". . . 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

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Giorgio Gomelsky - Rock History

Tonight is his 75th Birthday party.

This 'n That Re New Orleans

Not only did Bobby Jindal give a dorkdong speech, notable as noted by many, for a presentation both physical and audio, remarkably like the creepy, sinister character of Kenneth the page on 30 Rock, but also very stupid --tell us again why a high speed mag lev train connecting NO and Baton Rouge is a BAD idea and boondoggle, particularly during the periods of necessary evacuation? -- and it turns out, to have a Great Big Fat Lie at the center of it. Check here on Talking Points Memo blog. Louisiana is getting mighty sick of him, the rethugz' New! Great! White! -- er- Mixed Race! Hip-Hop Off Da Hook Hope! Even the rethugz.

It's like whatever teh stupid is that Illinois politicos drink is also drunk by those of Louisiana. It's the same Big Water System ain't it. It's one giant polluted system of the stupid and the corrupt.

The World That Made New Orleans went back to press for a third HC printing. The trade edition will come out in August simultaneously with the HC The Year Before the Flood.

Yesterday we received an envelope from CRP of the latest reviews and mentions of TWTMNO. Somehow we'd missed this, but on December 31, Susan Larson, the NO Times-Picayune Books Editor, put up her ten best books of the year -- 2 fiction and 8 non-fiction. TWTMNO was one of the non-fiction titles. Among these is Bienville's Dilemma: The Historical Geography of New Orleans, the latest work of Tulane's Geography professor, the invaluable Richard Companella. We look forward to picking it up while down there in March for the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Book Award event for TWTMNO.

We have jacket art for TYBTF. This one, again, has Vaquero's photographs. There's a pattern now among all three of the CRP titles in the jacket art. This one, like the cover for Cuba and Its Music, is filled with light and air; the colors are so luminous they almost feel ghostly ... but it project depth as well as a sense of joy -- ballon, as we say in ballet. It's most pleasing.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Antoinette K-Doe

Her funeral is tomorrow, Saturday, February 28, 2009. The most hurtful part is that she might well be alive if she hadn't had to endure the horrors of the levees failure, alone, at her age, with the state of her health. The stress this put on her heart is indescribable, which is equally true for so very, very many.

Visitation for Antoinette K-Doe, who died of a heart attack early Mardi
Gras morning, is Friday, Feb. 27 from 2 to 7 p.m. at the Mother-in-Law Lounge,
the nightclub at 1500 N. Claiborne Ave. that she transformed into a shrine to
her late husband, Ernie K-Doe.

Visitation continues Saturday, Feb. 28 from 9 to 11 a.m. at St. James
Methodist Church, 1925 Ursulines Ave.

Following an 11 a.m. funeral service at St. James, a procession moves
on to St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, where Ernie K-Doe is buried. A repast follows
from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28 at the Mid-City Lanes Rock 'n Bowl,
4133 S. Carrollton Ave.

Donations to help with funeral expenses are being accepted via the
Antoinette K-Doe Fund at Metairie Bank, or can be mailed to 2341 Metairie Road,
Metairie 70001.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Antoinette K-Doe. Yes, Still, More, Mardi Gras

Antoinette rebirthed the Mardi Gras Indians ladies auxillary of the Baby Dolls. She did this in 2004, the last year before the Katrina Failure of the Levees. If she hadn't done that, and with her sense of inclusiveness and love, that's another unique New Orleans tradition that would have been lost forever. But the Baby Dolls live. Even I could have been a Baby Doll, and probably would have been, but was still not feeling myself entitled -- because I still didn't know enough, I hadn't even experienced a Mardi Gras season, I hadn't lived the round of time that is New Orleans, when I was invited.

Antoinette was an Indian in the way that only a great Mardi Gras Indian Lady can be, one who lived her whole life in the heart and soul of the Marti Gras Indians. So many of the white women too, who are my friends in New Orleans, were Baby Dolls. Because of Antoinette. She was an encyclopedia of the Indians, and of New Orleans.She was out there, Thursday night, parading with the Krewe of Muses, I believe.

Antoinette K-Doe -- RIP

This morning, this Mardi Gras morning, Antoinette K-doe, of the Mother-in-Law Lounge, the Mother of the Baby Dolls, the heart and soul of WWOZ, died of a massive heart attack.

There is going to be a massive jazz funeral, you bet.

But I just can't believe it. And I just hate that this is true. Like so many, I loved her.



Rally of the Dolls

Separated by a generation — and now, by 2,000 miles — friends Antoinette K-Doe and Miriam Batiste Reed have teamed Up to bring the Baby Doll tradition back to Mardi Gras.

By Noah Bonaparte Pais

Laura Miller and Elaine Showalter Ask "Why can't a woman write the Great American Novel?"

Either Showalter's book, A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers From Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx, is remarkably stupid and filled with ignorance, or else Laura Miller's an idiot -- which many people for a long time have stated -- because this is the reason that Miller declares Showalter provides as why women in the United States didn't write Middlemarch:

[ "While English women novelists, even those as poor as the Brontës, had servants, American women were expected to clean, cook and sew; even in the South, white women in slaveholding families were trained in domestic arts." ]

Nevermind for the moment the very many great novels written by women in this country -- Harriet Beecher Stowe, Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, Zora Neale Hurston, Harper Lee, Toni Morrison, Leslie Silko, leap to mind immediately -- and look at the astounding scope and range of each of these writers's body of work, individually and as an eclectic group! -- where the f*ck did either Showalter or Miller get the idea that Austen, the Brontes, Eliot, Gaskell didn't do domestic work, every day, and do it very well? Eliot often spoke with great pride of her domestic skills, even after she employed many servants. She insisted that only someone who knows how to do the work right herself, and has done it, could train a servant and keep a house running as it should.

Did Showalter not read a single biography of any of them? Did she not read their novels, filled with personal knowledge of all the work even middle-class women performed in the home? Not to mention nursing the sick, laying out and washing the dead? One of the lovely things about the recent BBC dramatization of Gaskell's Cranford was that it showed us, as does the text work itself, all these dirty jobs that even genteel, comfortably off women did as a matter of course, every day.

Moreover Harriet Beecher Stowe, even in the early impoverished days of her marriage in the boonies had a domestic servant. She was an ignorant, untaught backwoods young girl, who Stowe had to teach to do everything, while Stowe herself worked at domestic tasks, while pregnant, while working on her first fiction.Cather and Wharton are the writers here who did little or no domestic tasks themselves with their hands. Cather, because her family allowed her privileges that few girls her age had -- she was that exception to the average woman who proves the rule -- and Wharton because she was a member of the American aristocracy and rich.

This ignorance of the basic facts of these writers' lives is inexcusable. This is another of those feminist dilemmas in which one's supposedly feminist friends are a big part of the problem. It's also beyond infuriating.

It's Mardi Gras, Baby

I wish we were in New Orleans. It happens to be 22 degrees here, by the way.

Already have received Skull and Bones photos from this morning.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Historical Novels, Sienkiewicz, Tolkien, Movies, Jackson

Did Tolkien read HenryK Sienkiewicz's trilogy of historical novels -- Ogniem i mieczem (1884 Eng. trans. as With Fire and Sword); Potop (1886, Eng. trans. as The Deluge); Pan Michael (1888, Eng. trans. as Colonel Wolodyjowski)? Sienkiewicz received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1905, so it is reasonable to think that Tolkien did read these books.*

I began to think of this when learning that Richard Morgan wrote an article lamenting that Tolkien hadn't written the realistic kind of warfare that Morgan believes Tolkien certainly was capable of writing, if Tolkien had so chosen. Morgan picked a scene in which orcs are talking about 'the Great War,' as emblematic of the realism of an army's grunts, who are not privy to the leaders' lofty planning and strategy, the goals and objectives for which their lives are cannon fodder counters.

I'm currently reading the trilogy for only the second time, many years post the first reading. I'm re-watching for the second time since last winter the trilogy of films made of these novels by noted director Jerzy Hoffman.

There are scenes in the With Fire and Sword volume in which the cossacks speak and behave like orcs in Tolkien -- senseless, meaningless cruelty and destruction, vast blood thirstyness. Then, in Hoffman's film of With Fire And Sword released in 1999 to great attention, there are these same scenes in which the cossacks with speaking parts closely resemble the appearances of some of the speaking part orcs in Jackson's LOTR films. There are other scenes too, that recall Hoffman's film. But the most striking one is that the warrior Longinus, eventually succumbing to the vast number of the enemies he's fighting singlehandedly with a sword against their bows, and as this is also a warrior hero trope, it may not be a fair comparison.

The music score of the Hoffman 1999 film sounds very similar to the score for the opening theme music of Jackson's LOTR. However, both composers likely licked off from Wagner, so this may not be significant in terms of influence.

With Fire and Sword's period detail, like the other films Hoffman made from the Sienkiewicz trilogy, is impeccable. There are no special effects or CGI. There is comedy, as well as magic. It's a thrilling, marvelous movie experience made from an unwieldy novel that few of us, at least, will be able to find our way around in, these days when neither geography or history is anything considered necessary for a USian to know.** Hoffman's With Fire and Sword is the superior film by far (and now I'll just resign myself to be at least metaphorically killed for saying so).

But if Tolkien had indeed read this Sienkiewicz trilogy, and if Jackson was influenced by Hoffman's directorial choices, that would be a set of interlocking circles worthy, again, of the Victorian era's Big Novels.

*It's gratifying to know that Sienkiewicz, like Lew Wallace, who wrote Ben-Hur (another of my favorite books in my youth), was inspired and influenced deeply by Walter Scott and Alexander Dumas, and that he also spent time in the U.S.

** The histories I've ordered of Poland and of the Lithuanian states and Muscovy, etc. are arriving tomorrow.

A Short (short) Tale

Surely, Angel believed. Surely, surely because they stayed and stayed at the table, surely more food would appear.

Alas for the dog. No more food appeared.
[ The End ]

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Guadeloupe Strikers Block Roads, Close Airport, Appeal for Solidarity

So, these are events that were happening on my birthday. It's so hard in some ways to imagine these actions in these places where I have been. I know what these places look like. But these islands were enthusiastic participants in the French Revolution. Josephine came from Martinque. These were the islands that resisted with everything they had when Napoleon determined to re-establish slavery. It's very easy to block traffic there.

Guadeloupe Strikers Block Roads, Close Airport, Appeal for Solidarity

1) Appeal to the International Workers' and Democratic Movements
2) Guadeloupe Strikers Block Roads, Close Airport

Appeal to the International Workers' and Democratic Movements
Liyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon Site officiel du collectif d'organisations syndicales, associatives, politiques & culturelles de Guadeloupe

Dear Sisters and Brothers:
As we wrote in our last international appeal ofFebruary 6, 2009: "The bosses and the representativeso f the French State are hoping that the general strik ewill die down, so that they can then begin the repression."
This is visibly the political thinking that prompted the French State to take action, as they did on February 16.
In the face of the obstinate refusal by the French State and the bosses to heed our demands, in the faceof their scorn for the people of Guadeloupe, theLiannaj Kont Pwofitation Strike Collective, or LKP, issued a call to the population on the 28th day of the General Strike to reinforce the picket lines across thecountry. The French State proceeded to repress themovement, seriously injuring one trade union leader,i njuring others less seriously, and arresting more than 70 activists, including many trade union leaders of the LKP Strike Collective.
The population, the workers, the youth have said,"Enough is Enough!" They refuse to give up the struggle.
A number of elected officials protested against thisState violence, which was also denounced by the LKP.
The workers, the youth, the people of Guadeloupe have strengthened their mobilizations on the ground. Their resolute actions won the freedom of all the jailed activists.
Today, on the 29th day of the general strike [Feb. 17],Guadeloupe is paralyzed by barricades in nearly every commune.
Youth were arrested the night of February 16-17, 2009.
This repression is going to continue, as the French State has just sent in a reinforcement of 1,000 mobile police troops [to bolster the 4,000 troops sent in on Feb. 7 -- translator's note]. The LKP has issued a call to the population to reinforce their mobilizations.

Dear Sisters and Brothers:
In the name of international labor solidarity, in the name of democracy, we call upon you once more to request your support for our just struggle.
The workers and people of Guadeloupe have the right to fight for their legitimate demands!
In solidarity,

Guadeloupe Strikers Block Roads, Close Airport
Associated PressFebruary 17, 2009
BASSE-TERRE, Guadeloupe

The French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe was on the verge of rebellion, a political leader said Tuesday after stone-throwing protesters set cars and buildings ablaze, forced the international airport to close and clashed with police.
Nearly four weeks of work stoppages and demonstrations for lower prices and higher pay have caused thousands of tourists to flee or cancel holidays on the normally tranquil island, prompting many hotels to close and cruise ships to head elsewhere.
"It is a political crisis, an institutional crisis andwe are on the brink of sedition," Guadeloupe's Regional Council President Victorin Lurel told France-Info radio.
From Paris, France's Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said the protests had caused "degradation, devastation and confrontations" on Guadeloupe and its sister island, Martinique, where most shops and offices have been closed by the protests.
She urged "calm, responsibility and restraint" and said she hoped for a resumption of talks with protesters that broke down last week.
Police said they arrested 18 people overnight as protesters burned cars, a library and a boat-rental store in Sainte-Anne and Point-a-Pitre. An official, speaking on the standard condition of anonymity, said at least three officers suffered minor wounds due to gunshots fired by looters taking advantage of the chaos.
Guadeloupe's main airport was closed Tuesday because workers could not pass through barricaded and debris-clogged roads, said Guadeloupe's top appointed official, Nicolas Desforges, and several flights were canceled.
Paris has refused to budge on strikers' demands for a 200 euro ($250) monthly raise for low-paid workers who now make roughly 900 euros ($1,130) a month. But business leaders in Martinique have agreed to lower prices by 20 percent on 100 products, including food items.
Strikers want prices cut on nearly all supermarket products -- a step that Stephane Hayot, a spokesman for the National Union of Wholesale Distributors, said "would represent our death sentence" by forcing themto sell at prices that don't cover their costs.
Police detained 50 demonstrators on Monday after they were pelted by stones as they tried to take down barricades. Roadblocks were being gradually lifted Tuesday morning and a trickle of vehicle traffic was resuming, the police official said.
The U.S. Embassy in Paris issued Americans in Guadeloupe and Martinique to avoid crowds.
"Most commercial activities have ceased, and there are mounting shortages of food, water, and power on both islands," the embassy said. "In Guadeloupe there are reports of increasing tensions, with armed gangs blockading routes and targeting residents and tourists. There have been no reports of U.S. citizens beingspecifically targeted."
In Martinique, taxi and bus drivers blocked streets onT uesday and honked their horns as they arrived at city hall in the capital, Fort-de-France.
Lurel warned that the islands were heading toward"radicalization, a rise in extremism."
"We have the impression that we have been abandoned, that there is an organized indifference," he told the radio station.

Deport Rupert Murdoch

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gabriel Over the White House

Yesterday, after going to the Met, we went to see a double bill of the Film Forum's Breadlines and Champagne current festival of Depression era movies. As yesterday was Presidents' Day as well as My Day, the bill was this strange Depression era Stalinist film, Gabriel Over the White House (1933), b&w, Gregory la Cava, director. It's billed as 'fantasy,' because by heavenly means the POTUS gets knocked on the head (by his own fault by driving the POTUS limo at nearly 100 mph) and supposedly, according to his (female) secretary -- and there is no Vice President -- is touched by the Angel Gabriel. He wakes up a different guy.

The first persona is an eerily GWB like fellow -- even to doing a bit with his nephew (he doesn't have a wife either) of turning over all the items in the Oval Office looking for Something. Today's audience is compelled to recall the Roaster dinner skit of GWB not finding the WMD under his sofa. This guy is mean, and ignorant, and could care less about it. He's entirely alienated from the millions in the Hoovervilles. He and his cronies, all old white guys, only care about the party and power. He uses military planes to fly to NYC to get a copy of his favorite detective magazine before it will show up on the newstands in D.C.

There are no women in this movie, other than his secretary, who evidently also was his mistress prior to the coma, and who ends up marrying his -- what? Maybe the person that we call Chief of Staff? The other woman who has about 3 words is the daughter of the lower class advocate of the unemployed.

After his knock on the head he Cares about the unemployed. He turns them into an army. To rebuild the infrastructure of the U.S. Evidently there are no unemployed women. And about two people of color. The other one is his valet, devoted to him body and soul whichever person he is. His force of rhetoric (angelic intervention, presumably) cowes the Congress into canceling themselves and giving him unlimited terms. Then he goes on to fix all the other problems in the world. With military force.

The Big Enemy is foreign debt -- and gangsters who don't want Prohibition repealed. He repudiates all the previous pacts with Europe and Japan, and forces them all to sign something called "The Washington Pact," and the moment of his signing, he falls over dead. What are we to make of this?

Then there is the Betty Boop cartoon -- "Boop for President," which is a send up of the pampering of the working man and the lazy poor -- even cats! -- by FDR's plan to build up the country. The Dems are portrayed as Negro asses.

This all seemed so close to the present, we decided to go find Birthday dinner -- particularly as the next title on the double bill was a 'comedy' called Washington Merry-Go-Round (1932), that opened with the black porters on a congressman's train being stupid as a comedy routine. We just couldn't stand it.

At least some things have changed. But not anywhere near as much as one would like. If they had this latest economic disaster wouldn't have happened. Well they learn, but then the regulations were taken away.

Why is it that nobody is talking at all about a link between the endless pallets of billions of U.S. currency disappeared into the sinkhole called the War in Iraq?

A Non-Royal Couple

A non-royal couple. Their hair styles can be seen almost exactly like in Yoruba scuptures (wood though -- West Africa did not possess the kind of stone for that kind of work) in certain periods, including today. Though I'm assuming that these are more like wigs or headdresses than actual hair. Again this is early in the Old Kingdom. But cosmetics and their palettes for crushing the minerals that made the cosmetics were already in use previous to the Pharoanic-Dynasty eras.
We only managed to do the Old Kingdom galleries before my back gave out. We'll go back again, soon, for the Middle Kingdom. It's so interesting to do this while re-reading Assmann. We noticed a hieroglyphic that we were convinced was a musical instrument, that might have been a distant forebear of the banjo. We lots of shots of it to ask an Egyptologist friend (specialty New Kingdom naval archeology) what the glyph meant. Imagine our sense of stupid when encountering a glossary of hieroglyphics, that far from having anything to do with music, the glyph meant "the heart and / or windpipe of a mammal." Our friend says she knew exactly which glyph we meant, before reading what the glossary told us. We knew she would.
These digital cameras are excellent tools for archives and museums. We can use them in the galleries that allow non-flash photography. They are successful for recording the explanatory, descriptive notes about the items. Tripods not necessary, generally, with these shake stablized features.
The overwhelming delivery of yesterday though was -- Vaquero in company with a friend who runs the media transfer lab at Columbia, who thinks Vaquero's God -- turned my out-of-print novels into Word dox! I'd lost any digital versions of them when my hard drive melted in New Orleans. One of them was on these huge old floppies, in Word Perfect, the others also on floppies that no computers have drives for now. He fed the pages of the books into the OCR platform scanner, then into pdfs. Then he turned the pdfs into Word dox, and cleaned up the mess that will come with scanning printed pages instead of a 'ribbon' text, particularly with hard returns, itals, periods and commas, missing pages and so on. He brought the books from the dead, which felt so appropriate to our current flow of thoughts around these old dead Egyptians. I was disappointed that the back wouldn't allow me to visit either the Costume Institute galleries or the Armor and Weapons galleries. I spent hours and hours in both of them, researching clothes and swords and early ballistic weapons for these three books. Our own early past as a married couple felt so close to us yesterday, that peculiar closeness we had then, how the creative work each of us did individually had fed the back and forth between us. The past -- as in New Orleans -- is always with us.

The Blood Sacrifice

This is from a long sequence on the walls of a tomb (brought from Egypt and reconstructed in the Met -- filled with screaming running children and people pushing buggies and strollers in these very narrow corridors and tiny, tiny rooms) belonging to a middling functionary of the Old Kingdom, again early in its establishment. It's the entrance, in a way, to the Met's Egyptian galleries. Thus, certainly the screaming children, particularly on a holiday.

I liked this because if you look at this wall's sequence of sacrifice, it's almost like stop animation. The bull selected, garlanded, led to the place, killed, blood caught and offered, and the flesh dismembered.
The damned kids though kept screaming that they wanted into that tiny chamber to see. "GET OUT! YOU GET OUT RIGHT NOW! LET ME IN! I I I I WANT TO SEE! I'LL KILL YOU IF YOU DON'T GET OUT!" Nevertheless inside, they couldn't see because they were too short, and they didn't have the eyes to see it anyway, any more than their parent(s). You get nothing out of this if you duck in and duck out again. You need to be patient and look, which as impatient and self-centered as just about everyone is, means they hate you for being so. I understand viscerally much better now how that poor Wal-Mart greeter got trampled and none of his tramplers even stopped to notice. This country is beyond reform, beyond repair.

King Of the Cats

From Pharoah Nedeses and Queen Constantiti's visit to the Egypt yesterday, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Already, early in Egypt's Old Kingdom*, between 5 and 6000 years ago, cats had their place -- as in charge. Here is a fragment from the walls commemorating and praising the King of the Cats and the cats in his keeping. Presumably, this King of the Cats is not four-legged, furred and tailed his own self. But he is in charge of the comfortable keeping of the pharoahs' cats, who control the vermin in the Pharoah's graneries and perform other hunting obligations, even retrieving small birds shot (with arrows, of course) in the more still waters.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I managed to make some extra special chicken stock.

Next, ginger dumpling soup with dumplings from Chinatown (the ginger too, for that matter, and the shitakes and the cilantro and the shaved carrots and the sesame chili oil).

The ginger turned out perfect -- young and tender and aromatic, perfect for mincing. The whole house was fragrant with ginger running through the freshly created stock that burbled for a few hours previously.

This week is dinner at home only tonight, Tuesday and Wednesday. My B-Day tomorrow (Grant's Tomb and the Met's Egyptian Galleries, as we're still deep in Ancient Egypt's arrow and cyclical time schemes, and with tomorrow a holiday, the Met will be open tomorrow. I'll finally get to take photos of Grant's Tomb, since Vaquero finally replaced the camera he lost this previous autumn). Thursday is the Frederick Douglas Award dinner for best black history of 2007. I thought we had to go to Yale for that, but it's here, which is great. Friday is dinner at a friend's where a writer who is working on a history of the downtown music scene of yore wants to interview some of us who were there.. Saturday is a another friend's book party. So some ginger dumpling soup on hand will be a good idea.

We got a Leicester cheese yesterday at Gourmet Garage that is so rich it's frightening. It isn't a healthy thing at all. Probably we should be drinking port with it. It's dessert really, not cheese!

Historically Black Colleges Feeling the Economic Pain

From the New Orleans Times-Picayune -- More than a few friends are directly affected:

Historically black colleges and universities, which for decades have been
educating students who can't afford to go -- or can't imagine going --
elsewhere, have been particularly challenged by the nation's economic

Saturday, February 14, 2009


It was lovely to wake up this morning to an in-box filled with wise thought, pretties and fun. Many thanks to those who thought of me today. That you did is deeply appreciated. This is one of my favorite holidays.

Valentine's Day question: What work of English Literature has its plot driven by a Valentine? Hint -- It was published in 1874.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday!

To Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln!

Also, this the 100th birthday of the founding of the NAACP.

And in New Orleans:

[ "Today, Plessy versus Ferguson becomes Plessy and Ferguson when descendants of opposing parties in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court segregation case stand together to unveil a plaque at the former site of the Press Street Railroad Yards.

Standing behind Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson will be a large group of students, scholars, officials and activists who worked for years to honor the site where in 1892, Treme shoemaker Homer Plessy, a light-skinned black man, was arrested for sitting in a railway car reserved for white people.

People often think that his ancestor held some responsibility for the legalized segregation known as "separate but equal," said Keith Plessy, 52, a longtime New Orleans hotel bellman whose great-grandfather was Homer Plessy's first cousin. In actuality, Homer Plessy boarded that train as part of a carefully orchestrated effort to create a civil-rights test case, to fight the proliferation of segregationist laws in the South.

Keith Plessy first learned about his relationship to the case from his teachers at Valena C. Jones Elementary School, who called him to the front of the room as they discussed the case. But his textbooks simply listed the name of the case and its result: a half-century of "separate but equal" schools, drinking fountains and buses.

Phoebe Ferguson, 51, a documentary filmmaker, left New Orleans in 1967 but moved back after discovering her great-great-grandfather's role in the infamous legal fight.

Judge John Howard Ferguson ruled against Plessy from his bench in Orleans Parish Criminal Court. The judge was born in Massachusetts and had strong ties to abolitionists, she said. So she doesn't think he was a racist.

Still, Phoebe Ferguson can't quite get over the powerful impact his decision had on the black community, which would endure a half-century of government-sanctioned segregation. "That a part of my family started Jim Crow is kind of a load to carry," she said. "I wish I could change that."
" ]

Full story here.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Before Time Runs Out On Us

The people of New Orleans and the history of the city contain vital information and clues to our past, and our present got to be what it is, in so many, many areas. Those who work in these fields are terrified that everything will disappear before we've re-learned what was lost or never noticed or deliberately supressed in the first place.

Therefore we are seeing so much brilliant work centered in this city pouring out of historians and musicologists and all kinds of other researchers.

Last week, a book we blurbed, arrived here, by Shirley Elizabeth Thompson, Assistant Professor in American Studies at the University of Texas (Austin), (2009) Exiles at Home: The Struggle to Become American in Creole New Orleans. Harvard University Press.

This work elaborates on an area in our New Orleans books, which is that post the Louisiana Purchase, the new government established by the U.S. -- Protestant and Baptist, English speaking, English derived legal institutions and attitudes (particularly toward slaves), a different currency -- was a tremendous trauma to the southern looking old residents of the city, and the nearly simultaneous arrivals flooding in from St. Domingue.

Creole of color had their own, particular hurdles, whether free or slave. (This is when laws were passed that women of color must cover their hair.)

Shirley Elizabeth Thompson's book focuses on these challenges. This is just one of the many books in the pipelines. This makes me think about the global catastrophes we're experiencing, as with the failure of New Orleans's levees, the wildfires of California and Australia, the cooling of England, the expansion of desertification.

The footprint of humanity upon the planet's resources seem more like tearing up the railroad tracks (a favorite tactic in our Civil War, used by both sides) that made the planet operate for such a relatively short time, geologically speaking, in our favor.

A concomitant disaster in the not-distant future that demands decision-making presently, but about which commentary appears sparse outside of the library communities, is that the history of our time on this planet is in our cities on the coasts of rivers, oceans, and seas. If these cities are overwhelmed by flooding, we shall see a loss of the past and what we might possibly learn from it, beyond anything we saw happen here with the 2005 flood of New Orleans, which is a disaster for our national history, short as it has been. European and Asian cities are vastly more ancient, containers of history that reach into what we fancifully call pre-history, because written records are not available, even as numbers on pot shards.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Speculations of Time, Direction and Language

Assmann, Jan. (2002). The Mind of Egypt: History and meaning in the Time of the Pharoahs. Trans. Andrew Jenkins. Metropolitan Books, New York.

This is a splendidly provocative work of history. It's German historigraphy at its best -- so very different from French historigraphy. The efforts of American historians feel nearly superficial in comparison. We do terrific work with the specificity of events, with cause and effect of individuals and forces. We are painstaking in the establishment of a narrative of realism. We do this very well. However our history is so very short in comparison with Europe's or Asia's. As for time, we in the U.S.A. in particular, perceive it as an arrow, with the past behind us as we race always to leave the past behind and to get ahead. With 3500 years of Ancient Egypt Assman has a long view as his purview indeed. Only in some pockets, as in New Orleans, do we deal with time as ritual circle, with time as what was is what is.

That's also what is so instructive in Braudel and the Annales -- le longue duree -- with the concomitant concept that the Mediterranean rim is its own culture, having more in common with other political entities on this same axis than with further entities of its own continent, distinct from Europe or the Middle East or Upper Egypt. As you see in the Caribbean and with the Gulf -- which is part of the theory of Pan-Caribbeanism. The Caribbean and the Gulf are themselves each distinct, and they are also distinct from their ruling or colonial powers as well as from South, Central and North American cultures.

No one had applied that historical-cultural-geographical vision to New Orleans, to Havana, to our own Gulf coasts before we did. Once others see or read of it in the books or in conference presentations, they go, "Oh, yes!" Havana and western Cuba is on the Atlantic - Gulf axis, with New Orleans, not the Caribbean. This has been my great contribution, I think. Therefore a study of the Nile, like a study of the Mississippi River, has to bring fresh insights, as the study of Mediterranean history will to Caribbean history. Lately symposia have sprung up about 'Gulf culture", and about the New Orleans - Havana - Haiti triangle trade and cultural exchange. Before us, there weren't.

That I did 9 hours of geography course and lab work for my undergrad science requirement contributed greatly to this. I remember one day on my first extended stay in Havana (previous to that on my Cuba trips I'd spent all my time in the east -- the Caribbean region of Cuba), leaning over the Malécon sea wall as all habaneros do, and staring out, to the north, registering what was probably an oil tanker in the distance. The color of the water, the currents, the sensation of it was all around me, spraying into my face. The water was frigid.

And I go ... "This isn't the Caribbean. Everyone talks about the water here as the Caribbean. But up there is Miami. Miami isn't on the Caribbean. The Caribbean Sea is on the other shore of Cuba. We are not rimming the Caribbean here. We are looking north and east, not south and west. This ... is the Atlantic." Technically speaking, if you look at the maps, right there, it is still the Atlantic. The Bahamas, Bermuda, for instance, are neither Antilles nor Caribbean. They are Atlantic Ocean islands. This is a concept that for some reason for many people seems difficult to grasp. Many people will not look at maps, for that matter.

After that lightbulb moment of mine, Ned acquired a geological volume of maps of Cuba and the surrounding waters at the open air used book market in the Plaza des Armas. It became a very large part of what he came to write in Cuba and Its Music, and then went into the New Orleans books. I compare this difficulty of geographical visualization with that of the Upper and Lower Nile many people have. They insist on reversing those directions of north and south, even people who have been there.

The New Kingdom's trade (the later Bronze Age) turned Egypt into an empire of cultural influence and mercantile dominance that reached north, east and west. The Met show, "Beyond Babylon," makes this clear. This means that large elements of Egyptian culture had to move into the flow of time as arrow, out of the ritual, cyclic round of time.

(Which then maybe explains why Egypt is never considered in the context of Africa, the continent on which she is located? Despite the political interpenetration of what is called Libya, and which must have run via trade routes -- the Sahara region was far less desert then -- maybe to the Atlantic? And south, Nubia -- which also interpentratred politically -- was the trade mediator between Egypt and the southern and central regions of Africa?)

How we exist in time, how we perceive time, is perhaps even created by language, particularly our language that describes our sense of the divine. Or also of the state. These all seem perceptually interpenetrative and influential: language, direction, time (all dragged by the arrow point of death?)

You and I, all of us live in arrow time, the time that took dominion with the dominion of Christianity (thus B.C. and A.D.). It is arrow time, the point of which is Redemption, when Christ returns again to earth, to judge the quick and the dead, and we all enter the eternal is, of paradise or hell, ending time, finishing history, forever. Whether or not we believe in this doctrine, even our brain cells are formed by that conception of arrow time. Our nation, the youngest of powers, came into being long, long after that sense of time took dominion. Whereas, other powerful nations, in their culture-forming pre-nation statehood, like France, England, China, etc. -- have their linguistic, directional, divine roots in ritual, cyclical time.

Pharoanic pyramidia monuments, embossed with hierglphic declarations, oriented to existence within time -- neither past nor future, but an eternal is -- present perfect, forever and ever.

New Orleans is also a monumental city of the perpetually existing dead, where time is ritually repetitive, rather than a future point. Who your ancestors are matters more than who you are.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Why Hard Times Won't Mean Good Times at the Movies Again

Movie columnist for the Village Voice, J. Hoberman (one of the only writers the rag hasn't laid off or fired), breaks it down for us here.

A reorganized and self-regulated Hollywood bounced back in 1935, but times were different then. Movies were America's universal culture. Now, they're not even close. Like then, the technology is changing—but in a far different way. Movies are expendable. Folks will give up $12 tickets, cancel Netflix, and cut cable to save their high-speed Internet connection. With the president's fireside chats posted online, the new Hoovervilles will certainly have broadband. Is there a downsized future for Katzenberg's product? As one bankrupt mogul said to another, "YouTube?!"

Maybe free online movies are strictly for the indies. But if times get worse and the studios want to get real, they'll have to find the audience where it lives: Hulu for Hollywood.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Ms. Franklin's Inaugural Hat, Consequences

This bothered me so much I finally sent an e-mail and copied my blogspot entry to their blog, about them and the Hat at "Doin' Time" about their stupid behavior around Ms. Franklin's hat. (Here's that original entry.)

Today, Ron Kuby read a part of my blog entry on air, and then went on to explain the history about Church Lady hats and tignons, and New Orleans laws that demanded women of color keep their heads covered.

Kuby still insists though they weren't making fun of the hat, but having fun with the hat. But I'm still not convinced.

Evidently too, I wasn't the only one calling out their idiocy, which I'm glad to learn.

But he and his staff at least now know more than they did before.

Update: The Smithsonian wants Ms. Franklin's hat for their Inaugural dresses collection.

So I e-mailed Ron Kuby the link to that too.

She thinks she wants to keep that hat. That hat is HISTORY in every way, and deserves its place as a family heirloom.

Ms. Franklin was so aware she was standing there, where Marian Anderson stood to sing back in 1939 outside the Lincoln Memorial, after the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) had her barred from singing in Washington D.C. 's Constitution Hall because she was black. Anderson also sang the National Anthem on that occasion.

Premier Dardos Award -- Do I Understand?

I'm terrible at things like this, which is one of the reasons memes don't much appeal to me. But I'll try to give this a shot, as it was Citizen K who put me to this.

This is the Dardos Award:

The Premier Dardos Award is given for recognition of cultural, ethical,
literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original
writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting
fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for
work that adds value to the Web.

The rules:

  • Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and a link to his/her blog.
  • Pass the award to another five blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgement, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award.

Gotham City Soul is chosen because she's a good friend, a good writer and editor and always has interesting and worthwhile material, usually about New York City and / or history, beautifully organized. She also illustrates her blog pertinently.

The Angry Black Woman provides a space for the thankless task of attempting to help the clueless understand what racism is like from the perspective of one who lives with it every day, and yet is not bitter nor a hater, just, sometimes, very tired.

Asking the Wrong Questions is written by a well-traveled Israeli, with an excellent critical mind that she applies to media and print genre.

Caterpillars to Butterflies is written with passion, compassion, generosity and wisdom about performing some of the most exhausting work in the world, helping those who are at the extremity where they cannot help themselves.

Dakota Women is an aggregator blog of news and issues concerning women, and women of the Great Plains in particular. The Dakotas aren't thought about very often, and the women who live there aren't among the trendy groups that people on the Coasts often like to be involved with, to 'help.' But they are the women from whom I spring, and I admire them, and their capacities, immensely.

Hmmm. It seems I've chosen all women!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Monumental Discourse - Space and Direction

Vol II and Vol III of the 3 volume The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, edited, with notes by Leslie S. Klinger waited for me at the library yesterday. They are enormous. My back has taken a beating since going to the Met last Friday, and doing several other difficult for the back but essential tasks this week, so carrying home books that weigh about five pounds each was not in the cards. Vaquero kindly went with me to do the carrying home amd was rewarded by running into The Mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaohs. He checked it out on his own card for a change. Usually when I go to the library I look for works that might interest or be of use to him particularly, or I order works that I know he/we should be reading for our research.

This seemed to take hours and hours -- that's one of the reasons this weather is so much of the big suck (though at the moment, today, it's almost 50 degrees, while it hardly got above freezing yesterday). He took the books and went home by subway because everything was taking so long and he wanted to get home as soon as possible so we could finally get to work. I chose to walk, as part of good health habits -- and I got home before he did. Ha!

With my bean bag 'lapdesk' (the books are too heavy to hold -- though they are most handsomely produced) I will be able to finally read A Study in Scarlet, which I've only done once, about thousand years ago, before I knew anything about the early Mormons and their history. I can recall the circumstances of reading A Study in Scarlet, and how it puzzled me. I was in high school. It was a summer Sunday afternoon, in my room. I'm currently continuing through the very many -- thank goodness! -- Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes dvds. I've got two more to go in the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and all of the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. It's going to be fun to compare and contrast, as the episodes seem to follow the stories carefully, but I don't really know, not having been that great a fan of Holmes. Jeremy Brett seems to have changed that.

Vaquero is delighted with The Mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaohs by Jan Assman. He tucked up happily with the book for much of the late afternoon and evening yesterday, chortling madly over the inscriptions of self-praise inscribed on monuments and tombs. He's hearing them as rappers heaping compliments upon themselves as the biggest and the greatest and richest and most dangerous mofos ever.

He's also loving the curse poems against grave robbers.And the descriptions of how ordinary tomb-pyramid monuments are aligned along the Nile directions of upper and lower, while the non-tomb pyramids, or those of the god-pharaohs are about otherworldly space and are aligned along the 4 cardinal directions.

The author is very highly respected and a marvelous thinker, according to my personal Ancient Egypt specialist, so that also delights Vaquero.

An excellent book for reading aloud. Only one problem, and guess what it is?

As per usual with books about matters of ancient Egypt nothing is considered within the context that Egypt is in Africa. Nothing.

This book isn't anywhere near as accidental as I made it appear. This book's discussion about the New Kingdom is perfect for expansion of what we thought about and discussed in context of our visit to the "Beyond Babylon" exhibit at the Met a week ago Friday.

Our Tax-Funded SWAT Teams at Work

Surveilling your residence, shooting your dogs, arresting you, never noticing they have the wrong address and that you are the mayor.

Horror show tale of this in the WaPo.

I hope these a$$holes and their higherups all go to prison for a very long time. If, as has happened over and over this SWAT team had mistaken a poor black family's home -- or anybody else's home instead of the mayor's, we'd never even have heard of what they'd done. They always get away with it, without penalty too. Who do they think they are? Blackwater?

Smart to run the story on superbowl Sunday. Nobody like Clarence Thomas will notice and get mad.