In 1952 Che Guevera, then
a young medical student, took a motorcycle trip across South America.
What he saw on that trip, specifically the poverty and inequities
of the people there, turned his ambition from medicine to revolution.
In 1996, Patrick Symmes, a U.S. journalist, set out on his own motorcycle
journey, retracing Che's tracks, hoping to discover the real Che under
the layers of mythology. Chasing Che describes his trip. Unfortunately,
the "real Che" remains elusive, and, in a sense, so does
Symmes' book. Part of the problem is that he can't seem to decide
what kind of book he is writing. Is it a biography? A travel book?
A treatise on recent South American history? At various points, it
is each of these. Yet most of the time, they exist almost as separate
In a few or the more transcendent chapters, Symmes
does manage to synthesize his themes. In a visit to a copper mine
in northern Chile, Symmes relates what Che saw, how he reacted to
it, and how little has changed since. A similar melding of topics
occurs at the end, when he arrives in Bolivia, the scene of Che's
death. How little has changed is a recurring them of Chasing Che.
Just as Che Guevera has been turned into a pop culture icon, (distant
from, and at times at distinct odds with the revolutionary he was),
so the notion of revolution has turned from the optimism of the pointless
violence of Peru's Shining Path, without changing any of the underlying
social conditions. Chasing Che is an entertaining and informative
book. But it reads almost as an outline of something greater. Most
likely it will pique your curiosity for more in depth examinations
of Che Guevera, the history of South America, and the global struggles
against poverty which continue today. But it will not satisfy that
G. Murray Thomas
|THE CLONE AGE: Adventures in the New
World of Reproductive Technology
Lori B. Andrews
Lori Andrews, attorney and
bio-ethicist, passed her bar exam on June 25, 1978, which happens
to have been the birth date of Louise Brown, the world's first test
tube baby. Her latest book, THE CLONE AGE, relates her experiences,
both as an attorney and as a technical advisor, in the rapidly expanding
field of reproductive technology.
As doctors and researchers scramble to come up with
viable means in order to provide the childless with progeny, the old
story continues to hold true: whenever human values are at stake,
someone stands ready to make a profit, and the more emotionally loaded
the circumstances, the higher the stakes.
THE CLONE AGE makes fascinating reading, even if
one is not familiar with current developments in reproductive and
genetic research. Lori Andrews is more than conversant with both.
She has served as an advisor to the United States Congress, the World
Health Organization, and to the Centers for Disease Control. She is
currently a professor of law at Chicago-Kent College of Law, and director
of the Institute for Science, Law and Technology.
Andrews delineates medicolegal problems in clear,
uncluttered language. Her presentation is lively, compassionate and
occasionally humorous, with anecdotes that range from the absurd to
the grotesque. For example:
In England, a doctor preparing
to transplant an ovary into an infertile woman was dissuaded from
doing so by authorities who informed him that any resulting children
would be considered illegitimate by the courts.
At a Midwestern hospital, the wives and parents of six comatose
men applied to the resident andrologist (a male fertility specialist)
to have the patients' sperm extracted by electroejaculation.
A wealthy but childless couple who died in a plane crash were survived
by several viable, albeit frozen, embryos. Would the embryos inherit
the multimillion dollar estate, or would the estate inherit the
"There seems to be a world of difference between reproductive technologies,
(in vitro fertilization, egg donation, sperm donation, or surrogate
motherhood), which allow couples to make up for a missing ingredient
in the normal reproductive process, and the technologies now being
proposed to let dead men beget children, to reanimate dead fetuses,
and to create children with only one genetic parent," maintains Andrews.
Her main objection to cloning is that "...it replicates everything troubling
about reproductive technologies: excessive commercialization, reckless
experimentation on women, procedures undertaken without consent, unmonitored
physical and psychological risks."
To the National Institutes of Health, cloning is
the next big gamble. But to Andrews, traditional reproduction has
come to represent the continued progression of human development,
while cloning, with its myriad ethical and genetic hazards, has become
a metaphor for our subconscious desire to keep things as they are...to
maintain a status not necessarily quo.
|THE OTHER SIDE OF SILENCE
In 1919, shortly after signing
the Armistice, Franklin Delano Roosevelt initiated an investigation
into "immoral conditions" reported in and around the naval
base in Newport Rhode Island. Navy men were participating in an inordinate
amount of same sex sexual activity. The investigation became a witch-hunt,
eventually a trial covered in the national press and in the end an
embarrassment to the Navy when the investigators were revealed to
have used entrapment and participated sexually with the accused. John
Loughery uses the Newport Scandal as his springboard into the gay
history of the twentieth century in his book "The Other Side
Loughery pinpoints the Newport Scandal as the beginning
in this century of the challenging of the old order. His narrative
moves through the decades, depicting climates and morays with an interesting
blend of personal accounts, historical events, politics and pop culture.
Loughery relates how homosexuality was tolerated in Hollywood in the
twenties, the subtlety of the thirties stage and screen, and the necessity
of an unspoken "don't ask don't tell" policy during the
forties to keep the war effort going. He aptly details the inception
of the Mattachine Society by a Marxist Harry Hay in the fifties, how
gay and lesbian rights benefited from the equal rights movement of
the sixties and seventies and the shameful, willful blindness of the
Reagan administration in the eighties.
Loughery is not a great storyteller and occasionally
dry, but his insights and observations on events and culture are incisive
and enlightening. He is able to string together information, facts,
interviews and a wide variety of events, people and books into an
Having grown up in the seventies and eighties, I
came across much in "The Other Side of Silence" that I had
heard of - but not about. I knew who J.Edgar Hoover was, I didn't
know that after his death it was discovered that he had a large collection
of various photos featuring his assistant, Clyde Tolson, in his bathing
suit, bathrobe and asleep. I knew the Stonewall Riots were an important
turning point in the fight for gay rights. I did not know that the
Stonewall bar was a dive, or that the riot happened over the course
of two nights and that most Gay Pride Parades are in June to commemorate
the riots. There are more benefits to reading Loughrey's book than
just entertaining facts.
"The Other Side of Silence" paints a portrait
of a century that, for gays and lesbians, was about the struggle for
an elusively defined freedom. Individuals, who succeeded in reaching
personal goals or effected social change, frequently found themselves
challenged in a different light after crossing the finish line, but
had unwittingly set valuable examples for the culture a large. In
his concluding chapter, Loughery expresses chagrin that a century
of struggle for the right to be different but equal is rounded off
by our current decade where gay and lesbian couples want to be just
like their straight counterparts and the inherent prejudice of a phrase
like "straight acting" is missed by just about everyone.
The final point of "The Other Side of Silence" may be that
we can always have what we want, just not the way we want it. "The
Other Side of Silence" may well be the definitive summation of
Gay Twentieth Century History. Overall, Loughery's historical text
has value for the individual reader in its rendering of century that,
for gays and lesbians, was about self-affirmation and the lauding
of difference. Read it.
Reprinted with permission Hero Magazine
|THE PHILOSOPHY OF PUNK
First published back in 1992
thanks to the writer's job at Kinko's, the philosophy of punk is an
astonishing and incredible document of the 1980's US punk rock scene.
This fascinating book has sections on 1) How television, glossy magazines,
and mindless mass media have done their best to defang the beast,
2) Skinheads: Who they are, where they're from and what they have
to do with punk anyway, 3) Fanzines: Communication from the xerox
machine to the underground, 4) Anarchism: An alternative to existing
systems, what it is and why it is embraced by punks all over the world,
etc., plus an incredible article on the Straight Edge scene and it's
positive /negative influence. O' Hara has achieved a book full of
hyper-critical, yet honest as fuck, outlooks on our current existence.
Fascinating and riveting.
Carlos "Cake" Nunez
STIFFED: The Betrayal of the American
Stiffed is how I would
feel if I had paid $27.50 for these 500 pages of pseudo-sociological
drivel. Susan Faludi tries her best to explain the current "male
crisis." That crisis being the trauma that me are facing, due
to the lack of high-paying jobs that allow them to support a family
and own nice things, resulting in their bad behavior.
Her basic explanation is simple: post WWII men
were promised a certain standard of living that held true until
the '60's when suburbia fell apart and some men became confused
and unable to act like decent human beings. Additionally, the young
men of the '60s were given a war they could not win, unlike their
grandfathers, which has left them feeling bad whether they went
to Vietnam or not. All this has been further compounded by the corporate
and military downsizing of the past 20 years. The problem, according
to Faludi, had only gotten worse as society has forced men into
service jobs (rather than jobs where they work with their hands
and make something) and "ornamental" jobs like Hollywood
action star and pop gang icon. All of this sounds eerily similar
to the psychological belief in the 50's that women were depressed
and rebellious because they needed to get married and have children.
Generalizing about gender can, and in this case does, go both ways.
While it would be easy to blame the state of manhood
today on the broken promise of the American dream, what Faludi fails
to realize, or mention, is that male immigrants at the turn of the
century (and before and after) also faced this particular broken
promise and its results: domestic violence, criminal activity and
emotional problems. However, America has run out of immigrants and
has turned on a higher echelon of workers, like aerospace managers
and military workers, in order to make a profit. The majority of
her case study set is white collar or government employees, and
as most underemployed workers will tell you, it's only news when
it happens to the affluent. The exceptions to this set are the Spur
Posse, Monster Kody and Sylvester Stallone, all of whom, in this
media-driven world, also represent a kind of affluence.
Though Faludi does extensive and interesting case
studies of her subjects, she fails to name a concrete cause for
the crisis. Who exactly betrayed the American man? Who promised
the illusive American dream anyway? Throughout the 500 pages of
sympathy for those who have failed to have their dreams come true,
she fails to mention that the vast majority of the architects of
downsizing, Hollywood movies, gangs, the media and the military
and in the end the American dream itself, are men. So for every
group of men who have been stiffed, at least one has gotten rich.
Maybe her subtitle should have been "the betrayal of the middle-management
male." The main villain in this drama is, of course, rampant
capitalism fueled by a failing but desperate military industrial
complex. It's easy in these post-USSR days for journalist in the
US, a country that believes might makes right, to presume that the
best economic system is the one left standing, thereby overlooking
the possibility that capitalism is the problem (I'm sure this is
especially true when you write best-sellers).
Additionally, like Faludi's first book, Backlash,
Stiffed is bad sociology. It will be easy for Faludi's "gender
of the day" to cling to her book like a Bible and say "see
this is why I am the way I am." I guess in a world where blow
jobs are worthy of congressional investigation and people are more
interested in a prosecutor's haircut than her ability to convict
a murdered, this does make Stiffed good popular journalism. However,
after reading this book, I have to say forget popular journalism.
If you want to understand the "male crisis" in America
today, go down to your local independent bookstore and buy a copy
of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. It's shorter, cheaper and
gets right to the point.