". . . 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

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Jerez: The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Arts

     . . . . At Jerez de la Frontera we entered the Southern Land of Oranges, Horses, Fans and Flamenco. 

As per usual, I remain fascinated with the financial, administrative matters concerning  housing, feeding and stabling and other organizational structures that make such a vast enterprise as this work -- and it is far from the only one of vast Equestrian centers to be found in Spain.

These Competitions Are Part of the 50th Anniversary of Jerez's Royal Equestrian Arts Institute, Founded, A Plaque Informed Me, by "los amigos de caballos".

Jerez, School's Extensive Grounds Inside the City Divided From Pedestrians and Street Traffic

Entrance/Exit to Stables and Competition Grounds

Jerez School Administration Offices - Some Of Them

Window On School Indoor Riding Ring and Theater

Royal Box Indoor Theater and Competition Ring

Opposite End From Royal Box, Entrance/Exit Performers and Competitors.  I don't know the function of the mirrors there, which at this size aren't clear are mirrors.

Jerez Royal School Grounds. The Lower Roofed Building is the Indoor Ring, the White Building Is Offices.

Some of the horses next post.  The videos truly show the horses floating above ground. But I cannot (at least so far) figure out how to get a video shot on fone (a very low grade fone at that) to either my desktop video files to blog here or the Other Place.

Gatos: Madrid and Cadiz


View From Our Room in the Hotel Prado's Out of Open Window; Madrid's International Women's Day Protest Started Here. Their Chant, in English, Was, "Madrid Will Be the Tomb of Machismo!"  It sounds much better in Spanish, particularly accompanied by a batteria of Cuban Drums and Polyrhythms, Which It Was.

Remains of 9th C Arab Wall Fortress located at present Cuesta de la Vega, near the crypt of the La Almudena Cathedral; Long Before Madrid, And After Both Charles Martell and Charlemagne.

 Above the Courtyard Which Is Below the 9th C Muslim Wall Remains

A Member of the Cat Families That Live In and Around the 9th C Muslim Wall Remains.

Madrileños Declare Themselves Cats!

Inside this Bar-Restaurant of the Most Hip Cats.

Theatrical Cat Hangin' Out In Madrid.

Evening On Cádiz Popular Atlantic Ocean Beach

One of the Cat Houses And Villages Built for the Ferals Who Live In and Along the Cádiz Sea Wall, On the Atlantic Side!

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Archivos de Indias

      . . . . We were conducted around The Archivos de Indias this AM by colleagues.

 Carlos III in the 18th C ordered all the documents that dealt with Spain's empire east and west to be housed in one building. This edifice is modeled much like his palace-hunting grounds Escorial -- the advisor who gave him the ideas is buried ... in New Orleans, which this is mentioned on his tomb.  One of the Archives's colleagues has spent time in the Historic Museum of New Orleans deciphering the handwriting of the Spanish documents there -- her specialty. The other has done work with Lubbock TX, which university there has a program that sends students to Sevilla for 6 months.  It's amazing this internationalism, which, of course, TX is so antipathic about -- just saw the news today o boy, what Abbott's done to the school system in Houston -- because Houston is a Dem stronghold.  Terrifying what's going on and what is going to happen.

[Originally posted on DW on 03/15/23]

Go Any Further and We Shall Fall Off

      . . . .  We are at the end of the world, or at least the end of Europe, in the oldest, continuously inhabited city in Europe, Gadir, established by the Phoenicians, now, finally, Cádiz.  Now we know that we can go further, and we won't fall off.  Cuba, Havana, is just over there.  (Though it is Jerez, la frontera de Jerez, that actually looks a lot like Havana (without the dilapidation -- and when we get to Sevilla, now that recalls Havana in every way, which as the treasure flotas arrived from Havana to Sevilla, la reina católica's city, and which she made the capital of her kingdom, would be expected, right?). The tap water in Jerez was safe to drink, but it tasted funky in the way New Orleans tap water does.  Here in Cadiz, it's still safe to drink, which as it turns out is true throughout Spain. We are so used to being Cuba, where one cannot drink the tap water. Potable water was and always is a problem there, just as it is in St. Augustine, FL.

We are in a 4-star hotel that was a convent.  The church is still consecrated and operating as a church, but the sisters have gone ... where? elsewhere? It is extremely quiet, which is good for sleeping. One feels to be in a fortress (of God?) or a prison (of God?).  But it is still cold, dark and convent-y, though with mod cons.

It's a good thing to be reminded, as one falls in love with Spain, that even when/where it was Muslim, it has always been a prodigiously Catholic country, about which history there is a lot to be said, and not much of it good.  At least as far as the history I know goes, and speaking relatively to most people, at least in the USA, I know whole lot.  It cannot be divorced from the Church's history, and the history of Spain (and Portugal) anywhere.

So much experienced -- cannot do anything except jot notes in Moleskine and take fotos with foney-fone.  In mine mind's eyes, I see endless processions of beautiful horses, Flamenco dancers and, yes, matadors and bulls. Watch certain Flamenco expressions and there is so much there from the arena, or did it flow from the dancers to the arena -- even from dancers much, much before Jesus, perhaps, even likely, from before the Romans? The bulls were in Iberia before the Romans and the arenas.  Africa is just a quick passage across the Mediterranean . . .  there are bull rings and arenas there too, on the southern side. 

[Originally posted on DW on 03/012/23]

~  ~  ~  ~  ~ ~ ~

Cádiz Cat Houses and the Atlantic

     . . . . Today was Phoenicians and Romans, mostly. 

After which I took fotos and video of cats, cat houses, and cat towns under the seawall that protects Cádiz from the tormentas of el atlántico as we sunset walked around the island where is situated the oldest, longest continually inhabited city in Europe. We did both Romans and Phoenicians today.... and cats.

Speaking of cats instead of horses, I have a nice foto of one of the cats that live in and around the remnant of the Umayyads' fortress wall on the site that became Madrid -- going back so far, but not yet as far as Charles Martel or Charlemagne -- time, time, time. It is impossible not to time travel in Cádiz.

    . . . Took fotos and video of cats. Cat houses, and cat towns under the seawall that protects Cádiz from the terrors of the Atlantic as we sunset walked around the island where is situated the oldest, longest continually inhabited city in Europe. So of course included are cat houses and communities.

The people of Cádiz care for the feral cats in the same way do those of Istanbul.  Places for them to shelter from the salty humdity and sea spray, to relax and hang out, and to eat.  These are cleverly constructed so the cats can get to the food but the always ravenous gulls and other birds cannot.  Wonder if rats can?  But I've yet to see a rat anywhere, but this is a city, moreover one so ancient as this, with constant grain shipments, surely there are rats.

We did both Romans and Phoenicians today.... and cats. Will have dinner at a Moroccan restaurant with a lovely woman from Finland we met on the train yesterday. Dancing Flamenco is her hobby and passion.  Otherwise she's festival organizer. One of her festivals is a Steampunk festival. 

Perhaps there is a way to transfer the short video I shot of one of the competitors and her horse in Jerez yesterday morning to here. I could do it via a long process of getting it to this wonky laptop's hard drive in Word video files.  But I don't have time for that before I get back to NYC, where I would do the work on my desktop, which is much more powerful and faster.  Trust me: this is equine poetry in motion.  Ever since I've gotten here, i.e. to Spain, my mind's eyes, are filled with horses and dancers as I try to sleep. I've never been in a country, not even England, not even Virginia or Kentucky, where horses are such an integral part of a national identity and history.  No wonder 4th grade Horse Girl me dreamed of coming here.

So little time to write, to transfer, etc.  It's all my notebook, and occasionally trying to put some of it up here via my fone.  Weird experience that.

But I am so afraid of missing, losing something, of these incredible experiences that just never stop, not for a second.

[Originally posted on DW on 03/13/23]

Jerez: Hola Caballos!

As this is the longest stretch of travel in Spain for our itinerary, we flew from Madrid to Jerez.

Holy cow is this ever horse country! Descending to the airport, taxi-ing into the (very small) city, to our hotel, everywhere there are exquisite horses, of elegant conformation and silhouette.  Quite the highest end designer equine runway models.

Plus, there is Flamenco and sherry.  And the classic Islamic White Cities of the Atlsntic and Mediterrean coasts. After deplaning, in the terminal, you are greeted by a welcome to Jerez mural that is first, a gorgeous horse, and a beautiful dancer in classic Flamenco form. 

Last night in Madrid, we saw a Flamenco show in a very up close and personal space, deliberately created to be as close to the underground and caves-cellars (generally those belonging to a taberna, thus wine storage, all over Spain, and particularly in the south, dating from at least the Roman eras, but I'd guess from the Carthaginian ones too) from which the tradition emerged. (We were the only mask wearers, but so what?) It was the first time I have been that close to the performers. So I could parse how much of their classic poses are the same as those of bullfighters, fo one thing. Though none of the dancers used cotenants, one of them wore a shell medallion, which I like to think was a homage to the ancient predecessors of cotenants, already in the days the Roman's, who used clam shells.

Tomorrow we're taking a tour of the largest Roman amphitheater in Spain. But first, dressage! 

I can't believe I'm finally here, where I've wanted to go since 4th grade.  Better late than never is true . . . .

[Originally posted on DW 03/11/23]

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Royal Amigos del Caballos

      . . . .  More foney-fone fotos of horses in braids, and even, yes, in sparklies, than any sane person can take!  Sparklies, though subdued and tastefully minimal, on the riding helmets too.  What? They think they're royalty, nobility, or something?

Indoor ring though, no sparkles.  But mirrors at one end, the Royal box at the other, with a gigantic portrait of the king on the back wall of the box.  I guess that's sort of a mirror for somebody? No fotos allowed, not even with foney-fones.

Orange trees in the grounds.  Fotoed those.

Must move on to next thing now, and train, to Cadiz.

[Originally posted on DW 03/12/23]

Thursday, March 9, 2023

You Can Drink the Tap Water in Spain

      . . . .  Madrid's tap water made all the difference for recovering from dehydration caused by jetlag, adjusting to the altitude, and thorough upset of usual metabolic routines.  I drank gallons and gallons.  Recall, high altitude also promotes dehydration, which dehydration in these circumstances makes jetlag, lack of sleep and metabolic interruptions so much worse.

Madrid's on a plateau surrounded by impressively jagged mountain chains.  It was spectacular as they appeared out of the clouds, snow-covered points and sides, as we were in that long descent to the airport. I recalled how moved and impressed I was waking to the view below of southwestern France, the vast forests, mountains, ravines and farmlands.  It was the same this time, except it wasn't Gaul, but Iberia, and it looked in terms color and soft shapes like all those paintings we know -- except this was real.  Then, suddenly these ominous mountains  . . . with steep ravines and foothills seemingly impassable except to those who know.  This is a Transhumance world.  There is even an upcoming festival in Madrid to celebrate the ancient Iberian Transhumance way of life.  El V recorded me, it turned out, face pushed against the window, eyes wide, repeating, "Wow," over and over.

It moved me, like that flight over southwestern France, this in my own eyes revaltion of what Spain is, it's history going back at least to the Phoenicians, the Romans and the Visigoths, particularly about Madrid, why it is here.  Recall, there is so little Islamic presence in the region as to only a single archeological artifact's survival of their barely there footprint, the antipodes of Southern Spain. Knocked me out, it did.

The observance of Women's International Day -- there is a lot to say about that, because we were right in it.

Can't believe we've been here just about 48 hours, as months of activity feel have happened.  However, jetlagged, needing to adjust to altitude, and the disruption of usual metabolic routine, while NO usual exercise, though a lot of walking is going on, up and down -- remember those mountains, hmmmm?  Plus eating so well, and o lordessa, in heaven, drinking wines made right here.

In the meantime too, when it comes to hotels, restaurants, art and entertainment, Madrid is so inexpensive, particularly compared to NYC.  Don't forget, that like the other European nations, i.e. the EU, Spain supports art and literature and entertainments.  We have nothing like this in the US.  In fact, in every way it feels like re-entering civilization from a long sojourn in a failed and toxic state, where we may all die any day from starvation, homelessness, disease, violence public and personal, climate catastrophe, and most of all plain all out stupidity.  In comparison to Madrid, even the avenues around the Met look grubby and shabby.

So much has happened already, including a whole day at the Prado, meetings with various people, drinking the best wine, and falling down unconscious -- not from the wine but from jetlag and altitude adjustment as well as arriving w/o sleep reasons.  Tomorrow is day trip to Toledo, which Spain took back from Islam in 1085, and which was the capital, as far as that would go, of Christian Spain, until Philip II decided to make this nothing place on this plateau his capital of his kingdom.

Gads, I love this!

I have some fotos, but am too tired to do the work to present them here now.

O lordessa it is wonderful to be here!

I could live here.  Easily. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

International Women's Day Is Tomorrow

       . . . . We arrive in Madrid tomorrow morning. This morning we received this email --

We kindly inform you that on Wednesday the 8th of March, due to the International Women’s Day, will take place a demonstration from 7pm which will cause major traffic disruptions in Paseo del Prado, Plaza de Cibeles and the Gran Vía up to Plaza de España. Therefore, from 4pm onwards these traffic diversions will apply for accessing the hotel area. We will be pleased to help you organizing your transportations if needed.

We in the USA do forget that International Women's Day is a very large observance in many countries, even though we don't bother much with it here

Europe: Demonstrations and rallies marking International Women's Day planned in European cities March 8


Women's rights activists in parts of Europe will hold rallies and demonstrations to mark International Women's Day on March 8. Organizers have confirmed demonstrations in the following cities:

Austria, Vienna: Yppenplatz from 17:00

Belgium, Brussels: Place de l'Albertine from 14:00

France, Paris: Palais de Justice from 13:00

Germany, Berlin: Invalidenpark, 13:00

Greece, Athens: Klafthmonos Square to Syntagma Square from 13:00

Italy, Bologna: Piazza XX Settembre, 17:00

Italy, Milan: Piazza Duca d'Aosta from 18:00Italy, Naples: Piazza del Gesu Nuovo from 16:00

Italy, Rome: Piazzale Ostiense to Largo Bernardino da Feltre from 17:00

Italy, Turin: Piazza XVIII Dicembre from 15:30

Portugal, Lisbon: Alameda Dom Afonso Henriques from 18:30

Spain, Barcelona: Placa Universitat 18:3

Spain, Madrid: Atocha to Plaza de Espana from 19:00

Turkey, Istanbul: Taksim Square from 19:30

Turkey, Izmir: Cultural Center from 18:30

Further protests will almost certainly occur in additional towns and cities throughout Europe on March 8; demonstrations could take the form of marches through city centers in many locations. Attendance will vary by location but will reach into the thousands at larger actions. In some locations, women's rights activists may also take part in short-term strike actions, possibly causing business and transport disruptions.

Additional police will likely deploy to all demonstrations. Large crowds and associated security measures could prompt localized disruptions, including possible road closures and movement restrictions. Most demonstrations are likely to pass off peacefully, though isolated clashes between police and protesters cannot be ruled out.

Hmm.  They didn't say from which direction the possible violence might start.  One thinks of the cops and the suffragette demos back in the last century ....  Some serious beatings and torture from the cops dealt out to the women, including prison.

A friend in Madrid tells us that particularly around our hotel things are going to be very fraught tomorrow due to these reasons as described in the Washington Post:

Spain gov’t parties vie for feminist flag before Women’s Day

BARCELONA, Spain — Spain’s government presented Tuesday a plan to mandate gender quotas in elected government bodies and companies’ executive boards, on the eve of International Women’s Day when thousands will take to the streets of Madrid and other cities for women’s rights.

But the buildup to the annual women’s march comes amid a political spat inside Spain’s ruling coalition over which of the two left-wing parties best represents the feminist cause in an election year where Spain’s Right will try to reclaim power.

The Socialist Party of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and the anti-austerity United We Can are sparring over one of their government’s banner causes: a sexual violence law proposed by the latter party that, while increasing support and resources for victims, has inadvertently led to the reduction of sentences of over 700 offenders since taking effect in October. ....

In London --

Celebrate International Women’s Day 2023 with the best things to do, events and activities happening across London

In the US capital International Women's Day will be virtual:

Various activities scheduled for International Women's Day in New York:

Monday, March 6, 2023

Brain Fog Calls For A Road House In Another Time, Another Place

      . . . . Road House (1989)

What a secure time it was that something like this could be a movie.  OTOH, I swear to gd, this is kinda what the Jack Reacher novels went for. (First Jack Reacher novel was 1997.)  Here we have James Dalton, a bouncer -- excuse me, Cooler! -- who is not only a legend for cleaning up night clubs, but the whole towns and counties that are run by thugs and other nogoodniks in flyover country nowherelandia. Then he moves on. 

In this film, the nowherelandia is in Kansas – or is it Missouri? Not only are the reviewers kinda confused about this but it seems the film’s characters are as well, but everybody knows Something Happened With Our Hero in Memphis which is why he's no longer there. Our Hero Dalton has a network of bouncers, -- excuse me -- coolers! instead of marines and Big Gummit D.C. Intelligence allies that Reacher’s got, but still a network. Or at least Sam Elliott as Wade Garrett, who is an even more super Cooler than Dalton.

So it’s the lone gunman who cleans up the western town under a siege of terror by local thugs, except Dalton does it with what he’s learned in New York University’s philosophy department, and his Asian martial arts skillz, instead of two blazing six guns  (though there comes the point when gunz must uzed; this is America!).  Not to mention the best hair and exquisite wearing of pants (not jeans! those tight, sexy black levis are for Sam Elliott) that nobody else can get away wearing because they'd look so stupid in those high waisted, soft, flowing trousers – but Swayze’s ass and legs are magnificent in them.

Road House was edited by the same guys who edited Die Hard, RoboCop, Predator, Commando, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Tombstone, therefore we are not mistaken that Dalton's character is one of those larger than life sorts, like a superman, while flattering us that he’s just like us really, the way Spider Man is (while Batman isn't just like us, being a zillionaire and all) -- while making fun of both this superhero genre and affectionately ribbing this film in which the superhero is a – bouncer. The affection the editors have for the film shows in many ways, not least in how palpably we feel the sheer sexiness of the feelings at least three of the characters have for each other.  It is really one of the few really sexy films I’ve watched, I think, i.e. the characters even gave this watcher hot feels.

Other entertainments that RH appears to make part of a pattern are the Travolta Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Urban Cowboy (1980), which may have set off this examination of fairly specific, but disparate US cultures in connection with matters outside the law or accepted mores. Flash Dance (1983), Dirty Dancing (1987) of course, not only because of the amount of dancing in RH (though it is fairly muted -- just like the female characters are in RH, even Kelly Lynch's character, though Kathleen Wilhoite's Carrie has good moments, particularly when she melts into sexy feels inadvertently viewing Dalton naked (but then, everybody does, even when he's not naked, but her moments just felt so authentic and you like her for them too) -- unlike in SNF, FD, UC, or DD), through pop music combined with pro and non-pro dancing. Here are supposedly normal people like us, who love combining dancing for fun as well as going for our personal best. But only DD and RH star Patrick Swayze at his peak of gorgeousness. Not to mention equal peak Sam Elliott gorgeousness in a different manner, showing up in RH, as Swayze’s sidekick.

Closing day for the original Gilley's, Pasadena, TX.

In spite of this superheroing, I too have a lot of affection for Road House because 1) the sex parts really feel sexy;  2) I spent a lot of time in my earlier in the famous Texas outside of Houston's gigamous roadhouse, Gilley's (where Urban Cowboy did scenes); the Double Deuce, judging by the size of its parking lot, was the Gilley’s of its locale.

That world is gone, as much as NYC’s world of Studio 54, Danceteria and the Paradise Garage. They were of their time.

I suppose we must also think of Cocktail (1988) with hyper annoying Tom Cruise? Which I’ve never seen it, though I think I tried to watch it, once.  Now that is a truly stupid movie – just read the story line!  But then, for me, anything that features Tom Cruise (except when he was paired with Paul Newman) is unwatchable.

There was a Road House 2 (2006). It went straight to video. They Say it was a sequel in name only. 

O. Dear. They Say there’s a Road House remake in production

Fight at the Double Deuce!  SuperHero Bouncer Dalton is the only one who can stop this going on!

It’s interesting that from this perspective, there are so approaches to liking Road House. Though the reviewers in 1989 cocked snooks and sneered about it, it's a good action film with lots of other stuff going on, the kind thing that attracted so many of us to the Reacher novels. The action sequences are what we see praised these days as making a movie "that's fun to watch." for those who prefer action to feels.  Alas though, the ridiculous part is the entire premise of a bouncer and national fame for being part of a community improvement - gentrification action.  Nevertheless, I doff my sombrero to whomever had the brain storm to translate all those concerns of crime vs gentrification and the hierarchies of clublandia, all constant subjects then in the era, into this concept. That is, these were constant subjects if you lived where these matters were going on and of concern, all at once, anyway, as we did.

The film concludes with the Jeff Healey Band, which is featured mostly throughout the film, playing a cover of Bob Dylan’s "When the Night Comes Falling." This film, in a lot of ways is comment on US films and culture of the time, and if looked at with care, done as a goof on it, in the same way that Dylan’s own sense of humor has done in his own films like Masked and Anonymous (2003) funning on his long decades of dealing with celebrity and the intersections thereof, while determined to remain a working musician who riffs endlessly on US culture and musical traditions.  I mean, the penultimate great violent sequence in Road House is a monster truck driving into a car dealership and crushing all the brand new cars. This could only be imagined in America!

This has been one of the most interesting movies I’ve watched in years.  I wonder … if I’d seen it when it came out, would I have gotten all this?  I … rather doubt it.  Sure I believed I was truly tuned in back in 1989, but from the perspective of this year I see how freakin’ callow I was, and how little I really knew.

Just who were those people who got away with making this?  They must have had a lot of fun -- most of all, this flick is relaxed, like they had been doing yoga and tai chai daily, for years.

Have a Monster Truck!


Essentially packed.  Have some hours tomorrow to copy edit, change mind, remember what is forgotten, etc.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Spanish Is A Loving Tongue (A Nod to Great Singer, Joe Ely!)

      . . . .  The word used in Spanish for 'dressage' is 'doma.'

Essentially, it is the Spanish who gave us 'dressage' , which, ya, we all know, but just in case we didn't I thought I'd mention it.  People forget that in the 16th Century, Austria and the Habsburgs were inherited by the Spanish throne, which is why it is called the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Think about what this all means in terms of the history of the breeding of the horses themselves, who came from Spain in the 16th C. 

Doma vaquera riders usually choose breeds such as the traditional PRE (Pure Spanish breed) or Lusitano (pictured above), Thoroughbred-crosses or Arabians. These breeds are usually brave and calm, yet spirited and able to maneuver with lightning quickness. (Credit: olgaIT)

Here's an interesting piece from Dressage Today, concerning contemporary developments out of the Spanish-Spanish dressage techniques into the New World generally, and particularly the US West, called doma vaquera.  

In Spain, doma vaquera is also connected with the art of bullfighting. Both the work in the bullfighting arena and with cattle requires speed, quickness, agility and a high degree of collection from the horse. Unlike in dressage riding, where riders ride with one (snaffle bridle) or two reins (double bridle) in each hand, doma vaquera requires the rider to hold the reins in one hand, typically the left. The right hand must be free for work, such as holding the garrocha, a long pole designed to distract the bull. The discipline of bullfighting from a horse is called rejoneo. The horse for rejoneo is a doma vaquera horse that performs movements such as piaffe, passage, terre-a-terre, jambette, pirouette on three legs, etc. 

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Not Wednesday, But It Is A New Month, So Here Are A Few Books

     . . . .  Essex Dogs (2023)  by Dan Jenkins is the first in a projected trilogy set in one of my perennial eras of fascination, the 14th century. Jenkins has written many popular histories of the middle ages, many of which I've read, without being impressed; he's also written-narrated on camera quite a few history progammes for Brit tv.  This is his first foray into fiction. 

This first novel follows one very small troop of hired fighters -- the Essex Dogs of the title -- from the 1346 Normandy Beach landing, through this particular French campaign, to its conclusion with the Battle of Crécy.  So, the part of story of King Edward III I’m interested in primarily, the role the Black Death played in the War starting in 1348 and thereafter, particularly how the English monarchy handled the effects of the Great Pestilence, is not here. 

What we've got is the sort of debunking of the chivalry and prowess on the field and leadership with which we are all deeply familiar, at least in fiction, since at least the days of Glenn Cook and Abercrombie. OPn the other hand, let's be honest here: being a monarch, or merely a member of a monarch's family, is to be a monster. It cannot be helped.  Part of this debunking chivalry is the theme of what a twit, turd, and creep is the Black Prince, showing him as a thoroughly horrible youth not in least above raping and further degrading peasant girls. This goes against what contemporaries and chroniclers have written of him:  

"Contemporaries praised the Black Prince's chivalrous character, in particular his modesty, courage and courtesy on the battlefield. According to the medieval chronicler Jean Froissart, after the battle the Black Prince held a banquet in honour of the captured king and served him dinner.

No one can ever say that the practice of chevauchee was ever anything but brutal in the extreme, destroying everything in the path, including ethics, morals, compassion, honor and that phantasm, chivalry:

Even in his lifetime, contemporaries challenged the Black Prince’s heroic image, recasting him as a villain. Criticism focused on his chevauchée raiding expedition [-- Me here: 'raiding expedition' mildly describes the murder, pillage, rape, burning and destroying everything within as 20 mile radius of the army's passage --but never fear, the novel revels in describing these matters, in detail, as Our Dogs do indeed participate.] in France in 1355–56, a brutal affair designed to demoralise the enemy. Starting in Bordeaux in September 1355, Edward moved across France passing Toulouse, Carcassonne and Narbonne. He focused his attention on towns where he could inflict the most damage with the least resistance. His troops looted, burned property and killed inhabitants. On campaign with the Black Prince in 1355, Sir John Wingfield wrote a letter to the bishop of Winchester proclaiming that “there was never such loss nor destruction as hath been in this raid”.

This novel is as gritty as it gets, i.e. gritty for gritty's sake – how many detailed phlegm balls are hawked on every page? It was neither interesting or revelatory.  It may be fiction but we’ve seen all of it depicted in novels many, many times before, and we know this first invasion of France by Edward III was successful, if only by the hair of winning at Crécy. Jones has a Name, has written many books of popular history, and television programs, but there is no fictional narrative drive, pacing or voice to this first novel by a guy who hasn’t written fiction before.  On the other hand, this novel details this “road to ruin for both England and France” as The Spectator’s reviewer labeled this 1346 campaign, the initiation of what became the 100 Years War -- though truly, the war began quite a few years earlier than 1346, at least as early as the Battle of Sluys, 1340 -- or even earlier.

Jones tells us he got the idea for how the book should work from a dinner with GRRM.

It was an interesting experience though, reading the fictional Essex Dogs by night, and three times a week working out to the audio version of  Ian Mortimer's Edward III: The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation (2006) I've read biographies of Edward III by other authors, who admire him for many reasons, while providing a fair judgment of the shortcomings, or downright evils that may have been committed -- though which is which, contemporaries, posterity and historians do not necessary agree to.

Myself am suspicious of Mortimor’s claims that Edward II wasn’t executed, but lived on as a wanderer for another decade + in Europe. I also admit to being skeptical regarding Edward III's expenditures on luxuries of every kind, including dressing people for the earlier decades' endless tournies being excused as necessary PR for the Crown of England who also must project an aura as the ultimate badass warrior king, rather than as bad for England as well as for the war -- I mean the expenditure is even more astounding than the accounts of what the Queen Mother spent purely on luxurious living, decade after decade, including her racing stables -- every year Queen Elizabeth had to pay off her mother's debts. Mortimer (one wonders: distant relative of the Mortimer family who highjacked Edward II's crown?) excuses his order to behead his uncle, the Duke of Kent, as something he had no choice about – that in particular, I’m not buying, since in a matter of less than a half year Edward III and his supporters arrested Mortimer and executed him.

Alas though, this biography doesn't answer my perennial question, which is how in the world were France, particularly, and England also, keep fielding armies for this war when the Great Mortality returns time and time and time again, crops can't be planted, or if they are the English burn them or steal them so famine stalks France. Where are the fighting men coming from -- particularly when so many French nobles are killed at the same time in such military disasters as Crécy and Poitiers? The plague came back to England too, crops weren't planted and / or the weather destroyed them, yet somehow Edward III manages to keep getting ever increasing taxation passed to fund his wars, while so many die and go hungry.

The writers / historians I've read haven't mentioned the supreme irony that Edward III, the supreme King of Chivalry, identifying himself and his court with mythical King Arthur, chivalry's values, and performative, at least, practices, was the European king to dethrone the traditional  aristo knight in shining armor as skilled swordsman and horse rider, by funding and encouraging in every way projectile weapons, from the long bow to gunpowder and cannon.  They Do Say there were early cannon used at Crécy.

Balancing out some of the lacks as perceived in Mortimer's biography of Edward III, are his frequent citations of the rather astonishing number of successful and effective warrior noblewomen that populate the 14th century, such as Joanna of Flanders.  Isabella of 15th C Spain did not come out of a vacuum.

     . . . . Two other books, one a novel, also written by a successful screen writer and director, as well authentically a novelist, John Sayles, and the other non-fiction as well, but these two are centuries apart:

John Sayles Delivers Epic Battles and Travels in a New Novel

“Jamie MacGillivray” gives readers a sweeping tour of 18th-century history, from Scotland to the American Colonies.

The reviews are quite good.

Then to the 19th century New York City:

MADAME RESTELL: The Life, Death, and Resurrection of Old New York’s Most Fabulous, Fearless, and Infamous Abortionist (2023) by Jennifer Wright.

The title tells us what we need to know, which includes how pertinent this book is today, as the good people, male doctors killing women giving birth because they thought it cool to go from working with a corpse in a mortuary to deliver a baby, men just generally, of course, but particularly Anthony Comstock, battle to make this woman stop helping women.  Fascinatingly, at the end, when she's to be arrested, she commits suicide.  But, the author asks, "Did that happen? Or did she fake the suicide and escape, as for years her family hinted?

Sunday, February 26, 2023

The Woman King

     . . . .  The Woman King (2022) on Netflix. 

The film has been shut out from all the awards and their categories – too womanly. All the criticisms that declared it ignored or distorted Dahomey’s slaving of Africa must be from those who don’t know this history. just heard something somethingv from somebody somewhere. This slave or be slaved history is central to the narrative. That criticism seems to be pushing the relentless attitude that Africans remain ahistorical until white historians inform them of their own history.

The people of Dahomey/Ouida and Oyo knew why this condition was in place, and how it happened, and who was benefiting as well as how much Africans of every group were exploited and plundered as entire peoples. Those who benefited were the  Europeans and USians, as well as the Islamized tribes working in concert, such as the Fulani and the jihad of the time against the Oyo Empire, which too, was all about the riches from supplying the European slavers. 

The Agojie commander, Nanisca, played by Viola Davis, is brilliant, as advisor, general and warrior who is at the prime of her strength, but whose body is scarred and has aches and pains from so many wounds, whose heart and mind carries just as many scars and pains. As right hand to the king Nanisca is expected to have wisdom as well as battle skills. And she does; Nanisca sees the future, not only of her own Dahomey, but all of Africa, being slaved and enslaved by the Europeans.  She has this vision, but how to change matters so they – and other kingdoms – stop slaving themselves and each other, and instead create wealth and prosperity through other means. Ah, that is very difficult, not only to do, but to even envision, much less convince others to do, such as the 'nobles' and queens of the Dohomean king's palace.  Slaving is embedded throughout the continent as economy, offense and defense, and status.

The milieu of this woman army is a fascinating, welcome contrast with both Wonder Woman’s Greek vase and statuary fantasy landscape, superhero comic girlhood training, and with the super hero Afro Futurism of Wakamba. Those superhero comix adaptations are slick, smooth, cheesy and tacky when viewed in company with what we see here, as the film reaches to recreate the dust, mud and natural world of historic reality, including how women are physically, who have been trained from youth to be "Agojie",  warriors who command armies, who fight, kill and are killed – or are captured. Taking a famed Agoji ewarrior is a coup indeed.

As an army of warriors these women claim physical space in a way one never sees women who are to be good, traditional women do.  They claim physical space in the same matter-of-fact, unconscious way that men do. They walk differently, sit differently, move and are still, differently from traditional women. These women are like men, while – and this is what is so brilliant in the acting, one would never mistake them for men, ever.  They are fully womanly, women like all women, but who have all the masculine space and entitlement – except to have partners and children. 

Dahomey's indigenous religion is depicted in a most matter of fact manner.  This is what we know in the US as Vodun, as it was imported via slavery to San Domingue/Haiti, Bahia in Brasil, and to the US, via French slave owners who refugeed to Cuba. and, when Spain and France went to war, to New Orleans.  The altars where our figures meditate and meet on occasion are as much natural parts of their world, as the lands outside the walled city and palace. 

What follows is me interpolating, because I've not encountered this in any of the books I've read. However, presumably, such effective warriors and commanders must be prevented from having their own children because – in the end – even these women must be ultimately subservient to male power – the king.  A successful, brilliant commander, to whom the army is devoted and loyal, a woman with her own children might well be interested in taking the throne herself, or for her children, instead of merely serving a king's wishes and status.*  Indeed, the film includes the oral tradition that at least once Dahomey was ruled by a Woman King commander of an army of women warriors.

There was not, cannot be a happy ending for the slaving Kingdom of Dahomey, despite winning all the battles ... but happiness is allowed. Around the 2/3 point, the story line includes that of a mother and daughter finding each other, in this time when vision tells them both, the world will not get better. Yet, Viola Davis is recognized by the King again, as his chief advisor, no matter what his wives and courtiers want.  She may end her life free and honored, but we can almost sure thing bet her daughter's life is going to be even more difficult than hers, as the French become determined to take out the Dahomey kingdom, and are horrified by the women who go to war.

This film mesmerized me from start to finish, which I can’t say about hardly any film, television series or novel these day

*  There are many instances in history across the world where a ruler's successful military leader has taken power for himself and his family, so one will speculate!

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Postmambo Sessions presents Afro-Cuban Rare Groove Sessions #1/ For the Funk of It in the rear view mirror

      . . . .  Cut & Pasted From Da List And el V:

Coming this week . . .

==> Thursday, Feb. 23rd8 pm Eastern. Postmambo Sessions presents on Zoom:
Pablo Herrera + Alexis El D'Boys: Afro-Cuban Rare Groove Sessions #1.We listen to and talk about selected cuts of digitized vinyl referencing Afro-Cuban and African American popular music connections by Los Zafiros, Orq. de Música Moderna de Las Villas, Wilson & His Combo and more, drawing on Alexis's vast collection of Cuban 33s and especially 45s.
No charge to participate (though we solicit donations), no registration necessary.  You just need the Zoom link.  The Zoom link goes to the other mailing list, [seminar]. If you've been to our previous Zoom sessions, you're probably on [seminar] already. If you're not on [seminar], write me at, and put [seminar] in the subject line. Piece o' cake. See you Thursday.* * *Today is Mardi Gras. They've been going since before sunrise, since last night, since Kings' Day.Mardi Gras has often been a chilly damp affair, but not this year, with a predicted high of 77 degrees in New Orleans today. It's the first full Mardi Gras since the pandemic. "It's been emotional and intense and cathartic," texts a friend. Me, I'm back home in NYC, more or less decompressed from For the Funk of It, a/k/a the Postmambo New Orleans Music Seminar.I think it was in early 2018, in Cuba, that Randy Fertel said, Postmambo should go to New Orleans. I'd been thinking about it, but I think about a lot of stuff that I don't do, so thank you, Randy. I started working on it seriously in 2019 for March 2020. But then COVID took hold of the world, and we had to cancel For the Funk of It, fully booked, 10 days before blastoff. Ow.Many of the travelers who had signed up for 2020 waited patiently until we could "fulfill the promise," as one traveler put it, this year. I can't tell you how good it feels to have finally gotten to do it. Everybody, including me, seemed starved for live music and face-to-face contact, albeit with masks on a lot of the time.At last we did it. From February 1-5, we rolled through the city (and out to Acadiana) with 40 travelers and a ground team of 6, on our usual immersive Postmambo schedule. The precise dates were chosen by our producer Ariana Hall because they're midway through the Mardi Gras season, the one time of year when all three of the modalities are in effect: carnival parades, second lines, Black Masking Indian practice, but before the full carnival erupts. Perfect for studying the dynamics of festivity.There isn't anyone I'd rather have gone through this four-year process with than Ariana Hall, with whom I first had the privilege of working 20 years ago in Cuba, and who's been a big influence on how I see New Orleans over the years (long story). Over the course of five site visits I made to New Orleans between 2019 and 2023, she always showed me what's new in that city where there's always more to hear. I admit I had a ball checking out as many different music venues as possible.In the face of lockdown in 2020, Ariana said, "I can do it virtual," with the result that in '20 and '21 we did two three-weekend Zoom intensives under the title NOLA Reconnect. Those revelatory sessions allowed us to enter the headspaces of dozens of New Orleans + NOLA-diaspora musicians and other culture makers held hostage by the pandemic. The hours upon hours of interview and performance video we generated constitute a primary document of the city's creative forces at that historic moment, and they served to prepare our 2023 travelers to get the most out of their time on the ground. Our Sunday night closing party on February 5 was played by 79rs Gang, who Ariana turned me on to in the high days of the pandemicI've had their album Expect the Unexpected (2020) on repeat, and I also like the 2015 Fire on the Bayou album, which is less produced and heavy on trance-like chanting (I'm listening to it right now), but the group's sound has developed since the pandemic and I want to hear what the next album sounds like. Fronted by Big Chief Romeo Bougere (Ninth Ward Hunters) and Big Chief Jermaine Bossier (Seventh Ward Creole Hunters), whose contrasting vocal personalities keep it moving, with album producer Eric Heigle on drums, 79rs come with slamming percussion and a vocal flow that connects New Orleans rap with Indian chants.