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Monday, May 30, 2011

100 Things About Me that I Just Made Up

A popular entry for blogs is a list of 100 things about the author.  The only reason I bring this up is because I was helping a friend’s kid with writing in English and I thought this might be a good way to motivate him to write a few lines in English. I personally think this meme is pretty lame, as are most blog memes (I hate the word “meme”). After I got the kid going on his list I started reading about a dozen or so of these lists and every one was completely tedious and awful. They should change the title from 100 Things About Me to 100 Things About Me that No One could possibly Give a Fuck About.

1)      I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.

2)      That first one isn’t entirely true. Watching him die was fun but I shot him because he was roller skating in a Speedo®. I was on my bike and happened to be carrying a loaded deer rifle so I just went with my feelings. Come on, you would have done the same thing.

3)      I still cry when I hear that Titanic song by what’s-her-face.  I can’t believe they haven’t made the sequel to that movie where Leo swims back up to the top and lives. Seems like a no-brainer idea for a sequel to me.

4)      I have a huge tattoo on my chest that looks just like human skin.

5)      I had my appendix pierced a while back which is kind of cool except sometimes it’s a hassle at airport security.

6)      I have bowled once in my life when I was in the third grade. I think that once was definitely enough. I just figured that I shouldn’t cloud the memory of that wonderful experience but trying to recreate it.

7)      Back in 1987 I was one of the lawyers who drafted the national bill stating that, in the case of pizza deliveries, if it takes more than 30 minutes it’s free. Before that if the driver delivered the pizza after 30 minutes he was summarily executed.

8)      I came up with the idea for the McDonald's McForeskin Sandwich®, not very popular in America but huge in Israel and in Arab countries. It’s a major item on McDonald’s Discarded Body Parts Menu. What else could we do with all of the lipo-sucked fat in this country besides serving it up at Mikey D's?

9)      I would rather spend a month in a Ugandan prison than an afternoon at a strip mall.

10)   I molested a Catholic priest when I was 7. The church hierarchy covered up the incident and bought me a pony to keep my mouth shut about it. Seriously, I was actually an altar boy as a kid and was probably the worst altar boy in history. I never showed up for mass and basically didn’t give a shit about the stupid church rituals until they finally stopped asking me to do it. The way I treated the priests in our parish could possibly be classified as abuse.

11)   I liked getting gifts as a kid but I was an atheist and didn’t believe in Santa or Jesus or any of that crap so I felt cheap taking gifts on Christmas.  I dealt with those feelings of cheapness in my own way, mostly by playing with the toys until they broke from wear. Life is full of compromises.

...to be continued...or not 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Extra Chairs and Tables

Even more than usual people have been flocking to café terraces. I rode my bike through the historic center of Carmen last night and there was hardly an empty table to be found. Sitting in a café on an unbelievably pleasant evening is simply the thing to do and something the Spanish seem to have a special talent for.  It’s part of their Mediterranean blood.  I was in no hurry to get home and I rode so slowly that I was often on the verge of tipping over; it was like sitting at a moving café table.

One of my favorite cafés near my house has placed tables out in the esplanade in the boulevard. If she doesn’t want to wait for the light to change the waitress has to dodge cars to cross the street—not always easy when carrying a tray of drinks and food.  It’s as if there just isn’t enough space to accommodate all of the café goers.  New places have to be found for tables, like when you have extra guests arrive unexpected.  In the fashionable Canovas area the bike path is so crowded-out by restaurant tables that you are tempted to steal a bit of fried calamari or a sip of wine as you pedal by festive diners.  Be sure to watch your head of you will hit it on a table umbrella.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cartoon #42 Life Lessons: Part I

I got nothing else but this cartoon. Watch the cartoon and learn words to live by, I promise.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Free Sundays

Free is one of the best words in any language and Sundays are free at museums in Valencia.  Even if you don’t care for the art on the inside many of the museums are worth a visit just to see the buildings that house all of the junk. A good example is the National Museum of Ceramics in the picture above. Who cares about ceramics? Not me, that’s for sure. However, the former renaissance palace is a splendid work of art in itself. The IVAM, or El Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno has revolving exhibits and you will feel smarter just walking around the place. And did we mention that it’s free on Sunday?

It’s free but don’t forget your wallet at home. For one thing, Sundays are a perfect day to grab a Valenbisi bike to explore one of the city’s dozens of fine museums.  It is hard to spit and not hit a museum in the center of town, although polite museum guards will ask you not to spit.  After you have pretended to care about art and history you may want to stop off for tapas and a beer. You have to spend all of that money you just saved on museums somewhere; it may as well be in a bar. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Spanish or Valenciano?

This is a totally unscientific look at the language of Valenciano, it is more a casual observation from someone who lives in the city of Valencia and who has been learning Spanish. The language is spoken to some degree by almost everyone who grew up in Valencia. It is taught in the schools—some more than others. Some students have the option of attending most of their classes in Valenciano with Spanish as a sort of second language but I think most children in the capital have it the other way around. A child’s ability in Valenciano usually depends on whether or not this language is spoken at home.

In my four years in Valencia I have never heard a group of children speaking Valenciano. Never. I have never been addressed in Valenciano in a shop, bar, or restaurant. Not once, at least not here in Valencia. Valenciano seems to be almost like a sort of secret handshake known only by a select few locals. Things are quite different in the villages but I am speaking only about here in the city. I think if about 99% of the people who live in Valencia were to hit themselves on the thumb while pounding a nail with a hammer, the aria of profanities coming out of their mouths would be in Spanish—this is the true test to determine your native language.

I have not been able to find a good grammar of Valenciano for non-Spanish speakers. The one book published by the local government is expensive (€18) and not really suited for a beginner. If there are free classes for people wishing to learn Valenciano they keep them about as secret as Osama Bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan. I would love to learn some Valenciano but I don’t even know how to begin. The sad truth is that there really is little reason for people living here in the capital to learn. This isn’t meant as an excuse on my part; it is simply an opinion based on much experience. If you are looking to get a job working for the government you are required to know Valenciano although I can’t for the life of me understand why this is so.

It’s a pretty tough market out there for languages with a few strong languages like English, Spanish, and Chinese monopolizing language schools around the world. Something like 14% of the population of this city is comprised of immigrants, both foreign and domestic. Few of these people learn Valenciano. It seems that in a generation or two it will be about as dead as Latin. If people here wish to preserve Valenciano they need to speak it more and then teach it to others.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gorky Park (1981, film 1983)

I read Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith back when it first came out and loved it. As part of my new fitness program I’m doing a lot of brisk walking as my doctor says this will balance out the crazy amount of cycling that I do. I hate walking and running but if I have to do it I want to kill two birds. On my walks I have been listening to recorded books.  Unfortunately, I haven’t found much in French and Spanish to improve my language skills. English books I got, and lots of them. I have been listening to Gorky Park on my recent walks and I have to say that I underappreciated this book the first time around. His skill as a writer is apparent in every paragraph.

I don’t think the author had visited the Soviet Union before writing the novel yet he seems to totally nail the communist mentality. Maybe he served in the American military where this extreme version of kiss-ass careerism is de rigueur.  The Soviet anti-hero in the book, Arkady Renko is a police investigator who almost completely against his will is forced into a murder investigation. He has no use for the communist party or its trappings of benefits and promotions for the elite. Arkady hates the system yet he is ironically the best communist in the story, right down to the shitty soviet cigarettes he smokes. The story in Gorky Park takes a backseat to the descriptions of Soviet life and the characters. But it’s not like the story is lacking at all, it’s just that the protagonist steals the show in almost every passage.

There are almost countless memorable scenes in the book and one of my favorites is when Arkady visits a friend who has just purchased a new Soviet-made washing machine that he waited ten months to get. “Very highly rated,” his friend tells him to which Arkady replies, “And not in the least bourgeois.” Arkady is definitely not bourgeois, not in the least and he continues to be underwhelmed by the washer.

Misha had crammed four underpants into the spin dryer. At that rate,
Arkady estimated, moving laundry from the agitator tub to the spin dryer and on to the
communal clothesline, a week's wash could be done in . . . a week.

The machine is a total piece of crap and as he is showing Arkady how it works it goes haywire and is on the verge of exploding before Arkady has the sense to pull the plug.

'A little problem, love,' Misha said. 'The washer isn't quite working.'
'That's all right. We can still show it to people.'
She seemed genuinely content.

Don’t ask me why—it’s a long story—but I speed-read a chic lit novel on Sunday morning called Something Borrowed that was evidently some sort of best seller and is not a movie. This book is absolutely one of the biggest pieces of shit I have ever read. I defy anyone to point out one paragraph that has any sort of craft in the writing, and forget about the plot. The entire book reads like a run-on sentence written by a spoiled suburbanite teen, which probably isn’t far from the truth. Gorky Park is probably filed under thrillers in by librarians yet it completely transcends the genre. It was popular and, like the ridiculous chic lit novel, was made into a film but what a difference in artistic merit between these two books.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Post Bin Laden

“I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.” – Mark Twain?

I honestly believe that the world is a better place because Osama bin Laden is dead. His carcass has probably passed through the intestinal tract of a shark whose turds now feed lesser creatures in the deep. However, I was sincerely surprised by the reaction of Americans who treated his death like we just won a rematch with the 1980 Soviet hockey team. I was relieved upon hearing the news but I felt no urge to gloat about it. Perhaps I would have had different feelings except it took 10 years to off the stupid prick.

Obama wasn’t responsible for his death but I’m glad it happened on the President’s watch and thus will inflate his popularity a bit. He could use a boost or two. I am hoping he will gain a bit of confidence from this and start acting like a liberal. We will soon see about that.

The operation itself seemed to be pretty faultless even with one downed helicopter. As one former Navy SEAL said, as far as machines go, their planning dictates that two is one and one is none. This means they had contingency plans coming out of their ears in the case of break-downs. It was a bold plan and was perfectly executed. Bravo to the soldiers in involved.

As far as the politics of the mission, I am in full agreement. I think that the only option was to kill Osama. Capturing him would have presented a logistical and legal nightmare, as we have learned from the detainees at Guantanamo. Two in the head and dumping the body at sea solved more problems that I can even count. And those who say that we should release a death photo are complete fucking morons. To those weak-minded enough to believe in conspiracy theories, no amount of photographs would change their opinion, so why bother trying? Besides, when Obama tells the American public something, I have no reason to think he is lying.

I love how conservatives say that Obama is taking undue credit for the raid. Really? Like landing on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit with a banner saying "Mission Accomplished," that sort of taking undue credit?

The question now is just how quickly we can get our troops the hell out of both Iraq and Afghanistan—the two worst foreign policy decisions in America’s history. And let’s not forget, they were both Bush decisions which Obama inherited, just like our destroyed economy.

From what I have gathered about the conservative reaction to the operation, things are about as you might imagine. All kinds of crazy vitriol is being thrown at Obama. Right-wingers aren’t even trying to appear rational these days. They are more ridiculous by the day.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Isn't Valencia Beautiful?

Here is a view of one of Valencia’s most beautiful boulevards which is right around the corner from where I live. Lucky me.