Happy Judgment Day!!

“Three billion human lives ended on August 29th, 1997. The survivors of the nuclear fire called the war Judgment Day. They lived only to face a new nightmare, the war against the Machines…”

“Judgement Day” is the day in the Terminator films when Skynet (the computer system controlling all our nuclear weapons) launched an attack on the Soviet Union. Of course, in the universe of the movies, this is a future that only extends off a series of events that was interrupted by the events of the first and second films.  The “alternate ending” of “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” helps put it in perspective.

So Happy Judgment Day! “Everyday from this day on is a gift! Use it well!”

p.s. Michael Jackson turned 39, not 40, on August 29, 1997.

“Somos Más Americanos”

Here’s the best and most famous Norteño/conjunto band in the world–Los Tigres del Norte. They are performing their song “Somos Más Americanos” (We are More American), from their upcoming MTV unplugged special. They are joined by Zack de la Rocha.

As the lyrics go: Aunque le duela al vecino (Though it hurts our neighbor) / Somos más americanos (We are more American) / Que todititos los gringos (Than absolutely all the gringos).

I don’t know how long the video will be up since the others have been pulled down. So get it while it’s hot!

A Year in The Life (The Facebook Edition)

There’s the Facebook app a lot of my friends are using which compiles all of your state updates over the past year and then generates a list of the words you used the most on Facebook in that year. I assume it takes out common articles and stuff like that and, since I have nothing else to judge it by, I assume it is correct in its results.

I don’t like Facebook apps (mostly because of the way they post status updates even if you don’t want them) but I used this one just to see what the results were.

Here’s the top ten:

1. Kids
2. Don’t
3. Know
4. Chicano
5. Baby
6. Sandoval
7. Studies
8. Class
9. Doing
10. Claremont

This really says a lot.

“The New Girl” (Nov. 19, 1980)

Thirty years ago today one of my all-time favorite shows began its second season with an episode titled “The New Girl.”  The show was The Facts of Life, and the episode introduced the character Jo Polniaczek (played by Nancy McKeon), and was among the more noteworthy in the show’s nine-season run.

The Facts of Life began as a show about a fictional all-girls boarding school in upstate New York, “Eastland Academy.” A spin-off from the NBC hit Different Strokes, the show revolved around the character Edna Garrett in her capacity as a house mother at the school’s dormitory, where a gaggle of girls experienced the trials and tribulations of teenage life.

After the inaugural 1979-80 season, NBC executives and Facts of Life producers agreed to alter the original format of the show, feeling it wasn’t working to its potential.  They eliminated some cast members and changed the basic setting of the action, both moves to free up space and better explore the remaining characters.

The most significant change was the introduction of Joanna Marie Polniaczek, or “Jo”, played by McKeon.  Loosely-based on the Kristy McNichol character in the movie Little Darlings, McKeon’s tough girl was suggested by NBC head Fred Silverman (after he saw McNichol’s performance) and was intended to be a contrast to the affluent and snobbish Blair Warner, played by Lisa Welchel.

The new format of the show, and the gradual improvement of the NBC lineup throughout the decade, meant a new life and new audience for the comedy.  It remained on the air until 1988, following the girls through high school and, eventually, into their own business.

My sister and I watched the first season of “The Facts” and I, many more.  It remained a fixture in our lives through both its run in syndication as well as its consistent place in the NBC Primetime lineup.  Partly out of interest, partly out of familiarity, I watched the show all the way through its final season, up to an including its final episode.  I even watched one of those “Facts of Life” made-for-TV movies that came on later as a reunion venue.

I won’t pretend the show was more important than it was, or even better than it was.  It was fairly popular, but not exceedingly so, remaining a top 30 show for most of its run.  More than anything, it probably benefited from (more than drove) NBC’s strong numbers in the 80s.  It wasn’t an Emmy contender, to be sure, but the actresses who made the show their home weren’t without their merits.  The show should receive some accolades for the topics they addresses in their near-decade run.  The Facts of Life did tackle the major teenage issues of the 80s–drugs and alcohol, abortion, prostitution, date rape, and suicide, to name but a few.  Most of these episodes received some attention in their day and, for young people like me, they left something of a lasting impression.

And maybe the combination of the above it why it remained such a memorable show for me.  I watched these four girls and Mrs. Garret so much, from such a young age, that I felt I knew them.  It was among a set of shows (along with Happy Days and What’s Happening!) that provided me a model of what teenage life was like before I was experiencing it.  That model wasn’t accurate, not by a long shot, but what the hell did I know at 8 years old?  It seemed authentic to my young eyes and, ultimately, entertaining.

I watch a lot of old TV nowadays and The Facts of Life holds up rather well, when you’re watching the early years.  It’s light years better than stuff like Gimme a Break, and (at its best) is probably as good as Night Court or Family Ties (although both of those shows had a lot more quality in their runs).  When it worked, the writers and actresses created moments where the girls were more than just superficial cut-outs of sitcom drivel.  They were human and, at times, even friends.

This episode was, for me, one of those times.  It’s formulaic all over the place, but Nancy McKeon really stands out to me.  It might be nostalgia for the the way she creates one of my favorite TV characters, but I think she had a formidable talent to play Jo as this vulnerable character with a tough exterior (see, formulaic) with these small but purposeful moments of letting you see that vulnerability.  it’s not an easy thing to do, especially while the show itself is undergoing its major format change.

Below is the first part of this episode.  You can watch the rest by visiting the link to YouTube.

A Letter to the Overachieving Student

Dear Student,

Thank you for your inquiry. While I am not “frantically preparing” for the registration period (which doesn’t begin for another 3 weeks) I, too, am looking forward to next semester.

I’m sorry to say, however, that I do not have the syllabus for my spring class ready to share with you to help make your decision-making process “a little easier.”

I do wish you the best and hope to see you in spring.


A professor who cares about teaching too much to use the same old recycled syllabus over and over again without changing it AND who is appropriately busy focusing on life and work right now to be occupied with doing much related to three months from now.

Erik Estrada is more popular than pot

About a year and a half ago, we here at the central office were amazed to see the blog traffic at Latino Like Me start to reach new peaks, at times even exceeding 1000 a day.  When we checked the data from the Chicano super-computer we have working out back, it turned out the bulk of that traffic was coming from people searching for terms like “marijuana” and “marijuana joint” and “pot.”

This kept up for sometime, easily contributing an extra hundred or so visitors a day after the highest peaks.  Two posts, which were inadvertently optimized, drove the surge.  This was reflected in the data, as this post on Michael Phelps and corn flakes and this one on “420” rose to the top of LLM’s “all-time” list.

As I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t mind this discovery but I did find it a bit disheartening that the many posts I spent a lot of thoughtful energy and compassion composing—posts about immigration, hate crimes, and racial equity—got eclipsed by little posts I wrote on the fly for fun.

In the past month, however, I seem to have fallen out of favor with the pot smokers of the interwebs.  Lately it’s not unheard of for LLM to get zero hits from pot-related searches.  As these have gone down, a new “king” has emerged.  It doesn’t drive quite the same traffic in terms of numbers, but the daily share it provides is consistent.

That’s right: Erik Estrada now drives the bulk my blog hits.

I feel like a young boy whose wildest dreams have come true.

Ask Profe

I’ve been trying out Formspring on the down low for a few months now. It’s been okay, a little monotonous over time, but that’s due largely (I think) to the fact I’ve been kind of anonymous on it (or ficticious?) and, really, what kind of questions do you ask a person you don’t know?

I’ve decided to try it out as myself, with the hopes it might inspire some interesting conversations about things I care about and others (at least one person) care about as well. On top of that, there seems to be a shortage of informed educators using the service, so maybe I can add to that trend as well.

You can ask me a question–anonymous or otherwise–related to anything at http://www.formspring.me/thebigtshow.

Creative & Tasty Ways to Kill Yourself

Ladies and gentlemen!  Damas y caballeros! It is my pleasure, no, my honor, to present to you…


As detailed in this pleasant and panic-free story from NBC’s Today Show, this “invention” is set to premiere at the Texas State Fair later this month.

Let me save you the experience of reading the entire article (an act which might induce a heart attack all by itself) to summarize the highlights:

1. The inventor–Abel Gonzalez Jr.–is Chicano (but of course!).

2. Gonzalez won the Texas State Fair’s “Most Creative Fried Food Award” in 2006 for his previous invention of “fried Coke.”

3. Gonzalez coats the butter with a tasty crust because, as he says, “Nobody just grabs a stick of butter and eats it. That would be gross.”

4. A Texan “nutritionist,” who thinks it is bad to ban any food and, instead, advocates a moderation policy, says even this has “some” nutrition. “Fried butter has fats, and you need some fats. The dough would have some carbohydrates.”

My brain is as overloaded as the average American’s arteries right now in trying to make “sense” of this.  Should Latinos consider Gonzalez a covert re-conquistador, taking back Aztlan in a slow-motion act of heart attack?  No, too easy.  Should we not be concerned, since this “food” will really only affect Texans and, as we all know, there’s way too many of them anyway? No.  And what about the children?!? Oh!!  The CHILDREN!!!

In all seriousness, the fact that there is a competition to invent things like this is a testament to our current state of imperial decline.  This is like the Romans sitting around…wait a minute.  I just realized the only things I remembered about the Romans are from Mel Brooks. Well, that just shows you how far they fell.

Funny, though, that the oblivious excess of the whole thing is so hyperbolic as to also be uniquely “American.”  And what does that say?