Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Quick response to meme from Jennifer

Jennifer tagged me with this meme last week.

1. One book that changed your life: Who can name one? William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, Ron Arias' Road to Tamazunchale, and for better or for worse, Ana Castillo's So Far from God.

2. One book that you've read more than once: I have to agree with Jennifer, Loving Pedro Infante is a pretty great, rewarding read, even when you're doing it for work. Does it count if it's in my diss? If not, I can reccommend Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials series and Garth Nix's Abhorsen series for good old-fashion YA fantasy fun.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island: Little Nemo in Slumberland: So Many Wonderful Sundays! Not only would I never get bored, this book is so huge I could probably live underneath it. So having avoided dying from exposure, I could efficiently move on to dying of starvation.

4. One book that made you laugh: Vladimir Nabokov's Pnin is about a bumbling, conceited, broken-hearted academic. I wasn't laughing at him, I was laughing with him.

5. One book that made you cry: Cleofas Jaramillo's Romance of a Little Village Girl made me weep, but only after a long, internal confrontation with the circumstances of her life and difficulty with being truthful. Jenn can attest to hard I cried when I did. A book that makes me cry right off the bat? Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony.
6. One book you wish had been written: A Colorado Version of The Texas Bug Book. Entomologically speaking, here in Colorado I'm at my wits end.

7. One book you wish had never been written: I'm a book nerd. I can't imagine wanting a book not to exist. However, I think that Madonna's Sex, the Chicken Soup for the Blah-blah Soul series, and Ann Coulter will be judged by the souls of the trees that gave their lives for these wastes of time.

8. One book you're currently reading: From Dissertation to Book by William Germano.

9. One book you've been meaning to read: I got half way through The Master and Margarita, but I lost it in the move. I'll have to replace it and finish it, since when I was last looking Margarita's husband had just been turned into a pig!

10. Six people to tag: I think that if you're one of the three people likely to read this, you've probably already done this thing. A meme reaches its natural death.

Jennifer Aniston is the One that Better Dresses

Today marks a milestone of sorts for me [Pete], as it was the last formal meeting of my Block 1 Chican@ Literature class. Once I grade their essays, I will be done for the block. Meanwhile, my thoughts are turning to very silly things...

As some of you know, this unexpected class has, unfortunately, coincided with some publication deadlines. One of these was an entry on the carpas for the Encyclopedia of Modern Drama. The editorial assistant asked me to supply six references to that, and then asked me to translate Spanish-langauge titles. This included an article by Tomas Ybarra-Frausto titled "La farandula chicana: Carpas y tandas de variedad." How to translate "farandula?"

For those non Spanish-speakers among our dwindling readership, "farandula" might be translated roughly as "the world of frivolous entertainment." To find a single word for this, I tried doing a Google search for the term and then using Google translator. I had never used this device before and was a little unprepared for the droll results. Here are some choice examples from the MSN "farandula" page.
Jennifer Aniston is the one that better dresses, according to “People”
At the time of dressing, nobody like Jennifer Aniston, according to assures the magazine “People” that already its annual list of the best ones published, and the worse ones, dresses of Hollywood. Aniston is “most natural” of all, in opinion of the readers who this year were in charge to elaborate the annual list that publishes this weekly. Its reign in the fashion is followed close by by Halle Berry, also nicknamed “the classic one” by its style at the time of dressing. And thirdly the Hispanic young person Jessica Alba locates itself, also considered like “last” in elegance and the one that is more in fashion.

Or how about this?
Jennifer Lopez loves a baby
The actress and singer, who is been working in several projects with his husband, Marc Anthony, said that now she wants to do it in one special one: a baby

Or finally...
Britney Spears has another man
Spears gave to light to its second son early Tuesday in a hospital of Los Angeles, according to several magazines specialized in the world of the entertainment.

OK, folks, I admit to being a little punchy, but you would be too if you had just prepared and taught a semester's worth of an entirely new class in three weeks, all on four days notice--while preparing an article for publication.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Seeing the Devil

As many of you know, I (Pete) found out that I would be teaching an introductory Chicano literature course four days before the semester started. Since then, I have been struggling to keep my head above water and, as a result, haven't been blogging. Recent comments by Hugo Chavez about the current U.S. administration, however, made me remember my promise to post the James Baldwin quote from our wedding ceremony in context. So here it is, from a commentary on The Exorcist.

The film terrified me on two levels. The first ... involved my deliberate attempt to leave myself open to it, and to the extent, indeed, of reliving my adolescent holy-roller terrors. It was very important for me not to pretend to have surmounted the pain and terror of that time of my life, very important not to pretend that it left no mark on me. It marked me forever. In some measure I encountered the abyss of my own soul, the labyrinth of my destiny: these could never be escaped, to challenge these imponderables being, precisely, the heavy, tattered glory of the gift of God.

To enounter oneself is to encounter the other: and this is love. If I know that my soul trembles, I know that yours does, too: and, if I can respect this, both of us can live. Neither of us, truly, can live without the other: a statement which would not sound so banal if one were not endlessly compelled to repeat it, and, further, to believe it, and act on that belief. My friend was quite right when he said, "So, we must be careful--lest we lose our faith--and become possessed."

For, I have seen the devil, by day and by night, and have seen him in you and in me: in the eyes of the cop and the sheriff and the deputy, the landlord, the housewife, the football player: in the eyes of some junkies, the eyes of some preachers, the eyes of some governors, presidents, wardens, in the eyes of some orphans, and in the eyes of my father, and in my mirror. It is that moment when no other human being is real for you, nor are you real for yourself. This devil has no need of dogma--though he can use them all--nor does he need any historical justification, history being so largely his invention. He does not levitate beds, or fool around with little girls: we do.

The mindless and hysterical banality of the evil presented in The Exorcist is the most terrifying thing about the film. The Americans should certainly know more about evil than that; if they pretend otherwise, they are lying, and any black man, and not only blacks--many, many others, including white children--can call them on this lie; he who has been treated as the devil recognizes the devil when they meet. At the end of The Exorcist, the demon-racked little girl murderess kisses the Holy Father, and she remembers nothing: she is departing with her mother, who will, presumably, soon make another film. The grapes of wrath are stored in the cotton fields and migrant shacks and ghettoes of this nation, and in the schools and prisons, and in the eyes and hearts and perceptions of the wretched everywhere, and in the ruined earth of Vietnam, and in the orphans and the widows, and in the old men, seeing visions, and in the young men, dreaming dreams: these have already kissed the bloody cross and will not bow down before it again: and have forgotten nothing.

So that's the context for the quote, in which the "us" in "Neither of us, truly, can live without the other" refers as much to groups divided by ideologies of race as to any two individuals. There's a lot that can be said about this quote, but one thing I think we can take away from it is that Baldwin then knew the Devil better than either Bush or Chavez does today.

The source is Baldwin, James. "The Devil Finds Work" In The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction 1948-1985,pp/ 635-636. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985. Someday I may post the story of how I bought this book for $10.00 in downtown El Paso, but this is enough for now. The only other thing I can say is that everything I have read about contemporary life in Vietnam suggests that the generation that has grown up there after the war is all too happy to forget the past. I wonder if this will be true of Iraqis.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Call a waaahmbulance.

Okay! I know that anyone reading this will play "Cry Me a River" on the world's smallest violin, but I have made a Scientific! discovery.
I now have three points of data that suggest that the beginnings of fellowships are kind of depressing. Consider:

1)Fall, 1997. At the beginning of fellowship # 1 I watch reruns of "The Golden Girls" obsessively, and force college boyfriend to reconsider my worth as a girlfriend. Am deeply shamed when said worth comes up to not much, considering "Golden Girls" obsession, and also, fear of busdriver.

2) Fall 2004. At the beginning of fellowship # 2, I develop fear of squirrels, and the mailman. I make the mistake of telling people about this.

3) Fall 2006. Fellowship #3. New house, new town, no t.v. The cats hate me.
Nobody in town knows my name, but the student loan people already know where I live.
I find myself repeating the phrase, "un tejon tejano tejiendo" over and over in my head, but not being able to proceed from that.

So, three points of data is a trend, right? But soon I will embrace my costly isolation, decide that the Golden Girls are better than any dang boyfriend ever could be, and tell the cats to take a hike, and fear no squirell evermore. I shall become the knitting Texan badger of my dreams. The end.