". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Hotel Riviera la habana -- Valentine's Day!

     . . .  The flight from JFK to Jose Marti was longer than ever experienced, due to the continuing winds from Tuesday's storms.  We could feel the plane fighting for every bit of headway.  As well, as we began the approach to Cuba this became the most turbulent flight on a commercial flight I've ever experienced.

As the weather forecasts had predicted, it was overcast and coolish in Havana.  What the forecasts did not predict though, was a big rainstorm, which began a few moments after we got into the bus, about 2 PM and continued all through the night. It's still overcast today but it does look as though it is clearing.

The Hotel Riviera is located right on the Malecon; the way Mayer Lanskey had it designed, there is a view of the sea from every room, yet one cannot see the highway and the cars on it that runs along the Malecon.  The view of the plunging, surging, exploding fireworks of wave and water -- the "penetration of the sea" in Havana idiom -- is spectacular through the floor to ceiling windows of the palacial space lobby. Here are a variety of decks and patios and lounging areas, as well as a bar, and the entrances to what used to be the casino and the nightclub and cocktail lounges. All afternoon and night guests were avidly videoing the landscape.

It brought so many memories of me spending hours back in 1999 - 2000 trying to capture these scene, where waves break in a line like aerial bombing against the sea walls of the Malecon.  I walked past the Riviera at least once a day on the way to the market and only 'store' in Havana in those days.  Nor had the Riviera been restored then.  But I did attend music events and have drinks with friends here (Cubans were not allowed up into Cuban hotel rooms then, either.)

The Postmambo travelers arrive in a little while.  Two hours after they check in we will take the mob history tour of the Riviera, go on to la Salon Benny More at la Tropical, then dinner in the hotel at the restaurant L'Aiglon, and then move over to the Bar Elegante for our celebration of Valentine's Day concert by the wonderful Haydee Melendez -- who happens also to be a most elegant musician in her personal appearance as well as magnificently talented -- her father is the, by now, mythic singer - musician, Pablo Melendez.

In the meantime, wifi is hard to do.  Have to buy wifi cards from the the hotel to use in the hotel, and nothing else will work here -- which is another way the hotels get revenue of course.  But one can't use the cards in one's room -- no service -- which also mean one can only use battery power down here in the lobby -- nowhere to plug in.  Morever, a lot of sites, like my little DM friends site can't be reached from Cuba at all.  And for some reason, on this little notebook, the display of any kind of image is all wonky too.  So no posting of photos from here, it looks like.

But there ya, go.  This is Cuba.  If one came here to hang out online, one is a silly willy.  Yet -- if one is doing business, even business that is good for Cuba, it's a real pita.

Unlike last month in Oriente, tourism seems to be doing OK here in Havana, though none of the hotels are full.  I wonder if these giant dream houses built by US mafia lords and their confreres and friends ever were filled even in the halcyon days of Havana US tourism in the 1950's?  My guess is the only time every room in Havana was filled was when President Obama came here -- not even the Pope did that, surely.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Cooba 2019 Part the Second -- Packing

     . . . . I confess to never being as pleased and relaxed about packing for Cuba as I was today.  Supposedly mid 80's and sunny starting on Thursday, though tomorrow supposedly mid-high 70's with scattered showers.

However, here -- ooo la la! freezing temps, snow, sleet, freezing rain, high wind gusts, all day, and still going on, though the temp has gotten just above freezing now at dinner time.  Supposed to continue to warm all night, still with rain, but not freezing rain.  So hopefully our flight will take off as scheduled (early) tomorrow morning.

Packing all complete.  Valentine's and BD comin' right along.  This is going to be fun.

Novels which may or may not get read: C.J. Sansom's latest Shardlake novel, Tombland (2018), and The Witch Elm (US title; in the UK The Wych Elm) 2018. One of the Oriente Travelers last month was reading it on the plane on the way to HolguĂ­n, and couldn't put it down.

What a day this has been . . . .

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Survival in the Polar Vortex -- ABC Murders

     . . . . Whatever the ABC Murders is (2018; ITV > amazon prime), it is not Agatha Christie. 

It lacks charm and wit, warmth and satisfaction. The storytelling is poor. There is little detection. 

Therefore this three-episoder has nothing to do with Christie's famous Poirot novel of the same title. Worst of all, Poirot's character was given an entirely different backstory to that Christie had given him.  None of the other characters were what they were in Christie's novel either.

So, the question is, why bother calling it Poirot at all?

I ask, because, so changing up Christie's book and characters interfered with experiencing the ABC Murders and Malkovich's performance as the aging Belgian detective still living in England after seeking asylum from WWI so long ago, in any fair and objective manner.

As a viewer I'm attracted to watch this because of Agatha Christie and her character, Poirot.  Whether that is fair of me as a viewer or not, is beside the point because "Christie" and "Poirot" are how the production is advertised and presented, so thus we viewers are going to have some expectations derived from both-- none of which are met. 

This is most unfair to Malkovich, one thinks, who is giving his best to be the best Poirot he can be, but he's never Poirot as many generations of readers and watchers of the very many adaptations of his detecting have come to know him.

The John Mslkovich Poirot is so dark that he might as well be Tom Hardy's James Keziah Delaney, in BBCI's Taboo (2017).

Malkovich faced a very difficult proposition taking on the role of Poirot in the first place.  But changing up the plot, the characters and Poirot's character itself gave him a nearly insurmountable challenge to engage the viewer.  That Poirot has aged, become sad, without optimism, and again fearful of a future overrun by Germans and racism is understandable and certainly can be, and has been, done -- notably the David Suchet Poirot of The Orient Express, in which his recognition of the global anti-semitism flowing out of Germany enrages and terrifies him. 

The flag of the British Union of Fascists, known as the "Union Banner"

This aspect of this production of The ABC Murders is the best element.  This is 1933; we see posters everywhere demanding 'aliens' be expelled; casual bigotry is expressed by many of the characters; Poirot himself is harassed by a gang of kids for being a foreigner; various figures are shown wearing the flash and circle pins in support of the Brits' fascist parties.  This also addresses current conditions in Britain today.

Here, the focus is on the psychology of everyone, including Poirot, not on the plot of detecting, which is not Christie's way.  So Malkovich is reduced to playing Poirot as sad and pathetic, mourning his lost glory days of  hosting "Murder Games" in the homes of decadent aristocrats -- anyone who knows Poirot knows that the very idea of the "Murder Game" outraged him.  Poirot has always taken murder of anyone as a sin as well as a crime, that he must put as right as can be by revealing the identity of the murderer.

So yes.  Everything about this Poirot is wrong, beginning with Poirot. Evidently the entire point of the murders in this tale is to rejuvenate Poirot as a man and as a reputation -- not to balance the scales of justice that have been put out by the shedding of blood.

I would not recommend watching this unless thoroughly unacquainted with either Christie's novels or any other interpretation of Poirot on screen (and there are many). 

David Suchet as Poirot in the ITV adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express (2010) This is toward the end of the series, when Poirot's and the whole world's milieu was getting darker.  Yet, see? there is still some sun.
But of all the screen, and doubtless stage too, adaptations and portrayals of Poirot, the greatest, without question, is that of David Suchet in the long-running (1989 - 2013) British ITV  series, Agatha Christie's Poirot.  It was a brilliant series, in every way, from design to cinematography to location and casting.  There was ample blood and detection, ample grief and outrage, but there was always sunshine too.