Saturday, January 19, 2008

Wow--Stage 6 Studio

I stumbled across an amazing new site for websurfing cinema buffs--theorists, cineastes, and film-geeks alike; it is called Stage 6 and it features high resolution clips and trailers.

nota bene: you may have to download and install divx software to see these clips!
warning: some of these files are huge and will take ages to load if you are not on a decent broadband server.

Here's a scene from Gilda starring Rita Hayworth, aka Margarita Carmen Cansino--it's the pivotal scene from the film where Gilda's erotic theatrics un-nerve Glenn Ford, pushing his confused character, Johnny Farrell, a bi-sexual grifter, to the breaking point!

Bourgie Mexican Americans, the Newspaper and the Bigtime!

I don't know about you, but if you grew up in Laredo, Texas, the "bigtime" was having an appearance in Elizabeth Sorrell's society column in The Laredo Times's society page. But the really bourgie high society/sosiégate real deal always was going down across the river, in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, in their society pages, now called Rio, in El Mañana. Imagine my surprise then to find me and mi familia splashed across their pages! I can now die in peace!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

" 'B' is for 'Beaner'":Clothing, Stereotypes, and the New Economy

Just a quick minute--time enough to share a link to a Chicago Tribune story by Oscar Avila from Mexico on Naco clothing, aka More on this soon.

The NaCo Manifesto is pure art:

"Naco is originally a derogative term used by upper and middle class Mexicans to describe things and people they felt were way beneath them in terms of hipness, taste and economic status. It's usually employed as a synonym for "poor & ignorant", but Naco-ness knows no economic or educational boundaries. Naco-ness is about complete earnestness. The typical Naco is very passionate bout his/hers likes. They will argue for hours on end that Quiet Riot is, indeed, the best band ever, after Creedence Clearwater Revival, of course. Their dislikes are irrelevant. Naco-ness is a style that goes beyond kitsch, camp or plain old cheesiness. It is very spiritual in its acceptance of the Self, and so, if one's Self wants to dress in unbuttoned brightly colored shiny shirts, skin-tight faded black jeans, gold chains, white socks and black shoes, topped off by a magnificent mullet, so be it. Naco is more a state of mind. It's more a self assured disregard for what others think is cool without being arrogant or closeminded. Naco-ness is about being your own person regardless of if you're ever in the right or not. Ultimately, Naconess is about being yourself..."

More on the dynamics of NaCo--a blend of, dada, surrealism, agit-prop savvy, stategic essentialism, DFchic, and web 2.0 ballsy-ness (or, to be fair, inyourfaceovaries) is here.

The Mexican Mothership esta aqui!


Here's the entire story by Avila, in plain-text, as the Trib-link is limiting some readers to an annoying subscriber page:,0,2184802.story

Wearing the stereotypes set by the U.S.
With T-shirt slogans such as 'Brown is the new white,' the cheeky NaCo clothing line looks to bring Mexican culture level with the pervasive American pop culture.

By Oscar Avila
January 13, 2008

The land that produced Diego Rivera and Carlos Fuentes should not have an inferiority complex about its cultural contributions.

But growing up in Tijuana, Edoardo Chavarin chafed under the bombardment of culture from other countries, especially his northern neighbor: Bruce Willis billboards towering over leafy plazas, Mexican rockers trying to look and sound like Robert Smith of The Cure.

With that chip on his shoulder, Chavarin helped found NaCo, a clothing line that does not flee the onslaught of American pop culture but argues that Mexico's is equally essential -- not just the meticulous murals and romantic folk tunes but also the trashy and disposable components that belong more on E! than in an art gallery.

Mexican culture came into its own in 2007, thanks to a breakthrough by three filmmakers at the Academy Awards. But even that success came with a touch of bitterness. As I interviewed young members of the Mexican film scene, they grumbled that directors Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron had to leave Mexico and buy into Hollywood to find their success.

The NaCo line, hatched in 1999 by Chavarin and fellow Mexican Robby Vient while they attended art school in California, looks to even the score. The name stands for Nacido Corrido ("born ordinary," in Spanish).

The abbreviation also refers to "naco," a slang term that loosely translates as "uncool" or "tacky." The term has a class connotation, usually coming from upper-class Mexicans to refer to poor, unrefined people from the countryside.

The NaCo manifesto, according to its Web site, is "very spiritual in its acceptance of the Self, and so, if one's Self wants to dress in unbuttoned brightly colored shiny shirts, skin-tight faded black jeans, gold chains, white socks and black shoes, topped off by a magnificent mullet, so be it."

It is impossible to get the NaCo joke unless you are Mexican or know Mexico. But it also is impossible to understand the humor unless you have been schooled in American and European pop culture. And by culture, I mean the stuff that is more profane than sacred, the slang of bar stool conversations or battered cassette tapes.

One shirt says "Chilangolandia" in the same typeface as the Disneyland logo but using the slang term for Mexico City residents, chilangos. Some shirts take more political slants, including: "Brown is the new white."

Another NaCo shirt reads "Judas Tadeo." The typeface is a direct copy of the heavy-metal band Judas Priest. But the name refers to St. Jude, a saint so widely venerated in Mexico that his feast day draws tens of thousand of pilgrims each year to a Mexico City church.

Judas Priest's Rob Halford never had groupies this devoted.

"It's taking something American, but it's making a Latino joke about it," said Chavarin, 32. "So Latinos are in on a joke that Americans don't understand. All of a sudden, instead of being below them, they are above them."

Another T-shirt shows the iconic Che Guevara image with a red clown's nose and the caption: "Chepillin." The shirt is an homage to Cepillin, arguably Mexico's most famous TV clown.

One of the most popular shirt logos is "Estar Guars," written in the font of the 1970s blockbuster with Darth Vader. The pronunciation is in Spanish but it gives you two words in English (English with a Mexican accent, to be exact).

This is post-Spanglish thinking. This is English spoken by the guy fresh off the farm from Michoacan, not the guy in a suit in a Mexico City office park who attended a Berlitz course.

"I might have a bad pronunciation or an accent," Chavarin said. "But I should be proud of it and not hide it.

"It's about embracing your culture. Yes, I say 'Estar Guars.' Yes, I say 'Pecsi' [for Pepsi]. I don't need to be embarrassed," said the bilingual Chavarin.

As families continue the back-and-forth between Mexico and the United States, the NaCo line speaks to cross-pollination, of a young man cruising the parking lot of a Waukegan apartment complex with banda music coming out of his pickup truck and then returning to a village in Jalisco with a Beck CD.

This fall, the NaCo line reached more mainstream consumers when a few Macy's and Urban Outfitters stores sold the clothes on a trial basis. The company hopes to launch free-standing stores in the U.S., possibly including in Chicago.

Chavarin isn't in any hurry to run away from stereotypes of Mexico, producing clothing that features quesadilla stands, masked Mexican wrestlers, telenovelas, even ironic and humorous spins on Mexican drug lords.

"When you embrace something," Chavarin said, "I think the taboo is gone."


Oscar Avila covered Latin America for the Tribune in 2007, based in Mexico City.

The Envelope Please.... Tex[t]-Mex Selected as ALA/Choice "Outstanding Academic Title, 2007"

".... and I want to thank all the special, beautiful people
who made this all possible....."

I was floored when my UT Press publicist and all around publishing diva Colleen Devine emailed me the news that Choice, a publication of the American Library Association, had selected Tex[t]-Mex as an "Outstanding Academic Title" for 2007. After the review they published last October, calling my humble tome "a must read for media/communication professionals and all who wish to debunk the misinformation machinery," you would think there wouldn't be enough love left in the realm of librarians for more, but with this selection, they've kicked it up another notch.

Not surprisingly, librarians now loom large in all my fantasies!

More seriously, I have to hand it to editor-in-chief Theresa May, again, for picking Tex[t]-Mex out of its decades-long limbo and helping to bring it to light of day; and a big abrazo of course for Lisa Tremaine, who designed the beast, and to Nancy Warrington, who edited it, making me sound smarter than I am.

So what does this all mean?*
It means that a mass cultural study by the name of Tex[t]-Mex: Seductive Hallucination of the "Mexican" in America was awarded the designation ‘Outstanding Academic Title’ 2007 by the American Library Association--this annoucement appeared in the January 2008 issue of Choice, ALA’s premier review journal for academic librarians. Previously reviewed by Choice Reviews Online in the June, 2007, Tex[t]-Mex was rated as "essential." A full listing of Outstanding Academic Titles is available from Choice Reviews Online, an ALA/ACRL publication, available by subscription.

Every year, Choice subject editors single out for recognition the most significant print and electronic works reviewed in Choice during the previous calendar year. Appearing annually in Choice's January issue, this prestigious list of publications reflects the best in scholarly titles and attracts attention from the academic library community. The 2007 feature includes 646 titles in 54 disciplines and subsections. In awarding OUTSTANDING ACADEMIC TITLE status, the editors apply several criteria to reviewed titles:
  • overall excellence in presentation and scholarship
  • importance relative to other literature in the field
  • distinction as a first treatment of a given subject in book or electronic form
  • originality or uniqueness of treatment
  • value to undergraduate students
  • importance in building undergraduate library collections
In publishing the OUTSTANDING ACADEMIC TITLE feature, Choice acknowledges and honors the authors, editors, and publishers of these works for their vital contribution to the scholarly endeavor.
Before the music starts to play me off the stage, I want to thank the Academy--of librarians--for selecting Tex[t]-Mex for 2007. I kind of like to think that the ghosts of Pancho Villa, Frida Kahlo, Cesar Chavez, Rosario Castellanos, Severo Sarduy, Jorge Luis Borges and my beautiful Daddy are up the heavens laughing, toasting me with a tequila shot for my luck and good fortune. The real thanks, in the end, go to all my students and friends from the University of Texas at Austin, Cornell University, the University of Connecticut, Storrs, San Diego State University and at the Foundation for International Education, London--places all where I have had the chance to hang my academic sombrero. Without their dynamic contributions in class, I NEVER would have had the wherewithal to finish the Sisyphean task of publishing this volume.

update 1/15/08

I just discovered that Tex[t]-Mex won its ALA award in the category of "film studies." This means that this once 20th Century Latin Americanist and Chicano Literature researcher who dabbled in continental philosophy and post-colonial theory has completed his makeover into a full-on cinema geek! Look out J. Hoberman, Roger Ebert, Kaja Silverman, and Laura Mulvey, here I come!

[*] I cribbed most of this set-off material from a fellow winner here and to whose publicity hacks I am in debt!