Thursday, July 31, 2008

The only enjoyable opera

If only all opera were this interesting then I would try to go to the Met more often:

Monday, July 28, 2008

Five Alive: “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” in Colombia

Video link.

Two weeks ago, the second episode of the current season of “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” visited Colombia. Naturally, the episode was a cannot-miss event at home and we huddled around the living room TV to watch the program. We all enjoyed it and were glad that he visited the country.

Admittedly, I should’ve written this up within 24 hours of the first airing of the program. Foolishly, I lost my notes and didn’t recover them until but a few minutes ago as I was organizing some papers in the pig pen that is my bedroom.

With twenty minutes to go before the next episode (Uruguay!) here’s a quick rundown of my impressions of No Reservations en mi madrepatria.

  1. The only section that disturbed me was at the beginning when he discusses that Colombia was not the cesspool of violence that it once was and that sadly continues to stereotype the country. Nevertheless, in his info he oversimplifies the decrease in violence of the cartels yet includes the paramilitaries as among those who have been “pushed back.” Understandably the show is not a political forum and some notes have to be presented in simple terms. Yet the “peace process” which led to the dissolution of the country’s main paramilitary organization was flawed and there are some who have retaken to the armed struggle. (See: Aguilas Negras). Compared to the rest of the program this was a minor gripe, however.
  2. With that said kudos to Bourdain and co. for heading off the beaten track and not focusing on the typical tourist traps. To see him wander the Cartagena market, travel to an impoverished island (Tierra Bomba) across from the affluent section of Cartagena, and visit the comunas in Medellin as a refreshing sight. Despite not trekking to Bogota or Cali, for instance, his enthusiasm to discover the distinct was rewarding.
  3. I was shocked that Bourdain didn’t mention President Alvaro Uribe during the entire program. I was convinced before the program that he would hop on the Uribe bandwagon and throw him at least a crumb or two of named praise. Instead, the only politico he mentioned was Medellin mayor Sergio Fajardo who was key in the city’s “unbelievable transformation” during the post-Escobar period. While Uribe’s accolades are deserved (for the most part) it detracts from the efforts of deserving local leaders like Fajardo.
  4. Good god the food was mouthwatering! Calentado, emapanadas, and chorizo were just a few of the divine dishes and tasty treats he encountered throughout the program. I couldn’t help but chuckle at his amazement over the massive portions given during each meal; a quality of Colombian cuisine that even caught me off guard during my first visit to Colombia as an adult in 2003.
  5. Finally, it was touching to notice Bourdain’s amazement at Colombia at the end of the program. “I hope I’ve gained a reason for optimism” he said; a sentiment that is shared by those who wish to see everlasting peace and prosperity reach Colombia after what seems like eons of lost potential and bloodshed. “It’s the people that make the place,” he mentioned in closing, and it is those people who break stereotypes and strive daily for a better future.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Patriotism or poor taste in Peru?

Lady Godiva eat your heart out:

Leysi Suarez, a Peruvian showgirl and dancer for Alma Bella band made international headlines when a naked picture of her on top of the Peruvian flag was published on the cover of a magazine…

While she initially affirmed there was nothing wrong with what she had done and stated she would do it again saying she loved Peru and would show it with her "body and soul", she has changed her mind and retracted her statements.
After Peru's Minister of Defense, Antero Flores-Araoz assigned the case to a public prosecutor and announced that charges would be pressed against Leysi, the Peruvian dancer has stated she is truly sorry.

BBC News covered the scandal surrounding Suarez’ snapshots in this video including interviewing the magazine’s editor who defended his decision.

The more intriguing video is the following were Peruvians on the street are asked which is more “offensive” – Suarez or a pair of “corrupt” legislators. (My favorite reply is about 1:30 in where a gentleman explains that “the lady isn’t offensive but her intentions are”).

Perhaps in 2011 Peruvians can enjoy the best of both worlds if former soccer cheerleader and TV presenter Shirley Cherres becomes congresswoman!

My p.o.v. - it is more than obvious that Suarez sought (and found) her 15 minutes of fame via the controversial photoshoot. (The term "attention whore" comes to mind, with all due respect to Suarez).

At the same time, Peru's government needs to focus on the bigger issues that need to be tackled such as an angry opposition, neighbor pains, and plummeting presidential popularity. Minister Flores-Araoz should zip it and stick to doing his job competently.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Colombians united against barbarism

How sad is that despite the millions who came together and marched on Colombia’s Independence Day against violence that FARC commanders say they will continue the armed struggle while paramilitaries may’ve been behind the massacre of five campesinos?

Nevertheless, Sunday’s rallies must not be in vain as Colombians deserve a stable, meaningful peace after so many decades wasted in cruelty among countrymen:

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The meaning of July 20th

Image via BBC News

With Colombian Independence Day drawing to a close I cannot help but feel very proud to be of Colombian background. I feel this way when…

…hundreds of thousands of people Colombians representing distinct races, creeds, and ideologies united to march against the kidnappings, massacres, and violence committed by black-hearted criminal groups.

…I eat such lovely delicacies as bandeja paisa, calentado, and huevos pericos (naturally)!

…I visited the grave of my father and thanked him for sacrificed everything and moved to the U.S. to provide a better future for his children.

…I cheered for futbolistas such as “El Pibe” Valderrama and “El Patron” Bermudez and continue to root for players like Macnelly Torres and Juan Pablo Angel.

…I quietly took the brunt of the numerous taunts hurled at me during my childhood and vowed never to allow their teasing to shake my pride.

…I laughed during “Mi Papa, Mi Abuelo, y Yo”, cringed during “Rosario Tijeras”, and wept at the end of “Maria, Llena Eres de Gracia.”

…I look at the weathered face of my grandmother while listening to her sage advice.

…outsiders conditioned with the stereotypes of cartels, coke, and whores find out that the myths do not always coincide with reality.

…I listen to the myriad of musical styles from artists like Grupo Niche, Los Aterciopelados, Pinker Tones, and El Binomio de Oro.

…I wear the bracelet given to me with the yellow, blue and red colors of the Colombian flag which was a gift by my extended family when I visited them after going nearly two decades without seeing them.

…I explain to others that “I’m an American of Colombian background” and the joy that I feel of being part of two vibrant, warm, diverse, and generous cultures. The best of both worlds!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Charlie Haden

The soothing styles of Charlie Haden and co. are perfect at a time like this as I wrap up my work, settle into the evening, and calm down before heading to bed:

That hits the spot. Like a glass of warm milk.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

My day off!

So where am I going on Saturday after busting my back all week? Here's a hint - a free concert in Central Park starring the one and only Julieta Venegas! (Along with some primo opening acts, too).

I'm excited not only to listen to some wonderful music in a unique setting but also glad to meet up with some friends and possibly be surprised by those that I haven't seen in a while. (The latter happened when I unexpectedly met C. at the end of the Aterciopelados gig in 2005). Then there's also the mini-picnic we're going to have (including some meat empanadas I've got to buy). All-in-all I'm going to try to enjoy things.

Afterwards, I'm going to catch a bus and be picked up at the Apple Store at 8pm. Why there? No, I'm not giving into the hype over the new iPhone. (At least not until I can afford it, all the bugs get worked out, and there's more flexibility with the service plans). Rather, it's an easy address for the Access-A-Ride to pick me up and the store's bathrooms are decent.

Depending on time constraints and my appetite I may eat at nearby Pop Burger; I have an Achilles heel for sliders.

Lastly, if I'm lucky I can catch Manhattanhenge depending on what time my ride picks me up and if my camera can hold out.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Earlier today my Internet connection went out as I was in the middle of doing some important work. After several hours of laying in the corner of the apartment curled in the fetal position and babbling incoherently I decided to try and type up a quasi-poem in the order of the alphabet. It’s a little nonsensical and it doesn’t strictly obey all the laws of English grammar. But it was good enough to kill over an hour today and keep me from going stir crazy:

As a wise man once proclaimed

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Caring words like those often make sense

During times of high esteem and confidence.

Exceptions must be taken into account, nevertheless

For those who aren’t feeling so pleased with the appearance.

Gestures mean more than words

However simple or minor they may seem.

It’s a lesson that at times can be overlooked

Just like so many things in our daily lives.

Kind and generous actions

Love, unselfishness just to name a few

Mean a great deal to those who receive them.

Now and again it may be possible that what we do

Often can provide a dual benefit

Pleasing ourselves and others.

Quick minds can usually ascertain

Reasons why we do what we do.

Still, actions are meaningless if those who receive it cannot appreciate it.

“To err is human;”

Usually that is the case.

Vexed as we may seem with human understanding

We hope that our gestures are not in vain.

“X” person did this or “x” person did that

Yet in the end we interpret things as they happen

Zipping along and living as best we can.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The mayor's wife

After yesterday's downer of a post I was desperately in need of a good, cheap laugh. Thankfully an old favorite- "Reno 911!"- came to the rescue:

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Happy birthday dad

To rephrase this song:

Pain, pain fatal pain

It plays hideous tricks on the brain

Today was my fathers’ birthday. Had things gone ideally he would’ve been 62 years old and starting to enjoy retirement. Instead, he’s been dead for nearly three years and his remains are in a cemetery in a small Colombian town.

I want to say so many things; chiefly I wish I could lash out for his passing away and to let go of all the sadness and misery I’ve bottle up regarding his death. Yet for the sake of my family’s unity and progress (especially my mom’s sanity) I continue to look out for them more than me and I try to help them trudge forward.

It is this sacrifice for others which embodied my late father and that followed him to his last moments. (When he died he had been sweeping the floor and doing some light cleaning despite needing the rest after a ridiculously hard week at work. He didn’t have to do it and he was physically beat, but he wanted to neaten things up for us).

A quick anecdote: many years ago I was conversing with my dad. I asked him if he had such such a wonderful job, increased income, and was constantly surrounded by family in Colombia then why did he leave it all behind to start from square one in the U.S. His reply was simple: “I did it for you and your brothers.” Naively I couldn’t comprehend what he was saying; it seemed irrational that he would leave behind the cusp of his youth and so many things that gave him joy and satisfaction. He wanted to provide his future wife and kin with the freedom that he knew they would enjoy. His life in the U.S. was filled with obstacles especially in the first few years but he derived joy from our comfort and well-being. It was a concept that at the time seemed alien to me.

Yet in the many months since his passing I’ve grown to truly appreciate his words and the impetus behind them. His unselfishness and care for others was his legacy and it is something my brothers and I try to carry on. His memory and spirit will continue and hopefully grow in the upcoming years. He deserves it as he rests in peace from the heavens above; pleased, happy, and looking down upon us.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

And I'm proud to be an American (wierdo)

I figured I ought to take a head start in celebrating the Fourth of July:

Note the band's diversity. (Sorry, lame quip).

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Workout and haggle

I'm trying my best not to be a mopey pessimist today but it's a little difficult.

I haven't been feeling well lately on account that several small things have ganged up on my such as my bursitis and my delicate stomach. I have P.T. which should help my aching shoulders. But I'm also stressed (what else is new!) but over an appointment I have in a few hours at the local Medicaid office.

(Why such a mess with Medicaid? In short, they want to force me to choose between my Access-A-Ride and my health insurance despite my winning a fair hearing decision in the Spring. There are more details though suffice it to say they are being absolutely unfair and I'm going to fight their red tape and incompetence).

Yes ladies and jellyspoons, I'm not at my best right now. Then again, things change and who knows if by the end of the day fortune will shine my way.

Update: Yes, fortune did smile down on me in the sense that P.T. helped reduce some of the aches in my shoulders and my stomach was able to relax. More importantly, the visit to the Medicaid office went without a hitch except for one or two minor misunderstandings and some well-played passive-aggressiveness on my part.

Now I can get some good night's rest (or more specifically, as much as I can before walking up a little dazed at dawn)!