the NPR interview referred to one male Indian who has established a hotline whereby anonymous callers "tip" him about women they know are considering or have decided to abort a female foetus.

    He then contacts them, and tries to desperately convince not to do so.

    His goal: to save the unborn females.

    In essence, without there being any kind of religious angle, it goes without saying, he is no different from a Christian abortion clinic protester or opponent, whose message is not seen as welcome, specifically by many feminists.

    (Here I must state, to avoid any confusion, you do not have to be a feminist to believe in abortions. It is evident, but I am trying to preempt any followup replies which misunderstand this point. My emphasis on feminism is built up from the Althouse thread)

    The crux of the matter here is, both sets of people wish to somehow convince a woman not to undergo an abortion, for whatever reason.

    In the West, women tend towards abortion usually because of monetary or health reasons.

    In India, it could be because of monetary reasons, but more specifically, it usually is because the woman does not wish to bring a fellow female into this world.

    A fellow female who, furthermore, could quite independent of her upbringing, become a feminist one day.

    I wonder if feminists considered that angle, too.

    This topic is endlessly fascinating, you'll agree, because of the moral dilemmas inherent in it.

    UPDATE: I have found the NPR link, with accompanying All Things Considered audio, which I hope you will listen to.

    This is the blurb, which accompanies the story:

    India Confronts Gender-Selective Abortion by Amanda Cunningham
    All Things Considered,
    March 21, 2006

    The medical journal The Lancet, reports that there have been 10 million "missing female births" in India in the past 20 years. By "missing," that means females who were aborted. Activists are trying to stop the practice, which is as prevalent in wealthy areas as it is in poor areas.

    10 million in a population which is 1 billion strong may not seem like much, but is a staggering amount of targeted extermination.

    To put this sum of female abortions into perspective:

    Norway is 4 million people strong.

    Two Norways PLUS have been wiped out in the past 20 years in India.

    That is, if two Norways plus, were only inhabited by women.

    Saturday, March 25, 2006

    Rush Hour Turkish Coffee

    "Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love." - Turkish Proverb

    There I was, in Ft. Lauderdale today, doing my usual errands of a Friday afternoon.

    Now, that part of South Florida should never be negotiated on Fridays, let alone on the latter half of the afternoon -- traffic, which is usually at a standstill in Downtown, is completely logjammed at that hour.

    You sit, wait, and wait. And wait some more.

    There were two cop cars in either lane of me, and yet, they did nothing about what I call stop-light spill-overs:

    You know, those people who decide they can squeeze their Escalade on a turn-signal, thus completely interrupting traffic flow all around them. Ain't that illegal? Or at least, rude?

    In the UK, a street copper (note: no one under 101 calls them "Bobbies") would have directed traffic until the congestion had bettered, but you'll never get a South Floridian out from the a/c'ed car if you can help it, cop or no, so we all had to have patience.

    That's when I saw the shop.

    A Lebanese speciality grocers, although to be sure, I didn't know it was Lebanese just by looking at window.

    It had Arabic script alongside the English, advertising their general Middle Eastern emporium.

    But since we have a fairly good-sized community of Lebanese here, almost all of them Christian and from affluent backgrounds, chances were they were Lebanese too.

    And they were.

    The owner had a very strange expression when I came in.

    You may think I flatter myself, and perhaps I do, but it was close to ecstatic.

    Maybe he was just thinking, "Ooh, a new customer!", but woman-like, I had a gut-feeling, and that was that he was grateful, not just happy, I had come in.

    Did some people shy away from associating themselves with anything Middle-Eastern or "Arab", these days?

    (Although Syrians and Turks, amongst many others in the area, are of course, not Arabs, in part or at all)

    I doubt it. South Floridians are fairly easy-going, and the majority of the time, let people do what they do.

    Had I known the man better, I may have half-flirtatiously questioned him, but as it was, I didn't.

    There were only men in the shop, who did look at me rather shall we say, guardedly, as he dropped all his previous conversations to attend to me.

    I had just popped in on a whim, but suddenly, I remembered I had always wanted to have an cezve -- a Turkish coffee pot, which has many names in the region (ibrik, jezve, etc.).

    So off I went, with the short Lebanese gentleman (about 2 inches smaller than I, and I'm not big), to learn all about "Turkish" style coffee.

    He was happy to answer all my questions, and when I asked him how to make the coffee, he patiently explained it not once, but twice, and was almost going to take me to his kitchenette in the back, to teach me, when I realised the rush hour would get no better if I doddled.

    I was careful not to cause offence, because a sudden desire to escape might be construed as more than just rudeness.

    But he took it well, and after giving me a taste of his hummus and baba ghannouj (I bought half-a-pound of the hummus), I left with my Cafe Najjar and new coffee pot, in hand.

    I have this funny reaction to coffee. Maybe it happens to you too.

    It makes me sleepy.

    In fact, all caffeine does.

    So at 11 PM at night, I decided to make myself some Turkish-style coffee.

    According to the shop owner, one should take the coffee pot, and measure the water carefully.

    I would make two cups worth, so I put in two cups of water, then 8 cubes of sugar (I don't have loose sugar, so I just use "Dixie Crystals" or Domino Dot sugarcubes), and two teaspoons of cardamom coffee.

    You have to let it come to the froth not once, but at least 3 times (!), using low flame to let it boil slowly.

    This allows the coffee grinds to settle in a liquidy paste at bottom, which looks rather like Jed Clampett crude oil.

    After it has frothed three times, you pour it with the long handle unto your demitasse cups, let it rest for a minute, and sip it.

    Mama mia, what a taste.

    I rolled it on my tongue a while, to get used to the taste, which is very unusual, even for my espresso-addicted tastebuds.

    I had, of course, had Turkish coffee in my travels, but it's quite a different thing to actually do it yourself.

    Then I drank it.

    The cardamom gives it a very nutty taste, which is an acquired taste, but how I acquired it instantly.

    I loved the frothiness, although truly the best coffee I have ever had is the mega-frothy capuccini in Rome.

    Noticing my heart start to accelerate, I thought it best not to drink too much, since perhaps this inky gloopy coffee would have the more usual trick of making one too wired, rather than my usual somniforousness.

    But I just had to swirl the coffee grinds in my cup, three times, like one does with tea, and try to divine my fortune.

    Reading tea leaves, and coffee grounds are an ancient art, usually best practised in company, and whose lead was taken by women.

    It's inevitable, since often our fate has not been our own to do as we wished, and this might have been a way of trying to figure out a life over which we had little control.

    Or maybe we were just bored.

    Here is my coffee cup.

    Look at it above, again.

    I Googled to see if we can read anything into this gooeyness, which apart from its suitably Turkish crescent shape, to me just looks murky and formless.

    Before you click on the link here, think of the shape the grounds are making.

    See anything?

    My favourite is:

    Fish: Life will become richer, happier and more attractive to you.

    That is certainly a fortune I would wish to all who enjoyed this blog cup o' joe with me today.

    Although this ain't bad either:

    Dog: Good, reliable friends.

    Who could ask for anything more?

    P.S.: Stop the presses! I just double-checked the Cafe Najjar link I gave above, to show you how the bag looks like.

    That's when I noticed this whopping pile of e-poo.

    Cafe Najjar With Cardamon

    Ingredients: Brazilian ground coffee.Vaccum packed.
    Storage: Keep in cool and dry place.
    Net weight: 200gx5.

    Price: $750.00

    Squeeze me? Baking powder? I paid all of U$3.99 for one vacuum-sealed coffee!

    I'm not sure what currency these online Lebanese market peddlers are using, but I think I'm in the wrong business.

    Never mind blogging. I'm opening up a bazaar!

    Friday, March 24, 2006

    Bad News On The Condi '08 Front

    Although this is my second post on Condoleeza Rice in as many days, I promise this one will be more informative.

    If you were watching Larry King Live on CNN on Friday, you can't have failed to have noticed that Mrs. Laura Bush was the Brooklyn-voiced one's guest tonight.

    Mrs. Bush, who I don't need to tell you, was sporting her now trademarked pantsuit (in Spring '06 hot colour, egg-shell white -- she reads her Vogue), replied to Larry's question about who she thought might make a good candidate in '08:

    (Although he phrased it awkwardly, coming out as "president -- who is your favourite?", which seemed to amuse Mrs. Bush since it was a non-sequiter to the conversation they were having 'til then. I was a bit peeved to find out he meant, your favourite candidate for president in 2008, since I actually felt like hearing who her favourite US president is! ...you'll never ever ever guess mine, although Teddy Roosevelt is a close second)

    "Condi Rice would make an excellent President, but I don't think we can convince her to run."


    "Yes. She really means it about not wanting to run. I think she will just go to California, and lead the life she wants there after her job as Secretary of State is over."

    You know, Laura Bush has such a genuineness about her, that her remarkably candid statements fly under the radar, because she is so understated.

    The American public can take from her, what they never could from Mrs. Clinton, simply because of her unbossy, low-key ways.

    But I for one am now convinced, after hearing this.

    Take out Condoleeza Rice for any type of, at least, Vice-Presidential considerations come 2008.

    It just won't happen.

    Such a shame, since a Rudi/Condi ticket is as close to a slam dunk as our more fractiously contentious political era will ever allow.

    Darth Chef

    I had of course, watched the "Return of Chef" episode as promised on Althouse.

    I haven't as yet read what my chums there had to say about this episode, but I found it trite, and horror of horrors, unfunny -- with the only saving grace being a tease of what he may sound in future, in a Luke I am Your Father voice.

    I love South Park, but it's been at least 2 years since last I saw the series at least regularly, and what I saw last night, didn't exactly reel me back in.

    I dare not use the dread "jump the shark" phrase, but let's just say, I hear the first chords of Jaws nearby.

    Doodoo, doo-doo, doo-dooooo.

    ADDENDUM: I'm working on another travellogue for Sunday, so stay tuned for a more meaty post soon!

    Thursday, March 23, 2006

    My Ex

    I've been very lucky.

    Almost all the guys I've been seriously involved with, didn't turn out to be more frog than prince, the moment we went out.

    And some stayed that way, even after we stopped going out.

    Sadly, not all people have the same experience as I.

    In fact, many many people have suffered at the hands of their ex'es, which often makes these folks do some prettyyyy odd things.

    Well, get a load of this Spanish-language site!

    "Fotos De Mi Ex" is exactly what it says it is: pics of the ex-boyfriends, girlfriends, wives, husbands, lovers all, of the dumped or dumpees.

    Now, this is not a work-place friendly site, to say the least.

    I've seen more suggestive poses here than in all of that hotel Playboy channel I once ordered -- what? I'm a red-blooded gal. I have needs.

    So allow me to show you and to translate for you, some of the more interesting photos posted on that site.

    Hell may hath no fury like a woman scorn'd, but I'll tell you, the ratio of photos of ex-girlfriends is about 30 to 1, over the boyfriends.

    Jeez. Men are such crybabies! Get over it!


    Ex Number 1: "Adrian"
    Title: Eres una maricona [You're a fudge-packer]

    Para que aprendas cacho maricona,que a mi no se me deja por el panadero de la esquina aunque tenga el manolete mas grande que yo,guarra¡¡

    [(I've posted this...) So you learn, you great big fairy, that you don't leave me for the baker down the street, even though he's got a bigger one than I do, beeatch!

    Hot-or-Not Scale: -1.
    Photo Reaction: Ick, is that Chewbaka?
    Message Reaction: Why am I reminded of that scene in The 40-Year old Virgin? ...now "the baker down the street corner" may not seem like the funniest reference in English, but trust me, it's hilarious in Spanish. This is one bear that should be hibernating.

    Ex Number 2: Posted by "Helena"
    Title: no aguantaba [I couldn't take it anymore]

    este chico es muy fantasma pero nunca ha sido capaz de aguantarme un polvo entero pero sus amigos si

    This guy is a real ghost (cute?) but he has never been able to last a whole love-making session with me -- but his friends sure can.

    Hot-or-Not Scale: 6.
    Photo Reaction: He couldn't look more of a dick if tried.
    Message Reaction: Now we're talking! Spiteful, libellous, down-and-dirty motives for posting this pic. I love it!

    Ex Number 3: Posted by "La Maña"
    Title: Beach boy

    Era un poco exhibicionista, pero como follaba, sobre todo le gustabahacerlo en la playa, y joder como la tenia! me dejo pq preferia el barça q a mi!cabron!

    He was a bit of an exhibitionist but he sure knew how to get it on, especially on the beach, and boy did he have a big one! He left me because he preferred Barcelona [soccer club] over me! Idiot!

    Hot-or-Not Scale: 4.
    Photo Reaction: Trifling pasty white boy.
    Message Reaction: It must suck, when he fancies Ronaldinho Gaucho, AKA Jar-Jar Binks, over you. Ouch.

    Ex Number 4: Posted by "Lola"
    Title: peazo de cuerpo [Skinny Bones...lit. "fart of a body"]

    este es el cabron de mi ex novio aunque a simple vista parece normal tiene unos ojos preciosos y folla como dios

    This is the asswipe of an ex-boyfriend of mine. Even though at first glance he looks normal, he has lovely eyes, and makes love like a god.

    Hot-or-Not Scale: 2.
    Photo Reaction: I'm speechless. This guys has "restraining order" written all over him.
    Message Reaction: I think Lola needs to get out more, and meet more "normal" guys. Like Jeffrey Dahmer.


    Ex Number 1: "Bella" (Beauty)
    Title: LA BUENOTA DE VENEZUELA [The awesome chick from Venezuela]


    This is just a sample of the women available in Venezuela...for the cool crowd...if there are any!!!

    Hot-or-Not Scale: 9.5
    Photo Reaction: Okay, I posted this for the male Sundries readers, who can thank me via PayPal, later.
    Message Reaction: Come on. She's all plastic and lipo.

    Ex Number 2: "Susana"
    Title: Adicta al sexo anal [Addicted to anal sex, duh]

    Esta zorrita me la tiré en el servicio de un bar y luego la muy puta se folló a mis 2 amigos a la media hora. La podéis encontrar en la zona de copas de San miguel y en Cantarranas, Pucela

    I had this bimbo in the goods lift of a bar, and afterwards this slapper did my 2 friends an half-hour later. You can find her in the booze joints of San Miguel and Cantarranas, Pucela.

    Hot-or-Not Scale: 4.
    Photo Reaction: Ayy. What a 25 dollar, two-fer night stare.
    Message Reaction: Is it me, or is a message like this better written on the wall of the men's toilet, than posted on a website?

    Ex Number 3: "Yo, Ya sabes Quien" [Me, you know who]
    Title: Carita dulce y corazón amargo [Sweet face and bitter heart]

    Así, dormidita, parece que no ha roto un plato en su vida, pero esta pedazo de ameba con piernas se dedicaba a hacerme sentir mal por cosas que no hacía. El sexo anal, tragarse mi semen y la manipulación mental se le daban muy bien. ¡Ah! Chupóptera de eur

    Like this, all sleepy-headed, she looks like she's never broken a plate in her life, but this walking amoeba loved to make me feel bad for stuff I didn't do. Anal sex, swallowing, and mental manipulation all came real easy to her. Ahhh. What a sucktopter of Euros!

    Hot-or-Not Scale: 7
    Photo Reaction: She looks like a high Courtney Love. Redundant, I know.
    Message Reaction: Another "angry" message, although I can't tell you how funny "Chupoptera" is. It's half-way between a vacuum and a panther. Think about it.

    Ex Number 3: "xxx"
    Title: LA TREPAHOMBRES [The penis-scraper]


    Those lips are sacred...she's the only girl who ever went down on me...this hot mama has been around the block, especially my block...and should you see her cave, it's more open than a football stadium. I love her, the whore.

    Hot-or-Not Scale: 2
    Photo Reaction: Boring Goth chick. Next.
    Message Reaction: I'm guessing this guy is all of 14. He sounds it.

    All I can say, after reading these and many other entries on that site is...

    Don't be hatin', playas!

    Wednesday, March 22, 2006

    Arroz Con Mango

    How do you impart your culture to your child, if you live outside of your homeland?

    Chances are that you do so through your language, first, then followed by your native cuisine.

    This is the perfect symphony of interaction, which allows any person to be able to relate to their parents' fellow citizens.

    Everyone can talk food, after all.

    You might think the children of parents born in different countries, have a special, indeed, privileged position -- they are automatically more cosmopolitan than your average child, by definition.

    That might be the case with me, but sadly, there is a spanner in this particular works.

    You see, whilst I speak both my parents' languages, naturally...neither of them know how to cook, and that crucial, crucial aspect of acculturation was completely lost on me.

    So when I decided, this past year, to learn how to cook through dint of self-instruction, I couldn't conjure up any tasty memories of past mealtimes at home, growing up.

    I was on my own.

    Certainly, at school I received "Home Ec" classes the kind almost every child experiences (or used to, anyway -- God only knows how it is, these comprehensive school days) but I cannot honestly tell you if I remember the difference between a rue and a Hollandaise sauce.

    Anyway, I always thought a rue was that woman on The Golden Girls.

    What then, did I have to go on, menu-wise?

    Well, as everyone on the Food Network knows, English cuisine is hardly the stuff of taste-bud tinglings.

    Please. Have you ever tasted Brown Windsor soup? I rest my case.

    And German food is heavy, and time-consuming to make, which is why I am convinced they have the best buffet cold cuts breakfast in the world -- it takes no time at all to make. Just slice and serve.

    Fortunately, I do have two cultures I adore which surround me, and whose cuisine I love.

    Most people think American food is even worse than the pub grub in Britain.

    These people are stupid, and we all just laugh and point at them because they obviously have never had hot water cornbread and eaten meatloaf so appetising, my mouth waters at the thought of it.

    As for hamburgers, you ain't never lived until you've had the Bill Blass sirloin and bleu cheese burger (my mother was once invited to his home in Palm Beach, and this is what he served...he may have been a has-been designer, but he was a fantabulous cook).

    And then there is Cuban Food. Mmmm!

    So yummy, although not to be eaten daily if you wish to maintain that girlish figure, lads.

    With these visions of American dancing dumplings, and Cuban renegade ropa vieja, I screwed up the courage to make those Peruvian guests of ours, a meal they would recognise.

    And I must say, it was a success!

    Did I dare to branch out to make more intricate dishes?

    Well, so far I have concocted with my fair little hands:

    Shepherds Pie
    Paella Valenciana
    Crepes Suzettes
    Sauerbraten with Apricots and Plums
    Lasagna Surprise

    And yesterday, I made this:

    It looks like Paella, but it tastes like chicken -- and that's because it's the world-famous Arroz Con Pollo!

    I had to search carefully for a recipe with a distinctive Cuban taste to it, since that is what I am used to by now.

    For whatever reason, I didn't think to look up the archives of Three Guys From Miami, but I did find a very serviceable substitute here.

    Don't get me wrong.

    I don't mind lechon asado, though I'm not much for pork, and Cuban palomilla steak should be a World Heritage landmark, in my opinion.

    But it's their arroz con pollo that lights up my Cuban-loving embers into a blaze.

    The other recipes called for salchichas (sausages) and what-not, that just seemed so South American, and not anything I was used to at Versailles or Sergio's or La Carreta, the three down-to-earth restaurants specialising in Cuban cusine in Miami.

    But when I read this recipe, I realised it was bang on.

    Any dish which is supposed to be Cuban which doesn't mention sofrito or lime juice, is just a rip-off.

    (Interestingly, I used to think "sofrito" was somehow related to the verb, sofrir -- to suffer. As in, "Pobre Jose! Esta todo sofrito". Look, I'm still a dumb gringa at heart, okay?)

    The recipe preambled with this bit of insight:

    "Of all the islands in the Caribbean, Cuba is the most typically Spanish in background and cuisine. The major ingredients of this popular dish--rice, chicken, and oil--are all of Spanish origin. Still, a Cuban arroz con pollo is unmistakably Latin American. It derives its characteristic taste from the "sofrito, " a basic blend of garlic, onions, and green peppers, which lends flavor to most Cuban stews, enchiladas, and soups.

    Another characteristic of Cuban cuisine is the "adobo, " a mixture of lime juice or bitter Seville orange juice, crushed garlic, and salt, and used to marinate most meats and poultry. Maricel Prescilla, a native of Cuba and a food consultant, advised me on the following version of this popular dish.

    Platanos fritos (sauteed sweet bananas) are the classic accompaniment to this dish.

    Preparation time: 20 minutes, marinating: 2 hours minimum, cooking: 45 minutes."

    I stuck to Maricel's recipe like a blind woman's braille underwear, minus the green peppers, and the beer, which I changed to white wine.

    I just didn't have any malta Hatuey on me.

    And it came out to die for, which is good, since on Sunday my lasagna went straight into the bin.

    Even Schmoopsie turned up his nose at his bowl full.

    I did notice one thing though.

    (A) I don't have the imagination of a real chef, which can jazz up a dish instinctively with just a pinch of that or dab of this.

    Maybe it will come in time?

    But also (B) cooking takes incredibly long, from ingredients-hunting to stomach.

    I am neither hater nor lover of the fast food phenomenon, but I can tell you, people who complain about fast food, should be condemned to make arroz con pollo every day of their lives.

    2 hours to marinade!

    What working mum or dad has the time these days, for this?

    Mickey D's and their ilk may have lots of things against them, but they also freed women from the bondage of the sweating casseroles -- and anyone who thinks differently, is a fool.

    P.S.: I can pre-empt your followup question immediately. Arroz Con Mango isn't really a dish, Cuban or otherwise.

    I admit it does sound like a plate served at a particularly nasty "Latin fusion" restaurant, which like all fusion or "Pan" restaurants, (Pan-Asian especially) should be shot dead before they can replicate.

    It is, however, a phrase used by Cubans to mean something which just doesn't go together -- like rice and mangoes, oil and water, peanut butter and squash...

    Or Bill and Hill.

    Although they're more like un potaje de tortilleras, if you ask me.

    Tuesday, March 21, 2006

    Condi For Commish

    And my series of quick hit blogposts for Tuesday (see below), ends with another sports-centric topic:

    Now that Paul Tagliabue will step down in July as NFL Commissioner, will Condi Rice, whose oft-repeated wish one day, is precisely to be NFL Commish -- throw her hat in the ring for the job?

    The answer came immediately, via her spokesman:

    "She thinks football is the greatest sport on earth, but even if she were approached for the job -- which she has not been -- she would have to decline," Sean McCormack said."

    Would be kinda hard in the next two years, being Vice-President of the United States and NFL Commissioner, at the same time, don't you think?


    I don't get the hype about dunking in basketball.

    This may be one of those ineffable "guy" things one hears so much about, like the allure of Craftsman power tools or any film starring Charles Bronson.

    Nancy Liberman was interviewed on NPR today, saying that when she spoke to Pat Summit, the famous Lady Vols coach, of course (and a Victoria woman-crush candidate, by the way), the latter was completely non-plussed by the fuss made over Candace Parker's dunk last night.

    She mentioned that Pat even said that a regular NBA game on ESPN was cut into, just to show the highlight of that record-setting double dunk.

    Well, I too am completely underwhelmed by the art and importance given to dunking.

    Dunking seems to be, for men, some kind of cross between a facewash, beating another guy at stop-light drag racing, and a particularly nasty "Yo Mama...!" comeback.

    What's the big deal? So you got dunked on. Yawn.

    Wake me up when Harry Met Sally comes on.

    In Search Of...Irons

    Not Jeremy Irons, no.

    Although a couple of years ago, one could have legitimately searched for his lost career. Heh.

    (Is it bad form to "heh" for your own quips? Paging Glenn Reynolds)

    Instead, I'm asking for your opinions on such a mundane household object as an iron.

    My own just conked out (as well as my toaster, but that's another story) this weekend, and therefore, I need blog-pinions...another coinage!

    So far, I like this, or this.

    Any thoughts on the matter, would be very appreciated by my wrinkled Vera Wang microskirts.

    P.S.: In case of trivia interest, I had an auto shut-off Sunbeam before. It was no great shakes, but it did the job.

    Here I am, wearing my usual uniform for ironing.

    Vamos Japón!

    I almost freaked when I saw Japan self-implode in the 6th inning, with I don't know how many errors in consequent innings, to go from a comfortable 6-1 lead over Cuba...

    ...just to see it evaporate to 6-5 by the 8th.

    Oh God, no, I thought. Anything but Cuba winning the World Cup of Baseball.

    That's all we need, but to have that viejo chocho crow over his team having won with the B-team.

    Let me get one thing clear:

    I feel for those players stuck in that miserable excuse for a dictatorship.

    I'd love for them to have a little reflected glory, to cheer up their otherwise oppressive existences -- although to be sure, as athletes, they lead slightly more comfortable and heralded lives, than your average Cuban in Cuba.

    But nothing in this world will make me root for a Cuba team to do well, IN ANYTHING.

    I take this situation in Cuba very seriously, unlike your majority of non-Cubans, who have a hazy understanding of what happens in Cuba.

    This includes most Americans, but also a fair number of Europeans, for whom Cuba is some kind of sex Diseylandia playground.

    They seem to think that because the US has an embargo in Cuba, that that's the reason Cuba is so run-down, and the people are suffering.

    Not a bit of it.

    When you see the paint peeling on walls and buildings in Havana, it has nothing to do with an embargo.

    It has to do with not caring to preserve the bourgeois symbols which were built by non-Communists. If it came before the "glorious" Revolution, it is suspect by its very colonial, capitalist nature.

    This is why, amongst the hundreds of examples I can give you, Castro ordered all the old baseball club names to be changed, so that everyone started with a clean slate, post-1959.

    (And this is why Ceaucescu in Romania razed hundreds of buildings, indeed whole villages, to construct Stalinist architecture monstrosities in their stead -- a world heritage tragedy of unimagined proportions)

    Like all Communist countries, they are there to prove that their system is better than the "exploitative" capitalist countries of the West.

    Never mind that in no way, shape or form, did any Communist country touch the living standards or civil liberties (as imperfect as they were) of any free Western country.

    So when Japan, who rose like a phoenix from the ashes of defeat post-World War II, in no small part because of their own magnificent efforts, but also with tremendous structural help due to the United States' nation-building, was up by 10-6 at the end, I knew one thing:

    That Castro wouldn't have the pleasure of dying with a World Cup of Baseball silver trophy on his mantlepiece.

    Let the Cubans win 100 times in a row when this monster has passed, and in doing so, has set his country free.

    Winning is indeed, not the only thing.

    The only thing, is freedom.

    Monday, March 20, 2006

    It Never Fails

    I don't know if you're like this, but I've noticed that certain months of the year, seem to be tougher on me and mine, than others.

    Maybe it's something about the ruthlessly cleansing power of spring, but usually between April to June, I undergo a slightly harder time in my life. Not anything really major -- but enough so that they pile up to form daily annoyances.

    Well, this year, the rough patch has started a bit earlier.

    You already know about my finger, which is nothing really despite the stitches having bust open accidentally, but more worrisomely, my father is doing poorly due to (of all things) bad medical treatment by HIS doctor.

    So, if you notice a lag in posting, you know why.

    Don't worry though. We'll be fine soon, God willing.

    Sunday, March 19, 2006

    Team Cuba

    The World Cup of Baseball is almost over, and to everyone's amazement, the modern-day murderer's row that is the Dominican Republic, failed to advance to the final.

    But it should come as no surprise that Team Cuba did.

    See, it's really easy -- most of the contenders participating in this inaugural edition tourney, already have jobs.

    Playing in the Big Leagues is no pipe dream, but an everyday cushy reality.

    That's obviously not the case with Team Cuba.

    The Cubans are playing for keeps: hoping that some MLB scout looks at them with sufficient interest, to help them make the very difficult decision of defecting to the United States, to follow in the footsteps of Livan and Orlando Hernandez, and Jose Contreras...

    ...World Series Champions all.

    That last detail is not lost on the many baseball players from that sadly embattled country, where defecting is no joke.

    If they can dream of a World Series ring and a World Series salary, maybe the sacrifice is worth it.

    Yes, they want jobs in the bigs, with big-league money, but in order to get these jobs, many other considerations have to be weighed.

    As my ex-boyfriend, and several of my Cuban-American friends attest to in their lives, defecting or emigrating to the US (which happens legally on occasion) can leave your loved ones behind in Cuba under great peril.

    Every neighbourhood in Cuba, has a Revolutionary Committee representative who is the eyes and ears of the dictatorship for their block.

    In my ex-boyfriend's case, this person was charged to reunite all her neighbours in weekly "classes" to discuss Marxism-Leninism, and the "metas" (goals) of their hometown cooperatives.

    I need not mention, it's not voluntary -- it's compulsory.

    Missing a "class" gets you on the very worst list imaginable:

    The counter-revolutionary list subjects you to intimidation/loss of privileges (the few that exist)/ or incarceration, not to mention putting the rest of your family under the same umbrella of suspicion, which can prove costly for their education, or professional advancement.

    If a family decide to leave Cuba, they are taunted as guzanos (worms), escoria (scum), and traidores (traitors).

    In my ex-boyfriend's case, they were subjected to the throwing of rotten eggs on their homes, as well having as a "voluntary" committee of outraged comrades singing slogans at once vile and demeaning, rounded up and motivated to do so by the Revolutionary Committee watchdog, it goes without saying.

    Some within the troupe, are even family members, who do this because they don't want to face a hard(er) time after their relatives leave.

    Whilst there are some people who have been brainwashed enough to really believe this revolutionary jargon, the majority of the people who do this are doing so out of fear, as with any totalitarian government.

    One word out of place, one look sometimes too, can land not only you, but others in heaps lot of trouble.

    Tell me -- who WOULDN'T want to leave this place?

    I love the United States, but if 1/100th of this happened here, I'd be outtie faster than a Roger Clemens heater.

    This is without mentioning EVERYTHING else that Cubans have to tolerate, such as compulsory Pionero and forced labour camps for all kids aged 10, when they become wards of the State, not of their parents anymore.

    (My ex-boyfriend remembers his mother and other parents, coming to deliver some food outside the camp "gates", hoping to catch a glimpse of their children, who were being taught the glories of manual labour one whole summer. Just once, just ONCE I'd like to envisage an American parent who is well-disposed to Cuba and Fidel Castro, tolerating this situation for their own kids. It just wouldn't happen)

    I could go on and on. And on.

    It's a nightmare to live in any Communist country, but living in Cuba, with an ocean and sea surrounding you, must be a fresh kind of hell.

    As with all Communist countries, freedom of movement is not allowed.

    They don't have passports to travel outside the country (obviously, a highly restricted activity), as much as they have internal passports to move about WITHIN their own country.

    Can you imagine this in your own lives?

    Think of it for a moment.

    Say if you lived in Pittsburgh and wanted to travel to Philly, you would have to present an internal permit to do so.

    Why does anyone give Cuba (and in the past, other Communist countries) a pass on these awful awful restrictions, all in the name of that oft-repeated mantra, they have good education and free health-care?

    Well, whoopdee-freaking-do.

    Who cares, if you can't have your bodily freedom, nor your intellectual freedom, nor your religious freedom, nor any other freedom we in the West hold sacred.

    Last time Cuba played in Puerto Rico, during the Central American and Caribbean Games held there in 1993, there were no less than an embarrasing trough of 39 athletes and trainers who jumped ship, literally.

    Like all Communist nations, being an athlete and bringing glory to the Revolution through your talents, brings you more goodies than your average Cuban gets.

    They are given slightly larger flats, better food than the rationed 1 kilo of sugar, and 2 pairs of underwear per year, and sometimes, even an old clunker of a car.

    But if you fail to produce, these goodies become carrots and sticks of manipulation, alongside everything else I have already described atop.

    I want you to think of all these details when you hear, after the Cuba-Japan WCB Final, that one or more Cuban players have defected to the United States.

    Because they will.

    I'm guessing it'll be closer to 3, than 1 or 2, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's many more.

    If they do, their families will have to endure all the disgusting travails my ex-boyfriend's family did, when they left to Costa Rica by airplane.

    And they will have to wonder if they will suffer just more than eggs and taunts, or will the wrath of being related to worms, means some of the dirt rubs off on them too?

    I have no idea, but there is one vision I will never forget.

    My ex-boyfriend returning to his homeland, to visit his dying grandfather, with a Cuban passport -- which they made him use, despite having been revoked...if you can understand that inanity, the better to humiliate him.

    A Cuban passport, moreover, stamped in red ink, with words to the effect that his rights to his homeland (patria) were null and void, since he is now a traitor to Cuba.

    Well, well.

    Let's see how many new traitors the Cuban State manages to cough up tomorrow.

    Saturday, March 18, 2006

    Reykjavik On My Mind

    Everyone has mentioned how this War on Terror will probably never have an USS Missouri moment.

    You know, this:

    The exact moment when a formal surrender was signed on board a battleship, when awkwardly dressed Japanese representatives in top hats, penned their names to a piece of paper, alongside battle-hardened, khaki uniformed American military personnel.

    (The better to show the world that they, the Americans, meant business, and yet had all the insousiance not to put on their Dress As, because they didn't have to, after all. They were the conquerors).

    But I was thinking about this carefully today, after watching the bulbous-eyed Tim Russert interview Mike Wallace, who is retiring from 60 Minutes looking not very dissimilar from almost 40 years ago, when he started his newsmagazine career.

    Wallace was mentioning his reminiscences of US Presidents when he got to Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.

    And that's when it clicked.

    Never mind, the US Missouri, you know what the War on Terror will never have?


    We will never have a Reykjavik.

    Never will an US President and Osama Bin-Laden, or any Al-Qaeda leader, sit down and have a summit together.

    This is so understood, as to be superfluous to even mention it.

    But here's the thing:

    The visual impact of this, cannot be overstated.

    No US President will be able to shake hands with Bin-Laden, and portray himself as statesmanlike to the world -- the kind of man who has convictions, but is willing to meet his counterpart at least for talks.

    Since Al-Qaeda is an international organisational cell, without a homeland, it cannot represent any specific country, ideology, or goal.

    It has no real leader.

    It has no legal standing.

    It has no bargaining chips.

    It has nothing.

    Nothing that we as a nation, or as a people, could sit down and try to hammer out our differences with, or at least, to be able to stand a world where both existed in opposite corners.

    I'd never thought I would ever say this, but the Soviet Union actually offered Americans more during the Cold War, than anything Al-Qaeda can, or will be able to.

    It offered incremental dialogue and interaction, which could be frosty, or be defrosted in turns.

    But there was a linear progression which you could see unfold before you, which allows people to plot in their minds, where we two adversaries are.

    Even if you say that an US President can meet with say, Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, he is not Osama Bin-Laden, or a member of Al-Qaeda, indeed, he is our erstwhile ally.

    Even an leader like in Syria or Iran, is not a member of Al-Qaeda, but merely perhaps receptive and therefore loosely collusive to their ideas.

    To Al-Qaeda, these are competing sources of power, and that's all.

    How you win against a non-traditional entity like this, I don't know.

    It's a situation which more than just lacks clarity. It lacks substance.

    When I was growing up, I thought the Cold War was a zero-sum game. Either they won, or we did. And we did.

    But in fact, this situation makes traditional foreign policy experts pine for the Cold War, because no matter what we do, there is no end-game in the War on Terror.

    To have an end-game, you have to have had a middle-game, like Kennedy-Krushchev-Vienna in 1962, like Reykjavik in 1986.

    Never mind that neither of those summits were successful.

    Their true successes lay in like adversaries meeting in a neutral space.

    We today have no such thing as neutral space, let alone having like adversaries.

    We are shadow boxing with terrorists, on uncertain ground, with no beginning, middle or end in sight.

    And there's nothing we can do about it, except to "win".

    For a world used to having the clear-cut USS Missouri moments, I wonder if it's occured to them, there are no Reykjaviks along the way either.

    Friday, March 17, 2006

    Guess What This Is Pt. 2

    Never, never take a pain-killer or seditive, if you don't need it.

    For the past day and a half after my petit accident, ever since dad prescribed some happy-fun-fun drug for my pain, I have felt AWFUL.

    Sleepy. Groggy. Punch drunk. You name it.

    In my Psych rotation, I had a lot of dealings with drug addicts, so I know the physical effects of drugs, but my good God -- how do these people do it?

    And I only took one pill! The wonders of the human body, my friends...

    Anyway, seeing how I am not 100% focused, I will give you two quick photo hits for your possible bemusement.

    One, is a followup to the less than successful thread, "Guess What This Is, Part 1".

    That turned out to be the anus of a sea cucumber; an entity I had no idea existed, let alone that it had a patooty.

    This photo has no anuses, to the best of my knowledge.

    But can you guess what it is?


    One of my earliest blogposts was about a book I had been reading at the time, which was called "Found".

    In it, were photos and stories of hundreds of items found by people, all over the world -- in streets, in cars, on the pavements, floating around everywhere.

    I loved it, because I myself love finding and sharing items I pounce upon!

    But unlike my Rolex-finding mother (she has actually found two -- one gold, which after 31 days in the police station, became hers, can you beat that?!), I have rarely found anything very costly.

    I am, however, the queen of the findo-bizarro.

    But this, brother, this below takes the biscuit.

    I was in the Kendall-South Miami area yesterday, when I found this object lying near a dumpster in a supermarket.

    It looked like a small ring case, which sent my heart a-fluttering.

    Could it be that I finally bested my mother in the jewelry-finding stakes??

    I rushed to my car, looked around to see if anyone was watching, and opened it.

    Oh. My. God.

    You can see for yourself what was inside, but wait...as Ron Popeil says, there's more.

    Pinned to the cushion was this note in Spanish, translated below for you in English.

    "Por ser un niño bien dotado encontré este detalle y pense en ti...espero que lo desfrutes con (name of woman deleted).

    Saludos-Besos (name of sender deleted)."

    (Being so well-hung as you are, when I found this item, I thought of you. I hope you enjoy using it with XXX.

    Hugs and Kisses, XXX.")

    My first thought, apart from WTF, obviously, was what prompted such a hissy fit note, and gesture?

    The funny thing of it is, the handwriting is that of an educated Latin American MAN, not a woman, since this is usually the kind of thing a woman might do, not a man.

    How do I know this?

    No, it's not the name of the sender, since it is a strange name, not easily discernible if male or female.

    Let's just say it's a hunch, and leave it at that.

    I have the box here, before me, as I type. I'm just looking at it, wondering what I should do with it.

    Do I chuck it...or do I keep it, and send it on to those "Found" book folk?

    Whatever I do, just once, JUST ONCE, God, I'd like to find an item I can actually USE...jimminy cricket!

    P.S.: Jose, Robert, Val -- I hope none of you fine caballeros have anything to do with this.

    Thursday, March 16, 2006


    Have you seen those TV commercials for Photomail?

    I have, for the past week now, and they blew me away when first I saw them.

    Photomail apparently makes US Post Office approved stamps, by turning your family photos into a stamp!

    You presumably just upload your pic, and print out the stamp to be adhesived unto your letter for instant and pain-free posting.

    Now, I hate those US Post Office queues as much as the next person, (especially if the next person has BO), but I find this service at once fantastic...

    ...and utterly appalling.

    Obviously, the fantastic bit has to do with being a great convenience for time-budgeted folks, who furthermore, will be able to send very cutesy stamps all over the US.

    -- These are obviously the same type of people who flick out at the drop of a hat, their grandchildren's baby pics and their camcorder memories of that trip to Hawaii. Argh. --

    But seriously, how much more personalised to we need our stuff to be in life??

    Plus, for me a big negative of this service is, like those endless licence plates offered by each US State (which people used to international centralised standards consider almost scandalous), that one will have too many choices for a stamp.

    Heck, what is to prevent me from printing out stamps with a photo of Schmoopsie and the toast rack??

    Or how about pr0n??

    Potter Stewart ain't seen nothing yet!

    There is also another, deeper philosophical point about this matter, which might not have occured to you.

    I come from a country where a woman with a crown is on our stamps.

    Lots of other people also have similar monarchs, sports stars, and current national heroes on their stamps.

    You may not think this is bad, but I do.

    See, I like the fact that no living person can be portrayed on a US stamp, ever.

    You have to wait until the honoree has kicked the bucket, before they are eligible.

    And I admire Americans for having that stricture!

    It's the ultimate anti-cult of personality statement.

    But now?

    Now that I can print out a stamp with any photo on it...well, I'm sorry. But that just doesn't sit right with me.

    What we make up in convenience, I rather believe, we lose in ethics.

    What do you think? Am I reading too much into this situation, or do you agree?

    UPDATE: The site is currently down for maintenance, so I wasn't able to see how the process is.

    Surely, there must be some kind of review of photo submissions, to avoid the more pornographic shots, or copyrighted material to be printed, I hope...

    Wednesday, March 15, 2006

    The Ides of March

    I've been out of commission due to the continuing saga of my Spring Cleaning.

    At around 2 AM, I was still at it (I tell you, when I get a project going, I don't like to stop lest my enthusiasm/patience runs out), and that's when disaster struck.

    I was handling some of my beloved crystal goblets, when one disintegrated in my hand, cutting me deeply enough to require a stitch at the local ER.

    Don't worry!

    I'm fine.

    It's just that I spent a rather hectic day during the ill-fated Ides of March, on top of being one-handed.

    So now you know.

    I'll be back up to speed on Friday. I'm cooking up a tasty post for you, you wait!

    Tuesday, March 14, 2006

    Ladettes & Joes

    I am not much for reality shows, which is why sadly, I cannot participate in the doubtlessly excellent Althouse threads surrounding these programmes.

    But by chance, I did catch two reality shows last night, on rather obscure channels at that, which might be of interest to my readers.

    If there is enough feedback, I can even attempt some threads about the shows, so let me know if your interest is peaked.

    Ladettes to Ladies, is an ITV reality show which debuted this past Thursday, at 9-10 PM EST.

    For whatever reason, the progressive Sundance Channel decided to purchase the rights and is the reality show's American host.

    (I won't point you to a website, because I fear I will accidentally find out which girl won -- this series having already played in the UK, of course)

    The premise is simple:

    10 women compete to transform themselves from ladettes (working class tomboys vying for the Eliza Doolittle Award) to ladies.

    This comes courtesy of a team of "Finishing School" matrons at Ecclestone Hall, a stately manor home which is supposed to provide the perfect setting for these mass transformations.

    Have I lost you so far? Hang on. It gets better.

    The kicker is that some of the girls were "nominated" by their peers or families, and don't want to be there at all, unlike most reality shows which are usually populated by eager volunteers.

    You'd think that some of these girls, then, would kick and neigh their refusal to be gentrified, and you wouldn't be wrong.

    They swear, they drink to excess, they have no concept of how to act in public, because they (a) were never taught to, (b) never felt they had to act "feminine", (c) didn't care beans about it.

    The instructors are all of them, past mistresses in the art of being ladies, and trust me you lads reading this, it's an art all right.

    It's not just being able to walk and talk properly, but it's about being good conversationalists, good dressers, and very good hostesses, who enjoy fine living for the pleasure it gives others, as much as themselves.

    Finishing schools used to be quite popular in the 1930s to the 1950s, when they were populated by rich Americans, who however became so rich so fast, that the families didn't know how to behave when they moved up in the world.

    Americans called these private classes in etiquette, "Charm Schools", and a few exist even today, all around the UK, Switzerland, France, and the US.

    The UK ones follow a set pattern:

  • You get lessons in deportment (learning how to carry yourself publicly)

  • Lessons in grooming (appearance is your social calling card)

  • And elocution (how you sound, is not just a matter of choosing "big words")

  • Practically speaking, the instructors teach you how to eat, talk, dress, set a table, cook a fine meal, and know what is expected and allowed, versus what is demanded and unexcused.

    These social graces might seem fuddy-duddy to many, but Finishing Schools are today as in demand than ever.

    Instead of the tonnes of American ketchup and toolbelt heiresses, now these institutes cater to Russian mafia and Arab oil-rich girls whose parents want entré to a social world previously closed to them.

    And it's not just the girls, but many boys are now sent to these schools, since you can never know just how difficult an artichoke is to eat, until you've tried it.

    I wasn't sent to Finishing School, since my own school was supposed to fulfill this purpose, but I know all too well the paces these ladettes will be put through.

    Already the first episode gave us a surprise: not just one, but 2 girls were eliminated.

    To me, the second shock of the night was, how much the rest of the girls desperately wanted to stay, despite many of them being very rebellious about the whole situation in the beginning.

    Perhaps something deep inside them, realises that though their way feels good, like an old shoe whose contours feel comfy and worn, the new way is a peek into a life of endless possibilities and associations.

    Any good reality show needs to have the promise of a rainbow, even if in this reality show's case, this happy show of colour at the end, will only shine from inside.

    Incidentally, my mother noticed that these instructors often look a bit ungroomed themselves.

    A typical Finishing School mistress is very similar to one of the two remaining "Fat Ladies", Clarissa Dickson Wright, the blonde heifer shown here to the left.

    Clarissa had indeed been once, a Finishing School marm, though a more slovenly looking creature you've never seen.

    And one of the Ladettes instructors could be her twin...

    Well. No one said being a lady was easy.

    The second show is Pros versus Joes, Mondays at 10-11 PM EST, on Spike TV, the male equivqlent of the Lifetime Channel.

    "Each week, three ordinary “Joes” go up against former “Pros” in a variety of sports challenges — some related directly to that pro's sport and others that aren't.

    For instance, in the first episode, the “Joes” try to cover Jerry Rice and prevent him from scoring as he catches passes from Jim McMahon.

    They also take on Bill Goldberg in a wrestling ring, which — like trying to stop Rice — is not easy. Neither is trying to get a rebound against Dennis Rodman."

    Renato called me on Monday, and suggested I should watch it, which I did.

    First up, were three very competitive reality show stooges trying to get a hit off off Jennie Finch, the US Softball pitching babe.

    (How tall is she? She towered over Mugsy Bogues, which admittedly, even I do)

    Only one tagged her for a hit, although she made all 3 look very silly, since they couldn't lay off the high heat.

    (Neither could I, truth be told. I was always a sucker for the up and ins, which are murder to us lefty-hitters. If you're wondering, they made me short-stop, emphasis on the "short" bit)

    The other pros were Bill Romanowski, that nutcase, Mugsy Bogues, the smallest NBA player ever, and Dan O'Brien, Olympic decathlete champion who however, has to work on his skeet. And did I see Bo Jackson too? A bit before my time, alas.

    Most of these athletes, with the exception of Jennie Finch, are way past their sell-by date, so at first you're like,

    "Come on, this is silly. Dennis Rodman can't even rebound Carmen Elektra anymore, let alone on the basketball court"

    But oh no.

    He might not be good enough to play professional b-ball anymore, but he can more than hold his own against the Schmoes they had playing against him.

    The same is true for almost all the athletes I saw in this episode, although all had obviously lost a step due to age and lack of conditioning.

    Even Jim McMahon could still sling it around, despite still looking like he is on a permanent Colombian gold high.

    What makes it intriguing is that the viewer wonders how he or perhaps even she, would do against these legends of old.

    I really enjoyed the heck out of these two reality shows, and despite not having had the gumption to carry out my promise to watch The Donald's The Apprentice this season, I can offer you more updates about the ladettes and the jockettes, as the episodes unfold.

    You in, or out?


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