". . . 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, July 28, 2012

Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Stoppard, Ford Madox Ford & ! TREME!

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the protagonist of Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End, adapted for a 5 part BBC2 series by Tom Stoppard. This looks like the sort of quality that shows in comparison Downton Abbey for the shoddy that it is. For one thing Ford Madox Ford lived through what he's writing about. Julian Fellows just sort of makes up what he sort of thinks is the era his crew writes about. Of course Downton Abbey will continue to garner all sorts of awards and Parade's End will be as ignored as is David Simon's Treme.*

* Season 3 premieres September 23rd! Trailers many places, here's one place.

Additionally -- it looks like we're going to get to be in New Orleans about four times this fall, winter and spring!  Gads, I'm missing New Orleans.  Just that teeny taste from the Treme trailer made me go all, "I must be there now!

I wore a Mardi Gras colors sparkle fleur de lis t-shirt obtained some time ago in the French Market on my walk to back therapy on Thursday. And I tell you, that walk up there and back at 12:30 felt as hot and humid as New Orleans herself. Three different fellows pointed at my shirt and -- did not yell, but spoke sort of breathlessly -- "New Orleans."  When I got to the therapy gym one of the therapists also recognized it as the New Orleans symbol.  He'd been there for the first time during Mardi Gras this year.  He asked me if I'd ever heard Rebirth play ....  When he showed me photos on his phone of his time in NO, among them was not only his favorite po'boy, but of the sign for Lafitte's, his favorite NO bar.  He had no idea who Jean Lafitte was though. Nor had he watched HBO Treme.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Henry VIII Plays *21st Century Dracula: London Entrepreneur*

NBC orders ‘Dracula’ drama starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers

The ten part series will go straight to series shooting -- no pilot -- produced by the same people who bring us the inexplicably praised Downton Abbey, i.e. bad writing, bad plotting, bad acting.

[ " The “cool new version,” as Greenblatt described the series, introduces Dracula as he arrives in London, posing as an American entrepreneur who maintains that he wants to bring modern science to Victorian society. In reality, he hopes to wreak revenge on the people who ruined his life centuries earlier. There’s only one circumstance that can potentially thwart his plan: Dracula falls hopelessly in love with a woman who seems to be a reincarnation of his dead wife. " ]

According to the NBC chairman, the series will bring an HBO Tudors' sensibility to Dracula, i.e. loads of nekkid women, degrading sex and violence, and blood, blood, blood. Wait -- doesn't that sound like True Blood? So when you've got True Blood already why do it again? O, wait, the poor woman's True Blood, i.e. network teevee, meaning also no copyright and license fees for the material, title, or names, unlike for that Suuucky thang.

Personally? I'd say that NBC is a day late and a dollar short with this vampire thang. OTOH, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who has been playing creepy sociopathic pervs since childhood already -- i.e. the assassin for no reason of Michael Collins in the 1996 eponymous film of Irish politics, and the 1999 Ride With the Devil pro-slavery and csa thug crew film -- which, of course includes a slave loyal unto death to his master -- set in Kansas-Missouri during the Civil War.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Today Is Our Anniversary

I'm here.

He's there.

But he's getting on a plane in an hour to go to Heathrow, and then tomorrow afternoon he'll be here.


The first thing he must do at getting home is put together a mix of New Orleans music for Alexander Cockburn's funeral. Which is hoped to be on Saturday, if the body can be shipped back here from Germany by then.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

*America's Great Debate* Texas, New Mexico, the U.S. Civil War

The years of my young adulthood were lived in New Mexico. One of the first things this born and bred midwesterner learned when moving to the southwest was that Texas was the Evil Empire, and her inhabitants were to be given no welcome anywhere because their objective was to make New Mexico Texas. Texas and Texans were the enemy. The proof of this was how Texans had taken over the valuable purse quarter horse races and prizes of Ruidoso Downs. This was only one of the reasons that southeastern New Mexico, part of the High Plains, or the Llano, was referred to at times by the further north New Mexicans as "Little Texas." In those days I wasn't aware of the many other reasons for the lcoal dislike of Texas, which reach much further back into our national history, history from before either the state in which I was born or New Mexico were states, but only territories. Though New Mexico claimed statehood even later (1912) than North Dakota (1889), the southern U.S.A. was greedy for the region by the close of the 1830's.

It's a complicated tale. East Texas was settled early by slaveholders out of Louisiana and other cotton growing southern states, notably Andrew Jackson's Tennessee. Sam Houston was among the many Tennesseans who hoped to put their failures in the home state behind them by starting over in Texas. As well as Indian Removal, taking the Floridas from the Brits, and the destruction of the Bank of the United States, gaining Texas was Andrew Jackson's goal. Texas as a state would be a slave state adding power to the southern slave state coalition, and a state focused on 'western state' interests, that Jackson and his like-minded southern power brokers envisioned for Tennessee and Kentucky. Among those interests was access and dominance of the Pacific coast, i.e. California. California had to be added to the US flag as a slave not free soil state; a slave state California would give the south and the west direct access to the Asian trade -- and control of California's gold. Jackson, recall, was a specie only man, who regarded currency as the devil's work. Therefore, to perfect Jackson's, i.e. God's will and work, California had to belong to the South.The road to owning California for the southern states, and later, when the War came, was via Texas, and then New Mexico -- which at this earlier point also included what became the state of Arizona in 1912, along with New Mexico.

See how inter-connected all this history is, all driving to the Civil War, all this history which by-and-large isn't taught in history classes. By-and-large we ignore most of U.S. history between the Louisiana Purchase and Lincoln's election. Then we jump to Fort Sumter and the Civil War, and all those glorious bloody battles.

Louisiana Purchase 1803 -- Jackson and many others insist that Texas is part of the Purchase; Mexico refuses this claim of its territory.

Texas Revolution against Mexico 1836 -- results in the Republic of Texas

Before the Mexican - American War, Texans routinely looted the trade between lower Mexico and Santa Fe, and the lucrative trade along the Santa Fe Trail between Missouri and Santa Fe. The excuse was that this was part of the Texas Republic, and Republic was not only frackin' broke, it was deeply in debt. (So much for what grand economic sense it was for a region to have no federal government, no industry, no trade, and only slave labor cash crop agriculture and all open carry weapons all the time by everyone.)

Thus the appropriately named Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, a South Carolinian who succeeded Sam Houston as the Texas Republic's second president, was convinced that Annexation would reduce Texas to undeserved vassalage to the USA. Tariffs! Taxes! Justice system! He chose, instead, a war that would seize all Mexico's territory between the Sabine River to the Pacific Ocean for Texas, making Texas a continental power in its own right. He sent a 300 man force to Santa Fe as the first step. Need we say it was a complete fiasco, before they got anywhere near Santa Fe? When the few survivors finally reached Santa Fe, they -- in the grand tradition of U.S. sense of its great goodness in every engagement of conquest -- expected to be greeted as heroes. Instead the Santa Fe authorities sent them as prisoners of war to Mexico City. In retaliation (1841) Texans launched another invasion of Mexican territory with 1200 militia, who raped, murdered, pillaged and burned up and down the territory. But they didn't get to Santa Fe.
Texas Annexation April 1845 -- The U.S. took Texas because Texas threatened to partner with Britain -- imagine how that would sit with Old Hickory, who hated them with a mighty passion and not only because of the Floridas. Texas accepted annexation partly to have the U.S. government to assume its massive debt load -- and help against the Indians who also hated Texans -- also, not incidently, as the pretext of war against Mexico, which objected to its territory being taken over by the U.S. --and having Texas institute slavery in those lands. Mexico was a non-slave nation, imagine that.Texas, state or Republic, claimed its boundaries included New Mexico, and all the way up into Colorado, all Mexican territory, and Mexico was an interloper -- not to mention slave stealer, i.e. slaves escaped to Mexico were free.

Andrew Jackson dies 1845 -- not quite living long enough to see Texas officially part of the United States

Texas statehood December1845

Mexican - American War 1846 - 1848 -- brought the southwestern territories, which Texas and many other southerners declared were all part of Texas, much as many Virginians still liked in their dreams to claim most of North America to the Pacific according to their interpretation of the old Virginia Company charter, which King James I vacated (1625). What we also acquired with this vast territory from Mexico was the failed-to-pass-Senate-several-times, the Wilmot Proviso which declared "neither slavery nor any involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any territory acquired in the war against Mexico." The Proviso began as a rider to an appropriations bill early in the Mexican- American war as part of what might have enabled peace negotiations. As mentioned, the Wilmot Proviso failed to pass in the Senate in several incarnations, defeated by the slaveholding states' coalition. However, the Wilmot Proviso remained vividly invoked by the memories of all honorable southerners, as the opening attack upon their rights, perogatives and entitlements as honorable southerners, the opening wedge to destroy them, ready to leap to the attack within any economic and territorial proposal that did not explicitly uphold and expand the rights to slaves, slavery and the slave trade.

Texas Governor George T. Wood 1848 -- impatient with how President Polk and the government were moving in D.C. sent a lawyer, Spruce Baird, to carry his writ of jurisdiction to Santa Fe. Due to Baird's own primary interest in getting rich and general incapacity (he didn't speak Spanish), the New Mexican authorities refusal to recognize such a writ (they were Mexicans, for pete's sake!) and the near impossibility of communications over such distances in such a landscape at the time, the Baird mission failed.

Back in D.C, we have President Zachary Taylor. He had developed a distaste for and distrust of Texans as the most troublesome loose cannons -- in the Mexican-American War (which Taylor, like the later President Grant, believed was declared only for the sake of the slaveholders in general and the Texas slaveholders in particular). He declared the blood thirsty undisciplined Texas Rangers caused him more trouble than the Mexican army, pillaging and murdering as they did, up and down the country (evidently their favorite form of activity). President Taylor had even less respect for Texas's imperial claims to these territories. Recall this is the same era in which Taylor had to pull the Mississippi governor's Cuban filibuster ship from the fire of Spanish warships down in Pensacola. (The MS gub also expected his invasion forces to be met with Cuban flowers of joy as liberators, whereas the invasion was successfully resisted with the people's guns, hostility and aggression -- and that was before the Cuban army and navy arrived.)

Since their bids to take over New Mexico were thwarted and refused the Texans whipped themselves into a racist frenzy that declared the brown "greaser" New Mexicans were in rebellion against them, thereby besmirching their honor that could be restored only by bloody war. In full-blown national political crisis now, Texas howled for secession, and the seizure by force of the Territories. There were those in states like Louisiana, who were willing to provide aid and assistance to make it possible. Ironically it was Calhoun who brought these plans to an end, lobbying and cajoling and preaching non-stop to all the southerners that if Texas seceded -- losing its senators and representatives -- their own power in the United States would be endangered, and thus so would be slavery.

Even this cursory run-down explains why the dislike and distrust of Texas runs so deep in New Mexicans' historical dna. When one comes to this history fresh it's mind-boggling to see in such detail how deeply slavery was embedded in the history of even regions like New Mexico that are not really hospitable to slave labor cash crops -- but only if one believes that slavery was only about growing cotton -- which it wasn't, which is why slavery wasn't going to 'just wither away in due course,' and why we had a civil war over slavery, not over states rights or tariffs or U.S. invasion of the south -- they invaded the north first with the Fugitive Slave Act (1850), with the shooting invasion of the Kansas-Nebraska territory out of Louisiana and Missouri, and taking Fort Sumter.

Texas secedes from the USA and joins the CSA 1861 -- its first order of business, to invade New Mexico and from there realize Texas and the southern states old objective, to take California for slavery. But then there was the Texas debacle in New Mexico we know as the Battle of Glorietta Pass (March, 1862).

All these matters and many more are presented in granularity in Fergus M. Bordewich's first-rate history, America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas and the Compromise That Preserved the Union (2012), from Simon & Schuster.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hampers of Champers & *America's Great Debate*

When I got up this AM, sometime around 7, it was already 83 degrees.

Every other person you encounter is eating ice cream in some form and / or drinking something cold from a huge container. I noticed this yesterday on my way to therapy, which meant I was on the streets between 12:30 and 3:30 PM. It's that hot, that on a single block, I encountered 5 mango sellers -- they peel and carve up the mangoes right there -- if they're lucky they have a small umbrella over their improvised stand -- nope, not licensed vendors. Some of them have the skill to do so creatively and afix their fancifully sculpted mango upon a stick as well, rather than put the slices in a landfill choking plastic container. Naturally, there are the weather situational sellers of bottled water out of his or her cooler, right by the exit-entrance to the subway, on the shaded side of the street. I’m admiring these people who are determined to make a dollar however they can, no matter what the weather, and who use the weather to make a dollar.

And I'm on the bed, with icepacks, according to the back therapist's decreed 24 hour bed rest. Fortunately it is so hot that the ice packs are fine, and Bordewich, Fergus M. (2012) America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union. Simon & Schuster, New York is so interesting, and I can pull over the laptop and take notes when notes need to be taken. Yes, I can make lemonade! Did you realize that in 1850, the governor of Mississippi, John Quitman, took off on a filibuster to invade and annex Cuba? The Cubans were guaranteed to meet their U.S. liberators with cheers and flowers as they brought the permanance of slavery in perpetuity to their island. As has happened almost always, however, when U.S. invading forces are expecting to be greeted with joy that they are bringing U.S. overlordship liberation, the ungrateful population shoots at them instead. They were forced to flee Spanish warships on their tail right into the bay of Pensacola, where obeying the reluctant orders of President Taylor, their fat was pulled from the fire of the Spanish warship. For which, naturally, President Taylor was roundly condemned by the likes of Senator Yulee (whose father made a fortune in Cuban sugar, and who would be Jefferson Davis's VP) "... for trampling first upon the Constitution, then on Cuba's desire for freedom -- and finally on what he considered the right of Americans to invade their neighbors whenever they wished."

This is the same era in which is set part I of the made-for-television Champagne Charlie (1989), starring Hugh Grant as Charles Heidsieck, who supposedly brought his family's champagne to the U.S. just prior to the Civil War. I don't know about that. But what none of the descriptions include is that he's prompted to do so by a burning passion for Megan Gallagher, er, the Southern Belle  something-or-other, a Louisiana slave plantation owner, I treat "my people" like family how dare you even think I am a bad person for owning slaves I'll shoot the first man who says I am and I'm damned good shot! and incidentally is a confederate spy before there is a Confederacy, and is a gunrunner with the additional mission to seduce the French gummit to declare itself for the Not Yet Seceded Confederate States of America. Naturally the southerners are so Good, so Chivalrous, so Charming, and they are Honorable like the French, unlike those money-grubbing Yankees, and they understand Champagne! Why, honee, I declah -- when Hugh Grant gets captured by the dirty Yankees outside of Richmond when he was innocently spying on behalf of his sweetheart for the CSA, while bringin' along hampers of champers, he and his fellow Confederate soldiers, who incidentally are all black men,  are put in a dirty Yankee prison, and the black confederate soldiers are viciously whipped by the dirty Yankee Federals for no reason except that they are rotten filthy bastards who like to treat our people with cruelty just for fun. Also, there is another plot, and another girl, played by an actress conveniently also named Megan, back in France, and, well, I don't know, but it just was goin' on and on and on, and I kept reading America's Great Debate instead. The take-away lesson here, is, once again, neither the English nor the French have real understanding about what the U.S. Civil War was, or what was at stake, or indeed, even that New Orleans and Richmond are very different cultures and a long way away from each other.*

So that was a bust -- back to netflix Champagne Charlie goes. My neighbor put it the mailbox this morning.

* Unfairly maligning the Brits in this case (other than Hugh Grant); this was a French-Canadian television production.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

*The Song of Achilles* and *Equal to the Sun*

Miller, Madeline. (2012) The Song of Achilles. Ecco-Harper Collins, New York.
Miller teaches and tutors latin and greek to high school students -- and presuably her students are like M, the son of our dear friends, P and K -- who fell in love with both latin and greek in high school. Before that he was in love with Spanish. At Yale now, he's in love with German.

Illustrative of her spare yet evocative style, by which the author brings the world of the gods into the every day, is this, from the chapter in which the young Achilles and Patroclus first are met by their tutor, the famous, immortal centaur, Chiron. He orders the boys to get on his back, to carry them on steep, long climb to his mountain cave:

Achilles twisted back to look me, grinning.
We climbed higher still, and the centaur swished his great black tail, swatting flies for all of us. 

I enjoyed and admired this novel very much.

Another historical novel I'm currently enjoying is

Amirrezvani, Anita. (2012) Equal of the Sun. Scribner, New York.
A contemporary of Elizabeth I, in the mid-16th century the Ottoman princess Princess Pari Khan Khanoom Safavi, becomes Persia-Iran's power broker upon the death of the Shah, her father, whose favorite she was. She is the one who knows all, though only 14 years old. She strategizes and administrates among the factions to choose the half brother she wishes to take the throne. This brother is the best of them (though it seems none of them approach the virtue she and her dad Shah father view as the proper way to govern), but Isma'il is the one who will work with her. The Princess is an historical figure. This novel is narrated by her intelligence officer, the eunuch, Agha Javhar. She lived only 30 years; the half brother Isma’il Shah was assassinated by a faction – or, it was speculated, by Princess Pari herself; Princess Pari was assassinated by another half-brother and his wife a few months later.

The author, an adjunct prof at the California College of the Arts - San Francisco, includes a splendid reading list of books and articles that cover women, the period and the region. Two of the most enlightening are:

Zarinebaf-Shahr, Fariba. "Economic Activities of Safavid Women in the Shrine City of Ardabil." Iranian Studies 31, no.2 (Spring 1998)

and --

Matthee, Rudi. "Prostitutes, Courtesans, and Dancing Girls: Women Entertainers in Safavid Iran." Iran and Beyond: Essays in Middle Eastern History in Honor of Nikki R. Keddie. Edited by Rudi Matthee and Beth Varon. Casta Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 2000.

For writers such as these, history isn't a matter of plunder and appropriation, as is so much that passes these days as historical fiction or historical romance or historical fantasy, mystery and science fiction. Both of these novelists respect and understand their subjects and the research materials -- and contribute to both. Neither of these novelists would sneer that reading and writing history, as non-fiction or as fiction, is "splashing around in the bathtub of  history."

Joy Harjo Tribute

Harjo's presence and her work were as much a part of my interior landscape in the years I lived in New Mexico as were the many breathtakingly beautiful and often deadly and brutal landscapes of the region itself. It's a signature of where my work in history has taken me, perhaps, with such a concentration on the matters of slavery and the lead up to the Civil War era, that Joy Harjo hasn't crossed my mind in quite a while. Therefore I'm most grateful to the Racialicious blog for putting her front and center today, here.

There are videos. But best of all, there's an excerpt from and a link to the full poem of Harjo's "She Had Some Horses," a poem that continues to have more meaning for me -- and surely many others -- as I journey through the variety of phases that living a life is. As Racialicious warns, it may trigger some because there are images of sexual violence in this poem.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

*White Collar* Season 4 Dishalicious Ep. 1 "Wanted"

There's a photo gallery of screen shots of Neal on get-away semitropical island included at the bottom of the season 4 premiere episode recap -- i.e. spoilers. (I was happy to read the spoilers as I won't see season 4 until it comes out next year on dvd, and I am one of those that spoilers don't spoil her fun, because, among other reasons, what others focus on generally turns out not to be what's significant from my perspective.)

So don't go there if you want not spoilers. But you can scroll right down to the bottom to click on Photo Gallery without being spoiled, except aesthetically. We all deserve aesthetic spoiling. White Collar manages to be exciting, sexy. fun and even romantic, without a hint of creepiness, sleaze or stupification. This may be because White Collar's underlying light-heartedness ultimately knits together the various episodes over a season, accompanied by the show's focus on the loyalties and affections that bind the various characters from primaries to secondaries.

Upon reflection, that latter may really be it. The camera and writers seem equally to be part of the loyalty and affection, from whence comes respect, as necessary in a light entertainment as in a somber one. Most entertainment folks don't respect themselves, much less each other, so they don't respect the audience or their on-screen figures -- and the audience doesn't respect itself -- thus the degradation, humiliation and psychic violation of us all, so prevalent these days in all types of entertainments. I don't know certainly, of course.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Woody Guthrie's Lost Novel - *House of Dust*

Full story here at the UK Guardian. 

A novel by folk singer Woody Guthrie will be published next year, with help from Johnny Depp. House of Earth, which Guthrie finished in 1947 but never released, is being edited by Depp and author Douglas Brinkley.

Depp and Brinkley revealed their plans in a new essay for the New York Times Book Review. House of Earth is Guthrie's only "fully realised" novel, they said, influenced by his experiences in America's Dust Bowl, as well as John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Tracing the story of Tike and Ella May Hamlin, "hardscrabble farmers" in Texas, it is a "searing portrait of the Panhandle and its marginalised Great Depression residents". Despite a slightly esoteric focus on the importance of adobe housing, House of Earth also includes graphic sex, including "a scorching lovemaking scene on a hay bale".
Yes! It being Woody Guthrie, there is music history involved!

At the time of its writing, Guthrie apparently shared House of Earth's first chapter with musicologist Alan Lomax, who called it "quite simply the best material I'd ever seen written about that section of the country". But Guthrie only showed the finished manuscript to one person, film-maker Irving Lerner, and it languished for decades in a Coney Island closet. After learning of its existence in the late 90s, Brinkley finally tracked down the manuscript last year, with help from Guthrie's daughter, Nora. 
That Alan Lomax -- in everything remotely concerned with popular music for his entire run! But -- having sex on a -- hay bale? One would think that Mr. Gutherie, at least, would know the effects upon the epidermis of bare skin frictioning on a hay bale, just like the effect of horse hair on the skin when riding bareassed.

However, could this be a sign, blowin' in the wind, pointing to a change in popular national consciousness?  From the NY Times essay (link above):

... after finishing the novel in 1947, Guthrie put the manuscript away and concentrated on songwriting. He may have sensed the novel could be considered both passé (post-New Deal writing was frowned upon by cold-war-era critics) and ahead of its time (graphic sex). His fertility cycle prose was so edgy that publication was unlikely. And his use of an overdrawn hillbilly dialogue would have found little embrace in New York literary circles. ... 

Yet the book’s architectural intensity makes it a minormasterpiece. When we shared the finished novel with Bob Dylan, he was blown away, “surprised by the genius,” he said, of the prose. At heart, “House of Earth” is a meditation about how poor people search for love and meaning in a corrupt world, one in which the rich have lost their moral compasses. Even though the backdrop is the washed-out agricultural fields of Texas, the novel could just as easily be set in a refugee camp in Sudan or a shantytown in Haiti.

Monday, July 9, 2012

M'banza Kongo

Which is where el V is currently.  And happy as a clam in whatever clams are happy in!  Its air is clean, it's in the mountains, he's working with a great scholar at the Kongo Kingdom Museum there -- it's everything he dreamed it would be, but better.

It is also bare bones, i.e. not easy.  He's only the second scholar to ever go there, second after BM, who has been coming for years, who has walked all of Angola starting with the war when South Africa attempted to annex Angola for its own apartheid exploitation. Fortunately, this is an area where there are few if any land mines. BM really knows this country. So much is being lost, and will be gone forever within 3 or 4 years, when these seniors who are still playing instruments that people elsewhere have no idea exist.

These google images give a sense of where it is and what it is like.

Here's some history of the region.

I cannot post photos as he's currently sans a computer and connection.  We are still able to skype daily, at the very least.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

History Has Lost A Great Personage

As you can see from the quote at the top of Fox Home, the loss of this great historian feels deeply personal.

Forwarded via Voices From Haiti:

[ "

Dr. Michel-Rolph Trouillot & Haiti’s Gold Rush
Jul 07, 2012 ~ Written by voicesfromhaiti

Every year at the big award ceremonies there’s a special block of time reserved for stars whose blindingly brilliant lights have been extinguished. A larger-than-life screen usually hangs above the audience. Everyone looks skyward—to view the lineup of mind-blowing talent that once seemed so formidable, if not immortal. As audience members blink back tears, everyone secretly wonders when their turn will come to be “honored” in this way. Will their picture even make it to the sky-screen? Will someone accidentally forget to include them in the lineup? Who will mourn their passing? Will anyone beside close family members even remember their contribution? Will anyone–especially strangers–really, really care?

“Haiti lost one of the greatest men who ever lived,” said Leslie H. of Professor Michel Rolph Trioullot who passed away July 6, 2012. “He is revered among anthropologists worldwide. His book, Silencing the Past, is like a sacred text on college campuses. . .”

M.C. said: “What bothers me about Prof. Trouillot’s passing is that I never had a chance to tell him in person how his writings changed my life. I should have told him that, you know. But I didn’t want to bother him. Iwanted to have something important to say when I approached him. Everyone who knew Prof. Trouillot says he was as generous and giving as he was brilliant. I should have told him that his writing changed the course of my entire life.”

Sabine B. said, “My heart breaks now because Haiti has lost a giant among thinkers. I mourn, also, because there are so many people out there who don’t even know they should be mourning. They don’t even know the real significance of this loss.”

On the other side of the ocean, the island from which Dr. Michel Rolph Trouillot came is busy being reconstructed. Everyone is figuring out ways to harvest fruit from all the trees that have yet to be planted. While all the super-sizing of Haiti continues without a break, while investors rush to scrape the gold mines clean, let us heed Dr. Trouillot’s words and remember not to silence the past. Let us use the ropes of the past to ring the bell of Haiti’s real future.

Remember, also, that Haiti’s greatest treasures reside not in the mines but in the minds of our thinkers, especially our elders. The gold they possess in abundance is available, if we would only ask. First, however, we must recognize, honor, and respect our elders. Respekte grandmoun yo! The treasures they carry inside their heads are priceless. Acknowledge, appreciate, and celebrate our elders now, lest– against their own will–they take all the gold with them.

Rest in perfect peace, Dr. Trouillot. VoicesfromHaiti celebrates your immeasurable contributions to Haiti and the world. We send our sincere condolences to those who have only begun to feel the sting of your passing.

(c) VoicesfromHaiti/Share Widely.

Selected works of Dr. Michel-Rolph Trouillot:

1977 Ti difé boulé sou Istoua Ayiti. New York: Koléksion Lakansièl.
1988 Peasants and Capital: Dominica in the World Economy. Johns Hopkins University Press.
1990 Haiti: State against Nation. The Origins and Legacy of Duvalierism. Monthly Review Press.
1995 Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Beacon Press.
2003 Global Transformations: Anthropology and the Modern World. Palgrave


I did not know Dr. Trouillot personally, but I had the good fortune of having my writing appear alongside his in an anthology called Mozayik, edited by another great mind who passed away earlier this year: Roger Savain.

Please visit the following links for more on this national treasure.

Bob Corbett reviewed Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History in 1996

Nadève Ménard and Régine Michelle Jean-Charles’s invite tributes, recollections, and words you might wish to share about Dr. Trouillot on " ]

NPR Harkeness Interview Yesterday -*All Things Considered*

It came on late in in All Things Considered while I was drying my hair in preparation for meeting my friend CC for dinner and another viewing of Brave. :)

I had wondered why Neda Ulaby was interviewing me when she could be interviewing Harkness. Well, she did interview Harkness, almost exclusively, plus a bit from a reading by Harkness reading from Discovery, I believe -- I was listening over the hairdryer, rushing to make the date. Harkness was perfectly NPR pitched, too. Gads, Ulaby is good at what she does.

They didn't give much time to Shadow of Night, which is what we talked about mostly in the studio. I'm in it with only a couple of lines. Which is all to the good, because my voice is crackly from the coughing caused by the pollution and pollen and I was so conscious of this during entire 40 + minute session at the studio.

For what it's worth, if you want to check it out, which you might if you like these books, you can read the transcript, or hear the segment, here.

Ned received e-mail in Angola about it from people spread around the country who had heard it. The wonders of our world. :)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

*Copper* BBC America Premieres August

From Levinson and Fontana, who brought us Homicide, from which series David Simon learned his chops for The Wire and Treme, as well as the European television series last year of Borgia: Faith and Fear a French-German historical drama television series (not the same as Showtime's The Borgias).

I saw the trailer for Copper at the Sunshine Theater here, last weekend, when I went to see Beasts of the Southern Wild -- this despite it being a BBC America television series.  Interesting that the trailer for a television series was shown in a movie theater, though perhaps that is part of the Sunshine's mission, which shows indies, quirky films, and lots and lots of festival winners and entrants.  The audience at the Sunshine leans heavily to film pros, film students, historians, critics and wannabes.  This is a city in which film and television is an industry and  a favorite story location.

Which is where Copper is located -- here in New York City, after the Civil War. What a place NYC was then!  Ask Teddy Roosevelt. Well, NYC was what a place before the Waw and during the Waw too. Ask Martin Scorsese.

So, here we go: how would you read this description of the series?

[ " It’s hard to walk a straight line in a crooked townFrom Academy Award®-winner Barry Levinson and Emmy® Award-winner Tom Fontana, “Copper” is a gripping crime drama series set in 1860s New York City. Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones, “MI-5″), an Irish-American former boxer turned cop, returns from the Civil War to find his wife missing and his daughter dead. As he patrols the streets of New York’s notorious Five Points neighborhood, he seeks the truth about what happened to his family with the help of two wartime friends: the wayward son of a wealthy industrialist, and a talented African-American doctor. The three men share a secret from their experience in battle that links their lives forever. " ]

Notice that the McGuffin, the plot chasis,  the driving force, depending on your vocabulary for such things is the favorite cliche, " ... returns from the Civil War to find his wife missing and his daughter dead. "

This could be a turning on the head of movies and series like Hell on Wheels, in which it is always a confederate who returns home from war and finds his wife raped-murdered and his children merely murdered, and thus vengeance sends him out to search the West, where, it being so small he always does run into the responsible parties, or at least some of them or some of them who are partially responsible, while chasing forever the numero uno Big Bad Guy.  Or it's merely the fridging of the girlfriend, the favorite lazy way to get backstory and motivation.

Being who these guys are and their track record, I'm hoping / expecting it's the latter.  Copper: period historical of my city, in an era of one of my deep periods and places of study, and, yes, that it's Fontana and Levinson.

In Luanda Someone Is Thinking of Me

First Skype call finally accomplished.

He described what it was like to fly along the Med coast from Tunisia, and then south.  He could feel the topography changes the plane encountered, from desert, to mountains, to jungle, to plateau.  This was topographical geography felt in one's body, not political geography.  This was a precious experience for one who has taught the geography of Africa.

I feel better now that we made voice contact.

Since he's gone for so long I've embarked on deep housecleaning.

Also writing / work resumes after the prolonged anxiety and chaos around this particularly mission's journey. I'm still anxious, but not so much now.