Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

martes, julio 31, 2012

Disturbance of the Day

My dad passed away in February. Today I got an email from him. So did everybody else in his address book. His account was hacked. I think he would have found this disturbing.

So I tried to get into his account to close it, but I don't have his password. And now I have 72 hours of Microsoft figuring out whether I know enough about my dad that I can reset his password. I think I know enough. Will Microsoft agree?

I am putting this entire subject in the category called "imponderable."

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lunes, julio 30, 2012

The Nicaragua Canal?

You cannot make this stuff up. Does Central America need a huge infrastructure project to compete with the Panama Canal? Evidently, Daniel Ortega thinks it does. And he's not alone:

President Daniel Ortega brought back from the ashes of the national imaginary what The Nicaraguan Dispatch dubbed as Nicaragua’s ‘500-year-old canal fantasy,’ which Ortega promised to fulfill following his return to power in 2006.

Out of the various canal projects which have surfaced over the past decade, it seems Ortega has put his sights on the most ambitious – the Grand Inter-Oceanic Aquatic Canal of Nicaragua, whose construction is estimated at approximately US$350m.

On 6 June, the government submitted a draft bill to the country’s National Assembly for the construction of a canal which would connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and thus serve as an alternative to its Panamanian counterpart....

The Nicaraguan canal ‘fantasy’ is certainly not new, dating back to colonial times when a Spanish royal decree was issued to explore a possible trade route between the San Juan river and Lake Nicaragua.

In the 19th century, the U.S. became the main patron of Nicaragua’s inter-oceanic ambitions, reaching an agreement with the Central American nation for a co-owned canal in 1884, which went down the drain in the early 1900’s in favour of Panama and its own canal project.

And today, in case anyone thought this was some kind of Central American inside baseball, The New York Times reports:

Two Dutch companies say they have been awarded a $720,000 (€587,000) contract by the Nicaraguan government to study the feasibility of building a rival to the Panama canal that would travel through Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

Since the early 1800s, the so-called "Nicaragua Canal" has been considered a serious possibility as a route that could link the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, though the Panama Canal ultimately won out. Some experts believe the growth of global shipping means that two canals through Central America would benefit the industry, especially if a Nicaragua Canal could accommodate larger ships.

Infrastructure company Royal HaaskoningDHV and Ecorys said Monday they will complete their study by early 2013. The Nicaraguan government has loosely estimated construction costs at $20 billion and would seek international investors.

Speaking of fantasies, these stories reminded of Werner Herzog's 1982 film,Fitzcarraldo and its devastating attempt to haul a 320 ton riverboat over a hill for a portage. Only in this case, the ships will be much larger.

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miércoles, julio 25, 2012

A Blog Recommendation

Your Bloguero does not usually recommend that you visit and read other blogs. So this post may come to you, dear reader, as a major surprise.

Our friend Matthew is living and eating in Vietnam. He has graced the kitchen at your Bloguero's casa with his innovations many delicious times. He is a true and dedicated foodie. And he has received your Bloguero's culinary seal of approval. Put another way, the dude knows food. Especially Asian food. So you may want to visit So, if you have a stomach and like putting delicious things in your mouth, you really must visit his new blog, The Missing Ingredient: Notes from the Streets of Southeast Asia.

Your Bloguero loves the blog. He only wishes the pixels were edible. Go there. Now. Salivate. Enjoy.

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The Olympics: Remembering Tommie Smith and John Carlos

1968 Olympic Games, Mexico City, Mexico, Men's 200 Metres Final, USA gold medallist Tommie Smith and bronze medallist John Carlos give the black power salutes as an anti-racial protest as they stand on the podium with Australian silver medallist Peter Norman.

Recall, if you can, this salute:

As the eyes of the world were on them, Smith, Carlos and and Norman headed out to the field for the medal ceremony. Carlos realized he had forgotten his glove. “My father suggested they share Smith’s pair and each wear one,” says Matt. Peter also asked the Americans for an [Olympic Project For Human Rights] badge to wear to show his respect for what they were about to do. What you can’t clearly see in the photo is that the Americans were also shoeless, to symbolize poverty. Carlos wore beads, and Smith a black scarf, around their necks to symbolize the lynchings that were taking place in the American South.

The crowd grew angry, which surprised the three athletes. “I threw my arm up, and said ‘Please, God, get me out of here,’” recalls Smith.

Media fallout from the salute and its obvious message was swift and surprisingly negative. And Smith and Carlos suffered the consequences:

Smith and Carlos returned to the U.S. and struggled to find work. Carlos’s wife eventually committed suicide: Carlos blamed it on the condemnations and media attacks. Despite the years of working manual labor and feeling ostracized, Carlos says he would do it again. “I didn’t like the way the world was, and I believe there need to be some changes in the way the world is,” Carlos wrote in The John Carlos Story.

1968 was a different world from 2012. Mexico was in turmoil. Its army had killed unarmed demonstrators. Europe was afire with change. US colleges and universities were protesting. Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated. The world was seething. And now all of that has gone.

Now the Olympics are just entertainment. They are an extremely corporate, very commercial event from which even the thought of protest on the world stage has been effectively banished. Instead, athletes who win gold medals don't make gestures. Or protests. Or remarks. No. They just cash in. They seek corporate endorsements and loot. They don't raise human rights concerns.

In their conformity to the sport as entertainment creed, in their silence, athletes have become even less like their audience. They've reconciled themselves to being wonderful, interesting, maybe even delightful instruments of distraction. And we, their audience, are significantly poorer for their conformity.

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sábado, julio 21, 2012

Seven Years In The Dream Antilles

The seventh anniversary of this blog, The Dream Antilles, is on August 3, 2008. This is, believe it or not, the 1,372nd post.

Most of what I wrote on this blog's third anniversary, in 2008, remains true today, even if the tone seems, well, a bit too sanguine:

What began as a way to promote my vastly underselling 2005 novel, The Dream Antilles, morphed first into a lit blog, and then took on aspects of a political blog, and finally blossomed into an eccentric collection of commentaries on whatever strikes me as something I would enjoy writing about.

When I initially began, I hoped there would be tons of comments on my essays. There aren't. In fact, there are hardly any comments at all. But I know that I'm not the unheard vox clamatis in deserto because there are... web counters [showing a few hundred views per week]. Let me put this in perspective. Some blogs receive more than 10,000 page views in an hour. Those who read this blog around the world are far, far fewer. But they are nevertheless readers to whom I owe my thanks for reading and my appreciation when they bookmark the site and when they return, even if they generally don't leave comments...

Why do I keep on writing? You could ask as well why I keep on breathing. It's something I do. Unlike many of my favorite writers, Garcia Marquez, Roberto Bolano, Ricardo Piglia, I don't live in a place where there is an established, literary cafe culture. I can't go out this evening to my favorite cafe and find the other writers with whom I've been hanging out to discuss my latest ideas. Or theirs. So in a way, The Dream Antilles is a kind of substitute for that interaction. It's something that I do even though I'm working on another novel. Blogging is like a conversation that can always be resumed.

Will I continue? Of course.

But, alas, sometimes I'm not quite as sure of things as I was back in 2008. Not nearly. Just look at 2011's Anniversary post, written in the third person:

Your Bloguero believes you are reading this. He doesn’t know for sure that you are here. Actually, he has no idea whether you’re reading or how many readers have visited. Or who has read what. Or when. Why? In a moment of self righteous indignation several years ago, your Bloguero deleted all the web counters. Good riddance, he said. “I’m doing this whether or not anybody reads it,” he announced pompously. Later, much later your Bloguero caved in to his own curiosity about you. Were you really there? Were you really reading? Of course, he wouldn’t admit that it mattered to him. So he quietly put up the map with the dots (you can still find it near the bottom of the right column) so he could see you. If you read The Dream Antilles a tiny dot appears where you are and it stays there for a while. Your Bloguero still likes the dots, particularly when people of every continent visit. Other than that small reassurance that you are there, your Bloguero writes The Dream Antilles on the faith that you read it. This faith is not rock solid. Far from it. Sometimes your Bloguero has towering doubts. He imagines that he might be standing on the pitcher’s mound in a completely empty Yankee Stadium making believe the seats were filled with people paying rapt attention to him and laughing at his jokes and understanding what he is telling them. Sometimes your Bloguero doesn’t care that all the seats might be empty and that newspapers are blowing around in the infield and that the PA system is turned off and pigeons are swooping in from the eves. Banishing the emptiness from his consideration, your Bloguero declaims that the blog is a writing practice. And your Bloguero is another Eveready Bunny. He does it for himself, he says. Really? You ask. Yes, sure, and your Bloguero’s obvious vanity? Hah! Your Bloguero never claimed he was so perfect. So free from doubt.

Thank you for visiting. And thank you for reading.

And so begins my eighth year in the Dream Antilles. I'm aware that there are zillions of blogs, many of which have been abandoned, and that in the age of Facebook and Twitter (@thedavidseth), a blog may be more like outmoded music cassettes, VHS cassettes, LP records and Betamax machines than I care to admit. An antique. A relic. A fossil. No matter. I continue. For now. And I hope you will continue to return.

Thanks for seven great years.

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viernes, julio 20, 2012

The Dark Knight Murders

NBC is reporting this horror in Colorado last night:

Fourteen people were killed and at least 50 others wounded early Friday when a gunman opened fire at a midnight screening of the summer blockbuster "The Dark Knight Rises" near Denver, authorities and witnesses said.

Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates told reporters that 10 people died at the scene and four others died after being taken to local hospitals. At least 50 other people were injured, Oates said, including a six-year-old girl.

Witnesses said tear gas also went off in the theater.

A 24-year-old male suspect was apprehended in the shopping center's parking lot, Oates said.

There are many details yet to emerge. The identify of the alleged shooter, who is now in custody, has not been released. Nor has any information about him been reported. Concern at the moment appropriately is focused on the victims and on their families. As the President said,

"We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded. As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family."

I agree with that.

However, the question that is sure to be next, when the initial shock, horror and grief begin to subside, when the news cycle resumes, is whether the alleged shooter's deranged actions may have been inspired or influenced by comments made by Rush Limbaugh on Tuesday.

Limbaugh tried to walk back these back on Wednesday after an avalanche of negative criticism. The kerfuffle in short, as told by Limbaugh himself, according to the New York Daily News:

"Yesterday on this program, I uttered some words about the Batman movie and the evil villain named Bane," [Limbaugh] said during his radio show Wednesday. "I made some comments about it, it doesn't matter what.

"I have had more reaction to that than anything - including the Fluke thing," he said, referencing the controversy stoked earlier this year after Limbaugh called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" after she testified before House Democrats on birth control health insurance coverage.

"More people are concerned about whatever I might have said or didn't say about a Batman villain than they are about their own jobs," continued Limbaugh.

Batfans took exception to Limbaugh's suggestion that the filmmakers deliberately chose the villain to terrorize Romney's campaign just months before the election.

"Do you know the name of the villain in this movie? Bane,” Limbaugh said during his show. “The villain in the Dark Knight Rises is named Bane. B-A-N-E. What is the name of the venture capital firm that Romney ran, and around which there's now this make-believe controversy? Bain.

“The movie has been in the works for a a long time, the release date's been known, summer 2012 for a long time. Do you think that it is accidental, that the name of the really vicious, fire-breathing, four-eyed whatever-it-is villain in this movie is named Bain.”

Limbaugh's comments were, of course, also widely reported. And as he himself noted, criticized.

Now there's been a mass shooting, more than a dozen murders, at a theater showing the Dark Knight at midnight in Colorado.

Here's the dreadful question: Do these two things have anything to do with each other?

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jueves, julio 19, 2012

The Mets: In The Breakdown Lane

RA Dickey, who tonight all by himself is supposed to stop a 6-game losing streak

Your ever optimistic bloguero hoped he wouldn't have to write this. He hoped that somehow the Mets would remain in contention, that they would gather their mysterious forces as they did earlier in the season and end up in the playoffs, that the scrappy, come-from-behind team without many big stars would surprise and delight the fans, and most important delight your Bloguero, but alas, apparently not. It looks like the Mets have caught up with themselves. The gloom is back. The fans are shaking their heads.

Last night the Mets lost their sixth in a row, their longest losing streak of the season. They looked utterly horrible. They are now one game over .500, 8 games back in the division and 6 in the wild card race. Usually, you count a team out when they are 10 games behind in the division. That might be the case by the weekend. And tonight? They've been fading. Rapidly. They have evidently lost their spark. A team meeting on Wednesday night netted nothing. Insufficient inspiration. The bullpen is a shambles. And the offense has been timid. And tamed. It's not necessary to name all the names. Andrew Keh writing in the Times had this lede this morning:

The Mets began Wednesday with a meeting to discuss the importance of maintaining a standard of hard work, high energy and individual accountability during this vital stretch of games. Their day ended in disappointment hours later, after nine innings of the sort of uninspiring play that helped precipitate the meeting in the first place.

You can now hear the Mets' desperation. Somebody let the air out of their tires. They've lost it. Soon you will be able to see the empty seats in Citifield. And after that, entry will again be $1. Maybe there will even be beer bargains. Mighty Terry Collins, the Man of Mystery, who's been remarkable until this skid, told the AP this about tonight's RA Dickey start:

"I'm sure R.A.'s going to give us a good game tomorrow because that's what's going to crack this thing. This game, as you can see by what they do, is on the mound. If we continue to pitch, we'll win our games," Collins said.

So it's already "this thing" that has to be "cracked." Terry C isn't shrugging it off. Nope. He might as well admit he's stymied. In other words, it's that substantial. It's durable. It's heavy. It's now an "it." It is really an incipient death rattle. And as if that single bit of telling rhetoric isn't enough to convince your Bloguero that the Mets are going to continue losing because they can't really win with the team they have, not when it counts, there's that other pregnant phrase the Manager used. "If we continue to pitch." Ooops. That hurts your Bloguero. You mean there's some other possibility? Like that starting pitching is completely shot also? That the starting rotation is going to be shelled by the opposition? What if they continue to have pitching breakdowns? And if the bullpen continues to suck and to give away narrow leads late in games? And if the offense continues to sputter until too late? And if the miserable seasons of Jason Bay and Ike Davis continue? And if, and if, and if. What a horror.

No. Your Bloguero is a great optimist, but once again, the writing is now on the wall for the Mets. Yes, your Bloguero will watch this evenings game and hope against hope that something changes for the Mets. The Nationals are very, very tough, and they have shellacked the Mets in the last two games. Is there any reason to believe that with little or no offense RA Dickey, all by himself, can give the Mets a win? Doubtful. And even if he does, what comes next? The team has as many holes as Swiss cheese, and management is trying to figure out whether it can escape spending money to stay in the race. By the end of the series in Washington, that is, your Bloguero fears, going to be painfully clear.

Put 2012 in the books. It's over. It was fun while it lasted. It was really great to believe there was an inspiring story at Citifield. But it now has run its course. There is no joy in Metsville, the mighty Metropolitans have all struck out.


lunes, julio 16, 2012

Monday's Video From Louie: Is this viral yet?

This is really clever. And a very sharp piece of advocacy.

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sábado, julio 14, 2012

Betrayed By A Cat, The Great Hunter Emerges

For the past week, I have been playing the role of Ramar of the Jungle. The Great Hunter. He who captures fierce, predatory animals. He who stalks at night. He who always catches his prey in the darkness. Well, sort of anyway. Kind of. It's really not that dramatic or courageous. Or fun. Not at all. Actually, I confess, it's about the mice. And catching them. In the house.And it's not my job. No. It's supposed to be Romietta the Cat's job.

A mouse (plural: mice) is a small mammal belonging to the order of rodents, characteristically having a pointed snout, small rounded ears, and a long naked or almost hairless tail. The best known mouse species is the common house mouse (Mus musculus). It is also a popular pet. In some places, certain kinds of field mice are also common. This rodent is eaten by large birds such as hawks and eagles. They are known to invade homes for food and occasionally shelter.

Cats, wild dogs, foxes, birds of prey, snakes and even certain kinds of arthropods have been known to prey heavily upon mice. Nevertheless, because of its remarkable adaptability to almost any environment, the mouse is one of the most successful mammalian genera living on Earth today.

Yeah, successful. That means: you can hunt them 24/7 and there always appear to be more. And the more you hunt, the more you find, so the more you have to hunt. If you stopped hunting, stasis would return and they would successfully hide from you, and you could make believe that they weren't really there any more. That they had left. Well, at least so long as you managed to overlook the occasional small, black, hardly noticeable turd.

This hunting began when Romietta the cat decided to start a catch and release program in the house. She'd catch small wild, furry things in the fields and bring them home. Then if she didn't eat them, or if they escaped her clutches while she toyed with them, and it was hard for her to recapture them, she would lose interest. And they would remain in the house. Until she caught them again. Or until they left on their own. Or, worst of all, they would just stay. I've told this story before about how Romietta has been building a food pantry in the walls of my dwelling with her catch and release program. And how this is a betrayal. She is a cat and cats are supposed to keep mice from invading the house. Obviously, she does not agree with this job description.

Last weekend, I was standing in the kitchen, and I noticed that I had an uninvited guest on the counter. A very fat, gray mouse. Evidently s/he sensed I was there, and decided immediately to scurry away, running across the counter, over the stove, and into the vent in the stove. I was outraged. I thought seriously about turning on the oven and baking him/her into oblivion. But it was 90 degrees out, I have no air conditioning, and turning on the over was a very bad idea. My outrage, because my persona includes an action figure like Ramar of the Jungle, led directly to the hardware store, where I purchased the last remaining Havahart mouse trap. The last one in stock. Did that mean that the mice around here were on some kind of rampage?

That's when my hunt began in earnest. The short: this morning I removed the sixth mouse from this house in six days. I took him/her across the field and released him/her. Yesterday's mouse was smaller, browner, more disheveled, and still eating the organic, crunchy peanut butter in the trap as I carried it out of the house and into the field. Today's mouse was gray and round and quite content to sit in the trap and ogle me. Was s/he saying, "Nice job, Ramar, but I'll be back. You can catch me again tomorrow, when I have returned?"

That's a problem. These mice don't have voter id. They don't wear name tags. They dont' show their papers. I have no idea whether I have caught and removed the same one more than once. Mouse number 1 looked to me a lot like mouse numbers 2 and 6. Mouse 3 and 4 looked a lot alike. I prefer to think I have caught 6 different mice, though that thought is extremely disquieting because how can there have been 6 or more mice in my house? I prefer not to think that I am playing a very involved game with two or three mice that has led to 6 captures.

Early this morning before I came to the kitchen, I was filled with hope. I hoped that the trap wouldn't have a mouse in it. That I had caught all 5 mice, and that the siege was now over. Then I saw that the trap had closed, and that Mouse No. 6 was sitting in it. How very disappointing. The siege is not over. It is probably far from over. Who knows when, if ever it will end?

One other thing: this morning when I let Romietta the cat in after a night she had spent hunting in the fields and not in the kitchen, I invited her over to see what was in the trap. She could not have been less interested. I showed her, "Look, kitty, look, Romi here's a nice, juicy, gray, round mouse. Would you like it? I can give it to you if you want it." She turned her back and walked away. She went upstairs to take a nap. This is what betrayal looked like this morning.

I'm committed to completing this hunt. Really I am. And I'm going to try to talk with Romietta again. Maybe we should go to counseling together. Obviously, our relationship isn't working the way I'd like it to.

Note: No animals were hurt in the making of this essay.

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miércoles, julio 11, 2012

A Murder of Crows

I love crows. Really. And now, there are a zillion of them here, and they're having debates and Crow Conversations at 4:30 am. As the sun comes up, they discourse. I think they're talking about lack of rain or Solar Flares. Or food. It's just Crow Talk.

I really wish I could join them: I wish I had a black coat with long tails that flapped like theirs. And I wish I could hang out with them in the predawn light, hopping around and shouting, loudly discussing events of the day. That and letting my black coat blow wildly when the wind is high.


martes, julio 10, 2012

Willard: Don't Stop At Sesame Street

Evidently, Willard, the Bain Capital Republican Candidate for the Sankaty High Yield Presidency of the Citibank United States of America, wants to put commercials on Sesame Street to help balance the budget:

There are programs that I like, like PBS—I mean, my grandkids watch PBS, they like to watch Sesame Street. You know, I just don't think we can afford to borrow money from China to pay for things we absolutely don't have to do. So in the case of PBS, I'd tell them to get advertisers or more contributors, but the government is not going to pick up the bill by borrowing money.

But Willard, why stop there? Why not go all the way?

In his seminal novel Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace notes that the years have been "subsidized", so they all have rather than numbers the names of their sponsors. So there is the Year of Glad, the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment. The Year of the Whopper. Etc.. So, Willard, you could sell time and naming rights to years.

And then there are the stadiums. What was once the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans is now The Mercedes Benz Superdome. There's Citifield, and Citizens Bank Park, and etc. So, Willard, you could sell naming rights to buildings. We could have "The KFC Department of Agriculture Building." What a nice ring that has. And we could have the "Remington Firearms FBI Building." Etc. We could even have "The Bain Capital White House."

And don't stop there. You could sell naming rights to Cabinet Positions. You know, "The Clean Coal Secretary of Energy". The "BP Petroleum Secretary of the Interior". The "Hooked On Phonics Secretary of Education." But don't stop there.

You could also sell the name of the country itself. So it could be "The Citibank United States of America," and it could say that on its little plaque at the table at the Security Counsel that says that. Wouldn't that be valuable? But don't stop there. No.

You could sell commercials when you address the nation. They have television time outs in football games, they can have them in the All State State of the Union Address. And in your CNN Presidential Statements from the Oreos and Milk Oval Office. And you could have commercials on C-Span. In fact, in the Senate and the House the presiding officers could call for a timeout so the commercials could be shown to the legislators.

Personally, if you win, I'll look forward to the Fox News Press Secretary's discussions with the press. I know you'll have a really nice shield designed for his/her podium that emphasizes that this is, after all, the Citibank United States of America and that you, sir, are its Sankaty High Yield President. And everything's for sale.


domingo, julio 08, 2012

Amnesia And Election Fraud In Mexico

Yesterday, tens of thousands of Mexicans went into the streets of Mexico City to protest against fraud in the claimed election of Enrique Pena Nieto (EPN), the PRI candidate, as president of Mexico. MSNBC reports:

Tens of thousands of protesters, many holding hand-written placards, marched through the Mexican capital on Saturday against President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto, accusing him of buying votes and paying off TV networks for support.

The demonstrators, including students, leftists, anarchists and union members, shouted slogans criticizing Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, and the electoral authority.
"Mexico without the PRI," "Mexico voted and Pena didn't win," and "If there is an imposition, there will be a revolution," chanted demonstrators, according to Spanish-language Mexican newspaper La Jornada....

Many carried signs reading, "Pena, how much did it cost to become president?" and "Mexico, you pawned your future for 500 pesos." ...

"The PRI threatens many people and buys others with a couple of tacos," said Manuel Ocegueda, a 43-year-old shop worker participating in the march....

Oops. Apparently, the Mexican electorate forgot about the PRI's extensive seven decade track record. Or it was seduced by PRI's assertion that it in its exile from national power it had found the Savior. Or it was overcome by desperation about the nearly 60,000 deaths in the PAN led War on Drugs. To me, it looks a lot like amnesia.

The PRI, the party of the institutional revolution, ruled Mexico for 71 years until 2000. It maintained itself in power with outright violence, buying elections, repression, and pervasive corruption. PRI governments were involved in disappearances and torture. PRI governments shot unarmed civilian demonstrators. PRI was synonymous with impunity. EPN said he was "different." And that the "new" PRI was different. Many disputed this. Then, in the wake of the election, the videos demonstrating vote buying emerged on youtube. It appears there was a run on a Soriana Supermarket when a rumor started that the gift cards voters received in exchange for votes would be canceled. None of this is new. This is exactly what should have been expected. And many people did expect it. Just not enough.

In fact, more Mexicans voted against EPN than for him, but only Andrew Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) will file a complaint about the election. So far, PAN, the incumbent party, seems willing to accept the results. It is extremely unlikely that EPN's election will not be sustained. In time the furor will die down. In time the haze of forgetfulness will obscure what happened in this election. In time there will be no more demonstrations. There will be only shrugs. And resignation.

Apparently, a remembrance of history is not something that plays an extremely vital role in Mexican (or for that matter, US) politics. Nor is accountability. Nor is a consciousness of the struggles of the past. Nor is preserving all of the myths of struggles for greater democratization. No. There is widespread amnesia. Only a few remember the past, fewer recount those events. And their audience? Their audience is oh so very distracted and entranced. Or asleep. Or for sale.

Yesterday, I was immersed in Paco Taibo II's memoir, "'68," a recounting of the 1968 Mexican student revolution and its murderous suppression by the PRI government of the time. I recommend reading it. It is a great memoir.

There is only one very minor point to be made here. It's about institutional amnesia. We're prone to forget the stories and the idealism and the struggles of the past, to permit them to be pushed out of our minds by time, distractions and outright repression. Look at the results of amnesia. Look at the results in Mexico even if we can't look at them in the US. This is what happens when people forget. This is what happens when people are asleep. Despierta ya!

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miércoles, julio 04, 2012

The Mets At The Halfway Point

The Man Of Mystery

What a surprise. After a dreadful year in 2011, the Mets, everyone including your Bloguero said, were going to be terrible in 2012. They had after all traded away two of the best players on the roster, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. David Wright remained but he was striking out constantly. Johan Santana was injured. They were in financial distress because of Bernie Madoff. And this collection of nameless nobodies was destined to win at most 75 games, everyone said. If that. Maybe that was too optimistic. Anyway, they were going to be at the bottom of the division. They were going to be terrible. And nobody was going to watch them. And Citifield would remain empty.

The surprise: with half of the season (81 games) complete, the Mets are 7 games over .500 and 3.5 games behind the division leading Nationals. RA Dickey, the knuckleballer and “as told to” writer, is 12-1 and an All Star. Johan Santana pitched the Mets’ first no hitter. David Wright, also an All Star, is batting .351 and has 10 homers and 51 RBIs. Ike Davis (who didn’t hit anything for the first 2 months of the season even in batting practice and was surely destined for Buffalo or A ball) and Lucas Duda (who?) both have 11 home runs. Somebody named Scott Hairston has 10 home runs. And on and on and on.

And the surprise is not just in the stats. No. This turns out to be a very scrappy team. They don't give up. They don't seem to have the egocentric psychoses of previous Mets teams. They lead the league in two out runs. And two out hits. Apparently the manager, Terry Collins, knows what to whisper in their ears, knows how to get these players to perform. Maybe he's hypnotized them. And the opposition. No matter. He's the man of mystery: they are playing for him better than anyone had the right to expect they could.

Yes, sometimes they are utterly terrible defensively. Their last game in LA was a towering disaster. You could hear the echoes of Casey Stengel yelling, “Can’t anybody here play this game,” throughout Southern California. They made stupid errors like a poor high school team, they kicked the ball around, they were awful to watch. Then the bullpen collapsed and pitched batting practice to the Dodgers, or maybe they thought the Home Run Derby was early this year. In other words, the Mets looked the way we expected them to look back in March. Losers. A team that would win 75 games. At the most. A team at the bottom of the division, always out of contention, never exciting. A team with an empty ballpark. And then last night, an entirely different team: tons of runs against the hapless Phillies, at least 5 fielding gems. Hits galore. Error free play. A team that appeared to your Bloguero's delight to be a contender.

Everybody knows that teams can collapse in the second half of the season. Just ask the Red Sox. Just ask the 2010 Mets. That could happen here. It could definitely happen here. The spell cast by Mets starting pitchers could be vaporized. Hitters could decide no longer to be fooled. There could be injuries. The hitting could slump. The fielding could again lead to frowns, crying, despair, hair pulling. Sure, that could happen. That wouldn't be much of a surprise. Or the team could be inspired by winning 44 games in the first half and win, say, 46 in the second. That would probably get the Mets into the post season. Did you hear that? did you hear what your Bloguero said?

It’s not completely a sign of dementia or rabid Metsphilia this year to say the two “p” words: Playoffs. Post season. But there’s the usual caution that comes with following the Mets: at any point all of the good things, all of the exciting things, all of the high expectations for the team could vanish, and all of the fans, your Bloguero included, could again be watching a double AA team as it attempts to compete in the major leagues. Your Bloguero hopes that won't happen. He wants to see this surprising team playing deep in September and even into October.

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martes, julio 03, 2012

Happy Fourth Of July, America!

lunes, julio 02, 2012

Oh Yes! The Rollercoaster Of The Mind

The New York Times brings us this remarkable story about The Voyage. That's right. A roller coaster. A wooden one. And video. What a surprise this is. You gotta love it:

The first drop is a doozy. From the summit of the wooden roller coaster called the Voyage, 163 feet above the Holiday World theme park in the rolling woodlands of southern Indiana, the track drops 154 feet at a 66-degree angle. The cars quickly reach a top speed of nearly 70 miles an hour.

Those gasp-inducing numbers help explain why more than a million people a year visit Holiday World, which is a ways off the beaten track, and why the Voyage, one of three large wooden coasters at the park, earns high marks from connoisseurs.

But for Chad Miller, one of the ride’s designers, the most important feature of that first hill is the curve at the top.

“The secret of the first drop is shaping up that parabola and getting it exactly right,” said Mr. Miller, 38, an owner of the Gravity Group, one of about a dozen coaster design firms in the world. “It gives you just the right amount of air time, especially in the back seat.”

“Air time” is coaster vernacular for negative G-forces that lift the rider out of the seat, and results from changes in the car’s speed. Along its 1.2 miles of track — it’s the second-longest wooden coaster in the world — the Voyage has plenty of steep drops and tight curves that affect speed, making for 24 seconds of air time, an unofficial record.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And then the video. Wow!

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domingo, julio 01, 2012

Carlos Fuentes On EPN and PRI

Carlos Fuentes on EPN:
Peña Nieto slipped during the campaign. At a book fair last December he could not correctly name any volume that had marked his life. "This man hasn't read me, he has the right of not doing so," responded the literary heavyweight Carlos Fuentes. "What he doesn't have the right to do is to aspire to be president of Mexico based on ignorance." Some called him a "policy David Beckham". 

Carlos Fuentes on PRI:

Above all, they [Mexican politicians negotiating NAFTA] were PRI-istas – members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which ruled Mexico as a one-party, vote-buying dictatorship from 1929 to 2000. The PRI called itself the inheritor of the Mexican Revolution; but as literary giant Carlos Fuentes saw it in his epic novel The Death of Artemio Cruz, the party instead betrayed the revolution’s democratic values and stood for little more than the cynical accumulation of power and spoils – each generation of “new masters equally ambitious and rapacious.” Its regime was so crooked that when an opposition candidate looked set to win the 1988 presidential election, PRI bosses shut down the vote-tallying computers and declared their man the winner. By the 1990s, Mexico had one of the world’s highest number of billionaires even as its workers earned some of the world’s lowest wages. And its NAFTA negotiators considered themselves the smartest guys in the room – until the peso crashed in 1994, and with it the PRI dictatorship soon after.

Carlos Fuentes passed away on in May, 2012. He would not have enjoyed the predicted outcome of today's vote.