Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Enrique Krauze defends Mexico against its perception as a failed state:
The Mexican print media has not been entirely helpful either. Of course, freedom of press is essential for democracy. But our print media has gone beyond the necessary and legitimate communication of information by continually publishing photographs of the most atrocious aspects of the drug war, a practice that some feel verges on a pornography of violence. Press photos of horrors like decapitated heads provide free publicity for the drug cartels. This also helps advance their cause by making ordinary Mexicans feel that they are indeed part of a “failed state.”

While we bear responsibility for our problems, the caricature of Mexico being propagated in the United States only increases the despair on both sides of the Rio Grande. It is also profoundly hypocritical.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork." -Psalm 19
My dad wants to get a dog, so I went out to the Humane Society today. It is a sad place. I guess it's not supposed to be sad, since at least these dogs are not getting euthanized, but to see those sad puppy dog eyes, just like my own precious dog's, saying "take me home," just killed me. I wanted to leave with two or three or them, but we ended up not taking any of them.

Getting a dog is a big decision. You want to give a dog a home, but if the dog isn't the right fit, then better not to get it. That's my practical mind speaking. But my heart aches seeing those poor animals in cages. I wish we could somehow mandate that everyone who can possibly get a dog should get one. After today it seems almost wrong NOT to have a dog, when you could be saving an animal from a life in a cage.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Blog scenery

So Stu has an interesting idea: adding street-view photos from Google Maps to accompany your old blog posts. Funny how I haven't written many blog posts relating to place lately. But I can think of a few notable places in my consciousness that I've written about:
My childhood home - This looks nothing the way it used to when I was living there. It used to be red brick and white with a bunch of cactuses in the front rocks. Note the palm trees in the back that were right behind our swimming pool.
My former place of employment - Somehow this area of Downtown looks brighter and more spruced up than it actually is. You can't see much of the Wells Fargo building in the background even if you rotate the view, but I absolutely loved that I worked so close by to it. It was cool to see at night.
My first (and last) apartment - I believe my room was the one with the middle second-floor window.
UTEP - I headed down this way many, many, MANY times in the eight years I went to school there. Always a pleasant walk. The sidewalks were bustling with people during the mornings, but it by afternoon you pretty much had them all to yourself.


I got home from work Wednesday night to suitcases open on the living room floor. My mom was walking around in a rush with her arms full of clothes. I wracked my brain trying to remember what this was about........New Orleans. She had told me weeks ago she was going to New Orleans with a friend during spring break.

"When are you leaving?" I asked.

"Tomorrow," she said. Tomorrow? How could that possibly be? Somehow she hadn't said a word about it all week, and I had forgotten. Bad daughter guilt flooded down.

"What time?"

"5:00. I'm driving my car to the airport."

I felt even more guilty because I was so relieved at this, since it absolved me of any responsibility for dropping her off or picking her up.

"When are you coming back?"

"Monday at 5:00."

Wow...How could I be such a jerk? How could I care so little not to remember this?

But then I think of my daily routine and it's not really surprising how little I know about what Mom is doing. I want to feel independent, and my mom makes me feel like a child just for being who she is. On weekdays I spend less than an hour a day with her, and even then we are usually watching some reality TV like American Idol. Easier to talk about American Idol than what's really going on in either of our lives.

We live in such different spheres -- I think my tales of breaking news bore her, and her stories about the perils of standardized testing and misbehaving kids are not so interesting to me. When we do talk, I'm ashamed to say I only half-listen to what she has to say, just mumbling a "Yeah," or "Mmm-hmm" every once in a while, then retreating to the Internet or to a book.

But I think this situation shows just how ridiculous it has gotten. There's independence and then there's being a selfish ass. Why can't my "independent life" include being an adult daughter who really cares about her parents? No shame in that. I love my mother more than anything. I need to force myself to listen. I think we all do.
I like our President.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hard to believe this was a year ago. Photos here.
NewMexiKen shuts down. But for how long?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Subject of an e-mail I got this week: "Conquer Information Overload. Find Out How in 30 Seconds!" *chuckles*

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The dream

It was about two weeks ago that I opened up a book I had borrowed from one of my former professors. It was a book with a red cover she had pulled from the huge wall of books in her office. Her last name was written in gold lettering on the spine, since she had written it herself. The book sat on my bookshelf for six months, mostly forgotten, but upon picking it up again I remembered right away why I asked to borrow it. It was pure delight to see my prof's mind at work, ruminating on Eudora Welty's photography, the cartoons of Rose O'Neill, the humor of Emily Dickinson's poetry, and the lives of women photographers of the Southwest like Gertrude Kasebier and Laura Gilpin. So many ideas, so many lives I previously knew not much about. After reading a few chapters I was thoroughly enlightened and sorry for having put the book aside for so long.

And then I thought something else: Maybe I could write something like this, someday.

This happens to me fairly often after I finish reading books. It's the one dream I have for my life that doesn't go away. I want to tell a story worth telling and instead of reducing it to instant oatmeal, really do it justice. I want to say things that haven't been said before. I want to educate people, inspire them, risk offending them, and do it all in an entertaining way. Every time I think about that, I feel like an alarm goes off inside my head. That's IT. That's what I want to do.

And then the alarm goes quiet and I think about doing it for real, and it seems pretty impossible. I'm a blogger who sometimes writes some halfway decent stuff amid the posts about Filet-o-Fish commercials. I know how to construct a news article. I can write an essay. But a real Writer, the kind who writes books people buy, well, I don't know.

But once in a while it seems attainable, even for an amateur like me -- sit down and start writing, right? Last weekend I read an article in O magazine by Sandra Cisneros about how she started as a writer (article not available online, unfortunately). She writes about how at 26 she moved out of her parents' house against her father's wishes to live by herself in a tiny rundown apartment that she called her "office." She filled the office with things that inspired her to write. "Antique typewriters, alphabet blocks, asparagus ferns, bookshelves, ceramic figurines from Occupied Japan, wicker baskets, birdcages, handpainted photos."

The photo on the first page of the article is that of Cisneros as a curly-haired young woman, sitting in a chair with a typewriter to her right, resting her head on her left knuckles, her lips set in a flat line as she gazes at the camera. She looks serious and determined, certainly, but not as self-assured as she looks in the other photos with the article, where she is about 20 years older. In this photo, her eyes seem like they're searching for something; in the other photos it seems like she has already found it.

The writer's life sounds kind of romantic when Cisneros talks about her apartment and writer's workshops and late night tacos and day jobs. She talks about "creating a text that is as succinct and flexible as poetry" and writing sentences "pliant as branches."

Overall, it is quiet, privacy, and solitude that Cisneros sees as the lifeblood of a writer. These are so precious to her that she is willing to give up spending time with those she loves. Says Cisneros, "On the weekends, if I can sidestep guilt and avoid my father's demands to come home for Sunday dinner, I'm free to stay home and write. I feel like a bad daughter ignoring my father, but I feel worse when I don't write. Either way, I never feel completely happy."

This part I'm torn about. I'm not sure if Cisneros is just plain mean to ignore her family, or if she's right to claim time for herself even if it means shutting other people out. Occupational hazard?

I remember writing my master's thesis, sequestering myself at home for the better part of two months. I stopped going out on weekends so I could spend endless hours punching out these chapters that somehow never seemed good enough. Those weren't very happy months; I gained about 20 pounds, was grumpy all the time, and basically forgot how to hold a face-to-face conversation. On the other hand, at the end of those two months I held 100 pages printed out and bound together in my hands. I had people that I respect tell me what I did was important. I'm usually so critical of myself, but when I finished the thesis I was proud of what I had done.

Now I wonder what's next for me as far as the writing I really want to do. Forget sacrifice these days. When I'm not at work, I'm mostly spending time with family and friends. Or watching TV. Or checking e-mail. Hence my recent run of cut-and-paste blog posts.

I suppose if I really want to set the world on fire, that's not going to cut it. I'm close to the end of the magical age of 26, the age Cisneros said 'no' to her father and moved into the "office" so she could write. Funny how thoroughly I can appreciate the bravery of that decision, given my age and sex and that I come from a Hispanic family, too. It's something so simple, in a way, and yet so difficult. It's not so easy laying claim to a space, laying claim to your time, and tuning out the naysayers.

I wonder if I can be that brave. How can I force myself to say no to people? Do I even have any ideas worth writing about? And what about money? It all seems so bewildering, and yet what if I just started writing because it's what I really want to do? I think good things would follow.
Great post by Alex on negotiating technology:
In fact, I feel like all this technology and access has prevented us from doing more and instead made us monitor more. How much of your day is just catching up on what other people are (uselessly) doing? How much of your information intake is actually propelling you to a better life? How much is just a big time suck but you feel like you just have to keep up with your friends, comment on their status, read that popular blog post or contribute your own for fear of being irrelevant, seeming unhip or worse, out of touch.