Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Birdman: Existentialist Selfie

I like Alejandro G. Iñárritu's directorial work, and a movie starring Michael Keaton was a plus. A trusted friend had seen Birdman in Telluride and gave it high marks. Off to the movies!
Keaton's work has grown darker, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Would he be the antic Beetlejuice? Or, the square-jawed, somewhat reluctant patriarch of Batman? Y'know, the daddy who makes it clear that nobody else is capable of saving the world so he'll have to do it? The story rushed headlong into all the hard questions revolving around love, death and what gives life meaning, but they were overlain with the pop culture vagaries that make everything and everyone seem shallow these days.
The movie opens with Riggan (Michael Keaton) in his backstage dressing room floating cross-legged with his back to us. I rolled with it and marveled less at his yogic weightlessness than with the question of whether he knows one of his shoulders is higher than the other and if it's painful. The camera holds steady, tightening in, for perhaps the longest scene in the movie.
This was a relatively peaceful moment . . . except for the voice which irritatingly dominates Riggan. We've all heard that voice, the one telling us to doubt ourselves. Riggan is a loveless actor staking his life and reputation on Broadway in a production of Raymond Carver's, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. The voice is telling him to abandon this theatrical exercise in "art" and return to the sure celebrity of his movie star roles.


Death is not a member of the cast, but Riggan has heard its call. He wants his life to have meaning, but he is so not living in the moment. He reminds his ex-wife that "Farrah Fawcett died on exactly the same day as Michael Jackson," but no one noticed. Riggan does not want to be a Farrah Fawcett Footnote after he's gone.

His just out of rehab daughter (Emma Stone) screams at him that he doesn't even have a Twitter account or a Facebook page, therefore his existence is nil. His love of self prevents him from giving her any credibility or feeling the love standing right in front of him. She sets up a Twitter account for him which garners over 80,000 hits. If Riggan had only listened to her, he could have self-actualized with selfies and lived online into perpetuity.


 The voice follows Riggan down narrow and twisting backstage hallways that are shadowed and not so clean. It quiets only when he is onstage. There he wrestles with dramatic egos other than his own. Lesley (Naomi Watts) is happy to finally be on Broadway and is not about to have the experience ruined by her boyfriend Mike (Edward Norton), who eerily echoes Riggan's vacuousness regarding love. His method acting means he's impotent except onstage. Riggan's lawyer and manager, Brandon Vander Hey (Zach Galifianakis) is a practical breath of fresh air in the stale oxygen residues left behind by other people. Cinematic, albeit satirical, references to superheroes and the actors who played them abound. At one point, Mike wonders if they'll replace him with Ryan Gosling. This is after he's flashed his six-pack for the viewer.

Is Riggan experiencing existential angst or is he just crazy? Sartre said that life has no meaning...that it's up to each of us to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that we assign to it. Personal love, the love between humans didn't matter to Riggan. They weren't as real to him as fame. He chose fame and went out with a blaze of glory . . . and lots of twitter hits.

Friday, October 17, 2014

BOOK SIGNING IN BURBANK

 Book Signing at Burbank Library, October 18.

 Sandra Ramos O’Briant, author of The Sandoval Sisters’ Secret of Old Blood, will meet readers and sign books at the 
Burbank Public Library, 300 N. Buena Vista Street in Burbank, California on Saturday, October 18 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The Sandoval Sisters’ Secret of Old Blood received two awards in 2013: Best Historical Fiction and Best First Book, (ILBA, 2013).

Visitors can meet over 50 authors in person, browse books, buy books, and enter to win a Kindle Fire! 

Ms. O'Briant appears as part of the Local Authors’ Showcase, a presentation of the Burbank Public Library. The event is free and open to all.




 Copies of The Sandoval Sisters will be available for purchase.   If you already    have a copy,bring it along and have it signed!

  All proceeds from the sale will be donated to the library.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Adventure #1: Mexico, 1967

My best friends and I drove a '60 Chevy from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Mexico City, Guadalajara and Acapulco during winter break in 1967. Not only did I turn 18 on the trip, but my bff's were all guys: Arturo, from Juarez; Donald, from Española, NM; and, Hugo, from Venezuela. We liked to dance salsa in the rec room of the girl's dorm. I accepted the invitation to join them on the road trip without hesitation. My first adventure as an adult was about to happen. 
Before your imagination goes dark, or brightens with anticipation, you should know that I left Albuquerque a virgin and returned intact. The sexual revolution was in full throttle and the Pill was readily available. But I wasn't. 
I had more important matters on my mind, like planning my wardrobe for the trip. I wanted a bikini, but couldn't find one in Albuquerque. No worries, we were going to Acapulco! What better place to buy my first bikini? The itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny bikini hadn't hit the fashion pages yet; bikinis were more like hip-huggers. 

In those days, I was thin and flat-chested so I cut up a padded bra and brought along large safety pins to secure the cups to the inside of the top. Part of my meager savings also went toward high fashion-purple wide-leg lounge pants, a matching top and a head scarf which could be tied around my hips. 
Far out!
2014-10-06-headscarf.jpg2014-10-06-palazzopants2.jpg





In the '60s, the roads in Mexico were not all paved and there were few signs indicating which way to go. One moonless night, we got behind a bus with a sign saying it was heading for Mexico City. We ate its dust all the way into the smoggy capital, checked into a youth hostel and slept soundly until the city awoke with a clamor I'd never before encountered. No matter; I was traveling and took it all in hungrily. Speaking of eating, I also ate everything the guys ate and drank the water without hesitation. 
That first day, we visited the Museo Nacional de Antropología, which was just like the National Geographic pictures I'd lingered over as a kid. Of course we traveled out to the Teotihuacan Pyramids. We took the next available bus heading to the pyramids. Our bus gave us a villager's view of the back way to get there. We exited the paved highway and traveled on a dirt road where there was the occasional mud hut. A naked toddler exited one and pooped in front of his home. A man sat nearby smoking a cigarette. An industrial building sat alone in another section. It had a chain-link fence around it and the only sidewalk in the area running along the front. The yard was dirt. An old woman swept the sidewalk clean, but the bus churned up dust as we passed. She reached the end of the sidewalk, turned and swept in the opposite direction. 
At last, we reached Teotihuacan. We raced up the steps of the Pyramid of the Sun and raised our arms to the sky in youthful triumph. 
2014-10-06-tepyrsun.jpg
Next stop: Acapulco and my new bikini. 
The skies cleared, but the day grew hot and muggy. There was no air conditioning in the car. We stopped to buy tacos and fruit from a street vendor. Across the way, children frolicked naked in a stream. Hot and sweaty, I joined them in shorts and brought along a bar of Dial soap. It was refreshing to be clean again. I was clean, wasn't I?
In Acapulco, we stayed in a beautiful hilltop hotel. The guys didn't want me to go anywhere alone, but I insisted on shopping without a male chaperone. On the walk back to the hotel, two boys about my age headed in my direction. As they passed, one of them grabbed my crotch. I screamed and swung my bag with the bikini at him. They laughed and walked on, slapping each other on the back.

My adventure buddies shook their heads and tsk-tsked at the risk I'd taken. They were in love with me and I was in love with their love. Undaunted, we danced that night at the Tequila a Go-Go. Yes, I am so old I danced at the precursor to disco.

At around 4 a.m., we loitered on the curb outside the club and my friends befriended a taxi driver. The cabbie promised us something unusual. We piled in and he took us far out of the city.
We traveled on an unpaved road to an unlit area. In the distance, dim light outlined crudely assembled shanties. People -- male tourists -- roamed a rutted lane with the structures on either side. Women sat outside the huts and beckoned us in. Light seeped out through gaps in the walls of the tiny casitas. There were no street lamps or power lines visible so the light must have been from candles or kerosene lamps. Tall, blond Nordic-looking men dressed in tennis whites peeked through the gaps at what was going on inside.

I sat in the middle of the back seat of the taxi with Donald and Hugo on either side of me. Arturo sat in the front seat next to the driver, who slowed so that we could see what was offered. A middle-aged woman beckoned us with a graceful sweep of her arm. The taxi paused. She lifted her skirt and spread her legs wide.
In unison, without consulting one another, every guy in the taxi except the driver pressed the lock button on his door. Ha! My friends were innocents, too. The sun was coming up when we returned to our lovely tiled rooms high on a hill overlooking Acapulco Bay.

Sleep mattered little, but we managed to sneak in a few hours before heading to Revolcadero Beach, where thunderous waves pounded into shore. I had never bodysurfed in my life. Nevertheless, I swam out with my pals. A high shimmering wall of water towered over us. I dove into it as the guys had instructed, fully expecting a pleasant ride to shore. 
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The water seized me and curled my body into an O, spinning me in circles until it spit me out on the beach. I stood as the water withdrew and looked down at my bikini. My padded inserts still clung to the giant safety pins, but now hung below my bikini top. Before I had a chance to tuck them back in, a wave slammed into me and dragged me out, then whirled me to shore again. When I stood this time, the padded inserts andthe giant safety pins were gone. 
I spent the rest of the afternoon lounging on the sand in all my unpadded and crumpled glory. We ate dinner there, a round fish cooked by a little old lady over a campfire. 
It was time to head home. We'd planned a visit to Guadalajara, where Arturo had relatives. We stayed in that first night, but the next evening we went out to an upscale nightclub. I wore my glamorous purple outfit. They wouldn't let me in because women weren't allowed to wear pants! The guys argued vehemently with the management in Spanish and I was finally allowed entrance. It occurs to me now that they may have bribed them.
The music was love sung by an older gentleman whose name I don't recall. The lyrics were filled with longing. He closed his eyes while he sang. His posture and every wrinkle on his face expressed loss and regret. Spanish was the language my grandparents spoke, but I wasn't fluent. Still, his meaning was clear: Love while you can and hold onto it for as long as possible. 
Donald laid his head on the table. He'd become more solemn as our journey progressed. It was he who held my hand when I became ill on the drive home. I'd had the warning signs of La Turista for several days but was too embarrassed to tell the guys. 
Student health back home said I didn't have anything ominous in my system and expressed wonder and chagrin that I'd nonchalantly bathed in a stream, eaten food from street vendors and drank the untreated water in Mexico.
Hey! I was having an adventure.

Also at the Huffington Post: http://huff.to/1uD0jkj

Sunday, September 21, 2014

HELLFIRE OF THE VANITIES: CONFESSIONS OF A LATINA REDNECK

"My daddy got tired of hearing me bawl and told me to beat her good first chance I got."



Once upon a time my mother married a Texan and we lived in Ft. Worth.


The story is true. The accent is not.



Monday, September 15, 2014

STUCK IN TIME: FORGIVENESS & FORGETTING

 Is it really possible to forgive and forget?


The Tree of Forgiveness
Edward Coley Burne-Jones, 1885


Greek legends tell how Phyllis, queen of Thrace, fell in love with Demophoön, king of Melos, who visits her court en route for Athens after the Trojan War, where he had hidden inside the legendary Trojan Horse. He left the court, but when he failed to keep his promise to return within a month, she committed suicide, whereupon Athena, taking pity on her, turned her into an almond tree. Eventually, Demophoön returned to Thrace and, discovering what had happened, embraced the tree, which immediately burst into blossom.

Between you, me, and the almond tree, in the painting above, Demophoön looks as if he doesn't expect to be forgiven.

Memory is very important to me, but I've learned not to hold grudges. Grudges are all about keeping your pain, fear and anger alive. By doing this, you allow the grudge to control you. Your memory is not just a recollection, it's a reenactment. It initializes all your emotions just as if it were happening again, a recording in constant rotation shooting you back in time. In reality there is no time jump, but you are stuck in time.

Forgiving means that the memory no longer has the power to control you, to make you suffer in quite the same way. The blade of memory may make you wince, but you no longer bleed so profusely. You've taken the pain and anger and sorrow into you, but you've released the vilest portion of it, the part that made you feel less than, lowly, vulnerable.

©s. obriant

A lot of bad people did bad things around me and to me and to people I loved when I was a kid, so how did I manage to survive, much less forgive? Forgiveness wasn't this huge benediction bestowed on the evildoers in my life. It was the sure knowledge that I wasn't like those people and didn't want to be like them. This gave me hope.

Lack of forgiveness, grudges, and revenge arise from a lack of hope, a core belief that nothing changes. Change is my mantra.

I never forget, but I have discovered the capacity to forgive by letting go of my fear. Fear makes me sad and my childhood was overlain with fear and sadness which in my teens I camouflaged with anger. Fiery anger can be tinged with righteous purity, masking any true knowledge.

My camouflage worked so well that it took me years to realize that I was still letting fear rule me. Drat! I still had to deal with those memories and how stuck I was in the past. Writing helped me ferret out many of those emotions, examine them in detail, endow my characters with all the depth and nuance of being simultaneously good and bad.


This happened when I had a solid sense of who I am, and knew that the essential Sandra would persevere. The joy I feel in the world starts inside of me and radiates out.

I'm not a Pollyanna, a foolishly optimistic nutcase. I have felt both despair and hope. The memories of both states are not just in my brain. The feelings they generated are buried deep within the muscle tissue, sinews, veins and capillaries of my body. I can activate them. I know where they live.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Minnesota On a Stick

Revelers on a Pedal Pub in downtown Minneapolis.
They ain't movin unless they pedal, doncha know.



The leaves clinging to the few live branches on the tall trees alongside the freeway waved listlessly in a dry wind as we drove to the airport. We flew out of drought-stricken Los Angeles for Minnesota, the land of ten thousand lakes. We went for the baseball and for my husband to meet some of the other moderators on a Twins forum. Fortunately for me, there were members who liked to hike, kayak and marvel at a very different place. How different? 



Before the water and the baseball there was the



 which had everything you could possibly want . . . and on a Stick!










I had the Scotch Egg on a stick. You betcha there was a hard boiled egg, but the sausage was Italian and there wasn't a drop of Scotch on it. Dis is tru.



All State Fairs have 4-H competitions. We visited the horses, cows, rabbits, chickens and pigs.
 Here's my husband pig-whispering.


 The most beautiful chicken. Far as dat goes it could be a rooster.

Kayaking in the city limits on Lake Calhoun

The Far Shore

Innerestin toes eh.

A few discoveries while hiking at Minnehaha Falls. 



Flour is combustible. The mill went ka-put. The ruins rival medieval castles in the U.K. Minnesota cleverly blends the new with the old at the Mill City Museum.

The ruins reflect on the modern.

 Downtown, old and new.
 


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

May in the Summer

           
                Sometimes a journey “home” is an encounter with oneself. May in the Summer (release August 22) tells the story of a young, sophisticated woman who lives in New York and whose first novel was a success. She’s engaged and travels home to visit her mother and plan her wedding. While there she must deal with the usual travails of familial discontinuity, a tale that has been told countless times. The difference here is that May’s home is in Amman Jordan. Her mother is a Palestinian who married an American. May and her sisters were raised in the U.S.

                Wait, there’s more. Her mother is a fundamentalist Christian and May’s fiancé is Muslim. Yikes! Amman is not Gaza, but you can see Palestine across the water from a Western style beach resort as you float in the Dead Sea. Oh, and there are not too many women in jogging shorts for the local men to ogle. Only one: May. These dislocations serve as much needed reminders that even though May and her sisters are pop culture savvy and are not just Westernized-they’re as American as apple pie served at a NY deli. All of which adds up to an old story told and set in a new world.

                Diversity is a word I embrace and May in the Summer displays all its nuances in an engrossing and even affectionate manner. The script is good and the acting is outstanding. May encounters more familial secrets which I won’t reveal here. It’s a new twist on an old tale well worth viewing.




DIRECTOR(S): Cherien Dabis SCREENWRITER(S): Cherien Dabis CAST: Cherien Dabis, Hiam Abbass, Alia Shawkat, Bill Pullman, Nadine Malouf, Elie Mitri, Alexander SiddigDISTRIBUTOR: Cohen Media Group