Archive for January, 2011

Gets my vote for the Most Interesting Man, 2011.

Senor Jodorowsky harkens me back to the good old days when I was managing a small movie theater in a small town called Monte Rio, on (occasionally in) the Russian River in Northern California. We would struggle to pay the high guarantees for hot box office properties in order to make enough money to be able to screen the films we really liked. One of the films I really liked was Jodorowsky’s “El Topo”. A cult favorite at the time, it has been unavailable for several decades due to contractual disagreements between the film maker and the distributor/producer. The film, along with another of my favorites, Robert Downey’s “Greaser’s Palace”, could be described as a psychedelic western. My life at that time also could have been described as a psychedelic western, thus my affinity for Jodorowsky.

Alejandro is a very interesting man. His quest for spirituality and artistic truth has led him on some some strange paths indeed. If you have seen the Dos XX’s advertising campaign centered around “The Most Interesting Man”, you may understand why Senor Jodorowsky gets my vote for the title in 2011. I will give you just a taste from Wikipedia to make my point.

Alejandro Jodorowsky (Spanish pronunciation: [aleˈxandɾo xodoˈrovski]) (born 7 February 1929) is a Chilean-Jewish filmmaker, playwright, composer and writer. Best known for his avant-garde films, he has been “venerated by cult cinema enthusiasts” for his work which “is filled with violently surreal images and a hybrid blend of mysticism and religious provocation.” [1] His most notable works include El Topo (1970), The Holy Mountain (1973) and Santa Sangre (1989), all of which have had limited release but achieved popularity amongst various countercultural groups.[1] He has cited the filmmaker Federico Fellini as his primary cinematic influence,[2] and has been described as an influence on such figures as Marilyn Manson[3] and David Lynch. After a failed attempt to return to filmmaking with a film entitled King Shot starring Marylin Manson and produced by David Lynch, Alejandro is set to return to cinema with the sequel to El Topo entitled Abel Cain sometime in late 2011 or 2012.

Jodorowsky is also a playwright and play director, having produced over one hundred plays, primarily in Mexico where he lived for much of his life. Alongside this he is also a writer, particularly of comic books – his The Incal even has been noted as having a claim to be “the best comic book” ever written[4] – as well as books on his own theories about spirituality. Jodorowsky has been involved in the occult and various spiritual and religious groups, including Zen Buddhism and forms of Mexican shamanism, and has formulated his own spiritual system, which he has called “psychomagic” and “psychoshamanism”.

It was whilst in Paris that Jodorowsky began studying mime with Etienne Decroux and joined the troupe of one of Decroux’s students, Marcel Marceau. It was with Marceau’s troupe that he went on a world tour, and he wrote several routines for the group, including ‘The Cage’ and ‘The Mask Maker’. After this, he returned to theatre directing, working on the music hall comeback of Maurice Chevalier in Paris.[1] In 1957, Jodorowsky turned his hand to film making, creating Les têtes interverties (The Severed Heads), a 20-minute adaptation of Thomas Mann’s novella. It consisted almost entirely of mime, and told the surreal story of a head-swapping merchant who helps a young man find courtship success. Jodorowsky himself played the lead role. The director Jean Cocteau admired the film, and wrote an introduction for it. It was considered lost, until a print was discovered in 2006.

A scene from Jodorowsky’s Fando y Lis.

In 1960, Jodorowsky moved to Mexico, where he settled down in Mexico City. Nonetheless, he continued to return occasionally to France, on one occasion visiting the surrealist artist André Breton, but he was disillusioned in that felt that he had become somewhat conservative in his old age.[1] Continuing his interest in surrealism, in 1962 he founded the Panic Movement along with Fernando Arrabal and Roland Topor. The movement aimed to go beyond the conventional surrealist ideas by embracing absurdism, and its members refused to take themselves seriously, whilst laughing at those critics who did.[1] In 1966 he produced his first comic strip, Anibal 5, which was related to the Panic Movement. The following year he created a new feature film, Fando y Lis,[10] loosely based on a play written by Fernando Arrabal, who was working with Jodorowsky on performance art at the time. Fando y Lis premiered at the 1968 Acapulco Film Festival, where it instigated a riot amongst those objecting to the film’s content[11] and it was subsequently banned in Mexico.[12]

It was in Mexico City that he encountered Ejo Takata (1928–1997), a Zen Buddhist monk who had studied at the Horyuji and Shofukuji monasteries in Japan before traveling to Mexico via the United States in 1967 to spread Zen. Jodorowsky became a disciple of Takata, and offered his own house to be turned into a zendo. Subsequently Takata attracted other disciples around him, who spent their time in meditation and the study of koans.[13] Eventually, Takata instructed Jodorowsky that he had to learn more about his feminine side, and so he went and befriended the English surrealist Leonora Carrington who had recently moved to Mexico.[14]

In December 1974, a French consortium led by Jean-Paul Gibon purchased the film rights to Frank Herbert’s epic 1965 science fiction novel Dune and asked Jodorowsky to direct a film version. Agreeing, he planned to cast the surrealist artist Salvador Dali as the Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV, who requested a fee of $100,000 per hour. He also planned to cast Orson Welles as the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, who only agreed when Jodorowsky offered to get his favourite gourmet chef to prepare his meals for him throughout the filming.[22] The book’s protagonist, Paul Atreides, was to be played by Jodorowsky’s own son, Brontis Jodorowsky. The music would be composed by Pink Floyd, Magma, Henry Cow and Karlheinz Stockhausen.[citation needed] Jodorowsky set up a pre-production unit in Paris consisting of Chris Foss, a British artist who designed covers for science fiction publications, Jean Giraud (Moebius), a French illustrator who created and also wrote and drew for Metal Hurlant magazine, and H. R. Giger.[citation needed] Frank Herbert travelled to Europe in 1976 to find that $2 million of the $9.5 million budget had already been spent in pre-production, and that Jodorowsky’s script would result in a 14-hour movie (“It was the size of a phonebook”, Herbert later recalled).[citation needed] Jodorowsky took creative liberties with the source material, but Herbert said that he and Jodorowsky had an amicable relationship. The production for the film collapsed, and the rights for filming were sold once more, this time to Dino de Laurentiis, who employed the American filmmaker David Lynch to direct, creating the film Dune in 1984.

After the collapse of the Dune project, Jodorowsky completely changed course and, in 1980, premiered his children’s fable “Tusk“, shot in India. Taken from Reginald Campbell‘s novel “Poo Lorn of the Elephants,” the film explores the soul-mate relationship between a young British woman living in India and a highly prized elephant. The film exhibited little of the director’s outlandish visual style and was never given wide release. Jodorowsky has since disowned the film.[citation needed]


A couple days ago I received a comment from The Poet Laureate of the Lower Russian River, Pat Nolan:

“Dude, while you’re going Hispanic all over yourself, you need to check out Roberto Bolano (tilda over the n), great poet and novelist (The Savage Detectives), born in Chile, wild child of literature in Mexico City, died in Spain (Barcelona, I think) — look him up!”

Pat Nolan is also a great poet, novelist, playwright, fine artist, humorist, and allaround nice chap. Look him up.

Since I have not yet had the chance to read any of Mr. Bolano’s work, I will follow my usual MO and steal from someone else.

Not just another posthumous pretty boy.


Mathieu Bourgois, from the NY Times

The Chilean exile poet Roberto Bolaño, born in 1953, lived in Mexico, France and Spain before his death in 2003, at 50. Interest in him and his work has been further kindled by his growing reputation as a hard-living literary outlaw. His posthumous 900-page novel, “2666,” which appeared on many lists of the best books of 2008, is a finalist for the annual National Book Critics Circle awards, which will be announced March 12, 2009.

In the last decade of his life, writing with the urgency of poverty and his failing health, Bolaño constructed a remarkable body of stories and novels out of precisely such doubts: that literature, which he revered the way a penitent loves (and yet rails against) an elusive God, could meaning­fully articulate the low truths he knew as rebel, exile, heroin addict; that life, in all its gruesome splendor, could ever locate the literature it so desperately craves in order to feel itself known. In writing Bolaño sprints into the teeth of his conundrum, violating one of the foremost writing-school injunctions, against writer-as-protagonist (in fact, Bolaño seems to make sport of violating nearly all of the foremost writing-school rules, against dream sequences, against mirrors as symbols, against barely disguised nods to his acquaintances, and so on).

Questions have arisen over his published persona and his actual life. His widow, Carolina Lopez, from whom he was separated at the time of his death, and Andrew Wylie, the American agent she hired, dispute the idea, originally suggested by Bolaño himself, endorsed by his American translator and mentioned in several of the rapturous recent reviews of “2666” in the United States that the writer was ever an addict. At the same time, some of his friends flatly contradict Bolaño’s assertion that he was in Chile at the time of the military coup that brought Gen. Augusto Pinochet to power, another aspect of the life story the writer constructed for himself.

His friends and associates suggested that the writer embraced ambiguity. “He created his own myth,” said the woman with whom the writer was romantically involved at the time of his death, who asked that her name not be published. “Nobody can deny that he played that game, and he would be the first to admit it.”

Maybe next year.

It was difficult to choose a Mexican-American to represent the NFL. First I considered choosing one of the Zendejas brothers (Luis, Max, or Tony) who’ve all been kickers in the bigs. They are all mas Mexican, Tony even owns a Mexican restaurant. I used to be a big fan of Anthony Munoz. Maybe I should have chosen Jim Plunkett. After all he is the only eligible quarterback who has won two superbowls (with the Oakland Raiders) and not been inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. And Zorro is his favorite fictional hero.

But I decided to go with Mark Sanchez who almost managed to win his way into this year’s Super Bowl, coming up short 24-19, losing to the monolithic Steelers in the AFC Championship game.
How Mexican is Mark? Let’s ask Wikipedia.
When Sanchez was elevated to prominence at USC, he found himself a symbol of Mexican-American identity and a role model for children.[5][19] Being at USC put him in the center of the spotlight in Los Angeles, a metropolitan area populated with more than 4.6 million Hispanics, three-quarters of whom are Mexican.[5] He began getting attention from the media in Mexico.[70] While there had been previous, successful Mexican-American quarterbacks such as Tom Flores, Jim Plunkett, Joe Kapp, Jeff Garcia, Tony Romo, and Marc Bulger, unlike most of his predecessors, Sanchez was a third-generation, full-blooded Mexican-American.[2] USC fans began playing up Sanchez’ ethnicity by wearing items such as sarapes, lucha libre masks and homemade “¡Viva Sanchez!” T-shirts.[2][19] His rise to fame within the Mexican-American community was compared to that of boxer Oscar De La Hoya and baseball pitcher Fernando Valenzuela.[2][5]

During his first two games as a starter in 2007, Sanchez wore a custom-made mouthpiece that featured the colors of the Mexican flag in honor of his heritage.[19][71] Although little noticed during his first game against Arizona, it became a prominent issue after his nationally-televised game against Notre Dame.[2] An item that Sanchez wore because he thought it was “cool” became a symbol for two opposing viewpoints: for Mexican-Americans, it was a symbol of solidarity—Sanchez publicly accepting his roots; for detractors, the gesture symbolized radical activism.[2][19][72] Sanchez, who was born and raised in the U.S., reportedly received letters urging him to go back to Mexico.[5] Sanchez himself stated, “It’s not a Mexican power thing or anything like that. It’s just a little bit of pride in our heritage. Hopefully, it inspires somebody and it’s all for the best.”[71] Surprised by all the attention and shying away from politics, Sanchez stopped wearing the mouthpiece, but began participating in other efforts to benefit the Hispanic community.[5][73]

Sanchez, who knew how to speak some Spanish but was not bilingual going into his junior season at USC, began taking Spanish lessons so he could do interviews with the Spanish-language media without a translator.[2][5] He began speaking to high school kids from predominantly Hispanic Santa Ana and East Los Angeles.[19] The USC band began to play “El Matador“, a 1993 song by the Argentine band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, when Sanchez would take the field.[74] He participated in programs which provides school supplies to first-graders in heavily Hispanic areas of Long Beach and the South Bay, and joined L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in distributing holiday gifts to needy families.[5] By the end of his USC career, he had been hailed as a significant role model for Hispanic youth in America.[75] Sanchez serves as the official Ambassador to the Inner-City Games Los Angeles, an after-school program that provides at-risk youth with positive alternatives.[76] Sanchez was most recently seen throwing out a first pitch at a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim game on behalf of the organization.[77]

How he rolls!

Saúl Mendoza (born January 6, 1967) is a former wheelchair racer, who competed at the Olympic and Paralympic levels.

He acquired polio when he was 6 months old, and he grew up playing different sports.

At the 2000 Olympic Games, he finished first in the demonstration event of Men’s 1500m wheelchair. He finished second in the same event at the 2004 Summer Olympics.

He won six medals in different athletics events at the Paralympic Games – 2 gold, 1 silver, and 3 bronze – in a career that spanned from Seoul 1988 to Beijing 2008.

He was the flag-bearer for the Mexican team in the Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games.

The 2008 Paralympic Games were his sixth and final Paralympic appearance, as he had previously announced he would retire from competition after the Games.


Nobel Prize Winning Poet/Intellectual

Leonora Carrington doesn’t sound like a Mexican name, and isn’t. She was born in Clayton Green, South Lancaster, Lancashire, England. But she has spent a good deal of her almost 94 years in Mexico. And she is probably the most prominent Surrealist still living on the planet. That makes her a good fit for this phase of Those Amazing Humans. I love Surrealism and to find a surrealist artist I haven’t been exposed to is a real treat. Her work is fantastic, imaginative, and just plain weird. Her life story is another great biopic waiting to happen. Romances with famous artists, flight from the Nazis in the 40s, friendships with Dali, Picasso and others, and a long and fruitful career in Mexico. What more could you ask for in a true-life adventure?

Surreal Ango-Mexican

There are plenty of images of her art available on the internet, but few actual photographs of the artist. This sketch is done from a blurry, dark photo, so the resemblance may not be striking. But, boy have I enjoyed looking at her work. I hope to see her strange images in a museum some day.


Not just Joan's padre.

If his only accomplishment had been the co-creating of Joan and Mimi, along with his beautiful wife, Joan Chandos Bridge (who supplied the good looks and even more brains)  he would still be an Amazing Human.

He used his Super Mental Powers for good when it would have been so easy for him to be seduced by an ultra-high-paying defense gig. Supported by his Quaker beliefs and superior intellect, Albert Baez took a strong pacifist stand when the inevitable offers from the military-industrial came his way.

His list of accomplishments and the particulars of his career are astounding. Suffice it to say here that he was a prominent Mexican American physicist, who devoted his life work to education and humanitarian pursuits. For the details read Wikipedia.

At the time of his death at 94 years of age, he was living in a nursing facility in Redwood City, Ca. He had been divorced from his wife for some while then. There was a sentence in the Wikipedia description of this time that I found unexpectedly moving. “(According to the singer Joan Baez, speaking at the 2009 Newport Folk Festival, her parents married each other a second time before his death.”)