Friday, June 30, 2006

Since I appear to be cursed...

I have just walked out of the ridiculous defeat of Argentina by Germany in penalty kicks. I'm so depressed. (And here's the real kicker: now I have to grade final papers. "What's the likelihood I'm going to be lenient?" he says to himself as he reaches for his reddest of pens...)

Given my current curse, I hearby declare my undying love and affection for Italy, France and England. Live long and prosper... and therefore suffer under my World Cup curse, which has now taken the last six teams that I was rooting for.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Fabián Bielinsky 1959-2006

One of Argentina's most successful directors to have emerged from the most recent crop, including some notice in the US for his movie Nine Queens, Bielinsky apparently died in his sleep last night, only three days after sweeping the Argentine critics awards for his latest film, The Aura. Such a terrible shame.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Not waving, drowning

I think every DC blogger is talking about the rain these days, and I'm not going to be any different. Avant moi, le deluge indeed. I just got off the phone with my parents, assuring them that everything is fine -- the roof, the books, the basement where all the books are, the small child. We have not checked the garage, but then again anything that goes in there automatically has the word "expendable" stamped on it, so I'm not worried.

I will tell you one thing: the one person who is getting a huge kick out of all of this is my son.

On Sunday, when this whole shebang started, Xan and I came home from a Costco run right before the rain began. I raced inside with groceries and child while Angela was outside in front of the grill with an umbrella. (Envisioning the heat and humidity, we planned this week's recipes around salads and grilling. At least the first part will keep us somewhat dry.) Xan complained bitterly, so I let him go back outside, thinking that he would have learned enough from Vega to not enjoy being wet and come back in. Nope: not only were we not upset by the rain, but we happily romped all around and ate even more blackberries, even as the rain poured down and stranded both Mom and Dad under a deck umbrella, two ninnies who were trying to remain dry for some ridiculous reason.

Yesterday, he came to campus as I was shilling for New Student Orientations, dispensing with professorial advice. (Mine amounts to: Talk in class, make sure you investigate DC beyond the Red Line, and yes, it actually is possible that you will meet the person you're going to marry in your first weeks of school, even if you don't actually start dating until long after you graduate.) Xan came to lunch with my colleague -- an adventure in itself -- and afterwards we went out to enjoy the 15 minutes of sun that emerged between monsoons.

And what comes after the rain? Puddles!

Here is how one must apparently examine a puddle:
  1. Toddle forward until you stand directly in front of puddle.
  2. Bend over.
  3. Maneuver hand up and down in rapid manner, causing ripples or, if deep enough, sincere splashes.
  4. Contemplate. Process. File information away.
  5. Look for another puddle nearby and move on.
This process continued until we encountered a rather large puddle, which we then made the mistake of walking through. At this point, we discover that our shoe makes an even bigger plash. In which case, we add the following direction:
  • If puddle is large enough to clomp around in, clomp wildly away until laughter is as loud as splashes are high. It is preferrable to wet Dad in the process.
All was going very well especially when, after detouring onto the grass, Xan slipped backwards and fell flat out into a huge mud puddle. Now, his jeans, shirt and socks are covered in mud. I am hysterically giggling at the sight and, when I bring him back to my office, not only show him off to my colleagues who are around, but allow him to sit on a paper in someone's returned-papers box. (Said paper now has the imprint of a baby's bottom in mud on it.)

It was only at this point that I discovered the diaper bag is missing (a) a change of pants and, more crucially, (b) a change of diaper.

We'll see what happens today. I have no Xan today but, for some reason, I thought that it was a good day to drive to work. Hmm. Maybe I should retrieve that brain from wherever I left it last time.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Bring it on, Joles

I have been reading for quite some time now about Jolie, Xan's friend and the primary focus of an amazingly amusing blog which you should all check out. At several points, this event called the World's Strongest Man competition keeps being referenced. I try very hard not to be one of those parents who foists their children into unnecessary competitive streaks that will only lead to me throwing a Coke in someone's face and their beating me to a pulp against a set of bleachers.

It appears, however, that perhaps my son has started reading this blog himself.

Yesterday, before the rain came, we let Xan toddle around the backyard freely while I grilled some dinner and Angela finished making some hot-n-spicy slaw on the back porch table. It is at this point that we discover our accusing the birds of eating all our blackberries has been something of a fallacy.

As you can see, our little boy appears to be mysteriously sneaking out in the evening to eat all the ripe blackberries. Strangely, he seeems to recognzie that only the black ones are good, and that the red ones should be left alone -- but that the opposite is true for the strawberries that are right next to the blackberries.

Obviously, the eating of blackberries is akin to spirulina or guaraná or something like that, because then he decided to scale outdoor furniture as if it were a climbing wall.

We acquired these new lawn chairs from a family friend (along with other lawn furniture, and a couple bookcases -- hooray!!) but had taken off the cushions because it was going to rain. It is, however, quite a good resource to train for World's Strongest Man competition.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that yesterday also included a food-shopping outing with Dad, which had a particular twist at Whole Foods. Because riding in the cart was not an option this time. No, today, Xan decided that he had to push the cart. Himself. Non-stop. And if the cart stopped for whatever reason (hitting a wall, stuck on a cucumber display, Dad stopping the cart before he runs over a septegenarian examining some scallops at the seafood counter, etc.), the loudest, highest-pitched shriek would emerge from this little body. This meant that we had to go back and forth five times (this is not hyperbole) in one aisle just so I could find the black beans, and several times through the register line, just to keep him amused. This continued into the parking lot, where the only thing that finally distracted him from pushing the cart was a large pot of purple flowers. And even that didn't last.

Xan is definitely in training now. While I would still put my money on Joles for squashing my son like a bug, I'm now not so sure he wouldn't go down without a fight.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Student Appreciation Day

I know I just said I wasn't going to blog for a while, but this was so special, I have to get it down before the feeling goes away.

This summer, I'm teaching a course on short films, something I am now seriously considering as a future research topic. I turned on to this topic a while ago when I discovered in my own current research that, while Peru really arguably barely has produced enough feature-length films to even be called a tradition, a whole industry of filmmakers produced several thousand short films in Peru over the course of twenty years from 1972 to 1992. Granted, nearly all of these films were god-awful -- but, by law, they were all theatrically shown and every single Peruvian feature filmmaker (until 2003, ten years after that law was repealed) had gained their primary filmmaking experience from working on these shorts. In researching this chapter for my book, I went searching for information on shorts as a genre, or form, or whatever it is, just so that I would be able to put shorts into a critical and historical context... and found, to my great surprise, that there is virtually nothing written about short film at all. Naturally, this makes for a good research topic -- so stay tuned.

In the meantime, to determine whether or not I was really interested in this topic, I decided to teach a summer course on it; in the process of prepping and teaching it, I would be forced to at least bring about the foundation of future research. And, since there is very little information out there on it, for the first time I actually assigned a chapter from the book I'm writing now on the Peruvian film journal Hablemos de cine. I did not provide any further context about the book and just expected them to glean the information they needed about how the concept of national cinema was so new that shorts were all Peruvians had to go on for a very long time.

After class, however, one of the graduate students cam up and started asking bigger questions: but weren't there any other film journals in Peru? didn't only a limited number of people read this journal? how come they had such an influence? As he kept asking questions, I started explaining more and more about what I'm trying to say about my bigger project. At one point, he stopped and said, "Gee, your book really sounds compelling."

I almost wept.

He has no idea that, particularly now, this was exactly what I needed to go forward. The cynic in me thinks that he might have said this to butter me up -- but I'm not that much of a cynic. He really did seem genuinely interested in my work. Which makes the first time someone completely otherwise uninterested in me or my topic is actually turned on by it. My work is relevant! Students are actually interested in my work! Even some of my other students that I've taught before just seems humored if I talked about my work, not actually interested and wanting to know more.

We talked for a good long while about it. I was so thrilled, and these words don't convey that very well. But it will be a while before I forget this, I think.

Yet another break, this time with warning

With a lot on my plate these days -- a very necessary writing deadline, house work, the last couple weeks of my class, etc. -- look for very sporadic updates over the next month or so. I still hope to get some entries up and I will try to get back to posting more regularly soon. This is just so as not to be too disappointing when I don't have somethng up every couple of days, heh heh.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Father's Day #2

Not that today wasn't wonderful -- many wonderful things happened today. World Cup games were actually exciting -- particularly when viewed with actual World Cup Afficiando Señor Pájaro (who, living up to this moniker, brought guacamole to the festivities of the Brazil-Australia game). The air conditioner made its way downstairs. Friends M&M came over to help us continue the weekend project of finally replacing our evil bathroom ceiling. (Natually, that is becoming more of a hassle than originally expected, but let's move on...) Angela decided to braid my hair; yes, there are pictures. (Yes, point taken: the hair will be chopped soon.) And, in an indelible memory, Xan expertly crawled out of our kiddie pool (filled with just enough water to cool off) and ambled across the lawn in search of ripe blackberries, stark naked.

All this wonder was, I believe, meant to counteract the present that Xan decided to give me earlier this morning.

(note: if eating, please wait until after you finish before continuing. consider yourself warned.)

After breakfast, Ange felt a little tired and asked to go back to sleep for a bit. I agreed and played with Xan for a bit. Coming into his I-want-to-play-by-myself-just-stay-here-with-me mode, I crawled onto the sofa and turned on Univisión to catch part of the (boooooring) Korea-Croatia game. I started to doze off when Xan wandered over and I smelled that familiar smell that indicates a diaper change. No problem, I picked him up, all ready to change him.

As I started to clean him off, however, I realized that there was poo on his leg. I turned him around, got enough wipe -- and found some on the front of his leg. And then on his foot. And his other foot. And back on the first back part of the leg. I thought, "What the hell?!"

To make a long story short: shockingly for the first time, we suffered a combination poo explosion-wardrobe malfunction. Resulting in poo everywhere: all over him, on me, on the floor (all over -- he tracked, then Angela came out and tracked...), on toys, the high chair, everything. Somehow, Vega was spared. To say that this was vile is putting it mildly. The good thing that came out of this: our hardwood floors are now spotless.

Naturally, Xan was entirely unperturbed. In his own way, perhaps this is the beginning of I-can-make-my-own-gifts-for-Dad stage, a step before macaroni sculpture.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

World Cup predictions, Take 2

It would seem that I stopped blogging about the World Cup right around the time that, oh, the United States suffered an embarrassing and crushing defeat at the hands of (granted, the #2 ranked team in the world) the Czech Republic. I am still hoping, of course, that we somehow manage to rally against the Italians to make it out of the first round. But the loss, quite frankly, was deserved. And, given the luck of the draw, the best the United States could manage would be a second-place finish in this group, which means the next team we would play would be… Brazil.

In any case, having now watched all the first-round games (or at least most of them), my brackets have changed a little. I now think that the “surprise” teams won’t come from Africa, but there will be a few Latin American spoilers around. That said, interestingly enough, my original prediction for the final two remains.

Here are my predictions – with potential scores!:

In the Round of 16:
GERMANY d. England, 3-1
NETHERLANDS d. Mexico, 2-1 <--(this should be a good game)
CZECH REPUBLIC d. Australia, 3-1
SWITZERLAND d. Ukraine, 1-0
ECUADOR d. Sweden, 2-1
ARGENTINA d. Portugal, 2-1 (penalty kicks)
BRAZIL d. Italy 2-1
SPAIN d. France

NETHERLANDS d. Germany, 2-1
SWITZERLAND d. Czech Republic, 2-1 (penalty kicks)
ARGENTINA d. Ecuador, 2-1
SPAIN d. Brazil, 2-1

NETHERLANDS d. Switzerland, 3-1
SPAIN d. Argentina, 2-1

Third Place Game:
ARGENTINA d. Switzerland, 2-1

Final Match:
SPAIN d. Netherlands, 2-1

I must express my utter disappointment at the now-established fact that Germany has qualified to the next round and Poland is out. After playing in such a disorganized fashion against Ecuador (who turn out to be very good), Poland really came back and deserved to win the last game against Germany. That last-minute goal – shot while I was between the two traffic circles on the way to work – was truly agonizing. To make it worse, in the scenario I have set up, Germany will then play the lackluster British team and get a bye to the next round for sure – where, thankfully, they will be crushed by the Dutch. (Of course, nothing would make me happier than to see England fall to Trinidad and Tobago today…)

Meanwhile, Señor Pájaro wanted to know whether Naked Boy Day and watching the World Cup were complementary activities. Xan would reply firmly in the affirmative. I mean, shouldn’t everyone watch the World Cup in the buff?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Why did the Japanese lose to Australia in the World Cup?

Perhaps they did not have the proper English lessons.

Because I am generous, I offer the following video, which also demonstrates some lovely calisthenics. (For complete hilarity at the randomness that this embodies, watch the whole thing.)

Thanks, naturally, to Angela for causing me to laugh hysterically while trying not to wake up my napping child.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

My son is like a dandelion

Let me take a moment away from World Cup madness to relate something that happened while taking a little time off soccer action yesterday.

I needed to go to University of Maryland's campus to photocopy an article that our library couldn't get in time for my class. Admittedly, they could have gotten it for me, but I only discovered it on Thursday and needed it to distribute for Tuesday so, to be safe, I decided to go pick it up myself. Naturally, Xan cam with me.

I must say that Xan has far more fun in AU's library -- particularly the Media Servcies section where there are stools that can be turned round and round and round and... -- but the periodicals section was still fun. Afterwards, I realized that the front of the library featured a very large open grassy area with very few people on it -- a good opportunity for little boys to romp. We wandered under a tree and I set him down. Which was a very silly thing to do, for two reasons. One, this meant we were still on a rather steep incline, not down to the flat area yet. More to the point, however, yesterday featured some rather strong breezes.

Picture this, then: Xan is standing up with a very determined look on his face. He looks into the wind, hair blowing fiercely all around him, not upset but not particularly at ease either. He stands there for about a minute and a half... before being blown backwards by a gust of wind.

This made me smile more than anything else, with the realization that my boy, no matter how fast he is growing and changing and learning these days, is still little.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

You don't want me as a fan

Let's take a look at how I thought the first few games of the World Cup would turn out in order to make my previously articulated brackets work. My predictions:
  • Game 1: Costa Rica d. Germany
  • Game 2: Poland d. Ecuador
  • Game 3: Paraguay d. England
  • Game 4: Sweden d. Trinidad & Tobago
  • Game 5: Cote d'Ivoire d. Argentina
OK, granted, at least two of those -- Costa Rica and Cote d'Ivoire beating relative powerhouses Germany and Argentina -- would have been major upsets, but at least two of the above games should have been pretty much no-brainers, with the England-Paraguay match supposed to be a good match.

This is the reality:
  • Game 1: Germany d. Costa Rica, 4-2 in what turned out to be a relatively exciting game since the Central Americans made the Germans work for it
  • Game 2: Ecuador d. Poland, 2-0 in a really impressive rout
  • Game 3: England d. Paraguay, 1-0 in a deserved trouncing -- England played very well and Paraguay has no more Chilavert
  • Game 4: Sweden and Trinidad & Tobago draw (which is pretty much a major Trinidadian victory in everyone's eyes, including the Trinidadians)
  • Game 5: Argentina d. Cote d'Ivoire, 2-1 in a game that started out boring but got more exciting as things went on
As I mentioned to someone today, this all goes to prove my expert knowledge... in film.

So when I say I'm gunning for the Netherlands, Mexico and Portugal tomorrow -- well, perhaps you should expect some impressive work by Serbia and Montenegro, Iran and Angola respectively. Egad.

Friday, June 09, 2006


As I type this, there is less than a half-hour to...


As I plan to watch nearly all of this on Univision, I'm watching a hysterical set of commercials catered specifically to the event as well. I'm particularly impressed that the anthem of the event happens to be in at least five languages that I could determine.

And my son? He is napping right now.

In a half hour, let me tell you, he won't be. Naps will wait. Food shopping will wait. Academic work will wait.

Germany vs. Costa Rica. If you're reading out there, Stefan -- I fear that once again I'm rooting against you. (As for the second match, Poland vs. Ecuador? Well, given that my son is at least part Polish, I'm going to have to go against the Latins this time...)

So excited.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

One day off, perhaps?

On my subway ride home from work, I get a call from the Kaiser-Gleasons, they who seem to do everything (PhDs, babies, etc.) in multiples. While on the phone with them...
  • My SmartTrip card didn't work for a moment.
  • I come upon the remnants of a burning bus in the middle of downtown Takoma Park. (No, I did not leave off the "h" there and Xan is not Isaac in disguise.)
  • I discover when I get home that there is a dead racoon in the street immediately in front of our house.
Omen, perhaps?

Monday, June 05, 2006

BREAKING NEWS: Escaped Reptile Found in Swedish Megastore; Father Expresses Relief, Devotion

COLLEGE PARK, MD - A dinosaur, missing since Saturday in the College Park IKEA, was found unharmed and returned to his best friend early Monday.

The troubles began on Saturday when brain-addled professor Jeffrey Middents, 34, brought his son Alexander, 1, and his son's stuffed dinosaur, Dino, to shop for plastic tumblers and to examine the annual sale. Middents only discovered the missing reptile in the children's department after having gone through the entire 2nd floor of the store.

"I thought it would be funny to have the dinosaur fight this octopus they have there, kind of like Godzilla vs. Mothra, or something," said Middents. "But man, that dinosaur is like his best friend. You have no idea what kind of guilt I felt."

Middents apparently walked the length of the store three times before calling Jeffrey Bird and Amy Hightower, who had given the dinosaur as a gift to the younger Middents. Ms Hightower, reached at her visit to an relatively fertile woman in California, commented that the reptile had been purchased at TJ Maxx two years ago and would be very difficult to replace. Sources at the Ikea store indicate that a person matching Middents' description was seen talking into a cell phone with an expression of doom and giving off the stench of despair.

Angela Dadak, mother of Alexander, confirmed that this event, coupled with two further hours of food shopping that followed, turned Middents into a pissy jerk for a large part of that afternoon.

A woman who would only be identified as "Lynda from IKEA" called early Monday morning to say that the dinosaur had been located. "He thanked me but then said something about loving me immensely for finding it," she told reporters. "All I did was pick it up."

The reunion was held Monday at around 1:00PM EDT. "I felt so guilty," said the elder Middents, "despite the fact that it's this little guy who threw it out of the cart. Though we may have to transition to the panda because that at least we know how to replace." Sources confirm that the reunion consisted of much cooing and hugging with only some extraneous drool.

Alexander Middents and Dino could not be reached for comment for this story, due to their relative lack of language ability. Both celebrated, however, by having a ball.

No more pictures! said Alexander Middents. I'll drop you as if I were Sean Penn! said Dino. Posted by Picasa

Nirvana to reopen!

I've just heard that my high school discotheque of choice, Nirvana, will reopen. This disco was an amazing place: an old Spanish-style house with many small rooms, virtually all of which were painted black and featured an amazing amount of blacklight, where an angst-ridden teenage boy with frizzy hair could dance with a speaker to the sounds of Depeche Mode, Peter Murphy and Soda Stereo, under the influence of several screwdrivers. I even tried memorializing it through a dystopic short story written when I was in college.

But you (the very few of you in the know) say that this can't be true: Nirvana closed in the early 90s, to be replaced by an ultramodern laundromat. It hasn't existed for years. Indeed, Nirvana is just a nostalgic memory, a product of your life in Lima from the late 1980s.

Perhaps you haven't heard about this yet, that situations we thought it would be impossible to return to in Peru are suddenly back with a vengeance. And as long as we're bringing back the bad stuff, why not bring back the good too? Come to think of it, maybe we can bring back short films before all movies in Peru as well!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

With a mau-mau and a cow-cow and a...

Well, blow me away. Of my three favorites (see entry below), I picked the final two -- and the fact that the winner (pictured here, Katherine Cross) won makes me especially pleased. Why?

Because she got to spell "hukilau"!

And what is so special about "hukilau"?

Hmmmm... let's see who manages to answer this first... everyone together now......

So geeked!!

No no, it's not time yet for the World Cup. That's next week.

Right now it's time for THE NATIONAL SPELLING BEE!!! And I don't care what JJ says, spelling makes for compelling television. I'm a little scared about what ABC is going to do to the poor spellers as they hit broadcast TV during primetime tonight. That said, we members of the cable-less population are happy to have it on broadcast. I may actually end class early tonight to make sure I catch it all. I even brought Angela's bike in so that I can zoom from class to metro to home quickly. Woohoo!!

UPDATE: In getting my clips together for today's class, I got sucked into the preliminary rounds. The bad news is that I didn't get the amount of work done that I wanted; the good news is that I now know who I'm rooting for! (Early favorites already out: Bonny Jain, winner of this year's national geography bee, and Samir Patel, last year's runner-up who I remember as an 8-year-old in the bee making it all the way to 5th place.) Here are my choices:
  • Finola Hackett, because she knew how to spell "bdelloid" (of or pertaining to leeches -- great word)
  • Katherine Close, because she's coooool as a cucumber
  • Charley Allegar, because he seems like a total jock lunkhead who them pulls words like "reliquiae" out of thin air because he really seems to know them
And now, I must apologize to these three who, now that I'm rooting for them, will undoubtedly lose. Still, I can root.