". . . 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

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Portrayals of the Past In Our Entertainments

Likely any of us who have committed an amount of solid history study has her own pet error vexations, annoyances and irritations with how film, television and fiction portray the past.

My top three are:

1) Castles. I love learning about castles, who their architects were, the building materials, from where materials were acquired, who committed the actual labor that built them, their history of development to when they were no longer built.

{Sidebar: the last ones were built on Africa's slave coast guarding the ever-changing variety of Europeans who dominated the African slave trade to the New World, and built by, ta-dah! Italian architects after there was no longer work for their speciality in Europe due to gunpowder and cannon -- but lucky for them now there was a New World, that needed an endless supply of slave labor!}

 But when on television or in the movies the castles portrayed are provided that romantic patina that comes with an ediface's age, particularly after it is no longer useful, i.e. our Romantic era's love of ruins in particular. But -- here are castles,  in a story set in the era in which castles actually are built, and they're still Romantically ancient! And sometimes even ruinous -- Camelot anyone, perhaps the most ridiculous television series ever? One film I don't feel that way about though is El Cid, for some reason. What a castle movie that one is. But I just watched a 1979 movie, Lovespell, made from the Tristan and Isold romance (starring Richard Burton as King Mark -- and a splendid Kate Mulgrew as Isolt). All of it worked very well, except Burton's emoting as if on stage rather than on screen -- and Mark's ruinous castle, which is to provide us the audience a sense of verisimilitude. For me, it does just the opposite.

2) Arms, particularly swords and shields and mail and other armor. It matters not if the era is ancient, classical or medieval. The way the men move, whether merely cleaning, sparring or marching and battling, swords and shields look far too light. And that feather-light chainmail -- even when the era didn't have chainmail.... In fact they appear flimsy most of the time (The Adventures of the Young Merlin?). One exception to that is the 2005 Icelandic-Swedish film, Beowulf and Grendel. You know Beowulf and his men are heroes just from the obvious heft of their weapons, but that they can handle them easily.

3) Royalty running around anywhere without a retinue, or even an attendent to wipe their royal ass (unless after a battle when royally defeated and alone); royalty to whom attendants and homeowners no matter how noble, do not make obesience, particularly when the Royal enters their purview the first time. Well, I guess that makes four, not three, pet vexations!

So --

5) Westerns, in which the protagonist is an ex-confederate deadly killer who drifts aimlessly in hopes of discovering the Union army bastards who ta-dah! raped and killed his wife as well as his children (he always does cross their paths because, you know the continental U.S. and territories is just so very small and unpopulated and without cities and institutions) and burned down his grand plantation home, where all his ex-slave really want to stay and help him re-build because he was always so very very very good to them, and even had freed them long before the Wah was forced on them by the demned Yankees. I swan, the lady says, swooning on her sopha, fluttering her fan, Ah have learned from fiction, movies and television, there was not a single flower of Southern womanhood left unviolated by the Yankee beasts, and even hardly a slave to be found in the Glorious South befo da Wah!

Or -- as el V says: "Music told me the truth.  Movies told me lies."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Horse: From Arabia to Royal Ascot – British Museum Exhibit

Full article here, plus illo, plus links to other illos. It may not tell you anything you don't already know, but it's always a pleasure to see horses!

This is the sort of illo the article links to, though you have to scroll down the wiki site to find it, Moghul ruler, Akbar, hunting deer from horseback:

[ " John Curtis, one of the curators, explains that there has been much advance interest in the show. Horses, magnificently wordless in themselves, excite passionate differences of opinion in their admirers and the museum has been petitioned, urging that certain breeds be championed. But the museum has faced a challenge: "Most of our exhibitions are monocultural, whereas the horse exists in all cultures." And so partly to avoid a bewildering miscellany, the decision has been taken to put Arab horses in charge of the narrative.The domestication of the horse is thought to have taken place on the western Euraisan steppes, probably in Kazakhstan, around 3,500BC (the exhibition includes what may be the earliest depiction of a horse and rider, a terracotta mound from Mesopotamia). But the narrative then advances through Islamic history and showcases the emergence of the Arab horseIt reveals that the bloodlines of modern thoroughbreds can be traced back to three Arabian stallions imported into England in the 18th century (the Darley Arabian, the Byerley Turk and the Godolphin Arabian). The journey we take includes astounding Arab rock paintings of horses and then fetches up in Victorian England to consider the horse's influence on society (the horse traffic jams were terrible), before a racy finish at Ascot and in the modern world." ]

Additionally, something we may wish to consider, which information is not included within the article, but provided by a commentator to it: this is the second exhibit at the British Museum this year sponsored by the House of Saud, i.e. see concentration on the Arab horse in history.

In the modern era museums became, among other things, the supreme expression of who holds power, and how much power is held. This has been always the case with the horse, a signature of class, rank, wealth and power.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Napoleon & Bilbo Baggins: The Two Most Famous Short Men In History Are The Same Person!

And that person is (now Sir) Ian Holm. (Eat that, Tyrion Lannister!)

Not only that, Holm has been Bonaparte Napoleon three (3) times: "First, in the 1972 television series Napoleon and Love. Next, in a cameo comic rendition, in Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits from 1981. He completed the set in 2001 playing the fallen and exiled leader in the fanciful film The Emperor's New Clothes."

Napoleon and Love (1974) BBC miniseries.

Once again we see English figures and faces role-playing being French! It's a great cast. Billie Whitelaw plays Josephine splendidly. Scenes without women generally wilt, but with them they come alive, and never so much sparkling vivacity as when our gaze is locked on Whitelaw. In other words it is true, what the main executive leader of the Directory regime of 1795–1799, Paul François Jean Nicolas, vicomte de Barras to Napoleon exclaims: "In France women are politics!" Barras advises Napoleon to form a connection with a woman who can help his appointment to a stellar command in the French army. Courtship and political intrigue are inseparable in France.

{ Perhaps those fantasy writers and their fanboys might wish to think about this when declaring women of the past held no political power of their own. Women's agency depends on political and social juice, skills that are deeply dimensional. This is conceptually opposite to the fantasy in U.S. entertainments of what makes a strong woman, i.e., a strong woman is a man, for instance Angelina Jolie -- even when the character's a mother: Lara Croft, Mrs. Smith, Beowulf's mother, Evelyn Salt, etc. }

Within the second and third episodes we’re already at Josephine’s extravagant debts (what she and Mary Todd Lincoln had in common) concealed from her husband – the very thing that caused such controversy in the French press when Dumas began serializing his novel of the Napoleonic Era, unfinished (despite 1000 pp.), The Last Cavalier. The Introduction by the discoverer of the manuscript and serialization includes this controversy, Dumas’s response to it, whch includes his method for researching and philosophy of history and historical fiction.

However, whether English or French, these productions don't trouch upon the effects, consequences and results in the New World, whether the loss of San Domingue or the sale of the Louisiana Territory to Jefferson’s administrations, of Napoleon and his Era. The fourth episode (of nine) opens in 1803. Nary a word about the San Domingue Rebellion or the Sale. It would have been a delight to have had a scene in which finally Aaron Burr gets his audience with the Great Man -- but as it wasn't of any interest to Napoleon, and certainly wasn't about love, it probably wouldn't have fit the focus of this series. As the title of the series announces, it’s only concerned with the emperor's fixations on  sex, love and marriage, while somehow offstage he acquires ever more portions of the globe for his own control – and somehow becomes Emperor. Also, oddly, the English are entirely missing from the series. Wellington is never mentioned, nor is Waterloo. The entire point of it all is the Right Woman who will provide THE HEIR. (Maybe because Napoleon never was in love with an Englishwoman, nor did he set any of his family to rule in England? Though for some reason he seems to believe he could 'retire' to England -- or in the New World -- now that he's de-throned. Well, he wasn't closely in touch with reality for a very long time it seems. Monomaniacs are like that evidently.)

I quite enjoyed Napoleon and Love despite the lack of Wellington, Toussaint and battles. How not? That non-action talking heads (think I, Claudius) 1970's BBC drama within those dresses, furniture and horses -- this is before the luxe days of on location abroad BBC that seems to have begun soon after Napoleon and Love. But there was no stinging on the wardrobe even then. Yum.

Nor does a single member of the lower classes sullie our view of the people who matter, not a one. Which is probably why we don't see any chamber pots, horses being groomed, food raised and / or prepared -- just feasts, or receptions, served by soft footed non-speaking liveried nobodies -- or anyone scrubbing the vast acreages of marble or laundering the vast acreages of linen ....

With the fate of empires at stake we understand Romance must be taken seriously!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Times-Picayune Confirms Staff Cuts and 3-Day-a-Week Print Schedule

Very bad news, very bad:

This memorandum from the publisher was sent out Thursday morning, following a New York Times report about the plans on Wednesday night:


To all employees:

We wanted to make you aware of a news story that will be posted on regarding the future of the company, and to alert you that we will be scheduling meetings to discuss it with groups of employees today.

The story, which can be accessed through this link, details the formation of NOLA Media Group, a digitally focused company that will launch this fall and that will develop new and innovative ways to deliver news and information to the company’s online and mobile readers. NOLA Media Group will be led by Ricky Mathews. Also this fall, The Times-Picayune will begin publishing a more robust newspaper on a reduced schedule of Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays only.

We will also be forming a new company, Advance Central Services Louisiana, which will be led by Ray Massett. ACS will produce and distribute the newspaper as well as provide critical support functions for the NOLA Media Group.

Many current employees of The Times-Picayune and will have the opportunity to grow with the new organizations, but the need to reallocate resources to accelerate the digital growth of NOLA Media Group will necessitate a reduction in the size of the workforce.

Press reports have necessitated our giving you this news now. We realize it will make people anxious, but we do not know enough today to be able to announce how the changes will affect individual employees. We will move as quickly as possible in the coming weeks to make that determination and to inform each of you personally.

We will meet with department heads at 9 a.m. today in the 2nd-floor conference room . Staff meetings will be scheduled during the day. We will not be able to answer all of the questions you have, but will address as many as possible.

Ashton Phelps, Jr.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

*Sherlock* Season 2 Ep. 3 "The Reichenbach Fall"

I confidently declare "The Reichenbach Fall" an improvement over "The Hounds of the Baskerville."  “Hounds” was so lackluster it was no stretch at all to make an episode with more sizzle, but "Fall's" snap, crackle and pop goes far beyond that.

Moriarty installed a keylogger on Holmes's computer?  While sitting right there in Holmes's presence?  Really?  And even if Moriarty did it remotely, surely Holmes's abilities would have a password that couldn't be hacked.  Ah, wrong about that! Not a keylogger, but the keycode to the universe and everything was planted in his rooms by Moriarty. But that didn't happen either because Moriarty reveals the keycode does not exist.

In this game of Mirror Mirror On the Wall, Who Is the Smartest One of All, nobody recognized the host of a nationally broadcasted children's program in this celebrity obssessed culture? Really? I wouldn't recognize him probably, but celebrities do not inhabit my consciousness. The other night on our way to dinner a member of our company recognized a Bold Face Name walking toward us (upper East Side, veddy wealthy), and immediately recognized another at the restaurant. He and his wife work with celebrities all the time, which many in NYC do, and those who provide you a living are much in your mind.

The internets mentioned that Moriarty or somebody wore a mask of Holmes's face when the children were kidnapped, but I didn't see or hear that in the episode. So for me there's been no explanation for the girl's screams at the sight of Holmes.  Of course we're missing bits that were on the BBC broadcast.  Or perhaps I did miss it in this one, despite paying close attention.

"Hansel and Gretel" for the kidnapping, OK. An envelope of bread crumbs was left and it did nothing in the episode other than provide another pointer to the Grimm's fairy tales that sent Sherlock on the hunt for a candy factory. Thus the connections to the Brooks storyteller on kids tv -- quite liked the hint of  ITV's logo sky -- the Jeremy Brett Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was on ITV -- when Moriarty highjacks the taxi video broadcast to tell the story of "Sir Boasts A Lot."  But  "Snow White" for Sherlock and James, I can't figure out where that fits -- the little people, the normals, as Moriarty goes on about, frequently and at length, i.e. Snow White and her seven dwarfs, perhaps?  Or when the resurrection takes place next season?  I hope so or else again this is careless writing.  I'd prefer them to be careful and good writers.  Or, I missed it this time around, as much attention as I paid.

Moriarty does say that newspapers are fairytales, and never more so than now, are they?  With the so-called investigative journalists collaborating with the Big Liars, as does she who so repels Sherlock Holmes, thus making her all the more enthusiastic to destroy via the media the creation of Holmes it has made -- as Watson warns right at the top of the episode.

Only more repellent than this journalist is Moriarty's claims of sexual charisma for himself so often in the "Fall." It went hand-in-hand with his pulling out the old chestnut of Bach and Unfinished Melody, in the way that kind of culture does that sort of thing over and over, invoking lines from the long-ago dead as if uttering, "If I told you I'd have to kill you," as if it mattered and was also intelligent and bright, proving superiority. Then, couple that with Moriarty essentially declaring himself in love with Sherlock (in love with himself as the other face of Sherlock?) -- this evokes a very high level of disgust and recoil in the audience, doesn't it? The media's celebrity-worship and celebrity-destruction is another face of the same thing.

This kind of -- maybe we can call it cultural commentary? -- was skillfully embedded in the "Fall," maybe was even its theme? It was very good with that.

What I liked best, first, were the Molly parts, which have left me with a concern that perhaps Sherlock is developing a serious illness. That was only a hint, but then, what else would be hinted in that first lab scene in which Molly keeps talking and walking away from something Sherlock seemed on the verge of confessing to her?  The second thing I liked best was Mycroft's confession to Watson. That was straight up le Carré's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which last year was in people's minds due to the film re-make of the old BBC miniseries (which was so much better than the movie, particularly this part). The part in which Smiley meets with Karla, in which he reveals essential information of himself, which Karla uses against him later, while Karla never speaks a word, was just freakin' brilliant on the part of le Carré and brilliantly played in the 1980 miniseries. (In the movie it is told, not shown, as it was in the miniseries.)

The rooftop section was very well played by Cumberbatch, as were the two scenes with him and Molly. These show him 100% functioning human being, despite his reveal to Moriarty that he is not "one of them."  Watson was splendid in this episode. I've come to care about him very much. Watson is decent, witty, smart, and though he can be always counted on, as can his loyalty, he's the surprising one, as that lovely bit that begins with "What are you looking at," and ends with him handcuffed with Holmes.

Now I'm hoping for something even better, i.e. more coherent, from next year's   Resurrection sequel to the Fall -- shades of Buffy!*  And Batman and all the other superheroes who die only to rise again!


* I'm guessing that Holmes was wearing a Holmes mask during the rooftop face-off with Moriarty.  There was a fiddling with his back hair, which we saw from the back .... The mask was then put on Moriarty .... but we did see the arms and legs windmilling as the body fell from the roof, so, who knows? And what about that hung model at the top the episode?  Why are people talking about a garbage truck coz I didn’t see one – which could be me missing things again. Then the so-called passersby when Sherlock flew – internets say they are Sherlock’s homeless, blocking Watson from witnessing Sherlock's body substitution, keeping him from taking a  pulse (all those incidents of coupled hands in this episode: Watson’s and Sherlock’s; the bodyguard-killer who is executed when shaking Sherlock’s hand, while he and Watson are handcuffed together; Sherlock and Moriarty shaking hands while Moriarty offs himself).  And, where is Moriarty’s body, and, where is Mycroft in all this? Neither of them are at the cemetery.

To Be Continued --

Monday, May 21, 2012

Henry Adams, the Historian Who Hates President Grant

I found out why!

Last night my digging for the last couple of months to learn why President Grant turned Henry Adams so vitriolic, when all the other evidence is that Grant's administrations' problems should have been well balanced at least by the things he did right, finally yielded pay dirt.

It's very simple.  It was Charles Sumner, the fellow caned in the House back before the War by a rabid pro-slavery member.

Grant and Sumner did not hit it off. There was a chemical antipathy there, and from the beginning Sumner, who understood Grant not at all, sneered at him as an uncouth, tobacco-smelling, whiskey drinking, card playing yahoo.  Nor did he believe Grant to be a real Republican.  Grant rather saw Sumner as an effete New England snob who valued his New England aristocratic breeding.

The two broke initially over the U.S. involvement with the Dominican Republic within the first 6 months of Grant's 1st administration.  While Grant, as he was wont to do as a General kept negotiations close to his chest, preferring to present fait accompli, when he present the annexation treaty to Sumner, Sumner basically lied to Grant about putting the initiative for annexation up to the Foreign Relations committee. As well, Sumner had blocked several other bills of Grant's already. It went on from there, and Henry Adams believed Grant destroyed Sumner's political career. Adams had known Sumner all his life, and admired and loved him since boyhood. He may no longer have admired Sumner quite as much now, but the man was dear to him all the same. As well, one thinks that Adams himselfquite valued the New England aristocracy, of which he was such a notable a scion,  despite what Adams says in his Education of Henry Adams about attempting to distance himself from the burden of its rights, privileges and obligations.

And then there was the Alabama issue with England, it one of the iron clads the former CSA was built in Liverpool. This was something his father as head of the U.S. mission at St. James during the War dealt with extensively. And according to Adams himself he felt his father had performed brilliantly during the months this crisis hung on. And how -- here comes Grant, and comes up with a whole other solution, and his father, grandson and son of two POTUSes, nowhere mentioned. nowhere mentioned.

Ay-up -- the political is personal!

Eusebio Leal -- Last Tuesday Night's Speaker at the NYPL

The concept is excellent. With all the parts of extensive non-tourist urban daily life going on in habana vieja, and the twisty calles wide enough for carts and pedestrians only, it's the most intense, authentic time machine experience you can have -- and there are several eras into which can travel back.

I've also had the privilege of going on tours of habana vieja led by him, and others led by his students.

[ " All these years later, at 69, Leal’s mad passion has made him a beloved figure in Cuba and a globally admired hero of the historic preservation movement. With the unlikely title of city historian, he has rescued hundreds of landmark buildings in Old Havana — Habana Vieja — the colonial section of the city founded in 1519. He devised a mechanism to use tourist dollars to fund preservation, making the city more attractive to visitors — thus begetting more tourist dollars and more preservation.
He did it while taking a stand against gentrification, and against the theme-parking of history, by insisting that real people must continue to live, work, study and retire amid the historic plazas, palaces, museums and boutique hotels. " ]

Full feature article here.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

*Twilight* Fall Out

An online sf/f magazine presented a strongly worded negative review of Deborah Harkness's Discovery of Witches a couple of weeks back. Among other criticisms was DoW is merely another version of the Stephanie Meyers's series. As I find Meyers unreadable either as writing or as story, and yet did enjoy Harkness's novel so much that I'm looking forward to the next one, which should be out this summer, I have serveral takes on what this series will or may be. One of these takes became my comment to the SH's review, which included this:
Very clever writers, both Harkness and Collins learned a great deal from Meyers, and then grafted their own strengths on what they learned from Meyers: Harkness her academic Elizabethan era history of science scholarship, and updating to what an older woman finds romantic and sexy, and Collins her background in writing television and theater.

It's interesting in terms of the history of genre fiction to observe Meyers's books, justly or not so excoriated by so many, justly or not so adored by so many, sparking so much successful spawn -- and not least the E.L. James's Fifty Shades of Grey BDSM ladies' porn series, which was created out of Twilight fanfic and further datamining her own and others's fics, and initially self-published, then receiving a print publication for even more money. Like Meyers's books, these writers also have or are having movies produced from their works.

Not to mention the other night at the Aaron Burr exhibition and presentation, the presenter, a middle-aged balding lawyer, at one point said, "I'm one of those who insists you don't have to chose Team Alexander Hamilton or Team Aaron Burr, but rather, a thoughtful, historically informed person will find Hamilton and Burr equally fascinating, each of them with their considerable strengths and their considerable weaknesses, and they were more alike in many ways -- particularly their mutual weakness for the ladies -- than they were different."

Team Edward ... Team Jacob ... yay, Team!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

*The Hounds of Baskerville* - Sherlock Holmes seasons 2, ep. 2

That was disappointing. Reminiscent of season 4's the Initiative in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but without the good parts, like Spike. An hallucinatory dog doesn't cut it the way demons did. From the evidence of so many internet posting, as well I'm a heretic in regard to Russell Tovey, experiencing him as a markedly dull actor with his pudding-like features.

Except for the location scenery -- those skies, with the columns of light between earth and clouds were splendid. Everything else lacked interesting spark, including Sherlock's hallucinogenic-induced break-down. Additionally. the codes / passwords business was even more idiotic in Hound than in Scandal.

Molly and Mrs. Hudson were o so sorely missed.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

*Scandal in Belgravia* Part 2

Since the first three episodes of this Sherlock streams from netflix, I indulged by re-watching the third, "The Great Game," which introduces Moriarty. It was extremely squicky to realize that Molly had been involved in some way with Moriarty via the lab, introducing the lab IT kid that Moriarty played, to Sherlock as her suitor ("office romance," she chirps) in hopes that this might jolt Sherlock into noticing her as a potential romantic partner. However, this was a brilliant bridge then, into the opening of "Scandal in Belgravia," which I then immediately watch again, via PBS streaming.

Upon re-watching it also seemed wrong that Sherlock beat that CIA agent who roughed up Mrs. Hudson. That's not how Holmes has ever behaved in canon.

Now as far as I was wrong -- my imagination in retrospect completely made up Holmes using a digital gizmo to unlock Adler's phone. There was no gizmo. What there was, was me, wondering during those scenes why they didn't use a gizmo. So I now wonder why there was no digital gizmo, but nevermind
The more I've been thinking through the Adler scenes again, the more I'm not liking how Irene Adler is handled by the writers. They were under a compulsion to make it absolutely clear to the audience that Sherlock Holmes beat HER, is on top, in charge, won -- SHE's love with HIM. Further, the dominatrix aspects were poorly handled. Particularly the posing with the riding crop over Sherlock's photo was clunky, indicating the writer(s) were thinking, Hey! Nifty concept! while knowing little of either the profession of dominance, or the dynamics of power exchange, and uncomfortable with thinking of them on a personal creative, imaginative level too.

OTOH, it is really nifty that Adler's older than Sherlock. This is something you hardly ever ever see in television, movies or novels.

Still, I'm not all together happy with the compulsion to make some larger erotic-romantic arc for Sherlock. We never needed it in the canon Holmes or in the Brett Holmes. It gets so confining to make every kind of entertainment and story have to have a Big Sexual Thang, instead of all the other relationship things you can explore if you don't plug Big Sexual Thang into that slot every time. Still, as  amiga CB-S observes, "the fascination was mutual and unrelated to the whole dominatrix aspect, though not unrelated to Irene's tightrope walk with political power."

I’m becoming concerned though with the perspective of super intelligence and its lack of sympathy for the rest of us -- it's Holmes, Adler, Moriarty and Mycroft -- and how this will play out in future episodes.  The rest of us are of no interest to their sort,  unless we are their ‘pets,’ as Moriarty threw at Watson, and among whom the pets would be included Mrs. Hudson and Molly.  And the rest of us aren't even that.

I have problems with supers of any kind anyway in entertainment, and the superintelligences more than any other. Their actions are right and unquestioned, because they are smartest.  The consequences are decisions like Coventry decision, that is reduxed in "Scandal." That's not good enough, as Watson, our spokesperson reminds Holmes at every turn.  That's why this episode works so well -- Holmes wasn't always so super, but was getting a sense that there is a wider world than what's in his brain, and that matters as well, which was set up again, with the astronomical universe role in "The Great Game."

In any case I'm looking forward to Baskerville this coming week.

EDT:  Now I get it.  The writers are Dr. Whoians writers, producers, etc..  As I have always had zero interest in Dr. Who to the point of having never ever seen a single episode of any of the incarnations of Dr. Who and never will see one, I didn't realize.  And now, considering how they did Irene Adler in this series, I understand how my instinct repelled me from Dr. Whoing.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Which is where el V is currently.  From Thursday's da List, el V wrote:

" ....where I'll be singing and playing Friday night with Houston's CHangoman (that's not a typo) and my old buddy Robert Aaron, in short dance sets set off by new fave DJ, Gracie Chavez. Up till now "Ghost Riders in the Sky" has been a merengue, but it's about to be a cumbia, which, along with cha-cha-chá and striptease, will be the evening's operative genre. If you want to know more, e-mail me. I'm all pumped about it, even though it means I'm going to miss a killer weekend of music in New York. " 
This is the event.

More here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hyperparasitism (From a Charlie's Diary Discussion)

Charlie's Diary here.

Regarding the hyperparasitism *: Right at this very moment our public radio station's 10 - noon talk show is featuring a woman who treats clients for Facebook stress disorders, including "How to get your FB experience work for you," and "How to leave Faceback." Yes, she gets PAID for this:

[ "In our 20s: My Life Should Look Better on Facebook"
Each week in May, Meg Jay, clinical psychologist discusses, as: why twentysomethings think their peers are doing better than they really are."

This is a call-in show, so every 30 seconds or so they take a call from someone eager to discuss their fb experience, frequently be-moaning how inadequate they feel compared to their friends who post about their brilliant lives on fb, and thus they've been forced to leave fb, and now are so lonely, or they want to leave fb but don't know how.

I did not make this up.

* hyperparasite

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

*Scandal in Belgravia*

I was able to watch it last night, streaming from PBS. It was very good.

It took me a while through the first three episodes broadcast last year to appreciate this updated-to-digital age Holmes, but when I got there it was a three point landing. Most of all it took some time for the Holmes-Watson relationship to shake out to my satisfaction. I like this Watson very much indeed.

I loved particularly seeing Watson socking it to Holmes in this episode. And the two of them belly laughing in Buckingham, because, you know, it was all really that absurd! Most of all I loved that the central section of the episode takes place during Christmas -- thinking of the Jeremy Brett Christmas episode, "The Blue Carbuncle," which I've so loved. I loved that Molly is much prettier without cosmetics and dressed up than when she resorts to them -- and that Holmes realized he'd gratuitously hurt someone who has never hurt others.

What I am not loving is this Moriarty.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

*Bring Up The Bodies* Hilary Mantel, Reviewed by Margaret Atwood

What I found of interest in this review are the remarks Atwood makes about the writing of historical fiction, such as this, with which in particular I agree -- not that this matters at all, that I agree ....

"The historical Cromwell is an opaque figure, which is most likely why Mantel is interested in him: the less is truly known, the more room for a novelist ...."

This also:

" .... Historical fiction has many pitfalls, multiple characters and plausible underwear being only two of them. How should people talk? Sixteenth-century diction would be intolerable, but so would modern slang; Mantel opts for standard English, with the occasional dirty joke, and for present-tense narration much of the time, which keeps us right there with Cromwell as his plots and Mantel's unfold. How much detail – clothes, furnishings, appliances – to supply without clogging up the page and slowing down the story? Enough to allow the reader to picture the scene, with lush fabrics and textures highlighted, as they were at the time. Mantel generally answers the same kinds of question that interest readers in court reports of murder trials or coverage of royal weddings. What was the dress like? How did she look? Who really went to bed with whom? Mantel sometimes overshares, but literary invention does not fail her: she's as deft and verbally adroit as ever.

We read historical fiction for the same reason we keep watching Hamlet: it's not what, it's how. And although we know the plot, the characters themselves do not. Mantel leaves Cromwell at a moment that would appear secure: four of his ill-wishing enemies, in addition to Anne, have just been beheaded, and many more have been neutralised. England will have peace, though it's "the peace of the hen coop when the fox has run home". But really Cromwell is balancing on a tightrope, with his enemies gathering and muttering offstage. The book ends as it begins, with an image of blood-soaked feathers.

Always on the look out for pithy observation of historical fiction, the real thing, as opposed to that bad money driving out good "historical romance," it was a double treat to see this, and have it be written by Margaret Atwood, whose works I so admire and enjoy.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Evening Before Super Moon

Between 6 and 7 PM, Friday night. Tomorrow's Cinco de Mayo, one more in another nation's holiday which, here in NYC at least, provides license for drinking as much as you want, particularly of cerveza and tequila; the temperature's in the low 70's; the sun is shining.

So ... Yes! the streets stream multi-stranded currents of pollen and pheromones. On my way to the wine store two orange and black butterflies fluttered in mating dance before my face. Squirrels chased each other with more focused determination than usual, and favored each other over even food. The flowers, o my lordessa, do they dance and preen and spill come-hither color and aromatics. At least one giant bumble was heeding the call.

I cannot express how much delight I have in the youthful surrender of genuine sap rising and twitterpating, rather than the manufactured dreary posturing of the endless billboards and signage, for soft drinks, chips, jeans, shoes, movies and television. This evening it's good to be alive!

Can there be more of a courting moon than tomorrow's Super Moon?

*Music Is My Mistress* Edward Kennedy Ellington

Duke Ellington's autobiography.

His account of growing up in Washington D.C. is like eating the most perfectly ripe and flavor-stuffed peach.

"Love you madly," in many languages, was how the Duke concluded his performances.  You can believe he meant those words because he was one of the blessed among men, beginning with the perfect upbringing, childhood an youth.

"So I was pampered and pampered, and spoiled rotten by all the women in the family, aunts and cousins, but my mother never took her eyes off precious little me, her jewel, until I was four years old ...." 

I've become increasingly interested in Washington D.C. since spending time there while living on the Eastern Shore.  This is a good introduction to that era that hosted the three cities that contained, even long before the Civil War, the largest populations of skilled, prosperous free people of color:  New Orleans, Baltimore and D.C.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


El V's studying it hard.  He was thrilled to discover that Wiki has provided some excellent programs, including pronunciation, to the grammar and vocabulary.

One of the difficulties is that 'k' so frequent in Haitian Kreyole -- when French doesn't use it.

In fact the more French you know, the harder it is to keep some of the basics in mind, for where there are words that seem the same, they aren't, and words you expect to find, well, you won't.

He's very happy with his progress though.  It's not as difficult at all as he expected.  For one thing you don't need to worry about conjugations.