LINES OF THE DAY

". . . 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

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.


Friday, May 19, 2017

A Small Stack of Charlemagne

     . . . . I wake, push my toes painted a pretty pink into my sparkly Italian leather flip flops,

I love sparkly!




put on my glasses -- and beam at my escape reading, as I start the tea. I pet the books while ye pooter boots.





- Capetian France 987 - 1328 (1980) by Elizabeth M. Hallam
- Charlemagne (1998) by Roger Collins
- Towns and Trade in the Age of Charlemagne (2000) by Richard Hodges
- Charlemagne (2005) by Derek Wilson
- Charlemagne (2016) by Johannes Fried

By golly, one way or another, I am vowed to learn how and why 'Louis" as a name for the ruling family showed up -- seemingly, to my ignorance, out of nowhere -- as a name in the Carolingian dynasty, first as the name of one of Charlemagne's sons.  Really how we get from all those Pippins to Louis? Pippins are still generally goth.  But Louis, Louis now, that's pure French.  It's a mystery.

Throne of Charlemagne in Aachen Cathedral.
I have vowed as well to discover the how and why the Carolingians then became a dynasty called 'Capetian'.  (I am entirely unclear as to how and when Capetian gave way to Valois as well, though a bit more clear re 'Bourbon' because that's more related to Spanish history, which I know rather a bit better than French.)



I have gotten clear, which was one of my goals, on how the Gothic Long-Haired Kings got to be the Merovingian dynasty, and then dissolved into the Carolingian dynasty, the members of which by the late 600's, were already holding the reins of actual Frankish power in the position of mayor of the palace ( maior palatii or majordomo -- maior domus) for the ineffective by now ineffective Merovingians kings of the northeastern kingdom of Austrasia.

Pope Leo III Crowns Charlemagne Emperor of Rome.
This event sets the stage for centuries of  invasion and conflict among
the Austrias, Germanies, the Italies, France and Spain.

Viking siege of Paris 845.


Another of my goals is to achieve a better, detailed knowledge of of Charlemagne and the Capetians and the Viking invasions of Frankia.  One thing about which I am now clear is that the Saxons, Avars and Danes were of far greater concern to the king, crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day in 800, than ever were any Saracens from anywhere -- contrary to the Legend of Charlemagne.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Netflix's Anne With An 'e' -- First Responses

     . . . . These are the thoughts after having watched the first two episodes of Anne With An 'e'.


First edition, 1908, initially published in the US -- not Canada --,by L.C. Page & Co. -- of Boston, Massachusetts.  Shades of Louisa May Alcott!* 



  .... The Anne With An 'e' writers were careful to think out all the aspects of the original text by Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874 - 1942). The series is both as enchanting as an initial read of Montgomery's novel, and appropriately terrible, at least through the first two episodes. The actors are exactly right. The series was conceived and produced holistically, not as separate tasks. This makes it a pitch perfect interpretation in terms of place, time, events and characters.

Some of those who watched this latest translation to screen of Anne of Green Gables on the CBC earlier this spring, or from screeners, have been angry at the changes. However, as I see it, there are no changes from what is in the text.  What has changed is that a part of what is contained in the text is not glided over, as Anne herself skates us over, what is contained in the smooth rush of her relentless vocalizing.



This television series gives space to the terrible life that Anne led before being adopted by Prince Edward's Island's Marilla and Matthew. She was orphaned at three months, without family, friends or any other resources. As soon as she was old enough to do anything at all the orphan asylum hired her out (that is the word always used then and there -- asylum). She was treated as badly as any US antebellum little slave girl could have been. Additional torment was meted out by adults and sister orphans alike, because she was the opposite of a pretty little girl, and worse, a homely child who would not keep quiet, and whose intelligence showed itself at every turn.  There is ample reason for the netflix series to have Anne identify herself with Jane Eyre, one of the many books she omnivorously has devoured.

One of the many brilliancies of the book is that not being a conventionally pretty little girl with pretty clothes, is that she is mocked and the odd one out for that.  But she exhibit neither saintly forgiveness nor a superior ability to rise above the lacks of feature and closet.  Instead these lacks are turned inward by herself upon herself, part of both abuse-induced trauma and self-hatred.  Anne resembles in no way the cliched YA heroine who hates feminine manners and clothes Instead she, like Jo March longs to be pretty, and like Meg March longs to possess lovely clothes.  In other words she is far more real than most YA female protagonists of thirteen.

There are mentions of these extended traumas by Anne, glancing and in passing, in the book's text -- which I first encountered at the same age that Anne is in the book. But the extravagant spillage of Anne's chatter and language, her passion, her instinctive sympathy with Nature, her imagination, keep the reader successfully suspended above these dark, dangerous serpentine, swift currents beneath the bright veneer of her mythos-making that conceals from everyone, most of all herself, that at best, life has nothing to offer her, but bleak privation.

What is brilliant about Montgomery's writing choices is that the closer I was to Anne's character in the first years of re-reading Anne of Green Gables, the less I noticed these dark currents and the slithers of terror in her revelations. I was mesmerized by all the other parts of her that I -- and countless other readers -- saw reflected in Anne of myself: her passion,  love of words, her love of school -- I even attended a one-room school like she did! -- history and fiction, her hatred of her own name and yearning for something more Romantic, a pull toward everything that she, at thirteen, labels as "Romantic," her real grief that she isn't pretty and has only practical, sensible and ugly things to wear -- united with knowing what others around her do not from history and books -- that transforms everything around her and her companions into a joyeous, delightful, beautiful, adventurous and -- yah -- Romantic realm. She could always come up with something new and interesting for her friends to play.

Anne suffers from Traumatic Stress Disorder. She copes by language, not with guns, she copes by turning to self-hatred, a form of self-harm -- for not being pretty.  She also copes by imagining a different primary identity -- Anne, who also plays at a host of other identities, such as princesses and heroines  -- not the abused Ann of beatings, starvation and the constant filth of others that she must clean up. It's not a change from the text, in other words, but an addition of emphasis. In this era it is equally obvious that no one, including herself, knows about this psychological process, in that era prior to WWI.

In that era the condition of orphans everywhere, as in Canada, was scandalously horrific. Changing this was part of the era's Reformist movements objectives. It was anything but uncommon for orphans to be abused physically and emotionally. Death before adolescence or even during adolescence was a common outcome.  No one mourned.

Particularly this was the case for the Irish orphans left in Canada from the ship loads of immigrants attempting to flee the Irish famines. The ships arrived with death voraciously aboard in the form of typhoid, cholera and other contagious diseases. Instead of attempting to care for the ill, The coffin ships, as they were called, were anchored off shore -- often without adequate medical attention, food or other supplies provided while the diseases raged aboard. **

I didn't know any of this when first encountering Anne at age twelve, As we see from her name, Ann Shirley, her "poor as church mice parents" were Irish. The Irish were treated even worse in Canada in that era than in the US, and we were awful enough.

As to be expected there are viewers who resent this emphasis on the backstory of Anne of Green Gables. They believe giving it a larger place in the story today is sacrilege to the 'true book'.  They want the Anne of their childhood memory, a comic adventure, perpetually sunny Red-Haired Girl, as she's known by myriads of Japanese tourists to Prince Edward Island. We North Americans want the Anne played by Megan Follows***  in the 1985 CBC version, followed by a Disney sequel.**** All of these reject the abused orphan Ann, who, for our sake and her own, has masked herself in swathes of language and dreams -- they want that one to be the only Anne.



However, the text makes clear always there were at least two Anns -- Ann and Anne.  Anne was made possible by Marilla and Matthew, who could appreciate this friendless child's only armor and weapons for survival and making her way:  her passion, strength of will (which includes her fiery temper), imagination, and intelligence. They saw the abused child as well, and had the sympathy -- Anne's word! -- which is one of the forms of imagination -- Anne's word too! -- to understand that this would indeed make her behave differently from the conventional expectation of a child's behavior.  That this could indeed have her 'act out,' as we call it now, but that her acting out was to overtly dramatize, not be 'bad.'  They saw that her core was was, in the language of the time, pure and good -- and honest -- and that her innate goodness and her outer Anne could blossom with proper nurturing -- i.e. in the language of the time, the influence of a good Christian home.



Having ordered a boy orphan and gotten Anne instead, Marilla says she must be sent back, but she sees that Matthew is reluctant.  What good can a girl do for them with all this farm work as they grow old, Marilla asks. Matthew's response is, "Maybe we should ask what good we can be for her."  He well knows his sister's piety is authentic.  This is what a Christian should ask in this situation.  These two are at least as brilliant creations as Anne herself.

----------------------------



* We may perhaps see some of Montgomery's own imagination at work here, according to this article about Irish orphans.  But Canadian novelist, Margaret Atwood, among others, have employed this historical event in her fiction.  That abuse and mistreatment of orphan children, and poor children, or just children, was rife in Europe and North America are no myth, however, as the historical and even legal records show here, here and here.

**


 Anne has generally been vastly dis-serviced on the screen in the same ways and approaches as has Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. Which reminds me that  An Old-Fashioned Girl,  Eight Cousins and its sequel, Rose in Bloom, should be purrfect for television series, set as they are within the wealthy Boston mercantile families in the era after the War of Southern Aggression, in what is called the Gilded Age.  Need I say I still have all these books, and more, as well as my copy of Anne of Green Gables?

***   Megan Follows most recently has been applauded in the role of Queen Catherine d' Medici, mother of Henri IV, in the historical travesty soap opera, Reign. -- mostly filmed in wintery Canada and Ireland!  However, there is a fiction writer part of me, as opposed to the historian, who believes staunchly that Anne with an 'e' would glory in in Reign, and play-act all the roles herself, not least that of the Queen Mother who is -- sometimes and sometimes not -- so cruel to Princess Mary.  There are enough princesses and beautiful clothes to even satisfy Anne of Green Gables! Moreover many of the important locations were in wintry Ireland and Canada. What goes round comes round, and Anne would know that.

* * ** Both, but particularly the Disney sequel, were so cloying for this watcher that I gave up on them after a few scenes.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Sorrow, Imagination, Amethysts and Wine: Anne With An E

     . . . . We have begun planning for M's Memorial and, later, his funeral.  The first obituary went up today, in Art News.  More are in the works for other publications.

Grieving and death are tiring.  I have been having so many dreams of M, in which he speaks.  I also have dreams in which his Haitian wife, M, also speaks.  But they are always separate dreams, and the two of them are not ever in the same dream.  Just as now, they can never be together as they used to be, the way so many of my memories of them have them.

The sky has turned sullen again.  A damp, chilly mass of air has moved in on the back of damp, chilly wind.  The rain that shall wash us here all weekend begins after midnight.  Every chronic ache and pain from the nerves pinched and rubbed raw by the damaged vertebrae are screaming right now.

El V's having yet more music tonight, way uptown.  This is his best way of coping.






Me, well, first I've wrapped myself in lovely Shetland wool.  Then I donned my amethyst rings, earrings and pendant.



 I have poured a glass of a wine the shade that my imagination presumes is the same purple Homer meant by "wine-dark sea."








One of the wine store caballeros gave me some sprays of lilacs from his courtyard.  His bushes are overwhelming all the space, so he was giving out branches he's pruned out to regulars whom he thinks will like them.




Thus, I am prepared to watch the first episode of netflix's production of Anne of Green Gables, "Anne With An E," which went up for streaming today.

Somehow, I feel Anne would enter into this with entire sympathy -- another word Anne with an e employed enthusiastically.

This version of Anne spends a bit more time on the dark side of her life before coming to Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, it is said, than the sunlit days.  This shall suit very well, me thinks.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Flower Fox - National Geographic Travel Photographer Contest

[ "     . . . .  The National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest is now under way, and entries will be accepted until June 30. The grand-prize winner will receive a 10-day trip for two to the Galápagos Archipelago with National Geographic Expeditions. National Geographic was once more kind enough to allow me to share some of the early entries with you here, gathered from three categories: Nature, Cities, and People. The photos and captions were written by the photographers, and lightly edited for style. " ]
Flower Fox - On one spring day, he took a nap. After that, he appeared from a flower nest. 
© Takahiro Sato / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Reading: Rome, Merovingians, Charlemagne, the Middle Ages & the US War of Independence

     . . . .Having the night before finally finished reading Ian N. Wood's The Merovingian Kingdoms 450 - 751 (1994), way back on May Day night (the 1st) we began our new Read-Aloud-Before-Bed work: The Middle Ages (2014) by Johannes Fried, trans. by Peter Lewis.




Guess with whom The Middle Ages begins? Theodoric and Boethius, of course, whom I first met at the start of the year in The Ruin of the Roman Empire: A New History (2009) by James O'Donnell, which I lived with for some very happy weeks early this year, as well as in Wood's book.

Fried's Middle Ages covers 500 A.D. up to Columbus's voyages to the New World and Luther's Reformation -- though not the voyages or the Reformation per se. I approve of his perspective that the Middle Ages end decisively with the invention of printing, the incalculable extracted wealth out of Africa, North America,  the Caribbean and South America, and the protestant revolution -- which latter, perhaps, couldn't have happened the way it did either, without two entire continents suddenly available to pillage.

El V had been reading The Middle Ages by himself for a long time but whenever there was an interruption -- and there were many,  Cuba being only the most lengthy -- he had forgotten anything he might have absorbed. He would start over because upon resumption it felt as f he'd never read it at all. He loves the author's view of time and geography and everything about how the translation is working. He thinks though, he didn't have enough prior historical knowledge that would allow him enough focus to truly comprehend, and thus remember.



Working with Woods's book the way we did, reading it aloud together, as much as we made fun of it, laughing and giggling, still, we remembered the material. So we decided to do Fried's book this way too. It's a lot longer, however. Already though, I can tell Fried is a great historian, and a very good writer. All the messy non-organization an other problems of Woods's book -- none of that for Professor Fried! Germans are terrific scholars of the Middle Ages anyway, especially those who take a long and wide view.  However, he is not an historian for the general reader.  He's an historian for those who have the tools to read carefully and follow long, complex arguments and whose minds already possess a fairly detailed outline for European history in those 1500 years.

Kirkus review of The Middle Ages here.

This second review that includes Fried's book is worth reading if only to remind oneself -- if one needs reminding -- that one cannot rely on reading a single work to learn what needs to be known about an era, an event -- or anything at all, for that matter. This is true if only due to the unconscious biases of the authors, which, by the way, includes reviewers themselves, and those who publish them.



For myself, the second Roman history by which I've been  engrossed this year was The Rise of Rome: The Making of the World’s Greatest Empire (2012) by Anthony Everitt. It's the most detailed account of the founding of the city of Rome and pre-Caesarian Rome I’ve read. It's particularly good with the Etruscans and Carthagenians, and the pre-Republic wars with the Greeks.

I admired so much the author's way with latin, matter-of-factly dropping in information, without digressing or making anything of it. For example, he will inform the reader that a position such as pontifax comes from the original duties of building, guarding and repairing the bridges -- pontem. Bridges and ships -- another Latin word that matters -- rostrum:
Latin Rostra, plural, a platform for speakers in the Roman Forum decorated with the beaks of captured ships, from plural of rostrum] a : an ancient Roman platform for public oratorsb : a stage for public speakingc : a raised platform on a stage. 
Not only do these bits illuminate the  surrounding content, but provoke delight.



I've begun a third Roman history, Adrian Goldworthy's (2016)  Pax Romana: War, Peace and Conquest in the Roman World. It's too soon to know what I think of it yet, but so far it's very promising.




Another history read this spring was Kathleen DuVal's (2015) Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution -- an account of the English colonists, the various Native tribes, and the French and Spanish in the Floridas, Louisiana and the Mississippi territories and their conflicting support for the War of Independence or those who preferred to stay loyal to England.

But now it's all Charlemagne, all the time.









Last week el V brought home for my pleasure Towns and Trade in the Age of Charlemagne (2000) by Richard Hodges. This slender book made me hug and kiss him! It's one of the titles in the Debates in Archaeology series. It deals with what I've been trying to figure out since my attempts to get a handle on the Merovingians and the Franks. While giving credit where credit is due, this book clearly lays out the refutation to the Pirenne Thesis, which I've been doubting for quite some time, which, in fact, provoked a lot of this reading in the first place.

The most extensive unfolding of Pirenne's Thesis is found in his works, Medieval Cities: Their Origins and the Revival of Trade (1925),  and Mohammed and Charlemagne (1935).




The Pirenne thesis was propounded by Belgian historian Henri Pirenne. In his famous essay on Mohammed and Charlemagne (1937) Pirenne argued that the continuity of Roman civilization in transalpine (northern) Europe after the fall of Rome, created real change in Europe came from the rise of Islam, not barbarian invasions.[1] His famous summary said, "Without Islam, the Frankish Empire would have probably never existed, and Charlemagne, without Muhammad, would be inconceivable."[2] That is, he rejected the notion that barbarian invasions in the 4th and 5th centuries caused the collapse of the Roman Empire. Instead the Muslim conquest of north Africa made the Mediterranean a barrier, cutting western Europe off from the east, enabling the Carolingians, especially Charlemagne to create a new, distinctly western form of government.
Since the 1980's historians who disagree with Pirenne's Thesis have gained a great deal of critical acceptance, which goes along with their choice to characterize that whole long period between the 5th century and 1500 as the Middle Ages. Historians of these matters divide themselves, according to academic jargon, as 'optimists' and 'pessimists'. Hodges is an unabashed 'optimist' -- as is, for that matter, Woods.

They tend to agree that Rome never did fall, per se, particularly when factoring in the endurance of Rome in the east. Archaeology's discoveries have played an enormous role in these matters since the 1970's, which weren't in play for Europe in the era of the World Wars. Prior to this historians of Europe seldom if ever included archaeology's studies and discoveries in their scholarship, which they do now.  Digs at emporia sites such as Viking era, Birka, Dorestadt in Friesland, founded specifically for trade, with their goods, mints, monesteries and trade routes across the eastern Rhineland, the Black Sea and down to Constantinople make persuasive argument in favor of the optimists.

Johannes Fried biography here.
Then, yesterday when I was at the library to pick up materials on the conflicts between Bonanza farming and smaller homesteading farmers in the Red River Valley, I spied two copies of a book displayed in the new book section. It was Fried's Charlemagne!  I've been so longing for a good biography of this figure! Also translated by Peter Lewis, Charlemagne is even more hefty than Fried's Middle Ages covering 1500 years.  Admirably, in this age of subtitles that cram in every possible key search word, as with his 2014 The Middle Ages, Fried kept to the most simple title possible -- a single word.

These are the first sentences of the Preface:
"The following book is not a novel, but it is a work of fiction all the same -- a fiction based on this author's visualization of Charlemagne. And even though the resulting image does, quite properly, adduce all the available evidence from the period in question, it is nonetheless subjectively formed and colored. It is impossible nowadays to fathom the depths of a life lived more than twelve hundred years ago, so the only thing remaining for a writer to fall back on is his own imagination . . . . Perhaps those same critics will also censure this author for the way he has chosen to approach his subject, although all they would be able to offer would be a different, no less subjective and fragmentary image.  An objective portrayal of the great Carolingian ruler is simply not possible."
El V in particular loved hearing this, from the PW review, as he just cannot get enough of Spanish history prior to Cristobal Colon's voyages.
Fried also elucidates the role the Franks played in Spain, both in the battle against the Basques at Roncevalles (778) and in later dealings with the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates.
Win-win for us both.



We decided to buy Charlemagne. It's too extensive a work not to have on hand for reference. It's going to take me the rest of the year to read it through as it's such a dense accomplishment of scholarship and interpretation.

Also, as the author's German, deeply concerned with the philosophical significance of historical temporality (reminds me here very much of Jan Assman's The Mind of Egypt:History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaohs (2002) in particular, not to mention other of Assman's works which I / we have not read, alas), and its a translation, the text and syntax are thick, ungraspable by skimming pixels on a screen.

Sometimes while reading I feel as if the signification of the sentence and paragraph are water I'm attempting to pick up with my hand and pour into my organ of comprehension -- the significance drains away before it gets to the mind.

So German, this temporal -- as opposed to chronological narrative -- approach to history as meditation on time itself.  One can see it, and how it has influenced modern historians, as with the Annales School -- so French! --  (at least now I can see it, I couldn't of course when I first encountered the Pirenne Thesis as an undergrad). As my linear track, narrative-oriented mind lacks any philosophical bent, and this massive life's work of scholarship is pinned to philosophical concepts of time and and interpretation -- you can imagine my struggles.

These are the books that have been my consolations in the previous 12 days. At the end of April we received the terrible, unexpected news that someone very dear to us both had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.  M's diagnosis was four months more at most.  It didn't take anywhere near that long, thank goodness as he was in terrible pain. He passed early Friday morning.

His wife and daughter are devastated. M has produced a significant, beautiful, strong, body of art over his career, so dealing with his estate is complicated.  Handling his funeral and / or memorial is also not straight-forward for several reasons, starting with the fact that he was a fully trained and initiated houngan in the Vodun religion.  Several of their friends are working with his wife, helping her to make the decisions and take the actions, both spiritual and practical.

At the same time over the past 6 days quite a few of the March Oriente Travelers were here to participate in the first reunion.  During these days some of them who live here, including el V, had had music gigs long scheduled.

So it's been a busy, complicated, sorrowful, and happy run of time since I posted last.

I am so grateful to have the consolations of friends, music and history to get me through these very sad times.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Scythians, Vikings and Their Horses

     . . . . Guess what boys and girls? Those Scythians, you know those nomadic horse-riding, horse centered culture people,   


who hunted and battled from horseback, ate their meat, drank their milk (and sometimes their blood) for thousands of years, from China and Siberia to the Black Sea and beyond? 



Scythian horse and trainer.


Guess what -- they had breeding programs for their herds! Who would ever have guessed that people who lived for thousands of years by, for and around the horse would ever think of that.




Scythian saddle.



Do we all think it, well, just happened, that these rode, hunted, fought, ate, herded, conquered, with the horse, and created war chariots to be pulled by horses, and invented stirrups? Because we know people who weren't able to spend their lives playing computer games and taking selfies of themselves eating cookie dough to post on FB, where also people post real time murders, rapes and tortures, and have all their personal information sold to anyone who wants to pay -- the ancient people couldn't possibly be so self-aware, intelligent, creative and inventive as to constantly, consciously improve the ways the horse could serve them, century-after-century.

Read about it here in the NY Times Science section (pay wall!).

Actually it is nice that this history of the nomadic herding horse peoples can be confirmed by DNA investigative tools.

It must have been the tone of the article that set me off? That breathless, hoo boy!, hey nobody ever thought about this before and look what these guys found!



This older NY Times article is also interesting if one is interested in horses (which I am).  Then there were the Vikings and horses. We tend not to associate the Vikings much with horses, but they knew their way around equines just fine, breeding and raising horses that suited their needs. Hey -- these are my people (along with the Poles, who know a whole lot about breeding and training horses too).

This NY Times article suggests that it was a mutation in Icelandic horses during the Viking age that ultimately allowed for the 'amble' gait in horses. Not all horses can do this. What particularly interests me is that the Vikings traded these horses all over Europe -- and, into the Middle East. I keep thinking of horses with coats that allow for survival in a nordic, Icelandic climate, who can amble, finding homes in Damascus and Jerusalem.

Icelander horse performing the tolt - Tolt is "Even 4-beat rhythm with long strides in front and behind, elegant lift and action of the front legs, movements extremely flexible and supple, excellent speed."
Then there's this even older NY Times article. As well as a mutation gene allows for horses that can amble, there is a mutation gene for pacing.  As with the amble gait gene, not all horses have the pacing gene. Both qualities have become embedded in certain varieties of horses by deliberate breeding. What particularly interests me is that many horses in possession this gene that allows for an amble or for pacing, find it difficult to transition from that to a trot or gallop, or at least to do so smoothly. Smooth transition of gaits is a big part on what horses and their riders on show are scored on. That this information has been discovered now allows breeders, owners and trainers to do testing on potential candidates for various events and racing.  If that gene is missing there is no point in spending time and money training this horse, so it can be sent off for another career.*

A video of Icelandic horse round-up:



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*  Hopefully another career, and not to the dog and catfood factory . . . .


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Book Sales Up, ebook Sales Down

     . . . . An article in the UK Guardian describes the fall of the Kindle and ebooks, and tries to figure out the whys of it.




Basically -- yah, ebooks just aren't as good a reading experience and totally useless for anything that isn't just skimming.  You sure can't do research with them.

That's what I've been sayin' from the beginning.  For light, thoughtless distraction while riding the subway, OK.  But nothing else.
[ " . . . figures published today by the Publishing Association show that sales of consumer ebooks have dropped by 17%, while sales of physical books are up 8%. Consumer spending on books was up £89m across the board last year, compared with 2015. So why is the physical book winning through? " ] Read the Guardian piece here.





I don't necessarily agree with their conclusion that it is the allure of the physical that is the draw for printed books again.  I still put more value on my own reading needs, pleasures and necessities, that one simply cannot absorb or pay attention to the content on a screen, whether fiction or non.  And then, with history and other important non-fiction forms, all the cites, biblios, indexing, etc. are not there -- and often not the illustrations, including graphs and tables are also not included.  This makes the ebook useless for someone like me.  And I read uncountable numbers of such books every year!

I do agree, however, that audio books are real rival to kindles, etc.





They are still the growth center for publishing (along with illustrated kids' books, which don't work on kindles, etc. either).  People are listening to everything from pod casts of all kinds to enormous numbers of audio titles.  I listen to dozens of audio book every year myself.  All of them history.  Again I'm missing cites, biblios and indices.  But if this is a book that mattes to me personally for research I search out that title and obtain the print copy.  The point here though being that I can absorb content and recall it from the audio version of a text.  But I don't when it's on a screen.

The genre segment of the ebook market is about 50%.  The ebook sales of genre forms increased overall even, about 6%, which makes for great sell-through for crime, thriller, mystery, romance, fantasy etc.  Also for self-publishing.  Almost all self-publishing is done now as ebook format.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Revival: Ertuğrul

     . . . . Resurrection: Ertugrul (2014) 1st season.  Turkish television. Streaming from Netlix.



From Wiki:
Diriliş: Ertuğrul (English: The Revival: Ertuğrul) is a Turkish historical adventure television series created by Mehmet Bozdağ, starring Engin Altan Düzyatan in the title role. It is filmed in Riva, a village in Beykoz, intracity district of Istanbul, and premiered on TRT 1 in Turkey on December 10, 2014. The show is based on the history of the Oghuz Turks and takes place in the 13th century and centers around the life of Ertuğrul, the father of Osman I, the leader of the Ottoman Turks and the founder and namesake of the dynasty that established and ruled the Ottoman Empire. While only a small principality during Ertuğrul's lifetime, would prevail as a world empire under his son's dynasty for the next six centuries after his death.
Love it, and I’m only  3 1/2 episodes into the 30 episodes on offer.  A colorful, exciting historical medieval sword and intrigue adventure – conflicting Turkic tribes, intra-family betrayals, nasty villains, political treason, heroes, Mongols and Templars in the 13th century.

In an early scene Ertuğrul unsaddles this horse, while having an important conversation.  During the scene the horse kept looking at Ertuğrul, happy horse ears cocked toward his voice.  One got the sense that this horse liked the actor, or at least found the guy interesting enough to pay attention to him.  In the previous scene, Ertuğrul sits on the ground and talks to his himself -- or the horse -- attempting to puzzle out the dilemma into which he's plunged his clan by rescuing prisoners who have escaped from the clutches of the Big Bad, who is very powerful and has suzerainty over his people.
The collision of a variety of nomadic horse peoples, all of whom have been disrupted from traditional lands by the fire of the Mongol sweep across the northern steppes.



Their culture and way of life is shown in lovely detail -- yurts, many yurts! The details of the varieties of armor and weapons is terrific. This series has all the elements that make historical drama series my favorite viewing.  It's helping get through the current dearth of availability of such viewing for the moment, as I impatiently anticipate the second season of The Last Kingdom showing up next month streaming on Netflix.








Don't mess with Halim.
Happily, unlike some of the other very popular Turkish television series currently available on Netflix too, Resurrection also keeps the romance / plots to a realistic minimum. Historical / adventure fictions that center the plot on love and romance are most definitely not my cuppa tea.  Though, of course, it is important that Ertuğrul, the son of the Oghuz tribe, connect with Seljuk Halime, as she will be the mother of his son, who will be the forefather of the Ottoman Turks and their empire.



As with most current historical sword etc. fighting costume dramatizations these days, as we see in series out of India and so one, this one too has enthusiastically learned from the Japanese wuxia to shoot the action scenes.  This works out well for the production in countries like Turkey and Inida whose laws forbid graphic, detailed, lascivious scenes of violence, death and / or sex – another reason I enjoy these series.  People are not forever tearing off the clothes and throwing women against the wall to depict passion – even when there’s a perfectly good bed right next to them!  It’s beyond years since that tired, boring, uncreative trope for passion passed its sell-by date.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Memory: Cousins, Church and Television

     . . . . It's taken three days but now I definitively know why nobody I knew saw the televised White House Tour. It was sort of thing my darling beloved cousins, D and B would have watched and talked about -- a lot -- and their parents were indulgent in contrast with our strict and rigid ones. D wouldn't have missed it if it were at all possible to see it.




Older than me, she was as deeply engaged with the nascent celebrity culture as anyone out there could be, every month bringing home all the magazines focused on movies, pop music, fashion and anything directed to the teen girl market.



We didn't see the Tour because it was broadcast February 14th, which in 1962 was on a Wednesday, during Lent. So all of us were in church, as we were every Wednesday night until after Easter, including D and B. After getting home from church the little bit of time we’d have left before bedtime we’d wouldn’t be watching tv, but doing homework -- or -- in my case, reading a book.

Broadcast 10-11 PM on Eastern Standard Time, shows did come on an hour earlier out there than on the East Coast. Still, it would have been on too late in the evening to watch this. Except for special occasions like slumber parties and holidays, kids were generally kept on a strict 8 PM / 9 PM bedtime.

Most adults were in bed by then or 10 at the latest too, in this world where people got up at 5 or 6 AM to deal with livestock chores, and had to ensure the kids were up, breakfasted and ready to be picked up to be taken to the bus at 7 AM to get to school by 8 AM.





The White House Tour was re-broadcast 4 days later on ABC. But we didn’t get ABC until the fall. I know we had it then, because Dr. Kildare was on NBC (Channel 6) and Dr. Ben Casey was on ABC (Channel 10). All the girls were divided into Kildare – Casey preferences, that era’s team  Team Edward -- Team Jacob.

Ha. Three days to confirm that we in our rural community generally did not see the televised White House tour. Which proves how necessary it is to fact check one's memories.

Had no idea about any of this though, when I began wondering about it, due to watching Jackie. Serendipity.