Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Humpty Trumpty

And all the King's horses
And all the King's men....
I fear that after Humpty Trumpty,
America will never
Be great again.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Gaslighting, explained in a coffeeshop in the Red Light District

Professor Rockower gave a lesson the other day on the difference between gaslighting, bullshitting and spin.

I went into a coffeeshop this morning, and the British fellow behind the counter recognized me.  You were here the other day, and he recalled an incident where a kid fervently tried to argue with the guy behind the counter that he was old enough, even though his ID had him just short.

"But it says you are born in April," the man behind the counter replied.

"Yeah, I am 18," the kid was boldly insistent.

The fellow just furrowed his brow and said, "we are in March.  You are not 18."

Nice try.  I can remember attempting that trick to buy cigars at Rodman's Liquor when I was still 17 but the dates were close.

I laughed at the encounter and his attempts to hold fast with the deployment of alternative facts.

When the guy behind the counter recalled it, I explained that this was: gaslighting.

Gaslighting is the attempt to manipulate you into believing something that isn't really true.

The fellow next to me asked if this wasn't just "bullshiting."

I explained it as such: bullshitting is just that.  If the kid had cracked a smile and said, "yeah ya got me," that would be bullshitting.  But since he was insistent that the guy had his facts wrong, that was gaslighting.  Bullshitting plus manipulation equals gaslighting.

The difference seen in tone and inflection.

"We've seen a lot of gaslighting these days with Brexit-- with the buses declaring how much would go to the NHS, and with Trump," the guy at the counter said.

"Yes, that's why the word is far more commonplace these days," I replied.

Thanks for the enlightenment, he said.  I smiled, and said that it was "disenlightenment, really...."

The Brit behind the counter told me that he used to be in advertising.  Years spent selling people things they didn't really need.  Now, he works in a coffeeshop and sell people things they want.  "I have never been a more honest salesman," he said.

"Now, I sell people something that brings them pleasure in the red light district," he smiled and said.

I smiled and replied: "now you are employing 'spin.'"

You get a 'spin' here too in the Red Light District, he said, for the right price.  I laughed my way out onto the terrace.

Thursday, March 16, 2017


In an old-timey Dutch bar.  Cobwebs and dust cover the chandeliers and birdcages.  The place is lit by candle light, and smoky jazz croons. A cold glass of Brand pilsener casts the afterglow of the candle in a golden shadow.

Color affects emotion

Oh Van Gogh. I spent the morning with Van Gogh, and it was a delight.  I stared at his visage through an array of colors and moods.

Face to face with Van Gogh.

His self-portrait, him staring over his shoulder with no impressionist blur is haunting.  He is just looking over his shoulder, right at you.

Such utter brilliance.  Even his signature on letters were exquisite.

In one self-portrait, he is exploding in a confetti of color.  Others he is gaunt and drawn.

Or brown, in an elegant smoking-jacket--the brown pipe descending down his face. Or black in a black felt hat.  Or in suits and shades of blue.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a painting is double that.  A Van Gogh is wordless, but rather colored emotion.  Van Gogh understood that color affects emotion.  Goethe understood this too.  I don't have enough words to describe some of Van Gogh's portraits and self-portraits.

Just Van Gogh and Iron and Wine on repeat.  Upward.

The stirring textures of his work is without words.  The yellow of his sun flowers.  He only used three  shades of yellow to paint that masterpiece of yellow.  The King in Yellow.

Or the snowy white fields of orchids.  Fields of painted white snow flowers.

Ah, but my favorite amid all of it was not a work of Van Gogh.  Rather a Monet, "Tulip Fields near The Hague."

Hard to upstage Van Gogh in his own museum but I am quixotically biased.

Vincent Van Gogh, you are an eternal treasure.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The floating flower market

"You are a cupcake in a world full of bran muffins."

H/t Allie K.

I wandered my way through a floating flower market. This shop had canopies of hanging lavender, red roses, yellow daisies and tulips. Amsterdam is always a joy.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

albert heijn lunch

Dipping brown pistolet bread into sweet savory kurriekip, Amsterdam tempts you with curry tastes of the East Indies.   Creamy humus too, to give you chickpea dreams.  Both were two euros.  Some kiwi-apple juice to wash it down. Blueberry cream cheese for dessert.  Amsterdam offers the finest dine-in lunches.

mending broken windmills

With my red wine, the KLM stewardess in blue handed me a white napkin with two delft blue windmills on it.  Dank Je Wel.

An amazing peace and calm met me in Holland when I first spied her shores.  A huge smile broke across my face when I saw those giant windmills..

When I was in Algiers, on the way to the final concert venue, we passed a broken windmill with a broken arm.  I said how much that felt like me.

America is a broken windmill.  It is literally in the Twilight Zone.

So now I am mending broken windmills in Amsterdam.

Carry on my wayward son...

Carry on my wayward son

"A lost homeland is like the corpse of a near relative; bury it with respect and believe in eternal life." -Amin Ma'alouf, "Leo Africanus"

Today marks the first steps I take to starting a new chapter in exile and a new life in Morocco. Journey on.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Happy Purim

Happy Purim! Purim is like the Jewish mix of Halloween and St. Patrick's Day. To celebrate Purim, you are supposed to dress up in costume and drink so much that you can't tell the difference between evil ("Haman") and good ("Mordechai").

So in that vein, may you drink so much you can't tell the difference between Trump and Clinton.

What if Trump and Clinton switched gender roles?

A fascinating program of what happens if Trump and Clinton switch gender roles.

As the Pence email scandal comes out, it is good to finally admit that this was never about emails but sexism.

Smoked and Stacked

Mine eyes hath seen the glory, and my lips hath tasted the fury. Kudos to Peter Bayne for his incredibly stellar pastrami spot, Smoked & Stacked.

 It was really one of, if not the, best sandwich I have ever eaten. And I am not one for gastrodiplomacy hyperbole. On my first bite, the only words that escaped my chaw were: oh ma gaw...holy shit.

 Carnivorous friends of gastrodiplomacy in or passing through DC, don't miss this one: http://www.smokedandstacked.com/

Heil to the Redskins....

There is a pretty good case to be made that the Washington Redskins are "America's Team"

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Israel on my mind

A few things of note related to Israel:

First is this courageous video by Israeli comedian and TV host Asaf Harel imploring Israel to wake up to the situation it is enmeshed in, the reality of apartheid:

-More food-for-thought comes from this op-ed by Samuel Friedman on the Trump-Bibi trade-off:

"The trade-off that Trump and Netanyahu have almost literally offered American Jews is a blunt one: If you want lockstep support of Israel, then shut your mouth about anti-Semitism here.

Don’t complain when the official White House statement for International Holocaust Remembrance Day omits mention of the extermination of 6 million Jews. Don’t call attention to growing examples of anti-Semitism when they appear enabled, if not inspired, by Trump’s white nationalism. Don’t get upset when the president ridicules and humiliates a journalist from an Orthodox Jewish magazine who asks him an explicitly polite question about anti-Semitism. One can only imagine the wrath of the American Jewish right had Obama done any such thing.

For the vast majority of American Jews, though, an anguishing reality is now clear. To support Israel when it is cross-branded with Trump’s intolerance is to avert their eyes from a threat right here at home."

-Former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy has an excellent piece making the case on negotiating with Hamas.  Israelis say of the Palestinians that "they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity"; the two sides have been married in conflict long enough that it is equally so on the Israeli side. I am not too optimistic but one can hope that maybe Israel will listen--given the source making the case. If ever there was judgement I would trust on Israeli security, it is his.

-Finally, mazal tov to the Israel baseball team, which won a shocking upset in the World Baseball Classic. Ness gadol haya sham.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Postpone the Gorsuch Hearings

"Last spring, Senate Republicans claimed that Merrick Garland was a perfectly nice jurist, one who was irredeemably tainted by his connection to Barack Obama. As a result, Garland was allowed to sink below the radar of all constitutional norms and mandates. Likewise, Gorsuch is a perfectly nice jurist, one who is—perhaps equally unfairly—now tainted by his connection to the unfolding scandal around the Trump presidency. His nomination should not be allowed to sail above all constitutional norms and mandates. The same rule that held for Garland should be enforced for Gorsuch: Until the presidency is no longer under a cloud, there can be no hearings, and there can be no votes."
-Dalia Lithwick and Sonja West, "Postpone the Gorsuch Hearings"

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Everything is fucked, and it probably due to the internet

"The problem is when this level of distrust is turned on a people’s own political system, that political system will corrode itself.
Democracy relies on trust. Rule of law requires trust. If we lose our trust in our institutions, then those institutions will either crumble or turn cancerous.1
But the internet lines up incentives in such a way that it makes it profitable to breed distrust.
So, we’re fucked.
This isn’t a Trump or US thing either. This is happening everywhere. The Philippines, Turkey, Brazil, Russia, France, the UK. They’ve all had right-wing populist elections. They’re all becoming more fractious and uncompromising. The world itself is becoming more politically polarized. And people don’t trust most of the information they receive anymore, and as a result, they no longer trust many of the people in their own societies.
That’s because infinite information doesn’t enlighten people. It confuses them.
And when people become confused and distrustful, they resort back to their basic impulses, their instinctual drives to be tribalistic and self-absorbed: I take care of me and mine first. Fuck everyone else. If I can take care of myself, why can’t they?...
Civilization was built on people’s ability to suppress their baser instincts—their tendencies towards tribalism and narcissism, their penchant for slaughtering each other over superficial and imagined differences. It took millennia of education and advancement for us to learn how to not do this. Much of this education and advancement revolved around a respect for science, public debate, rational argument, putting multiple institutions in power to balance one another, and so on. We’ve barely even gotten it right the couple hundred years we’ve had it.
The problem is, as far as I can tell, the internet and its technologies don’t deliver us from tribalism. They don’t deliver us from our baser instincts. They do the opposite. They mainline tribalism into our eyeballs. And what we’re seeing is the beginning of that terrifying impact."
-Mark Manson, "Everything is Fucked, and I'm pretty sure it is the Internet's fault"

Reality revisited

Are we living in a simulated world? Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker postulates that it isn't so far-fetched. Fine by me, because I am just-about ready for the reboot. I just started the stellar West World, so this biz was already on my seemingly-sentient mind.

Monday, February 27, 2017


"In practice, this is a war on a century’s worth of work to keep our air and water clean; our food, drugs and workplaces safe; the rights of employees protected; and the marketplace fair and unrigged. It’s one thing to make regulations more efficient and no more intrusive than necessary. It’s another to say that all the structures of democratic government designed to protect our citizens from the abuses of concentrated private power should be swept away.

It’s a very strange moment. Trump and Bannon are happy to expand the reach of the state when it comes to policing, immigration enforcement, executive-branch meddling in the work of investigative agencies, and the browbeating of individual companies that offend the president in one way or another. The parts of government they want to dismantle are those that stand on the side of citizens against powerful interests."
-E.J. Dionne

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Pablo Africanus Revenir

There-and-back-again. This hobbit's adventures in North Africa are complete. I'll let Leo Africanus close it out:
"A last word written on the last page, and we are already at the coast of Africa.
White minarets of Gammarath, noble remains of Carthage, it is in their shade that oblivion awaits me, and it is towards them that my life is drifting after so many shipwrecks. The sack of Rome after the chastisement of Cairo, the fire of Timbuktu after the fall of Granada. Is it misfortune which calls out to me, or do I call out misfortune?
Once more, my son, I am borne along by the sea, the witness of all my wanderings, and which is now taking you towards your first exile. In Rome, you were 'the son of the Rumi'. Wherever you are, some will want to ask you questions about your skin or your prayers. Beware of gratifying their instincts, my son, beware of bending before the multitude! Muslim, Jew or Christian, they must take you as you are, or lose you. When men's minds seem narrow to you, tell yourself that the land of God is broad; broad His hands and broad His heart. Never hesitate to go far away, beyond all seas, all frontiers, all countries, all beliefs.
For my part, I have reached the end of my wanderings. Forty years of adventures have made my gait heavy and my breathing burdensome. I have no longer any desire other than to live long peaceful days in the bosom of my family. And to be, of all those that I love, the first to depart. Towards the final Place where no man is a stranger before the face of the Creator."
-Amin Ma'alouf, "Leo Africanus"

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


"Seven years later, after we moved to a new place, I had no idea where I put the box. I couldn’t remember it. And when we don’t remember something, we usually don’t care about it. If something goes lost in your memory, It doesn’t mean you lost it. It simply doesn’t exist anymore. It’s like change in the pockets of your trousers."
-Rafael Zoehler

On letters that last.  H/t Abba.


I work with some real maestros. This conductor is Decap, and this is his symphony.

Monday, February 20, 2017

A world gone

A stunning photo exhibit of a world gone.

h/t Marianna.

at night we crossed the border following a Black robe to the edge of the reservation—
to Cataldo Mission 
where the saints and all the martyrs look down
 on dying converts what makes the water holy
 she says is that that it's the closest thing to rain.


A bubble bath met with jacuzzi bath jets sends my world whirled in a froth of foam.  Like the wash cycle on a washing machine.  

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Seeking and finding

"Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it."
 -Andre Gide
H/T Abba.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Mira Miró (I-II-III)

I am watching Miró paint on old footage of the master at his work. I take off my headphones of whimsical Amelie to hear old Spanish guitars wail as Miró sets fire to a canvas of his work. He tosses paint on the smoldering canvas. It is all very dramatic.

The Fish & Chips Shop of Barcelona

Fish & Chips Shop of Barcelona
Merluza de Palangre, tempura style
Patatas artesinas con quatro especias
Salsas: mango chutney and tartará
Both malt and white vinegars on the side.
Vino blanco to wash it down.

I stood outside waiting for my spot at the counter while the smell of curry and tempura wafted out of the window.

It was worth the wait--as most things are.

Muffin muffin...

"You are a beautiful cupcake in a world full of bran muffins"
h/t Allie K

Until all are one

My first bout with understanding good and evil, loss and regrouping came from the original Transformer movie (1986). A classic, and possibly the greatest movie ever made.

This would be the point where Optimus Prime is dead, and there is a world-devouring planet on the loose that sounds a lot like Orson Welles.

But the point is that Trump's short fingers can't open the Matrix.
As Rodimus Prime said: "Now light our darkest hour"

Until all are one!

PS: bah weep granah weep nini bong

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The American Inquisition

My trips are always a journey through the surreal.  And as such, I have a view of the burgeoning American Inquisition, as seen from the vantage of Spain.

Spain was also once a great power, a beacon for learning, for culture, for art, and for tolerance--only to be diminished by those promising to purify the Iberian peninsula, to Make Spain Great Again, through fires of the Inquisition.

Centuries of intolerance followed, with  repression, the crushing of dissent, the oligarchical control of the landowners and industrialists, all blessed by the Religious Right.

The Auto de Fe burned heretics and infidels, Muslims and Jews-- all those who were not the real Spaniards.  The Spanish Inquisition even gave us a form of extracting conventions that is still used today: water-boarding.  Yes, really--the Spanish Inquisition is where water-boarding originated, a practice that our own Torquemada-in-Chief seems to fancy.

But the funny thing is that Inquisitions and intolerance never make countries great again, they make them small, inward and fanatical.  Spain became a backward, isolated part of Europe that was left behind in the years and centuries that followed.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A chance

I love all the people saying give Trump a chance. Fuck that.

Trump was vile during the campaign. He was abysmal in the transition. He lies left and right. He put together practically-if not actually, the whitest, richest, least-experienced, worst cabinet in the history of the Republic.

Since he has taken office, he signed reprehensible decree after reprehensible decree. Nothing he has done in his few days in office has made America "great," but rather smaller, weaker, more isolated and at odds with the greatness of American values of tolerance, openness and freedom.

Give him a chance? Fuck that. He has proven time and again already that he is trash.
Fuck that illegitimate orange bastard.

Fuck Trump.

From the mountaintops: FUCK TRUMP!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Kazakhstan first

In light of alternative facts, I am not really from 'Murica anymore.  No, no I am from Kazakhstan. Born and raised.

I will now be claiming Kazakhstan as my homeland.

Kazakhstan first.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Battle Hymn of the Trump Republic

My country's dead to me,
sweet land of bigotry,
of Trump I sing.

Land where liberties die

land of zealous white pride,
from every mountainside
let hatred ring....

"This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes (although there have been salutes, and a whiff of violence) but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him."

-Robert Kagan, "This is how fascism comes to America"

"There are none more hopelessly enslaved than this who falsely believe they are free."


Let the Record Show

"Let the record show that I did not consent to this.

Let it show that I did not vote for this man, that he did not represent me, that I did not believe he was deserving of being here, that I grieved his ascension.

Let History record my objection to him, to the ways he humiliated women and vilified Muslims and threatened protestors and disregarded people of color.

Let it record my repulsion at his tremendous cruelty, his lack of compassion, his contempt for dissension, his absence of simple decency.

Let witnesses mark down my disgust at the way he boasted of infidelity, at how he ridiculed a disabled reporter, at the way he attacked female opponents for their appearance, at the way he marginalized immigrants.

Let it be remembered that I did not look the other way when women accused him of assault, when the reality of his Russian alliances came to light, when he refused to share his tax records—though large portions of the American media and its people chose to.

Let it be remembered that I did not buy into the fear that he perpetuated of those with brown skin or hijabs or foreign birthplaces.

Let the record show that I looked on with disbelief as he spent countless early morning and middle-of-the-night hours following the election on social media, broadcasting a steady stream of petulant, insecure, incoherent messages instead of preparing to do a job he was ill-equipped for and seemingly not all that interested in.

Let the record show that I watched him assemble a Cabinet of billionaires and bigots, of people woefully unqualified to steward our children, our safety, our healthcare, our financial stability—and that I was horrified by it all.

Let it be remembered that my faith would not allow me to fall in line behind this man while so many professed religious people did; that I saw nothing resembling Jesus in him, and that to declare him Christian would have been to toss aside everything I grew up believing faith in Christ manifested in a life.

Let History record my grieving at the racism and bigotry and homophobia that characterized his campaign, marked his supporters, and is evident in his assembling Administration.
Let it be known that I was one of the more than 65 million people who voted for Hillary Clinton; who understood that though flawed, she was an intelligent, experienced, passionate public servant with the temperament, commitment, and qualifications to lead and lead well.

Let the record show that I greatly lamented the day of his inauguration, and that I promised to join together with other good people to loudly resist and oppose every unscrupulous, dangerous, unjust and dishonest act this new Administration engages in.

History has been littered with horrible people who did terrible things with power, because too many good people remained silent. And since my fear is that we are surely entering one of those periods in our story, I wanted to make sure that I was recorded for posterity:

I do not believe this man is normal.
I do not believe he is emotionally stable.
I do not believe he cares about the full, beautiful diversity of America.
I do not believe he respects women.
I do not believe he is pro-life other than his own.
I do not believe the sick and the poor and the hurting matter to him in the slightest.
I do not believe he is a man of faith or integrity or nobility.
I do not believe his concern is for anything outside his reflection in the mirror.
I believe he is a danger to our children.
I believe he is a threat to our safety.
I believe he is careless with our people.
I believe he is reckless with his power.
I believe America will be less secure, less diverse, less compassionate, and less decent under his leadership.

And if I prove to be wrong, it will be one of the most joyful errors of my life. I will own these words and if necessary, willingly and gladly admit my misjudgment because it will mean that America is a better and stronger nation, and the world a more peaceful place.

But right now I don’t see that happening.

Right now I am worried for my country, concerned for our planet, scared for the future of my children, and greatly saddened that 62 million Americans seem okay with all of this.

Let the record show that I was not okay with it.

Not at all."

-John Pavlovitz, "Let the Record Show"

Thursday, January 19, 2017

moroccan last supper

Tajine of lamb with caramelized onions, raisins and almonds. If I am going to leave Morocco, I am going to do it right.

What The World Costs-Morocco

1 dirham (10cents): one triangle of la vache qui rit style cheese; a large onion
1.25 dirham (12.5 cents): an egg
1.5 dirham (15 cents): fresh-baked Moroccan bread
2 dirham (20c): three shbeki (my fav Moroccan sweets); cone of spiced chickpeas
2.5 dirham (25c): 500 go of nougat (mixed variety)
3 dirham (30c): bowl of harira in Djema al-Fena in Marrakesh
4 dirham (40c): cup of fresh-squeezed orange juice in Marrakesh
4.5 dirham (45c): cup of fresh-squeezed orange/grapefruit juice in Rabat
5 dirham (50c): bottle of sparkling water; chickpea-offal stew sandwich (pas bon)
6 dirham (60c): tram ride and ticket in Casablanca
7 dirham (70c): 10 min taxi in Rabat; 1 hour Internet at cyber cafe; pair of socks
8 dirham (80c): cafe au lait at local café; almond paste cookie at kasbah tea spot; fried fish sandwich
10 dirham ($1): grilled kefta sandwich on the street; large cafe au lait to go; 200gr pepper; 150 gr golden raisins; cup of mint tea in kasbah tea house
12 dirham ($1.20): 15 min taxi ride from Marrakesh train station to center
13 dirham ($1.30): omelette panini, fries and salad in medina
15 dirham ($1.50): pot of mint tea at local cafe; bottle of Stork beer at local bar
16 dirham ($1.60): bottle of Flag Especiale beer at local bar
17 dirham ($1.70): cafe au lait at mo v airport cafe,
18 dirham ($1.80): cafe au lait w/ bottle of water incl at Marina Bay cafe
20 dirham ($2): SIM card; entrance to Mo VI Modern Art Museum (student); amount of dirham stolen from me by the ticket machine at the CasaPort railway, but ended up saving me 17 dirham in the long run.
22 dirham ($2.20): merguez sandwich and plate of fries at local cafe; shawarma and fries
25 dirham ($2.50): 1/4 poulet roti w/ fries and salad
30 dirham ($3): Used French comic book "Tristan"; pair of sweatpants bought on the street
32 dirham ($3.20): 20 min cab ride from Medina to Soussi
37 dirham ($3.70): 1.15hr train from Rabat to Casablanca
40 dirham ($4): sweatshirt bought on the street
45 dirham ($4.50): multi outlet extension chord
50 dirham ($5): train from Casa to Rabat--ticket bought on the train
85 dirham ($8.50): 3.5 hour second class train ticket from Rabat to Fez
90 dirham ($9): tajine poulet w/ citron confit at Le Petite Beur
100 dirham ($10): 1 night stay in Marrakesh at Hotel De La Paix w/o bathroom/shower/breakfast; 3-course lamb tajine w/caramelized onions, raisins and almonds
120 dirham ($12): economic room at hotel Berlin w/o bathroom/shower, w/breakfast
127 dirham ($12.70): 4.5 hour train ride from Rabat to Marrakesh
130 dirham ($13): Fish tagine at the Ruined Gardens in Fez
150 dirham ($15): Thai green curry w/ chicken and rice at Chew Moi Annan (excellent)
180 dirham ($18): a small portable heater
230 dirham ($23): room at hotel Berlin w/bathroom, shower and breakfast
279 dirham ($27.90): pair of shoes at Carly
400 dirham ($40): ornate berber hamza
650 dirham ($65): 2 night stay at the Riad Taryana for my bday, w/ breakfast and hot shower