". . . 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

Friday, April 28, 2017

Scythians, Vikings and Their Horses

     . . . . Guess what boys and girls? Those Scythians, you know those nomadic horse-riding, horse centered culture people,   

who hunted and battled from horseback, ate their meat, drank their milk (and sometimes their blood) for thousands of years, from China and Siberia to the Black Sea and beyond? 

Scythian horse and trainer.

Guess what -- they had breeding programs for their herds! Who would ever have guessed that people who lived for thousands of years by, for and around the horse would ever think of that.

Scythian saddle.

Do we all think it, well, just happened, that these rode, hunted, fought, ate, herded, conquered, with the horse, and created war chariots to be pulled by horses, and invented stirrups? Because we know people who weren't able to spend their lives playing computer games and taking selfies of themselves eating cookie dough to post on FB, where also people post real time murders, rapes and tortures, and have all their personal information sold to anyone who wants to pay -- the ancient people couldn't possibly be so self-aware, intelligent, creative and inventive as to constantly, consciously improve the ways the horse could serve them, century-after-century.

Read about it here in the NY Times Science section (pay wall!).

Actually it is nice that this history of the nomadic herding horse peoples can be confirmed by DNA investigative tools.

It must have been the tone of the article that set me off? That breathless, hoo boy!, hey nobody ever thought about this before and look what these guys found!

This older NY Times article is also interesting if one is interested in horses (which I am).  Then there were the Vikings and horses. We tend not to associate the Vikings much with horses, but they knew their way around equines just fine, breeding and raising horses that suited their needs. Hey -- these are my people (along with the Poles, who know a whole lot about breeding and training horses too).

This NY Times article suggests that it was a mutation in Icelandic horses during the Viking age that ultimately allowed for the 'amble' gait in horses. Not all horses can do this. What particularly interests me is that the Vikings traded these horses all over Europe -- and, into the Middle East. I keep thinking of horses with coats that allow for survival in a nordic, Icelandic climate, who can amble, finding homes in Damascus and Jerusalem.

Icelander horse performing the tolt - Tolt is "Even 4-beat rhythm with long strides in front and behind, elegant lift and action of the front legs, movements extremely flexible and supple, excellent speed."
Then there's this even older NY Times article. As well as a mutation gene allows for horses that can amble, there is a mutation gene for pacing.  As with the amble gait gene, not all horses have the pacing gene. Both qualities have become embedded in certain varieties of horses by deliberate breeding. What particularly interests me is that many horses in possession this gene that allows for an amble or for pacing, find it difficult to transition from that to a trot or gallop, or at least to do so smoothly. Smooth transition of gaits is a big part on what horses and their riders on show are scored on. That this information has been discovered now allows breeders, owners and trainers to do testing on potential candidates for various events and racing.  If that gene is missing there is no point in spending time and money training this horse, so it can be sent off for another career.*

A video of Icelandic horse round-up:


*  Hopefully another career, and not to the dog and catfood factory . . . .

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Book Sales Up, ebook Sales Down

     . . . . An article in the UK Guardian describes the fall of the Kindle and ebooks, and tries to figure out the whys of it.

Basically -- yah, ebooks just aren't as good a reading experience and totally useless for anything that isn't just skimming.  You sure can't do research with them.

That's what I've been sayin' from the beginning.  For light, thoughtless distraction while riding the subway, OK.  But nothing else.
[ " . . . figures published today by the Publishing Association show that sales of consumer ebooks have dropped by 17%, while sales of physical books are up 8%. Consumer spending on books was up £89m across the board last year, compared with 2015. So why is the physical book winning through? " ] Read the Guardian piece here.

I don't necessarily agree with their conclusion that it is the allure of the physical that is the draw for printed books again.  I still put more value on my own reading needs, pleasures and necessities, that one simply cannot absorb or pay attention to the content on a screen, whether fiction or non.  And then, with history and other important non-fiction forms, all the cites, biblios, indexing, etc. are not there -- and often not the illustrations, including graphs and tables are also not included.  This makes the ebook useless for someone like me.  And I read uncountable numbers of such books every year!

I do agree, however, that audio books are real rival to kindles, etc.

They are still the growth center for publishing (along with illustrated kids' books, which don't work on kindles, etc. either).  People are listening to everything from pod casts of all kinds to enormous numbers of audio titles.  I listen to dozens of audio book every year myself.  All of them history.  Again I'm missing cites, biblios and indices.  But if this is a book that mattes to me personally for research I search out that title and obtain the print copy.  The point here though being that I can absorb content and recall it from the audio version of a text.  But I don't when it's on a screen.

The genre segment of the ebook market is about 50%.  The ebook sales of genre forms increased overall even, about 6%, which makes for great sell-through for crime, thriller, mystery, romance, fantasy etc.  Also for self-publishing.  Almost all self-publishing is done now as ebook format.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Revival: Ertuğrul

     . . . . Resurrection: Ertugrul (2014) 1st season.  Turkish television. Streaming from Netlix.

From Wiki:
Diriliş: Ertuğrul (English: The Revival: Ertuğrul) is a Turkish historical adventure television series created by Mehmet Bozdağ, starring Engin Altan Düzyatan in the title role. It is filmed in Riva, a village in Beykoz, intracity district of Istanbul, and premiered on TRT 1 in Turkey on December 10, 2014. The show is based on the history of the Oghuz Turks and takes place in the 13th century and centers around the life of Ertuğrul, the father of Osman I, the leader of the Ottoman Turks and the founder and namesake of the dynasty that established and ruled the Ottoman Empire. While only a small principality during Ertuğrul's lifetime, would prevail as a world empire under his son's dynasty for the next six centuries after his death.
Love it, and I’m only  3 1/2 episodes into the 30 episodes on offer.  A colorful, exciting historical medieval sword and intrigue adventure – conflicting Turkic tribes, intra-family betrayals, nasty villains, political treason, heroes, Mongols and Templars in the 13th century.

In an early scene Ertuğrul unsaddles this horse, while having an important conversation.  During the scene the horse kept looking at Ertuğrul, happy horse ears cocked toward his voice.  One got the sense that this horse liked the actor, or at least found the guy interesting enough to pay attention to him.  In the previous scene, Ertuğrul sits on the ground and talks to his himself -- or the horse -- attempting to puzzle out the dilemma into which he's plunged his clan by rescuing prisoners who have escaped from the clutches of the Big Bad, who is very powerful and has suzerainty over his people.
The collision of a variety of nomadic horse peoples, all of whom have been disrupted from traditional lands by the fire of the Mongol sweep across the northern steppes.

Their culture and way of life is shown in lovely detail -- yurts, many yurts! The details of the varieties of armor and weapons is terrific. This series has all the elements that make historical drama series my favorite viewing.  It's helping get through the current dearth of availability of such viewing for the moment, as I impatiently anticipate the second season of The Last Kingdom showing up next month streaming on Netflix.

Don't mess with Halim.
Happily, unlike some of the other very popular Turkish television series currently available on Netflix too, Resurrection also keeps the romance / plots to a realistic minimum. Historical / adventure fictions that center the plot on love and romance are most definitely not my cuppa tea.  Though, of course, it is important that Ertuğrul, the son of the Oghuz tribe, connect with Seljuk Halime, as she will be the mother of his son, who will be the forefather of the Ottoman Turks and their empire.

As with most current historical sword etc. fighting costume dramatizations these days, as we see in series out of India and so one, this one too has enthusiastically learned from the Japanese wuxia to shoot the action scenes.  This works out well for the production in countries like Turkey and Inida whose laws forbid graphic, detailed, lascivious scenes of violence, death and / or sex – another reason I enjoy these series.  People are not forever tearing off the clothes and throwing women against the wall to depict passion – even when there’s a perfectly good bed right next to them!  It’s beyond years since that tired, boring, uncreative trope for passion passed its sell-by date.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Memory: Cousins, Church and Television

     . . . . It's taken three days but now I definitively know why nobody I knew saw the televised White House Tour. It was sort of thing my darling beloved cousins, D and B would have watched and talked about -- a lot -- and their parents were indulgent in contrast with our strict and rigid ones. D wouldn't have missed it if it were at all possible to see it.

Older than me, she was as deeply engaged with the nascent celebrity culture as anyone out there could be, every month bringing home all the magazines focused on movies, pop music, fashion and anything directed to the teen girl market.

We didn't see the Tour because it was broadcast February 14th, which in 1962 was on a Wednesday, during Lent. So all of us were in church, as we were every Wednesday night until after Easter, including D and B. After getting home from church the little bit of time we’d have left before bedtime we’d wouldn’t be watching tv, but doing homework -- or -- in my case, reading a book.

Broadcast 10-11 PM on Eastern Standard Time, shows did come on an hour earlier out there than on the East Coast. Still, it would have been on too late in the evening to watch this. Except for special occasions like slumber parties and holidays, kids were generally kept on a strict 8 PM / 9 PM bedtime.

Most adults were in bed by then or 10 at the latest too, in this world where people got up at 5 or 6 AM to deal with livestock chores, and had to ensure the kids were up, breakfasted and ready to be picked up to be taken to the bus at 7 AM to get to school by 8 AM.

The White House Tour was re-broadcast 4 days later on ABC. But we didn’t get ABC until the fall. I know we had it then, because Dr. Kildare was on NBC (Channel 6) and Dr. Ben Casey was on ABC (Channel 10). All the girls were divided into Kildare – Casey preferences, that era’s team  Team Edward -- Team Jacob.

Ha. Three days to confirm that we in our rural community generally did not see the televised White House tour. Which proves how necessary it is to fact check one's memories.

Had no idea about any of this though, when I began wondering about it, due to watching Jackie. Serendipity.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

April Showers

     . . . . A perfect April day, seasonal in the way we used to be used to: not cold, but a light jacket is nice. Intermittent light showers fall from the thin clouds. The sun is palpable behind that almost sheer silvery canopy. 

The patchy fog has wiped out the new Towers on the 9/11 site. It feels almost 16 years ago, when things were still "normal."

Everywhere around are green and flaming red.

The leaves are bursting. For some reason this is the weekend all the largest tulips, for some reason all red, have exploded.

Then I run into one, two, and yet another neighborhood friend, while going about my Saturday street routine. We stop and chat cheerfully, happy for April Showers.

This kind of light is good for photography.  But grocery shopping and carrying an umbrella are bad for photography!

More mundanely, I was awake at 6. But Himself was planning to sleep as late as he could because of tonight's concert. The music is difficult and he wants to be as well-rested as possible. I didn't even turn on my computer. I sat in the kitchen and read the Mantel novel until he really waked up, about 10:30. Then I made him a big breakfast (don't do that often).

He'll be heading out to Brooklyn soon for the rest of the day. Won't be back til probably midnight? I'm not going because I don't love the kind of music that's being presented, and because once Himself left I will be able to get some work in on Far From Anywhere.

Friday, April 21, 2017


     . . . .  One of the mainstream films from 2016 that received fairly unanimous rave reviews and many of them, was  Jackie.

The praise built largely on the performance of Natalie Portman in the role of the grieving widow Jacqueline Kennedy in the first hours, weeks and months after the assassination.  She's in every scene. The reviewers particularly praised Portman's rendition of Jackie's signature voice.

The film's focus is on the assassination, funeral and after, presented in non-linear time inter-cutting.  These days in her life are long before either Jackie O jet setting, or Jackie, editor of coffee table books for Viking.  Critics loved this film, especially the score.  (Myself, it felt rolling with unearned pretension and portension.)

  Effective tear jerking is achieved by the theme song of the popular, award-winning, enduring musical Camelot*(1960), which perhaps just about no one born after 1975 knows these days. What does anyone know about the JFK years in the White House? We sort of know The Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination, maybe Vietnam?

The humiliations are something else we may know now, though couldn't remember because then they were well-hidden by the family and the media in those days, were JFK relentless, blatant infidelities during his marriage. This is tastefully referred to almost only within Jackie's own knowledge.  She is bitter and angry, but her self-control always pulls both her public and personal selves back behind the high, wide wall she's built between herself and this knowledge.  Even before marrying into the Kennedy clan, she was a very private person, keeping almost everything to herself.

JFK and First Lady, Jacquelyn Kennedy, Life Magazine, 1961

JFK and Jackie, 2016 film, Jackie.

What else we know about the JFK period is style, and this means Jackie herself -- her hair, her choice of clothes and colors.

Jacqueline Kennedy with Charles Collingwood during their televised tour of the restored White House in 1962

Part of the reason her style spread throughout the nation, for all age groups and every region, country, suburban and urban, is for the  time a First Lady appeared as herself on television. She led a televised tour of the renovated White House, which she fund-raised and directed. It was one of the most popular broadcasts in network television history.

 The media also covered in detail the brilliant performances in the White House by the greatest artists in the world, particularly in the United States, and glittering White House parties that brought together not just the political elite, but academia, artists, Hollywood and media.  These were planned, organized and hostessed by Jackie.

Jackie's achievement shows us how it was possible, and would only have been possible because of the family background, sensibility, education, imagination, and the flaws, humiliations and insecurities, of this particular First Lady herself.

Whose idea was to equate this period, or as the prize-winning title of the history of the time -- A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. (1965), with the  musical Camelot?  Of course it was Jackie.

If there is a theme in the film it is probably that the sausage we call history is manufactured, edited and shaped by those who have the position and power to do so, and this includes Homer's epics. Despite the many tears, Jackie is clear-eyed about what she is able to do. She is as clear-eyed about this as she is about how most people view her, having no idea of the depth and excellence of her education. This education provides her not only fluency in latin, Spanish and French, and art, but in history. It is her keen awareness of how history is made and styled that allowed her to make such a elegant success of renovating the White House decor and furnishings, but the funeral procession.

At one point in the film Jackie admonishes Bobby Kennedy when he tells her that in the circumstances of how dangerous** it is out there, an 8 block funeral procession, with Jack Kennedy's family and all the heads of state from around the world walking, was out of the question.  "Bobby, this is our last chance!" she snaps through the smoke of her constant cigarette,*** meaning not only ensuring a place in history, but one that will endure as meaning something, beyond the Cuban Missile Crisis, the bog of Vietnam -- and the terrible defeat of their dreams by the assassination of the people who hated them and their ideas and what they stood for.

According to Bobby Kennedy -- in the film -- the greatness of Jackie’s life is that she created both the concept of the JFK White House with King Arthur and the Round Tables dreams at Camelot, and staged her husband’s funeral procession and burial so that the televised imagery of this spectacle would survive at least as impressively long as the McGruder video of the assassination -- and the footage of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in the wake of the Missile Crisis.

Lincoln's funeral cortege traveled over 17,000 miles, from D.C. to NYC and across the US, greeting by thousands of mourners everywhere.
Yet, as important as this may be, it feels superficial. The deepest probe is the very brief and rapid bit of Jackie wondering what will happen to her and the children in the future, as she meditates on Mary Lincoln’s life of poverty after Lincoln’s assassination (which isn’t exactly how it really was, but nevermind).

The most affecting lines the Portman speaks as Jackie is while packing to leave the White House, “I have nothing. Nothing has ever belonged to me.”  Not even her husband, whom she gives away to history entirely with her design for the funeral, the cortege and burial at Arlington.

The fact is, that after her death, when her will was made public, she really did own very little.  The public was shocked, that this woman who was a global celebrity for most of her life, married to two of the most wealthy people in the world of those times, had so little of her own, and hardly any of it -- art, jewelry or real estate -- was valuable in terms in market value.

On the other hand, if anyone -- and a woman at that -- is likely to continue to roll in historical consciousness as long as we are able to have one at least, it is Jacqueline Lee "Jackie" Kennedy Onassis (née Bouvier).


*        Very freely adapted from T.H. White's novel, The Once and Future King.

* *    Another important feature of Jackie is that it recalls for us, both those who lived through the period and those born later, how much hatred for JFK was out there -- from the right.  At one moment during Jackie's own self-doubts as to the wisdom of staging this great requiem procession she thinks of the "Wanted Dead" posters of JFK all around the south where they are campaigning on their way to Texas.  Barry Goldwater and his ilks (recall Goldwater was funded by the Koch Brothers), though never seen on screen, are invoked almost more than LBJ, who is on screen.

* * *  In the scenes in which she's giving her Life Magazine interview with Theodore H. White about what happened, what she thinks etc., along with much else that she reveals with the demands, "You didn't hear that, you don't write that down," is "There are no cigarettes." I wondered if anyone else thought of "There is no owl," spoken by Merlin's shy avian companion when young Wart exclaims about him in "The Sword in the Stone," the first book of The Once and Future King.  (More on Theodore H. White here.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Reading Wednesday: The Underground Railroad + White Tears

     . . . .  During a recent get-together with friends Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad, having recently won the Pulitzer for fiction, was part of the discussion.

The speculative fictional central narrative device chosen by the author, is a physical, industrial railroad, that literally runs underground, was questioned. The reasons for questioning the wisdom of this choice were reasonable: "white people's kids are going to believe it and there are too many phony ideas about the underground railroad already." By this are meant the quilts with special designs, secret maps, white people ran the escape routes, by the means of a secret organization were able to whisk thousands of people from the Deep South's Cotton Kingdom states to free soil states in the north, and many more phony ideas of what the means of escape from antebellum slavery were.*

Whitehead's novel has joined the talking points in the African American community concerning the depictions of slavery being made in popular culture / entertainment, including the controversy that sunk the fortunes of Nate Parker's (2016) film, Birth of A Nation, which seemed poised at the BAFTAs for Oscar recognition until social media revealed to the mass audience that he'd been accused of rape back in college, found not guilty but the woman had committed suicide later. Then of course, there are the Tarantino's massive violence revenge fantasies in which a black slave shoots up evil white slave owners and their henchmen.

I've had long conversations with people, black and white, about the films, but until this occasion hadn't discussed The Underground Railroad. Thinking as both an historian and a fiction writer, the reason the book is called The Underground Railroad and that the author creates a speculative fiction device that is a literal (within the terms of fiction, the novel itself) railroad that runs underground, is that this allows him to recounts all the stations of the African American Passion (it was Easter dinner after all), which history has literally been kept underground, but yet has continued to run in legal and financial documents and in memory.

There is another reason too, which is that the author could then employ the device as form, structure and even to a degree style, all three of which are armors for the novelist's psyche, as well as part of the tool kit for making a coherent story (which often as we know real life is not -- a coherent story).

Beyond that too, the author was allowing himself some sardonic play with white people's -- and black too -- capacity to romanticize the idea of escape route, and generally get so very wrong. He pushed that anti-historical determination to the very limit. In many ways I thought this was brilliant, particularly in aspiration.

Whitehead is not alone among younger novelists who recently have published work that aspires to bring the penetration of the history of US slavery into the present.  But White Tears (2017) by transplanted from England to hipster Brooklyn, Hari Kunzru is not successful in his execution.

Like Colson's novel, White Tears has a spec fic aspect also -- or magical realism as so many love to call that kind of thing (I don't). Though in a sense possession of a so-white guy by a long dead (fictional) blues man who suffers horrendous abuse in prison after murdering with a knife his girlfriend -- and then somehow gets the white boy to murder people with a knife too and suffer terrible abuse in prison -- is perhaps more horror than spec fic?

Maybe Kunzru was attempting to make fun of white guys grasping for personal authenticity by going for 'authentic' black stuff? (Want something good, steal if from black people . . . .)  The author further attempted to mate these white boys' quest for cool authentic identity with our carcel state which historically and currently specifically targets black men by giving one of the boys a fabulously wealthy family, whose current wealth comes from private prisons as with Eric Prince and his ilks. Then he tries to hook up young white guys' putting on black identity to make themselves 'real' with the colonial - imperial war machine too. This doesn't work, particularly as almost all the book is focused on two souless white boy geeks, one rich the other not, about whom honestly who gives a shyte?

If Kunzru wanted to show that white people have no culture of their own, this book doesn't do it. Well, it does it, by the conscious choice to center specifically USian contemporary brand of socially and emotionally incapacitated white geek guys.
The Guardian recently ran a piece on Black writers engaging with both lit and spec fic here. **

Supposedly The Underground Railroad is going to be an amazilla television series.

Marlon James (his A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014) got the Booker Prize) is currently engaged in an epic African fantasy project, titled Dark StarSeven Killings was optioned for an HBO series.

Junot Díaz's Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) might be considered the gate opener for this successful combination of literary and genre fiction.  It won both the Pulitzer and National Book Awards, as well as other prizes. It was optioned for a film, if I am recalling correctly, back then, but there doesn't seem to be any recent news about that.


*  For the most complete and factual account of the means of who and how and to where slaves escaped their condition, from the earliest colonial era to the end of the Civil War, one cannot do better than read Fergus Bordewich's Bound for Canaan.

**   The brilliant fiction work that African American women are doing, with or without the inclusion of speculative fiction / genre tropes, seemingly is mostly ignored when it comes to the prestige prizes. The women who are first generation African immigrants, or from the Caribbean, seem to do somewhat better though, when it comes to the Big Validations, particularly in the UK. I'm not sure of this though, since I haven't gathered numbers and stats.  Somebody must have though!

Have any of their works been optioned for prestige television?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I Like Color TV! Rosewood and Razia Sultan

     . . . . Bright, brilliant, clear color that pops off the screen, one of the primary reasons we used to go to the movies in the first place.  Color was initially missing all together from television.  When sets with color reception were available, for a long time the color was muddy, and the image more blurry than not.  It took digital to make tv bright, but still, the wider the pixels the less sharp the image -- another reason I so prefer watching on my oversize computer monitor.

I remember so well my first viewing of a Simpsons episode -- it was the brilliant, varied, penetrating colors that mesmerized me. Watching Maggie Simpson crawling around in her fuchia, purple and blue milieu, defined and bright, while I sat on the floor myself, playing with friends' baby -- this is what got me hooked on tv as an adult, when I hadn't watched television for years.

I continue to gravitate to television series set in naturally colorful locations.  These tend to be lighter entertainment too, than so many of television's current prestige dark and ever darker series.  I like these darker arcs too, but lighter and brighter is a welcome relief, particularly in the sad, short, dark days of winter.

The discontinued -- on a cliffhanger, no less -- police drama, The Glades delivered its attractive characters  and dependable entertainment for four seasons in Florida.  Death in Paradise continues its high rate of homicide on fictional St. Marie, which is really Martinque and and Guadeloupe with season 7 in 2018.

Lately I fell in love with Rosewood, watching all of the first season (2015 - 16) streaming from netflix over the last couple of weeks.

Set in Miami, the characters sling outrageous zingers and ripostes at light speed,  and the action moves rips from scene to scene so breathlessly that plot holes open. Its as though no one concerned with the series believes there would ever be a season 2 -- there was, but no one knows at this time if there will be a season 3. Yet, there is something about this seemingly seat-of-the pants production that pulls the viewer in.  It's a semi-episodic series, but one that benefits from watching over a shorter period of time I suspect than spread out over the typical week-at-a-time watching season.

Very charming, very gorgeous, rather annoying, in exactly the same fashion that its eponymous character, Dr. Beaumont Rosewood Jr., a private pathologist, is irresistable, addictive and o so annoying.  Good grief! He drives a 1969 bright yellow GTO!

No wonder his drop dead gorgeous latina best buddy, homicide DI, Annalise Villa, frequently wishes he'd drown in the Gulf.

The colors, particularly Rosie's t-shirts -- where does he get them???? -- just pop -- not to mention the yellow of the GTO.  I love this show for it's color and that includes the characters..  Why is it that only on television shows set in Florida do we see latinos? Or at least get to see them and their culture as a normal, not exotic? This was something that made the Mysteries of Laura attractive as well --

Actor Michelle Hurd in Mysteries of Laura
the NYC police station where Laura and her husband worked was run by a latina, played, in fact, by the actress who was station commander in The Glades.

Rosewood's first season streams on netflix (so does the discontinued Mysteries of Laura).

But even Rosewood is dully colored compared to Rizah Sultan!

This is an Indian historical, (2015) streaming on netflix. The language is Urdu, the location 13th century Delhi, I think. It features the story of the first – only – female sultan. More than a bit fairy tale in treatment, this series can be safely be watched by children.  The sets remind me of the television fairy tale programs, such as maybe Hallmark? would put on for holidays.  I've only begun to watch this series, so we shall see.

Many of the scenes in Razia Sultana appear to come directly from the famed Mughal miniatures of the lavish courts.  The Metropolitan Museum of Arts has a splendid gallery and collection of these great works.

For now, let me leave Razia Sultan, with this observation: in the first episode our heroine shaves a living man-eating tiger with her own blade, by herself, to bring the fur as one of three gifts to her Sultan-father on the eve of Eid. Her grandmother, head of the harem, punishes Razia for these many floutings of harem women's behaviors.  However, Razia's great-grandmother -- or is she a grandmother from the other side? -- her mother, and her sister are sympathetic, seemingly not minding, certainly accepting,  that Razia's the Sultan's favorite . . . .

Monday, April 17, 2017

Fox Barks Hark the Spring

     . . . . 'Tis the season to think of traditional folk tales of foxes, kitsunes, kumihos, hulis, jings.

It is a wonder. After millennia of humans' determined assault on the not-tamed, that human and fox can still look - see the other, reflecting ancient, necessary complicity between the domestic and the wild.  We see ourselves in the other.