". . . 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

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Originals

Premiering Thursday, October 3, this series spun-off from soapy The Vampire Diaries is set in New Orleans, the supposedly natural home of vampires and other supernatural creatures.  Perhaps more to the point Louisiana provides supernatural tax breaks and other assistance to movies and television productions produced within itself.

In the featured vampire voice-over in the trailer informs us that he and his family owned New Orleans for centuries, and now he is demanding to have it back.

What I want to know then, since he was a New Orleanian from way back, why does he call the city New Orleeeenes?  Nobody born in New Orleans pronounces the name of the city that way, at least no one I've ever met who was born there,  or Louisiana, for that matter.  Not saying nobody pronounces it that way, just that I've never heard it done.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dusinberre Shows Us How Henry Adams Did It

Part of Dusinberre's study of Henry Adams' Myth of Failure is deconstructing Adams's method as an historian, his influences and his conviction that narrative history must be as much a literary endeavor (recall, Adams also published two novels) as a scholarly one.  Dusinberre shows us how this works in Adams's History.  
[Dusinberre, pp 105-106] " ... Adams set out ... his own -- still primitive -- canons of prose style.  His creed, enshrining force and variety, was stated as explicitly as that of any textbook writer on rhetoric, and one precept might have copied directly from the Anglican bishop:  "Great effects are best produced by lowering the general tone.  Follow Canon I as a rule [the subject should normally precede the predicate], and it becomes easy to make a sensation with Canon III [when accentuation is wanted, begin with the word or idea to be accentuated, even if this is the predicate].  The higher you pitch the key, the harder it is to sing up to it, and the effect no greater." From this elementary tenet Adams progressed during ensuing years to an ever clearer conception of the principles of his craft.  In 1879 he still complained that "the most difficult thing to me is to vary the length of my sentences so as to relieve the attention"; but a decade later, recreating the battle of Bladensburg, he had learned to measure his sentences in proportion to the military force concerned:

Dusinberre then illustrates this rhetorical method of Adams with this bit describing the infamous debacle of Bladensburg from History, 8:140 (citation page will be different in the Library of America edition):
Some Maryland regiments arrived at the same time with [Secretary of State] Monroe.  About three thousand men were then on the field, and their officers were endeavoring to form them in line of battle.  General Stansbury of the Baltimore brigade made such an arrangement as he thought best.  Monroe, who had no military rank, altered it without Stansbury's knowledge.  General Winder arrived at noon, and rode about the field.  At the same time the British light brigade made its appearance, and wound down the opposite road, a mile away, a long column of redcoats, six abreast, moving with the quick regularity of old soldiers, and striking at the American center.
Several short blunt statements that describe the inexperience, confusion and irresolution of the Americans.  What follows is a single extended period that contrasts British experience and organization which allows the conclusion of the British line to flow smoothly through the American defense. Adams does not need to tell us the Americans are disorganized and inexperienced, without even a chain of command.  Adams describes it in the rhythm in which the debacle takes place, within one short paragraph.

We are naturally much concerned with these matters ourselves.  This is particularly so now, that we're so close to concluding this draft of The American Slave Coast in preparation for turning it in next month. * Built up from the first colonial eras through the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, this narrative study of the domestic slave trade's effect on the making of the national economy -- there's not a nook or cranny of the economy it did not effect, nor any political matter that it wasn't a part of  -- we are deeply concerned the book read as easily and smoothly as possible.  That's what the next round with the manuscript will be focused on, including then, cutting out at least 50,000 words.  This part of the process is in some ways the most enjoyable for me.  In other ways, not -- OUR THOUGHT BABIES!


* The reason entries here have fallen way off, as  has reading other people's and commenting. Other than fact-checking and researching I've hardly been online in days.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Henry Adams: The Myth of Failure by William Dusinberre

In this fascinating, slender volume, Dusinberre tells us something which anyone interested in naval and military history of the United States should know:

The chapters on the War of 1812, separately reprinted in 1944 for use in educating United States Army officers, remain the basis for most secondary works on the military history of the period.

This separate reprint is titled Henry Adams: The War of 1812, edited by Major H.A.  De Weerd (Washington, D. C.) 1944).

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Hollow Crown -- Shakespeare's History Plays - PBS

This BBC miniseries (2012) received rapturous critical reception when it was broadcast last year.  I've been looking forward to getting to watch them whenever it was possible, whether because they would be shown here or become available on dvd.  Some friends have via a variety of methods saw these as they were shown in the UK, and they could hardly find words to express how much they loved these versions.

Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal
PBS initiates broadcasting the sequence on Fridays, starting tonight.
The Hollow Crown is a lavish new series of filmed adaptations of four of Shakespeare’s most gripping history plays; Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2 and Henry V on THIRTEEN’s GREAT PERFORMANCES beginning Friday, September 20 at 9 p.m. (Check local listings.)
You can see a preview at the linked-to PBS website as well.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Instead of Writing About the History of Our National Economic Stupidities

Which are making my head hurt as we are repeating, in a different way, but to a degree, for some of the same reasons.  We are preparing an economic catastrophe that will rival the one of 1837 caused by Andrew Jackson and his cronies.*  We didn't really pull out of that one until the War with Mexico 1846 - 1848, followed almost immediately thereafter by the discovery at Sutter's Mill.

The suffering was so great that the entire nation -- at least up north -- experienced serious public disorder and unrest.  This is why you see the northern cities ** establishing in the early 1840's their first official police forces, to cope with the violence and anger in the streets (due to no jobs, no credit, no money, no food, no shelter).

No, I'm not writing about this today, despite the stack brilliant books on the subject I'm re-visiting this week.  My head hurts enough as it is from this blasted cold.

Instead I think about this: Yesterday the Canadian geese arrived for the annual winter on the Chester River.

Last night the Chestertown osprey pair lifted wing along the Chester River moonpath, the start of their journey to their winter grounds in Venezuela.

Kent County is gold with harvest -- great gleaning for the geese!

Last night we mooned our way home in a musical cloud after an extraordinary night of latin jazz at the Jazz Standard, where we bought drinks from a beautiful tourist who works in the Hague and loves jazz, and for a beautiful African American who loves jazz and is having love troubles. None of us had met before.

Nor had the moon fully fattened last night, which it will do tonight.

Additionally, let us think of -- possets as colder weather slinks around the balmy present days of summer's end. Reason #109 for reading newspapers outside one's own region: this article from the online  UK Guardian on the history of possets, what they were, what they are now, and how to make them.

Delft Posset Pot circa 1720

* Andrew Jackson was perhaps even more ignorant about the necessity and function of banks in a national economy than Che Guevara, which is saying an enormous amount.

** The history of police forces in the south differs substantially from that in other regions of the U.S. For one thing, due to slavery and the militias and patrols that had been in place since the colonial eras, the slaveholding states were virtually police states, which they remained, at least for people of color for decades after the Civil War.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Joy and Delight at Absurd Levels

The arrival of an order of Post It Pads always provokes wide smiles, exclamations (sotto voce) and jumping for joy (restrained to tiny hops in respect for my neighbors).

My supply of of the vital Yellow Sticky Pads had fallen to -- two.  I can go through those in a single day of work when cooking with my research materials.

There is a comfy sense of security in having a few dozen pads, in unopened packets among the supplies. Sort of like for food, a filled freezer, bags of rice and beans, sacks of potatoes, a half dozen parcels of pasta from Raffettos (est. 1906!), some boxes and cans of tomato products and several unopened bottles of olive oil. You know no matter what you can get along for a while. :)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Voyage of the Frolic: New England Merchants and the Opium Trade

The justly famous Baltimore Clippers were purposed originally as privateers in the War of Independence and the War of 1812.

After the Treaty of Ghent, the Clipper design was re-rigged, so to speak, and many were constructed specifically for the African slave trade, which was, yes illegal.

In fact, the Act of 1794 had made it illegal for Americans to build ships for the international waters' slave trade. In the Act of 1794:
"Congress prohibited the use of any U.S. port or shipyard for the purpose of fitting out or building any ship to be used for the introduction of slaves. The law also prohibited ships sailing from U.S. ports from trafficking in foreign countries. Ships sailing from the United States to Africa, even if of foreign registry, were required to "give bond with sufficient sureties, to the treasurer of the United States, that none of the natives of Africa, or any other foreign country or place, shall be taken on board... to be transported, or sold as slaves in any other foreign place, within nine months thereafter." Penalties under the law included fines ranging from $2,000 for outfitting a ship to $200 for an individual working on such a vessel. The act provided that the ships could be confiscated, and half of all fines given to any informants, thus providing an incentive for ship captains and mariners to monitor the activities of anyone they suspected of being involved in the illegal slave trade."
The most infamous of these Baltimore Clippers for the international slave trade was perhaps The Venus. Under false Portuguese registry, papers, flag and false name, la Duqueza de Braganza,* at the end of November, 1838 she left Lagos, Nigeria with 1,150 slaves chained in that terrible spoon fashion below her shallow decks -- meaning you could not even shift to your other side, unless the entire chain moved with you.  The Venus arrived in Havana, January 7, 1839 with 800 + of her 'cargo' still alive.  Many more died quickly thereafter. Further:
"In 1841, the role of the Venus in the illegal transport of slaves from West Africa to Cuba became the focus of a report by President Martin Van Buren to the United States House of Representatives." p.43, Layton, The Voyage of the Frolic. **
A variety of ruses were quite openly employed to pretend these ships were not what they are, were not owned by whom they were owned, were not going to where they were going (think Prohibition and the transport of liquor into the U.S. from Europe and Canada).  After the Brits abolished the African slave trade in 1807 it got more complicated, and even more so when Britain abolished slavery in the West Indies in the 1830's.  But a large number of respected merchant houses, particularly in Boston, continued to finance the ever-evolving Clipper ships' designs for the incredibly lucrative slave trade from Africa to Havana to Brazil.

This was equally true for the opium trade, which was also illegal for Americans, and equally ignored by the great merchant houses who gained tremendous wealth in the China trade, by shipping opium from Turkey and India to China in exchange for those Chinese goods such as silk and porcelain so valued by Victorians in Europe and America.

It is on the American opium trade to China that archeologist Thomas N. Layton focuses in The Voyage of the Frolic: New England Merchants and the Opium Trade (1997) published by Stanford University Press. The opium ship Frolic's last voyage was from Hong Kong to Gold Rush San Francisco in 1850. Possessed of a faulty chart, her experienced captain's vision confused by low mist that concealed reef and rocks, she wrecked off the Mendocino coast. Through the history of this ship, the Frolic, Layton retells the era of the Baltimore Clippers all the way through to their end in that short period of the Tall Ship Clipper 1850 - 1858, when steam and the U.S. Civil War put a decisive end to the Baltimore Clipper ship yards.

Along the way we learn the history of the U.S. involvement in the African slave trade to Cuba and South America and the opium trade to China.  He links the two trades, both illegal, both incredibly profitable, to the accumulation of northern capital that helped drive further technological, commercial and financial developments of the second half of the nation's nineteenth century.

The Frolic's Captain Faucon, was a second generation Haitian, the Fells Point shipyard where she was built was established by a refugee from the San Domingue Revolution, and Frederick Douglass worked there, from whence, employing the papers of a free black seaman, he shipped north to escape his enslavement. 1850 was the year of the Great Debate over the admission of California into the Union, whether as free soil (which the Americans already there voted to be free soil) or a slave state (some fire breathing slave power plantation owners had moved themselves and their slaves to California in attempts to outvote the free soilers. They failed.  Moreover when they brought their slaves to the gold fields they were beaten by the free soiler miners who would brook no competition in their drive for gold from enslaved labor.) Good friends from pre-Gold Rush, sparsely populated California tallow-and-hide merchant ship days, Captain Faucon and Captain Richard Dana (Three Years Before the Mast) both captained ships for the Union naval blockade of the CSA coasts. So here, in one slim, easy reading, deeply researched book, is everything that will make the Civil War in another ten years.***

Typing "the Venus Duqueza" into google provides a google book page of  Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons and Command, Volume 49 that describes the illegalities of the Venus in detail.

** This information becomes more pertinent in light of the trial of the Amistad escapees case of 1841 that now Representative, once President, John Quincy Adams argued --  and that Van Buren (1782 - 1862) grew up in a New York state family that owned six slaves themselves. This is one of those turning points in which it becomes more difficult for USians to be neutral about slavery, hardening opinion for or against.

*** To clarify what was asked elsewhere:  These matters are not in The Voyage of the Frolic per se, but I know of these matters taking place at the same time because I have been studying all this for some years. As well, yes, as anyone who even briefly looks into the Baltimore Clippers knows, Howard I Chapelle is the classic researcher, builder and writer in the field. Everyone who writes anything about clippers acknowledges Chapelle, including Layton.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ben-Hur (2010 Made for Television)

Ben Hur (2010) CBC; ABC in U.S. It has an excellent cast, including  Kris Holden-Reid (The Tudors, Lost Girl),  Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey’s paterfamilias), and Emily VanCamp (Revenge) in supporting roles, and Joseph Reid as Judah Ben-Hur (Klaus of The Vampire Diaries, and now, The Originals).

Lew Wallace's novel, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ,

has been adapted several times for movies, for the stage (the latest was in London back in 2009) and now for television. I know the novel very well.  It was in my maternal grandmother’s library. I read it for the first time when I was about 11 or 12, then re-read it more times than I can recall. That same copy is now on the shelves in our apartment. I cannot say whether this was a good made-for-television movie or not, because I’m always happy to watch a Ben-Hur.  However, this adaptation did no justice to the great chariot race, the set-piece of the novel. Also Rome was excised from this made-for-television movie, no doubt due to budgetary reasons, so the race is held in Jerusalem, which, as all the characters know, is no Rome. Though they don't make up for this, the camels are first class.

In Wallace’s novel, Iras is daughter of Balthasar, one of the Three Magi who find the infant Jesus in the novel’s first section. She becomes lover to Messala. She had wanted Ben-Hur, but his purity of body and religion resisted her temptation.  In this television adaptation, for reasons only the writers and showrunners know, Iras didn’t exactly get left out, but she got name-changed to Athene, her position as a Magi's’s daughter transformed into a slave pr*stitute (wh*r*s! we must have wh*r*s, if only so we can shout the word Wh&*r*! at a woman!)*, given to anyone Messala’s father wishes. Athene shares nothing with Wallace’s Iras. Highly educated, Iras had her father’s skills of astronomy, well as the esoteric knowledge of old Egypt, as a ‘daughter’ of Isis. She was a woman of agency and personality, the only one in the novel – and always a mystery, unsolved by anyone.  Of course she commits suicide, for reasons no one really knows, though it is hinted she does so in protest of the old world’s worship of goddesses moving to the worship of Christ.

Another excision of the Ben-Hur adaptations is almost in entirety the parallel Tale of the Christ. In this parallel tale Ben-Hur converts to Jesus and follows him personally for three years. The adaptations conclude with Christ healing the Hur women of leprosy, the Crucifixion and the happiness of Ben-Hur’s reunion with his family and love interest, Esther. However, that is not the end of the novel, which is they all move from Jerusalem to Rome to establish one of the first underground Christian churches.

It occurs to me Wallace’s novel has been influenced by Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo (1844), but is filtered through the Usian 19th C sensibility – not to mention that Wallace had led men and lost them on the Civil War battlefields – and lost the battle too.

See titles: Tale of the Christ, and Monte Cristo.  I could well be wrong about the Monte Cristo influence, that both Ben-Hur and Monte Cristo are merely following the classic trajectory of the Hero: he falls, then he rises in rebirth – i.e. changes his identity, is inconceivably wealthy, humiliates those who betrayed him and gets the girl. Though in Cristo, Dumas being French, not an American, Edmond Dantès’ financée, Mercédès, has been married to one of the men who executed Dantès’ downfall and given him a son. Though innocent in all these matters, in fiction Mercédès’s marriage and motherhood would make her unworthy of a union with Dantès (instead he marries a much younger, pure virgin ex-slave girl at the end).  Plus, the scope and intricacies of Dantès’s vengeance are more akin to the Revenge Plays, so popular in the time of Queen Elizabeth and King James I, than is Ben-Hur’s, who is fixated solely on the destruction of Messala, the foster-brother friend who betrayed him and his family.

No matter how familiar one may be with other Ben-Hurs, this cast, the costuming, the location and sets, make this two + hours of television viewing an entertaining experience.


* Had to edit this section because judging by the unprecedented number of hits this entry has received, it must be that word that is bringing them.  How disappointing this must be for them, to come looking for that and finding instead Lew Wallace, the Civil War, A Tale of the Christ and The Count of Monte Cristo!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

War Hawks Reunion Tour

Click here to link to source, then click on the image to enlarge in otder to read the text.

9/11 Brings the Results of NYC 2013 Primary Election

To the surprise of many, not least Billionaire Mayor and his anointed successor, Quinn not only did not walk away with the nomination, she came in a  distant third. None were more surprised than me that my candidate of choice, who was considered by one and all, a long shot, came in on top, perhaps even enough so, once the paper ballots are counted and processed, to avoid a run-off with the second highest vote.

De Blasio is standing with 40.6 percent, and Thompson with 26 something percent, so de Blasio should be certified with that necessary 40%, one would think. But this is NYC and New York state politics are not only corrupt but already in the colonial era, of an intricacy rivialing those of the Byzantine Empire.

I am disappointed that Jenifer Rajkumar,

my choice for City Council representative candidate did not defeat Margaret Chin -- another hand-in-glover with the behemoth real estate power that rules us all. Since my chosen lady is Indian American, and running in our gerrymandered to make predominately Chinese district, it's not a surprise.  But Rajkumar's dedicated, diverse campaign team worked tirelessly and effectively. She's also young, so she can keep going.

This year NYC's Bold Face Names are posturing with less hysteria than in the past our annual 9/11 observances. At the same time things seem eerily alike earlier years, with so many New Yorkers protesting, as they did Bush's invasion of Iraq, Obama's stupid declaration of killing innocent Syrians to punish their ruler for killing innocent Syrians and Kerry howling. Gads, why didn't Kerry stay in that hole into which he crawled in 2005, when we needed him to fight back against the warmongering repugs stealing the election? Hopefully, international mediation between Obama’s stupid red line and Assad will keep us from leaping sans plan, will or funds into starting yet another one. If this strike is to be so eeensy teeensy we won’t even know it happened, as Kerry bleats THIS ISNT WAR at the top of his voice to show that he really is a Tough Guy, not a gutless wonder who lets the repugs take anything they want away from him -- since killing women, children and men and destroying parts of a city so ancient that it is a world heritage site is such a miniscule action -- tell me, then, what eff is the point -- and don't say it is stop chemical warfare -- because, guess what? There are hordes of Americans who are not convinced it even happened and who keep remembering Iraq, WMD and Yellow Cake. And you cannot order us not think about that.   Surely we can do better than Kerry for Sec of State?

Nevermind. Thank goodness it's less 9/11 Redux today than it is July Redux.
As well I have a beautiful new sombrero vueltiao from Barranquilla.  Made for this sort of weather, I shall wear it when taking the subway up to the libary in todays' high heat and humidity. 

Sidebar: both candidates who lost office due to being central figures of sex scandals, failed in their, alas surely only first, attempt to get back into public office.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Primary Election Day - Memorias del Subdesarrollo

Warmth has returned, and even more so the steenkin' humidity.  All in all a quite ugly day, though tomorrow promises worse: 90 degrees and higher humidity than this.

Because there were so many problems with the digital scanner voting machines last time, the old mechanical lever machines were brought back for this primary only.  We'll vote in November with the digital scanner machines.  In the meantime, in many districts, seemingly primarily in Brooklyn, many of the old mechanical machines are broken or malfunctioning in some way.  OTOH, as I recall, that was the usual situation in the past with those machines.

More than one district votes in my polling place. My district has a line of waiting voters, For reasons I attribute entirely to Issues of Overdevelopment,* within which overdevelopment's center perches the Biggest Real Estate Spider, NYU.  NYUniveristy's overdevelopment plans include replacing the only supermarket and community garden in the district with more NYU, and privatizing Washington Square Park. The other districts are doing nothing pretty much, as per usual for a primary.

Since everything is being done by hand in so many places, and depending on the number of absentee ballots cast,  it is expected that the final tally for the outcome may take some days to declare.  So far, there are no projections.  This is one of those primaries where there will have to be yet another primary party run-off, if none of the candidates this round received 40% of the vote.


* I have in mind the classic 1968 Cuban film, Memories of Underdevelopment, in Spanish, Memorias del Subdesarrollo, adapted from the novel by Edmundo Desnoes.  Once a staple of university film courses and festivals, the Cuban film depicts the opposing end of overdevelopment, among other reflections. The central figure is an aspiring novelist. Film also has a role, as another theme is memory.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Nathan Bedford Forrest

It's fairly common knowledge that Nathan Bedford Forrest was a vicious and brutal fellow, who made a huge fortune trading in Tennessee and Mississippi slaves before the Civil War.

It's fairly controversial knowledge that Forrest was responsible for executing the black Union soldiers who, among white Union troops, defended Fort Pillow against Forrest's much greater force. It's fairly well known too, that after the War he quickly moved to being a founding, eminent, active member of the KKK during Reconstruction. He lied about his membership when called before the Joint Congressional Committee in 1871 to testify about the KKK.

What is less common knowledge is how Forrest re-established his wealth after Reconstruction. Slaves again, except they were 'convicts' who stocked his prison farm on President's Island, near Memphis.

Some years later, Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest contracted with local officials to establish a penal farm on the island, using able-bodied prisoners in the corn and the cotton fields. Having lost a fortune in the Civil War and through unprofitable railroad investments, Forrest was in search of new and lucrative opportunities and was one of the first to try to develop a business (of sorts) on the island.

He offered to pay the county 10 cents a day for each worker and to provide food, clothing and housing. His offer was accepted, and a five-year contract was signed. However, Forrest died in 1877, possibly of dysentery from drinking impure island water. Responding to stories that the prisoners had been mistreated, a grand jury investigated the prison farm and recommended some changes in the operation. In 1878, another penal farm contract was signed with Forrest's son William.
Supposedly in his later years Forrest spoke in public that African Americans should be able to vote for any candidate they wished, which is supposed to be proof of a change of heart in his white supremacy, to a sort of vision of equality.  It's hard to buy though.

It's particularly difficult to buy in light of the neo-confederates glorification lately of Forrest as their image for the Glorious Lost Cause, as, to them, the value of the rose-colored vision of Robert E. Lee's parfit gentil knight, who surrendered, fades. The eulogy at Forrest's funeral was delivered by Jefferson Davis, who never requested a pardon from the U.S., and never surrendered.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

George Fitzhugh - Proslavery Philosopher

From the Documenting the American South website:
Fitzhugh, George, 1806-1881. Slavery advocate. Fitzhugh, from Port Royal, Va., was the descendant of an old southern family that had fallen on hard times. He practiced law and struggled as a small planter but made a reputation with two books, Sociology for the South (1854) and Cannibals All! (1857) which alarmed northerners like Abraham Lincoln and roused southerners to take new and higher ground in defense of slavery.
Fitzhugh insisted that all labor, not merely black, had to be enslaved and that the world must become all slave or all free. He defined "slavery" broadly to include all systems of servile labor. These views had become commonplace in the South by the 1850s. His originality lay in the insight that slavery could only survive and prevail if the capitalist world market were destroyed. He understood that organic social relations and attendant values could not survive in a world dominated by capitalist competition and bourgeois individualism.

His call for war against the modern world, expressed in a harsh polemical style, made him a solitary figure. Numerous others agreed that free labor spelled class war and invited anarchy. They also agreed that slavery overcame the "social question" by establishing a master class that combined interest with sentiment to offer the masses security. But, having no confidence in his utopian vision of a reversal of history, they generally tried, however illogically, to convince the European and northern bourgeoisie to restore some form of slavery in a corporatist order.
Fitzhugh opposed secession until the last minute, arguing that a slaveholding Confederacy could not survive until the advanced capitalist countries had themselves converted. After the war, which once begun he loyally and enthusiastically supported, Fitzhugh sank into obscurity, becoming increasingly negrophobic and idiosyncratic. To all intents and purposes, he died at Appomattox.
Eugene D. Genovese
University of Rochester
Eugene D. Genovese, The World the Slaveholders Made: Two Essays in Interpretation (1969); Harvey Wish, George Fitzhugh: Propagandist of the Old South (1943).
Genovese is one of the classic historians in the study of American slavery as economic institution.  His paternalist economic analysis is fairly outdated now, but there remains so much of value in his work that any historian dealing with slavery must be well acquainted with his work.

I've read as much as I can stomach of Fitzhugh's publications.* Fitzhugh was one of those firebreathers that South Carolina's Low Country elite produced in numbers, who were certain that everything is better with slavery, so much so that slavery should be expanded to include anyone who isn't wealthy, even if they were white. This really scared the North, provoking advocacy for Northern secession as much as the Fugitive Slave Act did.


Ah swan, that the x right talking point memos have gone to school in the southern radical slave power's proslavery philosophical and economic rationality, logic and history writers.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Longmire season 3

There is going to be a season three.  Longmire was renewed, though evidnetly not until after the last episode aired.

This is good news -- unless they continue season two's trajectory of making Vic become a sex object and girl object in peril, instead of the strong, competent and professional she was in season one.

Don't Do This!

Keep Doing This!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The News

I got solicited by a group of NYU journalism students, who couldn't have been any cuter, any more earnest or enthusiastic about what they were doing, which was a random survey that consisted of two questions:
How do you personally define a group as a minority?
What’s your major source for news? 
"You can take your time to think about it."
I didn't need to.

A minority group is one that within in a larger group has fewer numbers; my major news source is local public radio stations and the UK Guardian online.

"Interesting!  Everyone else answered the first question with the name of some ethnic group.  Nobody's said the radio or a foreign newspaper.  The radio?Radio??????"

I assured them that I was Old School.  And that radio still existed.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Il giovane Montalbano / The Young Montalbano

The Young Montalbano (2012) Italian production, in subtitles, shown on BBC4 television.

Prequels are the current television series action in some categories it seems. ITV’s Endeavour (broadcast here in the U.S. on PBS)  is prequel to the long running Inspector Morse series set in Oxford (1987 - 2000). As so many successful television detective series, it too is based on a novel series, by Colin Dexter.

Inspector Montalbano was a successful Italian television series starting in 1999, which began to be run on BBC 4 in 2012.  Based on the book series Andrea Camilleri began in 1994, it features the mature Commissario Montalbano. Il giovane Montalbano is Inspector Montalbano’s prequel.*

Shot on location in Sicily, an Italian production, the prequel has made me that much more hungry for the mature Inspector Montalbano’s Vigata, the fictional coastal Sicilian city where he’s based. It’s fun to see the characters in first episodes operating without mobile phones or computers either professionally or personally, then, as the episodes continue,  huge monitors begin to be seen on desks, and clunky, cordless phones in the car. By the conclusion of the 6th episode though, we’re still a long time away from databases and smart phones. In Vigata they rely on their knowledge of human nature, relationships, the community and their intelligence.

The liking for the series depends upon whether or not one can respect a congenital liar as the detective protagonist. The detective's traditional role is to re-balance the violated moral balance by finding out the murderer. Montalbano lies in the interest of doing that.  But he lies much more to weasel out of unpleasant obligations. He lies to deceive his superiors. He lies to keep his girlfriends around -- or to make them go away. He lies to manipulate his colleagues, antagonists and superiors.  He lies about bending or even ignoring the law as it stands.. He lies as a way of playing jokes on others – those jokes can turn around and bite his ass, as it deserves. This may or may not be the case, but to me the congenital lying appears as a deep cultural belief  – this is Sicily – that justice, not truth, serves the moral universe's balance.

Salvo Montalbano so highly enjoys a perfect meal that at times he schemes to eat alone without a friend or lover’s talk diluting his gastronomic pleasure.  When in the thrall of the chase he forgets even that he has a lover, just as he doesn’t stop to eat or sleep. Estranged from his father, his family is made up of his cohorts in the Vigata station, a set of colorful figures who become as much our old friends as they are Montalbano’s. Reflecting his creator’s professional theater and television experience, Montalbano is a literate fellow, who references writers and playwrights like Pirandello. These traits of Montalbano are already in play in the prequel series, in which we learn how he gets the house that is as much a character in the series as Vigata.

Il giovane Montalbano works a lot better than the BBC-Scotland Detective Zen series (2011), also from a novel series, begun in 1988, by English writer, Michael Dibdin.** Set in and around Rome (though Aurelio Zen is from Venice) featuring Rufus Sewell as the detective, the television series somehow managed to be boring.

One wonders whether Camilleri was inspired by Zen and Donna Leon’s successful Commissario Brunetti novels set in Venice, the first of which was published in 1992, to try a hyper local-based detective series of his own?  Leon is a Usian, but has lived in Venice for many years. She writes her novels in English. For reasons only Leon knows, she has not permitted her books to be translated into Italian, though they are published in many other languages.  German television has produced a series based on the Brunetti novels.

As novel series, set in three disparate regions of Italy, in the later books, they have in common a darkening vision and mood. In each series this loss of joy in the larger life of the communities policed is not due to the advancing age of the protagonists. The growing disgust for one's own country, satisfaction narrowing in focus to only one's personal and intimate connections, is caused by the evil contagion of global corporate infection, as they have merged with, and further enabled, the local versions of corruption and violence. This corruption is poisoning everything that was blessed about the Italian way of life -- even the  fish, even the olive oil, even the cheese. We recognize the same process happening in our own country.

* Neither Il giovane Montalbano  nor the Inspector Montalbano series has shown up on Netflix.

** Now deceased, Michael Dibdin was a distant descendant of that 18th century music theater dominance, Charles Dibdin, who was contemporaneous with Thomas Jefferson and  the Chevalier de Saint-George, the musical and military mulatto genius broken by Napoleon, as Napoleon broke all his officers of color, purging them from la Grande Armée.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Country Diary of An Edwardian Lady

The Country Diary of An Edwardian Lady, is an English Midlands television series from 1984, that I've long wanted to see. Lo! and behold! it was just sitting there on the shelves of my local NYPL branch this week. Nope, Netflix doesn't have it.

Due to when the series was made, the color values haven't held up for every scene in the 12 (short) episodes -- one for every month.  This is sad because so many of the scenes were made on the Warwickshire wildlife reserves in the West Midlands. Farming, flowers, birds, and small rodents including bunnies are the focus (rabbits were not reclassified from rodentia to lagomorpha until 1912).

Edith Blackwell Holden
The series is based on Edith Holden's posthumously published book, Nature Diary of 1906. This in turn is based on on her Nature Notes for 1906, which she made as a teaching aid during her short career as a teacher at the Solihull School for Girls.

She included fair copies of relevant poetry and other literary extracts.  So one can see why this manuscript, when published, became a perfect gift book, one of those 'Treasuries' and 'Keepsakes' that used to be a perennial on the lists of the publishing industry from the Victorian era* even into the 1960's.

Edith Blackwell Holden was a part-time teacher and a nature artist; she illustrated children's books and other publications.**  As well, her paintings were exhibited in the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists and the Royal Academy of Arts. She was much influenced, as were her mother and sisters, by the Arts and Crafts Movement***  of the time.  Her family were members of the Unitarian Church, and, somewhat later, became Spirtualists. The family held seances as a matter-of course; after her death, they spoke frequently with Emma, their mother and wife. This is part of the series, as are sibling rivalry, unsuccessful marriages, falling fortunes of the family business and other changes that challenge the comfortable prosperous security of this family. After Holden's own marriage, the couple's friends included such figures as George Frampton, he who sculpted the figure of Peter Pan in Kensington Park -- which I of course photographed when there last autumn.

However, Edith Holden's fame, such as it is, arrived long after her death, with the 1977 publication of The Country Diary of An Edwardian Lady. I have a copy, found in one of the many second hand and remainder book stores that used to be in Manhattan, the first full year I lived here, during my lunch hour rummages.

Every sort of nostalgia is part of Country Diary's charm. But nostalgic as it might be for a world that the artist perhaps saw as already passing, it is authentic.  With so much reading in slavery and the trade, something gentler, of people who possess a social conscience – they were socialists of a sort.  They cared about the laboring classes and the poor. One of Edith's sisters married what we'd call today an activist, and they made it their lives' work to help better the conditions of the poor. These people, able --  privileged, as they are well aware -- to also love art and nature, is very welcome to a sore heart.***


* See that famous scene between sophisticated, urbane Dr. Lydgate and Rosamond in Middlemarch, in which Lydgate makes fun of a Keepsake Annual to the resentment of one of Rosmond's local suitors. From Chapter 27:
Mr. Ned smiled nervously, while Lydgate, drawing the "Keepsake" towards him and opening it, gave a short scornful laugh and tossed up his chill, as if in wonderment at human folly.
"What are you laughing at so profanely?" said Rosamond, with bland neutrality.
"I wonder which would turn out to be the silliest—the engravings or the writing here," said Lydgate, in his most convinced tone, while he turned over the pages quickly, seeming to see all through the book in no time, and showing his large white hands to much advantage, as Rosamond thought. "Do look at this bridegroom coming out of church: did you ever see such a 'sugared invention'—as the Elizabethans used to say? Did any haberdasher ever look so smirking? Yet I will answer for it the story makes him one of the first gentlemen in the land."
"You are so severe, I am frightened at you," said Rosamond, keeping her amusement duly moderate. Poor young Plymdale had lingered with admiration over this very engraving, and his spirit was stirred.
"There are a great many celebrated people writing in the 'Keepsake,' at all events," he said, in a tone at once piqued and timid. "This is the first time I have heard it called silly."
"I think I shall turn round on you and accuse you of being a Goth," said Rosamond, looking at Lydgate with a smile. "I suspect you know nothing about Lady Blessington and L. E. L." Rosamond herself was not without relish for these writers, but she did not readily commit herself by admiration, and was alive to the slightest hint that anything was not, according to Lydgate, in the very highest taste.
"But Sir Walter Scott—I suppose Mr. Lydgate knows him," said young Plymdale, a little cheered by this advantage.
"Oh, I read no literature now," said Lydgate, shutting the book, and pushing it away. "I read so much when I was a lad, that I suppose it will last me all my life. I used to know Scott's poems by heart."
"I should like to know when you left off," said Rosamond, "because then I might be sure that I knew something which you did not know."
"Mr. Lydgate would say that was not worth knowing," said Mr. Ned, purposely caustic.
"On the contrary," said Lydgate, showing no smart; but smiling with exasperating confidence at Rosamond. "It would be worth knowing by the fact that Miss Vincy could tell it me."
Young Plymdale soon went to look at the whist-playing, thinking that Lydgate was one of the most conceited, unpleasant fellows it had ever been his ill-fortune to meet.
** While watching this series, filled with poetry recited in a woman's voice, for this American, Edna St. Vincent Millay's paeons to nature come constantly to mind, particularly her first one, which in 1912 made her fame, Renascence,  the same era as Holden made her Country Notes. But Holden is more fascinated by  the realities of fur, feathers and stamens than the lyrically passionate trancendentalist Millay. Beatrix Potter could almost be Holden's sister, with Peter Rabbit published in 1901. Like Holden, Potter worked from nature, despite the whimsy that infuses her still famous children's books. As did Kenneth Grahame it seems, for his tales of Toad Hall that make up Wind in the Willows (1908), though his most famous illustrator, E. H. Shepard isn't as painstaking in the natural detail of the animals as Holden and Potter, as we certainly see in his Winnie the Pooh illustrations.

**One feels that beyond E.S. Nesbit, Edith Holden is one of the many figures upon whom A.S. Byatt drew in the writing of her  2009 The Children's Book.

**** Yet,  I only research, read, account and write of, in an organized manner, these horrors, which many millions for two and a half centuries lived and died.