Sunday, January 26, 2014

Writing "The Other" -- Daniel José Older @ BuzzFeed

Must-read. Whole thing here. My favorite:

6. This is life and death.

Having just said it’s about craft, let’s be clear that it’s also much more than that. This topic is usually couched in language like “offensive” or “PC.” It’s a topic for debate, a cute little back-and-forth. This is all a condescending and dehumanizing frame for the conversation. We’re talking about the continued silencing and erasure of voices that mainstream white male culture has always silenced and erased. We’re talking about life and death of entire peoples; we’re talking about self-worth and humanity. And even as adults, we’re barely figuring how to deal with negative imagery. Kids haven’t been given any of the tools we have and they see it more than anyone else. High suicide rates and internalized racial/gender oppression are real.
We can’t keep raising generations of kids of color on the notion that there’s only room for them to be bad guys or doomed sidekicks or another generation of white kids thinking they’re closer to God because of how they look. We can’t keep promoting hetero/cis-normative sexist and racist ideas in our literature. That is the default setting. If you aren’t consciously working against it, you are working for it. Neutrality is not an option, and the luxury of thinking it is has to go. To quote Junot once again: “I think that unless you are actively, consciously working against the gravitational pull of the culture, you will predictably, thematically, create these sort of fucked-up representations. Without fail. The only way not to do them is to admit to yourself [that] you’re fucked up, admit to yourself that you’re not good at this shit, and to be conscious in the way that you create these characters.”

“Literature gains its universality by being very specific.” ~Junot Diaz

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Who said the writer community doesn't TOTALLY rock?

The best gift EVER: an unsolicited review of my story in the January volume of Pure Slush's 2014 Project (read it for free on the Amazon preview here) by friend and fellow writer (and fellow IWW member) Silvia Villalobos. Read the review here.

How sweet is that?

She didn't even tell me she wrote it. I found it two days after the fact, and then only because I follow her blog. Which you totally should if you don't already. She has that incisiveness I so admire in writers, that way of cutting through the surface to get at the source of what makes us human, what makes us better... Or, sometimes, worse.

Silvia, thank you. You're a wonderful, wonderful friend.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Top Photos of 2013 -- #1

This was hard. Much, much harder than I thought. Number 1 of the Kuantan blog's Top 20 Challenge:

July 2013, Amsterdam

There's an untold story here. A story which I, as a passerby, don't know and never will.
That's what captivated me here. It will be forever unknowable, won't it, the reason why this
toy ostrich was abandoned on a front step in a busy city. Where is the child that played with it?
The toy has no means of expression, but its forlorness cried out to me anyway.
The moment made me respond viscerally, and because it was so random, it became special.

I've so enjoyed this challenge. Thank you to Duncan of the Kuantan blog for hosting it, and for the wonderful photographers that shared the best of your 2013 with us. Loved it, and look forward to your Best of 2014 :)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Top Photos of 2013 -- #2

The next-best of 2013 today, on the Kuantan Blog's Top 20 Challenge:

August, 2013
I take my dogs (I have seven, all rescues) to the beach every week.
As far as they're concerned, it's not nearly often enough. They have a blast every time,
and my greatest pleasure in life is watching them bug out and go nuts in the water.
This is Panchita, the first of the seven. This February 1st will make seven years that she's with us.
She used to be terrified of the water, wouldn't even dip a toe.
Look at her now.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Calico Skies

Cannot refuse Ms. Monkey an invitation, now can I? And why would I want to? Fun, short prompts, 500-max words... Why not?

The weather has transformed, and I with it. No more Caribbean sunshine, no more tropical heat, no more happy days. The sky has turned the color of mud, darker--almost black--chunks where the loaded clouds bulge. My edges are dark, too, with anger and hate.

On an island where rain comes in warm five-minute bucketfuls, where the blue bowl of the sky never fades to more than slate, this is the storm of the century. The millennium. The Christian era. The storm of all time, past and future.

And yet the rain doesn't come. The wind, which never stops in these Windward Islands, is still. The rain and the wind are waiting--for me? Or am I waiting for them? The set of knives lies on the counter, gleaming; bars of polished violence at rest. I finger the edge of a wide blade. It's sharp. It's ready.

I'm ready, too.

Top 20 Photos of 2013 -- #3

This is the final stretch of the Kuantan Blog's Top 20 Challenge. I give you #3:

July 2013, Amsterdam

Close-up of ship ropes on the Amsterdam--or, rather, the replica of the Amsterdam,
a 18th-century commercial ship of the Dutch East India Trading Company
(which, not very auspiciously, sank on its maiden voyage to Batavia).

Friday, January 17, 2014

Top 20 Photos of 2013 -- #4

Today's edition of the Kuantan Blog's Top 20 Challenge:

August 2013, Curaçao

Displays of wine at a local wine store. During a wine tasting-slash-farewell to a friend,
I played the paparazzo to wine.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Top 20 Photos of 2013 -- #5

And we come to the top five of the Kuantan Blog's Top 20 Challenge! This is the worst of the best:

July 2013, Holland.

A typesetter's display at the Westfriese Markt (West-Friesian market) in Schagen, Holland.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Top 20 Photos of 2013 -- #6

Today's edition of the Kuantan Blog's Top 20 Challenge:

April 2013, Perú

A glimpse into a courtyard at the Convent of Santa Catalina in Arequipa.
I love how the shadows play on the stone walls, the monotone broken, and then
just barely, by the wooden shelf.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Top 20 Photos of 2013 -- #7

Today's edition of the Kuantan Blog's Top 20 Challenge: #7.

April 2013, Perú. The Museo Larco in the Peruvian capital city, Lima, is full of outstanding
pieces organized in exhibitions that pique the imagination. This one, of weaponry,
makes a powerful, if silent, demonstration with an actual human skull dating from the same era.
Gory. But effective.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Top 20 Photos of 2013 -- #9

We're in single digits now, people--the final stretch in the Kuantan Blog's Top 20 Challenge. Today it's #9:

April 2013, Perú.
I love this photo for two reasons: one, the person in it (I know, I'm queen of corny)
--(Happy birthday, dushi!)--
and two, because it was a total fluke.
This was taken in Arequipa, Perú, inside the convent of Santa Catalina,
in one of the kitchens, a massive room of even more massive walls
with few, small, and very high windows. 

#8 tomorrow is also from the convent.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Top 20 Photos of 2013 -- #10

Today's edition of the Kuantan Blog's Top 20 Challenge brings us to... The top ten! It was so hard to choose, and there's like 100+ pics that I'd have loved to share, but--alas--only ten places are left, and I had to choose the best of the best. Here's #10:

April 2013, Perú. A street dancer with musicians in the background. The photo isn't excellent,
but the joy on the girl's face, and the way the photo captures movement--
makes you imagine the next step, 
makes you want to join in. 
That photography allows me to bring such a moment to you--bizarre, and fantastic.

Come back tomorrow for #9, my favorite portrait of my dushi.

Friday, January 10, 2014

I Think; Therefore, I Yam: The Cold Truth

A Finnish scale of temperatures, with helpful comparisons--for all of us non-Finns--with the rest of Europe. The last line cracks me up every time.

  • +15 --- Spanish wear caps, gloves, and winter coats; Finns are sunbathing.
  • +10 --- French desperately try to get their central heating on; Finns plant flowers.
  • + 5 --- Italian cars won't start; Finns drive convertibles.
  •    0 --- Pure water freezes; water in River Vantaa thickens a bit.
  • - 5 --- First people are found frozen in California; Finnish midsummer festival ends.
  • -10 --- Scots turn the heat on in their houses; Finns start to wear long-sleeved shirts.
  • -20 --- Swedes stay indoors; Finns are having last barbecue before winter.
  • -30 --- Half of the Greek people have been frozen to death; Finns start to dry laundry indoors.
  • -50 --- Polar bears evacuate North Pole; Finnish army starts its winter training.
  • -70 --- Siberians are moving to Moscow; Finns are furious, because their Kiskenkorva liquor can't be stored outdoors anymore.
  • -273 --- Absolute zero; Finns admit that it is quite cold outside.
  • -300 --- Hell freezes over; Finland wins the World Cup.

Visit I Think; Therefore, I Yam: The Cold Truth for more hilarity, including a priceless list headed "How Cold Was It?" It was so cold that... Hitchhikers were holding out pictures of thumbs. Starbucks started selling coffee on a stick. Oh, there's more, much more. Brilliant humor from this marvelous woman who's trying to figure out if she's "a writer who blogs or a blogger who writes"--which, of course, we should *all* be doing.

Top 20 Photos of 2013 -- #11

Today's edition of the Kuantan Blog's Top 20 Challenge:

July 2013, Amsterdam. My brother-in-law listening to his mother answer the judge's question:
Why do you think your son asked you to be a witness to his marriage?
The photo itself isn't special except for the fact that it's among maybe 10 others (of over 60) I shot
that didn't come out blurry. I was shooting without a tripod and without flash (I hate flash), more an
experiment than actual documentation--witness the professional photographer behind the groom.
But it's special--very, very much so--to me because of the moment, the raw emotion.
The little boy inside the man.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Top 20 Photos of 2013 -- #12

Today's edition of the Kuantan Blog's Top 20 Challenge:

April 2013, Perú. At the highest point (4,950 meters above sea level) on the mountain road
between Arequipa and the Cañón del Colca, home of the condors. (Sadly, none of the thousand
condor photos came out well enough to make this Top 20.)

Tomorrow: #11 is one of the few photos from my brother-in-law's wedding I took that
came out well. It made the list because it captured a side of him I didn't know, and probably
won't see again.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Top 20 Photos of 2013 -- #13

#13: Classic car show in Curaçao, April 2013. If this one hadn't come out so dark, it would've made the top 5 for sure, but I like how the shadows make the gleam of the sunset on the metal shine out.

Visit the other Top 20 participants here.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Top 20 Photos of 2013 -- #14

#14: At the West Friesland parade in Schagen (Holland), tradition is kept alive. I love this one because the little girl's excitement is so evident. (July 2013)

Monday, January 6, 2014

The search (words) for Quiet Laughter

Top 20 Photos of 2013 (late as usual)

Hey, I'm Latin. Sorry--that was racist and discriminatory, and pejorative, too, for good measure. You're absolutely right, not all Latins have the elastic sense of time I do. Sorry. I accept full and personal responsibility for my tardiness.

But, uh, better late than never. Right?

I joined The Kuantan Blog's Top 20 Photos bloghop, which means I'll be sharing the best 20 photos I took in 2013 over the first twenty days of January. The idea is to work up to the best photo for 2013 on January 20th, but I'm not sure how good I'll be about keeping the quality increments the other days--it's hard! And, of course, it's totally subjective.

Still, I hope you'll bear with me, and that you'll enjoy the show. Some of the photos are good (for me) in terms of composition or light or general photographical achievement; others because of what they represent, the moment they captured. I look forward to sharing these snippets of my year, and even more to your thoughts.

Without further ado, the first six of the Best Of 2013 Collection. Yes, six, because, like I said, I'm late.

#20: A globe at Amsterdam's Scheepvaartmuseum
(the National Maritime museum). I love how the back edges of
the glass case made a sort of frame for the globe, and how the
reflections (it was glass, not mirrors) play up.
(July 2013, Amsterdam)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

And... My heart stopped.

I'm not a fan of technology. Sure I love my laptop, and my (relatively easy, given I live in an island) access to internet. I love electricity, and downloading whole TV series otherwise unaccessible (I live in an island). I love downloading books, too, although e-readers, like a pragmatic lover, still leave me somewhat unsatisfied. I love my phone, and how easy it is to stay in touch with people: Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook, G+.

But I hate how phones have come to rule our lives. I hate how people jump to them whenever a random piece of trivia comes up: "Who was President in 1964?" "What's the name of that singer that died in...?" "Oh, man, that movie with the guy with the big nose--no, not the French one."

Given the above, it feels contradictory--hypocritical--to admit the first thing I do as I wake up is check my phone. Email. Blogs. Facebook. As I brush my teeth, get into halfway decent clothes (i.e., no pajamas, but close) to go check on the dogs and make my tea. And as I'm doing this, as I'm scrolling through whatever email came in as I slept, whatever notifications Facebook sent me, I'm thinking about hypocrisy, about how it's become so urgent, this needing to know, and why I can't wait the ten minutes it would take to go boot up my computer and do this in a screen that doesn't require so much damn scrolling.

And then there's days like today. Actually, no. There's never been a day like today, but--
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