". . . 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, November 30, 2009

The Dollhouse

No, not Joss Whedon's Dollhouse, but the Dollhouse in Walk on the Wild Side (1962) located in New Orleans, made from the 1956 novel by Nelson Algren. The year's 1932, the action begins on the road in East Texas -- Beaumont, by golly. Jane Fonda stars as Twist, the 'bad' runaway girl from the 'home', Lawrence Harvey as Dove, who is in love with prostitute Hallie Gerard, played by Cappuchine, who lives in the NO brothel named the Dollhouse. Why and how this illiterate guy in 1932 meets a highly educated, sophisticated, French artist in West Texas in 1932 is never explained. He also is loved in her twisted way by Twist, who ends up in the Dollhouse too, of course, and by Ann Baxter who plays a chicana who owns a chili joint-gas station that rents little cabin rooms.

Nor is it explained how Hallie became a prostitute, any more than why Dove's on the lam or on the road or out of prison or whatever he is. Hallie vaguely speaks of addiction to 'the easy life.' But anyone who knows anything about prostitution, even the fairly high class sort with a high class - or at least rich and powerful clientel as offered by the Dollhouse, knows better. Hallie seems to have a self-loathing need to degrade and punish herself -- there's some kinky stuff going on in the Dollhouse, with beating and tying up and so on as punishment for bad 'dolls.' There's much hinting that the madame, played by Barbara Stanwyck is a lesbian and seduced Hallie into the Life. I've never read the Algren novel from which this movie is adapted, but from plot summaries the novel's even more batshyte than the movie -- except Hallie makes more sense since she's a mulatta, not a Frenchwoman.

This is pure period melodrama, also movie done as a play, which means endless scenes of people emoting, rather than doing anything. But they do act, as does Fonda -- she acts a poor girl, rather than inhabiting the skin of a poor girl -- so different from how she filled her role as the prostitute Bree, in Klute. Indeed, now that I've seen as much of Walk on the Wild Side as Vaquero and I had patience for -- love fast forward! -- one can see clearly in Bree some of what is merely a hinted muddle with Hallie.

Best line from the movie, Twist to Dove: "You're crazy. You get hungry like a millionaire." He is going to having supper after they'd had breakfast that morning.

Best scene from the movie is Dove talking back to hellfire preacher calling on God to cast him and Hallie into hell : "He won't hear you. Cause you no friend of God or man - standing there hollering hate to the world. God is love. God is mercy and forgiveness. Try preaching that sometime Mr. Preacher. Teach people to forgive, not to crawl in fear. Teach people to love, not hate. preach the good book - preach the truth." That was just before the Code was dropped, and when movie characters could talk back to batshyte xtians on screen.

The best part of the movie is the Sam Bass designed opening credits of a black cat prowling through the Quarter's alleys. Woo. Very cool.

So, is Walk on the Wild Side, the movie, where Whedon & Co. got the idea to call their place the Dollhouse? Though, well, geegolly, it is so obvious in so many ways they didn't really need any inspiration. But the one thing we know for sure about movie - television people, they know their movies.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

80's Series Cable Channel: Beauty & The Beast to Falconcrest

CBS American television series reflected upon by an avid British watcher back in her day.

This caught my attention in the London Times because for the last few months I've been watching 80's and early 90's American television miniseries, including two made from Judith Krantz novels (produced, partly written, and filmed by her husband, I presume). They are vastly entertaining effortless watching, of admirably high production and cinemagraphic values -- plus terrific locations. Stacy Keach in the roles of both the artist, Mistral, in Mistral's Daughter (1984), and as Hemingway, in Hemingway (1988), seen fairly close together, is interesting in itself, as the actor convincingly ages from young manhood to old man in both, but in very differently in each role.
The adaptation of James Clavell's Nobel House (1988) remains e my all-time favorite of these, so far. I've enjoyed Shogun, very much, more than once, but the novel was more affecting because it includes more, which is not the case with Nobel House. This is another way to say that many of these miniseries are made from novels written by writers I can't read, like Judith Krantz, but they adapt splendidly to the so-called 'small' screen, when produced, and acted, by professionals. No need here for a great artist: professionalism plus budget, and you get superb entertainment.  I adore superb entertainment; in my opinion there isn't nearly enough of it. And lavish! acres of flowers everywhere, in fields, gardens, and indoors, fabulous clothes and jewels and furs, marvelous architecture, vistas of great beauty that are vistas even when viewed on my computer screen (oversize screen, granted, but still ....).

By the 80's, movies seemed seldom to be made in other countries by US; the television miniseries filled the breach. We evidently achieved home entertainment center television screens of size about this time -- and cable, the internet, tivio, dvds, etc. had not yet taken down the broadcast television networks, which still had the bottomless pit of advertising revenue budgets to beat out anything cable could provide. This year I realized this era of the miniseries is another of television's Golden Ages, and again, one I never saw while it broadcast, but only long past its production era, via dvd -- or as with the Lucille Ball series, via re-runs when I was a kid.

From the Beauty and the Beast section of the London Times article:

Sitting down last weekend for a CBS Drama marathon, I was surprised to discover that, even after 22 years, I could still remember the opening monologue from Beauty and the Beast, delivered by “The Beast” — Vincent — in his ponderously husky voice: “Her name is Catherine. From the moment I saw her, she captured my heart with her beauty, her warmth . . .”

“And her breasts!” I shouted, automatically — our traditional response back in 1987.

God, it’s a weird show. The essential set-up is that there is a half man, half lion (Ron Perlman) living in the sewers, pining after a lonely society chick, Catherine (Linda Hamilton from Terminator). There obviously being a limited number of social occasions when a man-lion can meet a highflying lawyer, Vincent and Catherine have cutely hooked up after an horrific attack leaves her with severe facial lacerations by the side of the road. Vincent takes Catherine to his sewer lair and sews her up — his somewhat primitive handiwork reflecting the fact that he presumably has paws, with no opposable thumbs.

On regaining consciousness, Catherine pulls back Vincent’s cowl, and gasps as the reality of his freakish appearance is finally revealed. Yes, that’s right: he has dry, auburn hair, just like Carol Decker from T’Pau. “How did this happen to you?” she asks, staring at his half-man, half-lion face.

“I have no idea,” Vincent replies, as viewers are compelled to yell, “Your mum done a lion, Vince! She seen the lions at Longleat, innit!” at the television, while rolling their eyes.

For the next two series, the majority of Catherine and Vincent’s relationship is carried out in a haze of intense, unconsummated sexual tension — Catherine’s reticence presumably being at least part-founded on the fear that Vincent makes out cat-style, and will try and do her on the shed roof at the bottom of the garden, while making a series of unpleasant shrieking sounds.Watching it now, Beauty and the Beast looks like the forerunner to the current, highly lucrative Twilight franchise: a psychic, pining, non-penetrative beast, who is obsessed with an otherwise outcast and lonely girl. I could see exactly how I loved it as a virginal, socially outcast teenager. As an adult, however, I found it about as much fun as dry Weetabix. And, anyway, I was only watching Beauty and the Beast while waiting for the big guns: Dynasty and Falcon Crest. Come on! Shoulder pads! Earrings so big they make your head look like a mug tree! Film stock so strobingly orange that when Blake Carrington sits down behind his desk it’s hard to tell where he ends and £10,000 of teak begins! Proper telly.
"Proper telly" indeed.  For me though its not about Falcon Crest, which I've never seen either, or any of its ilk.  It's the miniseries, adapted from novels, which are written, whether I like their style or abilities or not, by WRITERS, giving writers money, to which I say heartily, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAmen!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

POLDARK Coming to DVD Alert!

That first series of Poldark (from a series of novels by Winston Graham), with splendid Cornish location landscapes, that was Romantic Hotness back then, when I'd watch it with amiga TB in Albuquerque.

I've been waiting and waiting for this to be on DVD.

Poldark, YES! March 2, 2010!

Zenaida Romeu's Birthday

Luncheon today on the upper east side in honor of Zenaida Romeu' s birthday; at this moment she's about to board the flight that takes her back to Havana, where her family and friends will have another birthday party.  Birthdays are a very big deal in Cuba. The state gives every citizen a cake on his or her birthday, no matter how young or old.

Among the toasts was the one I gave: "To North Dakota and the Fargo Symphony Orchestra for bringing in one of the first Cuban musicans and artists since the Bush regime cut off intellectural and artistic contact between our countries in 2003!"  I also thank our hosts for giving me the honor of mmaking what may well be first toast drunk in Manhattan in honor of North Dakota.  North Dakota, filling the breach between the U.S. and Cuba.  Who would have thought it?

Story here.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Signs of the Times

It's easy to miss things this time of year, when the calendar is so crowded.

I'm also feeling so lazy. I want to stay home at nights and read. Lately it's the Emperor series by Conn Iggulden, following the life and career of Julius Caesar, while listening to The Kropotkins, a punk/Delta blues, New York-Memphis collaboration band. I fell in love with Lorette Velvette, the lead vocalist last Monday night at the le Poisson Rouge Robert Palmer / Hand of Fatima benefit.  I think this band was formed with me in mind.  Such great lyrics as well as breaking up the drum kit, for starters.

Doubtless when I have to stay home for a while I'll be dying to go out and there won't be any socializing available. But I missed the annual SFWA authors and editors meet-up last night, despite [hangs head] reminder e-mails. Argh. It's always like this, one way or another. Yet, I probably didn't miss anything. I've been to others.

I also failed again today to spend money though I was ready to, wanted to, and need to. Stores seem to be trying to empty out all their merchandise before Thanksgiving weekend; Bed, Bath and Beyond insisted it didn't have any blankets, and I have comforters and duvets and don't want another one, thank you, or pillows or a mattress cover. I want a blanket, damn it! The GAP has absolutely hideous clothes for winter. What were they thinking? The French Connection which I can usually count on refuses to put anything on sale. Everywhere else is out of everything except in petite. The boots are never available in my size. Winter coats are all determined to make one into a twin of the Pillsbury Dough Boy -- they, like so many clothes are all puffle -- i.e. puffs and ruffles both, on the same garment, and why yes, this has infected the coats as well.

I did make a hair appointment and hope it won't be a scary disappointment when all is completed.

Another sign of the current economy: I could have had a walk-in haircut today if I'd wanted it, or tomorrow for that matter. Also the prices have -- dropped. There are two fewer stylists in the salon, and still all the chairs were empty. This, the day before Thanksgiving. This is unheard of, ever, in all my years of living in NYC. Even in little 'beauty parlors' that cater to the older Italian ladies in the neighborhood, and never, ever in the upscale styling salons that have replaced almost all the beauty parlors and proliferated like kudzu down here. The only hair place I saw busy today was Supercuts. This tells us something about the economy that evidently D.C. can't see.

I'm also hearing older shoppers from out-of-town sounding off about how they hate government and don't want any and want to take care of themselves, while their youthful student retail personnel enthusiastically agree.  I couldn't help say to one enthusiastic and loud lady from California going on and on about how much she hates government and can take of herself, "Good.  Let your house burn down in the wildfires, and by the way, don't walk on MY sidewalk that my city government has paid for with MY goddamn taxes."  She was outraged.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

More Book-y Stuff: "Pamela," With Vampires

"Fair Hypocrites: Twilight By Way of Pamela":  check it out here.

On the surface, then, it would seem that the similarity between Twilight and Pamela, between Bella and Pamela, ends in their popularity and the mania they inspire(d). But these twin phenomena, one sitting at each end of the history of the novel, I think, share more. By an admittedly cynical and reductive reading, Twilight and Pamela are the same book, the same archetypal female fantasy: a poor or undistinguished girl is chosen as “the one” by a handsome, rich, aristocratic man who sweeps her off her feet and takes her out of her (more or less) grubby, mundane, low-born life. And the cynical reading goes further. These are not merely Cinderella love stories; in fact, they are not love stories at all. By the cynical reading, these novels are only about class, about becoming rich, becoming one of the rarefied beautiful people.

General Ulysses S. Grant: Forgotten Warrior -- And General Forrest

U.S. GRANT: American Hero, American Myth by Joan Waugh; Univ. of North Carolina

Why did his reputation fade so rapidly in the 1920s and '30s? Waugh thinks that the "post-World War I generation feared, rather than celebrated, the endless sacrifices of the Civil War," that the nationwide popularity of the "Lost Cause" movement elevated Robert E. Lee and diminished Grant, and that "in an era known for its racism and its rejection of the biracial democratic implications of both the war and Reconstruction, Grant was scorned by many." Add to that the hostility of many 20th-century historians to his record as president, and you have the ingredients for a free-fall tumble, not to mention an utter injustice. If you read the biographies mentioned above along with this fine study, you will understand just how much of an injustice it really is.

Birth of a Nation has much to answer for, as does Woodrow Wilson.

Madison Smartt Bell's novel of confederate general Bedford Forest, Devil's Dream, is just out -- he sent us a copy a couple of weeks ago.  The NY Times reviews it today.   Madison provides a timeline of Forrest's life that is fascinating -- it includes elements that Madison didn't include in the novel, such as Forrest as founding member of the KKK.  It's a brilliant novel, though the principal is a monster, and a charmless monster to boot.   Nevertheless, I recommend this one.

The Year Before the Flood Tour: Coda

Dinner party thrown by a fashion designer last night.  The food was excellent, so was the champagne.  The guests were great.

Met the mover and shaker of the Irish Repetory Theater, whose hit production of The Emperor Jones is so much a hit even he, Cierin O'Reilly, can't get a ticket.  They may move to Broadway in the winter.  His wife is also very cool.

Also met John Slattery and Jon Hamm.  I initially thought Slattery was one of the designer's brothers, because he does resemble the men in the family -- there are a lot of them, and though one of them is a close friend, the others I meet now and again at different parties, fund-raisers and so the designer hosts.  But when he introduced himself to me, imagine how chagrined when I realized, not another member of the family, but Roger Sterling of Mad Men, and Bill Kelly of Sex and the City.  Argh.  He's a  nice person, good company and terrific dancer.  A good man to have at a party.

Mott, who was the cinematographer for The American Astronaut, was another guest.  He had some of Vaquero's scenes from this cult movie in his phone and showed them around.  Again, Argh.

Debbie Gibson was also present, and sang.  So did Vaquero.

The rest of the night was given over to dancing, which was splendid, as the brownstone's wood floor where we always dance at her parties is nicely springy and the music is programed by her brother who is chair of the dance dept. at his university, so it was great dance music.  I often make fun of white people dancing, but there was nothing to make fun of last night.  These white people can dance, thus the African American and Latino guests didn't have to be embarrassed for us.  :)  It's all a matter of culture.  If you didn't grow up in musical, rhythmic, dancing culture you aren't going to be able to dance.  Alas, most younger people in this country do not grow up that way any longer.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

David Hackett Fischer Refutes ALBION'S SEED Critics

Here follow two of Hackett's refutations of those who have taken issue with his statements of the emigrants' regions and points of departure, who they were, etc., with citations. As you can see from the length of the April, '91 article, Hackett goes deeply into his source materials for his minutely detailed evidence. No one as far as I can tell from researching these issues in JSTOR have refuted his refutation. Part of the problem appears to be the same as with this year's publication of Keegan's take on the U.S. Civil War: Unlike Keegan, Hackett has walked all the grounds included in his work, in the U.K., and in the U.S.. He's lived in these regions as well; he grew up in the Chesapeake and the Tidewater, he did stints of matriculation, scholarship and lectureships at unversities in England, whereas it appears that his critics haven't done these things – as far as I can tell at this point, at least. I don't claim to know everything, though I am doing as careful research search as I can.

Albion and the Critics: Further Evidence and Reflection
David Hackett Fischer
The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 48, No. 2 (Apr., 1991), pp. 260-308
Published by: Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture
David Hackett Fischer's Rejoinder
The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 48, No. 4 (Oct., 1991), pp. 608-611
Published by: Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture

Monday, November 16, 2009

Zora Neale Hurston -- A Theme Restaurant in D.C.

In Eatonville the town (outside of Orlando, population 2,400), there are porches where stories are spun, so naturally there must be a "porch" in Eatonville the restaurant (just off V Street NW, 250 seats) where visitors from the town might sit a spell with customers.

"This is a first," says N.Y. Nathiri, pleasantly stunned to see this trendy urban take on her rural home town. She rocks her green wooden chair on the rough wooden boards of the porch that's tucked beside the swanky dining area of the Washington restaurant.
She's wearing a black T-shirt that says "Zora!" and carrying a burlap bag that says "Zora!" She's just arrived from Eatonville, also the home town of the great Harlem Renaissance novelist with the incandescent personality, Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston used to collect yarns she heard on the porches of Eatonville, and those porches turn up in her books. She died in 1960 in such poverty and obscurity that her grave was unmarked, but today her following is passionate.

Nathiri, 60, had heard rumors of this other Eatonville. Zora pilgrims to the town kept recommending the restaurant. Nathiri had to see for herself. From her perch on the porch, she takes in the big Day-Glo murals inspired by scenes from Hurston's work, the enlarged quotes of Hurston's words, the painting of Eatonville itself. Nathiri, executive director of the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, could look around here and think her work is almost done.

"It's an incarnation of Eatonville that is very 21st century," she says. "It's cultural preservation across generations and in another setting

Eatonville, meet Eatonville.
I know what I think about Zora Neale Hurston, one of the writers on my top ten list, fiction or non. But I don't know what I think about this, except, kind of on the level of where were you when she died, unknown, in poverty and isolation in 1960. And now people are making money from her brilliant, ground-breaking work, money that she did not make herself, despite doing all that work.

The full story in the Washington Post is here.

What is useful in this story is the brief outline of the Florida - D.C. connections among the African American populations of both regions, in terms of immigration for work, for family ties, that reach back at least through the Civil War. Many people aren't aware of this venerable network, or its place in African American history.

On the other hand, the article states: "What it really is, though, is a devout and profitable evocation of spirit and ideals intended to appeal to Washingtonians' pride in their town's contribution to the Harlem Renaissance and to national culture overall."

Now, I'm not so sure about this "national culture overall thang." I mean, really, in terms of national culture, just what has D.C. contributed that isn't about lobbyists and pork barreling, and how much good from that have African Americans received anyway? Currently D.C. is twittering that its hiphop scene is poised to rank everyone else, and deserves to since southern hiphop is bouncin' so great, i.e. Little Wayne, etc. But honey, Imatellya -- that's New Orleans and no way evah will D.C. rank New Orleans when it comes to music. That's the price D.C. pays for the power to screw NO over and over.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Holiday Movies - Winter Solstice

I'm looking for some.

Not what passes generally as a Christmas movie release these days -- they are all horrible, most horrible.

But films on the order of Hercule Poirot's Christmas or Desk Set or action historicals like Beowulf & Grendel (2005) -- not that Zemeikis thing!  Why o why hasn't the BBC poured millions per episode to create a full series of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight?  That would be the perfect Yule season watching!  For a while the extended Lord of The Rings was the perfect darkest week of the year watching, but I've watched them now so often that the bad Jackson choices are far outweighing the good parts -- and there are so many very bad -- not to mention just stupid -- choices Jackson made.  There just aren't enough dark, cold, historic - fantasy adventure movies made that are filled with landscape, fascinating heroes and brilliantly beautiful horses and weapons.  Sir Gawain isn't any of these, of course, but more in the tradition of Desk Set, I guess.  :)  I love nordic, germanic, saxon, gaelic, celtic, roman adventure hero films -- they are so in the season of the darkest week solstice.  I think Europe does more of these than we do.

Finding a good one isn't easy.  Braveheart does NOT qualify; you simply cannot have a royal princess galloping all over the country by herself in the 13th century.  I can't sink into that. Neither does The 13th Warrior, which has some marvelous things, including one of the best horses, but way too much sillyness.   Ring of the Nieblungs is a good one.  But over here, released as The Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King, over an hour of the German production has been cut.  I've watched The Vikings too lately, and besides, it's really sunny, not dark, with boy gets girl, and in the sunshine no less.  There aren't enough leaps into the wolf pits to make this one work for the long nights. Ah, we need a BBC series of Bernard Cornwell's Saxon berserker warrior Uhtred, who perceives of himself as Danish, committed to Thor, despite his place as one of King Alfred's Christian soldiers.

I have the Thanksgiving week films: Walk on the Wild Side and Buccaneer's Girl -- both with some connection to New Orleans.  I think I've run to the end of New Orleans films, alas, having watched last week Sean Penn's All The King's Men, which I thought was excellent, though evidently I'm the only one.  I wonder why.  For a long time the right movie for Thanksgiving was My Fair Lady with Audrey Hepburne.  But as these days AH makes me want to throw cold water into her face so she stops pretending to impersonate a sleepwalker as her idea of ingenue, or tape her mouth closed to stop the silly supposed idea of ingenue breathy babble, the wardrobe no longer is the focus.  Dang, I hate it when that happens.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Albion's Southwestern Seeds -- Roman Slavery To Virginia Slave Trade

Reading along in Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (1989) by David Hackett Fischer. The second folkway is that of "South of England to Virginia,", i.e. a/k/a the Chesapeake region of the New World Atlantic coast.

In the section titled "The Cradle of Virginia: The South of England," pp. 241 - 43 Hackett states:
During the early middle ages slavery had existed on a large scale throughout Mercia, Wessex and Sussex, and had lasted longer there than in other parts of England. Historian D.J.V. Fisher writes that "the fate of many of the natives was not extermination but slavery." (5) This was not merely domestic bondage, but slavery on a larger scale. During the eighth and ninth centuries, the size of major slaveholdings in the south of England reached levels comparable to large plantations in the American South. When Bishop Wilfred aquired Selsey in Sussex, he emancipated 250 slaves on a single estate. Few plantations in the American South were so large even at their peak in the nineteenth century. (6) Serfdom also had been exceptionally strong in this region. Painstaking analysis of the Domesday book by historical geographers has shown that the proportion of servi was larger in Wessex than in other parts of England. (7)

By the time of American colonization, both slavery and serfdom were long gone from this region. But other forms of social obligation remained very strong in the seventeenth century. A smaller part of the population were freeholders in the south and west of England than in East Anglia. (8)
Which set me wondering why so. Which naturally leads one to Rome as all roads will. Even prior to the Roman colonization of Britain they were trading with southwestern Britain, principally for iron, tin and copper, as well as the gold in Wales. Mining is almost always slave labor. Rome is characterized as one of the 5 historical slave-based economies (interestingly, to me, at least, one of the reasons the staunch republican, Lucius Vorenus, in the HBO Rome series (2005 - 2007) gives for supporting Julius Caesar's coronation as dictator for life is that the soldier believes Caesar when he says he will create jobs - work, for the Roman citizens, which they are starved for, since almost all the labor is performed by slaves. This is a further irony since Caesar's conquests were responsible for so many affordable slaves in the markets.) As well, all around the Mediterranean, post the 'fall' of Rome, slavery remained intact through the 18th century -- it was particularly strong in the 15th century, prior to Colombo's first voyage to the New World.

So I went looking, and this is what I found: Rome conquered the southwest of Britain first, and stayed there the longest, and built the most extensive network of villas and markets there. Thus the extensive and persistent practice of slavery, serfdom and then other forms of class-social subservience. This might also, then, explain why this region was most connected, and thus loyal to the English kings and throne. This is the region of the Cavaliers, and these are the same elite families that settled Virginia, many of whom are still in positions of ownership, power and wealth today.

History provides many painful pleasures in the revelation of the persistence of cultural identity and folkways.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Orleans - Congo Square Symposium - Saturday

Tom Dent Congo Square Symposium - Congo Square: Crossroads of the Afro-Atlantic World. The symposium is free and open to the public, takes place at the Jazz & Heritage Center (1225 N. Rampart Street), from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. The event is presented by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation as a part of the Foundation’s Tom Dent Congo Square Lecture Series. The final hour of the symposium will feature a drum workshop and a cocktail reception.
It is going to be spectacular! I know the presenters, and they are brilliant, just starting with Dr. Robert Farris Thompson a/k/a Master T, Vaquero his own self, Alex LaSalle and many more. Appropriate langniappe, Dr. Henry Drewel, a Yoruba cultural historian and specialist, is in New Orleans for something else, and will be attending. This another of these events in which the members of the audience will be as brilliant and informed as the presenters.

The Schedule and description of the topics are here on the Jazz & Heritage website.

The day following the symposium, the Jazz & Heritage Foundation will present the third annual Congo Square Rhythms Festival in nearby Armstrong Park. The festival is free and open to the public. It will feature music, food and a large crafts area. Performers include Ensemble Fatien (featuring Ivorian multi-instrumentalist Seguenon Kone, Dr. Michael White, Sunpie Barnes and others), the Kumbuka African Dance Ensemble and many more.
Last night Vaquero presented his New Orleans premiere performance of "Kiss You Down South" at the New Orleans Museum of Art.  Then, dinner, at a French restaurant on Magazine.  This afternoon, it's a lecture to a music class at Tulane.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Food Indulgences

New Orleans Po-Boy Preservation Festival on Nov. 22, just in time for Thanksgiving. Isn't Louisiana the home of the propane fired deep friend turkey?   Thank goodness this takes place post Vaquero's return to NYC ... he's indulged in far too many Po-Boys this year and last year and the year before, already.  If, as he says, he restricts himself to a single Po-Boy a month, he's now consumed his monthly allotment of Po-Boys through about 2017.

This Thanksgiving, as a side I'm going to do a dish of brussels sprouts with bacon and figs. I saw the recipe in the NY Times, and it looks like a perfect Thanksgiving dinner side. And a butternut squash-ginger soup.

I don't have to concern myself with the traditional central turkey and ham -- or anything at all, really, for Thanksgiving -- since we're having our traditional Thanksgiving with our oldest and dearest friends again, but
I want to try these dishes and this is the perfect occasion. And these dishes will travel well, and take nothing to warm up.

Also, it's satisfying to contribute something beyond the traditional host gift of wine.

I can imagine the conversation already -- this travesty of a health care reform bill has effectively nullified Roe v Wade.  How dare O say this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill?  Such a -- it's so miserable to say it, but he spoke such a lie.

Also, it seems topsy-turvy somehow that O had to attend the Fort Hood victims' service when troops are dying every day in these ugly stupid bankrupting wars. After all, these wars are what drove their murderer mad enough to murder these troops. Bloomberg too, since it's Veterans Day, chose to give a breakfast or lunch -- some meal anyway -- to a few chosen NY Vets in memorial of the Fort Hood victims, while seemingly not noticing that the City of New York has thousands of homeless veterans of the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War.  I had a feeling that the passed out man of Sunday night may well have been an Iraq War veteran.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What Do Women Think Of This $*&&^@%@__(( Health Care Reform Bill?

This is what a significant portion of the women I know think.

According to this bill being a woman is a pre-existing condition.

Obama sold us down the river.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Distressed Homeless & Fat Squirrels

Walking along the usual route to the local supermarket, between the Manhattan Island New Amsterdam era botanical museum and the Community Garden, was a homeless man lying in the middel of the walkway between these tree and flower filled spaces on one side, NYU faculty housing and the Morton Williams supermarket on the other. No baggage, no blanket, no cardboard, no plastic. I couldn't tell if he was breathing or not. People are walking around him. Others are feeding the very fat squirrels. Nobody even seems to notice him, much less cares.

I called our local EMS-911 number. While I was waiting for them to arrive, two college guys walking their dogs started to encourage their dogs to pee on the man. I stopped them. They told me to get a sense of humor, frigid bitch.

Then, coming home after he was roused by the EMS people and ran away from them, though he couldn't walk, much less run, in anything resembling a straight line, a very young woman pushing a baby carriage with two small children begged me for money to take the PATH train to her mother's because she just had no money. This is the second time this exact conformation and request has been made to me in two days. Nevertheless I gave her 5 dollars of what I've got to live on this week, unless a check comes it (which is supposed to, but so often doesn't). How can you tell, things are so bad for so many.

Of course for those for whom it isn't bad at all, they have more money than ever. You see it all around us here.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Prehistory of New Orleans: Treasures from the Hogan

On AfroPop tonight, at least on the radio station here.  Vaquero made the program this week.

It can be streamed here on the AfroPop Worldwide site.

Post Mamboist New Orleans

But this thing the poster is for, is Monday, at UT.

Library Books

Why have I never read Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (1989) by David Hackett Fischer?

Because it weighs a ton. Thus it isn't a traveling book. And because the American folkways I've been most deeply interested in for decades -- because they affect my life -- are African in heritage.

I have the 2009 Jack Reacher novel, Gone Tomorrow, which since it's large print isn't an hc either, thus not heavy, thus a travel book.

And what looks like a Spanish knock-off of Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Dr. Wao, by Javier Cabo, titled -- ka-ching! -- Wonderful World (2007), published in Spain by Mondadori and here by HarperCollins (2009). Cabo lives in Brooklyn when he's not living in Barcelona. So it's very likely the two, Cabo and Díaz, know each other. Paging through Cabo's my eyes light immedately upon a passage in which the narrator reads an X-Man comic. And like that, on all the pages. No footnotes though. And much longer than Díaz's. Also Cabo's guiding light is Stephen King, whereas Díaz's is The Lord of the Rings. LOTR is beyond love in the pantheon of books I hold dear. Stephen King? My dear, I don't give a damn.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mardi Gras's Comin', Baby!

It's on my birthday this year.

And guess what? There's an invite from Tulane which includes putting us up for 3 days for a Cuban Music thang -- keynote -- on the 19th. Is this cool or what?

Part of something to do with US Department of Education.
Mardi Gras and Cuba in the same span of days!

This is really exciting.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Day

It's a most gorgeous day here. I remember election day here in 2001 though. It too was gorgeous, as was the primary day which happened to be 9/11 in 2001.

Vaquero voted very early this AM before heading out to a studio in Brooklyn. When I got there -- there was a line! Now this is a very low turn-out election across the state, and here in the City. Particularly here in the City since Bloomberg and the city council highjacked the two -- yes TWO! -- voter referendums that refused to accept no term limits for mayoral terms. So he's been pouring about a million a day into getting himself a 3rd term as mayor since about January this year.

Evidently the hatred my district shares with me for Bloomberg is the platform for the number of voters turning out today here. The other districts of my polling place didn't have anybody voting.

Also, this was an election in which I could vote the straight Working Families party and still vote for all the candidates of my choice. One way of giving the ball-less dems a message. As far as it goes. But the Working Families party is getting on more ballots every election ....

Needless to say I voted no on both propositions: one to allow construction in public lands to create a for-profit -- what? electrical plant? not sure, as there's been so little discussion about it anywhere, and no against using prison labor in non-profit businesses. Already Haliburton seems to think we believe they aren't for profit. The basic economic problem we are all facing is a lack of paying jobs. Encouraging prison labor is like encouraging slave labor and illegal immigrant labor -- it takes more and more jobs away from us -- and in this case also encourages the FOR PROFIT PRISON SYSTEM to keep lobbying with all their $$$$$$$$$ -- which so often happen to be tax payer dollars -- to expand the prison population LIKE IT ALEADY DOES. And who is going to prison illegally? Primarily kids and African Americans.

Monday, November 2, 2009

La Luna

Last night, walking along the colonial era botanical 'museum,' I was moonbushed.

Just a woman, minding her own business, I come to the wide staircase of an open area among the tall cubes that are NYU, and -- BLAM! Right Between the Eyes! -- I get hit by this enormous, perfectly round white moon, struck immobile for several minutes.

She will do that to you.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

John Keegan Does The American Civil War Wrong

Stated by no less a Civil War scholar than James M. McPherson, in his NY Times Book Review piece on Keegan's new book, THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR: A Military History.

Sometimes Brits don't seem to really understand the American Civil War. Bernard Cornwell's Starbuck series set within that war, for instance, it's so bad -- and, yes, wrong. He's dropped writing it too. It clearly wasn't winning readership -- this doesn't happen to Cornwell, but this time it did.

McPherson was more kind than the WaPo reviewer who revealed that Keegan stated, iirc, in the Introduction to his book, that he really doesn't understand why the United States had this civil war. That's pretty profound non-comprehension, which for the life of me, I cannot figure out why, since it's very simple to understand. Slavery was the root cause.  The determination of the confederacy to expand the trade and institution as the economic platform for the U.S. throughout the hemisphere, not to mention the already existing North American states.  This was not to be tolerated by the industrial capitalists of the Northern states.  They had their own vision of manifest destiny, and there was no place for this kind of slavery in it.
On the other hand, what McPherson more kindly takes Keegan to task about is his profound ignorance of our geography, since his central argument is that this is war as geostrategics.  McPherson has this to say about Keegan's analysis:
The analytical value of Keegan’s geostrategic framework is marred by numerous errors that will leave readers confused and misinformed. I note this with regret, for I have learned a great deal from Keegan’s writings. But he is not at top form in this book. Rivers are one of the most important geostrategic features he discusses. “The Ohio and its big tributaries, the Cumberland and the Tennessee,” he writes, “form a line of moats protecting the central Upper South, while the Mississippi, with which they connect, denies the Union any hope of penetration.” The reality was exactly the contrary. These navigable rivers were highways for Union naval and army task forces that pierced the Confederate heartland, capturing Nashville, New Orleans, Memphis and other important cities along with large parts of Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. Keegan acknowledges this reality later in the book when he notes that these rivers “offered points of penetration to the Union into Confederate territory.” Precisely.

November Schedule So Far

November 8 -- concert Austin;
November 11 -- concert New Orleans Museum of Art
November 14 -- 1st Annual Congo Square Conference address and etc., New Orleans
November 17-18 -- Princeton English Department, Special Guest for this term's "Literary South" course; The Year Before the Flood is one of the texts, in company with a host of brilliant writers including Edwidge Danticatt, Flannery O'Connor, Jamaica Kincaid (who I truly adore), Toni Morrison, and several others.
November 20th -- Joe's Pub, NYC