Monday, December 14, 2009

Little Bleases Get All Elfy for the Holidays

Huh-larious. The folks at JibJab let you clone yourself into a elves and make hilarious videos like this one starring my cousin Bobby "Boob" Blease, Cynthia Mora Blease, Baby Santiago David Blease and the incomparable Johnny "Stitches" Blease--together known as the Little Bleases. Enjoy.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Mario Iván Oña Photo Gallery

Enjoy a sample of some of the photos that I have taken at concerts, during travel and as the editor of The Washington Post employee newsletter.

Note: To view the slide show in full-screen, start the slide show by clicking on the center of the image and at the bottom right corner, next to the thumbnail images you should see a logo with four arrows pointing at the corners. Click on it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Free Music on

Following a string of hefty lawsuits by the Recording Industry Association of America for illegal downloading, I think many of us got scared straight into paying for every cotton-pickin' music download. So we bid farewell to freeness and yanked Limewire off our computers. Because of the simplicity of iTunes' click-n-download (not to mention that unlike Limewire, when you bust out a buck for a song on iTunes, you are guaranteed the whole song and the MP3s are properly named and attributed to the right singer--most of the time), we began to click our way into a recession. Then, came along with it's online music store and not as many of us took note. After all, we stick to what we know. And we know iTunes, iPods and iPhones. So after getting tired of iTunes' stingy free offerings--one or two songs per week (and not very good songs, though this week's Tonino Carotone's "Amar y VIvir" is quite good)--I started looking closer at Just in time for the holidays, give yourself the gift of free, good music. There are over 1,500 songs to download. You'll need to download an music downloader/player, but it's totally worth it. You can then simply drag your new free downloaded MP3s into iTunes. I work on a MAC and actually the music downloads directly into iTunes--not sure if this is the case on PCs. Just to give you a taste, there is free music by Rodrigo y Gabriela, David Byrne, Ziggy Marley, Anti- and Nacional Records samplers, a Buddha Loung compilation and a bunch of Holiday music. And the nice thing is that you can hit "Preview All" at the top of the link and listen through endless music samples before downloading. Enjoy and your welcome.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Interview: Devendra Banhart

I recently interviewed Devendra Banhart for La Banda Elástica. It was a wild ride to say the least.

Friday, June 26, 2009

My Generation's Elvis

Like most, I have my strong opinions about the enigmatic King of Pop(ularity), also known as Michael Jackson, who died in Los Angeles yesterday of apparent cardiac arrest. He was 50. But today, I prefer to recall the impact he had on me, long before I was old enough to develop a healthy amount of cynicism or rational thought. In remembering the little anecdote below, I'm realizing the magnitude, resonance and influence of this icon--far beyond what my mind would allow me to accept today. His popularity transcended generations, ethnicities, religions and borders. As Washington Post columnist Joel Achenbach aptly put it, "At his best, he was the best."

In the summer of 1983, all that mattered to a young Ecuadorian 8-year-old boy growing up in Miami was a red pleather jacket with thick shoulder pads and a bunch of zippers. The jacket hung prominently at the nearby Kmart. For some context, back then, you never, ever admitted shopping at Kmart. If your parents took you there, you ducked in and out hoping no one saw you. If you were unfortunate enough to run into a classmate, there was an understood, mutual vow of silence. One time, my mom made the mistake of packing my lunch in a Kmart plastic bag. To make a long story short, it took two years and moving from elementary to middle school to dispel the notion that I was a cheapskate.

But now I had a reason--a very, very good reason--to risk being caught in a Kmart: Michael Jackson's "Beat It" jacket. I already had the black moccasins, the white socks, the flood water black slacks and a blue T-shirt with some iron-on image on the front. All I needed was the jacket. It dawns on me now how a young boy that was utterly self-conscious about shopping at Kmart didn't have the least bit of reservation about being a tan-skinned Latino dressing up like an eccentric African American pop star. Nevermind that the red jacket hung in the women's department. The reason, of course: everybody was doing it. Back then, everyone wanted to be Michael Jackson. And at the age of 8, one rule overode all fashion sense: fitting in. To be like, to dress like, to sing like and to look like Michael Jackson was cool.

Around the same time, I knew if I saved my allowance for a few months I could purchase the G.I. Joe hovercraft, retailed at $24.99 plus tax. So hip was it to be like this Mike, that the hovercraft would have to wait. I saved and saved and saved. I don't recall how much the jacket cost, but I remember wanting it more than anything else. When fashion trumps a cool military toy with all the bells and whistles, that should tell you something. My parents were usually supportive of these capricious, childhood wants, as long as my two brothers and I understood how hard it was to earn a buck. But in this case, they pressed the parental override button and didn't let me get my way. Surely, they must have realized how ridiculous it would have been for me to parade around looking like Michael Jackson. Surely, they were looking out for my best interest because they knew that 8 year olds don't need much ammunition to be awfully mean. Of course, they failed to realize that Michael Jackson WAS the norm. NOT being like Michael Jackson was standing out. NOT having the red jacket or knowing how to moonwalk was a reason to mock someone.

A few months later my Aunt Cece from Chicago had sown some sparkling beads on a pair of white gloves. I got the right glove for my birthday and my cousin Bobby got the left one. I didn't have the jacket, but I had the glove. And for the time being I was cool again. I was a normal 8 year old in 1983.

This piece was also published in La Banda Elástica.