lunes, diciembre 18, 2006

NYC's Village Idiot

He. He He.

Check this out. Those two remind me of my cats: all the fighting, swatting, hissing and scratching. And for what?

Toussaint insists that "every New Yorker should be furious with the MTA", for it was Kalikow who insisted that the contract business should go into arbitration, therefore wasting $2 mill in the past year. And you know who all paid for that. Rog, sweetie-darling, we are furious with the MTA. Always have been, always will be. We are also furious with the TWU, you in particular.

The object of today's game is to figure out which of the two, Kalikow or Toussaint, qualifies for the above-mentioned title.

Identify yourself

With regard to the shootings by police officers (is it just me or have there been, like, three of them in as many weeks?) and this past weekend's stabbing of an off-duty officer at a diner in Williamsburg, news articles always say "it is unclear whether they identified themselves as police officers". Who the fuck cares if they identified themselves or not? They still shot 50 bullets at unarmed men, one of whom was getting married that day. Are people trying to say that if they did identify themselves as police, the whole case would be scrapped? Will the shootings be rendered less tragic if the shooters identified themselves? Of course not. Sounds like the splitting of hairs to me, buying some time with nonsense in the hopes that no one gets to the heart of the matter - white cops went into a black neighborhood and on "suspicion", shot into a car of unarmed men, just the same way white cops went into Soundview "looking for a suspect" and shot Amadou Diallo 41 times for pulling out his wallet.

On the 7 train this morning, I heard a guy telling his friend something along the lines of "that cop [in Williamsburg] deserved to be stabbed" in return for all the recent shootings by police. Somebody had to take the fall for all the crap his group has been dishing out lately, seems to be what he meant. A lot of people looked up from their papers, books, and/or iPods. Nobody uttered one word in disagreement, and a few people even nodded their heads in agreement. I suspect the reaction would have been much different had that been said on, say, the 6 train at Grand Central.

viernes, diciembre 15, 2006

Ha! I'm so not alone on the tourist-contempt thing!

Hey, here's an article from the New York Times on tourist season. It was in times select, so I can't link it, but I've pasted it here. Enjoy and happy holidays!

Unfortunately, the T-shirt that came closest to what we wanted was hopelessly obscene. We dropped in on a dozen souvenir shops, and not one carried a shirt that we had seen some years ago. It summed up our sentiments in this season when Midtown streets are so crowded that you can barely move.

“Welcome to New York,” it said. “Now go home.”

Really, is it asking too much to have our city back?

Oh, sure, this is not a new lament. And yes, out-of-towners pump economic juice into a city that produces precious little these days other than Goldman Sachs bankers and traders with year-end bonuses that amount to double the gross domestic product of Tajikistan. We know how much New York needs tourists.

NYC & Company, the city’s tourism marketer, estimates that the number of visitors this year will exceed 44 million, including more than 7 million foreigners. That would be a 20-percent increase from 2002, the jittery first post-9/11 year.

Visitors, bless their open wallets, are spending more than ever, thanks perhaps to the incredible shrinking dollar vis-à-vis the euro and British pound. They shelled out $22.8 billion last year, or 62 percent more than in 2002, NYC & Company says.

Thank you, visitors.

But now can’t you go home, some of you anyway?

It shouldn’t take a reasonably fit fellow 10 minutes to walk from 50th Street to 45th Street in the theater district. But the crowds were so impenetrably thick on a recent Saturday at matinee time that the best one could do was shuffle along in frustration.

Is it fair to be forced, in one’s own city, to walk in the gutter because the crush on the sidewalk is too great? Must New Yorkers repeatedly endure the annoyance of not getting to an appointment on time because the tourists in front of them insist on walking — no, make that ambling — five abreast?

The mayor delivered a fine speech this week about the challenges awaiting a city whose population over the next 25 years is expected to grow by about a million, to more than nine million overall. Among other things, he said, mass transit must expand so that “congestion doesn’t bring our economy grinding to a halt.”

He was talking about the year 2030. Never mind that. Those of us who live and work here are grinding to a halt on the streets right now. And the city’s marketers are not content with 44 million visitors. They want to beef up the number to 50 million within a few years.
Gutter, here we come.

In fairness, most visitors seem like perfectly nice people, even if they sometimes do odd things. This goes beyond their non-New York tendency to stand dutifully at the corner waiting for the light to change.

They also — a startlingly large number of them — stand in long lines to get into Broadway shows for which they already have assigned seats. This phenomenon is conspicuous at tourist-dependent shows like “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Tarzan” and “Les Misérables.” Tickets in hand, the out-of-towners start forming tidy lines 45 minutes or more before the curtain goes up, as if they were at a movie theater with its policy of first come first served.

It is a baffling phenomenon.

“We saw others doing it, and we just joined them,” a middle-aged woman said as she waited with her teenage daughter outside the Broadhurst Theater to see “Les Miz.” The daughter added, “It’s part of the experience, I guess.”

I GUESS. No New Yorker would think so, though. Philip S. Birsh, the president and publisher of Playbill, chalked it up to these visitors’ being “a Disney World crew.” And “if you’re a Disney World person,” he said, “you’re in some way trained to stand on line.”

At least there is no harm in being sheepishly sheeplike. The same cannot be said of another type of visitor: young Europeans who come here for the sole purpose of spraying billowing clouds of graffiti on New York subway cars. “Guten-taggers,” The Daily News cleverly labeled them this week.

How serious is the problem? It’s not clear. New York City Transit says that defiled trains never make it out of the yards, so they are not an eyesore for the riding public.

Still, have we reached the point where we are outsourcing our graffiti?

Too bad we couldn’t find that T-shirt. It would have been nice to tell the Guten-taggers: Willkommen in New York. Jetzt verschwinden Sie wieder nach Hause.

In other words, welcome to New York — now go home. For that matter, you graffiti vandals can forget about the Willkommen.

jueves, diciembre 14, 2006

We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us

Bloomberg made a speech recently challenging New Yorkers to envision what kind of city we want for the future. His office has set up a website where NYers can read about ideas and plans and give suggestions. You know that this Mariposa has already weighed in, especially after my hour commute from Woodside to Midtown on the 7, a journey which usually takes 1/2 an hour, this morning. I like the way the suggestion "box", if y'all will, was phrased: what would you change and what would you like to see stay the same? My change was: foster a culture of responsibility, because no plan for reform can be carried out when people/politicians who are supposed to work for the City keep "passing the buck". Sure, that happens at the UN all the time, that's why the place is a hotbed for trouble, scandal and failure as well as success, and a great case-study is my old office. For all my whining about it, I think I forgot to mention that the larger reason why it is such a fucked up place is because most of those people have been allowed to make a career out of doing nothing, and that goes from the bottom all the way to the top, including the Director and his "senior" staff. In any case, what I wanted to see stay the same was the "neighborhood" sort of vibe that most NYers give off, and their/our ability to laugh in the face of ever-rising levels of bullshit (and tourists). As for me, now that the only crap I have to put up with is on the trains and the sidewalks, I am a much happier person, and although I had to let 4-5 crowded 7 trains go by before I could squeeze onto one, I LAUGHED. Even when the station attendant guy made the announcement "please avoid over-crowding" to a platform chock full of people waiting, just like me, to smoosh onto a train, I laughed it off. What a relief it is, too, to know that my general outlook and disposition was not completely altered by my old office. I finally feel like myself again.

When I did manage to get on a train, I started talking to this lady who worked for the City in the Department of Health (or whatever the official name is). She was an older lady, from the days when people still took responsibility for themselves and their work, did their best and knew that if they didn't, they would get kicked to the curb. I mentioned to her that I hoped that Spitzer would do a better job of taking care of the City, that maybe he would get rid of Kalikow and the rest of Pataki's appointees who do nothing constructive, and that maybe he would give us more money. See, in my broke-ass, credit card debt world, I very naively think that throwing money at a problem will make it go away, and it does help. But I'm quickly learning that some problems require many more elements and resources to fix. The lady asked me, "Do you really think that a wad of cash will fix things? Please! People need to take more responsibility for their actions, is what needs to happen. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. People have got to make more noise. Write letters and complain loudly." Ah, a woman after my own heart. If there's one thing I know how to do is belt out my complaints to anyone who'll listen. The lady went on to mention a college professor whose class was full of students who, let's just say, were not exactly prepared to do the work. "You all are illiterate!" the professor said to his students. At first, the students rebelled, but as they realized that he only spoke the truth, they started trying harder and by the end of the year, when it came time for term papers, everyone wrote a great one. This is similar to what Frank McCourt talks about in his most recent book "Teacher Man". The hardest part of being a teacher is getting the kids to listen, to get past their social status and other bullshit and into the learning mindset. Sometimes this requires a bit of tough love. So I propose that NYers give more tough love to the City, its various corporizations and its government. What a lot of NYers don't know is that when they spend money at Bergdorf's or K-Mart, they inadvertently tell the City that everything is fine by pumping more money into the economy. This includes me, and that would be why I do most of my non-urgent (clothes and shoes, etc) shopping when I go see my parents in DC/Virginia. The fact that Virginia has a 5% sales tax helps too, and I know most of that revenue is going to the state and not the tourists. Another problem that the city has is a gross mis-management of revenue. Why is that the more taxes we pay, the worse infrastructure gets? And while we're at it, why are people like Alan Hevesi allowed to continue in their posts? (there's an article in this week's NY magazine, entitled "the Penitent", with the subtitle "Alan Hevesi is Really Sorry", wherein he insists that he just "overlooked" paying the State back for the personal car service. No, Alan, what you did was steal and hope no one would notice. Another thing you should be sorry for is that tacky decor lurking in your house).

From what I read in New York magazine and NYC's tabloidy newspapers, on my own blog and on others, people complain a lot on paper, but that doesn't go anywhere and doesn't fix anything. The trick is turning the anger into action. Case in point: a couple of years ago, I got really tired of the fact that for every Manhattan-bound 7 train during the morning rush, about 3,4 or even 5 empty Flushing-bound trains would go by. I complained to the MTA everyday for a week (I know I wasn't the only one, either), and for the next two months, the MTA kept the Manhattan-bound trains coming and it was smooth sailing. But then it stopped. So the answer is to keep at it until they get so tired of hearing our mouths that they do what we want. Remember "The Shawshank Redemption"? Andy kept writing letters requesting old books for the prison library, and after a few years of one letter a week, he got his books along with a note asking him to stop writing letters. He said, "Now I'll write two letters a week." Perseverance, y'all. Learn it, live it, love it.

After talking to the health-department lady, I got to thinking: the UN is most definitely fighting an uphill battle on the "fostering a culture of responsibility" goal. But some of the UN's obstacles to achieving that goal come from the inside. There's only a handful of us, at all levels, who actually try to put out good work and take responsibility for our failures as well as our successes. The other obstacles are the Member states, most of whom are like the US and like to bark orders but are not very forthcoming when the time comes for concensus on solving a problem (Bolton was not alone on that one, and his critics should take a look at themselves in the mirror). That's part of what happened in Rwanda and most recently, in the Sudan, and a large part of the reason the UN is so critiqued. To the UN's detractors, I say, you try getting 192 countries to come to a agreement. The UN is just a forum for these folks and whatever happens in the Security Council, in the General Assembly and in their countless debates is totally on them. UN staff can only work with what they give us. Unfortunately, most governments have the same problem arriving at a concensus, externally as well as internally. Everyone has different interests and they all act accordingly. But even bigger than that is the problem of coming up with new solutions and procedures that benefit everyone and that we can all agree on. But there's an obstacle to that too: the voters, and those who don't bother voting but mouth off about government whenever they get the chance, like my own mami (and I'm still trying to school her on that).

So let's take a lesson from the civil rights and anti-war movements of the '50's and '60's. Boycott, protest, whatever. By any means necessary. Keep at it. It may take years to see what you want actually happen, but persevere anyway, if only in the hopes of really pissing off those who do you wrong.

lunes, diciembre 11, 2006

Pinochet dies

Augusto Pinochet died over the weekend. I don't know if that is a good or bad thing, but I will leave that up to God. I know that He can punish people far better than any on earth ever could. My joy is that there is one less devil here on earth.

martes, diciembre 05, 2006

Assassins need love too

When I first started this blog in 2004, Chile's former despot, Augusto Pinochet was finally being brought to justice for his crimes against humanity, specifically, Operation: Condor, a US backed "plan" to oust Salvador Allende, Chile's socialist leader in 1973, in which Pinochet wiped out his opposition, which included thousands of leftist students and civilians as well. But the poor old man got "sick" and was sent home to his country, and there he recovers, with a mix of supporters and opponents camping out waving flags and being patriotic and others who are denouncing him, remembering those he killed and "disappeared". Note, however, his supporters are mainly members of the upper-class, accompanied by people too young to remember Pinochet's murderous campaign, which means they were told that Pinochet is some hero and he should be honored as such. That to me cuts out half his support, for if those kids got a clue, Pinochet would be left with a bunch of upper-crusty abuelas.

I do understand the people who insist Pinochet rescued Chile from Allende, who, they say, had put the country in total disarray. But I have a lot of trouble believing that the only way the dictator could have put the country back in line was to torture and asassinate his opposition. Just look at Argentina: they had a "Dirty War" as well, and the economy is still crap and the government lives off people's pensions. I don't understand people who can look the other way and pledge undying support to someone who, directly or indirectly (for some, ahem, can kill indirectly), kills and tortures tens of thousands to exercise power that is really just gained by default.

Foaming at the mouth gets you nowhere

John Bolton, the mad dog Bush unleashed on the UN based on a technicality back in '05, resigned, effective at the end of the month. Bush reluctantly accepted his resignation, conceding that Bolton would never be confirmed by the new Senate (not that the old one confirmed him, either), and he and his party will die a slow death, ending, with all hope, in a resounding defeat in 2008. Like I said, when the going gets tough, Cons get to stepping. And be sure to check out the caption under that awful picture with the NYT article. That's good for a hearty laugh.

Bolty's Security Council colleagues have given him mixed reviews, praising him for his strong stance against North Korea but wishing he'd play better with others. Bossman Annan's chief of staff, who in a speech accused the US of using the UN by "stealth", triggering Bolty to demand a public apology, which he never got, by the by, has said "no comment", but the grin on his face as he said it was of course quite telling. There has been some rejoicing around these parts, some of it by me, and I think most people believe that if Bolton had come to the UN under different circumstances, things may have turned out differently. That is to say that many at the UN knew well that Bush was not at all interested in diplomacy, and for him to have sent us Bolton was just the straw that broke the camel's back. Consequently, the US has lost some power around here. Just look at what happened with the Security Council vote. Most countries who voted Venezuela and/or against Guatemala did it for many reasons, but among them was pissing off the Americans. Anyway, I think I will take a walk on down to the conference room floor and keep an ear out. Oh, I forgot to mention.....that Security Council seat belongs to Guatemala. If y'all hear about Panama in that seat, pay no mind. We just very graciously lent it to our hermanos centroamericanos.

Robert Gates, Bush's nomination for Rummy's replacement, said, at his confirmation hearing, that the US is not winning the war in Iraq. We all know this, but it is nice to hear when someone on the inside speaks the truth for a change, and at least the comment might stop Bush from running around in flight suits talking about "mission accomplished" (I can't possibly forget that one). The crap news is that he apparently does not intend to reduce troops over there, but he might pull a fast one once he is in the Pentagon. One never knows with politicians.

lunes, diciembre 04, 2006

“Aún hay más"

I know I am a little late on this one, as it came out in the New York Times last week.

I just wanted to remember Raul Velasco, host of the Mexican TV show, Siempre en Domingo, Latin America's answer to the Ed Sullivan Show. He died last sunday, 26 November, of complications from hepatitis and a liver transplant. The show was on the air from 1969-1998.

I watched the show religiously whenever I was in Guatemala, mostly because there were only 4 channels to choose from P. C. (that's Pre-Cable). Domingo's heyday (for me anyway) was back in the late seventies/early eighties when music was still about music, before silicona became a prerequisite for talent, and me and my cousin particularly loved Jose Luis "El Puma" Rodriguez and the lovely Luis Miguel. I miss the mariachis, huge 20 piece bands that would take the stage and throw down, all in their black suits, vaquero boots and huge, black sombreros (above are pictures of the mariachi band that played my treintañera party back in March. not the same, but you get the idea).

While we're in this headspace, I want to give special shout-outs to the telenovelas Quinceañera ( I still know the theme song by heart) and La Fiera, and of course, Chespirito/Chavo del Ocho/Chapulin Colorado, aka, That Spanish Bee Guy.

If you ask nicely, I can sing you some of the commercials from back in the day.

viernes, diciembre 01, 2006

So what exactly are they trying to say?

An article in today's NY Magazine Intelligencer about yesterday's hike in taxi fares includes various statistics on cabbies' take-home pay and lack of health insurance. I'm not sure if this is supposed to appeal to whatever sympathetic side New Yorkers have left within themselves. First of all, if the stat regarding cabbies' take-home pay is true, they make about $3500 a month now with this increase, which is still only a dream to most people, some of whom are day-care center workers, hospital workers, school teachers and those who care for the elderly. Am I supposed to feel so sorry for cabbies that I would want to hand them at least $3 more dollars a ride, not including the tip they loudly demand, shitty attitude or not? Here's another spot where the hard-ass bitch in me takes over and replies, hell no.

People who do much more important work that actually contributes positively to the community are paid much less than men and women who sit in cabs all day and drive all over the city, blaming riders for the fact that they have such horrible lots in life and for the fact that their asses hurt with the horrible attitudes they almost always display. I've lived in New York for 8 years (not incuding college) and I have met approximately three cabbies who did not piss and moan and bitch the whole ride. And then, when they are handed the tips that are commensurate with the uncomfortable ride they have given us, they have the nerve to protest, quite rudely and loudly, and demand a larger tip. Consequently, they get the door slammed in their faces, if they are dealing with me. But I'm sure a lot of people are with me on this one. In sum, there is absolutely no change in service. Most cabbies are still as rude as they were before the hike, they all still mysteriously go off duty at the same time, which just happens to be rush hour, and they will still kick you to the curb if you have the audacity to want to go somewhere they don't feel like going. So why must I pay more for this? It's just another case of someone trying to get more for nothing, much like the MTA and other corporizations, and I'm afraid there's nothing I can do about this problem except to stop taking cabs unless I am doing the airport thing. I think a lot of people will do the same as me.