". . . 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

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

We're Glad! So Glad! Ideas Bad! Bad! So Bad!

      . . . .  Yes! We're glad, we're glad, we're so glad that we do not have to, or feel any need to, do this!   Ladies, we give you -- Glitter Bums!

These are not the most unhygienic panties ever made. These are not the most uncomfortable tights a woman has been told by fashion to wriggle into.  NO! These are designs made of sequins and crystals and glitter applied directly to the skin of the bum of somebody who is trying too, too, hard.
Also, glitter bikinis . . . .

At this point, companies that manufacture cheap knockoffs for any so-called trend are calling it Festival Art and sell this stuff as kits in the UK version of convenience stores and so on -- at least in the UK.

     . . .  Another idea that should never been had but has showed up this summer in the UK -- 
crotch pocket trousers from Uniqlo:

PLUS! privileged white girls' problems!  The curse of summer 2018 --
 ripped jean tanlines.  O NOES!

Thank you!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Why We Travel

     . . . . From a piece in the NY Times by one writer visiting a place another writer made famous within the small circles of the sorts of people who read such books: 
... it occurs to me that what Salter is actually writing about is the way we walk through our memories like a stranger in a forgotten town. 
“The myriad past, it enters us and disappears,” he writes. “Except that within it, somewhere, like diamonds, exist the fragments that refuse to be consumed. Sifting through … one discovers the true design.”
Which design helps one makes some, if, sometimes, only little, sense of the present, as well as the past of all those long-ago other times that came before us. 

I have felt this way myriad times in the places that are old and brimming with the past. I don't know about Salter, but for me though, they have to be places about which I bring a great deal of knowledge already acquired about the place's past. But however this takes possession of the visitor, these are the memories of the place that do not fade. Personal memory overlain on historical memory. History embedded in geography. Essential for historians or anyone who assumes to write of past times, places and people.

A place where I had the experience described above, the Cisalpine (South-east French and North-west Italian coasts) Provençal  French village perché of le Bar-sur-loup, in a range of Alps above Nice.

The photos in the NY Times piece would have appeared quite different to me if I had not spent so many hours walking in le Bar-sur-loup and taking my own photos.

I've had those fizzing electric sensations in, among other places, New England, Europe, the upper and lower South, the Caribbean, England, France, and often in various sections of New York City.  This allows me the freedom to write of these places.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Our Current Reading Cluster For Almost all Wednesdays So Far in 2018

     . . . . Our Current Reading Cluster . . . .

Time for reading has been severely truncated these last months due to so much travel and other things that involve often staying up late and most certainly not reading, not even our bedtime reading.  But we are crawling along progressively, nevertheless.  Our, particularly my, interest in the subjects have grown quite naturally out of the last two years' reading of the Roman Empire, the Dark Ages, Vikings, Mongolians, the Merovingians and Carolinians.

Two of the books we are currently reading are by medieval - Renaissance era scholar of Mediterranean History, Robert Crowley. I first learned of him two winters ago via his splendid history of the fall of Constantinople to Ottoman emperor, Mehmet II, 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West (2005). 

These two books continue the delving into the conflicts of the Ottoman Empire vs. the Roman Church, the various kingdoms and principalities of Europe and the Holy Roman Empire. 

El V was able to finish Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World (2008) over an IV schedule of  antibiotics. For the first course I'd brought two books with me, suspecting that he would finish the book he had before being able to go home. O lordessa, the Europeans are such dickheads, always screaming O NOES! the Muslims are going to get us! They even say so! They're taking away our trade!  -- which they seem not to have comprehended was the consequence of them giving no help to Constantine XI Palaiologos, no matter how much he personally begged and degraded himself through Europe and the Vatican.  So, of course, now in the 16th century, after losing Constantinople, as guardian and buffer of trade routes and destination, the Europeans all cry the same things, and just as the , don't do any frackin' thing to help out. The carnage is unbelievably savage on both sides -- and the bravery and stamina of the knights and other defenders of Rhodes, Cyprus and Malta fighting to hold their islands, incalculable. 

Aftre months of siege, unlike as at Rhode and Cyprus, Malta drove off the Turkish navy and army. It barely happened though, and wouldn't have, without the absolutely timely sudden infusion of help out of Sicily, led by basically independent out of Spain and Italy -- nothing official from any king or the Church. But if the original defending forces hadn't been so brilliant, if they hadn't held on so long that Suleiman the Magnificent's forces were already losing heart, it wouldn't have mattered, as outnumber and non-supplied as they were. 

Did the Europeans learn anything from this? Of course not, no more than they did from the fall of Constantinople in 1453, and no more than the US ever learns anything about the middle east from one lurch into disaster to another. 

I still have the even more bloody Battle of Lepanto to go. 

The second Crowley book further digs into the utter failures of the West to deal with the threats from Islam, City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas (2011). This one begins with the catastrophe that is known in western history as the Fourth Crusade of 1203 - 04, the one in which the Europeans sacked several Christian cities, including Constantinople, instead of fighting 'Sarcens.'  These cities should have been the Crusade's allies, but were trade rivals to the trade empire of Venice and others such as Genoa. Yes, Venice was another empire of these centuries, that played on the board with the Holy Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Angevin Empire, the various "Saracen" empires, and very soon now, the Mongol Empire. A business contracts, especially one made with Venice, always trumps everything.  You European noblemen have fewer volunteers than you thought?  You don't have as much funding as you told us you did?  You still owe us.  Destroy these rival cities for us and maybe we'll call it even. Honestly, I can't wait for Mehmet II to take Constantinople and leave Venice and the Western Mediterranean forces high and dry, now that they can't get to the trade routes of the Black Sea and Central Asia. They earned it.  (O well, they have all the riches and resources of the continents across the Atlantic to plunder and keep them rich -- not to mention Africa.) We're reading this one together before bed. 

I am reading four books on my own, not doing the cross-reading and discussion with el V as we have done with the Crowley books. These are all meaty and are taking a very long time. I go back-and-forth among them 

The first one is Peter H. Wilson's Heart of Europe: A History of the Holy Roman Empire (2016). In some ways this is a key book because it covers all the ground of all the books in this reading cluster. Despite what Voltaire quipped, the Holy Roman Empire was an empire, and it was very much formed by Rome, and though maybe not exactly holy, it's whole history was entwined with the Roman Church. And it survived in one form or another until the last vestiges were erased by WWI -- maybe.  I say maybe, because so many of the family names and titles that ruled one part and another of the empire over its many centuries, still survive, and many of those with those names and titles are still rich and still hold a great deal of land in Europe, from the Iberian peninsula on the edge of Europe east into Savoy, Germany, Poland, Hungary and the Balkans.

The endurance of the western Roman Empire dream is as incalculable as the courage of the defenders of Rhodes first, and Malta next,  in the 16th century. Among small facts gleaned that help illuminate history is the process by which kings in Europe were created.

No king can create another king. A king must be created - recognized by another greater power, which, in Europe's case would have been the Pope, i.e. heaven, or an emperor -- thus Holy Roman Emperor - Empire. In Europe's case, both Pope and Empire declare direct descent from the Roman Empire -- and thus we can see how inextricably the Church and the Empire were fused. Which created endless political - military conflicts over who has the ultimate power and who owns what.

This information makes it even easier to understand Napoleon's drive to marry a daughter of either Russia's or Austria's imperial family. He had crowned himself emperor, but his own heirs would not be recognized after his death as imperial unless the mother was. Josephine did not fit this criterian -- and, of course, she could no longer produce an heir at all, it was claimed, since a balcony on which was standing collapsed and the fall injured her lower body seriously. 

Empires, all these empires, and all their emperors claimed to be the western Roman empire's Caesar -- and that includes the Ottomans. How furious was Süleyman  for instance, who had declared himself Caesar, ruler of all Rome, when Charles V was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope. 

The Holy Empire continued, even when there was no crowned emperor which was the case often, for many reasons, particularly if the figure who might have been elected emperor by the Empire's electors was in a death struggle with the Pope for control of Italy and everything else.

Caroline Finkel's Osman's Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire (2005) is exactly what it says. Osman's own father is the legendary Ertugruel, he of my beloved Turkish television historical series, Resurrection: Ertugrul. I so love this series that I have been sitting on the last 15 episodes since sometime this winter, incapable of finishing watching because -- there are no more! and then what shall I do? At least I've finally learned the name of Ertugrul's intelligent horse -- Altolgali.

The third book I'm reading is the almost excessively detailed of the 1683 Ottoman siege of Vienna (by no means their first attempt to take Vienna), The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe (2008) by the Andrew Wheatcroft. 

The final work is Princeton professor Anders Winroth's The Age of the Vikings (2014). This is filled with illuminating information, such as the Norsemen didn't use sails until the 10th century. But the book I really want, and still haven't found, is the one that provides a detailed history of the Norse in France up into the Angevin Empire. 

The scholars / professors who have provided these wonderful books read all the languages, which include of course latin and greek, Turkish and the Venetian dialect, French, Spanish and German -- particularly Old French and Old German, and, as with Winroth, runes and various Norse languages, so all of these depend almost entirely on the primary documents, which is another reason these books are invaluable reading. The ability to read the Venetian dialect is particularly necessary since the Venetian ambassadors were often eye-witness historians of the events such as at Constantinople in the fall of 1453. 

These books will convince anyone that the most stupid move of Europe during all these centuries was one of omission.  They refused to shore up the Greek / Byzantine empire, which was the greatest buffer between them and the constant pressure of threats out of the east and Central Asia. But they wanted it all and could only see Constantinople as eating their profits. Once the Ottomans held the Dardanelles, the Bosphorus and the Mamara Sea, they owned the Black Sea, and all the infinitely ancient the routes north, east and south. So of course they were going to claim the White Sea too (the western Mediterranean). Then came the endless decades of endless piracy for booty and particularly slaves. Those galleys whether Ottoman or Venetian or just plain out and out pirates depended on galley slave rowers and their life expectancy was even shorter than that of the sugar slaves in the New World.

Gads, most human beings are cruel and stupid.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

El Ministerio del Tiempo - To Distract From Our Daily EviLes

     . . . . This Spanish television series is both fun and filled with tension Netflix has this television time travel series available for streaming, El Ministerio del Tiempo -- The Ministry of Time.  

Among the show's established perimeters is that travel can only go into the past. It's not possible to go to the future, because, as is the secret Ministry's motto, "Time is what it is."  So, while the ministry has also continued into the future since the days the doors were discovered and mapped and the equations to use them were worked out by a combination of 16th C Moorish, Jewish and -- I think, still not sure -- Jesuits, the ministry, like Spain, continues.

Our newly recruited team:  Alonso de Entrerríos of Seville, taken in the aftermath of a battle in 16th century Flanders;  Amelia Folch,, the first and only history student at a Barcelona university in the late 19th century; Julián Martínez, a 21st century emergency paramedic from Madrid.

In our own present time the location is mostly Madrid, however the Ministry's the employees are from different times. They can travel to what the time is in Ministry HQ, because the HQ is in now. The Ministry's mission is to keep the past from being changed, to preserve the existence of Spain, no matter how good or how bad. 

The fun part is the variety of historical figures of Spain's past, particularly its Siglo de Oro (though just how golden the century was really, at least in Europe, with the Ottomans beating their's, the Holy Roman Empire, the Venetian and others' butts all the time, particularly in the Mediterranean -- not to mention the English with the Armada).  The notable historical figures include even fictionally created personages from the 16th century.

 The show's new swordsman-recruit from the 16th century, Alonso de Entrerríos, discovers in the present the novels of Arturo Pérez-Reverte's Captain Alatriste.  In our time, many who encounter Entrerríos just assume he's Captain Alatriste -- since I like and admire the Alatriste novels, I love this series's bit. 

The series mixes a generally light treatment with more serious matters, without beating the viewer down with the more grave elements.  It's an excellent way to make Spain's national history real to the viewer too, no matter what age.  It would be good family viewing, I think, without talking down to the audience either. 

Our first period adventure was preventing French time travelers, with the aid of a beautiful but of course corrupt Spanish -- countess? duquessa? -- from changing the history of the guerrilla warfare that contributed so much to Napoleon's failure in Spain, from which he continued to failure in Russia, etc.  Upcoming events include what may be a Spanish whitewashing of history -- to keep Spain out of WWII.  Right now I'm in the middle of trying to keep Lope de Vega from sailing with the Armada and dying before he wrote his great works, that helped make the 16th century, in this sense at least, Spain's Golden Century.

Already though I have learned that the principle three characters' more personal concerns from their own times get mixed up with their historical missions.  The show does an elegant job of showing us just how impossible it is to not to mix the personal with the historical, the present with the past, even in the past -- though this is prohibited to all employees of the Ministry.

The writers do an equally excellent job of getting quickly past the by-now-to-we-jaded sf/f readers info dumps about how and why and introduction of characters to their new lives in the past and present. They cut to the chase with the most minimum of O What Is This!

One does wish Netflix USA did more Spanish television series 

(particularly Isabella, which I am dying to watch) -- Spain does historicals so very well -- the horse riding and sword fighting in particular! I have gotten more than tired of the endless Asian sword and sorcery, whether live action or anime -- there's such a damned glut, and it's all the same.

The series also sued NBC for ripping it off -- see here, the lawsuit the Spanish producers filed about Timeless.  Once one has watched even the pilot for El Ministerio del Tiempo, it's pretty hard not to be disgusted with NBC utterly shameless behavior -- the characters are even the same, particularly the group leader who is a young female historian.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Postmambo Studies Has its Own Youtube Channel

     . . . . Postmambo Studies has its own Youtube channel.  This trailer for the Postmambo Rumbazo by documentary film maker, Lily Keber, is really good:

There will be more videos in the days to come.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Nîmes: Out of Chronological Order -- Spanish Southern France

     . . . .  Nîmes is the Spanish side of southern Gaul -- as Nice is the Italian side of southern Gaul and Avignon is in the middle and mostly medieval. Going through the photos again today, and I can't resist posting right now the photos that tell us so much about southern, Roman Gaul.  

Nîmes was where our travels concluded, as far as sight-seeing was concerned.  It was from Nîmes we took the train back to Cannes, where I picked us from the station and drove us back to hers and David's place in Bar-sur-loup.  The next morning David drove us to the Nice airport, and we flew home. 

That I can't resist putting up some of the Nîmes photos doesn't mean we loved it more than Avignon, or even Bar-sur-loup (though we did love all three of these places in a way that we didn't love Italy's Ventimiglia, and certainly did not in any way love Cannes! what a vulgar, ugly place filled with vulgar ugly people).

See where Nîmes is, on the far right side of the map. Provence is on the other side of that boundary.

Nîmes is on the other side of the boundary of Provence proper, i.e. just barely inside what used to be Aquitaine, the land of Queen Eleanor -- Provençal Occitan / Languedoc-Roussillon (Lang -- tongue / language of doc / Occitan -- this is in the beginning of el V's Cuba and Its Music). This is the very edge, yes, but I am / was in the land of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine! You cannot imagine what this does / did to me

Recall how important Iberia was to the history of Rome.  Hannibal began his campaign against Rome from Carthegenian Iberia.  Pompey the Magnus won additional military glory in Iberia. The young Octavian, still only the young relative of ruling Julius Caesar, stationed with the Roman cavalry there.  The later Emperor Hadrian was born in Iberia, of an Hispano-Roman family.

Thus one is not surprised to see bulls and bullfighting still revered in Nîmes. 

Bulls are iconic throughout the Mediterranean coastal regions, it seems, from the most ancient days of Crete's bull dancers, Zeus's rape of Europa in the shape of a bull, bulls given sacrifices, which latter was continuously practiced in the western Roman empire at least, even deep into Rome's Christian eras.  We ate lunch in a restaurant called la Grande Bourse located by the Roman arena.  The heads of the most brave bulls of each feria are mounted high on the walls around the huge dining area, which one knows is packed during the fighting of the bulls.

If one doesn't wish to believe that a love for the bull fight could exist in such a civilized, haute bourgeois spot as the south of France, so colonized by animal rights loving British, see the above image. This handsome specimen of bovine strength and beauty was lovingly stenciled all through the city.  It wasn't a part of the city's advertising for Ferias de Nîmes 2018, but a project of presumably an individual art student? from the University of Nîmes? Whom, presumably, marched in the May 1st parade of unions and students protesting the neo con policies of Macron and the drive to privatize so many of France's public agencies and institutions.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Bar-Sur-Loup 3

     . . . . Bar-sur-loup seen from Gourdon.

Bar-Sur-Loup 2

     . . . .  The first evening D&I drove us up and up and even further up, to the village perché of Gourdon, to do sunset on the patio of the cathedral with appertifs.  I had the local bitter orange liqueur, for which the region, and Bar-sur-loup particularly is famed.

Evening is beginning to fill the valley below.

Approach to the village perché Gourdon from the car park.  This village is extremely popular with tourists.
There were already many present, including from tour buses, despite the season having barely begun.
But then, here we were too!  And are we not tourists?  Did we not fret when other tourists got in the way of the photo shot we wished to make?

Looking over the parapet of the road (walking only) to Gourdon's gates.

Looking behind us on the road to Gourdon's gates, see the terracing?  These agricultural, horticultural terraces go back at least to the days of the Romans.

Getting close to Gourdon's entry gates.

A view from the road across and into the valley, where the farmers and serfs worked for the local lord / strong man who held the village perché Gourdon to protect them from invaders, pirates, and neighboring lords / strong men.
The gates.

Sheep mowing the grounds, with lambs, seen from over the road's stone barriers.

Pictures of Bar-Sur-Loup

      . . . .  Seen during the first hours arriving in Bar-sur-loup, after the hour-long drive from the airport in Nice.

This is the view behind D & I's home in Bar-sur-loup.

This is the kitchen door of D & I's house.

The lavender petals are from the wisteria above, that have fallen on these lovely orange flowers..
The wisteria bower above the kitchen door was a mass of honey bees from first light until dusk.
The bees were so busy they never noticed us coming in and out.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Robbed By Gypsies - Saved By A White Knight From Finland

     . . . . Two gypsy girls stole my wallet out of my bag as we began wondering the streets of Nice, after finding the Museum of Ancient Musical Instruments was not open. I will not dignify them with "Roma."

I will say right now that the wallet and its complete contents, including passport, were recovered, with the exception of the $65 US. 

But at that moment I didn't know this would happen. It was one awful hell of  three hours, after our lovely lunch in Nice's sunshine, across from the Market. We immediately drove back from Nice to Bar-sur-loup, where our computers were, to try and deal with the stolen passport -- me calling the embassy in Paris, then started the call to the US consulate in Marseille to begin the process for emergency passport, el V had just started the skype process with the bank  -- and then came a message into el V's e-mail, saying my wallet had been found with passport and all inside. Three more e-mails followed, one from the airline.  We turned around immediately to drive back to Nice -- the drive is about 35 miles, over twisting, winding, steep mountain roads, no short one, especially at rush hour. Thank lordessa we have French friends who speak French. And that there are Finnish tourists in Nice, with good eyesight, and deep concern about doing the right thing.

I knew those two gypsies were following me, I felt them going into my handbag, and I pulled it away, four times. The fourth time I felt bumped, I looked inside and yes, the wallet was gone. If I'd known they were gypsies I'd have been more proactive. I couldn't figure what they were -- I noticed them immediately because they didn't look like anybody else in Central Nice -- and their make-up, especially their lipstick, was awful, so bright and thick and just wrong.

But I didn't think "gypsies." I thought 'refugees,'  so I was trying to be more charitable than suspicious.  A whole other story.

Instruction posters warning against gypsy pickpockets.

And as I learned, gypsies are a huge problem all over France currently, and especially here.

Gods what a collection of people, half of whom didn't know each other or me, came together to save el V's and my vacation. Indeed, the last thing, M,  the Finnish gentleman said to me when returning the wallet-- and he doesn't speak English or French very well, but well enough! "Now you can enjoy the rest of your holiday." Finns see holidays as a very serious, even sacred, business.

The business in selling stolen passports is beyond enormous. Perhaps, my yelling and pointing, and I taking off after them and confronting them scared them to death, so they had just gotten the cash at that point and threw the rest away?

The thieves truly were clumsy -- so must be in training. I could try and take comfort in the near certainty their handler - brother - father - cousin - uncle has now beaten them badly. That was something else about them -- they looked sub-par intelligence. But on the other hand they were good enough to finger through the three little bags in my handbag -- they were good enough to determine by by touch the three top bags were not wallets or cell phones. The wallet was wrapped in a sweater on the flat bottom of the bag with these other things and a small folder of Nice tourist activities on top of the sweater -- and the bag was closed. But I did feel them each of the four times they went into it. That's what's so weird, and why I felt so despairing and filled with shame and guilt.  Not to mention that I'd had this happen to me just back in October, 2015, though here, not abroad.  Even now when I think of this, I get nearly sick with guilt and sheer fear, knowing so well from that other experience what it means to have your documents stolen.  How could I be in the position to allow this to happen AGAIN?

El V, I and D were so kind, supportive, non-judgmental and calm. It was find out first if indeed you did not by chance leave it at home, then call passport office, American Express and the bank.

Ventimiglia, on Italy's Ligurian coast.  One goes there via an astounding scenic route of Alps and the Mediterranean coastal highway, though both French and Italian tunnels.
If the e-mails via the White Knight Finn hadn't come in just at that moment -- the next morning I'd have been on the road to Marseilles instead of drinking café au lait  in prep for going across the Italian border to the ancient market town of Ventimiglia.

M, the Finnish gentleman who spied my discarded wallet, found a woman who spoke English, who went through the wallet, found the Delta - Air France boarding pass, called them, who gave her and the Finn our e-mails (my computer wasn't on), after trying to call our phones, which don't work there. Delta also called and e-mailed. I called Delta back, who then gave her the Finn's number, and I called him. 

He also said, in his so-called non-existent English, "The French girl, who speaks English, is very good." 

White Knight M replied to my e-mail of thanks, giving me the details of his side of the story.  He found it with the zippers open, on a window ledge of the street where it happened. The woman who speaks English and he tried even finding me on social media.  When the woman opened my passport though, my boarding pass fell out of it. So she had the brilliant idea of calling the airline. The woman who answered their call found us in the system, our e-mail and our phone numbers.*  Too bad Verizon won't support an international phone program for our makes of phones . . . .

M is such a lovely fellow -- strongly built, white hair and beard, balding, but distinguished with a serious expression on his already tanned face. He's the grandfather everyone would want.  He wouldn't take any finder's fee or the bottle of champagne I and D donated to the thank you fund.  He saved my vacation of a lifetime of dreams.  How did I get so lucky?

Yesterday, the first thing el V and I did was send a notification to the airline in praise and thanks of the employee who was so quick-witted and helpful.


El V had suggested I throw away the boarding pass at some point when he noticed I still had it.  Why I didn't discard it, I cannot recall, due to jet lag and exhaustion.  Maybe I thought it would make a good book mark?  Boarding passes have served that function for me often -- not that there was any time for reading on this trip.  But!  if I had thrown it away -- I shudder.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Provence! The Perfect Dream

     . . . . Monday, May 1, we were in  Nîmes, sitting in a Roman arena, built approximately 70 A.D. 

Statue of the matador behind the Roman arena in  Nîmes;  as well as music concerts and other spectacles, corridas and bullfights are staged there today.  A bullfight festival was scheduled for this week.  This is another indication that we were on the "Spanish" side of the Roman Mediterranean coast in  Nîmes, whereas Nice and Avignon are on the Roman / Italian side.
The festival of the Roman Games had just concluded, a day late, because the day of the biggest events got rained out, so had to be postponed to the following day. The temperature was chilly, the sky over the yellow sands was overcast and threatening the rain that did follow us all the way from Marseilles to Cannes, to Bar-sur-loup and hung on Tuesday morning. At the Nice airport for departure I wore a sweater under my leather jacket. 

Arrived in NYC, May 2, the temperature was 90 degrees. We sweated all way in from JFK. 

I'm trashed. This despite sleeping occasionally and even being able to stretch out, relatively speaking on the endless flight home. As the season barely begun, the flight from Nice was not at all full, so it was a lot more comfortable, thank goodness. It was the same on the flight to Nice.  Nevertheless, as it is -- what a wreck I am.  And jetlagged.

But -- what a wonderful. beautiful, perfect, dream vacation.

This vacation made many of my life-long dreams came true. This isn't an exaggeration. Ever since I was a very small child, I poured over illustrations, photographs, reproductions of paintings in encyclopedias, history text books, my piano practice score books. I passionately wanted to see these places with ruins from antiquity, gothic architecture, narrow, winding streets that had cascades of flowers and the slender pencils of poplar in the landscaped hillsides behind, the 'Roman' tiled rooftops -- and yes, even 18th century neo-classical forms such as the Jardin de la Fontaine in Nîmes. Then, to have that garden and the ruines of the Temple of "Diana"located  together -- which was all the better for the adult historian that I have become, knowing that this ruin was part of one of the many temples dedicated to Emperor Augustus, erected throughout the empire to remind the provinces that Rome was in charge. To have been given this opportunity to make an historical journey that covered them all in our limited time -- this is priceless. 

And the beauty, the food -- this journey was a life-time blessing. Nothing I did to earn it or deserve it -- it was just given me by D and I and el V. I am most grateful. 

Due to our hosts for the beginning and the conclusion of the trip, this was so much about the best ways of growing and preparing food, maintaining the food supply, sustainable horticulture and agriculture. 

Temple Saint-Martial. Building began in the mid 1350's, concluded in 1402.
Further, concerning the region in the medieval era: there was the Temple Saint Martial, just about directly across from our Avignon hotel, the Bristol, which had been the site of one of the earliest colleges. Its great subject of the 'new' scholarship was the formation of phytothérapie. The students sat outside, their classes held in the sections between the gothic church's buttresses, looking into the surrounding grounds. The grounds were gardens of therapeutic and medicinal plants and herbs. To this day, across from this church there is the Pharmacie, the first floor of which is a splendor of natural and homeopathic botanic treatments. Not to mention the many tours and conferences offered throughout the region for food and wine experiences (and I'm sure the entire of France) that include serious history and study of the past and current therapeutic and medicinal approach to what we eat and drink. I suppose this could be called holistic, though I didn't see that term used -- but then, I don't know French. All of this by way of seeing what D, I and their community are doing in Bar-sur-loup, and particularly I's approach to meals and dishes --she's a professional chef -- as part of a long, historically French continuum of eating and drinking. 

And now, when I first sat down this AM,  long before 7 AM our time, it was still quite warm. This afternoon NYC got up to 93°. When we left for Provence it was still definitely winter here, late late winter, perhaps, but winter. Climate change -- France, and all of the people like D and I and their community of their beautiful village perché (where last summer's wildfires's smoke and flames could be seen from behind the Alp that bounds their backyard), who are working on methods to keep people eating, have a great deal to do!

I filled 70 pages in my moleskine notebook.  I took many, many photos. Most of them are still on my memory card. When I'm a little less tired, I will download them to my hard drive and gloat over my memories.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Punishment She Deserves, by Elizabeth George

     . . . . Elizabeth George is the author of the  very popular, long-running Inspector Thomas Lynley series. We first met the Inspector in 1988. The 20th Inspector Lynley has just been published this year.   I've read them all.

Lynley's an aristo turned stalwart of the New Scotland Yard, who has had a colorful variety of experts on whom he's drawn for his cases. These councilors, professional, domestic, and social, included a love interest who wasn't interested in him for a long time, but almost always featured one of the most original of side-kicks, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers. The action of the novels came to be increasingly located in places with which the average reader -- particularly a non-UK reader -- was not likely to be familiar. This 2018 installment of 680 pages take the reader to a guidebook tour of the medieval college town of Ludlow, Shropshire.

The book is titled (stet lower case) the punishment she deserves; A Lynley Novel.  But 300 pages in, we've hardly seen Lynley. Yet we've had 300 pages of a character this reader at least has never liked, or even found interesting, the very nasty Isabelle Ardrey, who is an alcoholic, a bad alcoholic, and her plan to drive Barbara Havers out of the service, by either fair or foul means.

I have always loved Havers, but she's constricted in this novel as far as personality is concerned, by Isabelle, and Chief Hillier, who is also kind of an aristocrat, though he doesn't have the ancient title that Lynley does. They both have circumscribed her agency. This unholy alliance of Isabelle and Hillier is also targeted against Lynley, despite Lynley, when working particularly with Havers, having racked up a long record of successfully closing cases.  It doesn't help matters that Lynley -- while we readers told him to KNOW BETTER! -- had a nasty affair with Isabelle, which her nastiness and drinking ended.  But ultimately, as from the beginning of her appearance about three books ago in Lynley and Havers lives, Isabelle is just nasty -- never interesting.

George gives her readers a pile-on of detail of Ludlow, of what the characters think, do, and particularly what they eat and drink, but even her long-term primaries don't come to life in the punishment she deserves.  Nor do the new-for-this-novel supporting characters -- we can't tell them apart or remember their names  -- not even the long term favorites such as smart, charming, nice cookie, Dorothea, who is Lynley's assistant and who will drag Havers into a more presentable, more social life, no matter what --  nor does Ludlow for that matter.  We've had 300 pages of a 680 page novel, in which nothing has yet happened.  This isn't interesting, even though supposedly nothing happens because drunk and mean girl Isabelle, and Hillier, don't want anything to happen.  We don't even know who the 'she' of the title refers to, or what the deserved 'punishment' is for.

Past 300 + pages in, Lynley enters.  Things move more quickly, but what happens is that Havers backtracks him through everything either she, or Ardrey, or she and Ardrey, looked at, the people they talked to, etc. in the previous 300 + pages.  Of course, without Ardrey's treacherous, impatient, distracted, selfish, drink addled, nasty interference, we, like Lynley and Havers learn more, but we still haven't a clue as to who the she is who should be punished, and for what. There are still 380 pages to go when Lynley truly enters, yet even now, he's not really present.  He's following Havers.  The only reason for including him in this novel seems to be to keep Havers from sabotaging her chances of keeping her job -- and his -- with the Yard.  However, we have no idea why he even wants to keep this job considering all he's been through, and his seemingly zero interest in resolving whether or not a crime has taken place, or interest in anything else either. As every character in every novel makes clear, Lynley doesn't need to work for a living.

Each of the Lynley novels since 2003 Place of Hiding has gotten longer, more tourist guidey -- and ever less interesting.  One feels that this yet another successful character in which the author lost interest, because she fan serviced a romance, a romance that ultimately killed  -- well, won't say for spoiler reason -- but also Lynley himself, because the writer lost her own love affair with her character.  That happened because the author is that good of a writer, and once things took a certain course, other things had to happen and she wasn't going to deny it. 

Also, the world of 1988 is so different from the world of 2018, and not just in the UK or the US. 

It's time to let Lynley go, despite fans.  His world is finished.

BTW, the television adaptations of the Lynley novels have very little to do with the novels and have not served Lynley well.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Comfort Colorful TV - Death In Paradise

     . . . . Death in Paradise, season 6 ( 2017 - BBC) became available streaming from Neflix this weekend -- during which, I then, watched all eight episodes over Saturday and Sunday.  

Hey, by late Saturday night it was raining and snowing here, which continued into Sunday. When that weather moved on, it left behind some nasty cold temperatures, which continue today.  So new episodes of Death in Paradise, filled with sun and heat, lush flowers, curved beaches of golden sand lapped by blue Caribbean waters, were just the ticket out of gloomy reality.

Harry the Lizzard, a most important character in Death in Paradise!

     . . . . . Season 6 is different from the previous seasons in some subtle but important ways.  Without any spoilers, it felt a tad darker than the previous seasons.  Oddly, one of the reasons  for this, for me, is that, unlike in previous seasons, one can see the characters sweating -- sometimes one can even see damp spots on shirts. 

Having spent significant time on Guadalupe where the series is shot, I always wondered why on the show, nobody sweated, even after running or other prolonged exertion, or even perspired -- that is one humid island.  There you know mon, in August, the thinnest of Indian cotton, sleeved, shirts were too much to wear.  No sleeves on Guadalupe!

In various media pieces about the series last year, in preparation for season 6, Kris Marshall, the actor who plays principal character, Inspector Humphrey Goodman, went on at length about the deep discomfort of shooting in the heat and humidity.

Detective Sergeant Florence Cassell, investigating a murder at a literary festival.  This was a really fine episode.  It was about time the writers of Death in Paradise recognized the Caribbean produces significant literature after all the episodes featuring chefs, resorts, sailing, volcanoes, etc.  Anyway, who couldn't love a series with such a creature as Florence in most scenes, hmmmmm? :)

The other primary reason it seemed a little darker was that Humphrey seemed on edge, tense, and even thinner than in his previous seasons. These media pieces reveal a reason for this too -- that is, if he really was playing edgier and thinner, and it isn't just my eyes making this up.  But tension and sweating really go together, you know mon?

However, in these media pieces, Marshall mentioned another reason why he may have looked more tired and slim than previously, but I won't mention it here, for fear of spoiling those who haven't already seen last year's season 6 ( this year's season 7 aired back on the BBC January-February).

In any case, I enjoyed season 6 even more than season 5, and this bit of darker tone is probably responsible.  It is still as sunny and brilliantly colorful, and as bright as before though, the real reasons we happily return to this series.  It is like Midsomer Murders in that way, as well as in others (which I won't say now because of spoiling). 

Jason Hughes as Ben Jones, a favorite character from Midsomer Murders.

One of Death In Paradise's 6th season episodes even includes Jason Hughes, who played detective sergeant Ben Jones to Inspector Barnaby in Midsomer Murders.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Moses! + Durham + Current Watching

     . . . . Moses was the first to successfully download from the Cloud to his Tablet.

I cannot and will not take credit for the above, but it made me laugh so much in appreciation and admiration of whomever did originally come up with it, I wanted to share.

     . . . We got back from Durham Thursday afternoon.  It took the taxi almost as long to drive the three blocks down our street to our corner as it did to drive from the LaGuardia to the turn down our street.  That's how gridlocked traffic has gotten by 4 PM here as the Holland Tunnel continues to stay its original size and usage continues to increase proportionally every few months.

When we arrived in Durham last Sunday AM it was even colder there than it had been back in NYC when we left at 5:30 AM for the airport.  It stayed wintery until the day before we left.  Literally, from one hour to the next one saw people change from boots, hats and parkas, to sandals and sleeveless tops.  It hit 80, far more seasonable for North Carolina at the end of March than the 30's and 40's that had been going on.

Among other activities we got to spend quaility time with Emeline Michele, as well as attend her concert.  El V hopes to have her on the program for his upcoming Postmambo Studies trip to Haiti.

Weather or whatever: we had a perfectly splendid time in Durham.  Our Duke hosts, as usual, did everything up proud.  Most importantly, el V got to eat barbeque -- twice.

And here, Friday and yesterday, it got early spring pleasant.  Everywhere people were carrying bunches of flowers, flowery table arrangements, bouquets.  People were in a better mood than they'd been in weeks.  In fact, right before we left, people were downright cranky.  Today, though we are to hit 60 degrees, the skies are grey, and by 2 AM, through 2 PM, we are in a winter weather advisory, with maybe up to 3 inches of snow.

April ... come she will, but one never knows what the mood.

Current Watching:

Rai / BBC / HBO Rome, season 1, 2005).  This is my third rewatch -- not sure.  But each viewing Rome seems even better and smarter than before, from every angle, that includes casting, acting, writing, costumes, lack of CGI, historical feel. Like The Tudors, Rome isn't  always factually accurate, but the historical arc is, and the feel of the time and place,  the characters, seem as likely as we can get here and now, from the impossible-to-imagine distance in time from there and then.

For some reason around Easter I like to re-watch things like the Taylor-Burton Cleopatra (1963) El Cid (1961), now Rome.  

In the days of the winter solstice, I like nordic things such The Last Kingdom. In deep winter anything set in warm weather location – like The Glades was, in Florida – I miss that show.  Too bad Death in Paradise (season 6, BBC, 2017) didn't show up in deep winter, but, instead appeared on Netflix at the end of winter, which was yesterday -- whatever the winter weather advisory wants to tell me.  Yesterday was the start of Spring!

What is sad about this, is that I shall finally finish watching season 2 of Resurrection: Ertugrul.  What shall I do? as Netflix isn't providing seasons 3 and 4?  I am very sad that I shall never get to learn what happens to Ertugrul and Halime -- will that baby EVER be born? this baby will be Osman I, founder of the Ottomans! will Hayme live to see her grandson born? -- and the rest of the figures I've come to care about so much. 

In the meantime, in spare moments, el V studies French in preparation for our vacation in France.  But first, we go to New Orleans.