". . . 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, December 30, 2012

Darned Cold Out There, By Golly! + Writing and History

Freezing, even.

But I have returned to the land of active people who do things, hurray! Indeed, have come in from the freezing outside from which we brought tea and coffee, and some tortillas with which to make (pulled)( pork tacos.

It began yesterday -- did a bunch of stacked up laundry and started writing. Then collapsed into bed and watched some more season 2 of Lost Girl, slept for another 11 hours. Woke up feeling much, much better. Not 100% by any means, but functioning and able to smile as a natural part of life, and, even, laugh at preposterous fools again.

Back to the List essay, that will connect, I hope --

- Bordewich, Fergus M. (2012) America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union. Simon & Schuster, New York
- The Education of Henry Adams- Dykstra, Natalie: (2012) Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York.

In other words, three books that describe the nation before the Civil War, during the Civil War and after the Civil War. If you read all three you will know and understand far more about the history of the U.S. than you did before.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Titles Members Recommend Frome Their 2012 Reading

We're working on the popular annual List of what the members recommend to other reader out of their own reading, 3 titles maximum. 2 - 3 sentence description - justification.

We're working on our own recommendations too, that go into this special pdf issue attachment to da List.

The recs have been coming fast and furious. I was looking over previous years'. Gads, Ned's List is filled with readers, who read really good books.

As usual I thought I'd have a hard time coming up with three titles. I have one that I knew from the first pages when I was reading early in 2012 would go on the List, but what else? Not a problem, no it is not. So many wonderful books.

The problem would be if I had to pull out three or more novels that I could recommend unreservedly and I cannot. There's only a single title that works on every level, which is River of Smoke, the second in Amitav Ghosh's Ibis trilogy. The first was Sea of Poppies, which I didn't like anywhere as much as River of Smoke. But now he's got me anticipating the third volume. River of Smoke has everything: exciting historical fiction (1830's Asia), fascinating characters of all genders and voices, as well as languages, a lot of comedy as well as catastrophe, exciting locations, lots of action -- and yes, it appears to also be literary. Who knew?

As well, Who Knows the title of the third volume, for so far it seems to be kept quite quiet. It takes Ghosh quite some time to write his novels, so he likely, intelligently, prefers not to provide any fodder for speculation as to what he's up to until the book is complete.

"The full story of the British empire is yet to be told .... "

So speculates Martin Kettle in yesterday's UK Guardian Comment section. What he speculated has provoked 500 comments so far. Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say, it has provoked a lively argument. Too bad so many of the argumentative are so stone ignorant of history of anywhere, including the countries in which they live.

Myself, as historian of New World slavery and the contexts in which it operated, appreciate how much he focuses on the 17th century, the century of the baroque, and the continuance of the Wars of Religion, while all the while Europe expands its abilities for extraction of resources around the world, and particularly in the New World. Very seldom do those who praise the gold and silver splendors of the Baroque era consider how and why all that gold and silver came available for those palaces, theaters, cathedrals and dinner services. Kettle does this via consideration of a new exhibit up in Amsterdam's City Museum, called "The Golden Age." These days more people pay duely lipservice to the fact that New World slavery funded the European Industrial Revolution. But even those willing to accept that tend to remain resistent to considering what those riches extracted from South America and Mexico with African and Indigenous slave labor funded before that -- not only elaborate salt cellers but even the ships that allowed for further slave transport pillage and-plunder and exploration. Not that there was anything to stop this process, any more than there's anything to stop the process of China's current pillage and plunder investment in Africa. No matter what power manifests itself, whether Egypt, Rome, a European power -- Africa, the birthplace and cradle of homo saps -- is central to the current imperial extraction.

The Amsterdam exhibition tracks all these aspects of globalisation's first wave. The Dutch established colonies in modern-day Brazil, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Java – and on Manhattan, too. Theirs was a connected world. In a 1656 picture of the centre of Amsterdam, Ottoman merchants are shown negotiating a deal just round the corner from where the picture itself now hangs. A Dutch translation of the Qur'an was printed there in 1696.

But this was a time of slavery and war too. Slavery was illegal in the Netherlands, but Dutch ships carried and sold slaves in Africa and Surinam, and Dutch fortunes waxed rich from the profits of the trade. The Dutch were renowned in China for their violence, and their arms industry – still the sixth-largest in the world today – was formidable. By modern standards, Dutch justice was anything but enlightened. Two ghoulish Rembrandt drawings of the public strangulation of a female murderer depict one of the many dark sides of the golden age. 

In the Age of Revolution exhibit here at the New York Historical Society last winter, there was a gallery devoted to Dutch Surinam in the 17th century, set up as a tavern, complete with sound of various figure speaking from the historical record. Around it were hung those famous paintings of the place, with traders, seamen, women -- particularly slave-whores -- from around the world, with a very large number of Atlantic seaboard captains and merchants. The seventeenth century Caribbean and Atlantic were the center of the world then, o yes, to degrees that we can hardly imagine. It's this kind of work done by museums and historical societies at the top of their game that helps fill in the picture from the documented texts.

A lot of this was also repeated in the Liverpool International Museum of Slavery as well. I sure wish I could visit this one too, but that's unlikely.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Symptomatic Relief: *Scandal*, Season 2

I can't focus on a page, so no reading.

Nothing appealed either to watch streaming or out of my personal dvd collection.

Then -- I remembered: Scandal, season 2, available on Hulu.

Scandal's perfect for my entirely limited comprehension processing system. Entirely implausible, entirely silly, nevertheless engaging, on an entirely superficial level. Though -- the way Prez Fitz stalks Olivia, and flaunts their affair in front of his secret service agents -- I'm liking him less and less, and I never liked him to start with. What a big baby he is. Well, he is a politician, and a gopper. How are we supposed to believe that Olivia would have anything ever to do with a fatuous and mean dope like him in the first place -- and a Republican!

No more snow, but raining hard, and blowing hard.

How NOT To Open Your Novel

So many writers and so many want to be published writers of fiction spend so much time blogging about how to Do It, meaning either writing a novel or publishing one. Also how NOT to Do It.

Funny that no one has mentioned, "Don't open the first chapter of a novel with a great big dangerous action scene that then, after a few pages turns into a dream. Probably any writer of any experience or sense would just know that, it's so basic, so there's no need, right?

'Tis Snowing Out There; Sick, In Here

Wet snow, very wet.  Wind kicking up to greater velocity at a steady rate.

I've gone through an entire box of kleenex within 24 hours.  It came out of nowhere, y'all.  Just hanging, you know, as you do, on the holidays, with the peeps you really like, and -- Blam-O!  No breathing, no sleeping, no appetite.  It's sort of weird to go in a matter of seconds from enjoying very much your Christmas dinner, to -- you can't even smell it, much less want to it.

I am really tired of this.  It happens too many years, that I get sick like this during or on the holidays.  And all these friends coming in or who are already here, from all over the country and the world.  Argh.  Excuse me while I whimper and moan and otherwise demonstrate my 100% misery.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Holmes For the Holidays! "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)

As part of the holiday observations, remember Sherlock Holmes and “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.”

You can also see Jeremy Brett doin’ it right; if you don’t have netflickers streaming, you can watch it here.

This is  my all time favorite Brett-Holmes.  And Brett as Holmes is still the very best Holmes there ever was or shall be.

Happy Holidays ....

Love, C.

P.S. My personal holiday adventure, making pulled pork in my oven at home, concluded successfully at 12:30 AM this morning, as I discovered a perfect crust of rub and crackling, and the meat fell from the bone, filled with savor and mouthwatering aroma.  It took nearly two days, but it was worth it.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Villon Calls This Year's Christmas

At Christmas time, / the dead season, / the wolves live on wind alone, / and people stay inside at home, / on account of the frost, / close to the coals ....

that is from David Georgi's translation of Villon, and that is what it is like here, today.

Plus we have a few flakes sputtering upon that wind, colliding with the shoppers and the walls and sidewalks. Brrrrrrr.

And now we, el V and me, are home, inside, getting warm at the hearth of the steam heat and afro latin Christmas music.

We got all the Christmas Eve shopping for everything completed this afternoon! Which is good, as tomorrow is Socializing, and on Monday afternoon el V must go hang out with Big Name Jazz Writer and help him with something -- while I, I of course, wrestle with the 11 hours of slow cooking the pork butt: 1 1/2 hours per pound at 225 degrees, and another two hours sitting in the oven after the thermometer shows the bone itself has hit 200 degrees. In order that that pork be in a state in which it can be pulled, it has to cook slow and long, and 225 degrees and 9 hours + 2 is a slow and long.

We even found corn bread, since the oven will be in use all Monday. Whole Foods corn bread appears to be lauded even in Texas and other states where people know their cornbread, and they have it here too. The cashier, who is from Austin, gushed when he rang us up: "This is the best cornbread, as good as any my mom ever made."

As we got closer to home on this last shopping excursion of the day, I was thinking how nice this was. I have been doing this or something very like it every year since leaving home, and certainly the years we've been married. But I do most of it -- and often all of it -- by myself. This year el V was part of every bit, from planning the menu (meaning he listened to me mull), the shopping for everything, from gifts to the food. And it was so much fun -- particularly when snowflakes skittered, as last evening uptown, and this afternoon. Or, as he put it, not elegantly but concisely, "Well, this is all Christmassy as f*ck" (he is a Louisianan-Texan-New Mexican fellow recall). I'm so glad we got to do this together." Then he says, "I always knew it was a lot of work, but I never really knew before just how much trouble you go to -- you have to plan, and you have to think too."

So I'm feeling pretty good about now. Plus, my brother and my niece? they sent me a B&N gift card which arrived today. You might even say I feel Christmassy as f*ck! And we're having a lot of fun reading David's Villon to each other. What a contemporary he is.

Villon! What a brilliant, unexpected Christmas gift!

Villon *Poems* New Translation, by David Georgi

DG dropped off his brand new book (Northwestern University Press) yesterday, his own translation of Villon's Poems.

Together el V and I read David's introduction while subwaying on up to Harlem (our Before Christmas weekend date concluded with meeting friends for dinner as originally planned, but not where we'd originally planned -- instead of at a London expat's English pub in the Village, we met at a Senegalese restaurant uptown).  Both of us kept seeing the poet rollicking through New Orleans at any old time in its history, standing in for Villon in Paris in the 15th century.

And, of course -- I quote David G. here:

At the very end of 1457 or early in 1458 he was a guest of the duke of Orléans, an accomplished poet and patron of the arts.  The duke kept a handwritten album of poems collected from the literary men who passed through his court at Blois.  It survives to this day, at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, and it includes three poems that can be confidently attributed to Villon.  Scholars believe, in fact, that these three poems are written in Villon's own handwriting -- small, neat, pale letters.

Though the city wasn't founded and named for that duke of Orléan's descendant until a century and a half, more or less, after the poet left this world -- even before the world shattering mass dissemination of that a whole other world existed west across the sea -- Villon understood New Orleans down to his very bones.  If you wonder how I can say this, go to Toulouse Street and read this, posted this very day, December 22, 2012.

Of course, David has seen New Orleans.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Eve Menu Coming Together -- + Jefferson Davis

I haven't decided how I will cook the pork butt, and won't decide until I see it, which will be sometime tomorrow. Will I do it in the slow cooker/crock pot (mine is huge)? Or brine it overnight and slow roast in the oven? Not sure what rub and what sauce either. It all depends on whether I decide on the crock pot or the brining and oven. In other words, not sure if I'm leaning more the Spanish Caribbean flavor or the South Carolina or even Louisiana flavoring. If the former, then Coconut cake for dessert, if the later, pecan pie.

Also -- shall I bake the cornbread myself (my oven, not adequate for many things, can handle cornbread OK) or get it from Whole Foods? There will be cornbread whichever side I lean, but if it goes Caribbean then there will be corn tortillas also. And lots of chopped cilantro and so on for toppings.

El V's looking at my menu and going, "That's a lot of food for 4 people."

Somehow I can't get him to understand that I don't expect us to eat it all, and that I want leftovers, for later in the week, and to make New Year's Eve posole. However, I'm certain that el V would heroically set himself to devour all of it all his own self, in order that my little feelings not be hurt by having uneaten portions lying around!

In the meantime I've been submerged in the life of Jefferson Davis -- yes, that fellow.  I can't figure out why we went to war at all, really, from the contents of this well-researched and written biography.  Even the White Houses in D.C. and Richmond were mirror reflections of each other: children running all over, the young presidential secretaries, even death of the presidents' children.  So clearly the one reason we went to war was abolition.  The South, including Jefferson, were convinced that the first thing a Republican president would do would be to abolish the interstate slave trade.  Which it most certainly would not have done -- except for the war ....

The further into the war years we descended the more I cannot figure out why the war went on so long.  The Union generals were generally incompetent, but so were the CSA's.  There was corruption, politiking, rivalries, selfishness and greed, as well as Copperheads in the north, but so were there the counterparts in the south.  Grant and company pretty well smashed the west very quickly, can what  Davis called the trans-west, meaning Texas, Arkansas and Texas was cut off, while also suffering the humiliating defeats in New Mexico in Texas's determination to drive to the Pacific and conquer California.  The CSA east, meaning Virginia stayed stable because of Lee.  Once Grant and Lee confronted each other before Richmond, then it took another year more or less to finish him off.  That's the weird thing.

Really, the Union should have taken out the CSA in the first year, if not the first six months.  Maybe there was too much money to be made up north from the war going on for a long time for that to be allowed to happen, as with Salmon P. Chase's son in law (and later, after the war, Salmon Chase as Chief Justice, just could not get around to trying Jefferson Davis for treason, and the whole affair was just allowed to ... peter out ....

But from what I can tell via the author of this biography of Grant (a history professor at LSU), who is very circumspect as to how he words matters, and even what matters he actually includes, the real sticking point was Davis himself.  He had entered a fantasy South,  and built a fantasy CSA, populated by fantasy southerners and a fantasy generals who possessed military acumen that they, in fact, did not -- and no more did he, though Jefferson Davis himself was ascribed all the same fantasy military skills as all of his generals.  Only Lee actually possessed those military qualities.  And Lee was willing to surrender long before he was forced to.  Grant was not about to.  Nor did he ever, thus remaining forever the first and loudest voice of Lost Causism, and that the CSA was never really defeated, nor did it embark on a war of aggression and expansion -- and also the first to say that slavery was not the cause of the war either.

Davis was pardoned.  It was a bit rocky for a time, but he concluded lauded, feted, worshipping, "Our First Confederate," living in luxury and loved by the south and his family, convinced until the end that if the CSA had had only a little bit more time the Southerners would have grasped that most sacred patriotic duty and sacrifice everything and drive the Union out of their sacred, sacrosanct lands.  Jefferson Davis, First and Always, the entire and perfect Southern Gentleman, forever aligned to white supremacy.

And you know what?  I say -- Pah!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hurts But Better Today

His hand is pretty painful, painful enough he can't do some things, though it's not nerves or anything like that -- pain from the wound that will heal over time.

Thank goodness.

He cracked jokes and laughed this morning.

I have made arrangements to buy a 7 lb pork butt to make pulled pork out of.  There will be loads of left-overs, that can be included in the New Year's Eve posole. I have to find the right bag in which to brine it first.  Think, think, think.

Now I'm contemplating (low fat) eggnog and wondering, rum? bourbon? brandy? Before I am taken to task for even thinking low fat eggnog, Imma gonna say that the traditional very thick stuff isn't to the taste of either of us.  It covers up the flavor of the liquor for one thing.  For another, it's, well, thick, and neither of us care for that.

Christmas, please, please, please! is going to be lovely.  I have been looking forward to it.  I still have gift shopping to do though.  But it's been wet and nasty-dark the last couple of days.  Windy and cold too.  Today, it's all foggy.  And not that special and magical fog of New Orleans, for instance.  Clammy and mean, instead.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Very Good Christmas Party + A Home Stabbing

Last night. May we mention again what a gentleman the actor Steve Bucemi is?  I'm not saying that only because I happen to really admire Boardwalk Empire, and how it shows fairly normal people caught up in the events of the day, from the women's vote and women's reproductive -- not even rights yet, but information --  the wireless, jazz and everything else, even the beginnings of home refrigeration, while Prohibition unleashes national law breaking at every level of society. I.e. people while living their lives create history.  It's also just gorgeous to look at.

But before leaving for the party we received some disturbing news, which the party took our minds off of, in such a classy matter, as well as providing relief from the terrible events of the weekend. All of us have been pretty beat up about that, el V no less than anyone else.  Such little children, for no reason, than as a bridge for a very disturbed person with guns no one should have access to find the adrenaline to put himself out of his own misery.

But the personal news from Saturday afternoon has kept el V extra jangled all day, along with the horrors of Friday.  And while making dinner, then, stabbed himself in his right palm.  It seems to be deep and painful, but, not a muscle or vein. It stopped bleeding pretty fast, though at first -- YIKES!  He had a tetanus shot before going to Africa this summer.  We have neosporin and gauze and antiseptics and so on. Doctor tomorrow to look at it.  I made the call that the emergency room wasn't necessary tonight, in the cold and the rain.

It's always something isn't it.

And here by Thursday I was feeling all warm fuzzies about it being the Christmas and holiday season.  I was so looking forward to this party too.  Well, thanks to the Host and Hostess and their very fine guests, an oasis of holiday cheer appeared.  We are -- still -- the lucky ones, the fortunate ones.  As Willie Nelson said a couple of weeks ago when asked what he thought his greatest achievement was, and he said, "I'm still here."

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Our Teachers and Custodians

The next time any of us see or hear complaints about teachers being lazy, getting paid too much, getting summers, holidays and weekends off, having unions, receiving medical insurance and pensions, we should remember what teachers and staff have done at all these schools that have suffered such horrible violence and homicide, -- when people think custodians don't deserve decent pay, benefits and respect -- and reply, "Have you no shame? Have you no shame?" "Have you no shame?"

It can happen and does happen in every kind of school. No school is immune.

Particularly when automatic weapons seemingly outnumber people in this country.

The hypocrisy of the entertainment media needs to be called out as well.

Several television series' episodes and movie openings were canceled this weekend, in order to "respect" the dead and their families, including  the Syfy Channel's Haven and Tom Cruise's impersonation of being Jack Reacher, The Killing Floor. We all know that by Monday all this stuff will be back. In meantime audiences are drooling all over the blogosphere in anticipation of Tarantino's exploitation and appropriation of black exploitation flicks, slavery and westerns, with rape, torture, whippings and a blood-kill toll in the hundreds. They can't wait -- while at the same time typing diatribes of how they hope this latest killer burns in hell, and what they'd do with him if they got their hands on him -- in the grandest revenge movie and gamer style. We can't even see our disconnect here, our hypocrisy of decrying real life violence while playing violence, looking at violence during so many of our 'free' waking hours.

Nobody says a word about the culture of murder and rape in video and computer gaming. The NRA howls anytime one mentions gun ownership regulation of automatic weapons, but their howls are not louder than the gaming industry.

Yet we wonder that in a nation that lives on and by what the entertainment media and the NRA lives on, a nation so saturated with weapons in the hands of individuals, that this goes on. "How can we stop it?" we ask hopelessly. Which hypocrisy is nauseating. We all know how to change this culture. We also all know that it won't be allowed. We won't allow it, while we will allow entertainment and the NRA make billions from the deaths of our own children. And even ourselves, as happened with the gun-collecting mother of this latest terribly disturbed shooter who spent a huge amount of the hours of his limited life killing as a game.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Cuban Intervention in Angola

El V writes:

. . . Hip Deep Angola, Part Four: The Cuban Intervention in Angola is streaming on Soundcloud, right here:

The arc of the show covers from the independence of Ghana in 1957 to the Angolan peace that began in 2002 following the death of Jonas Savimbi. Among its other achievements, it contains a 2:50 excerpt of a powerful March 1977 speech by Fidel Castro in Luanda, at the peak of his oratorical power, that does not appear in the LANIC Castro speech database. It was furnished to me, along with other Angolan radio features and bumpers, by Dr. Marissa Moorman, who is working on a book I am keenly interested in: Tuning in to Nation: Radio, State Power, and the Cold War in Angola.

I haven't been mentioning this sufficiently, but each
HIP DEEP ANGOLA episode is accompanied by a web feature that features an interview transcript with, like, major-ass scholars.

Hip Deep Angola has interviews I did with Marissa Moorman, Stefanie Alisch, Bárbaro Martínez Ruiz, C. Daniel Dawson, Victor Gama, and Piero Gleijeses, not all of them posted yet. These! Are! The! People!
And more to come.
The principal scholar for HDA4 is Piero Gleijeses from Johns Hopkins, whose Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976 is a formidable and definitive piece of contemporary scholarship -- he got the Cubans to invent a declassification procedure -- and who will shortly be following it up, 11 years later, with Visions of Freedom. The web feature will include (not up yet) my interview with him, as well as with Angolan composer, instrument builder, and musicologist Victor Gama.

For the record, the other three Hip Deep Angolas are streaming here:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


That is the most money I've spent at the post office at a single crack.
But the one I picked for us to mail from wasn't too bad when it came to the line. I forced el V to get up earlier than he liked, because he is now in party mode for the first time in 12 months, and went out [i]at[/i] midnight, to hear some musicians in from Angola. So we got in ahead of the day's rush as well. We tied up one of the windows then, for nearly 25 minutes as the packages were processed.

Tonight, the Cullman Center has its annual Christmas party for all the Fellows past and present. I always love this party.

Saturday's Christmas party is the serious annual Bold Faced Names from fashion, television, music, movies and politics. I have a very nice outfit -- with lovely new boots, that I can dance in as well as walk in. This is always a dance party by a certain point.

Also tonight is the 12.12.12 benefit concert for Hurricane Sandy's victims at Madison Square Garden -- it's one heck of a line-up, including the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen. It will also live stream on a variety of television stations.

The Stones are here, having done their appearance at Barclays a couple of nights ago, already, on their current U.S. tour of a very limited number of dates in very few places. I keep imagining the negotiations and planning for the scheduling of this. As delicate, surely, as those between Israel and Hammas ....

Via a fluke, El V could probably attend. I have zip interest myself. I hate huge crowds and I loathe Madison Square Garden -- you are dead blind within 5 minutes from all the smart phone camera flashes. And everybody howls all the time so you don't hear anything anyway.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Detour

Today's return from the nearly daily Morton Williams run was at sunset.

Our church, St. Anthony's, completed it's Chirstmas decorations over this past weekend. This took me two blocks out of my way home from the supermarket, because St. Anthony's complex covers the entire block from east to west. Instead of heading straight down Thompson, I detoured along Houston to Sullivan, and then back down, so I could take in all the display of lights and the beautiful traditional Tuscan nativity set-up. There is a small parking area on the Thompson St. corner, which is secular, with reindeer and trees. On the Sullivan St. corner is St. Anthony himself, surrounded with Christmas greenery and lights.

It's very beautiful, particularly when viewed at particular angles that show up dramatically the classic Renaissance Italy style domes and campanile against the lowering cobalt clouds streaked with sun setting rose and red.

Now to fill the mailers and close them up. Tomorrow -- the post office. Pity me.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Your Heart Breaks

A teenager in Pennsylvania knows why she's poor and is fighting with every fiber of her being to break out of that trap. But where is the help going to come from? She works so hard on all fronts, and she's got nothing, nothing at all. As the article states at one point, "...not even a $50 savings bond inherited from an uncle." I.e. that is what makes poverty, the lack of resources to create a surplus that you can hand down to the next generation. You are born poor, you generally stay that way. For a while in this country many people who did make sure they got a high school education, worked all the time to get that education, could then find a way to go to college, and get further education that opened better paying jobs. But that is pretty much gone now, and higher education is so expensive you can't even get loans to go to school when you're that poor, and if you do get a loan, you're in debt peonage for life -- as there aren't the jobs at the end of the degree that there once were.

What is she going to do? She enlisting. Good luck with her hopes that she will get a college degree with her VA benefits, and a job afterwards.

I cannot tell you how many of the homeless on the streets of NYC are vets. I've taken to talking to the homeless who are asking for a bit of help, and finding out their story, if they want to talk. Expecting the homeless veteran to talk to me because I gave them a couple of dollars is awfully arrogant though, I feel. They have earned so much more.

And what seems to be coming through -- though I am not a professional at all in these areas, and have no training whatsoever -- is that these individuals enlisted much as the girl in this article is doing, from dead-end poverty, without any advantages of any kind, and thus none of the experience or training or the resources to figure out what to do next, once they complete their enlistment, and they end up dead-ended again, except older and more damaged. Particularly the women, who suffer endless sexual harrasment and threat.

Please read this story in the Washington Post magazine online, "In Rust Belt, a teenager’s climb from poverty ..."

Though this is a different part of the country, and not fiction, Tabitha reminds me so much of Ree in Winter's Bone.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Not Snowing - But It Should Be!

It warmed up -- high 40's to 50. The sky and air feels as though it could snow, should snow, as the daylight fades and the temps fall. But it is not, nor is snow predicted.

They got quite a bit in Central - Northern New Jersey earlier this week. It's a lot colder there than here, of course; more like New England than Manhattan, weather-wise.

A whole different world of New Jersey than Atlantic City, as we see it in Boardwalk Empire. One of the very many things I like about Boardwalk Empire is that seasons and weather are as much a part of the mise en scene as everything else. And of course, I like how central women's roles are, and the things that women are interested in, particularly freedom, their dreams of aspiration.

At the start of season 3 one of the female primaries goes down to the Shore beyond the Boardwalk to witness the landing of an aviatrix who flew non-stop across the continental U.S. You see the women speculating about her with interest and some sense of, if she can do that .... while you see male characters making fun of the pilot, speculating on how easily they could f*ck her if they wanted to. One of the characters who got killed was an artist, a painter, who had dreamed of going to Paris, who was so excited by the news of the art that was being made in France. Temperance, suffragette and women's reproductive health are part of of the matrix within which Boardwalk Empire's narrative and characters operate, as well as other historic events and figures. But for women, their complete lack of knowledge of their bodies, their lack of reproductive advice, health care and information, do in more than one of them, in more than one way. Yet, they dream. More of them live than die. They have agency and they seize it whenever, wherever, and however they see an opportunity. None of them are the same.

This is a very well written, well-structured, gorgeous arc series. A Tulane amigo provides part of the narration of the history of speakeasies, gangsters and jazz at the end of season 2's dvd collection.

As with Treme, I watch this now, as I have been doing since Sandy hit us so badly, with sad knowledge that many of the locations for scenes no longer exist. The lovely house on the Staten Island shore that stood in for the New Jersey Shore house where a primary character, his wife and son live*, for instance, was destroyed by Sandy.

I finished watching season two of Boardwalk Empire and have now got started on season 3. Will slow down now, as el V gets back tonight from his whirlwind of activities in New Orleans in time for dinner. The next two or three days will be made up of wrapping Kiss You Down South , doing Christmas cards and so on. And then, the ordeal of the Post Office. I would have had this all finished by now, except the mailers are up in el V's office, and he needs to sign the cds -- and he's been just too busy to deal with even bringing home the mailers, much less anything else to do with Christmas. Yet, we will have dinner Monday night with a friend from out of town, his musical niece and her husband.


* Not mentioning characters' names because perhaps someone who reads this hasn't seen those episodes yet and won't want to know who before hand.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Historian, raconteur, guitarist Ned Sublette plays songs from new album Dec. 7, at Siberia

A nice story - interview on NOLA.Com (used to be the Times-Picayune, before they closed the print edition) about El V, plus a photo of Kiss You Down South and a video of Willie Nelson doing "Cowboys are Frequently Secretly."

Gather ‘round the campfire with Ned Sublette, as he plays music from Kiss You Down South at Siberia (2227 St. Claude Ave.) from 7-9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 7. Tickets $5.
He's in New Orleans primarily of course, for the One Book, One New Orleans program, where he's looking forward to meeting people who have read The World That Made New Orleans. Tomorrow, Thursday, he'll be appearing with his author hat on at the Latter Library (5120 St. Charles) in New Orleans, from 4 to 6 p.m.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Michelle Obama White House Christmas 2012

The First Lady and her staff have provided another splendid White House Christmas look.

As usual there are many re-purposed and resurrected items, including tree decorations from each administration's First Ladies since the Kennedy White House. There is much use of re-cycled materials. Yet everything looks ample, festive and elegant, while providing all the warmth, cheer and comfort that we wish for the Christmas season. I am impressed. First Lady Michelle Obama, as hostess to the party for military personnel's children that officials presents the Christmas White House to the public wore another lovely outfit that she's worn more than once before (as this coverage is in the WaPo's Style section, the reporters always mention what she wears and always tells us when she's worn it before -- evidently they can remember these things!)

This year, what is different is the use of tropical colors in some parts of the decorations -- bright and tropical and clear: citrus yellows. oranges, and greesn, fuschia (one of my favorite colors) and blues. It's gorgeous.

This Washington Post coverage provides a photograph slide show, and a video, on which we hear the FLOTUS describe White House Christmas traditions to the children. As usual she tells us all that this is "our house," and projects the real pleasure she and her family have living there. The party is so arranged that at some point the children can go running through about 11 rooms looking for Bo the White House Dog snowflake Christmas tree ornaments. It looks and feels like a real party, and the FLOTUS looks, as usual, as if she's enjoying it as much as anyone. Then there is the photo slide show.

Yes, she said, last week when the Tree arrived (there are 54 lesser trees inside the White House): "We can have Christmas now."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

After the Storm - Your Garden, Your Flowerbeds, Your Yard, Your Park

The surge with salt, e-coli bacteria sewage and other sludge filled with heavy metals and other toxic residue -- how do you deal with your soil in the aftermath? Especially if you grow vegetables and fruits, and if your kids play on that soil.

Other questions and problems: so many bulb plants were put in the ground, on their growing schedule, right before the Storm at the end of October.  Washed away, covered with toxic sludge even.  What shall we do? Can we replant bulbs now? People asking questions about what to do with their plants that spend the warmer weather on their patios -- if the apartment has one, or the fire escapes. And so on.

We have a monthly radio program about growing things in our city.  The regular expert is the  director of Open Space Greeing in NYC.  But there are many others who come in as special guests, such as those in charge of the trees in Central Park, those who deal with the turf of the shoreline parks, the botanical gardens and other of our very many green areas. It's always really interesting. This month's is particularly so, in the wake of the Storm, the clean-up from which is barely begun.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

From Da List -- Artist, Houngan

From Da List -- the photos that go with the interview are fairly spectacular, beginning where Michael started in Buffalo, into his loft and studio -- and his work:

[ " If you know me well, you know I'm a big fan of the work of my artist friend Michael Zwack. A while back (quite a while back), I interviewed him for, a website that does photo shoots of artists in their studios and neighborhoods. The interview has finally been published here. If you scroll down there are images of his djevo (altars -- Michael is a houngan asogwe, or ritual expert in vodou), as well as of his paintings-in-progress . . .

Thanks to those who have checked out HIP DEEP ANGOLA, PART THREE: A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY TO MBANZA-KONGO. I can't be objective about it, because I'm too close to it, but the experience that I'm reporting on was one of the most important things I've ever done. I'm grinding away on the fourth and final episode now. For those just tuning in, the first two HIP DEEP ANGOLAs are here and here.

In other news: I'm going to NOLA next week for events connected with One Book One New Orleans, which has chosen The World That Made New Orleans as its book this year. While I'm there, I'll be doing my first-ever performance in a New Orleans nightclub, to debut my new CD there. Attached (and appended) is the flyer . . .

The Official New Orleans Kiss You Down South Record Party and Live Concert.

Friday, Dec. 7, starts at 7, ends at 9, at Siberia, 2227 St. Claude. Tell your friends." ]

Sunday, November 25, 2012

For New York City's Sins We Got Mayor Mitch Landrieu & Recovery Czar Blakely

This makes me so pissing angry that I've not even been able to speak - write about it until today.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu sang one of the signature songs of HBO Treme at a New Orleans  benefit concert for the victims of Storm Sandy, "This City" (Will Never Drown).  (Written by Steve Earle, for Treme.)  Only people who live in New Orleans and went through and continue to go through the consequences of Katrina and the Failure of the Levees will understand my rather quirked eyebrow here.  They will also know the quirking isn't aimed at the wonderful people who paying it forward, helping the  tens and tens and tens of thousands who need help now, and will continue to need help for  long time to come. And for which we are profoundly grateful.

More seriously, this is really bad, and we have our state's Governor Cuomo to thank for this.  He's appointed former so-called 'recovery czar' to rebuild develop NYC's damaged areas.  What in hell is he thinking???????  This is an evil, ignorant, out-of-touch man, who did great harm, that all New Orleanians know.  Evidently Governor Cuomo thinks fracking upstate New York is a good thing also.  All this has is deja vu to New Orleanians.
It’s incredible. I didn’t realize water had that kind of force,” he said, describing the damage to New York and New Jersey.
You present yourself as an expert in disasters and you don't know that flood waters have force and velocity to move entire buildings?
Former Mayor Ray Nagin, who like Blakely has attempted to make speaking and consulting on disaster recovery a career after leaving office in New Orleans, appointed Blakely as recovery director the year after Hurricane Katrina. He resigned from the post in 2009, criticized for calling the city “a third world country” and its residents “buffoons” in various interviews. In a 2009 interview, he said New Orleanians were lazy and virulently racist. He often said his comments were misquoted or misinterpreted but also acknowledged he had done little to advance the area’s recovery.

Tonight is the finale of David Simon's HBO Treme, season 3. So soon. Damn it's weird watching this season. It began before Storm Sandy, but we didn't get to see any of the episodes until after Sandy had her way with us. Treme already was a story we knew. Now, damn. Just -- damn

Friday, November 23, 2012

Michelle Obama Says We Can Have Christmas Now!

I love the style and the manner in which our FLOTUS does Christmas at the White House.

The 2012 White House Christmas tree arrives. Bo does not like the horses who pull the wagon with the tree.

There is no Christmas tree this year it seems in Washington Square Park. There are no light of any kind either. Spooky walking through it today at 4:45 when the sun had already set.

Many street lights around the park and NYU are still out.

It reminds me so much of New Orleans. You think, "Well, around this part at least, everything's pretty much back to normal," and then you see, well, what's missing. Still missing, even these many years later, in New Orleans.

How Do These Things Happen?

Too sick, too busy, I did not make a Thanksgiving dinner.

Yet our refrigerator and shelves seem to have accumulated all sorts of holiday food goodies, from wines to biscotti to cheese cake, a slice of pumpkin pie, some turkey and garlic sausage dressing.  Not to mention breads of various kinds. And cheese.  And beer.

Partly it's because el V went out to get milk and brown rice yesterday morning.  I thought I'd make a black bean and wine and pork stew with rice and salad so he'd have a good lunch or something, since we wouldn't have dinner at the le Bistro until after nine PM. Sending el V to the stores alone is a classic man shopping for groceries routine.  The things he comes home with.

The other part was all day neighbors dropped by to drop off a little something.

And then I brought home most of my dinner from the Bistro because I remain without appetite still. This cough and drainage leaves me sleepless which makes for further appetite suppression.

What a strange Thanksgiving this one was.  It wasn't bad, not by any measure, just kinda -- strange.

Contributing to the dislocation of it all,  le Bistro was mobbed.  Not by the people who'd booked the prime time dinner period solid long ago.  But crowds of couples and groups begging to get in, all day, and past midnight!  Nothing remotely like this has happened before.  Who were these people?  The Bistro had no idea, other than "Tourists from all over the place."  El V asked some of the people seated around us where they were from -- everywhere: a guy from Long Island with a young woman from Australia.  Two lesbians from New Jersey.  Germany.  And Asians -- packs and packs of young Asians, mostly Japanese and Chinese, but Japanese by far the largest number.  You have never seen Asian people in le Bistro, at least not before.

"We wanted to go somewhere nice, and this looked nice."

The staff was dead by 9 PM, and yet, it went on and on.

OK, quite a few of the restaurants in our neighborhood weren't open yesterday at all, but a lot of them were.  Yet, there were no crowds for them, and there were empty tables.  What was up?  Nobody seems to know.

I wish we'd skipped this meal, but el V was determined that we had to have Thanksgiving dinner and that I not make it, even though because of work deadlines we couldn't join our friends. It was so crazy, so factory-line (they managed it so efficiently, in spite of everything) it wasn't in the least bit civilized -- and civilized is why we so prize le Bistro. It couldn't be enjoyed for anything beyond anthropology.

What sent so many people out to eat this year instead of cooking at home? Were they gearing up for the Black Thursday-Friday Madness that shows our nation at its most unmasked hideousness or what? I understand that NYC was filled with tourists and destination visitors -- and they too may well have been gearing for the Madness of late last night and today. Also so many aunts and grandparents and so on in LI, Queens, Staten Island and New Jersey were wiped out and / or in other ways not able to host a Thanksgiving meal this year. But these people seemed almost entirely from other parts of the country, so -- I don't know!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Da List: *Hip Deep Angola Part Three: A Spiritual Journey to Mbanza-Kongo now online*

This summer I had the tremendous experience of going to Mbanza-Kongo, in the north of Angola, where I recorded material for an episode of Afropop Worldwide Hip Deep and a still unfinished piece of writing.

Today is the distribution day for the show. This very special radio program will air on Public Radio International stations around the country this week. In New York, it will be heard on WNYE 91.5 FM on Saturday (24) at 11 p.m. and Monday (26) at noon.

You can hear it on Soundcloud at

Meanwhile, it's being broadcast against a background of turmoil in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. See this and this.

Produced by Ned Sublette

HIP DEEP ANGOLA 3: A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY TO MBANZA-KONGO (distribution date November 22). Today Mbanza-Kongo (Kongo City) is part of Angola, in the north where the Congo River divides Angola from the Democratic Republic of Congo. When the first missionaries arrived there in 1491, it was the seat from which the Manikongo (king) ruled over a large area that reached to south of Luanda. It was a city of luxury, with perhaps as many as 60,000 people at its peak. To make this unprecedented program, producer Ned Sublette traveled to Mbanza-Kongo to rendezvous with Dr. Bárbaro Martínez Ruiz, professor of art and art history at Stanford.

We’ll learn about the simbi, the spirits that Martínez Ruiz describes as “the multiple power of god”; hear Antonio Madiata play the lungoyi-ngoyi, the two-stringed viola of the Kongo court; attend a session of the lumbu, the traditional tribunal of elders; listen to the voice of a deceased singer who took 500 years of genealogical knowledge with him when he departed; talk to traditional healer Pedro Lópes; and with the help of historian C. Daniel Dawson and with Angolan composer and musicologist Victor Gama, we’ll examine Kongo-Ngola culture in the diaspora – in Brasil, Haiti, Cuba, and more.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


8 Days Now, & Counting

Of being sick.  Each day a little worse.  That is all.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Coughs, Sneezes, Sleepless Nights, Work & Willie Nelson

El V's having to write the script NOW for Angola Part IV, "Cuba." This involves, among other things, not joing friends for Thanksgiving, and his going to D.C. on Saturday to interview a Cuban, a scholar, at George Washington who was there as eye-witness throughout the entire venture, and by-the-by listening to a score of Fidel's speeches, including one of the most fiery ever, that he gave in Angola to the Angolans. (Just as we had to listen to a lot of Salazar's speeches he gave to the Portuguese about the greatness of their great International Colonial Empire, which put them in the line-up of the Great World Powers, and which consisted solely of the un-developed and uneducated in repressed, oppressed Africa, without schools, roads and other infrastructure -- but they had to buy their food and wine from Portugual at inflated prices (Portugal sold more of its wine to Angola than in other markets combined), and weren't allowed to grow or make their own, or buy from anyone else. Imagine after 400 years ruling Angola no Portuguese had ever ventured into the interior. But then Salazar never set foot in Africa at all.

In the meantime I remain a mess. Wretched night. I keep expecting to be better! This has gone on long enough.

Our bistro says if we wish to eat Thanksgiving at their place, there is always a place for us -- they've been booked up for Thanksgiving since the day they re-opened from Sandy. But there's a party on Saturday I really want to go to -- will el V get back in time from D.C.? Will I be well enough to go the parties Wednesday and on Friday? I want to go to them all, very much. I feel the need of some party. It's been so grindstone and anxious for so long.

But -- in the meantime, none of this stops el V from going off to Sirius Radio and hanging out with Willie Nelson, who is in town promoting his memoir, Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Today's Anniversaries

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, 1863.

50 years ago today the White House hosted Jazz for the first time: Paul Winter and his group, in the JFK White house of 1962. Doesn't that seem amazing in retrospect? That it took all that time for jazz to be American enough to enter those historic halls?
To me, these two anniversaries are not unconnected. Lincoln's Emancipation earlier in 1863 allowed all that enslaved creativity to explode a generation or two later, making a popular culture that united the world musically, a cultural expression that began to develop in the great churn of the interstate slave trade.

But of course, you notice, when Jazz did first come into the White House, it came in white ....

Saturday, November 17, 2012

3 2012 Novels + 1 Non-Fiction


So little historical fiction, whether straight historical novels or 'historical fantasy' these days does it right, does it to satisfaction. The first two titles in my current reading are two straight out historical novels that do do right and do it to the readers' great satisfaction.

Engelmann, Karen. (2012) The Stockholm Octavo. Ecco-HarperCollins, New York.

The location is the Venice of the North, Stockholm. The time is that of 1791, the European prelude to the Revolutionary virus that has spread from the Americas ( ten years ago, 1781,  was the Battle - Siege of Yorktown) to France. An historical novel, this might be called a fantasy as well. This is because the characters, from Sweden's King Gustav III, his brother Duke Karl, and Gustav's son (whose family-political intrigues play a large role on the historical stage of Europe's Age of Revolution and Napoleon's empire) to Mr. Larsson, the non-noble Swedish narrator, are caught up in a caught up in a cartomancy system run by Mrs. Sophia Sparrow, a frenchwoman in exile. Mrs. Sparrow is both the proprietor of the exclusive Stockholem gaming house and a fortune teller. Like all those who come to her, to win or lose money, or find their futures, she too has an agenda, to which her Octavo divination system is central. There is the scheming Lady Uzanne, a brilliant noble woman who perhaps wields magic via her fans and their languages, acquired from wherever in the world fans are known. Or -- perhaps both the cartomancy and the fans are merely historical elements of the era, historical in the way that alchemy, the caballa and other divination systems were anxiously employed by ambitious, curious, Englightenment figures, such as Casanova, whether in good faith or as a money-hungry adventurer-charleton? Wondering which is which is part of the pleasure of this lovely novel, which does its period -- and characters who live in it -- right.

Ennis, Michael. (2012) The Malice of Fortune. Doubleday, New York.

Was there ever a time for Europe like 1502, as the knowledge that an entire world new to them exists, and takes root? For the newly self-selected Pope Alexander VI, Rodrigo Borgia, despite his partition of South America between Spain Portugal, the New World is barely a blip on his concerns of restoration and expansion of the Papal States and the corporeal power of the Papal throne. Equal in drive, ambition and strategic intrigue to Alexander and his illegitimate son, Duke Valentino, Cesare Borgia, are Leonardo di Vinci and Niccolò Michiavelli. This diplomat and this military engineer get caught like flies in the very dangerous webs of Alexander, along with the most innocent one of all, Dimiata, mother of the Pope's grandchild, by his murdered son, the less gifted than Cesare, Juan. The Pope demands Dimiata find his son's killer, or she will never see her son again, and will die via prolonged torture (they were not afraid to waterboard in the 16th century -- a not very nice time, really, despite the art....). This splendid historical novel includes no characters who did not exist, and no events that did not happen. See also the author's excellent 1992 historical novel of the same era, The Duchess of Milan.

Locke, Attica. (2012) The Cutting Season. Dennis Lehane - HarperCollins, New York.

Contemporary southern Louisiana. A restored sugar plantation reaching back to the days of slavery, now a museum and event venue. The manager a single mother who grew up there, and whose own mother the was cook, their family ties to the place reaching back as far as white family who owned them and the land, and still owns the land. A murder of an immigrant -- illegal? woman hired on for the sugar harvest, commited upon the vast grounds of Belle Vie. It's an interesting novel in many ways, but does not quite live up to the praise that has been lavished on it.


Brown, Nancy Marie. (2012) Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths. palgrave-MacMillan, New York.

A small, unpretentious, charming book, whose jumping off point is the myths and characters of the Icelandic sagas of Snorri Sturluson, which so inspired Tolkien and his making of the world and characters of Lord of the Rings. It is a biography of Snorri Sturluson, which there seems never to have been one before -- which we agree with the author seems a strange literary lack. By the way, the first novel of Michael Ennis, author of The Malice of Fortune above, is titled Byzantium (1989) it features the dispossed Viking prince Harldr Sigurdarson, so make full circle here.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Spielberg's *Lincoln* - Kate Masur Watched So I Don't Have To

I had been thinking about paying the $14 + admission to see this film, inspired by the historically mis-leading Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals. But then, I thought, "Spielberg. Naw, I'll just get po-ed. I'll wait for netflix."

But not only Spielberg mis-leads. Masur inaccurately labels Mrs. Keckley as a White House servant.  Mrs. Keckley was a free woman, who was an independent dressmaker, not employed at the White House.  Indeed, Mrs. Keckley  was the established dressmaker to the 'stars' of the Washington D.C. social scene,  before Mary Todd Lincoln ever arrived. Among her most devoted clients was Varina Davis, who, according to Keckley's memoir-novel, persisted in her attempts to persuade Mrs. Keckley to come back down south with her, once Secession was in progress.

In Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln,’ Passive Black Characters

By Kate Masur
The New York Times
November 12, 2012
Evanston, Ill.

Pulls from Masur's article:

[ " Mr. Spielberg’s “Lincoln” helps perpetuate the notion that African Americans have offered little of substance to their own liberation. While the film largely avoids the noxious stereotypes of subservient African-Americans for which movies like “Gone With the Wind” have become notorious, it reinforces, even if inadvertently, the outdated assumption that white men are the primary movers of history and the main sources of social progress. " ]

[ " It would not have been much of a stretch — particularly given other liberties taken by the filmmakers — to do things differently. Keckley and Slade might have been shown leaving the White House to attend their own meetings, for example. Keckley could have discussed with Mrs. Lincoln the relief work that, in reality, she organized and the first lady contributed to. Slade could have talked with Lincoln about the 13th Amendment. Indeed, his daughter later recalled that
Lincoln had confided in Slade, particularly on the nights when he suffered from insomnia. " ]

[ " Even more unsettling is the brief cameo of Lydia Smith (played by S. Epatha Merkerson), housekeeper and supposed lover of the Pennsylvania congressman and Radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens, played by Tommy Lee Jones. Stevens’s relationship with his “mulatto” housekeeper is the subject of notoriously racist scenes in D. W. Griffith’s 1915 film “Birth of a Nation.” Though Mr. Spielberg’s film looks upon the pair with far more sympathy, the sudden revelation of their relationship — Stevens literally hands the official copy of the 13th Amendment to Smith, before the two head into bed together — reveals, once again, the film’s determination to see emancipation as a gift from white people to black people, not as a social transformation in which African-Americans themselves
played a role. " ]

[ " The screenplay, written by Tony Kushner, is attentive to the language of the period and features verbal jousting among white men who take pleasure in jabs and insults. By contrast, the black characters — earnest and dignified — are given few interesting or humorous lines, even though verbal sparring and one-upmanship is a recognized aspect of black vernacular culture that has long shaped the American mainstream. Meanwhile, perhaps the greatest rhetorician of the 19th century, Frederick Douglass, who in fact attended the White House reception after Lincoln’s second inauguration in March 1865, is nowhere to be seen or heard. " ]

[ " It is a well-known pastime of historians to quibble with Hollywood over details. Here, however, the issue is not factual accuracy but interpretive choice. A
stronger African-American presence, even at the margins of Mr. Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” would have suggested that another dynamic of emancipation was occurring just outside the frame — a world of black political debate, of civic engagement and of monumental effort for the liberation of body and spirit. "

That, too, is the history of abolition; “Lincoln” is an opportunity squandered. " ]

Kate Masur, an associate professor of history at Northwestern, is the author of An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle Over Equality in Washington, D.C.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Among Latinos There Are Also Latinas!

I've been browsing reports and studies about the side that lost this latest election and their attempts to self-examine "what did we do wrong?" -- as well as those written by the supposedlt non-biased political journalists and pundits who are also telling us with their 20/20 hind vision, "what they did wrong!"

Both give the most space to the Republican party's failure with the issue of immigration and the latino voter -- even the Florida Cuban vote went 48 - 49 % for Obama.

In this case both the party speakers and the pundits leave out entirely that the latino vote, like all the voting segments, consists of at least 50 % women. Judging by my own long voter line, in a neighborhood that isn't counted as latino in the least, there were more latino women, in each age demographic voting, than men. And we had a lot of latinas in that line. Thanks to Laura Quilter, there is data confirmation of this: It turns out that indeed there was a 12-point gender gap: 75% of Latino women voted for Obama, but only 63% of Latino men.
That's not been the case in my voting district previously in presidential elections. This might be because because we gerrymandered, er, re-districted, yet again, in order that the Republicans got a more 'fair' shake in these districts. Maybe this is another favorite part of the Republican strategy of voter repression that bit back?

I would like to add this bit, concerning the re-districting. It was done to move the vote of the expanding Chinatown from our district -- after having moved those precincts previously into our district -- because Chinatown tends to vote strongly for Dem candidates. The idea behind this latest crazy quilt meandering line of re-districting was to bring in the supposedly more conservative latino vote. But as usual, most of these people doing this can't get it through their silly little heads that latinos are a very diverse population. The latino population from 'over there' in this redistricting has a strong Dominican Republic component. They've been here by now for at least two generations. Like their neighboring Haitians -- or anyone I've ever met from the Caribbean -- their work ethic is very strong. Yes, and so are their ties to family. But as working voters -- and do these women ever work! -- these women know what is up with health care, discrimination, hatred of women, hatred of public education and all the rest of the values issues that brought their families to the U.S. in the first place. My take is the Republicans of whatever ilk do not understand or know any of this.

So this time around there were few if any Asian voters in my line -- Chinatown was devastated by Hurricane Sandy -- still, I'm sure they were voting in droves at another polling station in another district.

Something else that is entirely ignored at least in the re-examination of what went wrong I've been seeing is health care. The howling cohort yesterday include yet again 'death panels' in their chorus. Yet they seem entirely unaware that at primary rallies earlier this year those voters who were in support of the Republicans howled "Let 'em die!" when asked what should be done for people too poor to afford health care. They never noticed the endless string of lies that Romney told voters in, o say, Ohio, regarding jobs that Somebody Else was going to outsource. They've forgotten that Romney himself is the great enabler of outsourcing.

They have forgotten all this. They have forgotten Sheriff Arpaio in Arizona and those like him in many other places. They have forgotten the 100% anti-choice plank in their national campaign platform. Instead, what that end of the party is doing is crying, "Secession is the only solution now, UNFAIR!, they stole it! They are crazy! They made up the War on Women! THEY LIE, LIE, LIE -- and the MEDIA was against us."

It was a horror show of hate, this campaign -- and long before the campaign officially began. Particularly the (R) primary process.

Along with all the other events and characters in the most extreme red states like Arizona.

Evidently though, even the people who commit such acts of hatred, such as vocally, very loudly, advocating death for people who can't afford insurance premiums and hospital care, do not perceive their behaviors this way, and cannot understand why anyone objects.

They really do perceive themselves as patriots.

Extreme personality disorder seems the only explanation. Now that their hand-wringing in the two days after the election includes, "We must reach out to the latino voter," I cannot see that working. For one thing they don't know who the latino voters are -- i.e. they still don't see that they are varied lot, not a single entity. For another, they don't care, so how are you going to convince somebody about whom you know nothing, care less, and don't respect to vote for you? Particularly since you have a party united on least one thing: get women out of politics and back into the kitchen, without reproductive control of her own body ... recall how They treated Sonia Sotomayor during the confirmation process and how they still speak of her? It's never occurred to Them, even, that latinas notice such things. That's how little respect for women as human beings all These Sorts have -- no matter what color, what age, what demographic the women are 50% of. If you feel that way about half the world, that includes members of your own household, how can you reach these voting groups?

On the other hand, I fully comprehend that our POTUS is waging drone war upon large numbers of innocent people, and there is no transparency, and I want him to STOP doing that! Along with so many othe things. So we have to pressure him on that. We have so much work to do. But at least we have room within which to work, which the claustrophobic constrictions of the Other Ones, don't and would not provide

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Not Beneficial: Entire Immersion in an SF/F World View

You write rubbish.

For instance, Orson Scott Card here.

Just the lies about Sandy and Fema alone -- after all, I am living where she came and am affected, and I ought to know, right?

Ay-up, as Jon Stewart puts it: "Avalanche on Bullshit Mountain."

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Outsourcers and Offshorers, Beware!

I had to retire about 10:30 PM-- so tired. But the election had been called. I didn't dare believe it. At some point later in the night el V whispered in my ear, "Obama's still won the election. You can keep dreaming." This was a reference to the nightmares I had during the bush-cheney years, of bush and cheney personally bombing my city, my childhood farm, raping and torturing me.

I am thrilled that we get to have the FLOTUS for four more years!

It was so good that the President won this one.  He earned it.  Look how loose his suit is on him.  He's skin and bones, he's worked so hard and slept so little.  May he and the FLOTUS get some private just them together time very soon.

Now it's snowing, and I must go out and get more supplies as we're no where, not even anywhere, in replenishing all the things we've lost, and what I've used up cleaning up.

Just back from outside, porting in more supplies.  The wind is getting very strong.  And this year, finally, I thought I'd gotten el V kitted up for Weather -- new coat, gloves, everything, even boots -- his African all weather, water-proof, all terrain boots.  Well, no.  He doesn't know what he did with them.  They're here, he assures me.  In the apartment.  He just has no idea where.  He is also too under deadline hell to search them out  He looks at me hopefully.  "You are so good at finding things I've lost," the look says.  But not today.

There's is no way to deny it longer.  I am sick.

It's a good thing I've got a fat biography of Jefferson Davis to read and take notes on, as well as a terrific French Revolution era historical - fantasy novel (no, not that preposterous thing just out from Fantasy publisher): The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann (2012), HarperCollins. As well netflix is sending me, finally, the English mini series made from the Victorian historical novel, The Crimson Petal and the White. Then, there's the third season of  Treme to catch up with,  hooray!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Have Never Voted This Late In the Day Before

Except in my first years in NYC when I was working in law or real estate or financial offices, and voted after work.

The lines are endless. I've never seen lines this long before -- except when we voted in the bush-Kerry election in New Orleans.  That line was so long el V went out and got lunch for us and some friends we made in the line. (New Orleans went heavily for Kerry; it didn't help.  They stole it anyway.)  I don't think today's lines in my polling station are due to voters from other parts of New York, like Staten Island, that were devastated coming in. Governor Cuomo gave his permission that voters from these destroyed regions could vote at any polling place in New York State. Ferries and buses were chartered to bring in voters from Staten Island and Long Island and Queens.

It's also the first presidential election using the new ballot scanners. The old lever machines worked just fine. Now there's three steps you have to take, not two. Or maybe it's more than that even? Stand in line, find the line for your district to stand in. Then the line for your place in the alphabet for thay district. Then sign the book, get the ballot etc. Then go to the privacy booth and fill out the ballot. Then go to the scanner to scan your filled out ballot. At least there was no line for the last two steps, the filling out of the ballot and the scanning of the ballot.  But in a lot of places there were endless lines for both, and in some places the scanner broke down, and there was only one scanner, or none.  Whew!

Nevertheless, though it seemed endless, the whole process at our polling station was about an hour, maybe an hour and quarter. Another voter suppression tactic: make the voter stand in a line for hours and hours. The guy behind me kept threatening to give it up, except his wife would give him hell.

I'm hearing reports now, via the local public radio station, that there are huge problems at a lot of polling places. We also re-districted again because the rethugs were determined. Some polling places were combined -- one merging 9 districts -- making for today's chaos. Some are without power -- so, no scanning. Some have no heat -- temp's in the 30's. The lines everywhere are long.

There is much to be said for an organized, competent Board of Elections. Which, it seems, we in NYC do not have. Mayor Billionaire repeats, dumbfounded, "I keep hearing people say voting here is like voting in a third world country." Partly that's because of the old time party boss machine politics, which we don't have now. Now we have something else, though I haven't heard any inclusive noun description of it. Corporate, maybe? As a lot of corps ordered their employees to vote for Romney, since the court declared they can do that now. Still sounds third world to me.

One of the problems is a lack of trained election workers. At my place, one of them is a new election worker. She lives upstairs from me, and she did not get enough training.

Then -- there's another storm coming in tomorrow and Thursday, with snow. There are so many people homeless and it’s likely power will go out again in some places that just got it back.
Both Mayor Billionaire, President Obama and Governor Christie are so hoarse they croak. That they are plain exhausted is obvious.President Obama has to handle and delegate all of it.  Dealing with an on-going Catastrophe non-stop will do that (and campaigning as well for the President -- I am so glad he's young; an older guy just couldn't do this). The mayor is really not liking this storm coming in. He’s trying to figure out what to do with 40,000 suddenly homeless in Manhattan alone, among other things.
One has noticed that Romney’s got no hoarseness. Imagine how he'd handle this Catastrophe?  One does not forget that neither did Bush's or Giuliani's voices suffer during the ongoing 9/11 disaster. Bush never lost any sleep over either 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fixing the Wrecking

Someone somehow got a captcha of el V's access code -- it was via his card number, not mine. It happened at two different ATMs uptown Friday night. Evidently when disasters like Sandy hit this is very common. People use the chaos as cover. We get the money back though, and that's what matters. On our way to the bank we could see how many places aren't open, and neither are the schools around here.

Some things aren't going to be straightened out so fast. Like our across the hall neighbor, who is a very good neighbor. She has mental problems which she deals with via therapy and prescription meds, which need a fair amount of adjusting throughout the year. She's had a double mastectomy. She alone in the world -- no family. She weathered the storm here all alone, and now has a breakdown. Her hospital isn't operating. She can't go outside. She’s suicidal.  She said no one checked on her all this time, and she’s starving. She was always skinny. Now she’s just bones. Am sitting down to rest the screaming back before looking for more supplies for ML. I promised to sit and have tea with her after the next round. I do think we did get back just in time. I feel awful for her, and once again am so aware of how fortunate we are. She’s having a hard time understanding that there is no milk yet to be had, or bread. Deliveries start at the supermarket tomorrow -- I checked since it is a block below our bank branch. 

Most people left our building. She wasn't able to leave this time because of various reasons, including her friends were infested with bedbugs. (OTOH, she gets these phobias about non-existant bugs and mice too, I know. This means her meds need adjusting.)

Nobody who did stay though, seems to have checked on each other, until we were able to get through to another woman who went through it alone in the building. She never contacted ML either, until then.

The storm created a medical crisis in a city already in medical crisis. There aren't enough doctors who deal with real people's problems. Hospitals had to be evacuated. Other hospitals, including the Emergency Crisis hospital, had failed generators. All the facilities downtown are damaged and mostly, on the east side, that flooded, and aren't really ready.

Beyond that, all the people who keep a hospital clean, pick up and delivery laundry and supplies, live far away and can't get in.

I am happy to report that the very fact of knocking on ML's door and asking what we could do for her this morning, has helped her enormously. She's even determined to go out and see her therapist to hand over some 'dangerous' medications that she has a prescription for -- this has to do with her suicidal feelings. But I think those have subsided enough, now that someone has demonstrated a care that she lives or dies. And somehow, today too, her therapist got in touch with her after that.

Since these days have felt at least a decade long to me who was off in lovely weather, food, friends and hot water, have left me confused and stressed -- imagine what these days must have been like for people like ML, without lights, hot water, food, transportation and all the rest. And so alone.

When I say our side of the Dark Zone was left to twist in the aftermath, I wasn't joking. Nobody thinks anyone over here needs help of any kind. We're all rich and famous. So, no, nobody checked at all.

The refrigerator-freezer are fine. This is merely a long, hard chore. The freezer’s vacuum close meant not even water dripped out of it to the refrigerator. So almonds, granola, the three lbs. of coffee I had just bought and so on are fine. Only a bit of not tightly enough sealed parmesean has a couple of spots of mold. Also I caught the building’s removal people just in time to hand over lbs. of tightly wrapped refrozen meat, vegetables and stock. And a lonely half-carton of mango sorbet, just before the building's pick-up for this stuff showed up.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

New Orleans Is Beautiful

Yesterday, a lot of it, was pretty bad. I hit that crash wall.

It had been over a week of constant teeth grinding and clenched body, running constant interference between Ned and the world, as he prepared for his gigs -- kept working the whole time, which brought in income, worked to deal with whatever we needed to deal with at home and getting back home -- without a moment to myself, unable to work out -- my back is screaming. The real problem is I'm used to a huge amount of solitude and it takes a while before I re-adjust. I.e. the problem was all in me, not with other people.

We were at the conference and the keynote speech.  I couldn't makes sense out of anything I was hearing. The chairs were cutting off my circulation and killing my back. I had to leave. So we did. Which was not cool, but I really couldn't handle it in any way, physically or nervously. I had hit that wall.

For about two hours after that I was in bad shape. Simultaneously wanted to lie down and sleep for 10 hours, while jumpy as a trapped feral cat.

We walked by the levee, had an iced cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde, walked some more, went to Jackson Square and saluted Andy Jackson and his horse, which made me laugh. I found a twenty dollar bill our first day here while walking the dog.  A Jackson in the parlence of some.  I study Jackson, the Jacksonian era, how it central to the sense of Americans' self.  Sat in the Square for a while. The buskers and hucksters had broken down for now.  It was quiet.  The setting sun made a peach glow back light to the Cabildo side of the Square.  We window shopped. And I got it back, whatever you may call it.  I think it's called equilibrium.

Then we went to the Jax Brewery and had a lovely hummous and grilled pita snack with excellent beer and a friendly bartender who discussed knowledgably beer matter with Ned.

We slowly walked through the Quarter to Frenchman among the newly arrived crop of revelers. The Quarter -- such a strange place. For so many it IS New Orleans. For so many it is a place where suddenly they are attacked by a sense that they too are Artists, bohemians, that they can sit in a bar in the middle of the afternoon, hearing classic New Orleans musics, writing in a notebook, and they too will live the life of Tennessee Williams or Dr. John. For two or three days they can play this idea of a different self and an alternate life in a safe space. What happens in the Quarter stays there. Nobody knows.

But for some, they get bitten so badly they either come back to New Orleans for good, or they never leave at all. For better or worse. And for some indeed, it is for better. They find the life they want in this city, which is crackling and sizzling with  young vitality and energy in every direction: entrepreneurial, artistic, musical, social, environmental, intellectual, you name it, it is happening here, a wild collision of talents and dreams.

Then on to Royal. Stopped at a place to rest my back called the R Bar. It was dark, very dark in the classic manner of a local New Orleans bar - dive. Youngish females were dressed as los muertos, flowing veils, flowers in hair: it was the second day of el Día de los Muertos, All Souls Day, of course! But it was early and quite quiet, the music an acceptable melange and no television tuned to sports. Where, the bartender handed us a complimentary bowl of the most excellent Jumbalaya. For the first time in over a week I pulled out my notebook.  I was able to write about something that wasn't the Un-named. It was the first time I'd a coherent thought that wasn't related to the Un-named.

I wanted to make a note of two things I'd been seeing frequently since here.  One was the groups of young women, dressed up, one member with a bridal-like veil braided into her hair.  Perhaps these are the Wedding Party women on the Bride's Night out?  The second was how often I saw young women wearing a surgical foot boot.  I've been noticing this in NYC since the summer too.  Is this from falling off the ridiculous shoes that have three inch platform soles and six inch stiletto heels?

We chatted over dogs and beer with some of the usual suspects of the R Bar, there on Royal. It came out we were evacuees. The hugs from our sisters and brothers! Another local arrived at that moment, and he goes: "You've met these people before, or at least you've seen them a lot, though not for the last year or so, you know, in the Bywater." Wow. That's where one of our usual NO hosts lives (having put up another friend who is homeless this year, there wasn't room for us this time), that's where Marky's bar is located (where we are meeting whoever feels in the mood to show up tonight, our last in New Orleans for the present -- el V, at least, will probably return in December), and close to the Piety Street recording studio.

New Orleanians have great eyes for you. Tourists, you may wish to keep this in mind!

On Frenchman  we chatted with the bookstore there on the corner of the block where dba is.  He carries The Books.  With him was a friend who lives mostly in NY, but was visiting.  "I just hang out back of the register here and pretend I'm working when I visit." He'd just finished reading The Year Before the Flood -- and called me by name.  That was the fourth person who did that yesterday.  The others made my nerves jangle, but this guy didn't, for some reason.

It was my first visit to Frenchman since Coco Robicheaux left us, or as they say in the Kongo spiritual belief system, "Gone on vacation." Eyes will mist up.  For no reason we stopped and had beer in dba, and just talked and looked and listened for an hour.  Despite this being the Society of Ethnomusicologist and American Musicologists Society conference, and there were thousands gathered for it, and it is New Orleans, we didn't see a single SEM / AMS attendee anywhere. We did encounter a few New Orleans peeps though.

We called a cab, the driver of which is from Morocco.  We had a fascinating conversation with him on the way back to Robert Street.  He loves New Orleans, particularly the people, the food and the music.  He loves the diversity, he loves the tolerance, but he thinks the people on Bourbon Street go way too far. Halloween night, he said, there were people entirely naked.  He went home, because he didn't want to drive them, most particularly because he didn't want to have to see them.

We sat with Hostess on her porch and chatted, looked at the still huge moon that had risen. Beautiful.

So far today, we've had brunch with our hostess on her lovely, huge, screened-in front porch, in a butterfly-dancing noontime, blue sky and gold sunshine.

Doing laundry now, getting ready to visit a Haitian houngan tomorrow morning, before heading to Louis Armstrong and home.