Archive for ‘pop cultura’

August 22, 2011

on art, trains + borders.

by la rebelde

This summer I started training to become a docent at the Chinese American Museum (CAM) over at the Pueblo de los Angeles Historical Monument — aka Placita Olvera.  Although I ultimately decided that I could not give the time to it that it deserved, I learned so much from the few training sessions I attended.  As a historian, trained by elite academic institutions, it is, to me, imperative to know how people understand historical narratives — people who don’t sit around and read tons of historical monographs written by others who do the same.  I was reminded how difficult it is to put lots of information into a teeny tiny chunk of time.

Back in July, when Manito D and Nicole were visiting, we saw the Street Art exhibit at the MOCA.  It was pretty remarkable.  Over the previous months, I’d read the critiques of the exhibit — particularly how the exhibit did not include many Los Angeles based street artists.  Walking through the museum, the omission was glaring.  Still, it was well-done.  I wish I’d had more time to read about the artists and the history of graffiti.

My favorite was the wall of train cars.  I have always been fascinated by train graffiti.  My ex was a graffiti artist and DJ, and we spent hours talking about it, how he planned his pieces, stories of jumping over fences to get at a train car in a rail yard.  In my MA program, I wrote my thesis on Chinese and Mexican railroad workers and U.S. empire.  Now my book begins and ends with the railroads, although they are not the center of the story.  Mexican workers lived in train cars — boxcars that railroad companies used to house workers, and which, according to reformers and city officials, were part of the “housing problem” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Chinese and Mexican children played on or near the tracks, and recalled the feeling of rattling floorboards as the trains passed by their homes.  Folks who lived in boxcars built homes and communities, despite the poor housing conditions that were available to them.  Train car graffiti just smacks US imperialism in the face by highlighting everyday lives of actual people.  Especially when it covers the corporate signage on the sides of cars, and then those cars travel across the continent.

Patrick Martinez’ pieces (the ones he is standing in front of in this photo) are at the Chinese American Museum as part of their “Dreams Deferred” exhibit.  It is a great exhibit where LA street artists respond to immigration reform.  The same week I went to the exhibit at the MOCA, I was fortunate to attend a session led by one of the curators at CAM, who told us in more detail about the artists and their pieces.  What’s truly amazing about it, to me, is how, in the conjunction with the Museum’s exhibit, called Remembering Angel Island, the art exhibit links Chinese exclusion and current day immigration/border restriction debates.  The Angel Island exhibit highlights the experiences of border-crossing for Chinese, in the midst of border restriction during Chinese Exclusion, in a way that shows their dignity, their experience of crossing the border, of enduring interrogation by US officials, of living in inhumane conditions while in confinement, all so they could make a life, join family members, live.  The artists featured in the Dreams Deferred address current-day renderings of border restrictions.  It is not very different today.

The MOCA exhibit got all the play, because well, it’s the MOCA.  If you didn’t get to see it, maybe you can catch it in another city if it moves.  Unfortunately, it left LA already.

But I have to say, the CAM exhibit is more powerful and more meaningful, in part because it is more politically focused on one topic, but also because it is historicized well.  Both the street art and Angel Island exhibits are incredible. Go see them before they leave in December/January!

(photo via Patrick Martinez | Hustlemania @ Known Gallery)

September 7, 2007


by la rebelde

A few weeks ago, Jennifer, Olga and I went to see El Cantante at a theater near my place and we saw the preview for American Fusion. Jennifer pointed out how all the previews were well-suited to the local audience. And I was excited to see it because, well, how often is there a movie in which Chinese people and Mexican people date? And also because it co-stars Esai Morales, who is so, so beautiful, even with his canas (and even though I heard he’s a wife-beater, which, if true, makes him a bad person, but still nice to look at).

So I went with another amiga to see it tonight. The movie was cute and entertaining, but not at all deep. I appreciated the ways in which this multi-generational Chinese American family confronted stereotypes about Chinese Am masculinity and gendered racialized identities, even as they dealt with their own stereotypes about other peoples of color. However, I could have done without the we’re-all-the-same-on-the-inside kind of “colorblind” b.s. I should have seen it coming, especially considering the title, but I’m surprised by it every time. At it’s best, I thought the narrative might be an example/critique of how Chinese Ams, in particular, continue to maintain racial boundaries between themselves and Mexicans (and Blacks too) in this area of Los Angeles—the area where I live. I just wish all of this could have been developed more.

Of course, I got a big kick out of the scenes where cars were zipping down Valley Blvd and the Chinese viejitas were hanging out by the Ranch 99 where I sometimes shop. The funniest part was how the grandmother kept thinking that José (Morales’ character) sounded like hóu zi (which means monkey). It cracked me up every time!

July 13, 2007

the internets and the realness.

by la rebelde

So one of my personal life-goals in the last few years has been to work on becoming a better incarnation of myself. To decide how I want to live my life, both for myself and as a member of communities. To spend time around people who are fundamentally generous AND intellectually rigorous. And by that I mean, people who question their roles in the world, how they are participants of oppressive systems at all times, and how love and liberation have to go hand-in-hand. (I know that’s all cheesy and oh-so-Obie of me, but that’s how I see it.) Most of my amig@s are these things and they are great mentors (in the collective sense, ya know?).

And lately I’ve been wondering about the role of technology in the building of communities, part of which, of course, is the formation of relationships. Not to get all Appadurai-theoretical on my own ass, but seriously. In the last few years I have joined email listserves that are supposed to aid in the creation of diasporic communities. I created a friendster profile to keep connected to old friends with whom I’ve lost touch over the years. I began to read my horoscope online on a regular basis just because I like to (although if there were no internets, I would read it daily in the paper-paper). I “chat” daily in abbreviated writing, with friends on instant messenger thingies. I’ve started writing this blog to become part of different communities/dialogs and work on my writing voice. And, most recently, I completed my fako myspace profile because several friends “discovered” my fako profile and invited me, so I tentatively uploaded a photo and filled in some stuff so it would be fako no more. I spend hours each day in front of the computer screen communicating with people without actually speaking to them on the phone or seeing their faces. In some ways, since my life and the lives of those in my communities are so transient and because we don’t freakin stop moving all around the world, we have no choice but to keep calling when we can and checking up on each other online when we can and finding time to visit in person when we can.

And it’s a lot of work. Friendships. Community. Relationships. They take commitment, time and energy to maintain, to grow.

Last week, at the wedding celebration of one of my closest amigas, elarkay, I was reunited with another of my old college roommates, who I see all too rarely, and who I dearly love even if we don’t call each other as often as we should. We lost track of time chatting over dinner. It was so great to remember how much we are still a part of each other’s lives. (I’ve been having a lot of these reunions lately!) She was asking about my “love life.” (Funny, I never call it that, but for lack of a better word, I’ll resort to the language of my middle school years. She’s been happily married for over 3 years now.) And she pointed out that the last few boys I’ve been involved with (or whatever the heck you call it) have resorted to communication largely via text. “Dating these days is so confusing to me with this texting and internet stuff. I don’t understand it!” she said. I don’t freakin understand it either! In my last serious relationship—which was long-distance for way too long—I’d barely discovered the cell phone. Shoooo.

But she’s right. Texting has been the communication of choice by these boys when we are not physically in the same room. Phone calls? MAYBE rarely, but texts on the regular. And I admit, I fully participate in this texting disaster because it seems that once it starts, it’s hard to stop it. Texting should be in addition to conversation, not in place of. And now? Myspace messages, comments, etc. We communicate on freakin myspace! And I didn’t even want to be on the dang myspace to begin with!

This is exactly why I have not even tried to date online. Because I cannot picture myself with someone who does not also see themselves as committed to being part of a community. And online dating doesn’t seem to be real to me because these online profiles and stuff don’t seem real to me. And isn’t all of this—friendships, communities, relationships, familia—supposed to be real? As in, not fake, no frontin, no bullshit? I mean, I enjoy hearing from amig@s now and again—even just the “what’s up homegirl, i was just thinking about you and thought i’d drop a quick line” kind of deals. But c’mon now!

Even my profa, communicates in incomplete, 3-4-word email sentences. I’ll write a long email updating my committee on the progress of my dissertation–something they asked me to do–and she’ll write back a two-word reply. I should note, however, that she also managed to limit our preliminary exam discussion meetings to only 20 minutes flat! (We were supposed to discuss about 15-20 books per meeting.)

Anyway, the other night, mi manito and I were sippin’ some beers and shootin the shitz. I was telling him that when I ask people how they are doing, I really mean it, but oftentimes they don’t actually answer the question. (Of course, people might not wish to share how they are actually feeling at the moment, so they might be avoiding the question. Or they could be assuming that I’m asking the question and not really meaning it.) Manito thinks that too much internet communication encourages people to build a stock of phrases that they use to begin or end messages/conversations with, most of which imply face-to-face connections. For example, “talk to you soon” or “see you soon”—only, you’re not going to talk “soon” or see each other “soon.” Manito’s pretty hardcore, so he even suggested that such stock phrases might reveal a lack of self-confidence—that we type these things because we feel we should, not because we actually mean it. He thinks I should just delete the online profiles all together—especially the myspace.

Yeah dude. The thing is, I’ve been able to get in touch with so many college and grad school friends who I haven’t heard from in years by using these online networking things… so I’m hesitant to scrap the online community thing all together. And yet, I envy my grandparents, who still rent their telephone (the kind you actually have to DIAL) from the phone company and only know how to call people who are already programmed into their cell phone (mi papá bought it for them, of course). They have real conversations with real people—even if only for 5 minutes at a time before they get frustrated that the conversation is not face-to-face.

In some ways, I think, the internet seems like just a tool to build community, as long as it doesn’t remain the sole means of communication, it can be a really good thing I think. AND online communication is different with people who you’ve already built relationships with. But sometimes I’m just so frustrated because it feels really impersonal and it’s difficult to move beyond the impersonal through typing. So here’s the pregunta: What do you think about building relationships/community via the internets? Have we become too dependent on technological advances (cell phone texting included)? Or is it just a matter of learning to love the internets?

p.s. I tend to think blogging and goodreads are different if only because they are often about storytelling. And I do love storytelling! (but that’s another post for another day.)

June 26, 2007

not from l.a.

by la rebelde

Last week, mi manito, mi prima and my 8-year-old nephew paid me a visit in Los Angeles. The last morning of their stay–after a 13-hour day at Disneyland, a trip to a museum and a full afternoon at the beach–we grown-ups sat at the table in my apartment with our coffee and pan dulce, discussing the day’s plans while my nephew watched Powerpuff Girls, the movie, and swung his Captain Jack Sparrow sword around while wearing his Captain Mouse Sparrow ears (he came up with that one). We wanted the day to be a little more low-key, especially since they planned to drive back to Nuevo México that night.

Manito wanted to see SpiderMan Tres in an IMAX theater, because they don’t have one of those in Burque. So we did our online research. We could either drive 33 miles to Ontario or 18 miles to Universal City. Universal City is closer and we planned to have dinner and listen to mariachis later that night in East Los. So it seemed like a good plan.

Here’s where I’m sorely reminded that I’m NOT from LA. And I haven’t lived here long enough to know the basic things that SoCal folks seem to know.

I google-mapped it. And we headed out to the theater, expecting it to be attached to…oh, a mall maybe. When we arrived, we were told we had to park at the bottom of the hill and take a shuttle to the theater. Say whaaat? Manito asked the brown folks at the booth if there was a brown folk discount, because $10 parking is ridiculous when you’ve already shelled out $16/adult ticket for the freakin movie. They gave us a voucher thingy. (Not sure if it was the brown folk hookup, but I appreciated getting my $10 back.) We got on the shuttle, still not knowing what to expect. When we got to the top of the hill, it was madness! Madness, I tell you!

People crammed in everywhere. Young lovey-dovey couples with hands in each other’s back pockets stiltedly strolling along. Kids sitting in water fountains that shot smooth streams of water from the ground. Theme restaurants and teeny-bopper shops. Cartoon characters and movie posters screaming at us. I was definitely not happy about experiencing Disneyland part 2…unexpectedly. We had just enough time to get to the theater. Definitely not low-key.

At least the scenes of Spidey swooping between the buildings of Gotham City were worth seeing in IMAX. And my nephew loved it. Throughout the entire movie, he leaned over to explain what was going on in my ear. Just in case I missed something. The kid has a way of making the situation seem so much better!