Sunday, April 26, 2009


(Liquid Kachina, acrylic on canvas by James Wille Faust)

I was just directed to a news item from Radio Netherlands which states:

"The Czech authorities have ordered the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan to leave the country by midnight on Saturday. David Duke, a US national, had been invited to Prague by a number of neo-Nazi groups to celebrate the presentation of a translation of his book.

"The Czech authorities say the book denies the extent of the Holocaust and approves of it and other Nazi crimes. On Friday evening, Czech police detained Mr Duke on suspicion of denying the Holocaust, an offence punishable by up to three years in jail in the Czech Republic."

I find this very heartening, and wish there was some way to similarly deny him re-entry to the U.S.

I also thought of how, when Duke was running for Governor of Louisiana, a member of my family decided to relocate from Texas to Louisiana because they hoped to live in a state under his leadership. Yep, blood kin to me. Hard for me to admit. I believe a lot of people can be reached and given a roadmap to change, probably most people, but I have given up on that relative.

It's been a tough week here in Maggieland, in some respects, and I'm looking for good news wherever I can find it. If there is a global pandemic of the swine flu, I may be one of the survivors because I have no human contact and thus no means of transmission. Of course, without outside help to deliver groceries, I'll also starve to death, that is if the utility infrastructure stays operational, so I'll call that one a draw.

Last week I undertook some physically demanding tasks around my house which I have been literally putting off for months. I pushed myself through the pain and strain to get 'em done, and felt virtuous as I collapsed in bed for the next 36 hours, in severe muscular distress. One of the tasks was to finally get my DTV converter box working, on the third try. (The difficulty lay in accessing all the equipment, plus dead batteries in the new remote control which took me an unconscionably long time to troubleshoot.) So, as I was laid up, I had sudden access to wildly improved reception and a range of channels I hadn't ever gotten before, including a PBS side channel that shows cooking, garden, and home improvement shows around the clock. Or, as Jesse remarked, "crack cocaine" for the likes of me.

I had a second relapse in Saturday, with prolonged bouts of vomiting which is a new development after profound exertion and muscular stress. I'm up at my computer with caution, choosing not to eat or take any risks with my body for the time being.

(Carrots at Boggy Creek Farm: Yellow, Orange, Maroon, White...)
During my down time this week, I was thrilled to find that one of these shows, called "Cultivating Life" with host Sean Conway, featured a tour of our own Boggy Creek Farm, an urban organic intensive farm here in Austin, including a delightful interview with Carol Ann, one of the owners and who I think of as "my farm gal". They re-ran it and I watched it a second time through, nostalgic for the smell and look of the place itself.

(Acarajé frying, photo by Joao Eduardo Penna de Carvalho)
I was also taken back to my past by Daisy Martinez on her excellent cooking show when she made acarajé, a dish we ate from street vendors when I lived for a year as a girl in Brasil. When I was grown, my mother and I back-engineered the recipe and it's been a favorite of mine ever since. I included the dish in my novel, and have written about it as memoir, including the recipe, and in a poem, both located in my post Brasil As A Girl.

I watched the second installment of "We Shall Remain", the PBS documentary series purporting to be a history of Native Americans. I've decided it's deeply flawed, both in approach and some of the content. I didn't realize until this episode that Ric Burns was involved with it, and his weaknesses are definitely evident -- he has a hard time with the macro view, always leaving a glaring gap. And, in particular, he is absorbed with the male gaze: His inclusion of women and girls is too often incidental and distorted. With this series, the speakers and focus has been overwhelmingly male-dominated, which is particularly galling to me given how First Nations culture prior to white overrun had a gender balance that we often fail to comprehend.

For instance, this second episode concerned Tecumseh, a Shawnee military strategist who came close to shutting down U.S. expansion into the Midwest, creating a pan-Indian confederation the likes of which has never been accomplished before or since. Tecumseh worked in collaboration with his brother Lowawluwaysica, a prophet and spiritual leader who emerged from near-death due to alcoholism to re-invent himself (as Tenskwatawa) and inspire all who came into contact with him.

The obvious question is, how did these two men become such brilliant leaders and innovative thinkers, especially at a time when Native culture was under profound assault, having suffered at least two generations of disruption from epidemic and attempted white genocide? At one point, the documentary refers to the fact that because of constant warfare, the male Shawnee population had been dramatically reduced, and in some villages there were four females to every one male. But this is glancingly referred to as a toxic imbalance. At another point, it is mentioned that Tecumseh's father died when he was seven, which is around the time his younger brother was born. This means that these boys were raised with strong female influence and a widowed mother. But no exploration of how this might play a role in their singular development is ever undertaken, and indeed, their mother is never named. Nor is any other female in the entire 90 minutes, despite the fact that someone had to be doing the farming, home construction and maintenance, making clothing, tending the ill and wounded among these warriors, as well as raising the next generation. But Burns doesn't find it worthy of mention.

What a fucking joke. I wish Paula Gunn Allen. were still alive to make her opinion about it known. However, even in death, she has something pertinent to say: "I have noticed that as soon as you have soldiers the story is called history. Before their arrival it is called myth, folktale, legend, fairy tale, oral poetry, ethnography. After the soldiers arrive, it is called history."

(Paula Gunn Allen. Oakland, California, 1988; photo by Robert Giard)

Also this week (Friday) was the 25th yartzeit of Mama's death. How can it be 25 years I've gone without her? You know, even with my imagination, I cannot grasp in my mind the ways in which she would have grown and changed by now, had she lived.

Since Dinah's mysterious illness a couple of months ago and my freak-out about it, she and I are much closer, interacting in a different way. I make sure not to ever take her for granted, and in turn, she's allowing more tactile affection between us. It's quite the blessing.

I feel I should also inform those of you who are readers of my novel, Ginny Bates, that there are six months left of the story as I intended this (initial) book to be -- I designed it to end in June 2020. Further, this does not mean the remaining chapters will extend over the next six months in real time. I think it may be over in six weeks or perhaps two months. Of course, I've created characters who will go on, with a third generation emerging, and I'm definitely planning to continue the joy of writing. But I don't have the draft in hand that I did of this first monster effort, and I'm not sure if I should keep posting much rawer, new material, without the intricate structure and plot development I had devised for what I've done so far. Let me know if you have thoughts on the matter.

I'm now going to lie down, drink some water, and see if Jacques or Julia (or Ming or Daisy) have something diverting to show me. Dinah is sitting on the back of my chair, chirruping about treats and possibly throwing a toy for her to chase. Catch you later.

1 comment:

kat said...

Daisy is cool. as are all the other pbs cooking divas and divos....

I do have thoughts on the Ginny Bates topic, but I'll have to think a little more to really verbalize them.

Rest well, and I'll quote my mom as to getting over the vomiting. The BRAT diet (start with Broth. When you can hold down the broth, add a little rice. I don't remember what the A is, but then the last one is toast.

Anyhoo. much love!