Birthday Program

My birthday program consisted of me lying in bed a d staring placidly out of the window.

But then my sister gave me a makeup refrigerator as a birthday gift. When I plugged it in, I realized that my room wasn’t clean and pretty enough to house the makeup refrigerator. So I started cleaning up like a maniac.

I need to get this party back on track.

Trumpbucks vs Trudeaubucks

The difference between the US welfare and the Canadian welfare is obvious once you look at Trumpbucks vs Trudeaubucks.

Trumpbucks dropped into people’s accounts. Even those who, like N and I, are working and getting a good income got their Trumpbucks.

In Canada, people got the same amount (factoring in the currency difference).


Not all people got Trudeaubucks. Only those who lost jobs because of COVID (and can prove that it’s because of COVID and not, say, 3 days before and are now stranded because nobody is hiring, true story) will get the payment.

As a result, industries that are booming (like food packaging) can’t hire, true story. Because people don’t want to lose their Trudeaubucks.

This is extremely typical of Canadian welfare. Which is why I hate Canadian welfare. (Still love Canada, though). Canadian welfare is ferociously cruel towards people who like working. A hard-working person will be stripped raw to pass the money to lazy layabouts. And if a hard-working person falls on hard times, the welfare system will laugh in the poor bugger’s face and say, “hey, but don’t you still have that little piece of property? We won’t rest until we take it away.” (True story).

Yes, it’s extremely rare that you get the US government to drop cash into your account. But they don’t hunt you to the ground and strip you bare like the Canadian government does. The US system is flaccid and too convoluted but it’s not driven by an intense hatred of people who work. I mean, we are in the middle of a global pandemic, and the Trudeau government is obsessing over the remote chance that somebody who was fired the day before the quarantine and not the day after would get help.

P.S. For those who don’t know, I’m a Canadian citizen and my whole family lives in Canada (Quebec and Nova Scotia). I love Canada. It’s the Canadian welfare system that I dislike. I don’t vote in the Canadian elections, though, because I think it would be immoral given that I don’t live there.

Book Notes: Guillermo Arriaga’s Salvar el fuego

Before Hollywood buys rights to this novel and craps all over it, everybody who reads in Spanish (and can survive 700 pages of hardcore Mexican slang) should read Salvar el fuego.

And here’s why.

The protagonist of this novel is Marina, a very typical representative of the cosmopolitan elite. Marina inherited a fortune and then married a hedge fund manager. But that’s not the worst part. She also considers herself an artist. In a dance school she buys with her inheritance, Marina puts on modern dance performances where dancers pretend to be tampons soaked in menstrual blood. That kind of thing. Obviously, these performances bring Marina nothing but ridicule, and she is casting about for a way to strengthen her brand.

The way Arriaga mocks the pretentious “creative” types of Marina’s ilk is absolutely delicious. Half of the novel is narrated in the first person by Marina, and Arriaga manages to make her completely real and not just a facile parody.

In search of new experiences that would make her “art” pop more, Marina starts an affair with a convict serving a sentence for two premeditated homicides. She goes out of her way to conduct the affair in settings as grimy as possible because she hopes this manufactured suffering will make her a better artist. It’s all absolutely hilarious and an incredible fun to read.

Marina’s story is just one part of this extraordinarily entertaining novel. There’s also an explanation of Mexican machismo and violence that’s unmatched by anything since Octavio Paz. There are cartels, violence, corruption in the Mexican government at every level, the atrocious conditions in Mexico’s prisons, sex, jealousy, the idiocy of the Mexican rich, and the dark side of the indigenous legacy. It’s the most Mexican novel I’ve read in forever.

Arriaga is a screenwriter, and that’s both bad and good. The architecture of the novel is impeccable. It’s rare that you see such a massive novel that’s so meticulously planned. But the ending unfortunately shows the negative side of Arriaga’s career in the movies. I won’t say more but I’m sure everybody understands what I mean.

I couldn’t tear myself from this novel for days. It’s definitely going to be one of the biggest reading experiences of the year for me.

Kids in Quarantine

On the positive side, this quarantine has put Klara off social media for a long time to come. She’d never experienced social media before but in the quarantine many of her friends tried to connect with her through FB Messenger, WhatsApp, Zoom, etc. She hated all of it. After a couple of tries, she informed me she never wanted to do “this boring activity” again.

Instead, she asks me to take her to “look at friends.” This means we go for a walk and she gazes at other kids sitting in their front yards from a distance. It’s really sad.

Revised IHME Model

IHME has updated its model again, for the second time in 3 days.

The peak in the US is projected for April 11.

I’m very glad scholars at IHME (whose initial model sent us all into this lockdown) are recognizing their mistakes and are revising the model.

The governors are now trying to get rid of the unused ventilators that they hoarded in expectations of millions of moribund people. I’m glad they took it seriously but it’s time to take other things seriously, too.

Why Is Interlibrary Loan Closed?

And why exactly can’t university library workers be at work and send us books? If there is a workplace with mountains of space between workers it’s a library. Libraries are extremely understaffed. A worker wouldn’t meet a soul in the stacks for years. You want social distancing? These workers will be better isolated at work than at home.

It’s very very hard to do my research without interlibrary loan for books. And I really don’t want to start suspecting that we are being schooled into accepting life without libraries.

Book Notes: Santiago Roncagliolo’s Red April

First off, the novel is available in English, and it’s so good! Very, very good!

What’s really embarrassing is that I keep banging on about how there are no good mysteries in Spanish, and then I stumble across two within one month. This one is by a young (he’s my age, which is infancy for a writer) Peruvian writer, but unlike Terra Alta, the first good mystery in Spanish I ever read, it’s so much more than a mystery.

Red April is set in year 2000 in Ayacucho, PerĂº. Ayacucho is the birthplace of the Shining Path, the terrorist Maoist organization that devastated Peru throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Aside from having a really great, twisty mystery, the novel explains better than any history book why these Latin American guerrillas and the military forces that fought them were so outlandishly violent.

What’s great about Hispanic writers is that they are completely unaware of political correctness. The feeling of freedom I experience when I read this literature is very addictive. There’s no tiptoeing around race, gender, or anything of the kind.

The novel talks about harsh issues and there’s a lot of violence in it. But it’s also uproariously funny in a very Peruvian way. If I had to name one thing about it that I didn’t like, it’s that the novel is very cinematographic. It feels a little too much sometimes when one scene after another is very camera-ready. But whatever, who cares. There’s so much about the quechua, and the “heart of darkness” in their culture, and the Catholicism of the Andes, the “democracy” in Peru, everything.

Great, great novel. And why not read something by a great Peruvian writer while we are in captivity anyway?

The violence is very hard-core, though. Welcome to Latin America.