Important Notice

Special captions are available for the humor-impaired.


Thursday, August 03, 2023

Piano Practice Challenge 02AUG23

In which I try to shame myself into putting more effort into my playing. In intervals of thirty minutes using my kitchen timer, I will practice three one hour a day for one week. What sort of improvement will I experience? I have a birthday coming up and I want to have something approaching a six pack in the abdomen department, be half-finished with my latest writing project, and make some sort of leap forward on the piano.


Saturday, June 24, 2023

Be the Cool Kid Who Reads the Book First, Then Watches the Series: La Fronter Saga by John Scheck

 Purchase La Frontera Saga , by John Scheck.


Attention Netflix, or Amazon Prime, or Hulu: Here's your next hit series. La Frontera Saga's simple, yet insanely relevant premise could be the stuff of legend, and maybe even affect real change in a violent world where terror and murder and anarchy reign supreme--in this case the Mexican drug trade.

Diego is a cool, urbane, and yet bold Spaniard raised in the egalitarian Spanish society where violent crime is relatively non-existent, where there's little violence despite having the largest illicit drug trade in Europe because of its many beach resort towns to which millions of Europeans flock in search of fun, sun, and nightlife decadence where drugs are consumed so profligately. Spain's social-democratic economy has leveled the playing field enough that abject poverty is rare, as it is typically in abjectly poor places where violent crime springs. Despite the fact Spain's drug trade is extensive, there's little or no violence attached to it.

Diego hustles in Benidorm, one of Spain's hottest coastal resort towns, selling drugs and also providing luxury accommodations for those who can afford such things. In the course of his hustles he befriends vacationing (or exiled) Mexican narcotraficantes, one of whom is the most powerful drug lord in all Mexico as the head of the Sinaloa cartel, who sends his family to Benidorm for vacation and even manages to abscond himself to the city for some down time.

Diego befriends this man enough to posit a bold and brilliant plan on how to revolutionize the Mexican drug trade by both reducing the insane volume of murder and mayhem and also "spread the wealth" to the impoverished millions in Mexico, social-democratic style, using the vast wealth of the cartels acting as the government agent in leveling the playing field.

There's much more to La Frontera Saga than this. Although it has high-minded idealism at its core, it never presents this message sanctimoniously, nor does it dilute the entertainment value of the story. There's plenty of superbly drawn-up characters and plot lines to keep the reader obsessed with finishing every page with great gusto.

What makes the novel work is that Scheck's high-minded idealism is a truly realistic adventure as told throughout the story. It never falls into the tired old tropes about the Mexican drug trade, nor does it present the same dark and cynical view that "nothing ever changes," that if you live in Europe long enough, you realize that its egalitarian, social-democratic cultures (Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, et al.) all sprung, slowly and with great pain, from the abject lowest of low. For instance, Spain created this amazing culture after emerging from years of fascist rule that made it one of the poorest countries in Europe; today it isn't perfect in Spain, but her people live well, safe and prosperous, and with little signs of the massive wealth divide seen in Mexico, and certainly without the insane violence and unbridled criminality in that country.

My point being, it is entirely possible to affect change. European social democracies sprung from first unequal societies dominated by royals, then in some cases fascists and other failed forms of self-governance and bad economic policies, and anyone living in these countries today can clearly see how far they've come the last 70 years. Why not do the same in Mexico? Someone just has to have the visionary ideas and boldness to make it happen, then to convince the people it is in their best interest to be more altruistic and cooperative. That is Diego Valverde. And he's thinking big to transform Mexico.

I read this book so fast, and with such enthusiasm, that I lost an entire Saturday finishing it in one long read where I only paused to eat--and, you know, answer nature's calling. Other than that I read it constantly from end to end. Now how do I get people at Netflix, Hulu, et al. to get onboard? We have the next hit series.


- Goodreads review from Mr. Cool

Saturday, June 03, 2023

The Great Battle Not to Be Flushed in La Liga 2022-2023”


 After a mostly joyless season as a Valencia Club de Fútbol fan, the most exciting game of the season may be Sunday’s final match in what I’m calling “The Great Battle Not to Be Flushed in La Liga 2022-2023.”

 I can't ever remember being so invested in not seeing a train wreck happen before my very eyes, and I was a Chicago Cubs fan as a child, a shit team back then but they never got tossed out of MLB. To steal a good joke, it will be like being tied to a chair and watching a toddler play with a loaded pistol.

 ¡Amunt València, Visca el València del nostre cor!

 The very last game this season of the Spanish La Liga has six clubs fighting separately not to be relegated with all final games to be played at the same hour on Sunday:


Celta de Vigo




Valencia C.F.


Elche C.F.     






RCD Espanyol


Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Ode to Madrid

 I live in a city of somewhere around 800,000 inhabitants, not small and not too big. Valencia is a sophisticated metropolis with an excellent public transportation system and wonderful rail connections via the high-speed Spanish network of AVE. It’s not like I’m living in the sticks, yet the moment I arrive in Madrid, I’m simply overwhelmed by its immensity, the masses of people, the bustling metro, and the endless expanse of cool neighborhoods.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

My Coldest Damn Winter in Spain

 I have been such a whiny little bitch the past two weeks as we've experienced what I think is the longest cold snap of my time here in Spain. Low temperatures are below five degrees and daytime highs are around fifteen. As you can see in the photo above, there is no end in sight.

In the street, I'd never complain about the cold because it isn't that cold. The problem is my drafty, un-insulated apartment with no central heating. I have a couple of butane gas heaters which do a good job, but if they aren't one, the place is colder than it is outside.

In an effort to make my life a bit more comfortable, I bought an electric blanket. It's no substitute for spring weather, but it makes being in bed more tolerable. I feel like a cold-blooded lizard in this cold and have so little motivation that my bike must think I filed for divorce, although I am making it to the gym to lift.

I'll survive, maybe, but I'm not going to take it like a man or whatever. This is why I never complain about about the heat in the summer. I'd take that seven days a week over these frigid weeks. For me, the cold is like a low-level and constant pain.



Monday, January 30, 2023

The Oscar Winner in the Category of “No One Gives a Shit” Goes to…


Do we really need to always be talking about race and gender? Is there nothing else? This is from the NYT article I linked:

 The nominations were a mix of welcome surprises and perplexing snubs, as our awards expert Kyle Buchanan noted: “Everything Everywhere All at Once” led the tally with actors of Asian descent making a particularly good showing. Yet Viola Davis and other Black stars of well-known films were completely shut out of the running for best actress, and Andrea Riseborough unexpectedly succeeded with an out-of-the-box campaign for her little-seen “To Leslie.” (How little seen? As of this writing its box office take stands at $27,322.)

Our co-chief critic Manohla Dargis is more optimistic about Hollywood*, specifically about the status of women in the industry. Citing a raft of female-driven movies in the last year, she writes, “Despite continuing biases and barriers, women are now directing movies with a variety of budgets, topics and casts. It’s made my job as a critic more exciting.”

Do they hand out race and ethnic scorecards so these writers can keep track? It's not like these awards were ever based on merit (judging art like horse races if just too stupid to ponder in the first place). Why don't we just give everyone an award like we do for children's sporting activities these days?

Rich fuckers giving themselves prizes for being rich and famous. That should set the world right. If the Academy Awards are so racist and sexist, then let’s do away with them altogether. I’m OK with that because I don’t care about prizes for rich creeps, not even a little

*This is what Manhole writes:

I find it an agony to compile a Top 10 list. There are just too many good and great films, too many titles that I want to celebrate.”

Wow! Really? Great films? I thought that almost everything was pure crap, including most of those being celebrated by the Academy.