Rivas Cultural Services received a remarkable inquiry last week when Charles Moreno requested recommendations as to how to brush up on his Spanish in preparation for hosting two Mexican professional soccer teams. Señor Moreno is the grandson of Mexican immigrants and enjoys tequila and beer. Rivas Cultural Services is half great-grandson of Mexican immigrants and half other stuff, or only 50% as Mexican as Sr. Moreno and 50% more removed from the fatherland.
The culturist suggested Sr. Moreno incorporate the Mexican telenovela of his choosing into his weekly television regimen and loaned him the Lonely Planet guidebook series Mexican Spanish Phrasebook. The handy little paperback was donated to Rivas Cultural Services by the celebrated Mexicanist and life artist Bubba Ray Robison, a Texan.
In discussing his Spanish study, Sr. Moreno claimed to be unfamiliar with the word habitación as used in the book in reference to asking for a room and was surprised to find that the word cuarto was not used. Rivas Cultural Services assured the short and dark Sr. Moreno that the latent Spanish speaker in him must have at one time been cognizant of the words habitación (hotel room) and recámara (bedroom) as well as the more general cuarto (room). Sr. Moreno replied, "Simón, güero."
Pleased with his progress and dedicating himself anew to reacquiring his ancestral tongue, Sr. Moreno requested a soccer-specific assignment, whereupon Rivas Cultural Services advised Sr. Moreno to investigate the differences between a gol, a golazo and a golazote.
Tomorrow night at 9pm all card-carrying Santa Barbara and Goleta locs will have a rare opportunity to see one of their favorites perform. SB/Goleta bros Los Vikings XIII are holding their album release party at Roundin' Third, way out at 7398 Calle Real between Glen Annie and Winchester Canyon. The show will likely consist of two one-hour sets.
Los Vikings XIII is the country collaboration between guitarist/vocalist Eric Dyrenforth (San Marcos '94) and drummer Brian LeBlanc (Santa Barbara '96). Dyrenforth's recent projects include jazz standards as Don Francisco de Goleta and "unsophisticated jazz" with his band The Double Zeros. LeBlanc is the well known leader of local thrash heroes Civil Unrest. Los Vikings XIII plays original songs as well as American folk classics like "Wreck of the Old 97".
The Santa Barbara Man About Goleta has learned from Strickley Lokes, Esq. that the album is "some seriously essential shit, a bona fide piece of Santa Barbara music history that the true SB loc will feel spiritually moved to add to her or his collection, so bring cash, motherfuckers." Not wanting to give too much away before the big night, Lokes also said the album itself is part music and part art piece.
While Los Vikings XIII does not expressly forbid transplants and stus from attending, the hardest of their hard core fans have been known to react viscerally to gentrifiers. The Santa Barbara Man About Goleta implores anyone who did not attend high school locally to employ the phrase "I'm down with Foothill School" in the event of a kerfuffle.
Tags: los vikings xiii, eric dyrenforth, brian leblanc, civil unrest, strickley lokes esq., sbnews, sblifestyle
Art & Copy 2008, 89 min., Doug Pray International Distribution coming soon
After watching the first season of Mad Men, the Santa Barbara Man About Goleta went out and did two things. One was to buy some cufflinks and a shirt with which to wear them. The other was to resolve to see the documentary film Art & Copy at the Fest. This was the movie I most wanted to see, and I rate it higher than any of the other four reviewed herein.
In director Doug Pray's estimation, at least 95% of all ads are bad. Yet as long as we continue to receive our daily shot of 5000 advertising messages, and the global advertising industry will be worth $544 billion in a couple years, the ad men and women who are "making statements from deep within the system" deserve to be documented. These folks are subversives, Pray explained after the film, the last surviving members of the creative revolution in the advertising world of the 1960s, when art directors were first put in the same room as copy writers.
"These guys see themselves as growing flowers in hell," Pray said, a sentiment echoed in the film by the long-hair who came up with the phrase "got milk?": "Our motto here is ‘Art Serving Capitalism.'"
The ad wizards profiled are revered within their world but entirely unknown to the general public. They discuss their gift for knowing what will make us buy things we don't need, their frustration at having to drag stubborn clients into being rich, and the rush comes with knowing a million people just got an anticipated consumption high off a commercial they created.
A fourth-generation billboard worker in the film explains that no member of his family working in the billboard business has ever had to file for unemployment. Billboard work has been steady since the 1930s! Today, four-man crews routinely change billboards in 12 minutes.
When an audience member asked why Pray didn't discuss the lack of ethics involved in so much advertising, the director explained that such a film already exists, called The Ad and the Ego, and that maybe that was the film the audience member had wanted to see. Another audience question came from a guy wearing a t-shirt printed with the words, "Rock concert I attended."
If you ever wondered how Nike came up with, "Just Do It," the slogan that the film tells us inspired women to divorce their husbands, the answer is simple: on the brink of his execution, a man on death row in Utah said, "Let's do it," this was reported in the newspaper, and a Nike man saw it and changed it to the catch phrase that helped Michael Jordan make Nike $5.2 billion.
Art & Copy is full of such insider insight that no American can afford to miss. If you didn't see the film at the festival, keep an eye out for its impending national distribution.
By the way, if you're a jogger, know that jogging was imported from Australia by Nike's Bill Bowerman in the 1960s. Gotcha!
Tags: art & copy, sbiff, doug pray, nike, just do it, let's do it, advertising, mad men, cufflinks
Los Herederos (The Inheritors) 2008, 90 min., Eugenio Polgovsky
If you've ever felt the urge to empathize with Mexican child laborers from the comfort of a cushioned recliner, this is the documentary for you. If, however, it's the language of the uneducated Mexican agricultural worker born into a culture of poverty that you're after, this ain't it - Los Herederos has almost no words!
No voice-overs, no introduction, no words on the screen other than subtitles, nothing. It's a documentary with no narration! Not only that, the subjects of the film rarely speak. It's a 90-minute movie with no talking!
Aside from a boy who nicks himself with a machete while whittling and asks his little brother to bring him some yellowed Scotch tape to mend it, there is only one piece of memorable dialogue in the film. It comes when several small children are eating lunch in the shade under the truck that will haul the tomatoes they've picked. Sitting in the dirt, the kids are gobbling tomatoes when one little girl predicts, "Tomorrow we'll shit pure tomato mash."
In the opinion of Rivas Cultural Services, when your baby sister is sleeping on a blanket in the dirt of a jalapeño field and you're making pennies per kilo of peppers picked, there just isn't all that much around you that would move you to speak. I enjoyed this film in an "I'm glad I don't have to go all the way to Santa Maria or Mexico to witness this kind of stuff" sort of way, but I don't agree with Latino Cinemedia Programming Assistant Ilana Dann Luna's opinion that Los Herederos "might be [her] pick for the most beautiful film in the festival." On second thought, I do agree with her. It might be. It isn't, but it might be.
The documentary does go a long way toward demonstrating that most people use way more words than are necessary, and shows true child labor scenes from the Mexican states of Guerrero, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Sinaloa, Puebla and Veracruz, but I'm not convinced it was worth leaving work in the middle of the day to see. Poop jokes alone just aren't enough for me anymore.
Tags: the inheritors, sbiff, los herederos, shit tomato mash
Just when you were thinking Rivas Cultural Services only watches Mexican movies, we bring you this report from the night after the World Premiere of Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times, a documentary by white angeleño Peter Jones.
Jones is a second-generation L.A. native who dresses like he could be Death Cab for Cutie’s manager. He introduced the film by saying, “the importance of your local newspaper to your community is huge”, to hearty applause, and reminding everyone that the first publisher of the Los Angeles Times, Harrison Gray Otis, had once published the Santa Barbara Press.
Inventing L.A. shows the growth of Los Angeles as envisioned, schemed and promoted by the Los Angeles Times under the ownership of the Chandler family. The Chandlers' wealth grew with the city, which exploded in the 1930s, partly on the strength of the Times Midwinter Number, a nationally distributed supplement encouraging those with means to, “Come to the White Spot,” the right spot for white people. “Japs keep moving,” a banner over one porch said. “This is a white man’s neighborhood.”
When the ultra-white-minded part of the family controlled the paper, the Times brought the aqueduct to Van Nuys, ignored LAPD corrupction and launched Nixon’s career. The paper had such control over the city that, according to California historian Mike Davis, “Politicians were merely employees of the L.A. Times”.
When Otis Chandler became the paper’s fourth publisher in the 1960s and the paper’s news coverage swung significantly toward a browner democracy, both the old-school Chandlers and Nixon became incensed.
“Investigate Otis Chandler with regard to his gardener. I understand he’s a wetback,” we hear Nixon say on tape. “Every one of those sons of bitches.”
Ted Williamson was of the branch of the family that had hated Dorothy Chandler, Otis' mother, and appears a few times in the documentary to say something spiteful about his minority-sympathizing cousin.
“He was such a WASP,” Jones said of Williamson after the screening, “that after we interviewed him, his lunch was a bacon, white bread and mayonnaise sandwich.”
Otis Chandler was pushed out of the paper in the late 1980s and Tom Johnson was made the fifth publisher L.A. Times history. In 1989, the paper had a 20% profit margin and circulation over 1,000,000, shortly after which it was sold. According to Jones, no member of the Chandler family is involved in publishing today.
Inventing L.A. will premiere on PBS in the fall. Funding for the film came from every imaginable foundation and private source. Jones said raising money for is hard work, “especially for a story about a rich white family, that’s really tough”.
Professor Dick Flacks, who was watching the same film as the Santa Barbara Man About Goleta for the second night in a row, would have liked to have seen more about what came of the L.A. Times after its sale in 1989. He also pointed out that while the paper had always been union-free, it did offer some of the nation's best labor reporting in the 1960s and 70s.
UPDATE 2/4: This movie will be shown free on Sunday, February 8th, 1pm, Riviera Theatre, as part of the SBIFF Third Weekend. Go check it out and tell them the Santa Barbara Man About Goleta sent you.
Tags: inventing l.a., the chandlers and their times, white spot, wasp, white folks, otis chandler, harrison gray otis, santa barbara press, los angeles times, dick flacks
Arráncame la vida (Tear This Heart Out) 2008, 110 min., Roberto Sneider Mexico entry for Academy Awards Best Foreign Film
Of the two big money Mexican features to choose from, I went for the one about machista politicians and the women who love them.
Set in 1930s Puebla and Mexico City, Arráncame la vida is based on the novel by Angeles Mastretta about the resourceful young bride of a predictably corrupt politician at the dawn of the PRI party’s 70 years of control of the Mexican government. The PRI’s reign ended July 2, 2000, eight days after the Santa Barbara Man About Goleta arrived in Mexico City for six months as a university exchange student.
Mexican politicians in the 1930s lived the good life made possible by bad deeds, and this movie’s got everything: teenage mothers, assassinations, infidelity, female masturbation and two hours of high Mexican profanity. If you appreciate Mexican Spanish, Arráncame la vida is a must. If you don’t speak a word of Spanish, it’ll make you want to go to Mexico and learn. The landscapes, fancy cars, cowboy get-up, tequila, military uniforms and women are all impeccable.
Director Robert Sneider and actor José María de Tavira – both of whom have much lighter skin than this half-Mexican – answered a few questions after the Saturday night screening.
de Tavira plays Carlos Vives, the leftist sympathizing symphony conductor who’s porking the general’s wife. The audience addressed him as Carlos, which he didn’t mind. His favorite question, which he claimed to never have been asked before, was on which conductors he studied to prepare to play Vives, whose presence in the novel is intense and fleeting.
“I did loads of research and studied quite a lot,” the young güero answered in English, looking like a nerdy Gael García Bernal. He relied on the history of Carlos Chávez, the “way of being” of Eduardo Mata and the body movements of Carlos Kleiber to inform his role.
Sneider appeared proud to have made a film about a period he described as yet untreated in Mexican film. Regarding the predictable sweeping landscape shot with which the film ends, Sneider said, “We thought it was appropriate to have a classical style of filmmaking.”
Rivas Cultural Services describes Arráncame la vida as a flashier and more mainstream vehicle for the same anti-PRI case made in the 1999 instant classic La ley de Herodes (Herod’s Law). La ley de Herodes: now there’s a movie about Mexican politics with plenty of whoring, cursing and racketeering that doesn’t have a cheesy ending and was made with a much smaller budget, while still celebrating Mexico’s film tradition. La ley de Herodes was originally censored by the Mexican film board but eventually released to fantastic box office success.
When I asked Sneider if he thought he could have made his film 10 years ago, he said he had tried but been unable to obtain funding. He emphasized that since 2007, however, there is a new corporate tax incentive for film production in place in Mexico that is making it much easier for directors to get their projects funded.
Sneider’s next film is based on the novel Ciudades desiertas (Deserted Cities) by José Agustín, in which a Mexican couple goes to Iowa on vacation in wintertime. The couple is traveling on a tourist visa, “which is a really novel idea here,” said Sneider.
I will make an effort to see Sneider’s next movie because José Agustín is a favorite of Rivas Cultural Services. As for Tear This Heart Out, if you watch it amid the Oscar hype and find it to be very enjoyable but not mind-blowing, do yourself a favor and go rent Herod's Law.
Tags: arrancame la vida, angeles mastretta, roberto sneider, jose maria de tavira, santa barbara international film festival, sbiff, sbiffy, sbiffies
(The Santa Barbara Man About Goleta is thrilled to bits to be providing Santa Barbara International Film Festival coverage for City2.0, right here in local cyberspace.)
El Camino 2008 Costa Rica/France, 90 min., Ishtar Yasin Gutiérrez Still playing: 7pm on 1/27 and 1:30 on 1/30 at the Metro 4
Ilana Dann Luna is Programming Assistant for Latino CineMedia 2009, the Latin American portion of the festival. She wrote the bilingual program brochure and was a source of great insight on every Spanish-language film in the fest. Rivas Cultural Services is a four-year associate of hers, and the first-rate information she provided was a great help when determining which of the many movies to review.
Ilana introduced El Camino to the audience by explaining, white woman to 90% white audience, that Latin American migration is more than just Mexicans. It was one of the more cogent film introductions of recent memory, and the audience appeared to appreciate it.
All that really need be said about the film is that the director is a woman born in Moscow to an Iraqi father and Chilean-Costa Rican mother. Moral corruption, immigration, tragedy, it’s all in there.
When it was over, I left the theater thinking, “Crap, what a bummer that was.” It wasn’t until I’d packed in four adobada tacos and a Sidral at Lilly’s, watched another film and driven home to Goleta that I realized that El Camino was such a major downer because it was so true to life as to be creepy and saddening, and not because it wasn’t a good movie. The more I thought about it, the more impressed I became with what an impact it had on me.
Tennish-year-old Sislaya and her mute younger brother Darío leave their grandfather’s shack on a Managuan dump to go find their mother in Costa Rica. Seeing the children travel unattended through one of the poorest countries in Latin America is as impossible not to watch as it is disturbing. Sleeping on cardboard over cobblestone is as natural as eating scraps left by diners at the public market and taking handouts from sex traffickers. Sislaya and Darío often quarrel and are easily amused by the mundane, both of which contribute to their meeting a broad spectrum of strangers.
This is a powerful movie that should not be watched as an end-of-day activity, so if you opt for the 7:30 showing tomorrow night, think of something fun to do afterwards. And if Ilana isn’t there to introduce the film, give your neighboring moviegoers a fair warning that they’re about to watch something real.
Tags: el camino, ishtar yasin gutierrez, ilana dann luna, nicaragua, costa rica, santa barbara international film festival, sbiff, sbiffy, sbiffies
First, special thanks to the Daily Sound for publishing Nick's story before anyone else in town! The following is the contents of a letter I've just sent to the SB Independent, following yesterday's publication of Nick's mother's explanation of his heartbreaking situation, in the hope that it'll be in the paper next Thursday.
I met Nick more than 10 years ago, when I was a camp counselor at the City
of Santa Barbara's free summer recreation program at McKinley School. Nick
and his younger brother Pat were just two more kids whose hardworking
parents probably had nowhere else to send them. My coworkers and I
supervised 100 kids a day, every summer, for several years. There must have
I remember a great many of them for various reasons, but there are an
exceptional few who still stand out. We counselors fought with each other to
get these kids in our groups. These were the kids we'd never have to worry
about. They wouldn't practice wresting moves on anyone at the swimming pool,
they wouldn't torture sand crabs, and if there was a ball left at the far
end of the playground, they wouldn't hesitate to run and get it. If they had
younger siblings, we wouldn't have to worry about them, either, because the
big brother or sister was so great. In short, these kids made our job
easier. Nick Cavalier was one of these.
Active, friendly and even-tempered, Nick was a camp counselor's dream.
Blessed with a common sense and self-awareness that seem so rare these days,
Nick was one of those kids who made me love my job. He was also one of only
a handful of participants in our program over the years who inspired such
confidence in the staff that he was eventually made a counselor himself. He
was that great.
I've run into Nick often since our summer recreation days, although lately
I'd wondered where he'd been. Last week, I learned of his tragic situation.
While I was sick with sorrow for him and his family, I was not a bit
surprised to read that he had been attacked while coming to the aid of a
friend. Nobody who knew Nick could have expected him to have acted any
I encourage anyone who has met Nick and been touched by his exceptional
nature - or anyone who has simply heard his story and found it impossible
not to want to help - to contribute to the Nicholas Cavalier Rehabilitation
Fund at any Santa Barbara Bank & Trust branch.
8:25 - Arrive at work for the first day of winter quarter. Everybody who didn't get her or his shit together over the holiday break - which is basically everybody - will be scrambling trying to get a clue before the crucial deadlines come later this month. It will be the busiest workday of the school year thus far.
8:26 - Begin by answering the emails that have piled up during two weeks off. Drop-in hours aren't until 1:30, there's the morning to get caught up. A few folks will finagle their way in though, and it'll be easier to just answer their questions now. Drop-in hours are always a zoo.
12:00 - Lunchtime basketball. The game is sloppy and crowded after we've all been at home getting fat over winter vacation.
12:20 - Al Cerda hammers me on a drive to the basket.
12:40 - Al Cerda hammers me on another drive to the basket, this time with a forearm to the nose, and 1! Good thing he only weighs 150 pounds.
12:41 - Try and walk it off but man it hurts.
12:42 - Paul Fleischauer takes a look and assures me my nose is still straight. He and my dad have been playing in this game together for eons, and I put a lot of stock in what he says. I went to school with one of his kids.
12:43 - We play on. Warmed up and stretched out now, and playing well. My team is on its way to winning our second game to 15 buckets.
12:55 - Steal the ball from a player not worth naming, tapping it to Matt Hurst. Get it back on a breakaway and lay it in, slapping the glass backboard on the way up at a height that says, "I'm going to run circles around everybody for the next two weeks until they work off their holiday sloth."
12:56 - Hustle off the court to the showers, careful not to touch my face hard enough to know just how bad it hurts.
1:10 - Back at work, there's already a line. Might as well start now.
4:35 - The last of the drop-ins goes away happy. Fifteen people came through my office, one after the other. No time to think about anything. Surely one of them would have said something if the guy giving them all the answers' nose wasn't on straight. Surely one of my dozen co-workers would have noticed if my nose wasn't where it should have been, you know, in relation to the rest of my face.
5:35 - Walking out the door, call my good friend Tommy B. Burgher III. Like a lot of SB locs, he lives with his parents. Rivas Cultural Services lives with his girlfriend... and her parents. Go hang out at Tommy's for a while.
6:45 - Relaxed now, allowing myself to consider my face. Decide it hurts. Something isn't right.
6:46 - Go to the bathroom to have a good look. My shit's crooked. This is a nose that would never be confused for straight. How is it that no one said anything?
6:47 - It's straighter now, but good golly, what a sound, like the tiniest baby bird falling from its nest and crunching every bone in its body upon impact with the sidewalk far below.
6:48 - Now it hurts for real. Get some ice from the Burgher family fridge.
6:55 - Tom B. Burgher Jr. comes home to one of his son's idiot friends sitting on his couch with an ice pack on his nose. Ever serious, he asks if the young man needs medical attention.
7:05 - Pain is getting worse, spreading throughout the face and forehead. Decide to drive home and get out of these nice people's nice house.
7:27 - Walk in and tell Clare, "Chuli, me rompieron la nariz."
7:30 - Clare and father decide a trip to the ER is in order. Evidently they ‘don't want to be responsible for any delayed after-effects,' like Julianne Moore in The Big Lebowski.
7:50 - Arrive at Goleta Valley Hospital ER, clothes changed and book in hand, ready to wait my turn. Immediately ahead of me in line are a guy who burned his lower leg so badly in a campfire that the his sweatpants are stained the color of rotted pus, and a boy with Down Syndrome who's been vomiting. Ahead of them is an enormous man who somehow tripped on a basketball and broke his ankle. Can't picture him anywhere near a basketball.
8:20 - Clare explains to the boy's stepmother that my injury probably isn't a big deal, but better safe than sorry.
8:21 - "You only have one face," the woman says in earnest agreement.
8:45 - ER reception guy finally calls me back to take my info. He broke his nose five times before getting it surgically straightened. "How much pain are you experiencing, right now, on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being none and 10 being unbearable."
8:46 - Not in pain very often, and don't know how to answer. "2." There goes my chance to score some goofballs. He sends me back to the waiting room.
9:15 - Called into the exam room to wait some more.
9:30 - ER doctor comes in, followed by scribe. Without warning, he manhandles me. If it wasn't broken before, it surely is now. But there's no vomit-inducing sound this time, that's already out of the way. He says the amateur straightening job mostly did the trick, but there's just one more thing...
9:31 - Entire body goes rigid, as if electrocuted, or very much like Keanu in The Matrix when they first plug that jack into the back of his neck. There's two inches of extra-long Q-tip up my nose. How much farther to the brain? He's pushing on one of the bones way up there, hard enough to lift me out of the chair. This can't be regulation. He says it is. There's a bone that's crooked and he has to bend it back into place.
9:35 - "You've broken your nose before." If he says so. Remember my last ugly basketball injury, a big corn-fed white boy's elbow to my nose that made me bleed like crazy and left me woozy for hours.
9:36 - "There's not much we can do. We don't X-Ray broken noses any more because we decided we were just taking pictures of broken bones. I may have a splint around here..."
9:43 - Doctor never comes back. Reception guy says to call an ENT doctor when the swelling goes down in four or five days, to make sure everything is more or less where it should be. If it's still crooked, the ENT can straighten it.
9:44 - "NASAL FRACTURE CONFIRMED," the report says.
Tags: broken nose, second broken nose, al cerda, paul fleischauer, tom burgher jr., tom burgher iii
I'm a bus rider. Not so much these days, because from where I live off
North Fairview I can bike to work at UCSB in less than half the time
it'd take me to go by bus, but in general. Historically, I like a bus
I've been a four-bus-a-day commuter in Santa Barbara. I've done the 3
a.m. shitsmelling parolee express Greyhound to San Francisco and back.
That time, the bus crashed on the way home. I've ridden a bus that
drove right onto a train for passage through the Chunnel, and one that
drove onto a ferry in Bolivia while a little girl helped her father
gut a crocodile beside the riverbank with a knife between her teeth.
On a 24-hour journey through the Paraguayan wasteland, I saw a dog
eating rocks. I've been pressured into taking a small boy's seat on an
oversold trip through the Syrian desert, and I've gotten off a bus in
the middle of the Mexican desert to pee only to find that when I came
out of the bathroom, the bus had gone. I've ridden a bus that only ran
one day a week, in the Western Rodopi Mountains of Bulgaria, on a day
it wasn't scheduled. I've made a round trip journey on the World's
Most Dangerous Road. And one time, I rode the bus from Buenos Aires,
Argentina to Tucson, Arizona, which took three and a half months.
Without fear of sounding young and dumb, I thought I'd seen it all,
bus-wise. Then Rivas Cultural Services took two meetings in downtown
Santa Barbara on Friday, January 2, and I saw something that made me
stop and rub my eyes like Squints in The Sandlot when he first sees
Wendy Peppercorn. Going in and out of the Transit Center, presumably
all day long, were buses bearing New Year's greetings on the
electronic boards that usually only announce each line's number and
route. Every few seconds, "11 State/Hollister" would clear and the bus
would wish its riders "Happy New Year". A nice gesture, to be sure,
but otherwise perhaps not terribly remarkable. But this is Santa
Barbara – the sunny Santa Barbara that brought you the Old Spanish
Days celebration that local English speakers call Fiesta and Spanish
speakers call fiestas – and every once in a while an attempt is made
to acknowledge the Spanish speakers around town, who are of course
actually the majority.
In its latest effort to appeal to the hardworking international
craftsmen who make up the vast majority of its ridership, or maybe
just to ameliorate the bad public relations that come with 40% rate
hikes (from $1.25 to $1.75, effective January 1), MTD sought to wish
our Latin American brothers a Happy New Year in their own language.
Now, as anyone who has even a high school student's grasp of Spanish
grammar knows, MTD always blows it with Spanish. While there's plenty
of Spanish on MTD signs and literature, none of it is entirely correct.
To be fair, misspellings abound in Spanish, and especially so in the
written Spanish of the undereducated Mexican immigrant. For proof, go
to Taquería Rincón Alteño on Haley Street and look at the soccer
poster on which someone has scrawled "Ariva Chivas", rather than
"Arriba Chivas". Yet – and as the example shows – such errors rarely
change the meaning of what is being said, often going unnoticed, and
are thus harmless and forgivable.
This New Year's, however, that would not be the case, and here I have
yet another unfortunate instance of multiculturalism gone terribly
awry. "11 State/Hollister" gave way to "Happy New Year", which in turn
gave way to the MTD's best approximation of "Happy New Year" in
"Feliz Año Nuevo" would have done the trick. It means "Happy New Year"
in Spanish. However, it's quite possible that Spanish language letters
aren't available on the electronic boards with which our local buses
are equipped. The usual way around this dilemma would have been to
write "Feliz Anyo Nuevo". This would have reproduced the sound of the
tricky ñ. It would be spotted right away as a misspelling, but anyone
doing so might have understood what the cause had been, and the
pronunciation would have remained true. More than likely, any reader
would have excused the old partially-government-funded try and
considered himself to have been wished a happy new year in his mother
Nevertheless, Rivas Cultural Services firmly believes that even "Feliz
Anyo Nuevo" would have been quite unnecessary, the reason being that
even the most recent immigrants would likely be able to discern the
message implied by a three-word salutation appearing all over town on
January 1 and disappearing shortly thereafter. It may have taken a day
or two, or possibly even a year, but I really think they'd get there,
don't you? Which only makes the message that actually appeared on the
buses that much more disappointing.
"Feliz Ano Nuevo", the buses said, clear as day. The only problem is
that ano is Spanish for anus.
Happy New Anus!
Honestly now, on the most basic level, which is better? Wishing a
border brother Happy New Year in your language, or Happy New Anus
Rivas Cultural Services Santa Barbara - Mexico City - Buenos Aires
Tags: happy new anus, happy new year, feliz año nuevo, bus travel, santa barbara mtd, multiculturalism gone bad
The kid is probably 18. He has straight black hair that he likes to
make hang down over his face. He wears black gloves with no fingertips
and black nail polish. The gloves say "Misfits" in hot green. I've
heard him say a couple wacky things before that I can't recall now.
He's pasty white and skinny, and his tone of voice is the one typical
of teenagers and ex-smackheads, who speak absolutely certain of their
own absolute knowledge.
He gets the key from the manager and meets me over at the liquor case.
It locks at the bottom, and he crouches down very low to the floor to
open it. When he's back up again I point, and he hands me the bottle
of Chivas. He slides the glass door closed, balances himself on his
left foot, and clicks the lock in ever so smoothly with his right toe.
The little punk probably practiced it a thousand times.
As we walk back toward the checkstand, several aisles away in the
nearly empty supermarket, I get the urge to tell him something he
doesn't know. But how to make it look natural? Hmmm. He'll have heard
from my voice that I have a head full of snot right now, I think to
myself quickly, so I'll tell him why I'm buying the whiskey. He won't
even know what hit him.
"Scottish people drink this with sugar, lemon juice and hot water, for
colds," I state simply, still walking steadily toward the empty
"I know," he fires back. "My grandma's full-blooded."
His answer makes me feel as though suddenly I have no tongue. He has
delivered a crippling verbal blow, saying something so unexpected that
I am literally powerless to continue the duel. As I consider it now, I
realize I shouldn't have been surprised that he would say he already
knew what I was trying to teach him. Yet I still can't fault myself
for being blindsided by hearing the words "full-blooded" in reference
to anything other than an American Indian or a hound.
The Chumash Casino would have been a much more likely place than Vons on Fairview
to hear such a thing, not so much because of the Indian thing but more
because I expect to hear stranger things from gamblers than I do from
bagboys. In fact, I heard something equally remarkable on my last trip
The man is one of the sunburned alcoholics who frequent the Chumash
poker room, a lifer. Tall and thin, everybody knows his name. He's
playing at the $2/$5 no-limit hold 'em table, where one hand he loses
$250 on aces up when two other players have straights, which doesn't
faze him in the least. He's having fun, and really having fun, not
like so many others who are playing for reasons they can't begin to
explain while forever trying to convince themselves that losing money
they couldn't bring themselves to just burn is "fun". He's a genuine
presence in the room, somebody people look forward to seeing. He's a
pleasure to play with, even if he takes your money. The dealers like
him because he plays right and tips.
There's a lull in the action. The Mexican-looking dealer, who is both
barrel-chested and fat, mixes the cards into a pile before placing
them in the automatic shuffler. His hair is springy and wet looking,
the stuff the best Mexi Mulletts are made of. By any measure his head
is enormous, its mass the only thing keeping it from rolling off its
owner's water tank of a torso. Everyone at the table is engrossed in
something. For a second, the players forget everything and concentrate
entirely on their chosen outlet for nervous energy between hands.
Stacking and restacking their chips, they almost don't notice the
lifer's question to the dealer: "Are you still saving up for a neck,
Then they do notice, and laugh heartily.
Rivas Cultural Services Santa Barbara - Mexico City - Buenos Aires
Tags: chumash casino, vons on fairview, full blooded scottish, no neck
When we lived downtown, one property up from the log cabin, Clare and
I ate Saigon In and Out on State and Victoria once a week. Now that
we're in Goleta, we invent errands that can only be run downtown on an
empty stomach, and eat Saigon once a week. Feeling that we'd been
neglecting Goleta, we thought we'd give the Saigon by KMart a fair
Clare got a bowl of pho similar to our other usual and said it
was good. I got a bowl of grilled beef and (three) grilled shrimp over
noodles and a few salady vegetables and was dumbfounded at how
delicious it all was, especially the beef, which was apparently
seasoned with something magical. I drank two Tsingtao, the first of
which came in a frosted mug, and learned that "Tsingtao" as from the
lips of a Chinese person sounds nothing like any sounds I've ever made
when speaking. It's clearly "Tsingtao", but it sounds much cooler,
like in a kung fu movie.
Saigon by KMart had the basketball game going on TV, which is nice if
you feel like having the basketball game on in your restaurant, as I
sometimes do. It makes the space feel like Javan's cleaned up and
given a thick dose of frames within frames. I love Javan's,
particularly their foreign brand of customer service: absolute
dedication to the product being offered on the one hand and absolute
dominance of the customers on the other. The Mercury Lounge in Goleta
operates on this principle and is different from all other bars in
town in this way, although the owner is an Irish-American from Kansas
City. People go to these places for the abuse.
By comparison, Saigon by Kmart is putting out a good product and at
once treating their customers well. The wait staff are all dears. The
skater kid waiter said, "Take your time, sir," and I couldn't help but
laugh out of the embarassment of being called Sir with the Laker game
blasting. I felt like a sheikh. When Clare didn't finish her soup, she
had to swear on the Chinese server girl's dead great-grandmother's
grave that it was because she wasn't hungry. The girl brought it back
in a to-go container and said, "Eat as soon as quickly."
The two Saigon In and Outs are owned by one Vietnamese guy. I don't
know who owns this Saigon. This one doesn't have curries, which really
puts the other two over the top, as far as Clare and I are concerned,
but these guys do the other stuff well. And on Saigon/Bond night,
Saigon took it.
Tags: saigon by kmart, pho, javan's, the lurk, the lurkury lounge, Saigon In and Out
Rivas Cultural Services took three (3) bona fide white people to see
the best Mexican rock band, Cafe Tacuba, at the Ventura Theatre Theater
a couple Saturdays ago. The Rivas Cultural Services contingent included
a plurality of the 12 total white folks in attendance among the crowd
of several hundreds. Representing white people hip to Mexico everywhere
were my girlfriend Clare, my protege Chase, and the latter's German
Ryan Hernandez and I checked out Cafe Tacuba when they came to Ventura
two times ago, in about 2004. I missed their last trip on account of
being in Argentina, where their producer Gustavo Santaolalla is from.
Clearly, this one was not to be missed. Young Chase agreed, and made me
proud when he jumped at the chance to see his favorite Mexican band
play after having studied their music in Rivas Cultural Services
tutoring sessions last summer. Bear in mind, Chase and Sebastian attend
Laguna Blanca School, making them quite possibly the first Laguna
Blanca students to ever see Cafe Tacuba in concert.
If you don't know what Cafe Tacuba is, it's basically the best, most
intelligent, coolest sounding rock music made in Mexico. The band is
named after a the world famous restaurant on Tacuba street in the
historic center of Mexico City. When Cafe Tacuba plays a free concert
in the Mexico City plaza, a quarter of a million people show up. Rivas
Cultural Services places Cafe Tacuba firmly on the same level of
artistic brilliance as Radiohead. Furthermore, we rank the Cafe Tacuba
crowd many levels higher than that of Radiohead, whose last Santa
Barbara show was chock-full of people trying not to get sued.
The band played from 9:30 to midnight. When was the last time you even
heard of a rock band that played hard for 2.5 hours? They even
outlasted their fans. By the time they stopped playing, Clare was
already asleep in the car. They played about half of their newest
album, Sino, plus a good 15 or so of their past songs, including crowd
favorites: El fin de la infancia, Chilanga banda and Eres.
The crowd of mostly late teens and early 20s first and second
generation California Mexicans danced, jumped and crowd surfed. Twenty
young women were even allowed on stage mid-show to rub sweat on the
inimitable, indefatigable and impish lead singer with their tube-topped
torsos. It was, by all accounts, a kick-ass show that all white and/or
non-Spanish speaking fans of rock music should be seriously bummed to
Tags: cafe tacuba, ventura theatre, as good as radiohead, white people, california mexicans, sino
First, my profuse apologies for not having kept you the readership
current on developments at Rivas Cultural Services, where we've been
held up in muck for the last couple weeks somewhere between Too Busy
to Write and Outright Sloth.
Our Lompoc desk is reporting that my cousin Bonnie and her boyfriend
Bugsy just had a baby boy, Bo. Details pending confirmation at
Thanksgiving. Our Catastrophe desk is reporting that my aunt Marsha
and uncle Keith's house was one of two that didn't burn on their part
of Conejo Road. Everyone from Santa Barbara must know 10-20 households
who lost everything. Our Vice desk is reporting that Club Social San
Antonio hosted a 19% charity poker tournament last Friday. Nineteen
dudes and one chick paid $40 to get after prizes of $450, $150 and
$50. $150 more went to a rogue student group whose name no one asked.
White Power for Obama, Sodomites for Prop 8 and Level 5 Vegans for
Dolphin Slaughter are all penciled in for future charity action.
I've heard two interesting things about the fire: 1) Elizabeth
Robinson on 91.9 KCSB said we should realize that those who worked in
the homes that burned are now out of a job, and 2) the president of
Dyrenforth Acquisitions said that the fire was the best thing that
could have happened to the economy in Santa Barbara, and that all the
tradesmen will now have all the work they want for the next five
years. It's tough to argue with either, I think. Housecleaners are
unlikely to be eligible for unemployment benefits, and there are now
probably close to 500 structures (my estimate of 250 "homes" times one
legal and one illegal structure per home) that need to be rebuilt
bigger and better than ever. Remember what happened on Sherwood after
the Painted Cave fire? A bunch of broke-ass shacks burned and were
replaced by castles. I wonder if this will happen on Conejo, where
there were more than a few places that had seen better days.
Next, a review of the epic Café Tacuba show at the Ventura Theatre
theater in Ventura.
There were 40,000 people in IV this weekend, yet only 200 citations, 41
of which did not even lead to arrest. The wet weather certainly had
something to do with the mellower nature of the weekend, but 200 seems
like an awfully low number of law breakers given a crowd of 40,000
crammed in a space that is woefully overcrowded at 10,000. Jam-packed,
frustrating weather, all that booze and nowhere to run around drunk?
I was initially surprised that the high number of arrests I'd predicted
hadn't materialized. Upon further reflection, however, Rivas Cultural
Services believes this is just another example of what the Santa Barbara
Man About Goleta observed at the Radiohead show: that Americans spend
their lives trying not to get sued. At Radiohead, no one danced, and no
one violated anyone else's 3.5 inches of buffer air. People had paid
hundreds for those tickets, and they weren't about to waste them by
getting dragged out by security for spilling beer on someone's $400
shoes. The pit at the Radiohead show had the feel of several hundred
fans of staying out of court having a great time, and my guess is that
Isla Vista this Halloween had the feel of tens of thousands wondering
where the wild things were.
Rivas Cultural Services remembers the Mad Max state of things in Isla
Vista during the Halloweens of the 1980s, and is astonished that so many
people still bother to drive here for a party that has fizzled from riot
to junior high school dance. Maybe its harmlessness these days is
exactly what makes it so appealing to a generation that was born soft.
Driving away from the mass gathering Friday afternoon, I saw more than
one group of young people lurking around the Super 8, looking for some
clue that something interesting would happen to them that night. Who
comes to IV to party and stays at the downtown Goleta Jiffy Lube?! Soft
kids who drive BMWs leased by their parents and are afraid of being sued
by other rich kids if they should happen to accidentally pass out and
pee on someone else's couch, that's who! Next year, let's hope they save
the earth the gasoline, stay in Orange County and watch Saw VIII.