cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (dolores del rio)
All the books in this edition are history oriented nonfic or historical fiction. Not intentional, just happened that way.

Just finished: Border Boom Town: Ciudad Juárez since 1848 by Oscar J. Martínez. I was so excited about this book when I started it. My full review is at Goodreads, but, in short, I came to feel the author minimized certain acts of violence by US "authorities" and thus I lost faith in the accuracy of his account of events.

Currently reading: My read-aloud with Tweetie is Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. As [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume suggested, I probably enjoy it more than Tweetie does. I think she could take or leave it, but she perked up some when the young Vietnamese narrator and her family arrived in the US, with all the culture shock that entails.

For my own pleasure reading, I continue with A Rope of Thorns by [livejournal.com profile] handful_ofdust. I should've finished it by now, but for a while there, Gemma's book was the only thing making me happy, so I (stupidly) stopped reading in an effort to make it last. Brain, get your shit together, yes?

My current research read is The Texas-Mexican Conjunto: History of a Working Class Music by Manuel H. Peña. The topic is only slantwise related to my novel, so I won't read the whole book, but it's pretty interesting in itself. The thesis is that the conjunto musical style developed among Tejanos post WW2 because of the socioeconomic, racial, and asssimilation pressures particular to that era.

Next up: The university library books I borrowed for novel research are due June 1, so I've got to hustle through Where North Meets South: Cities, Space, and Politics on the United States-Mexico Border by Lawrence A. Herzog (the author's name is familiar to me from my days of polisci copyediting). If I finish A Rope of Thorns, I may start Dark Matter: Reading the Bones, ed. Sheree R. Thomas.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (jack skellington)
I considered skipping the ofrenda for this year's Día de los Muertos. As busy as I've been, I just wasn't feeling it, the connection to Grampa, the memories, the desire to collect items that remind me of him. But I've decided to try. Maybe it's important to put myself in a position to remember. And because it's an effort this year, I've decided against using all the same items that I've used in years past, lest the ofrenda become a mindless ritual.

Ofrenda 1

Making a comeback are the lotería cards, the photo of Grampa that I love, and the glass calavera candle holder. New items include: a bottle of dry roasted peanuts, which was a favorite snack of Grampa's and the traditional birthday, Father's Day, every holiday gift from us kids to Grampa; a Hostess fruit pie, because he bought three for us kids every week on his grocery trip, long after we cared for the sugary treats; a glass bingo-printed tray, because Grampa played bingo so much that his car was littered with old, marked cards and dried-out or used-up bingo markers, and sometimes he won; and a couple of battery-op'd tea-light candles so I can have candles without worrying about the cats getting curious and burning the house down.

Some things I am still thinking about/looking for: a small plastic donkey; Marlboro cigarettes; a toy barber's pole; a piece of denim; Barbicide; cowboy boot salt & pepper shakers. Tweetie has also offered to make a collage, which Grampa and I would love.

Another thing I've been doing to feel festive is watching horror movies: The Lost Boys; Nightmare before Christmas; House; Scream; Scream 2; Scream 3. I'd never watched Scream 3 before last night, and was pleasantly surprised. It's a lot better than the second installment, though my favorite remains the original.

As a trilogy, Scream is an incredibly depressing story. Our Final Girl Sidney is continually victimized by the consequences of her mother's past. Her agency seems to be limited to the choice of whether to trust others or build her walls, with the correlative choice of whether to confront the horror or run from it. Which is so fundamental it's easy to depreciate. But looking again, we actually get a Final Trio, three survivors who make it from beginning to end of the trilogy, and they're a cobbled together family that replaces the illusory family Sidney started with. So that development is heartening. Also, the trilogy says some interesting things about race and feminism and male entitlement. And I love how Craven uses windows and doors throughout the movies, and Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand" in each soundtrack.

But the first film is still my favorite because it has Billy and Stu, and they were treated as free agents, acting out their own murderous impulses rather than being manipulated by adults. And they were pretty and stood really close to each other. ;D

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (skull gloves)
...to the hassle of legal documents that I bitched about in a previous (locked) entry, is that this weekend my mother told me some of the immigration stories from her side of the family. It turns out, I had both a great-great grandfather (my grandfather's side) and a great-grandfather (on my grandmother's) who were Mexican citizens living in Texas who declined to apply for US citizenship. Their children became (or were born) US citizens, and stayed on in the area. This information helps fill out my family tree, which I may not pursue any further but which, as I am now learning, may be of use to Tweetie and her cousins. I'm excited to share all this with Tweetie, as it fits right in to her immigration focus in social studies.

Also, I discovered my brother has already been down this path, having had to correct his own paperwork. I wish he'd told me, as perhaps we could've consolidated some of the work back then. Alas. 
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (coffee wtf)

Tweetie is doing a unit on immigration in social studies. She asked if she had any immigrants in her family history. I reminded her that her paternal grandparents are immigrants from Mexico. Her classmates are a somewhat cosmopolitan bunch, so they've had conversations about how one child's siblings are a mix of immigrants and citizens, and about families with multiple immigrations over generations. This morning she and I wondered whether babies adopted from other countries can really be considered immigrants, if they can't remember anything about their birth country. When does national identity "sink in"?

We didn't have a unit on immigration when I was growing up in Texas. Not until, I'd guess, junior high, and even then it was an abstract kind of footnote about waves of immigrants to the United States in the past. I understand the many reasons the school curriculum ignored the elephant in the classroom. (1) When most students directly or indirectly had *lived* the immigrant experience, what more could a textbook tell them? (2) Schools didn't have the resources to deal with the emotional consequences of broaching the topic. (3) Such discussions would have violated the unofficial "don't ask, don't tell" policy that schools adopted regarding the immigration status of its students.

I wonder if the curriculum in Texas has changed with respect to immigration. I'm glad that Tweetie gets to have these conversations, but I'm also uncomfortably aware that she can only do so in a school environment because the Powers that Be have deemed it safe and right. Only after giving up proximity to the issue are we "allowed" to learn about it.

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (skull gloves)
Tweetie and I have been researching our upcoming trip to Chicago. I think I've negotiated a tour of the museum of contemporary art in exchange for stopping at the American Girl and Disney stores. At some point, I've also got to get her to Millennium Park to play in the fountains, though it looks like a significant walk from our hotel. I'm in favor of not paying for anything, but JJ is eager to show Tweetie the museum campus she slept through as a toddler. It will be pricey, but at least this time she will be awake for her visit with SUE the T-Rex. (Did you know SUE has a Twitter account? She's following T-Rex is Trying, of tumblr fame.)

Speaking of bones, I've been following Mike Egan's work for about a year now. He's a folk/street artist out of Pittsburgh, with a tumblr and FB presence

tears of joy mike egan

Egan's artist statement explains that he's influenced by his work in funeral homes, as well as Dia de los Muertos. I like his art, and the fact that he's "abandoned" some of it in public places, to be discovered by lucky passersby. 

mike egan street art

His work has been exhibited all over the country and internationally. Earlier this summer, at Comic-Con, DKE Toys sold limited edition vinyl dolls designed by Egan. 

mike egan DKE vinyl toys
I so would have bought one of those little fuckers.


cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (dancing bones)
Glory, Glory! Last night was not heinously hot, and for the first time in about a month I didn't want to claw off my meat suit to escape the misery.  And this is the first morning in equally long that I've been able to throw open the doors and windows to air out my house. Relief! Salvation! Ollie is parked in front of a window and giving thanks. Now if only it would fucking rain. Night before last, I saw impressive heat lightning, but there wasn't thunder or rain.

Here is a photo I've had sitting in my tumblr likes for months: La Cabeza by Niki de Saint Phalle (2000)

niki de saint phalle la cabeza

I love the texture, especially on the teeth. You can get an idea of scale from the person standing to the left of the 14-ft tall, 12,000-pound sculpture, which you can apparently SIT INSIDE OF.

inside niki de saint phalle la cabeza

One enters through the ears and may sit on a bench behind the mouth or look out the eye sockets. The interior chamber is lined in reflective material, providing one with a unique memento de mori experience. And I am thrilled that, though de Saint Phalle was a (totally awesome) French artist, this piece feels so true to its Mexican calaca influence. La Cabeza and other works are at Bechtler Museum of Art in Charlotte, North Carolina

Top image from Flickr user mistone, who has other photos of de Saint Phalle's grand sculptures in hir photostream. Bottom image from Daniel Harper.

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (misunderstood)
Last week, Tweetie went to a sleepover, so J and I got to see a grown-up movie, in the theater! We watched Prometheus. I absolutely loved Michael Fassbender as David. Last night I woke up in the middle of the night, and I lay there thinking thinky thoughts about the character, about identity and performance, nature versus nurture, obedience versus resignation... No conclusions to be had from my late-night cogitations, but it was a good way to spend the time.

Before the movie, we saw previews for Savages and Django Unchained. My main problem with Savages is that we have two high-profile Hispanic stars, Salma Hayek and Benicio del Toro, playing the leaders of a Mexican drug cartel. Still?! Still. Thanks, Oliver Stone. Thanks a bunch. Now, if we had more Hollywood movies featuring Hispanic actors in juicy, sympathetic roles, I might not be as peeved, but this just seems like a waste of talent to perpetuate stereotypes we really don't need, especially when a 96 yr-old former Arizona governor is regularly hassled by Border Patrol because he's Mexican-American. And I'm a little horrified that the studio is spending lots of money to lure in Spanish-speaking audiences, even organizing campus outreach screenings. The movie industry acts puzzled about how to cater to Hispanic audiences, but can't they just ask Vin Diesel? Oh wait, he's busy working on Fast & Furious 6. That's right, the sixth. 

On the other hand, I was surprised to see Django Unchained didn't look half bad. I'm not a Tarantino fan, and I was leery of how he'd handle a story that relies so heavily on American racism, but...eh. I might have to reserve judgment.


cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (garcia)
I continue to think about my encounter with the artist at the Farmer's Market, and how it could've gone better and what about her art was so disappointing. In email discussion with a dear friend, I hashed out some additional thoughts. This entry is a re-framing of that conversation. (Hence the formatting quirks. Sorry 'bout that.)

First of all, the fact that the artist was fair-skinned and blonde could've been irrelevant. I didn't even notice her at first, though when she emerged from behind the table to talk to me, my gut instinct told me she was "Anglo." My gut notwithstanding, skin color is not indicative of Mexican heritage. My husband, JJ, for example, is so fair he burns when we *talk* about the sun, and his parents are first-generation Mexican-Americans. But since the artist zeroed in on me (and I don't even know when/if my family immigrated from Mexico), I knew she was making assumptions based on skin color, which confirmed that she wasn't Latina herself, or even particularly savvy about the culture she had mined for material.

Now, some context for my reaction to the Lady of Guadalupe imagery: Honestly, I am drawn to that imagery because I grew up with it, same as I pine for incense and candlelight and stained glass at times. I have not bought anything with the Virgin on it, however, because I am most definitely *not* religious or Catholic. People who know me would assume I'm being ironic (which would be a green flag for them to co-opt the imagery) and people who don't know me would make assumptions. At the Farmer's Market, I was probably on guard from the moment I saw the art because I'm aware of having to police myself. If I don't get to claim the Lady, then I don't want people with less direct cultural contact to be using the imagery willy-nilly.

As to my interaction with the artist: I would've been happier if, instead of making the conversation about me, she'd just told me about her art or a particular piece. She could've explained where she bought the materials and asked me, "Are you familiar with that area of Mexico/loteria cards?" She could ask *anyone* that, but if I (as a brown woman) felt like sharing, that would be an opening for me. The key is invitation, not (implicit) demand.

I don't 
want to imply the proper mode of interaction is just a matter of asking the right questions in the right way, however. It's more a realization of the give-and-take nature of equality. It's never a zero-sum game in human relations, but sharing about oneself is always a good start. By the time the artist started sharing, it was already too little, too late. By sharing, I mean she told me about the town she visited and how much the materials cost--which was nigh meaningless to me, since I haven't looked at the peso to dollar exchange rate in over a decade. And, as my friend pointed out, isn't it kind of gross when people gloat about the "deals" they get in other countries? "Yay for economic inequalities!"

But about the art itself: 
I found this an interesting puzzle. I think of collage, which is what this woman was selling, as the selective assembly of disparate elements and symbols into a whole that makes personal "sense" to the artist, and hopefully to the viewer. So I'm not sure I could look at a piece and say, "That's appropriation," just because it employed elements nonnative to the artist's primary culture. It'd be like reading someone's dream and saying, "Stop! You're appropriating!" (Granted, it's different when someone decides to display or profit from art utilizing another culture's imagery, but I'm not prepared to say one can NEVER use that imagery.)
I looked at this woman's art, hoping to see a sense to it. One canvas had several women's images on it, including a pic of Frida Kahlo, but I couldn't tell if there was meaning to the assembly. And the artist never alluded to themes or her intent. She was quick to tell me how much something cost though! So I came away with the feeling that Mexican culture was just a jumble of shinies to her.
In contrast, I have a friend who incorporates loteria cards into her art even though she's not Hispanic. I love her work, and I've even given her some of our loteria cards to use. But she uses these elements judiciously for their symbolic and graphic qualities, not just because they're cool or "primitive" or colorful. She integrates them into her personal vision; she doesn't just throw them together and expect meaning to arise. As I said earlier, I'm leery of the use of the Virgin imagery. I think it can be used effectively by folks from various cultures, but it takes some doing.

In sum, I was hoping for more thoughtfulness--both in the sense of human kindness and of conscious introspection by the artist. This woman wasn't trying to be rude or mean or diminishing. She struck me as more...scatterbrained? Definitely artless. Which is kind of sad, when you think about it.

Questions welcome. But please note I am in Mommy Mode and may not respond immediately--and it won't be any reflection on your question, so don't be worrying, "Oh no, I really stepped in it, didn't I?" I'll let you know, gently, in private even, if you did.

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (garcia)
I'd heard good things about the science fiction movie Monsters--mostly that it was a good effort on a small budget (small being relative: $800K in this case), and unusual for being set in Mexico. The premise is that a NASA probe carrying alien-life samples crashed over Central America and when the extraterrestrials started breeding, a section of Mexico was quarantined to try to keep the aliens from entering the United States.

The aliens are amazing: both potentially terrifying and beautiful; familiar and uncanny. I loved them and the explanation of their life cycle and habits. The on-location cinematography is often beautiful too, but so geographically incorrect as to be painful. Northern Mexico is portrayed as jungle, with no explanation as to how that currently arid region was so transformed in a matter of years. A Mayan pyramid is supposedly within sight of the enormous wall the USA has built to keep the aliens out. And the South Texas scenes seem to have been filmed in Galveston (a coastal city), so we see all these houses on stilts in what would, in fact, be a desert environment. To fuss over such details, I've read in other reviews, is to miss the point of the allegory.

Okay, so let's look at this allegory. The US builds a wall to keep out the aliens. The aliens, we are told by some of the Mexican citizens, don't mean any harm and will leave you alone if you leave them alone. The problem is that the Americans are bombing the region and using chemical warfare to try and eradicate the aliens, thus killing aliens and Mexicans alike. (We are, I think, supposed to be surprised and horrified that the US would do such a thing. Well, one out of two ain't bad...) The aliens tend to stomp around and destroy things at the best of times, but when angry, they can decimate cities. A young American woman asks her taxi driver if he feels safe living in one of those cities and he admits to being frightened, but asks what are he and his family supposed to do? Where are they supposed to go?

So...undocumented immigrants are like Giant Space Squids? Strangely beautiful during mating rituals but likely to destroy cities? Unable to tell the difference between true aggressors and noncombatants? Fearsome to both compatriots and Americans? Mysterious and clumsy, like this allegory?

I don't think it's okay to rearrange another country's geography and landmarks for the sake of putting forth our allegories. (springboarding from real geography to imaginary world geographies is different, imo.) And aren't we done with the tedious substitution of "alien" for other races? But even if I were to accept all that, the plot pacing is off. We spend too much time watching our two American protags trying to negotiate their way back to the States and then embarking on the perilous journey through the infected zone. (Which seems mostly to be footage of Costa Rica and Guatemala, rather than Mexico.) The movie handwaves what could've been the hardest part of the journey. At one point we're at the crest of a mountain, looking down from a pyramid at the Rio Grande and the great Wall (visible from space, we're told). Next thing, the protags have somehow scaled the wall and walked right through the open gate into the States. ("One does not simply walk into..." But apparently, two can and do.) 

Worse, the characters aren't very interesting. Sam is the stereotypical poor little rich girl touring Mexico, and her father has sent one of his minions to fetch her from that foreign battle zone. Andrew is said minion, a cynical photojournalist looking for his money shot. Why we should care about two underdeveloped American characters rather than the Mexican characters also trying to circumnavigate the infected zone...I don't know. And why they fall in love is beyond me, too.

J and I are accustomed to compartmentalizing, so we sat through the whole movie without complaining too much, but we won't watch it again, and we don't recommend you pay to see it.



cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (hammer head)
Our family went to the Farmer's Market this morning. One of the tables that caught my eye had bright, glittery collages incorporating Our Lady of Guadalupe imagery. I drew closer to examine the art, and a blonde woman came around the table to talk to me. She was the artist.

She asked me if I was from Mexico. (She at least had the decency to stutter.)

I kind of blinked and said, no, not originally. What does that even mean? I'm not sure--there was a lot of WTFery going through my head already--but it seemed to convey enough, because she nodded and said she'd had several second- and third-generation Mexican-Americans come by. I blinked again, imagining how many other folks she'd forced to go through this conversation, and at what level of detail, if she knew what generation they were. She asked (knowingly) if I recognized the loteria materials she'd incorporated, and I said yes, although I conceded there was one set I'd never seen before. So she told me about the city in Mexico where she'd gotten it and how many pesos they cost.

I nodded and ate my cherry turnover while appraising her work. It was colorful and interesting, but not technically proficient. I imagined the collages falling off the canvases as the humidity changed. Eventually I walked away and met up with J again.

I told him, "I didn't even know what to do with that."

He nodded and said, "No, I know, sooo many things there." 

"I don't even know where to start," I said, still marveling. "The racism? The appropriation? The obliviousness?"

We walked on, agreeing that We Don't Even.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (skull gloves)

I've been thinking about character bleed and the way I talk. I've been thinking about how my characters talk, and wondering how much of that is my own verbal venting. My characters cuss a lot, and they get a twang now and then, and they add "yeah?" onto seemingly declarative statements. As I write, I have a definite sense of "tuning in" to a special station. And once I've tuned in, I might clean up some dialect for readability, but more and more I want to leave the patois as is, out of a sense of respect and authenticity. Which is not to say the voice is the Texican I remember growing up with. Some, yes. The rest, I guess, is me.

As a result of writing in this voice, I'm increasingly aware of how much I censor myself. Part of this censorship stems from my desire to make Tweetie's life easier. I can repeat the mantra I used to preface the Honey Badger video in my sleep: "Some of these words are considered 'bad words' and if you say them at school you will get in trouble and get sent to the principal's office and you will have to accept the consequences." But it's not just cussing, it's not the words themselves. It's more, I think, the difference between profanity and obscenity. Perhaps because it's not expected from me, I shock people. 

But my desire to be a good role model doesn't explain why I retract my mush-mouthed contractions in emails: who does it hurt to say I'd've? Why do I feel the need to backspace and type out I would've or even I would have? If I think yeah? at the end of a sentence, why don't I include it? I'm letting my verbal bad habits hang out more.

J shared this NPR story with me, about a Cuban-American poet lamenting and celebrating the burden of bilingualism. He quotes his poem "Bilingual Blues":

psycho soy, cantando voy:
You say tomato,
I say tu madre;

I burst out laughing in recognition. The interviewer translates tu madre as "your mother," to which the poet, Firmat, says, "...it's more like saying your mama, because it's actually an abbreviation of a somewhat longer and more intricate curse, which is the worst possible curse one can utter in Spanish and which I can't tell you on [the radio]... I think inter-lingual puns are often pujas in Spanish, which are jabs. You know, sort of stabs of anger."

As someone who grew up between languages, I can say that rings so true. I often feel a rebellious burst rising up between my words: what I can and can't say, what there are and aren't words for... Firmat goes on to explain, "There are not only mother tongues. There are also father tongues, and sister tongues, and lover tongues, and brother tongues, and son tongues." And he explains how he can only curse in Spanish, but he can't say "I love you" in Spanish without feeling ridiculous. I recommend reading the transcript, it's short.

Also on NPR, there's a piece on Hispanic roles in Hollywood as seen through the disparate experiences of Rita Moreno and John Leguizamo. Moreno's discussion of West Side Story pretty much explains why I can't stand to watch the movie except with the sound off. I love the color sculpting, the shadow play, the writhing men, but I can't cope with the accents and stereotypes. According to the article, Ricardo Montalban once said, about Hispanics in Hollywood, "the door is ajar." Leguizamo adds, "yeah, you gotta kick your foot in there, then kick the other foot in, then throw somebody in there quick. That's what you gotta do, exactly."

And once you've thrown somebody in there, odds are they end up fighting for the worst, most stereotypical roles: "It'd be me and all the same dudes — Benicio Del Toro, Benjamin Bratt, Esai Morales and Jimmy Smits," he recalls. "And you'd go out there and [the roles were] all gang leaders, drug dealers, janitors, murderers. And you're like, 'All these roles? Really? Don't we contribute more?' I mean, I went to college, man. I'm an educated human being, and I know a lot of hyper-educated Latin people."

Again, I LOLd, because so often I've been like, "Again, Jimmy? Must you be ALL the Mexicans?" This article is also worth reading, but the conclusion has a slightly "bootstrapping" tone I could've done without, the radio shorthand for "conclusion about overcoming adversity yadda yadda yadda."

I have no such conclusion shorthand. Hell, I don't even have a conclusion!




cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (Tofu Is Amazing)

1. Completing a good jigsaw puzzle.

I just completed a 500-piece puzzle that I bought from a secondhand shop, so in addition to its difficulty, I had the pleasant frisson of tension that comes of wondering if all the pieces are really there. I'm buying these two next: Van Gogh's Cafe Terrace at Night and Boondock Saints II, All Saints Day. The cafe terrace is one place I visit in my dreams. And I was just complaining yesterday that there aren't enough "macho" jigsaw puzzles.

2. Buying my mom a new TV.

For Christmas we got my mom a Target gift certificate so she could buy a new TV. We knew it was something she needed from talking to my sister. After insisting we'd gone overboard, this past week she finally bought herself a flatscreen and DVD player. It's a long way from buying her a house, which has always been my dream, but it's a start.

3. Supernatural

When Mom reported that she'd finally redeemed her certificate, I said, "Yay! Now you can see Dean Winchester's freckles."

At which point, she shrieked, "Did you see the episode two weeks ago?! I almost called you, it was so good! But I didn't want to interrupt you."

"I love you, but I would have killed you," I said. "I would've reached through the phone and killed you."

4. Business Cat



5. The chorus of mariachi owls (typical pessimistic Mexicans) in Rango.



What's made you happy lately?


#
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (bruised)

Twice in the past week I've watched movies I really wanted to like, movies that featured elements dear to my heart, but that, as wholes, left me unsatisfied.

The first one, the one I actually sat all the way through, was Bajo la Sal (Under the Salt, 2008), a Mexican serial-killer mystery. This one starts off really well. During salt harvest, workers uncover a woman's dead body. She turns out to be one of several young women who've gone missing from the small town over the last five years or so.

dvd cover of bajo la sal with woman's hand sticking out of salt flat

The bright, sprawling, bleached landscape of the salt flats contrasts powerfully with the shadow looming in the characters' minds: the memory of the mass femicides committed around the maquiladoras of Juarez, Mexico. The male workers gather at a respectful distance around the body, their heads bowed. They know they are at ground zero of a tragedy. Several times, men ask the detective from the capitol if these murders might not be like what happened in Juarez. They are and they aren't. I admire how the movie invokes the femicide epidemic without sensationalizing it or exploiting it. Rather, the Juarez murders are depicted as a blight in Mexican memory; a mental bruise that isn't healing—and it shouldn't.

I also like the young main character, Victor. The son of the town mortician, Victor is not exactly coping with his mother's recent (unrelated to the serial killings) death, and his father less so. Victor is a Mexican emo/goth type, which I love because the personality is treated respectfully, without the ironic sneer that most movies aim at teen goths, especially Hispanic ones. Victor is a horror movie afficionado, but what he seems to respond to is old-school Dracula stuff, not grisly slashers. Nevertheless, Victor is clearly working something out as he makes his own homemade horror movie, a stop-motion animated slasher film called “Revenge of the Valley of the Dolls.” The lurid stop-motion work is painstakingly created with Barbie and Ken dolls, and interesting in itself, as well as for the characterization and the contrast it offers in color and pace to the rest of the film, which glides along as slowly and inexorably as an obsidian glacier.

Sadly, the film doesn't amount to much. There's no mystery as to who the killer is—and any mystery is stomped out when key dialog is repeated in multiple voiceovers. If the film is intended as a character study or coming-of-age story, then the key revelations or discoveries remain below the surface, as it were (pun!). If this were a book, I'd say the words just aren't on the page. Something deeper than the plot climax occurred, but I don't know what.

I tried to watch La Mission (2009) last night, but I got only halfway through this story of a Hispanic father who discovers his son is gay and reacts badly (to say the least). The father is played by Benjamin Bratt, who I've always liked (though in recent years he's been too thin for my tastes). The film has macho melodrama written all over it and that, plus the loving depiction of car culture, was what drew me in. But I just didn't feel it.

The movie-of-the-week style earnestness turned me off, and there was no depth to the characters. I mean, in my experience, part of what sends Hispanic fathers into homophobic rage at their gay sons is that deep down, the dads knew all along and preferred to ignore it. This papa seems genuinely stunned.

I liked that the film drew parallels between the homosocial low-rider subculture and the homosexual clubbing scene; I liked the few risks the movie took during the father-son confrontation: the son suggests the father must have some experience with gay sex after having been in prison; the father bristles at the idea of his son bottoming for a white guy. Wow. O_O

But aside from those strokes outside the lines, I didn't care about the characters or feel any urgency about their situation. These afterschool specials all have happy endings, right?

 
ETA: Today, Bradley James Nowell would've been 43. RIP, baby.

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (chevy)
from Gustavo Arellano's Ask a Mexican column in OC Weekly (the Q&A re Mexican airlines is pretty good too):

DEAR MEXICAN: Who puts the intense pressure on all adolescent Mexican boys to either shave or buzz their cranium hair, regardless of the number of scars, large ears or folds of ugly neck skin revealed?

Dirty White Boy

 

DEAR GABACHO: That suffocating menace known as "youth culture," with an assist from "prison culture" but not the "Mexican cultural expectations" your "pendejo ass culture" is insinuating. Simply put: Like any teen trend, shaved heads started with youngsters imitating their friends, who imitated their older brothers and cousins, who imitated their peers. The two great historical fashion trendsetters in Mexican-American youth culture, according to James Diego Vigil’s Barrio Gangs: Street Life and Identity in Southern California, have been prisons and the military, and both subcultures prefer a close-cropped hairstyle for men for efficiency’s sake. But if you ever see a baby with a shaved head, it’s most likely a kiddie shorn by wabby parents in the belief that a thicker head of hair would emerge, a Mexican fable as laughable as the belief by children that the wrapped Xbox caja under the Christmas tree actually contains a gaming console and not underwear and socks.

FU, Dirty White Boy!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (dancing bones)

Last night JJ surprised me by bringing home a loaf of pan de muerto from a local restaurant/bodega, La Reyna. It's adorable! It's shaped like a round person with their hands clasped in front of them, sort of like those goddess images, or a chubby Virgin Mary. It's dusted with red sugar. Alas, we cannot put it out on the ofrenda because the cats will maul it. So we shall probably gobble it up tonight!

JJ ate lunch at La Reyna and saw that they had botanas on the menu. Of course, he had to take me back there for dinner, because I grew up eating botanas and he'd never heard of them before I raved about their gooey goodness.

A botana, as I understand it, is a platter of tortilla chips smothered under beans, fajitas, peppers, onions, jalapenos, and cheese, with quesadillas on top and dollops of sour cream and guacamole. Kind of like nachos that have been so drowned you'd never know the chips were once crunchy.

I have missed botanas SO MUCH--it's been 17 years, people--that I ordered a plate without the meat, even though it felt sacrilegious. The waiter looked dubious and convinced me to add fajita-style veggies. The owner came over to talk to us and she seemed excited to find someone who knew botanas from childhood. And when the plate finally came, it was so good I could've cried. It was like going home, but better, because I didn't have to eat meat and nobody gave me any crap about it. I also had a Coke from a glass bottle, which I swear tastes better than from a can, plastic, or the machine.

I have leftovers for lunch today. I am ecstatic.

What foods take you home? Do you have to doctor them? What are your once-a-year foods, the kind you only have for special occasions?

My Ofrenda

Oct. 26th, 2010 05:11 pm
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (dancing bones)
This year, the ofrenda I've made for my grandpa includes
  • a photo of my grandpa and grandma (I'm still at odds with Gram, but Grampa wouldn't want to be without her)
  • a loteria card and the calling cards for el sol, el mundo, el corazon, el borracho (a family joke), and la muerte
  • American bingo cards and tokens
  • a sugar-skull-styled candle holder holding a pair of barber shears and a comb, and a slip of paper quoting Rick Barot ("When he died, he left behind a room full of nouns and adjectives.")
  • a postcard of Jose Guadalupe Posada's dancing skeletons
  • two Cubees I made last year, one of Michael Myers, one of the Wolfman
  • an egg-shaped white pumpkin
  • a tiny old-fashioned telephone
  • half a grapefruit
No candles yet, as the materials are so flammable. I'd also like to find some pesos (he always had so much change in his pockets, maybe on purpose because his children and then grandchildren liked to steal coins from his change jar after he fell asleep on the couch). A marranito would be nice, too. I still have time.
I'd be happy to talk about the ofrenda and its elements. If you're curious, feel free to ask.

:)
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (lightbulb)
~

curandera sells
"previously owned" caddy
clingy spirit expelled
The one sign left of Uncle Frank,
a new LED palm in her window.

~
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (chevy)


~

caddy for sale
outside the curandera's house
detailed y limpia

~

The Inspiration )
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (lightbulb)


~

My high school Spanish
hardly helps, merely sketches
this client's desires.
Algo pesado.
He points at rhino, anchor, tree
and rolls up his sleeve.
My hands say Hold up!
My head shakes I don't understand.
"But which one?" I ask.
No me importa.
He sits in the chair. No mas
quiero que no se mueva.
"No...entiendo,"
the bastion of my senior year
less helpful here.
He closes his eyes--
Quiero que recuerde su lugar--
and goes Zen Mexican.
I blink.
"Rhino it is then."



~
cafenowhere: abby from TV show NCIS, eyes closed, listening to music (abby dreaming)
~

twelve grapes at midnight
for luck in the new year, hope
we got the seedless

~

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