". . . 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, June 21, 2021

Summer 2021 Is In the House And Here Come A Lot of Firsts Since Before

     . . . .Today’s the Summer Solstice.  

Yesterday was the first day of summer.  Saturday was Juneteenth -- and a birthday party!

Saturday, f or the first time in nearly 16 months I applied some cosmetic. Lipstick cannot be done until arrival, after washing hands, of course, due to masks. Left the apartment about 5 PM, for the first time in nearly 16 months got on the subway. We took the elevator to Hosts' apartment, spent 4 hours in a NYC apartment, with ‘many’ people – about 20? – all unmasked -- but all vaccinated, it should go without saying -- again rode on the subway in company of some of the other guests,  and got home about 10:45. 

I don’t even know how to describe this thing of simultaneously ‘it was just like life as we knew it Before pandemic with each other and in those rooms’ and ‘what the ??????’  It was so normal. Except it wasn’t.

I seem to have expected that all of us have gone through some great physical transformation. But it was as in Lucifer, the final 5 eps that went up recently on Netflix, after the long hiatus to shoot After pandemic -- everybody everybody looked, sounded and behaved just like themselves -- maybe a bit thinner, but that's to be expected.  Everybody has been productive, come through well. People who were coupled before the pandemic are still with each other, clearly all of us even more strongly bonded with our partners than Before. 

But unlike previous get-togethers, the conversation was dominated, not by discussions of art, technology, gigs, teaching, and so on, but by a pandemic. Other than that the conversation tended to slide around to the real good old days, of UC-SD, and of the Kitchen, the real days of Before, when we all (mostly) met each other first.  And those who might have been with us, but had already gone, well before pandemic.

Some people at Saturday's party had gotten sick with covid. Their experiences were all over the place, none the same, except those who contracted covid did so very early in the pandemic -- and one of them, if I heard correctly, two days before New York locked down in March 2020. Travel seems to be involved one way or another. The second is that the young ones -- I'm talking under thirty -- got it far worse, and were sick much longer than the older ones who got it.

It was so interesting to hear everyone's experiences, reactions and thoughts.  Even though we are all among the privileged (though nobody rich or super rich, but we all have enough, with a little to spare; some had much larger spaces to isolate in, and some of us, well, we didn't, some of us even had even been able to leave the city), still, all our experiences were different -- other than as relationships.  We were all in good ones Before, and it is clear that these relationships are stronger than ever. None of us had seen each other physically in all this time. All of us have just in the last 10 days or week, just now, begun to re-enter 'the world' despite having been vaccinated for so long -- some since January and February even.

None of us have bee able though, or even desirous of flinging ourselves right back into our lives Before, for all kinds of reasons. Some of the institutions where people worked are gone, including a small liberal arts college that closed down for good this winter.  Live music, and traveling for it, is still not regarded as safe among our kind.  Artists have lost galleries, and some have lost their museum commissions, even as the institutions shut down. Flying all over the world, all the time, living half the year in a different country -- none of this is possible right now.  Moreover, none of us really want to go back to schedules we had Before, it seems, particularly the traveling part. That is particularly unexpected by many of us: we liked staying home, with family.  None of us are racing to go to restaurants. We have no interest in going to movies. Any travel this summer is about seeing family, or something like, as in our case, research.  

All of us isolated immediately, wore masks and gloves, disinfected everything, and got vaccinated as soon as we possibly could.  Several of us were among those standing in the extreme cold and snow at the mass vaccination sites -- many of us went through hell trying get a vaccination appointment, not just once, but for the second dose too.  Every one is well informed about covid, and believes another surge is inevitable due to delta and gamma and other variants. 

Out came this big birthday cake -- a carrot cake.  I don't know about anyone else but it was my first carrot cake in probably two years.  

Of course we had a champagne toast. We are all still alive and healthy, still standing, still creating, still loving our partners and families, and each other. How more privileged than that can we get?

We are part of the archetype of our city that makes the fascist international shudder and sneer at it -- yet -- holy cow -- we dare to remain and persist.

Like I say -- privileged, that is us.

And very lucky too. Because the cost of the pandemic is starting to arrive, and I don't mean only with inflation and the higher prices for just about everything across the board, and shortages of things, due to supply line/labor shortages.

The greatest cost is the people we have lost due to them not getting the medical attention they needed soon enough.  A friend died today, of cancer, for that very reason.  He would be alive, if not for the utterly impossible wreckage made of dealing with covid from the frackin' gitgo. We know who is to blame.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Red Letter, Er, Red Number Days, They Are Here

      . . . . Am looking at my wall calendar, above the computer desk. 

O my, there are red reminder circles around quite a few dates!  Which hasn't been the case in nearly 16 months, generally speaking.  Additionally, there are the arrows running across a week of dates indicating when el V leaves for Miami, and when he returns. Holy Cow! He has a research residency at the Ayallah Archive at the Florida International University.  This will include giving a webinar while in residence at the Diaz Ayala Center of Florida International University's Cuban Research Institute on Thursday, July 1, at 2 pm Eastern: "Teaching the Cuban Discography: The Archive as Clave." As the title suggests, he's preparing a course in the Cuban discography.


. . . . The long persistent 'heat dome' disintegrated a couple of days ago.  My toes are confused. After such a nice time of sandal freedom, they are back in sox and boots, with long sleeves and / or light sweater outside. Which means that the coming week looks like 'normal' lovely June weather of earlier years.

Nevertheless, it's difficult to rejoyce too much. The They Sayers are saying covid's here for good. Why yes, just forget about that herd immunity fantasy.  Ain't happening, ain't gonna happen, folks. Why yes, this is no kind of surprise.

Due to Delta spread it does seem the UK isn't going to completely open this week, which is good.  But we're wide open here, so we know what to look forward to.

While the new surges in Southeast Asia are of course hitting hard the factory workers who make everything we USians use.  Again, not a surprise, is this? Along with this is the ever-increasing housing crisis in this nation.  Much of this is caused by capitalism, all right. The wide-spread, grinding, relentless poverty -- just starting with utterly unaffordable housing -- in the USA is a deliberate policy choice:

And yet so many obscenely wealthy wonder why so many of us believe they are the greatest danger to family, community, society and security ever created.


. . . .  WATCHING:  Lupin, Part 2, went up on Netflix this weekend. 

My goodness the writers, camera people and editors do tension in this show. It's breathtaking how many narrow escapes upon narrow escapes they can pile up in a single sequence of a single episode.  I've never seen anything quite like this. And while doing so they manage to create visual jokes that add commentary.

For a single sample, in one scene Our Protagonist, Assane Lupin, captured and handcuffed in a police vehicle, stops a station to refuel, naturally requests to use the bathroom -- and of course, hands cuffed behind him, requires assistance from the guardian cop. All through this sequence are people holding hoses and engaged in other activity, that with a restroom in the picture, provides comic, um, er, well ya, relief!  Only the French could have done this so elegantly, subtly, refusing to draw any attention to itself, lacking broad vulgarity (which broad vulgarity, of course the French do as much as every other culture on the planet), while containing wit.

Ya, this show is special in every way, because it is so French, making no gestures toward that blandness of deliberately trying for an international audience. Lupin was conceived from the gitgo for a French audience, not a global one.  The producers are fairly convinced that this is why the show became an unexpected  international blockbuster -- it is relaxed within its French context, from source material to culture to cast, to locations.


. . . . READING: The Horde: How the Mongols Changed The World (2021) by Marie Favereau. 

Definitely in the top 5 of the books read this year.  I don't like it that I've only a few more pages left to read in this book. It was so pleasant to sink into Eurasia in the era given to us by Chinggis Khan, until the Bubonic Plague and other factors diminished the bloodlines of the Hordes, and the rise of the Ottomans.  Believe it: if you think you know about the Mongols and what they did, you very likely do not, as one learns by reading this book. A solitary sample: how many of us have even considered how much the Hansa trading consortium depended on, and was integrated into the Hordes' commercial system?

Having concluded Justinian's Flea as our bedtime together Read-Aloud, we have embarked on a very old book, recommended by the author of same, but published way back in 1971, Peter Brown's The World of Late Antiquity: AD 150-75. Thus in many ways, presenting a perspective that contemporary scholarship no longer supports. It's a slim book, during which one does frequently observe, "My! how late antiquity has changed in the 21st century!"

We will follow this as our Read-Aloud with The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages 400-1000 (The Penguin History of Europe - 2009), by Chris Wickham.  All our faves included -- Goths! Vandals! Mameluks! Mongols! Ottomans!  And most of all, Charlemagne!

I remain puzzled though: why does the Eastern Empire interest me so much less than either the old or new Western Empire, or the Mongols or the Turks?


* I do not need to be informed that French expression can and does resort to that kind of humor as much as does every other culture in the world. Ha!

Monday, June 7, 2021

Watcha Lookin' At?

     . . . . The other night I was still sleepless* at 3:30 AM.  So -- Highlander (1986).

Set in the then contemporary NYC of the mid-1980's, and very early 15th century Scotland.

* Could the sleeplessness be caused by seemingly SUDDEN shock of actually doing things Outside in all sorts of venues, and SEEING people, socially and professionally, Face to Actual Face in the Real World?  It did seem as though we were continuing with pandemic life of quiet, solitude and distance and then it was like Wait! Bang!  We're back!  Sort of back anyway. We continue masking indoors and in crowded situations.  But with the warm > hot > HOT weather and out-of-town visitors and well, just wooooeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! We've been vaccinated for nearly two months and so have just about everyone else we know, well, it's like we finally recognized what FULLY VACCINATED means, and have believed in it. And we are BUSY.

Too, I have dear friends who are gravely ill. 

And one of my email accounts got hacked (fixed in about 3 hours thanks to el V -- what do people without an el V do when these things happen? -- among other matters that might be keeping me awake.

There is good news too. Evidently the distilled white vinegar was more than effective in ridding my computer desk of an attempted invasion by very teeny tiny brown ants.

Cuba's own vaccine is now approved.  They expect to have all of Havana fully vaccinated by the end of August.  Probably sooner in the country and the less densely populated areas!  Plus both universities that wanted Postmambo to do projects in Havana in 01/2021, have confirmed to do them in 01/2022.


I saw this movie once before, long ago, maybe at a revival house, when we still had the vestiges of such things? This is quite an historical era artifact, as it encapsulates pop culture aspects of the mid-late 1980's, early 1990's. This is particularly clear with the choice made as to where and when the film opens, at  one of those fake, costume wrestling nights at Madison Square Garden. The days of Jesse Ventura "the Body" -- who went on in the '90's to get himself elected governor of Minnesota (which seems to have taught the voters nothing).

That this film experience is going to be more than a bit bonkers is indicated by the music choices alone: “New York, New York” lyrics sung by Frank Sinatra, as part of the soundtrack, is a Highlander running joke. 1985-6 isn't that long since the 1977 Blackout and NYC’s 1975 bankruptcy crisis, so the City’s still damned raw. We’re in Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976), not Scorsese’s New York, New York (1977). The mise en scĂ©ne is full out punk era, with the Big Bad Kurgen antagonist channeling the theatrics of Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious and Iggy Pop, plus the tagged background in so many of the scenes.

But for sheer delirium, we’ve got as primary sound track continuity, World Wide Wrestling’s fave, Queen, and its fusion of Freddie Mercury’s glam rock, heavy metal and loads of other sorts of rock and other musical forms too.

What this mid-1980’s New York City soundtrack pointedly does not have, is Black and Brown. There is no Salsa, no Boogaloo, no Black music, not even HipHop, about to birth a subgenre of its own, Gangsta Rap, despite 1986 being the peak year of HipHop's pop culture golden age. Despite the omnipresent tagged scenery, despite the brief appearance of a single Black immortal, whom the Kurgan takes out, naturally, Highlander’s New York City is as White as you can get.

In the movie's favor, the landscapes and crowds of the16th century scenes in Scotland were filmed live action, not cgi pretense thrown up against a blank mud blue screen.  So those scenes have that reality intense quotient now too that we miss so much in what action superhero franchise flix have devolved into.

However, none of this conceals the fact, no matter how often the first installment has been edited, this movie is deliriously bonkers. It’s astonishing actually, how this movie make no sense whatsoever, which is probably part of its appeal, particularly at age 15, when nothing makes sense anyway. Movies like this weren’t as common in 1986. By now though, mixed tone and genre are the norm . Russell Mulcahy, Highlander’s director, came out of music videos. MTV Channel had hit in 1981 (“video killed the radio star’), so again, if one was 15, there was a sensibility here that would likely be working for ya, or at least forming an imprint of expectation.

Which is the only reason that can explain why something this badly done was able to become a franchise, throwing off one after another even worse movie in this "There Can Be Only One universe."

What a thrilling experience this movie must have been for a kid in those days (those who saw it  – box office didn’t make back investment), anywhere in the range of 11 - 20 range maybe? What could compete with that opening sequence that concludes with the most prolonged, explosive, largest ejaculation ever experienced in the history of the planet -- no wonder it is called "the Quickening." 


Way back, sometime after 2003 but before 2010, I watched via dvd some of the 6 seasons of the Highlander tv series (1992-98) spun off from the movie. Which naturally did not carry the same electric excitement and interest of the movie. But there was a lot more emphasis on romance in the series, which tv audiences loved. In the UK this was kids’ stuff, but in the US the audience was adults.

Influenced by: MTV (1981) – Music videos, murky lighting, fast cuts w/o continuity worries (see also, alas HBO GOT); 

every melodrama, every movie ever made with the girl screaming while men duke it out, plus, you know, King Kong -- the girl in the pitcha is there to scream; the self-conscious snark of The Terminator (1984), tying up the screamer to the logo sign of Silvercup Studios, home to NYC's largest film and tv production studio, etc.

Influences on: Outlander (1991); Buffy – the Chosen One, and via the Highlander tv series – multiple potential immortals.