miércoles, septiembre 19, 2012

The WordPress Experiment

So I've been told by various folks, WordPress is among the best of the free blogging tools.  I'm not too clear on why that is, but I gather that it is a more "grown-up" blogging tool, more organized, more direct.  it could be that people take blogs on WordPress more seriously than those on Blogger.  I figure as much, because mention of Blogger in the content and web design workshops/seminars I've been attending lately is met with a frown, or at least an "oh, you're a beginner, right?" kind of look.

I'm experimenting with WordPress, and I'd be honored if you would visit, take a look, praise, hate, let me know how it feels, tell a friend, etc.

WordPress pros, so far: 

1.  Easy tagging and assigning categories.  
2.  Easy sharing (here's where I'm confused.  On my food blog, there are share options on the lower left hand corner of every blog post, Google+ being the most prominent (Blogger is a Google kid).  On this blog, however, the share options are on the upper left hand corner of the main page.  If you share from there, it will share the whole site as opposed to one post.  If you want to share the post only, you must click on the post title first.)
3.  Template is nice enough - it's more organized.  
4.  Best for long form blogs as opposed to photography or Pinterest-type blogs.
5.  Useful widgets.

The con:
1. Many templates cost $60-$100, and the free ones can only be customized to a small extent.  If you want to change fonts, that'll cost you, too.

I like to be able to play around with fonts and pictures and I can spend an awful lot of time on this.  WordPress will, most likely, force me to concentrate on content, which is not such a bad idea at this point.

Again, I'd love it if you'd visit and let me know what you think.  Any ideas on WordPress vs. other blogging tools would also be much appreciated.

Thanks, loves!!!

jueves, septiembre 13, 2012

A review of Junot Diaz's "This Is How You Lose Her"

Junot Diaz has always been a favorite author of mine, ever since college when he came to the Latin-American lit class I was taking in '98. By that time, I had already read Drown and was on my way to reading Negocios, the Spanish translation of Drown, expertly done by my lit. professor, Mr. Eduardo Lago (even the colloquialisms and the SHUCO-ness, the grit, the sarcasm, the naughtiness, came through, which I know, as an amateur translator myself, is supremely tough to accomplish).

Diaz's language, dialogue, place, every ounce of passion and work he puts into his writing, it is all fresh, and so it will be when I reread This Is How You Lose Her next year, and the next, and so on. It takes a very talented writer to give his readers a different glimpse of the same character, Yunior, who pops up everywhere, starting with Drown. Every time he shows up, you see a different side. He's an onion - every time you peel back a layer, you feel like crying a little. Notice here that Yunior's girls - his sucias - and his friends revolve around him, but the family stays the same, close to him, living in the back of his head - dando consejos (giving advice), for better or for worse, and sometimes ruling him. The mark of a great author is the characters he crafts, and Diaz is a writer who blows the best of them out of the water on that count.

Diaz has an amazing ability to evoke emotion like few others can - you pull for Yunior and his boys. You pray for Yunior's brother Rafa, yet, like their Mami, you are almost constantly disgusted with him at the same time.  So you pray for him then hold up your hand like you are going to smack him silly. You want to hug Yunior's girls, tell them you've been there, hold their hands, tell them that even the smartest women can be easily fooled by a charming man.  Yunior's mami....like many Latina wives and mothers, she makes suffering her claim to fame, sacrifice and guilt trips her job, but she has a sharp mind and is far from a hopeless case. You can never count her out. And Yunior's Papi, it's like Yunior said in Fiesta, 1980 (a story in Drown) - you just look at his belly button because you're scared to look him in the eye.

Yunior. Dios mio. You want to hug him. You see through the exterior and you want to tell him it's all OK, he can be real. You want to yell at him and knock some sense into him. Like one of his girls in Cheater's Guide to Love, the last story in This Is How You Lose Her, you love his mind, which is expert on almost everything - from words you have to look up that he casually slips into conversation/narration to sci-fi references you also have to Wikipedia. Yet you empathize with him. You throw up your hands because you wish he'd just come clean. And you want to be there when he does.

You know you could never live the way some of those characters do, or in the places they live, yet people stronger than you do it every day. When you have hope and faith, so do they. There is a common thread that unites everyone that you don't know about or even willfully ignore until you read Diaz's work.

And then the sadness when the book ends, even though you know you'll see it again, is palpable. ~~sigh~~

I've read a few of the stories in This Is How You Lose Her in the New Yorker during the past few years. The ripped-out pages I saved in a portfolio just in case I never saw those stories published again. But even though those magazine pages, for the most part, contain the same words as the corresponding stories in the book, it's like the stories were brand new. Again, blows everyone away on sheer ability.

And Diaz, you want to tell him, "You did good, hombre. You did real good."

Editor's note: I made sure to buy my copy of this book at Posman Books in New York City, a small bookstore with three locations throughout the city. Please remember to buy your books at independent bookstores.

domingo, septiembre 02, 2012

Friends....How Many of Us Have Them? Part II

Ever since my most horrible year, 2010, I have been on a journey of self-discovery, if you will.  I call it, finally growing the hell up.  It takes hard times to re-evaluate your life, put things in perspective, etc.  Figuring out what and who you should keep in your life because they help and/or inspire and don't hurt or bring you down.  That includes friends.  I think of that song "Friends" by Whodini, an eighties rap group, one of the originals.  It's more about lovers, but the lyrics apply to friendships as well:

"It couldn't last long because it started out strong
But I guess we went about the whole thing wrong
Cause out of nowhere it just came to an end....."

I decided to write this post as therapy, because there's one friendship of mine that ended recently, rather abruptly though I guess I could see it coming, and as I'll mention later, sort of, I tend to turn things over and over in my mind for a long while until I can organize my thoughts and get some closure.

This is my attempt at organization.

I joined Yelp in February 2007, and by March, had amassed a group of friends that I thought I'd have for a very long time.  By that summer, we all hung out on a regular basis.  As someone who was well-liked but never really popular in school, for the next year and change, I would feel like I was finally getting to sit at the cool kids table.  Great feeling.  As an only child, I have always made deep connections with my friends, and these people, I considered them the family I chose.

"T" was the one that I spent the most time with and had the most fun with.  We talked into the wee hours of the morning about everything.  We went everywhere together.  We exchanged gifts a lot of the time for no reason other than we loved each other.  We were like sisters.

The decline of that friendship, well, you could say it started in the fall of 2010.  What happened?

I can't tell you what a bad year 2010 was.  It started off with my cat's death.  About 3 weeks later, daddy followed, of course much more devastating than the cat, although that was painful too.  You may have read my posts about that, and I haven't fully recovered yet.  Day by day.

Then in October, along with a lot of other people our "group" was friendly with, we said goodbye to our brother, RA, who died of cancer.  I haven't really recovered from that one, either.

In any case, that year I managed to buy an apartment, a two bedroom co-op in Queens.  Of course, I talked about the process with my friends.  One friend, JM, told me to clam up about it.  Buying your own home or having any kind of extraordinarily good fortune often inspired jealousy among those you least expected.  I waved that advice away as his usual paranoia - who on earth would take advantage or be jealous of me??  Especially after the year I'd had...

About a month or so before I closed on my place, T asked if she could be my roomie and stay in the second bedroom in my new house.  She had had to move around a lot for a long time.  By this time, she had gotten an awesome boyfriend, for which I was very happy - to me, she really deserved it.  I thought she also needed the stability of a set place to live, so I said yes without hesitation.  It took me a while to tell my mom, but that's another story....  T got mad at me for that, and I had to talk her down from her anger, as I did a few times when she got annoyed with me.  Looking back, at that time, I thought I needed her, and I wanted her company in the house.

We moved in together that June.  We unpacked boxes together.  I add here that she even helped me pack up my stuff in the old house to be moved.  We planned out where furniture would go.  We organized kitchen cabinets.

As it turned out, she didn't need a place to live.  She stayed over a lot at her boyfriend's place, which of course was cool with me.  She still paid "rent", so that she used my house as a storage place for her stuff was not a problem at first.  As time wore on, however, and I had to see her stuff kept in a messy pile in that room first thing when I came home, it got annoying.  But instead of telling her that, I told her she could pay me a lot less rent since she didn't actually live there.  She laughed when I told her that.  In hindsight, that reaction should have set off some alarm.  But I didn't want to piss her off and I would much rather have lived with someone else's mess in my house than dissatisfy her.

When my mom visited, she would tell me that T's stuff, which included dirty clothes, was stinking up my house.  That she used my house as her storage lot was disrespectful.  I could see that, but I dismissed my mother's words anyway.

As the summer wore on, T would tell me that person X talked shit about me, that person Y was upset with me, and that person Z said I had changed into "a negative person" (person Z recently, and vehemently, denied this - I didn't and don't believe her).  She told me this because, as she said, she was "my true friend."  But all that did was make me question myself.  I am a big people pleaser.  I hate it when people are angry with me.  The first thing I do is try and figure out what is so wrong with me that anyone would be mad at me.

My mom visited again at the end of the summer, and as we stood in my second bedroom and she lectured me about standing up for myself with T, I broke down in tears and told her what T told me about my "friends" and whined and asked her "what's wroooong with meeee????"

It turned out that my "issues" with persons X and Y didn't even exist.  Person Z, I'm not sure, but I didn't really care, and what Z did or didn't say upset me because if anyone had a right to be negative once in a while, it was me.

When RA died, JM, friends with both of us, out of grief and worry, told T to be careful with her health (she had been diagnosed with diabetes, she told us, that past January).  Granted, he said it in a harsh way, along the lines of "if you don't take care of yourself, you might be next."  Not at all a tactful way to express worry.  He said that same thing to me (I have insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes).  But I knew where those words came from, so I excused the poor choice and took it as a sign of his affection for me.  T did not, and "broke up" with him immediately.  As a matter of fact, when she called to tell me RA had passed, one of the first things she said was not to tell JM.  Ding ding ding - warning sign.  Not heeded.  As for JM, I'm still good friends with him.  I actually pled with T not to be so mad at him, which maybe I shouldn't have done - I should have stayed out of it, and I think I became guilty by association at that point.  But if there's one thing T taught me, you should always stand up for your friends.  She would also add that I didn't stand up for her enough.

Things went downhill from there.  We hung out less and less.  She made friends that I didn't particularly care for, but, that was her choice and it had nothing to do with me.  I finally got the courage to ask her to get her stuff out of my house, but that didn't happen until 4 or so months after she had moved in with her boyfriend.  If I hadn't said anything, her stuff would still be in a pile in my house.  It took me another 6 or so months to finally throw away the stuff she left behind that she obviously didn't want.

I should add that I missed her last birthday, I suppose a cardinal sin in girl world.  I got a deal with a friend for a zip-line outing in the Poconos that fell exactly on T's birthday.  She had a night out in K-town the night before, and then a more intimate dinner the day of her birthday.  I told her that I couldn't make it to the night out because I had to get up very early in the morning to leave for the outing.  She said that was fine.  The dinner was specially organized by her, to the letter, as she usually organizes things.  The chef at the restaurant prepared a special menu, so people needed to RSVP.  I said yes.  As it turned out, we got back about 2 hours late from zip-lining.  Since we were not allowed cell phones on the outing, I couldn't text T until we got on the bus, but I did so as soon as I could get to my phone.  I explained why I was late, but T was already pissed.  At this point, instead of talking her down from her anger at me, as usual, I decided, the hell with it.  I apologized profusely, and that's all I could really do.  I was tired of going out of my way to make sure I stayed in her good graces.  We didn't speak after that.

Meanwhile, every time I posted something on Facebook alluding to "toxic friends", T would assume I meant her.  I didn't, because after everything I didn't think of her that way.  In December 2011, I replied to a mutual friend's posting about friends who would tell you that others disliked you under the guise of their love for you.  T assumed I meant her.  I didn't, though she had done that to me, but I still didn't think of her that way.  Even though our friendship was already fading out, I didn't want to anger her outright.  Well, she got pissed anyway and defriended me.  Remembering that still makes me giggle.  What a thing is social media.... I still think of her and try to figure out what exactly went wrong, hence this post.  How did I make her so angry with me?  I should be angry with her.  I should have talked to her at the risk of angering her.  But I didn't.  Did she ever talk to me about those FB posts that were allegedly about her?  Not really.  Did she ever say outright that she was mad at me?  Never.  Apologize?  Pfft...no way.  She just let go.  And this post is my way of doing the same....

She did text me for my birthday this year, saying that even though we didn't talk, she still remembered my birthday (maybe she wanted a medal, or maybe this was payback for me missing her birthday), and that she hoped that we could reconnect.  I responded thanking her for the wishes and that I hoped she was happy and healthy.  I was being sincere.  Yet when I saw her at the waxing place I go to and she works at, I said hello and was ready to hug it out, but she just said "Hiiiiii" in a non-chalant tone, then immediately made herself scarce.

This is the part where I shake my head and throw up my hands.