Spring 2012 starts with an homage to love, labor, family, and Mattel

There’s a first for everything and this spring’s first is a personal essay published in Doveglion Press. “Barbie’s Gotta Work” is about love, labor, and ironing underwear for golf fanatics in east county San Diego.

Here’s an excerpt:

Barbie’s Gotta Work
By Rashaan Alexis Meneses

Under the most surprising contexts, I’m constantly reminded of the efforts my parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins have contributed for the sake of our family. In 1930, my maternal grandfather arrived from Limisawa, a small island in the Gulf of Leyte where Magellan landed and held the first Filipino mass. With nothing but a pail of adobo in his hand and in serious need of a warm coat, no sea breeze or monsoon could have prepared him for the San Francisco chill that greeted him in his new home. Before arriving, he had raised and supported his brothers and sisters by managing their small family farm in the Phillippines. With my grandmother working at his side as well in the States, my grandfather juggled three jobs while raising his children.

Born in California, my paternal grandmother shuttled across the Central Valley following the harvests as many Mexican migrant families do. She doesn’t count her adolescent days picking tomatoes and prunes as official jobs because every kid in her family and in the surrounding neighborhoods worked the fields. For my grandma, hop-picking was the perfect excuse to get out of the house and meet the young, military-rated 4F men who committed backbreaking labor on the hopyards…

Read the entire piece here.

Image from Jemboy’s World

“Tropical Island Fun with Barbie and Miko” January 26, 2009

The Barbie Travel Agent Set was a surprise gift from Santa who, ironically, had designs to usher and initiate me into Third Wave Feminism:

Image from The Henry Ford Museum, “Happy 50th Birthday, Barbie!” March 2009

Radio, podcasts, and interviews on Art, Culture, History, Science, Politics, and more

Recently my Pa asked suggestions for good radio shows about Art. Here are some of my favorite go-to sites. These links always inspire my writing and teaching. Let me know what you think and help us add to the list.

In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg– he brings in top scholars and academics to discuss art, literature, science, and history. There’s an undeniable Western slant, but the discussions are always riveting and the participants often argue, which is entertaining.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/in-our-time/

Simon Schama on BBC 4– art historian who’s endlessly fascinating
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/programmes/people/VGVmL25hbWUvc2NoYW1hLCBzaW1vbiAoaGlzdG9yaWFuKQ

Terrence McNally– he doesn’t really cover art but his guest speakers are the leading thinkers and writers on politics, culture, environmental studies, global issues, etc, and the topics are always urgent.
http://temcnally.podomatic.com/

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Image from Web TV Hub

FORATV– I make my students watch videos of authors we’re reading on this site, looks like they have some good art interviews
http://fora.tv/subtopic/arts

TED talks– Hands down the most comprehensive site for interviews with all the leading international and national thinkers, movers, and shakers. This is an incredibly comprehensive and popular site. I subscribe to their weekly newsletter, which is worth it cause you can see what the latest talks are and click on any that you want to hear. This is an essential resource that I check regularly. Very, very inspiring.
http://www.ted.com/talks

And, just for kicks, here’s a clip on RSA animate, which I’m currently addicted to, with Slavoj Zizek’s First as Tragedy, Then as Farce:

GoodReads Review on Chris Abani

Graceland Graceland by Abani, Chris

My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
“Writers are dangerous,” so says A.S. Byatt, and when you read Chris Abani you see exactly how the truth can kill. Abani’s stories show us life balanced on the blade of a knife. His novel, Graceland, chronicles a dark page of Nigeria’s history as we follow a young boy learning to live and love in the turbulent eighties. Graceland opens with a nod to Langston Hughes’ “A Dream Deferred.” Elvis, our young Nigerian protagonist, desperately wants to be a dancer, and in the midst of war and political revolution, this dream dries up, festers like a sore, and decays with the death that surrounds him.

Graceland, like Jessica Hagedorn’s novels Dogeaters or Dream Jungle, crams fistfuls of characters into bustling Third World nightmares. Whether its Manila or Lagos, each soul, for better or for worse, is forced to angle their own path to survival. Graceland is an Inferno on earth, and Abani’s hero, Elvis, follows the footsteps of Florentine pilgrim, Dante. As Elvis matures from self indulgent and naive boy to awakened man, he’s initiated into the sinful ways of his world, and, like Dante, he sees firsthand how degrees of sin match degrees of survival. Though unlike our Tuscan journeyman, Elvis is granted two guides, Redemption and the King of Beggars. Each play tug-o-war with Elvis’ conscience. Redemption, who entangles Elvis into a life of crime, lifts the veil of innocence for us and our hero when he asks, “So are you telling me dat stealing bread from bakery to feed yourself and killing some boy is de same? Everything got degree.”

As in Inferno, the one pure source of light, our pilgrim’s enduring star, is Beatrice, Elvis’ mother. Though Elvis strays from his path and is lost in the dark wood of his country in strife, his mother through her written notes on Igbo culture and her record of recipes for sustenance and medicine, reading more like prophecies, keep Elvis sane and compassionate.

What’s disturbing and therefore powerful about Graceland is knowing that Abani’s novel is most likely true. Though the characters are make believe, anyone who reads the newspapers or watches the BBC news knows that Elvis’ journey happens everyday. Pick a country, any country, whether it be Thailand, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Brazil, or Mexico, Abani’s work serves as live wire transmissions of today’s “urban anonymity” from all the dark nooks of our global metropolises. In that respect, we also see the over-reach of American and Western culture and ideals. As Barthelme’s writing reveals, no part of our life is left unadulterated by the media, and, in Abani’s novel, we also find that no corner of the earth is left untainted by Western influences. The consequences of this is a protagonist who is hyper self-conscious. His dreams and hopes feed off movies and music, which are then appropriated and made new by his Nigerian culture. The media is constantly recycling and transforming itself, as the lives it influences actively transform and reinvent new identities as new modes of survival.

Graceland is a testament to the shock and awe practice of today’s geopolitics. Abani doesn’t flinch to bring these stories to light. His writing is dangerous only in that he holds a mirror up to us and asks us to take a hard look at ourselves.

View all my reviews.

A Gen Xer’s Comeuppance

Excerpt from article posted on Ruelle Electrique:

Holland Cotter’s recent New York Times article, “Passion of the Moment: A Triptych of Masters” on the Boston Museum’s latest exhibit “Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice” is so brilliantly written, like a searing, soaring comet, we are urged to turn our gaze from our daily activities and pay closer attention to a specific corner of our artistic universe.

Titian first poked his head into our stunted and skewed Reality Bites in the 1990’s while we tripped through pseudo-scholarly undergraduate studies on the sun-beaten campus of UCLA. In Renaissance & Baroque Art, a survey class taken to fulfill our Humanities GEs, we snickered and yawned when our professor, whose name, unfortunately, is long-forgotten, tasked our ignorant Generation X for equating the great Renaissance artists with four ninja-fighting turtles. In a huge auditorium filled with some fifty to a hundred impatient and guileless students, over a scratchy microphone, she set us straight with a lecture about how Donatello pre-dated, by centuries, his supposed  contemporaries, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Raphael. And, if the TV execs really cared about the youth, they would have named Titian as the purple masked, bo-staff wielding, amphibian super-fighter.

To read more, click here:

“A Passion for All Time: A Generation Xer’s Comeuppance” | Other Bohemian Activities | Ruelle Electrique