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    December 31, 2006

    End of Gregorian Year 2006

    If I were Queen Elizabeth and had studied Latin, I would say annus horribillis. I am sure seven out of ten Americans and the whole wide world would agree with me. Check this out.

    As if the situation here at home weren't awful enough, the traffickers in Rio de Janeiro, where I was raised, have gone bezerk. Six buses burned, and they do not ask passengers to get off, in general. People I know are terrified, the cops are terrified. My hometown used to be merry, one more city that never slept. Shoot, I mean, don't, people are locking themselves in their apartments.

    I can't believe garrulous Rio will look like Los Angeles: empty, souless streets. Add to this quid pro quo the incompetence of the evangelical administration, and what avenue does a citizen have to comfort him/her ? Lula, put the soldiers and the federal police in Rio.

    So why have a system in which the local government is no different than the poo-poo of Barbie's doll? In the end, the federal government comes to the rescue for anything and gets dissed in the end. Poor Lula, and poor Workers' Party.

    My friends, comrades, independents and fellow Democrats:

    Imagine if we had to depend on the federal administration for everything? Can you imagine that? We would be up the creek without a paddle, a boat, and the creek would be home to piranhas. [pee-RAN-nyahs] Our only hope would be global warming to dry up the creek.

    Better days will come. A better year. Let the first Tuesday in November 2008 give us some hope of a government of the people, for the people, and by the people.

    December 28, 2006

    Tropicalismo Now!

    Last week I read about the new darling in the TV humor business, SNL's Andy Samberg. The kid produced the three most popular digital shorts for SNL, the kid is personable, his voice is warm. I hadn't watched the week's SNL; we tape it to watch it at some more convenient time.

    As NBC decided there is no censorship if the shorts are shown on YouTube, I watched the talked about "Christmas in a Box." Natalie Portman's rap is still bleeped, though. Today "Christmas in a Box" had over seven million views.

    What does this have to do with Tropicalismo? Tropicalismo is akin to sex among angels; one may talk about it, nobody has seen it or really knows. The cultural movement Tropicália can be explained perhaps as throwing all different elements of other genres into a blender and giving the final product a taste of its own, "weird" as a friend of mine like to say about "Os Mutantes."

    Blame it on YouTube, blame it on the GOP's lack of incentive for creativity, blame it on Bill and Al, who take the blame for everything and anything. The fact is that our humor, our music, our "art" and film has been quite hungry for sources of the past to produce "new" humor, art and film. It's the anthropophagic nature we have acquired without the excretion of something unusual. Tropicalismo is anthropophagic: mambo with rock with tango and samba. Check out the ballad of a mad man; click, please.

    Is there a difference between Tropicalismo and this revisiting of the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, any era, really?

    You bet. While in Tropicália different genres were devoured and spit out as something original, check out the three brilliant videos Samberg produced:

    • Two white guys have the munchies after fooling around with the Chronic, a quite potent variation of marijuana. Novelty? White guys rapping about marijuana in a double entendre about the film "Chronicles of Narnia." Yes, the short is pretty cool. Umm, the artistic transposition is pretty linear.

    • A white actress is interviewed. She raps quite violently using vulgarity and profanity. Cupcake Samberg is her sidekick wearing a Vikiing outfit. Although a stellar student at Harvard, she says she did all kinds of stuff and breaks a chair on the interviewer.
    Novelty? The novelty is Natalie Portman can rap and shout profanity and vulgarity. She portrays a straight line to Eminem.

    • Christmas in a Box, by far the biggest hit for Samberg. Interestingly enough, this most viewed SNL video, even if a parody of male duets popular in the 90s, the video features some elements of novelty for TV, such as ... the xmas present in the box. It features elements that embarass many Americans unused to sex being so blatantly offered on TV. I could see this for myself at the family xmas party I went to.

    Christmas in a Box is the least linear transposition of art, the closest to the camp elements sometimes present in Tropicalismo. Maybe for its being such a catchall it hit me where I live.

    And it hit millions of YouTube viewers.

    My proposition is that TV humor, art and film, music, literature all leave behind being one type of "movement" or "genre." Frankly, I am fed up with the revisiting, the parody. Sometimes I am sure the public doesn't know whether what they are watching is a joke or for real; if the song is right post-Nirvana or pre-Nirvana. Let's adhere to Tropicalismo, a mix, a mélange, New Orleans rebuilt, a huge Mardi Gras. I don't want faux comic relief. As John Lennon said in a song, "All I want is the truth."

    And then, later, Gerald Ford won't be the only president not elected. We will have Billary 2008. Why not? Tropicalismo now, Tropicalismo forever!


    By Tyba

    December 25, 2006

    The Hardest Working Man Retires

    It's been a few hours since I learned James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, Soulbrother Number One, the Hardest Working Man in America passed away early in the morning this Christmas Day, at 73 years of age.

    It was quite a shock to me. Just yesterday, chatting with the African -Americans in the family, I was singing one of James Brown's hits, announcing he would be playing at B B King's joint in NYC. Actually, when I read about the show, I considered blowing some United miles to go see him.

    My husband had a computer scientist professor who considered James Brown to be a genius. The French like him, so I guess so... It took me a while to see behind the joking, the drugs, the make-up, the hairdo.

    I hate to concede I am not always right. The analysis in the New York Times is brilliant. Indeed, James Brown was a genius. James Brown influenced everybody: hip-hop, rock, Michael Jackson's dancing, attitude towards race, with "I'm Black and I'm Proud" -- Check out the NY Times here.

    I have an uncle who always says all that is needed for someone to die is for that someone to be alive. James Brown had in him the lust for life, the love for music, for performing, for creating. In this era of different types of media eternalizing moments on earth, I don't think I can speak of James Brown in the past. There are his perfomances on video and his legacy spread from "funk" to "rock." I guess the material wrapping got tired. The soul, literally, the soul lives on.

    The hardest working man in America will let others do his work for him. We love you, James Brown.

    James Brown on Ed Sullivan's Show, 1966

    With Bobby Byrd at the Olympia ( Paris, France )

    Our brothers and sisters in Harlem won't forget the writer of the song "I'm Black and I'm Proud."

    December 20, 2006

    Bush and the Blue Bus

    Here in the Socialist Republic of Santa Monica we do have a pretty good bus transportation system, as long as you don't want to cross from the less privileged part of town to the very privileged part of Santa Monica. If you are in the gardener/maid category of primary ocupation you are doing fine riding the bus to the posh Pacific Palisades. There are many buses in the early morning into the PacPal and in the afternoon out of PacPal. Otherwise, forget it. Why people dare live on hills made of clay and dirt beats me. I know I live far enough form the beach in case of a Santa Monica tsunami. Maybe despite our secular pose, we do have enough temples and churches and even places of worship for others to protect SM from the wrath of superior beings, Hollywood stars excluded.

    I am bluer than usual sure I am in good company. I saw B12 Partners had the scoop on Bush's Christian wish to throw some more grief on more famillies and drag more kids into Iraq. I was too drained to go to the blog and read. I waited for the morning after news in the Los Angeles Times. It was kind of fun to be a hippie in Rio, away from the angst here. I forgive my boomer friends who misconstrued the situation in 2002. After all, they were trained at school to hide under the school tables in drills to prepare Americans in case the Russians would attack us.

    All of this time since the elections thrown in a platter to Bush, all of this time has been depressing. Today I bring a note of holiday cheer, it's a little animation film, made in Brazil, I hope it makes it big.

    It's the discovery of the identity of Santa Claus, courtesy of bluebus, a great little Brazilian blog.

    Its name is Oh! Oh! Oh!

    And if you still are thinking of shopping for Xmas, or you like musicals, check this out, from this major polluting company :P

    December 19, 2006

    Person of the Year, Ha!

    I can't wait for my TIME magazine subscription to expire so I switch back to the lesser of two evils, Newsweek. What's this "Person of the Year" phoney baloney anyway, guys? We, the people, are Person of Every Day. Weren't it for us, who would you tell your stories to? TIME or Newsweek, I depend on someone else to tell me what's worth reading. I am a decider, I am not really into reading, and I like pictures; you know a picture is worth a thousand words, that is a lot of reading right there.

    I have somewhat memorized "Yiddish with George and Laura" -- a dangerous book for use as Xmas gift. The problem is that I have abolished Xmas gifts and cards. You can find the flash presentation of thid dangerous book on the Net. Google can help you.

    Many asked me why TIME chose us as "Person of the Year." The answer to me is simple. There was nobody else palatable. I did read these first pages of TIME every week. There was no consensus and nobody they could easlily name. The Pope What's-His-Name? The president of Iran, of Venezuela, of Bolivia, Billary or Obama? No way, Joseph.

    So, they came up with this reasonably well concocted story. We deserve it. We transform, we walk on water.

    Sorry, TIME magazine. I ain't buying it. I want my fifteen minutes of fame back for when I need my fifteen minutes of fame. Have a nice year. Give me my money back. Go back to the drawing board.

    Anybody for Duck Soup?

    December 12, 2006

    Can the Dream Come True?

    Finally, the opportunity to see Dr. Martiin Luther King, Jr. delivering "I Have a Dream" on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. on August, 28, 1968 has come true. I had bought the LP. With it and a copy of the speech I taught figures of speech to my fourth-grade students. Now I play the LP every MLK day, loud and clear.

    There is a huge set of worries on the political front these days. There are two years to go, please go and go soon. Then there are the Democrats themselves. They need t try very hard to act like the party the people expect them to be: fair, just, for the people, for our constitution, for health care, for jobs... There is no mystery about what our people want.

    The problem is what the Democrats want. Do they want to smothe rin bacon, pork, oinc, oinc and lose the elections or for once in our era act dignified?

    Then there is the Supreme Court. The pending decisions regarding race and school boaards, Seattle and Louisville. TIME magazine had a short article about this. It is true quotas and racial percentages aren't the ideal solution. What is the solution for a country in which people have grown up used to categorizing others according to color of skin or ethnicity or religion and today, 42 years after the Civil Rights Act high school children don't know it's against the law to use such slurs?

    A parent said to me kids talk that way. Then they have to learn not to. My father didn't know any better. I know better, my son knows better. The USA is multi-racial. And the USA is multilingual. These are fact that will change after many generations of mixing and mixing. You don't like the truth, you can't handle the truth? Go to ... mmmm.... Greenland?

    Martin Luther King, Jr. Like many of our heroes, he was assassinated. These are the words.

    December 10, 2006

    Former Chilean Dictator Dies at 91

    Just yesterday I read "A hero dies young, a coward dies of old age." I remember when my group of friends in college and I were returning from camping over the Brazilian Independence Day Holiday, September 7, 1973. The presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, had been bombed, the elected president was dead, the new "president" was Augusto Pinochet.

    I didn't know much about politics in those days, not yet. Some covert operation cut the food supplies into Santiago, the same way in 1964 Rio de Janeiro one day there was no rice, then no beans, no sugar... Neither Salvador Allende, the elected president of Chile, nor Jango Goulart, Brazil's vice-president, was a comunist. They were as comunist as the fans of Man United would be anarchist for wearing red and black.

    Students and artists were gathered in the soccer stadium of Santiago. Tortured and maimed. Little by little democracy was out of the picture in practically all of South America. It was weird to see the USA left-wingers forget South America when criticizing the USA and its foreign policy.

    What do we know here? Someone likes to tell me God protects children and fools. I guess that makes us doubly blessed.

    Have a nice Sunday.

    December 09, 2006

    An American Sundae

    An older lady enter an icecream parlor. Her grey long skirt suit is pressed prim and proper. She goes to a table at this icecream parlor, "Taste It Like It Is." A brown attendant comes to her. With his cap on, it is hard to tell if his hair is straight or frizzy. She's a little frazzled; those people don't make part of her world.

    "Do you speak English, young man?"

    "Yes, I do, I am from Chicago, actually." Anyone can tell he's used to people like the older lady.

    "Well, this is what I want. I want a sundae with oats on top, then bran, then a banana, sliced. Under all this you can conceal some icecream, vanilla, please, and chocolate syrup, can you not?" The lady nearly whispers.

    "Yes, ma'am."

    And that is our posture. We pretend we are sacrificing, we are dieting, we are making efforts to swallow bitter pills. We emasculate/castrate our libido, get happy with violence, in our arts, in our entertainment. Or we are happy with money. Or we pretend we believe all that stuff pushed down our throats at temples and churches and then we push down our throats all possible food till we nap and wake up for more of the cycle of the fake healthy sundae.

    Five years ago two girls died at a party in Westwood. I read the whole thing all over again. One was killed, the other overdosed on antidepressants, apparently. At a moment at the party where all this happened, the girls were egged on to keep on fighting.

    Would the presence of parents have changed all this?

    This is America.

    Then four years ago two boys were killed in gang-affiliated shootings, it seems.

    Then last year honors student Eddy López was murdered. A mistake.

    Tom Hayden has marched.

    The kids marched for Eddy López.

    When SAMOHI was smeared with grafitti against African-descent kids, there was a huge protest. Eileen Strauss was fired and Hugo Pedrozo was hired, sorry I forgot to mention both are Drs.

    Pedrozo's beginning was not auspicious. The guy promises to conduct an investigation on a hazing story, lets two weeks go by, says he won't do anything about it and does the minimum. The kids, as usual, don't know why anything happened. Who were the adults in the cars? They were busy savoring the vanilla icecream with chocolate syrup.

    Don't you see? We are as hypocritical as Nathaniel Hawthorne's ancestors. To this day I may be thankful they taught the males how to read, and they had grueling work ethics. Alas! How arrogant, how smug, how fond of violence they were...

    Damned is the human race.


    Download violentfemmes.m3u
    Violent Femmes download from official site. Violent Femmes play in San Francisco at the Filmore on December 28.

    December 06, 2006

    A Race to Common Sense

    Today I decided to open the electronic version of the knitting circle at the high school, aka SAMO. It was early in the morning, the issue in question had already six responses. "It must be something really serious," you may wonder. You bet. A divorced parent went to pick up her two teens at a house that has a pool and a jacuzzi. The other parent had dropped the kids there. Neither really knew this horrible family, who were inside while the kids were enjoying themselves in their full underwear!


    One parent in the electronic SAMO offered paralegal services. Another wanted to know more, hey, I want to know more and maybe have some fun over there, too.

    These are 13-15 year-old kids. More damage is done making them feel bad about their bodies than letting them have fun in a jacuzzi. We are no longer in Kansas, Doh-Doh, we are in Santa Monica, the north side. If you are a prude, go check out who your kid is hanging out with. Maybe send the friends' parents a questionnaire, mark true or false:

    1) We are living in hell under Bush because of Adam and Eve

    2) Weed is the Devil's Seed and Tequilla is his drink

    3) Touching is always bad

    4) Action movies are always good when the USA wins

    5) Movies about reality are inappropriate for teens. Example: Mystic River

    A perfect test always has a tricky question, such as number 1. I don't give a hoot about drugs and alcohol, but I know kids in Brazil do go to college despite the social habit of alcohol and weed. In addition, kids in Brazil and in France are sexually active. I would rather my kid wait a while. I would hate to see him heartbroken and deeply involved while in high school. Touching is always good to the heart and the psyche, perverts excluded. People in the USA should touch more, not less.

    The same way I mentioned pornographic wealth sometime back, there is pornographic violence. I don't know how so many adults think it's okay to go screaming, "Chop his head off, his head! Shoot his guts..." Maybe my hippie peacenick past gets irked by all of these violent action movies or horror movies or games from which our society is getting its kicks.

    Once my husband and I had a discussion on R-films with a prim and proper lady. This was at the time everybody and his cousin was judging Michael Jackson. We rented Mystic River and explained the film to our son. We saw it and discussed what happened. The Ph.D. wanna be was horrified. It was okay for the kid to watch Alien because it is fiction -- get that? -- but Mystic River?

    So, it's okay for the Net Knitting Circle never to have said a word about how my son was attacked, or offered solidarity to us, or the parents of the six never to have sent their apologies, even if anonymously. This was only violence, after all, six ganging on a kid at one in the morning, pelting him with eggs, mayo and maple syrup, and leaving him alone, after a short car chase. Who could have been driving these two cars?

    My son is as American as une tarte aux pommes e bananas. We don't know to this day why he was singled out in tenth grade, no longer a freshman. He is the melting pot: from his father's side: France, Belgium, Martinique. From my side: Russia, Greece, Brazil and Portugal. He was born in Santa Monica, I was born in New York City. My dad in Penn.

    When I went to live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was becoming an industrial giant. I got used to hearing the "Yankee go home" chant along with "Gringa." Never in my life would I have expected my son to be a victim of ethnic prejudice in his own country. "Don't be so French," some told him.

    In 2006, in this hip and kewl town by the ocean, in California, in a public school, it is very hard to fathom how narrow-minded people can be passing judgment on others because of issues John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson had hoped to erase with the Civil Rights Act: color, national origin, race, sex, all these differences that make us more interesting, differences which, after we die, go into ashes and dust.

    I hope the issues pending a decision of the Supremes are seen in a more democratic light, and I mean going along with the cornerstone 1954 decision Brown v. Board of Education (Topeka), which found inherent lack of equality in education in the USA then because the kids had to choose a school according to their race.

    Many believe the people of color have received enough in this country. Even Brazilians, paradoxically brown in their majority, feel quotas for the poor African-descent folks to be unfair. There will never be reparation enough for those who were forced to board slave ships centuries ago, those whose ancestors hanged from trees, those who ate chitlins and pig tail and ears, the left overs of the left overs.

    There will never be reparation for those who were separated from their families at auctions of human flesh. There will never be reparation for the urban people of color whose values have been corrupted by drugs or crime when they should have been in school learning.

    As for all kids, they shouldn't be learning this bull of being ashamed of their bodies, but pride in achivement. Pride in being part of one race: the human race, which puts me to shame, at times. To better days, a good link from NPR on the present cases the Supremes are looking at: Seattle and Louisville.

    And the Supremes are really busy; next is the legality of the NSA activities.

    December 04, 2006

    How Can We Explain Hate Crime?

    I must confess there are a few reasons I stay away from blogging in English. The news doesn't help. Two weeks ago I was traumatized when reading some news in the Los Angeles Times. Three young women had been attacked for no reason, beaten up, the assailants used skateboards to better hit the women.

    It was Halloween evening, these ladies were walking towards a house they could already see. The neighborhood was a nice one, white as were the young ladies, ages 19 to 21. As they started walking towards the house they passed by a few male African-American youths, who cat-called the ladies and called them names. A few steps towards the house, they were savagedly attacked by nine girls, ages 12 to 17. Hadn't it been for the kindness of an African-American motorist, these three ladies would've been dead, likely so.

    The girls who attacked the young women are good students, one was about to be admitted to USC. Frankly, I was shocked beyond belief. The reason the news broke late in the process was the hate crime element. Once a hate crime is pinned to the perps, all is more complicated. This crime was considered a hate crime, second in quite a while. The other one still haunts us, here in Greater Los Angeles. It's the attack on white truck driver Reginald Dennis on the day all hell broke loose when the cops who beat Rodney King were found not guilty.

    However crazy the reasoning, there is some logic to the attack Reginald Dennis suffered. Why would teen girls attack young women when these girls had a future awaiting them?

    Kurt Cobain wrote, "In the darkness we're less dangerous." It seems darkness, anonymity, group behavior, all of these trigger animalesque gestures in humans. I would have never thought I would live to see "Clockwork Orange" live. I do and it's 45 minutes away from my neighborhood.