". . . 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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Perfect Spring Day

Lovely sunshine, no wind, the temperature just about 70 degrees.

I meet el V for lunch at CUNY -- their cafeteria is wonderfully priced, with a variety of choices for healthy, nutritious tasty meals and dishes -- and the most sinful of desserts.  (We split a pecan cheesecake that was the perfect combination of salty crunch -- the pecans and thin caramel crust -- and silky cheese.)

Then came the reason for a lunch date today when there were so many other necessary ways to spend our time on schedule: a lecture on the poet Phillis Wheatley by David Waldstreicher.

As Wheatley does, he brought together so much about her era: Africa, the classics, empire, Thomas Jefferson, slavery -- another way of putting it, is the conundrum of slavery and libery in a world of empire. Empire, in the guise of slavery itself, was a threat to home liberties, which Mansfield (British judge, 1772, who declared in England -- as opposed to the colonies --  property could not be found in persons) saw in the course of coming to his Somerset Decision. (We have long held now, particularly after reading Waldstreicher's earlier works, that the Somerset Decision had a great deal with the Southern slaveholding power elite's determination to force Independence.) Waldstreicher makes the case that Phillis Wheatley, very likely by the very reason that she was a young, enslaved girl from the Sene-gambian region in Africa, and taken at that time, to that place, Boston -- and was, not least, a genius -- understood how the world from which she was taken mapped upon the classics and the world they described and then mapped upon the world in which she found herself -- and consciously directed that for her own good.

Further, Waldstreicker provides the case as to why it was so important to Thomas Jefferson to sneer at her poetry, as "merely religious, not classic." (In fact few if any of the Founding Fathers themselves could read Latin or Greek either, which, at least in Jefferson's case contributed to his angry sense of colonial inferiority -- which he often then, remedied / played out as 'race.'

Wheatley is having somewhat of a revival, starting with The Trials of Phillis Wheatley: America's First Black Poet and Her Encounters with the Founding Fathers (2003) by Henry Louis Gates.

Waldstreicher's approach in his book-in-progress is to see Wheatley seeing herself within the context of the political imperium and the controversy of liberty, slavery and race.

A most stimulating afternoon!

Context Quote From *The World That Made New Orleans*

On The Root, in Henry Louis Gates's column, 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro, in the entry titles, "Were There Slaves Like Stephen in 'Django'? -- Whether So-Called House Slave Betrayed Others in Bondage."

OK, that isn't odd, but finding a quote from The World That Made New Orleans in this context is, as we repudiated the movie upon first seeing the script, but HLG endorsed the flick, as he wrote soon after it was released. The link to the column was forwarded to us otherwise I'd not have seen it.  I do read The Root regularly, once or twice a week.  I would have skipped this installment of Gates's column because he was mostly talking of the movie within this context of field vs house slaves, and Malcolm X labeling Martin Luther King a house slave.

What most interests me as an historian about this column is what Gates doesn't mention in his piece surrounding the Malcolm X - Martin Luther King contretemps.  * Of course Malcolm's characterization of him wounded MLK very much -- but wherever the two men stood in their time, whoever committed the crimes, they both were assassinated for what they believed, one by blacks and one by whites.

Another part that is of interest to an historian is how little was generally known about arrangements among the black populations on the plantations in Malcolm X's time. Both men were responsible for the creation of African American Studies, and changes in the direction of the study of our national history and our social culture.  Along the way it became understood that a large difference between house and field was the constant state of surveillance in which the house population existed -- day and night. House people felt smothered and suffocated, because they never had a single moment out-of-view of their master or mistress. Often that most intimate of body slaves was gifted to the master and mistress when both slave and owner were tiny children. These servants were called 'shadows,"  That's how constant in the presence of their owner they were. I should think, considering the confinement of 'decent' women generally in those times and places, it was worst of all to be a body servant to the mistress. You really could go days without ever being out of her sight, except, perhaps, when she slept. Not a minute of privacy. What would this do to your mind?

Which One the Slave?

A third consideration as an historian is how much since the days of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King is how generally understood now it is is that so many of the accusations of slaves plotting to rebel, slaves murdering their owners, were terrible fantasams erupting out of slaveholders' constant state of anxiety and fear -- because they knew how easy it might be to do -- see above, constant attendance in the most intimate of all circumstances. Shoot, they couldn't even be sure who was white! It wasn't infrequent that a parallel to witch hunts and lynchings would happen in enclosed, temporary communities such as the riverboats -- is that man -- that woman -- at the captain's table really black?  There were many court cases to prove or disprove this accusation.  About half the time the defendant was white, and about half the time the defendant was technically, i.e. legally (i.e. mother a slave made you black and a slave) black.

No wonder this nation even now remains in a state of anxiety -- denial and ignorance -- around that artificial construct, race.
* Do I need to add neither this statement nor anything else written here is a criticism or a negative commentary of what Dr. Gates wrote? Rather, what I write in response to reading Dr. Gate's essay is me dialoguing with myself?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Happy Birthday, President - General Grant

Born today, in 1813, in Point Pleasant, Ohio.

As president, Grant was a staunch upholder of Lincoln's plan of Reconstruction, defending the full integration of black men into the legal, economic and political institution of the United States. Therefore, since he was also the general who won Abraham Lincoln's war, Grant was a primary target in the South's subsequent revisionism of the run-up to war and the war itself, turning itself into the victim of the war they started, their loss into the Glorious Cause and writing slavery out of the history all together. While turning Robert E. Lee into the contrasting saint, Grant's character was shredded: a drunk butcher of men, enabler of that other butcher, Sherman, dishonorable and incapable. He could never have defeated the chivalrous, brilliant Lee except he had unfair advantages.

Northerners played into that game, starting with Henry Adams, who held a grudge against President Grant. Grant didn't provide Charles Sumner, an old, close Adams's family friend, with the office Sumner wished for. President Grant believed the Senator, never fully recovered from the vicious caning by South Carolinian Rep. Preston Brooks in 1856, and now elderly, wasn't up to it.  Gore Vidal followed the sly insinuations Adams insinuated into his novel of post-war D.C., Democracy. In 1876, the post-Civil War volume in his Chronicles of Empire series, Vidal painted a thoroughly mendacious portrait of Grant as pathetic, incompetent and unpopular.

During his long, painful death from throat cancer Grant wrote Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, published by Mark Twain. The Memoirs was organized in two parts. The first section, though it deals only briefly with his early life, is a plain but nevertheless vivid account of growing up in a small Ohio community in the Jacksonian era.  It smoothly segues into his time at West Point. Then he describes his experience in the Mexican-American War, which, Grant states, as well-understood at the time, that he like so many others in the U.S.,  heartily disapproved of this war, for it was an unjust war  made by and for the benefit of the Slave Power, which the nation as a whole had to finance. The Memoirs was enormously successful as a work of history, and as a publishing venture.  In literary judgment it ranks with Julius Caesar's The Gallic WarsThe Memoirs has never been out of print.

Grant's funeral procession became an historical "Pageantry of Woe," as Americans of every class and region flocked to pay respects to the man, who with Lincoln saved the Union, who had exercised particular magnanimity to General Lee at the Surrender at Appomattox. On the day of his funeral, churches in hamlets, small towns and cities everywhere observed special commemoration.

His tomb is in New York City's Riverside Park, overlooking the Hudson River.

Friday, April 26, 2013

‘The Loves of Aaron Burr: Portraits of Corsetry & Binding’

An installation that opens at the Jumel Mansion at the beginning of May, created by artist-designer, Camilla Huey.

Based on the women in the life of Burr — the controversial vice president and duelist who briefly lived in the mansion — the exhibit explores his mother, daughter, two wives and four purported mistresses through the allure of their corsets.
“It is the most intimate of fashions, extremely personal and close to the heart, and it corrects and conceals and stifles and seduces and constrains and thrusts forward form all at the same time,” Huey said.

The feature includes lovely photographs of Huey's corset installations, reflecting the period design and milieu that would be a part of the individual woman's daily life.

I am biased about this show, as the artist and I have shared many conversations about Aaron Burr, his life, his people and his times over the course of some years now.  Huey's interest is from a different angle than mine, but that means we have been able to expand each other's vision and information.

As the photos show, Huey's creations show both imagination and deep knowledge of the time, the class and insight into each of the individuals she's brought back into view from behind the veils of the past.

The fitted females contained within, most of them authors and diarists and letter-writers, were accomplished in their era, but have been all but forgotten in the 21st century, and Huey is elevating them from the footnotes of history.
“I wanted to come close to these women and see what they were really like, and the way I know women is by dressing them and knowing their sizes and personal preferences and clothing and colors and tastes and fragrances,” she said.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

*River of Dark Dreams* *Freedom National* *A Gullah Guide to Charleston*

Arrived via the lovely UPS Person yesterday:

I began reading immediately River of Dark Dreams: Empire in the Cotton Kingdom by Walter Johnson (2013), Harvard University Press. This is the  follow-up to Johnson's essential Soul By Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market (1999) Harvard University Press. The focus of River is not on slavery or the slave trade, but on ramifications of King Cotton's reach in the Mississippi Valley, from the technology of steam to the Slave Power's fantasies of global imperialism.

The principal theme of the book is the determination of the powers who ruled the Cotton Kingdom to expand and transform the boundaries of the spaces, geographical, psychological and social, in which all the people within the kingdom of King Cotton were confined. The imagery runs constantly between confinement vs. expansion. When it came to the slaves, one assumes their spatial imagery fantasies ran between confinement and escape.

So far, if I'm understanding Johnson's thesis properly, I'm not sure I entirely buy it.

According to his spatial organization principle, the underlying reason for the Civil War wasn't any of the issues or even the conglomeration of issues we speak of in the lead-up to the Civil War after the Great Debate around California's entering the US as a free state.  These would be the expansion of the Fugitive Slave Act, the roll back of the 1820 Missouri Compromise, the Kansas shooting war, the Dred Scott decision, the caning of Charles Sumner, the righteous urge to abolition, the anger at the Slave Power's determination to expand slavery throughout the U.S. These issues and events sent the Northern abolitionists, particularly those of Boston and Massachusetts, to explore seceeding from the South.  (Recall, that during the War of 1812, New England essentially had seceded from the rest of the country.)

I am far from alone in seeing clearly that the Slave Power was determined to expand outside of the lands won for them by Andrew Jackson, to push slavery and their domination upon every state and territory in the Union. But Johnson sees the goad to do this as not connected to events and devisions within the United States or even North America. That came in retrospect, after Secession and the War took place.  The Slave Power's vision was global, not local.  CSA dreamed a global slave imperium.

In other words, it seems that this historian is, in some ways, in this particular work, dealing in counterfactuals -- what did not happen -- more than in what did happen.

Whether or not Johnson is correct, in the end the military war was fought here, not in the Pacific, not in South America. It was American blood (immigrants' blood in rivers, in the Union forces) that was shed in this  -- starting in Kansas -- not in another part of the world, and fought almost entirely within the geographical "container of the CSA" itself. So in any case, whatever the Slave Power's ultimate goal might have been, it was burned to the ground within its cradle, never to break out, whether north or west, much less to Hawaii, Havana and Honduras.

Which, in history's chronology of these matters brings us to James Oakes' Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States 1861-1865 (2013) W.W. Norton & Company.  This tells the story of shifts in emancipation and re-enslavement during the years of the Civil War.  As slaves left the plantations in increasing numbers during the course of the War, free people of color were increasingly forced into taking their place.  Of course, there were not anywhere near the numbers of free people of color to replace the 3,950,528 slaves in place at the outbreak of the Civil War. This book also tells the story of how the Union army attempted to deal with the increasing numbers of contraband negroes, and after the Emancipation Proclamation, inform the slaves of their freedom, as well as other matters. The through theme of this book is that Lincoln, from the moment of his inauguration, began to explore "every political and military means at his disposal to wipe out slavery forever."

You cannot remember the title of this book. Perhaps within Freedom National's pages the reason for this seemingly unfortunate title will be revealed.

In preparation for the upcoming research road trip from the History Press is this conveniently small A Gullah Guide to Charleston: Walking Through Black History (2008), by Alphonso Brown.  Mr Brown is the owner and operator of Gullah Tours, Inc.  We hope to take advantage of his expertise in these matters.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

BBC: Making of Europe Unlocked by DNA

The story's written by Paul Rincon, on the BBC Science  News "page."

A study of remains from Central Europe suggests the foundations of the modern gene pool were laid down between 4,000 and 2,000 BC - in Neolithic times. ....
"What is intriguing is that the genetic markers of this first pan-European culture, which was clearly very successful, were then suddenly replaced around 4,500 years ago, and we don't know why. 
"Something major happened, and the hunt is now on to find out what that was."

*Jane Austen, Game Theorist* Teaches Games' Theorists

Jane Austen, Game Theorist (2013 - Princeton University Press) is by Michael Chwe, an associate professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles.  As one might presume, located in Los Angeles as Chwe is, the spark for this work, as well as his first knowledge that such a person as Jane Austen had existed, is a movie, Clueless (1995), a very loose LA update of Emma. *

Dr. Chwe had a major scientific break-through watching Clueless:

“This movie was all about manipulation,” Mr. Chwe, a practitioner of the hard-nosed science of game theory, said recently by telephone. “I had always been taught that game theory was a mathematical thing. But when you think about it, people have been thinking about strategic action for a long time.”

Which led him to read some of Jane Austen's novels, in order to ca$h in on the Jane Austen + monsters + anything else anyone can think of  to write Jane Austen, Game Theorist because English majors, students of literature, generations of readers of Jane Austen needed to be clued into the news that their admired and beloved author contained more than mere entertainment -- she can teach us lessons about how human beings interact, in order to get the outcomes they desire.  Who knew? 

Chwe organizes his study of Austen around the "Clueless Concept" ** at least judging by this article:

But Mr. Chwe, who identifies some 50 “strategic manipulations” in Austen (in addition to a chapter on the sophisticated “folk game theory” insights in traditional African tales), is more interested in exploring the softer side of game theory. Game theory, he argues, isn’t just part of “hegemonic cold war discourse,” but what the political scientist James Scott called a subversive “weapon of the weak.”
Such analysis may not go over well with military types, to say nothing of literary scholars, many of whom see books like Mr. Chwe’s or “Graphing Jane Austen,” an anthology of Darwinian literary criticism published last year, as examples of ham-handed scientific imperialism.
“These ostensibly interdisciplinary efforts are sometimes seen as attempts to validate the humanities by attaching them to more empirical disciplines,” said Jonathan Kramnick, a professor of English at Johns Hopkins and the author of the 2011 essay “Against Literary Darwinism,” who has not read Mr. Chwe’s book. “But for some, myself included, literary studies doesn’t need to attach itself to any other discipline.”
Even some humanists who admire Mr. Chwe’s work suggest that when it comes to appreciating Austen, social scientists may be the clueless ones. Austen scholars “will not be surprised at all to see the depths of her grasp of strategic thinking and the way she anticipated a 20th-century field of inquiry,” Laura J. Rosenthal, a specialist in 18th-century British literature at the University of Maryland, said via e-mail.

* Coincidentally, I re-watched the movie last week, which did not hold up my positive memories from its theatrical release, back-to-back with the Gwenyth Paltrow period Emma, which confirmed that production's lack of depth -- but startled me by including Polly Walker as -- Jane Fairfax!  Can you imagine my dears, HBO Rome's Atia of the Julii as -- Jane Fairfax??????

** Again, note the unconscious but present distorting lens through which LA view everything, for it is highly unlikely a reader will find the word 'clueless' within Jane Austen's novels. She does though, on one occasion, employ 'world-class' , to describe a particularly fine vista.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

knitting up the raveled sleeve of care: *Ripper Street* + *Bletchley Circle*

Sleep is the best knitter; second is watching good actors well-telling a tale.

We have come to the end of Ripper Street season one.  Ripper Street starts in a fairly mundane way, if ever copious blood and violence executed on screen upon men and women can be called mundane.  Or whether multiple scenes of extreme flourishes of deranged, fetishized violence acted out upon women --  all of them whores, it goes without saying, since this series is titled Ripper Street -- should be considered mundane. But, by now, it has become mundane, hasn't it?

Those observations out of the way, by way of the more mundane introductory episodes the writers and the actors made themselves into an effective team, much like the crime-solving protagonists of the series turn themselves into during the course of these episodes.  Ripper Street loses the focus on violent sexual crimes on women -- and rises from what you expect to a much higher, and much more interesting entertainment. Instead, the show turns its focus on social issues, on class, on bigotry.  By the middle and late episodes the writers have skillfully included technological and scientific matters, without conveying the least sense of steam punk. This is an empire flooded with soldiers suffering post traumatic syndrome, without jobs, without honor. Advances are being made at enormous velocity, and children starve at the same rate.

Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn and Adam Rothenberg are the series three leads. As the actors got comfortable with the milieu and the characters they play, all three characters flesh out and get more interesting. By the final episodes they know how to convey some very deep feelings only with their faces.

In the last episode, there is a scene in whch Macfadyen's Chief Inspector Reid tells us some essential information (which I will not reveal due to spoilage -- the season's currently available on dvd) only with his eyes.  Whoever is behind the camera and whoever wrote that scene knows Macfadyen can do that. I didn't, until then. The first ime I saw Macfadyen was as the callow, selfish Sir Felix Carbury in the BBC adaptation of The Way We Live Now (2001).  He's grown enormously as an actor since then.

Jerome Flynn is best known, probably as Bronn in Got.  His Sergeant Bennet Drake isn't that different in some ways from Bronn: a war veteran and lethal fighter, socially far below those he serves, lacking swagger..  Here though, is a person of pathos and  sympathy, one who has been deeply wounded by war, and deeply lonely.  I have come to love him. If he had Reid's loving wife, he'd never betray her the way Reid betrays his.

Guest actors are equally fine, including the young David Oakes, as the season's arc villain, Victor Silver.  He was Juan in The Borgias, and will be yet again a similar figure in the upcoming White Queen, as King Richard's brother George, the traitorous Duke of Clarence.

The actors in the women's roles are excellent also.  But we don't get anywhere as much time with them as we do with the men.  Naturally.

One to look forward to is Bletchley Circle, starting on PBS on Sunday Masterpiece. The three-part series brings together post-War some of the women who were part of Churchill's team during WWII that, among other achievements, decrypted Germany's Enigma machine, shortening the war by two years, it is thought.

For a variety of reasons these women are dissatisfied with the expectations of living the traditional domestic life expected of women after the war. Nor, due to the Official Secrets Act, no one knows what they did during the war, not even their husbands.

From the description of Bletchley Circle:

“The Bletchley Circle,” a three-part series that begins Sunday on PBS, finds an imaginative way to give overdue credit to those unrecognized government servants, most of whom were women.
The series opens in 1943, but it’s actually a murder mystery set in 1952.
Anna Maxwell Martin (“Bleak House”) plays Susan, a bored housewife and mother of two who detects a pattern in a series of unsolved murders. When the police won’t follow up, Susan enlists three former colleagues from Bletchley Park to help her decipher the serial killer’s modus operandi. And while the solving of the mystery is fairly conventional, these amateur detectives aren’t. And that makes “The Bletchley Circle” more compelling than the average British period drama.

The four members of the Bletchley Circle have to meet covertly, hiding their detective work behind a facade of knitting and shopping with ration coupons.
And it’s the women’s bond in a man’s world that is the real secret of “The Bletchley Circle.”
The men who broke codes during the war are more recognized. There have been plays, movies and novels about Alan Turing, the visionary mathematician who developed an early kind of computer to decrypt the German codes and was badly rewarded for his accomplishments. Turing was the inspiration for a fictional heterosexual math whiz in Robert Harris’s novel “Enigma,” and in real life he became a martyr of the gay liberation movement: Turing was put on trial for homosexual acts in 1952 and killed himself in 1954. 
The writer favorably compares this post-WWII British drama with its contemporary series also currently running on PBS, Call the Midwife.  In other words we are very far away from both the world of Ripper Street and Downton Abbey.  We have women yes, and women under threat, but they are neither whores nor aristocrats.  Yet -- notice this: these women are heroes, whose heroism had been hidden away from public acknowledgment until -- get this! -- 2009.  While naturally, male participation has long been publicly honored.  Just this alone is a huge relief, since off screen, let's face it, most women are neither whores nor aristocrats.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

David Simon Speaks Out On the Disgusting Senate's Paid Vote Against Gun Buyer Background Checks.

It appears, of course, that David Simon couldn't speak the truth to corrupted governance in a U.S. publication  (he put the piece up originally on his own site; the Guardian re-printed it with his permission.

The blocking of gun control legislation in the Senate exposes just how deeply corrupted America's bought democracy has become

A sane man's contempt for the United States Senate must now be certain and complete. Given the inertia on even the most modest legislative response to the mass murder of schoolchildren, those still credulous enough to believe that our governance is representative of popular will are either Barnum-sized suckers, or worse, tacit participants in tragedies soon to come. An entrenched collection of careerist incumbents, chosen and retained through their singular ability to gather cash from money troughs over six-year intervals – and the unrestrained ability of capital to keep those troughs constantly full – none of this is worthy of any intelligent citizen's respect or allegiance.
The United States government has become Poland's selfish 'democracy' in which each Magistrate's vote was for his own personal benefit and the benefit of the foreign powers and interests that poured wealth into his coffers to control his vote.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What Shakespeare Said, Because It Was Spring

Perhaps it is more accurate to say, "What Shakespeare Wrote, Because It Was April He Was Writing In His Plays, Whether Or Not The Weather Was April in the Scene."

This is from his late play, "Winter's Tale," to which Germaine Greer points us in the New Yorker (surely the Bard delighted in the word play - tension between this passage and the title-theme):

 That come before the swallow dares, and take
 The winds of March with beauty: violets, dim,
 But sweeter than the lids of Juno’s eyes
 Or Cytherea’s breath: pale primroses
 That die unmarried, ere they can behold
 Bright Phoebus in his strength—a malady
 Most incident to maids: bold oxlips and
 The crown imperial: lilies of all kinds,
 The flower-de-luce being one.
 (Act IV, Scene 4, lines 136-45

And now, I must see off el V, as he begins the journey to New Orleans and EMP, the Banjo Conference and the Senegal Conference.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston -- I Am So Sorry For This Terrible Thing That Happened To Your People And Places

Ironically, I was out of the house all day, at the 9/11 clinic, where we continue to be assessed for the physical damage that may or may not have been caused by prolonged exposure to the toxins thrown up by the blasts, and the fires that continued for months.

So I was in a 9/11 state of mind, for the physicians always go over everything about that moment you learned the Tower -- Towers -- had been / were hit, what you did, where you went, immediately, thereafter, and then the days and weeks afterwards.  I hate this process with all my heart.  El V has to force me to go these check-ups and appointments, which he insists I do, as I've developed a mysterious cough and shortness of breath subsequent to (note -- I am NOT saying consequent of -- still too soon to know) the 9/11 event, days and weeks and months thereafter.

So I hadn't heard a thing about this terrible, bloody event in Boston until unlocking my door, when my neighbor -- who also, needless to say, went through 9/11 as well -- rushed to ask what I thought, and then told me what had happened.  As it turns out a close friend of hers was at the Finish Line when it happened.

I have nothing else to say.  But it was a weird day, consumed with images and memories of catastrophe, bewilderment and numbness.  For us, at least, at our stage of life, 9/11 is a huge demarcation of our lives'  before and after, and not only for us personally, but for our neighborhoods, for our City.

And then -- this news.

The huge difference is that the emergency rooms and services were all primed, ready and waiting to do their work.  There wasn't any. There wasn't even any blood.

In Boston today there is a great deal of blood, a great deal for the EM tams and Emergency Room team to do.  Too much to do.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Another Son of *Deadwood* - *Ripper Street*

Ripper Street (2012)  BBC 1.

Why yes, both of these Important  Female Characters are whores.
But you knew that, didn't you.  

HBO rudely refused Deadwood its entire planned run.  But it seems to live again, allbeit that its genetic footprint is a diluted one. As well as Ripper Street, it appears to have sired BBC-America’s Copper.

For reasons that aren't part of what we see in the episodes BBC 1 Ripper's signature theme score and soundtrack sound more American than English -- much more so than BBC-America's Copper.  It also alternates a feel on occasion that's more Scorsese's Gangs of New York (which Scorsese’s now adapting for a television series, it is said, to follow up his Boardwalk Empire production) with a  Sherlockian in the London Victoriana-ness.  None of this seems to be connected to the inclusion of two regular characters who are Americans on the lam from Something.  (Everybody in Ripper Street has Secrets.)

Not to mention the number of whores, o the whores.  Whatever would writers, show runners and producers do without whores?  (Maybe write something imaginative, creative, fresh and good?)

Whores, whores, whores.  Yes, yes, yes! the nineteenth century was crowded with women and children who had little or no other recourse to keep fed. (Though that wasn't necessarily so in medieval times or in the 20th century, at least in the U.S.  Yet Game of  Thrones has no women except nobility or whores.  Mad Men has brothels and whores galore, or else scheming, gold-digging cold wives -- how different then is in these matters from Got?)  Nevertheless: HISTORY NEWSFLASH!!!!! TELEVISION PROGRAM PRODUCERS, SHOW RUNNERS AND WRITERS: there were more women alive who did not live in bawdy houses or walk the streets than who did.

ANOTHER HISTORY NEWSFLASH: There were also more doctors who were neither drunks nor drug addicts than who were.  Got that?  You're welcome.

Is it safe to say none of these late nineteenth century period productions -- Copper the earliest period with the first season taking place in 1864 and Ripper the latest with first season set in 1889 -- the year North Dakota became a state (see Deadwood) --  would have happened if not for Deadwood?  (The Civil War revisionist Hell on Wheels can be included in these too.)  All the shows feature elaborate rhetoric whenever a character opens his / her mouth – particularly his mouth.

So do for that matter, the contemporary entitled to commit violence and murder series, Justified and Sons of Anarchy.  But with Justified that may have as much to do with Elmore Leonard's writing style, since the series is based on three of Leonard's works: Pronto, Riding the Rap, and his short story, "Fire in the Hole."

Both Ripper and Copper are returning for a second season.

New Orleans & el V

On Wednesday this week El Vaquero will be heading to New Orleans:

where I will be participating in the very exciting banjology conference at Tulane put together by Dr. Laurent Dubois, which will in turn be part of a larger conference triple-play. I will be participating in an informal conversation on Monday (April 22) at 1:30, and a roundtable at 4. Details below. It's free and open to the public -- New Orleanians, if you're interested in the banjo or in broader issues of African American music history, this should be great, please do come out. 
So let me explain about the triple play. The EMP popcon (an always stimulating weekend conference of journalists and academics who write about popular and pop music) this year is divided into five regional mini-popcons, all happening the same weekend in New York, New Orleans, Cleveland, Seattle, Los Angeles. If I were going to be in New York, I'd go to the one at NYU, but i'll be in New Orleans, and you know that's a good thing.

EMP in New Orleans is April 18-21 at Tulane (though the opening party, the night of the 18th, is at Mimi's in the Marigny, with Los Po-Boy-Citos performing). I did not submit a proposal this year (too busy on the book), and will not be presenting at EMP, but will be there in attendance. It looks like it will be great. I'm especially looking forward to seeing Matt Miller's bounce movie (his fine book, Bounce: Rap Music and Local Identity in New Orleans, is required reading for New Orleans hiphop.) The banjology conference overlaps on Sunday with the "banjo brunch" (see below).
Then, on the back end of the banjo conference, is another conference at Tulane (Apr 22-25), and I'm so pleased to be able to attend: the International Colloquium on Saint-Louis, Senegal - New Orleans: Two Mirror Cities (17th - 21st Centuries) -- a subject of considerable interest to yours truly. This is a follow-up to a previous conference last June held in Senegal with New Orleanians in attendance -- the attendees I talked to were knocked out by the experience -- and this year, Senegalese come to New Orleans. Dr. Emily Clark, who organized it, promises that music will be a major focus. And rightly so. I don't have a full schedule yet, but their opening event will feature the five-member Njum Waalo Band from Senegal, featuring xalam player Demma Dia
What mediates between Senegal / New Orleans and EMP? The banjo, of course. It's great to see all these resources talking to each other. And como si todo esto fuera poco, the day after the Senegal conference, Jazzfest begins, though I'll be back in NYC by then. New Orleans has got a lot going on these days.

Sunday, April 21stEMP Conference, 10a.m.-1 p.m.
Brunch discussion/concert with Don Vappie, Carl LeBlanc, and Demma Dia in conversation with Laurent Dubois, Bruce Raeburn, and Tal Tamari
Monday, April 22nd1:30-3:30:
Informal workshop with roundtable participants and Tulane faculty
125D Hebert Hall, Tulane University
“The Banjo and the African Diaspora: A Roundtable”
Freeman Auditorium, Woldenburg Art Center, Tulane University
Topic: How can we write the early history of Afro-Atlantic music? Through a focus on the history of the banjo, this gathering of scholars will offer insights into how we can pull together fragments of text, images, and material culture from the era of the slave trade, along with the study of contemporary musical cultures, in order to answer this question.
The roundtable is open to all, and we invite those interest to visit the following website which offers readings, images, and resources which the panelists will be drawing on in the discussion:
Ned Sublette, Bruce Raeburn, Kenneth Bilby, Tal Tamari
Laurent Dubois, Sara Le Menestrel

Saturday, April 13, 2013

This Is An Honor

For el V, to be quoted in the Carnegie Hall program book for the concert celebration of this historic West Texas (Lubbock) music group, The Flatlanders,  (though I keep thinking their hearts must be breaking every minute they play from the absence of the late great Jesse Taylor, perhaps the greatest guitar player Texas ever produced -- and that's saying something:

Musicologist and historian Ned Sublette remembers Lubbock fondly in his recent book, The Year Before the Flood, about the vibrant musical culture in New Orleans just prior to Hurricane Katrina. During the author's adolescence in the '60s, his maternal grandmother lived in Lubbock in a house on 19th Street; his dad, also a scholar, had taken a job at a university in neighboring New Mexico, precipitating regular family sojourns east into Texas. "The drive from Portales to Lubbock was an endless two-hour trip," writes Sublette, "on two-lane state roads through mostly pure flatness, punctuated by a couple of gentle rises and falls that seemed breathtaking, especially if there had been a little rain in June and everything had briefly turned from its normal yellow-brown to a glorious green."

Friday, April 12, 2013

South Atlantic States of Mind

So much to do, to plan this, in order to get the most out of our limited time (last part of May, first few days of June).

The dream list is Richmond, Norfolk, Williamsburg, Charlottesville, Charleston, Savannah, Sea Islands and St. Augustine.

Transportation will be a mixture of train and rental car(s).

How many of these sites we will manage, who knows, really.  But I'm looking up Black history tours and sites, newspapers and radio stations in all of them.  Hoping to find friends along the way to stay with on occasion.

Consider what and what can't be managed, it's more than fortunate that royalty chex arrived ....

It's gonna be HOT, that's all I know for sure at this time.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

*Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America* by Henry Wilson

I have stumbled into the multi-volume history of The Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, by Henry Wilson, published in 1874 - 1875 (author's Introduction 1873).  The dates are important because the work was compiled and written during Reconstruction, and the author was a first-hand witness and participant to much of what he covers.

Contemporary scholarship does challenge some of what he writes of, such as his chapters on the Underground Railroad, particularly in terms of numbers of slaves making their way toward the North Star, and the stations. So it's unfortunate this work was written before Henry Adams, Theodore Roosevelt and others began teaching the methods of history as a discipline (which at least Henry Adams imbibed during his long stays in Europe from practioners there), so there are no sources cited, no footnotes.  But the Abolitionist passion breathes out of every sentence, nor is there any reason to doubt the accounts he provides of individual white people who did help escaping slaves in all the variety of ways open to them.  For one thing, as so much of this action took place across what was then still called the Northern Reserve -- western New York and northern Ohio -- there are many local archives that contain the newspapers, memoirs and other documentation for such events at Case University and other institutions.

Henry Wilson was elected Vice President of the U.S. on President Ulysses S. Grant's ticket.  He served as VP until he died, in harness.

Wilson is a fascinating figure, a life-long Abolitionist from Massachusetts, born in New Hampshire.  He was one of the Radical Abolitionists along with the more famous Thaddeus Stevens.  Like Stevens the winds of scandal blew about Wilson, though of different sorts of scandal than Stevens's.  Much information on Wilson can be found here.

It is good to remember the Aboltiionists, particularly when the Lost Causers who cling to the revisionism of the Civil War insist the war wasn't about slavery, and that the North, as racist as the South, didn't care about slavery.  My response to this supposedly killing argument is, "Remember the Abolitionists."  And nothing created Abolitionists out of northern racists faster than the Fugitive Slave Act.  Wilson documents this consequence in granular detail.

There is nothing like reading the actual words of the people who were participants and witnesses to the history they compile. And, in fact, not all northerners were racists, and nor were most of the Abolitionists. Wilson, for instance, during the war, wrote devastating articles about northern white racism, among other things detailing for publication his argument that members of the Union black regiments were treated as badly as prisoners of war, arguing for equal pay for equal rank for their military service. But then, like Stevens, he was dismissed as a Radical, an outlier, a danger to the Union and the Nation -- as was done in Speilberg's Lincoln with Stevens.

Fortunately, perhaps, Wilson died, before the Corrupt Bargain of 1876 that traded the end of Reconstruction for Hayes's election.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Where Did the Sisterhood Go?

Was there ever a Sisterhood of powerful women?  Will there ever be?

In the New Yorker, Susan Faludi, who was born rather later and thus not a part of what she describes, runs down the breakdown of the first radical feminist movement(s), via the breakdown of one its most brilliant original leaders, Shulamith Firestone.  That was a large part of the problem: she, with Robin Morgan, Kate Millet and some others, did emerge via the meda as much as their own achievements from the nameless, unknown others in the movements, in NYC, Chicago and other cities.  That was a betrayal of the principles, some thought, and these women needed to be punished for it, forced to confess the error of their ways (too much communism without understanding it seems to me, and it is particularly shocking that feminists of the era would fall into ... such error ....).

Whether or not that was a betrayal, whether other women betrayed Firestone and Millet in particular (they both broke down), or whether it was their own minds and early experiences that betrayed them, that's not for me to say, or judge.

And neither does Faludi.  She just runs it down, to best of her ability, having read all the books, talked with everyone who would talk with her.

It is very sad, but also very interesting.  In many ways much of what goes on on the internet with mobbing and trolling, by both males and females, around social justice and professional matters, has reminded me of this dreadful failure. But no one is as much a target for these behaviors as are women and girls.

From Faludi's article:

The women were in Washington to attend the New Left’s Counter-Inaugural to Richard Nixon’s first Inauguration. Late in the protest, under a large tent set up near the Washington Monument, the antiwar leader Dave Dellinger, serving as master of ceremonies, announced, “The women have asked all the men to leave the stage.” They hadn’t, but his words gave a nasty impression, made worse by the sight of a paraplegic Vietnam veteran being carried off to make way for the “women’s libbers.” Marilyn Webb, a local feminist who was slated to speak, remembers thinking, “Holy God, how did I get here?” Webb was three sentences into “the mildest speech you can imagine,” she said, when men in the audience began to shout, “Take her off the stage and fuck her!” and “Fuck her down a dark alley!” All the while, she recalled, “Shulie is on my right saying, ‘Keep going!’ ” Firestone tried to speak next, but was drowned out by a howl of sexual epithets.

This is so much like what goes on these days when women object to being demeaned by popular entertainments or display expertise.

Then came the trashing by one's own:

Like a cancer, the attacks spread from those who had reputations to those who were merely strong; from those who were active to those who merely had ideas; from those who stood out as individuals to those who failed to conform rapidly enough to the twists and turns of the changing line.

“Trashing” had surfaced in New York Radical Women just weeks after the group’s founding.
As says one who was there and experienced the process:

Carol Giardina, who now teaches women’s studies and American history at Queens College, said, “I don’t know anyone who founded a group and did early organizing” who wasn’t thrown out. “It was just a disaster, a total disaster.” She was ousted from her Florida group by “moon goddess” worshippers who accused her of being “too male-identified.”

I was not where any of these things took place and I wasn't old enough either.  I came along later, after leaving the farm and getting to college, and wanting desperately to be a part of the women's movement, to join the Women's Studies departments and so on.  Fail, complete failure on my part. I was too different to fall in line.

I was a farm girl and not a single woman I ever met even realized there were farm women and farmers' daughters.  All of them had mysterious money from parents and family -- none of them had my financial concerns. There were other obstacles.  It didn't work out between us.

I didn't give up my principles, as far as they went.  I have loved / love many women, been betrayed by many women for no reason or great reason, and done the same myself surely.

But I cannot help continuing to wonder, what I wondered at the top:

Was there ever a Sisterhood of powerful women?  Will there ever be?

Or, being women, always controlled by that fact, will there ever be only cliques,  excluders and includers, mean girls and the other girls? Are we women of the 'comfortable' classes and prospects, of whatever age and experience, always doomed to re-enact the 4th grade?\

Sometimes I consider whether we women are terrible judges of each other's mis-steps, failings and sins.  We will forgive our lovers, our partners, our children, our parents, but we will not forgive each other.  Why, I wonder.  Why.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring As Asparagus

The air is chilly but the slant of the light says Spring, the sound of the air says Sunday.  So, asparagus.  And wine.  Because it is late Sunday afternoon early in Spring.  There are so many good things you can cook with a pan or sheet of asparagus, including olives, not excluding ham.

Today it's almonds and garlic skillet toasted in olive oil.  Plus more olive oil and asparagus spears, plus feta cheese, oven roasted on a baking sheet.

New potatoes sliced and browned in olive oil.

Sausages browned in left over pork juices.

Plus a bottle of young Austrian wine brought back as a gift -- one of the light wines served in the spring called generically "Asparagus Wine."

El V feels sumptuously spoiled.

So much depends on brunch . . . breakfast . . . lunch . . . dinner . . . supper . . . .

Teaching the History of Capitalism

'Tis the new sexy discipline in the history department.  Who knew?  ;) *  or, perhaps, I am jaded in these matters, as this is what el V and I have been doing all along, and certainly are centering in The American Slave Coast.  It's what historians do.  You cannot do history of anything -- even or perhaps particularly, a history of fans, for instance, without it being informed by economics and finance -- which means, first of all, statistics.

It never ceases to amaze how journalists condescend to intellectuals and scholars and artists ....

April 6, 2013
In History Departments, It’s Up With Capitalism
A specter is haunting university history departments: the specter of capitalism: 

The camp, he explained, is aimed at getting relatively innumerate historians up to speed on the kinds of financial data and documents found in business archives. Understanding capitalism, Dr. Hyman said, requires “both Foucault and regressions.”

It also, scholars insist, requires keeping race and gender in the picture.

As examples, they point to books like Nathan Connolly’s “World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida,” coming next year, and Bethany Moreton’s “To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise” (Harvard, 2009), winner of multiple prizes, which examines the role of evangelical Christian values in mobilizing the company’s largely female work force.

The history of capitalism has also benefited from a surge of new, economically minded scholarship on slavery, with scholars increasingly arguing that Northern factories and Southern plantations were not opposing economic systems, as the old narrative has it, but deeply entwined.

And that entwining, some argue, involved people far beyond the plantations and factories themselves, thanks to financial shenanigans that resonate in our own time.

In a paper called “Toxic Debt, Liar Loans and Securitized Human Beings: The Panic of 1837 and the Fate of Slavery,” Edward Baptist, a historian at Cornell, looked at the way small investors across America and Europe snapped up exotic financial instruments based on slave holdings, much as people over the past decade went wild for mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations — with a similarly disastrous outcome.

Other scholars track companies and commodities across national borders. Dr. Beckert’s “Empire of Cotton,” to be published by Alfred A. Knopf, traces the rise of global capitalism over the past 350 years through one crop. Nan Enstad’s book in progress, “The Jim Crow Cigarette: Following Tobacco Road From North Carolina to China and Back,” examines how Southern tobacco workers, and Southern racial ideology, helped build the Chinese cigarette industry in the early 20th century.

Whether scrutiny of the history of capitalism represents a genuine paradigm shift or a case of scholarly tulip mania, one thing is clear.

“The worse things are for the economy,” Dr. Beckert said wryly, “the better they are for the discipline.”


*It seems the writer of this article is entirely ignorant of the pure capitalist practice that is our successful institutions of higher learning, though how anyone writing for the NY Times in particular, which rootytoots the constant NYU real estate gobble and capitalist expansion for the benefit of the scions of the overseas' obscenely bloated wealthy, could be ignorant of this, is impossible to comprehend.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Robert V. Remini Dies

Robert V. Remini, the great historian of Andrew Jackson and the era upon which he stamped his name and outlook, the embodiment of his America, whose footprint upon the nation remains so huge that presidents and want-to-be presidents continue to faintly reflect Jackson's enormous stance, died on March 28.

From the New York Times obituary:

“He was the kind of historian who never believed that his interpretation was the last word,” Mr. Meacham said. He added, “You cannot write about Jackson without standing on Remini’s shoulders.”

For the entire obituary, which anyone interested in American history will find illuminating, it's here. 

Robert V. Remini, Rest In Peace.  You practiced your calling well, very well.  We are all indebted to you.

Friday, April 5, 2013

You Cannot Resist Being Sprung Into Spring!

Is this not the perfect spring photograph?  Does this not just make you smile and smile and smile?

Fairy by Nana Efua

I found this via Racialicious's Crush of the Week.  She provides all the information about the photographer and photographer.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cervantes Institute: El V Moderates Afro-Latin Jazz & Iberio Celtic

Spain Culture New York, and
Instituto Cervantes Nueva York In Collaboration
Celtic Music
from Galicia Seen from the Jazz World
April 29, at 7:00 pm
Instituto Cervantes Nueva York
211 East 49 Street
Admission is Free
Music scholar, Ned Sublette, will serve as guest moderator leading a discussion with GRAMMY award winning musician and founder and artistic director of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Arturo O Farrill, and Barcelona-based composer Miguel Blanco as a precursor to the presentation of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra's Música Nueva 6 on May 3 and 4 at Symphony space.

Música Nueva 6 is Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra's annual new music program exploring new directions in Afro Latin Jazz. The upcoming 6th program in the series, delineates the strong correlation between music of the Iberian Peninsula, the coast, and the northern tip of Africa and the East and explores lesser-known sub-genres of music from Spain. Música Nueva 6 will feature the premiere of a new work by Miguel Blanco featuring Galician bagpipe player Cristina Pato, vocalist and saxophonist Antonio Lizana and guitarist Ximo Tebar. Música Nueva 6 will also feature new works by Papo Vazquez, Pablo Mayor and Arturo and Adam O'Farrill.

Celtic Music from Galicia Seen from the Jazz World is one of the aims of this musical journey. Reception to follow in the garden.

For more information and tickets for Musica Nueva 6 on either May 3 or 4th, go to: or visit the box office at 2537 Broadway at 95th Street and Broadway in Manhattan or call: 212/864-5400. Admission is: $20, Seniors, Students and Symphony Space members: $15. For more information on the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra please visit:

*Song For Arbonne*

Roc has reissued Guy Gavriel Kay's Song for Arbonne, published first way back in another time, in another world, 1992.

There were elements in this novel set in a fantasy historical 12th-13th century southern France, with troubadours, courts of love and freelance knights that felt problematic.  Some of them were so intensely so that despite two readings, it was only the ugly scenes such as a king being coercing sexual service in the presence of his court that stayed with me.  Scenes such as this felt gratuitous, women being humiliated as short-hand device that tells the reader  THIS KING IS A BAD MAN HE'S A VILLAIN YOU WILL NOT ROOT FOR HIM BECAUSE HE IS A BAD KING BECAUSE blah-blah-blah.  There's a sticky note in my old copy that says, "Kay's watched and read Robert Graves's I, Claudius too many times and was way too impressed."

Graves includes a scene in his novel of Caligula inflicting such a sight on his people -- yet manages not to inflict upon the reader that the writer himself is creepy and disgusting. Kay's scene does make the reader think he is creepy and disgusting, liking such a fantasy so much he can't resist making it public, so to speak throwing his creepy fantasy in our faces. As does, as another example, an early scene of Armageddon Rag of public fondling of girl in lap by a once famous rock musician. Not only did that trigger a gag reflex, again I thought, "This is what you think being a successful musician was about?"  This is the kind of writing that makes thoughtful readers lose respect for the writer as well as for the work in which it is contained.  Of course, now, scenes of the most creepy of male fantasies that involve humiliating women, particularly in sexual ways, is constant in both genre fiction and television.

At least, perhaps, Kay has a justifiable motive, in that he's trying to establish as quickly as possible for the reader that the major conflict in Song for Arbonne is between kingdoms' cultures -- one which respects women, who takes public space in the spheres of religion, culture and politics -- and the other which is patriarchal and dishonors women, forbidding them any public sphere space.  Still, it creeps me as much this re-reading as it did the first two times.

What is new is how much an extreme immaturity toward sexuality and women we see these days, and how many new forms it takes.  In the course of this re-reading something kept nudging me, something on the edge of my memory.  Last night it came through: there's a lot of both the positive as well as the hilarious immaturity in Rothfuss's series that feels as though he studied Kay as hard as Kay studied Tolkien and other writers -- particularly historical novels -- to do what he does.

When Kay does it well, Kay does it very well. Tigana is an admirably crafted and thought out fictional representation of the persistence of history. How somehow  people who are forbidden to even sing their own lullabies, speak their own language, the memory, just on the edge of everything, persists.  This happened with the Disappearance of Poland -- and Poland was was disappeared more than once.  Yet Poland came back.

I'm appreciating the higher level content in Song of Arbonne far more than I did back in 1992. What saves Kay is his authentic sense of thewonder and  beauty of art, the natural world and how people can come together in romantic - erotic love, and in loyalty and honor too.

Why doesn't Kay doesn't write straight up historical fiction? He barely fantasizes the periods and geographies he does write about.  It worked best in Tigana, but its effectiveness it has seemed to me, worked less with each subsequent of his novels (though I've not read yet the latest of his novels). Kay's clearly not really interested in wizards and that sort of magic (unlike Rothfuss, who is all about the manipulative power of an individual).  Kay's most interested in the power that comes to groups of people who are united in a purpose, the purpose of which is always connected, it seems with their Land. The performance arts are as much a purpose -- as is good food and wine -- as are political ones. This is what makes Kay's books most interesting.  You don't need to employ fantasy for this.

But the market for historical fiction had crashed into an abyss when Kay began his writing career and the trajectory for the fantasy market was still climbing.  That may have determined Kay's choices when he began writing.

It's nice to see the market for good historical fiction has returned.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

War of 1812 -- Andrew Jackson's Intelligence Network

Jackson had a highly effective intelligence network, particularly considering how little he had to work with, in terms of funds and man-power, and how far away he was from even small towns from 1813 until going to New Orleans at the end of 1815. He must have had a lot of messengers, and very effective ones.  I'm sitting here with the volumes of his correspondence from these years, so I can see Jackson wrote  constantly, despite being so ill for so much of the time. He also seems to have had access to large numbers of newspapers from the Caribbean.  When he gets to Mobile and the Gulf in 1814, there is that route of information, which he combs assiduously to his and the nation's profit.

But his letters don't give clues as to who is sending him info.  It has nothing to do with the mission of The American Slave Coast, but my curiosity as to his spy network has been growing.  Finally, appears a book that carries some information on this subject, Struggle for the Gulf Borderlands: The Creek War and The Battle of  New Orleans 1812 - 1815 (1981), by Frank Lawrence Owsley, Jr. University of Florida, Gainesville. The info comes from the papers of two of Jackson's correspondents, who, as even in this little book of scholarship, are ignored by history other than as cites and footnotes.

With this warning constantly being brought to the general's attention, he moved his headquarters to Mobile, closer to the source of his espionage reports.  The names and addresses of most of Jackson's informants indicate that they were located either in Pensacola or New Orleans .... Since Pensacola was a neutral Spanish port, it was not under the regular British blockade and received a constant supply of letters and newspapers from the islands of the Gulf and the Caribbean.

One of the best sources were the papers out of Havana, and out of Jamaica.

This is how Jackson, his governor and all the other interested parties came to the consensus that the target was going to be either Mobile or New Orleans.  Jackson decided it would be New Orleans with just barely enough time to leave Mobile and get to New Orleans and organize the defense.

Monday, April 1, 2013

My Blog Roll

By accident "Amigas / Amigos" got deleted.  Currently www.blogger's gadget for the blog roll is broken, and seems to have been broken since at least 3/27.  I hope they fix it soon.

*Peter Pan*

After Easter Sunday dinner we watched Disney’s Peter Pan, which I’d ordered specially from Netflix to have on Easter. I’d never ever seen it, either on Disney television programs or in a theater. Can you believe it? The season when Disneyland ran serial cuts from their animated films like Peter Pan, Fantasia, Lady and the Tramp and Bambi was during Lent. As Disney tv came on at 6:30 our time on Wednesday nights, we were always leaving the house for church. O, the pain of disappointment I suffered!

El V had seen Peter Pan, as a young college kid -- marvelously psychedelic, as remembered it.

Woo,  the subtexts in the movie were screamingly obvious to we adults. Were those sexuality jokes as obvious to most parents back then as they were to us? What particularly struck us though, was the jealousy and rivalry of all the female characters to ‘own’ Peter, whether they were mermaids, pixies (in Disney’s version Tink is always a pixie, not a fairy!) Wendy or an Indian princess. It’s so adult, and not even sub-textualized. It is spoken of outrightly by all the male characters. All the female characters are made fun of in some way, with the exception of  Mrs. Darling, and oddly, Tiger Lily, despite the stereotypes of Indians in the film and the book (but then, this is a child's tale of how children's imaginations work).  Even poor Nana gets made fun of. Though she's a dog, she's a female dog-nursemaid.

It was clever of the artists to dress the Lost Boys in the skins of small animals, as a combo of jammies and fur, i.e. a crew of small boys = wild animals.  It was an intermediate stage between the recognizable, pompous, be-spectacled John armed with father's top hat and brollie, barely out of babyhood and Michael with teddy bear and his footie jammies.  The Lost Boys don't even have names in the Disney film. They are clearly of a class below Michael's.  You notice this particularly in the scene where he assumes the leadership of the Boys as Peter's second-in-command on the way to the Indians. Presumably the Boys would know the way as they live in Neverland and have been to the Indians' camp often, but John, who just arrived, is the leader.

There's the all too familiar by now embedded Disney racialism and stereotypes, played for laughs, and as overt as is the condescension to women and the supportive display for the class system.

The art endures. It is enchantment indeed, particularly if you were a child, one would think. But it did for me too.  I was enchanted to recognize much of Neverland's layout to be that of Kensington Park, where, of course, there is a bronze sculpture of Peter Pan in honor of J. M. Barrie.  O my! I thought. And the film begins in Bloomsbury, where I have now been.  So it is questionable that I would have been more enchanted seeing it as a child than I was watching it last night, 60 years after the movie was made. Just enchanted in different ways.