". . . 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, November 23, 2018

Buckle Up to Swash -- ¡Altriste esta aqui!

     . . . .  Las aventuras del capitán Alatriste, the series of novels by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, featuring this great Spanish swordsman, soldier and adventurer of the 17th century, has been a recurring topic

The first title in the English translation was published in the UK and the US back in1996; the latest one was released here in the US in 2011.

Back in 2006 a Spanish language film, Alatriste, was made, with Viggo Mortensen as capitán Alatriste, but, we lamented, it was never released in the US. 

However! Now! available! streaming on amazon prime, subtitled in English, the description says, is the 2016 Spanish television Alatriste series!

I haven't watched yet, having for a change a cornucopia of watching riches -- though, not unusually, not much watching time.  However, as el V heads out again soon, watching this will fill in gaps left by his absence. 

This is going to be splendid because nobody does European medieval and renaissance era sword fights like the Spanish.  This includes brilliant battle sequences with swords from horseback.  They never forgot how this sort of thing is done.

Spanish television does Spanish historicals extraordinarily well,* maybe better than other Europes' historical tv / films. Spanish swashbuckle is just about equal, even, in the French swash's ballon element,** which is so indigenously French. 

Unlike the French though, (at least going by Dumas) the Spanish swash additionally contains tragic awareness, the knowledge of the darkness in which all things inevitably end, the darkness that eats from the inside, which is what distinguishes Spanish swash from that of the other European swashes.


* Which one sees in concentrated form in the Spanish television series El ministerio del tiempo, which I admire and enjoy so much too. Whether art and literature, history and politics, all the details are just right -- and are always included. Nothing in the episodes happens in situational or transactional tv vacuum, but fully in the milieu of its time, whether in the past or the present.

** definition:

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Outlaw King: Robert the Bruce vs. Edward I and II

     . . . . Outlaw King -- Friday's Big Deluge concluded about the time the presentation concluded (Netflix Original, went up Friday, as well as opening in some theaters in some cities).

Battles and fighting, lots of it.  Gorgeous location photography.  Politics and the rest of it, in terms of the Bruce and Scotland's independence as a kingdom, little. More than one veteran of GOT in the cast.  I wouldn't have wanted to spend 18 dollars in a theater for this, though it was just fine to look at (not a whole lot of CGI, and that very tactful and slick).  Not enough of anything else.  Give me The Last Kingdom!  That's how I like it!

OTOH, it was perfect for yet another gloomy, cold, windy and wet night that penned me indoors.

The horses though, the horses.  I really hope none were hurt in the course of making this -- their injuries and killing and going down in the battles looked awfully real. (I didn't see the usual disclaimer one sees in these films that any animals were harmed in the course of the making of the film.)

I appreciated showing how battles so often are won by so much more than fighting skills, but particularly by cunning and 

knowledge of the territory -- as The Music Man tells us. It was appreciated surely on many fronts that the Scots were shown not wearing kilts, as indeed, would be the case at the the end of the 13th, start of the 14th centuries.

In terms of historical detail and event it was so superior to Braveheart that they're not in the same category.  However, the Bruce and Prince Edward / King Edward II never slugged it out personally in the Battle of Loudoun Hill in 1307. Nor was that the final battle of the struggle to regain Scotland's independence from the English throne -- years more of fighting were to come.  No was it the Bruce's wife put in a suspended cage as punishment for her refusal to repudiate the Bruce, but it was his sisters? I don't know that much about this history.

OTOH, knowing Bruce's Big Antagonist is Edward II, one didn't need to worry much about the ultimate fate of the Bruce, which was quite a relief in these days, when wants content to watch that allows a certain escape from the present wreckage wantonly committed by rancid toads without any education, intelligence or concept of social and civil life -- and responsibility of the ruling class to create and maintain space for family, community and environmental safety.

Though Bruce was given absolution for the murder of John Comyn, his rival for leadership and kingship, by the Scots bishops, the pope excommunicated him for the murder.

As the Bruce, Chris Pine did do admirably what he was able to do.  Maybe it's just his innate character, but there was a sweetness and generosity, along with the steel, that came through, which would indeed draw men to follow him (whether or not the historical Bruce had those qualities, I have no idea).  Yet Pine had to give us those thoughts all by ourselves.  Because, first of all, the film is actually very thin stuff, of posturing male competitions and mud, not of character, not theme, and not about any ideas, whether political or social.  The closest to characterization we get is being told Bruce a is good and honorable fellow who is The Best Fighter, and Prince Edward is -- well, he's not. 

There wasn't much opportunity for Pine to act. But he was an excellent choice for the role because without Pine's capacity to draw our eyes, and most of all, the landscape vistas themselves to draw the eyes, beyond guys hacking at each other, there's little to nothing there.

It would have been exciting to see the film investigate just what indeed causes a broad base of classes to follow one particular person at a particular time, to point of being willing to die. That the production didn't even try for that is why movies are almost always deeply disappointing.  If it had done that I'd have been interested enough to watch it again.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Post Midterms Angst, Entertainment, Weather and Cuba

     . . . . I'm ready to be penned in for the rest of the day and night by cold windy rainstorm. More regional flooding, yet again. At least we aren't suffering those terrible wildfires that Northern California is suffering. 

Today the Netflix Original, Outlaw King, went up for streaming.  It's also opening in some theaters in some cities too. This is an action adventure featuring Robert the Bruce, who is played by Chris Pine.

Also I have the latest Saxon Tales volume (#11) from Bernard Cornwell, The War of the Wolf, and, Margaret George's second historical novel of Nero, The Splendor Before the Dark. Fortuitously, they both came in today from my library Holds list.  

Also fortuitously I was able to get there around noon, before the storm kicked in, though it did keep raining off and on during the hours I was out and about doing errands, breaking in the atmosphere for the hard deluge conditions.

     . . . . El V called me this morning, saying that all is going very well -- once everybody got into Cuba.  They came from all over the USA, so there were 11 different flights, which came in at all different times of the day.  As it was, el V was at the airport from 11 AM to 8 PM last night, on his feet mostly. Letting the Travelers book their own flights instead of having everyone meet in Florida, spend the night, and be grouped booked into Jose Martí airport is less expensive for the Travelers but really hard on him and the Postmambo team.

Por ejemplo: At the last minute the elderly woman who gets around in a power chair got bumped from her flight, and put on a later one. At that point there was no way to communicate with Postmambo about it.  It was such a scramble once Postmambo learned about what had happened with J, to get back to the airport and meet her. Also they had to bring a bus just for her since the chair is too large for a taxi. But they made it, and she got comped a 4-star room in a Spanish-built, operated and owned Havana hotel, with a working elevator (bought from Russia, of course, since we know who is blockading US firms from doing business in Cuba). 

They had E's birthday party last night, complete with the most elaborate and delicious and huge bd cake. El V said, "E brought 6 people to the Rumbazo, the Rumbazo gives her a birthday cake." Anyway, they're all gathered, all sorted into their various habitacións, and already deep within what may well be for some the most spectacular experience of their lives. Whew! 

This Rumbazo is ambitious for sure.

Beyond that, the Rumbazo Festival production of Postmambo, is extremely popular in Havana with everyone. For the first time many of these musicians are getting national exposure. They are on the radio in Havana! They are performing in the finest theater venues in Havana! They are on national television for the first time in their lives and the careers of their groups, many established first a hundred years ago. The Cuban bought out the theaters within 3 hours that the tickets went on sale. El V and his Postmambo colleagues on the ground in Havana are very very very happy.  So are all the rumberos!

And there is going to be a film.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Friday, November 2, 2018

Falling To Winter: Politika, Health Care, Voting, Haiti

     . . . . Among my current reads is Steve Kornacki's The Red and the Blue: The 1990's and the Birth of Political Tribalism (2018), i.e. the politics of attack confrontation of everything all the time. Why yes, this was the strategy devised by the power hungry, boundlessly ambitious Newt Gingrich. 

It's interesting, infuriating and depressing to go back to these political eras that I've lived through, because we can't just start with Newt and Clinton. Reagan and Nixon and LBJ are in there too. It was with the coming of Reagan I immediately understood the backlash against all the streams of culture and political activism that had given me a life filled with interest and possibility that was never open to my mother. 

It was with the coming of Reagan I first understood that I had the immense great fortune to have born in that window of time in which women could have sex, even be pregnant, without stigma -- in fact a window in time which had never ever existed before in the history of the world, in which a woman could explore her sexual desires, wants, needs and pleasures without the anxiety of the nearly inevitable consequential pregnancy and / or arrest and poverty. It was obvious to me immediately that Reagan's Ilks, if not the man himself, had declared war on woman's reproductive rights = freedom and autonomy. 

Everyone with whom I talked about this laughed in my face. We had Roe v. Wade! We had contraception! Nothing could change now! I was a tin-foiled conspiracy propagating depressing denier of reality. Many of them never even bothered to vote. They didn't think politics mattered and they paid no attention to them as boring and creating depressing thoughts, and offending other people -- and themselves.

Since those days all these same female friends have come around to seeing what I saw then, and they keep sending me e-mails and texts to vote, to donate to candidates, to march, to demonstrate, to send protest messages to an infinite list of politicians in 'elected' or appointed office. They continually inform me of what I was pointing out back in 1982. 

     . . . .Voting is essential -- as it always has been. But it has become far more difficult than it used to be, just like getting medical appointments, or even finding a doctor and hospital within a reasonable distance from where one lives and / or works. In many places, like doctors, dentists, hospitals and supermarkets, voting sites have shut down and disappeared -- or have been repressed, purged, and downright denied. It can mean a whole day to go to where one should be registered to vote, vote, and come back again. If one has a job the employer will not like that, even if one has a job that affords a person access to transportation reliable enough to get the voting site and back again. 

In the very old days when I was a kid, election days were big deals in my rural community. In our part of the country, elections for county, state and federal seats meant driving to the county seat, which took at least an hour.  One dressed for 'going to town' instead of in one's daily work clothes. It was exciting because the voters were not only fulfilling their civic duty (and that voting was a civic duty, and the consequences of elections affected people personally, was something we were brought up with, like Jesus and getting good grades), but this was also an opportunity to socialize and shop. It was like a holiday but it wasn't a holiday. It was especially buzzy on rainy election days because one wouldn't be able to work outside anyway, so the men just stayed with their drinking buddies. So here it is, cold rain, and my dad gets to hang out in the afternoon having beers with friends in the bar. My mom is visiting with various church ladies (she was one herself), relatives and other friends, making more contacts in the county and state organizations to which she belonged, which led her at times to be elected herself president and secretary and treasurer of these organizations -- all giving standing in the community. 

All that seemed to stop in the 1970's, when so many institutions that were the bedrock centers of community life in these rural communities were closed, moved away, centralized, for greater efficiency and greater profit cost cutting.

During my mother's long dying in 1995-1996, more than once every week, they had to drive two hours to the hospital which treated her cancer. The county seat's own hospital had closed not too long after I was born there. The spanking new, brilliantly equipped facility, operated by the Roman Church, whose nurses and technicians predominately were nuns (though not all -- a friend's mom worked there), had opened across the river in the twin city. 

There was too, a smaller, modern hospital in the small town close to our farm.  But both the big brilliant hospital across the river from the county seat, and this smaller one providing close-by service to the community, had long been closed. Medical need meant leaving the county. This made treatment days for my mom even more difficult. 

These movements of service denial to the general public in less densely populated areas rolled big in the 1970's. They were pretty well consolidated by the 1990's. 

And now women in so many places in this nation can't find medical care at all anywhere remotely convenient to where they live. And even more women can't afford medical care at all either, much less insurance. Safe, reliable affordable contraception, pre-natal and post natal care -- how are they to get that?  At this moment of typing the rate of infant mortality and maternal mortality in the USA ranks shockingly high

I've been thinking about all this constantly while reading The Red and the Blue. Yah, I've been paying attention to them all along. And voting. I'll be voting Tuesday too. 

By far, very, very far, the best costume I saw in the context of the annual Village Halloween Parade was the African American gentleman impeccably dressed as President Lincoln, complete with authentic looking stovepipe hat and beard, who merely carried a sign that said, "#BlackLivesMatter -- Vote -- Abraham Lincoln."  Honestly? I teared up.

It's shockingly humid here today, the day el V returns from spending Halloween, le fet Gede and Day of the Dead in a week long celebration in Haiti.  The fet brought el V to talk at the national Cultural and Arts Center about the relationships between Haiti and New Orleans, and it brought a passel of New Orleans musicians (most of them long-time friends of el V too), including the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, to perform, to teach, and to collaborate with Haitian groups and musicians.  There was a reception and dinner at the residency of the US Haitian ambassador (a woman, appointed by Obama, who actually knows her job!).  Pres Hall led them all throughout residency in a second line. All week long, all week long ... such a wonderful time was had by all.

But el V's flight home has been delayed for an hour (the flight he took into Haiti -- to Cap Hatian, not to Port-au-Prince from whence he returns) was delayed for a whole day; he had to spend the night in Miami. So in comparison this isn't so bad. 

He'll be going back in March, leading a Postmambo Haitian Music seminar. It is going to be an incredibly beautiful trip.

And then there's here, and today.

What is interesting today, gloomy and threatening as it is, is that literally, within hours, from Day of the Dead to today, the greatest percentage of the trees in our neighborhood turned from glowing green, to glowing gold and scarlet.

The leaves will be gone by Thanksgiving, leaving the trees'graceful, lacy skeletons bare.

Winter's coming. But no white knights will be, to save us.  We shall have to save our nation and ourselves, ourselves. We must take back the vote!