Monthly Archives: April 2010

¡ Que Vivan los Rejects !

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At the end of last season and without much of an explanation, Barça coach Pep Guardiola claimed it was time for his emblematic star striker Samuel Eto’o to move on. Tonight, though, Eto’o had the last laugh as his new team, Inter de Milan, advanced to the finals of the European Champions League Cup by defeating Barcelona on aggregate 3-2.

This year’s big match could be dubbed the Reject’s Final with the high profile rejects from Real Madrid, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder, leading Bayern Munich and Inter de Milan respectively to the finals. If Jorge Valdano got egg on his face for letting those two guys go, I suppose Guardiola’s doesn’t look much better.

¡Que vivan los rejects. ¡Vivan!

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The Narrative(s)

Could anyone with a straight face imagine a hypothetical cartoon depicting Jesus molesting a child – as political satire of the recent Church scandals – without controversy and Christians going postal? Well, according to Katherine Parker at the Washington Post, Americans love their freedom of speech – unlike Muslims – and have a tradition of lampooning their own beliefs? Say what? I seem to recall that the U.S. has a long history of religious conservatives trying to block speech, organizing book burnings and bans, and people just generally freaking out.

And on Monday in the New York Times, Ross Douthat went even further saying that Radical Islam enjoys a unique position of privilege in American society – the culprit being political correctness — protecting it from scrutiny in popular culture. All this because South Park isn’t parodying the Muslim prophet Muhammad on television. Continue reading

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Mos Dub

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Back when I was a teenager, I watched the cult Jamaican film, The Harder They Come, religiously with its stellar soundtrack that first introduced Reggae to the world, even before Bob Marley had come onto the international scene. My brother recently gave me the heads up on the album Mos Dub, available for free download. It is the work of one Max Tannone and mixes the works of Mos Def — one of my favorite Hip-Hop artists — with some classic Reggae hits from the 70s, including two songs from The Harder They Come soundtrack: “Johnny Too Bad” by The Slickers and “Shanty Town” by Desmond Dekker. So if you are a fan at all of Hip-Hop and Reggae oldies, check it out.

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Extraordinarily Hypocritical Part II

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It is hard to imagine going on vacation to the Iraq-Iran border, but personally, I would like to give the three Americans now awaiting trial in an Iranian jail the benefit of the doubt. Obviously, Iran – a country that we consistently threaten with obliteration – thinks differently. But according to the Associated Press, the two American detainees are not fairing so well in prison. Both are sick and have only now received their first visitors since October. We, as readers, are supposed to look down on the tyrannical, human rights abusing Iranians because they have incarcerated — pending trial no less — these wandering Americans (because Iran wants to have weapons like the U.S. and Israelis do). Of course, I am not a fan of Iran either, but as I have written before, such a stance is extraordinarily hypocritical coming from a nation that has held and continues to hold countless detainees without trial in Guantanamo, Bagram and who knows where else.

In the same spirit of hypocrisy, the Nobel Prize winning Obama not only continues to promote the Bush Administration policy that the U.S. president has the unchecked power to detain indefinitely anyone it wants without trial, yet — as Glenn Greenwald described yesterday — the White House is now criticizing Pakistan for doing that exact same thing. Ironically, Pakistan’s defense is that “their courts are not up to the task of handling such a large volume of complex terrorism cases.” Does that sound familiar to any Republicans out there who have no faith in our justice system either?

Of this hypocrisy Greenwald writes:

Let’s teach those Pakistanis that we’re not going to tolerate their lawless and tyrannical detention of people without charges and trials.  We won’t put up with it.  Especially not when it’s “justified” with the Orwellian claim that their real civilian courts can’t handle the prosecutions and they’re “afraid” that Dangerous Terrorists might be released if they give them due process because they’re unprosecutable.  Kudos to the Obama administration for teaching them that countries that live under the Rule of Law simply don’t deny people trials based on such excuses.  It’d be one thing if they were assassinating these people without any charges or trials — that, of course, would be understandable — but not detaining them.  We’re the Leader of the Free World and we simply can’t be seen associating with or supporting regimes that would do such a thing.  Besides, unlike the U.S., it’s not like Pakistan really faces an Existential Threat from Islamic radicals or anything, so (unlike us) they really have no acceptable excuse for doing these things.

Meanwhile, a bomb goes off in Northern Ireland, yet Christianity and Christians remains free from ill repute.

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Leave Real Madrid or How to Beat el Barça

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It is continuously difficult to find a good argument – other than purely economic – to convince the top football players to join Real Madrid, especially after Inter de Milan just beat FC Barcelona in the first leg of the European Champions League semifinals.

As you may recall, less than two weeks ago Real Madrid suffered a 0-2 defeat at home to its top rival, Barça. This was its second loss to Barça this season. This past year, Real Madrid spent over €300 million on new signings, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, and others but instead of victory, it has begun to resemble the U.S. military; in other words, a ridiculous budget that overshadows its competitors and yet it can’t seem to defeat even the most modest of cave dwelling rivals. I am starting to think that Florentino’s Plan B is to simply buy the entire Barça squad, coach Guardiola included, and dress them all in white; kind of like the U.S. military paying the Iraqi insurgents not to fight (aka, the Surge).

At the end of its spending spree last summer, Real Madrid then dumped Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder, both of whom have played major roles in leading their respective new teams to the European Champions League semi-finals (and possibly beyond), while Real Madrid was eliminated ages ago. Furthermore, Sneijder in signing with Inter de Milan has joined a roster that includes a host of Real Madrid ex’s, including Esteban Cambiasso, Walter Samuel, Samuel Eto’o and Luis Figo (now in retirement but acting as a club representative). With Inter’s victory tonight over Barça, and Real Madrid’s continued losing streak against Barça, you kind of wonder what’s left in the arsenal of a Real Madrid player? I guess the easiest way to beat Barça is to just leave Real Madrid and play for somebody else.

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Cookin’

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I have always enjoyed cooking, mainly Italian cuisine (as a quasi Italian American). Over the past few years, though, I haven’t cooked much, but since getting married, I have revisited some of my old favorite recipes – eggplant parmaggiano, various pastas and risottos, and fish. Meanwhile, my wife has started cooking Moroccan food, and it is quite addictive. My favorite so far is tagine de barkouk: a meat stew served with apricots and plums.

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(As a side note: the word apricot in English and albaricoque in Spanish come from the Arabic barkouk. Nevertheless, they are false friends as barkouk actually means plum and not apricot).

In any event, during a recent trip through Tuscany, we were surprisingly a little disappointed by the food, having been completely enamored by Roman cuisine on our last visit to Italy with its preference for tomatoes and basil as opposed to the heavier, gamier Tuscan dishes. Nonetheless, I returned with a new pasta in mind: grilled eggplant, black olives, cherry tomatoes, a little ricotta and lots of fresh basil.

First I cut the eggplant and set it on paper towels to soak the liquid and remove the bitterness. Next, I cut the olives and cherry tomatoes and put them in the pot with oil olive. I close the pot and let it slowly simmer for about 30 minutes, during which time I start boiling the water for the pasta and grill the eggplant. Once the water is boiling, I throw the pasta into the water, and then put the eggplant into the sauce.

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Finally, when the pasta is ready, I mix it into the sauce, add a little bit of ricotta and fresh basil.

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So good! A healthy vegetarian meal and an apolitical blog post.

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Clear Skies

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Ironically, the volcanic eruption that has reeked havoc on much of Europe’s airspace — with an estimated 2/3 of all European flights being canceled over a three to four day period — costing the airlines millions in losses, and leaving most of the continent stranded, is an environmental godsend. For example, the air traffic in Europe is so cluttered these days that during the typical 1 hour 40 minute flight that I normally take between Madrid and Paris, I usually spot on route up to five other planes in view from my window.

The jet fuel, emissions and acoustic pollution spared over this period of silence over Europe means some truly clear skies.

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