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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Friday, September 30, 2005

Telly

Haven't you ever wondered what passes for television viewing around the world?

One of the best features of My Yahoo, which is that personalised page all Yahoo ID users can customise, is the Television module -- with dozens of countries offered, schedule-style.

Many people around the world consider television viewing rather oafish, and brainless. That would be true of many cultural elites like academics, for example.

It is also true that the more intellectual a reputation a country has, such as France or Germany, the less daily life is geared to or concentrates on television.

When I came to the US, I was shocked at how my friends' family would arrive home, and immediately go to the family room to switch on the set.

What made it odder is that they weren't doing so to catch a certain programme, necessarily.

They'd just have it on as background noise, like a sweet, but doddering old grannie, who you don't exactly pay much mind, but you like to have around you anyway because she makes you feel good.

Almost too ironically, now that I am a full-time US resident, I do the exact same thing. In fact, I'm doing it now!

(For those who are curious, I have on my local PBS channel, since PBS has absolutely ruled the airwaves this week, starting by the Scorsese-Dylan documentary)

In my travels, I have seen much international television, and each country leaves me with a split-second impression of its programming.

I found Chilean and Argentinian TV almost unwatchably boring, dated, and unoriginal, whereas Peruvian and Brazilian TV shows are quite entertaining, and modern-looking.

In Sweden, I remember laughing for seemingly hours on the hotel bed, when I saw their nightly news reader. She looked Tammy Faye Bakker on drugs.

No, I mean, more than usual.



In India, you'd be watching an (for me) unintelligible show, completely in Hindi, whilst you squinted your eyes in that way people have when they try to understand something, anything of a foreign language -- only to be rewarded when you heard "tape recorder" all of a sudden in perfect English.

Tape recorder! I know that.

Okay, I know the gist of this programme now. Next scene, a morgue. What the...?

In Egypt, oh my. If you think you've seen tackiness in American soap operas, with their ostentatious tschotchkes everywhere, that's nothing compared to Egyptian or Arabic-language soaps.

The women are not only driping with 24K gold jewelry, but so are their phones, their loo fixtures, their cars, even their makeup, if only Shiseido would oblige.

Japanese television was plain...bizarre, yes even considering that I don't speak the language, but I didn't need a translation for the nightly game shows. They were, shall we say, unique.

Namidame qualifies as that certainly, being a reality show where 10 women vie for 1 million Yen by seeing who can cry the most. To that end, some rent weepies like Titanic, Joy Luck Club, and Showgirls, and then fill up little test tubes with tears, which are then collected and weighed for comparison.

A reality show about crying. Think about it.

Of course, there's also JAPANARAMA!, which I can only describe as a variety show about farts. Seriously.



Only until the new Survivor/Fear Factor craze hit America, did I see so many people enjoy being humiliated on TV, as I did in Japan, which of course, has a "shaming" culture.

Which may explain the Bob Sapp phenomenon.

I recall as a child living in Canada, that Canadian television was almost identical to American TV, except their own news programming was more professional-looking than the southern neighbours. Rather like the BBC.



I loved Hockey Night in Canada, though, as my action figure of Don Cherry atop my computer, attests to.

German television seemed to centre around Krimis (police/crime programmes) like the ageless Tatort series. It must be over 35 years old by now!



And according to the region you were in, you also got whatever occupying powers' television they beamed for their personnel.

The American Wiesbaden sector got lots of homespun shows like I Dream of Jeannie, Kojak, and I particuarly recall gasping at Hogan's Heroes, that show about lovable Nazis and their rascally prisoners.

In Italy and Spain, it seemed that they were unusually fond of variety shows with semi-naked women, somehow all wearing balloons in strategic areas. Ditto for Mexico.

Speaking of Mexico, the amount of Mexican "novelas" (nightly soap operas) shown around the world is mind-boggling.

I arrived in Romania to be greeted by people watching re-runs of Esmeralda. Heaven help you if interrupted them to ask a touristy question.

Then, two weeks later, arriving in Belgium, I see the hotelier transfixed by the same Esmeralda episode!

Fortunately, in Italy they make up for their inane programming by having the children's favourite, Topo Gigio -- you can call him the Italian Mickey Mouse.



Perhaps the worst was Cuba's programming, where I watched all 2 or 3 channels who had to carry an impossibly long-winded, and discombobulated talk by El Comandante-en-Jefe. It lasted over 5 hours...

But perhaps there is no country as "anti-television" as France.

In France, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that as less people want to watch TV, the less original programming is available for them so to do.

And the less quality shows are available to them, the less they wish to watch, since non-derivative programming, novelty shows, game shows, soap operas, and the like tend to be spread thinly and are therefore, unexciting.

I recall a 90210 attempt in France, called Hélène et Les Garçons, that was both laughable and somehow cute, like Jacques Chirac trying to kiss Laura Bush's hand.



Just about the only thing the French do well on television is the breadth and quality of movies they show, which I've always found without equal on the continent.

As you've already seen in other blog threads, I am quite the cinephile. Both the Arté and Canal+ channels were stunningly good in that regard. I was in stardust heaven.

It is certainly true to say though that we English-speakers have excellent television on offer, we also find ourselves overwhelmed with the options on tap.

I personaly have over 400 channels technically available to me, via a simple digital cable network. If I had DirecTV, it would be 600, and double on parabolic satellite.

And yet, no matter how many channels there are, there seems to be NOTHING on Saturday afternoons.

That's also true of other countries, with their own enormous variety of programming available.

The conclusion is therefore, not that we have nothing good to watch, but that we should really get up and do stuff on Saturdays. You know who you are.

For a person who was raised with 1 hour of television per day (timed!), I have rather a fondness for the medium, since I connote people who sniff their noses at television to be the most crashing snobs. I'd like to hope at least I am not that.

But my parents, both academics, were.

And what these snobs miss most of all, which I know they will say they don't care about, is losing touch with popular culture around them.

They don't know what the people are talking about, so much of which is inspired or broadcast via the airwaves.

I am not proud of the fact that I have never watched a single episode of Friends, West Wing, or more than a few minutes worth of Seinfeld, e.g.

And in Britain, I just never cared much for Coronation Street, Neighbours, or Crossroads when they were on.

This means that my connexion to my own generation can be rather tenuous, since we don't have that cultural point-of-reference together.

That's sad, I think, but all too common with those who either decry television as being vapid or for those with limited intellects.

Of course, it's certainly not called the Boob Tube for nothing, albeit you Baywatch faithful out there can be forgiven if you thought it was for something else.

But point of fact, US television programming, especially that which is aimed during Prime Time (8-10 at night), the so-called family hour, is rather eclectic and fun.

With all this in mind, here is a peak at what was on tonight, around Europe.

The fare may surprise you.

Channel 20:00 20:30 21:00 21:30

Channel 5 (UK)
Stargate Atlantis
The Truth about Madonna's Men

RTL 9 (France)
Police Academy 4
Le diable rose

TV5 Europe (France)
Strip tease
Journal TV5
L'ami Fritz

ITV London Weekend (UK)
Exit the Dragon: Tonight With Trevor McDonald
Airline
Taggart

Sky One (UK)
The Simpsons
The Simpsons
Sport Matters

RTL (Germany)
Wer wird Millionär?
Nikola
Bernds Hexe
7 Tage - 7 K?

Sky Sports 3 (UK)
Crown Green Bowls
WWE Late Night - Smackdown

Canal Plus France
Père et flic
Ils se marièrent et eurent beaucoup d'enfants

UK Gold (Oldies)
2point4 Children
As Time Goes By
Dinnerladies
Dinnerladies

TF1 (France)
Star Academy
Eurosport (Deutsch)
Fußball
Fußball
Rallye

Film Four (UK)
Rush Hour 2

ZDF (Germany)
Siska
SOKO Leipzig
heute-journal

ProSieben (Germany)
Riverworld - Welt ohne Ende
Knock Off

Italia 1
Everwood
CSI: Miami
The Closer

ARD (Germany)
Auf den Spuren der Vergangenheit
Tatort

France 2
La Crim'
Groupe Flag
Central nuit

Rai Uno (Italy)
50 Canzonissime da ballare

Arte (France/Germany)
Gefährdeter Bezirk
Veruschka

Rai Due (Italy)
Incantesimo

BBC 1 (UK)
Eastenders
River City
Outtake TV
The Worst Week of My Life

BBC 2 (UK)
In the Footsteps of Churchill
Gardeners' World
Gardeners' World
The Last Waterloo Cup

ORF 1 (Austria)
Die Millionenshow
Dancing Stars
Newsflash
Dancing Stars
Was gibt es Neues?

The Discovery Channel (UK)
Mythbusters
Brainiac

DSF (Germany)
UEFA CUP Kompakt
Bundesliga Aktuell
Hattrick - Die 2. Bundesliga
Viererkette

Canal Jimmy (France)
Friends
Friends
The Job
Le messager des ténèbres
Le messager des ténèbres

Kabel 1 (Germany)
Cold Case - Kein Opfer ist je vergessen
Spurlos verschwunden - Without a Trace
Missing - Verzweifelt gesucht

MTV UK
Cribs
Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica
Viva La Bam
Viva La Bam

Channel 4 (UK)
Scrubs
Will & Grace
The Simpsons
Rock School

Come on. Admit it.

You are just dying to talk to a Brit about that Mariah Carey episode on MTV's Cribs, arentcha?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Hispanic-Friendly Universities

The University of Miami's homepage proudly touted the fact that they ranked very high in Hispanic Business magazine's Ten Best Schools for Hispanics, at least in certain academic departments.

Now, this may come as no shock to those who believe that the University of Miami is overwhelmingly Hispanic, but the truth is far different.

Few people can afford the over $29,000 pricetag for two semester's worth of undergraduate study, which is comparable to Harvard University prices.

(It should be noted that when ex-President Tad Foote II, son-in-law of Senator Fulbright of Arkansas, signed on to be president back in the early 1980's, he wanted to turn U of M not just into an Ivy League school, but the Oxford of the South -- thus belying the well-earned reputation of Suntan U, a project most deemed almost impossible due to the proximity of Miami Beach and its enticements even then)

The reason, however, has always been more towards social attitudes than those of economy, since Cuban-Americans are by far the most successful Hispanic immigrant group to date in the US.

In their community, they have quite a large swath of middle-class to upper-middle class professionals who could afford to send their children to the leafy main campus in Coral Gables.

But U of M had a WASPy reputation as the last bastion of "Anglo" America here in South Florida.

Note, the term Anglo-American refers merely to the language and domninant cultural of a person, not that he is of British descent -- as I had erroneously supposed when a Hungarian-American professor of mine said he was "Anglo" and I queried why.

This is also true of Hispanic-Americans in the context that they speak Spanish as a first or second-language, but they themselves could be Italian-Argentines, e.g.

These are also the kinds of Hispanics less inclined to associate themselves with Mexican-American associations like La Raza, which is also true of Cuban-Americans.

And the term Hispanic is often used interchangeably with Latino, which is incorrect, as Latino could technically include French or Portuguese Latin Americans, but it never does.

One last point has to be that racial or ethnic terms are self-referential, and there is no way to verify if a person is indeed, Hispanic or not.

They could be of Hispanic origin by virtue of a grandmother, but if they consider themselves that -- or indeed, any census ethnic category --, that's enough for many organisations to list them as such.

Returning to the story of the University of Miami proper, even when Cuban-Americans (the majority of whom call themselves not Hispanic, but white or Cuban) entered, they did so as a subset community, not unwelcome, but not greeted with open arms either.

In the 1990's, those social barriers began to fall, as more and more moneyed Latin Americans arrived in the area.

These included Venezuelans, Peruvians, and Colombians -- some of whom came as exchange students, but many of whom were diaspora emigrants in turn, due to the political changes in their respective countries, such as those fleeing Hugo Chavez' regime, or were Cindero Luminoso or FARC victims.

Few people are aware these recent emigrés many of them Jewish, too. For whatever reason that cultural layer to the Hispanic mantle has rarely been mentioned in these studies.

Nevertheless, these greater and more diverse numbers of Hispanics have therefore allowed UM to take its place amongst the truly international campuses around the US.

Top 10 Medical Schools for Hispanics

1. Stanford University

Total graduate enrollment 463
Hispanic graduate enrollment 68
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 15%
Total M.D. degrees earned 90
M.D. degrees earned by Hispanics 12
Percent of M.D. degrees earned 13% by Hispanics

2. Johns Hopkins University

Total graduate enrollment 476
Hispanic graduate enrollment 13
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 3%
Total M.D. degrees earned 115
M.D. degrees earned by Hispanics 1
Percent of M.D. degrees earned – by Hispanics

3. University of New Mexico

Total graduate enrollment 302
Hispanic graduate enrollment 77
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 25%
Total M.D. degrees earned 71
M.D. degrees earned by Hispanics 19
Percent of M.D. degrees earned 27% by Hispanics

4. Texas A&M University Health Science Center

Total graduate enrollment 289
Hispanic graduate enrollment 30
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 10%
Total M.D. degrees earned 61
M.D. degrees earned by Hispanics 1
Percent of M.D. degrees earned 2% by Hispanics

5. University of North Texas Health Science Center

Total graduate enrollment 501
Hispanic graduate enrollment 35
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 7%
Total D.O.* degrees earned 115
D.O. degrees earned by Hispanics 9
Percent of D.O. degrees earned 8% by Hispanics

6. University of Kansas

Total graduate enrollment 719
Hispanic graduate enrollment 30
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 4%
Total M.D. degrees earned 156
M.D. degrees earned by Hispanics 7
Percent of M.D. degrees earned 4% by Hispanics

7. University of Arizona

Total graduate enrollment 438
Hispanic graduate enrollment 46
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 11%
Total M.D. degrees earned 105
M.D. degrees earned by Hispanics 11
Percent of M.D. degrees earned 10% by Hispanics

8. East Carolina University

Total graduate enrollment 308
Hispanic graduate enrollment 8
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 3%
Total M.D. degrees earned 81
M.D. degrees earned by Hispanics 3
Percent of M.D. degrees earned 4% by Hispanics

9. Edward Via Virginia

Total graduate enrollment 304
Hispanic graduate enrollment 9
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 3%
Total D.O.* degrees earned N/A
D.O. degrees earned by Hispanics N/A
Percent of D.O. degrees earned N/A by Hispanics

10. Ohio State University

Total graduate enrollment 849
Hispanic graduate enrollment 20
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 3%
Total M.D. degrees earned 197
M.D. degrees earned by Hispanics 3
Percent of M.D. degrees earned 2% by Hispanics

Top 10 Law Schools for Hispanics

1. University of Miami

Total graduate enrollment 1,186
Hispanic graduate enrollment 178
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 15%
Total J.D. degrees earned 356
J.D. degrees earned by Hispanics 48
Percent of J.D. degrees earned 13% by Hispanics

2. University of Texas at Austin

Total graduate enrollment 1,484
Hispanic graduate enrollment 221
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 15%
Total J.D. degrees earned 544
J.D. degrees earned by Hispanics 53
Percent of J.D. degrees earned 10% by Hispanics

3. Stanford University

Total graduate enrollment 546
Hispanic graduate enrollment 67
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 12%
Total J.D. degrees earned 177
J.D. degrees earned by Hispanics 24
Percent of J.D. degrees earned 14% by Hispanics

4. University of Arizona

Total graduate enrollment 464
Hispanic graduate enrollment 54
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 12%
Total J.D. degrees earned 159
J.D. degrees earned by Hispanics 22
Percent of J.D. degrees earned 14% by Hispanics

5. University of Southern California

Total graduate enrollment 630
Hispanic graduate enrollment 71
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 11%
Total J.D. degrees earned 217
J.D. degrees earned by Hispanics 25
Percent of J.D. degrees earned 12% by Hispanics

6. University of Florida

Total graduate enrollment 1,153
Hispanic graduate enrollment 112
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 10%
Total J.D. degrees earned 408
J.D. degrees earned by Hispanics 48
Percent of J.D. degrees earned 12% by Hispanics

7. University of Connecticut

Total graduate enrollment 743
Hispanic graduate enrollment 62
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 8%
Total J.D. degrees earned 172
J.D. degrees earned by Hispanics 3
Percent of J.D. degrees earned 2% by Hispanics

8. Southwestern University

Total graduate enrollment 967
Hispanic graduate enrollment 100
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 10%
Total J.D. degrees earned 248
J.D. degrees earned by Hispanics 34
Percent of J.D. degrees earned 14% by Hispanics

9. University of California, Los Angeles

Total graduate enrollment 943
Hispanic graduate enrollment 74
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 8%
Total J.D. degrees earned 328
J.D. degrees earned by Hispanics 27
Percent of J.D. degrees earned 8% by Hispanics

10. Florida State University

Total graduate enrollment 748
Hispanic graduate enrollment 66
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 9%
Total J.D. degrees earned 205
J.D. degrees earned by Hispanics 23
Percent of J.D. degrees earned 11% by Hispanics

Top 10 Engineering Programmes for Hispanics

1. University of Texas at El Paso

Total engineering school enrollment 244
Hispanic engineering school enrollment 67
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 27.5%
Total postgraduate degrees earned 153
Postgraduate degrees earned 36 by Hispanics
Percent of postgraduate degrees 23.5% earned by Hispanics

2. Georgia Institute of Technology

Total engineering school enrollment 3,230
Hispanic engineering school enrollment 156
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 4.8%
Total postgraduate degrees earned 1,091
Postgraduate degrees earned 45 by Hispanics
Percent of postgraduate degrees 4.1% earned by Hispanics

3. University of Central Florida

Total engineering school enrollment 1,110
Hispanic engineering school enrollment 81
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 7.3%
Total postgraduate degrees earned 332
Postgraduate degrees earned 18 by Hispanics
Percent of postgraduate degrees 5.4% earned by Hispanics

4. San Diego State University

Total engineering school enrollment 2,046
Hispanic engineering school enrollment 363
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 17.7%
Total postgraduate degrees earned 69
Postgraduate degrees earned 1 by Hispanics
Percent of postgraduate degrees 1.4% earned by Hispanics

5. Michigan State University

Total engineering school enrollment 550
Hispanic engineering school enrollment 15
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 2.7%
Total postgraduate degrees earned 204
Postgraduate degrees earned 5
by Hispanics Percent of postgraduate degrees 2.5% earned by Hispanics

6. Rice University

Total engineering school enrollment 1,277
Hispanic engineering school enrollment 105
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 8.2%
Total postgraduate degrees earned 127
Postgraduate degrees earned 4 by Hispanics
Percent of postgraduate degrees 3.1% earned by Hispanics

7. University of Texas at Austin

Total engineering school enrollment 1,582
Hispanic engineering school enrollment 49
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 3.1%
Total postgraduate degrees earned 664
Postgraduate degrees earned 27 by Hispanics
Percent of postgraduate degrees 4.1% earned by Hispanics

8. West Virginia University

Total engineering school enrollment 850
Hispanic engineering school enrollment 27
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 3.2%
Total postgraduate degrees earned 104
Postgraduate degrees earned 2 by Hispanics
Percent of postgraduate degrees 1.9% earned by Hispanics

9. Iowa State University

Total engineering school enrollment 903
Hispanic engineering school enrollment 11
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 1.2%
Total postgraduate degrees earned 414
Postgraduate degrees earned 2 by Hispanics
Percent of postgraduate degrees 0.5% earned by Hispanics

10. University of California, Irvine

Total engineering school enrollment 677
Hispanic engineering school enrollment 27
Percent Hispanic graduate enrollment 4.0%
Total postgraduate degrees earned 212
Postgraduate degrees earned 2 by Hispanics
Percent of postgraduate degrees 1.0% earned by Hispanics

As one can see by the numbers, they can be miniscule, but certainly it shows the attention given to the second largest ethnic population in the US today.

It will be interesting, as time goes by, to see if these categories are reduced, not in terms of actual population, but in terms of people who may integrate themselves within the larger American society.

Will there be more ethnicities listed in the US in the near future, or less?

My guess is that there will be more, simply because of this increase in marriages within ethnicities, thus increasing the category "range".

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Country Music Saves America

(Welcome Volokh readers! N.B.: The question asked by the link-piece was not one I posed, or wish to have inferred that I championed)

Quick. Think of Gulf War I.

Which is the first song which pops to your minds when thinking of it?

Chances are, if you're like millions of Americans who were alive in 1991, you think of Lee Greenwood's:

God Bless the USA

And quick again! Think of Gulf War II, taking place as we speak.

Which is the first song that pops to your minds then, too?

Chances are it's Toby Keith's:

Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)

Country music has hit two home runs in the patriotic stakes, of two recent major US wars.

In contrast, the world of allegedly more "popular music" has produced such recent gems as...

The Rolling Stones -- Sweet Neo Con (classical rock)
Green Day -- American Idiot (pop)
Anti-Flag -- debut album will be self-explanatory (punk)


We won't even talk of the dozens, if not hundreds of anti-war songs, which are frankly nothing more than cover for anti-Americanism by another name, no matter how much they try to say it's anti-current administration policies.

It's not.

It's anti-whatever America has done, and stands for, which they believe is more bad than good.

If it weren't, they're'd be a lot more USA-friendly songs by the popular music industry -- and there simply are none.

Think this is a tad exaggerated?

These are the Country Music songs which have a patriotic flavour to them:



America Will Survive - Hank Williams Jr.
American Child - Phil Vassar
American Soldier - Toby Keith
Awful, Beautiful Life - Darryl Worley
Born Country - Alabama
Bumper of My SUV - Chely Wright
Courtesy of the Red White & Blue - Toby Keith
God Bless the USA - Lee Greenwood
Have You Forgotten - Darryl Worley
Letters From Home - John Michael Montgomery
Only In America - Brooks & Dunn
Riding With Private Malone - David Ball
Some Gave All - Billy Ray Cyrus
This Ain't No Rag (It's a Flag) - Charlie Daniels Band
Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly - Aaron Tippin

Now it's your turn.

Name me 15 pop music songs since 1970 which are remotely as patriotic these above.

I'll wait.

But now think of Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame names like REM, Springsteen, Costello, Bush (quelle ironie!), Kristofferson, Marley, and the twins of the anti-war movements since the late 1960's, Lennon and Baez -- each of them representing their own musical genres.

All of them stressing the bad of America, challengeless by their own industry.

The sad part is, they'd be laughed off the stage by these colleagues if they dared sing anything else, because it's bad form to be sentimental about this country.

And that's just the Anglophone world.

If you count Brazilian Portuguese, French, Italian, German, etc. etc. -- you'd have possibly hundreds of thousands of protest songs in almost 4 decades since the height of the Vietnam War.

That's when the world of pop music changed.

When it went from the maudlin heart-string tugging of Irving Berlin's/Kate Smith's God Bless America (who, it is to be remembered, Franklin Roosevelt -- a proud Democrat, said of her, she's America's living treasure), to the present-day Rolling Stones and these lines:

"It's liberty for all/Democracy's our style/Unless you are against us/Then it's prison without trial."

But don't worry.

In the intervening decades, Country Music has come to America's rescue.

Now, it's no secret that Country Music is hardly the musical genre of choice of the cultural and power elite -- it barely registers one station in all of New York City.

Even in the Deepest South that is Florida, we have only one Country & Western music station as well, the Katrina-mentioned, KISS 99.9 FM.

But in the marrow of America, Country Music fears no ivory towered elites thumbing their noses at the quaint sentimentality of their songs.

Simple songs, which talk about broke-down F-150 trucks, girlfriends who dumped you and boyfriends who broke your child's heart, about trashy women, and redneck boys, about '59 Cadillacs (which ain't never coming back), admitting not knowing the difference between I-raq, and I-ran, not to mention the realities of living life from 6 AM to 6 PM.

Somewhere along the line, talking about bitches and hos has come to pass for the authenticity of the streets, even though the majority of Americans don't recognise these walkways of life.

It's inevitable that there's a value judgement that comes with the streets, as well. It's a hard, awful world out there, and who can be proud of that America, it questions implicitly?

The response is pre-loaded for failure, and that's where Pop Music takes its cue.

If nothing else, this shows a deep misunderstanding of life and people's motivations...and not the least of which is a simple love of country.

By doing so, the Pop music industry has ceded virtual control to Country Music of all things patriotic -- and this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The more they are seen as such, the more they will produce that. And, obviously, the more they will be associated with America.

There is such a thing as exploiting a genre, or sentiment, and I daresay that is bad too.

But when that's all you think it is, when you ONLY think it is exploitative, then that's when you have a problem too.

If the US is sea of red, bookended by blue, it's no wonder it is those Red States where country music flourishes most.

And NASCAR.

These are the two pastimes where the coastal elites have no hand in leading.

And wouldn't you know it, they're the two most patriotic genres we have in modern American society. Just like that.

There, the US flag is not a subject of taunting, it's hand-over-heart loved.

There, the crowd doesn't jeer the National Anthem, it sings it with tears in their eyes.

There, work ethic, tenacity, individualism, respect, courtesy, all these old-fashioned ideas have meaning and tradition.

They're goals to aspire to, not hypocrisies to be ashamed of.

There's nothing relative about these terms. They stand bald-faced and true.

They're as un-PC as you can imagine, because they brook no contradiction unless you care for laziness, cowardice, communalism, disrespect, and rudeness.

Country Music is the soul of America. It doesn't judge her. It doesn't condemn her. Nor does it feel the need to.

And as long as there are simple Americans ready to shoulder a day's hard work, there'll be songs about them, but most especially, for them.

That's what American pop music has left behind long ago -- they forgot who their audiences are. And what they care about.

Watch:

Get Up, Stand Up - The Story of Pop and Protest.

Airing on PBS Stations around the US today, Wednesday, 28 September 2005. Check your local PBS affiliate here for times.

Read:

Songs Sung Red, White, and Blue : The Stories Behind America's Best-Loved Patriotic Songs by Ace Collins

Of Thee I Sing: Lyrics and Music for Americas Most Patriotic Songs by Jerry Silverman

Visit:

Kate Smith Tribute Site

Listen to:

America
America the Beautiful
God Bless America
God Bless The U.S.A.
Song of Freedom
Stars and Stripes Forever
TAPS
This Land is Your Land
When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again
Yankee Doodle
You're A Grand Old Flag

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Starbucks Oracle

In preparation for a blogpost on my love and addiction to coffee (work in progress), I was perusing a site about interpreting Friendster photos, when I came across this little gem.

The Oracle of Starbucks

Somehow, I didn't expect the Oracle to look so fierce, wigged out and angry -- kind of like Nancy Pelosi when she found out her daughter Alexandra found Bush sexy.



But then, I'm a sucker for those Oracle of Delphi rumours, which had it that this mystical woman looked a lot like Jennifer Beals.



Ack! I've angered the Oracle of Delphi now by calling her a fringe Hollywood has-been, and she won't tell me if that Nobel Prize for Literature (or Medicine, I'm easy) will ever me mine!

See if you can guess the type of Starbucks coffee girl I am, including size, before the answer is revealed in the prophecy below.

Hints:

My favourite colour is black, and please don't say that is an absence of colour, I know; I'm a missionary position type of gal, BUT with the lights on; I like Dwight Yoakham.

Think you know what I would order if you were to buy me a coffee, because you know I'd never actually fork out $4.75 on what amounts to a lot of over-roasted, dirty water?

Good.

Behold the Oracle's wisdom:

Personality type: Ass-clown

You tell people that you're an executive at your company. You think that your repeated references to being "addicted" to caffeine make you seem intriguing and dangerous. People think you're a sucker because you spend 60% of your annual income at Starbucks. Everyone who drinks venti caffe latte ends up addicted to crack.

Also drinks: Zima
Can also be found at: Karaoke bars


Aww man. I've never even had Zima too. Crack is great though.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Wead

Monday was a very hectic day, as can be imagined due to my lack of blogging for which, I apologise, but not too much.

Some people have lives outside of Blogosphere, you know. And then there's Daily Kos.

I ferried my mother around all day Monday, since I adore driving, and she gets nervous when she has to meet our lawyer for this-that-or-the-Last-Will-and-Testament-other.

But when waiting for her outside a Citibank branch, I was seated inside the car, minding my own biness, listening to NPR complaining about too much Federal involvement in the hurricane aftermath (you can't win!!), when suddenly I saw a black lady approach my car.

When strangers approach your car, asking for you to roll down your window, you:

  • Pretend you don't notice and start calling someone, anyone on the mobile


  • Smile and pretend you have Special Needs (note: you're screwed if they actually know sign-language)


  • Check out the jewelry; if they have none, ignore. If they're wearing Bulgari, they're probably your mother's friend asking when you are getting married, whereupon you hit the accelerator


  • Roll down the window and actually talk to them (sucka!)


  • I chose a bit of options 2 and 3 combined.

    And for being weak and indecisive, like Tsar Nicholas II, I got stuck with a lunatic religious evangelist at my side.

    "No, thanks, I'm okay. Thank you. Goodbye."

    "Woll down the window." (Ah, she's Haitian to boot)

    "No, no, I'm fine. Really. Goodbye."

    "It's important."

    (I start to look for my mobile)

    "It will save you."

    "Oh, God. A mordant evangelist. Help!" (thinks)

    She takes out a little pre-written slip of paper with the words "God is...Happiness" printed on it, with the words Ezekiel Chapter 5 on it in blue ink.

    "Wead it! It's important. It will save you!"

    "Just because I used sign language at you, doesn't mean I'm really deaf, sheesh." (thinks)

    "Okay, I will! Promise."

    "Wead it!"

    "Gotcha."


    Then she left, thankfully not a moment too soon, as my mother would've brained her with her Bulgari watch.

    Turns out that the lady had been harrassing bank customers inside with the same dippy zeal, handing out cards and flyers to read this-that-or-the-Old-Testament-other, whereupon the manager had to ask her to leave.

    Not that crass materialists who hang out in banks are not in need of a little spiritual guidance, you'll agree, but I find this attitude annoying.

    Maybe it's the urbane, self-important Roman Catholic inside me, but the Born Againers just don't get it.

    Banking hours are sacred.

    Where are they when the cops pull me over for parking illicitly in Handicapped spaces?

    P.S.: No, I never did look up Ezekiel Chapter 5 in my newly-purchased Bible (yeah, I finally got one, what?). My mother got it into my head that it might be vodoun at work, and being my mother's daughter, i.e. superstitious, I only Googled a bit of it. Something about Jerusalem, knives, and some place called Manasseh, which I'm sure doesn't have ATMs. Turns out Moses was a Rolex man, though. Bloody nouveau riche.

    Sunday, September 25, 2005

    Stealing The Moon - Polish Elections

    (Welcome Tim Worstall readers! Oh, that Tim -- always the gimlet eye for a quirky informative yarn)

    With 1 in 5 Poles currently jobless, a whopping 18%, Poland has the largest unemployment rate of all EU countries.

    It is believed Sunday's parliamentary elections may determine the mood swing of a nation on a downslide of voter turnout.

    Ever since the famous 1989 elections, which more than any Berlin Wall, marked the beginning of the end of Communism in Eastern Europe, voter turnout in Europe's most Catholic country has been decreasing.

    Due to the lacklustre quality of the parties which seem to rise and fall, often depending on the presence of a charismatic leader (or not), the original euphoria of voting for whomever you wanted to without Kommissars breathing down your neck, Poles have found what many democratic countries find, when freedom goes from precious to normal:

    Ennui.

    It's not that there aren't issues abounding in Poland, which would require immediate seeing-to, politically.

    But to illustrate the boredom, take one example below.

    In almost every other country, the issue of Polish involvement in Iraq, and generally, their participation in the war on terror, would be a fierce rallying cry to the opponents of current ex-Communist Party members, the ruling Democratic Left Alliance.

    (And as you can see, just the fact that ex-Communists are in the pro-USA camp shows a very interesting dynamic to this country's political structure)

    But the opposition parties have expressed full support for continued involvement, and it's simply a non-issue in this election.

    Can you name me one country in the EU where a pro-Iraq stance by its government would not be a factor, not to say, a key factor in its parliamentary elections?

    The Netherlands is perhaps the only country which comes close, and even then, it's an issue.

    But no. Not in Poland where more pressing matters are in the offing. They are:

  • - A series of corruption scandals plaguing members of the ruling DLA party


  • - The already mentioned umemployment numbers


  • - A bankrupt and near-death socialised health care system


  • I have often noticed that these are not get-out-the-vote types of issues in many countries.

    Quite the contrary, a pessimism seems to throw a pall over an electorate, as these issues point to systemic problems, which in their minds elections cannot immediately change -- and that's what they want.

    One is about lack of responsible leadership, the other lack of prospects, and the third, the most systemic problem of all, a barely functioning health care system which they cannot pay for.

    In fact, these are circular problems, and the Poles know that.

    Nevertheless, there are men and women who feel they can attack the problems, given the chance of being elected.

    And this brings us to the Brothers Kaczynski.

    What were you to say if I told you these two men have 3 things which makes them quite unusual:

    One, (Jaroslaw) is running for Prime Minister today Sunday. The other, Lech, is running for President in a separate election on 9 October.

    Take that Bill and Hill!

    Want more?

    They're twins.

    Not just any ole twins, either -- identical twins.

    So identical, they used to take tests for each other at school (Lech was the one who was good at languages, Jaroslaw at maths), and moreover, it is thought they have been using the same photograph for each others' campaigns!

    This is due to the fact that Lech, current Mayor of Warsaw, has a slight mole near the bridge of his nose, but it's been airbrushed out, presumably cutting campaign Kinko costs.

    Seeing is believing, so here they are.

    This is Lech.



    And this is Jaroslaw.



    Oh my. I foresee many problems if this duo is elected.

    For one, how would you know who is really who? Maybe you asked for Lech, but Jaro shows up.

    No, no. If elected, theye're going to make the Saddam-a-likes phenomenon look like choppped liver.

    But wait!...as Ron Popeil says. There's more.

    The third reason these two men are not your run-of-the-mill twin politico set, is that long before they felt the lure of politics, they were VERY famous in Poland as child actors.

    Yes, at the age of 12, they starred in the Polish children's movie, Those Two Who Would Steal the Moon.

    I can only think of Shirley Temple as an ex-child movie star having anything to do with politics, so that's something.

    Obviously, I had to IMDB them. Well, one does.

    And sure enough, the movie with its original Polish title, O Dwóch Takich, Co Ukradli Ksiezyc, was there.

    The synopsis of the story is, you'll agree, rather ominous given today's import:

    Twin brothers, Jacek and Placek, are the town's troublemakers. They're lazy, greedy and also cruel. They despise hard work, so they cook up a plan to make easy money that would make them rich for the rest of their lives.

    Bedtime for Bonzo it ain't.

    See, the IMDB voters agree with me, and gave it 4.3 stars out of 10. That's Gigli numbers.

    (As a complete aside, who should I happen to see below the twins' names, but Ted Kaczynski the Unabomber? Huh. Didn't know he too was bitten by the greasepaint bug. Although I'm fairly certain he's not running for anything, except perhaps from the Club Fed showers)

    Like last week's election, I don't suppose MSM will cover this story in depth.

    First of all, Poland has even less resonance with the media elite than does Germany.

    Second of all, if the Kaczynski Brothers' Law & Justice Party and the Citizens' Platform Party both do well, that'll mean a Conservative coalition government, and yet another blow for the Axis of Weasels, who just can't seem to make their side win elections these days.

    And third of all, there's just no way MSM can end a piece like I'm about to, with a straight face.

    Poland has many difficult decisions ahead of her in today's voting which launched at 11 PM EDT Saturday, locally a brisk 6 AM start for them.

    Since there are 30 million people eligible to vote out of a total population of 38 million, that's helluva lot Poles going to the polls.

    UPDATE: As I was writing this, the BBC World Report came on with an update. Seems the Law & Justice Party is doing better than expected in exit polls, as the reporter said in rather dispirited, I miss Bush-Bashing Katrina tones. I'll update the story throughout the day, in case of news. Meanwhile, here's a Polish Elections primer.

    RESULTS UPDATE: Well, President Aleksander Kwasniewsk's governing Democratic Left Alliance Party looks set to be ousted, as predicted by everyone. The breakdown as reported on the newswires is as follows:

    The Kaczynski Brothers' Law & Justice Party:

    28% of the vote

    Coalition partner, Civic Platform Party:

    25% of the vote.

    The formerly Communist Democratic Left Alliance:

    11% of the vote.

    The sticky wicket in this is that Lech Kaczynski, the more outspoken of the two plain-talking twins, has said that if both he and his brother, Jaroslaw, win their respective elections, that one or the other will decline to accept the helm. We'll see if they backtrack or keep their election promise.

    Saturday, September 24, 2005

    The Next Great Big Da Vinci Code

    Some people always want to be au courrant about the latest topics, ideas, or fads generating, as the kids say, buzz.

    I can't say I am one of those persons, since I must've been one of the last people in my circle to have found out that those chalk semi-circles on street pavements were for WI-FI hot spots.

    Who, without a laptop, knew?

    But in the matter of books -- yes.

    I'm all agog to be in the know, just waiting to pounce on the next great big book phenomenon of the year.

    I subscribe to the online New York Times Book Review, The Times Literary Supplement, and have at least a half-dozen book blogs on my sidebar.

    In fact, its buzz status was confirmed to me when I checked the Technorati Popular Books section (which lists all the books mentioned by name in blogposts), when I saw it was actually only at N° 13 thus far.

    So in this capacity, I'm pleased to tell you that I have found there is another Da Vinci Code a-brewing:

    A book, which if you don't read, you'll be the most sniggered about person in every cocktail party you'll ever go to.

    (And never mind only freaks like me still go to cocktail parties. Stop sniggering. I heard that!)

    It is called:

    The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

    Pay no attention to the low Technorati popularity ranking -- for pity's sake, Scardown is listed second.

    When I went to place a hold on it in my public library, because, you know, I'm cheap, on the very first day of it being available to library patrons, there was already a queue of some 121 people in front of me, with only 30 copies available for the most populous Florida county.

    That's Da Vinci Code buzz numbers, believe you me.

    I just checked my library account a moment ago, and I am actually 35th in the queue, hurrah!

    The library staff must've been flooded with such a high volume of requests, since I see over 5 pages worth of some 20 copies to each page, now.

    I'm thinking I should be getting a call to pick it up, any moment.

    And the moment I do, I shall read it, and post a review so you can sparkle at your cocktail parties too.

    I'm helpful that way, for a freak.

    P.S.: Oh, and if you hear of the new great big book out there, drop us a line, do!

    Friday, September 23, 2005

    Conservative Party Leadership

    Have you noticed how certain stories get underreported, or even not reported at all on MSM?

    Take the German National Elections this Sunday.

    Almost nothing from even venerable sources like The Lehrer Report on PBS. This despite the fact that the Togolese Presidential Elections received not one but two days of panel-talk coverage.

    What chance then, can the current Tory Party leadership watch have to be reported on? Very little, indeed.

    So here I am today, filling in the shading for some readers.

    After the elections in May, the leader of the Conservative Party, Michael Howard, offered to step down after the unsuccessful attempt to lead his Party back into Number 10.

    He'll probably be doing so after the Party conference, after 7 October, in just a few days time.

    Right now, the Conservatives are ballotting 1,333 senior members of the Party, although Michael Howard has threatened to resign earlier than anticipated in protest, if certain antiquated rules are not changed.

    MPs at present can choose 2 shortlisted candidates by 27 September, when the proposal to change the rules will take place.

    Nevertheless, there are already candidates who have come forth to try to win the leadership. Here are their names with background sketches, combined with my opinion of their chances.

    CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADERSHIP CANDIDATES

  • Sir Malcolm Rifkind




  • Age: 59
    Education: Edinburgh University
    Family Status: Married, one son, one daughter
    Tilts: Solidly left of the Tory Party
    Previous Posts: Transport Secretary, Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary (Major)
    Overview: Overly mild-mannered Scot known for threatening to resign a few times. Looks older than his age. Lost his MP seat in 1997. Regained it in 2005 (for my old neighbourhood of Kensington & Chelsea). Wants the Tory Party to move to a more centrist position than that which it holds now.

    Leadership Chances? Remote.

  • Edward Leigh




  • Age: 55
    Education: Durham University
    Family Status: Married, six children
    Tilts: Traditional values Conservative
    Previous Posts: Trade Minister (Major)
    Overview: Hulking blond backbencher with a florid complexion. Leading member of the Cornerstone Group, which stresses a return to family values, flat tax, and private insurance tax relief. Quite popular with many Tories for his aggresive personality.

    Leadership Chances? Darkhorse.

  • Theresa May




  • Age: 48
    Education: St Hugh's College, Oxford
    Family Status: Married
    Tilts: Pro-family moderniser
    Previous Posts: Former Tory Chairman, several Shadow Cabinet posts
    Overview: Known as the Imelda Marcos of British politics for her array of footwear. Very eloquent, able public speaker. Wanted to challenge perceptions the Conservatives were a "nasty Party". Encourages more women, and minorities represented within the ranks. Says there is a move away from daddy politics of economy and defence, to mummy politics of welfare, and public services.

    Leadership Chances? Slight. Only woman candidate. One to watch for the future.

  • David Davis




  • Age: 56
    Education: Warwick University, London & Harvard Bus. Schools
    Family Status: Married, one son, two daughters
    Tilts: Solidly right of the Tory Party
    Previous Posts: Ex-Euro Minister (Major), Party Chairman
    Overview: Working-class council house background, single mother. Euro-sceptic. Tough no-nonsense demeanour and reputation. Grandson of Communist Jarrow March (1936) leader. Enthusiast of "extreme sports", with 3 times broken nose to show for it. Right-wing, but having no special truck with either the modernisers or traditionalists.

    Leadership Chances? Leading Contender.

  • David Cameron




  • Age: 38
    Education: (Eton), Brasenose College, Oxford
    Family Status: Married, one son, one daughter
    Tilts: Moderniser
    Previous Posts: Shadow Cabinet Minister of Education (2005)
    Overview: Upper-middle class background, married to a baronet's daughter, has severely disabled child. Known as "The Tory Tony Blair" for his youthful dynamism, and desire to revamp his Party's image. Darling of Notting Hill set of young Tories. Likes hunting and shooting. Was adviser to then Home Secretary (1992), Michael Howard. Friend George Osborne is referred to as Brown to Cameron's Blair.

    Leadership Chances? Good. One to watch for the future.

    Other names include:

    - Tory Party stalwart Kenneth Clarke (65)
    - Liam Fox (43), Scottish Euro-sceptic with loyal following
    - Andrew Lansley (48), strong centrist, if Euro-sceptic

    If you are not British, it is almost impossible to translate the subtleties each candidate represents, or embodies in their life history.

    Americans, for example, who until recently had two very similar parties which differentiated themselves on just a few issues on paper -- moreover, whose members didn't come from opposite ends of the social divide --, parsing together these bits of information above is a daunting task.

    It is tempting to try to inject the sensibilities each of you have from your own countries towards what might be needed for the Tory Party leadership.

    Suffice it to mention, that it's not as easy as suggesting, say, if Tony Blair is like Bill Clinton, then maybe Britain needs a strong-on-morals right-winger like George W. Bush to bring in the fence-sitters or traditionalists.

    Our views are tied, as ever, to class not religion, race or corporativism as in America.

    Nevertheless, the next few days will prove fascinating.

    Who will the Tories choose as their leader, and will they choose someone who will be a viable candidate to break, at long last, the 8 year Labour Party domination on British politics?

    A momentous decision, indeed.

    Thursday, September 22, 2005

    Gay Havana Film Festival

    (Welcome Babalublog readers!)

    One has to hand it to Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz.

    Anyone reading about a very special week-long film festival taking place in Havana, would think:

    "There he goes again! The champion of the oppressed and minorities ever to the rescue."

    But hold unto your copies of Judy Garland's Greatest Hits for a moment yet.

    The truth is not only out there, it's complicated.

    Although the Blogdecine site praises this gay rapprochement in Cuba, mentioning that 300 people were present at the debut of Neil Jordan's, Breakfast on Pluto (the story of a transvestite cabaret artiste of the 1960's and 70's, by the director of The End of the Affair and Michael Collins), it seemed they hoped, a little too naïvely, that this heralds the beginning of a new détente with the gay Habanera community.

    Unfortunately, this won't be easy, as homosexual activity in Cuba is punishable by imprisonment.

    You see, homosexual acts in Cuba are against their Penal Code, consequently it is a tad dangerous to admit to being gay, you might agree.

    Curious to know why?

    Well, grab a (Dominican) Cohiba cigar, some cafécito, and adjust your guayabera for maximum comfort. I will try to explain the intricacies of post-1959, Gay Cuba relations, below.

    But first, an historical detour.

    Perhaps many of you have seen the Rupert Everett-narrated documentary on Nazi persecution of gays called Paragraph 175?

    Although this penal code is often erroneously credited to the Nazis, it actually dates to the first Wilhemine Empire, having been enacted in 1871.

    What Hitler did was to expand the Code, the better to aggressively target homosexuals, who had especially flourished in the Weimar Republic -- sending them eventually to prisons, concentration camps and/or mental institutions, where they were often tortured, as well as just plain exterminated.

    This was the fate which befell Hitler's colleague-at-arms, the homosexual Erich Röhm, head of the SA brownshirts, who was famously putsched during the Night of the Long Knives in 1934.

    It is safe to say, don't you think, that Hitler was no friend to gays.

    But what would you say if I told you, despite the fact that Hollywood has not deemed it important to expose this state-of-affairs, that...

    ...in the year 2005 anno domini, Year 46 of the Glorious Socialist Revolution...a similar law in Cuba, exists TODAY?

    In fact, there is very little difference from Paragraph 175 to Number 62 of the Penal Code of the Cuban Revolutionary Constitution, though it was officially decriminalised in 1979, being overtaken by a vaguely worded law which makes homosexual activity illegal.

    Well, if proof is in the pudín, here it is:

    SECCIÓN CUARTA CODIGO PENAL N° 62

    Escándalo Público

    ARTÍCULO 303. Se sanciona con privación de libertad de tres meses a un año o multa de cien a trescientas cuotas al que:

    a) importune a otro con requerimientos homosexuales;

    [ed. trans.: "Article 303: The State will sanction, with loss of liberty from 3 months to one year, or impose a 300 levied fine, anyone approaching another individual with homosexual needs."]

    Maybe you're thinking just about now, so what?

    It's nothing different from what many Western countries had on their legal books too, until recently at that.

    Or that Cuba, coming as it does from a Hispanic Roman Catholic culture, is machista and puritanical accordingly?

    But I must remind you that the old Soviet Union was neither Hispanic nor Roman Catholic, and Stalin ordered homosexuality re-criminalised in 1934, declaring that being gay was just bourgeois decadence, and a telling sign of Capitalist degeneration.

    The New Soviet Man was going to be many things, but homosexual, he was most emphatically not.

    Following the lead of the Soviet Union, all Communist satellite countries kept the same laws against homosexual deviance extanct, until their own eventual dissolution.

    Why, even that showcase of Marxism-Leninism that was East Germany, which had a much less onerous form of Communism precisely because it was the Commumist window to the Western world, didn't abolish Paragaph 175 until 1990...only upon re-unification with West Germany, following the downfall of the Berlin Wall.

    So wait. Let me get this straight (pun very much intended).

    Communism, that shining beacon against all things old-fashioned, those things based on prejudices, half-truths, false ideologies, including the graven idols of Capitalism.

    Communism, that debunker of old wives' tales, religion and the status quo.

    Communism, which revamped every facet of society for the greater good of the collective -- from women's rights, marriage laws, abolishing on paper inequality, injustice, lack of compassion and tolerance, especially to minorities.

    Communism, the one, the only, the incontrovertible Truth...didn't do squat towards anti-homosexuality?

    In fact, much to the contrary, Communists upheld and enforced laws against homosexuals with a severity and zeal only equaled by their Fascist rivals?

    All this, as anti-homosexual laws in the West, home to the hated bourgeois world, were coming undone, and laws against hate-crimes towards gays were being enacted right-and-uhhh-left??

    Let's leave behind, for a moment, these pressing questions.

    First, here's a recap of gay facts in Cuba since 1959, excerpted from The Gay & Lesbian Humanist:

  • Early 1960s - The leftist publication, Lunes de Revolución, whose editor and several prominent writers were known homosexuals, and who backed Castro since before 1959, was closed down.

    "Many gay authors and journalists were publicly disgraced, refused publication and dismissed from their jobs. Some were reassigned to work as janitors and labourers."


  • 1960s-1970s - Continued targetting and repression of homosexual activity resulted in mass imprisonment of the gay Cuban community.

    "The witch-hunts of homosexuals in Cuba prefigured the oppression of gay Chileans during the Pinochet dictatorship."


  • 1971 - The First National Congress on Education and Culture decried homosexuals as pathological.

    "[They were] "antisocial" and "not to be tolerated" in any job where they might "influence youth". Widespread anti-gay purges followed in schools, universities, theatres and the media. Gay professors, dancers, actors and editors ended up sweeping roads and digging graves."


  • 1973 - Noted Cuban novelist, Reinaldo Arenas of Before Night Falls fame, was arrested, having been falsely charged with sexual assault. His novel, Hallucinations, was banned and had to be smuggled for printing outside of Cuba. He later tried to escape prison by floating in an inner tube to the US, but was captured, and sent to El Morro prison, where he was brutalised and raped repeatedly by anti-homosexual guards.


  • 1979 - Homosexuality is officially decriminalised, but not because of a sudden pang of conscience by Cuban authorities.

    "They halted mass detentions and reduced prison sentences largely because they were shamed by international protests."


  • 1980 - The Cuban boatlift known as Mariel began, allowing Fidel Castro to purge his gaols of homosexual "escoria" (scum), as they were known. Some men actually claimed to be gay, simply to be allowed to leave the island, since only those who had someone pick them up from Mariel Harbour, could leave. The boatlift included the aforementioned Reinaldo Arenas, who continued to speak out against Castro's repression of gays, to thundering US media and intellectual establishment silence.


  • Late-1980s, early 1990s - Mass detention of Cubans infected with the AIDS virus, HIV. They were put into what amounted to hospital concentration camps, hidden from Cuban society, who were kept in the dark about these dying people. Many dissidents infected themselves with the AIDS virus in PROTEST over the treatment of some of their disappearing friends and colleagues. These included many artists, especially roqueros, hard rock musicians.


  • 1992 - Fidel Castro, unelected President of Cuba, finally declared that homosexuality was a...

    "Natural human tendency that must simply be respected". He has, however, never apologised or expressed remorse for his past homophobia and persecution."


  • One would imagine that this is the last of homosexuality as officially denounced by Communist authorities, yes?

    Well, no.

    In fact, in 1997, during a raid on Havana's most well-known, but illicit gay bar, El Periquiton (The Big Parrot, "perico" being an euphemism for male homosexuals) was closed down by police.

    This incident may not seem overly important to you, but actually, since it involved several visiting VIPs to the island, it did cause a bit of a stir.

    Who were these visitors, who until their summary arrest, were touting the amazing health care and educational advantages of Cuba?

    None other than Pedro Almodovar, Spain's most celebrated modern director; Bibi Anderson, (remember the film, Breakfast on Pluto, above?), Spain's most famous transsexual, cabaret artiste, and Almodovar muse; as well as France's outrageous bad-boy of fashion, Jean-Paul Gaultier.

    They, but not the 500 other gay, bisexual, and transgendered detainees, were released the next day, and left Cuba by Iberia as quickly as their legs could take them from this so-called alternative paradise.

    Ah, but the story doesn't end here.

  • 1994 - The Cuban Association of Gays and Lesbians is formed on this heels of this official, attitudinal glasnost.


  • 1997 - The Cuban Association of Gays and Lesbians is suspended. All its members are arrested.


  • Not only are no magazines or newspapers for gays allowed in Cuba, but clubs for gays are strictly clandestine as can be imagined.

    They are known as the Diez Pesos (10 Bucks), since that's what they cost to enter, caveat emptor!

    So --

    My blogpost started with good news: the first ever week-long gay film festival was celebrated on Cuban soil.

    29 years after the first such in San Francisco.

    19 years after the one in London started.

    Even Istanbul has a gay film festival, now.

    Only in the year 2005 has the Cuban government allowed 300 very carefully selected people to watch a film about an Irish transvestite.

    If it were because of religious reasons, one could maybe understand. But religion has been marginalised and ridiculed in Cuba.

    If it were because of social reasons, one could maybe understand. But Cuba promotes itself as arbiter of the most equitable and humane system in the world.

    If it were because of legal reasons, one could maybe understand. But homosexuality is decriminalised!

    But in point of fact, this paragon of a nation, this darling of progressives the world over, shows an untenable hypocrisy and double-speak on the topic of homosexuality.

    I repeat, to those who may think that Western countries drag their feet about gays too, that according to Communists they are the alternative, the better, and more advanced societies.

    What kind of alternative is it, when you just offer the same, indeed far worse according to present-day standards, modes of legal, societal and institutional prohibitions against homosexuality?

    But perhaps, who knows, if and when Raul Castro, Fidel's younger brother, takes over there will be a greater tolerance towards gay activities...

    ...because he's hardly likely to imprison himself.

    Suggested Followup Reading

    Cuba Libre? Guess Again
    Sodomylaws.org Cuba section
    El Nuevo Herald Article on Gay Mariel Exiles


     




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