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A World Without Abuelas

Recently, I started thinking about what life would have been like without Abuelas.  Here’s what I came up with:

  • No creamy mashed potatoes that you can pat down into a flat pancake.
  • Nobody saying “Que dios to bendiga” as you bid your good byes.
  • No family secrets divulged in Spain over sangria.
  • No balconies overlooking the hustle and bustle of Isla Verde, Puerto Rico.
  • Nobody to ask you over and over again if you want another banana, or another glass of water, or a third plate.
  • No front porches filled with scorpions or back yards filled with coquis.
  • Nobody to pass you a $5 or $10 behind your Abuelo’s back.
  • No unmatched croquettas made with love and lots of secret ingredients.
  • Nobody to make me and my cabbage patch dolls custom-made clothes, including the coolest, hot pink, off-the-shoulder,  Christmas Formal dress I wish I still had.
  • No glimpses of Spanish-language novelas that never quite sucked me in.
  • No old photographs.
  • No smarties every Sunday.
  • No Jetta I could pretend was mine.
  • No coke that cross-my-heart tastes different in Puerto Rico.
  • Nobody to try to teach English to just for a loving laugh.
  • No frijoles recipe living in my Hotmail inbox for years.
  • No perfectly manicured nails…even at the end.
  • No witches next door with hair down to their knees.
  • Nobody babysitting on nights that brought out the most mischievous in you, like exploding godzillas in microwaves or playing with your dad’s razor.
  • No favorite nights at Pizza Hut with an arcade overlooking the dining area.
  • No house to live in while we were in between houses.
  • No Dulce Maria’s in my immediate family.

A world without Abuelas is a sad world indeed.

Posted by: Mariela

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Where Have All The Theme Songs Gone?

“You take the good, you take the bad you take them both and there you have…”  That takes me straight to Tootie, Blair, Jo and the Facts of Life gang and noon sandwiches at home after swimming lessons.

“Here we are face to face a couple of silver spoons.”  That one makes me wish desperately for a rideable indoor train, if only my apartment was big enough.

“I bet we’ve been together for a million years.  And I bet we’ll be together for a million more.”  That was the motherload, Thursday’s Must See TV that welcomed the slow but oh-so-stylish Mallory and the charming and forever young Alex P. Keaton.

In the last month, I even managed to get the theme songs for Disney’s Adventure of the Gummi Bears and Dear John stuck in my head and dutifully song bombed them forward.

Because they are memorable.  Because they wisp you back to a very specific time, when TV schedules mattered and brought people together.  Maybe it’s because I just watched more TV back then?

All I know is that, these days, theme songs have all but been washed away.  Blink and you’ll miss them.  Modern Family’s lasts all of 10 seconds and 30 Rock’s a mere 18.  A quick review of the 15 top rated TV shows last week showed, first off, that only six were original comedies or dramas (the rest were reality TV, the NCAA Championship Game and 60 Minutes).  Of those six, only one could be categorized as good and that one is “Who are You?” written and performed by The Who for CSI.  The rest all sound like a version of the same sort of Muzak.

So…what happened?  Is it a theme song revolt against our multitasking lives, impatient viewing habits and too-quick-to-fast-forward fingers?  Are the writers saying: “Enough is enough.  If you won’t respect us, then we won’t respect you!”

I bet that’s part of it.  And I even bet that shorter theme songs are part of the revolt.  The shorter they are, the harder they become to zip through in order to get right to the storyline.

I zip through them myself, but I do think it’s a shame that we’ll never find ourselves, late at night, having group sing-a-longs to any theme song post 1995.  And maybe that’s being generous?

Posted by: Mariela

The Ultimate Grease vs. Grease 2 Song Off

This weekend, we decided to pit Grease and Grease 2 in a duel and judge each song individually – free of bias, emotional attachments and story and character development.

This was not an easy task. After repeated childhood viewings of Grease 2, my friends and I knew every single word and every single dance move.  I was a Pink Lady (and possibly still am at heart). Michelle Pfeiffer was one of my heroes. Our obsession led us in fourth grade to be called into the office of Ms. America Novas, our very big and intimidating elementary school principal whose asthma spread across the loudspeakers every morning during assembly, for a lecture about the fact that “gangs” would not be tolerated in our Catholic school.

This didn’t mean that we ignored the original.  It just didn’t connect on a meaningful level – Olivia was no Michelle and never would be.  Believe me, I know these are controversial opinions – that Grease is held in incredibly high esteem and most people blow off the sequel as a joke.  In fact, that very difference of opinion resulted in this song off.

The results are below and averaged from a careful analysis by a male Grease fanatic and, well, me!

GREASE

Grease: C

This is like being asleep at the wheel.  Not a great way to kick off the movie, and, in retrospect, probably one of the reasons Grease has always been judged inferior by my “gang” (as a fellow member recently said).

Summer Nights:  A


A fun-filled he said/she said with humor and heart.  It pulls an A for the ending itself – John Travolta’s dramatic sigh (“but…’oh”). Just, please, accept that this song is a karaoke killer.

Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee: B

A quick and funny ditty proving that girls can bite, too.  Stockard Channing shows off her ballsiness with a badge.  Still, this feels more like an interlude than a full number and because of that fades away.

Hopelessly Devoted:  A+

Agreed to be the King of All Grease Songs and, really, the only one that can stand alone – melodically and lyrically – apart from the musical.  If we’d heard this song on the radio and never seen the movie, it’d still be a hit.  I dare you to listen to this once and not get it stuck in your head for days to come.

Greased Lightnin’:  B-

You think you like this song but you really don’t.  The words are too fast and Travolta’s voice too deep.  No wonder I don’t know (or care about) half the lyrics.

Beauty School Dropout:  C+


Our initial reaction was to fail this one because …who ever cared about Frenchie?   Yet, we both had to admit that it is a decent tune that we’d love to listen to on vinyl.  Still, the questionable intro and outro chain it to mediocrity.

Sandy: B+

Our notes refer to the “explosive chorus” and the Beach Boys-reminiscent castanets.   Travolta’s voice is much better suited to this pace.

There are Worse Things I Could Do:  B+

Again, we both cringed when this one started and then realized this is a solid 50s girl power ballad and a starring vehicle for Channing.   I want to hug and high five her after this performance, which is the perfect length and has the perfect flow.  Someone should cover this (Kelly Clarkson?  Lady GaGa?) and give it new life.

You’re the One That I Want:  A


Not only catchy, but powerful, fun and sporting great harmonies.  Raise your hand if you’ve tried to master the little hand-in-the-pocket shimmy when they walk down the stairs.

We Go Together:  A-

This is a party I want to be invited to!  A rambunctious way to end the movie and a surprising follow up to You’re the One that I want; instead of winding down, the movie ramps up and you speed off the cliff into the sunset.

GREASE 2

Back to School Again:  B-

The energy of this opener kicks Grease to shame and it does a great job of introducing all the major players and personalities.  Still, the song suffers from overindulgence.

Score Tonight:  A-

This is a Latin-rhythm infused good time with a killer breakdown – “You bowl me over!”  Here, you notice what a superior singer Lorna Luft is compared to her peers and can’t help but chuckle at Adrian Zmed’s screeching, over-the-top, on-his-knees howl.

Cool Rider: A-


Pfieffer achieves total coolness in her black-outfitted, solo performance.  If just one more voice was introduced it wouldn’t have worked as well – a rare moment of subtlety for the sequel.

Reproduction:   B

Grease 2s version of the he said/she said with the raunch factor turned up.  Could have been cut short in both length and number of vocal parts, but the bass turnaround point (“Where does the pollen go?”) is a good one.

Who’s That Guy:  C


The chorus far outshines the verses here.  The Cycle Lords’ group singing is laughable and, again, there are just too many vocals that suffer even more from awkward transitions.

Let’s Do It for our Country:  A

This cohesive and catchy tune would have been doomed by second character indifference if it weren’t for this face off.  What we uncovered was a great melody that overcomes the silly lyrics and plot.  Please, keep an open mind.

Prowling: C+

While it’s nice to have a little bit of Rock & Roll representation, the verses are too weighed down.  This sounds like stomping your feet in mud.

Charade:  C-

This could have (should have?) been sung by Jack Wagner.  It seems like the producers weren’t even sold since the song just sort of sneaks into the scene as if wasn’t welcome to begin with.  Super boring, cheesy and out of place.

Girl for All Seasons:  A

This is probably the most fluid of the Grease 2 offerings and a great example of how various vocal parts can work when done right.  But, damn the producers for cutting it off with…

Turn Back the Hands of Time:  C+


Sorry, this is just too much cheesiness for one song to bear.

Rock-a-Hula-Luau: B

It’s like the producers decided to rip off and split off Grease’s We Go Together.  The first part is this Luau, which just begs you to hand jive and drink a daiquiri.

We’ll Be Together:  B-


Part II is the weaker rip off.  It starts off strong, but should never have slipped into secondary character territory.  The lyrics are embarrassing: “I like what you got.  I guess it’s ok, if you want to show it.”  Or:  “Will I ever score?  There’s nothing wrong with just liking each other.”  And the electric guitar is cringe worthy.

RESULTS: GREASE (B+ ; 3.2); GREASE 2 (B; 2.9)

Yes, it pains me to write that.

Posted by: Mariela (with help from David)

Will the Real Women of the Year Please Stand Up?

It could have been Sonia Sotomayor, who went from a Bronx housing project all the way to become the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice and only the third woman Justice ever.  She kept her cool under ridiculous charges of racism during her confirmation hearings and singlehandedly changed the landscape of the highest judicial body of the country.

20090601_sonia-sotomayor

It could have been Salma Hayek, who breast fed a starving baby when she visited Sierra Leone.  This sucking heard round the world — spread virally by an incredibly human and touching video — changed people’s opinions about breast milk, which boosts immune systems (particularly important in third world countries).

It could have been Xerox’s Ursula Burns, who in July became the first black woman to head a Fortune 500 company.  And, guess what?  She started there as an intern!

ursula_burns

Instead, one of the 12 Glamour Women of the Year  and one of the five corresponding December covers is none other than Rihanna.  Rihanna…who was severely beaten by her boyfriend Chris Brown this year.  Rihanna…who for nine months remained silent on the issue.  Rihanna…who only now is speaking out and (coincidentally?) also has an album dropping this month.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think she should speak out and she probably needed some time to physically and emotionally heal before she did.  However, Glamour’s signature program claims to celebrate “inspiring women who are changing the world.”  So, why didn’t they wait until she opened shelters for victims of domestic abuse, booked high school speaking engagements to raise awareness for the epidemic of violence or embarked on a tour in which all proceeds support victims?  Why didn’t they wait until she actually used this horrible tragedy as an opportunity to affect change?

It’s a mystery to me, except the obvious reason that they wanted to strike while the publicity fire was hot — no matter how off-brand the choice.

Here’s Glamour’s full list of 2009 honorees.

What I’d love to know is who you would have chosen in Rihanna’s place.

Posted by: Mariela

This Week’s Top Five: Scary Movies

In honor of one of our favorite holidays, we present you with our Top Five Scary Movies!

Mariola:

1. V.

Ok it is not a movie, but I watched the tv show as a kid and it scared me. I remember being home alone on a Friday night and watching this show, and being unable to turn off any light in the house. Diana was scary fierce, though watching this clip now seems a lot less frightening.

2.Rosemary’s Baby

It is not really scary, but one of the best films in the horror/suspense genre, along with Polanski’s earlier film, Repulsion, which I still think was a huge influence on Lynch. And Mia Farrow really did eat that raw piece of liver.

3. Jaws

We are all scared to go in the ocean thanks to Steven Spielberg.

4. Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me

I mean David Lynch, but the icky guy at her bed…and the general confusion of the film.

5. Watcher in the Woods

I watched this movie as a kid at a family slumber party. And other than being young, I think all of us girl cousins helped make each other even more scared. But let’s admit Bette Davis as an old woman is creepy enough.

Wendy:

1.  John Carpenter’s The Thing.
The first time I ever saw this film I watched it alone in my apartment, during daylight hours.  After it was over, even though it was still daylight and nothing spooky was going on, I was scared!  I think I checked under my bed that night.  I believe I was around 25 years old.

Besides, it is scary seeing Wilford Brimley as a relatively young man.

thing

2.  Nosferatu, directed by F. W. Murnau

A silent but creepy!  Max Schreck as Count Orlok is one of the most iconic images in cinema’s history.  This vampire is not sexy and DOES NOT twinkle in the sun.  He just scares the bejesus out of you and sucks your blood.

3.  I Spit On Your Grave, directed by Meir Zarchi

This movie isn’t necessarily scary for all the gore that happens later on in the film, but for the violet act that occurs to cause such gore.  Besides Ms. 45, this is probably thought of as one of the quintessential rape/revenge movies.  It is the ultra-violet gang rape that occurs to the female lead that really turns your stomach, though.  The rape scene is so long and so brutal, that you actually cheer on the lead and she targets and kills each of her attackers (even the mildy-retarded one).

4.  Last House on the Left, the original 1972 film directed by Wes Craven

Wes Craven is a horror God.  His early films are nothing short of brilliant.  This films involves not just everyone’s own worst nightmare (especially women’s), but also every parent’s worst nightmare.  The story of two young girls who go out for a night on the town only to be captured by escaped convicts.  The girls are held captive, rape, beaten up, humiliated, and eventually killed.  Chance of fate has it that they are killed right outside one of the girl’s home.  Her parents then find their daughter’s body floating in the river nearby.  The revenge that then takes place on the killers is goretasically beautiful.

5.  Night of the Living Dead, directed by George A. Romero

The founding father of zombie movies.  Enough said.

Jen Mae:

1. Faces of Death

I should begin by saying, except for on very rare occasions, I was not allowed to watch television, movies, or listen to secular music until I was about 13 years old. My mom was a bit of a religious nut, so I had to be crafty in finding entertainment.  After watching ‘Faces of Death’ on VHS at a friend’s house, I sort of understood why Mom wanted to keep me so sheltered. I’ve since become somewhat desensitized to violence, but I was only ten when I watched this and didn’t know that much of the footage was fake. I was terrified.

2. The Exorcist

This one made me think I was going to hell, for sure.  At the beginning of the movie I could really identify with Regan. The sacrilegious imagery, that creepy demon voice, and the notion that it may have been based on a true story really scared the bejesus out of me.

3. The Shining

This is possibly one of my top ten favorite movies ever.  Isolation, madness, blood gushing elevators, shiver inducing shrills, psychic powers, and Scatman Crothers for a mentor…what more could you ask for?

4. 28 Days Later

I enjoy zombie movies for their social commentary, but generally don’t find them scary.  This was an exception.  I think the quick editing and the speedy, tweaky, zombie movement helped keep me frightened.

5. Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear

Although this isn’t really a scary movie, per se, it freaked me out. In my adolescence, I developed a bit of a thing for older convict types and this movie set me straight. I found Deniro’s performance captivating, and his chemistry with Juliette Lewis very believable.  I can safely say I jumped a few times during this flick.  I suggest you watch it at home, in the dark, by yourself.  Haven’t seen the original yet, but it’s on queue.

Lisa:

1. Single White Female:

It just keeps getting more and more out of control and no one notices it happening. I remember seeing at as a kid and being so scared to ever have to live by myself.

2. The Shining:

Typical terror at its best.

3. The Pursuit of Happyness:

Definitely not scary is typical horror movie style, but this movie terrified me. I found it soul-sickening. For weeks I was panicked about how easy it could be for my life to fall apart and end up the street.

4. Cape Fear:

Robert DeNiro is CREEPY. Bad dream, pervy old man creepy.

5. Blair Witch Project:

I saw it right when it came out when there were still rampant rumors that it was a real documentary. Even though you knew it couldn’t be, it still felt like it was more real than anything I’d ever seen before.

Stacey:

For most of my life, I haven’t really been a ‘scary movie’ lover. In fact until recent years, I sucessfully avoided Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Exorcist and Friday the 13th. Wendy would probably call me a pussy at this point in the conversation. Of the few that I did watch, these are the ones that F’ed me up.

1. Jaws

I remember seeing this opening scene through the crack of a door in my friends basement. We were spying on her older brother, as we often did, and needless to say I was NOT prepared for what I was about to see. A girl stripping one, and two, watching her flop around like a rag doll until she was pulled into the abyss. Is it the original that also cuts to her hand washed onto the shore with the crabs?! guh. This one didnʼt scare me in my dreams as much as it did when I body of water Iʼm in til this day.

Picture 1
2. Psycho

Let’s just say my shower curtain is set up so that I can see the bathroom door in case of THIS:

Picture 3

3. The Ring

When my roommate in college and I rented this, I was ‘over the hype of the ring, but yeah I’d watch it.’ We paused occasionally to confirm the noises we were hearing were coming from the washer/dryer in the basement and that it was only the tree branches brushing up against her window that were making the sounds from outside. I felt I had to make it though, and as we were discussing the film and how I hated the fake resolve… the 13″ TV/VHS combo that was black, all of a sudden turned on and all we saw was snow. I’ve never screamed so loud at a TV or jumped up that fast to turn one off. It didn’t even help that I knew that they automatically rewind and turn the VHS player of when the tape reaches the end. And I slept in her bed that night while my room, three feet away remained empty.

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4. Candy man

I get freaked out if I say candyman more than three times in my head. In fact, as I type this I’m trying not to repeat it. ARGH! HATE THIS MOVIE!!

Picture 5

5. The Room

Even though this is number 5 on my list, I’d say its number one overall. The fact that this was even made is scary on so many levels that it’s best seen in its original form. Please enjoy.

Picture 6

Posted by: Autumn.


Patrick, oh Patrick!

Usually when a celebrity kicks the bucket I have a very detached reaction.  I wouldn’t flinch and I’d likely offer up a cool response such as, “hmmm, really.”  Seems callous, but I equate a celebrity’s death with that of a complete stranger.  It’s a person (albeit a talented, wealthy or just plain lucky person) who I have never formed a bond with so I don’t feel any grief.

But, every once in a while when a celebrity dies it really bothers me.  Eliott Smith, Heath Ledger … Since I’m typically not bothered by celebrity deaths I ask myself on these rare occasions why it hits me so hard.  Recently, my heart dropped when I heard that Patrick Swayze died from his battle with pancreatic cancer.

swayze

A few months ago I was channel surfing and I came across Barbara Walter’s interview with Swayze shortly before he died.

I was bawling by the end of it, sobbing.  Mind you, I had the “Dirty Dancing” soundtrack, the second soundtrack “More Dirty Dancing” and I knew every line to “She’s like the Wind,” but the true reason I was so broken up over his death was because he and his wife Lisa had been married for 34 years!  That must set a Hollywood record.  With the American divorce rate hovering somewhere around 50%, it seems like Hollywood marriages are doomed from the beginning, most with a shelf life under a year, obviously entered into for the publicity and career boost.

I recently read about a 101-year-old couple in Great Britain who were married for 81 years!  She told reporters that the secret to a long marriage was to “argue every day.” Statistically it’s nearly impossible for two people to stay married for 81 years, not only because of the high divorce rate but also because the chances of living to see your 100th birthday are less than 1%.  Maybe a Hollywood marriage has about the same odds? What do you think?

Posted by: Jenni

Happy 51st Birthday Michael Jackson

Well done, Google.

google_mj

Well done, Spike Lee, for giving MJ a great 51st birthday celebration.

spike-traceypparkcrowd_mj

And well done, Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President, for making today “Michael ‘King of Pop’ Jackson Memorial Day.” We realize that making a new stop called ‘Hoyt-Schermerhorn-Michael-Jackson’ may be a stretch for the already-plagued G Train, so let’s take this moment, and the boom boxes and car stereos that have made it spectacular in my neighborhood, and call it quits. Goodbye, Michael. We will miss you. 

Posted by: Autumn.