Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Auld Lang Syne

As the closing minutes of 2008 tick down, I'd hazard to guess that decades from now, no one will be singing, "It was 2008. It was a very good year." At least, I know I won't. And yet, there is so much for which to be grateful, or "greatful." Interesting thought, that.

In that spirit, I'd like to wish you all a very happy New Year, ever "grateful" that you have stopped by. So tonight, after you throw out the water and eat your 12 grapes, try this for a fitting coda. I use coda, because if we are all very lucky, we will all be here next year. L'Chaim!

(Please note the politically correct multiculturalism here. Ain't that America?)

Bon Mot of the Day

The story is told that when Emperor Nero became infatuated with a young man, he had the young man castrated so he could later celebrate a "wedding" with the youth, now a eunuch. One of the invitees to the event commented that Rome would have been better served if [Nero's father] had attended his own nuptials in like fashion. Looking around me, I have to think similarly about a certain Spaniard who came to this land...

(Oswaldo Yañez in Havana from this post. In Spanish)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday Spaghetti: Of Time and Place

Livin' on the edge. Finally, I don't have to claim boomership. I am officially a cusper like our illustrious soon-to-be president and the potential next senator from Massachusetts. Talk about your trashtalking. Here's a boomer indictment for ya'll. I'm a boomer trasher from way back, myself.

Not quite ready for primetime. Here are not one but two positive Palin stories. First is an interview in which she sounds not stupid but actually well-versed. Second is a pretty incisive piece by Ruben Navarette. He makes the distinction that her appeal was not so much about small town America, as it was about small town American values. Don't know if I'd trust her with the codes quite yet, but she's real people.

Pair of docs. Problem: here's a mixed bag from the Wall Street Journal about the "myths" of Cuba. On the one hand, they acknowledge much of what is wrong, but their solution is not quite what the doctor ordered, methinks. Closer to the crux of the problem is this essay from former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castañeda, not necessarily one of my favorite people.

Slice of life. Meet the new rules: the same as the old rules. Girls, never ever say "I love you" to a man first. At least that's what this how to on CNN informs us. And Townhall heralds the return of Snowzilla to his Anchorage home. The giant snowman apparently causes much havoc in the neighborhood and the municipal Scrooges have banned him.

My prescient self. Remember the animal Ebola in the Phillipines? Well, the dread disease has broken out in the human population in the Congo once again. Death toll was 11 on the 28th. Its spread is limited by its virulence, as in it liquefies its victims so quickly that outbreaks tend to be more localized. Truly scary. More here. Also in the ticking bomb department comes this report that there have been earthquakes in Yellowstone. As any watcher of disaster movies knows, that is potentially not good. Map here.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Cuba: the End of Enchantment

One of the things that struck me the first time I visited Cuba Nostalgia was the complete mock-up of the facade of the El Encanto at the fete. I was further surprised to find that there was an alumni club of sorts composed of onetime employees of the famous Havana department store. It's as if there were a fraternal order of ex-employees of Macys. I was reminded of this when I stumbled on this Miami Herald article which posits the burning of El Encanto as symbolic of the end of an era. Reading it, a light bulb when on over my head. Suppose someone read it but substituted "Macys" for the original. See how the substitution would change your perception of the following:

[John Smith] said that soon after [the new administration], the store gave the impression of operating normally. But gradually some employees embraced the revolution and some even showed up for work wearing guerrilla fatigues. ["Purification"] or ''ideological cleansing'' committees were set up to weed out employees who were not enthusiastic about the revolution, said [a former employee].

Victims of ["Purification"] committees such as [John Smith] often got additional scrutiny by colleagues and supervisers.

These were just the beginnings of the Big Brother state. I guess that's what amazes me when Americans, particularly artists, applaud a system they would find abhorrent if inflicted on them.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Here I Go A-Wassailing.

Figgy pudding is not my thing, but how about some wassail, straight from my circa 1979 Betty Crocker?


1 gallon apple cider
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 teaspoons allspice
2 three inch sticks cinnamon
half cup sugar
2 oranges, studded with cloves

Heat all ingredients except oranges until boiling; then simmer 20 minutes. Serve in punch bowl with oranges floating. It's good stuff.

Wish You A Merry Christmas!

We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Good tidings we bring to you and your kin;
Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding; Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer

We won't go until we get some;
We won't go until we get some;
We won't go until we get some, so bring some out here

We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

(Now how many of you knew the carol involved a wee bit of blackmail?)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

As the Tortilla Turns Ever So Slowly

As Cuba approaches a half century of totalitarian rule, the press seems compelled to mark the occasion. Anita Snow's entry into the lists is surprising in that peeking through the edges of the thing are some truths. In this AP article, she starts, of course, with revolutionary school children in the palace of "the fallen dictator." Does that mean as opposed to the present dictator who followed the previous dictator, I have to wonder. Still, try some of these excerpts for a Snow job.

[The communist government is] a system that may be softening at the edges but appears determined to crush any threat to its grip on power, lest it crumble like its one-time godfather, the Soviet Union.

[The Ladies in White] Each Sunday, these women deliver a muted counterpart to the official cry of "Viva Fidel! Viva la revolucion!" by marching down Quinta Avenida, a busy Havana thoroughfare, each dressed in white and carrying a gladiola, silently demanding the release of their husbands from political imprisonment.

[About the internet] But few of Cuba's 11.2 million people have access to the Internet, and anyway are preoccupied with staying afloat in a sclerotic economy where basics like toilet paper often disappear from store shelves and most people eat meat only a few times each month.

Of course, she does get her history wrong:
Back in the capital, on the other side of Havana Bay, looms the Spanish fortress where Ernesto "Che" Guevara, a top Castro commander, directed executions of several hundred Batista police and army officials accused of torturing and killing opponents.

Please note that it was only murderers and torturers who were executed by Che. What was that about history being written by the victors? Nothing about pregnant women and boys, those who felt betrayed by the revolution they helped to power. And please note that Cuba hasn't executed anyone since the ferry incident, not directly, anyway. There is the question of those who commit suicide in police stations or whither away from neglect and maltreatment in the gulag. But don't forget that there were once 15,000 political prisoners, so what's 219? I'm sure that's a source of comfort to Elias Biscet.

Included also are the requisite testimonials from those who just love the revolution. I can spot her those, although it might have been novel to find a man on the street who didn't think the government was just peachy, because she highlights Elizardo Sanchez and Yoani, giving her the punch line by quoting a post:

That may be another sign of the younger Castro's pragmatic, unshowy style. But blogger Sanchez maintains that the revolution died long ago and needs no birthday bash.

"Let it rest in peace," she wrote in a Dec. 14 posting, "and we will soon begin a new cycle: shorter, less pretentious, more free."

Another AP entry in the retrospective vein is the timeline of "Castro's Cuba." Seems to me it could be expanded a trifle. Like how about the date that Castro promised democratic elections for a start. I'm sure there are lots more dates out there they just somehow missed. Of course, we might have a different view of what constituted "key" developments.

Sunday Drive Bye

By Hook.... The big Cuba news this week was the visit by Russian warships to Cuba (yawn) and the summit of Latin American leaders, including Raul Castro and not including the United States. Not surprisingly, they called for the lifting of the embargo. What they failed to accomplish by fomenting revolution, the Castrian duo seem to have achieved with a mix of propaganda, medical chattel and ideology. Keep an eye on their combined international debt. Paraguay has joined Ecuador in questioning their obligation to pay. Stay tuned...

By Land.... Also in the news, at least in Trinidad was the "successful" surgery of Prime Minister Patrick Manning. Some had questioned why he felt the need to travel to Cuba to undergo the procedure. Didn't Fidel import a Spanish doctor for his treatment. Oh, yeah, that's after the first botched operation, I think.

By the Pricking of my Thumbs.... It was bound to happen. As a recount rife with votes found in car trunks, somehow missed, etc. proceeds Al Franken has taken the lead for the first time in the Minnesota Senate race. It is scary. If the seemingly inevitable happens and residents of Minnesota accept this travesty of an election, they will get the government they deserve. Scary.

By the Waters.... In a sad, but definitive, announcement Florida Police reported that young Adam Walsh was murdered by the longstanding suspect in the case, Ottis Toole. John Walsh, whose life was permanently transformed by the tragedy of his son's murder had long accused Toole of the crime. Toole died in prison on unrelated charges. Read here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

There's Something to be Said for American Cars

What, you say? How can you defend the indefensible? Easy. In fact, it is all too easy to heap disdain on the pariah of the moment. But I would like to submit that for style, comfort, and sheer drive, nothing short of a luxury foreign car beats Detroit's products.

Remember when a car was so much more than a means of locomotion, when cars had flash, pizazz? Guys tinkered with their muscle cars, souped up their Camaros, restored an old Stingray rescued from someone's garage. I can look at a car now and say "Oh, yeah, that's a 1963 Chevy." Granted, sometimes the designers got carried away. Remember the Gremlin? But overall, a set of wheels was a statement. (By the way, have you noticed that engines on new cars are armored against their owners with huge plastic shield bearing placards that read essentially "Do Not Touch"? )

Even with the onset of the K Car and that aesthetic abomination, the minivan, all was not lost. The creative impulse moved into SUV's, a fad I must confess to helping start with my paneled woody Jeep Wagoneer, back in the days when Jeeps were Jeeps and riding in the back seat of one could have perilous implications for siring offspring. I figure that if Al Gore can take credit for creating the internet, I can claim a hand in popularizing the SUV. I wish I could say I gave up SUV's for Lent because I realized they used too much gas and were causing global warming. But I gave them up in the 90's when they became so gussied up that they were trimmed in gold and talked to you, not to mention when I realized that my yearly outlay in gasoline could bring clean water to an entire sub Saharan village.

What to do? For at least a decade, Toyotas, Hondas, Nissans have all looked interchangeable, metallic and misshapen. Boxes to the right, boxes to the left, big boxes, little boxes, hatchback boxes, sedan boxes. You get the picture. And having inflicted an apparently suppurating wound on the Big Three when they were dumping cars below cost on the American market starting in the 70's, they've more than made up the loss with their prices. Even the beetle became a pecuniary butterfly. In short, with the possible exception of Hyundai, foreign car makers ain't giving anything away.

American cars, on the other hand, which had been pretty stodgy and style less for a long while as the public went truck crazy, have quietly begun emerging from their aesthetic torpor. It started with Chrysler and the German Gestapo lookalike, the PT Cruiser, and the Sebring convertible, both which in South Florida turned into the baby boomer equivalent of the Mercury Marquis, if you know what I mean. Then GM got into the game with the new Malibu hatchback, their HR, the stylish, but outlandishly priced, retro looking truck. Dodge is looking up with the Challenger, Charger, even the Caliber. Cars with character.

Now get in any one of the American cars for a drive. What a ride. Man in control. Smooth. No more feeling the earth beneath your feet. Aah. Even the quality seems to have climbed up a bit from its nadir. We have both American and foreign in the family, and both have had their minor glitches.

So I really hope Detroit gets beyond its present difficulties. In addition to losing one of our last remaining industries, the loss of the Big Three would literally change the American landscape, leaving us that much poorer in a world full of boring, utilitarian, virtuous high mileage transportation.

Blue Ribbon Miller, Pinheads, and Ellis Island au Sud

Dennis Miller earns a place in the truth teller column on left for placing Fidel Castro on his Top 10 Pinheads of the Year. Fidel's faux pas? Refusing to die. Sounds harsh, but tonight on The O'Reilly Factor, it was a relief to see two television personalities discussing Fidel with the mutual understanding that he is a bad actor. I almost spilled my coffee when it came on. Watch it here. Bravo.

Bravo also to the Miami Herald Tribune for including in its retrospective of 50 years of revolution a searchable database of those who came on the freedom flights from Cuba. Now I understand how my Italian and Irish friends felt when they went to Ellis Island and looked up their forbears. Gives one a sense of roots and legitimacy somehow.

H/T Robert

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Quote for All Seasons

One of my pet peeves has to do with the constant touting of literacy and healthcare in Cuba. Naifs are impressed because they assume that Cubans lived on a par with third world countries before the great and glorious revolution. Well, here is one fact at least to innoculate you.

On the plus side, Cuba has a 99.8 percent adult literacy rate, one percent higher than Trinidad and Tobago's, and an infant mortality rate of six per 1,000 people, slightly lower than Chile's, according to the United Nations' 2008 Human Development Report. That makes it the country with the best adult literacy and infant mortality rates in the region.

But according to the U.N. 1957 Statistical Yearbook, Cuba already ranked among the four most advanced Latin American countries in literacy and caloric consumption rates that year, and had the lowest infant mortality in the region. In other words, Cuba has gone up three places in the literacy ranking, while retaining its status as the nation with the region's lowest infant mortality rates.

Read the rest of the Oppenheimer piece in the Miami Herald here. For another look at the Revolution fifty years on, try this one by Frances Robles. I may not agree with everything he includes, but much of what he writes is spot on. In particular, note the decay of the early "grand and glorious" achievements.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday after Sunday after Sunday

Yesterday. Today's first entry is by Jay Nordlinger on NRO who gives us something of the feel of a sit down with still President Bush in a wide ranging report. The glimpse of the man behind the President, particularly now that he is so removed, is fascinating. It's easy to see that he feels he's been true, however he is judged.

Light. The cover story of Newsweek magazine on the Biblical basis for gay marriage has been causing quite a stir. What is surprising is Newsweek's response. As Mark Hemingway highlights in this, the magazine is openly taking a position. Personally, I think we ought to issue Certificates of Cohabitation to everyone intending a long term relationship, not necessarily romantic in nature. Leave marriage to churches and the like. At least that's my thought of the moment.

Fool. Next up is Jackson Browne who is still suing the McCain campaign for using some of his stuff during the campaign. McCain is trotting out the old Fair Use. The Townhall piece by Carl Horowitz has a pretty good explanation of "fair use," as well as a few choice descriptives for Browne to which I could add a few others based on the imbecility of his latest attempt at Cubawash. Double shame on him.

Dust. Seems the worship of idols is not a new thing in Cuba. An article on National Geographic informs us that imported materials were used to fashion idols for the elite in preHispanic times. Gee, the more things change the more they stay the same. Actually, it's interesting.

Death. The following headline is likely to scare the bejesus out of you. Fear not, kinda. The Ebola virus found in pigs in the Philippines is the Reston variety. Reminds me of a great nonfiction book, The Hot Zone, which contains everything you'll ever want to know about Ebola. Bad news, though, is that the variant which had not previously appeared in pigs apparently jumped species.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Meanderings: The Spirit of Christmas Present

This year, I resolved there would be no festive lights, no Christmas tree, no holiday baking, and the minimal amount of cheerful presents. It's not difficult really to essentially cancel Christmas since I'm the only one who decorates, bakes, shops. Now, I could make a case that it is a somber holiday. My dad died on Christmas Eve. I went ahead with Noche Buena anyway. He would have approved. And although illness clouds this approaching eve, that's not it either.

"So, Mom, are you watching your sappy Christmas movies yet?" my daughter asks over the phone.

"No," I reply. "That's for people who celebrate Christmas." She was referring to one of my favorite holiday pastimes, watching a syrupy, soupy Christmas movie a night for the month of December. Truth is, I love it. I come by it honestly. My Dad was crazy about Christmas. For a variety of reasons, he had missed out growing up. My mother used to call him "el niño sin infancia," or the boy without a childhood. Well, he made up for it.

Every year, we would pile in whatever Pontiac he had at the moment and head up to Manhattan to get our tree. It had to be a real one, the kind that smelled and had to be fed aspirin and wound up dropping aromatic needles everywhere. In the dark, we would barter and buy under the old West Side Highway, where trees were chosen the by the glow of light bulbs strung on props of wood. The purchase always entailed great debate as to whether it was too scrawny, too tall for the ceiling, too expensive. Into the night, we would drive with our trophy firmly tied to the roof.

Invariably, when we got home, it would be too tall or crooked or some other condition that necessitated cutting the base. A saw borrowed from some place, as we lived in a Brooklyn tenement, tree firmly in its base, it would begin. Dad's responsibility was stringing the lights. This, he turned into a ritual which required the most careful of placement. First, however, they had to be tried because inevitably one of the little lights would be blown and the string would be out. He would examine each twinkle bulb carefully, as if anyone could tell which one was out. Then he would change bulb after bulb until he hit the right one. His solemn charge accomplished, he would relinquish the tree to the colorful ministrations of my Mom and myself. The toys under the tree Christmas morning, however, had to be wrested away from him so that I could play.

As fate would have it, the hubster was by geography and personal circumstance similarly Christmas-challenged. But where my Dad threw himself into the process, hubby scoffs and scoffs and scoffs. For 30 years now, I have been dragging the man, kvetching, across the Christmas finish line. One year, his daughter gave him the soundtrack to The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Talk about your pointed presents. Let me tell you, there is nothing more depressing in a in a one horse open sleigh than someone complaining all the way. No mas. The man doesn't like Christmas. We won't celebrate it.

And so it was that last night for the first time this year, I was innocently channel surfing and stumbled upon a movie, not just any movie either. The plot was something about an accountant who magically transforms a bunch of homeless men into a choir, etc.... It could have been any one of a hundred made for TV holiday movies. I felt it. I realized the true spirit of Christmas: for one shining moment in time, in the midst of darkness and winter, we recapture the color and light of childhood, the wonder, the magic. The most potent magic, I think, is the possibility of goodness, our own and that of others. That's what Christmas is all about.

And as for me, don't despair. When I couldn't tamp down my desire to decorate. I gift wrapped the paintings in the living room in a somber pewter and gray paper with black ribbon. I did put a white poinsettia on them. I took out Dad's soft and cuddly Santa Doll and put it on my night table. And as I write, maybe I'm wearing red ornament earrings.

Funny thing is that somewhere across the years, that Grinch heart must have started growing ever so slightly, nearly approaching the size of a human one. Many a reference to the lack of decorations around the old homestead and even a joking accusation of laziness have been made. There have been a few false starts to string lights on the house. The other evening, we wound up at a local shopping area to see the lights. For half a minute tonight, going to see the Christmas parade on Main Street was a possibility. Who knows, by the time this season is over, maybe there will be joy in Whoville. Doesn't really matter though, because one thing I've discovered in the year with no tree is that I carry Christmas in my heart. Every thing else is really window dressing.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Celestial Thoughts

Get those telescopes out! Actually, you don't need one. During the month of December, Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon, as well as a dash of Mercury will be the closest to the Earth they'll be in a long time. When you look up at the sky right about now, the brighter higher "star" will be Venus;the less bright, Jupiter. Over the course of the month Venus will get higher in the sky and jupiter lower. I think I've got it correctly. In any case, the Moon is huge because it is so close. The amateur astronomers association explains it here, kinda.

I Blog; Therefore I Am: Yoani's World

Visit Yuca Baby for an enlightening post about Yoani Sanchez, Cuban blogger. I've posted about her difficulties before and her courage. You can watch her question Mariela Castro Espin (her father is Castro II) about extending the tolerance to different ideological and political opinions that Mariela is seeking for sexual preference. The Yuca Baby post also links to Yoani's website in English. Read the one about Christmas trees and you'll understand why she has won international awards. There is also a video, taken at a clandestine and apolitical gathering of Cuban bloggers. It is in Spanish, but there is a translation of the ending, a call to action to all bloggers, a plea for solidarity with the "embryonic" Cuban blogosphere:

I would like, with this message, which I send like a letter in a bottle thrown at sea for all the bloggers of the world, to say that yes, we exist, we need your help, we need technological knowledge, bibliographies, ideas for how to overcome censorship, and above all, support and solidarity. So that we don't feel as if we are alone, so that we may leap over that hoop, that wall of control that moves around us. To open some cracks {in that wall}, and, someday, perhaps one that is not so far away, dynamite it.

God bless.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Post of Two Headlines

An earlier post highlighted the pernicious effects of naive or cynical reporting, to wit- the AP article. Well, the Miami Herald, which newspaper more than any other in the world should be aware of the trampling of human rights in Cuba, picked up the Anita Snow story online... with headline intact:

Foreign Minister: Cuba can be Proud of its Rights Record

Contrast that to the AFP story posted on NASDAQ:

Cuba Defends Rights Records; Opposition Denounces Arrests

Now which of the two is more accurate? It is bad enough that the AP chooses to publish this tripe, but that the Miami Herald should propagate it is beyond all belief. One is left to surmise that A) the Miami Herald believes that the hundreds of thousands of Cuban exiles who came to these shores with only the shirts of their backs are liars, B) the management of the Miami Herald has such an antipathy toward Cubans that it is willing to perpetuate what it knows to be a misleading story, or C) the organization is so slipshod in its journalism that it publishes said story. As far as I can see, their is no alternative.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On the Harmful Effects of Snow

On this day, when numbers of planned observances of International Human Rights Day were short-circuited by the regime which beat some, threatened more, detained some, corralled others in their homes, a day when 32 Ladies in White managed to march in front the Capitol in Havana, demanding freedom and distributing copies of the Declaration of Human Rights, things in the socialist paradise being so bleak that citizens don't know they have any inherent rights, Anita Snow files an article, which despite mentions of the ladies and the remarks of the Commerce Secretary, is essentially an open platform for Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque to declaim that, despite some "imperfections' Cuba can be "proud" of how it has treated its people. After all, you won't find any children squeeging windshields he maintains.

So what is the problem? The problem is that the unknowing peruse the headlines and are left to think that Cuba treats its people well. After all, if it weren't true, AP wouldn't let it leave uncontested, would they? Must be those nasty robber baron exiles in Miami making up lies. Now, if they are really interested and read the article, they are only a little better off. They are left with the impression that things in Cuba are not that bad. Other than a nice and sanitary reference to "political prisoners," there is no light shed on the most oppressive of States in the Western Hemisphere. No recognition that failing to toe the party line can result in charges of "pre-criminal dangerousness" and imprisonment, no mention of the lack of true due process. No allusion to Oscar Biscet's original 4 by 5 cell where he lived in the darkness with only a hole for his sanitary needs, no description of the conditions that cause the aforementioned political prisoners to go on hunger strikes and sew their mouths shut in desperation. No hat tip to the death sentence by malevolent neglect, the refusal of medical care, ad inifinitum.

There is no acknowledgement of an atmosphere of fear, in which your neighbors in the CDR are encharged with spying on you, dragging you out to vote where the outcome is a foregone conclusion, and rabbles are choreographed to harass, threaten and beat dissidents. Streets where he whose name may not be uttered is indicated with a gesture denoting a beard. It is a place where information is so strictly controlled that citizens may not have internet access and private individuals at great personal peril create impromptu libraries with tourist castoffs and prerevolutionary relics, the only free and unfettered reading material on the island.

This article which presents the pretty words of the regime with no qualifications essentially maintains that his spew is true. It not only does harm to the Cuban people whose plight remains unreported; it also does a disservice to its readers, particularly in the United States; and on this day in particular its business as usual focus is a disgrace.

Contrast that with the article by Sara Miller Llana in the Christian Science Monitor which details the beating of Belinda Salas Tapanes. I was wrong in my earlier post on Babalu: at least one reporter cared.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Light Blogging

Sorry, I haven't been able to devote the time: "pasando la Niagara en bicicleta," as they say. I shall return.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Quote for the Day

This from the Sowell column reminds me so much of those who pontificate about Cuba with little or no thought to the lot of ordinary citizens.

The essence of bigotry is refusing to others the rights that you demand for yourself. Such bigotry is inherently incompatible with freedom, even though many on the Left would be shocked to be considered opposed to freedom.

Sunday Sermons of a Sort

Ask not.... Let's start with this Thomas Sowell piece on the NRO. Sowell is one the true thinkers in the world of commentary. In this, he opposes mandatory "community service" as an erosion of freedom. Made me stop, particularly when he changes the community to "military." He's right, folks, I think.

He who steals money..... Apparently, the sweetness and light of community service does not lend itself to building ethics in the aforesaid population. The buzz this week was about a study which indicated that American teens are liars and cheats, kinda. A veteran catcher of encyclopedic hands and verbally enhanced skirt hems, I didn't need a study to tell me that. Anyway, this article at Breitbart raises a truly scary point: this is the next generation of American workers. Nuclear plants, anyone?

The rumors of my demise.... I'm taking this next Jason Lee Steorts NRO column out of context for its methodical examination of Bush Derangement Syndrome. I think he's got it right. Bush has been vilified and has seemed unwilling or unable to counter the scurrilous attacks. Still can't figure out his reticence now. Is it pique?

What does not destroy me..... In a version of my worst nightmare, a planeload of passengers from El Salvador were diverted to Ontario where they were kept on the tarmac for nine hours, read it, nine. I would sue for mental distress, that is when they released me from jail for inciting a riot. Unconscionable. Read it here.

Most folks are as happy..... Let's finish off on the bright side. Happiness is contagious according to a study published in a British Medical journal. Surrounding yourself with happy people apparently lends to your own contentment. Although I'm familiar with the opposite, having a number of toxic relations, I'd never thought of the converse. Smile.

For an added bonus, complete the quote, identify the author/speaker, and I promise to be impressed. Happy Sunday.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

More Embargo Speak

As I posted over on Babalu, this week's New York Times Magazine carries a beautiful article on the end of the revolution by Roger Cohen. Of course, some of the material is objectionable, most notably the call for a new approach to US/Cuban relations. It is a call echoed by the author of Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba when pressed for his views in an NPR interview.

The calls for the lifting of the embargo et al are reaching a critical mass. Misled by ill-informed and/or ideologically motivated academics and "journalists" the American public wants to make money(Ha) and benefit from a cheap vacation in the land time forgot like the rest of the world. Labeled as a "hard-line,""intransigent" "Mafia" of would be "Ahmed Chalabis," those of us who have witnessed or felt the impact of the evil of the Castro regime seem to be losing the PR war.

Thus, my crystal ball says there will be an attempt made to normalize relations. I write attempt because every time the US has attempted to thaw relations the Cuban regime has thrown a spike in the works. Ask Jimmy Carter. The truth is that the thugocracy needs the embargo, because it needs an excuse for the decimation of an country. In any case, it behooves us to regroup, to frame the discussion on our terms if we are to avoid handing murders, thieves and liars a blank check to continue looting and oppressing. And I am not exaggerating when I use those words.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Embargo and the Enablers du Jour

The calls to end the embargo multiply daily. One might almost think they were orchestrated. In today’s installment a number of business organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, Business Roundtable, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Retail Federation and Grocery Manufacturers Association, urged the President to be to lift the embargo, as these commercial potentates feel qualified to make foreign policy judgments. Lifting the remittances is fine by them, but could you please scoot over and leave a bit more room for that persistent camel.

Their motivation, only partially cloaked by altruism, is greed. Now greed is not necessarily a bad thing, but stupidity is always. If I’ve got this correctly, they wish to be free to do business with a government that has made an avocation of not paying its debts to the tune of 60 billion and five decades with a citizenry so impoverished that it can not afford American goods. (After all there are limits to even Tia Lola’s largess.) Maybe the thinking is that the ability to sell cigars, rum, and quack remedies to the American public will enrich the coffers of the Havana Dons thereby releasing rivulets of Cuban Class B currency to the populace, enabling a citizen to buy, say, one Nike sneaker a year. If these are our great business minds, it is not surprising that the heads of the big 3 are in DC on bended knee.

Of course, they could be positioning themselves for the day when Cuba once again rejoins the world of functioning economies, a prospect set back that much further by supplying an economic lifeline now. They seem to have forgotten the little matter of the unpaid millions, 2 billion approx, owed American companies and private citizens for expropriated property. I won’t mention the poor, benighted political prisoners. No one else does.

Mark my words; by the time this lunacy runs its course, Obama will be lifting the embargo by public acclaim. But then, heck, what do I know?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cuban Music and Change

As I'm reading Time magazine, I come across it. "The Sound of Change: Can Music Save Cuba" blares the headline. Of course, the accompanying article devotes little to that topic. Actually, here a few of the more notable observations made by Thornburgh:

1. Music in Cuba, as well as the island itself, is changing. Movements from outside the country like reggaeton and techno are infiltrating. Musicians are fleeing the country.

2. People are feverishly hopeful of change, pinning their hopes on the Obama administration.

3. There are a number of "Ahmed Chalabis" in Miami waiting to take over should the government fall.

4. The big, bad United States lures with the "murderous enticement" of Wet Foot/Dry Foot.

5. Younger generations of Cubans on both sides of the Gulf are more willing to forgive and forget.

The value of the article is in the slice of life about Cuba. Mr. Thornburgh to his credit goes beyond the facade of the socialist paradise and writes about real people. He demonstrates a certain familiarity with the reality of life in Cuba. Unfortunately, he presents a one-sided view of the United States' role, and there really is no need to guess which side. Yet more evidence the regime has trashed a nation but won the propaganda wars.

The Blogger and the Bad Man

In the past two days, Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez of Generación Y was summoned to the Police Station in Vedado where she was read the riot act and told in no uncertain terms that a proposed blogger meet up was to be cancelled. She was further threatened that she had transgressed all limits. With incredible courage and characteristic insouciance, Yoani asked for it all in writing, laughingly calling her wouldbe intimidators "cowards" at their failure to do so.

Her situation, however, is no laughing matter. The Cuban government's apparatus of intimidation is putting her on notice. They are watching and will act. Publicity provides her only protection, such as it is. In the interest of providing as much information as possible, I've translated her last two entries. Read them and spread the word as much as possible.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Fowl Story

One of the rituals at holiday family gatherings invariably involves the “do you remember the time that…?” It was in this context that my father-in-law raised a European trip we took in the early 80’s. We met up in Rome and traveled to Yugoslavia. Even as we argued about the city: was it Split? Srebenica? Zadar? I knew where he was heading.

“Yes,” I replied. It was Split, I think. We arrived in the city, and there was literally no room at the inn. A visit to the local tourist bureau procured us lodgings in private homes. My father-in-law drew the 50’s vintage ranch house on the outskirts of the city. My husband, sister-in-law, and I found ourselves in front of the massive wooden door to a townhouse in the starigrad, or old city, read that medieval walled city. I swear that door swung, whisper silent, of its own accord. Standing there awaiting us, beckoning us in with a red manicured digit was a tall, spare, austere-looking, middle-aged woman who spoke English hesitantly and with an accent like that of a female Boris Karloff. Her jet black hair was drawn back in a bun; her thin lips, outlined in bright red. There was something terribly witchlike about her.

Despite our initial misgivings, she turned out to be a very nice, if unnerving, woman. We were renting a room in her apartment which consisted of the top floor of the building and a rooftop/garret/pigeon coop. At some point during our brief stay, she told me, “This was all ours once. It was one house. It belonged to my father. But they took it away and left me with this,” indicating the flat crammed with family heirlooms. This I understood. Suddenly, I had visions of that scene in Doctor Zhivago when Omar Sharif returns to find the rabble inhabiting the old homestead and his family barricaded in a few rooms.

“She got that back, now, you know.” My father-in-law interrupted. “They all got that back.” Apparently, the property that had been appropriated by the government was returned when Yugoslavia broke up and the resulting Republic opted for democracy. How wonderful, I thought. The balance of that woman’s universe had been restored. It made me sad, too, because I couldn’t foresee such an ending for Cuba. It’s not about property, as much as it’s about the acknowledgement that a wrong had been committed, a patrimony stolen. As Anita Snow revels in her opinion that Obama is free to collaborate with the Havana Dons, I wonder whether it's an acknowledgment we’ll ever get or whether we are expected to collude in the denial of our own reality.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Not Quite Sunday Not Quite Information

Storing it. A long, long time ago when I was in college, I was taught a few things like the answer to energy needs was nuclear fusion which was just around the corner in the next twenty years. That's what they're still saying. Ditto for batteries. The discussion of the limitations of same in this Newsweek article by Keith Naughton seem awfully familiar. Lots of "green" technologies depend on batteries- from alternative fuel cars to solar collection. Good news, they're working on it.

Selling it. For the first time ever, online shopping seems primed to drop this holiday season, according to this Wall Street Journal article. If online business follows the brick and mortar variety, I suspicion it may yet show a resurgence. Call me an optimist.

Stealing it. From comes "The Spam Report" in which Will Sturgeon answers the perennial question of what would happen if it you bit into one of those Nigerian-come-into-money scams. The story of his correspondence with Mr. Madu Frank is an amusing one. Not amusing are the poor unfortunates who fall for it. Read it here.

Losing it. The emasculation of our society may be more than figurative. Came across an article, which I lost, that the number of males is declining. Suspected are toxins in the environment. Seems the Canadians are going to run a documentary on "The Disappearing Male" this month. The rest of us will have to wait with bated breath for more info.

Leaving it. Burt Prelutsky waxes eloquent on the topic of public libraries, singling out Andrew Carnegie for endowing them. Given that the guy was not only a philanthropist but saved the economy on at least one occasion, he must've been a pretty nice guy for a robber baron. As to libraries, Prelutsky mentions his own experience as a boy; Colin Powell has shared his. There are numerous testimonials to their value. So why are they the first cut when budget shortfalls threaten?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Road Trip! Road Trip!

Haven't been posting much, getting ready for one of my favorite undertakings. Unfortunately, two things have been getting in the way. I'm tired. Blame it all on Ms. Calabaza, or maybe some of it, for posting an absolutely beautiful picture of a Pumpkin Flan. "A Pumpkin Flan?" I asked myself. Somewhere in the dim mists of time, I had a vague recollection that such a thing existed. What a great metaphor for the joining of my Cuban roots and my American life, I thought. But why stop there? Seized by an paroxysm of domesticity, I decided to make...Pecan Tassies. Yes, the sinful, ever tasty tassies. Mine are like little Pecan Pies, although I confess that they are the only good cookies I know how to make.

So I enlist Mama's aid in making four dozen dough cups for the filling, although I miscalculate and wind up with three dozen, a third of them rather fat. Still they pass the taste test. Not content to rest upon my laurels, I take on the Pumpkin Flan. By the way, the recipe is divine, kinda like a spice cake with a flan consistency. Of course, never having made a flan in my life, I had a syrup malfunction.

Next came the mad scramble for laundry, ironing, packing, and liberation. After 30 years of marriage, I forced the hubster to get his own clothes ready. That's right, that's right. The man had to decide what he was going to wear for the next few days and set it aside. In the interests of sartorial safety, I did the packing. My clothes are in there, too.

So as I set off for work to be followed by a marathon drive, I'll wish you all a happy holiday in case. If I'm lucky, there will be some tassies left and I'll remember to pull the flan out of the fridge. But only if I'm lucky.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

In-friggin-credible Expanded and Expounded Twice

This abomination, ostensibly a statue of a mime pretending to be Che, is in New York's Central Park. Can you imagine a statue of Hitler, or Stalin, or even a Grand Wizard of the KKK in the same location? Of course not. Yet this statue to a racist, homophobic, mass murderer is gracing New York's signature park. Babalu has contact information here.
H/T Maggie at
Updates: There will be more.
Thanks to Jack Kemp, not the politician, on The American Thinker for what is inscribed on the base of the idol:
The base of the Che statue has some interesting things written on 3 sides. One side has a website address ("the Che lives" in Spanish) which is no longer accessible via the internet. Another side says "viva la re-revolution," i.e., long live the re (or new) revolution, in Spanish. The third side says "Seamos Realistes Exijamos Lo impossible." This translates as "We are realistic. We demand the impossible."
As he points out, the two other statues in the exhibit bear no such legends.
Then Jose Reyes over at Cubanology has responded via an essay which includes a chilling video. Watch it and see if it sounds familiar. Thank you, Jose.
And at the American Thinker, Humberto Fontova points out that had it been up to their immortalized idol, Central Park would now be working on its half life, devoid of any of the human kind.

Sunday Hobby Horses and More

Roly Poly. From Coop's Corner, an article about Rupert Murdoch's take on the news biz. Basically, he says that the days of a handful of editors deciding what was news from their perch on high are gone. He is still optimistic about newspapers, though, as long as readers feel that it is news they can "trust." Personally, I think he overrates the intelligence of the public.

Red Light, Green Light. On Fox Business, Neil Cavuto raises the big problem with the bailouts, past and proposed: "we neither demanded banks lend, nor auto companies account." It's more business as usual, including the screwing of the taxpayer.

Old Maid. Living in an nanny state is no fun at all. Gregory Katz in a My Way article informs us Britain is contemplating doing away with happy hour. Too many stiff upper lips and diseased livers. Poor blighters can't smoke, eat, and now drink. Look in the mirror, oh, my brothers.

War. Well, the Brits got one thing right. According to a doctor who treated Herr Hitler for a WWI injury, der Furher was testicularly impaired, didn't have a matched set. Somehow that falls under TMI.

Go Fish. If you want to see a National Geographic video marking Cuba's selection by the World Wildlife Federation as an example of sustainable development click here. I kid you not. Anyway, the video is really pretty, as is the rosy picture they paint of a country where the overriding concern every morning is where to get your daily bread. I only wish such sustainable development on each and every one of these eco-idiots. Clueless.

Telephone. Amazingly, according to this, a movie with no sex, violence or stars had a massive opening. The movie in question is based of Lisa Meyers' bestselling Twilight, a pretty cool read better suited to adolescents. Based on the trailer, I don't have high hopes for the treatment. Besides, as I remember the book, there was violence galore. Night, night.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Meanderings: Spittin' Image

Whenever I'm feeling assailed as a Cuban American I think back to something that happened when I was 13 years old. My earlier years had been spent in working class South Brooklyn, where the very air breathed contempt for Hispanics. In that poor, working class neighborhood where men wore uniforms to work and swilled inordinate amounts of Schlitz, or Pabst, or even Seagram's Seven at home and let loose public diatribes on the failings of Spics, no one had ever uttered a mean word to me. Until I moved to suburban Staten Island, I had never met the monster discrimination face to face. It had never been directed at me personally.

Only in the more upscale Staten Island, the neighborhood boys began to stalk me, chanting "Mira, Mira" in unison as I walked by, following me down the street. They made my young life miserable. Once and only once, they even chanted it at the family car, which led to my father's taking an abrupt detour and their thinking better of it in the future. It was in this environment that I received my acceptance from Notre Dame High School. Perched on a tree covered hill with a long history of teaching intelligent young women, it was a refuge.

Every Wednesday, the entire school would stop, change clothes in the hallways and go on all sorts of outings, from Broadway to bicycling. One Wednesday early in my freshman year, I was on my way home from the bowling alley. A few stops down, the local hoodlums got on my bus. There were at least six or seven of them. I can remember cringing, attempting to meld into my seat, imploring all the saints that they not spot me. Almost immediately, it began. They began chanting, making a spectacle. All this time, I said not a word. Not a single adult, not the bus driver, no one stopped them. Finally, one of them spit on me.

I cannot convey the shame, the mortification of that public humiliation on a young teenage girl. Meek and mild-mannered, I had never ever done anything to them. I remember running down the block from the bus stop to my house hysterical. For once, I let loose, sobbing the story to my mother. That evening, when my father came home, he had barely put down his briefcase when he grabbed me by the arm, and we set off to the homes of the malefactors. At the first household, the father was most gracious and horrified by his son's behavior. And so it went. But when we got to the home of the spitter, we were greeted at the door by a rather mild-mannered, harried-looking man. From the hallway came the drunken tones of a woman. She came to the door in her jet black bouffant, demanding of my father what I had done to her misshapen son to cause him to spit upon me. Dad sized up the situation and said, "This time, I have come to see you. The next time, you will have to look for me because if your son ever goes near my daughter again, I am going to beat the shit out of him."

This was my father, the man who was afraid of the world out there even as he climbed up the rungs of its ladder; my father who had never stood up for me, instead leaving me to solve my own problems or at the very least endure. But when it really counted, he was there. And he would have kept his word, I'm sure. So were they. The wouldbe toughs never even looked in
my direction again. In time, they became the nothings they were.

And I? I learned two things that night. My mild-mannered, sometime explosive father, would protect me. I also learned that the only way to stop abuse is to stand up to it. Funny how these things stay with you.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Tis the Season...

...for soupy heartwarming holiday shows. Here's a heads up. Both Monk and Psych will have their holiday episodes on Friday, November 28. I love the Christmas season. I try to follow the one movie a day for the 25 days of Christmas, myself.

To The Left of Civility: Corrected and Expanded

By now I'm used to Bush bashing, but I would think that having scored the trifecta, the left would give it a break. Alas, they can not be gracious, even in victory. I was stricken today when I saw the cover of the December Harper's magazine. The cover blared some new installment in the seeming endless parade, accompanied by a vile caricature of the President, made most rodentlike, peering through prison bars.

The article, written by their legal expert, envisions the prosecution of the President for a whole host of real and imagined human rights infractions. Whatever the legalities, the de facto effect of such an undertaking would be to send a chill through those entrusted with safeguarding the homeland from terrorists. It is exactly because the administration, despite its many failings, has managed to stave off further attacks that people like the author have the luxury of contemplating keel hauling its officials. If we extend the same zeal for legal proceedings that seems to typify our society, we can expect the same inhibition and paralysis. Remember the "Chinese wall"?

Beyond the immediate article is the editorial staff. Why did they feel the need, not only to publish this, but to make it their cover article? What it is about the President that evokes such a response from so many of the intelligentsia is fertile ground for research. Judging by the vitriol and the virulence, there is something pathological at work here. They cannot let it go, because they are angry people, and Bush is a convenient and politically correct scapegoat.

If nothing else, for the past eight years those in the chattering classes have demonstrated their immaturity, their willfulness, and their lack of respect for their profession, their readers, and their country. They have made shreds of their credibility, disrespected at least half of the population which does not agree with their politics, given away State secrets, and provided propaganda for terrorists. All in the name of what? A vendetta?

Instead of expanding horizons, provoking debate by providing differing view points, they choose to preach to the converted. I guess they only want card-carrying liberals to buy their magazine.
The article is subscription only, but the website has some relevant information here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Congrats to the Emerging Cuban American Demographic

The purportedly 35% of Cuban Americans who voted for Mr. Obama should pat themselves on the back. Their choice has not only appointed Greg Craig, lawyer for Fidelite cause in the Elian case, as a Special Counsel; but word is that he has asked Eric Holder, implicated in the forcible seizure of Elian by armed agents as well as the infamous Marc Rich pardon, to be Attorney General. I'd hazard to say that Mr. Obama does not give a flying fig for the sensibilities of Cuban Americans.

To these I say "That's why we vote Republican."

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Horns of a Dilemma

The bailout du jour discussion centers on the automakers- not an easy call. Does the government let these companies founder and possibly go bankrupt with all of the ramifications doing so entails? It is sad, but these are perhaps the largest remnants of our industrial base, since we let the Japanese sink our electronics and the Chinese siphon off our textiles. The loss of American carmakers, in addition to the widespread devastation in unemployment and ancillary businesses, is a potential national security concern.

Still, it is very difficult to help an industry that will not help itself. The automakers earned a reprieve with the advent of the increased popularity of SUV's and trucks. They should have realized, even at the height of the craze, that the trend could not last. The handwriting was on the wall, yet they seem to have been caught unprepared.

Then there is the Union question. Can you explain to me what other industry pays an average wage of $72 dollars an hour? Include what they call the "legacy" costs. The nifty pensions. The health benefits for pensioners. Did you know that these last constitute $1500 dollars of the price of every GM car? Did you know that you can't quite lay off a worker? You have to pay him not to work. So how does the Union respond? Over the weekend, they made clear there'll be no concessions coming from them.

Of course, they are expecting to get paid back for their political support. Unfortunately that means asking, say, retail workers who make about a tenth of the salary, retirees who have to make do with Medicare, people the state of whose 401K's have put retirement off indefinitely to subsidize with their taxes what is an untenable system in the present reality.

After the debacle of the mortgage bailout, which became a bank bailout, which is morphing into an auto bailout with cities and states like New York, San Francisco, California next in line with hands and hats extended in order to fund services that many other solvent places can not offer, it is not surprising that there is little confidence in oversight and little enthusiasm to bail out a seemingly endless queue of supplicants.

It's a good thing President Elect Obama is the "One." He's going to need some Solomonic wisdom to split this baby.

*Hood Ornament in picture is available at A truly excellent book about Detroit and SUV's is High and Mighty: The Dangerous Rise of the SUV by Keith Bradsher.

Struck a Chord

From the Nichols' column (see below):

...Election Day 2008 was not only an historic event from the perspective of race relations in America, but also a shocking affirmation that a new generation of power-hungry socialists have surfaced from within that Trojan Horse called the The Democratic Party. These neo-socialists have already begun the process of turning this country into a nation of hand-out seekers, Wall Street whiners and corporate derrière smoochers seeking bail from the very people who contributed to their economic imprisonment

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Only on Sunday Mournings

Damn the torpedos. In the political corner this week is this column from Nick Nichols on Townhall which portrays the election as the triumph of the neo socialists who "emerged from the Trojan Horse" of the Democratic party. Coming in for a lambasting are socially conscious CEO's who according to the author inadvertently fed the monster. I do agree with him on one point. Crazy as it sounds, I really do sense an intelligent design, and it's not God's. On a lighter political note, Calvin posts this marvelous Italianate Opera sure to delight conservatives and mavens alike. You gotta read the rise and travails of Barraco. Have a chuckle. We're going to need it.

No more mashed potatoes. You can read our future in this Ben Quinn article in the Christian Science Monitor. In a new roll on Big Brother, Manchester residents and those in other towns will be carrying chips that track their exercise. Coupons and even days off will be awarded to the virtuous, all in the name of reducing obesity. It is part Britain's response to a soon-to-be obesity "epidemic."

Enough to make Jesus weep. Picture Israeli policemen intervening in a brawl between Armenian and Greek Orthodox monks and you've got the outlines of what happened at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It's not the first time either. Read the article which includes some of the past pettinesses. Amazing.

Too late to seek a newer world. It's official, NASA's Phoenix lander on Mars has died. The story of its life is, however, fascinating. Done in by a dust storm and winter, the lander exceeded its anticipated life span by years, if I remember correctly from a documentary I recently watched. Article here.

Come back, Shane. John Barry in an essay at Newswe[a]k pleads for the return of Ian Fleming's Bond. As a Fleming fan who long ago gave up looking for traces of his agent in the movies, I feel his pain. A few years ago I started rereading the novels, only to find them dated, racist, and sexist, yet still magical. I suspect that the new Bond mirrors our times, when refinement is frowned upon and affectation is the province of the young attempting to imitate gangsta rappers.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


What were people thinking? I've already seen that people were mad about the economy, so they elected someone most likely to trash it. The best, however, is this little tidbit I ran across. This poor family from Bangladesh exercised their first vote to vote for Obama, because he will "restore the American Dream." I guess that depends on what you construe the American Dream to be. But since they are here and the son is studying, one would have to assume that said dream is alive and well. The other day, I heard a pundit on the radio ask why anyone would who comes to the United States would want to turn it into the country they felt forced to leave.

What's striking about the article is how Obama is all things to all people. Shortly after the family is a woman talking about Obama and social programs. What exactly an Obama presidency will entail remains to be seen. What is easily discernible is the thought processes of the electorate. Mayhap, I shouldn't be so harsh. After all, my first vote went to McGovern.

More Sherwood Anderson

There is a haunting lyrical quality to Anderson when at his best. Try some of these from Winesburg, Ohio. If I remember rightly, he wrote most of it in a single burst of creative zeal. Perhaps that accounts for it. They are many more I could have chosen, yet they are more easily understood in context. I think, though, there is enough here to give a taste.

from "Paper Pills"-
The story of Doctor Reefy and his courtship of the tall dark girl who became his wife and left her money to him is a very curious story. It is delicious, like the twisted little apples that grow in the orchards of Winesburg. In the fall one walks in the orchards and the ground is hard with frost underfoot. The apples have been taken from the trees by the pickers. They have been put in barrels and shipped to the cities where they will be eaten in apartments that are filled with books, magazines, furniture, and people. On the trees are only a few gnarled apples that the pickers have rejected. They look like the knuckles of Doctor Reefy's hands. One nibbles at them and they are delicious. Into a little round place at the side of the apple has been gathered all of its sweetness. One runs from tree to tree over the frosted ground picking the gnarled, twisted apples and filling his pockets with them. Only the few know the sweetness of the twisted apples.

from "Tandy"-
The stranger became silent and seemed overcome with sadness, but another blast from the whistle of the passenger engine aroused him. "I have not lost faith. I proclaim that. I have only been brought to the place where I know my faith will not be realized," he declared hoarsely. He looked hard at the child and began to address her, paying no more attention to the father. "There is a woman coming," he said, and his voice was now sharp and earnest. "I have missed her, you see. She did not come in my time. You may be the woman. It would be like fate to let me stand in her presence once, on such an evening as this, when I have destroyed myself with drink and she is as yet only a child."

from "Departure"-
The young man's mind was carried away by his growing passion for dreams. One looking at him would not have thought him particularly sharp. With the recollection of little things occupying his mind he closed his eyes and leaned back in the car seat. He stayed that way for a long time and when he aroused himself and again looked out of the car window the town of Winesburg had disappeared and his life there had become but a background on which to paint the dreams of his manhood.

Literary Interlude: from "Sophistication"

I've been ruminating about growing older lately, and the Sherwood Anderson story popped into my mind. It's about growing up, and I'm growing old.

There is a time in the life of every boy when he for the first time takes the backward view of life. Perhaps that is the moment when he crosses the line into manhood. The boy is walking through the street of his town. He is thinking of the future and of the figure he will cut in the world. Ambitions and regrets awake within him. Suddenly something happens; he stops under a tree and waits as for a voice calling his name. Ghosts of old things creep into his consciousness; the voices outside of himself whisper a message concerning the limitations of life. From being quite sure of himself and his future he becomes not at all sure. If he be an imaginative boy a door is tom open and for the first time he looks out upon the world, seeing, as though they marched in procession before him, the countless figures of men who before his time have come out of nothingness into the world, lived their lives and again disappeared into nothingness. The sadness of sophistication has come to the boy. With a little gasp he sees himself as merely a leaf blown by the wind through the streets of his village. He knows that in spite of all the stout talk of his fellows he must live and die in uncertainty, a thing blown by the winds, a thing destined like corn to wilt in the sun. He shivers and looks eagerly about. The eighteen years he has lived seem but a moment, a breathing space in the long march of humanity. Already he hears death calling. With all his heart he wants to come close to some other human, touch someone with his hands, be touched by the hand of another. If he prefers that the other be a woman, that is because he believes that a woman will be gentle, that she will understand. He wants, most of all, understanding.

Yes, there is a difference. More about that later. The short story in its entirety is available here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

"Boogeymen" and Bias

They don't have too much of an agenda at ABC News. In their article about the GMA interview with superannuated radical William Ayers, they repeatedly use the term "boogeyman." I would have written "bogeyman," that is if my intent was to convey that the gentleman in question, no threat to anyone, was used to scare people. The impression is heightened by the assertion in the article that the "distinguished" professor was used as a "political piñata" by McCain and Palin during the campaign. See, there's nothing threatening here, the article implies. It was only those nasty, fear-mongering Republicans.

Unfortunately, the unrepentant Ayers is actually more of a danger now than he ever was playing with his chemistry set. Firmly ensconced in academia, training the teachers of tomorrow, his influence is more pervasive and insidious. Worse, people like Ayers are hypocrites. Living the good life, calling the police to protect him from O'Reilly's people, and preaching revolution. Just who is playing with a piñata? Read it and barf. How many times do I find myself writing "words matter."

Meanderings: Feeling Bookish

It was a documentary that started it off. Yesterday, attempting some culinary concoction involving heavy cream and sherry, I caught the word Krakatoa coming from the television in the other room. Immediately, the thought of a book I've been meaning to read came to mind- Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27 1883. The last volcanic eruption-themed book I read was in installments in the The National Enquirer way back when.

The Enquirer of my youth was a black and white publication, more given to headlines like the one I spotted on the way down the steps to the candy store next to Sam's on Court Street, the name of which eludes me. It was on the back cover which someone had left exposed: "Woman Bites Off Son's Tongue." Apparently, Momma was enraged when Junior informed his father of her infidelity and took out her displeasure by biting off a huge chunk of the offending organ. How that haunted me! That single action- because in my youthful niaivete I believed it- threw into doubt my hitherto unwavering belief in the goodness of mothers. Could my loving but tempermental mother turn on me one day and strike out in the same fashion? Perhaps I was primed to worry by the couple who were my sometime babysitters. They seemed to joy in remarking that my "tongue was long," another way of denoting that I had a habit of saying unfortunate things, usually followed by the threat of having the same reduced to ground beef. I always found these interactions distasteful. Thankfully, my parents were not given to such lingual observations.

So the Enquirer of yesteryear was more of a Ripley's of print. At one point, they ran a serialization of a book on the eruption of Mt. Pelée on the island of Martinque in 1902. It was really fascinating. Ever since, I've been hooked on natural disasters. For a while there, we had a good run. Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm was followed by Eric Larson's Isaac's Storm about the Galveston hurricane and Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air which detailed the deadly storm on Mt. Everest. Later there was Hemingway's Hurricane by Phil Scott based on the deadly storm which hit the Florida Keys in 1935.

Since then, it's been slim pickings, although I do have to point out Candice Millard's River of Doubt which follows the journey of an expedition, including ex President Theodore Roosevelt, to map the unknown reaches of an Amazon river.

At that point in my mental meanderings, the sauce thickened, so I missed the documentary. They will inevitably rerun it. It's cable, after all.

Some titles newly on or soon to hit the shelves-
Coming in December is Patricia Cornwell's Scarpetta. No info as to plot at this juncture.
On November 25, we have the 20th Dirk Pitt adventure from Clive Cussler, along with someone suspiciously named Dirk Cussler, Arctic Drift. His son, I believe.
The Camel Club returns in Divine Justice by David Baldacci which hit the shelves recently.
Dean Koontz rounds out the offerings on November 25 with Your Heart Belongs to Me. The plot reminds me of another novel, just can't remember. They made a movie of it with Clint Eastwood.
Forgot, Michael Connelly's Brass Verdict which is just out. Amazingly the 14th in the Harry Bosch series. I once used the 2 minutes I got to speak to Connelly to ask him how to pronounce Harry's first name. Unfortunately, the fog of voices and Merlot left me no more knowledgeable. I know he answered; I just can't remember what. Go figure. Boy, do I miss the reading festival.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rime of the Ancient Comandante

The Associated Press picked up the latest picture of Fidel Castro. The picture originally appeared on a Russian Orthodox website, and Babalu posted it days ago. Even the AP, sometime cheerleading section for the malevolent despot, had to acknowledge how "frail" he looked.

Something about the picture evokes Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and its tale of retribution, most notably this:

Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold :
Her skin was as white as leprosy,
The Night-mare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she,
Who thicks man's blood with cold.

Death and Life-in-Death have diced for the ship's crew, and she (the latter) winneth the ancient Mariner.....

....Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea !
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.

He despiseth the creatures of the calm,

The many men, so beautiful !
And they all dead did lie :
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on ; and so did I.

And envieth that they should live, and so many lie dead.

I looked upon the rotting sea,
And drew my eyes away ;I
looked upon the rotting deck,
And there the dead men lay.

I looked to heaven, and tried to pray ;
But or ever a prayer had gusht,
A wicked whisper came, and made
My heart as dry as dust.

I closed my lids, and kept them close,
And the balls like pulses beat ;
For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky
Lay like a load on my weary eye,
And the dead were at my feet.

Why not reread the whole thing? It kinda grows on you.

Dying by degrees is a terrible thing and, levity aside, not something to be relished. But in the end, inhumanity is all too human.

A Wind of "Change" and a Noxious Air

According to this article, the Obama transition team is exploring using their donor list as a mailing list of sorts to marshal support for his policies. Take a look at this example:

"Just imagine what happens when a congressman comes back to his district and 500 people are lined up for his town hall meeting because they got an e-mail from Obama urging them to attend," said Thomas Gensemer, managing partner of Blue State Digital which designed Obama's campaign Web site and

It's a brave new world indeed. Of course, there is something about this that is causing just the veriest frisson of fear along the back of my neck. It is interesting to note that by law the donor list must be kept separate from the White House. Call me crazy, but there must be a reason for that. So is there a fine line between the workings of democracy and the rule of the mob? Obama's shock troops? Shades of red shirts, here.

H/T Ziva

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bin Laden Purportedly Planning Attack?

Mom mentioned it. She was freaked out that they would try something at the inauguration. Despite being McCain supporters, we are Americans first. Anyway, all I could find was this report which surfaced in Australia. It's noticeably absent on on the main media websites, perhaps because of credibility, so take it with a huge grain of salt. Despite being a friend of a friend type account, in the past when they start making noises, they've struck. Particularly scary is the claim that it will exceed 9/11. Reminds me of some sports thing, like "the best defense is a good offense." God watch over us all. And if you see something suspicious, it doesn't hurt to let someone know. At worst, they'll think you're politically incorrect or demented or both. Meantime, don't give the suckers the satisfaction.

Cuba, Da: Embargo, Nyet!

In an interesting bit of international pantomime during the visit to Moscow by the "Cuban Foreign Minister" Felipe Perez Roque, both parties for reasons of their own made all sorts of conciliatory noises. The headlines emerging include Cuba "inviting" Russia to drill for oil here, Russia extending a $20 million dollar credit to Cuba here, and the best- both announcing that "President" Raul Castro will be visiting Moscow next year here. Of course, there are the usual demands that the US obey the rest of the world and lift the embargo. Something I find a tad presumptuous at best. There is if nothing else the question of uncompensated seizures of American property. Guess it's easy to give away other people's money. There seems to be a lot of that going around these days. Then the Russians know all about the lack of remuneration, as the Cuban misrulers owe the old Soviet Union about $26 billion in unpaid debts.

Sure it's all meant to scare the US into submission. The Cuban regime wants money, money, money- There must be more money!- as it rattles its tin cup menacingly, saying, "See, if you aren't nice to us, we'll cozy up to the Russians." In the end, what they want is credit, as they've burned just about every other country in the world community. Okay, maybe they also want access to American markets and American tourists. It all adds up to filthy lucre, little of which is going to seep down to the population. The Russians want to sell arms to Latin America, I hear. They already have the cover of being miffed with some reason over the placement of missiles in Eastern Europe, which by the way we have handled in a ham-handed fashion.

It seems a bit of political theater, because Russia cannot afford to carry the economic black hole that is the island. Similarly, the Cuban regime has learned that it cannot depend the Russians to carry their economy. Although not averse to a suckle or two at the Russian teat, they are in search of a benefactor, waiting for the "One." Frankly, there are enough bailouts going around. It is past time to deal with the Russians in a respectful, if critical, manner. They are giving us a taste of our own medicine. As to the Lords of Misrule in the Caribbean...that's fodder for another time.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Quoted on Sunday

"Hold and Die." These were the orders given to the 600 or so South Vietnamese soldiers whom Captain John W Ripley was "advising" on April 2, 1972 in Vietnam. Facing a juggernaut of 20,ooo regular Northern troops during the "Easter Offensive," Ripley single-handedly placed the charges and blew the Dong Ha Bridge. The story surfaced this week in conjunction with the passing of the now Col. Ripley. Read both here and here for the inspiring story of a true American hero.

"None at All." The response of a worried wife when asked if she had hope of her husband's survival of the latest Russian naval catastrophe. An accident involving the inadvertent release of freon in the fire suppression system of a nuclear sub claimed at least twenty lives. Unclear is why personal breathing apparatus was not used. This latest joins a growing list of Russian nuclear submarine disasters that have claimed the lives of many: K-19, Kursk, as well as others. Article here.

"It was Bizarre." So said a lifelong Boothbay Harbor, Maine resident of the 12 foot waves that materialized in the harbor. The cause is unknown. In the Boston Globe article, Megan Woolhouse discusses the phenomenon which has been documented in other locations including Daytona Beach, Florida.

"I've never met an axolotl..." for the end of the witticism by Ogden Nash, read this Fox News report about the endangered axolotl, or "Mexican Walking Fish," a monstrous looking salamander inhabiting the region of Xochimilco in Mexico. The victim of urban sprawl, farm run-off, and non native species incursions, the axolotl faces extinction.

"There is a slightly creepy cult of personality about all this." according to Evan Thomas of Newsweek. Now he says it. Don't bother. Check out the Rose exchange, posted on the Rush Limbaugh site here. While we're on the topic of the election, check out this most excellent article in Forbes. Claudia Rossett exhorts us that it is "time to restore liberty." Pretty nifty.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

On Cutting Off Your Nose...

I was going to include this one earlier, but it just got too unwieldy.

I've spent the few days after the election walking around in shock, mentally demanding of the dimwits around me "What have you done!" Surprisingly, it isn't about my candidate losing, or even my fears of Obama's leanings. The way I figure it, the people have spoken, and too many of us are watching. It's the economy, stupid.

I confess I had not thought the economic ramifications would be so dramatic. For days after the election, the market kept tanking. One corporation after another announced lay-offs and closings. Coincidental, you say, perhaps. It is possible, however, that it was a no confidence vote, a signal of what is to come from the corporations who see a whole ream of taxes and other charges ahead and investors who see a lot more risk for a lot less reward.

In any case, those suffering most in this situation: California and New York. Apparently, these liberal bastions, epicenters of hope and change, depend on those evil, selfish corporations and investors. New York City in particular has been hard hit. As an expat, I feel their pain. In addition to losing the 400 dollar rebate from the inordinate property taxes they pay on their astronomically priced homes and possibly gaining a 15 percent tax increase, New Yorkers may now be paying tolls on bridges that have been free for decades, proceeds to go to subsidize mass transit which costs near 2 dollars a ride. To give you an idea how punishing the costs are.... Tolls presently on inner bridges range from 5 to 10 (round trip) dollars a crossing. In the late nineties, a 40 thousand a year income with two dependents necessitated paying roughly a 25 percent of that amount in federal, state, and local taxes. Those are just the basics. For some California info visit the Bookworm Room.

It's a timely reminder, although a day too late and a dollar short, that there is a symbiosis of sorts between the very places that lean so liberally and the villains of the piece. It is expensive to run these enlightened places with a myriad of services. Scrooge aside, sometimes it's not a good idea to sit down to a repast of cooked goose.

As for me, I fervently hope that the Obama show on Friday helped calm the markets and that acceptance of the inevitable is well on the way. There is something to be said for the law of unintended consequences.

Special Saturday Election Perimortem Edition

We ain't finished dying yet!

Closing the Barn Door. Here's a Cal Thomas column which highlights the Washington Post Ombudswoman's acknowledgement that the paper favored Obama in their coverage and neglected to vet him properly. Additional tidbits include the role of journalistic arrogance and the repercussions of same for the industry.

Cherchez L'Argent. For a time I couldn't figure out why the Press dominoes were falling in line for Obama, almost like a conspiracy. I put aside stray thoughts like "one world government," the mark of the beast (campaign signs), and the lottery 666 in Chicago day after the election. I even turned my back on the sneaking suspicion that this is was somehow orchestrated by a fifth column of Alinskyite leftists. But even well-known journalistic leanings could not account for the blatant stupidity of trashing their already threadbare credibility. It was then that I started to suspect other forces at work in the media, namely the zeal to preside over the historicity of the election of the first black president. Then I came across this juicy morsel. Follow the money, as they say.

Auld Lang Syne. Some of the best analysis this season has come from outside the country, particularly Canada. Conrad Black provides a pre election recap from this perspective here. While we're on the subject of election analysis, try this interesting read by Shelby Steele in the LA Times which posits that race did play a factor.

Red Dawn Morn. Here's an interesting development. The Obama win has set off a gun buying frenzy. According to Reuters, potential gun buyers have been spurred by the thought of gun control. Personally, I think some far sighted people are just getting ready in case the revolution comes. Maybe, they don't intend to go quietly into that good night. Don't think so, read the current Obama website where service is going to be mandated. Collectivism?

*Pending future developments, I do reserve the right to pick up any of these conspiracy theories .