". . . 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

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Xalapa Dos

     . . . . We have returned from five hours in the Xalapa - Veracruz Museo de AntropologíaWe had not only one, but two, private guides, one of whom speaks some English -- this is what she is studying at university -- and the other a Ph.D. student in the cultures of this part of Mexico.  They were splendid.   Patriciá was with us as well. Among other things, having these three people taking us through these eras of pre-Columbian and Spanish Mexico meant Ned and I were treated to many unofficial legends and lore that they have received from their own parents and grandparents -- these three were each a descendant of one of these indigenous cultures.

Our little group of five were totally fluent in Spanish with the exception of myself. Yet, sometimes it took all five of us, including me, to come up with the correct word in Spanish and English to express a meaning, particularly of everyday objects and practices. We enjoyed ourselves immensely.  I'm sure they did enjoy themselves as much as we did, because it was five hours and nobody was in the least obligated to be there for five hours.

One of the Olmec Great Heads which  date from at least before 900 BC and are a distinctive feature of the Olmec civilization of ancient Mesoamerica.  There are 17 of them; this museum has 9.  This one is known both as #1 (numbered in order of their recovery) and as it was the first one found, The King.  The stone is basalt, which comes from a long distance away from the region where the heads have been dug out. It weighs many tons.

The flat nose is a reflection of the jaguar's nose - face, which animal is of multiple significances of intensity including divinity, and which flows through all these cultures throughout the millennia
The museum itself is one of the most beautiful I've ever been in. It's built over a site that was an indigenous village when Cortés arrived, with burial sites, the pyramid, etc. of one of the subject groups of the Azteca. The architectural design deliberately suggests one of these edifices. There are those who claim to feel the power that still remains not only in the contents of the building, but what is under the ground. The museum is so elegantly and intelligently arranged that we go from the earliest eras up through the arrival of the Spanish in chronological order, and are able this way to see the continuations of the cultures across the millennia.

It was a miracle that my back was able to do this.  Fortunately, having private guides who were enjoying themselves, there were no objections to stopping so we could all sit and rest our feet and other parts, while the guides continued giving us stories, histories, legends and instruction.  That was how I managed.  But o do I hurt now!

Patricá, el V and I had lunch in a northern African Mediterranean restaurant afterwards.  Even el V was dragging his tail hard after this marvelous day.  We came back to our neighborhood.

Calle des Diamantes
El V picked up his suit and then we went through the calle des diamantes to look at the jewelry in this long outdoor market.  This being Saturday, all was packed.  But generally the streets and brick and mortar stores are always filled with real people, really interacting with each other and many material objects from roasting corn to be made into masa, and then into tacos! tortillas! and so many other things that are good to eat! to reading newspapers and discussing the contents (as can be imagined, the crisis de Espana and Catalonia is much in people's minds).

What is the most wonderful about being here is the presence of things, from flower markets, husking corn, people talking with each other, playing board games, card games, so many activities, recreational as well as work, that take place in real space and time -- not as pixels.  People have wifi -- many, many public wifi areas (so different from the USA) -- at home, at work, etc.  They have smart phones.  But they are not consumed by them -- at least so far.  They are not living in the internet online-order-and-deliver culture.  The sheer pleasure of stores, filled with attractive goods, good that are necessary to a smoothly running household, adequately staffed by interested, professional people -- the street as economic driver and social, political and cultural space!

Calle Enriqui, the cathedral.  One of its two towers was destroyed by lightening early in the 19th century -- twice.  so there remains only one tower, the people of Xalapa taking it as a sign to leave well enough alone.  Above the cathedral, in a men's shop two doors down from a Sears (!), el V found his suit.  Some distance up from the cathedral is our Hotel Clare Luna.
I have been missing this so much in the post digital age that is NYC and our neighborhood.  

Our neighborhood is packed with pedestrians and traffic, but this density is meaningless, for most of them neither live there nor work there -- they don't even live in the country.  Oddly, here, I revel in the density of pedestrian traffic, because these are the people who live and work there, and it has meaning.

We have at least been able to carve out neighborhood for us long-time residents along with St. Anthony's and some of the long time businesses such as the Bistro, but generally, it's just -- nada.  Tourists and those who extract their money and that's that.  No culture, so social life, no civil life.  I just hate it. 

In Xalapa, meaning still seems to exist among the younger generations as well. It goes on every day, all day, late into the night.  The amount of night life here, even beyond the cantinas, taco places, restaurants -- high end, low end -- theaters, movies, music -- is tremendous.  By the way, bookstores everywhere!  People sitting and waiting, like Patricá when we are in a meeting, reads a real book.  (I too read a real book while sitting around waiting.)

We saw it in Mexico City, the few hours we had between getting into the hotel and having dinner, and going to bed.  In the restaurant where we had our dinner, the young hipsters (it was one of those hipster heaven nabes), we were by far the oldest people there.  The other tables were people discussing politics and literature, playing -- monopoly! -- playing cards, playing games that I had no idea what they were, singing and occasionally getting up to dance. 

Like people in Xalapa and all over Mexico do, we take taxis all the time.  The drivers insert themselves into the conversation as a matter of course.  They like to talk. They seem all to speak English, as they seem to have been either born in the USA or lived there for a long time.  They all seemed to work more than one job in the US, had their own businesses and so on.  But all that entrepreneurial energy, that produced taxes for the public good and paid into our social security has gone back to Mexico, where their contributions and spirit may well transform their country into a global powerhouse, while we, with our mean ugly exclusive spirit goes broke while the obscenely wealthy appropriate whatever is left.  Nor is it only Mexicans that the USA is doing this to.  We are cutting our own gdded throats.

Tonight, we're supposed to be taken out by one of the people who has brought us to this festival, to visit an old school pulquería - cantina.  Popular street culture, el V wants, where he can hear Mexican music.  So far -- blues (the international hipster choice), jazz, etc., but no local Mexican music has been heard by him.  

Tomorrow is going to be another long day, as we drive to Veracruz, tour the castle fortress and look at various slave ship markets and other historical locations. 

Friday, October 20, 2017


     . . . . I've finally gotten it straight, probably because we are on the ground hereWe are in the state of Veracruz, in its capital, Xalapa.  This is not the port city of Veracruz, which is on the Gulf Coast, about an hour and a half away by car.  Xalapa also functions as kind of the equivalent of the Xalapa county seat: the muncipality government, which isn't the same as 'municiple'.

It is also the university town -- 20,000 students enrolled in Veracruz.  So government and students are its chief economy (and agriculture!) -- very like Austin, TX.  It also has three connected lakes, that to unknowing eyes appear to be a river, as does Austin.

But this is very Spanish, as the non-indigenous settlement began in 1519 with the arrival of Hernán Cortés, most definitely not Tex-Mex.  The city twists and winds, goes up, and goes down along steep grades.  Only the most dedicated here bicycle.

We came from Mexico City yesterday, via the Ardos bus line's Platinum (Platino) bus service.  The steps up to the coach, like the coach floor itself, is of polished wood.  There is enormous leg room.  The seats are double or single. The seats recline.  The footrests are adjustable from high to low.  The wifi is free, if one signs in with fb, linked in or twitter.  The movies, etc. are also free, and one does not need to sign in with anything.  One can charge all ones devices right there as well.  A lunch is provided.  The coach was filled up, but it felt otherwise, there is so much room.  Excellent, since the trip was 4 1/2 hours, of which most of it felt as though attempt to escape Mexico City.

I read Diana Gabaldon's Voyager, but mostly looked out the window.  The state of Veracruz is endlessly varied: volcanic mountains rising abruptly from the plains and valleys, forests, farming of all kinds from corn (lots of corn) to produce and fruit.  Lots of horses, cattle and even sheep.  The mountains are very high. It was like flying, one's ears were constantly stopping up and unplugging.
We were met at the station by Patriciá (how she pronounces it), a student who first studied architecture, graduated and started law school, and now is in the arts.  She decided she wanted art, not law, not architecture.  She's smart and nice, and our faciliator.

We're staying in the lovely and well-located Clara Luna Hotel, which has been refurbished and renovated to hark back to its heyday -- Mexico, the Caribbean's and South American's heyday, the 1930's and 1940's.  This was the musicians' hotel back then, so there is a lot of that sort of memorabilia but its integrated into the decor and furnishings, not something to look at.  Out room is huge and the bed is very comfortable.  This is good as we need to sleep a lot because we are still quite high above sea level, and our sea level systems are not used to this, particularly with all the going long stretches down steep grades and up steep grades.

The food is as wonderful as expected.

Luis Mario Moncada
And, now the most important thing.  We have been to a rehearsal of The American Slave Coast with the director, Luis Mario Moncada, who is Mexico's most respected adapter of English into Spanish language productions, as well as her most famous director.  His theater group is the oldest in modern Mexico, founded back in the 19th century.  He's on the faculty here, and the theater group's home is here, when not on tour.

Part of this morning's university's route to the rehearsal.
It is wonderful what they have done with Slave Coast.  We couldn't be more pleased and TASC couldn't be better served.  The actress who reads the letter from enslaved Virginia Boyd to the slave trader who is sending her and her pregnancy to Texas to be sold does it (in Spanish) with grace, pathos and just tears the heart out of one's body.

Everyone is so nice to us!  It's embarrassing as we're aware at all times of how intensely mean, nasty and contemptuously the USA is treating Mexico and Mexicans.  Paul Krugman gave a lecture in Mexico City the night we arrived (that was only Wednesday, two days ago!), which, hugely attended, got written up in all the media.  The gist, that all the newspapers (real newspapers and books are everywhere visible in Mexico!) stressed, of what Krugman said was -- very roughly translated:

The system of the US was designed by men who assumed that it would only be in the charge of sane men.  If someone was elected who turned out to be mad or a criminal, he would be impeached.  Thus the system would survive.  However, the system cannot survive a madman when all the powers of wealth and politics are being served by the madman.

After the rehearsal, and then lunch (4:30 PM, was lunch) Ned and I went back to what is one of the main shopping districts.  He bought and Italian suit for less than $300 in US money.  This morning we got the news a check is waiting for us back in the US, the last installment of our share of the profit for investing in the items from Morocco that DH brought back last year.  So a suit, that is altered in the shop for trouser length, etc. for less than $300 -- and gorgeous – El V looks so good in it! -- seems about right.   

El V would never have gotten it though, if I wasn't with him.  He picked out trousers first, that I thought were not of the quality he should be getting.  The young sales person was terrific, he kept bringing jackets.  I’d say the jacket, though very nice, its fabric didn’t harmonize with the fabric of the pants.  In the end we got a suit!  About damned time!

I'm skipping the music tonight.  Lunch was so late, I doubt I'll be hungry for dinner, which comes after the music, which will be around 10 PM, but maybe I'll join them.  This is all so Spanish -- and  different from Cuba, Puerto Rico, the DR, or the French Caribbean or even New Mexico.  But it isn't Spanish either, not quite -- it's Mexican, and one can see and feel it, though the differences are subtle and I haven't been here long enough to understand in any kind of detail.

I'm fortunate and privileged to have this experience, even as difficult as the last few days of getting ready and traveling have been.  For people with our infirmities mixed into the TSA regs and the airlines' determination to make it as ugly for the average person as possible, and then the wreckage of urban sprawl and traffic to get to and out of the airports, it is increasingly difficult but we're always treated so well when we arrive, and we learn and experience so much.

I'm still running at least 24 hours behind, in attempting to process and remember everything since arriving in Mexico.  It's a lot -- for one thing, it just suffered a terrible earthquake, and I don't forget that.  Here in Xalapa, they had weeks and weeks of rain and flooding -- then a hurricane.

This end of summer has been awful for so many.  Hopefully things finally may settle some for a while -- at least weather-wise . . . .

Friday, October 13, 2017

Bill Clinton Reviews Ron Chernow's Biography of Ulysses S. Grant

     . . .  I sent the link to Bill Clinton 's review of Ron Chernow's new biography, Grant, to el V. 

For the reviews in this post I am providing url instead of a links, as these reviews are behind The NY Times paywall: 

El V's response was dismissive: "It's like Clinton's seeing these ideas of Grant for the first time."

To which I responded, "Clinton is a southerner. When he was growing up, the mainstream, and even scholarly academia hadn't begun to admit and confront that our received history of the Civil War was a falsified, revisionist one. It's even more recently that scholarly academics have begun to view the 20th century accounts of Grant as man, general and POTUS as part of the received revisionist Glorious Lost Cause history, and actively correct it. So yah, it could well be that Clinton is seeing this information of the real Grant for the first time." 

El Vaquero thought that made sense and wondered why it hadn't occurred to him while reading B-linton's piece as it did to me.

Over the years I have read many works about Grant as biography, as general, as president, as writer, etc. This includes the books written by his family. And books about and by his closest associates -- friends, family, politicians, soldiers. Still, I am looking forward a great deal to Chernow's Grant, despite having not time to get to it right now.  As it's nearly 1000 pages long, it's too big to take along to Mexico, to where we go in a few days for the live Slave Coast performance, academic conference etc.  I don't want an e-version since I need the cites and reference pages, as well as the index. Then there are the more than a few reviews that sniff Chernow's book has little or nothing original to say about Grant. But Chernow's an effective word slinger and a conscientious connector of researched historic dots.

Additionally, one does doubt these the reviewers actually have read the whole thing, any more than most of the reviewers of Hillary's book read all her book either (which I have, btw -- it's part of the first draft of this phase of US history, thus essential).

Janet Maslin's New York Times review even claims that Grant is much livelier than Chernow's Hamilton,

which she complains was "a tough slog." I read Hamilton (2005) back in 2010, and then listened to the audio edition some years later. It seemed to me a quite a felicitous read - listen experience. Like Bill Clinton's review of Grant, Maslin's feels as though she doesn't understand and is unfamiliar with this nineteenth century US history. In the tradition of romperman she pronounces as one encountering this matter for the first time, and therefore believes no one else knows anything about these matters either -- which surely can't be the case for Masilin?  Not only does she call the book an attempt at "a make over for Grant," she says it's "startling" to learn that Grant's victory in the War of the Rebellion didn't end southern white supremacy and hatred! It's an odd tone, particularly for a NY Times reviewer to take on a book about what is so central to our national history -- particularly as the NY Times was part of the recent five year, daily, re-examination of the Civil War on the occasion of its sesquicentennial. One suspects that these reviewers now look at another Big US History work, particularly one that deals with the subject matter that makes the US War of Rebellion and that of slavery and white supremacy, and just -- groan, at the very idea of having another one to review, and so barely skimmed it -- as it's clear, after reading it myself, that most reviewers also at best skimmed Hillary's What Happened.

Surely this large, detailed biography of Grant will teach me something I don't already know.  In any case, there are many positives to have all this factual and honest information about Grant in a single work by an author that people are ready to believe in, even without the massive hit of the Broadway show of Hamllton made of his bio of that fellow. (Not that they have a lot to do with each other, of course, but  it is what we hoped to do with our subjects in Slave Coast.

The thing is that Grant continues to be vilified with lies constantly. Even in the comments to the reviews of Chernow's book, the trolls howl about Grant owning a slave plantation and loads of slaves and hating black people, being a butcher and a drunk, a terrible general, particularly when compared with that saint, Robert E. Lee. It was refreshing indeed to hear Chernow laugh about that in the WNYC interview with him earlier this week.  He said, "Compare for instance, the number of armies that Grant destroyed with those that Lee did. Lee never took out a single army."

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Reading Women Wealth and Art -- and Reading Women, Poverty and Catastrophe

     . . . . I have finished reading Donna M. Lucey's (2017) Sargent's Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas.  

One of the four figures profiled in Sargent's Women is Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler. Elizabeth was one of the siblings in the tragic Chanler family, among whose possessions is the New York fiefdom of Rokeby, as the Chanlers were among the heirs to the unfathomably vast Astor family fortune. As Archie Chanler was Elizabeth older brother, she also figures largely in a biography I read last month, Lucey's Archie and Amélie: Love and Madness in the Gilded Age (2005). 

     . . . .Amélie Rives (Chanler) of Virginia, a member of the southern aristocracy born in the decade after the abolition of slavery, was a manic pixie dream girl before Zelda Fitzgerald's time. One of the great propagandists for the revised history of the War of the Rebellion, she found her métier to fame, and  thus, ultimately fortune in marriage to an Astor heir, by writing scandalous-for-the-time sexual fiction.  Good grief, on one page the author describes a man breathlessly kissing his inamorata's knee! 

Worse! the inamorata likes it! Adding to her ever lengthening tail of scandal Amélie painted herself.

She reproduced her self-portrait as a post card which she sowed broadcast across the lands!

Sargant never painted Amélie, though he did paint, as mentioned initially, Amélie's sworn enemy, her husband's sister Elizabeth.

     . . . .The first of Sargent's four women Lucey presents to us is Elsie Palmer, the oldest daughter of US railroad magnate, General (one the side of the Union) William Jackson Palmer.  Elsie ultimately married L.H. Meyers, author of the 1930's trilogy, The Root and the Flower, a philosophical-mystical-historical-fantasy set in the Mughal India of Emperor Akbar (where Meyers  never set foot).  I've been reading this for months, becoming too impatient to ever continue beyond a few pages every time I open the huge volume. Myers, ultimately finding this world far too unsatisfying in comparison with how it should be, killed himself.

As we can see from her subjects, Donna Lucey has a fondness for the more colorful figures out of the Gilded Age's obscene plutocracy. Being plutocracy heirs, the sorts of women Sargent's portraits have immortalized, his subjects don't generally merit book-length biographies, thus Lucey's decision to do four of them in a single work.  For example two of Sargent's women, Elsie Palmer and Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler, are remembered only for being one of the Great Artist's portraits, and the relationships with the men who made the money -- or, in Elsie's case, her author-husband who married her father's money.

For Lucia Fairchild Fuller, the one of them, who from early on, was actually poor, due to her father's bad business decisions which lost him his wealth, and her richer siblings' meanness, Lucey makes a convincing case that she should be better remembered than she is. This seems an odd decision on Lucey's part, as Sargent didn't paint Lucia, but her sister, Sally Fairchild, one of the greatest beauties of her day. However, Sally not only did not accomplish anything, she never even married a famous / rich fellow, despite many proposals early on. So, around the portrait of Sally, Lucey constructs the truly interesting story of the unpainted sister, Lucia Fairchild, who was a successful artist in her own right. Lucey made the right decision -- it is a fascinating story, that ends in untimely death, due to Lucia's overwork supporting a family of feckless husband and loving children.  But there is also a great deal of joy and fun in her life too, which the author describes in telling detail.

Isabella Stewart Gardner's home, now the Gardener Museum, from the outside, 

Inside the Gardner Museum
As well, the other exception to non-accomplishment among these four women is Isabella "Belle" Stewart Gardner, the woman who gave us the justifiably famed Gardner Museum in Boston. What a story!  What a character!  I had no idea. Over the years, due to the location of the Gardner Museum, I had a presumed idea in mind of who Isabella Stewart Gardner had to be: earnest, learned, proper, civic-minded as so many of the women we meet in the Boston of Louisa May Alcott. On the contrary, Isabella Stewart Gardner was a personage for whom "banned in Boston" might have been coined to describe her.  Banned in Boston but this flamboyant, vital woman, with exquisite taste and a brilliant eye for great art, wasn't slightly discommoded, and hardly noticed -- no matter though, Boston noticed her.  Perhaps that's why the author, in her illustration to Sargent's Women, included two "Belle" two portraits by Sargent -- he painted her twice!

It is impossible to unpick these women from their age, meaning the power and wealth of the men who were their fathers, brothers and husbands.  None of them would be remembered today without that wealth.  The wealth was staggering, almost beyond imagining, if some of them, such as J.P. Morgan and Gardner hadn't left behind the tangible results of some of what they spent that wealth on.  Ultimately, this knowledge and the descriptions of this milieu and these people left me rather more than uncomfortable, despite that some of them have left us museums and the objects in them. At what price to thousands and thousands and thousands?  And the staggeringly plutocratic oligarchies of today aren't even doing that. 

Perhaps I understand the suicide of L. H. Myers, poor Elsie Palmer's husband, better than I thought.  He turned communist, by the way, before he killed himself.

     . . . . From these portraits of a self-enclosed world of indescribable wealth, luxury and indulgence lived securely away from the era's indescribable poverty I turned to Omar El Akkad's terrible dystopia of environmental failure, constant war and terrorism, American War: A Novel (2017).  It is the story of the making of a terrorist in the third US Civil War between Red and Blue.  Part why this future USA is suffering constant warfare and terrorism, refugee and relocation camps, punishment camps like Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, is because it is in the interest of the other nations to keep the USA occupied with itself.  They send huge container ships filled with supplies to keep the Red rebels eating enough  to reproduce. They employ coteries of people who hunt likely recruites for a range of terrorist actions.  The refugee camps and prisons are among their most effective tools in the creation of such terrorists.  Massacres help too.

This making of terrorists, and what it is like to live this way, without occupation and future, in the ugly squalor of the degraded environment and Climate Crash,  is what the author is most concerned with -- because this is how the US has been making terrorists for generations. The author's text doesn't soft pedal this in the least.

Beyond that, since it is still the North vs South, oddly the author never mentions the history of slavery, white supremacy, just old hatred with a new flag.  He does say that the new hatred is deeply rooted in the old history -- which is described as the days of glory, chivalry and magnolias.  I'm still mulling whether or not this is successful. In the new hatred the south seems to have replaced racism with the Red nation's determination to keep on the fossil fuel teat vs the north and the rest of the world having moved far beyond that power source long ago.  It just seems -- stupid.  OTOH, keeping the old war alive as we have since 1865 due to outraged white supremacy and defeated slaveocracy is certainly stupid.  As we see every single day now, there are no limits to moronic hatred, belief and behavior.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Reading and Watching History -- Warrior Women

     . . . . A few mornings ago I woke from a dreaming of Warrior Queens.  I was baffled as to why I should have been having such an interesting historically epic dream (no, I wasn't a protagonist in the dream, but an observer).

Archeology and Newspapers

It was the newspapers that caused the dream!

I recalled that the day before, I'd read the Guardian's September 12th's report of a Viking era grave located in Birken, Sweden, which held the remains of a woman, a mare and a stallion, and her weapons.

From the Guardian:
. . . . not just any warrior, but a senior one: she was buried alongside a sword, an axe, a spear, armour-piercing arrows, a battle knife, two shields and two horses. Gaming pieces – perhaps from hnefatafl, a sort of precursor to chess – suggest the female warrior from grave Bj581 was a battle strategist.
Since the Guardian became accessible online, it seems to periodically provide coverage of history's powerful women, many of whom, if not most, have been written out of history. (Not a coincidennce one thinks that the Guardian provides a lot of column space to women historians and writers such as Mary Beard -- who are reliably excoriated by the male commentators.) Thus the Guardian followed up the Birken grave and its contents with this story on Friday, September15th:
How the Female Viking Warrior Was Written Out Of History -- "What Bj 581, the ‘female Viking warrior’ tells us about assumed gender roles in archaeological inquiry"
Then, just two days ago:
The recent discovery of female bones in a Viking warrior grave is yet another indication that we’ve only scratched the surface of female history -- "How Many More Warrior Women Are Missing from the History Books?"

Predictably, all three stories were illustrated with images from the History channel's thoroughly non-historical scripted historical drama, Vikings's resident female warrior, Legartha.*

Equally predictable, were the plethora of comments in response to these Guardian stories, so many of which were jeers at the very idea. This way the readers learns that the only reason there were the bones of a woman in a warrior's burial site is because 1) the archeologists lied, don't know what they doing, are mistaken, she's really male; 2) she was the wife of a warrior who is a man, who died somewhere else and thus couldn't be interred in his own grave, or who was removed later; 3) animals put some woman's bones there.

Television's Role in the Warrior Queen Dream

Surely television via netflix streaming also played a role provoking that dream.  I am continuing to watch the Turkish historical 13th century epic of Diriliş: Ertuğrul, the founding ancestor of the Ottoman Turkish empire. As these series are, it's very long, nearly 80 episodes -- I'm barely half way through, though I began watching this before summer.  But by now we're seeing the Kayi's tribe's women training for a battle - assault they are sure will be coming from the Aleppo region's reigning sultan. Aykriz, is in charge of their training.  Trained from birth in the tribe's martial arts, who is the beloved of one of the tribe's most heroic and skilled warriors (alps, they are called), she's the daughter of the blacksmith, who manufactures the tribe's weapons. What Aykriz can do with a bow and sword, whether from the ground or riding a horse at full gallop are some thrilling scenes.

Though the history of Diriliş: Ertuğrul is probably as much fiction as the Icelandic sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok from where Vikings received its inspiration, the details of these nomads' tribal life, clothing and relationships, are more than true to historic life.  There are at least as many women characters as male, and there is no question among either the characters themselves or how they are portrayed in the series that they are equally important and significant to the action, whether dramatic or historic. 

Additionally, the relationships among the humans and their horses is unlike anything I've ever seen in such productions no matter what country they are depicting.  These horses interact with the people who are their 'owners' and 'riders.' Even when they are functioning as scene dressing they pay attention to the action that is centered.  There is prolonged, painful scene in which one of the Heroes, Torgut, beaten and tortured by the order of the Templars' Grand Masters, has a horse tethered in the background. This horse does not belong to Torgut, but during the entire scene the horse's head and neck are turned toward the action, its ears are pricked toward the action.  And there was hay on the ground at the horse's feet.  Whether this is planned or not, nothing else could so honestly tell the viewer that these are above all, people of the horse.

Books - History

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire is a 2010 book by Jack Weatherford, which I just finished, ahem, bookends brilliantly with Diriliş: Ertuğrul. Not least among the reasons this is so, is that it too begins in the 13th century, the same as in which Diriliş: Ertuğrul is located. Weatherford reads and writes Mongolian, and has spent a great deal of time living in Mongolia. The story of warrior queen, Mandukhai, the woman who restored Genghis Khan's ideals for the Mongols, is enthralling -- and she's not the only one.  It also show how easily and quickly such women, even when their rule is the law of the land, can be overthrown and utterly erased from the historical record -- at least the official record.  This includes literally tearing the accounts of their lives out of the official record. 

Among the many elements of his book that I appreciated is how much of the cultural practices, from religious to jewelry and clothing of these tribes who populated such a vast region of central Asia for millennia, are found all across eras and regions -- from the Hittites and Scythians, China (the interactions between the kingdoms that became China are ancient, and the Mongols supposedly ruled a large part for a while), to the Tartars of Russia and the tribes that became the Ottomans. One can see it most particularly in the headdresses of the women.  Why these are they way they are, Weatherman explains.  These connections and continuities I've always felt, but never knew how or why. Nomadic pressures and conquest were the driving forces for all of it -- and smart, fighting and ruling women were always integral.

Weatherford's The Secret History is the source for the counterpart novels in recent days with  Mongol settings and characters, which includes The Tiger's Daughter (which is the title for one of the sections in scholar Weatherford's history) and even parts of Guy Gavriel Kay's China duology, Under Heaven and River of Stars and even for the Netflix original two seasons of Marco Polo. This series had more than one warrior woman based on historical figure in Secret History, which, judging by their sneers of disbelief and dislike of these characters on discussion forum I visit, male viewers hated.

The first biography of 16th - 17th century African warrior queen, Njinga of Angola,by our friend Prof. Linda Heywood, has just been published by Harvard University Press,   It's hard to describe how thrilling it is to read a book bout such a fierce and successful woman, faced with such terrible odds, written by another fierce and successful woman -- whom I actually know!  Moreover, this is set in the same era as the last sections of Weatherford's history of the Mongol Queens, which feature the brilliant fighting woman, general and ruler, Mandukhai.   (Let us not forget another great, powerful and successful ruler of the era, Queen Elizabeth!)

Africans in Colonial Mexico: Absolutism, Christianity, and Afro Creole Consciousness 1570 - 1640 (2003) by Herman L. Bennett is helping prepare for the October Veracruz American Slave Coast Jazz Festival.  As one can see from the dates covered, this is a pair with Njinga of Angola. 

These colonial Mexican Africans were brought as slaves from Njinga's region by her enemies, the Portuguese.  This is also the period of the Iberian Union, the peak of Spain's power, when Spain and Portugal were under the same crown. 

The other two new books we have here are Hillary's What Happened (there are more than one way that a woman can be a warrior queen) and Le Carré's Legacy of Spies (more fictionalized history).

Reading and watching are so rich these days, no wonder I am having action adventure epic dreams of Warrior Queens.


*  Alas, after about two and a half seasons Vikings devolved into preposterosity, lacking even a pretense of plot plausibility, characters behaving like idiots for not reason, and a distinct lack of Lagertha, showing that men (meaning in this instance the guy who show runner, writer and director) have no idea what to do with a female character who can take care of herself.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Leslie Jones Most Glamorous of 2017 Emmys!

     . . . . My one and only Emmy vote goes to Leslie Jones, for the most stunning and glamorous at the Emmys of 2017.

Here is why:

Few could carry this, but O Lordessa, can Leslie Jones ever!

Runner-up, Jane Fonda:






Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Primary Day + Irma + Cuba

     . . . .  El V says voting together makes him feel all warm and fuzzy.  It makes me feel like we're part of the community.  Our polling place is in the basement of St. Anthony's Church.  The elections workers are neighborhood people we interact with on a regular basis for a variety of reasons.  One of the poll watchers is a Cuban, now a citizen, who also happens to be a splendid musician (piano), whom el V has hired and gotten hired by others often.  That was fun.

We vote in the basement of this church, which  for generations has been the anchor of the neighborhood, as community and neighborhood, providing a sense of place and safety. It has been providing this and other services since long before we arrived, and I would guess will be doing so long after we are gone, as long as there remains a Manhattan anyway, that can support human life.
Voting is still the easiest way to get a happy buzz, one of participating with one's neighbors and as well as the civic duty.  It isn't fattening or in any way bad for one!

But -- I do wish we had better choices for mayor.  I don't like any of them, including the present mayor.  At least our district had some excellent young, committed candidates, who are working hard on the local level to protect our neighborhoods from being completely eaten by the global oligarchy of the obscenely wealthy global corrupt criminals.

El V will bring back cigars for the Church staff from his quick Cuban trip next week.  The Jose Martí Airport re-opened today.

More to the point, what he's taking down there -- everything he can pack into a single piece of luggage.  People need everything.  As with all the other islands damaged and / or destroyed -- it's really hard right now to get things in or even impossible to get to them, or to get off them.

We're trying to figure out an agenda and call a meeting very soon among some of our friends, as to how to begin ramping up donation efforts.  For people here in the US just providing money into the hand is the very best thing to do. W have the the entry and connections to do that, meaning that the money goes to those who need it and the person bringing it won't be keeping or skimming.

Remember -- the last place anyone should be donating to is the Red Cross.  They keep the largest percentage for themselves -- and sometimes all of it.  That actually hasn't changed since the scandals of Katrina.  The reality is that the Red Cross is in the business of selling your blood for their profit.  They may not have started off that way, but that is what they have become.

     . . . .UPDATE:  The Havana Music Conference has been postponed, we have just learned, due to the extensive flood and wind damage and all the rest of the damage in Havana and other parts of of Cuba.  El V will probably go to Havana next week, even so.  Lots of things to bring, and a general survey in terms of the Cuba group visits should be accomplished.