.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Sambando

Still watching GLOBO International's live coverage of the Brazilian Carnival, 2006.

Carnival is months-long, but it culminates the weekend before carnival ends on Fat Tuesday, with a huge parade of floats in the temple to Samba Schools, who are judged for creativity, luxury and organisation.

There are approximately 20 Samba "schools", in reality organisations representing different neighbourhoods of Rio De Janeiro.

Last night, we had the first night of the parade pasts at the Sambodromo. 6 Schools debuted.

Tonight, a further 7. And tomorrow, more.

It lasts from 7:30 PM EST, 'til about 7:00 AM EST, at dawn the NEXT DAY.

There are still 3 Samba Schools to go, and mother and I are watching, so consider this a placeholder post, until I can elaborate further tomorrow!

P.S.: Other countries, even other cities of Brazil, have carnival of course.

New Orleans, famously, has the best American example. So do Nice, Venice, Munich, Vienna, and so many other places.

And then there are the Catholic cities of Germany.

My friends, you haven't lived until you've compared how boring a German carnival is, say that of Cologne, compared to the Brazilian one.

Suffice it to say, that being winter, to Brazil's summertime, there is less need for the mulatas to wear practically nothing.

And who wants to watch fat German men dressed in furs doing the samba? Ick.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Al-Jazeera Goes International

My first reactions upon hearing of this news on NPR were:

1- Oh, lovely.

Just what the world needs, but the televised international viewpoint in the English language, of people who view the world as one large conspiracy against Muslims, led by Israelis and Americans.

2- Get a grip, Vic.

Your attitude reminds one of how certain people viewed Fox News, when it first came out: incredulous disbelief in the basic tenets of this entity.

The difference, of course, is that the cultural expectations even of Fox News, were in line with what we know, in the West.

And that difference is purely cultural, whereas with Fox News versus MSM, it was political, first and foremost.

Still, I'll order Al-Jazeera International, when it debuts this Spring 2006, should it be offered.

Like people who disagree with the underpinnings of Fox News, but still tune in, it's better to watch those who trouble you, than to ignore them, and by inference, underestimate them.

We all know what that leads to, don't we?



Former US Marine Joshua Rushing, who was featured in the documentary Control Room, will be an on-air personality at the new channel. It has also been announced that veteran British broadcaster Sir David Frost and former BBC and CNN anchor Riz Khan will join the new channel.

Mazel Tov.

Grand Finale

FYI, it all went swimmingly.

Whatever nervousness I had, was really ameliorated by having Luz, the housekeeper we hired for the weekend.

Her fine eye for condiments guided the process beautifully, and just having her there, meant I didn't have to go around like the proverbially beheaded chicken.

After I got the meal started, she finished it, as I slung my black Vera Wang pantsuit (hi Mrs. Bush!) in my bedroom, without having to worry if anything got burnt in the meantime.

As to the family, I find them refreshingly conventional.

Not overly political, not overly intellectual (rather, cultured, which is different), not at all dysfunctional, in the way we in America have been hammered to believe families are.

The kids were rambuctious, but affectionate and respectful of their parents.

But more than that -- and this is true of almost all Latin Americans, in my experience:

All of them have a gratuitous tenderness of their parents, which shines through all the time.

That frosty generational distance so often seen in America, is nowhere to be found here -- they like being in each other's company, and that is true of even the oldest son, aged almost 17.

Having praised Latin Americans for their sweet interdependence, let me just say it's not all smiles and roses.

The mother smokes, and we three of us, are severe anti-smokers.

But the thing of it is, is this:

Although my father is particularly anti-smoking, not only because of his profession, but because lung cancer killed both his parents, neither he, nor my mother, and certainly not I, raised the least objection to the mother smoking in our home.

Heck, at long last, someone got to use my collection of beautiful Waterford crystal ashtrays.

But man, just being around a smoker reminded me of my college days, when I moved out of my friends' home in North Oxford, and chose my flatmates because they were American Rhodes Scholars.

Why? Because it's well-known that Americans are usually non-smokers, bless them.

But you know, having preambled about my dislike of the cancer sticks, you'd think I would join Rob Reiner and Prince Charles in their militant anti-smoking campaign, right?

Not a bit of it.

As you can tell by my admission of the ashtrays, I let common sense and good manners guide me in this matter.

People who come to my home, are guests. And guests should feel at home. Good guests won't abuse any gracious gesture, as this lady certainly didn't.

A quiet word would certainly have put things right, if it had.

The last thing in this world that I am, is a Losertarian, but in the matter of cigarette banning, in all public spaces, I am definitely against any such ridiculous and intrusive notion.

There I go again, Jimmy.

I was talking of my wonderful evening in the company of nice people, and suddenly I digress into a diatribe of my anti-anti-ban smoking attitude.

Tomorrow, they leave and I can concentrate on the Brazilian Carnival (bloggable, obviously), on watching the recording of the Torino 2006 Closing Ceremonies (surely it was not as bad as the Opening ones...was it?), and on sprucing up my beloved Sundries.

Thanks for your collective patience during this hectic time.

And light one up on me.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Miami Is Dirty?!?

(More ongoing commentary from the hostessing threads. See below to be enlightened)

To my utter, utter horror, when I was driving the kids in my mum's car from the airport, the adults having gone in my father's car (since it's bigger, and newer) up ahead, I asked the kids when they had been to Miami before.

"Two years ago", they replied in unison, and in near-perfect English, by the way.

"Ah great. What is your first impression now, then?", I queried, friendly-like.

They didn't reply quickly, but then the middle kid, Lorenzo, piped up.

"Miami is more dirty." The others nodded.

WHAT!!

Now, as you know, one of the greatest pleasures I have on Sundries, is to offer you my travellogue vistas of South Florida, as a kind of vicarious, and yappy tourist guide to Blogosphere.

And obviously, I offer you the best.

I have yet to show you a slum, although allow me to rectify that immediately.

This is the closest thing to a slum we have, outside of Liberty City, which few pigment-challenged folk like me enter, even during daylight.



Now I know what you're thinking:

Hey, this is a slum? With the pretty palm trees and manicured grass??

Yes. It's not far away from the Car Wash, either. Heck, it's on the cusp of being in Coral Gables, the finest neighbourhood here.

But ghetto it is, definitely.

This I am used to, and being a local and all, I don't even give it a second thought.

But we didn't pass by this area at all today, so it can't have been that.

Then, I took off the rose-tinted glasses I wear about South Florida, and decided to verify for myself, if what these babes had said, was true.

Was Miami dirtier these days?

Well, Miami Beach is no guide to go on, since "the twenty most exciting blocks in the world" are cleaned and prepped for tourists, to within an inch of their lives.

But then, I did see this sight, close to Little Havana.



Like when you buy a new car, and suddenly all you see around you, is that make and model, I had an awful realisation that indeed, Miami was a bit dirtier in certain areas, than I had remembered it.

It's no excuse that those are poorer areas.

It didn't used to be this way!

Now, I don't know how you are, but when I see something which I dislike, I don't just whinge about it, without doing anything.

So I have resolved that first thing Monday, when I have put them on their way to Dinsey World, I will ring up 311, the Miami-Dade County government hotline, and complain.

And keep complaining. And complaining.

Until I see an improvement in this beautiful city, rubbish-wise. Or else.

Mayor Manny Diaz, you are going to get an earful Monday, mijito!

P.S.: Calling all Babalubloggers. All Roberts. And Joses! ...come join me in taking a bite out of grime.

Pero es que Mee-ami está mas cochino que la Bahia de los Cochinos. Que asco, ick.

Kola Inglesa

Like all well-bred people, the family gave us some lovely presents, from their equally lovely homeland.

My mother got an alpaca shawl. My dad a vicuna overcoat. I got a beautiful rosary-set, blessed by the Cardinal of Lima.

And, then, we all got this:



Kola Inglesa! English Coke? A red cola -- cool!

Now, many people don't realise that Coke and Pepsi are not the only soda-pop around the world.

Sure, lots of people know about Canada-Dry, maybe some know Britvic Orange, and the like...

...but do you know almost every country has its very own local soft drink?

Peru has Inca Kola, which is a funny name to English ears, I grant you.

This pop has a funny, rather coincidental history, since it was a family of British expats called Lindley, who settled in Lima in the late 19th century, and who were the inventors, and packagers of this monumentally popular soft drink.

It's been described as looking like wee-wee, and tasting like bubble-gum, which is so not true.

Well, the bubble gum bit, anyway.



But, now with this never-before-tasted Kola Inglesa, I have a quandry.

One which I will leave up to Sundries readers, to decide.

Should I, during Sunday dinner, open the six-pack of these glass bottles of the red cola, and serve them alongside the Argentinian wine, Manchego cheese, and Pralines Bread Pudding other readers suggested I serve...

...or do I open only one...

...or not even one, just keeping them with their caps on, as a souvenir?


Your call.

UPDATE: I took commenter Pete's advice, and served them to my guests, fully expecting them to ask for the English Kola at table. For whatever reason, out of politeness, lack of interest, or just forgetfulness, we ignored the Kolas, and thus, I still have a whole six-pack at my disposal.

Now taking eBay bids! Starting price: $999 (reserve).

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Hostess Update

A wee update about the on-going hostessing, Chez Victoria, this weekend.

The Peruvian doctor's family, who are being hosted by my parents in our home, arrived as planned, early Saturday.

Although it was ungodly early for our late-rising family, we all 3 of us, hopped in our car, and drove like mad to MIA.

We were just on time to pick them up from the meticulous and time-consuming shenanigans Customs always put you through, especially when you're coming from the "Third World", since dad mentioned how greeting a friendly face at airports always makes one happy.

And he's so right.

To my astonishment, the three kids the doc's wife had mentioned, were NOT 3 boys, but rather two older boys, and a little girl, aged almost 6!

I mentioned to my mother that I was pretty sure the lady had said 3 sons on the telephone, but then I remembered she actually used the words

Mis 3 hijos

...and I had obviously misunderstood her followup during our chat.

(Side explanation: See, in Romance tongues, and many other languages, when you have a group consisting of, say, 99 males, plus 1 female, you MUST ALWAYS use the masculine pronoun; something which our "Anglo" sensibilities would consider amazingly sexist. On top of that, hijo is Spanish for son, but also for 'child', so I made a right cock-up of that situation. In my weak defence, I can't help it if we currently don't have genders in English! Work with the gringa, people!)

After they rested, settled in, and unpacked -- which unlike in our home in England, the housekeeper we are "renting" this weekend, didn't do for them, since I know in other parts of the world, that particular courtesy is considered a bit intrusive -- I decided to put my weekend plan to work.

I put in feelers to offer we all head to South Beach, where I would take care of the kids, and have fun with them playing in the sand, in case the older crowd didn't want to follow.

My next item on the agenda was a movie at the Regal, with me monitoring the troupe.

Alas, for well-laid plans!

Like von Clausewitz said in his seminal book on warfare, a general can plan a campaign to the nth degree, but when the battle starts, it usually all falls apart.

Never was this truer, when they ixnayed the beach, saying they had just come from a month at their beach house, and would I take them to play tennis instead.

Suuuuuure. No worries.

Anyway, I didn't mind the tennis, since I am too ADD to sit around a beach for more than an hour or max, two, at a time. Plus, I freckle.

Unfortunately, they also 86'ed the film suggestion, since the kids are not big on the movies.

Now, I like these folks a lot, but come on! Who doesn't like going to the pictures??

Freaks.

Turns out the day was too long for everyone concerned, so instead of a picturehouse, we had a lovely time in Miracle Mile, at a restaurant along the mile-wide bouvelard.

We arrived home around 11 PM EST, and after a chinwag with the Irish-Yugoslavian descended lady (I know, right) and my mother, so off to bed, as Pepys would have it.

I am typing slowly, so as not to wake up the housekeeper lady, a nice Nicaraguan, who is kipping down here in the computer room slash library, overnight.

Bless her, she was invaluable with the mess and fuss today, and though neither my father nor I like live-in maids at all (I suppose I inherited my father's more democratic sensibilities...or maybe we're just too Americanised now), it does bring back wonderful memories of my childhood, when "stuff" just got done, without even pausing to think about it.

And best of all, she's going to help me tomorrow, with my meal.

Being a cautious ex-Girl Guide, I already gave my Peruvian dishes a trial run, all last week, so as to get the taste right.

Not too bad, if I do say so myself. And I do.

But much much too "tasty" for my bland English palate, whose most adventurous culinary excursion, is Lancashire hotpot.

I'll give you a run-down of the happenings, later!

As if you had a choice.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Frozen

Right.

I've attacked Irina Slutskaya. Then I went after Emily Hughes. Who's next for my poison keyboard?

Let me just say this:

Shizuka Arakawa deserved her Gold Medal for having the cleanest performance of any of the top contenders.

Mind you, I've seen better in past years, albeit I only watch figure skating during the Olympics (unlike my mother, and almost every other woman I know -- who love it).

But Arakawa did just enough, to win.

However, if they ever hand out prizes for "the most vacant stare", she's a shoe-in to bring home the gold.



I've seen plastic kewpie dolls with more facial expressiveness. Scary.

One Time At Band Camp

Separated at birth?

EMILY HUGHES, OLYMPIC FIGURE SKATER




and...




ALYSON HANNIGAN, AMERICAN PIE NERD

Greasy

Now, I'm not one to kick a woman when she's down, and goodness knows her hard-luck story of her ailing mum touched a chord in all our hearts, but I cannot help myself:

Irina Slutskaya is the most ungainly, most inelegant, most manly female figure skater I've ever seen.

I'm not sure what is worse -- her duck waddle, her arms akimbo posture...



...or that unfortunate hairdo, which makes her already mannish face look like a '57 Buick.

But as if that all weren't enough, last night I spied her backstage, wearing this black vinyl jacket which surely went out with poodle skirts, and sock-hops.



That's when it struck me.

Irina Slutskaya looks like Stockard Channing-Rizzo in Grease!

Lookit:



I don't know about you, but I think Stockard Channing is quite possibly the Gena Rowlands of her generation -- the consummate actress, with endless range, and tremendous screen and stage presence.

But that doesn't take away from the fact that Rizzo was lesbian chic, before lesbian chic was cool.

And you're not the one that I want, Irina.

Curlers

I slept only a few hours, but I've been up since 7 AM EST to watch the Men's Curling, Bronze medal match between the USA and Great Britain.

And if you want to know who I am rooting for, the land of my birth or the land of my adoption, the answer is...

...I don't really care.

I just want to see some good curling.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Olympics Edition Sundries

As you can imagine, the big day in our home on Saturday, is drawing near, and I'm trying to keep everything together.

Evenso, I still ask your pardons for the consistent lateness of my blogposts.

Tonight, I intend to return to the Olympics commentary I started, almost a fortnight ago -- to give you my ever quirky, biting opinions on this or that Olympic event, which I've been gathering inside these weeks.

I'll be back as soon as I see Slutskaya skate.

Oooh, Sasha Cohen will earn a medal -- but which colour?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Tut Exhibit

My travellogue series on Sundries takes us today to the much promised, King Tut in South Florida exhibit.

I finally was able to take in the glories of the boy King of Egypt, this weekend, in nearby Ft. Lauderdale.

Before we start our exciting visual journey, please note that the King Tut exhibition is on tour around the United States until 2007, perhaps coming to a city near you.

They are:

LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art): June 16 to Nov. 15, 2005

Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale: December 2005

The Field Museum, Chicago: May 2006

The Franklin Institute, Philadelpiha, January 2007


So far, the MOAFL (as locals call it), has hit two homeruns in the World Series of local art exhibits, as the Miami Art Museum, located in downtown Miami, could never compete with their two successive triumphs:

The Princess Diana Exhibit, and now King Tut.

(In fact, the MAM is so denutered in quality recently, that I haven't visited it going on 4 years now -- despite it being located in a gorgeous Philip Johnson Spanish fortress-a-like, alongside the Main Library building. Keen eyes may remember this setting from the "There's Something about Mary" film)

But no matter.

Whether in Miami or in Ft. Lauderdale, South Floridians will have their culture, and like it!

Come join me now, as we explore the many secrets left behind by King Tutankhamen's tomb.

You don't believe in the Curse of the Moomy, do you?


KING TUT IN STYLE





This past weekend was amongst the most azure, perfectly sunny weekends in February, I have ever seen since my move to the area.

So, of course, what do South Floridians do -- but head inside a deeply darkened, a/c controlled museum!

This is King Tut's second tour of the United States since 1977, and I surmise, a lot of people missed the first, and sure weren't going to miss the second.

The amount of people there, the moment you rounded the corner of the MOAFL, was staggering.

I had no idea what I had let myself into, completely missing the fact that this, of course, was a long weekend -- it was President's Day on Monday.

And Family Day in the province of Calgary, but I digress.





I arrived mid-afternoon, hoping to catch a later showing, having phoned ahead to inquire about the tickets.

I knew it was first-come, first-served basis, and also that a section of people were allowed in, once every 30 minutes, so I was prepared to wait.

Here is the Box Office, surrounded in great style by Egyptian bibelots which you could purchase if you had just mortgaged your house.

The anubus pictured here, was 400 dollars...US.





Ticket in hand, I decided to stop by the Museum shop, which had so lovingly carried Princess Diana tschokes only a year before.

Their theme was what I call, Moderno-Retro-Contempo Egyptian Mafia Kitsch.

Basically, imagine the set of TBN, the evangelical TV channel, as decorated by Dolly Parton, the Sultan of Brunei, and Tammy Faye Bakker, and you have a fair idea of the items on offer.

And maybe if I were as wealthy as the Sultan of Brunei, I could begin to afford the Tut Exhibit catalogue, modestly priced at only $50.

Frankly, I saw nothing that screamed, "Buy me!", as items do, say, in Saks Fifth Avenue.

Although these tricorned Pharaoh hats above were rather fun.

Many-time bridesmaid that I am, I do, however, know when I won't ever have need to wear this again -- so I passed.





Finally, the time of entry had arrived.

I was told to queue up at the "tent", visible here. No sweat, being British, queueing is in my blood.

But never did I dream that the wait would take almost an hour!

Of course, the Sultan of Brunei would not have had to wait, since there was a VIP queue you could be whisked into, and although I did think I had spied Lindsay Lohan, it probably was just one of the Olsens.

The queue itself was not boring. Not when you're a master eavesdropper, like I am.

I heard all kinds of conversations from people of all social backgrounds. They varied from Michigan matrons from Ann Arbor, to ghetto-denizens from nearby Sunrise. Very amusing.

If anything, it reminded me of waiting for a ride at Disney World, or more to the point, Epcot.

The looping queue could've doubled as the one at that sucky Maelstorm ride at Norway House...





...but like visiting your GP for a check-up, the waiting was not yet done when they showed you to the examination room. Oh no.

That photo above is the below-queue.

This one here is the above-queue, which required a further 20 minute wait just outside the actual beginning of the exhibit.

See the cordoned off lines to the right of the guard? The one closest to the wall is the VIP queue.

(I honestly don't see the advantage of paying more just to have the right to enter this exhibit, first. I mean, it's not like First-Class on an airplane where you get round-the-clock champers and free nibbly bits, know what I mean?)

Since it was dark by the time I arrived atop the building, I was cooled by the small wind from the nearby Las Olas Riverfront.

I can only imagine the poor suckers who had to wait as long as I did, but in the teeming 85F sun we had earlier.





The actual ticket price was (weekend) $30 for adults, $14 for children, whilst students, military ID-holders, and seniors were at $27.50.

I whipped out my Cane Card faster than you can say "Matthew Lesko". You know, that crazy infomercials guy, who shouts about government programme freebies.

He would've been astonished that not only had I paid such a pricey entry, but that I had actually splurged on the Audio Tour phones too.

They were a further 7 dollars...sigh.

Little did I know that, disjointed as the narration was, they would be invaluable overall.

And yes, as with everything to do with Egypt, it was narrated most elegantly by Omar Sharif, whose mother, it is said, always fainted when she saw him, because he was so handsome.

Ouchies.





Without spoiling the exhibit too much, lest you see it yourself, let me just say that I had read in another blog that the first "scene" when you actually entered the exhibit, was a "spectacular" video presentation.

Well, that person must have a lower threshold for drama than I, because basically it was just a 2-minute clip explaining the life of King Tut.

Nothing the Travel Channel couldn't do, and in fact, has done frequently.

Sadly, the tour guide (who soon disappeared, since it was a guideless/docentless exhibition) told us not to take photos, and that people who did so, would be asked to leave.

This accounts for the lack of really good photographs, which to show you.

I love you all very much, but I'm not spending the night in gaol with a tattoed woman named Bobby-Jo, just for some bootlegged mummy pics.

I did take a few though, and this one above is actually rather atmospheric -- as people crowd around one of the solid gold artifacts. The crowds were 6 rows deep around some vitrines.

I believe this is the Shabti, or the figurine put inside tombs as a guide to the afterlife.

When Omar Sharif got to the Shabti (item 13 on the audiotour), his voice got all hoarse and mysterious, or maybe his mother had just fainted again.





This was the showstopper -- a real life Tut mummy coffin.

I couldn't get anywhere close to it, to get a really good shot without giving my cover away, so excuse the slight angle of the photo.

In retrospect, I wish I had stayed longer around this exhibit, admiring its fine-tooled hieroglyphs detailed in gold.

But, you see, I thought this coffin was just a precursor to the mummy masks, and other gold coffins, which Howard Carter had discovered so many years ago.

Alas. This was it.

In fact, I'm slightly upset about that, and I know many others were too, as they exited the exhibit.

In every catalogue or advertisement for this exhibit, one gets a shot of the famed Tut death mask, in solid gold and faience of many colours.

In vain, did I hope to see that, because as the guard at the exit said, those don't leave Egypt.

Well, whoop-dee-freaking-do! They could've said.





My air of annoyance was not improved by exiting to find a special gift shop, different from the one near the Box Office.

It had many many items, mostly aimed at the kiddies, with miniature Tut and Nefertiti dollies priced at $18.95, and the like.

Obviously, I didn't buy anything, but two pens, shaped like Tut's head, which my mother promptly called "voodoo-ish" when I showed her.

Bah, what does she know of TBN glamour?

But I did have as fun a time, as I could, checking everything out in the gift shop.

If I had 200 dollars, this is what I would've bought: a reproduction of King Tut's mask.

It would have gone beautifully in my bedroom, next to my Diana the Huntress marble bust. Don't ask.





One of the pens will be sent on to Renato, to compensate for having bored him by constant calls during the exhibit.

"I'm in the queue now!"
"Still in the queue."
"Haven't moved much."
"Hello, may I speak to Renato? Thank you...hey Renato, yep, I'm still in the queue."


But I did think of getting one of these tasteful Tut ties for dad.

You can never plan too early for Christmas prezzies.





But just as I left, having perused everything and found them all hopelessly tacky, I saw this item.

Care to guess what it is?

Yes, a Tut Bobblehead!!

This is when it struck me -- the utter icongruity of the artifacts I had just seen, reduced to this, a bobblehead, the ultimate modern tourist schlock.

(Apart from the Niagara Falls back scratchers, obviously)

I got to thinking:

Hundreds of years from now, when a King Tut exhibit is still making its hopeful way around some galactic stop, will there also be an exhibit, called perhaps,

"Early Twenty-First Century"

...where the same teeming crowds of tourists had paid God-knows-how-many Intra-stellar dollars to view life as we live it today.

And pride of place, was the bobblehead.

Tourists will ooh-and-ahh, marvelling at its fine design.

Four thousand years is a long time, and perhaps what seemed discardable, even laughable then, is our treasure now.

Mind you, at least King Tut died as grandly as he had lived.

Somehow, a bobblehead of the Sultan of Brunei with an articulated neck seems so gauche and tawdry and cheap.

...hmm, perhaps it's a perfect memento, after all.


P.S.: This exhibit has not been free of controversy.

A blind husband-and-wife duo have sued the MOAFL for not being able to see the Tut exhibit properly.

No, I'm not kidding...

Also, there were many complaints about the King Tut artifacts on show, by African-Amerian patrons.

Seems they were upset that King Tut was shown with "Caucasian" features, and not "Negroid" features, being African and all.

I'm not sure if they had read the Debbie Allen History of Egypt, or what, but if the artists at the time portrayed their young Pharaoh the way they did, chances are, he resembled those features, at least a little.

It wasn't some nefarious KKK plot to lessen his Africanness in portraiture...

I found this out, after the exibit, when researching for this post.

But I can tell you, I personally was somewhat taken aback that many of the statuettes shown there, were about the Upper Egyptians stomping on the torsos of the Egyptians' arch-foes, the Nubians.

And guess who the Nubians resembled in those exhibit rooms?

I noticed one darkly-toned African-American father and son didn't look best pleased when they saw that.

Finally, in related news, I heard that there will be a Titanic exhibit coming in November, to the Miami Science Museum and Planetarium!

I'm as much a sucker for Titanic relics, as for King Tut ones, so you all can book your seat in my travellogue, soon.

MORE TUT PICS!: I felt a bit bad about the photos. You came here to see King Tut, not me rambling on about bobbleheads.

So without further ado, here are a few more assorted pics.




So, of course, having said that, I'd start out with two non-exhibit pictures, wouldn't I? However, I want you to get a feel of the Museum's surroundings.

This is the outdoor mall called Las Olas Riverfront, which is actually less than a decade old.

It's the equivalent of South Beach's Ocean Drive, although neither the people, nor the buildings in any way resemble the sleek, art nouveau stylings of Miami Beach's glorious thoroughfare.

In fact, I was a bit disappointed in this mall, looking already rather threadbare, and chintzy.

This is also true of the general Ft. Lauderdale area, whose newest citizens settled there, because amongst other things, it's more "American" (read, there are less Cubans there).

There are some people who are Broward County people...and some who are Dade County people -- and I am definitely part of the latter.





Remember that shot of the tricorned hats up top? Check this out.

Some old broad decided it would be a good idea to (a) buy one (b) wear it immediately.

She cut a dashing figure, with her black t-shirt, 55 inch bust, and a Pharaoh's hat complimenting her salt-and-pepper moustache.

At least when I bought my mouse ears at Disney World, I was as cute as a button.





From agist, I will now go to snobbish, as I comment on this photo, the second best clear photo I took of the exhibit, pretending to take a breather on the benches.

Basically I took it because the man looking at the statuette (a blue-headed Tut, to signify his religious incarnation as Pharaoh), had a huge mullet.

Now, lots of people went there looking very good. I saw a few gentlemen wearing suits and ties.

But you also got some of these 1970's rejects, with mullets, and women who have no business wearing shorts.

No business, ya hear!





And finally, this photo -- of the very first exhibit you see upon entering the place.

I had positioned myself behind a mother, father, two kids who were African-American.

They looked a fine family, albeit not well-to-do, which intrigued me since this jaunt must've cost them a good 100 dollars overall.

What a disappointment to hear them say things which were frankly, a bit racist against white people. Ah well.

But, a little later on, when I saw them again near the Shabtis vitrine, I had to chuckle inwardly.

Dad and son were talking about the statuette before them, which featured Egyptians crushing Nubians under their feet:

"Why are they stomping on black folk?"
"I don't know."
"Why would Tut do that to his own people, Dad?"
"I don't know."


I've often met such people in Academia, who have a very odd, us-versus-them view of the world in every facet of their lives, but I was sad to see these kids had been indoctrinated this early, to be this narrow.

Shame.

Although of course what I really wanted to say, as I passed them was:

"What, you never heard of black-on-black crime?"

Oh, behave!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Fabulous Life Of...Celebrity Bloggers!

Not...

As you know, I'm going to kick it on high gear this week, as we prepare for our guests' arrival in our home.

Ahh, this is the life.

Caviare. Champagne. Truffles. Pralines Bread Pudding.

So, I'm sure you know what I am doing now? That's right.

Laundry.

But don't be jealous just yet! I have a lot more of that fancy existence in store for me, later this week.

I've just submitted the estimate of what this little shindig will cost us, to my father, just as he went out to work today.

He looked at it, blanched, turned three shades of purple, and went out, harrumphing his approval.

So today, I start.

HONEY DO LIST

1- Search for ingredients for Sunday Dinner, including cheese and wine as suggested by Sundries readers

2- Order flowers, including white roses (my mother's favourite) and arum lillies (mine)

3- Change our curtains (already bought last year, but never put up)

4- Steam clean carpet

5- Have "Maid To Go" come to our place, and give everything a good going over on Friday


6- Call in the painters to do up the bathrooms and touch up the kitchen

7- Call my mother's decorator-chum from Spain, Rodrigo, to give a seal of approval for our décor

...amongst dozens of little details that I have been given to execute proficiently, economically, and with pizzazz.

On that note, I beg your indulgence today on the blog.

I will be back Wednesday, with a surprise travellogue, which I hope you all may enjoy!

You better.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Alarming

People often complain that Conservatives give President George W. Bush a pass on many issues, simply because, to these critics' way of thinking, they are all goosestepping idiots in love with power politics.

This despite the rumblings since Day 100, about his high-spending, big government ways, anathema to Milton Friedman's ilk.

This despite the regretful, legal guest-worker programme suggestion, which was predated by a desperate rise in illegal trafficking of immigrants, during his term thus far.

This despite the incredible outcry of disbelief, that occured during the Harriet Miers' nomination to the SCOTUS.

Amongst many, many cricisms levelled at this President, by his own like-minded supporters.

It's just that if you're with Bush 43 even a little, such people dismiss you ENTIRELY -- and that's at the root of our nation's political divisiveness.

But here is my latest qualm regarding what has happened during this Administration, and it's a doozy.

For it shall be written, that in the second term as President of George W. Bush, his Administration authorised a company from the United Arab Emirates to take control over his nation's 6 largest sea ports.

Sea ports which include that of Miami, a few minutes away from where I live, I hasten to add.

I'm sorry, but this is pathetic.

Not everything has a sticker price on it in this world, and most especially, ports of entry of the world's largest super power, currently engaged in a bitter war against a deadly organisation of religious fanatics intent on destroying said country.

Sea ports which receive and hold large containers, randomly checked by already too-crooked officials.

Sea ports which will have to be supervised, manned, and screened by said company.

Now, throwing a blanket of suspicion on every person from the area in question, is not for those of more trusting natures.

But I don't have a trusting nature.

I have a philosophy formed by and nurtured historically by that of Realpolitik.

And I think Bismarck would blanch in horror, today, if he found out we as a nation ceded control of our ports, to this company.

It's almost as if in the middle of WWII, FDR allowed America's ports to fall into the hands of an Italian company. Or a Japanese one. Or...

What do you think would've been history's judgement on him, if he had done?

I can't suggest what you should do, but I am contacting my local representatives forthwith, with this question lurking hauntingly over it all.

You'll Never Guess

Who is on Fox & Friends as we speak...

Tiki Barber!

Subbing presumably, for Steve Doocy.

Let me tell you, he's great.

Personable, showing great chemistry with E.D. Hill and Brian Kilmeade, demonstrating that he has a definite career option after his retirement from the NFL. *

And best of all, he's still worthy of a first-round pick in my Fantasy NFL drafts.

Hands off my Tiki!

* I mean, in broadcasting, but if he decides on a more Lynn Swann-type path too, more power to him.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Anatomy Of A Sting

I was on the road all day Sunday, hence the lateness of the post.

Let me say that this weekend, was amongst the best since my permanent move to the US:

...A gorgeous 81F averaged two days, in cloudless, sunny skies (just grinding the glass deeper into my ice-bound readers' hands).

...A weekend where art festivals, and boat shows made South Florida just jump with a beehive of activity.

...As well as personal jaunts along 1-95 highway, allowing me to take in the length and breadth of this laid-back State.

But, something happened at the very end of it, that really upset me, although it was like tasting a corked wine, at the end of a delightful repast.

I was on my way back from Boca Raton, Sunday, when I heard the call of nature loud and clear.

So I got off the nearest exit, in the NW area of Miami.

Now you have to understand -- no matter how politically correct people want to be, and some want to be a lot, there are no two ways about saying this, but that particular area is predominantly black, and dangerous.

It was the same area where German tourists were gunned down, not once, but three times, in the span of a few months. This led to the biggest loss of European tourist revenue SoFla had, pre-Hurricane Andrew.

The reason tourists ended up in that area, was that highway signage in Florida was woeful: confusing, unenlightening, quirky.

Still is, really, despite the sun-signs some genius put up to designate Miami Beach, since a sun with rays is, they think, an international sign for 'beach'.

Whatever.

Between soiled pants, and a quick trip to Walgreens, visible from the road, I decided to chance a lightning quick jaunt to a well-lit, popular chain pharmacy.

I enter, ask for the lavatory, and was directed personally by the guard at the door. Excellent.

So far, piece of cake, and I felt a total fool, and quite possibly racist, for thinking what I did.

On my way back, I didn't tarry, but I did pass the household cleaners aisle.

Ooh, Charmin Mega on sale! I'm so there.

So there I was, in unfamiliar ground in NW Miami, carrying two huge rolls of TP to the cashier, hearing the generic-voiced announcer say:

"You can now have your prescriptions written in 8 languages: including Chinese, Spanish, French and Vietnamese! If you know someone who doesn't speak English, tell them about our great language service!"

I almost dropped the rolls, I was WTF'ing and laughing so loudly.

Walgreens: The Interpreter II, starring Nicole Kidman in the ketchup aisle.

Only in America, my friends.

...I was third in the queue, so I plunked down the rolls on the counter to await my turn.

I was sandwiched between a black gentleman dressed to a tee (perhaps Sunday services, I thought), and a black lady, barely out of her teens, with ruffled jeans, the kind Nancy Sinatra wore with such panache in the 60's.

(Now I know what the lads out there are thinking, but not only do women have this way of taking details in within seconds, but remember, I have a writer's eye for a story)

She had on a brand-spanking new iPod with dangling white earphones, and seemingly unaware what was about to happen.

Since the queue was taking a long time, I suddenly hear the man in front of me ask the woman:

"Oh is that a new iPod?" I've been wanting to buy one."
"Yeah. It's great."
"Do you have a large HD for it?"
"I don't know; it was a present."
"Do you mind if I listen to it? I've never heard one before."


So he reaches past me, and she hands a perfect stranger her iPod.

Okayyy, I'm saying in my highly amused inner monologue, this is a first. I feel like the cameraman in that WB show, Blind Date.

As she handed him her iPod, I remember thinking, I'm going to whisper a funny remark at her, saying this playa has some phat pick-up moves, or cringingly awkward words to that effect.

But suddenly I see...

...in the quickest, slickest, most experienced move you've ever seen...

She reaches unto the counter, where I had lain my cell phone momentarily (which I NEVER do, since its brand-new and I'm a protective mama still), and slides her hand unto it.

In the same instance, she starts to walk away with the first guy, who had in the meantime paid for his item.

As distracted by their flirty conversation as I was, I still had the presence of mind to grab her hand immediately, and say,

"What are you doing!?! That's my mobile!!"

Perhaps it was my reflex usage of the British term for cell phone, or my accent, or the fact that she wasn't expecting to be caught out in a move which she had obviously perfected many times before, but she became all flustered as all eyes were upon her suddenly.

"Oh! I thought it was mine.", she parried weakly.

And with a quick look at the man in front, she sauntered out of the Walgreens, leaving her pack of gum at the counter, unpurchased.

The cashier chap didn't even bat an eyelash, so though my heart was racing, as it would with you too, after just having almost been quasi-pickpocketed, I went out with my stupid impulse-buy purchases, which almost cost me $250 and irreplaceable data.

When I told my mother what happened, she didn't hesitate.

"That was a sting.

They obviously scoped you out the moment you went inside, and that little interplay at the cashier was just to distract you. The bubblegum, which she left, was a dead giveaway."

I sighed.

"After all those trips to South America, you still have the instincts of a trusting, oblivious gringa."

Well. Not quite.

I would have tackled her like a Lawrence Taylor bitch, to get back that cell phone.

P.S.: I'm writing down my irreplaceable data all day Monday.

P.P.S.: Remind me to tell you the one about the Colombian dwarves, and the 8 year-old shoe-shine boy one day, okay?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Hostess

Next Saturday, our family will be hosting a Peruvian doctor, his wife, and their three sons in our home.

In a way, this is a return courtesy.

When my parents took me on a tour of South America, when I was a tweenie in the late 1980s, I recall that we were hosted by a few friends that my father had made there, since he was invited to speak at medical symposia, and the like.

One such friend was this gentleman.

We stayed a very pleasant week in his Lima Miraflores home, which is the equivalent of Mayfair in London, or the Avenue Foch in Paris.

To date, it was one of the most exquisite stays in a private home, I have ever had. And you already know how much I love luxury.

Cut flowers in every room.

Liveried servants with white gloves waiting at table.

Chauffeur-driven Mercedes at our disposal.

That oddly pleasant feeling of time standing still, which only the greatest wealth can permeate all around it.

And like many well-to-do families in this world, they had more than one residence. We also went to their beach home in the coast of Peru, for a weekend.

These were my thoughts when I was informed the doctor and his family would be coming down to South Florida, on their way to New York City.

Womanlike, my mother and I are very house-proud.

Fortunately, though when a child I hated being made to tag along to antique shops, we have a wonderful condo apartment filled with my mother's vast collection of inherited and scavenged furniture.

But because my father is reclusive, we rarely have anyone over any more.

Our home is thus like a museum -- tasteful, but it can be overwhelmingly antiseptic to some, at times.

On that score, I needn't worry though. This family are used to it.

But we have no servants. No chauffeur. And though we do have a second home two counties away, it is currently let out. We ain't rich like they are.

I'll thus have to find an itinerary amusing enough to keep kids aged 17 to 10 distracted, as well as two sophisticated grown ups, since my parents have work to attend to during the week.

So the moment I heard about this, my mind started to churn.

Frankly, I am loving it!

My mother is a much more sociable person than I, but she has no patience for the minutiae of entertaining.

There are a lot, a lot of details to sort out for parties, let alone for a full week's worth of holidaying.

Someone has to clean the rugs, someone has to paint the bathrooms, someone has to order food, someone has to order flowers, someone has to buy tickets to shows, and you are looking at that someone.

Me.

It's not the first time I've had to do something similar of course.

But one week is longer than any previous other entertaining I've had to do for non-relatives, inside my own home.

Two things set my mind at rest:

  • I'm up to the challenge, because though I love being on sabbatical, I've become a little bored being at home all day, like a rich old dowager lying by her pool. Blech.


  • I was trained for this. My school had what might be called Home Economics classes, but with a filip -- instead of making us learn to cook the meals, they made us learn how to plan parties, and how to entertain properly.


  • Eat your heart out Nigella Lawson!

    But now let's see how much I remember...

    They arrive Saturday, and I presume the kids want to rest by going to South Beach, and playing for hours in the sand.

    After all, it is summer in Peru at the moment, and this is what they would be doing there now.

    So Saturday is the down day, with little foresight needed.

    Sunday will be my D-Day, since that's when I have planned a sumptuous Peruvian meal for them, including:

    Lomo Saltado
    Papas a la Huancaína
    Chicha Morada


    They treated us to a wonderful traditional roast and Yorkshire puddings when we were there, so now I will return the national culinary favour.

    The hitch is this: I will cook the meal myself!

    These past few months, I have been getting slowly more accomplished in cookery skills, which I lacked until now.

    So I feel intrepid enough to cook something more adventurous than my usual bubble-and-squeak.

    I now need the wines, the savoury, and lastly, the cheese to serve during the meal.

    And obviously, which musical accompaniments (via CD alas, not a band like they had), to use throughout.

    This is why I am posting this.

    You, as a Sundries reader, can help me be the hostess with the mostest, by suggesting any bit of advice that you have for:

    Wine
    Cheese
    Dessert
    Music


    In no special order.

    Whew. This will be a hectic fortnight! Let's hope I don't burn the house down.

    UPDATE: Already some advice has flowed in, and my request even brought about this great post, by fellow quirk-blogger, XWL -- he in, turn, was called out in a general all-quarters post by Reader_Iam.

    I'm still sifting through the comments, but XWL provides an excellent template of what I am looking for.

    I'd seek out this album by Julieta Venegas. It's a fantastic album by a fantastic singer/songwriter and I'm told the lyrics are pretty good, too (my Spanish is too rudimentary to confirm or deny). [...]

    A little mind blowing journey to the unexpected always adds texture to a get together and this album from the Charlie Hunter Quartet definitely qualifies. Natty Dread as a peppy jump anthem is especially fun and surprising.

    Also even though it's a tribute to the music of Brazil, this album from Morelenbaum/Sakamoto is beautiful, pleasing and essential. It's a tribute to Jobim, and really what more do you need to know?

    Perfect! Thanks guys. Keep 'em coming!

    RECIPE UPDATE: I realised I left the menu selection rather breathlessly, so here is a rundown of what I shall be cooking.

    LOMO SALTADO: a reader called it stir fry, and in a way, that's right. It's beef strips marinated in red wine and cilantro, fried alongside chopped tomatoes, served with what Americans call steak fries. On a bed of rice, it goes without saying, since rice is king in Latin American cookery.

    PAPAS A LA HUANCAINA: Same reader called it potato salad, and that too is right. It's refrigerator cold, boiled potatoes covered in a spicy cheese-based sauce, made with green chilis (called aji), with hard-boiled eggs, black olives, and served cold atop lettuce.

    Chicha Morada is just a purple-corn drink (you what?), which is refreshing, if perhaps, an acquired taste.

    Smells Like Mistolin Spirit

    You always know when you've entered a building or a house which is Cuban-American, here in South Florida.

    Invariably, a particular disinfectant odour greets your nostrils, which is different from the Lysol-centric "Anglo" households.

    And that disinfectant odour, is the infamous...

    Mistolín.

    I was at my local CVS (which used to be Eckerd Drugs here, before CVS bought them out), when I saw this sight for sore eyes.



    I have an absolute mania for smells, and set much store by soap, perfumes, colognes, body splashes and unguents, especially anything called "baby".

    So when I saw the cosy, low-cost Mistolín, and the cutesy, baby powder scent reunited in one bottle, I knew I had to have it.

    It was only 99 cents, whch is another reason Cubans go the route of Mistolín, and its various disinfectant clones, like "Fabuloso".

    It's dead cheap.

    The packaging probably accounts for this, as these plastic bottles are inter-used in South America, for everything from Vegetable oil, to dish washing fluid, to shampoo.

    And I'll be using the Mistolín Baby soon, as my family gear up to host a doctor's family from Peru next week, in our home.

    The first thing I'm doing, is giving the guest bathroom a quick spritz all over, with my baby-scented disinfectant.

    Then I'll step into the shower, and scrub myself vigourously, with my Augustín Reyes Baby soap.

    Mmm. It's true what they say.

    No smell is as pure, as a baby's bottom. And now I can add, "or my home".

    QUESTION: Do you have a favourite "scent" which you use around your home?

    UPDATE: Whoa! Some clever bartender invented a cocktail drink called "Mistolin". Ese fue Cubano.

    1 1/2 parts vodka
    3 parts orange juice
    1 splash cranberry juice

    Pour vodka into a collins glass half-filled with ice. Add the orange juice, and pour the cranberry juice. Stir gently.

    Friday, February 17, 2006

    Sheet Happens

    Those of you still engrossed over the Dick Cheney-shoots-buddy story, might enjoy this particular blogpost.

    One of the most alarming parts of this whole sorry affair, has been that I have noticed how little historical references have been written by mainstream media, about and around this event.

    After all, if I, a mere blogger mind you, can think of several accidental mishaps which have occured throughout history, then certainly those whose métier it is to write and report about such things, can do so too.

    Could it be that by not doing so, they wish to isolate and highlight this event, so as to throw it in as worst a light as possible?

    As you will see, they are not unique events.

    Indeed some, though tragic at the time, are downright hilarious today.


    SHEET THAT HAPPENED THROUGHOUT HISTORY


    PRINCE CHRISTIAN OF SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN




    Few accidental shootings so closely resemble the events at the Armstrong Ranch, this past Saturday, as what occured in 1891, at Sandringham House.

    Picture the scene:

    Royal Family members make up a party of "guns" at one of the shoots. The December day is clear, but cold, and everyone is bundled up against the chill.

    Suddenly!, a shot followed by a scream of pain rings out.

    Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, son-in-law of Queen Victoria, has been shot...by HIS brother-in-law, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, the Queen's 3rd son!

    A momentary loss of grip of the Purdey 12-bore, is the cause of this dreadful shooting accident.

    He is taken immediately inside the house, but the royal physicians on call can do little to save his damaged eyes.

    Prince Christian loses one eye entirely, and the other is severely damaged.

    But don't worry.

    This genial man didn't blame his brother-in-law once.

    In fact, he was promptly fitted with a glass eyeball, and one of his particular party tricks, which had the other guests laughing into their hankies, was to dig out his glass eyeball and hold it aloft triumphantly.

    Then, as his audience gasped, he would ask for his valet to bring his velour-lined eyeball case, and pop another bloodshot blue eyeball, into the socket.

    His younger daughter, Princess Marie-Louise, wrote about this party trick of her dad's, in her engaging memoirs.

    Prince Christian lived on for 25 more years.

    No charges were brought against Prince Arthur, who later became a very popular Governor-General of Canada.

    Above, for your amusement, is a photo of Prince Christian, after his hunting accident.

    Care to guess which one is the glass eyeball?


    KING ALEXANDER I OF THE HELLENES




    This poor young man was the 2nd of 3 sons of King Constantine I, all of whom became Kings of Greece, due to the vagaries of their country's politics.

    What makes his particular story tragic, are the circumstances surrounding his odd death.

    One day, when he and his commoner wife, Aspasia, were walking in the Royal palace grounds, he paused to admire his collected menagerie of animals.

    Suddenly!, he saw one of his dogs attack one of the pet monkeys, and in trying to disentangle the creatures, he was bitten most fiercely by the macaque, in the leg.

    Rushing him to his bedroom, the young monarch, whose wife was expecting their only child, became delirious with fever, and due to the complications of not cauterising the wound on time, he died of septicemia.

    It's not often you hear of a handsome young King dying of a monkey bite.

    Indeed, there are some who believe this was no accident, but rather, a very cleverly carried out assassination.

    The monkey was not arraigned on charges.

    (He was exterminated instead)


    KING WILLIAM II RUFUS




    William II, son of the Conqueror, is famous today for two things:

    The way he died, and the way he lived.

    See, he was post-Norman England's first homosexual King; indeed, he never married, which was rare for a royal whoopsie, who forced themselves to procreate for the good of the dynasty.

    But perhaps it is his death which people remember, as well as his nickname "Rufus" (so-called because he tanned as red as a tomato, especially after half-piping the slopes)

    One day, the King was hunting in New Forest, a special hunting preserve of the monarch, when he disappeared, out of his courtiers' sight.

    All night, they searched for the King, without luck.

    Suddenly!, he was found the next day by local peasants, with an arrow shot through his heart.

    His courtiers didn't bother to even lift the King's lifeless body, and cover it with a shroud, as they immediately raced to their Castles, to secure their property.

    See, given the feudal laws at the time, the King and the land were one, so when he died, all law and order died with him, and it was easy to claim the property of another if you squatted in it.

    Rumours were rife as to what happened -- everything from assassination to a hunting drive-by, but it is coincidental to note that the cop term "homocide" dates from around this time.

    No one was charged with murder or manslaughter, although Brit Hume has lined up an interview with the local peasants, Republicans all.


    INFANTE ALFONSO OF BORBÓN




    The most tragic of all these events, perhaps is the one which befell young Prince "Alfonsito", the younger brother of the present-day King of Spain, Juan Carlos.

    Young, 14-year-old Alfonso, who hero-worshipped his older brother, was in the exiled family home in Estoril, Portugal, playing in his father's library.

    Suddenly!, a shot rang out, and the Prince's father and mother rushed in to find their blond, cute, beloved teenage son, shot between the eyes.

    The official story, put out in the press release, was that young Alfonso had been cleaning his father's gun collection, and when inspecting the barrel for debris, pointed it to his face, and accidentally shot himself, full on.

    But rumours abound that it was the future King Juan Carlos, who accidentally pointed the gun at his brother, and shot him in the face.

    He loved his brother very much, and was devastated by the event, but it was noted that Alfonsito was the favourite child of their father, so perhaps, who knows, there was not a Freudian death wish which factored into the story.

    King Juan Carlos didn't have to hock his Camaro to make bail.

    ADDENDUM: "Alfonso" seems to be a very bad luck name for the Spanish Royal Family.

    King Alfonso XIII (who, to boot, had the dread 13 in his title), lost his father, another Alfonso..., before he was even born, and had only one healthy son in 4. He died in exile in Rome.

    HIS son, the haemophiliac Crown Prince Alfonso, died in Miami after a minor car accident on Biscayne Boulevard.

    Of course, I already mentioned the death of his nephew, Alfonsito, but another nephew, Alfonso de Borbon-Dampierre, who married the grand-daughter of Generalissimo Franco, died in Beaver Creek, Colorado, in a skiing accident.

    If I were Crown Prince Felipe, I'd stay the heck away from this name for my progeny.


    FÉLIX FAURE, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE




    This is BY FAR, my niftiest story of the lot.

    Imagine today if a President of France, say our pal, Jacques Chirac, passed away suddenly -- without warning.

    A lot of hue-and-cry would result, to be sure.

    Now, what would you say, if I told you that it had been discovered that the President of France had died during intercourse with his mistress...in the Elysée Palace?

    But wait, there's more.

    Suddenly!, not only does it become known that he died during intercourse with his mistress, but that his attack of apoplexy happened whilst straddling a specially constructed "sex chair", which had to be secreted out of the Palace, before the Prez's family arrived home.

    But wait, there's more.

    Add all of that, and also that his male "member" was stuck inside her, and had to be extricated out.

    Please note that there are several versions of this story.

    One, discredited, has him dying in a Parisian brothel, enjoying the pleasures of various Belles du Jours.

    The other, says that his mistress, Marguerite Steinheil, was actually performing oral sex on him, when he expired.

    Unfortunately, we'll never know what really happened, because her Gap dress was accidentally dry cleaned.

    Fortunately, Le Figaro got this salacious story first, and not those uppity provincial rags.


    MEDIA COVERAGE TODAY


    I tried to focus on those which stories which occured purely accidentally, like Dick Cheney's miscue.

    This is why I didn't mention the very intended duel between Vice President Aaron Burr snuffing out Alexander Hamilton.

    I wonder, how would these stories have played today, in the world of 24/7 news coverage?

    Hang in there, Harry.

    Feed Me

    You may have noticed that my Blogads keep a-coming. Well and good, but have you clicked on them today?

    Come on! Please help keep me in lipstick and stockings by directing blog traffic to them from my site.

    Go2Meeting

    A handy agenda wotsit.

    Support Denmark

    Because there's nothing wrong in the State of Denmark.

    Judith Warner's latest book, Perfect Madness

    Madness is always perfect. I should know.

    Thursday, February 16, 2006

    Three New Heroines

    Maybe to some it is trite to refer to the Olympic spirit, but I scoff at the scoffers.

    Never more was that point made clear to me, than when I beheld the efforts, two nights in a row, of three very different women, who all did the same thing:

    In the name of the sport, they sucked it up, and carried on.

    Here I have to say, I am not much for my gender -- that is, I don't necessarily cheer for women, just because they are women, like many feminists and others, seem to do.

    I find that attitude as bizarre as cheering for someone who had hazel-eyes, or...were white.

    People, men or women, have to do something, not just BE something, for me to sit up and take notice of them, let alone to have goo-goo eyed reverence.

    But even so, I admit, I was absolutely elated that these three persons, were athletes who just happened to be women, too.

    Men are raised to disregard pain, and to tough it out, when they experience it.

    But we women are judged to be the weaker sex, in large part, because our bodies are frailer than men, but more than that I think, because we are allowed to express pain by crying.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, this makes men believe that women cannot do the same things, sportswise, as they can.

    Now I am the type who cries at supermarket openings, and I blub uncontrollably in chick flicks (hello Joy Luck Club), but I am as tough as a ram inside, and take an inordinate pleasure in not showing others when I am hurt, physically and emotionally.

    So, it is with this mindset that I beheld three women, and their respective reactions to injury, during the Torino Olympics.

    Because of what they did, and how they did it most importantly, they are my three newest heroines.

    I'm sure I will have more, by the end of the Olympic fortnight.

    1. ZHANG DAN



    No one who saw it, real time, will ever forget Zhang Dan's performance during the pair's figure skating programme.

    After falling with a sickening thud on the ice, her knee instantly sported large black-and-blue bruises, and surely to goodness, we all thought that it had been fractured...or worse.

    I could not believe it, therefore, when I saw her continue despite what must've been overwhelming pain.

    Her inspirational, accomplished performance led her and her partner, Zhang Hoi, to an unbelievable, but very merited, silver medal.

    After the Sale-Pelletier debacle in Salt Lake City, I thought I had seen it all in pair's figure skating, but this amazing will-to-power by Zhang Dan, will live long in my heart.


    2. LINDSEY KILDOW



    Lindsey Kildow was the serious girl to teammate Julia Mancuso's wild child antics, so it was thought she had the surest chance for an US gold medal in women's downhill skiing.

    But then came her cringe-making tumble during training two days before the Final, that surely had put paid any ideas of further competition in these Olympics.

    With a concussion, Lindsey Kildow took to the slopes on that day, and conquered more than just a piste -- she showed what a true Olympian is.

    One that gets up, carries on, and finishes what she started, no matter what.

    Unlike Zhang Dan, she won no medal, but never mind. She got our collective respect instead.


    3. CAROLE MONTILLET-CARLES



    Veteran Carole Montillet-Carles had quite possibly a more dramatic spill on the same day, and on the same ski slope, as Lindsey Kildow did.

    She was taken to hospital, and treated for severe bruises in her face, whch included a left eye which was totally closed due to swelling.

    The pain in her fractured ribs must have been overwhelming.

    But like Kildow, there she was, on the day of the Final, skiing down that slope which must've caused her to cringe with every bump in the snow, as she crouched with those aching ribs of hers.

    She finished. 4 minutes over the gold medal time, but she finished.

    Coincidentally, the Torino Opening ceremonies featured a lot of women carrying their countries' flags, and 8 older ladies, some of whom I growled at cattily, led the Olympic banner, further accentuating this theme.

    Whether it was unintended, or coincidental, these Olympics have so far proved themselves an event which women were allowed to show, what women have always been:

    Strong, in mind, but also in body.

    Entwhistle Syndrome

    I was just Googling a book I wanted to offer as reading material, after commenter XWL linked to Amazon, when I was suddenly taken aback for one minute.

    Most of us by now have heard of the sad case of the Massachusetts family gunned down in cold blood, allegedly by my compatriot, Neil Entwhistle.

    For the record, I think he's as guilty as all get out.

    Also, I think Brits should stay out of Massachusetts, as that porker Louise Woodward can tell you.

    But that's not what made me pause.

    It was because Mass police obtained his internet records, and it was found he had been Googling about adult escorts, porn, and how to kill my wife (paraphrased, but you get the gist).

    Now, I am hardly the paranoid type -- I leave that to my Mata Hari-like mother --, but in the past few days, I've become hyper-aware of my Googling.

    What will people think, when they discover my nefarious searches on Google??

    So in the interest of public disclosure, all the rage in this post-Jerry Springer world of ours, I will pre-empt police sleuthing and reveal my recent Google search records, here and now.

    (Clicks on "History" in the IE bar up top)

    "Brazilian transvestite book"

    "Windsor Castle litter disrepect"

    "Hot Peruvian dishes"

    "French Monk sex"

    "Naked Snorkeling Bahamas"

    "Dorks"

    "How to kill my condo president"


    ...Honest, Officer. I was doing 55.

    Wednesday, February 15, 2006

    Windsor Castle

    I'll be watching "Windsor Castle: A Royal Year", coming on my local PBS channel tonight at 8 PM EST.

    Check your own listings, as PBS affiliates vary.

    I have an unusual love for Windsor Castle.

    I went there as a child on a school field trip, and since that time, few edifices have gripped me more, than this old pile of brick, stone and mortar.

    I've been to Buckingham Palace. Found it boring.

    I've been to Versailles. Found it fussy.

    I've been to the old Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Found it dank.

    But Windsor Castle does something to me.

    I find myself somewhat sentimental, even protective of it, like when I saw the tourist tschokes on sale in the Windsor Castle gift shops.

    I don't know what the Queen feels, and for all I know, she loves it -- after all, she approved their existence and oversaw some of their designs --, but when I saw a Windsor Castle tea beaker, Queen Mary Doll House tea cozy, and Queen Victoria fridge magnet being flogged not 200 yards away from where William the Conqueror used to hunt, where Elizabeth I's odious father, Henry VIII, is buried, and where George III lay imprisoned in mad glory after losing the land where I now live...

    ...my blood boils.

    I know the Royal Family did so to raise funds after the Windsor fire in 1992, but even so, that's disgusting.

    I also recall this same revulsion overcoming me, inside the Castle one day.

    I was on the tour, going from room to room (no guide), when suddenly I saw a sight which made my mouth gape.

    A man (British, not a tourist) took a swig of a plastic Coke bottle, finished it, and instead of putting it back in his rucksack, he set it down...behind a bust of Queen Victoria.

    So irate was I, that I felt like going over to him, and punching him in the nose.

    Instead, I collected myself, drew a breath, and pointed out the bottle to a guard.

    To my astonishment, he sighed and said that happens all the time.

    I stored that in my head, and moved on.

    But you know, the incident stayed with me, and some years later, I recalled it, when (being yet again there, to see the progress done with St. George's Hall, which had been burnt to a crisp in 1992), I saw someone sit on top of the tomb of Queen Mary and George V, before one of the St. George's Chapel ushers told them to get off.

    It occured to me these people exhibit signs the opposite of Jerusalem Syndrome, that famous term for that curious sensation which overwhelms a person, say, in front of a statue like David in Florence.

    Panic. Fright. Even dizziness ensues, because they have a feeling of seeing something they had only ever seen in photographs, before, and it can overwhelm some.

    But these people -- they could care less.

    They litter and defile these places, with all the insouciance of vandals.

    That's when I told my mother, a psychiatrist, about the two events which I had personally witnessed.

    She said, some people are not being piggy or careless just to be disrespectful, but rather manifesting symptoms of envy, by lashing out in a passive-aggressive fashion at these monuments.

    I knew she was right, for in the same day I saw the plastic Coke bottle perching next to Queen Victoria, I heard some American tourists behind me say, in their high-toned American accented whispers,

    "I can't believe people live like this!!".

    Perhaps it is a kind of Jerusalem Syndrome, after all.

    I'll update this after I watch the programme, which has just started.

    UPDATE: I cleaned up the post, grammatically, and changed "jealousy" to envy, since I spoke to my mother after watching the episode, and she stated she had used the word envy, not jealousy, in our previous conversation.

    She also recalled that she had mentioned the incident where a man took a hammer at the David statue, and knocked out a toe from the Michaelangelo masterpiece.

    Reason? Because it's too perfect.

    Obviously, this is a deranged way of acting out on your particular moral precepts, but one can recognise a bit of the same impulse, in the littering/disrespecting incidents I mention above.

    One way people who feel themselves at a disadvantage or envious even without stating it outright, can go about redressing that situation, is by lashing out at inanimate objects.

    Graffiti artists, the kind to be seen from East LA to your local neighbourhoods, surely are showing these very signs, when they spray paint or disfigure buildings, walks, and other structures, in some way.

    Quite apart from the fact that many people enjoy graffiti art, and even the ugly gang sign graffiti can be championed by some people, who feel that these "artists" are underprivileged, and thus have only this outlet to express their artistic impulses publicly, it still doesn't take away why they choose to scribble on walls in public.

    And no, it doesn't have to do with territorialism, or challenges to authority, etc. Those are the effects, not the causes.

    It comes from two reasons, I believe.

    Feelings of worthlessness, which in turn, lead to fears of being ignored.

    Graffiti thus is a way of drawing attention to the person that, no matter how insignficant general society feels THEY are, and moreover, their opinions are, they will strike out and make their presence, their speech, and their points of view, known.

    Showing respect, and disrespect for something is in some way, a call for attention to your opinions of whatever is the object of interest at that moment, which by force, is not you.

    Be it a wall...or a room in a Castle which is almost 1000 years old.

    Obviously, some gestures are more intended than others, but you can be sure that the man who placed the Coke bottle behind the bust of Queen Victoria, thus breaking the PERFECTION of the room we were in, with its gilt-edged chairs, with its Holbeins on the walls, with its in-your-face ancientness and tradition, was being less lazy, than making a personal statement of some kind.

    Else he certainly would have placed the Coke bottle, in the rubbish bin near the exit, located not 4 feet away...

    ...and the 2 people sitting on the King and Queen's effigies would have used the pews just behind the sarcophagi.

    P.S.: Upon reading the update, I arrived at the conclusion that if the Coke bottle chap had thought about it a bit more, he might've realised that just the mere fact that he and I, and every tourist who goes to Windsor Castle, is in some way, breaking up the "perfection" of the setting.

    Windsor Castle was built for the usage of one family alone -- the Royal Family alive at that moment.

    Just the mere fact that there are tourists visiting the Castle, is a statement of challenge to that status quo, to that social class structure, which it represents.

    That's obviously not my way of thinking, since I don't feel insignifcant, nor have ever felt at a disadvantage at any time in my life, but in putting on my cap of a microhistorian for a moment, which analyses these small gestures and tries to seek meaning which might go unperceived, it is easy to focus on one minute example and truly examine it as we usually don't in daily life.

    Actually, stay tuned for more of the same in a forthcoming post.

    The Unbearable Lightness of Being Johnny Weir

    There I was last night, watching the Men's Figure Skating, when I caught sight of Johnny Weir, perhaps the most unknown known quantity in US Figure Skating today.

    I don't think I had ever heard of him, before last night.

    I certainly have never seen him in any kind of commercial, before the Olympics, as we had seen with Michael Phelps, the swimmer, before Athens 2004.

    Of course, there are many reasons for that.

    One is that men's figure skating has never had the allure and following of women's figure skating, for whatever reason.

    There are other reasons, too. Some to do with popularity. Some to do with personality. And some are intangible.

    Let's face it:

    When you think of men's figure-skating, one thinks Scott Hamilton or Brian Boitano -- two men who transcended the sport, into popular culture.

    Both are gayer than a Judy Garland tribute float on Castro and Market.

    But their gayness is worn lightly, perhaps because their maturity and professionalism were their two salient characteristics, not their sexual energies and catty tongues.

    And this is where those two legendary skaters, and Johnny Weir, diverge.

    When people made fun of the ambiguity and iconoclasm of the Worm, Dennis Rodman, I just laughed.

    He, like his buddy Madonna, is a pretend iconoclast, who does things for show, and dough, as much as from genuine impulses deep inside.

    It's Johnny Weir who is the real iconoclast.

    The difference is knowing which buttons to push.

    Pretend iconoclasts have as many buttons they are pushing in themselves, as those they try to push in their public.

    Real iconoclasts are oblivious to anyone but their own needs, their own expressions, in private or in public.

    That's what allows this mere strippling of a boy, to wear an old red Soviet Union t-shirt, with CCCP in gold letters, during an NBC meet-and-greet segment on the skater.

    This is what allows him to say that he isn't rooting for his US teammates, Evan Lysacek and Matt Savoie, to do well.

    And this is what allows him to mug at the rapt US audience at 11: 15 PM, just after his short programme, and roll his shoulders at the camera, as if he were Carmen Miranda flouncing at the Mocambo.

    Everything about him says, I don't care, and I find that sociopathic, since when I look at him, I feel my skin crawl, in a way which is difficult to describe.

    You know, just the night before, I had caught Karl Lagerfeld's fantastic interview on Charlie Rose on PBS.

    Karl Lagerfeld is uniquely effeminate too, but dashing, eccentric, and genuinely interested in life, and all that life has to offer him.

    He has an effervescence which jumps at one, and holds our attention like nothing else can.

    And though both men are as gay as the day is long in third world sweatshops, and overtly, unapologetically so, one is all brilliance and fun.

    But Johnny Weir is just another bitchy diva, on the wrong end of notoriety.

    So, guess what?

    I'm rooting for Evan Lysacek and Matt Savoie, instead.

    P.S.: Weir said that he will write a tell-all book about figure skating when all is said and done, after Torino. "There are a lot of skeletons in the closet", he mentioned regarding the world of this almost cult-like sport.

    Oh, this should be good. Pity I could care less.

    FRIDAY 17 FEBRUARY UPDATE: Maybe the Buddhists are on to something, because karma just caught up with Johnny Weir, Thursday night.

    The person who said he wasn't rooting for his teammates, skated like a pussy: scared and tentative.

    Meanwhile Evan Lysacek and Matt Savoie both skated like angels.

    Johnny Weirdo finished 4th, and thus got a nice tin medal, which will look a treat next to his red swan glove on the mantlepiece. Sucker.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2006

    Love + Faith = Life

    If You Want To Know the Meaning of Valentine's Day, Click Here.

    Brrrr!



    Tonight is going to be the coldest night in South Florida, for the past 3 years.

    I'm fine, cosy in my chinchilla muff, and Dr. Scholl's foot warmers, but this computer room stroke library of ours is not heated, so my computer time is necessarily restricted.

    So with that in mind, I've written up some "quick hits" posts today, for your amusement.

    Scroll below and check the comments sections, on previous posts.

    Here's looking at you, you poor blizzard survivors.

    UPDATE: Well, like Donna Summer, I survived. The temperature gage is sneaking up on 54F, and by Wednesday, will be a more typical SoFla 74ish.

    On this hearty note, Happy Valentine's Day to all you lovers out there. Remember, Valentine's Day Massacres should never refer to your love life. Go out and find love!

    Cheneyquiddick

    (Welcome Althouse readers!)

    Tell me, who reading this, was alive in 1969?

    Because I'd very much like to be told if there was a press outrage, the likes of which we saw today during the White House Press Conference, by David Gregory and Co., about Ted Kennedy's much more devastatingly damning "failure to report" than what Veep, Dick Cheney did after his hunting brainfart.

    Or rather, what he didn't do.

    You know, truly, truly, MSM are collectively going through an identity crisis.

    They think they are our true representatives, and the Administration (any Administration), are just part-time interlopers who should be ferreted out before their term is up.

    Their actions today, about essentially a non-story being pumped up to hopefully, prayerfully, bring down this Administration at long last, were nothing more than embarrassing.

    I felt literally embarrassed for them, as they tried to sniff out a story which they could then use, to add to their litany of crimes against the American people, by this White House.

    And yes, I just coined Cheneyquiddick.

    Although I'm sure Chris Matthews sent out memos with it as a title, already.

    Westminster Sham

    (Welcome Pastor_Jeff readers! Pastor_jeff, you may recall, coined my pet's 'net name for posterity)

    (See note below for an important request)

    There I was, minding my own biness, watching the 130th edition of the Westminster Dog Show (not a patch on Crufts, but hey), when I was utterly, utterly shocked to see this THING representing his breed, in the Toy category.





    Now listen. I am a reasonable woman.

    I pay my taxes on time.

    I make a full stop at 4-way crossings.

    And I have never, ever, ever, torn a tag off of a mattress.

    But this infamy witnessed today, is a bridge too far for me.

    Are you going to tell me that white furball up top is the best chihuahua this country has to offer?

    No. NO! NO!!!

    I will not accept this.

    For on my lap as we speak, lies gently snoring, the most wonderful examplar of this breed, not only of the United States of America (& Guam), but indeed, of all corners of Mother Earth.

    I give you...my SCHMOOPSIE!

    Please. It's not even close. Fixed.

    P.S.: Don't anyone say a darn thing against the trendy adorable awfulness of chihuahuas.

    Not when there are these mutts running around.



    Blech.

    NOTE: That above was fun and games, but you know, sometimes life interrupts us with more sober tidings.

    Your friend and mine, Reader_Iam, is facing a devastating family loss today, and really needs your prayers and affection.

    I know all too well what she is feeling, having been in the exact same position, three times before.

    And let me tell you, scoff if you will, but the pain is overhelming.

    Stay strong, RIA.


     




    Advertise on blogs
    British Expat Blog Directory.