". . . 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

Friday, July 31, 2009

Our So-Called Teachable Moment

From "Beneath The Radar," by Gary Younge, in The Nation:

It's a basic lesson at relatively low cost. And yet the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, suggests we are doomed to keep repeating the lesson. Barack Obama was right when he referred to the arrest as a "teachable moment," but given the brouhaha that has followed, it seems that even a moment involving the nation's most prominent black intellectual teaches us nothing.

This lesson should come in two parts.

First, all such tales attempt to stage racism as a crude morality play, with individuals as absolute victims and absolute villains, rather than as a system of oppression that works primarily through institutions. The victim must have no priors and no drugs. And unless the perpetrator is photographed with a billy club in hand and uses racial slurs that are recorded on tape, we are supposed to give him the benefit of the doubt.

For an individual, that is fair. For a system, it is farcical. While it may be intriguing to speculate about what two people may or may not have been thinking, feeling and intending at any given moment, the proof of racism is in the odds. Black people in America fall foul of not just the law of the land but the law of probabilities as well. They are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, convicted and executed. A ridiculous black man and a ridiculous white man do not stand the same chances when put before a man with a badge, gun or gavel. The figures bear this out, and at the end of the day, nooses and burning crosses shouldn't be necessary to demonstrate racism's reach.

Second, the fact that racism might affect a Harvard professor is amazing only if one buys into the idea that black people who have reached a certain status should be exempt from racism. If you believe that, then the problem with Gates's arrest is not racism. It's that he was treated like a regular black person. The issue moves from "If it happened to him it really can happen to anybody" to "It shouldn't have happened to him because he is a somebody."

Which brings us back to Obama, who first said the Cambridge police acted "stupidly," only to then "recalibrate" his remarks before inviting the arresting officer, James Crowley, and Gates to the White House for beers and reconciliation. This was primarily remarkable because, for reasons both pragmatic and strategic, Obama's interventions in matters of race are so very rare.

So it is curious that he would use the considerable influence he has in this area to defend a tenured Harvard professor who was detained for a few hours. Indeed, the only other public pronouncement Obama has made about race since his election was delivered just a week before Gates's arrest, at the NAACP conference. On the organization's centenary he paid homage to the civil rights movement and, recognizing the inequalities bequeathed by segregation, he started talking about parenting.

"We've got to say to our children, Yes, if you're African-American, the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are higher," Obama said. "Yes, if you live in a poor neighborhood, you will face challenges that somebody in a wealthy suburb does not have to face. But that's not a reason to get bad grades. That's not a reason to cut class.... No one has written your destiny for you.... That's what we have to teach all of our children. No excuses. No excuses."

These two interventions feel like the Talented Tenth circling the wagons. . . .

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Academic Historical Scholarship vs. Hollywood View of History

What is this controversey about?

"Over the last few weeks, the writers of a pair of Civil War-era histories about the anti-Confederate inhabitants of Jones County, Miss., have been trading barbs in an unusual public spat. It began when the author of one book, rights to which had been sold to Universal Pictures and the filmmaker Gary Ross, discovered that Mr. Ross had spurred the publication of a new and somewhat sexier work on the same subject."

What is meant here, by 'sexier' is that the trade version (which based itself upon the academic work) is this:

“The State of Jones: The Small Southern County That Seceded From the Confederacy,” a narrative history by the Harvard scholar John Stauffer and the Washington Post writer Sally Jenkins. The book, which on Monday was ranked No. 83 on Amazon’s best-seller list, presented Newton Knight, the leader of the renegade county, as a morally driven hero in the mold of John Brown — but whose appeal was enhanced by his romance with an ex-slave who, in the book’s account, became the love of his life as relations with his white wife cooled.

Whereas, the author of the academic history objects:

. . . . She particularly objected to what she saw as the new book’s tendency to romanticize Mr. Knight and his love life, its insistence on the idea that Jones County actually seceded and its attempt to place Mr. Knight at the Battle of Vicksburg — touches that do not hurt the story’s cinematic potential.

“If they had said this was a historical novel, I could understand it,” Ms. Bynum said in a telephone interview this week, referring specifically to the portrayal of Mr. Knight’s relationship with his mistress, Rachel Knight. Ms. Bynum, in her review, pointed to evidence that what she called Mr. Knight’s “philandering” also led him to father four or more children by Rachel’s own daughter.

What makes this situation even more complicated is that the academic historian, Victoria Bynum, published her history with the North Carolina University Press 8 years ago, which press then sold the rights to it to Universal Pictures. This means, if you are educated in such things, that she got NOTHING out of this deal, university presses being what they are. In the meantime a fellow who worked on the script, a Gary Ross, who you all being who you are, may recognize as currently working on the script for Spiderman 4) got a lucrative deal from Doubleday, for his book, which borrows egregiously frolm Bynum'ss, and then changes the facts so far as they are known.


More than anything else though, me being who I am, I suppose that what chaps Ms. Bynum most is this change of facts: " ... Mr. Knight’s “philandering” also led him to father four or more children by Rachel’s own daughter." For her it's probably how I feel, for instance, about anyone talking about Jefferson's relationship with Sally Hemmings and neglecting to mention that she was his white wife's sister-and-slave.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Linguistics Tools

In NY Times Science section: -- this may not be something we are unaware of but many people are not, and this plays a role in the long, ongoing call for "English Only" in our schools and public places:

[ "Africa has about 2,000 of the world’s 6,000 languages. Many are still unwritten, some have yet to be named and many will probably disappear. For centuries, social and economic incentives have been working against Kim and in favor of Mende, a language used widely in the region, until finally, Dr. Childs speculates, the Kim language has been pushed to the verge of extinction." ]

This isn't a new point, that in anthropology the observer, which includes the observer's tools, affect the data:

[ "The relationship between linguistics and technology goes deeper than what format the sounds are recorded in. Dr. Childs, who remembers working with computers as large as a room when he was a doctoral student, said that theories of language often shaped themselves to resemble the tools at hand.
In the beginning, he said, linguists imagined that the mind processed language with many rules and little in storage. “What happened over time was that more and more stuff was moved into the lexicon, was listed there, and that sort of paralleled developments in the computer industry of storage getting cheaper,” he said." ]

Additionally so many in the U.S. are entirely ignorant to the ubiquitousness of mobile phones in Africa and other regions most people here think of as 'backward' -- which is one the many ignorances that allowed the criminalfamilygangsydicate to ram through the invasion of Iraq -- their conviction that only in Europe and the U.S. is there digital capacity:

[ "Of course, online resources are useful only to communities with Internet access. Communities without that access, like the Kim, still require books to be printed, and recordings to be copied onto CDs or tapes.

Holding more promise are programs that put electronic dictionaries on mobile phones. James McElvenny, a linguist at the University of Sydney, has led the development of software to help revitalize vanishing languages. Mr. McElvenny has been working with Aboriginal groups like the Dharug of Sydney to give learners, many of them no older than 16, a portable reference that supplies the definition and the sound of words that are otherwise no longer spoken, because Dharug is a dead language.

“A lot of the older members are technophobic,” he said, “but the kids are really getting into it.” ]

So, then, though nothing here may be new to us, this is a worthwhile piece for a daily newspaper to have published.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Merce Cunningham Has Died

His work means a great deal to me.

He was the first choreographer I ever met.

The works that arrived in the theaters via his relationship with John Cage were always the most startling moving works I ever witnessed that included bodies moving in space. These were sophisticated and urbane beyond description while invoking so often the deepest, most primeval sensations of the sacred I've experienced.

Via his, and Cage's, work, I have met artists who have become some of my oldest and most enduring friendships.

What Is

This plethora of weird flying little bugs that lurve to drown themselves in my glass of beer or wine and are always in my face? They show up about this time of the year and hang about until usually sometime in mid to late September.

Additionally, do others find the concept of premium cachaça, known in Brasil among its impoverished laboring class drinkers as pinga -- which is where I first encountered it -- and grappa, which I first encountered very early in a late autumn morning in Italy when the fishermen had already returned from the sea and were warming themselves with throwing back shots of this leftover stuff from the making of wine -- absurd? Back at the end of the 80's when these alcoholic products considered previously fit only for the poor and desperate first showed up in my local liquor stores in fine handblown Venetian containers, retailed at hundreds of dollars, it nonplussed our friends and ourselves. It took no time at all then, for premium priced mescals to follow. Is this not the greatest nation of chumps for marketers evah?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

TYBTF Mother-in-Law Party in New Orleans

The party will be at the Mother-In-Law Lounge in New Orleans: Thursday, September 24. It's going to be the best party ever: live music, two hours of open bar and yes, there will be gumbo.

We've hear talk from friends in New York that they want to come down for it. We'll have a party in New York too, but we'll only have one party at the Mother-In-Law, and you really don't want to miss it.

The Mother-In-Law Lounge, from which the Soul of New Orleans and the Mardi Gras Indians, Antoinette K-Doe. Godmother of the Baby Dolls -- RIP -- directed all good things for her City.

And here's the link to the Kirkus review of The Year Before the Flood, that was published this week. Publisher's Weekly already gave the book a starred review. May this be a trend, please, please, please.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Arrest Of Black Harvard Professor, Louis Henry Gates

You know what is the most heinous and frightening about this arrest?

This is what They are going to be doing, and have been doing in various other ways, to all intellectuals who don't toe the neocon fascist line.

This could so very easily be you or me after talking back to an illegal and unwarrented intrusion into our personal lives and space by cops. Except I, at least, am not a black man. But Gates has health problems. He's frail. He needs a cane to walk, and they handcuffed him FIRST behind his back. I too have all these problems that Gates has. He had just returned from China -- right off the plane. He was sick with a very bad cold. Imagine what would happen to me, without Gates' access to every Harvard University support there is. This has become a global incident, serving to show the world what this nation does to black men even with a black POTUS.

Thanks bush&cheney you freakin' assholes. May the Order of Our Holy Lady Guillotine drop down.

There were other reasons They arrested him. #1 -- Even if you are a big deal intellectual known all over the world, to usthe cops, you're just another nigger. #2 -- This is what we can do to anybody, even you blondie white libural asses if we want to.

AmeriKa wake up. This is what we're in.

Gates isn't the first black or white absolutely innocent person to have their personal space and home invaded and destroyed -- and even their lives destroyed -- by illegal search and seizure. The drug war you all. With no apology, no recompense.

This is our past, our present and it's going to get worse every damned week.

Unless WE do something about it.

Sex & Power - The C Street House Xtian Mafia Family

From today's salondotcom, an article by Jeff Sharlet, author of the invaluable The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power (2008), concerning neocons and their secret D.C. society, from which they launch sexual, economic and power pillage upon the nation. Most famous members lately are Sanford, Ensign and Pickering -- the latter actually brought his mistress into C House for a boinking.

We must never smugly assume these people are going away -- they've been around since the New Deal, acquiring ever more power. People with that kind of power don't ever lose that much of it without mass action on the Order of Our Lady of the Guillotine.

If sexual license was all the Family offered the C Street men, however, that would merely be seedy and self-serving. But Family men are more than hypocritical. They're followers of a political religion that embraces elitism, disdains democracy, and pursues power for its members the better to "advance the Kingdom." They say they're working for Jesus, but their Christ is a power-hungry, inside-the-Beltway savior not many churchgoers would recognize. Sexual peccadilloes aside, the Family acts today like the most powerful lobby in America that isn't registered as a lobby -- and is thus immune from the scrutiny attending the other powerful organizations like Big Pharma and Big Insurance that exert pressure on public policy.

The Family likes to call itself a "Christian Mafia," but it began 74 years ago as an anti-New Deal coalition of businessmen convinced that organized labor was under the sway of Satan. The Great Depression, they believed, was a punishment from God for what they viewed as FDR's socialism. The Family's goal was the "consecration" of America to God, first through the repeal of New Deal reforms, then through the aggressive expansion of American power during the Cold War. They called this a "Worldwide Spiritual Offensive," but in Washington, it amounted to the nation's first fundamentalist lobby. Early participants included Southern Sens. Strom Thurmond, Herman Talmadge and Absalom Willis Robertson -- Pat Robertson's father. Membership lists stored in the Family's archive at the Billy Graham Center at evangelical Wheaton College in Illinois show active participation at any given time over the years by dozens of congressmen.

Today's roll call is just as impressive: Men under the Family's religio-political counsel include, in addition to Ensign, Coburn and Pickering, Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham, both R-S.C.; James Inhofe, R-Okla., John Thune, R-S.D., and recent senators and high officials such as John Ashcroft, Ed Meese, Pete Domenici and Don Nickles. Over in the House there's Joe Pitts, R-Penn., Frank Wolf, R-Va., Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., and John R. Carter, R-Texas. Historically, the Family has been strongly Republican, but it includes Democrats, too. There's Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, for instance, a vocal defender of putting the Ten Commandments in public places, and Sen. Mark Pryor, the pro-war Arkansas Democrat responsible for scuttling Obama's labor agenda. Sen. Pryor explained to me the meaning of bipartisanship he'd learned through the Family: "Jesus didn't come to take sides. He came to take over." And by Jesus, the Family means the Family.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tom Wolfe Explains How & Why the Space Program Died

One Giant Leap to Nowhere

3 screens of this article in the op-ed section, well worth reading.

". . . . A baffling wave of layoffs had begun, and his job was eliminated. It was so bad he was lucky to have gotten this stand-up Spielmeister gig on a tour bus. Neil Armstrong and his two crew mates, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins, were still on their triumphal world tour ... while back home, NASA’s irreplaceable team of highly motivated space scientists — irreplaceable! — there were no others! ...anywhere! ... You couldn’t just run an ad saying, “Help Wanted: Experienced heat-shield expert” ... the irreplaceable team was breaking up, scattering in nobody knows how many hopeless directions.

"How could such a thing happen? In hindsight, the answer is obvious. NASA had neglected to recruit a corps of philosophers."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A History of American Babysitting & Nancy Drew

Nancy Drew comes up in the long and interesting article plus interview with Miriam Forman-Brunell, the author of Babysitter: An American History, that is up on salondotcom today.

So much interesting history here, that I for one, didn't know:

"I was surprised that some girls even formed baby-sitting unions.

In the years right after the war ends, when the baby boom really begins to soar, parents are desperate for baby sitters. These baby sitters really have developed a sense of themselves as being workers. And they have a sense of what is acceptable to expect of a worker and what isn't.

In various parts of the country they begin to organize these informal unions. Girls get together to draw up a code in terms of what's the minimum wage, what can their employers expect of them. Basically identifying the do's and the don'ts.

The unions don't last. And one of the reasons is that that kind of worker solidarity, agency and empowerment is something squelched during the 1950s, in light of fears about communism, and replaced by notions of domesticity and femininity."

The comments by salondotcom readers are revealing, as one of the letter writers observes, of the same sort of gender bias that the book discusses.

Women who grew up to become influential political figures, attorneys, writers and directors of television and movies speak of who Nancy Drew was for them, growing up.

This is a piece in the New York Times -- which, of course, is slotted into the Fashion and Style section, not the Sunday Book Review section!

From the second 'page':

"And let it not be said that Nancy Drew readers must be cut off when they reach 11. Roslynn R. Mauskopf, 52, a federal judge in Brooklyn, inhaled the books as a girl in Washington, D.C.

“I was a daughter of two Holocaust survivors, and no one would ever let you out of the house with a flashlight and a roadster!” Judge Mauskopf said. Nancy Drew proved “you could go out, go anywhere, do anything and make a difference.”

After law school, Judge Mauskopf joined the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. A young Sonia Sotomayor was just down the hall. Ms. Mauskopf, a career prosecutor, became United States Attorney for the Eastern District.

Shortly after she was named to the federal bench in October 2007, she bought a set of classic Nancy Drew books, volumes 1 through 15. Age notwithstanding, she is in the middle of reading them now."

The article also quotes two people I know, Melanie Rehak, who wrote Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, met during the Fellowship year at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, and Lisa Von Drasek, children’s librarian at the Bank Street College of Education.

X-posted to GirlyCon on DW.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Round 2 of the New Yorker Haitian Round Table & 1st Mention of TYBTF

The Year Before the Flood via the Miami Herald and Jordan Levine:

Check out the second online roundtable on Haitian music at the New Yorker, with Miami author Edwige Danticat, the amazing writer Ned Sublette (no, he doesn't have a website, but he's a musician, musicologist, producer, Cuban music pioneer and expert, passionate communicator, and author of two of the best ever books on music, Cuba: From the First Drums to the Mambo and The World That Made New Orleans, and the coolest guy to ever wear a cowboy hat in NYC). Ned's new book, The
Year Before the Flood, about his year in New Orleans before Katrina, is available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He says it's his best work yet, which is saying something.

Via Vaquero:

"Round two of the roundtable on Haitian music, with (what a cast) Laurent Dubois, Elizabeth McAlister, Edwige Danticat, Garnette Cadogan, Madison
Smartt Bell (who sat this round out), and yr humble servant, is up at Sasha
Frere-Jones's New Yorker blo
g. i'm pleased that they used a photo I took at a gagá in the D.R."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

NY Times Obit for Kenneth M. Stampp

Full obituary plus photo here.

His reputation was founded on two books that turned accepted wisdom inside out and engendered seismic shifts in the scholarship of the period. They became staples of university classrooms.

The first, in 1956, was “The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Antebellum South,” which juxtaposed the views of slaves themselves with the more conventionally researched perceptions of slave owners, yielding a far different picture of the institution than historians had previously created.

Rather than portraying slaves as docile, simple-minded creatures who were complicit in their own subjugation, Mr. Stampp showed how by working slowly, breaking tools and stealing from their owners, the slaves were in constant rebellion. And rather than portraying the owners as beneficent upholders of a genteel culture determined to maintain racial harmony, Mr. Stampp revealed the slave-keeping impulse to be an economically motivated choice.

“We now viewed slavery not only through the eyes of the masters but through the eyes of the slaves themselves,” said Leon Litwack, a long-time colleague and former student of Mr. Stampp’s at Berkeley, and the author of “Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery,” which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1980. “He was clearly one of the influential historians of the 20th century. All you have to do is open history textbooks and compare what you find in them to what you found before 1960.”

The second seminal book, “The Era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877,” published in 1965, demythologized another favorite trope of previous historians: that the decade after the Civil War was disastrous for the South, a time of vengefulness visited upon it by the North, of rampant corruption and of vindictive political maneuvering.

Mr. Stampp’s more measured account showed that much good was accomplished in the period; he called Reconstruction “the last great crusade of 19th century romantic reformers” and viewed it as a progenitor of the 20th-century civil rights movement that was in progress as he wrote.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer Days


Winston Grooms's Vicksburg 1863 (2009)

A History of Hungary by a variety of writers and editors (1994)

Together we're re-reading aloud Orwell's Homage to Catalonia.

Have not yet begun my amiga's Treason's Shore (2009).


Not so much. I put the netflix account on hold until the end of August because I'm not much interested right now, now that the weather's become ideal summer wealther.

I did recently watch American Gangster (2007), inspired by an article amigo Mark Jacobson did for New York Magazine on the Harlem drug lord gangster Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), heir to drug gangster Bumpy Johnson, and who married a Miss Puerto Rico, the corrupt drug cops, the military and the cop (played by Russell Crowe) who turned Lucas and brought them all down, back in the late 60's and 1970's -- the Vietnam era. Its a -- to me -- surprisingly elegant film on all fronts, including the sound.

So it was particularly interesting to watch Soul Power last night (we actually went to a theater), the music festival film that was to go with the film documentary, When We Were Kings,(1994) of the Foreman-Ali championship fight in Kinshasa, Zaire, in 1974, the one in which Muhammed Ali took back the world heavyweight crown. That documentary, despite our best intentions, we missed watching when it came out in 1996. Soul Power, the music festival documentary, was released last week. This one was about the royalty of African Americans – and, omighod, the Fania All Stars – in Africa, Zaire, interacting with African musicians and dancers – and particularly James Brown, who the documentary made the star.

For many of them this was their first visit, and maybe their only visit to Africa, in a time that was still mainly hopeful and energetic about the future, as so much of the continent had only recently receiving its independence -- mirroring the feeling of large optimism of the African Americans in the wake of Black Power, before Reagan, the neoconmovement and crack. How many of these great artists have died since then, among them Celía Cruz – oh, was she great.

The difference between how the African Americans and the Latino artists interacted with the Africans leaped out; the AfAms testifiied while the Latinos did ritual. The Africans 'knew' the Latinos right off the bat. The Fania All Stars were enormously popular all through Africa then, and though no one making the documentary or involved in it would admit it -- they were better known and more influential than James Brown. But let me haste to add, he was equal to Celía Cruz's performance -- and she was brilliant. The Africans SO got her! This is the Congo, from which the most Africans were slaved to the New World, everywhere. They are the fundamental layer of African culture in the Caribbean, Brasil and the U.S. They worshipped the same gods via Palo Monte, with the same fundamental rhythms and percussion and even gesture. Muhammed Ali and the AfAms testified to Black Power, Soul Power, the better future of all black people. They needed interpretors. But the Latinos got down with their African brother and sisters and talked, via rhythm and percussion. This was amazing to watch.

This stuff just leaps off the screen into one's comprehension -- which, of course in 1974 I wouldn't have known anything about.

Naturally, at this point I'm thinking of American Gangster, part of the same era, and that Obama just returned from his first visit to Africa as POTUS.

This is the only film I've watched in a really long time that I wished was longer, that included more.

I'm wishing so much a better future for the nations of Africa and their peoples, particularly the women, and for our own battered and maimed corrupted nation.

On another topic entirely: Publisher says that actual Real Thing bound books with jackets and everything that are The Year Before the Flood will be arriving Thursday THIS WEEK! Woo.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

NY Times Review of How The Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n Roll

Unlike so many of the NY Times Sunday book reviewers this one, by a NY Times music staff writer, is fair and balanced -- and it is positive too, as well as fun to read. The writer isn't grinding any axes on either his own or the paper's neocon editors' behalf. But then, this is only a history of popular music, not about, say, a city the neocons have done their best to destroy.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hemingway -- Spy for the KGB

Who knew? Surely though, back in those days, a lot of Somebodies would have cared!

Story here.

Its section on the author's secret life as a "dilettante spy" draws on his KGB file in saying he was recruited in 1941 before making a trip to China, given the cover name "Argo", and "repeatedly expressed his desire and willingness to help us" when he met Soviet agents in Havana and London in the 40s. However, he failed to "give us any political information" and was never "verified in practical work", so contacts with Argo had ceased by the end of the decade. Was he only ever a pseudo-spook, possibly seeing his clandestine dealings as potential literary material, or a genuine but hopelessly ineffective one?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Treason's Shore and History

Yay, yay, yay! The lovely FedEx fellow just delivered Sherwood Smith's latest, the concluding volume of the Inda series, Treason's Shore. I can't wait to read it! It's brilliant that my friends write such good books.

In the meantime anyone interested in history should check out today's salondotcom article by Laura Miller on the investigation, writing and reading of history, built around Canadian professor, Margaret MacMillan's Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History.

In the meantime, birthdays and anniversaries and plans around our own end-of-summer & fall publication are needing to be made and schedules and itineraries put together. Tonight's a symposium on the Honduran coup (no South American coup in 16 years, which seems from my pov to reflect that preoccupation of the usual suspects with the Middle East, rather than some other causes cited by rightwingers), and a meet-up with another writer, whose latest book (non-fiction) has been picked up by Hollywood.

All better than a kick in the head, though! Much better, particularly since that's all we'd been getting for the last few months it seems, kicks in the head.

We did have a particularly cool Vaquero's Birthday yesterday, btw. A Brasilian film about Brasilian music filled with friends, the Esnor show at MOMA, a spectacular Korean lunch -- very LATE lunch -- then a party thrown by lesbian artist friends, and then taken out to dinner. A long day and late night, and every bit of it to Vaquero's tastes. He had such a wonderful time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

His Birthday

Is tomorrow.

With the office move concluded we began celebrating last night.

We went to the river and stared vacantly into sky and water.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Da List & Vaquero Shouted Out Today

Re the Gov Ship sp, by Boing Boing, here.

Some July 4th

We are still immersed in the Moving Office Project so we had to take a rain check on eating and socializing with our friends.

Nevertheless I decided to make potato salad. There was some pulled pork in the freezer from a pork butt. Local beefsteak tomatoes, etc. The sun was shining! It was like a summer day! It needed to be observed somehow, though the true meaning of the 4th felt as far away as it ever has in these last decades ....

Also the city moved the annual fireworks display back down on My River from the East River for the first time since 9/11. Because of the River Walk promenades etc., it was a good place for someone like me who can't stand so well and wait for the display -- many railings to lean on, benches to sit upon etc. So maybe for the first time since living here, at least the first time since early on living here, we participated in the annual city 4th of July Fireworks Display.

It was a perfect night for fireworks. The sky over New Jersey provided its own fireworks display of spectacular cloud formations and rapidly deepening colors. The wind and the nautical traffic kept the Hudson at high chop, providing marvelous light-on-water effects. The ever growing parade of people, babies and dogs, the endless variety of languages were entertaining all by themselves. The cops collecting Big Overtime were in a good mood and having a great time photographing each other with their phones. The wind was a little strong, but though we got cool, it wasn't to the point of discomfort. The wind also carried the smoke away from us. Then we came home and continued our current Read Aloud Project, which is two books: Homage to Catalonia and Walter Benjamin's Illuminations: Essays and Reflections. They are both from the 1930's; they lluminatinate each other, their time and ours.

Ah, this is how a real photographer does it. The NY Times just put this up. As you see, this is at 34th St. We were far below that, just above Houston.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Governor Ship SP

Why dems and libs insist on finding this merely a cause of satisfied smug laughter is impossible to understand.

This woman was rallying the troops to kill Obama when last on the national stage full-time. Now there's nothing to stand between her and some her xtian fascist ambitions.

People surely laughed at silly Adolph back in the day. I know they laughed at RR, whose election let all these wyrms out from under their rocks.

She has a devoted following and in the next weeks and months and years she's going to gather a ever expanding cohort of devotees, dedicated to her because "She's just like me!" People like far too many of my relatives who are furious, outraged and miserable, and who love to tell everybody what to do and rail and rail and rail at those who don't love them the way they are entitled to be loved, adored and admired.

Go here.

As terrifying it is that the sp xtian fascist juggernaunt now has no obstacles to converting yet more devotees, it is also kind of fun, this prospect of sp and the limbo going head-to-head as to which of them actually is the head of the gop.

And here.

It was also fun this AM to read Gail Collins on the sinking of Governor Ship SP. I actually laughed out loud.

[ "Basically, the point was that Palin is quitting as governor because she’s not a quitter. Or a deceased salmon." ]

Friday, July 3, 2009

Why Newspapers Are Despised & Not Bought II

Just in case you still retained any doubts whatsoever, go here, to an account in the WaPo itself of the despicable plan it cooked up with corporate lobbyists. The account goes further, at the end, to reveal just how all of the major magazines and newspapers exchange access for cash from corporations directly and their lobbyists.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


As anyone knows who has spent time contemplating the history of the novel in English, Samuel Richardson's Pamela (and Clarissa, in another branch of fiction in English) is a foundation work of influence for the novel of manners as well as the working class girl making her upwardly mobile, class-jumping way in the world. These novels include, indeed, both Pride and Prejudice via Pamela, and Jane Eyrevia Clarissa (the gothic mode).

Oddly, while in the 18th century Pamela had many theatrical adaptations, in the 20th - 21st centuries not even the BBC has paid her screen homage, though it did create a series fairly recently from Clarissa. Is this because while Pamela succeeds in her class-jumping via the achievement of her romantic object's objective (nevermind that in the sequels the romantic object, as husband, comes through as agonizingly less her ideal) while Clarissa is abducted, drugged, raped, while unconscious, of her maidenhead by the vastly wealthy, darkly handsome, bad and dangerous rejected suitor, and chooses, then, to die? Clarissa's lack of a happy ending more reflects the state of the world as we are experiencing it than does Pamela's wealthy, upwardly mobile marriage. Pamela achieves this marriage by preserving that commodity of woman's greatest value, her virginity, from the man she hopes to marry, rather than become yet another in the endless population of ravished-by-household-males female household help of history.

Perhaps the most familiar recent novels out of this tradition are The Bridget Jones Diary series and The Nanny Diaries -- most chicklit fiction comes to us via these these roads then. Another way of looking at these works is they express each generation's middle class female's aspirations, hopes and fears, and the perils she must face which will prevent our often eponymous heroine from achieving her objectives. Many of these works make very satisfying films and / or television.

So, why yes, Sex and the City is yet another Pamela-kind spawn of that rigorously self-defined middle class English aspiring gentleman, Samuel Richardson. Carrie gets Big, the wealthy man who lifts her into a world of unlimited credit and hobnobbing with others of that ilk.

Have I mentioned how much I have loved fiction during most of my life? For many years the novel, a great novel (in all the manners/forms in which any individual novel may be great), was the one constant in my life, the one thing I could depend upon to never let me down, no matter how badly things were going in my own life or the national or global life.

I wonder if I can feel that way about novels now. If not, perhaps it is because the novel, at least in English, has been so entwined with social betterment, and judging by the employment numbers issued today -- the fully honest numbers -- we are nearly 17% unemployment, with no jobs creation even a glimmer on the horizon, nor is health care -- since the stranglehold the health industry has upon our elected politicians is so steel-clad they still insist on pinning health coverage to employment.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Summer Roads

I see those roads, cut between the steep, deep, wide ditches which finally went dry from the winter melt and spring rain run-off. I smell the hot dust and gravel, that burn my bare feet when I stop peddling the bike. I hear the meadow larks and the grasshoppers. I can taste the inner stem sweetness of wild oats growing in the ditches, so high again the township mower will be along soon.

Country roads in summer must be universal nostalgia for anyone, anywhere, who grew up on a farm, whether in Japan or North Dakota or Africa.