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

jueves, diciembre 30, 2010

Happy New Year From The Dream Antilles

A special wish for a joyful and peaceful holiday season! And may all your dreams come true in 2011!

We're taking a short break and moving back from the keyboard for a bit. We'll be back with more great stuff right after New Year's Day. For now, we're taking our year end break!

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Please Don't Take My Kodacrome Away

The news is in the Times:

PARSONS, Kan. — An unlikely pilgrimage is under way to Dwayne’s Photo, a small family business that has through luck and persistence become the last processor in the world of Kodachrome, the first successful color film and still the most beloved.

That celebrated 75-year run from mainstream to niche photography is scheduled to come to an end on Thursday when the last processing machine is shut down here to be sold for scrap.

In the last weeks, dozens of visitors and thousands of overnight packages have raced here, transforming this small prairie-bound city not far from the Oklahoma border for a brief time into a center of nostalgia for the days when photographs appeared not in the sterile frame of a computer screen or in a pack of flimsy prints from the local drugstore but in the warm glow of a projector pulling an image from a carousel of vivid slides.

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miércoles, diciembre 29, 2010

RIP, Dr. Taylor

The New York Times brings sad news:

Billy Taylor, a pianist and composer who was also an eloquent spokesman and advocate for jazz as well as a familiar presence for many years on television and radio, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 89 and lived in the Riverdale area of the Bronx. ...

Dr. Taylor, as he preferred to be called (he earned a doctorate in music education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1975), was a living refutation of the stereotype of jazz musicians as unschooled, unsophisticated and inarticulate, an image that was prevalent when he began his career in the 1940s, and that he did as much as any other musician to erase.

Dr. Taylor probably had a higher profile on television than any other jazz musician of his generation. He had a long stint as a cultural correspondent on the CBS News program “Sunday Morning” and was the musical director of David Frost’s syndicated nighttime talk show from 1969 to 1972.

Well educated and well spoken, he came across, Ben Ratliff wrote in The Times in a review of a 1996 nightclub performance, like “a genial professor,” which he was: he taught jazz courses at Long Island University, the Manhattan School of Music and elsewhere. But he was also a compelling performer and a master of the difficult art of making jazz accessible without watering it down.

His “greatest asset,” Mr. Ratliff wrote, “is a sense of jazz as entertainment, and he’s not going to be obscure about it.”

He will be missed.

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lunes, diciembre 27, 2010

The Blizzard of 2010

This is Warren Street, the main street of Hudson, New York at the tail end of the Blizzard.

Twenty inches of snow seems to be about the total, and now the wind is howling and blowing high drifts. Dog and I are contemplating a nap.

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jueves, diciembre 23, 2010

Happy Holidays!!

Felices Fiestas! Queremos tomar esta tiempo para ofrecerle nuestros mejores deseos a usted y sus seres queridos. Esperamos que su hogar este lleno de gozo, cordialidad y buena voluntad durante esta temporada de fiestas. Que usted y su familia gozen de paz, felicidad y buena salud durante el nuevo ano.

Seasons Greetings! We'd like to take this time to extend our very best wishes to you and your loved ones. We hope your home will be filled with joy, warmth and goodwill during this holiday season. May you and your family enjoy peace, happiness, and good health throughout the coming year.

The bird at the top is a Caribbean laughing gull. In Spanish its name is guanaguanare. This bird always appears when the fishermen are unloading their catch after a day of fishing. The bird hopes for a fish to be dropped from a basket as the boats are unloaded so it can whisk it away. I have watched the guanaguanare, and I admire them. Whenever fish are unloaded, the fisherman should save a few just to throw to the gulls. This seems to say, "We're all together, we're all in this together, we're all sharing the earth. May you be well and happy."

I wish each of you a delightful Holiday Season. May you have ease and prosperity in this holiday season and in throughout the coming New Year.

This is a re-publication of our essay on 12/19/07

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miércoles, diciembre 22, 2010

What's In The Brown Paper Bag?

(I originally posted this item in December, 2009. This is a short story by Luis Ramirez, who was executed in Texas on October 20, 2005. My thanks to Abe Bonowitz for passing this story along to me. The story doesn't require any commentary, and I'm not going to give any. It's a gift to all of you for the Holidays, Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, New Year's, Solstice, whatever holiday, if any, you may celebrate.)

By Luis Ramirez #999309

I'm about the share with you a story whose telling is long past due. It's a familiar story to most of you reading this from death row. And now it's one that all of you in "free world " may benefit from. This is the story of my first day on the row.

I came here in May of 1999. The exact date is something that I can't recall. I do remember arriving in the afternoon. I was placed in a cell on H-20 wing over at the Ellis Unit in Huntsville, TX. A tsunami of emotions and thoughts were going through my mind at the time. I remember the only things in the cell were a mattress, pillow, a couple of sheets, a pillow case, a roll of toilet paper, and a blanket. I remember sitting there, utterly lost.

The first person I met there was Napolean Beasley. Back then, death row prisoners still worked. His job at the time was to clean up the wing and help serve during meal times. He was walking around sweeping the pod in these ridiculous looking rubber boots. He came up to the bars on my cell and asked me if I was new. I told him that I had just arrived on death row. He asked what my name is. I told him, not seeing any harm in it. He then stepped back where he could see all three tiers. He hollered at everyone, "There's a new man here. He just drove up. His name is Luis Ramirez." When he did that, I didn't know what to make of it at first. I thought I had made some kind of mistake. You see, like most of you, I was of the impression that everyone on death row was evil. I thought I would find hundreds of "Hannibal Lecters" in here. And now, they all knew my name. I thought "Oh well," that's strike one. I was sure that they would soon begin harassing me. This is what happens in the movies after all.

Well, that's not what happened. After supper was served, Napolean was once again sweeping the floors. As he passed my cell, he swept a brown paper bag into it. I asked him "What's this?" He said for me to look inside and continued on his way. Man, I didn't know what to expect. I was certain it was something bad. Curiosity did get the best of me though. I carefully opened the bag. What I found was the last thing I ever expected to find on death row, and everything I needed. The bag contained some stamps, envelopes, notepad, pen, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, tooth brush, a pastry, a soda, and a couple of Ramen noodles. I remember asking Napolean where this came from.

He told me that everyone had pitched in. That they knew that I didn't have anything and that it may be a while before I could get them. I asked him to find out who had contributed. I wanted to pay them back. He said, "It's not like that. Just remember the next time you see someone come here like you. You pitch in something."

I sat there on my bunk with my brown paper bag of goodies, and thought about what had just happened to me. The last things I expected to find on death row was kindness and generosity. They knew what I needed and they took it upon themselves to meet those needs. They did this without any expectation of reimbursement or compensation. They did this for a stranger, not a known friend. I don't know what they felt when they committed this act of incredible kindness. I only know that like them, twelve "good people" had deemed me beyond redemption. The only remedy that these "good people" could offer us is death. Somehow what these "good people" saw and what I was seeing didn't add up. How could these men, who just showed me so much humanity, be considered the "worst of the worst?"

Ever since Napolean was executed, for a crime he committed as a teen, I've wanted to share this story with his family. I would like for them to know that their son was a good man. One who I will never forget. I want for them to know how sorry I am that we as a society failed them and him. I still find it ridiculous that we as a people feel that we cannot teach or love our young properly. I'm appalled at the idea that a teen is beyond redemption, that the only solution that we can offer is death. It's tragic that this is being pointed out to the "good people" by one of the "worst of the worst". God help us all.

What's in the brown paper bag? I found caring, kindness, love, humanity, and compassion of a scale that I've never seen the "good people" in the free world show towards one another.

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lunes, diciembre 20, 2010

And Now, Paranoia

I'm not really an anonymous blogger. You can easily find out my name and where I am and what I think and what I do for a living. After all, my blog, The Dream Antilles has about 900 posts over more than 5 years, so what I think and write is by now no surprise.

Today, though, I had a bit of a paranoid moment.

I have a google alert in my actual name, so that when my name appears anywhere on the Internet, I will know where it appears and what it says about me. Today I got one of those emails.

It referred to me by name and it was a quote from an essay I published at Writing in the Raw on December 8, "I'm Bernie Sanders, And You're Bernie Sanders, Too" Hmmm. The same quote also appeared here at Dream Antilles, at docuDharma, at Wild Wild Left, and maybe daily Kos.

The quote:
it was the most important political speech-- by far-- of the past two years. Seldom, if ever, has anyone seized the spotlight to discuss and examine so thoroughly the plundering of the nation by its wealthiest citizens.

The problem wasn't the quote, or that it left out the part I liked best of the second paragraph of the essay. No. The problem, if it was one, was that I was quoted by name in Al Jazeera..

I have no animus for Al Jazeera. But there are a lot of people who do.

And now friends of mine who I told about this odd quotation are asking me how long it will be before I am on the no fly list, and how long it will be before I come up on "Patriot Act" searches, and how long it will take me to cross the US - Canada border, and whether my phones are now being tapped, and I'm being followed at a discreet distance wherever I go.

Very funny. I guess. I guess I'll see about this. Won't I?

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domingo, diciembre 19, 2010


Moon hangs on bare branch,
Winter's fruit a sky away.
A fire scatters gems.



jueves, diciembre 16, 2010

Brad Manning's Crisis

Yesterday, Glenn Greenwald gave us the shameful details of Brad Manning's 7-month long, pre-trial detention. He's been held in Quantico in solitary confinement for five months, and he was held in solitary in Kuwait for two months before that. Manning you'll recall is the army private who has been accused of leaking documents to Wikileaks. Greenwald writes:

From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day -- for seven straight months and counting -- he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he's barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he's being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs...

In sum, Manning has been subjected for many months without pause to inhumane, personality-erasing, soul-destroying, insanity-inducing conditions of isolation similar to those perfected at America's Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado: all without so much as having been convicted of anything.

But that's not all. You have to read about the drugs. You have to think about the drugs. As Greenwald explains,

And as is true of many prisoners subjected to warped treatment of this sort, the brig's medical personnel now administer regular doses of anti-depressants to Manning to prevent his brain from snapping from the effects of this isolation.

This to my mind is obviously torture. The man is in stringent solitary confinement which is enough to drive prisoners crazy and frequently does, and he's being drugged so that his mental entropy and collapse will be briefly delayed.

What I don't understand after searching the Internet, is why this horrendous confinement is apparently not being challenged in the courts. I don't understand why a writ of habeas corpus challenging this clearly unconstitutional, pretrial detention is not reported anywhere. The closest I can come to the legal test is this handwringing:

"We were aware of those situations and we were hoping that they would improve without applying public pressure through the media," Jeff Paterson, who runs Manning's legal defense fund, told The Huffington Post. "His attorney and supporters were hoping that this could be taken care of through the appropriate channels."

Paterson says that Manning is "very annoyed" at the conditions of his confinement, adding that he is primarily upset at his inability to exercise. "He sits in this small box, for the most part only to take a shower - he just sits and eats and four months have gone by."

I'm not writing this to criticize Manning's defense team which appears to be well funded. I don't know them. I'm writing this because all of the horror stories are being discussed and argued on the Internet and MSNBC and, unfortunately, not in the District Court. Maybe that doesn't strike readers as odd. But it bothers me. This kind of confinement needs to be fought, and it needs to be fought hard.

Brad Manning deserves a petition for writ of habeas corpus.

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miércoles, diciembre 15, 2010


Joyce imagines Leopold Bloom and invents his birth and where he was born. This imagining is so powerful, so vivid, so strong that it becomes indistinguishable from events that really happened. And the real building, which was there before Joyce ever imagined Leopold Bloom, the real building in which an imaginary person was supposed to be born on an imagined date after many years gets the above marker.

This may seem strange until one remembers that Bloomsday is a holiday, the only one that I know of, that commemorates entirely fictional events, including those of the person born in the house with the marker.

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martes, diciembre 14, 2010


You came while I slept,
Gently woke me, left a gift.
The silence of snow.

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sábado, diciembre 11, 2010

Which Side Are You On?

I've been accused of specializing in oversimplification. And of ranting. So be it. This is probably a prime example of those twin failings.

Yesterday, Bernie Sanders spoke in the Senate for 8 1/2 hours to remind us that while millions of people in the United States are suffering, others are doing quite well, thank you. Those doing spectacularly well represent 1 or 2 per cent of the population. The rest of us, well, we're not doing so great. Those who are doing so well, of course, don't need the government's assistance, but they've bought and sold this government, so it's only natural that their investment in politicians should be rewarded in the current tax deal even if there is no rational reason for doing so. These people have power and money and they get what they want, even if they don't need it; everyone else, not so much.

This is the class war in 2010. Not much has changed since Eugene V. Debs, a century ago, talked about it. Debs had two things to say that are especially worth remembering now:

While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.


It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it.

Put another way, Debs understood and identified with workers, the oppressed, the downtrodden, union members, political prisoners, criminals, the disenfranchised, the disadvantaged, poor people. He didn't pretend to provide hope and change for these people and then side with industrialists and capitalists and exploiters, all the while making believe he was helping those who needed it as much as he possibly could. No. And Debs understood that in a two party system compromise and negotiation and settling and holding your nose, in sum all of electoral politics, wouldn't advance the cause of justice and advancement for the poor and the dispossessed and the hungry and the homeless. How could he think otherwise? He was for the union, and those who were opposed to it brought private police and goons and scabs and injunctions. And they did so openly. It was obvious a century ago what the two sides were.

Maybe in the past century people have forgotten that, that essentially there are still two sides in America. The 2% with the wealth and power, and the 98% who have varying degrees of powerlessness. The powerlessness ranges from the most dreadful extremes of homelessness, hunger, untreated disease, unemployment and child mortality to less obvious, less urgent forms of powerlessness, even powerlessness with some creature comforts. When there are creature comforts, getting by, even getting by paycheck to paycheck there is still the massive delusion of representation of ordinary people in the legislature and Congress, the illusion that the many small donations to politicians make progressive voices audible, that there are in fact Senators and Congresspersons who will fight for what's right, for progressive causes and peace. And on and on. There is the illusion that those of us on the Left have a voice that is heard, and that our hard work on getting people elected is rewarded in legislation.

But that, my friends, is most often, and with very, very few exceptions just the illusion. Yesterday, you heard Bernie Sanders talk for 8 1/2 hours about an America supposedly hidden from the legislature and congress. The people in Vermont, among other places, who make $10/hour, and have to scrimp on heating their homes, driving their cars, treating their illnesses, feeding their children. He was really talking about millions, yes, that's right, millions of people. The millions of people for whom the present economic circumstance is a palpable disaster and has cost them their jobs, their homes, whatever remaining comfort they may have had, treatment for their diseases, care for the parents, an adequate diet, and a whole litany of other misfortunes too long even to excerpt here.

Do the Senators and Congresspersons understand this suffering and the number of people affected and the enormity of the problem and the overwhelming despair and fear the economy has brought in the past three years? Evidently not. Evidently there are enough Senators and Congresspersons who have been lobbied and paid and promised things and want to be persistently reelected that they have gone blind and deaf and are unable now to comprehend that there is an ocean of suffering in the United States that needs to be acknowledged and addressed. And these same elected representatives think that Ground Zero volunteers shouldn't be cared for, and universal health care is unthinkable, and unemployment shouldn't be extended unless, unless the richest people are given enormous tax breaks they don't need or deserve. And if these people aren't given these tax breaks, if they aren't helped to push the nation into even greater debt and despair, if they aren't helped to plunder what's left of the national treasury, well then the people who are suffering the very most will just have to get over it. These legislators are unable to hear their cries or see their tears. Let them eat caviar.

Put another way, the income and wealth disparity in this country, which has grown far worse over the past decade, shows the success of the 1% or 2% at the top in appropriating the income and redistributing the assets of everyone else. It shows that they have a safety net because they are too big to fail. But everyone else is on a high wire without any net at all.

I want to complain bitterly about this state of affairs. Senator Sanders didn't complain. He just explained the situation in a fashion far more patient and far clearer and more sensible than I would, and he made it plain that tax breaks for the top 1% was a deal that no rational person could support.

That is just a beginning. It is a reminder that while Americans are suffering, we need to be strongly on the side of those who are suffering. We don't need to be helping the plutocrats get richer. Can we try to remember that?

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viernes, diciembre 10, 2010

I Am Bernie Sanders, And You Are Bernie, Too

Today I was captivated for 8.5 hours as Vermont's Senator Bernie Sanders spoke about the tax bill. But it wasn't just the tax bill that he was talking about. The speech was actually a progressive manifesto about the way that ordinary middle class and poor Americans are being plundered by the richest 1%.

And it was the most important political speech-- by far-- of the past two years. Seldom, if ever, has anyone seized the spotlight to discuss and examine so thoroughly the the plundering of the nation by its wealthiest citizens. And to demand so clearly that the government provide genuine relief for the millions of Americans who are now suffering the consequences of the plunder.

The top 1% need further tax relief like a fish needs a bicycle. And if it took most of today to get that point across, it was worth it.

In reaction, Bill Clinton today explained at Obama's press briefing how this tax deal was such a great thing for the country. And the theme tonight on MSNBC seems to be that dems should hold their noses and vote for the bill. All of that stands in sharp contrast to Bernie's speech today. It was intelligent. And heartfelt. And passionate. And it expressed a deep and abiding concern for the oppressed and the downtrodden.

When I voted for Obama, I hoped that his policies and leadership would give voice to those concerns. But alas, in December, 2010, it has fallen to Senator Sanders to express these bedrock, liberal, progressive concerns. I am delighted that he did so. And I am chagrined that he received so little support in the chamber from his colleagues.

The Senate is still an old boys' club. That Senator Sanders stood alone for so long today, and that so few took the floor with him, is the epitome of what is wrong in America. Governmental compassion and understanding, relief for the most needy, is unfathomable. The Senate has been bought and sold.

For Bernie's views about all of this, see this Washington Post article.


I am Assange

It's a bumpersticker. It's available here at cafepress.

According to Edger, to whom I give a big h/t, and to Diane G, who I also give a big h/t, the deal is this:

Cafe Press gets US$3.49 on single bumperstickers and adds $3.00 markup to me = US$6.49 retail price

They get US$26.99 on 10 packs and add $10.00 markup to me = US$36.99 retail price

They get US$96.99 on 10 packs and add $20.00 markup to me = US$116.99 retail price

Any money I make from these I'll be donating 100% to WikiLeaks.

You can buy them if you want to, but I'd much rather that you give your money directly to Wikileaks so more money ends up in Assange's defense fund.

OK, folks, you know what to do. Oh, and of course, you can just take the image, as I have, and post it anywhere.

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miércoles, diciembre 08, 2010

Today's Cyber War

It's not a secret: the Internet was always going to radically change the world of information. That's nothing new. What is new, is that the struggle over who controls and possesses information isn't going to be fought solely in the courts or in the legislatures or the media. It's going to be fought out as well on the Internet itself and the weapons are going to be computers.

The present battle, fought between Wikileaks and its allies, on one side, and its well organized adversaries, including financial organizations and governments, on the other, may eventually bring information democracy, in the form of unprecedented and simple access to all kinds of information, even classified or secret information, to anyone with a modem. Or at the other pole, it may eventually bring unprecedented censorship through even tighter control of information to the Internet and harsh penalties for publication of various kinds of information.

The New York Times reports from today's digital battlefront:

LONDON — A broad campaign of cyberattacks appeared to be under way on Wednesday in support of the beleaguered antisecrecy organization WikiLeaks, which has drawn governmental criticism from around the globe for its release of classified American documents and whose founder, Julian Assange, is being held in Britain on accusations of rape.

Attacks were reported on, which stopped processing donations for WikiLeaks; on the lawyer representing the two Swedish women who have accused Mr. Assange of sexual improprieties; and on PostFinance, the Swiss postal system’s financial arm, which closed Mr. Assange’s account after saying he provided false information by saying that he resided in Switzerland.

At least some of the attacks involved distributed denials of service, in which a site is bombarded by requests from a network of computers until it reaches capacity and, effectively, shuts down.

It was unclear whether the various attacks were independently mounted, but suspicion was immediately focused on Anonymous, a leaderless group of activist hackers that had vowed to wreak revenge on any organization that lined up against WikiLeaks and that claimed responsibility for the Mastercard attack.

Anonymous, according to the Times, has expressed its philosophy in two manifestos released this past week, and is battling for nothing less than free information on a free Internet:

The group, which gained notoriety for their cyberattacks... released two manifestos over the weekend vowing revenge against enemies of WikiLeaks.

“We fight for the same reasons,” said one. “We want transparency and we counter censorship.”

The manifestos singled out companies like PayPal and Amazon, who had cut off service to WikiLeaks after the organization’s recent release of classified diplomatic documents from a cache of 250,000 it had obtained.

In recent days, Gregg Housh, an activist who has worked on previous Anonymous campaigns, said that a core of 100 or so devout members of the group, supplemented by one or two extremely expert hackers, were likely to do most of the damage. Mr. Housh, who disavows any illegal activity himself, said the reason Anonymous had declared its campaign was amazingly simple. Anonymous believes that “information should be free, and the Internet should be free,” he said,

Information, as the law now stands, is anything but free. But the Internet for more than a decade and a half has eroded much of the traditional deference to ownership of information. Napster and its progeny have brought a generation of people who think music and film should all be free. Readers of Blogs are never disturbed by what amounts to wholesale infringement of copyrighted photos and videos and text. Wikileaks has carried this a step further by publishing enormous amounts of material officially designated "secret". The trend on the Internet is toward free and unfettered access to all information. But those who own the information have no intention whatsoever to allow it to flow without charge and without a fight.

Today's attacks, I think, mark the Cyber Battle of Lexington and Concord.

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Tributes are to be paid to former Beatle John Lennon later to mark the 30th anniversary of his murder.

Fans will gather at a memorial garden in Central Park, New York, opposite the apartment block where he was shot dead.

A vigil will also be held in Liverpool at a monument dedicated to the singer where fans will light candles and sing his songs.

Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, has urged people to remember him with "deep love and respect".

She said: "On this tragic anniversary, please join me in remembering John.


lunes, diciembre 06, 2010

Well,I Support Wikileaks

Mirror Sites

The information is out there. You can use this site as your portal.

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Here's an 1868 photo of a gaucho from Argentina. Fantastic. When you think of cowboys, this might not be the image you have. Wouldn't it be cool if we could recognize all of the mid-nineteenth century variations on this theme?

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viernes, diciembre 03, 2010

Where Can I Find Frutigran In The US?

I'm doomed. I brought only one package of Frutigran home from Buenos Aires. These are wonderful cookies. I love to eat them. The yellow package is best. In fact, I may be working on a major addiction to craving for them. And now, to my complete dread and horror, there is only one cookie left in the bottom of the package. Just one. And I have no idea where to find another of these wonderful galletas in the US. This to my now crazed mind is a huge disaster.

If you see Frutigrans in a store near you in the US, email me. I'm sure we can work something out.


jueves, diciembre 02, 2010

Borges's Tiger

Throughout his life, Jorge Luis Borges visited the Buenos Aires zoo to watch the tigers. He wrote about them frequently, about Blue Tigers, about Dream Tigers. So first I visited Borges's childhood home at 2135 Serrano, a street now named for Borges:

And then, I walked the few blocks to the zoo. And here's what I saw:

Borges's tiger.

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miércoles, diciembre 01, 2010


Trees blow in strong wind
slowly dancing with the rain.
Where are the ravens?