". . . 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

Monday, May 24, 2021

The Merry Month of Vaporous May

      . . . .  Much cooler today – 60’s, not the high 80’s of the last week.  This is the longest stretch without rain since the drought of 2012.  I hope the rain indicated for the weekend materializes. 



The messages, social and professional, arriving in from people coming to NYC for various reasons, starting last week, who want to get together, increase every day. Right on annual schedule too, people are already arriving here from other states and countries for Gay Pride.

Well, They Declared the City completely open as of last week.  So I guess we're open, all right.  Everyone sounds so excited, while my own feelings are ... well, things don't seem to have changed for me very much.  Except the noise and horror of the restaurants get worse and worse.  Thursday the entire community, even other restaurants who get frequently cited for over-crowding and noise, had to call the police several times, because Laduree was so insanely beyond the pale. 

Then a second building on Bleecker Street, meaning also a whole lot of homes, within three weeks, went out, due to fire.  The fire department just couldn't get to the fire in time to save anything -- because of the goddamned realestaterestaurant covid sheds blocking all the streets and sidewalks.  I said this was inevitable, but was not allowed to vocalize this or write it by those I attempted to address who are responsible for this insanity in first place, which They insist is permanent and the best thing that every happened to NYC.

Politicians here locally racing to promise full, in person, public school education this fall. But to even minimally adhere to health issues, starting with distance, we need far more classrooms, thus more teachers and more buildings.  The kids may or may not be required to be vaccinated in the age groups for which vaccine is available, but teachers and staff are not -- across the board, from all the mayoral hopeful candidates. Sure, yes! they all say!  We will hire teachers to take the place of those who for health reasons do not wish to return in the fall. 

It's like these jerkwaddie politicians, despite all them boasting their own parenthood, have no idea how miserably teachers are treated and have been for decades.  Even before the pandemic teachers were quitting.  Enrollment in education depts. are way down.  Why go into so much debt to get  job that pays shyte, in which one is personally and as a member of a group treated like shyte, having to balance all the cray cray of conflicting local political, religious and cultural bs -- none of which have anything to do with educating anyone in anything. Additionally, ALL these jerkwaddie politicians, beginning with the current mayor, blithely opine how among other work this fall, teachers must be prepared to play counselor to All the Kids' traumas from the pandemic, integrate them back into socialization in groups, proper behavior and on and on.  Not a mention of course that the teachers themselves may very well have plenty of trauma from the pandemic, not to mention already being burned out working out how to handle the myriad of troubles and problems they've had to deal with in the virtual realm of education and dealing with the children.

It's as though these jerkwaddies think teachers, like nurses, are a magical, ever naturally renewing resources, that they can just say, "More," and immediately materializing are all the needed teaches, with all the skills, socialization, expertise, experience and love that are to keep our kids healthy, safe from crazies with guns, and fulfill every specific need of every specific student, of the, how many students they are to deal with every day. But we crow about all the money we're pouring into the restaurant businesses and bringing back tourism. Nothing for people who LIVE here and contribute instead of mere exploiting and extracting. 



The two books that have enthralled me these last weeks are Will Rosen's Justinian's Flea: The First Great Plague and the End of the Roman Empire (2007), and A.N. Wilson's Charles Darwin: Victorian Mythmaker (2017).  

Justinian Flea's a re-read, this time aloud, with el V, at bedtime. He'd not read it before and is fascinated by the content, which ranges from how the architects created the Hagia Sophia, to in graphic, grisly, scientific detail the operation of the flee that propagates the Yersinia pestis, the bacterium responsible for Bubonic Plague.

Charles Darwin is an examination of the naturalist's construction of his genius and his theories, and all the many others in the field who contributed, all with in the deep and broad context that is the Victorian eras in which they all operated.  This one received outraged and scathing reviews from many, all insisting everything Wilson wrote is wrong.  However, as I'm now nearly finished with Charles Darwin, and I too know a very great deal in depth and breadth of the Victorian eras, politically, culturally and intellectually, with a lot of knowledge of the figures involved, which I've been acquiring since about age 16. These critics often seem to have read something else, or out of the context within which Wilson is writing -- and Darwin himself is writing.  But not always. There are contradictions that Wilson makes often to his own arguments. He writes very well, so there is this additional pleasure, as well as knowing a great deal, of arguing with the author, so this has been a joy to read.



I've watched a lot of Acorn TV this month.  Three non-Acorn screen works have made a particular mark on my hour after dinner watching.

First is Mare of Easttown, featuring Kate Winslet as the centered character of Mare.  As this contained mini series hasn't yet concluded, that's all I'll say for now, other than I am liking it enormously.  I'll explain why, once it finishes -- if the finale lives up to the previous episodes, that is. 

The second Big Watch is the 4th, the latest season of the Neapolitan series, Gomorrah. It's a long one, in a way that usually UK and US series no longer are. Have only reached the 5th episode. Like Mare of Easttown, Gomorrah, which began on Netflix, is on HBO.

The third worthy watch is via Netflix, Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (2017) Joan Didion’s life and times.  It is a fascinating watch on a variety of levels, not only because it centers, w/o ever vaunting/saying it, one of the few public intellectuals and commentators of the last 1/2 of the 20th century's USA, who is a woman -- and didn't come out of academia. The establishment of the non-academia affiliated New York Review of Books, did so much for her profile. It was a different time for writer-thinker-journalists, with so many outlets, including Look Magazine, for exhibiting their ideas.  None of that exists now. 

Didion's  trajectory and perspective on so much is not part of Gloria Steinem's, or the clown, Germaine Greer's.  IOW, like Susan Sontag, Didion didn't begin with, or arrive at her ground-breaking career, via the propellant of self-identifying as a member of any overtly political feminist group or organization, or even academia. Which is fascinating in its own right, because like many other ground-breaking, high achieving women before 'Feminism', in other ages, Didion was stalwartly supported and encouraged by a parent, in Didion's case, her mother.

It certainly helped, that like Steinem, cameras loved both Didion and Sontag.



It's been busy, and very productive here all month, yet I persist feeling unanchored, free-floating.  I keep wondering who am I? who are we? as a city, as a nation, as human beings? Will my very ill friend survive, or will there be yet another loss long betimes?   My sense is that we are all falling further and further and further behind reality.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Sally Go Round the Roses*

      . . . . A third consecutive beautiful May morning!  

Yesterday I saw this year's first roses.  The green of the foliage in Washington Square Park and LaGuadia Place was nearly overwhelming, so fresh and vigorous.

Though I continue double-masking, even in the street, unless sitting quietly with a friend outdoors, yesterday was as perfect as a day can be These Days. It began with the third substantial unexpected check this week out of past music-book-movie work.  I had activities all day!

Walked to meet up for a sort of lunch-picnic with librarian friends in the garden of the Jefferson Market branch library, whose garden is famous for its roses. 

Continued on to Best Buy, went inside and purchased a protector-cover-stand for the new Tablet el V got me on Sunday.  Walked up to Union Square, got croissants in the Green Market. For once I ignored nutrition, fiber, fat, sodium, sugar, and gave the mouth what the mouth wants. 

Turned around and entered DSW, rode the escalator to the shoe department, where I tried on quite a few, and purchased a pair of sandals and a pair of sneakers. Enjoyed the later afternoon sunshine, stopped at LaGuardia Place to rest, chatting with amigo K for half an hour about books and the Gwendolyn Midlo Hall event later in the night, organized by Postmambo, CubaNOLA, in company with the American Studies Department at Berkeley, and the Institute of Gulf Studies (which el V's early work on New Orleans and Cuba had quite an influence of awareness of the Gulf itself as a geography and culture that is not the Carribean, despite the flow and currents) at Tulane.  K, with C and MIL attended the Webenair, as did nearly 200 others, among whom were a lot of friends, whom we've not seen yet in person. It was a wonderful event, providing great satisfaction, judging by the emails last night and this morning.

The occasion was the publication, as of May 11th, of Gwen's memoir, Haunted By Slavery: A Memoir of a Southern White Woman in the Freedom Struggle.

Today is good too -- and even warmer, as tomorrow is supposed to be. The mayor announced that as of today our city has the .lowest rate of Covid-19 positivity in 7 months -- under 2%.  O my.

I haven't had days like this in over two years, since the weather had been wintery already in 2019 mid-late fall.  I was so happy-giddy by bedtime last night it was like the ecstatic inebriation when 20. 



The Jaynettes 1963 "Sally Go Round the Roses" is followed by Grace Slick's version.

Monday, May 10, 2021

People Who Don't Work From Home Both Lose Their Jobs and Are To Be Forced to Take Jobs

      . . . .  "It’s Been Hard Not to Roll My Eyes”  and  "Pay A Living Wage Or Flip Your Own Damned Burgers."

....Many of these workers resent that people upset over being asked to return didn’t display the same concern for the safety of those who have been there all along. And they wonder why they’ve been left out of so much of the national narrative about what this year has been like for workers. They haven’t been stuck at home baking bread or going stir crazy from being cooped up with family members; they’re out risking their lives working with the public and/or in close quarters with colleagues every day, and they feel invisible in much of the conversation about pandemic life. More than anything, they’re deeply, deeply exhausted....

Goes right along with this WaPo's story about yet another expanding restaurant owner,  thinking we should all 'weep for me', unable as he and the industry are, at finding enough people to work in their intolerable conditions, for pennies and no bennies. 

The comments, which number, last time looked, hit nearly two thousand, are about 99.09 contemptuous of these guys.

I am particularly am contemptuous because this where the financial speculation industry, capitalists in general and rethugs in particular always point when pronouncing that 'people don't want to work and prefer collecting massive government benefits.  So make unemployment illegal!"  See: South Carolina, etc. Same states passing Jim Crow voting repression laws, who have 'right to work' / no right to unionize laws, etc. Also, recall these are the states that made it illegal for labor, i.e. African Americans, to leave neighborhoods and states and go elsewhere for work outside of sharecropping and domestic work.

Why are they weeping though?  They've gotten what they've been howling about for decades: deportation and anti-immigration.  They promised then wages here would go up -- A Good Thing!  Now they have it, and yet, yet, yet, persist in whining ... about wages going up.

In the meantime the restaurant industry, i.e. owners and landlords, has gotten billions in federal  relief. Not to mention whole transfers of public, tax-payer owned property, for absolutely zero payment – nor do they even clean the messes their covid sheds make in the gutters, streets and on the sidewalks, where, of course pedestrians, blind people and people in wheelchairs can’t even navigate a path -- again, capitalism for the poor, socialism for the rich.  This also reminds me a great deal of England and Europe in wake of the 14th centuries first three great waves of pandemic Bubonic Plague, passing laws to keep prices for wages for labor and prices of commodities exactly what they were prior to the Plague, even though so many had died (which contributed greatly to all sorts of social mobility upward for non-aristos in the 14th and 15th centuries).

And ya, there is, and will be, inflation of up the wazoo, due to choked, interrupted, halted supply chains for absolutely everything, everywhere in the world, along with some damned bad harvests due to not only pandemic, but catastrophic weather.  It's going to get quite bad, one may think indeed, if judging by historical periods in which pandemic coincided with bad harvests and labor shortages -- while war continued, unabated.

Homo Saps are too stupid to survive.


And GD!  Americans Will Lose Unemployment Benefits If They Turn Down Jobs, NPR SAYS Biden Says, just now.

Except Biden said NO SUCH THING. Not even in the text NPR posts under that headline.  Shame, Shame, SHAME! on NPR.  Gods I loathe NPR.

Biden, in his Monday remarks to reporters, pushed back on the suggestion that funds from the progressive relief package were being abused in any meaningful way and encouraged employers to offer competitive wages to court Americans back into the workforce.

"My expectation is that as the economy comes back, these companies will provide fair wages and safe work environments, and if they do, they'll find plenty of workers. And we're all going to come out of this together and better than before," he said.

"No one should be allowed to game the system."

Biden said that while he took allegations of fraud seriously, the government could not "turn our backs" on those who had lost jobs as a result of the pandemic. He placed the blame for the sluggish state of the national economy on his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, who Biden said "bungled" his handling of the virus and its fallout.

"We'll insist that the law is followed with respect to benefits. But we're not going to turn our backs on our fellow Americans. Twenty-two million people lost their jobs in this pandemic through no fault of their own. They lost their jobs to a virus, and to a government that bungled its response to the crisis and failed to protect them," Biden said.


But it's still hard to take, hearing Biden say that anybody offered an appropriate job must take it or lose benefits.  How does he get to decide what is an appropriate offer?  So it will be the chiseling, cruel restaurant owners.  Shame on you too, Biden.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Long Time Gone: Emergence

      . . . . It's May 7th!  Nor has there been a post here since last month, on the 14th.  I guess . . . things just happen . . . or don't happen?

True, a great deal has happened, while it continues to feel as though nothing is happening -- which that latter is untrue, that nothing is happening, because a lot has gone down and is happening  and is going to happen, from dental appointments to planning the end-of-June trip to . . .  Miami . . . in fulfillment of the grant provided to perform discographic research in the 
Diaz-Ayala Collection.  Not one's preference for first plane trip in 16 months, etc., but one goes where the materials are, when creating a syllabus for a Discography Studies, a program that has never ever existed. 

Next week Postmambo and NOLA Reconnect host, in cooperation with The New Orleans Center for the Gulf South and University of California, Berkeley- American Studies, A Conversation With Gwendolyn Midlo Hall:

Haunted by Slavery: A Southern White Woman in the Freedom Struggle

Thursday, May 13, 2021 / via Zoom / 8 pm Central Daylight Time (9 pm Eastern)

Invite link:

Please join us in celebrating together with pathbreaking historian Dr. Gwendolyn Midlo Hall the publication of her long-awaited memoir, Haunted by Slavery: A Southern White Woman in the Freedom Struggle.

From the Haymarket press release:

The memoir of Gwendolyn Midlo Hall offers today's activists and readers an accessible and intimate examination of a crucial era in American radical history.  

 Born in 1929 New Orleans to left-wing Jewish parents, Gwendolyn Midlo Hall's life has spanned nearly a century of engagement in anti-racist, internationalist political activism. In this moving and instructive chronicle of her remarkable life, Midlo Hall recounts her experiences as an anti-racist activist, a Communist Party militant, and a scholar of slavery in the Americas, as well as the wife and collaborator of the renowned African-American author and Communist leader Harry Haywood.

    Telling the story of her life against the backdrop of the important political and social developments of the 20th century, Midlo Hall offers new insights about a critical period in the history of labor and civil rights movements in the United States.

    Detailing everything from Midlo Hall's co-founding of the only inter-racial youth organization in the South when she was 16-years-old, to her pioneering work establishing digital slave databases, to her own struggles against cruel and pervasive sexism, Haunted by Slavery is a gripping account of a life defined by profound dedication to a cause.

Produced by NOLA Reconnect, Postmambo Studies, and CubaNOLA Arts Collective, in association with the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University and the University of California at Berkeley American Studies. Admission is free.

Then there's always Postmambo Movie Night, which needs a lot of attention to set-up so the subscribers can have a smooth experience.

We're embarked upon planning and organizing a major move of books and music materials out of the apartment, which includes the use of professionals of all sorts. And the shredder.  I'm selling all the sf/f to a group who do very well with pop-up used bookshops in Brooklyn; they are desperate for stock.  Certain research groups will be kept, but more of them are going to be sold off, as how things are now we can't even access them, and it's highly unlikely we'll be writing any more books on these topics either.

Shopping / errands take a lot of time. My latest is shopping for a tablet, as the small computer is reaching the very end of its life.  It will be nice to have something that small, light and portable on which I can download books from the library and write and receive e-mail and have access to the internet.

We've also been very carefully initiating a slight approximation of social life, so far only with friends we know with absolute certainty are fully vaccinated, and who are doing the same. It has been very difficult to do this, which came as a shock. Thus this sense that nothing is happening.  Fortunately it seems just about everyone we know is going through this too, so we all understand each other, and there are no hurt feelings.  We'll get there certainly by the time it is warm enough to be comfortably outside at night.  None of us has any desire to meet in covid sheds or inside the restaurants.

It all feels just as weird now and hard to comprehend as it did a year ago at this time, but weird in a different way. Then we were closed down, really closed down, including a curfew. No covid sheds, no restaurant service at all except pick-up/take-out.  No library grab and go. No doctor appointments except emergencies, very emergency emergencies. Now we are very slowly attempting to come out of our cave-bubble, go shopping in real stores -- why yes, even with the tablet I've done research / comparison shopping places like Best Buy and in Apple (where one must have an appointment, as well as a mask in order to enter), buying jeans, since those from over a year ago fall off now, t-shirts and so on. 

Though the right dish drainer remains, evidently an impossibility. Moreover any place that has dish drainers has only a single variety, and it invariably is too small, is not wrongly designed for my space, which isn't, let me emphasize, is not a weird space for a dish drainer.  Cannot find one with a drainage tray that faces the right direction, fits the space, is not attached to the dish rack, large enough, no matter what.  I'm on the third one, which el V brought home the other day, and sure 'nuff, he didn't check, and the drain tray faces the wrong direction. 

But all around us, from Canada and Michigan to Mexico and Latin America, India and other places, the virus is burning down the house and a new variant seems to emerge every day -- while here the mayor and the governor race to be the one to open up the most the fastest and first w/o any restrictions of any kind -- and bring back All The Tourists, at least "36 million by the end of 2021."  One of the attractions?  Get a free vaccination injection, just walk in and probably get a Broadway ticket as swag.  This while pedestrian deaths from speeding cars, bicycles and scooters is already higher by this month than it has been in decades.

Now tell me this isn't weird.