Saturday, April 12, 2008

Read: Winter Study by Nevada Barr

I first came across Nevada Barr in the Port Richmond branch of the New York Public Library in Staten Island. If I were ever filming a movie that called for a library location, I'd choose good old Port Richmond. Dark with wood-paneled walls, even the architecture there says "shh, library." Anyway at loose ends for something to read, I was desperate enough to head to the revolving paperback stands. There I found a dog-eared copy, the bottom right corner of the cover with its lurid art reminiscent of the early sixties gone, of A Superior Death. A few hours later, I was hooked.

Nevada Barr's mysteries all take place in National Parks; it's one of their trademarks. Her heroine, Anna Pigeon, park ranger and by this installment District Ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park, is a sort of earthy everywoman. Those who have read the series have followed Anna's personal and professional evolution from grief-stricken widow and bureaucratic rebel to newly married, middle-aged rebel with a post. All of this information seems superfluous in discussing this installment because none of the characters we've come to love- her psychiatrist sister, Molly, who we will recall took up with Anna's earlier FBI beau, and her Mississippi police chief/preacher husband Paul- makes an appearance here.

The star of this novel, if such terminology may be permitted, is the Isle Royal National Park in Michigan. It is the park in the earlier A Superior Death, this time in winter. The park is closed, but the winter study of wolves is conducted annually. It is this study for which Anna has volunteered. The conditions are arctic and brutal. And Anna experiences a variety of life-threatening situations. Thrust, as usual, into a perilous and mysterious situation, Anna, as usual, saves the day at the expense of her aging body. One can only imagine how much scar tissue she would have by now. As to aging, here's an observation from Anna herself:

The Previous season, when she'd been on a twenty-one-day fire assignment in the mountains east of Boise, Idaho, she'd noticed that the difference between the old firefighters and the young ones wasn't in strength or endurance. It was in recovery time. The old guys, the firefighters over forty, were as strong as the kids. She and the others could lift and run and dig with the best of them. But they wore down. The kids were stronger after three weeks of hard physical labor. The grown-ups were just bone tired.

Winter Study is not going down among my favorites. It joins the one set in New York City at the bottom of my list. But it is still good entertainment, good for a few hours of escape at the very least. It is also good in another way. The best reading here involved the park and its creatures, which was in itself fascinating. If you haven't read Nevada Barr, do yourself a favor: start with the first one.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Historic Event..

...or so Coco Fariñas and Elizardo Sánchez termed the gathering of some of the most well-known members of the Cuban opposition to launch a joint effort: Agenda for the Transition. Here are its basic tenets:

* The liberation of political prisoners.
* The immediate cessation of government repression against the political opposition.
* An end to the embargo imposed by the Cuban regime on the Cuban people's fundamental freedoms.
* The substitution of a democratic state for a totalitarian state.

In a dispatch about the event, independent journalist René Gómez Manzano makes much, deservedly so, about the show of unity. Attending were some of the most familiar names:

María Antonia Hidalgo Mir, Idania Yanes Contreras, Félix Antonio Bonne Carcassés, Margarito Broche Espinosa, Francisco Chaviano González, Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, Jorge Luis García Pérez (Antúnez), René Gómez Manzano, Roberto de Miranda Hernández, Vladimiro Roca Antúnez, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello and Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz.

According to another account, Hector Palacios was not there because of medical treatment in Spain, and Oswaldo Payá who did not respond to his invitation, signalled that he was "open to a future incorporation with the group," promising to keep channels of communication open.

As Gomez indicates when he has access to news accounts about the event, he hopes not to see "the divided Cuban dissidents" or "the fragmented internal opposition in Cuba" for once. Amen.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Importance of a Word

Ask any guy if there is one word that freaks women out, and you'll invariably get an answer: the C word. I was forcibly reminded of this when I read this week about a book The Real McCain which recounts a purported incident between McCain and his wife which took place in front of three Arizona reporters, none of whom would go on the record. Here is a view from the left:

Three reporters from Arizona, on the condition of anonymity, also let me in on another incident involving McCain's intemperateness. In his 1992 Senate bid, McCain was joined on the campaign trail by his wife, Cindy, as well as campaign aide Doug Cole and consultant Wes Gullett. At one point, Cindy playfully twirled McCain's hair and said, "You're getting a little thin up there." McCain's face reddened, and he responded, "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you c[word]." McCain's excuse was that it had been a long day. If elected president of the United States, McCain would have many long days.

Thanks to Nelson Guirado, who wites about the story we have a rebuttal of sorts from the right:

Because, you know, Arizona reporters would never report that at the time. A sitting senator up for reelection using that kind of language to his wife's face, in front of reporters, just wouldn't be newsworthy. Those reporters would hold onto that story, and keep it secret, as McCain became a prominent national figure in the 1990s, throughout the 2000 race, throughout McCain's campaign of the last year and a half, just so they could reveal it now to "Netroots author Cliff Schecter" — because his book is the right venue to reveal this shocking outburst. Obviously, it's extremely plausible that these three reporters would tell Schecter this instead of reporting on the outburst themselves, because journalists are well known for casually giving away shocking scoops to other reporters. It happens all the time. Yes, this field is one big happy scoop-sharing cooperative.

Okay, that was the reasonable, rational part of the post. I'm waiting for the response from the campaign. See, that's a blood libel in my eyes. Had he called her a bitch, or had he called another woman a c*#@, I would find it distasteful, but I could live with it. But any man who can call his wife the c word and in public, no less, is not worthy of the post of dogcatcher, let alone president. I honestly think I could not vote for him. I suspect many women would feel the same way. And websites are picking up the story and presenting it as truth. So do yourself a favor, McCain campaign, sue the guy. I'm not kidding. If not, I can actually see myself longing for Hillary as a candidate.


Unless I'm mistaken, a decided possibility, one would be politician is on the way to being politically DOA. Joe Garcia who is running against Mario Diaz-Balart to much ballyhoo about "the generation gap" might have made a fatal misstep in his attempt to ingratiate himself with his Democrat masters. How? Simple. He is having a fund raiser in New York, his special guest none other than than every Cubiche's bogeyman, Charlie Rangel. That's right, Charlie Rangel of the innumerable attempts to lift the embargo, Charlie Rangel of the characterizing the Brothers to the Rescue pilots as "right-wing" extremists and continual badmouthing of Miami Cubans, Charlie Rangel who felt the need to apologize to the Cuban regime because its victims were dancing in the streets at the news of Castro I's illness. To illustrate a point, picture Joe Lierberman holding a fundraiser with Louis Farrakhan as a "special guest." I suggest he enjoy his moment in the sun.

There had better be a whole lot of "progressive" 18 year olds; otherwise Garcia is dead in the water.

H/T Henry at Babalublog

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

3 for O

This time an incisive and well-considered feature story from Earthtimes. Most pointed:

Communist Cuba is moving. The ailing Fidel Castro, 81, is having to watch powerlessly from the sidelines a renovation process set to catapult Cubans into the future. The process can no longer be stopped, and the old revolutionary hero, the man who led Cuba for almost half-a-century, is watching with worry from his sickbed.

Can it really be that the process can no longer be stopped?

Meanwhile in Russia....

It's interesting to keep an eye on the Russian News. Here they have a Reuters video from Cuba. What's doubly interesting is the collection of stories along the sidebar. Have fun.

Telling it Like it is

I have really come to appreciate Mississippi. Here's an editorial from Senatobia, where they apparently have a lot of sense.

Wow! What a country!

The Cuban government has just announced that Cubans will now be permitted to stay in state-owned "luxury" hotels. This ends a long ban that islanders have labeled "tourist apartheid." Of course they use such labels and make such comments silently - to utter a derogatory declaration out loud in Cuba could lead to a long stay in a government owned "hotel" that no one would consider "luxury" class.

This is part of The Democrat's editorial on changes in Cuba. The rest, including the money line, here.

Monday, April 7, 2008

A Snapshot in Time

Earlier in the week, the Post and Courier posted this article, highlighted by Cigar Mike here. While I liked the piece overall, despite some differences, it reminded me of the family photo collection. My parents in Cuba were poor as church mice, living in genteel poverty. They lived with my grandparents, who were middle class, because Dad had difficulty finding a decent job, despite a herculean willingness to work and get ahead. It was an opportunity this country ultimately gave him.

Yet so many of their pictures show them enjoying life at the local "club" in much the same way Americans did in Havana. There are a few in particular, my mother in sparkling ballgown (which she sewed herself), smiling over my father’s shoulder as they dance to the strains of the orchestra at the Club ________, vocals provided by Beny More. I know about Beny because my mother loved his music. There is another photograph, a bottle-strewn table full of young people, all dressed to the nines, most of whom I would know as adults in another time and place. People I would watch age and die. And they were neither elite, nor Batistianos, nor worms.

It was a different way of life, as it was in the United States where men wore suits even in their leisure time. If they were poor like my father and his friends, they bought them second hand from the tailor, and they never left the house without a fedora- wool for winter and straw for summer. In any case, with all its flaws- they were many and serious in both countries- it was a more gracious era.

On a Lighter Note: Congratulations

to the owner of Honolulu's only Cuban eatery who is up for a National Restaurant Association Award which recognizes restaurant workers who've achieved the American Dream via the dint of hard work. Sound familiar? A few more details here at the Pacific Business News.

Exhibit A

My post about the pitfalls and pleasures of being a Cuban American blogger made it to the august precincts of Babalublog and elicited the following comment:

Well said, I guess, but I'm not sure anyone cares with the "anguish" we CA bloggers might or might not feel as we do our thing. If it's so hard, just do something else. To whine in public like this is just a wasteful self-indulgence and does nothing to serve our cause.
I don't begrudge your sentiment, but don't lose perspective. Whatever anguish or discomfort or frustration you are feeling is nothing — absolutely nothing — like that felt by people, i.e. Cubans on the island, suffering each day because of the dictatorship. Making the story about us, the bloggers, does nothing to help them, the Cuban people.
We really have no right to complain.

I really had two things in mind when I wrote the original post, namely that we do our cause a disservice when we get lost in personalities and secondly that we do serve a cause larger than ourselves. I guess it came across as bellyaching, not my desire. Because many people suffer grievously and some die makes it no less frustrating to try to help them. I believe a good portion of my work is directed at highlighting this same suffering. And perhaps as instructed, I might be better off selling shoes, or working in my professional capacity. It's really not my choice. Blogging in this instance is a calling. It would have sufficed to say that the post was in error, that we should not forget the suffering of others, or whatever. As it is I took it as a personal attack administered publicly. And I am Cuban enough to respond as such. But since it came from a source I liked, respected, and trusted, I'll have to think about it. That's it. Least said, soonest what can be mended will be.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Let's Talk Turkey with a Papaya Glaze

Anita Snow's been in Cuba too long. She's got a food fixation. First she goes on the "ration book diet" and now goes into orgies of delight over a few of the surviving paladars in this article. Bet you think I'm going to carry on about how Cubans don't have enough to eat, or about how paladars were essentially put out of business when the regime latched on to the Venezuelan sugar teat, or even point out that one of the paladars which belongs to the gentleman, a Spaniard, who interviewed John McCain is in front of a big white mansion. But no, I want to talk food.

Miamians have much to answer for in terms of the Floribbean trend they've helped foist on the rest of us. Now any second rate chef thinks he's a new age Escoffier. The result is apparent in Sarasota where mango chutney has been sent into places it was never meant to go. Once, I ordered the pecan-encrusted veal with a reduction of Pear liquor which turned out to be a veal cutlet in a pecan pancake laced with syrup, undeniably the worst meal I have ever eaten, nearly vomitous. Take a gander at some of the dishes highlighted in the report: Tuna steak grilled with sugar cane, pork medallions with a mango glaze, and, one of my personal favorites, rabbit lasagna.

True she does point out that most of the paladars do not offer such sophisticated fare and are very flexible, using Swiss chard when there is no spinach for the salad and milk when there is no cream for the pumpkin soup. Spinach? Pumpkin soup? I must have grown up in a very atypical Cuban home, because spinach was what Popeye ate. Salad was just a prop you put on the table to punch up the appearance of the real food, and it inevitably consisted of crackly iceberg lettuce, tomato, and radishes. As for pumpkin soup, I guess you could say we had it in our Ajiaco.

Read it, and read all about Beverly Cox, author of Eating Cuban, who went to the island twice to do research. I wonder if she included my Cuban family's recipe for making Chicken Fried Grapefruit Rinds, cubed steak being a dim memory?

Cross-posted at Babalublog

Sunday Afternoon Edition

Evil Genes? Researchers in Israel seem to be on the way to finding a "ruthless" gene that may explain in part the behavior of some less than altruistic types. They came to their conclusions after having subjects play the "dictator game." Results were mixed, as part of the behavior of subjects related to what they felt was expected of them. Article here.

Two Standards? If there is such a gene, then one possessor must be the subject of this editorial in the Sarasota Herald Tribune. Less than fair to Cuban Americans with more than one nasty editorial to its credit, the paper once published a guest editorial by a local dimwit politician which numbered amongst its egregious errors and misrepresentations the assertion that there were free elections in Cuba, but it is all for freedom in Zimbabwe. It is interesting to note the selectivity with which "freedom-loving nations" should offer support. I guess Robert Mugabe did not learn from his friend Fidel that there should only be one party on the ballot to avoid messy situations like this one.

Empty Seats? If there is one thing that makes my heart glad it is that the plethora of anti-war movies have bombed at the box office. Here's Bill O'Reilly's take. Personally, I love the $65,000 gross on the Mark Cuban/ Brian de Palma flick.

Left Field? Here's just more proof that the mainstream news we get must be skewed. Only 6% of journalists nationally describe themselves as conservatives. Interestingly enough, the vast bulk describe themselves as, you guessed it, "moderate." Wonder what that means in NYC's Upper West Side? Certainly not what it means in Columbia, SC. Read all about it here.

Idol Minds? Here's a piece about Kenny Loggin's son in some Idol-like reality show with the children of other past performers. As Olivia Newton John laments even their children are having trouble breaking into the business. Are we to believe that nepotism is dead?

Mind Games? In my internet travels, I stumbled across this on MSNBC's site. Have not finished fully exploring, but it looks promising. Ta ta.