Tag: California

Shakin’ All Over

Last week, for the second time this month, we had a significant temblor give our house a shake. We live in Los Angeles, so this kind of thing is not unexpected. Our one-year-old son, native Californian that he is, even slept through the last one.

But I’ve noticed something more than a little off-putting about the nation’s reaction to California earthquakes. Message boards and internet commentary usually light with people proclaiming their earnest wish that all of us out here in California, well, just die horrible deaths.

Some of the comments I saw included, “Too bad it wasn’t the Big One,” and “Waiting for California to slide into the ocean. Goodbye, weirdoes!” and “If only earth would finish the job and slide that festering leftist infection into the depths of the Pacific.”

It doesn’t seem to work the other way. When tornadoes hit Missouri, I don’t see commentators wishing that the entire state be blown away. And when hurricanes hit Florida, there is often an outpouring of goodwill and wishes for those in the storm’s path.

But California? Well, I guess we deserve to get swallowed up by the Earth.

earthquake-gallery-9

Of course, a lot of the animosity is directed toward our state’s undocumented immigrants, which if you believe right-wing media, currently account for 90 percent of the population.

The rest of it seems to be a combination of petty jealousy over our good weather, disdain for Hollywood celebrities, and vitriol aimed at our state’s frequently liberal policies.

But regardless of your political viewpoint, I would add that if the thought of thousands, perhaps, millions of your fellow Americans meeting a sudden, violent death is something that fills you with glee or smug satisfaction, then there is very little difference between you and Al Quada.

In any case, we here in California are not pleading for you to stop picking on us. We would just like the haters to acknowledge their irrational anger and stop pretending to love America (while despising its largest state and wishing destruction upon all who live there).

And to be honest, we are concerned about the next big earthquake. We’re worried that all of you will drop off into the Atlantic.

 


Quick Takes

As threatened, new fatherhood has sapped my time and energy to the point that I am barely able to rant and rave effectively. I have no doubt that this will change as my son gains maturity and I gain perspective, but for now my updates will be succinct (which is a nice way of saying that they’ll be really short).

First, as I’m sure you know, President Obama is at long last finished with attempting to compromise with conservatives who would gladly push him into a wood chipper if they could get away with it. The president is moving forward on immigration reform, joined by a few Republicans who insist that they never ever referred to a pathway to citizenship as “amnesty.” Of course, we could have had all this progress years ago, but as I’ve written before, some people always need to scream and fight and threaten to overthrow the government before we just go ahead and adopt the progressive idea. I have no idea why this is the route to reform, but it just is.

Second, I noticed that my infant son is part of yet another growing trend. Apparently, the state he was born in (California) now has more Latinos than white people for the first time since statehood. This was a surprise to some.

This news came out just about the time my son was born. Is it coincidence, or was he the tipping point?

What do you think?

 


Click

We all know the grim statistics. Hispanics are less likely to graduate high school than other ethnic groups, and Latinas, in particular, still have higher rates of teen pregnancy and fewer college degrees than other young girls do.

So what can be done about this appalling situation? Well, perhaps something as simple as giving Hispanic girls a camera is a start.

To continue reading this post, please click here.

 


Who You Calling a Savage?

So here’s a shot of a few exceptionally talented and rather good-looking Latinos.

The occasion is the release of the new Oliver Stone movie Savages, which features the quartet of Benecio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, Demian Bichir, and Sandra Echeverria, seen above. There’s some guy named Travolta in it too.

To celebrate the fact that so many Hispanics are appearing together in one film, I’m offering you fine readers the chance to win free tickets to see the movie in one of the following cities:

Chicago

Dallas

Houston

El Paso

Los Angeles

Miami

New York City

Phoenix

Sacramento

San Diego

 

The film is about a pair of California dudes who create some kick-ass marijuana, but then get in over their heads when the drug cartels want in on the action. Apparently, the film escalates into “a series of increasingly vicious ploys and maneuvers in a high-stakes, savage battle of wills.” And I’m betting that there is at least one joke about having the munchies.

All you have to do is comment on one of my posts (including this one) and you’ll be entered for the chance to win free passes to the film. Once again, your comment can be about anything. The only thing you have to include in your comment is the city in which you intend to see the movie, so I can plan accordingly.

If you win, I’ll email the passes to you. By the way, I’m the sole person who will see your email addresses (unless you specifically want to share it in the body of your comment), so don’t worry about that.

I’ll announce the contest winners in the next week or so.

So get to commenting, and good luck.

 


Ride the Lightening

If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death.

The Bible — Numbers 35:30

The dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.

Pope John Paul II

Each of us has, to some degree, an unhealthy capacity for revenge. And that trait flows from us as individuals into society at large. This unflattering characteristic is one of the driving forces behind capital punishment.

As opposed to many political or cultural debates, there is no middle ground in this. You either want to string killers up or you don’t.

To continue reading this post, please click here.



Be on the Lookout

Here in Los Angeles, we’re relieved that police have arrested the thug who beat up a San Francisco Giants fan outside Dodger stadium (yes, I know the suspect is innocent until proven guilty, but let’s just say for the sake of this post that he did it).

As you may recall, on Opening Day in LA, a man dressed in Giants regalia, Bryan Stow, was jumped by a pair of angry Dodger fans, who beat him into a coma from which he may never wake up.

These boosters of the local team were supposedly pissed that a San Franciscan was on their turf. The real reason, of course, is that they were moronic hoodlums.

Because the main assailant was described as a Latino, Hispanics had time to brace ourselves for this latest ethnic embarrassment. Indeed, the suspect, Giovanni Ramirez, is described as “a stocky 31-year-old with a head shaved bald” who is a “documented member of [a] street gang,” and has “at least three prior felony convictions.”

In other words, he’s a cliché. But he’s a particularly lethal one.

I’ve written before about the frustration that Latinos feel whenever a Hispanic person commits a high-profile crime.

It’s an unpleasant sensation that doesn’t afflict members of the majority culture. For example, I doubt many white people cringed when Jared Loughner’s race was revealed (although we all winced upon discovering how easy it was for a psychotic to get a gun in this country).

Ramirez is just the latest living stereotype to make us all look bad. He’s one of the reasons why people frequently conjure up imaginary Latino assailants when they’re trying to conceal their own criminal behavior.

Recently, for example, a Canadian man named Robert Spearing lied to his wife about having tickets for Oprah Winfrey’s star-studded, mega-hyped, our-messiah-is-ascending final show.

Who knows why Spearing told this blatant fib to his spouse, but regardless, they drove all the way to Chicago before the guy realized, “Shit, I better make up some reason why I don’t have tickets.”

So “just before showtime, Spearing — bleeding from the forehead and his hands badly scraped — filed a report with cops claiming he had been mugged and the tickets stolen. He said two men — one African American, one Hispanic — had attacked him on the street.”

I suppose this can be viewed as an egalitarian approach to ethnic profiling. It wasn’t two black guys or two Latinos — it was one of each!

Of course, the cops quickly uncovered the fraud. Perhaps they realized that if anybody was going to be mugging people for Oprah tickets, it wasn’t going to be two guys (of any race). It was going to be distraught suburban women clutching copies of O and shrieking about Dr. Oz.

With hope, both Ramirez and Spearing will get their comeuppance. Their penalties will look very different, and their crimes don’t compare. But they share a mindset: They both believe that Latino men equal violence.

The fact that one of them is Hispanic just makes it all the more pathetic.


Personally, I Prefer the e4-e5-f4 King’s Gambit

The only game I have on my computer is chess, so I can’t procrastinate on work by playing Gears of War or Dead Space 2 or some other time killer. Taking a break to play chess isn’t such a temptation.

I’m not a bad player, but there is a whole group of kids out here in California who could trounce me faster than you can say, “Bobby Fischer was an anti-Semite.”

I’m talking about the state high school chess champions from Mendota, a “Central Valley town of stilled machinery and packinghouses surrounded by industrial agriculture” where “unemployment hovers around 45 percent.”

Every player is Hispanic, and the teens come from a poverty-stricken area that is “the kind of place that requires durability just to survive. Out here, even sunlight seems hard.”

The team placed first in the Premier Division at the CalChess State Championships, going against kids from rich suburbs and players who had private tutors. So how did this group of Hispanic teens, living in a place where the food bank does booming business, conquer this most intellectual of games?

For starters, “without many chess books or easy access to computers, team members turned to each other — rehashing games, comparing strategies, playing endlessly.” They were also coached by “a black man who doesn’t speak Spanish. When the 100% Latino team acts up, he yells in French.”

Who knows why that tactic works? I guess if someone yelled at me in French that I left my rook hanging, it would get my attention. By the way, the coach is a bit of a redemption story himself, coming across as an African American version of Dennis Hopper’s character in Hoosiers, but with knights and pawns instead of basketballs. He says the kids have inspired him.

In turn, the coach “chooses the team’s captains, based not on ability but on what they need to learn.” This approach at character building seems to have worked. In his nine years of coaching, just two of his players have failed to graduate, astounding in a town where “only one in ten people has a high school diploma.”

And this year, the team won the state championship. Indeed, “for people who live in the world of packing houses and field labor, the town’s success in a game of intellect and imagination has resonated.”

By the way, the kids themselves include the bounced-around foster kid, the insecure teenager, and the overwhelmed immigrant — characters who will only make the feature film version of this all the more poignant.

Of course, if they ever made a movie about the all-Latino chess champions, they would cast half the team with blonde, blue-eyed actors, throw in a car chase, and have the climax feature a player yelling, “Checkmate, bitches!” while a cheerleader jumped into his lap.

I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen here.


The Scrabble Dictionary Does Not Accept It

Although I’m a writer, I’m not in the habit of coining new words. I think the half-million English ones that we have are sufficient for most occasions.

However, modern life sometimes introduces a fresh grotesquerie to our society. In such cases, it’s acceptable to mix and match syllables – and even languages – to make the new concept clear.

For example, I’ve noticed that in my neighborhood, there is a small cadre of homeless people. But they are different from the homeless I saw in New York or the Midwest. Those individuals, for reasons I cannot explain, tended to be deranged or blackly comedic, and they instigated confrontations regularly.

These West Coast unfortunates, on the other hand, are more likely to be quiet and to avoid panhandling altogether. In fact, I usually see them engaged in some isolated, odious task to scrap out a living. Most often, they’re digging through trashcans or recycling bins in search of aluminum cans or glass bottles. I then see them pushing grocery carts overflowing with their clanging treasures.

Our neighborhood is hilly, so it’s tough work lugging the carts up steep inclines. These are individuals who labor hard for their pittance.

Recently I passed by a guy who had hit a motherload of empty bottles. Evidently, one of our neighbors is rich and/or had something big to celebrate, because the bin was overflowing with spent champagne bottles and high-end wine vintages. The irony of seeing a man stockpile empty containers of Dom Perignon, in the hopes of scoring a few cents, was inescapable.

Perhaps it is just my neighborhood, but these foragers are overwhelmingly Hispanic. They don’t snag the day jobs like the trabajadores, but like them, they strain mightily for chump change.

To call them homeless or street people is inaccurate, and even a disservice. In honor of their hard-working brethren, I think of them as the aluminumadores.

We’ll see if the word catches on. But to be honest, I hope the term becomes irrelevant long before then.


Gimme a Shot of Cabernet

I’ve mentioned before that one of my vices is alcohol, specifically wine. And yes, people in wine shops are not always delighted to see me.

In any case, I’ve also mentioned that my wife and I like to go wine-tasting, which is about as “boogee” (as Cousin #1 would say) as it gets. I mean, it’s not exactly keeping it real in the barrio to say things like, “The tannins on this zinfandel give way to notes of chocolate.”

But as I‘ve also stated, a person can get drive himself insane by measuring every decision or preference against the ever-shifting and amorphous concept of “authenticity.”

So I’m not going to apologize for the fact that we like zipping through the California countryside and sampling the vineyards’ vino.

When we first started doing this, my wife and I were among the few Gen Xers who showed up in the tasting room. Lately, however, we’ve noticed that more people are our age. Perhaps it is a truism that individuals develop more sophisticated palates and upscale tastes as they get older. Or maybe my peers have realized how depressing keggers are when you’re pushing forty.

Regardless, I’ve also noticed that I’m no longer the sole Latino at such functions. In the past, the only Hispanics I ever saw were the laborers in the fields. Indeed, this agricultural industry is one of the top employers of Latinos, and several Hispanics have worked their way up to management or even ownership positions — something highly rare in corporate America.

In the tasting room, however, it’s still been mostly white people — at least until lately. So what should I make, if anything, of the observation that more Latinos are joining me in swirling around a glass of syrah?

It’s probably nothing more profound than the fact that, even in these horrific economic times, the demographic shift underway in America continues. And it won’t be long before every aspect of upscale U.S. culture — from country clubs to executive boardrooms — gets an ethnic makeover. It is inevitable.

However, it also means that whenever Hollywood gets around to remaking Sideways (every movie get remade, sooner or later), they will probably replace Paul Giamatti with someone who is, shall we say, a little swarthier.


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