Books inhaled lately

I’m still pecking away at the Morland Dynasty books by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles and still recommend them! If you like Regency romances, or anything Napoleonic War related, Master & Commander, or whatever, you might like this series a lot. It has solid historical research behind it, which I find very satisfying and also alluring (It leads me to fall into giant Wikipedia sinkholes.) I’m on #16, The Devil’s Horse, which is very exciting as railways (tramways really) are just starting to be a Thing. There are more scenes in Manchester & some mention of Castlereagh (and his wife Emily or Lady Castlereagh, who you may recall from your Regencies was a Lady Patroness of Almack’s who could get you vouchers) and Canning. Lady C: “Her own parties were considered dull, and her manner was somewhat eccentric: guests described her conversation as an endless flow of trivial information delivered in an oddly detached manner.” I like her already. I hope she had a lot to say about trains.
There are lots of scandalous and miserable events – affairs, deaths (maybe murders – I have THOUGHTS about Flaminia).

Also reading How Long ‘Til Black Future Month, which is great! More details when I finish it.

I also re-read Archivist Wasp and the sequel to it, and T. Kingfisher’s Swordheart. Not reading quite as much as usual lately because I’m thinking about Inform7 so much.

24th St Mission BART station report

Starting my BART station report series with my home station, 24th St Mission. Sometimes the St is spelled out so it’s 24th Street Mission, and sometimes it’s abbreviated in station signs. You can get some overview of the neighborhood on the Calle 24 Historic District site in English and Spanish. Get ready to ramble! I’m going to just write everything that comes into my mind from my notes, memories, and researches. I hope that you will enjoy reading it and then will see this (or some other train station or place in your city) with a new perspective.

Though I can go the half mile from my house to the station under my own power, this time I got there on the bus, debouching directly in front of a bench where a guy with a 49ers jacket was sitting holding a bug-eyed chihuahua on his lap, passing by him to scoot into Taqueria El Farolito since the line was very short.

El Farolito has a narrow corridor along the kitchen where you order and wait, and small picnic tables along the wall. I can make it in there in my powerchair to order, turn around by the jukebox after I order, and make it back out, but there is nowhere my wheelchair can fit for me to sit and eat inside. No big deal. As is usual in SF taquerias you get a number and lurk around the counter listening for your number. Bonus if you understand numbers in Spanish. I got a carnitas super burrito with everything and a mexican coke to go, which comes with a little bag of chips and some napkins, in a plastic bag with handles. The handles are so useful and important for hanging the bag on the arm of my wheelchair. Mexican coke is nicer and tastier than US coke because it uses cane syrup instead of corn syrup and it comes in a pretty glass bottle.

If you can see over the counter as you wait (I cannot in this particular location) then please admire the efficiency of the burrito-makers and study their workflow. It is instructive to compare the workflow of different taquerias, for stunning speed, La Taqueria; for complexity (sometimes as many as 14 people behind the narrow counter) Pancho Villa. Keep in mind that THESE BURRITOS ARE LOVE. You are going to be nurtured by your delicious and amazing burrito. Appreciate it properly.

At some point over the years I wondered what possible connection there was between burritos and lighthouses (Faro = lighthouse in Spanish and in many romance languages from the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria on the island of Pharos). I think it is from the “home of the Mission burrito” being Febronio Ontiveros‘ El Faro taqueria. So maybe El Farolito is an offshoot of the original El Faro at 20th and Folsom.

As I was waiting two mariachis came in, one with accordion, another with guitar and an amp on a hand truck. They set up and started playing in the back of the tiny narrow restaurant. I got my own salsa in containers and headed out to eat in the BART plaza. I shared one of the square cement bench blocks with a friendly tamale lady and a couple who were discussing their plans for the day in Spanish; staying in my comfy powerchair but using the bench corner for my coke bottle and bag of chips and also putting my feet up on there from time to time. One bench over, I noticed the Raccoon Guy (a white haired and bearded grizzled older man who has hung out in this plaza for years but recently achieved viral fame for bringing a dead raccoon into the nearby McDonald‘s.) From this we can deduce that 24th and Mission is a pretty good raccoon habitat, barring accidents.

orquestra de 24

OK so this plaza, the one on the Northeast corner. I am pretty familiar with it and it is one of my favorite hangouts, sort of refreshing and beautiful to me in a special way. Yes I realize sometimes it smells like pee. Try to bear with me. When it doesn’t smell too much like pee, it’s so nice! Lively, full of action, so much to look at, excellent food for the flaneur’s soul! On weekends there are often loud preachers or a band of old dudes playing mostly Cuban music. If I get there for the music then I hang out for a few songs and put some money in their donation bin. It is a lovely scene on a sunny day with families stopping to watch, people dancing, the tall washingtonia palms far overhead against a blue sky. Even without those very organized musicians, there are frequently other musicians playing in the plaza or coming up from the BART stairwell, and music coming from someone’s portable speaker or cars or the market in the southwest plaza that’s catty-corner across the street. The buses fwoosh and beep, the distinctive train car sound swells up from underground, Norteño or salsa music comes and goes, lots of Spanish and Chinese spoken all around. It is a lively soundscape that I absolutely love.

Facing north from this plaza, you’ll see a mural on the wall of El Farolito. This is by Michael V. Rios and shows a geometric cityscape, and some determined, rather grim people shouldering train rails with a shining metal BART train riding on top. It has a nice socialist realist feel to it, as it honors the workers who built and maintain the city’s infrastructure. The gleaming futuristic train is carried on the backs of the people! Maybe the people who built it or the people who paid for it with their taxes!

Facing west, past the stairwell, there is a giant mural on the side of the Silverstone cafe in addition to the super funky and cool coffee and tea sign of Silverstone. Sorry I don’t know much about the mural and forgot to take pictures but it says something like “SOCKS” on it. More later if I go investigate, or find info about this mural online. The Silverstone Cafe itself is quite nice, and has wifi and – I didn’t know till this week’s exploration – A pretty nice patio in back! And good, low priced, (large) pastries and breakfast and sandwich type of food. The interior is beautiful with a giant wooden… bar back or mantelpiece sort of thing. Because of the TV I didn’t try to work from this cafe, though I might in future. (Instead I ended up a few blocks down 24th, at Haus, which also has a lovely patio and an accessible bathroom.) If you go that direction you could also stop by Precita Eyes and learn more about the neighborhood’s murals.

I didn’t hang out today at the southwest plaza but can say it has a pleasant street market with booth selling jewelry, souvenirs, shopping bags, belts, phone cases and chargers, headphones, shirts (often ones embroidered huipil style) and ponchos (wool). There are also sometimes flower sellers and a booth for vitamin type of things, phone plan sales. Sometimes events in the far corner under the Coffee & Mission mural like, breakdancers or rappers. This mural is on Osage St. and is by Mark Bode, Mel Waters, Dino, Nite Owl, Dagon, and Free. You may notice Mel Waters‘ distinctive style in like, a zillion other murals all over the Misson and the rest of the Bay Area. There is a big metal ventilation tower here that, in Ingress and Pokémon, is a portal named Lipstick Tube after the shape of the tower. The way the plaza is shaped in the back by the stairwell entrance makes a pretty good stage for any sort of street events. There is also a dark green kiosk-style public bathroom in this plaza. I have never used it, opting to buy a coffee or something instead to use a bathroom!

Did you ever notice the “two totemic posts” of this plaza? I hadn’t. Hang onto your hats as I want to paste in a hefty quote from the designers.

The two totemic posts in the foreground were placed to formalize a stage area already used as such by the community. Otherwise, most vertical elements were removed to open up the plaza.

The plaza was originally designed along with the underground station in 1970. The basic configuration is an open plaza paved in a concentric brick pattern that radiates out from a large circular opening in the center. The opening comprises the main station entrance, containing a stair and escalator column with recessed semicircular planters on either side.

The circular opening offered the design team a powerful theme. The circle form not only ties together design elements throughout the plaza but attempt to also communicate universal notions. The circle is an ancient form used by many civilizations. It was universal and almost always represented the sun and thence fecundity, society and important values.

Eliminating the security fencing revealed the existing great circle—being able to enter and emerge from such a shape is an unusual experience even in a famous city. The cylindrical tower (necessary to protect the existing spiral stair) acts as a beacon for the station and recalls an ancient Maya astronomical observatory. It has a south-facing skylight through which the sun illuminates colored portholes. Emerging from the circle passengers will catch a glimpse of colored sunlight—but the light will not again appear in the same spot for an entire year. Of identical shape to the tower are shiny bollards (necessary to prevent vehicle intrusion from the alley) that are positioned in various angles to reflect sunlight at different strengths when seen from a distance. Throughout the plaza can be found variations on the theme of circles, light and totems.

Nifty! (What spiral stair?! Is that what the Lipstick Tube is?! I assumed it was for ventilation!)

Back to our BART station. I did not get even halfway through the burrito. I can live off a burrito for like, three meals at LEAST. While I was sitting there a mad-eyed disheveled dude asked me and everyone nearby for change. He eventually settled down elsewhere in the plaza. Being accosted for money is likely but just take it in stride. If you like to help people you might keep some dollar bills in a pocket ready to dole out (that’s what I do) and know how to set limits on the interaction, and how to say no. It may make you uncomfortable though especially at night. Personally I feel perfectly comfortable here day and night as it is very public and well lit with tons of people around. Anyway, I sat through many buses pulling up, people walking by, tamale lady calling out her wares (tamales de pollo, de carne!) and selling some from her ice chest on wheels. She’s super nice, I see her there a lot.

I waited for the elevator with a sweet family who had been shopping (grandma, mom, and teenage daughter with her backpack worn frontways across her stomach). Three dudes were just nearby playing very loud Cuban music (excellent taste) and cat calling us (Ay mamacita!!! que estás bonitaaaaaaaa!!!!) But not like hostile cat calling, basically a . . . non-hostile routine social interaction. I looked over at them and nodded, breaking all the rules of such things, being a sucker for good music and since their piropos weren’t gross or anything. But me and the older women also side-eyed each other in mixed annoyance and amusement and then when we got in the elevator kind of burst out laughing.

The elevator had the horrible smell of pee and industrial cleaning fluid. I always kind of long to tackle the gross walls of this elevator where someone tried to write, or paint, and then it was ineptly and incompletely sprayed with cleaner, so there are horrible drips going down the wall and it looks filthier than if they had just left the graffiti alone. There are also times when there’s… food smeared on the wall? I dunno! The thing with the smell is, the pee must run down through the mechanism of the door to the elevator well below, and just fester there for years. There need to be more bathrooms, open all hours, though, I think the Pit Stop bathrooms do help and in recent years the stench has been ameliorated to some extent.

The elevator from the northeast plaza lets you out in a sketchy feeling nook in the north corner of the concourse. The stairwell there (and, same on the other side) has 2 stairways and an escalator, with abstract concrete bas reliefs by the English sculptor William George Mitchell. If you get up close to the walls you can feel the rough (even sharp) corrugations which are the background to the broad smooth planes of the cement geometric shapes. I wonder if they give the Mission stairwells some of their nice acoustic properties. There are often musicians in them, and while I explored on this day there was an excellent guitarist, Ángel Rodriguez from Banda Sin Nombre, in one stairwell and then later in the day, a saxophonist in the other.

The concourse has a beautiful arched design that makes me think of 70s futuristic things, or maybe particular airports, with the concrete arches overhead soaring like an airplane hangar, and more interesting corrugation in between creating a fairly beautiful line. If you don’t look up, or look at the shape of the buttresses of the arches, you are missing out. The lighting is also really not bad for an underground area. If you do have a look at the ceilings you may also notice a lot of anti-pigeon spikes. (Ow!) Speaking of ow, as a small accessibility note I would say there is an archway pillar between the north stairwell and the entry ticket points where, the slope of it as you might be coming out of the ticket area is such that for a blind cane user, it would be easy to run your head right into the underhang of the arch. Same goes for the pillar by the southwest stairwell as you come out of the ticket area there and turn right – headbonking opportunity. That could be prevented by a small guard rail in both areas.

There’s a ticket entrance by the elevator and the northeast stairwell, and another on the south side of the station, by the agent booth. This south entrance is where the wheelchair and stroller accessible entry and exit point is. In some other stations, the elevator to the platform is outside the pay entry cage so you have to specially remember to reach over the barrier to tag yourself out (even though you’re already out!) Once you’re in the paid area, there are 3 stairwells from south to north; the first is an escalator coming up from the platform, and some bike racks. At the far north end of the paid area you’ll find the elevator to the platform (call button on the left). Like most elevators in the system this one has buttons marked C for Concourse and P for platform.

Platform 1 has the northbound trains, Platform 2 has the southbound. If you traverse the length of the platform you will see the 3 stairwells; the furthest one from the elevator is the escalator going up. In between the escalator and the middle stairwell are some big block style cement benches, and between the second stairwell and the 3rd, there’s a big map and schedule. The median walls (on the stairwells) are tiled with brown, orange, gold, yellow tiles with an occasional black one, which I think of as a kind of nice Painted Desert effect or like the backgrounds for Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. There are mysterious little rooms in these areas too with numbered doors (as there also are on the concourse). I expect these will factor into my BART text adventure game in some way. On the walls to either side of the platform tunnel you can see the same buttress looking cement things as you see above in the concourse. Between those, there’s plain beige tiles and a space for ads.

So, I’m going to return to my game-writing now! This isn’t an exhaustive Guide To Things To Do near 24th and Mission station, though, I do recommend you get a great burrito and admire the murals while you’re here. There is also excellent grocery shopping at many small latin american stores, a middle eastern grocery around 26th, bookstores nearby down 24th and on Valencia and 20th, and several import stores with a standard selection of things like cheap suitcases, backpacks, socks, SF souvenirs, jeans, trinkets, and I don’t know what all else as it’s been a while since I was able to fit through their aisles!

By the way…. tomorrow is the 18th Annual No-Pants Bart Ride Day! Are leggings cheating? I get cold!

Random encounter – Yeats and the City

Today’s random encounter. I was in a work meeting and noticed a man with a clipboard examining my house and the neighbors’. Figuring this was about our neighbors whose fence was falling over last week because their goats (!) were climbing up it, after the meeting I popped out to ask if he needed anything. The goat fence is now repaired but with a forbidding row of nails facing outward which turns out to be against city codes because if firefighters need to climb the fence it’s dangerous for them, not to mention if there were an earthquake and the fence fell over someone on the sidewalk could be impaled by a row of giant nails. We gossiped a bit about everyone’s fences and I got out my laptop for him to figure out the addresses for the neighbors (whose official addresses are on the street behind). In the process we figured out that his name is O’Brien, my partners’ name is O’Brien, and the neighbor immediately to the east is also an O’Brien.

He said there was a joke there to which I replied (I believe correctly) that we were all descended from kings. Underneath his clipboard drawing of the houses and streets we then had a spontaneously drawn map of Ireland showing County Clare, the river Shannon, O’Brien castle where he used to play as a child and nearby Thomond, and so on. Built in the 16th century (I cannot figure out now which castle this would be – O’Brien Tower was 1835), some discussion of history, were they all involved in the Troubles, the continuing Troubles touched on lightly…. Proud rebels… Then I mentioned that I had been to Sligo in the 80s and he said he had plans to go there to see some Yeats things and about his grave. Oh to be sure! I have been there!

FINALLY my useless knowledge became useful in life as I was able to quote, “Under bare Ben Bulben’s head / In Drumcliffe churchyard Yeats is laid” and could not remember the middle but as I floundered, my new City Inspector friend/relative by marriage finished it off with “Cast a cold eye / on life, on death / Horseman, pass by!

Really…. I just love people!

A Catte

I spent the day puttering around the house and reading. I’m on book 3 of an endless series of historical fiction by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, who has an amazing-sounding name and a love of describing angst and drama that spans many generations. Book 1 started out in the 14th century during the Wars of the Roses. Book 2 was mostly Henry VIII. And Book 3 is mostly Queen Elizabeth, well, not mostly about her but the family the books are about, the fictional Morlands from … somewhere near York, I think, are sometimes at court. So it’s against a backdrop of Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots and so on.

This has led me to lots of Wikipedia reading – like I wanted to know all about the guy who married Mary Queen of Scots and his unhappy ending (syphillis maybe but also murdered and THEN blown up as well by some barrels of gunpowder) and then the unhappy ending of the other guy who married her (maybe abducted and raped her, then married her?) (thrown in prison but I’ve forgotten the exact events – but he was chained to a column in a Dutch prison for 10 years and died there.)

These gruesome deaths led me, though, to strike gold:
Mary Queen of Scots’ embroidered badge of a ginger cat wearing a crown playing with a mouse, embellished with her initials MA intertwined to look like a rune. Maybe the cat was her cousin Elizabeth and she was the mouse!

a-catte

Whatever it may have meant, it’s delightful!!! I think it would make a really neat replica embroidered badge! Someone should get it manufactured and sell them on Etsy!

The books can be a little traumatic (I was squicked by the amount of 14 year olds who marry old guys) and there is like, constant weird incest and trauma, and children who are super charming and beloved and then DIE DIE DIE or maybe everyone dies, and I got really sad about Anne Boleyn, but they aren’t like “The Kingdom of Little Wounds” level of trauma and that has got to be the #1 gross book ever for its multiple times we get a syphilitic Queen’s very public ob/gyn exams described; keep in mind I absolutely love that book but I have to warn people when I recommend it that it goes deep.) I continue reading them since I am very curious how Harrod-Eagles is going to sustain this strange family all the way into World War II. I’m also admiring the volume of her output, I mean, from her Wikipedia page it sounds like she works full time and writes these doorstop epic novels on the weekend and there are like, 30 of them. So impressive. Anyway, I am getting just slightly INTO the vibe of these books. Is there someone sympathetic? Is there someone they absolutely shouldn’t shack up with, like, their secret half brother or their actual uncle or their husband’s brother or a hoydenish Scottish girl who rides into battle and hates men, or, their paralyzed and sickly first cousin, or like, a travelling homosexual actor or a bloodthirsty Earl who may have murdered his first and second wives? In Morland logic this is like catnip to a catte. The more inappropriate the match the faster they freaking leap into bed, get INSTA-PREGNANT and then their children and grandchildren accidentally do it all over again.

Meanwhile, a list of things I have glued today: my thumb to danny’s glasses frame; the glasses frame to itself; a large flowerpot in 6 pieces; a small bone china horse. I had to soak my thumb and the glasses in nail polish remover for several minutes before I was able to scrape my thumb free of the glasses with a knife.

Layers of history

Came across this excellent article today on U.S. museums that add information about slavery and enslaved people to their exhibits.

Can Art Museums Help Illuminate Early American Connections To Slavery?

Silly but clear headline (the answer is “yes, of course”).

For these particular portraits of people from 1700s Massachusetts, there is presumably whatever info was there before on a placard next to the painting, and there is a new placard outlining the person’s connection to slavery, including the names of the enslaved people whose labor enriched themselves and their family.

I like this approach to history. Who is missing? Who is not seen, heard from? Who has disappeared from the picture and why?

Add in another layer, of the indigenous people of that part of Massachusetts, and their lives at the time of these portraits.

An interesting book is mentioned in the article, The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved from Womb to Grave in the Building of a Nation by Daina Ramey Berry. I may give that a read.

Four Brothers in Blue

From a recommendation from my dad, I’m reading an actual paper book, Four Brothers in Blue, which is mostly letters from four brothers who were all in the Union army in the U.S. Civil War. They were in different regiments and wrote letters home & to each other. This was strung together many years later by one of the brothers with details (boringly) filled in.

The letters are mostly about details of the misery of soldier life: being cold, losing all your stuff or throwing it away on a long march while carrying 100 pounds on your back in 90 degree heat, needing more socks, mud, blisters, asthma, what it’s like to wake up with lice crawling all over you, eating disgusting food, and how the entire army has diarrhea as well as lice. Somehow, I always like reading this sort of book as it makes any physical pain I’m in less significant as I try to imagine having to walk several miles to gather hay and firewood to button into my lice-filled poncho in the freezing night, for warmth, as i attempt to sleep “on the soft side of the planks”.

Early on in the book and the war, the brothers are fans of McClellan, calling him “Little Mac” and reporting excitedly if he passed close by them on parade. He kept the army morale high, even if they did think he should have followed up quicker after Lee’s defeat at Antietam. They were disappointed that this hero wasn’t taller. One brother even sneaked up to McClellan’s horse, Dan Webster, snipped off a piece of the horse’s mane as a souvenir, and sent it to their mom. I guess this horse must have had a McClellan saddle.

The letters written back to them from their mother and father are missing but you can tell they were being sent little care packages of bandages and medicine by their mom, and stern advice about knapsacks from their dad. All the brothers explain repeatedly to their dad that his knapsacks sucked because they were heavy and the straps too narrow, and they can’t carry all that stuff because they have giant ammo pouches and 50 pounds worth of guns. They stick closest to their “rubber blanket” which I imagine to be a bit like a ridiculously heavy yoga mat, and anything made of wool though the blankets are the 2nd thing to go after the knapsacks. Ponchos sound the easiest to carry. So, now I know some survival tips, in case I’m accidentally transported back in time to 1861 as an able bodied 20 year old man. How useful!

Reading Talking Anarchy

I’m reading a little book called Talking Anarchy which is an extended interview with a guy named Colin Ward, because Danny is obsessed with him right now and made me watch a documentary about New Towns with him in it. This book looked a little boring, but in the good way that’s great once you get into it, like Moby Dick, but much shorter and with more breaks to look up people’s names in Wikipedia. So far I’m enjoying:

– Ward’s comments on cooperatives and anarchasocialism (that having somewhat of a Kropotkin-y socialist bent doesn’t mean you love giant centralized state authorities)

– His strategy for dealing with overly fervent nationalists who won’t listen to any criticisms of their favorite country: mockery is the only thing that works. (For whatever definition of “works”… which I guess is, makes you feel better and they don’t shoot you for it)

– His optimism about not everything being an enormous Ford like conglomerate. Sadly this is the bit where I turned to the front of the book to check the date (2003) Things seem to continue turning more toward enormous conglomerates (agriculture… shipping… etc) This is not the homebrew industrial revolutiony future we had hoped for.

– His description of Marie Louise Berneri‘s outrage at not being jailed for her pacifist crimes because of sexist law that she and her husband were one person and so he went to jail and she didn’t

– So far, his lack of sexist douchery, so rare and precious, that he is a guy who doesn’t discount women automatically on every possible ground and instead whole heartedly appears to have engaged with women anarchists and describes them with respect as important in the movement and in public discourse

– For example I really want to know more about Lilian Wolfe who ran the Freedom Press office for 25 years and sounds like a great person. I will just quote this bit, because I really liked it.

In 1943, Lilian Wolfe, who had been running a food shop in Stroud, Gloucestershire, abandoned it at the age of sixty-seven, in order to manage the office of Freedom Press in London. She died at ninety-eight in 1974, and Nicolas Walter explained how “For more than twenty-five years Lilian Wolfe was the centre of the administration of Freedom Press at its various premises in London. She was the person on whom every organization depends — the completely reliable worker who runs the office, opening and closing the shop, answering the telephone and the post, doing accounts and keeping people in touch. She maintained personal contact with the thousands of people who read the paper…” This was certainly true in my case. When I wrote, obscurely, from a military address, she would reply and would send me copies of journals from overseas, like La Protesta from Buenos Aires and L’Adunata from New York.

Ward talks about Wolfe a lot throughout the interviews but hasn’t gotten to the part where she goes to prison in 1916 for being a pacifist anarchist along with the Freedom Press folks. (She did not just pop up whole and pure out of the food shop in Stroud, obviously). I’d like to read a whole biography of her!

Last night reading the introduction I was delightfully derailed by two casual mentions of people (thus the long Wikipedia rabbit hole journey)

– Ward’s English teacher, or maybe just AN English teacher at the high school he went to, was “(…the father of the well-known poet and critic, Kathleen Raine, who was to write venomously and extremely snobbishly of him, the school, and Ilford in her first volume of autobiography, Farewell Happy Fields) ” I am tempted to look for that book! Anyone so venomous as to deserve three adverbs in one sentence must be great.

– Another charmingly parenthetical person, his next door office neighbor’s relative… “Next door to his office, Caulfield — who was brother-in-law to Britain’s solitary Futurist painter, C.R.W. Nevinson — let a flat at 28 Emperor’s Gate to Miron Grindea, the Romanian editor of the long-running little magazine, Adam.” OMG. Britain’s only Futurist painter sounds so very lonely! When I looked him up, he wasn’t really, it was just that he was thrown out of the Vorticists by Wyndham Lewis for writing a manifesto and publishing it all their names without consulting anyone. I like his paintings, but he sounds awfully cranky.

Miron Grindea, also fabulous. He sounds like a kindred spirit.

A connection made, too, where I realized I own a copy of BLAST, the Vorticist magazine. And also I suddenly imagined Nevinson the lonely Futurist as a character in Dance to the Music of Time (which, god knows, he’s probably in there, everyone else is.)

Danny not really obsessed with Colin Ward but, good god, if I find out the revolution I wanted was in my Houston backyard I would also be mad. Actually it sort of was and I was pissed off even in 1986 about not personally being part of the Legion of Doom. You are always just THAT CLOSE to the thing you want and maybe you are even IT — right now.

I’m sure this should be more about my theories of anarchy than about gossip about dead people, but gossip is part of my daily praxis. So there. Office managers of the world, unite.

Milton Mayer book

In between much lighter reading I’ve been plowing through “They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-45” by Milton Mayer, published in 1955. OK, first off I wish it didn’t have a giant swastika on the cover since I can’t even leave it lying around the house without feeling embarrassed. Thanks, book designer?

The book feels like one of those mish-mash books created from already published magazine articles. Mayer is trying to complicate various explanations of “why the ordinary (non jewish) German in the 30s and 40s were in the Nazi Party or just went along with things and what that meant for them. He works in details about ten “friends” he made in Kronnenberg, along with a bunch of German history and some psychological/sociological speculation. Also trying to tell the narrative non linearly, but not very well. I didn’t think the book was very good, but stuck with it till the end.

There was a middle section that was pages and pages of him quoting another extra 11th “friend” or colleague who was a professor (maybe in Germany, then in the U.S. or England) basically outlining some thought on frog-boiling and considering the beginnings and endings of one’s actions.

Basic premise of the book of his “friends” was a bit gross since he was lying to them, was not their friend, they weren’t or wouldn’t have been his friends, and so on. Also they all sound super racist and anti-Semitic to the core so it was deeply unpleasant to hear their mild doubts of their actions leading up to and during the war.

Mayer makes some brief comparisons of race politics in the U.S. with the situation in Germany including mentioning racism against black people and the internment of Japanese Americans.

Better off to go read Hannah Arendt rather than this stuff. The last chapter had some interesting stuff about the CIA in the 50s training assassin squads of former SS officers – in Germany – to go after people they thought were dangerous communists – despite this being totally illegal in every way.

Link: http://press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/511928.html

Sideways review of "In Old Narragansett: Romances and Realities"

Read an interesting book about Narragansett. Through the ugly casual racism you can see some interesting stuff. I looked up a lot of details and learned a little about the history of Black Governors in New England and their elections. Written in 1898 with stories about people who lived 100 or so years before, another Alice Morse Earle book. And now for a random history walk through the interwebs!!!

I did find census records of some of the people mentioned including Cuddymonk, who is described as mixed Narragansett and Black (in the 1790 census as Cuddy Monk with 5 in his household; his wife Rosann is mentioned in the book but the census only lists heads of households). I looked him up since he had a distinctive name.

Anyway, the book has a bunch of stories from what is now Bonnet Shores (then Boston Neck) including a mention of the ridge where the Tower is built (The Tower is named after “Unfortunate Hannah” Robinson). (I know the area from (partly) growing up there, and the Tower was and is a really cool landmark.) In Earle’s story, Hannah is an abandoned, sickly, dying young girl returning home to reconcile with her stern, cruel father after eloping with a French dancing-master. In actual life, she had 9 children with him in Providence before she returned to her parents’ house, which kind of messes up the touching fable of her almost innocent girlhood!

Unfortunate Hannah Robinson’s dad was a rich slave-owning plantation owner in Boston Neck, who bought a woman he called Abigail. The local story as told by Earle (I can’t find any other source) is that she was a queen in Africa, and Robinson freed her so she could go back there and find her son and … bring him back to Rhode Island? OK, seems unlikely! Her son Prince Robinson became one of the Black Governors of the area. The Prince Robinson in the census in the 1800s who was a stonemason may be him or may be his son. I feel sure a bit of real research could tell. There was also a woman named Tuggie Bannock who was said to be Abigail’s daughter and who was a witch. I couldn’t find her in the census. Earle makes her sound ridiculous, which is very annoying.

As I was looking through the census I noticed the Champlins and Hazards were also slave owning plantation owners (You will recognize the names if you are from there). And also on the same page as Cuddymonk: a white governor of Rhode Island listed as Gov. Samuel Potter.

My interest is in adding dimension to the people mocked in racist fables and replacing the caricatures with something more respectful. For example the way that (what’s her name) re-wrote Sojourner Truth’s famous speech in southern plantation dialect when she did not talk that way in her life. Alice Morse Earle does the same thing to her “characters”. I think it is part of undoing white supremacy to make our histories and geography more ‘true’ and more known. Now what I mean by that could fill a book. Moving right along…..

It looked also, in my casual reading, like the Hazards and Robinsons intermarried a bunch and one of that family at least became an abolitionist and did some work to gain freedom for a guy from his town who was detained in the south assumed to be escaped slave and this led to around 100 people there getting out of “detention” ie either jail or slavery. His textile business, not unrelatedly, had to switch from cotton to wool consuming and producing since the Southerners wouldn’t deal with him anymore.

Basically over that 150 years or so, the rich white people intermarried and owned all the land, and the Narragansett and Niantic and Black people intermarried and didn’t. I notice it didn’t seem to occur to Rowland Hazard to give the land back to the still extant Narragansett people as a way of settling up.

Another Hazard that Earle refers to: Caroline Hazard who wrote essays, poetry, and biographies and who was the President of Wellesley College for 10 years. I might look for her books in the Internet Archive. Of course Earle casually mentions her as “Miss Hazard” and her incredibly famous writing. Perhaps they were friends.

It is sad that I am at least happy that Morse Earle includes people of color which leaves some clues and tiny bits of truth along with the garbage racist caricatures. Other books do much worse — for example a multi-volume set “The Early History of Narragansett” has hundreds of pages of detail of every (white) family in the area for a couple of hundred years and all their names including details from their wills but never mentions that they are slave owners leaving human beings to their children in their wills. The Black and Narragansett & Niantic people are just left out of the Early (White Supremacist) history completely. You have to work to do that kind of disappearing.

Another example: In the Narragansett Historical Society’s short description of the area’s overall history, there is no mention of the history of slavery, of black residents over the years, or of the ongoing history of the Narragansett tribe’s people.

Here is another interesting collection of info from 1700s and early 1800s on people of color in Rhode Island mentioned in letters and manuscripts: http://www.rihs.org/mssinv/PeopleofColorweb.htm

In case you were wondering about Bonnet Shores, it was mostly Wesquage Farm and Bonnet Point before the mid 19th century, thought to be called that because the shape of the Point looked a bit like the bonnet of a ship’s jib (a small sail at the bottom of the jib).

bonnet point aerial view

OK…. sometimes this is what I do with my evenings… to relax…..

Riot Grrrl documentary in the making!

It was super important for me to know about & be part of the riot grrrl movement – just to HAVE something culturally to identify with was amazing. I especially loved how multidimensional and spontaneous it was and is. People would hear the littlest thing about it and then declare they were part of it. It meant that we had context for our creative work that was lacking for us. 70s and 80s feminist work (which never stopped) for me were missing something that would include me as a young person. Here we had our movement that would refuse to devalue the cultural production & voices of young women and girls. Zines, music, discussion groups, all the amazing letters and mail art, taking punk to make it our own. It felt like an explosion of fertility & creativity!

Talking about something as history can feel wistful – like it is over. From my perspective it didn’t stop, there is nothing to have missed out on. The possibilities are endless & still going strong.

There is a new documentary in the making, GRRRL: 25 Years of Riot Grrrl and it needs our support! Please donate towards the making of this documentary!

You can see some of this work already in shorter pieces such as Lost Grrrls: Riot Grrrl in Los Angeles.

With every book on Riot Grrrl I read and every new zine I see popping up, I learn something new about how people see themselves in relation to the movement, to feminism and activism and politics. The more films and books, the better!

riot grrrl sticker