". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Monday, March 14, 2016

Writing Is Not Blogging

Since traveling in Cuba during the first days of the new year my blog-journaling impulse seems to have mostly disappeared. I wonder why, since noting online what I see, read, watch, do had become a normal part of my daily life routine -- kind of like Samuel Pepys and his journal.

I've have done a great deal of journaling by hand in my moleskinne, about our various journeys and events concerning The American Slave Coast, the questions, the interaction with the many wonderful people we've met along the way in the last few weeks again..  This was crowned by the Grad Center's wonderful, packed out even for Slave Coast event on the 8th, with so many brilliant historians and other writers in attendance -- academics and scholars, independents and journalists.  Hearing from so many quarters what brilliant addition Slave Coast is to the history discipline, if we were wanting any more validation or satisfaction for giving 5 + years of our lives to this history, it was poured over us in gallons and gallons.  There wasn't even standing room left in the venue -- people stood out in the lobby trying to hear the reading, the discussion and then the q&a.  For the reading this time we did it together, changing off every few paragraphs.  This was particularly well received, and particularly by the African American historians, who are women.

As pleasing as this is, personally I felt detached from Slave Coast as soon  as it is went out in the world.  I really love the book,  but in the same way I love any of the great books of history that were / are vital to the formation of my ideas and thinking on these still vital matters.

I have been writing though, about books read, movies and television watched too, just not here.  Also I'm very slowly immersing myself in two book projects.

Lee Marvin as Liberty Valance, Jimmy Stewart as Rance Stoddard, John Wayne as Tom Donophin

Over the weekend I started carving out a chapter on John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) for Hollywood Confederacy: Why The South Won The War. But I'm not sure if should be a chapter itself or a part of a chapter. Structure and organization is everything for a book like this, and I'm still trying to figure that out.

I'm looking at this film in the context of Owen Wister's ur-western movie-novel, though the white supremacist novelist's The Virginian (1902) didn't become a movie, oddly, until 1929, and re-made in 1949. It's particularly enlightening to see how and why Ford's film retains all the elements of Wister's novel, while flipping the author's script, yet keeping the western's rules of engagement with utmost faith.

Others have written about Liberty Valance in the context of the man with the gun, and gender too

(see Roger Ebert -- though he gets several significant details wrong about the characters -- and Richard Slotkin), though not within the context of southern rebels remaking the country as it should be, in the west, I don't think.  But of course there is subtext -- a bit, and not foregrounded, in Liberty Valance. Ford was one wiley coyote by golly, having his cake and eating it too, via image and the vocal delivery of small, minor roles, as well character. For ex., with "Marshall Link Appleyard" played by Andy Devine -- he couldn't have signaled any more broadly that the law is a fool despite the protag being Jimmy Stewart, a lawyer and a teacher championing reading, writing and American history.

A made-for-television version of The Virginian came out in 2000, and another in 2014, in which the Virginian is renamed "South."  There was a long-running series too, back in 1962 -1971. They Said, back in the fall of 2015, that another movie remake is in the works.

In the meantime it's a wet, chilly, miserable March day here -- typical St. Patrick's Day weather, in other words. Sunday's time change has befuddled my sense of temporality.

Nor have I quite gotten back to anything resembling a routine again since October 1 and all the traveling started. Further off-kiltering my sense of when and where is that  El V's still in Cuba with the second tour group of the year. Until last week he and I have been together 24/7 for months!

 He and the Cuba ground team are thinking of doing yet a third one yet this year, as well as the two 2017 tours they're already organizing. This would be in November, which like March, is a perfect month to be in Cuba.

Mind, though I said this has been a miserable day here, I myself am anything but miserable.

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