Thursday, September 21, 2017


Food packaging in Cuenca not only shows an ingredients list, it also warns you with a stop-light level of symbolism about what you are about to buy and consume. For example, one product that's high in fat, medium in sugar, and low in salt displays the following red/yellow/green notice:

Food Label

Since we have labels that tell us what to expect in the food we buy, why not labels in other situations to inform our expectation? The prospect didn't occur to me until I was riding a bus today. Today was a beautiful day in Cuenca, and returning home on the bus I noticed the following sign near the driver. Obviously, he wanted to inform his riders' expectations about what the experience on his bus would contain...

Bus label

And the bus driver was correct, all the way around.
My journey on his bus was 
high in beauty
medium in laziness
and low in sadness.

Friday, September 8, 2017


Language evolves - and languages mix, as do cultures. English is chocked full of words and expressions that come from other languages or simply are made up and catch on in popular usage. The same is true for Spanish. Although it may be common knowledge to many, I was surprised to find out that "iony" is a Spanish word. It's slang, but still a word used and recognized in many places. It is a knock off of the famous New York City marketing logo, which was introduced in 1977. Switch out the heart for an "o" and voilĂ , new slang is born. Quite interesting!

i love ny

From what I hear, the word "iony" possibly originated but definitely was popularized in southern Ecuador. It describes the attitudes, fashions, and accents adopted by Ecuadorian immigrants who return home from the USA. This phenomenum is discussed in more detail in a book written by anthropologist Jason Pribilsky. As one blogger summarized:

"Jason Pribilsky, an anthropologist, discusses the term in his book 'La Chulla Vida,' about the immigration wave from Ecuador to Queens. 'Iony' refers not just to personal style, but to the deeper concept of modernity, and the profound changes caused by migration. His book explores the changes in farming, family dynamics, wealth and status, “a perceived rupture from the past” in the area of Deleg, Ecuador. He writes that, 'in addition to presenting powerful ideas of adventure and sophistication, iony modernity is viewed like so many Horatio Alger stories, promising modern rewards in exchange for hard work.' But it’s not that simple for an undocumented immigrant in Queens. 'Rather than unlimited choices, the iony life abroad offers few options, requiring instead that migrants perform a balancing act that is difficult to master,' Pribilsky writes. This is not exactly the New York experience that state marketing officials had in mind. But this logo seems to have a life of its own."

With all this cross-fertilization of languages and cultures going on, I can't help but wonder what kind of new slang would result from US gringos returning to the States after living a while in Ecuador. 

Mashing up gringo sensibilities with the beautiful, garden of eden nature of the Ecuadorian countryside, plus throwing in a popular Ecuadorian motto, and let's see what we get.

ama la vida

..."Ama La Vida" becomes -- "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida"

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Statue

I've been living outside the States for a couple years now. In that time, I've enjoyed being unplugged from much of the memes and drama that drive the pace back there. Recently though, I had a chance to sample a portion of the red-white-and-blue evolving culture. I guess getting a perspective from outside really does inform one's sensibilities differently. 

They say a constant drip of water can eventually wear away a rock. And a frog will, in due course, be cooked in a pot of water oh so slowly getting hotter. Likewise, it's been said that TV programming isn't called programming by accident. Over time, I imagine a constant drip of the right kind of stuff can nudge a population towards any new view of things -- even things they once said they cherished.

Take for instance a popular TV show. This show is quite well done - one hardly can't help but like it, and judged by its ongoing success, the show provides the kind of entertainment people enjoy. And yet, along with the likable characters, the professional stunts, and good writing, there is also an undercurrent that's subtle as it is pervasive. Cleverly, to access the likable characters, one must tacitly accept the premises delivered between-the-lines. These premises effectively link people we like and their good motives with questionable things that, once accepted on any level, begin to move the needle on our beliefs and principles. 

At first we look past what may bother us in these plot lines in order to get our entertainment fix. But the question is - eventually, are we no longer bothered at all? And for those viewers young enough not to remember times when the needle hadn't yet moved so much, this slow-drip process only serves to instruct them in what their world view should be now. With no experience of a past time when the water wasn't so hot, the current temperature of the culture naturally appears normal to them. And thus a new normal is established.

As I said, I watch this show from outside the States.
From my outside-the-pot view, here's some of the bubbling undercurrents I see:

  • With a stroke of a pen, a governor can create a "special task force."
  • This task force officially is given preemptive immunity before they even engage in their work, which begs the question, immunity from what? Following the law? Why would a government-sanctioned task force, operating anywhere but especially on US soil, need immunity? What kind of official charter would require this and why? When there are bikinis to see, it's easy to gloss over those questions.
  • All local, state, and federal agencies freely work with or even under direct command of this immune task force. Actions that local police would never do, task force members do routinely in pursuit of suspects. Local police, state authorities, and federal agents are in full knowledge of what this task force does, and so they are accessories before and after the fact in this immunity behavior.
  • In operation, the task force routinely practices "the ends justifies the means." As long as task force members individually judge their own intent is true, any action is condoned and protected by task force immunity. Suspects may be beaten when task force members believe them to be bad. If later facts prove the real culprit is someone else, the earlier beating of the innocent person is deemed acceptable because at the time, task force members believed that person to be bad and anyway, all of their actions are with the best of intentions. Probable cause for entering private property becomes a task force member's hunch or circumstantial inference. This kind of behavior is rewarded by the task force, even if one is not a member of the task force. For example, when one highly experienced police captain disables an entire SWAT unit and hands over SWAT assets to the bad guys because the captain's daughter has been threatened, the police promptly fire the captain but the immune task force proudly gives him a badge as part of their group, a prestigious career bump up. The police then proudly work with this same captain going forward and take orders from him, despite kicking him out, disgraced, only days before.
  • Suspects, if deemed to be impeding progress of task force work as task force members subjectively judge correct in the moment, can be beaten and even renditioned to a private task force dungeon in the basement of a state government building. Doesn't every state capitol have one? Never are Miranda Rights read to any suspect; in fact, one suspect even recites their own rights to task force members while being chained to the rendition chair. Requests to see a lawyer are routinely mocked and ignored. Watch out, if you don't give the right answer in the rendition chair, a task force member may feel like shooting you in the leg. But I guess you had it coming you scumbag so it's all right.
  • Gun play in the show is quite over-the-top for the city the show is based in. Fire-fights that appear more like major engagements in Fallujah or the foothills of Tora Bora routinely take place in major commercial districts and family neighborhoods. Even though the prevailing politically-correct wisdom says guns and gun violence are bad, the show's producers sure know how much family-time viewers like to watch people get mowed down with glorified automatic weapons. Despite the show's love-affair with showcasing the destructive potential of powerful machine guns, at the same time the immune task force members make snide comments about the 2nd amendment and anyone who believes in it. A gun-store owner gets portrayed as a trigger-happy dolt for seeing any value in a citizen possessing a firearm, but it's quite all right for our heroes and the audience to luxuriate in endless bloodbaths where thousands of rounds of ammunition are expended within the span of minutes. Because our heroes have good motives, we the audience get a pass for our vicarious ultra-violence thrills. The message is clear - you shouldn't have a gun but the guys and gals with immunity can have all the wiz-bang firepower fit for a platoon of Marines.
  • The one character who believes that conspiracies really do exist and abuses of power in many guises throughout government and corporate/financial sectors are being systematically covered-up -- that character is portrayed as the marginally likable but deluded buffoon. Although he repeatedly supplies the task force with valid data and tips, it is universally understood that, although he may be able to research stuff, his overall view of how things work in the world is hopelessly flawed and deserves constant ridicule. Lesson learned -- even though some conspiracy nuts may occasionally trip over valid facts, their conclusions about those facts are fatally flawed and not to be taken seriously. In fact, this likable dope is so clueless, a grown man living in his mother's basement, he is easily co-opted by the task force with the false lure of being one of them and getting to play with their hi-tech toys. So much for principled conspiracy nuts.
  • Much weepy sentimentality and maudlin piano music is served up over the concept of "ohana." As Wikipedia likes to say, "Ohana means family (in an extended sense of the term, including blood-related, adoptive or intentional). The concept emphasizes that families are bound together and members must cooperate and remember one another." It's such a sweet concept, and truly a cornerstone of the beautiful Hawaiian culture. But once again, as portrayed by our heroes on the immune task force, one must tacitly accept their transgressions in the name of ohana if we are to understand ohana at all, at least according to the show's producers. Murder, theft of money from evidence lockers, flagrant abuses of citizen's rights, violent trespass of the sovereignty of other nations' borders, favors given to convicted felons, letting family members escape the city even though they're wanted by the FBI, just about anything is justified -- as long as the maudlin piano music plays for the task force over the issue of ohana. Of course, regular citizens never get such a get-out-of-jail-free card, whether they have family or not. No vigilantes wanted here. There is never any excuse for regular citizens not following the letter of the law -- because, well, they're regular citizens. The tacit implication here is that regular citizens are something less by virtue of that status. So know your place. Enough said.
  • If we hadn't learned this enough from other movies and TV shows, let's revisit the lesson that Police Internal Affairs Departments are nothing but petty, self-serving cesspools of maggots with nothing but personal vendettas and grudges. They can't be trusted to do what they should be doing. It's only the beat cop with the flak-jacket and battering ram at your front door who has a heart of gold.
  • Let's not forget that any rumor you have heard that the CIA (since the 60's) runs drugs for its own nefarious reasons, including financing criminal enterprises and off-the-book little wars, that's all wrong. In this show when the CIA is revealed to be involved in a billion dollar cocaine operation in Colombia, deeper background intelligence reveals the Agency's true altruistic motives -- which is to save our economy because those unsophisticated saps on Wall Street invested in a bogus real estate scheme in South America and will lose their shirts if the scheme goes south. And if they lose their shirts, we all do because, as you know, some people are just too big to fail. Of course, no mention is made of the international bankers who are getting an ongoing cut of cartel business for laundering drug money. Nothing else to see here folks. Go back to watching the machine guns pump out metal-jacketed rounds in slow-motion. That's where the real action is.
  • And I like patriotism as much as the next flag waver, but this show plays out love of country in such a heavy-handed way it reminds me of either a recruitment poster or a bund rally. I guess you're either with us or you're against us. No grey areas here. If you think there is, you must be one of those domestic terrorists, you know, like the Culpeper Minutemen of 1775. As the show warns, those guys are likely to steal and smuggle an atomic bomb and try to blow up Honolulu so they can blame it on Middle Easterners in an attempt to trigger a larger war to rid the world of those foreign terrorists -- which is an ironically laughable scenario since the primary entity history shows is most practiced at this kind of false flag tactic is none other than the US government, not individual US citizens. And heaven help you if you're against us because, if somehow you've missed what has to be obvious by now, even to those more concerned with supersizing it -- we have immunity.

I know, I know. The trolls are massing to shout at me -- It's just a friggin' TV show. Lighten up.

Yeah, I guess that's exactly what might be so casually insidious.
And this is just a quote from a dead guy from another century:

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. ...We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. ...In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons...who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”   ― Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda