Friday, November 30, 2007

De Musica Ligera: Downtempo

Zero 7 including Jose Gonzalez and Sia (image credit)

It’s Friday and therefore it’s time for our weekly music post.

Of the numerous music folders I have on my laptop one of the most listened to is labeled “Downtempo”. That folder holds roughly 125 songs that are relaxing and mellow including some tunes that correspond to the “chill out music” genre.

Last week I recalled a Si*Sé concert I went to several years ago. Their music would definitely be described as “chill out,” though to be more specific they could be classified as trip hop en español.

When I was studying in Miami eons ago one of my best friends was a classmate from a few international relations courses. She also worked as a part-time receptionist at that department so when I would visit her often when I was feeling particularly bored and with a bit of time to kill during the day. Usually she would have stretches of work lasting hours when there was very little to do. Hence, our conversations helped us mutually combat our daily dullness.

Music was amongst the many topics we would discuss. She enjoyed a few genres of music and in particular trip hop and IDM. She didn’t like the music on its own but instead since she adored spending her free time relaxing in lounges where that sort of music is played. While I preferred to stretch out in bed alone in my dorm late at night and listen to Massive Attack and Zero 7 she opted for weekend outings to lounges and bars in South Beach.

During the course of our friendship I tried to take her ask out a few times and hang out in her proffered environment. I even tried taking her out to some nice places around Union Square and SoHo during a trip to NYC. But for reasons beyond my comprehension she never really wanted to do so with me. Though I’m certain we would have had an enjoyable time together I don’t mind that we didn’t do so. I suppose that’s the way it crumbles…cookie-wise.

After a harsh and stressful week of school and work (this week being no exception), there is nothing better than to sit back and unwind sipping a hot cup of tea and listening to some “Downtempo” music. I may be in my stuffy shared bedroom in Queens rather than alone in a Miami dorm, but the music is soothing and harkens back to some good memories.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Keltic Dreams

The dance troupe in the video below performed briefly during the luncheon I attended Wednesday afternoon. Their dancing was breathtaking and their singing was angelic. For me it was the highlight of the entire event. (More details on the luncheon soon).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


This may sound highly unusual but I love to do public presentations. Whether it involves giving a speech, making a toast, or doing a presentation I absolutely enjoy speaking in front of crowds. Given I have a raspy, soft voice that is barely audible but I really like public speaking.

Nevertheless the problem with my oratory in public has to do with preparation. More specifically, I have a terrible time figuring out what to discuss and being sufficiently prepared for it. Rather than feeling petrified in front of the audience I become a wreck before appearing in front of a crowd.

Tomorrow I will be attending a luncheon at the Consulate General of Ireland located in midtown. I’m not completely sure if the event is related to the Physically Challenged Irish and American Youth Team though I suspect that something similar to what occurred in May could happen:

Though I was not told to prepare a speech I knew I had to have one ready just in case I was instructed to speak. Sure enough, after arriving to the ballroom where the luncheon was being held I was greeted with a bear hug by the charity’s director and subsequently instructed to speak to the audience soon after.

“I just want you to greet these kids and welcome them to the States and tell them a bit about yourself.”

“No worries, sir. I’ve had it all planned out for days.”

“Just make it short cause there’ll be a lot of things to do.”

“Trust me Bill. Everything’s under control,” I replied while recalling all the mistakes I had made in the previous year’s speech such as drawing blanks, forgetting my main points, and stammering terribly.

Though I was feeling terribly overanxious less than two days before speaking, I was inspired at the last second and things worked out very well.

Ideally I would have preferred to think of something entirely original and not base my possible speech on a song or a quote. However, desperation caught the best of me and earlier today I found what could be the ideal quote from Irish novelist Edna O’Brien:

“When anyone asks me about the Irish character, I say look at the trees. Maimed, stark and misshapen, but ferociously tenacious.”

After mentioning that quote I would go on to describe how that accurately describes the many disabled children aided by the charity over the years. Though they may not have all the physical capacities that others have, these children and young adults have the heart and determination to move forward and strive to become productive members of society. They do not ask for handouts or pity but rather the chance to contribute to themselves and others for the greater good of us all. They appreciate all the support and morale people like you provide for much like the trees that O’Brien alluded to these kids stand tall and blossom the fruits of their labor.

Wow. That felt like a mouthful.

I have a hunch that I’m definitely prepared for tomorrow.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The reality behind "reality"

How I really wish there would be a U.S. version of "Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe". Pure genius.

(Video link):

Friday, November 23, 2007

De Musica Ligera: Si*Sé

Every Friday I will dedicate a post exclusively to music. It’s an idea I’ve copied off the other blog I worked on including repeating the same post title. For this blog I’m unsure if I will place a common theme to each post or just throw out a potpourri of different songs. For the time being, I’ll opt for something different and focus on one musical group.

One of the first concerts I attended after graduating in F.I.U. and returning to New York was at SOB’s in 2004. The band that played on a sultry summer night was trip-hop group Si*Sé. I felt awkward being there since I went alone and I typically tend to shy away during gatherings when I don’t recognize the other people there.

Since it was the first time I had gone there I called the club ahead of time to find out if the place was wheelchair accessible, especially the men’s room. The employee I talked to affirmed that it was completely accessible, so imagine my surprise when I find out the bathroom was too narrow. Thus, I felt more awkward sitting in a dark corner away from the bar in order to avoid drinking any cold, sweet booze. (After the concert finished I had to duck into the nearby McDonald’s Express to use their facilities. Price of usage – one cheeseburger and six McNuggets to go).

Aside from that inconvenience the gig itself was absolutely amazing; Carol C.’s voice is so smooth and it’s complemented incredibly well by the rest of the group. The music is equal parts catchy, tropical, and urban. This may seem a little hard to believe, but they sound many times better live than on their albums. Though Carol C.’s vocals are exceptional, the sum of the parts is what makes Si*Sé so alluring.

Oddly enough the first time I ever heard Si*Sé was on a flight to Miami, which is a very appropriate locale for their style of music. (With all due respect to my native NYC, that is). That song was “Cuando” and after getting goose bumps and chills listening to it I made sure to steal the music channel guide in order to download it after arriving home.

Si*Sé will be appearing at SOB’s next Friday. At this time I don’t know if I’m going to go since I’m so occupied and I’m usually spent by the end of the week. Yet one thing is for sure: those that go will definitely not be disappointed with Si*Sé.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving thoughts

Today was a day of reflection for me in that I decided to spotlight those things that I am and should be eternally grateful for:
  • Health – My physical health has been pretty good over the past few months and that has been rectified via a battery of exams. (e.g. blood tests, x-rays, EKGs, stress tests). Mentally has not been as good, especially over the summer when I was feeling lonely and isolated from others. However, my mind has been far from being as god awful as it was during my darkest days years ago. All in all, not terribly bad.
  • Family – Although I won’t travel to see my extended family in Colombia for the first time since 2004, I feel incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by my brothers and mom. Given, it has not always been a smooth relationship yet they’ve helped me when I’ve been down and they are the main reason I have to live. If it weren’t for them I would’ve been dead and buried ages ago. (I assure that is not an exaggeration).
  • Friends – Earlier this evening I decided to send an e-card to about forty friends, past and present. At some time in the past they have impacted my life in a positive way. For that I am eternally grateful and I sincerely hope that they comprehend how much I appreciate them all.
  • Potential – Despite my constant complaining and cynicism I’m thankful that I still dream of a better future for myself and for those close to me. They deserve it, now and always. Our goals can be reached and we will keep striving onward until they are obtained.

Ultimately, life is what we make of it. That’s why I’m grateful for all the positive aspects of life and hopeful that we can overcome whatever obstacles try to knock us down.

Monday, November 19, 2007

English for Dummies (Version Colombiana)

I'm going to cheat and post a video tonight. (In defense of such a decision, I had 3 hours of sleep last night, wasted my morning arguing with civil servants, and the video itself is quite funny).

The following is a humorous routine from a Colombian TV program entitled "Sabados Felices" ("Happy Saturdays"). The "teacher" is giving English language lessons for Colombian slang and colloquialisms.

Those who aren't familiar with some of these sayings (i.e. "Y la Ñapa?") will most likely have a difficult time understanding what he's saying. Yet those that understand American and Colombian cultures will surely chuckle heartily at the routine.

Video link:

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The new rules

I’ve finally figured out the new rules for HP after taking far too much time thinking about it. They’re fairly simple and hopefully I can stick to them and make this blog at least marginally more interesting:

1- There will be at least five posts per week.

2- Each of these posts must focus on a different subject and be at least three hundred words long.

3- In addition to theses five posts, there may be one to two additional posts weekly focusing on an interesting video I have found. These posts have no min/max word limit.

4- The new rules shall start on November 19th.

That’s it. Not much more to say beyond that.

See you later, ladies and germs.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Dreaming of a sane Christmas

I’ll explain the new format at a later time. At this time more pressing matters need to be examined.

I do not usually have a holly, jolly attitude over the December holidays, but I tend to look forward to them as a time for peace, respite, joy, and unity.

This year will be a lot different.

Christmas was my dad’s most anticipated and favorite holiday. He loved it since it reminded him of his youth in Colombia, and it would serve as his vacation time from work. Thus, he would always build ornate nativity scenes to go along with our Christmas tree. Villages would spring to life in a carnival of lights, porcelain buildings, figurines, and trains. Despite return from work bone tired he would dedicate several hours nightly to the design, construction, and transformation of half the living room into a veritable winter wonderland. After several weeks of laboring over the holiday scene he would enjoy every detail of the completed masterpiece. So much so that he would not take it down until late January and sometimes February.

This year marks the first time that my immediate family will not be spending the holidays in Colombia since dad passed away two years back. Even though we have had a reasonably good time the past three years we’ve been there, we just cannot afford to spend another couple of thousand dollars on the trip. In addition, time is not at a premium as it had been before since one of us working full-time while the rest are trying to sort our own odds and ends.

Over the summer I begged my mom to go alone to Colombia for two weeks in the autumn. I explained to her how therapeutic it would be for her and for our family there. It would definitely be affordable though my main concern was her mental well-being. I was worried that her being at home for the holidays would be too difficult for her to cope with. On a more selfish note, I was worried that she would become depressed and I would have to put up with it somehow.

Unfortunately despite my repeated requests she declined taking the trip alone.

She put up the Christmas tree last week and over the past few nights has tried to recreate as best as possible the nativity decorations my father so dearly cherished.

Tonight she broke down, cried, and wailed for approximately thirty minutes.

I will not try to pretend and comprehend the great pain she is going through. Her husband was truly her soul mate and nothing can replace the vast void in her heart.

However, I cannot help but feel a great sense of dread at imagining the difficulties of this holiday season. There are many times that I wish I could just break down and let all my emotions run free. Yet I learned long ago that I have to keep a brave face in order for her to be fairly happy. It would be easy to be honest and I wish it could be like that, but for her sake and stability I have learned to be two-faced.

I have no clue at how I will put up with the next few months. No matter how many times I visit my shrink or try to distract myself I am certain that the upcoming weeks will be yet another challenge I have to live up to. I don’t know how I’ll do it but I’m not looking forward to putting up with more suffering than I’ve lived with over the past 26 months. Its times like these that I wish life’s answers could come on a silver platter. Reality is much different.

This is too much to bear.

I don’t think I’ll ever like the holidays again.