July 27, 2006

Look Ma! I’m Ten Years Old!

To celebrate ten years online, historyofcuba.com is undergoing a major shake-up and re-design that includes not only new content, but improved navigation and a new site index.

Aside from a “new look” that incorporates the logo re-design from 2004, every major aspect of the site’s inner-workings has been shaken up and dusted off. Some things have been thrown away or replaced, and the timetables are no longer the main way to use the site.

New entry pages (E-pages) allow site users to explore a specific segment of Cuban history, such as Early History, Martí, Maceo, Struggle for Independence, Race in Cuba, Presidents, the 1950s, the 1960s, Bay of Pigs and the Missile Crisis. These pages are designed to give you a brief overview of the topic, event or personality, along with links to additional and/or related information available on the site. E-pages are available from the Home Page, or from the various portals (Site Index and Contents), and usually include the word “introduction” in their description.

Another major change is the implementation of a new site-wide navigation system that appears at the bottom of every page, giving users a quick way back to the home page, the table of contents (or site map), the new site index, the timetables and the galleries.

The new Site Index provides an alphabetical list of everything covered on the site, and the Contents Page provides a chronological map of everything available. Both portals can be accessed though the Site-Wide-Navigation system at the bottom of every page.


July 10, 2006

Cuba at The Movies: Topaz by Hitchcock

The first time I saw Alfred Hitchcock's Topaz, I had much more interest in film and film history than in Cuban history.

I was in the middle of writing a final paper on Hitchcock for a class when the film was shown in a local “repertoire” theatre. Topaz was the only post-1936 film by the master that I’d not seen, and it reconfirmed the thesis of my paper, that Hitchcock had made his best work in the 10-year period that began in 1951.

This was not my favorite Hitchcock film, and I had trouble caring about the main character, a French agent who goes to Cuba on a mission for the Americans. Hitchcock had all his masterpieces behind him when he made Topaz in 1969. His two previous films, Torn Curtain (1966) and Marnie (1964), were commercial bombs.

Last night I saw Topaz again for the first time since that first viewing decades ago, and I enjoyed it much more than the first time, although it’s still a minor film in Hitchcock’s filmography.

The film hurts from a lack of stars: no Cary Grant, no James Stewart, no James Mason. But it displays some of the Hitchcock style and visual panache, such as when the beautiful Cuban woman is murdered by the nasty bearded communist.

The story moves through Russia, Copenhagen, Washington, New York, Cuba and Paris. The scenes in Cuba portray stereotypes with the subtle gusto and brutality that we’ve come to expect from movie “bad guys.” There are no imitation-landmarks, as in Havana (with Robert Redford and Lena Olin) and Cuba (with Sean Connery and Brooke Adams), as most of the outdoor scenes are in the countryside. But just like in those two other movies, the beautiful Cuban woman falls for the brave Anglo male. The Cuban men are again portrayed as antagonistic and selfish. (It must be ok to starve these guys in order to change their government.)

Perhaps what I enjoyed the most about this film is precisely what makes it typically out-of-genre; no explosions or long action/chase scenes, and a thicker-than-usual plot. Still, if you’re not a fan of Alfred Hitchcock, and/or a fan of cold war movies, I’m not sure this will work for you.

From this portrayal of the revolution, it’s not difficult to see where Hitchcock’s politics may have been.