Wednesday, July 29, 2009
This is John Paul after skateboarding from Hercules to San Pablo--for those not in the know, that's one heck of a ride!
Thank JP for keepin' the faith
This forest of paper follows Willie’s odyssey as he moves back and forth along the California/Baja border. He thrills voyeuristically while peeking through its rusted gloryholes.
He waxes lyrical on Brown Buffalos on both sides of the iron wall struggling to survive. Drips that pale-skin guilt all over those uncountable souls who grab and claw across hell with the promise of stinking greenbacks. Snap shoots away at the life that the rotten-to-the core capitalism lays to waste; those with arms wrenched backward forced out of dire economic need to unclutch from loved ones only to end up buried in a field of clotted dirt and with a cross: “No Identificado”.
Aesthetics aside—I mean the guy’s not exactly getting contracts for his looks—this is no fault to the author here.
It seems he’s done his homework. During the 12 years it took him to experience and write (oh, and photograph) the Brown borderlands, he seems to have left no stone unturned: he’s licked toxic salt-water lakes and irrigation ditches; Brown-faced to infiltrate maquiladoras.
Maybe he’s in the limelight because people can pronounce Vollmann better than, I don’t know, Rodriguez, Grijalva, or Urrea. Say with me: "Oo-Ray-ah"—how hard can it be?
Across the Wire picked up the “New York Times Notable Book” but do you think he made a full spread in the New York Times? Not. Spread across today’s Arts section: “William T. Vollmann: An Author Without Borders.” Where do we sign up for his passport?
I mention Urrea ("Oo-Ray-ah") but he’s hit the mainstream media jackpot relatively speaking. Think of all that research by Brown scholars that serve up knowledge our history, politics, culture. Wouldn’t it be nice to see names cranking out on mainstream media ticker-tapes such as:
“ARTURO ALDAMA” (Disrupting Savagism)
“RICHARD T. RODRIGUEZ” (Next of Kin)
“PANCHO MCFARLAND” (Chicano Rap),
“Guisela Latorre” (Walls of Empowerment)
Vollmann’s not the only one willing to go that extra mile for knowledge about our world. We’re curious as all hell and a few of us, even, are able to spend the necessary time to research and write to get the word out. While those border-patrollers on the payroll of Bertelsmann Inc. like the Vollmanns of the world, we seem forever doomed to mark the earth: no-identificados.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
It's usually the opposite--even in today's day and age. So we're blitzed with a "Run for the Border" ad campaign and a Spanglish accented Chihuahua barking up a ¡Yo Quiero Taco Bell!
And when Latinas appear with more on their minds than Prada and bubble baths, they're asexual and more than ready to serve: the beautiful and smart America Ferrara made into wide-eyed for the American Pie, frumpy ("ugly") Betty Suarez.
The guys, as we all know, aren't given much more play on their leash. Latinos are either psychotic (and usually psychotic and queer together), perennially turned on, underhanded, harmful, and deceitful, and/or buffoonish. On the network (and now syndicated), for instance, in The 70s Show, we have Miami-born Colombian/Venezuelan, Wilmer Valderama, cast not as a Latino (as if there weren't any in the mid-West in the '70s), but as "Fez" the generic Brown (Persian?) foreign exchange student. As second-fiddle to the clean cut, chisel featured white guys (including the character played by ex-model Ashton Kutcher), he gets the giggles with his malapropistic bumbles.
And, you might recall NBC's flash-in-the-pan Kingpin where Latinos are either shooting each other, doing and/or pushing drugs, or feeding human appendages to pet tigers. What were the producers thinking when they had Jacob Vargas (Michoacan, Mexican) play the role of Ernesto--a wildly irrational and glaringly crass, gold-medallion and cowboy-hat wearing, whip-carrying, man-child who lives lavishly in a Liberace-styled garish mansion; his hot tempered flashes and violent acts (he feeds a DEA's body parts to his pet tiger, for instance) are seemingly calmed only by the paternal embrace of the clean-cut (and Caucasian featured), Ivy League educated Miguel Cadena (played by Colombian/Puerto Rican Yancey Arias); unlike Ernesto's crass kingpin ways, Miguel uses more "respectable", corporate savvy means to infiltrate new drug markets. (Notably, to garner maximum profits, NBC-owned Telemundo dubbed the series into Spanish.)
But I haven't finished, yet, with being up on that high horse. I mentioned network t.v., but of course, the Silver Screen also cranks out Latino cut-outs. It has Eva Longoria, increasingly omnipresent, playing a nagging, upwardly mobile Chicana, Sylvia, in David Ayer's Harsh Times. She wants her hubby, Mike Alonzo (played by Freddy Rodriguez), to grow up and get a job, instead of hanging out with reprobate, Jim Luther Davis (played by Christian Bale).
In Jared Hess's Nacho Libre, Jack Black plays the Mexican priest by day luchador ("Nacho") by night; Browned up and spilling his lines in a truncated Spanglish, certainly brought in dollars: its opening weekend tallied 30-plus million bucks.
Around the same time, but in a much more metaphysically serious vein, Darrin Aronofsky's The Fountain hit the big screens. Here, we have yet another unreeling of Anglo fantasy make-believe: modern-day oncologist, Tommy (Hugh Jackman) morphs into X-Box super-humanly fit Spanish conquistador, Tomas Creo, who is attacked by a marauding, tattooed to the nines, dagger wielding Mayan high priest.
Not one to short change the details, Aronofsky spent part of his thirty-plus million dollar budget to capture that authentic Mayan feel by transporting Mayan peoples to Montreal as extras on the set. The film's end tells all: Tommy/Tomas reaches some sort of Nirvanic bliss, Yoga lotus positioned in his New Age styled biospheric spacecraft, he's enveloped in a blinding white light.
Of course, nothing comes close to Mel Gibson's condescending, sophomoric, and racist Apocalypto--a film that, among other things, overtly celebrates the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores, collapses about a century and a half of Mayan history into a day in the life of (Jaguar Paw), and, depicts Mayan society as (human) hemoglobin lusty, and not as the sophisticated agricultural (traces of their incredible and extensive irrigation systems can be seen from satellites) society.
Think of the lighting in the sequence when John Smith (Pitt) carries his wounded wife (Blanchett) from village hut to Red Cross helicopter (that la pieta comes to mind isn't incidental, Gonzalez Iñárritu had the crew take this shot 30-plus times) in contrast with the majority of shadowed and flat lighting that follows the Mexican nanny/maid, Amelia (he requested that actress Adriana Barraza put on 30 pounds to look more the part) whose irrational "incompetence" leads to the near death of the golden niños in a US/Mexico arid no-man's land.
I was asked in a recent radio-show interview (MARFA www.marfapublicradio.org.) if there were any Latino superheroes in films today. With the exception of Bryan Cox’s adaptation of Javier Hernandez’s comic book, El Muerto with Valderama playing the Latino superhero, I had to answer with a definitive, NO.
While Latino comic book authors are tearing it up with their resplendent array of Latino characters (superhero or otherwise), we are still haunted by a rather slim portfolio of iconographic imagery in the cultural mainstream: the nagged-to-the-bone, ESL stuttering Ricky Ricardo's (Mike Alonzo), lascivious, comical arriba-arriba Speedy's (Jack Black in Frito-Bandito Brown face), blood thirsty savage, irrational man-child (Ernesto), the hypersexualized dark and dangerous (Soderbergh's casting of Benjamin Bratt as cartel kingpin, Juan Obregon, in Traffic), and the effeminate and/or psychopathic queer (the assassin, Francisco Flores, in Traffic); media conglomerates still get a lot of play out of those age-old stereotypes of Latinas as either child-bearing hipped virgins (America Ferrara as Betty Suarez), money-grubbing whores (Eva Longoria as Gabrielle Solis), or too-well fed mammy-types (De La Garza and Barraza as Amelia).
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Rhode Montijo's dishing out some of his trademark touch-the-kid-soul comics: http://skeletown.com/
Finally, just a reminder that you can find my latest mini comic online for free here!:
Who needs words when you've got Rhode's masterful eye getting head-body proportions and gesture so right that you feel the meaning of the character and scene. It gets me every time. . .
He'll be at 2009 with other Latino author-artist compadres like (Sonambulo), Jaime "Jimmy" Portillo (Gabriel), (Burrito). . .