". . . 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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Angry Black Lady and Team Uterati -- Reproductive Rights & Other Matters of Women

Team Uterati ("TeamU") was founded and conceived by Imani Gandy (AngryBlackLady13100 points ) as a community-based organizing tool for feminists fighting for equal rights and reproductive justice. Frustrated that up-to-date information regarding various anti-women state policies and legislation is not readily and easily available online, Imani (Angry Black Lady) sought to compile information about specific anti-choice, anti-women's health, and anti-reproductive rights legislative measures being advanced in various states. What started as a spreadsheet on Imani's blog, Angry Black Lady Chronicles, became the TeamU Wiki: a robust database which ultimately will contain every piece of anti-choice and anti-reproductive rights legislation at the state and federal level, as well as the legislators responsible for that legislation.
TeamUWiki is also a community, allowing activists and supporters of women's rights to socialize and organize, forming the lasting bonds that make long-term activism efforts more effective. TeamUWiki is the next step in a grand tradition of women's rights activism, bringing the radical can-do spirit of the Suffragists, the Second Wave, and the Third Wave into the twenty-first century to carry on the fight for equal rights.
"What is TeamU? Glad you asked! This is the website where you can archive and find all the information you'd want to know about those nasty anti-woman bills that keep popping up like Whack-A-Moles all over the country. Check out our databases."

It's an incredible site that gives you state-by-state information on the status of bills, regulations and laws that are anti-woman, anti-contraception, anti-civil rights of women throughout the country.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Happy Birthday, Duke! Plus, Louisiana Celebrates Bi-centennial

Duke Ellington, that is!

As per usual for the Ellington birthday, WKCR is broadcasting the Duke's recordings non-stop. Gads! It's great. You can listen too, streaming live, from WKCR here.

This weekend is also the bicentennial celebration of Louisiana's statehood.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Publishers Unlocking DRM - Charles Stross Explains

Last week I wondered why publishers didn't Do Something, since it seemed to me that at least the Big 6 Trades have all the wherewithall to Do Something, to combat amazon's monopoly on e-pubs + More, Always MORE, because that's how monopoly capitalism always rolls.

Charles Stross didn't just wonder. He did something, and it seems that mayhap at least one publisher is Doing Something (though Charles says this wasn't his doing).

Read here all about what Charles Stross thinks Macmillan's dropping DRM may mean in the near and later future, particularly for the consumers of genre fiction, who are the largest consumers of epubs.

This is a long blog entry, but all of it is worth reading, as generally is the case with Mr. Stross's Charlie's Diary, because he employs his reason, upon a platform constructed from actual information as so far as possible, and his terrific analytic capacity. Here's a pull - sample of his reasoning:

As noted earlier, consumers change e-reader devices frequently. Within 5 years we will be seeing a radically different electronic landscape. Unlocking the readers' book collections will force Amazon and B&N and their future competitors to support migration (if they want to compete for each others' customers). So hopefully it will promote the transition from the near-monopoly we had before the agency model, via the oligopoly we have today, to a truly competitive retail market that also supports midlist sales.


(Why this will support the midlist: currently Amazon have swamped the midlist among ebooks in a sea of self-published rubbish. It's impossible to find anything worth reading in the Kindle store that isn't a very obvious bestseller. This offers an opportunity for specialist bookstores to offer a curatorial role. I believe the voracious genre consumers are picky enough about what they read that they dislike Amazon's slushpile approach, and will preferentially shop in better organized outlets.)

An Evening With The Big Chief + General Grant's Birthday

This weekend, at Symphony Space.  We are fortunate to be able take several friends too, so we are!

And, dinner.

Friday is also the birthday of Ulysses S. Grant, so I shall raise a glass to him.

Monday, April 23, 2012

'tis Shakespeare's Birthday

Due to a friend from Elsewhere, here is the perfect online observance of Shakespeare's birthday.

"Pursuant (Isn't that a wonderful word?) to our earlier conversation, this is so full of the England you dream of that I had to send it to you.  Enjoy."

To which I had to respond with this from a friend on the Chesapeake's Eastern Shore, which may show partly why having lived there has provoked such fascination with this part in particular of England; the 'he' referred to is the local writer, Christopher Tilghman, who has a new novel coming out set in the U.S. Civil War era:
I've met him....kind of a weedy, strange member of a HUGE clan of descendants of the doctor who fled England in the Protectorate, gaining the Hermitage, enormous land grant on lower Chester River in 1647.........the old man's daughter Rebecca married the up-and-coming SIMON WILMER, lately of Stepney Manor and about 3,000 acres on both sides of the Chester River, 100 of which he managed to sell in 1706 to the Legislature of the day for the "erection of a town...." :) Seriously, the man writes some luscious and semi-decadent prose and if you partied at the Hermitage at sundown on a summer's eve with much of the clan present and everything, EVERYTHING the tribe ever owned still present in the house, built in 1860s, and the mighty Chester slapping at the pilings while the ospreys screeched and fished and the foxes barked in the darkening fields and the mist rose over the marshes below the grass terraces you'd understand why.......
BTW, that 100 acres is where the river port of C'town was built, which is now the county seat. C'town is also the county seat. As mentioned so many times, the same names of power and wealth from the founding settlements' eras are still alive and well in the ranks of power and wealth today. Another reason why Midsommer resonates so much.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

*Midsommer Murders* Missed On Earth Day 2012

Pouring rain since about 11 PM last night, off and on, ever since, supposedly into tomorrow. This is good since we've had no moisture since early in March, and with the high winds the brush fires that started on Staten Island, Long Island and even Central Park from compost piles combusting it was getting dangerous. But the large drops, so many, so close together, falling so fast, plus wind, are keeping us inside today.

I miss watching ITV's Midsommer Murders, another of these cozy Brit series adapted originally from a series of novels, this one written by Caroline Graham (none of whose books are in the NYPL, alas). I've watched all the Midsommer Murders episodes -- yes, all of them -- because they are set in the part of England that fairly settled Kent County and the Chespeake's Eastern Shore, where we lived 2010-2011, among architecture and foilage much the same as that in the television series, and with many of the same customs and names -- and because they stream from netflix. It took about 16 months. Now there are no more, at least with actor John Nettles as Inspector Barnaby. The new series in which the new Inspector Barnaby is supposedly the retired Barnaby's nephew isn't on either dvd or streamed. Damn!

But in the meantime, between the first Barnaby retiring and his nephew Barnaby stepping into his shoes in what must be the most homicde prone county in England, there was an important controversy that blew up, which was, of course, how very very very white Midsommer is, which doesn't reflect in any way present-day England. I'd have thought myelf that somewhere at least you'd find a curry shop, a news shop, some business that was not run by the descendants of the ruling families that ruled here evidently since the days of the Romans.

What I loved the most about Midsommer Murders was that it was primarily an agricultural landscape, filled with sophisticated people, like Kent County is. The land's been cultivated for so long it is an unimaginably fertile place of domestic beauty, something that even the Romans praised in their idylls of agriculture back home in Latium and Italy. This is as separate from wilderness as you can possibly be, in the very best way.

The next thing I loved abut Midsommer Murders is that each season/series had a theme. Several of these themes included the most tender brush of the Old Earth Magics from ancient days beyond recall. Realistic these programs were not, but they remained imaginative and very entertaining for the entire run which began in 1997. That's a real achievement. They began with excellent writers and directors, including Tony Horowitz who most recently achieved fame as author of The House of Silk, a Sherlock Holmes homage. It was another luxe production for which English television is noted.

Other things I noticed as the years of production rolled past mine eyes was in the earlier years ye old aristocracy was treated gently and / or with some comic touch, and some pity for their loss of state and revenue. But by the last two seasons the aristocracy was being shown as rapacious and villainous -- obscenely wealth -- as it ever was in the baddest of older days, reflecting perceptions since 2001 perhaps that the ruling class, by virtue merely of being born into the aristocracy, had rapidly regained their stance at the top of the economic and power pyramid.

Something else in particular I noticed was that in the seasons immediately and later following the Failure of the Levees in 2005, the music in Midsommer changed. As mentioned above there's controversy that Midsommer is not only too white, it's all white. The music we hear in the show is almost entirely folk music -- ballads -- or madrigals or Anglican hymns or some sort of period music, including of course, really mouldy rock from circa no later than 1969. But after Katrina we saw black bands at fetes and other celebrations playing New Orleans jazz of various kinds, and we saw that thereafter. The first time I saw a black brass band playing that music, I choked up and got tears. How far New Orleans reaches, how much people cared.

I wonder what actual south Oxfordshire looks like, because when we shoot, we get to frame to leave out what we don't want seen.

I am told that the landscape is what we see in the television program.  I'd love to see it.

For there is no landscape that so delights mine eye as one of winding roads among careful husbandry and fat cattle in well-watered fields, interspersed with hedgerow, woods and trees, well-tended yards, gardens and many flowers.

Yeah, that's the farmer's daughter in me.

Friday, April 20, 2012

I Will Be In London

When the Historical Novel Society Conference 2012 meets.

I jetlag so hard. I have to plan this stay very carefully to get the fullest benefit from it I can. I will have a lot of free time on my own since I'm not involved with the production at all, other than to keep el V grounded. But as I don't know yet even where we're staying, it's hard to start that planning.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ulysses S. Grant: Learning President Lincoln Had Been Assassinated

"It was the darkest day of my life," Grant told newsman John Russell Young.  "I did not know what it meant.  Her was the Rebellion put down in the field, and starting up in the gutters.  We had fought it as a war, now we had to fight it as assassination."

Recall, there was an attempt on Grant's life as well that night, but the Grants' railroad car door when stopped at Havre de Grace (where I've been -- Maryland), was locked, preventing the assassin getting to Grant.  The assassin  wrote an unsigned note later to Grant, thanking God that he'd been prevented from attempting to kill him. (Julia Dent Grant, The Personal Memoirs of Julia Dent Grant 156-57, John Y Simon, ed. (New York; G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1975).

The Rebellion continues to this day, by many, many other means, but particularly via those hatched in the gutters of mind and media.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

el V, In His Own Words: Dr. John and John Boutté

New Orleans music thrives in old buildings. I'm so glad I got to see the Dr. John "Funky But It's Nu Awlins" show at BAM Friday night. I guess BAM felt like throwing a party to celebrate its 150th anniversary -- 1861, it was. That the building has not been demolished and the site rebuilt on is a minor miracle in a city that cannibalizes its architecture. Fortunately, I missed the night the functionaries spoke.
(Robt. Christgau's assessment of Dr. John's three-week residency at BAM is here, and Larry Blumenfeld's pieces for the Voice are here, here, and here.)
It was a wonderful show. Though it felt like a party where everybody onstage knew everybody else, which indeed they did, it was deceptively intricate.
No two songs had the same feel. The show rolled from one highlight to the next. Big Chief Donald Harrison -- who is bringing his New Orleans band to Symphony Space on April 27, attendance mandatory -- rocked the house with vocals and sax on "Hey Pocky Way" and dueted with Ronnie Cuber on bari. Nicholas Payton killed it on "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans." Davell Crawford's blistering version of "Junko Partner" will stay with me a long time -- definitely one of the peak musical experiences of '12, so far, and I'd buy the record that will surely come out of this just for that number. Ivan Neville. Dirty Dozen. Tami Lynn. Irma Thomas.

It opened with Dr. John heading up a second line into the hall from the back, in a li'l parade with the Dirty Dozen blasting away. As they passed us, I saw
tried-and-true New Orleansophile Bonnie Raitt second-lining her way down the aisle behind Dr. John, and I knew I was in the right place and not at the wrong time, either. Ms. Raitt didn't appear in the show, but she knows what's good. She happened to be in town in connection with her lovely new album, Slipstream (videoclip here), which I'd seen a stack of -- a depleted stack, I might add, meaning people were buying it -- at Starbuck's earlier in the day. May it sell a million or three. She was a guest on John Schaefer's Soundcheck yesterday. (JS also conversed with Dr. John earlier in the month, a true meeting of the vocabularies.)

It's been a while since I bothered to notice what albums were coming out in a given week, but this is a week to listen up, with some titles out today (Tuesday is the traditional street date, dating back from the era of record stores, something today's college students no longer remember). Jon Cleary's got an album of songs by great American songwriter Allen Toussaint, called Occapella, which I haven't heard but which I hear is great, and why wouldn't it be? The Tremé soundtrack for season two comes out on Rounder. And the second season of Tremé comes out on DVD -- if you want to support the show, says David Simon, buy the DVDs. (The third season of Tremé will air in the fall on HBO.) May they all sell a million or three.

And now we get personal.
John Boutté's new album comes out today -- available from CD Baby, or better yet go buy it from the artist at d/b/a if you're in New Orleans, or at Louisiana Music Factory. Produced by Blake Leyh (music supervisor of Tremé), it's titled All About Everything.

The title song, "All About Everything," is my translation from Portuguese of
Chico Buarque's "Sobre Todas as Coisas." (Buarque's album version here.) "Sobre Todas as Coisas" is, to me, songwriting on the highest level. I translated this lyric (and others) over a period of years as a personal project, and I've sung it for years for my own pleasure. When you do something like that, you forget you didn't write it. I certainly didn't write the song, but the English version is mine, as faithful and singable a translation as I could make. So in some sense I'm personally invested in it as a songwriter, and we croaking songwriters love to hear our songs in the voice of a great interpreter. Hearing John Boutté sing this one, I feel like I've been blessed. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

*Conan The Barbarian* 2011 Movie

 I saw this the other day.

It is probably 98% action; what dialog there is, that isn't howls and grunts and snarls, is bombast. (So many villains in movies seem modeled after Jackson’s orcs in appearance, behavior and communication, whether they are supposedly human or not – it’s true in this film as well, with the Big Bad’s henchman who chases Conan and the Virgin, whom after many hours, Conan finally destroys by using him as a message / messenger, catapaulting the ugly hench-bad from the cliffs above to crash into the Big Bad’s bedroom.)
All very well done for what it is, and quite faithful to Howard. But that's why the movie was dull. By the time I found Howard's novels I'd already outgrown flat characters, non-dimensional story, implausible world building and those preposterous monsters, still so beloved by boys of any age who adore that sort of thing.

What I didn't realize until watching this movie version of Howard's Great Hero, is that Hybornia or whatever this S&S world is called, it's still a western. Taciturn protagonist who rides off alone at the end of saving the girl and the 
ranch world from the the banker the EviLe Sorceror-Sorceress. Which makes sense in the context of Howard's Texanhood. It makes even more sense if you've read Larry McMurtry's Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, his collection of essays on what it means to be born into Texas ranching in the era of Howard, which McMurtry was, and grew up with a love of books, learning and writing, whch they both did, I think.

McMurtry was a happier fellow though, from boyhood, than Howard was. If I have this right, Howard was gay, while McMurtry isn't, so that's a big reason right there why McMurtry would have been a happier person in that time of the world, in Texas.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

*Treme* Season 3, Dr. John, Bonnie Raitt

Ain't airing until the fall.

So we'll have to make due with the dvds of seasons 1 & 2 until then, and the Dr. John residency these last three weeks at BAM.

The show last night was beyond spectacular -- it was, as Mac said, Insides Out Funky But Its Nu Awlins.  Partly it was as the performers danced down the aisle of the orchestra to the stage to Dirty Dozen -- and Bonnie Raitt, who is town to do promo for her new album, Slip Stream, danced with them!  When she called on Mac earlier he said she had to do it, though she wasn't part of the show.  So she hung out in the Green Room and watched from back stage.  By the way, have you read her reasons why she says, "Thank God for Occupy," earlier this month on  Slipstream is a beautiful album, by the way.  Her voice is at least as good if not better than at any other time in her career.

Part of the spectacularness  was Davell Crawford who dominated two numbers back-to-back that he introduced as "Remember the Nighttripper?"  And it was horrible and wonderful, dangerous and terrifying, was like some of the nights in the Funky Butt, seeing the branches in Louis Armstrong park dancing, struggling, yearning, tossing, struggling along with the music, and you KNEW you were in a swamp and things aren't the same here, where the vegetation is sentient, as somewhere anywhere else.  He took one number right down to Angola and the war on young black men that has been escalating in the last year, and yet it was strong, it was deep, it was wild, and nobody except a New Orleans musician could do this.  The entire show brought out goosebumps over and over, and yet we all danced too, even in that classic nineteenth century recital theater.

They were all wonderful, not a clunker among them.  It just snapped and sizzled.  From what we can tell, since we were there only one night each of the three weekends, it was almost a sold-out gig each weekend of Thurs., Fri. and Sat.  Not much can pull that of these days.  That theater is a large capacity theater, and the show, featuring a different orientation with different artists each weekend, was not an inexpensive production by any means.  Dr. John does it again.

We hung out a bit afterwards backstage since we had invitations, so we chatted some with the band members we know, and with Mac and Bonnie and Donald.  Then headed home on the train with LK, who made Tootie's Last Suit and is in town working on her current project which is documenting the health problems of those who experienced 9/11 and BP.

The lobby was quite a schmooze-fest.  El V said, "It's only at New Orleans events I get recognized by complete strangers from a book jacket photo."  Ay-up, it was like that.  The people in those seats grooving to the music these last three weekends all love New Orleans, even if they live here.

So we ended the night nicely in our local French bistro, el V with a beer and me with water as I'm taking pain medication, and discussed over and over the highlights of the show.

O, and one more thing that gives us a hit of New Orleans as we wait for Treme season 3, is the new Jon Boutté joint, which includes a cut of something el V suggested and translated from the Portuguese, and is also the title cut!

ETA: Got an e-mail last night from a friend who took one of his classes to NO for spring break, coming live from DBA, where JB was onstage, singing the title cut, and shouting out el V credit!  Title in Portuguese is sobre todas as coisas.  Chico Buarque's version:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Novels Recently Read, Novels Acquired Today

I have finished re-reading Gore Vidal's BurrLincoln and 1876, which I took on after reading The Education of Henry Adams.  Both of them write very well, and they know whereof they write.  They also share a loathing for President Grant that will not allow him to have done a thing right.  There's never mention of his attempts to follow Lincoln's Reconstruction plans, particularly for integrating the free black population into the economic and political life of the nation, nothing about how he attempted to reform the scandal and corruption that was the Bureau of Indian Affairs -- rather they focus on the corruption scandal involving the wife of one of his cabinet members, who had some kind of shenanigan deal with a reservation store merchant.  That sort of thing.  I have to dig down and find out more about this antipathy for Grant by those who would seem to have on surface provided him more support.  But they hate him, and portray him as being hated by the voters too -- which doesn't fit in with other things I've read about how Grant was regarded by non-politicians.  There's a scene in 1876 that breaks your heart -- and I'm thinking that Vidal was exercising whole cloth his privilege as a novelist to make up stuff, while Adams in his Education was writing neither history nor fiction, but fashioning his persona for the ages.

Novels acquired today -- a nice haul!

Derby Day by D.J. Taylor, an historical novel published last year in the UK, and last month here -- I have been waiting for a long time to get hold of a copy since reading about it in the UK reviews -- it was nominated for the Man Booker prize; from the Kirkus review:

[ " Taylor reinvents the Victorian novel, basing his narrative loosely on W.P. Frith’s massive satirical portrait of mid-19th-century English life of the same name. " ]

It's also been billed as a Victorian era mystery. Now I'll find out for myself. Perfect subway reading.

The Barbarian Nurseries by Héctor Tobar (2011) -- this has one of the best titles ever, which I just stumbled upon today out of nowhere, having heard nothing about it before; from the LA Times review:

[ " One of Tobar's conceits in this portion of the novel, and it really works, is to invite his readers to consider Los Angeles as though it were fabulous and exotic — which, of course, it is. His travelers stumble around this unfamiliar place like a lost band of Marco Polos. Later, 11-year-old Brandon recounts the adventure through the filter of all the hundreds of fantasy novels he's read. "We were looking for Grandpa's house, because Araceli said we should look for him. But we found this other place instead, where there are houses like jails I guess …. and other things I thought only existed in books. But they were real."

By then Brandon is telling his tale to a gape-mouthed audience composed not just of his parents but also of cops, lawyers, a psychologist and a formidable young woman from child protective services — for when Scott and Maureen finally got it together to come home, they found the house empty, called the police and accused Araceli of kidnapping. The truth of what happened is already disappearing beneath layers of invention, much as history itself accretes and gathers upon any patch of ground, even in an environment as ostensibly new as SoCal. " ]

Doc by Mary Doria Russell (2011).  Dpc and the Earps.  My constant interest in the history of the Western as fictional history has had this one in mind since it was published.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Don't Get Hero Much Around Here Any More ...

I have been fairly lost in the Henry Adams's 9 volume history of the four administrations of Jefferson and Madison, trying to cobble out a publishable article from the long last section of The American Slave Coast: How Enslaved Wombs Produced the American South, and another project that initially got me excited, which was perhaps an opportunity to write for the screen ... but no.  It's just too much again of this constant in movies and television now of all nekkid nekkid nekkid women all the time, all women are prostitutes if they're not witches into the bargain, and rape rape rape, humiliate humiliate humiliate if not downright torture torture torture.  As if no woman ever lives anywhere who ISN"T a whore and raped raped raped and even murdered. Or else just a pathetic victim who is raped and tortured and killed.

So few who write for the screen understand what makes a story or a character.  They evidently think now it's naked women and oceans oceans oceans of blood spilled in the most violent and brutal and graphic and prolonged action possible.

This is -- weird, when there are some excellent examples out there as to how its done, particularly the Simon-Burns-Overmeyer ouvre, starting with Homicide (though I don't think Overmeyer was connected with Homicide).  What this means is that the showrunners etc. must really know their locale, its history, it's citizens from the bottom up, the inside out.  Or else you have to be like Buffy's Joss Whedon, who built the Buffyverse from bottom up too -- not history, of course, but an imaginary world, that he understood deeply (he's never done it to that perfection since either, or even close!).

Everyone wants an arc series that lasts at least 5 seasons, but woo, is that hard to pull off, demanding as it does a whole suite of very special skill sets, of which very few people possess all of them. But starting with an actual story in your pilot really helps ....

Something else: Since blogger-google has chosen to no longer recognize IE, and the EviLe google coerced a download of its Chrome to access this plac I'm thinking of scrubbing Fox Home and moving to Word Press or some other host.  I still have my LJ and DW blogs though they too have their problems.

We had a lovely time at Easter.  Now back to the grind.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Banks Too Corrupt to Fail

Never in any dream have I imagined stating this: "I finally have sympathy for Andrew Jackson's War on Biddle's Bank fo the United States." Take these f*ckers OUT. Now.

"Bank of America: Too Crooked to Fail" by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone. I just listened to a half hour segment with him and an interviewer on the subject. If you don't angry you are a lot different from me. You can read it all online here.

If you are unfamiliar with the reference to Jackson, Biddle and Bank, you can find out here. As he was with Indian removal and the acquistion of the Floridas, Texas and Mexico, Jackson was obsessed with taking out the Bank of the United States, going back to the days of early manhood. He succeeded in all these goals, except that Texas came in only (shortly) after he died, and though the U.S. never officially annexed Mexico, it did officially get a huge amount of its territiory after the Mexican-American War (territory that, I am obsessively forced to observe was expected by the South to become slave states).

Jackson did take out the bank of the United States, and with his determination to get rid of currency, and the corruption of what was called his pet state banks, plunged the country into an economic disaster larger and more prolonged than any heretofore experienced. Which says a great deal since the U.S. was already long into its national repetitive cycles of boom and bust.