Saturday, March 29, 2008

Literary Interlude: from Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience"

I usually like to post poetry, but.... The whole thing is available through this site.

I have paid no poll-tax for six years. I was put into a jail once on this account, for one night; and, as I stood considering the walls of solid stone, two or three feet thick, the door of wood and iron, a foot thick, and the iron grating which strained the light, I could not help being struck with the foolishness of that institution which treated me as if I were mere flesh and blood and bones, to be locked up. I wondered that it should have concluded at length that this was the best use it could put me to, and had never thought to avail itself of my services in some way. I saw that, if there was a wall of stone between me and my townsmen, there was a still more difficult one to climb or break through, before they could get to be as free as I was. I did not for a moment feel confined, and the walls seemed a great waste of stone and mortar. I felt as if I alone of all my townsmen had paid my tax. They plainly did not know how to treat me, but behaved like persons who are underbred. In every threat and in every compliment there was a blunder; for they thought that my chief desire was to stand the other side of that stone wall. I could not but smile to see how industriously they locked the door on my meditations, which followed them out again without let or hindrance, and they were really all that was dangerous. As they could not reach me, they had resolved to punish my body; just as boys, if they cannot come at some person against whom they have a spite, will abuse his dog. I saw that the State was half-witted, that it was timid as a lone woman with her silver spoons, and that it did not know its friends from its foes, and I lost all my remaining respect for it, and pitied it.

(I orginally posted the wrong excerpt.)

No Country for Old Men: Alien Terrain

I should have known. The book the movie is based upon was written by Cormac McCarthy. Years ago, a friend whose taste I respect gave me one of his books. After reading near a thirty pages, nothing much had happened. It was about a young man in the wilderness, and a young man in the wilderness, and a young man in the wilderness. I put it aside, which is very unusual for me. There are few books I don't finish. I can name them. Let's see. About halfway through Fielding's Tom Jones, I stopped reading every other chapter, the ones with his opinions on the nature of life or something. I never read, I think it was 32, in Moby Dick. And I threw aside Patricia Cornwell's Isle of Dogs. Anyway, at the time, I thought it was a man thing.

The same thing that happened with the earlier book was at play in the movie. I have no doubt the Coen brother's captured the quality of the original. There is the pregnant, uncomfortable nothingness. The story really centers on two characters I couldn't care less about in a dismal, dusty landscape. The only character I cared about, played by Tommy Lee Jones, served as a comma. The ending is beyond me. When the credits came on, my response was "what?"

Yet there was all this hoopla about it. It must be a man thing.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Spot On

From an IBD article, titled "Cell Phones Don't Replace Freedoms," which is dead on about the sham of reform and realities for the ordinary Cuban. Their parting shot:

No one should be fooled by Raul Castro's pretentions of reform in material goods. The only real reform is freedom.

Some Sort of Interlude: A Dada Moment

My earlier Dada reference got me to searching for the manifesto, that is to say the one with which I'm familiar. There were a few, as well as assorted ramblings. Try this excerpt from Tristan Tzara, translated by Robert Motherwell in his Dada Painters and Poets:

..Every product of disgust capable of becoming a negation of the family is Dada; a protest with the fists of its whole being engaged in destructive action: Dada; knowledge of all the means rejected up until now by the shamefaced sex of comfortable compromise and good manners: Dada; abolition of logic, which is the dance of those impotent to create: Dada; of every social hierarchy and equation set up for the sake of values by our valets: Dada; every object, all objects, sentiments, obscurities, apparitions and the precise clash of parallel lines are weapons for the fight: Dada; abolition of memory: Dada; abolition of archaeology: Dada; abolition of prophets: Dada; abolition of the future: Dada; absolute and unquestionable faith in every god that is the immediate product of spontaneity: Dada; elegant and unprejudiced leap from a harmony to the other sphere; trajectory of a word tossed like a screeching phonograph record; to respect all individuals in their folly of the moment: whether it be serious, fearful, timid, ardent, vigorous, determined, enthusiastic; to divest one's church of every useless cumbersome accessory; to spit out disagreeable or amorous ideas like a luminous waterfall, or coddle them -with the extreme satisfaction that it doesn't matter in the least-with the same intensity in the thicket of one's soul-pure of insects for blood well-born, and gilded with bodies of archangels. Freedom: Dada Dada Dada, a roaring of tense colors, and interlacing of opposites and of all contradictions, grotesques, inconsistencies: LIFE

Read more here.

If you're like me, basically untutored in art, I'd suggest you go to your local library and check out the old PBS series, The Shock of the New. Great stuff.

Scoreboard for Change

Let's recap the changes thus far. Well, farmers can buy supplies. That's good. Ordinary citizens will be able to buy computers, microwaves, air conditioners in 2009, toasters in 2010, and now the announcement of prepay cell phones- one hopes before that date.

Any loosening of restrictions is a good thing. Alas, most of these will have to be paid in CUC's. And under the present apartheid system, Cubans get paid in pesos. Exchange rate: approx. 25 Cuban pesos for 1 CUC. Well, you could finance your microwave, say, and pay for it for two years. Basically, unless Tia Fefa in Westchester sends you some effectivo, you ain't buyin' nothin'.

Sounds good, though. At least the MSM thinks so.

Quote for the Morning

He's lying...

Martha Beatriz Roque, the only woman imprisoned in the Black Spring purge of the 75, about Fidel's "reflection" in which he maintained among the usual falsehoods, that-

None of the mercenaries were tortured or deprived of attorney or trial...

H/T Uncommon Sense

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mosquitero, Anyone?

I'm not exactly sure why, but IBD has a story on Walter Reed today. Maybe it's an anniversary or something. It does solve the mystery of exactly what got the premier federal hospital named after him.

According to their article, Walter Reed proved that mosquitos were spreading Yellow Fever. Getting short shrift in the same is Carlos Finlay, the Cuban doctor who originally figured out that mosquitos were the culprit. Don't take my word for it. Years ago, National Geographic did a pretty exhaustive story on the Yellow Fever research in which Finlay figured a bit more prominently.

Please note that some that the researchers and subjects were exposed to the deadly disease on purpose. Can you imagine that happening today?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

All is Dada

Or gaga over Cuban art, the prices of which are skyrocketing, if the Wall Street Journal and the papers which picked up the story, most briefly the Miami Herald , are to be believed. Can we say "feeding frenzy"? I'm glad it's those horrible Cuban exiles who want to go exploit the natives.

The Benefits of a Jesuit Education

What do Fidel Castro and Perez Hilton have in common? They both went to the same school, sort of, Separated by decades and countries, both attended Belen. Geez, to think I was brought up to prize a Jesuit education.

All kidding aside, Miami New Times has an interesting article on Perez Hilton, notable for its discussion of his childhood. I enjoyed it, although I'm still trying to figure out which particular fight figured in the headline. Read it.

Generation Y: Yoani's Latest Post

Since the powers that be down Havana way apparently don't like her blog, as in they are blocking access from the island, it occurs to me that I love it and would like to reproduce it here for the odd Cuban visitor. My apologies to Yoani.

Parte médicoEscrito por: Yoani Sanchez en General , Marzo,26,2008

Sé que muchos han estado preocupados por lo ocurridocon Generación Y, de manera que les debo miagradecimiento y una explicación más detallada.

El jueves pasado una amiga me alertó de que no sepodía entrar a algunos blogs y sitios hechos desde la Isla. Hasta el domingo fue imposible conectarse con páginas de clasificados, donde los cubanos cuelgan sus anuncios de compra y venta, como y con toda la También estaba “filtrado” el acceso al blog Revolico y por supuestoal de los muchachos de Potro Salvaje .

Puede parecer increíble que con tan limitado acceso ala Internet los cubanos hayamos notado tan rápidamente el presillado de estas páginas, pero así fue. Despuésde varios avisos de lectores nerviosos, me fui a unciberlocal público y comprobé –por mí misma- lacensura.

El lunes parece que se le abrió un hueco al filtro o el encargado de mantenerlo se quedó dormido, pues durante la tarde fue posible navegar por tan“peligrosas” páginas. Al parecer, el martes volvierona estar bajo el signo de lo inaccesible, aunque algunos con conexiones más potentes decían poder entrar después de esperar más de veinte minutos. Con este jueguito, que siembra la confusión, nos han mantenido hasta hoy.

Por lo que veo, han puesto en práctica algún filtro que hace demorar la entrada al sitio, lo que evita su lectura por internautas cubanos. En algunos lugares,con más ancho de banda, es posible abrir la página principal, pero no acceder a los comentarios y muchomenos a la administración. De manera que con un sencillo ardid, han cancelado una buena parte de las participaciones desde Cuba.

Quiero decirle a los que están ahora mismo monitoreando el Blog y filtrándolo, a esos capitanes Weisler que nos miran, que les agradeceríamos si se quedan dormidos y dejan entrar a los balseros virtuales. No es que vayamos a tocar una sinfonía paraellos, pero quién sabe si llegamos a hilvanar algunos acordes.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Religion in Mind?

Bush imagines that God will reward him for accelerating the day of the Apocalypse and the Final Judgment, after which he will seat him at His right, in a place of honor. Then perhaps he will abandon the odious gestures that accompany his speeches, so that he can dwell under the same roof as those souls of the human beings he exterminated in his war on terrorism, the great majority of them girls and boys, adolescents and young people, women and the elderly, those who have no reason whatsoever to be blamed.

The Old Testament speaks of archangels who were transformed into the enemies of God by ambition and who were sent to Hell. It is difficult to put aside the idea that the genes of some of those archangels are lurking in Bush’s head.

-from Havana's blogger-in-chief and would be international reporter

Take a Letter, Maria

I really must point out a rather substantial error in the piece about the "humanitarian" visit by two Savannah congregations. Kahn makes the categorical and incorrect statement that medicines must be carried in to the country because of the US embargo against Cuba. This is a serious mischaracterization. Both pharmaceuticals and food stuffs are not under embargo. In fact, we are Cuba's number one supplier of the latter.

I would appreciate a correction of some sort, as the articles gives incorrect information about an American foreign policy and leaves your public less than informed.

My letter to the editor of the Savannah Morning News about this article. I might suggest than any good done on this trip is nullified by the spreading of Castroite propaganda.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Money Pit aka The House Next Door

And that's only the living room, circa June.

Slice of Cuban Life

Saturday, I flew to North Carolina after work, and yesterday, Easter Sunday, I drove down from North Carolina. Of course, I did it straight because by the time you get tired, you're hitting Savannah, and you're not that far from the Florida border. Then when you hit Florida, who wants to stay in Jacksonville? Overnight joints should be alongside the road in desolate areas at a neon crossroads littered with motels and fast food stands, not in a city. As you approach Daytona, you know that the West Coast is just a hop, skip, and hundred twenty something miles away. So before you know it, you wind up not stopping, despite the septuagenarian in the passenger seat in high, holy dudgeon and the tempermental chihuaha you had foisted on you scampering in the back seat.

Alas, the plans of mice and recalcitrant daughters never did run smooth. Somewhere in the desolation between Jacksonville and Daytona, the entire 95 stopped. It took an hour of bumper to bumper traffic in the dark to get diverted off the highway. Now I'm in the pitch dark on a lonely street which fortunately boasts a truck stop. There are no directions, no police or signs telling you how to detour, so I along with seemingly every other motorist duck in. Now comes the problem. Do you just accost any stranger to find out what's going on? Let me tell you, some of those interstate travellers are pretty scary. I finally settle on the biker with the dirty bandanna on his head. He looks like a local. He tells me my best bet is to wait it out until the reopen the highway. That isn't gonna cut it. So I walk back to the car and the bushes, hoping that the offending canine will avail himself of the facilities and not water the car interior, when I hear it. Spanish: Cuban accents. An extended family is discussing our predicament and opening the trunk in which they seem to have a three course meal. So while Fefa is slicing some lechoncito, I not only get the full scoop, I get directions on how to get back to the 95. Leave it to the Cubiches.

Monday Morning Maxims

Ask What Your Country Can Do for You. Here's another entry into the social criticism category. Mark Hillman, who describes himself in part as a "recovering journalist," takes no prisoners in this one about our society's penchant for instant gratification and "gimmes" from the government. Thought-provoking.

It's Out There. The compact fluorescent bulbs. Yes, the ones we're all supposed to use in order to save the planet. Unfortunately, waste experts are worried about the mercury content. If you break one, there are five steps to cleaning up. But don't worry, you can get the instructions from the EPA with the article here.

Say it Ain't So. Latest computer game craze for the overage set, "Guitar Hero," may be in trouble. Gibson has filed suit to stop Wal Mart, Amazon, and other retail giants from selling the game. The problem: patent infringement. Read all about it here.

Better to Give. I like to say that money doesn't buy happiness; it just dulls the pain of existence. Well, this report on experiments conducted by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School found that people were happier when they had money and spent some of it giving to others. Score 1 for philanthropy. Results for old saws: mixed.

Greater Love Hath No Man. Than to potentially lay down his life for another. The hero of the week goes to Columbia University mechanic Veeramuthu Kalimuthu. "Kali" selflessly jumped off the subway platform and hopped over at least two sets of tracks during the NYC rush hour to help a fellow passenger who had fallen on the tracks. What was that about immigration? Story here.