". . . 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, February 28, 2013

Eye Strain + Richmond, VA

Transferring so many notes and organizing them.  Reading pdfs.  Very hard on the eyes, and gives you a headache.

So, el V takes us out to dinner.  I wasn't up to planning and doing all that is done for dinner tonight.

Besides we had to discuss how we wanted to do our upcoming travel.

Richmond, Virginia first, we're thinking. There is no question, this is historic / museum Richmond.  We're looking to find out which are the best historic tours.  Contemporary Richmond isn't unworthy, it's just our mission is the past.

No matter though, we won't be finding this - and likely it wasn't there even during the time it was painted; it's impossible not to notice when you plug "Historic Richmond" into Google images, not a figure of color is to be found. All those people in the kitchens making that delicious Virginia food -- they are all period costumed white people.  Whereas, historically, it's fairly safe to say that for centuries those kitchens did not have any white people cooking in them

We probably will visit our friends in Charlottesville (hometown for Monticello) before heading back.

Followed a few weeks later by Charleston and, maybe, Savannah. The same holds for them as for Richmond.

Michel-Rolph Trouillot

The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU is hosting a conference from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. tomorrow (March 1) in memory of distinguished Haitian anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot. (Michel-Rolph Trouillot's words are the sticky at the top of Fox Home.)

It begins with a performance by Gina Athena Ulysse, and the keynote, from 4:30 to 5:30, is by Colin Dayan, author most recently of The Law is a White Dog: How Legal Rituals Make and Unmake Persons as well as the memorial piece "Remembering Trouillot."

Among the other benefits attending this benefit is spending quality time with Haitian historians, scholars and intellectuals.  Despite all of terrible tragedies and other obstacles, Haiti's intellectual class is among the most brilliant in the world.  When it comes to history, they have a perspective that is invaluable, particularly for those of us who have been brought up in the tunnel-visioned, myopic view of U.S. history: history is the U.S., and it is exceptional, triumphant -- and always good for everyone everywhere.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lovely Words Written in New Orleans About *Kiss You Down South* + HBO *Treme*

El V's album of songs he's written about New Orleans, Kiss You Down South, receives a beautiful write-up in New Orleans's music paper, Offbeat.

A pull from the piece:

Writers obsessed with fame, money and power are systematically denied that imaginative vision. They instead become artisans working in a marketplace creating consumer goods. Their product becomes inevitably and often fatally narcissistic. New Orleans has traditionally afforded artists the opportunity to pursue marketplace-free goals and continues to do so. This is what attracted the singular imagination of Ned Sublette to the city that lured Clemens and Whitman, Faulkner and Williams into its magic crescent. 

As well, the writer describes the last day of Treme's final season, which is only a half season of episodes, all the team got funding for from HBO. There will be no more after these 5 episodes air.

But hey! there's the solipsistic navel lint picking of Girls to console us. Ain't life just Grand O Ho Dee Ho Dough!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Elite, Powerful, Wealthy British Families Received Fortunes in Compensation for Abolition of Slavery

Britain's colonial shame: Slave-owners given huge payouts after abolition
 David Cameron's ancestors were among the wealthy families who received generous reparation payments that would be worth millions of pounds in today's money

I ran into this article in the Independent yesterday, while looking up something else.  The database, "Legacies of Slave Ownership,"on which this article is based, will be available to the public here, starting on Wednesday (February 27, 2013). El V thought it mattered enough to make it today's Da List post.

How much did the slave owners get?
The British government paid out £20m to compensate some 3,000 families that owned slaves for the loss of their "property" when slave-ownership was abolished in Britain's colonies in 1833. This figure represented a staggering 40 per cent of the Treasury's annual spending budget and, in today's terms, calculated as wage values, equates to around £16.5bn.
I wonder if this enormous payout of national resources to the sugar baronage, which had so long controlled Parliament, had a relationship to the horrible state of wages and opportunity in England during the 1830's, whether in the rural regions or the industrial manufacture regions. There labor unest led to riots -- riots over the price and availability of the most basic foodstuffs, for only a single example.  Though emigration opportunities had been curtailed, ironically prison transportation of economic protesters, along with so many other sorts of undesirables, increased.

The article is a long one, packed with information.  The two paragraphs below are the shocking conclusion.

Campaigning against slavery began in the late 18th century as revulsion against the trade spread. This led, first, to the abolition of the trade in slaves, which came into law in 1808, and then, some 26 years later, to the Act of Parliament that would emancipate slaves. This legislation made provision for the staggering levels of compensation for slave-owners, but gave the former slaves not a penny in reparation.
More than that, it said that only children under six would be immediately free; the rest being regarded as "apprentices" who would, in exchange for free board and lodging, have to work for their "owners" 40 and a half hours for nothing until 1840. Several large disturbances meant that the deadline was brought forward and so, in 1838, 700,000 slaves in the West Indies, 40,000 in South Africa and 20,000 in Mauritius were finally liberated.
I've never understood when so many felt so much compassion for slave holders losing their forced labor force (whether in Britain or the U.S.) there was so little compassion for those who lives were stolen.  There was enormous discussion here about levels of federal compensation provided the slave holders of the Confederate States of America after the Civil War -- something on which the dismissed "radical extremist emancipators" such as Thaddeus Stevens held the line against providing.  But the forty acres and a mule reparation for the former slaves received little or no serious consideration. What we did do here in the U.S. was compensate the Washington D.C. slave owners for emancipation -- from wiki:
It was called “compensated emancipation.” was a law that ended slavery in Washington, D. C. by paying slave owners for releasing their slaves. Although not written by him,[1] the act was signed by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln on April 16, 1862. April 16 is now celebrated in the city as Emancipation Day.
As mentioned at the top, it was one of those serendipitous moments, encountering by chance, this article when I'd just run into this, concerning John C. Calhoun, and his, by now long-matured strategy to make slavery universal as a system and accepted as right, moral and God's will:
Upon assuming his new office [Calhoun was appointed Sec of State by Tyler in 1844] Calhoun found an unanswered
letter from the British minister in Washington,
who explained that his government, having
abolished slavery in its own empire ( 1833 ) , was ready
to assist in abolishing it throughout the world. Calhoun
wrote and sent a remarkable reply. The United
States, he said, must frustrate the insidious aim of the
British and, to do so, must get possession of Texas.
Otherwise, Texas might be induced to emancipate its
slaves and thus, by setting a bad example and by extending
the free-soil border, might increase the difficulties
of preserving slavery in the United States. But
slavery must be preserved. It was the ideal institution,
for slaves no less than masters. To clinch his point, Calhoun
cited statistics from the latest federal census to
show that feeblemindedness and insanity were more
common among the free Negroes of the North than the slaves of the South.ftn 20 
No matter how long one studies these matters,  how deeply, how broadly one has already delved in these matters, every day still throws up something important about which I, at least, had no idea. Or, another way of putting it might be, one understands every day that no matter how much you know about our European - American centuries of the slave economic system, that was worse than you know or can imagine.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Netflix *House of Cards* + A *Scandal* - ous Note

By now it shouldn't be spoilery to make an observation as to a somewhat implausible plot point in the Netflix House of Cards.

A sitting Vice President resigns in order to run for an office in his home state.

Have you ever heard of such a thing in the history of the U.S.?

Only twice.

The first time was at the end of 1832, when John C. Calhoun, at impassable loggerhead with his President, Andrew Jackson. Among other conflicts (including the Easton affair), Jackson had finally found out (likely thanks to that political sure-foot, Van Buren) that while he was up to torturing and hanging British officers in the Floridas, the then Secretary of War under President Monroe, the same John C. Calhoun, attempted to persuade Monroe to at least censure Jackson for these activities. This was the end for Calhoun's dearly held ambitions to be POTUS himself.

Jackson never forgave what he considered betrayals or insults.  As he and Calhoun were also both Scotch-Irish, born in the same Carolina mountains during the revolutionary era, both Presbyterians, there was not going to be any give here.

Calhoun returned to South Carolina, where he'd already been elected to his home state's vacant Senate seat due  to the resignation of Robert Hayne. From thereon Calhoun became the great slave power nullifier and secessionist, reversing every principle he'd held earlier in his life and political career.

His consequent attempts to have South Carolina secede after failure to nullify the new tariff bill failed. This was partially due to Jackson sending down an "O no you don't!" military force, and partially due to what Calhoun recognized thereafter: South Carolina couldn't go it alone, he and his state needed the support of other states for secession, which not even sister state Georgia had given in his struggle with Jackson.

It became Calhoun's strategy thereafter to unite the South in opposition to the North, utilizing slavery, the slave trade -- and most of all, to spread the doctrine that there was no reason to  hold moral doubts about slavery, as did the Founding Fathers.  Instead he preached Slavery as Positive Good For Everyone Everywhere, and thus its right to expand into all parts of the United States and any territories it wished to expand into.  This effectively widened the regional rifts already showing.  Jackson as popular and political national figure was so huge that  he, implacable Unionist, bestrode both sides of the rift, thus it took some time, but in the end, as we see to this day, Calhoun was successful in his quest.

The second time a sitting Vice President resigned, it was Spiro Agnew, who was  loose cannon and embarrassment to the hated Nixon regime, embroiled in lies, Vietnam and other criminal activities that included initiating the destruction of the U.S. Post Office and our then very effective medical system.

Under these circumstances, one has difficulty believing in this House of Cards resignation. Particularly as in our political system the VP isn't a power base.  At best it can be a stepping stone to an easy Presidential nomination by one's party, but often such a nomination leads to unsuccessful campaign and election (see Gore vs. Bush).

But we expect Our Frank Underwood is expecting to make this very move. *


* We also expect Scandal's FLOTUS, D-Mellie Grant, to body block Frank's expectation most effectively, particularly since Frank's a Dem from South Carolina. Recall, the Democrats of Calhoun's time, up until the Civil Rights era of LBJ, was a very different animal.  Who ever has heard of such a thing since the days of John C. Calhoun?  --  -- a powerful Democrat out of the Palmetto state?.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

"Glories of Classicism" - Stephen Greenblatt and Joseph Leo Koerner

The Classical Tradition
edited by Anthony Grafton, Glenn W. Most, and Salvatore Settis
Belknap Press/ Harvard University Press, 1,067 pp., $49.95

Reviewed in the current NY Review of Books, though the book was originally published at the end of 2010:

This is how the review concludes, which reflects so much about our currently free-falling world, as perceived by those whose nativity is pre-digital:

The Renaissance was poised between a ritual of mourning and an act of resurrection. On the one hand, Petrarch wept over the corpse of the ancient world, its shattered ruins testifying to an irrevocable loss. On the other hand, even as he wept, he launched a passionate attempt to recover the moral and aesthetic standards of the classical past and to celebrate those values that remained eternally valid, untouched by time and indifferent to history. The understanding of ancient culture as the product of a particular historical period is in tension with the dream of rebirth. Even the great modern champions of historical awareness remain vexed by the normative nature of the classical tradition as a source of truth and beauty. Marx understood ancient Greece as the model childhood of humanity. For Nietzsche, a failure to seize hold of the rejuvenating power of antiquity is an abuse of history.

 The Classical Tradition is an elegy both for the historical obsession with Greek and Roman antiquity and for the dream of its eternal validity. It is a “last book.” Its editors know that huge collections of this kind will henceforth find their place, if anywhere, on the Web. And they know still more, that today’s humanities students prefer subjects no older than themselves.

As we see, the reviewers' essay on this work is an elegiac musing upon our own times, as it reflects upon the looking-back of other ages at the classical world.  Whether or not the reviewers are essentially correct in this vision is irrelevant because their style is functionally integrated with the ostensible subject at hand -- the book,  and what is contained in the book itself, which contents, like the essay, are a co-creation.  A lovely piece of writing.

Friday, February 22, 2013

India Muslins! Thomas Cruse Has Received For Sale!

I've been looking at Richmond, VA papers regarding the 1800 Gabriel Insurrection Conspiracy while James Monroe was governor.

The stories in the papers surrounding, for instance, the announcement of Monroe's Proclamation to hunt down Gabriel are equally interesting: the Alexandria Jockey Club Races get much more column inches than the Proclamation, an advertisement for a run-away slave gets a much larger size font; India muslins have arrived to surely great relief of the ladies of Richmond now that they too can dress in the style of Joséphine Bonaparte. It's fascinating reading John V. Thomas's announcement of the stationers' goods that have arrived at his store and particularly the list of new novels that have arrived from England. (I didn't recognize any of the titles. Evidently authoring forgettable fiction is an old tradition. :)

 But most of the papers' stories are of the French Republic and the consequent European imbroglios, including the pretender to the French Crown seeking asylum in either Russia or London.

And then, I run into James Callendar's shilling for Jefferson, which two years' later, after being imprisoned for libel, and Jefferson doing nothing about that, and not even paying him with either cash or position, turned into serious resentment and desire to hurt >>> soon we will be reading about Jefferson's Dusky Sally ....

Gads, isn't online brilliant?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

*Treme's* Sonny Went To *Nashville!*

And Nashville took him to their heart, as  bad-boy music producer Liam McGuinnis.

Knowing Nashville as I used to know the town and the people who made it there, one way and another,, somehow, this seems the perfect trajectory for Sonny the musician -- if he isn't going to be Sonny the Gulf Environmental Activist.  :)  Which is what I've been going for ....

The funny thing is a while back I was trying to explain to el V that Simon and Co.'s influence upon television, while hardly ever given the visible awards such emmys and so on, are seen all over.  Nashville was, I said (without having watched it yet -- had just read articles about it and re-caps ), taking a central theme of Treme and making it safe for white people. Make it music (though in Treme, it's all of the culture that music holds together) and making it specific to a place. Simon and Co., and his mentors, have been doing the culture specific to place, since Homicide.  But they don't get credit for it, just like with Deadwood's attitude for language, which you see that oratorical rhetoric showing up everywhere these days from Justified to BBC America's  Copper, doesn't get ur-credit, just cheaper rip-offs. 

Nashville, centering the most white music there is, and situating it in this totally White Music City, that is the most nostalgic status quo conservative music there is (it's been decades since there was any edge in Country -- and when there was I loved it -- I grew up with Country). And it's all about who makes it and who doesn't, loaded with more graphic sex and more sex, and all white people.  Did I mention white people?

And that's where Sonny went.  Though it does seem perfect,  I never thought that of him. My respect for his respect for the music of New Orleans was higher than that.  p)

This is what matters: people / actors who work in a David Simon production keep getting work.  I see these actors everywhere, just starting with The Good Wife..  They get good resume and great training.

Even more to the point, without Treme there would never have been a Nashville.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

*Downton Abbey* Season 3 Finale

I watched Downton Abbey's finale -- the Christmas Special over in the UK -- last night during dinner time. As much of the episode takes place at Duneagel, a Highland's castle in the possession of one of Lord Robert's relatives, it as though we'd  returned to the comedy-drama series, Monarch of the Glen (2000-2005), complete with those glen monarch stags, one of which Our Lord Robert successfully bags, thereby demonstrating his manhood has fully recovered from killing his daughter and losing his wife's money. It even can be read as a signal that "Since Old Robert's still got what it takes to be the King, the new, young King must die" element, that the episode executes, I think, rather skillfully, though I hate it because it is so good for again centering the Horrid Mary.

This Monarch of the Glen association with Downton isn't arbitrary whimsy on my part.  Julian Fellowes played one of the characters in the Glen series. He was the frenemy of  Richard Briers's character, who played the husband of Susan Hampshire's character. I will watch Susan Hampshire, a fountain of bottomless charm, in the very best sense of the word, in anything.  By sheer chance it was announced yesterday that Richard Briers had died. Like the entire world, knowing this Christmas Special Downton Abbey was set on a Highlands estate, I was inspired to watch it in Briers' and Susan Hampshire's honor. Monarch of the Glen was absurdly and unexpectedly charming in its first seasons, but by the end of season 4 I quit the series as it turned stupid. The actor-characters I'd so enjoyed had all departed by the end of season 4. Evidently this left the writers without ability to craft a decent seasonal arc or even a decent line of script.

Here is the link to a Q & A with Fellowes addressing Downton Abbey's season 4.

Fellows tells us season four resumes 6 months after this Christmas Special episode's final event.

Q. Was it your decision to dispense with Sybil and Matthew in the same season?
A. No. You see, in America, it’s quite standard for an actor to sign, at the beginning of a series, for five or seven years. The maximum any British agent will allow you to have over an actor is three years. And Jessica and Dan wanted to go. The show had been very, very successful, tremendously so, and they were being offered great opportunities. Don’t think I’m saying it critically – I don’t blame them at all. I can remember when I was a young actor, and I just had this feeling it was time to go to London. I was doing repertory theater in the country, and I resigned halfway through the season. Of course, all my friends and my parents thought I was completely mad. I went up to London and I got a job in a West End show with Hayley Mills. I reminded myself of that when Jessica and Dan said they wanted to go.
 I thought, “Well, you can’t be that snippy because on a scaled-down version, that’s exactly what you did.” 

Inadvertently or not though, what it looks like is that Matthew Crawley, the resented heir of Downton Abbey due to the entail, performed his role as the perfect gentleman.  He marries the horrid Mary thus saving the estate for this generation of Grantham-Crawleys, he further saves the estate by becoming the unexpected heir to a fortune after Our Lord Robert runs the Downton estate into the ground and loses his wife's fortune via very bad business judgment, and he provides these Crawleys via Mary a male heir all within their family -- then immediately dies, his function in the order of things accomplished. Just like the shot Highland stag, dispensable now that he's fulfilled his biological function as the male, to impregnate the does, ensuring species' continuity.

Q. Once you’d made your peace with their departures, how did you decide to handle them narratively? 

A.With Jessica, it seemed right to give her a whole episode that was about her death. With Dan, I had hoped that we would have one episode of this fourth season that I’m writing now, so we could have ended the Christmas episode on a happy note – the baby, everything lovely. And then kill him in the first episode of the next series. But he didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want his death to dominate the Christmas special, so that’s why we killed him at the very, very end. In a way I think it works quite well because we begin Series 4 six months later. We don’t have to do funerals and all that stuff. That’s all in the past by then. 

G-dang-dayem, what are the consequences of the end of Matthew Crawley? It's going to be ALL ABOUT MARY. So much for Edith getting some of her own.

A.I’m not giving anything away by saying that one of the main themes is the rebuilding of Mary, that Mary has to rebuild her life in a society which is changing. We would see women’s roles in the ’20s as being very much behind women today. But it was a big advance on what it had been 30 years before. And that’s all explored in the show. 
Worst of all, with Mary as the mother of  THE MALE HEIR to Downton Abbey, we're not going to get much more of Branson or his and Sybill's daughter.  It's going to be ALL ABOUT MARY ALL THE TIME.  Damn, damn, damn.

If I hadn't watched this episode, however, I would have missed one of the most charming and genuine feeling sequence in television, Anna,  now our Mrs. Bates, dancing the Reel, with the most attractive foot, ankle and calf ever made visible in those days when decent women covered to the tops of their high top shoes.  She-actress was adorable -- and danced so very well, as well as loving the dance.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

*Harlem Nights* (1989)

With Redd Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Danny Aiello, Richard Pryor, and a cast of many more, including Arsenio Hall, the period locarion is the 1920’s. Oooooh, the period and costume recreation were wonderful. They are even more gorgeous for the women, at least (nothing is quite as great for masculine sartorial style of that era, or any other for that matter, than Boardwalk Empire), that what you see currently on Boardwalk Empire and Downton Abbey.  I wish I could have been the period consultant for that film.

But I didn’t know Harlem yet, in 1988-89 – was only on the verge of going to know, knowing I needed to know, was going to know. But I thought this education would be Spanish Harlem. I'd no idea this would lead to classic African American intellectual and artistic Harlem of those days, which, despite so many dislocations and bad deals, has continued in many of those those incredible brownstones of Sugar Hill. In the film they were decorated in the lavish and lush mode of the Harlem Renaissance and the Jazz Age, as the Modern blew up Harlem and everywhere around it.  I’ve spent a lot of time in those houses by now, and I understand the layouts. Now their interiors are as filled with light and air as can be managed, while back then those layers of heavy drapery hung and swagged in those huge bay windows, on the walls and the arches between rooms, along the staircases. Velvets, gold cording, red and black, done up with African accented Jazz Age art deco objets d'art, and wall paper.

Gorgeous architecture works in whatever period dressing you give it. I’d never watched this movie before though it was very popular when it came out. I tend to steer clear of violent movies – but this was a comedy-drama, and sometimes -- intentionally and successfully so -- just so silly, so it was good-natured rather than  about hurting people for sake of giving the audience sensationalist thrills.  And in the end, it is a caper flick, in which your real manhood is proven to be located in your brain, not in your substitute penis gun.

This was not a movie intended to make its audience meditate on the past, rather to enjoy the careen -- though clearly the history consultant and the costumers and set decorators did -- to purely entertain.  Yet, it turned out, due to place and company in which I watched it, Harlem Nights provided me a chronological marker about so much of how my life changed at 1989, in permanent ways, and how much I've learned and experienced since then.  Which is maybe what birthdays are about sometimes.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

What's 10 Degrees and Snow All Over?

The place where I was born and grew up.

It looks today just like it looked on my birthday in those days: a blizzard just passed through, a blizzard in the offing or a blizzard in progress.

I think it was on my 5th birthday that a blizzard was in progress, which meant no grandparents, no aunts and uncles, and worst of all no cousins, could make it to our farm place to have birthda cake, ice cream, pop, bar-b-que sandwiches and potato chips -- and bring presents.  I cried in terrible disappointment. So I got a spanking -- not a birthday spanking either! to teach me that you cannot cry about such things, which made me cry more.  It's horrible being a child.  At least it was horrible being a child when I was a child.  My siblings don't treat their children that way when dreadfully disappointed.  Thank goodness!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mardi Gras! Tomorrow!

For some people.

Got to do an NYU gig on Cuba. Also, Abe Lincoln's birthday!

Rainstorm with excellent flood potential Wednesday -- thank goodness el V flies to San Fran either Wednesday AM or early afternoon, can't remember which, to present at a Cuban Salas Convention, with lot of dance department  people, as well as enthusiastists. And another blizzard this weekend. We shall see. But this means I need to go shopping tomorrow for hunkering again, just in case.

He had to go to the Eye Ear and Throat person today, because his head is still so congested and ears won't unplug from flying congested on Tuesday. He can't fly again with congestion and ears already plugged up. There would be a passenger event, as the airlines call it.

That tiny piercing of the eardrum to allow drainage couldn't be done, because you can't fly if you have it done. So the doctor told him to use sudafed, which is essentially speed. Which means getting it from the drugstore is a major pain even though it's an over-the-counter drug. You can't get much at a time, and you have to sign all these papers that supposedly prove you're using it as it is intended rather to to make meth.

Everything gets more of a hassle all the time. This is hardly the land of the free is it.

Ah well. We'll have an early V-day dinner tomorrow night and then head off to the Jazz Standard for some spectacular guitar music. As these are some South American musicians surely they will invoke Mardi Gras?

But it's not New Orleans.  That's the one.

From *The Root*- How African Are We?

Exactly How 'Black' Is Black America? by Henry Louis Gates, who is by far not my best-trusted scholar or commentator on many matters.  However he has been working on this project for many years, even before dna forensics became possible, and by now, so accessible to so many.

And for our African-American male guests, there has been still another astonishing fact revealed about their paternal ancestry -- their father's father's father's line -- through their y-DNA: A whopping 35 percent of all African-American men descend from a white male ancestor who fathered a mulatto child sometime in the slavery era, most probably from rape or coerced sexuality. In other words, if we tested the DNA of all of the black men in the NBA, for instance, just over one-thirddescend from a white second or third great-grandfather. In my own case, he was my great-great grandfather, and he was most probably of Irish descent, judging from our shared y-DNA haplogroup.

I find two things quite fascinating about these results. First of all, simply glancing at these statistics reveals that virtually none of the African Americans tested by these DNA companies is inferred to be 100 percent sub-Saharan African, although each company has analyzed Africans and African immigrants who did test 100 percent sub-Saharan in origin. Ranges, of course, vary from individual to individual. Spencer Wells, director of National Geographic's Genographic Project, explained to me that the African Americans they've tested range from 53 percent to 95 percent sub-Saharan African, 3 percent to 46 percent European and zero percent to 3 percent Native American. So there is a lot of genetic variation within our ethnic group, as is obvious to anyone even casually glancing at black people just walking down the street.

This backs up our own boots on the ground observations:
And second, these findings show that the common claim that many African Americans make about their high percentage of Native American ancestry is a myth. Joanna Mountain broke down to me our low amounts of Native American ancestry in this way: "Eighty percent of African Americans have less than 1 percent Native American ancestry. Over 2.5 percent have between 2 percent and 3 percent. And of all African Americans who have at least 1 percent Native American ancestry, the average is two percent Native American." So much for all of those putative Cherokee roots on just about every black person's family tree, fabricated to explain why your great grandmother had "high cheekbones and straight black hair"! Why there is such little evidence of genetic mingling between African Americans and Native Americans deserves a column of its own.

The results for Latinos, however, are quite different: "In our experience," Mountain says, "people who have both African ancestry [at least 10 percent, according to genetics] and a lot of Asian/Native American ancestry [at least 10 percent, according to genetics] are more likely to consider themselves Latino than African American.

It's a long piece, worth looking at, particularly as it's Black History Month, you all!

Janis Ian Wins Grammy & the FLOTUS Tweets Her Congratulation

Very cool story -- who would have thought there would be one out of the Grammys? Of course, it's a story that wasn't part of the television broadcast.

Janis Ian was nominated in the Best Spoken Word category, for the audiobook of her autobiography. The other nominees were Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama, Ellen De Generes, and Rachel Maddow.

JI said, "It's like a joke waiting for a punchline: An ex-president, a First Lady, and three lesbians walk into a bar ...." So cool.

And then Michelle Obama tweeted Janis Ian congratulations. So very cool! And classy too.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

All We Ladies Prefer A Pros-ti-tute! To You! Hoo Hoo!

Ny-ah Lord Grantham, you fool.

Fool he is, but he's so frackin' entitled he's not embarrassed he's a fool. Rather he is outraged that certain person might think being a fool is a negative characteristic of his lordly grand self.This is the only episode in all the seasons that contains actual content, by golly.

We are speaking of Downton Abbey, episode 5 of season 3. I'd seen the earlier episodes this fall over there, and what else is there to do in a blizzard trapped with a Pitifullness From Sickness el V, who though very sick is not in the least quiet? (Thank goodness for Scandal, though, which, for sheer entertaining preposterousity cannot be beat!)

Ha-ha Grantham, we point and laugh at you. It was grand that none of the women would obey either Robert the Lord or Carson the Butler in shunning Ethel the Former Pros-ti-toot-toot.

It's the men who are morally outraged by Ethel's period as a sex worker, who insist she cannot be re-enter 'decent' society even though she's no longer a sex worker. Pray, tell, who do these men think are the customers who demand pros-ti-tutes as part of the free market?  Those customers certainly are not Mrs. Hudson or Mrs. Patmore, though surely at least one footman (not Thomas, of course) avail themselves of such services. Let us not forget how poor Ethel got herself in the family way in the the first place, and who was responsible, and forcing her then into becoming a pros-ti-toot.  Gads, they prolong the enunciation of the word prostitute, and repeat the word, in every other utterance. It comes to mind that this is, in it's own context, quite like QT's childish delight in having his characters scream, shout, drawl, order, etc. the n-word in every godayemed sentence.

So the content of this episode dramatizes the long known facts that men expect and utilize women to keep women in line with what men have decreed is women's acceptable behavior.  If the women of the community do not condemn a 'bad' woman, what ever shall men do to keep all the rest of the women from rebelling about -- well, everything? While, of course, continuing to have -- and even create themselves -- the constant supply of 'bad women' to service their constant market demand. But then, as already proven, Robert the Lord is too stupid to understand the market or finances or economics or anything else -- and, further, Robert Our Lord is proud of his stupidity, considering it a signalling virtue of his class superiority and his gender supremacy.

Stupid Robert the Lord has been a financial investment fool, an estate management fool, a medical childbirth fool, a father fool (this business about Edith not being allowed to write for the papers), a religious bigot fool (my God, baptize my granddaughter a Catholic -- this shall never be allowed because, and we quote, "... Catholics all have something of the foreign johnny about them")  He's offended every single woman of his family and everyone else with his asshatness. So this was a satisfying episode additionally because finally we see the actress playing Lady Cora do something other than smirk, "Oh, Robert!"  I'm sorry Cora reconciled so soon with Our Lord.  It's implausible, as implausible as Matthew being paralyzed and then he wasn't any more.

But it was such a joy to see every woman he's offended, and even his mother, who he hasn't offended, ignore his commandments about Ethel the Pros-ti-toot. Ha hah hah.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Mess Is In Process, Ho-dee-Ho-dough-dough!

Dangerous conditions, with ice, sleet and snow and rapidly dropping temps. There is going to be a lot of damage.  People here in certain parts will lose power, and they may well be flooded too.  And so many are still living without power and heat from Sandy, all these months ago.

Hope everyone gets home safely. And that we all continue to have power and internet access!

Most of all I hope it won't be as bad for Boston as currently seems likely.

It seems these days we don't have weather.  Instead we have unprecedented storms, flood and drought, extreme heat and extreme cold, wildfires and tornadoes.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Waiting For the Snow Godot

El V broke finally the Waiting for Godot Haiti trip (though there, you still spend most of your day waiting for godot in various guises: your car, etc.).

Maybe this time around the promised snow TheySayWeatherCritters have been warning, threatening, promising for months will arrive this weekend.  This time they might deliver because this is Great Big Storm that will collide with another one, and they have for some unfathomable reason taken to calling it Nemo. Instead of weather, this is all we get these days -- is Great Big Humongous Storms that through wind and water (whether snow or rain or both) wipe out power, property and the ability to actually you know WORK for days at a time -- or wildfires and drought.

El V brought back a nasty bug he likely acquired this last weekend at Carnival in Jacmel.  Port au Prince's carnival is Fat Tuesday, which this year is also Abe Lincoln's birthday, so Jacmel has it's carnival the week before. I've been given tastes of the video and photos he shot and Ooo-La-La -- it is spectacular stuff.  What knocks people like us back though is how familiar so much of it is, because the buildings (the ones still standing) may as well be in New Orleans.  And so many of the parade groups are -- well you see where the Wild Man and others of the Indians come from.  Jacmel carnival is also really rough as well as psychedelic: again you see the older Indian traditions.

He spent hours and hours with still camera, video camera and audio recording rig in the middle of the street parades, without any backup or assistance.  He was shoved, pushed and body blocked for days and nights..  And that's probably how he got whatever it is he's got that has taken away his voice.  And here it is: he had to sing yesterday for a television thing and he did it.  And he's supposed to be singing in San Francisco a week from yesterday ....

He's resting here.  I spent three hours in the cold to be ready for the hunker, if indeed the hunker will be called upon.  But we got it all, of whatever we need. Or might need.  As long as the power doesn't go out, that is.  It's awfully cold here.  I don't generally realize it outside because I'm dressed so well for it -- except for the upper part of my face.  I've been back inside for an hour and my cheeks are still red and cold.  And somehow, I feel tired. Well, I did bring back two good curl up in bed and read novels including what looks like a satisfyingly bloody historical on the eve of William's invasion of England, a half gallon of milk, four bottles of wine and assorted other things.  I must have walked 5 miles or so doing assorted shopping -- still after that damned elusive perfect duvet cover for the huge puffy duvet I never use because I loathe the cover,  and the equally elusive perfect blanket for warmer weather, another comforter and quilt, to replace some of ours that are rapidly reaching the stage of beyond the pale.

Now the dinner is getting ready, rice and refried, corn tortillas, chicken, diced green chili, tomatoes and lettuce, cheese and sour cream.  This will work.

Gonna be another damned cold night, but my baby's here, so I won't notice.  :)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Netflix's *House of Cards

All three 13 episodes of Netflix’s original re-make of the BBC House of Cards (1990) available at once. Released on Feb 1, being sick, Himself not back from Haiti until Tuesday night, the undelightful deep freeze temperatures, today and tomorrow all Koch funeral and Superbowl, this is perfect for me. I’ve watched so far through episode 7.

What's entertaining me particularly is the contrast between the English original (though that too was based on a novel) and this Americanized version. Since no (contemporary?) American actor can approach the polish of elegant, urbane,  sophisticated malice that Ian Richardson achieves effortlessly, it was smart to make this version's protag a rumpled South Carolinian. Nevertheless one does feel that John C. Calhoun would curl his lip at Underwood's decadent exercise of purely personal political power rather than the pursuit of power in service to political and philosophical doctrine, which as a good South Carolinian should be eternal and expansionist white supremacy and the power of the south, particularly that of South Carolina.  Moreover, it's a serious implausibility that there is a  powerful federal Democrat from South Carolina these days, as South Carolina again agitates for secession as much as it did during the Nullification Crisis of Calhoun's day.

The stand out performance is that of Robin Wright as Claire, Spacey's Underwood's wife. She maintains within each scene Ice Queen's smooth control -- a steel magnolia -- while managing to project through these small screens that there is volcanic rumbling behind the imperturbable exterior -- without raising her voice. Unlike in the original, this time around it's the wife who possesses Richardson's elegance -- she's Best of Show.

Bloggers tend to compare this House of Cards with the canceled-after-two-seasons, Chicago political drama, Boss, but I don't see them as much alike. With Claire we know this House of Cards will never throw up the gratuitous cruelty to women that Boss consistently did. Boss was brutal, flat, lacking any charm, elegance or humor; it was preoccupied by prolonged, detailed humiliation of every female character. Boss, and its Chicago, are squarely ugly as well as claustrophobic, as monochromatically dull as all-masculine cultures are. House of Cards is more colorful, with air and space (though the Underwoods' D.C. home is modest and dingy, despite mod cons -- so different from the Urquharts' tasteful, restful and lovely homes, gardens and grounds).

I hope we get to see more of the fictional South Carolina district from which Majority Whip Underwood comes -- particularly since HoC’s location shoots were in Baltimore and Maryland, for which state I have great affection, which is anything but grey, and is populated by various strong, effective, charming, stylish, smart women who take care of so much of Maryland’s business.

This isn't an innovative, original show, but it is solidly entertaining so far, even though D.C.’s physical environment is in large swathes more elegant and charming than the city's represented here – this is where HoC most looks like Boss, to my eyes. One speculates that Boss's choice in treating all the female characters in the drama so badly and having them show up so poorly was how it thought to distinguish itself from the political drama and plot drivers of the first House of Cards. But the women, who, as mentioned on this House of Cards, have agency, are the primary reason why it is more interesting, more involving and has more suspense than Boss. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

How Cold Today Is

I planned to make a wine sauce / reduction for my Without Himself Non-Pasta Saturday Dinner to go on my steak (other parts are baked potato and broccoli -- on broccoli kick -- it's so nice and green in this winter landscape). Red wine, naturally. One doesn't generally chill red wine, except in some circumstances and those are usually summer circumstances and particular red wines, which the bottles I have here are not.

I opened the wine to start the reduction and the wine is chilled! I mean, chilled, as in cold! from sitting where the unopened bottles of wine sit in this apartment. So I have set the bottle within close range of the oven, in which the potato is baking. Cold red wine is without bouquet and thus without flavor and destroys the wine's legs* -- by that last bit we mean the wine's capacity to cling to the sides of the glass after being swirled to release the bouquet or just when tipped to the mouth to drink. Generally if your wine isn't doing that, it's not the best wine in the world -- though it would be OK probably to cook with. But then all wine is good to cook with, no matter how good or how bad, unless really spoiled with mold or turned to vinegar -- and even the vinegar can have its uses in the kitchen.

I am pleased to report that the warming of the wine -- not really warm, of course, but not cold, has been a success.

Himself, in the meantime, has just texted that they are coming down the mountains and the Bay of Jakmel is in view. Whew. It was a bit of a hairy drive, shall we say?

Snow in the offing here.


* Not that I'm anything, not even the most reaching stretch of the words, a wine expert, much less a sommelier. I am, though, an oenophile, which means nothing but a person who drinks enjoys wine.

*From the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East* by William Dalrymple

Taking a break for a bit from U.S. history to read about the early Christians in the Middle East. William Dalrymple is a writer, historian and journalist who I admire on all three planes. I'm much looking forward to the publication in this country of his latest book, Return of A King: The Battle for Afghanistan, the third in his trilogy of the India Company. Holy Mountain, published in 1997, is the fifth of his books I've read, as well as the first of his books I've read that isn't centered on India. It was his City of Djinns (1993) that introduced me to Dalrymple the historian.

Dalrymple's drivers for Holy Mountain is John Moschos and his pupil Sophrojnius, the Sophist, who journeyed across A.D. 587 Christianity of the Byzantine Empire. He is following as best he can the book of their journeys that Moschos completed shortly before he died, the book which became the book of the Christian world for centuries thereafter: The Spiritual Meadow of John Moschos. This book accompanies Dalrymple through his adventures as the Polish journalist, Ryszard Kapuściński describes in his Travels With Herodotus (2004) took with him everywhere the Histories of Herodotus. The Spiritual Meadow is one of the few sources we have as to what the varieties of this Christianity were like in the region. In a very few years Islam would explode out of the Arabian Peninsula, changing everything.

Dalrymple sees these years in which we who are presently alive, the conclusion of what began so soon after Moschos's death. Dalrymple visits the rapidly disappearances of what survived this far, the ancient churches, the monasteries, the communities, the villages, dismantled by the Levant's fequent earthquakes, by deliberate violence, whether political or relgious in impluse.
None of three major religions come out looking very good at one period or another, though less time is given in this book to Judaism than to Christianity, which is the subject of the book, and to Islam, which is the religion that has had the region as subject for so many eras.

What I find unusual in Dalrymple's work is the author's insights into how much the early era of Christianity -- particularly that of the Byzantine and Armenian Churches' Patriarchs influenced the formation of Islam.

What I've liked best so far is the case he makes of the foundational influences upon the earliest Christian-Celtic art by the Byzantine artists, and how that circuit of information worked. Every time I've looked at The Book of Kells and other art from the Celtic church of the time I was reminded of Byzantine art -- and there wasn't really any secular Byzantine art. There is, to my eyes, a significant difference from the very beginning between this art of the edge of the West and the East: the Celtic Church's art conveys warmth and a sense of dimensionality, emotionally as well as superficially. here are games the artists play with themselves and the viewers in their art -- sly humor even -- that you would have to work hard to find any of in the Church art of the East.

What remains unanswered for me is the why of so many of the behaviors of the saints of the early churches of the Levant. Where did the ideas come from that standing on a pillar for one's life made one closer to God? Or being buried in the ground up to one's head? Immuring oneself in a tiny space? All these werid things these saints did convinced people they were holy and saints, who, and their body parts after death, contained the power to heal whatever ailed you or your property -- saints here, as opposed to martyrs. These are voluntary sufferings. From where did the predecessors of these ideas come? Judaism did not do this, for example.

From the Holy Mountain is sad reading. The book was published in 1997. Dalrymple, still very young, young enough to take crazy risks with his life -- and also the lives of many others, which I'm not sure he's ever quite realized -- still thinking of himself as an art - architecture student-journalist -- feels so much more safe and free in Syria, in contrast to in Turkey, particularly the Kurdish parts of Turkey, where he was in constant danger, where the destruction of the ancient Christian communities was proceeding most rapidly.

Dalrymple references constantly the contemporary growth of militant Islam in the region, understanding in great detail the reasons why. He particularly cites the centuries' long failures of the European nations and the U.S. of every having been of any help of any use to anyone of any faith in this vast, variegated region. He references constantly the current atrocities committed in the Balkans, with the atrocities that have gone on seemingly forever in this region, particularly the terror of the Armenian genocide. In fact, this is one of the primary driving forces for destroying the remaining Christian sects and their communities, villages and buildings -- they aren't supposed to have ever existed, so thus, Turkey was never responsible for genocidal acts. Get rid of the proof of the existence of those you destroyed and you're home free. Where else have we seen this ....

And now, look at Syria, home to the most ancient of all the the varieties of early Christianity -- these sites, sects and communities are now being destroyed as much by the forces fighting as they are in Kurdish Turkey.

Desolation. It feels that everything that is the natural out of which we came is being erased, whether sea, forest, prairie, animals and -- well everything that gave us sustenance and joy for all our species' existence. And in exchange what do we get? Toxic synthetics, baby talk and zombies (and keyboards and digital devices on which you can't actually, you know, work!).

William Dalrymples books are all more than worth reading, but unlike his later books, this one makes me feel it's the end of the world. That's probably because I read it now and not before Syria. So many of the people he speaks to throughout his journeys in Anatolia and the Levant express their sense that things will be getting better soon. Reading the book first, now in 2013, we know they only got worse.

Friday, February 1, 2013

New Month - Usher To Feeling Poorly

Have no idea if I'm actually sick or only feeling sick from the combination of strong freezing winds and temperatures, the dry heat no matter how much I humidify the apartment. But have been feeling successively more sick since Wednesday night. The head feels as large as an old school school globe of the world.

Fortunately Himself in Haiti is feeling just fine, and I'm so glad. He was sick so much his time in Angola.