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Monday, December 19, 2011

Pitch for Grooveshark

I have to start off by saying that music has had a deep and profound effect on my life for as long as I can remember. My mother once told me that she listened to a lot of R&B and soul music when she was pregnant with me, which certainly explains my adoration for Marvin Gaye and the Stylistics, in particular. As it turns out though, that was only the beginning.

I know that a lot of people claim to listen to a lot of different music. I often hear people say to me, “I listen to everything”, which may very well be true for them. Indeed, I too claim to listen to “a lot” of music as well. (For the list of what that means to me, please see my list of favorite music blog entry.) My mental music database, as anyone can see, is certainly not as expansive as many others out there, but I still like to think that I listen to a lot of music. I suppose it’s a lot like being a fish in the ocean; there’s always a bigger fish out there.

Anyhow, I bring this all up because I want to express my gratitude to the Grooveshark application. Since I’ve been on Grooveshark, I have listened to and bought more music than ever before. I did Pandora for awhile, We Are Hunted, and countless other “streaming” music types of sites, and I suppose that it’s a case of “to each his own”, but I have to say that Grooveshark is by far my favorite and has stood the test of time. I attribute my deep appreciation to its simplicity and accessibility. I can think of a song and literally pull it and add it to a playlist. I do this same thing with my music at home or on my iPods. I build playlists and then constantly delete or add to them. In the case of Grooveshark, whenever I find new music, I pull it, check it out, and then invariably, I buy the CD on Amazon. This has worked most recently with Widowspeak. I heard a song from them on a TV show one night (American Horror Stories), and then I ran to Grooveshark and listened to their latest. They had me at hello.

I love buying music, supporting artists, and holding a real CD in my hands, but that is a topic for another blog. If you love music too, I recommend Grooveshark, and no, I don’t work for them. I simply throw props and shout-outs to companies that still have good service and do good business. Does my music list stack up? Let me know what you think.

Favorite Music

Favorite Music: (Note: this list is comprised of groups/artists that I listen to frequently, and is subject to change, as it pretty much came off the top of my head. It does not even come close to being all of the music that I listen to either.)

Classic Soul/RnB:

Stylistics; Marvin Gaye; Delfonics; Persuaders; Bloodstone; Miracles (with Smokey Robinson); El Chicano; James Brown; Chi Lites; Earth Wind and Fire; Brenton Woods; WAR; James Brown; Etta James; the Supremes; Isley Brothers;

Modern Soul/RnB:

Jodeci; Guy; BellBivDevoe; Keith Sweat; Shai; New Edition; Jill Scott; Eryka Badhu; Prince; Al B Sure; Babyface; Silk; Tevin Campbell; R.Kelly; Atlantic Starr; the Jets; Klymaxx; Taylor Dayne; Cover Girls; Jody Watley; Sweet Sensation; Toni Braxton; Michael Jackson; Janet Jackson; Bob Marley; Hall n Oats; Sade

Classic Rock:

Led Zeppelin; Pink Floyd; Santana; Deep Purple; Eric Clapton; Beatles; Jimi Hendrix; Lynyrd Skynyrd; CCR; Eagles; Doors; Steve Miller Band; Aerosmith; Queen

Modern Rock:

Poison; Ratt; Motley Crue; Guns and Roses; Def Leppard; Skid Row; Black Sabbath; Metallica; Megadeth; Deftones; Tool; Blink182; Metric; Creed; Heart; Sex Pistols; Lenny Kravitz; Ozomatli; Bon Jovi; Loverboy; Journey; Pearl Jam; the Killers; Kings of Leon;

Alternative: New Order; the Cure; the Smiths; Depeche Mode; Echo and the Bunnymen; Nirvana; Audioslave; Soundgarden; Smashing Pumpkins; Interpol; Boxer Rebellion; RadioHead; Widowspeak; My Morning Jacket; Temper Trap; Pinback; Editors; Silversun Pickups; Zero7; Doves; the Sundays; Death Cab for Cutie; Band of Horses; Bush; Sneaker Pimps; Weezer; Coldplay; Cranberries; Snow Patrol; the Strokes; Yeah Yeah Yeahs;

Chick Music: Gwen Stefani; Beyonce; Madonna; Carrie Underwood; Katy Perry; Cindy Lauper; Roxette; Debbie Gibson; Britney Spears; Anita Baker; Alanis Morissette; Cheryl Crow; Adele; Katie Tunstall; Amy Winehouse; BeeGees; James Blunt; Rihanna;

Eighties: Tears for Fears; Flock of Seagulls; Bananarama; Bangles; Go-Gos; Ah Ha; Psychedelic Furs; Wham; Duran Duran; Eurhythmics; Human League; Gloria Estefan; Thompson Twins; Thomas Dolby; INXS; Phil Collins; Missing Persons; Billy Idol

Uncategorized: David Bowie; Elton John; Sia; Portishead; Bjork; Amy Mann; Carey Brothers; Bon Iver; Cocteau Twins; Tom McCrae; Alan Parson Project; Fleetwood Mac; U2; Mazzy Star; Shabba Ranks; Beenie Man; Barrington Levy;

Electronica/House/Dance: DFA; David Guetta; Crystal Waters; Frankie Knuckles; Benny Benassi; Stephen Bodzin; Chemical Brothers; Daft Punk; Flight Facilities; Calvin Harris; Solid Groove; MSTRKRFT; Miike Snow; Moby; Juan McLean; Orbital; 808 State; Vitalic; Richard Vission; Blue6; Fischerspooner;

Hip Hop: Biz Markie; Tupac; Da King and I; RunDMC; Mobb Deep; Biggie Smalls; Wu Tang Clan; Snoop Dog; NWA; Above the Law; Bone; Kausion; E40; Master Ace; Lords of the Underground; L.O.N.S; Pete Rock and CL Smooth; 3xDope; Too Short; Souls of Mischeif; Pharcyde; the Roots; Mos Def; Talib Kweli; Alkaholiks, Cypress Hill; Drake; T.I.; Rick Ross; Fugees; Common; 50Cent; Kanye West; Gang Starr; Grand Puba; Tribe Called Quest; Craig Mack; Keith Murray; Group Home;

Classical: Tchaikovsky; Beethoven; Bach; Claude Debussy; Riri Shimada; Frank Liszt; Vivaldi; Mozart; Bela Bartok; Pavarotti; Puccini; Maria Callas; Brahms;

Jazz: Art Blakey; Miles Davis; John Coltrane; Bilie Holiday; Ella Fitzgerald;

Latin: Celia Cruz; Tito Puente; Marc Anthony; Linda Ronstadt; Ana Gabriel; Vicente Fernandez; Los Tigres del Norte; Banda El Recodo; Oscar D Leon; Ismael Rivera; Shakira; Daddy Yankee; Zion; Johnny Pacheco

Country: (NEW ONLY!): Rascal Flatts; Zac Brown Band; Lady Antebellum; Darius Rucker; Jason Aldean; Billy Currington; Walker Hayes; Keith Urban; Kenny Chesney

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Words to My Baby

After writing my “baby classes” post, I thought it necessary to mention something about becoming a father, as this life event will without doubt be the most significant thing to ever happen to me.

I am having a daughter soon, and she was planned and purposely tried for. Still, even with such planning, the realism as you can imagine, or maybe already know, is sobering and life changing. I could not be happier with the fact that we will be adding a human life, made up from both myself, and my amazing partner in life. Like everyone else, I have so many lofty hopes and dreams for her, but when it comes down to it, I just want her to be happy, and live life to the fullest. I want her to try her best at whatever she does in life, even if those things are not what I planned for her, like being a doctor, lawyer, or astronaut. If she wants to be a truck driver, then she better be the best truck driver this world has ever seen. If she wants to work on an oil rig, then she better be the best damn rigger the oil platforms have ever seen! Of course, I will hope that she will choose something sensible like becoming a nun or America’s top female heart surgeon, but she will find out that I will support her in anything. If she chooses something that is truly harmful or evil, then it will by my failure as a father.

Anyways, this is a letter that I wrote in her journal a few months ago, before I knew that she would be a “she”:

Peanut, my dearest baby, hello. I am your father. I write this to you, so that you may know, just how you came to be. By God’s will, and the magical force of cosmic destiny, your mother and I have come together to form the deepest love and passion that I have ever known and felt in this world. It is born from this love and passion that we share, and with all of our hopes and dreams, that we bring you into this world.

I don’t know you yet, and if you are a boy or girl does not matter because you were made out of love, and you will always be my baby, our baby. I promise to take care of you, and teach you to be strong. I promise to love you, and teach you everything that I know. I ask nothing of you, but to always try hard to be the best that you can be. If you do this, then I know you will be happy, and it will be ok, because your happiness already means the world to me.

You will share in our passion for all that is life, the good and bad, to work and to create, and to help make the world a better place. You may be like your mother, the greatest woman that I have ever known, and have great compassion for animals and want to save them. You may have her fierce temper, boisterous laugh, and artistic and creative ability. You may be like me, calm and collected, deep, thoughtful, and intelligent. You may be all of these things, none, or some.

My baby, Peanut, I want you to know that you can be anything in this world, and this I truly believe. I’ve seen the beauty in this world, and the amazing human spirit, where creativity, imagination, work, and perseverance melt into one. You shall never be afraid, because you are part of us, and we will never let you be alone, and together we will always be. Together, we will sing and dance, laugh and play, work and think, and always be one family wherever life takes us. I love you so much already. I can’t wait to meet you. – Love, Daddy.

PS. I hope you like dogs ☺

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Baby Classes

So my wife and I have are taking baby classes at our local hospital. We’re newbs of course, expecting our first child, along with everyone else in the class. By the way, for any couple that finds themselves in the same position, I recommend the classes. They are probably 60% fluff, but the rest is genuinely useful information.

Anyways, what has probably been most interesting to me, ist the lack of maturity of the student body, and all the different characters in the class. First, there is the super duper workout girl that obviously regrets becoming pregnant, and sees her child as a burden and impediment to her steady and aggressive work out schedule. Her constant groaning, sourpuss face, and generally depressed demeanor is shocking to me in a very sad way. We all feel bad for that poor baby already. There are others yet that surprise me, although I shouldn’t be so. There’s the very young couple that text on their phones constantly and whisper back and forth, never bothering to pay attention to what is being said. There is the poor, under-educated couple with frayed, mismanaged wardrobes, rolling their eyes and snickering at almost everything that is presented. Naturally, they've already BFF'd the couple next to them. Then there's also the super perfect couple of the decade, eagerly anticipating and savoring every bit of course material that the instructor utters. They’ve probably already set up a trust fund, and read all the baby books and set them in their perfect little bookshelves in their perfect little home. Are they really that perfect? Maybe. If so, more power to them, but I’ve been around long enough to know that many people love to “appear” perfect as part of their image. Of course we all know, perception is everything, right?

The cast and crew at the baby class provide just enough personality to keep me from falling asleep. That isn’t the part that is most interesting to me though. It is the level of maturity that really gets me. From day one, whenever anything vaguely sexual is mentioned by the instructor, the class erupts into snickers, giggles, and for some, outright laughter. The instructor mentioned conceiving a child in the backseat of a car, and the class broke out into laughter. The instructor mentioned the phrase “having sex” and class giggled uncontrollably. We are talking about a class of late twenty and early thirty-somethings, laughing at PG-13 sexual references like Bart Simpson in Mrs. Krabappel’s class. I think they’d probably need oxygen if someone farted aloud in the class. Needless to say, my wife and I shared a synchronized look of astonishment the first time the laughter was set off. We thought we missed a joke, but as it turned out, we didn’t.

Anyways, I’m probably making it sound worse than it is. Some kid next to me was nice enough and started talking about football, so that was cool. Most of the couples keep to themselves, except for the BFFs. On the first day, the instructor said the group was a place to meet new people and make new friends. I don’t see a lot of that happening so far; not for us at least. Maybe we were just unlucky this time.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Why One Eighty?

I sat down one evening, after a very frustrating day, with my head full of bad juju. The number of frustrating days in my life at that time was falling out of balance –and not in my favor. So I did something that I hadn’t done since college, I sat down and wrote. I wrote about a lot of things that I had been experiencing and feeling, and it turned out to be very therapeutic.

Of course, my thoughts were mostly bits of incoherent rantings. Most importantly though was that it was then, after I’d realized that I not only felt better about my situation, I had also found an outlet. It was in that moment that something occurred to me. I wanted to get back to writing. Excitedly, the next day I sat down and thought about all of things I had to say to the world. From my perspective in this life, there was a lot that I had learned, and a lot that I wanted to see changed. I knew that with my unique voice, I was on to something.

Being the naturally funny guy that I am, I set out to express my views and feelings about our world by writing a funny story. I was going to write a novel about a Latino family that would be full of hilarious narratives and funny characters, so I sat down and began writing. The joke was on me though, as it turned out.

My sense of humor didn’t translate to the story I began writing. I began writing with Carlos and Isabelle, but they weren’t funny. They had become powerful people with strong convictions and feelings, but not funny the way I had envisioned them to be. So I brought in Johnny and Laurel, and they were also not funny, but serious too, and completely lost in life. As the story developed and I gave up on my quest to write funny, and just went with the characters and let them guide me.

I was happy with the results, to say the least. The characters were deeper and stronger than I ever thought they’d be. What’s more, I never thought that I’d be guided by my characters and their actions and decisions the way I was. Writing it all was interesting, and fun, and exciting. I couldn’t wait to find free time to do it, whether I was at a Starbux or at home, or at a park, and I couldn’t wait to do it again.

Soon after I wrote One Eighty, Gabe was born. Although I was satisfied with One Eighty, I wanted to write something really far more interesting. I dug deep and wrote my next novel. Like light shining on an altar with my destiny revealed to me in total clarity, Gabe was born. At the time, Gabe had taken me on a journey that I never knew existed in my soul. His story could not be further detached from One Eighty, but I think the same audience would find it interesting. I guess you all could let me know about that.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Saturday Night Live Skits - Grrrrr!

There was a skit that ran this past weekend (19Nov2011) on SNL that had to do with finding a replacement for Regis on ‘Live with Regis and Kelly’. In the skit, they interviewed an actor playing the character of George Lopez, and when he was asked what “he will bring to the show”, he answered with, “I can do a lot to change the landscape of the show; and I should know about landscaping, because I’m Latino”, or something like that. The skit was sort of funny, but I didn’t laugh at that part.

It’s always either ‘gangster’ or ‘gardener’ with Latino stereotypes, and that’s certainly not anything new. I perhaps didn’t really see it when I was younger, and for the most part, I was oblivious to anything outside of my world. As I got older and found myself out in the working world though, the perceptions became more apparent. Certainly, because of the issues with illegal immigration over the past few years, the discussions and rhetoric have been even louder, and the perceptions solidified.

The stereotypes and perception always get to me. They’re a very common in America, and they are also something that I am trying to change in my own way, through my writing and novels. It is why my protagonists will always be Latinos or Latinas. I aim to perpetuate a new image of Latinos that does not exist in today’s media.

I’m not knocking the SNL show itself. For one thing, the actor that played the part of George Lopez (Fred Armisen) is part Latino. I’ve also been watching SNL for years, and they, a lot like my uncle, make fun of everyone, equally. I am not picking on the general media either. I think it is up to us Latinos to change the image and stereotypes that others have of us, and those that we have of ourselves. It is through education and economic success that we can begin out number the “gardeners” and “gangsters” that seem to emanate the strongest. It is only then that we can force the change in the perceptions that exist today.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Meet My Muse

I wrote this in an email to my muse, who happens to also be my hot lil' wife. Smart and beautiful, ain't I lucky? Anyways, I thought I'd share this email, as it was an inspiration for a book that I wrote about a strong woman who finally finds herself, without even knowing she was suppose to be looking.

This is me writing as Allie, in the first person. For the record, she thought it was funny at the time!

Journal – Day 6

There has been a drop off in journal entries from Allie since the first one. So I will take it upon myself to write the journal for her from 10,000 miles away:

The trip continues to be quite an eventful adventure. While the hours are long, time does go by fast. I remain in the driver’s seat with a constant stream of factory approvals and rejections for what must now be about 2000 pairs of shoes. The dialect of the factory workers and the other Chinese in and about town continues to amuse me, quite to my delight. The language is interesting, and so different, yet it is intriguing, and something that I wish I could learn. Well maybe someday my kids can learn it, anyways. Vivian and the other Chinese girls are so hospitable too. The dragon fruit has been a new excitement for me, and ever since I made a scene about how much I like it, it is now brought to me by the barrel! Much like everywhere else in the world except the United States, people are just so genuinely nice here.

As for work, it is far too empowering to be in such a position as this, as everyone around me is far too submissive and subordinate. They almost act as if they are slaves for a mean cruel master, when it really is so far from that. But that is something that comes with the position, and any backing down from that could possibly invite disobedience, rebellion, and embarrassment. So I must play the game, and play it to win.

The hotel, the work building, and the food continue to be impressive, and completely opposite from the crap that people back home made it sound like. Note to self: never listen to those dumb hoes again on stuff like this! I have been wined and dined in the finest establishments, and I have not had to dish out for it.

My boss, Hans Ed got really sick and had to be hospitalized, and wouldn't you know it, I proceeded the next day to also get sick, almost succumbing to dysentery and mild botulism –don’t ask. A minor blip on the radar of this trip and I seemed to have bounced back quite well. Adrian thinks it is just the change in food, which may or may not be true. Who knows, that idiot always thinks he is right, and even if he is half the time, I won’t give him the satisfaction! Speaking of which, I do miss him so. I hate leaving him all alone with my beloved babies, because I know how lonely it is after all the times he left me for long business trips. But I guess on the bright side, I will be back home next week –eeeeeeee! Which brings me to my amazing experience, shopping in Houjie town, i spent about 50 million RMB and got some amazing stuff. It was so much fun bartering with the Chinese! They remind me of the way I think Finny (our dog) would be trying to strike deals if he was a Chinese salesman! It is a very empowering experience to get people to change their prices and get what you want. Wow! that was fun!

Anyways, Mary and Cindy are gone, and Lenora and someone else I hang out with will be here today? Tomorrow? One of these days... We will go shopping again, and it will be so much fun. So until next time, journal, this is Allie signing off – Moo Goo Gai Pan, muth@*uckas!

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I got to the door of the Pickup Stix restaurant seconds before the young woman did. I thought about simply letting myself in and ignoring her altogether, but I didn't. I stopped, opened the door for the twenty-something year-old, and watched her walk in. She said, "thanks," and glanced my way briefly enough, not quite making eye contact. I followed her in, and instead of her letting me go ahead of her -because I had gotten there seconds before her- she ignored me, and approached the counter.

Now, it is at this next point that I became annoyed. She fumbled around, stared at the menu, asked the server a bunch of rookie questions, and then still took her time ordering. It was clear to me that she did not have the presence of mind to be courteous and allow me to go first, but she was not ready to order and had no clue what she wanted.

It's no secret to anyone in today's western world that chivalry is an antiquated term that the young people probably associate with medieval knights instead of common place courtesy. There is also an argument that modern feminism killed this chivalry. There is some merit in that too, but I would have expected that pendulum to swing back this way by now. After all, most men want to help a lady not because she needs it or because she is weaker, but because he is a gentleman. Who says a lady can't be a feminist anyways? I prefer a woman that is both, but I digress.

I am by no means an idiot as it turns out. Far be it from me to expect anyone to actually teach the younger generations to be kind and courteous. A young man behaving as a gentleman in America today is rare, as is a young woman dressing and behaving as a lady. Far be it from me to expect that in a society that worships the mighty dollar above integrity and honesty, physical appearance over virtue and character, and fame over modesty and knowledge, for there be the need to teach such a thing as chivalry and respect.

That is not where it ends for me though. I had known this prior to my walking up to the Pickup Stix in the first place. I knew this before I decided to open the door for the young woman. I knew I'd be lucky to get a "thank you" for it, which to my surprise, I did. I still did it anyways, because I refuse to be that guy. I refuse play a part in letting chivalry die. I refuse to not be a gentleman. And most of all, what can I say? I'm just a nice guy.

I'm laughing now, as I wrote that last sentence. There is plenty more I have to say on the subject, but I will get into that at another time. Before I end this puff piece, I'll leave you with this. There was a time, at a place, when I opened the door for a lady. She smiled and and thanked me, and when we both got in, she allowed me to go first. I smiled back as the gesture was appreciated, and in that we were actually in the perfect world.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Country Music Awards -45th

It's not that I like country music, but since I've been forced to listen to it so much over the past few years, I've grown to be ok with it. I was noticing though, during tonights performance, that the country stars are becoming fairly glammed up. Even the guys out there were wearing skinny jeans with glitter. It was pretty funny to me, because most of their music is still about being so down to earth and being country, which many seem to barely be hanging on to. Anyways, I only mention it because I care. I'd hate to see them go too Hollywood. It would be a waste. After all, even though I'm not a huge fan, I can appreciate many of the artists and their truly comforting and heartfelt lyrics.