". . . 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, August 11, 2017

Black Nerd Problems GOT + Slavery Fanfic - Make Alternative America Great Again!

     . . . . This recap of Got's season 7, episode 4 is wonderfully funny. It goes beautifully with Leslie Jones's hilarious "Game of Jones Thrones" with Seth Meyer.

 Link to Jones Thrones -- The G-OT- Is MEEE is here.
Brienne asked her how she learned that shit, and Arya hit her with “No One.” I wasn’t ready, fam. I just wasn’t. Also, NEITHER WAS SANSA. My god, Sansa look like she just showed up to the city wide science fair with a potato clock. That shit was rouuuuugh. Jon got fucking murdered, but became King in the North. Bran got paralyzed, but became an Omega Level Mutant. Arya has had to run to every corner of the continent and lost her sight to become Agent 47. And Sansa was betrothed to not one but two monsters, got brutally assaulted, and gained a stalker so that she could fill out TPS reports on grain inventory. That’s fucked up man. Everybody else went away to college and became experts in their field while Sansa rotted away at a terrible MFA program and left with a degree she ain’t gonna do shit with and even more student debt. Life ain’t fair, yo.

What Black Nerd says about D&D's HBO slavery fanfic is penetratingly wise, rather than comic.  It goes well with Ta-Nehisi Coates' piece on Confederate in the Atlantic and the radio interview with the #noconfederate activists -- links to both these are here. 

Let’s not stand on ceremony here: as great as Benioff and Weiss are as visionaries, their blind spots as two cis white men shows up too often for me to be comfortable for a show with slavery as a major component of the story. The gratuitous display of sexual assault (well past showing how brutal the world is), and the reluctance of having any pivotal POC character or venturing into the very natural lines they have drawn around color (the Unsullied army is almost, if not all, POC as former slaves, but is only explored as a class differentiation) gives me little confidence that this will be a new awareness taken on with this new venture. There aren’t many scenarios I see this working: 
- Slavery is minimized and a smaller part of the plot: So… we minimizing slavery now? Yeah, no.
- Slavery is more than just Black people in this alternative world: So… we just minimizing Black slaves as a narrative on some all slaves matter stuff? Nah.
- The flip of that being Black people or other POC own slaves as well: Sigh, come on, man.
These are all alternatives to the possibility that it’s not just a continuation of slavery from the very real world brought into a modern era. Even if these cats have the tools to do this, then Game of Thrones has been a terrible dress rehearsal because we haven’t seen it.
The only way this holds any significant interest for me is if there is a slave revolt in the first episode and the third civil war is about the Black people taking over the America. Das it
. Make Alternative America Great Again. 
. . . . this has a lot to do with agency. About who gets to tell who’s stories. Would I feel differently if Black creators were behind this show? Probably. Not like, Lee Daniels though, but still. These stories can exist in the world, either based on real life narratives or alternate universes, but the voice and the trust in the identification of the producer counts for something. Handmaiden’s Tale, Underground, shows like those, where the writer reflected the identity of the marginalized people in those stories, relays a faith that those characters will be handled with a caring and understanding befitting the human portrayal we expect. Game of Thrones is excellently written and thematically beautiful, but it is also spectacle. It is decapitations and rape and little girls burned alive. I’m fatigued on stories of a time period (or time period carried over, in this case) that attempts to justify racism and racial violence as a tool of the day, but I’m also fatigued on the spectacle of “back in the day” racism. There’s no reason to have confidence this won’t continue under Benioff and Weiss, and they have had several years with the highest visibility prove otherwise.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Words From Me Not Needed

     . . . . From Ava DeVernay's twitter feed, August 5th, 2017,   

Thursday, August 3, 2017

I Read Books, Wednesday, Thursday, Who Cares? + The American Slave Coast

     . . . .  As I'd hoped, I did manage before July finished, to have read the 18th century Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York. (2016; published in US in 2017 )set in post Dutch, pre-Independence  1746 NYC, by the Brit author, Francis Spufford. The novel has been praised by literary lights and is --


I should have liked Golden Hill better than I did, it having so much of my stuff in it, from colonial NYC, politics, class, finance, race, slavery.  Not to mention that there is more than a little modeling of the novel from the famed 18th century fictions of  Fielding, and the set piece illos of Hogarth. 

However, the stumbling block for this reader was that Tabitha, an obligatory female interest - conflict was unnecessarily unpleasant, mean and nasty, though very smart and competent.  Why was capable, talented Tabitha such a bitch, hmmm?  Just so she can be the narrator decades after the adventures, regretting and opining upon the events of the in her early life when this stranger, Mr. Smith, from London shows up in York (not yet called 'New' York, but York City) with an order that he be paid a thousand pounds in cash (cash hardly exists in the colonies, even among merchants and money changers). The author's choice entirely, to make her mean. It's his imagination.  Argh.  There is a twist, of course, for the picaresque Mr. Smith, which I shall not reveal -- despite me not necessarily buying into it.  Again, this is all the author's choices, which feel arbitrary, not imaginative.  But maybe this is just me.

     . . . . Golden Hill made a whole six novels read last month, more fiction than in a long time.  I do confess, however, that more nights than not while reading Golden Hill I put it down in favor of my re-read of amigo Ted Widmer's biography, Martin Van Buren (2003)  (my goodness, I just recall it was either July or August 2003 when we attended the publication party for it on the upper West Side, and our hosts' daughter was not able to partake of the festivities, but had to stay mostly in her room, having been discovered recently infected with Lyme Disease), from The American Presidents Series, General Ed., Arthud M. Schlesinger, Jr.

Martin Van Buren's birthplace. 1782, outside Kinderhood, NY.

As seen on this map, Kinderhook was a splendid spot in which to have a tavern, located on the post road to Albany.  So, though Van Buren's father wasn't a wealthy man (particularly compared to the old Dutch patroons), he was doing far better than those who weren't patroon, which included owning  nine slaves.

The astonishing life of Mr. Van Buren, born to a Dutch family in New York, in the middle of the War for Independence, the first President of the United States not to have ever been a British subject, really happened, and ultimately felt so much more interesting than those fictional figures of an imaginary "old New York."

     . . . . In the meantime, in the midst of mind-boggling cascades of derangement out of D.C. and across the country, we were informed that the audio CD package of The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-breeding Industry, had not only earned out, but earned royalties!  Boggled again, but this time in a good way.  It was only made about a year ago, and out some time after that.  As it is not inexpensive and it's a lot of hours, one rather presumes these were mostly library sales?