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June 22, 2001
Almodovar's ``Reconquering Cuba'' _ Stunning tour-de-force

Posted by Antonio Banderas on Friday June 22, @11:58PM

from the pipedream school of journalism dept.

Dear Readers:
Since some film studios have taken it upon themselves to invent reviewers to provide fake blurbs about their films, we here at the Jabali News Service _ keeping in line with our news mission _ have decided to review films that don't exist, but probably should.

Almodovar's ``Reconquering Cuba''

A stunning tour-de-force

Alex Dominguez: Jabali News Service

With this tightly-crafted tale of mystical realism, Pedro Almodovar, Spain's most well-known director, has produced his best film to date.

Penelope Cruz stars as the heiress to a Cuban rum fortune who suffers the Castro regime, feigning loyalty to the dictator's communist ideals, all the while seeking to change the system from within.

After years of struggle, she begins to lose hope, but the visit of Pope John Paul II provides her with an opportunity to get close to Castro, and she convinces him to return the country to Spain, citing the example of fascist Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, who restored the monarchy and created an economic miracle.

Cruz succeeds by playing to Castro's enmity toward the United States, his fond memories of his father's tales of his childhoold in Spain's lush, green Galicia region, and his desire to aid the Cuban people.

Joaquin Phoenix and Luciano Pavarotti are respectable in the roles of the younger and older Castros. The scenes of Cuba are beautiful and the music transcends the standard Buena Vista Social Club fare.

Posted by Alex at 11:58 PM
June 10, 2001
Rage against the film machine!!!!

Posted by El Conde on Sunday June 10, @09:09AM
from the these are my choices? dept.

How much longer will we keep digesting ``Moulin Rouge’’ and other pap and pretending it’s relevant, or worse accept its as our pop culture signposts.
Surely, the emergence of the Internet and other new media should free us, finally, of the hegemony of the tired minds of Los Angeles and New York so we can stop looking back to Paris and London of the 1890s.

Oooh, pointillism. I get it. I’m so smart.

What I’m really trying to say here is every time you pay $6 or $8 to watch that crap you help keep this mindset alive.

The only way to stop the madness is to stop supporting it, just like the so-called war on drugs. The day affluent suburban white kids stop buying LSD, cocaine and marijuana is the day innocent 3-year-olds, police officers and Third World peasants stop dying at the hands of the drug industry.

Even without the Internet, there are better choices out there.

Why doesn’t someone ask Gary Trudeau make a cartoon movie?

I’d much rather hear his characters chat about why you can’t hang your laundry on a clothesline in an LA suburb to save energy than watch Nicole Kidman put on some cheesy burlesque outfit.

Posted by Alex at 09:09 AM
June 08, 2001
Israel to free colonies

Posted by Edward R. Murrow on Friday June 08, @08:41PM
from the End-of-an-Era dept.

RAMALLAH, West Bank (JNS) _ Israel freed its two colonies on Friday, ending the world's last colonial empire.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said troops would begin pulling out of the West Bank and Gaza immediately and warned settlers that they would not be protected after the evacuation period, which was expected to last a month.

``We realize we entered the colonial game too late,'' Sharon said. ``Just like Britain, it never really paid off.''

``In addition, our allies were not willing to fund a never-ending guerrilla war.''

The military also planned to immediately begin building a wall around the former colonies. Anyone caught trying to enter Israel anywhere other than tightly controlled checkpoints will be killed, Israeli officials said.

``Let the Arabs find jobs for them. They've got a huge oil patch,'' Sharon said.

Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat said he planned to retire after recruiting true leaders, admitting he had no experience in anything other than managing revolt.

``It's been a good run, but all good things must end,'' Arafat said.

Sharon said his country planned to switch to a U.S. model of strict immigration policies to control which groups constitute the much-needed cheap labor force.

Non-Jews will be allowed into the country and will have the same rights as any other citizen. Selective prosecution of crimes, however, will be aggressively pursued as in the United States.

``We're also thinking about setting up some maquiladoras,'' Sharon said. ``And we could use some lettuce pickers.''

Posted by Alex at 08:41 PM
June 02, 2001
Jorge's Wedding

Posted by El Conde on Saturday June 02, @04:53PM
from the Another one bites the dust dept.
Jorge was running behind on the wedding planning when the Count called him from just outside Merida, about an hour from Badajoz. So, Jorge asked if he could meet him later that day at the Hotel Cervantes(3600 pts/$19 a day), a small 3-story, old school hotel in the heart of the Badajoz’s old section.
As El Conde climbed the winding stairway to his room, he admired the thick marble floors and looked down upon the two-story, couch-lined atrium which has kept guests cool since long before air conditioning was invented.

Most of the guests had already arrived and El Conde quickly summised it was a case of hurry-up-and-wait.

Many were from Minneapolis by way of North Dakota - a lively crowd well-versed in the arts, sciences and history - and appreciative of the count's translation skills.

Jason, a buzz-cut, artsy type, immediately remarked about the predominance of women wearing tight pants, or pantalones apretadas, (stuffed pants) as we later learned.

Women apparently are willing to show off their physique, even if it wasn't as shapely as it once had been.

"Si lo tiene, muestra lo," "If you have it, flaunt it," the count told the guests. "Y, si no tiene, muestra."

That quickly became a key phrase.

The plan for the bachelor party, as devised by the women, was to go our separate ways for dinner and meet afterward at a club that was reserved for our party. The plan developed by Jorge’s friends apparently was to not have a plan. The latter won out.

Most of the men waited outside the hotel for at least an hour for Jorge to come show us where to go. After a while, El Conde wandered into the neighborhood bar and wound up entertaining the handful of men watching soccer.

``Seis canas,’’ or ``six tap beers,’’ El Condes asked.

After serving the group, the bartender asked where the count was from, and he replied Baltimore.

After much discussion, it was determined that the count was from Baltimore, one team was from Valencia and the other from Munich. ``Si, si, soy hijo de Gallegos, pero ahora soy el Conde de Baltimore,’’ the count said, ``Yes, yes, I am the son of Gallegos, but now I am the Count of Baltimore.''

``Oh, muy bien, Conde,’’ or ``Oh, very good, Count,'' one replied.

It was too late by the time the group got to where we planned to eat, so we keep on snacking at each place, eventually stopping for what seemed like a never ending train of ham, cured pork tenderloin, cheese and beer at one place – where Jorge mysteriously disappeared - before heading and meeting him at another.

Several hours, Cuban cigars and stiff Havana Club rums later, Jorge’s cousin Paco decided we should head to one final place outside of town.

It appeared to be a normal strip club from the outside, but once inside none of the girls were dancing, and there was no stage. The women _ hailing from all over the world: Africa, Eastern Europe, Brasil, Portugal, Jamaica _ immediately set upon the group, grabbing them and chatting amongst themselves.

``So, how does this work? Do we give them dollars to dance?’’ one American asked as one of the women proceeded to grab his crotch.

``I think you negotiate for what you want, and then you do it,’’ the count said.

Jorge had his tie taken off and tied around his eyes while he was led by one of the women around the bar, at times by his hand, while the others did their best to learn Spanish.

The next morning El Conde awoke after three hours of sleep by the sound of traffic and church bells. Stopping into a small market for water and a snack, a man asked ``Como fue la fiesta.’’

Realizing it was one of the soccer fans from the night before, he replied ``resaca,’’ (hangover).

We saw Paco again that next night following the rehearsal dinner at a nearby golf club. We stopped by a hip bar near the bull-fighting club where marijuana was openly smoked. We learned that personal use is not a crime in Spain _ a libertarian’s dream.

Personal responsibility is a well-defined concept in Spain, El Conde remarked.

Drinking, even in the morning is not looked down upon. If someone wants a little cognac in his espresso, or alongside, why should anyone care? Someone who is not able to handle liquor, however, and becomes a nuisance is not well received.

Inspired, Trent _ a former college wrestler with a hint of cauliflower ear _ wrote ``Me gusta los pantalones apretados’’ on a dollar bill and gave it to the bartender to display in a glass case built into the bar.

Miguel, a relative of Paco, meanwhile, became increasingly more annoying – constantly saying ``Espana, Asturias… Espana, Asturias…’’ He also mentioned he liked the United States, but couldn’t contain his intense nationalism or regionalism.

We soon realized that Miguel was not all there, but Paco brought him along so he wouldn’t be alone after work.

We left about 5:30 a.m., hoping to get some sleep before left at noon for Caceres.

``God, was he annoying,’’ someone said.

``Yeah, but they refuse to institutionalize their kids,’’ El Conde said.

``You have to speak the truth, don’t you,’’ Trent said as the sun began to come up, highlighting the stork’s nest that had been built on the small tower jutting from the corner of our hotel.

El Conde awoke in a haze again, this time about 10:30 because he had remembered to set the alarm and was able to ignore the street noise.

After walking to the Plaza Espana to find out what time they were leaving, and what time the wedding would be held, El Conde was relieved to learn he did not have to dress until that evening. Leaving the Cafe Victoria, El Conde averted his eyes, hoping to avoid contact with the gypsy beggars outside, especially the one whose forearm took a 30-degree turn just before the wrist from what appeared to be a very poorly set fracture.

Buying a bag of cookies on the way back for breakfast, he loaded up his car and checked out, taking one of bride’s friends along for company on the ride.

Hoping to avoid the debacle of two nights earlier when no one knwe how to get anywhere (``Save yourselves!’’), El Conde obtained detailed instructions on the location of the hotel in Caceres. The entourage then headed off and two hours later checked into the Hotel Caceres Golf (9,500 pesetas, or about $50 a night) a luxurious and apparently underutilized golf course complex. The wedding party stayed in adjoining bungalow rooms overlooking the well-groomed course a mile from the center of the city.

The wedding was to be held another mile or so up the road, heading away from the city, at a renovated castle.

The ceremony, complete with Catholic mass, took place as the sun set, casting a shadow of a lone palm tree against the castle wall behind the temporary altar. Sherry and tapas were then served outside the castle wall until fireworks announced it was time for dinner _ seafood bisque, a smoke fish salad, and grilled pork.

Flamenco dancers strolled out after dinner to begin the dancing, which lasted until 5 a.m. when hot chocolate was served. "Tenia miedo que el Papa y Juan Carlos van a servir el cafe," or "I was afraid the Pope and King Juan Carlos were going to serve the coffee," the Count told Jorge as they parted company two days later.

After Jorge showed El Conde the way to the main highway, he made the two-hour, 400 km trip into Madrid in his luxury driving machine, stopping along the way to buy some cutlery and wine sacks, known as botas.

Arriving in Madrid, the Count checked into the luxurious Hostal Alicante (5,000 pts) on the Calle Arenal. He then stopped in an Asturian restaurant where had a vieira (broiled whole scallop in the shell topped with a red pepper puree), a piece of empanada (a savory pie stuffed with a sauteed mixture of bonito, red pepper and onions), cherries served in a bowl of cold water, and an espresso.

Fortified, the Count was able to resume his search for a restaurant for that evening's meal.

"That's a nice turbot (large flounder), but the eye is a little sunken," he thought, looking in the window of a restaurant and remembering what had told the wedding guests a few days earlier.

"Look for a restaurant that displays its fish in a refrigerated case in the window," he told one of the guests. "That way, you can see exactly they have, how fresh it is, and their artistic ability at displaying food."

Stopping back at his room to change and rest before dinner, El Conde realized he was too fatigued and still not hungry following his large snack and decided to skip dinner on his last night in Madrid, deciding discretion was the better part of valor.

Posted by Alex at 04:53 PM