". . . 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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Southern Aristocracy = Plantation USA

A friend in the UK, in a back-and-forth in the matters raised in the previous post, observed:

"The role played by capitalism -- the way it commodified people -- is hugely damaging. And the denial both of the ways in which slavery really worked and of the ways in which capitalism contributed, continues to be hugely damaging."

She went on then, to define damaging, in the way that it is used in her part of the world, which carries a stronger meaning than it does here in the U.S.:

"... 'damaging' = 'hugely destructive, undermining and evil attitude/force that does and continues to do dreadful things' ..."

So then, to further explain how the institutionalized southern states' slave society of the United States continues to be damaging, continues to do dreadful things, look here, at this article by Sara Robinson, at Alternet:

Conservative Southern Values Revived: How a Brutal Strain of American Aristocrats Have Come to Rule America -- America didn't used to be run like an old Southern slave plantation, but we're headed that way now. How did that happen?

The article may somewhat over-simplify matters, for example:

[ " Right now, a lot of our problems stem directly from the fact that the wrong sort has finally gotten the upper hand; a particularly brutal and anti-democratic strain of American aristocrat that the other elites have mostly managed to keep away from the levers of power since the Revolution. Worse: this bunch has set a very ugly tone that's corrupted how people with power and money behave in every corner of our culture. Here's what happened, and how it happened, and what it means for America now. " ]

Well, no.  The Southern aristocracy were in power right at the Revolution -- they made it as much as the Puritan elites who ran the Boston mobs.  And with making of the Constitution a slaveholders' document in their favor, and with four out of the five presidents holding slaves and being from Virginia -- how could she say that, I don't know -- and then followed by manifest destiny for the expansion of slavery presidents from Jackson up through Buchanan, I don't know either, but never mind.

What follows in her article is what we have concluded also from these years of study of American history:

[ " In the old South, on the other hand, the degree of liberty you enjoyed was a direct function of your God-given place in the social hierarchy. The higher your status, the more authority you had, and the more "liberty" you could exercise -- which meant, in practical terms, that you had the right to take more "liberties" with the lives, rights and property of other people. Like an English lord unfettered from the Magna Carta, nobody had the authority to tell a Southern gentleman what to do with resources under his control. In this model, that's what liberty is. If you don't have the freedom to rape, beat, torture, kill, enslave, or exploit your underlings (including your wife and children) with impunity -- or abuse the land, or enforce rules on others that you will never have to answer to yourself -- then you can't really call yourself a free man.

When a Southern conservative talks about "losing his liberty," the loss of this absolute domination over the people and property under his control -- and, worse, the loss of status and the resulting risk of being held accountable for laws that he was once exempt from -- is what he's really talking about. In this view, freedom is a zero-sum game. Anything that gives more freedom and rights to lower-status people can't help but put serious limits on the freedom of the upper classes to use those people as they please. It cannot be any other way. So they find Yankee-style rights expansions absolutely intolerable, to the point where they're willing to fight and die to preserve their divine right to rule.

Once we understand the two different definitions of "liberty" at work here, a lot of other things suddenly make much more sense. We can understand the traditional Southern antipathy to education, progress, public investment, unionization, equal opportunity, and civil rights. The fervent belief among these elites that they should completely escape any legal or social accountability for any harm they cause. Their obsessive attention to where they fall in the status hierarchies. And, most of all -- the unremitting and unapologetic brutality with which they've defended these "liberties" across the length of their history. " ]

There you have it, the southern style aristocratic manner of ruling by deliberately damaging - destroying liberties  and progressive, community good for all others in favor of Their Way, which is to accepted by all others others or else.  Or else from them means what it says.  Or else be beaten, whipped, sold down the river, raped and killed, as they choose.

Their system of enormous damage continues.  Not just us, but the planet cannot stand more of what they do, and do as their own perceived divine right to do so. When will we put a stop to their retrogressive brutality, cruelty and barbarism?  

Friday, June 29, 2012

Photograph of Our First Lady's White Ancestors

Follow-up to the NY Times article adapted from American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama by Rachel L. Swarns, published by Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

A descendant of Michelle Obama's great-great-great-great grandfather, alerted by the story, sent a photograph to the author.

Along with the photograph, the descendant says this:

[ " When I spoke to Jarrod by phone, he told me that he hoped that he might be able to meet his extended black family, he said of the descendants of the slaves his ancestors had owned. “I always really wanted to say I was sorry. I also wanted to let them know that we’re glad that you’re part of our family, however it came about.’’— Rachel L. Swarns "

Jarrod's response to this information is very different from that of another descendant quoted in that Sunday article:

[ " “I don’t think there’s going to be a Kumbaya moment here,” said one of Charles Shields’s great-grandchildren, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, fearful that the ancestral ties to slavery might besmirch the family name. " ]

Now, as then, mixed responses, mixed reactions, even within families

This is perhaps the most pertinent of the lines included in the article:

[ " Such forbidden liaisons across the racial divide inevitably bring to mind the story of Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings. Mrs. Obama’s ancestors, however, lived in a world far removed from the elegance of Jefferson’s Monticello, his 5,000-acre mountain estate with 200 slaves. They were much more typical of the ordinary people who became entangled in America’s entrenched system of servitude. " ]

What I am guessing is this news, this book, is going to make concrete, real and understandable for a large number of us this most fundamental fact of the centuries of institutional slavery -- that the white owners raped their enslaved property.  That it was a matter of fact behavior, so much so, that it wasn't even talked of within the communities of their peers, whatever class their peers were in. This fact has been blocked out, ignored and denied both within and without the families whose ancestors possessed slaves.

I base this guess on this, again from the article:

[ " “You really don’t like to face this kind of thing,” said Mrs. Tribble, whose ancestors owned the first lady’s great-great-great-grandmother." ]

And on this, what the physician, who was prodding my back. said, the Wednesday after the article ran in the Times:

[ " My family only came here after the War -- meaning WWII, refugees from war-devastated Europe -- I had no idea about any of this.  The Civil War, what is that? Slavery in this country? It's not real to me. But wow -- a First Lady who had an ancestor who was a slave and who was raped by her owner?  When you think about it, that wasn't so long ago."] 

Of course, what we will be seeing a whole more of now too, is this:

[ " “To me, it’s an obvious love story that was hard for the South to accept back then,” said Aliene Shields, a descendant who lives in South Carolina. " ]

I.e. it wasn't rape at all, but like old Tom, master on his Virginia mountain, and his wife's half sister slave, Sally, and his own daughters' aunt, a grand Romance.  Can this country rewrite history on a dime or what?

This is not to state categorically that love couldn't or didn't ever grow in these conditions. Love is that miracle that will spring up in the most hostile of environments.* What I will categorically state however is that we cannot know, because the women were in no position to leave us a record of what they thought and felt. As well, the habit that formed part of their toolkit for surviving slavery, of never expressing to anyone in any way what they thought or felt, even to their children and grandchildren, continued even after slavery was done and gone -- so to speak -- as Jim Crow apartheid's sun rose, to take slavery's place.


* The award-winning novel, Sally Hemings: A Novel, by Barbara Chase-Riboud (of mixed ancestry herself), does advocate that Jefferson and Hemings's story is a love story.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In the Beauty of the Pollen Was Born Life

What happens in your garden when you're not looking?


A whole passel of el V's jazz musician buddies will be in Luanda when he comes back to the city from the northwest -- hanging out and playing gigs AFTER the city's big jazz fest, which he will miss, being out of Luanda.

When you're a musician you meet your friends all over the world, no matter where in the world you are ....

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Doing Horses Wrong - *Brave*

Many criticisms have been leveled at the first Pixar to feature a female protagonist, proving it not to be as high quality as the best of the Pixars which all, incidentally, feature male protags.

But nobody's criticized the choice for Angus, Merida's equine companion, transport and Greek chorus. He's a Clydesdale! Clydesdales and their distinctive fetlock feathering did not exist until fairly late in the 18th century.*

The first trailer for Brave prompted me to wonder how such a tiny person could keep her seat astride such a wide-backed horse (in later trailers Merida appears older than she did in that first one -- in which she seemed to be 9 at the oldest). But I didn't realize the horse was a particular breed, rather than the the generic Great Big Horse.

Never forget ladies and gentlemen: movies exist to tell you lies!

* From wiki: The Clydesdale takes its name from Clydesdale, the old name for Lanarkshire noted for the River Clyde.[2] In the mid-18th century, Flemish stallions were imported to Scotland and bred to local mares, resulting in foals that were larger than the existing local stock.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Angola, Packing For

A month's stay.

Not easy.

The August Marfa video shoot, though, got postponed.  Which is a good thing under the circumstances.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Slipstream Tour Brings In NYC Summer 2012

We're hitting 100° or good as today. The allergen male pollen-spewing elms planted to take the place of the non-allergen female seed pod bearing elms that the dutch elm diseased killed off in the 70's and 80's continue to spew. What they've been spewing for nearly 12 months already thanks to our warm to hot 2012 Climate Change winter, continues to blow around. This is by way of explaining why anyone with allergies in in NYC is so sick and so miserable, and has been for so long. Of course we must have pollen spewers rather than seed droppers, because sweeping up seeds for about two full weeks a year is outrageous!

So el V, who is terribly subject to pollen-triggered allergies, has been progressively sicker as these last months have rolled. I, my own boring back condition getting worse, began the day in pain, spent the day being pushed around, poked, prodded, hammered, etc. by doctors and technicians, and was hurting worse by end of that than when we began. This is how we went into Ms Raitt's concert and her opening act, the wonderful Mavis Staples, last night, the official opening of summer. El V started feeling better as the music continued – ay-up, he turned to me during Mavis Staples concert, with a smile. He’s not been smiling much these last days ....

Me? I oscillated between fighting off tears, having fun, and admiring Bonnie Raitt: as an artist, singer and songwriter, as guitar slinger*, as CEO and administrator. Re her stage presence, she got balls a big as any guitar slinger you can name but is more of gentleman than any of them, and she's all woman. This is what our young girls need to see. A woman of honed talent who owns not only the stage but her life. The foundations she supports do real good in the world -- they focus mostly on the environment and child hunger. She vets each one personally (she alone raised almost $400,000 for the New Orleans's musicians after the Failure of the Levees).

Her organization is hers. She owns it, she runs it. The organization in its various parts reflects its owner- operator -- runs smoothly, does a brilliant job, and the members are as fierce in their loyalty as are Ms. Raitt's fans. As it is with singers, their fans and audiences feel a very deep personal connection, a connection into which you plunge at every one of her performances.

Last night Ms Raitt threw out exuberant homage and credit to a wide range of other singer-songwriter-guitar slingers-musicians, from "my Celtic roots," Irish singers-songwriters, to Levon Helm, to the grand old bluesmen with whom she's spent so much of her life, to Mavis Staples and her father. When Mavis sang about we'll keep going on that freedom road, after speaking so movingly about Martin Luther King, I really did cry, if only because that freedom seems so much further away in too many ways now than ever. When Bonnie joined her "big sister" Mavis in "The Circle Will be Unbroken," I also wept -- which people who know me very well would never ever expect. It's because feel I understand these songs so much better at this period of our national life than I did earlier, even as the hope and optimism these songs embody has been torn to shreds by politicians and corporations and the media they own.

In her own part of the concert Ms. Raitt performed several cuts from the new album, Slipstream,some of the originals as well as some covers, including one of my favorite Dylan numbers from his own later albums. She moved effortlessly from raucous rock numbers whanging one of her many guitars, to the intimacy of sitting bare (i.e. sans guitars) and solitary on a stool in the dark, addressing a heart-wrenching lament of forgiveness and letting go to a lover who can't love the lyrics’ voice.

Every time I have had the opportunity to hear Bonnie Raitt there are new aspects of her shows to enjoy. She can be a sprite as much as she can be a comedian, a wielder of thunderous guitar power to – why, yes, she remembers your name! Touring and the stage are her life, and that means a meaningful social life. It allows her to keep up face-to-face with her many friends, the list which keeps growing, because she's that kind of person. You never know who will be with at her ‘parties,’ but you know you will know others there. There may be kids and babies too. Bonnie gives herself to her fans, the journalists, and the charitable foundations that she works with.

Last night someone in the audience yelled, "Bonnie for President." In all honesty, we could -- and we certainly are going to -- do much, much worse.

The tour, which started 2 months ago, goes through November, so there may well be opportunity for you to make this experience possible for your daughters ....


*To see this petite, graceful flame-haired goddess with her signature front white witch locks in a guitar slinger circle of otherwise all guys, all of them at the top of the game of this kind of ballad-rock-blues musicianship is something every little girl should see before she's 12. In comparison to Raitt, those lip-synching stadium acts who depend on extremity of costume and vid projections for their fame and fortune look like what they are: faux musicians.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Today - Official Start of the War of 1812

It was on June 18, 1812, that Pres. Madison officially signed into law the declaration of war against Britain.

The outcome? Something of a draw for both the U.S. and Britain. The winners were the Canadians, who consider the War of 1812 with a great deal more seriousness than either the U.S. or the UK. They were the ones the U.S. invaded, as the Brits invaded the Chesapeake region here. At one point we burned York, which is what Toronto was called then. Nevertheless we failed, and failed miserable to even get a toehold of conquest in Canada. Some slaves won too, meaning they got their freedom, though almost all of them were embarked on a journey that was anything but easy or short, filled with pain and uncertainty and poverty, and for many ultimately death, due to disease or other reasons. The really big losers, of course, were the Native Americans.

hip hip you all ....

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Day Is Short, in *Shadow of Night*

The day is short when one walks home from a Timbathon after 3 AM and gets home about an hour and a half later. It also makes one feel like one did on summer Sunday mornings way back in the day when this was just one's way of life ... and I mean that in the best of ways, feeling younger! it was just too lovely a night not to stay up all night.

I also have to say that its splendid to have this library program in place that allows us to borrow books to take home, not just from the NYPL Humanities research collection, but from the libraries at NYU and Columbia. I am getting such great material I feel like a gloating pirate.

It's only 68 degrees so far today. El V's continuing his Lossless project to migrate in organized manner the content of his enormous cd collection to various external hard drives. I am working on the Deborah Harkness Shadow of Night article, second volume in her All Souls trilogy (article on the first volume, A Discovery of Witches, here).

Goddamn, this series is exciting, as well as giving us beautiful things with which to play! The riches it provides of questions to frustrate myself with -- among them the mutability of the historical record, the helix that is time and that is DNA! I am having so much fun, in a way that novels, whether genre or not, seldom provide these days, when romance and / or sex and / or violence is so much the point of the story.

Then there's the fun choosing beautiful images of Ptolemy's Cosmology, Plato, Aristotle's and Renaissance concepts of the Great Chain of Being, Pythagoras's Music of the Spheres, Heraclitus's River, Alchemical and Tarot images, Darwin's evolutionary tree, DNA and Ionization images -- all those helixes oooooo! -- to illustrate.

It's kind of like being with a highly educated, curious, conversationally skilled, charming friend, drinking perfectly chilled dry champagne with strawberries on the side on a perfect June afternoon.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Interview With Neil Marshall - Director of Blackwater Episode - Smoking Gun

You can read it via links and the discussion of rape-porn it provokes on Abigail Nussbaum's blog, Asking the Wrong Questions, the entry titled, "From the Horse's Mouth."

Some may consider this a smoking gun, quote:

[ " The weirdest part was when you have one of the exec producers leaning over your shoulder, going, "You can go full frontal, you know. This is television, you can do whatever you want! And do it! I urge you to do it!" So I was like, "Okay, well, you're the boss."

This particular exec took me to one side and said, "Look, I represent the pervert side of the audience, okay? Everybody else is the serious drama side. I represent the perv side of the audience, and I'm saying I want full frontal nudity in this scene." So you go ahead and do it

(The original quote is in a podcast. Here are two text reports, both of which seem quite cheerful about HBO courting the pervert demographic.) " ]

It Will Be Bloomsday At Symphony Space But It's Timbathon For Us!

At the Copacabana.

Doesn't this looks as hot and sexy ritmo as you can possibly want?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Rape Culture 2 -- Bred, Practiced and Protected In the Military

The Invisible War is a documentary that premiered at Sundance 2012; it won the Audience Award.  The documentary opens today, presumably, being what it is not -- i.e. a blockbuster about making the world of 2012 safe from 1940's nazis -- not in theaters everywhere.

The Democracy Now website has a video, and the transcript of the interview Amy Goodman did with some of the victims, who have the unimaginable courage to speak out about what happened to them.

 "Not only was I astounded by the numbers, but when I started talking to the women and men who had experienced this, I was just so devastated by their stories," says the film’s Academy Award-nominated director, Kirby Dick. "These are women and men who are very idealistic. They joined the military because they wanted to serve their country. They were incredible soldiers. And then, when they were assaulted, they had the courage to come forward, even though many people advised them not to," Dick says.

Kori Cioca, formerly served in the U.S. Coast Guard, where she was beaten and raped by her supervisor and then charged with adultery because he was married. Cioca is one of the main subjects of the new documentary, The Invisible War.

Trina McDonald, was drugged and raped repeatedly by the military police on her remote Naval station in Adak, Alaska. McDonald is one of the subjects of the new documentary, The Invisible War.

Kirby Dick, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker and director of The Invisible War, which just won the Audience Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rape Culture: What It Is And Where It Breeds

In her article of June 11th, "Rape Culture in Gaming," Foz Meadows focuses specifically on the rape culture that is embedded in the gaming world among far too many, but all of what she writes applies across the board in entertainment, media and where human beings congregate, whether virtually or in the flesh. Anyone who doesn't find this at the very least, disturbing, is part of the problem:

[ " Which brings me to the attacks on Anita Sarkeesian.

Sarkeesian, for those who’ve never heard of her, runs a website called Feminist Frequency, where – among other things – she posts videos deconstructing and criticising the presence of sexist tropes in popular culture. Recently, she went on Kickstarter to garner funding for a new series of videos: Tropes vs Women in Video Games. It should tell you something significant about the popularity of this idea – and of Sarkeesian herself – that, having asked for a mere $6,000 in financing, she has, as of today – with four days left on the clock – been funded to the tune of $44,027 - more than seven times what she initially asked for.... " ]

Well and good, you say, "So what's your problem?"  This is the problem:

" [ Pretty benign language, yes? All she’s done is state what should be a fairly uncontroversial and obvious truth – that women are often presented badly in video games – and proposed to discuss this in detail.

And for this crime, she has been threatened with rape, with death and with violence, and had her Wikipedia page vandalised with images of graphic pornography. " ]

This is what happens as a matter of course whenever women attempt to speak out about the conditions of gaming, and it's been going on a for a very long time.  And, as any woman knows who has attempted to speak about rape culture in other contexts -- the military, workplace, church, publishing, television, movies, school -- she too is vilified, threatened and more than likely expelled from the community at large.  For me at least, to see a middle school girl told she should be "raped to death," for even thinking that girls should an equal cut or opportunity of whatever, frankly, terrifies me.  Where do they learn to talk like that, to THINK like that, that it is not only acceptable, but their right, to react in such a way?

It  hasn't escaped notice that the current crop of the New Gritty, the Grimdark fantasies, which are filled with prolonged, lingering, graphically detailed rapes of female figures, most of them spend a lot of time, by their own account, playing games.

Please read the entire article: it is rational, calm, specific and well-written.  If we are hoping to continue, or even create, any civilization, we must change this condition of contempt for women that is so great women can't even be seen in entertainment except as people that exist only for motivation for masculine characters' reward or vengeance, and objects of torture porn.

Because, if we cannot manage rich, diverse worlds of our imaginations, in which the genders all can play well together -- in which we respect* each other  --  this is what we get in the real world: neo nazis punching women in public, on television in a political discussion, for all the world to see.  Nothing happens in a vacuum, we are all connected, from the ground water, to what we eat,  to the oxygen we breathe.

* It's clear that many men in these entertainment fields not only don't respect women -- any women -- but actively fear and hate them, find women disgusting if they don't find them ridiculous, and certainly cannot see women as people at all, much less people first, women second.  Do you want these people running your workplace? your bank? your school?  your church? your country?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Lara Croft: Why Will She Or Won't She Be Raped?

In the UK Guardian, an article about the Tomb Raider video game franchise by Mary Hamilton that states, among other things that sexual assault is lazy writing that too many writers employ far too often.

[ " The inclusion of the attempted rape scene raises some difficult questions. If the scene is playable, what exactly happens should the player fail? If it is not, why show it at all? Lara is already going through a lot – shipwreck, major injury, a friend's kidnapping, the threat of death – and adding sexual assault to the mix might just be over-egging the pudding.

Then there is the fact that rape is not a naturally occurring event like a rockfall, or a transformative one like a radioactive spider bite. In too much media, its use is a lazy shorthand that allows a writer to paint a bad guy as particularly bad, and a woman as particularly vulnerable (the genders are rarely reversed), without dealing with the consequences or meaning of such an act for any of the parties involved. That doesn't mean no storyteller or video game should ever tackle rape – of course they should, where a story demands it – but if the only reason to include sexual violence is to emphasise a woman's vulnerability or a man's evilness, then it's fair to question why a threat of murder is not enough.
The bigger question, in the case of Tomb Raider, is why the game's designers decided to make Lara Croft so vulnerable. In a recent interview with Kotaku, executive producer Ron Rosenberg said players want to protect Lara, and that the new game would break her down, put her through awful experiences, and make the players "root for her in a way that you might not root for a male character".
His statements take some unpacking, and for fans of the Tomb Raider series they're not encouraging. As a player, I don't remember having many problems projecting myself as Lara – and I don't particularly want an avatar in a game that needs protecting. Players aren't expected to want to protect Nathan Drake in Uncharted, or John Marston in Red Dead Redemption, or Max Payne – so why Lara? Rosenberg seems to suggest it's because she's female – and it's hard to see that as anything other than a sexist approach, an assumption that men can't lose themselves in stories with female protagonists and/or that female gamers simply don't exist.
He also says she's forced to suffer such horrors that she "literally turns into a cornered animal". I hope it turns out that Lara's been a werewolf all this time – but I suspect he means that her character and spirit come under such attack that she's reduced to fight-or-flight responses. The Lara Croft of previous games has generally been intelligent, witty, resourceful and ingenious, as well as athletic, strong and skilful. Lara has always been a pragmatic survivalist with a keen sense of adventure; to decide that she needs to be tortured in order to be able to kill goes against what we know of her history and personality so far.
The idea that Lara – like Samus from Metroid – should have an origin story in which she is weak in order to explain her strength is difficult to swallow. Male characters are generally permitted to be strong without needing a back story in which they are broken – why should female characters be different? Why do we need to protect Lara through an awful ordeal for her strength to make sense? Judging by the comments on Kotaku and elsewhere, I'm not the only one who shares these concerns. " ]

There is more, plus several pages of comments, as you would expect. Many of the comments come down to, rape-rapey rape big frackin' deal it's an action game what's your problem men get raped too lighten up get out in the real world find a job blahblahblah -- also as you would expect.

The link included at the top of this pull, " too much media" takes you to the site, Gaming As Woman: a collection of thoughts on womanhood and (mostly) analog gaming, to the entry titled, "Geek Media – What’s With All the Rape?" which is well worth reading.

It is a relief to see, finally, a pushback against the enormous amounts of rape, violence, humiliation and degradation meted out to women in entertainment media in general, and geek-nerd entertainment media in particular (because I foolishly had always assumed that sf/f sorts were smarter than that). I personally have been long deeply disturbed and deeply concerned by this, and finally gave up saying anything because I always got slammed by males, females and even feminists for objecting to the ever-increasing violence of our popular culture and how women in particular are victims of it. I was a spoilsport because it's so much fun!

It comes through to me as sensation as substitution for something happening, i.e. story telling. I have also long believed that constant and continuing scenes of violence blasted into our brains has an effect on how we think and how we behave, and is detrimental to our society on every level, just as big monoagribusiness degrades the planet and finally makes it incapable of producing food at all.

This may explain the depths of delight I've taken in the television series of The Good Wife*White Collar and Sherlock. Women -- no one, in fact -- is casually raped to make a motivation, no one is casually beheaded to throw out waves of blood with which to swag the screen. We depend instead on good, smart writing to make actual stories.

* If it is gorgeous kickass women that knock off your sox, I give you Kalinda Sharma, though it's her kickass brain and her poise that turns me on; I was a little disappointed in this season's finale, because it seems the showrunners even for The Good Wife couldn't resist making Kalinda all vulnerable and endangered.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Boing Boing Essay Series: Mind Blowing Movies

You can see all the entry essays so far in the series here. The writers include, but are not limited to, Cory Doctorow and Bruce Sterling.

This morning after el V had performed his daily BoingBoing perusal, he asked, "Right now off the top of your head, what's the most mind-blowing movie you've ever seen?"

Ahhhhhh .... Hmmm.

"Cleopatra," I said. "Not the greatest or best movie I've ever seen, but the most visually impressive, which is what they mean, probably? There's nothing like her entrances on her Nile barge and the Spectacle of Spectacles, her Introduction to Rome. Elizabeth Taylor carries a whole lot of what made that movie the most expensive at the time right where you can most appreciate it, on herself, as Taylor comfortably feels entitled to. Burton -- all the men -- look like the idiots they feel in togas, soldier tunics and sandals, and Burton emotes as usual as if he's on a nineteenth century theater's stage. But Taylor's herself in the cosmetics, the wigs, the jewelry, the costumes, the worhshipping crowd scenes, the sets. There is nothing remotely like it still, because it's before CGI, so it's all real! I probably appreciated it all the more because I saw it when I was more than an adult. And now I've even got the DVD."

We discussed this for a while. I would put The Ten Commandments in second place, because I saw it as a child with my mother at a special screening during Lent in the church basement. I was so excited by the creeping green fog that killed the wicked Egyptian pharaoh's son. Third would be El Cid, because castles in Spain and swords and Moors! Too bad about the Charleton Heston part. El V then asked how I'd felt about Ben-Hur.

"Not in the running," I said. "I've read the novel a hundred times at least as a kid and teenager and the movie left out all the good parts and my favorite character. Not to mention the Charleton Heston part. But to make up for Charleton Heston was The Vikings! With Kirk Douglas running the oars and going to Valhalla via the wolf pit -- and I saw it first with you, because you love it too! We've seen it together at least three times that I remember."

Next I'd add the three Godfather films, and particularly the third one, built on and around an opera, which most people seem to believe is an much inferior product. This is the only one el V saw -- predictably, he hated it, as I recall all too well. I've watched them solo ever since as I do almost all movies, because another person tends to confuse the experience. These films created a mythology for Italian American identity that has played out in U.S. culture and entertainment ever since, whether you have Italian background or not. To flip the script then on the Godfather, is American Gangster.

Finally, the animated Cuban music film, set in 50's and 60's Havana (the same Havana of Godfather 2!) and New York that was up for an Oscar in its category this year, Chico and Rita.

Making such a selection was nearly impossible for me since movies never blew my mind, so to speak, even as a child, though I loved watching them. The attitude of everyone around me growing up was that movies were recreation, which was an extension of of playing "cowboys" as all we farm kids did -- well maybe not the girls, except for me, and often I got the other girls to play too, though it was easier to get them to play pirates -- however, none of them would play spaceship with me, not one, but then, neither would any of the boys, except my wonderful brother!

As an adult, surrounded by people who not only take FILM seriously, as will  people who direct films, act in them, write them, produce them, compose music for them, I watch movies generally within a cultural, political and historical context. Thus, my abiding fascination with Westerns, which was the dominating movie context in the culture in which I grew up, as Westerns were from their own beginning which in turn was a primary part of the film industry's beginning and continued so for decades. Among my most memorable were The Searchers, Fist Full of Dollars, as well as the bonkers Johnnie Guitar and The Outlaw Josie Wales. So, still, probably, the most mind-blowing film for me in all contexts is the vile Birth of A Nation, because it is what it is, which has distorted our popular notion of national history via film, and particularly the western, ever since.

What movie would you name from off the top of your head as the most mindblowing you've watched?

Friday, June 8, 2012

*White Collar* Season 3, Disc 2 - 3

It's ironic that the most effective screwball comedy escapism thing on television (or the movies) is a show featuring the FBI.  Can this show become more of a New York City fairy tale, a city of such magic that it turns the FBI cuddly as well as stylish, glitzy, even elegant at times, particularly in how the writers make the cogs work together and come up with a new twist so very often.  All it takes evidently, judging by one of the themes of season 3, is vast wealth, or even, just the proximity to vast wealth, which is where this Art Crimes FBI investigative unit is located -- thus New York.

Where I'm up to in season 3 is the Grand Bromance Triangle -- Sara's gone, only another marcher in Neal's indistinguishable parade of female distractions, whose names, even, can't be recalled. I do agree with Sara though, that she had the best date ever the night of "The Veil." Such perfect screwball. However, in the long arc of things, what matters is, will Neal choose Mozzie, or will Neal choose Peter? Myself, I'd have a hard time choosing between the two, though perhaps I would lean to neither of the above.

"The Veil" episode, complete with the 'servants' hiding behind doors and coming in and going out at inconvienent times -- classic, yet so updated, and so perfectly within the context this series set up. Eliza Dushko has a guest role in "On the Fence," as a grown up Egyptologist. Sleekly beautiful you hardly recognize her as an adult, until at the end, busted for her criminal activity she reverts like a rubber band taken off its package to her old cocky strutting mannerisms, which are so age inappropriate now -- though she does seem to be trying really hard to keep those mannerisms under control. "Upper West Side Story," features two actors who have recurring roles on The Good Wife

Last night, er, in the episode "Upper West Side Story," Neal definitely chose Peter, but Mozzie is also present, seemingly having given up the treasure without qualms in order that Peter's Elizabeth be saved. One wonders if Mozzie relinquished ALL the treasure, because Mozzie always has a trick, and Neal did lie to him about the manifest -- ah the perils of lying to nearest and dearest. But Elizabeth saved herself, or just about, though Jones did need to shoot her guard.

The writers did a fantastic job with the stolen treasure all season, but now the treasure's found. And what will Mozzie do? Four more season 3 episodes still to go.We're at the point where Neal is reduced to even impersonating a high school (English!) teacher and helping kids make the right choices, showing his teacher Peter that he can be a member of stability instead a lord of chaos. Will Peter favor commuting Neal's sentence with this evidence of Neal's commitment to responsibility and nurturing. Can we enjoy Neal as a true blue FBI member rather than as a leashed convicted consultant?

Since Season 4 debuts in July I wonder how they will follow the twisty turns and reveals and changes from Season 3, and will they be successful? Or have we come to a natural conclusion, all We Are Family, kumbayah?  If so, it's got to be over and out, because no tension no conflict.

Falling asleep I did start thinking comparison and contrast between Sherlock and White Collar. I am certain the Sherlock writers have been watching White Collar too.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

*White Collar* Season 3, Disc 1

Season 3 released on dvd today, and the first disc duly arrived in my mailbox from netflix. That doesn't happen very much these days as netflix isn't servicing me the way it used to. But perhaps there weren't so many requests for White Collar as for, say, Boardwalk Empire?

In any case, it's lovely to be back with Neal and Mozzie, Peter and Elizabeth -- and finally, some more Satchmo! I've said this before, but this series shows NYC the most luxe and glamorous place to live and work. I love entering it again. :) Living here is is not the same as this show, needless to say.

The opening of the first episode involves a small plane my dad would have loved, and certainly could have piloted, and even owned. The episode's plot was a twisty one, exactly what one would hope for a season's first episode. The showrunners are continuing to build on strength and charm of the previous seasons* by foregrounding the ensemble character of the show. None of the protagonists, primaries or secondaries, are strong enough to carry a show alone. But all of them playing off each other in the milieu of the frothy escapism that White Collar is what works the show's charm. It's not often you get that as successfully as in White Collar (why yes, Hell on Wheels, I look at you, you wooden mess you -- also, Sherlock writers? check how they do codes right on White Collar).

So I got all wired up after long talk-meet with -- not Editor -- Publisher. It was all good, but whew, these things put my mind in knots and take my feets off ye olde ground! Some Neal and Mozzie and Peter and Elizabeth were just what I needed to get back down to earth. Besides, as has been the case for every sky spectacle this year, I was not able to view the Transit of Venus due to cloud pile-up  -- though many viewers did head for the western edge of our island, particularly the High Line Park, to see what they could see.

And now I'm missing Deborah Harkness at the Algonquin, but that's OK. I'm pretty worn out. And still haven't had dinner.**


* Season 4 of White Collar debuts in July.

** Had dinner now.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Louisiana Retrocession

One of those turning points of history that like most turning points is either forgotten or these days not even heard of.

The deluges returned yesterday, sadly.  The sun's just come out now for a bit.  Errands need to be done, but instead I'm messing about with the Retrocession  It's almost like messing about with boats, except instead of Ratty you have Toussaint, and instead of Toad you have Napoleon and instead of Weasels, Stoats and Ferrets you have Tallyrand. We also have Josephine, who might possibly be Pan? No, don't thinks so.  And who, pray tell are Adams, Jefferson and Madison?  The ragtag and bobtail?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Yet the NYT Continues to Bombard Me With Bewildered Inquiries As To Why I Do Not Give Them Money!

Da menz Invented the Innernetz!  The NYT sez so!   By Xeni Jardin on Boing Boing.


[ " the opening graf (bold-ing, mine):

MEN invented the Internet. And not just any men. Men with pocket protectors. Men who idolized Mr. Spock and cried when Steve Jobs died. Nerds. Geeks. Give them their due. Without men, we would never know what our friends were doing five minutes ago.
You guys, ladies suck at technology and the New York Times is ON IT.
Radia "Mother of the Internet" Perlman and the ghosts of RADM Grace HopperAda Lovelace and every woman who worked in technology for the past 150 years frown upon you, sir. Women may have been invisible, but the work we did laid the groundwork for more visible advancements now credited to more famous men.
"Men are credited with inventing the internet." There. Fixed it for you.
I ragequit this article like, 10 times, and couldn't get past that awful opening line. But eventually, I managed to put down my frying pan and unbunch my apron, and I sat down on my princess tuffet and asked a man to help me read the whole thing. " ]

It goes on from there.

Friday, June 1, 2012

I Must Tell You About The Mothers Who Copulate With Donkeys! + *Kiss You Down South*

Our friend, Elijah Wald, has his new book just out, The Dozens: A History of Rap's Mama. Among the illustrations, getting a whole page to itself, and a long caption, is the Stela of Great Chief Of Militia Nesdjehuti c. 725 BC) reads (right to left)

[ "A donkey shall copulate with him, a donkey shall copulate with his wife, his wife shall copulate with his child." The Egyptian term for copulate was n-k, cognate with the Arabic nik, whence the French nique, as in nique ta mére. The concept survves in Swahili, mama yako anatombwa na punda, "Your mother copulates with a donkey," quoted in the filmCotton Comes to Harlem. (Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford. Tanslation by Jac. J. Janssen.) " ]

And, why yes, if you should ask, el V is credited in the acknowledgments -- his kind of book fo shu! Actually, it is wonderful, and makes great reading aloud, which of course it would, the subject being what it is. Eiijah's books are always great -- his previous title was, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock and Roll, a valuable and entertaining study of the Billboard Number One hits from the time it began. You can just hear Elijah chortling away as he writes all those Bad Words on every page and knowing that the Oxford University Press will be publishing them.

El V's having a photo shoot of self, hat and guitar for Kiss You Down South's cover art.  Why yes, the album - cd - whatever is finally coming out!