Stupid Bowl

In which Cammy manages to be completely unaware that it is Superbowl Sunday (and not for the first time).

I really thought I could only manage to do this once in a decade.  Maybe it’s a sign of over-achievement that this has happened twice in less than 5 years.

I get up on Sunday, mid morning (*cough* possibly midafternoon for those of you who didn’t have a night courtesy of antihistamine–damn you sinuses), head to the grocery store because I’m out of everything important (in my world, that means sour cream, cheese, spinach and beer).  The parking lot is abnormally full.  Like, we-are-about-to-have-a-blizzard full.  Only I know that the snow isn’t supposed to be hitting us until Tuesday, which means this is waaaaay too early for everyone in this area to be raiding the bread aisle (why prepare early, when you can create a shit storm rush at the last minute?).

It’s not until after literally waiting in a queue to get to the sour cream that I note the swarm of guys in game-day gear, with buggies full of meat and steak sauce converged on the beer coolers.  They have managed to completely eliminate the supply of anything I’d ever want to drink and a whole lot of what I wouldn’t touch if it were the last alleged beer on Earth (my Daddy raised me with standards.  Natty Ice will never pass these lips…though it is useful for helping break down thatch on a lawn).  WTF was going on?!?

Then I did the math.  It’s cold outside, not Christmas, these are  clearly sports fans…fuck, it’s Superbowl Sunday.

Yeah.  That’s how out of touch with all reality I am.  Several weeks worth of 12 hour days at the bill-paying job, and I haven’t seen any news other than the weather alerts that pop up on my recently acquired phone (which is working spiffily, fuck you, Verizon).  The only TV I’ve seen has been my un-breakable Sunday night date with Downton, and spending the hours leading up to Downton catching up on a new telenovela (Que Pobres Tan Ricos–nothing like a Columbian telenovela exported to Mexico and made more awesome by Rosy Ocampo).  None of which are places I’m likely to hear about professional football.

I’m a little bummed, really.  I like to actively plan an anti-Superbowl (generally with a crap ton of Jane Austen adaptations, and capped off with the Downton Abbey cherry on top).  I suppose my less formal marathon of drooling over Jaime Camil probably works in lieu of British Costume Drama, but I would have liked a little more wallowing in my own rebellion against the American norm.  Although, there’s something truly rebellious about my ability to completely overlook the event to the point that only missing beer is enough to remind me anything is going on at all (and, I still don’t know who’s playing–I just know it’s not Kansas City because that would have been impossible to miss around here).

And so,tomorrow will begin the semi-awkward series of conversations that begin with “Did you see the [insert brand] commercial?!?” and end with me saying, blankly and bluntly, “No.”

Musikalischer Mittwoch: Por Ella, Soy Eva

If the first song of my summer was “Desliz” the second song was definitely “Por Ella, Soy Eva,” theme song to the telenovela I’ve been addicted to.   The show’s (hot) lead, Jaime Camil lends his voice to this one, because apparently the Venn diagram of pop singers and telenovela actors overlaps quite a bit in Mexico: Lucero, Jaime Camil, Thalia….

It was a nice contrast to my other summer song, despite their shared language. “Por Ella Soy Eva” is more obviously upbeat, for one.  Obviously this is appropriate for the theme song to a comedy about a dude cross-dressing to hide from the law.  This upbeat nature also makes it highly appropriate as a summer song.  I can attest that it’s a fantastic song to improve one’s mood on a drive in to work.  It’s also more of a straight pop-piece than the other–an easier sell to those with less of a penchant for regional styles.

I was a little surprised to find myself this taken with a tv theme song.  Even though I’ve encountered other telenovelas with good themes, I hadn’t really expected this one to hold up as a stand-alone song.  After finding it glued in my brain from watching the show, I resigned myself to downloading the entire album from Amazon.com, and I’ll be damned if the theme wasn’t something that plays just as well if you’ve never seen the show.

Mostly, I found it fun to sing along with.  Not easy, mind you, but fun.  There are still parts of the thing I can’t splutter out properly, even after looking up the lyrics (which I found absolutely necessary as the tendency of Spanish music to run together with all the vowels, really made this one a muddle), I still can’t manage to spit out some of the lines.  But it’s not hard to belt out “Porque, por ella, soy Eva, cada paso es una prueba….”

And this summer?  I did.  A lot.

 

Musikalischer Mittwoch: Song of the Summer, No “Mistake”

I’ve met lots of people who have “songs of the summer”–songs that may not lyrically define their summer seasonal experience, but which, for some reason or other, crop up through their summer in a way that renders them part of the essential soundtrack of every warm-weather memory for a given year.  Last year I had Sarah Harmer’s “Captive” and Hey Ocean!’s “Make a New Dance Up.”  One summer in high school it was BNL’s “One Week.”  These songs–and usually it’s only one or two–survive multiple rounds on repeat and become unforgettable parts of our summers.

This year, one of the two songs was “Desliz” a duet from Lucero and Joan Sebastian.  Obviously, Spanish practice via telenovelas with Lucero led me to her music, and, well, I’m never one to avoid good music, no matter what the language. So, I bought the newest album from the Amazon MP3 store.  The whole album (Un Lu*Jo) is a great collecton in total, but “Desliz” just amused the hell outta me.

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Coffee with a Mexican Empress

Would we have coffee with….Empress Carlota?

Cammy: Being on a Mexico kick of late, and having stumbled across the old Bette Davis flick Juarez again recently…sure.  For one thing, there’s the novelty of having coffee with an Empress, magnified by the fact that Empresses in North America are rare indeed.  I’d also like the opportunity to judge for myself how crazy she really was.  I, personally, have my doubts.  I mean, I’m sure there was a mental breakdown there when she realized that she and her hubby Max were being thrown under the bus by their European family,  but after that?  Royal family members may have had her declared insane, and she did live in seclusion until her death, but given the relative sanity of those European royals who left the fledgeling Emperor and Empress of Mexico to hang out to dry, I’m really not sure I trust their assessment that she was that much more nuts than the rest of them.  And let’s talk realities:  Hindsight’s 20/20, so it’s easy to say now that any fool should have turned down that particular job offer, but how much did she and Max expect going in?  Or was this “an offer you can’t refuse” kind of deal from the family back home?  I’m also a little keen to see what she’s got to say about her husband’s family.  She was sister-in-laws with Sissi, and apparently the two didn’t get along well (and Sissi was her own kind of body-image flavor of crazy), but their mother in law liked Charlotte better.  All in all, even if she really is 100% pure-d certifiable crazy, at least that will keep coffee interesting….

Kristy: Yeah, sure. Like Cammy I’d like to know the extent of her crazy. I’m also genuinely interested to hear her impressions of Mexico (besides that part where they executed her husband). She really did try to adopt the country and yet was supposedly so homesick they remodeled part of Mexico City for her. Not that those two things are incompatible, I’d just like to hear her opinions from her. And crazy or not this woman lived through a lot of history and rubbed elbows with a lot of famous people–I’m sure she can tell you lots of stories. Assuming she’s sane enough to remember them.

Movie Review: Zapata – El sueño del héroe

Title: Zapata – El sueño del héroe (2004)

Writer/Director: Alfonso Arau

Cammy: In my procurement of media to assist in my Spanish practice, I wound up with a copy of the relatively-recent Mexican feature film,  Zapata – El sueño del héroe.  When I bought the DVD a few months ago I watched the first, maybe 5 minutes and was completely lost.  The thing had NO English subtitles and my Spanish clearly wasn’t up to par to tackle this one.  I mean, there were Spanish subtitles in those first minutes, but I was connecting none of what I was hearing to what I was reading.

Months later, after a LOT of telenovela viewing, I felt a little better, but I still thought it would be smart to bring it with me on my visit to Kristy and watch it with her.  For one, her Spanish is vastly better than mine after years of classes, a degree in Latin American studies and two summers in Latin American countries.  For another, that same degree in Latin American studies meant that her over-all knowledge of the history of Emiliano Zapata was likely to be way better than mine.  Just like she helped prop me up through University Spanish, I was going to depend on her again!

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Would we drink coffee with Emiliano Zapata?

Kristy: Yeah. Though, and I’m not positive why I think this, I think coffee would probably be a quiet affair. He always sort of struck me as the strong silent one out of the Mexican Revolutionary generation. Maybe it’s all those images of him sitting soberly next to a laughing Pancho Villa. He also seems to be one of the revolutionary leaders least tainted by corruption–possibly because he died so early. So I’d like to have coffee with him just to see if my mythologized version is remotely close to the actual thing. I’d also like to ask him a few questions: what does he think of the end result of the Revolution? Is he satisfied with the reforms they instituted or does he think they failed? How does he feel about the problems currently facing Mexico?

Cammy: I’m not entirely sure yet…on the one hand, it’s coffee with a revolutionary, and, well, that in and of itself is interesting.  On the other hand, it’s coffee with a revolutionary, and that’s also kind of intimidating (and I’m not totally convinced it would be a quiet affair myself).  Like Kristy, I really want to hear what he’d have to say about Mexico’s current situation (I’m half expecting that we’d hear something to the tune of, “Well, no duh they have problems.  They STILL haven’t ever completely enacted my plan for land reforms!”).  I might have a better idea of what else to quiz him on once I watch one of the movies about him (procured mostly because it’s a chance to watch a costume drama in Spanish and partly because it has someone from the telenovela I’ve been watching), although I guess that alone begs the question of how he feels being mythologized….

Coffee on Mango Street

Would we drink coffee with Sandra Cisneros?

Kristy:  Sure.  I kind of feel like I owe her at least a cup since Cammy and I met the third Reina Protestante, Mary, in a class where one of our big assignments was reading The House on Mango Street.  I also wrote one of my first grad school papers on “Woman Hollering Creek.”  I enjoy her writing because she’s one of too few (IMO) contemporary writers who write stories you can enjoy as casual reading that also have a rich deeper layer waiting to be explored if you so wish.  That balancing act isn’t easy and I think she does it well.  She’s also spent a lot of her life teaching and I’m curious to know whether that was a deliberate choice or just something to pay the bills.  Regardless, I’m interested in her views on education and a whole host of other issues.

Cammy:  Sure thing.  Anyone who chooses to live in San Antonio, Texas already stands a fairly good chance of being worth talking to.  And, as Kristy said, we totally met Mary in a class where we had to read The House On Mango Street.  Only it was La Casa en Mango Street for that class, and it was the first full book I ever read in Spanish (prior to that, the longest thing I’d read was a play).  For my part, I’d love to talk to her about her life going back and forth from Chicago to Mexico.  Nothing like a nomadic back-and-forth-between-worlds life to give a writer fodder for life.  I’m not sure I’d be able to hold up my end of the conversation as well as Kristy, but I’d be delighted to share a cup of coffee and listen in.

Gringas Guide to Telenovelas

It’s becoming clearer and clearer that US run television stations are not interested in even trying to keep daytime dramas alive.  Prime time is full of soap opera-y shows but if I may say so, many of them are… what’s the word… appallingly bad.  Which means that the one place left for us to turn is the delicious world of telenovelas.  Fortunately, it is an extremely delicious world.  As I once explained to a friend–Latin cheese is spicier.  And doesn’t mess around with any of that low-fat crap.

But even though the word “telenovela” is generally translated “soap opera” they aren’t exactly the same.  If you’re going to dive into this strange new world there are some things you should know.  Don’t worry, It’s My TV, It’s My Peanut Butter is here to help.

Before we go further let me admit upfront some of this information is dated.  I live in a horrible, horrible place where the only Spanish language channel you can get without paying exorbitant extra monthly fees is Gol TV.  So I haven’t been able to watch telenovelas in several years.  Fortunately Telemundo is apparently looking at increasing their online offerings, so there may be hope for me.

“But wait, Kristy!” you say, “Grande problemo!  I don’t speak Spanish!”  First of all, it’s “problema.”  Second of all, you should learn Spanish.  If for no other reason than being able to act superior and say, “You know, Shakira’s Spanish language stuff was soooo much better.”  Third of all, no hay problema.  You don’t really need to know Spanish.  You can figure out the gist of things without it.    And you can still enjoy the hot shirtless men.  Did I mention the hot shirtless men?  Why are you not watching these already?  But to help you out, here are a few key Spanish words and phrases that they might not have taught you in high school Spanish, but which are important for understanding telenovelas:

“engañar” “to deceive” In telenovelas a lot of people get engañado.  It’s usually key to the plot.  This word may often be used as a euphemism for “cheated on.”

“cualquiera”  One of my favorites though it sadly seems to be falling out of favor.  Literally it means “whatever” but in this form it’s usually used to refer to a woman.  A woman who is something so low you don’t even want to say it.  Because the word probably wouldn’t get past the censors.  Example:  Me engañaste con esa… cualquiera! (You deceived me with that… whatever!)

“amante” “Lover”  Don’t think I need to explain why this one is important.

“La SIDA” “AIDS”  Back in 2000 every Peruvian telenovela I saw had at least one character who contracted AIDS.  That plotline seems to have fallen by the wayside, probably because it interferes too much with the sexypants times.

“de época” This is a term used to describe a certain variety of novelas that take place in a different historical era.  They are their own brand of scrumptious.

“mujer decente” A woman of upstanding moral character.  Often our heroine is una mujer decente, but this is less of an absolute than it once was.

“Un trago fácil” Literally “an easy drink.”  Here it means metaphorically the opposite of “Una mujer decente.”

“casa chica”  The place where a man keeps his mistress and her kids.  Keep in mind that last time I checked a man in Mexico could put his mistress and her kids on his health insurance policy.  Casa chicas are an institution.

Okay… other things you need to know.

1.  Telenovelas tell one story.  One horribly convoluted story, but like a novel, they have a beginning, middle and an end.  They are by design finite and rarely last more than a year.

2.  Because telenovelas tell only one story, sometimes it’s expedient to skip ahead twenty years.  They do not recast the adult characters with older versions, so don’t question why said characters have aged remarkably well.  Usually shows are kind enough to give you some visual cue that the characters have aged:  men may grow or lose facial hair, women may straighten their hair or start wearing it up.

3.  Sometimes one character in the middle of a large family will be obviously Eastern European.  No, this is not a sign that she (it’s usually a she) is the child of a Russian milkman.  You are simply meant to accept this.  I’m quite certain this is somehow Trotsky’s fault.

4.  The maid generally knows everything.  For this reason the “nice” characters are usually smart enough to befriend said maids.  The “bad” characters are usually dismissive of them.  Fools.

5.  Do NOT over think the costuming in novelas de época. You’re supposed to be having fun not commenting that a certain style of petticoat didn’t become fashionable till twenty years later.  The most amusing thing about the costuming is that characters only wear period style undergarments when that is all they’re wearing.  So get used to seeing our heroine wearing some 19th century gown, clearly not wearing a corset, then suddenly wearing nothing but a corset.

6.  Telenovela theme songs are frequently earworms.  Sometimes they are better than the novela itself.  (See:  Vias del amor)

7.  The same telenovelas are frequently remade between different countries.  The first telenovela I really followed, Cuando seas mía was a Mexican remake of a Columbian telenovela Café con el olor de mujer.  (Best title ever!)

8.  It was not so long ago that the “good” girl on telenovelas did not have sex before marriage.  That’s less and less the case, but it’s still considered “bad” for a girl to have premarital sex.  Said rule doesn’t apply so much to the menfolk.  But more and more we seem to be getting the “bad girl” heroines who start off skanky then become one man women.

9.  You can wear a micro-mini skirt and still be a good girl.  You can sometimes show cleavage without sacrificing your virtue.  But if a woman wears shorts she is clearly a slut.

10.  If you watch American soaps you’re familiar with the powerful, rich, patriarch stock character.  The Asa Buchanans, the Palmer Courtlands, the Adam Chandlers (let’s have a moment of silence for them).  These guys still exist in telenovelas, but they have a stock female counterpart.  The power/money hungry matriarch.  She usually has an emasculated husband.  She is frequently evil.

11.  All women want babies.  If a woman does not want babies it is either because she is bad or because she is confused and doesn’t realize she desperately wants babies.

12.  Mexican men always have sex with their secretaries.  Clearly this statement is not entirely true, but keep that in mind when the woman constantly gives her husband’s secretary the stink eye.

13.  American or English men are almost always somewhat effeminate.  Live with it.

14.  Telenovelas make more of an effort to appeal to men than American soaps.   The downside of this is fewer women with an achievable, girl-next-door look.  The upside is they still have plenty of super hot shirtless men.

15.  Ranching in Mexico seems to consist of men riding around shirtless on horseback a lot.  I would totally live on a ranch in Mexico if I lived in a telenovela.

16.  Death is slightly more permanent in telenovelas than it is in soap operas or comic books, but only slightly.  And keep in mind, even if the hot guy dies in the first episode, he can still come back as his ambiguously evil secret agent identical twin.  When he does he will probably have a goatee so you know about his moral ambiguity.

17.  In the end, things will almost always end up the way they should.  Evil will be punished, good will be rewarded, and the girl will get the boy.

People History Screwed Over: La Malinche

Welcome, gentle and not-so-gentle readers, to a new, highly irregular series here at It’s My TV, It’s My Peanut Butter.  I like to call it “People who got screwed by history.”  Tonight we explore the life and times of La Malinche (aka Malintzin Tenepal).

Facts about la Malinche are hard to come by, and those that we have are basically all contested in one way or another, but the basic story of her life, as best we can put it together is as follows:

She was born into an aristocratic family in a Nahautl (that’s Aztec to you gringos) speaking tribe, but was sold into slavery to a Maya group.  Then she was given with a bunch of other girls as a gift to Hernán Cortés when he invaded.  If you’re keeping track, she was fifteen years old and had already been traded as property twice.  She was also bilingual.  Cortés found this to be helpful being as he had someone with his group who spoke Spanish and Maya, but no one who spoke Nahuatl.  He was plotting to conquer the Aztecs, and it’s always helpful to have someone who can translate, just so people know they’re being conquered.  Clearly Malinche (that’s the name that got written down.  We’re pretty sure that’s not actually her name, but we have no clue what said actual name was.) fit well into said evil plans.

She wound up acting as Cortés’s translator during the conquest of Mexico, and if you’re thinking “translator” is some kind of euphemism, you have good instincts.  She also had a son with Cortés named Martín.  Eventually, Cortés had her married off to one of his lieutenants, Juan Jaramillo.  They had a daughter and she disappeared from history but is believed to have died young.  All round the poor girl had a fairly lousy life.

So you’d think history would show her a little sympathy.

Yeah… not so much.

Instead she gets called “La Chingada” (vaguely “a woman who’s been raped and liked it”).  To be Malinchista is to be a Mexican woman who is trying to be a gringa.  She’s accused of betraying her people to the Europeans (clearly this fifteen year old girl should have gone up against the Spanish army).  Strangely the warriors from other tribes who actually took up arms to help the Spanish fight the Aztecs don’t get blamed at all.  Nope.  Let’s pin it all on the chick.

Long story short, girl had a crappy life and then had the hell beaten out of her by history.

There’s some hope.  Mexican feminists have been calling “Bullshit” for the last half century or so and have made some progress in redeeming her memory.  But they have a lot of work left to be done.

If there’s a lesson to take away from her story it’s this:  History prefers martyrs to survivors.  And as long as most history books are written by men, everything that can will be pinned on a woman.

Like Chocolate for Kristy… A Review

Like Water for Chocolate (1992)

Director: Alfonso Arau

Writer: Laura Esquivel (writer and screenplay)

Summary: Tita is cursed by family tradition to never marry and to spend her life caring for her mother.  Unable to marry her her true love Pedro marries her older sister so that he can be close to her.  Spending most of her life in the kitchen, Tita learns the power that food has to impact the emotions.

Things I liked: I’ll confess the novel is something of a guilty pleasure ever since I read it in and undergraduate Spanish class.  I love food and I love soap opera, so this movie was kind of made for me.  Lumi Cavazos who plays Tita is delightful—she has a wonderfully expressive face, and I like the fact that she’s beautiful, but not typically so.  I didn’t love Marco Leonardi as Pedro, but this could just be that I don’t love Pedro.  The movie gives a clearer picture of Gertrudis’s character than the book did and the actress who played her (Claudette Maillé) was fantastic.  Mama Elena may be a super bitch from hell, but you get why she became this way.  She had to raise a family and run a ranch all alone under very harsh conditions.  It’s no wonder she would become harsh herself.  The portrayal of Dr. Brown (Mario Iván Martínez) as the nerdy American makes me giggle a little at first, and yet, I still wind up wanting Tita to end up with him.  His American accent is far from flawless, but I’ll let it pass.  I’m not sure why American men in Mexican cinema tend to come off as slightly gay, but Dr. Brown definitely does.  Honestly the movie is a little prudish by Mexican standards.  A couple of booby shots, but that’s it.  I love the very end.  It’s all about women and tradition and food—three of my favorite things!

Things I didn’t love: A very minor thing, but I find it somewhat strange that there were no subtitles on the credits (I’m more or less fluent in Spanish, but I don’t necessarily know film terminology, so this was mildly vexing).  I almost felt like the food looked too realistic which at times makes it look unappetizing.  Given the magical quality of Tita’s cooking, I think they could have gotten away with making it a little more pretty.  It seems as though in period films and telenovelas in Mexico they only use period style undergarments when they know they’re going to be seen.  This drives me nuts, but this film is definitely no exception.  I’m fairly certain the only corset in the whole damn movie is the one Gertrudis hangs over the side of the shower.  The moment in which Tita finds out the truth about Gertrudis’s parentage might be a little confusing for anyone who hadn’t read the book—it might be too subtle.  The transition from talk of Tita and John’s wedding to Esperanza and Alex’s was clever, but perhaps the sort of thing that’s over done.  Granted, it’s been eighteen years since this movie came out, so maybe it was a little less trite then.  The part where Tita and Pedro die was also a little confusing, though it’s one of those scenes that is inherently hard to make visual.  I think it might have helped to have our female narrator come in and read the sequence out of the book.

Rating: Though it looks like there are more things I dislike about the movie than like, that’s not true.  3 ¾/5 jars of peanut butter