Saturday, December 13, 2014

At War with Perception: War Books by Jean Norton Cru— A Study in Historical Criticism by San Diego State University Press (SDSU Press)

Who is to tell what is behind the eyes of a solider? The horrors, terrors and nightmares that they are faced with and merely told to endure. The fear of death so heavily etched into their minds despite all forms of rationality and perseverance— they are forced to continue onward. Stories that are rarely told from those who carry the rifle. Officers were given details of the battlefield and the wars were recorded without the officer ever leaving their desk. Inaccurate accounts from some were given to help bolster the “valiant and heroic” war efforts, disguising the bloodbaths that they really were.

Blinded by the glory, shinning medals of recognition and the seeming honor that comes with the title, many have jumped headfirst into the battlefield without truly knowing its dangers. Society has glorified this battlefield without a second thought for the soldier. While medals can be displayed equal to injuries, non-visible injuries of physiological damage is something that is often brushed aside and ignored. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has plagued and haunted these men and women returning from battle. Some look at these returning soldiers without regard to their emotional distress. 

 It is the personal accounts of soldiers that alter our perception of wars history. These ideas transform from dates, strategies, and victories to become emotions of pain and suffering. The observation of war alters itself once we are able to change our perception to the individuals that endure it. The soldiers in War Books become more than a number, a statistic, and tool for political purposes. In Jean Cru’s book, we learn the real side of the soldier and are better able to grasp the reality that for so long has been shoved aside by opposition. 

Songwriter Serj Tankian from the popular alternative metal band System of a Down has written multitude of songs, which look at the Solider's Side. Like the book, he too, tries to grasp the reality of what war is to the soldier and the ones waiting at home.

To read more and buy the book click this link. 

Make sure to check out the rest of the San Diego State Universities Press releases by clicking here.

Searching for Identity in the Metropolis: Representations of Fashion by Antonio Rafele— An Obiter Dictum of Social Commentary by San Diego State University Press (SDSU Press)

Identity has become obscured as cultures are formed, or rather fashioned, into a state of development. They restrain, trap, strangle, and stifle the individuals within the confinements of these metropolises. The trapped individuals form social groups, cliques, parties and eventually the lines between them bleed together until there is not an identity left. They scream wanting out, a need for individuality, a want to be different, the need for an identity. Each person walks with his or her canvas— blank in hopes of inspiration from another passerby. They dream of captivating senses if only for a momentary millisecond.

The past has become a mere stepping-stone for fashion, becoming nothing more than an endless sequence, unable to offer new life sustaining individuality. Already existing elements, such as mass media, television, and an industrialized society become a distraction for the passage of time. Even the ticking clock has to evolve and mend its ways in the metropolis. Individuals become a part of the matroyoshka (a doll inside a doll) where each life mimics the other, each person looking towards someone else for the simplest change that will upset their daily lives, that will give their lives thought, purpose and meaning.

In the essay Representationsof Fashion by Antonio Rafele we get a sense of just what is happening in our city glorified culture of today. The eyes of the individual are glued to the screen to see the next big thing, the next motion that could give meaning in an otherwise monotonous life. The fashions of an individual are nothing more than the clothes our society makes us wear.

"The metropolis and photography, television and the web transform existence into a succession of isolated and disconnected moments, of worlds, once experienced, remain fragile and provisional" (23)

In modern society, we would call them fads, the clothes and attitudes that accompany a popular trend only to quickly fade before it is fully realized. Sociological fads as portrayed by Lady Gaga, writers like FlannO’Brien or Haruki Murakami, were we have seen these struggles for individuality lead to new conventional thought and theory which others quickly adapt to. Society has become a blank book where the first one with a pen of creativity wins. Rafele describes these incidents and describes where we might just be heading.  To find out more about Representations of Fashion follow this link and make sure to check out the rest of the San Diego State University Press releases by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Avant Pop Manifesto: In Memoriam to Postmodernism by Mark Amerika & Lance Olsen— Critical Essays from San Diego State University Press (SDSU Press)

Welcome to the age of technology where one should expect new forms of art to spring alive from the electric wiring. We are in the new age where both entertainment and daily life circulate around digital information. On a daily basis our brains are processing images and data from the internet, mass media, video games, movies, and everything else that our modern society has created. Due to such stimuli our society has evolved both in its art and outlook.

“Now that Postmodernism is dead and we’re in the process of finally burying it, something else is starting to take hold in the cultural imagination and I propose that we call this new phenomenon Avant-Pop” —The Avant-Pop Manifesto by Mark Amerika

The creation of Avant-Pop is proof that times are changing, and with it art. Focusing on what can be created with the new inspirations of today. What exists (mass media, internet) now and has never been able to be an influence to artists until now.

As Mark Amerika asks in his manifesto, “[w]ho are we sharing the cultural toilet with” and “what are we filling it with?” What are individuals and artists alike contributing to our society. The trash of the past is discarded and in its stead it’s filled with the movements of our generation, only to repeat the cycle with each new generation.  

To learn more of the Avant-Pop phenomenon taking hold in our modern age check out In Memoriam to Postmodernism.

One rather new avant garde expression, or as Mark would say avant pop, is the music called dubstep. Sounds taken from a wide variety of sources, mixed and reproduced to create new sounds.

Check out the video Is Dubstep Avant Garde Musical Genius on Youtube for a short 6min lecture for more.

Marc García-Martínez: An Interview with the Author of SDSU Press's new volume: The Flesh-and-Blood Aesthetics of Alejandro Morales: Sex, Disease, and Figuration

Click to enlarge.
Our SDSU Press intern (and President of SDSU MECHA) Christian Benavides, conducted this interview with Dr. Marc García-Martínez, author of The Flesh-and-Blood Aesthetics of Alejandro Morales: Sex, Disease, and Figuration, 2014, SDSU Press.

What drove you to Alejandro Morales’ work? 

Truth be told, I was driven to Alejandro Morales’ artwork the way many, many individuals in academia are: By my professor in a graduate seminar who assigned us to read him! You know, some individuals are driven by an author’s media popularity, some by a book cover design, or others by a relative’s or friend’s recommendation. But I was honestly driven to Morales without choice by my professor at UCSB, Carl Gutiérrez-Jones. Morales was on the required reading list in an exciting new graduate seminar Carl designed entitled “The New West.” Up to that point I casually heard of Alejandro Morales, of course, but had not personally or professionally encountered any of his literary art. So, I can express to you with propriety that my book was started way back in a small, pallid graduate seminar room—a very cool thing, actually, since it proves what can happen when a graduate seminar doesn’t theorize, pontificate, assume, or assign presentations…but inspires and teaches.

Is there a specific way you’d say he influenced Chican@ literature? 

Well, however one wishes to define it, Chicana/o literature as a whole has perhaps not been so much actively or directly “influenced” by Alejandro Morales, as it certainly has been enhanced and intensified by him—particularly intensified. When one increases that intensity of something, in this case with art, they increase scope, emotion, force, as well as effect, right? So as Morales’ writings range from exposé to historiography, from myth to testimony, from saga to romance, from profane to decorous, and from Spanish to English languages (and back again), one could argue that through his art he has single-handedly made the Chicana/o literary realm a hell of a lot larger or more wonderfully extensive. Speaking as a Chicano, if I were a serious creative writer of novels, I would find Morales’ writings as guiding inspiration, or influential example, of what is artistically possible in contemporary American ethnic literature.

What initially got you interested into Morales' representations of the body and his "flesh-and-blood aesthetics"? 

When something is constantly in your face, when something is a consistent visible force, when something keeps arising to the same degree and content while shifting its form, it is hard not to become attentive to and eventually fascinated with that something. That “something” in Alejandro Morales’ case is the flesh-and-blood bodily figurations operating everywhere in his literary work—the interest of which initially began with my reading of The Rag Doll Plagues in the aforementioned graduate seminar. In it are amazing moments of bodily penetrations of all sorts, of bodily transgressions of various kinds, bodily destructions of such savage and slight means, as well as suggestive and profane bodily eroticism. And all the while, surrounding these moments in the novel, are seminal, salivary, fecal, urinary, and bloody fluids that actually became a bit seductive to me. I read on and read more, and found myself virtually searching for them and mapping them out. This developed into a bona fide interest, and I so wanted to see if it existed in Morales’ other novels…which it did.

In your introduction, I like that you mention how the worlds in Morales' novels "reflect the fleshy, fragile, and frightening aspects of our being". Can you briefly summarize a way/ways in which this becomes a powerful exploration and tool for Morales' storytelling.     

Well, we are—and always shall be—creatures of physical, spiritual, emotional and psychological being. We are human beings, and as such we are mortal, corporal, breakable in both body and soul, and capable of such high and startling degrees of real or imagined fears. If Morales’ novels indeed reflect this—and they most certainly do—then focusing on this is, in effect, a tool to remind us that his artwork is primarily about our human condition. It is in many ways work that ultimately surpasses ancestral traditions, tribal mentalities, or any explicit cultural ethnologies. In other words, its thematics are focused well on the fierce and beautiful range of American ethnic experience, no doubt, yet its broader ultimate thematics always take readers squarely to a human place—a place extra-ethnic, existing beyond race. Morales takes us readers to a place that all readers—younger and older, male and female, casual or professional, Chicana/o or gabacha/o, etc.—will find clear and compelling testaments to their aforementioned mortality, fragility, and high proclivity for fear, violence, and self-doubt. This is not to assert that his works are only dark, as they are also affirming, and affirm the not-so-dark human truths of survival, family, love, courage, tradition, loyalty, just to name a few. But to fully and honestly explore Alejandro Morales’ literature, one cannot forsake that physical, psychological and emotional human figurations operating at its core.

Order your copy of this fine new volume from SDSU Press today: The Flesh-and-Blood Aesthetics of Alejandro Morales: Sex, Disease, and Figuration

Monday, November 03, 2014

The Avant Garde in Attitude: Fluxus The History of an Attitude by Owen Smith—Aesthetic Critical Theory from San Diego State University Press (SDSU Press)

What breaks against the mold of convention, society and traditional cookie cutter art, literature, film, and media? Fluxus the History of an Attitude. The book that shows how new avant grande movement has begun to develop and expand. The evolution making way to allow for new abilities of thought and expression while continually moving away from conventional thought, mainstream ideology, and break from the bonds of conformity that has long limited true freedom of expression.

Medias such as paint, clay, ink and canvas are stripped away by fluxus. Instead, deciding to use what is left over by the community, the trash and carbon footprints transform into art. This helps build an individuality without relying on companies to create mediums and tools for production of expression, taking away the chains that suggest their route of creativity.

Fluxus is a form which the group has described as “non-art” since they do not wish to be associated with the same constraints as traditional artists who follow rules, ready to please the masses and unable to think outside the box.

It takes an open mind to be able to find art in all things, especially ones that are new and test your ability to look for beauty in things you originally had never noticed due to their “traditional” uses. Such examples include furniture, office supplies, electronics, and other things that help your day run smoothly, things that are easily bought and discarded.

“Fluxus [is] serious about not being serious” (242)

Being serious is by society standards, not the fluxus standard. One can be serious about their art but not be serious about what society wants them to do with art or create with their talent.

Fluxus in 2014 has evolved, as intended. Art being one of the largest mediums for thought and the new fluxis kit's which are sold by artists, each kit is different and can be manipulated. Read Thing/Thought Fluxus Edition to see examples of the "kit".

One art show in 2014 at the Rush Auditorium at Florida Southwestern State College gave a fluxus show with improve opera, spoken word poetry, and for the finale a whipped creamed blow up alligator topped with cherries and nuts which the audience was allowed to partake a piece of the art with a chip. Read the full article here.

Fluxus has continued to invade society with its unique form of individual art, ideas and media. To take a closer look at fluxus check out the full critique and essays by following this link.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Nailed to the Wound –José Manuel Di Bella's Collection of Short Stories for San Diego State University Press (SDSU Press)

In a time where Shepard Fairy capitalizes on socialist propaganda and non-conformity is more a social obligation than supporting our troops, Jose Manuel Di Bella speaks from the sutured culture clash that is the U.S. / Mexican border. The tectonic Nailed to the Wound reverberates hosts of all sorts summoning ghost of Heraclitus and Andre Breton alike. Line after line a stream of consciousness shakes U.S. relentless, daring your day to day clock in and clock out nine-to-fives. The cubicle or office job, with the view, that will hold the best fraction of your casket bound life; yet, grasping the pseudo-intellectual socialites, screaming at them, mediocre bull-shit, all the while traveling the unconscious streams of denial, loss, and nostalgia. And You are constantly challenged and constantly welcomed to find a host willing to distract you from the ever demanding palm sized drone. The particle by particle atomized landscapes build on backs of lovers, artist, travelers, bankers, and translators. Rosetta stone tales laced in the hieroglyphs of a transcontinental identity, painting divine images of Cronus, self-indulgent landlords with egos of gods, and stoned musketeers. Nailed to the Wound intoxicates with an unsettling uncertainty and irony nailing us to the borders of our arbitrary flirting identities.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Deconstructing Thomas Moore's Utopia: The Utopian Vision by E.D.S Sullivan: Seven Critical Essays from San Diego State University Press (SDSU Press)

A “map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth ever glancing at” — Oscar Wilde

Thomas More is best known for his influential writing Utopia a novel that at the time dealt with the trouble’s of England and while these troubles, over 500 years past, are still asked about society by writers of the 21st Century.

The Utopian Vision consists of seven essays that denote the ideas of utopian thought, ranging from the concept of the “heavenly garden” to contemporary writing and analysis of utopian dystopian ideology. Each essay chronologically and identifiably makes a point for the reader to expound upon by his/her further thought or investigation. The Utopian Vision is a part of a series titled The Chautauqua Series which:

[I]ntends to provide the intelligent, educated layperson with stimulating reading on enduring aspects of thought and culture. The books in this series are not necessarily to break new ground in research or to provide complete summaries of issues but rather to stimulate further thought and investigation

An excerpt from each essay with commentary

1. Paradise and Golden Age: Ancient Origins of the Heavenly Utopia
    E.N. Genovese

“Beginning with this undocumented but not improbable event, I propose to trace a confluence of traditions of the first, eternal, and ultimate utopia— paradise” (10).

Genovese’s essay reads with ease, interest and explores the “old” idea of what utopia was. The reading is actually much more story like than an academic essay, cleverly weaving in quotes that make his case. We are given a “storyteller” as our narrative which is a touch that makes reading this essay enjoyable.   

2. Place in No Place: Examples of the Ordered Society in Literature
    E.D.S Sullivan

[W]hether humanism, neoclassicism, romanticism, or twentieth-century materialism— all the utopian examples of society’s aspirations for what could or should be are predicted on a concept of order which derives from function: the performance of certain work; the knowing and doing of one’s job (30).

Sullivan explores the similarities and differences throughout the utopian ideology. Its fundamentalism is called into check and Sullivan goes on to explore relations but let’s off enough for the reader to have their own thoughts. While this essay is informative it gives new ideas and exemplary texts for the reader to follow up on.

3. Illusions of Endless Affluence
    John J. Hardesty

“The utopia I would like to discuss is often referred to as the American Dream, but this American Dream of an anti-human, self-defeating, ecologically impossible utopia which is fast becoming a nightmare” (51).

Hardesty’s essay takes a drastic tone change and a harsher realistic approach. Examining the very confines of our “American Dreams” and while I will not give away how he achieves this in his persuasive essay I will say that this essay was rupturing when reading.

4. The Russian Utopia
    Frank M. Bartholomew

‘I believe in Russia. I believe in the Greek Orthodox Church. I-I believe in the body of Christ— I believe that the second coming will take place in Russia— I believe —‘ Shatov murmured in a frenzy.
            ‘But in God? In God?’
            ‘I-I shall believe in God.’
                                                                                         —F.M. Dostoevsky, The Devils

Bartholomew uses this epigraph in the opening of his essay it foreshadows well what is to be discussed in his essay, Christianity and as the titled suggests The Russian Utopia.

5. Auguste Comte and the Positivist Utopia
    Oscar R. Marti

“Comtian positivism is a conglomerate of philosophical views about ethics, religion and society united by a well defined vision of science and a faith in its power to change human affairs for the better” (93).

Marti divulges into the world of positivism where he discusses structure of society under its influence, their efforts to carry out and reasoning for some of its failures. This essay is weighted by philosophy, its abstract thinking gives the reader a chance to deeply think and analyze society as a whole in the view of positivism.

6. Women in Utopia
    Patricia Huckle

“The quest for utopia (and the difficulty in achieving it) has been as important for nineteenth and twentieth century feminists as it has been for other political and social critics and revolutionaries” (114).

Huckle looks deeply into the roots of feminism with her paper. Taking a close look at nineteenth century and twentieth century writings, feminist movements in literature such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Mary Grifftih and the utopia’s that are created. She looks at the evolution of a woman’s role within a commune, their ability to do equal work not based on gender. Just as More in his novel had women and men tending to fields we see a breakdown of gender where sex no longer has a defining place.

7. Kurt Vonnegut’s American Nightmares and Utopia
    Julio A Martinez

Before we look more closely at the opinions [Vonnegut] was now offering on the public occasions, and the two novels which have since issued from the presumably “new Vonnegut,” it will be useful to take a swift backward view onto the utopian themes already present in his first seven novels (139)

Martinez describes to us in a chronological fashion the writing and utopian themes described in Vonnegut’s writing. Slaughterhouse Five being of large focus in his essay Martinez does well to underline the utopian/dystopian dream and reality.

Each essay (based on lectures given at San Diego State University) completes the task that the compilation was set out to do, to create and invoke thought, to excite the reader to explore further into the realms of just what a utopia/dystopia society is, its rationality, its place and evolution in our society. Ranging from religion, philosophical, feminist, Marxist and fundamentalist perspectives it gives us as the reader a wide range of thought in very few pages.

If you’re of a curious mind and any of the quotes stimulated your mind to find out further follow this link to purchase. There can be no change without thought and this book begs for intellectual minds to ponder deeply upon.

Monday, June 02, 2014

A Talk About: Things We Do Not Talk About By: Daniel Olivas

Cover artwork by: Perry Vasquez
     Be one of the first to devour this intriguing compilation of personal essays and interviews composed into the symphony that award-winning author, Daniel A. Olivas, refers to as the Things We Do Not Talk About (2014). Born in Los Angeles, CA Olivas has dedicated his life to seeking truth in books. He received his BA in English literature from Stanford University, and furthered the course of his education to earn a law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). 

          Being a grandson to Mexican immigrants, much of Olivas' life was intertwined with the thread of Chicano/a culture. The eclectic writings Olivas has authored range anywhere from fiction, to poetry, novellas, short stories, you name it! In his most recent book, Olivas stands to serve as a contemporary representation of the voice that ties together the authors of Latino/a literature. He investigates decades of interviews, and attempts to decipher the many obstacles these authors came face-to-face with meanwhile writing. 
          Click here to purchase your very own paperback copy of the book today!