The Rum Diary

Great anticipation and excitement was put into the film adaptation of Hunter Thompson's "The Rum Diary". For months I was eager to watch the screening of the film I had witnessed from a distance in March of 2009. I remember seeing how the colorful 1950´s cars that were brought in to Puerto Rico from Cuba were parked along Norzagaray Street, giving our historical center a glamorous and retro edge to it.

Old San Juan´s streets were closed down to receive one of the most acclaimed actors of our times: Johnny Depp, who together with his family, converted his yacht on the shores overlooking La Perla, into his home for several months, during the filming of this movie.
Gonzo journalism has always been attractive to me. Ever since I watched "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" several years ago, I was drawed to the idea of becoming an anthro-journalist, living and breathing in the skin of one’s work subjects. Participant-observation techniques have always been a common practice among some of the greatest journalists of all times: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ryszard Kapuscinski, Truman Capote, Ernest Hemmingway, and Hunter Thompson, among others. Founded by Thompson, gonzo journalism favors style and tone over truth and accuracy. During an interview in 1973 for Rolling Stones magazine, Thompson said, "If I'd written the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people—including me—would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism."
Another reason that makes Thompson controversial is his choice of topics, usually revolving around recreational drugs and alcohol experimentation, which he considered added an additional subjective flair to his reporting. The term "gonzo" has also come into (sometimes pejorative) use to describe journalism that is in the vein of Thompson's style, characterized by a drug-fueled stream of consciousness writing technique. "The Rum Diary" is no exception.
Hunter S. Thompson wrote the novel in 1961, but it was not published until 1998. The independent production companies Shooting Gallery and SPi Films sought to adapt the novel into a film in 2000, and after Bram Sheldon declined the role, actor Johnny Depp was signed to star and to serve as executive producer. Nick Nolte was also signed to star alongside Depp. The project did not move past the development stage. After this, film problems seemed to continue. Several other well known actors such as Benicio del Toro were also supposed to star in the film, although because of internal differences these plans were also never adapted.
Directed by some dude called Bruce Robinson, a struggling alcoholic, "The Rum Diary" proved to be incredibly disappointing. The script, painfully bad. The cinematography and photography? Decent considering I am extremely far away from my Caribbean roots, and it was comforting to engage in tropical eye candy for two hours.
Paul Kemp, the journalist and main character played by Johnny Depp is a guy who has become increasingly disinterested in the US way of life under the Eisenhower administration and decides to move from New York to Puerto Rico for a breath of fresh air and motivation to work on a new book. He lands a job with the decaying San Juan Star newspaper and turns rum drinking into his favorite pastime. So much potential incapable of manifesting itself. "The Rum Diary" is unfortunately, a failed experiment that lacks a backbone, structure, interesting dialogue and character development, and fails to portray a great story about a journalist drowning in his own fears as seen thru the eyes of one of the most fascinating story tellers of the New Journalism movement: Hunter Thompson.

A Polish Christmas

I´ve been postponing blog writing for a couple of weeks now. Thesis revisions, organizing and attending house parties, sangría preparing, cooking, eating loads of Polish food, and other Christmas-like obligations have been occupying most of my waking hours lately. Today anyhow marks the start of a fresh and exciting new year, and because I owe some of you a story about how Polish Christmases are spent, I finally got myself to writing it.

It all started about a month ago when I moved into a great new flat on Ulica Pomorska 49 (pronounced Oo-leet-sa Pomorska cher-yesh-she-ye-vench), and possibly my favorite Polish word, jeje... So, I decided to finally leave the dormitory life behind and make my Polish stay a bit more official by transforming my apartment into a real home and not a haven for Erasmus partyholics. I also signed a work contract until summer of 2012 and will be negotiating with the University of Wrocław, where I can hopefully continue teaching next semester. So, so far, so great…
Another reason why my Polish life became even more awesome is because of my new BFF. He’s got small green eyes, a warm smile, a huge and tender heart, and the most soulful taste in music ever. Plus, as an added value, he also cooks senegalese finger food, plays guitar, and can rap pretty well.
His name is Adam and he’s also my flat mate, together with his girlfriend, who’s in France and I still haven’t met. Adam and I clicked since the first second we sat down to talk, and although we’ve only known each other for a month or so, it seems like a lot longer. My Polish Christmas experience, therefore, was thanks to him and his great family: Mama Bogna, Papa Edward, and greatest sister in the world, who came from upstate NY to spend 6 weeks here, Ania.
Ania, Adam, and I spent Christmas with their mother and stepdad in a small city called Leszno, where they live. An almost two hour train ride from Wrocław later and we arrived to foggy, snow-less Leszno, where we’d spend the next couple of days in Bogna and Edward’s apartment. A perfectly decorated dinner table greeted us and would be the center of the celebrations during the next half a week or so. Everyday Bogna would change the perfectly ironed white tablecloth, fine napkins, candles, wine glasses, and Christmas ornaments and begin the main mission of the day, which almost turned into a vicious cycle: cooking and eating, eating and cooking, cooking and eating more…
The first activity on the agenda (before eating and more eating) was decorating the tree, which Poles, unlike Puerto Ricans, usually do a couple of days before Christmas.
On Christmas Eve the cooking process began early. Although most of us were still in pj´s, I decided to dress up a bit and hit the kitchen to learn some new recipes. Ania and I helped Bogna make some salad and prepare pierogis (Polish dumplings) stuffed with cabbage (ever present in Polish cuisine).
First you make the dough, then you cut it in circles using a cookie cutter, stuff them one by one, and seal them using your hands (or Puerto Rican empanadilla style, using a fork). This is how they turned out...
Hours later, we all sat to eat twelve dishes (Polish tradition that holds relation with the 12 apostles and the last supper). For starters, we had beet root soup with another type of dumplings, and later on we tried different fish dishes, cabbage salads, and best of all... the desert: four types of cakes (poppy seed, cheesecake, walnut cake, and another one with biscuits and caramel)
Another common tradition that Poles practice during Christmas lunch took place shortly after. To prepare for it, someone from the family must get communion bread from church and before eating and after saying a prayer, each member of the family cuts a piece of the bread and gives a wish to each person in a circle until everyone has been wished and blessed upon.
We also heard many Christmas carols in Polish, English, and even Puerto Rican ones. Everyone received a decent amount of hugs and kisses , unexpected presents, and even engaged in salsa dancing! Thanks to Adam, Ania, Bogna and Edward for making this time so special in my home away from home!

Merry Christmas, Wesołych Świąt, Feliz Navidad, and a great start of 2012 for everyone!

Una mirada al mundo