Thursday, March 31, 2011

In Mexico City

Still working away in this 20 million plus megalopolis, seeing more conference rooms and upscale restaurants than cathedrals (pictured left, very old example of latter located in city center.) I'm eating a surprising amount of top-flight sushi, always with a spicy kick, to satisfy local taste for the piquant..

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Return to Monterrey

My first trip to Monterrey since January 2008 felt peaceful and pleasant, though cartel-related violence is certainly real and people are concerned. I needn't have worried about coming here on business but I sure wouldn't spend a weekend here, or roam around the city. Not that it was ever charming or pedestrian-friendly. I ate very well, really got my spicy food fix!! I'm back in Mexico City, an oasis of color and energy, and today will be the first day in four I won't get on a plane..

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ingenious Bruno

Making Star Wars® space ships out of Tinker Toys®

with sound effects!

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Great Dane

This week, I bring 'Son Of A Gun' - imagine new wave pop by a white, cute Scandinavian who sings like Billie Holiday.

That would be Oh Land, born Nanna Øland Fabricius in Copenhagen... Years of study to be a classical dancer with the Royal Danish Ballet came crashing down when she fractured a spinal disk...

Devastated, she turned to music as an outlet and alternative, and has won accolades with a very engaging eponymous debut released this month...

Relocated to New York, she's currently touring as supporting act for veterans wavesters Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark...

Watch her tear through 'Son of A Gun' on David Letterman...

Her other single, 'Wolf & I' is more mellow but equally novel and compelling...Here she is live at Brooklyn Bowl..

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

127 There And Back

Tonight I'm off to Mexico for the 30th time! That's will the most times I've ever been to any foreign country! My friend Fernando's had ten times more Mexico trips, but he grew up in Texas, near the border...

I'll be gone a whole week! Back on Saturday! It's a grueling research trip, in which I must interview 16 companies, in both Mexico City and the normally prosperous but currently frightening Monterrey... This will be my 127th foreign trip, for those keeping track, my 82nd foreign business trip (but only my 4th with Santander), and my 76th trip to Latin America...

I'll bring my laptop for interviews, and I'll try to post daily, however brief, to 'bring y'all along,' so to speak, if you will...

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

It May Be Winter Outside...

...but in my heart it's springtime, thanks to my sweet baby.

I stepped out last night with JP and Fernando and Sunil, after a long, intense week of work ahead of a long, intense week-long trip to Mexico starting tomorrow.

We saw the delightfully campy, preposterous, joyous 'Divine Sister' by Charles Busch, after which Sunil treated us all to gelato at 'L'Arte di Gelato,' after walking what seemed like 100 blocks in the freezing cold...

Campmeister Charles Busch wrote the similarly smart-rageous play 'Psycho Beach Party,' which he adapted into a great movie, and the smart-rageous movie 'Die Mommie Die', which he adapted into a great play...

Two great excerpts from 'Divine Sister'...

Finally, the Barry White classic alluded to in the post title...

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Queen Of The Night RIP

Goodbye, Sister Disco... Gospel-soul-disco chanteuse Loleatta Holloway went to that great glitter ball in the sky this week.

What a long strange road it was...

Holloway sang her way through a gospel childhood, through 70s alternative musical theater ('Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope,' Chicago edition), through a series of Sal-soulful dance classics, then two indelible dance floor show-stoppers in the early 80s, and finally, momentary international ubiquity when sampled first by Black Box and then by Marky Mark..

She married her producer/manager, jazz guitarist Floyd Smith, had four kids, and has been a widow for 29 years..

Here she is belting out her 1980 classic 'Love Sensation,' penned by Dan Hartman, last summer at a Newark street festival..

and she is with Marky Mark, singing on their international #1 hit 'Good Vibrations'...

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Here's Liz

In her younger days they called her Delta Dawn.. Oops, wrong story. Back in the early 1970s, when Lucille Ball propped up her third and weakest series with heavy over-reliance on celebrity guests, Liz Taylor and Richard Burton were featured one week.

In that episode, Liz made the considerable mistake of allowing Lucy to try on her most famous piece of jewelery, the 33-carat Krupp Diamond; needless to say, it didn't come off Lucy's finger as easily as it came on...
This epochal small-screen event made the cover of the then-ubiquitous TV Guide magazine..

I once collected TV Guides, one of my many childhood peculiarities... I had over 500 different issues at one point! I sold my collection - for about US$100 - in my senior year of high school...

Joan Rivers has been awfully quiet today....

Liz Taylor's weight was the subject of many unkind jokes, but one exception is a great line by an 80s-era drag queen:

"Remember we all used to wish we looked like Elizabeth Taylor? Well... Now we all do!"

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mia!

And a very, very happy birthday wish for Mia!

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wonderful But Ghastly

It tastes lovely and smells atrocious.
It's the incredible Durian fruit! An ex-co-worker of mine said it was 'like eating a Linzer Tart in an outhouse...' And, of course, famously, the Durian is verboten on the Singapore Subway System (lower right corner of this picture)..

Southeast Asia's 'King of Fruits' is distinctive for its large size, unique taste and odor, and formidable thorn-covered husk.

Here's Durian flesh packed for sale, with an exposed seed. This edible flesh emits a distinctive odour, strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Some people regard the durian as fragrant; others find the aroma overpowering and offensive.

The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as almonds, rotten onions, turpentine and gym socks. Here's an on-tree Durian - it's flowers open only at night...

The Durian's thorns are sharp enough, alas, to draw blood!

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Monday, March 21, 2011

What Are The Youth To Do?

This week we bring you 'Heaven's On Fire,' a delicious brew of jazzy, strumming guitar, stately piano riffs, and blythe dream-pop vocal's from Swedish quartet The Radio Department; the song's witty intro is a 60s-era hippie radical musing on the corruption of pop culture, accompanied by a pretty synth riff.

Trust me, the overall affect is charming, warm, and memorable...

Radio Dept was founded in 1995 by two schoolmates and named after a gas-station-turned-radio-repair shop in their home town of Lund, Sweden. Eight years later, an album emerged, and got fairly good reviews, but I somehow missed it. It was Pitchfork, that indispensable musical resource, that brought 'Heaven's On Fire' to my attention last year.

Here's a fan video of said song..

Here's their 2003 debut hit, 'Where Damage Isn't Already Done'...

From 2006, the group's biggest European hit to date, 'The Worst Taste In Music,' gets a full, dramatic production for the group's typically laid-back near-shoegazing style...

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Obama In The Country Of The Present

Brazilians proudly, joyously welcomed Obama and family this weekend to Brasilia, that country's bizarre, retro-futuristic inland capital.

Brazil's brand new President, Dilma Rousseff, takes charge of a fast-growing, prosperous Brazil that's benefited from 16 years of good government under her two excellent predecessors, Lula (who reminds me of my Dad) and Cardoso... Brazilians used to joke, in frustration, that 'Brazil is the country of the future and always will be....' To their amazement, Brazil is now the country of the present...

Dilma has a lovely smile, and there is much to smile about... 20 million Brazilians have entered the middle class in the past decade! Brasilia is, alas, one of Brazil's less scenic destinations - that's not a beach in the background, just a large, artificial lake...

Brasilia, like me, was born in 1960...

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Saturday, March 19, 2011


New Yorkers got a pre-taste of summer yesterday before their St Patrick's hangovers wore off...
What better way to celebrate than with this Sly and the Family Stone classic...

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Blooping Up Appearances

Some funny outtakes from the equally hilarious classic early 90s Britcom 'Keeping Up Appearances..'

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

I Miss Dragonfruit

The texture of kiwi, but a sweeter, non-citric taste.. half-way between watermelon and apple? Breakfast with dragonfruit was a highlight of our Vietnam trip last year and I sorely miss them!

How to eat a dragonfruit: a 75-second seminar...

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Weed It And Weep

I'm a bit underslept today... But I bring you some lovely quotes about weeds:

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

But make no mistake: the weeds will win; nature bats last. ~Robert M. Pyle

A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows. ~Doug Larson

Plant and your spouse plants with you; weed and you weed alone. ~Author Unknown

But a weed is simply a plant that wants to grow where people want something else. In blaming nature, people mistake the culprit. Weeds are people's idea, not nature's. ~Author Unknown

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Substantial Snack

Famous Canadian chef and food entertainer Ted Reader and his crew made this huge 590 lb. hamburger to become the Guinness World Records brand new world’s heaviest hamburger.

This gargantuan burger as cooked last May in Toronto, Canada, using roughly 300 pounds of beef meat. The previous record holder was an 84-kilograms hamburger.

They had to make a specially designed grill for this purpose only to bake the meat. The whole cooking process lasted about six hours.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Icon O' Class

She's a science-fiction nerd who wears tuxedos and writes concept albums; not your grandma's r&b singer, and certainly not the very model of a modern hip-hop chanteuse... She's riding a wave of critical acclaim, word of mouth, and collaborations (notably with OutKast's Big Boi), and TV appearances, but radio play still eludes her..

It's 25-year-old Janelle Monáe, the avant-garde singer-songwriter-producer who provides today's Song of The Week, the spare, sinewy, funkily jangling 'Tightrope..' Once Broadway-bound, she switched gears, moved to Atlanta, and began work on ambitious but very catchy and memorable concept EP's like 'Metropolis Suite I' and 'The ArchAndroid' Suites II and III.

Monáe on Monáe: " I began to dream about a world where every day was like animé and Broadway, where music fell from the sky and anything could happen.."

And here she is last May, breezing through 'Tightrope' on Letterman..

Janelle took an ambitious musical and video approach to her 2008 gem 'Many Moons..'

Janelle lit up last month's Grammys with a rollicking live rendition of 'Cold War,' her latest single...

Finally, from her 2008 Summer Stage show, 'Lettin' Go'

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Suddenly, Sunset's At Seven

Daylight saves! Has spring sprung? Yesterday in Highland Park, NJ, we walked in the flooding-pool parks near the Raritan River, near JP's old college haunts. In fact, the Rutgers official school song is 'Down By The Old Raritan..'

It's just gleaming... gleam - n - a flash of light (especially reflected light)

Don't believe everything you read....

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Softening The Message

This recalls a scene in the Mel Brooks 1981 comedy 'History of the World Part 1,' set in ancient Rome. Madeleine Khan, as Empress Nympho, was relaxing with several dozen vestal virgins when a group of soldiers entered the room.
Khan quickly barked: 'Virgins! Put on your 'No Entry' signs! And they did - a terrific sight gag..
No Entry

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Friday, March 11, 2011


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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ye Olde Newe Golden Carriage

I'm finally taking pictures again. As spring is sprung on New York, there's new art in the courtyard Lever House. Here's Rachel Feinstein's 'Golden Carriage..' Wait until you see the inside, and the ar-tiste....




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Wednesday, March 09, 2011


My 'unofficial nephews', Bruno and Karl, are wonderfully blog-able, which is helpful when in a work crunch, which is often... Wish I had some recent pictures of Dan, my 'official' nephew...

Bruno's clearly inherited his parents' creative bent...

...here he is displaying his work... ..intently awaiting the reaction of the critical public : - )

Karl in deep concentration..

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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Nigeria's Brasilia

15% of Africans live crowded into Nigeria's 3% of Africa's land. To my surprise, since 1991, Nigeria's capital is no longer the overcrowded, hellish Lagos with its 8 million souls, but the much smaller, less crowded and livable Abuja, in the country's dead center.. Below left is a panoramic view, and right, the ship-shaped Defense Ministry (aka the Ship House)..

Abuja's highlights include Nigeria's National Mosque...

...and its National Church

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Monday, March 07, 2011

Days of Wine and Iron

This week's song, 'Walking Far From Home,' is yet another gem by Samuel Beam, aka Iron and Wine, the most respected folk musician in all indie-dom. Beam's sound weaves homespun folk around rich, lush textures, both acoustic and electronic.

He is back with a lovely fifth album, 'Kiss Each Other Clean,' breaking a four-year hiatus. His first four albums, delivered in a five-year stretch from 2002-2007, won universal acclaim for this shy North Carolinian, who now lives in Austin with his wife and five daughters.

His stage name was inspired by 'Beef, Iron & Wine,' a dietary supplement he came across while working on a film school project.

Below, we take a scenic walk through his impressive audio and video catalogue..

First up, a live for 'Walking Far From Home,' perhaps his most lush and memorable single to date.

Let's go way back, to 'Lion's Mane' from his 2002 debut, 'The Creek And The Cradle..'

In 2004, Iron & Wine's breakthrough was 'Naked As We Came' from 'Our Endless Numbered Days..'

'He Lays In The Reins' is Beam's 2005 collaboration with the Tuscon-based alt-country sextet Calexico..

From 2007, the flamenco-ish "Boy With A Coin'...

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Sunday, March 06, 2011

Next Time You're In Luanda...

1. Check out the Slavery Museum, located on Morro da Cruz (Cross Hill) Island; it contains a 17th century chapel where slaves were baptized before being put on slave ships bound for America... The premises belonged to the slave-trading Matoso family, who exported hundreds of thousands of souls until 1836, when Portugal's Queen Maria banned the trade from that country's colonies...

2. Shrouded in mystery, Luanda's Iron Palace may have been designed by Gustave Eiffel, pre-built in France in the 1890s and destined for Madagascar... until the ship carrying it hit the Benguela currents off Angola's Skeleton Coast. Once an art center, then in disrepair for decades, this stunning structure is being restore by Brazil's construction companies, with many iron balustrades and floor tiles individually renovated in Rio! When finished, it may house a new diamond museum.

3. Quiçama (Kissama) National Game Park, over twice the size of Rhode Island, is only 50 miles from Luanda, is finally repopulated from generous neighboring countries - wide-scale poaching during Angola's 27 year (1975-2002) civil war had decimated the local fauna.

4. Other Pretty Buildings in Luanda..

include the Angolan National Bank, Church of Our Lady of Remedies, and Church of Our Lady of Nazareth.. The middle photo reminds me of Brazilian colonial churches I saw in Salvador and Ouro Preto...

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Saturday, March 05, 2011

Talk to LaWanda

In my 20s I worked in MHT's Latin America Division, and still remember the consternation of a colleague who, new on the Africa Desk, would ask questions and be told 'talk to Luanda,' surprised at the need to phone Angola for help with the copy machine.
Of course, they meant talk to the secretary, LaWanda! : - ) I chuckle still. You will too: watch the irascible LaWanda Page as Aunt Esther of Sanford and Son...

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Friday, March 04, 2011

Presidential Palaces

of countries of countries I haven't been to... and there are many...

Luanda, Angola

Djibouti, Djibouti

Tunis, Tunisia

Vientane, Laos

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