Friday, June 25, 2010


I have been informed that it is now summer in the US. Here in Mexico City it does not feel like summer, because it never does not feel like summer.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mexico City: Dialogues

It's the rainy season here, which means it pours intermittently between about 5 and 9 pm every evening. Yesterday I took refuge in a taco joint for about two hours while the streets around me turned into ponds. I was the only customer there. One young waiter would occasionally peer out from under the tarpualin and shout, "Tlaloc! Qué pasa, Tlaloc?"

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mexico City: Scenes—Portales Market

Everyone's a Critic: Dylanology

Dylan:           That song sure as hell wasn't written for you.
Weberman:  It wasn't?
Dylan:          It sure as hell wasn't, no. I was not even aware of you
                     at that time.
Weberman:  Isn't 'landlord' 'critic,' though, in your symbolism?
Dylan:           If you took some of that energy and spread it out a little,
                      you could get involved in a whole new thing.
Weberman: Dylanology's working out fine for me.
Dylan:          Well I don't know if there's going to be enough there.

—from a phone conversation between Bob Dylan and "radical" music critic/journalist Alan J. Weberman, taped June, 1971

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Spanish Lesson/Adventures in Rhythm: Rasguenda las Cuerdas

In an attempt to improve my Spanish I started listening to a lot of flamenco. This turned out to be not very productive: Flamenco is usually sung in a gypsy argot with an intense Andalusian accent, where the S's are dropped and the vowel at the end of a word always sounds like 'oowwww'. It's like trying to learn English by listening to delta blues.

Anyway this clip features some great flamenco singing, dancing and guitar playing (I think it's a tangos) in a festive setting—although in Arabic instead of Spanish. But it's also notable for a couple of cross-cultural connections. The melody here comes from an old Spanish/Moorish song (there's some debate about this), of which there are versions in Spanish and Arabic. Part of it was used by the Gipsy Kings in their more famous song, 'Viento del Arena.' (The Gipsy Kings are in fact Spanish gypsies, but from families that were displaced to southern France during the Spanish Civil War.)

The beautiful young woman who sings and dances here is Lole Montoya, later the singer for Lole y Manuel, the duet that inaugurated the flamenco nuevo movement of the 1970s. Quentin Tarantino used one of their songs, 'Tu Mira,' in his more famous Kill Bill 2.

(By the way, if anyone knows more about the song behind this and 'Viento del Arena,' please tell me. I know nothing. Also, there's definitely some Michael Jackson stuff going on in her dancing.)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Antiquariana: The Yankees of Old Weathersfield

"The most prominent of these was a certain rambling propensity, with which, like the sons of Ishmael, they seem to have been gifted by heaven, and which continually goads them to shift their residence from place to place, so that a Yankee farmer is in a constant state of migration, tarrying occasionally here and there, cleansing lands for other people to enjoy, building houses for others to inhabit, and in a manner may be considered the wandering Arab of America....
"...while the renowned Wouter Van Twiller was daily battling with his doubts, and his resolution growing weaker and weaker in the contest, the enemy pushed farther and farther into his territories, and assumed a most formidable appearance in the neighborhood of Fort Goed Hoop. Here they founded the mighty town of Pyquag, or, as it has since been called, Weathersfield, a place which, if we may credit the assertions of that worthy historian, John Josselyn, Gent., 'hath been infamous by reason of the witches therein.' And so daring did these men of Pyquag become, that they extended those plantations of onions, for which their town is illustrious, under the very noses of the garrison of Fort Goed Hoop, insomuch that the honest Dutchmen could not look toward that quarter without tears in their eyes."

-Washington Irving, A History of New York: From the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker, 1809

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Elsewhere in Mexico: Art Deco Jesus

Church, Acapulco.

Stranger with You: The Accountants Have Computed

The pace of life is more relaxed in Mexico. That means it takes fifteen minutes to pay for a cup of coffee. Maybe this will change as they open more Starbucks franchises.

Mexico City: Scenes

Mexico City metro stations are inordinately large. The corridors seem designed to admit a military procession or a running of the bulls. It often takes five to seven minutes of hard walking to make a simple transfer between lines. Probably to compensate for this, the trains are too small.

The trains run on rubber tires and are very quiet when they pull up to the platform, but are less quiet inside, where the windows are left open due to a lack of air conditioning.

On the Street: Guitar

Calle Cozumel.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mexico City: Scenes

Guy at a party.

Lucha libre poster (unrelated).

My neighborhood by day...

...and by night.

Not my neighborhood.

Centro Historico.

Centro Historico.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Adventures in Rhythm: With a Different Meaning

How did I never notice that the Rolling Stones stole the hook for "Under My Thumb"...

from the Four Tops' "Same Old Song"?

Keith's miming is all original though.