Saturday, January 26, 2008

Quote of the Evening

The U.S administration has helped Afghanistan and if we are called puppets, or if I am called a puppet because we are grateful to America, then let that be my nickname.

The truth is that without the United States in Afghanistan, Afghanistan would be a very poor, miserable country, occupied by neighbors and al Qaeda and terrorists.

Hamid Karzai in a CNN interview here.

Literary Interlude: The Emptiness at the Bottom of the Well

"Never in my life have I thought so much."
Fidel Castro on how he is spending his time in limbo.

Reading that quote reminded me of Macbeth for some reason. And Macbeth's famous soliloquoy reminded me of another soliloquoy. Again the translation is available on this marvelous website.

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth Act 5, scene 5

Monólogo de Segismundo

Sueña el rey que es rey, y vive
con este engaño mandando,
disponiendo y gobernando;
y este aplauso, que recibe
prestado, en el viento escribe,
y en cenizas le convierte
la muerte, ¡desdicha fuerte!
¿Que hay quien intente reinar,
viendo que ha de despertar
en el sueño de la muerte?

Sueña el rico en su riqueza,
que más cuidados le ofrece;
sueña el pobre que padece
su miseria y su pobreza;
sueña el que a medrar empieza,
sueña el que afana y pretende,
sueña el que agravia y ofende,
y en el mundo, en conclusión,
todos sueñan lo que son,
aunque ninguno lo entiende.

Yo sueño que estoy aquí
destas prisiones cargado,
y soñé que en otro estado
más lisonjero me vi.
¿Qué es la vida? Un frenesí.
¿Qué es la vida? Una ilusión,
una sombra, una ficción,
y el mayor bien es pequeño:
que toda la vida es sueño,
y los sueños, sueños son.

from La vida es sueño (Calderon de la Barca).

Friday, January 25, 2008

Book Awards

The American Librarian’s Association’s* children’s wing (ALSC) and Reforma have announced the winners of the 2008 Pura Belpre Award. I’ll let them tell you what it’s about

The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth

Both the winner and one of the honor books are Cuban-themed. Both are the work of members of the Cuban Diaspora, although they may very well have different perspectives.

First the book that received honors for its storyline, because if you have anyone in your household under the age of 10, you should buy it. Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale is not your mother’s La Cucarachita Martina. Carmen Deedy, whose marvelous The Library Dragon is one of my favorites, has revamped and enhanced the traditional children’s story. In this version, Martina subjects each of her suitors to an unconventional test suggested by her Abuelita. I won’t say more because I don’t want to give it away. Let’s just say the ending is something of a surprise and left me misty-eyed. The illustrations are lavish and somewhat dark, yet strangely dovetail with the mood of the story.
Margarita Engel, the author of the 2008 medal winner The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano presents the story in verse- as pieced together from Manzano’s poems and such writings as exist- through the eyes of multiple narrators. The poems are deceptively simple, as well as lyrical and moving, at the same time that they depict not only life events but also the corrosive effects of slavery on the participants. The graphic nature of Manzano’s hardships is a sure winner with the middle school crowd.

*By the way, this is the same ALA that to my knowledge has failed to recognize the plight of independent librarians in Cuba.

(Cross-posted at Babalubog)

Book Suggestions

For those who might like the multiple points of view approach, I strongly recommend another book of verse which tells the story of the Ringling Brothers fire in Hartford, Conn in which people lost their lives. Worlds Afire by Paul B. Janeczko is riveting. The poetry is more sophisticated, so it is best for older teens and even adults interested in the tragedy. For a teen who's a Civil War buff, you might try Paul Fleischman's Bull Run, also told from different perspectives but not in verse.

Drilling for Trouble

It's not often that I agree with Bill Nelson. In fact, my only previous contact with him was when I wrote an impassioned plea for his vote on the Medicare prescription plan to no avail. Fortunately the bill passed anyway, and seniors in Sarasota stopped hemorrhaging money and had access to prescription coverage for the first time in years.

So it is unusual to find myself agreeing with the Senator when he fears the potential environmental impact on Florida of all the planned drilling for oil in Cuban waters less than 90 miles from our coast. Here in Florida, we have fought long and hard to protect our coastal waters. An oil spill would be not only an environmental disaster but also an economic catastrophe. One can only hope our elected representatives will be successful. This is one issue that cuts across party lines.

Read about it here. Pretty cool, huh, "Rigzone."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Voting Early in the Neighborhood

Betook myself to the board of elections today. After all, this is Sarasota. Whatever aspersions lawsuits may have cast, our Ms. Dent is efficient. If you vote early here, you are out in minutes. Not today, though, it was busy and getting busier by the moment. So I suggest you don't put much faith in any of the polls. I think yesterday's poll showing Giuliani in third place might have energized reluctant primary voters.

One prediction I can make is that election day itself is going to be a clusterf*@#. People don't know how to use the optical scan system and it takes a little longer. I'll leave it there since I don't want to be agist. My advice to my fellow Floridians is to vote early.

Quote of the Day

"Castro Fideled as Cuba burned."

A comment by kneejerkreaction in response to a post that works beautifully in literary terms, but that will send any Cuban spluttering, as it not only glorifies fifo but manages to erase a half century of history in five hundred words or less.

H/T Alberto

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Curse?

Reuters, apparently demonstrating its Cuban chops, has a whole article on how the Yoruba gods favor Castro's continued reign. Newly "elected," or should I say appointed, member of the Cuban Parliament Antonio Castaneda has the distinction of being a Yoruba priest and former Tropicana sax player. So it is with some religious authority that he states,

"Olodumare says he[Castro] is the one that should be there and so he is untouchable,"

Does that mean that the military, the political police, and the snitches are superfluous?

The Long, Tough Road to the White House

Fred Thompson has dropped out of the race. And despite whatever qualifications he might have brought to the job- I really like him- it's probably best he did. How can I say that? Easy, because he didn't want it enough.

An examination of our political history in the last 3 or 4 decades supports this view. How in the world, you want to ask yourself, did Jimmy Carter get to the presidency? Well, those of us who were around at the time can answer that he began campaigning long before the traditional starting date. There were other factors to be sure, but he built his name recognition one small Southern town at a time. And the man who eventually defeated him? It seems that every convention of my childhood Reagan was running for the nomination. A supporter of Papa Bush, I remember thinking when he was edged out by Reagan that all you had to do was keep running. Of course, I soon learned that I was very wrong about the Gipper, but my theory has some merit.

Take John McCain's victory in South Carolina. Turns out that he's been visiting, read campaigning, for the past few years. When it came time for the actual primary, he had all his ducks(Reverends) in a row. And if he never makes it to the White House, that victory had to be sweet, since it was his bitter defeat there that effectively put the kibosh on his 2000 run. Giuliani seems to have squandered his front-runner status by essentially sitting out the first few contests. His only chance now is to get in the fight like he means it. Obama has learned that lesson, showing that he has the stomach to take on the Bilary.

In the end, it's not necessarily bad that Americans reward persistence and determination. And this crazy system of ours might actually work as a Darwinian process of selection so that only the strongest make it to that last match up.

And this year, I'm afraid the-wants-it-bad award has to go Hillary. Heck, even I would love to reward her singe-minded determination. Runners up, though, have to be McCain, Obama, and Romney in that order with the last two tied. Let's see how this leading indicator holds up.

Castro, the Scribbler

A rather piquant little column by Georgie Anne Geyer here. It's noteworthy not because it enlightens us about fifo's future- she thinks he will cling to power- but because of a few, quick jabs it takes at the coma andante. My favorites-

About the experience of interviewing the less than great one:

Well, I wouldn't say that any of us has not tried to figure that (what he is like) out. But the fact is, in my five interviews with Castro years ago, when many people were struck dumb by his charisma, his conversation was largely incoherent.

and in discussing his having taken up the pen:

But writing means reasoning, thinking things through, making decisions through giving fair weight to others' opinions and convictions. Writing means all the talents he does not have.

In truth, age has little blessed Fidel with any such talents. For indicators of the future, better to look to the Brazilian architect.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Around the Web

RIP. The sad news that Heath Ledger has died is hitting the airwaves. I'm saddened, not because I was particularly fond of the young actor, but because he was 28. Just think of all the lost years of living. Via Drudge, here.

Mala Educacíon. A Guiliani press conference had to be moved indoors due to Paultards and anti-abortion protestors. What is it about our society that makes some people think they're entitled to trample the rights of others? Article here.

Misunderestimated? This article analyzes the pressure created in Florida by Giuliani's absence in the early contests. Although a sentimental favorite of mine, I have my doubts. I can live with the alternatives.

MSM Coverage of Cuba: A Study in Contradictions

Once in a while, little bits of truth make their way out of the blather that constitutes so much of what is reported from the island. Maybe the usual suspects get tired of spouting the party line or the tension between telling the truth and not upsetting their hosts shows. The result is coverage that is a study in contradiction, an uneasy blend of truth and fiction.

Take this article from the AP. The headline is just plain misleading: "Cuba Parliament Must Decide on Castro." This same inaccuracy is repeated later in the article:

Still unknown, however, is whether the assembly will choose Castro as council president when it convenes for the first time on Feb. 24, or whether the bearded revolutionary will step down after nearly 50 years at Cuba's helm.

Cuba's parliament has about as much say as to whether the coma andante stays in power as I do. So it would be more accurate to phrase it thus:

Still unknown, however, is whether the assembly will [be instructed]to choose Castro as council president.

Note also the diction in the article, Cubans are being "asked" to "back" a range of candidates that includes "musicians" and "athletes," instead of being "forced" to "rubber stamp" a "slate of party hacks." Oh, that's right, the article tells us that according to the government, you don't have to be a party member. Ah huh.

But even as the article would seem to lend countenance to the outright lies of the government, it deconstructs. To counter the implication that voting is voluntary, we have this sentence:

Many Cubans say they feel compelled to vote in a country where neighborhood leaders have a say in their chances to get jobs, housing and other official approvals.

Of course, it doesn't make clear the connection between the neighborhood snitches and jobs, etc... Still, it's a smattering of the truth.

And in direct opposition to all that implied power is the use of "rubber stamp" not once but twice to describe the activity of that less than august body, as in "the parliament that rubber stamps official party policy."

So which is it? We know, but unfortunately many don't. Most readers are not going to do an exegesis of the text. They will at best give it a cursory look and come away with the impression that the "Parliament" is going to decide whether fifo stays in power. It's a sad state of affairs when this represents progress.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Legacy of Feminism?

Interesting and agenda-driven article from In it, Suzanne Fields highlights a growing trend, the increasing number of women who are not waiting around for recalcitrant or inept husbands and are taking matters and tools into their own hands.

Now I'm pretty handy myself, although the hubby is something of a Renaissance handyman.
There is something about being able to take control of your environment when the window won't open, or the toilet won't stop running, or someone neglected to replace the moldings after his latest home improvement project that is indeed liberating. And while I'm not willing to swear off feminism just yet, Fields does make some valid points.

Elections? What Elections?

I hadn't posted on the "ratifications" going on in Cuba, because with something like 614 candidates and something like 614 offices... Well, do the math. "Elect" requires choice. For some reason, however, the so-called "elections" have evoked a rash of the isn't-it-wonderful-it-looks-like-reform stories. Of course, regardless of what it looks like, it smells like the SOS.

Here's one from the LA Times, which quotes Jaime Suchlicki, making sure to qualify his comments with "whose analysis often reflects the views of Miami's anti-Castro exiles." How come I never see one of those for the other side, you know, "Known apologist for and lickspittle to the repressive Cuban regime"? That's just one of those mysteries, you know.

Anyway, take a gander at this little nugget from the article:

Nonetheless, Suchlicki, whose analysis often reflects the views of Miami's anti-Castro exiles, shares the expectation of other Cuba watchers that if Fidel Castro hasn't fully recovered his health and vigor by the March assembly opening, he will step down as president and he and his brother Raul, who is 76, will make way for a younger head of state.

Many expect Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage, a 56-year-old former physician, to take the helm, which would open the way for the architect of a previous reform period to tackle the economic problems that most concern Cubans. Monthly income on the island averages about $15, and though Cubans pay almost nothing for healthcare and a monthly ration basket, food costs rival those in U.S. supermarkets.

Now wait a minute. If anyone thinks that the two dics are going to retire and, as some journalist once suggested, tend to their roses, I beg to differ. Call me crazy, but I can't see them going gently into that good night. Rather, were I to wake to find Lage in Charge, I'd suspect a palace coup.

Cross-posted at Babalublog