“The book American Gods wishes it was.” --Despina Durand

Thursday, February 25, 2021

CHICANONAUTICA CREATES PABLO CORTEZ


Chicanonautica reveals the origin of the hero of Cortez on Jupiter, at La Bloga.


It started out as an experiment in abstract art:



Which is always more than it seems:



Crossing new borders:



Is it science or art?


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

PANDEMIC ODYSSEY: PART SIX


In the morning it was 18°F in Salina, Utah. Biden finally won Arizona. Trump was still in denial.


We got coffee at the Sevier Valley Coffee Co. It’s a one-man operation out of a trailer. The coffee is okay, but if you want a place with character, it’s got plenty.


As we left Salina to follow the Sevier River, the radio told us that COVID-19 was surging. 



I mused about how out in rural areas, redneck, New Age, Latinoid, and cyber are all colliding. New configurations are emerging along with the old conflicts. Recomboculture is the American Way.


There are also solar collectors all over the West. Energy farms are the coming thing. And still they vote for Trump.

 


We took the 89 to Kanab, through the town of Elsinore, that had flags on all its telephone poles. We saw a lot of American flags flying on this trip. The Stars&Stripes were also painted on murals. Patriotism was on public display. I wonder what version of the American Dream they were pledging allegiance to?



Maybe the dream of the Big Rock Candy Mountain. 



Or the legend of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?



Was it all closed for the winter, or because of the pandemic?



At a Sinclair, a young clerk was getting a lecture about why she should wear a mask.


In Junction, there were some strange vehicles.



Panguitch was full of marvelous stuff. 



Signs with confusing political commentary, a radio station, a BUFFALO ELK VENISON ALLIGATOR sign (I still haven’t seen any live gators in Utah), and a coffee stand where Troy the barista worked.



We found it after asking his dad, Micah the cop, where to get coffee. 


There were some crazy hitchhikers.



By the time we got to Kanab--back in familiar territory--we needed a piss stop. Our favorite muraled gas station came in handy. My urine smelled like pure Cafe Americano.



Soon we were back in Arizona.  There’s a liquor store right across the state line from Utah. In Fredonia, nobody wears masks, even though “must wear” signs were up. An unmasked cowboy looked at us as if we were Martians, stared with disapproval, shook his head.



Passing through the Rez we saw something weird that Mike had told us about: poles--not quite totem--with faces on them. No idea what they are. Maybe some kind of magic going on.



I was reminded that Arizona, Aztlán, the Earth, the Universe, my life, was fantastic . . .


Vermillion Cliffs were spectacular, as usual.



We also stopped at Lees Ferry, which leaves me groping for a suitable adjective.



Back in Flagstaff, we stood in Mike’s studio again. It was a clear night. We could see the stars, and the Milky Way, which good science fiction writers need to do.


Margaret and Emily had a long, lively talk on the drive back to Glendale.



The streets were busy, despite the pandemic. You could almost fool yourself into thinking things were normal. I learned long ago that thinking things are normal is always a mistake.


As we arrived at home, Trump fans were marching on Washington D.C., protesting the election.


Thursday, February 11, 2021

CHICANONAUTICA WATCHES LA POCHA NOSTRA ANTHOLOGIZED



It’s a movie, reviewed on Chicanonauica, at La Bloga: 


Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s work goes way back:



And La Pocha Nostra has come a long way:



And going into different spaces:



And into the future:


Wednesday, February 3, 2021

UFOs, the GOAT, and the NOI


I can always depend on Ishmael Reed to expand my mind. He does the job in these times when most stuff packaged as “science fiction” is really just comfort reading for nerds. His play, The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda, is a perfect antidote for the corporate-produced, revisionist/feelgood vision of alternate history for a post-racial America that’s singing and dancing its way into your psyche. As powerful NeoHooDoo as ever.


It was also a very short book. Left me wanting more, so I ordered Reed’s The Complete Muhammad Ali, that I had been meaning to read for a long time. It took me to worlds I had never dreamed of: the bizarre place of black athletes in American society, politics, culture, Ali’s real life (presented in accounts from primary sources), contradicting the Ali Scribes' desire to make the Greatest of All Time into a saint instead of a complex, flawed man, even before we get into the influence of organized crime on it all.


I gobbled up this fat, dense book, and found some things that made me want to study further. Ali considered Elijah Muhammad to be deity. The Yacubian myth was mentioned. And the Mother Plane. I had heard of them, didn’t know much about them.


Turns out that the Yacubian myth tells that a black scientist named Yacub, who lived 6,600 years ago, created the white race. The Mother Plane is mile-wide, saucer-shaped vehicle that a man identifying himself at the Supreme Being showed Elijah Muhammad in 1930, in an experience that led him to found the Nation of Islam. Both are central to their beliefs. I didn’t really know much about the NOI, but this got me curious . . . 



I soon found myself ordering UFOs and the Nation of Islam by Ilia Rashad Muhammad, a scholarly researcher with extensive knowledge of UFOs, history, the Bible, the Holy Qur’an, and even science fiction.


I’m fairly well-read in ufology, so I can tell that this book challenged everything while referring to recognized sightings and encounters. Elijah Muhammad is said to be the person who introduced the whole concept of UFOs to the modern world, though he doesn’t call them that, he calls them “wheels.” They aren’t from other planets, though the word “interstellar” pops up, but were built on Earth on “the islands of Japan” in the 1920s. The pilots of the craft are human beings but have been trained to be “angelic scientists” from early childhood. They are also telepathic, telekinetic, and have the power to do other mind tricks that make Obi-Wan Kenobi look like an amateurish dabbler. Their mission is to help God’s chosen people—the black folks of America--which could be done with powerful bombs on wheel-shaped baby planes.


As a science fiction writer, I’m impressed. Nice world building, there. Lots of details weave into history and religion. We’re talking serious scholarship here.  


I’ve run into Christian versions of the angel/UFO theory, but like most UFO religious constructions are flimsy and depend on the “well, you just gotta believe” argument, using flying saucers as new delivery system for an ancient product.


The book brims over with more amazing stuff than I can mention here. I recommend it. It could inspire some powerful Afrofuturist visions. Maybe some religious conversions, too.


We have to consider all this in a world where Muhammad Ali’s sainthood could very well be amplified into godhood in a generation, and Disney is busy convincing young people that African culture was invented by Marvel and that Alexander Hamilton was a savior to black people. Plus, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump is being worshiped as a golden idol as Hiroaki “Jay” Aeba, leader of Happy Science, a Japanese cult that believes he is an alien from Venus, speaks.


So, is Elijah Muhammad alive and well on the Mother Plane?

 

PANDEMIC ODYSSEY: PART FIVE


As the virus ran amok, snow fell on the sumo wrestler guardian of Evanston’s Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse. When we returned to the road we saw children playing in snow-covered schoolyards.


The sun slowly burned through the cloud-cover.


Now I know why westerns set in Wyoming are full of scenes of cowboys riding across snowy vistas.


Margaret was talkative that morning, after a couple of days of being quiet. It’s her cycle these days. It takes time to recharge.


Windmills spun in the mist. 



You could film a weird/spooky version of Don Quixote here. The landscape conjures visions of Latinoid, quixotic vaquerx on mystic quests, fading into a glowing,cosmic mist as the sun blazes through a sky full of microscopic crystals. 


Margaret got a lot of satisfaction and stimulation out just holding her cranberry oatmeal cookie: “My cookie is flashing on and off.”


I’m reminded that sometimes you have to forget about making it into something and just enjoy the view . . . then I grabbed my phone and took some pictures. They weren’t bad for zoom shots from a moving vehicle.


 

Mike, an expert on rough weather driving, was slow and careful, looking out for snowy/icy, black ice conditions. Some vehicles whizzed past us. He made some unkind comments.


Margaret said, “My cookie hasn’t said anything for a while.”



I made a note to put some Martian snow scenes in my Paco Cohen, Mariachi of Mars novel.


We passed some of the vehicles that passed us, wrecked by the side of the road. 


Then the flow of traffic slowed down, and stopped. And it kept snowing.


“Cookie just told us to be free of it all,” said Margaret.


Cookie had become a Zen master.


And a sign reminded us, STRONG WIND POSSIBLE.



“We can now scratch being stuck in a traffic jam during a snowstorm off our bucket list,” I said.


It turned out that there was a crash in a tunnel, causing the jam. Soon emergency vehicles arrived, flashing lights, and sirens wailing. Eventually, things started moving again.


Our bladders were straining when we stopped at a Maverick station in Greed River. I felt compelled to take a picture of the murals in the hallway to their restrooms.



And I kept seeing Mexican food places in Wyoming.


There was a place selling fireworks and artillery shells in the snow. It had a fresh paint job.


Suddenly, there was a milky, white fog. Almost white-out. Then light snow. That thinned . . .


And we were in Colorado.



Heading for Craig, Colorado, there were Trump signs. We encountered sleet. A Kum & Go gas station had BREAKFAST PIZZA ALL DAY. There were lots of American flags in Craig, and at least one Mexican food joint. Almost no masks, even though there was a state-wide mask mandate.


Also, Colorado went for Biden early.



Next morning, our coffee expedition in Glenwood Springs, where an antique firetruck was for sale in our motel parking lot, took us to their historic downtown.



We found coffee and steampunk paraphernalia at the Bluebird Cafe. Steampunk and Wild West go together. Maybe it’s the shape of things to come.



We also learned that Doc Holliday is buried in town. There’s a saloon named after him. And a Doc Holliday Historic Society.


They also have a lot of thrift stores.



Across Glenwood Canyon has a gigantic Habitat for Humanity ReStore with incredible, gigantic furniture, mysterious anthropological artifacts, and, among other things, pianos. When I wandered off, checking out their book selection, I wondered how I was going to find Emily. Then I heard “Clair de Lune.” It was her.



There were also some smaller thriftstores with interesting stuff, the most interesting were FOR DISPLAY ONLY.



We then took off, going through the Palisades.



Later, there were Trump signs as we got to Grand Junction.



Fruita had a dinosaur mural, a masked dinosaur statue, and a muraled liquor store that also had a patriotic flag. We saw a lot of American flags on this trip. There was never any doubt that we were in the United States of America. And people were thinking about the country.



Then we swung back to Utah, and more Max Ernstian landscapes.



We stayed in a Travelodge in Salina, that had interesting bedspreads with mooses--this is moose country.



We got dinner from El Mexicano. The decor was outrageous Mexi-kitsch, and the food wasn’t bad. Mexicans worked there and hablaed español. But while Mike and I, masked, were waiting to pick up our takeout order, twenty-four people came in and were seated, and only three of them had masks. Should I mention that Utah was a hot spot?