Archive for July, 2008

Masks in Mexico

Posted in Uncategorized on July 24, 2008 by xxxicana

Day 3 in Mexico City: I did the whirlwind tour of the Museum of Anthropology. Here’s photo of Mexican Masks (ethnographic).

Here’s a photo of masks for sale out in front of the museum:

More later . . I need a nap.


Day 2: Frida Kahlo’s House & Trotsky’s House

Posted in Frida Kahlo on July 23, 2008 by xxxicana

There are a lot of great things about Mexico, not the least of which is its beer. I’m posting and having a Negra Modelo to recuperate from a long day of museum hopping in Coyoacan. I took the metro south, walked and walked and walked — and not in my most sensible shoes (semi-sensible). In my defense, the women of Mexico City are like those of NY or LA — very fashionable — and I didn’t want to look like a total schlub. Anyway, back to Coyoacan. Here’s a photo of the front of Frida’s house, aptly named Casa Azul. I couldn’t take photos inside, but there were some very interesting new things. But, you’ll have to read my book to find out!

Then I was off to see Trotsky’s house. As you may know, Diego Rivera sponsored Trotsky when he was running from Stalin. Frida had an affair with the venerable Revolutionary, but it was ended when Natalia (his wife) caught wind. Oh, Frida was probably tired of the old guy by then anyway. After the affair was over, Frida painted one of her more seductive portraits for Trotsky.

Trotsky’s house is pretty fascinating — he was living in fear that Stalin would have him assassinated (not without reason). The house he lived in at the time of his death is a couple of blocks from the Casa Azul. it has gun turrets, a heavy wall, and Trotsky’s bedroom and office have heavy steel doors.

A day in Mexico City

Posted in Frida Kahlo on July 22, 2008 by xxxicana

Today I visited two museums: Modern Art and the Rufino Tamayo Museum. I wanted to check out the Museum of Modern Art because it is the home of the “The Two Fridas.”

Unfortunately, this painting is on tour 😦

But, there was a new exhibit of Remedios Varo, which was WAY COOL. Here’s a photo of one of her paintings. This one is titled “Useless Science or the Alchemist.” I love this painting.

The quality of my photo isn’t very good since I couldn’t use a flash (of course). But you get the picture . . . (haha, little pun). If you aren’t familiar with Varo, she was a Spaniard, moved to Paris, fled due to the Nazis to Mexico in 1941 until her death in 1963. Unlike Frida Kahlo, Varo admitted that her work was influenced by the surrealists. Her work has a fantastical aspect to it that still resonates today.

I also visited the Rufino Tamayo Museum — very cool interior, but they wouldn’t let me take photos (boo). The exhibits were very unusual — very recent works that were quite interesting, but, you had to have been there — one of them was by an artist that worked in the 70s with things such as toilet paper, shit, urine, blood, trash. He hated the “institutional” art world and its focus on expensive materials that he and Third World people couldn’t/can’t afford. Very political, and entirely ephemeral. He filmed some of his works and had photos taken since you literally had to have been there.
After lunch, I walked over to the Anthropology museum — it’s the Disneyland of Mesoamerican Archaeology. Before I got there I stopped to watch the voladores . . . here’s a photo:

This is an ancient ritual of the Totonac that combines the 5 directions (north, south, east, west, center) and the calendar (4 men make 13 spirals down = 52 weeks of the year).

It is a misnomer that the peoples of the Americas didn’t invent the wheel (I heard this ALL the time growing up) — which always makes it sound like Indigenous people were too stupid to have done so. This is actually false, there are a number of examples of the wheel in Indigenous America — the volador tower is one example of the concept. The difference is, of course, that in the Americas there was no practical use for the wheel for transport (no oxen, horses, mules).

I also observed a group of “Aztec” dancers . . . . yes, the copal was real, the chingchings were real, but the drummer was wearing jeans under his costume! I guess he was too shy to show his legs. The dancers were all pretty young –probably just getting started . . . but they danced well.

TaDah!! Article Finished!

Posted in Uncategorized on July 20, 2008 by xxxicana

I finished the Ancient Maya Music article yesterday — and popped open a bottle of Martini & Rossi Asti to celebrate — yummmmmy! Today is packing day for Mexico – I always pack too much, and will probably do so again. I can’t wait to get to el D.F., it’s been about 17 years since I’ve been back. . . way too long. Here’s a portrait of Frida — titled Frida and the Brine Shrimp

Interview today with the Omaha World Herald

Posted in Musings with tags , , , on July 16, 2008 by xxxicana

I was interviewed today by the Omaha World Herald regarding the meaning of suspension rituals. I was informed that a piercing studio in the Omaha area is holding monthly suspension shows (free to watch, $100.00 to participate). My colleague and friend Dr. Mary Willis recommended me as an expert . . . since I AM the resident piercing authority! I’ll post the article once it is published. Check back next week. This came out of the blue today, which is funny since my last post was about septum piercing! Coincidence? You be the judge!

After providing some anthropological background to Native American suspension practices, I covered underground BDSM suspension practices that have been around for some time in large urban areas such as L.A. Some of you may remember the suspension scene from the Richard Harris movie “A Man Called Horse.” Here’s a photo snagged off the net of a modern version of the practice.

“They pierce the cartilage of the nose within . . .”

Posted in Musings on July 16, 2008 by xxxicana

And so Diego de Landa reported of Maya women of the Yucatan in the mid 16th century. It was also the custom for men and women to tattoo their bodies, pierce their ears, and file their teeth.

In ancient times, royal women performed auto-sacrifice by drawing a thorn embedded cord through their tongues! I’ll pass on that one!

Septum piercing is also practiced by some Kuna women (Panama and Colombia). In the past, girls had their noses pierced in infancy, today, many mothers eschew the practice to allow girls choice in the matter. Kuna women are also recognized for their fine reverse applique work known as “molas.”

Under a deadline

Posted in Uncategorized on July 15, 2008 by xxxicana

If you are checking up on me . . . I am currently under the gun to finish an article on Ancient Maya music. Yikes, the deadline is tomorrow!! Fortunately, I work well under pressure. The article is for Istmo (check my links) and should be out in a couple of months. An interesting aspect of this article is musing (yes, pun intended) about soundscapes of the distant past. We cannot know what music was like 1200 years ago or more — but fortunately, we can at least imagine the pomp and spectacle of Maya performances. Here’s a picture to help in visualization: