". . . 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 9, 2016

Villainy vs. Evil + Jazz + Television + Beer

It was Himself's birthday yesterday (the big party is tonight -- a rooftop barbeque in the West Village).  In the natural order of such occasions, we shared dinner with some old friends.*

I had been somewhat concerned about how dinner would go, meaning the emotional tone of it, here at the conclusion of yet another truly awful week of tragic and terrible events. Not least of which bad news is Congress's refusal to fund anything to help pillaged Puerto Rico even to attempt to counter the Zika crisis that has already infected so many expectant Puerto Rican women -- four of the people with whom we were eating are Puerto Rican.

But mostly, as we are indeed all old, trusted and loved friends, we had an enjoyable time and didn't have to put out a lot of energy to keep from things that are depressing and terrifying.  Music, art, travels, friends in common, some television and film discussion, and always back to music and gossip about some of the more bold face names that the talent agency that of the one of our mutual friends owns, manages.

Pedrito Martínez

Chucho Valdés

We did discuss though, the depressing piece in the Guardian yesterday that inquired whether jazz has risen from the grave of irrelevancy and is again hip.  Why was this depressing?  Because anybody who honestly follows contemporary jazz knows that since the 1920's, for the last two decades, jazz is as least as exciting and ground-breaking, because Afro Latin Jazz artists, particularly from Cuba and Puerto Rico have made it so -- they've long been world class, even though so much of the self-defined hipster non-Spanish speaking music establishment refuses to notice. When not crazed with other work, el V himself tends to be out several nights a week, attending great shows of his Afro Latin jazz buddies everywhere from Dizzy's Club Coca Cola (Lincoln Ctrs.'s jazz space at Columbus Circle), the Jazz Standard, Sub Rosa, The Blue Note, The Bitter End, etc.  I often go with him. Yet the stupid article never mentioned a single Afro Latin artist, not even any from Cuba. Talk about self-willed ignorance.

In a different conversation last night, vis a vis talking about a Brasilian telenovella from ancient days, El Rey del Ganado, that was very popular with Spanish speaking audiences too, and the ladies had grown up with In Ponce, while el V and I watched it during that long stay, 1999-2000 in Havana -- we asked, what is a real villain?  What makes a person or character an actual evil person, rather than a cartoon Big Bad Guy Villain? Beyond the lazy signals that change to some degree from one decade to another -- now it's pedophiles in particular.  It used to be gay people, but that's pretty much over. (GOOD!) Some of us still watch Got, while some of us had quit -- some of us quit even several seasons ago.

These television / movie eviLes are outsized cartoons -- a big reason those of us who quit watching Got quit, and why none of us go to superhero comics movies. Audiences adore these villains, while often sneering at their victims. Breaking BadThe Sopranos, we thought of, obviously. And for my own first personal experience of this pop culture attitude, the film Bonnie and Clyde. When I protested that the protagonists got what they deserved because they killed innocent people and stole their money, and many of those whose money was stolen from the Depression era beleagured banks were poor farmers, my more "sophisticated' peers sneered -- "They were stupid and deserved to die!" Those who attempt to counter such villains are also sneered at, and often depicted as bumbling idiots -- or more evil than the villains.

Whereas in life villains seem to be usually well-dressed and don't carry weapons and are merely servants of faceless vast corporations (unless police or George Zimmerman -- and whoops, Zimmerman behaves like a cartoon, but he's still evil, he's still a villain. Which led us to contemplate the cartoon horror from our City currently demanding to be POTUS -- is he evil, is he a villain? As we're all NYC residents at least for our entire adult lives, and thus have been inflicted with him all our entire adult lives close-up and personal, we agreed he's both.

Later we progressed to contemplation of what happened in Dallas -- evil? a villain? a black man whose mind snapped after a lifetime of war made on the color of his skin and the awareness that in the U.S. there's been war waged against black people in this country since 1619.

Why then, is it classified as 'race war' by rightwingers, whites, media and so-called experts only when a person of color kills or attacks a white person / a cop, (cops who kill people of color have also been of color, thus the division into white people and cops / police state), whereas the killings are tragic mistakes day after day, year after year of white people / cops killing people of color with impunity and immunity?  Why are flags all over the country hung at half mast and the Empire State Building lit red white and blue (which was directly in our line of sight from our restaurant table) because cops got killed in Texas, but the Empire State Building doesn't get lit up when people of color are killed every day by white people / cops? Why is it that it's demanded that killing of someone in a blue uniform be classed a federal hate crime and that Men in Blue Matter, but that #blacklivesmatter is now responsible for hate crimes and murder, when Black Lives Matter has always been about exactly the opposite?
Needless to say, one might hope, is that none of us advocates or wants anybody to shoot anybody -- or be cruel, mean, bullying, exploitive, repressive or oppressive to anybody.

We did not resolve this question of what makes a villain a villain, what makes evil evil, needless to say.  We were also drinking margaritas. Very, very fine margaritas.

As well we had a happy conversation about this development about a beer pipeline in Bruges; the entire table voted in favor of the pipeline -- this subject also came to us thanks to the Guardian.  As everyone at the table, in one way and another, is part of the European music festival circuit, everyone has been to Bruges and certainly has partaken of Belgian beers.

Yah, a hot an humid night, margaritas and cerveza were the Thing.

A conversation not so festive was what Brexit means for artists, entertainers, musicians and so on. Among other things this means that any BBC production will cost more as those terrific location landscapes made such splendid use of in series such as The Musketeers will be more difficult for the production teams and actors to get to and work in; recall Prague and surrounding locations in the Czech Republic stood in for Paris and the French countryside, forests and mountains. This could also affect, even, gasp, Got!

* It was beautiful yesterday, as so many friends from all over the City, the country and, yes, the world, reached out by phone, e-mail, snail mail, and other ways, to wish el Vaquero happy returns of His Day.  The esteem, respect, affection, and in many, many cases, love, in which he's held by peers, colleagues and very old friends is something to behold.  It made him (and me too!) so happy.

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