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

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

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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 Looms

One heck of a frigid week in the offing . It's below freezing now and will get colder. Times Square is already gathering the crowds who want to stand for hours to watch a stupid ball fall down. About six PM, I think, they close the gates and no more people are admitted. There's nowhere to sit or eat -- I think they may have port a potties. I hope so!  Even with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor having the honor dropping of the ball, you would have to pay me thousands of dollars as persuasion to get me there.

Currently we have snow flurries in progress. Last winter was long and not pleasant. This one seems already to have been degrees more so.  We declined the party invitations with grateful thanks for being thought of, but have decided to stay in tonight. We are so looking forward to tomorrow's company and feast, as well as visiting with friends Thursday afternoon, and then heading up to the Jazz Standard. So we believe it better to do this with a clear conscience by working tonight. We'll eating hot and sour soup and whatever else at Uncle Sam's Chinese Dining Room and come back here.

I have unrolled the Porto Rico Importing Co. 2014 calendars out of their tight scroll. They are in the process of being made flat under the weight of books, of which we have a fair number stacked about. I'll put them up at midnight when we toast the New Year with prosecco.

Which I'd better go out and get some of.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Adams Family History

Working to make the New Year's deadline for Da List's subscribers' roundup of their best reading of 2013 -- not, it is emphasized, the best books published in 2013, but the books they read in 2013 that most impressed them for whatever reason.

This year mine concentrates on the, now shared with me by el V, growing adulation of 
the 4 generations of the remarkable, and generally underrated Adams family’s role in the history of the U.S. 

The other historian's works I'll write about are those of William Dusinberre.

Dusinberre bridges his brilliant work on U.S. slavery and the Adams family via his Henry Adams: The Myth of Failure(1980). Dusinberre deconstruct's Adams's historical methodology and rhetorical strategies, particularly in The History of the United States During the Administrations of Jefferson and Madison and The Education of Henry Adams.  

As an illustration of the hold the Adamses have on us, here is part of what we did as recreation during the holidays. We watched 1812 (2011) PBS. This series was devoted to the battles, with little or no discussion of any other aspects of the war. These are the same battles we’ve been reading, as described by Henry Adams in his history of Madison’s second administration. He covers all the battles, land and sea, north and south. 

We also watched The Adams Chronicles (1976) PBS 9-part dramatization of four generations of Adamses

John Quincy Adams Age 16
National Portrait Gallery
The most time was given to John Quincy Adams. Which leads us to Harlow Unger's 2012 John Quincy Adams: A Life. Like his family generally, John Quincy Adams has been underappreciated. For starters think about this: from his earliest boyhood, John Quincy had relationships with everyone who mattered during his lifetime in U.S. history, and very many who mattered in European history, as well as writers, artists, scientists, historians and philosophers.

I'm not exaggerating. He naturally knew George Washington, as his father, John Adams, was Washington's vice president. He and Jefferson became very close in the Paris years, so much so that his father, John, said that John Quincy was as much Jefferson's son as his own. He knew Abraham Lincoln, who served in the House 1847 - 1849. 

He saw close-up history be made, and then participated in history, for a remarkable 65 years, beginning in 1780 when he was 14. He was posted to St. Petersburg as secretary to Francis Dana, the American Minister to Russia.

Born in 1767, once President of the United States, now Representative John Quincy Adams died in 1848 two days after he collapsed on the House's floor, in the Speaker's Room.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Speaking of Historical Fiction -- Dumas's The Three Musketeers on BBC1

Following Sir Walter Scott and then James Fenimore Cooper's new romantic fictions,  Alexandre Dumas, brought to birth the joys and delights of what we now call the historical novel.

It's also a pleasure is to contrast Scott and Dumas's different approaches to what they invented. Scott was an earnest author, who, despite frequent flights of fancy in his poetry, seldom left unconsidered within his tale-spinning,  the impact of the past upon the present, for good or for bad.  Scott was always hoping for reconciliation among oppositions. Dumas, an author concerned with the nakedness of political power, however, accomplished what writers to this very day, particularly in the U.S., attempt so hard to emulate, while seldom if ever living up to their inspiration, that deft, precise, lightness of touch, tone, style and speech, for which particularly The Three Musketeers is famous.*  What USians writers in particular lack in their attempts to emulate Dumas is what feels eminently French, which is best described in a term from ballet -- the vocabulary of which, like the form, is also classically French -- ballon.

In this light, the BBC1, ten-part production of The Three Musketeers should be interesting: will the ballon remain among the promised filth and grit?

Peter Capaldi plays the arch-schemer, Cardinal Richelieu
The 10-part drama, which will begin next month and appears destined for a Saturday-night slot, is a modern take on the Alexandre Dumas tale without doing what its writer Adrian Hodges described as the "full Sherlock".
The feathers and the tabards are gone – fans of the 1973 Richard Chamberlain film will be disappointed – and in their place is a world that is a "bit smelly, a bit dirty", said Hodges. "But it's still about heroes," he said. "There are lots of anti-heroes on TV, and there is always room in the world for heroes." 
. . . . Hodges' updating includes a mixed-race Porthos, played by newcomer Howard Charles. "He was born in the 'court of miracles', the 17th-century version of the ghetto," said Charles. A long roll call of guest stars includes Vinnie Jones, Tara Fitzgerald, Ashley Waters, John Lynch and Sean Pertwee.
Unusually for a story about the musketeers perhaps, it also features a number of prominent roles for women. "In modernising the series, we wanted the women to be as equally powerful and impressive as the men," Jessica Pope, its executive producer, said.
 Did Dumas invent swashbuckling in his Three Musketeers, set in the 17th century, serialized March - July 1848?
Before deciding we might consider Scott's verses, "Young Lochinvar," embedded in his epic poem, Marmion about the 1513 Battle of Flodden Field. Marmion was published in 1808. Agree or disagree: Young Lochinvar is not swashbuckling, though it is heroic and adventurous, in the Romantic style.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas, Happy and Merry Holidays, and O! So Cold!

Yesterday was the right day to take the end-of-year cash donation -- and cookies! -- to the NYPL branch I use the most.  They are always so helpful and friendly, getting me inter-library loans and so on for me.

The city around us already was more quiet and empty than I've seen it in years.  I spent much of yesterday afternoon outside, despite the chill -- it was invigorating, and I was so grateful to be able to out and about again, after two months of sinus infection.

As sun dropped further south and and east in company with the dropping temperatures, the accumulating clouds hazed the sky, enhancing that silvery light peculiar to Manhattan that I love so much in December.  By 3:30 PM nobody local was on the streets except in the food emporiums, supermarkets and liquor stores.  Many of the small stores and restaurants were already closed or closing by 4 PM -- many larger restaurants had announcements on the winter vestibules that they would not be open for Christmas Day.  This is unusual, in light of the frenzy of the last years, but this is how it used to be here at Christmas.

I walked through Washington Square Park, which I've about given up walking through, so packed with tourists it is all the time.  Hardly anyone there except a few parents with their kids on the playground.

And then -- I saw -- a red tail hawk! It swooped over the western side of the park, picking up a squirrel! That's how empty the park was yesterday afternoon, in contrast to how crowded it is all the time usually -- and so many always feeding the squirrels, the dogs leashed.  There are generations of squirrels here now who no longer have the instincts of squirrels that everything is an enemy, and when it's this cold they should be sleeping in their nests.  Rather, they will run up to you in packs, and demand you give them food.

I loved being able to walk my old haunts again without the anxiety of being hit by a bicycle, a stroller, a person with head in phone cyberspace.  I could take my time, look and think and remember things. This was my first and maybe best Christmas gift this year.

I have a fortune in wonderful Christmas memories that begin from my earliest years. This is because I grew up, for better or worse, within a culture that no longer seems to exist in the U.S., and, even then, was fairly obsolete in most of the rest of the country, which was suburban and urban, not like us who were mostly rural and fairly isolated up on the middle northern prairie boundary between U.S. and Canada.

First, Christmas, the Nativity and Santa were built upon the majority of homesteaders' ancient cultural foundation of Yule.  We were Nords and Central Europeans up there. The trees and the food and all the rest -- this is all incorporated into Christmas for us. The season was ice and snow -- classic, White Christmas was expected (white in so many other ways that I now understand too), part of the annual tradition of rituals and weather. It all worked together.

Second, the community of my childhood believed then in the separation of Church and State, basing this on the advisement of the adult Jesus: "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and that unto God which is God's." There was no conflict between the Nativity and Santa Claus. This time of the year in our community, between Thanksgiving and New Year's -- was beautiful,  joyeous and -- authentically communal.* None of those attributes would have been in place, community-wise, without the foundation of the Nativity, i.e. our spiritual beliefs. We were a very old-fashioned rural world when I was young. Human beings picked up when Santa went away or couldn't make it to some homes.  Christmas trees and gifts turned up in the homes of kids whose parents were not able to provide this year -- it was the spirit of the Nativity masking as Santa Claus.  It was understood by all of us, that without the Nativity, and "Peace on Earth and Good Will to All Men"  there would be no Santa Claus.

Maybe that's why I didn't quite believe my mom when she told me Santa Claus didn't exist -- though I had no trouble with not believing in the Easter Bunny.

My childhood memories of celebrating it all, from church to community to toys under the tree are very precious. As well, in those days, at least where I grew up, toys came only at Christmas, with much smaller exceptions for our birthdays, which is unthinkable and unimaginable for my nieces and nephews.

Besides, I saw Santa, out my bedroom's frost scrowled window pane on the second floor of our farm house when I was about four, in his sleigh pulled through the Christmas Eve night sky by the reindeer. He woke me with "Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas, Foxessa!"

When he flew over the moon I pattered down those scary, freezing stairs, over the cold kitchen floor, through the dining room, to the living room, where the stove was lit, the room was warm and where the Christmas tree was.  The lights of the tree were on  -- and underneath were piles of presents!

I surely hallucinated - dreamed Santa out of the tremendous excitement and anticipation, but the tree was real and so were the presents. This is probably why it took me another couple of years after Mom told me there was no Santa Claus to believe it.

We're having a wonderful holiday and wish the same for everyone.

Peace on Earth
Good Will To All

This was so much the doing of the women in our community, as inter-connected as they were, of whatever religious denomination, as they came together in the public school system of PTA, the local Homemakers' Clubs, the Square Dancing Clubs, and many other civic institutions.  As they were the backbones of their congregations, tThey were the backbone of all the civic institutions, even the Veterans Club, and the other 'men's institutions that ranged from various Lodges to Agricultural organizations.

Monday, December 23, 2013

McCrumb's Top 100 Novels Written In English - No. 14, Vanity Fair

William Thackeray's Vanity Fair (serialized in Punch, 1847 -1848), takes its title from the first work McCrum discusses in his Observer series, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.  This delighted me, from the moment I learned of this novel's existence; the delight consisting in my knowledge that I knew this -- having already learned about The Pilgrim's Progress from both Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and history of literature sections in the volumes of The Book of Knowledge, part of a whole bookcase of series that included an encyclopedia, one on science and another on the geography and cultures of the world.

Just when I learned there was a novel titled Vanity Fair, or learned of William Thackeray for that matter, these things I cannot recall, as it was too long ago and too far away. I came of reading age in era and a place where the classic masterpieces of English and American literature, and especially the novels, were part of the educational air we breathed.  That is, they were part of that air if one were a bookish, imaginative child; for other sorts, awareness of book titles and authors was surely as negligible an interest as in any other time and other place.

Beyond The Book of Knowledge volumes, another principle reason for this childhood familiarity of authors and titles was that by this time of the post-modern and the American century, our English language masterpieces, had been relegated to publishers' Classics imprints, as the money now was in Saul Bellow & Co. Classics were classified as juvenile literature,* i.e. books that all children should know by the time they graduated from high school, so the books were on our school libraries' shelves -- particularly in the place I grew up, as we were so removed from the mainstream of contemporary, suburban American culture.  Even the game Authors, marketed to children, reflected that. So this is likely where I first learned of Thackeray and Vanity Fair; there was suite for Thackeray in our Authors game.

Novels had only (relatively) recently joined academic curricula in England and the U.S. as a fit subject of scholarly study;  And American fiction had been added even later than that.

When I got to high school age, my education in the classics and now in the moderns proceeded apace. I was so fortunate in having as my high school teacher a young fellow (though he looked old to me then) who was pursuing lit studies in grad school while teaching us.  He shared everything he studied with me, and loaned me so many books.  Among them, I'll never forget, was Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim.  The first time I read it, the reading was mostly conducted sprawled upon the couch of one of my grandmothers.  I kept roaring with laughter.  My grandmother would ask me, reasonably enough, to share with her what was so funny.  I'd read out the passage and she, reasonably enough considering the circumstances, couldn't understand what it was about, much less why it was funny. This, of course, I am now ashamed to acknowledge, made me feel smug and smart. I was so stupid in those days. * *

In conclusion, do read the comments to this entry; they are for the most part an actual discussion not snark snerk sneer smirk by people who don't have anything informed or even quirky to add.  It's particularly so in the discussion of Austen's Emma (1815), which McCrumb puts into his No. 7 slot of best 100 novels in English.  This commentator's remark are particularly useful, as we all continue to grapple with how does Emma remain in our affections when she's such a bitch and snob?
  • The lead up to the Cole's dinner party is one of my favorite passages in fiction; a fabulous and funny study in self-deception.
    However it is also important because it shows clearly what a lot of people do not like to accept (perhaps influenced by the "Paltrowisation" of Emma), what a little bitch she is.
    The Coles are coming up in the world but their origins are in trade:

    The regular and best families Emma could hardly suppose they would presume to invite-- neither Donwell, nor Hartfield, nor Randalls. Nothing should tempt her to go, if they did; and she regretted that her father's known habits would be giving her refusal less meaning than she could wish. The Coles were very respectable in their way, but they ought to be taught that it was not for them to arrange the terms on which the superior families would visit them.
    This last bit is important. Emma doesn't just not want to go to the party, she wants her refusal of a hypothetical invitation (which in the first part of that passage she has decided is too presumptuous to occur) to be understood to be a slap that puts them in their place. It is truly horrible behaviour.
    It is also intellectually dishonest. Emma claims that she thinks that they will hardly presume to invite the best families. But she doesn't really think this because she knows fine well that there is only one person silly and snobbish enough to refuse in Highbury. Because in the next line:
    This lesson, she very much feared, they would receive only from herself; she had little hope of Mr. Knightley, none of Mr. Weston.
    So she is perfectly well aware that the other most "respectable" people, including the major landowner Mr Knightley, are not going to help her slap the Cole's down.
    Time passes and her invitation doesn't arrive. According to the forgoing she ought to be pleased by this. The Cole's have not presumed to invite the superior Miss Woodhouse. But of course she is not. She is a bit put out, in fact.
    Donwell and Randalls had received their invitation, and none had come for her father and herself; and Mrs. Weston's accounting for it with "I suppose they will not take the liberty with you; they know you do not dine out," was not quite sufficient. She felt that she should like to have had the power of refusal;
    Not so much now as to slap the Coles down but because:
    the idea of the party to be assembled there, consisting precisely of those whose society was dearest to her, occurred again and again, she did not know that she might not have been tempted to accept.
    The bare possibility of it acted as a farther irritation on her spirits; and her being left in solitary grandeur, even supposing the omission to be intended as a compliment, was but poor comfort
    So now she is starting to be put out about not getting the invitation that she was put up about the idea of having originally.
    Finally the invitation arrives.

    It was the arrival of this very invitation while the Westons were at Hartfield, which made their presence so acceptable; for though her first remark, on reading it, was that "of course it must be declined," she so very soon proceeded to ask them what they advised her to do, that their advice for her going was most prompt and successful.
    So she goes, and she has a good time. But the evolution of her ideas about this are a truly brilliant evocation about the way we delude ourselves, and also shows us why Austen thought she is " a heroine whom no one but myself will much like."
    For much of the novel, she is not just a snob but a rather nasty snob capable of looking forward to publicly snubbing people who have done absolutely nothing to her. Without Austen's mastery of free indirect narration it is hard to imagine that anyone would like her. But that mastery is such that the real unpleasantness of Emma's snobbery is largely masked.


As this process was completed,  Leslie Fielder noticed.  He provided an excellent discussion of the why of turning our great books into children's literature in his then ground-breaking work,  Love and Death in the American Novel (1960). This work of Fielder's remains an excellent starting place for education into the American novel. Though Fiedler's work fell out of favor in the last decades of the 20th century, there appears to be come-back, judging by citations and indices in studies of American social, media and literary history. This fall in Fielder's status coincided with academia's devaluing the hmanities generally and the rise in identity studies.  Among Fiedler's other interests, still de-classé in his time in academic circles, were Science Fiction,  film and television, particularly the western --

Richard Slotkin's trilogy defining the mythology of the Old West, particularly in the movies, refers frequently to Fielder.

* *  For that matter, as I potter along, I look back at even the most recent phrases of my life and am astounded at how stupid I was.  Alas, it seems this pilgrim's progress is doomed to stasis.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Via Da List - Rumba Para Bebo

Concerning el V's latest Afropop Worldwide program; materials recorded in Barcelona, at the end of October this year.
Tell your friends:

My one-hour Afropop Worldwide episode based on the Rumba Para Bebo is available now on Soundcloud. It came out good. Described in the [nedslist] post of November 3, this concert-memorial-Cuban-jazz-jam-rumba-Kongo-ceremony honoring Bebo Valdés (produced by Joan Anton Cararach) was held on October 29 in Barcelona as part of this year's Voll-Damm Barcelona International Jazz Festival. Starring Chucho Valdés (whose powers continue to increase) and the Afro Cuban Messengers (Gastón Joya, Yaroldy Abreu, Dreiser Durruthy, Rodney Barretto), and featuring Jerry González, Omar Sosa and Malongo, Mayra Caridad Valdés, Lázara Cachao, Javier Massó “Caramelo,” Javier Colina, Mauricio Vallina, Paloma Manfugás, Eladio Reinón, David Pastor, and more! With the voices of Chucho Valdés and Omar Sosa.

I had ridiculously more material than I needed to make this show. There were almost two and a half hours of music, and Afropop Worldwide is only an hour, so it was painful deciding what great music and which interviews to leave out, but I think I did a good job of getting every featured performer into the show. Just click here to stream.

For those who prefer ether charm, the program will air on the radio this week wherever Afropop Worldwide is heard. In New York, that's WNYE, 91.5 FM, at 11 p.m. Saturday.

There's a beautifully shot video version of two hours of the Rumba Para Bebo available streaming on arte live web, well worth watching, but it omits two substantial numbers that are central to our Afropop episode: Jerry González's interpretation of "Bésame Mucho" and Omar Sosa and Malongo's spine-tingling "Invocación," a palo monte call to Bebo. You gotta go to Soundcloud for that. (You can also get there through the Afropop website.)

Happy Holidaze.  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Death Comes To Pemberly on Boxing Day

On UK's BBC1 television, that is.

Elizabeth Bennett (Darcy?) is played by the splendid Anne Maxwell Martin, the lead Bletchley Circle code breaker, and a miniseries this viewer admired. She was also Jane Austen in Becoming Jane. Naturally, this viewer loathed Becoming Jane , as this reader judges P.D. James's homage a writing mess -- and dismal to boot.*

Doubtless the television adaptation will be better, because it can't be worse than that poorly executed novel that bites Jane Austen, to no legitimate purpose.  It makes money, but unlike so many writers, Baroness James is not in financial pain.

Trailer here:

Truly, this thing doesn't look like much fun either; also -- a mess.  Lydia is so beautiful, and -- that music so non-period.


*  This judgment has been formed in the context of P.D. James's Dalgleish novels being perennial favorites in this casita.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cold Enough Yet? Reading Wednesday - Don't Tell Alfred

The temperature outside is falling so fast I can tell it is from inside, where we're cosy.  Cosy, yes, but there are those mean little airs that will float about and settle on the back one's neck (I reach for that sweet and light Aran wool scarf el V brought back the Shannon airport shop) one's fingers, one's ankles -- except I have on wool sox, stout boots and wool leg warmers.

For whatever reason, in their series "Comfort Reads" 
the Guardian is running another paeon to Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate(1949). Are Mitford's mad, bad Radletts and their various friends and relations a British holiday season tradition?

By coincidence, I finished re-reading N. Mitford's Don't Tell Alfred(1960) Monday night.  My dears, this one's not as up to it as the previous ones -- more nasty than monstrous. Perhaps because it is the 60's already, and the Cold War, and pop stars and so on?  Even Fanny now appears to be as complacently entrenched in class privilege as the worst of the Montdores, and not so amusing with it, particularly as her own children have followed so effortlessly in the presumption of rank superiority and their inherited comfortable place in the world-at-large, which do not include the necessity of working for a living.  Nevertheless, more riches fall into their laps, by luck, by marriage or by inheritance.  No wonder they love their lives so much. In this book they do it in the British embassy, in Paris.  The embassy becomes a crash pad for all Fanny's friends and relatives, and their friends and relatives, with servants and free meals, cocktails, transportation -- all at the British taxpayer's expense.

Fanny - Nancy's contempt for Americans is very much to the fore here.

It's odd, if all these old titled landowners's progeny still have independent fortunes and their parents are still running the country, is all that guff we've heard forever of the poor aristos after WWII losing their cavernous piles and their woodlands and fields and all the rest, just that, guff?  Put about for the sake of masquerading as poor propaganda and a ploy to gather sympathy for their poor, poor selves?

Lost Girl 2 - season 3 - Why It Delights Us + The War of 1812

"Fox," some near and dear inquire, "explain again why you take such delight in such an absurd show."

OK, por ejemplo ....

Tamsin's Game Face
Q: When was the last time the War of 1812 was discussed in a supernatural series?

A: In Lost Girl's season 3, episode 10,  “Delinquents.”

Two valkyries, Tamsin and Acacia, reminisce about good times on the battlefield in times past. Up pops the War of 1812. Acacia, the elder valkyrie, chortles as she describes the mess the U.S. Brigadier General William Hull made in Michigan territory (the two battles of River Raisin, January, 1813, a/k/a Battle of Frenchtown ) in the U.S.’s vain attempt to conquer Canada. (Recall, this is a Canadian show.)  She contrasts Hull with great general of the Shawnee Confederacy– and all man -- Tecumseh. However, she did not include the fate of Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames (October 14, 1813), though presumably he is a more than worthy addition to the Valhalha ranks.

Acacia, Tamsin's Valkyrie Mentor
This is one of the few references made in this series by the plethora of very ancient figures -- light or dark fae --  to what are human events. Granted most of them are not much concerned with humans at all, beyond keeping humans from interfering with the fae, and using them for their own criteria of legitimate feeding and amusement. However, as these two are valkyries, whose purpose is to harvest the deserving dead from human battlefields to Valhalla for the Last War, they would naturally chitchat about human battles past. Beyond that, however, without spoiling, there are surely reasons that valkyries showed up in season 3.  This means the writers are making what they do look more simple than what they are actually doing, at least for the sorts of viewers who notice such elements.

Which means further, that I'm looking forward all the more to season 4, which if the writing wasn't as good, as smart, as efficient, as it is, I wouldn't be.  Among the delightfully clever things they do is include Dion's "The Wanderer" (1961 - 1962) as source music in appropriate scenes.  Very cool. I just hope that the writers manage to keep their touch as light as they've done all along.

Tamsin Reborn Season 4, SyFy Channel, Premieres January 2014

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lost Girl season 3 Is Streaming on Netflix

To which I can only say YAY!  I love this series, it's so silly, so cheezy, so non-self important, and filled with a fabulous cast of regulars. It may be even sillier than Dracula, which I also enjoy tremendously.

Plus -- you know what? In season 3's third episode?  "Confaegion"? we get a scene in which Kris Holden-Ried dances for us, shirtless, on a bed, to Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf," no less!  Swoon time.  (Bo, Dyson and the New Girl, Tamsin, got infected with something that sent them all back to adolescence, not remembering who they really are, or what their actual relationships are.)  But, oh yes, Dyson, dance!  If there was anything in the world that would reconcile me to Duran Duran, it's Dyson dancing shirtless to "Hungry Like The Wolf."  O yes, and Dyson just happens to be a werewolf.

It's also a nod toward more equality of gazes, perhaps.  Lost Girl is never afraid to show the cleavage and the skin, and loves to show us girls kissing, so on and so forth, and particularly girls getting naked together, so much candy for the male gaze.  The only thing that saves it is that unself-conscious not taking itself seriously, and that everything just flies by, no matter how horrible or how sexy.  In any case that horrid urban fantasy the sffy channel did before -- Dresden is it? -- should have taken some lessons in appeal from Lost Girl, her writers and her ensemble.

I must be excused.  It's cold, more snow is falling. I was without internet yesterday.  Imagine waking at 7 AM -- and no internet!  Thus I've read no newspapers so my silly side is getting her frivolity on.  Dance, Dyson, dance for us!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Jane Austen - ¡pobrecita!

Despite having the book before mine eyes just three days ago I cannot recall either author or title, but it was yet another in the endless series of fantasies biting Jane Austen's novels -- i.e. as gleefully declared -- the same novels but with MAGIC!

Early either the protagonist or the narrator -- can't recall which -- describes another character, but who never is actually on stage, as "half mulatto."* Hello?  How can this be, a half mulatto?  First, the figure is also described as female, so that would be mulatta.  Second -- not half mulatto, but quadroon, fer pete's sake!  Authors wanting to signifiy diversity should at least understand what it means they are saying.

I can never try and read these preposterousities without going Whisky, Tango, Foxtrot. For one thing, all that magic so carefully systematized?  It takes as much time and effort to decorate a house magically as a team of skilled artisans would do, arriving at the same effects as with, you know, actual material STUFF like paint and plaster and candles. So then, what is the point? In the meantime these aristo magikers steal jobs away from whole packs of lower class people, who don't have independent fortunes, such as that into which every Austen fantasist marries her protagonist into -- in these novels there are far more Darcys as husbands than disinherited Edward Ferrars

Good grief, what will these authors do when they've run through all of Jane Austen's novels, unfinished works and her juvenilia? Can they possibly create story lines and characters out of what they know?


Jane Austen as theme park, why yes, we really have that too.

Gads, even Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma is more palatable.  

Presumably however, Jane Austen's works will survive even this -- they've survived everything else, including zombies, vampires, squids, and P.D. James.  There are times when George Eliot's "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists" percolates madly while reading.


* Yes, Ms. Austen herself used this in the never-completed Sanditon.  Persumably, however, this would have been corrected, if she'd lived to re-write and revise.  Writers, when in that fortunate state of creativity will make errors, even when knowing there may be doubts about this word, this sentence, this fact, but the point is to get the words down, so you have content to work with.

Or -- as the terms the Brits used are all borrowed from French and Spanish color perhaps - O heresy! Austen just got that wrong? :) There is an exception that is British / American for sure, and that's a word no one not of African heritage has the right to use these days.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Prayers & Taxi Drivers In NYC

NYC Muslim taxi drivers praying at the BP gas station on Houston I mentioned yesterday is part of a longer story of Muslim taxi drivers and where they can pray on PRI's The World today.

The website has a photo of the devout and their beautiful rugs.

This is one of the reasons for the Cordoba House community center to be built at Park51 (formerly a Burlington Coat Factory) – that drove t-party ijiots into frothing hysterics. It was planned to be a place anyone can go to, to do some things you need to do, like breast feeding, that one would rather not do in public, on dirty cement.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Colder than "Cold" in the City in which 46% of the Population Live at the Poverty Level, Or Below

I am thinking I may be finally slowly recovering from this sinusitis infection, which I've been suffering from since November 5.

I spent time outside doing various errands in two separate sessions this afternoon. As I've learned, breathing cold air now aggravates the sinus infection (I've never had a sinus infection before, so with no experience I didn't know that at first). Nevertheless, finally, I was able to do outside errands in these below freezing temperatures (no wind though; if there had been, I'd have stayed inside). No matter what I do or don't do there's a crash of feeling really sick with headache, sore throat and exhaustion around 6 PM, and this time was no difference.  However, I ate some gingered soup of rice noodles etc., and felt almost normal again. As consequence I allowed el V to make us reservations uptown, at Camaradas, for Friday night, for dinner with friends, and great music.

Working at feeling better, certainly.

Getting a haircut Saturday, only about 8 weeks late ....

In the meantime, in the waning afternoon light, picking up research books from the library, I saw this:

At taxi shift change time, on the dirty, freezing cement of  BP gas station (which is the only gas station anywhere within many blocks around here by now) a conclave of shoe-removed Muslim taxi drivers and their prayer rugs bowed toward Mecca, performing their prayers. Even if I'd had a camera I wouldn't have been able to photograph that, but I'd liked to. Their prayer mats were the most deep, brilliant colors, such a contrast with the sky turning dusty rose and pastel grey as the sun fell rapidly -- the rose and the golden highlights reflected in all the glass on the northern side of the streets, echoing the yellow taxis gassing up for the changeover.

It's at the side of that non-yellow car that the prayers are held; imagine, ice and 22 degrees ....
We are seeing more and more cultural and spiritual practices that might have been private now, blooming in whatever crack is available within a Manhattan essentially without service facilities. Yes, not even gas stations are around now; the lots sold for yet another luxury boutique hotel or restaurant.  However, the international plutocratic oligarachy slightest needs are diligently and amply tended, thank you Billionaire Mikey Bloomberg.

Example, those who need custom-designed chandeliers for their holiday dinner party table, there are about 10 places to provide the same within about 15 blocks ....

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

White Christmas - 'Tis the Season

White Christmas (1954) opens at the European war front on Christmas Eve, 1944, with Danny Kaye’s character’s first team-up with the Bing Crosby character, who was already big star-vocalist before the war. They are putting on a show, at which they are expecting to also provide an surprise tribute to their General Waverley, who is being transferred from command of their division.

This opening is a reminder to we later generations the huge footprint WWII made for everyone who lived through it. However, here in the U.S. we would be letting go of World War II very soon, at least as a serious matter in that new media of television. Whereas, in Britain where so many of those who didn 't serve at the front served at home, suffered at worst lost loved ones, homes and livings, and at best serious shortages and deprivations, WWII is still a dramatic matter common in BBC series and other networks. *

From the front, where Corporal Danny Kay rescues Captain Bing Crosby just in time from getting killed by  a bombed building wall's toppling upon him, we move to the 1954 Christmas season in Florida. Kay is now Crosby's partner in show business success piled upon success. Then it's up to Vermont, where via serious story contrivances we manage to have two romance plots running concurrently with the plot to save retired General Waverly's ski lodge, where this year, there is no snow, so no customers.

When watching that opening scene at the WWII European front, I had no idea I’d never before watched this classic.  No wonder, because because my mind merged it with Holiday Inn (1942), which I did watch, finally, 2008, also starring Bing Crosby, running roughly the same story line and Bing singing Ira Berlin's "White Christmas." The significant differences are that this earlier film is in black-and-white,  covers all the annual holidays, not just Christmas, and Bing's side-kick, is played by Fred Astaire as a drunk, with Bing trying to keep Fred and the Girl apart.

Unfortunately both films have minstrel numbers.

In Holiday Inn the "Abraham" number on Lincoln’s Birthday is further performed in blackface.  We also see the characters 'blacking up.'

Perhaps by 1954 some Hollywood people were more sensitive -- or else this restored and released in 2004 White Christmas as streamed from netflix significantly lightened the blackface.

Whether or not the White Christmas minstrel medley -- “I'd Rather See a Minstrel Show"/"Mister Bones"/"Mandy" --  was or was not performed in blackface, all the performance gestures are straight out of the blackface minstrel performance tradition, which is equally jarring to us these days.

What White Christmas doesn’t get credit for is the quality of the dance numbers with Danny Kay partnered with Vera Ellen.

Also Kay’s*  serious camping up in the duet he and Crosby reprise from the

Haynes Sisters’ (Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen) nightclub act, “Me and My Sister.”

Vera Ellen may also have the tiniest waist you will ever see – putting Scarlett O’Hara’s 17 inches to shame.

White Christmas is not a great musical or a great film, but it is filled with good will for all, is enjoyable and entertaining, good-natured in a way that Holiday Inn is not.  It's a lovely thing to watch on a cold, snainy (snow and rain together) dark December evening while the house fills with the rich warm aromas of dinner getting made.


* Think England's Foyle's War (2000 - present), Island At War (2004), The Hour (2011) and The Bletchley Circle (20012).  In contrast what can we think of on U.S. television (as opposed to triumphist commemorative documentary) beyond such comedies as McHale's Navy 1962 - 66) or the prison camp sit com, Hogan's Heroes (1965 - 71)?

** To the great distress at the time, after Kay's death it was publicly revealed he was gay.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Love In A Cold Climate - BBC 1980

This production is not to be confused with the 2001 one,

 produced in association with PBS's WGBH-Boston, featuring Alan Bates as (Lord Alconleigh) Uncle Matthew Radlett. However, this later one, like the 1980 production featuring Judi Dench as (Lady Alconleigh) Aunt Sadie Radlett, also melds of the first two novels in Mitford's Fanny-the-Narrator trilogy, The Pursuit of Love (1945) and Love In A Cold Climate (1949).  Two novels, yet a mere 2 1/2 hours!

Since  1980 production runs almost 7 hours, I'm glad this is the production available from Netflix, since the 2001 version is not.  Seven hours just about does the two books seamless justice. Two and half hours could not possibly.

Among the strongest points in this 1980 production is how much screen time we have at the Spanish refugee camp. We see the camp in in all of its misery in a way we did not through Fanny recreating Linda's later descriptions of it, via Mitford-the-author.  That we understand if her husband had been in the least interested in Linda, and not in love with Violet, Linda would have remained in the camp, makes Linda a much more sympathetic figure on screen than she was on Mitford's pages. It's the same when Linda goes to Paris.  We see all those places that Mitford merely writes Linda saw.

Despite the title being Love in a Cold Climate, more time is devoted to the scenes from The Pursuit of Love.

But -- we do have One, Boy, Polly and all the others that were in Cold Climate, and we see enough of them to be satisfied.  It's an excellent production all around, particularly if one admires the books.

The only caveat I have is purely personal: Lucy Gutteridge plays Linda in the same mode Audrey Hepburn would have, if Audrey Hepburn had been young enough in 1980, or wanted to -- all wide eyes that suggest she just waked up, and o so innocent, when anything but.  In the refugee camp Linda's more of a person than a beauty, lord's daughter or Hon, so she's much more sympathetic.  Also, she's working to be useful, whereas before or after Linda does nothing useful to anyone at all, including herself or even her coming child. Now, to make up for saying such mean things about Linda, I will say that the actress thoroughly convinces us that

such a dedicated rake as Fabrice, Duc de Sauveterre, could actually fall in love with Linda, rather than merely dally (though recall nearly the last words of The Pursuit of Love, and in the series too, are the Bolter's response to Linda's declaration that hers and Fabrice's love is for life -- "That what we always think, every time.").

The actress who plays Fanny the Narrator - Radlett Cousin presents a much plainer Fanny than I'd imagined from the books.  But, like everyone else in this cast, she's really good in the role.

Shocking point: Anthony Head plays Linda's first husband, the 'Hun' banker, Tony Kroesig; I didn't recognize him -- hadn't a tingle, didn't know until looking at the cast list on IMDB.

As I do when reading the books, part of what I admire intensely is the frequent declarations unabashed, unashamed indifference, and not infrequently, downright dislike, mothers have for their children.  One could hardly dare even suggest that any mother, no matter how wretched the mothering (and / or fathering) might be, might not give a damn about their progeny.  Even Fanny, duly domestic -- at the end of book and series informs us that she prefers Linda's orphaned child to her own children!  The series and The Pursuit of Love Fanny very early makes the point that both Lord and Lady Alconleigh were bemused and somewhat mystified that they'd "filled so many cradles" and were indifferent as to any preparation for their futures.

The same unselfconscious candor is articulated about their class privilege.  As I said earlier *, monsters they were, and they minded not.  They know they are are superior to most of the world and invoke that knowledge at all times.  But somehow it goes down more easily in books about people long dead, than now, when articulated by our contemporary monsters who know they are entitled to make war on the poor.

After re-reading The Pursuit of Love, and watching 7 hours of Love In A Cold Climate, I am feeling somewhat bereft of the monsters.

So, I shall proceed to re-reading the third Fanny-the-Narrator, Don't Tell Alfred (1960).


 * Recent re-read of The Pursuit of Love, looked at here.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

David Simon: 'There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show'

An edited extract from:
... the creator of The Wire, David Simon, delivered an impromptu speech about the divide between rich and poor in America at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney, and how capitalism has lost sight of its social compact.
in the UK Guardian / Observer. It's very strong meat, which will send the usual sorts into frothing vituperation, but hey, Mr. Simon calls 'em as he sees 'em, and he sees via many more perspectives and experiences than the usual frothing vituperators.  For instance, there's this:
You know if you've read Capital or if you've got the Cliff Notes, you know that his imaginings of how classical Marxism – of how his logic would work when applied – kind of devolve into such nonsense as the withering away of the state and platitudes like that. But he was really sharp about what goes wrong when capital wins unequivocally, when it gets everything it asks for.
That may be the ultimate tragedy of capitalism in our time, that it has achieved its dominance without regard to a social compact, without being connected to any other metric for human progress.
We understand profit. In my country we measure things by profit. We listen to the Wall Street analysts. They tell us what we're supposed to do every quarter. The quarterly report is God. Turn to face God. Turn to face Mecca, you know. Did you make your number? Did you not make your number? Do you want your bonus? Do you not want your bonus?
And that notion that capital is the metric, that profit is the metric by which we're going to measure the health of our society is one of the fundamental mistakes of the last 30 years. I would date it in my country to about 1980 exactly, and it has triumphed.
And it's a disaster.

Unless we are among that ever shrinking minority of the global plutocratic oligarchs and their servants,

we are all living Disaster Capitalism now -- combined with the neo-police state of 24/7 surveillance of everyone and everything. Ain't the future grand?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

RIP - Nelson Mandala

It's impossible not to think about what Michelle and Barack Obama are feeling and thinking tonight.

They must be considering how many shadows and echoes there may be for their own obituaries -- hopefully, far, far, down the timeline -- in seeing, hearing and watching all the memorials to this black man who was a pioneer.

Nelson Mandela  1918- 2013