Sunday, December 21, 2008

Response to ADO and his Rude Remarks

In case you missed it, an even more neurotic reader of blogs than I visited this blog and commented on my 'shout out to the Israelis' post. His rant goes something like this:
ADO said...

Agree with you on the decrepit facilities available to tourists in Mexico.
As for Gaza, perhaps it has escaped your attention that the Hamas government,and its other terrorist friends, has been lobbing missiles at Israelis and snatching Israelis, and that the on-again, off-again blockade by Israel, at its checkpoints, is a direct response to terror attacks. As for the blockade, take a look at the map and discover that both Egypt and Israel blockade Gaza, with the ok of the Abbas PLA government of the so-called territories/"West Bank."

Or do you just like to take potshots at Jews? There is NO valid comparison between the holocaust and the defensive measures taken by the State of Israel, except to a amoral lover of "progressive" dictators like ex-Pres. Jimmy Carter.

I was going to respond to the post as a comment, but got carried away. Too much text for a simple 'comment' so here it is, in post form.

Hey, thanks for stopping by and insulting me! Always appreciate the right wing coming in, fist in the air, to invalidate anyone else's opinion. I especially enjoyed the Dictator Carter remark - made me laugh out loud and that doesn't happen often in these troubled times.

Thinking back, and now that you mention it, I distinctly remember his militant Carter Jugend, with peanuts embroidered on their short sleeved shirts as they tramped through the streets of Georgia, shouting "Down to the Cashew Eaters".

It has not escaped my attention, as you suggest, that there are missiles being lobbed and Israelis being snatched.

Perhaps it has escaped YOUR attention that the retaliatory measures Israel has imposed are not limited to a blockade designed to magically starve out the bad guys, but has also included bombing on any and all possible targets, civilians be damned, as well as Palestinians being harassed, beaten and arrested. My point was that a people (Israelis) who had suffered so much, would perhaps have a bit more compassion than say, the USA which in the last few decades dumps bombs first and asks questions later.

Another interesting idea that just popped into my head is that the Mossad is one of the world's best 'intelligence' and 'covert ops' outfits. Do you not think that they could perhaps do some infiltrating and bring the perps to justice, much like the USA could have done after 9/11 instead of randomly invading Afghanistan?

Back to the blockade - which is not on again, off again, but has been a continuous thing - and which is supposed to somehow make the Palestinians say "Oh, OK. Um, yeah. Let's get those bad guys that are hiding among us and turn them over to the nice Israelis who have shown that they are more than willing to deal with us fairly".

Let's see. People are starving, they have no food, water, electricity. Medical supplies. Students accepted abroad cannot leave thank you very much. If this was happening in your redneck town, do you think you would get perhaps just a little pissed off and might consider JOINING those criminal elements in Redneckville instead of turning them in to the authorities that are starving your kids? Hmm. Tough one.

And, blockades work so well. Look at how effective the Cuban blockade has been. Thanks to the USA, we still have a communist country in this hemisphere!

And don't take it from me - check out what's in the news:
United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay has accused Israel of “unprecedented and deeply regrettable” treatment of UN human rights investigator Richard Falk. Falk was deported from Israel Monday after being detained at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport for twenty hours. Falk’s detention and expulsion came days after he condemned Israel’s blockade of Gaza as a “flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law” and “Crime Against Humanity.”
I am by no means taking potshots at Jews. Where the hell does that idea come from? What hyper-sensitive part of your brain picked that up? In mentioning the holocaust, I merely imply that (I am repeating what I mentioned above, in case you didn't get it) one would expect a little more maturity from a people that has been through so much.

And another thing.

Bite me.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

More on Tourism in the Yucatan

Staying on-theme with the tourism comments in the previous posts, I wanted to quickly give you my impressions on the state of the art facilities at Ek Balam.

Ek Balam is one of those Mayan archaeological sites that is not in the same league, promotion and money-invested wise, as say, Chichen Itza and Uxmal, it's more famous cousins. Along with Mayapan and places like Aké, it is a site seen by far fewer visitors and usually only on the itinerary of the more die-hard Yucatan explorer.

There is, however, some government involvement in the restoration and running of Ek Balam and so we have the caseta de cobro where all visitors must stop and pay their fee to enter the site. Presumably the entrance fee covers basic maintenance and the salary of the sour-faced employee who has no knowledge of basic math (addition and subtraction) and is allowed to have no change on hand for breaking anything larger than a 20 peso bill. Also, and in spite of being a government-run site, which should imply some sort of amiable exchange rate for the almighty dollar, the rate offered is considerably less than that provided by the banks.

The highlight of the awful, unpainted concrete monstrosity making up the entrance is - as is so often the case - the bathroom. Maybe I have a bathroom fetish but as a resident of the Yucatan and occasionally charged with the responsibility of ferrying relatives and friends to these 'touristic' places, I feel enormously embarrassed at the crude-ness of the facilities provided to the tourists our government is trying to woo.

Please look at the photos below. This is the welcome, as in the case of the previous post on Progreso, that tourists and visitors will have should they require the use of a bathroom. Next to the toilet, please note the traditional waste paper basket containing used toilet paper. Heaven forbid that they should make the effort to actually install a proper septic system that can handle toilet paper! And after your precarious hovering experience - note the absence of any toilet seat or something to hold onto when you are in fact, hovering - with the toilet, you can proceed to the modern 'sink' and dip your fingers into that charming little plastic dish of brown liquid soap, where unknown hands have dipped before you.

This primitive set-up would be fine if perhaps, I was camping, although I have seen campsites with outhouses that look more hygienic. Or visiting someone who was very poor.

But this is a federally (INAH) and state (Secretaria de Turismo or Cultura) run attraction. They spend all kinds of money, not so much the INAH but the Tourism people, on ads and campaigns and and and to get people to come here. Then, when they do, they offer them this.

Yes, the Mayan civilization was very advanced and has left a cultural legacy that has endured for thousands of years. Those days, however are gone.

In the absence of anyone in government building or doing ANYTHING these days to make the Yucatan more attractive or even a better place to live for its inhabitants, these Mayan sites are a cash cow for the mindless, unimaginative and self-serving bureaucrats that run them today. They should be turned over to the private sector and all the leeches living on the proceeds of the Mayans remains should be forced to get a real job.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cruiseship Tourism and Progreso

I have been saying lately, and after having lived here for 20-plus years, that the real name of Progreso should be Atraso, since the word progreso means progress (atraso means the exact opposite) and that is the last thing that this little town has seen in the 20 years of my living here.

Cruise ships arrive at the port and disgorge inordinate amounts of somewhat curious tourists (they can't be that curious if they are taking a cruise) who then either take some sort of guided tour or amble about the town, Corona in hand, oblivious both to the stares of those locals who are working or going to school and also the shouts and whistles of the simian-like vendors trying to bring the tourists' attention to whatever trinket they are hawking on little tables set up on the crumbling sidewalks.

The tourist busses from the ship arrive at the Casa de Cultura (House of Culture, or Cultural Center) which as its name implies, showcases the culture, or in this case complete lack thereof, of the town. While I am not dissing the people of Progreso per se, I certainly am dissing the authorities that over the last 20 years have done nothing tangible for the people of Progreso, nor have they made any effort to make the port attractive in any visible way.

The "Cultural" Center itself is a maze of pseudo market activity (it only materializes on cruise ship days), with everything from honey to stone to clothing. Anything produced in the Yucatan in it's infinitely limited variety is on display, one booth differentiatable (is that even a word?) from the next only by a different yawning or gum-chewing and completely bored person staring listlessly into the distance, numbed by the sheer number of chubby foreigners walking by.

There is a long lineup of tourists waiting to have their turn at purchasing one of the many 'authorized' tours available; Dzibilchaltun, Merida and points beyond. One couple mentioned they had paid 28 USD for a trip to the Marina Silcer, presumably to drink themselves into oblivion or something since I cannot for the life of me imagine what else they would do there.

Another table set up sells the Progreso tour, which takes place on giant, partially painted metallic structures on wheels that in a previous life had perhaps been busses, but are now double decker open air cattle corrals with blue seats upon which the hapless tourists perch their generally ample bottoms, while enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of Progreso. The 'guide' is up front, microphone in hand, pointing out the few highlights that remain after decades of neglect, which logically includes those shops that have good prices (and have most likely previously paid for the privelege of being named in the tour) in a Cancun way that anyone familiar with the 'hey amigo' time share crowd will recognize immediately and with some concern.

You can buy Cohiba cigars right there on the street! Yes, authentic cigars for those victims of USA foreign policy and addicted to tobacco. I am unqualified to judge whether or not these are real, but we are in Mexico and anything is possible; therefore, I have my suspicions.

Back to the 'Cultural' center; inside, there are barely-painted walls with works of art ie paintings hanging on them along with a plastic nativity setup complete with Chinese lights. The paintings are minimally lit. Not minimalist. Minimal. Some flourescent tubes here and there.

In one corner, and deserving of a very special mention, are the bathrooms. These are a particularly 3rd world welcome for those tourists needing a WC. There is a table featuring the lady with a shallow basket containing previously torn pieces of toilet paper (there is none inside) and another basket that sports a hand-lettered black felt pen sign: "Tips". You must tip to pee. Men are waved into their bathroom (which has a sign, but perhaps you will miss it and this gives the lady a chance to 'earn' her tip from you) while the women are stopped as they enter their bathroom by the outstretched arm and hand holding a basket full of toilet paper pieces. They stare at the basket, then at the lady and back at the basket, unbelieving and not comprehending the gesture. That is, until the lady authoritatively says - in what is probably a major portion of her English vocabulary - "toilet paper!" Then it suddenly dawns on them as to what they can expect inside and they gingerly take the pieces they feel will be needing.

I did peek inside the men's stall and was able to confirm that there is no semblance of an actual toilet seat, just the bare porcelain over which you will suspend your anatomy as... well you get the picture.

Washing your hands will also present the no-soap and no paper towel dilemna, unless of course you ask the lady outside - I am sure she can help.

This is the environment in and around the Progreso de Castro Cultural Center. A truly retro and cliche-reinforcing welcome for the very people Progreso claims it and the Yucatan government is trying to attract so that there can be some economic trickledown.

Bullshit I say.

As citizens and residents of the state of Yucatan, we should be insisting that all that money being wasted on the promotion of the Yucatan should be put to better use and all those doing the promoting, via trips to New York and Barcelona tourism shows, should be fired and then jailed for fraud. Other immediate steps should include:
  • firing without any indemnization of whoever is in charge of the Cultural Center; this is a shameful disgrace and absolutely disgusting and the department of health should shut it down
  • bulldozing all abandoned and wrecked buildings on the beach front; they are an eyesore
  • immediate firing of whoever approves new building plans for beach front and other areas properties. Some of the new constructions are so god-awful ugly that Fidel Castro would be ashamed to have them in Cuba and would look actually better in some war-torn place like Fallujah. It says a lot when one of the nicer buildings on the beach is an OXXO
  • send whoever is left to Campeche to learn how make a malecon (boardwalk) properly so that tourists and locals can enjoy the beachfront safely and in comfort.
There are more of course. But this would make a great start.

All in all, a very entertaining morning!

Friday, December 12, 2008

A NotTheNews Shout Out to the Israelis!

Don't know much about history, or so the song goes.

I don't know much about the Gaza blockade, but it sounds like a real piece of work coming from a people who suffered a holocaust.

Also a great way to Win Friends and Influence People on the international stage.

Happy Hanukkah, people!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ice Hockey... in Merida

Most of you already know that Merida, the formerly white city, now boasts among its many attractions, an ice rink where public skating is offered to those Yucatecans (and people who have that aspecto fuereño thing going on) brave enough to overcome their reluctance to rent skates that were worn by who knows who and take to the ice.

Located in the Galerias Liverpool mall, the ice rink is also used for - get this - hockey practice! Being a Canadian, it was certainly strange to observe a group of kids ranging from 6 to about 14 years old decked out in full hockey regalia, shooting frozen pucks around the rink while shoppers and passersby watched with interest and amusement.

What I thought was interesting was that when the practices were over and a little scrimmage or mini game was played, it became evident that the referees (teenage kids) did not have a whistle! I can't envision any kind of hockey practice without the shrill sound of a referees whistle, and it did seem to make it harder for the referees to get their point across during the practice.

But the overall impression was of how small the world has become, when you can buy salsas El Yucateco in any grocery store in Canada and play (or watch) ice hockey in Merida.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Weddings (continued) Part Three:The Reception

Finally all that boring stuff at the church is thankfully done with and everyone is in agreement that it was really a beautiful ceremony. It matters little how dull and uninspired it might have been, or how the priest doing the honors was really talking down to his congregation as if they were a bunch of Matamoros chicken farmers, his self-important speech, political references and grandiose hand movements that inspired me to think that his real arms were under his robes and that there was another priest behind him, out of sight, moving his arms along with priest 1's words. His robes moved back and forth under his sweeping arm movements, like a fat lady's arm flaps applauding at a football game, only in slow motion.

Yes, no matter what it really was like, it's always a beautiful ceremony, mostly thanks to the radiant bride, with whom all the ladies present feel some affinity and/or pity, depending on how their marriage(s) have worked out.

Enough of the mass already! On to the party!

Once you arrive, you make your way to a table. This is done as quickly as possible since you don't want to arrive late and have to sit with some people you don't like and make small talk as if you enjoyed their company. I mean, all that 'talk to strangers' stuff has already been taken care of in the church, when the lady next to you in the poofed hair and heavily freckled exposed shoulders turns to you and says something about 'paz'.

On your way to a table, you try to not to look desperately around for familiar faces of people you would like to spend the next few hours yelling across a table with while scooping mystery dip off a plate with your supply of Ritz crackers. Thankfully not all weddings serve Ritz n Dip, but it IS a popular menu item with many caterers.

Once you are seated, and if it is a good party, you can count on a waiter asking you what you would like to drink. If it is a really good party, the hosts will have printed for you a menu of the evenings dining opportunities as well as a list of the wine selection, cocktails and hard liquor available so you can avoid having said waiter tell you that most famous of local phrases: 'no hay' (that isn't available) Along with your drink, you can begin the scooping of the afore-mentioned dip with your Ritz crackers or, in the case of a classy wedding, help yourself to some fine cheeses and crackers that are not of the Ritz variety. There will be background music which will be of a volume conducive to conversation as people arrive and are seated.

Once the tables have filled, the music will start, a live band of some sort, doing cover versions of popular songs in different genres. The volume will be cranked up to the point where you are yelling at the person next to you and causing what I term 'auditory fatigue', where you become glassy-eyed and sit, looking at the people around you but unable to carry on any sort of conversation with anyone at your table, with whom your interaction is limited to occasional smiles, hand signals and shoulder shrugging whenever your eyes should cross paths.

At some point the bride and groom make their triumphant entrance, at which point everyone applauds. Sometimes there's a toast, sometimes there is only the applause and then the hopefully happy couple, stressed and probably relieved that the hard part is over with, officially commence the dance portion of the evening. There is much animated yelling on the part of someone in the band designated with the challenging task of firing up the crowd. To this end, he or she will continue with frequent, repeated full-volume exhortations to get everyone 'excited'. If you are not on the dance floor, nor have any plans to do so, your evening will be quite grim as you stare, numbed by the noise, noise, noise, noise (quote from my good friend the Grinch) at people around you in similar funk or at the fun people are having on the dance floor.

Speaking of music, the typical scenario is a live group, with what seems like an excess of vocalists. There will be some sort of percussionist, perhaps a bass and electric guitar, and the omnipresent keyboard/laptop filled with enough sonic effects to provide a soundtrack to a mission to Mars.

As far as the actual music goes, they will play cover versions of hits. The genres inevitably covered, in no particular order and played at every single party in Merida that I have ever been to are:
  • tropical salsa and merengue, featuring predominantly Celia Cruz's Carnaval;
  • cumbia and reggaeton (the latter a new addition to the musical lineup);
  • swing and 40's tunes for the old folks, often in the form of a neverending medley;
  • 70's music, where YMCA will ALWAYS be included, along with Gaynor's I Will Survive;
  • the Timbiriche set (All Mexicans love the old pop group Timbiriche it seems - they go wild when this pap starts
If you have been to parties in Merida, from 15 años or weddings to birthdays, you will recognize each of these genres. Again, the quality of the interpretation of each of these yawn-inducing musical moments varies greatly according to the budget provided for it.

The music take a break, announced by a little theme song and choreographed stage movements aka vamps. It is before / during this break that the Ritz n Dip plates are removed and dinner is served. Again, depending on the budget, this can be a one plate affair or consist of first course like a salad or soup (or both) followed by the actual dinner itself. It is mealtime when the quality of Rigels' catering really becomes apparent, because his food is cold when it should be and hot when it needs to be hot. It is also tasty and well presented. There are one or two other good caterers in town, but there are also a lot of improvising cheap ones as well.

As you are eating, if the event is planned well, there will be soft background music that will help in your actually enjoying your meal; poorly planned events overlook this small detail and will move into the next round of an eardrum-crushing onslaught guaranteed to make that limp, lightly salted, boiled cauliflower floret want to jump right out of your esophagus.

Once dinner is over, there will be desserts which range from the cloying, tasteless yet sweet corn-starch variety to some really delectable items. On a memorable occasion (last night for example), fine Belgian chocolates from L'Amandine along with home-made Arab pastries.

After that, the evening consists of two options:
a)either drinking in excess and joining the crowd on the dance floor, where all manner of fun is being had with the help of 'props', ranging from styrofoam headwear to maracas to slippers to balloons to you-name-it; all matched to the particular set of music being played at the moment. During Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive, for example, it is not unusual for the singer to put on a black afro wig and pretend to be black. Celia Cruz, well you get the picture and
b) drinkling in excess and staying at your table amidst an ever-dwindling crowd as people go home, having been fed and entertained. Bleary eyed, you patiently and determinedly attempt to finish all the whisky available and perhaps, if you wait long enough, will get to enjoy the late feeding at 5AM involving tacos and tortas de cochinita, another wedding and party tradition for those who party all night.

.... more later....

Weddings (continued) Part Two: the Church Ceremony

The day of the wedding, there are two important events (important at least for the invited guest, there are plenty of other important events for the couple doing the marrying) : the mass, and the party/reception.

Remember that we are in Mexico, the invitees can number in the hundreds and also, everyone is catholic which explains a lot of things about the state the country is in, but again I am digressing and that is definitely a subject for Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.

So, we have a whole lot of people and a catholic church service. This is the case at least 94% of the time; I have been to a wedding - and fairly recently - where the religious portion of the marriage was performed by a Mayan X'men, or holy man, in an elaborate ritual complete with conch blowing, branches brushed all over the bodies of the participants to ward off evil spirits, lots of candles and plenty of smoke. All this on the beach in Uaymitun. Really quite different and as completely believable as any religious ceremony I have ever been to. Which, if you know how I feel about these things, says a lot.

Back to the subject at hand: for most weddings, you can expect that less than half of your guests will bother showing up for mass. While this part of the day is important for the bride and groom on occasion but more often than not, important for the parents, it is completely irrelevant to most of the people who are looking forward to a great party. So if the church isn't full, this isn't cause for concern. Depending on the priest doing the spiel, which in turn is a reflection on the amount of money invested in the eccliastical department, the quality of the mass will be either boring and ho-hum or interesting with lots of personal asides to the bride and groom and the parents. And your seating arrangements are not indicative of your relationship to the couple, which means you can sit wherever your heart desires. Don't forget to bring along a few coins or a small bill, cuz that basket does get passed at one point. you know the church needs the money, I mean look at the condition of the Vatican these days! And, be prepared (and this can be frightening if you don't understand spanish or the hypocrisy of catholicism) because all of a sudden people will turn to each other - and you - and wish you peace. You will not speak to these people again once out of church.

The music at the church is also important and again, the quality is directly proportional to your investment. An off-key violin trio and a shaky soprano really reaching for those high notes can make the most well-intended sermon go incredibly and horribly wrong. If you are lucky, you will be invited to a wedding like the one last night; the father of the bride had the taste and pesos to hire professionals: a small choral ensemble and orchestra, that played everything from Gloria (Haendel or Vivaldi?) to Morricone's theme music from The Mission. Perfectly in tune and an absolutely perfect way to ignore the silly man at the front of the church in his frock, changing hats - from the tall cream-colored bishop model to the more casual holy red beanie - every time he moves from a standing to a sitting position, all the while making half-hearted attempts at humor and to present himself as the consummate humble servant of the lord. Indeed. In any case, the musical selections were perfect. Music in Merida's churches has come a long way since Los Violines de Waldemar, I am happy to report.

After the whole ceremony is over, everyone showers the bride and groom with best wishes, hugs and kisses and then, it's off to the next part, where they will meet up with the rest of the guests who somehow 'couldn't make it' to the church. If the church is near the reception you can walk there, unless of course you are local which means you will probably get in your car, drive half a block and park it again, so that it's close when you leave the reception later.

............more later.............

Weddings - A Brief Overview from the Neurotic Foreigners POV - Part One

Inspired by a wedding I attended last night, I thought it might be fun to do a little write-up regarding that most important of social occasions, the wedding. For those of you new to the Yucatan, you might find this useful. To make the article more readable, I will post it in several parts. This is the first part, dealing with most things pre-wedding.

Before the grand social event, which the father of the bride is responsible for paying in its entirety (none of that shared expenses crap that is becoming more and more common up north), there is that overwhelming decision involving the potential guest list. It is not uncommon here for weddings to have a guest list in the hundreds. From 150 to, as at last nights event, 650 guests to feed, get drunk, entertain. The guest list is hashed out between bride and groom, and their parents. The number is usually huge, and then whittled down to minimize no-shows and also the overall expense. As the list of invites moves from tentative to firm, it then again grows as all parties realize that they simply can't leave out this or that person, especially when this other third person is being invited.

Besides family members who obviously must be invited whether we are getting along with them or not at the moment, and beyond the friends category, there is another group that requires careful consideration: the must-invite guests, those with whom (usually the parents) have acquired some sort of obligation, usually related to their careers. A bad career move would be to forget to invite your supervisor and/or boss to your offspring's wedding! A good move would be to include not only your boss/supervisor but also the actual owner of the company you work for; this would add not only possible career advancement to your future, but also a certain status for you within the company and society as a whole. Everyone will be duly impressed with your clout when the owner of the company walks in, accompanied by his wife batting false eyelashes and draped in an imposing authentic fur throw.

A notice in the local paper, usually the Diario de Yucatan, is also a nice touch, under the headline 'Novias del Mes' (brides of the month) where a studio quality head shot is accompanied by a brief bio outlining some of the family and groom's details. This photos appears in the Local section, which is a popular second to the fluffy Sociales section which many Yucatecos turn to first to catch up on the latest social events and to criticize this or that person's hair, dress, makeup or pose. It is a fun and popular activity for all ages and everyone participates.

The guest list now confirmed and agreed on by all concerned, the invitations are printed and sent out. These are almost always square, about 10 inches by 10 inches, folded and have the embossed initials of the bride and groom on the front in a suitably flowery font of the bride's choosing. Much is made of the paper to be used as well, and whether a see-through cellophane envelope or a regular paper one is to be used. Everyone wants to be original, but not original enough to break out of the 10x10 square mold.

Inside the invitation, all the usual details are posted in a matching font to that of the embossed cover previously alluded to, along with the RSVP card and possible a note indicating at which stores guests can find bridal registry info in order to get that set of silver plated cutlery. If one of the parents has passed away, there will be a little black cross next to their name.

Invitations are to be hand delivered. This enormous task can be divided up among members of the immediate families and the whole custom is becoming a little less rigorous. Some people now leave several invitations for members of another family, for example, at the home of one of those family members.

If you are the lucky recipient of an invitation bearing the inscription "Don William Lawson y Famila" (fill in your name here), you can head off to one of the local stores that have bridal registries and be confident that the bride and groom are listed there - there aren't that many local stores to choose from; Sears, Liverpool, and Chapur pretty well sums it up. You ask to check out the list, you can have it printed and choose something, pay for it, and the store (at least Liverpool does this but I imagine they all do) takes care of the nuisance of having to wrap and deliver the present. You pay, leave your information so proper credit can be attributed to you and you're done.

Of course there are many many things to plan for the wedding. There is the dress, which is usually made specially for the occasion and requiring several fittings. There is a cake, the catering (!), the music, the venue, and and and and and....

There are quite a few caterers in Merida; but the most popular one at the moment and very socially acceptable if you know what I mean, is Rigel. That's pronounced REE-hell. He has come up through the years from modest little events to doing the biggest and most elaborate social gatherings around. If you want your food to be tasty, attractive and actually warm and cold when it supposed to be, you hire Rigel. If you aren't worried about those minor details, you could hire someone else.

Music is also plentiful in Merida. There are several groups to choose from and various degrees of interaction. Lately, the more the merrier is the norm. More on all that in a later posting.

There is the venue; which one you choose depends largely on your guest list and budget, in that order. Most of the venues in Merida are not particularly attractive; they are mostly huge empty spaces with shabby carpeting and very rough around the edges that most party planners try to play down with clever lighting and strategic placement of flowers and other decorations.

The church and priest also have to be arranged. Money is the key here, the more you can pay, the higher ranking priest will be available for your event. Of course, it also helps to be a member of 'society' as very few high-ranking officials of the catholic church will attend a nobody's wedding. Bad career move.

Speaking of churches, the bride and groom have to be up to date in their church papers. They may find themselves at a little refresher course where they will be brought up to speed on all the charming details they may have forgotten about the bible story. Of course, payment is required for these lessons in faith and the blessings it will bestow upon you and yours.

More later...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Smoking Ban In Malls Now in Effect

Some of you may remember a while back I posted energetically regarding smoking in restaurants. In it, I mentioned that the malls were still smoke-friendly.

Well, no more. The Gran Plaza has finally abolished smoking in the mall, which includes those cafeterias and restaurants like Segafredo, Italian Coffee, Kukis by Maru and Italianni's. This on the heels of the smoking ban in their sister mall Altabrisa which had already transformed itself into a smoke-free area.

I'm a big fan of keeping the government out of the private lives of the citizens it purports to govern and am for the idea of the owners of private property making the call as to whether or not smoking should be allowed. This argument, I realized the other day as I argued it with a die-hard McCain fan, was actually the true Republican position, where-as she was arguing it from a Democratic POV.

Once again, I digress.

I suspect the Gran Plaza management, if the terms management and Gran Plaza can be used in the same sentence, decided to ban smoking because of the law banning smoking in public places. I would like to think it was their decision, but it probably wasn't.

But you know what? The air actually smells cleaner now in the mall, although on the Casino/Comercial Mexicana side of the mall there is still a noticeable - and very disagreeable cigarrette odor.

And I now smoke less when I am at the mall, since I step outside to do it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Comments on Blogs

If you have a blog, like this one (OK not as neurotic but anyway) you might have been getting neutral to positive comments from one-name readers. I know I have. Just posted the second one. Then I clicked on the name associated with the posting and lo and behold, it lead to the same insurance blog that another comment-poster led to a few days ago.

Seems like this is yet another sneaky way of getting traffic on a blog full of ads.

Has anyone else noticed this?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

NotTheNews on Obama's Win Last Night

I know, I know: this blog is supposed to be about life in Merida, but I don't have enough political savvy or material to dedicate an entire blog to politics, so you will have to bear with me as I unburden myself - politically - here. And before you get your knickers in a twist, you should remember that this is my personal opinion and you have every right to go read something else, like the Fox News website if you are so inclined.

My Better Half and I watched the elections in the U.S. of A. last night and as the western states were announced as 'blue' we were overwhelmed with emotion. Seeing the Obama family on stage, the emotional crowds in Chicago and Times Square and even in Kenya brought a tear to this cynic's eyes.

People I talked to here in Merida prior to the election said that Obama would never win, because the Americans would never elect a 'black' man as their president, which highlights not only how little they think of the U.S. but also how superficial their analysis was as well.

Personally, I have never considered Obama as the 'black' candidate, although to look at him, you could be convinced that it might be true; there is a hint of something African about him. To me, Obama was more about the man; an extremely smart, young, family man with an intelligent wife who projected to me a more international outlook on the world and seemed to have the desire and the ability to negotiate not only with political opponents but also with world leaders with whom he may or may not agree. A radical departure from the 'shoot first', 'first strike', 'fuck the rest of the planet' mentality of the last eight years.

McCain, upon conceding the election, made probably the best speech I have heard him make in this campaign. Passionate, articulate and not at all derogatory, the latter which I almost suspected after the B.S. that was thrown around in obvious desperation during the final months in the race for the presidency. I almost felt sorry for him, hopelessly trying to contend not only with the Bush doctrine legacy which effectively condemned anyone running under the Republican banner and campaigning with the albatross from Alaska that probably cost him a lot of electoral votes.

A few of my friends in the U.S. are alarmed by the election of Obama to be their president. They seem to think that some calamitous fate awaits them, as if it was the 1970's, the country was Chile, they were Allende supporters and Pinochet had just been elected. For the life of me I can't understand their fears. Is it their great egoistic fear that taxes will increase?

What could Obama possibly do that has these people so afraid? What could possibly be worse than assuring that your children will be in debt for decades to come? Worse than having your country despised and ridiculed around the world? Worse than sending your (poor neighbors) kids off to die in Iraq and Afghanistan all the while complacently destroying the planet? Or is it something deeper, dare I mention, racist?

Many Americans live in a make-believe world, where it is their god-given right to have everything they want whenever they want it, cost be damned. Massive environmental damage in "third world" countries? Who cares if it means cheap gas. Dictators torturing their citizens for demanding democracy? Hey as long as we get cheap toys at Walmart, who cares.

Time to wake up U.S.A. - and rejoin the global community! This is an important first step.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Tomorrow is the big day! End of the Bush Doctrine and an Era? Continuation of the Bush Doctrine with McSame and the End of the Modern World?


Here's to all the Americans from the United States (as opposed to all of the rest of us Americans) who have this opportunity to change the ruinous path the U.S.A. is now on and bring some common sense and compassion back to the most powerful nation on this planet.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

that missing movie on the previous post...

Now that the musical-loving Better Half is back home, I accompanied her to see the one movie I didn't see during my marathon movie week, Mamma Mia.

Meryl Streep is great as usual, the rest of the cast is alright in a campy, overacted kind of way, the storyline is corny but the scenery is great.

And they all sing, even Pierce Brosnan. Ugh.

What can I say, I don't care for musicals. I prefer my acting straight, without the bursting into song. I distinctly remember watching Evita with Antonio Banderas and suffering every song-filled moment.

And with that, I hereby bring to a close the movie marathon week postings!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Home Alone - Movie Review

Being as the rest of the family is dispersed around the globe and I am home alone, I have dedicated the last week or so to watching mostly crappy movies. In the cine and at home.

There are a lot of movie theaters in Merida but like everywhere else, they like to all show the same movies at the same time. And with the price of a pirate DVD in el centro running around $20 pesos ($2.00 USD) there are fewer and fewer bums in seats these days. There is not a lot to choose from in the cine since the movies that make it to Merida are mostly formulaic pictures that theater owners are convinced Mexican audiences will want to see. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights I watched during the two week period (they change 2-4 movies from their lineup every Friday here in Merida):

Babylon, A.D. (Mision Babilonia)

Yet another Vin Diesel movie that I would never take my wife to see, this one features that occasionally watchable actor with the rough voice in his cliche role - the tough, cynical guy whose heart grows three sizes that day thanks to an innocent girl. Aww. Lots of insane violence, crappy chase scenes in snowy environments where you can't make out what's happening, a pessimistic future and the unknown actress playing the heart-warming innocent. Appearances by Michelle Yeoh who does some kung fu (surprise!) and even Gerard Depardieu, who obviously had rent payments to make when he signed on to make this dud. Bad bad bad. Don't even rent this one.


Bangkok Dangerous (Peligro en Bangkok)

After the Vin Diesel fiasco, this movie came out the next week and I thought, Nic Cage can't be all that bad right?


Directed by the Pang brothers who have a long road ahead of them before reaching Coen brother status, this shows Nic Cage at his worst, walking through the blandest movie with lots of graphic violence and a cast of paper cut out oriental actors. Of all the Thai women in the world, Nic falls for the most insipid of them all, while his newly acquired sidekick couldn't act his way out of a paper bag. Bad bad bad. Avoid at all costs.


Eagle Eye (Control Total)

In spite of the fact that the cinema had no poster for this movie, no reseña (a little blurb explaining what the movie is all about) I looked it up on the internet and found that it had Shia WhateverHisLastNameIs in it and decided what the hell.

Oh surprise. This is an excellent action thriller kind of movie; kind of like a Bourne movie. Excellent action sequences and Shia is convincing as the main character, as is Michelle Monaghan.

If you liked the Jason Bourne movies, you will like this one.


Arrancame La Vida

OK I am desperate and feeling particularly tolerant. I will go see this movie that normally I would never bother to give the time of day. People talk about the nuevo cine mexicano all the time so maybe I should check this film out, made in 2008 and based on the novel of the same name by Angeles Mastretta.

Do you enjoy Mexican soap operas? Then you may like this plodding movie, full of one-dimensional cardboard characters that leave no mark at all on this viewer. The film takes place in Puebla and Mexico City in the 30's and 40's and miraculously the main character, a poor girl who becomes the wife of an older politician and first lady of a state (classic soap opera plotline) doesn't age a bit during her transition from virginal 15 year old to a woman in her late 20's near the end. Oh well.

Nuevo Cine Mexicano - it's Mexicano and it's Cine, but there is nothing Nuevo about this pablum.


On TV, I was able to watch a plethora of horrendous movies, one of which was Kevin Bacon's latest revenge movie, filled with arms being ripped off and blood spurting here and there; what is Kevincito buying these days that he has to be making this shit to pay for it?

The best movie on TV was Rendition, with Jake Gyllenhall and Reese Witherspoon, which will put the fear of Allah in you if you travel to the US of A, land of the free and all that. Excellent movie, that.

And so I conclude my movie post this morning; hopefully some of you will take my advice and avoid some of those Raspberry Award candidates and save yourself some money.

Speaking of money, MM Cinemas, who are based in Monterrey, have bought out the Yucatecan movie chain Cines Hollywood and have made a few changes. One new feature penny pinchers might be interested in is their MM Card, which is like a frequent flier card, where you collect points/pesos for going to the movies and buying stuff in their dulceria. It will set you back $20 pesos and for that you get a coupon for a small popcorn ($23 peso value) as well as a discount ticket for any showing on a Monday (instead of $50 pesos you will pay $33 pesos). Each time you buy a movie ticket on a regular day, you get another of these discount Monday tickets. Pretty cool.

Movies on now in Merida

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Perros vs. Humans

A quickie (post) this morning.

I was snooping around Facebook and saw that one of my online contacts from Tabasco had joined a group that is called:

"vetemos el arte de guillermo habacuc vargas un maldito asesino de perro"

which is a group dedicated to banning the art of this Guillermo fellow who apparently killed a dog in the name of art.

Now this group, created in 2007 on Facebook, has over 21,000 members!

Just for laughs, I looked up Padrino Fonseca, who is the beloved Tabasco journalist shot to death a few days ago while putting up signs that said 'No More Violence'. Really, it's true, I am not making this up.

The Facebook group just created with him as it's subject had 21 members this morning. Now it has 22. :)

Then I thought, well that's not fair, this event just happened. So I looked for groups with the words 'Iraq Victims' in them. There are quite a few pages for groups that come up, including "Hillary 08" and "Let's Put George W. Bush's face on Mt. Rushmore". Really. But the ones that were about Iraqui Victims of the war, numbered in the hundreds of members. Not much interest there.

There's something about cruelty to animals that brings out some really strong reactions while cruelty to other humans seems somehow to cause less of a reaction.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

PACK YOUR SHIT AND GO HOME and other Comments from the Peanut Gallery

What is it, I wonder, that makes people read my blog and then complain that if I don't like it I should leave? Why are these people reading this blog? This is the blog reader's version of masochism. Have yourself checked by a reliable shrink, please.

Did I say I didn't like living here? Does the blog not indicate somewhere, at some point, that this is a blog written from the POV of a Neurotic Foreigner? Are there no other neurotic foreigners in town? Is it all charming and lovely? Of course it isn't. It's not charming and lovely anywhere all the time.

If you are one of those folks - not necessarily living in a trailer park - who find my ramblings a little on the negative side and wish I would go away, I have a couple of suggestions:
  1. Don't read my blog! I know, I know, it's almost too obvious. But that's OK. I understand. Sometimes we don't see things when they are right in front of us. While this may seem painfully obvious to most regular people, perhaps you feel compulsively compelled to keep reading even though you know it's damaging your psyche, your eyesight and causing you irreparable trauma that will require years of psychotherapy to unravel...

  2. Browse around the internet for other reading options. There are at least two nice, white-bread websites - one is a government site that is SOO useful - that will cheerfully validate your tortured decision to come and live here. What my blog does is just look at it all from the viewpoint of the admittedly neurotic foreigner. I am a neurotic! I am not normal! Wake up!
Many folks have written to say they appreciate me telling it like it is; while some may not agree on some aspects of life in the Yucatan, they still understand that it is what it is and that the neurotic foreigner often has his tongue in his cheek.

Thank you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

No Smoking in Restaurants

While my associate the Casual Restaurant Critic writes sanguinely about the no-smoking rules in restaurants, I would like to take a sharper look at what I consider an invasion of privacy and an intrusion by government in the affairs of ordinary citizens.

While government is supposed to be charged with maintaining some sort of level playing field when it comes to regulating the activities of its citizens, this rather lofty ideal has come crashing down over the decades, or maybe it hasn't - it's just become more obvious and less secretive.

To maintain some semblance of authority (we are here to help the people!) government officials like to take on simple, easy to do projects like this no smoking thing. There are enough people whining and moaning that cigarettes kill, so we should be able to pass this quickly and everyone will see how hard we work for the subjects we mean populace. It's the government policy version of Hamburger Helper.

While I have no doubt that smoking is a health problem I nevertheless enjoy my cigarettes, especially the one right after a meal or in a bar. I can however, go for extended periods of time without lighting up so I not one of those militant smokers. My problem is with government legislating what you can or cannot do in a privately owned restaurant. Public spaces, yes, by all means, legislate away for the good of everyone since everyone needs to be in these public areas and smokers shouldn't be allowed to contaminate the lungs of those who choose not to smoke, in those areas. But restaurants, no.

Non-smokers will whine about how they can't go to Trotters without having to put up with smoke from some nearby inconsiderate jerk who is smoking. Or how they can't enjoy their coffee at Segafredo without suffering the exhalations of some smoker at the next table. I have two words for those people - don't go.

It is not your god-given right to go to any restaurant. There is no clause in the constitution of this or any other country that indicates such a right. This is not a public space. This is a private space and the owner of the establishment should be able to make the decision as to whether or not he or she wants to allow smoking in his or her place of business. If you feel you can't go to 'x' restaurant because they allow smoking there, so what. Don't go. It is not, I repeat, your god-given right or constitutional obligation to eat at that restaurant.

Will a restaurant's business suffer because the owner allows smoking? So be it. The owner can then decide to create either a no smoking area or prohibit smoking altogether if he or she decides that it will be good for business. Maybe the move to non-smoking will be a good idea, maybe it won't. It should be up to the owner.

But I want to eat there, the steaks are so good, whines the militant non-smoker. Tough. Open your own steak restaurant or go someplace else. This is a privately owned business. Get it?

What about employees? This is another selling point for the non-smoking militant. I don't think that Mr. Trotter for example, goes to his employees homes and points a gun at them and forces them to come to work. If you can't stand smoke, go work someplace else. Simple.

But then, no one will work in the restaurants and bars where smoking is permitted, some might argue. Again, tough. Tough for the owner. If there are no employees willing to work in a smoky environment, it's up to the business owner to make changes, not the government. The business owner must decide how to make his workplace safer and/or the job more attractive to make up for the hassle of the employee possibly getting sick from cigarrette smoke. Better wages, a better health plan and a good smoke extraction/air purification system will make the job attractive to potential employees. Have you ever been to Vegas? Are the croupiers complaining about the heavy smoking that goes on at the roulette tables and casinos in general? Probably. But if you don't like it, you could go work at McDonalds or Walmart. No one is forcing you to work there. They must be doing something at those casinos that make people want to work in them.

Restaurants are not public places. How many times to I have to repeat this?

My position is admittedly anti-government in the sense that they have no business in anyone's business. Or personal life for that matter.

Malls, at least in Merida for the time being, are still smoking friendly. A mall, in spite of being privately owned as well, can be arguably classified as public spaces. You could make an almost convincing argument that you have to go to the mall to get whatever it is you want to get. I wouldn't be convinced, but you could make it. Yet, one can still smoke in the mall. Not in the restaurant, but in the mall. Go figure.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hysteria in the Yucatan?

Back in Merida from my travels, I can perceive the nervous tension in the city. The violence associated with more 'macho' states like Nuevo Leon and Sonora has made an appearance here at last, and it has shaken up the Yucatecans like nothing before. No hurricane has had the impact of the news that 12 headless bodies were found here.

Here! Where nothing ever happens!

There is a saying that says, cuando se acaba el mundo, me voy a Yucatan which roughly means when the world comes to an end, I'm moving to the Yucatan. Well, that feeling of 'nothing bad ever happens here' has been shaken out of many Yucatecans. The ambiente is tense:
  • Around the city, there are police controls near every mall and wherever people might be congregating. Police controls funnel traffic from 2 or 3 lanes into one lane where machine gun armed police with bullet proof vests and dark sunglasses peer into your vehicle as you pass by. At night, these are lit up like Christmas trees and you have to squint as you pass under the bright 500,000 watt lights blast into your face.
  • The newspapers are happy as pigs in poop because they have increased their sales to the point of salivation. They are even printing rumors that they pass off as stories 'that have not been confirmed', like a shooting here or there, a kidnapping that might or might not have happened, a bomb threat imagined or real who knows, that kind of thing. Very professional and a great example of journalism. The local papers, in an effort to 'inform' their readership, actually took the beheading video off YouTube and posted it directly on their site. Nothing morbid about that is there? Nahh.

  • The people that put that polarizing film on vehicle windows are happy because now they can offer the service of removing that same film. You remember the Dr. Suess story of the Star Bellied Sneetches? With the man who brought a Star On and Star Off machine to the hapless Sneetches? It's kind of like that. The state government has decreed that no vehicles shall have darkened windows and that any car that has it must have it removed. We all had until mid September, but of course, as is always the case in this lovely land, there has been an extension of the deadline. The traffic manual from the SPV says that cars shouldn't have their windows polarized anyway, but only now it seems will anyone do anything about it.

  • Store owners and merchants in the malls and in general are complaining that sales have fallen dramatically as people opt to stay home instead of going to the mall to enjoy free air conditioning. Better to be sweating on the sidewalk in front of your house than to be bleeding and cool in the air conditioned mall. The economy in general, has slowed to a crawl.

  • Kids and their parents are deciding that discos and nightclubs are not great places to be, since the combination of macho-ness, alcohol and a possible hand gun are not a particularly attractive combination. Drugs are sold at clubs after all, and while this has been going on for a while, it took some beheadings to bring the message home.

  • Police have raided a lot of houses, found clues here and there and seized a sizable number of vehicles. Not much in the way of arrests though. There is much speculation about who is involved. Anyone who looks foreign ie. not Yucatecan is suspect. Remember the Diario de Yucatan catchphrase 'aspecto fuereño' and you get the picture.
That all said, I have not felt particularly unsafe in my daily activities. Business-wise I am hurting but I don't feel physically threatened, yet. I guess if I was a clubber or involved in some illicit activity I would be worried, but for us normal folks trying to eke out a living, besides the traffic complications, armored machine gun vehicles on the periferico and the occasional military helicopter with armed soldiers sticking out overhead, nada grave.

NotTheNews on Drugs

Chris Rock and I have a lot in common it would seem. We are both in the same corner on the so-called 'war on drugs', which is really a load of crap and an excuse to dedicate money 'stolen' taxpayers to a ridiculous and wasteful campaign that does absolutely nothing more than fill the jails with regular people who just want to get high while the real power players remain out there.

Humans have been smoking, injecting, inhaling mind-altering substances ever since some caveman ripped up a pot plant and threw it on the fire, causing the entire tribe to erupt in a fit of giggles and then try to satisfy their munchies with some roasted squirrels or something. Why do governments (with the notable exception of the Dutch) not seem to understand this? People want to do drugs! So let them.

The existing laws are already enough. You want to get high, whether it's alcohol or crack, fine. you break the law and you go to jail. Simple. Do you think that there would be all this violence between competing groups trying to dominate an illegal market if you could go to the tendejon at the corner and pick up a 100 gms bag of weed along with a six pack? I don't think so.

Of course, any independent thought in this country (and most everywhere else) is completely dependent on what the giant Puritan hypocrisy thinks:
"Oh you want to legalize drugs? Well forget about getting your tomatoes to Pennsylvania then. You help us 'fight' this war and if you are good, you'll get a pat on the head from us and some used Hummers from some war we are just finished with."

Legalize drugs, stop the violence. Stop the madness.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Losing your Head in the Yucatan

While I travel in North America, it is with an increasing sense of incredulity that I realize the narcos have finally made their presence known in the Yucatan. Merida is finally waking up to the fact that it is not immune to their tentacles.
I once told my family that if the violence in the rest of the country ever made it to the Merida, I would pack my bags and leave. It seems that a decision is imminent...
More later...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

And if you thought that last post was fun...

Here's another one!

When filing your business's annual tax declaration, you make out the onerous paperwork - well, your accountant does because the Mexican tax system is so complicated that it is virtually impossible for anyone to understand what the hell it is you are supposed to actually put in the scores of little boxes and what to deduct or declare - and you file it, paying at the bank via internet since Mexico is such a modern country. Once you have paid and received/printed your receipt, and have verified that your money has been removed from your bank account in order to help promote a comfortable lifestyle for Mexican politicians once they have retired and live in France, you think you are done right? Wrong.

It turns out that there is a little-known and never-used (up till now) in the marvelous taxation laws of this advanced democracy that states that besides filing your declaration and paying, you have to (or your accountant has to) LET HACIENDA KNOW THAT YOU HAVE PAID by means of an official letter or notification. Failure to do this will result in a $50,000.00 peso fine! Can you believe this? You pay and they already have your money, but since you didn't tell them you paid, you automatically get slapped with a fat fine which will presumably cover the cost of Mr. Carstens weekly lunch bill.

This is nothing less than outright highway robbery and a wonderful incentive for investors to come to Mexico to subject themselves to this abuse. Perhaps the Mexican government should consider promoting the country to the International Masochist Businessmens Association, whose members might enjoy this kind of pain.

I am not making this up. I have first-hand knowledge of such a case right now. The accountant alleges that while it is technically his fault because he is supposed to be watching his clients' back, he prefers to fight the fine legally (with the clients money of course).

Meanwhile, for your enjoyment, I will add (in a little while) a photo of Mr. Carstens, Mexico's Minister of All Things Taxable and believe me, he needs the money.

More on the $2000 Peso Rule for Small Business Owners

This note is of interest for those considering coming to Mexico and starting a small (or large) business...

In their infinite and constantly increasing wisdom, the powers that be at the Secretaria de Hacienda y Planeacion (SHCP) known simply as 'Hacienda' established a rule that said you can not declare as a legitimate expense any expense that reaches or exceeds $2000 pesos if you paid for it in cash. This ingenious little rule will somehow make the country less prone to tax evasion and help the 30% of Mexico that pays taxes pay more taxes either directly or in fines and therefore support the other 70% that pays no taxes whatsoever.

Let's say you are buying something in Costco and the bill comes to $1999.99. That's OK, you can pay in cash. But if it comes to $2000.01 then you must pay with a company check.

There are a couple of ways around this little rule, none of them particularly illegal (check with your accountant though, don't take my neurotic word for it):
  • Let's say you have $7000 pesos worth of goods you have bought for your business. You ask the cashier, or the person who is making up your invoice, to split the purchase into several separate purchases with each invoice totaling less than the $2000 peso total. This way you can pay for them in cash (petty cash) and then issue a check later for reposition of petty cash. This helps because if you want to pay by check in some of these places, it's a pain in the butt since you will need to have extra paperwork done in the case of Sam's Club or Costco, for example.
  • The other way is to pay your $7000 in cash; then make the check, and it's accompanying poliza* out separately. Make the check out to yourself, but on the poliza make it look like the check was paid to the company in question.
This 'petty cash' rule is one of the rules that business owners must abide by and that make doing business in Mexico such a downright pleasure, especially when you see so many people not paying any taxes at all; it makes you feel proud to be part of that select group that pays for all the rest of the population.

The poliza is the copy of the check that must accompany each and every check in your accounting records and contains all the information on the check. It's usually green which is another bit of completely useless information.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

CFE Makes Your Life Easier Again - NOT

The CFE (Comision Federal de Electricidad) whose slogan is "for the progress of Mexico" is once again asking that any payments made on your electric bill by check be made with a certified check.

This provision was relaxed a while back and one could pay their electric bill either with cash or a check (not certified). A few days ago I sent an employee to pay the business' electric bill which came to a whopping $8000 pesos for the 2 month billing period and the employee returned saying that the check had to be certified. This was news to me since that particularly onerous provision had been waived. No, the CFE person told my employee, and it was right there on the sign, didn't you read it?

For those of you unfamiliar with the burocratic processes that maintain this country firmly and irrevocably in the 'third world' category, the Mexican version of the IRS, Hacienda, insists that any payment made in a business environment to a supplier that is at or over the $2000 peso amount must be made by check. Since the CFE bill was well over that amount, a check must be used. But the CFE insists that a check is no good unless it has been certified by the bank that issued the check, which means you incur an additional charge (for the certification) to be able to pay your electric bill. No other supplier does this, but the CFE is the only game in town when it comes to powering your electric equipment, lights and air conditioning so they can (and do) pretty much whatever the hell they want.

So a special salute to all my friends at the CFE and the Secretaria de Hacienda y Credito Publico: a big Thank You for making life so much simpler for the small business owner!

I hope you all rot in hell.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Obama's Response to Iran's Missile Tests

While there seems to be a lot of respect for John McCain, as evidenced by one reader's comment on the previous post, he has done an admirable job of beating the war drums and completely modifying many of his previously held positions on many subjects, including the power and influence held and exercised by Washington lobbyists and controversial subjects such as torture. It seems he is making an all out effort to appease everyone across the board.

Barack Obama has also done some of this, but I find his response to the Iran missile tests a little more comforting and hopeful, in that should he be elected, we might find the US once again acting as a part of the international community. Here is his response:

Sen. Barack Obama: “Part of what we have to do is get the Europeans, the Chinese, the Russians, all to recognize that it’s in nobody’s interests, including Iran’s, I believe, to have a nuclear weapon that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region. And that’s something that I intend to make a number one priority when I’m in the White House, making sure they don’t have that nuclear capability."

Friday, July 11, 2008

McCain's response to Iran's Missile Tests

Sen. John McCain: “It’s time for action. And it’s time to make the Iranians understand that this kind of violation of international treaties, this kind of threatening of their neighbors, this kind of continued military activity, is
not without cost."

After Iran's recent long-range missile tests, presumably in response to all the Bush government rhetoric about that evil country's presumed intentions, Republican presidential candidate John McCain came up with this convincing response.

Hmm. Let's see. What if we inserted another world leader as the author of the quote, referring to (gasp!) the United States?

Violation of international treaties... Geneva anyone? Others include:

  • Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague IV)
  • U.N. General Assembly Resolution 3314
  • Nuremberg Tribunal Charter
  • 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention

Threatening their neighbors.... how about countries all around the globe, from Latin America to Asia to ?

Continuing military activity... Iraq, Chile, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Grenada, Haiti, Fiji, Liberia, Chad, South Korea...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

US Departs from the shores of Burma

Above, is what set me off this morning! Sorry to all my gringo readers, it must seem like I am picking on y'all.

Is it possible that the USA is becoming more diplomatic?

After directly invading Iraq, Afghanistan, Grenada, Vietnam, et al., and directly getting involved with the internal politics of countless nations, it seems the USA is getting diplomatic in the case of Burma aka Myanmar.

The military junta that 'rules' this unfortunate group of human beings that were cursed only by the locations of their mother's vagina when they emerged onto the scene, has denied most foreign aid organizations access to the country to provide emergency help in the form of food, supplies, medicines and doctors; all those things that post-hurricane would be so very helpful in helping people actually NOT DIE.

The USA deemed that it somehow needed permission on this occasion to 'invade' yet another country with whom they are in disagreement and having been denied it, is retiring it's help-laden ships from the coastline in front of Burma aka Myanmar.

Imagine how the world's opinion of the USA in general and the little man at the top himself could have been positively affected had there been a literal 'invasion' of food, medicine and supplies by the USA, overriding the idiots in charge in Burma and to actually save the lives of those that are suffering. Supplies, food and medicines, nothing else. No soldiers, no people on the ground.

Instead, they are asking permission to an internationally despised military junta. What - this junta has weapons of mass destruction and might actually use them? Or is the fact that there is no known oil reserve there that will warrant such an incursion, however humanitarian? Now that the junta has said no and again no, the generals and admirals and L'il Georgie shrug their shoulders and say 'gee we really wanted to help, but they won't let us".

This is so pathetic it makes me sick. Diplomatic indeed. Whatever happened to the shining beacon on the hill, the leader of the free world. Pathetic pathetic pathetic.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cold Cuts and Sound Systems - Supermarket Promotions

Enough of the political comments! What does a Canadian living in Mexico have to do with US politics anyway, you ask. Well as a citizen of the countries immediately to the north and south of the rogue elephant, it would behoove everyone to take an interest.

But of much greater significance is what I really want to ask in this post:

What is the relationship between sausages and sound systems?

If you have lived in Merida for a while, you have probably gone shopping at some point in one of the major supermarket chains like Comercial Mexicana, Chedraui, Carrefour (now extinct), SuperMaz, San Francisco, Bodega Aurrera and, most recently, Walmart de Mexico. And on one of those forays into the mazes of aisles and products, you have probably come upon that section of the store dedicated to the ever-popular cheeses and cold cuts.

These are special areas of the store that sell everything from the plastic, fluorescent orange queso americano to dubious (non lactose) versions of Oaxaca and Manchego cheese from brands with names like Deisi and Meli (OK I made that last one up). They also sell sausages - hot dogs made with the cheapest filler are extremely popular and show up in everything from wienie salads to paella - as well as salami and ham, another HUGE seller.

Now - and I am getting to my point at last - whenever there is a promotion on any of these products, the companies like Fud, San Rafael and Dubi (I did not make that last one up) decide that the best - and only - way to promote fake meat is through a direct assault on all your senses more or less as follows:

  • Sense of sight - they will have scantily-clad hostesses showing off their belly buttons, legs and cleavage, holding trays of pre-cut samples which obviously appeal to your
  • Sense of taste, which will detect mostly salt and fat but that is just the product; nothing can be done there.

  • Your sense of touch will be employed here when your fingers scrabble around on the aluminum-foil wrapped tray trying to grab a piece of fatty hot dog or ham

  • And finally, your sense of hearing will be attacked by a full out, blaring sound system, playing the latest tunes in the reggaeton, cumbia and salsa genre. In addition to the music, one of the hostesses or a host dressed in bright blue and yellow polyester will act as a DJ or MC, announcing the fabulous deals on wienies right now, and all the goodness that corn starch, pigs feet and salt can provide when ground up and shoved into a semi-edible sausage casing. He will be yelling into the mike, the music blaring, perhaps even delighting his oblivious audience with a few dance moves, and generally just creating a real exciting ambiance in which to purchase ham and cheese.

Why is this? What is the relationship with loud tropical music and cold cuts? Certainly an important question that deserves some thought.

Monday, May 19, 2008


As a show of respect for the sacrifices made in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by the 4000 men and women in the US Army (screw the Iraquis, they're evil after all) who have died and the many more wounded, President George W. Bush has declared that he is giving up golf.

I would like to ask people in the US - where is the outrage? I see Olberman and others ranting but by this time, with all this lying and all this deceit, why hasn't the vast majority American public simply stood up and said: Enough!

Someone please explain.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

NotTheNews Commentary on US Presidential Candidates

That NotTheNews occasionally dabbles in foreign affairs is not new; this particular entry takes a glimpse at the contenders for the US presidential race, the results of which will assuredly affect everyone around the globe, as much as George W. Bush has negatively affected the world in the eight years he has been undermining any chance of international goodwill towards the United States by the rest of the citizens of the beleaguered planet.

Talk about your run-on sentences. And I write this knowing full well that there will be at least one reader who disagrees with me on some of this.

For purposes of clarification: NotTheNews is atheist, does not support the Republicans at any time and is generally wary of all American foreign policy; military, economic or political, seeing that for the most part, they have proven to be destructive and poorly thought out.

Barack H. Obama - The official candidate of the NotTheNews editorial team; his recent declarations deploring the Reverend Jeremiah Wright for 'inflammatory' statements selected carefully and with malicious intent from by the US corporate media are, in the opinion of the afore-mentioned NotTheNews editorial team, a blatant sellout to the brainless sector of American society that cannot think for themselves beyond the 5 second sound bite and take offense at the Reverend's words.

In the humble and completely irrelevant opinion of this writer, the fact that Sen. Obama has to pander to the ignorant instead of standing up for free speech and perhaps even inviting the American public to take a closer look at what the Reverend said, in what context and how much of it may be - however remotely and however unpopular - close to the view held by many of the citizens of the world. The truth hurts, the American public in general can not face it (there's another sale at Macy's!!!) and Obama has cheapened his position in siding with the sheep in this case.

Hillary R. Clinton - The second choice of the NotTheNews team, the senator from New York who never lived there much has blown her chance of any endorsement by this website by declaring recently that if Israel was attacked by Iran, she would 'obliterate' the latter. To make such an irresponsible statement when you have two unpopular presidents - el loco Bush in the US and el loco Ahmadinejad in Iran - rattling those proverbial sabers, is pandering to the macho element in American society who still believe that a woman cannot be strong militarily. Being as ignorant as many are of international politics, perhaps they have never heard of Margaret Thatcher. In any case, more than for reasons of pandering to the thick-necked, thick skulled, NRA membership, the comment by la Hillary is downright dangerous and will surely make Americans even more popular abroad. It also reinforces this writer's idea that Hillary is just another old, white American business-as-usual politician who will continue with the same America First policies, the rest of the world be damned, that have characterized American foreign policy since the Spanish-American war.

John McCain - While the Democrats fight amongst themselves, this Republican former 'maverick' who ran against Bush in 2000 has, in some sort of Frankenstein-sells-off-parts-of-himself process, become another person altogether, completely at odds with his former, thinking self. Where he was once against torture (having endured it as a POW himself) he now supports all those delightful tactics that Rumsfeld, Cheney et al have come to call 'aggressive interrogation' methods, including the charming activity known as water-boarding or simulated drowning. He is all for the war and has declared that the US could be in Iraq for the next 100 years. Back in 2000, he openly opposed the idiots on the fundamentalist religious right; now he has pandered (there's that word again) to them by seeking and obtaining - among other lunatics in that vein - the Rev. Hageys endorsement.
In short, McCain is now a Bush/Cheney clone, has seen the light ($$) and has sold out big time.

The conclusion is that so far, in order to reach as many possible voters as possible, all the candidates have taken positions that they were perhaps originally less than eager to embrace, all in the name of getting more votes. And the common denominator seems to be the lack of intelligence among the majority of the American electorate who have been shielded from any real discussion about the effect of US policy on the rest of the world, or indeed, of their own history. And so, each candidate 'dumbs down' his position, watering it down, chewing and re-chewing until it becomes palatable and digestible to the infants charged with electing their next glorious leader.

All the rest of the world can do is watch. And hope.

Link: Bill Moyers on Rev J. Wright

Saturday, May 17, 2008

After a long absence...

Another month goes by and there is nothing to write about?

To tell you the truth, my dear readers, I have been absorbed in other things that have taken me away from the NotTheNews blog site and therefore my writing has been somewhat nonexistent. Of course, the fact that there were no more updates on the Chabelo case really put a damper on my inspiration.

There is of course, always something to write about when you are a neurotic foreigner. Although I am coming up to the point where I will have lived as long here as I have elsewhere growing up! 20 and 20 (years).

There is an interesting development regarding the hospital in Alta Brisa. My last post was on the IMSS so here is another health-related note: it seems that the Hospital de Alta Especialidad which was touted as the largest and most advanced medical center in the southeast of Mexico - if not Latin America, oh hell, in the world - has never been opened or inaugurated.

Apparently former President Fox did come to snip some ribbons, but the place was never really opened. It sits there, completely finished (at least from the outside) complete with landscaping and security... EMPTY.

Now a branch of some medical workers labor union has overrun the facility, declaring that they want half the jobs in the hospital to be alloted to their union people and the resignation of the guy running the operation. The local paper Diario de Yucatan shows some of these folks eating tacos and sleeping in the hallways of this brand-spanking new hospital that could be already helping people, but is mired in conflict in true third world fashion.

There was another narco-shooting in Merida this past week, when several men in a vehicle tried to make off with someone and that someone managed to escape the vehicle but not the bullet of a 45 caliber pistol that mangled his forearm. This happened in Mérida's hallowed 'norte' (where the 'nice' people live) and the local papers made the most of it.

Mostly this violence is not affecting anyone outside the sphere of
the business that these folks are in, so nothing to worry about yet. I will be sure to keep you posted.

That about wraps it up this morning, thanks for checking in and hopefully you found something interesting.

Credits: Special thanks to:
  • La Rosita for their unwilling and unknowing participation this morning by providing me with the photo of their rather simple salbutes.

  • Theresa for sending me this link:,0,2826129.photogallery?index=1 which highlights the top places for Americans to get arrested. In the world! You live in Mexico? Well read it! Thanks Theresa: you kick started by lazy butt this morning.

  • My dear wife, for making this damn fine coffee that I am drinking as I write.

Monday, April 07, 2008

...and in other news...

There is, along with the exciting details of the back and forth between Chabelo and our state government, an article on the IMSS. For the uninitiated, that stands for either Importa Madre Su Salud or Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, depending on whether you are an official of the instution or someone who has had to use their services.

Apparently, according to the newspaper ( must be true - salió en el Diario) under a headline titled 'Sensibilizacion en el IMSS' the IMSS announced a campaign in which they are encouraging their staff (nurses, receptionists, doctors, etc) to be more efficient and nicer to patients. Apparently, and this must be a recent problem since gosh, no on has ever mentioned this before, a few folks have been complaining that the IMSS staff is a little less than professional or courteous in their dealings with patients.

I wish them all the best in their quest and look forward to positive declarations by the fine people running the IMSS in next week's newspapers.

Chabelo Continues to be News

The local paper, el Diario de Yucatan, continues its exciting coverage of the Chabelo affair with the zeal normally reserved for real news and political reporting. If you don't know what Chabelo is, read yesterdays post or visit his website.

Yesterday, Sunday, the paper had more info on 'what happened' during Chabelo's truncated performance as a guest of the state government. The report included exciting details of the state government officials (paid by our tax pesos) went on a Chabelo hunt looking for the 'artist' after he left the stage and found him in the Liverpool parking lot, waiting for a taxi. The heart-stopping events that followed were also reported, indicating that the government officials convinced Chabelo not to take the taxi (even though it had already arrived and was sent away) and they managed to get Chabelo to get into the official, tax payer funded, vehicle. What they did after that is unclear, since the show did not go on and Chabelo appeared in Mexico City the next day to do his Sunday show.

Today, there is even more news. Hard to believe but thank goodness for this breath of fresh air, because if not, we would be reading news only about the never-ending problems between the PAN, PRI and PRD political factions, narco executions in Sinaloa and the latest man (it's always men, never a woman) to fall down a well, leaving behind children and a distraught wife. The latest report is not really news of course, but a rehash of previous reports and the addition of new 'facts' to the case.

It seems that Chabelo offered a public apology to the people of Yucatan, who he professed to 'love very much' and that the problem was with the 'organizers' (the state government of Yucatan, whom we are supporting with our taxes). He apparently didn't love them enough to continue with some kind of show, though.

Pedro Borges, the local empresario who rented the sound equipment to the government (with our tax pesos of course) to the Chabelo technical crew, and who handed control over to them for the actual performance, indicated that he had noted a feedback problem and commented to the
audio guy working the controls that the problem was with the monitors and that the audio guy took offense at this, closed his laptop containing the Chabelo program and walked away, leaving the suspender and shorts-clad, falsetto-speaking 60 year old 'amigo de los niños' on stage with no tech support.

From a purely Yucatecan POV, this is yet another typical demonstration of why the waches are so hated in the Yucatan. The wach technician (he must have been a wach; I am sure that if you ask people who were there, they will tell you that at least he had an aspecto fuereño) got offended that some country bumpkin from here would tell him, the knowledgeable expert from the big city, about a problem he might or might not be having. And to actually dare to suggest a solution; well, that would be just too much for the ego of this wach and this is why he walked away in disgust at the preposterousness of the mere implication of him not knowing that a) he had a problem and b) that he might not know how to correct said problem. That's what I suspect will be the typical Yucatecan POV, and it's probably correct.

Personally, I am enjoying seeing how our tax pesos are being spent on this ridiculous show, and all the government resources - vehicles, staff, the governor of the state herself taking the stage to apologize for a hissy fit by a self important fossil that could only call himself an artist in a third world culture - alloted not only to the planning of, but also the damage control surrounding the program and it's spectacular failure.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Chabelo Has A Fit

In this morning's newspaper, I read with great interest, after checking out the photos in the Sociales pages, all about Chabelo's latest visit to Yucatan to appear in a state-government program to celebrate El Día del Niño (Kids Day) that was held at the Siglo XXI Convention Center.

Mommy Government is always concerned with the well-being of whomever it is that is being celebrated; there are similar festivals for Moms on Mothers Day where hundreds of hipil-clad moms from the pueblos around Merida are piled onto buses and carted to the Convention Center (the official state government building for hosting 'popular' events) and given a show, some food and a photo op with an Official from Mommy Government. On this occasion, for the kids, the powers that be invited (with your tax pesos of course) Chabelo to come to entertain the masses.

For those of you not familiar with Chabelo, he is a much-loved television show host, who dresses up in children's clothing and talks in a falsetto voice like a little kid. A little wach kid; that is, and many, many Mexicans think he is an icon. During his show, which I confess to having watched on one occasion, I was amazed at how he pushes all kinds of crappy candy and toys and is a complete sell-out to his corporate sponsors. Did I mention that he is 60-plus years old? Yes, well, this wrinkled old man in shorts, suspenders and the falsetto came to the Yucatan - at the invitation of our governor - to entertain the kids on their special day.

These are kids, for the most part, from the so-called clases populares, which, if you have been reading these writings throughout the 14 years or so they have been appearing in front of you, you know means that they are brown, poor and travel in state-government-provided transportation and have been raised by their parents accompanied by a heavy daily diet of horrendously awful television that has stunted their imaginations to the point that they actually think Chabelo is entertainment and the sadly unfunny Popi Popi clown is Cirque du Soleil material.

OK, I am generalizing. Stop already. And it's not their fault. It's Mommy Government that screws these people over and over, generation after generation. I feel a rant coming on. Better stop. Now.

So here they are, these kids - having been bussed in from the dirt-poor marginalized pueblos around Merida that are visited by the well-off on only two occasions: political campaigns and the Misiones during holey week - waiting for up to 3 hours for this magical character from TV to appear on stage, thanks to the magnanimous effort of Mommy Government (and our tax money) who has of course, absolutely no interest in obtaining, from these bussed-in folks, any kind of political support.

Chabelo finally takes the stage! I am not there, but I can imagine the scene: the kids are happy, and the government officials, in their starched white guayabera shirts, beam with pride at their cultural accomplishment.

However, after about 10 minutes, according to the article, Chabelo wants to sing a song (yes, he sings and it is truly a cringe-inducing experience) but someone in the audio engineering area has not provided the backing track over which he will either sing or at least mouth, the song. The newspaper article goes on to say that he gets miffed - on stage - and asks where was the person he brought to look after his audio. Moments later, he declares that out of 'respect for his audience' he cannot continue with the show and abruptly leaves the stage, leaving his audience in a complete state of shock. The government officials, their beaming faces now reflecting worry and consternation at the thought of the angry mob scene that might result, scurry about trying to locate Chabelo and have him reconsider. Chabelo is nowhere to be found, however, and the restless crowd is becoming a little miffed itself.

Finally, the icing (IMHO) on this Mommy Government Moment cake - the governor herself (!) takes the stage to apologize for the disappointment suffered by all those little fans and their parents. The governor of the state, apologizing for Chabelo. Unbelievable.