Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Brown Buffalo Doc Premiere. On-line Floricanto

Los Angeles
LA Plaza Hosts Premiere of Brown Buffalo Documentary. Airs on PBS Voces.
Michael Sedano

Early arrival ensures a close-in seat

My first sight of Oscar Acosta in the large-as-life flesh he dominated the center of a gaggle milling around the artist entrance for El Festival de Flor y Canto in 1973. The jovial bulk of man was leering and squeezing a smiling younger woman while playing to the onlookers with insistent piropos.

Abruptly, Acosta the macho strides ten feet toward the doorway where Acosta the Brown Buffalo confronts the stage manager, Pancho Sifuentes, refusing to enter the building.

Frank Sifuentes relates to me later that he-Pancho, Acosta, and Ricardo Sanchez had cruised the streets of Aztlán all night before.

They indulged their inner vato, narrowly escaping a bust in City Terrace. They were strung out that morning at the back door.

 Compadrazgo prevailed, Acosta lets himself be talked down, and enters USC’s Town & Gown. He isn’t finished.

Acosta the Chicano Lawyer, takes the stage, shouting “turn off the fucking cameras!” Acosta fumes, refusing to read until the camera operators abandon their posts. Read about the event with fotos at this La Bloga column. (link)

Righteous and satisfied, Acosta sheds his shirt ,and persona, and Acosta the author begins reading. His Brown V. Buffalo persona is directing an autopsy of a murdered vato loco.

Compellingly written, the reader performs what must be a personal best, conveying an outraged ethos humbled and shamed at the lawyer’s dissection of the inanimate flesh.

The apology to the dead lowrider extends beyond the page, beyond Town & Gown, in every direction away from the dais to apologize to every kid ever executed on account of being brown, “I’m sorry, ése.”

None of this background makes the final cut. Acosta’s literary career is a minor element in the sweeping biography.

This floricanto moment flashes past in a triptych of photographs so compelling that half the audience leaps to their feet, many onto precariously rocking folding chairs stomping their feet and wildly cheering those three photographs. That is how the fotos played out in the photographer’s mind, at any rate.

No one realized those cameras were running when Zeta pulled off his protest. The entire scene was laid down on tape. Then most likely it was erased. Only Acosta’s reading was run off onto ¾” U-matic cassettes. You can view the reading at USC’s Digital Library (link).

I’m sure Writer-Director Rodriguez and producer Alison Sotomayor would have found that quintessentially chicano lost lead-in to the reading, if it existed. The filmmakers assembled a magnificent collection of Acosta fotos and footage, enriched with “B-roll” stuff from the movimiento. Interviews and exhausting research gave Rodriguez the material he turns into a magnificent portrait of an important movimiento figure.

The documentary airs on PBS stations Friday, March 23rd 9:00 pm (link). 

In late-breaking news, The City of West Hollywood's Human Rights Speakers Series, PBS SoCal, and the Community Perspectives Film Series present a special screening and panel on the discussion The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo on March 14 at 630 pm. Click here for seating.

Los Angeles region gente get a golden opportunity to view the documentary in context of an academic conference on historical novels. Director Phillip Rodriguez will speak as will Associate Producer Ricardo López at the April 6-7 El Sereno conference (link).

Phillip Rodriguez
Not that Raza-helmed productions aren’t excellent, they are chingónes, but too often a project comes and goes too quickly, victim of scarce resources and too short a supply of organizational capacity. City Project Productions looks to be avoiding a disappearance; this team has significant endorsements.

PBS’ website proclaims, this project is presented by “Latino Public Broadcasting. Major funding for ‘The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo’ is provided by The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding is provided by Latino Public Broadcasting, California Humanities and The Office of Los Angeles City Councilman Gilbert Cedillo.”

Nor does that cover all the bases. In her closing remarks, Producer Alison Sotomayor thanks a stellar roster of cultura and media activists, including hosts LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, in “partnership with The March on Washington Film Festival, which finds, encourages, and brings to life stories of both icons and foot soldiers from the Civil Rights Movement and Friends of the American Latino Museum.

The latter organization doesn’t exist, said its portavoz. Who was that fellow? An arts lobbyist from D.C., he speaks with power and eloquence. His voice alone makes gente sit up and notice what ordinarily would be desultory warm-up messaging.
Alison Sotomayuor

PBS lavishes extensive support for the production on its Voces website. Describing itself as “PBS’ signature Latino arts and culture documentary showcase and the only ongoing national television series devoted to exploring and celebrating the rich diversity of the Latino cultural experience,” Voces’ programming deserves regular viewing by teevee watchers.

“This film is a dramatization,” a slide mutely understates to people filtering from the ample food and beverage stations to the outdoor seating area. My media illiteracy is in full blossom; I have no idea that “dramatization” is the filmic equivalent of creative non-fiction.

Instead of a voice-over narrative track, Director Phillip Rodriguez has a cast of actors speaking as first-person characters in an interview setting. The dramatized action at first shocks then delights and offers a constant juggling duality that has me reminding myself "that's not her" or make me want to throw a shoe at Thompson.

Jesse Celedon as Acosta, Jeff Harms as Hunter S. Thompson, and Anahi Bustillos as Lydia Lopez, top the roster. The script transports the viewer to a living room where angry ex-wives, injuries still fresh, look directly into the lens to reminisce, remonstrate, regret. A bewildered Hunter Thompson hates and loves, and at a safe distance, admires his gonzo companion. Celedon es muy parecido al Brown Buffalo, the greña, the bulk, the wide open pose.

Oscar Acosta comes across as wildly heroic and impulsive, seriously deranged, a crafty pícaro who needs to be taken seriously, and ultimately an enigma. But then, it matters less what made him tick than that he ticked, pulgas and all. The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo is not hagiography and there's lots of chisme left over for volume II.

If something takes you away from the television set on March 23rd, set your DVR to record PBS Voces, or come over to CSULA in April. The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo is one of those rare must-watch teevee programs.

On-line Floricanto March 2018
Karen S. Cordova, Carlos Cumpián, Oralia Rodríguez, Lisbeth Coiman, Richard Vargas

"Poetry Is Life. Take Your Place At The Podium, Any Podium Will Do," By Karen S. Cordova
“Wanton,” By Carlos Cumpián
“Vamos queriéndonos,” Por Oralia Rodríguez
“Banyan Grove,” By Lisbeth Coiman
“a revision,” By Richard Vargas

Poetry Is Life. Take Your Place At The Podium, Any Podium Will Do.
for Em Sedano and Jacqueline Rivard
By Karen S. Cordova

The nexus was neither the dealership nor the coincidence
of our individually waiting for his white and my black
Lexus to emerge from the maw of the repair shop, nor the curved
line formed by the back of his shaved head against the cup of his
white Angels' cap. Yet that flesh/stubble/crescent moon spoke
like cause for Vesuvius to rise on a summer day in Tustin, California.

He didn't face my elderly mother and me while he sat next
to us on the curbside bench. I asked if he would like to read
our Sunday paper; we were done, and the dark side
of the circle rumbled, No. I read the sports section, earlier today.
I read the news on my phone, anytime I want, even in the middle of the night.

I chuckled, We throw the sports section away; this newsprint stack is everything
else. I am thinking of cancelling my paper subscription to the New York Times
and just reading the digital version. He hissed he would never read the New York Times.

My recollection of the momentary segue—steam, rising dome, eruption—is vague.
(Take-your-pick-of-any-synonym-for-hate plus whip of an enflamed tongue is nexus
of that silent wound, shock.) I remember him standing, his Trump-is defending-our-country,
my Trump-is-destroying-our-country. His (finally facing me from across two-lanes
of dealership driveway) You-are-an-idiot, my You-are-an-asshole-you-are-an-asshole. I said it.

I felt an opening on the right side of my spine, like first breath from a silenced muscle, like birth.
He screamed. I yelled, I'm done! He kept screaming. I spat water on the fire, I said I'm DONE!
And he stood silently and glared. During dinner, my 12-year-old granddaughter was intrigued,
kept asking, Did he say You are an idiot before or after you said You are an asshole?

She announced she could not find me at fault because he threw the first lob. I told her,
Grandma needs to learn to use better words, should this happen again.
If we had not been at an upscale car dealership, I could have been in danger.

I remember a mentor repeatedly asking me two questions after I repeatedly feared
I had botched reading a poem: What is one thing you did that you liked?
What is one thing that you'd like to do better, next time?

And then, the next time.
© 2017 Karen S. Córdova.

Karen S. Córdova is a writer and business woman who lives in Southern California. Karen has deep roots both in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico, and much of her writing reflects love of her heritage. She is proud to have curated and participated in numerous ekphrasis events throughout the United States. Her poems have been published in many journals and anthologies, including Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice, published by University of Arizona Press and winner of the 2016 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award for Poetry. Karen’s first book, Farolito, published in 2015 by 3: A Taos Press, was a finalist for the 2016 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award for Poetry.

By Carlos Cumpián

'As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.'
—William Shakespeare, King Lear

I. (1880)
man leans out from luxury curtains,
a good window – opens to light
and shadows straddling western vista,
his brown hat matches the leather seats,
what was out-of-sight, now in focus.

moving mass starts to stampede
as his long gun echoes
a promise of guaranteed rewards
even for an inexperienced

he is joined by a dozen passengers
all onboard one cold locomotive,
as they seek the culling, they’ve come far
to witness bullet-ridden buffalo slaughter
in a winnowing lead rain.

Was this mere entertainment for the rich?
these 19th Century travelers sip aged
scotch and cognac as they rode snug encased in celebrated
coal and wood burners, that churned with an occasional whistle,
smearing acrid smoke across the horizon.

As the wanton troop admire their Henry Rifles with
repeating 16-round magazine elegantly unloading its weight,
all made possible from bold speculation in land
and gold, wealth taken from where both
beasts and brass-skinned people once roamed.



far from sweet grass buffalo prairies,
in the neon gambler’s paradise,
a lone Vegas elevator goes up, loaded down
with luggage opened on the 32nd floor, unpacked.
the soon-to-kill shooter hears amplified country music,

now muffled inside his carpeted suite deviate demon
leans out from a broken bay window,
this well-heeled gambler in the land of thieves,
played his hand to the end as unsuspecting people realized
those were not fireworks which roared in rapid succession striking in the darkness

a hollow-point lightening -- coldly
pierce both native and settler’s descendants
who moments earlier swayed and danced
in the warm Autumn night before they ran,
or fell wounded or killed for sport.

©2018 Cumpián

Carlos Cumpián is the author of four poetry collections: Coyote Sun, Latino Rainbow, Armadillo Charm, and 14 Abriles: Poems. He has contributed to more than thirty poetic anthologies since 1977 to the present, he is also the editor and publisher for March Abrazo Press the first Chicano/Latino and Native American Indian small press in Illinois.
Cumpián has taught creative writing and poetry through community arts organizations, as well as at Columbia College Chicago. His most recent essay, “Learned to Read at My Momma’s Knee,” appears in With a Book in Their Hands: Chicano/a Readers and Readerships Across the Centuries (University of New Mexico Press, 2014), ed. Manuel M. Martín-Rodriguez. Cumpián resides in Chicago among los Mexkimos and other survivors.

Vamos queriéndonos
Por Oralia Rodríguez

La noche se extiende,
hay miserias
que se vuelven costumbre.

La realidad muerde la calle,
quiero caminar
sin mendigar seguridad,
los grillos ya no cantan,
el eco aletargado
repite mujer,
el dolor trepa la pared.

Voy a cavar el costado del miedo,
para no ser presa florecida,
de mercaderes equilibristas
o una estadística
de leyes inhábiles,
en las cuencas de la muerte.

La lejanía
desterró al pasado,
ahí mi madre,
viste la marca indeleble
del puño de mi padre.

A veces digo,
me digo,
vamos queriéndonos,
de apoco,
y no ser huérfanos
de humanidad.

Oralia Rodríguez. Originaria de Jerez, Zacatecas, radica en Tijuana B.C.
Estudió la Maestría en Cultura Escrita. Ha participado con su poesía en Antologías en México y Argentina. Publicó dos cuentos infantiles Lobo, Lobito y Murmullos en el bosque.
Los poemarios Habitada de nostalgia y Trozos de tarde para no ser olvido.
Fue traducida para la Antología San Diego Poetry Annual 2016.
Ha tomado talleres de pintura en la Casa de Cultura Altamira (Tijuana B.C., México). Diplomado de Creación Literaria del INBA en CECUT.

Banyan Grove
By Lisbeth Coiman

The massive Moreton Bay Fig Tree
Stands at the center
Of this man-made grove
A system of superficial roots sustaining each specimen
Growing fast
In a foreign land
So far away from home

Each tree holds its place
The entire grove contained
Within the boundaries
Of the marked roads
Around them

Like us,
So far away from home
The shade of the forest
Always uncomfortable
So different from
Our natural environment
The marked roads limiting our expansion.
Yet, we hold each other
And thrive.

Banyan Grove is one of the highlights of the South Coast Botanical Garden in the Palos Verdes Peninsula (LA County).

Lisbeth Coiman is a bilingual writer standing (unbalanced) on a blurred line between fiction and memoir. She has wandered the long path from Venezuela to Canada to the US, where she has performed every possible job to survive, from domestic help to college administrator. Her work has been published in Hipmama Magazine, YAY LA Magazine, Nailed Magazine, Entropy, and RabidOaks. Whether writing fiction, poetry, or non-fiction, Coiman is concerned with issues of identity and immigration, child abuse, mental illness, and the Venezuelan diaspora's struggle to restore freedom to her homeland. She lives in Los Angeles.

a revision
By Richard Vargas

see Dick play.
see Jane play.
Dick throws ball.
Spot chases ball.
see Jane laugh.
oh, oh.

see bullet fly.
see more bullets fly.
fly fast, bullets.

see Dick run.
Jane runs, too.
more bullets fly.
Dick and Jane
are scared. run fast, Dick!
run fast, Jane! bullets
are faster!

Dick says “duck!”
Jane says “cover!”
too late, Dick.
too slow, Jane.

hear Jane scream.
her white dress is red.
see Dick on the ground.
Dick is still. Dick is dead.

see policemen hiding,
waiting for bullets
to stop flying.

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