Friday, December 29, 2006

Highlights of 2006


While hunkered down in my house because of yet another Colorado blizzard, I reviewed my participation here on La Bloga for this past year and decided to reproduce some of what I consider my highlights of 2006. These are excerpts from my posts -- the archives are a good place to get lost in once in a while. Try it.

January: The Mario Acevedo Interview
Q: What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever received or that you want to give to other writers? Mario: One. Read as much as you can. And write. Don’t wait for inspiration. The muse works for you. Go club her on the head and make her help pay the rent. Two. Get involved with writing groups whose goals support yours. Three. Have faith. You won’t know when you will get published but if you quit, it will never happen.

January: The Lucha Corpi Interview
Q: Did it matter in the big scheme of things that you were acknowledged as a Chicana poet and novelist? Lucha: I think it mattered, maybe still matters, to others, who seem to have a hard time categorizing or labeling my work. In over 35 years I’ve been writing, I’ve been asked many questions about my cultural and linguistic identification and the content in my work. Am I a Mexican or a Chicana poet? Should I be considered either? Am I being opportunistic by using as background for my novels events in the Chicano Civil Rights Movement? Shouldn’t I stick to writing only poetry in Spanish because that’s what I do well? Did I know that writing mystery novels—“genre”—would prevent me from ever again receiving recognition as a “literary” writer?To be honest, I hear the questions but I don’t particularly care to explore the issues in them. I was, am and will continue to be a Chicana poet and fiction writer by choice, and beyond that and most importantly, because of the two cultures that have formed me, which are reflected in my work in one way or another.

March: "Lalo's Notebooks" written by Denver's new poet laureate, Chris Ransick.
This poem opens with these lines: She handed me the blue canvas bag, said These are from his family; it weighed as much as a life lived, a big soul full of roses and the other blooms, the unnamed ones, laid on the graves of broken workers and women who would feed their children more if there were more to eat. How could I open such a bag. I carried it down the street and my hands ached, not with pain but with love for the poet I’d never met and the words that were really flames of ancient fires, hot enough still to give light in this dark time.

March: Writing Short
The thing about a short story is that the obvious is true but that doesn’t make it easier. A short story has to get to the point quickly and effortlessly. The best advice I ever heard about writing a short story is "start late, leave early." Easier said than done. What writer doesn’t want to indulge the details? To eschew subtlety for in-depth development? To expose the back story and the epilog, to wrap everything up in a neat, tidy package of setting, conflict, climax, resolution? The best short stories, in my opinion, rebel against these tendencies and snapshot the human condition in one quick frame, not an entire reel. In this type of fiction, the role of the reader is essential - fill in the gaps, put the pieces together, jump to the writer’s conclusion. However you want to say it.

April/May: The May Day Specials
La Bloga participated in the May Day Immigrant Celebrations by posting a variety of articles, reviews, essays, fiction and opinion pieces. Click on the archives to read these tributes. In May we also learned that Tu Ciudad Magazine had selected La Bloga as Best Blog.

May: Review of The Man Who Could Fly and Other Stories by Rudolfo Anaya
This slim volume represents a lifetime of quality writing and much appreciated storytelling. It is an essential compilation of Anaya’s cherished abilities to illustrate truthfully the intersection of human foibles and triumphs and to expose the mysteries of the natural and secret world often taken for granted by its human inhabitants. The short story form challenges any writer. Here are eighteen examples of how to meet that challenge.

June: This Mestizo Thing Has Me All Mixed Up
This poem included these lines: My fat bud, Buddha, serenely grins at my wife's sad but reverent Virgen flag flapping in the dry wind,while I try to understand the sad but existentially true stories of the Chilean novelist who had to wait for death to find readers.

July: Review of Sloth by Gilbert Hernandez
This book, excuse the pun, is a sleeper. It should resonate with readers on many levels. I appreciate Hernandez’s finely-tuned talent and I especially like the fact that he uses his art to probe and expose some of the complex dynamics swirling around those groups of kids all of us see in the malls, lethargic and seemingly without ambition or motivation, almost as though they were sleep-walking. Maybe they just woke up from a coma?

July: Review of Adiós Hemingway by Leonardo Padura Fuentes
Among many other themes, Adiós Hemingway examines the aging process and the sense of loss that two men, who never knew each other, share across the decades, linked by a decomposed body hidden under earth, myth, and legend. For example, Conde has his close friends and his set rituals, but he lacks romance and passion. His vitality has waned and he triggers sexual release with thoughts of the beautiful and sensuous Ava Gardner parading naked around the grounds of Finca Vigía, just as Hemingway was reduced to using a pair of Gardner's black knickers as a wrap for one of his handguns - a weird thrill that combined two of his obsessions.

October: Last Evenings on Earth by Roberto Bolaño
The characters wander aimlessly, or pursue private, unlikely quests. They seldom succeed but it does not matter. The exiled Chileans meet one another in exotic and famous locations around the world, but the settings do not matter. These places -- Acapulco, Barcelona, Goméz Palacio -- are hazy and ephemeral, serving only to frame the anxiety and sense of loss that looms around the aging men and women who fought or ran away or never knew the struggles on their own continent. For the most part, they failed to participate. When all is said and done, the characters themselves do not seem to matter. Some are referred to only as B or M. The structure of the stories is first person narrative. No dialogue and very little of what we have come to call "plot." The narrator is detached, and often the end is simply a place where the narrator decides to stop. The end does not mean resolution. The effect is as though the reader must provide the voices and story line. The reader is required to participate.

November: La Bloga Día de los Muertos Amoxcalli-Descansos Contest
We celebrated Day of the Dead with a writing contest and were able to showcase several excellent pieces and writers. Looks like we will do this again.

November: Review of Brownsville by Oscar Casares
Place is nothing without people and Oscar Casares’s characters are complicated and layered and contradictory. Their stories are sometimes amusing, the people pitiful or admirable. These strong tales of human failure and victory pull the reader into the secrets and whispered gossip of Brownsville, enough so that a voyeuristic thrill rubs against the conscience.

December: Review of The Virgin of Flames by Chris Abani
A powerful, frightening and challenging book. The kind of book that readers often talk about wanting to find -- a piece of writing that says something new, that disturbs the status quo and moves the reader to action, or at least uncomfortable thoughts -- but, once found, produces a deep and uneasy hesitation, a pause in the contemplation of the writing because of the troubling images and quirky use of words.

That's my short review of a year with La Bloga. Prospero Año Nuevo to one and all.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Chicano's time in Yucatán - part one

Seems fitting that my last post on Mel Gibson's Apocalytpo is followed by a more historically accurate description of the Maya land and people than what he gives audiences. If I share enough, perhaps it can undo a bit of his travesties.

I'd previously visited Veracruz, Cozumel and Chichén Itzá, but my wife and I had wanted to see Yucatán's capital, Mérida, for some time. A Denver University, Spanish total-immersion class was perfect; it turned out almost that unique.

While I highly recommend such a class, I don't write this to make you otherwise go to Mérida; there are too many of us, too many Ugly Americans touristing Mexico, still-birthing the economy and society. I won't name certain places where we shared moments with Yucatecos because revealing their location puts them on a Cancun-Tijuana path, changing them into artificial enclaves remade in our image.

I expected the class might resemble the beers-bimbos-n-bikinis semester-abroad courses once typical of U.S. colleges. While there was some of the first and few of the latter and last-- it's wintertime--our Profe made it a course appropriate for the gringos and worthwhile for us two Chicanos.

The dozen of us students were senior to young, roughly half female/male, of varying Spanish fluency, with several gringos more fluent than me. Our history in Mexico and reasons for taking the class varied as much, our extended companionship managing to remain civil, despite the intense itinerary.

Pobre Mexico: tan lejos de Diós, tan cerca de los E.U.

December '74 was the first time I went deep into Mexico, in search of Lucio Cabañas, the rural guerrilla leader targeted by Pres. Echeverría's repressive Dirty War. I'd hoped for an interview for a Denver Post column, or more. As wife-to-be and I attempted to get our Pinto wagon past military aduanas into the state of Guerrero, the radio reported Cabañas and followers killed in a shootout with the military--this time, a truthful report. Today the government's investigation of Dirty War crimes continues, fruitlessly.

Back then I was young, rebellious, even adventurous. This trip is different; no protest marches or Cabañas (Yucatecas seem politically conservative), and no security checkpoints (other than the airport and American consulate). We meet no teachers-turned-guerrilla; instead, Maya-culture and business university professors, and eco-agriculture scientists.

We even stop at the American Consulate. While waiting outside for clearance for a lecture, one in our innocent party decides a group photo's a great memento. Mas rápido than you can say "Put that camera down, gringo," a security guard comes flying out, one hand almost at his holster. The post-9/11 American gov't is now more paranoid than the Mexican.

Inside, the compound resembles something out of the Iraq War more than Mexico's most tranquil state; nothing smaller than a tank could get thru. Steel doors two inches thick, heavier than refrigerators, maybe explaining why personnel were in such great shape. A series of armed checkpoints, metal detectors, wary and reticent guards repressed me with what it means to be an American traveling abroad.

Comparative cultures

In 8 days, I see a handful of beggars and only one Yucateco who looks like our American homeless people. Of course, most of the poorer classes' homes look like our tool sheds, but they don't come with variable rate mortgages, and lenders probably wouldn't come out ahead taking them over, anyway. The few dogs on the streets are owned either by tourists or better-off Mexicans, though in the pueblos we see skinny strays.

I bring up these things because it's almost Xmas, and back in Denver, I couldn't walk down most any street for long without a reminder of how often our society creates the homeless, in one species or another. In Yucatán, widespread poverty at least seems congregated within hovels, not abandoned. I wonder which society is the more humane.

Since I'm an elementary school teacher, I'm drawn by younger children and talk with many of them and their parents. The vast majority are girls, and I wonder if boys are kept home by vendors because tourists are likelier to buy from girls, or are little boys out working the fields and such. The toys kids have or want are Western merchandise like blonde dolls and GameBoys. Even their names tend to be Evelyn, Jasmine, Tiffany and Stephanie; I could just as well be in Denver because I only hear one Mexican-type name, Guillermo. Our society's domination of theirs penetrates even to what Yucatecos christen the next generation.

In 8 days I partake de los frutos of the Yucateco community. Puc choc, pibil, pescado frito, marine snails, black beans, Xtabentún and the other honeyed or passion fruit concoctions inspire my own dicho: Mi autobús llegó al Cielo, y se llama Yucatan! In most places, Yucatecos seem to think tourists prefer ultra-protein dishes, with few greens or staples, perhaps because our fat wallets equal their annual incomes.

But my dicho doesn't only refer to food. It's an attempt to encompass the cordiality with which almost every Yucateco we encounter befriends us. Even where our dollars aren't leverage, people treat us as if ignorant of our government's historical crimes in supporting Echeverría, Guatemala, Panama, or our preemptive invasions of Mexico. It's not some peon docility; perhaps the mountains to the west and the vast Gulf to the north have incubated, inoculated them against our global omnipresence. At the moment, they're luckier than their dark brethren in far off Iraq.

Mel Gibson must have traveled to a different planet to learn about Maya people than those I meet. His 6-foot-plus Maya slave traders were definitely another species. Mayas I meet are sometimes so short I wonder if dwarfism is endemic. Even when it's not Xmas here, tourists could easily confuse many Mayas with Santa's helpers. Their height doesn't make them a cute people; it magnifies their accomplishments. After seeing the humongous blocks of limestone supporting Uxmal's incredible main pyramid, one American student remarks, "How could they have done all this, and without a crane?" It is truly wondrous, and, apparently, size isn't everything, at least not for 2000 years of Maya civilization.

It's humid here. 85%, 95. I read the Diario de Yucatan every morning at the hotel breakfast, but never check how humid. I'm from 0% Colorado, so it's all a sweat bath. There's days where it's perfect, but a too brisk walk reminds you the monte o selva across Yucatan owes its lushness not only to the rain. There's showers some nights, a ten-minute lluvia one afternoon, but we're past the inundations of rainy seasons. It's a peaceful, temperate time.

Downtown, old town Mérida is not the place for asthmatics, nor claustrophobics. Despite a relatively low population of half a million, many of the inhabitants and most of their cars seem concentrated there. Sidewalks are three feet wide and, where a telephone post rests, less. Very few obese Yucatecos pass me. Survival of the fittest can mean falling into the path of the thousands of cars and buses speeding by only inches to your side.

Unfortunately McDoodoos and Burger Kaca are here, smaller than ours but just as busy. The few portly Mexican children I see belong to better-dressed parents who've already adopted the American diet. If I return in ten years, will the sidewalks have transformed into one-ways to accommodate a fast-food addicted populace that can't walk past one other?

Despite being the week before Xmas, our oppressive commercialization of the holidays is absent here--surprising to me because Mérida holds so many devout Catholics. Perhaps having less to spend makes advertising less profitable; perhaps the heavily artisan culture enables them to create more, purchase less; but I think it's something else.

Culture. It's everywhere, in every form. Despite the strips and sectors of commercial development, despite the influx of emigrés from Mexico City, the concentration of humanity, this is Yucatan, a land of Yucatecos. Culture is in the architecture, the cobblestone of the streets, the colonial front doors, vendors dressed in Maya attire, Mayan dialect and signage. Much is Spaniard, too, but only in an attempt to cover over the at least 2,000 years before.

Saturday night, streets are cordoned off from the traffic and bandstands abound, musicians take over plazas, and schoolchildren rehearse or dancers practice in those that are empty. Some of the music is Caribe, Cubano, attesting to the heavy influence of a region that goes back those thousands of years and continues, U.S. blockades notwithstanding.

Like throughout America, pinche Spanish priests tore down pyramids to build their Cathedral in Mérida's Zocalo. It didn't work. Worship in the old ways continues, despite not being listed in tour guides as one of Yucatan's major religions. Idols are sold to tourists with explanations of their import, right outside the Cathedral steps.

And that pinche Bishop Landa, who later regretted putting the entire Maya library of Bonampak to the torch--which is why only 3 Maya codices exist--that same hijo-de-su is best remembered for documenting the ancient Maya ways. According to Dante, Bishop Landa now resides in Circle Seven of Hell, residence of the violent plunderers, those harmful to art. Hopefully, Satan has him hawking Maya figurines in front of cathedrals.

Next to the cathedral is a museum of contemporary art (a huge exhibit I didn't enter). Whereas in Denver a parent needs $13 to take his kid to our art museum, a Yucateco can do the same for free, every day. Our culture is to make money off our culture, even from residents; Yucatan's to is make money off the tourists and allow locals free access to it. Which is the more cultured?

What impresses me most about Yucatecos' cultural depths concerns the Mayan language. Mayas can learn Mayan. Naturally, some of this is due to accommodating tourists' questions about Maya history and language. In Denver we accomplish the same by hiring and training tour guides, at least for languages of people we didn't wipe out.

But in Yucatan, presently at 85 public schools, 20,0000 children learn Mayan. Other schools, too, offer optional Mayan classes. (Must make Landa stomp up and down around his sales booth down there.) Some schools also offer English classes. Such cultural accommodations will have Yucateco children surpassing--like others in the world--U.S. children, whose "foreign" language acuity amounts to, at best, 3 years of one language. So these very poor, elf-size, dark, sometime barefoot, indigenous children I see on Mérida streets will trilingual through life, while more "privileged," prosperous U.S. Anglo children make do with IPod English, in a global economy.

When I return to Denver, Colorado, U.S.A., I won't share this fact with Congress and a Colorado legislature that uses our tax money to round up undocumented Spanish speaking workers, that discounts life-long fluency in more than one language, that thinks you can have a competent, cultured population by building an economy of one-language citizens. They wouldn't recognize the competition emerging from little dark people coming from a 2000-year-old civilization. They prefer to think of them more as Mel Gibson does.

In the next installment I'll do better on specifics of what I experienced and learned in my 8 days among the Yucatecos.

© Rudy Ch. Garcia 2006

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

13th Anniversary of the Zapatista Uprising and a Review of Kiki's Journey

Followed by English Version

13º Aniversario del Levantamiento del
Ejercito Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN

Hace 13 años, el 31 de diciembre de 1993, el EZLN tomo armas y dijo “¡BASTA!” Basta con ser robados de una vida digna. Junto con ellos nos unimos Mexican@s en Chiapas, Atenco, Oaxaca y el resto de la republica, al igual que los Mexican@s que vivimos del otro lado para seguir exigiendo el derecho al trabajo, tierra, techo, alimentación, salud, educación, independencia, libertad, democracia, justicia y paz.

Danza Mexica Cuauhtemoc hace una cordial invitación a celebrar el
Año Nuevo Zapatista
Domingo 31 de diciembre de las 6PM
hasta las 6AM del 1º de enero
Parque de México
(Esquina de N. Main St. Y Valley Blvd.-Lincoln Heights)

Habrá videos, comida, música y Danza Azteca
Para información comuníquese al (213)481-8265
Correo electrónico:
¡Zapata Vive! ¡La Lucha Sigue!

13th Anniversary of the
Zapatista Nacional Liberation Army (EZLN) Insurgence

Thirteen years ago, on December 31, 1993, the EZLN took up arms and said “Enough is Enough!” It was time to stop being robbed of a life without dignity. Today, Mexicans from Chiapas, Atenco, Oaxaca, the rest of Mexico, as well as those living on the other side, unite with the Zapatista demands for our right to work, land, housing, food, health, education, independence, democracy, justice, and peace.

Danza Mexica Cuauhtemoc invites you to celebrate the
Zapatista New Year
Sunday December 31st at 6PM
until 6AM on January 1st at
Parque de México
(corner of N. Main St. Y Valley Blvd.-Lincoln Heights)

There will be videos, food, music, and Aztec Dance
For more information call (213)481-8265

Kiki’s Journey

Author: Kristi Orona-Ramirez
Illustrator: Jonathan Warm Day
Publisher: Children’s Book Press
ISBN: 0892392142

Kiki’s Journey is the story of Kiki, a Tiwa girl who lives in Los Angeles far away from the reservation in Taos, New Mexico where here family is from. She is angry and embarrassed when everyone she meets assumes that because she is Tiwa, she knows everything about Native Americans in general. She hates it.

Then Kiki’s family goes on a journey back to Taos to visit family for vacation. She hasn’t been there since she was a baby. The trip home to the Pueblo becomes not just a vacation, but an inner journey for Kiki as she learns about the Pueblo and her family. With her grandmother’s help, she learns of her heritage, the village she was born in and her history. She finds a way to accept the path her life has taken and to be proud of where she came from.

The story is a beautiful one, filled with prayers to the Creator, bits and pieces of Native American life and lore. It touches a part of so many of us that have mixed heritages or that live far away from where we came from. I think that both children and adults will find it resonates.

Each illustration by Jonathan Warm Day compliments the story and gives it even more warmth. His illustrations of the desert and the adobe buildings in the village are particularly stunning and rich. My favorite illustration is the one where Kiki and her mother are praying to the Creator and the wind is streaming through their hair. It’s a beautiful and elemental piece.

The feeling of love in the family is strong and persists throughout the book.

About the Author:
Kristy Orona-Ramirez (Taos Pueblo/Tarahuamara) is a writer and fourth grade teacher. She is also a lead singer and songwriter for the Native American Northern drumming group, The Mankillers.

About the Illustrator:
Jonathan Warm Day (Taos Pueblo) is a well-known artist and writer who grew up on the Taos Pueblo Indian Reservation. He currently resides there with his daughters.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Looking for a home...historical movimiento documents

Michael Sedano

Christmas season tamaladas have a way of drawing out sentimental reminiscences. So there I was, standing near the cast iron stove, trading military stories with a fellow veteran. I'd shipped out to Korea, doing commo on a cold mountaintop, my friend had travelled all over the globe installing commo sites. We laughed at the outlandish stunts pulled off by young men we'd known, and recounted our own hairy near-misses with death in silly accidents. Gad, those were good times. But we grew somber and morose remembering guys who got themselves killed in Vietnam, and tipped our hats to the men and women serving today in Iraq and Afghanistan. May they all come home to share stories at some tamalada forty years from now.

How cheering it was when a younger fellow started talking about the earliest days of the movimiento in LA. This was going down while I was still in uniform. The man, an artist today, had enrolled at LA's Wilson High School after being tossed out of Roosevelt. Attending a school assembly, he couldn't believe his ears. The vice principal said how Wilson was such a better place for the assembled raza because, not being Roosevelt, and not having a strong UMAS element--United Mexican American Students and precursor to MEChA--Wilson's student body was a lot closer to Anglo culture than neighboring schools.

The artist recalled going home outraged at the thought that being closer to Anglo culture was somehow desirable and "better" than being raza. He'd been attending classes at UCLA as part of Upward Bound, and had a keen understanding of cultural issues. Better, he had contacts with activist gente. He placed a few phone calls. The next day, he was summonsed to the Office. The vice principal sat trembling at his desk, his office filled with numerous suits--activist lawyers. The veep explained "the young man was obviously mistaken". This offended the artist, telling the vice how the suits were important, busy professionals. For the administrator to say the boy had been "mistaken" was to say the artist was wasting the expensive time of these caring professionals.

Thus began the man's political involvement that grew from Wilson High's parochial boundaries to the committee that planned the Chicano Moratorium of August 29, 1970, then subsequent notable causes celebres that kept Los Angeles in the spotlight of Chicano activism throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

He admits, fortunately for historians, to being a pack rat, so he has voluminous original documents. "I still have all my position papers, the posters, the correspondence" and planning documents from that time, he told me. I asked a question that has a disheartening answer: "Have you preserved these papers?" No. No, he hasn't preserved them. The materials are rolled up, or bundled in old manila folders, boxed up and making the move with him every time he relocates. "I need to downsize," the artist said, "I want to give you these papers."

I refused. Papers of this uniqueness belong in a research library. Maybe at UCLA's Chicano Studies collection, perhaps at UCSB's more impressive collection. Somewhere other than in private hands, que no?

The value of these materials is beyond the merely academic. "It's not about money," the artist replied when I advocated he not offer the material to my private hands. But it is about money. If not cash, an annuity program that would pay the artist over N years, or that would allow him a tax deduction in those years when his work sells. I read about these deals all the time in the newspapers. Some rich family donates something to an institution in exchange for income or tax benefits. Why shouldn't this activist-artist be advantaged in the same way?

All that's required is some leadership by a scholar or administrator with connections to recruit the support possible only from an institution or its benefactors. If UCLA, UCSB, or another committed institution wants these materials, a leader needs to step up with money, or an annuity deal to compensate the holder of this history.

Ideas, gente? Can we get this collection into a place where this history can be investigated, written down, and explored by succeeding generations? Click here to share your ideas.

So here we are, boxing day. Whatever that is. What it is is the last week of 2006. Tempus fugit, carpe diem. See you next year.


Monday, December 25, 2006

Stories Give Children Some New Perspectives

Most of us cannot imagine a world without books, and if you're reading this, you're one of those people. The love of the printed word usually begins at an age when young minds are expanding and developing at a miraculous rate. Also, with millions and millions of gift cards given each year during the holidays, what better way to spend this platic money than on something other than video games and iTunes? So, here are just a few of the fine books published this year that would delight children and teenagers. But before you read my recommendations, on behalf of my compadres y comadre here at La Bloga, stay safe, be happy and enjoy this special time of year. And if you're going through a rough patch, we send you good thoughts and wishes for a better new year. -- DAO

◙ Artemio Rodríguez is one of the most exciting artists working today. He now brings us a delightful bilingual picture book, The King of Things / El rey de las cosas (Cinco Puntos Press, $14.95 hardcover). Using the well-known Mexican game of lotería as his inspiration, Rodríguez tells the story of a little boy named Lalo who proudly trumpets: "I am three years old. I am so strong, I am so smart, look at what I own!" With a youthful glee that is infectious, Lalo informs us of the colorful characters that inhabit his make-believe kingdom. And as children often do, he places himself at the center of each lotería image, from el gallo to la luna, from la sirena to el tecolote.

Tales Our Abuelitas Told / Cuentos que contaban nuestras abuelas by F. Isabel Campoy and Alma Flor Ada (Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $19.95 hardcover) has been released in separate English and Spanish editions. The authors tell us that the stories included in this anthology of Hispanic folk tales not only have Spanish roots but also possess elements that can be traced to other people because Spain has been a "cultural crossroads throughout history." Thus, we are told that there are influences from the Phoenicians, Jews, Greeks, Basques, Celts and others. At the end of each tale, the authors give a little historical context. The stories themselves are entertaining and, at times, offer lessons on how we should treat others and conduct ourselves in this thing we call life.

In Call Me Henri (Curbstone Press, $17.95 hardcover), a novel for young adult readers, Lorraine López introduces us to a middle-school student, Enrique, who valiantly attempts to survive life's obstacles. He juggles the demands of teachers with helping his working mother by baby-sitting his three brothers -- infant triplets -- after school. Enrique's stepfather battles alcoholism and while under the influence, creates a violent and uncertain atmosphere at home. And then there are the dangers of gangs that Enrique must confront while walking to and from school. But there is a glimmer of hope through learning. With the help of several caring teachers, Enrique falls in love with the French language which leads to intellectual excitement and academic success. From such positive reinforcement, Enrique's home life becomes less hopeless, and his self-confidence grows.

◙ Teens will be moved and inspired by Rose Castillo Guilbault's memoir, Farmworker's Daughter: Growing Up Mexican in America (Heyday Books, $11.95 paperback). The chapters in this richly detailed book arose from a series of essays first published in the San Francisco Chronicle. Guilbault is best known as an award-winning broadcast and print journalist who now is vice president of corporate affairs at the Automobile Association of America of Northern California. Her memoir recounts the intellectual, cultural and emotional trek from her youth in the border town of Nogales, Mexico, to growing up in California's Salinas Valley. Guilbault fights bigotry, economic hardship and sexism. She eventually finds success in the world of words -- although the phrase "I can't" has no place in her vocabulary.

[This first appeared in the El Paso Times in a slightly different form.]

Friday, December 22, 2006

Like A Virgin -- Pure As Snow

Manuel Ramos

The Virgin of Flames by Chris Abani (Penguin, January, 2007) is an unsettling read. A powerful, frightening and challenging book. The kind of book that readers often talk about wanting to find -- a piece of writing that says something new, that disturbs the status quo and moves the reader to action, or at least uncomfortable thoughts -- but, once found, produces a deep and uneasy hesitation, a pause in the contemplation of the writing because of the troubling images and quirky use of words.

Abani's website says that "Chris Abani's prose includes the novels The Virgin of Flames (Penguin, 2007) GraceLand (FSG, 2004/Picador 2005), Masters of the Board (Delta, 1985) and the novellas, Becoming Abigail (Akashic, 2006) and Song For Night (Akashic, 2007). His poetry collections are Hands Washing Water (Copper Canyon, 2006), Dog Woman (Red Hen, 2004), Daphne's Lot (Red Hen, 2003), and Kalakuta Republic (Saqi, 2001). He is an Associate Professor at the University of California, Riverside and the recipient of the PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, the Prince Claus Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award & the PEN Hemingway Book Prize." Impressive. I have not read anything else by this writer. Are his other works as wild as The Virgin of Flames?

Here's the basics of the plot: Black is a mural artist who practices his trade in East L.A. He lives in an apartment over "The Ugly Store," a combination tattoo parlor, coffee shop, and cafe. He obsesses over Sweet Girl, a transsexual stripper who has become a fixation in his imagination. On the roof of The Ugly Store he has built a spaceship, a place where he can go to contemplate his next work of art or his next suicide attempt. His friends include Iggy, his landlord and the tattoo artist/fakir-psychic who suspends herself from meat hooks by means of metal rings embedded along her spine; Bomboy, a Rwandan butcher (yes - in every sense of that word); and Ray-Ray, a dwarf who smokes marijuana soaked in formaldehyde, and who loves Raymond Chandler trivia. And Gabriel, the Archangel who hovers near but never interferes, and who occasionally comes to Black in the form of a pigeon.

Black's latest mural is Fatima, a fifty-foot Muslim woman choking a dove and brandishing an AK-47. It doesn't take long for the city to get a court order for the mural to be destroyed, but that is the least of Black's concerns. He has other pressing issues, like dim and unrealized memories of his dead Nigerian father, a scientist who was killed in Vietnam, and of his Salvadoran mother, who, in the madness caused by the loss of her husband, relentlessly beat and persecuted the young Black. Or the memories of wearing dresses until he was seven because, as his father said, there was a curse on the men of the family and the boys had to be protected.

All of this comes to a head when Black is mistaken for a vision of the Virgin as he stands atop his spaceship in Iggy's wedding dress and is highlighted by a police helicopter spotlight. Believers gather around The Ugly Store, sharing their prayers and ecstasy produced by the vision, one of many, as it turns out, that are occurring in Los Angeles, to the great joy of the lost souls and pilgrims looking for answers.

Abani's writing is overwhelming. He masterfully works his words to take the reader inside Black's wounded psyche. We see the world from Black's distorted viewpoint, and we believe it. Abani is the guide for this trip into Black's fractured, almost psychedelic life. The story moves at a brisk pace and there are no wasted scenes or sentences. Here is a short sample: "Flat. The roof of The Ugly Store lit by the early morning sun and Black, supine in the shade of the spaceship. This was a near daily ritual for him: a mug of hot tea and a cigarette here on the roof before his morning workout. From up here, the city fell away to one side, the river, the other. Black loved Los Angeles; the expansiveness of it, like a sneeze still tickling at the back of his sinuses, able to become anything, or nothing. He loved that. The feeling that he could become the person he always wanted to be, even though nothing in his life pointed to it."

The essential puzzle for Black, of course, is figuring out who the person is that he wants to be. To answer that, he looks deep into the dark night and litter strewn landscape of his hometown, from angles that do not hide the anguish, pity, hate and love of people torn apart by their own faults and mistakes, their own reluctance to understand themselves. When it finally becomes clear who he is and what he has become, Black must lash out in the only way he believes he can, the only way that makes twisted sense to him.

Walter Mosley said that Abani has revealed Los Angeles has it has never been seen before, that he has rewritten the American story and "brought the world into our streets, our most private negotiations and confessions." Confession is supposed to be good for the soul. I don't know about the soul, but I think that Abani is good for anything that ails the state of current North American literature.


A few photos for those of you who have ever wondered what a Colorado blizzard really means -- hours of shoveling and an achy-breaky back.

Looking for the sidewalk

Flo muscles her way to the steps

Where's the car?

That's it for me this week. Join La Bloga's clan next week as we celebrate the end of one year and the birth of a new one. I'm sure all of my pals here on La Bloga will have something special to commemorate the passing of time and the promise of the future.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Guest columnist: journalist Hugo Garcia

Blogmeister's note: RudyG has disappeared in the wilds of the Yucatan, perhaps seeking some Truth to shed light on Rudy's piece last week on the movie, Apocalypto that is set somewhere in the same latitude as Yucatan. In his absence La Bloga welcomes a guest columnist.

Last week, it was a pleasure to introduce the reminiscenses of a Spanish-language media pioneer of the modern era, Hugo Garcia. Here's Hugo's follow up on the early history of the LA Express, an interlude with Telly Savalas AKA "Kojak". Savalas carried el papel of the eponymous teevee show's detective.

Getting ethnic with Kojak

On my day off I took my girlfriend Mercedes (now my wife) to the Alexandria Hotel to check the renovations the LA Times had mentioned in a recent story.

The Alexandria Hotel at Spring and Fifth was a hot party spot for middle class Mexicanos in 1967. By the 70’s, it lost its magic.

At the lobby, we saw Telly Savalas aka Kojak walking towards us. His white dress shirt was tucked but unbuttoned, showing his hairy chest and panza.

I had always been a fan of Telly and was glad he was the star of the Kojak TV series. Fueled by the vodka, I introduced myself as a reporter and asked him for an interview about his ethnicity. Someone from his posse muttered. “No, he’s working now.”

He brushed off his aide, told us to meet him in his trailer in 30 minutes.
I called Entertainment Editor Mari Carmen, she said “great” and hung up. Twenty minutes went by. I called her again, sensing my impatience; she retorted, “I don’t even know who this senor is.“

I ran to my car four blocks away and got a tape recorder.

Telly motioned us to get comfortable for it was not a big trailer. One of his people motioned me to shut off the tape recorder but Telly said he had no problem with it.

The ethnicity angle had interested him and he was flattered I could remember most of the parts he had played in. “Oh you saw that one?” was his surprised response when I told him I had enjoyed his suave villain in a 1966 Kraft Theater TV drama.

I asked him if because of his Greek ethnicity he had only been offered to play villains, just like us Mexicans. He grinned and said because Anglos were lazy and had trouble pronouncing his full name Aristoteles; he became “Telly”and now he was “Kojak.” Speaking of racism and stereotypes, he agreed the British were also quite adept.

I didn’t ask him about immigration but did ask him about his opinion on gun control, which was another hot topic at the time. “I support it,” was his unequivocal answer.

He said he employed his brother and some childhood friends to keep him from getting a fat head. The men behind him smiled and said they had no problem deflating his balloon.

When we were saying goodbye, Rafael Rosales and one of Fico’s brothers showed up to take a photo.

Rosales asked me who Telly was and I said he was a big movie star. He then handed the camera to Fico’s brother and joined us in the photo.

Next day Paul suggested talking to Ray Herbeck who received the use of an office for his public relations services.

Ray brushed off the ethnic angle but his face lit up when I told him about Telly’ssupport for gun control.

The next day the LA Times in its newsmaker section credited the LA Express for quoting “Kojak’s support for gun control.

Ray had been trying for weeks to get the Express noticed by the English language media.
Our publisher, el Licenciado Galvan would be pleased.

The following day a reporter for a British daily called from the East Coast. He had read the Times brief and wanted more material for his own story. He said “Kojak” was the top TV program in England and the fans couldn’t get enough of Telly.

I was tempted to tell him what Telly had said about British racism. I could have proved it because I had it on tape but sensed this would be beneath a journalist, even as aspiring one like myself.

I watched KNXT TV movie critic David Sheehan that night and he looked and sounded upset. Telly Savalas for gun control? What a laugh he spat since Kojak was in his opinion one of the most violent TV shows being aired and he went on and on showing examples of its violence.
Did my little story steal the thunder from his expose? Did Telly or his people know about Sheens upcoming expose and used me to blunt it? Sounds very farfetched but I later learned everything is possible in Hollywood.

Nevertheless, the story had put the LA Express on the map and I had enjoyed my five seconds of fame.

hugo cesar garcia

Gente! La Bloga encourages guest columnists. If you've recently read or discovered a notable literary work, or an arts experience, and you've written about it, please mail same to La Bloga for consideration to honor our pages as a guest columnist.

Remember to visit on Friday for Manuel Ramos' La Bloga column.

Review - Cuentos que Contaban Nuestras Abuelas

Title: Cuentos que contaban nuestras abuelas (Tales Our Abuelitas Told):
Cuentos populares Hispánicos
Author: Alma Flor Ada, F. Isabel Campoy
Illustrators: Felipe Davalos, Susan Guevara, Leyla Torres, Vivi Escriva
Publisher: Atheneum
ISBN: 1416919058

This delightful and fun collection of Hispanic fairytales is just wonderful. The introduction explains how tales change over time. The authors grew up hearing these tales as did I. It was fun to see the different versions of stories I grew up hearing. Each re-telling gives a description of the origin of the story. I read the Spanish version and loved it and I look forward to checking out the English version of this.

One of the things I loved was the list of tradition story starters and enders, the Spanish equivalents of “Once Upon a Time” and “They Lived Happily Ever After”. I always loved those when I was growing up. My favorite beginning was “En la tierra del olvido donde de nada nadie se acuerda, habia...” which means In the land of forgetting, where of nothing or no one remembers, there was…. My favorite ending to a tale was “Y colorin colorado, este cuento acabado” which really makes no sense, it’s a little rhyme that say something like and (I have no idea what colorin means) red, this tale has ended. Something like that, it really doesn’t translate but it always sounded funny when I was little and my grandfather said it, then clapped his hands once loudly, but enough of my memories.

The book is great. It includes my personal favorite, Blanca Flor as well as many others. The illustrations are fantastic, which is no surprise since the book is illustrated by four very well known Latino illustrators. My favorite illustration is on page 64. It is the most amazing and dreamy illustration of an indigenous boy grasping the feather of the pajaro de fuego (firebird) with one hand and the multi-colored mane of his horse with the other. The artwork is so amazing and ethereal that it just feels like you’re walking into another world.

I thought the book did best as a read aloud book. I loved all the stories and they were just so much better told out loud to a group of rapt little faces. My granddaughter loves the story of Catalina, La Zorra or Catalina the Fox. It makes her laugh out loud every time I read it. Another favorite of hers is El Castillo de Chuchurumbe which is a poem something like The House that Jack Built. I highly recommend this book either in English or in Spanish. I hope that the authors do a second volume of these!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Review: X-Rated Bloodsuckers, Mario Acevedo / Mural goodnews.

Michael Sedano

Back in January 2006, Manuel Ramos’ Friday La Bloga column interviewed Mario Acevedo, who’d just announced his upcoming first novel, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats. “Uau,” I told myself, “now that is one heck of a memorable title. I hope it reads as well as the title is effective.”

As it turned out, 2006 has nearly disappeared and I still haven’t read Nymphos. Menso me. Having just read Acevedo’s second novel, X-Rated Bloodsuckers, I’m aware what I must have missed. If Nymphos is half the book as the second novel, Acevedo’s readers are in for a long line of highly enjoyable novels.

Acevedo has found a secret ingredient that assures a long, reliable stream of sure-fire winners, a greatly imaginative character. Think of the best character-driven novels and how eager readers thirst for the next one: Len Deighton’s Bernard Samson, Manuel Ramos’ Luis Montez, John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee.

Meet Felix Gomez, private detective, Chicano, vampire.

A vampire has a bag of tricks that lets the author pull all sorts of tricks on his plot: reading auras, hypnotizing anyone making eye contact, shape shifting, for example. And lots of human traits, like horniness, and everyday experiences where supernatural mojo has no effect.

Gomez is a Denver dick, but Acevedo sets this story in Gomez’ hometown of Pacoima and greater Los Angeles. Returning to his boyhood home, the vampire has a moment of human regret. As he notes, “Even with supernatural mojo, I still felt queasy coming here. Since I had left many years ago, vowing never to return, I had graduated from college, gone to war, become a vampire, and settled in Denver. And here I was, back in Pacoima anyway.” I like how he slips in the remarkable. From the vampire's point of view, one experience is much akin to any other.

Gomez finds his old community awash in commercial development, an improvement over vacant lots and abandoned cars. Following a clue, the detective comes “home” to visit a local Chicana activist, Veronica Torres. The vampire falls instantly in lust with the luscious woman. Although he easily could hypnotize her and enjoy all the blood and sex he can take with impunity, Felix treats her honorably, even crawling into bed with her and leaving her untouched after she passes out drunk. Later, after they’ve bedded down, the horny vampire talks like the military man the human Felix had been, when he remarks, “’I sorted the documents, crosschecking information, taking the occasional break for a coffee-and-blood pick-me-up. What I really wanted was a Manhattan and another shot of leg…Veronica’s.’”

The auras give Acevedo a chance for some fun. Human auras are red, vampires orange. Humans, unaware of their auras, give away their emotions in an instant reading of their auras. "Rosario's aura flared, then settled into a turbulent neon mass swirling around his bulk. . . .His aura settled into a soft glowing texture like phosphorescent chenille." Some vampires, like sidekick Coyote, control theirs, playing with color and form around the edges. Plus, the orange glow makes hiding from hunter-killer vampires nearly impossible.

Then there's one remarkable human, the villainous Councilwoman Venin: “A red aura surrounded Petale Venin, a vermillion corona placid as still waters. My naked eyes bore into hers and nothing happened. Venin was immune to vampire hypnosis.” Many of the characters' names are like that, oddball, like the porno stars of the title, Katz Meow and Roxy Bronze AKA Freya Kreiger. Then there are the despicable surgeon, Dr. Mordecai Niphe, the corrupt Rev. Dale Journey and the crooked Lucky Rosario.

Acevedo uses vampire magic when convenient, but it’s of little use confronting—or not—the mundane. More than merely everyday, Acevedo peppers the novel with wonderful bits of local color and Chicano authenticity, as in the description of Veronica’s office: “The front hall doubled as an art gallery. The exhibition was a series of modern interpretations of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The Virgin as seamstress. The Virgin wearing boxing gloves. The Virgin working the drive-thru window of McDonald’s.” If you’ve had the privilege of viewing Alma Lopez, J. Michael Walker, or Ester Hernandez’ Guadalupana art, these images will be familiar.

Local color, like the art show, informs the novel's sense of community. Acevedo doesn’t make a big deal of the matter-of-fact mundane, as when Gomez goes to stay with Coyote. The vampire magician’s home presents scenes familiar in almost any poor family: “'I told you I lived in a palace.' Coyote unfolded a towel covering a stack of flour tortillas on the counter by the stove. He turned one of the stove handles with a set of pliers and let the gas hiss.” I remember that stove from my aunt Mona’s house.

Aside from an interesting plot mixing political corruption and danger to the vampire world, Acevedo obviously enjoys the arresting simile:

“Seen from the freeway, the sprawl of the San Fernando Valley stretched in relentless monotony. A line of homes clung to the surrounding hills like the ring around a bathtub.”

“Once the engine kicked over, I stomped on the accelerator. My tires screeched like banshees with hemorrhoids.”

“'I’ve got the ass with you, smart guy.' His voice sounded like words dragged over sandpaper." More Army talk, there, by the way. I remember my First Sergeant getting a “case of the ass” at some hapless GI and assigning several hours filling sandbags as a cure.

There is so much to enjoy in Acevedo's work. Still, he does kowtow to the irritating habit of appositional translation, saying algo en Spanish then translating it into English. "Coyote scooped blood with a nacho chip and crunched on it. '?Nada, verdad? Nothing, right?'" Then again, some of these translations add hilarity to the mix, as in the line, "'No kidding, buey.' Ball-less asshole."

X-Rated Bloodsuckers will make an excellent, if perhaps ironic, gift for Easter. Harper Collins’ Rayo imprint has the novel scheduled for a March 2007 release. Outright hilarity in places, downright revulsion in others, e.g. rat chorizo and coffee mixed with Type B, and an involving yarn make it a standout. Hopefully, a recipient won’t be superstitious, but at any rate, the engaging character of Felix Gomez will win you as many friends as you give copies.

Great news on the mural front!

National Effort Launched to Rescue Public Murals Project Seeks Recommendations of Murals to Save

Washington, D.C.- Rescue Public Murals, a national project to save public murals in the United States, has launched an initiative to collect information on important outdoor murals that are deteriorating in communities nationwide.

Rescue Public Murals, based at the national nonprofit organization Heritage Preservation, will bring public attention to U.S. murals, document their unique artistic and historic contributions, and secure the expertise and support to save them. The project recently received significant funding from the Getty Foundation, as well as from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Booth Heritage Foundation, and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art.

Individuals and communities are invited to submit information about public murals, particularly those that appear to be in poor condition, at These recommendations will help Rescue Public Murals form local committees that will work with Heritage Preservation and professional conservators to assess the condition of highly endangered murals in the United States and raise awareness and funding for their preservation.

In 2007, Rescue Public Murals will select 10 deteriorating murals for in-depth assessments involving a conservator, the artist who created the mural, and community supporters. The assessments will result in recommendations for conservation, maintenance, and fund-raising. Heritage Preservation also has begun planning for a comprehensive database of U.S. murals.

Public murals enliven neighborhoods, inform citizens, and comment on events, aspirations, and challenges in communities. Unfortunately, the very qualities that make murals so distinctive also lead to their disintegration. Public murals' accessibility exposes them to weather and graffiti. The surfaces public murals are painted on can damage the artwork over time. Many of the hundreds of mural art masterpieces from the 1970s and 1980s are in serious disrepair. Without prompt attention, they will vanish.

Rescue Public Murals will be modeled on Save Outdoor Sculpture (SOS!), an award-winning program of Heritage Preservation that inventoried 32,000 works of outdoor sculpture nationwide and resulted in more than $8 million being spent on saving outdoor sculpture. "SOS! taught us that documenting public art is a vital step in ensuring its proper, long-term care. With heightened public awareness, these treasures of our community life were preserved for future generations. We look forward to having the same success with public murals," says Heritage Preservation's President Lawrence L. Reger.

An advisory committee of muralists, conservators, art historians, and public art professionals will advise Heritage Preservation on Rescue Public Murals. Co-chairing the committee are Timothy W. Drescher, a mural scholar and former co-editor of Community Murals magazine, and Will Shank, a independent conservator and curator and past head of conservation at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

"The Getty is delighted to provide support for the first phase of Rescue Public Murals," says Joan Weinstein, interim director of the Getty Foundation. "Public murals are vital community assets, and a national strategy to document and preserve them will benefit artists, scholars, and the broader public."

With grant support, Heritage Preservation has designed the Rescue Public Murals Web site, compiled a list of individuals and organizations active in the mural arts movement, and developed guidelines on how to involve the community, artists, and conservators in the process of assessing murals. While Rescue Public Murals recognizes the significant historic and artistic value of public murals within structures, the project's initial priority will be murals that are outdoors and thus especially vulnerable.

More about the Project
Heritage Preservation is a nonprofit organization working to save the objects that embody our history, partnering with conservators, collecting institutions, civic groups, and concerned individuals across the nation who care about preserving pieces of our shared and individual pasts. For more information, contact Heritage Preservation, 1012 14th Street NW, Suite 1200, Washington DC 20005, 202-233-0800,, or

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu. Additional information is available on the Getty Web site at

For more information on Rescue Public Murals, contact project director Kristen Overbeck Laise, Heritage Preservation, 1012 14th Street NW, Suite 1200, Washington DC 20005, 202-233-0800, or

So, Raza and fellow-readers, it’s the week before Xmas and all through the house, all the critters are looking forward to a big pile of books under the tree. What are you giving this year? I’m giving myself The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, and mid-week, my order arrives at indie bookseller IMIX Books, and just as easy as that, presto! Le voila! my gift list will be almost complete.

See you on Boxing Day!


Monday, December 18, 2006


Monday’s post by Daniel Olivas

Sandra Rodriguez Barron’s debut novel is The Heiress of Water (Rayo/HarperCollins). She was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in El Salvador and Connecticut. Rodriguez also lived in Florida, the Dominican Republic and France. She says that she’s lived “somewhat of a nomadic life, and so I write from a perspective that includes both displacement and discovery.” Thus, she is “interested in portraying characters who, like me, belong in more than one place, and to see what happens to them as they seek to define, both geographically and emotionally, the term ‘home.’” Rodriguez describes her diverse personal history:

“My story begins when my father, Juan Rodriguez (born in Puerto Rico and raised mostly in Connecticut) was moved by the call to service proclaimed by President John F. Kennedy. When my dad was barely out of his teens, he joined the first band of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers and was sent to the tiny republic of El Salvador. There, he went on to do many wonderful things for the poor, including founding two schools that are still in operation. Along the way, he met and married my mother, Yolanda del Cid. After the four years in the Peace Corps, he went to work for Save the Children in the Dominican Republic. That's when I appear in the story. My parents decided that I would be born in Puerto Rico, and so I arrived in Caguas in October of 1967. After spending a few more years saving children in the Dominican Republic, my dad moved us to New Britain, Connecticut and he finished up his education and became a high school chemistry teacher in the Hartford Public School System. Eventually, my parents began to miss the Salvadoran lifestyle and so we moved to El Salvador in 1973.”

Rodriguez’s novel is already racking up fine honors:

- Borders Original Voices selection (fall 2006)
- Book Sense "Notable" selection (fall 2006, American Booksellers Association)
- Latino Recommended Reading List 2006 (Association of American Publishers)
- 2007 Top Ten New Latino Authors to Watch (

And Isabel Allende says: "Sandra Rodriguez Barron's exuberant prose yields an immensely entertaining reading experience. You are fraught with the certainty that she is a gatekeeper of the secrets of the sea."

◙ I had the honor of being a guest lecturer at San Diego Mesa College in November. Professor Emeritus of Chicano Studies, César A. González-T., had included one of my short-story collections in his course, Chicano Studies 135. Such encounters are what I live for as a writer. The faculty, staff and especially the students were wonderful, gracious and armed with great questions. I then had an opportunity to lunch with several of the students, former students of this beloved Professor, as well as with the Professor’s wife, Bette. What fun! Well, I just received a bound collection of writings by Professor González’s students called, “My Story: Stories Told Straight From Our Hearts.” These essays written in the first week of the class are so powerful and moving. I’d be lying if I denied getting teary-eyed at times. The students included in this collection are: Brenda Alvarez, Abby Anderson, Carolina Auza, Nancy Cardenas, Sarahi Chavez, Samantha Cruz, David Freitas, Janet Garcia, Joseph Godoy, Sergio Guevara, Marisela Ibarra, Kelly Kelemen, Leaned Compassion, Mauricio Lutteroth, Emely Pulido, Juan Martinez, Vanessa Martinez and Luis Ortiz. They should all be proud of their stories. Also, I’m sure, they realize how lucky they’ve been to have Professor González as their mentor and friend. The great writer, Luis Alberto Urrea, worked as a student assistant for the Professor many years ago. Luis calls the Professor: “a god.” La Bloga profiled Professor González a while back so if you want to know more about him, visit this link.

Lyn Miller Lachmann, editor of The Multicultural Review and author of the eco-thriller Dirt Cheap (Curbstone Press), talks fiction vs. nonfiction, her characters' complex motivations, and how she came to write the story of a professor hot on the trail of the chemical company that gave him cancer on EcoTalk. LISTEN (10 min).

◙ Luis Alberto Urrea, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of numerous books, blogs about this and that on his website. His December 2 post is interesting…he talks about his literary influences. Here’s a preview:

“People often ask me what writers have inspired me, or been models for my work, or simply bring me pleasure. I find it hard to answer, since I'm such a reading slut. I love writing and writers! And I love genres--so it's hard to rattle off my influences. But I thought it might be instructive and interesting for anyone who is writing a paper, who is looking for good reading, or who is getting a career running, to try to make you some lists. But, you know, there's snow on the ground, and we're putting up our Christmas village (on cotton batting snowfields), and I'm trying to get this interview with Martin Espada worked out. But I will give you a list of POETS who have influenced me, taught me, changed me, or just pleased me. Read for pleasure, friends….”

◙ Until next Monday, remember: ¡Lea un libro!”

Friday, December 15, 2006

Spring is Bustin' Out

Manuel Ramos

[note -- all blurbs are from the publishers]

From the University of New Mexico Press Spring, 2007 catalog:

The First Tortilla: A Bilingual Story
Rudolfo Anaya
Spanish translation by Enrique R. Lamadrid Illustrations by Amy Córdova

The First Tortilla is a moving, bilingual story of courage and discovery. A small Mexican village is near starvation. There is no rain, and the bean and squash plants are dying.

Jade, a young village girl, is told by a blue hummingbird to take a gift to the Mountain Spirit. Then it will send the needed rain.

Burning lava threatens her, but Jade reaches the top of the volcano. The Mountain Spirit is pleased. It allows the ants in a nearby cave to share their corn with Jade. The corn was sweet and delicious and Jade took some back to save the village.

Jade grinds the dry corn, adds water, and makes dough. She pats the masa and places it on hot stones near the fire. She has made the first tortilla. Soon the making of corn tortillas spreads throughout Mexico and beyond.
Reading level: grade 3 and up (May)

Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration
Sam Quinones

Sam Quinones's first book, True Tales From Another Mexico, was acclaimed for the way it peered into the corners of that country for its larger truths and complexities. Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream, Quinones's second collection of nonfiction tales, does the same for one of the most important issues of our times: the migration of Mexicans to the United States.

Quinones has covered the world of Mexican immigrants for the last thirteen years--from Chicago to Oaxaca, Michoacan to southeast Los Angeles, Tijuana to Texas. Along the way, he has uncovered stories that help illuminate all that Mexicans seek when they come north, how they change their new country, and are changed by it.

Here are the stories of the Henry Ford of velvet painting in Ciudad Juarez, the emergence of opera in Tijuana, the bizarre goings-on in the L.A. suburb of South Gate, and of the drug-addled colonies of Old World German Mennonites in Chihuahua. Through it all winds the tale of Delfino Juarez, a young construction worker, and modern-day Huckleberry Finn, who had to leave his village to change it. (May)

Conversations with Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Writers
Hector A. Torres, Editor
Hector A. Torres conducted these interviews with today's popular Chicano/a writers, asking each about language and life between languages, about the creative drive that has guided them in their craft and commits them to their art. In sharing their responses, Torres reveals a brief biography of each author and a concise examination of their writings. Taking their stories and essays individually and collectively, Torres explains how each author reiterates issues that have concerned Mexican Americans since at least 1848.

Chicano/a authors know that an abundance of politics can spoil a story, as can too little. The writers included here span historical terrain, first, under the shadow of Manifest Destiny and, then, under America's imperial sovereignty stance. Interviewees include Rolando Hinojosa ("I Reflect the Way Valleyites Act and React"), Arturo Islas ("I Don't Like Labels and Categories"), Erlinda Gonzales-Berry ("On the New Mexican Borderlands"), Gloria Anzaldúa ("The Author Never Existed"), Ana Castillo (two separate interviews), Sandra Cisneros (two separate interviews), Pat Mora ("I Was Always at Home in Language"), Richard Rodriguez ("I Don't Think I Exist"), Demetria Martinez ("To Speak as Global Citizens"), and Kathleen Alcalá ("To Tell the Counternarratives"). (March)

From the Northwestern University Press Spring/Summer 2007 catalog:

A Luis Leal Reader, edited and with an introduction by Ilan Stavans
Since his first publication in 1942, Luis Leal has likely done more than any other writer or scholar to foster a critical appreciation of Mexican, Chicano, and Latin American literature and culture. This volume, bringing together a representative selection of Leal's writings from the past sixty years, is at once a wide-ranging introduction to the most influential scholar of Latino literature and a critical history of the field as it emerged and developed through the twentieth century.

Instrumental in establishing Mexican literary studies in the United States, Leal's writings on the topic are especially instructive, ranging from essays on the significance of symbolism, culture, and history in early Chicano literature to studies of the more recent use of magical realism and of individual New Mexican, Tejano, and Mexican authors such as Juan Rulfo, Carlos Fuentes, Jose Montoya, and Mariano Azuela. Clearly and cogently written, these writings bring to bear an encyclopedic knowledge, a deep understanding of history and politics, and an unparalleled command of the aesthetics of storytelling, from folklore to theory. This collection affords readers the opportunity to consider--or reconsider--Latino literature under the deft guidance of its greatest reader. (July)

New Short Fiction from Cuba, edited by Jacqueline Loss and Esther Whitfield
With the disintegration of the Soviet bloc, the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Cuba's political future, the onslaught of tourists, and the economic upheavals in their society, Cubans face an important, perhaps epochal, moment of cultural change. It is a moment amply and complexly reflected in the fiction collected here, twelve short stories written in Cuba during the past ten years and published in English for the first time with the collaboration of some of today's finest translators.

An eclectic selection, the stories offer an exhilarating sense of a rich literary diversity and cultural history, an experience of Cuban literature that has rarely been available to an English audience. They differ widely, even wildly, in style and theme: from an impromptu encounter with Ernest Hemingway to an imagined romance mapped onto Cuba's foundational nineteenth-century novel; from a witty, Borgesian satire on bureaucracy and officialist identity to a gothic adventure in homosexual voyeurism and mental illness; from an allegorical travelogue set in repressive China to a semi-surreal celebration of angels in Havana. These are the voices of Cuban fiction today, reflecting the past, anticipating the future, and composing in their infinite variety the stories of their culture. (May)

From the Arte Público Spring, 2007 catalog:

The Lady From Buenos Aires: A Willie Cuesta Mystery by John Lantigua
Willie Cuesta wears tropical shirts, cool linen slacks, and Mexican sandals to ward off the Florida heat. Formerly a Miami Police Department detective, he now works as chief of security at his brother’s salsa club while he waits for new clients at his detective agency in Little Havana.
After meeting Fiona Bonaventura, Willie quickly realizes that her predicament isn’t a straight forward missing-persons case. The elegant Argentinean is convinced that she has found her dead sister’s daughter. Her sister Sonia disappeared during Argentina’s “dirty war” more than twenty years ago, but her pregnant body was never found. Fiona has never stopped searching for her sister’s child, and several times has been steps away from finding the girl she is convinced is her niece. This time she has tracked the girl to Miami, and Fiona is determined not to lose her again.

As Willie delves into the case, a host of shady characters surface with ties to the Argentinean military dictatorship responsible for the death and disappearance of thousands of citizens: Sarah Ingram, who teaches tango in a dance studio in a quiet, suburban neighborhood; her polo-playing husband who makes it clear he won’t tolerate questions about his intelligence work in Argentina years ago; a terrified man who survived torture and imprisonment during the “dirty war” and may be able to identify some of his torturers if he can set his fear aside; and even an Argentine diplomat.

When people associated with the case start turning up dead and Willie finds himself held captive in the back of an SUV, he knows for sure that death squads from another time and place have arrived in Miami. As the vehicle careens through the pre-dawn streets of Miami, Willie Cuesta must hang on desperately as his latest case spirals out of control. (March)

Migrations and Other Stories by Lisa Hernández
Past and present are interwoven in this award-winning collection of 11 stories dealing with migration across geographical and cultural boundaries. Set in California and Mexico, the characters in these stories struggle with all that life throws their way, including abusive boyfriends, separation from loved ones, and unfaithful spouses, all in an uneasy search for a balance between a Mexican past and a Mexican-American future.

With vivid brushstrokes, Hernández paints a collage of Latinas who work vigorously to overcome drastic situations. A woman is convinced that her brother-in-law’s constant fooling around with co-eds caused her sister’s heart attack, and she obsesses about getting revenge even if it means turning to brujería. A young woman who has flunked out of college multiple times finally goes home to confront the memories of her father’s sexual abuse that she hasn’t been able to flee or forget. On her deathbed, Chata reveals to her daughter that when she was growing up in a small Mexican village, her first love was a beautiful prostitute.

Themes of survival, identity, and cultural conflict are woven through the stories in this intriguing and entertaining collection, the winner of the University of California-Irvine’s Chicano / Latino Literary Prize. (March)

Best-selling fantasy/mystery author Mario Acevedo will teach a fast-paced Genre-Novel class intended for the serious writer eager to get a book published. Polish your manuscript with the skills you will learn in this eight-week seminar. Limited class size. Starts January 8, 2007 at the nonprofit Lighthouse Writers Workshop in the historic Ferril House, 2123 Downing, Denver, CO. Contact or 303-297-1185.

These fellowships begin in August, 2007 and last for one year. They are for "the next generation of journalists for the public radio system." Candidates must be in their last year of community or four-year college, graduate school, or out of school for one year or less as of December 31, 2006. Fellows are awarded a stipend of more than $37,000, plus benefits. Candidates should be interested in current events and in furthering a career in news. The deadline is December 31, 2006. Full description and downloadable application at Questions can be answered by Stacey Foxwell at 202-513-2866.

Daniel Valdez, who, along with his brother Luis Valdez, formed the first Chicano Theater company, El Teatro Campesino, will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Colorado at the UCD commencement ceremony in Denver on December 16, 2006. The University honors Valdez as a musical visionary and legendary figure in Latino art forms, cultural traditions, and social history. Valdez and Tony Garcia, Artistic Directory of Su Teatro, will be honored at a champagne reception following the 7:30 performance of The Miracle at Tepeyac on December 16 at the King Center on the Auraria Campus. Garcia recently was named a United States Artists fellow (see my post last week). Congrats to Daniel (and Tony).

Finally, want to know what a Chicano crime fiction writer thinks of a Puerto Rican crime fiction writer's upcoming book (The Concrete Maze)? Check it out here.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Apocalypto of a film

(Don't worry: I can't spoil something for you if it's already rotten.)

My wife and I are heading to Merida, Yucatan for a week, so I checked out Mel Gibson's movie. You might too, but you'll have to decide which reason to see it for.

There is a good story: an aboriginal Veracruzeño (Rudy Youngblood, aka Gonzalez), whose village is raided by the "civilized" Mayas, is the hero who defies all odds to play a role in fulfilling the prophecy hanging over the Mayas. The Mayas are depicted as proactive coyotes recruiting for those massive sacrifices Euro-American anthropologists have made famous. Youngblood's portion might be the only good reason to see the flick, other than the cinematography.

You could see it for lots of costumes, customs, bodypainting and that seem to ring of genuine. The subtitles are benign, and I quickly accepted the Mayan lingo, except for a little jolt from "fucked" in a subtitle.

But don't go see this if you want to know about the Mayas because you're watching a Gibson depiction of them. You definitely know this when the Mayas use a sacred ball court to turkey-shoot, in the back, some of the aborigines. If Gibson had done this in Braveheart, the English would have executed the rebellious Scots in the chapel of Westminster Abbey.

The Maya lords are just as cut-throat as Braveheart's English lords; the aborigines are promised freedom if they make it through the ball court, but when Rudy Y does, they decide there is no honor among Americans, not even native ones, and they proceed to chase him down.

Despite the genuine feel of much of the Maya city, it is more a clone of London back then, than of Tenochtítlan. Cortez's historians marveled at the Aztec capital's cleanliness, partially attributable to its clay system of plumbing, unheard of in Europe. I'm prone to think the Mayas would have adopted Aztec plumbing rather than importing London squalor, but Gibson preferred to concoct an image of Maya urban filth, like the thousands of bodies of sacrificial victims he deposits right outside the city. Millions of flies that aren't in the film would have made this a bad idea for any suburb, but apparently not for some of our ancestors.

Almost all the Mayas, including the royalty, are filthy. Yeah, they're pretty, painted, wearing quetzal feathers and all, but they live in the midst of filth. Although we know Braveheart's real English didn't bathe, that royalty at least looked clean on film. Not in Apocalyto. This royal family, priests, etc. are covered in blood, soot, ash, and sloppy body paint. It's Gibson's take on a pre-Columbian version of greaser.

In keeping with the title, film's Maya city is a caricature of present-day USA blight. Jungles clear-treed to make yeso for Maya buildings, the smog of the Maya marketplace and industry, the dust of its commercialization, and the congestion of overpopulation all make you wonder why the Spanish ever would have bothered conquering the Mayas. This "realistic" portrayal of Maya civilization's collapse (which happened hundreds of years before the film's chronology) reminds me more of Disney's historical revisionism, putting Gibson in the camp of anti-immigrant crazies.

Stereotypical Chicano-Latino threads are everywhere. My "favorite" is the macho theme exemplified when a Maya lord cuts his son's swollen eye with an obsidian knife, ala Rocky Balboa "Cut me,"-fashion. Whereas in Braveheart Gibson flinched while being tortured, this macho doesn't even flinch. Makes you wonder how we ever lost the continents.

1. A head priest incites the Maya common people over the thousands of sacrifices to appease Kukulcan--akin to the Aztec Quetzalcoatl, who was not partial to human sacrifice--his speech coinciding with a solar eclipse. As the moon obscures the sun, the priest and Maya king exchange the most conniving sneers, as if to say the masses fell for it again.

Thus, the Maya spirituality-world outlook, intrinsically linked to their astronomical studies, is reduced by Gibson to quackery and transparent tools of repression.

2. Gibson likewise reduces the Maya's glorious architectural achievements to serving only as stone gallows.

3. Finally, Gibson reduces great Maya artwork like the Bonampak murals to death-row graffiti.

Hopefully, Gibson's cinematic denigration and malfeasance, at least regarding the greatest Maya cultural achievements, will be chiseled onto his tombstone.

Rudy Ch. Garcia

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Review - The Honey Jar

The Honey Jar by Rigoberta Menchú and Dante Liano
Illustrations by Domi
Publisher: Groundwood Books –
ISBN: 0-88899-670-5

The Honey Jar is another collection of stories from 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner and Maya activist, Rigoberta Menchú and Guatemalan National Literature Laureate, Dante Liano. These stories are re-tellings of ancient Mayan folktales and legends that the author grew up hearing from the storytellers in her village in Guatemala.

I loved the story of Grandfather Sun and Grandmother Moon who were lonely in the sky, a creation tale. It was very tender and sweet. The story tells of how Grandfather Sun and Grandmother Moon created the stars and how Grandmother Moon’s face became marked. There’s another tale called Where It’s Revealed That Each Thing Has A Spirit that I loved as well. Each of the 12 stories in this book entranced me and made me smile. They have a dreamy feel that makes me think of my indigenous ancestors and the storytelling tradition – the one I carry on to my grandchildren.

This book is an important one in that it not only preserves ancient tales, it brings them to a new audience and teaches the ancient love of nature. Any book that teaches and brings old tales to the light of the modern day is a treasure. We’ve lost so much of our history, our folklore and traditions that I really stand up and take notice when someone writes of these things, reclaims them if you will. It helps when the writing is as excellent as in this book, when you can almost feel you’re back in time, sitting with the elders at a fire listening to these stories as the night envelopes you. My favorite quote from the book is this one, “They will know that the earth does not belong to them, but that they are part of it. The earth will be a sacred place, a place created for the dreams of all generations. Chuchu’ib, Tata’ib! Thanks to your counsel, people will plant their dreams on the earth, and their dreams will blossom as if they were magic flowers”.

Domi’s illustrations add to the sense of fantasy, of being swept away in time. The colors of her palette are robust and vibrant, bringing to mind the rainforest, tropical jungles and the smell of the mountains. My favorite of her paintings in this book is the one on page 27 where the eyes in the forest seem are patterned in just such a way that they remind me of the glorious tails of the peacock.

Guest Post: Hugo Garcia, Periodismo a la brava

Blogmeister's note:
La Bloga reader Hugo Garcia retired recently from a career in Spanish-language journalism. Most recently, Garcia has been editor of Resident's Voice, an innovative newspaper serving Los Angeles' public housing residents. He spent a decade selling ad space for regional Spanish-language chains. He began his journalism career as a reporter for the Los Angeles Express, a Spanish-language daily launched in the mid-1970s, and went into sales when the Express folded.

When he isn't tending to his flock of wild cochineal, Garcia consults as a technical writer-translator for ISO- level industrial firms. Reading RudyG's accounts of Rudy's door-to-door sales life, led Hugo to share some experiences in the founding days of the L.A. Express.

from Periodismo a la brava
By Hugo Garcia

Guido and I had to file a minimum of 12 stories a day and fill up an eight page A section as much as possible. However, Miguel thought only the killing of the Pope or the president merited stories more than a page and half long. double spaced, typed in a Remington manual typewriter using carbon paper. Mari Carmen Gutierrez had the impossible task of filling an eight-page section with show biz and society items seven days a week. Jaime Guerra was the sports editor and had to fill a four-page section. Paul Potter was the translator and he translated stories from the City News Service (CNS). It is a newswire that all newspapers and TV and radio stations continue to suscribe to.

Story deadline was six P.M. so they could be sent to Tijuana via telex, but picture deadline was 1 P.M., the time Juanito would drive the material to the printing presses in Tijuana. Early the next morning he would bring that day’s edition to Los Angeles. The Express was the U.S. brother of El Mexicano de Tijuana, El Mexicano de Mexicali and El Mexicano de Ensenada, then the most influential newspaper chain in the state of Baja California. Norte.

Francisco Gutierrez and Rafael Rosales were the staff photographers. After we covered a story the reporters rushed to type it and the photogs to develop the film and print some proofs, for the reporter to chose the best one and make a print for Juanito by 1 p.m.

Miguel, our boss and leader, had started his newspaper career as a gopher in the newspaper shop and had progressed to reporter, becoming the ace political reporter of the El Mexicano chain. This was his first editor position. His boss, the publisher, was el Licenciado Enrique Galvan Ochoa. El Mexicano staffers told us that after he dedicated to then President Luis Echevarria Alvarez his book “La batalla de la Sal,” about the struggles Baja California farmers suffered because of the salinization of their farmlands, Echevarria elevated him from gadfly to publisher of the El Mexicano chain. He was also very instrumental in the launching of El Express in Los Angeles.

In spite of the working conditions, we felt part of a publication that was going to make a difference in people’s lives. And for me, it was the opportunity to work for a newspaper that championed the undocumented. I was fed up with the ignorant way the English language media covered immigration matters and the deafening silence from the existing Spanish language media. The previous year I spent many hours at the legal library on First Street reading everything I could find on immigration laws.

Strange but just like now there is HR 4437 by Republican Congressman. James Sensenbrenner that criminalizes the undocumented, in 1975 Democratic Congressman Peter Rodino introduced HR 8713, to criminalize the undocumented. Nothing has really changed in this country’s approach to the “gente sin papeles” in the past 30 years.

The next few months I spent interviewing politicians and wannabe politicians and the most important question was always “What is your position on the Rodino Bill?” Their answer to that question was either rabidly anti immigrant or totally clueless and in some instances crashed with the image many of them had crafted as friends of the Mexican American.

But before I could write immigration stories, I had to learn a few basics of Journalism 101. My first big story dealt with the launching of the Viking Space probe. Neither Francisco “Fico” the photographer nor I knew where the Jet Propulsion laboratories were located. We found them but arrived late for the press conference. I was very self-conscious of the stereotype of the always-tardy Mexican, especially with my time study background. I shouldn’t have worried for it was then that I learned about press hierarchy. First come TV, then radio, and then print media. When we got there, the press information officer was in the midst of the TV interviews. I availed myself of a thick press briefing book and thumbed through it while trying to listen to some of the questions. I didn’t want my story to just be a mere translation of the gringo stories.

When it was my turn Fico took a picture as I interviewed the press officer. He was very gracious, took me to another space probe, and had its different components move or rotate as Fico shot almost 100 pictures over and under the space vehicle. The interview lasted more than 30 minutes. On our way back I told Fico we had material for a series of articles that with his photos could fill up whole pages. He blinked hard and his enthusiasm disappeared as he told me “Maestro we left in such a hurry that I only had two shots in the camera and no more film.” What about all the shots I saw him take of the space probe? “I was using the flash but had no more film,” he answered.

Somehow, I refrained and kept to myself the barbs I could have told Fico. I would later learn that had been one of my best journalistic decisions for a photographer can make or break a reporter, especially a photographer like Fico.

I turned my story to Miguel, confident that it was a good one, full of unique insights, exclusive to the LA Express. I had not reached my desk when Miguel called me into his office. Was it that good? I asked myself.

“No, no maestro. This is not a novel. You don’t start by describing the weather and buildings. This is a straight news story.” He then told me what the lead should be. Although Miguel never went to journalism school, he had an uncanny ability for reciting great leads from poorly written stories, like mine. The story ran with a picture of me interviewing the press officer. This set a trend and Guido and subsequent reporters also appeared in the photos. A trend I would later learn was a no no in journalism.

But it was a Hollywood story that brought me my greatest five seconds of fame.

Los Blogueros and La Bloguera appreciate Hugo Garcia's sharing this history with La Bloga. The 1970s and 80s were an exciting time of change among the gente of that day. Garcia's role in this offers first-hand material students of journalism and historians will want to follow. Garcia promises to keep La Bloga updated.

Mid December already! My gosh. Next week, it's the middle of Posadas week. What are your plans? Share them in an email with La Bloga!

In the nine days leading up to December 24th, groups of revelers travel from home to home. Revelers traveling door to door are "Los de Afuera." They ordinarily sing songs of succor. Their counterparts are "Los de Adentro." The folks inside their warm homes are the innkeepers. For the first eight nights, the innkeeper turns away Los de Afuera, singing, "No room at the inn..." On the ninth night, the innkeeper flings open the door, invites everyone inside for merriment and celebration. People will do a whole Posada in a single evening, a load of fun, too, with some hands making tamales, others singing at the door, insiders getting organized for their side, late arrivers pressed into service on a drum or a guiro.

The Avenue 50 Studio and the Arroyo Arts
Collective invite the community to join us in a
Candlelight Posada for Immigrant Rights

Sunday, December 17, 2006

In the spirit of the season, and in celebration of the United Nations International Day of the Migrant, walk with us through one of Los Angeles's oldest, most diverse neighborhoods, singing together to the accompaniment of live musicians, and stopping at three art galleries along the route, where specific immigrant concerns will be highlighted with brief readings. Our walk will begin and end with music and refreshments at the Acorn Gallery, 135 N. Avenue 50, in Highland Park. Gather at 4pm in the yard behind the Gallery to learn the Posada song. The walk will begin at approximately 4:30pm, and will proceed, even in the event of rain.

The Posada is a traditional Mexican pre-Christmas procession inspired by the story of Mary and Joseph's search for shelter in Bethlehem. It has been adapted for this event to draw attention to the fact that the doors to basic human rights such as housing, education and medical care, as well as our historic right to habeas corpus, are being closed to migrants. We are a nation of immigrants. Join us on our symbolic search for shelter
that offers hope, justice and human dignity for all.

When: Sunday, December 17, 2006 starting at 4:30 pm
Where: 131-135 No. Avenue 50, Highland Park, CA 90042
Contact: 323/258-1435

'Tis the season, que no? No B.B. gun shots to the eye. See you next week.