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

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

What You Got There? A Book?

      . . . .  Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billy Holiday (1998) by Angela Davis. 




The moment we entered into her thesis, there was all kinds of self-kicking going on.  It was so obvious.  Prior to abolition African American music was primarily a communal expression,  done in the fields, in worship, at funerals.  It was also primarily spiritual.

After abolition, African Americans needed a whole new musical discourse.  They had to make it up because never before had there been opportunity in these lands for them to make music that wasn't communal, that wasn't about the lament of the condition and the yearning for that condition to have passed away, leaving them free to do as other people did.  

For Black women in particular, there was and could be no tradition that was about love, about sex, about romance, about what she wanted for herself, for Black women didn't have choice until after abolition -- and certainly wouldn't be allowed to sing about wanting to marry and raise her own children herself while cooking, cleaning, digging, and having her children go on master's credit side of the ledger and sold off any old time. So post abolition Black women had to invent a gendered, individual, popular musical expression  for themselves.

This was particularly necessary for Black women who would have preferred women as their sexual partners.

And thus, here we come to the Blues, performed by a solo singer, with a single instrument, the guitar, played by herself.  Of course these women couldn't afford more complicated set-ups, but this they could. 

Of course a man got the credit as "inventor of the Blues"*, Robert Johnson, with a powerful legendary tale of meeting the devil at the crossroads as to how he did it to boot.  

Why haven't we read this book before?

* Musicologists of course, know better.  They all know there were a slew of performers.


Monday, September 26, 2022

Rings Of Power: Episodes 3, 4, 5 -- No Spoilers

     . . . .  I in no way am a Lore Master, nor have cared to be. I am only interested in what Rings of Power is giving me on my screen, and judging it from that alone.  This is the same way I judged the Lord of the Rings books and the tale(s) they told me; I judged and accepted purely from their text, not even the Appendices or any other content.

Rings of Power

 Ep. 3: “Adar”

      . . . . This begins with an aside thought: cannot help notice the domed, and columned Ironkeep ediface of House of the Dragon's King's Landing,  and the round domed ediface -- the palace? -- of Númenor, both look like Instanbul's Hagia Sophia, when viewed from the water. 


Númenor's City


Hagia Sophia, Instanbul













The haters of Rings of Power are out in full force. What they do or don't see is very different from what I see. Moreover, the impatience of the viewers astonishes. 

This is story telling. There is no  narrative fiction, structured, organized, and finished up for either plotting or characters from which it is adapted (even less than from which HotD was adapted, which is suffering the same fan reactions). Moving through a big narrative arc must take the time to build out all the elements, as anyone who has written and studied these matters has experienced.

These fan fascists demand everything right this minute and demand it the way They have decided what is what. This show was planned to be 50 episodes from the git go, maybe even more episodes than I shall live to see, a grim thought, that.  It takes time, it should take time, it NEEDS to take time. However, They have decided if this isn’t what They demand, it has no right to exist.  Worse we have seen too, even before the series started, death threats leveled at actors who aren’t exactly WHITE for even being in the series. “Terror of a Black Hobbit” as someone quipped.

As for myself, with this episode I'm coming to admire how at least one theme is beginning to emerge: building and making  are always paired with congruent destruction. We see it coming through, even with the orcs and whoever is animating them for these enormous building projects which are made with slave labor out of landscape destruction, but are made, not magicked into existence. We certainly see it in Númenor, with both the man Halbrand, desperate to start smithing, and Elendil's daughter, Eärien, who finally gets accepted into the Builders Guild. *

The title of this series is about the making of the rings, and already in the second episode we got a whole bottle of Maker's Mark with what the Dwarves have done in Khazad-dûm.  It's the pushing of the making of things too far, via someone's carelessness, or someone’s intentional dark intent, that spells the doom of Middle Earth (but what this means as far as elves are concerned, we will not learn until episode 5, "Partings").  It's the confluence of certain figures out of each group -- excluding Harfoots (at least so far) -- that are responsible.  Even in the elves the drive to make is always paired with the drive to destroy, as we see in the very opening scenes of the first episode, with other elf children destroying Galadriel's paper swan ship for no reason at all. All these Peoples go from the  glory of Númenor that we get to see with our own eyes on the screen thanks to the incredible efforts of the show and the people who come together to make it the very best they could -- and that they really tried is shown right there -- to Ragnarok's smoking ruin, the end of a world -- at least presumably we will see this by the end of the 50 episodes. 

Someone said Númenor feels like something less Mediterranean (which is just about the only thing I've agreed with him about regarding ROP), more based on trade, and more classical -- than medieval. Well, that’s because it’s not – see again the comment here above -- of the central palace’s architecture and the Haggia Sophia. It’s Persia, it's the Eastern Roman Empire, that later historians called Byzantium, called  Rûm by Seljuks and many others, called by the Ottomans themselves the Ottoman Empire.  I.e. not Mediterranean, but looking to the Sea of Marmara, Anatolia, the Black Sea. and the endless litany of previous empires including the Phoenician sea empire, the sun worshipping Assyrian empires, Babylon, reaching even further back, beyond even the Bronze Age into the prehistoric -- and generally, always looking east, not west at all, until the days of the Roman conquests. The show did this beautifully with Númenor. Further, all the references to Melkor brings to mind the Phoencian deity Melqart, also spelled Melkart or Melkarth, chief deity of Tyre and of two of its colonies, Carthage and Gadir (Cádiz, Spain).

There are legitimate criticisms for sure -- the choice of cliff hangers and so on, the length of battle/fight scenes, the filler scenes of beautiful horses on a beautiful shore against a beautiful sea**, and so on.

If ROP continues as it has so far, I am very glad that I will have the whole series to re-watch as binge during one of the endless stretches of dreary winter ahead.  There is so much richness of detail in all the scenes – such as those that went by so briefly, the puppet show (and we have one in the 4th episode of House of the Dragon too! the parellelisms of these series is odd, since they are so different in tone) in one of the city’s public spaces, that I look forward to many rewatches of the entire show, when it is completed.  I don’t know about others, but one of the reasons for my own many re-reads of LOTR is there is so much richness of detail and shading in the narrative and locations I couldn’t take in all of it, thus going back many times.  It seems the creators of this show are respectfully doing their best to do the same for the screen production.

His family and its dynamics were one of the other primary developments in this episode, and again it will be about the making or the destruction of something, yes?  Plus, yes, interesting, and relatable, not cringey or smarmy either.

** What we're getting here though, is an exhibition of joy in making of the production teams. There are beats when the camera is close-in profile of Galadriel's mount's head and I swear it is a vein-perfect reproduction we're seeing of horse heads from the Elgin Marbles friezes -- which are indeed astoundingly beautiful. It's one of the greatest privileges of my life that once I got to see them at the British Museum.




 After Show Inside the Ring Episode 3's final segment is with the composer; we learn the reason for that gallop on the beach was to showcase the the elements of the composer's thinking about the transition from the second age to the third age in terms of music and culture. Second age being ROP, and third age of course LOTR.

So ya, in the end I liked it, and appreciated it for just what it was, but also for the thoughts of time and creation and destruction that beat provided within the context of the episode and show.  IOW, in many ways the show shows itself more than thoughtful of the subject matter and what it is doing, creatively.  But too slowly for too many, evidently.  It's not throw-away stoopid quipage.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Ep. 4: “The Great Wave" 

     . . . . This was one heck of an episode, where all the elements of the first three come together. The female characters are particularly impressive, beginning with Disa, the Dwarf princess (what a voice; the writers having her sing to the stone was an inspired innovation in the lore), but the male principals are not slouches either, as with the Southern lands warding sylvan elf, Arondir.  Everything in this episode was set up in the first three -- though we are still waiting for Meteor Man's reveal. They are quite toying with us there. It looked wonderful. Again, the theme of making, the destruction the making may bring, and the destruction by other forces outside of the most wonderful making. The Regent Queen Miriel's comment in her vision of an earthquake, "Our island must stretch at times, just like you, little one," addressing the infant, was splendid. 




This was almost as impressive as Princess Disa’s Stone Song / Pleas to the Rock (or, if one wishes to be silly for oneself, Disa's Rock Song ha!)

In this episode we saw Galadriel start to wrestle with her own character flaws.  She has a long way to go with that, and she's only begun to fight.

As with LotR’s multitude of heroes, we are seeing by this episode they are emerging for ROP too. That one sees characters' personal integrity, their loyalty, their dreams, their nobility, often in conflict with temptations, terror and even their drive to personal power, with the characters working to overcome their ignoble impulses, failing sometimes, and sometimes with some, we will know, failing all together and embracing the destruction of the dark, it's such a relief from the plodding, infantile, cheerlessness of it's HBO rival, ROP (I think I like that one too though, for different reasons and dislike some of it immensely in the same way I disliked immensely a lot of its predecessor, which, in our own time, is HOTD’s sequel).  But in Rings of Power we are seeing evil as the real stuff that all people must combat, in very many ways, whether magical persons or not.

So, Rings of Power is already half-seen; four more episodes to come.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Episode 5, "Partings"

     . . . . It began with parts of Episode 3, consolidated in Episode 4. With this episode, I fell in love with Rings of Power.

Like the previous episodes. with the exception of the second one's endless swim of  Galadriel's Great Renunciation in order to return to Middle Earth and continue her war against Sauron, this episode moved very fast, while heightening the stakes' tension for all the plotlines.  I don't know what all is going on, I don't know who everyone is, which is part of why we keep reading LotR too, or watching a program. There is so much going on, as there is in the LotR books, it takes a lot of time to process it all, which is why the richness of the experience continues for so many re-readings, and with this show, many re-watches.

Just remember if feeling impatient, “Not all who wander are lost,” as Harfoot Poppy's road song goes at the beginning of this episode. if it is the actor’s voice singing, that voice is beautiful.  Again, composer Bear McCreary discusses the musical composition in the Deadline's Amazon After Show.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1huhLztCuc

The Big Stranger a/k/a Meteor Man is acquiring language and social education, saves his little group from death by warg/whatever with a Big Power Move, but suffers a reaction, that begins to turn his arm black.  Goes to a spring, intones words in a language for which closed caption gives no translation, and the water runs up the limb, turning to … ice?  But it heals him from whatever it is. The power of it blasts Nori when she gets caught in it.  She runs away in fear. Still don’t think Big Stranger is Sauron, due to the following scene with those closed shaved heads standing around Big Stranger’s landing site.  They don’t look … nice. Are they … female ... androgynous?

Again loving Durin and Elrond’s relationship. Elrond didn't exactly break his oath, since he discussed with Durin Gil-Galad's insistence the dwarves share the discovery of mithril, that Gil-Galad already knew of the substance and was on watch for its appearance, and why -- and that the Dark was returned.  So much depends on friendship and truth, even survival of peoples.

The Tree, from First Age, with roots delving multi-branching and deep into the Misty Mountains which magically create mithril, the only substance that magically can preserve the Light for all time.  Tolkien’s Nordic reimagining of the mythic World Tree Yggdrasil, roots eternally gnawed from below by the great wyrm, Níðhöggr (Malice Striker)




 In ROP, this tree is destroyed by a Balrog in the First Age's Ragnarök. This kind of building of significance of mithril beyond ‘magic&elves’ into the narrative of the Second Age is lovely, while providing that sense of enchantment that we took from LotR.  All the other ROP's Trees, as images and metaphorical statements are appropriate to Tolkien thematic use too. Then there are elements such the Big Stranger's arm wound inflicted by creatures of the Dark, paralleled by the Andar scene with an orc's arm wound from the Light - sun.  That's just another bit of the thoughtful compositional richness that we are seeing increasingly in this series

Is it possible Halbrand is Theo’s father? The dark deeds he committed ... were they as evil as what that villager does to be taken in by Andar?  One likes too this mystery of both Halbrand and Andar's characters' seemingly deeply wounded, while each having conflict about their natures, which manifest in different ways -- one fleeing Dark, and then attempting redemption, the other, perhaps, having fled the Light, attempting to find community with the Dark's monsters -- which too, in this show are shown as more complex than Tolkien portrayed them in LotR.

We see Galadriel being a little more diplomatic and reasonable than before.  Perhaps she and Halbrand are teaching each other good lessons? For she has to persuade him too, to return to Southlands, which he has vowed not to do for reasons in his past -- which are not yet revealed.

It's interesting too that the comic relief, appropriately Tolkienesque, comes out of Elrond and Durin's friendship, with none of the inappropriate, cringey Peter Jackson's attempt at comic relief at even the most inappropriate contexts, as with Gimli and dwarf tossing -- I hated that so much.

If wishes were horses, we'd have 10 episodes instead of the 8. I wonder if I’ll live to see all 50 episodes.  Will the world survive to make and broadcast all 50 episodes? In the meantime, I'm looking forward even more to having this to watch back-to-back during dreadful January.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

First Thoughts: Rings of Power (2022) Season 1, 1st - 2nd episodes, "A Shadow of the Past" & "Adrift"

RINGS OF POWER

NO SPOILERS

      . . . . The first two episodes went up 09/02 on Amazon Prime together. Thereafter, it's a single episode per week, for a total of 8 episodes. As the first two eps were the same night, the reactions here are out of seeing them both back-to-back., thus are rather muddled together.

~~~~~~~~~~

As the first episode of  a brand new series should do, "A Shadow of the Past" made me appreciate and understand the the second episode better.  This is promising for a series which the rabid Tolkien/Jackson fan base are determined to doom

The poetry that threads throughout LOTR concerning Middle Earth's distant past provided much to the reader’s sense of wonder and enchantment, the larger-than-life heroism of an age of history/legend. But the Rings of Power is the present of that Age of Legend. In this ROP present, it is not enchanted and lovely for those fighting the battles and run over by the wars, any more than is it is in the later poetry made from past battles and wars for those living and dying, and doing the fighting and surviving.

However, the first episode does provide us with the enchantment and wonder of the poetry, tales and epics composed about this age of Middle Earth via what we get to see of this truly beautiful world, presented to us living in an age in which the world’s beauty is decreasing daily by increasing destruction.  But it too is taken for granted by those for whom it is their world, just as we have taken for granted that beauty of our own world. We are not nostalgic for what is, only what is gone. And we know well, some of us even in our own time, how almost inevitable it is to craft our nostalgia into something particularly superior to our present, and always much more beautiful.

We rapidly learn of the past catastrophes issued from the Dark, and the looming threat of its imminent return. We already know the earlier wars of Sauron, in which he was ultimately defeated, left in its wake immeasurable loss, grief, suffering and death. We recall it remembered and memorialized in poetry much later, in the waning days of elves in LOTR’s Middle Earth. We are informed without being told this is an eternal cycle of re-formed, insidious corruption that inevitable overwhelms the world in a Ragnarök. That scene with Elrond trying to describe and memorialize the wars that now are over, when we already know the wars are returning tell us that – not to mention that sign of the destruction of basics for the farmers, the diseased corruption of a cow and her milk. During a different time in the Great Cycle Frodo and Sam even talk about this process while in the midst of their ordeal in Mordor – “Do you think they’re make a song of us, Mr. Frodo?” We see Bilbo and Frodo try to do much the same later after their parts concluded in the Great Cycle of \Wars Between Light and Dark.

So we are provided our knowledge via nostalgic enchantment, against a background of beautiful, fascinating spectacle to our own eyes’ currency. What I would love to know, which I never will know, is whether anyone who doesn’t know this material beforehand has this reaction?

Other reactions:

Additionally to Dwarf Princess Disa, and Prince Durin, once we got to see his face acting in second episode, instead of full body bombast of episode one, in this one I was almost as immediately won by a sort of Southlands Ranger Sylvan Elf, Arondir,  part of  the permanent elf border guard force surveilling the Southlands of men who had been corrupted by Sauron in the first War Cycle against the Dark.* As happens so often these outposts and forces are dismantled and disbanded just when they need to be enlarged. Dropping safety measures as the threat materializes … seems … familiar. That we see these humans view the elves as an occupying military force is important information because, of course they would!  So would we.

A most brief Ent sighting in confluence of a meteor landing and Galadriel's Refusal to depart Middle Earth.

The Harfoots appear to be a transhumance people, not nomads, strictly speaking. Which would explain how they eventually become hobbits and settle down. At this stage in their culture though, they seem proto/druidic, at least some of them.

What in the world are those guys who are wearing megafauna moose horns? Are they supposed to be Harfoots too, disguising themselves from being sighted by the Big People?  I waited and waited, but never found out. [Now past episode 4, I still don't know!]

I’m so sorry I didn’t get to see this first episode first.  I really appreciated what and how it accomplished so much successfully.

 *  

Arondir, the sylvan elf, who emerges quickly as one of the Heroes

Is it a coincidence that the two characters who immediately drew me in, Disa and Arondir, are non-canon?

Other coincidences?

We have the nearly simultaneous release of two screen fantasies, which are dueling categories themselves, one a grimdark fantasy challenging the light fantasy. Coincidence that both are prequels to their world famous predecessors >!<, and both are from unreliable chroniclers, historians and narrators, coming at both of them from  a variety of sources. Which emphasize different events, causes and even actions, and have their own agendas.

Fan rage, narcissism, social media meltdowns about both of them are weird to say the least. I'm not saying that adults shouldn't enjoy Star Wars or LOTR etc. But -- it's very strange to see 'adults' throwing their toys off the high chair tray like this. It is too reminiscent of history’s religious wars of all kinds, including those in the eastern Roman Empire of the iconoclasts – must destroy because I don’t believe it. Death threats were made against at least two people at World Con this yea, as well as to the actors portraying various characters in both ROP and HOTD.

I don't love much of anything any longer, not in These Times.  However. everything good that happens in These Times feels epic, IS epic, because we don't know if it will ever be able to happen again. That feels quite Tolkienish to me. For all we know there will be no more seasons of either ROP or HOT D (or much else), with Winter Coming, the cost of living, and particularly power -- even pubs unable to afford to stay open. People are already saying in Europe both Netflix and amazon are shedding subscribers because they can't afford them -- or even internet subscriptions. 

Here endeth ye sermon; defenestrate me now, rabidly self-identified fan base of the smartest people in the room. because I think this is well done, and I am intrigued.

After Show Inside The Ring Episode 1 

After Show Inside the Ring Episode 2

In these After Show shows, one falls in love with the actors' relationship as Disi and Durin as much as we fall in love with fictional characters' Disi and Durin's relationship on the screen in ROP.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ep 2: “Adrift”-- There sure was a lot of Harfooting in this episode. This episode had way too much swimming (unless one viewed Galadriel's nearly transparent dress even when dry as a positive point), endless action scenes and scare jumps that were not interesting (like Jackson's endless battles with orcs, trolls, are not interesting -- one wants more story, less action, so to speak).  The only part I liked was the dwarves. Gotta say I liked the dwarves much more than I thought I would.  Particularly Disa -- she lightens and brightens and vitalizes all of the ponderousity of Durin, and the stiffness (this changes as the series continues) of Elrond's character. 

Dwarf Princess Disa, WhoTruly the Smartest Person in the Room, Who the Room Is Most Fortunate to Have!

Such a screen presence has Sophia Nomvete! Must admit that Khazad-dûm was more than impressive, and it is interesting.  It is brilliantly colored, as filled with pure water and light as the elven lands, just different.

The first episode begins mostly in the bright light and day; this second one was mostly grey and dark, though there was a great richness in the variety of shades of dark and grey, laced with the glow of precious metals and gems, the shimmer and sparkle of tumbling, white waters. Who would have thought that outside of Khazad-dûm would suggest claustrophobia? Khazad-dûm is breathtaking in detail, and so gorgeous.


Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Not the Worst of Times: Covid, Slavery, Global Capitalism, Industrialization

      . . . . . Such thunderstorms last night, Thor level storms, as they woke me twice out of my Omicron vax reaction stupor.  Maybe our drought is over?

It took about 7 - 8 hours post the early AM jab more or less, around about 8 - 9 PM that the reaction to the new vax began to manifest, with the usual fatigue.  Even so, as I'd slept badly, and got in only about 5 hours of sleep the night before, I wasn't sure.  But at 10 I gave up resisting, took Tylenol and retired, while el V read me to sleep from Howard French's Born in Blackness: Africa, Africans, and the Making of the Modern World, 1471 to the Second World War (2021), a long historical study of what the European extraction economy of resources including population, meant for the



development of capitalism and European industrialization, particularly England's

Me had already started feeling a bit achy and chilled.  Woke about 3:30 very achy and chilled, took another Tylenol, drank a gallon of water, and lay there paralyzed for quite some time, mildly hallucinating. More quickly than in the past, the Tylenol did its job, and I only woke because my bladder woke me -- which meant I also drank then, another gallon of water (gallon is rather an exaggeration). About noon I woke feeling more like a person than a disassociated alien in the world.  Now drinking splendid tea and looking forward to breakfast and another Tylonel.  By about 3 PM I'll probably decree the reaction is finished with.

All in all this reaction was several degrees milder than the last two reactions, particularly the one before this. Been jabbed 5 times now for covid.  I suppose will do it again mid-December?  It's clearly worth it, being vaccinated, and I'll keep doing it, and masking.

I have books at the library, which I may attempt to pick up, but I probably won’t work out today, as feeling a little weak, and that electrical shock effect across my back, which has always manifested after the reaction is manifesting at the moment.  Plus have things to organize regarding the trip to New Orleans.  Then must return again to NO almost at once, to do a talk about the contributions of Caribbean slavery to the first globalization and world economy.

In many ways the last weeks have been rough, from the various anxieties around the Colombia trip to Cali and the Buenaventura Pacific Coast, then el V's staph eye infection manifesting in Bogóta, after the Travelers all flew home (nobody got covid -- the protocols were strict, except one, who acquired it, naturally on the plane when returning, but it was very mild).  Everyone had a the most splendid experiences, musical, people-to-people, and even natural -- whales among those -- sounding while on the boat to an island off the coast!  One of the young ladies then continued on alone on her explorations, heading off by bus to Cartegena.

But here at home the whole family in the Midwest got covid, from the baby to the elderly -- from a grandkid's preschool, where a teacher came down with it.  It wasn't  good for everybody.

Before that, our very dear friend, K, had to have sudden, RIGHT THIS MINUTE IF YOU WISH TO LIVE, brain surgery.  Thank all the lordessas the non-cancerous tumor was finally discovered, and discovered just in time -- the tumor was displacing the space in the cranium that the brain occupies.  The surgery was most successful, he's recovering well, but it's a long road, and it's been very painful. So They have him on opiates, which he, characteristically sniffs at, as "a most inelegant drug," and hates it.  But this is also good in a way, because he was determined to stop using the stuff as soon as possible. But the blinding headaches that come and go (the tumor was removed via the nasal passages, which means breaking his nose among other things) kept him from sleeping, so he still needs to resort to them at night sometimes during the week. But he's good, and he sounds wonderful!  The tumor's progress was insidious and going on so gradually that the changes in him he racked up to 'age' and so did we.  But all that aging is gone now, and he's as he's always been -- though in pain, etc. -- and that is WONDERFUL.

Then, our friend, the wonderful Gwendolyn Midlo Hall died, after a long and most important career, that changed how we see and do history (among other things, she created database historiography). 

All the names (107,000) recorded in Gwendolyn Midlo Hall’s Louisiana Slave Database were engraved on 216 granite slabs, mounted on 18 walls.

Her ashes will be buried at the Whitney Plantation Museum, at the Allées Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, that she contributed so much to bring into existence.

Hmm, it seems I'm still quite out of it, as They Say, meaning a little foggy and weak, and o that electrical shock pain across my back is really not what one wants to be feeling.

* What Dr. Deveraux completely missed in his overview on Unmitigated Pendantry recent entry, as to why England industrialized so quickly -- and WHEN IT DID -- is the African Atlantic slave trade, and slavery itself throughout its imperium from the first days.

French's book is just one of many, including ours, in the last decade, decade and a half -- and even before -- that goes into detail about the African-Atlantic slave trade, New World slavery and how this is the road to industrialization and global capitalism.  Never in the history of the world had so much wealth been produced so rapidly -- and all by extracting it from others, right down to the rights to their own bodies, and appropriating it for themselves.  Yet there are always that multitude of the smartest bros in the room who get very angry when this is pointed out, because industrialization only happened because we are such smart engineers and scientists, and, o ya, we have a superior of way of doing everything.  Never a thought given as to how any of this from the 16th through the 19th centuries was financed -- or even, that it had to be financed.

Lordessa are the Brits in their fairy tale rewriting their Royals' history pretending none of this went on, and went on under her reign too.


Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The First Act Of Transition Often Is Farcical -- As Well As Bloody Hell

      . . . . "The first act of history is often farce,” Kyle Harper muses in The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease and the End of an Empire (2017), regarding the ascension and fall of emperor Maximinus in the 3rd C.


This emperor was the first of the "barracks emperors", those put in power by the army (paying off the army).  This particular guy was such a clown that the army that put him there, took him outta there, not that long after.

In other words, people breathed a sigh of relief that this fool was gone -- the creator of the farce he was making of Rome, to those of the Empire, and those outside of it, by his behaviors and stupidity -- only to be succeeded by worse and more competent usurpers, opening that long period that essentially led to the first partitioning of the empire, as so much of what Romans had been used to for hundreds if not thousands of years, began to disappear, along with population and institutions.

[Or, as Dr, Jeet Heer muses, romperisto is not the Mussolini, he's the Gabriel d'Annunzio who heralds the arrival of fascism.]

Endemic pandemic is inevitable for cultures as the Empire was in that century, dense, urban and widely connected -- and are experiencing climate change, all of which happened at the end of the Roman Warm Period, or Roman Climatic Optimum (RCO). This period ran from approximately 250 BC to AD 4, so much so that Theophrastus (371 – c. 287 BCE) wrote that date trees could grow in Greece if they were planted but that they could not set fruit there.

The Antonine Plague Decimates Rome


These beneficent conditions change for good in the mid 3rd century as the empire transitioned into late antiquity, losing its resilience to recover from various crises due to the pressure of pandemic diseases and climate change.  

The Fate of Rome is astoundingly good, with all sorts of pointers as to what we're facing and up against, the same now as then (differences being mainly germ theory and vaccines, as well as being able to study the past with technology beyond even Roman imagination) as he traces the combination of pandemic and climate change's effects on the Roman empire -- and the whole world for that matter, since the world's connectivity had NEVER had such global through lines before, and there had never been so many cities, not only in this empire, but in the Asian empires too.  With those cities came relentless push into the habitats of the wild -- and so, pandemic.  There hadn't been any, previously, at least in the west before the 3rd C, as any evidence for same is missing from both recorded records and forensic archaeology.  The West and the East seemed to mirror each other during the era of the third Century - 6th-7th Centuries C.E., as Michael Wood observes in his The Story of China: The Epic History of a World Power from the Middle Kingdom to Mao and the China Dream  (2020). Coincidentally Wood's book is enthusiastically blurbed by Tom Holland, author of Persian Fire (2005), which thoroughly enthralled me as well.

Harper's latest, Plagues upon the Earth: Disease and the Course of Human History (2021), is likely just as good Fate of Rome -- and contains some of the same material one would guess. shows that the story of disease is entangled with the history of slavery, colonialism, and capitalism. He is particularly concerned in this books with the relationship between poverty and health. Perhaps, partly, because as good as The Fate of Rome is, it got no attention in the media, whereas, of course, this later one, while we are in our own era's pandemic, has.

Harper is professor of classics and letters at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author of Slavery in the Late Roman World, AD 275-425 and From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity. He lives in Norman, Oklahoma.

https://time.com/6103612/covid-pandemic-vaccine-smallpox-eradication/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Postmambo Rides, While I Do Face Splat and Then Watch 1930's Shanghai

       . . . .  Tomorrow, Thursday, August 4, 2022, at 8 pm Eastern, Postmambo Sessions presents a Zoom conversation with T.J. English about his just-published book Dangerous Rhythms: Jazz and the Underworld.

T.J.'s many books -- all of them about organized crime -- include The Westies, Paddy Whacked, The Savage CityThe Corporation, and of course the best-selling Havana Nocturne, which was the basis for an unforgettable Postmambo Cuban Music Seminar live in Havana in February 2019. Collectively, they offer a vision of America as compelling as any novelist's. He's also a well-known music head: Dangerous Rhythms was previously the title of the series he curated at Manhattan's Zinc Bar. He and I can talk up a storm, and we have many times, but this is also your chance to jump in and ask him whatever you want -- within reason and the bounds of legality.The Zoom link will go out two hours before start time on Thursday. You need to be on the [seminar] mailing list to receive it (this is [nedslist].) So if you're not on [seminar], shoot me an e-mail at ned@qbadisc.com and put [seminar] in the subject line.Our next Postmambo Movie Night (title and guest TBA) will be August 25. In September we return to our regular schedule of the second and third Thursday of each month.* * *Reading: "Soon the world will be unrecognizable," Robin McKie, Guardian: "The publication of Bill McGuire’s latest book, Hothouse Earth, could not be more timely . . . The crucial point, he argues, is that there is now no chance of us avoiding a perilous, all-pervasive climate breakdown. We have passed the point of no return and can expect a future in which lethal heatwaves and temperatures in excess of 50C (120F) are common in the tropics; where summers at temperate latitudes will invariably be baking hot, and where our oceans are destined to become warm and acidic."

Watching: Judge Maya Guerra Gamble rebukes Alex Jones: "Your beliefs do not make something true." https://twitter.com/washingtonpost/status/1554856818450612225

Watching: Reefer Madness (1936) colorized clip (musical!): https://twitter.com/SoozUK/status/1554131039496376320 The pastel smoke!

Music in NYC: Miguel Zenón Quartet, Village Vanguard, Aug. 23-28. Their concert at Columbia's Miller Theater in May was a serious contender for best of year, if there ever could be such a thing as "best." Tour schedule here: https://miguelzenon.com/schedule/

* * *

UPCOMING POSTMAMBO MUSIC SEMINARSAug. 11-18: Cali and Buenaventura, Colombia.Feb. 1-6, 2023: New Orleans: For the Funk of It.More to come in 2023. 

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     . . . .  I have a chin so purple it could be black, same with right knee, scratched up right side of nose, smashed mouth, and a bruised right frontal bone.  Monday morning tripped on a sidewalk bump I could not see, due to color and the damaged optical nerve of my right eyes that severely impairs at best looking down. I came out of this far, far better than a woman of my age -- and my back and multiple previous injuries -- has any reason to expect, No broken teeth or bones or blood. 

Giving the credit to my constant quest to improve back strength and reduce pain via exercise, stretch, vitamins, diet and medicinal cannabis.

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     . . . . What to Watch when a mess: Miss S. (2020 China, 2022 HBO). Shanghai remake of Miss Fisher’s Mysteries, in great detail, except in Chinese, and in Shanghai, not Australia.  The clothes and jewels are equally exquisite too. Purrfect escape viewing. The principals have nailed down the elegant yet sexy sit-and-lean-into-each-other on the office desktop, such a signature move in Hollywood Tracy-Hepburn flix of the 1930’s.

The ladies in Miss S are so pretty, as pretty as their clothes, though oddly, one cannot miss, that though this is supposedly Shanghai in the 1930's, the elite women such as Miss Su dress in couture from the late 1940's - early - mid 1950's. Which strikes me, at least, as, odd.  Of course their shoes are pure 2020, not at all 1930's either.  But all are beautiful, and exquisitely fabricated. Miss S follows the Miss Fisher laudable practice of repeating the wearing of the fabulously expensive, hand-made gowns and jewelry throughout. We see new outfits created and purchased, but then they move into the rotation.  Miss Su repeats wearing her beautiful chemsongs, as well as her Western gowns.



The actress who plays Miss Su has terrific comic timing.  The whole cast is very good.

The major difference between the Australian production of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries and the Shanghai-Netflix production of Miss S is there are chase scenes and fights of the sorts seldom, if ever, in the Australian version. Since Miss S is 2020?, and Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries is 2012-2015, which isn't that much of time difference, this seems a deliberate decision to have more 'action' than the Australian version. As the series progresses, it gets a bit more dark too, in a way that Miss Fisher did not.

Another major difference revealed as the series roll on – emphasis on not having children as a good choice that women naturally shall want to make. Early on there’s an ep in which Su’s assistant poses as a woman desperate for an abortion – it’s not the abortion that’s criminal or wrong, but the men making money from providing dangerous and toxic conditions, at great expense.

A darker dimension is with us as we realize that soon China will be invaded by Japan, and WWII comes early to Shanghai.