". . . 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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

*Death Comes To Pemberly* by P.D. James!

I suppose I can forgive this author, as she can and does write and sell other books, and has an acclaimed, lucrative and long career doing so. I honestly believe James did this for fun. Yes, even P.D. James has succombed to mashing up Jane Austen -- this with, naturally, a murder mystery. Is this what it comes to, to be finally accepted as a Great Novelist despite being female, despite not writing first hand about war and stuff that goes bang, despite being concerned about the state of the single woman and the state of the married woman, to have your work and characters mauled by everyone from cheap suits to designer brands?

[ Death Comes to Pemberly
by PD James (Faber, £18.99)

PD James's Jane Austen sequel-with-a-murder is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies for the Boden-wearing classes, best approached as the jeu d'esprit it was conceived as rather than as a serious attempt to ape Austen's style and extend the canon. Six years after her wedding, Lizzie B is mistress of Pemberley, happily married and with two young sons. But on the night before the annual Lady Anne's ball, Lydia Wickham arrives at the front door, screaming that her husband has been shot in nearby woodland … There's much here to rile purists, from the sometimes clunky and inconsistent pastiche to the introduction of characters from other Austen novels. The murder mystery, too, is hardly James's finest, but her enthusiasm and affection for the characters keeps you reading in spite of the flaws. ]

Not everyone sees it the way the above reviewer does:

[ … In my view Death Comes to Pemberley is as good as anything PD James has written and that is very high praise indeed." The Independent's Jane Jakeman also applauded the "dream team of crime fiction, Austen and James", finding the novel "a great joint achievement, and a joyous read". Equally enthusiastic was the Sunday Times's Peter Kemp, enjoying "an elegantly gauged homage to Austen and an exhilarating tribute to the inexhaustible vitality of James's imagination". ]

And here is a trailer for the book, on YouTube.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Bloody, Twisted, Inverted World of Twilight + Discovery of Witches

"Violent Vampire Sex, Demon-Babies and Overwhelming Female Desire. Twilight is saturated with sexist tropes--to the point of being disturbing. But that disturbing element is compelling, too."

I have been thinking about Twilight a lot because of the author of A Discovery of Witches appears to have studied it carefully. Deborah Harkness seems to have broken out all the parts that seem to be the most appealing wish fulfillment for the adolescent reader, and then transmuted them to an adult woman's fantasy wish fulfillment.

Sarah Seltzer at Alternet recently has been thoughtfull about Twilight, sparked by the professional obligation to screen the latest Twilight movie franchise:

[ " But as for the substance of her wants, therein lies the perversely haunting twist. I’d argue that Bella's desires are direct responses to the patriarchy we actually live in. In fact, Meyer has created for her heroine an inverted version of our unjust society. In this invented, inverted world, Bella is allowed to want sex, and vocalize it, and initiate it, while her partner is the gatekeeper who makes sure she is safe and married before she gets “hurt.” In her world, the men around her urge her to abort her fetus for her own safety, but she gets to “choose” to deliver it even though it kills her. In her world, her boyfriend can urge her to attend college and better herself while she can push for an early marriage--and be right! In her world, she can reject her body and trade it in for a new one that is agile, strong, lithe. Her choices are consistently to fall into the arms of the patriarchy and trust that it will catch her, and her faith is validated: she gets a perfect husband, angelic child, new body.

What if we could do this, the fantasy suggests? What if we could just will ourselves to accept the prescribed roles society gives us (damsel in distress, object of protection, vessel for childbearing) and make it okay through the power of our wills? And what if the men in our society were horrified by their power: physical, social, sexual, and curbed it themselves and we didn't constantly have to be on our guard? " ]

It's interesting in terms of fantasy and what women want to compare and contrast Bella with the witch Diane. Bella starts as human. Diane starts speshul as can be, a witch, a witch is even speshul among witches. But Diane is an adult with a highly successful career, who in childhood, eschewed her witchy  heritage of specialness. Or so it seems. What makes it so interesting a contrast and comparison is what Diana wants vs what Bella wants -- what an intelligent, educated, curious, adult woman wants is very different from what an incurious, uneducated, non-disciplined teenager wants.

A Discovery of Witches (2011), Book 1 of The All Souls Trilogy is the most engrossing sf/f  (as opposed to sf or f -- sf/f here referes to a novel that is both science fiction and fantasy) I've read in some time. It's only rival for excellence is in this cross genre of science fiction and fantasy is this year's World Fantasy Award winner, Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor.

Now, many whose judgment I tend to agree with have hated A Discovery of Witches and made great big fun of it. I had read the first chapter excerpt on Tor, and what we got from that seemed to confirm that this was yet another version of the Twilight tiresomes: the special snowflake helpless as can be but firming her feisty chin in determination to take care of herself instead of allowing the gorgreous, brilliant, unbelievably ancient, powerful and wealthy vamp protect her -- and who loves her because -- why? since the love object is a zero, lacking all qualities other than shallow and ignorant, without curiosity, intelligence, education, knowledge of the world, interests or achievements.

But that's not what Discovery of Witches turns out to be. For once we have two lovers who are equally matched, who don't pull that I hate you but I love you o what will I do garbage. In fact, that they are matched equalities and agencies who truly love each other actually matters to the plot -- and not in that simple-minded when will they do it with each other? way. These are The Lovers, that you feel are worthy of the Tarot Major Arcana card named "The Lovers."

A Discovery of Witches is a fiction infused with intelligence. It's well-written, well-structured. For once I'm not going "They should have cut out at least 125 pp. of the 579 pp. that make up this novel."

I am enthusiastically looking forward to the second volume, Shadow of Night, which comes out next summer. I'm expecting this second volume in the projected trilogy will not fall into 'disappointing trilogy middle volume' syndrome as Deborah Harkness is highly intelligent, deeply and broadly educated, and she's also an experienced author.

Later I'll try to break down in particulars and specifics why this book worked so well for this reader at least. A lot of it has to do, alas, with all the wrongs it did not commit, that are embedded in almost all fantasy novels now, it seems, whatever variety of fantasy they are. But even more has to do with what all the rights the book commits.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Coco Robicheaux -- Walking the Spiritlands Forever More

Coco's gone.  New Orleans cannot be the same without him.

Coco's greatest song, "Walk With the Spirit," a truly spiritual song that was our personal battery-charger during the dark days after the 2005 flood, is here. The album it was on, 1995's Spiritland, is one of our all-time faves.

Sometimes I walk all by myself
I don’t want to talk to no one else
And I close my eyes
And I feel the spirit rise

That he had made this album made his attendence for the entire duration of The Year Before the Flood party all that more precious to us.

Season 3 of Treme  won't be the same either, without a bit of Coco.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Occupy Wall Street protesters arrive in D.C. after 231-mile walk from New York

One of the commentators to the article in the Washington Post that includes photos of the Walkers' bloody feet, stated, "Tea partiers would never do this."  No truer words could be uttered than these by one of the Walkers, "Most people don't know what it is to walk two miles."

[ " Planting their flag in the District, they immediately held a meeting to try to figure out how best to take their frustrations to Capitol Hill, a growing focus for the movement that started Sept. 17 in a park near Wall Street but now includes more than 1,000 occupation sites around the world.

“I will march till my feet bleed to make this point,” Mike Gibb, 21, of Bel Air, Md., told several dozen reporters and well-wishers at the park. “You may ask why I went on this march. I ask you, ‘Why didn’t you?’ ”

On Nov. 9, before New York police raided Occupy Wall Street at Zuccotti Park, the 21 protesters set out from Manhattan to take their message to Congress, timed for when the congressional “supercommittee” would issue its decision on how to reduce the deficit.

They walked through Trenton, N.J.; Philadelphia; Wilmington, Del.; Joppatowne, Md.; and Baltimore, then to College Park, relying on supporters for food, a place to sleep and some cash. " ]

Monday, November 21, 2011

Occupy to Liberate: Council of Elders - Occupy March 11/20/11

After the sessions in Judson Church, there rallies Washington Square Park. The very large crowd then marched down Avenue of the Americas to our backdoor, Duarte Park, property owned by Trinity Church, right off Canal, not used by anyone for anything, except to cut through on the way to and from the subway. Occupy SoHo? Down with that!

Among the Elders was a Rabbi from Philadelphia who advised about space. He said you need indoor space. There is so much abandoned property everywhere -- factories, warehouses, etc.. Except here in NYC, there is not. We've never had a real estate crash here, not even a little bit. So, he said, go to church and synagogue property -- religious institutions are huge real estates owners.

The March then, occupied the sky.

In the meantime that Mayors of U.S. Cities with Occupy movement conference (organized by Obama's Dept. of Justice!) have settled on the meme that Occupy is unsanitary. I challenge any of those mayors to contrast what Zuccotti Park was like with the way it is here down in SoHo all the time with the rats, the restaurants, the vendors, the tourists, the dogs, all throwing their garbage into our streets, onto the streets and occupying our sidewalks. Zuccotti Park did not smell any time I was there. Any time I was there people were busy cleaning it. But SoHo does reek frequently.     

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A C'town Amiga Writes Concerning Today's Council Of Elders Event

Her own words below, with her permission.  First she taught elementary school, then she became a social worker.

The cop helicopters, cop tanks, cop horses, copscopscops are swarming all over us again, because elders of the non-violent Civil Rights Movement of over a half century ago are addressing the younger generations.

[ " That made me cry.......could it possibly be that "somthin's happenin' here, what it is isn't really clear..." ? Am I an Elder? I was 15 when I went to my first civil rights march, I was 19 when my first friends died in Viet Nam, I was 23 when children were shot down in cold blood at Kent State and Jackson State .....and the gym teacher shoved me up against the wall in the teachers' room at Back River Elementary School for wearing a black armband the next day..."They shoulda' shot a hundred of the little bastards!",that was a memorable I'm 65 and 80 year old ladies in tennis shoes are being peppersprayed in Seattle...........I think I've got my tennis shoes around here somewhere!

Golden light here, shining thru the last of the magnificent gingkos and Autumn Glory maples........more golden here than there I are that much closer to the North Pole :) Wonderful description ........keep the faith.........Love, *******
p.s. WIN is almost sold out of (second hand) Christmas stuff, a sure indicator of reality here...................p.p.s. Read Naomi Klein in current The Nation............stunning analysis................Happy Martini weather! And Happy Thanksgiving! I will be sharing it with the others of my Fellowship at the Alano Club!  " ]

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Council of Elders dialogue with OWS this Sunday, Nov. 20th

In New York City on November 20th, members of the Elder Council will spend time with those encamped at Zuccoti Park, beginning at 2:30 PM. They will lead a worship service in front of the “red structure” within Zuccotti Park at 3:30 pm. Elders will then host a dialogue with Occupy Wall Street demonstrators and other interested individuals at 5pm, at 74 Trinity Place. Both events are open to the public.

Veterans of America’s 20th Century civil rights movement will enter the 21st Century Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles on Sunday, November 20.

Known as the “Council of Elders,” they will step inside the nationwide encampments to symbolically share the torch of hope and justice and engage the Occupiers in dialogue about defining movements of the past. “We want to contribute to this intergenerational movement,” says Dr. Vincent Harding, activist and writer in the civil rights movement. “We are thankful for the efforts of Occupy Wall Street to unite the 99% and bring the many gifts and great energy of millions into effective action to transform our nation.”
The Council of Elders is an independent group of leaders from the farm workers, sanctuary and human rights movements that shook the nation’s conscience with public protests over the past 50 years.
“We see Occupy Wall Street as a continuation, a deepening and expansion of the determination of the diverse peoples of our nation to transform our country into a more democratic, equitable, just, and compassionate society,” excerpt from the statement of solidarity by the Council of Elders to be read at each of the Occupy encampments.

By bringing their voices to the Occupy Wall Street movement, the elders are addressing a litany of social grievances, including poverty, mass incarceration, and what they call a culture of war and violence. Dolores Huerta, activist with Cesar Chavez and the farm-workers movement, believes today’s conditions create bitter divisions among peoples across the United States and throughout the world.
“We applaud the miraculous extent to which the Occupy initiative around the nation has been non-violent and democratic, especially in light of the weight of the systematic violence under which the great majority of people are forced to live,” says Rev. James Lawson, leading theoretician, tactician and theologian of the civil rights movement.

The economic crisis which sparked the Occupy Wall Street movement also motivated the veteran protesters. They cite soaring unemployment rates, home foreclosures, and inadequate health care as issues that require public outcries.
The Council of Elders promotes compassion and non-violent action as the highest values to reverse trends that put profits ahead of people in its quest to contribute to the much-needed movement for a more just society and a more peaceful world.
The council members are urging elders from around the nation to join the Occupy Wall Street movement.
In New York City on November 20th, members of the Elder Council will spend time with those encamped at Zuccoti Park, beginning at 2:30 PM. They will lead a worship service in front of the “red structure” within Zuccotti Park at 3:30 pm. Elders will then host a dialogue with Occupy Wall Street demonstrators and other interested individuals at 5pm, at 74 Trinity Place. Both events are open to the public.

Click here to download press release

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Barbarians & Thugs Destroy Libraries = Bloomberg & the NYPD

From  "Who Destroys Libraries?"

Thugs and barbarians.

Ergo  Bloomberg & the NYPD.

From a commentator:

What is meaningful in a library? The books and media? The access to information, or to story, or to history? The gathering and cultivating and cataloging of those elements so necessary to civilization? The refuge from ignorance? The refuge from isolation? The people who make it all happen and help us understand the resources available to us? The open door?

A library to me is a public place, defined by who is allowed in rather than by public ownership. And on that measure, as well as every measure which I mentioned above, the library tent at Occupy Wall Street was a public library. They had over 5000 published books, original writing and poetry and art, people who volunteered there, and people who used the library. They had all that until New York City made the conscious decision to destroy the library.

That act of destruction was, to me, not qualitatively different from the book burning in Opernplatz in 1933. Both were political acts of destruction intended as statements of power, demeaning and diminishing those disfavored by the state, targeting the tangible instantiations of knowledge and discourse.

It's so weird how our primary media are reporting these matters -- the Italians protesting Berlusconi are considered worthy of our support, understanding and even admiration.  Even the vaguest semblance of public protest on the part of the non-1% here is at best ridiculous and at worst lese majesty that deserves at least very long prison sentences.

The Wondrous Database

"This Book Is 119 Years Overdue

The wondrous database that reveals what Americans checked out of the library a century ago."

The long article describing the database and its place in a the long sociological study of Middletown, U.S.A (Muncie, Indiana), and the author's personal engagement with what Louis Bloom, a particular patron's checkouts might mean is in Slate today:

Ever since the sociologists Robert and Helen Lynd published a pathbreaking pair of books about the city (Middletown: A Study in Modern American Culture, 1929, and Middletown in Transition : A Study in Cultural Conflicts, 1937) the place has been awash in social scientists studying its every move; this database is in fact part of Ball State’s Center for Middletown Studies
Each part of it is fascinating, even though the author's goal, to use it as time travel failed.  In this part anyone who reads / or  writes history or historical fiction can't fail but to be interested.

Stuart’s point about the gap between what you read and who you are got me thinking. Maybe the way Louis receded as I chased after him was not my problem but my answer. In the books Louis checked out he found, as readers everywhere always do, more than just a perfect mirror of his own life (as if “what Middletown read” told us “what Middletown really was”). He also found a way out: a glimpse of the Italy where scientists experimented with frog’s legs, or the state of Mississippi back when killing a slave was a simple property crime. The books he read might even have helped him catch a glimpse of what he wanted his own future to be working in the world of mechanics and of physics, far from Muncie (“Go West, young man”—yes, until you hit the Philippines). Thanks to those books, he too had a telescope. Like mine, it was small and imperfect, with no guarantees about the accuracy of what he glimpsed through it. Still, coming from the sort of Muncie life that he did (his mom had moved them in with in-laws, had even been threatened with having to send the kids off to various relatives) I bet that glimpse at a distant world loomed fairly large for him.

The database, What Middletown Read, can be accessed here.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

*War Horse* & Louisa May Alcott

Speilberg did a special early screening for Canadian veterans for Veterans Day. War Horse, the film, which like the theater work is made from the children's novel by Michael Mopurgo, opens here at Christmas. 

The trailers show the horse beautiful, but what happens to animals in war, as to the earth, other animals, women and children is so disgusting I probably won't be able to watch this film (and Spielberg is not my cuppa anway). Even the story told in Louisa May Alcott's Little Men to the boys and girls at Plumfield by the black man-of-all-work, Silas, and his cavalry horse, Major, in the Civil War disturbed me the reader as much as it disturbed Daisy. Like her I cried to see Silas still carried a bit of the horse's mane wrapped in paper and kept in his wallet.

[ " "I don't know but jest one story, and that's about a horse," he said, much flattered by the reception he received.

"Tell it! tell it!" cried the boys.

"Wal," began Silas, tipping his chair back against the wall, and putting his thumbs in the arm-holes of his waistcoat, "I jined a cavalry regiment durin' the war, and see a consid'able amount of fightin'. My horse, Major, was a fust-rate animal, and I was as fond on him as ef he'd ben a human critter. He warn't harnsome, but he was the best-tempered, stiddyest, lovenest brute I ever see. I fust battle we went into, he gave me a lesson that I didn't forgit in a hurry, and I'll tell you how it was. It ain't no use tryin' to picter the noise and hurry, and general horridness of a battle to you young fellers, for I ain't no words to do it in; but I'm free to confess that I got so sort of confused and upset at the fust on it, that I didn't know what I was about. We was ordered to charge, and went ahead like good ones, never stoppin' to pick up them that went down in the scrimmage. I got a shot in the arm, and was pitched out of the saddle–don't know how, but there I was left behind with two or three others, dead and wounded, for the rest went on, as I say. Wal, I picked myself up and looked round for Major, feeling as ef I'd had about enough for that spell. I didn't see him nowhere, and was kinder walking back to camp, when I heard a whinny that sounded nateral. I looked round, and there was Major stopping for me a long way off, and lookin' as ef he didn't understand why I was loiterin' behind. I whistled, and he trotted up to me as I'd trained him to do. I mounted as well as I could with my left arm bleedin' and was for going on to camp, for I declare I felt as sick and wimbly as a woman; folks often do in their fust battle. But, no sir! Major was the bravest of the two, and he wouldn't go, not a peg; he jest rared up, and danced, and snorted, and acted as ef the smell of powder and the noise had drove him half wild. I done my best, but he wouldn't give in, so I did; and what do you think that plucky brute done? He wheeled slap round, and galloped back like a hurricane, right into the thickest of the scrimmage!"

"Good for him!" cried Dan excitedly, while the other boys forgot apples and nuts in their interest.

"I wish I may die ef I warn't ashamed of myself," continued Silas, warming up at the recollection of that day. "I was mad as a hornet, and I forgot my waound, and jest pitched in, rampagin' raound like fury till there come a shell into the midst of us, and in bustin' knocked a lot of us flat. I didn't know nothin' for a spell, and when I come-to, the fight was over just there, and I found myself layin' by a wall of poor Major long-side wuss wounded than I was. My leg was broke, and I had a ball in my shoulder, but he, poor old feller! was all tore in the side with a piece of that blasted shell."

"O Silas! what did you do?" cried Nan, pressing close to him with a face full of eager sympathy and interest.

"I dragged myself nigher, and tried to stop the bleedin' with sech rags as I could tear off of me with one hand. But it warn't no use, and he lay moanin' with horrid pain, and lookin' at me with them lovin' eyes of his, till I thought I couldn't bear it. I give him all the help I could, and when the sun got hotter and hotter, and he began to lap out his tongue, I tried to get to a brook that was a good piece away, but I couldn't do it, being stiff and faint, so I give it up and fanned him with my hat. Now you listen to this, and when you hear folks comin' down on the rebs, you jest remember what one on 'em did, and give him credit of it. I poor feller in gray laid not fur off, shot through the lungs and dyin' fast. I'd offered him my handkerchief to keep the sun off his face, and he'd thanked me kindly, for in sech times as that men don't stop to think on which side they belong, but jest buckle-to and help one another. When he see me mournin' over Major and tryin' to ease his pain, he looked up with his face all damp and white with sufferin', and sez he, 'There's water in my canteen; take it, for it can't help me,' and he flung it to me. I couldn't have took it ef I hadn't had a little brandy in a pocket flask, and I made him drink it. It done him good, and I felt as much set up as if I'd drunk it myself. It's surprisin' the good sech little things do folks sometime;" and Silas paused as if he felt again the comfort of that moment when he and his enemy forgot their feud, and helped one another like brothers.

"Tell about Major," cried the boys, impatient for the catastrophe.

"I poured the water over his poor pantin' tongue, and ef ever a dumb critter looked grateful, he did then. But it warn't of much use, for the dreadful waound kep on tormentin' him, till I couldn't bear it any longer. It was hard, but I done it in mercy, and I know he forgive me."

"What did you do?" asked Emil, as Silas stopped abruptly with a loud "hem," and a look in his rough face that made Daisy go and stand by him with her little hand on his knee.
"I shot him."

Quite a thrill went through the listeners as Silas said that, for Major seemed a hero in their eyes, and his tragic end roused all their sympathy.

"Yes, I shot him, and put him out of his misery. I patted him fust, and said, 'Good-by;' then I laid his head easy on the grass, give a last look into his lovin' eyes, and sent a bullet through his head. He hardly stirred, I aimed so true, and when I seen him quite still, with no more moanin' and pain, I was glad, and yet–wal, I don't know as I need by ashamed on't–I jest put my arms raound his neck and boo-hooed like a great baby. Sho! I didn't know I was sech a fool;" and Silas drew his sleeve across his eyes, as much touched by Daisy's sob, as by the memory of faithful Major.

No one spoke for a minute, because the boys were as quick to feel the pathos of the little story as tender-hearted Daisy, though they did not show it by crying.

"I'd like a horse like that," said Dan, half-aloud.

"Did the rebel man die, too?" asked Nan, anxiously.

"Not then. We laid there all day, and at night some of our fellers came to look after the missing ones. They nat'rally wanted to take me fust, but I knew I could wait, and the rebel had but one chance, maybe, so I made them carry him off right away. He had jest strength enough to hold out his hand to me and say, 'Thanky, comrade!' and them was the last words he spoke, for he died an hour after he got to the hospital-tent."

"How glad you must have been that you were kind to him!" said Demi, who was deeply impressed by this story.

"Wal, I did take comfort thinkin' of it, as I laid there alone for a number of hours with my head on Major's neck, and see the moon come up. I'd like to have buried the poor beast decent, but it warn't possible; so I cut off a bit of his mane, and I've kep it ever sence. Want to see it, sissy?"

"Oh, yes, please," answered Daisy, wiping away her tears to look.

Silas took out an old "wallet" as he called his pocket-book, and produced from an inner fold a bit of brown paper, in which was a rough lock of white horse-hair. The children looked at it silently, as it lay in the broad palm, and no one found any thing to ridicule in the love Silas bore his good horse Major.

"That is a sweet story, and I like it, though it did make me cry. Thank you very much, Si," and Daisy helped him fold and put away his little relic; while Nan stuffed a handful of pop-corn into his pocket, and the boys loudly expressed their flattering opinions of his story, feeling that there had been two heroes in it. " ]

Louisa May Alcott was herself a hero in the Civil War, She spent so much time with soldiers, writing for them and doing other sympathetic kindnesses beyond her nursing and assisting at surgery, one wonders if she heard this story or one much like it during that time. Alcott nursed the wounded soldiers in D.C. until she herself took so ill from the conditions that she came thisclosetodeath and as consequence suffered ill health for the rest of her life. 

And I whine that I'm too sensitive to watch a movie made from a children's book.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

*Angel*, Elizabeth Taylor: "Fashions Change. Time Is Cruel"

Angel (2007) a Francois Ozon film, adapted from the same-titled 1947 novel by English novelist Elizabeth Taylor (1912 - 1972).

“Fashions change.  Time is cruel.”  This is the epitaph pronounced by the publisher upon melodramatic Romance novelist Angel Deverill’s vast bibliography. When Angel begins to publish, around the turn of the 20th century she supposedly is 15 or 16 or 17. This, like much else is unclear as this is a Romance; such specific and mundane details are expected to be glossed over. She dies in the inter WW era, supposedly as in her old age but she looks the same, except frail and ill as she fades away regretted by no one but her faithful, aristocratic, perhaps lesbian retainer.

Trembling, exquisite hand of expiring Angel reaches tenderly up, the whisper in the ear, "You are the only one who truly loved me." How often had Angel finished her novels with those words and that scene! But o, the difference in what the scene meant in Angel's life.  Yet, they are true, for no one loved her truly and so passionately as Nora did all her life.

The Modern had nothing whatsoever to do with Angel, though the art produced by her aristocrat of a husband, a painter  and bohemian, exemplars of the Modern in art.  Angel, however, remains true to her vision of Romance all her life, in her novels, which no longer sell, and in her death.  This romantic vision not only lost Angel her husband, but kills her too, but not before wild success, the adulation of millions, millions in revenue, and wild passionate love.

This film presents on screen all the conventions of Romantic Fiction and the fantasy imagined by the readers of the author who writes such works, without changing a thing from the pages of such books.  Rather it presents all of it in concrete detail: this is a film that is about fabulous clothes, precious jewelry, lush, opulent interiors and settings that are as full of bad art, hangings, bibelots, pets, unlikely devotion of inferiors as the reader wishes for his / her own life. (Not to mention revenge upon the mandatory Mean Girls.) 

This Romance unavoidably falls into camp when presented on the screen, because the screen is lacking the passionate convictions of the writer, Angel, who marshals all these elements out of her own passionate imagination of desire. This is even more interesting because this highly reputed director marshaled a stellar cast that includes, but is not limited to, Sam Neil, Charlotte Rampling, with Michael Fassbinder as the Romantic Aristocratic lead. Unfortunately the Romantic Writer lead was given to the ever-grimacing and constantly unconvincing Romola Gerais.

This is a novel-to-screen adaptation that fiction writers of any kind should not be able to resist watching. More information about the author, from whose satiric book this film was made – the classic Virago author -- can be found here. 

Perhaps it’s not a coincidence then, that I watched this movie while waiting for the last installment of Paradise Postponed, since both are mostly shot in Buckinghamshire County, and neither of them have likeable characters that lend themselves to comfortable submergence of watcher's self into their bigger than life representations.  Indeed, Angel is so unlikable from start to finish that you believe in her, but not the way Angel herself believes in herself.  She is so selfish and self-centered you do not fault her mother for slapping her, and indeed, you really can't understand how her mother then comes and begs for her forgiveness for doing so.  But then, this is Romantic fiction, in which all who come in contact with the protagonist, for better or worse, fall under her spell, can never forget her and will always stand by her, no matter what.  It's those moments when we see outside of Angel's own vision that we can see truly, and see her for the monster she is -- one of those Magnificent Monsters of which Hollywood is so fond ... As I say, this is a very interesting film, which among other things is about the difference between how we, whether writers and artists or anyone else, see ourselves and our work,  and how others may or may not see us.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Country Music Association (CMA) Awards Nominees & Other Country Stars' Opinions Of The Gay Community

Number 12 of the 15 is Willie Nelson, who name checks You Know Who for "Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly."

{ " Nelson's manager David Anderson, who came out in 2004, noted, "This song obviously has special meaning to me in more ways than one... I want people to know more than anything -- gay, straight, whatever -- just how cool Willie is and ... his way of thinking, his tolerance, everything about him." " }

All 15 have interesting stories -- check it out.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

*Dark Tangos* by Lewis Shiner

I picked up a copy from the library this afternoon of this Subterrannean Press publication -- a CUNY grad center colleague -- a Texas native -- told me I had to read it. Examining the book -- copyright page, etc. -- as I'm wont to do, I saw it was autographed. Then I see this is s "Deluxe hardcover edition." I wonder if there was a shelving mistake because this press's works aren't usually available for borrowing, but rather go into the humantiies research library's collections, and thus can only be requested directly from that facility and read there, in the reading room.

Like Shiner's previous novel there aren't sf/f elements in this one either. It's a suspense novel, the subject of which is Argentina's Dirty War of the 1970's. Well, it being Shiner, it's also about the lonely heart of the solitary journalist who once was a musician, and will he ever again find someone who can fill that empty heart -- while encountering immediately an exotic, mysterious beautiful woman with secrets. Location is Buenas Aires, thus that coupled with exotic mysterious beautiful woman of secrets = dark tangos. But the tango is dark, that's what its about, at least in some way. Have you ever heard of tango as frothy and opéra bouffe? Unless danced by the Marx brothers? Which I think they do, or at least Groucho does, in -- maybe, Night at the Opera?

Tangos notoriously are danced in dark, smoky clubs, often underground, and that is meant literally.

The great book of tango is Robert Farris Thompson's Tango: The Art History of Love (2005). Bob spent a lot of time in Buenas Aires working his way through the origins and significance of the form, including specifically the music and the rhythm, as well as the postures, tracing them all back to Africa. Ned conducted an extensive interview with Bob on the occasion of the book's publication, which is included in the art book collection of Bob's essays, Aesthetics of Cool: Afro Atlantic Art and Music (2011 -- though for some reason this edition is still not shipping from amazon, it is in museum stores).

Shiner's novel is available as a free pdf, if you go to his website and click the link.

*The Betsy-Tacy Treasury* Published Today - HarperCollins

Betsy-Tacy and Tib, Deep Valley, Minnesota, 10 books in all, culminating in 1955 with Betsy's Wedding.

I didn't discover these books until about age 10 or 11, and when I did they were already in high school -- Betsy Was a Junior. It immediately became one of my most re-read volumes on our tiny rural school library's shelves. So the young girls -- age 5 when the first book comes out in 1945 -- never much interested me. It was teenage Betsy, Tacy and Tib, in their somehow wondrous lives in my recognizable midwest -- but o, so sophisticated! they lived in Town, not on a farm like I did! -- and also fantastical because they lived so long ago, in a different world that happened before World War I, a war I hardly knew other than my paternal grandfather had been a part of it. Who were these people? I didn't know anyone like them, but now I did, inside these books.

[ "But there may be no world that provokes such profound girlish longing as the bucolic century-old Minnesota of “Betsy-Tacy.” " ]

Monday, November 7, 2011

*Paradise Postponed*

Paradise Postponed was a 1986 BBC series written by John Mortimer, the creator of Rumpole of the Bailey; PBS broadcast it in the U.S.  Mortimer wrote the novel of Paradise Postponed at the same time he wrote the scripts for the series; critics have written that the novel is inferior to what we see on the screen.  I've not read the novel, but I'm watching the series, and it is wonderful.

U.S. critics say the series is excruciatingly slow and most of it, if not exactly dull, is inpenetrable to most U.S. viewers.  This is the case because what turns the narrative is rooted in the changes in the English political landscape over a period of about 50 years.  The narrative flashes back to the 50's, 60's and 70's, not necessarily in that order, always returning to the present of the 80's in which the oldest son of one of the families attempts to fight the will that leaves the family money to someone who isn't part of the family.  During these back-and-forths the narrative traces the rise and fall of families and communities and classes, among the ebbs and turns of the Labor and Conservative party currents, and the Thatcher Tory triumph of the 80's.

But I find this series engrossing and amusing from the language, the characters, the location, and the history of politics and class relationships.  The language spoken by every single character, no matter how peripheral or how central, is sharp as a box cutter, and has the rhythm appropriate to how actual people speak.  Of course, it is enhanced by a supremely gifted writer, presented by highly trainded and skilled actors, so though the words are emoted as in natural mode, the delivery is not, by and large, that of everyday communication -- but you do wish it was! It is cerebral, but it is firmly rooted in a place, because the families of all the characters of whatever class are firmly rooted there -- and this county in such easy commuting distance from London, is beautiful.  The characters are not conventionally likeable, but they are all in the round, and always fascinating, to listen to, and to look at.  There is no leavening of one or two likeables among them, as we have in, say, the Barchester Chronicles, with Donald Pleasence's role as Mr. Harding the godly and sweet clergyman.  The most ruthless among Paradise Postponed -- the working class social climbing entrepreneur and politician, Lesley Titmuss -- lacks the satirical comic turns of Alan Rickman's Obadiah Slope, that allow the viewer's comfortable sense of superiority, and that all shall be well in the world.

However, you cannot turn your eyes from Titmuss.  In some ways he will remind a constant reader of Kenneth Widmerpool, from Anthony Powell's Dance to the Music of Time, as the series will remind one to a lesser degree of that 12 volume fiction series tracing England from WWI through the end of the 1960's. But Titmuss doesn't provoke even the peripetetic twinges of sympathy that Widmerpool does. Titmuss's speech to the members of his local Conservative party's candidate selection committee is brilliant.  For that alone, if you are a U.S. leftist or liberal or reformist, you should see this series and re-play that speech a hundred times.  It explains, briefly and entirely to the point, the rise and triumph of our regressive, mean, and successful politics of the far right.  It is the distillation of the failure of the left to understand the very people they think they are representing.

There is a sequel to Paradise Postponed, Titmuss Regained, broadcast in the early 90's, also written by Mortimer.  This single disk sequel is built around the out-of-control land development and despoilation that only -- so far -- the crash of 2008 has slowed to  degree.  Titmuss is now Conservative secretary of state for Housing, Ecology, and Planning.  Will it be as good as Paradise Postponed?  The rumor is that the title could just as well be Titmuss Redeemed.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Books & Libraries, Girls & Education -- This Person Tries

Here is something else that like Occupy Wall Street, though in a different way, is delightfully inspirational -- or, perhaps, not that differently after all, upon reflection.

His Libraries, 12,000 So Far, Change Lives, Ny Times Op-ed today.

[ " The cost per girl for this program is $250 annually. To provide perspective, Kim Kardashian’s wedding is said to have cost $10 million; that sum could have supported an additional 40,000 girls in Room to Read.

So many American efforts to influence foreign countries have misfired — not least here in Vietnam a generation ago. We launch missiles, dispatch troops, rent foreign puppets and spend billions without accomplishing much. In contrast, schooling is cheap and revolutionary. The more money we spend on schools today, the less we’ll have to spend on missiles tomorrow.

Wood, 47, is tireless, enthusiastic and emotional: a motivational speaker with no off button. He teared up as girls described how Room to Read had transformed their lives. " ]

Books still matter, the printed-words-on-paper kind. Classrooms still matter, the room-pupils-teacher kind. Giving still matters, a person with means-with an idea-executes idea kind.

If you click the link to Friedman's blog where this piece went up originally or maybe the same time, comments are enabled. The very first one is really interesting because the commentator says:

[ " May be it is just me, but Microsoft employees are frequently in news for doing these kind of things. I have never seen Apple employees in similar articles. Everyone loves Steve Jobs but all I read about him is how self involved he was. Compare that to Bill Gates and you could not have a greater contrast.No matter how much an Iphone adds to your life, it could not be more then saving a life or giving the most deprived people an avenue to reach their goals. " ]

Librarians in the public systems have noticed this, re Microsoft vs. the cult of Jobs. Apple has never provided a thing for the common good. Public libraries may well have gone down back at the end ofthe 80's early 90's without all the donation of monies, equipment and upgrade provided by Gates's foundations. Librarians may feel deeply constrained by IE but without Gates they'd still be rooting around in the print indices -- or more likely without jobs at all. Not to mention all the collateral jobs that came into being as libraries digitized (though also the collateral loss of jobs as well with automization that came with digitization). Still, at least here in NYC, we still have public libraries and they are used more and more by more and more people, while still expected to provide more and more with less and less.

Thank the lordessa for people like this gentleman, and like a woman I met last night at a dinner party uptown. She works in the Financial District, supports the Occupy Wall Streeters, and donates thousands of dollars to the NYPL every year. 

One of the first components of the Occupy Wall Street camp communities to get established, along with community kitches, are libraries ....

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gub Walker Gets Mike Checked! Plus Oakland's Mayor & the Cops

For whatever reason stupid blogger isn't putting in YouTubes.

Go here because it is a powerful action to watch unfolding.  The participants did some strong work in planning the infiltration.  Only fair, yes, since the cops and Others are forever planting criminals and provocateurs into the Occupy Wall Street actions to cause violence.

As with the Oakland cops who hate the mayor and have overtly said they will use this to take her out.  She defeated Their Guy, who was in cops pockets, and has gotten the cops to pay more out of their pockets into their pensions.  This, according to a friend of ours reporting in from Oakland where he's lived for many years.

We have so many different security and police forces now, they are wagging the national dog for sure.  Can we mike check Praetorian Guard?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Goldman Sachs To Be Tried By People's Court in Zuccotti Park

The speakers tie the practices and objectives of Goldman Sachs and their ilks to the deeply corrupted community and local systems that they too either directly or indirectly exploit for their gain, from mortgages to public education to public housing, to the current culture of rape and demeaning of women and other groups.

Alas that the streaming options are as iffy as they are, but it's impoverished WBAI, not the vastly wealthy NPR, that blatantly shills many times a day to get their listeners to not merely donate -- but to leave their money to NPR in their wills -- and which couldn't be bothered to report at all on yesterday's Oakland's Occupy strike, or the march of the vets here, to Zuccotti Park, in support of Oakland's Occupy strike. Instead, like all the primary media, they drumbeated non-stop the inanities of the idiot Herman Caine and his potential to lose his top spot as the gop nom candidate for POTUS. Whisky Tango Foxtrot ....

Whatever streaming problems, however, the station does have up a downloadable app that will bring you the live action. It's far more organized and focused than the primary media will have you believe. They are doing an excellent job.

Goldman Sachs To Be Tried By People's Court in Zuccotti

By AlterNet
Posted on
November 1, 2011

Goldman Sachs will be tried this Thursday, November 3,
for crimes against the American public. Cornel West, noted civil rights
activist, and Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winner, will be among those
presiding, and testimony for the prosecution will include individuals who have been directly affected and harmed by the actions of Goldman Sachs. The trial is open to the public, and if you can't make it? Tune in to WBAI (99.5 FM in New York) or online at this Thursday, from 10 AM to 12 noon, where it will be broadcast live. If the government won't do it? We'll take it into our own hands.

© 2011 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Trans Caribbean Reflections: The City Seeds Event

Last night was another one of those wonderful experiences, of musical forensics illuminating the past.  It was Halloween * yet the attendence was standing room only -- rsvp, and those who hadn't, had to be turned away by the end, alas.  It was one of those special kinds of events that are a gathering of the tribes, which feel more like family than instruction.  A perfect balance of history and hot percussion and dancing.
Ned Sublette and Alexander LaSalle

Canga Mundele: Tracing the Secret of Bomba from Saint-Domingue to New Orleans to Puerto Rico

“White and black people in the United States speak the same language—up to a point, anyway. But Spanish speakers in the United States have always been the ‘other.’”
“At the time when Cuba was experiencing intensive economic growth, Spain invested in Louisiana, holding the colony through the years of the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and all but the very end of the Haitian Revolution.”
Ned Sublette, Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo
Los Pleneros de la 21
About one third of the audience were CUNY grad students from anthro and history classes that are using The World That Made New Orleans as one of their texts. Others were regular attendees of this series, friends in the Puerto Rican and Haitian and other Caribbean communities in which we participate.  Some of these are really old friends such as M and M and their daughter, K.

The best bit was right after el Ned put up a bit of illo of Quadrilles and contra danses, and the Caller of the dance moves and patterns, played some of the rhythms, then spoke of how you can still hear this in dance hall in Jamaica with the Commadeur. and contemporary reggaeton.  Then Alex and Manuella played the rhythms on their drums, and while they were doing that el Ned rapped out a couple of verses of a very popular reggaeton number.  The audience knows this number, of course, cracked up, and applauded.  And the point of  The continuity of this Carribbean cultural-musical meme  -- Postmamboism -- was well and  driven home.  Very cool.

Then we were taken out to dinner, down there, in the Financial District -- now that was cultural dissonance!  The Halloween decorations of the faux Mexican bar - restaurant were very good -- much better than the food (but I'm the kind who thinks even mediocre fake Mexican is better than no Mexican), but the beers were cold and good, it was open that late (nearly 10 when we got there) and could handle a dozen people, no problem.  With their big, heavy tables it made it easier for everyone to exchange contact info, since not everyone had met personally before, but everyone shares the same interests.  There were some grad students, which provided me an odd sensation as they whipped out their notebooks and write down things I said about history, about fiction, about writing.

And then, when el V and MS and I got back to our own neighborhood the mess that it is every year on Halloween due to the annual Village parade stepping off from our street had mostly removed itself.  True, left behind were some lurching, howling mobs, and an odd singleton behaving oddly, appropriately wearing a clown outfit.  So we retreated back into our small apartment to drink a nightcap and talk editors and publishing.  A great night had by all.


*  On the subway riding downtown to the event I spotted a young woman wearing a Sons of Anarchy patch leather jacket!