Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Just before closing my eyes last night, I watched a video that was created by (or on behalf of) the hacktivist group called Anonymous. The message of the video is both disturbing and exciting. I wanted to share it with you but felt the need to preface it because the video is a bit long and it has Tom (yawn) Cruise in it. I didn't know if you would have the time or patience to watch it all the way through, what with all those Facebook and Twitter updates to check. I know - I'm the same way.

Nevertheless, it resonated with me and popped up into my subconscious this morning. My life always has a soundtrack and today started with two songs: John Lennon's Imagine and Stiff Little Fingers' Alternative Ulster. I find myself singing about change and hope, about having the audacity to dream of a better future and following it up with the courage to take action. I think we can all imagine how the world should be, the hard part is believing that we can really make it happen. Anonymous tells us that beginning this journey of change is as simple as sharing these dreams in person, through our art or our music or on the internet via blogging, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. I once read in a self-help book that "thoughts become things" and I would add that words also become things. In every age, the brave share their ideas despite the fear of ridicule or personal danger. Ideas, dreams and hopes beget action. They are our blueprint.

Over the past few years, the local movie screens have been increasingly filled with the exploits of larger than life superheroes. Why? Is it because art reflects life and that deep down inside, we know that the world is increasingly fucked up and we yearn for a hero to come save us? It is time we become our own heroes, our own legends. It starts with an idea.

The next revolution may be a war of words and ideas rather than guns and bombs. We have our ideology and the tools we need right front of us.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Goodnight, Larry

I was very saddened to learn of the passing of an old friend from my Hollywood days, Larry "Wild Man" Fischer.

The last time Wild Man's name surfaced in my life was a few years ago, when a friend played a song for me called "Friends For Awhile." I think it may have been recorded by Larry in the 90's or perhaps even later, but the lyrics referenced me and my boyfriend at the time, Nickey Beat. Initially, Larry's obscure name dropping brought a smile to my face, but when I listened to the chorus of "friends for awhile...maybe friends again," I was saddened at the thought that Nickey's and my friendship meant so much to Larry that he would write a song about it nearly 20 years later. I guess I realized at that moment that everything held deep significance in Larry's world. 

In my memory, Larry Fischer will always be a sweet and gentle little boy in a grown man's body. His sense of innocence, wonder and playfulness was contagious and he made exploring the world a joyful and fresh experience. Even though he had experienced much pain and difficulty in his life, Larry never lost his willingness to open himself up to people and experiences, and he never lost his unspoiled view of the possibilities of friendship. Going to the grocery store, seeing a movie or just walking down Hollywood Boulevard, even the most mundane tasks were always fresh for Larry. And perhaps that is why I will especially mourn his passing.

Goodnight, Larry.

Larry "Wild Man" Fischer

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Driving While Female

I was calmly drinking my morning coffee while checking Twitter and Facebook when I came across an article that got stuck in my gut, a partially digested tidbit that started to fester as I tried to shuffle through my morning rituals. The article, entitled A Conversation with Saudi Women’s Rights Campaigner Wajeha al-Huwaider appears in The Nation (Link to article here.) Wajeha al-Huwaider is an active campaigner for Saudi human rights and in particular, women’s rights.

I felt myself getting angry. I knew I wanted to write about the systematic oppression of women in Saudi Arabia but something held me back. I have written about the subject of chador in the past (head to toe coverings for females, supposedly dictated by the Koran in the interests of modesty and religious obedience.) That time, I was taken to task by Muslim women who wrote that I had offended them by imposing my Western values on a system I knew nothing about. As I thought about the fact that women in Saudi Arabia were still being denied the right to something as basic as driving a car, my sense of outrage overcame my sense of restraint.

I may not be a Muslim, but having been raised Catholic, I think I know something about how organized religion and “holy scripture” can be used to repress the rights of women.  The Catholic Church has done a damn good job of it for centuries. I may not be Muslim, but I am a woman and as a woman, I stand in solidarity with my sisters.

Let me say that I wholeheartedly believe there is as much good as bad perpetuated in the name of one God or another. There is also much corruption that can happen within any religious infrastructure. We have all read the stories about pedophile priests and how they are protected by the church. My expression of outrage is not meant to be an attack on Islam but on the abuse of human rights that is being carried out in its name.

Why are women not allowed to drive, to vote, to be out in public without a male escort? Why must they be covered from head to toe so as not to tempt the lust of men? Surely, there were no cars in Mohammed’s day, so he could not have specifically forbidden women from driving them. Isn’t it possible that the concept of what constitutes modest dress may have changed over the past few hundred years? We live in a modern world.  How do religious leaders determine which modern conveniences are to be sanctioned (and for whom) and which are not? Throughout history, religion has been a means to support those in power.  It’s about time we demanded more of our religious leaders. They should provide spiritual guidance, not restrict half the population for political gain.

To those women in Saudi Arabia who are sitting in the driver’s seat, know that you are not alone in this journey. You have sisters all over the world who will gladly ride at your side.  

Friday, June 03, 2011

Put On Your White Bonnets, It's Cine Time - An excerpt from Violence Girl

An excerpt from my upcoming book on Feral House, Violence Girl: From East LA Rage to Hollywood Stage, A Chicana Punk Story. Look for it in your local bookstores and online in November.

I grew up watching Spanish language movies. Peliculas de La Epoca de Oro (films from the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema) were the ones my parents liked best. They'd seen them all before but would never tire of watching Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete, Libertad Lamarque, Pedro Armendariz and Sylvia Pinal on the big screen.

Pedro Armendariz and Dolores del Rio in Los Abandonadas.

There were plenty of movie theaters in the 'hood that showed these movies and it was our one splurge as a family to go to the movies on dos por uno night, a buy one - get one free special, usually offered on a different night at each of the theaters we frequented. My mom and I would split one admission, then my dad would wait outside for another solo male to come along and he'd split the admission with him. In order to cut costs even further, my mother would pack half a dozen bean burritos, wrapped in foil along with some canned sodas and bags of chips or Fritos. Once inside the darkened theatre, she would produce all of these from a seemingly limitless bag of tricks, like the one Felix the Cat carried. If we were out of tortillas, my mother would make white bread bean and cheese sandwiches. These were a tasty change of pace and probably a uniquely pocho cuisine.

As soon as the lights went down, we'd start passing our feast around and before long, we were transported to an impossibly glamorous black and white version of Mexico. It was escapism at it's finest. In those days, you got to see two or three movies at a time when you went to the cine (cinema). Sometimes, there were even live acts who performed in between the films. The Million Dollar Theater in Downtown L.A. was famous for its variedades. There, on weekend afternoons, we'd watch the first movie then be treated to touring singers, actors, jugglers, comedians, dancers, ventriloquists, gymnasts, mariachis... you name it. The word variedades means variety and there was certainly plenty of that. Young men and women would walk up and down the aisles with large trays strapped around their necks, selling cigarettes and BonBons and candy. It was a total experience.

Million Dollar Theatre, Los Angeles, back in the day.

The Million Dollar Theater was a grand old movie palace with beautiful alcoves and balconies. One weekend afternoon, we were seated in the balcony. I was getting bored of the movie and asked my mom for some change to buy a toy from the vending machine in the ladies' bathroom. Those machines used to stock all kinds of goodies, from small plastic toys to entertain fidgety kids, to lipstick, combs and emory boards. To keep me out of her hair, my mom gave me the change and let me go back to the bathroom to get myself a little toy. When I went back to the bathroom, I discovered not one but two vending machines. The second vending machine didn't have a glass front showing all the different goodies that could be purchased which puzzled me, but as I stood there wondering, a woman came up, put her coins in and was rewarded with a little white paper bag.

Aha! I figured it must be a grab bag type deal. I knew from shopping with my mother who often bought grab bags of fruit and soon-to-expire bread at the market that you could get more for your money if you were willing to take a chance. I was excited by the prospect of getting a really special surprise treat, so I put my money in the machine and turned the knob. Out slid my little paper grab bag. I tore it open and pulled out a small, white, pillowy-looking bonnet. It had two straps that didn't quite fit around my head so I was disappointed that I couldn't put it right on.

I ran back to the balcony where my parents were seated about five rows up. I stood at the bottom, front and center, waved the sanitary pad in my hand and called out to my mom, "I didn't get a toy! Look what came out!" My mother was mortified and rushed to me as some people suppressed snickers and others glared at me. My mother whisked me up and out of sight but when I asked her why she was angry with me, she couldn't quite say except to tell me that "Those things are for ladies!" When I asked how they were used, my mother couldn't tell me. 

The mystery of the little white bonnet would remain unsolved until 6th grade, when my teacher at school would show my class a film about it.