". . . 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 NĂºmenor (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 NĂºmenor: 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.