Saturday, November 3, 2007

Literary Interlude: The Naked and the Nude

Today I'll be volunteering at the Sarasota Reading Festival, working with the thousands of children who come for their free books. One thing I must say about Sarasota, its people are fairly literate. Our library system is like the most heavily used in Florida. Anyway, I was thinking of all the different types that will be at the fair today, and I remembered this one.

The Naked and the Nude

For me, the naked and the nude
(By lexicographers construed
As synonyms that should express
The same deficiency of dress
Or shelter) stand as wide apart
As love from lies, or truth from art.

Lovers without reproach will gaze
On bodies naked and ablaze;
The Hippocratic eye will see
In nakedness, anatomy;
And naked shines the Goddess when
She mounts her lion among men.

The nude are bold, the nude are sly
To hold each treasonable eye.
While draping by a showman's trick
Their dishabille in rhetoric,
They grin a mock-religious grin
Of scorn at those of naked skin.

The naked, therefore, who compete
Against the nude may know defeat;
Yet when they both together tread
The briary pastures of the dead,
By Gorgons with long whips pursued,
How naked go the sometime nude!

Robert Graves

Friday, November 2, 2007

Elephant in a Dark House

For decades now, the Castro brothers and assorted hangers on have been doing their very own dance of the seven veils when it comes to the outside world. So I have to laugh when I see MSM media types expounding on how the Cuban people feel about anything, as they did last week.

I always get a kick when one of the hanging-out-in-the-tropics reporters musters enough energy to go and ask "the man on the street" in Cuba how he or she feels about anything. You are asking a captive population to be honest. Do they really think someone is going to say, "This fidel is a cabron, and this whole revolution is bullshit." For occasions just such as this or block meetings or elections, the Cubans have invented a strategem. They call it the doble cara. It means that you give lip service to what is required of you and keep your real thoughts to yourself, because if any of your real thoughts deviate from the party line you risk retaliation. Not all retaliation results in imprisonment. No, the great fear is that you will "señalarte," or "signal" yourself. Your life will be made more difficult. Maybe, you'll lose your job,or your children will have a hard time getting into university, or your spouse will be pressured at work. You could even lose your ration card, inadequate as it is. Perhaps an unruly mob will terrorize you in your home for 24 hours in an act of repudio.

So how can they possibly hope to elicit truth? Even those of us more in tune with the realities of life on the island are limited in our understanding. Think about it. You might know how your relatives in Havana feel, but what about people in the countryside? They are two different worlds. To what generation do they belong? There are differences there. You may have a direct link to a dissident, but do you have any idea how representative his pronouncements are?

There are no real elections. There is no free press. The population is generally cowed by very real considerations. Fear is so pervasive that it becomes apparent even in the contradictions of a recent survey, taken under God knows what conditions. Read Henry Gomez's analysis here. The stats speak for themselves. There is no real, quantifiable way to take the pulse of the Cuban people. In attempting to use the same methods they use in free society, the media is groping an elephant's leg in the dark and pronouncing it a cherry tree. And the so-called experts, they like the oracle at Delphi jump to interpret whatever foul emanation arise from the island.

In the end, you have to go with what you know and what you can logically surmise. Granted Cubans are a tad unique, but I'd say the odds of a people living with hunger, repression, and squalor for over forty years wanting a change are pretty high.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Around the Net and More

First the more. Finally heard back from Sen. Martinez's office. It's a nice little form letter that includes the words "Che" and "Smithsonian." I feel better already.

How do you spell P-Y-H-R-R-I-C? Had to laugh at the title of this one: Cuba celebrates its diplomatic win against US. Did they celebrate the other fifteen or sixteen times?

For those of you who like Rick Sanchez, there's an interesting article on how he got his show here. I don't hold out much hope, as he's sandwiched between O'Reilly and the despicable cad.

And the best for last. Been holding onto this one. I have to post the whole thing here, but read this mental peregrination by the coma andante, see if it makes sense to you. Then read AP's treatment of same. Am I missing something? Holy loose association, Batman! Couldn't resist a few asides.

Reflections of President Fidel Castro
Bush, Mambí?

Viva Cuba libre! (Long live free Cuba!). That was the war cry throughout the plains and the mountains, forests and sugarcane fields, identifying those who began Cuba’s first war of independence on October 10, 1868.

I never imagined that I would hear those words coming from the mouth of a president of the United States 139 years later. It is as if a king of that time, or his regent, were proclaiming: Viva Cuba Libre!
On the contrary, a Spanish warship drew near the coast and with its guns destroyed the small sugar mill, just a few kilometers from the sea, where Carlos Manuel de Céspedes declared the independence of Cuba and freed the slaves that he had inherited.

Lincoln, the son of a poor woodcutter, fought all his life against slavery, which was still legal in his country almost a hundred years after its Declaration of Independence. Adhering to the just idea that all citizens are born free and equal, making use of his legal and constitutional powers, he declared the abolition of slavery. Countless combatants gave their lives to defend this idea against the rebel slave states in the country’s south

Lincoln is said to have stated: “You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all of the time.” (Chortle, chortle)

He died by an assassin’s bullet while, invincible at the polls, he was running for a second presidential mandate.

I am not forgetting that tomorrow, Sunday, marks 48 years since Camilo Cienfuegos' disappearance at sea on October 28, 1959, as he was returning to Havana in a light aircraft from Camagüey province, where days earlier his sole presence disarmed a garrison of simple Rebel Army soldiers whose superiors, of a bourgeois ideology, were attempting to do what Bush is now demanding almost half a century later: rise up in arms against the Revolution.

Che, in a wonderful introduction to his book Guerrilla Warfare, states: “Camilo was the comrade of 100 battles…the selfless combatant who always made sacrifice an instrument for tempering his character and forging that of the troops... he gave the written framework presented here the essential vitality of his personality, his intelligence and his audacity, which are achieved in such exact proportions in just a few figures in history.”

“Who killed him? (Short answer: you did.)

“We might better wonder: who eliminated his physical being? Because men like him live on in the people...The enemy killed him; they killed him because they wanted him dead; they killed him because there are no safe planes, because pilots cannot have all the experience they need, because, overburdened with work, he wanted to reach Havana in a few short hours…in his mentality as a guerrilla fighter, not one cloud could hold back or distort a line which had been charted…Camilo and the other Camilos (those who didn’t make it and those yet to come) are the indicators of the people’s strength; they are the highest expression of what a nation may give when on a war footing to defend its purest ideals and with its faith set on securing its noblest goals.”

Because of what their names symbolize, we reply to the false Mambí:
Long live Lincoln!
Long live Che!
Long live Camilo!
Fidel Castro Ruz
October 27, 2007
7:36 p.m.

Get it. Look at the leaps from Yara to slavery, from slavery to Lincoln, from Lincoln to assassination, assassination to Camilo (interesting), Camilo to Che (another assassination of sorts). Maybe he has scorpions in his brain.

If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words...

Today is chemo escort day, so I'll leave you with a book note I posted on Babalu earlier in the week.

Friday's mail brought a copy of the newly published I Was Cuba: Treasures from the Ramiro Fernandez Collection, edited by Kevin Kwan. This stunning coffee table book chronicles the history of Cuba in hundreds of pictures. From the first days of photography until the early days of the revolution, it’s all in here: Havana night life, gas station openings and Victorian family dinners, sports figures and circus performers. In addition, there are shots of Che, ardent milicianas and he whose name I don’t feel like mentioning since he may not remember it.

What sets this volume apart from the usual nostalgic “Cuba of yesteryear” books is that it is conscious throughout not only of recreating a past, but also of photography as an art form. Ramiro Fernandez, who spent much of his career as a photography editor for Time, Inc., has devoted a life to amassing photos of the lost world, as if to reassure himself that the Cuba he remembered once existed. His collection is considered among the finest archives of Cuba photos in world.

This pictorial history is a perfect rebuttal to those who insist on seeing pre-Revolutionary Cuba as a third world country on a par with underdeveloped nations in Latin America and Africa. I warn you, though, to get out your hanky before you embark on your journey to the Cuba of the past. You’ll need it, particularly when you come across the occasional text from the works of Reinaldo Arenas. A gorgeous book, it would make the perfect holiday gift for the cubanophile in your life.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sound Familiar?

The following appeared in an article in the Christian Science Monitor:

There's just one problem: The media got most of the basics wrong. In fact, I have never before witnessed such a disgrace in professional journalism. Myths replaced facts, and journalists abdicated their solemn duty to investigate every claim because they were seduced by a powerfully appealing but false narrative...


…the media simply formed their stories based on one-side's statements …. Second, the media were downright lazy in their efforts to find the truth. Often, they simply reported what they'd read on blogs, which expressed only one side of the issue.

No, the article wasn’t about MSM coverage of Cuba. It could have been. It was a local journalist complaining about coverage of the Jena 6. Welcome to our world. Ahora te tocaron el cayo tuyo, as my mother would say.

H/T Asymmetric


Don't you just love the monocle and the cigarette?


Blame it on Walmart. I was shopping there yesterday when I heard the strains of, no, could it be? Yes! After decades there it was. Oh, if only my father was alive to hear it. Many years ago when I was about five, I heard a song by the Chipmunks. I loved it: I wanted it. Too young to get a title and with marginal English, I went to my father and told him I wanted the Chipmunk song that went "oo-ee-wanamaninga." So Mom and Dad and I went down to the record store on Smith Street where the owner had never heard of a song that went "oo-ee-wanamaninga." We went down to Korvettes on Fulton where they had never heard of a Chipmunk song that went "oo-ee-wanamaninga." We spared no effort, and I sang it at every venue, but alas, there was no "oo-ee-wanamaninga" to be found.

Then yesterday, my life came full circle. There it was being pumped over the speakers. Although I still didn't have the title, this time I got the "words" right: "Oo-ee, oo-ah-ah, ting-tang, walla-walla, bing-bang". A little research, and I had the title, "The Witch Doctor." Ah, one of the great mysteries of my childhood solved.

Already on the road, I started reminiscing and researching and found... See the next post.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Update: The Picture

I am reading something else about "the speech" on CNN, and it catches my eye. She looks much as I did at her age, much as a thousand little Cubanitas. Her pain rises from the screen, radiates from the page. I want to cry for her. Too young to don emotional armor, not hardened by the blows we all experience, how does she make sense of it all? Or maybe she doesn't. Maybe despite being in the presence of a world leader who singles out her father, perhaps, (the caption doesn't identify her) she doesn't care about the pomp, the press. All she know is that her Papi, has been taken from her and that loss overwhelms everything else.
Thanks to Marc's tireless efforts to publicize the plight of prisoners of conscience, I can now identify the young girl. She is Melissa Gonzalez, the daughter of Jorge Luis Gonzalez Tanquero, the prisoner he is hightlighting this week. Read about him here.

Wow, Is That Bush Out of Touch with Cubans!

In the midst of dispatches concerning the episodes of harassment of dissidents, another communique from Havana in support of the President's speech, this time another 3 organizations. Here are some excerpts:

Este discurso claro y humano que ha causado admiración y alegría entre los cubanos que queremos y luchamos por la libertad de nuestra tierra, nos alienta a continuar con más convicción la lucha pacífica y nos demuestra que no estamos, ni estaremos solos, que los hombres y mujeres que viven en libertad y democracia, nos tienden su mano y su corazón.

This clear and humane speech has evoked admiration and joy among Cubans who want and struggle for freedom in our land, it inspires us to continue with more conviction the peaceful struggle and it demonstrates to us that we are not, will not be alone, that men and women who live in freedom and democracy, extend their hands and their hearts to us.


Lo que no es aceptable, es el discurso mentiroso y lleno de odio del canciller que mal nos representar. Gracias al pueblo y al gobierno norteamericano.

What is not acceptable is the lying discourse, full of hate, from the councillor who represents us badly. Thank you to the North American people and government.

Again, the boldface is mine, as is the bad translation. In the original Spanish, click here.

H/T Payo Libre

Monday, October 29, 2007

Presidential Medal of Freedom Winner and a Great Man

The blogosphere is abuzz with the award of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet who is at this very moment languishing in a Cuban jail for the crime of wanting to be free. Some think the awarding of the medal might prove life-threatening to Dr. Biscet. I can only pray that the increased notoriety might have the opposite effect, lend him some of the cover that others have gained by being given publicity.

It came at an opportune time for me, because I had lost heart. In all sorts of outlets, the accusatory, disembodied voices of Cuba "experts" and the MSM were telling us how out of touch and basically rotten Cuban exiles are. In the various Cuban/American outlets any view but their own was characterized as imbecility, cooperation with the regime, or heartlessness. It seems that as a community we are unable to accept that we all want the same thing, that it is possible for people of good faith to differ on methods, that there might be some other way than our own.

Then the news, how refreshing to remember the words of Dr. Biscet in an earlier letter. The boldface is mine.

To my fellow Cubans, wherever you find yourselves, whether in our enslaved island, or in exile in any part of the world. I include also those descendants of Cubans born in other lands. To all of you I send my warmest and sincere greetings.

Our efforts to achieve the unconditional liberty of our nation will soon become reality. I do not need to reveal details to communicate what among Cubans is common knowledge. We suffer not from division or fragmentation in our principles, but rather in which methods to use. We do not lack unity in ideals, but only in the methods to be applied to obtain our liberty. Unfortunately, these insignificant differences of opinion have given room for division among exile leaders and dissidents inside Cuba. These differences have given oxygen to the flames of the most recent and dangerous obstacle that we confront.

As the old Irish Prayer goes, "May God hold you in the palm of his hand," Dr. Biscet.

He Oughta Know Better

Try this interview with young actor whose Cuban parents fled the revolution and settled in Puerto Rico. He is appearing in the upcoming Che movie, The Argentine, starring Benicio del Toro. I understand the difficulty of getting acting jobs, so I'm not outraged at his selling out. And he does try to describe the essential wrongness of the regime. Then he puts his foot in it and lives up to every stereotype as to the mental acuity of actors. Try this, first in Spanish:

Es un personaje vital de la historia latinoamericana y comparto sus principios básicos y sí, estoy de acuerdo con ellos, pero hasta cierto punto. Ya el abuso que se ha dado de parte del Gobierno (cubano) y las presiones de otros gobiernos de Latinoaméricana han sido una traba completa al desarrollo político y socioeconómico del país”

He is a vital character in the history of Latin America and I share his basic principles and, yes, I am in agreement with them until a certain point.

Which of those principles would it be, I wonder. Execution without trial? The inferiority of the black race? Which of his other enduring principles? I won't translate the rest of the excerpt, except to say that he goes on to point out how in practice, they have been a hobble to the political and socioeconomic development of the country. Cuba, I'm supposing.

Read the article here. It's in Spanish.

Who's Out of Touch?

So I'm feeling really depressed when I'm reading all the bashing of Bush's speech, particularly when I read this, found in W's out of touch on what's really going on in Cuba

"The speech insists again on his passion for controlling Cuba, and disrespects Cubans by trying to dictate to them what they must do," said Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo, a Cuban dissident living in Havana. "Maybe the President forgot he has no right to intervene in matters that concern Cuba."
Gutiérrez Menoyo, not a government sympathizer by any stretch of the imagination, pretty much summarizes the generalized reaction in Cuba.

Then this AM, I blessedly turn to PayoLibre's reports by independent journalists on the island and find this joint communique from dissidents. I'm translating some of it here. the words spoken by the President of the United States, George W. Bush on Wednesday, October 24, because we consider them positive, humane, and in solidarity with the Cuban people, as they offer moral, political and material support for the inhabitants of the island.

In the aforementioned speech, there are well-deserved criticisms of the castrista military dictatorship and demands for profound changes towards a transition, including the immediate liberation of political prisoners...legalization of opposition organizations, multiparty elections, and freedom and democracy..

Cuba needs the path toward transition not the succesion that signifies the continuation of the castrista dictatorship. We support totally peaceful changes, orderly, gradual, without traumas, without vengence, without fighting, without destruction and with justice. Enough of fears and terror, enough of misery, enough of pretense. Cubans have the right to be free and independent. Cuba is a great homeland where all fit.

Let's say yes to support and solidarity, we will all construct a free homeland, independent and sovereign.

Okay, okay, so I translated the whole thing. I find it enlightening. They apparently have no problem with accepting the President's support and don't see it as impeaching their sovereignity. Reading the article, it becomes clear that the future they envision for Cuba is free and independent and inclusionary. Vaya con Dios, mis hermanos.

A Round Up of Sorts

After the sturm and drang surrounding the Bush speech, why not catch up on the really important news?

First it was the Chupacabra, now a hunter claims to have pictures of big foot. The Pennsylvania Game Commission says it's a bear with a really, really bad case of mange. Unfortunately, there is no picture, so you can't decide for yourself. Read it here.

Then in an already confusing campaign year, Gerald Ford endorses Guiliani from the grave, sort of. Read it here.

If you missed it, the water wars are on again. This time the combatants are Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. Snippet here. Yup, there really is a water news portal.

Much to William Shatner's dismay, the new Star Trek movie will not feature Captain Kirk. Of course, he was killed off a couple of movies ago, but that's never stopped them before.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Yoda will appear on a postage stamp ,and there were red-headed Neanderthals.

One last note, tonight there was an extensive interview with Hamid Karzai which centered on the civilian deaths caused by American bombing. What network was it? Al Jazeera? No, let me see... oh, yeah, CBS on their 60 Minutes show. Can anyone explain to me what earthly good it does to publicize the deaths of Afghani civilians at the hands, or more accurately bombs, of the US?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Greek Chorus

continues, as Bush gets bashed left and right for having the audacity to propose that Cuba should be ruled by its people and not a mafia family in Communist clothing and their apparatchiks. Oh, no, wait a minute, the Greek Chorus often functioned as the voice of common sense.

And you have to ask, when you as a Cuban American columnist find yourself parroting the lines better left to those who have last names like Smith, as in Wayne, and when the Cuban regime likes your position so much that they devote an article in Granma to it, you have to ask yourself am I really on the side of the angels here?

I'm not gonna go into the embargo as the cause of misery, yada...yada...yada. As for the dissident who found Bush's call on the military to refrain from killing its own people and his insistence that they be allowed to freely choose their own government interventionist and high-handed, I feel doubly sorry.

I've written it before: the way Cubans on the island view Americans has been affected by the steady diet of official propaganda, compounded by the anti-Americanism of the vacationing Europeans. The Iraqis have paid a heavy price for believing the line of palaver fed them by the "world opinion." It is only now that they are realizing the truth. Read the offending article here.

To end on a lighter note, Oscar Corral has been resurrected for the occasion. Check his post here. And do read the comments. The discussion will help you lower your blood pressure after the first one.