LINES OF THE DAY

". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Admiral (2015)

English title: Admiral - Dutch title: Michiel de Ruyter (2015) Dutch film about their great hero of the Anglo-Dutch naval wars of the 17th century, Michiel de Ruyter.  I watched this via netflix streaming.

Michiel de Ruyter painted by Ferdinand Bol in 1667
Admiral was an admirable distraction from my congestion and coughing last night. O, those ships were gorgeous. But it does seem the writers could have done a bit more to identify the causes for these conflicts beyond Charlie 2 being such another feckless Stuart of the fully feckless Stuart dynasty. It would have been nice if the English adversaries at sea, such General Monck (made Duke of Albemarle), had been identified. As Walter Jon observed, this isn’t a film that is likely to appeal to anyone who isn’t interested in the history of the matter or in pitched naval battles per se. 

That said, it was a terrific pleasure to watch de Ruyter's fleet's invasion via the Medway River, which concludes with the burning of the English fleet anchored off Kent at Chatham -- particularly if one recalls those entries in Pepys's diary, where he views the aftermath with the Duke of York and other notables.

This was the Embarrassment of Riches century for the Dutch. Global marine trade had made them even more wealthy than their previous control of Europe’s textiles trade and manufacture. They were also aggressive privateers, successfully taking the mercantile ships of the French, Spanish and English, all of whom had designs on protestant Netherlands’ territory on the Sea, and their global trade dominance. 


Beyond this, however, slavery in the new world and the Dutch slave trade out of Africa to supply slaves to Caribbean and North American colonies This is a huge economic resource over which the Dutch and the English are fighting now — control of the slave entrepots on the West African coast, above the Portuguese controlled Kongo. The Dutch first managed to push the Portugese out of the upper coasts pretty much all the way down to the equator by then. Now it was the Dutch and English fighting for control. Charlie II and his cronies had started the Royal African Company specifically to get into the African slave trade and thus Charlie could have some cash to jingle in his always cash-poor privy pockets.

The English ultimately won this one, initiating the gloriously wealthy-from-the-slave-trade-18th-century for Liverpool, Bristol, London and to a degree some other British cities, particularly in Scotland. Beyond the sale of bodies of Africans themselves, the African slave trade required so much out of which to get fabulously wealthy, from ships and financing, to insurance, to all those shackles and manacles, supply, etc.  There were no qualms in England for supplying these services to the British slave trade – though this was also the century in which the movement to abolish the African trade got started and the century in which slavery as a condition in the British Isles was abolished.

None of these matters concerning the African slave trade rivalry or any of the European powers, including the Dutch, are matters for this film.  This is just background information that I brought to the watching of it, and which made it work for me.  So did memories of reading about the aftermath the defeat of the conjoined French and English naval invasion in a volume of Dumas's Musketeers chronicles, and with the Spanish invasion in the Altriste novels,  1672 was called in Dutch history, "rampjaar" -- the Disaster Year.  Among other things the Dutch deliberately broke their dikes in the Spanish held territory and flooded out everyone, citizen and invader alike.  The Spanish soldier's point of view of the aftermath is admirably brought to life in the historical novel series, Las aventuras del capitán Alatriste by Arturo Pérez-Reverte via his novel (1968 in Spain; 2007 in U.S.), Sun Over Breda.  As this is about the Dutch, however, the rampjaar is dealth with via time lapse from an ever higher altitude camera so we see no details of that horrific period.

Nor is there any mention in this film that attempts to deal with the Anglo-Dutch wars how the Dutch traded the Nieuw Amsterdam colony to England. These are the sorts of things that only somebody like me though, would be thinking about while watching this lush action-adventure, that is mostly on the sea.



There was probably another reason why the English — or at least the Lords — were so hot to go to war with the Dutch during Charles II’s reign. So many of the protestants in the reigns of both the Catholic supporters, Kings James and Charles I were given refuge in the protestant Netherlands, from where they plotted to take down the crown and, from which others escaped their majesties’ pursuit to the New World — from where they returned in droves to support Cromwell and the execution of Charles I — and, of course, get places in the administrative structure and return of their properties.  Charles II and the other returned-to-power nobility had not forgotten any of this.

Like the slave trade which the Royal African Company was about (though he writes so often about going the Company’s house ‘on the king’s business”, this was something else that Pepys was too discreet to put details down on paper, even in his own most private diaries.

The Admiral film presumes its Dutch audience knows all these historical matters. Its focus is Dutch political conflicts between the Republic and the forces that want a king* like other European nations -- as well as on the several great battles that Michiel de Ruyter won for them.

Warning: there is a prolonged sequence of horrific violence that includes the torture and mob dismemberment of Michiel de Ruyter's patrons, Johan and Cornelius de Witt, brothers.  Johan had been the prime minister of the Dutch Republic for 20 years, and successfully brought them through the wars -- not least by backing commoner Michiel de Ruyter over his aristo rivals.

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*  They got as their king, the Dutch stadtholder William III of Orange-Nassau (William of Orange), who had married James II's daughter, Mary Stuart. Not long after he invaded England, bloodlessly dethroned his father-in-law -- the final feckless Stuart, in what is known as "The Glorious Revolution" of 1688, and took the crown for himself. Along the way, William betrayed many, as royalty, would-be and otherwise, does.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Fluff TV - Spoilers: Mysteries of Laura, Republic of Doyle, Killjoys, Grantchester, Nashville

For the second time in a row, el V returned from Cuba with Something, which he then generously passed on to me.  Neither of us fully recovered from the previous bout of whatever-it-is, particularly the coughing.  We did have a purrfect weather day Thursday and I felt quite wonderful, and the cough itself receded so much that I dared to think it was really on its final way out.  But yesterday, again wet, windy, grey, and by later in the night downright chilly, the cough was back as badly as it had ever been, with accompanying lassitude.  Woke about 4 AM today and there was no denial: body aches, congestion, sore throat, swollen glands and that pressure thing behind the eyes and sinking abdominal sensation.  Ay--up: sick, o yes, sick.  Again.


So there is going to be a lots of fluff tv in my immediate future.  The following are part of what I consider "fluff tv" and which I've been watching the last few weeks.  I don't go in for guilty pleasure. If it's a pleasure, it's not guilty. But I do make a distinction between something like the series below and say, watching something like this -- which I'm very much looking forward to watching.

Fluff TV

The Mysteries of Laura

The first season (2014 - 2015) of NBC's The Mysteries of Laura, was adapted from a Spanish television series, Los misterios de Laura. is slap jack and light-hearted, with no resemblence to the NYPD or NYC crimes we all know. The series got two seasons, and They Say the second season was darker which may be why it got cancelled this spring.  This past week it was announced there would be no third season. But the bridges and bumpers between scenes and the opening shots were NYC, pure NYC, filled with excitement and adrenaline,in the way the same were for White Collar or for Elementary, another NYC show that I adore.

White Collar did exciting work with cinematography, ensemble of actors and writing than network tv's Laura could do, especially with a 20 + season's worth of episodes. WC was all around a higher quality show, with no doubt a much bigger budget.  However, the nice difference between that series and Laura, is  Laura is a working class NYC of sports bars, commuting to work, child care emergencies, not the exalted realms of international finance, art, insurance, etc. that were White Collar’s playgrounds. Even when a Laura episode dealt with art or banking or private schools, it was always as Laura and her boss - ex-husband as working class outsiders. It was fun. The principals are all actors that most television watchers who aren't me would recognize from other successful network television series.

The Republic of Doyle

Now that Laura's first season has been watched, the dinner making time of day watching has been succeeded by a Canadian Newfoundland-Labradorian series called The Republic of Doyle, set in St. Johns, Newfoundland. Six seasons all together, the first season aired in 2010, which I'm currently 3/4 through. Father, Malachy Doyle, and son, Jake Doyle, work as private investigators out of Malachy's house's garage -- and Jake is back living there too, as his marriage with rather unstable outside her medical work, Nikki Renholds, has gone kaput -- but he can't quit her, despite having the wonderful Detective Sergeant of St. John's police force also on his string.. Other people living in Malachy's house is his girlfriend Rose (who has A Past he didn't know) and his 15-year-old grand-daughter, Tinny. There are many complications -- "it's complicated" is a favorite line -- among characters recurring and arriving, and shenanigans, secrets and lots of chasing, and lots of drinking in a bar called the Duke of Duckworth, which is a real and popular place in St. Johns. The central figure is Jake, the pure distillation of man-boy indeed, including he always thinks first with his d*ck,  which can be wearing. There is no limit to the number of beautiful and often fatal women who show up in St. John's and inevitably cross the eyes of Jake. But again, it's the sense of local locale and ensemble that makes it work.

Indeed, there was an episode that made gentle fun of itself for the Doyle's quirky, quaint people and location.  A many millions internationally selling crime writers shows up to follow Jake around.  His sales are beginning to wane, so his publisher, editor and agent all told him he should start a fresh new series -- a QQCM -- "Quirky, quaint cosy mystery." This ruffles Jake's fur, especially as the writer imposes plots and motives and even evidence according the story he wants to tell, rather than who killed who in reality >!< and why there are missing people and pieces.  But the women all love Big Successful Writer even more than they love Jake -- and everybody knows who BSW is and is willing to talk.  It's this willingness of Canadian television to often make gentle fun of itself is one of Canadian series' charms.

The Killjoys

Also the first season (2015) of a Canadian SF series, The Killjoys, which I just began. However, after three and part of the 4th episode, I rather dislike it for all the same reasons I disliked The Expanse, which I threw back into the sea as well. Quippy – but not witty, though it thinks so -- violent and riddled with that childish boy-man bs of being able to take endless punishment and walk away and never break down physically or emotionally, while always quipping.   Quite like why grimdark is often so annoying: these men never shut up!  They talk-talk-talk at each other and at the watcher - reader, while ensuring the watcher - reader is supposed to believe they are superior characters whose cheap cynicism proves it.  However its done well enough at home and on the SyFy channel that it gets another season.  For me its neither fun nor interesting, but stale as old bread, as they chase about their galactic system looking for baddies, attempting to avoid getting caught themselves, while, of course, being caught up in some mysterious backstory of the beautiful boss, yaddayaddayadda.

Grantchester

Grantchester season 2 on PBS concluded.  Was not particularly happy with the finale which has Our Vicar reunited with pregnant (not by him), still married, ex-girlfriend.  Do not like girlfriend. Nothing there to make her special. Kind of interesting that the Reverend Sydney Chambers is played by James Norton, who is a very big pyschopath bad sex-serial killer on Happy Valley.

Nashville

Nashville is canceled by ABC.  No season 5 will appear  Two more episodes of season 4 to go.  The writers / network really bolloxed it up after the first season.  Nor did things ever get fun again once Juliette and the actress who played her got pregnant, and both of them suffered post-partum depression, so Juliette was mia for a long time.  The music though, was always good, much better than what one does hear on country radio.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Genre Mashup -- Thriller + Fantasy

How does a writer reconcile satisfactorily two different genres with different narrative demands?


Peter Higgins writes about the challenges bringing together the colliding thriller genre and fantasy genre elements -- from structure to pacing to fantastic vs realistic in his Wolfhound Century trilogy fantasy modeled on Soviet Russian history.

As an example of what Higgins learned:
I soon realised it wasn’t just the diverse story elements that were in constant creative tension, it was the genres themselves. Fantasy and thriller are two distinctly different ways of thinking and imagining. They stretch and tear and illuminate each other, and I was constantly working to keep them in balance. Thriller wants to press on and keep the tension high, fantasy wants to linger and explore; thriller wants to end decisively, fantasy wants to go on expanding forever. . . . 
Free imagination versus rules and control: that’s one way of conceiving the collision between thriller and fantasy. Thriller is about the logic of conventions: plot, believability, recognisable character types, mysteries that have hidden solutions, resolutions waiting to be uncovered. As a writer of thrillers, you have to follow the rules or it just doesn’t work. Fantasy is otherwise. A fantasy story, once it announces itself as such, can do anything it wants. It can say anything and go anywhere. Bring back the dead. Cure any sickness. Animate any inanimate thing and give it a voice. In fantasy, you can take any pleasure you like from anything you can think of. I found that fantasy wants to break thriller apart: it wants to split the carapace, disrupt the predetermined plot machine and crack open an inexhaustible well of narrative possibility. Refreshing and repurposing, fantasy unlocks the strangeness, plenitude and imaginative wealth inside the thriller world.
Beyond this, however, Higgins goes on to explicate why he thinks these two genres together are successful in his work because the religious, political and cultural history of Russia are by heritage used to the fantastic insertion into the daily mundane reality.  In other words he didn't just go, o wouldn't it be cool to have zombies run around in Elizabeth Bennett's village! Which doesn't work for a satisfying reading experience, but instead is so preposterous as to be stupid -- unlike Wolfhound Century --  because that's not how that culture and history behave -- as Austen herself illustrates in Northhanger Abbey.

The three volumes are titled Wolfhound Century (2013), Truth and Fear (2014) and Radiant State (2015).  Published, I believe, by Orbit UK and Orbit U.S.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Reading Wednesday -- The Valley Campaign 1864 + History Channel Roots 2016

There's a great deal to absorb about the initiation of the very worst year of the War of Rebellion, 1864 - 1865, in the Shenandoah Valley -- i.e. the Valley Campaign -- which began there, with D.C. raid and actions against the B&O railroad, invasions into Maryland, and Pennsylvania by Jubal Early's corps.

However, el V's just returned from another 8 days in Havana, and we're getting him ready for a foray to North Carolina for a concert next week, so I don't have time today to go into it.  Alas.

Plus I've been doing a lot of reading and watching around Alex Haley and Roots, in preparation for the interview concerning the new televised series that premieres on Memorial Day (when I'll be at the Gullah-Geechee Festival outside Beaufort, South Carolina).

Here's the official History Channel trailer for Roots, 2016:


Monday, May 9, 2016

Sad and Satisfied: The Good Wife Final Season Finale Episode - Spoilers

Though perhaps in the minority, "End"  finale of The Good Wife's seven season series, felt just right to me.  It even made me tear up slightly at one point. I am going to miss this series, though it clearly had run its course and it was time, maybe even more than time, for it to wrap.


"End," the season's finale episode's ambiguity, is what many seem to dislike. But then life doesn't run in tidy, structured television arcs and novel narratives.  Many wanted Alicia to end with new love, surrounded by female friends in a successful all female firm.  Most of all viewers seemed to dislike having old love come out of her own past passion and loyalty to give her advice, because he's a he.  She's supposed to do it all on her female empowerment.  But -- her empowerment came directly out of how good a lawyer she's been during all these years.  She got to use and show her capacity and talent and brilliance because her old time love Will, provided her the stage on which to show the scope of her abilities -- they'd been in law school together, as her husband Peter had been.  Will, it turns out, was the heart and soul of that law firm, and when he was murdered, the heart and soul went out of it, confusion and backstabbing took the place of the deep partnership that he had with senior partner Diane.


The almost-this-is-a-dream sense of the last scenes was realistic too, considering how much stress everyone's been under for so long, and in this particular sequence, how sleep deprived. O, did this show on Alicia's bare, colorless face. Only Diane rose above it in the final scene, standing at Peter's press conference in a metal-silver suit that may as well have been a suit of armor. That she bitch slapped Alicia, yah -- and a lot less lethal for them both than a sword or halberd. It's Diane's life that was destroyed in that courtroom case defending Peter from obstruction of justice and corruption.

Diane's life was destroyed by the Florricks standing together for the sake of family and career.  Alicia made the same sort of decision that Diane would have made -- if it had been her husband as client, and Alicia's husband as witness. Nor was this the first time Diane was screwed over by the Florricks (she as supposed to be appointed to the state supreme court, and then wasn't for political convenience) though nothing this emotionally and personally devastating, as making her husband admit to having an affair with another witness in the case. Alicia was fortunate that Diane is so intelligent she didn't use a weapon beyond her hand.

Though, let's be honest here.  Diane had more than once screwed Alicia over when it was to the benefit of her law firm and the senior partners' profit,  or when professionally useful . . . . Nevertheless, the destruction of Diane's marriage by the Florricks for their own sake is merely the canary in the coal mine telling we the audience how many lives along the way have been damaged for the sake of Peter's political ambition.

The worst looking wig ever!

Though, there's this -- never has a bitch slap improved a woman's hair before, leaving Alicia looking much, much better after Diane cracked her cheek. Why o why those hideous wigs for Alicia Florrick all season 7?

The crumbling of all Diane's world was there fo all the world to see in Diane's face when Luca went to cross Kurt. In front of that judge who disliked Diane already.  And he knows and so does everyone else in the courtroom, and soon everybody else too.  While Kurt felt betrayed by her.

Mirroring Alicia's devastation in the first season's episodes, dealing with infidelity's endless revelations: in public.

It's almost as though the real story of "End" is Diane's.  What is she going to do now?  We know Alicia will be fine, option choices already dangling in front of her.  I'd like to see what happens with Diane now.  The actress is certainly more than capable of carrying a show on her own.  Diane Lockhart was my favorite character.

Farewell, Good Wife.  I began watching you in Chestertown, Maryland, back in 2010. The series began on CBS in the fall of 2009, concluded in the spring of 2010. I caught up with the first season via netflix in the fall of 2010 when it began again the fall of 2010, streaming weekly, with breaks, from the network).  As with the ensemble characters of The Good Wife, so much has happened in my life since then.  I'm going to miss you, all of you -- with a few exceptions, hello, Canning!.  But, yah, time to move on.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Checking In From the Blue Ridge Mountains -- Staunton, VA

Stopped off here to see an old friend* (from Lincoln Ctr.'s sponsorship of Rhys Chattham's hundreds guitars piece, for which El V was one of the diredtors), and visit the Woodrow Wilson Pres. Library.


Wilson is the POTUS who officially instituted federal apartheid for any federal work was born here, though early  his life his Slavery rahrahah Secession minister father moved them to Georgia . . . .

So many places and people, so much history, in so few days.

In the meantime, there's this from Publisher's Publicist:
The American Slave Coast (9781613748206) was referenced and quoted from in an article by Malcolm Harris posted to The New Republic on 4/27/16.

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*  This friend, met while he volunteered and spent some weeks in NYC to rehearse the piece (in el Vs section) also creates the acoustic spectrum tracking hardware and software of planets and stars for the great astronomical telescopes such as Hubble. He love music and particularly guitars.  He also repaired el V's dead vacuum tubes for his classic Fender amp.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Columbus plus Slave Coast plus Cuba

Columbus, Georgia is interesting, past and present! I could easily spend lots of time here. It's a good place to live.

This city on the border of Alabama, where the last battle of the Civil War was fought -- after the surrender at Appomattox -- is a wealthy city and always has been.

The Chattahoochie River
 The Chattahoochee River runs all the way down to the Gulf up from high up in the Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains. The river's fall line is here at Columbus.  Thus, with this outlet to the Gulf, the spot was a natural place to establish a market city for the receiving of goods, including slaves for sale, and for sending cotton to market.  The river made dams easy to construct for cotton and textile mills and other industry powered by steam.  As a fair economic anomaly in the antebellum states with manufacture and business, African Americans, slave and many free, were skilled artisans who worked in various industries, not in the cotton fields.  At the outset of the War of Southern Conquest Columbus was one of the few industrial centers in the confederacy. It's mills and factories provided uniforms for the army (never anywhere close to enough), boilers and other iron work for the ships, including the iron clads, and the Slidell ships that preyed on Union mercantile shipping.

Typical Chattahoochie River activity these days.
After the war the city's economy recovered very quickly, and now there's container ship loads of wealth washing about Columbus from Coca Cola (the family who sold it to the Atlanta owners still retain very lucrative interest in the business), Aflac auto insurance (this city is all about servicing automobiles) and the processing of credit card transactions.  However, many of these private very wealthy individuals eagerly and generously give money to the university and many other productive institutions and projects for Columbus -- which makes this a pleasant place to live.

The River Walk below the arts campus of Georgia State University in Columbus. The Dillingham Bridge (1910 - 19120 connects Columbus, Georgia and Phenix City, Alabama.  The engineer of the Bridge was African American.  The bridge's location is part of the site of the last Civil War battle.
Even the weather at the moment is more than pleasant: currently it is hot in the day and sunny, balmy at / after sunset. (In NYC it's miserable, chilly and raining. Gonna be like that there through the weekend. However, in another week or so, it's going to be brutally hot here, so there's that.)

The Slave Coast event today was held one campus -- there are at least two campuses, within walking distance of each other. Working here has to be great, and being a student as well. Due to the wealthy people mentioned above, and hte very many scholarships and programs they fund, there is a large diversity of students and programs.  They are very strong in both the technologies and the arts, both of which are very well-funded.

We were slotted into the main humanities Schwob Library. The presentation was was well attended, by people from the community, faculty and their students, heads of various areas of the library and the history dept. and some friends drove over from Atlanta to hear us.  The event concluded with interesting and smart questions, and a great deal of commentary about the capitalist system, which demanded the shredding historically of the black family, preventing any aggregation generationally of resources, wealth and influence, in contrast with the owners of the black families. The white family networks continued to inter-marry with each other in the southern and northern branches, getting richer, better connected and more powerful in every generation.  This means that whenever an individual family member had difficulties there was a large safety network to hold that person up (which allowed for southern families in these networks to re-establish their positions quickly after the War of Southern Aggression concluded).  Black families did not have this.

We would have participated ourselves more in the discussion if we'd gotten any sleep over the last three nights.

After being taken to lunch we were given a guided tour of the city's history past and present, and the university's history (founded in 1958), past and present.

Less positively, the Georgia governor is about to sign into law the right to open carry on Georgia campuses. Not in fraternities, gyms, housing or anywhere else except -- the libraries and research facilities and classrooms.

The state as a whole didn't want this, but the NRA swooped in with freight loads of money and sponsored 'their' guys in the legislature and got it. 19 states now, where the NRA has done this.

Tonight's going to be an early one thank goodness, as we excused ourselves early from dinner.  We've eaten all too well and too much over the last three days -- southern food and southern company is irresistible, but we had to leave.

We were planning to take a leisurely, winding route back home, but it turns out we have to get back home as soon as possible since Ned's going to Cuba again for 8 days, early on the 3rd, and things have come up over night re TASC, including a request to be interviewed for a new ESPN program featuring -- get this! us!? -- sports -- race and culture, debuting May 17th. The hostess of this new program wants to interview us about Slave Coast issues in connection with the reboot of Alex Haley's Roots, which premieres on the History Channel May 30. She wants to do this interview asap.

We're spending tomorrow night in Athens, as tomorrow we're being hosted for lunch by this fellow: scroll down to "Charles Peters" . . . and having dinner with an anthropologist at the university who has been doing a lot of work with the Georgia ring shout groups.

This means we can't be get home until later, on Friday night. Laundry and other preps for Cuba where Himself's running a conference on Cuban music and it's future and influence in the world at large must be raced through between Sat. - Mon.

Also, I have to watch the whole reboot of Roots by Monday.