". . . 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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Godfather

I've watched the three Godfather films in the last few weeks.

Godfather II felt brilliant, particularly with the intersecting backstory of Vito Coreleone with his son, Michael's 'present,' as Godfather himself, with so much filming in Sicily.

Godfather III I loved, again for being filmed so much in Sicily and Rome, and the wild reach of the opera within an 'opera' of a gangster film.  I also enjoyed so much recognizing all these actors from The Sopranos, in younger incarnations of themselves, playing the same parts they play in the latter era made television series' Sopranos, sometimes even with the same names.  It's one of those meta kicks, I guess, that one either enjoys, or, as so often in my case, perceive as really annoying cheap tricks.

But the first, The Godfather -- it knocked the film world's sox off. And I can't get why.  Now the following films wouldn't be meaningful without The first Godfather.  But why this film was so adulated that not just one but two, very successful and highly regarded sequels were made because of it, I don't get.

Also, these films differ a great deal from Puzzo's potboiler novels.  Puzzo's ability as a novelist is minimal by my standards of writing.  But his skill at choosing one colorful detail after another, which substitute for narrative drive, was superb.  The films are far superior as films than the novels are as novels.  But it took both the novels and the films, the novelist and the film director, to create this incredible mythology for Italian Americans, so successful that they spawned endless, well spawn, even down to 7 seasons of the Soprano family business 'thing,' which is always comparing itself and their 'thing' with the 'old days,' and how different it is now, or, as in the case of the women speaking to each other of their men, how it isn't different -- that they are still living in the last century when it comes to women and sex and marriage.  For the men, they sometimes think the old times were better, with higher loyalties and honor.  The last century they refer to isn't the 20th, either, but the 19th.  But what they are all comparing their times to, whether in approving nostalgia or in future asperation, is fiction, mythology, not reality, at least not mostly.

The only other history I can think of this same process happening via fiction and films crossing is the Western. Which then, with The Godfather, the Western was officially displaced by the mafia as our great national myth.  Which is explained, then by Season 2 of The Wire, with the great epitaph of the U.S., as spoken by Frank Sobotnik, the dockworkers union boss: "Once this was a country that made things. Now it's about putting your hand in the other guy's pocket."  Sobotnik goes down to an international crime syndicate.
But I still don't know what it was, as a film, that so deeply impressed everyone from professionals in the film world to the novo gangsters which crossed themselves with the music biz in hiphop and rap (though that pop music genre didn't begin with gangsterism), to the average movie consumer.

Do you think it was the constant scenes of eating such delicious food?  The Sopranos emulates this.  Shoot, I emulate this.  While these have been my dinner time watching this winter, I have been making a lot more Italian dishes than usual.  I also am spending a lot more money in Raffetos, and their home-made fresh pastas, pestos, mozzarellas, parmeseanos and reggianos, olive oil and other products.

People took food from a supermarket

in Concepción on Sunday."

So this slide (#7) is captiioned in the New York Times slide show that is front and center.*

These people are white.

The black people in Haiti are looters.

When this sort of photo captioning was brought up by us as media critics >!< at the Haiti teach-in, it brought gasps from the audience. In later write ups for the paper and departmental reports -- departments sent representatives to take 'minutes,' this was cited again and again as a radical observation. Though no one, so far, has bothered to attempt refutations of such observations as false or wrong.

We brought this up as a parallel of reportage from New Orleans when the levees broke and people were going without food, water, shelter etc. for weeks also. Foraging for supplies by the desperate black survivors was constantly labeled as looting, and the television nets looped a couple of scenes from Canal Street endlessly, while further uptown, where white people broke into a Whole Foods, that was called 'foraging.' Nor were there television clips or newspaper photos of that.

But we know certainly that white people did break into the Whole Foods there because we stayed at the apartment of one of them for the 2006 Mardi Gras, and she told us many stories of how she and her friends walked down to the Whole Foods every day to get water and so on. Other white people we know told us the same stories.

In the meantime, in the HuffPo, a DOCTOR writes this to illustrate how little we in the U.S. know about Haiti:

It is no accident that there are no trees on the Haitian side of the island of Hispaniola while the Costa Rican side is lush and tropical.
So tell us, what is wrong with this statement?

* ETA: It may be necessary to overtly state that my heart also goes out to the people of Chile, who have suffered such a terrible disaster, and whose suffering is just beginning.

I'm also at the moment listening to national public rhetoric: the hourly news update has just called the people of Chile looking for food LOOTERS, and reports that the police are turning water hoses and so on, to prevent people from LOOTING. Would it be ignorant to presume these LOOTERS are the Chileans who are, um poor, and maybe of mixed race, or Indio, or black or, well, poor.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

8.8 Earthquake In Chile -- Tsunami Consequence

Who will Pat Robertson blame this one on?

Should we start a wagering pool?

Our friend is going to Haiti to live on the streets with her six-year-old daughter who isn't allowed out of Haiti to live with her mother and stepfather here. Every provision they've managed to make for the child has fallen apart in the continuing chaos. The very day her stepfather had finally managed to get into Haiti to bring her to the U.S. the so-called Idaho missionaries got arrested for planning to take Haitian children to the Dominican Republic to live in a non-existant orphanage-resort. No Haitian children allowed out at all.

Daughter's papers all destroyed, so though he had all the papers to prove his identity and his wife's identity, there was nothing to prove K's identity. M. has spent all his money, over %50,000 on the attempt to care for her. But the upshot is she's on the street, dirty and starving and in danger from all kinds of predators.

Her mother is so distraught that she's going on the 10th to be there and protect her child. She's a true warrior -- we've been friends since she married M and came here -- and she will protect K. From all accounts her daughter resembles her in this way -- but she's only six!

All their friends have been trying to provide help from every angle we can. Again I am humbled because people from the SF/F community have started to send me money as part of their contribution to the Rescue K Fund. M. will need it, for the phone, food, clothes, shelter, water.

The constant clashes of the xtians who are taking this catastrophe as their opportunity to defeat witchcraft vodou by denying water, food, shelter and medical care to vodoussants is making the chaos worse. Further, they are not so subtly encouraging surrogats to turn machetes on the vodoussants. These are the actions that make for civil war. Further these xtians are clashing with each other over control of supplies and locations
Makes you sick, doesn't it?

No wonder this mother is determined to go there herself to protect her daughter with her own body if necessary until we can somehow manage to get her into the U.S.
And this is only a single story out of tens of thousands of children in Haiti -- not to mention around the world.

When the situation is so vast only indviduals get saved. There is no fair, honest and non-exploitive system to save the lost children in the world.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Down In New Orleans

Where I am, longer than planned.  Dang those S Lee guys anyway!  V'.s going to be interviewed next week his followup to Levees.  So hotel and tix and all that got changed and charged to the project.

Also, Tremé is shooting like crazy.  Last night at DBA we saw a  Krewe du Vieux parade by.  I go, "Mardi Gras was over on Tuesday night," and, "WTF? this is from 2006 -- I was here!"  It was part of the Tremé re-creation of the year after the levees broke.  The music director and crew, btw, have invited us over for the premiere ep of HBO's Tremé in April.  They'll still be finishing up the eps for the whole season then, but I am very stoked.

Tonight we met one of the Tremé guys who does the live sound for it, under the Music Director.  He lives here, has always lived here, and was here for K, and never left, even though his house was drowned and buried in sand.  He's been in the movie and television biz for many years, but says there's never been anything like working on Tremé. He did a lot of rescue and recovery post K immediately.  His wife has been running a food bank from before K -- they also have two children.  While they also tried to dig their house out from the sand ... they all lived for over two years in a FEMA trailer ....

Story after story like that, and that is what Tremé is going to tell, from best we can tell.

In the meantime, New Orleans isn't real happy about the project, that shuts down streets for two weeks at a time .... welcome to my world of NYC!  And for projects that aren't even as worthwhile as Tremé's aspirations are.

Amazing, hanging out on Frenchman St. on a Saturday night, and all your friends are coming around, just because that's what they do.  They're not round around Frenchman on Saturday coz we're here.  It's because that's what they do.  It's also what we do.  Except my back has about now gone splah, so I came 'home' to the hotel, and V's out with the camera prowling again.

Lots to do before we go home.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sharing A Bit From Alma Guillermopreito Observation

Alma is, first, a dancer. She became a writer when her career was over, which happens to almsot all dancers before age 35. She spent 5 years after that floundering. As she explains, as anyone knows who has danced seriously, dance owns your life as well as your body, so when you are no longer in training for rehearsals and performances, you are deflated, not much, and feel lost and dead.

She became a writer, journalist, historian mostly through the efforts of a friend of her family's, who owned a Mexican newspaper (Alma's Mexican) and "had the idea I could write and should write. I fought him, and felt after every piece I was a failure, but he'd push me into doing another."

She's a very good writer. Her career took off when, in

 "1982, Guillermoprieto, then based in Mexico City, was one of two journalists (the other was Raymond Bonner of The New York Times) who broke the story of the El Mozote massacre in which some 900 villagers at El Mozote, El Salvador, were slaughtered by the Salvadoran army in December, 1981. With great hardship and at great personal risk, she was smuggled by FMLN rebels to visit the site approximately a month after the massacre took place. When the story broke simultaneously in the Post and Times on January 27, 1982, it was dismissed as propaganda by the Reagan administration. Subsequently, however, the details of the massacre as first reported by Guillermoprieto and Bonner were verified, with widespread repercussions. During much of the subsequent decade, Guillermoprieto was a South America bureau chief for Newsweek."
Her mode of penetrating a story, an issue, a movement in popular culture, the street, comes directly out of her years as a dancer. She "reads" bodies, as well as the context within which the body is positioned. The position and motion of a body gives her enormous amounts of information because, she says in her characteristic self-deprecating manner, "I have an encyclopedic memory for such imagery, though I have no memory for anything else," Thus she's particularly good at describing how images, particularly images of bodies, ares used by individuals or institutions to impart specific messages without saying what they telling you..

As an example she broke down the final scene of Avatar off-handedly. I've not seen any other review or criticism of the film mention the posture of Neytiri, the film's female Na'vi protagonist, in its connection to the fallen, failing, dying Sully. It's a repoduction of this posture, in the famous photo from the crime of Kent State

This came about via a discussion of her book, Dancing With Cuba: A Memoir of the Revolution, and the questions students asked her about her lack of awareness in many ways of the Vietnam War, until she saw it presented in an Havana movie theater via old-fashioned newsreels, shot by Vietnamese, the same Vietnamese upon whom the bombs were fallings, whose villages were burned, the ones upon whom the U.S. was making war. As a dancer she had no time or money for television or newspapers while living in NYC. The students were astounded by these accounts of what it was like for a dancer in those days in NYC, how poor young artists were, and how poorly they lived. So then she asked them if they knew about Kent State and the shootings at Jackson State as well, which she also learned of via Granma and newsreels while she was living in Havana. Quite a few of the students did know about Kent State, though none of them had heard of the shootings of African American students at Jackson State. The students were then asked if they knew what happened after these student shootings by the National Guard, and none of them did.

All the colleges and universities in the U.S. went on strike and shut the entire sucker down.

"They don't want you to know that, do they?" the students were asked. They were astounded.

Then Alma asked them what they thought Cameron intended then, with this image of Sully and Neytiri, deliberately mimicking the pose of the fallen male student and the grieving female student kneeling next to him? All the students had, of course, seen Avatar. Tremendous conscious raising ensued right then and there in terms of history, in terms of who tells the news and where, in terms of what student power really meant, in terms of how easily we get images without understanding what we are being told.

You can refresh your memory of the Kent State photo here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Another Perspective on THE DAY

Postmambo Magic.

Click here!

Plus pic.

Mardi Gras's Here, Babee!

-- and Snow, & Blow. Fah! It's like the birthdays of my childhood.

We're listening in to Mardi Gras live via the WWOZ live stream.

I'm opening birthday cards, trying to decide where to go tonight for dinner, with whom, etc.

But mostly I'm getting it together for the discussion today on Havana vs. New York at the end of the 60's and the 70's, the contradictions embedded within the revolutions in each city that collided within the mediating body of a dancer, not yet 21, who is neither USian nor Cuban: political revolution in Cuba vs the revolutions in art / intellectual approaches in NYC.  Also the writing of memoir.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

It's That Kind of Day

It's a classic mid-winter February day, including snow on the ground and seasonable temperatures.  So, it must be time for this.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Big Sam's Funky Nation

Tonight, at le Poisson Rouge.

Mardi Gras's comin', babee!

I'm so looking forward to being in New Orleans next week.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Yoknapatawpha County's Roots In F. T Leak Plantation Diary

The recently discovered Francis Terry Leak diary of the mid 1800's is what was known as the "Plantation Diary." It's a combination of work schedules and accounts ledger, which means these Plantation Diaries are rich primary source material for historians researching the history of the southern regions of the U.S. and slavery.  I read a number of them, or extracts from them, back in the 80's, when I began my own historical researches into these matters.  Perhaps the one best known until now has been that of the Tombee rice plantation of South Carolina's low country.  The plantation still exists.  I've had a copy of Journal of Thomas B. Chaplin (1822-1890) on my shelves since it was published in 1992.

Evidently Faulkner had access to one of these, belonging to an ancestor of one of his neighboring friends in Mississippi. He spent a great deal of fascinated time with it, making notes, as well as ranting at the owner of the diary for his views on slavery and African Americans..

"The diary and a number of family stories seem to have provided the philosophical and thematic power for
Names of slaves owned by Leak — Caruthers, Moses, Isaac, Sam, Toney, Mollie, Edmund and Worsham — all appear in some form in “Go Down, Moses.” Other recorded names, like Candis (Candace in the book) and Ben, show up in “The Sound and The Fury” (1929) while Old Rose, Henry, Ellen and Milly are characters in “Absalom, Absalom!” (1936). Charles Bonner, a well-known Civil War physician mentioned in the diary, would also seem to be the namesake of Charles Bon in “Absalom.”"

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Let This Be A Lesson To All You All Who Operate From 'the Gut'

Intead of, You Know, THINKING and BEING INFORMED!

This is what the primary media coverage of Haiti has devolved into. Not a single primary media organization has a team there now, except, I think National Public Rhetoric has a few people on the ground yet in Haiti.

"The 10 American Baptists detained in Port-au-Prince on child trafficking charges are pleading for the United States government to do more on their behalf and for the news media to focus on them less.

“Help us,” one of the detainees, Carla Thompson, said Monday as she lay on a bed in a scorching jail cell about 8 feet by 5 feet, her ankles bandaged from infected mosquito bites. “That’s the message I would give to Mr. Obama and the State Department. Start helping us.”

How much you bet these people also don't believe in 'government?'

What I know certainly is it because of THEM KSZ, MZ's and M's

What I know certainly is it because of THEM KSZ, MZ's and M's six-year-old six-year-old daughter is still in Haiti, and not at home here with her parents. The rules for taking children out of the country to the U.S. by those who have U.S. relatives changed that very day because of them. MZ was told so when he went to the proper office to get his papers for her stamped.

KSZ is traumatized. This is what happened.

KSZ was living with her grandmother, who died a few months ago. She was then living with her aunt. She'd been picked up from her school, by the driver that MZS and M paid to do this and was nearly home when the earthquake hit. Her school was flattened, and her teacher and the other children all killed. Her aunt's house was flatttened, and she and her family were all killed. KSZ thought she was going 'home' with MZ, to be with her mother. She was then told by the official that she had to stay in Haiti, with this friend, whom she didn't know before. He's caring for his invalid mother. It's a f*cked up mess, multiplied 3 million times. This one would have had a happy conclusion. Except for these idiotic dorkdongs charging in without thinking about anything, without professional qualifications -- except, it seems their leader's proclivity for playing fast and lose with her business models, floating very close to -- yes, let's call it by the legal term -- fraud.

We do not cry for them.

They also have made the Haitian situation now THEIR story. It's all about them instead of Haiti.

The damage accomplished by the determinedly, wilfully ignorant is incalcuable.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Who You With? Who You With?

As mentioned below the Colts didn't have A Prayer ....

Is the Quarter still standing?

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Archbishop Hannan's original prayer for the N.O.Saints -- See The Prayer Here. (It's a pdf.)

When John Mecom, the original owner of the Saints, decided to name the franchise the "Saints" he called Archbishop Philip Hannan to make sure the Catholic community would not be offended. Archbishop Hannan assured Mr. Mecom that Catholics would not be offended. But he cautioned Mr. Mecom, "You do know that many of the saints of the Church were Martyrs."

Archbishop Hannan wrote a special prayer for the newly formed Saints football team. It is attached. That was forty-three years ago. Archbishop Hannan is still alive and very active at ninety-six years of age. He just may have lived long enough to see "Hell freeze over!" when the Saints win the Super Bowl.

Another interesting note. The Super Bowl is in Miami. The current Archbishop Ordinary of Miami is a native and priest ordained in New Orleans, Archbishop John Favalora. The Colts may have Payton Manning [a New Orleans native], but they don't seem to have a prayer.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fun in Durham -- er, Derm

Onda Carolinaabre kuta güiri mambo ... plena ... jazz.

Ned Sublette may be my favorite living author and public intellectual. His knowledge of Afro-Atlantic culture is so deep and so connected, and the way he expresses it so fluid and untroubled. Rare. His books on the musics of Cuba and New Orleans, and the historical contexts that shaped them, are both rich, great reads.

I'm Getting Really Scared

I actually know that the Superbowl is Sunday.  (Anyone who knows me, knows I know thatNew Orleans mayoral primary is tomorrow, Saturday.  Anyone who knows me, knows I know the Atlantic U.S. coast is supposed to get snow-creamed this weekend.)

We have several invitations to watch The Game of the Universe.

Vaquero is talking about accepting one of those invitations.

Neither of us have ever watched a football game, or a sport of any kind (that doesn't involve animals -- we have watched horse races and working class dog trial competitions) since leaving high school. Or even paid any attention. Of any kind.

Go, Saints!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Update -- Our Friend's Little Girl

MZ just called from Haiti, near the Dominican Republic border.

The little girl safe, but she will not be allowed out of Haiti for any reason, with anyone, not even her own, proven mother. Period. MZ's coming home.

He couldn't even get to Port-au-Prince. There are U.S. soldiers EVERYWHERE. They're not doing anything except looming. So MZ asked them why they were there. The answer: "We're here to make somebody else isn't."

Did they mean Aristide? Cubans? Venezuelans? Haitian Americans looking to help and bury their relatives? Obviously they don't mean U.S. mormons, evangelicals or baptists.  They're allowed everywhere.

Satan Shouts Out Pat Robertson

Dear Pat Robertson,

I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I'm all over that action. But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I'm no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished. Sure, ! in the ike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth -- glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven't you seen "Crossroads"? Or "Damn Yankees"? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there'd be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox -- that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it -- I'm just saying: Not how I roll. You're doing great work, Pat, and I don't want to clip your wings -- just, come on, you're making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That's working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract.

Best, Satan

Haitian Children

Our dear friend has had to go to Haiti, to bring his wife's six-year-old daughter to their home here. INS weirdness has prevented her from being here, but with the earthquake, and her mom having been provided citizenship, and married to many-generational U.S. citizen, supposedly the little girl could now be brought in, and united with her mother and stepfather.

However, the freakin' crazy xtians determined to steal Haitian children have made this now nearly impossible. MZ had to fly to Santo Domingo and then take a bus to Port-au-Prince, and hope to find the child. She's been cared for by relatives, who had started using her as a cash cow last year -- remittances sent to them for the girl's clothes and school and food, were starting to go 'missing.' Thus the relatives don't want to give her up, to have the child go the the U.S., and lose that regular cash flow.

But, the child's mom believed, that since MZ's a houngan, and part of the Haitian houngan network, the relatives would let the child go, for fear of bad spiritual effects coming to them if they denied MZ custody.

Thus there were serious problems already in place before the baptists kidnapped those children to the DR -- where, they claimed, they were going to fulfill their 'dream' of starting an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. (Why, if they wanted an orphanage in the DR, were they not taking in the orphaned children of the Dominican Republic, of which there are many? These people have zilch experience with orphans and orphanages, btw ....)

MZ traveled with reams of paperwork, including copies of the child's mom's citizenship papers, passport, marriage certificates, etc.

But because of what those baptists (and many others -- but only they got arrested!) did, now no child can be taken out of Haiti without the signed permission of Haiti's prime minister -- who is not living in the area where MZ's stepdaughter is located. He's been trying to deal with this all week, in a nation that is wrecked, where you can't travel, where everything is so expensive, and he's laid out all his funds already. MOMA had bought some of his art last fall, and a collector more -- so at the New Year, he'd quit his job, in order to paint again. The job ate his life. He hasn't been able to create for over a year. Then the earthquake. All that money he'd put away to live on for a year has gone to Haiti and the relatives.

So, please, join with Vaquero and me, lighting our candles, wishing good wishes, making prayers, for the success of MZ and his mission saving M's little girl, that they all can be safely together very soon.


Why does S&S think Conspirata is a better title for Robert Harris's Lustrum, the second installment in the author's tales of Tiro, Cicero's secretary? (The first title was Imperium - 2006.)

Since Lustrum's publication in the UK I've been looking out for the publication in this country of Lustrum for several months -- and here it turns out I was looking for a book that doesn't exist in the U.S. Most frustrating.

In any case, this is a rotten day. Up before 6 because the mouse exterminator was supposed to be here at 8:30 AM. -- who, of course, didn't arrive until 10. We got something like 4 hours of sleep.

The mouse population in this building has gotten out of control. We're used to trapping a mouse or two a year, but this is something else. There are 20 restaurants and other food purveyors on this block alone, with another one opening on every block surrounding us seemingly every month. Every store that goes out of business gets turned into a food purveyer. Even big block clothing stores like Dolce Gabana have a tea - coffee -- veddy expensive pastry and sandwich shop on our side at street level. Is it possible this situation has something to do with our mouse problem? And that there are many young single males living in our building who don't know how to wash dishes without a dish washer (if, even then?), or how to clean up after themselves -- pizza boxes, etc. -- I'm judging by their garbage, you see.

No Ground Hog shadow yesterday. Instead yet another in the endless installment of freezing days, plus the added bonus last night of snow. Blech. Rotten day, and we have to go to a reception of an artist friend at 5 this evening, hosted by our State Assembly person. Don't tell anybody but while I like this artist as a friend very much, the artist's work, not so much.

The radio talk people are telling me again that our school system is bad for boys and gives girls unfair advantage, because girls mature their verbal skills sooner, so we need separate classrooms and schools for boys.  We know how that will turn out.  This is how it will turn out -- women will get shut out again from higher education and the professions.

Long ago I noticed that when women get access to education and professions from which they'd been barred with only few exceptional exceptions throughout history, those skills and professions rapidly become devalued. I noticed this first in the medical profession.  Now it is happening with law.  There are more women graduating from law school than men.  Now (law school, always the lit grad student's fallback) law firms are cutting back on hiring, reducing payment, etc.

Additionally, I have read and heard many times that the real cause of the medical and education crises in this country are BECAUSE women chose to be M.D.s instead of nurses, and college professors instead of primary school teachers.  If they stayed in their god-ordained places as subservient servitors of the professional males, none of this would have happened.

Did I mention it is cold, dank and dingy?