Friday, May 13, 2011

And speaking of hair.....

And speaking of hair (see post below), I'd like to see a mano-a-mano between billionaire zealot douchebag Donald Trump's hairstylist and the aesthetic god/goddess who styles Cameroon's First Lady Chantal Biya. That would be EPIC.

I was once snuck into the Costume Institute "Goddess" themed dinner party for the dessert/entertainment course. This was easier to do since people were standing, mingling, and walking around by this point. As I sashayed in rocking a black cashmere tank top and floor-length satin skirt, hair in a bun making me look like Imelda rather than my aspiration - Audrey Hepburn - with a silk Manton de Manila purchased in Seville, trying to "blend in," I practically bumped into Donald Trump. Just then a hush fell in the room - and Diana Ross came on stage in a massive Afro wig. At that point, I almost fainted and began to cry softly, I love her so much. Once I came to, I began to notice my surroundings (Iman, Diane von Fursternberg, various heroin-chic models that I should recognize, but didn't) and was face-to-face with a 3/4 view of Trump's head -inches from me. Now, as a sufferer of academentia, who focuses on visual culture, I am trained to conduct detailed analysis of what I see. Yet even I was left with insufficient tools to understand what I was seeing. After a life-time spent obsessing on my bad hair and others' I cannot explain the alchemy/chemistry/engineering/mala leche behind his coiffure.

For more insight into the Bermuda Triangle of the male hairstyle that is Trump's coif, check out this BRILLIANT analysis from Vanity Fair where they use terms like "double comb-over" and "demi-mullet."

RIP Mirta de Perales

Source: (link below)

I was saddened a few days ago to learn about the passing of beauty icon, Mirta de Perales. The Cuban cosmetics guru was admired by all of us when I was a child. Everyone aspired to be a "Chica Mirta' which required straight, bouncy, manageable, shiny hair. Unlike the lucky girl above, being groomed by the Capillary Maestra herself at the Miss Piel Canela Pageant (what could be better than a Miss Nutmeg Colored Skin Pageant?), my hair was not manageable, stick straight or bouncy. It is heavy, coarse, inconsistently wavy, static-y, and prone to expansion like a loofah sponge under water.

Intimidating to dozens of hair stylists, my hair elicited gasps and cries of "What will I do with this?" Or, as one woman in Spain told me "tu tienes pelo de negra," which my current styling goddess, who finally "gets" my texture and style goals (basically, to look like a woman in a Christian Schad painting or better yet, Isabella Blow), calls it "a cross between black hair and Asian hair." Yeeessss.

Pathologized as a beauty defect by my severe grandmother, who was obsessed with looking European, and as light as possible, my hair and I were subjected to strict discipline. Not requiring the dreaded lye, my hair could be "tamed" at home. Which in a way made it even more "shameful" - they couldn't even take me to "el biuti" (beauty parlor) to handle the situation. They had to take care of it at home, on the DL. The hair required hot coconut oil mixed with eggs massaged into my scalp, followed by vigorous pulling at the hair from various sides at once by a couple of aunts, who twirling the clumps into a big round brush applied 20000-degree heat temperature blow driers to it. Ouch.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

RIP Isabella Blow 19.11.58 - 07.05.07

Isabella Blow died four years ago today, of complications following a suicide attempt. It's weird because I was raving about her and how important she was for fashion and art in England and world-wide, telling a friend excitedly about how amazing she was, what a genius. I was wondering if her pivotal role in McQueen's career had been noted in the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty show that opened at the Met a few days ago. My friend had not heard of her, which is what worries me. Of course, the fashion people and I think people interested in contemporary art in England know who she was. Also, McQueen's own suicide brought renewed attention to their personal and creative relationship and the tragic parallels found in their deaths. Thankfully there are 3 recent books about her life and work (see link below for more info).

I remember reading her widow Detmar Blow's moving and riveting biography and wincing at passages describing Isabella Blow's insecurities about her appearance, how she created an elaborate persona through fashion, and how she described her use of it and lipstick - her signature cosmetic - to disguise what she viewed as her flaws. I identified with this theatrical strategy but I can never aspire to her aesthetic originality!!!!
Worn Through blog features reviews of a series of books about her life and work, as well as other helpful information, here:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Isabel Preysler sin Photoshop

I may need to start wearing turbans......

I am obsessed with Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missne's look. And I am clearly not the only one, as even a cursory Google search will prove. Of course, I first came to know her fashion diva style via my Bible, HOLA magazine which has now added her to their roster of international royalty. With her signature turbans topping off a Nefertiti-like visage of indeterminate age, her severe haute couture gowns altered to modestly disguise arms and legs while brazenly highlighting her 1940s-50s movie star hourglass figure, she has captivated many. I believe it was the silver siren gown ensemble that first introduced her to me, and that Cartier snake choker literally made me swoon. Here, in a sly riposte to Orientalism and misogyny, she appropriates Cleopatra's asp and Eve's snake, transforming it into an emblem of her sartorial charisma.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how one exits a car.

This look absolutely mesmerized me. Although dangerously close to resembling a hard-boiled egg/Conehead/mummy, somehow she works it.

Her 1940s/50s suit jacket long skirt combos are to-die-for, in her typical monochrome. So severe and so hot hot hot!

Even international fashion icons are human, and in Spain she tripped and momentarily lost her stiletto. We still worship you, Sheikha!

For more on the Sheikha, see this article:

Royal Wedding Fashion: I need a Fascinator

I am in love with Miriam Gonzalez and her Fascinator

Although I had planned to boycott the Royal Wedding, since technically I am a Republican (NOT in the United States meaning of the term), I could not resist the fashion spectacle. I found much of the clothing DULL. The hats are always fun but after a while all of those cocked feather/flower combos perilously perched on high white foreheads or miraculously affixed to thin flaxen locks began to blend together. (Speaking of the incessant "monotone outfit with severe Treacy topper look" as my catty friend observed, Posh looked like a Qatar Airlines flight attendant).

Because of this overwhelming monotony, one guest stood out as exquisite, daring, elegant, sexy and super DIVA divine: Miriam Gonzalez, the glamorous exotic Spanish wife of Nick Clegg. My Spanish friend who is a fashion stylist told me that the dress, hat and shoes were all by Spanish designers, which filled me with pride, particularly when apparently the only milliner in the UK is Philip Treacy to judge by the credits. I also learned a new term for the turban/flower combo: FASCINATOR. Could there be a better term for this accessory? I think not! Coming on the heels of my new infatuation with the fabulously severe turban-wearing Sheikha of Qatar, this could not have come at a better time.

As I struggled to gracefully get out of a taxi schlepping a huge tote bag (Michael Kors snakeskin) and distinctly unglamorous backpack (the price I pay for ACADEMENTIA) in a tube skirt and heels, I tried my best to emulate this goddess' motion to exit her chauffeured limo. I cannot for the life of me imagine how she did this, but thank god I do Pilates so someday I will surely acquire the dexterity to rotate my hip and legs in this manner.

For more on Miriam Gonzalez's look, see
The Queen. I know that she is eight thousand years old and I should be merciful. But she looks like fucking PEEP!

This is an atrocity. I really cannot articulate the words because every time I look at the photo my gag reflex takes over. The beige ensemble that heightens the pallor topped with that Osiris headed to the Valley of the Dead fascinator is particularly unfortunate.

Salvame Deluxe (for JZ)

Here in the US I pay an ungodly amount of money to get a few Spanish TV channels but Telecinco is not one of them. Which may be a good thing, since if I had access to it, I might get sucked into the sick pleasure of watching their Salvame franchise, which takes up a seeming majority of their weekly programming. Run by sinister Italians of the Berlusconi school of "entertainment," the network focuses most of their time on lurid reality TV shows and gossip chat fests that last for hours on end. The latter resemble and compete with Donde estas, corazon? a show that I have written about before here. (see #Spain is different) However, they take this genre to dramatic extremes. If DEC attempts to keep the veneer of objective journalism up, underscoring the journalistic credentials of the interviewers and their fact-checking of sources, Salvame makes no pretense of either accuracy or decorum. It runs every afternoon from about 2-5 or 6. Then on Fridays it becomes Salvame Delux. On other nights they have La Noria which is similar, and a new show called Enemigos Intimos (Intimate Enemies) in which people betray ex-friends/lovers/employers or family members often backed up by a lie-detector test. When this is not on, they play all kinds of reality TV shows. The latter provide much fodder for the tertulias (a perverse appropriation of the term for a literary gathering to discuss ideas) since they can replay the most prurient or violent moments, invite participants once they leave or ask past contestants to comment on current ones.

But the main source of their tertulianos are family members/ex lovers/alleged ex lovers/neighbors of anyone remotely famous. Many of these people make it into this roster by making unfounded allegations regarding sex with a famous person's husband, or accusing a stepfather of incest, or anything inflammatory that allows them to appear on several of these shows. The idea is to provoke the party accused to respond, thus perpetuating the cycle for a while, and then transforming the accuser into a known entity. If this individual is related to a big celebrity, for example, niece/ex-husband, this is the best case scenario because they can be kept on retainer to comment on the famous person's activities for as long as that person lives, and when they die! If you have never seen this show, you will be lost. The stories go back for weeks or maybe decades.

Like your own dysfunctional family, it takes an intimacy developed over a life-time to understand why people are reacting the way they are. Since many people DO watch their shows every day for hours, buy their magazine Salvame or the many others in the kiosks from the classy HOLA -the Photoshopped Pravda for the Royal family and other elites - to the trashy Cuore or Pronto, and then discuss the polemics with their friends (see the #salvame hashtag on twitter), this becomes the unifying story for many Spaniards. In a fit of despair while watching the show in Barcelona last month, I decided that if Benedict Anderson's theory in Imagined Communities was that newspapers and primary schools created the modern sense of nationhood, in contemporary Spain, it was Salvame.

The paradigmatic tertuliana is superstar Belen Esteban, or La Esteban. Known as La Princesa del Pueblo, or the Spanish translation of Lady Diana's honorific Princess of the People, this crass, volatile and inarticulate ex-girlfriend of even crasser bullfighter Jesulin de Ubrique made a career out of being his ex girlfriend and mother of his -according to her- neglected child. Over the span of almost a decade, she has literally made millions as a hired participant in these hours-long screaming matches punctuated by obscenities and sometimes physical violence. Nothing - not children, not ghoulish descriptions of death and dying, not accusations of domestic violence, incest, robbery, prostitution not graphic descriptions of sexual encounters -is off-limits here.

Through her pregnancy, to her several plastic surgeries, illnesses, wedding and many break ups with current husband Fran, all conducted literally on air, Belen's life is a 24-7 Big Brother / telenovela in which Telecinco has made her a star of their franchise.

The latest narrative element in the Salvame Delux arsenal is La Caja. I should say that their aesthetics are very Pop, Baroque, camp and quasi Almodovar-esque. But this box which I liken to a Panopticon is the absolute limit. It consists of a massive box in which videos and photographs are projected during interviews of some of the tertulianos. Many of the shots are split screen, in which you see for example retrospective footage with the tertuliano being interviewed and sometimes also the tertuliano sitting in the box reacting to either or both of those. So it becomes very meta and self-reflexive visually and in terms of narrative. This self-referentiality echoes the structure of the narrative and the role of the tertulianos, since they are there because of their relation to an earlier story or famous person. But you have to be in on the reference to know this, and La Caja is presented as a kind of collective baring of the soul, to show you the audience what you have never seen (which seems unlikely given the lack of limits on this show, where these people have no sense of Too Much Information, privacy or decorum - for example, taking photographs of corpses would not be surprising on this show). My favorite moment is when they frame La Caja from above, a sharp bird's eye view of the tertuliano, exposed like a prisoner in the Panopticon or a military target just prior to a drone attack.

For more on La Caja, see this video

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

14 abril 1931/April 14 1931

On April 14, 1931 the people of Spain declared the Second Republic.

Friday, March 11, 2011

11-M 2004

I am thinking about the victims, families and survivors of the brutal terrorist attacks in Madrid on March 11, 2004.

I have no words

Hokusai - The Great Wave
CNN graphic indicating tsunami sites

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Gathering of Nerds: #CAA2011

Gruesome detail of Hilton interior. (and note the sensible black pumps, clearly a Renaissance or Baroque scholar)

It's that time again when sufferers of academentia descend on the garish post-mid-century-modern behemoth that is the 53rd Street Hilton like the flock of doomed blackbirds careening to their death in Arkansas. Indeed, among the overheard comments I noted while sashaying past a hallway was "Art history is in crisis." (this turned out to be among the attention-grabbing session titles that I look forward to each year) and at a panel, "only 13% of teaching jobs in the Humanities are tenure-track." Since thankfully, I happen to be among those academics that are as rare as a camel that can pass through the eye of a needle (ie. I am not looking for a job), I'm largely skipping the conference.

Let me cut the suspense short, here are my nominees for Best CAA Session Titles 2011:
Against Acknowledgment: Sexuality and the Instrumentalization of Knowledge
Recurating: New Practices in Exhibition Making
Interdependent Identity: Paradigm and Paradox in Contemporary Israeli and Palestinian Art
The Art of Pranks
Creating the Queer Diaspora
Dark Matter of the Art World
Will You Friend Me? Social Media Possibilities, Responsibilities and Challenges in Art Administration and Teaching

So this contest is not as fun as Toddlers & Tiaras, one of my antidotes against academentia, but it's fodder for snark and knowing sideyes among nerds such as myself (not that I am exempted from coining similar verbiage). However, my peeps in language departments always top me with their list of the MLA best of (see it here: ) In any case, I particularly adore it when academics try to come up with "sexy" titles (particularly since I have been toiling to find one for my book since probably Y2K, oy). I also love when we nerds try to over-analyze things like social media, or deploy alliteration to draw out a barrage of theory-speak. Good times.

I was as usual underwhelmed by the fashion, and as I was tweeted from on site, it consisted of a lot of severe haircuts (guilty) and eyeglasses (guilty), black clothing, the latter sometimes adorned with a particularly aggressive geometric/ethnic/or brightly-hued item of jewelry (on women). I did see one attendee rocking a neo-Boy George look featuring a fierce white fur in a very 1980s cut, rocked with leggings, short lace up boots and topped by a bowler style hat. Props. (above) Some out-of-NYC-based peeps noted that CAA features "better-dressed" people when held in NY. I am not so sure.

My favorite things besides the fashion runway and the session titles is (no, not the lukewarm Starbuck's coffee) the book fair. This year, as one doom-saying colleague pointed out, it was comprised mainly of art supplies rather than recondite and costly art history publications. I did a drive by so I will report later on the trends for the year. Based on perusal of book editorial catalogues, it seems like relational art, South Asian art, global art history, fashion, and propaganda are hot topics (some of these are among my favorite subjects). In one pamphlet I noted that there is one section headed simply "James Elkins." This man produces new books as frequently as Kim Kardashian changes short skintight low cut dresses and Laobutins. How does he do it? Does he never sleep? I imagine a Fordist plant in which thousands of drone art history doctoral student research assistants toil over iMacs, microfilms, and manuscripts.

For 2009 bulletins see:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Modest Proposal for a New BRAVO Reality TV Show: Starcurator: The Next Great Celebrity

Some of the artworld twitterers I follow were recently mentioning a new reality TV show about gallerinas, which sounds absolutely thrilling. But I had been discussing the possibility of another spin-off with a friend suffering from #academentia PTSD: a "Starcurator" contest similar to The Apprentice but way more chic, insiderish, elitist, glamorous, cosmopolitan and well, cooler. Following is our modest proposal.

Andy Cohen, are you listening? Because I have an idea for your next BRAVO art-related reality TV show. Yes, Work of Art is provocative and gets the twitterati worked up. But what about looking at this from the OTHER side? Do you read E-FLUX, artforumdiary? It arguably rivals Andre Leon Talley's column in VOGUE and The New York Times Style section. The Starcurators are where it's at! Glamorous and globe-trotting, they smoke cigars with Thomas Krens in Venetian Palazzos, loiter in hot tubs created by artists in Japan, stay in 5-star hotels or stylish apartments, organize back to the land trips to "exotic" locales where brand-name artists create site-specific projects, and rack up frequent flier miles and 5-star restaurant tips for their friends.

Like the star-artists they promote, they live BETWEEN places, for example, STARCURATOR X, lives between New York, Ulan Bator, and Cleveland. They move around the world (or the provincial allegedly global or glocal artworld) with the same collectors, gallerists, critics, museum bigwigs, and cosmopolitan artists, curating shows about the glocal, immigration, displacement, and urbanization. They travel via the business class preferred boarding lane, with multiple passports. Their innumerable biennials thematizing poverty and displacement may be supported by local business and (often corrupt) governments for their tourist boosting and gentrification potential.

This has all of the elements of a fabulous reality TV show. As you have done in the past, Andy, you may create a brilliant melange of other reality TV formats to create an exciting and riveting new program. For example:

Top Chef and Bizarre Foods - watch starcurators eat meals served by Rikrit Tiravanja and Ferran Adria in a Palapa somewhere in Costa Rica!

The Rachel Zoe Project
- watch Starcurators select clothes loaned to them by art collector Miuccia Prada! Or, watch Starcurators buy Longchamp travel totes at Duty Free in Cape Town!

The Apprentice
-watch Starcurators rephrase the same project in a new way, and find the money to do it in less than 3 months!
-watch Starcurators hold 4 visiting professor positions, 1 adjunct curator post, at least one "director" of a biennial project, and direct a museum - at once!

Globe Trekker/Survivor
- watch Starcurators go on a guided tour of a Rio de Janeiro favela with billionaire museum trustees!
-watch starcurators engage in a months-long dispute about who has the "right" to curate non-Western artists only instead of doing this in theory-heavy periodicals, make then engage in a challenge face-to-face!
-watch Starcurators attempt to live on lukewarm paninis, cold Illy lattes, Champagne, Chinese cigarettes, and no sleep for 4 days in a bienale (the women's challenge: doing this in Manolos); note: you can go for glamorous luxury destinations like Venice or more off the beaten track locales like San Juan (if they ever revive their Poly-Graphic Triennial)

The Twist
- force Starcurators to work with locally-based artists (ie. not Kara Walker, Emily Jacir, Dan Perjovschi, or William Kentridge)
-force Starcurators to sit through one of Hans Ulrich Obrist's marathon Hugo Chavez/Bernie Saunders/Fidel Castro-length interviews/lectures/events/performances
-appoint artists from the "developing" world to select the Starcurators in an exciting reversal!
-force Starcurators to live like the locals instead of staying at swank 5-star or faux minimalist-spa-sustainable living hotels in "developing" nations where alternative biennials are held
-force Starcurators to organize shows around themes NOT related to globalization, migration, urban experiences, or Relational Aesthetics
-appoint resentful overworked overeducated academics who make a living teaching as judges (but not those that are also Starcurators, an important distinction)
-appoint famous collectors/gallerists from New York City to select the Starcurators
-appoint critics based in New York City as judges
-appoint auctioneers as judges

The Prizes
-Starcurator is hired by billionaire collector, in exchange they get to act as consultant to them with paid trips to buy works
-maybe you can reprise your Brooklyn Museum tie-in and get Pollock-Krasner or McCarthur to give the Starcurator a grant or ask Bellagio to grant them a residency
-Starcurator recieves a work of art by emerging artist they chose only if you can organize a tie-in to get MoMA or another museum to purchase one as well, so that the market-value goes up
-apartment or home in "exotic" location of Starcurator's choice (exception: New York)
-"Visiting Professor" position at Curatorial Studies/Contemporary Theory program which entails teaching one seminar a year with no committee work or advising, a huge salary, and the ability to fly in for a few weeks a year while living in an "exotic" location of their choice for the rest of the year
-Starcurator receives a wardrobe and nerdy glasses by a designer such as Prada; or (in the rare case that the winner does not need glasses) a wardrobe by Jill Sander, Miyake, or Marc Jacobs

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Four Years Without You

Max Beckmann, Departure (1932, Collection The Museum of Modern Art, New York)

"In the right panel of Departure, Beckmann once said, `You can see yourself trying to find your way in the darkness, lighting the hall and staircase with a miserable lamp, dragging along tied to you, as part of yourself, the corpse of your memories.' (...) Beckmann called the center panel "The Homecoming," and said of it, `The Queen carries the greatest treasure—Freedom—as her child in her lap. Freedom is the one thing that matters—it is the departure, the new start.'"
SOURCE The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 162

Four years ago on January 20 I got an email with the shocking and devastating news that you were dead. It took months to finally understand that this was true. Even a year later, some of us who were your friends almost believed that it was an elaborate hoax of yours to see what we'd do. That you'd show up unexpectedly, mocking us for our sentimentality and grief. That is not what you would want. You would want us to laugh at everything, to question everything, to never take anything for granted, to enjoy every single second of life, infinitely curious, missing no details, loving even what was ugly. To adopt your pose of cynical detachment and ironic humor, your passing fixations with things that ware campy, ridiculous, base, low culture, recondite; your meandering monologues filled with unexpected comparisons, erudite, unusual, mundane, bizarre, vulgar, pretentious, punning, deadpan, devastating, hysterically funny. The way you focused in like a laser on what you were seeing, eating, hearing, touching, the way you pulled away, distant, sarcastic, condescending, always amusing. The way this came across not only in your meandering staccato conversation and indescribable bursts of laughter but also in your writing.

I learned things from you that shaped who I am today. As the years passed, we reached a cordial entente, respectful of each other's work in separate worlds that grew closer. Now I find myself going to openings, biennials, conferences, art fairs, meeting your friends, all of us feeling the void of your no longer being there with us.

The first time we met you showed me a book about Beckmann, one of your favorite artists, and you loved this painting, Departure, its ugliness, and beauty. I remember writing a paper about it for class, and finding the quote above, not knowing that so many years later it would console me, thinking of you. But I know that if you read this it would make you laugh, and maybe you'd write a clever satire of my sentimental musings, using the mocking name Petite Maoiste.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King, jr.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sometimes I think about leaving the USA.....

When I see things like this.

Also, this is why you never ask a pageant Delegate about politics, here is Miss NE now Miss Universe 2011, pontificating about Wikileaks (go to minute 1:45)

I was horrified by Miss NE's jacked up weave. That thing makes Danielle Staub's hair (protagonist of Weavegate on Real Housewives of New Jersey) weave look like Beyonce's. This one is so clearly fake that I gasped. The magic of You Tube, I found an explanation. Here you see her getting the hot mess weave done in none other than Tampa, FL. Having grown up in FL surrounded by similar hairstyle atrocities, I was not surprised.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jon Stewart on the events in Tucson

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Arizona Shootings Reaction
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Yet another great commentary from Jon Stewart, who repeatedly makes more sense than the talking heads on cable news. Obama would benefit from watching this prior to his speech to the nation. But such complexities are beyond him or the news "pundits." For me the best lines were: "let's at least make troubled individuals easier to spot," which underscores the danger of tolerating extreme and violent political rhetoric and imagery in public rallies and protests, and his discussion of the need to remember the "anonymous goodness" and civic commitment to democracy of the dead and wounded.

"Stuff White People Like" Tour of Brooklyn

Source: TIME Magazine,32068,745308040001_2041734,00.html

Best line: "You don't have to be White, you just have to be rich."

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Rep. Griffiths - "When people do that they have to realize that there are consequences to those actions."

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This is an interview with Rep. Griffiths (D, Arizona) on MSNBC from March 2010. She discusses violent threats and vandalism against her and others carried out by Tea Party members. She also notes that Sarah Palin had a map on her web-site depicting her and others in gun cross-hairs. She stated that this type of violent rhetoric may "incite" extremists. Now she is in the ICU after being shot in the head this morning, along with 19 others. Among 2 dead are a 9 year old girl.

Palin removed the graphic above from her website. This is a screen shot someone posted on Twitter.

Griffiths' opponent held campaign events. SOURCE:

Saturday, January 1, 2011

I know why the caged lagartijo sings...... (for T.)

I just came back from a visit to Puerto Rico, where, like the lagartijo in my abuela's marquesina, above, I felt caged behind the ubiquitous metal bars (even in gated communities such as this one). Sadly, a close family member is extremely elderly and ill so it may have been the last time I saw her. This obviously brought up the usual dysfunctional extended family dynamics but in the midst of this I still managed to get out of the house for short periods of time and observe some of what one of my tweeps referred to as the current state of the Island, its name Isla del Encanto (Isle of Enchantment) that they changed to its opposite: Isla del Desencanto.

The local surreality including the TV show Super X-Clusivo that I have written about here before (, with the homophobic cross-dressed puppet "La Comay" continued to attract wide audiences. SIDEBAR: Due to a serious case of Academentia, I did not mention that s/he recently gave the program over to a sycophantic infomertial-like interview with an allegedly ex-gay minister who plies his homophobic trade with soft-core hate-speech, claiming to accept gays while offering to convert them from their sinful ways. The puppet and her grotesquely stereotypical macho sidekick repeatedly advertised the man's guidebook to "conversion" on screen.

But I digress. As usual I was blown away by the exquisite, luxuriant trees, flowers, plants, the beautiful sky and clouds, as well as the sound of tropical rain storms (lots of those, we had a "cold front" which means in the 70s, lots of winds, and small scale tsunami-like waves and choppy waters). As usual the cries of the coqui frog had a narcotic effect, calming me down in the midst of a very stressful time, as I listened in the silence of the dilapidated fabulousness of the period 1970s bathroom, complete with psychedelic tiles Almodovar's set designers would envy. As usual the old school glass window panes that open laboriously in their corrosion by the turning of a lever and which screen-less, allowed for countless painful insect bites. I silently prayed these were not going to infect me with Dengue fever as I slathered on the allergy gel. As a mostly deracinated mixed interloper living outside the Island - and this year they had a record 2% population drop due to the thousands leaving for elsewhere - I always feel that the insects recognize this weakness, and prey upon it.

Aside from the family turmoil, an unexpected natural phenomenon echoed my anxiety - a jarring earthquake on Christmas Eve, which was 5.4 on the Richter Scale but fortunately caused no injuries or deaths. It knocked things off walls and led to cracks on the walls in some areas. We were quite near to the epicenter. One cousin's wife muttered "temblor, temblor" we were later told, but I was inside and I heard a loud explosion (no one knows what that was, but we speculate an electrical power plant because the lights went out fortunately we have a generator, which only the well-off can afford but is useful when the power goes out as often as it does here) then felt the ground move underneath me and the house itself - two stories and concrete - literally sway from side to side. This was my first earthquake and despite its relatively small scale I was terrified. So terrified that I stupidly lost my appetite and am still regretting pushing away the plate of arroz con gandules that I had in front of me when the earth moved.

As always, I ate massive amounts of local food - white rice with red beans that include pumpkin, piñon (layers of ground meat seasoned in the local manner with layers of fried sweet plantains, a kind of Puerto Rican lasagna), mofongo with shrimp, tostones, flan, and lots of the awesome local coffee (I brought home 3 bags of beans from different local producers, very exciting! I wish people would learn that our coffee is outstanding).

Mofongo filled with shrimp, roasted peppers and onions in a creole sauce at Bebo's Cafe

Modernist housing projects in ruins

We made our usual pilgrimages to the big attractions in San Juan - the biggest mall in the Caribbean, Plaza Las Americas (which thrillingly now has a farmer's market!), and Old San Juan. The former features Macy's and as my mother puts it a very "upscale" J.C. Penney's and many familiar chains from Old Navy to BCBG, Mango to L'Occitaine. It also features a mock Old San Juan colonial quarter area, and Valet parking. There I always enjoy observing the local women in skintight pants, leggings, or short skirts. The rampant epidemic of bedazzling. The vertiginous heel heights. And of course my favorite: the Puerto Rican Neutrals: animal print, patent leather, metallics, and bedazzling. Ideally, you would rock at least 2 of these at one time. For example, I wore silver and leopard print sandals with a snakeskin print tote. (Michael Kors, purchased at of course Macy's which has the convenient Valet parking). Nothing to take the edge off family trauma like retail therapy. Another kind of therapy is afforded to me by observing the physiognomies and body types of the women, which assure me about the normalcy of my own appearance given the pervasive anorexic WASP beauty ideal of the city where I live.

However, in order not to develop diabetes and gain massive amounts of weight, I have to lay off the comida criolla and watch the supermarket aisles. The only places where you can find an approximation of healthy foods as defined in the US are - get ready - Wal-Mart, or very posh delicatessen places like one we went to where a week's worth of prepared deli foods, vegetables, nuts, fancy olive oil, whole wheat products, etc. ran to 300$. Organic milk was not available anywhere. The supermarkets I visited had meagre healthy options and the supermarket ads in the local paper hawked food that as my sister remarked when we saw a huge ad for TANG powdered juices, canned Vienna sausage, Velveeta, etc. "Puerto Rico is where US junk food goes to die."

Local products advertised in the papers.

Old San Juan was the same as last time - beautiful Spanish Colonial homes restored and beautiful but now in many cases occupied by Domino's Pizza or Burger King or tourist shops hawking souvenirs made in China, Thai or Guatemalan clothes, others offering "deals" on jewelry - all aimed at the cruise ship crowd who spill out onto the clogged streets periodically. Nonetheless a few of the old school stores selling house linens and baby clothes with hand made embroidery in the Spanish style, cafeterias selling local coffee and delicious pastries like La Bombonera, with its modernist sans serif sign, Andalusian style tiles, and naugahyde booths. Puerto Rican Arts and Crafts is my go-to place for hand carved Santos (this time I got Saint Anthony of Padua, who finds one a husband....), jewelry and coffee.

Although sadly, I was not able to find any of my favorite UFO related magazines featuring articles about extra-terrestrial sightings on the Island or the other-worldly origins of the Chupacabra, I did learn about a fabulous new publication, Agenda para la quinceañera. Much like Bridal magazine and the like, this one helps the spoiled tween plan her big coming out celebration. Such popular events and other elegant Island soirees are covered in our local women's magazine, IMAGEN, and are a rich source of my other favorite thing: the Island's unusual, creative and sometimes unpronounceable names.

The annual article in El Nuevo Dia (from yesterday's newspaper) recounted some of the highlights in creative naming practices for 2010:
In just one issue of IMAGEN I was able to compile the following list:
Elan (yes, like the French word, and with the accent on the a)

WOMEN: (always the best ones)

With this beautiful cascade of local Dada Poetry, I end my brief travelogue of my very sad and stormy but also fascinating and amusing trip to the Island in the end of 2010.