Monday, April 30, 2012

Cannes Selects Puerto Rican Film For Shorts Competition

Mi Santa Mirada by Alvaro Aponte-Centeno made the shorts lineup cut for this year's upcoming Cannes Film Festival earlier this month.

The short film tells the story of "Samy, a quiet and solitary man who lives from the drug business. The most important things in his life are his younger brother, who he is responsible for, and his horse. Tired of being a drug trafficking subordinate, he decides to betray his boss Papo. This short film reveals daily life at the marginalized spaces in Puerto Rico."


Congrats to Aponte-Centeno and team! Verdict: Boo, hiss at the tired focus on drug dealing but Yay on giving a voice and a platform to Puerto Rico's marginalized issues.

To learn more about the current issues plaguing La Isla del Encanto, check out Fear and Loathing in the Island that Doesn't Exist.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Dos Equis Feast of the Brave 2012 Bypasses NYC

I'm a big fan of the "stay thirsty, my friends - most interesting man in the world" ads from Dos Equis but as a foodie, my Nuyorican ego was a bit miffed by this miss.

 

The Dos Equis' Feast of the Brave set six taco trucks on the loose, serving a smorgasbord of strange in Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, LA and Miami. According to them, their "tortilla toppers include grilled shark, spiced crickets and hog stomach, among many others. Each taco comes with its own bravery score, and each city will battle it out to see who has the boldest eaters."

 And although at "the 2010 Census, there were 319,263 Mexican Americans living in New York City and some estimates suggest that Mexicans will surpass both Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in 2023 to become the city’s largest national Latino sub-group," we all know Tacos have a fandom beyond ethnicity and region.

In addition to that, my home  [yes, the center of the universe] is also known as the gourmet capital and ethnic-eats paradise to foodies everywhere. Since, 9/11, we are also the home of the brave. So why the diss? Even the most interesting man in the world in the world is a fan.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

MAMITAS: Movie Debut

I wished I would've had the chance to see Mamitas last year at the New York Latino International Film Festival where it was nominated as Best Narrative Feature Film.

Since then the small indie film has gone on to win accolades at the Independent Spirit Awards, the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival, the 2011 Urbanworld Film Festival, and the 2011 Napa Valley Film Festival.

 This is the first movie from Nicholas Ozeki, a latino USC film student, who wrote and directed the film. The cast includes: Pedro Armendáriz Jr., EJ Bonilla, Veronica Diaz-Carranza, Jennifer Esposito, among others.

The story follows an East LA High School boy and his struggles in life. Set in Echo Park and against Los Angeles' downtown skyline, this beguiling coming-of-age romance introduces two phenomenal young actors in EJ Bonilla and Veronica Diaz-Carranza. At school, Jordin (Bonilla) is a cocky but charming guy; One day Jordin meets Felipa (Diaz-Carranza), a bookish, no-nonsense New York girl who sees past the swaggering facade. The two immediately embark on an unlikely friendship that inspires Jordin to find out who he really is.

A movie about Latino identity, featuring a bookish, street smart Latina New Yorker, what? I am so in!

 

 The film opens: April 27 in select theaters in LA. More information available at Mamitasthemovie.com

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Safe House: Denzel & Ruben Blades

Announcement:

From Universal Studios Home Entertainment: Safe House
Academy Award®-Winner Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds
Star in the Year’s Most Explosive Action Blockbuster
SAFE HOUSE
Available on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack with UltraViolet™ and Digital Copy 
as well as DVD & On Demand
on June 5, 2012

"Tobin Frost (Oscar® winner Denzel Washington), one of the CIA’s most dangerous traitors, resurfaces in South Africa after eluding capture for almost a decade.  During his interrogation, the safe house is attacked by brutal mercenaries forcing rookie agent, Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) to take the infamous Frost on the run.  As the masterful manipulator toys with his reluctant protégé, shaking the young operative’s morality and idealism, the unlikely allies must fight to stay alive long enough to uncover who wants them both dead.  Packed with intense action and thrilling suspense, Safe House takes you on a deadly ride through a covert world where no one and no place is ever safe."

www.nooneissafe.com

Friday, April 20, 2012

Literary Blog Hop: Author Self Insertion

I'm participating in a Literary Blog Hop hosted by The Blue Bookcase, who every month poses a question for discussion to blogs that primarily feature book reviews of literary fiction, classic literature, and general literary discussions.

Literary Blog Hop This month's topic:

How do you feel about fictional characters who are obviously closely based on the author? Is this an example of authorial superego? Or just a natural extension of the "write what you know" advice?

This topic has oft been pondered by readers and I think is a common misconception of fans who aren't artists themselves. You can read about self-insertion (intentional or not) here and author surrogacy here

As I reader, I can tell you it's so easy to correlate the author and their characters that it's almost a reflexive response, just like we some times are unable to separate great actors from their roles. It's not impossible to get past this perspective by the more one develops critical thinking and analytic skills.

A great author or artist's job is to create something so universal and genuine that it resonates with everyone irregardless of time, place and space. This only leads one to believe it must have happened or be in some way true otherwise this person could not have created something so real. Yet as a poet/writer, I can tell you that I have written things from many angles and other's experiences, true ones or fanciful ones created on a whim.

At the same time, everything I write, conceive  or create will always reflect my bias, my experiences, my culture and time. As hard as anyone might try to be objective, an artist's lens is solely theirs. 

Click here to display the links for this blog hop.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

DIY Guava Pastries: Pastelitos de Guayaba

I have fond memories of my grandfather's love of Guayaba (Guava paste) and sometimes whenever I treat myself to sweets from the Puerto Rican bakery on East 116th Street, one of my favorite things to get is a Pastelito de Guayaba.

Recently, I remembered this treat from the past and came across this nifty do-it-yourself cheat version of the recipe. Please note it's high in sugar content and not a healthy treat by any means but sweet pastries rarely are...

That being said, I would go ahead and use more guava paste than used in the video because in the real thing the guava layer literally flows out of the pastry when done. It looks like they went a little sparse there.



Ingredients needed: 
Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry Sheets
Guava Paste(Pasta de Guayaba)
Confectioners Sugar

Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Dichotomy of Savages: A Movie Preview & Critique

Last week, I heard about the upcoming Oliver Stone movie, Savages, adapted from the novel by Don Winslow, about a lethal Mexican drug cartel, starring Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Benecio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, Emile Hirsch and Demian Bichir.

And, I thought yes, this sounds BADASS! I respect Salma Hayek and Benicio Del Toro as veteran Latino actors. I marveled at action movies Machete and Grindhouse. Then... I learned Salma would be portraying the head of the Mexican drug cartel and Benicio Del Toro is playing her macho enforcer, who kidnap Blake Lively.

Now that is sort of kickass, an empowered female lead as the head of ruthless outlaws but how many merciless drug cartels do you know of that are run by women, especially in Mexico? I know, I know, it's fiction, you're saying. But this is where the dichotomy of my internal struggle plays outs in a variety of perspectives explained below begin.

I'm glad Hollywood is putting the any spotlight on serious issues like violence, drug smuggling and corruption and bloodthirsty gangs south of the border. I'm glad Latino actors are able to have long standing careers in the media and are included in ensemble summer blockbuster films.  I'm glad authors are still cashing in on movie deals and we're seen original films on the big screen. And... It's nice that Salma isn't playing a maid or a nanny.

However, .... (and this is of course, speculative, since I have not seen the movie, and can only base my thoughts on what I've read so far) we see the same cliched tropes of the villainous, foreign Other - the merciless, brutal, and of course, hyper-sexualized - monsters with no humanity here fused with the old tired tropicalist tropes of the spitfire latina and the primitive macho exotic. Never mind, that Benicio Del Toro, who is Puerto Rican and Hayek, of dual Arab and Mexican descent, are both being portrayed, no, objectified unabated  as "Savages."

I write this not to point the obvious or air a tired argument but to open a discourse - to note that I too sometimes get sucked into these popular pan-ethnic constructions that highlight the terror of violence, corruption, and drugs and simultaneously exploit the narrative from a very racialized and gendered angle.  That I, as a latina, as a feminist, take issue with this film's concepts and framework but I will probably in all honesty, see it when it comes out this summer.

And, I know, I am probably not alone, as the country analyzes and deconstructs who gets to wear a hoodie and what exactly denotes a vicious, unwarranted crime perpetrated on a child, we should all be introspective about our own bias but we should also keep a careful eye on what the media is producing, glamorizing  and hawking as prescribed identities and their context within popular culture and society.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon - A Book Review

After taking in the promotional copy for Wife 22 By Melanie Gideon, I thought to myself why not, indulge in a wacky women's book chic-lit novel, I haven't read a good one in quite a while (since 2002).

*I hate this cover, it makes it look like a Christian Fiction book.

"For fans of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary and Allison Pearson’s I Don’t Know How She Does It comes an irresistible novel of a woman losing herself . . . and finding herself again"


What I found surprised me. This book resonated with me and was such an easy, delightful read, I can understand why movie rights have already sold and it's being published in 30 countries so far.

The protagonist of Wife 22 isn't perfect. In fact, Alice Buckle is going through a mid-life crisis, her relationship to her husband of 20 years seems non-existent, she thinks her son is gay, her daughter is bulimic, and her life is mostly mundane. She once dreamed of being a successful playwright, and swept her former employer off his feet. Now, she is the same age her mother was when she passed away, and her children are almost ready to fly the coop. And, her husband? Well, the barely speak. And then, she decides to participate in an online study, where she anonymously becomes "Wife 22."

In the course of taking this survey, we learn all about her dreams, thoughts, regrets and history. And while I won't tell you the whole story here, it's not really the plot that sucks you in. I kind of figured out the ending before it happened but... It's how funny, fresh, and "every woman" Alice is, it's endearing and enrapturing. It's a story about how easy to get lost but offers a glimmer of hope.

One of the most pleasant things that stood out to me in the novel is the use of Social Media, the Web, email and texting throughout the story. The abbreviated, clipped linguistic structure that we typically use for Facebook statuses and emails is peppered throughout the book and the even Alice's bored, random Google searches will make you laugh (because you recognize yourself in her shoes). It makes Alice seem not only very contemporary and genuine but you get her. This isn't a contrived story featuring social media as cool prop. This is a story about a modern woman doing ordinary things and how banal that sometimes may be.

I think there are lessons to be reaped about love and life in Wife 22 and it's definitely worth packing into that beach bag this summer for a fun and easy read.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Wall Writers: Documentary on Graffiti in its Innocence


WALL WRITERS Promo Video from R. Rock Enterprises on Vimeo.
From director Roger Gastman—a producer of the Academy Award-nominated documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop—comes Wall Writers, a documentary on graffiti in its innocence.

Through unprecedented access to TAKI 183, CORNBREAD, and a host of other legendary writers, Wall Writers tells the story of a time when underprivileged city kids refused to keep lurking in the shadows, when the streets were so wild that fame and infamy became indistinct, when art became a democracy and self-promotion became an art.

And the narration is done by John Waters!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lit Links & Scoops

Puerto Rican Supermodel Joan Smalls
- 100 years from now there is an 80% chance there will only be 3 languages spoken in the world: English, Spanish & Mandarin.

- The Social Networks of Emily Dickinson, Paul Gauguin & Charlotte Bronte

 - First World Problems: A Perfect Nanny's Worth

 - Searching for a great new writer? How Cowbird Transforms Storytelling on the Web

-  Khoya opens your eyes to an interactive storytelling experience

- A list of books to help children explore diversity

Learn how to make your own Roti Canai

- Jared Diamond on Race Without Color.

- Voto Latino is offering a free 35-track Soundtrack to a Movement on iTunes.

- Thoughts on the enduring popularity of Tanning

- What are you doing for Obscura Day 2012?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Different Shades of Kin

We are Family...

These twin sisters, each inherited all-white genes and all-black genes respectively from their mixed-race parents.

 How fascinating is that?

Via TheDailyWhat

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mixed Media Wednesday

Vincenzo Rizzo
via Etsy.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

In Their Footsteps


Monday, April 09, 2012

New Book: A Wedding in Haiti by Julia Alvarez

Definitely on to put on your radar this month: A Wedding in Haiti by Julia Alvarez 


Julia Alvarez has been called “a one-woman cultural collision” by the Los Angeles Times Book Review, and that has never been truer than in this story about three of her most personal relationships—with her parents, with her husband, and with a young Haitian boy known as Piti. 
A teenager when Julia and her husband, Bill, first met him in 2001, Piti crossed the border into the Dominican Republic to find work. Julia, impressed by his courage, charmed by his smile, has over the years come to think of him as a son, even promising to be at his wedding someday. When Piti calls in 2009, Julia’s promise is tested.

To Alvarez, much admired for her ability to lead readers deep inside her native Dominican culture, “Haiti is like a sister I’ve never gotten to know.” And so we follow her across the border into what was once the richest of all the French colonies and now teeters on the edge of the abyss—first for the celebration of a wedding and a year later to find Piti’s loved ones in the devastation of the earthquake. 
As in all of Alvarez’s books, a strong message is packed inside an intimate, beguiling story, this time about the nature of poverty and of wealth, of human love and of human frailty, of history and of the way we live now.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

6 Books About Food Every Latina Should Read

This year's theme for World Water Day, celebrated annually on March 22nd, was water and food security. Over 90 percent of the water consumed globally by humans is used for agriculture. Scientists note that by 2030 almost half of the world’s population will be living under severe water stress.

via Donna Palmer
"According to the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change, there are nearly one billion undernourished on our planet, and millions who suffer from chronic disease due to excess food consumption.The demand for food continues to grow as populations continue to grow, and food prices grow with them." Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/18ryn)

Latinos have an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, hypertension, obesity and other diet-related illnesses. The complex politics of food, animal welfare, the global economy, our culture and health are critical to understand and lead us forward in the decisions we take.  As such, I've put together this list of books to get you thinking about the food you eat and the future of food.

5 Food Books Every Latina Should Read


Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition, and Health, Revised and Expanded Edition (California Studies in Food and Culture) by Marion Nestle
An accessible and balanced account, Food Politics laid the groundwork for today's food revolution and changed the way we respond to food industry marketing practices. Now, a new introduction and concluding chapter bring us up to date on the key events in that movement. This pathbreaking, prize-winning book helps us understand more clearly than ever before what we eat and why.
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Eating Animals explores the many fictions we use to justify our eating habits-from folklore to pop culture to family traditions and national myth-and how such tales can lull us into a brutal forgetting.

The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table by Tracie McMillan
McMillan embarked on a groundbreaking undercover journey to see what it takes to eat well in America. The surprising answers that McMillan found on her journey have profound implications for our food and agriculture, and also for how we see ourselves as a nation resulted in this book.


An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies by Tyler Cowen 

Tyler Cowen discusses everything from slow food to fast food, from agriculture to gourmet culture, from modernist cuisine to how to pick the best street vendor. He shows why airplane food is bad but airport food is good; why restaurants full of happy, attractive people serve mediocre meals; and why American food has improved as Americans drink more wine. And most important of all, he shows how to get good, cheap eats just about anywhere.

Sugar: A Bittersweet History by 
Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
The only rock we eat, salt has shaped civilization from the very beginning, and its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of humankind. A substance so valuable it served as currency, salt has influenced the establishment of trade routes and cities, provoked and financed wars, secured empires, and inspired revolutions. 
Feel free to add your thoughts or more books in the comments below.

Monday, April 02, 2012

New Book: Jumped In: What Gangs Taught Me about Violence, Drugs, Love, and Redemption by Jorja Leap


Here's the new trailer for Jumped In: What Gangs Taught Me about Violence, Drugs, Love, and Redemption by Jorja Leap.


Jorja Leap is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Social Welfare at UCLA. "As a trained anthropologist and recognized expert in crisis intervention and trauma response, she has worked nationally and internationally in violent and post-war settings. Dr. Leap has been involved with training and research for the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as part of post-war development and conflict resolution in Bosnia and Kosovo. Closer to home, she worked with the families of victims of the 9/11 WTC disaster.  Since that time, Dr. Leap has focused on gangs, gang violence and youth development at the local, national and international level."

When Jorja Leap began studying Los Angeles gang violence in 2002, she encountered a myriad of proposed solutions to the seemingly intractable “gang problem” and set out to discover what was really going on. The stakes—then and now—could not be higher: a child or teenager is killed by gunfire every three hours—and homicide is the leading cause of death for African American males between the ages of fifteen and thirty-four.
In Jumped In, Leap brings us stories that reach behind the statistics and sensational media images to the real lives of those stuck in—and trying to escape— "la vida loca.” With the eye of an anthropologist and a heart full of compassion, this small, tough woman from UCLA travels some of the most violent and poverty-stricken neighborhoods, riding along in police cruisers and helicopters, and talking with murderers and drug dealers, victims and grieving mothers.
Through oral histories, personal interviews, and eyewitness accounts of current and former gang members, as well as the people who love and work alongside them, readers come to understand both the people pulled into gangs and those trying mightily to forge alternatives and help their community. In delving into the personal lives of current and former gang members, Leap aims not only to find out what leads them to crime and how to deal most effectively with gang activity, but also to hear the voices of those most often left out of the political conversation and to learn from leaders who offer a different kind of hope, through community outreach and jobs programs. 
As she forges lasting friendships in this community and becomes immersed in others’ triumphs and tragedies, Leap’s personal and professional lives intersect in sometimes incendiary ways. With a husband in the Los Angeles Police Department and a daughter in adolescence, she faces plenty of family dilemmas herself. Ultimately, Jumped In is a chronicle of the unexpected lessons gang members taught her while she was busily studying them, and how they changed her forever.
 
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