President Obama will be visiting Cuba in March, the first sitting president to do so in 88 years. While travel for tourism from the United States is only allowed on charter flights, travel from other countries is booming, which was the subject of a talk by the head of Cuba's tourist board in Canada. He spoke recently at TheMuseum in Kitchener.
“Many people are afraid Cuba will change,” said Eloy Govea. “I don't see Cuba changing its values for anything in the world. The things that matter most for us will be kept.”
Emphasizing that “Fidel is a great enthusiast of tourism,” Govea said his country “is very well placed in the international market. We are growing our infrastructure at a tremendous pace. No one in the Caribbean does more.”
Last year 3.5 million people visited the island nation, up from 3 million in 2014. Canada is the number 1 source for that influx, with 1.3 million Canadians making the trip there in 2015. “Cuba is now the third most popular destination for Canadians in the world,” said Govea. Only the U.S. and Mexico beat it. While American tourism will increase, it will likely never reach the pre-1961 share of the market: 90%.
To serve all those guests, 18 foreign hotel chains now have a stake there, and they manage 57% of all hotel rooms. Another option is taking a room in private homes. “The experience you can have is completely different from hotels,” Govea explained. On my recent visit to Cuba, even the hotel staff recommended staying at a private home instead. Since Havana hotel prices have skyrocketed 35% in the past year, the private home option becomes even more appealing.
Cuba now has seven international marinas and three cruise ports. The number of rooms available is highest in Varadero with 21,000. Havana is second with 13,000, with another 7,000 in Santa Maria. The nation is connected to more than 60 cities through 54 airlines.
Govea recommends “mingling with the people in the streets. It's hard to find a more hospitable peple in the world. It will be memorable, and it's one of the safest places in the world.”
From the best preserved coral reef in the world to four World Heritage sites, the Hemingway House near Havana, and fabulous beaches, Cuba has a lot to offer.
“Cuba is a country with a blessed nature,” said Govea with obvious emotion. “Our focus when we address tourism is to preserve the values of the past we are very proud of.”
For more about Cuba, visit the tourism website: www.gocuba.ca
The party in Boca Raton for the 10th annual Concours d'Elegance was a feast for the eyes and the palate. A range of local restaurants offered delicious bite-sized food ranging from meatballs to Asian-influenced creations. But perhaps the biggest draw this year was a Rhino.
No, not the animal, but an amazing vehicle with a powerful 6.8 litre V10 engine. It is made by U.S. Specialty Vehicles, and stands over 7 feet high and nearly 19 feet long.
It looks like a combination SUV, family van and monster truck. With its hybrid look of military and off-road vehicle, one can easily imagine Arnold or The Rock behind the wheel. It really turned a lot of heads at the Boca event. Quite unusual and totally different! List price starts at $194K.
The Rhino rubbed wheels, so to speak, with the latest helicopters and private jets, including one from Honda that garnered a lot of attention.
Rounding out the hangar party this year was a suite of dance entertainment featuring different dance themes including break dancing. While there was a bit of a chill in the air, the event this year did not suffer from the rather cold wind that blew through the event in 2015. The Concours d'Elegance lived up to its expectations as it looks back on a decade of bringing some of the best things money can buy to Boca Raton.
One of the highlights of the South Florida social calendar begins tonite in Boca Raton. Here is an overview of the 10th Annual event.
– Day 1 –
The weekend’s activities begin with Friday night’s duPont Registry™ Live, a spectacular hangar party held at Atlantic Aviation at the Boca Raton Airport, with a display of exotic cars, custom motorcycles, extravagant boats, private jets, vintage aircraft, and luxury motorcoaches.
Guests will also experience even more of what has become a duPont Registry™ Live tradition as they enjoy gourmet food, fine wines and cocktails presented by over 20 of South Florida’s finest restaurants.
The evening will also feature live entertainment and the opportunity to mingle with the “Who’s Who” of entertainment, business, auto racing and the auto industry from around the world.
Time: 6:00pm – 9:00pm
– Day 2 –
FEBRUARY 20, 2016
Honorary Chairman Mike Jackson, AutoNation CEO
Annual Automotive Lifetime Award Recipients:
Rita & Rick Case—Founders, Rick Case Automotive Group
Stephen Cannon—Former President & CEO, Mercedes-Benz, USA and Current CEO of AMB Group
On Saturday night, enjoy the Concours Gala dinner, auction & show. The evening’s festivities will include the presentation of the Annual Automotive Lifetime Achievement Award to Rita & Rick Case and Stephen Cannon. Past recipients have been Keith Crain, the Ed Morse Automotive Group, Mike Maroone, Emerson Fittipaldi, JM Family Enterprises, Roger Penske, Bobby Rahal, Mike Jackson, H. Wayne Huizenga, Carroll Shelby, Edsel Ford and John Staluppi.
Also, each year during the live auction, guests have the opportunity to bid on one-of-a-kind trips and experience packages, luxury jewelry, and more! The evening will end with a special performance by renowned TV Star and Comedian, Jay Leno. And over the years we’ve had some of the greats including Howie Mandel, Wayne Brady, Bob Newhart, Dennis Miller and Dana Carvey.
Reception & Silent Auction: 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Dinner, Live Auction and Show: 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
– Day 3 –
FEBRUARY 21, 2016
Sunday/Concours d’Elegance Presented by
Grand Marshal: Wayne Carini
Chief Honorary Judge: Jay Quail
Chief Judge: Dr. Paul Sable
On Sunday, February 21st, 200 of the finest collector cars and motorcycles from around the country will gather on the show field at the famed Boca Raton Resort & Club.On display at this year’s Concours will be an exquisite collection of Packards as well as well as CCCA Full Classics. The judging process will combine a point/percentage system along with Modified French Rule evaluation criteria. It will be based on three important overall evaluation criteria of the cars condition, authenticity/originality, and appeal in the following areas: the vehicles exterior, its interior area, the engine area, plus the overall presentation, visual impact and significance of the car. A variety of manufacturers will be exhibited, including vintage, antique, and classic. Plus, guests will have the opportunity to enjoy an assortment of gourmet food, fine wines and cocktails from 30 of South Florida’s finest restaurants in the Concours d’Gourmet Café Pavilions.
Show set-up: 6:00 am – 8:30 am
Judging: 9:00am – 12:00pm
Show: 10:00 am -4:00 pm
Awards Ceremony: 1:00 pm
at the Boca Raton Resort & Club
1515 South Federal Highway, Boca Raton , FL 33432
1515 North Federal Highway, Boca Raton , FL 33432
The arts scene in Cuba was the focus of a seminar at TheMuseum in Kitchener, given by two professors from Queens University in Kingston. It is part of a celebration underway to mark the 40th anniversary of Canada's resumption of diplomatic relations with Cuba, undertaken by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1976.
Professor Susan Lord highlighted breakthrough films made in Cuba in the past 15 years. "Why are they breakthrough?" she asked rhetorically. "Themes such as gay content, evolving genres, and new production arrangements" are three areas she considers crucial.
The lead photo with this article is a scene from the breakthrough film Strawberry and Chocolate. "It is a film about sexual rights," explained Lord. "It is about who the 'new man' is and who he sleeps with. It's about friendship across distances, about overcoming prejudices of all kinds." She described this 1993 entry as quite controversial. "It opens by an act of gay cruising. The structure of their relationship was expressed in the way the film was shot."
The role of cinema was made explicit by the Cuban government shortly after the 1959 revolution. "Cinema is an art, according to the 1959 official newspaper," Lord said. "The first films after 1959 had to do with where people live and the conditions they live in."
The Cubans made a conscious attempt in those early years to define themselves through the lens of the movie camera. When confronted with the question 'what is the mission of film?' the response was that they wrote manifestos. "They were trying to rethink cultural cinema by making it their own and thus decolonising their film industry."
Lord highlighted filmmaker Sara Gomez, active from 1962 to 1974. "I started to work on Cuban film because of her, and she is the subject of my upcoming book. Historical melodramas were being made in the 60s, but Gomez was the first to address the condition of the moment."
Other films mentioned by Lord were:
Suite Habana by Fernando Perez. "It is a portrait of the city in which people are interviewed. He goes into their house that allows for a less obtrusive relationship with film."
Juan de Los Muertos by Alejandro Brugues from 2010. Juan of the Dead was Cuba's first zombie movie!
Venice by Kiki Alvarez is from 2014. It is set in Havana which is portrayed as a somewhat liberating space for women. It is the first crowd-sourced film made in Cuba.
Leading off the seminar at TheMuseum was Professor Karen Dubinsky, who has a book on Havana coming out this year. She first went to Cuba as a researcher in 2004, after being there earlier as a tourist. The focus of her talk was Cuban music and why it is so good. She said that throughout the 20th century "tourism has really helped develop an amazing musical culture, with some families of musicians now dynasties in the 4th or 5th generation."
"The centrality of music to culture" is the key thing to realise about the situation there. How music gets disseminated is far different than it is in Canada or America. "The disk distribution system is a disaster. But there is an effective hand to hand distribution system: people share music on memory sticks," so a song can be known by thousands in a short time.
"Cuban musical audiences are really literate," said Dubinsky, who teaches a course in Cuban culture and society that includes taking the students to Cuba for an immersive experience.
She highlighted the fact that contemporary Cuban hip hop is really popular now, with dance music less officially popular. But the key factor to know is that this is not a sudden flowering of Cuban music.
"American tourism is not the sleeping beauty kiss that awoke the culture of Cuba. It's always been there but the Americans don't get that. They just weren't there to experience it until now."
The next event at The Museum will be Jan. 31, when the Consul-General of Cuba will give a presentation about tourism.
Canada is currently marking the 40th year of its official rapprochement with Fidel Castro's Cuba. It was in 1976 that Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau became the first Western leader to visit Cuba since the US embargo was put in place. Now, 40 years later, Pierre's son Justin is the PM of Canada.
The event is being marked at The Museum in Kitchener (just west of Toronto) with an exhibit of artifacts and photographs of Cuban people and culture. One of the photos shows Fidel with Justin at the funeral of Pierre Trudeau.
A cultural aspect given prominent display is the Cuban love affair with baseball. In addition to a T-shirt of the Industriales team, one photo even shows Castro pitching a ball in the presence of the baseball team in the early 60s.
All this is brought vividly to life in a new book edited by the noted Canadian actor Brian Gordon Sinclair, who was at The Museum in January 2016 to give a heart-felt performance of one his plays about Ernest Hemingway. Sinclair, who bears a striking resemblance to Hemingway, identifies with him deeply.
"I have portrayed Hemingway at the 50th Anniversary of the meeting of Fidel Castro and Ernest Hemingway," writes Sinclair in the book. "They met at an international fishing tournament organized by Hemingway and where Fidel won the trophy for catching the most fish."
His seven plays that span Hemingway's life were premiered at the Hemingway House in Key West, Florida. And he is a frequent guest at Hemingway's other famous home, just east of Havana. It was there in the 1940s that Hemingway started a kid's baseball team, a story beautifully told by one of those youngsters (now a grandfather), Cayuco Jonronero, translated from Spanish by Susana Hurlich and edited by Sinclair.
"Ernest Hemingway had an unspoken spirituality," writes Cayuco. "It was a goodness that emanated from him and it applied to children and to nature. We learned this when we asked permission to alter our baseball field at Finca Vigia," the name of Hemingway's home.
The kids wanted to cut down some trees to make room for a second base, but he refused. "Boys, I want you to play without cutting down or hurting any trees. You see, trees are the same as children because you have to help them both grow, so that later they will give fruit."
A measure of Hemingway's influence even after all these decades can be gauged by this passage from the author. "Today, I still feel like a millionaire and as long as I know and remember Papa Hemingway, I will always be rich."
A really excellent book, and one that for the first time tells of this aspect of Hemingway's life in Cuba, which spanned 20 years. To order this book, contact:
The softcover book retails for $14.95 and includes many illustrations and photographs, including one of Sinclair holding Hemingway's Nobel prize medal which is under lock and key in Cuba after it was stolen and recovered a few years ago.
The Museum in Kitchener will be hosting three more lectures about various aspects of Cuba in February, 2016. Visit their website for details: www.themuseum.ca
As we enter 2016 the Japanese community in the United States is marking the 70th anniversary of the closing of the last internment camp.
The majority of those interned (figures range from 70,000 to 120,000) were American citizens. Many of the rest were long-time US residents who had lived in this country between 20 and 40 years. The title of the exhibit dedicated to this aspect of World War II is Executive Order 9066.
In December 1944, President Roosevelt rescinded Executive Order 9066, and the WRA began a six-month process of releasing internees and shutting down the camps. In August 1945, the war was over. By 1946, 70 years ago, the camps were closed.
When the order was signed in 1942 "evacuated" families left behind homes, businesses, pets, land, and most of their belongings. Taking only what they could carry, they were taken by bus and train to assembly centers — hastily converted facilities such as race tracks and fairgrounds. Here they awaited reassignment to the "relocation camps." The War Relocation Authority controlled the administration of 10 camps in remote areas of California, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Texas, and Arkansas. One of these camps, Tule Lake in California, housed George Mirikitani (1920-2012), who became a painter in later life. Some of his artworks are on display here at the Morikami Museum.
Before he was interned as a young man, he lived in Seattle with his sister. In the painting shown here, he merges the majestic view of Mt. Rainier with a depiction of the desolate internment camp in California.
The exhibit also includes artwork done in the internment camps, including a pair of redwood slats depicting a water tower. These were done by Kakunen Tsuroka, interned in the camp located in Poston, Arizona.
A modern evocation of those days has been created by Wendy Maruyama, whose artworks comprise the largest exhibits on display. One, which takes up a whole room, consists of recreations of name tags associated with all the internees. The Tag Project, from 2011, hangs in multiple bunches from the ceiling, one for each camp. Other works by her are in wood and show the sense of loss and separation from family, life and work.
The exhibit runs to Jan. 31, 2016.
Vsiti the website for details: www.morikami.org
“God’s ways may be mysterious, but no mystery can justify what God has allowed to be done to innocent children throughout history.”
With these ringing words (certainly blasphemous to some) Alan Dershowitz lays down the legal gauntlet against God in his latest book about Abraham.
He appeared at the Miami Book Fair this November to discuss the book about the world’s first Jewish lawyer. But his conversation went far afield, touching on current politics and freedom of the expression of ideas.
Dershowitz was particularly scathing in his denunciation of what is happening on many university campuses across America. In response to a student leader who recently said “I don’t want to hear any more about the First Amendment,” Dershowitz has this advice: “Well, if you don’t, move to Iran.” He also said “Stalin would be proud of some students of American universities” who want to limit where free speech can take place.
“I take students seriously,” he said in Miami. “The last thing I want to see is a safe place for ideas.” How are university administrators reacting to this Stalinesque move to limit free speech? “The response is complicity and compliance from university presidents,” Dershowitz said gravely.
On the current occupant of the Oval Office and the relationship with Israel, he minced no words in his remarks at the Book Fair.
“Our president is petulant and childish when it comes to his enemies. He’s very very thin-skinned. President Clinton got along with anybody, not so much President Obama. The spat between Obama and Netanyahu is unforgiveable. We need greater maturity from our elected officials.”
On the presidential campaign, Dershowitz singled out one he knows well. “I had Ted Cruz as a student and he constantly upset the other students in the class. He was a very valuable person to have in class– you want to hear those different views expressed.”
God naturally features quite prominently in his book. He touched on this during his remarks in Miami.
“Philosophy grows out of experience. I give (in the book) story after story about the learning experience. The God of the Bible is a learning God. Learning is a never-ending phenomenon. If the quest for justice never stops, the quest for learning never stops.”
Dershowitz looks at the careers of many people in the book, including Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis (appointed by Pres. Wilson). Dershowitz writes he “personified the Abrahamic lawyer who argued with God.”
Another is Rene Cassin, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1968 for his work as the primary drafter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But, Dershowitz laments, this declaration has “ been turned into instruments of oppression and injustice.”
Characterizing the United Nations as a “broken institution,” Dershowitz says “The UN will remain a key facilitator– through its actions and inactions–of the tragic inversion of human rights that has characterized its work for the past forty years.”
A fascinating book on many levels, Dershowitz has given us a fine exposition of how a law of true justice should be practiced.
Abraham: The World’s First (But Certainly Not Last) Jewish Lawyer (188 pages) is $26 from Schocken Books, a division of Penguin Random House.
The most unusual event at the Miami Book Fair this past November was a dramatic reading from some ancient Greek plays. It is part of a project created by writer, director and translator Bryan Doerries. He is co-founder of Outside the Wire, a social-impact company that uses theatre to address modern societal issues that arise from conflict and the recovery from disasters.
He is the author of a book that was the topic of a reading and discussion in the Book Fair’s largest meeting room. Doerries said the “notion you can’t know another person’s pain in central to this project. Pain may be unknown, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to understand. This project tries to build a bridge between two islands with the soldier on one and the public on the other.”
He uses ancient Greek plays to elicit responses from audiences, who are often serving members of the military. “The wisdom and insights we have gleaned from these plays,” he said in Miami, “have come from the audience members.” He appended the remark “There’s a wealth of suffering in Miami.”
Doerries was joined at the Miami Book Fair by two veteran actors for a dramatic reading from the book. David Strathairn, nominated for an Oscar in the movie Good Night and Good Luck, said this of the translation of the ancient plays by Doerries:
“There is nothing between the sound and the meaning of the words. You don’t have to wonder what Sophocles is trying to say.” Strathairn said of the ancient Greek plays that “however it comes out, it transcends and becomes a universal thing. It is a primitive kind of music.”
The essence of the book is contained in this passage on page 222:
“Greek tragedy, it seems, permits audiences to look at the present moment through the lens of the distant mythological past, in order to see more clearly what cannot be perceived up close.”
The author wryly observes in the book that “Aeschylus is known for having written in his play Agamemnon that humans ‘learn through suffering,’ but for most students, studying ancient Greek drama is just an exercise in suffering, with no apparent educational value.”
Doerries sums up his ethos this way in the book, which I highly recommend :
“The flaw in our thinking about tragedy is that we look for meaning where there is none to be found. Tragedies don’t mean anything. They do something.”
The Theatre of War: What Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Teach Us Today (284 pages) is $26.95 by Alfred A. Knopf.
Photo of Bryan Doerries by C. Cunningham
For the 30th year the Plantation Museum, just west of downtown Ft. Lauderdale, is hosting an extraordinary collection of Christmas trees. The number grows each year, so visitors through January 9, 2016 can now see 40 trees, each decorated with a specific theme.
The most topical one is the Star Wars/Star Trek tree, with the helmet of Darth Vader on top and his cape draped just below. Ornaments from the Star Trek show decorate the tree in one of three rooms. The museum closes for most of November so that a whole host of staff and volunteers can decorate the trees, and once the exihibit ends, the museum is closed for a few more weeks to put it all in storage for another holiday season.
It all started with the President's tree 30 years ago, and has grown so popular that 3,000 people now see the exhibit annually. The Twelve Days of Christmas is given its own tree, complete with 12 Scottish pipers, one of which is shown in the photo here.
The Museum is located behind the library at 511 N. Fig Tree Lane in Plantation. For opening times (it is closed Dec. 25), go to this website and click on the "Winter Wonderland flyer" http://www.plantation.org/Museum/
Speaking of Scottish pipers, if you want to hear the real thing and have a fine Scottish meal too, sign up for the annual Burns Dinner, hosted by the Scottish American Society of South Florida. The date is Jan. 23 at at the Orangebrook Golf and Country Club, 400 Entrada Drive in Hollywood. Dinner ticket is $40.
Details at their website: http://www.sassf.org/events/burns/burns.html
Eileen Pollack did make it into academia, but not the way she planned. Now a professor at the University of Michigan, she teaches creative writing. Her plan was to be a theoretical astrophysicist, looking into the deepest mysteries of the cosmos.
This book is the story of her journey from the stars to the earth. In a presentation at the Miami Book Fair this year, Pollack said “I barely understood why I walked away from science. To write the book I had to revisit my childhood love of science.”
Surveying the gender bias prevalent decades ago, Pollack found “virtually nothing has changed.”
In her book, she writes “By far the most upsetting finding I discovered is that subtle biases against female scientists still prevail, even in supposedly female-friendly disciplines such as biology.”
Pollack’s interaction with the same physics textbook I used in university, by Halliday and Resnick, highlights the difference between the male mind and the female. “The deeper I tunnel now into my copy of Halliday and Resnick,” she writes, “the more equations I find festooned with comet-like exclamation points and theorems whose beauty I noted with exploding novae of hot-pink asterisks.” My copy of the same textbook contains no asterisks, especially hot-pink ones.
In Miami, Pollack said the bias was “not that overt in my day, there were more subtle factors going on. Today I find girls were still being teased mercilessly–the girls in robotics class are assigned to bring refreshments. It’s actually worse today. Women in the 60s were rebelling against the 50s. It’s even harder now for women to see themselves as scientists.”
She cites the TV show Big Bang Theory as an example. “Girls want to be Penny, who is science illiterate, not dumpy, strange Amy. It’s a very funny show but most female scientists I know won’t even turn it on.”
As a student, Pollock chose theoretical work for a very practical reason. She admits her “propensity to commit scientific fraud was becoming a trend.” So after cheating on a lab report, she resolved “never to step foot in a lab again. I would make it as a theoretician, or I wouldn’t be a physicist at all.”
She didn’t make it. “If you are the only woman in the room,” said Pollack at the Miami Book Fair, “you underperform- you defeat yourself.”
But it was the roommate of her sister who really explained in a nutshell what Pollack spends the entire book describing. “Everyone has different strengths. If men don’t do well in a course, they blame the professor. Women blame themselves. With women, it’s all or nothing. They need to be perfect or they quit.”
If you are ordering this book which will appeal to sociologists and women looking to a career in science, don’t confuse it with a book by the same title released in 2014—that one is a memoir of Japan.
The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science is Still a Boy’s Club (266 pages) is $25.95 from Beacon Press.
Photo by C. Cunningham