". . . 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, December 7, 2022

Reading Insurrection

       . . . .  The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams (2022), by Stacy Schiff, and the Tolkien Estate's latest cash cow, The Fall of Númenor (2022), ed. by Brian Sibley, arrived in time for our quarantine/isolation.  They did very well getting me through the variety of existential dreads that chased themselves periodically in herds through my mind and body, during what turned out to be a very mild brush with Covid -- and perhaps the shortest! Today I picked up from the library purrfect seasonal fictionthat goes with Fall of Númenor: the 4th Anthony Horowitz meta effort in the Golden Age of Mystery line, in which the protagonist/narrator is Anthony Horowitz, The Twist of the Knife (2022), and the classic, The Dark Is Rising (1973) by Susan Cooper.

I finished The Revolutionary last night.

So successfully did Samuel Adams obscure his activities organizing a revolution, even from historians’ best effort, that at times it seems as though he’s like the Scarlet Pimpernel, though on the opposition side of the Aristos: “They seek him here, they seek him there. Those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in heaven or is he in hell? That demned elusive Pimpernel”. 

Historians didn't care for Schiff's The Witches: Salem 1692 (2015), so I didn't read that, and my Egyptologist friend and historian of ancient history, and the reviewers too, really disapproved of her Cleopatra: A Life (2010), but it sold very well anyway (as does Witches, though her readers seem not that interested in her 1999 biography Vera Nabokov, Vladimir's wife).  Schiff doesn't even read modern Greek, so that's a problem right there, evidently. I tried to read it myself, and stopped in both sceptism and distrust.

The Revolutionary feels more solid and trustworthy to, takeaways are that Jefferson in particular of the Founders studied Sam Adams's trajectory, tactics and behind-the-scenes secrecy very carefully.  In a letter to Adams, late in Adams's life, he rather says so.  I certainly recognized all of Jefferson's own maneuverings in those of Adams.  The Secessionists didn't study carefully though, and they failed. The current crops of violent seditionists since at least Atwood and Gingrich, have studied with understanding of what he did and how he did it.  His Correspondence Circles and the way to re-purpose words, providing them with different meanings and significance, certainly since Reagan.  Control of the media, which then meant newspapers, is the key.  Secret deals with the already-violence prone such as out-of-work sailors and dockworkers, essential, along with creating one's own militias.  Now it's social media and television, and Oathkeepers, Proud Boys, Neo Nazis, Incels, the outright insane, etc.

Among the many mysteries as to how Adams worked and with whom, is his relative poverty.  At some point it was clear somebody/somebodies were supporting him, enabling to continue his 'seditious' work.  But who?  The obvious guess is Hancock, but I wonder, considering it was B Franklin who sent him the secret Hutchinson documents from England, if Franklin was also a behind-the-scenes secret collaborator?  Their minds would mesh well.  One of the methods evidently used by Adams and others in Boston was to appear in public as enemies, or antagonists, while really working together.

Let's face it: a lot of what Adams did is no different from what the current insurrectionists and seditionists are doing now.

Schiff also says that New England, Massachusetts and Boston in particular, went bonkers around 1765-8, getting progressively so, with periods when things seemed to cool down, but Adams kept working behind the scenes, and then was prepared the moment the Crown and Hutchinson gave him an opening. Schiff says the same thing, going bonkers in this part of the world, is what drove the Salem witch trials.  Henry Adams says the Secessionists went insane too.

On the other hand, there is this, in my opinion: John Adams wasn't a firebreather from the beginning, and neither was Abigail.  The Crown did some truly stupid moves, understood nothing about the colonies or the geography -- and that governance on all levels of the colonies was very bad.  Hutchinson held multiple offices, got salaries for them all, and what he didn't hold himself, he gave to his family members and his friends; He and his cronies did everything to block anyone's path that might challenge their complete control and dominance.  It was a real cabal of power and wealth, which would indeed piss off everybody else.  But Hutchinson and his fellows, as well as those back in Britain, were incapable of envisioning this as anything but their right by wealth and birth, and even less capable of envisioning others seeing it otherwise as well.  So that allowed the right person, with all the pertinent skills, from ability to write, speak, quickly, coherently, persuasively, while being utterly personable in person, with a mind that was able to see all the openings for humiliation, protest and incitement to operate, and one, moreover, who had the imagination, unshared, when he began, with any of his colonial contemporaries, to envision a separation from Britain, and moreover wanted it, and was able to play a very long game.  That was Adams.  He was unique, nearly, it seems -- utterly Bostonian too, a Harvard educated Puritan to the core, though much milder in that than his ancestors, with a great leavening of what was by now in Europe the Enlightenment, though not quite entirely able to let go the days of the 17th Century.

This biography of Samuel Adams, along with Marcus Rediker's Outlaws of the Atlantic : Sailors, Pirates, and Motley Crews in the Age of Sail (2014), provides all the information of how to organize a Revolution and / or Insurrection. First lesson--it will never succeed without deployment of mobs. Second less -- it will never succeed without massive media control and presence, all the time, everywhere.

*  For seasonal watching, I highly recommend Three Pines on Amazon Prime, the adaptation from Louise Penny's Gamache novels, the first season which began on Amazon Prime last Friday, which begins right before Christmas. The town of Three Pines looks so much as I imagined it. The sounds and sights of winter in Three Pines are perfect, shot and recorded in winter, on location. Each murder to be solved is two episodes each, and these two episode go up together on Fridays. The arc mystery thread connecting them each week looks to be one involved with a disappeared young Native woman, whose family are certain she didn't up leave but has been kidnapped or killed.  Though the police won't help them, Gamache gets involved. It also involves, one thinks -- but there's only been two episodes -- the horrors of abuse in Canada's Residency Schools.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

So Much Happens On The Weekend

       . . . .  At the Friday evening start of the weekend, one can learn one is going to Spain for two weeks in March: Madrid, Toledo, Sevilla, Granada, Cordoba and Cadiz.  We are going with another couple, one half of which is the director-son of Arturo O'Farrill's Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, which is all about performing, and who is the head of the Board of Arturo O'Ferrillo's Afro-Latin Jazz Alliance, which is all about schools, teaching, training and bringing up young performers, outreach into the communities and the communities that may not know about them or the musics. 

Ha! You didn't think going to Spain was vacation did you?  No, this is prospecting Afro-Latin groups and musicians in Spain, for alliance and performance.  The Board also voted yes to ally with Postmambo Seminars, in order to do Postmambo Gotham next summer.  Thus, as one does, Friday night we went to the best Spanish restaurant in the area to celebrate with dinner and one of the wonderful wines that we don't find anywhere else here, certainly not in the wine stores.

The next day, el Vaquero said he wasn't feeling so good, which is fairly usual for him when waking up.  Yet he researched, chose the itinerary, and booked the flights and purchased the tickets. We did the usual Saturday night of him making pasta while listening to Phil Schaap on WKCR, which began long before Phil died. (WKCR runs the recorded shows Phil made over the decades in the same time slot every week.)

Sunday he felt worse, tested, and o yes, positive for Covid.  I was negative. I called his primary, who fortunately, being Chinese, has his office open on Sundays.  Got a script for Pax called into the pharmacy, which I picked up. He fell asleep for almost the entire afternoon

He took the first Pax dose at dinner time. By 10 - 11 at night, the light fever he had was gone.  By 3 AM Monday, the cough was too.  I finally fell asleep.  Sunday was a nasty day for me, afraid as I've been all along about what will happen if we get covid, particularly since we have no way to isolate in this this tiny apartment. We have to sleep together.  We wear masks, even in bed, particularly in bed.  I keep a big bank of pillows between us so he cannot do what he always does in his sleep turn over and put his arms around me.

Yesterday was nearly normal in behaviors, other than what one doesn't do, being positive, and living with someone positive, even though one is still testing negative.  Which means, of course quarantining. Also we wear masks, both us, in this tiny apartment, which is inconvenient, shall we say.  But then we're not Cubans, who are without electricity, covered with mosquitoes, have no water, no food, and do have covid, malaria and dengue.  Eff my inconvenience and slight discomforts.

Darling B brought us cornbread and left outside the door. Via fone he inquired what we needed, so he could bring it to us. But we don't need anything, not even milk, as I have a stash of Parmalat, and plenty of tea, etc.  El V and B agreed that any army that me as quartermaster would be having a good deal -- Always prepared! they said.  Ha! 

Today he doesn't feel in the least bit sick.  The test is a thin faint orange line. I am again negative.

But whatever. We aren't going anywhere or seeing anyone until at least 5 days after he's negative, and if I continue to test negative, not anywhere for 2-3 days after that, just in case.  I have canceled my dental appointment for next Monday.  Sigh.  But maybe I'll get another one before NO at the start of February.  It was a check-up/cleaning, not for An Issue, thank goodness. We also called the restaurant so our server could be warned.

He has been socializing/musiking a lot in the last weeks, though last week he didn't do anything at all, except Thursday night, he did go out to hear Cuban and New Orleans friends/musicians play.  That's the most likely site of infection, but, of course, one cannot know.

Let's face it -- we both were careless.  We'd been in one our city's brief interregnums of Covid, where the numbers had fallen so far, and hospitalizations were hardly happening for Covid. Then all anyone talked about was children with flu and RSV filling up the hospitals. But if one digged, one learned, which I had learned, there was no part of the city that wasn't classified as 'High or Severe Risk for Covid.' The numbers are alarming -- the governor's been talking about reinstating masks (she won't). The numbers started slowly rising with Comic Con, the Holy Days, so before Thanksgiving they were going rapidly up, and now there's the World Cup -- and next weekend that horror show called Santa Con -- all of these are super spreader situations, year after year. We really should have known better than going to a crowded restaurant where nobody masks except some of the basement Mexican staff.

O, there was something else that happened on Saturday.  Our internet failed.  Turned out it is because our wire from outside has suffered rain damage. It must be replaced, which means getting a time when the building's office will open access to the roof so the provider's technicians can replace it.  In the meantime a temp fix, with new modem.  But we may have to revert as we did until that temp fix to using the provider's outside hotspot, which means no secured internet. 

But let me close with this, which I am finally going to visit, since having the desire to do pricked about age 10, seeing the color plates of it in the set of Lands and Peoples, that went along with the other sets of books, as for Science and so on, that came with the purchase my parents made when I was six of the Books of Knowledge.  One has to reserve tickets months ahead of time, so now is the moment to do that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Travel Turbulence

      . . . .There are ... mornings.

Having arrived home very late the night before from a long day of traveling and long week of working non-stop, one is sittings in the kitchen, as one does, in pjs, drinking coffee, unshaved, and the BBC calls, wanting one to go live on television, right now. 

Pablo Milanés has died. 

El V, hardly alive, turned them down. He said was because I was still asleep – slept late –since we'd been up by 7 AM yesterday and didn't get to bed until nearly 3 -- Thanksgiving travel was already jamming up the airports.   But he said it was really because he didn’t want to.

He'd also just gotten the news that his dear Eddie Palmieri is in hospital, a stomach hemorrhage. 

El Vs upset. He was close to Pablo, and very close to two of his performing children, particularly Haydée Milanés, who have great careers in their own right.


Thursday, November 17, 2022

From Da List -- Santos: Skin to Skin

     . . . . Pardon my delay in getting this out, but I wanted y'all to know that tonight (Thursday. Nov. 17)-- at 8 pm eastern, from New Orleans!  Postmambo Movie Night proudly presents a special virtual screening of Santos: Skin to Skin, 

 a new feature-length documentary -- still making the festival rounds -- about our colleague, percussion master John Santos, followed by a conversation with filmmakers Kathryn Golden and Ashley James, as well as Mr. Santos himself.

You need to be on the parallel [seminar] list to attend.  If you aren't already on it and want to attend, just send me an e-mail with the word [seminar] in the subject line.

The Zoom link goes out at 6 pm eastern. Thanks! 


Whew, it's cold!  But not anywhere near as cold as it is back up in NY.  Worse They Say Buffalo and Watertown are probably getting 4 feet of snow between today and Sunday.

Monday, November 14, 2022

The Struggle That Failed 1919 -- 1945

     . . . . Hitler: A Career (German: Hitler – Eine Karriere) (1977)

West German documentary film about the career of Adolf Hitler directed by Christian Herrendoerfer and Joachim Fest and written by Fest, a German historian.

 Everything on screen is documentary film footage shot at the time in real time, though the narration – in English -- is not, and overdubbed.

This latest edition of the digitally restored period film footage, which the team that got this on Netflix did, taking out the herkyjerky fast walking and so on that we were used to from footage of the time – the miracles that can be done now.  It’s much easier watching this 1977 film in 2022 than it was to watch on television in 1977.

As per usual, my first question was the same as it always is when watching nazi documentaries. Where did the nazi organizers get these hundreds of thousands participants in the spectacles, that are viewed by an equal number of wildly cheering spectators, how is it possible the paraders and performers can execute the endless vast unison parading and maneuvers that, among other things, create monumental swastikas of human beings?  (Later in the film there's some analysis as to why so many of these spectacles were arranged at night -- the dark covered up much of the reality of what was there.)  I also think, seeing the scenes of the nazi youth groups how much I’d hated growing up in nazi Germany – those girl youth camps in which one is told that washing clothes for the family was more fun for girls than going to school, forced to play volleyball instead of reading books. They sound like mother did, having a fit when she asked, "Why don't you like anything about housework?" and I looked at her as insane.

Poland, is often regarded as comically out of date confronting Hitler’s invasion of tanks and aircraft, without any of the weapons and infrastructure of a modern army.* However, we forget -- if we ever knew -- how little time Poland had in the last 100 years or so to even BE A NATION, much less have the money or time to create a modern army, since the partition and disappearance of it in the 18th C. Under the circumstances, that it took Hitler’s forces 2 weeks to subdue Poland seems, to me, at least, admirable and truly heroic, not something for non-Poles to feel superior about. Not to mention our current home-grown nazis would never heroically make a stand like that against even an equal force, much less such an overwhelming one.  Shoot, they can't even stand up to not having somebody cooking breakfast and handing to them, or have teenage girls laugh at their trux.

On! To Moscow. Mud up to the horses’ shoulders. Mud past the tanks' treds.  Then snow, higher than the horses' bellies. This is footage shot on that advance, and the defeat WWII -- a scene of Hitler walking in snow behind the lines and the front's 'advance', stating, "I hate snow.  I never want to see snow again." Then going back to Germany, where, presumably some heads rolled, due to snow not foretold or removed.

Whilst the viewer ponders how so many of the scenes of vast numbers adoring Hitler and the nazis, united in joy of hatred, often in tears – thousands of girls melting down over the Beatles have nothing on these hormonal charges – we’ve been seeing in the last few years. 

* Poland's cavalry charge against tanks and aircraft is a myth.

The true story behind the myth is as follows.

On Sept. 1, 1939, a Polish Cavalry regiment operating along Poland’s northwestern border attacked a column of unsuspecting German infantry.

The invaders were quickly scattered, but before the Poles could celebrate, a squad of German armoured vehicles appeared on the scene and inflicted heavy casualties on the horsemen with their canons and machine guns.

The next day, war correspondents were brought to the scene and told that the Poles had charged German tanks.

Despite no one actually having witnessed the supposed charge, seemingly overnight the story spread across the globe and was quickly accepted as true. Both Time Magazine and The New York Times described the incident in hyperbolic detail; high ranking German officers recalled it in their memoirs; and even Winston Churchill mentioned it in his history of the Second World War.

I suppose we need not be surprised that one of the most solid, enduring platforms of this myth is a film the nazis shot to show their infinite military superiority to everyone?

…. Perhaps the most notorious example was the pseudodocumentary Kampfgeschwader Lützow, which featured staged footage of Polish cavalry charging panzer tanks. ….

Friday, November 11, 2022

Keepin' the Home Fires Burning

     . . . . Could this actually be a week in which decent people can have some joy?  The retreat from Kherson, inflation seeming to have hit peak, our midterms giving us the "Something not turning as out as bad as it could necer felt so good."

Somehow, the three feel related, along with the outcomes of both Colombia's and Brasil's presidential elections. Even so, I'm probably centering, wrongly, the US here?

OTOH, covid infections are increasing like mad here.  Glad I did the late autumn hair stylist visit early.  Also we are going back to NO next week.  Back in time for Thanksgiving with some friends -- who had covid, but are over it  But we won't have the usual second Thanksgiving we usually have with other friends, as they both have covid presently.  Pax is doing its job, but as one is so run down from years of caregiving and job, and the other is still recovering from emergency brain surgery, it's not so easy.

Another amiga has been subjected to round after round of chemo since June/July. She and I have email discussions about the books and television likes we have in common. The latest was around learning we both had liked The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism (2005) by Megan Marshall, is another of those biographies that work beautifully for me as well. I've read it, in fact, three times. 

Sophia Hawthorne was one of the sisters. She spent her life in Boston being sick, unable to walk or do housework.  The only treatment that worked for what ailed her was spending the winter in Cuba on a hacienda.  The further her ship got from the Boston, the better she felt, until, by the time she reached Cuba, she was quite, quite well.  She adored spending her mornings a-gallop on spirited horses of her host, across the river valley fields. Then, returning to Boston, the closer her ship got to US shores, and the closer to Boston, the more unwell she became.

 Reading this in the biography back then, sent me looking for Sophia's journals, and I found some material that el  V was able to use in his Cuba And Its MusicSophia Hawthorne was as racist and non-condemning of slavery as she could be, without coming right out and saying she believed slavery was a positive institution, but she was observant, so there were bits that were of use. Her remarks on the enslaved form part of the unlovely picture of our nation's history of Black hatred. 

I want to blame her husband, since Sophia's sisters were quite concerned with slavery and abolition.  Nat. Hawthorne, though, was quite a piece of work. All his life he was in bromance with Franklin Pierce, and, even, quite possibly, his lover.  Hawthorne wrote Pierce's presidential campaign political bio for excellent pay, received sinecure government posting from Pierce, was with him on his deathbed -- he asked for him, not Sophia -- was totally in the slaveocracy's pockets.  Hawthorne was vocally anti-abolitionist, and decisively told people discussions of slavery were boring and a waste of time, and he didn't care about slavery one way or the other.  Quite out-of-step with fellow Concordians.  Though Sophia's Cuban trips began before she knew Hawthorne, of course, so it was more like-to-like than caused by Hawthorne. My, this book, and the experience of it, like everything before 2016 and covid feels far, far away in time.  

Coincidence: as I finished Sister Novelists, another biography of sisters appears --a new book about the Grimkés: The Grimkes: The Legacy of Slavery In An American Family, by Kerri Greenidge.  It seems to be a study intended to debunk their reputations as anti-slaverites -- the review I read suggests they profited immensely from slavery.

So, this morning, receiving the news the library had The Grimkés available, I dashed off to the library to pick it up, because it wasn't raining much, despite we being in Tropical Storm Nicola predicted wind and rain. I knew it was Veterans Day, but didn't stop to think this is a holiday and the libraries are closed.  Duh.  I'm smart that way.  Though I was wearing the rain-snow-storm boots I got last week, so I'm not so dumb that way!  Had on rain coat and carried umbrella too.  Which was good because the storm hit hard as I was returning home, due to the fog and heavy cloudfs, dark came even earlier than the roll back of EDST makes it. We're currently in fog, as well as dark, since the temps are fairly warm -- in the 60's. Well stocked with what we need, and even what we want, we are happily cozy and comfortable.  How lucky can we get?

The week was quite lively, while we ignored the pre-election and pre-results backbenching with all our hearts.  El V did another Postmambo Zoom last night, this time with live guest and his film,  from Lome, in Togo, Africa.    He also went out to several music gigs, and we taught two classes.  

Hope the internet stays on -- it's gone out twice now in less than 24 hours.  If no problems I plan to watch more Crown, season 5, 2022. This is the season to turn the mythologies of Di and Charlie inside out. The first two eps dull and dreary.  The actor doing Di is lacking in all that made cameras and screens bewitched by her.  We see her being acidly mocking and mean, o so not quite subtly (due to the bile and acid of bulimia?). It got interesting in the 3rd episode which was generally only about the Al-Fayed family and the man who was the Duke of Windsor’s valet until death – Fayed sr. hires Black Barbadian, Sydney Johnson, whom the Duke had taught everything that makes an English gentleman.  According to the show, Johnson was the one who advised Al-Fayed to buy palace estate, Villa Windsor, decaying on the outskirts of Paris – and Harrods Department Store, then finally buy some position in a most prestigious equine something or other so he can sit next to, and, finally, meet and speak with the Queen. Queenie’s not about to allow this unworthy vulgarian colonial his reward. She and her Equerry send Diana instead. The Princess insults him, and they get along famously.  Di and Elizabeth are equally nasty in this sequence. Later, at E’s court, the members eagerly check with each other as which possessions in the Villa belong to Them/the Crown/ -- and they go over the lists with the same avid attention any grocer would go over his delivery lists and invoices.  The Court looks small and grasping, petty and avaricious. And, always, deadly dull.

The other character is Charles (now Kingwingy Charles III). Played as he is by Dominic West – as Charlie then as now lacks all charisma, electricity and interest, whilst West can’t help splattering it everywhere just standing around -- this doesn’t work. Can you imagine The Wire's Jimmy McNulty having a temper tantrum over a ... pen?  No, we cannot, but Charlie did. Immediately on being king, even not yet crowned. 

If Charlie was in the least like West’s presentation, none of the messes would have happened in the first place.

So, history's revisionism continues apace, even revisionism of what we've 'always known' because we were there.  Ha!

Saturday, October 29, 2022

The Mothers of English Historical Novels - Plus Fèt Gede

     . . . .  Sister Novelists: The Trailblazing Porter Sisters, Who Paved the Way for Austen and the Brontë by Devoney Looser (2022).

Washington Post review herewhich upon reading the review, I immediately ordered the biography. These Porter sister novelists were the mothers of English historical fiction. I have often invoked Sir Walter Scott as the father of historical fiction (and Dumas as godfather), but as deep as my knowledge of English literary history is, I'd no idea these women had existed.  Can we guess why, one wonders . . . .

 Maria and Jane Porter published the first Brit historical fiction in novel form in several books in the first decade of the 19th century.  

Delaware Art Museum 
Book cover design for Thaddeus of Warsaw, by Jane PorterATTRIBUTED TO: Walter Stewart (American illustrator and painter, 1902–1981) 

Maria Porter, in her 1803 Thaddeus of Warsaw, created

... “the historical novel as we know it” in her 1803 tale of a Polish war hero who becomes a refugee in England. “What was new about ‘Thaddeus of Warsaw,’ ” Looser explains, “was its mingling of climactic historical events with the conventions of biographies, romantic tales, and probable domestic novels.” Contemporary critics dubbed it “a work of genius,” and it was a sensational bestseller. ....


In 1810 Jane Porter published The Scottish Chiefs, telling the tale of William Wallace’s battle for Scottish independence from Britain, published quite prior to Scott’s first novel, Waverly, 1814, that told of of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. 

These two sisters’ novels were massive hits, best sellers, out of the box. Would that have had any influence on Scott’s literary choice of form and subject?  One commentator to the review observed,

 "I find it interesting that of the twenty-six ‘Waverley novels’ written by Walter Scott not one was set during the time of William Wallace and King Robert I." 

Author Looser did address this -- how could she, how can we, not?

... [Looser] is more cogent on the question of why these popular and influential authors are virtually unknown today. The root cause of the sisters’ decline in literary reputation and, eventually, sales, Looser writes, was the phenomenal success of Walter Scott’s “Waverley” in 1814 and the author’s failure to acknowledge that the methods he employed in his historical novels were very similar to the Porters’: “Critics would increasingly claim that the Waverley novels had elevated the genre of fiction — and especially historical fiction — bringing to it a superior new (masculine) excellence, while correcting supposed previous (feminine) faults.”

Are we surprised yet?

.... Jane in particular resented this and in 1827 wrote a pointed short story, “Nobody’s Address,” that implicitly accused Scott of reducing his literary precursors to nobodies. By the time she died in 1850, having survived Maria by 18 years, Jane had been reduced to living with a brother and receiving charitable grants from the government. Her achievements deserved better recognition, and although Looser’s thickly detailed biography could stand to be a little less detailed, it pays overdue tribute to pioneering siblings unjustly neglected by literary history. ....


     . . . . A perfect day -- gold, red and blue -- so clear and still, low humidity for a change, and the temperature in the seasonal 50's. Receiving audio royalties for The Books, was a good start to the day. However,  packed restaurants, streets and sidewalks. The annual Village Halloween Parade cattle stanchions are unloaded and going up too, for Monday, further blocking access to sidewalks and intersections.  Getting around down here is nearly impossible; I had to fight my way through the outsiders to my polling place. This is the first day of early voting in the Midterm election.  Alas there was so little, were so few, to vote for; mostly I was voting against. 

Weep for the city, weep for the state, weep for the nation, weep for the world. 

However, after Monday's Hell Night, Tuesday night, known in some places as El dia de los muertos and others as the Day of the Dead, in Haiti is Festival of the Dead,  Postmambo's Fèt Gede*, will zoom throughout the US and Europe.  This is the third year Postmambo is hosting a Gede festival: 

Postmambo Movie Night


Fèt Gede in Weimar America

Tuesday, Nov. 1, 7 pm eastern

note earlier-than-usual start time

We'll warm up with some Haitian music videos, including some of my all-time favorites, namely RAM's videos featuring Gede, lwa of the dead. Including their new one, "Gede Vim Anwo." Mr. RAM himself, Richard A. Morse, has indicated that he will be able to drop in and talk to us from his pied-a-terre in New Orleans, where RAM is presently rehearsing and gigging, about these awe-inspiring videos.

==> Our main feature will be Maya Deren's Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti, shot between 1947 and 1954. We'll talk about it afterwards with my fave co-host, Dr. Elizabeth McAlister. (Revisit her January 2022 Postmambo Session on "Funerary Rites in Haitian Vodou" here.)

==> More guests to be announced, including an instructor in Gede dancing . . . Drop in for Fèt Gede / All Saints Day / Day of the Dead / at whatever time you can make it on Tuesday Nov. 1, starting at 7 eastern and continuing until 11 or so. More info to come.

I'll be sending the Zoom link out to this list on Tuesday at 5 p.m. eastern . . .

Get your purple, black and white, your single-lensed shades and black bowler hat, and be your own Gede self

* Fèt Gede is naturally huge in New Orleans, as well as Haiti and eastern Cuba.  The Morse and Ram's pied-à-terre there is so important, not only for the cross-aculturation going on between them and the city's indigenous vodun population and musicians and Head, but because Haiti is so very very dangerous -- no exaggeration to say Haiti is very dangerous -- for everyone, on so many fronts from the second invasion of cholera, lack of water and food, drugs, gang and 'government' violence -- climate change.  You name it, it's there in the perfect storm of calamity that has come to this nation, thanks to relentless, historical, racist politics on the part of the US and Europe.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Is This the First US Science Fiction Novel? The Partisan Leader

      . . . .  Science Fiction, published very early in the United States of America, is a confederate novel by a Virginian, who was a passionate advocate for slavery.  

The Partisan Leader (1836) by Nathaniel Beverly Tucker (male; 'Beverly' is a common male surname and first name in earlier decades among the Aristo class in VA, SC, etc., particularly those descended from pre-Independence VA ), under the pseudonym of Edward William Sidney.  After losing election campaigns in two states, Missouri and Virginia, Tucker's well-connected friends and family got him appointed as professor of Constitutional Law at William and Mary -- his father held the position before him. As we see, this gave Tucker copious free time to write novels (while waited on hand-and-foot by enslaved labor): his first novel, George Balcombe was also published in 1836. *. 

He employed his additional leisure time to write political pro-southern slave state secession, economy and power tracts. Thus, as one likely would expect, this, if not the first, one of the first sf novels -- the novel is set 13 years in the future from the year in which it was published -- would be a romance centered on Virginia, about slavery,  a successful Southern secession from, and confederation against, the dastardly North, which Happy Ending turns the entire Western hemisphere into a vast slave state.

Tucker lived in those halcyon decades in which the Southern Plantation class ruled the Federal government from the White House all the way down, planning to expand slavery as the economic system throughout the Western Hemisphere, while defending it from the heinous designs of Britain, "the Great Apostle of Emancipation”. This 'design' was to destroy the Southern cotton economy in favor of their own in India (which Britain did not have and wasn't trying to have then), while invading the United States with an army of Africans and those freed from bondage out of Cuba, Haiti, Brasil, etc..


One of Tucker's  best friends was Virginian, Abel P. Upshur, who was contributing his bit to expansion and defense by building a navy that could successfully take on Britain's.  The photo above is the USS Abel P. Upshur (DD-193), a Clemson-class destroyer in the service of the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard until -- IRONY!  IRONY! IRONY! --  transferred to the United Kingdom in 1940. During World War II, she served in the Royal Navy as HMS Clare.

The Partisan Leader can be read on the Documenting the South website here

* Incidentally, as a point of interest in the history of American Literature, it was reviewed by this southerner, Edgar Allan Poe.


     . . . . This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy (2016) by Matthew Karp "illuminates this era of American history with an intelligent survey of those Southern politicians and their ambitions, both at the regional level and the federal level. “By the middle of the [19th] century,” he writes, “southern masters ruled over the wealthiest and most dynamic slave society the world had ever known.”

Their leaders were nationalists, not separatists. Their “vast southern empire” was not an independent South but the entire United States, and only the election of Abraham Lincoln broke their grip on national power. Fortified by years at the helm of U.S. foreign affairs, slaveholding elites formed their own Confederacy—not only as a desperate effort to preserve their property but as a confident bid to shape the future of the Atlantic world.

 Calhoun's policy was to insure the power of the agrarian South by limiting the power of the federal government. "That section distinct from the rest of the nation, however, eventually aimed to create its own Confederate States of America and then export that confederacy. The result would be a Southern Empire."

The consequence? The failure or success would depend upon southern statesmen advancing that world through United States foreign policy. “Few mid-nineteenth-century Americans,” he writes, “were more deeply engaged with international politics than southern slaveholders.” Those in positions of power, southern elites, also kept the international politics of slavery under constant surveillance, “tracking threats to slave property . . . monitoring oscillations in global attitudes toward emancipation.”

"Given that global perspective, there was little in the southern “institution” that was “peculiar.” During those antebellum decades, the blunt facts illustrate a vise-like grip on the presidency, the cabinet, and the lower levels of federal administration. Professor Karp quotes Iowa Congressman Josiah Grinnell, who observed that during those antebellum years southern slaveholders held the Secretary of State office for two-thirds of the time."

In their minds, Great Britain’s 1833 Slavery Abolition Act was part of the nefarious design to destroy them.  This accounts for the region's adamant anti-British policy in all things up until the War of the Rebellion.

I do believe though, the author is mistaken when he describes these Southerners as "cosmopolitan, highly educated and sophisticated -- because their fundamental tenets were made of contradiction. They were firmly convinced Britain schemed to destroy them economically for it's own economic benefit.  Yet, these leaders also assumed, presumed and expected Britain to support and assist and finance their Great War of the Rebellion. It could have no choice, they were certain, because Britain's industry depended on King Cotton.

Goes to show, again, that the current crops of racist conspiracists, delusionists, climate and election deniers, disseminators of lies and fakery and outright insanity come from a vast pedigree in our national history of determined violence to rid themselves of government and have their own preferred systems of cruel, selfish greed.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

The Reveals Are What We Like: Rings of Power, Finale, "Alloyed"


     . . . . "Alloyed" was a fine episode, a satisfying finale. 

We have a new dimension to the Elven – Númenórean wars of the Second Age: Adar, a villain protagonist in the middle, between Sauron and the Elves.  Adar, “Lord-Father”, has a twisted paternal sense of care for the orcs, whom he played a significant part in their creation, forced to, perhaps, by Sauron, or forced to twist-torture them too much for his own tolerance. Adar thinks he killed Sauron it appears now, because of this.  Adar has destroyed the Southlands for humans to make a home for his orc progeny, outcast by all, where they can live without threat of the sun. This is quite a twist, and it's terrific, not only filled with interest, but also does make Rings Of Power its own ‘creation’ so to speak.

How the three elven rings are forged, with mithril and the gold and silver that come from Valinor were fine; Galadriel's Valinor dagger, which has been part of several pivotal scenes throughout the series, returns to find its own destiny. What a shop Celebrimbor has in Lindon! Those scenes, in their own way, rival in spectacle those of Khazad-dûm. Ya, we learn who is Sauron, though they did a stoopid fake out at the top, alas. Galadriel’s got a whole lot more to be guilty about – she brought Sauron to Linden, where he sussed out the why and how to make the rings in Celebrimbor’s workshop. 

Númenor’s king died, as blind Míriel returns with Elendil, where Pharazôn is waiting to make policy for a cold war by the Númenóreans on elves and their enviable 'immortality'.  Architect apprentice, Elendil's daughter, Isildur's sister, Eärien, saw something no doubt in the palantír – that was left hanging, as do many story/plot lines in Tolkien’s LotR's trilogy, as he moves us from one arc of action to another set of characters in another location for long stretches.

We also learn conclusively the Big Stranger is A Good, not a Peril.  Of course the Weirdling trio were involved – a set of magi from Rhûn, i.e. the Eastlands, i.e. Persia. This is the my personal second favorite part. The reason for this is because I have long

felt Rhûn was a Tolkien take on the ancient world empires of Babylon, Assyria and particularly Persia and Phoenicia.  Partly this is because the name "Radagast" comes up in readings about Persian Empire. The Big Stranger realizes he is a wizard.  He must go off to learn/relearn who is and what he must do, in – Rhûn. Which partly makes sense because Babylon/Persia are the homelands of a class called Magi, who have all sorts of specialist knowledge upon which the King of Kings depends. Those from other lands come to study with the Persian Magi to learn everything from astronomy to medicine to prophecy. Rhûn is where those Perils of Weirdlings are from, who thought he was Sauron. Nevertheless, since the Weirdlings were that ignorant at reading signs and portents, surely there’s nothing for Big Stranger to learn about himself in Rhûn?  Well, maybe how to read that tattered bit of star map our lamented, late Sadoc gifted him, in which he wraps the precious apple which Nori gifted him. A quite different gift of knowledge from that gifted by Sauron to Celebrimbor, hey?

But the most precious gift of all is Nori’s giving of herself as Big Stranger's companion, with her Harfoot sense to keep him straight, find them food and keep them hidden. Plus this provides the driver for the necessary Tolkien Journey There and Back Again. One does wish they had shortened Nori’s farewells several beats, as Big Stranger just hangs out on the overlooking hill under a tree, waiting, waiting, waiting for her so they can get on with his journey to the Big Apple of Knowledge. 

So much to look forward to, whenever the second season arrives.


-- Deadline’s Inside The Ring Episode 8 | The Rings of Power | Prime Video

Nice essay on Slate  -- "One Way The Rings of Power Outdoes the Lord of the Rings Movies" hint -- female characters.  O my goodness the fanfascist bros howl at this! Just as much as they do about all the characters not being whit.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Only What We See - No Spoilage: Rings of Power, Episode 7

 Episode 7: “The Eye” 

    . . . . We see through Galadriel’s eyeseeing fire, ash, smoke and destruction.  In the middle we learn Queen Míriel’s lost her sight.  We conclude (nearly) with Disa and Durin essentially losing their moral sight as they claim the mithril for themselves, as well as Khazad-dûm, after Dwarf King Durin III disinherits Durin IV for disobeying him about the mithril, and locking Elrond out of the dwarf kingdom. The Balrog’s eyes open to the dwarves, elves and mithril too. But the very end is Adar, seeing through the toxic smoke, to Orodum, claiming the burnt over, destroyed Southlands for himself and the orcs, renaming it, “Mordor.”

Our most likeable grouping is the triad of Durin IV, his princess Disa, and the half elf, Elron. These are the three with lives that allow for time that includes long development of friendship, marriage and perspective.  These three share highly developed sense of play, humor and appreciation of good things.

The Harfoots returned, in their most interesting and arresting appearance so far in the series. Their scenes include the Big Stranger and the Weirdlings trio.  The Big Stranger does magical  good, before Sadoc sends him off with a star map to where other Big People are who may help him, while the Weirdlings seem to do evil. Nori, Poppy, their mother and Sadoc soon decide to follow the Big Stranger and help him, because that is what Harfoots do – they help each other out and don’t leave each other alone.  This is where I went, “So what happened to that business of leaving carts of Harfoots of those who can't keep up with the main group on the wandering trail, emphasized in previous episodes?”  However, thanks to Harfoots, we’re pretty sure we’ll be seeing ents, if not this season, in some later season, as Sadoc tells us that “trees can talk, at least some of them do.” In the first episode we saw an ent silouhetted on the distant horizon, when the Big Stranger’s transport from wherever hit Middle Earth in an arc of fire. I, for one, am hoping we shall finally see entwives, at some point.

Two characters who are believed dead, Celeborn and Isildur, we know from LotR are not dead. Their fates in the series won’t be revealed probably for some years?  Happily, we learn Isildur’s bonded horse, Berek, survived and refused to board the ship back to Númenor.

Set free by Elendil, Berek gloriously gallops across the plain, tail flagged, nostrils wide, on the trail presumably of his rider. One guesses that Elendil guesses Berek knows his bonded rider isn't dead.

Though his father, Durin III, disinherits Durin IV, we also know that it can’t be that long before mithril is mined, since there are weapons and armor made from it that remain in possession of elves in LotR’s Third Age’s ending. Though it ends in horror of the balrog some scenes later, the cavern into which the Tree sent its vast root system that had transformed at the end of the First Age into the magical mithril, was a sight worth seeing.

Galadriel shows compassion, as well as some progress into what will become her notable wisdom and long view with young adult Theo, the youngster who cannot find his mother, whose entire life and all he knows destroyed, who feels a weight of guilt, believing the catastrophe of the volcano and tsunami of orcs that overwhelm the Southlands is his fault, that he caused it by giving that sword hilt-key to Weglef. She comforts Theo, she assures him that it isn’t his fault – as later, blind Queen Míriel assures Galadriel the catastrophe is not her fault either. Galadriel protects him, declares him a soldier, and ultimately tets him reunited with his mother Bronwyn, and now, his surrogate father, the sylvan elf, Arondir. However, we also wonder, is it wise of her to be taking the Halbrand, the newly recognized king of the Southlands, which essentially, no longer exist, to Linden so the elves can heal his wounds? Perhaps we shall find out in the next, the final episode of the first season of Rings of Power. But in this episode the last thing we see is Adar staring east to Mount Doom, and declaring the charred, ash fogged Southlands, now safe from the Sun's light, the homeland of his orcs.


Unlike the RoP figures, since we have read LotR and possess hindsight, we know the terrible things that occur at end the Second Age of Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings via tales, song, poetry, memories and legendarium.  We never learned of any of it through the memories and accounts of those who were there and who participated in them. In Rings of Power we are receiving this past via those who were there, who suffered and died, who were the remembered heroes of the Light, and we see as they see, the recalled traitors and perpetrators of the Dark. Seeing the initiation of the horrors of the Second Age played out for our eyes, seeing the seeds of horrors, that may need not have happened, planted throughout this, as well as the previous episodes, adds dimensions to our responses that we couldn’t have only reading of them at the conclusion of Middle Earth’s Third Age, via the memories and descriptions long after, by a few who were there, and those who were not present in the Second Age.

It is important for the story and arcs Rings of Power are showing and telling us, that we be reminded that what we recall from a telescoped portrait view, is now given to us in landscape video – and it often differs in significant ways, while providing compelling stories and characters that we can’t have known from our previous understanding. That understanding came to us enclosed within the halo of heroic history. Here we witness the events and characters without the nimbus of memory’s glory, including characters' moral doubts, inter and intra rivalries, dislike and conflicts. As we know, even well documented, well researched history, leaves out a great deal, often deliberately left out, often revealed long after the canon histories are written.

It seems from the slagging outcry of many, just as with the more recently unearthed stories and events of, say, slavery, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights era, many do not wish the tarnish be brought into the poetry and histories, as well as glow on those halos and nimbi. This disinclination applies at least equally to the language in which ROP is told on screen presently. Though it mirrors that of the language employed by Tolkien in LotR, it is shouted out as ‘bad writing’.  One can’t help but speculate these have either never read LotR, or merely are determined to destroy the progress of RoP for reasons hidden deep within their own hearts. Others though, probably really don’t like this progenitor of heroic fantasy and its legacies, honestly cannot relate to its virtues, which dislike on its own, is perfectly legitimate.

On the other hand, no matter how brilliant these sequel, prequels and adaptations of the originals of the progenitors of the genres might be, they can never bring us the same sense of wonder and discovery.  We have acquired masses of experience and knowledge of literature, language, history, and sheer living experience that nothing can now break through to provide the same experiences of when we were young.  But sometimes, they can provide a respectable simulacrum.  For me, since Rings of Power is its own, if smaller thing, it comes the closest to the reading experience of LotR in those earlier years,  a close resemblance, the memory of what it was like reading the LotR the first 20 + times!  However, I, for one, generally disliked Peter Jackson's adaptation, and dislike it more as time goes one, while many who hate Rings of Power have only seen PJ's trilogy and never read the books -- as too long and boring. There are the others though, who have the appendices and Silmarillion memorized; they loathe this series.

Then there are the racists who are concertedly campaigning to kill the series dead because a Black Puerto Rican is cast as an elf, and an Anglo African is a Harfoot. They reveal themselves as residents of Mordor and worshippers of Sauron with every comment they make.  There are so many reasons to feel that in genre fans, whether for print, television, film, gaming, awards, have been overtaken by a significantly large contingent of fascists.

Despite FanFascism, and Point-to-Point Replicant\ Demanders, there are watchers who do like Rings of Power’s fractal changes from the original LotR’s Third Age perspectives of the  Second Age. Some even find it more interesting, while it remains much the ‘feel’ of Tolkien, that it is at home within These Times in which we are viewing this legendary universe. For instance, this sort of viewer enjoys the non-canon, original characters most, figures as sylvan elf Arondir (who does his own stunts) and Dwarf Princess, Disa. 


"Fiona Apple Drops New Song, ‘Where the Shadows Lie,’ From ‘Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power"

Deadlines After Show for "The Eye", Episode 7, here.

An  essay in New York Magazine as to why, whether we enjoy them or not, these prequels are always going to be inferior experiences to our experiences with the originals: "The Fantasy Prequel Problemby Kathryn VanArendonk.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Speaking Rings Of Power - Episode 7 "Udûn"

     . . . . Ep. 6, "Udûn".  Moveth now the Second Age's Doom.

Nampat arrives with vengeance in this episode. No dwarves, no Harfoots in this sequence of events, only orcs, Númóreans, other humans, one High Elf, and one Sylvan Elf.

In the Black Speech, the official language of Mordor, nampat means Death. The orces pound out Nampat as their war-chant, marching behind Adar. Soon they arrive at Sauron's Tower of Ostirith, taken over as a watchtower over the Southlands by the sylvan elves after Sauron's defeat in the First Age. Our villagers have taken refuge there from the coming of Adar and his orcs.

Reversal after reversal, twist after twist, come quick and fast. Halbrand, Galadriel and Arondir fight with particular skill and heroism. Yet, yes, it ends with Doom bursting upon the Númenóreans and the Southland humans. To save his mother Bronwyn’s life, Theo gives Sauron's sword hilt- key to Adar. Somehow it gets passed to traitor villager, Waldreg, who activates it. The waters of the earth above ground and subterranean are loosed through those dreadful tunnel excavated underneath the the Southland over a long stretch of time via enslaved human labor. The underground waters meet a molten region under the Southlands, thus a mountain explodes into volcano – Mt. Doom  comes to life – flood, fire balls and orcs pour into the village. Galadriel is subsumed into fiery darkness. She was right. Sauron lives.  Cue episode 7.

Only two more to go, and I'm very sorry about that.

Just as old school LotR readers will likely be shocked that Galadriel can have what appear to be threshold romantic moments with not just one man, but two – Elendil and Halbrand -- how could this distant ice queen of Lothlórien, married for so long to that dull fellow, Celeborn, behave like this, any more than she does hand-to-hand combat and has a hot temper, which desires to wipe every orc off the face of the earth?


Galadriel and Halbrand, King of the Southlands

LotR lovers equally could  have a difficulty accepting that the orcs are elves, actual beings, Adar says, “as worthy as the breath of life and just as worthy of a home.”

It was  clear cut in LotR as the Big Bad Dark and all its creatures, were unadulterated evil, and the Big Bright Virtues of the Light, the elves, etc. were unadulterated Good. But here in Rings of Power's Second Age of Middle earth, both Adar and Arondir plant alfirin seeds, which elves traditionally plant on the eve of battle so that new life can grow "in defiance of death". That Adar does this too -- is it a sign that he's potentially redeemable? Or just that he holds onto to a bit of his elven heritage despite all the evil he's committed? Arondir too plants some of the seeds in Bronwyn’s wound to help them heal after they are cauterized.  This is imaginatively involving and very different, while still, to my mind, consistent with what Tolkien created.

Hal is recognized as King of the Southlands, but Adar doesn’t recognize him at all, despite their shared past, in which he inflicted some dreadful hurt upon Hal.  Adar confirms he one of the elves who are the “sons of the dark,” the first orcs, a Uruk, a Moriandor,  made by Morgoth’s torture, and evidently Sauron's too. Adar advises Galadriel that she own her own darkness, that he isn't "the only elf alive who has been transformed by darkness.” Yet, prior to the Doom, Halbrand and Galadriel save each other from their respective urges to commit murder, in an affecting scene. While horse Berek, ridden into battle by Isildur, and his father Elendil bond. Previous to this, Galadriel speaks Words to her horse and it speeds so effectively she catches up with Adar fleeing with the Key.

May Queen Regent Míriel escape the flood and fire emergence of the Dark, but one fears she did not survive, so Pharazôn has his way open to rule Númenor, to institute his ambition to dominate the elves, dwarves and all the rest of Middle Earth.

At this moment the only one of this group of heroes seemingly entirely beyond the effect of the dark, is Arondir. Galadriel and Halbrand are touched by it, as is Theo, who admits how Sauron's sword hilt-key draws him by the sense of personal power he feels when holding it. This is a morally complicated world, with characters who aren’t black and white, which LotR was as well, at least in a sense, as with Boromir and his father. But the LotR's world constantly harks back to the treasons, corruptions and destructions within various characters of the heroes legendarium of the Second Age, that brought about its fall. There's a great deal of viewing satisfaction watching this roll out, despite knowing how it will conclude.

This episode gave me shivers of doom – but then the Second Age is doomed, particularly these very Southlands. Nevertheless, it was satisfying and effective; it moved the plot along swiftly, while we learned quite a bit more about some of our principal characters, including how Elendil's wife died -- drowning.  What we see and learn in this episode has been set-up in the previous ones.  The episodes are building on and out from each other.

Among the fireballs of bitter bile and malice relentlessly released by Some upon this series are the accusations that the lines spoken by are our heroes are stupid-silly. Patience, Watchers! High Language dialog can -- and probably will -- feel forced and artificial in our own wizened rhetorical age. But read aloud the same efforts in the revered LotR, and if they aren’t among the current elderly who first discovered LotR back when it first became a publishing phenomenon, and they themselves were young, so young, people shudder.  So what do we want? Pseudo hipster quippage a la PJ, or occasions in which heroes speak in fabricated, skaldic poetics?  Myself, I vote to apply judiciously,  "the glorious ground of Endill . . . . "

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

What You Got There? A Book?

      . . . .  Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billy Holiday (1998) by Angela Davis. 

The moment we entered into her thesis, there was all kinds of self-kicking going on.  It was so obvious.  Prior to abolition African American music was primarily a communal expression,  done in the fields, in worship, at funerals.  It was also primarily spiritual.

After abolition, African Americans needed a whole new musical discourse.  They had to make it up because never before had there been opportunity in these lands for them to make music that wasn't communal, that wasn't about the lament of the condition and the yearning for that condition to have passed away, leaving them free to do as other people did.  

For Black women in particular, there was and could be no tradition that was about love, about sex, about romance, about what she wanted for herself, for Black women didn't have choice until after abolition -- and certainly wouldn't be allowed to sing about wanting to marry and raise her own children herself while cooking, cleaning, digging, and having her children go on master's credit side of the ledger and sold off any old time. So post abolition Black women had to invent a gendered, individual, popular musical expression  for themselves.

This was particularly necessary for Black women who would have preferred women as their sexual partners.

And thus, here we come to the Blues, performed by a solo singer, with a single instrument, the guitar, played by herself.  Of course these women couldn't afford more complicated set-ups, but this they could. 

Of course a man got the credit as "inventor of the Blues"*, Robert Johnson, with a powerful legendary tale of meeting the devil at the crossroads as to how he did it to boot.  

Why haven't we read this book before?

* Musicologists of course, know better.  They all know there were a slew of performers.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Rings Of Power: Episodes 3, 4, 5 -- No Spoilers

     . . . .  I in no way am a Lore Master, nor have cared to be. I am only interested in what Rings of Power is giving me on my screen, and judging it from that alone.  This is the same way I judged the Lord of the Rings books and the tale(s) they told me; I judged and accepted purely from their text, not even the Appendices or any other content.

Rings of Power

 Ep. 3: “Adar”

      . . . . This begins with an aside thought: cannot help notice the domed, and columned Ironkeep ediface of House of the Dragon's King's Landing,  and the round domed ediface -- the palace? -- of Númenor, both look like Instanbul's Hagia Sophia, when viewed from the water. 

Númenor's City

Hagia Sophia, Instanbul

The haters of Rings of Power are out in full force. What they do or don't see is very different from what I see. Moreover, the impatience of the viewers astonishes. 

This is story telling. There is no  narrative fiction, structured, organized, and finished up for either plotting or characters from which it is adapted (even less than from which HotD was adapted, which is suffering the same fan reactions). Moving through a big narrative arc must take the time to build out all the elements, as anyone who has written and studied these matters has experienced.

These fan fascists demand everything right this minute and demand it the way They have decided what is what. This show was planned to be 50 episodes from the git go, maybe even more episodes than I shall live to see, a grim thought, that.  It takes time, it should take time, it NEEDS to take time. However, They have decided if this isn’t what They demand, it has no right to exist.  Worse we have seen too, even before the series started, death threats leveled at actors who aren’t exactly WHITE for even being in the series. “Terror of a Black Hobbit” as someone quipped.

As for myself, with this episode I'm coming to admire how at least one theme is beginning to emerge: building and making  are always paired with congruent destruction. We see it coming through, even with the orcs and whoever is animating them for these enormous building projects which are made with slave labor out of landscape destruction, but are made, not magicked into existence. We certainly see it in Númenor, with both the man Halbrand, desperate to start smithing, and Elendil's daughter, Eärien, who finally gets accepted into the Builders Guild. *

The title of this series is about the making of the rings, and already in the second episode we got a whole bottle of Maker's Mark with what the Dwarves have done in Khazad-dûm.  It's the pushing of the making of things too far, via someone's carelessness, or someone’s intentional dark intent, that spells the doom of Middle Earth (but what this means as far as elves are concerned, we will not learn until episode 5, "Partings").  It's the confluence of certain figures out of each group -- excluding Harfoots (at least so far) -- that are responsible.  Even in the elves the drive to make is always paired with the drive to destroy, as we see in the very opening scenes of the first episode, with other elf children destroying Galadriel's paper swan ship for no reason at all. All these Peoples go from the  glory of Númenor that we get to see with our own eyes on the screen thanks to the incredible efforts of the show and the people who come together to make it the very best they could -- and that they really tried is shown right there -- to Ragnarok's smoking ruin, the end of a world -- at least presumably we will see this by the end of the 50 episodes. 

Someone said Númenor feels like something less Mediterranean (which is just about the only thing I've agreed with him about regarding ROP), more based on trade, and more classical -- than medieval. Well, that’s because it’s not – see again the comment here above -- of the central palace’s architecture and the Haggia Sophia. It’s Persia, it's the Eastern Roman Empire, that later historians called Byzantium, called  Rûm by Seljuks and many others, called by the Ottomans themselves the Ottoman Empire.  I.e. not Mediterranean, but looking to the Sea of Marmara, Anatolia, the Black Sea. and the endless litany of previous empires including the Phoenician sea empire, the sun worshipping Assyrian empires, Babylon, reaching even further back, beyond even the Bronze Age into the prehistoric -- and generally, always looking east, not west at all, until the days of the Roman conquests. The show did this beautifully with Númenor. Further, all the references to Melkor brings to mind the Phoencian deity Melqart, also spelled Melkart or Melkarth, chief deity of Tyre and of two of its colonies, Carthage and Gadir (Cádiz, Spain).

There are legitimate criticisms for sure -- the choice of cliff hangers and so on, the length of battle/fight scenes, the filler scenes of beautiful horses on a beautiful shore against a beautiful sea**, and so on.

If ROP continues as it has so far, I am very glad that I will have the whole series to re-watch as binge during one of the endless stretches of dreary winter ahead.  There is so much richness of detail in all the scenes – such as those that went by so briefly, the puppet show (and we have one in the 4th episode of House of the Dragon too! the parellelisms of these series is odd, since they are so different in tone) in one of the city’s public spaces, that I look forward to many rewatches of the entire show, when it is completed.  I don’t know about others, but one of the reasons for my own many re-reads of LOTR is there is so much richness of detail and shading in the narrative and locations I couldn’t take in all of it, thus going back many times.  It seems the creators of this show are respectfully doing their best to do the same for the screen production.

His family and its dynamics were one of the other primary developments in this episode, and again it will be about the making or the destruction of something, yes?  Plus, yes, interesting, and relatable, not cringey or smarmy either.

** What we're getting here though, is an exhibition of joy in making of the production teams. There are beats when the camera is close-in profile of Galadriel's mount's head and I swear it is a vein-perfect reproduction we're seeing of horse heads from the Elgin Marbles friezes -- which are indeed astoundingly beautiful. It's one of the greatest privileges of my life that once I got to see them at the British Museum.

 After Show Inside the Ring Episode 3's final segment is with the composer; we learn the reason for that gallop on the beach was to showcase the the elements of the composer's thinking about the transition from the second age to the third age in terms of music and culture. Second age being ROP, and third age of course LOTR.

So ya, in the end I liked it, and appreciated it for just what it was, but also for the thoughts of time and creation and destruction that beat provided within the context of the episode and show.  IOW, in many ways the show shows itself more than thoughtful of the subject matter and what it is doing, creatively.  But too slowly for too many, evidently.  It's not throw-away stoopid quipage.


Ep. 4: “The Great Wave" 

     . . . . This was one heck of an episode, where all the elements of the first three come together. The female characters are particularly impressive, beginning with Disa, the Dwarf princess (what a voice; the writers having her sing to the stone was an inspired innovation in the lore), but the male principals are not slouches either, as with the Southern lands warding sylvan elf, Arondir.  Everything in this episode was set up in the first three -- though we are still waiting for Meteor Man's reveal. They are quite toying with us there. It looked wonderful. Again, the theme of making, the destruction the making may bring, and the destruction by other forces outside of the most wonderful making. The Regent Queen Miriel's comment in her vision of an earthquake, "Our island must stretch at times, just like you, little one," addressing the infant, was splendid. 

This was almost as impressive as Princess Disa’s Stone Song / Pleas to the Rock (or, if one wishes to be silly for oneself, Disa's Rock Song ha!)

In this episode we saw Galadriel start to wrestle with her own character flaws.  She has a long way to go with that, and she's only begun to fight.

As with LotR’s multitude of heroes, we are seeing by this episode they are emerging for ROP too. That one sees characters' personal integrity, their loyalty, their dreams, their nobility, often in conflict with temptations, terror and even their drive to personal power, with the characters working to overcome their ignoble impulses, failing sometimes, and sometimes with some, we will know, failing all together and embracing the destruction of the dark, it's such a relief from the plodding, infantile, cheerlessness of it's HBO rival, ROP (I think I like that one too though, for different reasons and dislike some of it immensely in the same way I disliked immensely a lot of its predecessor, which, in our own time, is HOTD’s sequel).  But in Rings of Power we are seeing evil as the real stuff that all people must combat, in very many ways, whether magical persons or not.

So, Rings of Power is already half-seen; four more episodes to come.


Episode 5, "Partings"

     . . . . It began with parts of Episode 3, consolidated in Episode 4. With this episode, I fell in love with Rings of Power.

Like the previous episodes. with the exception of the second one's endless swim of  Galadriel's Great Renunciation in order to return to Middle Earth and continue her war against Sauron, this episode moved very fast, while heightening the stakes' tension for all the plotlines.  I don't know what all is going on, I don't know who everyone is, which is part of why we keep reading LotR too, or watching a program. There is so much going on, as there is in the LotR books, it takes a lot of time to process it all, which is why the richness of the experience continues for so many re-readings, and with this show, many re-watches.

Just remember if feeling impatient, “Not all who wander are lost,” as Harfoot Poppy's road song goes at the beginning of this episode. if it is the actor’s voice singing, that voice is beautiful.  Again, composer Bear McCreary discusses the musical composition in the Deadline's Amazon After Show.

The Big Stranger a/k/a Meteor Man is acquiring language and social education, saves his little group from death by warg/whatever with a Big Power Move, but suffers a reaction, that begins to turn his arm black.  Goes to a spring, intones words in a language for which closed caption gives no translation, and the water runs up the limb, turning to … ice?  But it heals him from whatever it is. The power of it blasts Nori when she gets caught in it.  She runs away in fear. Still don’t think Big Stranger is Sauron, due to the following scene with those closed shaved heads standing around Big Stranger’s landing site.  They don’t look … nice. Are they … female ... androgynous?

Again loving Durin and Elrond’s relationship. Elrond didn't exactly break his oath, since he discussed with Durin Gil-Galad's insistence the dwarves share the discovery of mithril, that Gil-Galad already knew of the substance and was on watch for its appearance, and why -- and that the Dark was returned.  So much depends on friendship and truth, even survival of peoples.

The Tree, from First Age, with roots delving multi-branching and deep into the Misty Mountains which magically create mithril, the only substance that magically can preserve the Light for all time.  Tolkien’s Nordic reimagining of the mythic World Tree Yggdrasil, roots eternally gnawed from below by the great wyrm, Níðhöggr (Malice Striker)

 In ROP, this tree is destroyed by a Balrog in the First Age's Ragnarök. This kind of building of significance of mithril beyond ‘magic&elves’ into the narrative of the Second Age is lovely, while providing that sense of enchantment that we took from LotR.  All the other ROP's Trees, as images and metaphorical statements are appropriate to Tolkien thematic use too. Then there are elements such the Big Stranger's arm wound inflicted by creatures of the Dark, paralleled by the Andar scene with an orc's arm wound from the Light - sun.  That's just another bit of the thoughtful compositional richness that we are seeing increasingly in this series

Is it possible Halbrand is Theo’s father? The dark deeds he committed ... were they as evil as what that villager does to be taken in by Andar?  One likes too this mystery of both Halbrand and Andar's characters' seemingly deeply wounded, while each having conflict about their natures, which manifest in different ways -- one fleeing Dark, and then attempting redemption, the other, perhaps, having fled the Light, attempting to find community with the Dark's monsters -- which too, in this show are shown as more complex than Tolkien portrayed them in LotR.

We see Galadriel being a little more diplomatic and reasonable than before.  Perhaps she and Halbrand are teaching each other good lessons? For she has to persuade him too, to return to Southlands, which he has vowed not to do for reasons in his past -- which are not yet revealed.

It's interesting too that the comic relief, appropriately Tolkienesque, comes out of Elrond and Durin's friendship, with none of the inappropriate, cringey Peter Jackson's attempt at comic relief at even the most inappropriate contexts, as with Gimli and dwarf tossing -- I hated that so much.

If wishes were horses, we'd have 10 episodes instead of the 8. I wonder if I’ll live to see all 50 episodes.  Will the world survive to make and broadcast all 50 episodes? In the meantime, I'm looking forward even more to having this to watch back-to-back during dreadful January.