Friday, December 31, 2004

Like an animal in 2005 [views]

by RudyG

In a world that at times makes it difficult to remember life is wonderful; that calls political madness, progress; where exploitation daily whacks off another arm and leg, I resolve to make no normal resolutions for 2005. Given 2004's body count, I'm better off resolving to become less a civilized man and more a wild animal.

We don't see animals much in the wilds anymore because we appropriate those wilds, sprawling ourselves, smothering other life. Paved paradise, said JoniM. So Nature's relegated to yearly zoo or animal park visits, occasional drives, vacations to the mountains and elsewhere. Including for me.

I can no longer go to circuses that have elephants--I'd feel like I'm acting a role in an installment of Planet of the Apes, except I'm the civilized ape watching caged humans. And I pity dolphins in "water parks". It reminds me of the disproportionate multitudes of ethnic people locked in prisons--the same systems that stock such "parks", fill those prisons. I try to stay away from both.

Elephants' gray wrinkles remind me of my grandmother, who wasn't as big, except with age, and maybe wisdom. A playful, shiny smooth dolphin reminds me of any bright, eager, young child swimming in a city pool, instead one in an "animal park". More reasons not to visit. Old people and children shouldn't be locked up.

Zoos obviously give me the chance to see the creatures, however unnatural the environment, and I do go there and take notes; it's part of my civilizing. I don't say zoos are all positive. They're just there.

Year-round, I'd go see two jaguars at the Denver Zoo, one black, the other spotted. Most people passed their cages because the cats didn't do much. No complaining, not much activity. They had plenty to complain about, too. They normally roam square miles, not square feet. They're a lot like you, unless you're in prison.

I spent some time when I visited the cats--observing, sketching them, noting their mannerisms--talked to them, being with them as I could. Until they both died. I felt better after that; their spirits returned to something undoubtedly more expansive than cage.

At the moment I believe the zoo only has two projects related to jaguars, both in field work in Mexico. That's fine by me. I won't miss them behind the bars.

I also spend time with the Artic wolves who exist in a much larger cage. They don't pace the fence of their world; they track variations of figure eights through the mid of the habitat, it's called. Maybe just because they're dogs, not cats.

I assume the wolves search for a way out, even though they've already discovered there's none. Even though they're traveled those paths thousands, thousands of times. Maybe they use figure-eight geometry to hold onto sanity. Or onto the little we accept as their intelligence. Maybe it means they've gone crazy. I might.

People tend not to stay long in front of that cage, not even half a minute; the wolves are too far away, not right up front doing animal tricks or something. I tell them where the wolves are in the habitat, their number, describe what I know of them, what they've been doing. People aren't impressed. The wolves might not be either, though they've never said. I don't know enough wolf to guess.

I also spend time with pumas, each of us doing much the same. One of my times there, one puma let loose with an incredible roar that blew me away. In that moment I knew he was puma. I thought I knew too why he'd done it, and when people came running, I gave them my explanation. They were disappointed; puma didn't say anything else in front of them--nada; he was done. No one stayed to give him the opportunity to entertain them, but puma wasn't interested in that.

I have a dream I'll run into puma outside of a cage, on a mountainside, somewhere like that. He may think me no different from a zoo squawker. I might be enemy, nourishment for him. But I know he won't try to cage me.

He'll have claws, teeth; I'll have a knife, no firearm. That's a fair a fight, I think. I like to think I'll win, but he might, instead. At least it would add 1 to the pumas' score.

I never stop for the zoo elephants. Luckily Denver has no dolphins, porpoises, but I don't think I'd visit them, either.

How much intelligence does an animal need to resent other species gaping every day at them eating dinner, taking a scat break or in conjugate relations? Hopefully, not as much as a wolf, or elephant, because that would mean we insult their intelligence. Forget what we do to their self-esteem. I'd probably pace the figure-eight of my home endlessly too, if I was watched so.

I'm an ethnic American. From birth, my chances of winding up in prison were higher than others. My mom kept me out. But I have relatives who are or were and likely will wind up there. If I'm somehow ever in jail, at length, I wouldn't want visits, like the jaguar, wolf get. It would unpleasantly remind me of my confinement, I'd envy their non-confinement.

Letters would be okay, much the same way I think wolf might love to hear another wolf call it from beyond the zoo fence. It might inspire hope that the species isn't doomed to be caged. No Planet of the Apes destiny.

I'll probably keep going to the zoo, still skipping the elephants, in 2005--despite the hospice feel I get from the place. As if wolf might hand you a photo postcard of his habitat that reads "Wish you were here, instead of me." But wolf wouldn't do that to us.

When the Indian Ocean Tsunami human body count is done it may surpass a quarter of a million, but apparently the proportional count of animal bodies will be far lower--possibly a result of their sensitivity to infrasound, which we don't hear as well. They heard catastrophe coming and--moved.

There's a lot we don't hear. Or smell, sense, taste, etc. More than just tsunamis. Elephants can hear each other over ten miles away. We sometimes don't hear someone next to us.

Some things set Man above other animals but also some set him lower. We gave up much when we left the primitive behind. Maybe we need to get back to, not a full state of grace, but at least a semblance of tranquility.

For 2005 I resolve to stay out of cages, to learn to listen better, to try to hear more, like the elephant. To attempt to keep my intelligence playful, like dolphins, no matter my surroundings. To express my outrage, myself, like growling puma. To keep to sanity like I hope the wolves do. To yearn, like jaguars, for the open range. I doubt I'll get as good as any of them, but presumably I'll have 2006 to keep at it.

©2004 R.Ch.Garcia

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Final Friday 2004. New Poet.

by mvs

She is the adult daughter of my dinner guests. I've never met them, either. I'm in town from out of state, and these are relatives of someone in another state whom I've never met, who happen to live here in Houston. It's not really all that complicated. It's raza.

Strikingly beautiful and dressed elegantly, Tonzi asks would I like to hear a poem? We have been talking about chess, her with exquisite knowledge, me with mild interest. The young woman's conversation bears remarkable similarity to Ginny's, a bipolar friend whom I love as a sister. I note no outward concern from her father and mother, who look on silently. I would love to hear a poem.

That dinner of a Friday night several years ago still has me... enchanted. Such a weak word, "enchanted," but there's no other to describe what happened to me.

The poet leans into the space between our seats. To conquer the noisy ambience, she draws closer to whisper into my left ear. I feel humid breath and occasionally her lips brush my ear. She reads one, then a second, then another. I lose count of what I want to ask, to praise, to exclaim over. I remember one image or an expression, when another takes its place, one after another I lose track of my delight. "I abuse echoes" she tells me, "I abuse echoes because they deserve it" she adds mercilessly. My head spins.

Tonzi performs her work when she recites. Some she sings, others she chants, always she reads with passionate intensity. Her lines sparkle with vocabulary, word play, and rhythm. And something dark. I would like to read these, I'm thinking, when she begins a piece loaded with sexual energy and lovemaking. I glance at Tonzi's mom and dad who sit impassively. Too soon, the courses arrive, first interrupting my concert, eventually, stopping it.

Stunned. That's a better account of the evening. And encouraging, having just learned something important. As we conclude our meal, the poet's father gives me a CD of his daughter reading nine of her poems. He tells me his daughter is bipolar. I wonder why he does this? The CD's called "Tonzi, Cave Woman." In part, it's a souvenir of that remarkable, stunning, enchanting evening. In larger measure, listening to Tonzi read her work is one of those perfect literary experiences that come around far too rarely for too few people.

But come around it has. You can find Tonzi and four of her poems, on the web at
[moderator's note: maybe best viewed/heard with MSExplorer]

Michael V. Sedano, Ph.D.

A LIST FOR 2004 [views, reviews]

by Manuel Ramos

The end of the year means that we can post the annual La Bloga List of Whatever We Want to Make a List of ...
I’ve chosen to list “bests”. You could do worsts (pardon the pun).
This is so subjective.
Best Book - Luis Alberto Urrea’s The Devil’s Highway. This is the one book I recommend to everyone. It’s about desperation, tragedy, courage. It reads like excellent fiction but, unfortunately, it is all true. Here’s a website: Urrea recently was named winner of the $125,000 Lannan Literary Award for non-fiction. The awards, presented by the Lannan Foundation, recognize writers who have made significant contributions to English-language literature through poetry, fiction and non-fiction.
Best New Movie I’ve Actually Seen - Very limited category since I didn’t see many new movies this year. Those in the running include Baadasssss!, Collateral, Fahrenheit 911, The Incredibles, Kill Bill Volume 2, The Manchurian Candidate, Ray, Shark Tale, Shrek 2, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Spider-Man 2. Some excellent flicks and some slim pickings, too. I think the winner has to be Maria Full of Grace, runner-up is A Day Without A Mexican. I missed something new from Mexico, since the last couple of years have seen excellent movies from Mexican directors such as Amores Perros, Y Tu Mamá También, 21 Grams.
Best Old Movie I Saw This Year - How about Out of the Past (Robert Mitchum in the quintessential noir tale)? Check out the Mexicans in this 1947 hard-boiled private detective movie that is always included in the “best noir” lists.
Best TV Show That Might Get Canceled - The Wire. Character-driven drama on TV– is it possible? Yes. Only cautionary note--there don't seem to be any Latinos in The Wire's Baltimore.
Best CD - Now here is a category with plenty of possibilities. The year saw new, great music from Los Lobos, the rise of Los Lonely Boys (although their one and so far only CD came out in 2003), Quetzal on tour, and new CDs from Conjunto Los Pochos (West Coast cantina band), Ozomatli, and local (Colorado) musician Rick Garcia. There also was plenty of jazz (Dianne Reeves is out of sight), latin jazz (Conrad Herwig and his Another Kind of Blue - The Latin Side of Miles Davis), blues (the reissues of the Muddy Waters classic 70s albums have brought me many hours of musical bliss), and even some Christmas music that brightened up my CD player (The Blind Boys of Alabama deliver the goods with several guests on Go Tell It On The Mountain--Tom Waits, George Clinton, Aaron Neville, Solomon Burke, Mavis Staples, Richard Thompson, etc.) My nod for best CD, however, goes to the Loco Moco limited edition compilation The Trouble With Men (and those of you who have it know why this is at the top of my list - now, make your own lists.) Runner up is Pocho Joe’s Undercover 2004 - some great music there, bro. Thanks.
And that's it for now. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2004

And Now, The News ...

Panel session on Chicana/o Environmental Writing
at the Sixth Biennial Conference,
Association for the Study of Literature and Environment
June 21-25, 2005, University of Oregon

Walden Pond in Aztlán?: Chicana/o Writing and the Environment
Papers may consider: discussions of specific works by Mexican
American and Chicana/o writers in an environmental context, such as María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Jovita Gonzáles, María Cristina Mena, Américo Paredes, Cherríe Moraga, Ana Castillo, Denise Chávez, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Ray Gonzáles, and others; or, reflections on specific challenges and/or insights resulting from considering Chicana/o writers in an environmental context, including but not limited to environmental justice, land rights, bioregional identity, political activism, traditional environmental knowledge, environmental citizenship, and more.
Please submit 1-page abstracts to Priscilla Ybarra at
Priscilla Solis Ybarra
Ph.D. Candidate Lecturer
Rice University Yale University
Department of English American Studies
Phone: (713) 294-1278 Fall 2004
For more info:

A note from Texas writer David Rice:
Hello teachers/friends. Over the past year I have been working with some high school students in Kyle Texas to help write a college hand book for young students. "Wiley's Way" is the book.
Already folks from the Rio Grande Valley have ordered class room sets for schools in Edcouch Elsa and McAllen.

Please visit the website:

The book is bilingual and very colorful. I think it will be a good book to get our students to start thinking about college at a very early age.
david rice

Voices of the New Sun: Songs and Stories / Voces del Nuevo Sol: Cantos y Cuentos: the 155 page anthology contain the works of 38 local authors, some very well-known, e.g., Jose Montoya, Francisco Alarcon, Olivia Castellano and others, as well as some for whom this will be their first work published. It contains the tribute poem, Las Murales, by the late Phil Goldvarg. Order it by mail, sending a check for $13.50, made out to Aztlan Cultural; mail to: Escritores del Nuevo Sol, P.O. Box 162714, Sacramento, CA 95816-2714.
For more information, call (916) 456-5323, or (916) 451-1372.

"The Blood Cake Vendor and Other Stories" by J. L. Navarro:
This collection of 43 stories has just been released and includes pieces published in Cafe Irreal, BIGnews Magazine, 3AM Magazine, Angeleno Stories, Suspects Thoughts, Shadowkeep, Margin, Aphelion, Bastard Fiction, Gang Related, Con Safos, XhismeArte, The Murder Hole, The House of Pain, Blue Food, Savage Night, Apocalypse Fiction, and The Dream People.
The book is 522 pages in length and is available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats.
For more info:

Manuel Ramos

Why Chicanos Write [views]

In his post "Not a Christmas Story" (12/23), author Manuel Ramos posed 2 questions:
1. Why do you write?
2. If you're Chicana/o and you write Chicana/o Lit, why do you write Chicana/o Lit?

He also said, "Answers you don't have to make include: I am obsessed; I would die if I didn't write; my characters make me do it; I'm trying to preserve the culture; to make money." (Maybe he wants something more original or soul-searching.)

In Comments below you can answer Ramos's questions. Although you can post anonymously if you choose, you might let us know if you're published or unpublished. (If you want to submit a long piece, contact La Bloga to post it as an article.

Ramos might consider baring his own soul, primero, to show us the way.

Who's first?

Thursday, December 23, 2004

2004's Penultimate Friday [views]

by mvs

You know your prima’s youngest son, the dull one who dropped out of high school, and then even the pinche Army didn’t want him? Once upon a time, the vato would have found an assembly line job somewhere and settled down to a decent lower-middle class life. Pero sabes qué, unless your prima’s boy is Chinese, he ain’t gonna find that manufacturing job. Not here in the EUA.

And don’t look for help anytime soon.

It’s only slightly hyperbolic to say the US doesn’t manufacture anything any more. Remember sewing machines? Ball point pens? Television sets? Typewriters? Nix, nix, nay, no longer Made in the EUA. How about steel? Hecho en China. The shirt on your back? China. Your dining room table? China. Heck, even the leather jackets sold on Revolución in Tijuana? Hechos en China.

The US has become what futurist Fritz Machlup–forty years ago–called a “Post-Industrial Economy”. Machlup wasn’t too worried then. Only problem is, the US hasn’t kept up with the demands of the “knowledge economy” that has taken the place of domestic manufacturing.

Consider the demands and jobs a post-industrial economy produces when goods move from factory to end user through distribution channels. Your prima’s boy can go find work in a warehouse. Scut work at minimum wage.

Not that there isn’t money to be made, careers to be developed in a knowledge economy. Think sales and customer service. These are knowledge jobs.

Sales. Selling has always been the most important job in the economy. Trouble is, sales is one of those careers too many people hold in low esteem. Ever hear a farmer’s daughter joke? “This traveling salesman knocks on the farmer’s door and...” How about that wonderfully corny musical,"The Music Man", where fast-talking salesman Harold Hill romances the local librarian while ripping off the bumpkins. Among the great tragedies of US literature happens to Willy Loman when an eager young boss puts Willy on commission only. Ever seen “Glengarry Glen Ross,” about a horrible telemarketing room? "Tin Men", two crooked, aluminum siding salesmen?

Sales sucks and salesmen oughta be ashamed, there’s the message. Too darn bad. Sales drives the economic engine. Nothing happens in a factory until somewhere out in the field, someone writes the order.

Selling successfully requires special talent few people care to exercise. That’s why, for everyone who cannot or will not sell, there’s Customer Service, C/S.

C/S is knowledge work par excellence. “Where’s my order when am I going to get it?” “This thing doesn’t work and I want my money back!” “How much does it cost?” “Is that in stock?” All the answers are in the computer. And it takes a knowledge worker-- Customer Services– to satisfy the need. Or not. Who doesn’t have a dozen or a hundred horror stories about incompetent customer service?

So here’s the Friday bottom line. A post-industrial nation needs a college degree in Customer Service as a way of professionalizing C/S and creating a career path for the 21st century. You autodidacts out there, learn note-taking–I call it listening through your fingers; public speaking; keyboarding–I call that thinking through your fingers. Improve your reading ability. Practice thinking about details, speaking about specifics----use nouns and avoid pronouns--to become a better problem-solver. Oh, and the next telemarketer who calls with a great offer, be kind. That could be your prima’s youngest boy, working his first knowledge worker job.

Michael V. Sedano, Ph.D.

This Is Not A Christmas Story [news]

Happy Holidays to all you bloggers. Here's some news for you writers out there--speaking of writing, here's a question first: why do you write? And, if you're a Chicana/o and you write Chicana/0 Lit, why do you write Chicana/o Lit? Answers you don't have to make include: I am obsessed; I would die if I didn't write; my characters make me do it; I'm trying to preserve the culture; to make money (yeah, some writers make money with their work).

Now, the latest I know about.

The editors of Ventana Abierta, at UC-Santa Barbara, Luis Leal and Víctor Fuentes, have issued a call for poems, essays and short stories dedicated to the diverse aspects of today's Latino Literature, to be published in February and August 2005. (6-page limitation, double space). The deadlines for submitting a piece to these issues are Dec.31 and June 30, respectively. Center for Chicano Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106
FAX (805) 893-4446
Pluma Fronteriza is a nationally distributed publication that covers news on Chicana(o) and Latin(o)a writers from the El Paso, TX/Las Cruces, NM/Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua, Mex. tri-state region.

We are currently accepting submissions of open letters, essays, poetry, and short memories in honor of Abelardo B. Delgado and Ricardo Aguilar, both passed away this year.

Guidelines for writers

Poetry: No more than two 8 ½½ x 11 pages on a Microsoft Word or WordPerfect format.Essays should be no longer than 400-500 words on MS Word or WordPerfect format. Short memories (remembranzas) should be no longer than 100 words on the formats listed above.We are hoping to dedicate two issues to these great fronterizo writers. Submission deadline for the spring issue is March 15, 2005. Submissions for the winter issue should be postmarked Jan. 3, 2005.

Non-writers on Abelardo Delgado
We will accept letters and 200-word memories from non-writers. By non-writers, we mean individuals who do not write creatively, academically, or journalistically but were somehow influenced by Abelardo Delgado as students, farmworkers, or members of the many organizations he founded and ran.

Special call for current high school students and Denver-area colleges
We are accepting submissions of letters, essays, poetry, or short memories honoring Abelardo Delgado as an educator. If you had Delgado as an instructor in Upward Bound or a Chicano Studies class, we invite you to submit. Note, in this category, submitters must be either current high school or college students. We will accept submissions from high school graduates who have not started college. We ask you write something on how Abelardo Delgado influenced your life or education. Please include the name of your college, university, or high school as well as your age. We are accepting visual art and photo submissions as long as they are placed onto a digital format (*JPEG). Must relate to the themes of honoring Lalo Delgado or Ricardo Aguilar. Submissions selected will be featured in our winter and spring issues.

Send submissions to:
Pluma Fronteriza
1510-J Greenway Dr.
Eudora, Kansas 66025
E-mail submissions are accepted as attachments to or

If sent by postal mail, please include a copy on a 3-diskette or CD; however, we do not require submissions be on a computer disk. All visual arts or photo submission must be on a computer format. All submissions should include your postal address, phone number, and e-mail address.

The Institute for Latino Studies (ILS) at the University of Notre Dame & Center for Women’s InterCultural Leadership (CWIL) at Saint Mary’s College in Indiana are pleased to announce that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has awarded a grant to Poetas y Pintores: Poets Conversing with Verse. A multidisciplinary proposal, “Poetas y Pintores,” will pair a group of Latino/a visual artists with the work of a select group of Latino/a poets. Each artist will spend a year in “dialogue” with the work of a particular poet and produce an original work of art. The results—both work of art and poem that inspired it—will form a traveling exhibit that will be displayed in 2006 in galleries in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, as well as the Moreau Galleries at Saint Mary’s College. Invited artists and poets will take part in readings and colloquiums at the various venues. Stay tuned for more information, including the list of poets and painters who will form a part of this two-year initiative. Meanwhile, visit the NEA website to read the official announcement:

FRANCISCO ARAGÓN is pleased to announce that Momotombo Press has published a new title and has a new home. With the publication of Arroyo by Lisa Gonzales, MP initiates its venture into prose, and celebrates its new home: the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame, where Aragón is a Fellow. Of Arroyo, Helena Maria Viramontes writes in her introduction: “There is nothing more exciting than discovering a rising light in American literature. No doubt, the work of Lisa Gonzales will shine bright. It already dazzles.” Visit their new website to read an e-interview with Lisa Gonzales—conducted by Maria Meléndez, who has joined Richard Yañez as Associate Editors at Momotombo Press. And stay tuned for an e-interview with Steven Cordova, author of Slow Dissolve, which inaugurated MP’s mission to promote emerging Latino writers. Again, please visit:

Manuel Ramos

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Greatest Song Ever Written [views/music]

This past week I spent some time on an airplane, so I loaded up on reading material. One of the mags I picked up at the airport was "Rolling Stone". Remember that rag? At one point in history I thought it was so-o hip. That's where I learned about Santana; the review made me rush out to find that first album and the rest is, as they say, history.

Anyway, RS has aged, as have we all, and neither it nor I are as hip as we once were, or at least thought we were. However, I bought it for the trip because the cover said that it was a "Special Collectors Issue" featuring The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time. How could I pass up that?

Of course, the first thing I do is look for the Latinos--I'll take Chicanos if there are any, and lo and behold, there at number 210 is ? and the Mysterions and their ultimate garage song, 96 Tears. Cool. That song is like number 5 in the Chicano All-Time Hit Parade. RS says that when ? promoted the song in Michigan (where all the band members were living in 1966), he never revealed his real name (Rudy Martinez) or took off his sunglasses. Cool again. I also learned that the original has never been on a CD; all the CD versions are rerecordings. So now I got to find that 45.

Good start, I keep looking. There's songs that I liked when they came out and I still think are great: Be-Bop-A-Lula by Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps (#102); She's Not There from The Zombies (#291); and Marvin Gaye doing What's Going On (#4). Many more, of course. But except for one more, that was it for Chicanos.

Ah, but that one more.

According to RS, the greatest song of all time is Like A Rolling Stone, recorded by Bob Dylan in 1965. Ooh-Ahh. That is a mighty song, no doubt. I read the piece on the song and came across this bit of info: (The author describes the roots of the song): "Later, Dylan sits at a piano, playing a set of chords that would become the melodic basis for 'Like A Rolling Stone,' connecting it to the fundamental architecture of rock & roll. Dylan later identified that progression as a chip off of Ritchie Valens' 'La Bamba.'"

And there it was. La Bamba ranked only #345 in the RS list, but the greatest song writer who ever lived had given credit for some of the structure of the greatest song ever written to a chubby seventeen-year old West Coast Chicano. I was all tangled up in blue thinking about the irony. The Chicano kid had taken the old veracruzana wedding song and recorded it as the B side for what would become his hit "Donna". And that B side has gone on to immortality.

What Chicano band doesn't insert the Valens' arrangement into their lineup? Even Los Lobos couldn't escape the power of this song - it finally wore them out and they quit performing it for a time. The cross-rhythms are textbook, the guitar solo is fine, so fine.

We all know the story about Richard Valenzuela. We all saw the movie, right? No need to dwell on what could have been. We know what it was, what it is.

Here's one final bit. The rarest version of "La Bamba" probably is the 1961 recording by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who were seventeen at the time. They recorded a jam session in the living room of a friend's house. The tape of that session later was auctioned in the mid-Eighties for $81,000.

You can listen to songs like La Bamba and 96 tears on the best Chicano music show in the nation at KUVO, 89.3 FM (in Colorado) or at, every Sunday from 1 - 2 PM (mountain). Check it out. Pocho Joe and Gabe do a great job pulling together the classics and the new stuff. The Rolling Stone list is on the RS website.


Friday, December 03, 2004

LaBloga Groundrules - version RudyG [views]

(per RudyG)
Other contributors are free to post their own. Here's mine:

1. You can't use words like puta or cabrona when referring to anybody's mamá.

2. Use of such words in debating any issue must be documented and provable. So if you call someone a puta/o, for instance, you should be able to provide copies of receipts for such services (canceled checks, etc.).

3. I personally don't choose to participate in the Hispano/Chicano debate--"What do we call ourselves?"--except as a sidebar to something else. So, for instance I wouldn't argue with any puto who calls me a Hispanic. But I'd jump in, con dos patas y manos y mi filero, if there's a serious debate about "What's Chicano Lit?" Other Bloga contributors can debate whatever they want.

4. I know everything. (That's what mi mamá taught me, and she knew everything. Still does.) I just may not post my opinions on everything.

5. Cultural appropriation. (FYI, generally, writing about cultures you're not a part of, like Anglos writing about us--whatever we're called.) I don't like it. There's Anglo writers who I don't think of as being cultural appropriators, e.g., John Nichols, but they're rare and few. The rest of them are cabrones. I'm willing to discuss this, in general or specifically.

6. Bush, Iraq, Reagan, American imperialism. As far as I know, the American people voted for more invasions, a more repressive America, and una chingada of other 19th century thinking that will lay waste to the planet and their own civil rights, as well as slaughtering tens of thousands more dark-skinned civilians for the next 4 years, at least. What's to debate?

7. Democrat/Republican debate. I don't see the point of discussing that here, altho others are free to rapine and pillage away. I won't debate a Republican--it's a waste of my time, and it just bothers the Republican. Likewise, vote Democratic if you want, just keep me off any mailing list. If the Democratic Party really wanted la raza's votes, they wouldn't have a burro for a mascot.

8. The Catholic Church. Worship where you want, just don't try erecting a cathedral here. You don't want to get me started. It goes back at least to the Inquisition burning female shamans; through Bishop Landa burning the Maya libraries; and into modern times with Catholic priest XX figuratively and sexually burning my nephew who later committed a suicide-hanging from the branch of a tree in his grandmother's backyard. The church paid my nephew off with 50 grand and used worshippers' money to try to keep the puto priest out of jail. I told you--don't get me started. I personally worship where there's no gold, frankensteins or murderers.

9. El idioma Español. It's part of our culture. I hate Chicano websites that offer very little about our other language. I'll put up cosas, write cosas, debate cosas about Spanish. Maybe others will too.

10. There's always 10 things. Fill it in for yourself.

Anybody think I missed something important?

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Friday. Payday [views]

Every two weeks whether I need it or not, I get a paycheck. And as the year winds down, with all the taxes and deductions maxed out, there's the sweet taste of extra cash. Plus, my daughter is now married, in her own home, with her own career, and all my money is mine, all mine! I love liquidity.

This year, I bought my wife some truly deluxe gifts. She lost her wedding ring years ago, so I commissioned a jeweler artist to fashion one anew. It is truly beautiful. Oddly enough, I lost my ring, too, in the Army. But I offered a reward of $25.00–a year’s salary in those days for the average Korean– and got the ring back from the Head Houseboy (“Me House Man, no house boy.”) Screw him, and don’t get me started on those thieving houseboys. Men.) Plus, I’ve bought a Frank Romero print we’ve admired for a few years, and piece de resistance a pastel by Margaret Garcia that is just stupendous!

Did I say I love liquidity?

Yet, as I sit in my fancy office staring across the lobby at “my” receptionist and “my” two staff trainers, I am not entirely satisfied. Sure, writing and talking for a living is fun, profitable, and for the most part, easy. But something’s missing. And I know what it is.

Hard work. Muscle strain, sweat, danger. Not that being the Corporate Human Resources guy is a no-sweat job; it is, for the most part. But those days when it falls to me to discharge a failed worker, that is ugly and kills all the joy around me for the rest of the day. And always lurking in a small paranoid corner of my mind the phrase “going postal”. I’m sure my Army hand-to-hand combat training will keep me safe. Did I bring my pugil stick today?

Danger. In the Army I had several near-death scrapes. Talk about heart-pounding blind fear. There was the drive up the mountain in a blizzard. The deuce and half stalls as it negotiates a switchback and we start sliding backward toward the whited-out abyss. Ok, that wasn’t exactly hard work per se. That same blizzard went on for days, stranding us up on top, and so cold that the main commo line snapped. Splicing a twisted pair of light gauge copper wire is not hard work but this one took me over an hour to strip and wrap the four broken ends. Peel off a glove, manipulate the wire until the hand is totally numb. Retreat to the lee of a hut and blow into the re-gloved hand until feeling returns. Then back to the wire. Shivering in the commo hootch when I’d finished, I looked down to see my hands covered in frozen blood. I hadn’t felt the skin tear because it was so goddamned cold. I vow after having spent a winter on top of Mae Bong, I never want to be cold again.

Give me puro sweat-bringing hard work. A couple of undergraduate summers, I worked at Kaiser Steel in Fontana. Now here was totally satisfying work! Shoveling slag out from under roll lines that only 8 hours earlier had been transporting two ton ingots of red-hot steel. A couple of the lines sloped to within a few inches off the floor. Cleaning out these raceways put us on our knees for hours, forcing the shovel under the crap, lift, then carefully bring the handle back far enough to provide leverage to fling the slag behind me toward the starting point. In those days, it was a joy to “Double Over”, report for swing shift at 4, then work graveyard from midnight on. Sixteen hours of shoveling.

My muscles yearn for those strains and stresses, those insignificant yet magnificent accomplishments. Then I remember the lesson I learned from Kaiser and from working with guys who’d been laborers for five years already and had that to look forward to their working lives: stay in school, menso. And I did, until my Uncle Sam said, “here I am.” But that’s for another Friday.

So, what’s the hardest work you’ve ever done?


Friday. Again [views]

How in the world some long-forgotten German frigged up "dies Veneris" to make the word sound like "Friday" beats me. But she did. Or he. So "Friday" it is. El Viernes. Sixth day of the week, fifth workday. First day of the weekend. Ajúa! Here at work everyone gets all cheerful on Friday, especially those alternate Fridays when we get our pay.

Pero sabes qué? That whole hullabaloo about how cool Friday is? Puro talk, no walk. I mean, look how many cool things have been said about other days of the week. Sunday? "Never on Sunday." Monday? A chingo of songs, like "Stormy Monday", "Blue Monday", and the ever redundant "Monday, Monday". "Ash Wednesday"! Wow, what a poem.

But pobrecito Friday. Our culture has sadly paid only lip service to Friday.

Mira, popular culture has a couple of fictive Fridays that ain't worth squat. Joe Friday, played by Jack Webb, formed a pop culture cop icon in the 60s, then qué lástima, Dan Ackroyd mucked up Joe Friday. Way, back in the 19th Century, buey, Robinson Crusoe had a slave named Friday. A slave!

Is there a poem for Friday? A raison d'etre for Friday? A Friday spell-out? A Friday joke? A ver.

Raison d'etre for Friday. No, that's wrong, but only because of a missing circumflex. Fortunately, weekends are diacritic free. If you're reading this during the week, sorry. Why is there no Viernes Gigante, or a Siempre en Viernes to look forward to all week?

Friday spell out. Give me an "F"! Give me a...OK, don't do a Country Joe on me. Let's do a sentimental one. All together now...F is for the first night of the weekend, R is for the romance that it holds, I is for ... yuck, this sucks.

Friday joke. Why do football players' shoes have "TGIF" painted on them? To remind them, "toes go in first". Rimshot. That might be only Denver players. What would I know, except thank the goddess Frigge Los Angeles doesn't have the NFL.

Maybe there's a poem for Friday. Know a good one? Donne or Herbert's "Good Friday", in fact all the Good Friday Friday poems, are terrible. Bitter irony there are no good Good Friday Friday poems.

A spectre is haunting the EUA, the spectre of dissing Friday. What a revoltin' development this turned out to be.


It's about art, ese [news]

How do we know what's happenin', re: Chicana/o Lit (Chicano Culture in general)? There are some trying to get the word out: Pluma Fronteriza, Clyde Torres Webones Newsletter, La Clicka Newsletter. And that's all good. And such discussion certainly happens in all those Chicano Studies classes around the country, no? Blogs offer another avenue--and La Bloga wants to do its part. Give it to us. Events, new books, reviews, articles, artwork, awards, music, whatever. It's about art, ese.
In that spirit, dig this:
"Guerrilla leader, writer collaborate on crime novel
Associated Press
December 9, 2004
MEXICO CITY -- Only two weeks ago, a Mexican novelist got a clandestine message from Zapatista rebel leader Subcomandante Marcos. The proposal: Let's write a crime story together.
The writer, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, accepted the unusual offer, and within days, the first installment of ``The Awkward Dead'' was published by the leftist daily La Jornada.

Judging by the first chapter, which appeared Sunday, the novel is based loosely on Marcos' true story: a professor-turned-guerrilla who led a 1994 uprising in the name of Indian rights and continues to champion a quieter social revolution from his hideout in the jungles of southern Chiapas state.

Marcos is writing Chapters 1, 3 and 5, which will revolve around a Chiapas-based Zapatista investigator named Elias Contreras. Taibo will take Chapters 2, 4 and 6, and will focus on the Mexico City exploits of Detective Hector Belascoaran Shayne, the protagonist in past Taibo novels.

In Chapter 7, the characters will meet at the Revolution Monument in Mexico City and begin a joint investigation. Neither author yet knows how the tale will end - each chapter is spun off the preceding one.

Taibo and Marcos have contracts to publish ``The Awkward Dead'' in book form throughout the Spanish-speaking world and in Italy. It also will appear in Spanish in the United States, where negotiations are under way for an English version.

Taibo has said the authors will give the proceeds to a non-governmental organization that works in Chiapas. The group has yet to be chosen.

A leftist who is sympathetic to the Zapatistas, Taibo has never met Marcos face to face and is evasive when asked how they communicate. The author insists the subcomandante did not reveal any ulterior motive for the project.

``Our pact is based on the idea that we are going to write a novel together,'' Taibo said by telephone. ``We all know that it will not be an innocent novel.'' The book will ``criticize certain realities that exist both in the mountains (of Chiapas) and in the urban world of Mexico City,'' Taibo said."

Read more of the AP story.

Taibo is one of the best. Not only is he a clever, prolific writer (dozens of novels, many translated to English), for several years he has pulled off Semana Negra, the ultimate festival for la novela negra. In February, 2005, Taibo will be the International Guest of Honor at Left Coast Crime 15, in El Paso, TX. Now, that should be a party.

How about this bit? Mario Acevedo's "The Nymphos of Rocky Flats", "X-Rated Bloodsuckers" and an untitled third novel, featuring Latino Vampire Private Detective Felix Gomez have been sold to Rayo Publishing in what is described as a "very nice deal". Latino vampires and private dicks! Who knew?

There's a new book from Malaquias Montoya, a leading figure in West Coast political (Chicano) graphic arts. Premeditated: Meditations on Capital Punishment, Recent Works by Malaquias Montoya is a book/exhibition catalogue and it features recently created silkscreen images and paintings, and related research dealing with the death penalty and pintos. Sixty percent of the proceeds from the sale of the catalogue will benefit organizations actively working to abolish the death penalty. Contact Lezlie-Salkowitz-Montoya,

by Manuel Ramos

This burden called Macho - Part I [views]

Contributed by RudyG
(I'm as qualified to write this as anyone else who's Mexican-descended, old, male and wise.)

Don't get me wrong; I'm not going to knock the culture, but I'm not going the "it's brown so it must be cool" route here, either. My English dictionary defines machismo and macho several ways that I'll break down as we go.

Let's start with "machismo: 1. a strong sense of masculine pride". Ah, if they only knew the half of it--it's not just one never-ending paranda with one of the cheechona Curz-beer's blonde Twins on each arm.

No, machismo's no simple thing. To put it one way: machismo for the Chicano is like a combination of kinky hair and sickle cell anemia for Blacks. It's got a cultural kink to it, but it's got its downside, too.

Let's face it. It's a fokkin' burden, Ese.

Picture a bronze Jesus totin' a walnut cross up un monton that would have made Sisyphus cry--that's machismo. (Machos don't cry like Sisyphus might have, so that's why you don't notice it much around the hills of L.A. or San Anto.)

American society doesn't normally portray El Macho carrying such a load. For instance, most moviegoers swallow their latent sobs when Richie Valens toughs up the cough and boards that rickety plane in shit-ice weather in La Bamba. Or males will vicariously cheer when Antonio Banderas (an un-Chicano) does his macho-approximation thing with Salma Hayek in Desperado. {This is the "macho: aggressively virile" aspect.)

When Hollywood does its macho thing using non-Chicanos, what we get is "machismo: 2. an exaggerated or exhilarating sense of power or strength." Like when Chuck Norris kicks a lot of dark ass, or an Anglo, motorcycle gang invades some little New Mexico or Australian town. Reality check: you're supposed to cheer on Chuck, but dread the bikers, in case you get confused with all the chingasos.

There's machos and there's machos, and then there was my dad, the cabrón. Sucker would beat us with belt or hand--the belt to make us tough enough to make it in Gringolandia, the hand to make it personal so we'd know he loved us.

If I assume all that was his upside, then his downside was his crying, like-a-baby sobbing, drunk, on Fridays, in the years after the rest of the family divorced him for loving us too much. We'd gotten tough enough by then.

You see, he was El Macho, but couldn't stand the disgrace-defeat-dejectedness of being divorced 'cause it impinged on his machismo, at the least. The support payments he often forgot to make didn't help his self-esteemed wallet, either.

As I said, there's machos and there's machos. Like, there was this bar on the Westside of San Anto where I took a couple of Chicano friends from Colorado. We were road-tripping, except back in the 70's we just called it tripping 'cause it included more than mileage. My own pendejo macho thing caused me to foolishly suggest we head to the Westide to see what the real San Anto was like. My friends, brandishing nearly equal amounts of macho-fallibility agreed.

Anyway, I'm telling the boys that we're in the real world now, there in that bare-wood, hole-in-the-wall cantina, and they're humoring me, "Sure, sure." One of my friends is this nice, 100-lb. sand-kicked-in-the-face wimp from El Valle down southern Colorado who's always pretending he's seen it all. (He turned out to be a federal judge or something and probably has seen it all by now.) The other guy, the nicer one, everybody calls Big Roge(r) 'cause he's huge, 6 ft. plus, outweighing me and wimp combined--a Denver Eastsider where they raise 'em tough, if not always huge. But the guy's got a mellow demeanor, probably from nobody ever fokkin' with him. I emphasize that 'cause I once saw him toss two guys, one with each hand, at the same time, in opposite directions. But he was being protective at the time, gracias a los dioses.

So there we are, sippin' cheap beer and deciding what to risk ordering from the grimy menu, when--it was like the opening action scene out of Desperado--in walks this huge Mexican who's looking like he just ate Hannibal, uncooked. He doesn't just blot out the sun coming through the door; he blots out the door and some of the wall. Unfortunately, there was still enough light in the place to keep his face visible.

You can see every wrinkle from every year he spent in solitary; you can see every scar from every atrocious murder he committed in the neighboring alleys. You can see yourself in the Bela Lugosi Dracula film and you're the guy who's gonna pay in neck blood for the privilege of moving vampire coffins around--the one who eats all the flies and spiders.

What you can't see is our balls shriveling, though you can smell the stinko of our fearo. I had whispered to the other two not to look up at him 'cause in most Westsides, Eastsides, or donde-quieras, it's not just impolite to stare at a malformed clone of Goliath, it's highly terminal. Do my friends heed my whisper? Nah, 'cause they got that stupid macho thing of "Don't tell me what I can't..."

Big Roge shrinks like a 6-foot pot of poinsettias under a 6.1-foot tanning lamp. When his eyes lock on this Neanderthal-cum-Téjas, the wimpy fed-judge-to-be turns into velveeta under that same lamp. I just try to shrink out of view.

Nothing further happened to us in the eternal seconds it took us to swallow our beer, in one gulp, and scamper out of the place. We'd had enough of real world. Our machismo had been tested (grade: C-), had seen the Chicano version of hard-time/life-Dracula and would live to tell Chicanos back in Denver about it. They never believed us.

So you Anglo guys out there who stand in awe and envy of the god-like Bronze Macho should rethink your heroes, or at least your priorities. There's worse things in the world than being born with the machismo genetic affliction. I just can't think of many.

I didn't cover all the definition, like "machismo: An exaggerated masculinity." (If Webster only knew the other half of that!) And I didn't speak to how, in a capitalist, highly competitive, perro-eat-perro society, why haven't machismo ("a sense of power or strength") traits been conducive to more Brown Millionaires and Corporate Big Vergas. (Hasn't turned out much that way, has it?) Left untouched here too is how the English adoption of macho, machismo coincided with the Zoot Suit riots (1948). Then there's the Macho in Chicano lit, plus the feminine-recipient and today's youth perspective. Maybe somebody else can give Parts II, III, etc.-eternala a whack, but not from the too-much-machismo angle, por favor.