". . . 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

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Darned Cold Out There, By Golly! + Writing and History

Freezing, even.

But I have returned to the land of active people who do things, hurray! Indeed, have come in from the freezing outside from which we brought tea and coffee, and some tortillas with which to make (pulled)( pork tacos.

It began yesterday -- did a bunch of stacked up laundry and started writing. Then collapsed into bed and watched some more season 2 of Lost Girl, slept for another 11 hours. Woke up feeling much, much better. Not 100% by any means, but functioning and able to smile as a natural part of life, and, even, laugh at preposterous fools again.

Back to the List essay, that will connect, I hope --

- Bordewich, Fergus M. (2012) America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union. Simon & Schuster, New York
- The Education of Henry Adams- Dykstra, Natalie: (2012) Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York.

In other words, three books that describe the nation before the Civil War, during the Civil War and after the Civil War. If you read all three you will know and understand far more about the history of the U.S. than you did before.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Titles Members Recommend Frome Their 2012 Reading

We're working on the popular annual List of what the members recommend to other reader out of their own reading, 3 titles maximum. 2 - 3 sentence description - justification.

We're working on our own recommendations too, that go into this special pdf issue attachment to da List.

The recs have been coming fast and furious. I was looking over previous years'. Gads, Ned's List is filled with readers, who read really good books.

As usual I thought I'd have a hard time coming up with three titles. I have one that I knew from the first pages when I was reading early in 2012 would go on the List, but what else? Not a problem, no it is not. So many wonderful books.

The problem would be if I had to pull out three or more novels that I could recommend unreservedly and I cannot. There's only a single title that works on every level, which is River of Smoke, the second in Amitav Ghosh's Ibis trilogy. The first was Sea of Poppies, which I didn't like anywhere as much as River of Smoke. But now he's got me anticipating the third volume. River of Smoke has everything: exciting historical fiction (1830's Asia), fascinating characters of all genders and voices, as well as languages, a lot of comedy as well as catastrophe, exciting locations, lots of action -- and yes, it appears to also be literary. Who knew?

As well, Who Knows the title of the third volume, for so far it seems to be kept quite quiet. It takes Ghosh quite some time to write his novels, so he likely, intelligently, prefers not to provide any fodder for speculation as to what he's up to until the book is complete.

"The full story of the British empire is yet to be told .... "

So speculates Martin Kettle in yesterday's UK Guardian Comment section. What he speculated has provoked 500 comments so far. Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say, it has provoked a lively argument. Too bad so many of the argumentative are so stone ignorant of history of anywhere, including the countries in which they live.

Myself, as historian of New World slavery and the contexts in which it operated, appreciate how much he focuses on the 17th century, the century of the baroque, and the continuance of the Wars of Religion, while all the while Europe expands its abilities for extraction of resources around the world, and particularly in the New World. Very seldom do those who praise the gold and silver splendors of the Baroque era consider how and why all that gold and silver came available for those palaces, theaters, cathedrals and dinner services. Kettle does this via consideration of a new exhibit up in Amsterdam's City Museum, called "The Golden Age." These days more people pay duely lipservice to the fact that New World slavery funded the European Industrial Revolution. But even those willing to accept that tend to remain resistent to considering what those riches extracted from South America and Mexico with African and Indigenous slave labor funded before that -- not only elaborate salt cellers but even the ships that allowed for further slave transport pillage and-plunder and exploration. Not that there was anything to stop this process, any more than there's anything to stop the process of China's current pillage and plunder investment in Africa. No matter what power manifests itself, whether Egypt, Rome, a European power -- Africa, the birthplace and cradle of homo saps -- is central to the current imperial extraction.

The Amsterdam exhibition tracks all these aspects of globalisation's first wave. The Dutch established colonies in modern-day Brazil, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Java – and on Manhattan, too. Theirs was a connected world. In a 1656 picture of the centre of Amsterdam, Ottoman merchants are shown negotiating a deal just round the corner from where the picture itself now hangs. A Dutch translation of the Qur'an was printed there in 1696.

But this was a time of slavery and war too. Slavery was illegal in the Netherlands, but Dutch ships carried and sold slaves in Africa and Surinam, and Dutch fortunes waxed rich from the profits of the trade. The Dutch were renowned in China for their violence, and their arms industry – still the sixth-largest in the world today – was formidable. By modern standards, Dutch justice was anything but enlightened. Two ghoulish Rembrandt drawings of the public strangulation of a female murderer depict one of the many dark sides of the golden age. 

In the Age of Revolution exhibit here at the New York Historical Society last winter, there was a gallery devoted to Dutch Surinam in the 17th century, set up as a tavern, complete with sound of various figure speaking from the historical record. Around it were hung those famous paintings of the place, with traders, seamen, women -- particularly slave-whores -- from around the world, with a very large number of Atlantic seaboard captains and merchants. The seventeenth century Caribbean and Atlantic were the center of the world then, o yes, to degrees that we can hardly imagine. It's this kind of work done by museums and historical societies at the top of their game that helps fill in the picture from the documented texts.

A lot of this was also repeated in the Liverpool International Museum of Slavery as well. I sure wish I could visit this one too, but that's unlikely.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Symptomatic Relief: *Scandal*, Season 2

I can't focus on a page, so no reading.

Nothing appealed either to watch streaming or out of my personal dvd collection.

Then -- I remembered: Scandal, season 2, available on Hulu.

Scandal's perfect for my entirely limited comprehension processing system. Entirely implausible, entirely silly, nevertheless engaging, on an entirely superficial level. Though -- the way Prez Fitz stalks Olivia, and flaunts their affair in front of his secret service agents -- I'm liking him less and less, and I never liked him to start with. What a big baby he is. Well, he is a politician, and a gopper. How are we supposed to believe that Olivia would have anything ever to do with a fatuous and mean dope like him in the first place -- and a Republican!

No more snow, but raining hard, and blowing hard.

How NOT To Open Your Novel

So many writers and so many want to be published writers of fiction spend so much time blogging about how to Do It, meaning either writing a novel or publishing one. Also how NOT to Do It.

Funny that no one has mentioned, "Don't open the first chapter of a novel with a great big dangerous action scene that then, after a few pages turns into a dream. Probably any writer of any experience or sense would just know that, it's so basic, so there's no need, right?

'Tis Snowing Out There; Sick, In Here

Wet snow, very wet.  Wind kicking up to greater velocity at a steady rate.

I've gone through an entire box of kleenex within 24 hours.  It came out of nowhere, y'all.  Just hanging, you know, as you do, on the holidays, with the peeps you really like, and -- Blam-O!  No breathing, no sleeping, no appetite.  It's sort of weird to go in a matter of seconds from enjoying very much your Christmas dinner, to -- you can't even smell it, much less want to it.

I am really tired of this.  It happens too many years, that I get sick like this during or on the holidays.  And all these friends coming in or who are already here, from all over the country and the world.  Argh.  Excuse me while I whimper and moan and otherwise demonstrate my 100% misery.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Holmes For the Holidays! "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)

As part of the holiday observations, remember Sherlock Holmes and “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.”

You can also see Jeremy Brett doin’ it right; if you don’t have netflickers streaming, you can watch it here.

This is  my all time favorite Brett-Holmes.  And Brett as Holmes is still the very best Holmes there ever was or shall be.

Happy Holidays ....

Love, C.

P.S. My personal holiday adventure, making pulled pork in my oven at home, concluded successfully at 12:30 AM this morning, as I discovered a perfect crust of rub and crackling, and the meat fell from the bone, filled with savor and mouthwatering aroma.  It took nearly two days, but it was worth it.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Villon Calls This Year's Christmas

At Christmas time, / the dead season, / the wolves live on wind alone, / and people stay inside at home, / on account of the frost, / close to the coals ....

that is from David Georgi's translation of Villon, and that is what it is like here, today.

Plus we have a few flakes sputtering upon that wind, colliding with the shoppers and the walls and sidewalks. Brrrrrrr.

And now we, el V and me, are home, inside, getting warm at the hearth of the steam heat and afro latin Christmas music.

We got all the Christmas Eve shopping for everything completed this afternoon! Which is good, as tomorrow is Socializing, and on Monday afternoon el V must go hang out with Big Name Jazz Writer and help him with something -- while I, I of course, wrestle with the 11 hours of slow cooking the pork butt: 1 1/2 hours per pound at 225 degrees, and another two hours sitting in the oven after the thermometer shows the bone itself has hit 200 degrees. In order that that pork be in a state in which it can be pulled, it has to cook slow and long, and 225 degrees and 9 hours + 2 is a slow and long.

We even found corn bread, since the oven will be in use all Monday. Whole Foods corn bread appears to be lauded even in Texas and other states where people know their cornbread, and they have it here too. The cashier, who is from Austin, gushed when he rang us up: "This is the best cornbread, as good as any my mom ever made."

As we got closer to home on this last shopping excursion of the day, I was thinking how nice this was. I have been doing this or something very like it every year since leaving home, and certainly the years we've been married. But I do most of it -- and often all of it -- by myself. This year el V was part of every bit, from planning the menu (meaning he listened to me mull), the shopping for everything, from gifts to the food. And it was so much fun -- particularly when snowflakes skittered, as last evening uptown, and this afternoon. Or, as he put it, not elegantly but concisely, "Well, this is all Christmassy as f*ck" (he is a Louisianan-Texan-New Mexican fellow recall). I'm so glad we got to do this together." Then he says, "I always knew it was a lot of work, but I never really knew before just how much trouble you go to -- you have to plan, and you have to think too."

So I'm feeling pretty good about now. Plus, my brother and my niece? they sent me a B&N gift card which arrived today. You might even say I feel Christmassy as f*ck! And we're having a lot of fun reading David's Villon to each other. What a contemporary he is.

Villon! What a brilliant, unexpected Christmas gift!

Villon *Poems* New Translation, by David Georgi

DG dropped off his brand new book (Northwestern University Press) yesterday, his own translation of Villon's Poems.

Together el V and I read David's introduction while subwaying on up to Harlem (our Before Christmas weekend date concluded with meeting friends for dinner as originally planned, but not where we'd originally planned -- instead of at a London expat's English pub in the Village, we met at a Senegalese restaurant uptown).  Both of us kept seeing the poet rollicking through New Orleans at any old time in its history, standing in for Villon in Paris in the 15th century.

And, of course -- I quote David G. here:

At the very end of 1457 or early in 1458 he was a guest of the duke of Orléans, an accomplished poet and patron of the arts.  The duke kept a handwritten album of poems collected from the literary men who passed through his court at Blois.  It survives to this day, at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, and it includes three poems that can be confidently attributed to Villon.  Scholars believe, in fact, that these three poems are written in Villon's own handwriting -- small, neat, pale letters.

Though the city wasn't founded and named for that duke of Orléan's descendant until a century and a half, more or less, after the poet left this world -- even before the world shattering mass dissemination of that a whole other world existed west across the sea -- Villon understood New Orleans down to his very bones.  If you wonder how I can say this, go to Toulouse Street and read this, posted this very day, December 22, 2012.

Of course, David has seen New Orleans.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Eve Menu Coming Together -- + Jefferson Davis

I haven't decided how I will cook the pork butt, and won't decide until I see it, which will be sometime tomorrow. Will I do it in the slow cooker/crock pot (mine is huge)? Or brine it overnight and slow roast in the oven? Not sure what rub and what sauce either. It all depends on whether I decide on the crock pot or the brining and oven. In other words, not sure if I'm leaning more the Spanish Caribbean flavor or the South Carolina or even Louisiana flavoring. If the former, then Coconut cake for dessert, if the later, pecan pie.

Also -- shall I bake the cornbread myself (my oven, not adequate for many things, can handle cornbread OK) or get it from Whole Foods? There will be cornbread whichever side I lean, but if it goes Caribbean then there will be corn tortillas also. And lots of chopped cilantro and so on for toppings.

El V's looking at my menu and going, "That's a lot of food for 4 people."

Somehow I can't get him to understand that I don't expect us to eat it all, and that I want leftovers, for later in the week, and to make New Year's Eve posole. However, I'm certain that el V would heroically set himself to devour all of it all his own self, in order that my little feelings not be hurt by having uneaten portions lying around!

In the meantime I've been submerged in the life of Jefferson Davis -- yes, that fellow.  I can't figure out why we went to war at all, really, from the contents of this well-researched and written biography.  Even the White Houses in D.C. and Richmond were mirror reflections of each other: children running all over, the young presidential secretaries, even death of the presidents' children.  So clearly the one reason we went to war was abolition.  The South, including Jefferson, were convinced that the first thing a Republican president would do would be to abolish the interstate slave trade.  Which it most certainly would not have done -- except for the war ....

The further into the war years we descended the more I cannot figure out why the war went on so long.  The Union generals were generally incompetent, but so were the CSA's.  There was corruption, politiking, rivalries, selfishness and greed, as well as Copperheads in the north, but so were there the counterparts in the south.  Grant and company pretty well smashed the west very quickly, can what  Davis called the trans-west, meaning Texas, Arkansas and Texas was cut off, while also suffering the humiliating defeats in New Mexico in Texas's determination to drive to the Pacific and conquer California.  The CSA east, meaning Virginia stayed stable because of Lee.  Once Grant and Lee confronted each other before Richmond, then it took another year more or less to finish him off.  That's the weird thing.

Really, the Union should have taken out the CSA in the first year, if not the first six months.  Maybe there was too much money to be made up north from the war going on for a long time for that to be allowed to happen, as with Salmon P. Chase's son in law (and later, after the war, Salmon Chase as Chief Justice, just could not get around to trying Jefferson Davis for treason, and the whole affair was just allowed to ... peter out ....

But from what I can tell via the author of this biography of Grant (a history professor at LSU), who is very circumspect as to how he words matters, and even what matters he actually includes, the real sticking point was Davis himself.  He had entered a fantasy South,  and built a fantasy CSA, populated by fantasy southerners and a fantasy generals who possessed military acumen that they, in fact, did not -- and no more did he, though Jefferson Davis himself was ascribed all the same fantasy military skills as all of his generals.  Only Lee actually possessed those military qualities.  And Lee was willing to surrender long before he was forced to.  Grant was not about to.  Nor did he ever, thus remaining forever the first and loudest voice of Lost Causism, and that the CSA was never really defeated, nor did it embark on a war of aggression and expansion -- and also the first to say that slavery was not the cause of the war either.

Davis was pardoned.  It was a bit rocky for a time, but he concluded lauded, feted, worshipping, "Our First Confederate," living in luxury and loved by the south and his family, convinced until the end that if the CSA had had only a little bit more time the Southerners would have grasped that most sacred patriotic duty and sacrifice everything and drive the Union out of their sacred, sacrosanct lands.  Jefferson Davis, First and Always, the entire and perfect Southern Gentleman, forever aligned to white supremacy.

And you know what?  I say -- Pah!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hurts But Better Today

His hand is pretty painful, painful enough he can't do some things, though it's not nerves or anything like that -- pain from the wound that will heal over time.

Thank goodness.

He cracked jokes and laughed this morning.

I have made arrangements to buy a 7 lb pork butt to make pulled pork out of.  There will be loads of left-overs, that can be included in the New Year's Eve posole. I have to find the right bag in which to brine it first.  Think, think, think.

Now I'm contemplating (low fat) eggnog and wondering, rum? bourbon? brandy? Before I am taken to task for even thinking low fat eggnog, Imma gonna say that the traditional very thick stuff isn't to the taste of either of us.  It covers up the flavor of the liquor for one thing.  For another, it's, well, thick, and neither of us care for that.

Christmas, please, please, please! is going to be lovely.  I have been looking forward to it.  I still have gift shopping to do though.  But it's been wet and nasty-dark the last couple of days.  Windy and cold too.  Today, it's all foggy.  And not that special and magical fog of New Orleans, for instance.  Clammy and mean, instead.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Very Good Christmas Party + A Home Stabbing

Last night. May we mention again what a gentleman the actor Steve Bucemi is?  I'm not saying that only because I happen to really admire Boardwalk Empire, and how it shows fairly normal people caught up in the events of the day, from the women's vote and women's reproductive -- not even rights yet, but information --  the wireless, jazz and everything else, even the beginnings of home refrigeration, while Prohibition unleashes national law breaking at every level of society. I.e. people while living their lives create history.  It's also just gorgeous to look at.

But before leaving for the party we received some disturbing news, which the party took our minds off of, in such a classy matter, as well as providing relief from the terrible events of the weekend. All of us have been pretty beat up about that, el V no less than anyone else.  Such little children, for no reason, than as a bridge for a very disturbed person with guns no one should have access to find the adrenaline to put himself out of his own misery.

But the personal news from Saturday afternoon has kept el V extra jangled all day, along with the horrors of Friday.  And while making dinner, then, stabbed himself in his right palm.  It seems to be deep and painful, but, not a muscle or vein. It stopped bleeding pretty fast, though at first -- YIKES!  He had a tetanus shot before going to Africa this summer.  We have neosporin and gauze and antiseptics and so on. Doctor tomorrow to look at it.  I made the call that the emergency room wasn't necessary tonight, in the cold and the rain.

It's always something isn't it.

And here by Thursday I was feeling all warm fuzzies about it being the Christmas and holiday season.  I was so looking forward to this party too.  Well, thanks to the Host and Hostess and their very fine guests, an oasis of holiday cheer appeared.  We are -- still -- the lucky ones, the fortunate ones.  As Willie Nelson said a couple of weeks ago when asked what he thought his greatest achievement was, and he said, "I'm still here."

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Our Teachers and Custodians

The next time any of us see or hear complaints about teachers being lazy, getting paid too much, getting summers, holidays and weekends off, having unions, receiving medical insurance and pensions, we should remember what teachers and staff have done at all these schools that have suffered such horrible violence and homicide, -- when people think custodians don't deserve decent pay, benefits and respect -- and reply, "Have you no shame? Have you no shame?" "Have you no shame?"

It can happen and does happen in every kind of school. No school is immune.

Particularly when automatic weapons seemingly outnumber people in this country.

The hypocrisy of the entertainment media needs to be called out as well.

Several television series' episodes and movie openings were canceled this weekend, in order to "respect" the dead and their families, including  the Syfy Channel's Haven and Tom Cruise's impersonation of being Jack Reacher, The Killing Floor. We all know that by Monday all this stuff will be back. In meantime audiences are drooling all over the blogosphere in anticipation of Tarantino's exploitation and appropriation of black exploitation flicks, slavery and westerns, with rape, torture, whippings and a blood-kill toll in the hundreds. They can't wait -- while at the same time typing diatribes of how they hope this latest killer burns in hell, and what they'd do with him if they got their hands on him -- in the grandest revenge movie and gamer style. We can't even see our disconnect here, our hypocrisy of decrying real life violence while playing violence, looking at violence during so many of our 'free' waking hours.

Nobody says a word about the culture of murder and rape in video and computer gaming. The NRA howls anytime one mentions gun ownership regulation of automatic weapons, but their howls are not louder than the gaming industry.

Yet we wonder that in a nation that lives on and by what the entertainment media and the NRA lives on, a nation so saturated with weapons in the hands of individuals, that this goes on. "How can we stop it?" we ask hopelessly. Which hypocrisy is nauseating. We all know how to change this culture. We also all know that it won't be allowed. We won't allow it, while we will allow entertainment and the NRA make billions from the deaths of our own children. And even ourselves, as happened with the gun-collecting mother of this latest terribly disturbed shooter who spent a huge amount of the hours of his limited life killing as a game.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Cuban Intervention in Angola

El V writes:

. . . Hip Deep Angola, Part Four: The Cuban Intervention in Angola is streaming on Soundcloud, right here:

The arc of the show covers from the independence of Ghana in 1957 to the Angolan peace that began in 2002 following the death of Jonas Savimbi. Among its other achievements, it contains a 2:50 excerpt of a powerful March 1977 speech by Fidel Castro in Luanda, at the peak of his oratorical power, that does not appear in the LANIC Castro speech database. It was furnished to me, along with other Angolan radio features and bumpers, by Dr. Marissa Moorman, who is working on a book I am keenly interested in: Tuning in to Nation: Radio, State Power, and the Cold War in Angola.

I haven't been mentioning this sufficiently, but each
HIP DEEP ANGOLA episode is accompanied by a web feature that features an interview transcript with, like, major-ass scholars.

Hip Deep Angola has interviews I did with Marissa Moorman, Stefanie Alisch, Bárbaro Martínez Ruiz, C. Daniel Dawson, Victor Gama, and Piero Gleijeses, not all of them posted yet. These! Are! The! People!
And more to come.
The principal scholar for HDA4 is Piero Gleijeses from Johns Hopkins, whose Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976 is a formidable and definitive piece of contemporary scholarship -- he got the Cubans to invent a declassification procedure -- and who will shortly be following it up, 11 years later, with Visions of Freedom. The web feature will include (not up yet) my interview with him, as well as with Angolan composer, instrument builder, and musicologist Victor Gama.

For the record, the other three Hip Deep Angolas are streaming here:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


That is the most money I've spent at the post office at a single crack.
But the one I picked for us to mail from wasn't too bad when it came to the line. I forced el V to get up earlier than he liked, because he is now in party mode for the first time in 12 months, and went out [i]at[/i] midnight, to hear some musicians in from Angola. So we got in ahead of the day's rush as well. We tied up one of the windows then, for nearly 25 minutes as the packages were processed.

Tonight, the Cullman Center has its annual Christmas party for all the Fellows past and present. I always love this party.

Saturday's Christmas party is the serious annual Bold Faced Names from fashion, television, music, movies and politics. I have a very nice outfit -- with lovely new boots, that I can dance in as well as walk in. This is always a dance party by a certain point.

Also tonight is the 12.12.12 benefit concert for Hurricane Sandy's victims at Madison Square Garden -- it's one heck of a line-up, including the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen. It will also live stream on a variety of television stations.

The Stones are here, having done their appearance at Barclays a couple of nights ago, already, on their current U.S. tour of a very limited number of dates in very few places. I keep imagining the negotiations and planning for the scheduling of this. As delicate, surely, as those between Israel and Hammas ....

Via a fluke, El V could probably attend. I have zip interest myself. I hate huge crowds and I loathe Madison Square Garden -- you are dead blind within 5 minutes from all the smart phone camera flashes. And everybody howls all the time so you don't hear anything anyway.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Detour

Today's return from the nearly daily Morton Williams run was at sunset.

Our church, St. Anthony's, completed it's Chirstmas decorations over this past weekend. This took me two blocks out of my way home from the supermarket, because St. Anthony's complex covers the entire block from east to west. Instead of heading straight down Thompson, I detoured along Houston to Sullivan, and then back down, so I could take in all the display of lights and the beautiful traditional Tuscan nativity set-up. There is a small parking area on the Thompson St. corner, which is secular, with reindeer and trees. On the Sullivan St. corner is St. Anthony himself, surrounded with Christmas greenery and lights.

It's very beautiful, particularly when viewed at particular angles that show up dramatically the classic Renaissance Italy style domes and campanile against the lowering cobalt clouds streaked with sun setting rose and red.

Now to fill the mailers and close them up. Tomorrow -- the post office. Pity me.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Your Heart Breaks

A teenager in Pennsylvania knows why she's poor and is fighting with every fiber of her being to break out of that trap. But where is the help going to come from? She works so hard on all fronts, and she's got nothing, nothing at all. As the article states at one point, "...not even a $50 savings bond inherited from an uncle." I.e. that is what makes poverty, the lack of resources to create a surplus that you can hand down to the next generation. You are born poor, you generally stay that way. For a while in this country many people who did make sure they got a high school education, worked all the time to get that education, could then find a way to go to college, and get further education that opened better paying jobs. But that is pretty much gone now, and higher education is so expensive you can't even get loans to go to school when you're that poor, and if you do get a loan, you're in debt peonage for life -- as there aren't the jobs at the end of the degree that there once were.

What is she going to do? She enlisting. Good luck with her hopes that she will get a college degree with her VA benefits, and a job afterwards.

I cannot tell you how many of the homeless on the streets of NYC are vets. I've taken to talking to the homeless who are asking for a bit of help, and finding out their story, if they want to talk. Expecting the homeless veteran to talk to me because I gave them a couple of dollars is awfully arrogant though, I feel. They have earned so much more.

And what seems to be coming through -- though I am not a professional at all in these areas, and have no training whatsoever -- is that these individuals enlisted much as the girl in this article is doing, from dead-end poverty, without any advantages of any kind, and thus none of the experience or training or the resources to figure out what to do next, once they complete their enlistment, and they end up dead-ended again, except older and more damaged. Particularly the women, who suffer endless sexual harrasment and threat.

Please read this story in the Washington Post magazine online, "In Rust Belt, a teenager’s climb from poverty ..."

Though this is a different part of the country, and not fiction, Tabitha reminds me so much of Ree in Winter's Bone.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Not Snowing - But It Should Be!

It warmed up -- high 40's to 50. The sky and air feels as though it could snow, should snow, as the daylight fades and the temps fall. But it is not, nor is snow predicted.

They got quite a bit in Central - Northern New Jersey earlier this week. It's a lot colder there than here, of course; more like New England than Manhattan, weather-wise.

A whole different world of New Jersey than Atlantic City, as we see it in Boardwalk Empire. One of the very many things I like about Boardwalk Empire is that seasons and weather are as much a part of the mise en scene as everything else. And of course, I like how central women's roles are, and the things that women are interested in, particularly freedom, their dreams of aspiration.

At the start of season 3 one of the female primaries goes down to the Shore beyond the Boardwalk to witness the landing of an aviatrix who flew non-stop across the continental U.S. You see the women speculating about her with interest and some sense of, if she can do that .... while you see male characters making fun of the pilot, speculating on how easily they could f*ck her if they wanted to. One of the characters who got killed was an artist, a painter, who had dreamed of going to Paris, who was so excited by the news of the art that was being made in France. Temperance, suffragette and women's reproductive health are part of of the matrix within which Boardwalk Empire's narrative and characters operate, as well as other historic events and figures. But for women, their complete lack of knowledge of their bodies, their lack of reproductive advice, health care and information, do in more than one of them, in more than one way. Yet, they dream. More of them live than die. They have agency and they seize it whenever, wherever, and however they see an opportunity. None of them are the same.

This is a very well written, well-structured, gorgeous arc series. A Tulane amigo provides part of the narration of the history of speakeasies, gangsters and jazz at the end of season 2's dvd collection.

As with Treme, I watch this now, as I have been doing since Sandy hit us so badly, with sad knowledge that many of the locations for scenes no longer exist. The lovely house on the Staten Island shore that stood in for the New Jersey Shore house where a primary character, his wife and son live*, for instance, was destroyed by Sandy.

I finished watching season two of Boardwalk Empire and have now got started on season 3. Will slow down now, as el V gets back tonight from his whirlwind of activities in New Orleans in time for dinner. The next two or three days will be made up of wrapping Kiss You Down South , doing Christmas cards and so on. And then, the ordeal of the Post Office. I would have had this all finished by now, except the mailers are up in el V's office, and he needs to sign the cds -- and he's been just too busy to deal with even bringing home the mailers, much less anything else to do with Christmas. Yet, we will have dinner Monday night with a friend from out of town, his musical niece and her husband.


* Not mentioning characters' names because perhaps someone who reads this hasn't seen those episodes yet and won't want to know who before hand.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Historian, raconteur, guitarist Ned Sublette plays songs from new album Dec. 7, at Siberia

A nice story - interview on NOLA.Com (used to be the Times-Picayune, before they closed the print edition) about El V, plus a photo of Kiss You Down South and a video of Willie Nelson doing "Cowboys are Frequently Secretly."

Gather ‘round the campfire with Ned Sublette, as he plays music from Kiss You Down South at Siberia (2227 St. Claude Ave.) from 7-9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 7. Tickets $5.
He's in New Orleans primarily of course, for the One Book, One New Orleans program, where he's looking forward to meeting people who have read The World That Made New Orleans. Tomorrow, Thursday, he'll be appearing with his author hat on at the Latter Library (5120 St. Charles) in New Orleans, from 4 to 6 p.m.