November spawned a monster

I really, really want to blog but there’s little on my mind these days beside quals. I even spent Halloween night writing rather than partaking in the festivities. For now, here are some notes and updates since I know you all miss me.

I celebrated on Saturday night with X, the boy I’m seeing, and his friends at a club in Santa Monica. I spent the day making my costume. I didn’t use any of my ideas mainly because (a) I’d done them before and (b) they’re too common for me. I like original costumes. My costume was kinda abstract and original, few people actually got it and when I told friends about the costume they asked, “how are you going to do that?” I had a little help from my mom in making part of the costume. My sister also helped. They rock.

Quals? Huh?
Quals, short for qualifying exam, is an exam PhD students take after completing coursework. In order to advance to dissertation stage, you must pass the exam. Exams are structure differently depending on your department and program. Mine is held over a three day weekend and consists of three ten-page (max) papers. The first questions is on a general higher education topic and tests our knowledge of the breadth of issues. The second is a critique of an article published in a peer-reviewed journal. This question focuses on our knowledge of methods and the research process. Finally, the third question focuses on your specific research area. My exam is scheduled for November 16th-19th.

My friend Arshad called me gangster. Not gangster as in chola gangster or Tony Soprano gangster, but gangster as in I’ll pass my qualifying exam despite my lack of preparation and my tendency to procrastinate. I value Arshad’s opinion, he knows me well and we’ve been in school together for years. However, I was annoyed with his support. Yes, annoyed. I wanted him to echo the voice in my head. I want him to tell me I’m not prepared, I’ve wasted too much time and when it comes time to take the exam in two weeks (exactly!) I’m gonna have a difficult time. Arshad isn’t the only person being supportive. Everyone is supportive. They all think I’ll do fine. Even my advisor, one of the faculty members who grades the exam and wrote my particular question, thinks I’ll do fine.

Día de los Muertos
I tried writing about Paco García, the first person I know to die when I was about 9 or 10 years old. Paco was probably in his mid to late 50s when he died suddenly of a heart attack. He was a prominent member of my church as both a co-director of the Spanish-language choir and artist for the weekly bulletin. Everyone loved Paco and his wife, Alba.

When he passed away, I remember being told not to wear black for his funeral Mass. Instead, I was supposed to wear bright colors. My mom may have worn a red dress. I was a little puzzled by this. On television, people wore black for funerals, so why did we look like we were going to Easter Sunday Mass?

If I had a photo of Paco, I’d add it to my mini-altar. After all, it was the death of Paco, a Cuban immigrant and devout Catholic, that helped me to see death as something more than tragic. It prepared me pretty well when I started to learn about Mexican traditions my family didn’t practice, such Día de los Muertos.

Something Wicked This Way Comes
I loved last night’s episode of Ugly Betty. Yeah, I know I need to study, but I have to take a break. Below are some of my favorite quotes:

Ignacio: You need to be with your family and food.

Christina: He’s your donut.
Betty: Yes, he’s delicious and I can’t tell anyone.

Christina: But you’ve got to take that donut and you’ve got to bite it. Dunk it in your coffee and get it hot and warm and wet…

Wilhelmina: What do we want?
Mark: Integrated chocolates!
Wilhelmina: When do we want them?
Mark: Now!

Gio: Oh yeah! Egg salad on white, sexy!

Betty: You’re about to hear a cough. That’s me saying hello.
Henry: You’re about to hear a sneeze. That’s me saying hello.
Gio: You’re about to hear gagging. That’s me gagging.

Mark: She doesn’t give dinner breaks. Wilhelmina treats all white people like slaves, something about payback.

Amanda: Not your type? It’s like he ate your type.

Hilda: I’m romantic, not crazy.

Halloween on a budget: Vendedor de Flores

One of my favorite episodes of Gilmore Girls, at least aesthetically, is the episode where the whole town takes part in the Festival of Living Art. In the episode, the town characters portray famous paintings like “The Last Supper” in full costume, but must stand perfectly still.

This episode, along with the requisite Diego Rivera print or two hanging in my apartment inspired another low-budget costume.

Vendedor de Flores

There are two different paintings you could use for inspiration (see above): “Vendedor de Alcatraces” and “Cargador de Flores.”

Here’s how you do it:

  • For a women: long white huipil
  • For a man: white shirt, white loose pants (for best effect shirt and pants made of manta)
  • Small straw hat (for the male version)
  • Long rebozo or solid fabric to tie the basket to your back
  • Large round basket
  • Lots of lillies or other flowers
  • Huaraches (sandals)

The only downsides of this costume is that you may have to be on your knees a lot for the full effect or the basket of flowers might get annoying.

Bonus: You can use the flowers to flirt with a cute guy or girl at a party.

Another DREAM doused


The Senate on Wednesday rejected a bill [the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act] offering the children of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship if they serve in the military or complete two years of higher education. The defeat of the measure, which had attracted bipartisan support, underscored the difficulty of enacting even a narrowly tailored proposal in the polarizing atmosphere surrounding immigration reform.

The vote on the proposal was 52 to 44, short of the 60-vote margin needed to prevent a filibuster and begin debate. It was one small piece of a comprehensive immigration bill that collapsed in the Senate earlier this year, and it sparked a brief but heated debate.

Opponents called the bill a form of amnesty and argued that it would create incentives for illegal immigrants to cross the border with their children. But Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who supported the measure, said that “to turn on these children and treat them as criminals is an indication of the level of emotion and, in some cases, bigotry and hatred that is involved in this debate.”

LA Times story

I like the closing quote from Senator Durbin (D-Illinois):

“Don’t turn around and tell me tomorrow you need H-1B immigration visas to bring in talented people to America because we don’t have enough,” Durbin said. “Don’t take your anger on illegal immigration out on children who have nothing to say about this. They were brought to this country…. They’ve beaten the odds. We need them.”

I haven’t written much about the federal DREAM Act lately. Half of me supports it, and the other half of me feels the bills is rather weak. I don’t like the military service provision, which has been in previous iterations of the bill, but was more strongly stressed this time around. Second, undocumented students would still be ineligble for in-state tuition unless they were in a state like California or Texas which have laws which grant undocumented students in-state residency for tuition purposes. Third, students in college would not be eligible for federal grants, but would be able to get loans and work-study. On the positive side, the DREAM Act would regularize the status of those undocumented students who defy the odds and go through college or serve in the military. They’d actually be able to get jobs now.

Despite my ambivalence, I didn’t want to see the DREAM Act die. Arguably, it’s probably the most widely attractive immigration reform bill and it still couldn’t go anywhere. It’s another blow to the immigrant rights movement. If Congress doesn’t give a break to kids who had no choice but to follow their parents or guardians, then who will get a break?

One last question, why the hell was Barbara Boxer (D-California) not there?

Question of the week: Muertos and Halloween

Pimping it

It’s that time of the year again (as if you hadn’t already figured out by my recent series on low-budget and low-effort Halloween costumes)…

I’ll be dressing up for Halloween and catching at least one of the many Día de los Muertos events around town. On a more personal note, I’ll be sprucing up my mini-altar which currently has pictures of my grandparents, José Luis Vásquez and Cindy Rabuy (a fellow UCLA student who died in 2003).

La pregunta: How are you celebrating Halloween and/or Día de los Muertos?

If you’re having a party can I come? I like candy, pan dulce and ponche.

Halloween on a budget: Oscar de la Hoya

“Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.”
– Cady in Mean Girls

While checking out the recent launch of Machochip (go read it, Alex is one of the editors!), I was reminded about a costume rooted in escándalo I’ve yet to blog about: Oscar “Golden Boy” de la Hoya.

Earlier this fall, photos of the golden boy surfaced all over the gossip blogs. They were a bit embarrassing. I mean, if you consider wearing women’s lingerie and posing like a boxer embarrassing. Still, they’re hilarious, and a great Halloween costume for the man eager for an excuse to dress in drag, the straight guy comfortable with his sexuality and who can walk in stilettos, or the woman who just wants to dress “like a total slut.”

Oscar de la Hoya

  • Skimpy lingerie
  • Fishnet stockings
  • Stilettos
  • Boxing gloves (maybe add some medals or a belt for added effect)

If you’re worried about getting cold, get a boxing robe.

For some inspiration… go here, but not while you’re at work!

Halloween on a budget: El Chapulín Colorado

Why dress up as a boring superhero when you can be a red grasshopper? I realized afterward that putting together a Chapulín Colorado costume may not be as low budget or low effort as some of the other suggestions. Who actually has red tights lying around? Also, I realized that if LA stays as warm as it’s been for the Halloween parties this weekend and Halloween next week, it might be too warm to dress up as el Chapulín Colorado.

El disfraz:

  • Red hoodie sweater (optional: a Chapulín Colorado t-shirt, but you still need to cover your arms)
  • Some yellow fabric (felt would work) to make the heart and CH emblem
  • Bright yellow shorts
  • Red opaque tights
  • Antenitas de vinil, or red antennae with a yellow and red ball on the end (I found a pair at the 99 cents store, but they fit tight since they’re made for kids)
  • Red and yellow sneakers (like these)
  • El chipote chillón (the red and yellow hammer)
  • Steady stream of famous phrases

Since I already have the antennae, shirt, and shoes, I think I’m gonna dress up next Wednesday as el Chapulín Colorado (or la Chapulina Colorada?) in disguise, kinda like guys who wear Superman shirts under their suits and go as Clark Kent. I have another costume I’m working on, but I wouldn’t wear it to school/work.

Center photo by /Nathan Gibbs (blog) used under Creative Commons license.

Halloween on a budget: Old School Chola

For Halloween 2000, my friends (the Ratas) hosted a 1980s themed party. I dressed up as Punky Brewster. My roommates went as metalheads or punks. Another friend dressed up as an old school chola. It was scary.


She greeted everyone when they knocked at the door of the Ratas’ apartment with a harsh “whaddaya want?” All the party guests were thrown off by the chola in front of us, until she laughed and we realized it was our friend.

1980s style chola

  • Pendleton shirt over a white t-shirt or ribbed tank
  • Baggy Dickies (khaki colored) held up with a black letter belt
  • Nike Cortez or other old school sneakers
  • Long, permed hair; tease up your bangs (the higher, the better; use AquaNet liberally)
  • Dark makeup, heavy on the eyeliner and lipliner
  • Gold script name on a necklace or a small cross
  • The three dots or a tear drop
  • Bonus: a new name (e.g., la Sad Girl, Smiley or Shy One)

The chola costume can be done pretty well, but I’d be careful where you go. In the case I mentioned above, the party was on the Westside and was attended by a bunch of college students. If you’re wondering whether or not the costume is a good idea, it’s probably best to leave it at home.

Lastly, to get in to character, I suggest watching Mi Vida Loca and listening to Art Laboe play oldies on your local station.

Photo by Pantavila used under Creative Commons license.

Monday evening notes

St. Vincent's (Los Angeles) I’m taking a short break from rascuache Halloween costumes to get back to my favorite subject: me.

Anthro Man and the fountain of youth
This morning, while killing some time before I needed to go into the office, I stopped by the grocery store across from campus. As I was checking each aisle, I saw a familar face. He looked at me too.

Wait, was it him? Was it really Anthro Man (yes, I know that’s redundant), the guy I had Anthropolgy 12 with back in Fall ’98? I’d sit with Anthro Man and Y during the boring lectures and we’d study for the exams together. I later learned that Y had a little crush on him too, but it was never competitive.

The crush wore off after the class ended, but whenever I’d see Anthro Man he’d always say hi and we’d briefly catch up. It was like that this morning in Ralph’s. Anthro Man gave me the dazzling smile I first was attracted too. He was as handsome he was when we were freshmen nine years ago.

“Hey, I thought you looked familiar,” he greeted me. “Wow, you look the same… you don’t age.”

After we traded updates on our current work/school situations, I wandered off to buy some frozen lunch. A weird idea came to mind. Maybe I looked the same as I did when I was 18 because of the environment. I haven’t left UCLA since I first arrived over nine years ago. Perhaps the aging process is slowed down on campus. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll finally start looking my age when I get away from the Westwood campus.

Speaking of new crush and nicknames
I don’t really have a nickname for the guy I’m seeing. He has a nickname for me, Flor. The story behind that?

C: I don’t really like when people call me Cynthia.
X: I like the name.
C: Well, you can use it… [in Flower, from Bambi voice] “you can call me Flower if you like.”
X: I like that, I’m gonna call you Flower.
C: As in Flower the skunk? Ew.

Gossip girl
I think my life is sort of like Gossip Girl. On Saturday, I had a weird and very awkward experience at a friend’s wedding Mass. Gabby witnessed the encounter and immediately began text messaging the chisme to friends who were not at the wedding.

Halloween on a budget: Cantinflas

Most of the low-budget costume ideas I’ve written about have been geared toward women (or men who want to dress in drag). Here’s one for the guys: the Mexican comedic genius of Mario Moreno’s immortal character, Cantinflas.

What you’ll need for the costume:

  1. Small, beat up hat
  2. White thermal or henley shirt
  3. Red bandanna
  4. Old belt or even some twine to hold up your pants
  5. Loose, dirty and tattered pants (brown, beige or blue); make sure to wear them low
  6. Beat up old shoes
  7. Cigarette
  8. Scruffy facial hair, but make sure you get the moustache right
  9. Brown scrap of fabric to hang over your left shoulder (tie it in a knot or two)

I’m not sure where you’ll find a small hat, but you can always try a second hand store.

If you need inspiration to see how he speaks, walks or acts check out YouTube videos.

Photo by thevid used under Creative Commons license.