". . . 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

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Louise Penny: New Bestie, New Project

     . . . . So. Big News in publishing.  No, not in this case, the merger of Penguin-Random House and Simon & Schuster.  Louise Penny’s writing a thriller with her new bestie, Hillary Clinton about a baby Secretary of State.

The only interesting thing really, reading the latest Penny, All The Devils Are Here (2020), was feeling with every sentence, on every page how separated we were from milieu and concerns from what brought us to Penny's Gamache novels in the first place: interesting, variegated individuals, in long-time relationships and community with each other, in a 'normal' sort of place, particularly Three Pines, and what happens when the abnormal disturbs the normal condition.

Here, we're not in Three Pines, or even Montreal or Quebec, or even Canada, but in Paris. We don't have a mad poet and duck, or a loving gay couple and their B&B, and all the others living in the beautiful, rather isolated rural, forested Three Rivers geography, but  the very high-powered, very wealthy, very politically connected, multi-national, legal, enforcement and financial figures and milieu.  This background, this late, on Gamache, that he's from entitled and privileged family and guardians -- had not previously penetrated into the Gamache universe composed of 15 previous novels.  That's a lot of universe to leave out this foundational platform of Gamache's character.

In this 16th Gamache novel, I didn't hear Gamache, I heard Clinton's voice, as in her What Happened, published post the 2016 election, constantly referencing her many internationally wealthy friends, their palatial estates in the DR, etc. -- without sensibility toward those outside of those rarefied circles that have forgotten, if they ever knew, what it is like to fly coach, not in presidential or billionaire luxury. What Happened is exactly what happened -- no touch with what life is for people who aren't comfortably within her circles of involvement.  It looks like Penny got star-struck.

I didn't like All the Devils Are Here, for all those reasons.  It's off-putting, possessing nothing of what brought me back, book after book, to Gamache's world.

That Penny had gone as far with that world that was possible shows strongly in the previous two – three titles, which were flattened, over-stretched, rather implausible and lacking the sort of engagement with the characters and milieu we loved in the long string of books that preceded them.  So she wanting to do something different is understandable.  But her choice to shoe horn her new interests – and her new, insider access to a wider and vastly more powerful mise en scène – into the world of Gamache, was an error of sensibility the same as Clinton’s.  It too is flat while simultaneously, not a bigger world, despite the scope, but claustrophobic, which Three Pines was not, despite being so defined.

Penny's was same mistake, the failure, that cost Clinton an election, has cost Penny (and Clinton) a reader.

One cannot help but speculate as whether or not the Clinton-Penny State of Terror "baby" protagonist, Secretary of State, fated to put the world to rights, will also, like President Clinton, and Obama's Secretary of State, HRC, will install a bottomless corrupt and brutal regime in Haiti to protect the international business interests, as well as the Clintons' own business interests.  Interesting, hmmmmmm?

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Incoming! New Snow Storm

      . . . .  With the wreckage of the power grid of Texas from this massive coverage by Arctic air and storm, leaving so many without the power for either heat or water even, one has concerns, doesn't one, knowing that the mass is moving east now.  Not only will there be ice, They Say, for both Virginia and Maryland, there shall be snow too.  This will certainly delay vaccine deliveries as well as many other essential products that all of us depend on arriving dependably.

At least I have two books to keep me happy in my warm, comfy bed.  Ian Rankin's got yet one novel featuring his grouchy old Inspector Rebus, even though he's retired -- A Song For the Dark Times (2020).  This time it is his daughter's sort of estranged partner, the father of his granddaughter, who seems in peril.  I also have Alec Ross's Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music (2020).  I've dipped into them both, and both have held my interest effortlessly.


      . . . .Here, something from far away and long ago -- Sexy el V, Berlin, 1988.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Mardi Gras! Is Here! Babeeeeee! So Is My Birthday!

      . . . .  Am I, or am I, clever, having my birthday this year the same day as Fat Tuesday, when, despite the pandemic, all the world that celebrates Mardi Gras is celebrating with brilliant color, food and music? 

Having had zero expectations for this day, well!  It's a beautiful birthday, particularly because for this one day only here  (Thursday, big storm blows in), the weather became lovely.  Blue sky and bright, warm sun, when el V went out with me about 2 PM for a walk.  We went to the library, stopped at the Wine Hut and got two nice artisnal, organic Pinot Grigios from the Tyrol. When we got back to T Street, B joined us, and we sat together (double-masked) on a bench at the playground, basking in the sun.  A snow white wispy cloud scarf blew fast across the blue sky field. The sunlight bounced radiantly off a helium heart balloon in a tree, a Valentine’s Day escapee no doubt. We photographed it as a memento of the day.  

Because it is a beautiful day, and because it is my BD, though this is one of my regularly scheduled workout days, I took a holiday from working out. This is only the second time since the beginning of April I've missed one of the three I religiously schedule per week.  Walking in the sunshine with el V was the better choice. So many BD greetings from friends, including from the couple in France, who just got married on Saturday.  I am a fortunate being, you betcha, particularly having my birthday this year on Mardi Gras, so we could bang the music out of New Orleans's WWOZ all day.  Nothing better to have as your birthday sound track.

We have also listened to the first segment of Leyla McCalla’s Kanvale special radio production, with el V, along with Lauren Dubois, as primary commentators for the Haitian-New Orleans connections. He was recorded for his interjections back in May, 2020, but didn’t recall it at all, until after listening, he looked through his archives.  May.  Such a long time ago now, such a strange frightened time.  May 2020 seems longer ago now than Mays prior to 2020. However May 2020 taught me that winter does eventually end, and things can get better.  So it shall be in 2021 as well.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Weather, Inclement and Cold, Over-Busy Days, Ill Friends, Getting Through With History and Historical Fiction

      . . . . Subject line says it all, and I'd make book this subject line applies to a vast swathe of us across the globe.  The big difference between and much of the vast swathe, is that, tiny, cramped as it is, is snug, and filled with comforts. 

I don't know about others, but the relentless, graphic violence and jeopardy of children, women, and all others who are regarded as the rightful prey offering of the entertainment industries, as well as the entertainment industries' relentless offering of file criminals as identification protagonists has flattened my brain into idiocy, when not rousing me to desire to commit violence on them. 

Happily, there is an antidote that brings us heroism and the projection of loyalty, sacrifice, true friendship and virtues to the fore, while providing good escape action adventure into the past.  The Overdrive- Libby historical fiction series, Duke Classics, has put these novels up on the public libraries that subscribe to Overdrive - Libbey.  These a novels that our great-grandparents and grandparents likely were familiar with, and maybe, like me, stumbled into on their shelves, in their basements and attics, but are hard to find these days, particularly in the libraries.

But one day, titles I've always wanted to try but never came across, such as Joan of Naples by Alexander Dumas, jumped out at me.  This is the 14th Century Queen of Naples (at the top of my list of favorite queens), who was a patron of Boccaccio, a good friend with Pope Clement -- during the Black Death, no less -- and who managed to keep her throne for decades despite so many trying to take it from her (ultimately they were successful, but it took them until she was old).   One can always count on Dumas to have written at some point (or had his factory do it) a novel dealing with a figure of French history about which one is curious.  As you can see from a Dumas era illustration the story of Joan of Naples is filled with action:

This is how one of her husbands met his end, supposedly.

One can access a medieval Romance, such as The Young Lovell, by Ford Maddox Ford. 

 Ford's Parade's End which might familiar from the BBC-PBS 2012 tv series featuring Benedict Cumberbatch)  and some of his other fiction are considered ground-breaking, like Henry James works, as moving the novel into the modern age.  But Ford wrote for nearly 40 years, and most of his work was not that.

As this particular Overdrive program was developed for university libraries, so today's few brave lit students could find such works for their research, classic authors such as an Elizabeth Gaskell, who usually only have a couple of titles available to a general audience, have their full bibliographies accessible.  Mary Gaskell wrote for money, so she wrote a lot of books, not just her hagiography of Charlotte Bronte,  North and South, Wives and Daughters and Cranford -- the last three BBC productions too.

The works of authors truly obscure authors these days, even to literature students perhaps, such as George Payne Rainsford James are also here.

 I have taken additional cheer from the vivid red and white of roses, the gold-trimmed champagne glasses, and bouffants of chocolate ads running on every online site for Valentine's Days.

We're playing lots of Mardi Gras music in the apartment, not only because our first events of NOLA Reconnect 2: Continuing Stories are coming right up, but because -- hey, Mardi Gras is comin' babee, and is nearly here, as of tomorrow.  This too has been cheery, and does wonderful work taking us out of the mundanity of the ice, illness (some with covid-19, some with other issues, and some with both).  

In between, hey I think a lot about George Washington -- Presidents Day -- that figure who remains an historic enigma. Was he really a terrible battle commander but a brilliantly astute political operator?  Was he real a dull mind that never read a book but possessed an intellectual organ that recognized what matters mattered when others couldn't even read the room?

So, among the museum presentation (Black History Month you know), other engagements, NOLA Reconnect, cooking cooking cooking and all that entails, etc. the hour of 8 PM is so welcome.  A couple of hours for tv and books! 

A storm, mostly freezing rain, rolling in.  Another storm Thursday, though this one is mostly snow, They say.  We've already had about three storms I think, in the last 8 days or so -- my sense of time is fairly weird these frigid days and nights, w/o any above freezing temperatures to punctuate.

I tell myself, "Get through this week, and things will get better, at least weather wise!" It's easier to keep that thought in mind because on Saturday, in France, two very elegant, lovely friends got married.  We couldn't be there, but they sent us photos.  O they are beautiful people inside, and so they are beautiful outside too.

 As for last week's tv, it was compelling, with some brilliant, brilliant characters -- particularly female characters -- and presentation.  However, I will confess that, while it was expected, the final episode was, honestly, disappointing.  It seems over 60% of we US voters feel the same about it.  Maybe next season we'll get our druthers?

Monday, February 8, 2021


      . . .  Fortunately yesterday's snow drop was hardly noticeable right here, though anywhere from 7 - 12 inches all around us. Many, if not most, of the streateries did not even close, and certainly didn't take down their sheds, though they were told to do so.  "It's the SuperBowl, we have to be open!"

This photo isn't from yesterday -- too busy to go out yesterday -- but early in the big storm six days ago.  This is just up the street from us.

Now we are in the promised  polar vortex.  It is quite cold, and expected to stay that way for some weeks or so?  Thankfully, we're fairly cozy here, as we have massive amounts of work preparing for next month's NOLA Reconnect 2 - Continuing Stories.  Such good things as will happen those two very long weekends in March.

NOLA Reconnect will be all the more appreciated, since I do not expect to get vaccinated for a very long time due to reasons, many of them due to previous WH tenant, and other reasons which must be put at the door of Governor Andrew Cuomo.  So I'm happy that the nose filters and sealers for my K9 masks arrived today.  They did a pretty good job of keeping my glasses from fogging over.  Still going double masked.  A bright sunny day, no wind, so when dressed right, it was pleasant to go out.  The filters make it more possible now, when it is this cold.

Additional happy circumstance: the local grab 'n carry libraries have got temp reading machines that function! So instead of having my stance, etc. futzed with an unfortunate library security person for far too long, security stays way past 10 feet, and I can grab the book, hit checkout, card at the ready to be read, and gone in in about 90 seconds again.  Can get books during the winter after all!  A great big thank you to the library person who personally called to tell me that the NYPL dysfunctional temp readers had been replaced!

Perhaps my biggest lesson learned personally in the pandemic is that the economy and the market are not the same, and these days, seem barely to be connected, even.  Large segments of the economy have been decimated and even entirely wiped out by the deliberate, hideous refusal to manage it, or even try to manage the infection rate of the virus.  But, the market soared with the all the food it had been thrown from the WH, from tax cuts to stimulus packages for, o, you know, Boeing and many others.  And it soared again then, when Biden was inaugurated, certainly at least to a degree due to the anticipation / salivating over the next stim bill.  Even our 'penny' stocks are roaring, which aren't traded on the Dow.  Though that is nice since these are actually investment kinds of stocks, which we're in for the long haul, not trying to make a big score and buy and McMansion.

Though both of us are always feeling behind, racing to get something accomplished and never so achieving, it is probably better than long strings of repetitively empty hours.  Hardly anyone we know have them.  Everyone we know is racing as fast as they can, trying to get somewhere with their projects, their work, and the never-end, ever-expanding daily tasks and routines.

Friday, February 5, 2021

If Cats Had Wings

      . . . . Owls are perhaps my favorite birds, all kinds of owls, and most particularly the plain old barn owl.  I grew up with barn owls. Pairs of them did nest and raise their young in our classic red barn.  The barn itself, full of cattle feed, was a good place to live, because the grain attracted owl's kind of food.  This was the same reason. beyond shelter from the weather, fox and neighbors' dogs, our farm yard cats lived and raised their kittens in the barn. All around the farm yard were granaries and corn cribs, the big garden, and grain fields, all attracting everything from mourning doves, gophers, rabbits, pheasants and mice. A good place to be an owl or a cat.

There's a part of me still, which wishes to adhere to my childhood conviction that owls were cats with wings.


The Owl

Downhill I came, hungry, and yet not starved;

Cold, yet had heat within me that was proof

Against the North wind; tired, yet so that rest

Had seemed the sweetest thing under a roof.

Then at the inn I had food, fire, and rest,

Knowing how hungry, cold, and tired was I.

All of the night was quite barred out except

An owl’s cry, a most melancholy cry

Shaken out long and clear upon the hill,

No merry note, nor cause of merriment,

But one telling me plain what I escaped

And others could not, that night, as in I went.

And salted was my food, and my repose,

Salted and sobered, too, by the bird’s voice

Speaking for all who lay under the stars,

Soldiers and poor, unable to rejoice.

                   ---- Edward Thomas (1878-1917)


A perfect day for a walk.  It was warm enough I went without a hat and my glasses didn't fog over from the warmth of my double-masked face.  The only drawback was the intense sun glare when walking south.  But I could put up with that, so enjoyed a long winter walk among the piles of dirty, chunky snow.  People are still digging out here.  People are dining in the streateries in large numbers.


Huge plus: a dear friend facing some nasty surgery, didn't have to undergo it after all, as the problem was solved another way.  Hooray!

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Walking Under, On and In February

     . . . . Confucius: A Biography (2004) by Jonathan Clements got retrieved from the library today, thereby getting me out walking, which it is always essential to do, no matter how regularly one works out.  Jeosophat! the auto temperature reading machine worked on me -- though I had to remove my fur hat first.  But it meant in-and-out within 90 seconds or so.

It's a small book, but tries to locate Confucian thought within the man's life (551–479 BCE) and place, as well as traditions and culture within which he grew up. I wanted a book that speaks to the recent history his time and location had experienced, but I don't think this book does that. I shall have to be content with the map and google.

The book's from a British house, Sutton Publishing,  previously unknown to me -- which doesn't mean much. What matters is, despite its relatively recent publication, the paper has already turned yellow and brittle.  

As I know nothing about Confucius or his thought, I can't help but know more when I finish reading it.


Walking in February, on top of February snow, and slop all that particular February day-after storm color,  under a grey February sky, I  spotted this street graffito, written in a neat long hand, no dabs, blots or runs, in silver paint – "*rump lost. The South did not win.An efficient summation of too many's state of denial about history, present and past.

Which could be the title for why The New Republic currently is running this piece on American historiography and its own hisytory:

"Against the Consensus Approach to History

How not to learn about the American past"

It says a great deal about the why of the sheer horror of the Woods and Wilentzes at the premises of the 1619 Project.  It's interesting to see it running in The New Republic.   It also applies to the way the ^rump's 'legal' team is couching their argument against impeachment for inciting the 1/6 armed attack on the Capitol, as well as to the deniers of the lost election.

This fits within the spate of studies, reports and articles coming through in many places everyday as to who are the armed attackers, how did they get this way -- and also who they are not -- as well as closer scrutiny of how have so many USians become proselytists for the bottomless cray-cray of q***n, the denial of covid-19, haters of those who wear masks to protect themselves and others from getting sick.

There continues to be this weird impression that the base that is driving this movement for armed authoritarian, white supremacy, nationalist take-over of nearly the first nation to establish itself as a democracy for rights to all of liberty and equality, are not the poor and dispossessed, as some of us have been saying since long before the 2016 election. Quite the contrary. Though it is sobering to recollect how equally true this was of the driving insurrectionists of the war of independence (which again, was why the secession CSAers really believed they'd win: it would be just the same except instead of having only France helping them, they'd have Britain recognizing them as a nation in submission to their King Cotton).  So this piece in the Atlantic Monthly is very interesting too. Considering our history, particularly the determination by the rich to break from England, and the rich to break with the United States, I'm not sure I agree with the AM's piece's premise here, particularly considered side-by-side with the history of  "Consensus History" history piece in the NR.

"We analyzed 193 people arrested in connection with the January 6 riot—and found a new kind of American radicalism."

A graphic - data breakdown of who was part of the Capitol 01/06 armed attack, helping to organize, plan and direct, as well as being cannon fodder.


In the meantime many musicians, including the one in our household who says he's retired from personally making music himself, have learned there is a pile of "unclaimed" residual money in the Hollywood Screen Actors Guild, and the other aspects of Hollywood business as composers, players, vocalists etc. for a lot of them.  Unclaimed because nobody bothered to contact them there were earnings from various aspects of what they did, if they were union members.  So those who have found out, and see the names of people they know, they are having the fun of contacting the musicians/composers and telling them, "There is money for you!"


Began watching the third season of Gommorah on HBO last night.  The first episode felt flat, perhaps due to the endless acres of truly hideous wall paper no matter how wealthy the home or how humble. Some of the sizzle began to return in the second one. It feels different though, from the first two seasons. Is it because so much time has gone by since the second one, plus the world plunged into covid-19 -- which really would make no difference one thinks to these vile criminals -- or because I'm seeing it on an HBO screen, not a netflix screen -- both via streaming though, so that shouldn't matter.

What is the same, if even, perhaps more so: the suburb photography, the depth of the color, which does seem southern Italy, not even, Rome, much less anywhere else.  It's lushly gorgeous. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

I Do Believe The Groundhog Is Correct

      . . . .   Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil came out of his burrow at Gobbler's Knob and saw his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter. 

Out There has all the signs of another 6 weeks of this winter to go.  At least.  It's still snowing.  Or raining.  Or both.  Something is still falling out of the sky t 7 PM Tuesday!

The last I heard, back around 9 AM this morning, is that Central Park had registered at least 17.2 inches.  But I don't know how much really fell by now, as it got to be very wet stuff, which is heavy, so compacts.

We have another snow dropper rolling up for around Friday, but maybe not a blizzard?

Nevertheless yesterday and today were quite pleasant.  It's not that we did anything different, just that we knew there was no point, no point at all, in even trying to do anything outside.  So we didn't have to do that anxious gearing up to Go Out, calculating masks, timing, etc., and now all the clothes and gear we have to take with us Out, to be safe for ourselves and others.  I even let go the biography of Confucious that I've been wanting forever, and the library finally got for me.  I was to pick it up yesterday or today, and just cannot.  O wait!  I just went to the website, and they've extended the pickup to Friday!

The best part of yesterday was that el V was able to make art -- his own art.  Junior Mance, the great jazz piano artist has died.  He did a video shoot out of the window in the back in the storm yesterday, and then set it to music he had done with Junior way back in 1996.  The week they recorded this, was one right after a major blizzard too. The cut el V chose is "The Wind in the Willows": lyrics by Lawrence Weiner; piano, Junior Mance; vocals and guitar, el V.

The music video is very beautiful.  Today el V's so calm.  It's been so long since he's been able to do work like this.  Work, with no objective than to do something beautiful and true.

Monday, February 1, 2021

So, Ya. Winter. A Blizzard. A Big One, Though.


     . . . .The title of this week's New Yorker Magazine cover is "Wooster Street."  Wooster Street it is too, looking north from a bit above Canal, all the way to where an NYU residence blocks the rest of the view, except for The Empire State Building striking above the NYU housing, still taller, though further north.  Wooster is just a couple blocks over so I do recognize one of 'my' streets, even though it's on the cover of a national magazine.

At 3 PM about 14" had accumulated so far, in Central Park.  Many more hours to go of this, many. 

Like everyone else we know caught up in this storm, so far today we've cooked up a storm <ah-hem< , and of course, zoomed, zoomed, zoomed.  This NYer cartoon kinda sums it up, ya?