". . . 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, July 23, 2011

Potter Part I, White Collar, Damages, House of Cards, Naamah's Blessing

This state of enervation is what it was like for so much of the world's places until the historical innovation of air conditioning (i.e. see why human beings love owning slaves). In much of the world it was this hot all the time -- and in those places, now it is even hotter, and the seasons, the weather and climate events are even more extreme than they used to be. Also -- the water -- it's toxic, gone or privatized. One foresees that the very near future there won't be public utilities because with no jobs and all the rest of the ruthless management madness of pillage and cut anything that serves the public good that has been more severe every year, there is no tax base to support public and municiple services of any kind. Thus those who can afford private generators will have electricity and a/c and the rest of us will not. Welcome to the likely future.

In the meantime even here our personal a/c isn't quite up to what we've been experiencing and I'm progressively loggy and stupid. Just sitting and drinking gallons of water (while I still can -- the privatization of municiple water supplies has been proceeding at ever accelerating pace here in the U.S. since the '80s). Watching escape tv, and looking for an escape novel.

The first part of HP and the Deathly Hallows -- which made some sense for me out of the incomprehensible novel that I could not get through. So, if it ever rains and cools down, I will go see the last part in a theater. I liked this movie a lot more than I expected, particularly the Kara Walker art inspired animation of the "Tale of the Three Brothers and the Three Deathly Hallows." Also, winter and ice and snow and cold water.

The first disc of White Collar's second seasonSmart, light, caper-con-adventure that taxes none of our capacities; Fun with friends? enemies? betrayal?  It provides a fairy tale vision of a gorgeous and sophisticated Manhattan that isn't Sex and the City Manhattan. The protagonist is made of charm and brilliant blue eyes. The cast of secondaries and supporting roles are also a pleasure to watch, and possess their own charms. That con-man Neal Caffrey's sidekick, Mozzie, a most important secondary role, is played by Willie Garson, who played Carrie Bradshaw's gay friend Stanford in Sex in the City, allows all this fluff and charm to work. Garson seems to reprise his SatC Stanford role, though this time he's as intelligent and talented as the hyper-smart, talented Neal. This makes Garson's Mozzie more fun -- he can also be hard, and I don't mean catty. This is a series that is mostly about effortless cool and smooth, and that one swallows gratefully in this brutal period of heat and stress.

The third season of Damages: Last week another writer asked what kinds of fictional characters invariably appealed to us. Many readers and writers made many responses and none of them invariably appeal to this reader. Indeed, they tend to put me off any fiction that presents itself to me as any of them. So what does invariably appeal to me, I wondered? after having read so many novels and seen so many movies that almost everything seems an empty formula?

Damages is what will invariably appeal to me: conspiracy twisted upon conspiracy, betrayal reversing itself for mutual benefit, after betrayal for personal benefit, among a cast of smart cookies, some of them at least, hopefully will be women. In Damages both protagonists are women, played by Glenn Close and Rose Byrne. It's their shifting relationships with each other that matters, not their romantic relationships, failed or not, with men.

Stories of friendships and the antagonisms in friendships, particularly if they are female friendships are what I like, even more than the competition and conflicts between antagonists. But these are difficult to write successfully. Conspiracy, betrayal and reversal demand a tight plot to provide form and structure, out of which comes the pacing of successive reveals, otherwise all it is, is one damned thing after another and you don't go anywhere.

The Damages's chronology doesn't run straight ahead, but in two lines, the 'present,' and the future of the events being created in this scene's present. The photography via lighting and location of these future scenes provides an easy clue for the viewer so that works well, as well as keeping the viewer on her toes, to know where / when she is. So, because it doesn't all look alike, it is more lively than most television. It also has one of the greatest theme and most nasty songs, that bumpers the episodes: "There'll won't be anything left when I'm through with you." It is a smart show in every way.

Damages is the kind of television that the 1990's BBC's House of Cards was -- the brilliant, entertaining series featuring a fictional Britain's Conservative political whip, Francis Urquart, played by Ian Richardson, during the reign of terror of someone very like Margaret Thatcher. That's just for starters. Damages is a U.S. kind of House of Cards.

So naturally, Damages being such smart television, the fourth season has gone from cable to satellite.

Fantasy novel Naamah's Blessing: The latest, and seemingly the final volume in the three series Terre d'Ange novels of Jacquelin Carey. I'm already skipping big chunks of it because the narrator's constant and consistent modest praise of herself masked as criticisms of herself, always bring enthusiastic excuses for her from everyone else, as they invoke her 'destiny,' which by now, by golly, she's filled many times, but there is still one more destiny to fulfill. But she must leave Aquitaine Terre d' Ange to do so, inflicting herself upon the innocents of the New World as consequence. It takes nearly 300 pp. for us to arrive to the point of departure, where, presumably, the real tale begins.

I am hoping there will be a redemption to this third series' sending the girl from England Alba to save the Asias and now the New World too. Moirin had come from beyond the edge of Europe to what presumably is the center of, at least, that world, Terre d'Ange and the center of that world, the Blessed City of Elua, a culture of tolerance and racial diversity (though the Terre d'Anges are taller, more charismatic, more beautiful, longer living than anyone else), the motto of which is "Love as thou wilt." From there she travels east to other edges of the known world -- ok, say it: China and India or at least locations that appear modeled up on some parts of Southeast Asia. And now she's traveling to the ends of the world in another direction, to Terra Nova. Maybe Moirine (I can never remember this protag's name!), I am hoping, in her guise as a deity's magical child, will bring tolerance and diversity -- PEACE and JOY to the Whole Planet, as supposedly Jesus was to do.

But why do I think that's not going to happen ... More likely what is going to happen is the reading of this novel to the end will not survive the brutal heat dome's imprisonment here at home. So far it is not striking me as smart, so I cannot suspend myself in the joy of following the path of smart composition.

I did mention that what grabs me invariably is smart, right? But it's got to be authentically smart, not the so-called smart ass. Another way of putting it maybe is the difference between an incision done by a surgeon's scalpel and the work done by an axe. Both are a pleasure to watch in the hands of skillful handlers, both need much patience and practice, but they are very different.

Ah, well, I'm cranky so I'm quitting this now and will take a bath. Eat cold pasta, a salad and fruit. Watch some more Neal in White Collar. While underneath it all keep praying for that fabled thunderstorm that has never yet arrived.

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