Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Lights of 2021: High Low Toggle

...And Two Reviews

Michael Sedano

Deja Vu, de repente, and all over again, summarizes the directions 2021 points La Bloga-Tuesday for 2022. The GOPlague remains the lasting residue of the four-year nightmare, the Mistake of the Century, the pile of caca we made; along with masking, distance, isolation, vaccine. 

Just like last year, and it's beginning to feel like it's always going to be like this. Even when They lock up that guy and throw away the key. And his little dog, too.

I began 2021 on the theme of Memory. My wife Barbara and I are living with Alzheimer's Dementia. I'm reporting a caregiver's experience. 

Lots of people will share elements of this experience, or have already. Expression itself offers satisfaction, as well satisfaction grows out of knowing these La Bloga-Tuesday columns offer others a measure of confidence when facing their own bad deal that no one's going to fix for them. 

You can be a stoic alone but you won't survive without help. Share the columns, leave Comments sharing your own experiences.

Alzheimer's and other dementias bring perverse measures of predictability into a person's expectations. Cognitive disabilities like ours are called a "progressive" disease, meaning everyone  eventually goes through... a litany of disasters.

It's a case where too much knowledge is a dangerous thing when someone wants to know "Has she started to..." and here comes that litany of disasters, the ones they read about, often something dramatic and soul-wrenching that defies comprehension, except there are words that seem to mean something. They mean, and you don't mean to be mean, but it's mean sometimes, to be reminded. It hurts. Yes, that's begun. No, not yet. Do I have to think about it right now?

But it's OK to ask. Mejor, do as Barbara's friend do. They come visit. Barbara loves having people visit, and to receive cards from remote friends. Barbara's last written communication was answering a card from Kathy. We live in the moment, stuff happens then it passes. Even if all those terrible behaviors you read about are true. And they are. You won't see the "worst" ones.

No one wants to be me. Nor Barbara.

Read and challenge your brain, gente. Defy memory. Something's going to work for you. I wish it was different for us. I keep saying that. 

I was talking to a noted brain researcher--he discovered Mad Cow Disease--now focused on memory and Alzheimer's type dementias. Out of the blue he says to me, "We're going to see a cure in our lifetimes."

2021 Chicanarte: Painting and Literature enlarges its compass.

La Bloga-Tuesday welcomed several Guest Columnists in 2021 who shared their personal arte, discussed who and why they collect, and enlarged our understanding of what we say when we mean "Chicana Art." or "Chicano Art" to differentiate this genre of American Art. 

If you own a few prized paintings, sculptures, drawings, be La Bloga's Guest, share it. What moves you in a painting, a sculpture? What's your price point? What have you always wanted to tell people about your collection?

2021 saw La Bloga's Manuel Ramos publish a Gus Corral novel, and Daniel Olivas saw his first play on stage. Xánath Caraza's productivity came under critical scrutiny and high praise. Rene Colato Laínez ends the year with his new title in release.

Painting by Margaret Garcia

The year's highlight in Chicana painting happens right now in Ventura. Margaret Garcia's show is a knockout. The museum has drawn a trove of visitors, donations, and memberships with the exhibition. The Ventura organization (link) practices inclusive policies welcoming the region's agricultural workers and their languages to the museum's walls.

In Chicano Photography, this Chicano's pursuit of the perfect hummingbird photograph advances satisfactorily. I do not yet have The One, but a hummingbird's reach should exceed a photographer's lens, or what's a heaven for?

The GOPlague put an end of live poetry readings. I don't know if I've abandoned the quest for the Perfect Public Speaker foto.

2021 The year of more poetry wasn't a year of more poetry. 

It seemed reasonable to expect I would read and review a lot more poetry in 2021. New work was pouring forth. In Texas, Flowersong Press (link) exploded onto the literary landscape with an ambitious publication budget giving voice to our artists from an informed professional platform. "FlowerSong Press nurtures essential verse from, about, and through out the borderlands. Literary. Lyrical. Boundless."  Arte Publico Press must have gotten a big grant because the publishing machine out of Houston rolled along in 2021. Venerable, though relatively young, Aztlán Libre Press is achieving maturity publishing diverse narrative work.

Órale, when critics complain that our work doesn't get recognized, the best answers are, One, join the big publishing houses, work your way to the top, and publish us. Or, Two, start your own press, publish it yourself. 

So 2021 teemed with opportunity. I did not find the poetry I wanted. When we were initially diagnosed with Alzheimer's, I whipped out my classic poetry books, remembering works of consolation, beauty, joy, grief sorrow suffering. It was good, re-reading those pieces. Raza aren't writing those pieces. I suppose that's a good thing--they don't know it so they don't have to write it. May no one, ever.

Now, along comes Jimmy Santiago Baca writing under the stinging lash of the GOPlague. His latest work is infected with isolation. His poems are hiking the wilderness, turning over rocks, finding metaphor in rags hung in his back yard, hung so long they once were flags. When Baca turns his poetry to the outside world, the poet fills with anomie and dissatisfaction with his own weakness in reviewing books for money and out of friendship. "I've been seduced by the media and the publishers / awash in money to promote me, / make me seem popular, that my books are great" but the poet in that poem knows he published only because he could, because he had la conecta. He got it written, he didn't get anything right.

It gets you, the system.

Remember Joaquin?

lost in a world of confusion,
caught up in the whirl of a gringo society,
confused by the rules, scorned by attitudes,
suppressed by manipulation, and destroyed by modern society.

That vato Joaquin was going to stand up enfrentando realidad and kick some ass in big ways. ¡Órale!

Here's the 2021 version of a worn-down Joaquin. 1967's chest-thumping poet of self-discovery and empowerment has become a veterano who did it his way. He has a house, a yard, kids. He surveys his domain, takes a breath and says it. He paid his way by selling poems for fifty years. 

There had to be one Chicano who could make it.

He's satisfied. That has to be enough.

Is that work of literature, Chicano? Not Jimmy, the stories of a dizque Costa Rican author, translated from code-switching Spanish into code-switching English, Uriel Quesada's Los Territorios Ausentes Missing Territories. Dizque because I don't know the vato, and he's set these stories in the United States, but I'm told he's from over there.

So it's Chicano Literature from Costa Rica. And it's gay literature. But rather than draw a nationalistic line, simply expand the purview of what people who read Chicanarte read, and include this vato. And if you like it, like it. But there's more to reading than just liking a story. With Los Territorios you can improve your Spanish, locos. And isn't that the rap on Chicanos, pochos, el lenguaje de los chicanos esta ausente. So learn.

This is fun stuff. This is good reading for creative plotting and characters. Quesada's absurdist view of the world twists his stories into arresting insights into cultura with a helping of perverse stuff. Like the fellow--a student on the verge of being a street person--spinning an elaborate pathetic fallacy about the feelings of abandoned shopping carts. It could be a funny story and it has its moments. It's an interrogation. The writer lays obvious clues for the reader, this character is going to get it from this cop, and that's what happens. Not that the character seems to object. That part might be a surprise, or puro noir.

Sexual mores aside--can that be done?--the physical volume of the book qua book itself makes for interesting and fun reading. The buyer gets two books in one. I found myself reading it twice--simultaneously. It's revealing leafing from page 172 to page 387, for example to see how you say this in English. Or how this is translated from Spanish:

--Uhmm--dijo el policía dejando a un lado el lápiz para mirar su apunte, luego bostezó con ganas y se rascó las partes nobles con tanto placer que me puso incómodo--Go ahead--ordernó.

"Umm," said the policeman, putting down his pencil to one side in order to look at his entry, then he gave a huge yawn and scratched his private parts with so much pleasure that he made me uncomfortable. "Go ahead," he ordered.

It's a useful manuscript for its close translation that diverges here and there to offer a colloquialism, like "private parts" and "partes nobles", or "uhmm" versus "umm" or dashes and quotation marks. Because of the word-for-word style, a second-year language student could learn language while reading and enjoying actual literature.

Arte Publico does the world an important service publishing big fat books like this. Amazingly, the size of the print is generous enough readers with poor eyesight don't have to whine their way through it. That's what 2022 needs, big type and good reading.

Uriel Quesada. Elaine S. Brooks. Los territorios ausentes / missing territories. Houston:Arte Publico, 2021.
Isbn:  978-1-55885-926-5

Jimmy Santiago Baca. No enemies: poems. Houston:ArtePublico, 2021.
ISBN:  978-1-55885-927-2

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