". . . 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 30, 2015

Netflix's Narcos

Narcos became available streaming from Netflix on Friday.

I have watched the first three episodes. Narcos is engrossing me specifically from an historical viewpoint (though when our narrator first sees the woman he's going to marry, her hairstyle is at least 40 years out of period -- pure 2014-2015, not 197whatever)  How people who are looking for adventure drama primarily will see it I don't know.

It continues to amaze me to know these events took place in a time long before I ever knew the existence of the places the series , much less seen them, though, so far, I've only seen them through el V's eyes and experience:  Bogotá, Cartegena, Baranquilla, Medellín, etc.  Medillín now is a hip and cool city, capital of salsa music and dancing, with fine hotels, restaurants, shopping and parks.

I particularly appreciate the scenes that have the astounding Spanish baroque architecture of cathedrals and and public buildings as the frame for the latest capitalist extraction out of the New World of a product, cocaine, that is as highly addictive and profitable as sugar and slavery ever were, and remain.

I'm also enjoying the Spanish that is spoken many of the scenes. This is done with nimbleness and skill. An English-only speaker isn't going to be disturbed out of engrossment in the scenes by either the Spanish or the subtitles. As English and Spanish deftly interchange with each other, so too does the smooth insertion of the historic television footage and the newspaper photographs and headlines of Escobar's days.

Some have criticized both Boyd Holbrook, who plays Steve Murphy, the American DEA narrator, and his voice overs, but I like him and the narration very much. For me, this narration contributes to the overall sense of a timeless epic, framed within a Colombian-Amazonia South American perspective: another twist in the knotted saga that is the long, violent, bloody history of  South America's struggles with Strong Men from Cortés to Bolívar to Pinochet, and the Escobars.

The cast is uniformly good, including Steve Murphy's partner, Javier Peña, played by Pedro Pascal.

The critics agree: the principal player, Pablo Escobar's Wagner Maniçoba de Moura (a Brasilian, he needed to learn Spanish for this role) is very, very, very good. He's a little pudgy, a little paunchy.  His eyes alternately reveal a stone cold killer and the dreamer who imagines being president of Colombia and helping  the poor against the established wealthy elite who exploit them and the country. He projects that larger-than-life complexity that makes for the very best of villains -- which is countered with the plainer, simpler, USian good guys, of Peña and Murphy.  But this is el norte going against el sud, something long resented throughout South America, so they and the interests they represent aren't that simple or that plain at all.

Why I am liking Narcos quite a bit so far, the Guardian expressed well. A pull from the review:
"It’s not too much like a history lesson? It’s exactly enough of a history lesson. That most of the story is true is utterly fascinating, especially when it comes so close to melodrama with kidnappings, affairs, extortion, murder and a few devious families controlling insane amounts of wealth. It’s like Empire, but with more Spanish and tons of bloodshed. Chris Brancato (an alum of everything from the original Beverly Hills 90210 to several shows in the Law & Order franchise) makes the episodes compulsively watchable and even though the whole plot could be spoiled with a simple Wikipedia search, there is still plenty of action and suspense."
This isn't a series that is for binge watching so much as watching 2 or 3 episodes at a time  -- partly to absorb the historical aspects and to think about what they signify in terms of contemporary issues, including both Europe's and North America's ongoing immigration, drug and labor (including sex trafficking) crises.

Taking one's time watching the series allows one to properly appreciate the great location vistas and backgrounds, as well as to consider them in connection with what literature gringos insist on quantifying as "magical realism" -- which is NOT how South Americans characterize such works as those by Gabriel García Márquez, nor does Márquez himself, for that matter.*

Márquez grew up in  Aracataca, Colombia, and then lived with his grandfather in Baranquilla, where he began his career as a journalist.  As we see in Narcos, journalists still mattered a great deal, in terms of politics, in Escobar's day -- and, in fact, they still do.

OTOH, that's how it works for me, which doesn't mean that's how it works for everyone.


*   I suppose the academic term currently for this might include something that connects to the locution du jour: spacialization, "The Spacialization of Vision in Gabriel García Márquez's Love In TheTime of Cholera."  Every discipline has a form of spacialization now, including the music department, "sound spacialization" and "spatial music," i.e. as on a course syllabus:
"Spatial music is composed music that intentionally exploits sound localization. Though present in Western music from biblical times in the form of the antiphon, ..."
or in Ethnic Studies, "Multi-Ethnic Alliances, or the Spacialization of Race," etc.

or in an anthropology course -- the "spacialization of labor".

You get the picture.

Globalization is as unhip as yesterday.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

New Orleans - Failure of the Levees

In NO this week there's a drinking game. Every time you hear the word "resilience" take one.

Politicians and pundits -- eff u.

Or maybe you should drive the Gulf Coast and do some compare and contrast with the state of the homes of the poor there and the state of the FEMA funded rebuild of the casinos and the -- lordessa save us! -- the "presidential library" of that traitor, Jefferson Davis.

Then talk about your resilience.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Reading Wednesday - Lawrence In Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East

Yet another book about Lawrence of Arabia? This isn't one of those, despite the title. It's T.E. Lawrence within the context of a whole cast of characters in the run-up to, during and after World War One, as the scramble for control of the Middle East by the Powers plays out.  After the war ends, some of these Powers, such as Austria-Hungary and czarist Russia will no longer exist, and a new one, the U.S., will be firmly established on the scene.

 Lawrence In Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East (2013) by Scott Anderson is well worth reading.  It isn't biography as much as it is a history of the Ottoman Empire's loosening grip upon Egypt, Arabia and the Middle East generally -- and the Powers that were already racing in the nineteen aughts to control the region's oil resources.

So, as well as the famous figure of T.E. Lawrence, the reader is introduced to a number of other personages. These other significant figures were from  Germany, Russia, Britain, France, the United States and some of the Jewish migrants from Turkish controlled Rumania and czarist Russia, who were attempting to create what would become Israel after the next Great War. Among them are the French and British Lords Rothschild. All of these people, and the interests they represented, schemed with or against the Ottomans, while Istanbul's young Turks dreamed of updating and reforming the Empire, joining the industrial world.

Emir Faisel, championed by Lawrence
In the meantime all these various sides had vicious intra-conflicts as well. "Betrayal and Lies", as Lawrence learned, was the real name of the game, whether nationalist, corporate, military or Zionist. Tragedies in real life make for a great cast of colorful personalities in a book of history.

The German Arabist Dr Curt Prüfer  (unlike the other figures, there are no photos of him on the web, it seems) is one of the most interesting of these men (for some reason, with the exception of Sarah Aaronsohn, in this history they are all men, these figures loyally working to control the region for their nation or their employer).  A sickly baby and child, a botched operation produced his whispery voice and frail physique, leaving him wide-open to accusations not usually even barely concealed of homosexuality, despite his wife and numerous liaisons with other women.  Nor was he member of the German aristocracy, so rising beyond a certain point in a diplomatic career (also, read for diplomacy, intelligence). was out of the question. However, like Lawrence, he was born with a facility for languages, picking them up quickly and accurately.  As Arabic is a most difficult language to master, he was a valuable player. He ended his life as a nazi ambassador-spy to Brazil during WWII.

The American aristocrat in the game was William Yale (yes, a descendant of that Yale), an employee of the Standard Oil Company of New York. He came to the region originally undercover as a wealthy playboy -- which disguise the young Lawrence ferreted out immediately -- to prospect for the same oil that the British coveted,  as they were converting the British navy from coal power to oil. When the U.S. joined the War on the side of Britain he began gathering intelligence for the U.S. Later he became a distinguished history professor.

Aaron Aaronsohn and wife.

Born in Romania, Aaron Aaronsohn emigrated to Palestine, toured the U.S. as an agricultural scientist, His dream was not only a Jewish state in Palestine, but one that supported itself by agriculture. His initial botanical station at Athlit, on the Palestine coast, was successful -- and plundered by the Ottoman overlord's military under the guise of requisition. He chose to support the British in the region when war came, even before Turkey entered the war. Aaronsohn died in an airplane crash after he attended the 1919 Peace Conference.

Sarah Aaronsohn,sister of botanist Aaron Aaronsohn, referred to as The Heroine of Nili;" the Nili was a Zionist spy ring working for the Brits in Palestine in WWI.
Earlier, his sister and spy collaborator, Sarah, had killed herself, during a brutal Turkish captivity.

Like Lawrence, all of these men and their associates became vital forces in intelligence for their governments and / or allies, helping determine the decisions and the direction of actions during the war and after.

They tended to converge in Cairo. Their descriptions of the thousands of Aussie troops stuck in Cairo after long confinement on ships to get there, waiting transport to Europe, are vivid. The Aussies turned Cairo into a puke-drowned brothel, raping and fighting constantly, dead drunk in the gutters. The British were deeply concerned because, until now, they claimed, the average "arab" had viewed "the white man" as a vastly superior creature.  The Aussies destroyed that image of "the white man" forever.

Scott Anderson is interviewed about his book and Lawrence in this YouTube video.

Among the valuable take-aways, i.e., what I didn't know before reading the book, for me from Lawrence in Arabia, is the role of the oil industry in wrenching the Palestine and the region from Turkey. It also gives a coherent picture of the Young Turks, their goals and how they went about achieving them, to make Turkey a modern country.

The book is lengthy, but it's consistently interesting; though dense with information, it reads easily.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Interview With Samuel R. Delany

"The award-winning novelist discusses the intersection of race, sexual identity, and science fiction. By Cecilia D’Anastasio"

Among the questions D'Anastasio asks is this one:

CD: You have said, “For better or for worse, I am often spoken of as the first African-American science-fiction writer.” What did you mean by that?

Delany has a long and interesting response.  Here's a pull of a single paragraph in this response:
 ". . . . But another set of ghosts are needed to make our own discussion here make sense—ghosts who come from the genre (and I used the word advisedly) we call “the literary.” For an idea of how much literature has changed since I first entered the field as a writer in 1962, or perhaps when, in 1966, I attended my first science-fiction convention in Cleveland, consider first what the academy that gives us our sense of what literature is teaches today—and then consider how that differed from what it taught in 1967. In that year, there were no virtually black studies classes (much less programs or departments); there were no women’s studies classes or programs, and no gay studies or queer studies classes or programs."

After reading that paragraph, I sat and thought about it for a long time. This is called living history, and Delany is very aware of doing so.  Even the universities today aren't what they were when black studies, women's studies, gay studies, etc. were founded.

Checking out the interview is worthy it just to see the the very fine James Hamiltonphoto-portrait of Delany that illustrates the interview at the top.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Cli-Fi - Climate Change SF

I'm not entirely convinced the author of "Climate change is so dire we need a new kind of science fiction to make sense of it" has stated the entire picture of what we need to change, slow and stop climate change's inevitable consequences, which will be dire for all of us, or at least anyone not of the 0.01%.

Changing a subset of science fiction classifications to Cli-Fi in which protagonists deal with the near future consequence of die-off due to lack of water and oxygen seems like expecting effective political and social changes happens by "tweets 'n likes". Nor may we have the luxury of thinking about how this will affect our distant descendants generations from now, because the impacts for so many are already here.  Even in places that aren't drought-tortured regions of Africa with booming birth rates nevertheless, how many 100-200-500 year disasters within a year or a decade can a nation handle effectively? (Or, perhaps, the author could have had more to say and propose, but due to space, the editor didn't allow that part?)

We need much more than a new name for fiction in order to explore, create and implement any effective change of route upon this headlong trajectory to self-destruction it seems we're on. Just think of how to rid ourselves of the oil dependency that is embedded and entwined in everything in all our lives, from our shampoos and moisturizers, our transportation, our cosmetics, our agri-biz, our communications -- everything.  It's like slavery -- it took a long and bloody war to burn that down, and in the end, due to federal indifference, the laws were no longer enforced other than there no longer was overt buying and selling, and ownership of babies, and calculating wealth and taxes via the bodies of human beings.* 

What will it take to rid ourselves of unsustainable extraction industries, including the wholesale destruction of the rain forests that provide our oxygen, and many, many ways, our water?  What will it take to stop the wholesale destruction of our oceans and the life they used to support?

Writing and thinking are essential. But don't we need more, including collective action that happens simultaneously with convincing people there is dire need for change?


*  That aspect of slavery was finished for good -- we hope! but then, there's this sort of thing by rightrightrightwinter talk show Jan Mickleson's frighteningly reminiscent of secessionist fire eater sublime, George Fitzhugh's Cannibals All! Or Slaves Without Masters, in which he proposes that anyone, whatever color, who isn't a wealthy white man, was a candidate for being enslaved. 

As to how easily and quickly what is enacted law, decided law, can be changed, by various means, think of  how impossible it is for women to get abortions even where abortion is legal in federal law as in the U.S. -- and even contraception -- even to save the life of the mother who is carrying a dead fetus.

When de facto abolition of abortion has happened here, why can't de facto slavery?  The Constitution has a built in loophole for slavery, i.e. criminals. Which is why our industrial prison complex is so lucrative.

This is what Mickleson is proposing with his outline that Iowa arrest undocumented people, imprison, put to work.  The precedent is the work gangs on the Jim Crow plantations.  Any time a nabob in the south needed a workforce the local sheriff rounded up any black man he could find, on the flimsiest of excuses, he getting paid a set amount for each "prisoner" he brought to the buyer.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The American Slave Coast Give Away

From the publicist for The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry by Ned Sublette and Constance Sublette:

I wanted to make you aware of a giveaway that Chicago Review Press has set up on GoodReads for The American Slave Coast.
We are offering 10 copies and the giveaway is running Aug 5 through September 15. 
If you would like to share information about the giveaway, here is the link to the giveaway:

Reading Wednesday - Elizabeth And Her German Garden

Elizabeth And Her German Garden was first published in 1898.  It was Elizabeth Von Arnim's (1866-1941) first book, but like the husband she had when making this garden, it was as far from being her only book as the "Man of Wrath," as he's referred to in the book, would be her only husband.

Elizabeth and Her German Garden was published anonymously.
Knowing only this factoid about the author the reader will know she's in for something unusual and quirky -- even satirical.  Satirical indeed is Elizabeth And Her German Garden, in the mode as other books, arch in tone and complacently upper class, as Max Beerbohm's
Zuleika Dobson (1911), Stella Gibbons's literary parody, Cold Comfort Farm (1932) and Nancy Mitford's comedies of manners.

Elizabeth And Her German Garden was immensely popular, either in spite of or because it addressed so many of the matters the early first wave feminists discussed, but did so within a frame of gardening -- a typical, acceptable female occupation in England -- as a radical female act in Prussian Germany, going against appropriate class and gender avocation.

As were many of these early, outspoken female radicals Elizabeth was an aristocrat.  For that matter she was an aristo times two. Mary Annette Beauchamp was born into a wealthy English family while they were living their Australian holiday home. She married first the German Count Henning August von Arnim-Schlagenthin. As might be suspected from the author referring to him as the Man of Wrath, this marriage wasn't particularly successful, despite five children, among whose tutors were E.M. Forster and Hugh Walpole.  By good fortune, Arnim-Schlagenthin died in 1910, leaving her free to marry John Francis Stanley Russell, 2nd Earl Russell, elder brother of Bertrand Russell. This marriage was also unsuccessful. She left him, but as they never divorced she had affairs -- she was one of H.G. Wells's mistresses --  rather than husbands. She lived many places during the course of her colorful life. Having fled the bombs and war, she died of wartime influenza in Charleston, South Carolina. She was cremated in Maryland; her ashes were brought back to England in 1947.

From wiki:

Arnim's husband had increasing debts and was eventually sent to prison for fraud. This was when she created her pen name "Elizabeth" and launched her career as a writer by publishing her semi-autobiographical, brooding, yet satirical Elizabeth and her German Garden (1898). Detailing her struggles both to create a garden on the estate and her attempts to integrate into German high-class Junker society, it was such a success that it was reprinted twenty times in its first year.[7] A bitter-sweet memoir and companion to it was The Solitary Summer (1899). Other works, such as the The Benefactress(1902), Vera (1921) and Love (1925), were also semi-autobiographical. Other titles dealing with protest against domineering Junkerdom and witty observations of life in provincial Germany were to follow, including The Princess Priscilla's Fortnight (1905) and Fraulein Schmidt and Mr Anstruther(1907). She would sign her twenty or so books, after the first, initially as "by the author of Elizabeth and Her German Garden" and later simply "By Elizabeth".
Although she never wrote a traditional autobiography, 'All the Dogs of My Life', her 1936 account of her love for her pets, contains many glimpses of the glittering social circle of which she was part.
I enjoyed listening to Elizabeth And Her German Garden very much. However, her attitude to the "underclasses" is disturbing,. The narrator always refers to them as a matter of course as animals and children -- while in that typical feminist manner of the privileged class, she takes enormous umbrage at the males of the ruling class to which she belongs, who refer to her and women in general as "animals, children and idiots." In Germany the classification of those who are not allowed to attend political meetings, vote or own property were "animals, children and idiots." 

She rather likes hat in Germany, where she is making a garden on her husband's Nassenheide, Pomerania estate with migrant labor, that masters and mistresses may by law employ corporal punishment upon their barely paid employees -- many of whom in Prussia come from Russia and Poland.
In her favor, the narrator of Elizabeth And Her German Garden does feel keenly that the women among these laborers are unfairly treated and argues with the Man of Wrath about it. These women are beaten as a matter of course by their husbands, paid less than the men for doing the same work, perform yet more work in their family, and as well, do it while pregnant, and immediately after giving birth. The Man of Wrath complacently informs her that is why women are inferior beings, because they are weaker than men and can be beaten, because they get pregnant and have to take care of babies.
Perhaps more than any other impression this reader-listener has taken away from Elizabeth And Her German Garden is how much again things in the so-called enlightened nations have returned in terms of wealth, class and labor and gender, particularly for migrant labor, to what they were before World War I. 
Many of her works, including Enchanted April, have been adapted for the stage and films. Virago has reprinted them.
Wiki further informs that many of her works are available online:
Works by Elizabeth Von Arnim at Project GutenbergWorks by or about Elizabeth von Arnim at Internet ArchiveWorks by or about Mary Annette Beauchamp at Internet ArchiveWorks by Elizabeth von Arnim at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks) 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Reading Wednesday - Flood of Fire, Napoleon: A Life and Taj Mahal: Passion and Genius At the Heart of the Moghul Empire

Being alone for the first part of the week, as well as recovering from the surgery, there has been time for books.

I've been alternating among three books.

The English jacket art is prettier.

The novel is Flood of Fire (2015), the final volume of Amitav Ghosh's wonderful historical fiction Ibis Trilogy centered on the 19th century opium trade and the opium wars, featuring a vast and diverse cast of interesting characters from the UK, India and China -- with a few Americans.  Among the reading pleasures of this trilogy is that recurring characters from one volume to another, move in a novel manner from supporting roles to primary ones, and vice versa, which allows for fresh takes on shared experiences. One of the Americans, Zachery Reid, is this time a primary character, a skilled seaman, from Baltimore's internationally famed shipyards, where he learned his shipbuilding and woodworking skills. He also happens to be so lightskinned that away from his birthland, he is classified as white.

The biography is the Thatcherite, Andrew Roberts 's Napoleon: A Life  -- (2014) -- the English publication is titled Napoleon the Great.

The history is the Blackstone audible edition of Taj Mahal: Passion and Genius At the Heart of the Moghul  Empire (2007) -- the U.S. edition of this work also has a different title, Taj Mahal: A Love Affair At the Heart of the Moghul Empire by Diana and Daniel Preston. Neither of these titles accurately reflects the matters that are the book's primary focus, which is the history of the Timur family descended from Tamerlane that established the Moghuls' Indian empire, and their heartless internecine battles to own the empire. However, those stories cannot and are not told by the Prestons without including love stories, particularly that of Shāhjahān's stepmother, the powerful Nur, who ruled his father, Jahāngīr, and who wished to rule the empire as well, and Shāhjahān's love for his wife, Nur's niece, Arjūmand Bānū Begum.  This is the story of the Red Fort, Persia and Afghanistan even more than that of the Taj Mahal. With those materials how can it be less than fascinating, and fascinating it is.  Among the things this book has taught me so far is that Charles the Second received Mumbai as part of his marriage settlement for marrying the Portuguese princess, Catherine de Branganza.

An additional interest for me is that the book is co-written by a husband and wife.

Talk about the vast reach and interconnections of the British Empire.  The British Empire central in all these books, in Europe and Asia.

That Thatcherite, Andrew Roberts, is in favor of empires, is a given . . . .

West Point Historian Speaks: Slavery The One and ONLY Cause of of the U.S. Civil War

Colonel Ty Seidule, Head of the Department of History at the United States Military Academy at West Point speaks in a video-lecture that goes, ahem, right to the point of slavery and the U.S. Civil War. He concludes by pronouncing how proud he is of belonging to the Army of the United States, that fought to end slavery, and included then over 200,000 former slaves, now soldiers in the U.S. Army.

Prager University has made Colonel Seidule's video available here.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Reading A Thatcherite - Napoleon Bonaparte

Huh. This doesn't look like Merryl Streep.

I have on hand Napoleon: A Life (English publication title, Napoleon The Great) by Andrew Roberts (2014).

This isn't the first biography or study of Napoleon I've taken on by any means.  But it is the first one to be published since the massive publication of all of Napoleon's correspondence; the past editions left out a third of the letters for various political or axe-grinding reasons. It is also the first work on Napoleon written by a self-proclaimed Thatcherite.  On his wiki and other sites, Robert refrains from mentioning any other reason for his conversion to Thatcherism other than he agreed that the UK had no reason to join the European Union and / or change it's own currency.  From early in his adult life he has always been deeply embedded in the UK's upper echelons of the business and financial communities -- he's currently married to the CEO of "the Brunswick Group LLP and a Governor of the South Bank Centre." 

Roberts is a prolific and most successful historian - journalist.  For all his publications and many honors and dignities received, including several BBC programs made from his books go his wiki here.  

There's a lot here to make me skeptical about his work.  On the other hand, he has a deep and authentic knowledge about the man and the era via his previous works, all of which are mostly well received.

As far as this bio of Napoleon, the reviews are mixed.  Several have mentioned that Roberts has allowed his hero-worship of the man spoil his interpretation and perceptions.  For my own most important concerns around Napoleon, which is slavery, the slave trace, the Saint-Domingue slave uprising, Toussaint, the Caribbean wars with Britain, the sale of the Louisiana Territory, and the earlier accompanying matters of the Revolution's and Directory's relationships with and treatment of the very young United States -- there's hardly anything. This isn't unusual in studies of Napoleon, particularly those by British writers.  They got their own ass kicking in Saint-Domingue and don't like thinking about that much.  They also overplayed their hand with the U.S. in this era, which led to the War of 1812, which wasn't good for Britain in the end.  And most of all the Brit historians lurve Rear-Admiral Nelson, Trafalgar, the Peninsular War and Waterloo. So there ya go -- no Saint-Domingue or Louisiana or the U.S.

But this sort of thing reminds us how basic it is to research to read only a single work by a single writer, and that we need to read many works by many writers from different political and social perspectives -- and from different eras.

I don't think there's need to question Roberts on the facts of the matters -- it's all about the spins he gives them.  So I like to compare and contrast.

I do respect and profoundly admire what Roberts has accomplished in his life's works.  There are thousands and thousands of works on Napoleon alone, many published even when he was alive -- and he's read enormous numbers of them. His french must be perfection, which I envy!  I also envy him his resources: he's personally visited, in company of experts, over 50 of the 63 battle grounds where Napoleon personally commanded.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Playing Arthur Russell

El V leaves here tonight with a passel of fine musicians, to play Arthur Russell music, directed by Peter Gordon, over there in England and Scandinavia.

Here's the itinerary:

August 10th, Visions Festival. 
Venue: Oval Space, 29-32 The Oval, London E2 9DT, UK. Doors 19:30.

August 11th. 

Travel: Train from London Euston to Liverpool Lime St. 1121 - 1321.

Venue: Kazimier, 4-5 Wolstenholme Sq. Liverpool L1 4JJ, UK. Doors 19:00

August 12th -- Day Off. Flight from Manchester To Oslo. 2005 - 2305.

August 13th
Venue: Oya Festivalen, Toyenparken, Oslo, Norway.

August 14th. 

Travel: Flight from Oslo to Helsinki. 0910 - 1135.

Flow Festival, Parrukatu, 00540 Helsinki, Finland.

Myself, I will remain here, recovering from the bone graft and molar extraction, hanging out with Austin amiga, who will arrive here on Tuesday, to play the Lone Star Reunion at B.B. King's, with her family band, Greezy Wheels. The person who did this violence to my person was so good my recovery is swift. I may even be able to have a beer or two again by next Thursday night when the music happens.  Beer goes with my stompin' cowboy boots, yanno. 

The weather here btw is wonderful.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Reading Wednesday - The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects

The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects (2015) W.W. Norton

English professor Deborah Lutz applies contextual historical material culture to illuminate the lives and works of the Brontës via, as the title so speaks, nine material objects that have survived since their deaths.

The chapter titled "Death Made Material" centers the amethyst bracelet that features on the book's jacket, worn by Charlotte, made from "the entwined hair of Emily and Anne."  The bracelet was made most probably by a professional "hairworker," a profession that employed thousands in 1830's and 40's Britain.

Mourning jewelry as part of the grieving process was only part of what hairworkers provided, but objects incorporating a beloved dead person's hair was the largest part of the profession.

Manuals for how people could and prepare the hair in their own homes and incorporate it into other objects, such as keepsake portraits of the dearly departed, drawn landscapes and tableaus incorporating graveyards and other melancholy signatures were available and popular.

As would be the case with this sad though very talented family, much of The Brontë Cabinet deals with illness, death, grief and mourning. However it also retrieves the economic and social constructs around the matters of women who write professionally, household pets and genteel women's letter writing -- which latter brings us to the development and history of mail, the penny post, Valentines and other matters.

The author, not needing to, doesn't mention that as much as hairworkers, letter writing and the post office are dead letters now.  That, though not expressed, says more about how distant in time now the Brontës are, than anything else.  Yet their work endures, and we remain as fascinated by anything that had physical contact with this family as the celebrity seekers in their own time, As the author does point out this determination to own something of figures that impact their fans is as old as saints' relics and this is anything but a dead matter.

Often, as with many Brontë collections the relics need not even be authentic. What matters is what the possessor believes s/he possesses.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sense8, Ex Machina and Prophet Gibson

Watching Sense8 has been such a slog that days, weeks, and now, over a month has gone by since watching an episode.  I don't recall which episode I viewed last but then netflix does that for me. :)

Part of the problem for this viewer is it looks like the sort of video loops that play at a rave, or a Burning Man event. The series is not located in the kind of world most people inhabit, but a pick-and-choose-your-own-adventure global picture post card world, with neither cause nor effect as to what shows up, other than it looks pretty and / or exotic.

It broadcasts the world-view of those for whom it seems climate change, loss of human work, etc. are never considered because they exist at the levels where they aren't affected by it. That little is left of the natural world doesn't much matter for these are the sorts that are most comfortable existing in an entirely constructed artificial space where the sensory comes through jacks and shunts of one sort or another directly to the brain, not through the senses of hands, eyes and ears, but highly elegant or gory simulacrum of experience:  games, television, graphic novels, fashion and so on. These are the sorts that populate William Gibson's novels, who are thoroughly at home in this post-natural world of pixels and constant, complete connection.  So are Sense8's creators and writers, the Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski.

Lately I've been thinking of Sense8 in this aspect of sensory and other experience, along with Ex Machina. The the local shops' windows are already becoming inhabited with a fantasy of autumn fashion (despite we have cooling shelters and so on practicing right now due to the heat, pollution and humidity).

More than  few of these windows are centering the new mannequins, fashioned after the unclothed, unfleshed AI constructs of Ex Machina.  Some of the windows have even left out the clothes the stores supposed are selling, leaving the space empty other than an artistically arranged collection of cyber limbs and a naked torso that reveals the inner working of the technology.

Fashion, like this almost present world of AIs, the internet of things and Sense8, is a world of infinite possibilities, a series of masques on the walls of an infinite series of halls.  Or, as the NY Times reported this weekend "Fashion Finds a More Perfect Model: The Robot." The title of the slide show is, "So Much Like Humans, Only Better."

However, cranky moi has never found a single the DJ music experience even remotely the splendid, transcendent, transformational experiences she's had from living, human musicians playing together. One uses what others make, and the musicians make it. With human musicians even the gods come down to dance with us.

This is essential to humans, but not to AI's or robots or androids.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Witches of East End - Second, Final Season - No Spoilers

Along with finishing watching the 6th and final season of White Collar (2014) last week, I finished watching the second, and also final, season of The Witches of East End (2014).

This second season took too much time to get cooking, with a confusing detour to somewhere called Santo Domingo (the capital of the Dominican Republic?), where some bogusity called Santería is practiced by a latina witch, which is as perverted and phony as the Santería found back in some vicinity of the nowherelandia that is the series's East End -- mama witch Joanna kept a concealing spell around East End for a long time, which may explain why we are without a geographic clue.  So it's not surprising the series lost viewer numbers, which got it cancelled -- cancelled with numerous cliffhangers of all kinds too.*

Aunt Wendy, Freya, Joanna, Ingrid.

This series is a cobbly-gook of everything from Buffy to Vamp Diaries.  Yet, due to the focus on the older witches being sisters with different curses there is an intrinsic interest here -- and the people are very pretty.  So it does work to at least a degree.  Especially when it's been as hot and humid as these last weeks have been!

However, during the second third of this cancelled series' second season, James Marsters appears.  He's a supernatural Bad Guy second banana to the Head Bad Guy, the "King of Asgard." Make of Asgard what you will; Asgard is not the least of the preposterosities of this charming show populated by very pretty actors. How not charming?  Joanna, the central witch played by Julia Ormond, with Mädchen Amick playing her sister witch, Wendy.

For Marsters's Tarkoff in East End, no bleached hair, definitely older, still possessed of all of Spike's menace, particularly the signature Spike clenching of the jaw muscles under the Signature Spike cheekbones.  In Witches Marsters sings; also wears a skinny tie.


* Why does it seem impossible for we white (and sometimes African American too), North American writers, whether of novels, television or the movies, to get the Afro-latin religions and African religions right?  Particularly those practiced in the Caribbean? Not to mention forever blathering about the Underground Railroad in the deep south?  "Underground Railroad" was a term not in use until after Justice Taney's disgraceful, criminal ruling of Dred Scott and the 1850 passage of the draconian Fugitive Slave Act. What was called the Underground Railroad operated, principally, for obvious geographic reasons. The southern antebellum slave society by then was a vast, lockdown prison for people of color -- there were no more places to run, thus no slave uprisings any longer, until John Brown. The "underground railroad ran out of the border states to the free states and from there up into Canada, as no one was secure in freedom in the northern states by then thanks to the Fugitive Slave laws and the Dred Scott ruling. Far more recovered and kidnapped free citizens of color were kidnapped out of the north to be returned and sold into slavery in the south than ever got to the north. See Eric Foner, among others for what was and was not the underground railroad.

Or, the travesties in BH's Crimson Angel, with the Ekpe / Abakuá Leopard Society shoved into Haiti . . . in the 1830's yet! when these people from the Cross River region only began to be brought to the Caribbean just before the San Domingue slave uprising began, ending the the trade there -- where it is not now and never was at all.

See amigo Ivar Miller's great 2009 study, Voice of the Leopard, or Ned Sublette's Cuba and It's Music, and most certainly the founding father of all these studies, Robert Farris Thompson's, Flash of the Spirit).

 In the new world the Leopard Society, associated with the practitioners of Abakuá (which doesn't exclude them from practicing other religions as well; syncretization and ecumenicism is all in the Afro Latin world) is found here only in Cuba, and there only in Matanzas, it's stronghold, and parts of Havana. They controlled the docks in Matanzas and Havana. Serious thugs, they were feared in the streets of Havana for a very long time. Their reputation isn't respectable to this day. They are the rumberos who play the rumbas -- and that isn't the ballroom dance competition rhumba, not at all, but something else, very different.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

White Collar Au Revoir 2

I enjoyed the White Collar series so much.  The enjoyment was due to Neal Cafferty's friends. Each episode was like going to the perfect party. The finale was so good that I'm still enjoying it in retrospect.


Thank you, cast, writers and showrunners for providing six seasons of intelligent, adult, charming entertainment, and not least, the pitch perfect finale.