April 25, 2014
Up Against The Wall Motherfucker! - Interview with Ben Morea

Ben: Part of the reason I re-emerged [after more than 30 years of anonymity] to talk about what we did back in the 1960s is the fact that things have gotten so bad in the US. It’s at a point where you can’t ignore it, it’s worse than ever.

I figured that I’d start letting people know about our history and then go from there. All I can tell people is that when it looked pretty dismal in the past we took action and it did have an effect. A lot was achieved and yet a few years beforehand no one would have expected that we could take on the behemoth of American capitalism. It’s counter-productive to sit back and say “You can’t do anything.” It’s not my place to tell people exactly what they should do, but there is always some way to respond and take action, just look around.

link

April 25, 2014

April 24, 2014
From the novel, Cacao (1935):

"Not even the children touched the cacao fruit. They
were afraid of those yellow berries, so sweet on the inside, which enslaved them to this life of breadfruit and dried meat.”

and from The Violent Land:

"i was a lad in the days of slavery. My father was a slave, my mother also. But it wasn’t any worse then than it is today. Things don’t change; it’s all talk."

April 24, 2014
"The Heathen Chinee", originally published as: "Plain Language from Truthful James" by Bret Harte

Which I wish to remark,And my language is plain,That for ways that are darkAnd for tricks that are vain,The heathen Chinee is peculiar,Which the same I would rise to explain.Ah Sin was his name;And I shall not deny,In regard to the same,What that name might imply;But his smile it was pensive and childlike,As I frequent remarked to Bill Nye.It was August the third,And quite soft was the skies;Which it might be inferredThat Ah Sin was likewise;Yet he played it that day upon WilliamAnd me in a way I despise.Which we had a small game,And Ah Sin took a hand:It was Euchre. The sameHe did not understand;But he smiled as he sat by the table,With the smile that was childlike and bland.Yet the cards they were stockedIn a way that I grieve,And my feelings were shockedAt the state of Nye’s sleeve,Which was stuffed full of aces and bowers,And the same with intent to deceive.But the hands that were playedBy that heathen Chinee,And the points that he made,Were quite frightful to see, —Till at last he put down a right bower,Which the same Nye had dealt unto me.Then I looked up at Nye,And he gazed upon me;And he rose with a sigh,And said, “Can this be?We are ruined by Chinese cheap labor,” —And he went for that heathen Chinee.In the scene that ensuedI did not take a hand,But the floor it was strewedLike the leaves on the strandWith the cards that Ah Sin had been hiding,In the game “he did not understand.”In his sleeves, which were long,He had twenty-four packs, —Which was coming it strong,Yet I state but the facts;And we found on his nails, which were taper,What is frequent in tapers, — that’s wax.Which is why I remark,And my language is plain,That for ways that are darkAnd for tricks that are vain,The heathen Chinee is peculiar, —Which the same I am free to maintain.

"The Heathen Chinee", originally published as: "Plain Language from Truthful James" by Bret Harte

Which I wish to remark,
And my language is plain,
That for ways that are dark
And for tricks that are vain,
The heathen Chinee is peculiar,
Which the same I would rise to explain.

Ah Sin was his name;
And I shall not deny,
In regard to the same,
What that name might imply;
But his smile it was pensive and childlike,
As I frequent remarked to Bill Nye.

It was August the third,
And quite soft was the skies;
Which it might be inferred
That Ah Sin was likewise;
Yet he played it that day upon William
And me in a way I despise.

Which we had a small game,
And Ah Sin took a hand:
It was Euchre. The same
He did not understand;
But he smiled as he sat by the table,
With the smile that was childlike and bland.

Yet the cards they were stocked
In a way that I grieve,
And my feelings were shocked
At the state of Nye’s sleeve,
Which was stuffed full of aces and bowers,
And the same with intent to deceive.

But the hands that were played
By that heathen Chinee,
And the points that he made,
Were quite frightful to see, —
Till at last he put down a right bower,
Which the same Nye had dealt unto me.

Then I looked up at Nye,
And he gazed upon me;
And he rose with a sigh,
And said, “Can this be?
We are ruined by Chinese cheap labor,” —
And he went for that heathen Chinee.

In the scene that ensued
I did not take a hand,
But the floor it was strewed
Like the leaves on the strand
With the cards that Ah Sin had been hiding,
In the game “he did not understand.”

In his sleeves, which were long,
He had twenty-four packs, —
Which was coming it strong,
Yet I state but the facts;
And we found on his nails, which were taper,
What is frequent in tapers, — that’s wax.

Which is why I remark,
And my language is plain,
That for ways that are dark
And for tricks that are vain,
The heathen Chinee is peculiar, —
Which the same I am free to maintain.

April 24, 2014

Cuban posters and 1 Polish poster for “Child’s Scenes of Provincial Life”

April 24, 2014

Mad Love, 1935

April 24, 2014
report back on Crecer a Golpes: Latin America’s Struggle for Democracy in the Shadow of Powerful Men

My first issue with this was the local organizer, Kirsten Weld, who kicked off the conversation by apologizing for starting late, saying that “we’re on Latin American time”…white people doing a few PhD trips to South America, what do y’all know about Latin American time?..please stop pretending you are a Latin@. 

Moving on, the conversation about the “shadow of strong men” is mediated by…4 men of strong characters—big surprise!

At various point throughout the talk, the bickering and personal jibes amongst the men reached a level of comedy—it reminded me of that moment from the last CreativeTime Summit, when Chido Govera sat on a panel with several arguing men, jokingly remarking: “well, the men are doing their thing…”

There were some really wonderful analyses of the history of Latin America though, and I plan on researching these men and their writings further. The general attitude of the panel was that Latin America continues to feel the processes set about by their various dictators (one of the authors equating it to feeling “damp” long after a rain shower), and that whether right/left, both style of dictatorships employ similar authoritarian-democratic techniques—contributing to the complex affect later on of nostalgia in the popular culture for authoritarian rule ”with results”.

Some highlights:

 - (in reference to the West/the US) “architects of hegemony, cannibals of minorities”

- (the USA) “depends on a viagra of debt to keep the flag flowing”

- Latin America is lacking a concept of “rule of law”

- “Chávez is Perón resurrected…Perón without hands” (referring to the posthumous amputation of Perón’s hands)

- (on Uribe of Colombia and his use of paramilitary groups to commit atrocities on the population) “clever use of terror, and a country who was willing to look the other way”

- the idea that Latin America goes through waves of feeling nostalgia for dictatorships—an audience member from the Philippines confirmed that this is also the case there, in “the most Latin American country outside of Latin America”, where there is a resurgence of popular sympathy for the Marcos era

- the brilliant claim that Latin America might be the only grouping of countries with several currencies named after “strong men”: the Venezuelan bolívar, Costa Rican colón, Bolivian boliviano, Nicaraguan córdoba, Honduran lempira

event link 

April 23, 2014
some additional thoughts on “Becoming Cuba”

I sat in on a post-show conversation with the actors today, and was delighted to hear one of the actresses identify herself as a leftist, speak about the play from a feminist perspective, and use words like “occupation” and “colonialism”, while thinking about how different Cuba would have been if the US had not “intervened” in the war—basically leaving in the air the fact that the revolution of 1958 was a direct result of lingering American “intervention” in the area following the war, and the de jure 3 year occupation.  

Later in private conversation, she told me about a relative who was in Cuban during Castro’s early days and lost a small business—a pharmacy—to the Communist-style nationalizations then taking place throughout Havana. My father has the same story, and I think it is this loss of private property that irks Cuban exiles the most. 

In the play, the loss of private property is depicted twice, one on-stage, the other recalled in conversation. Both represent dramatic turning points in the characters’ lives; “Manny”, the young, male revolutionary, sets a fire to the family sugarcane plantation, and his mother’s home, rather than have it fall into the hands of the Spanish. 

Later, at the climax of the play [SPOILER ALERT], Adela, the lead character who has been struggling throughout the play with choosing sides, finally does, and her decision is visualized through the symbolic burning of her beloved pharmacy. This time, the action is not so much to prevent it from getting into the hands of the Spanish, but more to reflect the shedding of her loyalist sympathies, and the beginning of her process of “becoming cuban”. 

In both cases, the acts of burning are revolutionary and in service to the revolution. 

For those Cubans that left the island early on, or let the resentment of those nationalizations fester for years to come, I wonder how things would have been different if there had been this spirit of willingness for personal sacrifice. I feel like this is what the play is trying to get across; why has my father harbored such anger over the seizure of that pharmacy? 

Looking at the period in between the “end” of the US occupation in 1902, and Castro’s revolution, we find a Cuba beset by North American influence. And the North America of this era had achieved the peak symbiotic relationship between public relations (advertising) and consumer goods. Propaganda pioneers such as Edward Bernays set the stage for a culture of ultra-individualism and materialism…in this context, it is no surprise that many well-off families in Cuba would have nothing of redistribution programs at the expense of their personal property and profit. 

There’s something here that I’m still exploring, something about the need to let go in order to make something larger than oneself work. 

My apartment and most of my material possessions burned down in the summer of 2010…it was the best thing that could have happened to me. 

April 23, 2014
And where will we be on January 2? In the cane fields!

And where will we be on January 2? In the cane fields!

April 23, 2014
Soyuzmultfilm,1954 - Soviet animated film based on a story about India by Rudyard Kipling, which aired on Cuban television.

Soyuzmultfilm,1954 - Soviet animated film based on a story about India by Rudyard Kipling, which aired on Cuban television.

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