". . . 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, 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.