Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The worker flea

I want to end the month of July on a positive note. Hence, I’m highlighting the monumental feat (at least in my family) of my brother, Kevin. Nicknamed “the flea”, he has leapt to become the first member of my household to gain full-time employment since dad passed away nearly two years ago. Today was his second day at work and his wide-eyed enthusiasm and fervor has been mixed with the exhaustion of getting up in the pre-dawn hours. If you look at this picture closely, you can catch those feelings in the wide smile and bags under his eyes:

From what little he has told me he has adapted incredibly well to the work environment, gotten to know several colleagues well, and has met the challenge of completing a flurry of assignments. It has been difficult after working from home for over a year and running at his own rhythm and style. However he’s busted his back in school and doing different projects to get the job that he so richly deserves. I’m very proud of him and hope that he will learn from this experience and it will be the start of a fruitful career.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Geekhood via PBS

I'm such a nostalgic nerd.

Don't believe me? Ask my friends from high school. Otherwise check these out:

3-2-1 Contact

Newton's Apple


That's right ladies and germs, I'm still proud to be a geek.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

"Sometimes I just don't know"

Bloody hell, I hate oversleeping.

Mom went out today to do run some errands in downtown Flushing. In a surprising move, she returned with a few small gifts for one of my bros who will be starting his first full-time job on Monday. We're all very proud that he's reached such a momentous and deserved occasion in his life. Now he'll enter the grind of busting his back at his occupation and hopefully it'll work out.

She also got some Colombian food from Jackson Heights which we devoured like Amazonian piranhas. Rotisserie chicken, beans, rice, fried plantain, and to top it off she stopped by Carvel to get an ice cream cake for dessert. Real good stuff.

Mom's on the phone now with one of my aunts in Colombia. I'm eager to find out how everyone's doing, especially grandma. I really hope she doesn't lose it though I understand if that happens to be the case.

So far I've yet to write to any long lost acquaintances/friends/colleagues. I better get crackin' on that tonight.

Though I don't regret the decision to miss the Joe Vasconcellos' gig last night, I've spent some time checking out concert footage of his on YouTube. Yes it would've been nice to go, but like the rest of the family I must pay my proper respects to Uncle Javy's death. He was one of the kindest, gentlest souls I've ever known and we all miss him very much.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Adios Joe, I got to get back to work

I had planned for weeks to go see Joe Vasconcellos tonight at the Queens Theatre in the Park. I had really looked forward to enjoying his eclectic Chilean folk and rock stylings in a live venue. Yet it was not to be since I'm paying respects to Uncle Javy who died on Monday. I could not in good conscience go to a concert mere days after his passing and keeping in mind that my entire family is very sad and upset about his death.

Maybe next year I'll see Joe in concert so as long as the circumstances are right.

In the meantime, I will respectfully mourn the memory of Uncle Javy and hope that my family can slowly but surely move forward. I am certain that they can though my biggest fear is that my grandmother will not. Though she has always had a very strong attitude, she is in her 90s and is getting increasingly weak physically. A few hours ago we spoke on the phone for the first time in weeks and I could tell in her voice that she feels very frail and vulnerable. She and Javy were very close and it's hard to imagine how things will be like for her now that he's gone. I hate to have this anxiety in my mind; a worry that is shared by most of the family. It's an uncertain situation and only time will tell how she will react to it in the (hopefully) long run.

Selfishly speaking I must take advantage of the weekend to resume some work that I left behind over the past week. My UN work has gone untouched and I need to contact my supervisor ASAP. I've been in something of a writer's rut regarding the thesis work though I hope to get the ball rolling again on that quickly.

Crap, I forgot to send the e-mails to long lost friends and acquaintances. There's another thing I have to do on the weekend.

I wonder if she still remembers me?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

"Oy! Up Scumbag!"

The past two weeks have been hellish, especially due to the illness/death of Uncle Javy. Hence, I really could use a laugh. Luckily Vyvyan, Mike, Rick, and Neil helped out:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Moving on

Uncle Javy's funeral was Wednesday morning in La Palma, Colombia. my family here in NYC could not make it to the ceremony, though we talked to our aunts tonight and they said that everything was solemn and peaceful. Grandma wept a lot but in a quiet and very dignified manner. Just about the entire town of a no more than a few thousand people packed the church. It was the town's version of a state funeral for someone beloved, respected, and admired by all.

Wednesday was difficult not only in that I wasn't over there but I was home alone with my thoughts and nobody to talk too. Though I did chat briefly with a few friends it was only a small relief compared to my bros and mom being by my side. I did got some work done thankfully, but the solitude was overbearing and I waffled a lot with my work.

Despite being moping and depression today I have resolved to break out of funk starting tomorrow. I have far too many things to get done for me to be listless. Much like when dad passed away I need to move on and try to serve as an example for the rest of my family. (For example, I'll try to call grandma over the weekend and try to give her a boost so she can feel better).

For now I'm in something of a transitional phase where I ponder over the lessons one can learn from such a tragedy. Even though my cardiologist told me on Tuesday that my cardio system is in tip-top shape, I must keep in mind to exercise regularly and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Also, one should not take friends and family for granted; they are to be appreciated and enjoyed. (Which is why I'm going to send a bunch of e-mail greetings tomorrow to some acquaintances I haven't heard from in ages). Finally, one should take advantage of every day and exploit it for what it's worth.

Off to bed and early to rise. Tomorrow is a new day and I must be ready for it.

Monday, July 23, 2007


He's gone.

Uncle Javy's gone.

He wasn't improving at all during the weekend and this morning he passed away.

His entire family here and there are absolutely devastated and I'm certainly no exception to that.

My mind has been dull and unfocused all day. I barely got any work done. I just don't want to do anything until I can stop feeling so numb and helpless.

Yes, life goes on. It was a harsh lesson I learned all to well after my dad suddenly died. But I feel like being in stasis; unmoving, blank, still.

Inasmuch as I want to stay home curled in the fetal position I cannot. I have to go see my cardiologist on Tuesday and find out the results of my stress test. As if I weren't enough an anxiety-ridden wreck now I have to add worry over my health to that.

Most family over there have taken the news relatively well. That is, they're not in hysterics or paranoid. I really hope my grandma can pull through with her emotions and not become ill due to this.

It hurts far too much.

What else can be said but to take things day-by-day, little-by-little.

Adios Javy.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A busy mind

I don't exactly know why but I've been thinking of her all day long. ("Her" = see the first anecdote in this post). Perhaps deep down inside I miss her immensely. Maybe it's the feeling of care towards her that reappeared suddenly. Whatever the case may be my mind has been filed with thoughts of her over the past 24 hours.

Hence, I cannot think of a more appropriate thing to post but the following. It just seems like the most appropriate thing to include.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The infamous "panty raid"

I was about to type up a verbose, dull post before changing my mind.


I found my favorite scene of all time from RENO 911!:

It also is the scene that Kerry-Kenney Silver confessed to being the one her son would be the most moritifed to watch when he gets older:

QS: What would you choose if you were to pick out one moment from The State or Viva Variety or Reno that you absolutely don’t want him to see until you can actually put it in context and try to alleviate the pain for him?

KENNEY-SILVER: Oh, that’s completely easy. Me butt naked, nine months pregnant, on Reno 911 this last season. Tom, Ben, Cedric, and Carlos come busting in and do a panty raid in the women’s locker room hoping to find Clemmy in her panties and bra, and what they find is me nine months pregnant, naked, with a shower cap on dancing with a towel. If my son ever sees that, he’s either gonna love me more or we’ll never hear from him again.

QS: What is the context that you would deliver on that?

KENNEY-SILVER: You mean to tell him?

QS: Yes. When he comes to you, sort of shivering…

KENNEY-SILVER: “You need to sit down. I think you need to sit down.” And then from there, I would just say, “You know what? You remember that nice house you grew up in and those great fancy shoes you always wore? Well, that’s how we paid for them.”

QS: Do you think they’ll ever erase the picture from his mind?

KENNEY-SILVER: No. Dear God no. To quote Ben in the actual piece, “There are some things you can’t un-see.”

QS: Of course, it’s even more awkward if he has a friend show it to him…

KENNEY-SILVER: It’s going to be ugly. I think we need to sit him down and show it to him before he can get the ugly truth in school.

QS: Sort of like when you temper an egg when cooking…


Dammit how I adore that show!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Running around

I really ought to be coming home from tonight’s free Neko Case concert in Central Park. Alas, it was not to be for several reasons including the heavy storm that was supposed to fall today (which didn’t), and the lack of reliable and accessible bus service at this time of the night. (The steam pipe explosion on Wednesday made the latter problem many times worse than usual).

But more than anything it was the very stressing and tiring days today and yesterday that have just about knocked me out.

Yesterday I was at the Hospital for Joint Diseases all day in order to take care of some urgent problems with my health insurance and to accompany my bros to their respective appointments at muscle clinic. Besides being on the road for roughly a dozen hours the main problem ad to do with the changes with Medicaid and related health care that have made things fast more difficult for my brothers and me. For instance, whereas before I could just make an appointment to muscle clinic or equipment clinic with little trouble now I have to got through the rigmarole of filling it paperwork and getting referrals from my primary care physician. Perhaps I’m making it seem like before it was as simple as snapping one’s fingers but it feels that was compared to the current feeling of having to jump through a myriad of hoops.

Making things worse was the lack of accurate answers by the staff at the hospital. I talked to three different people regarding my situation and I received three distinct replies. It was as if more red tape was being added to the already growing mountain of confusion and complexity.

Oy vey!

Below are a pair of pics taken yesterday, first of my brother Jonathan then of mom and Kevin:

Today was not as difficult and harried, thankfully. I woke up at before dawn and went with Kevin and mom to the dentist. Unfortunately, some miscommunication nearly derailed my trip as I was not scheduled to be seen today. Mercifully, there were some early morning cancellations so Kevin and I got our teeth thoroughly cleaned by a very kind albeit slightly sadistic dental hygienist. Unfortunately for me, it was not my usual hygienist which was too bad since I really like to see/chat/lightly flirt with her. Oh well.

Afterwards we decided to celebrate Colombian Independence Day in our own low-key, simple way by having a killer breakfast at a cozy Colombian bakery on 46th Street and Queens Boulevard:

Chicharron, chorizo, coffee, arepas, corn mazitas.

The perfect remedy for our heady minds, tired bodies, and growling stomachs.

The rest of the morning was spent on running a few errands (e.g. supermarket, Kevin’s haircut) before returning home. I took this pic while taking a quick breather on the street outside the barbershop:

So yes, I did miss going to the concert tonight and I know I would’ve enjoyed it thoroughly. However, I’m getting some much needed downtime at home which will definitely come in handy since I’ll be playing catch-up with some pending work and even more appointments await me next week.

C’est la vie, non?

MP3: Neko Case -Bowling Green (Live, 2000)

MP3: Neko Case - I Wish I Was the Moon Tonight (Live, April 2006)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"One, Two, Three"


By the way, just for the record:
  • Kim Deal's t-shirt and jeans over Kim Deal's shoulder pads and long earrings
  • Bald Joey Santiago over Joey Santiago with hair
  • Paunchy Frank Black over Thin Frank Black
  • Young Dave Lovering over Older Dave Lovering
  • Surfer Rosa > Come on Pilgrim > Trompe le Monde > Doolittle > Bossanova

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"What the fuck is a 'gastropub'?!"

I am not a foodie nor a gourmand by any stretch of the imagination. Given I have an unhealthy loathing towards the hellish triumvirate of McDonald's/Taco Bell/Pizza Hut as well as overpriced joints where ambiance is given more importance than the food being served. And yes, my favorite meals (which one day I'll discuss in more detail) have been in locations where exceptional food is served at a fair price. I'm picky and selective but far from being a food nerd.

Still, I have to admit that I follow chef Anthony Bourdain's every footsteps. (Figuratively, obvs). Why? It's not because of this brash, "bad boy" persona some see him as. But it's his insight into food, cooking, and culture that makes him so appealing. Though I miss his original A Chef's Tour on Food Network (i.e. just about the only reason to watch that channel) I thoroughly enjoy No Reservations on the Travel Channel. (Let's just say that two of my favorite days this summer have been all-day marathons of No Reservations and Reno 911!).

One of his credos is that eating should ideally be an experience, not a chore or something to be treated so flippantly. Eating a meal- whether it be at home with family, in a restaurant with friends, or even alone from a street vendor- ought to be an event; something tangible that can satisfy all the senses. Practically speaking it may be difficult at times, as I learned when living alone in Miami when I had the tendency to consume my meals during quick breaks between classes or meetings. But whenever possible eating should reach and hopefully attain its ideal status.

With that said, I really liked this video clip I found of a book reading by Bourdain last year. The excerpt seems apt as to what I'm trying to say:

A quick update: my very ill uncle has been recuperating very gradually but without further complications. He remains in a very sensitive state, but it certainly seems like he'll continue recovering. Thankfully.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hoping against hope

A very close uncle in Colombia has been on death's door since Friday. He is by far one of the smartest people I know in terms of his desire to learn and to acquire knowledge. Despite his little formal schooling he tries his best to comprehend the many ideas and issues in the world around him.

Now he's clinging to life while being hooked up to machines and tied to a hospital bed on the outskirts of Bogota.

He should've been dead based on the sporadic information I've been told by family over there. He had been very ill for several weeks yet nobody suggested that he see the doctor nor had he shown the initiative. It was not until Friday morning that one of aunts noticed his extremely weakened condition and took him to the clinic in La Palma. After being given several IV packets he was whisked via ambulance to a larger clinic several towns over, then to Bogota.

At every step of the way the doctors were amazed that he wasn't dead and noted that he was literally fighting for his life. Yet he could pass away at any moment despite his almost superhuman efforts to pull through.

I've been a wreck all weekend long trying to keep it together but it's been incredibly difficult. I'm hoping against hope that his situation can improve and trying to give the impression of being calm, cool, and collective much like in the aftermath of dad's death. It's just a weak facade, however, and everyone knows it.

In the meantime my family's playing the waiting game to wait and see how his condition has been. We're preparing ourselves for whatever news arises; good or bad.

Praying and wishing and thinking and weeping.

We'll just have to wait and see.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Anxiety over Death

Friday was a day were I had to deal with death in the form of a distant colleague dying as well as one of my family members on the verge of dying.

I can barely think straight, to be honest. The shock has yet to dissipate. I'm a nervous wreck. My plans to see some friends at the Cafe Tacuba concert on Saturday have vanished because I feel so out of my element. I don't want to go out and I would much rather stay at home in some seclusion.

Perhaps I'll go into more detail tomorrow.

In the meantime prayers are in order along with the hope that the family of the deceased can move on and the ill family member can pull through.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Koala infestation

Just for the hell of it (video link):

Besides, "they're so fuckin' cute!"

Sunday, July 08, 2007

“Stopping touching my breast Charles!”

(Image via the always informative Brooklyn Vegan)

By sheer luck I caught the final half of a 2001 British documentary on the Pixies called “The Pixies: Gauge” on channel 25 last night. Since I am a very loyal fan of the group I viewed it with great interest and got a kick out of the retrospective on their albums as well as the slight foreshadowing when Joey Santiago and Frank Black touched on a reunion tour. (That was done in 2004).

I was in ecstasy when in mid-2004 I first got word that they would play in NYC. I remember the day that they started selling tickets for their December gig I got up at the crack of dawn and headed to the Hammerstein Ballroom where they were going to play I mistakenly thought the tix would be sold there and it wasn’t until I had waited several hours into the mid-morning that I hightailed it to Irving Plaza. Unfortunately, that was the second erroneous venue I went to and I quickly ran to the now-defunct Tower Records store on Broadway and East 3rd Street (I think). By then it was 11am and I was the only guy there at the Ticketmaster counter ready to buy tix. A long hour later and the counter opened and I was the first of about fifty people there to buy Pixies tix.

Unfortunately by the time of the December 12th concert I was exceedingly busy with my studies and I eventually sold the tix at no profit to a then-close friend of mine. That was the closest I got to see the Pixies on stage, though I don’t regret giving the tix up since I was in a bind at the time.

Someday I hope to see them. In the meantime I’ll make do with programs like “The Pixies: Gauge.” Sans regrets.

MP3: Pixies – Radio Interview (July 1987)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Kanner's 100 - Ridley Scott

I've always enjoyed watching TV and it just so happens to be one of my favorite hobbies. I enjoy programs that range from the cerebral and enlightening (e.g. How It's Made, documentaries, 60 Minutes) to the distracting and entertaining (e.g. Reno! 911, Adult Swim, Simpsons).

Yet besides certain programs I also enjoy watching commercials. I see them as a canvas for creativity where in less than a minute one is trying to be convinced to buy a specific product or support a certain cause or candidate. Some of the most notable commercials are those that are able to grab attention in innovative ways via humor, shock, artistry, etc.

Hence, one of my favorite books is Bernice
Kanner's The 100 Best TV Commercials which was published nearly a decade ago. Unfortunately, Kanner passed away last October. Yet her New York Times obit had an excellent quote of hers regarding ads:

“It’s chic to say you’re immune to advertising, but it does invade our pores.”
Though I don't own a copy of the book, I've scoured all over YouTube during the little bits of spare time I had over the past few days. My aim was to try to find as many of the ads Kanner mentioned in the book. Despite not having eread the book since 2005 and working from memory I found nearly 40 of those ads which I will post on periodically.

This post will look at several ads by renown film director
Ridley Scott. The man behind films like Alien, Blade Runner, and Thelma & Louise has also directed several adverts. The most well-known commercial he directed was the "1984" ad for Apple Computers. It only ran once during the 1984 Super Bowl, but its stunning imagery and message of rebelling against dystopia remain etched in our collective memories. One never sees the product in the ad, but the commercial is unforgettable.

The 100 Best... also points out another famous ad directed by Scott though it is not famous here in the States. It's a 1973 commercial for England's Hovis bread. The commercial, in my opinion, is superior to "1984" in that one really feels transported back to 19th-century England. Sepia-colored tones and Dvorak's "New World Symphony" define the ad and one even gets the sense of smelling the freshly-baked bread. Kanner mentioned that legal constraints led to the creation of the very memorable slogan seen at the end of the commercial.

As an honorable mention not noted in the book, I'm including Scott's 1979 commercial for Chanel No.5. Again we see fantastic imagery and great background music from Vangelis, (of Chariots of Fire fame.)

Fabulous stuff, no?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Feliz cumple viejo!

Today would've been my dad's 61st birthday. Thus today was a day full of melancholy, nostalgia, and remembrance.

Despite having such a conflicted relationship in the last year of his life, I still miss him dearly and wish he was still alive. Reality is another issue, however, and I have long ago accepted the cards I have been dealt with.

This is a video of one of my dad's favorite songs; an absolutely stirring tune that does justice to his memory (video link):

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Bummer (NSFW Version)

After watching the anticlimactic USA-Colombia Copa America match and the Red Bulls' pathetic, ghastly effort against Houston I only have the following to say:

[Cover your ears children and prudes]

Fuck fuck fuck fuckety-fuck-fuck fuck fuck fuck.

Motherfucking putas bitch rat bastard damn sons of bitches idiots mothershagging idiots.

Mierda mierda mierda mierda no-good wankers.

That felt better.

Tomorrow I will return to my regularly scheduled pithy observations.

Apologies for all the dirty words.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

July, July! - It’s concert time!

Oh immortal joy! (Image via The Stranger)

Summer has unofficially been a month old so I figured it would be time to check out the myriad of concerts that will be held in NYC over the next two months and change. Last year’s list of concerts was disappointing in that I was a terrible 1-for-23 (parts one and two). This summer I will be far less ambitious mainly since I will be super busy working on the seemingly never-ending thesis as well as U.N. research. Yet with so many free concerts in the area it’s hard to resist passing up on them, though it hurts to have missed Rodrigo y Gabriela earlier today.

Well, here goes nothing.

To quote what I wrote in The Latin Americanist:

“(The Latin Alternative Music Conference) will host a concert in Central Park with well-known band Café Tacuba. The Mexican quartet will top what should be a killer concert with local act Pacha Massive and Boricua singer La Sista.”

Oh my god.

Oh my god.

Oh my god.


I briefly discussed my adoration for Ms. Case’s music in this post, but the timing of this concert could not have been better for me since it’s Colombian Independence Day. Perhaps it may be more appropriate winging it to Jackson Heights for some bandeja paisa but I shan’t miss the chance to listen to Neko’s precious melodies under the stars. (Perfect for a date, no?)

This is the only concert on the list that is not free yet I am more than willing to shell out $30-35 to see Señor Vasconcellos. I praised him before and I’m trilled at the chance to hopefully see him live.

This is a ridiculously difficult choice to make. On the one hand there will be some fabulous and funky Latin music playing in the West Village. (Plus the chance to possibly meet José Conde whose music I'm giving away).

On the other hand, there’ll be the prime chance to catch the addictively unique tunes of the B-52s along with Venegas and some of her crew.

Choices, choices, choices!

I’ve always wanted to see ARS in concert in order to figure out if their live stuff deviates too much from their recorded tunes. This concert will be the best way to find out (assuming I’m not wiped out from the previous night).

In this The Latin Americanist post I embedded a YouTube vid of the incomparable Hector Lavoe. He was a giant amongst men and thankfully his music continues to be popular.

The tricky part will be if my motorized wheelchair be able to go on one of the ferries to Governor’s Island and if the terrain there isn’t too difficult for the wheelchair. Otherwise I’ve enjoyed Si*Se especially since I saw them at S.O.B.s a few years ago; thus, I would be thrilled to make it.

The lone concert I went to last summer was the unforgettable time seeing Los Amigos Invisibles at El Museo, principally since they played despite being delayed two hours by a torrential downpour. It was the only time I danced alone in the street at 10pm and one of the rare times I was happy that the Access-A-Ride arrived so far behind schedule.

Could lightning strike twice? Hopefully not in the literal sense!

If I’m not too tired from the previous evening's shindig at El Museo, then I’ll make my way downtown to catch Scottish twee pop near the East River. (I wonder if there are cheap pubs nearby or is it all just T.G.I. McFunsters?)

Nine concerts. Nine options for fun. I’ll try to attend at least 3-4 of them. It would be very nice.