Monday, May 31, 2010

Reflexiones de Fidel

Ever since leaving power, Fidel Castro has been occasionally - but pretty regularly - drafting lengthy essays which are faithfully published in Granma, the official state newspaper, under the title Reflexiones de Fidel (Reflections of Fidel).

CNN and other American media sometimes report breathlessly on these statements - for, indeed, they often pontificate on US policies or practices (he thought Obama was a lovely young man during the election campaign, for what it's worth) - which they always vaguely refer to as being "published in state media". It always amuses me because it sounds so mysterious and "here we are reporting from behind the mysterious Cuban curtain for you", when if they wanted to, they could actually provide their readers a direct link to the document in Granma online - in English, yet.

Anyway, when in Cuba we watch the local tv channels as much as possible and always watch the evening news, a fascinating window into the way the state communicates and propagandizes to the people.

This time we had the slightly surreal experience of watching the young anchor read the latest Reflection - in its entirety - for a good seven to ten minutes of the broadcast. It was about five printed pages long. But everyone must take the time to listen to the very, very important reflections of the Commandante.

Over the anchor's shoulder played a rotating montage of stirring photos, including the Cuban flag and an image of the Commandante himself, presumably writing one of his Reflections or something equally ponderous.

One can only imagine what it is like to be a journalist in a country like this.

We happened to be there for the island-wide municipal elections and were treated to tv coverage of that, too. Incredibly, each polling station (they showed footage from stations around the country) were manned by two Cuban youth - a girl and a boy - in their little José Martí Pioneer Organization uniforms who saluted - adorably saluted - each voter after he or she put the ballot in the box.

The voter turnout was 96%, unsurprising in a country where voting isn't mandatory-mandatory, but is mandatory.

We were also there for May Day. May Day ain't big here but you know, very big with the socialists.

And how do you get turnouts like this for the demonstrations of support for the workers?

Like this.

I'm guessing that's mandatory, too.

All of Cuba has the sense right now of being right on the cusp of... something. Something is going to change. People just aren't sure what, and how, and exactly when.

They seem more optimistic than anxious, though.

Let's keep fingers crossed.


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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Guest post - Health Canada considers gluten labeling policy.

My sister has asked me to post something on the blog about an issue that's very important to her. Here's her guest post about potential Canadian legislation that would require manufacturers to list gluten as an ingredient in prepared foods, and why it's so important to those who suffer gluten intolerance that it does.

Imagine living your life thinking you have a certain digestive disorder. You have pain, bloating, and discomfort (not to mention certain unmentionable things) every day of your life. Everyday. You set aside an hour each morning in case you are suddenly very sick, so you won't be late to class. Imagine never being able to wear a nice pair of jeans, because any pressure on your stomach causes pain. Then imagine learning you don't have that certain disease, but another one, that can be easily controlled with a special diet. Now imagine you have no control over that diet, because you don't always know if a certain product is in any purchased food.

I'm Ronniecat's sister, here referred to as Sister, and all my life I thought I had IBS. Turns out I have a Gluten Sensitivity. I can't eat normal wheat. Since starting to change my diet, I can't begin to tell you how much better I feel, how much more energy I have, how nice it is to wear a nice pair of jeans. There's just one problem. Not all products indicate if they have wheat, or gluten, in them. Some products list it, but not all, and there's no real cut-and-dried rule about what would be "Gluten free". Made in a factory with no other products that contain wheat? A little wheat? The possible cross-contamination of wheat? Did you know mustard contains wheat? I didn't.

Health Canada is now proposing a new policy intent for revising Canada's Gluten-Free labeling. They want to take another look at the laws for labeling foods.
If you're interested in this, or if you would just like to read up on and it have a say on our behalf, please feel free to do so. Anyone is free to comment until July 11, 2010.

Check this out. It matters.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Look who arrived in the mail last week!

It's Hub Man! And Mr. Bendy!

Mary Ellen blogged about capturing glimpses of the "German bus" in Washington DC, which qualified her to win a prize from the German Embassy. She won Hub Man and Mr. Bendy!

I expressed admiration for them in the comments section and, lo and behold, last week they arrived in my mail! What a nice surprise from a remarkably generous friend.

They are now in my office where Hub Man has my camera attached to him, ready to organize my latest photos from Cuba. Unlike Mary Ellen, I haven't yet figured out how to make Mr. Bendy stand upright, so that's a project for next week.

Thanks, M.E.! You're awesome. :)

It's the Victoria Day long weekend and it's been 30° all weekend! We've been scouting the paint stores and neighbourhoods for paint colours - we're having the auld pile painted this summer. Thinking yellow. Mojo voted for black & white patches all over. Mojo no longer gets a vote.

Summer's here, everyone!

In other news, the Canadiens face elimination in the Stanley Cup semifinals tonight... After sleepwalking through games 1 and 2, they came roaring back to win game 3, only to fall back into somnambulism (to the immense frustration of their desperate fans) in game 4. Tonight it's do or die, and it's tied 1-1 at the end of the first period.

Why do the ones we love torture us so?



Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Regresar a Cayo Santa Maria

Guess where I've been for two weeks?

While I rest up from my extended, incredibly relaxing vacation which has left me utterly exhausted, enjoy this very interesting and related blog post over at Vestigial Tails. Little modern day update on some cold war nostalgia (or should that be notstalgia?) for all y'all.

I'll be back with more about the latest foray into the peculiar otherworld that is Cuba later, but before I go, Basement Cat vacations in Cuba. Who knew?



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