". . . 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, December 31, 2010

My 2010 Goes Out

With 9 single-spaced pages.

Hopefully the article won't be that long when it is finished. But that will wait until 2011.
Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Home Again, For the New Year

We knew it would be like this. We were sorely tempted to stay in C'town. But our friends! Gigs! Shopping! Movies!

It was an ordeal by the end.

First there was the inevitable New Jersey Turnpike slow moving mess at some point.

Then it was the one-hour wait mess to enter the Holland Tunnel. We also took the wrong turrn and instead of joining the endless stop and start train for the Tunnel, we went to Jersey City instead.  What?  We hit it at the height of rush hour -- the Holland Tunnel for those who don't live in the region is where essentially 6 lanes turn into ... two lanes.  So we enlessly stopped and started though mid and residential Jersey City to the Holland Tunnel instead.  It was a one-hour delay between the toll plaza and entering the Tunnel, and it took the same amount of time between the toll plaza and entering the Tunnel via our detour.  But the detour caused the stress levels to rise as we had not an idea of where we were at first or how to get back to where we were supposed to be.  Then we saw we were on the route to the Holland Tunnel and relaxed.   But it still was a drag.

Followed by the snow mess that is NYC, with nowhere to park, and a car loaded down with stuff, including much beer, wine, champagne, etc. for tomorrow night's party. We managed to unload all our things into the apartment in relays, then drove the liquor to M's loft on the lower east side, where a good parking spot was found, and walked back over here. It's nice outside, temperature-wise!

Then the mess in the apartment. What has he been doing in here when I'm not around to oversee? And it's cold in here .... And the sink is leaking .... The Time-Warner cable service here as usual really sux. I also forgot my power supply cable for my laptop.  How did I do that?  I was wrapping the cables and I swear I recall putting them into the bag -- but obviously, I did not! Only the laptop itself got inserted because, ah-hem, himself was getting antsy about leaving and I was doing about 18 things at the same time, so I lost track of what I was doing, I guess.  I can use el V's power supply fortunately, as our netbooks are very close siblings. So we can switch off and re-charge our batteries. My HP Pro desktop here still works fine, but all the research and drafts I'm doing with The American Slave Coast is on the laptop -- and, um, a new version of Word on the laptop, so kablooey with footnoting format and so on, as we'd learned way back when I got this in July.

We brought a lot of C'town groceries with us. It sure beat running around in the snow mess tonight to go grocery shopping or find a restaurant.  The city's packed with tourists.  As well, it turns out the soups and porkchops I'd frozen from our last together trip here were perfectly fine.  And we brought some of da Fox's favorite wine with us as well, which she is now drinking in preparation for sleepy time, while el V has a stash of some of his favored cervezas on hand in the refrigerator too.

So all will be well -- and I get to take ye laptop up to the NYPL Humanities (I CANNOT get its new name in mind or right!  a billionaire's name) and do some work there after NY's too.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sun Sets On 2010

Virginia History Textbooks Are Filled With Wrong, Vetting Finds

Didn't we already know this?

However, there had to be an official review, of "five professional scholars," which did find that, as we knew, Our Virginia: Past and Present, "should be withdrawn from the classroom immediately, or at least by the end of the year."  Along with the glaring error that "thousands of black soldiers fought for the South," are these and many, many more, pages-worth:
New Orleans began the 1800s as a bustling U.S. harbor (instead of as a Spanish colonial one). The Confederacy included 12 states (instead of 11). And the United States entered World War I in 1916 (instead of in 1917).
Then there are the further glaring errors in another textbook approved for Virginia schools, called Our America, from Harcourt.  Historian Mary Miley Theobald, a former Virginia Commonwealth University professor, reviewed Our America and concluded that it was "just too shocking for words."

"Any literate person could have opened that book and immediately found a mistake," she said.

Theobald's list of errors spanned 10 pages, including inaccurate claims that men in Colonial Virginia commonly wore full suits of armor and that no Americans survived the Battle of the Alamo. Most historians say that some survived.

Why Frederick Douglass Applauded South Carolina's Secession

Written by David Blight, the foremost scholar on the history of U.S. Slavery,  Director  of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale, as today's Disunion column -- "Cup of Wrath and Fire."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Honk Country - DonchU Be Comin' Rounjeer Without U Have Foods 4 Us

It's a beautiful early winter mid-day -- above freezing, sunny skies, low wind, much melting.   The Chester is frozen along the shores, but the center is tide in-running fast.  The widgeon, teal, Canadian geese and another kind, plus various gulls and other water birds viciously beaked, strong winged and long-legged abound.  They are loud, vociferous and demanding.  And very funny.  Particularly when they approach tourists who haven’t seen this display before, with necks elongated and reaching, wings flapping, honking and quacking.  Great to be out and about since the weather had been nothing but miserable with cold, wind and /or snow since Christmas Day.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Difficult Writing Task

But I've finally got what seems a successful start, with a thousand words plus many footnotes in the Introduction to the section that shines retrieval illumination -- hopefully  -- into that historical black hole in the historical dynamic of our national slavery evolution between the Era of Confederation and the War of 1812.

We went from serious discussion of national abolition, we thought, as part of Independence, conceived in Liberty, to ... not. What happened? The Constitution happened, for one thing.  Why did the Constitution happen with those articles and clauses -- that keep the word slavery silenced, while binding and weaving inexorably into the warp and woof of our nation?  Because there was in truth no serious consideration of abolition at all.  But for Our Side, unlike the republican American history view, that slavery was a constitutional side issue at most, which later would become a part of exceptional American progressivism, for us it is a story of terrible loss. 
The college isn't shut down only for the holiday break, it is really closed.  For one thing there's no internet connection anywhere as WC IT decided to take this time to upgrade its rinkydink not-even-cable campus system.  Thus the library also decided to use this closing to close itself and do serious collection shelf moving.  So all the people we hang out with here are either gone to other parts of the world, or else, as they live in the country, are rather snowbound.  The town's been a ghost world populated only by wind today.  We have really been rolling on The American Slave Coast.  It's almost as though we planned it that way or something and now we're in shock we really have the words etc. to show for it.  We can go off for New Year's with a clear conscience and a sense of  having gotten somewhere.

Honk Country -- Horrid Day

It's the wind. It's so sharp and cold, so strong, so loud. It roars as if one were in the Rockies instead of at sea level. It's making me crazy. At least I'm not in NYC where even some of the subways went out -- with passengers stuck in the cars -- for over 12 hours. That never happens, or hardly ever. This storm did it.

Starting to get a bit cabin fevered. Guess I'll retire up to the Sun Room and read about the failure of Canadian invasions by us in the War of 1812.

Still and all this is a pretty intense time-traveling experience ... here in a land where you can see the generationally gathered and expanded wealth and power of particular families still in effect after centuries. I've never lived before with this constant and familiar awareness of class and wealth distinction between Them and me. Where I grew up didn't even become a state until centuries after these still ruling families first arrived here, so it the power and class differential wasn't so glaring. Also, when I was growing up, we lived in a meritocracy and expanding economy, i.e. a time of taken-for-granted upward mobility if you were educated and worked hard..

Now el V's Huguenot forebears got here right at the end of the 17th, start of the 18th centuries -- landed first in Virginia, as did so many. However, his ancestors did not gather unto themselves generations of wealth and power. Obvious, that. Because if they had we two would never have met and married, as neither did my ancestors gather wealth and power for generations.

With the achievements in health care and medical knowledge some of our current masters may well be living a century and a half, maybe longer. This contributes only to more concentration of wealth and power for them, and less and less for the rest of us.

I'm getting a fair sense of what it must have been like for most of us in those European lands that grew out of feudalism, how effectively blocked most people felt to ever have a life better than the one ordained to them by the accident of who their family was. We're going back to that. O, not in form or political structures, but in effective social separation of classes, lack of social mobility, denial of rights, shutting down of educational and other opportunities. While of course, if you're DuPont or a Caroll or a Slidell or a Raisin or Despeaux (who came from Haiti with much property including many slaves), etc. you are still doing well, in fact, you're getting richer every year.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Honk County - Day After Christmas

It is storming. Snow and wind.

Fascinating information emerges when browsing through the House's Leo Lemay Library donation's Collected Letters and Papers of George Washington, such as how deeply and tightly established already by 1769 the buying and selling of personal property slaves was the basis of each slaveholder's personal economy, particularly for their constant need of personal debt relief.

By the end of the 17th century it was all there, or rather here, in the Upper South, the Chesapeake region. So fortunate for the elite slaveholders there was the constant expansion of new land settlements to the south and the west demanding healthy slaves to work to death clearing the wilderness for the enrichment of their owners.

There's this as well: George Washington’s descriptions of his runaway slaves, sent to gazettes and slave catchers. The descriptions are lengthy, filled with multiple and specific detail of each individual, including their speech patterns – at least three of the four run-aways are clearly Africans, rather than born in the Chesapeake.
Tell me again that African Americans didn't build this country.

O, yeah, Christmas! It was wonderful. I have now the newest edition of Photoshop. The downside is I have to learn to use it. It's not like the older editions I've had before. I really do need to learn it all over again.  Time sink, time I could use profitably elsewhere, methinks.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Honk Country Merry Christmas!

Yo Ho Know ... Snow!

Yesterday, bright blue cloudless skies all day, temperatures in the low forties, yay!

We retire under a bright silver coin of a moon, effortless transcending the bit a gauze hanging about her.

I arose this morning to large, white snowflakes falling apace.

Srsly. It's a cumin' down.

I am wishing hard for all the snow to stop long before the weekend so I can get to NYC without any troubles.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Honk Country -- Revisiting It's Almost Here

Christmas is almost here.

Elsewhere I'd posted:

Even while it was Halloween season, Dollar General filled an aisle with Thanksgiving decorations and supplies, but it had already begun filling aisle after aisle with Christmas supplies, everything from candies to table decorations, gift wrap, indoor and outdoor decorations, tree decorations and many other items like Santa Claus mugs -- you name it. I'm talking thousands of items. Last Friday I was in Dollar General again for the first time in nearly three weeks. Hardly anything is left. The shelves are stripped. I don't mean by the staff to make room or go for returns or whatever. By shoppers. People have bought all this holiday stuff. Let us recall too, that not only is our county the least densely populated county in all of Maryland, it is the poorest county in all of Maryland.
A friend remarked vto the effect that so many people must be lazy or uncreative.  Why didn't they decorate paper towels with crayons or make stuff for Christmas instead of buying all this junk?

Another friend returned:

"If you're struggling to put food on the table, Christmas dinner may be nothing special or fancy. Spending a dollar on a package of colorful paper napkins to make it a "holiday meal" is not something for which I want to criticize anyone.

And our local Dollar Generals and Dollar Stores take food stamps in payment for items which qualify."

To which I say, that's great! I agree 100%, for what that's worth. Thank goodness there is a general store where people who only have a dollar or so to spend on things that are necessary or for fun can go. More and more people need this price break -- such chains as Dollar General are among the few businesses who gained customers since the crash. There was a feature on them in the NY Times back this summer, which included the information that more manufacturers, faced with the facts that jobs aren't coming back, and the middle-class is disappearing, are putting out items that are geared for Dollar General stores' type of operation, in terms of volume, size, to hit their price break. IOW, we the people, all the people, of the United States of America, need this low-priced outlet.

One of the big problems about living in Manhattan is these places don't exist. The last versions of them in my neighborhood got chased out in 2004. I've bought things at Dollar General that have been fun because they cost a dollar, whereas in NYC I don't buy them because they cost so much more -- and they are the exact same item. Even things like tissue and cleaning supplies are less than a quarter the price they are in NYC.

We were at one of the two local supermarkets right outside of town last night. None of the people shopping at 8 PM looked happy (people here get up around 4 or 5 and are in bed early -- you don't see little kids out and about at all hours here like at home). They were not zooming through the aisles happily pulling from the shelves, filling their baskets to the brim. No matter how much they were buying, each thing they took was chosen after careful consideration of price and so on, whether a young mother by herself, an elderly man by himself, a late middle-aged couple.

I kept thinking how lucky we were -- we weren't trying to make a Merry Christmas for a whole family out of terribly pinched circumstances, or having the holiday solitary.

Christmas here is just like it was where I grew up. It is the center of the year.

Last weekend 'town' was filled with people who had come in to shop for Christmas gifts, for their wives, their husbands -- people they are close to, not obligatory gifts. People bake gifts like crazy too. They make things by the ton -- what is called the latest arts and crafts movements, or 'craftiness' (because this is women mostly, I guess, otherwise these are hobbies or avocations or something), for home use, and for gifts in their social and church circles. Every night the churches, schools, municipalities sponsor choirs, plays, dances, parties, dinners -- social get-togethers of all kinds. People hunt and they eat what they kill, and share it around. Your larger family beyond spouse and children live here too. Thinking of the young women at the supermarket last night, who were obviously shopping for at least children -- well she probably doesn't have much energy left after driving many miles back and forth to some shit job -- maybe she's a cashier at Wal-mart? -- to keep her family's body and soul together -- she's probably hasn't got much left over to be creative with, particularly if two of her four kids is sick. Because those events all month are community events, their children, they themselves, have been participating too, with refreshments after, with little gifts for teacher and kids' friends and the choir director and so on so forth. Somehow, some way, they are making Christmas for their family, and have been doing so all month long.

This is all a lead-up to the really big night and day. By Friday at 3 PM, everything here will have shut down -- the stores, the libraries, all the gas stations except Dutch Royal out of town that services the big rigs, the coffee shops, the bakeries, the restaurants. You want to eat out Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? You drive to Baltimore, baby.

This is how it was where I grew up at Christmas. This is how it is again, this Christmas of 2010. My home and the windows are decorated with ornaments, ribbons and lights I got at Dollar General. The table will have a Christmas cloth, mats and napkins too, all from Dollar General.

Maybe that was the point of of the previous entry, but I didn't make it clear, or maybe even make it: the Dollar Store's Christmas supply aisles were stripped ten days before Christmas because here, in the way it used to be called, "the true meaning of Christmas," Christmas matters to everyone. No wonder I feel so at home here.

On the other hand, I also can never forget the primary reason this county is the least densely populated and the poorest, why there's no corporate development here, is because it is almost entirely owned by the DuPonts, as part of their vast regional feudal land ownership that goes back to the end of the 17th, start of the 18th centuries. This is their summer vacation and fishing, fall and winter hunting preserves ....

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Secession Ball -- Starr Center Director Comments on Secession

On WBUR Radio -- audio link provided here on the the NY Times Opinionator Disunion site.

This weekend James McPherson spoke out on NPR about neo-confederacy -- audio link here, or you can read the transcript.

An interesting contrast to today's media neo-confederacy blow-up with Haley Barbour and his foolishly mendacious presentation of the White Citizen's Council's activities in Yazoo City, Mississippi.  Evidently he didn't think anyone noticed or remembered how they methodically, in systematic cooperation, destroyed the livelihoods of every NAACP leader in town.

This bit from one of the entries on Ta-Nehesi Coates's Atlantic Monthly blog today is something in which I too take delight; the NY Times Disunion blog is part of this.  So was our Secession Ball Teach-In.  You can hear the neocons strangling on their own lies as they write reams in response to these historical events, insisting secession happened because the North disrespected the slaverholders' hysterically bombastic states' rights claims and thus had nothing to do with slavery:

One of the great advantages of the internet is that when people make ignorant claims about American history, they can, with relative ease, be corrected. Andy Hall mentioned recently that this had been an awful year for Neo-Confederates. In part, I think, that's because with a mere click of the mouse you can discover what actual Confederates were saying ....
And, why, yes!  Secession was indeed all about slavery and nothing else.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

As 2010 Dissolves Into Time Forever Past

Though of course, as I've been learning for a few decades now, the past is never past, except in NYC which is always about the present and the future.
There were few movies or television productions* this year of special interest to this particular viewer with the very fine exception of Winter's Bone. Winter's Bone is the most satisfying film I've seen not only this year but in a long time. It is woman centered, in the generationally poverty-striken Ozarks of Missouri. Father of family is out on bail, but as his court date becomes imminent he's nowhere to be found. The guarantee he signed for the bail money loan put up their bit of generationally-possessed land, their home, as guarantee. No court appearance and the loan is called in, meaning the family loses their home. They have nowhere to go. Their mother is ineffective, ill, physically and emotionally. The entire burden of keeping everything going has been on the oldest child, a daughter, a h.s. dropout, named Ree.

Ree's a drop out because her family responsibilities take all her time. She sees to it there is food for them to eat, even if it is a squirrel stew, the squirrel which she shot, skinned,  dressed and cooked herself. She chops the wood for their wood-burning heat and cooking stoves. She helps the young ones with their schoolwork, she sends them to bed (though none of them have what the middle-class could see as a bed much less a separate bedroom). She gets them up, clean, dressed and fed for school. This girl, sixteen or seventeen, can use an axe and a wood chipper with a skill equal to her expertise with a gun. She washes clothes by hand, in the winter. She cares for her mother who is often insensible. She has a respected standing in the community among both the men and women as one of their own, who does what is needful, without talking or complaining either. When they can, people pitch in with what little they've got to share and share with her, whether it be feeding her horse because she's not got the money to buy hay, loaning her use of their wood chipper, sending over a part of the latest venison butcher. Many of them are blood kin to Ree and each other in one way or another.

Now Ree must save their home. This means finding her father, which means moving into the community's masculine sector. Information about her father is stone-walled from all the men she requests it from.

She gets some help and support from a number of women including her best friend and cousin who married one of the biggest drug dealers and is now a mom. When you might think at least there's this in Ree's deprived world, this warm network of supportive strong women to hold her up, this changes with the snap of fingers -- because the men say so.  The women can't survive without each other, but this is a patriarchy and none of the women can ever forget that. Now it really gets interesting.

The film's beautifully composed, lit and shot. It moves quickly but without any sense of melodrama left over from the 1930's hillbilly potboilers, like Erskine Caldwell's 1932 Tobacco Road (which, set in Georgia, is a long way from the locale of this film). The music and sound track are exquisite.

Winter's Bone makes an interesting first part of a film duology with the non-fiction documentary, The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia. Now, these people and their documentarians have definitely been too much influenced by their own mythology.

With both these films you see people and faces that are seldom given space or voice in the media. But in contrast to TWAWWOWV, in Winter's Bone, the dignity of Ree's character and so many of the other women in the film will make you want to cry, but you know better than to do that, to disrespect them and their struggles that way. They don't cry for themselves. There isn't a wrong move, a false note, a single cliche, a drop of condescension in any scene of this film.

I know those people of Winter's Bone, down in my bones. I'm not Scotch-Irish and I grew up on the prairie but still, these are my people. Everything in this film that is known and familiar, whether it be the homes, the animals, the kids, the sky of winter where it is hard, cold and dark. That community, I know it in the most intimate spaces of my heart.

* For television it was David Simon's Treme on HBO and The Good Wife on CBS.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Virginian Rides Again on AMC

Recently I learned that the network which brought us the lauded historical fiction series, Mad Men, will be presenting us more fictional versions of history:

[ Hell On Wheels is at its heart a vengeance story about an ex-Confederate rebel hunting the Union soldiers who killed his wife, as well as a gritty Western that takes place in the lawless, eponymous traveling camp of the title. ]

You can see why this distresses anyone who knows anything about the history of that period and what preceded this era of American history?  Worse, since it is the network of Mad Men, who most people believe gets most things right (though I've seen some really glaring period errors, particularlily dealing with 'women's things'), people are going to think this series will be telling it like it was too, which means perpetuating the outright lies, revisionisms and falsification fantasies that began about the Civil War and slavery long before South Carolina seceded or fired on Fort Sumter or War was declared by Abraham Lincoln's congress.

Do we need to say that civilian deaths at the hands of Union soldiers were very, very, very few, and that a Confed officer's wife was killed by a Union soldier because she was married to a Confed officer -- there are no records of this happening.  There are records of Union soldiers being courtmartialed and / or executed for mis-treating civilians, though there were few instances, considering this was an army and all -- and mostly those were for mistreating the 'contraband,' those slaves who stole themselves away and tried to join or followed the Union army. The real killing and plundering of civilians was carried on though the entire war by Nathan Bedford Forest's (who was a slave trader and founder of the KKK) and Stuart's special troops, Quantrill's "Raiders," etc. -- partly because the Confed was chronically short of everything, including payment for the troops.  One of the many reasons it was such a disaster that Lee's army wasn't attacked during the retreat to Virginia after Gettysburg is that the Army of Virginia was way lumbered by the thousands of free blacks the troops had stolen to sell back home.  Many of these raiders carried on after the war as they'd been doing, like Jesse James, etc.

I read again, er, listened to Owen Wister's The Virginian on cd this fall while working out. It's all there in that ur construction of the Western: the protagonist, handsome (the homo-eroticism with which the narrator describes and reacts to the protagonist is unrivaled even by Melville) chivalrous, silent except when he's got something to say, exuding the power of mighty skilled violence, honest; the pretty easterner school marm who falls immediately for his ultra masculine dangerous good looks; the wealthy lawyer rancher - politician; the rattlesnake traitorous cattle rustler; vigilantism; the community dancing the reels where highjinks are enacted by protagonist and best friend who goes to the bad; the saloon and the poker game; most of all it's got "smile when you call me that."  It's all there, every bit of this revisionist fantasy of what it means and meant to be a Southerner, including the in-your-face hatred of anything that isn't a white man.  This is WHITE MAN's country, is repeated more than once in the novel.

I spent a couple of summers watching westerns and keeping count of how many of the protagonists were confederates who had a personal beef with the Union: I found only ONE protagonist who wasn't.  And now, this.  The reason the Confederacy rules Hollywood, is that so many of the major players at the beginning of the industry were Southerners, whose fathers may have fought in the Civil War.  This was certainly true of D.W. Griffith, whose father was a founding father of the KKK.  They include Merian C. Cooper, creator of King Kong. As a public relations campaign on behalf of the glorious mistreated South, this has worked brilliantly for decades. Gone With The Wind is essntially an updating and retrofit of the vile Birth of a Nation, which is taken from the Dixon novel, The Klansman, to make it less offensive to the sensibilities of Mitchell's time. So strong is this tradition of American history that even directors like John Ford can start wanting to be a southern, a Virginian, which he kind of did for a while, even though he was from New England stock. The latest to don the Southern heritage mantel is Joss Whedon, which is one of the reasons Firefly is such a wreck in terms of world-building, and the characters one-dimensional.  Like "a vengeance story about an ex-Confederate rebel hunting the Union soldiers who killed his wife," building a creation on un-examined mendacity, this is the lazy way to give depth, i.e. the vaunted back story, for a character, to explain motivation and excuse any evil, ugly horrible action the character might do.

The Viriginian and Birth of a Nation still rule Hollywood, still wreaking historical, social and political damage.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Whitman & Lincoln - Poet's Pocketbook

Disunion -- "In Whitman's Pocket, an Imagined Lincoln" by Adam Goodheart.

The heart of this is the actual Pocketbook, the leaves of which you can see, one-by-one, as if you were at the Library of Congress, paging from each adhesive silk-encased leaf yourself.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Where Is The Slave Trade?

This is farking amazing, though it follows through with what I see over and over again in scholarly and primary documents in the history of MD: the trade in slave is just plain ignored.

I just received an historical statistical economic study -- purely academic -- of the mercantile opportunity in colonial and early America Annapolis, 1763 - 1805, and the mercantile hegemony that controlled it. The words 'slave' and 'slave trade' do not appear in the index, nor, it seems anywhere in the text. Nowhere. Not at all. According to the author of the study, the foundation of Annapolis's prosperity, the most wealthy by far of all of England's North American settlements, was due to tobacco and tobacco alone. Even if this is true, how can you speak of the wealth generation of the tobacco trade, the agricultural labor, the ships, the insurance companies, all the rest, without mentioning the slave trade? How can you?

Also, there's this: many other studies speak matter-of-factly that what made Annapolis so stinking rich was its many merchants engaged in the African slave trade and the domestic trade as well (which, for much of that time was almost entirely local).

When it comes to Maryland, at least -- slavery and the slave trade were and remain deep dark secrets, a subject not fit for respectable discourse, much less history. Yet, as mentioned previously, the front pages of every issue of the Maryland Gazette have advertisements for the buying and selling of slaves and rewards for slaves that have runaway. Moreover, the author of this book (1975, Johns Hopkins Press), footnotes citations constantly from the Maryland Gazette.

This is evidence of the psychology of refusing to acknowledge what is all around you, of what you yourself do, that was essential for how and why slavery endured so long in this nation of constitutional guarantee of liberty and democracy.  Evidently that psychology endured well into the 1970's.  As with the determination to celebrate secession with balls and other gaities this very winter, that psychology is still operative in too many psyches.  Perhaps it is more proof that the national psyche, then, is also pathological.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Maryland Gazette - Annapolis

The entire years' issue runs, from 1810 - 1815 has had its microfilm digitized and there they are, week by week, month by month, year by year, thanks to the Maryland Historical Society. All accessible from this chair right here in which my ass is planted.

Everytime I go there I fill with awe and gratitude.  With luck, meaning particularly no flu, I might have a good 15,000 words on the Era of Good Feeling by the end of January.  BTW, the front page of every issue contains either an advert to buy slaves for cash or a reward for a runaway slave.

On another subject, but one to which I am very close: Dayem! it's cold! The wind, she's gusting like 40 50 mph.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Honk Country - B'more & the Maryland Historical Society

Our visits to Baltimore have been brief, but always packed with information. This visit began with having breakfast-lunch in Hightown, which has a lot of Mexican businesses, as well as Dominican and some Cuban, even. Thus many restaurants. A perfect old-school Mexican food meal, which I haven't been able to get for a long time. The young owner (the place was celebrating its first anniversary this week, which observances include Santa coming for the kids in the evening) even printed out directions to help us get to the MD Historical Society the easiest and quickest way.

I am slowly getting an impression that Baltimore, if not exactly booming, is not anywhere near the economic melt-down that people like to think it is. There are jobs here, a lot of them, and they are white-collar jobs perfect for the late-twenties, early thirties, still unencumbered with small children, kinds. Though I did see a lot of young white couples with young children in the very pricey, gentrified Fells Point area, when we went there later.

I like Baltimore more every time we go there. Yes, I could live there very easily, now that its got latinos and latino cooking and music! (The white kids' music is dreadful, though.)

The MD Historical Society is located in old 'monumental' Baltimore. It's more like a museum, which it includes, as well as the library. It's large and friendly. We got initiated (paid our membership fees) and oriented. Ned did some work with the la Trobe papers in the archives. I looked up figures active with the shipyaqrds. I was able to learn more in those three hours than all my research here had accomplished so far. It's easier to drill down in dedicated special collections. Still, the information I'm looking for is really hard to find, because the word 'slaves' just isn't used when talking about ships, shipowners and routes. "Merchandise" can easily be slaves, but to find out, woo, they obscure that carefully, even from themselves, those who are buying, shipping, selling, insuring, etc. I took many notes.

After the library closed, we wandered about the museum galleries. We looked at pictures, maps, a vast hall of silver, and other things. What impressed me most was a large oil painting of the gap between the Shenandoah and Ohio Rivers, named Harper's Ferry. The artist deliberately chose this spot, to contrast its idyllic beauty, with two row-boats filled with beautifully dressed pleasure-seeking young men and women, its forward-looking attitude (on one side you see the tracks laid down for the first railroad of the region, and on the other, a trade road) with what happened there. The painting is a memorial to John Brown.

We'll be going back, soon. But next I want to go to the Baltimore Historical Society because I believe I'll learn more about shipping companies, shipbuilders and insurance companies in their collections.

After the museum closed we cruised on down to Fell’s Point, the old waterfront where the Fells Point shipyards used to be also, where was built many of the clippers (via Haitian refugee owner with his slaves) and privateers -- and slave ships. The connections between Baltimore -- the region as a whole -- New Orleans and Haiti are old, strong and many.

Talk about Williamsburg (Brooklyn) hipsterism gone much further, with a lot more room and a lot more fun! This is the consequence, then of Annapolis's choice to not live up to the Dock Union's bribery (season 2, The Wire) and dredge the harbor and make the improvements that would allow it to compete with the ports like Los Angeles and China. I took a photo of the plaque on the Fell's Point Baltimore Police District HQ in honor of David Simon and his and Burns' Homicide -- this was the cop HQ in that earlier television series they did.

The architecture at Fells' Point is a dream, a local continuation of what you see in southern Pennsylvania like Harrisburg, in Annapolis, in Delaware. Just beautiful, so beautiful, so intelligently and elegantly constructed that you can imagine the area at any season and its seasonal varieties of light and weather. You can also fairly easy imagine yourself back into the past here, when it was a roiling, broiling waterfront of freemen, slaves, an international cast of watermen and sailers, and ships from all over the world. It still reeks of those days in those now-too-hip-to-live waterfront bars. Live music in all of them too, all of it reeked as well. Thank gawd for hiphop and salsa. How many times can anyone stand folky covers of schlock?

The Christmas decorations were brilliant but – well, how can you say this? tasteful. They really are, which seems to be the case all over this region. Not blow-up balloon santies and frosties here, thank goddness. Beautiful lights, but nothing in your face or uncomfortable to your eyes. Big flashers are evidently not popular around here.

In the meantime, while we were gone, the late middle-age, verging into elderly docents, made merry in the House, which was on C’town’s Historical House tour for the benefit of Children Without Winter Coats. el V put up the U.S., the Maryland and the Washington College flags over the portico of the House before we left. The flags are one of the indicators that this residence is open for touring (there are maps that the Kent County Museum and the Visitors Center, where the tours gather, give out, so you can make the tour solo if you want too.) I have no idea what the docents did in here all day, but there were many glasses washed and huge unwashed tray covered in cookie crumbs left behind ... this was not a ‘House’ platter, I’ll have you know ....

Also, they managed to 'break' the downstairs toilet, so they trekked upstairs to ours off the master bedroom. I did not like this, btw. I'd moved office into the sunny room up here, so my computer and so on were not downstairs where surely nothing would happen, but I'm just not leaving my digital life open to access to anyone. I don't think they came in the sun room though. In any case, however, I'm just glad that nobody got hurt going up and down those dangerous stairs. These are not young people. In any case, there was nothing to see in the bedroom, the dressing room or the bathroom, as all was tidy, orderly and very clean, because that's how I roll! Well, there was an ankle-length fuzzy cardigan on the bed, which I wear in this season as my 'housecoat.'

Normally, someone from the Starr Center would have been here all day too, but this benefit tour wasn't on the annual schedule, it's the end of the semester, and everyone's insanely busy and had made plans, so it was just the ladies yesterday.

I got the impression the docents approved my holiday decorations, at least. All were still in place when we returned, except for the huge silver platter-tray, that I’d loaded up with greens and holly and candles and ornaments. The center candles had been removed to sit on either side of the tray, while evidently a big pitcher of something sat in their place. Acorns have been sown broadcast throughout the house, as I gathered some from the ground these last weeks whenever I spied likely ones. Golly, you can get holly and acorns just outside the door when you want!

Coming back we got caught in a rainstorm, which was unexpected. That was a bit of hairy driving, over the Bay Bridge, with such strong winds. I worried about the rain freezing, but to his gratitude and my own, i worried entirely in silence. No need to distract him, that was for sure! el V performed heroically, and even more so, for when we got home, he made dinner himself.

We lit candles all over the dining room, ate, and enjoyed our conversations, while Phil Schapp on WKCR played great jazz. Drank wine with dinner, and had a brandy for dessert. Shoot! it was 11 PM!

Now it's a dank, dark, windy and frigid Sunday morning.  But we're cozy and have ample occupation.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Road to Disunion

This is a daily NY Times blog-column that tracks the events leading to secession from the election of Lincoln as the new Republican party's POTUS, according to the current monthly calender, but in 1860. There are regular columnists, such as the current Director of the Center and the first Director of the Center, as well as others. (V will be doing at least one along the line).

Finally we get a woman writing, Susan Schulten; while most of the columns are first rate (with an occasional dud such as the one written by a rightwinger, which was ignorant and a-historical to boot), this one in particular is special, with information and a perspective (reading art historically) that are new to me, at least. Since it is about maps some of you might find it as fascinating as I have.

Disunion blog-column, "Visualizing Slavery," here (it's also just about the only reason to bother clicking on the NY Times op-ed section).

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Honk Country - Freakin' Cold

Is this ever going to break?  It's the same in NYC, which I know is way too early generally speaking for this kind of cold.  It's usually January before the temps fall below freezing.  But below freezing nights have been the run for the last 7 or 8 days.  There's no sign that this is going to change any time soon.  What's up with this?

The furnance failed again yesterday afternoon, the system that heats the downstairs.  We made the call and the college sent out a fellow immediately, who arrived just before I had planned to walk over to the Center's Christmas party.  I was able to move upstairs where the heating system was still in effect.  Downstairs was purely ice box.

We are packed with cd boxes and books el V brought down from NYC, for the spring semester Cuban music / Postmamboism course.  Tonight's the college president's party for the faculty.  Tomorrow at 9 T comes to clean the House for Saturday's historic C'town's houses tour to benefit the Coats for Kids organization.  With this weather kids must have coats.  But everything's such mess, between Christmas decorations and all of el V's stuffs, and my research materials all over the place.  It's going to take hours to move all this, including my computer and peripherals, out of the historic tour part of the House to upstairs -- or the Center's office -- somewhere.  Yes, I've been fretting about this for days.


I'm going to throw the daily ration of nuts outside now, for the squirrels, and whatever birds want to fight over them.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Somerset County - ITV & *Midsomer Murders*

No wonder the locations of the ITV long-running (1997, first series) Midsomer Murders looks so familiar. They are in England's Somerset County. The houses and out buildings, even much of the landscape, this series could be shot on the Eastern Shore, MD, and the viewers wouldn't know otherwise, until the characters spoke, of course.

However, Maryland's Somerset County was settled initially mostly by Virginians "to escape religious persecution," i.e. Catholics.
Our county Kent was named for England's County Kent, which is east of England's Somerset County, both in the South of England, from whence did come most of the Chesapeake's 16th and 17th C Company and colonial bigwhigs who owned and ruled the region for so long, i.e. the Cavaliers as they became in their mythology. The demographic tables and charts of Albion's Seed for this Folkway provide this information, as well as that this is the region of England that was established already by the Romans as vast agricultural latifundias worked with slave labor. This practice of agriculture via slaves never really quite went away there, not even by the era of migration to the New World Viriginia Company colony. What it had done was transform in certain ways, particularly via the structures of feudalism.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Voices of Black Cowboys -- John Lomax, Library of Congress Recording

An NPR "Weekend Edition"program this (Sunday) morning brings you their voices -- you can listen to it streaming a little later today; in the meantime the website has the story sans audio as well:

"In southeast Texas, you had a large number of blacks who were slaves and had been doing cow work. When freedom comes, it would be just as natural for them to begin to do that work," Searles says, adding that there was demand for cowboys. "They gained a degree of respect and independence."

The trail drives were a unique moment in history that brought together a diverse lot of men, including freed slaves and confederate war veterans. And, while some cowboy crews were segregated, photographs of others show black and white men working side by side in what Searles calls "range equality."

"In that environment, you want to have pretty good relations," he says. "Because that person could elect to help you or not help you in a dangerous situation."
Some of those voices -- you swear are from Louisiana.  This makes sense, since many of the cowboys were formerly slaves in East Texas.

It's thrilling and chilling to hear the actual voices of real cowboys from those days.  I adored cowboys as a child, as did so many of us where and when I grew up.  My dad and his friends modeled themselves on cowboys, the cowboys of popular western literature and the earlier western movies of trail drives.  The cowboy was the figures of the hero for us all.  Of course we never thought of what the real cowboy was, nor that so many of them were black.

I recall so well that summer some years back now, when I realized the connection between the Western and the Confederacy mythologies in Hollywood and the fiction of the cowboy.  I still recall how angry my own attempts to model myself on the Cowboy Hero made my mother and grandmother.  That was unfitting for a girl.  When we played cowboys as children I was the cowboy.  I made my little brother be the cowgirl.  The cowboy had the best horse.  They never understood.   But then, they perceived my horse love as embarrassingly improper girl behavior too.  To this day I don't understand why they thought anyone would - should prefer doll dishes to galloping over the prairie.  But then, they never understood that what I really was up to was getting rid of being a girl all together, and becoming a horse.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Honk Country Dispatches - Top 'O Fox Hunting Morning

The temperature in our bedroom upon arising this AM was 62 degrees. According to C'town Accu Weather, outside is 27°. We shut down the heat upstairs almost all day, turning it on only to warm up the bathroom for showers.

We've slept comfortably under comforter and what I call the Bed Sweater, a king-sized bed afghan knitted out of cashmere-silk wool -- is there such a thing? -- by MIL long ago, which we never use at home. It's too nice, and way too warm, generally. It's perfect for current conditions here. However, as el V left yesterday afternoon for long weekend in NYC and then George Mason University, I wondered how snug sleeping would be without him. Turns out to still be perfect, though the waking up isn't as enjoyable.

It's official: coyotes are here, in large numbers, in all of Maryland's counties. Part of the official word is that there are way too many deer in Maryland, but I knew that already.  Coyotes do kill the fawns -- several of those kills were discovered this spring.  This aspect is pleasing to the Fish and Wildlife people, because the deer are also throwing twin births (hormones in the water from fertilizer run-off?), which used to be unusual, which contributes to the deer population explosion -- that devour the crops and other produce in this agricultural economy.

A Horse Lady at the library yesterday informed we interested sorts that 20 - 25 years ago you seldom saw a fox in Kent County. Now the fox hound pack, horse-riding hunters, chase them from late fall through until cubbing season (March and April), when the babies start to come out of the dens, who aren't experienced or fast enough to take refuge if a hound finds them. In the 1730's this proper red fox was introduced here from England in order that proper fox hunting take place. The point for horses and hunters and dogs is the running, for no foxes are allowed to be caught or killed. (The first fox hunting club - pack was established in Maryland in 1650, when Robert Brooke arrived here with his pack of hunting dogs, which were the root of several strains of American Hounds. These dogs remained in the Brooke family for nearly 300 years.)

Horse Lady's horses love fox hunting time. Running all over the place as fast as you can go! With lots of other horses! Yay! She had to rush off to take care of her horses as they knew, in the ways that horses know these things, that they were going out for the first Hunt of the year this morning, and were 'champing at the bit."

The fox hunters and the Fish and Wildlife people are concerned that the coyote population will soar like the deer population (Lyme's has soared again -- our admin at the Starr Center had it, and all the evidence is that it is very painful, very awful, and the medication for it basically leaves you starving, since so many foods react badly with it). Coyotes kill and eat foxes.

Her listeners disbelieved Horse Lady's  information that the coyotes had arrived, and were here at least five years ago. "I've never seen one!" Horse Lady snorted. "Coyotes are very good at that." She warned that your small dogs and cats better be kept indoors now.

I asked about the black bears. She said one had been spied a couple of years ago, making its way down to Alabama "for some unfathomable reason." It was was tracked all the way from New Jersey by the Fish and Wildlife people in order to learn what they can about black bear migration from north to south.

This morning's hard ground (no mud or ice), sunny and bright and cold weather -- makes perfect fox hunting conditions.

There are many Hunt Clubs here in Maryland, and throughout the Delmarva region, which includes D.C., which has a Club with its own pack, and Pennsylvania too, where the region merges with that north of Baltimore.

I wish "Maryland (1940) a 20th Century-Fox Hunting and Riding Film at Roxy" were available on dvd.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Honk Country Dispatches - The Cumin ' O the Greens

Huge wreath on front door, which gets caught in the door jamb every time you close the door.

A huge box of hollies and evergreens. All of which will be perfectly tinder from the central heat in about 12 hours.
Nevertheless I 'seasonalized' the front three period rooms: receiving room (I just call it the front room), parlor (I call it the living room) and the dining room.

Pine and spruce needles everywhere. But my pine cones seemed happy to see them. I suppose now I have to obtain some big wide red ribbon .... Lights?

Maybe I'll go do that now, now that the rain and wind have quit, and some sun seems to be coming out.

I just wish Buildings and Grounds had waited another week or so before delivering the greens, due to the drying out factor. But the benefit tour for childrens' winter coats is the 11th. Still, this seems too early. It's only December 1.
I will not dare to light candles.  I NEED window candles! Battery or electric. Dollar General didn't have any. N is going to have to drive me to the little malls outside of town. Nor does it have any tall vases and so on in which to display MORE GREENS and lights and ornaments and ribbons.
I've made three runs to Dollar General already!
I'm messing with all these things, tying bows out of the ribbons -- I've gone nuts, and I've just started. I did this all afternoon instead of working.  All because W College delivered me a big box of greens and hollies. It's made worse by N laughing at me and egging me on.  I'm going to be doing this now for days. Like playing with my dollhouse. I never played 'stories' with my dollhouse. I constanted re-arranged and decorated. Nobody lived in my dollhouse. It was mine.

I MUST HAVE A LARGE CHRISTMAS DEER, on which I can drape ribbons and lights.  Really. I MUST!  It would be great, looking out the living room windows! There are conveniently located outlets. Really.

I need silver polish for this huge ornate silver platter tray with feet that’s been in the broom closet all these weeks and looks as though it hasn’t been removed in years.  And – oh, yes!  wind ribbons on the chandliers. And o who knows what I can do?  The next historic house tour is the 11th, I think.  How will they deal with this?  I don’t think this is very authentically 18th century.  But I am keeping to gold and green.  Mostly.  Red is allowed.  O dear. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Martini Light

Up home, in Manhattan, we have officially entered Martini Light Season. It's not all day long or all night long. It's right now, at this time of day, the end of the afternoon, just before dusk.

You promenade along, say, Central Park West, or hit the Continental-styled wide boulevarde intersection of Avenue of the Americana and Bleecker Street, anywhere where there's ingress for the horizontal sky light of end-of-day in the days leading up to the solistice and the days after, and you know what I mean.

But only in Manhattan, where the modern, the 20th century, and martinis were invented. When you walk along Central Park West, you will know why, here. (Well, yes, I have my hyperlocal biases.)

It is beautiful here, just beautiful. It has preserved the best of its past. But I do not deny the beauty and the uniqueness of the beauty, of other places I love. Manhattan is beautiful precisely out of it always looking ahead, out of it being about the now and the future -- about getting rich, about getting famous, preferably both, about making it. This is what Manhattan has always been about, even when it was Dutch. It still is, even now when it's Asian.

Hyper urbane, hyper sophisticated, hyper all of what made the 20th C the American, meaning the U.S.A., century.

The U.S.A. century is over, of course (though we've still got all that it takes to wreak havoc wherever and whenever, of course -- and nor am I, for one, proud of that), but Manhattan, like Rome, like Bejing, like London, like Paris, survives as one of world history's Black Holes, into which all civilization falls, and comes out the other side, as something changed and exciting, to spread over the planet.

We all get ours, in the end. But Manhattan's end is not yet.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Holiday Classic, Plus Road Kill

What Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays look like, as our popular classic imagery has embedded them, at least for some of us, since were born: we learned them from television and movies of the past, Christmas cards, from our model railroad villages under the Tree, the store window scenes, ye olde mail order Christmas catalogs -- remember them? so important to kids who grew up on farms, far from not only any city, but even a largish town, the dream books of wish books! -- the seasonal decorations of our Churches, in the nave, in the Sunday School basements, the ones in our schools, the town public space seasonal decorations -- remember them? know them?

I am currently living in one of those classic Christmas villages under the Christmas tree. It's unexpectedly unsettling -- both pleasant and unpleasant -- to spend one's daily life in classic 18th c, early American surroundings that are not faux cute decoratives and ornamentals, but are authentically this. Yesterday intensified this unsettlement as we had Thanksgiving in Annapolis, and this was our first time there.

The old part of Annapolis is a collection of jewels of Georgian American architecture. It was also a planned settlement -- like England's Bath, to which with pride Annapolis contemporaries likened it. Annapolis also called itself the American Athens. Between about 1720 and the Revolution, it was the most fabulously wealthy of all places in England's North American colonies. It was also the most English, with clubs, jewelry makers, gold and silversmiths, perfumers, dress and suit makers, of the caliber found in London. This accounts for its gradual but perceptible decline after Independence. It was a Tory merchant town, built on the slave trade, mostly. Those merchants either were killed fighting for the English, or immigrated to Canada or England. Also Baltimore became the primary port for Maryland, as well as an industrial center, and a railroad city that connected to the western states.

Annapolis turned into itself, into a perpetual dream of the past. What saved it from disappearing as other thriving towns around it did, was being being Maryland's capital since 1694, when named the capital of the Proprietary Colony of Maryland. It had a good central location, on the Severn River, with the Chesapeake bay at its front door, when in those days waterways were the chief mode of transportation and communications. It wasn't until some decades later that Annapolois snagged the U.S. Naval Academy (1845).

Someone we knew long ago when living in Albuquerque, ended up establishing his base in Annapolis. He learned we are here, and invited us to Annapolis for Thanksgiving. He's very busy producing documentary film and television now, but owns a Georgian house in central Annapolis that he began restoring back at the end of the 1980's with the large fortune he inherited from his family (only child). He has servants, who, I swear could just as well have been serving the Tory family that built his house back in the 1730's.

Before dinner - supper, he took us on an historic tour of Annapolis. Like C'town, Annapolis has all its Christmas lights, decorations and trees up. It was like watching an animated Disney film set in the colonial era. Except this was authentic wood and brick. Before heading back to L's house for the feast, he took us to a 1750 tavern, for celebratory rum punch such as might have been served in Middletown Tavern then. What a contrast between another of our notable Thanksgivings, the one with the familia in Havana.

Dinner had been prepared by his long-time staff (when he's in town -- he has other homes, in Virginia and in LA -- like so many people, even very well off wealthy ones like him, he's suddenly house poor, in the sense that he can no longer afford three establishments and can't get rid of any of them). To begin -- I can't. It's too much. I will say though this is the very best pumpkin pie I have ever ever ever eaten. The whipped cream was the best whipped cream!

In contrast, road kill. By the side of the road I saw a dead deer with about four large, stocky Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus) feasting on it, getting their Thanksgiving on, no doubt! Before going west, we made a jaunt to the marker for the one Chesapeake successful land battle of the War of 1812, which was in Kent county, Caulk's Field, and down to Rock Hall, at the end of the county, on the Bay. Between that little trip and the drive to the bridge I counted 5 dead deer -- were also smaller, generally, non-identifiable out the window kills on the highways, though one was certainly a racoon. About ten days ago I overheard some Fish, Game and Wildlife fellows speaking of how their job had now hit the annual task of clearing dead deer off the roads and highways. "It's mating season. They've got no brains."

Like an idiot, I did not think to take a camera with me. It was overcast, which can provide terrific picture taking light. But like the deer, though addled by history not by the reproductive imperative (been there, done that!), I had no brains.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pulp History

 ... the brother and sister team of David and Margaret Talbot, save the gore for print. They are the mild-mannered creators of a new book series called “Pulp History,” rip-roaring nonfiction tales with enough purple prose, gory illustrations and va-va-va-voom women to lure in even reluctant teenage male readers.
Here's a sample:

In “Shadow Knights: The Secret War Against Hitler,” one of two books in the series that Simon & Schuster released last month, a British spy named Harry Rée wrestles with a Gestapo agent: “He gouged at one of the man’s eyes, but it wouldn’t come out. He tried to bite off his nose, but it was too tough. Then Ree shoved his forefinger into the German’s mouth, between his teeth and cheeks, and pulled up hard. The man squealed in pain and sent Ree flying over his head.”

David Talbot created Salon dot come back in the '90's.  Margaret Talbot writes for The New Yorker.  They promise that their books are historically factual and do show the evils of colonialism, racism, the dishonesty of politics, the factual horrors that history so often is.  Nevertheless, here's this:

Their 160-page book, “Devil Dog: The Amazing True Story of the Man Who Saved America,” follows the exploits of the most decorated Marine of his day, Smedley Darlington Butler — a name too good to be false. Mr. Talbot first came across this forgotten hero in another book’s footnote.

The cover, drawn in bold colors, depicts Butler with a gun in one hand while in his other he holds up the Statue of Liberty — depicted as a bosomy redhead — who has fainted. Other illustrations reflect the same bawdy sensibility. In one, a voluptuous naked black Haitian woman dances in a voodoo ritual in front of a roaring bonfire and a beheaded dog. The style matches the pulp novels that were popular with American readers during the Marines’ long occupation of Haiti that began in 1915. The back cover promises, “Unbelievable and ALL TRUE!,” and “Devil Dog Will Knock You Out!

Now why is it that what I see here is cynical dorkdongs devoutly believing they are entitled to sell history the way everythig else is sold, by the exploitation of women's bodies and sexuality the bodies and sexuality of people of color, the suffering of untold numbers presented as a comic book in order to make the buckola for themselves and their upper-middle-class children -- while devoutly, smugly congratulating themselves as doing good in the world.

Why yes, their pretense that they are bringing history to kids, when, as the article makes clear, this is an enterprise that is geared to creating fictional television and movie franchises, is disgusting and an insult to the many people who work so hard to write history that is accessible to the non-specialist.
Full story here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Honk Country Dispatches 1

Conditions good for fishing.
Conditions good for outdoor exercise.
Conditions poor for catching cold.

Overnight temperatures changed from warm to chilly and windy. Though the day is again sunny and bright, the light is not warm and soft, but hard and sharp.

Overnight spruces with red bows at their tips appeared in pots, located on each corner of C'town's historic business district.

Overnight The Bakery, promised since even before our first visit this past June, opened. I bought a blueberry muffin, to inaugurate the place.  I wonder if there will be an impact on Play It Again Sam, where everyone gathers to get their coffee, dulces, sandwiches, beer, wine and wifi. The Bakery does sell coffee, along with the breads and higher-priced dulces, and has tables, but no wifi.  Its hours are 6:30 AM to 2:00 PM, closed Sundays (and Thanksgiving).  The Farmer's Market, which only runs on Saturday mornings is open all day, today, for Thanksgiving. From what I could determine mostly business is in pies, which business is brisk, but no one is buying anything else. I bought a single serving of the local fruit cake to see if I like it. I like some fruit cake very much, but it's pretty specific what kind I like, but one can't tell from the looking at it alone.

El V isn't feeling well, alas. Also, the person whose car we're renting, just got a new, higher-paying position in another town. In another week we shall be wheeless again. So far, nothing el V's attempted in terms of wheels has panned out. We can use the WC cars occasionally, but not for anything like leaving it in the Baltimore airport for 4 or 5 days, or going out of town on weekends. O dear.

Monday, November 22, 2010


It is glorious, and I got to stand for a while tonight and see its light splayed upon the spated river: shining, sparkling, shaking, shivering, shattering. Huge. So huge. It's so much warmer tonight than last ... surely it shall rain tomorrow and thus no more of this moon.

And I hope you will pardon me for saying I've had just the most wonderful day. Doing nothing but blither with V about capitalism, money, land, slavery, CA Gold Rush, Civil War, put two days' of dishes in dishwasher (I am being seduced!), scrubbed the master bathroom that turned into a pigpen immediately with V here, gave script of Free Man of Color to the provost's wife who, with provost, will see it over Thanksgiving weekend, walked to the WC library where the books I looked for seem to be lost, so got other books, picked up by V, and then wrote all afternoon.

Now, we're going out to dinner for the Monday night special at the Fish Whistle.

And the moon ....

That there are horrors under this moon everywhere, I surely know, and that I have horrors and terrors of our own, this is so, but I try to hide them from myself most of all, while attempting still to deal.  But for some moments I have the privilege of being perfectly my most perfect self and filled with the joy of it -- and be aware of the perfection of self, time, place, action.  This happens so seldom in all our lives that the moments must be noticed and treasured.

The moon, o the moon.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Change in the Weather

Today: "Good Weather for Hunting!"

Too cold for the fish maybe.

The C'town harbor ducks and geese are remarkably quiet this morning.

We had dinner last night with lovely, intelligent, accomplished, talented people from the College, hosted by the provost and his delightful interior designer wife.  Thus it is probably needless to mention their home is beautiful.  It is necessary, however, to include the information there are also four cats, one of which has three legs. The party was eager to hear accounts of viewing Guare's A Free Man of Color; one of the other guests is an experimental playwrite, a man of color and the the head of WC's drama department; our hosts brought him to WC from Atlanta when they came to WC, and have tickets to see A Free Man of Color during the Thanksgiving weekend. For me personally, besides the costumes, which everyone loves and praises, the most interesting thing about the play was seeing all these historical characters personated on stage: Jacques Cornet! James Monroe! Thomas Jefferson! Toussaint Louverture! Merriwether Lewis! Robert Livingston! Tallyrand -- who I can never now picture as other than John Malkovich due to the Napoleon miniseries!  Ben Brantley demonstrated in his panning with the faintest of praise that the content of the play went over his head entirely.   The Capeman too, was entirely over his head, which his assessment of that history has already proven wrong.

There was a rainbow ring around the so full as to be full moon in a mostly clear sky. Yes, another beautiful night on the Eastern Shore, followed by yet another beautiful day.

So I spoil the mood by considering how, in light of the history of the Adams-Clay vs. Jackson-Van Bruen presidential election of 1828, the total cluelessness of the Adams and Clay people when faced by these extremely politically talented people, that indeed the unspeakable sp will be POTUS in a couple of years.  My one hope is that she will peak too early.  Nor am I certain she's got a Van Bruen political wizard to run things for her -- they are most secretive, according to the NY Times magazine this AM.  We do know she's cowed Rove, whose star appears to have dimmed.  His time blazed and is now finished.

But, she adds out of profound gloom, this only means she'll be replaced by someone even worse, who will win.  Certainly the confederates believe they've risen again -- and they never lost in the first place. * 

* For another nonsensical alternate history Civil War scenario go to salon dot com today.  This guy's supposedly a prof of Civil War history, and he came up with this?  Plus, he's so unoriginal that you can see the content of TN Coate's blog entries and the posts of his well-informed commentators all over this pastiche of sillyness written by this fellow so appropriately named Glenn W. Lafantasie. This is the sort of thing that makes one speculate, "Hmmmm.  On the internet nobody knows you're a dog."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Historical Research for Fiction vs. Historical Research for History

The two processes are very different, and now it strikes me as to why this is so.

What is included in fiction is entirely at the discretion of the author. This is the author's right and is part of the author's job to create the most immersive (if that's the author's objective) and coherent narrative she possibly can. This means picking and choosing the facts or even the rumors and downright lies that support the narrative's point.*

The historian should not, cannot, do that. The historian's job is to reveal to her greatest capacity what actually happened. No picking and choosing facts here. If the facts and the information do not support what the historian thought happened, no can do. At least in the world of ethical history writing.  This is one of the many reasons that slaveholding states denied access to historians and researchers for so long who were not 'the right sort.'  Denied the primary documentation many actions and behaviors can remain concealed forever, or at least poo-pooed as the fantasies of crackpots and pot stirrers.

Fortunately we are now keenly aware that generally histories are written from the point of view of the winners and is often employed to justify what the winners did to the losers. Etc. Or you can reverse it, how the losers write history to make themselves innocent victims. These can be filled with as many lies, counter-facts, myths and rumors as those written by the winners -- example: Woodrow Wilson's History of the American People.

Why yes, I have been reading William Byrd's journals.

And -- "Conditions will be very good for fishing!"

* Myself, I can only approve of very judicious mis-handling of the facts and information on hand, even in an historical fiction.  Equally for 'alternative history' -- such as all the alternate histories that show the confeds winning the Civil War, with the expectation of the winning confeds that slavery would somehow, some way, quietly, peacefully eventually wither away.  It had not withered in the least in over 3 hundred years, and it was never quiet.  Moreover, the  point of the war for them was to expand slavery throughout the nation and the continent(s), which the rest of the nation wasn't about to allow. 

For more of what this is about read Ta-Nehisi Coates' "Alternate History Cont." here as he deals with Hank Williams Jr.'s "If the South Had Won the War We'd Have It Made." 

zunguzungu goes much further with deconstructing this redneck anthem here with his blogpost "President of the Southern States."  zunguzungo, whether or not he realizes it, is performing Postmamboism, reading social, cultural and political history as embedded in music, i.e. musical forensics for history.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Good Weather for Fishing

I have become unaccountably delighted when that advice shows up on the C'town accu-weather daily forecast. That what it was yesterday and today, "good weather for fishing." It's chilly, it's damp. I'm beginning to understand why people who know this House are telling us that we're going to want to build fires in the front room fireplaces this winter.

A bit punchy for now. Waiting for el V to return so we can run over to Miller Library for a book I want, and the have dinner, which is just about ready. So maybe we'll do that in reverse order. I've written the through lines for three groups of characters for the treatment today, and transcribed some notes for the book. And worked out and showered. I feel completely stupid. Time for television: the concluding episodes of Reilly: Ace of Spies (1983 -- Golden Age of mini series television), starring Sam Neill. This series is so good!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fifty years later, students recall integrating New Orleans public schools

At this moment Vaquero's attending a commemorative event - ceremony down in the Lower 9th honoring the girls who were the center of the battle to integrate New Orleans's public school system.

"Today at 9 a.m. -- the exact time that "The McDonogh 3" integrated the school 50 years ago -- three women and the federal marshals who once escorted them will unveil a state historical marker in front of McDonogh No. 19."
The shameful, ugly behaviors of white Louisiana at that time have never provoked an apology of any kind later down the line.

Rather, most white families that can manage to do so, have deserted the public school system all together. Now, the system is rapidly being privatized, via 'charter' schools and various other devices devised in the last decades that are essentially re-segregation of education, allowing smug middle and upper middle class people to defend pulling their kids from public education because it is a failed system.

Here in NYC with the massive loss of jobs for many middle-class parents, they are discovering what it means to trash and desert public education, now that they can't afford the fees to send their kids to private schools.  The tales of the ruses, subterfuges and temper tantrums to which these parents have resorted to get their entitled kids into the remaining good public schools, despite them not living in that school's district, would be high comedy if they weren't so representative of the ugly, selfish, stupid people this nation's citizens have by-and-large become.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Super HyperLocal Trivia -- Dishwasher!

I haz. I uze. 4 1st time.

Lunch yesterday was a lot of dishes, but not really, since everything was cooked before guests arrived, and then Vaquero (mostly) washed up. Dinner was eaten out, courtesy of the Starr Center, at a very fine local restaurant. But breakfast -- so many dishes. A very large breakfast. That included apple pie and ice cream. Why not? We are all consenting grown-ups here, and if we think adding (hot) apple pie and (cold) ice cream to breakfast, which is sort of also lunch, who is to say us nay? So many plates, cups, mugs and silverwares!

So, why not uze the dishwasher which it iz I haz?

Guests drove off, 45 minutes late, because K bought more merchandise from one of the town's antique booksellers for his own store's stock, which he knows he can turn around immediately for much much more than he paid for it.

Vaquero left earllier, about 15 minutes late, for the Balitimore airport, for the Congo Square Festival and Conference in New Orleans. He called just as I was filling up the dishwasher, to say he was entering the boarding security line.

So all is on track, with a most successful visit in every way for everyone from the Starr Center hosts, David Stewart, our personal guests, and ourselves. Everyone loved each other, David gave a most exhilerating talk on Burr's western adventure and the aftermath, we all had a fabulous dinner at a place new to us. I had a chunk of local beef that I couldn't finish, but is ambrosia. With all the left-over food of various kinds I won't have to cook for few days, not even when Vaquero gets back Wednesday evening.

However, it is suddenly, extraordinarily, quiet and empty around here, after almost 24 uninterrupted hours of talk-talk-talk-talk-listen-listen-listen with so many people, serially, sequentially and all together. When we left all the others last night it was nearly midnight, and then we stayed up longer, yawning but talking with great excitement about various history projects and antique books and bookselling, and yawning, but like little kids, not wanting to go to bed. We finally had to, then we're all up before 8.

I'm happy to learn I still know how to be a hostess. I loved having K and C, and look forward to them coming back pretty soon, which I'm pretty sure they will.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Capitalism / Slavery = Expand Or Die

From today's NY Times Disunion column, by Jamie Malanowski. For those particularly who insist even now that the Civil War wasn't about slavery -- here it is, in Jefferson Davis's own philosophy, that the Civil Was about nothing else but slavery:

And so, inevitably, the South thinks of secession — and expansion. The South has long believed that unless slavery keeps expanding, it will die, and take the slave-holding elite with it. As Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi recently said, “We of the South are an agricultural people, and we require an extended territory. Slave labor is a wasteful labor, and it therefore requires a still more extended territory than would the same pursuits if they could be prosecuted by the more economical labor of white men.” Limiting slave territory, Davis says, would “crowd upon our soil an overgrown black population, until there would not be room in the country for whites and blacks to subsist in, and in this way. . . reduce the whites to the degraded position of the African race.” Oddly, Senator Charles Sumner, the ardent abolitionist from Massachusetts, has in a rather different way reached the same conclusion: limiting slavery will kill slavery.

And so the slaveholders seek to expand, although whether they can go further north and west is more than a political question; there is much doubt whether the climate and crops of western America would sustain slavery. But all doubts vanish when they turn their backs to the north, and see rimming the Gulf of Mexico verdant lands that could, and have, enriched slaveholding planters. “To the Southern republic bounded on the north by the Mason and Dixon line and on the south by the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, including Cuba and all the other lands on our southern shore,” toasted one Texan at a convention in 1856, and that sentiment burns at the heart of many of the fire-eaters now crying secession.

Don’t forget that not very long ago, such sentiments burned brightly in Washington as well. The Polk and Pierce administrations tried to buy Cuba. Just six years ago, the current president, James Buchanan, who was then Minister to Great Britain, was one of the three authors of the Ostend Manifesto, which maintained that if Spain wouldn’t sell us Cuba, we would be justified in seizing it. Accompanying these official efforts were unofficially encouraged forays by slaveholder-supported filibusteros to invade Cuba, foment a rebellion and grab the island on behalf of expansionist-minded southerners.

Expansionists north and south initially supported William Walker’s campaigns to seize control of Nicaragua, but it was the southern expansionists who were his true constituency. The south’s moral and financial support sustained Walker when he seized Nicaragua’s presidency in 1856, and though he governed only briefly, he managed to re-establish the legality of slavery before a coalition of Central American powers defeated his cholera-ravaged army and sent him scampering. Walker made further attempts to conquer Nicaragua, the last of which ended last September in front of a firing squad in Honduras. But southerners backed every one.

A mere freebooter, Walker nearly succeeded. The ultras dream of what could be accomplished in Nicaragua, and Cuba and northern Mexico and the West Indies if a cotton-rich American government should seek its destiny in commanding a tropical empire that would dominate the world’s supply of not only cotton but the staple of sugar as well.

So here, then, is the South’s choice. Does it select a future in which the southern slavocracy is less powerful; more isolated; consistently subjected to moral castigation by northerners for an economic system that profits not just planters but innumerable northern shippers and insurers and mill owners? Or does the South choose to establish a new nation that will sit at the center of a rich and powerful slaveholding empire that will dominate the hemisphere?

There are plenty of people in the south who oppose disunion and wish to move slowly or not at all. But most of the South’s leadership — its money and its political establishment and its opinion-makers — know that the South is at a crossroads, and they mean for it to choose independence.
This independence, then, would mean constant war of conquest. Jefferson Davis himself understood that -- and also expected to be sitting in the White House as President by the end of the next year. The South did not expect to contain slavery in the existing slave states -- the new Confederated nation -- ever. This is why they were going to war. There was no other reason.

This is why, earlier in the nation's history, the United States knew it could not tolerate Texas as an independent slaveholding republic at its flanks -- for Texas slavery, in its capitalist manner of ever burning out land and moving on to unsettled regions of relatively cheap acreage with its cheap slave labor, would perform Davis's philosophy. Texas would annex for slavery by war and conquest these other regions that the rest of U.S. already perceived as her own, for her other economic vision, which would never be compatible with slavery.

This is why there was no need for a civil war in any other nation to abolish slavery. In this nation, this was the only way way slavery could ever be finished as a legal institution backed by all the instruments of court and government. Born in blood, always in oceans of blood, usually the blood of 'others.' this nation will drown in its own blood, not the blood of 'others,' at the end.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Living the Dream, Inhabiting a Bubble, the Not Real World

I am inhabiting 24/7 a place in which history matter 24/7, in which people care about history, in which people read history, in which people research history, in which people write history, argue it, discover it, a place, where, Lordessas Save Us -- HISTORY IS EVEN ENTERTAINMENT.

We will be hosting our first house guests this week.  C and K will be arriving for David Stewart's account of the "Tale of Aaron Burr's Western Expedition and Conspiracy Trial."  As C and K are doing incredible research into the life and times of Aaron Burr's second wife, it seems fit to introduce them to David, and to the Starr Center people.  They are doing exactly what the Starr Ctr. perceives as its current mission.

So many people in town will be at David's lecture -- the town and the college connect in these presentations.   There are so many wonderful people that are always coming into Washington College -- tomorrow is Junot Díaz, for instance.  This past week I attended this, a harp accompanied presentation of Beowulf, by Benjamin Bagby. There is a lot to do here because of WC. The quality of people they bring in, in all fields, is world class. It's very exciting to have all this so easily accessible, so accessible, I have had to ration myself or else I'd never do anything else, because our social life is also built around these things. So sociable it is here. I was getting fairly reclusive in NYC due to my physical condition and how plain horrible it is there these days with the gridlock of tourism in my area of the city. Among other incentives to socialize is that it is just so much easier and more comfortable in every way than at home.

Tonight my baby gets back after a week away.  Poor baby too -- he's caught cold.  I'm so glad he's returning.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Privateers and Steam Brigs

The rains that appears to be pouring down along all the Atlantic coast is keeping me inside today. I'd planned to spend it at the Kent County News transcribing from issues published during the War of 1812 and stories about the first steam brigs taking slaves from here down to New Orleans. The biggest professional slave trader, Isaac Franklin and his partner, had built steam brigs for specifically built for them and this trade. I'm trying to find out who the builder was (Franklin's traders came into the C'town port). Thursday is good for this, since this is the day the weekly issue comes out, thus things are a bit less hectic in the offices.

Then I'd planned to finish up the day in the library to transcribe material from reference books on the Letters of Marque in the War of 1812. There's an excellent history of this published in 1930 by a local Baltimore history publisher, and later by Norton, with the best definitiions of the differences between piracy and privateers, and the history of privateers -- going back to the 13th century! I didn't know. But the real point is the Brits and how they dealt with all those Eastern Shore slaves running away and converging upon their ships in promise for transport to elsewhere and freedom. As well, the slave population provided many services to the British navy from navigation to food to spying out information -- to the bewildered outrage of their owners, of course. I'm trying to get some real numbers. Also find out what really happened to those who were transported to the West Indies, as promised -- where slavery was still in effect. This one's kind of a replay of the Brits - slave relationships during the War of Independence.

But I don't want to take my laptop out for a walk in the rain. My umbrella is small. Nor do I have the right rain footgear here yet.

Fortunately I can continue with other areas here at home.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Stillness, The Beauty, The Solitude, The Work

Yesterday el V drove off, first to C. College upstate NY, to do an annual presentation for a Media class taught by a friend and colleague.  He's been doing this since she began teaching there.  Usually it's the second week of the semester, but due to our own academic and other schedules this year, it was yesterday.  He's leaving the car at their home upstate while he then trained it to NYC and our apt., and the three gigs he's got in town this week.  As well as starting the rounds of medical visits etc., now that the WC health insurance is operational.

I'm here still.  Alone.  In the House.  In this town, this county, this region. Reveling in the beauty.  Doing my War of 1812 thing.  Finding out more about the steamboat manufacture on the Chesapeake. Tracking down citations out of primary dox and sources to back up assertions I've made during our constant conversations, updates, etc. about our project.

Night hunting, multiple-barrel guns and huge punt guns had been been used in the Chesapeake around the turn of the 20th century to take down the geese in their tens of thousands.  I knew this -- from where? But I can't just go and say this without backup.  For something like that factoid, the backup is easy to find in all the local sources, including transcribed oral interviews.  This kind of hunting, which wiped out the grand riches of the migrated Canadian geese early in the 20th C, became in the regional lore something like the moonshiners and the -- hunters and their guns vs. the local authorities trying to get hold of those guns, and spike or otherwise take them out of commission.  Thus, this is easy to find multiple reputable sourcing cites for, unlike some other assertions I make, that "I just know." (It seems that even into the eras of wide-spread ecological awareness of overhunting and overfishing, even now yeye olde guyz still don't think they were doing anything wrong, while bemoaning the loss of that harvest.)  Just knowing does not writing reputable history make.

In any case, the War of 1812 has been given not only short, but little, shrift in the h.s. and undergraduate courses in U.S. history. I can understand that, but it leads to the lamentable contemporary situation of 'libertarians' and other such ilks, quoting their god Robert Heinlein, from the Heinlein Bible, Starship Troopers, in which a fictional character (so, can you certainly know that RH believed that himself?) declares the War of 1812 "one of the bush-fire wars on the sidelines of the Napoleonic Conflict.” Which is not only inaccurate but dumb. If anything, it was a continuation of the War of Independence. There was so much crowing in England that this was the new campaign, and at its conclusion the 'colonies' would be back under the Crown's rulership and administration.

Another reason this war has been rather lost in the teaching and awareness of U.S. history, is, as one of the privateer replica captains observed in the course of Downrigging Weekend's Captain's Forum: "It was fought here. Most of the United States weren't yet states. California was still New Spain. The War of 1812, the Chesapeake - Baltimore privateers don't mean anything to them. They've got their own historical boats and traditions."

These captains are very smart, well-informed, personable people. But when they get the opportunity to get down to knots and sails and masts and wind -- they may as well be Captain Aubrey with his own naval colleagues. I say this in all admiration. However, it seemed to me, that it would have been the height of bad form to have brought up Captain Aubrey and Patrick O'Brian's books to any of them this weekend. They have read those books, and loved the film of Master and Commander. But just imagine, how constantly they must run into lubber passengers who think we can sail one of these ships because we have read and digested O'Brian's novels thoroughly. How tiresome for them we must be after a point.  "You cannot learn to sail a boat like this from books!" thundered one captain.

In the meantime the three-year anniversary observance of the War of 1812 is just about upon us.  Thus it has been decided to keep Lynx and Pride of Baltimore 2 over here for most of this time.  Such a decision is provoked as well by the current economic catastrophic conditions which has pulled so much state and local community monies from what had been the constantly expanding historic ship inclusions in local observances of this and that.

This war -- was it three years?  Was it actually four, as many of us think?  See?  Three years or four years, that is not a small war for those who were in the thick of it, as were all the people here.