I don’t know if it’s yesterday or tomorrow, so let’s say, today. Bad Handwriting is four years old. Congratulations, readers!
13 November 2013
I don’t know if it’s yesterday or tomorrow, so let’s say, today. Bad Handwriting is four years old. Congratulations, readers!
13 November 2013
On Thursday the Adrenaline 3D finished installing a colorful marquee like the old movie theaters; two days later they found out from the newspaper that they couldn’t remain open, not even until that weekend. But Adrenaline’s owners decided to open that Friday night. Like Scarlett O’Hara they will think about tomorrow.
By phone they confirmed that only they and one other 3D movie room, in Alamar, would offer events after the prohibition expressed in the newspaper notice. The one in Alamar is disposed to wait until the authorities close them down. A couple in Lawton was desperate because they planned the opening of their 3D movie room precisely the Friday of the closing and they would not recover even the smallest portion of their investment.
The measure was a war foreseen. The reason, ignoring the convenient absence a permit to transact in such activity, is the political culture of the Revolution, which should educate and cultivate our people with shows that elevate their sensibility and cultural heritage, etc, etc, etc.
Said like that, it doesn’t sound so terrible, but it is suspicious that State television — the only one in existence — offers “products” which make you wonder who approves certain scripts and budgets for programs unforgettable because they are so hideous.
That same television keeps us up to date on the wonders “Made in Bollywood” and there is every kind of canned show; I remember a South Korean one that pretended to be a comedy; it must be that our humor has nothing to do with theirs, which explains why I find the news cast from the North Korean television hilarious; clearly, the political culture of the Revolution has different units of measure.
Many people, with the appearance of these private movie theaters, saw the possibility to recover the pleasure of going to watch a movie, beyond the home screen. Except for Chaplin, the Cinematheque and perhaps one or another theater on 23rd Street, the now surviving movie theaters show the national debacle with their broken chairs (careful with the vermin), deficient air conditioning (if they still have it), projection equipment and audio in bad shape; all that makes a visit to the movie theater very far from a pleasant experience. And so, the return of pleasure will have to wait.
Saving the pearl for the end: a conversation among neighbors, with regards to seeing the crestfallen, now without the adrenaline to sing, taking down their marquee.
One said to the other, “You know what happens in places like those, they have been showing pornography to kids.”
The other woman nodded, impressed, as the younger one, who ruled the roost, spoke with great conviction. And as if that weren’t enough, she said, referring confidently to the network of videogame rooms (also being shut down), “I heard from good sources that the psychiatric hospitals are full of crazy kids that used to play those things.”
So much condensed nonsense tried my patience, and very politely I interjected not to repeat those things without foundation, that it sounded like a government argument to accuse these places of being an unhealthy environment.
The woman gestured with her hands and shook her head no and hurried to say: “No, no… Me? Government? What government? I just registered again for the third time for the visa lottery [to emigrate to the United States]?”
Translated by LYD
4 November 2013
The kakebo comes from Japan and is a hybrid between a calendar and an accounts book. It is said that Tomoko Hina, the first Japanese woman journalist, was the one who at the beginning of the 20th century developed the first kakebo in order to arrange and record household expenditures. Housewives adopted it in order to organize the family economy and optimally administer resources. Now its application has extended and there are kakebos of all kinds and all varieties and models, for big families to singles. And for the first time here the year 2014 will feature Kakebo, book of accounts for household savings, published by Blackie Books (17.9 Euros).
With this news*, I eat breakfast with which, for years, my family’s economy has passed through a Kakebo. A school notebook with the grid paper that they hand out freely, have been our expense control. The page, divided in the middle to reflect the Cuban pesos on one side and the convertibles on the other. Before, we had tried to manage our accounts by dividing our money into four parts corresponding to the money for the month destined for food each week, only to invariably violate the envelopes before the immediacy of an unexpected expense.
We resigned ourselves then to record expenses until the day on which we open the drawer and now there is no money; for a brief stage, with variable success, pockets, wallets and old ashtrays are checked, today often earmarked. Now it is known that it is time to eat the pseudo-bread of the notebook, I cannot buy coffee and the oil must be stretched. Extravagances like beer, beef (including hash), or butter, a short while ago became harmful options, and not precisely to one’s health. Must-have luxuries? Coffee and hair dye. That of bars, tobacco and meals out is a misplaced concern.
I’m dying to know what kind of welcome the sale of these Japanese philosophy notebooks will have in Spain. I don’t know about the rest, but I can’t get it out of my head that whoever has to keep accounts, does not spend eighteen Euros on some other consumer object. For my part, I am about to abandon the daily notes, because I have arrived at the conclusion that everything has come to everyone in Cuba: on the topic of expenses and income, this film is backwards.
*Translator’s note: The link is to an article in El Pais about Kakebo notebooks
Translated by mlk
6 November 2013
The appearance of witches, pumpkins and black cats in private businesses has been striking; at the Adrenaline 3D home-based theater, which is close to home, there was a midnight costume contest.
It seems that such a fervor for the Halloween festival has set off the critical eye of officialdom. The foreign character of its origin, its highly commercialized content, and, finally, its impact on the family pocketbook, are all mentioned in the work of the journalist Raul Menchaca of Radio Reloj.
We have made foreign traditions Cuban, confining ourselves to the most genuine, throwing ourselves wholeheartedly into areíto and la cohoba. The journalist is either very young or has a very bad memory, because “tradition” was also carrying the bride’s bouquet to the bust of Mella in front of the University, a tradition that came and went along with the shout “hooray!” with knee to the ground for our young people when those massive graduations were held at the Plaza of the Revolution, and some other Slavic tradition I’ve forgotten.
He also suffers amnesia over the very recent American tradition of yellow ribbons, which, unlike this night of the witches, was promoted, financed and imposed by the government.
The mentioned journalist appeals to our idiosyncrasy to discredit a private initiative that surely doesn’t affect the pockets of the “affecteds.” A personal decision that is attacked, as I see it, because it corresponds to that expanding sector of things which are not dependent on the State, and one bad idea brings another, and another, and one more after that, and when you see where it’s going…
1 November 2013
We Cuban women invented alternative cosmetics: cream deodorant mixed with grated color chalk to make eye shadow, shoe polish as eye mascara, yellow soap with oxygenated water to dye the hair lighter or carbon extracted from old batteries to make it darker, detergent instead of shampoo and “Alusil,” an antacid I think, was used as gel for the hair. My first makeup came from a professional water-color set. For an age in which image is everything, any resource was welcomed.
What we couldn’t invent was perfume. As a girl, I loved my mom’s fragrance, the smell in her closet and drawers. It was Fleur de Rocaille de Caron, the last bottle she bought at a beautiful store (La Havana Antigua) which was at Hotel Havana Libre in the early 70’s and when the perfume was gone, my mom took off the top, which was designed with a flower bouquet, and the smell inside her drawer for intimates stayed in her closet and is still in my memory as a smell of “beyond death”.
No matter how badly we wanted, no one or almost no one was again able to come up with a perfume; a good essence was outside the realm of any computation, even the cheap colognes disappeared, which it didn’t matter between so many uniforms and the continuous agricultural labor mobilizations.
Perfumes exercise an inevitable attraction over me. I believe I could have been a good “nose” for the perfume industry; also helpful is my semi-Quevedian nose. It often frustrates me to celebrate a perfume, ask for the name and the answer is something like,”I don’t know, is a long bottle with a blue top.” I never understood how such an important accessory could be taken so lightly.
When I had perfume, it was Red Moscow. I didn’t like it but I couldn’t choose. I envied my sister’s skin, with a spectacular chemistry that would smell almost French when it was just Russian. Maybe those perfumes were not that bad, but they had something cloying that I didn’t like.
If I had an important outing, I would steal from my mom a small touch of Air du Temps by Nina Ricci that my uncle had brought her from a trip to Europe. Later, my brother Miguel started working at CAME and from Hungary he brought me Charlie by Revlon, a fragrance known in Cuba as the “perfume of the Community”, and I suppose that it was a pioneer scent in the US perfume industry which was well placed in a market where France reigned indisputably.
One third of the allowance from my first foreign trip in 1979 was spent on Fidgi by Guy Laroche, the first perfume chosen by me among many to choose from. On that same trip, I bought for everyday use Astric, a scent from Germany that I remember with much love, which I suppose is as lost as that Germany.
Throughout the years I have had other good perfumes, but they have been gifts; now they are sold in foreign exchange stores but they don’t even offer a sample to smell. The same classic French and the Calvin Klein, DKNY, Carolina Herrera and company are so expensive that you have to first buy soap, shampoo and deodorants manufactured by Suchel, a lot more necessary at this point in my life than a brand-name perfume.
Translated by LYD
28 October 2013
The issue of solidarity among artists is complicated. Each guild has its own characteristics. A case that comes to mind is that of the painter Bejerano, who lost a lot of solidarity; I remember there was even mention of a maneuver by the CIA and the Miami mafia before Bejerano was declared guilty.
In the case of the writer Ángel Santiesteban, the immense majority of his colleagues within the guild in Cuba preferred to look the other way; only the Ladies of UNEAC — the Cuban Writers and Artists Union — joined forces to turn him into a negative symbol of the campaign against violence against women (no one dared to defend his innocence, but I say they could have at least asked for a fair trial).
Robertico Carcassés divided opinion within the musicians, angry voices in favor of his requests for few, although some hit a high note; the majority of those who scolded him did it not knowing how to find where along the space-time curve they should position themselves on the “updating of the socialist model.”
But far beyond the déjà vu of those twenty (?!) years known as “The Five Grey Years,” things with Robertico soon returned to normal; it’s that he raised questions like they fell from the tree, so to speak, which — save the one about the girl María, who nobody knew who she was, and the evil thoughts related to another thing — almost the whole world thought it good that he asked, even those who don’t have a permission letter to buy a car.
I was surprised by the reaction around Miguel Ginarte, accused of corruption, embezzlement or whatever crime “of-the-day” thought up by the Comptroller General of the Republic. The actors guild, through the social networks, has been set in motion; Ginarte is so beloved, that he’s considered a priori an object of dark manipulation, when those of us who live in Cuba know how thin the line between legality-illegality usually is, so much so that sometimes just an out-of-place comment is transposed; and an unwise comment from Ginarte (close friends with his neighbors as was common knowledge — and well-regarded in the area of his little farm), could cost him the hard times he’s now experiencing.
25 October 2013
Phrases and slogans are often survival strategies, empty expressions that are repeated time and again until they form a part of the landscape. The University is for Revolutionaries is one of these phrases that nevertheless makes sense when we can peek inside a protest rally or act of revolutionary reaffirmation such as that held last week against the Ladies in White.
I will not dwell too much on the potential risk of filming, so evident in the distancing of Luz Escobar from what is going on all around, especially seeing and hearing the demand of some of the participants beating on the door for entrance to Laura Pollán’s house; she wasn’t disposed to let these battle-hardened classmates discover and enemy among them.
I want to call attention to the use of university students in these demonstrations of hatred. They are brought in deceitfully, taking into account the importance of gregariousness among the young, and from there, the behavior expected of them. Spontaneous or induced, the fear of showing a lack of ideological firmness which has repercussion on their professional future, to be clever and/or charismatic for different purposes.
The students are taken there during school hours, for a curricular activity that counts as attendance, they are saddled with a badly told story, and between the generalizations and omissions each constructs their own version. Later it is the individual attitude that becomes collective (again, the gregariousness).
Meanwhile, they continue singing songs, which could be annoying but not threatening, but there are always the spontaneous or the indoctrinated who want to excel, raise the stakes, and in this enervated environment these young students, those good kids who worry about the environment and look after their grandparents, I don’t say they don’t think twice, no; they don’t think to commit any vandalism in the name of THEIR revolution, a revolution that is neither theirs nor a revolution (again, emptied of content).
The Ladies in White represent a part of what in any democratic country makes up the opposition to the government. Systematically demonizing them increases their visibility, and however many videos are edited to make them appear evil, their peaceful march continues to garner sympathy.
The fairs of hatred mounted by the repressive apparatus with the government’s permission in Neptune Street, very close to the University, should be incompatible with the current campaign for economic optimization, austerity and savings. The buses and fuel to take the students from the distant universities such as CUJAE or Varona Pedagogical, snacks, a screen mounted in the middle of the street for audiovisuals, a meeting point at Trillo Park where they distribute the troops …
These fairs of hatred should also be incompatible with the current campaign to eradicate antisocial conduct and bad habits and to recover civic discipline, given the shortcomings of the New Man to perform in his environment. They serve, however, the complete opposite: recalling the shameful episodes of the eighties, Jewish children in Nazi Germany, spurring on the worst of each university compelled to scream, as you can see so well in the video.
Many will allude to individual responsibility. Every young person is already grown and knows what they are doing. And therein lies the subtlety of government repression: it doesn’t matter what you think, just scream and nothing will happen to you. The road to democracy will have as one of its biggest challenges to mend the anthropological the damage of such “subtleties.”
23 October 2013