I do not care what Mark Zuckerberg is reading

8 Jan
Book Club

Book Club

It is a New Year, time to look ahead to a vast expanse of 12 months full of possibility. A natural optimist, I like the positivity that takes hold during this time of year, when people take stock of the past year and look to the New Year with hope. Last year I resolved to read 12 books in 12 months, and I came very close, completing book 11 on December 22nd. I’ve always tried to have a good book on hand for empty hours, and have always enjoyed reading both fiction and non-fiction.

So imagine my surprise when I saw that Mark Zuckerberg, so ably portrayed onscreen by Jesse Eisenberg, decided to start a book club. He has said that he would like to pick a new book every other week and discuss it through a forum on Facebook. I appreciate that he can encourage people to read something they would otherwise never read. But because it is not Oprah Winfrey, but rather the founder of the world’s biggest social network who is starting this initiative, I am a bit suspicious. Is this about encouraging reading, or mining user data (I suspect the latter is the motive for any move by Facebook)?

One reason I don’t consider myself to be a Millennial (although technically I’m on the older side of this generation) is that the way that I relate to the digital world is so different from the way people just a few years younger than I am do. I’m still wary. I don’t want to publish too much. Also, as someone who works in digital media, I am familiar with the glee with which digital advertising types discuss mining user data to sell users more and better stuff. The more highly targeted, the better. As a marketer, I think it makes perfect sense. As a consumer, I don’t like feeling so trailed. And so I think that, while it’s entirely possible that Mark Zuckerberg has the purest of intentions and wants to turn Facebook into an intellectual hub, I think it’s more likely that this is a further attempt to turn our reading habits (and our comments on said reading habits) into something that can be monetized.

So thank you, Zuck, but I’ll keep my book reading offline.

And why are YOU still single?

3 Jan

In order to put in motion my New Year’s resolution to simply write more, I thought a good way to accomplish this would be to do the 30 day blogging challenge put forth by The Single Woman. I’m normally not inclined to write posts that are too personal, but I crossed that line last year when writing about my experience moving abroad. So I hope I can do this in an honest way without being too self-indulgent.

Why am I still single? As someone who had her first kiss when I was 20 years old, I always knew my life was never going to go along with others’ schedules. If other people married at 26, or 28, or 30, I knew I was still going to be tip-toeing into the deep end. I’ve not had many relationships in my life, so perhaps I just haven’t kissed enough frogs. In any case, I’m not surprised that I am single in my 30’s. I always expected this. I also am someone who never settled into long relationships because, whether right or wrong, I often sensed when there was little to sustain a relationship after the initial two dates. So in the past I used to feel sorry for myself for being the two date wonder. But in retrospect, I think it’s because I just don’t force things. I won’t push forward into a relationship just out of fear of being alone. Either you hit it off with someone, or you don’t.

So that is the long version of why I’m still single at almost 34 years of age. The short answer, of course, is that I just haven’t met the right guy. Which is true. On my own schedule, and of my own accord, I will happily leave my single status behind. But not quite yet.

A Sabiendas

3 Jan

Saber estar a solas

Saber estar con los demás

Saber estar

2014 in review

29 Dec

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Top 5 Movies of 2014

15 Dec
La Dictadura Perfecta

La Dictadura Perfecta

It’s my favorite time of the year: yes, in addition to the holidays being in full swing, it’s also time to play Roger Ebert (R.I.P.), and list my favorite movies of the year. It’s a subjective list: these are movies that I thoroughly enjoyed. Why? I explore why below. Also, take a stroll down memory lane and recall my favorite movies from 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. I’ve been doing this for five years now!

The Other Woman. This is the comedy I enjoyed the most this year. It was a revelation to see Cameron Diaz, after Bad Teacher, prove herself once again to be a talented comedienne. And speaking of revelations, Nicki Minaj! Who knew she could be so convincing as a sassy New Yorker?? The plot took twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, so it really wasn’t your typical romantic comedy. The ending was unexpected and satisfying, and all throughout, there were plenty of laughs.

Begin Again. I’ve already written about how this movie, about a young musician who partners with a grizzled music industry vet to produce a record on the fly, dovetailed nicely with my life this summer. So there is a personal reason why it finds a place on my best-of list this year. But beyond the personal, it is a good movie for anyone who enjoys good music but may not think of themselves as a fan of movie musicals. Like the movie above, this one has a feminist angle about striking out on your own. A lovely little gem of a movie.

Boyhood. This movie is currently ending up on many critics’ top ten lists. Will a backlash be inevitable? I think there already has been a bit of a backlash. Yes, the movie is innovative, but what makes it great is not just the way it was filmed- a few days each year for 12 years, chronicling one boy’s physical maturation- although that is certainly part of its charm. I found the first half of Boyhood to be more moving than the second half. The bits and pieces we see from each year of Mason’s life are the moments that anyone remembers from childhood, whether it be a memorable trip to the ballpark with Dad, or the first day at a new school. Boyhood strings together moments that together make up one young man’s youth, and the movie is made much better by the participation of the under-rated Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette.

Gone Girl. This is the rare movie that is just as good, if not better than, the very good book it was based on. David Fincher was the perfect choice to direct the adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s page turner. It’s got his trademark somber color palette, a moody soundtrack by Trent Reznor, and an amazing performance by Rosamund Pike in the title role. The movie is expertly paced, and even if you know what’s coming, you’ll be on the edge of your seat.

La Dictadura Perfecta. If you’re outside of Mexico, I’m not sure if you’ll be able to see this subtitled in your local arthouse theater. It may be available soon on Netflix; I saw El Infierno, by the same director, on Netflix last year. It’s a very Mexican film about a very Mexican subject: corruption. The plot is ripped from the headlines- a small-time governor uses the help of a certain major television company to boost his image. The audience here in Mexico chuckled along at the all-too-familiar plot lines, and the movie was well-plotted and well-acted. I also appreciated seeing telenovela staple Saul Lisazo as a smarmy TV news presenter. There’s a reason the movie was such a hit with Mexican audiences. It strikes a nerve.


The Girl in Purple

9 Nov


I saw a photo on Humans of New York this afternoon that touched me as no other photo from that series has. It appears to the left. A girl with both sadness and hope in her eyes expresses disenchantment with the loneliness of city life. She spends time alone doing what she wants, but her solitude seems less like a choice and more like a burden to live with. The last two sentences of her quote are: Everybody tells me: ‘You should do this,’ or ‘You should do that.’ But nobody says ‘Let’s do this,’ or ‘Let’s do that.'” And I think her words resonated with me because, although I love city life, I also recognize that the anonymity that comes with it comes with a price.

When I lived in San Francisco, I made friends, but I often felt like the girl in purple. People talk to you about cool things that are going on, and you wonder, “Why don’t you invite me?” In the comments, people advise the girl in purple to go out and propose activities to people instead of waiting for them to reach out to her. But I’m sure she has, and she doesn’t want to all the time. It can be exhausting to always be the one to make the effort.

Here in Mexico, I’ve adopted the same posture as before, as the girl in the photo. I go out and take long walks in the city, I eat at restaurants alone. It’s either that or stay home. And I want to soak up this great city, even though I don’t know a ton of people yet. I’ve only been here about 10 weeks. And when I have my weekly Facetime conversations with my best friend back home, I’m reminded that it takes time to make friends. It won’t happen overnight- I met this good friend back home after living in San Francisco for three years, and we’ve been friends for the last two. So I know I won’t have activity partners overnight. It takes time.

In general, the Humans of New York Facebook page is a joy; it’s the pleasure of travel in small vignettes. For the reason we travel is to get a glimpse of distant lives and realities. We see what is foreign to our experience and what is universal. I often wonder if the subjects of the HONY photos look themselves up to read the comments that people post. People send well wishes to those going through crises, they express their admiration for touching or inspiring stories. I hope that the girl in purple has seen the comments on her photo. She’ll see how universal her solitude is.

Being a Foreigner

18 Sep
Angel de Independencia

Angel de Independencia

Because I tend to have a general attitude of “I don’t give a fuck”, for the most part, I don’t mind being a foreigner. That’s not to say I go around playing music loudly at night, or littering in public places. I’m conscientious. But I don’t take myself too seriously, and I don’t like when others do. You only have one life, so why sweat it? If I have to smile and ask a waiter, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what that is. Can you explain?”, I don’t mind. I don’t blush and swell with excessive pride. I have done this being a foreigner thing before, and I know that sometimes you just have to accept that you look different, sound different, and generally don’t know your way around (at least at first).

I don’t want to be someone who feels especially special and unique by virtue of the fact that I am foreign. When you’re 20 years old and studying abroad during junior year of college, you content yourself with knowing that if anyone wants to know how that is said in English, or what it’s like in America, they can go to you. There were times when I studied abroad in Spain when I would be the only American in the room, and I felt special. One should absolutely accept that being a foreigner offers a unique perspective on things. But it is not all that is unique and special about you. That’s to say that when I go home to spend the holidays with my family, I know that there are aspects of my identity that are more important to who I am than my exoticness, my otherness. I think it is people who have difficulty separating the two who have a tough time readjusting when they go back home.

I also can’t forget that being a foreigner from any old country and being an American abroad are not the same thing. I’ve generally found that being an American in Europe and Latin America means being received warmly, perhaps with a sarcastic remark, and rarely as the first emissary of your kind to visit these shores. I have met maybe three people for whom I was the first American they had ever met. Being an American means you are never too far from familiar things; you turn on the TV and see the same actors with unfamiliar voices; you see the same junk food in the stores, the same golden arches and half-bitten apple at the mall. Here in Mexico, you see hamburgers offered at a lot of restaurants. Breakfast menus often include “hot cakes” (although it seems that someone came here in the 1950’s with that name and it stuck; nowadays we call them pancakes). I try to balance out consuming familiar things, such as the jar of peanut butter that I have at home, with consuming things that I know I’ll find only in Mexico, like eating a $5 lunch that includes soup, appetizer, entree (enchiladas, taquitos, fish), and a modest dessert. As I write this, I sit in a café where the soundtrack and the ambience could be lifted straight out of Valencia Street in San Francisco’s Mission District. It’s almost too familiar. I want something disorienting, different, exotic.

But then again, I think about how much I stuck out like a sore thumb today at lunch when I ate at a fonda near work (one of these homespun restaurants offering a menu of the day that is typically only open for office workers during lunch hour). Sometimes it’s thrilling to not look like anyone around (although let’s face it, with my Lebanese Mexican looks I rarely blend into my surroundings), and sometimes it’s tiring. Sometimes you just want to go unnoticed. Again, you don’t want your identity to rely too heavily on being a foreigner, but sometimes you have to embrace the fact that you’re not from here. At the very least, I feel safe. I know that it’s entirely possible that I could wind up in the wrong neighborhood or the wrong taxi and all of a sudden being a foreigner is not cool, it’s an invitation to victimhood.

All in all, I mostly feel happy. Still a bit disoriented- I’m still learning streets in my neighborhood, and then I’ll work outward from there- and still a bit lonely, as I don’t know many people yet, but still very grateful for this feeling. Being a foreigner here makes me feel deliriously alive.


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