". . . 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, August 18, 2021


. . . . Mary Frey-Osmanski, wife of Steve, retired teacher of French and German, a long-time member of a variety of intersecting sf/f writer circles, a mainstay of the Society of Creative Anachronism's Pennsic communities and wars, left us this morning.

She met every new ordeal the course of the disease added to her struggle with courage and gallantry, and the determination to be dealt with by all as a full, living person, whose dignity was not to be trifled with.

I will miss her.  My heart goes out to her husband and her many friends in the Kingdom of the East.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Regarding Reizenstein's Mysteries of New Orleans & Cable's Old Creole Days

      . . . . For anyone with serious interest in the history of New Orleans, the history of the South, the history of the United States, American Literature per se, and the history of our literature that hailed from the slave states, this book will be fascinating, and revealing. 

Die Geheimnisse van New Orleans (The Mysteries of New Orleans) by Baron Ludwig von Reizenstein, published serially between in 1854-55 in the Louisiana Staats-Zeitung.  Rediscovered in the 1990's, translated and edited by Steven Rowan, published in 2002. 

From the penultimate paragraph of Mysteries of New Orleans, Chapter 4, p. 34, written in German, by someone who is coming to New Orleans, the South and the United States from outside, i.e. not born here, where all this was so normal people hardly remarked upon it.  Except, that by the time this was published in 1854-54, the red text was being remarked upon with ever increasing anger by ever increasing numbers.:

The person to whom these lines were directed is an old, respectable lady who, besides a few of the minor failings of her sex, has the great weakness of being somewhat obsessed over her aristocratic origins. Whoever violated her aristocratic pretensions even in the slightest immediately lost her favor.  Although she could not really be called rich, she owned three house in Bourbon Street and a volante with two horses.  A mulatto she just obtained through an inheritance completes her half-dozen slaves.  She belonged to that French clique in New Orleans that could still boast of the hereditary titles they brought with them in the period of the emigration.* This considerable clique of French aristocrats, which excludes even the richer Americans from its circle, since they are regarded as not of equal birth, play the same role in the small circle of New Orleans that the grandees of South Carolina play in the whole of the United States . . . .

One can't help but wonder if  George Branch Cable had familiarity with The Mysteries of New Orleans, that this work might have contributed in terms of format and treatment his Old Creole Days. The seven story collection was first published in 1879, which gave him rewarded him with literary renown (and sales!) in the North,  and the South's condemnation, so much so, he had to move North. The book was particularly loathed in New Orleans.

So, like Reizenstein's German language serial, New Orleans and the South labeled Cable as unfit to read, stuffed with dreadful ideas, exposing break after break in the color line via the most intimate of connections, though Cable's work was considered perverse for exposing such things to the eyes of the North -- lies, all lies! -- while Reizenstein'swas perversion, populated with lesbians, gays, cross dressers, etc. of all skin color heritages. Also lies, all lies! doncha know.  These things do not happen in New Orleans and the virtuous South.

* The Napoleonic wars and slave revolution in Haiti, from where many of them emigrated to Cuba, then when Napoleon went to war with Spain, were expelled and came to New Orleans, bringing their slaves with them, particularly their female slaves, as well as their free 'colored' mistresses and children, doubling the city's population in a single year.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Vacation, Friends, Delta, Postmambo, NOLA Reconnect, Books, TV, But In The Beginning We EAT!

      . . . . It's been a long time, so much going on, but in the end, IT'S ALL ABOUT AUGUST, which is all about -- 

CORN ON THE COB & HERITAGE TOMATOES!  Am I right or am I right? Reveling and gorging, with the best pots of beans, salads and sausages.  What a month this has been for eating, which has all been done at home, or even the first week, spent  at our Saratoga's friend's house. Delta made sure of that. We were not then and are not not now though, in the least deprived staying away all together from restaurants again.  So much delight in getting our produce and other foods at the Green Markets (and O! the green markets up Saratoga way!), and then, cooking together, as B and S and I did each day, with much lubrication provided by Host S's wine cellar, B's brought-alongs, local beers from the Saratoga Minogue's Beverage Center, and any and all music anyone could possible desire or have a yen to hear.

     Every second of Saratoga was more than splendid, even while asleep. The nights dropped into the 50's.  We slept with windows open.  The air was fresh and good smelling, any time day or night. The weather was just what one wanted for an August NYC getaway.  Then we came home, to roaring surges of Delta, and fearing yet again They will steal Thanksgiving and the rest of the holidays from us.

Back in the City though, and back in our grooves. Every time we think, "Well, maybe we don't need any more Postmambo Movie Nights, or any more NOLA Reconnect events, because people will be going out now -- well, no.  Our Host S provided such a moving tribute to how important these Postmambo activities and events have been for him in the pandemic.  Postmambo and his dog -- his gf lives in another town, and has a full-time job, so he's alone mostly.  Imagine, being up there, snowed in, blizzards howling round these past two winters.  "Some very dark days," he said, and said nothing else.  It was kind of emotional for me to be watching Summer of Soul from Harlem, 1969 (film July 2021), and Leningrad Cowboys (1993, Helsinki) films in company with him, el V and Ben, people who have attended to many music events together over the years, and now doing it only by screen again, thanx to jerkwaddies who won't wear masks or get vaccinated, and watching in the same place Steve is when doing NOLA Reconnect and Postmambo.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~



El V and I continue bedtime read-aloud of Chris Wickham's The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages 400 – 1000 (2009); I continue for myself with Judith Herrin's Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe (2021), 

both of which go so well with the content in the review of The Selected Letters of Cassiodorus: A Sixth-Century Sourcebook (2020) translated and edited by M. Shane Bjornlie, in the latest London Review of Books.  Cassiodorus -- bridge between Late Antiquity Rome and the following eras of murdrous kinglets, want-to-be emperors, etc.  Also the surviving literature, with emphasis on 'surviving', as it seems the 5th century is where everything changes and transmutes, assisted later by whatever literary focus Charlegmagne's scriptors possessed, thus what was lost. Reading this is far more interesting to me probably, than reading the book itself, as I'm not a Latin scholar.


The Germans of antebellum New Orleans, how much have we thought about them?  Of course Germans arrived in New Orleans in the 1830's and 1840's as they did in so many cities here, such as St. Louis, progressive labor and political activists, bringing the information, messages and means of Revolution -- and then fleeing from the failure to overset the crowns and oppressions of Old Europe's old Empires and Kingdoms.  They also brought their arts and culture, as we see here in this astonishing work, The Mysteries of New Orleans by Baron Ludwig von Reizenstein, translated and edited by Steven Rowan (2002).  It was originally serially published in 1854 and 1855, and then unavailable until 'rediscovered' in 1990. Why did it disappear? From the opening paragraph of the "Preface and Acknowledgments":
This edition began as a whim and ended as an obsession.  The memory of Reizenstein and his notorious book was preserved primarily by J. Hanno Delier. [ftn.1] It has long been known that Ludwig von Reizenstein wrote a book about New Orleans which offended the taste of its time and was quickly withdrawn from circulation; more could not be said. It is safe to assume that the book, Die Geheimnisse von New Orleans, remained unread for more than a century until 1990, when I managed to reconstruct almost of it from the microform files of the Louisiana Staats-Zeitung . . . .
We learned of this work via last week's NOLA Reconnect session which focused on the Spanish language newspapers of New Orleans.  However, as the featured scholar of the non-English newspapers of New Orleans's history further informed us, there were others, not just French, which we expect, of course, and Spanish, which still too few people think about, as for some reason the deep Spanish history and roots of New Orleans remains overlooked by American History (particularly by those who have positioned themselves as gatekeepers as what the narrative of US history is supposed to be).  German and Italian were among those publications in other languages.

As this cover art for the 2002 translation informs us, among the culture and traditions the Germans gifted to Victorian USA, is the gothic manner and sensibility.  Not only did that map finely upon New England's (think, Hawthorne), but so obviously, once one's attention is caught, with that of the most 'gothic' city of the nation, New Orleans. Late nineteenth Century New Orleans author, Lafcadio Hearn, with a tessara of backgrounds, wasn't New Orleans's sui generis. 

Three times a week, I am most satisfactorily re-immersed in the first novel of Sharon Kay Penman I had ever read, When Christ and His Saint Slept (1994).  am not re-reading the novel though, I am listening to it.  Be assured, this is a wonderful book to accompany 2 1/2 hour workouts!

This is a lively novel, deeply researched, which makes understandable to a non-scholar how and why the nineteen-year bloody tragedy, known as the Anarchy, descended upon 12th C England and her people after the death of King Henry I. Since I first read When Christ and His Saints Slept, I have learned a very great deal about everything even remotely connected with these years, and not only in England. I confess this has allowed for an even greater pleasure in the narrative, and admiration for Penman.

As is Penman's manner, the women are half of the principal characters, starting with Empress Maud, also named Matilda, daughter of King Henry I, to whom he bequeathed his crown, and Matilda, the queen of the usurping successor, Stephen, Henry’s nephew, and Maud's cousin. In many ways, as Penman shows the succession of back-and-forth battles, the successes and failures on both sides, this is as much a women’s war as it is that of their lords.  As women, they have to fight on multiple fronts, not only battlefields.

The set pieces of terrible violence make the suffering of the average Englander clear, as, per usual, lords and their ladies are spared the worst, except on the battlefield, and even then they can often be ransomed instead of just killed. That this civil war indecisively juttered on for nineteen years, despite so many furious, grim and grisly military encounters, leads the reader to consider, perhaps, most of the protagonists lacked any talent for strategy or for building coalition.  All of the men appear to be more than competent warriors, but as war commanders and statesmen, maybe not?  This includes Empress Maud-Matilda too. We see at each turn that failures emerge out of character defects of all the protagonists. Medieval nobles and royals were the not trustworthy or faithful to anyone, much less their inferiors, despite chivalric pretense, which was viewed as weakness if / when a figure practiced such behavior outside romances.

The blood of William the Bastard runs fast and thick in the veins of all the protagonists, that wild, fierce, cruel, violent and stubborn heritage, that cannot brook any thwarting of their will from any quarter, that will never compromise or negotiate. With Henry II’s coronation, Henry I’s grandson, and an Angevin – Plantagenet as well, this was the blood that would rule England and remained convinced for centuries their divine right to rule France as well. The more I read along in this novel, the more I see the same kinds of arrogant treachery and punishment, such as a willingness to use starvation and destruction as weapons upon one’s own people England that the Normans wreaked upon the English in the years and decades after Hastings – the plundering, and the theft too. The English did the same in France in the 14th Century during the Hundred Years War. Plantagenets Edward III and his son, the Black Prince, are historically (in?)famous for what came to be called chevauchée, but that sort of warfare was not by any means a new addition to tactics and armaments. It took until the 15th century before that Plantagenet blood was replaced in England’s royalty – though the desire to rule France as well continued through the 16th Century, with or without blood heritage of the Bastard and the Angevins.

One inevitably considers: if in 1066, Harold and his army hadn’t been so exhausted at Hastings, having just fought and won a previous hard pressed bloody battle against the Danes hundreds of miles away, from which they force marched immediately back south to take on the Bastard, mayhap England might have remained firmly within the North Sea and Scandinavian sphere of influence, and not have gotten pulled into those of France and Europe. How much blood and treasure England would have been spared, perhaps, if that hadn't happened. Yes, that would be a big alternate history, That Penman did not write alternate history, but did her best to bring us in a readable narrative what we think we know, I am deeply grateful.