". . . 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

Thursday, July 31, 2008

New Orleans Jazz Festival On Deer Island, Maine

lobstercrackers social aid & pleasure club by Larry Blumenfeld

The piece features a cast of characters who, by now are old friends, or at least seem to be, including Larry himself. Here's the conclusion:

[ Over the course of the weekend, many of these Down Easters gained more than a passing knowledge of what a second-line is, what this music means, and why right now it both matters and is embattled more than ever. Through a Saturday night benefit, the festival raised some funds for Sweet Home New Orleans. More importantly, it raised awareness and created connections. Several islanders told me of their efforts to aid New Orleans since 2005, including one local who gathered up supplies from anyone who'd contribute, packed up a truck and drove down just weeks after the flood. More than a few people asked me about organizations to contribute to in New Orleans. The Hot 8 members, who were hosted by island residents for their stay, had made a deep impact. Harry Cook -- who, by the way, can disassemble a lobster as artfully as he can take apart a parade beat -- called his hosts mom and dad as he left. He may have been kidding, but the familial closeness of the second-line seemed to register.

"You really do this for four hours," one woman asked Bennie Pete as she wiped the sweat from her brow. He smiled and nodded. "I gotta get down there," she said.

(Photos and video to come - promise.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Grace Jones - Corporate Cannibal

Watch this amazing video here (wish the music were better, but the video -- wow).

A Blog Essay on the video is here.

I Still Have to GO to the Library & Other Trivia

And here's a sample of what I mean by the Yoruba show's poor quality catalog. This is the Elder Woman's staff of power and status that entered my eyes like a lightning bolt. You can't catch even a whiff of the power and glory that this staff embodies. The very top reveals better detail though. I love this woman, with her bead crown hat, topped by hornbill.

I must go to the library, physically, in person. O nos! Do I know how to do this any more?

To find a small run periodical, Rally, from the mid-sixties which published for less than two years and within which the bigoted New Yorker dance critic, Arlene Croce, is reported to have written a vile piece about the brilliant truths embodied within A Birth Of A Nation. This is on no database, and evidently the only place this magazine is available is at the Science, Industry, Business and Law NYPL research facility. So we're lucky that way -- it exists, and it is available to us, without too much trouble. But as I don't know a title or a date I'm going to have to go through these by hand to find it. If, indeed, it exists. It's referred to in other articles about BOAN, but not quoted or cited.

Overheard on the subway platform -- a young woman gestures widely, while speaking to her friend: "And there's all that vampire shit out there too, vampires and zombies, they're everywhere They're even sellin' blood in the stores now for them to drink. These people, they got to learn! This is bad! This is evil! These people gotta listen up! Jesus is comin' any day now, and that will learn 'em."

Woo. That campaign for TruBlood beverage as part of the merchandise tie-in with the promo campaign for the September premiere of Twilight has posters and billboards, and adverts all over town, and especially in the subway now. It is kind of spooky, because it is played for 'realism,' and if you don't know about Twilight this is downright weird.

Maybe they could be outraged by that Nike poster series in the subway too. It's so close to tipping into outright porn that maybe the only way it hasn't fallen in is that they are wearing (some) clothes -- the guys are playing basketball. Finding out it's a Nikes ad isn't easy. It's gross, unless seeing guys' faces all up in other guys' buttocks and crotches is something you enjoy having in your face while riding the subway. If it were women I still probably would find this just about porn, but I wouldn't mind it quite so much. Or maybe I would. Some stuffs have a whole other meaning when they dominate the gaze in the subway.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Yoruba Dreams

A vestment worn by one who is celebrating, calling, Orisa Eshu Elegba.

The Orishas and everything about Yoruba culture is fascinating. You cannot come to the end of it, ever acquire knowledge of it all. For one thing, it isn't a quaint folkloric religion and way of life, but a continually evolving, reacting, active culture and religion.

For instance, this vestment, composed partly of so many cowrie shells, is worn over one shoulder, and though you can't see them here, there are metal bands that keep it in place, much in the same way such bands kept a lyre of a certain sort stable enough to be played with two hands. It is more than likely that the wearer is playing a bata drum, as the three Bata are the drums of the orishas. All those shells have some movement, which means they touch each other, and make some sound.

Imagine now that the wearer of this vestment is dancing -- and / or even playing drums. All these various polyrhythms surround the wearer, and ripple out in an ever growing pool of rhythm. The cowries are clicking, adding their own bit to the soundscape -- as if those tiny sounds are the prepositions of rhythm, helping in their own way to tie together the much larger, prominent rhythms, informing direction, time and place.

There are so many parts worn on a Yoruba celebrant's body that will do this, and they all speak together too, just as the rhythms of a Havana rumbero's feet speak to the rhythms of the drummers, as the bells on the drums speak back to the feet and the drums.

Another reflection of the deep mesh of the Yoruba world, where all is connected.

Elegba or Elegbara is both a cognomen and aspects of the orisha Eshu. Elegba is the trickster and the keeper of ase. He opens and closes the doors to opportunity. He is the policeman of the spirit world. He has the ability to turn order into chaos. He is the spirit that allows transformation. It is Elegba who offers you choices. It is Elegba who is the divine messenger, carrying prayers, petitions and sacrifices to other orisha and spirits. He is always appeased first because he is capable of disrupting or misguiding prayers, offerings, sacrifices and rituals."

Eshu is the most complex orisha in the Yoruba pantheon. Known to have twenty-one different aspects, Eshu is known as the Trickster. He is the keeper of Force (Ase). He is the divine messenger, carrying prayers, petitions, food and sacrifices to the orisha. He is the Policeman of the orisha, who deals out punishment, when it is due.

In Cuba, in SanterĂ­a, he is called Eleggua, and in Haiti, in Vodoun, he is called Papa Legba.

Cuban Agriculture News -- EFE & Reuters

07/25/08 - EFE (Madrid ) -
11,000 Cuban farm workers to receive aid for commerce
(EFE Ingles Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Granada, Spain, Jul 25 (EFE).-

More than 11,000 Cuban farm workers will receive microcredits thanks to an accord signed Friday between the United Nations and CajaGranada Social Work, which is contributing 90,000 euros ($141,255), the equivalent of 130,000 Cuban convertible pesos, to stimulate employment and viable agricultural enterprises in the Caribbean country.

The collaboration agreement is part of the United Nations Development Program in Cuba and will allow farmers from the provinces of Las Tunas and Holguin to receive small, low-interest loans with great flexibility of repayment. Microcredits are very small loans that are granted to the unemployed, poor entrepreneurs and others living in poverty.

The president of CajaGranada, Antonio Claret Garcia, announced at a press conference that the economic contribution will be managed by the Rotating Fund for Local Development Projects, or Fridel, for the granting of loans geared to helping farmers bring lamb, goat and rabbit meat to market. Fridel, the main tool of the United Nations Development Program in Cuba,plans to step up productivity and the rational use of resources through the creation of small and medium-sized enterprises, as long as they are compatible with respect for the environment.

Along the same line, CajaGranada's president recalled that the company's Social Work division has developed projects involving international cooperation, among which he mentioned the launching of microcredits in countries like Chile, the Dominican Republic and Morocco.He said that these small loans allow companies "to survive longer and become more profitable," given that the average survival of a company is 50 percent and that of companies set up with microcredits is 75 percent. EFE

07/24/08 - Reuters - Cuba to let farmers buy equipment on credit
Published: Thursday, July 24, 2008

HAVANA -- Communist Cuba has begun offering private farmers equipment and other resources on credit along with more land, as President Raul Castro seeks to reform agriculture by loosening the state's grip.

Just days after a government decree authorizing land grants to farmers, they are being called to meetings and asked what machinery and other resources they need to make the best use of it. "They told us to present our requests immediately for what we need and that Venezuela, Iran and other countries had given credit to cover the resources," the treasurer of a private co-operative said by telephone after attending a meeting this week.

Iran recently agreed to increase trade credits to Cuba from 200 million euros to 500 million euros, and Venezuela already finances dozens of factory and farm projects.Hundreds of farmers were told at the meeting in central Cuba called by the Association of Small Farmers not to hold back on their requests.

"We can ask for whatever we need. Machinery, spare parts, irrigation systems, wind mills, land clearing kits, you name it," the co-operative member said.

Decision-making in the sector was recently decentralized, and redundant state-run companies merged. The state, which purchases 70 per cent to 80 per cent of farm output, has doubled or even tripled the prices it pays. The remaining 20 per cent to 30 per cent of production is sold on the open market.

Cuba's 250,000 family farmers and 1,000 private co-operatives produce as much as state farms do on just 25 per cent as much land.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

October's Taken Care Of

Back in New Orleans: Reading, and playing / singing for the Congo Square Festival in October -- a small, autumnal Jazz Fest.

And -- a festival in Barcelona, where he will read, do a public interview of Bebo Valdez, with his son, Chucho Valdez, and play a concert himself.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Vaquero's August

The August issue of the Smithsonian Magazine with the Bo Diddley article is out -- they sent copies last week.

Articles for the Oxford American, a literary mag from Faulkner country, one on the story of how The World That Made New Orleans came to be written, for August, and then another one for their annual music issue.

Next week he'll be interviewed for an hour on a New Orleans A.M radio station, about TWTMNO by Errol LaBorde, editor of New Orleans Magazine, and author of the book Krewe.

He's writing and producing "A Shoutout to New Orleans," for AfroPop Worldwide.

An article in Downbeat about jazz in present-day New Orleans.

Sub-conducting for the performance of Rhys Chatham's Crimson Grail, at Lincoln Center, August 15th. The instrumentation is 200 electric guitars and 16 electric basses. It will be loud.

Some not quite yet officially confirmed radio work concerning a Latin music project, so no specifics yet, though it is real.

Other stuff will show up, maybe.

Ishmael Reed on the NYer

In Counterpunch.

Racist Humor or Just Racism at the New Yorker? Remnick's Latest Blunder, by Ishmael Reed.

Reed runs down the long tradition and history of racism at the magazine within the context of the cover. As usual, I don't personally agree with every one of Reed's assertions, but mostly, I do. And as usual, Reed is worth reading, because he provokes you to think.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hipster Racism

With many thanks to The Angry Black Woman for finally providing a label I've been groping for, ever since that Lenny Bruce spew was thrown into my face as a great way to fight racism. That Lenny Bruce approach just didn't make it for me, and this explains why. (Of course we all know people who had / have this reaction to the LB spew -- or, say that ugly Blazing Saddles movie -- have no sense of humor, and certainly are no hipsters. Fortunately only second part is true. Such people also know what is funny and what is not, and this wasn't funny, and it wasn't satire either. People who live insulated lives like the Nyer editors are incapable of doing satire, because they are not hungry enough.*)

It also explains a certain class of racist who finds it unacceptable insult to his white entitlement for him to be denied the use of certain words and phrases, since 'they' use them. It's a part of the neo blackface / ministrelsy, proving what a cool cat s/he is (Lee Atwater, for instance was one of these, yanno, playin' da blues, on a Real! Guitar!), while deep inside terrified that, yanno, 'real' poc are of course, far more hip and cool than s/he can ever be, even in his dreams.

And that explains how the New Yorker did what it did, and why it can't accept it was wrong, because, yanno, we're THE NEW YORKER and we OWN the crown as the most sophisticated and hip of all.

Um, breaking news here, NYer -- not so much.

Now, apologize already!

For more on hipster racism, go here and here.

* * In case anyone wonders, NYer writers treat this casa very well, and we're grateful. This isn't sour grapes but authentic outrage at a publication that we'd always enjoyed, read and admired.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The White Man's Burden

Concerning the Perry book again: he quotes a response to Kipling's 1899, "White Man's Burden," by Robert Underwood Johnson (editor of the Century magazine, which plays such a role in Grant's life,) as the author attempts to penetrate the confusion about slavery and emancipation that grips both Grant and Twain -- and the nation, even today. (Johnson wasn't confused -- he was an abolitionist early on, and a dedicated anti-imperialist):

What is the White Man's Burden
That weighs upon his sleep?
To the hear the hundreds dying!
To see the thousands weep?
Oh, wanton war that haunts him!
Oh seed that he must reap!"

Twain, Grant and Racism

From pp. 217-218 of Mark Perry's Grant and Twain:

[ Later, in looking back on his life, Twain admitted what he had discovered about himself in India: that the central and singular fact that had shaped his time and shaped him was the question of slavery -- that "bald, grotesque and unwarrantable ursurpation" of human freedom that "stupified humanity." And at the heart of slavery was the question of race, of racism -- which is what made slavery possible. Race was present, for Twain, everywhere he turned: in this Missouri childhood, in his recollections of "Uncle Dan'l," in the face of Tom Lewis at Quarry Farm, in the strange behavior of his next-door neighbor Harriet Beecher Stowe, and in his own writing. It was this, the question of race, that so attracted Twain to Grant. In Grant's struggles Twain saw his own. Like Twain, Grant turned the question of slavery, and race, over and over in his own mind and faced with it each and every day. Raised by an abolitionist, he employed his father-in-law's slaves, remained silent when his wife defended the institution, and assiduously ignored the calls for racial equality when he was president. Grant condemned slavery and fought against it, and he abhorred racism. But he could not overcome it. Like Twain he believed the nation's soul was infected by racism, but not his. Why?

Why was it that after the loss of more than six hundred thousand Americans in a catastrophic civil conflict, men like Twain and Grant could not complete the victory sealed at Appomattox? Why, deep into their own century, could they not stay the hand of southern (and American) injustice, which freed the slaves to be citizens but then denied them their rights? Books, theses, and endless monographs would be written on the subject in the decades following the passing of Twain's generation, but the simplest answer might well have been uttered by Sam Grant as a commander in Tennessee. One day, observing the lines of the thousands of former slaves following the army, he turned to John Rawlins, one of his closest aides. "I don't know these people," he said. ]

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Grant and Twain

Subtitled, of course, because all non-fiction subtitles include these key words now: The Story of a Friendship That Changed America. Which friendship did not change America, but certainly had an influence on the fortunes of both men involved, and their families. By Mark Perry.

I stayed up way too late reading this book last night, and I'm still not finished. The book is fascinating, and deceptively longer than it appears.

It's also a bit of an odd read, since the author works so very hard to establish his new! individual! brilliant! insights about The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and its composition, that no one's ever thought of before, and which depend upon a certain twistyness in the description of the relationship between the two men.

I'm not declaring Perry's wrong in his new individual brilliant insights, but maybe, they are not all that brilliant? Or not all that important? Or even a solution to the eternal mystery that is Huckleberry Finn?

The book is filled with period description and detail, gracefully provided to the reader. Both men are brilliant, fascinating people. Until recently I knew nothing about Grant the man, or Grant the general, for that matter. Perry's book is a perfect introduction to Grant's Memoirs, since this book is about how he came to write his Memoirs, the process of that writing, and the publication thereof -- which Twain snatched for his company at the very moment of the signing of the contract with a different publisher. Any writer and historian will consider long and deeply that Grant wrote both volumes while dying of a very painful throat cancer, in the face of financial destitution, due to the failure his son's bank, and keenly feeling the shame of that in his sense of honor. Writing his Memoirs provided Grant comfort on all fronts, particularly as he was assured their publication would ensure a comfortable financial future for his family, which it did do.

The author of the Grant volume in the American Presidents series drew greatly on this book. I presume though, from a get-acquainted first pass through The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, that this author and Perry both drew those parts from Grant himself.

It's too bad that the Forge / Tor edition of Grant's Memoirs could publish only Grant's Civil War volume. (I'm reading The Modern Library War Series edition.) Anyone who wants to understand the history of the U.S. will need Grant's recollections of that far too little known and considered event in national history we call the Mexican - American War. But most of us know nothing about it, other than it was the training and proving ground for so many of the officers and commanders on both sides of the Civil War conflict. Maybe many nationalists don't like that in this volume Grant clearly calls it an unjust war pushed upon Mexico by the U.S. for reason of territory grab -- this was Manifest Destiny time -- and that this was criminal. However, he followed orders and did his best, because that is what the army and its officers do.

This is exactly what he continued to do as Commander in Chief of the Union armies, under Lincoln, and why he continued to follow Lincoln's orders of Reconstruction -- meaning the full integration of the emancipated population into the national body politic, when POTUS himself. Those were Lincoln's orders and he continued to believe himself bound to fulfill those orders. He also believed, as he believed Lincoln did, that this was the only way to heal the nation.

Alas, that even still, today, there are so many who continue to fight with every claw and fang they can muster to make it not be so.

The 1840's were an interesting period in the U.S. I first began thinking of them while doing my Samuel Ward (who ended his extremely long and varied and full life known as "King of the Lobby") project in the NYPL Humanities Papers and Mss. archives.

Grant's Memoirs are instructive as history, and as a model of historical writing. Perry's Grant and Twain is instructive in the process of writing history. Any historian needs all three parts as the tool kit for successful historical work: 1) knowledge of the material -- research and / or recollection, as in Grant's case; 2) possession of a method, a process; 3) capacity to write clearly to communicate what the historian learned / knows. Perry's book shows us Grant actively wielding all three parts of that tool kit.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Irish Bar, New Orleans Style

Markey's Bar

640 Louisa St. (Bywater) 504.943.0785. Credit Cards. 7 days: Noon to 'till. A good cab or bike ride away from the French Quarter, in a one-story, wood-sided building you'll find Markey's -- a relaxed bar that feels like it's out somewhere on a country road, far away from city troubles. The locals who frequent this inexpensive Irish bar are inexplicably nice and understanding, even if you might be a little too drunk or loud or whatever. Lots of TVs for sports watching. On Fridays they sometimes have some kind of seafood boiling. Pool table. Video poker.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Rara Website (Haiti)

This is a website constructed by friend Elizabeth McAlister : (BA in Anthropology, Vassar College; MA in African American Studies and an MA in History, Yale University; and PhD in American Studies, Yale). She's Associate Professor of Religion at Wesleyan.

Her book, Rara! Vodou, Power, and Performance in Haiti and Its Diaspora, is very highly recommended, and not just by us. It was one of the first works like this available back then, and one of the first I read.

She was at the conference in NO this past week, and organized many of the Haitian activities.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ghanaian Dancer

From yesterday's dance performances performed by contemporary practicioners of the cultural influences that went into making up the cultural brew of the Caribbean and the Gulf: several from West Africa, from Cuba and from Haiti.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Jetblue Smashed Vaquero's Guitar

House of Dance and Feathers.

Jetblue smashed Vaquero's guitar, as he learned when it took it out to play last night. They insisted it couldn't ride in the overhead, and took it away from him. They smashed it. Of all flights, the Jetblue flight to NO, should be particularly careful of instruments, considering how many musicians fly in and out of that airport every single day.

Thank goddessa it wasn't the Ramirez, but the guitar the Colombians gave him in January. Still, it hurts. It hurts a lot.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hai! xxFx

Buddy Bolden's House and the Mandeville Causeway

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

It's Vaquero's Birthday!

We are listening to Elvis.

This is the first album he ever bought. He mowed Louisiana lawns for weeks to save up the money to get it. The lawns are huge, and he was very small. The push mower was also very large. Already it was clear the hardships he was willing to endure in order to get access to the music that mattered.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Public Sociologist - Discussion re Lack of Women Blogging Left

The discussion is really in the comments. To the post on Blogging and Leftist Blogging.

It is interesting that someone of the 'other' gender noticed this.

In The City That Care Forgot

I have no trust in religion of any kind to heal or to make progress, unless it is that of the orishas, a paganism. My faith is in art. Art of music, dance, performance, physical dimensionality is part and parcel of pagan religions.

Listen to Dr. John's newest release: The City That Care Forgot. He's furious, and he (and his collaborators, like Willie Nelson) tell the truth, unvarnished, all of it radiating out from Dr. John's Yat enunciation. I challenge anyone to listen to "Dream Warrior" and not understand that he is where were are, and Obama and all the politicans and all the religious 'leaders' are so far away from it, it's sick-making. He tells you this too.

Oh yes, the power of art to bring people together, to create public commons space. Religion doesn't do that, and neither does politics, particularly now when you cannot even protest within sight of of the object(s) of your objection, but must be incarcerated in a "Free to Protest Cage" (which they are busy building in Denver in preparation for the Democratic bigCON).

See this from today's UK Guardain:[ In January 1942, during the darkest days of the Blitz when the National Gallery's pictures were secretly buried in countryside drops, a letter appeared in the Times. 'Because London's face is scarred and bruised these days, we need more than ever to see beautiful things,' the correspondent wrote. 'I would welcome the opportunity of seeing a few of the hundreds of the nation's masterpieces now stored in a safe place. I know the risk, but I believe it would be worth it.'

And so an Old Master a month came to the National, and so too did the British public. Trafalgar Square became a place of refuge and mutual belonging as the bombs dropped. Similarly, in the aftermath of 9/11, tens of thousands of New Yorkers made their way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to seek a reflective place and shared space.... ]

As Dr. John tells us in "Promises, Promises":

[ Promises, promises, empty words
The road to the White House is paved with lies. ]

Goddessas! What a GREAT album this is. I've been listening to it for almost two months, and it just reveals more every week.

The City That Care Forgot is just about the only comfort right now, in the face of this blatant two-faced turnaround that O did to us. He doesn't even possess the bare respect for us as voters to even pretend there is any validity to objections to this mingling of church and state, to his mangling of the Constitution when it comes to privacy and corporate and government spying, on arming every goddamned tomdick&harry who needs to wave a gun since nobody pays attention to his dick, or that he won't pander to the corporatist overlords everytime they say jump.

Harlem: What's Goin' On - Our Town or Their Town?

I've been following this one for a while now.

Complete story here -- worth reading; a veracious picture of what gentrification is. A luxury co-op went up on Marcus Garvey Park, and the young, wealthy residents are having fits about the 30 + year West African drumming circle that has met there every Saturday. Note, They have even changed the name of the park.

[ And so in this corner of Harlem, which is known as Mount Morris Park, two sides have formed, each with complaints that many agree are legitimate. The stalemate has bubbled over into a dispute about class, race and culture and has become a flash point in the debate over gentrification.

It is the talk of the neighborhood, and even beyond. The conflict received news media attention, but since then it has taken a darker turn: A racist e-mail message was circulated among residents advocating violence against the musicians, and the New Black Panther Party, which espouses anti-white ideals, has marched in support of the drummers

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Could Anyone be "Worse" Than Bush? by Alexander Cockburn

If you read this, keep in mind that it's being written from the point of view of Syria.

The Base of the Booosh

You wondered who they are? Well, here they are!

This is the guy who refused an audit of his books, saying his finances belong to God, not man.

Jesse Helms

Another blogger observed something on the order of, "I shed no tears for Helms's death. But it does sadden me that he didn't live until January 9th, 2009, to see a black man inaugerated as President of the United States."

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Hatred to Be Uprooted From Metairie Lawn

Full story here.

[ Wednesday July 02, 2008, 8:24 PM

The symbols of racial intolerance seared into the grass of an African-American family's Metairie front yard almost two months ago will finally be removed Friday -- Independence Day -- during an interfaith service held by local Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders.

Organizers of the "Uproot Hate" service will join neighbors and friends of Travis and Kiyanna Smith to resod the area where the letters KKK and the shapes of three crosses were chemically burned into the grass just days after the family moved into their house at 1500 Homestead Ave. in a predominantly white section of northeast Metairie.

"It's almost like an exorcism by the taking away of the evil or the bad that was done and hopefully replacing it with something fresh and new and good,"said the Rev. Dana Krutz, executive director of the Louisiana Interchurch Conference. ]

New Orleans Reading

Willie Nelson: An Epic Life by Joe Nick Patoski

Grant and Twain: The Story of a Friendship That Changed America by Mark Perry

The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant by President and General Grant himself

Joe Nick tells us that he's got Vaquero in the last chapter of his Willie Nelson bio. It feels a wicked pleasure, to bring Grant to NO., which has no streets named for him.

Next week -- the Big Guy's birthday and New Orleans.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Dead Presidents & Dead Ladies

A while back we finished the James Buchanan volume in The American Presidents series from Time / Henry Holt. What an evil little prick Buchanan was! No wonder he's held the title of the Worst President until the present OhOh resident knocked him down to second place. He has all the worst traits of a combination of every rotten national stage politician you can think o -- such as Lieberman, Bush, Thurman, Calhoun -- without a single redeeming value. This little lawyer punk (who, alas for gays, was also clearly a submissive gay male) luuuuuuuuuuuuved the big Southern plantation slaveholders, and fought against his own party at every turn to give the slaveholders, against every law and treaty, what they wanted. He was the reason for Bloody Kansas, and by the end of his term, the Civil War. Yes, he was also corrupt, as well as a pontificating blowhard. Even his own state hated him, during his tenure in the OhOh.

Last week we started the Ulysses S. Grant volume. Since this series' focus is upon the presidencies, Grant's career as the Commander General of the Armies for the Union, and how he came to fill that position, is sketched in, with few details. We've reached the point where Lee has surrendered, the war is finished, Lincoln assassinated (the Boothe plot evidently included Grant and other key figures, but only the Lincoln assassination was successful) and Johnson is about to undergo impeachment, because his own party, like Buchanan's did, hate him so much -- because he was 1) a rabid hater of the former slaves and tried to block every move to help them move into a non-slave life, and he was an equal hater of the former big plantation owners of slaves and wanted them stripped of everything, whereas his opponents wanted to move on and be one big happy national family again, kumbya ya all. In the meantime, Grant is doing his best to carry out Lincoln's mandates, which include bringing the former slaves into the fold of voting citizenship. Grant believes it is his duty, a duty he owes still to the man who was his Commander-in-Chief. I appreciate that the author includes the telling detail that Grant was such a splendid horseman that at West Point he was number one, outriding even the vaunted scions of the Southern slaveholding aristocracy.

These books are excellent introductions to the individual each one covers, and to the period in which that individual acted upon the national stage. They're particularly good for president you know nothing about, like, in our case, Buchanan. Once you've read about a president in this series, you are prepped to do more reading because you've received the broad outline. They are also easy reading, written in popular, narrative style, not academic. They are excellent to read aloud, or to listen to if they were / are ? available as audio books.

I haven't been watching much television, meaning in my case, dvds, lately, though last night I did see the unique Marlowe noir, The Lady in the Lake, directed by and starring as Marlowe, Robert Montgomery. It's a good addition to your list of unexpected Christmas movies. Its cinemagraphic manner is unusual -- it's that 'subjective' camera style. You hardly ever see Marlowe / Montgomery on screen, except as a shadow, or in the mirror, or when he addresses you, the audience, directly as a -- writer of hardboiled detective fiction. Marlowe's narration alternates with long addresses by other characters or with mannered dialog with the unseen Marlowe. In contrast to the more modernist cinematography of the subjective camera, the sound of the movie is like a radio play. The women run through series of poses and projections that are from theater stage eras that are much earlier than the year of 1946 when this movie was released. It's a peculiar mixture of periods and techniques and forms then, which provides interest to what already in 1946 had become a generic staple.

Steady Rollover to the Right

By Obama, since he clinched the nomination.

This was what I predicted.

Nevertheless, it's distressing and depressing.

More of the same. It's so oppressive -- I feel the weight that had lightened to degree, inflated by hope, has settled back, even heavier.

He let us down just like the corporatist we knew he was would do.