". . . 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, December 30, 2018

Falling Out of 2018

     . . . .Gads, this is exactly what living a month of Sundays was coined for. The weather, the holidays and real focus on going away to where we will drop out of time and US politics almost entirely -- complete temporal dislocation.

NY's Eve and NY's Day get-togethers with friends (many of them Postmambo Travelers now!) take out a lot of the prep time between after Yule and January 2nd's departure, so the day after Christmas I started getting as much done before New Year's Day as possible. This includes getting birthday gifts for our dear friends who happen to have been born on New Year's Eve, and often have received a short shrift on their day, as well gifts for the Cuban familia.

This is the last time I pack for these extended-play trips in Cuba. After this only short trips to Cuba.
I will be clamboring around Castillo de San Pedro del Morro again, for the -- how many times now?  Six?  I can't remember.  But we'll also be doing things I haven't done before too.  That's how these trips stay fresh. Always something new for us all.

But this final extended journey is going to be a lot easier. -- think, I hope. But then, almost anything would easier than 2018's January Central Cuba trip.  But we're spending most nights in the same hotel, the Santiago Meliá, where I've stayed before -- it's a very nice hotel.The other two nights will be in Baracoa. This means far less unpacking and packing and unpacking, and humping the luggage from bus to rooms and back down again, while going through the check-in / check-out process. This makes everything hugely better, because it also means we don't have to spend as much time traveling either.

The people going on this one look to be very interesting. And some of them are relatives of long-time friends of ours. It's going to be strange though, w/o Steve and some others who have come on every Postmambo long trip I've been on.  Well, back when they began, that first one, Steve wasn't the dear friend that he (quickly) became, along with several others.  But I'm sure going to miss him, and Eliza and her wonderful daughter, Mai, and others too.

Yesterday I pulled together the meds and toiletries. There are so many little jobs that take an enormous amount of organization and time, and somehow demand being on one's feet and bending just a little bit -- hell on The Back if one has a Back like mine.  I worked for three hours doing the sorts of tasks such pouring mouth wash into TSA acceptable sized bottles. Ya, we need a lot of mouth wash between the two of us, and el V's staying for two more weeks when I go home, as he begins immediately teaching an NYU course in Havana after Oriente. Mouthwash is an excellent disinfectant for one's toothbrush if it accidentally gets tap water on it (I won't even brush my teeth with tap water in most countries now), and an anti-itch remedy for insect bites. Then, I bent over to get something that had fallen on the floor -- SCREAM! Back had gone out. That finished yesterday. All I was good for was to search out books to download to the travel computer's hard drive, and making lists for what else I must be sure not to forget. 

Today, it's sox and underwear and t-shirts.

Tuesday jeans and foot gear, and the dressy stuff. We have meetings with the Santiago arts organizations to discuss the theatrical version of The American Slave Coast, so I need to dress in something that isn't jeans and a t-shirt, I suppose. Not so easy to figure out at this point as it's in the 80's and very humid in Santiago, and the a/c will be freezing inside.  Also, pack for serious rain (if one doesn't it will pour and if one does, hopefully it won't rain at all).  Hot and humid, cold and clammy, and always humid, so 60 degrees is colder than sixty degrees here.  Not easy, even though I've done this many times by now.  What makes this all so difficult is that if one needs something that one doesn't have one can't buy it. This applies equally to things such as sox and umbrellas, aspirin and tampax.

Damned cold again here -- though if the Weather Critters are correct, the day I come is part of a string of days when the temperatures stay below freezing day and night. I can imagine that very well, having already experienced a string of that, though it wasn't technically winter yet.

But I CANNOT imagine 88° and bright sunshine!

I stand here, listening to Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times(2018) by Joel R. Paul (highly recommended), bagged in an oversize wool sweater, wool sox and thick boots, thinking about putting on mitts or holding my hands under warm water, staring at t-shirts and other thin, short-sleeved tops, and just -- What? What in the world is 88 degrees??????

Ah! Excellent -- the heat's coming up!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

After Solstice, We Move, To Yule

     . . . . What a dramatic sky we have today. The wind is hard, cold and mean. The sun breaks between the big, glowering cobalt clouds with the subtlety of a descending police stick. 

They Say the rain returns tomorrow, so today's for dashing about, gathering the ingredients for our contributions to the Christmas Eve feast.

Or, perhaps, They Say, hopefully, tomorrow night, snow? 

Now to keep el V from snitching the pecans, nipping at the bourbon, two things he, a pure-born southern boy, loves inordinately but never partakes of -- except when somebody provides pecan pie, which will happen at this time of the year. Also in a marvelous yam dish.  And (no, not pecans), in eggnog.

・.✩・。✧ ゚ .。* : ★ ゜・゚ *:・゚・.✧ ・.✩・

Such wonderful books appearing. 

So far, my favorites are The Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem and Sicily (2009) by Nancy Goldstone ((other of her works in popular history and biography of medieval women in power I've enjoyed very much too -- though I haven't read them all)); The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War (2018) by Joanne B. Freeman; and The Watchers: A Secret history of the Reign of Elizabeth I (2012) by Stephen Alford. 

In fiction, I continue to read Maurice Druon's Accursed Kings series, published between 1955 and 1977. I'm now in the last three in the series: The She-Wolf of France (the she-wolf being Isabella, sister of King of France, wife of feckless Edward II, lover of Roger Mortimer, mother of effective Edward III); The Lily and the Lion; and The King Without a Kingdom.

These are essentially in the same period as The Lady Queen -- that of the Vatican's s recess from Italy to Avignon (though in France, not of the French crown per se, as Provence is still a an independent kingdom -- and Joanna is the Countess of Provence among her multiple titles and possessions), the endless schemes among the great European families and crowns to wrest the lordship of southern Italy to themselves, and yes, Constantinople too,  the 100 Years War and the Black Death, the end of France's Capetian dynasty and floundering of the first Valois rulers -- which will bring, eventually, Jean d'Arc as France's savior and martyr, in the 15th century.  I'm still reading The King Without a Country, who is John / Jean II Valois, taken prisoner by the English throne (and not for the last time will a King of France be personally imprisoned; François I spent time imprisoned in Spain after a humiliating war loss). 

The Lady Queen is providing me answers to all sorts of historical questions I've been having, about Church's removal to Avignon from Italy, and other questions I didn't know to ask. 

I had no idea how important the kingdom of Hungary was.  For one thing, an immense source of gold and silver was discovered in its lands, making it the wealthiest European country by far. In the 14th century then, all of Europe's gold supply came from Hungary's territory, and one third of the global supply came from there. It took Spanish conquest of the southern New World continent to change that.

So ya, the ruling family of Hungary were certain the Pope should be ceding the power to rule southern Italy to them. And if they couldn't get it by marriage or inheritance, or the Pope's decree (the kingdom in southern Italy belonged to the Pope, due to fealty to the Pope in return for money, men, etc.,) they'd get it by murder.  It was their right.  By the way, one of the major figures in the early part of the book is the Queen of Naples -- is familiarly by now named -- Sancia: see the Druon series . . . .

Nor had I any idea of the brilliance of wealth and culture that was the 14th century Kingdom of Naples. This is the court that inspires Boccaccio in many of his works, not only The Decameron.  Queen Joanna herself is depicted in many of his works.

It's as though, at least when it comes to Europe, the 14th century tends to get lost when we study history. This seems to be, again, as I keep discovering, Europe is pulled east, economically and politically and even religiously, due to the Holy Roman Empire and Venice. And the eastern orientation, indeed, even the Holy Roman Empire, is often at best given brief mention from historians writing in English.  So Hungary, though overlooked by English writing historians, is vastly important  -- as the trade with Constantinople, the Ottomans and further east, and control of this trade, were primary for everyone in Mediterranean Europe, east and west (though the northern sphere had developed its own sphere of economic importance, but not yet -- not quite yet -- cultural and artistic importance). 

Also the 14th century tends to get lost due to the focus on the Black Death, and did it or did it not, destroy feudalism and serfdom? In that debate, it's as though the only nations that matter are England, France and, to a lesser degree, Spain (Spain had another century until the completion of the Reconquista).

I'm reading two of the three of the series's most recent volumes somehow, at the same time: the 7th installment, A Chorus of Innocents (2015), having already read due to book availability vagaries, the 8th one, A Clash of Spheres (2014) earlier, and the 9th, A Suspicion of Silver (2018).  The first book in the Carey series, A Famine of Horses, came out in 1994.

An additionally interesting thing about this series as how so many of the people at the top of the political orders of the last three books have come to resemble in their infantilism and cruelty someone we've all had taking up space in our heads, unwanted, for the last three years. But none of them are ignorant of everything, not like we've been experiencing at the top, for years now. I'm seeing this sort of thing with the villains in almost all the fiction I've read this year that was published in 2018.

As Sir Robert Carey really existed and did all the things he does in the books named for him, and as the cardinals, popes and many of the other characters in the Druon series also lived and did what they did, these series are deeply engaging and satisfying historical fiction.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Longest Nights, Joyous Nights - Solstice of Winter

     . . . .  The longest night of the year seems to have started yesterday afternoon, when the first rain began.

We've had heavy, heavy rain since late yesterday, though, thankfully, intermittently.  We had very high winds, though they too were intermittent in the City.  Lots of flooding, though not where we are.  But what this means is that I couldn't tell this was the longest night of the year.  It never got light to speak off, due to the winter storm, all day.  And now it is night again. Well, it was honestly night so early I didn't even notice, with rising to putting on electric light, and having it on all day.  However, unseasonably, the temperatures rose to just shy of 60°.  So el V went out and about from around noon on. As it turned out, the NYC subways continued to run and did not flood out.

Anyway, the FedEx package that was to be delivered today, with the visas of so many of us going to Oriente on the 2nd, arrived. The FedEx guy was wet, but triumphant.

I am really hoping the weather cooperates at 4AM January 2nd, unlike this past March, when a blizzard shut down JFK and we weren't able to go anywhere the day we were supposed to fly out.  Today the local airports were shut down . . . .

In the meantime, it's been dark for a very long time.  Ay-up.  The shortest day of the year. And all things are, hopefully, pointing to Christmas and New Year's with friends,  and thenm travel, with old friends and new ones!

Light, light, Solstice light, Christmas lights, New Year lights, 

Caribbean light, are my immediate future. 

AH -- I am hearing planes overhead, for the first time in a day and a half!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

St. Valentine's Day Massacre In Mob Era Havana

     . . . .  Come to Cuba! Feb. 14-18, 2019. An unforgettable experience tracing the footsteps of the Mob in Havana. Postmambo Studies, Inc., the leader in Cuban music travel, presents ...

Havana Nocturne: A Mob Tour: Feb. 14-18, 2019

This one is quite different from other Postmambo Studies tours.  Among the differences is that it's short, as we see from the dates.  We get to stay in Havana, meaning we don't have to pack and move everyday.  And there is free time to explore on one's own.  Nor is it as music-heavy.  But -- this is Cuba.  There is music, wonderful music.

It's really different (and shorter -- did I mention shorter?) than the long one one through Eastern (Caribbean) Cuba which I embark January 2.

We will be hanging out at such places as where the Luciano Havana Mob Conference (including Frank Sinatra), was held, the presidential suite of the Hotel nacional, the fabled Tropicana -- yah, it's still there and has never stopped having performances, tour the Meyer Lansky hotels, etc.

Remember the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, the event that sets off the events of the still splendid BillyWilder 1959 film Some Like It Hot, with Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon?  Yah. 1959, which by the end, was the end of Lansky's and the mob's rule of Havana too.  Pretty darned cool, yah?

Terrific way to spend Valentine's Day, 2019, particular as the weather critters are mumbling about Polar Vortex blizzards over here then . . . .

Monday, December 10, 2018

Killing Eve: Villainous Villain Villanelle Is Not Orphan Black's Helena BBC / BBC America 2018

     . . . . Killing Eve was a US - British critics' favorite 2018 television series - perhaps even more favorite than Body Guard, centering Robb Stark Richard Madden, which is all about a guy.

Commonly these are the words used by the critics to describe Killing Eve:

Stylish, Snappy, Sharp, Snazzy, Sophisticated, Sexy, Smart.

Also: Light-hearted, Urbane, Cosmopolitan, Entertaining.  

 Myself, I would add Short (Thank Goodness!).  Preposterous (O! so Preposterous -- see: Short, Thank Goodness!). 

Killing Eve has been billed as the #MeToo Moment thriller, original, different, centering women. 

But it seems to me that it owes most to the very old (by now) Kill Bill, Vols. 1 & 2, 2003 and 2004, in which there are several extremely gruesome set piece fights to the grisley, ghastly finish. In Vol. 1 these take place between Uma Thurman's The Bride's character, and two different Asian killers, and an African American killer.  

Uma Thurman's Bride fights Gogo Yubari as O-Ren Ishii aka Cottonmouth, in Kill Bill Vol. I; totally male-gazey.
The killer antagonists here are played by Lucy Liu and Chiaki Kuriyama, and by Vivica Fox as the African American mom in suburban home complete with small daughter.

Uma Thurman, Kill Bill, Vol. I

Jodie Comer, Villanelle, Killing Eve.

The difference between these and Killing Eve is the reversal that the antagonist is the blonde Uma Thurman look-alike, Jodie Comer's Villanelle, and it is the Asian Sandra Oh's Eve, who is the protagonist. 

Helena, Orphan Black 2013-2017 -- if  you have not yet watched the 5 seasons of Orphan Black, do it now! played as are all the female clones by Tatiana Maslany; definitely not male-gazey.

It also seems that another big influence has been another BBC America series, the truly brilliant and original, most definitely not male-gazey, Orphan Black. Villanelle is another super beautiful feral Russian young woman, super trained to be another super assassin-killer without basic human emotions, except what captures her attention. In Orphan Black's Helena, it is is her clone family 'seestras'; in Killing Eve it is Villanelle's obsession with Eve Polastri. The 'Russian-inflected' English both Helena and Villanelle speak provides a smoke screen, which conceals from the no-where near as intelligent and talented beholder, their feral, joyeous ammorality in wreaking death. 

the French detective of The Tunnel; 3 seasons 2013-2018; not male-gazey, or hardly at all.
French detective, Elise Wasssman, played by Clémence Poésey, in The Tunnel; not male-gazey, or hardly at all.

This might also be owed something from the more recent fixation of other hyper violent television series like the BBC's 3-season The Tunnel (2013-2018) to center other female hyper intelligent and effective characters who are asperger-direct, socially dysfunctional, incapable of concealing or veiling their wants and desires, speaking their opinions of one and all to their faces.

Daryl Hannah as Priscilla in Blade Runner (1982), doing what she does so well; definitely male-gazey.

There also might be a bit in Villanelle too, of Daryl Hannah's Replicant character, Priscilla, from the first Blade Runner film. 

These characters all speak their minds without polite or politic directness, which, of course, women are never supposed to do. Thus viewers' delight, presumably. 

My own sense of Killing Eve is that the sum of its parts amounts to very little. It's only these two women, Secret Service Eve, and assassin-for-hire run by Russians, Villanelle, the series is interested in. We are not even sure by the end if Villanelle ultimately works for the Russian government, a Russian mafia family or our criminal global consortium of big business and government. Nobody seems to be concerned about that. It's Eve's and Villanelle's hunt for each other is the plot. The other characters matter only as far as they aid, abet or interfere with the hunt. 

However, it is effortless entertainment-distraction (see: Amoral,  Light-hearted), without the on-screen Kill Bills' wallow in gore. The worst stuff is all, thank goodness, performed off screen. There's really no nudity or overt sex either, i.e. lack of male-gaze priorities, though there are a variety of male characters . 

There will be will be a season 2 of Killing Eve.