". . . 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, May 27, 2020

This Is The End ... Not With a Cry

     . . . . Put our vote-by-mail ballots in the mailbox, despite the Dems determined we not have our Presidential Primary (PLUS, hello???? a Real Election for local and state offices). 


     . . . . "Reopening the City Too Soon Is, Effectively, Age Discrimination" -- and other kinds of descrimination too.  Centers NYC, but applies across the board, particularly to totalitarian capitalist sociopathic 'leadership' states, such as the USA, Brasil, the UK, Sweden, and Russia. By design and by lack of ability to lead and deal with such a crisis, it has been decided to lose a huge number of lives forever into the future (and let's remember climate crash is also going on and not stopping) to this virus, rather than contain and eradicate -- allo for the sake of the bloated corporate richies and their minions to get RICHER. Thus here we have no tests, no tracking, no tracing, disappearing stats.

NOTE: not all nations have chosen this route, see: New Zealand; Cuba, Austria, etc.
Soon, New York will start pulling up shutters and setting out chairs. Work-from-homers will venture beyond their neighborhoods from time to time. Employees will trickle back into offices. Housekeepers, electricians, dentists, and security guards will repopulate the subway, because they will have no choice. The city is gambling that we have learned enough in these past months to keep the risks under control — that masks, distance, hygiene, and anxiety will keep us, if not exactly safe, then safe-ish. With no cure, no vaccine, and limited treatment, we have to rely on our own behavior and that of everyone around us. We have to trust our fellow New Yorkers to stay home at the first sign of the sniffles, to share our habits of caution, to wait for the next train if necessary, to step politely aside. We have to trust the MTA to keep crowds thin, employers to think through workplace logistics, the transportation department to dissolve the knots where pedestrians might jam the sidewalks, the school system to have a plan for a million kids that will protect their families too. Lockdown was easy compared to this.
And because that whole latticework of new habits and mutual consideration is so fragile, those who are at greater risk of getting sick will have to avoid it altogether. We’re opening a new chapter in the tale of two cities: the young and the healthy will (sometimes enthusiastically) take their chances; the old and the vulnerable will effectively remain under house arrest. To reopen now is to accept a new form of segregation, the exclusion of entire at-risk populations from public life, including everyone over, say 65. This is a civil-rights issue, and the reason we face it is that we have bumbled the better option: testing everyone.
If New Yorkers could get tested en masse and quickly isolate those who are infected, separating them from their families for two weeks, then the healthy could all pitch in to heal our wounded city. It’s not inconceivable. Wuhan, a city larger than New York, has reportedly tested 6.5 million residents (or maybe 9 million) in ten days. The Army tests all new recruits before they can join the ranks. In the short term, we would need to tolerate intrusions into our privacy that cannot be made permanent. Before you could enter a public building or sit at a restaurant table, you’d have to scan a QR code on a phone or wristband certifying you as COVID-free. No test, no service.
In the absence of widespread, repeatable, and accurate testing, we’re left with a radically unfair choice. Instead of isolating the infected, we will isolate the old and infirm, as well as plenty of vigorous people with an assortment of risk factors. Reopening schools means cutting grandparents off from their grandchildren and teachers from their parents. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure (or live with someone who has diabetes or high blood pressure), you’d be wise to avoid serving on a jury or entering a mall. Public transit will serve only for the young and healthy or the foolish. The threshold of every public building becomes a site of discrimination. [....]


     . . . . The situation here ... it's beyond ... there is NO way to observe Distance. Too many people, too many bicyclists, too many family groups, too many joggers, just too many for any Distance at all. The amount of vehicular traffic is even higher than yesterday with everybody putting up construction to move their business onto the sidewalk and into the street. But there are all these vehicles. Plus people are clustering without masks right up close already, up and down the blocks.

Then there is this -- I'm walking carefully. Suddenly I hear approaching from behind this very loud male voice. It turns out a youngish guy on his bluetooth or whatever saying, "Ya they called me immediately to say I tested positive. My roommate though hasn't gotten any calls." And he continues in this vein -- I'm across a wide street by now and behind him, the wind is blowing from him -- and I can hear distinctly every word he's shouting to the world. NOT WEARING A MASK.


On another block, a guy w/o a mask is futzing with his motorcycle, coughing his lungs out. I am between him and a whole cluster of people outside a cafe up close and personal and no masks.

I have no idea what we're going to do this summer. Though surely a lot of these people are going to get really sick?

Wine Wednesday.  I am partaking myself.  Because whatheeff else?

Monday, May 25, 2020

John Quincy Adams Receives Early Christmas Gift!

     . . . . After several more 1832 entries in which John Quincy Adams flagellates himself for being an insipid poet (frequently following a 5 AM translation out of Hebrew stanzas of the Psalms, which appear to be his life-long project to turn into his own English poetry), a failure as a poet, a silly Diarist, since many men have achieved great things and never kept a diary, and ejaculations that every one of his literary efforts should be chucked into the fire (which they never are), he receives brilliant news!

Now, this is news to we readers in 2020 as well, since the Library of America Diaries have not told us that JQ actually submitted Dermot Mac Morragh, or The Conquest of Ireland,* for publication (or as he'd referred to it at the start of the year as "The Tale of Dermot".  But submitted he had, though I do not know any more about that than it went, evidently, to Melvin Lord, "Boston Booksellers, 1650-1860." This bit of information I gleaned from here.


Washington, D.C.2 - December 1832
I answered the letter yesterday received from W. L. Stone, and one received this morning from Melvin Lord at Boston.  He says that his edition of the Poem of Dermot is all gone -- That he has no copies left -- This has relieved me from much anxiety -- The puck [sic] of critics are just opening upon it; and if they now destroy it de fond en comble they cannot injure the publisher -- My Shoulders must bear -- I comfort myself with the reflection that Jeffrey in the Edinburgh Review pronounced Byron a Poetaster, and Byron in his English Bards and Scotch Reviewers deals out the same measure to Walter Scott -- I remember too that Byron was dissuaded by a friend from pubishing his Childe Harold, and Scott from finishing his Waverley.  A Poem is at best but a Lottery ticket and if I get a prize barely to repay me the price of my ticket, I must put with it for good luck -- Snow.

Alas, it seems he foretold correctly -- Dermot did not  garner laudatory reviews:
Indeed, it is that short sentence of four words,–By John Quincy Adams,–to which Dermot Mac Morrogh will be solely indebted for all the attention it will receive. Were it not for this magic sentence, we doubt if many readers would get further than the middle of the first Canto; and we are quite certain that none would ever reach the end of the second.
I am still continuing with the 2019 biography of James Monroe.  As I'm now into his administration and JQ has finally arrived back in the US from his appointment as minister to London, to take up his cabinet post as Secretary of State -- these two books are dovetailing seamlessly.  Sometimes I forget from which one I heard a juicy bit. Both are read aloud experiences, JQ with the two of us at bedtime, and the James Monroe from an NYPL audio download to which I listen while working out.

Learning that John Quincy was determined to commit historical fiction is heart-warming, being as good historical fiction was always my own childhood ambition.  This is who the historical Dermot was.

However one gets to know him and his life, John Quincy Adams is worth knowing; and, he becomes more worthy the longer he lives.This cannot be said about most of us.  And certainly not about our own Diaries!
*  Dermot Mac Morrogh, or the Conquest of Ireland: An Historical Tale of the Twelfth Century, in Four Cantos by John Quincy Adams (Classic Reprint) is available from Amazilla here.  For some reason this delights me no end! There are even reviews, one of which pronounces Dermot an easy read.

Dermot's full text can be found at this University of Michigan website. As well as the poetry, it begins with JQ's own inevitably prolix Introduction and Description (soon after arriving to take up his post as Secretary of State, it was Congressional Recess.  President Monroe had gone to his Virginia farm for R&R - he wasn't well.  Within two weeks, Adams had drowned him in at least ten multiple-page letters from D.C., about everything.  

Friday, May 22, 2020

Breathing Lilacs: Tragedy Is Personal

     . . . . The memory of yesterday's scent of lilacs at Washington Square Park lingers. Which brought to mind, then, Walt Whitman's, "When Lilacs Last In the Dooryard Bloom'd", his elegy for the assassinated Abraham Lincoln.  Washington Square Park, though not yet a park* -- all of what was to be known as Greenwich Village -- was Whitman stomping grounds too.

I buried my masked face in them, heedless of the bees -- at least until I noticed them, so entranced I'd been by the strong come hither the blossoms broadcast. That I could smell them so vividly, even through the mask shows 1) the difference in air quality here due to virus; 2) how little the mask prevents air born from coming through. Well yes, the mask is to protect others; it doesn't protect us. O the perfume was heady!  The bees' presence also made me happy.

Did three different class guest spots this last week, including one around The Year Before the Flood: A Story of New Orleans, for a Tulane class.

El V is incredible. His SooperDooperPooter for processing, editing and producing video and film and audio got delivered yesterday, and he had it up and functional before bed! So's he able now to send quickly these enormous files of content to the VIMEO website for sharing with the film maker in New Orleans, with whom he's  working on the Cuban content, among other things. It's so great to have decent tools. To render (this word has a special meaning within this Adobe PremierePro program, which I won't clutter this post with)  his work loads and then send them along used to take something 24 hours, and even the slightest burp in internet service or speed would stop it, and then it would have to start all over from zero, including all the edits, tweeks, synching, volume control, color saturation, etc. Now he can do it in minutes!

Seems last night I got mildly high from the amount of Erica’s THC Soothing Salve, and her Freeze lotion, which I vigorously and lengthily rubbed into both of us last night as both of us have screaming neck and back pain. Felt happy and peaceful, giggled a lot together during Reading Aloud. John Quincy Adams just gets to be more fascinating and enjoyable the older he gets.  

And, just before lights out a friend emailed this Yo-Yo-Ma Book Section link:
Q: What books are on your nightstand?
“The World That Made New Orleans,” by Ned Sublette.
“Barracoon: The Story of the Last ‘Black Cargo,’” the oral history of one of the last known African survivors of the Middle Passage, by Zora Neale Hurston.
The memoirs of Alexandre Dumas, the first volume of which I am struggling through in French.
“Spirit Rising,” by the unparalleled Angelique Kidjo, who recommended the first three titles. She and I are working on a new project that explores some of the less-known intersections between what we think of as Western classical and African music.
What great book company to be in -- Alexandre Dumas! even.  So big shout outs this week from both Rhiannan Giddens (Cuba and its Music) and Yo-Yo-Ma (The World That Made New Orleans) -- and Angélique Kidjo too -- who back when it came out had herself photographed holding up The American Slave Coast!  for Ned's books!

Of course I am ignoring just about everything that isn't part of our own little world -- all too easy to do, when in quarantine.  But mentally ill neighbor across the hall helps keep me grounded in the awareness of other realities, with one request after another: opening cartons, bottles, etc. that she can't because she took much of her medication, fell and hurt her arm and shoulder; cooking for her; providing ear plugs and three phone calls of how to use them >?< in one day; a wash cloth because she doesn't have any; toothbrush and toothpaste, etc. 

That we're having nice days is certainly having an effect upon our mood this week. We're just generally more relaxed and peaceful. For now.

All I can say is, "Thank you lordessa, for B and his weekly supply of cornbread!"

Even the absentee ballot requests for both of us arrived -- finally! -- in yesterday's mail, so I will be able to vote in next month's Dem Pres Nom primary -- from which ballot the Dem party bigwigs including Cuomo have done everything they can to 1) not hold; 2) remove Bernie Sanders.

Also, for a variety of reasons, some of our friends are moving back to NYC . . . .


*  Fort Green Park was Whitman's park of the heart, from at least the 1840's on.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Part 2: John Quincy Adams on "the melancholy madness of Poetry without the inspiration"

     . . . . For maximum tickle-brain effect, the following first section really should be read aloud, in company with other writers.

First part of ""the melancholy madness of Poetry without the inspiration" here.

Washington D.C. March 10, 1831

Sun rose 6:13. Fahrenheit 30. -- I lost one or two stanza's [sic] of Dermot, by my walk with Mr. Hagner, and should therefore get something by way of composition -- As I proceed with Dermot, the subject opens upon me, and I feel distressingly my wants.  I supposed I could make out of it a Tale of about 50 Stanza's -- I now think I cannot get through with it in less than one hundred.  My Style is the mock heroic; but it wants vivacity, humour, poetical invention and a large command of Language. -- I want besides a knowledge of Ireland, physical moral and political -- A knowledge of the manners, usages, prevailing opinions, modes of life, social habits and dress of the twelfth century.  I want a faculty of inventing and delineating character, of naturalizing familial dialogue and spicing my treat with keen and cutting Satire.  I want the faculty of picturesque description: of penetrating into the inmost recesses of human Nature -- of moralizing in harmonious verse -- of passing from grave to gay, from lively to severe -- of touching the cords of sympathy with the tender and sublime -- and to consecrate the whole by a perpetual tendency to a pure and elevated morality -- I do not believe there is in human history a happier subject for a mock-heroic Poem than the Conquest of Ireland by Henry the second -- But where are the legendary fables of Ireland for machinery [an 18th C term meaning the apparatus of something, whether culture, art, etc.] -- where the art of painting the intrigues of Dermot at the Court of Henry; where the art of describing Battles, and Sieges, the desolation of the Country during the progress of the Conquest, the destruction of Fernes, the Capitol of Leinster, the interior of the monastery where Dermot concealed himself upon his return after his expulsion -- All this a true Poet might paint with touches of the terribly sublime -- if I had undertaken it forty years ago I might have made something of it now -- At present, I might as well undertake to paint a Scene of the Deluge upon Canvas; or to compose the music of an Opera -- or to execute the Pediment of the Capitol which I designed. [Italian sculptor Luigi Persico's original design for the sculpture included figures of Peace, Plenty, and Hercules; these were replaced at the suggestion of President John Quincy Adams with the figure of Hope. Adams wished the design to "represent the American Union founded on the Declaration of Independence and consummated by the organization of the general government under the Federal Constitution, supported by Justice in the past, and relying upon Hope in Providence for the future."MrJohn W. Taylor was here, and took leave of me -- Going in a day or two for home. I had a long conversation with him upon the aspects of political affairs, and upon the prostitution of principle as well as the hostility to me, manifested by the party now holding up Mr. Clay as the Candidate for the next Presidential Election -- I gave him instances and proofs, some of which were already known to him; others he had not heard of before

Washington D.C. March 12 1831

Morning walk omitted.  Proportional deduction from the progress of Dermot.  [The rest of this day's entry is entirely concerned with the matter before the Supreme Court, brought by the Cherokees, regarding the states essentially nullifying treaties made with them, which quite outrages and depresses JQ, as indeed it would any decent-thinking person.]


     . . . . Sir Walter Scott's wildly popular long poem historical Romances were doubtless JQ's inspiration for doing The Tale of Dermont.  JQ always wished to be widely popular, and seldom achieved it, and only for short periods. 

1805: The Lay of the Last Minstrel
1806: Ballads and Lyrical Pieces
1808: Marmion
1810: The Lady of the Lake

Washington D.C.,  April 16th 1831

Rain -- I finished this Morning the fair copy of my Poem of Dermot MacMorrogh, and have now the measure of my own Poetical Power -- Beyond this I shall never attain, and now it is an important question whether I should throw this, and almost all the other verses I have written into the fire -- Hitherto I have confined myself to Translations, and fugitive pieces of a very few Lines of Stanza's; a small portion of whihc have been published in Newspapers and Magazines.  I have now completed a historical Tale, of upwards of two thousand line; the subject of my own Selection -- the moral clear and palpable -- the characters and incidents strictly historical -- The Story complete and entire -- It has amused and occupied two Months of my life and leaves me now like a pleasant dream, to dull and distressing realities -- To a sense of wasted Time to the humiliation of enterprize, ashamed of performance-- Yet at the same Time with an insatate thirst for undertaking again higher and better things.

And here we come to "The End" of Dermont, JQ's "a pleasant dream", which was his escape in those dreary winter days after leaving the White House and returning to Quincy in the spring. Once he has finished Dermont though, his mind falls back into his keen sense of humiliation and shame, for losing the presidency to Andrew Jackson.  But he is not finished, he resolves. As we shall see, soon he will be "undertaking again higher and better things."  Indeed, he will be returned to D.C. as a Massachusetts Congressman, who became hated by the slaveocracy, and by no one more than Andrew Jackson, for his unrelenting representation for the rights of the enslaved and for Abolition. His state of Massachusetts, which did so much to form the souls of his parents and his own, returned him to Congress, without challenge, until the very end of his life.

He died of stroke, on the floor of Congress, in the midst of a debate upon a resolution on which he was resolved to vote "No!" In thunder.

Part 1: John Quincy Adams on "the melancholy madness of Poetry without the inspiration"

     . . . . Copied from the Library of America 2 volume edition of the Diaries of John Quincy Adams, brilliantly edited by historian, David Waldstreicher.

The following entries feelingly describe his sorrow at being a failure as a poet while possessing all the passion to express himself as great poets do. He recognizes that as a writer of the imagination he fully lacks the necessary imaginative verbal power to transport his castles in the air onto paper. All writers feel this way, and not only writers of the imagination. His description (below) of what it is like to be in full creative throe and thrall to a project is recognizable and shared by all writers, whether they are good or poor writers. 

However, unlike most of us, JQA may have been an imaginative failure, but a as recorder of history, he is pure gold. He also manages right at the start of this meditation on his attempt to write an epic Tale of Dermont (a description of which arrives in the next entry) to get in a sly dig at Thomas Jefferson, which is right where I began to laugh.  I continued to laugh throughout these entries, but it is critical to understand that I was laughing with JQ, and with great sympathy, not at him. No one understood his own shortcomings as well as JQ, or understood there was nothing he could -- or in some cases, would do -- to remedy them. He was the son of John and Abigail Adams, and these arch Puritans inhabited him as fully as he inhabited himself.

March 8, 1831; Washington D.C.

Sun rose 6:16. Fahrenheit 30.  It is a doctrine of the medical faculty that bodily exercise to be salutary, should be taken with a vacant mind, and such is the precept of Mr. Jefferson.  By the instruction Buchan I have during the greater part of my life, followed this rule, and it has saved me from the composition of mechans vers douze fois, douze cens and ten times more -- At certain Seasons however the propensity becomes too strong for me. I walk and muse, and pour forth premeditated verse, which it takes me six or nine months to lay by, and then resume to find it good for nothing -- It never appears so to me when I compose it -- In a few instances I have suffered the publication of my effusions, and I am accredited, as one of the smallest Poets of Country -- Very short fugitive pieces and translations are the only rhymes I have ever committed to the press.  One short poem; the lines to Mrs. Hellen on the death of her two children -- and one translation, the 13th Satire of Juvenal have been favorably noticed. One Satirical song, overlooked when first published was dragged into light twenty years afterwards, for political effect against me because it laughed at the party lama Jefferson.  All the rest of of my published poetry has passed from the press into the waters of Lethé -- One of these rhyming fits is now upon me -- brought on by the inflammation of my eye, which debarred me from reading and writing, and threw me back upon my own scanty resources -- I write every morning one Stanza of paraphrase from the Bible; and in my morning walk from two to three Stanzas of a Tale which I have undertaken, far beyond my depth, and which I shall obviously never get through -- But so totally does it absorb my attention while engaged upon it, that in my morning walk round the capitol square, I go out and return almost without consciousness of the passage of Time -- the melancholy madness of Poetry without the inspiration -- I cooked up this morning one Stanza before rising from bed -- Then after three Chapters of Isaiah -- one Stanza, of paraphrase from the 3rd Chapter of Proverbs -- Then in my walk three Stanzas more of the Tale and this Evening after dinner, severely threatened with an inflammation of my left eye, and therefore, daring neither to read nor write, took up an Ode of Horace, exquisitely beautiful, from which more than twenty-five years ago I had wrung three Stanzas, and then given up the rest in despair -- They were three of the best Stanzas I ever wrote -- to which I now added two of the worst -- The thoughts of Horace, are as unmalleable as Platina. [Do not know if Platina here refers to the 15th C poet, or to the metal.  I am guessing the poet, but both are equally likely to inhabit the vast, multi-chambered mind of JQA!]

Monday, May 18, 2020

Question: What Is Imagination?

     . . . .  Arturo Pérez-Reverte believes  a novel is made of three parts: documentation, imagination and personal experience.

He defines imagination as narrative talent.

Some readers have objected to where this author's own narrative talent and his experience, plus the Muslim and Christian documents he's studied, took him with the great national hero -- who, when the Cid lived, there wasn't even an idea of a 'reconquista', much less a nation called "Spain." After all, even Charlemagne's forays into al-Andulus were mercenary jobs, fighting some Muslim states on the behalf, for pay and booty, other Muslim states.

"El Cid was a guy who, in a turbulent, bloody and uncertain territory, was looking for his life. El Cid was a mercenary!"

Then there is the place of landscape in novel creation.  Though  Pérez-Reverte didn't include landscape in his definition of the parts that make a novel, he puts landscape in the title, "Sidi Un relato de frontera."  He sees Sidi moving in a world that is a John Ford Western, which makes so much sense in so many ways.

Which further explains why there are readers who feel offended by this portrait of Sidi -- they are are rejecting what this novel is, which above all is a novelist's vision. Additionally it appears that many readers were expecting something more along the lines of the Charelton Heston-Sophia Loren 1961 film, El Cid. Sometimes readers adore a novelist's vision of a notable historical figure, as readers adore Mantel's Thomas Cromwell.  Sometimes, as with many Spanish, and Sidi, they do not.  Think of how infuriated so many people in the US were / are. when shown, in a novel, in history, and on screen, that Thomas Jefferson kept an enslaved woman as his concubine for decades, until he died, and fathered several children on her.  It's like that, among a lot of Spanish readers. Reverte tried to create a Sidi who was a real man, not the glorious myth, who has been used as a convenient channel for whichever current political mythology was in fashion at the time.


     .... Going back to 'narrative talent' ... would this explain why very young children's lies so often charm and amuse adults? 

Though little children's imagination is lively and vigorous, their experience, like their documentation, is sharply limited.  Since their lies  are transparent, without documentation and experience, "innocent", we tend to enjoy them rather than judge them. Maybe this is part of what Blake was pursuing, in his Songs of Innocence and Experience?

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

John Quincy Adams Twiddles His Thumbs

     . . . . John Quincy Adams is in that in-between place almost of all us have been at some time or another, or even, maybe, often. The job that has thoroughly occupied him, of which he complained so much for leaving him no time for reflection, study and writing, for over four years, is, over, and not through his own choice.  The (western and southern) voters and the senate chose Andrew Jackson to be POTUS, instead of returning JQA to the White House for a second term.

So, he's just hanging out in that house Louisa got them to purchase before, when he was Monroe's Secretary of State.  It's January, it is bitter winter.  There are storms and blizzards, and he's quite cozy tucked up in the house*, seeing the occasional agreeable visitor, reading, and working on the entry arrears of his Diaries, because being President meant he had to spend so much time in meetings and present at public affairs, deal with office seekers etc., he couldn't read and write as he was used. But now, with the weather and jobless he's able to do all these things, and catch up the Diaries' indexing, which means he's been re-reading his entries. This brings him inevitably to ... Thomas Jefferson, about whom a new multi-volume biography has recently been published. Which, JQ, who had known Jefferson since he himself was young boy, is reading.

JQ hasn't got anything good to say about Jefferson, and if anyone should know, it is him.  His father, John Adams, may have forgiven TJ for the abominable treatment TJ wreaked upon him -- and on President Washington -- but JQ most clearly has not. He suggests that someone really should write the history of Thomas Jefferson's and his boy Madison's presidencies.  His grandson, Henry Adams, will do this very thing -- using not only JQ's Diaries as primary sources, but many other primary documents and letters that JQ has carefully preserved and -- indexed and bound.

This jaundiced, occasionally bitter, but always detailed insider account of history only gets more fascinating as the Diaries go on. 

This is all the more fascinating as I've embarked on James Monroe: A Life (2020) by Tim McGrath.  JM was another of Jefferson's protege-boy-minions,  about whom I knew previously very little before JQA served as his Secretary of State. Despite the author doing his best, I am not impressed with JM, a fairly middling, at best sort,** within the brilliance of the early Independence and Constitutional circles.  JM wasn't much better at winning elections than John Adams was, nor ever possessed the intellectual fire power of Madison, nor the sheer cunning and duplicity -- or physical cowardice -- of TJ. Monroe played an instrumental role assisting TJ in the social downfall of Alexander Hamilton,*** in their long-range objective to take him out as a powerful office holder and political rival.  Monroe was just as bad as TJ with money, getting it and keeping it and making more (not that Madison was much better, once he rather ran his enormous inheritance of lands and slaves into the ground, leaving a penniless widow). What Monroe was fairly good at, comparatively speaking, was diplomacy, though he may have been given credit for a fair amount that was actually accomplished by someone else.  

We alternate reading the Diaries aloud with reading aloud Ancestral Journeys: The Peopling of Europe From The First Venturers to the Vikings (2013 - 2015) by Jean Manco.  This involves tracking the migrations via linguistic forensics.  It doesn't track via a linear narrative or chronological format, which can confuse things somewhat for the non-scholar.  But it is fascinating and illuminating.  With so much focus on language, el V is just gobbling this down with the greatest of pleasure.

There is a great lack in this book though -- nothing at all about African languages. And surely there must be some markers in the languages of the Ibercelts of Iberia of Africa, at the very least!

I am continuing alone with the massive Boundless Sea. However, I am finally getting Hillary Mantel's The Mirror and the Light, the conclusion to her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, so I'll probably be reading that this week.***

Well, the grocery delivery has arrived, now for the disinfecting  protocols -- and then finding somewhere to put it all.  This was a week for high quality fresh produce again, which takes up such an amount of space.

Moreover, it is a bright, chilly, windy day, and I feel sick to my stomach, dizzy and have a headache.  Arghh.  

January 18th; 30 degrees.  I can go without a fire in my library, though I keep a small one in my sitting room.

(He is writing this in the library, wouldn't you just know! Good grief!  These people are so hardy; here I am complaining about feeling chilled right now in our apartment, with a chilly wind blowing and the outside temp at 61°.)

*  Moreover, Monroe's achievements such as the Monroe Doctrine we know were really John Quincy Adams's ideas and even doing, as revealed to us in John Quincy Adams's Diaries! Poor Monroe never had an original idea of his own in his whole life, at least as JQ tended to record things -- and alas, this biography kinda bears this out, at least so far.

***   As Washington's Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton created the First Bank of the US -- to which the Virginian slaveholder triumvirate of TJ, Madison and Monroe were unilaterally opposed, was very close to President Washington, and looked likely to be a serious rival to TJefferson for POTUS.

****  Still "saving" Chaucer: A European Life, for when I am without anything else that appeals. 

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Even In Lock Down Time Moves On, Things Happen, Change Arrives

     . . . . The Final Class of the semester is finished.  We will miss the class, and the bright, involved, enthusiastic students. The class was was vital in keeping us anchored to time's endless seas ... and sanity ... through these first months of lock down in endless dreary grey and cold w/o sunshine.

Later today, attending a video meeting held by a Cuban government official to inform those who wish to be about the current condition of Cuba in connection with Covid-19.
Last night el V signed me up for Britbox. Started watching the most recent Midsomer Murders, season #21!  MM seems entirely lacking now, all the elements that made MM a combination of dependable charming enjoyment, with odd yet interesting characters and settings. With the recent seasons' different cast of actors, the writing has gotten darker, harder – even the police headquarters is now the prevailing nondescript, featureless, glass and steel, corners and lines. There is none of that lightness of touch and tone -- and utter charm! -- that were the hallmarks of the Nettles Barnaby, Wymark Joyce and Hughes Ben Jones's seasons.

So. We have Polar Vortex. Again. Weeks after Spring supposedly arrived. They Say even some snow coming, further north and for parts of Pennsylvania. Which means for me, if I wish to Go Out this weekend, steamed up glasses, i.e. walking blind, which really doesn’t work in cold, dreary 40° rain with mask on.

After the Final Class we went for a walk. This is a clear, bright blue, gold and green day. Just perfect. We went the furthest away from home we've been since this mess. Which also shows how much good el V's workouts (and my own) are doing. He wouldn't have walked that far, that long, Before, without both complaining and saying we had to turn around.

Almost everyone except obvious assholes were wearing masks, though still too many masks are just hanging around necks, not covering mouth and face. But even bikers are wearing masks. Just the goddamn runners aren't with a very tiny number of good citizen exceptions.

Masks are a lot more available, I think. Also the deathcult determination to 're-open' even as the numbers of infection and sickness everywhere outside of the first epicenters like NYC are going up -- shows deathcultists prefer its citizens / voters to die. While NYers, who have been living with this for months are actually experiencing a flattening of the curve of both new hospitalizations and deaths -- though not of new cases. This is the case particularly due to the still way too inadequate testing. Testing barely ramps up little by little due to lack of testing kits, as well as PPE and other supplies, and seemingly no tracking despite the vaunted bloomb task force to do so. Which may encourages us to keep observing the protocols? It does encourage me, for sure. But who knows?  Probably more to do with mask availability than anything.

BTW -- Faux Noose is officially now ignoring the pandemic's existence, so the koolaid drinkers won't know there is such a thing as a killing and maiming disease, even as mom spends the rest of her life gasping for breath, dad's on dialysis after getting infected, and grandpa died of it.

Walking our so well-trod routes, we almost felt normal today -- so enjoyed the sunshine on our bodies. Certain places are relatively re-opening, providing curbside service -- and life to the streets. Our street, between Washington Square and home, could almost have been a street in New Orleans in ye olden golden daze -- Cocktails To Go! advertised every second or third shop front -- yah, loads of restaurants, yogurt places, ice cream shops, bakeries, coffee shops and bars here. Even chocolate shops have doors open and people working behind a counter. Of course anything that's not related to eating and drinking is not open in the least.

When we checked the mailbox on our way out, out of the blue, inside there was a SAG check. So, we stopped at SoHo Wines & Spirits to put in an order for delivery. That check covered a case of wine, two of the large bottles I use for cooking, and a couple liters of vodka. We thought:

 "Despite the Polar Vortex, it will be getting warmer and sitting outside with B and / or other company at Distance with bottle and glasses will be just what we need in the evenings. Drinking wine then, wearing masks, shall be a mutual challenge for us to deal with, doubtless providing dribbling entertainment and provoking goofy laughter. Good for the souls."

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

There Are Still Some Books; A Future, Maybe?

     . . . . el V was putting in an order.  "What would you like?" 

It took some time but finally recalled a title from Before, published in the fall of 2019, that I had been 'saving' for a shut-in time - Chaucer: A European Life by Marion Turner.

This isn't a lit crit study focused on literature, but social, cultural, political history, and not only that of England, but greater Europe.

Chaucer's times within the all important 14th century! He lives through the Bubonic Plague, as child in the first wave, and as a young man in the second wave of the later 1360's. His king was Edward III, various members of his family Chaucer served in various offices and in other ways. 

As I'm currently suffering Edward III withdrawal since finishing the biography of him by Ian Mortimer, this is exactly what I want and need.

Liking the human history of the oceans, The Boundless Sea, very much, but I also need something more, o I dunno, that fills in more about the 14th century, the hinge century of Europe between medieval and 'modern.'  Also, at the moment, Boundless Sea's author is enthralled with the centuries' repetition of the Indian Ocean trade between the East Coast of Africa, Egypt, the Red Sea, India and Southeast Asia, reaching up and down, eventually, into China proper.  The same goods continue to be traded, whether B.C. or A.D. or even the 17th century, and generally in the same locations, though ports silt in, names change, still as the centuries roll along even more nationalities and languages appear. So, right now, a little slow.

     . . . . The Diaries of John Quincy Adams .... Alas, JQ is no longer POTUS, though he has a difficult time letting go of D.C., but finally he moves back to Quincy, MA -- because his son George is lost at sea, evidently falling off a packet boat (it has been suggested in other books that George either fell overboard from being drunk or, due to being an Adams probably, committed suicide.  His propensity for drinking too much could also be attributed to being an Adams.  One of JQ's brothers was an alcoholic who committed suicide due to being unable to fulfill the family expectations, which were always beyond high.  Only JQ lived up entirely to expectation.

George's death is truly sad, particularly for Louisa, who has lost so many children already, either from miscarriage or still birth, or in very early childhood. For once Louisa is mentioned in the Diaries with clearly stated sorrow and sympathy, beyond, "my wife unwell" -- which back in the day could mean with menstrual period (not many of those!) or because pregnant, or recovering from miscarriage or birth.

Somewhere around losing the presidency and Andrew Jackson entering it, JQ seems to have lost his interest in swimming in the Potomac, in favor of riding his good horse, and lost his passion for trees as well. At least there are no more entries in the Diaries (as edited, anyway) of either.  I'm sorry for that, for they humanized JQ so much, and were amusing in their own right, as well as casting light upon publicly accepted behaviors of white men of a certain class in the America of the 1820's.


     . . . . We have arrived at the point of sketching out plans for leaving here.  If fortunate, in the fall.  Ya, work still seems to be coming in, but for how long?  And it's not as though this is work that can't be done from somewhere else, as it is all writing work.

Additional local news: one of the people for whom I've been cooking has gone away, to live with his sister.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

As They Say in New Orleans: Time to Play Indian, You All!

      . . . . Due to several interviews concerning New Orleans's music, Jazz Fest and the future of live music performance, history, culture, The World That Made New Orleans, Cuba and Its Music, The American Slave Coast & etc.: radio, television, podcast in the last couple-three days, el V has taken to getting ready to out of the apartment, whether just to the downstairs mailbox or for a walk as, "I'mma play Indian now."

It's 71° today so it was a good afternoon to play Indian -- go out, really go out, go OUTSIDE -- glasses didn't steam up from the mask.

I'd never seen so many masked faces since this began!  Almost everyone was wearing a mask. Never before have I seen that outside.  Multitudes are out and about too.  Lots of very high quality masks, whether purchased or home made.  Most interestingly were the masks I saw on young African American males -- their masks matched their outfits in color and ornamentation and design.  Some of them downright magnificent.


    . . . . Here is what we don't know about the spread of c19 infections and death, and tend to be modeling incorrectly because we don't know.

This is what I too, who am nothing of any kind of scientist or medical researcher, been thinking for quite some weeks now:

QUOTE[....]Over the past few months, this possibility has often been described as a “second wave.” But such a wave would not be the result of disease mutation or a seasonality effect — the virus dying out in the summer, only to come roaring back during the fall and flu season. It would be because of human choices to gradually ease our way out of our bunkers and back into something more closely resembling “normal” life, though perhaps 95 percent of us have yet to even be exposed. It would be less like a second wave, in other words, than the breaking of a dam. All those people vulnerable to potential infection, and protected by quarantine measures, exposed by human choice. “That’s the risk we face here,” former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said this week, “that this doesn’t really go away because we don’t get rid of this round. That the mitigation steps weren’t quite robust enough, as painful as they were, and we continue to have spread right into the fall. 
[....]“This thing’s not going to stop until it infects 60 to 70 percent of people,” one of the lead authors told CNN. “The idea that this is going to be done soon defies microbiology.” On April 30, NBC News reported the federal government, even while signaling optimism about the course of the disease, had ordered 100,000 new body bags.


I've never thought otherwise concerning the above. I deliberately compartmentalize deliberately that knowledge, and am / have been mostly successful with that. Then, yesterday, with the start of yet another whole month ahead -- the understanding broke through as it will every 7 - 10 days now. I crash profoundly into depression and hopelessness then, knowing there is no more Life for me, as in terms of living a life with short and long term goals, doing things that aren't cooking and washing dishes and other domestic tasks, even down to just scheduling them and drawing attention to the need to do them, even if someone else is doing them -- and working out. There's no space literally to think about anything else 

I cannot stand any more of this! breaks out of the cell into which I've incarcerated the understanding. And I get really depressed for a while until able to re-imprison the awareness of the only future that is realistic.


We may be able to acquire more knowledge about how the infection spreads though. This research and testing is less expensive, less invasive, providing fundamental information about the presence of the coronavirus breakout areas much faster and more easily, than swab testing. It's better for viewing an entire population's rate of infection, as opposed to the discrete individual (which I haste to emphasize is at least equally important).

Quote:An early warning system for coronavirus infections could be found in your toilet.From the U.S. to Europe to Australia, scientists have detected the virus in wastewater ahead of spikes in local cases.


Due to playing Indian I feel a lot better -- Besos y abrazos to New Orleans, NYC's sister city in tragedy -- and the greatest music.