Thursday, March 28, 2024

A Life behind the Ivy Walls



     Okay, it was like this. One day I was mopping floors, cutting lawns, and doing whatever I could to complete my undergraduate degree, while supporting a young family. My dreams of “making it” in a rock band hadn’t worked out when I realized my livelihood depended on the dedication, work ethic and creativity of other musicians, in the early 1970s, a pretty shaky proposition. So, I decided to go my own way, finish my B.A. and start on an M.A.

     Unexpectedly, I landed a job at a major university, here in L.A., as a program administrator. Later, as I got to know the people who hired me, they said they knew I lacked the experience for the job, but I had more maturity and seemed more responsible than other applicants they’d interviewed, some graduates of prestigious universities and multiple letters after their names.

     Two years later, I was still getting my bearings, but I wanted to get out of L.A., so I moved up north, to east Sacramento, and was, again, lucky to land a job, this time at a community college, a few miles outside of  the city limits, out towards the Sierras, doing the same job, more or less, writing reports, designing programs, and dealing with deans, professors, vice-presidents, and other program administrators, a gaggle of P h. D’s and M.A.’s. among them, and, of course, still bright-eyed and bushy -tailed about working in higher education.

     I’ve got to admit my surprise, and in some cases downright disappointment, when I learned so many hotshot, educated people in higher education were incompetent, opportunistic, manipulative, or just plain slothful, at all levels of the academic hierarchy, from professor to president, no "common sense," as American political philosopher Thomas Paine might say, and in some ways, no different than some of the folk I worked with mopping floors and cutting lawns.  

     My friends in the corporate world don't deny the same thing doesn't exist in their shiny towers, as Lee Iacocca found out when he took the helm at a dysfunctional Chrysler in 1978, and workers at Boeing have known all along, come on, losing doors and tires after takeoff. That’s not to say, I didn’t also meet brilliance and ingenuity, sometimes in the most unlikely people, often researchers tucked away in isolated labs across campus.

     After a few months, my boss’s boss, a blue-collar boy who “made it good,” gave me props for serving in the military and going to Vietnam, "You know," he said, "colleges are structured like the military. We're at war against ignorance," so he offered me a promotion from program administrator to director, bypassing others who felt slighted, which is another story. At least it got me out of the basement and onto the first floor--with a window, a big deal in any college or university campus.

     As a director of a unit called Developmental Programs, I was required to sit in on the assistant vice-president’s weekly briefings, held on the fifth floor, the president’s floor, in a typical room you’d expect to find in a traditional college, massive double wood doors, the walls covered in dark mahogany siding, and long, wide meeting table, and heavy, elegant oak chairs to accommodate the presence of each person's perceived brain power, not unlike the true definition of the Latin, "Mensa."

     Sitting around the table were deans, directors, and the assistant to the assistant vice-president, Bernard Slyder (Ed. D not Ph. D., a keen difference on a college campus) who welcomed us, gave us a bit of a pep talk, and turned the meeting over to his assistant. Dr. Slyder, a big man with an ample, but not fat, midsection, sat back in his plush chair, crossed his arms, and commenced to shut his eyes, just like that, which, in my naivete, I figured helped him focus better.

     Every once in a while, he’d smile and nod, briefly open his eyes, as if our reports met his satisfaction, then, again, nestle into his chair, and shut his eyes. He sure sounded like he was asleep, a slow steady breathing escaping between his lips. When the meeting finished, his eyes shot open, as if on a timer. He thanked us and said he’d see us next week.

     After the meeting, I asked my friends about it, telling them my suspicions. They laughed and, in a not so scholarly jargon, said, “Yeah, he was sleeping, man. The dude's a righteous narcoleptic, sleeps through staff meeting. It’s his prerogative.”

     My friend Marty Montoya, in the office of “outreach services,” said, “The vato does whatever he wants, ay,” and said another, “Yeah, welcome to higher education.”

     The stories about Bernard Slyder were endless. A community college president, back in the 1960s, offered Slyder a dean’s job because Slyder had once been on the city council where the college was located. Slyder’s family had owned a popular electrical business in town. In the 1930’s, they’d come to California from Oklahoma during the dust bowl period, and after spending time working in the fields, got into the electrical business and struck it rich when they got some lucrative contracts, hired more electricians, and built their own company.

     Slyder got a bachelor's and a master's from a state university and pretty much mail-ordered his Ed. D. His slick social skills made him influential friends and kept laborious work tools and colored wires out of his uncoordinated hands. My understanding is that he talked his way into the Friday night poker games, where big time farmers and choice businessmen gambled with college and university bigwigs, and other town notables. It wasn’t long before they talked Slyder into local politics.

     Once on the city council, Slyder built up a robust rolodex filled with the names of prominent state politicians, mostly Democrats, but some moderate Republicans, and since they worked a few miles up the freeway at the state capital, they were always accessible. It was a mutual arrangement. Slyder promised to deliver them votes, and they promised to pass bills benefiting his interests, whether business or education. Some old-timers say, Slyder even hosted the Kennedy brothers at his Victorian home at the edge of town, so it wasn’t long before other presidents promoted Slyder, utilizing his rolodex and figuring he couldn’t do much damage as an assistant vice-president of students and community relations.  

     Then came one night in the late 1970s, a few years before I arrived. As the story goes, Slyder checked out a college vehicle and returned it to the motor pool banged up, but not like he’d had an accident, more like he’d parked outside a baseball stadium and the foul balls had their way with the vehicle.

     Rudy Moreno was there to collect the keys when Dr. Slyder returned the vehicle to the motor pool. Rudy said Slyder handed him the keys, told him to have a good night, got into his own car, and drove away. No one knows how the story leaked, but when it did, the whole campus was talking.

     Now, this story came to me secondhand, and like any secondhand telling, it means somebody told somebody else, reliable? who knows for sure, but it became campus lore, and from what I understand, is still making the rounds, nearly thirty-five years later.

     The way I heard it was Dr. Slyder checked out a campus vehicle to attend a regularly scheduled Wednesday night meeting in town. It was a large agricultural campus, spread out over hundreds of acres, some cultivated for research and others virgin land, nicely wooded nooks, good places to disappear for a few hours, which is what Dr. Slyder was doing.

     Each Wednesday, at the appointed time, another car would pull up beside his, his secretary, Marsha Montgomery, and she wasn’t there to take dictation or answer phones Some say this had been going on for some time, months. Now, Dr. Slyder was no spring chicken, as they say, but still spritely, according to some, and quite the ladies’ man, but on this particular night, they were both in for a surprise.

     No one admitted to finally squealing to Marsha’s husband, but, somehow, he got wind of the affair and took up his place behind a tree to confirm the rumors true. At the time of his choosing, Al Montgomery, a mechanic in a part of Sacramento known as Norte del Rio, a biker’s enclave at the northern-most edge of the city, came out from behind a tree, a baseball bat over his shoulder, ready to pounce.

     When Al peeked into the windows and confirmed the identity of the occupants inside the campus car, the mechanic from Norte del Rio lifted the Louisville slugger high over his head, brought it down, and began wailing on the hapless campus car, battering it in every spot imaginable, even grotesquely disfiguring the college name and logo on the driver’s door. It's not exactly clear what happened from that point on, except for Rudy Moreno, and the guys in the motor pool, who gave their rendering of Dr. Slyder, cool as a cucumber, returning the battered vehicle to its home among the other vehicles. 

     Rudy had no choice but to report the incident to his boss, with no explanation, since he had no idea what had happened. Rudy's boss reported it the appropriate authorities on campus, and the story hopped from lip to lip, ear to ear, from the lowest level clerk to the highest-level administrator in the president’s office, who, along the way, reluctantly, filled in the blanks.

     Strange, though, right? like it never happened, if, in fact, it did happen, but campus life chugged along as normal. That’s the thing about secondhand stories, exaggeration and hyperbole, even if some swear to its truth. I know Marsha worked on campus but secretary to the director in the office of Academic Program Enhancement, a scholarly way of saying “tutoring,” and Dr. Bernard Slyder, returned to his position, nary a question about the incident.

     In our meetings, everything was normal, except for my friends’ eyerolling, Dr. Slyder, welcoming us, turning the meeting over to his assistant, a rather young and pretty administrator from Bringham Young, and he’d sit back in his plush chair, close his eyes, lay his arms across his belly, as if he had not a care in the world.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024


By Xequina María Berbér

Illustrations by C. Rod. Unalt


ISBN: 978-1-55885-991-3

Publication Date: May 31, 2024

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 32

Imprint: Piñata Books

Ages: 4-8


This intriguing biography with stunning illustrations 

exposes kids to the folk art of Mexico.


Pedro came from a family of artists who created papier-mâché sculptures. With newspaper, cardboard and glue, they made piñatas, masks and mojigangas, giant puppets used in parades and festivals in Mexico. As a boy, he helped his family by collecting newspapers in the neighborhood. When he got older, he began making the large figures himself. The family had to make new ones every year because all the mojigangas were burned after the events!


One day, Pedro became very sick. He had a high fever, slept a lot and had very scary nightmares. In his dreams, the giant puppets came to life and chased him. But suddenly, fierce animals with long, sharp teeth and claws came to his defense and ate up all the monsters! The animals called themselves alebrijes. When he was well, he began to recreate the beasts from his dream using paper and glue; he painted his creations with bright colors and intricate patterns. Soon, people came from all over to buy Pedro’s monster eaters.


Loosely based on the life of artist Pedro Linares, this bilingual picture book for young readers pairs the fascinating origin story of one of Mexico’s most well-known folk arts with striking illustrations of the magical creatures. This is a perfect choice for parents and teachers interested in sharing the world of art with their kids.



XEQUINA MARÍA BERBÉR is the author of Santora, the Good Daughter (Xipactli, 2001), The Mermaid Girl (Bedazzled Ink, 2013) and a collection of short stories, The Only Female Cross Dresser in Memphis (Bedazzled Ink, 2021), and she co-edited Dispatches from Lesbian America (Bedazzled Ink, 2017). She has master’s degrees in library and information science and women’s spirituality. A traditional Mexican healer, she lives in Oakland, California.


C. Rod. Unalt has illustrated numerous children’s books, including ¡A bailar! / Let’s Dance! (Piñata Books, 2017), educational textbooks and publications such as Spider Magazine. An assistant professor and program director of a BFA Illustration program in New Jersey, she earned her MFA in Illustration at the University of Hartford.


Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Guest Reviewer: Breaking Pattern, Black Beauty, My Friend Flicka

Editor's Note (Michael Sedano): Earlier in March, La Bloga-Tuesday when featured Tisha Marie Reichle-Aguilara Guest Reviewing Xochitl-Julissa Bermejo's Incantation: Love Poems for Battle Sites, we promised a review of the reviewer's own book. It's La Bloga-Tuesday's distinct pleasure welcoming Lisbeth Coiman's dicho review.

Breaking Pattern for YA Heroines

Guest Reviewer Lisbeth Coiman. 

Tisha Marie Reichle-Aguilera. Breaking Pattern. Riverside, CA: Inlandia Institute, December 2023 

In Ponca City, OK during rodeo season, I sat on the bleachers trying to understand whatever was happening in the arena, because the presenter’s Oklahoma droll didn’t help me. Then my neighbor and former Rodeo Queen bought a 40-acre piece of land because she loved horses so much. She needed the space. Soon she was boarding horses, and my son was one of her first students on the ranch. 


All those memories came back while reading Breaking Pattern by Tisha Marie Reichle-Aguilera (link). In Reichle-Aguilera’s debut novel, this Young Adult dramatic tale of junior rodeos happens at the intersection of horses, tender love, family dynamics, gender, class, and mental health. 

The main character, Adriana Elizabeth Herrera Bowen, is a 17 year-old girl who dreams of winning the All-around Rodeo competition. She is a junior in high school and enjoys the support of her father but has a conflicted relationship with her mother. 

The seemingly overprotective mother is opposed to Adriana competing in rodeo because of the inherent risk of injury. The reader later learns her parents have been holding a painful secret from her. The mother has been projecting trauma and long lasting grief on her daughter. Thus, Reichle-Aguilera explores mental health issues through the strained mother-daughter relationship.

“I pick up the picture. How did Joseph die?” 

     She takes a deep breath. “At the park. Some kids were spinning the merry-go-round too fast. He lost his grip, hit his head on the metal, and landed on the concrete.” 

     “Nothing your mother could have done.” She looks me in the eyes. “She’s carried that guilt all these years. That’s why she’s afraid of everything.” 

     “That’s why she hates me doing rodeo. She’s afraid I’ll fall off and die.” I slump into my seat and try to stop seeing that baby, my brother, and his fragile little head. “How old was he?”

     “Almost four.””

Besides her immediate family, Adriana enjoys a beautiful supportive network of loving people which includes tía, cousin, and friends. Like her, her friends compete in junior rodeos and help each other overcome obstacles in the competitions. 


Along with Adriana, most of these young cowboys and cowgirls come from working class families. Acutely aware of her family’s financial limitations, Adriana takes on extra work to help pay her entry fees. 


When presented with the opportunity to join one of the most coveted competitions, team roping, for which Adriana seems to have a natural talent, our young heroine stands for her principles and her friends, rejecting the financial benefit of pairing up with a wealthy, handsome, yet despicable male acquaintance. 


Monday, March 25, 2024

Encuentro Internacional de Culturas y Artes: Convocatoria Académica por Natasa Lambrou

Encuentro Internacional de Culturas y Artes: Convocatoria Académica por Natasa Lambrou
En el marco del 1er Encuentro Internacional de Culturas y Artes 2024 en Las Tunas, Cuba, a pesar de la parte artística que ya presentamos con anterioridad, hemos pensado en reunir también académicos de diferentes países para brindar el lado científico de las distintas culturas y artes. Nuestra idea es proyectar y estudiar la importancia de la Naturaleza en las distintas formas artística; es por ello que les presentamos la convocatoria académica para el 1er Encuentro Internacional de Culturas y Artes 2024.

El CIGET Las Tunas - IDICT los invita a participar en el 1er. ENCUENTRO INTERNACIONAL DE CULTURAS Y ARTES 

La Dirección Municipal de Cultura en Jesús Menéndez, el Proyecto Cultural Charles Ingram, la Dirección Provincial de Cultura, en Las Tunas, les invitan a participar en este nuestro Encuentro Internacional de Culturas y Artes El Arte como elemento sustantivo de la Naturaleza, inspirado en el pensamiento martiano sobre la Naturaleza. El mismo se celebrará en el Municipio Jesús Menéndez (Chaparra), provincia Las Tunas, el balcón del oriente cubano, los días 14, 15 y 16 de octubre de 2024. 

El encuentro pretende reunir académicos de diferentes países y analizar los nexos multifacéticos que hay entre la Naturaleza y las Artes. Es por esa razón que hemos pensado en agrupar temáticas de interés acerca de la noción de la Naturaleza. 


A. Viajes, turismo, espacio natural, literatura de viajes. 
B. Defensa de la tierra, culturas originarias alrededor del mundo, contacto con la Naturaleza. 
C. La Naturaleza y sus símbolos en las Artes. 
D. Reivindicación de la Naturaleza. 
E. Ecofeminismo: la mujer y su relación con la Naturaleza a través de las Artes. 
F. Ecoliteratura: la literatura como medio de proyección de la Naturaleza. 
G. Pintura y fotografía, cine y documental: naturaleza muerta, paisajes e imágenes, el uso de la luz y de los colores en relación con la Naturaleza. 
H. Música y danzas: el uso de los sonidos de la Naturaleza en la composición musical, la Naturaleza como fuente de inspiración para los músicos regionales o no; danzas tradicionales y la Naturaleza. 

Los interesados pueden enviar su propuesta (resumen de 150 a 200 palabras) acompañada de una bibliografía mínima y de un CV breve (de 250 palabras) hasta el día 30 de marzo de 2024 inclusive a la dirección de correo abajo descrita. El tiempo de exposición para las propuestas seleccionadas será de 15 minutos. 

Fechas importantes 
• Propuestas: fecha límite el 30 de marzo de 2024. 
• Notificación de aceptación: el 15 de abril de 2024. 
• Confirmación de asistencia e inscripción: el 15 de mayo de 2024. 
• Envío de presentación y el trabajo completo: fecha límite el 30 de mayo de 2024. 
• Publicación del programa: 31 de julio de 2024. 

Teniendo en cuenta que los trabajos seleccionados serán publicados en la Revista Electrónica Innovación Tecnológica perteneciente al Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología y Medio Ambiente, los autores de las propuestas aprobadas deberán enviar al comité académico, sus trabajos completos en la fecha indicada cumpliendo con los requisitos siguientes: 

Formato digital: Microsoft Word versiones 6 ó 7 o posteriores, letra en Arial 12, interlineado sencillo. Extensión máxima de 10 cuartillas, incluyendo tablas y figuras en el caso de tenerlas. 

El esquema de la publicación responderá al formato siguiente: 

Título Autor (es) Filiación institucional del autor (es) y dirección. (También para los coautores) 
Correo electrónico (si posee). (También para los coautores) 
Breve Síntesis Curricular. (250 palabras) (También para los coautores) 
Resumen en español (200 a 250 palabras) 
Palabras clave (Separadas por ;) 
ABSTRACT Key Words (Separadas por ;) 
Introducción Materiales y métodos Resultados y discusión Conclusiones Recomendaciones (si son necesarias). 
Bibliografía. Por la Norma APA 6th Edición. Anexos Microsoft Word versiones 6 ó 7 o posterior. Arial, punto 12, Interlineado: sencillo. 

*Los materiales que se publiquen son de total responsabilidad de los autores e implica la cesión de derecho de autor vinculado a este tipo de publicación, por escrito, a nombre de la Revista Electrónica Innovación Tecnológica. Para enviar las propuestas o solicitar cualquier aclaración contactar con el Comité Académico a través de las siguientes direcciones: 

Dra. Natasa Lambrou

Friday, March 22, 2024

Celebrate Women's History Month - New Books Written by Women

Presenting a small selection of new books written by women, including an award-winning debut novel, books from established authors, and a new title from a well-known and respected master.  

Xochitl Gonzalez
Flatiron Books - March 5

[from the publisher]
1985. Anita de Monte, a rising star in the art world, is found dead in New York City; her tragic death is the talk of the town. Until it isn’t. By 1998 Anita’s name has been all but forgotten—certainly by the time Raquel, a third-year art history student is preparing her final thesis. On College Hill, surrounded by privileged students whose futures are already paved out for them, Raquel feels like an outsider. Students of color, like her, are the minority there, and the pressure to work twice as hard for the same opportunities is no secret.

But when Raquel becomes romantically involved with a well-connected older art student, she finds herself unexpectedly rising up the social ranks. As she attempts to straddle both worlds, she stumbles upon Anita’s story, raising questions about the dynamics of her own relationship, which eerily mirrors that of the forgotten artist.

Moving back and forth through time and told from the perspectives of both women, Anita de Monte Laughs Last is a propulsive, witty examination of power, love, and art, daring to ask who gets to be remembered and who is left behind in the rarefied world of the elite.


Fury: A Novel
Clyo Mendoza, translated by Christina MacSweeney
Seven Stories Press - March 12

[from the publisher]
In this debut novel, Clyo Mendoza, a young, award-winning Mexican poet and novelist, weaves together multiple narratives into a lyrical, shape-shifting existential reflection on love, violence, and the power of myth.

In a desert dotted with war-torn towns, Lázaro and Juan are two soldiers from opposing camps who abandon the war and, while fleeing, become lovers and discover a dark truth. Vicente Barrera, a salesman who swept into the lives of women who both hated and revered him, spends his last days tied up like a mad dog. A morgue worker, Salvador, gets lost in the desert and mistakes the cactus for the person he loves. Over the echoes of the stories of these broken men—and of their mothers, lovers and companions—Mendoza explores her characters’ passions in a way that simmers on the page, and then explodes with pain, fear and desire in a landscape that imprisons them.

After winning the International Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Poetry Prize, Clyo Mendoza has written a novel of extraordinary beauty where language embarks on a hallucinatory trip through eroticism, the transitions of conscience, and the possibility of multiple beings inhabiting a single body. In this journey through madness, incest, sexual abuse, infidelity, and silence, Fury offers a moving questioning of the complexity of love and suffering. The desert is where these characters' destinies become intertwined, where their wounds are inherited and bled dry. Readers will be blown away by the sensitivity of the writing, and will shudder at the way violence is conveyed with a poetic forcefulness and a fierce mastery of the Mexican oral tradition.


Ursula Villarreal-Moura
Celadon Books - March 26

[from the publisher]
It’s 2015, and Tatum Vega feels that her life is finally falling into place. Living in sunny Chile with her partner, Vera, she spends her days surrounded by art at the museum where she works. More than anything else, she loves this new life for helping her forget the decade she spent in New York City orbiting the brilliant and famous author M. Domínguez.

When a reporter calls from the US asking for an interview, the careful separation Tatum has constructed between her past and present begins to crumble. Domínguez has been accused of assault, and the reporter is looking for corroboration.

As Tatum is forced to reexamine the all-consuming but undefinable relationship that dominated so much of her early adulthood, long-buried questions surface. What did happen between them? And why is she still struggling with the mark the relationship left on her life?

Told in a dual narrative alternating between her present day and a letter from Tatum to Domínguez, recounting and reclaiming the totality of their relationship, Like Happiness explores the nuances of a complicated and imbalanced relationship, catalyzing a reckoning with gender, celebrity, memory, Latinx identity, and power dynamics.


Jesse Q. Sutanto
Berkley - March 26

[from the publisher]
After an ultra-romantic honeymoon across Europe, Meddy Chan and her husband Nathan have landed in Jakarta to spend Chinese New Year with her entire extended family. Chinese New Year, already the biggest celebration of the Lunar calendar, gets even more festive when a former beau of Second Aunt’s shows up at the Chan residence bearing extravagant gifts—he’s determined to rekindle his romance with Second Aunt and the gifts are his way of announcing his courtship.

His grand gesture goes awry however, when it’s discovered that not all the gifts were meant for Second Aunt and the Chans—one particular gift was intended for a business rival to cement their alliance and included by accident. Of course the Aunties agree that it’s only right to return the gift—after all, anyone would forgive an honest mistake, right? But what should have been a simple retrieval turns disastrous and suddenly Meddy and the Aunties are helpless pawns in a decades-long war between Jakarta’s most powerful business factions. The fighting turns personal, however, when Nathan and the Aunties are endangered and it’s up to Meddy to come up with a plan to save them all. Determined to rescue her loved ones, Meddy embarks on an impossible mission—but with the Aunties by her side, nothing is truly impossible…


The Cemetery of Untold Stories
Julia Alvarez

Algonquin Books - April 2

[from the publisher]
Alma Cruz, the celebrated writer at the heart of The Cemetery of Untold Stories, doesn’t want to end up like her friend, a novelist who fought so long and hard to finish a book that it threatened her sanity. So when Alma inherits a small plot of land in the Dominican Republic, her homeland, she has the beautiful idea of turning it into a place to bury her untold stories—literally. She creates a graveyard for the manuscript drafts and revisions, and the characters whose lives she tried and failed to bring to life and who still haunt her.

Alma wants her characters to rest in peace. But they have other ideas, and the cemetery becomes a mysterious sanctuary for their true narratives. Filomena, a local woman hired as the groundskeeper, becomes a sympathetic listener as Alma’s characters unspool their secret tales. Among them: Bienvenida, the abandoned second wife of dictator Rafael Trujillo, consigned to oblivion by history, and Manuel Cruz, a doctor who fought in the Dominican underground and escaped to the United States.

The characters defy their author: they talk back to her and talk to one another behind her back, rewriting and revising themselves. The Cemetery of Untold Stories asks: Whose stories get to be told, and whose buried? Finally, Alma finds the meaning she and her characters yearn for in the everlasting vitality of stories.

Alvarez’s extraordinary novel reminds us that the stories of our lives are never truly finished, even at the end.




Manuel Ramos writes crime fiction. Read his latest story, Northside Nocturne, in the award-winning anthology Denver Noir, edited by Cynthia Swanson, published by Akashic Books.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Chicanonautica: Gorgeous Widescreen Mayasploitation

by Ernest Hogan

The poster with the crucified/spreadeagled woman gave me the wrong idea about The Living Idol. The style of the credits told me it was a slick, widescreen, color production from the Fifties. It also looked Mayan. Hmm . . .


Grateful acknowledgement is made to the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico for cooperation in the making of this film.

Somebody spent some money on this. It was written, produced, and directed—the whole autre deal— by Albert Lewin, who also made the 1945 version of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Also, René Cardona, responsible for The Brainiac, The Batwoman, Night of the Bloody Apes, Doctor of Doom, Wrestling Women Vs. the Aztec Mummy . . . (better stop, I’m getting distracted) was credited as “associate Mexican director.”

I was intrigued and amused.

It opens with scenes filmed in the Yucatán in Mayan ruins, with Mayan extras. Every shot looks like a postcard. My overactive visual cortex was happy.

Not a bad story, been done before: An ancient artifact housed an evil spirit, the presence of a girl who is the reincarnation of a virgin—though in this case, the word is carefully avoided—sacrificial victim, brings it to life . . . 

And this wasn’t a cheap quickie that Roger Corman, or even Cardona, slapped together on a minimalist budget, meeting a ridiculous deadline. It was a lavish Hollywood production with international connections. Ambitions are apparent. And that seems to be the problem.

Instead of a horror flick with a stuntman in a rubber suit playing the monster, we have a visual spectacular--what I like to call an eye-fry--with a lot of good intentions wrapped around a pulp plot, and packaged like exploitation.

I already mentioned the poster with French-Italian actress Liliane Montevecchi splayed out for sacrifice. She’s supposed to be a Maya, but when she’s in the same scene with real Mayan women in huipiles . . . 

In the beginning, she’s supposed to be in her early teens, and in love with the hero who looks near middle age. This was a common plot point in entertainment of the era. The photojournalist hero then, in an awkward attempt to avoid impropriety, goes away on assignment for a few years, giving her time to grow into an “of age” university student.


There are a lot of beautiful Mexico City scenes, but it all moves very slow.

When the idol–the red jaguar throne, from El Castillo, AKA the pyramid of Kukulkan in Chichén Itzán–comes to life, we don’t see it, we just hear it wrecking the room it’s locked in. As an adult intellectual, I understand that the director was trying to make a point–there's an entire illustrated lecture on the history of human sacrifice, suggesting that modern warfare is carrying on the tradition–but the monster kid in me feels gypped.

Still, they get away with showing more blood than in other 1957 films.

The heroine does finally assume the position of sacrifice, in a dream sequence/flashback.

Still, I found myself enjoying The Living Idol. Maybe, someday, when I'm in the right mood and have a some Escorpion Negro Black Ale, I’ll watch it again.

Ernest Hogan is the author of Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song: 15 Gonzo Science Fiction Stories.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024


Written by Diane de Anda

Illustrations by Roberta Collier-Morales


ISBN: 978-1-55885-990-6

Publication Date: May 31, 2024

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 32

Imprint: Piñata Books

Ages: 5-9

This bilingual picture book explores children’s resiliency in the face of divorce, while emphasizing the importance of extended family. 


Elena and Miguel’s parents don’t live in the same house anymore. Now the kids live in two, Mami’s during the week and Papi’s on weekends. “At first,” Elena says, “it felt like I left half of me behind each time I changed houses. And it didn’t feel like family anymore.”


Elena wonders if Rico the cat misses Papi; surely, he too senses the change. At the movie theater, only three share the big tub of popcorn. The kids help their mom pick the oranges off the tree, something their dad used to do. On weekends, Papi makes pancakes for them, but they’re not quite like the ones their mom makes. “It doesn’t feel like family anymore.”


Gradually, the siblings begin to adjust to their new lives. At birthday parties, they’re surrounded by relatives and “in the circle of cousins, it felt like family again.” And when all four grandparents and both parents cheer Elena on at her soccer game, their obvious pride in her feels even better than the points she scored. “It feels like family!” This bilingual picture book for young readers explores a difficult subject experienced by many children—divorce and the resulting changes in their lives—while highlighting the importance of relationships with extended family members.


DIANE DE ANDA is the author of numerous books for young readers that feature Latino themes and families. Her picture books include The Patchwork Garden (Arte Público Press, 2013), The Day Abuelo Got Lost (Albert Whitman & Company, 2019) and Mango Moon (Albert Whitman & Company, 2021), winner of a Paterson Prize for Books for Young People and a Skipping Stones Honor Award.  Her books have received numerous awards and been named to multiple recommended reading lists such as the New York Public Library’s Best Books in Spanish and the Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books. A retired UCLA professor who prepared social workers to help kids and their families, she lives in Los Angeles.


ROBERTA COLLIER-MORALES has illustrated numerous books for kids, including Sofi Paints Her Dreams / Sofi pinta sus sueños (Piñata Books, 2019) and Salsa (Piñata Books, 1998). A member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, she lives and works in Longmont, Colorado.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Guest Review: Infidelis by Vincent Cooper

Review: Vincent P. Cooper. Infidelis
                    MouthFeel Press October 2023, 79 pages, $16 

Rey M. Rodríguez


 “Infidelis,” written by Vincent Cooper (link) employs poetry for its most noble purpose – to lift up Chicano voices and those who are often the first to go to war. At a moment when conflicts in the Ukraine and the Middle East harken back to World War II because of their potential contagion to larger, multinational dangers, Cooper’s book reminds us of the cost of resorting to violence to resolve disputes at a societal and personal level. 


I was drawn to this book because, although I did not live this experience, my brother did and countless other Chicanos who wrestled with the decision to sign up for service. With the flick of a pen marking a commitment to the military their life’s trajectory dramatically shifted, and not always for the better. Sometimes the need to escape poverty or a small town served as the reason for this momentous decision and other times who knows what is going through the mind of an 18 year old. In Cooper’s case, it was a girlfriend. He writes in his poem, “Then: The Ultimatum”: 

I had fallen in love with Carmen, who worked with me

at the downtown Marriott. I was a pool boy in aqua/khaki

and didn’t have the balls to tell this teary Chicana in the car, 

that I wanted to leave her. 

I stare at her hard. 


I pulled the door handle, 

bolted out of the driver’s seat of her father’s ivory Sedan De Ville 

and joined the United States Marines Corps. 


 The reader might think this is a laughable reason to base such an important decision, but to so many teenagers, boys and girls, who do not have a caring adult to serve as a sounding board, then this reason is as good as any other. 


 Cooper’s ability to draw us into his poetry with stark honesty runs throughout the book. A perfect example is, “Phone Booth.” 


J: Hello . . . What’s up babe . . . you okay? 

V: I fucken cheated . . . I cheated on you. I am sorry. I’m so sorry. 

J: Who was it? 

V: Some girl. I don’t know her. 


Dial tone. 


This poem, on its face, supports the reason for the title of the book, “Infidelis,” which means in Latin “not faithful.” But Cooper’s book goes beyond the infidelity of a young man towards a woman. His poems suggest this word also refers to the infidelity of a democracy to its citizens, especially Brown and Black people, when it calls them to military service or to fight a war. In “Chicano During Wartime,” he writes: 


Afghanistan was not a war at first. 

It was a business proposition. 

Contracts, chess, checkers, choices, Cheney 

—everyone wanted in. 


Already there was infidelity to the country’s aspiration to equality as inscribed in the U.S. constitution when Mexican-Americans returned home from service after World War II, such as Cleto Rodríguez, who received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman to become the first Mexican American in the Pacific theater of operations to receive the nation’s highest military award, only to be treated as a second class citizen. But if this infidelity was not enough, then the pain faced by Chicano veterans returning from Vietnam certainly did the trick. In “The Chicano Hero,” Cooper writes: 


Hippies of the sixties protesting the war 

keep “baby killer” in their mouths, 

tight like the clothes in your seabag. 


 You strut on through. 


 The cab driver is one of the few to say 

“Thank you for your service.” 

You don’t remember his name. 


 At home, on the westside of San Antonio, 

no welcome party, 

just Dad watching T.V., 

no friends on the front lawn waiting with a beer 


 . . . Nothing 


“Infidelis” is a Chicano perspective, but it is also a universal U.S. story. One where the newly-arrived immigrant and marginalized people are used as fodder to fight often unnecessary conflicts for a government and a country that finds them expendable and less than citizens. It is for this reason that “Infidelis” is such a relevant and vibrant poetry book that should be widely read. “Infidelis”offers the reader a counter-narrative to a view of military service held by a majority, seemingly color blind, because Cooper shows how ultimately racist the Corps is in practice. 


If the United States is deciding to enter another ethically unsupportable war, maybe, just maybe, policymakers will be confronted by the human cost brought to light by these poems and other nonviolent voices. 


At the very least, some Chicano from San Antonio, or anyone else who is trying to avoid breaking up with his girlfriend by enlisting to become a Marine, may read this book of poetry and change his mind. 


I believe that art saves lives and “Infidelis” in the right hands definitely has the power to do so given how accessible and honestly Cooper writes. 


 Meet la Bloga's Guest Reviewer: Rey M. Rodríguez

Rey is a writer, advocate and attorney, who lives in Pasadena, CA.  He is currently working on a novel set in Mexico City and the Mayan Underworld and a nonfiction book on Proyecto Pastoral at Dolores
Mission, a nonprofit serving the immigrant community of Boyle Heights for over 30 years.



Monday, March 18, 2024

“Chicano Frankenstein” is out in the world!


On March 5, my eleventh book, Chicano Frankenstein, was published by Forest Avenue Press of Portland, Oregon. 

The next night, we had our official book launch at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena. We packed the house! I was interviewed by the wonderful writer, Désirée Zamorano. 

I want to thank Vroman’s and all of my friends, family, and strangers who showed up in the pouring rain to celebrate my new book. 

Here are a few photos of the evening. You will recognize some of the faces, no doubt. And if you missed it, Vroman’s has autographed copies available in store or online.

And a few days later, it was off to the Tucson Festival of Books where I signed copies of Chicano Frankenstein and saw old friends. I also got to celebrate with my publisher, Laura Stanfill, and her husband, Jonathan. What a lovely time!


I have many more events set for this year with more being planned, so if you missed me at Vroman’s or the Tucson Festival of Books, there will be other opportunities. Check out my website for my events page. Also, if you are interested in having me as a guest on a panel, classroom presentation, or other literary events, drop me a line at olivasdan (at)


In other news, the venerable Teatro Espejo in Sacramento will be producing the world premiere of my play, Waiting for Godínez. The play will run each Friday, Saturday and Sunday from April 5 to 21. You may purchase tickets here. My play had previously been produced in readings in Los Angeles and New York, but this is the first fully staged production (an abridged version was staged in 2021 by Playwrights' Arena under the title Waiting in light of pandemic protocols). We have a magnificent director and cast! I will be attending the April 13th performance and will participate in a talkback afterwards. I hope you can join us for an evening of live theatre!