LINES OF THE DAY

". . . 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, May 23, 2018

Our Current Reading Cluster For Almost all Wednesdays So Far in 2018

     . . . . Our Current Reading Cluster . . . .

Time for reading has been severely truncated these last months due to so much travel and other things that involve often staying up late and most certainly not reading, not even our bedtime reading.  But we are crawling along progressively, nevertheless.  Our, particularly my, interest in the subjects have grown quite naturally out of the last two years' reading of the Roman Empire, the Dark Ages, Vikings, Mongolians, the Merovingians and Carolinians.



Two of the books we are currently reading are by medieval - Renaissance era scholar of Mediterranean History, Robert Crowley. I first learned of him two winters ago via his splendid history of the fall of Constantinople to Ottoman emperor, Mehmet II, 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West (2005). 

These two books continue the delving into the conflicts of the Ottoman Empire vs. the Roman Church, the various kingdoms and principalities of Europe and the Holy Roman Empire. 



El V was able to finish Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World (2008) over an IV schedule of  antibiotics. For the first course I'd brought two books with me, suspecting that he would finish the book he had before being able to go home. O lordessa, the Europeans are such dickheads, always screaming O NOES! the Muslims are going to get us! They even say so! They're taking away our trade!  -- which they seem not to have comprehended was the consequence of them giving no help to Constantine XI Palaiologos, no matter how much he personally begged and degraded himself through Europe and the Vatican.  So, of course, now in the 16th century, after losing Constantinople, as guardian and buffer of trade routes and destination, the Europeans all cry the same things, and just as the , don't do any frackin' thing to help out. The carnage is unbelievably savage on both sides -- and the bravery and stamina of the knights and other defenders of Rhodes, Cyprus and Malta fighting to hold their islands, incalculable. 

Aftre months of siege, unlike as at Rhode and Cyprus, Malta drove off the Turkish navy and army. It barely happened though, and wouldn't have, without the absolutely timely sudden infusion of help out of Sicily, led by basically independent out of Spain and Italy -- nothing official from any king or the Church. But if the original defending forces hadn't been so brilliant, if they hadn't held on so long that Suleiman the Magnificent's forces were already losing heart, it wouldn't have mattered, as outnumber and non-supplied as they were. 

Did the Europeans learn anything from this? Of course not, no more than they did from the fall of Constantinople in 1453, and no more than the US ever learns anything about the middle east from one lurch into disaster to another. 

I still have the even more bloody Battle of Lepanto to go. 



The second Crowley book further digs into the utter failures of the West to deal with the threats from Islam, City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas (2011). This one begins with the catastrophe that is known in western history as the Fourth Crusade of 1203 - 04, the one in which the Europeans sacked several Christian cities, including Constantinople, instead of fighting 'Sarcens.'  These cities should have been the Crusade's allies, but were trade rivals to the trade empire of Venice and others such as Genoa. Yes, Venice was another empire of these centuries, that played on the board with the Holy Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Angevin Empire, the various "Saracen" empires, and very soon now, the Mongol Empire. A business contracts, especially one made with Venice, always trumps everything.  You European noblemen have fewer volunteers than you thought?  You don't have as much funding as you told us you did?  You still owe us.  Destroy these rival cities for us and maybe we'll call it even. Honestly, I can't wait for Mehmet II to take Constantinople and leave Venice and the Western Mediterranean forces high and dry, now that they can't get to the trade routes of the Black Sea and Central Asia. They earned it.  (O well, they have all the riches and resources of the continents across the Atlantic to plunder and keep them rich -- not to mention Africa.) We're reading this one together before bed. 

I am reading four books on my own, not doing the cross-reading and discussion with el V as we have done with the Crowley books. These are all meaty and are taking a very long time. I go back-and-forth among them 



The first one is Peter H. Wilson's Heart of Europe: A History of the Holy Roman Empire (2016). In some ways this is a key book because it covers all the ground of all the books in this reading cluster. Despite what Voltaire quipped, the Holy Roman Empire was an empire, and it was very much formed by Rome, and though maybe not exactly holy, it's whole history was entwined with the Roman Church. And it survived in one form or another until the last vestiges were erased by WWI -- maybe.  I say maybe, because so many of the family names and titles that ruled one part and another of the empire over its many centuries, still survive, and many of those with those names and titles are still rich and still hold a great deal of land in Europe, from the Iberian peninsula on the edge of Europe east into Savoy, Germany, Poland, Hungary and the Balkans.

The endurance of the western Roman Empire dream is as incalculable as the courage of the defenders of Rhodes first, and Malta next,  in the 16th century. Among small facts gleaned that help illuminate history is the process by which kings in Europe were created.

No king can create another king. A king must be created - recognized by another greater power, which, in Europe's case would have been the Pope, i.e. heaven, or an emperor -- thus Holy Roman Emperor - Empire. In Europe's case, both Pope and Empire declare direct descent from the Roman Empire -- and thus we can see how inextricably the Church and the Empire were fused. Which created endless political - military conflicts over who has the ultimate power and who owns what.

This information makes it even easier to understand Napoleon's drive to marry a daughter of either Russia's or Austria's imperial family. He had crowned himself emperor, but his own heirs would not be recognized after his death as imperial unless the mother was. Josephine did not fit this criterian -- and, of course, she could no longer produce an heir at all, it was claimed, since a balcony on which was standing collapsed and the fall injured her lower body seriously. 

Empires, all these empires, and all their emperors claimed to be the western Roman empire's Caesar -- and that includes the Ottomans. How furious was Süleyman  for instance, who had declared himself Caesar, ruler of all Rome, when Charles V was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope. 

The Holy Empire continued, even when there was no crowned emperor which was the case often, for many reasons, particularly if the figure who might have been elected emperor by the Empire's electors was in a death struggle with the Pope for control of Italy and everything else.


Caroline Finkel's Osman's Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire (2005) is exactly what it says. Osman's own father is the legendary Ertugruel, he of my beloved Turkish television historical series, Resurrection: Ertugrul. I so love this series that I have been sitting on the last 15 episodes since sometime this winter, incapable of finishing watching because -- there are no more! and then what shall I do? At least I've finally learned the name of Ertugrul's intelligent horse -- Altolgali.



The third book I'm reading is the almost excessively detailed of the 1683 Ottoman siege of Vienna (by no means their first attempt to take Vienna), The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe (2008) by the Andrew Wheatcroft. 




The final work is Princeton professor Anders Winroth's The Age of the Vikings (2014). This is filled with illuminating information, such as the Norsemen didn't use sails until the 10th century. But the book I really want, and still haven't found, is the one that provides a detailed history of the Norse in France up into the Angevin Empire. 

The scholars / professors who have provided these wonderful books read all the languages, which include of course latin and greek, Turkish and the Venetian dialect, French, Spanish and German -- particularly Old French and Old German, and, as with Winroth, runes and various Norse languages, so all of these depend almost entirely on the primary documents, which is another reason these books are invaluable reading. The ability to read the Venetian dialect is particularly necessary since the Venetian ambassadors were often eye-witness historians of the events such as at Constantinople in the fall of 1453. 

These books will convince anyone that the most stupid move of Europe during all these centuries was one of omission.  They refused to shore up the Greek / Byzantine empire, which was the greatest buffer between them and the constant pressure of threats out of the east and Central Asia. But they wanted it all and could only see Constantinople as eating their profits. Once the Ottomans held the Dardanelles, the Bosphorus and the Mamara Sea, they owned the Black Sea, and all the infinitely ancient the routes north, east and south. So of course they were going to claim the White Sea too (the western Mediterranean). Then came the endless decades of endless piracy for booty and particularly slaves. Those galleys whether Ottoman or Venetian or just plain out and out pirates depended on galley slave rowers and their life expectancy was even shorter than that of the sugar slaves in the New World.

Gads, most human beings are cruel and stupid.




Saturday, May 19, 2018

El Ministerio del Tiempo - To Distract From Our Daily EviLes

     . . . . This Spanish television series is both fun and filled with tension Netflix has this television time travel series available for streaming, El Ministerio del Tiempo -- The Ministry of Time.  


Among the show's established perimeters is that travel can only go into the past. It's not possible to go to the future, because, as is the secret Ministry's motto, "Time is what it is."  So, while the ministry has also continued into the future since the days the doors were discovered and mapped and the equations to use them were worked out by a combination of 16th C Moorish, Jewish and -- I think, still not sure -- Jesuits, the ministry, like Spain, continues.

Our newly recruited team:  Alonso de Entrerríos of Seville, taken in the aftermath of a battle in 16th century Flanders;  Amelia Folch,, the first and only history student at a Barcelona university in the late 19th century; Julián Martínez, a 21st century emergency paramedic from Madrid.

In our own present time the location is mostly Madrid, however the Ministry's the employees are from different times. They can travel to what the time is in Ministry HQ, because the HQ is in now. The Ministry's mission is to keep the past from being changed, to preserve the existence of Spain, no matter how good or how bad. 

The fun part is the variety of historical figures of Spain's past, particularly its Siglo de Oro (though just how golden the century was really, at least in Europe, with the Ottomans beating their's, the Holy Roman Empire, the Venetian and others' butts all the time, particularly in the Mediterranean -- not to mention the English with the Armada).  The notable historical figures include even fictionally created personages from the 16th century.


 The show's new swordsman-recruit from the 16th century, Alonso de Entrerríos, discovers in the present the novels of Arturo Pérez-Reverte's Captain Alatriste.  In our time, many who encounter Entrerríos just assume he's Captain Alatriste -- since I like and admire the Alatriste novels, I love this series's bit. 

The series mixes a generally light treatment with more serious matters, without beating the viewer down with the more grave elements.  It's an excellent way to make Spain's national history real to the viewer too, no matter what age.  It would be good family viewing, I think, without talking down to the audience either. 

Our first period adventure was preventing French time travelers, with the aid of a beautiful but of course corrupt Spanish -- countess? duquessa? -- from changing the history of the guerrilla warfare that contributed so much to Napoleon's failure in Spain, from which he continued to failure in Russia, etc.  Upcoming events include what may be a Spanish whitewashing of history -- to keep Spain out of WWII.  Right now I'm in the middle of trying to keep Lope de Vega from sailing with the Armada and dying before he wrote his great works, that helped make the 16th century, in this sense at least, Spain's Golden Century.

Already though I have learned that the principle three characters' more personal concerns from their own times get mixed up with their historical missions.  The show does an elegant job of showing us just how impossible it is to not to mix the personal with the historical, the present with the past, even in the past -- though this is prohibited to all employees of the Ministry.

The writers do an equally excellent job of getting quickly past the by-now-to-we-jaded sf/f readers info dumps about how and why and introduction of characters to their new lives in the past and present. They cut to the chase with the most minimum of O What Is This!

One does wish Netflix USA did more Spanish television series 



(particularly Isabella, which I am dying to watch) -- Spain does historicals so very well -- the horse riding and sword fighting in particular! I have gotten more than tired of the endless Asian sword and sorcery, whether live action or anime -- there's such a damned glut, and it's all the same.

The series also sued NBC for ripping it off -- see here, the lawsuit the Spanish producers filed about Timeless.  Once one has watched even the pilot for El Ministerio del Tiempo, it's pretty hard not to be disgusted with NBC utterly shameless behavior -- the characters are even the same, particularly the group leader who is a young female historian.


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Postmambo Studies Has its Own Youtube Channel

     . . . . Postmambo Studies has its own Youtube channel.  This trailer for the Postmambo Rumbazo by documentary film maker, Lily Keber, is really good:


There will be more videos in the days to come.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Nîmes: Out of Chronological Order -- Spanish Southern France

     . . . .  Nîmes is the Spanish side of southern Gaul -- as Nice is the Italian side of southern Gaul and Avignon is in the middle and mostly medieval. Going through the photos again today, and I can't resist posting right now the photos that tell us so much about southern, Roman Gaul.  

Nîmes was where our travels concluded, as far as sight-seeing was concerned.  It was from Nîmes we took the train back to Cannes, where I picked us from the station and drove us back to hers and David's place in Bar-sur-loup.  The next morning David drove us to the Nice airport, and we flew home. 

That I can't resist putting up some of the Nîmes photos doesn't mean we loved it more than Avignon, or even Bar-sur-loup (though we did love all three of these places in a way that we didn't love Italy's Ventimiglia, and certainly did not in any way love Cannes! what a vulgar, ugly place filled with vulgar ugly people).

See where Nîmes is, on the far right side of the map. Provence is on the other side of that boundary.


Nîmes is on the other side of the boundary of Provence proper, i.e. just barely inside what used to be Aquitaine, the land of Queen Eleanor -- Provençal Occitan / Languedoc-Roussillon (Lang -- tongue / language of doc / Occitan -- this is in the beginning of el V's Cuba and Its Music). This is the very edge, yes, but I am / was in the land of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine! You cannot imagine what this does / did to me

Recall how important Iberia was to the history of Rome.  Hannibal began his campaign against Rome from Carthegenian Iberia.  Pompey the Magnus won additional military glory in Iberia. The young Octavian, still only the young relative of ruling Julius Caesar, stationed with the Roman cavalry there.  The later Emperor Hadrian was born in Iberia, of an Hispano-Roman family.


Thus one is not surprised to see bulls and bullfighting still revered in Nîmes. 

Bulls are iconic throughout the Mediterranean coastal regions, it seems, from the most ancient days of Crete's bull dancers, Zeus's rape of Europa in the shape of a bull, bulls given sacrifices, which latter was continuously practiced in the western Roman empire at least, even deep into Rome's Christian eras.  We ate lunch in a restaurant called la Grande Bourse located by the Roman arena.  The heads of the most brave bulls of each feria are mounted high on the walls around the huge dining area, which one knows is packed during the fighting of the bulls.




If one doesn't wish to believe that a love for the bull fight could exist in such a civilized, haute bourgeois spot as the south of France, so colonized by animal rights loving British, see the above image. This handsome specimen of bovine strength and beauty was lovingly stenciled all through the city.  It wasn't a part of the city's advertising for Ferias de Nîmes 2018, but a project of presumably an individual art student? from the University of Nîmes? Whom, presumably, marched in the May 1st parade of unions and students protesting the neo con policies of Macron and the drive to privatize so many of France's public agencies and institutions.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Bar-Sur-Loup 3

     . . . . Bar-sur-loup seen from Gourdon.





Bar-Sur-Loup 2

     . . . .  The first evening D&I drove us up and up and even further up, to the village perché of Gourdon, to do sunset on the patio of the cathedral with appertifs.  I had the local bitter orange liqueur, for which the region, and Bar-sur-loup particularly is famed.

Evening is beginning to fill the valley below.

Approach to the village perché Gourdon from the car park.  This village is extremely popular with tourists.
There were already many present, including from tour buses, despite the season having barely begun.
But then, here we were too!  And are we not tourists?  Did we not fret when other tourists got in the way of the photo shot we wished to make?

Looking over the parapet of the road (walking only) to Gourdon's gates.

Looking behind us on the road to Gourdon's gates, see the terracing?  These agricultural, horticultural terraces go back at least to the days of the Romans.

Getting close to Gourdon's entry gates.

A view from the road across and into the valley, where the farmers and serfs worked for the local lord / strong man who held the village perché Gourdon to protect them from invaders, pirates, and neighboring lords / strong men.
The gates.

Sheep mowing the grounds, with lambs, seen from over the road's stone barriers.






Pictures of Bar-Sur-Loup

      . . . .  Seen during the first hours arriving in Bar-sur-loup, after the hour-long drive from the airport in Nice.



This is the view behind D & I's home in Bar-sur-loup.

This is the kitchen door of D & I's house.



The lavender petals are from the wisteria above, that have fallen on these lovely orange flowers..
The wisteria bower above the kitchen door was a mass of honey bees from first light until dusk.
The bees were so busy they never noticed us coming in and out.