Friday, February 24, 2017

Ernest Chanes 1923-2017

Regarding our friend, ErnestChanes

“Ernie” (or Ernest, as he was known to his adoring wife) had a number of friends that he fervently admired, but he always turned to his beloved wifeJosely before he made any big decisions.Josely was a gifted artist with an international following as well as a highly sought-after chatelaine, gracing many wonderful warm-hearted gatherings. Ernie also loved the devotion of his affable stepson Emiliano Saxe, who came into his life decades ago and gave Ernie another figure to cherish.
Among Ernie’s primary relationships was that of his devoted Irish  Setter, Mitzu, who historically was devoted to Ernie and loved to range mountain peaks on weekends. While Mitzu was given the decision to periodically crash in and out of our weekend home, only to drift off on an overnight sojourn through the woods, throughout all of this, the dog saw to it that Ernie never left her side.  When a man and his dog would afterward return home, it was to heal their wounds after a blissful romp across in the countryside.
And then there was the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA)-- our organization which focuses on progressive human rights and policy issues throughout Latin America. Ernie was involved with COHA almost from the beginning, since the first faltering steps that the organization managed to take starting in the early 1970s. At the time of his death, he was serving as COHA’s Secretary as well as a member of its executive committee.
Ernie was also a well seasoned chef, a spectacular sailor, a resolute hiker, and a devoted Brazilianist. A convivial host, he presided over a table that hosted a variety of interests. Meanwhile, Josely was pugnacious in her determination not to be lead astray as she resolutely pursued her art, her career, her marriage, her family and her culture. She had talked about her art long before anyone knew precisely what she was talking about. Through all of her crusades, Ernie was always by her side, dutifully toting around her illustrations for the many shows in which she participated.
Ernest Chanes was a person whom I lived in close quarters with for decades. At these distances, his importance to COHA went far beyond his role as one of its ranking officials and a critical funder. He was at the core of the organization’s soul. With passion, he monitored events circulating around Cuba, was a lion for insisting that COHA beErnest was a proudly generous person who welcomed perplexing moments that would eventually be reconciled by his immense intellectual hunger for new ideas. In almost every facet of his star-studded life, he was on the right side of history every time and brought a barrel of creative ideas for policy initiatives to the table at any particular time. But somehow, he added much more to the organization than had just been suggested by these bits and strands of endless recollections. He was committed to fighting battles that he instinctively knew represented the right side of the “good fight.” For Ernie, there was a series of grandiose struggles that would help define, and even consume his imagination.

He was willing to embrace COHA’s mettle on all occasions and to give voice to the worthiness of the organization that at times stood empty-handed before the media, on whatever issue revealed its sense of moral value. In addition to joining in the war of ideas that colored Allende’s struggle in Chile against Pinochet, Ernest fought with passion against Argentina’s General Videla and the military regime that repressed the likes of Allende’s dignity and prevented the dousing of the constitutional veneer which was ripped away from the Bolivarians who temporarily lay decimated throughout a battered Latin America.

But everything was in place with Ernie who we so greatly loved and admired, and who revered everyone in return.Ernie was a giver who always opted for life. He grew up in a depression-era culture where funds always fell short, but that was more than compensated by the beautiful life and people with whom he surrounded himself. Ernie was known as a man who could unite others by invoking rational solutions in favor of peace and humanity. He was determined to keep the torch of progressivism be held aloft a mile high, and to be thrust even further into the open hands of another human being. Ernie will not allow any of us to forget our duties. Of course, he never did, and we hope that Brazil proves to be worthy enough to share custody of part of his being.

From the Chanes/Carvalho Household:
Ernest Chanes, activist, included in the Nixon`s enemy list, dies at 93 in Rio de Janeiro.
Ernest Chanes passed away at home in Leblon, Rio de Janeiro on February 8, 2017. He will be remembered for his ethics, compassion, intelligence and memorable beard Lincoln style, unforgettable laugh, and a list of causes and endeavors that could fill several lifetimes.
Born on June 13, 1923 to Russian Jewish immigrants, he grew up in the Bronx during the depression. After the early loss of his father, he helped his mother and sister by fishing and selling fish from door to door. He graduated from City College of New York with a degree in mechanical engineering. During World War II he helped design rockets in the organization that later become NASA. He started three successful businesses, including Consolidated Water Conditioning and ChemTech, an environmental water laboratory.
His activism ranged from voter registration in Mississippi to progressive causes in Cuba. He participated in Freedom Summer in 1964, joining hunger strikes and creating a bond Project to liberate imprisoned Young African Americans.

As civic leader in his local progressive Democratic club, the Village Independent Democrats, during Vietnam War, he won a coveted spot on President Nixon`s enemies list in 1973.

As a board member of the Center for Cuban Studies, he went to Cuba in 1972 to assist the government with a clean water project at the invitation of Fidel Castro`s brother; organized a conference in the U.S. Congress to encourage relations between Cuba and U.S.
He was on executive committee of the National Emergency Civil Liberties and the Center for Constitutional Rights.
In 1975, Chanes provided assistance to Larry Birns in founding the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), an independent research and information organization established for human rights in Latin America, a more US attitude towards the region. Chanes remained on the board of COHA until his death.
A swimmer, a foodie, a traveler, and a dog lover – most recently best friend to a black standard poodle named Xica.
In his later years he divided his time between New York City and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, his wife`s birth country. He is survived by his great love companion of 41 years, the artist Josely Carvalho of New York and Rio; by his son, Emiliano Saxe & his wife Irma; his grandchildren, Ibrahim and Elias of California; his niece Ilene Price, and her three children Adam, Alexis and Amanda.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Manchester by the Sea and Jaroslav Halák

Saw Manchester by the Sea. A moving, engrossing film, full of trauma and sorrow. Casey Affleck did a great job of acting affectless and Matthew Broderick had a hilarious bit part as an evangelical Christian. Well-acted, well-directed, well-scored.  I do hear the critics who thought it universalized while male experience a bit too much. The funny thing is, though, the movie, set in 2015, featured an old clip of hockey goaltender Jaroslav Halák, a star when the clip was filmed, now a failed and humiliated figure. I noticed this, and then after the movie two guys behind me could only talk about Halák, and I turned around and said I had noticed it to: two hours of moving story and all three men in a well-heeled, culturally sophisticated part of Manhattan could talk about was this odd hockey detail! In a way the hockey issue brings up the problem of normed white masculinity that Alciia Christoff brings up in her essay  from the other end, that perhaps the film so assumes a model of white maleness that it does not bother to get right just the details that actual working class white men, who would be likelier than average to know who Jaroslav Halák is and appreciate the declivity of his career,  would notice and respond to…it's an eco of Trump, that their stereotypes are being addressed,but not their real needs...

Saturday, December 31, 2016

My 2017 MLA paper

Jeanine Leane unfortunately will have to miss our teaching Australian Literature panel at the Philadelphia MLA but I am doing a short paper instead, the first two paragraphs of which are below.

Reading Melissa Lucashenko’s Mullumbimby in the Age of Trump

On November 5, 2008, I taught Aimé Césaire’s Miraculous Weapons as part of the New School's then-current literary foundations course. The poem was on the standard syllabus, but I deliberately assigned that day’s class to this African diaspora text as likely to mark the election of the first African American President the day before. And so, bleary eyed but quietly celebratory, we convened and, after I acknowledged the previous day’s events, had an attentive and involved discussion of the Martinican poet.
     Eight years later, I was teaching in New York University’s School of Professional Studies and was finally getting to give a course in one of my specialties, Australian literature. For November 9, 2016, I assigned Melissa Lucashenko’s Mullumbimby. This was not directly to honor the prospective first woman President, though I certainly wanted a female writer on that day. But I wanted to gesture towards a society where multiple racial, religious, sexual, and gender identities were celebrated, and dispossessed and under-recognized  groups such as Indigenous Australians were achieving acknowledgment and redress for the land that had been stolen from them by white settlers.
       My aspirations for this day were, alas, trumped.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

From 2015--my take on the "class struggle vs identity politics" meme

"Here, I would differ from Walter Benn Michaels’ analysis of recent American literature in The Shape of the Signifier, in that from my perspective cultural diversity is not, as Michaels argues, simply an illusion proffered by a protean and transmogrifying capitalism, but an ideal genuinely to be honored. Racial justice, if it had occurred, would justify any extreme of capitalism or inequality. But is there racial" Nicholas Birns, Contemporary Australian Literature, published December 2015. And still relevant to "what should the Democratic party do?" debates today, Nicholas Kristof's op-ed in todays TIMES made me think of this passage.

Monday, November 14, 2016

My marital status may change but not my politics

With all the discussion about various divisions among groups in the election, one has been little mentioned: single people voted more for the party advocating a more compassionate, inclusive and heterogeneous society, while married people voted more for the party advocating the opposite. Isabella and I are getting married this spring and it will be a happy and special and wonderful event. But, God willing, may I still vote the way the single people tend to do.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Forget Hillary

I have been polite so far about the election. Now I have had it because of what a now-ex-friend posted on my page. (It has been deleted).
First of all, forget Hillary. In much the same sense Jean Baudrillard once urged us to "forget Foucault." Bracket her. Leave her aside. Some like her, some don’t like her. I have worked hard for her both in 2008 and now, donating money I could not afford, making countless phone calls to total strangers. But even I will admit she has her strong points and weak points. I certainly do not claim her as a figure who should exert universal admiration.
But we are talking about Trump. And you should vote against Trump. Not for Hillary. And by this I don't mean for Stein and Johnson. I actually contributed $10 to Jill Stein when she was running for governor, I think, of Massachusetts. You can see that if you search online. But she is not presidential calibre. She is a vaccine sceptic and would not defend the country.
Gary Johnson is appealing to young white males who feel they will lose some of their privilege under a Hillary administration. Guys, one of the things straight white men have to deal with in this era is conceding our privilege. My generation had to deal with it. So does yours. Johnson is a radical free-marketer and guess what, millennials, you will be stuck with your student loans forever under a Gary Johnson administration, with your only consolation knowing what Aleppo is. And Gary Johnson would roll back the Obamacare that, among other things, paid for my colonoscopy last year. But that doesn’t matter, as he will never win. It is between Trump and the Democratic candidate.
But here is the thing: you should vote against Trump, not for Hillary, but for yourself. So many of you I know on here are idealistic, have your own dreams and aspirations; want this to be a better country and world. Your visions may be different from mine; my politics are very idiosyncratic and will be mirrored exactly by no one. But in all cases Trump will squelch and corrode your dreams. He will make them impossible. He is a racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, atavistically ignorant moron who stands against everything that has always made this country truly great, even if sometimes more in promise than in fulfillment. So forget Hillary. Close your eyes and pull the Democratic lever and just forget who is on it. Vote against Trump. Vote for yourselves and your dreams.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Trump, Obama, Putin--and systemic racism

Can anybody deny that when Trump says Putin is 'far more' of a leader than Obama, he is appealing to race and race only? In other words, I don't see Trump saying that Xi Jinping or Narendra Modi or Shinzo Abe is more of a leader than Obama, just Putin--the white guy. I think there is systemic racism in American life and I am not wary of attributing nearly any aberration in American culture to this systemic racism. This certainly includes "Mr. Trump" and his bizarre hostility to our President, whose American birth he has denied.  And, furthermore, I believe that, to my horror and disgust, this systemic racism 'trumps’ the Republican Party's historic hostility to Russia (seen as recently as Mitt Romney’s comments in 2012), and their historic championship of the small countries menaced and, yes, dominated a 1976 campaign reference), by the USSR and now Russia. I think Estonia, Poland, etc. are finding hat their former Republican friends have swerved away now that a chance to champion a more powerful white man, Putin, has presented itself