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

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

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

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Jim Jarmusch  wrote and directed this novel vampire film, Only Lovers Left Alive (2013), starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston.

By describing Only Lovers Left Alive as "a novel film" is intended to convey that Jarmusch created something new with vampires.  It also implies a question about vampires I've meditated on now and again ever since a dream I had way back in the early 80's of the last vampire, his face peering at me out of a broken television set screen, on a desertified earth, on which there is no blood left at all.  Somehow, I, per se, wasn't there, I was only feeling what the vampire's face was expressing: horror, terror and despair.

Jarmusch's film goes deeper than that brief but so vivid dream.  His vampires have existed since at least the 16th century;

John Hurt as Kit Marlowe, Eve's blood supplier in Tangier
Kit Marlowe is one of the few other characters in the film.*  They are among the world's obscenely wealthy, the wealth employed for privacy, acquisition of toys and the purest, fresh blood, blood that in the 20th and 21st century they no longer needed to hunt, but can purchase in various ways.  They appropriately suffer the ennui of the dissolute idle rich who lack any purpose in existence.

Adam with his gofer, Ian, played by Anton Yelchen; he's terrific in the role.

A Detroit Punk Club, in which it has forever remained the 1970's.
Adam, Hiddleston's character, is a legendary pop musician whom no one knows or sees.  Evidently his music and musicianship has been featured in many mythic recordings since, perhaps, the late 50's into the 60's and through the 70's?  I'm guessing those three decades because of the pop music references shared by Adam and his wife Eve, played by Swinton, and the sorts of dinosaur recording equipment and technology that litter Adam's rickety, decaying mansion, **  in the area of Detroit. Adam's out-of-step with the 21st century ennui makes for very understated but effective occasional comic touches.

So here we have it -- the vampire tropes, played as an exploration of degeneration of our planet, focused through the deserted areas of Detroit and, in ever-widening circles of alarm, the ever-widening toxic contamination of the planet. By now, not only is much if not most of the global water supply been poisoned, so has most of the global blood supply.

The film takes its own time moving along its unexpectedly delicious trajectory, which may bore some viewers. Additionally, if the viewer knows nothing about guitars, recording or pop music from the 50's, 60's and 70's, or anything about Literature -- yes, Literature with a capital L -- that viewer will miss many delicious bits of meta and witty commentary.

However, my favorite line from the film is not about either music or literature. Instead, it's a subject about which I ponder much more seriously on a daily basis. While Adam and Eve are taking a drive through the ruins of Detroit, Adam respond's to Eve's lamentation as to what the zombies have done to this splendid city:
"It's blessed with water. It will come back and the southwestern zombies who did this to Detroit and have used everybody else's water will want it back."
I've been thinking that this could well happen as well. Water = the blood of our planet.

Zombies in Only Lovers Left Alive are the vampires' code word for human beings, which is a bit of meta commentary on current popular entertainment too.  The vampires are clear that human beings, the zombies, are responsible for the ruin of the world.


* In perhaps the only misstep Jarmusch makes in this film, in all the scenes that include Marlowe it's a given he's the author of Shakespeare's works.

* *  Eat your heart out, Elizabeth Hand -- how often has she employed the tropes of impossibly wealthy recluses, decaying mansions and artists from the 60's - 70's has she lovingly attempted to create by now?  It's not impossible at all that Jarmusch has read one or two of her novels -- though it wouldn't have been necessary for the making of this film.  These are such common tropes, and Jarmusch knows personally many a dissolute wealthy pop culture icon from those decades.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

38 Maps That Explain the Global Economy

by Matthew Yglesias on August 26, 2014:

Commerce knits the modern world together in a way that nothing else quite does. Almost anything you own these days is the result of a complicated web of global interactions. And there's no better way to depict those interactions and the social and political circumstances that give rise to them than with a map or two. Or in our case, 38. These maps are our favorite way to illustrate the major economic themes facing the world today. Some of them focus on the big picture while others illustrate finer details. The overall portrait that emerges is of a world that's more closely linked than ever before, but still riven by enormous geography-driven differences.
 One map example, but at the link, the maps are much larger, and easy to read:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Reading Wednesday: Horne, Crane, Gabaldon, Harkness

This is an unusual week in that as well as a new study of slavery in colonial North America, I read two novels.

The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America (2014) by Gerald Horne (New York University Press), covers in granular detail part of what we look at in The American Slave Coast -- that among the driving forces of the American War of Independence were fear of abolition on the part of the southern elite slave holding class, and lust for Native land on the part of both north and south.


El V's and my bedtime read-aloud book has been  The Southern Frontier: 1670 - 1732 (1929), * by Vernor W. Crane (Ann Arbor Press, University of Michigan), a history of South Carolina's traders, who were instrumental in the enslavement of Natives. The Nativeswere mostly sold to the Caribbean, particularly Barbados, in the 17th and earlier 18th century. This accomplished three of the objectives of South Carolina as a colony: to make money, get labor and remove Indians via enslavement and war from the western lands.  Hopefully, all of it to the eastern bank of the Mississippi would be South Carolina, filled with plantations worked by slaves.  These slaves were far and away preferred to be Negro slaves -- Africans -- rather than Natives, because the Natives could escape too easily to friends and relatives in the wilderness -- even up to French Canada.

This aspect of colonial slavery is something not much looked at, as part of what the goals of South Carolinians were from the beginning of the colony, which was always envisioned as a slave-based feudal economy and society. Horne doesn't look at it (as being outside the scope of his own work?  As Crane's work is cited in Horne's own).  However, his arguments are sound around the fundamentals of the Seven Years War or the French and Indian War as it was called here, base the causes of it on 1) fear of Catholic interference with slavery (Spain and France) and, 2) demand to rid themselves of Natives, for their land and because they, like Spain and France -- and England too, often, (which is where his argument gets contradictory and fuzzy at times) -- allied with "Africans" for rebellion and to take the colonies from white Englishmen by conquest.

I still have this 1992 copy.
It had been years since I last re-read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander (1991).  I was prompted to do so again by the Starz miniseries based on Gabaldon's novel -- which was a sensation when published. I wish I had been able to edit the ms. There are glaring inconsistencies that shouldn't be in there.  I won't say what they are in case of spoilers, as the television miniseries is still in progress, with this one exception, which was "fixed" in the premiere episode of the television series:  In the novel takes Frank to tell Claire that it is blood on the stoops of the houses in the village where Claire and Frank are staying -- Claire, a WWII field triage nurse doesn't recognize blood when it's there, and needs a non-medical fellow to tell her this?  Why these crazy inconsistencies are in the published novel I cannot figure out.  At the time of publication there were many interviews and stories about Outlander as a phenomenon, which both the agent and the purchasing editor recognized it would be.  So it's not as though it was published as a throw-away.  (I was working in publishing then, so I got, heard and read all the industry scuttlebutt in those days.)  However, what probably matters most, is that the vitality of Claire's character, and her relationships with both her husbands, remain plausible, thus deeply interesting and satisfying.

Oddly enough though, Outlander's dealing with the deeper questions of time

travel is more satisfying than is The Book of Life (2014), the conclusion of Deborah Harkness's All Soul's Trilogy. In the first two novels Harkness brought up so many deep questions between what makes life and the nature of time, and there is a great deal of time travel too. This is what lifted her series out of the commonality of most fantasy fiction, particularly fantasy fiction that features witches, demons and vampires.  She was using fantasy tropes to delve into serious scientific questions.  But she drops all these matters in The Book of Life in favor of the usual business of which alpha is the most alpha of all, and saving the world for supernaturals.  Deeply disappointing -- and rather dull too.  The saving grace for The Book of Life is, as in the previous books, the purely delightful witches' house.  This is the most mysterious and wondrous element of the series.

This failure on the part of Harkness has to considered in light of her position, according to wiki:
professor of history and teaches European history and the history of science[4]at the University of Southern California.[5] She has published two works of historical non-fiction, John Dee's Conversations with Angels: Cabala, Alchemy and the End of Nature (1999) and The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution (2007).[5]
Gabaldon is a scientist: her MS in Marine Biology, Ph.D. in ecology, and was a university professor also, before becoming a full-time writer.

Ah well, I'll contemplate these matters under my Colombian sun shade hat, while I walk in the 90 degree muggy noon heat up to Union Square's Farmer's Market for peaches (even the local peaches are fabulous this year) and whatever else catches my fancy.  Then -- a chocolate dipped Dairy Queen. Fortunately, the only Dairy Queen in NYC, is on 14th Street too, a couple of blocks west of Union Square. This may be the last day of summer here ....


 *   Such magnificent work these earlier generations of professors and scholars accomplished in those days -- without internet, databases (just bibliographies!), google, any of the tools that has so transformed historical research in the last two decades. Among the many benefits these digital tools have bestowed is how much more possible it is to be an independent scholar, rather than on a faculty as a tenured professor. Which is fortunate too for scholarship, as there are fewer and fewer tenured faculty for history departments everywhere.  On the other hand these former scholars didn't live through publish or perish, and had a much more leisurely academic round than the changes brought to faculty and scholarship that were wrought post WWII -- and now to the point that faculty are hardly thought to matter -- any more than the students are thought to matter, other than cash cows to be milked for the real business of the academy now -- real estate moghulship.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

On This Day in 1664 New Amsterdam Became New York

It's a summer of significant historical observations.  Today it's Nieuw Amsterdam becoming New York.

It's one of the many fascinating things about living in New City and New York state that the underlying Dutch culture has persisted.

 Peter Stuyvesant Surrenders Niew Amsterdam to the English.
He Wasn't Happy About It.

Not to mention many a legal fundamental, with documents created and executed during the regime of the Dutch, such as land titles (to land stolen from the Natives, of course), wills and many other material and financial property instruments.  We have entire legal libraries filled with these documents here in the city and in Albany.

This provides employment for the qualified.  There are services here that can translate these old Dutch language instruments and docs into English.

Perhaps the most significant contribution the original European settlers of this part of the world is their tolerance of diversity in languages, religions and, most of all, ways of making money.  Nieuw Amsterdam or New York -- this place was never about anything else except making money.  Which explains, of course, why NYC was the center of the New World's overseas slave trading in terms of financing ships, insuring them and so on, for the Caribbean and Brasilian trade.  They dominated in the decades post the War of 1812.  This, despite Rhode Island, who began earlier, started ahead of NYC in the trade, and always Boston was jockeying to seize the number one position for itself.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Lost Girl - Season 5 Will Be Its Last

This is a good decision because Lost Girl will depart as the special series it was.

Season 5 will "supersize" as they put it, into 16 episodes.  I am betting that the writers knowing this is it, they will make season 5 a killah.  Looking forward to it!

Story here.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

'Tis the Bicentennial of the Battle of Bladensburg and the Burning of D.C.

August 24, 1814, a day of national infamy.

Which blundering event on the part of the nation and its leaders was merely one more blundering failure in this war that New England merchants agitated to secede over -- which is the likely explanation that so few remember and even fewer even know about the War of 1812. This, despite it being the hinge point in the towering career of Andrew Jackson, and his shaping of our subsequent national history up to and including the Civil War.  The Brits may have been having their successes against (mostly) very tiny, undefended towns and plantations along the Chesapeake in these years.  But Jackson was winning one engagement after another in the south and west, against Indians, against the Brits, against whatever he set himself against, including the wilderness itself.

Again, for the best description and analysis of this "forgotten war," the best source is Henry Adams's account in the volumes that cover the Madison administrations in his History of the United States of America.

Canada remembers the War of 1812 much better -- the northern conflict that is, not the Chesapeake conflicts and those further south.  This is because that war, in which they turned back the U.S. invasions has become a part of Canada's founding history as herself a nation.

Fortunately, in September came the Battle of Baltimore - Ft. McHenry, which not only stopped the Brits but redeemed American military reputation.

For a look at today's Bladensburg, go here.  With about 10,000 residents, it looks a very pleasant place to live -- as do so many small communities in Maryland's counties.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Wettest Place On Earth

The wettest place on earth is Meghalaya, in India, north of Bangladesh.  It is so wet that human-made bridges rot away so quickly as to be impractical.  For centuries the people of this region have been training the roots of rubber trees and bamboo shoots to grow into bridges.  The Atlantic Monthly has a splendid photo feature of the place and the bridges, here.

In a scene played out every weekday morning, students of the RCLP School in Nongsohphan Village, Meghalaya, India, cross a bridge grown from the roots of a rubber tree. In the relentless damp of Meghalaya's jungles, wooden structures rot away too quickly to be practical. For centuries the Khasi people have instead used the trainable roots of rubber trees to "grow" bridges over the region's rivers. (© Amos Chapple)

It is beyond comprehension the frequently expressed conviction that people without engineering degrees and traditional western education can't be technologically brilliant-- and, further, that biology isn't "real science."  Like any science, it can be technologically inventive, creative, and also beautiful, uniting perfectly form and function.

As well as the bridges, the jungles beneath Mawsynram hide "living ladders" curled into shape to assist villagers descending the steep flanks of the Khasi hills. (© Amos Chapple)

Monday, August 18, 2014

An African City -- Anyone Who Hasn't Watched

Anyone who hasn't yet watched An African City, should do so immediately.

It is a series of 10 episodes, generally around 14 minutes long, made for the web, featuring 5 young, ambitious, highly educated, upper class, privileged, well-off, diasporic women who grew up in Europe or the U.S., who have for various reasons returned home to Accra and their families, in Ghana.

The clothes alone are worth putting in the time.  But there's more to it than that.  Dialog is snappy, things can get very funny, the women are beautiful.

Some have objected to An African City being called the African Sex and the City, but it is Sex in the City in Accra, intentionally so, complete with the voice-over. However, I am not certain that certain elements are intentional, such as in all or nearly all episodes, short as they are, one of the women will at least verbally 'mean girl' it over a class 'inferior.' On Sex and the City, any character who behaved that way would be recognizable as a Bad Person, not a heroine or protagonist.  If this is intentional, this is presenting a modern African city as a real place, not an exotic fairy tale location, and I applaud the producers, director and writer.

It's interesting from several different directions, not only those of women's friendships, romance, sex, and fashion.  In some ways the most interesting aspect is that the central character, the voice-over narrator is, in the series, the daughter of Ghana's newly appointed Minister of Energy. Think about that .... It's quite like having Dick Cheney, your father, and you too are in the oil business, appointed Vice President in charge of regulating oil sales and military actions. Ghana has lots of oil ....

That's the class level of these women, the sort of class out of which comes Lupita Nyong'o, who played Patsy, in 12 Years a Slave.

They are not like thee and me ....

This is something I find very interesting about this series: how the international obscenely wealthy, no matter what religion, skin color, etc., have far more in common with each other than with thee and me.

I'm not quite sure the series intends to show us this.
Accra, and increasingly in cities like London, NYC, etc., the divide of the citizens are those at the level of wealth of these women, those who serve them, and nothing in-between, with a huge class of starving at the bottom. Lessons for us in the U.S. from this series.

The women in Sex and the City were never anywhere close to the level these women exist on -- but Mr. Big was, and that was the huge attraction of him for Carrie Bradshaw.  Equally telling, for the SatC friends, as for the An African City friends, going to Dubai, that arbitrarily constructed city-size shopping mall-playground for the international wealthy, is one of their criteria of Best Times Evah -- and puleeze, have somebody else pay for the trip and the acquisitions!

The first five episodes are on Free Hulu, and all ten are on YouTube.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Battle Of Caulk's Field Remembered, Where It Happened - War of 1812

From the Chestertown Spy,* the local online weekly gazette, that includes articles, essays and opinion about the Kent County, Maryland community, reported on and written by the community, whether politics or dog training classes.

"At midnight, August 30, 1814, between Chestertown and Rock Hall, in a field of shadowy figures and muzzle flashes, a 45-minute clash between British royal marines and local militia ended 14 British lives, including that of Sir Peter Parker, captain of the Menelaus. The Kent militia suffered only wounds.
The Battle of Caulk’s Field, while no Bladensburg—a devastating strategic loss for the small American army—is, nonetheless, a unique and significant marker in the field of American History. Its memorial and past ceremonies, performed by U.S. National Guard and British Royal Marines at the battle site, have come to symbolize a mutual respect for the past and highlight a future of shared endeavors.
Here, former editor of the Kent County News Kevin Hemstock and Friends of Caulk’s Field Committee President Steve Frohock discuss the Chesapeake theatre of the War of 1812, the Battle of Caulk’s Field, Peter Parker, and the upcoming weekend of events commemorating the war’s Bicentennial.
No more a post-it note, the War of 1812 is being discovered as a full-fledged chapter in American history."
The 15-minute video of the discussion is worth watching, not only for the information the two local historians provide, but also because it's delightful to see and listen to historians who know their stuff and are enthusiastic about learning ever more, whenever they can.

The local historians of this community -- which is just about everybody who lives here, and they love sharing what they know -- are as impressive as any other professional historians and scholars.

El V and I visited the site of the Battle of Caulk's Field on a Thanksgiving Day in 2010.  There shall be a Bicentennial re-enactment on August 30th.

These Kent Country events are so much fun.  Partly it's because of the food, partly because, while the events are executed as accurately as possible, neither the re-enactors nor the watchers take themselves too seriously.


*  The Chestertown Spy is named for The Spy, Chestertown's 18th century newspaper.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Lost Girl - Season 5

Lost Girl was renewed for a season 5, but some reason none of the search engines brought the news for me until just now ... curious internet behavior ... however, the news was out to everybody else back in April.  That's what I get for watching via netflix rather than tv.  But then, I don't have to be annoyed by the supremely annoying SYFY channel....

And guess what, or rather, who is going to be a guest star?  Charisma Carpenter, playing ... " Freyja, who is “well-known in mythology as the most renowned of the Norse goddesses.” She is a goddess of love, sexuality, fertility, war and death ...." Going for a more of that Vikings action, with Tamsin the Valkyrie, and with Kenzi in Valhalla?

Some people seem to know things and aren't happy.

From the link at the top:
.... The group is all back together again. A big theme this season is 'family,' and these are all Bo's family. We've seen some of them get torn apart, but now's their chance to come together."

That makes me at least happy. Among the situations that most disturb me in watching / reading action-adventure is when "our Group" gets broken up.  I'm like a herd dog that way -- I want to go ranging and get everyone back together asap.

Except -- spoiler --

Hale will not return.  He's gone, dead and gone.

Charlotte Bronte's Shirley -- End Of Summer Reading Historical Fiction

Last night I began to read Charlotte Bronte's second published novel, Shirley (1849).  It seems the perfect novel to carry me through the change of seasons from summer to autumn, both long enough while engaging enough, with several themes.  Not the least of Shirley's engagements is that it presents dilemmas and problems for all the readers -- and even scholars -- who are insistent upon presenting Charlotte Bronte and her protagonists as feminist and politically liberal.

Shirley, though classified as a social novel, is neither feminist nor liberal, particularly in its outlook of Yorkshire textile laborers particularly, or the lower classes in general.  This may explain why Shirley is so unpopular generally with not only Bronte-ists, but those who study the history of the novel in English -- so much so that a surprising number of those who are well educated in The Novel, are unaware that Charlotte Bronte wrote this novel.

The edition I chose to read was not my falling apart Penguin copy acquired a millennium ago while an undergrad, but a newer Penguin edition with an introductory essay (2006) by the excellent Bronte scholar, Lucasta Miller.

The other primary reason I chose Shirley is that as well as being classified as Bronte's only social novel, it is considered an historical novel.  The novel's chronological location is specifically told the reader on page 1 as, "eighteen-hundred-eleven-twelve." I.e., we're in my favorite war (speaking historically), the War of 1812.  Britain, like Napoleon, had levied an embargo upon trade with "America" (which included grabbing every U.S. ship they encountered -- if they could) thus the Yorkshire textile manufacturers, like so many other industrial employers, had closed their mills or greatly reduced activity and workforces.

The narrator so informs us, in a one-sided explanation, on page 25, second

chapter, as spoken by the half French-Antwerpian, Robert Moore, owner of the Hollow's mill:
"I am very rich in cloth, I cannot sell; you should step into my warehouse yonder, and observe how it is piled to the roof with pieces.  Roakes and Perason are in the same condition: America used to be their market, but the Orders in Council have cut that off."

This is the period of the Luddite uprisings, as the manufacturers like Roger Moore, with the capital to do so, are installing more efficient machines that require fewer workers.

Bronte expands on the Orders in Council and unemployment on page 29-30:
"The 'Orders in Council,' provoked by Napoleon's Milan and Berlin decrees,* and the forbidding neutral powers to trade with France, had, by offending the Americans, cut off the principal market of the Yorkshire woollen trade, and brought it consequently to the verge of ruin. Minor foreign markets were glutted, and would receive no more: the Brazils, Portugal, Sicily,**were all overstocked by nearly two years' consumption. At this crisis, certain inventions of the north, which, greatly reducing the number of hands necessary to be employed, threw thousands out of work and left them without legitimate means of sustaining life.  A bad harvest supervened.  Distress reached its climax....
This is the first time I've undertaken a Shirley re-read since having lived in New Orleans and on the Chesapeake, major grounds and objectives for the Brits in the War of 1812.

As for the plan that was to be a reading transition from one season to another -- well, Climate Change evidently made another plan.  When I left for the libary before 10 AM the temperature was 64 degrees.  Big brown leaves were being blown off the plane trees in droves.  This is like no August I've experience here ever.  The long term weather forecasts are saying we're going to continue with temperatures generally lower than usual, November is going to be wet, and winter will began early and be close to the brutal thing is was last go-round.  I'm going to be extra-careful not to catch a sinus infection in November or break my elbow in January as I did last time.


*  Napoleon's monstrous egomania and British arrogance were equally responsible for the embargo. All nations' trade was caught between the hammer and tongs of the British and French navies.  Indeed, when Denmark insisted on her right to continue trading as she wished, and an ally with Britain against the French, the British navy shelled Copenhagen, burning much of it to the ground, in 1807.

 ** Not to mention being under siege in one way or another, as with Sicily to where the King of Naples had fled, and Portugal, as part of the very long and brutal Peninsular campaign -- Bronte is frequently hazy, to put it generously, with her information about many aspects that she mentions regarding trade, the military and politics, despite her passion when younger for heroes such as Wellingon and Napoleon. Her forte is the personal, always.

Additionally she was writing this some decades after it took place; she was born when it was all over, in 1816.  Thus Shirley gets classified by some as an historical novel.  I'm not sure I agree, however, any more than I can think of Middlemarch as an historical novel.  Though set in the 1830's of the Reform Movement bills, Eliot, born in 1819, was more than old enough, particularly with her father profession and their common interest in public issues and politics, to remember the time well.  As well, the Reformist movement returned to the public stage in 1860.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Continuum - Season 3

As of last night's dinner-preparation hour I'm nearly half way through watching Continuum's third season.

Season 3's plot lines and the characters themselves are complicated.  Part of the complication involves Alec Sadler, one of the three principal characters, being present as two; i.e. one from the timeline (I think ...) we've been in since the beginning of the show, and the other from another timeline branch, and they're existing simultaneously in the same timeline -- though I'm not entirely clear whether this timeline is the series' original timeline.  I may have forgotten some essentials from watching seasosn 2 last year at this time.

This season also began with two of the protagonist-protector from 2077, Kiera Cameron, but immediately one of them is shot dead.  The killed Kiera was the "original" Kiera known from the series's start by her contemporary Vancouver

police force partner and friend, Carlos Fonnegra. That there are / were two Kieras is known to him almost immediately.  He sees this Kiera as different the first one, and isn't sure he either likes or trusts the second one.

Second Kiera doesn't like First Alec or trust him, but seems to like and trust the second one.  Further complications are created by First Alec learning that his first love, Emily, wasn't what he thought she was, while Second Alec, who was the first Alec, traveled back in time a week to save Emily's life, after she's killed in the first timeline. First, now Second Alec, still loves Emily, no matter what.

If others can follow all this with no difficulties they are much better viewers than I am.  In the meantime, as the two Alecs and the Second Kiera dash about, the timelines are getting ever more muddled and history in the past and the future is changing. This further complicates the plots because it's not always easy to distinguish what seem volte faces of characters and their relationships with each other as they seemed previously.

Further we're presented with Kiera's past -- which is still in our future --  beginning when she's still a young girl, and not yet a Protector.  But -- is her time traveling changing her past as well?

Tonight I'll watch the seventh episode (there are thirteen), and will perhaps understand things better.

As well, I am hoping that Alec Sadler, who the series isn't about --

Note: the captions says "the future is in her hands."
it's Kiera's show -- isn't edging the focus from her to himself.  The show couldn't handle two Kieras -- i.e. two supercompetent females leads --  but we have two Alecs, and the Alecs are supergenius-nerds, who are getting at least twice the amount of screen time than previously.

What I'm like most about Continuum, is how well the writers are connecting labor, capitalism, and the corporate state with the police state, in both our present and the future.  Indeed, in Kiera's future, the state has gone full circle in which every person owes a life debt to the state -- which is connected to one's economic status --  which debt gets adjusted in various ways  up and down, including execution when the debt is greater than one's economic value.  This value is assessed by many criteria: treason is of course a debt that merits execution. This sort of conceptualization seems to indicate the writers have carefully read at least the first

sections of David Graeber's Debt: The First 5,000 Years (2011).

So far though, Continuum's writers haven't overtly connected these conditions to so many jobs being performed by robots and other automation,* though it is implied, whenever there are scenes set in a college or university, and the many public protests included throughout the seasons' episodes.  It's this that makes the over-arching time lines of both "present" and future so plausible in Continuum.

Continuum does seem to be asking the important questions, and further inquires, what are the answers, and how can we get to them?

Alas, so far, there's been no hard announcement there's going to be a season 4 of Continuum, though it was scheduled to be made "early in August."


*  Just this week: room service and check-in desk will be robots:

the Aloft Hotel in Cupertino, Calif,  ... will begin using an R2D2-esque robot for such trips. Fittingly, Aloft’s parent company, Starwood Hotels, tests the latest technology at the Silicon Valley hotel. Guests can enter their rooms with a smartphone app and bypass the traditional check-in process at the front desk.

So very soon now, not even turning your city, your region into an extractive, toxic tourist playground will provide even the most menial of jobs, that are always touted as "jobs creation," and o so good for the economy.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Lost Girl - Season 4

Lost Girl's season three was darker than earlier seasons.  Season four was much darker than season three. There were no recreational scenes of our friends hanging out and enjoying themselves together, nor, though there was a lame attempt to have a non-arc episode with -- mermaids???? -- that didn't work at all.

Season 3 had managed a few of those before the cliff-hanger ending.

This season, Beau's character as action hero in danger presented problems as the actress, Anna Silk, was so very pregnant that one was always anxious about the baby, as well as distracted by the obviousness of angles and costumes that were intended to distract us from noticing her pregnancy.

However, Lost Girl's costume designers were better than ever throughout this season;

it was the writers who dropped the avian arc imagery and theme that we began with, not wardrobe. This was a particular shame as a major character whose superpower is that of sound is killed before the conclusion (no spoiler).

It seems the writers were as hesitant about the material as the directors might have been in figuring out how to make a pregnant action heroine perform that role. We don't even see Beau in the first episode, which must have thrown them off their writing stride right out the gate, and they never recovered it.

They never quite explored anything that they gave us at the start including both the Wanderer and the avian-wing creatures.  We get a glimpse of what it might have been with that spectacular scene in the conclusion of the final episode with Tamsin's wings arising in full Valkyrie glory.

The obviousness of the attempts to divert the watcher from noticing the pregnancies interfered with my suspension of disbelief. I had the same experience attempting to watch Ringer and the last season of Scandal -- both of which I stopped watching about half way in, though for other reasons than the pregnancy of the actresses playing the protagonists. Once Anna Silk was no longer pregnant I had trouble transitioning back to her as Beau, rather than Silk.

Nor did it seem the smartest writing in television to conclude two seasons in a row with a primary character gone missing: Beau at the end of season 3 and Kenzie at the end of season 4.  A bit too Buffy-esque here.  I have both admired and enjoyed the panache of the Lost Girl's writers light-hearted delight in snaring this and that from television and book fantasies, but by the end of season 3 the “borrowing” began to feel less blythe than desperate.

One may think season 5 will more than hit the series' sell-by date.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Best Beach / Summer Vacation Read

My best summer read didn't take place at a beach, but on the university's outdoor swimming pool deck. I spent the mornings in intensive Spanish classes (two semesters in 6 weeks), nights memorizing and drilling Spanish irregular verbs, grammar and prepositions.  The middle afternoon, after a bout at the gym, it was swimming time, under the golden sun and turquoise sky of New Mexico.

That summer I read for the first time, Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.  In-between long takes of Kostya Lev's meditations, Anna's dresses, Kitty's disappointment,

Stiva and Dolly's marital ups and downs, the most exciting horse race ever written, haymaking, babies born and brothers dying -- I'd leap into the pool to cool off and swim some laps.

 It smells faintly still of my coconut-hibiscus scented tanning oil.

Anna's rise to passion and fall to suicide lasted the whole summer.

When I finished the novel, the Spanish course was finished and it was time to pack, leaving behind this paradise to New York, and a life that not only would not be centered around a university, but where winter mattered, and except for him, I knew not a soul.

That summer I was also madly, passionately in love, and living with him!

There were many adventures, felicities and infelicities, in many places, still ahead for him and me, including break-ups and separations. Then, we got married.  The adventures -- and the marriage -- are still works in progress.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Bezos vs. Writers

Steve Bezos owns the Washington Post.

After reading the latest updates in the Authors vs. Bezos/amazilla stand-off in this AM's NY Times article, it was interesting to search back to the start as to how the WaPo reports on the matter.

As to be expected, quislings like Alyssa Rosenberg -- who thinks Got is not degrading of women as characters or actresses -- in the WaPo, tells us right up front, right the start of the battle, that amazilla is doing good for writers by holding up authors' books, denying customer service fulfillment on their books, and taking a much larger chunk of writers' earning for itself to fund such things as purchasing the WaPo from where it can further shape public opinion in favor of amazilla -- while still providing no profits to stockholders and investors (other than Bezos, of course).

Some days back science fiction author, Walter Jon Williams, posted a well-thought out desciption of what is the actuality is of the relationship between amazilla and writers, and what amazilla is in reality doing to writers and creatives of all kinds, here.

The argument of Bezos that his exploitation of writers for the sake of his wealth is good for writers is eerily reminiscent of the argument of slaveowners that slavery is an excellent situation for the enslaved, and the only victims here are the slaveowners.

Patrick Henry's Red Hill home
Not to mention how reminiscent is the whining of those who cannot bear to have their convenience and low prices threatened to Patrick Henry's faux sigh that due to the general convenience of slavery, slavery cannot be abolished.