". . . 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

Friday, July 21, 2017

Ammunition -- Surely They Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank - HBO Confederates

     . . . . Even on the ASOIAF forum HBO's announced next project with D&D alternate history in which the southern antebellum slaveocracy successfully seceded has set off a sh*t storm, on the order of "Bad Idea or Worst Idea?" with loads of people weighing in with all the cliched, stereotypical expected responses, which basically say --
Woo! slavery's so haut!
It's just entertainment what's your problem?
How can you condemn something that hasn't even been written yet?
The Civil War wasn't about slavery.
Antebellum slavery couldn't industrialize because it was a feudal system not a capitalist system.
The north didn't care about slavery.
There were very few abolitionists (and evidently, judging by these comments, not a single person of color -- or white woman -- was in favor of abolition or against slavery, and this was wholly a white man's war).
Why not just have let 'em have their part of the country and all would have been fine.
Slavery would have just withered away.
To be able to combat these idiocies coolly and effectively, one needs to be armed -- and trust me, those thoughtlessly regurgitating these cliches are not.  One must point out particularly what the slavocracy's objectives were (number 1: expansion of slavery) there are a few books one can read to make one competent. One should read them too,  because what most people think they know about antebellum slavery, "the underground railroad," abolition and the roots of the War of Southern Aggression are at best out-dated (such as slavery was a feudal system), and at worst,  just wrong (the north didn't give a damn about slavery).

For example, Eugene Genovese's thesis that slavery was feudal not capitalist, has been dismantled by vast scholarship in the last twenty - thirty years. Enormous amounts of scholarship has gone into the history of antebellum slavery in all its aspects since the Civil Rights Movement, and historians everywhere have been reaping the benefits of this in the last 2 - 3 decades.  The same is true for the war effort itself.

Here is a very short list of books than anyone who wants to speak of the system of antebellum slavery and The War of the Rebellion should read:

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Written by Himself;
Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House by Elizabeth Keckley (Keckley was the US's first African American 
couturier -- right before secession she dressed both Mary Todd Lincoln and Varina Davis. She became socially isolated Mary Todd Lincoln's White House confidant. the book is a mixture of authentic memoir and fiction;
Crucible of Command: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee--The War They Fought, the Peace They Forged  by William C. Davis;
General Lee's Army: From Victory to Defeat by Joseph Glatthaar;
This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy by Matt Karp;
The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry by Ned and Constance Sublette -- which runs down in a chronological, fast-reading narrative the latest scholarship about slavery in North America from the earlier colonial era to Emancipation, including the influence and effects the system within the larger European and hemispheric historical context, but the focus is on the economics of the enslaved bodies themselves -- without which the South had no wealth;
Bound for Canaan: The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad, America's First Civil Rights Movement by Fergus M. Bordewich;
Our Man in Charleston: Britain's Secret Agent in the Civil War South by Christopher Dickey -- an interesting contrast to how the Union State Department was seeing the situation with England in particular through the experiences of the US minister's mission to Saint James;
Mary Chesnut's Civil War; the carefully edited after-the-fact diary of a the wife of the South Carolina senator James Chestnut Jr., until secession, after which he served as an aide to Jeff Davis and a brigadier general in charge of South Carolina's reserves (though not seeing action, of course, being such a slavocracy nabob);
The Free State of Jones by by Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer -- Mississippians (the state with largest number of millionaires in the country prior to Emancipation) who were neither segregationists nor secessionist, nor were they nabobs -- they suffered and they resisted and fought back.
The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams.  He writes of his first hand experiences at the highest levels of England's and France's government during the first years of the war, as private secretary to his father, Francis Adams, as minister to Saint James.
Two things we must never forget about antebellum slavery and the War of Southern Aggression /K/ A it's official name in the records of the United States, The War of Rebellion: African Americans played an immense role in abolition and emancipation.  Escaped slaves and free people of color founded newspapers, wrote books, spoke at endless meetings, organized a relief and assistance for those who managed to escape.  They labored endlessly to keep the issues of the Fugitive Slave Act and Dred Scott in the forefront of progressive minds.  Here we see the first nexus of authentic cooperative action -- not just words! -- of black and white, male and female. Never underestimate the power of people with god-given mission for moral improvement (look at how the evangelicals etc. have managed to just about disappear not only abortion, but any woman's reproductive health care from so many places in this nation, even though it is all legal).

And we must never forget that while the north for the most part, as well as the Union, when the time came, though deeply white supremacist, was also deeply antagonistic to slave labor, for it undercut wages across the board for everyone (as keeping the wages of Haitians at a few cents an hour is the benchmark for wages throughout the hemisphere currently)-- as well as threatening having work at all.  With this half of the 19th century receiving boatloads of immigrants every day, the competition for jobs was fierce.

Having slavery forced upon free soil states was not in their interests -- just as the Fugitive Slave Act was antithetical to their interests, economically, politically, and socially.  Anyone could point to your daughter and son, declare her, him a runaway slave and there was no legal recourse -- and you were supposed to help them.

Don't forget by now there was a large percentage of legally enslaved who had white skin, blue eyes and blonde hair, thanks to generations of white men raping African American women for both fun and profit -- every slave child born provided the slave owner with at least another $50 of credit, in a culture that didn't have money per se, only credit, vastly based in the bodies of their slaves.

So skin color was not a final defense by any means -- nor was an accused runaway allowed to have or speak a defense!  People in the north did not like this.  This brought more people into the anti-slavery factions than anything else, and did it so fast the south couldn't believe it was happening.

You have to know all this and much more besides, and know it inside and out, viscerally, before you can write successfully about anything to do with the history of the war, slavery, and what happened. And the more one knows -- seeing from the benefit of hindsight-- the more one knows it couldn't have happened any other way.

What cannot be white washed away in any kind of entertainment is that slavery = rape and every kind of violence perpetrated on people who have no legal right to object or fight back. Which is why so many can't seem to let it go (see above -- slavery's haut! How dare you object to what turns us on?).  They want and revel in with all their being, the joy of feeling dominant, doing whatever they wish (or their fantasy surrogates do to women and others whatever they wish), to deliberately make people suffer both physical abuse and emotional abuse.

We see this particularly in the many stories or program that involves artificial intelligence / androids. There is no fun in hurting and degrading a sentience that doesn't feel abused and degraded, that in really has no free will or feeling. Thus all the plot lines is giving the androids a/is actual humanity or having them develop it -- so they can feel humiliated and degraded. (A rare exception to this is Ex Machina, an adroid who does feel outrage, but is also entirely sociopathic, lacking all the human feelings and values -- just like slave owner.  She gets hers, and is now unleashed upon the world of poor unsuspecting male victims. O noes!)

We say, for the sake of the story, so people can have identification with the characters we have to give them human feelings.  I.e. we need that dominance from built in abuse.  Which is why this will not help and will make things worse.  D&D have a track record, and that track record is out there for all to see and read.

Entertainments have civic, ethical, social, political and historical responsibilities too.  To say "it's only for fun," -- just think about what that fun consists of.

Then there's this, that so many of us find the entire concept sickening on so many levels, delights the ilks that are D&D -- it means they won, which is supremely depressing.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Shame on HBO -- Morally and Historically Reprehensible

     . . . . The same untalented, ethically, socially and historically ignorant sexist and racist team that brought you limitless gratuitous graphic scenes of female nudity, rape and torture to HBO via Got, now presume to bring the the same, now set in an 'alternate' historical time line in which slavery remains legal because the CSA successfully seceded.

Just for that latter, a "successful" secession has Andrew Jackson spinning in his monument.  He didn't squash Calhoun, South Carolina and Nullification in 1832 for morally bankrupt 21st century media to make it entertainment.  See the Nullification Proclamation By Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, to South Carolina, here.

NY Time pay wall so the url rather than a link is provided:

     . . . . In any case, the south couldn't have successfully seceded because Lincoln and many coalitions behind  him wouldn't allow it. As Jackson knew, neither division would have stood long before England and France picked both of them off. As it was during the first three years of the War of Southern Aggression a faction in both England and France did their best to help this along.  Also because the whole point of secession was to provoke a war with the non-slavery forces so the slaveocracy could then take over the entire nation -- they didn't want to be left alone with their peculiar institution.  Their objective was to aggressively force their peculiar institution upon all by the force of arms.  There is a reason that the U.S. Civil War's official name in the government records is "The War of Southern Aggression."

So Grant whipped Lee's army, and the CSA melted because it was essentially nothing but the Army of Northern Virginia, never a functioning nation. If you don't believe me, read some contemporary

military histories of the Virginia campaign by military historians, such Crucible of Command, and Lee's Army. Among the reasons the CSA was never a nation is that the CSA power elites didn't believe in government in the first place, and couldn't work together any better or effectively than the people in the White House right now do. 

Killing black people at whim with impunity, raping black women anywhere anytime at whim without repercussion, raping black children without even being socially ostracized, torturing and incarcerating at will, using as unpaid labor black people who are prisoners of the entire slavery system, in an what has to be (speaking from historical evidence), an all white country, since slave labor makes immigration unattractive if not downright impossible, since color-coded slave labor fills all the labor slots from housekeeping, to hair stylist to mechanic, to street cleaner, miner, etc . -- in our current climate in which lynch nooses and random, arbitrary of killing of African Americans and threats to do so happen all the time -- can anyone with any sense of artistic talent and social conscience really think this thing which didn't happen and couldn't have happened is a good thing for popular entertainment and the nation? 

This is the height of irresponsibility, as a member of our civic, economic, social and political polity. Media and entertainment does shape all these matters.  Historical accuracy, even in entertainment, is civic responsibility. Ask the  historic slaveocracy that blamed Harriet Beecher Stowe and Uncle Tom's Cabin for the Civil War.

Shame HBO and everyone involved, shame, shame, shame.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Reading In the 18th Century - Public and Participatory

     . . . . In 18th century England and Europe, with the technological innovations in what was still the rather new-fangled printing press technology books became available commercially to anyone who could afford them.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, self-taught scholar and poet of New Spain (Mexico).

No longer was reading for pleasure, inspiration or information limited to  academics and churchmen with access to archives and libraries, or exceedingly wealthy individuals who could patronize poets, scholars and historians, and buy expensive hand-written manuscripts and the finely crafted tomes.

Though the price remained out of reach for poor people, the rapidly expandng middle-class could easily afford books. Even those who served the middle-classes were able to acquire reading materials for fun and instruction.

Still, candles remained expensive, and so did fuel for fires.  Many people's vision was too poor to read for themselves in such dim light -- and it would be only at night they could find an hour for themselves.  So it was the most natural thing in the world that along with the flood of commercial reading materials came the practice of reading aloud in groups.

Abigail Williams has presented us with a lively account of the vastly popular activity of reading aloud in The Social Life of Books.  
Williams, who teaches at Oxford University, explains that from the vantage of our own age, saturated as it is with entertainment and information, “it is hard to imagine the excitement felt by previous readers at the possibility of gaining access to a new book.” 
.... In the pages of his magazine, the Spectator, Joseph Addison commanded that culture come “out of Closets and Libraries, Schools and Colleges, to dwell in Clubs and Assemblies, at Tea-Tables, and in Coffee-Houses,” and it did. 
Review of The Social Life of Books here.
She explains how reading became something of a “spectator sport.” Of course, as with any type of performance, one had to be properly prepared, and this led to a surge of instructional manuals, further fueling what Williams designates “the great age of elocution,” in which Britons of all backgrounds were gripped with “a near obsession with learning to read out loud.” Tradesmen formed what were rather memorably known as “spouting clubs” for aspiring public speakers, relying on such handbooks as “The New Spouter’s Companion” and “The Sentimental Spouter.” Women, who very often found themselves omitted from public performances, quickly took to them in the home, entertaining friends and family with tales and poems while they knitted or otherwise busied themselves around the hearth.

One of the reasons this reader particular enjoyed Abigail Williams study of books as a popular social activity is because it brought back vividly my first ideas of reading aloud, entertainment, instruction and novels went together naturally.  It was an illustration, of a servant girl by the kitchen fire, reading aloud to the rest of the household staff, the latest installment of Samuel Richardson's Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded.

In the Book of Knowledge's history of literature section, it was carefully explained to the young reader how important reading and novels were in instructing the poorer, less educated classes in morality and social behavior. Pamela was the paragon of virtue that all young women should model themselves on.  The most important lesson of all that Pamela taught poor young girls who served in more prosperous homes that at all costs she must preserve her chastity from the household men who all would set siege to corrupt her from the paths of virtue.  But if she followed Pamela's example she would not only preserve her all important good reputation -- she may well marry the son of the house and become the lady of the house, no longer a servant.

I have looked and looked in vain for an 18th century illustration that shows a young servant girl reading aloud by kitchen fire light to her gathered sister - fellow servants, but have not found one. That illustration must have been commissioned by The Book of Knowledge staff for that section.

It seems that in the 18th century when servants congregated together below stairs, out of the view of their employers, the lower household orders did nothing that interested the popular press illustrator other than drinking and generally roistering upon their masters' substance.  Which reveals even more about the popularity among servants for reading aloud together 'improving' literature.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

International Kissing Day, YAY!


      . . . .  July 6th is officially International Kissing Day -- or -- as it is also known, World Kiss Day.

You know what to do, so, you know, hop to it!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Reading Wednesday: Scars of Independence: America's Violent Birth

Born In the USA On The Fourth Of July

     . . . .  In some ways, the 4th here was anything but pleasant.  That yesterday's reading during the birthday of the nation, July 4th, started with the late 19th century Red River Valley, * switched to Springsteen's autobiography, Born to Run, then moved on Holger Hoock's Scars of Independence: America's Violent Birth, likely contributed to the disquiet.

What is so disturbing when contemplating the initiation of our national independence from Britain, isn't so much what happened between the two opposing armies and what they did to each other, as what took place on the ground, among our own civilians: those who were determined to break away from the Crown, those who wished to stay with England, and those who really had no skin in the game at all and didn't give a damn either way.  Those who were not for it were harassed at best, tortured and murdered at worst, and in very terrible ways.  Their families lost everything including loved husbands, fathers, siblings, mothers and sons and daughters

Then, today, a New Mexico amigo forwarded this, which exacerbated my unrest:
"Albuquerque’s hot summer of angst, decay and politics"
As the administration of Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry enters its final months, histories of critical times are being recorded.
Moving to Albuquerque way way way back in the day was my initiation into the public violence * * that is this nation from the beginning. I'd been shielded from that previously because where I had been living, violence for people like me was confined to the home, at the hands of the family, not in the public realm.

Reading this piece brought back those first years in New Mexico where all the public realm violence I've ever experienced, from break-ins to beatings and rape, happened to me. Just about woman I knew had been a victim of rape, break-ins, thefts, street harassment, etc. And the women I knew who had been fortunate enough to not have been victims of this violence had dedicated their lives to trying to stop it, and to help victims heals.

I've never forgotten the 1980 New Mexico State Penitentiary Riot.  (A BBC history of the Penitentiary Riot can be watched here on Youtube.)  This inhuman horror remains probably the most violent and terrible prison riot in the history of the US. Recalling the accounts of that terrible event still make me literally ill. It's astounding-- or not, this being the USA, about which history I know intimately now in detail, breadth and scope that I didn't then -- that it hasn't changed in all these years, just intensified.

Boston Patriots destroy Governor Hutchinson's home; The family just barely escaped with their lives.  The history of Massachusetts that Governor Hutchinson had been working on much his life, drawing on primary documents in his family's possession, was destroyed, along with all the family papers, that dated from the founding of the Massachusetts colony.

Mobs attack a Tory 1775
 A "kingsman', tarred and feathered.
This was a very popular, and gruesome form of public humiliation . The naked body of the victim was scalded from head to toe with hot tar, then rolled in bird feathers.  The victim was usually further shoved upon a rail and paraded throughout the town for hours, and then expelled, still naked and covered in tar and feathers.

Throughout the career of the Sons of Liberty the organization enjoyed the quiet blessing of the well-to-do and politically active that backed separation from Britain. In essence, the Sons of Liberty became the extralegal enforcement arm of the American cause against Parliament.  Support us or this and worse will (and did) happen to you!
Though smaller in scale, many of the many violent actions, i.e. criminal acts,  with which the Patriots, Sons of Liberty and other well organized mobs forced everyone living in the 13 colonies to war with Britain were as sickeningly vicious as the New Mexico State Penitentiary Riot of 1980.

By now, I thought, reading again accounts of these actions, it seems the nation as a whole has caught up with Albuquerque, and many other towns in places like Arizona, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Kansas, etc., all of which have been following in the footsteps of the start of Independence.

Yes, the nation has actually gone to hell.

Funny. I don't think I mean by the country's gone to hell what my relatives have meant, as they've repeated for decades that 'this country's gone to hell' in that special tone of flat fury. I'm sure they're now pleased as punch that they've made a paranoid, deranged, ignorant, lazy, greedy, lying, arrogant, vengeful, obsessive, cowardly, racist, woman-hating, narcissist bully, who hates everyone who isn't him, asshole in chief of the USA.  He's just like us!

Yah, looking over the news today, July 4th, 2017 was a Greeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat Day in the USA.

Just look at these asshole minions' response to the NPR tradition of reading the Declaration of Independence every July 4th on Morning Edition. when this year NPR's twitter feed put the Declaration of Independence up:

Ay-up this country's gone to hell and the minions have driven it there with every breath they take.

We now even have our own national religious patriotism totalitarian bloviating hymn to national violence.  (It can be seen and heard here, on Youtube.  I'm only putting the link here, as I cannot bear putting a grab of the video itself on my blog.  How many words does this travesty have? 20? Come on guys, you surely are smart enough to know that one teeny tweak and 'great again can be white again. Come on, you know you want to!

Ask Jared Yates Sexton. America's violent spirit is alive and kicking, especially kicking anyone it perceives as Not It.

Burning black Tulsa, June, 1921

Chicago, Red Summer 1919, race riots -- meaning white people rioted, black people were murdered.

These people are just waiting -- itching -- for Someone to give them the signal to start the killing -- again.


Lest one think that the Red River Valley in North Dakota back in 1888 was free of racial and other violence, my reading yesterday included accounts of killing Sioux who lived a bit further north in Pembina Cty.,  an  Italian immigrant discovered dead -- and robbed of his wages from working all spring, summer and fall on a Bonanza farm -- in a granary of wheat, and offhand remarks about Jews, and how often men got drunk and beat their wives and children -- particularly on the holiday of the 4th of July.

**  For me, public violence = crime, concentration camps, genocides, prisons, riots.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Alexandra Silber's Upcoming Novel Tells of Life 'After Anatevka'

     . . . .  This novel, which tells the story of Fiddler on the Roof's Hodel, Tevye's daughter who chooses to follow her the radical socialist lover, Perchik, to a work camp in Siberia instead of immigrating out of Russia with her family. It's one of the most heartbreaking moments in theater history, or so it is to me, who let us not forget, doesn't know much about theater, and is generally uninterested in musicals.  But Fiddler on the Roof is one of those exceptions.

Information about Alexandra Silber and her need to write this novel here -- in her acting career she has played the roles of both of Teyva's daughters.

Silber picks up  Hodel' story when she arrives at the work camp.  It's brutal, as these things were.

This is a novel I wish to read, even though Kirkus, among others, have been fairly snooty about it.

The New York Times wrote about this last year (pay wall, so here's the full url)

Friday, June 30, 2017

A NYer Cartoon Our Ilks Can Relate To

     . . . . Here it is --

It made el V laugh out loud, he tells me.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Normans + Capetians

     . . . . Last night: 

                               Before and during and after William the Conqueror's time, the Norman duchy wasn’t very peaceable – those Norse, and those Norse kiddos! – as various sons, legitimate and bastards, and other rebellious factions fought over possession.

During the Conqueror's own rule there was dispute between two of his three sons as to who would have Normandy and / or England.

William Rufus, i.e. William II and Robert Curthose II both demanded possession of duchy and the kingdom of England. Their conflict was only repressed by the Conqueror himself.

Further, the French king, Henry I schemed, promised and intrigued with the Conqueror's sons to turn them against this powerful, vital, energetic ruler who had conquered England -- whether with or without the Capetian monarchy's approval (it was a regency at the time, under the control of the child king Philip I's mother) and encouragement (the deceased Henry's brother Odo and his army enthusiastically participated in William's invasion). The pope seems to have given his blessing to the enterprise only after the fact.

    . . . .This is the delightful part, which provoked minutes of laughing: after the death of the Conqueror's death, his oldest son, Robert Curthose II, PAWNED the duchy of Normandy for 10,00 marks (which, somehow he never repaid – did he pawn Normandy to Jewish merchants?), the duchy which had been ceded to William Rufus! -- to finance Robert's participation in the first Crusade.  Imagine!-- pawning a duchy, like your dad's old gold watch!  I just couldn't get over that.

Before Robert returned from Crusade, William Rufus had gained possession of Normandy with the help his father.  When both father and Robert died, he got England too, but England did not like William Rufus. Additionally, William II seems to have been a lazy and inattentive English ruler, and ultimately the younger brother, Henry,  got the crown of England on his own head, partly via intrigue, diplomacy and purchase, becoming England's first Henry.

We see every variety of the English - French inter and intra bloody quarrels for the coming centuries already in place at this point, if not before.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Wednesdays Are About Reading: The Middle Ages, U.S. Civil War, Novels

     . . . . So non-inclined to deal with social media, blogs, any of it these days.  I am online a great deal, digging through newspapers published in the Red River Valley in 1880 - 1911, among other online activities. I keep up with a variety of news (current affairs / politics) sites.  I write a lot, including in my journal, in my Word program.  But I've had no energy to write online, for some reason.

There's a great deal going on in the offline life, all kinds of things, and some of it, believe it or not, is actually positive for us personally, in many ways, including paying work, despite the political billionaires' and religious whackos' derangement of objective, ideology, utterance, attitude and action having taken over seemingly the whole world, except -- maybe -- for France?

Therefore, perhaps it is particularly rude of us to keep laughing at the French as we make our way through Capetian France 987 - 1328?  This is the read-aloud-before-bed book that succeeded Havana and the Atlantic in the Sixteenth Century (el V's favorite century!) which was all about the plundering, corsairing, privateering and pirating of Spain's ports, ships and fleets by all of Europe's powers in mostly the 16th century, through about 1628.

Both of these books have been terrific reads, before bed, hough in a different ways. It was particularly pleasant to have them when I went down with a very nasty virus two weeks ago, and couldn't read for myself.  One of the symptoms was eyes that watered constantly, making vision iffy at best -- not to mention the lack of concentration. What I did mostly during that period was lie in the dark, listening to book streamed from Overlook.

     . . . . As far as the Capetians are concerned -- what is up with us and the French and laughter? As soon as el V and I began reading my history of the Capets with each other, as opposed to me reading the book by myself, we got the giggles.  Evidently even when they weren't French, but Goths (Merovingians) and Franks (Carolingians), which is when this laughter began earlier in the year, they were sufficiently French to be amusing and good company?

The Capetian monarchy is not only post-Carolingia, but post Vikings and the Dark Ages. We begin to see what political historians have called feudalism as an administrative organizational structure becoming the predominate system, along with the proliferation of castle-building -- which reached its peak in France in the 11th century.

I'm getting a sense that with the Norse now integrated into Francia at every level of society (though probably not in the peasantry?), so much of what they severely disrupted in the kingdoms after Charlemagne was no longer around to hold things together, in many ways all systems from trade and taxes to governance and land holdings had greatly stabilized.  In other words we have now entered what historians used to regard as the Middle Ages and have emerged out of what historians used to call the Dark Ages.

By the way, the Norman kingdoms were very well organized and administered, the best of them all. As far as we've gotten, the Normans are about poised to take over kingdoms in Sicily and southern Italy -- not to mention England.

This is so interesting! But, I wonder, if anywhere else in this vast, densely populated city, in June, 2017, anyone else is considering these matters? I have the feeling that only here, in this apartment, in this building, is this happening. One indication is that these books from the graduate school library haven't been taken out in years and years. And their publication all date from the 1970's, at the latest.

      . . . . What have I listened to?  The most entertaining was James Buchanan: The Worst President Ever (2016) by sports journalist >!< Robert Strauss. It's a fairly light-hearted treatment of the guy who did nothing to keep the Union together (though he did a lot to allow it to fall apart, They Say).  There are lengthy digressions into the author's own childhood and the father with whom as a boy he shared an obsession for US presidential trivia.  There are further lengthy digressions into playing basketball at his gym and elsewhere in Philadelphia, where he was born and continues to live, and more yet about his wife and daughter.  His historical method, as far as it goes, is to compare and contrast Buchanan's biography and presidency with that of the other 44 (as of his writing) presidents, to make the case that Buchanan was The Worst Ever.  However, Buchanan's got a real run for his title going these days.  One wonders if the author would have been so off-handed about the mess JB helped make if he were putting the book together today.  OTOH, in the stuperous state of my whole sick system, that was about as much cogitation as I could manage.

I listened to two novels via Overlook. The first was Daphne DuMaurier's Frenchman's Creek (1941).  She was so good at what she did.  And one must get to the very end to see just how good at it she was.  Through much of the book one of the lesser character's wife is pregnant.  He's deeply concerned about his wife and the coming delivery, hoping for the best, fearing for the worst, which was the outcome far too often in the 17th century of King Charles II, which is the time the book takes place.  That this becomes a major plot  point won't even be clear until the very end!  I was so impressed.

The second novel was Ann Cleeves's second title in her Shetland Islands series, White Nights.  I've read all the others but it took this long for the replacements to show up at the NYPL after the others were worn out.  In my opinion this one is far superior to the others.

I am also listening to three other fascinating, books, The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad (2013) by Lesley Hazleton (NPR review hereThe Crucible of Command: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee: The War They Fought, the Peace They Forged (2015) by William Davis

A UK Guardian review of the book here.
 -- and the brilliant The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land (2010) by Thomas Asbridge.  This latter is big -- 784 pages -- because he tells the politics of the crusades from both Christian and Islam's contexts of the times.  I've been listening to it for weeks, as one can only check out an audio stream book for a maximum of 3 weeks, and I usually only listen to them while working out. It's a popular title and then I have to wait until whoever else had it on hold expires it to get it back again.  (The Overlook system that has highjacked all the public library systems is truly awful and stupid in every way.)  I've now reached the fifth crusade.

It's really been books this month, far more than television / movies, due to my eyes being so bad from being sick.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

On Not Journaling + The Young Pope

     . . . .  At the beginning of last week my second laptop arrived, one lighter and smaller than my oversize laptop. The Big Pooter is better for writing and working, but the small one is for copying text, etc. in a special collection, that then can be transferred to the larger one at home/

 With everything else going on in our lives it's taken forever to load the little one with what I want and need, and then get it set-up the way I want and need.  This has been unnecessarily complicated by Windows 10 deciding to update with a load of applications and 'creative' things that I never use and just get in the way, which its done for both my laptops now.  It takes over 2 hours to update, which made updating more than inconvenient.  Afterwards, which was much more difficult for someone as unskilled and non intuitive as myself, I had to go in and rid both of them of memory eating irrelevant stuff -- I don't play games, I don't design anything, I don't need special cursors, and so on and so forth.

By the east side door, where entry is easier, because the front entry is jammed with tourists.
However, now that I had achieved the smaller and lighter, i.e. more portable device, I have been going uptown to the Schwarzman Research Library to deal with Red River Valley newspapers and copy various information for Far From Anywhere.  I have deliberately not added my various e-mail programs and so on to the little poot so far (when traveling, I'll need them, but I don't now), to keep from being distracted while researching.  Newspapers and journals and magazines  are still a pita to research, even when they aren't on microfilm.  Though -- if they're digitized one can do searches, which helps a lot.  But however one digs through them it's hell on the eyes, and mine are so bad already.

The weather hasn't helped much, lurching as it does from damp, clammy, chilly and drear to brutally hot and polluted.  The subways are packed and suffering from so many years of deferred maintenance.  The sidewalks are jammed with tourists. When I get home, transfer the files from the afternoon to the Big Pooter, start dinner, all I can manage is to open the wine, put up my feet and stream some tv.

     . . . . The most satisfactory viewing this month has been The Young Pope. Is Lenny Belardo - Pius XIII, the  youngest pope ever, the first US Pope, a saint? Or, is he Christ returned?  Or is he the worst retrogression to the days of the excommunicating, inquisiting, intolerant Latin Church popes, or merely a self-serving, unbelieving ambitious sort of which the Church appears to be packed?  Or -- maybe, he's the devil himself?  I still have 2 1/2 episodes to go, but, the way things work in this series, maybe I'll never know.  They Say there's to be a second season, but Jude Law won't be pope.  Who knows what that means.

Jude Law is co-producer with Paolo Sorrentino, as well as Pius XIII.  Shot in Rome, or so it seems, it's sumptuous, but it's also topsy-turvy, almost surreal many times.  Many scenes are spoken in Italian, only so unless one has a feature that allows for subtitles, this adds to unexpected turns that are always happening.  Every time I think I've got this thing figured out, it reverses and goes sideways simultaneously, and sometimes even, literally, turns upside down.

 Jude Law is brilliant, though one occasionally feels Law himself has been, perhaps lamentably and unduly influence by Andrew Scott's Moriarty in the latest BBC Sherlock for some of his deliveries, in the tone of voice, shape of mouth.

More happily, one feels the producer was somewhat influenced for the opening title sequence by the lamentably never completed series, Rome’s brilliant animation of the graffiti of the end of the Republic.

In Young Pope’s case, it’s Jude Law’s Pius XIII strolling along the many great Renaissance painting of a gallery in the Vatican, each coming to life as he passes by.

This has been particularly fun to watch as this month, along with a history of the Capetians, I've been reading Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy.

     . . . . Other matters going on of import to us --

M's memorial has been given a date.  The planning is finally getting to take shape.

We have learned that so far that the proclaimed changes for Cuba travel (which affect, let us not forget, only about 600,000 of the 4 million + tourists annually) won't affect Postmambo trips, as they alwaqys have been licensed group trips for the express and only purpose of culture and education, and the track record proves it.  But it means that an individual or couple or group of friends no longer can invoke people-to-people and go. But it's been nail-biting time here in the casa.  Will the you-know-whos destroy the business a second time?  But so far, so good, knock knock knock on wood.

Anyway, tonight --  the rain seems to have stopped.  Pasta and jazz first, then a friend's dance troupe performing at Roulette.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Aperçu and Silhouette - Toshi Reagon and Mavis Staples

     . . . . For reasons unknown to me I woke up with the words aperçu and silhouette in mind, seeing them elegant and graceful in their appearance on the page or screen, and equally so in their meanings. 

If today I were presented with two young kittens I would name them Aperçu and Silhouette -- for which they surely would punish me for all their days . . . .

     . . . . Yesterday's late afternoon, evening and night were perfect June light and weather.

Toshi Reagon

Reagon's band, Big Lovely - Central Park Summer Stage June 3, 2017

We were at Central Park for the reception prior to the opening show for the annual Summer Stage program.  The sky didn't go completely dark in the west until about 9 PM. The June-leafed out trees of the park were silhouetted against the brilliant sunset colors.

Mavis Staples took us there!

The one and only Nona Hendryx! Singer, songwriter, actress, LBGT activist.

The music was provided by two kickass women and their big bands -- Toshi Reagon and Mavis Staples. Among the great performers who got up to join Mavis and Toshi in the Big Bands' grand finale, was the splendid Nona Hendryx!  We were right up there front and center for it.

The audience was New Yorkers almost all, as Summer Stage is too localized a system to attract that many tourists.  As with everything here these days there were many moments during which the audience registered its dislike for the current policies emitted in D.C. that concern the city and her residents.  Recall who these women are: Mavis as she gleefully pointed out, was with Dr. King at Selma and -- I am still here! Toshi's mother is Bernice Johnson Reagon, song leader, composer, scholar, and social activist, who was a founding member of the SNCC Freedom Singers in the Albany Movement (Albany, Georgia, desegregation 1961 - 1962).

Yah, one of those nights that again tell us are why we are all in this city and why we love it -- and why those others hate us and it.

Monday, May 29, 2017

David Blight Considers, Again, the Meaning and History of Memorial Day

     . . . . David Blight, renowned historian of the era of Reconstruction and Jim Crow, muses upon Mitch Landrieu's moving speech in New Orleans on the occasion of bring down New Orleans's white supremacist monument to the glorious lost cause of perpetuating and expanding slavery throughout the entire United States (and hemisphere, at least for the most hopeful and deluded of the secessionists), and the changing meaning for the country of Memorial Day.

It's in the Atlantic Monthly, here.

By the way, how many of us know that today's holiday is not the same as Veteran's Day, and that the first Memorial Day-- then called Decoration Day -- was instituted by African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 1, 1865?  Blight has written extensively about this process in his laudable Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

The Library of Congress preserves this photo, taken in 1865 while the African-American reconstruction of the cemetery in Charleston was in progress. The rows of markers are newly established individual Union graves.

Friday, May 26, 2017

A Day in the Life of Jack The Fox

     . . . .Darling amiga, Austin Slim sent me this.  It's so purrfect it must be further shared
"A fox looks like a dog, purrs like a cat, but in fact it is neither."
"The have the nicest nature of any animal I have ever met."

"Sometimes he may do naughty things.  But not to those who are nice to him."

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Looking For Louie Louie : lwi - Louis

     . . . . As the France's Carolingian period isn't among my historical specialties, I have put in an inordinate amount of time these last few days trying to track down why the contemporary name Louis, for one of Charlemagne's sons, shows up in his family tree lines.

Why call him Louis when the other sons don't have latinized - frankified names? Before Louis shows up, and when he shows up, and after he shows up, one sees Lothars in the tree, but no Ludovics or Ludowigs etc. These are germanic forms of Louis, They Say.

But I had learned that Louis is derived from Clovis -- and as we know, of course, it is a Clovis who was the first Merovingian king, and there were many other Clovii in Merovingian history.  But no, no, no! exclaimed another friend.  From the dox we know that Ludwig and variations are the names from which Louis derives, she informs.  That was puzzling enough to make me doubtful. If Louis comes from Ludwig, why did so many other scholars and historians state so confidently that Louis, pronounced 'lwi', derives from Clovis?

No wonder it's so difficult for English speakers to get a handle on early French history -- especially if like me, they don't know latin, German and French!  I haven't had time yet to begin my short stack of Charlemagne books, beyond finishing Towns and Trade in the Age of Charlemagne (1994) by Richard Hodges. These books might have given me the clues to follow, but, as said, I haven't had the time to immerse yet -- though, yah, without a clue I did foolishly devote hours digging in the web. But I couldn't find anything until a friend gave me a couple of links.

These links didn't provide any linguistic information of the sort I was looking for -- but from them I did learn something fundamental -- so fundamental that it is duh -- but only if I'd read these Charlemagne books which I haven't yet read would it be duh --
i) WIDEGO (-[after 22 Jun 823]). "Widegowi filii Warini comitis..." witnessed the charter dated 6 Jun 799 under which “Bernherus” donated property "in pago Rinensi in Locheim" to Lorsch[781]. "Witegowo" donated property "in pago Wormat. In Albecher marca" to Lorsch by charter dated 784[782]. "Widegowo et soror mea Reginburc" donated property "in pago Gardachgowe in villa Francunbach" to Lorsch by charter dated 806[783]. Emperor Louis I confirmed the donation of " pago...Lobotengowe in villa...Siggenheim", previously acquired by "Warinus quondam comes ad partem fisci nostri" and granted to “Widegowo comes per beneficium largitioinis nostræ”, to Lorsch by charter dated 22 Jun 823 [784].
This is in the 9th century, so it is Emperor Louis the Pius, Charlemagne's son (r. 1814 - 1840). Louis the Pious (b. 778 – 20 June 840), also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, was the King of Aquitaine from 781. He was also King of the Franks and co-Emperor (as Louis I) with his father, Charlemagne, from 813.

Fibula of the Carolingian period: copper, gold, and turquoise found at Chalandry in the musée de Laon
The second link my amiga provided mentions "Louis" only twice, once in the description of his mother's family and antecedents via the biography of Louis I written by a churchman named Thegan of Trier (or Degan of Treves), and once in the footnote citation. Thegan was a Frankish Roman Catholic prelate, author of Gesta Hludowici imperatoris, a principal source for the life of the Holy Roman Emperor Louis the Pious, the son and successor of Charlemagne. Louis I's mother was thoroughly German as was all her family -- but, this was what mattered in my quest for lwi/Louis --I learned that this son of Charlemagne was born, not in the germanic regions of his empire, but on soil that would be France.

Louis the Pious

So, finally, I search Louis I. At this link, the following was at the top for Louis I:
Alternative Titles: Louis le Débonnaire, Louis le Pieux, Louis the Debonair, Louis the Pious (and in Germany) Ludwig der Fromme
The takeaway for me, in terms of Louis I being not only lwi, but the first lwi, besides actually being born in what we now call France, is this:
" . . . (born April 16, 778, Chasseneuil, near Poitiers, Aquitaine [now in France]—died June 20, 840, Petersau, an island in the Rhine River near Ingelheim [now in Germany]), Carolingian ruler of the Franks who succeeded his father, Charlemagne, as emperor in 814 and whose 26-year reign (the longest of any medieval emperor until Henry IV [1056–1106]) was a central and controversial stage in the Carolingian experiment to fashion a new European society. Commonly called Louis the Pious, he was known to his contemporaries by the Latin names Hludovicus or Chlodovicus, which echo the Latin name of Clovis (c. 466–511), the illustrious founder of the Merovingian dynasty. Louis was appointed king of Aquitaine in 781 and was already a seasoned 35-year-old politician and military commander when he became coemperor with Charlemagne in 813. He was the fourth monarch of the Carolingian dynasty, preceded by his father; his uncle, Carloman; and his grandfather, Pippin III, the Short."
Damn!  I DID NOT KNOW that Clovis, Hludovicus or Chlodovicus were latinized versions of germanic names!  I assumed they were germanic names.  How stupid is THAT? Answer: Very Stupid.

So Louis is king of Aquitaine, the least gothicized of western France. Where then, presumably, they spoke some sort of "french" that would make a lwi / Louis out of Clovis. In the end they didn't speak the same form of French as the rest of France, but the language King Richard I learned as a child, and so did his mother, Queen Eleanor. Even now, in this region:
Many residents also have some knowledge of Basque, of a variety of Occitan (Gascon, Limousin, or Languedocien), or of the Poitevin-Saintongeais dialect of French.
Louis I lived in Aquitaine from age 3. His nurse was, it appears, to have been from a regionally indigenous family -- at least indigenous since the days of the Roman conquest -- though that region was also the least latinized in the days of Roman Empire, if I recall correctly. He was thoroughly Aquitaine-ized not only in his name, persumably.

So, oddly, perhaps, did this liw-ization of Clovis started in a language that didn't become the mainstream form of French? He did bring his Aquitanians with him to Paris after Charlemagne's death, and as they were his cohort from childhood, presumably into the German regions of the empire. Presumably I will learn more when I get my Charlemagne, Capetians and middle ages stack read.

I have to find a good history of the Viking incursions into France. By the time the William invades England these Norsemen are already speaking the French of Paris -- they arrived first in the reign of Louis I's son, Charles II (the Bald -- Charlemagne is the first Charles). (The siege of Paris was 845.)


Something else I have grasped this last week btw, which previously I did not know, for reasons I do not know, except, most likely, I wasn't paying attention: the first two European actions that later got called the Crusades, and the history of what was Outremere, were very much French affairs. That the French were the dominant European power in what they came to call Outremere must have had so much to do with the shaping of not only the literature and language of the courtly romance -- but also that of their fairy tales. This is one of the reasons the consciously composed French fairy tale is so different from those that the Grimm Brothers printed.

Yet it still took me until this week to overtly understand that the English had nothing to do with early formation of Crusade politics, manners and literature. (The Spanish didn't contribute either, as they were thoroughly occupied with the Reconquista. That, at least, I always understood.)

Not until relatively recently -- o say the last couple of decades, did I overtly recognize that England didn't go on the First and Second Crusades. The civil war between Matilda and Stephen prevented English participation in the First Crusade. Then Henry II needed to put together and hold together his own empire, so though he contributed funds to the Second Crusade, he and his men stayed in Europe.

But we've so identified King Richard the Lion Heart with the third Crusade, that we / me English speakers have the unexamined presumption that the English were present in the earlier actions. It may also be partly due to Henry II's marriage to Eleanor -- who did go on the Second Crusade with her husband King Louis VII -- and that she was Richard I's mother, who did go as far as Sicily with his wife, Berengaria of Navarre, during the Third Crusade. It's in this era of Eleanor's daughter by Louis VII, Marie of France, the Countess of Champagne, and Richard, Duke in Aquitaine, we see the outpouring of courtly romances* (in the Holy Roman Empire too, because of Conrad and Tancred who were Crusade monarchs too). These are some of the roads to the romances' treatment of the Matter of Grail -- and how it enters into England, where it gets married to Arthur and The Matter of Britain. This, even though Richard spent barely any time there, and Henry didn't either. But Henry did have a continental empire, and the movement of churchmen and his administrators between the continent and England was constant.

Some nights ago all this came to mind while I watched the French live action La belle et la bête  / Beauty and the Beast (2014 France, 2017 US).  Live action, produced in France, it is so different from the Disney versions.  It was adult in attitude, and even more so, it contained in decor and manner a through line that I swear goes back at least to the Crusading era.

So that's my next French quest.  When did that transition happen, from Frankish to French?  It wasn't in the Carolingian era, which is its own distinct period from the Merovingian or the Capetian.

* Several of the most well-known French courtly love romances include events that were inspired by events in Queen Eleanor's and Henry's lives, such as The Knight of the Cart, in which Queen Guenivere is abducted, and rescued by Lancelot. After Eleanor's grant of divorce, as she traveled back to Poitiers, two lords – Theobald V, Count of Blois, and Geoffrey, Count of Nantes (brother of Henry II, Duke of Normandy) – tried to kidnap and marry her to claim her lands.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

It's Done - He Did It

     . . . . For months he threatened he was going to make cornbread. 

Weeks ago he acquired the essential cornmeal.

Yesterday, he did it.

     . . . . At my suggestion he baked it in the miraculous Bayou cast iron deep skillet. O my, what a perfect crust all around and bottom it made. The slices came off the cast iron with barely a crumb left behind.

After the recommended baking time he did the toothpick in the middle test, and then cut out a teeny chunk. He thought it was quite done enough in the middle. I said just put the skillet back in the now shut off oven.

I thought the middle was baked sufficiently already, but he wanted more, and he was the baker.

It was perfect by his reckoning when he pulled it out again some minutes later.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

To Great Cheering, He's Down!

     . . . .VIDEO - Removal Of General Robert E. Lee Statue Monument From Lee Circle In New Orleans.

And it is accomplished to the accompaniment of the sort of celebration that can happen only in New Orleans.

What has always puzzled me about this particular New Orleans's CSA monument centers around the facts that Lee had no connection with New Orleans or Louisiana beyond sailing to San Antonio there at the outset of the invasion of Mexico in the Mexican American War. 

In the War of Southern Aggression Lee was all about, and only about. 'defending' Virginia. 
He wasn't even general of the Army of Northern Virginia when New Orleans and Louisiana were defeated and occupied by the Union forces.  He never had anything to do with Louisiana and the western states ever. This was unlike, o say, Sherman, who was superintendent of the Louisiana Military Academy when the War of Southern Aggression was declared.

A large standing bronze of Abraham Lincoln with the Emancipation Proclamation, by sculptor Leonard Wells. Is this not at least as much to historically honored as those who fought and killed for the sake of the expansion of slavery?

Contradicting those who defend these monuments, erected many years after Appomattox, as having nothing to do with slavery, but as preservation of our historical heritage, is there have been no monuments raised to Sherman or Grant in New Orleans. Nor, for that matter, have any been raised to Lincoln, though there was of Jefferson Davis (that one was been removed earlier). 

In other words, these monuments are part of the revisionist history of the United States, another white-wash of our national shame of slavery, telling a false tale of our history, and then glorifying the lies. This is why these monuments to owners of slaves need to be removed.*


Equestrian statue honoring Andrew Jackson in Jackson Square, New Orleans.

*  I am no defender of Andrew Jackson (see the account of him in our The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave Breeding Industry), who was a slave dealer and slave owner, an Indian killer, and hater of the English and anyone who crossed him. 

Nor am I generally a defender of that catastrophic War of 1812 (though the Brits were behaving most thuggishly).

However, the monument honoring Jackson in New Orleans memorializes his defense of the city against the British invaders, not his Indian massacres or slave dealing -- though of course that great Battle of New Orleans was fought after the treaty ending the War of 1812 had officially been signed. Yet the battle was fought, and the Americans under his leadership did soundly defeat the Brits -- helping wipe away the many shameful defeats of US forces elsewhere, including the catastrophe that was the US invasion of Canada.  So yah, I can see logic to having that kind of monument, which carries a very different meaning and significance than the ones honoring those who blatantly, publicly and loudly declared war on the United States in order to preserve and expand slavery everywhere in North America -- and even into Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America -- and even the most rabid of the secessionist fire eaters declared -- into the Pacific.