Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mr. T's Homophobic Mars Chocolate Commercial

A friend alerted me to the controversy that has (rightly) erupted in the UK following the airing of a Mars chocolate ad featuring the man who never goes out of style, Mr T. (see the ad, above) If you cut and paste the url below you can read the TMZ story about this brouhaha.

Since I am equally as juvenile as the advertising creatives that conceived the ad, I could not resist the thought of another reaction to the ad: the "academented" one.

This is so problematic, in so many ways, swishy walk, 1970s aerobic short shorts, a cannon aimed at a backside, the nuts in the chocolate....and SO SUBTLE too, you really need a PhD in Semiotics from Brown to figure out the nuances behind the textual and visual tropes, I am impressed that TMZ parsed the subtext so ably and then explicated it to the un-schooled audience. Is somebody going to give a paper at the MLA about this? "Aiming the Can(n)on: Mr T's Nuts, Subaltern Mimicry and Queer Minstrelsy"

Walter Sighting: The Astrologer Dispenses Beauty Tips

The bulletin below was sent in by one of my fabulous friends, an academic who is a scholar of all kinds of Visual Culture, and an expert on Boricua culture at large, after a Walter sighting at a place on the Island called, appropriately enough, FRESHMART:

He looked exactly like that when I saw him last week at a health food store in PR. Incredible style: white shoes, white linen pants and a shirt with pink little flowers. Flawless hair highly sprayed and fleshy, pouting lips.

He happily disclosed the use he would give to the organic potato he was buying: putting it raw over his face, as Harrison Ford and all the Hollywood stars do to combat unmerciful signs of age. When a guy in the line said, a bit mockingly, that he would try it too, Walter answered: "No need to. You look great."

go buy your potato now if you wanna look like that!

Sunday, July 27, 2008


My fabulous Persian friend, erudite in both high and "low" visual culture, as well as reigning and deposed monarchs, sent these FABULOUS photos of Empress Farah Diba. I recognize that PARIS MATCH is on par with HOLA but it pains me to do so. In any event, no one can match her glamour, so much so that HOLA recently made a telling typo, labeling a photo of her grieving at couturier Yves Saint Laurent's funeral as "Farah DIVA." 

A friend living in Tokyo sent this.....

My friend who is currently, and to my chagrin, living in Tokyo, sent this mysterious (to me, anyway, since sadly I don't read Japanese) photo. We are not quite sure what it is advertising. A fruit-flavored gum? The young men's proudly gay status? The name of a new Menudo-inspired Japanese boy band? If anyone out there can clarify I would be most grateful!

PERET El Rey de la Rumba Catalana

I went to see Peret, the king of Catalan Rumba, at Lincoln Center's mid-Summer Nights' Swing, and he was FABULOUS. He is often given credit for originating this genre, drawing from his Roma roots - flamenco mixed with Latin rhythms, he sings in Spanish, Catalan and his own language. The music is hard to describe but here is a video from around 1969:

This is the soundtrack to my childhood, so it was a thrill to finally see him in person, at the age of almost 80 he still has the same beautiful voice, energy and charisma, even though he's lost the full mane of hair & the fierce mutton chops. 

In the mid-1980s apparently he left the music behind when he was "born-again" but then could not stay away and staged a come-back. Shockingly, this was his New York City debut. Many of us in the audience knew the lyrics which I am sure amused him greatly. He was just in the news in Spain because he left his wife of 50 years to go live with a 19 year-old fan, just to show how the new generations also respond to his timeless music. (OK there is some irony in the last paragraph)

Not all of his fans were Spaniards or Catalans, spotted in the audience was the always fabulous David Byrne, who was also singing along to the songs! And if that wasn't enough to make me love him even more than I already did, he was rocking a gas-station attendant jumpsuit! Hot!

For more info on Peret, go to:

I know that this should be the least of my concerns but.....

LeAnn with her court-appointed lawyer, Andrea Sloan, who is the executive director of Texas Advocacy Project.
Photo: Stephanie Sinclair/VII Network, for The New York Times

I know that this should be the least of my concerns but....can someone deal with the extreme fashion shanda that this sect requires...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

4 años sin Carmina

Four years ago today, the fabulous Carmina was found dead under mysterious circumstances. I like to remember her looking amazing while doing el camino al Rocio. And always, her famous quote, in good times and bad, when asked how she was doing "Me encuentro DIVINAMENTE." I miss her. 


Believe it or not, this completely camp crooner, Raphael, from Spain, is not queer and no, he is not singing about how he will be free to go out with his lover under cover of the, he is married to a noble woman and has kids. 


This is my mom's favorite singer. Ever. 

That explains a lot about me.

I Wish My Photos Could Be Published in HOLA!


We all know that my life's ambition is to have my photo appear in HOLA!

Here is but one example of why. Of course, we know that it is the ultimate sign of social prestige (though HOLA! has lowered its standards a bit in recent years, they make a clear division between the spreads featuring the homes of Dolce & Gabbana and the "TV news" section where Belen Esteban and her ilk are shown; then there are the for-pay black and white social pages....I would even settle for the latter), but another reason is that their photos are just well, more flattering. 

Above is a shot from one of my favorite things ever, the royal families' "We are taking a vacation" photo shoots. As if they were anything but on vacation ALL the time. As if this shows them in a spontaneous manner, without protocol, to their "subjects." Yes, much like Marie Antoinnette at the pleasure dairy. 

Here we see the royal princes from Holland. The prince married a zaftig Argentine called Maxima. (note here that my scale of zaftigness is in relation to other female royals, excluding England of course where they are actually normal sized, who tend to be anorexic like Princess Letizia of Spain) It was a schanda because her father was part of the military dictatorship, so they did not invite him to the wedding. He was, however, asked to the baptisms of their myriad children. Note that although she is on the heavy side, he did manage to get an Argentine who looks quite Aryan. I was wondering why it's OK to have a right-wing military man with blood on his hands at a Baptism but not a church wedding? I digress. 

In DIEZ MINUTOS, which is ranked maybe one or two magazines below HOLA! in terms of prestige within Spain, they show the classic photo of the royal family from Holland on their bike. Then you see the HOLA! version of the same photo, below. Better than going home to Argentina for liposuction. 

Photo HOLA!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Satire or Slander? The (in)famous Obama Cartoon

During my trip I saw the controversial (and to me, racist and deeply offensive) New Yorker cover reprinted in a local newspaper. Recently, I'd read an article that researchers have shown that erroneous information is likely to pervade one's mind through repetition even when one has information proving that it is inaccurate. Therefore, they argued, Obama's web site created to dispel mis-information might do more harm than good, in that it would repeat the lies told by the G.O.P. Then I read an op-ed piece defining satire as comprised of some sort of inversion, citing "A Modest Proposal" as the quintessential example. Thus, a literal re-presentation or reproduction of something one opposes does nothing but reinforce and reproduce the alleged object of one's disapproval. (of course I am aware of the paradox here, since I am reprinting something of which I strongly disapprove!!!!!!)

Thus in the cartoon above, published in the New York Times Week In Review section last Sunday, we see an example of what satire actually is - what is funny is to reveal the absurdity of the attacks against Obama, by replacing him and his wife with Bush and Cheney, as a dysfunctional fundamentalist pair, cozily planning subversion in the White House hearth.

Monday, July 21, 2008

What do "Guernica" and Legs of Ham Have in Common? Both are Worshipped in Spain.

Dedicated to T, my fellow traveler in the best sense of the term.

I am back and suffering from culture shock after three weeks of the requisite cliches: sunshine, art and delicious food in Spain. The shopping was good but thanks to the decline of the American Empire, the Euro's rise made most things out of reach. I did manage to come back with a couple of new pairs of shoes, many books and a few assorted tchotchkes. 

Back in the day, my fellow Spaniards did not know from Marketing. Now the newly expanded Prado and Reina Sofia rival the private Thyssen Museum in their tchotchke offerings (Mata Mua shmatta? Check. Kandinsky tie? Check. Nolde eraser? Check That last one is just bizarre, you want to erase things and thus obliterate the reproduction of a picture you presumably like? Paradoxical.) 

[Note: In the interest of doing my share to rid the world of the visual pollution involving the picture in question below, I leave this area blank]

Some of my favorites are Guernica-related. Surely Picasso would pretend to roll over in his grave, while gleefully observing that his fame is such that tacky reproductions of his iconic work, with whatever remains of its "progressive" allure, proliferate like a bad case of toxic mold. One may choose between Guernica coasters, which create an unintended possible party game - create a puzzle! find the guest with the contiguous piece! Another good one is the Post-It Note. On the cover of the batch is the banal painting (banal from its inception, if you ask me it's one of the most kitsch paintings of the 20th century) and, I assumed, the inventor meant for one to be in charge of the picture's frenzied reproducibility by choosing a venue to deface or decorate (depending on your view) with the cliche-filled allegory. In fact, in another surely unintended act of brilliance, the object's creator has demonstrated literally the fact that the painting is an empty signifier. The cover features the work, but the pages within are merely blank regulation yellow Post-Its!!! Goya's Fusilamientos are treated to equally irreverent reproductions, though I was looking for a mug, which they haven't thought of - yet.

I will miss the evening weather report, with its charmingly old-school vagueness. On the upper sections of the penninsula we'll see gradual rising of temperatures. On the East, we have a chance of rain. Etc. And the best were the child-like magnetic suns of my childhood - now hi-tech so they are computer-generated - cheerfully indicating the weather in broad swaths of the nation. Oddly, though they are incredibly vague about the weather on land, below a ticker rolls past with the sea predictions, with odd names for specific areas and numbers I don't understand as the newscaster intones "Marejada, fuerte marejada" over and over. Sadly, the dapper gentleman above was just forced into early retirement. He was my favorite. In the USA we are used to minute-by-minute predictions of everything from air temperature to humidity to pollen counts to UV exposure range. An entire cable channel is devoted to the weather! Too much information! In Spain one can leave such details behind. The "forecast" is arbitrary, anyway. So you either always bring an umbrella and a cardigan, or, duck into a bar and order a glass of wine. 

I will miss the food, I ate enough paella, varieties of shrimp and langostinos, vats full of ali-oli, squids galore, delicious white!! bread, amazingly flavorful tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet onions, buttery lettuce, divine tuna, tortillas filled with potatoes and onions, and exquisite ham. Sadly, I couldn't think of a way to bring an entire pata de jamon with me but presumably somebody has, because they sell them in the airport for around 400 USD. Spain is known for its Cult to Ham. In each home you will find in a place of honor, lording over the kitchen, a huge leg of cured ham, with the hoof (I should have warned my Jewish readers to STOP HERE), lovingly displayed in a holder the better to prop it up and show it off, often draped with an embroidered cloth of some type, like a sleeping baby. People just invite you in and hack at it (the latter carving is an art) with a special knife to serve you. One of my relatives kept his in the living room, propped up one of the arms of the (plastic-encased) sofa. But let's not go there.

I am always delighted to see the growing racial and ethnic diversity in Spain. Although this is still a very racist country, and there is a huge backlash against Africans (North and sub-Saharan) and especially against Roma people. Notwithstanding, small progress may be seen for example in the production of a Benneton-like array of baby dolls. I am clearly joking but could not resist posting this hilarious and creepy photo from the Barcelona airport shop.

Nationalism continues to rear its ugly head. Although I admit I was celebrating with the best of them when Spain won the Eurocup. I have been asking myself for a long time, as I wrote earlier, about the nationalist pride evoked by the teams. The Barcelona Futbol Club for example, has quite a few foreigners, but the team is still viewed as the embodiment of the region's distinct, Catalan, identity. In fact, some said that they were rooting for Germany since they are "not Spanish." In any case, I loved seeing the very campy F.C. Barcelona retro-styled refrigerator in a Barcelona shop window. 

Lest we forget that Spain is now in Europe and a big part of globalized culture (if the waves of immigrants literally washing up on its shores were not enough, that is) I was in Barcelona having a mid-morning merienda (how those people eat at least 5 times a day and not look like Star Jones pre-operations is a mystery to me) of a cortado and ensaimada when I noticed that I am drinking espresso out of the Illy limited edition Venice Biennial 2007 cup! 

Feel with the mind, think with the senses! OLE!