". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Sunday, June 30, 2013

150 Years Ago: The Battle of Gettysburg July 1-3, 1863

As of tomorrow it's the 150th anniversary of the bloodiest single battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg. There are many observances of this anniversary this week, as well as the rest of the year, particularly at the Gettysburg National Military Park. Perhaps more books, articles, movies, television programs have been written and created about this battle of the U.S. Civil War than any other.  Even I feel a special connection to this battle, because I have friends who live very close by, and one of them is as knowledgeable about the grounds and the battle as any professional military historian of the Civil War. As we're currently observing the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (2011 - 2015), the usual tidal influx of  books dealing with the war and various battles is at tsunami volume.  In time for the 150th date specific anniversary of Gettyburg, here is this:

Allen C. Guelzo’s Gettysburg: The Last Invasion

The great Civil War historian, David Blight, reviews the book for the NY Times.

General Meade's Headquarters, Gettysburg

Guelzo tells us these German-Pennsylvanian solid rail fences and rock walls baffled Lee and his men - so unlike the zig-zag worm fences and drystone walls of Virginia

Blight praises the book, including the following, which was also emphasized by Ernest B. Furgurson in his Washington Post review. Their shared emphasis on the divisions among the Army of Northern Virginia was of particular interest to me, as one of the themes of The American Slave Coast is Virginia's sense of its pre-eminence, not just among the southern states, or the CSA, but from the colonial era and into the national eras (five of the first presidents were Virginians), its rivalry with South Carolina, its sense of "we haz been robbed!" that endures into this very day, if it isn't given pride of first place:
Amid the numbing detail about generals’ personalities, Guelzo provides some beguiling accounts of the political divisions and rivalries between the officers of the two armies. Both staffs were divided houses, with Lee’s corps commanders as well as line officers largely split between Virginians and non-Virginians and between those who had embraced secession and those who had not. The Union Army’s officer corps exhibited even more conflict between the “McClellanites,” Democrats devoted to the discredited and fired George B. McClellan, who sought a limited war that would never threaten the racial order, and those Republicans of a New England antislavery stripe who really did believe the war must destroy slavery.
Blight however, finds faults with other matters in Guelzo's book, that were not mentioned in the Washington Post's review.  Such as:
This book’s considerable achievements, though, are marred by Guelzo’s literary style, as well as by his apparently irresistible romantic urge to add one more panegyric to the epic of Gettysburg. His claim that military historians have to struggle for respect among the “Civil War’s cultured despisers,” that a book like his violates “fashion” because it is not about the “agency” of black emancipation, seems unnecessary at best. (He and I have differed on this point before.) And the gems of detail from Guelzo’s keen researcher’s eye (he tells, for example, of a Roman Catholic priest standing on a rock offering absolution to the silent soldiers as they file into battle, bands playing to raise morale during combat, a Confederate general desperately breaking his sword on the ground as he surrenders) often pale next to the array of recorded descriptions of how soldiers were shot, where bullets penetrated their bodies or those of their horses — “through the left lung,” “entered the left side of the stomach, perforating his sword belt and lodging in the spine” and the like. Such passages seem awkwardly clinical when overused, even if garnered from a soldier’s remembrance.
There are other problems with Guelzo’s language as well. What does it mean for a full division of infantry to get a “collective bloody nose,” or a brigade to have its flank “slapped.” After portraying such “sheer carnage,” why term this deadly affair a “gigantic boxing tournament gone wildly into three-digit extra rounds?” The historian John Keegan* calls this kind of rhetoric the “Zap-Blatt-Banzai-Gott im Himmel-Bayonet in the Guts” style of military history." ....
In the meantime I'm reading a biography of John Hay, Lincoln's younger private secretary (he was historian Henry Adams's best friend, as well as holding among other posts, that of Secretary of State for Theodore Roosevelt, about whom, as with Lincoln, Hay wrote first hand accounts).  I've reached the point where Hay's at Gettysburg with Lincoln, on the occasion of the Address. Hay's personal experience of that Gettysburg occasion is interesting, because it's unlike others I've read. He was a (very) young man then, with a young man's sensibilities. He got whisky drunk with chums, played poker until the wee hours the night before, was sleep deprived and hungover when Lincoln spoke. Nevertheless he did witness and remember Lincoln working up the Address.


* John Keegan revealed himself sorely lacking in knowledge of our Civil War's history in his own The American Civil War: A Military History. I haven't read an English historian or historical novelist who has truly understood our Civil War. (This isn't to say there are none, but that I haven't encountered them.) The studies tend to focus on the battles, and ignore the process of the long run-up to the war -- even the most foundational, which is why this war happened, and why the Union went to war, which was not only to preserve the nation, but preserve itself from having slavery forced upon it. The Slave Power's entire objective for the war was to expand its dominance throughout the continent and the hemisphere.

IOW, the Slave Power could not be contained, for it would not be contained. Capitalist to its core, its entire economy surviving within the bubble and burst of the ever more manic interstate slave trade, it had to forever expand territory -- or pop forever. Which, with Emancipation, the Slave Power's economy did burst, never to return to the base of that economy, the enslaved womb, whose increase was their interest, which allowed for slavery and that economy into perpetuity.

The Slave Power's economy was a credit economy, based on the ownership and trade in slaves. They were its credit and payment. Working them out at hire, and selling them for a trader's promised cash, provided many a southerner with the only cash they ever handled. The South had no specie, not even a currency, beyond the credit that owning a slave provided. It didn't even have the greatly lucrative Cotton Kingdom carrying trade to England's textile industry, for it didn't bother to build or support any kind of merchant marine.  That carrying trade was New York's -- as were the granters of credit, etc.  For all the supplies and goods of anything the South might want, or need -- including the food and clothing, such as they were, for the slaves, was manufactured by, and bought from, the north.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Juanita Jeans': Texas's -- and all Women's -- Reproductive Freedom

Huge Women's Reproductive Rights Rally at the Texas capitol in Austen on July 1st.

High Noon, Monday, July 1st, on the south steps of the Texas capitol. Be there or don’t make history.
It will be hot.  Bring water for yourself, and a fan and a chair for me.  Wear orange.
You can sign up right here on Facebook. Or put it in the comments and I will pass it along.
Wonder what to wear?
These super cool tee-shirt will be for sale for $25.  The profit goes to Planned Parenthood, Battleground Texas, and – my personal favorite – the Texas Democratic Party.  Hey, we’ve got a new address –You can order one right here!

How I love Texas women -- let me count the ways I love you!  Starting with you are never afraid to be loud when it is called for.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Modest Proposal For Graduate Level Early Americanist Studies

This proposal, by a an early American - Independence era grad student, is going to be very popular in this country, don't you think?

Third—and I expect this might be met with less enthusiasm—make Spanish a required language. Colonial North Americanists have a great deal to gain from our Latin American colleagues, scholars grappling with many of the same issues of colonialism, cross-cultural interaction, imperial governance, and social development. So long as much of their literature remains without translations, Spanish will be necessary to prop open the historiographical window.
He goes further than this:
Bear with me. No one wants to make graduate school, particularly the coursework years, even longer. But if Europeanists, Medievalists, Africanists, Asianists, and Latin Americanists can master languages, so can we. Moreover, increased language skills may not only be advantageous, but necessary to maintain an edge in the current academic climate.
The popularity of global and imperial histories has brought more early modern Europeanists to North American shores. What once may have distinguished a colonial American PhD student from a British imperial PhD student, for example, is suddenly harder to define when they’re both working on New York political culture in the 1730s. And if our Europeanist colleagues have the upper hand in languages, they’re going to have a far easier time reading the non-English historiography, engaging in comparative research, and utilizing non-English-language sources. And the imperial turn pulls us too. Early Americanists are more likely to end up in European archives than graduate students of the couple decades past. Even the most eager reader of French is going to struggle in the Archives nationales if the language ability stops there. (Also: if imperial history is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future, then so too is comparative or entangled history—making languages all the more valuable.)
Languages are not only for those “out-there” historians, the ones working on non-English spaces like the pays d’en haut, Louisiana, or Spanish Florida. Too often we gloss over the multiplicity of tongues within the British Empire and its colonies. Shouldn’t students working on, say, mid-eighteenth-century Pennsylvania have at least rudimentary German? We need to consider: does language ability (or lack thereof) preordain how we approach a topic? Did some earlier historians previously look to Philadelphia rather than to Lancaster or the western frontier because of language limitations rather than the realities of historical action? Foreign languages allow early Americanists to not only look more carefully at frontier, borderland, and “peripheral” histories, but to gain a more holistic view of the early American experience.
The writer has little hope that his proposals will be adopted.  Has there ever been a country that owns a greater horror and rage at learning another language?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Gee-tar Hound!

My kinda dawg ....

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Questions Regarding Liberal Outrage about Slavery, By An Academic of Color

These questions come at the end of an early paragraph of a review in the Los Angeles Review of Books of two recent admirable works.

Lawrence P. Jackson on Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves, and River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom
"Pictures from a Peculiar Institution: Writing American Slavery"

The steady stream of cynical liberal outrage is an important context to two recent books about slavery by white men: Henry Wiencek’s Master of the Mountain and Walter Johnson’s River of Dark Dreams. Both books are, in their own ways, commanding studies of a central area of American history, and pioneering works in an ongoing battle for justice. Wiencek provides more detail about Thomas Jefferson’s history of slaveholding than has ever existed in one place before, making an important adjustment to a bowdlerized historical record; and Johnson reimagines the era that transformed the geospatial reality of the Mississippi River cotton corridor, in the process providing the fuel for the industrial and financial transformation of the western world. But in both cases, I wonder, to what avail? What does it mean to have an agile, ready intellectual force prepared to do this kind of work, on this kind of subject, at this time? How are the appearances of Wiencek and Johnson’s books connected to the phenomenon of the first black president, on one hand, and the probable end of protective voting rights acts and affirmative action, on the other? In other words — to put it rather bluntly — have we reached a moment when the white liberal’s comfort zone is firmly in the archival dust of the 18th and 19th centuries, while they explicitly avoid the jagged edges of the 21st century.
It's important that we hear such questions from the perspective a black man. A well-placed, respected academic, nonetheless a black man, Jackson is subject to racial profiling (recall Henry Louis Gates was arrested for 'breaking into' his own house in Massachusetts), that sends a disproportionate number of young African Americans to fill the prison industrial complexes. These men face the sort of potential homicide and wreckage of reputation that Treyvon Martin and others have suffered in Florida and elsewhere. In view of these legal steps into re-establishing a neo-slavery,  neo-Jim Crow, Jackson has to ask himself and all of us, how, or even if, our studies, and our outrage that the studies we publish provoke, connect in a useful way with the accelerating destruction of Civil Rights.

This is increasingly a matter for all of us (for the sake of privacy and likely retaliation upon the victim I will not tell what happened two nights ago to a close friend on the streets of NO, when the cops thought he was a black man).  However, people of color, particularly men of color, are the first and most obvious targets.  And do I ever share the outrage over slavery and the ever-widening circles of destruction into the present day that fuels the work of Walter Johnson, the New Orleanian native author of the second work reviewed, River of Dark Dreams. 

So Jackson's questions are not only excellent questions, but necessary ones.

I have some answers for myself, as we travel the world, meeting with friends old and new, in a broad range of communities in the arts, journalism, history, music, even in Harlem among some of the most articulate and intellectually / historically aware friends we have. When asked, I give a brief rundown of the subject matter of  The American Slave Coast, the most succinct of which is, "The book is a study of slave breeding industry in the United States before the Civil War."  The inevitable response is, "I didn't know that! I never knew! I can't wait to read your book. It explains so much about why things are the way they are now."

What we mean by the way things are now, besides Stand Your Ground and other laws and statutes, includes the military-surveillance complex. The slave breeding industry + slavery explains "the well-regulated militia" beloved of gun-owners, tea partiers and libertarians: those militias, formed long before the Declaration of Independence, weren't about an external threat, not even about Indian attack. Those well armed night patrols were about keeping the slaves down on their plantations and incapable of planning and making rebellion. It was about regulating the 'enemy' among us, the enemy that we depended upon absolutely for our wealth and well-being, to plan rebellions of our own.

This nation went right to post grad studies on how to keep people from rebelling with the legal system, surveillance and punishment since the 17th century, long before we were a nation. It also received an intensive in how to get rich and powerful from it.  These lessons learned out of our slave system were never forgotten.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Thomas Jefferson, Slave Owner, In the News Again

In the Los Angeles Review of Books: Lawrence P. Jackson on Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves and River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom.

Jackson begins with Henry's Master of the Mountain.  For him, that on Jefferson's Monticello  ..."the fact of the “small ones” being beaten meant something to me personally, because my own father’s grandfather was not freed until the Civil War ended, when he was 10."

He includes this family information following a long paragraph about his own experience with the suppression, elisions and white washing by generations of historians about Jefferson the slaveholder:

As a graduate student reading the work of Jefferson, chiefly the Declaration of Independence and Notes on the State of Virginia, I was unaware that the edited materials I had at my disposal in the library contained anything less than the complete historical record. I was still rather na├»ve, and expected the evidence of brutality to lie easily on the surface; I did not yet have a sophisticated sense of the kind of digging necessary to obtain an alternative perspective on enslavement from the documentary evidence left by slaveholders. This is not to say that my own mother wit had left me. I suspected that any number of accredited history books were based on lies constructed to justify genocide. I simply couldn’t prove it. My professor, a renowned Jefferson scholar who appeared on national news programs during the Fourth of July, emphasized (I assumed for my benefit) that Jefferson was a kind master. Thus, I was quite surprised to learn of the suppression, in Edwin M. Betts’s 1953 edition of Jefferson’s Farm Book, of a line from the president’s correspondence about the routine of brutalization meted out to enslaved children. Jefferson’s overseer regularly whipped “the small ones […] for truancy.” It was partial scholars like Betts, and not merely Jefferson’s own descendants, who created a record of piety and purity for Jefferson that he did not deserve. It’s important to understand this: that the attempt to paint a portrait of Jefferson that tolerant liberals could stomach is what produced the whitewash. The more we seek to make slavery better, the worse we make it.
Jackson continues with a rundown of Jefferson's cruelties of commission as a slave owner.  He follows up with two cruelties of ommision, including his infamous behavior with the slaves gifted to Thaddeus Kosciuszko by a grateful Republic for the Polish freedom fighter's heroic actions in the War of Independence:
.... Edward Coles, a prominent Virginian who served in James Madison’s White House, regularly wrote to Jefferson, begging him to lend his national stature to the emancipation cause. “Liberate one-half of our fellow beings” from “ignominious bondage,” the young man requested. In response, Jefferson told him that enslaved Africans “are pests in society by their idleness.” In 1819, Coles undertook something he had “long been anxious to do,” and which required courage: he took the people he owned, traveled to Illinois, purchased land, and “made up my mind to restore to them their immediate & unconditional freedom.” The young squire went to his patron for guidance and gave better than he got. A second example proves that Jefferson had opportunities to end the bondage of at least some of the people that he owned, but preferred not to set them free. In 1817, Polish Revolutionary War hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko desired to have Jefferson execute a trust of $20,000 and purchase freedom and land for as many black people as the number might have freed. Jefferson decided to ignore his friend’s request.*

The slaves and land were eventually sold;  the proceeds went to Kosciuzko's nearest living relative, who owned serfs in what was now part of one of the three empires that had divided Poland among themselves: Prussia, Russia and Austria, all three of which found the very idea of liberty for anyone not of royal and noble family anathema.

Jackson concludes sadly, despite the careful work that historians like himself and Wiencek do, that by now no one can put right the history of Jefferson and slavery.  There has been too much dedicated whitewash of Jefferson, starting with Jefferson's own organized, assiduous efforts. Or, as Henry himself concludes: “Jefferson’s unchangeable symbolic role is to make slavery safe."

 In Jefferson's time there were accusations that Jefferson had appropriated the $20,000 Kosciuszko had given him in trust to buy the slaves' freedom.  So far this has not been definitively proven. As it took some time to prove to contemporary historians what was known in Jefferson's time, that he had a slave mistress and fathered children with her, the documentation for this act may also be found, under the whitewashing, elisions and suppression earlier historians have worked on the Jefferson papers.  There are many volumes yet to be published of Jefferson's papers.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dub Bush's Great + 4 Granddaddy an African Slave Trader

But then, so was Thomas Jefferson's father-in-law.

This is the family founder for whom the 'W' in GWB stands for.

What is striking is that this ancestor in the 18th century carried the nick-name of 'Beau' -- Thomas 'Beau' Walker, like George Bryan 'Beau' Brummell and Richard 'Beau' Nash.  Can't you just see his quadruple grandson in this: cock walking, smirking, sneering and uttering mendacities?

This comes to us from the now-regular history feature on Slate, here, four screens in length. The link is to the single page view.

What this isn't, is surprising.  This is how people got rich, and got rich quick in the 17th and 18th and 19th centuries -- they bought and sold slaves, and nowhere so much as in England and the colonies that eventually became the United States.  Recall Andrew Jackson was an out-and-out slave trader.  Benjamin Franklin was a slave trade 'faciliatator,' not only coining money with adverts for slave sales and run-aways, but holding slaves in the basement of his business quarters, and owning some himself.  It is everywhere in the history of the U.S. until the end of the Civil War.
Roberts said that while he had not known of Walker's slave dealing, the finding did not surprise him, given that the Walkers were a mercantile family and Baltimore, where they established themselves in the United States, was a hub for the slave trade. "It would strike me as being perfectly logical and perfectly expectable," he told Slate.
It's also fascinating that part of the hard evidence for these facts was found in Africa, Sierra Leone.
The historical evidence suggests that Thomas Walker died at sea in 1797 when his own crew mutinied and threw him overboard. Documents in the British House of Lords Sessional Papers indicate Thomas Walker is the same man as a “Beau Walker,” whose unpleasant end is in turn recorded in the journal of Zachary Macaulay, a British anti-slavery activist, sometime governor of Sierra Leone and father of the celebrated Whig historian Thomas Macaulay.
Macaulay’s journal entry for Oct. 24, 1797, is as follows:
“You have heard of the noted Beau Walker, an English slave trader of these parts. He arrived at the Isles Du Los [off present-day Guinea] lately in an American Brig being bound to Cape Mount [in present-day northwest Liberia] for slaves. He had scarce arrived at the last place, when exercising his usual barbarities on his officers & crew, they were provoked to conspire against him.  As he lay on one of the hencoops a seaman came up & struck him on the breast with a handspike, but the blow being ill directed, did not produce its intended effect and Walker springing up wd soon have sacrificed the mutineer to his fury, had not a boy at the helm, pulling a pistol from his breast, shot him dead on the spot. His body was immediately thrown overboard. Thus ended Walker’s career, an end worthy of such a life. The vessel left Cape Mount, and it is supposed has gone for the Brazils or South Seas. There could not possibly have been a more inhuman monster than this Walker. Many a poor seaman has been brought by him to an untimely end."
As above, can't you just see his descendant in this guy?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

La Salle's Lost Griffon, 1660's

The NY Times reports that it is expected = hoped a vessel of French commissioned explorer, La Salle, the lost Griffon, has been discovered in Lake Michigan.

La Salle was assassinated in 1687 by his own crew during a mutiny near present-day Navasota, Tex., after the difficulties of looking for the mouth of the Mississippi strained relations between him and his men. That delayed by about 30 years France’s goal of opening up a colony on the mouth of the Mississippi that would become New Orleans, and it provided greater opportunities for expansion by France’s New World competitors, Spain and Britain.
James Bruseth, the former director of underwater archaeology for the Texas Historical Commission who oversaw the excavation of another La Salle shipwreck, the Belle, believes that if La Salle’s men had been able to sell the furs on the Griffin for him, “He might have been able to hire more men and people with the skills he needed to make the expedition succeed,” he said, “and things might have ended better than they did.”
“But, then, history is full of those small incidents that greatly influenced future events,” he said. “This is just one of them.”

“I think maybe Steve found the Griffin, but I can’t be sure,” Michel L’Hour, the director of underwater archaeology for France who monitors all of the country’s shipwrecks around the world, said Tuesday, a day after he and two other French archaeologists, Olivia Hulot and Eric Rieth, examined the beam during a half-hour dive to the site.
Dr. L’Hour and his team flew in from France to examine the site because his country in 2010 decided to stake a legal claim to Mr. Libert’s find because it was King Louis XIV who financed La Salle’s expedition.
By staking the claim, France essentially ignored the state of Michigan’s long-held, dismissive description of Mr. Libert as a mere treasure hunter, and of the beam as nothing more than a “stick” or a “barn beam” that was shoved into the sediment.
Scholars have long debated how La Salle’s fate might have changed if the Griffin had not been lost.

Monday, June 17, 2013

James Frain and The White Queen

The first of the 10 episode White Queen adaptation of Phillipa Gregory's historical romance novel series, set during the War of the Roses, told from the women's perspective, aired last night on BBC1. It's  reviewed here. At some point, from what I understand, White Queen will be shown in the U.S.

The White Queen as television has face I love to look at, James Frain, who plays Lord Warwick, the King Maker. Frain was in The Tudors, True Blood and some other things.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Looking for Clementine Hunter’s Louisiana

Clementine Hunter (late December 1886 or early January 1887 – January 1, 1988) was a self-taught African American folk artist from the Cane River region in Louisiana. More to the point of our national culture and arts, she was just one of those who, of the first and second generations of African Americans not born into the rule of the institutions and economy of slavery and slave trade, contributed to that incredible explosion of expression that created what has been named 'the Modern,' and -- as well, due to the Modern -- the American Century.*

Part of what makes Hunter personally interesting is that she was born and spent her life in the part of Louisiana where el V spent his idyllic childhood -- where he received his first lessons in 'race.'

Another part of what I personally love about her paintings is how deeply into African American culture and spirituality -- as well as humor -- can read from her paintings.

The New York Times has a long feature on Hunter and her gorgeous art, and he context out of which it came.  It's well worth reading for people who love painting, history and color.


* Has ever an empire had such a short reign of dominance of arts and culture? Though, arguably, rap and blockbuster Hollywood still rule the pop culture realms.  Perhaps.  This seems to be in rather rapid decline though, as the Asian nations explode with their own filmic expressions and industry.

Is it a coincidence that our cultural decline coincides with the neo-Jim Crow of the prison-surveillance-corporate complex, and how much of it is built upon the backs of the African American communities?  Not to mention women, who are the foundation of all communities ....

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Art of Seeds

"The Hudson Valley Seed Library commissioned artists to create imagery for their seed packets."

Nine years ago, Ken Greene was the children’s librarian in an archetypal small town in the Hudson Valley.
He still lives in the vicinity of Accord, N.Y., but in recent years Greene’s life has taken twists and turns that even this onetime acrobat could not have imagined. His day job these days is as a farmer of heirloom vegetable and flower seed but along the way, and almost by accident, he has become a patron of modern American botanical art. So far, he has commissioned more than 80 artists to create paintings to illustrate his seed packets. ....
The tradition of picturing plump tomatoes, glowing sunflowers or mouth-watering sweet corn has a long history in American farming and home gardening, but Greene has brought a unique contemporary twist to the genre.

His brief to his painters: reveal your assigned variety of flower, herb or vegetable in your own way.
“Botanical illustration was the last thing I was looking for,” said Greene, whose enterprise is called Hudson Valley Seed Library.
These are 'real' seeds, for 'real' food plants.*
Heirloom seeds are distinguished from modern hybrids by replicating themselves faithfully. Thus, if you save the seeds of an heirloom tomato or melon (or a radish or lettuce left to seed) one year, you can grow it the next. No one owns the seed, so it can be passed freely among gardeners. Such open access to a crop is the antithesis of the agribusiness biotech profit model, and heirloom seed saving is tied in to the local food movement and all its attendant aspects: environmental sustainability, food security and social justice.

*Have you all heard about the fake egg manufacturing biz that hip, hot young entrepreneurs are flogging -- as better for us and the environment than actual eggs --- and cheaper too? made from peas and sorghum, plus other un-named ingredients, at least not named in the hotcchachacha interview with them on some NPR financial program.  I.e. more sugar = faux food, more empty calories and less flavor and pleasure.  Let's all eat bugs! is another faux food thing being flogged more frequently every year.  As we know Bhub, this faux food isn't for us wealthy hotchachacha types, but for the rest of this over-populated with excess people planet.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Is It Always Culture vs. Progress?

Campanella votes that it is all good, because we're still moving.  He concludes:

As for our "Big Issue," I suggest that progress does not destroy culture; on the contrary, it breathes new life into it. Culture is ever-experimenting, evolving, discarding, borrowing and inventing. It's in a state that a physicist might call "dynamic" rather than "static equilibrium." Static equilibrium is what keeps a chair upright. Dynamic equilibrium is what keeps a moving bicycle upright. A moving bike stands up because it's making progress, not despite it; it only falls down when it stops. So too, I believe, culture.
 We have two centuries of evidence demonstrating that the progress and conflict currently dominating headlines not only do not threaten the culture of New Orleans, but rather promise to enrich it.
Richard Campanella, a geographer with the Tulane School of Architecture, is the author of "Bienville's Dilemma, Geographies of New Orleans," and other books, as well as an upcoming (2014) cultural history of Bourbon Street. He may be reached at or

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Thomas Nelson Page, Thomas Dixon, Owen Wister, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson

Entertainment affects and shapes political thought and actions. The connections keep being made.

Another Virginian lawyer turned author, born 1853, Thomas Page Nelson was Woodrow Wilson's Ambassador to Italy, and remained so during the period Wilson maneuvered the U.S. to enter the conflict of World War I.

Thomas Nelson Page was beyond doubt the best-known Southern author during the last years of the nineteenth century.  To members of his generation, he was the foremost champion of the Lost Cause.  “It is hard to explain in simple terms,” Grace King wrote, “what Thomas Nelson Page meant to us in print as a Southerner, and his stories, short and simple … showed us with ineffable grace that although we were sore bereft, politically, we had now a chance in literature at least.”  Even into the twentieth century, James Branch Cabell,  [another Virginian, not to be confused with Louisiana writer, George Washington Cable, who, considered a traitor to the Cause after he began publishing, moved north] speaking for a new generation of Southern writers, complained that “The ghost of Thomas Nelson Page still haunted everybody’s conception of the South, keening in Negro dialect over the Confederacy’s fallen glory.”

Nelson's writings make the perfect Virginia bookend to Lost Cause literature, revisionist history of the Civil War, the making of the KKK and Jim Crow, with Carolina's Thomas Dixon,

another college friend of Woodrow Wilson,  (author of  a vilely racist trilogy of novels that inspired the vile D.W.Griffith's Birth of A Nation and helped revive the KKK) on the other end.

There were so many of these writers, who were very successful in the North, not only in the South, not least among whom was Owen Wister, who created The Virginian friend of Theodore Roosevelt, attacker of Wilson as a coward -- Wister, though a Philadelphian, had his family out of Georgia -- and sometimes viewed as the U.S. Kipling.  

It's  difficult for me to accept Wister as the grandson of Fanny Kemble, the great actress who wrote Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation 1838-1839.

The connections between entertainment, politics and history, Gore Vidal dramatized in the final four novels of  Narratives of Empire, his own entertainment of American History. These were deeply influenced by Henry Adams's Histories of the Administrations of Jefferson and Madison -- and, not least, for bridge novel from the past to our future dominated by media, Vidal's novel, 1876. 1876 was deeply influenced by Adams's novel of the same period, Democracy -- which features as the romantic lead, a Virginian Lost Causer come north to Washington D.C. and New York City, to renew his family's fortunes ....

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Old Virginia Gentleman & Social Life in Old Virginia Before the War

I've been going through some of the works of household name antebellum writers, who were beloved in their own country, particularly those from Virginia and South Carolina.  Many of them continued writing after the War, particularly if they managed to move north, as so many did do, from W. D. B. DeBow and Sidney Lanier to Mary Chesnut  (who was the only one who didn't believe in either the war or slavery -- at least in the final, published version of her splendid Civil War Diaries).

It's fascinating to see the appalling matters that we've been studying for so many years through the perspective of those who were and remained pro-slavery as naturally as they breathed.  They were as instrumental in making secession and the war as the plantation power and the politicians (sometimes they were politicians as well -- or even ministers). As well as interesting and informing, reading these works is -- frightening. *

The fright comes from what isn't in these works -- what they ignore, what they don't see, what they pretend didn't exist, supremely at odds with what really did happen, how things really were -- the determination to never mention these things in polite company.  They cannot comprehend any of it from the perspective of the enslaved -- nothing else demonstrates so bluntly how the enslaves millions of human beings, to these people,  were not human beings at all. Even today, you read works written by Southern writers which elides the perspective of events and conditions from the point of view of the enslaved still as naturally as breathing.  The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina, Volume I 1514-1861 published by the USC press in 1996 is an excellent example.

The author explains that it was clear that South Carolina had seceded by 1851. It was the controversy over Kansas - Nebraska and California wanting to be free states – that 1850 battle in the Senate we call the Great Compromise of 1850, or the Great American Debate was the cause. That these territories were to be, by their own choice as well as earlier Compromises and Decisions, allowed to be free states was ingratitude on the part of the north, to a people who had lost so many of her sons in the Mexican war.  This is why South Carolina sent so many of her young men to Missouri to fight in Kansas for to make the state a slave state, because it was their right .Not a word is given to the fact that the Mexican War was also made by them because they wished to expand the territory of slavery for their benefit. Yet in the run-up to the War in the 1840's it was no secret to the rest of the nation, and itt objected. One of them was  Ulysses S. Grant, which he describes in his Memoirs, as he was one of the many in the professional army who felt utter disgust that they were being used for the powerful interests of the slaveholding elite.

The author also flatly states at the end of this volume, which concludes with the Union army's occupation of the Sea Islands and the escape to freedom by their slaves that the plantation owners never get their property returned to them, and they were never compensated, as were the plantation owners in Jamaica. It is the land, the houses and what they contained, he seems to be speaking of.  But all the museums in the region make it clear that all these powerful men did return after the war and take back their plantations.  So -- it must be their slaves, right?  But the author's not saying so!

In one of the many nostalgic paeans written after the war to life in Virginia before the war, in "The Old Virginia Gentleman," George William Bagby blithely writes:
If the house, the barn, the fields were alive, so also were the woods. There the axe was ever plying. Timber to cut for cabins (the negroes increased so fast), for tobacco houses and for fuel, new ground to clear, etc., etc.
Thomas Nelson Page (b. 1853) tells us in Social Life in Old Virginia Before the War:
The mansion was a plain "weatherboard" house, one story and a half above the half-basement ground floor, set on a hill in a grove of primeval oaks and hickories filled in with ash, maples, and feathery-leafed locusts without number. It was built of timber cut by the "servants " (they were never termed slaves except in legal documents) out of the virgin forest, not long after the Revolution, when that branch of the family moved from Yorktown.
Well, that's all right then, since the fact that the servants are slaves is merely a legal matter.

The authors of both these sketches give a fair number of words to the number of young men on the plantations who were part of what made that life so charming, amusing and interesting: sons, cousins, nephews, friends, etc.. They both inform us that these young men sleep apart from the people in the Big House, in an outbuilding that in Virginia was called 'the office' (in Louisiana it was called 'the garconer'). It's impossible for the reader not to connect the number of young men on the place and "the fast increase of the negroes" isn't it -- yet it never enters either authors' head!  Nor more does it enter their heads that the sale of this 'increase of negroes' to the younger southern states is what supported these plantations in Virginia and South Carolina,  and that it was the servants being slaves 'only legally' made this possible.

Yet -- in "The Old Virginia Gentleman" Bagby tells us that in 'the office' the young men's talk is profane and lewd, filled with stories of what they don't allow their sacred mothers to know they get up to ....

Always the victim, the South saw itself, even from before Independence, and ever after.  Living a despot's life makes it impossible to even comprehend compromise, negotiation or that you can be thwarted in anything you decree. You give orders and it is done and that is that. The entire natural order of the universe is destroyed when anyone disagrees with you, for you, like God, cannot ever be wrong about anything.
* As these three examples show, Southerners didn't 'get it' any better after the oceans of blood than they did before -- not even by the end of the 20th century.

This supports my sense that the New Secession is coming, probably within the next ten years, particularly if there's another Democrat in the Oval Office during that period.  It will probably be Texas first, with Arizona as First Companion.  Texas has always considered itself more a Republic than a state.  With so much of the global Big Oil Bidness, with off-shoring of banking and so many enthusiastic private militias, it doesn't need the U.S. for anything.

That was why South Carolina's secessionist movement began so early after Independence. They signed and ratified the Constitution because they the needed the U.S. federal power to fight Spain for them in Florida -- to where slaves ran to freedom out of South Carolina since the 1600's, and to fight the Indians, with whom the maroons and Spanish allied, first against the British, and then the U.S.  But once Andy Jackson destroyed the Indians or removed them, and the Floridas became part of the slave owning Southern U.S. economic system, South Carolina had no more use for a gummit that included any other state that wasn't interested in the expansion of slavery as institution and as territory.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Travel Is Educational

The things we saw and learned in the Gullah Country, which we did not previously know, but now we do, and much more:

... the sea island lineage has contributed to the development of the modern extra-long staple cottons, via the Egyptian cottons developed in Africa. The Egyptian cottons presumably are based on a cross between a wild Peruvian G. barbadense accession (Jumal’s tree cotton) and sea island cotton.  . . . 

Most of all it was interesting to learn that cotton agriculture could not get going until after Independence, due to England's protectionism of its woolens industry.  Then it was slowed significantly due to England's refusal to allow U.S. goods and ships most of the time, until in until sometime after the War of 1812.  I knew about this, but not the protectionism of England's woolens industry.

I have never seen so many huge, multistory and wing mansions concentrated in such a small region anywhere else,  neighborhood after neighborhood of them in Charleston, each massive pile larger than the one next door,  in every small town of the Sea Islands and coastal lands, each town a port town (and sometimes also a resort town, like Beaufort), that not only shipped out cotton and brought in necessary supplies and goods, but brought and shipped out slaves too.  The amount of wealth generated for all those generations is mind-boggling, all out of slavery.

Not all of it was from cotton though -- rice was a huge staple cash crop also.  But rice cultivation mostly disappeared after the Civil War, with the slavery on which it depended.  The rice planters had refused to mechanize, and thus when the war was over, they had nothing with which to get going again.

What I can't figure out is how so many of them kept going bankrupt, when they were generating such huge amounts of wealth for so many decades. Gambling was a big part of it.  But then Thomas Jefferson also was an indebted bankrupt most of his life, and certainly so when he died. Slaves were the collateral.  As long as you had slaves you could credit for everything from gambling debts to land. But the beast bit your family -- and the slaves, most of all -- when everything including the slaves were sold to pay for the patriarch's lifestyle -- even the patriarch's own children were sold. This went on for nearly three centuries.  No wonder everyone in the Gullah Country can say without the least bit of irony, "We are all related."

Saturday, June 8, 2013

After Tropical Storm Andrea, Reading, Writing and Raspberries

Andrea dumped the greatest amount of rain on us and many other Atlantic Coastal destinations for a 7th of June since records of such things were kept.

Nevertheless the air today did not feel sharp, clear and clean.  It's humid, even though not that warm.

Still, 'tis the season for raspberries and I'm stuffing myself with them, as I've been doing all week.  Vanilla non-fat yogurt, raw sunflower seeds and raspberries -- such a splendid breakfast.  As for dessert -- any combo of raspberries and chocolate will do.

Of course it's pasta-wine-jazz night tonight, tonight being Saturday night.

I continue reading Volume II of Savannah's An Epic IV Volume Civil War History: Vol. II: Brokers, Bankers, And Bay Line: Inside the Slave Trade.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Longmire in the West, Jesse Stone in the East, Sired by The Virginian

Longmire (2012) A&E, Season 1, streaming, netflix.

Based on Craig Johnson's novels that feature Walt Longmire, this is another locale-oriented murder mystery series. Set in Wyoming, it's shot in New Mexico.(Does New Mexico, like Louisiana, provide incentives to Hollywood that Wyoming doesn’t?) The cast is long on an interesting selection of actors from whom, as the series progresses, interesting characters and deepening relationships, emerge.

Walt Longmire is the Country Sheriff of fictitious Absaroka County. Absaroka is home to the small city of Durant. Absaroka contains a Cheyenne reservation, mountains, prairies and national forest, i.e. this is a western, the geography of the ur-Western, Owen Wister’s The Virginian (1902), which declared Wyoming “white man’s country,” the place of national healing and reconciliation, for white men, where, after the Civil War lovely eastern white women learn to submit to manly gentlemen warriors.

Standing in here for the Virginian's Vermont school marm, Molly, is  Katee Sackhoff, Starbuck from BS-Galactica. Vic is Longmire’s young homicide detective, a new hire out of Philadelphia, Vic(toria) Moretti.

Lou Diamond Phillips is owner of the Red Pony bar-restaurant, Henry Standing Bear, Longmire’s Cheyenne friend, his door and his eyes into into the res.

Like Walt and Henry, Branch Connally is locally born and bred. The younger deputy is played by Bailey Chase, who was Graham Miller, Riley’s Initiative buddy on Buffy. Branch’s character is the same irritating mix of upright, confused and dick-headedness that Graham’s was in Buffy. In Longmire, we meet Branch’s family, which makes sense of his character – it’s not a set-up of mean antagonist that you usually get to the older, good and decent man.

Example of guest cast and supporting characters: in the third episode a local drug snitch-informer for Longmire is played by James C. Leary,who was Clem, Buffy’s friendly, floppy-eared, saggy-skinned, poker-playing-with-kittens-as-stakes, Dawn-sitting demon.

Then there was ep. 7, “8 Seconds,” which forefronts a married art gallery dealer and her wealthy beer distributor spouse, named – Sublette! Ha! It turned out that the husband is in the closet, which provoked an attack by a confused boy who discovers Sublette is having an affair with his father ….

The deeper into the series we get, the more involving and deeper it becomes. The smaller supporting roles get breadth, which works in the same way in Robert Parker's Jesse Stone, another successful locale-oriented television adaptation The nine made-for-television movies were produced by, and star Tom Selleck.  Neither of these are quite your usual tv.

As has Jesse Stone,  Longmire has lost his wife before the action begins. Stone’s wife kicked him out; Longmire’s is mysteriously dead, about which he feels guilty for reasons undisclosed. This convenient singlehood allows Longmire, like Stone, to  be broody as well as available for romantic/sexual opportunities. Perhaps because Longmire has a grown-up attorney daughter, Cady, in town, helps. Or, you could say, Longmire has a trio of women who take care of him: Cady, Vic, Ruby, the department's administrator, an older, though not motherly woman, thank goodness.

 Unlike Jesse, Longmire isn’t a drunk. Though Walt drinks, he does not drink to excess – or on the infrequent occasion that he does, he has good reason and handles it responsibly, calling Vic out of hot sex with her husband to drive him home.

I am applauding the writers of Longmire – so far they haven't writen in a hot sex encounter for Walt with a much younger woman in any episode, thank goodness, which we do have in every Jesse Stone episode, many of which come through unintentionally as ridiculousJesse even has a young nun yearning for him, despite having a good thirty-five years on her, who gets a bit jealous of him sexing up non-nuns. The threat of hot sex is always there for Walt, however, if only because Vic and his daughter keep telling Walt there are women attracted to him.

Longmire in the land-locked, mountain and prairie West, Jesse Stone’s on ocean coast Massachusetts, both are equally stunning landscapes. Involving landscape is always a big draw for me -- as long as the characters develop to at least some degee from their place. This can be used in many ways, even in opposition.  Justified has played successfully against that on occasion, bringing in Detroit mobsters who do not know or understand how things work in either Harlan County or Kentucky, which brings them down. Vic's an unwilling transplant to Absaroka County; this is just another in her her husband's constant re-locations as a nabob in the Natural Gas Bidness.. She's a big city girl, who misses a big city police department and regrets not having its resources, like SWAT teams.  Decent Los Angeles Jesse’s been forced to re-locate to a foreign place because he's a drunk and no one else would have him.

Significantly, Walt Longmire’s a believably decent man, who loves his land and community. Walt’s a bit old-fashioned – he won’t have a smart phone. He’s a guardian, aging out of his powers and out of his time, who makes up for this with intelligent and efficient use of what he does have – or what what his team has, such as smart phones. He can still fight like an aroused bear when necessary, but would always prefer not to.

It’s enjoyable to watch this decent, competent, non-flashy Sheriff of Absaroka County.  But then, I do love a good western.

Longmire’s second season began in May, 2013. The new season's episodes can be watched streaming on the A&E site.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


The Moleskine flip cover reporter's notebook is the best out of which to transcribe to digital document.  It stays open without need of a weight or pinning bar; it's small enough to prop right at the side of one's machine - keyboard.

This is no small convenience considering how much I've got to do.  I used up two cartridges for my pen.

Working on Monticello today.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Love of Life Orchestra, Tonight

Via Ned Sublette:

I am playing this Wednesday, June 5, at 8 p.m. at Roulette in Brooklyn as an orchestral guitarslinger in Peter Gordon’s Love of Life Orchestra -- approximately the thirty-second anniversary of when I first played with this fine ensemble (during The Kitchen's Aluminum Nights extravaganza, at the extraordinary venue that was Bond International Casino.)
This concert will be the premiere of Gordon’s Symphony #5, and what a band we have this time around:
>Paul Shapiro, saxes / Katie Porter, clarinets / Peter Zummo, trombone / Max Gordon, trumpet / Elio Villafranca, piano / Ned Sublette, guitar / Randy Gun, guitar / Yunior Terry, bass / Robby Ameen, drums / Bill Ruyle, percussion / Peter Gordon, sax, organ, synth / Video by Kit Fitzgerald.
The auditorium at Roulette is a wonderful-sounding room, a joy to play music in. There's an interview with Peter Gordon about the piece on the Roulette blog, and a Facebook event page here. Tickets are reasonable. Y’all come.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sexism Makes SF/F Women Writers Tired

This merely another in the series of frequent eruptions of How SF/F and SFWA can embarrass itself and look foolish, sexist and / or racist / and / or whatever other bad mannered and socialization behavior can be engaged in.  Most people on the face of the planet won't know much less care.  This is the sort of thing that made me give up the org and the culture so long ago -- yet, like so many things that are bad for us and our blood pressure, not to mention taking up space in our little brains that could be used so much more profitably -- I can't keep my eyes away from these eruptions.
How every single discussion about Sexism and woman-type stuff on the Internet (and real life) has ever happened and ever will happen, always, forever, until the Earth finally falls into the Sun (or until the Patriarchy is dismantled.)
It goes with this:

"Sexism and SFWA, as seen by a former SFWA president.

Is there any more reason to wonder why sf/f is so riddled with such yahoo-saurian types as consumers and writers? Even when so many -- men and women -- explain.

They cannot and will not and don't want to hear.  Sexism.  It exists.  Get over it. Besides, sexualized female bodies are still the greatest marketing tool of all time, and selling our stuff is the name of the game.

Now there is another thing, the unfortunate editor of the SFWA Bulletin (for which there has never seemed to be an earthly use (so many reasons I left the org), is / was female, and she's resigned.  Undoubtedly the two men who set off this typical sfwa firestorm this time won't resign from anything -- indeed one of them isn't even a member of the org -- but a woman must be punished for their sins.  Because these saurians of the community are untouchable.  There's no other reason their inane and silly maunderings ran for frackin' 15 years in the Bulletin, because this field is all about the Sacred Name and Ancestor Worship.  So the misogyny and sexism and the rest are embedded in the org from the beginning.  It's not going to stop, particularly since this is the field that is the crown of nerd culture, which currently dominates pop culture from top to bottom.

Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey  (2012)

This is Part one of of three installments of  movies based on Tolkien's slim book intended for children, which turned out to be the prequel to the adult Lord of the Rings trilogy. 

This first movie of the projected trilogy was better than I’d been led to believe by either professional or fan responses / reviews. Perhaps the reason that it is better than I expected is it appears that by this time around Tolkien Jackson has shed himself of all compunction about departing from the source material that  he may have had when adapting LOTR.*  Another reason is in this installment Jackson managed to, barely, present us with more expository, character and story telling times on screen, than the endless orc, troll and other chase and flee and pound scenes of his LOTR. However, the capture by the trolls goes on too long, as does the chase in -- where were they exactly?  The kingdom of the Goblin King?  This looked like those same endless scenes under the mountain in Moria from Jackson's LOTR, with endless M.C. Escher stairs and platforms suspended above bottomless abysses.  And fire, o yes, much fire.

There are problems in The Hobbit of tone, as the treatment careens from the whimsy and perspective of a child's entertainment, to Jackson’s need for a heroic masculine warrior protagonist who will attract the female gaze and  fulfill her desire to yearn for imaginary romance.  The dwarves flop from bad-mannered, fierce Viking pillagers, to the comic Disney dwarf types: instead of being Sleepy, Sneezy, etc., they are Fat, Dim, Mischievous Twins (filling in for the Merry and Pip pairing of LOTR), Noble, etc.

Audience is the only role of females in this tale, whether in print or as a movie that departs from its print source.  There are no women in this story, unless one counts Bilbo's description to Frodo of Lobelia Sackville-Baggins's mean, covetous and thieving character, or the statuary poses of Galadriel at Rivendell. 

There are so many departures from the book it's a different story with characters who have the same names as from the source material. Niether Galadriel nor Saruman were in The Hobbit.. Instead of resting at the House Beorn (hopefully we will see Beorn in the next installment) after the Eagles rescue them from the wargs and orcs, the Company comes to Rivendell. We have an addled-and-bird shit-pated Radagast -- who is pulled in a sleigh-travois contraption by rabbits of breakneck, breathtaking speed -- an awkward misalliance of Santa Claus with the Easter Bunny.  The Eagles are as glorious as they should be, though we don't get to hear them speak. But we do get to see more Rivendell, which, like Bilbo, we all want to see more of.

One wonders too how much of the footage in The Unexpected Journey was edited out of the LOTR movies, or unused in them?  This is a good thing.  However, as the first installment of Jackson's LOTR was the best of the three, so this leads one to expect the same may happen with The Hobbit films.

In any case, never having been a fan of The Hobbit, I enjoyed An Unexpected Journey much more than I did the book.
*  See also HBO's  GOT's departures from its print-source material.  Improvement or disgrace?  Are both versions disappointing in the same ways? Are both disappointing but in different ways? 

When it comes to rating the departures Jackson chose from Tolkien, with the exception of Arwen and her Ride in The Fellowship of the Ring, the departures were deeply disappointing. Frodo's repudiation of Sam in favor of Gollum, destroyed the foundation of why the Ring was destroyed and why Frodo and Sam survived: their unshaken devotion and loyalty to each other. It was wrong and the choice to do this was entirely Jackson's. All these wrong things in the film version are Jackson's responsibility entirely.  The source material was just fine.

The HBO-Got begins with deeply flawed print-source and then overlays its own chosen failures of taste, misogyny, torture-porn obsession, etc. on top of the print version.  Additionally, the source material isn't complete. Has there been another project that went on screen before the final source material was completed? (True Blood doesn't really apply to this as the author intends for the Sookie Stackhouse books to be stand alones as much as a series.)

Betting sorts who understand how to go about such things are probably making long book on the chances that the print version of GOT will never be finished. The author's provided the show runners / writers an outline as to how he projects the project to conclude, "in case," while the production team expects to carry their series through to that end on HBO with 6 or 7 seasons. HBO-Got's popular enough that there doesn't at this time seem any reason to not expect it to roll that way. As authors who write books to find out what happens know all too well, it's very hard to write a book when the story has already been finished. This is what creates the eternal conflict between outlining and not outlining, and makes writing proposals such a byatch.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

1939 New York in HD Color - Looks Like Filmed Yesterday!

Woo.  NYC's streets and sidewalks look depopulated when compared to what these streets and sidewalks are like today.  Yet some of the landmarks are as recognizable from then as from now, fountains particularly, such as Washington Square's, Rockefeller Center's and so on.

NYers rebuild quickly! This is 1939 -- six years after King Kong ravaged the place, recall.  :)

At this point there are entire blocks of sidewalk without room to get through because so many bicycles are parked and locked on them, there's no room left for pedestrian traffic. (Don't get me started on bicyclists riding on the sidewalks ....)  As well, the handle bars and other parts poke out at your vulnerable places -- and you don't see them, due to color, position, one's own poor vision.  Some people set their bikes up perpendicular -- the dark handlebars and wheels jut out into the space you are walking in but you can't see them, particularly in shadows or at night.

There are more bikes everywhere everyday: for one thing the Young and Recently Graduated cannot afford cars in this economy, now the bike share program is in effect, releasing thousands more bicycles, ridden by people who aren't used to navigating this city in the first place, actually riding in this kind of traffic, as opposed to recreational biking, and, of course, have no clue at all as to where they are going.

But this is another of Mommy Dearest Mayor Mike's dearly beloved babies, just as is gun control.  Yet, get this: the Mommy Dearest Mayor has now declared his fiat that medical marijuana is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated upon a gullible public ....

More information about this 1939, French-filmed video here.