". . . 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 13, 2009

Summer Days


Winston Grooms's Vicksburg 1863 (2009)

A History of Hungary by a variety of writers and editors (1994)

Together we're re-reading aloud Orwell's Homage to Catalonia.

Have not yet begun my amiga's Treason's Shore (2009).


Not so much. I put the netflix account on hold until the end of August because I'm not much interested right now, now that the weather's become ideal summer wealther.

I did recently watch American Gangster (2007), inspired by an article amigo Mark Jacobson did for New York Magazine on the Harlem drug lord gangster Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), heir to drug gangster Bumpy Johnson, and who married a Miss Puerto Rico, the corrupt drug cops, the military and the cop (played by Russell Crowe) who turned Lucas and brought them all down, back in the late 60's and 1970's -- the Vietnam era. Its a -- to me -- surprisingly elegant film on all fronts, including the sound.

So it was particularly interesting to watch Soul Power last night (we actually went to a theater), the music festival film that was to go with the film documentary, When We Were Kings,(1994) of the Foreman-Ali championship fight in Kinshasa, Zaire, in 1974, the one in which Muhammed Ali took back the world heavyweight crown. That documentary, despite our best intentions, we missed watching when it came out in 1996. Soul Power, the music festival documentary, was released last week. This one was about the royalty of African Americans – and, omighod, the Fania All Stars – in Africa, Zaire, interacting with African musicians and dancers – and particularly James Brown, who the documentary made the star.

For many of them this was their first visit, and maybe their only visit to Africa, in a time that was still mainly hopeful and energetic about the future, as so much of the continent had only recently receiving its independence -- mirroring the feeling of large optimism of the African Americans in the wake of Black Power, before Reagan, the neoconmovement and crack. How many of these great artists have died since then, among them Celía Cruz – oh, was she great.

The difference between how the African Americans and the Latino artists interacted with the Africans leaped out; the AfAms testifiied while the Latinos did ritual. The Africans 'knew' the Latinos right off the bat. The Fania All Stars were enormously popular all through Africa then, and though no one making the documentary or involved in it would admit it -- they were better known and more influential than James Brown. But let me haste to add, he was equal to Celía Cruz's performance -- and she was brilliant. The Africans SO got her! This is the Congo, from which the most Africans were slaved to the New World, everywhere. They are the fundamental layer of African culture in the Caribbean, Brasil and the U.S. They worshipped the same gods via Palo Monte, with the same fundamental rhythms and percussion and even gesture. Muhammed Ali and the AfAms testified to Black Power, Soul Power, the better future of all black people. They needed interpretors. But the Latinos got down with their African brother and sisters and talked, via rhythm and percussion. This was amazing to watch.

This stuff just leaps off the screen into one's comprehension -- which, of course in 1974 I wouldn't have known anything about.

Naturally, at this point I'm thinking of American Gangster, part of the same era, and that Obama just returned from his first visit to Africa as POTUS.

This is the only film I've watched in a really long time that I wished was longer, that included more.

I'm wishing so much a better future for the nations of Africa and their peoples, particularly the women, and for our own battered and maimed corrupted nation.

On another topic entirely: Publisher says that actual Real Thing bound books with jackets and everything that are The Year Before the Flood will be arriving Thursday THIS WEEK! Woo.


Graeme said...

Interesting! Homage to Catalonia remains one of my favorite books.

K. said...

When We Were Kings is a terrific movie. Great soundtrack, too. I'll definitely check out Soul Power.

How is the Vicksburg book? Didn't Winston Groom write Forrest Gump? I think he has a good one about the 1864 campaign in the West. It's very kind to George Thomas, as I recall. Grant was too tough on Thomas -- I don't think that he lost a single battle in which he led an army, plus Thomas saved the army at Chickamauga.

Foxessa said...

Graeme -- We've both read Homage to Catalonia before: Vaquero during one of his summers in Barcelona, or more to the point, one of his summers in the mountain village above Barcelona, where his guitar master lived; myself while researching a kind of warfare I was trying to write about in one of my novels.

For some reason, though very affected by those readings, neither of us noticed then just how brilliantly good, how precise the writing is. Orwell wrote what he did, and wrote it like that. One cannot help but compare what he wrote and what he did to Hemingway's Spanish Adventures and the novels he got out of them at the same time.

It's no secret that my feeling about this is that Hemingway is the worst disaster to hit a national literature ever.

Love, C.

Foxessa said...

K -- We're going to make a point of renting it or maybe the library has When We Were Kings. Ali is fascinating to watch in Soul Power too. You can see a review with some great still shots of Celía here. Her appearance is just terrific.

So far I'm liking Vicksburg 1863 a lot. It's easy to read and digest in exactly the way you would expect from the author of the disgusting Forrest Gump. He does bend over backward to keep suggesting that Grant was a drunk while needing to adhere to the historical fact that Grant's drinking was far behind him, once he was able to be with his wife and family again. But his previous period of depression and drinking remained the tar with which he was stuck for the rest of his life, and much like neocon smearing that we saw so much of inside the beltway in the last years, it was thrown out endlessly. Fortunately Lincoln appeared to have the capacity to know the difference between real intelligence and smears.

Love, C.