". . . 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Shortly after reading A Rhetoric of Pleasure I read an unpublished article by this same writer-friend, "Streets of Gold: Travels Among the Appalachian Snake-Handlers."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.