Saturday, June 7, 2014

Evolution

This blog is undergoing a metamorphosis. Please visit again in the very near future to see what has transpired.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Only a Girl's Game

It’s "only" a women’s game. People are "only" going because it's the "only" thing to do. If this city wasn’t so lame this wouldn’t be the "only" thing going on.

(I read or overheard all of these things and more over the past few days. Chances are, if you're connected to my home town of El Paso, Texas, you have, too. And I know that the women’s basketball players of the home town university have been hearing the same kinds of things from the time they were children. I know, because this is what is said about girls and women not only when it comes to sports, but all the time.)

Then there is the twist: A city that turned out in droves, first on a Monday night when everyone should have been home vegging out or prepping for school and work the next day or (as some said) should not have been excited about what was "only" a women’s game.

The city that then turned out two days later to buy enough tickets to sell out the arena that had never before been filled for “only” a women's basketball game.

Think about the players on that team who showed up for every practice and every game of their lives, even though they were "only" girls, "only" playing girls’ basketball.

For the players, none of this has ever been about it “only” being a women’s game. Or about being women at all. And for all women in the world, life should never be about being undervalued because she's "only" a mother or having been discarded because she was born "only" a girl.

The situation here, now, is this: The University of Texas at El Paso Women's Basketball Team made it to the finals of the 2014 National Invitational Tournament (which some are referring to as "only the NIT"). And by their tenacity and focus despite a long tradition of meager support, this team has rousted the city—locals and expats alike—to their feet in pride. People are clamoring for tickets to these games to watch a team that most of us forget about most of the time. It is thrilling and refreshing and welcome and joyful. And it does not have to stop on Saturday after the NIT final.

This is not "only" about women’s basketball or "only" about El Paso. This is about a world that girls live in, from the moment they are born until the day they die. But it is changing and we can keep doing better.

Before tonight's game, I saw a father walking to the arena carrying his little girl on his shoulders. They were excitedly swallowed up by a sea of spectators in the school's orange, all headed to appreciate what was "only" a women's game. At a school led by a president who was once told that she could "only" become a secretary. In a city whose majority is "only" Mexican Americans who were once thought to be "only" good enough for hard labor and no education.

That little girl atop her father’s shoulders is not—and never should be—”only”. She is everything.

Thank you, El Paso, for showing UTEP’s women’s basketball - and, by extension, the rest of us - that they are everything, too.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Breaking the Color Barrier via Basketball

48 years ago today, my hometown university's male basketball team won the top college trophy after starting five African American players in a courageous move that obliterated the color barrier in American college sports.

The sweet story of a coach who just wanted to play good 'ball, the kids who believed in themselves despite frightening odds, and the history they all made together is precious to El Paso, Texas, and in 2004 it was entrusted to Walt Disney Pictures and Bruckheimer Films.

Here's my report for the El Paso Times (on behalf of the University of Texas at El Paso) on what those who participated in the film Glory Road—from a 12-year-old African American kid who auditioned on a whim to veteran actor Josh Lucas—remember about being a part of bringing history to the big screen.

(There were many, many more wonderful interviews and memories that had to be sacrificed due to space constraints; I hope I can to make it up to those individuals someday with a lengthier, richer piece.)

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Real and the Unreal

How much we are to "blame" for what happens to us. We allow ourselves to be deceived. We welcome suspension of disbelief in real life—and real life includes consuming entertainment that we know isn't real. It also includes deciding, consciously or otherwise (and subconscious decisionmaking is another debate in and of itself), to not be informed of the reality of our everyday situations.

In the realm of art and entertainment, actors create a non-reality that we viewers actively help to perpetuate. But what happens to them when the play, TV show or film is finished? If we keep thinking about what we've seen, no doubt the players we've seen don't stop thinking about who they've portrayed.

Judith Ohikuare at The Atlantic explores that process of ceaseless thinking when it spills over into an actor's perceptions of who they really are (which triggers all manner of rhetorical "But who are we, really?" questioning). Having read this article, I'll never look at my actor friends the same way.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Lars von Trier, the Comedian

Lauded Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier's latest feature Nymphomaniac gets an online release this month in the U.S. with a limited theatrical release to follow. It's poster campaign has already raised a few eyebrows, if not more. Almost a decade ago, von Trier and I had a great conversation that had me laughing more than some of the comedians I had interviewed. Re-reading that discussion reminded me why none of us should be surprised that he's making films like Nymphomaniac. And given that one of 2013's most celebrated films was about slavery, it is more than coincidental that my conversation with von Trier all those years ago was about his project exploring the same subject matter, Manderlay. From the archives of my old journalism site ThenItMustBeTrue.com, here is Mr. von Trier making me laugh as we discuss neuroses, David Bowie, burning down the cinema, and his solemn promise that someday he'd make me a comedy.

Monday, February 24, 2014

A List; or, What I'm Doing Instead of Writing

A listing of everything I did within a 60-minute period versus finishing a piece of writing:
- Gmail chat
- Respond to emails
- Clean out email inbox
- Check Facebook
- Check Twitter
- Check my checking account
- Stretch my shoulders
- Stretch my neck
- Give my spine a self-adjustment
- Attempt new seating positions (e.g. cross-legged) on the Swiss ball I use for an office chair
- Start a different blog post from this one (one which I haven't yet finished, either)
- Question my existence
- Question my existential angst
- Send out a variety of text messages to see who'd respond first
- Check text messages for new responses (none yet)
- Stare into the near distance
- Breathe (both shallowly and deeply)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Poetry and Crowdfunding

Award-winning poet Bobby Byrd - who also co-heads the brilliant and badass publishing house Cinco Puntos Press (home of PEN/Faulkner Award winner Benjamin Alire Sáenz)- is launching his new poetry collection using the magic of crowdfunding. More and more, this avenue is becoming the tool of choice for artists to get their work out into the world and build communities who are passionate about supporting them. It's been a joy to see this kind of thing work out time and time again over many years, especially since this grassroots concept began taking full advantage of the power of online connectivity. I'm supporting Bobby and can't wait to have my signed first edition copy of his book (all for the price of a minimal donation). As a hat tip to an artist who fuels my own fire through his calm, observant nature, here's an interview I conducted with him from the archives of my old journalism site, ThenItMustBeTrue. Enjoy.