Coco con el Club de Español

On Wednesday, the OU Spanish Club hosted an end-of-semester watch party of Disney-Pixar’s Coco — if I was still a CMP major, I’d call this a “film screening”; now however, I can go back to “watching movies” alongside Joe Everyman and his box set of the Transformers reboot.

“¡No manches, güey!”

Snark aside, I wouldn’t have missed this showing por el mundo. The first time I saw Coco was actually in Mexico — my study abroad group had a pizza party in our professors’ apartment in Puebla. Needless to say, I’ve got some pretty great memories attached to this film and, though I’ve kept in contact with most of my study abroad cohorts, it was nice to relive some of Mexico’s vibrant culture alongside Miguel, Héctor and — my personal favorite — Chicharrón.

SPOILERS:

You can try to tell me that the addition of Mamá Coco’s portrait to la ofrenda is the saddest part of the movie, but it isn’t. Chicharrón’s melancholy fading from existence is the real emotional low-point of the film. Add the song that Héctor sings at his deathbed (death hammock?) and you’ve got the most under-appreciated animated tearjerker since Giacchino’s theme for Ratatouille. 

*Also: The guy’s name is “pork rinds”? Is it a nickname? Was it given at birth? Cheech is truly a tequila-sodden enigma.

Considering I’m taking a semester off from Spanish in the spring, I’m going to try to stay as involved as possible in Spanish Club. A little conversation, some free food — palomitas y papas fritas this time, but sometimes a bit more gourmet — and meeting people outside of the band is always welcome.

Día de los Muertos: The Squeakquel

Oh brother — it’s already late October/early November again? You know what that means: It’s time to Día those Muertos-es once again.

I attended the OU Day of the Dead street festival last year and I had a great time. Street vendors, food trucks and vibrant Mexican culture abound through the Lloyd Noble Center parking lot and make for a great experience for both those celebrating their own heritage and those who are looking to experience it vicariously through others.

I met up with a few of my OU in Puebla friends — shameless plug for the College of International Studies and OU’s study abroad opportunities — and together we ate and danced our way through one of Norman’s neatest annual events. If you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend that you do.

Even my Spanish professor got in on the fun — since his birthday happened to fall during the festival this year, he brought pan de muerto for our whole Spanish class to eat while we learned about the traditions of Day of the Dead (e.g. Catrina the Dandy). The orange-y, sugary, sesame seed-y bread, traditional for Day of the Dead celebrations, is quickly becoming one of my favorite treats — we actually made some during one of our cooking classes in Puebla and, while mine didn’t quite stack up against the pros, it was no slouch either.

La Calavera Catrina — a staple of the Día de los Muertos iconography.

My only regret is that my summer study abroad program ended before I could experience Day of the Dead in Mexico. I can’t imagine how much more vibrant and enriching the festival would be in its country of origin. But, who knows — I’ve still got a semester abroad left. Maybe I’ll get to see Día de los Muertos en México before I’m done here at OU.

Seeing as it’s Halloween, I’m hardly in the right mindset to crank out a poignant, philosophical blog post. Like the typical trick-or-treating fare, this entry to the blog can be considered candy — (hopefully) enjoyable, and providing little of real worth.

Without further ado, my best joke:


Three guys are walking through the woods when they spy a lamp lying at the foot of tree. Intrigued, they walk over and, half-joking, decide to give it a rub like in Aladdin. To their surprise, a genie immediately shoots out of the lamp’s spout and sinks into a deep bow.

“Three wishes each, I can grant you, my saviors. Three wishes for your kindly actions,” the genie booms.

The first guy, never one to pass up an opportunity, steps up and blurts, “I want a million dollars!” The genie snaps his fingers. The first guy pulls out his phone to check his bank balance and watches as the total goes from $13,057 to $1,013,057.

The second guy thinks for a minute before stepping forward. “I wish to be the richest man in the world.” Again, the genie snaps his fingers and produces a copy of Forbes magazine. The second guy is listed at the top of the wealthiest people in the world, above even Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos.

The third guy ponders what he’s seen and then clears his throat. “I wish for my left arm to rotate clockwise for the rest of my life,” he says clearly. The genie hesitates for a moment, but snaps his fingers and the guy’s arm starts to windmill.

The first guy says, “For my second wish, I wish to be married to the most beautiful woman in the world.” Snap. A stunning redhead appears at the genie’s side and immediately runs over to the first guy and puts her arm around his waist.

With a sly smile, the second guys says, “I wish I could get with any woman in the world.” The genie snaps his fingers and the first guy’s new wife starts making eyes at the second guy.

The third guy screws his brow up, thinking really hard before saying, “I wish that my right arm would rotate counter-clockwise for the rest of my life.” The genie just kind of looks at him, but eventually snaps his fingers and, sure enough, the third guy’s arms are now spinning in huge, opposing circles.

“These are your final wishes,” rumbles the genie. “Think carefully as to how you wish to use them.”

“I want to feel as good as I did when I was 22,” says the first guy. With a snap, his hairline thickens, his waistline slims down and his arthritic hip feels good-as-new.

Always one to one-up, the second guy says, “I wish to never age another day.” The genie snaps and, though his appearance doesn’t immediately change, the second guy is now immortal, impervious to the aging effects of time.

Both the first and second guys look to the third, curious as to what he’s been planning. Slowly, confidently, the third guys says to the genie, “I want my head to nod up and down for the rest of my life.” With a snap, the man’s head begins bobbing back and forth violently and the genie disappears in a puff of smoke.

The three guys go their separate ways, each with their respective spoils, before they meet up in a bar a few years down the road. They catch up briefly, before the conversation turns to the genie’s wishes.

“Well, I invested my million dollars,” says the first guy. “My kids will never have to work, I feel 20 years younger than I really am, and my wife an incredible lover.” He smiles at the beautiful redhead still by his side.

With a smirk, the second guy, impeccably dressed, says, “With my money, I purchased multiple Fortune 500 companies. My children’s children’s children will never work and we’ll be pseudo-royalty for the rest of our lives. I haven’t aged a day since we found the lamp and yeah — your wife is a pretty incredible lover.” He shoots a wink at the first guy.

The first and second guy turn to the third guy who has remained quiet until now.

“Guys,” he says, head nodding wildly, arms flailing in wide circles, “I think I messed up.”

While last summer provided me with the incredible worldly experiences of visiting both Austria and Mexico (both through programs affiliated with the University of Oklahoma), this summer I hope to spend my time with an experience that will be just as transformative — if considerably less international.

Since 1972, Drum Corps International has been providing a nonprofit outlet for young adults (often 17-21) who are incredibly invested in marching music. Thirteen marching bands (or “drum corps,” as they are referred to) joined together and established a league of competitive outdoor musical ensembles that would spend their summers competing against one another in touring tournaments around the country. As the activity has expanded, there are now 24 World Class corps (the highest distinction) and countless other “Open Class” organizations which provide a more local, accessible opportunity for dedicated members of the marching community to further pursue their art.

For the past month or so, I’ve been preparing audition materials — comprised of various etudes and visual prep-work — to submit video auditions to a number of corps. My primary interest lies in the Boston Crusaders organization, a corps based in the titular city of Boston and specializing in rigorous, thematically-charged shows.

A tasty shot of the uniforms from the 2015 show…

…and from the 2017 show, respectively.

If selected (or “contracted,” as the vets say), I’d spend one weekend a month, starting in December, traveling to the corps’ home base and rehearsing the show for the coming season. Spring training starts in mid-May, a month-long process consisting of 12-hour rehearsal days as the corps gets the foundation of the show solidified. Following spring training, the meat of the season — “tour” — begins in earnest. The corps boards charter buses and begins a two-month-long circuit of the country, performing at various high schools and colleges along the way.

The average day on tour looks a bit like this:

6:00 — up

7:00 — breakfast

8:00 — rehearsal block

12:00 — lunch

1:00 — rehearsal block

5:00 — dinner; pack/load buses

6:00 — leave for competition site

7:00 — performance

10:00 — board buses; drive to next high school/college

X:00 — unpack; sleep in gymnasium

— REPEAT —

It’s an incredible sacrifice of time, but the caliber of musical enrichment that the activity exposes you to appears to be bar-none. I’m quietly optimistic about my chances to receive a contract and I’m really hoping to be able to march a spot with Boston this summer.

More info/pictures to come!

 

¡Adios, México!

Looking back, my trip to Mexico was undoubtedly a rollercoaster ride from start to finish. There were certainly low points (here’s to you, food poisoning) but for the most part, these were matched and surpassed by opportunities to experience a culture that otherwise would have remained largely unknown to me.

Summing up the entirety of three weeks in a foreign country is difficult, so I’ll instead give a rundown of the most impactful moments of the trip and what I’ve taken away from them.

In no particular order, here are the high points of Puebla and what they meant to me:

New Foods and Culinary Classes: I came to Mexico determined to be the most adventurous eater in the group. I didn’t have to like everything that I tried, but I had to try it — how else was I going to experience anything new? I was not going to be the gringo that ordered a cheeseburger at every restaurant we went to. Though this reckless abandon was probably a primary culprit behind a nasty bout of food poisoning, I can honestly say that I’ve tried things I never wold have known about.

Chile en nogada; a fairly indescribable dish featuring a pepper stuffed with everything from smoked meats to pineapple to nuts and covered in goat cheese and pomegranate seeds

We also had the privilege of taking a number of culinary courses through the UPAEP school of Gastronomía. Of all the dishes we made, pan de muertos (a traditional sweetbread made for Day of the Dead celebrations) was probably my favorite.

Pan de muertos

However, I think the neatest thing about my cooking lessons is that I can bring them back to mi familia. My mom and I love to cook together already–what better way to share my trip with her and the rest of my family than by cooking the things we ate in Puebla?

Los Miserables:  In the 8th Grade, I fell in love with Boublil and Schonberg’s “Les Miserables.” I probably saw the 25th Anniversary in Concert edition of the show no fewer than 30 times and I still have the show memorized word-for-word to this day. When I heard that we were going to see “Los Mis” at the theatre in Mexico City, I was thrilled. After all, it’s always easier to pick up on another language when you already have an idea of what’s going on.

Our seats were terrific; I’m four rows back from the stage

Suffice it to say that “Los Miserables” was far and away the most rewarding, engaging application of Spanish that I’ve gotten to experience in my four years of studying the language. I’ve never felt more confident in my listening and comprehension abilities, I picked up all sorts of new words and I was utterly blown away by the talent onstage. This has given me all sorts of new confidence to tackle my last year of my Spanish minor and incorporate the language into my life in new ways (e.g. showtunes).

New Friends: Sure, it’s cliché. That being said, thee weeks in a foreign country would have been almost impossible without finding a great group of like-minded Sooners that I could lean on as a support system. College can be a pretty lonely place even when you’re in the States, so having our little Puebla group in invaluable. We’re still communicating in our groupchat even after the trip finishing and I’m confident that I can count on them to be solid friends when I get back to Norman this fall.

The gang at the ancient city of Teotihuacan

I got to be closer with other members of the marching band, kids on the track team and all sorts of people I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten to know.

The Pride of Oklahoma takes on Puebla. (Alternate caption: A trombone, a saxophone, a mellophone and a synth player walk in to a foreign country)

Regardless of social circle or extracurriculars, however, we certainly have one thing in common: thanks to the College of International Studies, we shared a fabulous experience together.

Come find any one of us in Norman this fall–we’d love to tell you more about it.

 

Salsa–Not Just a Sauce

I’m not much of a dancer. Well, I wasn’t much of a dancer before Puebla.

I was fully prepared to get invested in the culinary and cultural aspects of my trip to Mexico, be it in the kitchen, touring markets or interacting with locals; I was not prepared, however, for authentic Mexican dance classes.

Sure enough, after getting our schedules, we saw that we’d be spending Tuesdays and Thursdays after class at the UPAEP School of Bellas Artes to learn a variant of salsa dancing called “cumbia”.

Twice a week, we’d troop down the street, into the the Bellas Artes building and squarely outside my comfort zone.

Cumbia dancers in their traditional regalia

While cumbia originated in Colombia, the genre came to Mexico around the ’50s and has been a staple of the culture ever since. We each paired up with an UPAEP student enrolled in the dance class we were attending and started learning some of the basics.

As we worked our way through four-bar musical phrases, something became very apparent: cumbia is very open to interpretation. All around me, my fellow OU students were toiling to get through the few moves we knew while the natives whirled through pretzel-like maneuvers as if they were nothing. Not a terribly heartening first experience.

The next week, I decided that I was going to make the most of my cumbia experience–after all, you get out what you put in. Filled with street tacos and immeasurable determination, I threw reservations aside and danced with reckless abandon. A real máquina de baile, if you will.

It was far from perfect, but I started picking up on more and more of the moves that the locals were throwing out. We’d dance for an hour, rotating partners every four minutes or so, and I even started to develop certain rhythms with certain partners. By the end of the trip, dance class had become one of my favorite parts of each week.

When we left Puebla, it was a little sad to say goodbye to UPAEP and the Bellas Artes school. However, there was another surprise in store for us; upon arriving in Mexico City, we ate a welcome dinner at El Lugar del Mariachi, a restaurant that featured traditional live music and dancing while we ate. At one point, we were even serenaded by a singing luchador wrestler.

By the end of the meal, the dance floor had cleared and our OU in Puebla class was able to practice what we had learned–we danced the cumbia like pros in the middle of the restaurant while a live mariachi band provided our soundtrack.

I certainly never would have pursued an experience like this without the prodding of my teachers in the program but now that I have, I am extremely grateful. Who doesn’t want to be able to tell a story like that? I’m grateful to GEF and OU Study Abroad for helping me to broaden my horizons…and to my dance teacher for helping get rid of my two pies izqiuerdas. 

First Amendment Interviews

Upon interviewing a number of my friends and family members, one thing is clear: people are generally pretty supportive of their First Amendment rights, even if they aren’t presented in a manner that’s terribly straightforward.

Maybe this is because the First Amendment is pretty well known or because Americans tend to go into Pavlovian salivation at buzzwords like “freedom”, but nonetheless, everyone I talked to supported the mock bills allegedly proposed by Congress.

For a conglomerate of guys from the 1700s, the Framers of the Constitution  have shown themselves to be pretty forward-thinking, thorough politicians. Granted, not all of their concepts have stood the test of a rapidly-evolving world, but the base ideals of an amendment deemed important enough to be listed first have proved themselves just as relevant in today’s society.

I realize that the purpose of this assignment was to invoke “gotcha” moments with my interview subjects — think Jimmy Kimmel’s bit where he asks people if they prefer the Affordable Care Act to Obamacare. Ultimately though, that just wasn’t how things played out. While Dean Walker’s experiment undoubtedly serves as a talking point for discussions of political freedoms, the people I talked to were pretty up-to-date on their First Amendment knowledge. They consistently deemed the five key freedoms of the First Amendment as vital and more or less identified the First Amendment as their genesis point.

I was a bit surprised that nearly a quarter of Americans surveyed consider the First Amendment to be too generous with the freedoms it guarantees as I considered them to be somewhat integral to our society.

Creator Response to Artistic Backlash

Unfortunately, it has come to my attention that some believe my previous post to be “manipulative”, “uninspiring” or “not a real blog post”.

Fortunately, y’all are in the wrong–not me.

I’ve recently taken measures to begin converting what had been a perfectly tasteful, well-run blog into a guerrilla-style beacon of topical, surrealist humor-commentary.

Unfortunately, this means that I’m entitled to absurdist posts at my folly.*

A picture says a thousand words. Because of this phenomenon, I am now

896 words over my requirement. Until next time, dedicated audience of blog-readers.

*Disclaimer: Only the author is allowed to refer to his posts as “absurdist”. Others doing so risk categorizing and assuming the stance of another’s viewpoints which is crass and uncouth. Indeed, I may deem a post farcical one day and identify it as a biting period piece on the culinary practices of Korean War-era Puerto Rico the next.

Really Just Some Food for Thought Here to Be Perfectly Honest With You

Noah Maloney is currently enjoying a meteoric rise in the film industry and, though his content runs the gamut from socioeconomic critique to simple farce, our society is subjective and politically correct enough that I’m perfectly entitled to call this “art” — which it is. I’m a film major, so I get the moving picture.

If the MOMA in New York City can have a room full of white canvases, I can get away with calling this a blog post.

#Kony2012

Further Exploitation of What Counts as a Blog Post: Studying for Comparative Religions

Howdy all.

I’ve got one heck of a comparative religions exam coming up. Let’s put these 250 words to the pursuit of ecumenical knowledge.

Agni: This fellow is the Hindu god of fire. He traces his origins back to the Vedic eras when rituals were performed around altars of fire and fire itself was thought to be the master of the household. Agni carries burnt offerings up to the other gods via the smoke and, in this way can be thought of as “the mouth of the gods”. He’s the subject of the Agni Chayna Ceremony, a lavish 12-day, 17-Brahmin-priest ritual festival in his honor.

‘Ali: ‘Ali was a great Islamic warrior who would eventually marry the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter Fatimah to become his son-in-law. Muhammad and ‘Ali were close, with Muhammad lauding ‘Ali in a speech shortly before his death. However, this inspired a great rift within the Ummah–Sunnis believed that Muhammad’s praise of ‘Ali carried no greater implications while Shi’ite Muslims thought that Muhammad had designated ‘Ali to be his rightful successor as Caliph. ‘Ali lost the Caliph position to Abu Bakr at the start of the Rashidun and, despite serving as the fourth and final Caliph of the Rashidun, the rift was firmly cemented between Sunnis and Shi’ites. ‘Ali’s grandson Hussayn was later massacred and beheaded in the great Battle of Karbala against Sunni forces, marking it as the darkest day of the Shi’ite calendar. ‘Ali was assassinated during his time as Caliph.

Masjid: Don’t be fooled by the fancy name–this just means “mosque”. The Arabic name translates to “place of prostration”, referring to salat, the daily ritual prayers that Muslims perform. The first Mosque was an open space in Muhammad’s home in Medina and subsequent mosques are modeled after the aspects that it had. Mosques today should have: 1. A prayer niche 2. An indication of the direction of Mecca/the Ka’bah 3. a “tower”–the original purpose of this is uncertain but it is now often the point from which the call to prayer is made 4. a fountain of water to perform the ritual cleansing before prayer. Early distinctions emerged between small, local mosques and large, communal mosques that held Friday prayer sessions and sermons. However, the mosque is not the only place a Muslim may pray. Mosques will never contain representational artwork, lest the worshippers commit shirk and venerate the people portrayed in the art. During the Crusades, some Christian churches were converted to mosques, but the truly impressive early mosques are the Umayyad mosque in Damascus and the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Man, that sure is neat. Three terms out of 59 down!