I Wrote This: Military Matters

I can write about fashion, too.

http://www.sanjose.com/military-matters-a28121

IT LOOKS as if military style is staying put. Stores were overrun with military chic near the end of last year, and unlike most trends that come and go, the spring 2010 runways are still relying on brass buttons, brocade and broad shoulders. This style has been building for a while—first, long dog-tag-style necklaces were in, followed by a huge return of boots last fall. The wildly popular military jacket took off in winter 2009, and it hasn’t looked back since.

Although the trend looks as if it should be highly regimented and cookie-cutter, it’s in fact extremely adaptable. Its influence can be seen in everything from tassels and epaulets to simple nautical stripes.

Military style has been spotted on the avenues of New York and the boulevards of Paris, as well as the on the backs of numerous Hollywood starlets. Celebrities like Mischa Barton, Sienna Miller and, in a head-turning crystal-studded version, Beyoncé, have been seen on the red carpet and around town in the ever-present military jacket.

Watch out, though, because this look can get costumey pretty quickly. We advise pairing dressed-up pieces with simple separates to avoid a camo-overload. Leaner frames should try a jacket with skinny jeans and heels, while those with curves might find belted shirt dresses with leggings, or a basic tank with high-waisted shorts, flattering.

Some in the fashion industry speculate that this return has to do with the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, citing the fact that military fashion seems to spike in times of conflict (civilians donning army jackets became a form of protest during the Vietnam War). Others say it has to do with movies and television—camo and cargo pockets coincided with Saving Private Ryan’s release in the late ’90s, and M*A*S*H may have triggered a run on heavy-metal details from the mid-’70s to the early ’80s. Perhaps we are seeing what could be called The Hurt Lockereffect in action.

Department-store brands tend to produce more authentic-looking pieces in khaki and army green. However, stores and designers geared toward a younger audience have taken a more whimsical direction, like Forever 21’s extensive range of Sgt. Pepper–style drum-major jackets and vests. Italian design house Max Mara recently wowed Milan with what’s being called a “cold war chic” line—gray woolen coats, high leather boots and fur details. The look has been burning up the Euro runways for a few years now. The highest-of-the-high-end designers, Christophe Decarmin, initially paved the way for military chic with the finely detailed jackets he debuted all the way back in 2008. But, as of now, this trend has trickled down to the mall.

I Wrote This: Latino Life

To be perfectly honest, I’ve been afraid to look at this since I turned it in, because I still feel like I was too hard on it. But I’ve had more than one person tell me they really liked this review, so I guess it’s going up.

http://www.sanjose.com/review-latino-life-a27771

JUST LAST WEEK, a man walked up to me and asked what my nationality was. “Half-Mexican, half-Italian,” I told him—my stock response. I get asked that a lot. I’m half-Mexican, but the half of me that is Mexican isn’t very “Mexican” at all. My family is what Sunsets and Margaritas playwright José Cruz González would call “assimilated.” My dad made meatloaf and casserole for dinner, and both he and his sisters learned Spanish in school. I don’t claim to know much about present-day Latino culture, because it’s something I was never really a part of. But I know enough to know that even though Sunsets and Margaritas makes a good effort to represent the entire culture in two hours, it falls short.

Making its West Coast premiere at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto, Sunsets and Margaritas is a comedy about the Serrano family, four generations of Mexican-Americans trying to relate to one another. After his aging father, Calendario (“Candi” for short), crashes his car into the side of the family restaurant, Gregorio begins to face the decision to put his father in a home. Along with his daughter, son, wife and restaurant employee, he tries to track down Dad, who’s gone missing in the sea of protesters that have overrun their small Colorado town that day to fight for workers’ rights.

The play highlights the way each generation is markedly different from the next and whether that represents a loss of culture or just a shift in it. The raw material is the stuff that immigrants and the families of immigrants have worked with time and again. Sunsets and Margaritas, however, tries so hard to educate its audience on the authentic Latino experience that it ends up tangled in its own good intentions. The biggest problem is that the play sometimes gets so wrapped up in its own silliness that it loses sight of its message of family and sometimes nudges that fine line between poking fun and offending. For instance, paralyzed son Jojo (Miles Gaston Villanueva) rides a tricked-out wheelchair covered in blue velour and equipped with hydraulics that bump to the beat of a “Low Rider”-like tune at the press of a button. The most believable person onstage is Papa Candi (Daniel Valdez), who comes off as human rather than as a caricature.

Sunsets and Margaritas tries to deliver the Mexican-American experience through the filter of family, something we can all understand, but is so busy trying to catch us up on a couple hundred years of Mexican history that it leaves little time for us to see these characters as people. Even when it tries to prove to us that the characters can be 3-D—daughter Gabby is a gay, Latina Republican who speaks with a Valley girl accent—it does so in a hurry and with blunt force. Every cultural nuance is explained in exhausting detail—references to La Llorona, the Virgin of Guadalupe and illegal immigration cause all action to stop while a character recites a brief history of its significance in the Latino community.

However, there is a good chance that my background filter is hampering my view. After all, the playwright, the cast, the director and others are all Latinos, who, presumably, had a more authentic experience than I did. They probably know better if the play works or not. Maybe I should stop and enjoy my life’s sunsets and margaritas.

SUNSETS AND MARGARITAS, a TheatreWorks production, plays Tuesday–Wednesday at 7:30pm, Thursday–Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2 and 8pm (no 2pm show Apr 3) and Sunday at 2 and 7pm (no 7pm show April 4) through April 4 at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Tickets are $24–$62. (650.463.1960)

checking in

Hello. Not much action for me lately. Had an arts feature a few weeks ago that I really liked, but I can’t find it online.

In the meantime, here is a video of my friends The Stone Foxes recording and being goofy. (Maybe ‘friends’ is jumping the gun a little. I know them, but we don’t hang out or anything. Just want to be clear on that. I don’t wanna sound all creepy or nothin’). I will be seeing them at the Independent this…Friday? Saturday? I should probably double-check that.

And here is a profile I wrote on them what seems like ages ago. My first story. I was so nervous that night.

And boys, if you are reading, I want one of your new T-shirts. The one with the sunglasses on it. And then, like all the other shirts I buy at merch tables on nothing but beer and impulse, I will end up wearing it only to bed and the gym.