". . . 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

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Isaac's Toll Much Great Than Expected From a Cat 1 Hurricane

Isaac came ashore a category 1 storm, but its toll on the northern Gulf coast has exceeded what one might expect from a “low-end” hurricane. Its large size helped it spread vast quantities of water ashore - both from the ocean and the sky. Not to mention it has spawned numerous tornadoes and led to hundreds of thousands of power outages.
New Orleans
*Average rainfall totals around New Orleans have been in the 9-12” range.
* New Orleans International Airport has officially received 9.69” and it’s still raining.
* The 7.86” New Orleans International Airport received Wednesday set a daily rainfall record shattering the 4.5” mark established during Katrina in 2005. And it’s more than the city averages in an entire month (5.98”)
* The National Hurricane Center said last night an unofficial total of 18.35” was reported in Gretna, Louisiana
Here are some other totals measured from around the Crescent City:
Audubon Park: 11.19” (through Wednesday)
New Orleans City Hall: 11.5”
* The bulls-eye for extreme rainfall has occurred around Pascagoula where around 20” of rain has fallen according to two WeatherBug stations there which have recorded 21.37 and 17.74”. Severe flooding has been reported in that area - not to mention a tornado touched down in the vicinity.
* Some other totals from MS:
Gulfport: 9.59” (through Wednesday)
Waveland: 8.69”
Biloxi: 4.61” (WeatherBug report)
*Generally 2-5” fell along the coast of Alabama to the western panhandle of Florida. Here are a few totals:
Mobile Airport: 4.67”
Pensacola (Fl): 2-3”
Total output
* The Weather Channel’s Greg Forbes estimates Isaac will produce 23.5 trillion gallons of rain water or enough to fill 35.6 million swimming pools.
Storm surge
* Generally speaking, the highest storm surge levels were around 8-10 feet in southeast Louisiana and coastal Mississippi.
* Via Jeff Masters:
“The peak 11.06′ storm surge at 1:30 am EDT this morning at Shell Beach, which is in Lake Borgne, 20 miles southeast of New Orleans, exceeded the 9.5′ surge recorded there during Category 2 Hurricane Gustav of 2008. In general, the storm surge heights from Isaac have been more characteristic of a strong Category 2 hurricane, rather than the weak Category 1 hurricane”
Wind gusts
* reports a wind gust to 113 mph was clocked in Belle Chasse, southeast of New Orleans along the Mississippi river.
* Wind has gusted to at least 30 mph for 51 straight hours at New Orleans International Airport
* The peak wind gust at New Orleans International Airport was 68 mph recorded at 4 and 5 a.m. Wednesday morning
* The WeatherBug network clocked a gust to 90 mph at East Jefferson General Hospital just to the northwest of downtown New Orleans
Tornadoes and tornado warnings
* NOAA issued 47 tornado warnings Wednesday and received 9 tornado reports
* NOAA has already issued nearly 40 tornado warnings this morning and received at least 3 reports
Power outages
* The storm knocked power out to nearly 700,000 customers in southern Louisiana as of this morning (source: New Orleans Times-Picayune)
* 150,000 customers were without power in Mississippi (source: Clario n Ledger)
Potential economic cost
Via Reuters: “Hurricane Isaac has caused up to $1 billion in economic losses for offshore energy properties and up to $1.5 billion in insured losses onshore in Louisiana and neighboring states, disaster modeler Eqecat said on Wednesday.”
Additional reading
By | 11:01 AM ET, 08/30/2012

Why People Don't Evacuate: Bottom Line

George, like thousands of others in the low-lying parish of Plaquemines, had ignored an evacuation order despite hammering rain and the fateful anniversary of hurricane Katrina. "I suppose it was foolish to stay, but I had no money, so I stayed," he said.

Interesting, isn’t it, that this can be said in a British newspaper, but we don’t print this sort of thing in either the local or national papers in the U.S.

At the moment, people are having to evacuate along the Louisiana - Mississippi border. They are being removed if they don't go voluntarily.

According to NPR News (as of 1 PM), Jindal is ordering the intentional blowing of the Plaquemines's levee on the east bank today. Shades of the dna memory of the Flood of 1927, which is referenced in Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Bad Enough

Thank goodness it wasn't worse.

Our friends are in for some uncomfortable, inconvenient and in some cases, expensive times for a while, at least until the power grid for their area comes back to life.  A lot of them have classes and students to sort out too, as this was the first week of the semester for so many.  Maybe the institutions should re-think the idea of opening this week of August?

Further south and west though, things are worse.

We can only hope that as Isaac finally lumbers its way north the tons of water dropped on the drought-parched lands will be able to penetrate the ground and replenish some of the regions' moisture.

Also hope all the fellow-traveling tornadoes are wound down.

The last bits seem scheduled to hit us on the 6th, which probably means a little wind and some rain.

Funny it isn't, that prior to 2004, I never even thought about hurricanes or posted about them.  Hurricane Ivan changed all that.

El V, of course, growing up his first years in Louisiana, has always been hurricane sensitive, and since Katrina he's rabidly phobic on the subject, always ordering everyone to EVACUATE, NOW!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hurricane Isaac Or Not: New Orleans Still Sewing

Indians not bowing down.

E-mail from Cherise + photo:  Sewing.  Gonna be the prettiest for sure!

New Orleans - Isaac

This storm is much rougher than anticipated earlier.

It's so big and so frackin' slow.

Reports from friends via text is last night not good.  No sleep.  Periodically the wind shook one friend's house so hard that the newly built shelves came loose from the wall studs, dumping avalanches of  books.

Power's gone in many places in New Orleans, including our friends', they text -  as well as elsewhere -- 450,000 according to reports.  Our friends' phones will be out of juice before the day's out, no doubt.

It's going to be a very long day for our friends on the Gulf.  It could continue beyond today. Isaac's that frackin' slow.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New Orleans

You are in my heart and mind.

So are the pumps.

Be well!  Be safe!

Love is being sent you from everywhere.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Tide Turned - African Returnees

Their parents and / or grandparents left their African homes in search of a more secure and prosperous life.  Now their children and grandchildren are coming back.  They are returning for all kinds of reasons.  It isn't necessarily easy, and it certainly is expensive.  Yet, for instance, a woman wrote this article concerning the reverse migration.  She includes this:

[ " "Who needs the glass ceiling when you could be running your own business in one of the world's fastest-growing economies, enjoying the warm weather and surrounded by your own people?" one returnee to Ghana told me. "There is no contest." " ]

Women have traditionally been the market, run the market in so many African cultures.  In business they are plugging right back into that status when they come back to their family's country.  I hadn't thought of that until reading this article.

The article is long and tries to cover all the aspects, negative as well as positive.  Being a returnee herself, she focuses on an area that in this country, with our current confusion outright bigotry to racialist disputes that debate cultural appropriation and cultural appropriateness, we could do well to consider deeply -- because, you know, not everywhere does it the way we're doing it here:

[ " The battle for the image of Africa – helpless and underdeveloped versus rapidly emerging economic giant – often gets personal. Journalists frequently, and rightly, draw criticism for describing a continent of 54 nations and breathtaking diversity as one country. But some commentators are quick to employ a definition of what it means to be African that excludes returnees like me for being too fair-skinned, too British or too westernised.

But being African is an increasingly complex identity. As someone who has been told she is too black to be British, and too British to be African, I am strongly against the notion that identity can be policed by some external standard. And I am not alone. The term "Afropolitan" is beginning to enter the mainstream; one definition describes it as: "An African from the continent of dual nationality, an African born in the diaspora, or an African who identifies with their African and European heritage and mixed culture.

"It doesn't matter whether they are born abroad or not; the important thing is their global perspective on issues, as well as their mixed cultural identity."
The enthusiasm with which people of African heritage around the world are embracing their roots has reached the level of a cultural resurgence. In stark contrast to my teenage Africa-denial, a significant number of international cultural icons are now African. The black British music scene is dominated by rappers with Ghanaian heritage – Tinchy Stryder, Dizzee Rascal and Sway. Azonto, a popular Ghanaian dance, has begun colonising clubs in London, a growing number of which now include Afrobeat on regular rotation.

This is not to dismiss the inequalities that still exist between Africa's increasingly visible international, urban elite – a category many returnees fall into – and the vast majority of Africans.

The reality is that, on so many levels, access to the west is still a fault line for determining privilege. For example, entrepreneurs in west Africa currently find that borrowing money for their businesses typically comes with interest rates of up to 30%, an unrealistic burden by any standard. Returnees, on the other hand, who have access to loans from foreign banks, can enjoy single-digit interest rates, effectively dominating local markets. " ]

You see all that she speaks of in this article in the large cities all around the world, including right here in NYC.

New Orleans's Amigas / Amigos!

I am praying as hard as I can that you, yours and homes will safely withstand Isaac.

Reports in so far indicated nobody's evacuating, rather stocking up on batteries and red wine.

Damn it all!  Isaac was SUPPOSED to go to Tampa.  Damn it!  Damn it!  Damn it!

Friday, August 24, 2012

*Sherlock* Season 3 Episodes Revealed

From the UK Guardian:

Gatiss has already confirmed that the opening episode of the new series will be at least partly based on The Adventure of the Empty House, in which Sherlock Holmes returns after cheating death at the hands of professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls.

*Mirror Mirror* - Why Did the Reviewers Hate It?

Mirror Mirror (2012) turns out to be:

historical fantasy, though with contemporary political reference
an extravaganza of set and costume - vividly, deliberately artificial in the way it's vaguely time period of the 18th century ancien régime was

based on the Grimm fairytale of Snow White.

The film stars Julia Roberts as the EviLe Queen.  Roberts displays a sense of comic line delivery and facial expression that turns on a dime.

Snow White is played by Lily Collins, a young actress of whom I know nothing, but somehow, at least in this film, reminded me of a very young Morena Baccarini (Firefly) as well as Lucia Micarelli, the charming violinist on HBO Treme. She's a sharp in her role as is Julia Roberts, but she's got further to go than Roberts, whose character begins as psycho and obtuse, and only has to lose it to greater degree as the story goes on.  Collins needs to be an anxious, oppressed mouse who becomes the rescuer of her kingdom

Of course Snow White needs some help in her transformation, and that is provided by the seven dwarfs, who were expelled from their village and occupations by the EviLe Queen because they were -- get this! unattrractive in her sight!  Unlike another Snow White film this year, we see Snow White train and develop her martial skills as well as other ones, though in scenes that are intentionally comic.  This training includes Prince Charming, who crows about how often he's spanked her in their sparring sessions.  She fixes that, thank you.  And she rescues him more than once.

Everything about this film is fun, a joy to look at, while avoiding dumb and dumber.  It's always fast to the point of every scene.  It's an action film too, though the landscapes are as artificial the backdrops in King Louis Whichever Number's private theater -- as then, in this film too, the overt artifice is part of the audience's viewing pleasure.

So why was this film's box office then disappointing?  Is it because it really isn't for children or maybe even adolescents, or even adults who don't recognize the historical and cultural reference points?  One would think though even not so historically oriented girls would enjoy this film because it's as up-to-date with a strong young young woman at the center of the tale as you could desire.

All this and the film captures that effortless sense of lightness that we find commonly in French creations from ballet to Dumas. The French have a term for it, a word that entered the language with the development of the French ballet in the eighteenth century, and from there entered the ideal of individual presentation of those inhabiting the French court:

ballon: "The ability of a dancer to jump easily and lightly into the air. Ballon is the appearance of being weightless, or defying gravity."

We seldom see this particular mode here, though back in the day the best of the screwball comedies and the dance films of Fred and Ginger demonstrate the quality perfectly, uniting the comic and elegant movement/action and crackling repartee and fast-firing plot under the same umbrella. -- just like Dumas did in his Musketeers novels

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Afropop Worldwide Hip Deep Angola Blog Post - 1

The first of el V's blog posts for Afropop Worldwide is up on their site.

Spirit of Angola: Granular

Full entry here, with photos and video.  This is the first of a series.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

*Hunger Games* & *Winter's Bone*

So sore and exhausted from yesterday's therapy session it took me 50 minutes to get home afterwards. At home I was good for nothing but whimpering like an abandoned puppy and hobbling like an old, played out mule. Fortunately after a half an hour with ye ice packs I began to recover. As el V was having dinner with friend, I decided to eat left overs and watch The Hunger Games dvd, arrived from netflix in the A.M. Unlike for Beasts of the Southern Wild, Brave or Red Hook Summer -- three films in the last 7 weeks I have seen theaters -- I'd read Collins's series, and saw the trailers but wasn't interested enough in The Hunger Games to pay the thirteen dollars and deal with theater audience and its cell phones and other vexations.

Winter's Bone (2010 is another film that I went to the trouble and expense of seeing in a theater. It was one of the best movies I'd seen in a very long time (this means films that come out during the year, as opposed to wonderful older films that were released, not infrequently, before I was even born).

Last night what leaped out immediately in The Hunger Games's first scenes was how much in common it had with Winter's Bone. I don't even mean that both films were originally novels -- Winter's Bone (2006) by Danielle Woodrell, and The Hunger Games (2009) by Suzanne Collins.

First, both films star the young actress Jennifer Lawrence, who plays the same role in both films. She's an adolescent, shouldering responsibilities heavy beyond her years (as our contemporary, U.S. culture sees things), for a fatherless family, whose mother, clinically depressed, has effectively checked out from taking care of any business. Ree Dolly's Winter's Bone community is the Ozarks. Katniss Everdene's is part of District 12, located in Appalachia. The Ozarks and Appalachia are the two parts of a single physiographical province. Though their dialects have differences they generally share culture and generational economic depression.

Both Ree and Katniss are competent -- they hunt and kill animals, prepare the meat for their siblings' meals, they know their way around the country, they are fiercely loving and loyal to their families, and integral, well-known and respected quantities in the larger community. Ree has to deal with that support turning on her, just as Katniss has to deal with the other tribute from District 12, Peeta, and whether she can trust what he says and does.

At the conclusion of both films, after successfully surmounting prolonged physical and emotional ordeal, Ree and Katniss face the uncertain future of re-integrating into family and community that they had to leave behind in order to save.

Clearly all these similarities between the movies are merely what happened. The authors of the books surely were not working with knowledge of each other's work, as they publish in such different categories -- Collins as sf/f YA and Woodrell as adult literary fiction, just as the movies made from the two books were marketed one as sf/f YA adventure and the other as an adult, independent, almost art house film.

What didn't just happen was this.  The producers and director of The Hunger Games saw that *Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone had the role of Katniss Everdene down solid already.

Ultimately, for me, Winter's Bone was a much more satisfactory film in every way than The Hunger Games. Among its problems The Hunger Games hardly touched the gifts and sponsorship that were so important to Katiniss and Peeta's survival, though so much is made of it in dialog at the start. They montaged the killing of children by other children for the Capitol's entertainment -- which is fine; we've got way too much reveling in graphic, prolonged blood and gore victims on the screen, both large and small. But Cato, and his technical skills, for instance is so missing in action as to not even be a character. That Rue was from an agricultural District was not told us. There was so much that the makers of the film depended on us to know from the book, that it felt like cheating. Which means, in the end, this isn't even a good adaptation, much less a quality movie. They cheated, right down to getting themselves an actress who had been taught the role by others -- though this isn't a criticism of the actress or how she played Katniss. I never got tired of looking at Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, any more than I ever got tired of looking at her as Ree Dolly.

But I still wonder about the black characters in The Hunger Games.  Cato and Cinna are the sort of names that owners so often gave their slaves, particularly English speaking owners.  Probably the author used those names because she thought they were another reference to the days of the Games in the Republic and Empire of Rome.  She's got a few dotted throughout the text.  But one wonders why only her black characters got those those names, particularly when the movie, at least doesn't show any black citizens in Capitol.  Rue, of course, isn't among those names.  But she is a young girl of color who does die in the place of the White Girl  Savior.

I'm probably trying to make something of nothing. Yet these sorts of things do enter my mind while reading novels and watching movies.  I do feel more comfortable with and more interesed in creations like Treme and Red Hook Summer, in which white faces aren't what are so predominantly in our face, so to speak.  IOW, these kinds of works feel more 'real' than these fantasy-science fiction creations -- in the same way that the wholly white Winter's Bone did.


For playing Ree Dolly, Jennifer Lawrence received the Oscar nomination for Best Actress; the film itself has been awarded many honors and prizes in many categories. What are the odds the same thing happens with The Hunger Games?

Monday, August 20, 2012

If Women Were Silent, Couldn't Read and Write

And were kept in their place, which means out of the public discourse, we wouldn't be having this irrelevant problem, would we? Voter repression efforts -- are not just for minorities, you know!  Them there talibans have the right ideas about some things, yanno.

On the other hand, if the RNC would run its male members through high school level sex education classes maybe they would leave this huge problem of masculine ignorance and stupidity behind. A whole buncha problems solved then, right?  Without voter repression, because we wouldn't have all these incredibly stupid bills and laws and regulations about women are supposed to do or not do with their own bodies.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Empress of the French

This time, Napoleon: A Political Life (2005) --   how his political thought shaped his European policies during the Grand Empire era, and his plans, thwarted or successful, in the New World. Napoleon's successes and defeats had great impact  on the history of the U.S., which we in the U.S. don't often consider in much detail, outside of generally dry sub-sets of academic historians of European history. This is why I am also doing what can only be cursory study of the Napoleonic years, of course -- Haiti, the Louisiana Purchase, slavery, the War of 1812.

The book's author is Steven Englund an American academic historian, a specialist in the history of the Grand Empire, who teaches and lives in Paris. Maybe this accounts for his writing style, which is anything but dry and dull.

He begins with the background on Corsica, the Bonaparte family, and Napoleon's mother's family, the Ramolinis. This is the era of the then internationally famous Pasquale Paoli, whose efforts Napoleon's father joined as a young man, in the dream and the battles for Corsica's independence from France. (They failed.) This material regarding Corsica's history and independence and Paoli is all brand new to me.

As this book doesn't deal with Napoleon's personal life outside of his immediate family and their participation in their era's thought in the realms of the public life and nationhood, it leaves out that perennial favorite of Bonaparte books, his love life.

This year I've read three different biographies of Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie, Josephine Empress of the French.  One of them, The Rose of Martinique (2003) stood out because it was written by Andrea Stuart, a Jamaican of color, living in the UK, where she edits a literary magazine.  She focused several opening chapters on Josephine's childhood on Martinique, telling us detail what it meant to grow up a white creole girl on a sugar plantation among a sea of slaves.  She shows in inarguable sourced detail how the dress of the slaves influenced the dress of the french creole Caribbean women -- and how Josephine's mode of dressing  -- then she was still Rose -- and the other famous Parisian creoles of her class influenced the sartorial styles of the era.  When she was Empress, of course, those styles influenced the rest of Europe, even in the centers of England's haute mode, France's foremost enemy. (Stuart also makes a case that no one else seems to have done, that Napoleon and Josephine's shared birth and upbringing on islands that were French colonies formed a great part of their undeniable close bond. They shared an intuitive understanding that few others did who didn't have that background.)

Here I finally get to what else I've been thinking of since an artful gardening friend murmured complaints about the ubiquitous popularity of roses as ornamental flowers -- whose idea was that, and why did anybody think it was a good idea?

I'm guessing it was Rose's idea -- Josephine's.  Among her interests was natural history.  Even before becoming Empress she turned the estate of Malmaison, gifted her by Bonaparte, into a showplace of gardens, zoos, aviaries and conservatories.  She ordered every variety she heard of, of animals, birds, trees, plants and flowers. She ordered them from everywhere -- and very particularly from England, the center then of exotic and experimental horticulture.  Napoleon ordered the French navy to let through the British ships that carried Josephine's orders of the beloved superfine muslins (which France did not manufacture) and her plants. Roses of every variety were among what she ordered.

Josephine seems to be have been the first in France to consciously create rose gardens. Naturally, the rose was her flower.  The rose was lauded constantly then, in complimentary effusions to Napoleon's wife and later, his Empress.  (For reasons of his own, Napoleon insisted from the first days of their relationship that she be known as Josephine rather than Rose, as she'd always been known.  Napoleon changed everybody's name, like the shrub insists on bestowing his own nicknames on everyone he encounters.)

So it's the fault of the Empress of the French, mi amiga, that all those inconvenient, prone-to-disease, thorny bushes and climbers are found everywhere!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Tix Acquired + Heritage Tomatoes

Flying to Heathrow 9/21.

Interesting. The first field to fill out when buying tickets online for British Airways is "Choose Your Title." There are many titles ranging from Duchess to Rabbi.

El V wanted to choose Vicount and Vicountess. But he feared him impersonating Vics was probably a crime, so did not do that.

May I admit to great excitement.  How not? London, and then Liverpool and Bristol, the two centers of the slave trade industry, besides London, to do some mini research!  Fantastic!  I really am thrilled to have this opportunity.  So lucky.

Yesterday one of our local merchants gifted me with his home grown heritage tomatoes.  Because, when you are fortunate enough to achieve home grown tomatoes you have so many you don't know what to do with them.  This person has found the perfect solution for disposing of his vast overstock.  City apartment dwellers sans any teeny bit of turf to grow tomatoes, zuchs, peppers and basil will greedily beg him -- if they know.  What he did was discreetly pull out small brown  bag with the tomatoes in them and drop them into the purchase bag, saying, "Today a little extra something."

Then last night having dinner with one of el V's colleagues in the Angola programs the restaurant give us a "little extra something" as well.  It does make the neighborhood feel more neighborhoody, to have a little extra relationship something with the people who make their living here.  So I really appreciate these gestures.

I also have some perfectly ripe avocados.

I just put the finishing touches on a pot of posole.  Tomatoes and avocados and posole for dinner.  That will do, whether we have a thunderstorm or not. The humidity these days is so thick any movement makes one as wet as if rained upon.  I've never experienced this kind of humidity here before -- and we're mid-Atlantic coast, so summer humidity is the rule.  But this, this could be New Orleans or even Santiago de Cuba on the hottest of the heat wave days.

At least, thanks to the faithful a/c we've managed to stay productive through it all.  Lucky us!  And we are lucky, and don't I know it!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mother-in-Law Lounge reopening endorsed by New Orleans Planning Commission

This is exciting.

The site of the former Mother-in-Law Lounge, which now seems likely to re-open once was a bar-bar, located next to, or at least very near (I'm not clear on this) the musicians' union -- for musicians of color.  Back in the day there were two musicians' unions in New Orleans: one for those of color and for the white music makers.  Which must have been kind of weird because musicians being the sort of people they are, even in the days of rigid color bars, you know those cats would ignore it many a time in order to make a buck or just to play great music with other great and interesting players.

Here's the full story by Bruce Eggler on the Times Picayune site.

We're all still missing Antoinette and Coco.  Their spirits will help re-animate the Mother-in-Law no doubt.

The Mother-in-Law was one of the first places I was taken on my first visit to New Orleans, and Antoinette was one of the first 'natives' of the city I met.  I recall being invited to take a good look around the place, and thinking, this is part of a place that we're going to live for at least year. Is this the city that could get us to relocate from NYC for good, not just a research year?  This is a place that is all about music and history!

That was before the personal encounters with the pervasive violence and the threat    of hurricanes and flood. I, being past that age of invulnerability, could not cope with that on a year-round basis. I'd still love living in New Orleans, but only if we could afford to have second home out of the zone.  Which doesn't seem likely, so never mind!

It's interesting to see Kermit Ruffins stepping up to his city's plate so often, to keep the music heritage's past in play, while it moves on into the future for the new generations.

Ruffins and the building's owner agreed on terms for a long-term lease in January 2011, and the trumpeter and singer said at the time he hoped to open by Mardi Gras. That didn't happen, and after a while Ruffins discovered that because the club had been closed for more than six months, it had lost the legal nonconforming status that let it operate as a cocktail lounge with live entertainment in a B-1A neighborhood business district.
He told the commission Tuesday that he "spent a lot of money and got the place all ready to go" when he learned he needed to get it rezoned so it could once again present live music and sell alcohol. He said he wants to "reopen real soon so I can get some of my monies back."
The planning staff put it in somewhat fancier terms, saying the reopening would "restore a landmark and historical site as a jazz performance venue and as a display of New Orleans cultural tradition."
No one spoke against the proposal.
The ramshackle 2,000-square-foot barroom served as the headquarters for rhythm-and-blues eccentric Ernie K-Doe, famous -- among other things -- for the song "Mother-in-Law." After his death in 2001, his widow, Antoinette, operated the Mother-in-Law Lounge as a shrine to her husband -- complete with a life-size mannequin she dressed in K-Doe's clothes -- and a quasi-community center for Treme residents and young musicians.
Antoinette K-Doe died of a heart attack on Mardi Gras morning in 2009, and her daughter Betty Fox, manager of an auto parts store in Memphis, Tenn., moved to New Orleans and took over the Mother-in-Law Lounge. But she struggled with various financial and logistical challenges, including cars crashing into the front door, and the fact that she wasn't her irrepressible mother.
"The only person who could run Ernie K-Doe's Mother-in-Law Lounge was Antoinette K-Doe," Fox said in December 2010. "I did all I could do. I'm exhausted. It's too stressful." 
Recall, the Mother-in-Law was where we held the publication party for The Year Before the Flood.  Betty Fox worked so hard to make it the great  party it was.

Nearly the entire time, Coco was in the house.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Another HBO *Treme* Trailer

Treme, season 3, premieres September 23!

Thanks this time to Alex Rawls for the heads up.

Gads, I'mma missin' New Orleans.  Can't wait until getting back in October!  Fortunately there will be 2 - 3 more visits soon after that one.

In the meantime, first I've got to go to London in September.

Book Jail

Memory sparked by a post up on Premium T's blog:

I've imprisoned a 99 cent mass market paperback copy of Eugene D. Genovese's The Political Economy of Slavery: Studies in the Economy and the Society of the Slave South (1965) in a plastic bag with baking soda and occasional spritzes of white vinegar in hopes of etting rid of that horrid mildew smell.

It's been in that bag since the start of June. I keep forgetting to check it. It may be in that bag unto the end of its days, it looks like.

In the meantime I've been resorting to google and a library copy of the book for checking facts and notes.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Brilliant Soft Shell Blue Crab Season!

Which is good news in a way, for the ever-endangered Chesapeake Bay and the equally endangered watermen and their way of life.  A bushel of the Chesapeake *Blue Crab is currently selling for $130.00, that is a bushel sold right off the boat. Even so the cost of fuel and bait are eating into the watermen's profits.At a market that bushel's going to run a lot higher than that. So, down on the Bay, it's crabbin' time!  Our Shore and Baltimore friends are in a good mood. I do wonder, however, with the end of newspapers, how we're gonna eat crabs and lobsters and crawfish.The outdoor feast on newspaper covered surfaces, impromptu or planned, home or restaurant, is nearly a year-round tradition from the Bay to the Gulf.

In the meantime, I just learned noted Baltimore novelist, Laura Lippman's Baltimore PI protagonist of her Tess Monaghan series, graduated from Chestertown's Washington College. This information about Tess would have been meaningless to me only three years ago, when I knew neither Chestertown nor Baltimore, which are now permanent parts of my heart.  I learned this via listening to an audio version of Charm City (1997), the second of the Tess Monaghan series.  I also know how Charm City got to be used as a moniker for Baltimore, which I didn't even know was a moniker three years ago, much less why -- even though I already knew personally Madison Smartt Bell, who wrote the walking Baltimore book, titled, of course, Charm City.  But I didn't read that until I'd been to Baltimore a couple of times, though I did read it before **Madison gave a personally conducted walking tour of Baltimore that following spring.

Is it not wonderful to have cities to love -- even if you may also hate them, like I love-hate New Orleans and New York?  I don't know Baltimore well enough yet to have a love-hate relationship with it, but I know many Baltimore natives who do love and hate the city that they will never leave. I love Chestertown because it is so very satisfied to be what it is and has no pretensions or desires to be anything but what it has always been, except, of course, better! I also love Havana and Santiago, but these are not the cities of my own country, so I can't / don't have the hate part -- I have no personal responsibility for these cities, outside of whatever unpleasant designs my country has on them -- which isn't the fault or responsibility of the two cities in question.

So here I sit, attempting to get some energy flowing again. Therapist really wailed on me today.  The glutes are gonna hurt like sin by tomorrow, I'm betting.  At least I have until Monday to recover.

Hot and humid again.

We have construction of some kind or another -- or maybe only maintenance, next door.  Just the building of the scaffolding that envelops the entire building top to bottom took a week of clanging and banging.  What they will do once the scoffold is entirely up I have no idea. I hope it won't be water blasting to clean it .... If there is another hurricane like Irene from last year I shudder to think what will happen to our building as the steel scaffolding ribs are thrown into our walls.

There's also construction across the street, which is in reality preparation for deconstruction of the current ediface to build a newer! better! (much) taller! and MORE EXPENSIVE one.

And just to make it entirely fun, the block and the cross street are blocked off by a shoot -- whether for television or a movie, I have no idea.  Floodlights burning up the night all night long, and all like that.  So much fun ....

Well, at least cold penne, pestp and veggies, plus salad, for dinner to look forward to!

* If you want to learn about Blue Crabs and their place in the eco and social systems of the Chesapeake, the book you want is Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay by William W. Warner, illustrated by Consuelo Hanks, which has never been out of print since publication in 1994. If you visit anyone on the Bay the book will be guaranteed to be on their shelves, and you probably will be gifted with a copy. There was a copy in the House when we arrived in C'town, and the second weekend we were given a copy of our own.

**Hey, thanks again, Madison.  It is a day I still recall in detail and with great pleasure.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

1850 and Subsequent National Crises

I'm half way transcribing and writing up my notes for that focus on the decade preceding the official break out of the U.S. Civil War.  Though the more you learn about this period it becomes inescapable that we were already at war.  The defining moment for the war's inevitability was Texas's recognition as a state.  Those f*ckers were from the gitgo bugf*ck insane -- so naturally the South Carolinian slaveholding power elite loved them and egged them on.  In the meantime Limbaugh, Fox News, Bachman, Beck, et al. Calhoun had successfully dispersed his toxic slave society pride and hatred for the New Englanders throughout what would become the confederacy.  He had done so, so successfully, that on his deathbed in 1850, his last words predicted correctly, with specific detail, when and how Secession would come about, even calling it over a presidential election. Even before that, Nashville, TN hosted conventions that discussed Secession.

I cannot express how much everything that we've been experiencing in the last ten years looks so much like 1850 -- the year the elected politicians gridlocked for good, the constant rhetoric -- and even actions -- of violence employed on constant basis by the southerners against what they saw as trespasses against their rights -- which was the right to trample on everyone else, and curtail everyone's freedom for the sake of them keeping their slaves and spreading slavery everywhere, and what follows. With the Fugitive Slave Act in action, people in the free states were not only digusted by what they were seeing, but by what they were told  they, by law, had to do to aid the slave owners.  Their inevitable conclusion, based on this, and what the slave owners actually said, was that ultimately even white men could be enslaved by the same slave owners who were forcing them to recover slaves.

After I finish this task, I'm going to go backwards, to the 1830's, specifically Washington D.C.  The one part of the Little Compromise that Stephen Douglas got through at the end of the longest legislative session ever, by lobbying incessantly that "the non-slave states had to be given a mite (while the slave states got the Fugitive Slave Act, which did more to turn the non-slave states abolitionist than anything else)," was the end of the slave trade in D.C.  It was a national disgrace, that all other nations regarded with shaken horror and bewilderment that this could go on within the capital of the nation that so trumpeted freedom and liberty.  Of course by the time of 1850, most of the actual trade had been removed, due to this disgrace and embarrassment, to outside of D.C., to Alexandria, which part had been retroceded to Virginia, so it was no longer in the District of Columbia's precincts.

I've read quite a few accounts, if only in passing, by first hand witnesses of the slave trade and the treatment of slaves in Washington D.C.  Now I'm going to concentrate on it for a while.

Monday, August 6, 2012

El Museo Del Barrio

There's a three museum exhibit this summer titled "Caribbean: Crossroads of the World," at El Museo del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Ave., the Studio Museum  in Harlem, 144 West 125th St. and Queen Museum of Art, Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

This weekend we visited the two parts up at el museo del barrio, "Counterpoints" and "Patriot Acts."

The large oil canvas, "Conversation" by Jamaican artist, Barrington Watson, was my favorite of the 20th century pieces in the galleries:

More about the artist here.

The older pieces were what had the most interest for us, including a John Trumble oil portrait of Alexander Hamilton (circa 1804). It was included because Hamilton, as you all know, was born on the island of Nevis, one of the least of the Leward Islands > Lesser Antilles, which border the Caribbean Basin. Soon after, his mother, not married to his father, and possibly married to someone else, moved them to St. Crois, in the Virgin Islands.  He lived his first years there, and also received his financial training, clerking in mercantile concerns.

The best was seeing some of Agostino Brunias's originals, and three in Victor Landaluze's iconic series, Tipos Populares, illustrating late 19th century Cuba, particularly Havana.  El V used some of those in Cuba and Its Music.

There were also some interesting works by Gauguin and Pissaro from their stays  on Martinque (from where hailed Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie, she who became Josephine Bonaparte, Empress of the French), and St. Lucía.

As the museo is located across from the most northern part of Central Park, we walked there and enjoyed it very much, hearing latin drumming reaching from across Fifth Avenue.  This is what used to be called Spanish Harlem.  Puerto Rico, Yo!  Then the Dominicans took over, but now it's the turn of the Mexicans. It feels homey there, just as does the Harlem of the West Side.

We had an ample, tasty, inexpensive Mexican dinner, all made with ingredients brought up from home, at a lovely, very tiny, Mexican restaurant.

Then home so I could ice my back.

Though I moved slowly and deliberately, sat down frequently, I was pleased that I'd managed to do a whole day away from home, and much of it on my feet. It's been a while since I could manage the energy for that.

Puerto Rican music festival got rained out last night.  Dang!

Tonight it's the cast-crew screening of  Red Hook Summer, yay!

Now, back to writing up my notes on the 1850 gridlock-and-violence in the Senate and House, Mississippi, Texas, New Mexico and California.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

She Fled From Facebook to – Marfa – to Write a Book – about Facebook

The Washington Post's magazine features Katherine Losse this week, “Refugee From Facebook.”  Her book, The Boy Kings, is her inside view of Facebook and explains why she divested herself of FB stock (and thus got a lot of money because she sold when the stock was still high) and deleted all her FB pages and info.
Then she moved to Marfa, Texas -- where we were supposed to be this month until the Las Vidas Perfectas video shoot got postponed. I might have met her.  Marfa's only got 2,000 residents.


[ " Another time, Losse cringed when she learned that a team of Facebook engineers was developing what they called “dark profiles” — pages for people who had not signed up for the service but who had been identified in posts by Facebook users. The dark profiles were not to be visible to ordinary users, Losse said, but if the person eventually signed up, Facebook would activate those latent links to other users. " ]


[ " But Losse’s concerns about online socializing tracks with the findings of Sherry Turkle, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology psychologist who says users of social media have little understanding of the personal information they are giving away. Nor, she said, do many understand the potentially distorting consequences when they put their lives on public display, as what amounts to an ongoing performance on social media. " ]


[ " Losse eventually reactivated her Facebook account. Rejecting it altogether felt, to her, extreme. But she approached it this time with a new wariness, not as a place to make and maintain friendships but one where a new author could cultivate a public image. " ]

She felt Facebook was eating her life and providing an inauthentic social life, so she ran away to a more authentic place (an artists' colony!) to write a book about social media while using her wireless capacity and digital skills to interact with the rest of the world, including her editors for the endless drafts of the book she was writing.

I find this enormously amusing. Is it because as of this writing, neither el V nor I have fb accounts nor have we ever.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Gore Vidal Has Left The Stage 1925 - 2012

From the New York Times obituary, Charles McGrath states: "Gore Vidal, the elegant, acerbic all-around man of letters who presided with a certain relish over what he declared to be the end of American civilization ...."

For anyone who has read Vidal's work with delight and care, it is hard to believe that Vidal saw the United States as possessing a civilization that could end. Power, yes: the nation has great power, wielded without regret and directed anywhere those who possess it choose. But the USA, a civilized nation? Debatable, as Vidal saw it.

That the country could at times be a great deal of fun, or at least amusing, and a pre-eminent provider of entertainment -- that Vidal would agree with, laughing all the while. Like Aaron Burr, who as protagonist opened Vidal's extended fictional portrait of the carpeted halls of power, he enjoyed himself, and laughed more than most -- at the nation, at us, at the power brokers and even at himself.

His wide-ranging body of work is like no other, as we see in his obituary. He had the courage of his convictions, or perhaps the courage of one born into the families that determine our national and personal fates, but who was fated by his lesser status among them -- relatively poor, proudly sexually transgressive, highly educated in the arts, aesthetics and intellectual analysis -- never to be a serious political player himself. He therefore had nothing to lose from honesty, and he was openly, aggressively, fluidly sexual at a time when few could afford to be, writing both non-fiction and outrageous comic fiction with post-gender attitude.

Narratives of Empire, his heptalogy of historical novels published between 1968 and 2000, traces the United States from the Age of Burr through the Age of Mass Media. It reveals more than many non-fiction histories about how power is inherited, used, and guarded in America. These seven novels of our national political life bristle with ideas and even historical facts that were not discussed -- or admitted to -- by either critics or historians, by and large, and certainly not by politicians. Though this is his best work, Vidal will probably be remembered more for his lesser achievements -- theater, film, and television appearances, feuds with other writers.

Vidal compared himself on at least one occasion to historian Henry Adams, who as the grandson and great-grandson of American presidents was present not only in the hallways of power but also in the homes where the power brokers lived and socialized. Adams's influence was not always positive: in 1876, Vidal avenged his precursor's personal prejudice against President Ulysses Grant in a way that was unworthy of most of his historical work -- mean, petty, nasty, and a historical lie.

Adams is most often remembered today for the rather historically irrelevant cultural musings of Mont Saint-Michel and Chartres and for his highly selective personal memoir The Education of Henry Adams. While Education is empty of Adams's wife's suicide and the decades they were together, and leaves out his D.C. salon and ever-changing circle of 'nieces', it is worth reading, if only for Adams's account of being private secretary to his father, Francis Adams, who as minister of the Mission to St. James in London was appointed by Lincoln to ensure that Britain not recognize the Confederacy. But Adams's grand works are his histories of the Jefferson and Madison administrations -- and possibly "Napoleon I At San Domingo" (in Adams's Collected Essays, 1891), the most clear-eyed and even admiring assessment written by a white American historian in the nineteenth century of General Toussaint Louverture and of what the San Domingan revolution meant for the history of the United States.

These two writers offer a grand composite vision of the history of the United States. They were there, and if they weren't there, their relatives were. They brought us their visions of our shared past; they have themselves become part of the historical record.


Gore Vidal's Narratives of Empire, which I list in historical order, not in the order they were published: Burr, Lincoln, 1876, Empire, Hollywood, Washington D.C., The Golden Age.

Henry Adams's Collected Essays; History of the United States of America During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson; History of the United States of America During the Administrations of James Madison; The Education of Henry Adams.

Edited to Add: Here's a splendid photo gallery on the Washington Post of the public parts of Vidal's writing and Hollywood life. And another obituary by Jon Wiener, who knew and understood Vidal, in The Nation.