Let’s take a brief, purposeless break from New York City. This is our dear friend from Panama, Melissa:

cookingdiva

I will say nothing more about the picture other than to quote the filthy, lewd, and entirely inappropriate language of the blogger who came up with the t-shirt she is wearing:

SO, TELL ME: ARE THE SHIRTS TRULY MAGICAL?

You have no idea! The women’s shirts make small tits look big and big tits look bigger. Or smaller! I can’t explain it, all I can do is use myself as an example. See my tits in the picture up top? They don’t look all that big, right? Now take a look at this.

They look huge. And they’re the same tits! Which is also the title of a poem by James Tate.

Now, distracting as the left side of the picture may be, I want you to concentrate on the right. That’s Tio Juancho. Not Melissa’s tio, none other than the great-uncle of Kelly and Ruben. None other than the same man that Ruben wrote a magnificent poetic ode to here, translated by Kelly and Ruben’s mom, Marianne into Spanish, and reposted on Melisssa’s blog.

Ruben, for those who don’t know is a friend of Cindylu. He can also be seen here with HP who obviously got all dressed up to impress him:

HP and Nebur

Finally, Ruben breaks down for us what has got to be the most blog-savvy, binational family to ever exist.

Innit it always a trip when you’re surfing around the blogosphere and you’re skimming down some random blog when you come across a comment by a blog buddy? It’s like, whoa, fancy bumping into you over here.

I’m getting that more and more often these days. It never ceases to amaze me … all those connections that already exist between us without us ever knowing it. Nuyorqueño Liza sums it up well on Trinidadian Georgia‘s weblog:

And WTF is El Oso doing here?!?! David, you’re like everywhere!

The connections, they exist, just waiting to be discovered.

One of my favorite moments last week took place in Hollywood where a bunch of old high school friends got together to watch Moreno put on a surprise show for his lady friend’s bday. Poor guy forgot his guitar strap, totally wrecking his swaying-back-and-forth, hair-in-the-eyes, indie rocker persona.

moreno

But that wasn’t what made me smile. It’s when old compadre de prepa and former, fellow blogger, Paul Farag strided in with his own lady friend. We hadn’t seen him for a long stretch so there was a choir of, “hey, it’s Paul Farag.” That prompted yet another lady friend (whose first name translates to ‘beauty’ and whose middle name could well be ‘but not so bright’) to say excitedly, “oh my god, I love the nicknames you guys give each other!”

“No, that’s Paul Farag, that’s his name.”

OK, so that’s not funny to you. I guess you had to be there. Even my blog stories end with, I guess you had to be there. How ’bout this …

HP, Sparsh, and I are eating Vietnamese food down the street from HP’s pad. This place has about 100 different items on the menu and Sparsh, the “vegetarian” fish and chicken eater is clearly overwhelmed. Our friendly waiter comes to the table and HP and I lay down the law (more evidence that HP is not really Mexican: he drinks Pepsi instead of Coke). Sparsh just doesn’t know what to do though and keeps thumbing through the menu as our young waiter awkwardly hovers over us. HP, of course, has to open his big mouth.

“Sorry, he still doesn’t really speak English yet.” Sparsh smiles. Then HP looks at Sparsh and says, “hubba do toaba gota muina fina ughakd ad dakadaka.” Absolute non-sensical bullshit pulled out of his ass. I start cracking up and our poor waiter has no idea what the hell is going on or why a mexican is speaking to an injun in tongues while a crazy cracker is busting up laughing.

Of course, at some point during the dinner HP defends his hero, Augusto Pinochet. Probably says something like, “Pinochet was responsible for Chile’s success today.” Or maybe it was, “Only Alberto Gonzalez is a greater advocate for the use of torture.”

The thing is – though I hate to admit it – Pinochet’s iron hand in the 80’s probably did contribute to the country’s economic, political, and social well-being of today. Or as Larry Rohter put it in his Letter From Chile in today’s New York Times:

the sociologist Eugenio Tironi maintained that modernization [in Chile] arrived in three waves. First came an economic opening in the 1980’s under the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, then a political modernization in the 1990’s after the return of democracy and civilian rule. “Recent years,” Mr. Tironi argues, have initiated “the phase of cultural liberalization” and a new moral climate.” Taken as a whole, he concludes, “Chile seems to be evolving toward a liberal model of society of the North American type,” marked by greater individualism, an erosian of the traditional family structure and greater social tolerance.

There is an intense chicken and egg debate amongst development scholars over whether economic modernization leads to the strengthening of democratic institutions or vise-versa. It’s often brought up in free trade arguments. One side says that low (or no) import and export tarriffs will strengthen not only binational politics, but also domestic institutions which must safeguard the transactions. Another side says that the country does not yet have the proper institutions (ie. Mexico’s judicial nightmare) in place and that free trade would only exacerbate corruption and a small business elite.

The Marxist notion that economic progress will necessitate social reform is a nice one, but looking around me right now – you know, America 2006 years after the hippie guy was born (or is it died?) – I’m not gonna put my bottom dollar on it. If cultural liberalization equates to five hours a day watching “reality” TV, we’ve still got some liberalizing to do.