". . . 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

Monday, July 28, 2014

Niccola Griffith AsksWho Owns Science Fiction and Fantasy

She does it in an essay here, on Charles Stross's blog, "Charlie's Diary."

It begins:

I’m English. I've lived in the US a long time (in fact last year I got my US citizenship) but I’m still English. You can tell: all I have to do is speak. There's no hiding that accent. In England, I belong. I visit often; I feel at home; I just don't live there anymore.
A few years ago, when William Gibson was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, he said: I am a native of science fiction but no longer a resident.2 I understood exactly what he meant.
My most recent novel, Hild, has no fantastical elements whatsoever. It's not set in a secondary world, there are no dragons, no wizards casting spells, no special swords or magic rings. Yet the book has been nominated for three SF awards3. Why?

It's a nice essay, but I do have a caveat. In my judgment, and I'm a qualified judge, one would think,  Hild is not a literary novel; it's historical fiction.  It's not even a literary novel as historical fiction, as is Wolf Hall, for instance.

I can give my reasoned reasons as to why that's my judgment, but am mostly occupied by the hell of New Computer: making it be a computer, not a tablet, transferring, migrating, trying to figure out how to use the *&*&^%%$ thing as a useful machine.  Which also might mean dumping my main e-mail account, as MS dropped live mail in favor of Outlook, which they previously dropped in favor of Live, which so infuriated me I never changed over.  I had liked Outlook Express very much, and never did like Live Mail at all.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Vikings - Season 3 - History Channel - Trailer

At least it looks like my favorite characters all return.

I could watch an entire episode composed of nothing but Lagertha riding her white horse through a forest and falling snow.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Austin Slim -- You Asked

There's nothing special about them, other than the fit and they are comfortable for my back while walking around and about on cement.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

It's Reading Wednesday

However, due to the Work Trip Travel from Hell, and all the issues, including computer woes, related to that, I've read nothing to speak of since July 10th.

On the 10th I read enough of the historical  "police mystery" novel (Paris, 1870; flashbacks to the War in Algeria, which would have been 1848, which doesn't fit entirely well with the age of the Parisian detectives in 1870), Baudelaire's Revenge. by Dutch novelist, Bob van Laerhoven.  I returned the book to my carry on about 2/3 of the way through, with no intent to finish it. The women are grotesques, who, morally rotten, are rapidly rotting physically. They are fairly implausible characters, though a certain segment of Parisian men such the Goncourt Brothers, and cosmopolitans such as Dickens and his companions, might view women as such surrealist, hyper-active degenerates. This reader, on the other hand, felt in dire need of mental and emotional cleansing. P
articularly this is so, as political, social, cultural and material history all inform us that women, along with children and others without legal identity, were the most powerless members of society. What they did, what they were, were actively determined by men, their poverty and lack of other opportunities.


Such choices on the author's part for female characters make the publisher's choice, to portray on the cover, a figure who resembles so closely the title screens of the televised versions of Agatha Christie's Poirot, figure all the more inexplicable.

There are constant infelicities of translation on nearly every page.

So I've read nothing but that horrid book the entire time, with the exception of re-reading for the firswt time in a long while, some splendid pages of William Faulkner's The Unvanquished -- o, how he plays with time, language and pov!

However, today, not only did the splendid UPS fellow deliver my Tony Lama boots* but serendipitously, two novels were delivered by the equally nice Fed Ex fellow (neither of whom are responsible for what it is that they bring me):

1)  Deborah Harkness's concluding volume, The Book Of Life, of herAll Souls Trilogy;

2)  Joe Abercrombie's Half a King, which is probably only the first installment of a series, and a YA series at that, though there's nothing in jacket copy or pr that says so. The only clue is the text's font size -- much larger than one sees in adult targeted readers.

Again, for this reader, it's more than annoyance when nothing informs me that a book is YA, Romance, self-published or religiously themed -- and by golly, sometimes all of them at the same time!



*  Which, with a few other high points -- all about the work -- made the Texas trip worth doing.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Johnny Winter

Forwarded from RRC . . .

RRC Extra No. 48: Johnny Winter

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THE LION IS WINTER…. Dave Marsh writes:

The whitest man of them all could not only play the blues, he could play the hell out of them. For the past 45 years, that’s exactly what he did, night after night, whether he had the ear of the whole music scene or only of those devotees and passers-by who happened to be around on any particular evening. Johnny Winter was absolutely the real thing and, although Chuck Berry, Little Richard and even Bob Dylan played their part in his pantheon, the core of it always came back to the blues.

I first saw him under duress. An albino blues guitarist laying them flat in south Texas and brought north in a whirlwind of press releases threatened worse than tedium. My girlfriend said he was exactly the kind of blues player I loved best. It took about 15 seconds to convince me that he wasn’t good, he was great. It wasn’t just that razor sharp guitar or the gravel edge of his singing. Johnny Winter onstage, bathed in blue spotlights (because white ones burned his skin) was the blues stripped to an essence, confident and raging, nervous and excitable, heart-broken and drowned in not just his own but a world of tears, including your own.

I knew Johnny a little bit in those early days, mainly because I was friends with his manager, Steve Paul, the New York City impresario who flew to Texas the minute he finished reading the first Rolling Stone article about this weird cat in 1968 . Steve had long run a club called Steve Paul’s The Scene, which was the greatest all-night jam club in the history of New York City rock. Jimi Hendrix spent a lot of time there, as did whoever else was in town, from Johnny and his friends Michael Bloomfield and Al Kooper to that other left-handed strummer, Tiny Tim. None of these was necessarily the unlikeliest person in the room on any given night.

We saw a lot of Johnny and Steve in those years in Detroit, at the offices of Creem Magazine. I can remember them turning up one day with a copy of Second Winter, the second Columbia album. Two discs, three sides, eleven songs. Fourth side blank. Why? After those, the level of material dropped off, they said. Hype? Well, anyway, a dubious rationale, albeit Columbia only turned up two outtakes when they reissued it on CD ten years ago.

But the real story was the battle they fought with CBS Records over its insistence that all albums made for the label be made at a company-owned studio using company hired and trained engineers. One of the most instructive lessons I ever had about record production came from that conversation, Johnny raving mad about the refusal of those engineers to recognize that to make this music, you needed the needle to rock into the red. Yeah, the sound got distorted. That was what the songs needed.  Johnny was righteously indignant. Steve was perfectly happy to have a good story for the papers, capped by his revelation that he had negotiated an agreement—in writing, he said—that Johnny could henceforth record wherever the fuck he wanted to, with whomever he chose.

Once, long after midnight at Creem, Johnny played us his brother Edgar’s first album, which struck me as all too arty. Johnny patiently explained, to universal incredulity, that Edgar had always been the more accomplished musician. I thought this was nothing more than touching brotherly loyalty until Edgar put together White Trash with Dan Hartman and Ronnie Montrose and sold more records in two years than Johnny probably did in his lifetime.

Johnny seemed unthreatened and, looking back on it, you have to think that he understood very well where his life’s work lay, although he did give straight-up rock’n’roll (of the day) a try, with the 1970 album, Johnny Winter And, which was a band concept, Rick Derringer on the other guitar and about half the vocals, with bass and drums by the other members of Rick’s pop group, The McCoys. It gave Johnny the closest thing he ever had to a pop hit, “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo,” Rick’s song sung by Johnny. It also gave him the only chance to croon that I can remember, on the semi-show-tune “Let the Music Play”: “I don’t know what brought you here / But I know what to do.”

Drugs, yeah, he took drugs, including all the wrong ones. He was a pretty bad mess, with a drug habit he did not discard for a very, very long time. He never tried to hide it much. One afternoon at Creem, which was living quarters as well as office space, he borrowed a bedroom for a nap. I went down to wake him up a few hours later and there he lay, sprawled out with his works neatly arranged beside him. Still breathing, but I sure the hell wasn’t gonna be the one to try to wake him up.

Yet the music continued to be fine through all of it or almost all. It was his anchor to life, maybe the only place where Johnny did know what to do. I’m guessing but how else do you explain it?

I once saw Johnny try to make sense of it. It was the early ‘80s and we were taping the David Susskind show for a “discussion” on the rock scene. Johnny was as nervous as ever; he liked people but he knew how many different ways he struck them as odd. So he kind of addressed himself to me, not a very good idea within the bounds of that particular exercise in megalomania. It was, for a while very much as if Susskind and the other guest, John Rockwell, were having one discussion while Johnny and I had another. What Johnny was trying to explain was the why of the drugs, how for him and for Janis Joplin, his friend from their youth in Port Arthur, and for others, the endless attention and...  It was as hopeless as any other mass media attempt to explain the lure and necessity of dope. But I’d pay money to have a transcript of what Johnny said, and more to have had Susskind pay attention to it, so that Johnny could’ve finished. It was probably the most sensible thing I ever heard anybody ever say about being an addict, though I remember none of his exact words. (Irish whisky + Lester Bangs the night before.) Finally, I intemperately exploded: “Johnny’s trying to tell you why.” Susskind treated it like who was I to tell him not to kick his dog, which in this case was Johnny.  I thought Johnny just trying to tell a philistine like that about such existential woes was in a certain sense more heroic than pathetic, though it was certainly both.

For me, the most heroic thing Johnny Winter ever did was make those Muddy Waters records for Steve’s Blue Sky label (distributed by CBS) in the late 1970s. I edited Rolling Stone’s record reviews then and so everything came to me early. I remember opening the first one, in 1977, not expecting much: Muddy’s last few tries for Chess had been dismally mediocre. Hard Again jumped out of the speakers, from Muddy’s first “Ohhhhhh yeah!” on “Mannish Boy.” It’s the perfect opening, not only because it summons musical thunder but because the words are all about the transformative magic Muddy not so much put into his songs but conjured from their structure. He’s boasting, but not idly, because this momentum is sustained throughout the ten songs.

Johnny’s insight came from treating Muddy, to his mind and mine the greatest of all bluesmen, as a singer and a galvanizing bandleader, not as a mere guitarist. (Muddy played no guitar on the record.) Thus, he could be surrounded, as he was on his greatest records, with superb players, mostly a bit younger than himself, and he could both record new songs and rework old ones. The version of “I Can’t Be Satisfied,” one of his defining songs, on Hard Again is a revelation—almost conversational, its cadences relaxed, nothing to prove because he is the proof. The four albums they made for Blue Sky are certainly not Muddy’s greatest recordings, but they are unquestionably his best albums, utterly traditional in the material and arrangements but recorded and organized as a modern rock artist—and I mean, artist—would.

Johnny Winter carried on, accumulating tattoos like blues merit badges. And he couldn’t entirely be ignored—the music simply wouldn’t let him fade away. Rolling Stone squeezed him in at 63 on its list of however-many greatest guitarists (he maybe wasn’t a whole lot better than more than 60% of those ranked higher). Johnny made albums once in a while—the last one was Roots, a beautiful set of classics featuring mostly well-chosen current guitar heroes (Warren Haynes, Sonny Landreth, Vince Gill, Susan Tedeschi). On it, Johnny’s singing, always scabrous and sassy, has taken on some of the tone of Dylan’s late work. But this is not a master engaged in mystification, making the listener struggle to divine a meaning that may or may not even be present. This is a bluesman,  pained and driven, reaching for lucidity. “I don’t know what brought you here, but I know what to do.” And he did it.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Marfa - Ft. Davis - The Buffalo Soldiers

By coincidence, the latest NY Times Disunion, the column that is tracking the Civil War years chronologically since 2011, concerns Kentucky's tidal waveof enlistment by, now former, slaves, the moment in 1864 the U.S. government declared it legal for them to join the military.  See: "A 'Stampede' for Freedom" by Aaron Astor here.

A Union soldier, an escaped slave from Kentucky, verified Douglass' statement when he said, “When I donned my Union blues, I felt freedom in my bones” ....

Camp Nelson, the largest recruitment center in Kentucky for the recruitment of black soldiers in 1864. Information about Camp Nelson and its black regiments here.

There are many black Kentuckian Civil War reenactors.
What unfolded over the next 10 months was one of the most extraordinary events of the entire Civil War. As many as 57 percent of all military-age black men in Kentucky joined the Army; nearly all of them had been slaves right up to the moment they enlisted. No other slave state witnessed such a staggering enlistment rate. Closest were Tennessee and Missouri, where 39 percent of eligible black soldiers joined. And just as white Kentuckians became increasingly disaffected with the emancipationist turn in the Civil War, black Kentuckians filled the state’s draft quota. ...

As all Kentuckians understood, black enlistment meant more than filling out the ranks of the Union Army in the war’s final, deadly months. In no other state was black enlistment more directly tied to emancipation than in Kentucky. Even as other Union slave states – Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas and Maryland – moved to eliminate slavery in the war’s final months, Kentucky’s Unionist leaders stood firm in favor of the peculiar institution. As a result, joining the Union Army proved to be the only path to freedom for black men and for their families. More than offering mere numbers in the ranks, these black Kentucky soldiers helped transform a conservative war for the old pro-slavery Union into a revolution in behalf of a Union based on a “new birth of freedom. 
As we know, full emancipation did not arrive until quite some time after Lee's surrender at Appomattox.  For black men, remaining in the military was the best way of ensuring their freedom would c

Though this Disunion column doesn't mention them, as outside the chronological purview, the Buffalo Soldiers come to mind, particularly this week, since after the war some of the most well-known black regiments were stationed at Fort Davis.

This map shows Fort Davis and the associated Davis Mountains State Park* location in northern Presidio County (the Davis Mountains are referred to, probably most often in Texas, as the Alps of Texas).

Life for African Americans remained difficult after Emancipation.  Among the many towering obstacles put in the way of African Americans claiming their rightful participation in society, by the various systems, north and south, African Americans were denied employment in almost any work that would allow for, either or both, accumulation of capital and the opportunity of social and political position.  The objective was to keep African Americans in the south, laboring in what became the neo-slavery of Jim Crow.

Fort Davis 1885

Fort Davis Buffalo Soldiers 1875

Fort Davis restoration

Fort Davis National historic site

An exception, to degree, to this system, was the military.  Many African Americans preferred to stay within the army than go back to work as, say, a sharecropper.  With the Civil War finished, the U.S. army could now give its attention to "subduing" the western tribes.  The postings in the Southwest were fairly miserable, far from even towns, much less urban centers.  The conditions were monotonous and frequently dangerous.  African Americans filled the need for troops.  The military provided a stable paycheck, and security from the violence of northern white supremacists, and labor coercion from southerners outraged at the idea of 'free" black men.

An account of the history of the Buffalo Soldiers at Fort Davis is here.

It also provided an opportunity to put two colonized groups of people at war with each other for the benefit of the white supremacist establishment.  But yet, yes, a man has got to do what he's got to do, to support his life and his family.  Most of all, it's not for someone like me to criticize such choices.


*  Birders' Alert:  The Davis Mountains State Park does weekly birding hikes in the primitive area of the park.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Back in Time - Monday/Tuesday - El Paso/Marfa

Yesterday we changed time zones again, from MTS, where El Paso - Juarez is located, to CST, where is Marfa. We are in West Texas, on the trans-Pecos, still in the Chihuahua Desert, on a plateau of the Guadaloupe Mountains. At 4,688 above sea level this means we are also in the land where it takes forever for liquids to come to a boil, toast to toast, etc.

A boutique town now, once its population was as large 100,000, once as small as 100, now it's 2,316.

Ranching is one of the primary businesses here, and always has been. One of my

favorite films, Giant (1956), was shot all around here. We had dinner in the very pricey Hotel Paisano restaurant last night, which is where

Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean and Rock Hudson stayed for the entire shoot. It's a splendid building, as are many others, such as the court house. When I'm feeling better, I'll do some exploring.

We're in a lovely house, owned by a gay couple in Chicago. Two bedrooms, two baths -- one of them to die for, which opens out to a small, walled in patio-courtyard, a kitchen to die for, hallways, dining room, living room, with a detached garage and detached laundry house. The front yard is screened from the street and sun with local trees and other vegetation, all of which smell wonderful. Though still an arid climate, it's not as dry here as more northwest where they're undergoing the third year of no rain. We drove twice through rain getting here.

The town is a terrific place for a few days away from it all. We were able to make our usual breakfast this morning before the MP, i.e. Marfa People, came to take Himself away. I made sure he had the sunblock -- but both of us forgot he should have taken his hat. They're shooting outdoors this morning.

In News From Back In Time (yesterday), we achieved Tony Lamas for me at a Tony Lamas factory outlet on the way out of El Paso. It was the fourth place we tried. It was a neverbefore experience, for I haave never before gone shopping with two men. I never shops with anybody, with the exception at times of going with el V and forcing him to get something wear.

PG drove with us -- in fact did the driving -- to Marfa. He got a terrific hat in the same Tony Lamas store. El V restrained himself from getting yet another hat. However, in El Paso, he did buy a pair of fiiiiiiiiiine navy and white spectators, perfect for salsa dancing, and in Juárez, the ugliest, most impractical pair of cowboy boots -- a caricature of cowboy boots one might say. He says they're for one of his Las Vidas costumes; he did wear them at the Museo de la Revolutión performance. PG, as did E, also bought boots in Juárez.

These are stores that men enjoy being in, plus I was very quick, having good idea of what I wanted. I walked into Justin's, Luchese (which two brands I've never liked anyway), see these extravagantly tooled and colored boots for rodeo queens and country star singers, but not for me. The  huge store that sold southwestern Indian jewelry, hats, saddles, belts, serapes, blankets, and you name it.  The other Las Vidas members bought lots of other stuff  there. It was good quality too, but there were no boots, oddly.

We spied the Tony Lamas outlet as we were living the city limits, and PG swerved to the frontage road exit. I have tended to like Tony Lama. I asked for the ladies' section. At first I thought this was going to be another bust. But the lady of the store showed me how to look for what I was looking for, which is PLAIN. I found something in black with a black on black design right away and tried them on. They seemed OK, if a bit large, but then, these are the extreme needle toe design -- i.e. stirrup boots, along with that higher, slanted heel, which, when I find the right pair of these, are the most comfortable foot gear for my back condition.

Walking in such boots isn't the game, but it works for me. The lady of the store returned, and found me another pair a little smaller, very much like the other, only ten dollars more in price. I put on and off both pairs several times, walking around in them. Picked the second pair after much consideration. I also chose four pairs of boot sox.

I asked if the boots could be shipped home instead of me taking them. She brightened right up and said if they went out of state they count as an out of state sale, and thus Texas sales tax isn't charged. 17 dollars shipping UPS. She's not going to send them out until Wednesday, so I'll be sure to be home when they arrive. Seventeen dollars shipping, losing the sales tax, the packing headache, and the extra baggage fee -- I came out way ahead with that.

We celebrated my boots and P's hat at Rudy's. P spied it, and it was gooooooooooood.  Rudy's loves and respects meat and all the associated dishes that go with barbequed carne.  The music was fine. The women working there were smart, competent, bouncy and darned good looking too.  About then I realized I was experienced everything I really love about Texas all at the same time.

This was followed by a chilling experience much worse than returning as citizens to the U.S. from a border city.

On I-10, driving west to east, we were stopped by a check point of Border Patrol - Homeland Security.  The highway was shut down, and the truck weigh station, that still functions as a truck weigh station, is now a Border Patrol checkpoint.  They stop every damned car pretty much to 1) determine whether or not you are U.S. citizen, whether you are carrying contraband, which presumably means human beings as well as botanicals and who knows what else.  They look inside your car, under your car, your car is sniffed by big dogs.  This time we got waved through fairly quickly, and instead of handing over our passports asked if we were U.S. citizens, and didn't bother to listen to P's response.

But what if a passenger doesn't happen to have her passport with her?  How many people never leave their homes without their passports?  I happen to, because I don't drive, and this is my non-controversial I.D. for entering university buildings and libraries.  el V and PG had theirs because we're traveling.  But what if you LIVE in that county?  Would you have your passport?  Well, probably by now you do, because that's how the U.S. rolls now.  That checkpoint announced among many other things that Border Patrol has the right to check any and every vehicle and person within 100 miles of any border.  That's a police state if I ever heard of one.

Presidio County

Presidio (derived from the latin presidium) - a fortress established in the southwestern United States by the Spanish in order to protect their missions and other holdings; "Tucson was first settled as a walled presidio" It also can mean a penal settlement or colony.

 Marfa is the county seat for Presidio County, which is located in the stretch of territory that was the disputed boundary of Texas, after the U.S. annexed all the New Mexico, California etc. territory from Mexico in the treaty that concluded the Mexican-American War (1846 1848).

 Texas insisted it all belonged to Texas. The slave power states, including all slavery all the time Texas as Mexico -- Mexico abolished slavery so Texas seceded from Mexico -- Texas a Republic, Texas as a state,  insisted it all should be slave territory. In the meantime the New Mexico Territory, which then included what is now Arizona, California, etc. were determined to be free soil. Thus the Great Debate that went on for four years, until the Great Compromise of 1850, brokered first by Henry Clay and concluded by Stephen Douglas.

Among other key issues somewhat settled by the years of the debate was the admission of the independent Republic of Texas as a state, in 1848, with its southwestern boundary defined partly along here, this stretch known during the Debate as the Trans-Pecos, which separates Texas from Arizona and New Mexico.

For this the United States paid Texas 10 million dollars, or rather, we paid off Texas's international debt piled up while a Republic, which it was unable to pay back. Texas was, of course admitted as a slave state, and voted with the slave power in all things. Thus free soil New Mexico and Arizona . further paid by their statehood being delayed until 1912, in order to keep the slave power states, who all seceded in the end anyway, placated.

Some of this history is referred to on plaques posted on the Presidio County Courthouse (built 1886).

Marfa Bank
Ultimately Marfa's continued existence is due to being Presidio's county seat. The business of the county's civil and criminal justice is done here; all the decreed administrative apparatus, agencies and so on are here, along with registration for titles for any and all property.  Very much of all of it is owned by the same people that owned the county before it was in the U.S. As this whole region is about ranching and mining, property titles have always been, as they still are, big business. Law offices are ubiquitous, just as they were around the County Courthouse in Kent County's seat, Chestertown -- a big reason that Chestertown survived as well. C'town isn't that much larger than Marfa, but it does have Washington College. Marfa's got tourism, close as it is to the historic Fort Davis and Big Bend National Park, and it gets movie business on occasion: besides the aforementioned Giant, others have had extensive location shooting here such as No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. 

I am very excited to be spending some days here, in the territory that was fought over with so much oratory in the House, for so many years, the object of Henry Clay the Great Debator's last gunfight.