Category Archives: Links

Feliz Migra Day to Me


From what my mother  told me, we landed in Florida around midnight on February 17th, 1991. What I remember was a car ride in a place I called “Nueva York”, because that was where I thought I was before I would learn that I was in fact in Nueva Jersey.  Luis and Claudia sat in the backseat. I sat on my mother’s lap, trying my best to see what was ahead of me past the snowfall. I was three years old, however, much too short to see anything even with her help.

The weather had not changed the entire ride to 290 Summer Avenue in Newark, where my grandmother Juana lived.  My gray jacket did almost nothing to protect me from the cold when I got out of the car. The first thing I noticed as I entered the house was the red carpet. My toy cars and I would get acquainted to the incredibly worn down quality of them later, but for the time being it looked royal.

We all walked into the small kitchen. That was were I met the other sponsor  for our residency in the United States — my step-grandfather George. He was a skinny little man from Pennsylvania that, despite his grumpy demeanor and two-packs-a-day voice, was very friendly to me.

Of all the memories from that day, the one that truly stuck to my mind was the family dog. He was a mixed German Shepard named Bobby. Everyone loved his excitement in meeting the four of  us, but I was terrified for his barking and size. I  wasn’t even as tall as he was, and I never really got used to him in the three years we lived in that house.

That was twenty-one years ago. My father was still tying up loose ends in Peru, so we didn’t get to see much of him in that first year. I picked up English, at least vocally, from watching episodes of Bonanza with George and music videos. While most of my memories of that time frame are almost purely fictitious at this point, I still remember that cold day, and my mother’s warm lap, and that goddamn scary dog.

I’m an immigrant, and even if I have been here almost all of my life, I don’t forget that. So today, I’m writing a story on Latinos in space, drinking chicha, and reading news in Spanish. In other words, what I do every other day. Feliz Migra Day to me.

The Past Isn’t All That

I’m losing my edge to the art-school Brooklynites in little jackets and borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered eighties.
– LCD Soundsystem, “Losing My Edge”

I’ve let a lot of the ever-increasing surge of nostalgia pass by me. First it was the eighties kids pouring money into Michael Bay’s account or squeal at the moment you see Jeff Bridges return as CLU in Tron: Legacy. Yes, I know it’s a cycle – the 70s made its way into the nineties via a blitzkrieg with tye-dyed trustafarians wearing bell bottoms parachuting in as VW Beetles crashed through our memory’s Maginot line. I’m not a slave to the 90s, though I do have a couple of guilty pleasures (cough*Hackers*cough) and I have no intention to become one. I need to fight back from it.

I’ve seen enough men dressed like Ducky from Sixteen Candles to know how large a best 80s nostalgia became in the 00s. However the awkward hipster teenager I’ve seen many a time while walking in Williamsburg isn’t my enemy. It’s the older Smurfs crowd that allows this nostalgia fetish pervade and seep into the rest of mainstream culture, they are the ones that bother me.

Along with the previously mentioned Transformers, the one that bothers me the most is, shockingly, Back to The Future. When the 25th anniversary came around and propped up a celebration and reverence to the truly deserved trilogy, I couldn’t help but think of it as a Cult of McFly (no disrespect to Michael J. Fox, the man is a hero).  Once that idea stuck in my head one of Optimus Christ, of disciples wearing trucker hats like a Catholic nun wears rosary beads. I don’t blame them for my indifference. Between my jaded vision of the 80s due to cannibalistic alternative types or from just being born in 1987 – where the only image of Transformers I have is of toddler me biting on Optimus Prime’s head – I don’t have that level of connection with poseur eighties fans or the early Millennials.

Then the 3D re-release of The Lion King happened.  It made 23.9 million dollars on opening weekend for something released seventeen years ago. The kids I grew up with watched animal Hamlet – really, people? Why are my brethren letting me down like that? This, on top of Nickelodeon’s re-airing of 90s television under the title “The 90s are All That”.  The first time I saw the media release, I already had a severe reservation to the 2-4 AM broadcast block. While people are heralding the return of their beloved shows, I’m wondering why they aren’t hunting for new ones. It’s insane to say that, given that we’ve all grown up and have tuned our television watching to the right frequency we’ve decided, like our older brothers and sisters before us, to go from the HD-quality television we have at our disposal and go back to CRT style drudgery, in the name of reclaiming childhood.

I’m already annoyed with 3D over-saturation, now I have to deal with nineties-fatigue? When do the pop-up videos show up in 3D? Let go of the past, my people. It’s worth looking into it now and then, but life’s too short to spend 2 AM laughing at Mellissa Joan Hart when you could be laughing at a new forms of absurdist comedy or even traditional ones. Why play crappy side-scrolling games from the 90s when you could be championing anytime someone makes the Kinect just a little bit better?

The best way I can explain my sentiments in the format of those trite and schmaltzy “I remember when” chain letters. Here I go:

I remember when you could find information on the word “rotary phone” faster than anyone can turn the dial on an actual one for the first number (or better yet, faster than remembering they even existed)

I remember melting tapes and floppy disks to use as materials for the frames of the first pair of augmented reality glasses.

I remember shows that didn’t have a media blitz when a minority was a part of the cast.

I remember when the word ‘Letter” referred only to the abecedarian ones.

I remember when Kenan Thompson fell off the Brooklyn Bridge.

If you remember your future, send this to the trash bin. Make something new.


Down by the Golden Gate, Pt III

I was originally going to put a whole article on this, but I’ll keep it to notes on this one:

There were artists making these murals throughout the campgrounds all weekend. This was my favorite.

Yukimi Nagano of Little Dragon

The Decemberists

Arcade Fire

Bay Area Sendoff – Favorite Photos Part I

I’m leaving the Bay Area after two years and 2 months of  meeting great people  and seeing amazing things from all over the area. Here’s some photos of the “seeing” part first:

Somewhere between Monterey and Hearst Castle

Looks like a church, but it's actually the front exterior of Hearst Castle

More Monterey Coast. I normally don't take nature shots, but the coast is too damn good to pass up.

Pagoda in Japanese Tea Garden

Apple I computer, part of the collection at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View

Rocky Coast from the 13 Mile Drive

Metal Frame Bird, Makers Faire 2011

Insert Disney's UP reference here

Metal Trilobite, Makers Faire 2011

Lombard Street

This old Coke fridge's location? The Alcatraz warden break room.

“I’ll Call You Back, I Think I Heard a Bomb”

That’s what my uncle Marco said to my mother the morning of September 11th, 2001. Marco works for the Port Authority of NY and NJ, whose headquarters were in the World Trade Center. He was there for the 1993 bombing as well. He was calling my mom to check if they were still going to meet up at Windows on the World to get some lunch.

He hung up, and in a moment of panic and fear that her brother wouldn’t make it, she called the last person I ever thought she would: her mother. The relationship between the two was a tense one at best. When we moved out of Newark in 1995, my mother stopped all contact with her. I’d sometimes go and visit my abuela to help clean up the house, but there was no mentioning of my mother when I would sit down at night and watch TV with her. That’s six years of silence broken by the sound of a 767 smashing into the Twin Towers. For me, that encapsulates the true power of that day.

Marco made it out alive with no injuries, but one of  his coworkers, Pete Negron, did not. I never met him, but my mother had, so she had my sister print out a photo of him holding his baby son. It’s still there, next to all the other family photos on the end table in the living room. When the anniversary comes around I wonder how he’s  doing. I’m wondering how the kids who lost a parent on that day are doing today.

[ Update: I just found out that he had two sons.One was 2 years old and his older brother Pete was 11 when their father died. He spoke about his father at a speech commemorating those that died ten years ago, you can see it here.]

I remember where I was that day, but the image of my mom on the phone and my uncle running past the horror of injured people in the stairwells are the only ones that have stuck in my head. I’m trying my best not to make this a patriotic message, too many horrible things have happened since to go down that path. What I’ll keep my mind on today is family. I hope you are as well.

Down By The Golden Gate Pt. 1

I went to the fourth edition of the Outside Lands Music and Art Festival held in Golden Gate Park from August 12 to 14 . Since its inaugural  opening in 2008, a good 60,000 people a day come into the the park .I went to all three days, and despite the insane hike and Muni rides reminiscent of the images you see of Indian trains ( I saw one teenager holding on the outside of a  joint between two cars. I’ve yet to find any reports on a death, so good job crazy Muse fan), they were all memorable.

Day one started with  the The Joy Formidable, a Welsh rock trio who released their first album, The Big Roar, in 2011 after releasing their EP four years ago.

Ritzy Bryan

Ritzy Bryan is the lead singer and guitarist on the group. The takeaway from the previous sentence is the word guitarist, as she is a beast on it. Her solos on songs like “Austere” was a surprise to me. I’ve been a fan of the band since their 2008 EP, and to see her tear on a guitar, pulling off Jimmy Hendrix styled riffs on the floor was amazing. The way she jumped around in her red dress, occasionally slamming her hand on the cymbal of drummer Matt Thomas – who performed admirably  throughout their set-  was a image that stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

For those that needed to kill time between sets,  there were a few options. The Barbary tent had soul acts, sideshow antics, and Gallagher smashing watermelons. The other was a small domed dance tent. Now for those that have gone to a domed IMAX theaters like the one in the Liberty Science Center in NJ, The idea for the lights show was similar.

Next on the agenda was MGMT  performing on the main stage. While pushing through massive crowds at festivals is a standard, dealing with a commune of middle-aged Phish fans laying on blankets they most likely put down the moment they got into the festival was something new to me. Once past the hippie minefield, I found a decent spot and enjoyed the performance, particularly Andrew VanWyngarden’s voice. The one issue was when VanWyngarden switched out of his electric and into his acoustic guitar to play songs from Congratulations, which was a lackluster album at best.

After a stretch of those songs, the need to see Sir Luscious Left Foot himself  superseded waiting through the rest of MGMT’s set. By now, the news his cancellation is spread over the internet. There were a few highlights however. Catching the tail end of Ellie Goulding’s performance piqued my interest in hearing more of her work. The only thing that’s come to my attention from her before seeing her live was this mash-up of her song “Lights” with an orchestral cover of Kanye’s “All Of The Lights”:

A good hour and a half into the crowd staring at the crack tech crew huddled around DJ Swiff’s malfunctioning MacBook Pro, San Francisco’s friendly neighborhood comic, Dave Chappelle, got on stage to ease the tension. This was the highlight of his appearance:

The last part of note from the Big Boi affair was a personal one. At the 45 minute mark I started feeling someone caressing my back and rubbing against me. I turn around and see a long-haired woman behind me with her eyes half-open, leaned back like if she was practicing for a limbo contest. Her hands were in grope mode; she started touching my cheek and chest and grinding on me. No one else was dancing, and her moves didn’t fit to the songs from the speakers (Blonde Redhead was playing from them at the time).

I tried ignoring her and turned around towards the stage, which I knew wouldn’t lead to anything since it’s hard for me to keep my cool when a woman rubs herself on me. So, as the people surrounding us laughed and cheered, I started grinding back, leaning to her angle.  This continued for a few minutes before she moved to my left and swayed away forwards into the crowd. I’ve done the dance maneuver to get by a cute girl or stubborn bro in the past, but she was a professional. as soon as she disappeared, I shouted to the people around me, “Fuck it, I got mine.”

Pre-Incan Trumpets to IKEA Physics

To start of this round of ToTs, some Stanford acoustics scientists played a marine shell trumpet for the first time in almost 3000 years . They were grabbed from a 2001 excavation of the Chavín de Huántar site in Peru.

For a real interesting graphical look at the Human Development Index and how it affects the US, check out the maps from the Measure of America project. You can compare down to congressional districts how your area fares in education, health,  and life expectancy along with other criteria.

CollegeHumor has given us this funny quantum physics/IKEA mashup with the Hadronn Cjolidder:

Precognition to Femme Fatale

Lately I’ve been reading  Feeling the Future, a paper from Dr. Daryl Bem from Cornell University that tries to put evidence for psychic precognitive abilities in people. MSNBC’s Cosmic Log has a pretty good story on it with a lot of links to other articles at the bottom of  it.  I’m gonna keep my eye on this story.

While I’m still on crazy sci-fi stuff happening in the real world, CERN has captured antimatter atoms. Let that one sink in your head for a bit. We made ANTIMATTER (OK, so they were only antihydrogen atoms and they don’t last very long, but still).

Also, from Warren Ellis’ blog: DIY exotic weapons. Now you can make that 9mm SMG you’ve always wanted using plumbing pipes! Seriously, this is becoming a Fallout 3 world day by day.

For all you alternate history heads: Mandela’s historic election victory almost didn’t happen because of hacking. Imagine a story that could be developed from that angle: a cyberwar in South Africa , sprinkled with apartheid and all the turmoil that was happening during that time.

To cap it off, here’s a great cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale” by Aloe Blacc:

Top Five Halloween Party Songs

Seeing as my favorite holiday is now upon us,  I’ve compiled a list of Halloween-themed songs for any party. Without further ado, here’s my Top Five Halloween Party Songs:

Nosferatu (Ft. Mr. Lif) -DJ Krush – Now while most hip-hop Halloween songs are somewhere between the darkness of Biggie’s “Suicidal Thoughts” and the silliness of the Fat Boys’  “Are You Ready for Freddy?”, this song by the turntablist samurai DJ Krush is actually a good mix of sick beats with a nice flow from ex-Jukie Mr. Lif. It’s cool to hear Lif spit about something other than politics, and still be able to hit you with lines like “numbers crunch your bone well”.

Bela Lugosi’s Dead – Bauhaus – If you want to see just how cool Peter Murphy is, look no further than the above performance of the song at Coachella 2005. The song itself  is a goth rock masterpiece, and would definitely fit any party that has The Hunger playing in the background.  Another cool version occurred when he played the song along with Trent Reznor and TV on the Radio backing him up.

Red Right Hand – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Cave is no stranger to making spooky music when he’s with the Bad Seeds, and this song is a pretty good example of how dark it can get when he’s really getting into it. Like the Bauhaus song it’s been used in movie work, showing up in all the Scream movies and the first Hellboy.

Dracula – Gorillaz – If you’re like me who’s seen the “Clint Eastwood” video 5 million times, you know that the first Gorillaz album had a serious horror movie vibe to it. With a song that has lines like  “Everybody party time/
Some of us will never sleep again”, you know it’s about being a laid back, cool vamp. That or it’s about drugs.

Thriller – Michael Jackson – This one is pretty much a no brainer. I could go on about the amount of work John Landis did to make the video into what is consistently considered one of the best of all time. I could say it’s a bit more poignant now that Jackson’s gone, but honestly, I’m gonna let Dave Chappelle say everything I want to say:

Honorable Mentions:

Werewolf Bar Mitzvah – Tracey Morgan via 30 Rock

Dead Man’s Party – Oingo Boingo

Pet Sematary – The Ramones

Halloween – The Misfits

Wolf Like Me – TV on the Radio

Dawn of the Dead – Does It Offend You, Yeah?

Monster (Ft. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, and Bon Iver) – Kanye West

Superstition – Stevie Wonder

So Haunted – Cut Copy

Comic Mashups to Logo Destruction

I love me some mashups, especially visual ones like the ones Kenny Keil did with comic book characters and hip-hop albums. My favorite is definite this Big Daddy Kane/ Avengers mix:

While on the comics tip, Adam Warrock is one of the co-host of War Rocket Ajax, a comics/pop culture podcast and a  rapper whose songs are actually getting past my normally disdainful opinion on nerdcore rap. It’s probably because I love comic books, and the hip-hop/comic connection isn’t a new one.

For all you webcomic fans, you should check out Chileno Juan Santapau’s The Secret Knots.

Dani Jones put up a pretty straightforward set of rules for creating comics: Make Stuff, and Show It to People.

Let’s get into a cyborg corner real quick: First off, while I think the title “Kanye West, Media Cyborg” is a bit of a stretch, it’s a great hook for an article that also has some great points. If you want to see the real deal though, check out the wikipedia entry on Neil Harbisson, a man who decided to install an eyeborg so that he could hear the colors that he was born without.

While on the topic of wiki-anything, Desmond Warzel’s hilarious short story “Wikihistory” plays one of the most known tropes in sci-fi, that of time travelers always trying to kill Hitler.

To finish this off, check out this Academy Award-winning short film by the French animation team F5 , Logorama: