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

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

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

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Don't Like Halloween Too Much Any More

So, shall el V return after all, or be doomed forever to ride the subways underneath NYC?

The annual Village Halloween Parade steps off from our street.  The parade attracts something like a million spectators.  This means, among other unpleasant things for the residents in the vicinity of the parade route, all other traffic is shut down for ingress and egress: private vehicles, taxis and buses.  The subways tend to still run but are clogged with people trying to get to our street, to be ad hoc joiners of the Parade, to be screaming loud, drunk and pee in my doorway to have fun. In fact, They began this fun process days ago already, screaming how much fun They are having at 3 AM, thereby waking me to join willy nilly in Their fun. Thank goodness for ear plugs. It's going to be even worse this year, since due to Hurricane Sandy, there was no Parade last years.

Plane gets in 4:55 at JFK.  Customs, etc. baggage.  He's got lots of baggage.  You don't want to take the Train to the Plane subway humping all that baggage, because it involves many sets of stairs and changes.  Taking a taxi means having to get out blocks away, and humping all that luggage through immovable crowds of screaming drunks.

We've discussed this.  There is no good alternative.

Halloween was a lot more fun when it was celebrated only by kids. And the Parade was a local thing, not an international tourist spectacle. And adults devised their kids' and their own costumes instead of spending hundreds of dollars in the pop up Halloween Costume Stores as they do now.  When it was actually local, and the locals were artistic, creative and constructed the most innovative, startling and admirable outfits, sometimes by wearing only a hat, mask and carrying a sign.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The New Yorker Observes National Cat Day

In honor of National Cat Day, we present the foreword to “The Big New Yorker Book of Cats,” recently published by Random House:
An extended essay by Anthony Lane, about cats, the New Yorker, the book, writers and such interconnected matters.

Patience, One of the Two New York Public Library's Humanities Research Library's Lions
.... Most contributors report, as faithfully as can be, from the front line where the genus Felis collides—and, if we are dumb enough to kid ourselves, colludes—with Homo sapiens. Why settle for the petting zoo of our homes, though, when there are genuine zoos to explore? And how can I complain about my angry puss, no larger than a leg of lamb, when Panthera tigris tigris, the Bengal tiger, is on the prowl? This fellow is best seen, preferably from a distance, as a director’s cut of my cats. Extended features include sunset-colored fur, an average male weight of around five hundred pounds, and, one presumes, the ability to resolve the issue of a tiresome poodle by treating it as a pretzel. Habitats include India, Bangladesh, Nepal, the heavenly kingdom of Bhutan, and Jackson, New Jersey. This cat is hep, and he’s here. And he’s not alone. Susan Orlean, in a probing chronicle of 2002, explained a familiar problem:
"You know how it is—you start with one tiger, then you get another and another, then a few are born and a few die, and you start to lose track of details like exactly how many tigers you actually have."
Bengal Tiger Cools Off

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dracula - NBC

I enjoyed last week's premiere of Dracula a great deal more than I expected to.  I enjoyed it enough to look forward to the next episode. Evidently, I am not the only one to be pleasantly surprised.

It's too bad that the attraction is not in the actor, who, as Dracula, is the center of the series, Jonathan Rhys Meyers.  Being Stoker's Dracula, by definition then, evil, perhaps we don't want Dracula to be appealing?  So far, as Meyers projects him -- that slicked flat hair, the signature Meyers' hooded eyes, facial ornaments, Dracula seems more like one of those stereotypical oily latin lovers or latin villains of which the early decades of the 20th century were enamored on stage and screen.

So wherein does the appeal lie?  Perhaps in some of what captured my support in the later episodes of Ripper Street* -- a sense of a society on the move, embarked on rapid change, and excited by these changes, not intimidated by them, or jaded by them.  This is a society that does not yet even imagine WWI and is tremendously excited by electricity.  This can perhaps be described in that now convenient catch-all term, steampunk, in which bounds of European Empires, we pale folks -- and who is more pale than a vampire? -- can safely celebrate.  But like Ripper Street, the divisions of class and corruption, poverty and crime, the persistence of these matters' threats to the comfortable segments of society, are all present, if foregrounded more in the metaphor of vampirism and ancient secret societies, whose underground wars with each other are also played out in front of the eyes of the overground population -- those whose eyes are open enough to see them, anyway.

*  Ripper Street's second season began this last week on UK television.  I loved the opening of the review for it in The Guardian, here:
According to the rules of television, there are only three characters capable of driving a plot in Victorian London: prostitutes, murderers and murdered prostitutes.
About which very thing last spring I fulminated here, and here too.

Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to Ripper Street's second season, particularly since the Guardian review stated that this time out it seems no prostitutes were murdered in the course of our entertainment.

Monday, October 28, 2013

He's Making It To Barcelona Despite Storm St. Jude

He was fortunate enough that Cardiff, where he was, and Bristol, to where he went this morning (his morning over there, not mine which comes later over here) to get his flight to Barcelona, wasn't badly affected by the storm.

This is not the case in other parts of the UK, France and Belgium.  In many places it was very bad.  Power is out, transportation of every sort halted or disrupted, communications difficult.  Four people died.

He was so anxious for the last three days as to whether he'd be able to make his gig with the "Rumba Para Bebo" (memorial for Bebo Valdez with his equally great son, Chucho) the Barcelona Jazz Festival.  But he couldn't leave WOMEX until this morning, as his gig there in Cardiff, with Juan Formell and Los Van Van, was his yesterday evening.*

I'm so happy for him. And relieved.

As soon as he gets into his hotel he’s being whisked off to have dinner with Chucho Valdez and several other great Cuban latin jazz musicians. There just isn’t anything that he loves more than this except hearing them play, of course, which he’ll be doing a lot of.


*  It's too small to make out as the stage is so far away in this big theater but the screen is projecting a photo of el V, one I took of him last spring.  He's giving the presentation of the award speech.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The American Slave Coast - Bristol

El V has wangled a half day in Bristol.  This matters because it was the third great center of the slave trade industry, along with Liverpool and London.

We're starting revisions to The American Slave Coast manuscript via Skype.  All the mentions in it of Bristol leap out of the text. One example: Beau Walker, Dubya's slave-trade forbearer, was a Bristol slave ship captain -- a particularly cruel one, by contemporary accounts.  He came to an appropriately bloody and violent end, one created entirely out of his own character and behavior.

In the meantime I'm making ridiculous errors in England and Wales's history as I try to clue el V into some of it, from which he could perhaps pick good bits to include in his presentation (it's one way to say publicly that one appreciates and recognizes the honor it is to be invited to come to a place not one's own to speak in public).  Medieval and Renaissance English and Welsh history are so very far away from my own areas of expertise.  It's just that they are even further from his ... and I've always been very interested in those eras though never able to do any focused study -- it takes decades to master a period to point one might begin to acquire the expertise of an historian.  Because these aren't our areas of specialty we don't have professional friends to call on either.  So I've bolloxed up enormously Plantagenets, Tudors, the House of York, the House of Lancaster, Owen Glendower, Owen Tudor, The Wars of the Roses.

Harri Tudur; 28 January 1457 – 21 April 1509

At least I can recognize I am getting things wrong, but I know I'm not noticing other things ....  That's the only positive thing I can manage to say about this. It is beyond vexing to not know everything!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Book Reading Wednesday - Fanny by Edmund White

Edmund White has written some of my most satisfactory reading experiences of both fiction and non-fiction. Published in 2003, I missed Fanny, doubtless because I had begun the classwork for acquiring my MLS for Information and Library Sciences. I was doing no recreational reading in those years which included a leave of absence from the program to move to New Orleans for the Rockefeller Foundation Award at the Stone Center at Tulane University. There I read for a long research project conducted as an independent study with one my MLS professors, and after that I read nothing but materials connected to both The World That Made New Orleans andThe Year Before the Flood. So, yes, I missed even the news this novel had been published.

Yet, Fanny is filled with all 'my stuff,' so to speak: English Victorian fiction and history; biography; a New Orleans just recently possessed by the Americans; Lafayette's final triumphant tour of a U.S. initiating Jacksonian democracy; a visit to Point Breeze, the estate of of Napoleon's brother, Joseph, who retired himself and very large fortune from France and Europe to New Jersey*; the conditions of slavery through the eyes of someone not of the U.S. -- and how very quickly she adapts to the convenience. This is a fictional biography, narrated in first person, by Frances Trollope, who wrote one of the classic works of earlier America, referred to by all and sundry, English or American, who wishes to write of early America, 

Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832).  It contained some quite unattractive truths about us, highliighting particularly the obsessive masculine habit of spitting tobacco anywhere, everywhere, all the time.**
Frances Trollope wrote other works of non-fiction and well as many novels.  Among her children was the novelist,Anthony Trollope. She is at least partly the model of the novelist forever seeking 'puffs' for her books in Anthony Trollope's novel, The Way We Live Now, considered among his best works. 

However, the real focus of White's Fanny, is not Fanny Trollope, but her friend,

Fanny Wright. Wright's career as a public intellectual - social reformer -- to be such as a woman was a rare thing in those days -- was made initially with her book,

Views of Society and Manners in America (1821). Wright was the one who got Francis Trollope to America to participate in the preposterous utopian Nashoba Commune in Tennessee, from which Mrs Trollope and the children she'd taken with her (Anthony was left at home to starve with his mentally incompent father) was fortunate to escape finally, still alive, but barely.

White's Frances Trollope is revealed as a keen observer of very much, while remaining extraordinarily blind about certain matters most personally close to her.  It's a tour de force of a novel in the sense of observation, sensibility and voice. I enjoyed this very much.  But then, as mentioned above -- this is all my stuff.  

*   Joseph financed his move to Breezy Point with the sale of the works of art he plundered from Spanish palaces, castles, monasteries and town halls; his wife, Julie Clary, by marriage with Napoleon's brother, was named Queen consort of Spain and the Indies, Queen consort of Naples and Sicily, and the Comtesse de Survilliers. Her sister, Désirée Clary, six years younger, became Queen of Sweden and Norway when her husband, Marshal Bernadotte, was crowned King Charles XIV John of Sweden (Charles III John of Norway). Their brother, Nicholas Joseph Clary, was created 1st Comte Clary and married Anne Jeanne Rouyer. It paid off very well to marry a Bonaparte.

**  Other Europeans remarked particularly on this habit as well, including famously Charles Dickens in hisAmerican Notes concerning his 1841 visit to the U.S., and his consequent novel, Martin Chuzzlewit, which took on particularly U.S. copyright violations of writers like himself.

Even Apart, El V and Al Zorra Remain Historically United

Goofy e-mails between el V in his hotel room in Cardiff,

where he is attending the annual WOMEX (World Music Expo), and will make the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Juan Formell of Los Van Van.

El V writes:
Subject: Re: in room
both here and in ireland all the signs are bilingual in gaelic.  across the street is the harlech house.
men of harlech, in the hollow,
do you hear like rushing billow,
wave on wave that surging follow
battle's distant sound?
loose the folds asunder,
flag we conquer under
the placid sky now bright on high
shall launch its bolts in thunder . . . 
On 10/23/2013 12:40 PM, C replies:
Kill those Norman Plantagenet invaders!  Stomp ‘em, bomp ‘em, mow ‘em down with your arrows! 
El V replies:
oh, i'll use that in my talk!
C replies:
You should know:  the "Men of Harlech" actually immortalizes the Welsh against Henry V, from whom the first Tudor monarch, Henry VII (House of Lancaster as well as the Welsh Tudors), was descended , post Henry IV decisively taking out the Plantagenet - House of York monarch Richard III. If it is confusing, it's because it's the confusion of the Wars of the Roses. The confusion is all the greater because, as you know, dear, this is not the history which is my specialty, and I don't know much about it.

What I Started

Forcing el V to buy shirts yesterday seems to have triggered something.

He had a layover in the Shannon Airport.

 One of this morning's e-mails told me:

still in shannon . . . had a heart-attack breakfast.
stopped at the aran sweater market and bought a bulky wool sweater.
needed a sweater.
and got you a pair of knitted socks and a "celtic" scarf.

Yay!  He bought himself a sweater!  Who would have thought such a thing a mere 24 hours ago?

 Color yours truly astounded!

Especially as he's always insisted he cannot wear anything made of wool.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

History Is ... A Castle!

El V's off to Cardiff in a couple days, to spend five days at the annual World Music Exposition.  While there he will present the life-time achievement award to Juan Formell and the immortal Cuban group, Los Van Van.

Serendipitously today's (Sunday) New York Time travel section highlights "36 Hours in Cardiff," which opening slug starts:
Dive deep into Welsh history ...
This historic deep dive consists of  ... two hours at Cardiff Castle, prior to assuming the real obligation of a tourist -- shopping.

However, I must say what there is to experience at Cardiff Castle seems quite wonderful and useful to our sorts, though it would surely take more than two hours?
... Cardiff Castle, a site that combines Roman ruins, an 11th-century castle keep and an ornate, neo-Gothic clock tower built at the height of Cardiff’s coal boom. Climb to the top of the keep — which was thought to have been built by Robert Fitzhamon, a Norman baron — for a view over the city and the green hills beyond. In the basement of the interpretation center, a small museum offers an engaging account of more than 300 years of Welsh military history, covering the American Revolutionary War (and even earlier) through to more recent battles with the Taliban. Look out for the tattered American flag that United States troops surrendered to a regiment of Welsh soldiers at Fort Detroit during the War of 1812. 
We were reading the account of this surrender again last night in Henry Adams's History.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Twelve Years A Slave - Parades End - Curiosity Killed the Cat Benedict Cumberbatch

Cumberbatch effortlessly inhabited his character, William Ford, the Baptist minister - slave plantation owner in Twelve Years a Slave.

He's a good man who is untroubled by slavery as a practice and institution, and who, like so many 'good' masters, when push comes to shove, for their personal financial well being sells away their most liked and valued slaves.

But in Parade's End (2012), Cumberbatch is more fascinating than in his William Ford role.  As Christopher Tietjens, an old school Victorian gentleman who, at the end of the Long Peace's inexorably slide to the Great War, he falls in love with a young suffragette while married to the classic Edwardian lady beauty-bitch, who has done him wrong more than once in more than one way.

I'm only three episodes through the BBC miniseries (also on HBO), but the series seems to me to be a portrait of a difficult marriage, in which neither partner can let go of the other.  So far, it's brilliant.  Most reviews stated it was too slow, and the reviewers' vision could not penetrate their presentism to find any value, much less sense, in a man refusing to be unfaithful to his wife even when she has committed infidelity -- and when he finally gives in to his love, fate intervenes and keeps his gentleman's honor intact. Christopher Tietjens is far more challenging role for an actor than that of William Ford, one that demands many more subtle shifts of projection, while keeping these shifts almost entirely under strict physical control.

Anyone who has been paying attention at all in the last couple of years has noticed that there are mobs of lusting fans of Cumberbatch the Sherlock of the BBC's series Sherlock, that premiered back in 2010.

My question is are these fans watching Cumberbatch in his projects that are not Sherlock, The Hobbit (as Smaug the Terrible), Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness,
and probably Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate?*

Or is the fan lust directed solely at the Cumberbatch roles that are what might consider as natural extensions of the Sherlock character as the actor plays him?

For the record, with the exception of the actor impersonating Moriarty, I admire almost all the actors in Sherlock (though not all the episodes / writing -- which is probably why the characters of Moriarty and Margaret Adler failed so largely). But he's far more interesting as an actor in Twelve Years a Slave** and Parade's End.


*  Cumberbatch has the distinction of being present in two of the biggest films opening in NYC, tomorrow, October 18th: Twelve Years a Slave and The Fifth Estate. I've seen Twelve Years at a special screening, but I haven't seen The Fifth Estate (or the Star Trek flick).

**  The New York Times official review of Twelve Years a Slave went up today.  It was highly favorable.  For me, the most striking thing contained in the review is something I've been thinking for a very long time when it comes to television and movies:
It’s on Epps’s plantation that “12 Years a Slave” deepens, and then hardens. It’s also where the existential reality of what it meant to be enslaved, hour after hour, decade after decade, generation after generation, is laid bare, at times on the flayed backs of Epps’s human property, including that of his brutalized favorite, Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o). Mr. Fassbender, skittish and weirdly spiderlike, grabs your attention with curdled intensity. He’s so arresting that at first it seems as if the performance will soon slip out of Mr. McQueen’s control, and that the character will become just another irresistibly watchable, flamboyant heavy. Movie villainy is so easy, partly because it allows actors to showboat, but also because a lot of filmmakers can’t resist siding with power.
Looking you, Mr. T.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Bondwoman's Narrative - Hannah Crafts / Hannah Bond

Composed in the last half of the 1850's, The Bondwoman's Narrative was not published until 2002, as part of the series of slave narratives Henry Louis Gates, edits.

What makes this particular narrative special is that it is a novel, the only novel we know of at this time, written by an escaped slave herself, about slavery and the lives of the variety of slaves commonly living on a southern plantation, that was owned by a wealthy, powerful secessionist, John H. Wheeler.

Among other career moves, in the 1850's Wheeler facilitated his friend, William Walker's filibusters in Nicaragua -- the second one concluded with Walker's execution, and Wheeler fleeing to the U.S. Wheeler was a member of his good friend Buchanan's administration. He occupied more than one high position in Jefferson Davis's abortive administration of the CSA.  He is the author of Historical Sketches of North Carolina from 1854 to 1851; early in the Introduction, Wheeler, tellingly, for a secessionist, quotes Walter Scott.  Published originally in 1851, it was republished in 1925 as part of the New York Confederate Carpetbagger literary movement that flogged the Glorious Lost Cause and whitewashed slavery out of the Civil War.

More to the point is that man who was able to compile a history and write a book, who references Sallust and Scott, would have a large library and have on hand ample paper and ink. This means a house slave such as Hannah Bond was, would have access to both books and writing supplies. If we are honest, this would not be the case in most planters' mansions, for whom writing and study were low on their list of preferred leisure activities.

Merely knowing, then,  who was the owner of The Bondwoman's Narrative's author, provides all sorts of information for an historian.  That this information comes to us from a slave's perspective is so rare as to be non-existant.

Only this year has the identity of the author been definitively tracked down and authenticated.

As described in the New York Times last month, here are the details of the conclusion of that quest to discover and authentic the identity of the author of The Bondwoman's Narrative.  This quest to uncover Hannah Crafts's identity was embarked upon by Henry Louis Gates after he bought the manuscript at an obscure auction in 2001. In his edition of the novel Gates details the frustration of dead end twists and turns of his own failure to learn who Hannah Crafts really was.

From the NY Times description of Bond's novel:
The book, whose language borrows from 19th-century Gothic novels, traces the story of its narrator, who endures life as a slave on a North Carolina plantation and, aided by her light complexion, successfully escapes to the North.
That tale closely mirrors the story of Bond. Enslaved on a plantation in Murfreesboro, N.C., Bond is believed to have been a self-educated woman who worked as a maid to the mistress of the house, Ellen Wheeler, assisting her with errands and personal duties, like styling her hair.
But around 1857, Bond disguised herself as a boy and escaped, fleeing first to upstate New York and then to New Jersey, where she eventually married and found work as a schoolteacher.
Beyond the interest The Bondwoman's Tale provides to an historian, due to the Victorian fiction models Bond employs, from the Brontean Gothic to Dickens's social commentary, the tale itself is an exciting one.

Most affecting in some ways for this reader, is the awareness that this novel was never published in Bond's own lifetime.  For years after its discovery scholars doubted that it was written by an escaped slave at all, due to the literary references and high degree of skill in both handwriting and composition.  Yet, finally, here it is, for the world to read, complete with the knowledge that Hannah Bond is the author.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

So, Reign: The Rise of Mary, Queen Of Scots + Nashville + Revolution

What sort of series will this be? Will there be dragons? Evidently there are going to enchanted forests ....

From the Reign site:
As Mary learns for herself that fierce foes are conspiring to sabotage her marriage to Francis and even threaten her life, she becomes aware of other dark forces. There’s a mysterious presence in the castle; a shrouded figure who may become her unlikely ally. Villagers cope with the brutality of the times by trusting in magic and superstition. And in the dark woods surrounding the French Court lurk those who offer human sacrifice to a being who seems to require blood.

Judging only by the trailers, its another "historical" series that is entirely non-historical , from music, to costume,to design, to character, to event.

The central figure was one of the most stupid people to ascend to a throne -- and she lost her head, o yes she did -- and accomplished nothing useful for herself, her allies or her kingdom. The "Rise" of the Queen of Scots? Who do they think they are fooling? She never had any real power at all. No Elizabeth I was she. I have just asked a very stupid question, that doesn't even rise to the level of a rhetorical question. They are fooling the people from whom Barnum made a fortune.

What kind of "legend" is that?

According to the series's people, it's supposed to be fun, not historic.  That is perfectly fine.  But then, why bother with principals who are named historical figures and pretending that this is historical anything?

It's not a-historicity that drives me out of delight in a creative work of entertainment, it's unproductive bs that declares a pretense to history.  Make it all up?  Absolutely a good thing!  But hitching it to real figures who were pivots of events and actions that affected millions of real people (generally for the worse), throws viewers like me out of disbelief suspension and into a 20/20 vision that reveals all the holes and failures of imagination, plotting, story-telling and characterization.

So much going on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays: Nashville, Revolution, Scandal, Dracula and now this.  So far, the only ones that will bring me back every week are Nashville** and, perhaps the over-the-top- bonkers Scandal.  Revolution is implausible, contains dudebro brutality beyond surfeit, and, withall, lacking fun of any kind. 

Dracula-- will have to wait and see.  And this thing called Reign will probably not even get me watching a single episode, as the trailers are reminiscent of Camelot, one of the very worst series ever attempted -- so bad, they, whoever they are, should still be ashamed.

*  For the record, the historical record informs us that Barnum never said either "There's a fool born every minute," or "You can fool all the people some of the time etc."**  Nashville does posit at least one startling implausibility:

Juliette Barnes is supposed to be so wealthy she owns a jet, and can casually throw away a million here, a million there, etc. This is too hard to buy into for anybody who knows the music biz. (She might lease ....) The most popular group in their time of popularity, which meant they sold actual albums, not singles from iTunes like Juliette Barnes does (do you know what the royalty is for the artists from iTunes sales? it's nothing like what smart negotiators got their artists in the days of records and even cds), the Dixie Chicks, couldn't own their own jet. However, the ongoing story writing threads with the jet are entertaining. Further, they function by drawing in broad strokes to make instantly recognizable to the non-music business viewer of the series the vast changes in the business that have occurred between the Country Music breakout of very young star Juliette, 

and that of the 'classic' Bonnie Raitt old school star of Rayna Jaymes.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Twelve Years A Slave Q&A / Interview

The promotion team for the film made from Solomon Northup's slave narrative,  Twelve Years A Slave, has been intelligently orchestrating the stages of publicity in measured levels of increasing density all this month, as the film opens here for a limited run on Friday, the 18th. They've placed an add plus trailer that runs every day on the digital NYT site, and an ad in the print edition.

It was screen three time for press and other interested sorts last week, one of which we attended.

This week it's interviews with the principals and Others. In this New York Times Q&A the Others are Eric Foner noted historian of slavery and Reconstruction, and the artist, Kara Walker.

The artist, Kara Walker, criticizes Northup the man for not being the hero that Frederic Douglass is in his own slave narrative. She objects that Northup doesn't do enough for another slave. He isn't able to do anything. As as slave within a system in a particularly brutal and rigid region that was organized specifically to keep Northup in his place -- if he objects or disobeys he's dead. He knows that. He is still hoping to be somehow reunited with his New York family. He nearly was dead more than once. It wasn't other slaves who saved him, because they CANNOT. Yet Walker seems to think he was particularly selfish in not getting himself killed in a quixotic move that would only have made terrible things even worse.

I'm assuming the NY Times editor, not the interviewer, who, being Nelson George, is responsible for the language idiocy of calling movies that have to do in one way or another with our national heritage of racism a staple in Hollywood because four films featuring people of color have been made in two years -- two of those centering white people, The Help and the Tarantino travesty, which is anything but an historical portrayal (it takes place in the same Louisiana region as Twelve Years a Slave).

I found the interview / q&a of interest because of bits like this:
Chiwetel, how did you balance what’s going on in the world with [Northup’s] reality? 
Chiwetel Ejiofor That wasn’t the approach for me. I was trying to tell the story of Solomon Northup as he experienced his life. He didn’t know where all this was going. My journey started finishing a film in Nigeria. The last day, I went to the slave museum in Calabar, which was four or five rooms and some books, some interesting drawings of what they thought happened to people when the boats took them over. I left the following day and came to Louisiana. In my own way, I traveled that route.
Professor, your reaction to the film, its place in the contemporary discussion about slavery
Eric Foner I believe this is a piece of history that everybody — black, white, Asian, everybody — has to know. You cannot understand the United States without knowing about the history of slavery. Having said that, I don’t think we should go too far in drawing parallels to the present. Slavery was a horrific institution, and it is not the same thing as stop and frisk. In a way, putting it back to slavery takes the burden off the present. The guys who are acting in ways that lead to inequality today are not like the plantation owner. They’re guys in three-piece suits. They’re bankers who are pushing African-Americans into subprime mortgages. 
I agree with Eric Foner, obviously, since I have spent my life researching, studying and writing the history of these very matters, starting with Africa and the Caribbean. I have spent the last four years of my life writing The American Slave Coast, a history of these matters here in the U.S. This is the central fact of our nation, that it was built upon the buying and selling of people, and this fact has not faded away into the obscuring mists of time, but rather keeps mutating and twisting its evil into the cores of our national behavior every day.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Final, Sum-Up Paragraph

It was written, last night, for The American Slave Coast.

However, research and fact-checking will continue, even as we revise and cut.

This morning we moved to the tune of "Marching Through Georgia."

Such a long journey through our history, from 1492 to 1863, though mostly from 1619 to 1863., starting in 2010 until now.

It's hard sometimes to recall now the writing of the 17th and the 18th century chapters, as they were accomplished in that 18th century tobacco factor's 1733 house in Chestertown. But the chapters are there, and we know the stuff, yet it's hard to remember the writing of them.

Tennessee Ernie Ford's rendition of "Marching Through Georgia" was appropriate for this dark, dank morning. Sherman's March to the Sea is in the book for reasons that are connected to the trade -- what happens to the trade during it.

One of the most appalling scenes is right at the end. It haunts me. One of the most famous and largest of the Richmond slave traders,  Robert Lumpkin, at the very end, after Appomatox, as Grant & Co. were approaching Richmond, tried to get out by train,  with his 'property'.  He tried to load A CHAINED COFFLE OF AFRICAN AMERICANS into one of the cars, to sell -- WHERE? They could not believe it was over. (They still don't.) Moreover this lovely fellow was married -- to -- a -- slave.  (Doubtless she was one of the white slaves.)  But he couldn't get out because the train had been commandeered for Jeff Davis's escape with the CSA treasury's gold bullion, such as it was.  Hey, they left the U.S. treasury more bare than a church mouse's larder, why wouldn't they steal from the CSA too?

Lumpkin's Slave Jail - We Visited the Site This Spring
Lumpkin wasn't the only trader who tried to get away with his property.  A trader in Savannah was going to do the same thing, except 'his' negroes rose up and killed him.

The afternoon of tonday?  got a flu shot and a new office chair. This one fell apart last night, just as I was shutting down and getting ready to read in bed. Kind of cobbled together, I hope it lasts until delivery Monday of the new one.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The View Of US / Us From Elsewhere

These are some further thoughts that emerged from a long discussion of these matters two nights ago at dinner with some visiting amiga-scholars from Australia, Germany, the Caribbean and South America (from abroad this nation looks completely mad):

, an amigo replied concerning Andrew Jackson:
"Now there was a unity executive!"
To which I responded:
"Complete idiot demagogue, but by golly, the US Is Us or frack you all.
He was evil, but he was our evil, the perfect personification of who we were then and have dreamed us being ever since. He believed in small ‘d’ democracy – at least for his kind, i.e. the Jacksonian Democracy – and the Union of the United States.
Horrible. But, he wouldn't have let these dorks get away with this bs. 
So we all do know what's coming, right? Disunion.
That's what this crooked, corrupt, ignorant faction wants. They want the end of the United States as we have known it.
Do not say, “Let them go, then, we’re better off without them. Do not fantasize they will secede and not go to military war to make us them.
Anyone poor is now in their minds in the order of god's order to be slaves.
Not a new idea at all for Them, as the ideas were broadcast far and wide by the most powerful and wealthy of the secessionists (including too the constant drumbeat that They are the victims here, of Us and the Slaves) – “Enslave ‘em all.” In George Fitzhugh's argument for enslaving anyone no matter what tone of skin, who is not wealthy and powerful, is that women are already slaves. “Our wives are our slaves,” he says, “but we (meaning husbands) are not slaves to them.”
My response to amiga's remark in response to the above:
"This is one of the reasons we are so deep in our national history – attempting to discover the roots of what has been going on in this country since Reagan was the front by which the corporate, plutocratic elite declared war on the rest of us (though it really began with Nixon). This has all been as much planned as was secession and Civil War, and for so many of the same reasons. No not the preservation and expansion of slavery per se, but the the conviction that the top 1% is entitled to privileged inequality. Everyone else is unworthy of any consideration, any say, any agency at all in how things are run, are done, and accumulated. Think of it this way. You may consider yourself a protagonist, as are the narrators of our body of slave narratives. The rules of rhetoric then demand for a protagonist and antagonist. However, when you are enslaved, your antagonist is not merely your ‘owner’ but the entire system which is constructed to keep you from agency of any kind in the operation of your life. The entire system is constructed to make war on you. It has ever been thus for women, and as we see, women are the weakest links in a world of equality for all, when comes to making class war, as our agency within any system: religious, legal, economic, has been the most recent agency achieved by any group."
Further, there are these matters myself and the amigas think about most:
We've been observing and speaking about these matters for decades already. 
Only recently have we begun to see / hear, here and there, some others finally not afraid to say it as well.  People fear if they say these things in public They will call them crazy. But They have demonstrated their insanity for years now, so why be afraid of what They say now?  They are already bent upon our destruction, and grinding us under their heels.
However, it is particularly disturbing that in our quest for equality within diversity, on 'our side' it is all factions too. No one sees their inequity is only a part of deliberately planned Big Picture. We whine about our very own niche unfairness, such as most lately women writers complaining about how unfairly they're treated within the industry, from editors to reviewers to readers.
This is an inevitable consequence of women turning their backs on the belief that feminism means sisterhood and loyalty to each other. Admit it, women in these areas, we do tend to feel we, and our friends and colleagues just a leetle bit superior to other women who do not strive with the hurdles of the creative industries. So we've turned our back on the women who haven't had our privilege to do so. We're entitled, women who aren't in IT, academia, television, publishing, journalism, etc. are not. Yet we cry that Others are not recognizing our entitlement. Why should they? We don't recognize other women who aren't us as worthy as we are. So we are reaping what we've sowed ourselves.

As a Faction of the Repug Party HAS Declared War on the U.S., the POTUS CAN DO THIS

Lincoln did it.

April 15, 1861 - President Lincoln issues a Proclamation calling for 75,000 militiamen, and summoning a special session of Congress for July 4. [By then the secessionist states' reps and senators had departed D.C., or were in the process of doing so. ] 

April 19, 1861 - President Lincoln issues a Proclamation of Blockade against Southern ports. For the duration of the war the blockade limits the ability of the rural South to stay well supplied in its war against the industrialized North.

July 4, 1861 - Lincoln, in a speech to Congress, states the war is..."a People's contest...a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men..." The Congress authorizes a call for 500,000 men

From yesterday's column in the NY Times:

The New York Times
 October 7, 2013
 Obama and the Debt
THE Republicans in the House of Representatives who declare that they may refuse to raise the debt limit threaten to do more than plunge the government into default. They are proposing a blatant violation of the 14th Amendment, which states that “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law” is sacrosanct and “shall not be questioned.”
Yet the Obama administration has repeatedly suppressed any talk of invoking the Constitution in this emergency. Last Thursday Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said, “We do not believe that the 14th Amendment provides that authority to the president” to end the crisis. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew reiterated the point on Sunday and added that the president would have “no option” to prevent a default on his own.
In defense of the administration’s position, the legal scholar Laurence H. Tribe, who taught President Obama at Harvard Law School, has insisted, as he put it two years ago, that “only political courage and compromise” can avert disaster.
These assertions, however, have no basis in the history of the 14th Amendment; indeed, they distort that history, and in doing so shackle the president. In fact, that record clearly shows that Congress intended the amendment to prevent precisely the abuses that the current House Republicans blithely condone.
Congress passed the 14th Amendment and sent it to the states for ratification in June 1866. Its section on the public debt began as an effort to ensure that the government would not be liable for debts accrued by the defeated Confederacy, but also to ensure that its own debt would be honored.
That was important because conservative Northern Democrats, many of whom had sympathized with the Confederacy, were in a position to obstruct or deny repayment on the full value of the public debt by paying creditors in depreciated paper money, or “greenbacks.” This effective repudiation of obligations already accrued — to, among others, hundreds of thousands of Union pensioners and widows, as well as investors — would destroy confidence in the government and endanger the economy.
As the wording of the amendment evolved during the Congressional debate, the principle of the debt’s inviolability became a general proposition, applicable not just to the Civil War debt but to all future accrued debts of the United States. The Republican Senate leader, Benjamin F. Wade of Ohio, declared that by placing the debt “under the guardianship of the Constitution,” investors would be spared from being “subject to the varying majorities which may arise in Congress.”
Two years later, on the verge of the amendment’s ratification, its champions inside the Republican Party made their intentions absolutely clear, proclaiming in their 1868 party platform that “national honor requires the payment of the public indebtedness in the utmost good faith to all creditors at home and abroad,” and pronouncing any repudiation of the debt “a national crime.”
More than three generations later, in 1935, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, ruling in the case of Perry v. the United States, revisited the amendment and affirmed the “fundamental principle” that Congress may not “alter or destroy” debts already incurred.
House Republicans threatening to refuse to raise the debt ceiling — that is, force a repudiation of debts already accrued — would violate that “fundamental principle” of the Constitution.
 Surely the lawyers advising and defending the White House, let alone the president, know as much. Refraining from stating this loudly and clearly, and allowing Congress to slip off the hook, has been a puzzling and self-defeating strategy, leading to the crippling sequester and the politics of chronic debt-ceiling crisis. More important, by failing to clarify the constitutional principles involved, the administration has neglected to do its utmost to defend the Constitution.
That failure has led to another abdication, involving constitutional action as well as constitutional principle. The White House, along with Mr. Tribe, has rightly pointed out that the 14th Amendment does not give the president the power to raise the debt limit summarily.
But arguing that the president lacks authority under the amendment to halt a default does not mean the executive lacks any authority in the matter. As Abraham Lincoln well knew, the executive, in times of national crisis, can invoke emergency powers to protect the Constitution.
Should House Republicans actually precipitate a default and, as expected, financial markets quickly begin to melt down, an emergency would inarguably exist.
In all, the Constitution provides for a two-step solution. First, the president can point out the simple fact that the House Republicans are threatening to act in violation of the Constitution, which would expose the true character of their assault on the government.
Second, he could pledge that, if worse came to worst, he would, once a default occurred, use his emergency powers to end it and save the nation and the world from catastrophe.
Were the president to act with fortitude, Republicans would continue to lambaste him as the sole cause of the crisis and scream that he is a tyrant — the same epithet hurled at Andrew Jackson, Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Lincoln, who became accustomed to such abuse, had some choice words in 1860 for Southern fire-eaters who charged that he, and not they, would be to blame for secession if he refused to compromise over the extension of slavery: “A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, ‘Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!’ ”
It is always possible that if the administration follows the two-step constitutional remedy, the House might lash out and try to impeach Mr. Obama. Recent history shows that an unreasonable party controlling the House can impeach presidents virtually as it pleases, even without claiming a constitutional fig leaf.
 But the president would have done his constitutional duty, saved the country and undoubtedly earned the gratitude of a relieved people. Then the people would find the opportunity to punish those who vandalized the Constitution and brought the country to the brink of ruin.
 Sean Wilentz is a professor of history at Princeton University.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Andrew Jackson - Boehner, Calhoun and James Buchanan

By now, Andrew Jackson would have hung Boehner.

You know it.

President Jackson's Proclamation Regarding Nullification, December 10, 1832

We cannot help but notice too, that like James Buchanan and his slave power cronies in D.C., these neo cons are doing everything to leave the federal treasury empty.  Buchanan and Co. succeeded (as well as seceded) in stealing and draining away everything including the petty cash and what was nailed down.  These bozos are doing the same.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Running US Off the Fiscal Cliff IS the Plan -- Continuing the Civil War Via Other Means

Are we surprised? . . .

The New York Times

October 5, 2013
A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning

Why has it taken so long to call this for what it, and has been all along?

Shutdown shows the Civil War never ended
The battle lines are still drawn

reprinted on salondotcom from Globalist.

This should be read in tandem with this story about the counties in Colorado who have a small (minority) secession group, who are pushing to for their own state separate from Colorado, for the same reasons the South chose to secede and make war: they are losing power and population. (They are not alone in this secession movement by any means.) They claim it's about other things, just as the confeds claimed it was about tariffs, but it was about the Slave Power losing Power to changing economies:

There is this reprinted too on salondotcom from Alternet:

Shutdown fulfills GOP’s Confederate fantasies
It's a way of acting out a deeply held secessionist dream

This one even includes what we often say, that fox news and limbaugh are the contemporary version of the Charleston Mercury, which fed the most insane of talk by the fire eaters (as they were called then) about how well they will do when seceding and taking it all over for Our Peculiar Way of Life.

It's starting to look as though the baggers are tired of waiting and have chosen to take this moment to Do It, destroy the federal government they hate so much. The next month is likely to be far more terrible than most people still are thinking it will be when we default our debts.

Even now a bunch of our friends are suffering because of the furlough, including the friend in Waynesboro, VA, who works on the development of the lenses for the great telescopes such as the Great Array and so on.

In the meantime we can no longer access many federally funded databases and sites, such as the Library of Congress.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Researchers Locked Out By Government Shut Down

Surely the dorks responsible for this are deeply pleased, because this means academics, scholars, scientists, journalists -- everyone who needs reliable information, those who research their facts to back up their ideas and arguments instead of, o, just saying any gee dee ed thing they feel like at the moment and then declare to be the Word of God -- is locked out from doing their job.  In other words all those gee dee ed commies, queers femnazis, and atheists who deny creationism and the holy stars and bars.

From Inside Higher Ed, by Michael Stratford here:
In addition to forcing the closure of government buildings  where research is conducted -- such as the Library of Congress and presidential libraries -- the shutdown was also cutting off access to myriad electronic resources on which many researchers depend. Websites that were not operational included those of the Library of Congress, the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Science Foundation, the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the Education Department’s research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences.
PubMed, a free repository of biomedical and life science research maintained by the National Institutes of Health, was operational but a notice on the site warned users that it would not be updated during the shutdown.
Researchers who had traveled to Washington for the purpose of using federal resources to advance their work said they were frustrated by the shutdown.
Read more at the link above.

Why yes, this affects yours truly.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Government Shut Down: Protesters Rally Outside City Hall Beaufort, SC

In the heart of Secessionlandia.  I mean, really.  As a local historian of Beaufort Country wrote in his book, South Carolina, lead by the South Carolina coastal elite planters had effectively seceded by 1850.

This should tell the frackin' House something.

But then, back in the day, it was only the very small number of slave power elite, led by the South Carolinian elite, centered in this region, who pushed through Secession in 1861.

Maxcy - Rhett House, a/k/a Secssion House, Beaufort South Carolina

We were there this spring.  I believe that there are so many government employees in the region, as with Virginia and Texas, just starting with the military, that a protest could take place there.

The states with congressional reps in the House most agin' Big Gummit, are the ones invariably with the most federal employment, spending and earnings, which include those Colorado dorks who refused to vote aid to Hurricane Sandy victims back last year, but demand federal money for this summer's flooding in Colorado.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

James Buchanan

Yesterday's Zits comic illustrated how I have felt more than once digging into Buchanan in the last few years.

Leading Up to the U.S. Civil War: James Buchanan Goes In One Eye and Out The Other

It was fun, to see a part of my life as part of a daily comic strip with national distribution.  This is the first, and probably only, time it's happened.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Due to the goppers in Congress shutting down the Federal Government, the KKK rally scheduled for Saturday, to be held on the National Parks Service Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial site, has been canceled.