Monthly Archives: January 2009



After ten days of 80F/27C weather in Boca Grande, Florida, I welcomed in 2009 by arriving in Paris at 25F/-4C. On Monday, when I was finally scheduled to fly back to Madrid, it snowed and the CDG airport was closed, thus delaying my return to quasi-reality until Wednesday. Then this morning I awoke to snow in Madrid. In my eight years in the Spanish capital, I have seen snow flurries. This was the first time the snow actually stuck.


As beautiful as the snow can be, I think I still prefer my December strolls on the beach.

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Filed under Digressions, Living la vida española

On Gaza


I recently commented on Puer Robustus Sed Malitiosus with regards to Gaza on

the total lack of compassion by the American media and public. We never cared much when innocent Iraqis died during our invasion nor do we seem to care about the civilian victims in Gaza . . . maybe the deaths of UN staff will make people care.

As a matter of fact, the coverage couldn’t be more different in the U.S. than it is in the rest of the world. Continue reading

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Anzar’s Turn


A few months ago, I wrote a post asking Spanish president Zapatero to kindly mind his own business. Now it’s time to politely ask former Spanish president Jose Maria Aznar (or “Anzar” as George W. Bush used to mispronounce) to quiet himself.

According to El Mundo, Aznar has labeled Obama’s victory a “historic exoticism” (“un exotismo histórico”). Maybe he’s referring to the color of Obama’s skin, or maybe he’s thinking about how exotic it would be in Spain if Aznar’s Partido Populuar were to have open and transparent primary elections to decide its presidential candidate. Unlike in the U.S. where a virtually unknown candidate was able to topple his party’s embedded hierarchy (ie, Hillary), in Spain the parties choose their candidates by petit comité — the result being that popular and electable candidates like Gallardon and Aguirre are blockaded from the national scene by the prolific loser Mariano Rajoy. Maybe the lesson that Aznar should be taking from the exotic U.S. election is not that an African American can reaffirm the American dream, but that transparency and political accountability are what make a democracy strong.

A lesson that both Aznar and Zapatero should have learned is that friendly democracies like the Spanish and American ones don’t openly and publicly take sides in the other’s elections. It is silly and counter-productive for Aznar to portray himself as a Republican and even discuss the merits of the candidates. Frankly, having once put his feet up on Bush’s table does not qualify Aznar, for example, to opine about Sarah Palin’s future in politics. Likewise, ZP should cease openly supporting candidates in domestic European elections as he had done with Obama during the U.S. elections.

Finally, the vice-secretary general braintrust of the PSOE (Zapatero’s party and Aznar’s rival) Jose Blanco has called Aznar’s statements about Obama racist.  That may be so, but then Blanco should definitely criticize the similar commentary made regularly throughout the Spanish press. Just as an example, the section in El Mundo on the U.S. Elections is titled “A Black President for the White House“, highlighting the “changing color of history”. Get it? Obama is black, the White House is white. That’s not racism, it’s cleverly highlighting the exotic historic facts. Right?

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Filed under Essays, Living la vida española

Great T-Shirts


Here are two great t-shirts. The first one is a t-shirt of Che Guevara wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt. My father was a sporting his all Christmas (my mom bought it at The Onion’s online store). The farce of Che-worship makes this t-shirt an instant classic.

The second is the NJ Turnpike t-shirt (which I proudly wore on Thanksgiving), available at select New Jersey Turnpike rest stops. For anyone familiar with the Turnpike, the humor inherent in the t-shirt warrants no further elaboration. For the rest of you, just consider yourselves lucky.


Filed under Digressions

New Year, New Books


After a Y2008 reading list characterized by foreign novels and non-fiction, for 2009, I have decided to stack up on and read more books originally written in English. These include

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
Hairstyles of the Damned by Joe Meno
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

The latter three all recommended by my friend Melissa. I have also included one Moroccan book — Year of the Elephant by Leila Abouzeid — and the French novelist Michel Houellebecq’s Elementary Particles. Finally, I have not been reading very many novels written in Spanish recently, but when I get back to Madrid, I will try to get a copy of something by Roberto Bolaño. Any recommendations?


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Old Jazz for a New Year


For 2009, I have come back from 10 days in beautiful and peaceful Boca Grande, Florida with a fresh supply of Jazz, including

I also got a some nice pickings of African and Arabic music and some Hip-Hop from my bro.

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I just read a news story about how nine American Muslims of South Asian descent were removed from an AirTran flight (between DC and Orlando) because a few of them had been overheard discussing airplane safety aboard the plane prior to taking off.

The airline’s spokesperson rationalized the decision to remove the passengers because “someone heard something that was inappropriate, and then the airline decided to act on it.” Coincidentally, the white guy sitting behind me on my Wednesday flight from Sarasota to Atlanta (on route back to Europe) made an almost identical comment. I wonder what amounts to “inappropriate” speech on a plane: the words or the ethnicity of the speaker. So much for post-racial America.

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2008 Favorites


In general, I prefer fiction over non fiction, but in 2008 — for no reason in particular, I read more non fiction that ever. These works were both interesting and informative:

There were also a few very good, fast paced novels that I would recommend, such as

Overall, though, my top favorites for the year were Continue reading

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Earlier in the week, when we were still living in 2008, I finished Amin Maalouf’s Origins: A Memoir about his paternal grandfather and great uncle. The book alternated between being fascinating and downright boring, depending whether the author’s tales were of limited family or general interest. The best of the book were its tales of emigration (notice how we tend to romanticize our forefathers as Émigrés while today’s similarly situated migrants are the less stylized “immigrants”) and the following observation:

All too often we tend to equate the two attitudes, with the assumption that nationalism is an acute form of patriotism. In those days – and in other eras as well – this could not have been further from the truth: nationalism was the exact opposite of patriotism. Patriots dreamed of an empire where diverse groups could coexist – groups speaking different languages and professing different beliefs, but united by a common desire to build a large modern homeland. They hoped to instill a subtle Levantine wisdom into the principles advocated by the West. As for the nationalists, when they belonged to an ethnic majority they dreamed of total domination, and of separatism when they belonged to a minority. The wretch Orient of our day is the monster born of the two combined.

We still confuse the two today.

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