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HAPPY AT 90 MILES » 2009 » April
Apr
29
2009
0

Che comix

As a follow up to yesterday’s longish post on Mr. Guevara, here’s a quick look at his recent appearance in comics.

che_spain1

cheattack

Underground comics artist Spain Rodriguez has been comissioned by a British publisher Verso Books to do a biography on Che. The result is unapolagetically adoring by Rodriguez’ own admission. I’m not a fan of his awkward figures nor of his politics, but I haven’t read the book so I won’t comment further.
Here’s a REVIEW from Latin Culture Mag REMEZCLA. This negative review aside, I wouldn’t be surprised if this book becomes canon for many readers. With their visual impact and power of images fused with words, comics can be terribly persuasive when carrying a message, as talked about in this post and in a future post on a little book called “The Cuban Revolution for Beginners”

Out also is “Che, A Graphic Biography” from Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón, confusingly sporting the same title as Rodriguez’ book. Will there be a war of the Ches? The art looks good, but there’s not much info out on this book, except this publicity piece:

The creators have previously done a graphic version of the 9/11 report which sounds like great bedside reading.

So, is there room for a Graphic Novel with a less positive view of Saint Che and the Cuban Revolution? I think there’s not only room, it’s probably overdue.

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Apr
29
2009
2

Che será, será.

He’ll have two brief appearances in “Happy at 90 Miles”, once in a historical setting, once in a dream sequence, so I did some drawings of him to get his likeness down.

guevara
Here he is, one of the most polarizing figures in Latin America. Not so much in Europe and great parts of the US, where the consensus is that “Che” was a righteous fighter for justice, a Christ-like paladin of the downtrodden and most of all genuine.

In Latin America, while he certainly has more followers than anywhere else of both the casual and impassioned kind, there is also a great many people who have been at the receiving end of the violence he either committed or inspired.

I’m not talking about dictators in shiny boots like Batista, or even the his torturers who were executed following the triumph of the Revolution. I’m talking about ordinary middle class people who were jailed and killed for their active dissent and opposition to communism, who were told they would either agree to become wards of the state or be labeled as criminals, the parents who lost sons to the armed insurgencies and terrorism he directly or indirectly exported, whether they were soldiers and police men of a bourgeois government, or had been seduced by Che’s example to take to the hills with a gun and fight his countrymen. How many lives have been ruined by the political violence that ravaged Latin America in the last 50 years?

Che means a lot of things to a lot of people. The asthmatic Argentinian physician who became the poster boy for The Cuba Revolution has long since ceased being a mortal human and has transcended into the rarified realm of legend, where he is usually only lionized or demonized. His image taken from Korda’s famous photo casually adorns the t-shirts and bedrooms of adolescents world wide. “Brand Che” has been thoroughly embraced and coopted by the very consumerist culture he despised while populating the wet dreams of rebels and radicals of all stripes who know they’ll never be as hardcore as he was.

To me, he is not Che. He is just Ernesto Guevara de La Serna. A fallible human being who had an inflated sense of self that enabled him to put an a gun to the head of anyone who opposed his worldview and feel holy when pulling the trigger. In other words, another armed extremist with a mission. In this he is more a continuation of the Spanish conquistadors than the indians they both aimed to “liberate”.

Where others see his love for the exploited poor I see this love used as a license for his tremendous capacity for hate. Only hate can put you in such a hard, fanatical position where everyone, including yourself is better off dead than “wrong”. All in the service of ideas that feed on blood and reduce human lives to the expendable debris that is the cost of failed messianic projects such as the Cuban Revolution.

I don’t think you have to be a hard-nosed conservative to see that his example is intolerant. undemocratic and ultimately futile.

One thing his admirers and I can agree with is that he was the genuine article. He was singlemindedly true to his ideals, and did not sensor the brutality of his thought process. This makes me think that a lot of the idealization that he’s the subject of is mainly casued by a lack of understanding and information. I’m sure he’d make most of his young fans cry in disbelief if he could have ten minutes with them.

An anecdote tells that when he was in charge of the more than 150 executions at La Cabaña prison after the rebels captured Havana in 1958, a woman came to plead with him for her husband’s life. He was one of Batista’s officers and was sentenced to die in three days. Guevara had all visitors cross the courtyard with its pocked wall stained with blood and brains from the victims of the firing squads. On listening to her plea, he said that there was no sense in her suffering for three more days, he’d take care to have the husband executed that same afternoon. Is it a true story? It certainly is consistent with his attitude documented in his writings and speeches.

“To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary…These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate. We must create the pedagogy of the The Wall! (El Paredón)” –Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara

“Hatred as an element of the struggle; a relentless hatred of the
enemy, impelling us over and beyond the natural limitations that man is
heir to and transforming him into an effective, violent, selective and
cold killing machine. Our soldiers must be thus; a people without
hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy.” Ernesto Guevara -Message to the Tricontinental,
1967

For a brilliant summary on the dark side of Che, please see Alvaro Vargas Llosa’s article HERE

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Written by IPH in: Cuban Revolution,Updates |
Apr
28
2009
0

Cuba comix

“Happy at 90 Miles” is not be the first comic/Graphic Novel dealing with Cuba. On the excellent webcomix site Act-i-vate Cuban-American Michel Fiffe serializes “CUBA” which in his own words are part memoir, part history.

Have a look.


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Written by IPH in: Graphic Novels,WEB COMIC |
Apr
27
2009
1

The all seeing eye of the neighbourhood committee.

Intrepid Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez has made an interesting observation about the emblem of the CDRs (Committees for the Defense of the Revolution), featuring a machete wielding Guajiro (peasant).

The guajiros’ hat can be seen as a big eye staring straight at you, which is the main job of these organizations. Practically every urban block in Cuba has a local CDR entrusted with keeping a vigilant eye out for enemies of the revolution among their neighbours. 135,000 CDR units form a vast repressive network in which people’s movements and words are closely documented. Whom you meet with and how often, if you skip the rallies, if you participate in the underground economy, there are many ways to gain the label of being “dangerous” The subjective term “Dangerousness” is defined in the Penal Code as a pre-delictive state in which individuals are seen as prone to act antisocially, against “Socialist Morality” It’s a in practice a legalized way to prosecute someone for their future crimes.

The impression of constant surveillance in an effective way of getting people to police themselves and each other, greatly assisting the State in maintaining control. Neighbours are encouraged to spy on one another and to fill out “Opinion Collection Forms” documenting the political opinions of others on the block. Informants are often rewarded with household appliances and other objects of desire if a denouncement results in prosecution. To prevent people from protecting each other, it is a crime not to report political crimes. Every person has a file assigned to them at the CDR, who passes it on to the police and Ministry of Interior should someone be singled out as “dangerous”

This oppressive system of surveillance invites comparisons to the Stasi in East Germany and Orwell’s Thought Police from “1984.” Thankfully, an insidious wave of disillusionment and political apathy appears to have weakened these organizations somewhat in recent years. In a country where so much is prohibited, from selling a car to associating with foreigners, you’ll have people breaking numerous laws everyday to survive, to get ahead, to maintain some dignity in life. When everyone’s a criminal it becomes harder to point fingers.

Below a video report on the repressive systems at work in Cuba.
Neighbourhood Vigilantes – Cuba

For those of you with sufficient time and interest, World Policy Institute has posted a thorough look of the repressive system in place in Cuba, with lots of documentation.

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Apr
24
2009
2

Drawings from Canaleta prison

Cubanet.org has been gathering documentation from political prisoners in Cuba, mainly through scribbled missives and notes in microscopic handwriting smuggled out of prison. These messages are called “balas” or bullets, as is most contraband since it’s usually smuggled out in body cavities.

These documents are important first hand accounts from prisons where the UN, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have never gained access. Dissidents and failed emigrants are housed with violent offenders in infrahuman conditions.

The following drawings were done by Jesús Joel Díaz Hernández in 1999. They are particularly valuable to me in that they are from the prison where Jorge lost his arms and spent a total of 5 years. Since there are no photographic reference I can use, this eyewitness graphic account is helpful to me. I wrote a previous post on Canaleta HERE

Translation: Note: please show this to all my friends and whomever wants to see it. They’re all alike. The punishment cells are the same way, but the “bed” is made of concrete and they have neither window nor light. The rod on the wall is for holding up the bed if one wishes. The window is 1.90 m (6.2 ft) from the floor.
Note: Opening my arms I can easily touch both walls widthwise. It is 2.70m (8.8 ft) long. The same for height.
Solitary confinement cell #36, Ciego de Avila (CAV) province “Canaleta”.
Always, Yoel.

Translation: View from the window of my cell. You can see part of the maximum security perimiter of the provisonal prison of Ciego de Avila, “Canaleta”

Julio 8 de 1999. Always, Yoel.
(more…)

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Written by IPH in: Uncategorized |
Apr
23
2009
1

Comics on trial

As Graphic Novels have slowly moved into the public psyche as a legitimate literary form, it was only a matter of time that such a work earn a place on a sensor’s list as other books have for centuries.

To those who keep insisting that comics are just “funny-books”, disposable, infantile and not worthy of seriousness, should take note that one Mr. Saleh al Derbashy in Egypt does not think so.

Cited as an attorney in the article from The Nation (of Abu Dhabi, UAE) , Mr. al Derbashy must be well connected, because his lawsuit against Egypt’s first Graphic Novel, “METRO”, has resulted in the book’s confiscation by police and the arrest of its author and publisher on the charge of offending public morals. Magdy al Shafee’s book about disaffected young men in Cairo who plot a bank robbery, portrays a society in which poverty, greed and corruption prey on its inhabitants.

The book’s foe, Mr. al Derbashy, unwittingly formulates the strongest praise for the medium heard outside literary circles:

From The Nation:

( …) he acknowledged that he was particularly offended by the emotional potency of comic books – an artistic medium with which he said he is not familiar.
“It’s the first time pictures have been used like this in Egypt,” he said. “This would not attract any attention if it were written in the classical style and without pictures.”
Other Egyptian novels in modern Arabic, Mr al Derbashy said, portray sexual scenes and similar messages. But the stirring format of Metro, he said, renders it “dangerous”.
“You can finish this book in 10 minutes and get the message immediately,” he said. “The caricatures are much more effective in this book” than in classic Egyptian literature.

As in all cases of censorship, a court ruling for it creates millions of censors in people’s heads, silencing voices before they are heard. Here’s hoping Magdy al Shafee prevails in court and inspires other Egyptians to tell graphic stories of their reality without fear of retribution, knowing that the medium is strong enough to make the mighty tremble.

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Apr
22
2009
0

Great writing software: Scrivener

While I’m confident in my sequential storytelling abilities, I admit I don’t have much experience writing. I took several creative writing classes at The Art Institute of Chicago, but this will be the first time I’m writing with an aim to publish.

Two things in my favor facing this challenge is the Graphic Novel format, in which most is said in pictures and the words accompany or compliment the drawings, and the fact that I’m drawing from actual events rather than creating fiction.
Yet this is not a documentary, I’m telling a story. The challenge is to present the nonfiction material of Jorge’s experiences in a creative, engaging way. In playing with structure and plot, applying the elements of creative writing to the events, I found a great ally: Scrivener.

My friend Brian Reed, mighty writer of marvelous exploits turned me on to this fantastic piece of software. It permits you to work in a true non-linear fashion, dividing the story points into neat separate yet connected documents that can be shuffled around. An altenative view even simulates a cork board on which you arrange your story on index cards.

Another great feature is that it permits you to import all sorts of reference (audio, video, pictures, links, etc) and through a split screen access it in one pane while you are writing in the other pane.

This was extremely helpful as I imported the audio files of the 5 hour long interview I did with Jorge, and divided them by chapters. This way I could refer to and manipulate the audio file in a very direct and comfortable way while I was transcribing

Keith, the developer, calls it a Project Management Tool, which is a good description of its capabilities. Final Draft is the industry standard for writing screenplays, but I find Scrivener to be a much more organic conducive to giving structure to the chaos of ideas and elements for your story. It is non-linear, informal and intuitive. At the end, you can export to Final Draft and polish the final script there.

Check out a free 30 day demo at www.literatureandlatte.com, and if you like it, pay the developer $40 for the license. It is well worth it.

Alert: the software is mac ONLY, so get on the apple wagon if you want some.


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Written by IPH in: WRITING |
Apr
21
2009
0

Cuba-U.S relations. A new beginning or false promises?

Obama attempted to pre-empt Latin American criticism about the U.S. policies toward Cuba at the Summit of Western Hemisphere Democracies in Trinidad by first easing travel and remittance restrictions on Cuban-Americans, and then at the Summit declaring that the United States is seeking a “new beginning with Cuba.”

The new President presents a difficult target for the bellicose Chávez and his gang, (Evo Morales of Bolivia, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, and Eduardo Correa of Ecuador) always at the ready to defend the dictatorship in Cuba. The easily demonized Bush was a godsend to these agitators as they benefited from the sympathy that the “enemy of my enemy” lazily gathers, from the muslim world to leftists in Europe and the U.S. Faced with the popular Obama, who inspires much goodwill around the world, they will have to work harder than in recent years to rally people against the United States.

It is an outstretched hand that comes with a challenge; We’ll change if you will. Obama mentioned that freeing political prisoners would be a good place to start. That places the ball in Cuba’s side of the court, and actions, rather than words and posturing will be needed to show they are serious.

A preview of how this will unfold can be seen at the “alternative summit” that Chávez hosted in Venezuela for the aforementioned gang before the big meet.

Raul Castro drunkenly declared: “We have sent word to the U.S. government in private and in public that we are willing to discuss everything — human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners, everything.” At least he’s clear about the charges. Sounds promising, and this line got a lot of play in newspapers worldwide. Then he went on to say that The United States is a one-party system with a limited and controlled press system, and that the “so-called dissidents” jailed in Cuba are really paid agents of The Empire. Chávez applauded the diatribe by saying “The voice of Cuba has spoken.”

So there it is, The dinosauric Castro brothers will try to define “human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners” in a relativist way that will lead them to ask for further concessions from the U.S while giving none. This is where talks will hit a familiar wall and things will go back to the status quo that appears won’t change until the “Voice of Cuba” draws its last breath.

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Written by IPH in: Cuba News |
Apr
19
2009
1

A video salute from Jorge Alvart

Un saludo de Jorge

Make sure to click the HQ BUTTON on the lower right for best viewing.

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Written by IPH in: Graphic Novels,Updates |
Apr
17
2009
1

90 miles

Those who live on both sides of the strait of Florida know exactly what the term 90 miles means. 90 miles (145km) is the approximate distance from Cuba’s northernmost point to Key West on Florida’s southern tip. This relatively small body of water is notorious for strong currents, sharks and sudden squalls. In good weather it’s a day trip in a motor boat, and 4 days in a raft if you hit the right current.

This geographical distance is loaded with the trauma of a people split apart by a political experiment gone wrong. Longing, fear and loathing reign in both camps that are like two distant planets, but the traffic only goes one way.

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Written by IPH in: Updates |

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