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

jueves, mayo 31, 2012

A Review Of Tulum

It's a pleasure when there's a favorable review. Today, this, from Ned DePew (posted to Tulum: The Novella's FB page):

Finished it yesterday. Kept slowing down towards the end because I didn't want it to end. Very nicely written, David. A different voice from TDA, but maintaining the same commitment to observing the spiritual in the mundane - in a very accessible, fully and and confusedly human, unpretentious way. I enjoyed it very much and I'd love to look forward to the next - although I'm well satisfied with the two you have produced. Thanks.

You are so very welcome.


An Embarrassment

Yesterday in a friendly, the US lost to Brazil 4-1. The US got totally pwnd. Neymar had a field day: one goal (a PK at 12 minutes, see below), 2 assists. Faced with the fact that the US played terribly against a real futbol power, Jurgen Klinsmann (whom I have never liked) had this to say:

"We need to get an edge more nastier," said U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the former German star and coach. "Maybe we're a little bit still too naive. Maybe we don't want to hurt people. But that's what we've got to do. You've got to do that at the end of the day. So we've got to step on their toes more and get them more frustrated and make a case with the referee maybe as well, for us, not only the opponent."

Translation? Expect the US to be thugs. Expect the US to try to make up for lack of skills with aggression. Expect a kind of futbol that is an embarrassment.

Personally, I don't want to watch that. And I certainly don't support it. Let Germany play that game. The US is entitled to something less embarrassing.


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miércoles, mayo 30, 2012

Good Bye B of A, Don't Let The Door...

I'm furious. And this isn't the first time I've erupted over BofA and their abysmal level of what they have the temerity to call "customer care." So I'm fulminating. And I'm asking you, dear reader, to pull any money you have from BofA and put it somewhere else.

The short: yesterday at around noon I put some money in my daughter's account with a deposit slip. She lives in another city. The idea was that I would put in a personal check, she would have access to the money quickly. Wrong. Nothing is that easy with B of A.

After the deposit, the money just didn't show up on line in her account. She called. Where was it? It was pending. No it wasn't. Yes it was. Today, still no money. She called again: it was pending. No it wasn't. Yes it was. No it wasn't. I had to have my assistant go to the bank with the deposit receipt (luckily I didn't throw it away or lose it) and show it to them. They told her they would fix it.

Did they fix it? No, they did not.

Late this afternoon the bank called me. Did my daughter have the money? No she didn't. Sir, she will have the money tomorrow. And they have some crazy, convoluted story about couriers not arriving and checks being someplace else and not being recorded and not entered in the system and what can be done and what cannot be done and yadda yadda yadda.

I'm not accepting this double talk bs kind of "customer service." I'm not thankful for their call or their bogus explanation as to why the money is not where it's supposed to be. After all, it's my money, right? I want it to be in my daughter's account. Simple, right? Evidently not. Evidently it doesn't have to work that way, and you, dear customer, don't get a real explanation or an apology. More important, you don't get the money. No, you sucker, you moron. You don't get squat. At the very most you get, it'll be in there tomorrow. Oh. Well where is it now? Well, sir, I can get half of it in here today, but you have to come in and sign some papers? No. I've already spent too damn much time on your screw up. I want the money in the account and I want it now. No, sir, we can't do that.

What? I have a receipt for my deposit. I deposited a check. We agree about the amount. It says it on my receipt. I want the moolah, the amount I deposited put in her account. And I want it now. And no, I don't want to hear the "explanations" of how a very large corporation (masquerading as a small dog) ate your grotesquely inadequate bookkeeping (camouflaged as your utterly insufficient homework).

Sir, the best we can do, is make sure it is in her account in the morning. The dough better be there in the morning. If it's not, I will have to spend even more time with "customer service" making sure that my money is where it's supposed to be. I do not look forward to this.

So this evening, I emailed all my three grown up kids, all of whom have accounts in BofA, and I said (short version): Get your money out of that f*cking bank. Open a new checking account somewhere. Yeah, I know it was efficient to have branches all over the known world, but we have to work around this. I cannot tolerate this level of bogus "customer service." And I want your sister to have the money I deposited in her account.

It's simple. B of A doesn't deserve to hold any of my family's money. I pulled my money out three years ago. My kids need to do the same. And BofA? They deserve to watch us bank with somebody else.

Join us.

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martes, mayo 29, 2012

Doc Watson, RIP

The LA Times:

In 1962, Doc Watson and some of his musician neighbors set out from their home in the Blue Ridge Mountains on the journey of a lifetime, to perform at the Ash Grove folk club in Los Angeles.

"I remember the first trip we did," Watson said in a 2008 interview. "We borrowed a little station wagon from the late Clarence Ashley's son and drove to California and back, and I remember thinking, 'Lord, what a big old country this is.' I was a mountaineer, just a country boy. I'd never been nowhere like that before."

Within a few years, Watson seemingly had been everywhere, as his prowess on guitar and his vast store of traditional Southern music made the blind musician an internationally celebrated artist.

Watson, 89, who recorded more than 50 albums and won seven Grammy Awards, died Tuesday at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., according to his representatives at Folklore Productions, a Santa Monica management company. He had undergone colon surgery Thursday.

... Watson is perhaps most acclaimed for his astonishing technique in both the flat-pick and finger-picking styles....


He will be missed.

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lunes, mayo 28, 2012

The Count of Monte Cristo and the Scarlet Pimpernel Saved My Life

I know, confessions are so out of style. Forgive me.

When I started school, I began my struggle against authority. Put simply, I hated school. I hated my elementary teachers. I hated the rules (sit in your seat, raise your hand, do not talk to your neighbor etc). And I had absolutely no intention of obeying any of them. If the teacher asked me to try to write with my right rather than my left hand, I resisted. If the teacher asked me where my homework is, I shrugged. If I was asked to read about Dick and Jane and their dog, I rolled my eyes and delayed. I said, “I can’t. Please ask somebody else.” If I were asked to do anything, I politely refused. Back then, they didn’t give people like me a diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder. No. We were just rebellious. A problem. Bad. Defiant. And ultimately, we were predicted to become punks. To become convicts.

So, of course, I became a punk. It was almost preordained. Why not? It seemed to me when I was in junior high school that the worst guys got the best, hottest girls. The worst guys were the most popular. The most exciting. So, it made sense, to hang out with Nicky and his friends, to smoke behind the school, and to hope beyond hope that one of the many blossoming girls who were attracted to bad guys would take an interest in me. This made complete sense to me.

Somewhere along the way, I learned to read. Maybe it was my second grade teacher, the young Ms. Sinahopolis, who was new that year who made sure that despite my being completely uncooperative and defiant and on a campaign of total resistance, I could read. I’m not sure how she did that. She didn’t tell anyone I could do it (that would have been shameful to me). But she made sure I could read whatever I wanted to. Once she found out I could actually do that, she more or less left me alone and stopped bothering me about everything else, which, of course, I would refuse to do on principle. It was as if by reading, I had earned an amnesty from authority.

My defiance, however, didn’t end in second grade. It continued until I was in junior high school, the ninth grade. I hung out with Nicky and his pals. I did what they did. I smoked. I cursed. I drank beer. I committed minor crimes. I shoplifted. And I hoped beyond hope that one of the girls in the class would be interested in me. And, of course, I continued taking the risks that my friends felt were essential to being in their group.

One day there was a car with keys in the ignition at the curb near the school. Nicky and I and two other friends were wandering around. We didn’t have anything to do. We were looking for excitement. Nobody was around. But we saw the car. And the keys. And we all had the same idea at the same time: let’s go for a ride. Of course, none of us could drive. No problem. We jumped in the car, Nicky got in the driver’s seat, cranked the engine, and off we went. For about 500 yards, when to my utter surprise, he drove the car into a parked car. Not good. I can hear myself saying, “I thought you could drive.” “Yeah, so I did I.” “Then let’s get out of here.”

Right. The police arrived immediately, as if they were waiting for the crash. They dragged all of us into the black and white car with the blue lights. They pushed us around and threatened us. They said with smiles on their faces, “You kids are in trouble. We’re going to take you home.” I leave this anecdote with my mother saying, “Wait till your father comes home. Go to your room.” Not good. What today would be characterized as “child abuse” was expected, if not demanded in such cases.

When I was in eighth grade, I was constantly I trouble. All kinds of trouble. With the school. With the cops. My rebellion continued. Everybody who was a grown up was a jerk. And the enemy. Teachers, especially. Cops, especially. I seemed to be constantly in detention. Or suspended. Or being driven to my parents’ home. Or pushed around by donut eating cops. And this being brought home by the gendarmerie always led to big problems.

It was about this time that Nicky’s older brother, Carmen, saved my life. Said he, “Man, you got to read about the Count of Monte Cristo. Massive balls. And, the best part, the guy gets even with all the mfers who messed with him.” "Really?"

I didn’t ask Carmen how he knew about this book. He himself was blazing a path toward incarceration and being constantly in trouble. But he was older. So, incongruous as it was, I said, “I’ll get it out of the library.”

Oh my goodness. First of all, I didn’t read novels at the time. And this was a hefty one. But, since Carmen was what would later be reverently called an “original G,” some diligence was required on my part. Some respect. So I had to read it. Oh my goodness.

Here are the two important things about the Count of Monte Cristo from my perspectdive. First, he gets falsely imprisoned, so he has to escape from prison. It takes 14 years, but the way he does it is brilliant. He gets thrown in the sea as if he were the dead body of his friend and teacher. A zillion points for outsmarting authority. A zillion points for having balls. Second, he gets even. He completely destroys the three people who lied about him and got him imprisoned. He’s patient about this. And methodical. And he completely and thoroughly gets even. Yes. Perfection itself. Justice for screwing with him.

When I finished this, it was as if I were no longer living in Newark. I was somehow living in France in a century or two ago. I loved that. Well, I thought, that was great, that was a great ride, I bet there are other books that will take me out of here, out of my life, out of everything, and bring me to some distant, all absorbing, far away place. Stories that are gripping. Stories that satisfy me. The Count doesn’t knuckle under to authoritarians (like teachers, like cops). No. He’s like me. He accepts their constant abuse and conniving, and then, and then the best part, he gets even with them. He inflicts justice on them. He gets his complete and total revenge.

The book rocked my world. I told Carmen, “Wow, that was an incredible book. Do you know of any others that are as intense? I love it.” He said he didn’t. No problem. I went to the library. I found the librarian. I said, “Excuse me. I just read The Count of Monte Cristo, and I loved it. And I wonder if you can recommend some other book I might like.”

The librarian smiled. He said. “Let me think.” Then he said, “Did you like the escape or did you like the revenge or what?” “Yeah, all of that,” I said. “I like all of it. Especially the escape. The Count had guts.”

“Oh,” he said. “I know. I bet you’d like The Scarlet Pimpernel.” “The what?” “The Scarlet Pimpernel.”

Oh my goodness. So I lugged the Scarlet Pimpernel home. What a crazy, unusual story. But I loved it. The Scarlet Pimpernel is secretly saving French nobility from execution on the guillotine, and obviously, there are those who want to capture and kill him. Even his wife doesn’t know that he’s the Scarlet Pimpernel. He’s a secret agent. He is embedded in English and French society. He, of course, is very well disguised, and he repeatedly escapes notice. Even from the guy who is dedicated to finding and killing him. He even appears as an old Jew, and is severely beaten in that disguies, but he doesn’t reveal his secret, who he really is. The guy has incredible balls. And he’s really smart. Ultimately, he escapes to England with those he has saved. In other words, he succeeds in outsmarting authority and lives to tell about it.

What an incredible story! The guy is doing all of these incredible things, but nobody can figure out who he is. It’s better than Bat Man or Superman. You have to be a moron not to know who their secret identities are. This guy takes all of that to another level. Even his wife can't figure it out.

That story broke my head open. I mean: look at some of the incredible things that could and do go on in the world, that I believe can go on, that are so much larger, so much more profound than my little life being a junior high school punk. Being a “hood.” Being a wise ass. My life is going to get me locked up. Or hurt. And for what? I’m not saving French nobility from the guillotine, I’m not getting revenge for my unjust imprisonment. I’m just fighting everybody all the time. I’m just breaking whatever trivial laws there are. Because I can. Because I want to. It’s like in the movie. Marlon Brando is asked, “Hey, what are you kids against, anyway?” He replies, “What have you got.” That’s me. What have you got. I'm against everything and I'll fight about it, too.

So I stopped. And I started reading. I spent hour and hours and hours reading. And I am delighted at all of the time I have spent in so many other worlds. These other worlds saved my life.

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Enough With The Cats! Please!

I've had it. Maybe it's because it's going to be beastly hot here in 12037 today:

Partly cloudy with a chance of a thunderstorm and a chance of rain. High of 90F with a heat index of 104F. Winds from the SW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%.

Maybe it's because the hoped for thunder showers didn't arrive last night so the just planted seedlings and the just weeded garden may have to be wateredd by hand. Maybe it's because I'm sore from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet from two days of weeding and planting and digging in the sun. Or maybe it's just because I'm fed up. Hasta la madre!

I have no idea how it happened. The Internet's fixation with cats, which runs second only to its obsession with creating and disseminating porn, has created a tsunami of felines doing feline things on video. How cute. How wonderful. How like my very own cat. How predictable. This comes replete with stupid (cute, funny) captions and ridiculously cheerful, synthetic music. How awful. How revolting. This cat genre has gone entirely too far. Enough already. Basta ya! Just stop it, please.

Let's quit all of this anthropomorphic "cuteness." All of this "cheerfulness." It's killing us all. It's making our brains look like Swiss cheese. It's making us look like utter morons to people from other galaxies who are watching us. Have we no self respect? Enough Lolcats, enough ceiling cat, enough I can haz cheeseburger, and this latest from Maru. Maru 4? Enough. Please stop. Please.

Get away from the screen. Go for a walk. Take videos of dogs and horses if you have to wean yourself from this addiction. Let this be the last video of cats. The last one ever:

Did you watch the video? Did you hear that sound track? Did you see how clean that house was? How shiny the floors? OMG. Rescue us all from this. Surely life has more meaning that this.

Can we please stop now before it gets even worse? I shudder at the possibilities.

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viernes, mayo 25, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend

This weekend is Memorial Day Weekend. And in this part of the world, Memorial Day marks the beginning of Summer. If grandma was going to Bradley Beach for the summer for her annual marathon beach sit and 24/7 mah jong game, this is when she would leave Newark. She and all of the other grandmas. Mah jong and card games. And talking. Her grandkids liked this: they knew that when it was really hot and sticky, a Saturday or Sunday visit to grandma meant the ocean. And seafood. And that delicious Coppertone smell. And the sharp contrast between cold, salty Atlantic ocean water and fresh sunburn. It also meant traffic crossing the Perth Amboy bridge, but that was part of the adventure. But enough.

Memorial Day is also the start of the beach reading season. And that means that it's time for this very brief commercial message.

I have written two novellas that are wonderful beach reads. Please buy them. Please read them. They are:

The Dream Antilles:

David Seth Michaels’s magical, utopian novel The Dream Antilles explores desde Desdemona, a secret Caribbean island that submerges at each high tide. For decades, the locals have lived on the island in tree houses. With humor, wit, compassion, and spirit, they ward off repeated threats to their privacy from the outside world, even as they integrate two newcomers into their community who themselves could easily betray the island’s secrets.

The island’s treasures are many. Its existence, location, and massive disinformation campaign, combined with its long and mysterious connections with a pod of dolphins and the Great Mother turtle, make desde Desdemona vulnerable to destruction if discovered. The island also has an unusual relationship with time. But it is the community of traditional plant healers and the magical teachings of Swamiji, its trickster spiritual teacher, that truly must be safeguarded.

The Dream Antilles stands in delightful and hopeful contrast to the blandness and predictability of the everyday world. You will return to the island of desde Desdemona for refreshment over and over again.

And Tulum:

Narrated by a quirky, garrulous, eccentric gringo with a shady past who has been hiding out in Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico, for decades, David Seth Michaels's magical, second novella, Tulum, describes the beginning of the narrator's friendship with an unusual Mayan Curandero and his becoming an apprentice to him. The narrator initially seeks out the curandero in desperation for relief from an annoying medical problem. But he later wonders whether the curandero is playing frightening, mischievous tricks on him. Is the curandero making events occur, or is he only predicting them accurately? Is he toying with the narrator? Regardless, will the curandero intervene to help him get what he wants? The doubts are eventually overcome by the narrator's attraction to the curandero's obvious mastery of the unseen and his gratitude for the curandero's repeated assistance in protecting him and helping him fulfill his wishes. Set in Mexico's beautiful Riviera Maya and Cuba, this story of friendship is a humorous, delightful, spiritual journey in which the hidden is far more important than the obvious, surprises abound, and wishes come true. It is also a love letter to a beloved Mayan town poised on the cusp of enormous global change.

Don't like Amazon? OK. You can get The Dream Antilles and Tulum at Barnes & Noble. And if you're not in a rush and want a paperback, rather than an eBook, you can go to your local bookstore and have them order these books for you. That only takes a couple of days.

I like to think of you, dear reader, sitting on the beach of your choice reading The Dram Antilles or Tulum. I like to think of you thinking about and enjoying these two worlds. After all, that's what they're for. It's ok to get sunscreen on the pages. It's ok to grind sand into the binding. It's ok to use a palm leaf as a bookmark. It's ok to get beer on the cover. Go for it. Be my guest.

miércoles, mayo 23, 2012

Juarez, I Hear You Crying, Part 3

(This is the third and final post of a series. The first post was fiction. The second was a factual discussion of the political corruption of the narco-dystopia in Mexico. This third post is something else. And it’s the end.)

Does it matter that Ciudad Juarez, a city of 1.3 million souls, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, bleeds daily? That it has become a murder capital. That people are afraid to go outside their homes in the evening. That bodies with duct taped faces are hung from bridges. That the Zetas hang messages from bridges claiming or denying responsibility for the latest brutal outrages. That the cartels and the army are having a shooting war on its streets. That random killings of women who work in the maquiiladoras continue. That random death stalks all of its citizen, even its children. That life is so cheap here that families who can flee to El Paso for a good night’s sleep. That unidentified bodies are frequently found in shallow, unmarked graves. Does any of this appalling suffering matter?

Both the United States and Mexico are having presidential elections this year. But the killings in Northern Mexico, the drug war, the killings in Ciudad Juarez won’t really be discussed. No. Nothing real will be discussed. At the roots, the United States can, but will not take credit for its share of the problem in Ciudad Juarez and the other northern Mexican states: an insatiable appetite for illegal drugs, huge amounts of money to purchase cocaine and marijuana, the virtually unregulated flow of guns and automatic weapons and money into Mexico to the cartels and to the corrupt governments that protect them. And Mexico can take credit for its share of the problem: gnawing poverty in the North, official corruption and a culture of pillaging when in office, insufficient employment opportunities, and farcical, corrupt enforcement of the porous border. All of this is no revelation. But does any of this matter?

Javier Sicilia, a poet who lost a son in the insane violence of the Drug War, has started a mass movement that may actually have a solution to the problem. But can that movement displace all of the embedded PRI and PAN politicians with their hands in the nation’s treasury and their muzzles in the public trough, politicians who are carrying out a century old tradition of graft, corruption, stealing, cover up, intrigue and ultimately violence for their own benefit? Isn't the flow of drugs and money their greatest opportunity in the past century?

Does it matter that Ciudad Juarez, a city of 1.3 million souls, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, bleeds daily?

It matters to me. I am appalled and disgusted. Journalists get killed writing about this, so, of course, few are now writing about it. Photographers get killed taking pictures of this. Bloggers get killed. Those who post on Facebook risk the backlash of the cartels and of the Government. They risk death, too. Or kidnapping. Or disappearance. Or injuries to their families. But none of that changes anything.

I can hear Ciudad Juarez weeping. Weeping for her dead. Weeping for her children. Weeping for a time when death wasn't waiting at every bus stop. Weeping disconsolately.

I want you to hear that weeping too. That, perceiving the suffering and the pain and the killing and how living in such a wasteland is, is the first step to finding a cross-border truce and ultimately an end to all of this killing. But you have to hear and feel it. You have to hear the weeping, the crying, the mourning. Otherwise, the killing continues, Ciudad Juarez bleeds and suffers, and nothing changes.

martes, mayo 22, 2012

Juarez, I Can Hear You Crying, Part 2

Mexico hates you, EPN

This LA Times Op-Ed doesn't pull any punches about Mexico's upcoming presidential election and the PRI's illustrious candidate for president:

The Mexican version of the old Soviet Politburo is poised to make a comeback, with potentially disastrous consequences for North America. In 2000, the world hailed the end of more than 70 years of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, as a sign of democratic transition. Today, the PRI's presidential candidate in the July 1 election, Enrique Peña Nieto, threatens to bring back the authoritarian ways of the past.

The PRI has not cleaned up its act or modernized over the last 12 years. To the contrary, it has deepened its networks of corruption and illegality in the territories it still controls. The 10 states where the PRI has never lost power are among the most violent, underdeveloped and corrupt in the country. In these states, democratic transition and accountability are exotic concepts and the local governors rule like despotic feudal lords.

For example, the state of Veracruz is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. Recently, four journalists were assassinated in a single week. In January, officials close to the governor were detained in an airport with a suitcase containing nearly $2 million in cash, supposedly for an advertising campaign.

What this isn't, is a surprise. Shocking perhaps. Business as usual, perhaps. But, sadly, no surprise at all. And you don't need to read deeply in Paco Igancio Taibo II or Martin Solares or the Mexican press to be reminded that it's been like this for quite some time. For a very, very long time. It's a tradition. A way of life.

And, of course, the Op Ed actually says it:

Peña Nieto is a wolf in sheep's clothing. He hides behind a telegenic smile and sharp attire, but he represents Mexico's old corrupt political class. Last week, for example, a high-ranking general apparently close to Peña Nieto and his group of politicians from Mexico state was arrested on organized-crime charges.

During his governorship, Peña Nieto allegedly spent tens of millions in public funds to illegally boost his image on national television. But he has few ideas of his own and questionable moral character. He fathered a son in an extramarital affair and has come under fire from the boy's mother for being an irresponsible parent.

When Peña Nieto was asked at a book fair to name three books he had read, he could only mention that he had gone over "parts" of the Bible. The late Carlos Fuentes, who died May 15, said that Peña Nieto's "ignorance" cast serious doubts on his ability to be a good president. No intellectual or independent journalist is willing to publicly endorse Peña Nieto's candidacy.

Well, your Bloguero can relate to all of this. Most Norteamericanos should be able to, also. After all, your Bloguero lives in a country that has "elected" the seeming Village Idiot in 2000 and, as if that weren't enough, again in 2004. So the piquant smell of opaque stooge-ism and favoritism and corruption and hypocrisy and plunder of the system by its supposed curators isn't at all unfamiliar. You could wish such things were only for Banana Republics. What a joke.

Meanwhile, the current Mexican administration, once the supposed antidote to PRI's pervasive corruption, is engaged in its own crazy, deathly War on Drugs that has left more than 50,000 people dead in its wake and has reduced cities like Juarez to places to escape from. Places where the army fights pitched battles with the cartels. Places where innocent people get killed. Or kidnapped. Or maimed. Places where going out at night is extremely dangerous. Where being in public places is a risk. Where speaking out or blogging or posting on FB leads to reprisals. Where riding public transportation may expose the commuter to a hail of random bullets. In sum, Juarez represents the dystopian narco-state at its most virulent and most dangerous.

And then there's this, lest one think that the PRI has the monopoly on corruption and that the War on Drugs has nothing to do with that:

President Felipe Calderon's reliance on the army in Mexico's war on drugs was shaken in the past days with the arrest of three generals and a lieutenant colonel on corruption charges.

With Mexico's presidential election just six weeks away and political campaigns in full swing, supporters allege that at least one of the arrests is politically motivated.

Most shocking was the detention of retired major general Tomas Angeles, a close aid to Defense Minister Guillermo Galvan and a soldier with a sterling reputation.

Angeles was the second highest-ranking officer in the ministry during the first two years of Calderon's administration and had been seen as a likely candidate for defense minister until his retirement in 2008.

Javier Sicilia may have a solution to all of this. But even if he does, it's going to take major upheaval and time to move the inert, corrupt narco-state in a direction away from corruption and toward peace. One thing is sure: EPN and Calderon both have no plan, no idea, nothing relevant to say that will end the killing. They continue to fill their pockets. And they attempt to shoulder their rivals away from the public trough.

All that means, I am sorry to note, that Juarez, City of Tears and Death and Displacement, your weeping is in vain. And your obvious, uncontrollable pain is not going to be swiftly abated.

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domingo, mayo 20, 2012

Are We There Yet??

Your Bloguero’s recent journey (very short version). Or why this blog has been so silent. Or how the present phase concluded. Or (subjectively) how the dog ate/didn’t eat the homework.

For most of the past month, since returning in early May from the wonderful International Shaman Gathering in Ireland, your Bloguero has been mostly “under the weather.” Coughing. Low fever. Running nose. Sleeping a lot. Aching. Not eating. Being weak. Being grouchy. Being unable to think. Napping. Walking at a snail’s pace. Wondering when his lungs would clear. Sitting. Hovering between awake and sleeping. Did he mention the persistent, wracking cough? Working (more or less successfully but sporadically). Isolation. Being alone in borderless dreamland. Long vistas sitting in bed under deep covers staring at the imaginary, metaphysical horizon and the beings emerging from it. Dreams that escape unbidden from new cracks between the worlds to sparkle under his eyelids. Or fly into imaginary flames. Bright sunshine. Visitations from beyond the worlds by all manner of beings.

Mercifully, this quite hallucinatory voyage appears at long last to be reaching a port. Your Bloguero is on the mend. And soon the coughing will be behind him. Very soon. And he will find himself no longer needing his sea legs. And the gaps between ordinary waking reality and everything else will partially seal.

Best events during the journey. Your Bloguero interrupted his meditations on his body’s pestilence and his mental travel exactly twice. First, to be in the audience for his daughter’s Independent Theater Project. Her final college work. Wow. Truly exceptional, wonderful, inventive, touching, the culmination of much training (your Bloguero hesitates to use this inadequate word). A great, absorbing, honest, moving show. Alas, parents, even cloaked in secret nom de plumes, do not dare to write reviews of their children’s work. Ever. And they worry as your Bloguero does now, about the adjectives. Your Bloguero wishes it were otherwise so he could give the show the review it really merits and expand on its profundity and subtlety and delight. Alas, this is not going to happen.

And second, to celebrate said daughter’s graduation from college. A huge celebration in Gotham to mark this milepost. Vast oceans of parental kvelling and astonishment and delight. Wonderful food, drink, comradery. A gathering to mark the launch of her post college life as an artist. And the end of a late parenting phase. Your Bloguero’s three children have now all completed college. They are all apparently adults. They have received whatever their parents could have provided to help them grow this far, and to bloom, and to make the world a better place. Now, their parents sit in the peanut gallery and act like their most devoted sports fans.

All of this, of course, commences your Bloguero’s initial navigation of a vast sea of speculation about what is next for him. What’s next? And what that might even mean. Another book, yes. A third novel. No, there is nothing yet (your Bloguero’s previous idea has been unceremoniously chucked), not even the smallest seed yet. Your Bloguero is sure, however, that something is coming. It’s just over the next hill. Still invisible, but your Bloguero can hear its breathing.

And other changes? Sure. All kinds. Who knows what. Or when. Or what that will look like. Your Bloguero’s arms and heart are open. He’s waiting to see what’s going to show up. He’s willing to embark. His anticipation is present.

Meanwhile, another day of sitting in the sun, hoping his chest will clear, hoping the coughing will subside even further. Waiting for the winged muse to perch on his shoulder and whisper ever so coyly in his ear.

martes, mayo 15, 2012

Carlos Fuentes, RIP

The New York Times:

Carlos Fuentes, Mexico’s elegant public intellectual and grand man of letters, whose panoramic novels captured the complicated essence of his country’s history for readers around the world, died on Tuesday in Mexico City. He was 83. ...

Mr. Fuentes was one of the most admired writers in the Spanish-speaking world, a catalyst, along with Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and Julio Cortázar, of the explosion of Latin American literature in the 1960s and ’70s, known as El Boom. He wrote plays, short stories, political nonfiction and novels, many of them chronicles of tangled love.

Mr. Fuentes received wide recognition in the United States in 1985 with his novel “The Old Gringo,” a convoluted tale about the American writer Ambrose Bierce, who disappeared during the Mexican Revolution. It was the first book by a Mexican novelist to become a best seller north of the border, and it was made into a 1989 film starring Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda.

In the tradition of Latin American writers, Mr. Fuentes was politically engaged, writing magazine, newspaper and journal articles that criticized the Mexican government during the long period of sometimes repressive single-party rule that ended in 2000 with the election of an opposition candidate, Vicente Fox Quesada.

Mr. Fuentes was more ideological than political. He tended to embrace justice and basic human rights regardless of political labels. He supported Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba, but turned against it as Mr. Castro became increasingly authoritarian. He sympathized with Indian rebels in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas and skewered the administration of George W. Bush over its antiterrorism tactics and immigration policies, calling them unduly harsh.

I am very sorry that Fuentes is gone. He will be deeply missed.

And here's a wonderful, more detailed obituary from The LA Times

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Mike McGrady, RIP

The New York Times lays it on thick:

Mike McGrady, a prizewinning reporter for Newsday who to his chagrin was best known as the mastermind of one of the juiciest literary hoaxes in America — the best-selling collaborative novel “Naked Came the Stranger,” whose publication in 1969 made “Peyton Place” look like a church picnic — died on Sunday in Shelton, Wash. He was 78 and lived in Lilliwaup, Wash.

... Mr. McGrady was a co-editor of the novel, written by 25 Newsday journalists in an era when newsrooms were arguably more relaxed and inarguably more bibulous.

Intended to be a work of no redeeming social value and even less literary value, “Naked Came the Stranger” by all appearances succeeded estimably on both counts.

Originally issued by Lyle Stuart, an independent publisher known for subversive titles, the novel was a no-holds-barred chronicle of a suburban woman’s sexual liaisons, with each chapter recounting a different escapade:

She has sex with a mobster and sex with a rabbi. She has sex with a hippie and sex with at least one accountant. There is a scene involving a tollbooth, another involving ice cubes and still another featuring a Shetland pony.

“Ernie found what Cervantes and Milton had only sought. He thought the fillings in his teeth would melt.”

Credit where credit is due. What a superb hoax. I'm applauding it.

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lunes, mayo 14, 2012

Writers Of The World Unite, We Have Nothing To Lose

but our keyboards.

Sunday's Demo (NYT photo)

How heartened I am by today's NY Times article about the writers' demonstration on Sunday:

There were no opposition leaders at the head of the vast column of people that peacefully wound its way through central Moscow on Sunday.

There was, instead, a corpulent poet, whose admirers thrust lilac boughs at him. A bespectacled detective novelist was autographing everything at hand — books, of course, but also scratch paper, identification cards and, once, a middle-aged woman in a white T-shirt. People mobbed a diminutive grandmother who has won many of Russia’s literary prizes and who acknowledged to a reporter that “crowds drive me crazy and make me want to hide somewhere.”

It was only four days ago when 12 prominent authors, disturbed by the crackdown on dissent that accompanied President Vladimir V. Putin’s inauguration, announced an experiment. They called it a “test stroll,” which aimed to determine whether it was possible to spend an afternoon walking en masse from one city park to another “without being blocked, beaten, poisoned with gas, detained, arrested or at least subjected to stupid molestation with questions.”

No one knew quite what to expect on Sunday. But when the 12 writers left Pushkin Square at lunchtime, they were trailed by a crowd that swelled to an estimated 10,000 people, stopping traffic and filling boulevards for 1.2 miles. Many wore the white ribbons that are a symbol of opposition to Mr. Putin’s government. The police did not interfere, although the organizers had not received a permit to march.

“We see by the number of people that literature still has authority in our society because no one called these people — they came themselves,” said Lev Rubinstein, 65, a poet and one of the organizers. “We thought this would be a modest stroll of several literary colleagues, and this is what happened. You can see it yourself.”

“I don’t know how this will all end, but I can say that no one will forget it,” he said.

And my fellow scribblers? It's not time right this minute to pull on your walking shoes. But if it would help, I think we could link up and easily follow this plucky example.

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sábado, mayo 12, 2012

Juarez, I Hear You Crying

Ciudad Juarez. 1.3 million souls across the Rio Grande from El Paso. The murder rate is supposedly down from a record of 30,000 in 2010.

I am waiting for the bus at a bus stop. I don’t have cash for a taxi. It is too far to walk. There are about 24 other resigned people here waiting. It’s after 6 pm, we’re tired, we all want to go home. This is routine here. When the bus comes, there may not be room for all of us. So we will push and shove and some of us will still be here waiting for the next bus. Eventually, we’ll all get home.

Since the narco wars started, going home has become more important. It’s the only real chance of being safe. Nobody goes out here in the evening. Ever. And nobody goes out for a walk. Going out is like asking to be shot or kidnapped. Going out to a bar for a drink and to watch the futbol game is like declaring that you’re a combatant on one of the four or fives sides of the War in Juarez. So getting home has some urgency. 60,000 people have already died in Mexico since the War on Drugs started. Nobody here wants to be in that statistic.

Years ago at this stop, the bus pulled in and there was a shooting. That was just at the start of the much greater wave of killings brought by the maquiladoras and the War on Drugs. When the door opened, a young man climbed up the steps to the driver to pay his fare, took out a small automatic machine gun, and shot the driver 16 times. I don’t know why. I can’t imagine why. Then as if the bullets had turned everyone to cement, the young man quickly made his getaway on foot. Later, nobody could provide any details at all about the shooter. Those shots were for me the opening fusillade in the War in Juarez.

I am waiting for the bus. I hope it comes soon. There is a small Toyota pickup parked across the street from the stop in the dark shade. There is something about it I don’t like. The driver has mirrored sunglasses. I can see that. And there is a big man, also with sunglasses, standing in the bed. I thought he might have a big gun, a machine gun of some kind, but I can’t see clearly from here what that is. What is he doing with a machine gun in daylight in Juarez? All I can see is that he’s got something big and heavy.

The bus comes. It is entirely too full of other passengers to take all of us. Those who are at the front of our disorderly, disorganized line struggle and get on, then there is no room for anyone else. There’s pushing and shoving, some cursing. The driver closes the door, and he leaves behind a cloud of dust and diesel exhaust and sweaty people, who will continue to wait for the bus.

At this, I look across the street. At the Toyota. The guy in the back clearly has a big machine gun. It is mounted on top of some kind of stand. It has long lines of bullets hanging from it. The truck pulls quickly out from the curb, makes a wide left turn so that it is now coming quickly toward the bus stop. At that, the man begins to shoot. I feel a bullet crush my right arm at the elbow. And in slow motion, I see the line of people to the right of me fall down one after the other. Blood is spattered everywhere, and there are pools of blood on the ground. And people are screaming and crying and dying.

There is nothing I can do. I have no idea why I have been shot. I sit on the corner of the bench, and I wait for an ambulance. Hopefully, it will come soon.

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viernes, mayo 11, 2012

Maurice Sendak, RIP

The Times:

Maurice Sendak, widely considered the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century, who wrenched the picture book out of the safe, sanitized world of the nursery and plunged it into the dark, terrifying and hauntingly beautiful recesses of the human psyche, died on Tuesday in Danbury, Conn. He was 83. ...

Roundly praised, intermittently censored and occasionally eaten, Mr. Sendak’s books were essential ingredients of childhood for the generation born after 1960 or thereabouts, and in turn for their children. He was known in particular for more than a dozen picture books he wrote and illustrated himself, most famously “Where the Wild Things Are,” which was simultaneously genre-breaking and career-making when it was published by Harper & Row in 1963.

Among the other titles he wrote and illustrated, all from Harper & Row, are “In the Night Kitchen” (1970) and “Outside Over There” (1981), which together with “Where the Wild Things Are” form a trilogy; “The Sign on Rosie’s Door” (1960); “Higglety Pigglety Pop!” (1967); and “The Nutshell Library” (1962), a boxed set of four tiny volumes comprising “Alligators All Around,” “Chicken Soup With Rice,” “One Was Johnny” and “Pierre.”

He will be sorely missed.

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jueves, mayo 10, 2012

Arnold Ehret Prevails

Arnold Ehret (1866-1922)

I confess. I always considered Arnold Ehret some kind of German science moonbat. A health loon. I've know about him since the 1970's, in particular his claims about the benefits of a mucus-less diet. And now. I am impressed actually impressed.

It seems I'm running my own Detox center. Not drugs or alcohol. But obviously I'm not using either. Here's the story: I've got a horrendous cold, so I've tried some expensive OTC things (which made it worse and made me hate big Pharma even more) and then about a week ago I just stopped eating. Yes, I did eat those macadamia nuts last weekend. Yes, I did eat that soup. And the rice. Yes, I did nibble on some things last weekend. But otherwise, nada, zilch, bupkis, nothing. Just water. Meanwhile, I think my body has decided that I am crazy, that I am trying to starve it into submission. It's therefore not shedding much weight. It's hoarding fat, I hear it mumbling, "What a crazy guy he is. He's gonna try to starve us to death. Hang onto every fat globule you can, as if this were the battle for Stalingrad. He'll stop eventually. He always has before."

I'm not trying to lose weight. I'm not crash dieting so I can wrestle at 142 pounds. No. I'm trying to stop this ridiculous hacking cough, the running nose, the occasional low grade fever. And my current strategy is a water fast. Sitting in bed. Sleep when possible. Drinking water. This has the side effect of detoxifying me from the last 1 1/2 years of gluttony and bad diet. I mean: I really enjoy the taste of those spicy short ribs, but is this a really good idea? And do I really think we should open another bottle? Somebody has brought the bill to my table and I'm paying it in kind.

This requires patience. Or insanity. Meanwhile, I can report one wonder: a small sip of water is a glorious, sensual experience. You can feel the sip spiral beautifully down and around your insides. And it wakes up every spot along its journey. Water has never tasted so incredible.

Maybe there will be more if this continues into the weekend. Meanwhile, I do not desire food.

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domingo, mayo 06, 2012

Sunshine Haiku


Sitting with eyes closed,
brutal cough shakes chest and throat.
Come, dreams and stories.


The Wizard School phones.
"What are you doing today?"
Hah. Sitting, eyes closed.

May 6, 2012, Spencertown

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viernes, mayo 04, 2012

The Return

Sliabh na Caillí, County Meath, Ireland

Your Bloguero hasn't been at the Dream Antilles for a bit. He traveled to Ireland for an International Shaman Gathering and didn't write while he was away. He returned yesterday with a brutal cough and a low fever, and he immediately slept twelve consecutive hours. Today he remains entirely out of his normal waking reality. But enough of your Bloguero's boring, somatic complaints.

A highlight of the journey was a return to Sliabh na Caillí, where your Bloguero first received a communication in 2009 from the crone to complete his book, Tulum. And last week after three years of writing was his return book in hand to to declare that he had finished this quest, that he had written the book, that it had been published. But that's not all. Your Bloguero went also to inquire whether anything else was desired.

Your Bloguero acknowledges that he had some trepidation about his return: what if the book were inadequate, what if he had failed, what if he hadn't fully done what was requested, what if, what if, what if. All he could do was to put all of that worry aside and return to see what would happen. To see whether there was another message.

Your Bloguero is now starting to gather information for a third novella. And he has the "assignment" to keep going, to keep writing, to pursue the tale with even greater joy. To write even more joyfully. Your Bloguero is proud that he completed this imramma and he is happy to have received this confirmation. And now, when he has vanquished the "sacred cough," your Bloguero will press on here and on novella 3.

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