Friday, April 24, 2009

Hispanic Bread Anyone? What's Wrong With Pan Dulce?

Walked past the bakery section of a local supermarket and saw a sign announcing "Hispanic Bread". When I paused to investigate, I found pre-packaged "Pan Dulce", (pronounced -pawn-dool-seh), plain old Mexican sweet bread. Odd that the supermarket didn't bother to ask some Mexican what they called their pastries. All they had to do was ask.

Check them out at any Mexican-deli, if you're not too squeamish about going inside, and you will never go back to donuts and snails. I get the feeling sometimes that people are afraid of the word "Mexican." Maybe it still has the old go-back-to-where-you-came-from connotations? While you're in there, get yourself some "chicarrones" to munch on too.

To refer to them as Hispanic Bread is to refer to spaghetti as Latin Spaghetti, or Chow-Mein as Asian noodles? Why not Latino Bread? There really ought to be no reservations about using Spanish words to sell products by now, and carne asada, chipotle, jalapenos, chile rellenos, or albondigas are all part of "European" jargon in the U.S., que no?

After all, some of my best friends speak perfect American.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Blessed Are Those Who Have Not Seen

Yesterday's Gospel Reading was the powerful story in the Book of John about Thomas, the supreme doubter, doubting Thomas. When he scoffs the stories that Jesus has been raised from the dead, he boasts that he will not believe until he can put his hand into the wounds in Jesus' hands and side.

When the risen Jesus appears to him and challenges Thomas to put his hand into his wounds, the scoffing Thomas can only drop to his knees:
"My Lord and My God"
Doubters make the best believers when they see truth. Doubt appears to be the path to knowing. It is the mantra of science. The scientific method. Else God would have made us puppets who were programmed to believe, beings without free will.
However, HE's taking a big chance because many "Pendejos", fools, skeptics or disbelievers continue to doubt, even when they are banged over the head with the truth. Witness "The Flat Earth Society" in England. Or those who deny the Holocaust.
It is not easy to admit you were dead wrong about something. Is it pride? Stupidity? Both? Skeptics want things to fail just so they can show they were right all along. Witness the right wingers who can't wait for Obama to fail, even if it means their own demise, just to prove they were right!
My mother used to say "ere's un incredulo" (you are a disbeliever) when it came to religious stuff. I wanted proof that God existed, a miracle, a revelation, a sign. I have been right there alongside of Thomas most of my life.
Speaking of signs, one billboard just outside Modesto, alongside the 99 hwy. always posted religious messages and once beamed: " I would rather believe in Hell and be wrong, than not believe in Hell and be wrong!"
Hmmm. Interesting point. What have we to lose if we believe in a God that is good and wants only good from us, and then discover there is no God after we die? At least we would have lived a decent life. It seems to beat the odds at slot machines in Vegas?
"Thomas: you believe because you have seen. But blessed are they who have not seen, yet they believe."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Suffer The Little Children: The New Armies

Watched a frightening documentary on PBS last night, "Children of The Taliban", showing the recent resurgence of the Taliban in the rural tribal provinces of Pakistan. The Pakistani army boasts of its recent military successes against them, but the the residual cost of lives to civilians has only served to further drive the people away.
In one case, an entire city was leveled "to save it from the Taliban" (sound familiar?) In 1968, a small group of American soldiers entered the village of My Lai and massacred between 300-500 unarmed Vietnamese. When the Lt. William Calley Jr. was questioned about why the incident had ocurred, he said he ordered the killings, "to save the village from the communism".
The result of these military offensives against the Taliban has been the creation of massive refugee tent cities where thousands of displaced civilians are forced to live in squalor. The Taliban then moves in, offers free schooling, free meals and sometimes even stipends to families, since state run schools have collapsed in the country. Girls are banned from attending schools, so the classes are filled with young male recruits (children), ripe for the picking. Many boast they will join the Taliban when they grow up and offer their bodies to the glory of martydom. In one scene, childrens voice are heard singing "if you look for me, you won't find me. My body will be in pieces...." These kinds of schools are sprouting up throughout these tribal regions and fears are they will soon enter the large urban areas, with their sprawling neighborhoods of poverty and organized crime.
As the frustrated U.S. military chases Taliban fighters from Afghanistan into safe havens in nearby Pakistan, stray bullets, bombs and rockets have also caused residual damage to Pakistani citizens, further causing hatred against Americans in these regions and more and more loyalty to the Taliban. Thus, new generations of Jihad are being created. Half of Pakistan's population is children.
Brothers and sisters, it seems we are in for a long haul here. What we teach our children, they will probably grow up to believe. Do we teach them to love or do we teach them to hate? This is a new kind of war with a worthy opponent.

Monday, April 13, 2009

O Death, Where Is Thy Sting? He is Risen!

Spent a memorable Easter attending Mass and later in the company of our two sons. The Cathedral of the Annunciation in Stockton is a fine, old Gothic Style church with
beautiful stained glass windows and hand decorated wooden beams on its ceiling.

"I am the Bread of Life; he who eats this bread will never die. I am God's love revealed, I am broken the you might be healed."
"Lord, I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and I shall be healed."
It was a beautiful mass. What Easter should be. Not bunnies or colored eggs. Tears rolled on my cheeks. Joy swelled. Gratitude. "It was not a resuscitation, but a resurrection" the priest was quoted as stressing in the local paper.

We came home, my wife cooked a ham, scalloped potatoes, and cornbread and I watched a chorale interpret the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus on PBS. Later we went to my younger son's home, where we were joined by my oldest son, and we ate and enjoyed one another's company until early evening.

At the same time, my son's female cat gave birth to six kittens on the deck of his backyard.

To end a fine day, my wife and I lay in bed and watched "Slumdog Millionaire", a brilliant film which my youngest son's girlfriend insisted we watch. No wonder it took eight Academy Awards this year (2009)! It is a British film directed by Danny Boyle, written by Simon Beaufoy, based on a novel by Indian author Vikas Swarup, a coming of age story of Jamal Malik, who grows up in a Mumbai slum to become a contestant on India's version of "Who Wants To Become a Millionaire?" And his relentless quest to find and unite himself with Latika, the childhood love of his life.

The acting, and editing (especially the flashbacks to his life of suffering after he is asked and answers each question and to the police station where he is brutally beaten after being accused of cheating on the show), all explain how it is he knows each answer, and are absolutely stunning and spell-binding. It is what film making is all about, story telling at its best! He manages to win the grand prize of 20 million rupees, but how did he do it? (A) He cheated, (B) He is lucky, (C) He is a genius, or (D) It is written? An inconspicuous title at the bottom left of the screen announces, "It is written", as the film ends.

As I watched, I could not help but recall Bengali, Satyjit Ray's classic "Apu Trilogy" of films made between 1955-59, also about the coming of age of a young Apu. The three films, "Pather Panchali" (Song of the Little Road), "Aparajito" (The Unvanquished), and "Arpur Sansar" (The World of Apu") have won numerous national and international awards, including some from the Cannes, Berlin and the Venice Film Festivals. The original score is written and performed by none other than Ravi Shankar... wow (first time I ever heard him!).

In all, the themes of each of this sacred day's events seemed to be all about resurrection, even the six unsightly kittens born in the backyard.

If you liked "Slumdog" check out the Apu trilogy. If you haven't watched these films, do so. You won't regret it, I promise. Have I ever steered you wrong?

So it is written.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Spanish Made E-Z: Useless Lesson #1

Really gets me, these ads for language courses where you learn by looking at a picture and memorizing a phrase to go with it. Problem is the phrase is practically useless, one you'll probably never use your entire life!

"El caballo salta" (The horse leaps). Come on, how many of us are going to need a phrase like that unless we are explaining something about a cowboy movie we just saw! So continuing this useless tradition, and depending on popular demand, I offer my own version of useless Spanish phrases:
  • "Perdon, tienes una mosca en tu frente." (Excuse me, there's a fly on your forehead)
  • "La vaca esta bailando El Mambo" (The cow is dancing The Mambo)
  • "Hay un guzano verde en tu Menudo" (There is a green worm in your Menudo)
  • "Tu hijo tiene grandes orejas" (You're son has big ears)
  • "Mi maestra esta bien dormida y roncando" (My teacher is fast asleep and snoring)

Well, let me know how your Spanish is progressing. Hasta la vista, Vaya con Dios and all that stuff!