Friday, January 30, 2015

On Cuba: 12 Notes at the Crossroads

 Guest Post by Emma Trelles

EmmaCuba
Le sombre Malembo, Dieu du carrefour, 1943, by Wifredo Lam

1. After an entire lifetime in South Florida, I now live 3,000 miles away on the central coast of California, in a small city ringed by mountains and bordered by a Pacific which appears paler and vaster than the Caribbean-Atlantic I have always known. This is where I hear that the Cuban embargo is unraveling, the news a fragment floating from my car radio right before I turn off the ignition to trundle groceries from the trunk to our garden apartment. The U.S. will further ease travel restrictions to the island, open an embassy, lift some trade and banking sanctions.  It is as if a mythic bird has winged overhead and I’ve only caught a glimpse of a few bright feathers. My first thought is what was that? It doesn’t really register. 
2.  I get busy putting away eggs and carrots grown at nearby farms. But the news keeps simmering somewhere inside me, a place as intrinsic to me as my ardor for lists or the invisible work of my lungs. It is the tiny island of Cubania I have carried within me since I was a child, born in the U.S. and trying to belong in Miami, a city that, in the 70s, still viewed my Cuban family and so many other recent immigrants as outsiders, no matter how quickly we learned English and how hard we worked. 
3. As a young girl, I saw Fidel Castro as the camouflaged villain standing between the rotary phone in our kitchen and my family in Havana, whom we could only talk to briefly and on rare occasion. I’d shout in Spanish over the crackle of lines and wonder what their faces looked like. We didn’t have any pictures of them. When I eavesdropped on talk of Castro’s demise, a long-cherished topic in Miami, I imagined a scene much like the one in the The Wizard of Oz, where an oppressor is felled with one crashing stroke. Everyone is giddy and sings in three-part harmonies. A land returns to color, and instead of shoes, two black boots would curl and crumble to dust.
4. I think about this part of my childhood when I think of Cubans on the true island-nation, who, like we once did, have begun their own migration from perceived outcasts to rightful neighbors, with whom we share bloodlines and friendships and a percussive, slangy Spanish. I'm not talking about those who created a palm-fringed prison of the body and its free will. I mean the everyday Cubans who have kept on keeping on. Their relentless optimism and resourcefulness are at the core of Cubanía, something that is also seen in the micro, self-written psalm of my people: Todo se resuelve. Everything will work out.
Photo (26)

5. In my imagined island of Cubanía, there is a little boat anchored near the shore and a blue-striped cabana on the beach. It contains a crazy-quilt of culture:
*café con leche, large, and a reservoir of pastelitos de guayaba

*homespun altars to Changó (whose Cuban-Catholic twin is Santa Barbara - at left) and La Caridad del Cobre (Cuba's patron saint);

a garden of white roses and un hombre sincero (first known as José Martí);
*dichos in Spanish like eso es un arroz con mango (Literal meaning: This is a plate of rice and mango. True meaning: What a mess) and tienes que echar pa'lante (Literally: You must move forward. Truly: Never give up); 
*every song Celia Cruz has ever sung with La Sonora Matancera and the Fania All Stars and all the solo stuff, especially that little snippet of a sound check where she’s in Zaire with Fania and busts out la “Guantaramera” in that magma-from-the-earth’s-core timbre of hers and then starts dancing, gliding away from the mic as if caught in the happiest of dreams.
* Wifredo Lam’s oil on canvas, Le sombre Malembo, Dieu du carrefour / Dark Malembo, God of the Crossroads.
*my mother's voice, which can sound like a chime or a siren, depending on the topic of conversation (Chime: I am so proud of you, mima. Siren: Please don't talk to me about Obama).
6. My mother, a Cuban-born American, is intensely Republican, and I am an American-born Cuban and a progressive. When our president won his second term, my mother told my brother she couldn't talk to me for a few days because she didn't want to hear me gloat and because she couldn't bear to see this country go down the same socialist-communist road that Cuba had traveled for more than five decades. My mother confiding to my brother, who passes it along to me, all of this over the phone, because, in my family, a conversation so intimate is unbearable to hold in person. Another Cubanía: Do not confront a person you love with your truthful unpleasantries but freely discuss with others, who will then share them on your behalf.
7. The god of the crossroads stands in a brilliant thicket of green. In my favorite painting by Wifredo Lam, the Afro-Cuban modernist, the deity also known as Elegua in the Santería faith spreads his cloak around a host of horned heads and leaves, an assembly of watchful eyes.
8.  My friends and I, or at least those of us excited by the news, have burned up our phones and laptops with Cuba jabber: articles and songs and old photographs posted and shared; written responses on blogs and magazines; talk of how it all arrived on the 17th, the feast day of Babalú Ayé, the Santería counterpart to San Lázaro, the Spanish-Catholic saint of healing.  We parsed the president’s speech and how, in what my friend Dan Vera called “a baller move,” Obama quoted José Martí,  the 19th-century poet-journalist-activist who fought hard to liberate Cubans from Spanish rule and whose words are often invoked by both island communists and exiles as a tribute to independence.  “Liberty is the right for every man to be honest,” said Martí, “to think and speak without hypocrisy.”
9. I have spoken to my mother about Christmas plans and presents, what time we will Skype. We have not discussed Cuba yet. It might take years. We are both the Great Avoiders and neither one of us wants to tear into this ticking box because we love each other more than we revile one another’s politics. And while I have found many of her other stances infuriating, I can only feel a kind of protectiveness towards her now, towards all exiles who are pro-embargo. After living in our community for so long, I understand what is at stake for my mother, for so many. They are losing everything all over again. To them, normalizing relations with the Cuban government means the Castros not only stole all they loved — they finally got away with it.  
10. Because I am a poet, and thus, a hoarder of images, I kept a notebook that catalogued the details of my farewells before I moved to Santa Barbara from South Florida: the ibis that flashed white while they flew by our windows each dusk, how my brother rocks forward when he’s laughing hard, friends cooking dinner or playing guitars. It felt important to write down what would no longer be in short reach, but I was hardly engulfed in sorrow. How would I feel if I knew I might not see any of it again? What do I know about that kind of heartbreak? Not much.  
11.  Empirical fact: There is no one as patriotic as an immigrant-turned-citizen. When I visited Miami in
Flags in Miami
photo by Charles Trainor, Miami Herald
November, I overheard two Latinas at the car rental discussing plumbing problems. In Spanish and English, they shrugged it off and noted how in this country, that kind of thing was easy to resolver. Both nodded their heads in unison and shared a mmmmm-hhhmm. Subtext: The U.S. rules. In South Florida, Cubans, Haitians, Dominicans, and Venezuelans fly their American flags right alongside the flags of their birthplace, staked on the porches of their homes or flapping from their cars. Their chit-chat is an intricate brocade of English and their first tongue, often in the same sentence, their meals a patchwork of, say, barbecue hamburgers served up with yucca and the ubiquitous rice and beans. In July, my mother texted all of her friends and family to celebrate the anniversary of her arrival to this country. “52 years in the good ole USA,” she tapped. “The best country in the world.” I’ve heard the latter six words from so many immigrants; I’ve lost count.   
12.  Perhaps assimilation, in its realest sense, is not an obliteration of the past, but the making of a new kind of space, one that holds what “was” in the same open hands with what “is.”  At 14medio, an independent online daily launched in Cuba, dissident and writer Yoani Sanchez reported Cubans blowing kisses at President Obama when his announcement was televised in Havana. “Now and again the cry of “I LOVE…” (in English!) could be heard from around the corner.” Are these the beginnings of Cubans and exiles stitching a new embroidery, a cautious piecing together of here and there, them and us, what happened with what we all might become? After half a century that also feels like the quick flick of a wand, I am hopeful. We are moving towards one another again. 

***Emma Trelles is the winner of the 2011 Andres Montoya Poetry Prize. She lives in Santa Barbara. This essay was previously published in the Best American Poetry Blog, December 2014.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Dichos de Chimayó


El escritor y fotógrafo nuevomexicano Don J. Usner recoge dichos y refranes de herencia española en la región del valle de Chimayó en un libro donde se mezclan memorias con la geografía cultural de un lugar casi mítico. "Chasing Dichos through Chimayó" es singular en el modo en que teje etnografía, memorias y fotografía al documentar la sabiduría popular que conservan los mayores del lugar.

El libro nació de una serie de viajes que el autor realizó junto a su madre a esta región de Nuevo México que había conocido de pequeño, donde residía su familia materna. Del propósito inicial de recoger los dichos de la zona y tomar algunas fotos que demostraran el significado de los mismos, se fue elaborando una narrativa mucho más personal en la cual Usner recupera un aspecto importante de su identidad. A lo largo del libro, el autor reflexiona sobre cómo estos dichos y el lugar donde aun se escuchan forman parte de su historia y se pregunta por qué fueron menospreciados durante sus años de formación. 

Conocido internacionalmente por su santuario y los miles de peregrinos que allí acuden anualmente, Chimayó es una región pobre en bienes pero rica en cultura. Desafortunadamente, también se le conoce por una alta incidencia de crimen relacionado a las drogas. 

Usner cuenta que su madre, oriunda del valle de Chimayó, buscó nuevos horizontes al casarse y situarse fuera de la comunidad.Fue así que el autor y sus hermanos crecieron en la estéril ciudad de Los Álamos donde su padre trabajaba y donde pocas familias se extendían más allá de la familia inmediata. Su entorno lo animaba sutilmente a valorar más la modernidad de Los Álamos y las puertas que ese entorno le abriría en el futuro que la sencilla herencia cultural del valle.
Las visitas a familiares en el valle contrastaban drásticamente con el individualismo y la organización que regían su vida diaria en la "Ciudad Atómica".

En Chimayó, los antepasados, el compadrazgo, la fe y las tradiciones unen a sus residentes como si fueran una gran familia, lo cual a menudo, insiste, es el caso. Cuando comenzó su investigación, Usner recuerda haberse arriesgado tímidamente a explorar partes del valle más allá del entorno familiar. Fue así que comprendió el valor de ubicarse genealógicamente en el terreno, presentándose como el hijo de una mujer local, por nombre y apellido. A menudo descubría lazos familiares que le unían a la persona que acababa de conocer. Y se preguntaba cómo había aprendido a menospreciar esta parte importante de su identidad.

Como en muchas familias de herencia hispana de la época, los padres del autor le exigían a sus hijos que hablaran solamente en inglés. Aunque en la escuela les enseñaban sobre algunas tradiciones hispanas, como la quinceañera y los festejos del Día de los Muertos, éstas le resultaban tan extrañas como si hubieran sido de una herencia cultural completamente diferente. El autor recuerda que en una clase de español, la maestra los recibió con el saludo, "Hola, ¿qué tal?", una frase que nunca antes había escuchado. En Chimayó, escribe, el saludo habitual entre los mayores era "Buenas tardes le dé Dios", muestra de formalidad, respeto y fe.

Entre recuerdos y reflexiones, Usner intercala más de 300 dichos de origen español recogidos en Chimayó. La labor de recopilación la había iniciado la madre del autor, como un proyecto personal, que su hijo continuaría años más tarde con rigor etnográfico. El autor recuerda cómo su abuela le repetía los dichos intentando inculcarle alguna enseñanza moral heredada de sus antepasados. Aunque quizás sin éxito, la repetición de los dichos despertaron en él una curiosidad en cuanto al valor metafórico de las expresiones y el vacío que llenan lingüística, cultural y socialmente. 

Pertenecientes a la tradición oral, los dichos viven en variantes, por lo cual su esencia resultará conocida para los lectores hispanohablantes. Llama la atención, sin embargo, el español arcaizante en algunos y los términos regionales en otros, al igual que algunas variaciones interpretativas.
Entre ellos cita: "Afeita un sapo, parecerá mancebo", "Entre menos burros, más elotes", "Si no hubiera malos gustos, pobrecitas de las feas".

Los dichos están organizados temáticamente después de cada capítulo en el que se destaca una historia relacionada. También se intercalan fotografías de lugares y personajes del valle haciendo del libro una suerte de álbum familiar. El mayor logro de este inusual volumen está en haber equilibrado la labor de documentación etnográfica con la reflexión personal.

(CHASING DICHOS THROUGH CHIMAYÓ. Don J. Usner. University of New Mexico Press. 232 páginas).
 ============================================

¡Feliz cumpleaños #162, José Martí!
(28 de enero de 1853 - 19 de mayo de 1895)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Little Chanclas


by José Lozano
  • Age Range: 5 - 9 years
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press (February 17, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935955861
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935955863


A bilingual tale about Little Lilly Lujan who loves her chanclas (flip-flops) going slippety-slappety and flippity-flop. In fact, Lilly refuses any footwear except her favorite pair of flip-flops. "Why does Lilly love her chanclas so much?" her family cries. Lilly doesn't listen. That's why her family nicknames her "Little Chanclas." At baptisms, barbecues, quinceañeras, and picnics, you can hear Little Chanclas going slippety-slap and flippity-flop. Then one day Lilly dances a little too much at a fiesta, her chanclas come apart, a pit bull chews up the remains, and there is no more flip for her flop! Little Chanclas is inconsolable. Crisis ensues as she rejects shoe after shoe. But then a miracle happens. Lilly puts on a pair of soccer shoes. She's a natural. She goes clickety-click. She scores a goal. She's a star!
José Lozano is a rising star in the thriving Latino art scene in Los Angeles, California. Born in Los Angeles, his family moved to Juárez, Chihuahua, México, when he was a baby. Growing up on the border, he found many of the cultural touchstones that continue to influence his work today—bad Mexican cinema, lucha libre, fotonovelas, ghost stories, and comic books. Lozano prefers to work in a series, focusing on themes like Mexican wrestlers, paper dolls, and lotería. In fact, the Los Angeles Metro System commissioned his loteria card portraits of various light rail riders for the La Brea/Expo Station. Lozano lives in Fullerton, California, and teaches elementary school in Anaheim.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

2014 Review: Writers Reading Their Own Stuff. Book News from Houston.

Michael Sedano

In keeping with the ancient Latinos' god, Janus,January is a month of assessment--looking back, and planning--looking forward. This week brings a handful of exemplar fotos of writers reading their work in 2014, together with considerations for readings this year.

Reading your stuff aloud is a bit like public speaking--it's an activity many people dread, even fear. Given an audience, some writers relish the opportunity while others struggle to get through it.

Audiences hear the difference between a considered reading and an apprehensive reading. Since the norm trends to the latter, when a reader expends energy to plan the reading and executes the plan, audiences sit up, take notice, and buy books.



Audiences are forgiving of poor readings but this doesn't justify a poor reading. Writers need to respect their art and convey that through voice, gesture, selection, and thoughtful interpretation. Practice the reading. Use video and confront yourself. Practice in front of someone who loves you because they will tell you if your reading sucks.

This series of fotos illustrate how successful readers handle their manuscript, occupy the speaking stage, and personalize their presentation through whole body gesture and eye contact.



Xánath Caraza elects to use the lectern to position the texts she's going to read from. When she reads she picks up the volume and holds it in one hand, allowing the other to gesture. Caraza's experience has led her to memorize most of the poems she selects. She uses the book only as a reference tool and keeps herself directly involved with her audience.

When a reader stands behind a lectern or stand, it's useful to emulate Caraza's skill at gesturing high enough to be seen from any seat in the house.



Kimberly Cobain carries a note card manuscript. The lectern beguiles many a speaker and they use it as home base, even when, as in Cobain's reading, their text is portable and could be carried with her when she approaches her audience.

Planted behind a stand like this, and gesturing at waist height blocks the effort from audiences to the speaker's right. When readers practice bringing their gestures up they say it "feels strange." Maybe so, but audiences don't know how it feels, and they appreciate the enhancement that attends effective gestures.



Luis J. Rodriguez plans to read from several of his books. He carries them all with him and stands in the open floor, no lectern to block his body from the audience. Rodriguez, too, knows by heart the works he selects. His familiarity lets him expend a full measure of emotion and clarity to his expression and words. 

Rodriguez'performance mastery developed over years of meeting audiences. Novice readers will want to observe highly skilled performances and copy one or two techniques. If it works, keep it.

Authors might consider printing their pieces in large size text on a card or sheet of stiff cardboard, adding ample white space to guide the eyes during a reading. Fold the typescript into the book to keep the marketing advantage of flashing that book cover, but ease the reading process.


Eddy Bello-Sandoval reads from a typescript in a binder. Bello channels lots of energy into her reading, making contact with the script but frequently moving away from one spot and using the performance space to advantage.



Gloria Enedina Alvarez uses an increasingly popular tool, a telephone display screen. The ability to magnify text and swipe pages makes this a useful manuscript solution. Alvarez holds the device at a comfortable reading distance that permits excellent eye contact and personalization with her audience.

The future of telephony and data portability might bring readings where the phone projects the text onto a nearby wall, expanding the interactivity of the performance. Perhaps a poet will use an earplug to listen to the text and echo aloud the words, hands free and full of the confidence of a reader working from memory, like Eric "Praxis" Contreras.


These portraits reflect a continuing project to take what I call the perfect public speaker foto. The speaker will be engaged, eyes and mouth open, animated facial expression, arms, body all reflecting an attitude. That's the bare minimum. From that base, the photograph will express something important and distinctive about the speaker and the occasion.


Radio on the Internet: Bloguera Lydia Gil Interview 

Houston Public Media's Eric Ladau conducts an interview with Lydia Gil, who shares La Bloga's Thursday column with Ernest Hogan's Chicanonautica. 

Gil talks about food, visitas, lifestyle contrasts, the gente that inform her middle school chapter book, Letters From Heaven/Cartas del Cielo. Gil reads from a selection of pages that illustrate interviewer Ladau's enjoyment of the book.

The interview is in English while the book is bilingual. Flip it over, it's a second language.

Visit Arte Publico Press' website for details on Letters/Cartas. To hear the Houston Public Media interview with Lydia, click here


Monday, January 26, 2015

Corazón Pintado: Ekphrastic Poems, 2015


Xánath Caraza


“Caraza’s voice is the pulse of the powerful, mythic earth. Landscape and dreamscape fuse in this rhythmic poetry, as the images Caraza paints and repaints for us—mountains, shells, twisters, deserts—go on “rocking the imagination” through time, history, memory, and that wildest frontier: the heart.”

—Maria Melendez, author of Flexible Bones and How Long She’ll Last in This World.

 



Corazón Pintado (Pandora lobo estepario Press, 2015) by Xánath Caraza
 

Pandora lobo estepario Press, Chicago, IL, has decided to publish the second edition of my chapbook, Corazón Pintado: Ekphrastic Poems (2015).  This second edition is revised, augmented, and has a foreword by Nuno Júdice.  I have also added a few more poems and paintings.  The chapbook is a bilingual edition; most of the translations are by me in addition to Sandra Kingery and Stephen Holland-Wempe.  I am certainly thankful for this wonderful opportunity. 

The first edition of Corazón Pintado (2012) was published by TL Press, Kansas City, MO to which I am absolutely thankful since was the first time I was able to see my work in the form of a book.
 
Parts of the second edition of Corazón Pintado: Ekphrastic Poems were written with the support from the Beca Nebrija para Creadores 2014 award from the Instituto Franklin in Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain.

The artists I have had the honor to work with for Corazon Pintado are the following:

 
Adriana Manuela
Adriana Manuela is a painter and ceramist originally from Mexico. She has participated in individual shows in Mexico and Spain. Currently, she lives in Córdoba, Andalusia, Spain.  Adriana Manuela is working on a new series of ceramics titled: Yolotl.

 

José Jesús Chán Guzmán, AKA Chán
Chán has participated in international collective shows in Mexico, the US, England, France, Spain, Puerto Rico, and Canada.  Chan graduated from the School of Fine Arts, University of Veracruz, in Xalapa, Mexico. In 1992 he received the Ramón Alva de la Canal Award, among others. Currently, he lives in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico with his wife and two dogs.

 

Israel Nazario
Israel Nazario is originally from Santa María Zacatepec, Putla, Oaxaca. He graduated from the School of Fine Arts, UABJO, in the City of Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico. His work has been displayed in several collective and individual shows in Mexico, Japan, and Brazil. Currently, he lives in the City of Oaxaca where he teaches, and paints.

 

Thomas Weso
Thomas Weso is an educator and artist. His vivid paintings based on Woodlands motifs are in collections in Washington DC as well as the Midwest, and he has participated in solo and group shows in Kansas and Missouri. Tom is an enrolled member of the Menominee Indian Nation of Wisconsin. He teaches Native American Studies classes at Friends University. He has published personal essays and articles. He received his M.A. in Indigenous Nations Studies from the University of Kansas.

 
I hope you all enjoy the new edition of my book.  We are still working on a release date, but, please, stay tuned.

 

“Xánath Caraza creates poignant visually inspired narratives.  Her ekphrastic poems evoke “eternal wisdom” gained through stories of past generations.”

—Silvia Kofler, editor of Thorny Locust and author of Radioactive Musings.

 

“In her bilingual chapbook, Corazón Pintado: Ekphrastic Poems, traveler, educator, poet and short story writer Xánath Caraza conjures up a collection of ekphrastic poems that summon both the indigenous and African roots of Mexico and take the reader through a trip of visual and rhythmic narratives that descend “into the heart of things”.”

—Lauro Vazquez

 

“Water and waves flow through the book, and drag nurturing, cleansing throughout the pages. They are drenched with both death and freedom. A tree standing alone, barren, settled in sadness contrasts images of the sea. All of it pointing in both directions, the past and the future. See the vibrancy, colors smeared across the palate, staining magic, birth, struggle, reality, and dream. Look into the blush, the tint of the painted heart.”

—Lonita Cook, writer for the Examiner

 

Xánath Caraza has the gift of transforming a story into a poem, even when it has the lyrical melding of a metaphorical touch or a melody.  Further, this is what allows us to listen, in each poem, to that voice which shares and transmits worldly and enduring knowledge.

            —Nuno Júdice, Lisbon, Portugal
 

For preordering Corazón Pintado: Ekphrastic Poems (2015) go to: Chicago Art Market
 


Corazón Pintado (Pandora lobo estepario Press, 2015) by Xánath Caraza
 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

This Week's Lesson: Even Bad Art Has Soul

Olga García Echeverría


Angel was stalling at the door. I could tell by the way he was fidgeting with his backpack, waiting for his classmates to leave, that he had something he wanted to say. Once everyone was gone, he leaned into the classroom. “That’s what I don’t get about this literary analysis thing.”

“What don’t you get about it?” I was shutting down the computer station and putting my things away, but he had my attention. 

“How people can read something and then say they hate it. Or visit a museum and say the art sucks.”

“Do you like everything you read or see, then?”

“No, I guess not. But I think that writers pour their souls into their stories and artists into their art. That’s their soul, man. How can anyone say, ‘I hate your soul? Or your soul sucks?’ That’s why even if I read something that doesn’t speak to me directly, I say, ‘Thank you for sharing your soul, man.’ "

Angel’s words lingered in the classroom long after he’d waved goodbye and disappeared into the hallway. I have follow-up questions for Angel, like “Do all artists always put their soul into their work or is that merely an assumption, a romantic notion?” That will be another conversation on another day, but I got the gist of what Angel was saying at the end of class on Wednesday, Even bad art has soul.

Into The Woods: A Super Bad Review

I’m ashamed to admit I paid money to see it, but on New Year’s Day I gave Into the Woods a try. I blame Meryl Streep. I’ll see anything she’s in. I didn’t go into the movie theater completely blind; “Disney musical” says a lot. Nothing, though, could have prepared me for the horror of Into the Woods.

The movie is a medley of several of Grimm's classic fairy tales, such as Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Bean Stalk. It is clear from the onset that there is an attempt to deconstruct or subvert the original plots; however, this effort not only feels forced, it bores. Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), who keeps running to and away from the prince and singing about it, comes across as an indecisive tonta. Her golden slipper finally gets trapped in tar on the steps of the castle and it's too bad the tar didn't turn into a giant monster, like in The Blob (a really good "bad" movie by the way), and swallow her up. Johnny Depp, the Big Bad Wolf, is only In the Woods for what seems like a minute. Too bad. The charming princes (yes, there's more than one) are a royal drag.
Actually, there is a scene where these two prince-charmings, both in tight jeans, are pussyfooting around a river, singing “I wish, I wish...” They're fantasizing about their beloved princesses, wishing they were with them. My friend Persephone and I couldn't help but filter this scene through a queer lens. We were desperate and the popcorn and chocolate Raisinettes were all gone. “This looks like such a gay scene,” we whispered to each other, perking up for a minute. Wouldn't that be something? Two princes trapped in Grimm's fairy tales. They're expected to fall in love with, save, and then marry pinche princesses, but it turns out these two charming lads are really in love with each other. At the river, away from all the social and cultural pressure, they leap around like energetic ranas, singing “I wish, I wish, I wish I could marry a prince instead of a princess...”



We're So Gay! Let Us Out of This Hetero-normative Fairy Tale!

My student Angel would disapprove of me saying so because I am sure many people put their soul into this production, but aside from Streep and her fantastic blue hair and make-up, this movie sucked beyond belief. I give it three negative stars because the only thing worse than a bad movie is a bad movie being sung to you, badly. The fact that Into the Woods got nominated for both Golden Globes and Academy Awards is baffling, and yet a reminder that 1) Disney can do whatever it wants 2) You can't judge a movie by its nominations or awards and 3) Bad is truly in the eye of the beholder.

Perse and me killing ourselves cuz Into the Woods was THAT bad


La Drag Asesina: When It's So Bad It's Kinda Good

Speaking of killings, drag, bad art, and soul, Ed Wood Jr. wrote Killer in Drag in 1963. The copy I have was translated into Spanish by Tatiana Escobar and Olatz Acosta in 1999. This was tatiana de la tierra's book. I want to say I vaguely remember it in her house, lying around entre sus cosas and among all her other libros. Aside from being a writer and avid reader, tatiana was also a librarian, so she always had books lying around. Queer libros en español were a must, since this was one of tatiana's main areas of personal and professional interest. When she passed away in 2012, her books were dispersed. Many were donated to libraries, others kept by family members or given to friends. La Drag Asesina went from tatiana's home in Long Beach to Cat Uribe in El Sereno. In our endless recycling of tatiana's special things, Cat recently passed the book onto me.

At the Beach with La Drag Asesina and...tatiana? Is that you, tatiana?

I would love to spend an afternoon at the edge of the beach, talking to tatiana about La Drag Asesina, about the main character Glen/Glenda, and his/her sexuality. About the pulp crime sex genre that Wood was well known for in the 60's and 70's. About his low-budget sci-fi horror flicks of the 1950's. I imagine we would poke fun and laugh at the fact that Ed Wood was posthumously awarded a Golden Turkey Award as Worst Director of All Time. How the hell do you get nominated for something like that? We'd ask, and we'd fantasize of one day getting a Worst Algo award. These are the types of things we could have a lot of fun with.

tatiana unfortunately isn't here in the same way she used to be, so I can only imagine what her take on the book would be. One distinction/critique I think she would have made about La Drag Asesina is that it isn't organic queer lit en español. It's not Spanish-speaking Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, Florida, East LA speaking of/about/to queerness. It's Hollywoodish, 1960's pulp queerish sexploitative fiction translated from English into Spanish. This doesn't necessarily make it all bad, though, just imported and perhaps somewhat distorted. And yes, La Drag Asesina is a bit contrite and predictable, ridiculous at times, yet it's also fascinating. Going back to the suppression of obvious (or at least potential) gayness in Into the Woods, Ed Wood Jr. was doing in the 60's what Disney wouldn't dare do today! Even in its badness, the soul of Killer in Drag was way ahead of its time. Because of this, La Drag Asesina has won me over. Why else? The short chapters, perhaps. The quick-moving plot; you can see the progression of the action in vivid scenes. The author's obsession with women's clothes is also a bit contagious. Thanks to Ed Wood, I now really want an angora sweater. The Spanish is also a plus. Mostly, though, I think it's the protagonist in the book that hooks. Glen/Glenda, the tender-hearted killer in drag who's dragging around his/her double identity in a suitcase because he's/she's on the run after witnessing the murder of the rich old maricon that he/she was just about to screw for social/economic mobility when...

I won't spoil it. If you haven't read this bad book yet, I highly recommend it, especially in Spanish. They translate toast as "tostada," but that's okay. I can deal with that. It's still a classic in the world of bad art, and it does have plenty of soul. The back cover sums it up perfectly, La Drag Asesina es “Un libro poco recomendable pero que nadie debe perderse.”




Tatiana and Me Full of Soul & Wearing Really Bad Wigs
Buffalo, NY Circa 2001
 
 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Food and drink, cubano and mexicano. And books.


I must have a holiday/food/cooking hangover. Made chocolate cookies this week, dipped in powdered sugar and covered with a frosting of chocolate fudge. Also drank my last bottle of Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, all by myself. 13.8%, thick as light syrup and hearty as a buffalo burger.

Which reminds me, hipster redevelopment is ruining even our white restaurant-bars. My favorite place for ribs, buffalo burger and a Southwick's Ale, Big Hoss, was sold and now there's only one kind of buffalo burger, the ale is gone and the décor went minimalist. Luckily, my daughter sent us to the Roo Bar that's got a great burger, lots of micros, is cheaper and close to Denver's Northside. Yeah, it's preppy, but that's the way the barrio goes.

Yesterday, I made frijoles with ham hocks, and pork green chile--delicioso, dicen. Then there was a buffalo roast last week that was to die for. Chingaus, I'm hungry. Anyway, here some Latino-book-food news:


Another Bloguista book

Last week at Denver's Tattered Cover Bookstore, La Bloga's Lydia Gil read from her new bilingual children's book, Letters from Heaven / Cartas del Cielo.

About Letters, from Arte Público Press:
“The protagonist, Celeste, moves through a grieving process following the death of her beloved grandmother…Healing begins when the girl receives posthumous letters from Grandma filled with love, advice, and special memories. In spite of quarrels with school friends and a bully who makes her life difficult, Celeste finds solace with the family’s network of adult female friends who help her with recipes.”—School Library Journal

Lydis was also recently interviewed in a Denver Post article, "Endangered Cuban cuisine preserved by cooks in America." She talks about Cuban food and traditional recipes that are in the article and her book. It's a "flip" book, meaning you can read the English version straight through, or flip it over to read the story Spanish. It's a sweet onee, somewhat magical in its realism. If you get a chance, go hear one of her readings.

March 5-6, 2015, Reading Rock Stars, Rio Grande Valley, Tex.
March 19, 2015, Thursday, time TBA. Presentation & Discussion at Palm Beach State College, Boca Raton, Florida.
April 15, 2015, Wednesday, 2pm. Panel on “Help Children Cope” at the Texas Library Association Annual Conference, Austin Convention Center, Austin, Tex.
April 18, 2015, Saturday, 1-4pm. Día de los niños, día de los libros celebration, Houston Public Library, Julia Ideson Buildilng, 500 McKinney, Houston, Tex.
April 27, 2015, Monday, Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club, April 2015 Selection, Teleconference



Why Mexicans Should Learn to Love Hipsters

In his latest video, Ask a Mexican Gustavo Arellano takes his tongue out of his cheek, just a little, to slap at the biggest pest plaguing our Latino communities--hipster redevelopment.

As Gustavo says, "Though the issue of gentrification rears its happy head in various manifestations, the most obvious front is food, battlefield for $17 burritos, "street" tacos and the ever-popular mezcal. I mention most of this in my latest ¡Ask a Mexican! video, which ridicules hipsters but nevertheless urges tolerance for their columbusing ways…. HA!"

I've been doing what I can to reeducate young Anglos moving in around me, but you can check out Gustavo's whole video for his game plan. And he'll be running around Aztlán (the Southwest, hipsters) plugging his Taco USA – How Mexican Food Conquered America book that I just love.

Es todo, hoy, 'cause I gotta go eat something,
RudyG, a.k.a. Chicano spec author Rudy Ch. Garcia, who just finished a time-travel story with a theme of--surprise!--hunger.