Category: Rants


Jazz is Not a Punchline?

So, here’s this video.


My main issue with the movie La La Land is how Seb, the character played by Gosling, is so preoccupied with saving jazz. He wants (what modern jazz musicians would call “straight ahead jazz”, because it’s what is historically the most “jazz” sounding jazz that is still played today, even though fusion, latin, and funk and rock-influenced varieties of the genre, not to mention stuff like Haitian Jazz and the ways in which jazz has been embraced by soul, gospel, and world music traditions, are probably reaching a peak of popularity, and are more than well and alive today) to be “saved,” preferably by him.

Now, I get it. Gosling is making a joke at how this is how the world reacted to him, by sarcastically noting Seb’s ambition to save “jazz,” without caring what people of color had to say about it, even though no jazz musician would tell you that jazz is dead. But this monologue not only reminds us of how flawed Seb’s intentions and worldview are, but it gets away with not really apologizing for treating jazz as a punchline.

See, jazz is thriving because of people who care about it. It might not be in the mainstream, and it might not sound or look a whole lot like what it did in 1959, but it’s not exactly dying. And sure, there’s more amplified and electronics based and augmented instrumentation, and more comingling with other genres, but jazz is doing great. It’s not something to be saved (though it’s not exactly in the mainstream, constantly like it might’ve been in its hey-day), and it’s especially not something to be treated like a punchline to a really awful joke.

Jazz is my worldview, my lens to see the world. I am Mexican, American, a jazz musician, a student, and a catholic. My being fits into these five identities, give or take a few things. But Jazz is at the center of my existence. It is neither a joke nor a dead entity in need of saving.

If you disagree, then that’s fine. Maybe I’m just a musician. Maybe jazz is dead. Maybe I’m seriously in the wrong here. But let me at cry at the wake myself. My eulogy might begin with





A Moment of Simple Bliss

I know I haven’t written in a while. I know that things have been hectic, and I’ve dealt with a lot in the last month since I’ve posted.

But, right now, I’m feeling… happy.

I just got back from an impromptu coffee date at one of my new favorite coffee shops (because it’s open 24/7) with one of my “new” close friends. We had a good time, talking, making jokes, and now I’m home, drinking sweet tea, catching up on Parks and Recreation (great show, by the way), and I feel it. I feel the sort of happiness that has been eluding me for the past month. I feel so content, in my choices, in my actions, and in the love I’ve received.

And I’ve received a lot of love, lately. I’ve been talking a lot to my parents, I’ve been getting lots of support from friends and teachers and others, and lots of kindness from strangers as well. But it’s also been difficult. There’s been a lot of stress, lately, and lots of change that I’ve been trying to navigate. My 18 credit semester is catching up to me, and I’m beginning to wish that I hadn’t said “yes” to as many extra-curriculars as I have.

Now I’m in the midst of Holy Weekend, which means lot of church, the week before Hell Tech Week, after which I have a weekend of shows (for the Musical I’m in, and also the reason for Tech week), a performance of the national anthem at a Lacrosse game, my confirmation into the Catholic Church, a voice recital I’m participating in, my audition for the performance major at my school, and then my MC/DJing an event for the Violence Prevention office at my school.

But that cup of chai, those moments of laughter tonight, coupled with the driving, and singing, and watching Netflix afterwards… I feel okay with all of this. I feel the kind of warmth that I usually need whiskey in order to feel. Everything is… okay. But it’s better than okay. It’s good. I’m good. Thank you, friend. Thank you, parents. Thank you world. Thank you, God.


Controversial Topics…

Sometimes I feel myself biting my tongue in conversations about “controversial topics.” Which is funny, because so many people consider me outspoken when it comes to “controversial topics.” Yes, I have many opinions, but that’s not really what I like to say, or even when I want to say. Opinions don’t really mean much to me, on their own.

Opinions are only worthwhile, especially when it comes to these “controversial topics,” when we take into consideration what’s forming these opinions. What are the ethos, pathos, and logos behind an argument. What about the pragmatics of it all, aka: Why should I care?

First of all, let’s make sure that we all know what I’m talking about when I say “controversial topics.” I’m not talking about The New England Patriots, and their deflating of footballs, because Football is just a game. It’s a game I enjoy, but I understand it’s just a game, and it’s entertainment. Should a team be cheating? No, of course not, but for me to say that something like a discussion on deflated footballs has as much weight in my mind as systematic racial inequality, poverty in America, gun violence, police brutality, the treatment in our society of minority groups, immigration, extreme nationalism, the portrayal of minority groups in various media, and how divided our society chooses to be in relation to all of these topics is ludicrous.

But that’s not where I bite my tongue.

I bite my tongue when I’m around others whose beliefs differ. As important as I think that it is to feel uncomfortable when that discomfort can lead to change, I still often give people passes on feeling uncomfortable. And I’m ashamed of myself.

How can I get behind a computer screen, and say all I want? How can I not also take that tenacity and confidence to my daily, real life, interactions?

I don’t bite my tongue saying what I feel. I bite my tongue when I realize that what I said makes someone else uncomfortable. But then there’s no dialogue. There’s no chance for real understanding. I can’t make my connection, of having others understand why I feel so strongly about my convictions. They’re not simply “logical assumptions,” but they are the result of what I have learned, and what I have experienced. They are both the pathos of the things I have witnessed firsthand, and the logos of what is logical, moral, correct. The ethos comes also from my own learnedness, but of what others believe, of what our society values and holds dear, and how sometimes the actions of our society, and the individuals in it, contradict those same values.

The pragmatism is a result of others seeing that, if things were different, these things wouldn’t be, and our society would be better because there would be no place for unnecessary suffering. The pragmatism is that we all benefit from living in a more just, empathetic, loving society.

But I can’t get those words out when I see others feeling uncomfortable. Though I so badly want to say these things. My inner self is torn.

Yet I am forced to feel uncomfortable. I am forced to listen to Donald Trump, as he slowly marches towards the Republican nomination, and his hatred. His illogical rhetoric. His lack or empathy, caring, or understanding for those whom he labels ever so blatantly as “the other.” His special brand of extremism is that which rallies others to not think about others in a way that maintains their value as human persons, but instead pushes people to think for the good of this America that is locked in our collective consciousness. An America that is exclusively white.

This is an America that does not value the contributions of my brother, my mother and father, or myself. This is an America that does not value the contributions of Mexican Americans, who hail as “immigrants” to this country (though that fact in itself is highly debatable). This is the America that sees everyone who is not Christian as not worthy of being American, although Muslims and Christians believe in the same God (a theological fact which Trump wouldn’t ever try to dispute).

This is an America that is fine with a young Mexican American male student, who is on the phone with his mother, to whom he speaks Spanish, though both of them know how to speak English, being harassed by several older white men at a convenience store, telling him to, “learn to speak Goddamn English,” and to, “go back to Mexico,” and then when he rushes outside is followed out to his car, to be continued to be harassed, called “illegal,” “dirty Mexican,” “fucking wetback,” stupid beaner,” and many other awful things.

This is an America that is okay with this sort of treatment towards a young, hardworking, Mexican American boy, attending the only college he could afford to attempt to make a positive impact on his community, and on his society at large. But this is an America that trains that same boy to be silent when his own opinions are uncomfortable to those who benefit from living in this America.

Well, I for one am ashamed for playing into this America. There is no room for me in this fabricated America. And how do I know this America is not the real America, though it so obviously has such a strong hold on how we act, and how we are treated. Well, if this America were real, there would be no place for me. Yet I’m still here.

I am ashamed because I have willingly played into a fabricated America.


Look at this Movie Trailer

So, here’s a movie trailer, for a movie called Desierto.

It’s being directed by Alfonso Cuarón, and stars Gael García Bernal as “a father crossing into the United States to reunite with his son.

Now, I don’t yet know how to feel about it. Cuarón has previously directed GravityY Tu Mamá También, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and though I wasn’t fully thrilled with Gravity (I believe when I watched it, and it probably exists in text messages between Brielle and me, I called it “the greatest, most expensive deodorant commercial ever made”), it was still visually striking and very well directed. The other two movies are also both amazing, for very different reasons, though the directing has been consistently top notch.

I’m also a big fan of García Bernal, and all of the awesome work he’s been a part of, including Amazon Prime’s Mozart in the Jungle, which got it’s second season released about a week ago. It’s wonderful to see people that looks like me, in a lot of ways, finding great success in the entertainment industry. But the concept of the movie is what I find a big unnerving?

So many people have opinions on the subject of immigration, and I don’t want a movie to be but a simple response to the opinions that differ from our own. I also feel that, though I personally don’t like the idea of minute men, this movie might seem to demonize them. It also seems like it’s taking a topic that’s very real, and very personal, and attempting to make a sort of horror/thriller out of it.

Of course, we’re talking about just a trailer, and this trailer is about as much as I actually know about the movie, but I guess I just don’t want this movie to get too caught up in the story telling, to the point that it doesn’t reflect a reality that many people experience, without at least giving us a sense that these are real issues. It’s very easy in comedy to push things to extremes, which is why satire can be a very useful tool to open up opportunities for dialogue. But horror/thrillers can be a trickier route to navigate.

I hope that Cuarón and García Bernal do a fantastic job, because I look up to both of them, and I especially appreciate them creating a story that speaks more so to my own experience than necessarily a Gravity, a Harry Potter, or even a Mozart in the Jungle. I hope that this movie opens up great opportunities for dialogue and social action, and also a route to more Latino Filmmakers and Actors and such making more films and television shows and such that speak to the experiences of Latinos in this country, more so than just a story about the border, though the Latino side of this story is definitely one that needs to be told.


When Death Allows Room for Life

When I was first writing this post, I titled it, “The Death of the American Dream.” Do I believe that? I’m not sure, that depends on definitions. But , I realized, that that’s not what I wanted to write about.  It’s no a  eulogy that was that goal, but instead the acknowledgment of one particular thing: there is a certain feeling of Death around our country’s current political climate, and that’s disturbing. Why is it disturbing? Because we’re so focused on separations.

Now, I’m not saying that separation isn’t important. Labels and such are important because they speak to our experience. I hate when people say, “I don’t see color,” because that’s a form of racism. Why would someone say to me that they don’t see me as brown? I see me as brown, hell, I LIVE me as brown. I appreciate the effort to not try to discriminate against me, but instead of just assuming that I don’t want you to acknowledge my race as your decision (I mean, a white person doesn’t just SAY to another white person, “I don’t see color,” unless there’s either mention or inference of a person of color), or to do anything else in regards to me, for the matter, without asking me what I want.

We spend so much time traveling in our own minds, thinking we know what’s best (in regards to everything and everyone), we forget that we don’t know everything, and that there’s an entire world out there for us to learn from. Without asking someone, and talking to them, and truly knowing them, there’s no way for us to know what’s best for them. It’s through talking with them, living with them in their experience, and usually also explicitly asking what’s best that we can learn how to begin to help.

Don’t tell me you don’t see color, because I need you to know that my color (brown) is very intimately linked to my experience. And of course, I’m so much more than Brown, I’m also Jesuit Educated, a musician, a college student, a fan of Hip Hop music, a lover of Anime, a former lover of a (partially) white woman, and so so so so so much more. I am so freaking much. But Brown is still a part of that.

When I say we’re focusing too much on separations, I’m saying there’s no balance. We’re not talking enough about what makes us similar. My differences are JUST as important my the similarities to you. Our political climate brings us to focus on how we’re all different, and that separation, without the acknowledgment of our similarities, leads to disparity (and hate).

Our political climate has led to a sort of death.

But in that death, and the anger and confusion, I have found new life.

That new life is in this video.

Now, don’t get it twisted. I’m not saying that I’m a Bernie Sanders supporter, but I am interested in his narrative: he’s talking about stuff that no other Presidential political candidate is talking about. He’s moving in a radically different direction, and I want to learn more.

In this video, he talks to Killer Mike, arguably the reigning King of Hip Hop, and half of the internationally renowned duo, Run the Jewels. Killer Mike is running this video, which is one of 6, all of which are worth checking out.

In the death of the current political climate in our country, I’ve found a new life, in the form of a 40 year old rapper for Atlanta and a 75(?) year old Senator from Vermont talking about making genuine connections with people.