Saturday, October 20, 2007

Blog Review: Cuban-American Pundits

We are in the midst of a revolution in the Cuban-American blogosphere, the rare kind of revolution that advances the human condition rather than retards it. I noted earlier this week the remarkable transformation which has been wrought at the 26th Parallel blog, which has regained a distinctive character of its own after a long existence as an indescript appendage to Babalú. It is even more remarkable that this trend has extended to Cuban-American Pundits, which is currently the collaborative effort of Sr. Cohiba, Henry Gómez and John "Songuacassal" (better known as Ziva).

In its original incarnation, also known as its glory days, Cuban-American Pundits also boasted as contributing editors Killcastro and Charlie Bravo, who were founding members along with Henry and Ziva. Charlie left because of a disagreement with Henry over flag-burning, which the "American-Cuban" Henry supported. Killcastro followed in solidarity with Charlie Bravo. The two then started Killcastro blog with Ziva, who would later defect from Killcastro to Babalú. Val Prieto, who has a vulture's eye for the main chance, also grabbed up Henry as a contributor. Assimilating the competition is Val's way of eliminating it.

With the departure of Killcastro and Charlie Bravo, and the drafting of Henry and Ziva by Val Prieto, Cuban-American Pundits, formerly one of the most entertaining of Cuban-American blogs, became an afterthought and a burden. That it was kept going at all must be attributed to early second thoughts on Henry's part about the move to Babalú and the necessity of having a fallback plan if it didn't work out. Of course, it worked out very well, which left CAP very much the worse for it.

When Henry was Henry, not Val & Henry, Cuban American Pundits, although perhaps a little too much addicted to cut and paste, did manage to produce regularly insighful and entertaining posts whose chief charm was their lack of pretentiousness. Those acquainted with Henry's present work at Babalú will find that almost unbelievable. Back then, Henry wrote a credo of sorts which stipulated, among other things, that "[W]hat you won't generally find here [at CAP] is gratuitous name-calling. You won't find wild speculation (unless it's labeled as such) and you won't find unsubstantiated reports (unless they are likewise labeled as such)." This, in itself, makes the old CAP infinitely the superior of Babalú, where all that and worse is found. This Henry didn't claim to be an expert at anything; very different from the current Henry who is an expert at everything. From this period dates some of Henry's best writing, such as his "Message to Mr. or Ms. Leftside," "Letter to John Moscowitz" and "We Get Letters" (about "Che" Guevara). As a respondent to wacky liberal correspondents, in the MSM or his own e-mail, Henry has few peers among Cuban bloggers. From this period, also, dates Henry's 14-chapter novelistic continuation of The Lost City, which, if you could suffer through the movie, you would certainly endure reading, too. Henry also used to publish his original poetry on CAP. I am not cruel enough to quote from it.

Ziva also did excellent work at CAP, although in that regard she has always been consistent. Her lighter pieces, for which she also has a deft hand, were reserved for this period and are almost absent from her present writing. I recall especially her "Caliente, Amargo, Fuerte y [Espeso]" about Cuban coffee and an essay about the typical cubanita. That Ziva would surprise and delight her readers at Babalú, too, if that Ziva were not considered too frivolous for her current lofty endeavors. Perhaps that is the reason that Ziva returned to CAP as a contributing editor earlier this year, just in time to devote a post to the Review of Cuban-American Blogs, which was deleted soon after. And, speaking of deletions, all the early Killcastro and Charlie Bravo material was also deleted from CAP, hence our inability to comment on it.

Nowadays, Henry and Ziva save their best work for Babalú and do not simply link significant posts from their own blog(s) as does, for example, Marc Másferrer. Lately, in fact, the editors at CAP have reduced the volume to such a point that it is almost inaudible, or, rather, they've raised it but not on the political debate but on the delights of our Cuban musical heritage.

The richness of Cuban culture, which, even today, is the extended reflection of Republican culture, is as potent an argument as any, and more irrefutable than most, that civilization reached its apex in Cuba before 1959 and that nothing of value has been added since though much has been lost, through official rejection or indifference, which can be lethal when the government controls the arts.

It is, therefore, also a function of politics to recognize and disseminate the monuments of that culture, which now appears to be CAP's mission through the agency of YouTube. In the last few weeks it has featured performances of the works of such artists as René Touzet; Pérez Prado; Ignacio Cervantes and others. I should like to think that this is not simply filler material, but represents a concerted effort to highlight what culture can achieve when unfettered, and how, when fettered, as in Cuba today, culture becomes, with few exceptions, like the record that is harpooned on one groove and can't move to the next song, or, in this case, the next phase of musical development. It would have been better if they had offered some critical apparatus to accompany the performances besides identifying Lecuona as Cuba's greatest composer or Cervantes as a 19th-century one; on second thought, it is perhaps better to let the work speak for itself.

Cuban-American Pundits has seen better days, but the present, at least, is free of the excesses that are the bane of Babalu's existence. It is not a substitute for the "mother blog" if one wants to know the meanderings of Val & Co., but its decline has at least been gracious and its inoffensiveness remains a merit. If Henry were ever to abandon his plans of waging crusades against entire peoples or seducing superannuated Marxist entertainers like Sting, Cuban-American Pundits remains as a reminder of his better self and a refuge where he can still be relevant and engaging if he still remembers how.


POSTSCRIPT:

As a matter of record, Ziva affirms that she was never involved in any capacity with Cuban-American Pundits.

1 comment:

songuacassal said...

Manuel,

Oh my God did you just called me Ziva?

I really don't know what to make of this comparison.

The obvious observation should be that I am a guy, and Ziva is a woman. The next is that I am a former Catholic Seminarian, and if I am not mistaken Ziva is Jewish. The final is that I am Cuban-American, whereas I don't think Ziva is even remotely Cuban. Please ask Charlie Bravo who has blogged with both of us, as I am sure he can clarify this situation for you.

Though I would like to find this humorous, it confirms the lunacy that I am witnessing in Cuban-American blogdom.

Asi que, please let me clarify something:

My break from blogging occurred when I returned from a study abroad in the Holy Land about two years ago. If you peruse CAP's archives you'll see this. My understanding of the world changed, my distaste for castro grew, and my desire to act was greater than my desire to blog. Upon leaving the Seminary, I later returned to some regular blogging this year, only to find Cuban against Cuban, blog cliques against blog cliques, and personality cults that lost focus of the real issue: people are dying in cuba because of castro.

How the hell can we fight against ourselves and against the tyrant is still beyond me. Moreover, the persistent and obsessive development of nonsensical issues and capricious stances, which contribute to only personal, and might I add pyrrhic, victories abhors me.

I have since dropped out of mainstream blogging; too much nonsense for me. However, though I have quietly disconnected myself from blogging. I must admit that I frequent KC's site often and have grown a taste for reading Black Sheep of Exile.

In the end, Manuel, I prefer action over blogging in making this world a better place. Currently, I'm doing what I can in a somewhat improvished area of the US. It's not much, but I guarantee you it's a start. From there I will move on to another area, and then another, and maybe someday be in Cuba helping build up what communism tore down. This is of course dependent on God.

The most I've been able to do for Cuba, thus far, is send a 160 gig hard drive to help Gorki record his music. This isn't much, but at least I did something, whereas there are blogs that would rather post humorous pictures and stick to crowd pleasing (or crowd appalling) topics rather than dissecting and extrapolating the truth.

I've always hoped that you would offer more to Cuban-American blogdom with you knowledge of Cuban history, your ability to critically write and your grasp of Jose Marti, but this non-sequitur juxtaposition of me and Ziva simply seals my disappointment in Cuba-American Blogdom.

Finally, if you still don't believe that Ziva and I are not the same person, then may I give the following:

Check the IP addresses, I'm sure I'm not in the same state as Ziva. That should be you're first tip off that we are not the same.

Second, I still blog at a tiny site that I like to keep semi-private. If you follow all the clues (my IP address, my first name, and little hints given in this post), then you should be able to find my site, see my picture, and maybe make some sense as to who I really am.

If you want a lead: I play the Tres Cubano.

___________________________
Now, before I post this I would like to say the following:

If you did this to get a rise out of me, then may I offer some words of Jose Marti to keep in mind when blogging about Cuba: "La patria necesita sacrificios. Es ara y no pedestal."

If you did it to suggested that my knowledge of Cuba and Cuban literature is that of a non-Cuban. I humbly accept the comment and indeed have much to read and learn.

If you did this because you've been wondering where the heck I've been, then I hope that this post satisfies your curiosity.