Thursday, August 28, 2008

At'ta Boy!

Not much time for blogging these days, though I do snap off a quick tweet now and then, so watch the Twitter box in the right column or go here. (I mean, if you're that fasinated with my life, and who wouldn't be?) And like 100 million other people, I am also on Facebook.

Ok, just time for a quick joke (with apologies to my friend Rudy and a hat tip to Andrew Sullivan):

From Peggy Noonan, Wall St. Journal:

By the way, the best line of the convention so far? Ted Strickland of Ohio, when he echoed the 1988 Democratic convention joke about George H.W. Bush, that he was born on third and thought he hit a triple. Strickland said of George W. Bush that he was born on third and then stole second.
(Yes, that's a picture of lil' W above.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Daniel Hernandez

Some of you may know I have a long-standing crush on Mexico City, though I don't get to see her often. Former LA Weekly writer Daniel Hernandez does though. He's a young journalist in doing a book on youth culture in Mexico City. I love his amazing blog, Intersections.

Hernandez' picture above is from an anti-delinquent rally in Mexico City ("Be a Patriot, Kill 1 Delinquent" the sign reads). He also has some interesting posts on "Emo Riots" in the capital, and lots of other things you won't find on CNN.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Desert Quest

In the summer of 1985, I drove out to my brother's land in Baldy Mesa, California to seek God alone in the silence of the desert. My model in this quest were the 4th century Desert Fathers, who fled the cities to live with God in the wilderness of northern Egypt and Sinai. And like them, I had no plans to return to my former life. I would stay in the desert until God called me out. (However, unlike the Desert Fathers, I did bring a camera. The picture above is of my desert camp and my faithful '76 Toyota Corolla.)

In the end, my sojourn in the desert only lasted about three days. Scared at night, alternately bored and scared during the day, I gave up and fled to a friend's house in nearby Phelan.

A couple of years later I wrote a paper on my experience, concluding with the sense of failure I carried about the adventure. My history of religion professor, UCSC's venerable Noel Q. King (and here), gave me a great grade and noted that in such exercises, it wasn't chronos time which mattered, but karios time.

Even more years later, Tim Butler (and here) wrote a song about my desert experience and included it on his album, Good. I hope he doesn't mind me reprinting the lyrics:

Mojave Desert

Going to the light to set himself alight
mojave desert
driving in his bug with three dozen cans of spam
mojave desert
may go for a week -- may go for a life
mojave desert

sitting in one place like that old joshua tree there
joining in the space
far light - star light

days pass on his mount - i don't know the count
scorpions scurry
time becomes a stranger as stranger time becomes
scorpions scurry
oscillations made between madness and a gift
"what am I doing?" (thinks) "what am I doing?"

yet there's a constant company
in his singular abide
moving in space
far light - star light

out of all his water - ate up all the spam
voices talking (small) voices talking
over the horizon clouds are rising up
horses running (sees) horses running

drive back in the car
defeat - a failure - a demise
but wasn't he in star light - far light
a smile cracks across his wind-cracked face as he recalls
the way he lost himself / won himself
beheld the light.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Now Reading... The Grapes of Wrath

My father-in-law has a ton of great books up sitting up at the cottage just waiting to be read. When I'm there I love to dig into the classics. Last year it was Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. This year, I got into John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. I haven't read it in at least 20 years. What an absolutely stunning work this is.

The Grapes of Wrath is a heartbreaking story written in 1939 about a family of sharecroppers who get kicked off their land in Oklahoma during the Depression by bankers wanting to make more profit by introducing industrial agriculture methods. They go to California in where supposedly "the living is easy," but find that it is anything but.

If it's not already, The Grapes of Wrath should be required reading for all Californians. It's a powerful reminder that there's an awful lot of people of all backgrounds in California descended from those who fled poverty in search of a better life. And there's nothing illegal about that in my book.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Friday, August 15, 2008

Super Pocoyo

Amado first saw Pocoyo on the little televisions on the airplane to Vancouver. Now I think it's cool too.

Orange Carmen

One of Amado's all-time favourites from Sesame Street.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Orange County's Lost Essence

I love articles like this one by Gustavo Arellano (writer of the provocative column, "Ask a Mexican") on vanishing California, in this case, the orange groves of Orange County. Some of my family from my dad's side have deep roots in Santa Ana / San Juan Capistrano area of what was later named Orange County.
Consider the cult of the orange-crate label. It promoted brands with evocative names such as Esperanze, Mission or Albion during California's citrus era; they're now collector's items, prized for fanciful, idyllic depictions of Old California -- perfect groves, gauzy foothills, flirtatious seƱoritas. More crucially, this folk art ingrained such romanticized scenes into the American mind, passed off as snapshots of California to inspire the mass in-migrations the state experienced for decades afterward.

Everyone knows that this idealization is a fraud. The insatiable thirst for cheap labor to harvest oranges through the 1960s set us on the course for our current immigration troubles, while naranjeros such as my grandfather faced rampant segregation that in many ways continues (drive while Mexican at night in Newport Beach, and you'll understand). The constant push to extract as much value from property as possible, whether by record sales of oranges at the turn of the century, or by the square footage bought and sold since, is Orange County's truest legacy. Still, I can't help but feel sadness at the demise of our last orchards. The trees should remain as a living monument...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Toronto Propane Depot Explosion

This is what woke Wendy and I up this morning at 4:00 a.m. (No, it's not the sunrise.) Not sure why I can't get YouTube to post to my blog, but click here to watch the video. Go directly to 1:50 in the video to see the big one, and turn your sound up. We saw giant fireballs for more than an hour. Not to mention the sounds were earth shaking.

Here's the newspaper story.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Here's a play I would like to see:

"Fela!," a new Off Broadway musical...a tribute to the Nigerian bandleader and political gadfly Fela Anikulapo Kuti...Mr. Kuti, who died of AIDS in 1997 at 58, was the king of Afrobeat, a musky hybrid of African rhythms and American jazz and funk, and his songs — 15, 20, 40 minutes long — have coaxed many feet to the dance floor. Defiant and irreverent in politics, he also used his music and fame to denounce corruption and ridicule those he called the world’s “vagabonds in power.” That he was repeatedly jailed and beaten for his opposition only quickened his route to becoming a modern African folk hero.

The story revolves around the central tragedy of Mr. Kuti’s life, when 1,000 soldiers stormed his compound in Lagos in 1977 and threw his mother, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, a prominent activist, from her window; she later died from her injuries. In the musical Mr. Kuti wonders whether he should give up, and he muses mischievously on the idea of himself as a rebellious political leader, a “black president.”

[You can read more here.]

Monday, August 04, 2008

Manny Dreads

See, I'm not the only one worried about the fate of Manny Ramirez' infamous dreads now that he's playing with the Dodgers, who infamously require their players to fashion themselves after the LAPD.

Anything is Possible

...according to ESPN's list of 10 big boxing upsets. But an upset of my East LA homeboy Oscar De La Hoya this Saturday isn't in the cards.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Now Reading... Blindness

This book is as creepy as it sounds. Everyone in the world is going blind. It's going to all turn out alright in the end, right? Right? Interestingly, the other Jose Saramago book I read, Baltasar and Blimunda, was also about vision: a young woman who can see into other peoples' souls when she fasts. I don't know enough about Saramago to know if vision is an ongoing theme in his work, but it would not surprise me.

Friday, August 01, 2008


The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the few man-made spaces that approach the sacred for me. My pictures from our visit, including this one from the jellyfish exhibit don't do it justice. There is really nothing like standing before a 40-foot wall of living sea, filled with tuna, salmon, sharks, squid, anchovies - all swimming together amidst the kelp forest. Check it out here, including the live webcams.