Saturday, May 17, 2008

CINEreactionRANT Numero DOS: Luis Valdez, Corky Gonzalez, I Am Joaquin, and Zoot Suit

My Riverside Mexican Cinema class leaves the feminist stylings of María Novaro and Danzón for the Chicano tapestries of Luis Valdez this week; here is our screening for TUESDAY, I Am Joaquin a film collage riffing off the poetry of Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzalez!

part one

part two

the writer


Your typed, proofwritten, double-spaced, 250-word (1 page, double-spaced), cleverly titled response to this prompt is due IN CLASS, Thursday, May 22. NO ONLINE POSTINGS, NO ONLINE NADA.... You are welcome to include along with your writing an illustration, drawing, photoshopped collage, sketch, painting, photograph that echoes your fine prose! Here's the prompt:

Having immersed yourself in MEXICAN film all semester, we jump-cut this week into the minds and imaginations of Chicanos--Mexicans of American descent--with Luis Valdez's adaptation of I AM JOAQUIN and his cinematic adaptation of his stage-play ZOOT SUIT. As we move from the liminal space of Mexico to the United States, what stays the same and what changes with regard to these cinematic projects!? Be brief, but SPECIFIC and DYNAMIC.... write better than you can and as if your life depended on it!

Salma Hayek and the Seductive Hallucination

As I make my way around the country telling the tale of Tex[t]-Mex, I get to talk to some incredible students and people--mostly students as it is the university circuit where I ply my peculiar trade. One of the questions I get most often has to do with what the "Seductive Hallucination" in the subtitle of my book is all about, the hope being, in many cases, that if I do my job right and expose the various and myriad strains of Mexican stereotypes, that they just might go away.

Let's get this straight for the record: that's a hallucination too. Or, to put it another way, let me say this: hallucinations are real. Whether or not the person witnessing is in their "right mind" or not, they are very very very real and material for the person who senses their presence.

We are not talking here about whether or not ghosts exist, that's fodder for another blog. We are talking about the magic of repeatable entertainments--trifles like Speedy Gonzales and Salma Hayek (one animated, one flesh, both "real") that we can cue up on our Tivos and watch again and again and again.

Hayek is most interesting here (and I talk about this in the Lupe Vélez chapter that appears in both Tex[t]-Mex and Bananas to Buttocks) because she is both avatar and producer--both Pinocchio and Geppetto, to re-introduce a favorite metaphor of mine.

In any event, fans of Hayek, not necessarily of her skills as a major Hollywood producer, are all over the internet. I found this image of Hayek, a collage of screengrabs from her appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (whom I loathe!). I turned it into a scrollable mural of sorts--an allegory of "Mexicans" in America in the 21st century.

Let's close with a clip from Julie Taymor's Frida (2002) in a dance sequence featuring Hayek as Frida, and Ashley Judd (!) as Tina Modotti.

I am a fan of Judd, but I suspect Tina Modotti might have been ambivalent about this casting.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Will Elder, RIP

Rest in Peace Will Elder, maddest MAD artist of them all, and (shhhhhhhh, don't tell any academics that know me) as big an influence in my thinking as Jacques Derrida! Long may your art deform and derange eyes across the world. is on this story as well.

Lilies of the Field, aka A Meditation on African/Mexican Solidarity

I will have time soon to write more about this but Lilies of the Field, along with being a sentimental heart-mover, is the first allegorical embracing of Mexican/African solidarity from Hollywood in the 20th Century. Amazing

Here's Sidney Poitier's Academy Award acceptance speech! "First Negro"

In these days of alleged and real Mexican/African American warring, it is worth the time to witness this gentle film--complex, edgy, sentimental, and real.

Aztec Children

Another one of the unwritten chapters of Tex[t]-Mex: Seductive Hallucination of the "Mexican" in America concerns the phenomena of "Aztecs" or "Aztec Children" in itinerant carnivals and circus "freak-shows" from the late 1800s to the 1950s. It is as if the pre-historic figuration of the "Mexican" in American mass culture (pre-bandit), was already pejorative--if crime, here, was not the focus of the trope, "retardation" or "deformity" was. More on this to follow.

The frame above is from Tod Browning's amazing Freaks.

cineREACTIONrant UNO: Re-Imagining the Nation--Maria Novaro and the Textualization of the "Mexican"

I just started teaching a very cool group of undergraduates at UCRiverside in a course on Mexican Cinema entitled Imagining the Nation. This crack squad of 37 academic souls needs a place to write their responses to María Novaro's Danzón while I am sorting out my UC blackboard privileges and this is as good a place as any. Let me ask that none of my regular or lurking Tex[t]-Mex Galleryblog readers leave a comment on this entry as it is reserved for students in my class.

Here is your the first Imagining the Nation response prompt from yours truly....

1. Watch the following María Novaro Sin Dejar Huella (2000) YouTube video carefully; watch it once with the sound on, and once with the sound off; it really does not matter whether you have command of Spanish (or English, for that matter) in screening this clip! The key is to watch closely. Here's the clip:

Having watched this trailer for Novaro's more recent cinematic project, and having carefully screened/watched/devoured Danzón, write a two to three paragraph rant/critique as a "comment" by clicking the comment link below. In your rant, identify elements of Novaro's cinematic eye (techniques, themes, ideas, tendencies) that remain constant from the period of Danzón to that of Sin Dejar Huella; if you have the time and desire, also briefly outline those elements of her work that have evolved or changed. If, for whatever reason, the YouTube video above does not work on your system, merely write a two to three paragraph response that analyzes what you deem to be THE pivotal scene of Danzón.

note: UCR students--it is essential that you leave your name on your comment below; if, for privacy reasons, you wish to leave your name off the blog, merely leave your initials--I will be able to identify you from the roster.

ps: let's not bring laptops to class anymore unless you have a medical issue and note from your doctor! gracias!!!


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Raiding Bandit Mexicans, circa 1875

The internet never fails to amaze--look what I just ran across from an 1875 issue of The New York Times.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Qué Onda Guëro! The Pinnacle of Southland Xicanosmosis

Nobody exposes the vivid syncretism of the SoCal cultural tapestry like Beck. And of all his songs, the one that is nearest and dearest to the heart of XicanOsmosis hunting Chicanos (and to regular music fans as well) is his Qué Onda, Guëro, officially listed as "Qué Onda Guero" on the Guero [sic] CD. I am particularly fond of the wikipedia listing for Guero:

Güero (pron. IPA ['wero] sounds like "Wher-roh" in English) is a Mexican slang term in Spanish for a pale-skinned or blonde-haired person. Beck cites having been referred to as a "guero" throughout his childhood, lending the title of the album and the track "Qué Onda Guero [sic]". (In Mexican slang, ¿Qué honda güero? means "what's up, blond boy?" or "hey, white boy". See List of Chicano Caló words and expressions)
I have looked up and down the internet for an official version of the Qué Onda Guero video to embed here, but it is not to be had; we will have to settle for this "live" version from an MTV special. What's funny or peculiar about this version is to listen to how gringo/gabacho Beck sounds as opposed to the studio released version of the song--all the cholos keeping him honest in the studio must have been sleepin' ésa y éso when Beck stormed onto MTV to perform this version! Still and all, I love the guy--the Bowie of his generation.

Beck - Qué Onda Guero

also, here's his latest take on digital culture:

If you know where I can find an embeddable version of Qué Onda, Guëro, drop me a line.

More for Eyegiene, the Follow-up to Tex[t]-Mex: Chris Ware

Diverse and sundry pages of Eyegiene, the manuscript I am presently preparing for the University of Texas Press, will tilt their eyes at the work of Chris Ware. Here's pulled off the pages of, a recent American Life episode "inked" by Ware:

Borderlore At it Again

Our various and sundry explorations of XicanOsmosis have us thinking about art a lot these days. That semiotic wanderlust is embodied today by a quick link to University of Arizona Professor Maribel Alvarez's Borderlore extravaganza where she has a cool piece and interview excerpt with Doze Green.

Profe Alvarez's latest take on the marriage of Chinese Fortune Cookies and Mexican Tacos is delicious as well--that's a XicanOsmosis you can sink your teeth into.

Don't forget to tip your waiters.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Influenza of the Sciences in the Prose of a Cultural Studies Maven

Until I hit Organic Chemistry at the University of Texas at Austin in 1981, I knew I was going to be a cancer researcher--that was to be the capstone of my career as a biology major. Alas, the intervention of a 500-student classroom and a demented bio professor ended this career in the sciences. That doesn't mean this professor of literature and cultural studies still doesn't howl plaintive paeans to the world of petri dishes, vials, and viruses!

Most of the major conceptual apparatuses in my work are lifts from biology--the worst and latest offender? Eyegiene.

So it is that I point you to the New York Times and a great interactive feature they posted today that will give hypochondriacs all the ammo they need to ruin their day.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Orson Welles's TOUCH OF EVIL and the Gnarly Dynamics of the Border

No film (excuse the hyperbole), no film figures the border better than Orson Welles's Touch of Evil. "Figures" requires italics in the sentence previous (and scare-quotes here) as the verb is dynamically problematic--Welles figures, that is, depicts the border; he "figures it out"; but also, and, perhaps, most importantly, he figures it cinematically, that is, he translates the Mexico/U.S. border into a movie artifact, a semiotic/semantic conundrum that is every bit as complex as the real deal. At least, that is my thesis in Tex[t]-Mex--that and outing Stephen Heath (to whom I owe unpayable intellectual debts), outing Heath's problematic relationship to "Mexicans" and Mexicans. But enough writing, spy with me again the memorable, infamous opening sequence of Touch of Evil--this from the "restored" 2000 version of the 1958 classic: