". . . 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, September 5, 2018

Reading Books! The Sir Robert Carey Historical Mystery Series

     . . . . I have discovered the Sir Robert Carey historical murder mysteries by P.F. Chisholm. I am reading the first volume, A Famine of Horses (1994). 

It was the title that drew me in.  How could it not have?  What ever in the world is a 'famine of ... horses?' Then, I discovered after enjoying the first pages, that there were several more books featuring Sir Robert Carey.

A Famine of Horses is the first volume of the waning days of the Virgin Queen (the historical Carey was a favored member of her court), and then in the following reign of King James. I believe the historical personage did gallop mightily to Scotland to be the first to bring the news to James's court that the Queen had died, and that he now was king of  Scotland and England and Wales.

Yes, the author is that George MacDonald Fraser, author of the Flashman series, etc.

The geography is mostly the infamous Borderlands, with Carlisle the governing center.  Though anyone who has read George MacDonald Fraser's Steel Bonnets (1971) knows, there was little governing going on in this Wild West march region, ruled by rival warlords and rievers.* Carey initially is sent to Carlisle to take on the outlaws, and, hopefully, instill a small modicum at least, of law and order, and get rather more revenue to the Queen's treasury.

One does feel that what makes the central character of Carey such a successful one is that Carey wrote books himself, including his still highly readable Memoirs of Robert Cary, Earl of Monmouth. Various versions can be found, as well as this free to read, online version

That Carey is almost surely the grandson of Henry VIII, therefore a cousin of Elizabeth, via Anne Bolyen's sister Mary, in many ways makes him the ideal figure to impose the Queen's will about these ungovernable sorts.  Carey has the roaring temper that gets even those raging inhabitants take note and heed of both his actions and words.  Yet, he is most certainly also a courtier par excellence -- which is how he maintained the Queen's good will.

The historical details in this first book in the series sometimes feel more than a little self-consciously inserted by the author, but they are interesting period details, so never mind.  There is are thrills, suspense and adventure galore -- and, of course, a romance.

*  It is from this region, as well as the equally wild northern Irish lands that came to the colonies and the US, the Presbyterian "Scotch-Irish," whose most famous scion was Andrew Jackson.  These people settled widely in the less coveted regions of the Carolinas, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Labor Day's Labors, Labor Day's Relaxation: Cat, Friends, Music, Politics, Books, Films

     . . . . El V spent all his day from getting up until evening, when we for our friends' brownstone uptown shrimp boil, doing the final edits for his and T.J. English's Havana Nocturne mob tour 

weekend in Havana, February 12 - February 16, 2019, based on T.J. book.  Youtube with information ---

     , , , , Myself, spent the day working on a mission statement for the offering to various special archives at universities and libraries of a brilliantly curated collection of recorded Latin music in excellent condition that goes back to the 1940's until now.  Hardly such thing exists in cultural institutions and universities as of this moment.  It's time, as the greats are shuffling off the mortal coil . . . .

     . . . . Uptown then, in the heat and humidity to see friends and eat!

The New Cat, who came this summer to chez Our Hosts, about nine months since Tom the Old Cat passed away, buried in the yard under a rose bush, was not to be seen. Cat's been trying out names ever since coming to the Jumel Terrace brownstone, but none have stuck. Cat is currently is sporting a multi-syllabled name, is one that I can't remember on hearing only once.

Shortly before people thought we should depart due to next day -- today, being a work day for us all -- the Cat Himself came down to check out the commotion.

He stood, a four-legged statue, looking at the strangers at his table, then winded his lithe way around us, into the kitchen, out again, and departed. Nothing here of interest, his tail communicated -- so Aby of him. His general confirmation and very short, smooth, sleek, shiny coat is that of an Abyssinian -- maybe my favorite flavor of feline. However! his coloration is pure bright orange tabby. Further he is a dactyl paw cat. Those huge feet on such slender legs are eye-catching in their own way.

As ever we had a wonderful time, which wasn't due particularly to most of us present knowing each other well, for numerous years either.  It was entirely, I am certain, due to Our Hosts.

There was much, spirited conversation around Aretha Franklin's funeral. C knew Aretha quite well, having designed stage costumes for her often. One of the guests had watched all nine hours of the broadcast +.  Among us, lots of speculation and / or blame for the Obamas not showing up at the funeral, though two of the  guests were inclined to cut him more slack than some others. The older people, including el V and a music writer had been to Aretha shows back into the day when she was touring her first album and successfully crossing into pop from Gospel.

Cuba was another major topic of conversation.

Other subjects involved aspects of the fashion industry -- one of the Guests of Palor has just published a big book on Yves St. Laurent, Loulou & Yves. He had a house outside of Avignon for 20 years, so we also talked about France and Provence, wine and history.

There was discussion of the Nixon-Cuomo Dem Governor nomination primary on the 13th. Everyone present is voting for Nixon, not expecting her to win. So all will hold noses and vote Cuomo in the election in November. But we are the sorts of Dem voters who truly dislike him -- dislike him vastly more than we ever came to disliking his father.

This led inevitably to Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman, Boots Riley and his beef with BlacKkKlansman (Spike made cops heroes against white supremacy and racism; both films feature black guys who talk white on the telephone). Some of don't give a damn what Riley claimed BlacKkKlansman was, nor did we agree with Riley -- we thought it was one of the most interesting films cinematically that Spike's done in while. The night we went with a group of friends, we talked about it, not necessarily agreeing, all through dinner, and then carried on a spirited e-mail discussion about it for a week. 

This led the conversation into effective political activism and organization, and, again, what losers the Dems are. However, Boots Riley's own new film, Sorry to Bother You, is a worthwhile watch too. It's about labor and capitalism as well as race. Boots has a lot to say about this worth paying attention to, and does so in an interview on Democracy Now (the entirety of the interview is well worth reading) that I hadn't thought about before, as to why political activism is no longer as effective as it used to be:

[  ". . . . And for too long, the left has gone away from class struggle. Right? We’ve gone away from class struggle in favor of spectacle, and hidden in the arts and academia. So, a lot of our biggest fights are sometimes about not what we’re saying, but how we’re saying it. And I agree how we’re saying things are important. It means, though, that we have to look at how the working class is talking and what they really mean, as opposed to just trying to adjust how people are talking, and making a movement around things that we can do something about, because then people have a real choice of what they want to get involved in. You know, it’s not that people don’t hear that story, for instance, and think it’s ridiculous, but, even me, I’m sitting here like, “OK, how do I—is this something I can do? Let me move on from this. Like, what”—you know, throwing up my hands. . . . " ]

We spoke of the fire that has destroyed the National Museum of Brazil, a catastrophic loss of 200 years of research into the history of Brasil, as well as multitude of irreplaceable world-class art objects from Europe and other parts of the world. Why did this happen? Corporate thugs refusing to finance maintenance. Speculation: did one of those thugs want the ground on which the museum was located? Don't put that past Brasilian corporate thugs, though the slashed funding making it impossible to maintain an effective fire system was enough to enable this calamity all by itself.

Outrage was expressed independently by one and all over the morning's news that the New Yorker had invited Steve Bannon as the headline attraction to next month's New Yorker Festival.  This led us to speak of Jimmy Breslin and what he would have said about this, and then Pete Hamill -- both great New York journalists who both wrote/write (Pete's still with us, thank goodness, unlike Jimmy) fiction as good as their journalism. These men, now, these men had EARS for how NYers of every class and heritage talked.

Ay-up, a gathering of NYers who discuss local news -- Aretha and Cuba are both local news, at least in this circle, and so is Brasil -- one of the group spends a lot of time there, collecting art.

Much Aretha music played, and much Cuban music too, with the emphasis on the boleros of the 1940's and 1950's.

The food, o the food, was spectacular.

How C always does this, makes such memorable experience out of what doesn't look like anything -- beyond cooking her ass off all day, of course. She is a spectacular Southern hostess with the very most. Martha Stewart should go hide in a cobwebbed cave in shame for calling herself a hostess.

Like the rest of us C's been way too busy this summer to do much recreational at all. She just got shut of a most hideous and miserable project. Collapsed for three days -- which she used to finish the last 200 pages of Slave Coast, which she discussed in detail with me -- is that an honor or what? But get-togethers at K and C's are always memorable in the very best ways. Well, there was the Thanksgiving when the dining table collapsed in slo-mo, which maybe wasn't the best way but it was spectacular and never fails to be remembered.

Now, teeth grinding for at least two months -- will a hurricane(s) hit or not? Will one get here like Sandy did? Will it destroy the rebuilding throughout the Caribbean and the Gulf from last year's hurricane catastrophes?

On the subway coming home, I gave out dollar bills to 7 separate desperate homeless people who asked for food or money because they were so hungry. Three of them were vets.  Yah, this nation is such a grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr8 superpower.