". . . 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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Martini Light

Up home, in Manhattan, we have officially entered Martini Light Season. It's not all day long or all night long. It's right now, at this time of day, the end of the afternoon, just before dusk.

You promenade along, say, Central Park West, or hit the Continental-styled wide boulevarde intersection of Avenue of the Americana and Bleecker Street, anywhere where there's ingress for the horizontal sky light of end-of-day in the days leading up to the solistice and the days after, and you know what I mean.

But only in Manhattan, where the modern, the 20th century, and martinis were invented. When you walk along Central Park West, you will know why, here. (Well, yes, I have my hyperlocal biases.)

It is beautiful here, just beautiful. It has preserved the best of its past. But I do not deny the beauty and the uniqueness of the beauty, of other places I love. Manhattan is beautiful precisely out of it always looking ahead, out of it being about the now and the future -- about getting rich, about getting famous, preferably both, about making it. This is what Manhattan has always been about, even when it was Dutch. It still is, even now when it's Asian.

Hyper urbane, hyper sophisticated, hyper all of what made the 20th C the American, meaning the U.S.A., century.

The U.S.A. century is over, of course (though we've still got all that it takes to wreak havoc wherever and whenever, of course -- and nor am I, for one, proud of that), but Manhattan, like Rome, like Bejing, like London, like Paris, survives as one of world history's Black Holes, into which all civilization falls, and comes out the other side, as something changed and exciting, to spread over the planet.

We all get ours, in the end. But Manhattan's end is not yet.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Holiday Classic, Plus Road Kill

What Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays look like, as our popular classic imagery has embedded them, at least for some of us, since were born: we learned them from television and movies of the past, Christmas cards, from our model railroad villages under the Tree, the store window scenes, ye olde mail order Christmas catalogs -- remember them? so important to kids who grew up on farms, far from not only any city, but even a largish town, the dream books of wish books! -- the seasonal decorations of our Churches, in the nave, in the Sunday School basements, the ones in our schools, the town public space seasonal decorations -- remember them? know them?

I am currently living in one of those classic Christmas villages under the Christmas tree. It's unexpectedly unsettling -- both pleasant and unpleasant -- to spend one's daily life in classic 18th c, early American surroundings that are not faux cute decoratives and ornamentals, but are authentically this. Yesterday intensified this unsettlement as we had Thanksgiving in Annapolis, and this was our first time there.

The old part of Annapolis is a collection of jewels of Georgian American architecture. It was also a planned settlement -- like England's Bath, to which with pride Annapolis contemporaries likened it. Annapolis also called itself the American Athens. Between about 1720 and the Revolution, it was the most fabulously wealthy of all places in England's North American colonies. It was also the most English, with clubs, jewelry makers, gold and silversmiths, perfumers, dress and suit makers, of the caliber found in London. This accounts for its gradual but perceptible decline after Independence. It was a Tory merchant town, built on the slave trade, mostly. Those merchants either were killed fighting for the English, or immigrated to Canada or England. Also Baltimore became the primary port for Maryland, as well as an industrial center, and a railroad city that connected to the western states.

Annapolis turned into itself, into a perpetual dream of the past. What saved it from disappearing as other thriving towns around it did, was being being Maryland's capital since 1694, when named the capital of the Proprietary Colony of Maryland. It had a good central location, on the Severn River, with the Chesapeake bay at its front door, when in those days waterways were the chief mode of transportation and communications. It wasn't until some decades later that Annapolois snagged the U.S. Naval Academy (1845).

Someone we knew long ago when living in Albuquerque, ended up establishing his base in Annapolis. He learned we are here, and invited us to Annapolis for Thanksgiving. He's very busy producing documentary film and television now, but owns a Georgian house in central Annapolis that he began restoring back at the end of the 1980's with the large fortune he inherited from his family (only child). He has servants, who, I swear could just as well have been serving the Tory family that built his house back in the 1730's.

Before dinner - supper, he took us on an historic tour of Annapolis. Like C'town, Annapolis has all its Christmas lights, decorations and trees up. It was like watching an animated Disney film set in the colonial era. Except this was authentic wood and brick. Before heading back to L's house for the feast, he took us to a 1750 tavern, for celebratory rum punch such as might have been served in Middletown Tavern then. What a contrast between another of our notable Thanksgivings, the one with the familia in Havana.

Dinner had been prepared by his long-time staff (when he's in town -- he has other homes, in Virginia and in LA -- like so many people, even very well off wealthy ones like him, he's suddenly house poor, in the sense that he can no longer afford three establishments and can't get rid of any of them). To begin -- I can't. It's too much. I will say though this is the very best pumpkin pie I have ever ever ever eaten. The whipped cream was the best whipped cream!

In contrast, road kill. By the side of the road I saw a dead deer with about four large, stocky Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus) feasting on it, getting their Thanksgiving on, no doubt! Before going west, we made a jaunt to the marker for the one Chesapeake successful land battle of the War of 1812, which was in Kent county, Caulk's Field, and down to Rock Hall, at the end of the county, on the Bay. Between that little trip and the drive to the bridge I counted 5 dead deer -- were also smaller, generally, non-identifiable out the window kills on the highways, though one was certainly a racoon. About ten days ago I overheard some Fish, Game and Wildlife fellows speaking of how their job had now hit the annual task of clearing dead deer off the roads and highways. "It's mating season. They've got no brains."

Like an idiot, I did not think to take a camera with me. It was overcast, which can provide terrific picture taking light. But like the deer, though addled by history not by the reproductive imperative (been there, done that!), I had no brains.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pulp History

 ... the brother and sister team of David and Margaret Talbot, save the gore for print. They are the mild-mannered creators of a new book series called “Pulp History,” rip-roaring nonfiction tales with enough purple prose, gory illustrations and va-va-va-voom women to lure in even reluctant teenage male readers.
Here's a sample:

In “Shadow Knights: The Secret War Against Hitler,” one of two books in the series that Simon & Schuster released last month, a British spy named Harry Rée wrestles with a Gestapo agent: “He gouged at one of the man’s eyes, but it wouldn’t come out. He tried to bite off his nose, but it was too tough. Then Ree shoved his forefinger into the German’s mouth, between his teeth and cheeks, and pulled up hard. The man squealed in pain and sent Ree flying over his head.”

David Talbot created Salon dot come back in the '90's.  Margaret Talbot writes for The New Yorker.  They promise that their books are historically factual and do show the evils of colonialism, racism, the dishonesty of politics, the factual horrors that history so often is.  Nevertheless, here's this:

Their 160-page book, “Devil Dog: The Amazing True Story of the Man Who Saved America,” follows the exploits of the most decorated Marine of his day, Smedley Darlington Butler — a name too good to be false. Mr. Talbot first came across this forgotten hero in another book’s footnote.

The cover, drawn in bold colors, depicts Butler with a gun in one hand while in his other he holds up the Statue of Liberty — depicted as a bosomy redhead — who has fainted. Other illustrations reflect the same bawdy sensibility. In one, a voluptuous naked black Haitian woman dances in a voodoo ritual in front of a roaring bonfire and a beheaded dog. The style matches the pulp novels that were popular with American readers during the Marines’ long occupation of Haiti that began in 1915. The back cover promises, “Unbelievable and ALL TRUE!,” and “Devil Dog Will Knock You Out!

Now why is it that what I see here is cynical dorkdongs devoutly believing they are entitled to sell history the way everythig else is sold, by the exploitation of women's bodies and sexuality the bodies and sexuality of people of color, the suffering of untold numbers presented as a comic book in order to make the buckola for themselves and their upper-middle-class children -- while devoutly, smugly congratulating themselves as doing good in the world.

Why yes, their pretense that they are bringing history to kids, when, as the article makes clear, this is an enterprise that is geared to creating fictional television and movie franchises, is disgusting and an insult to the many people who work so hard to write history that is accessible to the non-specialist.
Full story here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Honk Country Dispatches 1

Conditions good for fishing.
Conditions good for outdoor exercise.
Conditions poor for catching cold.

Overnight temperatures changed from warm to chilly and windy. Though the day is again sunny and bright, the light is not warm and soft, but hard and sharp.

Overnight spruces with red bows at their tips appeared in pots, located on each corner of C'town's historic business district.

Overnight The Bakery, promised since even before our first visit this past June, opened. I bought a blueberry muffin, to inaugurate the place.  I wonder if there will be an impact on Play It Again Sam, where everyone gathers to get their coffee, dulces, sandwiches, beer, wine and wifi. The Bakery does sell coffee, along with the breads and higher-priced dulces, and has tables, but no wifi.  Its hours are 6:30 AM to 2:00 PM, closed Sundays (and Thanksgiving).  The Farmer's Market, which only runs on Saturday mornings is open all day, today, for Thanksgiving. From what I could determine mostly business is in pies, which business is brisk, but no one is buying anything else. I bought a single serving of the local fruit cake to see if I like it. I like some fruit cake very much, but it's pretty specific what kind I like, but one can't tell from the looking at it alone.

El V isn't feeling well, alas. Also, the person whose car we're renting, just got a new, higher-paying position in another town. In another week we shall be wheeless again. So far, nothing el V's attempted in terms of wheels has panned out. We can use the WC cars occasionally, but not for anything like leaving it in the Baltimore airport for 4 or 5 days, or going out of town on weekends. O dear.

Monday, November 22, 2010


It is glorious, and I got to stand for a while tonight and see its light splayed upon the spated river: shining, sparkling, shaking, shivering, shattering. Huge. So huge. It's so much warmer tonight than last ... surely it shall rain tomorrow and thus no more of this moon.

And I hope you will pardon me for saying I've had just the most wonderful day. Doing nothing but blither with V about capitalism, money, land, slavery, CA Gold Rush, Civil War, put two days' of dishes in dishwasher (I am being seduced!), scrubbed the master bathroom that turned into a pigpen immediately with V here, gave script of Free Man of Color to the provost's wife who, with provost, will see it over Thanksgiving weekend, walked to the WC library where the books I looked for seem to be lost, so got other books, picked up by V, and then wrote all afternoon.

Now, we're going out to dinner for the Monday night special at the Fish Whistle.

And the moon ....

That there are horrors under this moon everywhere, I surely know, and that I have horrors and terrors of our own, this is so, but I try to hide them from myself most of all, while attempting still to deal.  But for some moments I have the privilege of being perfectly my most perfect self and filled with the joy of it -- and be aware of the perfection of self, time, place, action.  This happens so seldom in all our lives that the moments must be noticed and treasured.

The moon, o the moon.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Change in the Weather

Today: "Good Weather for Hunting!"

Too cold for the fish maybe.

The C'town harbor ducks and geese are remarkably quiet this morning.

We had dinner last night with lovely, intelligent, accomplished, talented people from the College, hosted by the provost and his delightful interior designer wife.  Thus it is probably needless to mention their home is beautiful.  It is necessary, however, to include the information there are also four cats, one of which has three legs. The party was eager to hear accounts of viewing Guare's A Free Man of Color; one of the other guests is an experimental playwrite, a man of color and the the head of WC's drama department; our hosts brought him to WC from Atlanta when they came to WC, and have tickets to see A Free Man of Color during the Thanksgiving weekend. For me personally, besides the costumes, which everyone loves and praises, the most interesting thing about the play was seeing all these historical characters personated on stage: Jacques Cornet! James Monroe! Thomas Jefferson! Toussaint Louverture! Merriwether Lewis! Robert Livingston! Tallyrand -- who I can never now picture as other than John Malkovich due to the Napoleon miniseries!  Ben Brantley demonstrated in his panning with the faintest of praise that the content of the play went over his head entirely.   The Capeman too, was entirely over his head, which his assessment of that history has already proven wrong.

There was a rainbow ring around the so full as to be full moon in a mostly clear sky. Yes, another beautiful night on the Eastern Shore, followed by yet another beautiful day.

So I spoil the mood by considering how, in light of the history of the Adams-Clay vs. Jackson-Van Bruen presidential election of 1828, the total cluelessness of the Adams and Clay people when faced by these extremely politically talented people, that indeed the unspeakable sp will be POTUS in a couple of years.  My one hope is that she will peak too early.  Nor am I certain she's got a Van Bruen political wizard to run things for her -- they are most secretive, according to the NY Times magazine this AM.  We do know she's cowed Rove, whose star appears to have dimmed.  His time blazed and is now finished.

But, she adds out of profound gloom, this only means she'll be replaced by someone even worse, who will win.  Certainly the confederates believe they've risen again -- and they never lost in the first place. * 

* For another nonsensical alternate history Civil War scenario go to salon dot com today.  This guy's supposedly a prof of Civil War history, and he came up with this?  Plus, he's so unoriginal that you can see the content of TN Coate's blog entries and the posts of his well-informed commentators all over this pastiche of sillyness written by this fellow so appropriately named Glenn W. Lafantasie. This is the sort of thing that makes one speculate, "Hmmmm.  On the internet nobody knows you're a dog."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Historical Research for Fiction vs. Historical Research for History

The two processes are very different, and now it strikes me as to why this is so.

What is included in fiction is entirely at the discretion of the author. This is the author's right and is part of the author's job to create the most immersive (if that's the author's objective) and coherent narrative she possibly can. This means picking and choosing the facts or even the rumors and downright lies that support the narrative's point.*

The historian should not, cannot, do that. The historian's job is to reveal to her greatest capacity what actually happened. No picking and choosing facts here. If the facts and the information do not support what the historian thought happened, no can do. At least in the world of ethical history writing.  This is one of the many reasons that slaveholding states denied access to historians and researchers for so long who were not 'the right sort.'  Denied the primary documentation many actions and behaviors can remain concealed forever, or at least poo-pooed as the fantasies of crackpots and pot stirrers.

Fortunately we are now keenly aware that generally histories are written from the point of view of the winners and is often employed to justify what the winners did to the losers. Etc. Or you can reverse it, how the losers write history to make themselves innocent victims. These can be filled with as many lies, counter-facts, myths and rumors as those written by the winners -- example: Woodrow Wilson's History of the American People.

Why yes, I have been reading William Byrd's journals.

And -- "Conditions will be very good for fishing!"

* Myself, I can only approve of very judicious mis-handling of the facts and information on hand, even in an historical fiction.  Equally for 'alternative history' -- such as all the alternate histories that show the confeds winning the Civil War, with the expectation of the winning confeds that slavery would somehow, some way, quietly, peacefully eventually wither away.  It had not withered in the least in over 3 hundred years, and it was never quiet.  Moreover, the  point of the war for them was to expand slavery throughout the nation and the continent(s), which the rest of the nation wasn't about to allow. 

For more of what this is about read Ta-Nehisi Coates' "Alternate History Cont." here as he deals with Hank Williams Jr.'s "If the South Had Won the War We'd Have It Made." 

zunguzungu goes much further with deconstructing this redneck anthem here with his blogpost "President of the Southern States."  zunguzungo, whether or not he realizes it, is performing Postmamboism, reading social, cultural and political history as embedded in music, i.e. musical forensics for history.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Good Weather for Fishing

I have become unaccountably delighted when that advice shows up on the C'town accu-weather daily forecast. That what it was yesterday and today, "good weather for fishing." It's chilly, it's damp. I'm beginning to understand why people who know this House are telling us that we're going to want to build fires in the front room fireplaces this winter.

A bit punchy for now. Waiting for el V to return so we can run over to Miller Library for a book I want, and the have dinner, which is just about ready. So maybe we'll do that in reverse order. I've written the through lines for three groups of characters for the treatment today, and transcribed some notes for the book. And worked out and showered. I feel completely stupid. Time for television: the concluding episodes of Reilly: Ace of Spies (1983 -- Golden Age of mini series television), starring Sam Neill. This series is so good!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fifty years later, students recall integrating New Orleans public schools

At this moment Vaquero's attending a commemorative event - ceremony down in the Lower 9th honoring the girls who were the center of the battle to integrate New Orleans's public school system.

"Today at 9 a.m. -- the exact time that "The McDonogh 3" integrated the school 50 years ago -- three women and the federal marshals who once escorted them will unveil a state historical marker in front of McDonogh No. 19."
The shameful, ugly behaviors of white Louisiana at that time have never provoked an apology of any kind later down the line.

Rather, most white families that can manage to do so, have deserted the public school system all together. Now, the system is rapidly being privatized, via 'charter' schools and various other devices devised in the last decades that are essentially re-segregation of education, allowing smug middle and upper middle class people to defend pulling their kids from public education because it is a failed system.

Here in NYC with the massive loss of jobs for many middle-class parents, they are discovering what it means to trash and desert public education, now that they can't afford the fees to send their kids to private schools.  The tales of the ruses, subterfuges and temper tantrums to which these parents have resorted to get their entitled kids into the remaining good public schools, despite them not living in that school's district, would be high comedy if they weren't so representative of the ugly, selfish, stupid people this nation's citizens have by-and-large become.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Super HyperLocal Trivia -- Dishwasher!

I haz. I uze. 4 1st time.

Lunch yesterday was a lot of dishes, but not really, since everything was cooked before guests arrived, and then Vaquero (mostly) washed up. Dinner was eaten out, courtesy of the Starr Center, at a very fine local restaurant. But breakfast -- so many dishes. A very large breakfast. That included apple pie and ice cream. Why not? We are all consenting grown-ups here, and if we think adding (hot) apple pie and (cold) ice cream to breakfast, which is sort of also lunch, who is to say us nay? So many plates, cups, mugs and silverwares!

So, why not uze the dishwasher which it iz I haz?

Guests drove off, 45 minutes late, because K bought more merchandise from one of the town's antique booksellers for his own store's stock, which he knows he can turn around immediately for much much more than he paid for it.

Vaquero left earllier, about 15 minutes late, for the Balitimore airport, for the Congo Square Festival and Conference in New Orleans. He called just as I was filling up the dishwasher, to say he was entering the boarding security line.

So all is on track, with a most successful visit in every way for everyone from the Starr Center hosts, David Stewart, our personal guests, and ourselves. Everyone loved each other, David gave a most exhilerating talk on Burr's western adventure and the aftermath, we all had a fabulous dinner at a place new to us. I had a chunk of local beef that I couldn't finish, but is ambrosia. With all the left-over food of various kinds I won't have to cook for few days, not even when Vaquero gets back Wednesday evening.

However, it is suddenly, extraordinarily, quiet and empty around here, after almost 24 uninterrupted hours of talk-talk-talk-talk-listen-listen-listen with so many people, serially, sequentially and all together. When we left all the others last night it was nearly midnight, and then we stayed up longer, yawning but talking with great excitement about various history projects and antique books and bookselling, and yawning, but like little kids, not wanting to go to bed. We finally had to, then we're all up before 8.

I'm happy to learn I still know how to be a hostess. I loved having K and C, and look forward to them coming back pretty soon, which I'm pretty sure they will.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Capitalism / Slavery = Expand Or Die

From today's NY Times Disunion column, by Jamie Malanowski. For those particularly who insist even now that the Civil War wasn't about slavery -- here it is, in Jefferson Davis's own philosophy, that the Civil Was about nothing else but slavery:

And so, inevitably, the South thinks of secession — and expansion. The South has long believed that unless slavery keeps expanding, it will die, and take the slave-holding elite with it. As Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi recently said, “We of the South are an agricultural people, and we require an extended territory. Slave labor is a wasteful labor, and it therefore requires a still more extended territory than would the same pursuits if they could be prosecuted by the more economical labor of white men.” Limiting slave territory, Davis says, would “crowd upon our soil an overgrown black population, until there would not be room in the country for whites and blacks to subsist in, and in this way. . . reduce the whites to the degraded position of the African race.” Oddly, Senator Charles Sumner, the ardent abolitionist from Massachusetts, has in a rather different way reached the same conclusion: limiting slavery will kill slavery.

And so the slaveholders seek to expand, although whether they can go further north and west is more than a political question; there is much doubt whether the climate and crops of western America would sustain slavery. But all doubts vanish when they turn their backs to the north, and see rimming the Gulf of Mexico verdant lands that could, and have, enriched slaveholding planters. “To the Southern republic bounded on the north by the Mason and Dixon line and on the south by the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, including Cuba and all the other lands on our southern shore,” toasted one Texan at a convention in 1856, and that sentiment burns at the heart of many of the fire-eaters now crying secession.

Don’t forget that not very long ago, such sentiments burned brightly in Washington as well. The Polk and Pierce administrations tried to buy Cuba. Just six years ago, the current president, James Buchanan, who was then Minister to Great Britain, was one of the three authors of the Ostend Manifesto, which maintained that if Spain wouldn’t sell us Cuba, we would be justified in seizing it. Accompanying these official efforts were unofficially encouraged forays by slaveholder-supported filibusteros to invade Cuba, foment a rebellion and grab the island on behalf of expansionist-minded southerners.

Expansionists north and south initially supported William Walker’s campaigns to seize control of Nicaragua, but it was the southern expansionists who were his true constituency. The south’s moral and financial support sustained Walker when he seized Nicaragua’s presidency in 1856, and though he governed only briefly, he managed to re-establish the legality of slavery before a coalition of Central American powers defeated his cholera-ravaged army and sent him scampering. Walker made further attempts to conquer Nicaragua, the last of which ended last September in front of a firing squad in Honduras. But southerners backed every one.

A mere freebooter, Walker nearly succeeded. The ultras dream of what could be accomplished in Nicaragua, and Cuba and northern Mexico and the West Indies if a cotton-rich American government should seek its destiny in commanding a tropical empire that would dominate the world’s supply of not only cotton but the staple of sugar as well.

So here, then, is the South’s choice. Does it select a future in which the southern slavocracy is less powerful; more isolated; consistently subjected to moral castigation by northerners for an economic system that profits not just planters but innumerable northern shippers and insurers and mill owners? Or does the South choose to establish a new nation that will sit at the center of a rich and powerful slaveholding empire that will dominate the hemisphere?

There are plenty of people in the south who oppose disunion and wish to move slowly or not at all. But most of the South’s leadership — its money and its political establishment and its opinion-makers — know that the South is at a crossroads, and they mean for it to choose independence.
This independence, then, would mean constant war of conquest. Jefferson Davis himself understood that -- and also expected to be sitting in the White House as President by the end of the next year. The South did not expect to contain slavery in the existing slave states -- the new Confederated nation -- ever. This is why they were going to war. There was no other reason.

This is why, earlier in the nation's history, the United States knew it could not tolerate Texas as an independent slaveholding republic at its flanks -- for Texas slavery, in its capitalist manner of ever burning out land and moving on to unsettled regions of relatively cheap acreage with its cheap slave labor, would perform Davis's philosophy. Texas would annex for slavery by war and conquest these other regions that the rest of U.S. already perceived as her own, for her other economic vision, which would never be compatible with slavery.

This is why there was no need for a civil war in any other nation to abolish slavery. In this nation, this was the only way way slavery could ever be finished as a legal institution backed by all the instruments of court and government. Born in blood, always in oceans of blood, usually the blood of 'others.' this nation will drown in its own blood, not the blood of 'others,' at the end.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Living the Dream, Inhabiting a Bubble, the Not Real World

I am inhabiting 24/7 a place in which history matter 24/7, in which people care about history, in which people read history, in which people research history, in which people write history, argue it, discover it, a place, where, Lordessas Save Us -- HISTORY IS EVEN ENTERTAINMENT.

We will be hosting our first house guests this week.  C and K will be arriving for David Stewart's account of the "Tale of Aaron Burr's Western Expedition and Conspiracy Trial."  As C and K are doing incredible research into the life and times of Aaron Burr's second wife, it seems fit to introduce them to David, and to the Starr Center people.  They are doing exactly what the Starr Ctr. perceives as its current mission.

So many people in town will be at David's lecture -- the town and the college connect in these presentations.   There are so many wonderful people that are always coming into Washington College -- tomorrow is Junot Díaz, for instance.  This past week I attended this, a harp accompanied presentation of Beowulf, by Benjamin Bagby. There is a lot to do here because of WC. The quality of people they bring in, in all fields, is world class. It's very exciting to have all this so easily accessible, so accessible, I have had to ration myself or else I'd never do anything else, because our social life is also built around these things. So sociable it is here. I was getting fairly reclusive in NYC due to my physical condition and how plain horrible it is there these days with the gridlock of tourism in my area of the city. Among other incentives to socialize is that it is just so much easier and more comfortable in every way than at home.

Tonight my baby gets back after a week away.  Poor baby too -- he's caught cold.  I'm so glad he's returning.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Privateers and Steam Brigs

The rains that appears to be pouring down along all the Atlantic coast is keeping me inside today. I'd planned to spend it at the Kent County News transcribing from issues published during the War of 1812 and stories about the first steam brigs taking slaves from here down to New Orleans. The biggest professional slave trader, Isaac Franklin and his partner, had built steam brigs for specifically built for them and this trade. I'm trying to find out who the builder was (Franklin's traders came into the C'town port). Thursday is good for this, since this is the day the weekly issue comes out, thus things are a bit less hectic in the offices.

Then I'd planned to finish up the day in the library to transcribe material from reference books on the Letters of Marque in the War of 1812. There's an excellent history of this published in 1930 by a local Baltimore history publisher, and later by Norton, with the best definitiions of the differences between piracy and privateers, and the history of privateers -- going back to the 13th century! I didn't know. But the real point is the Brits and how they dealt with all those Eastern Shore slaves running away and converging upon their ships in promise for transport to elsewhere and freedom. As well, the slave population provided many services to the British navy from navigation to food to spying out information -- to the bewildered outrage of their owners, of course. I'm trying to get some real numbers. Also find out what really happened to those who were transported to the West Indies, as promised -- where slavery was still in effect. This one's kind of a replay of the Brits - slave relationships during the War of Independence.

But I don't want to take my laptop out for a walk in the rain. My umbrella is small. Nor do I have the right rain footgear here yet.

Fortunately I can continue with other areas here at home.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Stillness, The Beauty, The Solitude, The Work

Yesterday el V drove off, first to C. College upstate NY, to do an annual presentation for a Media class taught by a friend and colleague.  He's been doing this since she began teaching there.  Usually it's the second week of the semester, but due to our own academic and other schedules this year, it was yesterday.  He's leaving the car at their home upstate while he then trained it to NYC and our apt., and the three gigs he's got in town this week.  As well as starting the rounds of medical visits etc., now that the WC health insurance is operational.

I'm here still.  Alone.  In the House.  In this town, this county, this region. Reveling in the beauty.  Doing my War of 1812 thing.  Finding out more about the steamboat manufacture on the Chesapeake. Tracking down citations out of primary dox and sources to back up assertions I've made during our constant conversations, updates, etc. about our project.

Night hunting, multiple-barrel guns and huge punt guns had been been used in the Chesapeake around the turn of the 20th century to take down the geese in their tens of thousands.  I knew this -- from where? But I can't just go and say this without backup.  For something like that factoid, the backup is easy to find in all the local sources, including transcribed oral interviews.  This kind of hunting, which wiped out the grand riches of the migrated Canadian geese early in the 20th C, became in the regional lore something like the moonshiners and the -- hunters and their guns vs. the local authorities trying to get hold of those guns, and spike or otherwise take them out of commission.  Thus, this is easy to find multiple reputable sourcing cites for, unlike some other assertions I make, that "I just know." (It seems that even into the eras of wide-spread ecological awareness of overhunting and overfishing, even now yeye olde guyz still don't think they were doing anything wrong, while bemoaning the loss of that harvest.)  Just knowing does not writing reputable history make.

In any case, the War of 1812 has been given not only short, but little, shrift in the h.s. and undergraduate courses in U.S. history. I can understand that, but it leads to the lamentable contemporary situation of 'libertarians' and other such ilks, quoting their god Robert Heinlein, from the Heinlein Bible, Starship Troopers, in which a fictional character (so, can you certainly know that RH believed that himself?) declares the War of 1812 "one of the bush-fire wars on the sidelines of the Napoleonic Conflict.” Which is not only inaccurate but dumb. If anything, it was a continuation of the War of Independence. There was so much crowing in England that this was the new campaign, and at its conclusion the 'colonies' would be back under the Crown's rulership and administration.

Another reason this war has been rather lost in the teaching and awareness of U.S. history, is, as one of the privateer replica captains observed in the course of Downrigging Weekend's Captain's Forum: "It was fought here. Most of the United States weren't yet states. California was still New Spain. The War of 1812, the Chesapeake - Baltimore privateers don't mean anything to them. They've got their own historical boats and traditions."

These captains are very smart, well-informed, personable people. But when they get the opportunity to get down to knots and sails and masts and wind -- they may as well be Captain Aubrey with his own naval colleagues. I say this in all admiration. However, it seemed to me, that it would have been the height of bad form to have brought up Captain Aubrey and Patrick O'Brian's books to any of them this weekend. They have read those books, and loved the film of Master and Commander. But just imagine, how constantly they must run into lubber passengers who think we can sail one of these ships because we have read and digested O'Brian's novels thoroughly. How tiresome for them we must be after a point.  "You cannot learn to sail a boat like this from books!" thundered one captain.

In the meantime the three-year anniversary observance of the War of 1812 is just about upon us.  Thus it has been decided to keep Lynx and Pride of Baltimore 2 over here for most of this time.  Such a decision is provoked as well by the current economic catastrophic conditions which has pulled so much state and local community monies from what had been the constantly expanding historic ship inclusions in local observances of this and that.

This war -- was it three years?  Was it actually four, as many of us think?  See?  Three years or four years, that is not a small war for those who were in the thick of it, as were all the people here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Starr Center Director Debuts His Civil War Column in NYT Today

Disunion will follow the Civil War as it unfolds; today's, the first installment, is Nov. 1, 1860, "The Last Ordinary Day." The subject concerns how some of the principle players of the Civil War were occupied on November 1 in 1860.

Is this cool-io or what?

Though myself, I'm totally occupied with the War of 1812.  With V away for the week, hopefully I'll get the the first draft of this matter and slavery finished.