". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Fidel's Message to the National Assembly

In this eloquently and precisely written message, Fidel addresses the challenges of 2008, particularly climate change; toward the end he speaks to the crisis in Pakistan. Even through this translation the reader can see what a very good writer-thinker Fidel has become. He writes as effectively as he speaks, and he writes more succinctly than he speaks. Witnessing this rare evolution into a philosopher of vast real world political experience by an individual leader who held absolute power for so many decades has been an equally rare privilege of my lifetime.

=Stop= Fox


- Granma (Habana) -
Fidel's Message to the National Assembly

Dear comrade Alarcón:

Please read the following message, addressed to the National Assembly, whenyou open the morning session.

A heartfelt embrace,
(Signed)Fidel Castro Ruz

December 27, 2007
8:40 p.m.

Comrades of the National Assembly:

You have no easy task on your hands. On January 1st, 1959, surrounded by the accumulated and deepening grievances that our society inherited from its neo-colonial past under U.S. domination, many of us dreamed of creating a fully independent nation where justice prevailed. In the arduous and uneven struggle, there came the moment when we were left completely alone.

Nearly 50 years since the triumph of the Revolution, we can justifiably feel proud of ourselves, as we have held our ground, for almost half a century, in the struggle against the most powerful empire ever to exist in history.

In the Proclamation I signed on July 31, 2006, none of you saw any signs of nepotism or an attempt to usurp parliamentary powers. That year, at once difficult and promising for the Revolution, the unity of the people, theP arty and State were essential to continue moving forward and to face the declared threat of a military action by the United States.

This past December 24, during his visit to the various districts of the municipality which honored me with the nomination of candidate to parliament, Raúl noted that all of the numerous candidates proposed by the people of a district famous for its combativeness, but with a low educational level, had completed their higher education. This, as he said on Cuban television, made a profound impression in him.

Party, State and Government cadres and grassroots organizations face new problems in their work with an intelligent, watchful and educated people who detest bureaucratic hurdles and inconsiderate justifications. Deep down, every citizen wages an individual battle against humanity's innate tendency to stick to its survival instincts, a natural law which governs all life.
We are all born marked by that instinct, which science defines as primary. Coming face to face with this instinct is rewarding because it leads us to a dialectical process and to a constant and altruistic struggle, bringing us closer to Martí and making us true communists.

What the international press has emphasized most in its reports on Cuba in recent days is the statement I made on the 17th of this month, in a letter to the director of Cuban television's Round Table program, where I said that I am not clinging to power. I could add that for some time I did, due to my youth and lack of awareness, when, without any guidance, I started to leav emy political ignorance behind and became a utopian socialist. It was a stage in my life when I believed I knew what had to be done and wanted to be in aposition to do it! What made me change? Life did, delving more deeply into Martí's ideas and those of the classics of socialism. The more deeply I became involved in the struggle, the stronger was my identification with those aims and, well before the revolutionary victory I was alreadyconvinced that it was my duty to fight for these aims or to die in combat.

We also face great risks that threaten the human species as a whole. This has become more and more evident to me since I predicted, for the first time in Rio de Janeiro, --over 15 years ago, in June 1992-- that a species was threatened with extinction as a result of the destruction of its natural habitat. Today, the number of people who understand the real danger of this grows every day.

A recent book by Joseph Stiglitz, former Vice-President of the World Bank and President Clinton's chief economic advisor until 2002, Nobel Prize laureate and best selling author in the United States, offers up-to-date and irrefutable facts on the subject. He criticizes the United States, a country which did not sign the Kyoto Protocol, for being the largest producer of carbon dioxide in the world, with annual emissions of 6 billion tons of thisgas which disturbs the atmosphere without which life is impossible. In addition to this, the United States is the largest producer of other greenhouse gases.

Few people are aware of these facts. The same economic system which forced this unsustainable wastefulness on us impedes the distribution of Stiglitz' book. Only a few thousand copies of an excellent edition have beenpublished, enough to guarantee a margin of profit. This responds to a market demand, which the publishing house cannot ignore if it is to survive.

Today, we know that life on Earth has been protected by the ozone layer, located in the atmosphere's outer ring, at an altitude between 15 to 50 kilometers, in the region known as the stratosphere, which acts as the planet's shield against the type of solar radiation which can prove harmful. There are greenhouse gases whose warming potential is higher than that of carbon dioxide and which widen the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica, which loses as much as 70 percent of its volume every spring. The effects of this phenomenon, which is gradually taking place, are humanity's responsibility.

To have a clear sense of this phenomenon, suffice it to say that the world produces an average of 4.37 metric tons of carbon dioxide per capita. In the case of the United States, the average is 20.14, nearly 5 times as much. In Africa, it is 1.17, while in Asia and Oceania it is 2.87.
The ozone layer, in brief, protects us from ultraviolet and heat radiation which affects the immune system, sight, skin and life of human beings. Under extreme conditions, the destruction of that layer by human beings wouldaffect all forms of life on the planet.

Other problems, foreign to our nation and many others under similar conditions, also threaten us. A victorious counterrevolution would spell a disaster for us, worse than Indonesia's tragedy. Sukarno, overthrown in 1967, was a nationalist leader who, loyal to Indonesia, headed the guerrillas who fought the Japanese.

General Suharto, who overthrew him, had been trained by Japanese occupation forces. At the conclusion of World War II, Holland, a U.S. ally, re-established control over that distant, extensive and populated territory. Suharto maneuvered. He hoisted the banners of U.S. imperialism. He committed an atrocious act of genocide. Today we know that, under instructions from the CIA, he not only killed hundreds of thousands but also imprisoned a million communists and deprived them and their relatives of all properties or rights; his family amassed a fortune of 40 billion dollars -which, at today's exchange rate, would be equivalent to hundreds of billions- by handing over the country's natural resources, the sweat of Indonesians, to foreign investors. The West paid up. Texan-born Lyndon B. Johnson, Kennedy'ssuccessor, was then the President of the United States.

The news on the events in Pakistan we received today also attest to the dangers that threaten our species: internal conflict in a country that possesses nuclear weapons. This is a consequence of the adventurous policies of and the wars aimed at securing the world's natural resources unleashed by the United States.

Pakistan, involved in a conflict it did not unleash, faced the threat of being taken back to the Stone Age.

The extraordinary circumstances faced by Pakistan had an immediate effect on oil prices and stock exchange shares. No country or region in the world can disassociate itself from the consequences. We must be prepared for anything.

There hasn't been a day in my life in which I haven't learned something.

Martí taught us that "all of the world's glory fits in a kernel of corn". Many times have I said and repeated this phrase, which carries in eleven words a veritable school of ethics.

Cuba's Five Heroes, imprisoned by the empire, are to be held up as examples for the new generations.

Fortunately, exemplary conducts will continue to flourish with the consciousness of our peoples as long as our species exists.

I am certain that many young Cubans, in their struggle against the Giant in the Seven-League Boots, would do as they did. Money can buy everything savet he soul of a people who has never gone down on its knees.

I read the brief and concise report which Raúl wrote and sent me. We must not waste a minute as we continue to move forward. I will raise my hand, next to you, to show my support.

(Signed)Fidel Castro Ruz
December 27, 2007
8:35 p.m.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Fisk On Bhutto

If, as seems likely, Bhutto was wrong, either on purpose or by mistake, about Osama bin Laden's death (which she referred to in an interview early in November by David Frost -- it's on YouTube), it seeems she wouldn't have been a more credible leader than Mussharaf as time went on, at least judging on her past record of corruption and other wrongs. We want to believe in saviors so badly, it's sending this nation, at least, into a death spiral.

In the meantime, Robert Fisk, in The UK Independent, has this to say;

in The UK Guardian, this;

and in the previous issue of The London Review of Books (count on Fisk to be on the game), this.

This is how Fisk ends the first article (in The UK Independent):

[ But back to the official narrative. George Bush announced on Thursday he was "looking forward" to talking to his old friend Musharraf. Of course, they would talk about Benazir. They certainly would not talk about the fact that Musharraf continues to protect his old acquaintance – a certain Mr Khan – who supplied all Pakistan's nuclear secrets to Libya and Iran. No, let's not bring that bit of the "axis of evil" into this. So, of course, we were asked to concentrate once more on all those "extremists" and "terrorists", not on the logic of questioning which many Pakistanis were feeling their way through in the aftermath of Benazir's assassination.
It doesn't, after all, take much to comprehend that the hated elections looming over Musharraf would probably be postponed indefinitely if his principal political opponent happened to be liquidated before polling day.

So let's run through this logic in the way that Inspector Ian Blair might have done in his policeman's notebook before he became the top cop in London.

Question: Who forced Benazir Bhutto to stay in London and tried to prevent her return to Pakistan?

Answer: General Musharraf.

Question: Who ordered the arrest of thousands of Benazir's supporters this month?
Answer: General Musharraf.

Question: Who placed Benazir under temporary house arrest this month?
Answer: General Musharraf.

Question: Who declared martial law this month?
Answer General Musharraf.

Question: who killed Benazir Bhutto?
Er. Yes. Well quite.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hobsbawm's "On Empire: America, War, and Global Supremacy"

A galley of a slender volume (97 pages, w/ bibliography) that will come out from Pantheon in March. Vaquero says:

[ ... a collection of essays written in the first years of the 21st century considering contemporary global political issues in light of history. Fernand Braudel may have championed the idea of la longue durée, but Hobsbawm is the longue durée, having been born in 1917 (making him a contemporary of Bebo Valdés and Cachao). I wish I could write as concisely and clearly. If I were in charge of having to pick a short, simply written book that an entire freshman college class ought to be able to comprehend and discuss, this would be it. I’ll go so far as to key in a few hundred words: ]

[ . . one general trend can probably be observed across most of the globe. It is the change in the position of the independent territorial state itself, which in the course of the twentieth century became the basic political and institutional unit under which human beings lived. In its original home in the North Atlantic region, it was based on several innovations made since the French Revolution. It had the monopoly of the means of power and coercion: arms, armed men, prisons. It exercised increasing control by a central authority and its agents of what takes place on the territory of the state, based on a growing capacity to gather information. The scope of its activity and its impact on the daily life of its citizens grew, and so did success in mobilizing its inhabitants on the grounds of their loyalty to state and nation. This phase of state development reached its peak forty years or so ago.

Think, on the one hand, of the “welfare state” of Western Europe in the 1970s, in which “public consumption” – i.e., the share of the gross domestic product (GDP) used for public purposes and not private consumption or investment – amounted to between roughly 20 percent and 30 percent. Think, on the other hand, of the readiness of citizens not only to let public authorities tax them to raise such enormous sums, but actually to be conscripted to fight and die “for their country” in millions during the great wars of the last century. For more than two centuries, until the 1970s, this rise of the modern state had been continuous, and proceeded irrespective of ideology and political organization – liberal, social democratic, communist, or fascist.

This is no longer so. The trend is reversing. We have a rapidly globalizing world economy based on transnational private firms, doing their best to live outside the range of state law and state taxes, which severely limits the ability of even big governments to control their national economies. Indeed, thanks to the prevailing theology of the free market, states are actually abandoning many of their most traditional direct activities – postal services, police, prisons, even important parts of their armed forces – to profit-making private contractors. It has been estimated that 100,000 or more such armed “private contractors” are at present active in Iraq. Thanks to this development and the flooding of the globe with small, but highly effective, weaponry during the Cold War, armed force is no longer monopolized by states and their agents. Even strong and stable states like Britain, Spain, and India have learned to live for long periods at a time with effectively indestructible, if not actually state-threatening, bodies of armed dissidents. We have seen, for various reasons, the rapid disintegration of numerous member-states of the UN, most but not all of them products of the disintegration of twentieth-century empires, in which the nominal governments are unable to administer or exercise actual control over much of the states’ territory, population, or even their own institutions. Actual separatist movements are found even in old states like Spain and Britain. Almost equally striking is the decline in the acceptance of state legitimacy, of the voluntary acceptance of obligation to ruling authorities and their laws by those who live on their territories, whether as citizens or as subjects. Without the readiness of vast populations, for most of the time, to accept as legitimate any effectively established state power – even that of a comparative handful of foreigners – the era of nineteenth- and twentieth-century imperialism would have been impossible. Foreign powers were at a loss only in the rare zones where this was absent, such as Afghanistan and Kurdistan. But, as Iraq demonstrates, the natural obedience of people in the face of power, even in the face of overwhelming military superiority, has gone, and with it the return of empires. But it is not only the obedience of subjects but of citizens that is rapidly eroding. I very much doubt whether any state today – not the United States, Russia, or China – could engage in major wars with conscript armies ready to fight and die “for their country” to the bitter end. ]

Fox again: This is the book you need to read that tells in plain language how we arrived in this terrible condition of the planet's deterioration, the implosion of progress and civil liberties, the consolidation of shrinking resources and ever more wealth into the hands of a very small elite, supported and exacerbated by the ever increasing global spread of war made by private individuals and armies -- mostly upon civilians, not nation-states upon professional, national armies.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Icelandic Tourist Held In Shackles At Airport

And this blonde, blue-eyed young woman isn't even a member of the demographics and classes, like Mexican and Levantines who are expected to expect illegal detention and torture!

[ On Thursday, Foreign Minister Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir told U.S. Ambassador Carol van Voorst that the treatment of Lillendahl was unacceptable.

"In a case such as this, there can be no reason to use shackles" Gisladottir said. "If a government makes a mistake, I think it is reasonable for it to apologize, like anyone else."

Van Voorst has contacted the officials at JFK airport and asked them to provide a report on Lillendahl's case, Gisladottir said. ]

Thursday, December 20, 2007

An Interview With Kim Stanley Robinson - Climate Change

Comparative Planetology: An Interview with Kim Stanley Robinson

It begins like this:

[ BLDGBLOG: I’m interested in the possibility that literary genres might have to be redefined in light of climate change. In other words, a novel where two feet of snow falls on Los Angeles, or sand dunes creep through the suburbs of Rome, would be considered a work of science fiction, even surrealism, today; but that same book, in fifty years’ time, could very well be a work of climate realism, so to speak. So if climate change is making the world surreal, then what it means to write a “realistic” novel will have to change. As a science fiction novelist, does that affect how you approach your work?

Kim Stanley Robinson: Well, I’ve been saying this for a number of years: that now we’re all living in a science fiction novel together, a book that we co-write. A lot of what we’re experiencing now is unsurprising because we’ve been prepped for it by science fiction. But I don’t think surrealism is the right way to put it. Surrealism is so often a matter of dreamscapes, of things becoming more than real – and, as a result, more sublime. You think, maybe, of J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World, and the way that he sees these giant catastrophes as a release from our current social set-up: catastrophe and disaster are aestheticized and looked at as a miraculous salvation from our present reality. But it wouldn’t really be like that. ]

Just the sort of thing I am thinking about, re my mess-in-progress. While the limburger&co bellow "global climate change is a liberal scam to get taxpayers' dollars into their own pockets!"

Friday, December 14, 2007

From the New Hobsbawm

From the galley of On Empire: America, War and Global Supremacy; March 18, 2008; Pantheon Books, this from the chapter titled, "War, Peace, and Hegemony at the Beginning of the 21st Century" -- note, Eric Hobsbawm does not write in the first person in the other parts of this essay, or address the reader, as he does here:

[ Frankly, I can't make sense of what has happened in the United States since 9/11 that has enabled a group of political crazies to realize long-held plans for an unaccompanied solo performance of world supremacy. I believe it indicates a growing crisis within American society, which finds expression in the most profound political and cultural division within that country since the Civil War, and a sharp geographical division between the globalized economy of the two seaboards, and the vast resentful hinterland, the cuturally open big cities, and the rest of the country. Today a radical right-wing regime seeks to mobilize "true Americans" against some evil outside force and against a world that does not recognize the uniqueness, the superiority, the manifest destiny of America. What we must realize is that American global policy is aimed inward, not outward, howver great and runinous its impact on the rest of the world. It is not designed to produce either empire or effective hegemony. Nor was the Donald Rumsfeld doctrine -- quick wars against weak pushovers followed by quick withdrawals -- designed for effective global conquest. Not that this makes it less dangerous. On the contrary. As is now evident, it spells instability, unpredictability, aggression, and unintended, almost certainly disastrous, consequences. In effect, the global ambitions of an uncontrollable and apparently irrational government in Washington. ]

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Seas of Blood

Craig Unger -- what he heard on a trip to the Holy Land with lehaye and about 90 evangelicals:

[ As LaHaye sees it, the word "secular" is not merely a morally neutral term that means "worldly." It means "ungodly," and, in his view, there are godly people--who are on the road to Rapture--and then there is the rest of the world, which is either complicit with the Anti-Christ, or, worse, actively assisting him. As a result, LaHaye argues, good evangelicals should no longer think of humanists merely as harmless citizens who just happen not to attend church. "We must remove all humanists from public office," he writes, "and replace them with pro-moral political leaders."

These views may sound extreme, but that does not mean they are marginal. The Council for National Policy, a powerful but secretive umbrella group founded by LaHaye more than 25 years ago, has had extraordinary access to the Oval Office during the Bush-Cheney era. As the late Jerry Falwell told me in 2005, "Within the Council is a smaller group called the Arlington Group. We often call the White House and talk to Karl Rove while we are meeting. Everyone takes our calls." Falwell added that they were consulted on crucial issues such as Supreme Court nominees.

Reports of the death of the Christian Right have been greatly exaggerated. This time around, their man is Huckabee. ]

The rapturists testify to how they eagerly await the seas of blood when the billions of non-christians are killed.

The Dems' Forum Today in Iowa

Such a difference from yesterday and the gops' forum of angry and mean mean all terrified of everything from US to immigrants to THEM and the future, and howling about religion in government and schools and everywhere as the only answser to everything. And getting rid of the income tax in favor of a flat tax on EVERYTHING (meaning when you pay your gas and electricity bills you pay another 23 - 30 cent per dollar) and getting rid of everything federally funded from education to social security (which we've funded, but nevermind).

In contrast, the Dems all sounded sound, intelligent, informed, committed, courageous, energetic and -- lordessa save us, even optimistic, while not pretending that that challenges are nearly beyond counting and enormous. They sounded ready to take on these challenges and eager to do so.

Of course, Dennis Kucinich was barred from participating because he didn't have a campaign team on the ground in Iowa -- or something equally bogus.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

GOP Iowa 'Debate'

More and more it looks as though this nation's movers&shakers are on the way to declaring a lack of health insurance to not be a health problem but a crime.

The only response to the problems of health care in this nation is to force everyone to have health insurance.

Hello? People don't have health insurance because they can't afford it. Declaring it mandatory doesn't change the fact that people can't afford health insurance.

Not to mention that health insurance charges more and more and more and pays for less and less and less.

IOW, another way to transfer your money to the corporate fat cats. Man, by now, they really must all just be pushed around in lorries, considering how fat they are.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Mystery Found On The Street

The mystery about this find is here. The cord is of some synthetic material. It wasn't broken, but melted, which presumably is the reason the Cuban tres pesos coin was on the street now, not around the neck of whomever was wearing it. Why was it melted off? Why there? Who did it? The person to whom it belonged? Who was s/he? Why was it removed?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

"Electoral College" Copyrighted by NeoCon Clothing Company

If I understood that correctly.

Got to this new blog site, "It's All One Thing" and check out the "Copyright Trumps Free Speech."

Another tactic in the strategy to change the states' electoral college rules AND shut down all public protest against this.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Female Genital Mutilation - Yet Another Debate

Do non-practicioners have any right to criticize this practice and attempt to end it? Is this practice really bad for women at all, or isn't merely western cultural colonial point-of-view? Some African women, who are anthropologists, are currently presenting a different perspective.

These women seem to have voluntarily undergone the ritual in their home regions, as adult women choosing for themselves, which, I would think, have a different effect and reception upon those who are choosing to experience the practice as physically mature women, with all the rights of being American citizens, with full cultural-anthropological knowledge, than it is upon those it was forced upon as infants, children and pubescents, all with the spoken or unspoken enforcement of ostracization, inability to be married, etc. if not mutilated -- in other words you must be mutilated to be part of the group. Inside the group is protection (as far as that goes these days); outside the group there is nothing for you other than prostitution and degradation. While with the more severe forms of fgm, you have massive infection, sterility and / or fistula. (The number of African somen suffering from fistula is enormous, and far higher than anywhere else, and is directly connected to severe fgm.)

Dr. Ahmadu, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Chicago, writes:

[ It is difficult for me — considering the number of ceremonies I have observed, including my own — to accept that what appears to be expressions of joy and ecstatic celebrations of womanhood in actuality disguise hidden experiences of coercion and subjugation. Indeed, I offer that the bulk of Kono women who uphold these rituals do so because they want to — they relish the supernatural powers of their ritual leaders over against men in society, and they embrace the legitimacy of female authority and particularly the authority of their mothers and grandmothers. ]

The article about this conference, with links to the writing / work of the African anthropologists - apologists for fgm, is in the NY Science Times here. The discussion thread following the article should also be read.

And, as it inevitably does in any discussion of female genital mutilation, the practice gets called circumcision, and becomes skewed to discussing of male circumcision, and then gets compared to vanity-cosmetic surgeries among non-African women.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

New Hobsbawm on the Way!

On EmpireAmerica, War, and Global Supremacy, written by Eric Hobsbawm.

Unreconstructed marxist who has lived through just about everything he's been writing about over his very long life-career.

Vaquero and I have read his works aloud to each other for many years -- coz, well, he's been doing his work for so long. So we haven't read them all to each other. Vaquero, however, who has better eyes than I do, has actually read all the volumes, in sequence, of Hobsbawm's marxist analysis of the history through which he's lived.

An astounding career, and mind.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Listen Again! Tonight ....

The reading and roundtable discussion observing the publication of the first of the Experience Music Project's anthologies of participants' writing about music is tonight.

Vaquero's presentation will be on the Cuban Cha-Cha-Cha and its influence on pop music. He will even dance to illustrate what he's talking about. Trust me folks, that is not to be missed.

The event is free, though you do need to rsvp at 1-212-992-8405.

It's at the Kimmel Center, NYU, 60 Washington Square So., #914, at 7:30.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Legal But Unpopular Political Activism

Bringing the War on Terrorism Home: Congress Considers How to ‘Disrupt’ Radical Movements in the United States

[ Many observers fear that the proposed law will be used against U.S.-based groups engaged in legal but unpopular political activism, ranging from political Islamists to animal-rights and environmental campaigners to radical right-wing organizations. There is concern, too, that the bill will undermine academic integrity and is the latest salvo in a decade-long government grab for power at the expense of civil liberties.

David Price, a professor of anthropology at St. Martin's University who studies government surveillance and harassment of dissident scholars, says the bill "is a shot over the bow of environmental activists, animal-rights activists, anti-globalization activists and scholars who are working in the Middle East who have views that go against the administration." Price says some right-wing outfits such as gun clubs are also threatened because "[they] would be looked at with suspicion under the bill." ]

[ One pressing concern is definitions contained in the bill. For example, "violent radicalization" is defined as "the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change."

Alejandro Queral, executive director of the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center, asks, "What is an extremist belief system? Who defines this? These are broad definitions that encompass so much. ... It is criminalizing thought and ideology." ]

Tell your congress critters NO! to The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 (H.R. 1955) and its companion bill, S. 1959.

You can do so here.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Venezuela Forum Debates: Revolutionary Change in U.S.?

[ A five-day rolling panel discussion on “United States: A possible revolution” was the central event at the third Venezuela International Book Fair, which took place here November 9-18.

The 22 panelists, four or five of whom spoke each day, included political activists and writers from the United States expressing diverse political views, as well as a number of U.S. citizens living in Venezuela. Hundreds of Venezuelans and others took part in one or more sessions, with dozens raising questions and making comments from the floor. The forum was covered by Venezuelan television, radio, and newspapers. The issues debated on the character of the working class and prospects for revolution in the United States sparked a political discussion that permeated the book fair. An article on the fair itself will appear in next week’s Militant. ]

More here.

Friday, November 23, 2007

More To Do In Our Town

The African Diaspora Film Festival.

The African Diaspora Film Festival kicks off today, "reflecting the global black experience: 102 films from 43 countries in a 17-day arc of documentaries, comedies, musicals, dramas and romances."

[ The New York premieres include John Sayles’s new film, “Honeydripper,” the tale of a rural Alabama lounge owner’s efforts to save his business, starring Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Stacy Keach and Mary Steenburgen. “El Cimarrón” by the Puerto Rican director Iván Dariel Ortiz tells a story of love and slavery in Puerto Rico in the 19th century. “Youssou N’Dour: Return to Goree,” directed by Pierre Yves-Borgeaud, is a documentary about a jazz concert on the island of Goree in Senegal featuring Mr. N’Dour, the renowned Senegalese singer, to commemorate all the Africans stolen from there and brought to the New World as slaves. ]

About the directors ( I find what Dr. Barroso-Spech says re film in Cuba when he was a child to be of particular interest):

[ Dr. Barroso-Spech was born in Cuba of Haitian and Jamaican descent and received his doctorate from Columbia, where he teaches a course on using film in language education. His mother began taking him to films when he was a child in Havana, he recalled. “With the Castro revolution many Africans came to Cuba and with the Africans, film,” he said. “Those films were very important in my formative years. It created in me an understanding of the value of art and culture as a way to uplift me — and not just me, but a whole population.”

Ms. N’Daw-Spech is of French and Malian heritage. Together, the two now comb film festivals around the world for black images that speak about both common human experiences and the particulars of race. ]

The schedule and more information are here.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hot 8 Brass Band:

They are up from New Orleans, playing several venues including an 11:30 set at Joe's Pub Saturday, a few songs at Monday's Lincoln Center tree-lighting; and a workshop/discussion, with Jazz writer, Larry Blumenfeld, at Harlem's Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts on Tuesday.

Larry's also got a nice article about them in the Village Voice.

Tomorrow night, SOB's is having Bobby Sanabría's group playing. They are just back from a gig in England. They went on one of the venerable English television music programs -- with The Who. They met the guys and were very impressed. Bobby said via e-mail that The Who kicked major ass. "They are filled with ashé," he said. We are probably going to do this when we get back into the City after dinner with friends upstate.

So it is time for me to check on the cherry glazed pork roast I'm contributing to the feast.

Cherry-Glazed Pork Roast

14-ounces cherry preserves
1/4 cup red wine (or to your own taste!)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
3 pound boneless pork roast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Combine first seven ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 2 minutes. Add almonds. Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper. Place roast, fat side up, on rack in a shallow roasting pan. Bake, uncovered, at 325°F for 45 minutes or until browned. Brush with cherry mixture; turn roast, and brush with cherry mixture. Insert meat thermometer, making sure it does not touch fat.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

James Brown Conference

There's going to be a James Brown conference at Princeton (You knew you would live long enough to see this happen) November 29-30.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Letter Re Cuba

{Foxessa here: I strongly recommend going to and scrolling thrugh the list of those who have signed on to this letter.

It's an impressive group, running from Vaquero, to Gloria Steinem, to Gore Vidal, to Sean Penn, to Mickey Hart, to Erica D. Zielinski, General Manager, Lincoln Center Festival.

Do you realize that there have been no Cuban artists or musicians allowed into the U.S. since 2003? And we are certainly not allowed to go there. This letter and signatory list of names is in support of a letter by Alicia Alonso, on the occasion of once again, bringing the issue of the Embargo Against Cuba, the vote of the United Nations. }

Friday, November 16, 2007

2 Nights At The Whitney - Second Night

"Slavery is not a fit subject for children."
This is the beginning of a section I wrote for The World That Made New Orleans that attempts to explain why so few white Americans have any real sense of what slavery here in this country was for those enslaved, for those who owned the slaves, and for everyone else too. The Whitney's show of a ten-year arc of Kara Walker's work, My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love, takes head on this subject so unfit for children. One of the great consequences of slavery are children, products of coerced sex with slave women by their owners, children raised by slaves, children separated from their families and friends, children who are taught that one is superior forever, and one who is taught s/he's little more, maybe even less than an animal, forever, in the regard of the rulers of the world. Images of fornication, birth, babies, small children, twisted into every possible configuration, are present in all 7 sections that make up this show of Walker's work at the Whitney, images of love, hate, lust, murder and contempt. It's all about submission and dominance, in any form one can imagine, for that is what slavery is. There is no pretending otherwise.
As an early critic of Walker's art expressed her aethetics as "looking like a cross between a children's book and a sexually explicit cartoon." History is always the backdrop to the 'stories,' the self-conscious narratives she tells. However, history is also inevitably intwined with fact and fantasy, with romance and fiction. She draws from text narrative fiction and fantasies as much as the mode of her work draws upon art modes of the past, such as her justly famous cut-paper Silhouettes. This was a popular art in which the sisters Peabody excelled, of whom one narried Nathaniel Hawthorn, and another had expected that she might marry him first. just from this knowledge you know there is a high quotient of the gothic present in Walker's work. Another favorite popular entertainment form from the 19th C Walker likes are panoramic murals.
An example of a Walker panoramic mural is titled:
Slavery! Slavery! Presenting a GRAND and LIFELIKE Panoramic Journeyi nto Picturesque Southern Slavery or "Life at 'Ol' Virginny's Hole' (sketches from Plantation Life)" See the Peculiar Institution as never before! All cut from black paper by the able hand of Kara Elizabeth Walker, and Emancipated Negress, and leader in her Cause, the artist reinvents Eastman Johnson's painting Old Kentucky Home -- Life in the South (Negro Life at the South (1859).
You can see the Johnson painting here. Her imagery specifically quotes that of the white painter, in which you see ambiguous depiction of idleness (of the 'negroes' of course) and interracial interactions -- "a white mistress enters the yard of the slave quarters and finds a man playing the banjo while a child dances with his mother." Walker renders this as a gothic, carnivaleque scene, verging into the grotesque (Goya, particularly his Caprices are another deep influence upon Walker's work, which is more prominent in her drawings in another section of the show).
It too, like Lawrence's, is a huge show. The crowd for this night was different in composition than the dinner night. For one thing, there were people of color present, though, surprisingly to me at least, not anywhere the number I expected. It was more obviously 'bohemian,' for another. And it was HUGE. More and more people arrived as the three hours of the viewing went on. Again, excellent liquor and snacks, though no servers this time. In the last hour other celebrities that one might reasonably expect to see at an event like this in NYC appeared too. One of the actors from The Wire arrived -- it's because we know him that we recognized him, otherwise I wouldn't have, probably. I'm terrible at that.
Now, I love this artist's work. For one thing, it references so much of 'my stuff,' from the illustrations of Uncle Tom's Cabin, to minstrelsy and blackface appropriation, to the American 19th C gothic Romanticism, to history, to slave narratives and novels -- 19th century American Victoriana, all filtered through the institution of American slavery of the 18th and 19th century -- Thomas Dixon's The Klansman, from which came Griffith's vile The Birth of a Nation.
Others did not like it. The material is so strong, and so disturbing. In particular "African America, Narrative 5". I heard a (white) fellow say to his 2 female companions, "Let's go look at the Hoppers and see some good American art." This one is a combination of black-and-white film and video set of 8 different narratives, one of which is a re-telling of Disney's Song of the South. Another one shows a white man hoisted by a rope up a tree, brought to life by a young negro boy sucking his cock, and the come shot is all over his face -- which carrodes away the face all together. This was way too much for a lot of people.
However, not everyone who dislikes her work is white. One of my African American friends, and her sister, went to the show yesterday and they hate it. "She's been doing this shit for 10 years now and she's still doing the same thing." Another of my African American friends feels much more like I do, but then, like me, she's deeply involved in history.
So then. How do you get from Kara Walker to Lawrence? She's on the 3rd floor, he's on the 4th. You take the elevator, of course. And if you go, you should take the middle elevator, because in that one is played the music from the albums, Monsters from the Deep and Ships At Sea, Sailors and Shoes, that Ned made from Lawrence's art, with musicians and singers out of the many great popular musics that African Americans have made in this country, and which have spread around the world. And when you get to one floor from the other, you will encounter deep intelligence, deep knowledge of the world and of the human heart, you will find sly and slick humor, a sense of the comic, and a great deal of love. And ego. What strikes me most of all is how Lawrence, being male, has had no trouble and no questioning of his RIGHT to make his art, just as he wishes to. Walker, being female, has had, and receives, a great deal of criticism for making art just as she wishes to. She has the extra hurdle to get over, that of 'the presumption' of a woman creating universes out of her choice, where Lawrence does not.
But the path to reconcilliation, at least, is through music, as it always has been in this country, and in almost all of our personal experience.
Walker herself says , "I don't know how much I believe in redemptive stories, even though people want them and strive for them . . . ."
But she's provided us something, and it may just be more honest than redemption, and perhaps more whole, and more inclusive.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

2 Nights At The Whitney - First Night

The first night was the viewing of the Lawrence Weiner retrospective (a sample of his work here on the left), plus the dinner party. The appetizers were ample, imaginative and varied and every one of them was delicious. The servers brought you another one before you'd finished chewing and swallowing the the tidbit currently in your mouth. The wines were excellent, and someone was offering to replenish your glass before you even thought about going to one of ghe bars to get another. The dinner was very far from what people often expect at such event -- all of it was very good, beautifully served. The entrée, as the main course is called in the U.S., was billed as "Grilled Steakhouse Tournedo of Beef, Topped with caramelized onions and Frizzled Yams, Horseradish Mustard Sauce, Sweet Roast Garlic Smashed Potatoes, Tarragon Creamed Spinach."
The show is spectacular. We've known Lawrence for many years, and Vaquero has done several projects with him. Nevertheless, to see that much Lawrence work gathered in one place left one breathless. It took quite some time for me to 'get' Lawrence's work -- he is one of the major and founding figures of the Conceptual Art movement. It is deeply intellectual in that manner you will encounter only in the art world, that brings together physics, chemistry, geometry, optics and philosophy -- very etherial and difficult things for an ignorant, mostly self-educated farm girl to grasp.
He has become one of my favorite living artists now. Perhaps that was inevitable as he's one of those artists with whose work I have lived intimately for so long. I mean 'intimately' literally. For his art is constructed of words -- "The Work Need Not Be Built" -- is a part of Lawrence's works that Vaquero built a song of, with Kim Westen, great r&b singer, from Detroit, and other great music artists, including Junior Mance, the Persuasions, and other classic performers of jazz, r&b, gospel, and other classic musics. The words, inscribed on card stock, addressed to us and sent through the mail, along with other cards of Lawrence's work, was on our refrigerator door for months and months and months, fastened there by a humble magnet, while Vaquero would play with them on his guitar, trying out "Some of this, Some of that," (part of another Lawrence work). These songs can be found on Monsters From the Deep, and on their first album, Ships at Sea, Sailors and Shoes.
Thus, since he's a deep-dyed sexist of the old school (he is my friend, but nevertheless, you have to call them as you see them), and a member of the highly intellectualized art movement, you might expect his art to be cold and abstract. But the impact of seeing his life's work in one very large, intense viewing is of heat and warmth, of joy and humor. The entire night was filled with all of these, because everyone there was personally connected to Lawrence and his work in one way or another, and many of us know each other through him, and through working with each other. The dinner was as different from the Richard Price experience at the Guggenheim in September as you can get. Lawrence kept getting up and talking to people -- the place was crowded, but he didn't miss a table. Other people got up to talk to each other. People were nicely dressed, and they were all attractive, but nobody was wearing 100,000 dollars on their backs, hands and feet, as at the Prince show. Instead of having a prolonged and dull sequence of speeches of thanks and praise, there would be short ones between courses, and most of these were devoted to thanking specific people, people everyone in the room knew, and understood why they were getting special recognition. Above all, everyone gave the deepest thanks and appreciation to Alice, Lawrence's long, long-time partner. At one point we all just stood up and applauded Alice for what seemed ten minutes, and each one of us had particular knowledge of something she'd accomplished for Lawrence, that deserved that applause. I just loved that.
Like all of Vaquero's closest friends, Lawrence is another one who keeps all the people in his life close, no matter how far back it may go. His ex-wife, whom he left in 1969, was even there ....
So, then, you may wonder, how ever in the world is the Whitney connecting this most masculine of intellectual artists -- moreover I don't think I saw a single person there Tuesday night who was a person of color -- with Kara Walker, an artist who deals unflinchingly with the most messy sins of men, women, race, history and perception. in a double-star exhibition?
I will try to answer that in my next post. But one of the ways they are connected are through those two albums mentioned above, that Vaquero and Lawrence made -- note who all the performers, excluding Vaquero, are.

Bruce Springsteen on America

Bruce Springsteen on America

from radio producer Mike Stark of Lakewood CA:

In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Bruce Springsteen talks about his view of America today and what is in our future. I've pulled some of his key segments from the article - the points that rang truest for me. It is troubling that a guy who's primarily viewed as an entertainer makes more sense than ANY politician out there today. "Shut Up and Sing", indeed.

Bruce Springsteen Says:

On America today:
I’m optimistic as far as people go and pessimistic as far as the government goes, for pretty clear reasons. In 2006, the American people said “Throw these bums out!” They would have voted Bush out at that moment if they could have. There was a clear message about the war in Iraq, and yet we sit here today with no front-running presidential candidate on either side who’s going to take us out of there.......To think that the country could veer this far rightward or that no one has addressed poverty since Lyndon Johnson – with the exception of John Edwards, who makes it a big part of his campaign – I find that disappointing. I don’t believe you can create a great society, a real American civilization, with an enormous percentage of the people in the country suffering, left out, disempowered. And isn’t that what we’re trying to do? Wasn’t that the idea when those guys sat down at the start?

On the Internet:
There’s a democratizing effect to the Internet, but it has a runaway dynamic of its own that makes you very frightened. On one hand, there’s enormous access to information. On the other hand, there’s so much damn noise, you can’t find it. There’s an enormous amount of nonsense and idiocy.

I think what it calls for is new skills to be taught to children, interpretive-media skills. The educational system hasn’t caught up with some of the essential changes in technology.....There needs to be classes in those things that begin with children at a very young age. Otherwise, there’ll be the recurrence of a lot of what we’ve experienced over the past few years, where bold lies come off as truth. From here on in, the fight against the Orwellian nature of things is going to be a constant battle. The only thing that’s going to help that is an educated and wised-up citizenry. You need a bunch of optimistic skeptics out there.

On issues facing America over the next 20 years:
Race, poverty – those things get lost, and not unintentionally, through the use of other issues. There is an issue with national security that’s real. But the movement has been toward a plutocracy. People say, “We’re in a second Gilded Age.” There’s a price to pay for that. It weakens the foundation of the country, and it denies us freedoms, denies us connection with our own neighbors and citizens. Those are big issues that have failed to be addressed for so many years.

Race and poverty clearly are major issues. And what’s so disappointing is that they were major issues forty and fifty years ago, yet at least then they were part of the national conversation. It feels as though the conversation about those things has stopped at this point.

I’ll tell you when it wasn’t stopped – when a guy that doesn’t care that much about it had to say something about it. When people turned on the television during Hurricane Katrina and said, “Where did all those poor people come from?” And why wasn’t it stopped then? Because you were seeing them. This is an explosive issue that is hidden on a daily basis intentionally by the dynamics of the system. And you could feel its explosiveness when you saw those images, those people. The president had to come out and say, “Uh . . . we’ve got to do something about that poverty.” Then that was the last you heard of it. It shamed people. It shamed him. Not easy to do. It shamed us as Americans. Those are issues that need to be addressed.

How do you think this time will be remembered forty years from now?
Many parts of it will be remembered with the same degree of shame as the Japanese internment camps are remembered – illegal wiretapping, rendition, the abuse of prisoners, cutting back our civil rights, no habeas corpus. I don’t think most people thought they’d ever see the country move far enough to the right to see those things happen here. And I don’t believe those are things that strengthen us. The moral authority to stand up and say, “We are the Americans,” is invaluable. It’s been deeply damaged, and it’s going to take quite a while to repair that damage, if we can.

This will be remembered as a low point in American history – as simple as that. People are going to go, “Was everybody sleeping?” But people get frightened, and when they get frightened, they get crazy. You wonder where political hysteria can take you – I think we’ve tasted some of that.
All I want to do is be one of the guys that says, “When that stuff was going down, I threw my hat in the ring and tried to stand on what I felt was the right side of history.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Making of Hillary Clinton

The first of a 3- part series on Counterpunch went up today:

From Nixon Girl to Watergate


HRC and the Arkansas Elite.

Bridge No Place for Free Speech

[ In the genteel world of bridge, disputes are usually handled quietly and rarely involve issues of national policy. But in a fight reminiscent of the brouhaha over an anti-Bush statement by Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks in 2003, a team of women who represented the United States at the world bridge championships in Shanghai last month is facing sanctions, including a yearlong ban from competition, for a spur-of-the-moment protest.

At issue is a crudely lettered sign, scribbled on the back of a menu, that was held up at an awards dinner and read, “We did not vote for Bush.”

By e-mail, angry bridge players have accused the women of “treason” and “sedition.”

“This isn’t a free-speech issue,” said Jan Martel, president of the United States Bridge Federation, the nonprofit group that selects teams for international tournaments. “There isn’t any question that private organizations can control the speech of people who represent them.”

Not so, said Danny Kleinman, a professional bridge player, teacher and columnist. “If the U.S.B.F. wants to impose conditions of membership that involve curtailment of free speech, then it cannot claim to represent our country in international competition,” he said by e-mail. ]

More at the NY Times story.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer Has Died.

Norman Mailer the writer has been a part of my awareness since high school, when my then dearly beloved English teacher loaned me his copy of The Naked and the Dead, and on hot, dull, summer afternoons, read his long, fascinating articles in old issues of magazines like Life, sprawled out on one of the beds down in my maternal grandparents' basement.

Oh those basements of the houses in town to which both sets of grandparents had retired, after lives of endless, constant farm work. How much eclectic past was collected in those basements, family and county, state and nation, and the world's. How much information I gleaned about those worlds before my time, and the world outside our little nowherelandia, so very very isolated from what I early began to think of as "the real world." I pawed through stacks of mildewed books and magazines, boxes of letters, greeting cards for holidays, birthdays, baptisms and funerals, albums of photographs and trunks of treasured dresses and jewelry from other times, collection of carefully washed medicine bottles, all of it equally mysterious, and somehow, glamorous, because all of it was from a time now gone.

Mailer was a great writer. Perhaps not as great as he intended to be or wished to be. But he was a writer of elemental force, perhaps the last of such writers. He was the first to open many worlds to me -- many of them worlds I wish were not so, such as men seeing women as their primal, primary antagonists, the holders and withholders of sex. That was a difficult concept to grasp for a girl who, as yet, had no idea what sex even was, but instinctively I got the message that this was something I needed to understand, if only as self protection. That is how good a writer he was.

As a child and young adult, down in my grandparents' basements, pondering the flotsam and jetsam so carefully collected and preserved of worlds that I did not inhabit, I began to understand that these basements preserved stories, and that stories could be, and were, connected to each other, and it was by writing that we were best able to learn those stories, and preserve them.

Mailer said, not too long before his death, "I think the novel is on the way out. I also believe, because it’s natural to take one’s own occupation more seriously than others, that the world may be the less for that.”

So do I.

Rest in peace, Norman Mailer.

Friday, November 9, 2007


This fall, Culture Project will launch an ambitious and unique new series gathering today's most brilliant and visionary minds to explore and debate the case for the impeachment of President George Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney. A Question of Impeachment will engage audiences in investigating crucial issues affecting all Americans, particularly as they prepare to elect a new leader, including expansion of executive powers, war, surveillance, torture and extraordinary rendition and government response to disaster.
The 5 week series will launch on Sunday, November 18, 2007 (in conjunction with the previously announced production of Howard Zinn's Rebel Voices) with a special opening celebration featuring singer and actress Phoebe Snow and Annabella Sciorra, and continue Sundays and Mondays through Sunday, December 16, 2007.
Sundays will be focused on addressing the issues through film, theater and other art forms. Film screenings will take place at 12:00 p.m. and will include a special cut of Jonathan Demme's forthcoming film about rebuilding after Katrina, Right to Return on December 2. Khaliah Ali, Bobby Cannavale, Scott Cohen, Staceyann Chin, Willie Garson, Gina Gershon, Julie Goldman, Josh Hamilton, Kristen Johnston, Lewis Lapham, Adam Rapp, Denis O'Hare, Sam Shepard and many others will be on hand to read sections of the Constitution, Articles of Impeachment and other documents throughout the series.
In addition, Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik (authors of Broadway's Spring Awakening) will perform new songs and Jorie Graham and will contribute new poems to be read during the series. Singer and songwriter Jackson Browne will participate in the series' final event on December 16 .
Films: $7
Gen Admission Lecture Slam (Nov. 18): $16
Opening: $25, $50 premium seating
Monday nights: $25, $50 premium
Closing afternoon (Article V): $25, $50 premium
Closing evening (panel w Naomi Wolf): $25-$50
For more details or to purchase tickets contact

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Conservative Authors Sue Publisher

However, most conservative book publishing does sell in big job lots, working the same street as does Scientology, ordering its members to buy large numbers of Hubbard's work to get the title on the best seller lists. So these authors think they've sold more books than they really have. In any case, neocon writers, welcome to Your Capitalism At Work For You!

[ Five authors have sued the parent company of Regnery Publishing, a Washington imprint of conservative books, charging that the company deprives its writers of royalties by selling their books at a steep discount to book clubs and other organizations owned by the same parent company. ]

[ Some of the authors’ books have appeared on the New York Times best-seller list, including “Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry,” by Mr. Corsi and John E. O’Neill (who is not a plaintiff in the suit), Mr. Patterson’s “Dereliction of Duty: The Eyewitness Account of How Bill Clinton Compromised America’s National Security” and Mr. Miniter’s “Shadow War: The Untold Story of How Bush Is Winning the War on Terror.” In the lawsuit the authors say that Eagle sells or gives away copies of their books to book clubs, newsletters and other organizations owned by Eagle “to avoid or substantially reduce royalty payments to authors.” ]

City of Widows

City of Widows: An Iraqi Woman's Account of War and Resistance by Haifa Zangana.

Ms. Zangana is an Iraqi political commentator, novelist, and former political prisoner of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

She is solid in her declaration that she, like everyone else in Iraq, wants the U.S. OUT OF IRAQ NOW. When interviewers respond, "But won't that create chaos?" Her answer is, "We are living, we have been living, in chaos for years already."

Further she lays out a very strong case -- and she is one of the millions of Iraqi women she speaks of here -- that the U.S. occupation has set back the status of women in that region a thousand years. She estimates that in Baghdad alone there are 300,000 widows, and likely a million more in the country outside.

Her interviewer wondered, "The picture you are giving of Iraq and the war is very different than what we are getting here. Why is that, do you suppose?" "Because there is no free press in Iraq," she answers.

He further says {Fox's sarcasm mode is now switched ON} with the greatest of sympathy and sensitivity, "Americans aren't really noticing these things. I suppose they are worn out by the war." Her restraint in response was remarkable.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

There Are Books!

The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square is now available to the World At Large. As a Real Book, with jacket, pages, illustrations and lots of interesting, illuminating words.


Ed Sanders, Mark Bingham - Poems for New Orleans

When Vaquero was in New Orleans in May, he had the honor of putting a guitar track on Mark Bingham's music for this fine album. The album's built around an epic historical poem about New Orleans by Ed Sanders, of whom Vaquero's been a fan of since back in the day. Sanders's poem is really good, and Mark's score is worthy of it. It's on the poetry-oriented label Paris Records.

Full notes, and streaming excerpts, are here.

Here's a review from the New Orleans magazine, Offbeat, by Bill Lavender.

Ed Sanders
Poems for New Orleans

[ Each of us who lived through Katrina has a story. There are a million possible narratives of personal loss, anger, and grief. It seems ironic, then, that Ed Sanders, the Beat poet from New York City, author of Tales of Beatnik Glory and co-founder of the Fugs, who was not personally affected by the storm, would be the one to produce the epic spoken word CD, Poems for New Orleans.

These poems, read in Sanders’ mellifluous voice and accompanied by Mark Bingham’s musical score, lack what almost every other narrative of the city’s decimation has had: an “I.” The first person pronoun enters these poems only when Sanders assumes the voice of another, or of the city itself. But perhaps it is because Sanders has no personal Katrina experience to relate that he can tell the story as a tragedy of history, a tragedy of a city, a nation, and a people.

The first poem and longest piece tells the story of the Battle of New Orleans focusing on Lemoine Lebage, a Haitian émigré schooled in the ideals of the French Revolution who joined Andrew Jackson’s motley crew of militias for the battle. He was wounded and, according to the poem, treated on the battlefield by Marie Laveau. The poem fast forwards to Grace Lebage, “his great-great-great-great granddaughter” and her frustrated attempt to save the family home. Her struggle with the now familiar bureaucratic roadblocks and governmental callousness becomes the symbol of all of our struggles to bounce back from the storm.

Sanders’ tragedy has a classic tinge. He refers to the Greek tragedian Aeschylus, and the flood becomes the Waters of Poseidon. The redneck trucker who, on a drunken whim, drives to Hope, Arkansas and liberates a load of FEMA trailers from bureaucratic gridlock, has a Bull of Minos (the Minotaur) on the grill of his truck. Post-storm violence and rape invokes the myth of Ajax and Cassandra. These allusions lend the story a timelessness that reveals the tragedy in its true scope, so much larger than any individual’s place in it.

Still, the crowning achievement of the work may be Mark Bingham’s score. Spoken word often features musical accompaniment, but Bingham’s work on Poems for New Orleans surely sets a new standard for the hybrid genre. The composition seamlessly weaves in Dixieland, jazz, brass and even a Stravinsky-like orchestral theme that depicts the approach of the storm. Sanders’ work, in the tradition of the Beats, eschews regular meter and rhyme, but Bingham finds its irregular music at every turn, creating a fabric of New Orleanian musical motifs that seem, sometimes, filtered through a watery distortion. It is as if the city, on confronting the possibility of its end, sees its history pass by in a surreal pastiche.

It’s too bad that no New Orleans writer has produced a Katrina-related work of the scope of Poems for New Orleans. But, after the political and financial betrayal by the rest of the nation, it is gratifying to receive this homage from a poet of Sanders’ talent and stature. Poems for New Orleans is as heartfelt and ambitious a project as has come out of the storm, and perhaps those of us who have our own stories to tell can learn something from a poet who records, with empathy and sensitivity, the story of city and a culture, rather than an individual. ]

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Whedon Returns, With Dushko, and "Dollhouse"

[ Whedon's new Fox series, called Dollhouse, stars Miss Eliza Dushku, best known as Faith to you Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans. And this show isn't just a pilot. It's already been given a seven-episode commitment by Fox.
Here's how Fox describes the series:
Echo (Eliza Dushku) [is] a young woman who is literally everybody's fantasy. She is one of a group of men and women who can be imprinted with personality packages, including memories, skills, language—even muscle memory—for different assignments. The assignments can be romantic, adventurous, outlandish, uplifting, sexual and/or very illegal. When not imprinted with a personality package, Echo and the others are basically mind-wiped, living like children in a futuristic dorm/lab dubbed the Dollhouse, with no memory of their assignments—or of much else. The show revolves around the childlike Echo's burgeoning self-awareness, and her desire to know who she was before, a desire that begins to seep into her various imprinted personalities and puts her in danger both in the field and inclosely monitored confines of the Dollhouse.
So, how did Dollhouse come about? When will it start, given the impending strike? And what are the chances a few Buffy alums might make it onto the show? To find out, read on for my exclusive one-on-one Q&As with creator and executive producer Joss Whedon and star and producer Eliza Dushku. (Pinch me.) You honestly won't believe how fast this all happened, or where the idea first began! ]
The discussion about Dollhouse on Feminist SF - The Blog has raised some issues.
For example, this, from Ide Cyan:
[ Even creepier is the fact that these “childlike” characters, mind-wiped and “imprinted” to be anyone’s fantasy, obviously do not have the ability to consent to these jobs, thus turning any sexual assignments into rape. ]
I've always have gotten a bad taste re what has looked like Whedon's predeliction for girly sex-bots and other perfect and perfectly compliant female forms, as they recurred more often than seemed seemly on Buffy, and he included one in Serenity.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bush Authoritarianism: Blackwater+Amway=GOP

This is a series that's been running in Daily Kos, of which four parts have appeared so far, apparently with more to come.

There are numerous hyperlinks in the original. The author rejects the term "fascism," preferring the clumsy "bush authoritarianism." Vaquero says it's got to be "bushismo", which says the same thing, but comes more trippingly from the tongue and with fewer keystrokes.

What is most interesting in some ways that comes out of this series is how it links blackwater with amway. yes.

The series really doesn't hit its stride until part 3, getting to the "prosperity gospel" -- god wants you to be rich . . . that is muchly part of blackwater prince's doctrine.

From part 1:

[ ...the essence of fascist states, the binding characteristic that existed in all fascist system, was that the state was supreme, or at least had primacy over all other institutions. A company like Blackwater, which takes money from federal tax revenues and provides military services for profit would most likely not exist in a fascist system. Instead, Blackwater represents the extension of a highly authoritarian force that’s an extension of the government, but it exists to turn a profit, and is ultimately not accountable to the federal government. Thus, there’s a form of plunder in which the state exists not to embody a national essence or nationalist strivings, not as a product of laws, but as a means of transferring wealth from the citizens to corporations and individuals largely free of the oversight to which citizens and elected officials are supposed to be able to exercise over government employees and the agencies of the federal government.

I will name this new system Bush Authoritarianism, although George W. Bush is not it’s originator and probably could not describe it with much coherence. In fact, it’s not a coherent ideology as much as a hodge-podge of ideas and movements that have been grafted together, mostly out of political expedience (primarily the need to secure financial and electoral support), greed, and zealotry. Most of these trends pre-date the ascension to the Presidency of George W. Bush. Some of these characteristics explain how the Bush administration came about, and others are an extension of the Bush coalition and the administration’s practice of governance. ]

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

If You're In NYC November 27 - "Listen Again" NYU Roundtable

This is a function connected to the Experience Music Project, the annual conference held in Seattle every spring. There's going to be food and drink and lots of opportunity to meet, greet and schmooze. Was invited to forward this invitation, so I'm not being indiscreet.

"Listen Again" NYU Roundtable Event Nov 27 @ 7:30 pm

The Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University cordially invites you to attend LISTEN AGAIN

A Roundtable Event on Pop Music, Past and Present with Today's Top Music Critics, Journalists and Scholars celebrating the new Duke University Press release Listen Again: a Momentary History of Pop Music, edited by Eric Weisbard.


  • David Brackett

  • Franklin Bruno

  • Daphne Carr

  • Henry Chalfant

  • Holly George-Warren

  • Jason King

  • W.T. Lhamon, Jr.

  • Greil Marcus

  • Benjamin Melendez

  • Mark Anthony Neal

  • Ned Sublette

  • Steve Waksman

  • Eric Weisbard

WHEN: TUESDAY NOVEMBER 27, 7:30-9:30 pm

WHERE: Studio 914, The Kimmel Center for University Life, New York University, 60 Washington Square South at LaGuardia Place and the South end of Washington Square Park

Admission is free, but RSVP is required.


Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Venue is wheelchair-accessible, with a wheelchair-accessible bathroom.

Picture ID is required for entrance to the building.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sometimes Your Heart Will Break

At the library this young man appeared, bewildered and puzzled. He wanted something but didn't have the communication skills to explain what it was. He was sent to the reference librarian, which today wasn't me, but as I was probably the oldest person around he assumed it was me.

He might have been 20. He wanted to know something about the Dominican Republic, but it took a while to figure out what it was. This was the story, as I finally got it:

He'd been in a taxi over the weekend and the driver had mentioned something that evidently hit the guy's curiosity organ hard. The driver had said something like the DR had the oldest medical school in this part of the world. He wanted to find out more information about that. For some reason this excited him deeply, though he's not a Dominican himself.

I just happened to know something on this order, because Vaquero shot a music video there for his "Cowboy Rumba" album, in the ruins of what was the first hospital in Santo Domingo's Old Town that contains the Western Hemisphere's first cathedral, first monastery, first hospital, first university, and its first court of law. "In declaring the city a world heritage site, UNESCO recognized Santo Domingo as the cradle of European civilization in the New World." I told him that Columbus's son had been charge there, while Columbus would go back to Europe looking for more money to fund further explorations (for pillage and rapine, nevermind).

This was the most difficult reference question I've ever answered because the guy's education had been so deficient. He hardly knew who Columbus was. His sense of geography nearly non-existant. A computer isn't the most helpful when it comes to maps for explaining these things, so we found an atlas in a book to assist spatial orientation. He had no idea what to do in a library.

But -- something had excited him, something about which he wanted to know more, and it brought him to a library! I hope in my attempts to figure out what it was he was looking for I didn't ruin that excitement. Finding a history around here that would focus on the Dominican Republic and its early years with the Columbus family isn't easy, whether in Spanish or English. His reading skills are low too. I looked for online things instead, and magazines like the National Geographic, that have lots of photos. Fortunately the library has the CD-ROM National Geographic. Over the years the magazine's done a fair amount on Santo Domingo (the capital of the DR). And he does know how to use CDs etc. So I think I left him with the means to look for whatever it was he was looking for. I don't know if I made him happier. But I hope his experience in the library was unthreatening and pleasant enough to have him come back again, and allow himself to get excited about more things that he does not at this time even know exist.

I just can't help but think of how differently this very young man has been raised from how my 14-year-old friend, the son of our friends. It makes me cry. Because, you know, I don't think my young friend is intrinsically more intelligent, curious than this young man. It's that his opportunities have been so very, very, very great and so very much encouraged in every way, by EVERYONE he interacts with, from his parents, his other relatives, his teachers, and even the friends of his parents. It's just so DAMNED UNFAIR. Every kid should have these opportunities to learn and be enabled to follow her - his curiosity wherever it leads him - her. That this is not so in this country is a crime.

Who Is President?

From Digby

[ I don't know if anyone's noticed, but George W. Bush is being disappeared from the presidential campaign and everyone's running against incumbent Hillary Clinton. Subtly, but relentlessly, the public psyche is being prepared to deny Junior ever existed. And it could work. For many different reasons, most Americans want nothing more than to forget George W. Bush was ever president. So, we see a very odd subliminal narrative taking shape in which the blame for the nation's failures of the last seven years is being shifted to Clinton (and the "do-nothing" Democratic congress) as if the Codpiece hasn't been running things since 2000. (Not that the radical wingnuts haven't always blamed the Clintons for everything, but the disappearing of Bush is a new element.)

I certainly don't blame the Republicans for trying to do it. It makes sense, since their boy is an epic failure and the original Clinton is still very present in people's minds. It will be quite a trick to pull off, but I can see the press already helping them do it. (Naturally.)

It's an interesting phenomenon and one for which I hope the Democratic strategists are prepared. Their underlying theme seems to be, "If you want change, vote Republican!" ]