Book Notes: Mario Mendoza’s Buddha Blues

Mendoza is a Colombian writer, and I suddenly realized I haven’t read a Colombian novel since grad school. After finishing the novel, I googled it and discovered that Buddha Blues has been savaged by critics. I loved it, though. It’s completely all over the place, and if you remember to bring your sense of humor to the reading, you might enjoy it.

I’m glad to see that Colombian literature has recovered from the depredations of the horrible magical realism. There is nothing magical about Buddha Blues. It’s Zygmunt Bauman all the way.

Ukrainian Brain

When I see moms on local FB start a post with the words “Please help. I’m desperate and just don’t know what to do. I’ve been crying non-stop for 3 days,” my Ukrainian brain immediately thinks that this will be followed with “I can’t make the rent / my kid’s been diagnosed with something / I lost my job / can’t pay the bills / can’t afford surgery, etc.” My heart skips a beat and the floodgates of compassion open.

So when the post continues with “I was planning to pay for horseback riding lessons for my 3-year-old but they say they have no openings for the next two months,” this produces cognitive dissonance for me.

I’m very happy people have no greater cause for desperation than that a toddler will have to wait for her horseback lesson but is there really a burning need to be so dramatic about it? If people think it’s cute to adopt this persona of a spoiled rich brat, it really isn’t.

Access to Information

In the UK:

The Labour party is proposing to ban parents from discovering the sex of an unborn child early in pregnancy for fear that it could lead to selective abortion.

I hate this kind of thing. All women get to be punished for the behavior of a small number of lunatics.

Kenan Malik is right, denying people access to information looks like an easy solution to many issues but that ease conceals how deeply immoral it is.

Just Job Wars

I especially like it when people go, a propos the Kavanaugh circus, “but it’s JUST a job interview!”

Well, duh. These are job wars. The rules for the job wars are being set right now. And as I keep saying, it always starts with folks it’s easy to despise.

So yeah, it’s just a job. It’s just a promotion. It’s just tenure. Sounds pretty unimportant until it’s your job, your promotion, and your tenure.

Oh, it’s only going to touch the icky people? This can’t possibly happen to the good, righteous, mousy little me? Yes, absolutely, let’s keep holding on to that. In the meantime, let me go delete a bunch of posts from a decade ago just in case I ever need to start searching for a job.


Hyperinflation commonly leads to two shortsighted types of behavior: short-termism and ultra-conservativeness.

N and I both experienced hyperinflation in the same region at the same time. I developed response A and he did response B. And we still never fight about money.

But yeah, it stays with you. I’ll never forget carrying millions in my pocket because they were loose change. I also remember piles of money lying on the table and losing value while we were talking about what to spend it on. By the end of the conversation, the whole issue was moot.

The funny thing is that we got into our hyperinflation in the same way Venezuelans got into theirs. Oil prices dropped, it all got unsustainable, etc.


In my office, I have a huge jar of chocolate-covered raisins. I like to treat students when I’m in a sociable mood.

“God, how do you manage to resist the temptation?” a colleague asks.

But I barely even notice the jar. If it were a jar of pickles or salami slices, yeah, I’d go nuts on it. It would be embarrassing to watch what I’d do to it. But sweets I tend to forget about.