Archive | June, 2012

the inventor’s mind

18 Jun

Lets all print, paste, and frame this somewhere near our work space. To create/invent is to connect and edit–essentially, to make art.

From Henri Poincaré’s The Foundations of Science:

To invent, I have said, is to choose; but the word is perhaps not wholly exact. It makes one think of a purchaser before whom are displayed a large number of samples, and who examines them, one after the other, to make a choice. Here the samples would be so numerous that a whole lifetime would not suffice to examine them. This is not the actual state of things. The sterile combinations do not even present themselves to the mind of the inventor. Never in the field of his consciousness do combinations appear that are not really useful, except some that he rejects but which have to some extent the characteristics of useful combinations. All goes on as if the inventor were an examiner for the second degree who would only have to question the candidates who had passed a previous examination.

h/t to brainpickings.


michael jackson & celebrity

16 Jun

I will never forget the day Michael Jackson died. June 25th, 2009.

I was at work, running on the little hamster wheel, when I get a text from sister: “Michael Jackson has been sent to the hospital segun dice CNN.” (Segun dice is Spanish for “so says” [your spanglish lesson of the day]).

For the next few hours I told work to eff off and checked every news source incessantly.

I started to think about MJ, and his sad, successful life.

Finally, TMZ broke the news: “Michael Jackson, age 50, has died.”

I kept looking at that line over and over, agape. Michael Jackson was a peerless icon. But he was more to me than that. As a kid, I watched MJ’s performances ad nauseum, I memorized all of his lyrics, and I used his songs to learn English. I even tried to moonwalk–and failed miserably, many times–on my kitchen floor. Because I grew up in Mexico, Michael Jackson was probably the most influential American I knew.

For the next few days I was in a quiet funk. Something was off, there was a disturbance in the Force.

I dug through some old boxes to find my Bad, Dangerous, and Thriller cassettes*. I played them over and over again while I cars drive by blaring P.Y.T, and eulogies popping up across the internets. I even watched his cameo on The Simpsons on YouTube.

But then I thought: what the fuck, man? I never met him, or knew anybody who did, or saw him even from afar. Why am I all frowny face right now? This was my brain talking, being its rational self, but my soul wasn’t hearing any of it. My soul just put its headphones back on, waved off my brain, and kept on nodding along to Off the Wall.

I actually did know MJ. I never sat down and had a chat with him, but everyday I heard about him. I knew about his childhood, his family, his successes, his failures, his bleakest hour, and his failings. Some of it was true, some of it was false, but everyday I had access to his life. I knew his fashion, his face, his voice; I probably knew more about him than I know about most casual friends I have.

That’s celebrity in a nutshell. It’s a personal connection with the a remote entity, and a community that shares that with you. It’s like religion, actually.

I think that’s why his death struck such a sincere chord. I felt like I had lost a connection built over years and years. Like losing a friend or family member, things got unnervingly quiet.

Some people believe Michael Jackson was an evil man. I see their point, but that doesn’t jive with my belief.

Young Michael was always in the spotlight, living in an adult’s world. He never had a childhood like you or me– able to waste days away playing at the beach or eating Dunkaross–and we have seen what that can do to most child stars. I really think he tried to recreate that childhood for the rest of his life. That’s why Brooke Shields says that while the world kept talking about her dating Michael as teenagers, they were actually playing board games on Friday nights. That’s why his security details talks about MJ egging them on to play hide-and-seek with him at Neverland Ranch.Whatever he allegedly did was definitely stupid, but he meant what a 10 year-old boy would’ve meant by doing it.

He never left the state of mind of a young boy trying to have fun and never wanting to grow up, and that was both his charm and his ruin. Believe me, I knew him, and I miss him.

* Little known fact: the Oxford English Dictionary removed ‘cassette tape’ from its inventory in 2008, but added ‘sexting’. Is nothing sacred?!

a disappointing salsa

1 Jun

It comes with the territory. When you are part of a “special” group you will be asked to represent the entire group one day. A race, a career, a frequenter of ice cream shops, you will be called on to speak for everyone else in that box. Most of the time it’s fine and harmless. Sometimes, it can be very awkward. This is about me and the latter at a dance class.

I recently got a Groupon for a 4-week salsa course. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for some time, mainly because my girlfriend is a gifted dancer who I am pretty sure is tired of dancing with just-born-Bambi over here at dance clubs. So I bit the bullet and bought the Groupon.

(An aside on salsa: it’s a masochistic dance, really. I grew up dancing to cumbia and merengue, dances that are mostly about moving to the beat rather than following “rules.” Throughout college I followed the same “function follows fun” rule by embracing the license to be silly you get at clubs. But salsa doesn’t allow any of this. It’s rhythmic, but also very structured. It’s flashy, but in a contained way–you pretty much can’t drunk dance your way into salsa stardom. Most importantly, at salsa clubs you feel judged because, well, you are: it’s competitive. This is hard for someone like me who would much rather make up my own moves and have fun. But I love my girlfriend and love conquers all and yada yada)

The class was well-attended, with an even mix of men and women. Almost everyone, save for two, myself included, were Anglo. The other Latino, who I will introduce shortly, and I stood out like two Latinos at a salsa dance class. You get where this is going.

This ragtag group of stiffs spending their Monday evenings envisioning a future of loose hips and eternally half-open silky-shiny shirts were ready for salsa. Oh, we got salsa, with a big side of awkward beans (me, I’m one of the beans).

The instructor, a cherubim who picked the tightest thing in her closet, started by teaching us the rhythm: quick quick slow, quick quick slow. Easy. She then asked us to follow the rhythm, and go front-to-back. OK. Then she wanted us to go side-to-side, then diagonally, then follow the music, and then the instructor would yell “No! Front-to-back!”, then she would make us move around the room and change orientations, and by the time she asked us to pair up I had the bewildered look of cat who got caught in the laundry and spent half an hour tumbling in the dryer.

The words ‘pair up’ were still floating in the air, dancing around with better skill than most of us in the room. Pair up. It was like prom all over again; the cool kids went with the cool kids, while the weirdos were on the sideline picking their noses. I was calculating the odds of being one of the guys forced to dance with another guy when I felt a tap on my shoulder. Before I could turn around I had the only other Latino in front of me, who without much hesitation came up close and assumed the position. It’s hard not to take a hint when someone has their left hand cupping your lower back: you two are gonna dance. At this point I figured I should at least get the name of the man who would be showing me a good night. “Omar.” “I’m Jaime,” I said with a unnecessary giggle. That’s all he said, and he just went back to chewing his gum and smelling very fresh (we were that close).

The funny thing about Omar is that while I had all these calibrating processes going on in my brain (don’t look him in the eye–but don’t NOT look him in the eye the entire time, that’s even weirder; make small talk: “Nice night, huh?”, nevermind, shut up!), he looked totally at ease. He didn’t give a single damn, and that was kind of inspiring.

“Switch!” Thank god. I thought it was going to be uphill from there. Funny how that never happens.

Each new partner was no Omar, and that was unfortunate. They were nervous and sweaty and, for whatever reason, afraid of me. I couldn’t understand why until someone said amidst the small talk I was supplying (and improving on), “It must be so easy for you.”

They all thought I could actually dance! They saw I could follow the beat and figured, “This Mexican guy with great hair and fabulous eyes that sparkle with wonder must be so good at dancing, because don’t all Latinos love to eat tortilla-based foods and dance the entire day.” They soon found out that only one of those assumptions was correct.
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