Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Sans mask, and with quarantine hair, amid the splendor and clutter of the Hacienda Hogan media studio, I answer, via Zoom, questions from Somos en escrito's Armando Rendón, Scott Duncan, and Jenny Irizary.
P.S.: I have since buzzed my hair down to the nub.
Friday, May 22, 2020
Thursday, May 14, 2020
"Shortly after the Megabus arrives in Mecca, we're stopped at a red light next to a car blaring that Jay-Z duet with Alica Keyes about the joys of being rich in a corporate police state."
What the fuck? Forgive me. I'm over sixty and feel compelled to spell it out. I feel silly using text abbreviations like I'm trying to be a young hepcat. But what is that? Sounds like somekinda newfangled Islamofuturism.
It's the opening sentence of Tripping with Allah: Islam, Drugs,and Writing by Michael Muhammad Knight. A book I found via Libby—an app that allows you to check ebooks out from your local library, that as a library employee, I'm using to help encourage my job to still be there when the quarantine ends.
Libby had a couple of Michael Muhammad Knight's book tacked on to a list that came up when I searched for William S. Burroughs. The cover looked interesting—a funky anime-looking robot relaxing with a sword. Knight also has been called "the Hunter S. Thompson of Islamic literature."
Interesting. Then I read that first line. I checked it out. Wow!
Just the sort of thing I need to take my mind off bizarre lockdown realities. Burroughs and Thompson are evoked early. Knight knows his drug and counterculture literature. And it's full of stuff like this:
"Not even my Muslim friends who do coke want to join me for ayahuasca, but they're not doing coke for the sake of spiritual growth."
"If I could get enough Muslims into ayahuasca, then ayahuasca-Islam would become the new orthodoxy."
". . . I'm a mostly nonfictional protagonist in a mostly fictional universe."
Just what do we have here? A novel? Gonzo journalism? A collection of essays? We have a case of post-modern fiction/nonfiction (con)fusion here. Names have been changed to protect the innocent . . . or maybe not so innocent, like in Thompson, Kerouac, and Dragnet. Though I don't think Sergeant Friday would approve -- he would go into one of his hardboiled lectures.
To hell with that ancient video fascist, I approve! This jaded, 60-something Chicano had his mind blown, which isn't easy.
Knight throws the reader into strange territory.
Ayahuasca. Islam. 21st century countercultures. It's kind of like when a Muslim girl asked me if I liked Beavis and Butthead right after I met her. Introduce me to things I don't know about—it's what I live for!
There's also an excellent overview of drugs (including caffeine) and Islamic history, Muslim takes on the Transformers, Star Wars, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. He also writes about his experiences in professional wrestling, as well as studying and teaching at Harvard.
And, of course, there's ayahuasca.
For those of you unhip folks who don't know about ayahuasca (AKA yage),the hallucinogenic drug from a vine found in the South American rain forests that has literary streetcred throught William S. Burroughs' The Yage Letters, was the sci-fi gimmick in Murray Leinster's 1930 novel Murder Madness, and the fuel for a revolution that finally defeats Donald Trump in Jonathan Greenberg's recent America 2034: Utopia Rising.
Also ayahuasca retreats are fashionable in some circles.They mostly involve going down to South America. I was going to joke about them coming to our hometown soon, but after a Google search, I discovered that there are Ayahuasca "ceremonies" being held in the Metro Phoenix area. Not much information. I wonder if they're practicing social distancing?
Who knows? Maybe psychedelic Islam will help us into the post-COVID-19 reality . . .
Friday, May 8, 2020
Monday, May 4, 2020
You will be able to see me live, on your computer, or whatever other device you prefer, on May 9, 2020, at 2:00 p.m., PST.
Somos en escrito will present, as part of the Weekend of Words online festival, a panel called "Chicano Scifi: Speculative Existence."
It will be moderated by Somos editors Armando Rendon and Scott Duncan-Fernandez.
I will be speaking, along with Rios de la Luz, David Bowles, and "a few more to be announced."
Go here to register.
Thursday, April 30, 2020
I've been mostly at home during the quarantine. Oh yeah, Emily and I have been doing bandidoid grocery and takeout runs (we want our favorite food joints to survive), and taking her 98 year-old mother to the doctor. But we've been homebodies for the most part.
Seems if we don't have jobs to go to we have no trouble finding stuff to do. Ideas have been stacking up for years, and we have a house that needs taking care of . . . then there's the garden!
Hacienda Hogan is a great place to live. It has to be. We made it that way.
And it's springtime. A weird Spring. Like the end of Un Chien Andalou, with the couple buried in their waists in the sand while they're being eaten by insects.
We have insects, and flowers, and there was a fantastic overgrowth from the changing climate's overabundance of rain that buried both yards in Max Ernst-style jungle. And me being me, hacking through while listening to TejanosBest.com brings on Edgar Rice/William S. Burroughsian imagery. Praise Xochiquetzal!
Now and then I uncover artifacts of some lost civilization. A lot has been getting lost in the chaos. Memories of past apocalypses to help get through the current one.
With the world on pause, and all of us stuck at home, we need to think about what to do when the crisis ends. What will we do when we go back to work? Will work still be there? What kind of life, and world, do we want after all?
Emily and I are thinking about retirement. It looks better every day. She's learning how to play the piano and read music. I'm working on a long-neglected comic strip (and drawing in general), and working on Zyx; Or, Bring Me the Brain of Victor Theremin. And I take the occasional picture.
And I have other projects. There's a lot of things I want to do. To hell with what the experts say will sell. Their culture and economy is in the process of transmogrifying beyond all recognition.
Will these so-called experts still be in business when the virus finally burns out? How much of that world will be left? If any.
If you want the world to be more like what you want rather than a nightmare, you have to work at it. Utopias are do-it-yourself, dystopias are corporate products that you can order online and are delivered to your front door.
I know that what is utopia for some is dystopia for others, but then the fighting and fucking of civilizations is what makes life interesting, and brings forth new worlds.
The more, the merrier, I say.
As Voltaire said, “We must cultivate our own garden.”
Friday, April 24, 2020
So here's to all you writers!
And getting paid.
And just what is Latinx?
And speculative fiction:
Thursday, April 16, 2020
Even before the whole COVID-19/social distancing thing shut down our jobs, Emily was struggling to clean out the garage, and finding interesting stuff that had built up in there since we moved here way back in the year 2001. It was a different world; we were working for a big box bookstore chain called Borders, and terrorists had crashed planes into the World Trade Center, sending the world into turmoil the likes of which had never happened before.
She keeps finding my old artwork, some of which was kept in an envelope that I decorated with adolescent drawings circa 1969. That was another interesting time; the human race was experimenting with space travel, hallucinogenic drugs, and nuclear warfare. The shock waves were tearing apart civilization as we then knew it.
I was transitioning into a high school weirdo/unemployable creative. This is one of my earliest self-portraits. I love how crude these drawings are. I also love how the envelope had gotten dog-eared, and the ink from the felt tip pen has faded, making it look like an archaeological artifact from a forgotten age, suitable for a Museum of Pre-Internet Culture.
I felt it was necessary to warn people about my art. It seemed to me that all the good stuff had warning labels on it. Movies would boast that, “The screen explodes with a new kind of excitement!” And, since my art wasn't pretty, or anal retentive/obsessive compulsive, nobody in authority approved of it.
A few years later, when I discovered dada and surrealism, I felt vindicated.
Like Picasso said, “Painting is not made to decorate apartments. It's an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy.” Some say “Make Art not War,” but Art is War. If you're doing it right.
My sexual fantasies have always been mixed-up with sci-fi weirdness. Some is too weird for sci-fi.
And I must admit, I like it when people are disturbed by my art.
Maybe I'm some kind of pervert.
And we haven't even gotten into what's in the envelope . . .
Friday, April 10, 2020
Thursday, April 2, 2020
Emily and I had both been home for about a week. The library where I work, and the museum where she works were both closed because of COVID-19. We were desperate to get out. A hike would have been nice. Get away from the Metro Phoenix urban sprawl even though we had been hearing rumors of martial law.
On Twitter, we had read about a guy whose lawyer told him that the next day Arizona was going into total lockdown, with the National Guard coming in to enforce it. He was rushing off to withdraw his money from the bank. Then what? Leave the country? But for where?
The other day, one of the trees in our front yard was uprooted by a microburst/mini-tornado. The next morning, we were coming home from a coffee/breakfast burrito run to Lola Coffee in downtown Phoenix,and there were guys in green suits and helmets, carrying rifles in our neighborhood. It said SHERIFF on the back of their flack jackets. They were just arresting drug dealers, fugitives, or some other ordinary criminality.
On TV, Andrew Cuomo felt that he had to remind everyone that, “This is not a science fiction movie.”
So, the next morning we went to another one of our favorite restauants, Kiss the Cook, picked up breakfasts burritos (the meal of the current crisis) to go, and headed down the I-17, that didn't look like there was a National Emergency going on, except for all the signs announcing that businesses were closed, possibly reopening sometime in April . . .
We're trying to keep getting takeout from our favorite places to keep them in business. A lot of them have gone belly-up under the current administration. Goddammit.
Lake Pleasant was too full for us to get out and hike, much less practice proper social distancing. It was a beautiful drive though, lots of yellow and purple wild flowers along the roadside. And the occasional sign telling of another business closure.
In Wickenburg, a gas pump radio reminded us about the coronavirus.
Finally, we got off on a dirt road near Vulture Peak. There as only one other couple there. We could walk down unpaved trails like the last two people on Earth. More like it.
Here natural beauty was mixed with apocalyptic décor. We found abandoned couches and mattresses, and examples of the quaint Arizona custom of taking old computers out into the desert, shooting them to pieces, and leaving the electronic debris to glitter in the sun along with the fragments of shattered liquor bottles.
There were also pretty flowers growing on dead vegetation. Death, rebirth . . . in the springtime when we either reproduce or are devoured. Or maybe both, at the same time.
Dare I use the word “apocalyptic” again?
But the Great Arizona Apocalypse has been going on for a long time, and may have a few centuries to go . . .
On the way back home, there was water flowing in the Hassayampa. Sometimes the River That Vanishes becomes visible.
Then we passed a place called Big Worm's Smoke Shop. I imagined a huge, fat Mongolian Deathworm-type creature behind the cash register, smoking a hookah loaded with a vile substance with a sickly-sweet smell that bit through the nasal passages into the frontal lobes.
It was that kind of day, in this kind of time. When it's over, it'll be a different world.