Category: America

South American Travel Notes, Part Four

To those who haven’t experienced the beast outside of its natural habitat of strip malls and gated communities, the Ugly American seems an outlandish caricature, a literary device employed to make a point about modern capitalism. Unlike Nessie or Sasquatch, however, this monster really exists. You can see him every summer in Europe, and at...

South American Travel Notes, Part Three

After more than a week in the deep wilderness, in the Amazonian basin, where Boliva meets Peru and there are more waterways than roads, three native people asked me where I am from, since it was clear to them from my visage and my language that I’m not indigenous. Not a soul asked, “What do...

South American Travel Notes, Part One

Is there a connection, real or imagined, between Costa Rica’s comparative dearth of governmental corruption and the apparent dearth of popular unhappiness? Does an official stance of neutrality and a more equitable division of natural resources produce a generally more cheerful populace that in the region’s kleptocracies? Like every other Central American country, Costa Rica...

Pay to Play in the USA

In a rare show of bipartisan outrage, this week both of our nation’s interchangeable political machines expressed their mutual displeasure at the recent FBI searches of a Democratic lawmaker’s Capitol Hill office. Representative William J. Jefferson, of Louisiana, was videotaped accepting a $100,000 bribe; most of the marked money turned up in his freezer; and...

A Modest Proposal to Solve Our Oil Problem

This morning the DJ on the local jazz station delivered a comic lament on the trauma of paying $3 for a gallon of gasoline. He recalled that a few months ago the price had fallen to nearly $2 per gallon, but in recent weeks it had eclipsed the psychologically troubling threshold of three, and he...

Self Destruction

Depending on one’s quotient of Puritanical self-abnegation, the follies of other less disciplined souls often inspire the pensive equivalent of a scoff. Of the fatty we think, “Surely he knows that a diet of doughnuts and fries will only make him more obese.” Of the smoker we think, “Surely she knows that smoking causes an...

Arab Madness

The recent fuss over Dubai Ports World, a well-known shipping company based in the United Arab Emirates, illustrates once again that the facts never get in the way of a good story. Or, depending on your outlook, a bad one. Sadly, our news media, increasingly rabid for the ratings that drive corporate profits, seems more...

Painter of Light

According to a series of recently published newspaper stories, Thomas Kinkade, the enormously successful painter, isn’t as nice of a man as his collectors and business associates believed him to be. This normally wouldn’t be much of a revelation except that in Kinkade’s case the artist trades heavily on his “Christian values” and “core beliefs,”...

American Idol Crib Notes

If, unlike me, you don’t have a partner who forces you to watch the Fox karaoke competition “American Idol,” you may be living in a state of blissful ignorance, utterly unaware of what’s happening on America’s most-watched television program. You may not know that after weeks of schmaltzy build-up the shrinking talent pool questing to...

On Not Getting Old

Last night I saw my friend Linda Hopkins, the legendary blues singer, whose star on the Hollywood walk of fame commemorates her lifetime of entertaining on Broadway, record albums, and in concert halls around the world. She looked luminous. Her big smile illuminated the room, a nightclub on the Sunset Strip where once a month...