Sunday, May 31, 2009

Prince Harry in New York

I confess that I have a problem. Despite my academic training, which allows me to discern the difference between an actual situation and propaganda, and to analyze images as representation; and my political views - diametrically opposed to monarchy - I'm swooning over Prince Harry. Objectionable in many ways, idle, seemingly not too bright (at least he admits to doing poorly in school), racist - he dressed as a Nazi for a costume party and has made derogatory remarks about Pakistanis, and this is just what we know about publicly, he has been groomed for the media by doing junkets like this one in NY. Some believe his wish to fight in Afghanistan was real and redeems him.

All I know is that he often graces the slick large format pages of HOLA on African vacations with his shapely blond now ex girlfriend Chelsea, one of several young aristocrats - such as the glamorous but underfed Monegasque - Italian children of faded party girl Caroline of Monaco (who is now Princess of Hannover, long story, her husband is an incontinent drunken German prince) whose lives seem to consist of constant vacations. Believed to be the son of the late Lady Di's gorgeous, red-headed riding instructor (you cannot make this up) James Hewitt, the older this boy gets the more this theory seems to be proven by his evident ginger good looks. Because Prince Charles and William are not aging well. A trip to Ground Zero, the Harlem Children's Zone, and later a benefit Polo Match for some charity he and a South African aristocrat founded comprised the official visit. Had I known about the location of the polo match, I probably would have gone there. Revolting, but true, my readers.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

"For too long white men have been kept down by powerful Puerto Rican women...."

I have been trying, fruitlessly, to avoid listening to or reading the virulently racist comments being made by fringe and not so fringe GOP members about Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. I know that I should be inserting one of those "Pronounced..." but my bilingualism makes me unable to distinguish the pronunciation of the languages to do such a thing.

Yet again I am struck by President Obama's strategic operation - he threw his base a bone - Sotomayor - on the same day that he knew that the California Supreme Court ruling was being announced. To take our eye off the ball - his lack of support for gay marriage - he nominated a Nuyorican/Puerto Rican woman from the housing projects, an image of the American Dream. As part of this, he rolled out identity-based discourse that he had for the most part avoided recently. It could be argued that he has always been on the edge with this type of language, employing it for certain audiences only, or at moments when he is in hot water about some issue. Meanwhile, the increase in funding for Afghanistan, and the matter of the censorship of the new batch of photos demonstrating war crimes in Irak, were also matters that were best left undiscussed. The GOP served this purpose well, by walking right into the trap the White House set for them - by being so flagrantly hostile to so-called Hispanics, they will surely continue to alienate part of their former base.

I am also as always amused and of course dismayed by the rare instances when Puerto Rico gets discussed in the press. The last times I recall this happening were:

When former Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila was indited by the FBI for corruption.

When the NY Times wrote a travel section article about primitive natives going deep into the Island in search of pigs roasted on a spit.

When the US Mint issued a quarter featuring the Island, which I hope puts to rest the queries I get about what is the Puerto Rican currency.

When Miss Puerto Rico, representing us in Miss Universe, claimed to be sabotaged by pepper spray in her bikini and gown.

As I have said before, it never ceases to amaze me that the US is the only colonial power that is able to completely ignore the fact that it has colonies and to keep its citizens ignorant of this fact as well. Because in Spain 100 years later they are still mourning the loss of Cuba and less so Puerto Rico (we always get overlooked somehow), and the English are still very keen on India.

I wish he was my son

Friday, May 29, 2009

Spain is different

It's Friday night, which means I'm watching my favorite TV show from Spain, Donde estas, corazon? which lasts literally FIVE hours and is comprised of a panel - or firing squad if you are facing them - of gossip columnists/paparazzi/society commentators and a moderator, the delicious, closeted, youthful Jaime Cantizano, interviewing a stream of people in the news.

Tonight's show brings to mind the tourism slogan coined by bloody dictator Francisco Franco's Minister of Tourism Manuel Fraga, "Spain is different." He is now a nonagenarian drooling Fascist inexplicably believed to be a convinced democrat and still serving in the local government of Galicia, his home region under the aegis of the allegedly constitutional right-wing party he founded. 

Normally the first person is more famous, prestigious, and/or the subject of the most notorious scandal of the week's news cycle. As the evening wears on, we see what in Spain are called frikis, from the English freak. By the end of the night it can get pretty dirty as well, with centerfolds and the like appearing to talk about their sex lives. And by that time of the night I have been asleep for hours. 

The show has a series of familiar tropes and performative moments -- all in predictably poor taste -- that reassuringly recur week after week. A video recap is shown framing the guest, who is asked softball questions by Cantizano, then the panelists gradually ask more aggressive questions, putting the interviewee more and more on the defensive. There is a lot of screaming and interrupting going on, but nothing out of the ordinary if you have sat a dinner table with family members of Hispanic descent. But I digress. They have a number of dysfunctional multi-generational family disputes that recur on the show, but the accusations get grislier as the years go by. 

Tonight we have a new family saga starring Junior, the Filipino former ye ye singing sensation now grieving widow of national sweetheart Rocio Durcal. Known as La Señora, she was admired for her ideal family life and was a former child star who gained fame as a ranchera singer drawing thousands throughout Latin America. Junior is being sued by his children over the Estate and also by a disgruntled domestic worker, with allegations of alcohol abuse, sexual harassment, and financial misdeeds. 

Rocio Durcal singing one of my favorite songs, ever, Gata bajo la lluvia

Later in the show they are promising an interview with the disowned daughter of the late El Fary, a Lilliputian Cuban heel-wearing mutton-chop side-burned former taxi driver who pursued his dream of being a rumba singer until he became a singing sensation with his songs about "moros" (Moors - a pejorative term for North Africans commonly-used in Spain) or his signature hit "Torito Bravo," an ode to a bull used to impregnate cows, complete with ribald lyrics that are a none-too-subtle paean to Spanish machismo. El Fary's eldest daughter was literally ejected from her father's funeral two years ago. She is now back to promote her cover and centerfold in Interviu Spain's version of Playboy magazine. Still seeking revenge even beyond the grave, the disowned daughter is proudly asserting that her machista father would be humiliated and outraged by her nudity. She's claiming that it's mere coincidence that the lurid photos appear on the second anniversary of her father's demise. 

El Fary singing Torito Bravo

Another feature is the "telefono de aludidos" the number posted on the screen to entice people not in the room being named in the conversation to call in and respond. Often the gossip journalists are getting texts or calls from people whose lives are being talked about. This makes it quite exciting, as you never know who is going to call in. Better than a live telenovela, you see breakups, marriage proposals, grave accusations of spousal abuse, financial misdeeds, paternity scandals, record and book launches, tearful reconciliations, you name the drama, they have it - live! 

Tonight Toñi, the hot blooded Cougar half of the world-renowned Gypsy duo, Azucar Moreno, bitch slapped her cancer-stricken sister for breaking up the group, took a phone call from her young ex-boyfriend who she dumped for being too jealous, and sang a new song a capella that graphically and melodramatically described her passion for another ex lover. OLE! During her interview, the young boy toy called in and they engaged in a violent and dramatic fight. Azucar Moreno made it big when they won the fabulous Eurovision singing competition, and they plied every possible stereotype of the Spanish Gypsy, the passionate hot-blooded Andalusian woman, and the tourist image of Spain as a hedonistic paradise of sun, sex, food, drink, all with maniacally happy natives.

Azucar Moreno in the 1990s when they were still speaking to each other, doing a cover of the classic salsa sensual song Devorame otra vez

After the first bombshell guest, other journalists join the panel to discuss the weeks' news in a round table format. This is great because it gives you a gloss on the weekly plethora of gossip and society magazines. These are led by the old school, large format, deluxe HOLA which features the royals, Hollywood actors, and prestigious personalities shown as they'd like to be seen. HOLA is the mouthpiece of the Monarchy and is known for buying lurid photos in order to prevent them from being published, thereby earning undying loyalty from the high and mighty. They pay large sums for exclusive interviews or events such as weddings, baptisms, and first communions. All published photos are photoshopped though they need to finesse their technique since often it's not consistent. Sometimes I think some catty person purposely screws it up to snidely reveal a hint of the real person behind the rose colored lens of HOLA. 

I have a whole section in this blog just related to the kinds of personalities that appear in HOLA, my absolutely favorite reading material. Of course, the other publications are far freer with printing unflattering stories and photos. In fact, my sister, mother, friends, and I enjoy comparing the week's stories in HOLA with how they are covered in other magazines. You see the unflattering photos, the un-retouched images, and the darker sides of the same news. The journalists on the panel work for the whole range of such publications, which only adds to the virulence of the attacks on each others' points of view. Some of them are the mouthpieces of famous people, like Chelo Garcia Cortes, the butch groupie/confidante of the late Rocio Jurado, of the hapless only son of the Baroness Thyssen, and of sinister Copla singer Isabel Pantoja. This gives her a lot of cache, because she gets the exclusives from her posse for HOLA. 

Isabel Pantoja on the cover of HOLA. In this exclusiva, she announces her breakup with a former mayor of an andalusian city jailed for a corruption scandal. 

Tonight's episode has truly been the trifecta of the pop culture that makes the Spain is different slogan come to life- Azucar Moreno, Junior and Rocio Durcal, and El Fary. 

Zapatista Tchochkes

This is a post from a fantastic blog about material culture, museums, art, and anthropology called Material World. Since it has to do with my interest in Collecting Shlock, I add it here.

Zapatista Tchochkes
Miriam Basilio, Assistant Prof. of Art History and Museum Studies, NYU

I recently visited San Cristobal de las Casas, in Chiapas, Mexico to take part in an academic workshop, and, although I had read and heard about the traffic in Zapatista souvenirs, knick-knacks, or tchotchkes there, was overwhelmed by their variety and number. The complex political motives that led to the Zapatista movement are not my subject here rather I am interested in the ways in which popular representations of this movement for self-determination circulate as objects for tourist consumption. What is our role as consumers? What does it mean to buy these objects? Just prior to my visit, the New York Times’ Frugal Traveler column published a piece promoting San Cristobal de las Casas as an ideal travel destination. Of course, this feeds this place into a cycle whereby those of us with relative wealth travel seeking this particular bargain, which then makes the place less inexpensive, more crowded, and less seemingly remote, and the new cheap and undiscovered place is…elsewhere.

One particular feature of this city, which the reporter underscored, is its proximity to a network of autonomous communities governed by the Zapatista movement. (For the account of a visit to one such community see: That even a few years ago, the US State Department warned US citizens against going there lends the region a seductive hint of danger for some travelers. Other Americans, sympathetic to the Zapatista cause, travel there to see for themselves the revolutionary changes being made on behalf of the Mexican people. But most of us are not experts on the political situation there, and our role is more ambiguous. Are we seeking the thrill of the supposedly off the beaten track? Romanticizing revolution? Empathetically yet somewhat voyeuristically witnessing others’ struggles, only to safely return to our lives of privilege? How do we negotiate these at times intersecting positions?

As Americans in particular, and at a time when we are being urged to consume as our patriotic duty, we shop. Is it out of a desire to support the revolution in Chiapas, to help locals in one of the poorest areas in Mexico to make a living, regardless of where the proceeds end up, or, buying souvenirs motivated by the basic tourist drive to return home and say “Look, I was there.” Despite the New York Times reporter’s breathless account of his trip to view a Zapatista community (easily accessible and cheap public transport) and his detailed description of the group’s self-presentation and scripted tour of their community, I was shocked by the “Zapatista tourism” infrastructure that existed in San Cristobal. Large bus tours were advertised, and private taxis may be hired as well.

Seemingly hard to access, yet openly advertised, the prospect of visiting such communities was thus paradoxically tantalizingly possible, and mysteriously remote. Goods produced to publicly assert sympathy for the Zapatistas, however, were openly sold everywhere. Ubiquitous at the local market beside Santo Domingo church were T-shirts in myriad designs: black star logos, the EZLN initials, women with bandanas tied across their faces, hair worn in braids, with slogans calling for women’s dignity, others featured male freedom fighters, faces covered in ski masks. Male and female dolls made of yarn wore indigenous garb from the region, with the ski masks, and carried tiny cardboard rifles. Handmade revolutionary Barbies and Kens, they also are sold as Lilliputian key chains. Cotton handkerchiefs had slogans praising Subcomandante Marcos and his portrait all hand embroidered. Small change purses and pouches were similarly embellished. I purchased a tote bag large enough to carry my MacBook, featuring a female freedom fighter and the slogan: Las mujeres con la dignidad rebelde (Women with rebel dignity) for myself.

There were a few stores in town that advertised themselves as cooperatives that sold the goods for the benefit of Zapatista communities, so I tried to buy most of my gifts there. However, I also felt torn and bought a few things from local women at the market. The coop stores had the greatest variety of products, posters, postcards with photos of Zapatista communities, often featuring the beautiful murals painted on many of their walls and buildings, and locally produced textiles or coffee. I regret not asking the people selling these things at both places where they were made, did they also keep them in their homes, who else was buying them, what did they think about them, when did they start to sell these objects, and more. But someone should.

Posted by Haidy L Geismar on April 17, 2009 9:23 PM
| Permalink | Posted to Notes from the Field | Objects and visual analyses

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Here is the latest entry in my obsession with divine apparitions in unlikely places - hospital windows, dropped ceiling tiles, tortillas, and junk food.

This week's IN TOUCH magazine includes a photo of yet another divine junk food apparition. This second instance of a Cheesus perhaps demonstrates that the Lord, in His infinite Wisdom, has decided to appear to US citizens where they are most likely to find Him, in their trashy dietary staples. The next place He should appear, if he is as wise as we believe him to be, is either during one of those fleece blankets with sleeves infomercials, as a Facebook virus, or a new iPhone application. (although no app can top the one that looks like a lighter flame, perfect for waving during rock concerts, safety first!)

Praise the Lord of Junk Food!

Real Housewives of New Jersey Italianate MacMansions

Check out this article and the related videos of Caroline and Danielle's MacMansions in Jersey. They feature neo "European" Italianate-American-Baroque decoration mixed with 1990s styling. These massive homes -10,000 sq. foot range - include Baccarat chandeliers with cranes to lower them from the ceilings as high as Mt. Everest, massive Lladro figurines, wall-to-wall patterned carpets, "tropical" print wall-paper, 5,000K 10 ft. long carved wood sofas upholstered in paisley, incontinent Chihuahuas named Fendi, walk-in closets the size of 900K studio apartments in the West Village filled with beadazzled jeans, low-cut blouses, and lots of bling.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pageantry Frankensteins and more?

Miss Jessica Simpson is hosting a new reality TV show called "The Price of Beauty." And she should know. 

But I hope that she visits the the international sites where the evil geniuses that groom Latin American Miss Universe pageant competitors do their work.

Pageants are not about Nature they are about Beauty ("No son de Naturaleza, son de Belleza") says the most famous pageantry coach/groomer/stylist, responsible for many finalists and winners of various pageants and known as the "beauty Zar" and "guru of Latin American beauty."

Latest news on dictators' cults of personalities

My loyal reader Narciso Espejo sent me this bulletin straight from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. A restaurant in Libya has been named after porcine demagogue dictator Hugo Chavez. A sure recipe for lethal indigestion.

For those of you who understand Spanish, here is a sampling of what I imagine might be on the menu:
Salchicha "Vergatario"
Cous Cous estilo "Cadena"* te hara repetir, repetir, y repetir, recomendado acompañado con Pepto Bismol
Falafel "Bolivariano" (bolas tamaño enorme)
Ensalada "Revolucion" - solo lechuga
Cafe "estilo Republica Bolivariana" - sin leche
Cerveza "Cadena"* te hara repetir, repetir, y repetir

miércoles, 27 de mayo del 2009. 5:24:35 PM


La Embajadora Zoed Karam D. asistió a la inauguración

Un ciudadano libanés decidió dar el nombre de “Hugo Chávez” a un restaurant de comida rápida libanesa inaugurado recientemente en Dahie, área al sur de la ciudad de Beirut que fue una de las más castigadas por los ataques israelíes que se produjeron durante la guerra del verano de 2006, ocasionando grandes pérdidas humanas y materiales.

La decisión de dar el nombre de “Hugo Chávez” al restaurant constituye una nueva muestra de la enorme popularidad de la cual goza en el Líbano nuestro Primer Mandatario Nacional, expresada en esta ocasión mediante el sincero homenaje de un ciudadano común al Presidente Hugo Chávez Frías por las firmes posiciones de apoyo al Líbano y Palestina adoptadas ante los cruentos ataques israelíes contra el Líbano, en julio-agosto de 2006, y contra la población palestina indefensa en la franja de Gaza, en enero de 2009, los cuales dejaron miles de víctimas civiles, entre ellas gran cantidad de mujeres, niños y ancianos.

Anexo se pueden observar algunas fotografías del emotivo acto de inauguración del restaurant “Hugo Chávez”, al cual asistió la Embajadora de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela en el Líbano, Zoed Karam D., otros funcionarios de la Misión Diplomática y numerosos vecinos de Dahie.

Para su apertura el establecimiento se encontraba decorado con pequeñas banderas de Venezuela y afiches que mostraban la foto del Presidente Chávez y consignas de nuestro Jefe de Estado relativas a la lucha por la soberanía de los pueblos oprimidos del mundo contra las pretensiones de las potencias imperialistas. El uniforme de los empleados del restaurante incluye franelas y boínas rojas, a la usanza de la vestimenta que lleva frecuentemente nuestro Primer Mandatario Nacional

Nota de prensa de la Embajada de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela en Líbano.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rocio Jurado Statue Made of Chocolate

It does not get any better than this! Spanish chanteuse, Rocio Jurado, la Mas Grande, may she rest in peace, is reproduced as a life-size chocolate statue for the second time. The Rocio Jurado Cult of Personality rivals those of Mao or Hugo Chavez. Let's hope that this chocolate monument becomes an annual commemorative event. Someday I will write an article (perhaps in one of those campy academic journals interested in pop culture, where people like me can analyze such popular phenomena experienced by everyday people and suck the life out of them using theoretical jargon). Fun! I love my job. Today's cantaora is tomorrow's historical figure, so don't be too quick to judge, future tenure committee. Let this Model Minority keep it "real." (even though we know there is no such thing as "the real.")

Monday, May 25, 2009

"Angels in Chains"

While we're on the subject of TV episodes that shaped my youthful subjectivity, here is my favorite Charlie's Angels episode. And a moment of silence for the beautiful, brave, ailing Farrah Fawcett.

Best Love Boat Episode. Ever.

Guest stars in this episode included Halston and Gloria Vanderbilt. A fantastic fashion show starring Elke Sommer was the climax.

Although this once is heavy competition: the one where dowdy secretary April Lopez lets her hair down as the spectacular singer/dancer re-interpreting The Love Boat Theme as a sexy Latin Disco number. OLE!

Both of these shows had a deep impact on my youthfully susceptible subjectivity.

More on the Confused Miss Panama Contestant

The Miss Panama Contestant who has earned fame due to her confused reply to the question
"Who is Confucius?," "The founder of confusion." has spread like wildfire on the internet and television news media.

I posted about her here myself. Now I find out that she has her own Wikipedia entry and I noticed her name:
Giosue Cozzarelli

Again, Latin American beauty pageant contestants do not disappoint. From the grooming, to the evening gowns, to the national costumes, they excel. But it is in their names that they truly go above and beyond creativity and sheer phonetic poetry. GIOSUE. Is her mother called GIovanna Susana? Did someone in the family go to the USA and get the nickname Sue? We will never know.

But I have recently discussed with other latino friends our practice of composite naming. For example, all of the children's names are varied blends of the mother and father's names. Gilberto and Yasmin. Gilamin, Yasibelle, Yamil, Bertamin, etc. Fabulous.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Brazilian models

I am delighted to know that authorities in Brazil are going after the fashion industry for their thinly-veiled racism. Many have written about the travesty of the Italian VOGUE all black issue that included few ads featuring women of color, while others have commented to the ridiculous statistics including European-descent, Caucasian-looking Brazilians like Gisele or Spaniards like Eugenia Silva as "women of color" to add to meagre numbers. And this is of course further complicated by the fact that we can't guess what someone's ethnicity in many cases, so this isn't so simple. But the situation as it is now doesn't seem too subtle- most of the models conform to widely-held ideas about beauty modeled on features understood to be "white." I cannot count the number of conversations I have had with friends of varied backgrounds where we laugh about the mis-identifications others make when trying to guess where we are from. I get many nationalities spanning the Americas, Asia, the Middle East, and Mediterranean Europe! But sadly no one has ever asked me if I am a model.

Deal in Brazil fashion race row
By Gary Duffy,
BBC News, Sao Paulo
Brazilian prosecutors and organisers of Sao Paulo Fashion Week have reached a deal over claims that too few black and mixed-race models are taking part.

Under its terms, fashion brands must ensure that 10% of the models are of African or Indigenous descent.

Last year, an investigation concluded eight of 344 the models taking part in the event were black - just 2.3%.

If the organisers fail to meet the new target they could face the prospect of being fined more than $120,000

Sao Paulo Fashion Week, being held in June, attracts worldwide attention.

But when the Brazilian newspaper, Folha de Sao Paulo, drew attention to the fact that few black models were used, the legal authority responsible for looking after the public interest opened an investigation.

Easier to work abroad

Brazil has more people of African descent than anywhere outside Africa itself.

Almost half of the population is said to be black or of mixed race.

But black Brazilian models say it has often been easier to get work abroad than in their own country.

It is a sensitive time for the issue of racial quotas in Brazil.

While there has been little visible sign of tension over race, people of African heritage make up the poorest section of society.

An attempt to create a national law to establish quotas to address this inequality has once again been delayed in the Brazilian Congress, because of a failure to reach a consensus.

Some legislators are arguing that the best way to tackle inequality would be to use social rather than racial criteria in setting targets.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/05/22 11:36:20 GMT


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Medical Miracle

The story of the woman who had "twins"  by two men has been all over the news. Like the chupacabra, such a marvelous occurrence is only seen in one-in-a-million cases. Apparently, this happens when a lady has a booty call with two men in a short span of time, and is impregnated almost simultaneously. The result: two babies born at once, allegedly twins but fathered by two men. They say they became concerned when they saw how different the babies looked. But could not this be the case when the twins are fraternal? In any event, her fiancee is a real gentleman, he has forgiven her and will raise the two ADORABLE babies as his own. 

I just love how a. they go public, and b. how she says at the end that she won't tell the other man about his baby but does she not realize that he will surely see it on local, national, cable television, and the internet? She claims going public is her way to warn others not to be unfaithful, but since this outcome happens once in a million, it seems to me she is being disingenous and is just cashing in on her 15 minutes of fame. In any case, this medical miracle and case of true love distracts us from the economic free-fall, Obama's refusal to prosecute the Bush administration for war crimes and release the newest torture photographs. 

As usual, the press is the opiate of the people. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

Nuestra Belleza Latina 2009

Nuestra Belleza Latina is a new pageant for me. Apparently, it is an Univision creation, a reality TV show leading to a pageant, and this year a young Cuban-American woman won. Her name is Greidys Gil, and here she gets a very special shout out from her mom directly from Cuba. Her mom's name is Kenya. You cannot make this stuff up. Fabulous. Frankly, just for naming the daughter Greidys, the woman deserves a free plane ticket to Miami to see the pageant, but I guess they could not flout the travel restrictions?

(Now I am hesitating - does it go under my "Foucault and You" reality TV category, or the "Real News/Miss Universe." Ay, Dios Mio! What a dilemma.)

Ay, bendito! Here is some more bochinche:
Veteran Pageantry master Osmel Sousa was one of the Judges. I am sure my abuela would be delighted to have him give me a make over - lipo, skin lightening, lasik surgery, bleach blond hair (which, being pelo malo, would promptly fall off), blue contacts.....the sky is the limit for ethnic Pageantry cleansing, gente!

Here too the names are a heady bouquet of Dada poetry: According to Wikipedia (I am now officially a hypocrite as I tell all students that "this is not a reliable nor appropriate academic reference"), the Miss representing Puerto Rico was eliminated for visiting her novio. Hello? She needed the quality time over a steaming bowl of mofongo. But her personal tragedy gave us the joy of being represented by a woman called CHASTELYN. Wepa!

Here is the lovely Chastelyn:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Virgin Mary at the Window

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am fascinated by religious apparitions - whether they manifest as Chesus the Cheeto in the shape of the Crucified Christ, or the Virgin in the tortilla - here we have the latest version.

Friday, May 15, 2009

El Vergatario

In the annals of Dictator Tchotchkes, nothing can equal Hugo Chavez's VERGATARIO the first cell phone produced wholly in the People's Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. As the article below indicates, Chavez's name for the product plays with a slang term for a penis. In the video below, the porcine demagogue shows off his spokesmodel talents, making none-too-subtle puns on size and width as he shows off the tacky little device. He has managed to perform an amazing feat, which is unseating the Glow-in-the-dark plastic busts of Mao as best/worst dictator produced chucheria.

Chavez launches $15 mobile phone with a name to make his mother blush
Venezuelan president predicts the Vergatario will be a bestseller worldwide
Rory Carroll in Caracas, Monday 11 May 2009 17.15 BST
Article history

It is perhaps the world's cheapest mobile phone. It is the latest offering from Hugo Chavez's socialist revolution. And its name is derived from a slang word for penis. Behold the Vergatorio.

Venezuela's president launched the handset on his TV show with a Mother's Day call to his mum and predicted it would conquer all rivals. "This telephone will be the biggest seller not only in Venezuela but the world," he said. "Whoever doesn't have a Vergatario is nothing," he joked.

Priced just $15 (nearly £10), the phone has a camera, WAP internet access, FM radio and MP3 and MP4 players for music and videos. And it has that name.

Why the president chose it remains unclear, but he enunciates each syllable with a grin. Some laugh, others are affronted.

Verga is slang for penis and vergatario is a newly minted word which signifies excellent but retains connotations from its root.

The word verga, and variations of it, are associated with Venezuela's second city, Maracaibo. Residents are famous for swearing and using Spanish verbal constructions uncommon in the rest of Venezuela.

"It's gross. I can't believe they named it something so vulgar," said Leonor Diaz, 52, a cleaner. Others however consider the name playful and harmless.

The newspaper El Universal issued readers a challenge. "Say Vergatario in front of a mirror. Pronounce this obscenity syllable by syllable, slowly, and note the expression on your face."

Chavez, a decade in power, is a shrewd communicator who often uses salty expressions to mark himself out as a man of the people. He called George Bush a "pendejo", a term derived from pubic hair which can be translated as asshole or jerk.

A government subsidy which cut the retail price to a quarter of the manufacturing cost is likely to make the Vergatario an immediate hit. There is a waiting list for the first 10,000 units expected to be released this week.

Production this year has been set at 600,000, rising to 2m in 2011, when the government hopes to export the model to the Caribbean and then further afield.

Parts are imported from China and assembled in a factory in western Venezuela run by a new company, Vetelca, 85% owned by the Venezuelan state and 15% by the Chinese company ZTE.

The government, facing a financial crunch and labour unrest over tumbling oil revenues, said the investment would boost the country's "technological independence".

Chavez turned a segment of his weekly TV show into a promotion. "Has your Vergatorio arrived?" he asked his mother. "This is the first call I've made with my Vergatorio."

Professors Gone Wild

When I named my series of posts on Reality TV "Foucault and You" I never imagined that eventually the worlds would collide, and I would read the following post on Inside Higher Education, discussing that "Wife Swap" is seeking parents who are also philosophers for their show!!!

Ok the last part is making my mind explode, maybe it's because I am still waiting for my espresso to brew, but are they talking about couples where both partners are philosophers? That sounds so frightening. (The concept of two philosophers married to each other is nearly as frightening as two art historians. LoL!)

Despite my Model Minority Tenure-Track Deadline Pressure Reality TV Rationing Policy, I might have to add "Wife Swap" to my list if indeed Professors are added to their repertoire! (right now, I am prioritizing the Real Housewives New Jersey, and my favorite Real Estate Porn, House Hunters International)

Why a Reality TV Show Is Seeking Professors
A few weeks back, several bloggers commented on reports that "Wife Swap," an ABC reality show in which the wives of two families are switched for a week, was seeking philosophers. Kieran Healy wondered which of two ways the show might go: "airy-fairy life of the mind vs huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ " or a contrast of philosophical beliefs, such as "Modal Realists vs Phenomenologists ('I thought you said all the beer was in the effing fridge'); Rawlsians vs Libertarians; or John Emerson goes to live with John Hawthorne." ABC was quiet at the time the rumors appeared, but the network now confirms that it is looking for philosophers -- and will pay $20,000 to those selected. Danielle Gervais, casting producer for the show, said in an interview said that "we thought it would be interesting to find parents who are philosophical" and who bring their philosophical outlook into their role as parents. How might that be evident? Gervais said philosopher parents might teach young children that "we don't believe in things like the tooth fairy" and would encourage children to "really question things" and to "ponder deep things." Gervais said she wasn't sure if the network would swap the wives in two philosophy couples or swap the wife of a philosophy duo with the wife of a non-philosophy duo. But the network wants to have couples where both spouses are philosophers and have similar approaches to raising their children. Several faculty couples have already applied, but interviewing is still going on and more candidates are welcome.

From The Chronicle of Higher Education

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Amen to that!

'Dummy Ruiz,' 'Dear Pineapple' OK as bid to ban unusual names fails in D.R.

Gracias a Dios! Finally the Law overcame unreason and the Dada Poetry that is Caribbean Naming Practices has prevailed. Little Mazda Altagracia will get to keep her name. But....which is of the two is the more unusual? The ubiquitous brand name or the religious moniker?

See my post for the original article on these fabulous names from the DR

Friday, May 8th 2009, 2:50 PM
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — A judicial panel says Dominicans are free to name their kids "Dummy Ruiz," ''Dear Pineapple" and other unusual monikers if they choose.
The Central Electoral Commission has rejected a proposal to ban any names that could be confusing or give no indication of gender, such as Querida Piña (Dear Pineapple) and Tonton Ruiz (Dummy Ruiz).
Judge Jose Angel Aquinas had called for a crackdown on unusual names after the country's civil registry showed some families were naming their offspring after cartoon characters and car brands. One family named their girl "Mazda Altagracia."
But the commission said Thursday it is not appropriate for the government to dictate what parents name their children.

Read more:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Moody Chihuahua

I am not quite sure what makes the poor dog "bipolar" exactly. I guess it's the mental illness du jour, now that anxiety is well, so.....early 2002. It's all about mood stabilizers now. Perhaps its more of the pathologization of Mexicans, first, swine flu, now, feral chihuahuas? Watch your back for the insidious diseases carried by the neighbors from South of the Border! Maybe it's PETA, giving a stern warning against inter-species love? If only Cesar Millan, "The Dog Whisperer" were here to utter his magical incantation "Chhhh" with the accompanying side tap with the foot, as well as his charismatic Jim Jones "Drink my Kool-Aid" gaze.

Here is the video to my probably favorite Dog Whisperer Episode of all time: Chihuahuas from Hell, featuring "Diablo."

nada puede sufrir que no sabe solucionar...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I'm confused too

My loyal reader Narciso Espejo shared this gem with me, when a beauty pageant contestant representing Panama had to describe who Confucius was. According to him, he has to do with "confusion," and he came from "a long time ago," from "China....Japan." 

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sunday, May 3, 2009

When I see Bethenny, I come from a place of "yes"

I am not ashamed to say that I am hooked like a crack whore on The Real Housewives. I have gone as far as taking cabs home from teaching so as not to miss an episode.

Although all of them, O.C., Atlanta, and New York fall under my addiction category, there is nothing quite like New York, because that is a city I know well and this of course adds to my enjoyment. By now, everyone knows that within the faux real reality TV category of edited series this show is particularly staged and artificial. In all of the locations the alleged wealth of the participants has been largely revealed to be a fraud. Let's say that these women are more aspiring to, to be kind. None of them appear to be particularly bright or self-aware.

Until that is, I saw Bethenny. I have to be frank (unintended ironic pun on her last name, Frankel). This is where I fell for the manipulation completely, relinquishing most of my detached and sarcastic amusement, to hear myself saying "I could totally see myself hanging out with her." Although I do find her alarmingly thin, and cannot quite figure out either why she is a serial reality TV personality given how intelligent she appears to be, or why she would be "friends" (frenemies) with this particular demographic slice of New York City womanhood (the series could be viewed as an update of the camp 1930s classic "The Women"), I still find her largely appealing in most ways.

First is her wit, her quick-witted one-liners and manic barrage of analysis, mimicry, and tough-girl retorts leave me in tears of laughter. A particularly fabulous one-liner that did not make it into the compilation video posted here (which, be warned, if you don't watch the show is largely useless in conveying why I like the character played by this woman, which in some way I believe to be relatively sincere) took place when during a planning meeting for a charity, dysfunctional ex-model, diva, cougar batterer of younger boyfriends, and apparently on some memory-impairing meds, Kelly Bensimon refused to lend her name to the event. Bethenny exclaimed: We are different, Kelly. You come from a place of "no" and I come from a place of "yes." I kid you not, for some reason that resonated with me, more than just ironically. But the really fabulous things about Bethenny besides her viper's toungue, that is, are:

she owns her own business
she refuses to make her life revolve around a man
she mocks the other women's pretense (however, if so, why does she hang out with them?)
despite her obvious insecurity manages to defend herself
although this could be in the interests of manipulating viewers (like me) I empathize with her fleeting mentions of the impact of her dysfunctional family life
she apologizes when she misjudges someone
her comic timing is awesome

Best of all, she lets us know that she is in on the joke, acting as an on and off camera meta-commentator or performer.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A little tasteless humor

Virgin on the Grill

Holy pancakes! Virgin Mary seen on griddle
Item has been placed in a shrine in a storage room since discovery
The Associated Press
updated 8:45 a.m. ET, Fri., May 1, 2009
CALEXICO, Calif. - The hottest thing on the griddle at the Las Palmas restaurant these days isn't the food — it's the image of
Our Lady of Guadalupe that a cook says she saw on the griddle.

Restaurant manager Brenda Martinez says more than 100 people have flocked to the small town of Calexico on the California-Mexico border to gaze at the likeness of the Virgin Mary since it was discovered as the griddle was being cleaned.

Among the awe-struck was a group of masked Mexican wrestlers who arrived Thursday for an exhibition at a nearby swap meet.

One, known as Mr. Tempest, says: "This is amazing. It's a true miracle."

Since the discovery, the griddle has been taken out of service and placed in a shrine in a storage room.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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