". . . 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

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Punishment She Deserves, by Elizabeth George

     . . . . Elizabeth George is the author of the  very popular, long-running Inspector Thomas Lynley series. We first met the Inspector in 1988. The 20th Inspector Lynley has just been published this year.   I've read them all.

Lynley's an aristo turned stalwart of the New Scotland Yard, who has had a colorful variety of experts on whom he's drawn for his cases. These councilors, professional, domestic, and social, included a love interest who wasn't interested in him for a long time, but almost always featured one of the most original of side-kicks, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers. The action of the novels came to be increasingly located in places with which the average reader -- particularly a non-UK reader -- was not likely to be familiar. This 2018 installment of 680 pages take the reader to a guidebook tour of the medieval college town of Ludlow, Shropshire.

The book is titled (stet lower case) the punishment she deserves; A Lynley Novel.  But 300 pages in, we've hardly seen Lynley. Yet we've had 300 pages of a character this reader at least has never liked, or even found interesting, the very nasty Isabelle Ardrey, who is an alcoholic, a bad alcoholic, and her plan to drive Barbara Havers out of the service, by either fair or foul means.

I have always loved Havers, but she's constricted in this novel as far as personality is concerned, by Isabelle, and Chief Hillier, who is also kind of an aristocrat, though he doesn't have the ancient title that Lynley does. They both have circumscribed her agency. This unholy alliance of Isabelle and Hillier is also targeted against Lynley, despite Lynley, when working particularly with Havers, having racked up a long record of successfully closing cases.  It doesn't help matters that Lynley -- while we readers told him to KNOW BETTER! -- had a nasty affair with Isabelle, which her nastiness and drinking ended.  But ultimately, as from the beginning of her appearance about three books ago in Lynley and Havers lives, Isabelle is just nasty -- never interesting.

George gives her readers a pile-on of detail of Ludlow, of what the characters think, do, and particularly what they eat and drink, but even her long-term primaries don't come to life in the punishment she deserves.  Nor do the new-for-this-novel supporting characters -- we can't tell them apart or remember their names  -- not even the long term favorites such as smart, charming, nice cookie, Dorothea, who is Lynley's assistant and who will drag Havers into a more presentable, more social life, no matter what --  nor does Ludlow for that matter.  We've had 300 pages of a 680 page novel, in which nothing has yet happened.  This isn't interesting, even though supposedly nothing happens because drunk and mean girl Isabelle, and Hillier, don't want anything to happen.  We don't even know who the 'she' of the title refers to, or what the deserved 'punishment' is for.

Past 300 + pages in, Lynley enters.  Things move more quickly, but what happens is that Havers backtracks him through everything either she, or Ardrey, or she and Ardrey, looked at, the people they talked to, etc. in the previous 300 + pages.  Of course, without Ardrey's treacherous, impatient, distracted, selfish, drink addled, nasty interference, we, like Lynley and Havers learn more, but we still haven't a clue as to who the she is who should be punished, and for what. There are still 380 pages to go when Lynley truly enters, yet even now, he's not really present.  He's following Havers.  The only reason for including him in this novel seems to be to keep Havers from sabotaging her chances of keeping her job -- and his -- with the Yard.  However, we have no idea why he even wants to keep this job considering all he's been through, and his seemingly zero interest in resolving whether or not a crime has taken place, or interest in anything else either. As every character in every novel makes clear, Lynley doesn't need to work for a living.

Each of the Lynley novels since 2003 Place of Hiding has gotten longer, more tourist guidey -- and ever less interesting.  One feels that this yet another successful character in which the author lost interest, because she fan serviced a romance, a romance that ultimately killed  -- well, won't say for spoiler reason -- but also Lynley himself, because the writer lost her own love affair with her character.  That happened because the author is that good of a writer, and once things took a certain course, other things had to happen and she wasn't going to deny it. 

Also, the world of 1988 is so different from the world of 2018, and not just in the UK or the US. 

It's time to let Lynley go, despite fans.  His world is finished.

BTW, the television adaptations of the Lynley novels have very little to do with the novels and have not served Lynley well.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Comfort Colorful TV - Death In Paradise

     . . . . Death in Paradise, season 6 ( 2017 - BBC) became available streaming from Neflix this weekend -- during which, I then, watched all eight episodes over Saturday and Sunday.  

Hey, by late Saturday night it was raining and snowing here, which continued into Sunday. When that weather moved on, it left behind some nasty cold temperatures, which continue today.  So new episodes of Death in Paradise, filled with sun and heat, lush flowers, curved beaches of golden sand lapped by blue Caribbean waters, were just the ticket out of gloomy reality.

Harry the Lizzard, a most important character in Death in Paradise!

     . . . . . Season 6 is different from the previous seasons in some subtle but important ways.  Without any spoilers, it felt a tad darker than the previous seasons.  Oddly, one of the reasons  for this, for me, is that, unlike in previous seasons, one can see the characters sweating -- sometimes one can even see damp spots on shirts. 

Having spent significant time on Guadalupe where the series is shot, I always wondered why on the show, nobody sweated, even after running or other prolonged exertion, or even perspired -- that is one humid island.  There you know mon, in August, the thinnest of Indian cotton, sleeved, shirts were too much to wear.  No sleeves on Guadalupe!

In various media pieces about the series last year, in preparation for season 6, Kris Marshall, the actor who plays principal character, Inspector Humphrey Goodman, went on at length about the deep discomfort of shooting in the heat and humidity.

Detective Sergeant Florence Cassell, investigating a murder at a literary festival.  This was a really fine episode.  It was about time the writers of Death in Paradise recognized the Caribbean produces significant literature after all the episodes featuring chefs, resorts, sailing, volcanoes, etc.  Anyway, who couldn't love a series with such a creature as Florence in most scenes, hmmmmm? :)

The other primary reason it seemed a little darker was that Humphrey seemed on edge, tense, and even thinner than in his previous seasons. These media pieces reveal a reason for this too -- that is, if he really was playing edgier and thinner, and it isn't just my eyes making this up.  But tension and sweating really go together, you know mon?

However, in these media pieces, Marshall mentioned another reason why he may have looked more tired and slim than previously, but I won't mention it here, for fear of spoiling those who haven't already seen last year's season 6 ( this year's season 7 aired back on the BBC January-February).

In any case, I enjoyed season 6 even more than season 5, and this bit of darker tone is probably responsible.  It is still as sunny and brilliantly colorful, and as bright as before though, the real reasons we happily return to this series.  It is like Midsomer Murders in that way, as well as in others (which I won't say now because of spoiling). 

Jason Hughes as Ben Jones, a favorite character from Midsomer Murders.

One of Death In Paradise's 6th season episodes even includes Jason Hughes, who played detective sergeant Ben Jones to Inspector Barnaby in Midsomer Murders.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Moses! + Durham + Current Watching

     . . . . Moses was the first to successfully download from the Cloud to his Tablet.

I cannot and will not take credit for the above, but it made me laugh so much in appreciation and admiration of whomever did originally come up with it, I wanted to share.

     . . . We got back from Durham Thursday afternoon.  It took the taxi almost as long to drive the three blocks down our street to our corner as it did to drive from the LaGuardia to the turn down our street.  That's how gridlocked traffic has gotten by 4 PM here as the Holland Tunnel continues to stay its original size and usage continues to increase proportionally every few months.

When we arrived in Durham last Sunday AM it was even colder there than it had been back in NYC when we left at 5:30 AM for the airport.  It stayed wintery until the day before we left.  Literally, from one hour to the next one saw people change from boots, hats and parkas, to sandals and sleeveless tops.  It hit 80, far more seasonable for North Carolina at the end of March than the 30's and 40's that had been going on.

Among other activities we got to spend quaility time with Emeline Michele, as well as attend her concert.  El V hopes to have her on the program for his upcoming Postmambo Studies trip to Haiti.

Weather or whatever: we had a perfectly splendid time in Durham.  Our Duke hosts, as usual, did everything up proud.  Most importantly, el V got to eat barbeque -- twice.

And here, Friday and yesterday, it got early spring pleasant.  Everywhere people were carrying bunches of flowers, flowery table arrangements, bouquets.  People were in a better mood than they'd been in weeks.  In fact, right before we left, people were downright cranky.  Today, though we are to hit 60 degrees, the skies are grey, and by 2 AM, through 2 PM, we are in a winter weather advisory, with maybe up to 3 inches of snow.

April ... come she will, but one never knows what the mood.

Current Watching:

Rai / BBC / HBO Rome, season 1, 2005).  This is my third rewatch -- not sure.  But each viewing Rome seems even better and smarter than before, from every angle, that includes casting, acting, writing, costumes, lack of CGI, historical feel. Like The Tudors, Rome isn't  always factually accurate, but the historical arc is, and the feel of the time and place,  the characters, seem as likely as we can get here and now, from the impossible-to-imagine distance in time from there and then.

For some reason around Easter I like to re-watch things like the Taylor-Burton Cleopatra (1963) El Cid (1961), now Rome.  

In the days of the winter solstice, I like nordic things such The Last Kingdom. In deep winter anything set in warm weather location – like The Glades was, in Florida – I miss that show.  Too bad Death in Paradise (season 6, BBC, 2017) didn't show up in deep winter, but, instead appeared on Netflix at the end of winter, which was yesterday -- whatever the winter weather advisory wants to tell me.  Yesterday was the start of Spring!

What is sad about this, is that I shall finally finish watching season 2 of Resurrection: Ertugrul.  What shall I do? as Netflix isn't providing seasons 3 and 4?  I am very sad that I shall never get to learn what happens to Ertugrul and Halime -- will that baby EVER be born? this baby will be Osman I, founder of the Ottomans! will Hayme live to see her grandson born? -- and the rest of the figures I've come to care about so much. 

In the meantime, in spare moments, el V studies French in preparation for our vacation in France.  But first, we go to New Orleans.