". . . 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, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve 2009 -- Books in the Snow

Woke up to see snow falling, which it wasn't supposed to until after midnight. It's stopped for the nonce. Freezing rain predicted.

We finally got the annual List's Books We're Reading This Year sent. I look forward more every year to reading what subscribers have to say about their reading. One of the reasons I love this annual list is that it isn't about the best books read this year, or the best books published this year, but about the books we read this year. Gotta say, the members of the List are remarkably literate in books and music!

Here's the final part of my List essay:

Shortly after reading A Rhetoric of Pleasure I read an unpublished article by this same writer-friend, "Streets of Gold: Travels Among the Appalachian Snake-Handlers." In his search for the significance and purpose of the religious sects of snake handlers in his native Kentucky, Johnson tracks several strands of the forces that formed the culture of this wide, mountainous region of the U.S. He describes Daniel Boone's euphoric experience of “going native” in the “howling wilderness” on the other side of the Cumberland Gap, which even provoked the Romantic giant, Lord Byron, to compose verse about that legendary figure of the classic American frontier.

Johnson’s article in turn reminded me of a book I'd long intended to read, Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia (1995) by Dennis Covington. Whereas Johnson's article focuses on the expansion of spirit and the sense of spiritual oneness with the grandeur of this natural world as one propellant in the making of the culture out of which emerged those who handle snakes in communion, Covington focuses on the narrowness of the snake handlers and their churches, and their sense of alienation from the rest of the country.

Covington draws a nuanced, detailed picture of a population that has been caricatured down through the time of Li’l Abner as moonshiners, crackers, rednecks, hoosiers, criminals, rebels against authority, or just plain illiterates. As he describes it, their behaviors and beliefs are part of a cultural identity passed through generations, from one migration to another, providing a sense of protection, purpose and stability for a people who have been poor for generations and who perceive the wider world as “hostile and outside,” one that holds them in contempt.

When snake handlers come together to celebrate in ecstatic spiritual practice, they can die from being bitten by the rattlesnakes, though not as often as they recover. They achieve ecstasy in the state that allows them to handle their snakes; their ecstasy translates to, and is shared with, the non-handling congregation. They experience further communion through singing. The risk the handler takes proves his courage, manhood, and faith. But when that moment is concluded, he’s back where he began, with it all to do over again, right down to finding a church to practice in. There is a recurring quest for one's own building to house one's congregation, which may be as small as a single family. Grand fund-raising schemes aren't feasible, and as ministers and members are generally poor, loans are not easy to get. Churches disappear frequently because of fire, repossession, inability to meet a mortgage. Further, the faithful trust and respect few outside their own circle, and often not even each other, or members of their own families. This leads inevitably to intra-rivalries, spouse stealing, congregation poaching, and sometimes armed combat or even murder.

Women may handle snakes, but they are forbidden to sermonize – women must always be below men and subject to men's will. The snake handling congregations seem to share this and much else with the pentecostal and evangelical prayer warriors we've heard so much of in the last decades, particularly the sense that each individual is under constant threat by witches and demons. They embody contradictions: deeply anti-intellectual they may be, but they may well know the entire Bible by heart; deeply anti-government, yet deeply patriotic. They are fond of their snakes, though whether they regard the snakes as embodying divinity, satan, or merely masculinity is not any more clear to them than to outsiders.

In Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (1989), David Hackett Fischer views this same regional population historically, utilizing “an approach developed by the French school of the Annales begun by Georges Dumezil and developed further by Fernand Braudel that concentrates on both continuity and change over long periods of time.” Using primary source documents to track migration patterns, Fischer traces four regional US cultures back to specific regions of Britain:

1. East Anglia to Massachusetts: The Exodus of the English Puritans, 1629 - 41
2. The South of England to Virginia: Distressed Cavaliers and Indentured Servants 1642 - 75
3. North Midlands to the Delaware: The Friends Migration, 1675 – 1725
4. Borderlands to the Backcountry: The Flight from North Britain, 1717 – 1775

This latter migration, to the Appalachians and the backcountry of the south Atlantic states, is where the Churches of Signs and Snake-handling grew up.

Fischer examines the commonalities of the four British “folkways” with those in the four North American regions to which they migrated. Folkways, he explains, exist "in advanced civilization as well as in primitive societies. They are functioning systems of high complexity which have actually grown stronger rather than weaker in the modern world." These folkways determine everything from speech “ways” (“redneck” was long in use in the Borderlands region of Britain prior to emigration) to gender relationships, housing, attitudes toward literacy and authority, to what constitutes freedom, how children are raised, how food is prepared, how business is conducted, magic and religious systems (the two are not mutually exclusive), and many more. They are recognizable patterns in the organization of universal elements of any culture, unique enough to each that we can recognize patterns of one group of people as identifying them as different from others.
Covington's book, together with Fischer’s detailed folkways research of the backcountry settlers, imply a partial explanation for our enduring national allegiance to anti-intellectualism (Guardian Angels! Soulmates! Prayer Warriors to guard us from witches!), and the deliberate choice of lies over truth. Facts and truth contradict a hard won stability in an ever-changing world that means us no good. Along with the ability to work hard and survive extreme hardship, with loyalty to family and country, and deep love of music and poetry, this American irrationality is part of a persistent regional identity. That identity traveled to Appalachia and the southern Atlantic backcountry from Scotland's Highlands and the English northern Borderlands, a beautiful region of harsh climate, isolated, self-sufficient clans, and scant natural resources. There was little educational opportunity and less work, which made for deep generational poverty, while the brutalities of invasion, conquest and oppression imposed centuries' long instablilty.
This does not mean that individuals from this backcountry regional culture have not been wealthy and successful. Andrew Jackson, the “people's President” who led the crusade against the National Bank, claimed to have read only two books in his life, Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield and the Bible. Though a lawyer, he declared "I cannot trust a man who can spell a word only one way." He was famous for fighting thirteen duels, most of them over his wife's honor, whom he “stole” from her abusive first husband, and lived with before their marriage could become legal. (Incidentally, Stiles’s The First Tycoon provides a fine description of Jackson's supporters, and why they made his crusade against the Bank successful). The baleful John C. Calhoun, stalwart advocate of the expansion of slavery who beat the drums for southern secession – though he died eleven years before the War of Southern Aggression -- is another famous backcountry folkways type. Tellingly, Jackson and Calhoun became enemies. Look at portraits of these two "tall, lean, sinewy" men, and their resemblance to each other is remarkable.

So here we are, starting 2010, and anti-intellectual Sarah Palin says it’s a “fair question” to ask whether Obama was born in the U.S. The climate isn't changing and if it is, human behavior has nothing to do with it, and the more you contradict us the more belligerent we become. The Jewish Holocaust didn't happen. Facts, logic and truth are what intellectuals who hate America think they can fool us with because we didn't go to a fancy school, but we're too smart – too American -- to fall for it.
I’m left with something an Appalachian woman pridefully stated in 1905, quoted in Albion's Seed: "We never let go of a belief once fixed in our minds.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

NY Times Gets its End-of-Year Michelle Obama Hate On

Sarah Palin's the working woman's everywoman in terms of style and presentation -- how we all want to look. Who knew?

Michelle Obama (and, of course, Desirée Rogers) are the elite haute couture snobs that no one can emulate.

Particularly nasty is resurrecting this MO quote, in the same edition of the NY Times in which Nicholas Kristof has a column that speaks to the one sixth of the world's population that go hungry everyday, and the epidemics of child malnutrition around the world:

Anyway, Mrs. Obama has made it clear that her well-stocked closet is her business. Last March, in an interview about the new White House organic garden, she took a playful poke at her husband. “He doesn’t understand fashion,” she said. “He’s always asking, ‘Is that new? I haven’t seen that before.’ It’s like: ‘Why don’t you mind your own business? Solve world hunger. Get out of my closet.’ ”

They do not leave out the White House bête noir of the old guard:

 In Mrs. Obama, the fashion industry has found a woman it can admire but cannot completely possess. That’s because she doesn’t favor only one designer or a clique, as her predecessors did. Also, she avoids the appearance of being cozy with designers. That’s why she’s often described in terms reserved for a 1930s screen goddess: “regal” and “dazzling,” a woman not to be contended with so much as worshiped from afar.

But make no mistake: the Obama White House has its fashion addicts. When Robin Givhan of The Washington Post asked Ms. Rogers if her dress at the recent state dinner was by Comme des Garçons, she replied, “Of course.” Of course because her dress was kooky Comme? Or because Ms. Rogers is in the club? Maybe a simple “yes” would have been better.
The article concludes with a major, razor, cat clawing:

Fashion is message. Do I look rich? Do I look available? Do I look like I get it?

Fashion is also context. And in the year since the industry placed its absurdly bright hopes on Mrs. Obama and her wardrobe, much has changed and dimmed. Is this how a modern, educated, working woman wants to be viewed in her first historic year — as a maven, an icon? Who’s Barbie now?
In the Sunday New York Times Style and Fashion section today.

Whee!  I was able to write today.  Nearly 12 pp. of da List's Reading - 2009 essay.  Hopefully I can cut it down.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Post Christmas, Ante New Year's

Because of the bug I remain chronologically challenged. It's not that I don't know what day of the week it is, I don't know if it's day or night. None of the daily and weekly markers have been in effect since I went down with it, and then, it being winter solstice and the national holiday glaze, coupled with weather so many places that have shut down travel or even doing errands, no wonder I wonder, "Where and when are we?" It rained most of last night, and is raining now. Cold and dark it remains, midnight or noon.

With this frequent coughing I'm still unfit for company, mostly (our friends were spectacularly kind and generous in their refusal to be annoyed by it, I must say!). However, upon finally arising after 11 AM today I am feeling the first glimmers in 11 days of something like focus. I've started writing the essay for da List's annual feature, "The Books We're Reading." We're also working on the course we're teaching starting in February at Baruch.

I have two lovely Christmas gift books to read, one of which I happily read half through yesterday. Georges (1843), is Alexander Dumas's single novel of slavery, though it focuses upon rich, free mulattos and white prejudice on Mauritius, in the Napoleonic era -- with one of Jamaica Kinkaid's characteristic Forewards (Modern Library, trans. 2007). There are several aspects of oddness in this narrative. One notes immediately that Dumas chose to locate this novel in the Indian Ocean, rather than in the Caribbean, or Haiti, even, where his grandmother was a slave. It feels extremely odd that the eponymous hero utters grand sentiments against color prejudice, frees two slaves, and the buys two boatloads of slaves from his brother, who is the slave trader. Perhaps this perplexity will be resolved in the second half of the narrative?

The other gift book is Anthony Everitt's Hadrian And The Triumph of Rome (2009). This is less a biography of Hadrian a portrait of Rome's empire at its peak of power and efficiency, because there is little primary material for a biographer to work with. As an era portrait, to my personal pleasure the work begins in Spain, where European history begins. Hadrian's forefather was one of the wounded legionnaires who was left to pacify and romanize the Iberian coast post the defeat of Hannibal. The reviews state many know less about this peak era of Rome than of ithe empire's beginning and end; I certainly am among those. What I'm not going to like much though, is that so much narrative that deals with Hadrian himself as biography is written in that speculative mode -- paragraphs describing what he 'might have done,' 'may have thought,' 'where he may have gone,' etc. This is an unfortunate mode for any text, but particularly, one may think, for biography. That it is fallen into because there is so little written by Hadrian to go on, one understands. But maybe there is a different rhetorical strategy to deal with this?  One thing, however, the book has accomplished is to convince me that those who say there was an Alexandrine empire post Alexander are right. This from reading the pp. listed in the index under "Alexander."

Now, back to Sienkiewicz, snake handling and the church of signs.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia!

Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Postmamboism T-Shirts Are In the House

And in the mail!

All those that ordered and delivered payment at the same time are in the mail as of today. Poor guy, in these temperatures, he got all these off at the PO.

Those that are being hand-delivered, that starts tonight -- at the Zinc Bar , where tonight Robby Ameen's quartet is playing jazz on the fusion side. If you don't know who Robby Ameen is, you can google him.

So we have t-shirts, as I was saying. They are handsome.

Carrie Bradshaw - Bob Hope - Separated At Birth?


Road to Morocco meets Sex and the City!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Who Were Those People???????

Different Place.

Different Time.

Different Face.

Someone from long ago has gone digging through his photos and this is among what he found, thus scanned and sent on.  I don't even recall him being in Albuquerque.  Bad me.

But I really am wearing something on my bottom -- our cutoffs in New Mexico were extremely cut-off, so to speak. I think we invented coochie cutters in the desert before they showed up in rap vocabulary and wardrobe.

Kinda spooky, remembering.  How I had to change everything when I moved to NYC. Most of all, I had to accept that I needed to wear clothes. And cosmetics. All kinds of things that we who lived in the land of sun and swamp coolers didn't need to bother our tanned bodies with.
That past thang? Time, history, arrow time, wheel time. These days it just keeps coming up present, yanno?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

We Have Orders! We Almost Have T-Shirts! We Have Blizzard!

I'm so sick I can't do much of anything. Vaquero went out to get supplies for us and our sick across-the-hall neighbor. She's been sick in bed 11 days and in sore need of groceries.

The snow has begun.  Thus this is an excellent time to do the administrative chores of Postmamboism T-Shirts.

We at the Institute for Postmambo Studies have been receiving inquiries about our forthcoming T-shirt.

Yes, we will have it by Xmas, though how much before we're not yet sure. Maybe Wednesday the 23rd. Maybe sooner.

In honor of this event we have produced the following press release:

* * *
The Institute of Postmambo Studies says:
Abre kuta güiri mambo -- open your ears and listen to the important matter.

Postmamboism -- the first theoretical discipline with its own clothing line -- announces the impending manufacture of the first Postmamboism T-shirt, in a limited edition of 144, in honor of the December 15, 2009 publication of "Principles of Postmamboism" on

Printed in Brooklyn to support hometown industry, the Postmamboist motto appears in fiery red on a black Sun brand T-shirt made in Pakistan, where cotton has been cultivated since perhaps 3,000 B.C.

By proudly wearing and above all by purchasing the first Postmamboism T-shirt, you will help the Institute for Postmambo Studies achieve its theoretical goals.

Hand-posted via US mail (or hand-delivered in New York City) by a practicing Postmamboist.

You can pay using PayPal (surcharge of 3% + $0.30), check, or in person (in NYC).

available in S, M, L, XL, XXL

all sizes $19 (except XXLs, which are $20) plus S&H:

S & H within US: $4 per order 1st class USPS; $6 for Priority; within NYC: $5 for delivery, or arrange to pick up (no charge)

quantity discounts available

TO ORDER NOW: send an e-mail to ned.sublette at Tell us:

1. how many T-shirts?

2. what size(s)?

3. 1st class, priority, express (expensive), or hand-delivery (in NYC only) or pickup (NYC only)?

4. Will you pay by PayPal (quickest), check, or in person (NYC only)?

5. What address should we ship to?

A Postmamboist will invoice you promptly.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Nothing Good To Say

I went down with some germ or virus on Wednesday, and it's only gotten worse.  The temperatures hang in the low 20's plus strong wind off the Hawk, as the Hudson is known in these climes, in these winter times,   I'm missing all the parties, which means missing seeing and hanging out with all these people I love.  I feel like, well, you can imagine, when you can't breathe, everything hurts including your throat which is on fire. Tomorrow a gimongous storm blows up from Florida all the way to New England, suffocating the Atlantic side of things with snow and / or rain.  It's expected to storm through much of Sunday, and will likely to leave behind that most hideous of substances, substantial snow.  At least two feet, They Say.

I barely crawled out of bed at noon today.  There wasn't any reason to do so that I could see.  Still I think of all the years I crawled out of bed at the crack of dawn feeling like this to work all day.  For days at a time. At least I can stay home in bed this time around. Though I'm not making any $$$$$$.


At least I have the 1972 BBC War and Peace to watch -- though at first things are rather jarring, since the actors do not feel or look in the least bit Russian.  I also have to read the first two 44 Scotland Street novels by Alexander McCall Smith, and Wind in the Willows.  I haven't re-read WITW in many years, and being sick and it being the season, it feels rightly seasonal.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Decade's Best Unread Books

One of the season's more annoying features are the endless Best Of Lists. This season's annoyance factor in this regard has reached even greater intensity due to someone's not bright idea that they should inflict the addtional Best Of Lists of the Best of the Decade, called in some quarters by the really annoying term, 'the Naughties.' If there ever were 10 years that lacked naughtiness, it has been the decade of the criminalgangofcronies and the additional obama year of having changed the name and the face but kept everything else the same.

So the UK Guardian did a bit of a better thing by creating a list of the 'Decade's Best Unread Books.'

I'm thinking of books I might put on that list myself.  You?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Postmamboism Rolls Out Live on Vaquero's Boing Boing Guest Blog

Guest blogging on Boing Boing, Ned Sublette rolls out his Vision Theory of Music, Life, History, the Universe and Everything Else, named Postmamboism. It's available here.

Some of you have been provided private viewing of Postmamboist Manifesto's drafts earlier this year.   Now, here it is, complete with logo (designed with an artist friend, who also is a Haitian vodún houngan).

Monday, December 14, 2009

Far Out: A Space-Time Chronicle

Ms. Agent gifted me with Far Out: A Space-Time Chronicle, a magnificent volume.

Why magnificent? You can see here.

Since the skies here are not much conducive to star gazing this is a thoughtful gift as well.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I Pelt Premium T & K With Tinsel!

And there's nothing they can do about it!

Now, their place looks like mine.


In the supermarket this afternoon, to the great amusement of the cashier much tinsel came out of my coat pocket with my wallet.

We'll Hafta Throw Our Own Party If We're Going To Get the Dance Music We Want

We have tinsel all over the place.

Great Christmas party at N&B's. By the occult forces of serendipity, having linked yesterday to the NY Times article on the Howard Zinn documentary on the History Channel tonight, among the people we met last night were MT and her parents (Ms. T performs two readings in the Zinn project). People we've met previously at N&B's were there again, besides the extended family members who have all wended their way to this West Village town house for the holidays. The Roger Sterling and Don Draper actors and many other, mostly television, actors were again guests. I met for the first time CB, who played Frank Sobatka in the second series of The Wire, "The Port." Now that was awesome, since "The Port" is my favorite season of The Wire, and it is because of Frank Sobatka's character. To me, this season is true tragedy. Unlike JS who plays Roger Sterling and JH, who plays Don Draper, CB wasn't surrounded by hordes of women, so I got to talk with him. Let's see, there were also guests we've known for a long time, like DB and SB. Then there were all the fashion industry people and the fashionistas, with whom I made no contact at all.

The models (they weren't the supermodel model, but on the order of the models designers employ to drape their creations as they work out their lines) were all dressed, again, in the mode of Mad Men, which is more attractive on television than in a room, maybe? This isn't 'vintage' clothing, but custom made, of beautiful materials, thus not tacky, so that isn't why it doesn't seem so attractive, to this viewer at least.

Interesting thing about the fashionistas, male or female -- they cannot dance, and seem to lack any musicality, at least judging by last night.

When the dancing began, despite all the efforts of Vaquero and N's bro to get real dance music, the dj would NOT play the cuts. Particularly he hated salsa and other latin dance music. He wanted Michael Jackson and the same old exhausted MoTown hits. Periodically Vaquero and J wrested the dj system into their control and we had fabulous dance experience (and oooooh, how MT's parents can dance -- her father used to attend the old, original, one-and-only Palladium in its heyday of latin dance, like Bill Graham, who he knew back then). But dj would always get it back, and we'd retire. The fashionistas never even heard any music at all. Until ... he put on "Billie Jean." Then they all squealed, stopped posing and went into the dance room, in which they performed the most embarrassing herkjerk movements you ever saw -- and not even in time with the rhythms, such as they are in "Billie Jean." It was astonishing. Kind of entertaining in an embarrassing way ....

However, it was dancing that was the highlight of it all. The N&B household-family have evolved an annual Christmas Party tradition that began in their house in Ohio when they were little kids. They call it the Christmas Swan Dance, which is performed to "The Blue Danube." The deal is all of you must have vast handsful of tinsel when the "The Blue Danube" begins to play. You freestyle to the music, placing most energy into the arms, waving the tinsel about in the colored lights of the otherwise darkened room in which inhabits the Christmas tree. You become more and more silly (frenzied?) in your movements as the music continues, until compelled to pelt someone with some of your tinsel. This goes on and on and on, accompanied by hysterical happy laughter, while minions flit about refreshing everyone's tinsel suppy, until everyone and everything is dripping in tinsel. It kind of reminded me of Mardi Gras and St. Charles and the beads layered everywhere, dripping from everything.

So we flung tinsel with the best. And then we came home. Draped in tinsel. Which is now all over our apartment and which we'll be gathering up for weeks. I'm neither shamed nor sorry.

Our apartment is nothing compared to N&B's townhouse (in more ways than one!), in which all five stories are tinseled.

(By the way, N&B's place is very close to the one that stands in for Carrie Bradshaw's apartment building in Sex and the City. I just realized that last night, for some reason. Duh.)

Then talk about a very different culture, tonight it's a Haitian music party in honor of the Alan Lomax recordings issued in a ten disc boxed set, that includes videos and other matter as well.

Happy Blue Danube Tinsel Swan Dance to you!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Peter Watts, SF Author and Marine-Mammal Biologist, Beaten & Arrested By Border Security

Dr. Watts is Canadian.  He was returning home when the U.S. Border Guards stopped him.

Read about it here.

The sf/f network is working around the clock to help him, with legal issues and raising money, since neither the U.S. nor Canadian media seemed to find this anything of note.  The campaign's started very well, with Cory Doctorow telling the enormous readership of Boing Boing what happened.  The value added is that due to the close-knit culture that is the world of Science Fiction and Fantasy, so many people know Dr. Watts personally.

Just lately, today, the AP service has noticed the action, which one learns via google.

It would be nice to know whether or not the Border Security guards are really federal employees, or yet another group hired via a private corporation getting no-bid contracts that farm out federal and military duties to private citizens.  Almost all federal jobs are now, it seems, as Gail Collins writes about today in her NY Times column, "Going Naked in Kabul":

The guards at the American Embassy in Afghanistan worked for a private contractor called ArmorGroup. A few months ago, a nonprofit watchdog organization reported that some of the guards were being pressured to have sex in a “Lord of the Flies environment.” Whistle-blowers turned over pictures of men in various states of undress, fondling and urinating on one another.

In general, guards from countries like Australia, New Zealand and the United States were the ones involved in the bad behavior. Fortunately, the bulk of the workers were Gurkhas from Nepal who took their jobs very seriously. Unfortunately, the Gurkhas could not understand English.

So the American Embassy in one of the most dangerous spots on the planet was being protected by a combination of people who couldn’t communicate with Americans and thuggish party animals.

The biggest surprise was that the United States did not have its own soldiers guarding its Embassy in a war zone. We have been getting surprised like that a lot lately. Many of the worst stories involve Blackwater Worldwide, a private security contractor that changed its name to Xe Services after a series of mishaps in Iraq, one of which involved spraying bullets around a square in Baghdad and killing 17 civilians.

Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport

Howard Zinn’s new documentary, The People Speak, on the History Channel, Sunday night.

Doubtless this too shall have the "daffy-likes' spitting, though not as much probably as if the History Channel ran a documentary on Said and Orientalism.

Chomsky, Zinn and Said -- the leftist triumverate of EviLe! MuhahahahaHAW.
Gotta say though, there's precious little democracy to found here or elsewhere these days.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Horses of Winter

This is what it looks like today where I grew up.  There's a solitary cow in the middle of the feeding horses.

Monday, December 7, 2009

BoingBoing Guest Blogging By Vaquero Begins Today

This first one he introduces himself with a bit from The Year Before the Flood -- Xeni wants him to blog about issues, etc. in the book -- but he plans to do other things as well.

This first one will inclue a link of him reading. Later in the day he'll do another entry which will be photos.

He's thinking of doing perhaps, 3 shorter ones, each day.

Probably he'll also roll out Postmamboism to this larger audience.
We'll see.

At the moment he's having a meeting about bringing los Muñequitos back to the U.S. for a tour, and a meeting about making Postmamboism t-shirts. Very soon the Postmambo Wiki has to go up.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

DVDS -- Everywhere You Look

You see Robert Pattinson, even in what is titled here in the U.S., Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King (2006). He plays one of the Burgund kingdom's royal brothers, Giselher. He presents an affectless, gormless non-entity, as does his Twilight's Edward.  However, The Curse of the Ring, as one of its many European titles, is also at least an hour longer than what we get here in the U.S. So perhaps there is more to him / his role than that. From the added features you certainly see that the viewer is missing a very great deal, particularly of the role played by Max Von Sydow -- why have this marvelous actor and then cut him almost completely out of the film - series?

Even from what we are able to see on the version of dvds released here (curses upon the SciFi Channel for cutting it -- or is it now the SyFy Channel? A turd by any other name & etc.) this production beats Peter Jackson's LOTR, though it certainly owes a great deal of debt to their pioneering technology and approach. Dark Kingdom: Dragon King is one of my favorite things to watch -- I keep imagining how much more I'd love it in the full version. I described it at greater length here last year.

Additional watching has been The Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency (2008) HBO, Season 1. Set in contemporary Botswana this is opposite spectrum viewing ... except, here too, there is dark magic, witchcraft and the Elder Powers' conflict with a Christianizing world (another connection: South Africa is part of the Dark Kingdom: Dragon King production team). We see the vast inroads evangelical christianity has made through the African populations, yet, if you are paying attention, the viewer sees clearly how this has been transformed by the indigenous spiritual beliefs of the various peoples. But Mma Precious Ramotswe possesses a well of good sense, rationality, compassion and sweetness that will not be found in the tragic protagonists of the Nibelungens' forest and ice bound northern lands.

I objected to the two Mma Precious Ramotswe novels I read: the milieu, the characters, were cute, eccentric and reassuringly implausible.* The HBO series isn't like that. It balances among all these elements plausibly because, while the episodes deal with dark and ugly realities in the group of African nations at the south of the continent, the viewers believe in Mma Precious Ramotswe's goodness of self, character and intention. This holds true for the 'eccentrics' who make up the brilliant cast ensemble of actors, who portray an authentic variety of Botswanans, and speak as Botswanans speak.  The pilot was too long, but the following episodes are just right. Sydney Pollack is part of the production team, that shoots in Botswana, so the production values and cinematography are splendid. What is also gotten right is the music. It is of the place in all its infinite forms and varieties, and it is omnipresent. The music was very much missing in the novels -- iirc, which I may not be.

Some have mentioned to me that they found this series too hard to 'get into,' so they quit. I'm considering that perhaps these people are not used to watching a television series in which there is not a single white person, any more than they've ever been in a gathering where they may have been the only white person, that this makes them uncomfortable, while remaining unaware as to why it makes them uncomfortable. There are also many cruel remarks about Mma Precious Ramotswe's weight -- the actress is very beautiful, btw. Among my friends those who love this show the most are my amigas of mixed race, who are of, as Precious says, "the African woman's traditional shape." These same people may feel equally uncomfortable with a woman of size as the center of positive attention, the focus, the agency, the heroine.

I'm looking forward to the second season arriving on DVD.

* My opinion, and mine alone -- many of my friends, who, since they are my friends, are intelligent, wise, well-informed, possess good judgment, brilliant critical acuity, and read very well, love the books as much as the HBO series, if not more.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Desirée's one of ours,

She's from New Orleans!

Dayem They're still at it. The rethuglians are howling threats to issue subpoenas to force her testimony. Her testimony for what?????

Her great crime is being black and a friend of the black POTUS and First Lady. And that she rode on a Mardi Gras float, a Zulu Queen of the Zulu krewe the first and only BLACK Mardi Gras parade krewe.

Instead of being that beloved Bacchus krewe caricature ape libel at which the viewers pelt the beads and tokens at with the greatest strength they can summon up.

Like the First Lady and the POTUS, Rogers is elegant, smart, high achieving, socially competent and rich. The assholes that are destroying the nation can't stand it.  She's uppity, doesn't know her place, doesn't stay in her place, doesn't bow, scrape and be invisible while doing so.  Honey chile -- Breaking News!  Black Creole royalty is brought up to shine and strut, not bow and hide.

So instead of criticizing going to a sinkhole Vietnam war in Afghanistan -- which they are all in favor of -- they're criticizing freakin' seating arrangements -- and why, yes, LYING ABOUT IT too. Letitia Baldridge says that it is perfectly usual for the social secretary to be seated at state dinners, though the social secretary doesn't stay seated post the first few minutes. By all accounts that's exactly what Desirée Rogers did.

Four stories in the WaPo Style section this week, pimp slapping Desirée, the First Lady and Obama -- two of them about the Salahi invasion and the Secret Service Fail, which are blamed on Rogers and the White House -- one of them taking the Obama White House to task for invoking Exec. Priv against Rogers's testifying re the Salahi invasion and screaming about 'transparency' -- and one somehow finding fault with the First Lady's seasonal decorations for the White House, though just what is wrong is never stated, thiough it is hinted that they may be a 'little cold' (in fact nothing is wrong -- they are lovely and traditional and I wish I could be there on one of the tours to see them in person). However, today, in the NY Times piece the cause for anger and criticism became clear. Earlier in the year, at a luncheon with previous social staff -- presumably prior to Cathy Hargraves leaving -- it was suggested that the First Lady was planning a 'non-religious' Christmas theme -- i.e. emphasis on diversity, including everyone, and thus the traditional créche wouldn't be displayed in the East Room. Horrors! Horrors! Horrors! Break with hidebound iron-clad tradition! Noeeeeeeeees. Well the créche is there, proving, for instance, that Rogers and the First Lady listen. (Unlike others we could mention.)

You gotta love the White House women, proving themselves far tougher than the POTUS -- no way are they throwing Desirée to the wolves upon the wolves' demand.

By my count this is at least the 5th catty, mean and lying article about her this week, speaking only of the WaPo & NY Times (I can only imagine how fauxnoose etc are howling), regarding the state dinner, that by all accounts in every way that matters was a huge, unequivocal, elegant success -- except, for huge fail, and that belongs to the secret service. The howling mobs are faulting the social secretary for not having her own security staff ... imagine, if she had one? Imagine their howlings then.

As usual with these assholes there is no way to win. Except ... well you all can use your imaginations as well, if not better, than I.

They just better be glad Desirée was a Zulu Queen, not a Mardi Gras Indian. Let's go get 'em!"

Friday, December 4, 2009

Onions; the Economy

The latest discovery from the constant look-out for sabor in my cooking adhering to the standards of no / low sodium, cream, butter and generally low-fat: caramelized yellow onions, cooked in olive oil and maybe some left-over stock or broth.

Last week I learned from a professional that you can caramelize large quantities of yellow onions at one go (the yellow one are best for particular chemical reasons -- the same reasons that cause yellow onions to make you cry the most if you don't resort to the cold water / lemon juice before-hand ploy), and then store them in the refrigerator to use as you like. You can even freeze them. You can do deep caramelizing or just sautee them lightly.

Cooking onions rather than just adding them to the cooking beans, beef stew or whatever I've learned often does result in better flavor. Sometimes too, the onions are little more 'hard' or something than you like when you just dump them in raw and rely on the heat of the cooking to cook them through. You don't want to do this every time, of course, but with some things it works better than not doing it. Caramelized onions are an extra-special addition. They are marvelous on top of whipped potatoes, we've learned.

Signs of the economic times, despite the crowing out D.C.: store after store front boarded up and closed; Christmas decorations sparse and of frugal materials; stores empty of shoppers. There are exceptions to these, and these stores are all inexpensive jewelry made in China, H&M, etc. Despite the happiness in D.C. about the jobs report today -- we ain't seein' 'em here. Also, finally, I can see tourism drying up down here in the nabe.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How Cathy Hargraves Got To Pimp Slap Desirée Rogers In Public

Ya wanna see Big Public Pimp Slapping Mean Girls Fight? Bearded by written by another black prima donna, Robin Givhan (who is rightwing, btw) on behalf of Cathy Hargraves. You say up close and personal beefs can't be allowed to influence what gets published as news? Well, then, I've got some news for You. Read it here in the Washington Post, which has laid off its journalists who report on national issues, starting with Barton Gellman, who did the most in depth book study of Darth Vader, Angler, based on the multi-part story he did initially for -- The Washington Post.

The voice of disgruntled, let-go White House social events staffer Cathy Hargraves, "who predated the Obamas as in-house guest-list guru and abruptly quit in June, according to Newsweek, because she had been stripped of much of her responsibility by Rogers," is all over this article, which is considered Big! Important! National! News!

The pretext for this hatchet job is that Desirée Rogers, in her attention-seeking whore flamboyance, is the one who is responsible for the Salahis crashing the party. Oh. Freakin'. Dear. Even though, why yes, this was the failure of the freakin' secret service.

Listen Read this:

In recent years, social secretaries had always quashed their own public profiles, demurred from seeking the limelight, in service to their position and in deference to the first lady. Indeed, the names of the most recent social secretaries -- Cathy Fenton, Lea Berman and Amy Zantzinger probably ring no bells outside of Washington circles. Those who have more prominent profiles such as Ann Stock, who worked in the Clinton administration and now at the Kennedy Center, and Letitia Baldridge of the Kennedy years, waited until their post-White House years to step into the spotlight.
As I read sections of this aloud to Vaquero, he immediately began to compose a song, in defense of Our New Orleans Native Zulu Queen -- which, of course, Desirée Rogers has been. Cathy Hargraves, of course, never has been. And never will. She didn't get featured in Vogue either. The cruelty, O the cruelty.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Vaquero's Role Model

It's official.

It is Pepe LePeu.

For all his life.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Dollhouse

No, not Joss Whedon's Dollhouse, but the Dollhouse in Walk on the Wild Side (1962) located in New Orleans, made from the 1956 novel by Nelson Algren. The year's 1932, the action begins on the road in East Texas -- Beaumont, by golly. Jane Fonda stars as Twist, the 'bad' runaway girl from the 'home', Lawrence Harvey as Dove, who is in love with prostitute Hallie Gerard, played by Cappuchine, who lives in the NO brothel named the Dollhouse. Why and how this illiterate guy in 1932 meets a highly educated, sophisticated, French artist in West Texas in 1932 is never explained. He also is loved in her twisted way by Twist, who ends up in the Dollhouse too, of course, and by Ann Baxter who plays a chicana who owns a chili joint-gas station that rents little cabin rooms.

Nor is it explained how Hallie became a prostitute, any more than why Dove's on the lam or on the road or out of prison or whatever he is. Hallie vaguely speaks of addiction to 'the easy life.' But anyone who knows anything about prostitution, even the fairly high class sort with a high class - or at least rich and powerful clientel as offered by the Dollhouse, knows better. Hallie seems to have a self-loathing need to degrade and punish herself -- there's some kinky stuff going on in the Dollhouse, with beating and tying up and so on as punishment for bad 'dolls.' There's much hinting that the madame, played by Barbara Stanwyck is a lesbian and seduced Hallie into the Life. I've never read the Algren novel from which this movie is adapted, but from plot summaries the novel's even more batshyte than the movie -- except Hallie makes more sense since she's a mulatta, not a Frenchwoman.

This is pure period melodrama, also movie done as a play, which means endless scenes of people emoting, rather than doing anything. But they do act, as does Fonda -- she acts a poor girl, rather than inhabiting the skin of a poor girl -- so different from how she filled her role as the prostitute Bree, in Klute. Indeed, now that I've seen as much of Walk on the Wild Side as Vaquero and I had patience for -- love fast forward! -- one can see clearly in Bree some of what is merely a hinted muddle with Hallie.

Best line from the movie, Twist to Dove: "You're crazy. You get hungry like a millionaire." He is going to having supper after they'd had breakfast that morning.

Best scene from the movie is Dove talking back to hellfire preacher calling on God to cast him and Hallie into hell : "He won't hear you. Cause you no friend of God or man - standing there hollering hate to the world. God is love. God is mercy and forgiveness. Try preaching that sometime Mr. Preacher. Teach people to forgive, not to crawl in fear. Teach people to love, not hate. preach the good book - preach the truth." That was just before the Code was dropped, and when movie characters could talk back to batshyte xtians on screen.

The best part of the movie is the Sam Bass designed opening credits of a black cat prowling through the Quarter's alleys. Woo. Very cool.

So, is Walk on the Wild Side, the movie, where Whedon & Co. got the idea to call their place the Dollhouse? Though, well, geegolly, it is so obvious in so many ways they didn't really need any inspiration. But the one thing we know for sure about movie - television people, they know their movies.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

80's Series Cable Channel: Beauty & The Beast to Falconcrest

CBS American television series reflected upon by an avid British watcher back in her day.

This caught my attention in the London Times because for the last few months I've been watching 80's and early 90's American television miniseries, including two made from Judith Krantz novels (produced, partly written, and filmed by her husband, I presume). They are vastly entertaining effortless watching, of admirably high production and cinemagraphic values -- plus terrific locations. Stacy Keach in the roles of both the artist, Mistral, in Mistral's Daughter (1984), and as Hemingway, in Hemingway (1988), seen fairly close together, is interesting in itself, as the actor convincingly ages from young manhood to old man in both, but in very differently in each role.
The adaptation of James Clavell's Nobel House (1988) remains e my all-time favorite of these, so far. I've enjoyed Shogun, very much, more than once, but the novel was more affecting because it includes more, which is not the case with Nobel House. This is another way to say that many of these miniseries are made from novels written by writers I can't read, like Judith Krantz, but they adapt splendidly to the so-called 'small' screen, when produced, and acted, by professionals. No need here for a great artist: professionalism plus budget, and you get superb entertainment.  I adore superb entertainment; in my opinion there isn't nearly enough of it. And lavish! acres of flowers everywhere, in fields, gardens, and indoors, fabulous clothes and jewels and furs, marvelous architecture, vistas of great beauty that are vistas even when viewed on my computer screen (oversize screen, granted, but still ....).

By the 80's, movies seemed seldom to be made in other countries by US; the television miniseries filled the breach. We evidently achieved home entertainment center television screens of size about this time -- and cable, the internet, tivio, dvds, etc. had not yet taken down the broadcast television networks, which still had the bottomless pit of advertising revenue budgets to beat out anything cable could provide. This year I realized this era of the miniseries is another of television's Golden Ages, and again, one I never saw while it broadcast, but only long past its production era, via dvd -- or as with the Lucille Ball series, via re-runs when I was a kid.

From the Beauty and the Beast section of the London Times article:

Sitting down last weekend for a CBS Drama marathon, I was surprised to discover that, even after 22 years, I could still remember the opening monologue from Beauty and the Beast, delivered by “The Beast” — Vincent — in his ponderously husky voice: “Her name is Catherine. From the moment I saw her, she captured my heart with her beauty, her warmth . . .”

“And her breasts!” I shouted, automatically — our traditional response back in 1987.

God, it’s a weird show. The essential set-up is that there is a half man, half lion (Ron Perlman) living in the sewers, pining after a lonely society chick, Catherine (Linda Hamilton from Terminator). There obviously being a limited number of social occasions when a man-lion can meet a highflying lawyer, Vincent and Catherine have cutely hooked up after an horrific attack leaves her with severe facial lacerations by the side of the road. Vincent takes Catherine to his sewer lair and sews her up — his somewhat primitive handiwork reflecting the fact that he presumably has paws, with no opposable thumbs.

On regaining consciousness, Catherine pulls back Vincent’s cowl, and gasps as the reality of his freakish appearance is finally revealed. Yes, that’s right: he has dry, auburn hair, just like Carol Decker from T’Pau. “How did this happen to you?” she asks, staring at his half-man, half-lion face.

“I have no idea,” Vincent replies, as viewers are compelled to yell, “Your mum done a lion, Vince! She seen the lions at Longleat, innit!” at the television, while rolling their eyes.

For the next two series, the majority of Catherine and Vincent’s relationship is carried out in a haze of intense, unconsummated sexual tension — Catherine’s reticence presumably being at least part-founded on the fear that Vincent makes out cat-style, and will try and do her on the shed roof at the bottom of the garden, while making a series of unpleasant shrieking sounds.Watching it now, Beauty and the Beast looks like the forerunner to the current, highly lucrative Twilight franchise: a psychic, pining, non-penetrative beast, who is obsessed with an otherwise outcast and lonely girl. I could see exactly how I loved it as a virginal, socially outcast teenager. As an adult, however, I found it about as much fun as dry Weetabix. And, anyway, I was only watching Beauty and the Beast while waiting for the big guns: Dynasty and Falcon Crest. Come on! Shoulder pads! Earrings so big they make your head look like a mug tree! Film stock so strobingly orange that when Blake Carrington sits down behind his desk it’s hard to tell where he ends and £10,000 of teak begins! Proper telly.
"Proper telly" indeed.  For me though its not about Falcon Crest, which I've never seen either, or any of its ilk.  It's the miniseries, adapted from novels, which are written, whether I like their style or abilities or not, by WRITERS, giving writers money, to which I say heartily, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAmen!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

POLDARK Coming to DVD Alert!

That first series of Poldark (from a series of novels by Winston Graham), with splendid Cornish location landscapes, that was Romantic Hotness back then, when I'd watch it with amiga TB in Albuquerque.

I've been waiting and waiting for this to be on DVD.

Poldark, YES! March 2, 2010!

Zenaida Romeu's Birthday

Luncheon today on the upper east side in honor of Zenaida Romeu' s birthday; at this moment she's about to board the flight that takes her back to Havana, where her family and friends will have another birthday party.  Birthdays are a very big deal in Cuba. The state gives every citizen a cake on his or her birthday, no matter how young or old.

Among the toasts was the one I gave: "To North Dakota and the Fargo Symphony Orchestra for bringing in one of the first Cuban musicans and artists since the Bush regime cut off intellectural and artistic contact between our countries in 2003!"  I also thank our hosts for giving me the honor of mmaking what may well be first toast drunk in Manhattan in honor of North Dakota.  North Dakota, filling the breach between the U.S. and Cuba.  Who would have thought it?

Story here.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Signs of the Times

It's easy to miss things this time of year, when the calendar is so crowded.

I'm also feeling so lazy. I want to stay home at nights and read. Lately it's the Emperor series by Conn Iggulden, following the life and career of Julius Caesar, while listening to The Kropotkins, a punk/Delta blues, New York-Memphis collaboration band. I fell in love with Lorette Velvette, the lead vocalist last Monday night at the le Poisson Rouge Robert Palmer / Hand of Fatima benefit.  I think this band was formed with me in mind.  Such great lyrics as well as breaking up the drum kit, for starters.

Doubtless when I have to stay home for a while I'll be dying to go out and there won't be any socializing available. But I missed the annual SFWA authors and editors meet-up last night, despite [hangs head] reminder e-mails. Argh. It's always like this, one way or another. Yet, I probably didn't miss anything. I've been to others.

I also failed again today to spend money though I was ready to, wanted to, and need to. Stores seem to be trying to empty out all their merchandise before Thanksgiving weekend; Bed, Bath and Beyond insisted it didn't have any blankets, and I have comforters and duvets and don't want another one, thank you, or pillows or a mattress cover. I want a blanket, damn it! The GAP has absolutely hideous clothes for winter. What were they thinking? The French Connection which I can usually count on refuses to put anything on sale. Everywhere else is out of everything except in petite. The boots are never available in my size. Winter coats are all determined to make one into a twin of the Pillsbury Dough Boy -- they, like so many clothes are all puffle -- i.e. puffs and ruffles both, on the same garment, and why yes, this has infected the coats as well.

I did make a hair appointment and hope it won't be a scary disappointment when all is completed.

Another sign of the current economy: I could have had a walk-in haircut today if I'd wanted it, or tomorrow for that matter. Also the prices have -- dropped. There are two fewer stylists in the salon, and still all the chairs were empty. This, the day before Thanksgiving. This is unheard of, ever, in all my years of living in NYC. Even in little 'beauty parlors' that cater to the older Italian ladies in the neighborhood, and never, ever in the upscale styling salons that have replaced almost all the beauty parlors and proliferated like kudzu down here. The only hair place I saw busy today was Supercuts. This tells us something about the economy that evidently D.C. can't see.

I'm also hearing older shoppers from out-of-town sounding off about how they hate government and don't want any and want to take care of themselves, while their youthful student retail personnel enthusiastically agree.  I couldn't help say to one enthusiastic and loud lady from California going on and on about how much she hates government and can take of herself, "Good.  Let your house burn down in the wildfires, and by the way, don't walk on MY sidewalk that my city government has paid for with MY goddamn taxes."  She was outraged.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

More Book-y Stuff: "Pamela," With Vampires

"Fair Hypocrites: Twilight By Way of Pamela":  check it out here.

On the surface, then, it would seem that the similarity between Twilight and Pamela, between Bella and Pamela, ends in their popularity and the mania they inspire(d). But these twin phenomena, one sitting at each end of the history of the novel, I think, share more. By an admittedly cynical and reductive reading, Twilight and Pamela are the same book, the same archetypal female fantasy: a poor or undistinguished girl is chosen as “the one” by a handsome, rich, aristocratic man who sweeps her off her feet and takes her out of her (more or less) grubby, mundane, low-born life. And the cynical reading goes further. These are not merely Cinderella love stories; in fact, they are not love stories at all. By the cynical reading, these novels are only about class, about becoming rich, becoming one of the rarefied beautiful people.

General Ulysses S. Grant: Forgotten Warrior -- And General Forrest

U.S. GRANT: American Hero, American Myth by Joan Waugh; Univ. of North Carolina

Why did his reputation fade so rapidly in the 1920s and '30s? Waugh thinks that the "post-World War I generation feared, rather than celebrated, the endless sacrifices of the Civil War," that the nationwide popularity of the "Lost Cause" movement elevated Robert E. Lee and diminished Grant, and that "in an era known for its racism and its rejection of the biracial democratic implications of both the war and Reconstruction, Grant was scorned by many." Add to that the hostility of many 20th-century historians to his record as president, and you have the ingredients for a free-fall tumble, not to mention an utter injustice. If you read the biographies mentioned above along with this fine study, you will understand just how much of an injustice it really is.

Birth of a Nation has much to answer for, as does Woodrow Wilson.

Madison Smartt Bell's novel of confederate general Bedford Forest, Devil's Dream, is just out -- he sent us a copy a couple of weeks ago.  The NY Times reviews it today.   Madison provides a timeline of Forrest's life that is fascinating -- it includes elements that Madison didn't include in the novel, such as Forrest as founding member of the KKK.  It's a brilliant novel, though the principal is a monster, and a charmless monster to boot.   Nevertheless, I recommend this one.

The Year Before the Flood Tour: Coda

Dinner party thrown by a fashion designer last night.  The food was excellent, so was the champagne.  The guests were great.

Met the mover and shaker of the Irish Repetory Theater, whose hit production of The Emperor Jones is so much a hit even he, Cierin O'Reilly, can't get a ticket.  They may move to Broadway in the winter.  His wife is also very cool.

Also met John Slattery and Jon Hamm.  I initially thought Slattery was one of the designer's brothers, because he does resemble the men in the family -- there are a lot of them, and though one of them is a close friend, the others I meet now and again at different parties, fund-raisers and so the designer hosts.  But when he introduced himself to me, imagine how chagrined when I realized, not another member of the family, but Roger Sterling of Mad Men, and Bill Kelly of Sex and the City.  Argh.  He's a  nice person, good company and terrific dancer.  A good man to have at a party.

Mott, who was the cinematographer for The American Astronaut, was another guest.  He had some of Vaquero's scenes from this cult movie in his phone and showed them around.  Again, Argh.

Debbie Gibson was also present, and sang.  So did Vaquero.

The rest of the night was given over to dancing, which was splendid, as the brownstone's wood floor where we always dance at her parties is nicely springy and the music is programed by her brother who is chair of the dance dept. at his university, so it was great dance music.  I often make fun of white people dancing, but there was nothing to make fun of last night.  These white people can dance, thus the African American and Latino guests didn't have to be embarrassed for us.  :)  It's all a matter of culture.  If you didn't grow up in musical, rhythmic, dancing culture you aren't going to be able to dance.  Alas, most younger people in this country do not grow up that way any longer.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

David Hackett Fischer Refutes ALBION'S SEED Critics

Here follow two of Hackett's refutations of those who have taken issue with his statements of the emigrants' regions and points of departure, who they were, etc., with citations. As you can see from the length of the April, '91 article, Hackett goes deeply into his source materials for his minutely detailed evidence. No one as far as I can tell from researching these issues in JSTOR have refuted his refutation. Part of the problem appears to be the same as with this year's publication of Keegan's take on the U.S. Civil War: Unlike Keegan, Hackett has walked all the grounds included in his work, in the U.K., and in the U.S.. He's lived in these regions as well; he grew up in the Chesapeake and the Tidewater, he did stints of matriculation, scholarship and lectureships at unversities in England, whereas it appears that his critics haven't done these things – as far as I can tell at this point, at least. I don't claim to know everything, though I am doing as careful research search as I can.

Albion and the Critics: Further Evidence and Reflection
David Hackett Fischer
The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 48, No. 2 (Apr., 1991), pp. 260-308
Published by: Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture
David Hackett Fischer's Rejoinder
The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 48, No. 4 (Oct., 1991), pp. 608-611
Published by: Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture

Monday, November 16, 2009

Zora Neale Hurston -- A Theme Restaurant in D.C.

In Eatonville the town (outside of Orlando, population 2,400), there are porches where stories are spun, so naturally there must be a "porch" in Eatonville the restaurant (just off V Street NW, 250 seats) where visitors from the town might sit a spell with customers.

"This is a first," says N.Y. Nathiri, pleasantly stunned to see this trendy urban take on her rural home town. She rocks her green wooden chair on the rough wooden boards of the porch that's tucked beside the swanky dining area of the Washington restaurant.
She's wearing a black T-shirt that says "Zora!" and carrying a burlap bag that says "Zora!" She's just arrived from Eatonville, also the home town of the great Harlem Renaissance novelist with the incandescent personality, Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston used to collect yarns she heard on the porches of Eatonville, and those porches turn up in her books. She died in 1960 in such poverty and obscurity that her grave was unmarked, but today her following is passionate.

Nathiri, 60, had heard rumors of this other Eatonville. Zora pilgrims to the town kept recommending the restaurant. Nathiri had to see for herself. From her perch on the porch, she takes in the big Day-Glo murals inspired by scenes from Hurston's work, the enlarged quotes of Hurston's words, the painting of Eatonville itself. Nathiri, executive director of the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, could look around here and think her work is almost done.

"It's an incarnation of Eatonville that is very 21st century," she says. "It's cultural preservation across generations and in another setting

Eatonville, meet Eatonville.
I know what I think about Zora Neale Hurston, one of the writers on my top ten list, fiction or non. But I don't know what I think about this, except, kind of on the level of where were you when she died, unknown, in poverty and isolation in 1960. And now people are making money from her brilliant, ground-breaking work, money that she did not make herself, despite doing all that work.

The full story in the Washington Post is here.

What is useful in this story is the brief outline of the Florida - D.C. connections among the African American populations of both regions, in terms of immigration for work, for family ties, that reach back at least through the Civil War. Many people aren't aware of this venerable network, or its place in African American history.

On the other hand, the article states: "What it really is, though, is a devout and profitable evocation of spirit and ideals intended to appeal to Washingtonians' pride in their town's contribution to the Harlem Renaissance and to national culture overall."

Now, I'm not so sure about this "national culture overall thang." I mean, really, in terms of national culture, just what has D.C. contributed that isn't about lobbyists and pork barreling, and how much good from that have African Americans received anyway? Currently D.C. is twittering that its hiphop scene is poised to rank everyone else, and deserves to since southern hiphop is bouncin' so great, i.e. Little Wayne, etc. But honey, Imatellya -- that's New Orleans and no way evah will D.C. rank New Orleans when it comes to music. That's the price D.C. pays for the power to screw NO over and over.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Holiday Movies - Winter Solstice

I'm looking for some.

Not what passes generally as a Christmas movie release these days -- they are all horrible, most horrible.

But films on the order of Hercule Poirot's Christmas or Desk Set or action historicals like Beowulf & Grendel (2005) -- not that Zemeikis thing!  Why o why hasn't the BBC poured millions per episode to create a full series of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight?  That would be the perfect Yule season watching!  For a while the extended Lord of The Rings was the perfect darkest week of the year watching, but I've watched them now so often that the bad Jackson choices are far outweighing the good parts -- and there are so many very bad -- not to mention just stupid -- choices Jackson made.  There just aren't enough dark, cold, historic - fantasy adventure movies made that are filled with landscape, fascinating heroes and brilliantly beautiful horses and weapons.  Sir Gawain isn't any of these, of course, but more in the tradition of Desk Set, I guess.  :)  I love nordic, germanic, saxon, gaelic, celtic, roman adventure hero films -- they are so in the season of the darkest week solstice.  I think Europe does more of these than we do.

Finding a good one isn't easy.  Braveheart does NOT qualify; you simply cannot have a royal princess galloping all over the country by herself in the 13th century.  I can't sink into that. Neither does The 13th Warrior, which has some marvelous things, including one of the best horses, but way too much sillyness.   Ring of the Nieblungs is a good one.  But over here, released as The Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King, over an hour of the German production has been cut.  I've watched The Vikings too lately, and besides, it's really sunny, not dark, with boy gets girl, and in the sunshine no less.  There aren't enough leaps into the wolf pits to make this one work for the long nights. Ah, we need a BBC series of Bernard Cornwell's Saxon berserker warrior Uhtred, who perceives of himself as Danish, committed to Thor, despite his place as one of King Alfred's Christian soldiers.

I have the Thanksgiving week films: Walk on the Wild Side and Buccaneer's Girl -- both with some connection to New Orleans.  I think I've run to the end of New Orleans films, alas, having watched last week Sean Penn's All The King's Men, which I thought was excellent, though evidently I'm the only one.  I wonder why.  For a long time the right movie for Thanksgiving was My Fair Lady with Audrey Hepburne.  But as these days AH makes me want to throw cold water into her face so she stops pretending to impersonate a sleepwalker as her idea of ingenue, or tape her mouth closed to stop the silly supposed idea of ingenue breathy babble, the wardrobe no longer is the focus.  Dang, I hate it when that happens.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Albion's Southwestern Seeds -- Roman Slavery To Virginia Slave Trade

Reading along in Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (1989) by David Hackett Fischer. The second folkway is that of "South of England to Virginia,", i.e. a/k/a the Chesapeake region of the New World Atlantic coast.

In the section titled "The Cradle of Virginia: The South of England," pp. 241 - 43 Hackett states:
During the early middle ages slavery had existed on a large scale throughout Mercia, Wessex and Sussex, and had lasted longer there than in other parts of England. Historian D.J.V. Fisher writes that "the fate of many of the natives was not extermination but slavery." (5) This was not merely domestic bondage, but slavery on a larger scale. During the eighth and ninth centuries, the size of major slaveholdings in the south of England reached levels comparable to large plantations in the American South. When Bishop Wilfred aquired Selsey in Sussex, he emancipated 250 slaves on a single estate. Few plantations in the American South were so large even at their peak in the nineteenth century. (6) Serfdom also had been exceptionally strong in this region. Painstaking analysis of the Domesday book by historical geographers has shown that the proportion of servi was larger in Wessex than in other parts of England. (7)

By the time of American colonization, both slavery and serfdom were long gone from this region. But other forms of social obligation remained very strong in the seventeenth century. A smaller part of the population were freeholders in the south and west of England than in East Anglia. (8)
Which set me wondering why so. Which naturally leads one to Rome as all roads will. Even prior to the Roman colonization of Britain they were trading with southwestern Britain, principally for iron, tin and copper, as well as the gold in Wales. Mining is almost always slave labor. Rome is characterized as one of the 5 historical slave-based economies (interestingly, to me, at least, one of the reasons the staunch republican, Lucius Vorenus, in the HBO Rome series (2005 - 2007) gives for supporting Julius Caesar's coronation as dictator for life is that the soldier believes Caesar when he says he will create jobs - work, for the Roman citizens, which they are starved for, since almost all the labor is performed by slaves. This is a further irony since Caesar's conquests were responsible for so many affordable slaves in the markets.) As well, all around the Mediterranean, post the 'fall' of Rome, slavery remained intact through the 18th century -- it was particularly strong in the 15th century, prior to Colombo's first voyage to the New World.

So I went looking, and this is what I found: Rome conquered the southwest of Britain first, and stayed there the longest, and built the most extensive network of villas and markets there. Thus the extensive and persistent practice of slavery, serfdom and then other forms of class-social subservience. This might also, then, explain why this region was most connected, and thus loyal to the English kings and throne. This is the region of the Cavaliers, and these are the same elite families that settled Virginia, many of whom are still in positions of ownership, power and wealth today.

History provides many painful pleasures in the revelation of the persistence of cultural identity and folkways.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Orleans - Congo Square Symposium - Saturday

Tom Dent Congo Square Symposium - Congo Square: Crossroads of the Afro-Atlantic World. The symposium is free and open to the public, takes place at the Jazz & Heritage Center (1225 N. Rampart Street), from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. The event is presented by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation as a part of the Foundation’s Tom Dent Congo Square Lecture Series. The final hour of the symposium will feature a drum workshop and a cocktail reception.
It is going to be spectacular! I know the presenters, and they are brilliant, just starting with Dr. Robert Farris Thompson a/k/a Master T, Vaquero his own self, Alex LaSalle and many more. Appropriate langniappe, Dr. Henry Drewel, a Yoruba cultural historian and specialist, is in New Orleans for something else, and will be attending. This another of these events in which the members of the audience will be as brilliant and informed as the presenters.

The Schedule and description of the topics are here on the Jazz & Heritage website.

The day following the symposium, the Jazz & Heritage Foundation will present the third annual Congo Square Rhythms Festival in nearby Armstrong Park. The festival is free and open to the public. It will feature music, food and a large crafts area. Performers include Ensemble Fatien (featuring Ivorian multi-instrumentalist Seguenon Kone, Dr. Michael White, Sunpie Barnes and others), the Kumbuka African Dance Ensemble and many more.
Last night Vaquero presented his New Orleans premiere performance of "Kiss You Down South" at the New Orleans Museum of Art.  Then, dinner, at a French restaurant on Magazine.  This afternoon, it's a lecture to a music class at Tulane.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Food Indulgences

New Orleans Po-Boy Preservation Festival on Nov. 22, just in time for Thanksgiving. Isn't Louisiana the home of the propane fired deep friend turkey?   Thank goodness this takes place post Vaquero's return to NYC ... he's indulged in far too many Po-Boys this year and last year and the year before, already.  If, as he says, he restricts himself to a single Po-Boy a month, he's now consumed his monthly allotment of Po-Boys through about 2017.

This Thanksgiving, as a side I'm going to do a dish of brussels sprouts with bacon and figs. I saw the recipe in the NY Times, and it looks like a perfect Thanksgiving dinner side. And a butternut squash-ginger soup.

I don't have to concern myself with the traditional central turkey and ham -- or anything at all, really, for Thanksgiving -- since we're having our traditional Thanksgiving with our oldest and dearest friends again, but
I want to try these dishes and this is the perfect occasion. And these dishes will travel well, and take nothing to warm up.

Also, it's satisfying to contribute something beyond the traditional host gift of wine.

I can imagine the conversation already -- this travesty of a health care reform bill has effectively nullified Roe v Wade.  How dare O say this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill?  Such a -- it's so miserable to say it, but he spoke such a lie.

Also, it seems topsy-turvy somehow that O had to attend the Fort Hood victims' service when troops are dying every day in these ugly stupid bankrupting wars. After all, these wars are what drove their murderer mad enough to murder these troops. Bloomberg too, since it's Veterans Day, chose to give a breakfast or lunch -- some meal anyway -- to a few chosen NY Vets in memorial of the Fort Hood victims, while seemingly not noticing that the City of New York has thousands of homeless veterans of the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War.  I had a feeling that the passed out man of Sunday night may well have been an Iraq War veteran.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What Do Women Think Of This $*&&^@%@__(( Health Care Reform Bill?

This is what a significant portion of the women I know think.

According to this bill being a woman is a pre-existing condition.

Obama sold us down the river.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Distressed Homeless & Fat Squirrels

Walking along the usual route to the local supermarket, between the Manhattan Island New Amsterdam era botanical museum and the Community Garden, was a homeless man lying in the middel of the walkway between these tree and flower filled spaces on one side, NYU faculty housing and the Morton Williams supermarket on the other. No baggage, no blanket, no cardboard, no plastic. I couldn't tell if he was breathing or not. People are walking around him. Others are feeding the very fat squirrels. Nobody even seems to notice him, much less cares.

I called our local EMS-911 number. While I was waiting for them to arrive, two college guys walking their dogs started to encourage their dogs to pee on the man. I stopped them. They told me to get a sense of humor, frigid bitch.

Then, coming home after he was roused by the EMS people and ran away from them, though he couldn't walk, much less run, in anything resembling a straight line, a very young woman pushing a baby carriage with two small children begged me for money to take the PATH train to her mother's because she just had no money. This is the second time this exact conformation and request has been made to me in two days. Nevertheless I gave her 5 dollars of what I've got to live on this week, unless a check comes it (which is supposed to, but so often doesn't). How can you tell, things are so bad for so many.

Of course for those for whom it isn't bad at all, they have more money than ever. You see it all around us here.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Prehistory of New Orleans: Treasures from the Hogan

On AfroPop tonight, at least on the radio station here.  Vaquero made the program this week.

It can be streamed here on the AfroPop Worldwide site.

Post Mamboist New Orleans

But this thing the poster is for, is Monday, at UT.

Library Books

Why have I never read Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (1989) by David Hackett Fischer?

Because it weighs a ton. Thus it isn't a traveling book. And because the American folkways I've been most deeply interested in for decades -- because they affect my life -- are African in heritage.

I have the 2009 Jack Reacher novel, Gone Tomorrow, which since it's large print isn't an hc either, thus not heavy, thus a travel book.

And what looks like a Spanish knock-off of Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Dr. Wao, by Javier Cabo, titled -- ka-ching! -- Wonderful World (2007), published in Spain by Mondadori and here by HarperCollins (2009). Cabo lives in Brooklyn when he's not living in Barcelona. So it's very likely the two, Cabo and Díaz, know each other. Paging through Cabo's my eyes light immedately upon a passage in which the narrator reads an X-Man comic. And like that, on all the pages. No footnotes though. And much longer than Díaz's. Also Cabo's guiding light is Stephen King, whereas Díaz's is The Lord of the Rings. LOTR is beyond love in the pantheon of books I hold dear. Stephen King? My dear, I don't give a damn.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mardi Gras's Comin', Baby!

It's on my birthday this year.

And guess what? There's an invite from Tulane which includes putting us up for 3 days for a Cuban Music thang -- keynote -- on the 19th. Is this cool or what?

Part of something to do with US Department of Education.
Mardi Gras and Cuba in the same span of days!

This is really exciting.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Day

It's a most gorgeous day here. I remember election day here in 2001 though. It too was gorgeous, as was the primary day which happened to be 9/11 in 2001.

Vaquero voted very early this AM before heading out to a studio in Brooklyn. When I got there -- there was a line! Now this is a very low turn-out election across the state, and here in the City. Particularly here in the City since Bloomberg and the city council highjacked the two -- yes TWO! -- voter referendums that refused to accept no term limits for mayoral terms. So he's been pouring about a million a day into getting himself a 3rd term as mayor since about January this year.

Evidently the hatred my district shares with me for Bloomberg is the platform for the number of voters turning out today here. The other districts of my polling place didn't have anybody voting.

Also, this was an election in which I could vote the straight Working Families party and still vote for all the candidates of my choice. One way of giving the ball-less dems a message. As far as it goes. But the Working Families party is getting on more ballots every election ....

Needless to say I voted no on both propositions: one to allow construction in public lands to create a for-profit -- what? electrical plant? not sure, as there's been so little discussion about it anywhere, and no against using prison labor in non-profit businesses. Already Haliburton seems to think we believe they aren't for profit. The basic economic problem we are all facing is a lack of paying jobs. Encouraging prison labor is like encouraging slave labor and illegal immigrant labor -- it takes more and more jobs away from us -- and in this case also encourages the FOR PROFIT PRISON SYSTEM to keep lobbying with all their $$$$$$$$$ -- which so often happen to be tax payer dollars -- to expand the prison population LIKE IT ALEADY DOES. And who is going to prison illegally? Primarily kids and African Americans.

Monday, November 2, 2009

La Luna

Last night, walking along the colonial era botanical 'museum,' I was moonbushed.

Just a woman, minding her own business, I come to the wide staircase of an open area among the tall cubes that are NYU, and -- BLAM! Right Between the Eyes! -- I get hit by this enormous, perfectly round white moon, struck immobile for several minutes.

She will do that to you.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

John Keegan Does The American Civil War Wrong

Stated by no less a Civil War scholar than James M. McPherson, in his NY Times Book Review piece on Keegan's new book, THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR: A Military History.

Sometimes Brits don't seem to really understand the American Civil War. Bernard Cornwell's Starbuck series set within that war, for instance, it's so bad -- and, yes, wrong. He's dropped writing it too. It clearly wasn't winning readership -- this doesn't happen to Cornwell, but this time it did.

McPherson was more kind than the WaPo reviewer who revealed that Keegan stated, iirc, in the Introduction to his book, that he really doesn't understand why the United States had this civil war. That's pretty profound non-comprehension, which for the life of me, I cannot figure out why, since it's very simple to understand. Slavery was the root cause.  The determination of the confederacy to expand the trade and institution as the economic platform for the U.S. throughout the hemisphere, not to mention the already existing North American states.  This was not to be tolerated by the industrial capitalists of the Northern states.  They had their own vision of manifest destiny, and there was no place for this kind of slavery in it.
On the other hand, what McPherson more kindly takes Keegan to task about is his profound ignorance of our geography, since his central argument is that this is war as geostrategics.  McPherson has this to say about Keegan's analysis:
The analytical value of Keegan’s geostrategic framework is marred by numerous errors that will leave readers confused and misinformed. I note this with regret, for I have learned a great deal from Keegan’s writings. But he is not at top form in this book. Rivers are one of the most important geostrategic features he discusses. “The Ohio and its big tributaries, the Cumberland and the Tennessee,” he writes, “form a line of moats protecting the central Upper South, while the Mississippi, with which they connect, denies the Union any hope of penetration.” The reality was exactly the contrary. These navigable rivers were highways for Union naval and army task forces that pierced the Confederate heartland, capturing Nashville, New Orleans, Memphis and other important cities along with large parts of Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. Keegan acknowledges this reality later in the book when he notes that these rivers “offered points of penetration to the Union into Confederate territory.” Precisely.

November Schedule So Far

November 8 -- concert Austin;
November 11 -- concert New Orleans Museum of Art
November 14 -- 1st Annual Congo Square Conference address and etc., New Orleans
November 17-18 -- Princeton English Department, Special Guest for this term's "Literary South" course; The Year Before the Flood is one of the texts, in company with a host of brilliant writers including Edwidge Danticatt, Flannery O'Connor, Jamaica Kincaid (who I truly adore), Toni Morrison, and several others.
November 20th -- Joe's Pub, NYC

Friday, October 30, 2009

It's Halloween -- It Must Be Vampires

Kevin Jackson, author of Bite: A Vampire Handbook: A Vampire Miscellany, lists the top 10 vampire novels.

He intelligently leaves out Rice and Meyers:  "(Anne Rice needs no plugging here; nor does Stephenie Meyer, nor Charlaine Harris ...)"

Last Night in San Francisco

Received from Vaquero this AM below.

a 3-hour event which featured a full set of reading -- which has gotten much more dramatic and in more character voices, with about 70 people in attendance, because it was the bookstore's anniverary party, and it was as good a party as i've ever been at in a bookstore. my set of reading was followed by about an hour of drinking (not by me, though i did eat a few alcoholic orange thinslices). There was a celebrity bartender, the owner's sister, who set up a punchbowl next to me, about on a level with my head but a little behind me and just off to the side. then everyone sat back down and i did a full set of singing, the second one i did today.

it was a whole new level of performance for this stuff. i did:

piety and desire
gangster roots
babydoll (with audience singing the coro)
battle call
kiss you down south
her point of view

He was very pleased. Also he met a physician at an earlier event in the day, who offered to give him a steroid shot today, before he gets on the plane to come home.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

We've Been Sold Down the River by Obama and the dems

It's official.

Forced purchase of health insurance.

They call that a public option?  AND nothing to be done until 2013.  All these bozos will be gone by then and the shithead liebermans and the rethugz will be back.


In the meantime though The Recession Is Over (tm) and They Keep Saying There's No Inflation (tm), and right here at home in New York the price of milk has fallen, at my supermarket this week milk prices increased 10%.

One term Obama.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

California, THE YEAR BEFORE THE FLOOD & The New York Times

It's another beautiful day in California, my boy says.  Here?  Not so much.  Pouring buckets as it has for most of the time lately.  Sigh.

Despite the continuing shoulder and arm pain (the neck and back stuff seems gone, thank goodness), he's enjoying himself.  He played and sang 5 of his songs last night in Santa Barbara.

He's currently on his way to San Francisco.

In the meantime the AP article about The Year Before the Flood published yesterday.  Here's a link to it from the New York Times.

Though there are a couple of errors and mis-quote, it's very good; I really like this part:

Tom Lowenburg, co-owner of Octavia Books in New Orleans, said readers appreciate Sublette's perspective and gift for storytelling.

''He has a very interesting mind,'' he said. ''He's able to draw from all different directions and process it all in a way that is unique. He is one of those people who takes in a lot, has a very broad sense of things and is able to see things differently, but is not pedantic."