Monday, August 28, 2017

Nadia Yaqub Remembers Her Friend and Co-Editor Rula Quawas

Read the New York Times piece on Rula Quawas here.

Remembering Rula Quawas

By Nadia Yaqub

On July 25, 2017, Rula Quawas, my close friend and the coeditor of Bad Girls of the Arab World, passed away suddenly. The volume was scheduled to appear just a few weeks later. She never got to hold it in her hands.

Rula Quawas in 2016 with students at the University of Jordan. Credit Leen Quawas
I first met Rula in September 2005 when she came to UNC–Chapel Hill as a visiting scholar. A professor of American literature at the University of Jordan, she was researching connections between Margaret Fuller and Huda Sha`rawi, two feminists—one American and the other Egyptian—who, despite the temporal and geographic distances that separated them, shared many traits that Rula valued, including a passion for knowledge and education and a commitment to activism. I did not know it when I met her, but these were Rula’s defining passions as well. 

Rula and I hit it off immediately. As any of her numerous friends and acquaintances will tell you, she was extraordinarily friendly, with a welcoming smile and a ready store of witty 
phrases (“witty” was one of her favorite words). I was drawn to something instantly familiar and comfortable in her manner—a practical aesthetic (short hair, simple attire) that was immediately familiar from my childhood in Beirut, and a conversational manner that invited reflection and engagement and was free of judgment. Rula welcomed brilliance, but one did not have to be brilliant to be her friend. 

Rula and I met several times during her semester at Carolina. She visited my course on Arabic literature in translation, and together we attended public presentations on geisha by students in Jan Bardsley’s first-year seminar. We enjoyed numerous meetings over coffee or dinner. A few days after we met, we were both invited to speak on a panel about Arab feminist writers that was organized by a campus student group. I promptly emailed her, expecting that she would take the lead because I was no expert on Arab feminism, and she
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responded in kind. We did not know at that point how much our scholarly interests would converge in the ensuing years. For me, a scholarly interest in Arab feminism was very much a product of my relationship with Rula, and developed alongside my friendship with her. Rula, of course, was just being modest; she was already an ardent, practicing feminist, and just two years later she would be selected to found and direct the Women’s Studies Center at the University of Jordan, the first center of its kind in Jordan.

Bad Girls of the Arab World was born during the summer of 2006. I was conducting research in the region and attending the World Congress of Middle East Studies, which took place in Amman, Jordan, that year. Bad Girls of Japan had just come out and we–Rula, Elizabeth Bishop, and I—discussed, with great enthusiasm, the need for such a volume about the Arab world. But we would not feel ready to take on the project for another eight years.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Editor's Introduction to the Modernist Native American Literature Special Issue

Modernism and Native America

James H. Cox

The fall edition of Texas Studies in Literature and Language is a special issue on the topic of Modernism and Native America. The journal’s co-editor James Cox wrote an introduction, which we are excited to share in advance of this issue’s September publication.

In 1967, the same year in which excerpts of Kiowa author N. Scott Momaday’s novel House Made of Dawn first appeared in issues of The Reporter and New Mexico Quarterly,
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Irving Howe published a retrospective on modernism, The Idea of the Modern in Literature and the Arts. In the introduction, which shares a title with the volume, Howe observes, “I will be discussing a literary movement or period that I call ‘Modernism,’ while knowing full well that the term is elusive and protean, and its definition hopelessly complicated” (12). After wringing his hands over the daunting task of defining the term, he concludes his opening gambit: “Since modernism is a matter close to us in time, perhaps still alive in our own time, the important thing is not to be ‘definitive,’ which by the very nature of things is unlikely, but to keep ideas in motion, the subject alive” (12). After Harper & Row published Momaday’s novel, it won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and helped inaugurate the Native American renaissance. From our early twenty-first century vantage point, the coincident publication of Howe’s book and the excerpts from Momaday’s novel comprises a literary historical moment rich with uncertainty and possibility. A specialist in modernism expresses apprehension that the literature under his consideration “seems to be coming to an end” (13), and, though by the late 1960s many Native American writers had earned some acclaim and the recognition of scholars, Native American literary studies did not yet exist as an academic field of critical inquiry. Momaday, according to the nearly axiomatic narrative of Native American literary history, had not launched but was on the verge of setting in motion a renaissance and contributing more broadly to the institutionalization of ethnic American literary studies in the academy.

As Native American literature scholar Louis Owens suggests, Momaday’s novel works as a hinge between these two literary traditions, one ostensibly taking its final breaths, the other, again ostensibly, about to take its first breath or at least its most dramatic. Owens, who opened his 1985 study of John Steinbeck with an objection to the conventional scholarly judgment that he was insufficiently modernist, attributes the celebration of House Made of Dawn in part to the novel’s modernist components. In House Made of Dawn, he observes, “critics discovered . . . a novel that displayed the craft and ambitious complexity expected of the major writers of modernism” (23). It was a novel, too, Owens claims, “that lent itself rather nicely to the conventional tools of modernist critique—never mind the subtle complexities of Pueblo and Navajo elements in the novel” (23). Indeed, it “is even at first glance recognizably modernist” and seems “to contain the requisite elements of a work assimilable into the modernist canon” (91). Modernism, Owens contends, was still alive in the late 1960s in the pages of House Made of Dawn, yet he does not fully commit to calling the novel modernist. As his subsequent reading of the novel demonstrates, it challenges and exceeds modernism too much to bear the label.

The editor of and contributors to this special issue share Howe’s and Owens’s cautious approach to defining modernism and labeling texts modernist, though we do not object to Mark McGurl calling House Made of Dawn a “modernist novel” and have sympathy for McGurl’s claim that the novel incorporates rather than experiences contamination by modernism (240). We embrace, too, the proliferation of modernisms, especially those, such as Christopher Schedler’s border modernism, that account for Indigenous literary production and indigeneity beyond primitivist representations. This special issue also participates in the “two significant enterprises” of the New Modernist Studies: “one that reconsiders the definitions, locations, and producers of ‘modernism’ and another that applies new approaches and methodologies to ‘modernist’ works” (Mao and Walkowitz 1). Yet we chose not to call this special issue “Native American Modernism” or “Indigenous Modernism.” Instead, “Modernism and Native America” leaves these terms in productive tension and resists the implication that designating Native American literary productions as modernist amplifies their literary value. Kirby Brown, who has spent the better part of the last ten years studying mid-twentieth-century Native American writing, opens the article portion of the special issue with a call for New Modernist literary studies to recognize and fully engage the Native presence in modernity and modernism. Todd Downing, who makes a brief appearance in Brown’s article, occupies Charles Rzepka’s full attention in the next. Rzepka demonstrates that Downing, the closeted gay Choctaw author of nine detective novels and a history of Mexico, “raises many more questions than the New Modernism can answer.” Indeed, he asserts, “By certain lights he seems, if anything, irredeemably pre-Modernist.” Eric Gary Anderson and Melanie Benson Taylor, both scholars of the Native South, consider how Ernest Hemingway and Katherine Anne Porter “understand indigeneity as both place and people” and explore “why Hemingway and Porter turn South precisely as they also try to figure out their intensely ambivalent, sometimes post-traumatic, sometimes impossibly contradictory relationship to Native America.” Michael Tavel Clarke brings the special issue full circle back to Momaday by arguing that The Way to Rainy Mountain (1969), the book that followed House Made of Dawn and shares content with it, “satisfies formal definitions of modernism,” and, therefore, helps to restore more robust formal analysis to New Modernist Studies.

This special issue also includes, as an invitation to enter the conversation occurring within these pages, an example of one of the modernists’ favorite genres, a manifesto authored by Lynn Riggs with the help of Mary Hunter, Andrius Jilinsky, and his professional and romantic partner Enrique Gasque-Molina/Ramon Naya, and published here for the first time with the permission of the Paul Green and Lynn Riggs estates. Riggs, born in Indian Territory in 1899 about six weeks after Ernest Hemingway, sent this revolutionary vision for the theatre as a letter to his friend, Pulitzer Prize–winning dramatist Paul Green. Riggs’s letter, conveying “the will to immediate and radical change” (11), to use Mao and Walkowitz’s definition of the key feature of manifestos in the introduction to Bad Modernisms, burns with energy and outrage. At once rejecting idealism and articulating an idealistic vision for the stage, the Vine Theatre manifesto pits imagination and poetry, or art, versus entertainment, a “racket” driven by Hollywood and Broadway, and attempts to reclaim theatre for the avant-garde. In alliance with other forces working “in opposition to the triumphant, arrogant state,” it also contains a strong social justice component while simultaneously denying a political enterprise: “we have no worldly battle to fight.” Riggs announces, too, that the Vine Theatre will embrace what became, in retrospect, pace Michael North, the motivating force of much modernist art and literature: “Our theatre, by its very nature, will produce new forms.” Had he known about Riggs’s manifesto, Howe, the modernism scholar and progressive public intellectual, likely would have celebrated it.

The University of Texas at Austin
Austin, Texas


Howe, Irving, editor. The Idea of the Modern in Literature and the Arts. Horizon Press, 1967.

Mao, Douglas, and Rebecca L. Walkowitz, editors. Bad Modernisms. Duke UP, 2006.

McGurl, Mark. The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing. Harvard UP, 2009.

North, Michael. Novelty: A History of the New. U of Chicago P, 2013.

Owens, Louis. John Steinbeck’s Re-Vision of America. U of Georgia P, 1985.

Owens, Louis. Other Destinies: Understanding the American Indian Novel. U of Oklahoma P, 1992.

Schedler, Christopher. Border Modernism: Intercultural Readings in American Literary Modernism. Routledge, 2002.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Oral Histories from Michael Crouser's Mountain Ranch

This week, Michael Crouser is taking over the Smithsonian Magazine's Instagram feed with images from his book Mountain Ranch. To honor the ten years he spent shadowing and photographing cattle ranchers in the mountains of Colorado, we're excerpting two oral histories from the Heritage section of Mountain Ranch. Crouser writes in his afterword“The men and women I have met, photographed, and become friends with in Colorado are often fourth-, fifth-, or even sixth-generation ranchers. And I find it amazing and nearly unbelievable that a young rancher can step out of his or her front door into the brisk morning, with snowcapped mountains ringing their view, saddle a horse, and set out to ride among the cattle, knowing that their great-great-grandparents, people they never met, had the exact same experience on the very same piece of land.”

Follow the Smithsonian Magazine on Instagram at @smithsonianmagazine!

Punch George

Oak Creek, Colorado

They call me “Punch,” is what they call me. I used to help everybody with cows and whatever, you know, punchin’ cows. That’s how I got that name. I think I was about nine when I got that name, and it’s been with me ever since. You come here now, and somebody asks for Otto George—that’s my real name—nobody knows him. It’s always Punch. I was born in Bailey, Colorado, on the other side of the hill, in 1925. I’m eighty-nine, just about ninety. We lived on a ranch over there, but right after I was born they moved up here, to Oak Creek. Course they brought me with ’em. I quit school in the eighth grade. I met my wife in the third grade, and we stayed together all that time.

Andy Maneotis, he was the biggest sheep man around here then. He was a Greek fella. And I worked a lot for him, helping him dock and gather his sheep, till I got a little older. Seemed like the war broke out too soon, or something, and I went right into the service, into the Marines, when I was seventeen, in 1942. They sent me right over there to the South Pacific. I was over there for over three years. Then I come back to the States, and it wasn’t too long after I got back that the war ended. And then I married my wife, the one I met in the third grade. She waited for me, and so we went that route.

Before that, I was working at anything I could get, really. My dad moved to Salt Lake, and I lived here all alone since I was eleven. I lived in an old shack in Oak Creek in an alley, which was all right. But there was no water, no nothin’. And that’s where I lived. You know, I didn’t have no help when he was here, ’cause there was no work then, you know; we’s just comin’ out of the Depression. I can’t say that I remember anything about Christmas or holidays when I was a kid. It was just another day. I guess ’cause I was on my own and there was nobody around, ya know, so I just worked. Everybody burned coal, but a lot of them lived upstairs, and that’s what I done, packed coal upstairs. Get it for ’em and things like that. And I even racked pool balls in a pool hall one time.

We used to go over there to Burns all the time to go rodeoin’. I didn’t rodeo myself. I just
messed around, is all. I never did get good. And besides that, I had too much work I had to do. Just before ya get to Burns Hole, ya start down that steep hill and cross the Colorado River; right on top, before ya start down, is where the rodeo grounds is. We was over there a couple three weeks ago, my daughter and I, and their rodeo grounds is all caved in. A lot of it’s still standin’, but it’s pretty shabby.

I didn’t claim to be a cowboy, but I liked to think I was. I had a lot of horses when we got on the ranch. I liked draft horses awful well. We had around four thousand head of cattle that we loaded on the train, and they hauled ’em to Nebraska, but it took ’em four days to get there. No feed, no water. And when Mom and I got there, we couldn’t recognize our own cattle. They was all ganted up and hungry and dirty and . . . oh, geez, it was terrible.

I never will forget this one time, we was drivin’ our cattle up to Yampa, and they’d all be on
the road, and here’d come the traffic, and this guy come up and couldn’t get through, so I had a guy back there to tell him, “Well, just hang on till we get two or three more cars and I’ll take ya through.” Well, this guy pulled out that big ol’ pistol and said, “We’ll go through right now.” And they took him through. That’s the things that happen to ya, that’s all. Lotta experiences on the ranch.

Margie Gates

Burns, Colorado

I was born on Wolcott Divide, and I was a home birth, on November 23 of ’31. I was born in the Depression, of course, and jobs were few and far between. My father had been on the ranch in Radium that his father had homesteaded back in the 1880s, and he had to sell the ranch because his brothers and sisters in California were needing money. This left him kinda without a place to go, so he worked for the McLaughlin family, at State Bridge. He more or less managed the ranch for Mrs. McLaughlin. The ranch was up on the Wolcott Divide, and that’s where I was born. We lived there in a little two-room cabin.

My first memories are from when the McLaughlins decided they were gonna sell that ranch. That meant he had to find another job. So he went to Alma, Colorado, where there were jobs in the Lincoln mine. And I can remember—I was about three years of age—I can remember that the first summer we were there, we lived in a tent. And I remember my daddy making little stools out of a sign, for my brother and I . . . little stools for us to sit on. And I remember the man coming by, looking for his sign! My parents were wonderful. I was a daddy’s girl, and I sat on my daddy’s lap every morning. My mother’s cooking was wonderful. She could always cook meat, whether it was wild meat or whether it was tame. Chicken, pork, turkey, or ham.

My dad leased property up Gypsum Valley, and we lived on what they used to call the Congdon Ranch up there. He leased it, and we did haying and had cattle, milk cows, some sheep. I was just starting high school in Gypsum, and I herded sheep every day, and I learned very early on that you can stay out as late as you want to, but you’re gonna be at the breakfast table, and you are gonna eat breakfast. And then by eight o’clock you had to be out with the sheep, gettin’ ’em up on the mountain to eat for the day. And I’d bring the cows in every night before Daddy got home so he could milk ’em.

I rode every day, and I remember having a runaway. My brother, he wouldn’t saddle my horse for me. He said I had to learn how to saddle my own horse. He was five years older than I was, and he kinda thought he was my boss. Anyway, one day I went out to the corral, and his horse was saddled, and I thought, “I’m gonna ride that horse” rather than saddle my own. So I got on the horse. He saw me get on it, and he said, “Don’t go out the gate. You stay in the corral . . . don’t go out the gate.” Well, what did I do? I went out the gate! And the horse took off. I rode him all the way and finally got him turned around. I was on the main road, and luckily I didn’t run into any vehicle comin’ at us. But I had him stopped and turned around and comin’ back by the time my father and my brother got to me. And I didn’t get spanked!

I married Bud before I got out of nursing school. I met him when he came out to Gypsum to go to high school. I was in elementary and he was in high school. Bud was raised with girls, and so he knew how to talk to girls . . . give ’em a hard time, and all that kinda thing. And he’d walk along the fence there at the school, and we’d all—you know, silly girls—we were all out there lookin’ or doing something. And he was just really nice and smiley and fun to talk to. And I fell in love with him. That’s it. I was twelve. Yeah, I’ve loved him ever since I was twelve. You know, that’s the way it is. And that hasn’t changed.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Photographer Nancy Rexroth on the Republication of her Classic Book 'IOWA'

In August of 2017, the University of Texas Press will be republishing IOWA, Nancy Rexroth's long out of print preeminent exemplar of Diana camera work, a cult collection of dreamlike, poetic images of "[her] own private landscape, a state of mind." The following contains Rexroth's current writings on IOWA, along with excerpts from her interviews with
Russell Joslin (from a 1998 SHOTS magazine interview) and Blake Andrews, discussing the Diana Camera and the meaning behind "Iowa."

"Since its publication in 1977, Nancy Rexroth's book IOWA has become an underground classic. Shot in the small rural country of Southeastern Ohio using a Diana camera with a plastic lens {cost = one dollar}, and named after her childhood memories, the book is mysterious on many levels" (Andrews, 2011).


"I was in graduate school at Ohio University in 1969. The courses were very technical for me, and we were studying the Zone System. I was so frustrated with it ALL, all things technical. An instructor {Arnold Gassan} had discovered the Diana in Chinatown, New York, and brought it back for use in the beginning photography classes. I saw him use the camera, and I realized that he had somehow loosened up. . .and he was almost silly while using the camera. . ."(Andrews, 2011). While observing him, I think that I saw from his reaction to the Diana that there was perhaps a magic there, an unlocking of the mind, when using such a basic toy camera. . .

"I bought a Diana camera, experimented for two weeks or so. I made a number of unremarkable photographs with it. At one point, I made an interior photo of a woman’s bed. After that image, I just got into a groove of feeling, with the camera..." (Andrews, 2011). "The photographs seemed to come from that one spot. That one feeling. It was like I had crawled through some kind of secret closet or trap door and found this place, and I mined that territory for the next six years. I continued because I loved it" (Joslin, 1998). 

"It really was a wonderful time to be a photographer because photography had just begun to be regarded as a respectable art form {the early 1970's}. It was starting to become a "good investment" also, which pushed things forward nicely. In graduate schools, things were still very technically oriented - "boy art" as a friend of mine called it. There were only one or two women in each graduate photo class. I felt alone, but used this to my advantage. You know, an, "Oh dear, I'll show you" attitude - an adrenaline thing. This helped because the guys in the program weren't always civil with me. The whole notion of feminism was just starting to be known. I toughened, and saw myself as a "female ambassador," who would make things better for the ladies that were to follow" (Joslin, 1998).


"I photographed in many small towns of Southeastern Ohio, all very sad and unpopulated places. Sometimes, I would just knock on doors and ask to photograph inside. I was pretty trusting back then to have done that. Nowadays, I would feel the possibility of never leaving one of those houses. Perhaps I would receive the blow of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" coming down on my head. . . and not take that chance" (Andrews, 2011). "I liked the scary aspect of those places; they were so different from the suburbs I grew up in. I like the fact that photography is an excuse to go somewhere" (Joslin, 1998).

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Spidey, Inc.—Great Power and Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man

By Matt Yockey, editor of Make Ours Marvel: Media Convergence and a Comics Universe 

Due to corporate machinations—which, from the outside, can seem as arcane as any supervillain plot to take over the world—Spider-Man, one of Marvel Comic’s flagship characters, didn’t make the leap to the Marvel Studios fold when the company took on translating its stable of comic book titles into hugely successful blockbusters beginning with 2007’s Iron Man. Having licensed Spider-Man to Sony in 1999, Marvel’s enduring “web-head” existed in his own universe in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004), and Spider-Man 3 (2007), and in yet another spider-verse in Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014). While these films combined for well over a billion dollars in domestic box office receipts, Marvel itself got only a small percentage as their cut. And while the company was left out of this financial windfall, Marvel fans themselves were deprived of seeing one of the company’s most iconic characters rub shoulders with his super-powered compatriots, as he so often has in the comics. 
If a Marvel Cinematic Universe seemed incomplete without Spider-Man (and certainly the introduction of second-string characters such as Ant-Man couldn’t quite fill the gap left by Spidey’s tenure at Sony), Marvel took steps to correct this by reacquiring the film rights to the character and introducing him into their cinematic world in last year’s Captain America: Civil War. As played by Tom Holland (who was 19 when shooting began), this Spider-Man rings truer as an earnest high school geek than a then 27-year old Toby Maguire did in 2002 or the more conventionally handsome Andrew Garfield does in the Webb films. What’s perhaps most fascinating—and different—about this latest movie Spider-Man is how he’s ushered into the MCU. As the Avengers fracture internally, a beleaguered Tony Stark turns, apparently, to YouTube for help and discovers a red and blue-clad super-being caught on cell phone footage fighting crime in New York. Stark corners Peter Parker in the Queens apartment the high-schooler shares with his Aunt May and applies his passive-aggressive shtick (“So, you’re the … Spiderling? Crime-fighting Spider? You’re Spider-Boy?”) to win him over. This meeting between the two is funny in part because the dynamic—like that of a big brother catching his younger brother with a well-worn copy of Playboy—is both embarrassing and flattering to Peter. He has a secret that he desperately doesn’t want his aunt to know about but which also makes him quietly proud of himself (in this case, for actively fighting bad in the world). As he stutters to Stark rather uncertainly, “I’m Spi-Spider-Man.” He is in fact a boy hoping to become a man and the longstanding appeal of Spider-Man has been that, unlike, say, Batman or Superman over at DC, he is always in the process of growing up. Thus, his everyday struggles (he initially rejects Stark’s offer to jet to Germany, incredulously asserting that he has homework) have always distinguished him as one of the most identifiable superheroes ever.

All of which makes his tutelage under Tony Stark in the MCU all the more significant. In his previous movie iterations, Spider-Man had a vexed relationship with corporate America. Oscorp was the source of both his powers and his adversaries, marking the corporate enterprise in distinctly ambivalent terms. By recasting Peter Parker as a kind of ward of Tony Stark, the MCU-version of the character is much cozier with corporate power. Stark gets him a new suit and, perhaps more importantly for Peter, a place at the grown-ups’ table. Peter belongs and he immediately has the approval of the coolest guy in the room, who also happens to be the richest. Of course, as a symbol of corporate America, Tony Stark individualizes corporate power, making it both familiar and flawed (his smarmy charm is as much a weakness as it is a strength). Audiences embrace Tony Stark in these films because he seems to be constantly learning the same lesson that Peter is learning: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

As a perpetual teenager haunted by the death of his uncle and tasked with caring for his aunt, Peter Parker balances the taciturn grimness of Batman with the enthusiastic naiveté of Robin and the result is greater than the sum of its parts. He is at once determined and self-doubting, and in that emotional mix of civic and familial devotion with private insecurity, Peter Parker represents the best—and most human—qualities of all of us. His credo “With great power comes great responsibility” is as relevant to a teenage science nerd as it is to a billionaire playboy superhero (or as appropriate to the average movie-goer as it is to a world leader). It’s an ethos that in recent superhero blockbusters has been questioned (Captain America: Civil War ponders the exact nature of that responsibility) or, for a fatal moment, forgotten (in Zack Snyder’s 2013 Man of the Steel). If Spider-Man’s integration into the MCU seems to require the oversight of that world’s richest but perhaps most emotionally impoverished character, we are being asked to recognize the necessity of the Everyman at the heart of the fantastic world of both superheroes and global corporate power. Just as Stark needs Peter, Marvel needs its fans and our encounter with Spider-Man this summer in Spider-Man: Homecoming reassures us that in the midst of an increasingly polarized economic landscape, it’s the little guy who still counts the most.

Make Ours Marvel is available now from your favorite bookseller, or purchase directly from the University of Texas Press here.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

How Austin, Texas, Became the Live Music Capital of the World

Before Austin, Texas, was the "Live Music Capital of the World," a rollicking music hall run by a bunch of hippies threw open the doors for fans to enjoy a new blend of country music and rock. Over its ten-year lifespan, the Armadillo World Headquarters hosted thousands of high-profile musicians—Willie Nelson, Frank Zappa, Bruce Springsteen, Taj Mahal, AC/DC, Charlie Daniels, the Ramones, Roy Buchanan, and Bette Midler, to name a random few. The Armadillo helped define the Austin lifestyle, culture, and identity, setting the stage for successors such as the SXSW music festival, PBS’s Austin City Limits, and the ACL festival, which have made Austin an international destination for music fans.

In the newest UT Press podcast, Armadillo co-founder Eddie Wilson shares stories from behind-the-scenes of the beloved temple of "Redneck Rock." Below we've transcribed some of the best bits from the interview, but be sure to tune in and turn on to the whole thang!

We ask Eddie Wilson how he discovered the building that eventually came to house the Armadillo World Headquarters:

UT Press: You did some urban parkour to find the building, right?

Eddie Wilson: Well, the bathroom was broken at the Cactus Club, and so there wasn't anything to do but go out back. And there was this giant wall looming up with broken windows way up top. It was 25 feet tall at least, and so, I knew that there had to be a giant room on the other side of a construction like that. I went around the building and managed to pick a flimsy lock--I watched James Garner a lot--but, uh, I was awestruck. I pulled my car in it, reached in and flipped on the lights, and almost had a heart attack. I think I turned them off as quick as I could. And it was just this huge room. And then we made it bigger by tearing out all of the rooms that were inside of that room.

UTP: And it had a stage?

EW: It had a concrete riser. If I had known at the time that Elvis had played on it, I probably would have kept it like it was. But he played there in '55.

Co-authors Eddie Wilson and Jessie Sublet discuss one of Frank Zappa's visits to the Armadillo World Headquarters and his introduction to local musician Blind George:

EW: Zappa was such a professional, he wanted a three-hour rehearsal--the contract read three-hour rehearsal, an hour off for supper, and then an hour for, uh...

Jessie Sublet: Sound check?

EW: Yeah, just the sound check, I guess it was. Anyway, his equipment got there about a half-hour before the show was supposed to start. We waited and waited and waited all day long. It was really nerve-wracking. And when it got there, he got to see the crew, who were at their very best; everybody just hustling and setting up, building that mountain of speakers that he was hauling and hauling. And, uh, he got a seventeen-minute sound check, and I figured he was going to keep on going until he was satisfied. Well, he got seventeen minutes and his road manager Marty Perellis ran his finger across his throat, and Zappa stopped immediately. And we opened the doors and they just came flooding in. Zappa, he uttered some excuse for a sound check, so I tried to disarm him a little bit with my Blind George story:

We had an entertainer in town named Blind George McClain, who was not just blind but close to deaf and crippled and twisted. He had a little board under his feet on the piano that he would stomp back and forth on for his rhythm. We had just found a videotape of him doing at least about 20 verses of "Tennessee Stud" at an outdoor benefit.

JS: Cool!

EW: Really good black and white [video]

JS: He had good hair though, didn't he?

EW: (Laughs.) Oh ho, yeah. Yeah, that was a great--I remember he did the nastiest version I've heard of "Cherry Pie."
. . .

So, Zappa was in a bad mood, it seemed to me, and I hadn't spoken to him yet. . . . "Let me try and disarm you," I thought. "Would you like to meet your opening act? He's deaf, dumb, and cripple." He said, "What does he do?" I said, "He plays the piano, stomps on a board, and sings Ray Charles and, uh, George Jones." And he said, "I want to meet him right now."

We went up the stairs and over to the office, and George was kind of crushed down in his terrible, cripple sort of way with black sockets, you know, just dark dark caverns where his eyes would have been. And I whispered to Zappa as we approached him. I said, "Remember he's kind of deaf." And [Zappa] was so stunned when he saw him that he just kind of mumbled. And George said, "Huh?" And he said (louder), "Did you hear our sound check?" George bellowed back, "Yeah, you were too damn loud!"

Jason Mellard, author of Progressive Country: How the 1970's Transformed the Texan in popular Culture (2013), talks to Eddie Wilson about the fateful Thanksgiving Day in 1972, when Jerry Garcia decided to invite Leon Russell to jam at the Armadillo World Headquarters:

EW: Jerry Garcia wanted to go on stage at the free jam that we had on Thanksgiving Day in 1972. . . The only reason that I was pushing was because we had no advertising; we had nothing to let anybody know that we were going to be open on Thanksgiving Day. And I did one of those--one call to the radio station --and I couldn't say who because I didn't know who was going to show. But as Garcia was leaving the auditorium, Palmer, the night before, after we fed him at the Armadillo, Jim Franklin and Leon Russell were coming in the back door, comin' down from Tulsa because Leon wanted to meet Willie Nelson.

And so Jerry Garcia looked up and saw Leon Russell and said, "Why don't you come over and jam tomorrow at the Armadillo?" He hadn't wanted to tell me what time because he had committed to doing it around the meal--that was going to be too much detail, and he was above detail. And when Leon [asked] what time, Garcia kind of looked at me and gritted his teeth, and I said, "How about 3 o'clock?" They agreed, 3 o'clock.

So, of course, at 3 o'clock the next day, I was just a nervous wreck. Who's going to really show? Garcia was there early and then Leon finally showed. So okay, guys, you know, let's do it. Phil Lesh (Grateful Dead) was on bass and a lot of the best local pickers were all--

Jason Mellard: Yeah, I think, was it Furman, formally of the Elevators, was there?

EW: Benny Furman, he had a fiddle there; yes, he did.

JM: Sweet Mary Egan (Greezy Wheels)?

EW: Yeah, yeah. Hank Alrich (Tiger Balm).

JM: Jerry Barnett (Shiva's Headband), I think also?

EW: He did a lot of drumming. And, uh, Jim Finney also played some drums. But, Garcia said, "Let's just wait until Doug [Sahm] gets here, he needs to be the bandleader for this thing. He knows at least 1,000 songs." And Leon said, you know, not long before he died, he came through town and we had a good visit; and he actually said to the audience in our beer garden, he said, "I played Armadillo World Headquarters with the Grateful Dead, and it was the worst performance of my career.

EW: He's not a jam guy! He's an arranger. And, you know, it just wasn't his particular bag. Oh, but you couldn't have wanted more.

Click here for more information on Armadillo World Headquarters: A Memoir.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Remembering Miguel Ravago (1945–2017) of Fonda San Miguel

We were saddened to learn of the passing of Miguel Ravago this weekend—the visionary chef behind Austin’s Fonda San Miguel restaurant.
Miguel Ravago of Fonda San Miguel
Ravago earned rave reviews for his subtle and complex dishes that defined Fonda San Miguel’s menu and brought interior Mexican cuisine to central Texas. From Tostadas de Cochinita Pibil to start, to Carne Asada a la Tampiqueña, and Cajeta Crepes to finish, every meal at Fonda San Miguel was a reflection of Ravago’s passion and his childhood spent cooking at his grandmother’s side.
“I was also curious about cooking,” Ravago wrote for the restaurant’s official cookbook, Fonda San Miguel: Forty Years of Food andArt, “so my grandmother started showing me things like how to fill tamales. By the time I was six or seven, I was helping in the kitchen quite a bit. . . . So even when I was pretty young, I think I knew I wanted to be a chef.”
When Fonda San Miguel first opened in 1971, almost 50 years ago, a restaurant featuring authentic Mexican cuisine was a daring idea in a city where Tex-Mex food reigned supreme. Ravago and co-owner Tom Gilliland won over customers who expected a “No. 1 Enchilada Dinner” to build a loyal clientele of adventuresome eaters who came as much for the romantic hacienda-style décor as the food.
Ravago and co-owner Tom Gilliland
“After thirty years, cooking is still great fun for me,” wrote Ravago. “I especially enjoy the Hacienda Sunday Buffet, which always features four entrees from four different states in Mexico. This gives me a chance to help people learn about the food. If customers tell me they’re planning a trip to a certain region of Mexico, I show them what dishes to taste so they’ll know what kind of food to expect. Sometimes they come back and say the food wasn’t as good as Fonda San Miguel’s, and that’s always nice to hear. . . . I’ve always been curious about food, and I love to see people learn more about Mexican cuisine.”

In the spirit of Ravago’s desire to share Mexico’s diverse regional dishes, click through for a few recipes from Fonda San Miguel, including a tequila toast to a trailblazer for Mexican cuisine in America.

Friday, June 23, 2017

"Rexroth's Strawberries" and the Beauty of IOWA

In the early 1970s, Nancy Rexroth began photographing the rural landscapes, children, white frame houses, and domestic interiors of southeastern Ohio with a plastic toy camera called the Diana. Having discovered the Diana camera while in graduate school in Ohio, Rexroth began experimenting with the looseness and spontaneity of the camera and the images it produced.
Plastic cameras are a simple and loving tonic for those who are frustrated and needing joy in their art work. How can you be at all serious, while using a camera that makes the sound of a wind-up toy every time you advance the film?—Nancy Rexroth, Q&A with Blake Andrews
Working with the camera’s properties of soft focus and vignetting, and further manipulating the photographs by deliberately blurring or sometimes overlaying them, Rexroth created dreamlike, poetic images of “my own private landscape, a state of mind.” She called this state IOWA. Rexroth self-published her evocative images in 1977 in the book IOWA, and the photographic community responded immediately and strongly to the work. Aperture published a portfolio of IOWA images in a special issue, The Snapshot, alongside the work of Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, and Emmet Gowin. The International Center for Photography, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Smithsonian Institution included IOWA images in group exhibitions.

Forty years after its original publication, IOWA has become a classic of fine art photography, a renowned demonstration of Rexroth’s ability to fashion a world of surprising aesthetic possibilities using a simple, low-tech dollar camera. Long out of print and highly prized by photographers and photobook collectors, IOWA will be republished with twenty-two previously unpublished images, a new foreword by Magnum photographer and book maker Alec Soth, an essay by internationally acclaimed curator Anne Wilkes Tucker, and postscripts by Nancy Rexroth and Mark L. Power, who wrote the essay in the first edition.


Alec Soth, who wrote the foreword, "Wild Strawberries," for the reissued book, said of Rexroth's work: "[Her] images seem not to set the hard facts of place but instead to evoke the world of dreams." He compares her photography to a character in Ingmar Bergman's film, Wild Strawberries, writing: 
"It occurs to me that her delicate and informal way of photographing might be compared to picking wild strawberries. As in Bergman’s film, small delicacies carry larger symbolic meaning. . . . Rexroth’s pictures, her vibration, her wild strawberries: they are a kind of longing. Their inability to be located, the softness of the tones, their simultaneous inclusion and exclusion of time: these combine to create a sort of betweenness, like the sensation of moving toward a goal, like the feeling of seeking."
IOWA—the first photography book to showcase the artistry and beauty of photos taken on the Diana—remains a seminal volume and point of inspiration for contemporary photographers. As renowned photography curator Anne Wilkes Tucker writes in her essay for the reissue, "[Rexroth] preserves moments and scenes others might never notice or reject as unworthy of record: the look of a freshly made bed and of one unmade, the low perspective of blades of grass, and thin shadows of winter limbs snaking across the side of a home. She uses graphic forms with the intelligence of a fine poet. This is a feminine eye and a brave one. She takes a crosscurrent rather than follow the prevailing winds and brings us with her."

IOWA is currently available for pre-order, and will be available from your favorite bookseller in August.

IOWA Nancy Rexroth

Monday, June 19, 2017

Criminal Corporations, Energy, and Militarization in the Age of Trump

By Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera

The rapid growth of organized crime in Mexico and the government’s response to it have driven an unprecedented rise in violence and impelled major structural economic changes, including the recent passage of energy reform. Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera’s new book, Los Zetas Inc.
Criminal Corporations, Energy, and Civil War in Mexico, asserts that these phenomena are a direct and intended result of the emergence 
More info
of the brutal Zetas criminal organization and the corporate business model they have advanced in Mexico. Since the Zetas share some characteristics with legal transnational businesses that operate in the energy and private security industries, she also compares this criminal corporation with ExxonMobil, Halliburton, and Blackwater (renamed "Academi," and now a Constellis company).

Combining vivid interview commentary with in-depth analysis of organized crime as a transnational and corporate phenomenon, this book proposes a new theoretical framework for understanding the emerging face, new structure, and economic implications of organized crime in Mexico. Arguing that the armed conflict between criminal corporations (like the Zetas) and the Mexican state resembles a civil war, Correa-Cabrera identifies key beneficiaries of this war, including arms-producing companies, the international banking system, the US border economy, the US border security/military-industrial complex, and corporate capital, especially international oil and gas companies.

Dr. Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera is an Associate Professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (Brownsville campus) and a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. We asked her to comment on the effects of President Trump’s border policy on what she identifies as the beneficiaries of organized crime in Mexico, mainly the US border security/military-industrial complex and corporations.

Criminal Corporations, Militarization, and Energy in the Age of Trump

Mexico’s so-called drug war can be characterized, in some way, as a modern war relating to the control of energy production. In the present context, it is possible to identify groups that seem to have benefited the most from a novel criminal scheme (directly or indirectly) introduced by the Zetas organization, the Mexican government’s reaction to it, and the resulting brutality. The primary (or potential) winners of this armed conflict appear to be “corporate actors in the energy sector, transnational financial companies, private security firms (including private prison companies), and the US border-security/military-industrial complex.”[1]

Moreover, Mexico’s violent spiral coincides with strengthened US border security and has had positive effects on the US border economy. Official numbers at the national level show that crime rates in US border counties are relatively low and have decreased in the past few years due to enhanced border enforcement. Similarly, forced displacements in Mexico have modified migration patterns from this country to the United States. Irregular migration flows from Mexico have declined and “a greater number of relatively more skilled and wealthier Mexicans have been legally emigrating from afflicted border areas in Mexico to the United States. Overall, the effects of the war on Mexico-US migration dynamics seem to be positive for the US economy.”

The main losers of Mexico’s new criminal model and severe armed conflict essentially seem to be the country’s most vulnerable people—those who did not have the resources to flee or defend themselves against extortion, kidnappings, and other forms of brutality carried out by criminal groups, paramilitaries, and government forces—and the national oil industry, represented by the once oil monopoly Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX). Their spaces are being (or will be) occupied by private companies, many of them transnational and often very powerful. In the recent years, “[f]orced displacements, massive disappearances, and militarization in key parts of the country have emptied strategic lands and left them available for future investments, mainly in the energy sector.”[2]

It is worth noting that disappearances, forced displacements, and depreciation of land values in key areas of Mexico have not halted investment in energy and commercial infrastructure. Energy contractors have not curbed their activities; “the expansion of large investment projects continues despite the high risk posed by organized crime and the large number of disappearances. It is also interesting to observe that while Los Zetas and groups following the same criminal paramilitary model have affected small and medium entrepreneurs [related to] the hydrocarbon industry as well as Pemex, they have hardly touched transnational interests.”

President Donald Trump being sworn in on January 20, 2017 at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. 
In January of the present year, Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. His electoral campaign was unique in the sense that it put Mexico, for the first time in history, at the center of the US electoral discourse and foreign policy agenda. Trump asserted that Mexican immigrants in the United States are, “in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.” Therefore, he proposed to build a “big, beautiful, impenetrable” wall, bolster border enforcement significantly, and arrest and deport vast numbers of undocumented immigrants. Trump has pledged to get Mexico to pay for this wall—potentially, he has said, through tariffs. Indeed, the White House communicated that a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico was being considered as a form of payment for the construction of the proposed southern border wall.

Imposing those border taxes would violate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as it is known today. It is also worth mentioning that Trump “ran a campaign somewhat based on NAFTA.” In his quest to “Make America Great Again” and for putting “America First,” Trump pledged in a statement to negotiate "tough and fair" trade agreements with the aim of further generating jobs for the American people. Under this new context, as soon as Trump assumed his role as President of the United States, he signed an order abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the largest regional trade accord in history that once involved the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations and represented roughly forty percent of the world’s economic output. Following this same logic, the new US President has set his sights on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.