Friday, January 9, 2009

Meanderings: The Nature of CyberScum

I'm checking my email days ago, when a message from my antivirus pops up. Oh, oh, a trojan is invading one of my files. It is unable to quarantine it. They tell me to do it. Quickly, I turn to get the name of the file. What is the name of the file? What? They give me an eighteenth of the file name followed by an ellipsis. Okay, okay, I highlight it. There it is. I'll just copy it and do a search, then figure out how to quarantine it. No, no, no, it won't copy. Can't do it by hand, the friggin' thing looks like pi. Time is of the essence. I feel it. That little f----er is replicating like f---n' tribbles. I know it.

I try looking it up using half the name. Alas, I have zillions of files with that half, none of which is the infected one. I call my friend, the self-proclaimed computer guru. "Help," I cry. He spends a half hour telling me how hackers dream these things up for fun, because they can. Then he launches into a rumination on the meaning of life, all the time the infection is turning into an outbreak. Finally, he launches into this expedient that has me checking what files are running. He's gotta be kidding. I'm looking at scads of files, some with an exe affixed. I'm not touching those suckers. The real answer he says is to wipe out the computer and reload it all again. Not a chance.

So now I'm contemplating Amicide, or some such (what is the term for the killing of a friend) and speculating on the justice I would like to visit upon the misbegotten offspring of a camp follower and mule train driver who invented the shit. I go to the Help center. God know how many screens later, they send me to the Encyclopedia of Viruses. What are they going to tell me, like "the virus that is killing your computer was first created in Mesopotamia and is credited with wiping out the economy of a small Asian country"? In any case, I don't have the time. I Google the particular variation and find that most of the entries are in French, Italian, and German. Great, I caught a European virus.

Eventually, after much travail and a bit of help, I figure it out and get it contained and cleaned up. But time and again, I'm left to ponder how in the world the computer industry gets away with the type of customer service it provides. If any other industry....

The Che Fallacy: Telling it Like it Is

Because the worlds of journalism, academia and entertainment have failed us, it is left to Cubans and the children of Cubans to tell the world the truth. Today's entry in the "no me lo paso" file comes from Big Hollywood where Joe Lima sets the record straight. Among the more salient passages:

But “Che” fails on a much deeper level. It attempts to depict actual historical events, the effects of which still play out today and affect millions of people. Does the movie tell the truth? It barely even tries. It is in this failure to connect with historic truth that the film sinks from being a mere failure to being an ugly lie.


Pre-Revolutionary Cuba is predictably presented in this film as a screamingly poor, fifth-world country. It seems that every other character is illiterate. People who were there remember it differently, and United Nations statistics from the period tell a different story: Cuba was in fact the fourth most literate country in Latin America. “A people that don’t know how to read and write are an easy people to fool,” scolds Del Toro, index finger in the air. Ironic, that, considering how the Castros have always used the written word to fool people in Cuba and all over the world, via surrogates like Anderson, who blandly parrot the official version of Cuban history. Furthermore, the 100% literacy rate that the Cuban government claims to have accomplished is accompanied by 100% censorship of what Cubans are allowed to read, and of what they are allowed to write. Another digression: statistics say that 28 percent of the State of Louisiana is functionally illiterate today. I’d like to ask Steven Soderbergh, whose father was once Dean of the College of Education at Louisiana State University, if the scandal of illiteracy in Louisiana would justify turning Louisiana into a communist dictatorship, shooting all the cops, and compelling teachers to teach the dictatorship’s version of history. Of course, it wouldn’t. But this is precisely the twisted rationale that the Cuban government uses to justify its now fifty-year stranglehold on power.

Read the whole review here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Must See, Read, and Feel: A Bit of Levity

Cubans in the generic sense, geography be damned, are united in our perhaps unfortunate ability to see humor in even the most awful of situations. So as I sit down to link some good stuff I haven't been able to write about, here's a quartet on the lighter side.

Start with the cartoon posted over at Ms. Calabazas'. Then mosey on over to Babalu for the latest entry in the "People to People" series by Henry Gomez. Round it off by reading the latest "lost episode" of Che's Bolivian diary over at Paco's. And finish up with a course in tourist myopia by Melek over at Cubanology.

Hemingway in Cuba

Yesterday Cuba opened up its Heminway archives, hitherto having been languishing in the basement of his house. Read the article. Over at Babalu Henry reminds us that not too long ago, you, too, could purchase one of Hemingway's possessions for the less than princely sum of $200 dollars. Anyway, recently Humberto Fontova ran across another bit of Hemingway lore, one you are not likely to hear about and which presents...something. In this piece, James Scott Linville is reminscing about an incident with his boss at the Paris Review, George Plimpton. Enthusiastic, Mr. Linville wanted to make use of the recently published Motorcycle Diaries. To his surprise, Mr. Plimpton, noticeably stricken, demurred. He then told the author of an experience he had with Mr. Hemingway in Cuba:

A sad look came over him, and he said, "Years ago, after we'd done the
interview, Papa invited me down again to Cuba." George had done a justifiably famous interview with Ernest Hemingway for the magazine, and usually referred to him as "Papa", as Hemingway had encouraged him to do.

"It was right after the revolution," George continued. One afternoon, Hemingway told him, "There's something you should see." The nature of the expedition was a mystery; Hemingway made a shaker of drinks, daiquiris or whatever. They got in the car with a few others and drove some way out of town. They got out, set up chairs and took out the drinks, as if they were going to watch the sunset. Soon, a truck arrived. This, explained George, was what they'd been waiting for. It came, as Hemingway knew, the same time each day. It stopped and some men with guns got out of it. In the back were a couple of dozen others who were tied up. Prisoners.

The men with guns hustled the others out of the back of the truck, and lined them up. Then they shot them. They put the bodies back into the truck. I said to George something to the effect of "Oh my God."

Meaning, who knows? Article about the Che movie here.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Somewhat Frankly Monday

It was a very bad year. At least that's what this Bloomberg piece informs us, noting that it is probably the worst economy in 70 years. I include it only for recap purposes, as little appears new. In the same vein, on Townhall Bill O'Reilly runs down the list of some of what he learned in 2008. I include this one, because he definitively makes the point that fact-based reporting seems gone.

Not my way. In a variant of the bank, insurance conglomerate, automaker bailout, with municipalities lined up hats in hand, according to this report one Connecticut politician would like to extend a helping hand to local newspapers. Speculation is that the print organs may be next in the queue of mendicants. Not in my name, I say. When they ceased being somewhat fair brokers of information, they lost any right to tax payer support. Perhaps they should petition the Democrats.

I get a kick out of this. In the bibliobriefs department, we have this welcome news that approximately 5 0f the 11 library branches in Philly slated to close have been given a reprieve of sorts. Don't celebrate yet, though. A follow up article in the Inquirer indicates that they will become "learning centers" run by community groups, etc.... Two questions: what were they as libraries and why do they always immediately hit libraries when budgets tighten? I defy anyone to read the comments of parents in the these articles and not realize the incredible value of libraries to at risk youth. Speaking of books, Karl Rove lets us in on a secret, namely, Bush is an avid reader.

Luck is no lady. As politicians, pundits, and the public debate who's to blame, Jim Sollisch over at the WSJ presents a novel villain. Blame it on the home programs, he cries. It's a light-hearted romp with an underlying kernel of truth. All those fix it and flip it programs on HGTV and other channels may have fed into the frenzy. Me, I only redecorated.

The Lady is a character. I like to leave you with an interesting prediction, courtesy of MSNBC, of which comic characters to watch this year. Personally, I never liked the Marvel/DC variety because they never ended a storyline. They make cool movies, though.

(cute, huh; or is that too cute.)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

In Which I Take the Media to the Woodshed, Again

Unease has been my companion in the weeks leading to January this year. I knew that it was as inevitable as the night following the day that the 50th anniversary of the Revolution would unleash paeans to the totalitarian regime in the international media. True to form, the resident shills in Havana have pumped out screeds to the “Robolution,” as many Cubans have characterized it, blending the Spanish word for theft into the original. It’s hard to say whether the less than light-hearted word play is intended to convey the betrayal of purported ideals of the revolution as the Cuban populace understood them in 1959- the restoration of democracy chief among them- as in “Que robo,” or “What a beat”; or whether the reference is to the theft of every single scintilla of real property belonging to every single human being on the island and off, as in “I’ve been robbed.”

Whatever the case, even the veteran journalist apologists in Havana have had to tamp down their praise, as the regime has had to tamp down their “celebrations,” ostensibly because of the straitened circumstances as the result of the trio of hurricanes the island has endured. It is interesting to note that the major official celebration in Santiago was closed to ordinary Cubans, those upon whose backs and hopes and freedom the revolution has managed to maintain itself in power in an unending cycle of poverty and repression. Instead, the festivities were limited to 3,000 party apparatchiks. The event, aside from serving as a delicious metaphor for the present state of Cuba, for the gross inequality between the party and the population, lends itself the suggestion that perhaps there is not the will, political or popular, to celebrate the occasion. It seems probable that yet another factor is the hesitancy of the junta to bring together thousands of screaming Cubans to “celebrate” the unconscionable, perhaps more of a wild card to the powers that be than one would suspect.

Because true to form, the message was that there would be yet more struggle to come. There are those that posit that the embargo has maintained the regime, as opposed to Stalinist repression, say. However, it’s all semantics. Revolutions have a beginning and ending. The word revolution is a noun, not a verb. But this revolution is unending, ever exhorting more from its captive population, always on the brink of becoming. As long as it presents itself in this manner, a seemingly eternal struggle, it is not forced to acknowledge reality, namely that this cadre of leaders has dragged the island nation, once the Pearl of the Antilles, into the third world.

You will not pick up on this, the “greatest” achievement of the Castros, reading any of the media reports and editorials. Ignorance, compounded by bigotry, leads to the bruiting of the talking points of the revolution, namely literacy and healthcare. Never a mention that the regime inherited a population with a 70 percent literacy rate and more doctors per capita than in Britain, that Cubans were forced to trade in their freedom, their rights to self-determination, due process and a host of other civil liberties for a ration book. Comparisons are made to Haiti, as if Haiti would ever have been deemed a fit parallel in the 1950’s. Over and over, we are told that the Castroite regime has outlasted 10 US Presidents, as if it were an occasion for praise, instead of the result of lessons learned at the knee of Papa Stalin with pointers from the East German Stasi.

So here’s a little primer for those who pretend to inform the rest of us. There is no Cuban Revolution. It is over, done, finito. It died in 1960, or thereabouts, when Cubans awoke to the nightmare of a half century hangover. What is left is just one more tin pot dictatorship with an attitude and a very good public relations department. So spare me the historical milestone. It should occasion articles on the half century of misery, squalor and repression visited on the Cuban people and nothing else.