Monday, July 16, 2012

Did Che Guevara channel John Paul Jones?

Guest blogger is Jack Durish. A Baltimore native with a passion for history that began in high school when he studied the American Civil War. After consuming virtually everything written on the subject, he began haunting the National Archives in Washington as well as any other place where he could get his hands on source material. Durish earned a degree in law and served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army in the Mekong Delta of Viet Nam.  

We recently reviewed his first novelRebels On The Mountain, in which a significant character was Che Guevara.  In this blog article, Durish reveals some interesting (and perhaps little known) facts about the man whose image has become an icon for revolution.  Herewith are his thoughts on Che Guevara:

I don't get it. The man was by all accounts of those who knew him, a fanatic, totally intolerant of all who disagreed with him, and unfortunately, he used his power to punish them inhumanely. Yet, there are many who brandish his iconic image as a symbol of hope and change for the better.

Consider the testimony of  Humberto Fontova who describes Che's crimes against humanity in lurid detail, using Che's own words: “'We send (to these prison-camps) people who have committed crimes against revolutionary morals,' warned the KGB-tutored Che Guevara, who definition of such 'offenses' proved pretty sweeping.” Apparently, Che's “revolutionary morals” prohibited drinking and gambling, and regulated sexual relations, as he demonstrated after his rebel column captured the town of Sancti Spiritus in Central Cuba. Fortunately for those citizens, Fidel made him rescind the orders.

As I watched union activists carrying banners with Che's image recently in major cities across the United States, I wondered how well they would relate to a man who wrote in his diary, “I have no home, no woman, no parents, no brothers and no friends. My friends are friends only so long as they think as I do politically.” Would Che applaud their efforts or would he censure them, as he wrote, “We punish individuals who refuse to participate in collective effort and who lead an antisocial and parasitic life.”

Watching youth flaunting Che's image as they rebel against all those in authority, I wonder if they ever heard or read Che's denunciation of revolution, “Youth must refrain from ungrateful questioning of government mandates. Instead they must dedicate themselves to study, work, and military service.”

And woe to those youth who ignored Che. His secret police (yes, Che headed up the Cuban Secret Police) rounded up thousands of youth for being “guilty” of the “rocker lifestyle” or being effeminate, and dumped them in prison camps proclaiming “Work will make men out of you!”

I also would love an opportunity to speak with a famous actress, known as a caring and attentive mother, and reputed to have worn a tattoo of Che's iconic image, and ask her how she feels about her hero abandoning his wife in Mexico, and at least five known children in various countries without any signs of remorse.
Even Castro grew tired of his “hero's” antics. A retired CIA officer reported how Fidel, via the Bolivian Communist party, constantly fed the CIA info on Che’s whereabouts in Bolivia. “Not even an aspirin,” instructed Cuba’s Maximum Leader to his Bolivian comrades, meaning that Bolivia’s Communists were not to assist Che in any way — 'not even with an aspirin,' if Che complained of a headache."

A commentary on Che re-posted on Womanist-Musings from Broad Snark describes him with slightly more vitriol. " I watch some of the people who love Che, I am beginning to see that they probably like him for exactly the reasons that I don’t. Because I keep seeing people in our communities emulate all of Che’s most problematic characteristics."

The author of this article goes on to describe how Che, "...a privileged, white kid from Argentina... joined Castro's revolutionary movement...the only thing Che was involved with that wasn’t a total failure." The author goes on to describe Che's many failures such as ruining the economy in Cuba, sending homosexuals and dissidents to forced labor camps, attempting to lead black soldiers in a failed revolution in Angola like an imitation Tarzan, and failing to incite a continent-wide revolution in South America, beginning in Bolivia where his own followers ratted him out to the authorities.

I suppose that, for me, the most fascinating aspect of Che's history is it's similarities to John Paul Jones. Both Che and John Paul fought for revolutions to which they did not belong. They both considered themselves “citizens of the world.” Both were dissatisfied at the ends of their respective revolutions, and revolutionary leaders found it expedient to send them abroad on “missions.” John Paul was sent to Russia to lead Catherine the Great's Black Sea Fleet, “to better prepare him to be admiral of an American fleet.” Of course, they found many other “missions” to keep him away from America until he died.

It appears that “true revolutionaries” become something of an annoyance after the revolution is won. It may be that leaders worry that they will foment revolution against the very causes that they once supported.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Take it off. Take it all off.

“Night Train” usually evokes images of a dank, smoke filled lounge with a stripper on a small stage. Three or four middle aged men sit around the stage anticipating more than they know they will see. The stripper is a late 30’s, early 40’s dancer about ten to fifteen years past her prime. She’s twenty pounds overweight and accepts with indifference the appearance of cellulite on her upper thighs. The dancer and her audience have one thing in common -- boredom.

That was the opening paragraph in my review of Louis Prima, Jr.’s latest CD, “The Return of the Wildest!”  It hits the streets on Tuesday, July 10, 2012.  

Shortly after that review went live, I found this image on Pinterest:


It’s not exactly what I had in mind with the review, but close enough.

According to Wikipedia, women have been taking their clothes off for the entertainment of men for over 400 years.  (I would have guessed longer.)

Does the frequency of movie scenes with strippers and the rise in popularity of gentlemen’s clubs indicate a new interest in this form of entertainment?

Did the budding popularity of this art form propel the evolution of the appropriate musical accompaniment?  

Tenor sax man, Jimmy Forrest had a big hit in 1952 with “Night Train.”  In his examination of the propensity of black musical performers’ cultivation of white racism, Alan Kurtz says of Forrest’s hit, “ gave strippers across the land a vocational platform upon which to stand and peel for years to come.”  With Prima Jr.’s cover, we’ve come full circle in sixty years.

During the interim, men’s eyes have been filled while listening to such sultry strains as “Blame It on Mame,” “Love Potion #9,” Dave Grusin’s “A Great Effect,” [from The Graduate] and of course, the classic David Rose number, “The Stripper.”

In spite of the evolution of the music and the revolution of interest in this form of entertainment, many of our readers will be like Charlie Rich and be more at home with what happens behind closed doors.

Article Copyright ©2012 by Chip Etier. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and link backs to this story may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Violators will be prosecuted to the extent that the law allows.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Stones turn fifty

To commemorate their 50th anniversary the Rolling Stones commissioned Shepard Fairey to update their classic Tongue and Lips logo, originally designed by John Pasche in 1971.

For comparison purposes, here's the old version:
File:The Rolling Stones Tongue Logo.png

What do you think?  Like? Not?  Comments welcomed!