Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Great Secret of The Great American Dialogue about Race Is...

We don't really want to have a great American dialogue about race. Most of us would prefer to have a monologue. And failing that, a simple exchange in which one side (the side we favor, natch) gets to say “J'accuse!” and the other side says nothing but “Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.”

Deep down, I'd like to think I'm wrong about this. That there are idealistic people out there who, like myself, desire to go beyond the petty social differences (race, class, gender, ethnicity, religion, etc.) that divide us.

But I've been waiting to see such a dialogue take place on the Net in the wake of Crash's success at this year's Oscars.

And so far it hasn't.

Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place.

Maybe...

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Song of The Week

I'm goin' down to the railroad tracks
And watch them lonesome boxcars roll.
--Rosie Flores, “Boxcars”

Okay, Joe Ely actually wrote this song but Rosie sings it so well that it might as well be her song in the same way that “Respect” is more Aretha Franklin's song than Otis Redding's.

There's something about Rosie's soft, sultry voice on this song that makes you want to say, “Hey, I sure hope there's more where this comes from.”

And, of course, it does inspire a slight interest in trains...

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Poseidon '06


At last a film that shows Americans what white non-Hispanic Americans really think of Latinos.

Okay, I'm exaggerating, of course. But Latino characters don't exactly fare well in this movie.

And what does it say about 21st century Hollywood that not one person in Hollywood can visualize a Latino being on a cruise ship who isn't either an entertainer, a stowaway or a member of the kitchen staff?

Nice to see that some things never change, huh?

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Dresden Dolls Redux

I wish I could say that the new Dresden Dolls album, Yes, Virginia, is as good as their first album. But alas, it's not.

It's not a bad record per se. Some songs like “Modern Moonlight” and “Sex Changes” have a nice ring to them. And the abortion song “Mandy Goes to Med School” certainly stands out as the most memorable song I've heard thus far this year. (Though whether it's memorable in a good way is another matter.)

As a whole, though, I prefer the first album to the second. As much as I like “Modern Moonlight” and other tunes on the album, they're just not as memorable as such first album tunes as “Girl Anachronism,” “Gravity” or even “Coin-Operated Boy.”

Maybe in a year or two, I'll believe differently, but for now, I don't.

I did like the recent Dresden Dolls Paradise DVD though. It's mostly composed of live performances, and those alone are pretty entertaining. However, the two bonus videos on the DVD are very well done. And the ambiguous end of the “Coin-Operated Boy” (a homage to the horror film May, perhaps?) is very good. And not just because lead singer Amanda Palmer looks so good in a corset...

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Monday, May 22, 2006

The Sorrows Of Not So Young Tonio

I just finished Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, a novel which made Goethe a celebrity in his day. What a sad commentary on how times change that few people apart from German Lit students even hear of it today.

Anyway, the novel still holds up quite favorably today, and the most amazing part is not the romantic conventions it obviously inspired but the conventions it chooses not to follow. Unlike many “romances” one sees today, Goethe does not choose to make young Werther's romantic rival a hopeless clod or a brutal sadist. Instead, he's just an ordinary guy who is genuinely deserving of happiness. Nor is the object of his affection necessarily a woman who “needs” rescue from a loveless marriage or an involuntary engagement. In fact, there is never any indication given that the woman in question -- Charlotte -- regrets not being romantically involved with Werther or desires escape from her current relationship.

Alas, Werther doesn't see it that way and in the end, he kills himself, an act that not only ends his life but worsens the life of the woman he supposedly loved.

There's a lesson there, methinks...

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Who Steals My Purse Is Trash...

Okay, it wasn't exactly my purse that was stolen -- I don't own a purse -- and I usually don't butcher Shakespearean quotations like that.

But to me, the sentiment fits.

My briefcase was stolen yesterday from the restroom of the local library. At first I thought it was merely misplaced but it soon became obvious that it was definitely stolen and I even went to the trouble of filing a police report about it.

Most of the stuff inside the briefcase was valuable to no one but me, but it did contain a checkbook and some credit card receipts and as a result, I had to spend a good deal of time yesterday closing out my most vulnerable accounts and changing over to a safer system.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to recover any of the things that were taken -- especially two spiral notebooks full of written material that will be difficult to replace -- but I am pleased that it wasn't worse.

That it was only my briefcase -- and not my wallet, my car, etc. -- that was taken.

And yet I'm angry. Both at myself for leaving such an item in an unsecure location and at the thief for taking something that so obviously didn't belong to him or her.

For now on, I won't be so cavalier about leaving my personal items about for other people to steal. So I guess that's at least one lesson learned.

I just hope I don't have to learn a harsher one before this situation is resolved.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Happy Mother's Day

I'm sending a belated happy Mother's Day greeting to my own mother in case she visits this site.

Not that I expect she will.

But she might.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

“Now More Than Ever...”


Expecting a realistic spy movie from the same actor who did the infamous “Now more than ever” speech at the post-9/11 Oscars is probably unrealistic. After all, Tom Cruise isn't exactly known for his work in the field of social realism.

And yet despite the obviously escapist nature of his work in Mission Impossible III, I found myself enjoying his movie. Not so much for the filmmaker did but for what he did that he didn't have to do. He (1) fleshed out the characters surrounding Tom Cruise's character, and (2) threw in a storyline that was more true to the spirit of the original Mission: Impossible series than anything we've seen in the M.I. films to date.

I doubt this film will go down in history as a classic, but it was better than the first two movies in the Mission: Impossible movie series gave me any reason to suspect.

If only Tom's female lead didn't look so much like Katie Holmes from certain camera angles...

On the other hand, any movie that has the audacity to put America's most famous Scientologist in a priest costume can't be all that bad...

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The Not So Little Mermaid


It's tempting to describe the new family movie Aquamarine as Splash meets Heavenly Creatures.

After all, like Splash, it features a young blonde mermaid who falls in love with a human. And like Heavenly Creatures, it features two young girls who fear separation from each other.

However, unlike the first movie, it is most definitely targeted at a very young audience -- preferably female. And unlike the second, it has a relatively family-friendly storyline, not to mention a happier ending.

Do I recommend it? Not really. But I've seen worse. And Ms. Sara Paxton, who plays the title character, is easy on the eyes.

Besides, it's not like anyone hits her mother on the head with a rock...

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Mi Mejor Amiga Is Getting Better...

She's still not out of the woods yet but her mother called me yesterday to tell me she was out of the hospital and recovering at home. So I guess those prayers I asked for worked...

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Mi Mejor Amiga Is Ill...

And naturally I'm worried. If I don't add to this blog tomorrow, I'll probably be too busy visiting her or running errands for her.

I suspect that in the long run, she'll be all right. But in the meantime, I'm praying for her.

If you're a religious person, I think she'd appreciate it if you prayed too...

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Monday, May 08, 2006

I'm in the Movies...

Sorta...

Okay, the movie itself is based on the original Thomas Mann short story which inspired my user name to begin with. Obviously, they've chosen to go with an alternative spelling but it's still inspired by the same source that inspired yours truly.

Too bad it is not available on video or DVD...

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Latinos Are Everywhere, Part One

And sometimes we're in more places than that.

How else can I explain the mysterious E-mail I got that advertised “jobs in your area”? Of course, once I read the actual E-mail, it turned out that the jobs in my “area” were located in Australia.

I had no idea Australia was part of my “area,” but hey, you learn something new every day...

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Monday, May 01, 2006

What I Learned at the Video Store Today

My Family is an English-language movie about a Mexican-American family, the majority of whom speak English as a first language. Most of the actors are American and the bulk of the storyline takes place within the United States.

Yet the good folks at the local Blockbuster Video store always put it in the Foreign Film section. Ironically, they don't do this with other English-language films like The Godfather -- even though there are often portions in such films in which characters speak a language other than English. For some reason, only My Family gets this treatment. And yet other video chains often put the same film in the Drama section.

Ironic, isn't it?

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Stories We're Not Supposed to Tell

A cousin of mine once compared our family's life to that of a Mexican soap opera. And in many ways, the comparison is quite apt.

However, it has been my experience that every family is a bit like a soap opera -- Mexican or otherwise. Some of us just have better storylines.

Anyway, a friend of mine was feeling sad quite recently because she envied the closeness that my family seems to have. And yet if she knew of the problems they have had to deal with, I doubt she would envy them that much.

Ironically, I always envied my friend because she always seemed to be so cheerful and happy. I, on the other hand, have a tendency to be moody, even when I'm around people I like. And yet as I grew to know more about her, I found that her “happiness” was often a mask similar to the one I mentally don when I'm trying to pretend my feelings weren't hurt.

Indeed, I've known a lot of people who wear a mental mask of some sort because they have problems in their private life that they just don't want to discuss in public. Problems that are probably not improved by public exposure but not improved by private burial either.

I wish I knew the solution to this dilemma. After all, many a time I've hidden my feelings from the world on the premise that if I pretended they didn't exist, they would eventually go away. But that's not true.

Especially when it comes to feeling of insecurity. Or self-loathing. Or unrequited affection.

Everyone has at least one little story to tell -- a story that only he or she knows. A story he or she is not supposed to tell but eventually does. Because if he or she doesn't share such stories with at least one other person, the consequences often prove quite dire.

Right now the person I most often share such stories with is mi mejor amiga. Someday it may be someone else.

But for now, mi mejor amiga will do.

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