". . . 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, April 14, 2021

Books - Mundanity - Movie Night

      . . . . Continuing to read with increasing pleasure Sybille Bedford's A Visit to Don Antonio: A Mexican Journey, which she and her girlfriend? lover? companion? all of the above, made from NYC, where they'd been living, initially to Mexico City, from where they began moving outwards, in 1953.  

Leon Trotsky's house in Coyocán, where he was assassinated in 1940.

 With his gravestone,
the house is now a museum, though it wasn't yet when Sybille Bedford visited.

Another Coyocán resident, Frida Kahlo, was still living, barely. She died in 1954

I'm rather baffled how to delineate why this book is something I'm liking so much.  Partly because the events happened so far in the past now as to be an historical resource, partly because I've been to some -- not all -- of the places she and E go to (E. is what Bedford discreetly names her in the narrative).  I've also taken buses across Mexico, on the very route between Vera Cruz and Mexico City, though my first class, complete with wifi, a selection of television programs, films and music -- and air conditioning -- was surely much more luxurious than theirs. Bedford love-hate for air conditioning is an ongoing motif, which I enjoy. That's only of of the concerns her list-of-every-detail-compulsion which runs through the narrative.  Her compression of the history of Maximillian in Mexico to a single paragraph sparked in me no end of admiration, done almost entirely as a list.

As if I didn't have already and amply supply of books to read right now, today picked up from the library the latest Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti mystery, Transient Desires (2021).  This is the perfect reading for tomorrow at the hair salon.  Getting cut and style, plus full highlighting.  I'd gotten the hair cut and styled back in the fall of 2020. And that's been it, since February, 2020. 

Next up, the dentist and opthomologist, though that is going to take a while: appointments available are rather far into the late spring - early summer.

So many -- I dunno, what do we call all these little jobs put off for over a year, that normally we do regularly, like taking our shoes in to get heel and toe protectors, buying new underwear, etc? I used to call them errands, because one would just d them in the course of the day of getting groceries etc. But after over a year of not doing them at all, they seem more like jobs than errands.

We did some of those along with the library errand, as well as getting groceries at Morton Williams.  Came home, had lunch.  The predicted rain is expected any moment. So, just a day.  An average, normal day.  Not since 2016 has there been one of those.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

     . . . . Tomorrow night Postmambo initiates its monthly Movie Night!

As a prelude to NOLA Reconnect, we eased into it with something we call Movie Night. A low-key cyber-cinematheque, watching a relevant non-fiction movie on Vimeo together with conversation afterwards on Zoom. Movie Night turned out great. So, I'm pleased to announce, we're going to have Postmambo Movie Night on the third Thursday of every month for the rest of 2021. Which means that --

===>>> this Thursday night, April 15, at 7 p.m. Central Daylight Time (8 pm Eastern), we're going to watch

This is a documentary, shot over a period of twenty years, about the charanga Las Maravillas de Mali, formed by a group of Malian music students in mid-60s Havana, whose best-known member, Boncana Maiga, subsequently directed the famous Africando recordings in the '90s, including the global dance hit "Yay Boy." Much of the film takes place in Bamako.
Conversing with us after the screening will be special guest Banning Eyre -- my longtime colleague at Afropop Worldwide, author of In Griot Time and general go-to Mali expert -- conversing with us after the screening. I also will share a little footage from Las Maravillas de Mali's reunion in Havana during Jazz Plaza Festival in 2019.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Ache and Yawn

     . . . .  In case I had a heavy reaction to second anti-virus injection, put in a variety of reading to chose from.

Which I'm glad I did.

Was asleep by 10:30 last night.  Didn't get out of bed until noon.  But I remain fatigued as well as arm very sore from shoulder, and even twinges down to wrist.  I'm light-headed and fuzzy thinking. Judging by others' similar experience with their second Modern injection, I assume these symptoms will go away by tomorrow evening. 

I took some Tylenol, which has helped, except 

These are the books I chose to choose from:

- Andrew Birkin's J.M Barrie and the Lost Boys: The Real Story Behind Peter Pan (1979 in England, in tandem, sort of, with the BBC, with his award winning British television trilogy based on the book.  It's been updated more than once. Published only in 2003 in the US. The later editions include more extensive visual material than the previous ones, as well as some materials not included in the trilogy of films because he hadn't stumbled upon them yet.

- Sybille Bedford's A Visit to Don Otavio: A Mexican Journey (1953; Bruce Chatwin's Intro, 1986) -- "...a travel book written by a novelist ..."

- Nick Bryant's When America Stopped Being Great: A History of the Present (2021).  The author is a Brit, so there is bite, wit, and glee, as well as research.  

- Marie Vieux-Chauvet's Dance On The Volcano (1957. Translated from French into English in 2016. This is an historical novel, whose chronological location is late 18th century San Domingue -- to become Haiti. One of the protagonist's is a successful mixed race opera star, whose talent takes her across racial barriers and social barriers. It's different for her sister.  As the Revolution inexorably draws in upon the privileged castes and classes, social and political consciousness / awareness develops. This is a brilliant period to locate an historical novel with depth;  the theater and opera were wildly popular in pre-Revolutionary San Domingue, performed by highly talented artists, both home-grown and visiting from France and Europe -- and well-paid, many of them.  I've wanted to read this novel for a long time.

The hilarious thing is I have all this reading I can choose from, but all I want to do is get back in bed, and listen to an audio book, because holding the book and reading it too much work.  Beyond that, nothing feels real, more like I'm still dreaming.  Good grief!  Ya wanna talk privilege?  I have got some, all right!

Friday, April 9, 2021

The Times They Are a'Changing

     . . . . Stupid North Dakota senate passes anti-mask mandate. ND’s gonna hang with stupid Texas, u betcha!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I received my second Moderna dose just now, late afternoon.

The Stanton St. Ctr. where I got my shots is far better organized, faster and more efficient than the Walgreens pharmacies where el V and some others we know got his. No confirmation of either appointment made or appointment filled. No reminder of appointment sent, no confirmation of first or second doses.

Whereas at the lower east side center -- some abandoned large space -- I received all of those.

Between arrival and getting signed in, it couldn't have been more than 10 minutes, then the 15 minutes sitting in case of reaction.  As I'd arrived early I was out of there before my 'actual' appointment time! A fretful, indecisive April Shower followed me all the way back home while Friday night weekend rush hour traffic (at the same density as it was on a Friday night before the pandemic, again)  headed for bridges and tunnel. This was about a mile, well, rather more than that, but still quite walkable, A downpour would have been a miserable conclusion to the experience, thus very grateful that didn't happen.  I'd not carried a 'brolly, as rain was predicted for tomorrow, not today. When I got back home, the confirmation of second vaccination was in the email, with the batch# of vaccine from which the vaccine I was given was taken.  

Now, I wait and see what if anything happens.  Bottle of Tylenol here by computer screen. 

I'm trying to process that this has really happened, after the unspeakably frustrating, difficult and prolonged attempts and process to get appointments, we've both gotten our two shots, and in two more weeks we can meet a friend (outside) at our old watering hole, and have a drink. OTOH, I'm not sure either of us knows how to communicate in a purely social f2f situation any longer.  The only other person with whom we've had such interaction throughout all this is wonderful, splendid, anchor-rock, Ben. 

It's going to be another journey into the unknown, how we navigate the world in another two weeks. We are not back to normal -- despite the volume of vehicular traffic going into and out of the City, but we're no longer in the conditions within which we've existed for 13 months.

In the meantime Spring springs madly.  The tulips are up and blooming and are spectacular.  This year particularly about half of them seem to be the ruffled or 'pinked' variety (pinked meaning a kind of sewing shears used on fabric, not a color)

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Let's Read Again Like We Did Last Year ~~

      . . . . Frequently my mind fails to make sense to me. 

 How did I manage to choose Bagehot: The Life and Times of the Greatest Victorian (2019) by James Grant as the audio book to follow Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World (2016) by Laura Spinney, and The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, and the Struggle for American Freedom (2020) by H. W. Brands for my workouts?

So far my great take-away is that Bagehot was not only a prototype of what we in later times tend to call a libertarian / neo liberal.  He formalized the concept, and described in detail  the necessity of a Central Bank and its functions for a stable government.  He did the same for Constitutional Monarchy. This while, though they benefit from both, the 'lower orders,' the poor, the uneducated, are incapable of understanding either economics or constitutions, and certainly lack the capacity for making political and governing decisions. Needless to say that women as a class aren't even that much of a consideration, despite his respect for the intellects of many of the women of his acquaintance, including his own mother, who also suffered serious mental illness.

This brilliant fellow, a prodigy already as a very young child, could not add or subtract. Yet his family put him in charge the family banking business, when he hated everything else including the law for which he qualified among his many other professional credentials, realizing he wouldn't be able to pull a Disraeli and move from writing to holding office and becoming Prime Minister. The family business's great fortune is that he seems to have spent more time doing anything but banking, while remaining a writing demon as to output, and a polymath in terms of what he wrote about. Naturally, due to his writing about how to run a country's finances, he got sent to India to put its finances on solid footing.  How more British and Victorian than this may we get?

Bagehot was praised for cool wit and epigrammatic style, which author Grant does his best to exhibit in his own economic writing. Nor did Bagehot stint in praise for himself in his own writing, knowing he knew what others did not, and taking knowingly contrary political positions such as favoring Louis-Philippe's coup against the election and naming himself France's ruler for life. Bagehot inevitably reminds this reader of that thoroughly self-satisfied, thoroughly knowledgeable of his own superiority, that fellow likely only Tories today recall, William F. Buckley.

On the other hand, George Eliot quite adored Bagehot as a thinker and his friend.  But no one has suggested George Eliot didn't have a strong conservative bent herself -- except for herself, of course.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Things do roll on, don't they. The period's royalties arrived, and so did spring, while winter, hopefully, is now departed for months.  El V got his second dose of Pfizer this afternoon.  He's currently lying down, but he generally feels sleepy before dinner so it probably means nothing.  I am making dinner, looking forward to my second dose of Moderna late Friday afternoon, and after dinner, I'm particularly looking forward to the HBO Max premiere of  the 4-part Exterminate All the Brutes.

In ‘Exterminate All the Brutes,’ Raoul Peck Takes Aim at White Supremacy

After the success of “I Am Not Your Negro,” HBO gave Peck carte blanche for his next big project. What resulted is a sweeping meditation on colonialism and the nature of truth itself. ... New York Times

Raoul Peck’s four-hour documentary for HBO is a dizzying retelling of the course of colonialism, slavery and genocide. ... New York Times

"....a Radical Masterpiece About White Supremacy, Violence and the History of the West" ... Time

This exploration of the "origin story of white supremacy" features two Revelators who have had deep effect on both el V's and my historical researches and formation of our historical perspective:  

" .... It takes its title from Swedish historian Sven Lindqvist’s ruminative 1992 book about his travels through postcolonial Africa, which in turn wrestles with the source of the quote “exterminate all the brutes”: Joseph Conrad’s immortal novella Heart of Darkness. Peck also draws heavily on historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s An Indigenous People’s History of the United States and Haitian anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s Silencing the Past: The Power and Production of History. In each episode, he credits himself as having made the series “together with” all three scholars, even though Trouillot died in 2012 and Lindqvist in 2019."

Seeing Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz involved in this already highly praised non-dramatic, history series, feels particularly personal since she accepted on our behalf and read our "Thank you very much for this honor" for the 2016 American Book Award for The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave Breeding Industry, as we weren't able to make it out to California for the event.  But it's particularly satisfying because Dunbar-Ortiz is a true pioneer of this kind of work.  When she began, it didn't exist, within or without academia.  Now, because of hers and others devoting their lives to inventing a methodology to study and recover history that has been both disappeared and denied, to see her, at her age, receiving this kind of recognition is truly exciting.

A quote from Michel-Rolph Trouillot is at the top of this Fox Home blog, as it has since the beginning.