Reading for March 21, 2020 the year of COVID 19

Once before I wrote up what I’d read in my reading ladder on one particular day. Things have changed around here, especially two: my grandson moved out (to the Marines) and the virus hit, keeping old folks like us homebound. Fortunately, I had received my last book of a batch I ordered the last day of Feb. and got one last workout in before the gym closed for 10 days (I doubt it will reopen soon). Hardly anybody there.

The weather here is stunning and I sit out on my deck and read (115 degrees coming so I’m taking advantage). So about half-way through my reading (which I can complete in about 2 hours) I realized that every book, every page, was providing good stuff, so I’ll share it here. My blog guru, Wes, set me up with a neat system for marking the books, but I’m incapable of understanding it. Sad.

So, referring to my earlier list (……………

Storm – p. 393 “The greatest danger may be that this reactionary takeover of the Republican machinery [by Goldwater supporters] will induce a radical new alignment of the parties, splitting them once and for all into organizations of the right and the left” – Washington Star editorial 1964   Prophetic

Bell – pp. 241-2 Murray confounds with his switch between intelligence and IQ. You have to thread your way through his prose, and the prose is well written, in order to see the vacuousness of his thinking about people like criminals. His lack of ideas about how people live is evidence of a relatively charmed life; I’ve seen it so many times, usually expressed as, “I just couldn’t live like that.” Well, people do and most of them don’t off themselves. They keep on living. The guy is a complete jerk.

Branch – p. 211 Branch tells how the American Communist Party by 1956 was so diminished by defections after Khrushchev’s revelations on Stalin’s crimes and so infiltrated by FBI agents, that J. Edgar Hoover thought about having his agents throw their numbers behind one faction in the party convention voting and thus take over the Party. Imagine, the FBI running the Communist Party. It could’ve been.

Blowout – p. 11 The detonation of an atomic bomb under the earth near settled areas to release natural gas deposits. Great idea!! (1969)

Agawu  –  pp. 79-87 A polemical discussion of the way the concepts of polymeter and additive rhythm have been invoked by not only Westerners but also Africans to explain African music. He sees this as an imposition resulting from colonial powers focusing on how different African music is. Such a lens produces distortions by otherwise serious and dedicated scholars.

Floyd – passim In the Introduction Floyd lays the groundwork for his approach to Black music: the Ring Shout and the Signifying Monkey. Taking the Ring Shout, this I understand because I saw a ring shout in the Pentecostal church in the form of the Tarrying Service. I oscillate between an openness to overall impressions and an attraction to evidence based analysis. The Tarrying Service allows me to wallow in both because it is an overpowering act – that is its whole purpose, to overpower the prospective convert to the point he receives the Holy Spirit aka gets filled with the Holy Ghost aka experiences possession – and contains the African elements that suffuse Black music. I look forward to reading this book with care but I recall a similar book many years ago called Muntu, by Jahnheinz Jahn, very impressionistic and on the same topic; I asked an academic in the field of African political science about it and she said, “You’d never cite it in an academic paper but everyone has read it.”

Aspect – nearing the end. Chatterjee cites Bernard Comrie’s contention that a sentence like, “John was dying but the new medicine saved his life” is abnormal. He disagrees and so do I. John was in a process (dying) but the process was truncated by an intercession. Comrie appears to see dying as an end point, a punctual action rather than a process that can be interrupted. I love puzzling over things like that.

Latin – passim Laryngeals were always a mystery to me and Weiss keeps on mentioning them, promising to cover them in Chapter 6. I’m finishing 4. I look forward to it. But Weiss’ examples from all the European languages of just what the Indo-European languages are about is just great. It is fascinating to see how the reconstructed forms of labiovelars like gw appear in later languages taking just the velar, g, or the labial, w e.g. Latin venio and English come (v was pronounced w in Latin and c, pronounced k, is a softened version of the g)

Money – Ch. 5 passim This is on Keynes. This book is a slog because I have to reread paragraphs. The author is clear but the terminology is dense, e.g. today he used “open market operations” and the next line it meant buying and selling securities. So then I have to review in my head what buying and selling securities entails. But it does lead me to some understanding of what all the fuss is about e.g why conservatives hate Keynes.

Duflo – p. 110 An  experiment where people were given a chance to have the “organization” give money to an anti-immigrant charity (?). Randomly selected individuals were told they might get a call from a member of the research team to verify their decision. This group was unlikely to agree to donate than the anonymous group. But after Trump’s election, the difference disappeared entirely. It was as if Trump had given them permission to be bigots (my words). As if?

Voice – pp. 70-71 This one had notes all over. Miller explains something I had never understood which was how the slaves in Cuba had built these elaborate social and religious structures. It was the city with its huge number of slave who had the freedom of the beggar’s democracy to rebuild their African cultural associations like the Leopard Society. They typically met at night outside the city walls of Havana. Slaves on plantations had a harder time reconstituting their cultures (there were quite a few “nations” or “cabildos”). Interacting with the Spanish elite did not result in imitating them but using them e.g. the relationship of godfather and god child went deep, something Anglo Americans don’t understand, and wealthy White Cubans offered sponsored slave children, thus interlacing their lives. Even the architecture contributed to this intermingling: the bottom floor of the house was a warehouse, the second floor where the servants-slaves lived and worked, and the upper floor was for the master and his family. This one got me, Miller quoting an intellectual in Havana, “Who does not see in the movements of our boys and girls as they dance a contradance or waltz, an imitation of the gestures of the blacks in their cabildos? ” Just recently I found a tape of a movie I’ve been looking for, a Cuban movie showing an elegant, all-White soiree in Havana in the late 1800s in which a nice little orchestra played European waltzes, etc. Suddenly the doors open and a troupe of Black drummers enter and immediately the gowned women and tuxedoed men drop into an African stance and begin dancing africanizando.

Morality – p. 62 St. Paul deals with the issues facing Christians in “the world” i.e. having to deal with the wider society while keeping their special status as Christians. These were people who had renounced “the world” but still had to manage to live in it. This throws so much comparative light on issues of our own time, esp in totalitarian or autocratic societies: how much to you give “The Man?”

Paths – p. 176 An illustration of how one man can affect history and his society. A guy named Manziga arose among the Mabiti people in the Congo Basin and single-handedly united several Houses. His son continued to conquer surrounding people and unite them under his rule, the concept of The Big Man. For those familiar with African ethnic groups, this revolution of one generation led the people to change their name to the Mangbetu. Moreover, the constant evolution of societies in this huge region (as large as the continental U.S.) recalls similar developments in Europe at the same time as Europe emerged from the Middle Ages.

Seed – p. 121 The seventeenth century New England sermons were very long, two hours, and you got two of them on Sundays. Depictions of this institution show very bored congregants but the author, Fischer, says not at all. The sermons were tightly reasoned and people sat “on the edge of their seats.” (perhaps because the pews were backless benches). So that made me wonder if this following of closely argued scripture served to heighten the intellectual capacity of New Englanders, thus leading to the intellectual supremacy of that part of the country.

Birth – p.50 Battalora cites a Japanese-American who talks about being asked by cab drivers where he’s from and complimenting on his English when he is as American as they are. She mentions how Italians became White and promises to cover that in a later chapter. My dad was a bit ambivalent about his relationship to what we called WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) and I doubt if his family of origin saw themselves the way a Scandinavian might see himself as blending into the White population here.

Kofi – p. 150 I was confused as Agawu covered what I thought were “idiophones” but turned out to be “conspicuous words.” Once I realized I had been thinking of “idiophones” and not Agawu’s “ideophones,” I got into it a little more and was reminded how Black singers in the U.S. use a great many vocal devices to enhance the feeling tone of their singing.

Flash – p. 25 The figures of the Yoruba god Eshu are found not only in Cuba and other places with a large Afro-Latin population but in the U.S., too where populations from the Caribbean have had an impact. I myself have a votive candle with the figure of Eshu aka Elegbara aka Legba painted on it.

Pluto – p. 84 The author quotes a Wall Street ‘yeoman’ who launched a screed against what he called the predators, people you hate not because they are rich – no, we admire that – but because they cheat, “privatized gains and socialized losses.” She tells us the real trouble will start when the top 1% rise up against the top 0.1%.








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