". . . 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, November 11, 2020

Watching In Our Days of Darkness + Reading Wednesday

     . . . Last week we got tipped to a Korean streaming site that allows free access to Nirvana in Fire (2015), the Chinese series with which so many viewers in the US and Asia have passionately fallen in love. There are many fan sites and fan writing so the title may be a familiar one.  One does not need to sign-up for the paid service without commercial interruptions. As I haven't interest in the full service, I'll put up with the short commercials.

The English subtitles are good, the viewing quality is outstanding. Evidently the showrunners had an unlimited budget for production, locations and wardrobe, cameras and editing. The capital city is a huge, lavish set, which is shared with other productions. What we get on the screen is beautiful as well as graceful, so much so, it hovers at Too Much, at any moment about to fall into an overly styled realm of rococo preciosity -- at least to my USian eyes. 

However, the actors save the screen every time. They are not mannered or styled, or precious.  At least so far. Their screen presence is like to that of the most centered characters in Marco Polo, which Netflix lamentably canceled in 2016 after only two seasons.

Nirvana in Fire's first season has 54 episodes; The sequel season has 50 episodes, but I don't know if that's included on this service with the first.

Like the Turkish 13th-14th C epic series, Ertugrul: Resurrection (2014 >>>), with which I fell in love around the same time West Coasties were falling for Nirvana in Fire, two eps per day were broadcast. Like Ertugrul, extremely popular also outside of Turkey, Nirvana in Fire (extraordinarily poor title in English -- what it would be in Chinese?) this 6th Century Chinese epic, is extremely popular outside China too. Ertugrul also shares all the themes and concerns that Nirvana In Fire dramatizes, as did the real Turkish tv equivalent to Nirvana In Fire, set as it is primarily within the claustrophobic, toxic atmosphere of an imperial palace, The Magnificent Century (2011 >>>), also passionately popular outside of Turkey. What Nirvana in Fire doesn't share with Ertugrul, is the splendid horses and the relationships the riders, particularly the protagonist, Ertugrul, have with their steeds.

Back in 2018, Strange Horizons provided the best description of Nirvana in Fire that I, at least, know of in English, written by Erin Horáková.

Nirvana in Fire participates in several generic categories, aligning itself with historical fiction, fantasy, political fiction, family sagas, romance, the cop show, drama, and comedy. I get a strong sense that it’s positioning itself largely against Asian genres I’m not very familiar with: the umbrella categories of C-drama, most obviously, but as SF, Nirvana in Fire works something like a super-heroic wuxia. I saw a weakly translated fanfic reimagining the story as shenmo, which is both a fascinating idea and an illustration of how various international definitions of the fantastic may not neatly map onto one another.

I finally settled into watching two nights ago. (For some reasons it takes some energy to fulling commit to watching a new series.)  Having now viewed 4 episodes, I think Nirvana in Fire may well be my always dependable Watching through the end of the year. Thank goodness for that, since we have dark days ahead.


O ya, Reading Wednesday: This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders At the Helm of American Foreign Policy (2016)  by Matthew Karp. 

Which they were, the slaveholders, running US foreign policy to protect slavery everywhere in view of protecting their own economy, for most our nation's history until the election of Abraham Lincoln.  And then, they really cranked up the steam engines for protection of slavery and a slavery system.  By then of course, despite Britain having freed the West Indian colonies' slaves, Britain was fully operational with other forms of slavery, in the West Indies and their other colonies in Asia.  In many places such as the opium plantations and factories in India, it was plain, out-and-out slavery.  Other European nations with colonies were doing the same.  This is an informative account of how then how the US's southern slaveowners and their counterparts in Europe worked in other parts of the world to prohibit abolition in Cuba and Brazil.  Protecting these two hemispheric slave systems meant protection for their own.

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