Monday, March 27th, 2017 10:27 pm
I get to toy with being a living example of the Peter Principle at work.
Monday, March 27th, 2017 10:02 pm
Books 2017: 43-49


43. Emma Newman, Brother's Ruin. Tor.com, 2017.

Read for column. Entertaining, if a bit weird.


44. Marie Brennan, Lightning in the Blood. Tor.com, 2017.

Read for review for Locus. I REALLY liked it.


45. Lois McMaster Bujold, Penric and the Shaman. Subterranean Press, 2017.

Read for column. Kind of perfectly exactly what I wanted.


46. Elizabeth Moon, Cold Welcome. Orbit/Del Rey, 2017.

Read for review. Meh.


47. Aliette de Bodard, The House of Binding Thorns. Gollancz/Ace, 2017.

Read for review. THIS IS SO GOOD IT IS SO MARVELOUS READ IT READ IT NOW.


48. Robyn Bennis, The Guns Above. Tor, 2017.

Read for review. A hell of a lot of fun.


nonfiction


49. Matthew Wright, The Lost Plays of Greek Tragedy: Volume 1: Neglected Authors. Bloomsbury, London, 2016.

I will have more to say about this later - I believe I will write something about it at length for Patreon, maybe. But it is really interesting and extremely accessible, and makes me want to learn more.
Monday, March 27th, 2017 08:48 am
1. I went by myself to see Logan Friday night, the last Wolverine movie starring Hugh Jackman. As is sometimes my wont, I sat in the last row of the front section and stared up: very immersive!

2. As many reviews have stated, Logan is much more a Western than a superhero movie. To make the connection explicit, at one point Professor X and Laura are watching Shane. In among all the violence, there are some sawed-off shotguns, and doomed homesteader-equivalents versus Big Agriculture, and orphaned children. Also, the movie is very male: one female mutant child (Laura/X-23) who says a lot less than the adults, and one female adult who is killed before she can attain her goal, in a way that motivates Logan.

3. I had thought I would find it more depressing than I did, probably because to me it felt like one of a thousand post-apocalyptic alternate futures I've already experienced in comics and fanfcition, except in this one, they were allowed to say Fuck every now and again. I think of comics like mythology. If you look at ancient Greek mythology, you get lots of different versions of a basic story depending on the geographic and temporal location the story is heard.

4. Bonus points for perfect credits usage of Johnny Cash singing "The Man Comes Around."

5. Patrick Stewart is such a terrific actor; his part is secondary, but he owns every scrap of it. Aspects of his performance here reminded me of his John of Gaunt in "Richard II."
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Monday, March 27th, 2017 08:10 pm
It started with endless series of exams in the hall at school. Rows of hard chairs and desks of awkward height. Me, stressed about doing exams because that's how I was taught to be, despite having a substantial talent for exams. Me, hunched over for two hours at a time writing furiously. As the exams went on I'd get a sore back, mostly between my shoulder blades. After school there were exams at university, professional exams, another degree. And somewhere in there the 'exam back' expanded its performance so that, with heavy irony, as the exams finished and my stress lifted my whole back went into spasm. It was always very painful, but never lasted more than a week.

The exams are long since over, but exam back lingers, waiting for me to relinquish any long-carried stress. When I withdrew from the PhD (three years ago now) I enjoyed a week of euphoria followed by a week of being barely able to walk. This time it seems to be the act of asking for help and going for coaching to help with the demands of my charity work. After the first session there was the day when I was so drained I was fit for nothing. After the second session I had another day like that, then blam! exam back strikes again. I was in pain Friday, in pain that I was able to overcome on Saturday, and in tears of pain all day yesterday. Last night I ran past my back the idea of giving myself the week off. The idea was approved and this morning I cancelled the whole week - everything except the coaching - and succeeded in washing away the pain in the shower. I was well enough to go to yoga where the session our teacher had planned was accidentally perfect of easing my back.

Since then I've been watching the new season of Grace and Frankie and doing a little pottering around the house to keep everything moving. I am optimistic about sleeping tonight, unlike Saturday night, which was a disaster.

Back massages from abrinsky helped, but he's in Cardiff right now (having spent today in Birmingham) and still has to deliver his roadshow in Cardiff and Bristol before he makes it back home again. Orwell is snuggling me to make sure I don't feel too alone.

On Saturday, when I thought it was just a mild bout of exam back, we went to Northampton in the morning. I spent an embarrassingly large amount at the wholefood warehouse, and then we walked through town to get a delicious pub lunch.

Nugsone #oftheday

On the way back home we stopped at my favourite cookshop, and I found it does sometimes pay to be nice, when the staff pointed out I could buy last year's model of the kettle I wanted at a discount of £20.

Daffs #oftheday #earlymorninglight

There was a period of a couple of hours on Sunday morning, between being in too much pain to sleep and too much pain to sit/lie/stand, when my back was absolutely fine, so we went for a therapeutic walk. It was only 8am BST, so 7am GMT, and the light was a wonderful payoff for the terrible night. The lambs were very cute again too.
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Monday, March 27th, 2017 07:01 pm
It's taken me several years to track down a copy of A Sudden Wild Magic, one of only two novels for adults written by Diana Wynne Jones (the other, Deep Secret, appears to have been repackaged as Young Adult to go with The Merlin Conspiracy, which is set in the same universe and features at least one recurring character, but is clearly aimed at a younger audience). Given how hard it was to get, and how little it seemed to be rated by reviewers on Amazon and Goodreads, I was a bit worried that it was actually going to turn out to be dreadful, particularly as the blurb on the back said "It is up to the Ring, a secret society of witches and warlocks dedicated to the continuance and well-being of mankind, to fight the virtuous, unbendingly traditional stronghold of Arth with an arsenal of psychological sabotage, internal dissension -- and kamikaze sex..." and I wasn't at all sure I wanted to read about kamikaze sex. (Spoiler: there is not actually any kamikaze sex in the book, although there are enough references to non-kamikaze sex that I can't see this being repackaged as YA any time soon. Someone makes a throwaway comment about it at one point, and the blurbers clearly felt that it would sell more copies. If you did want to read about kamikaze sex, this is not the book to do it in.)

Essentially, this is classic DWJ, full of witches and wizards, overlapping plots and interlinked multiple universes. Several of the plot threads reminded me of her other books, particularly Fire and Hemlock, but the familiar elements were combined in a different enough order that I didn't feel that was a problem. The main difference between it and the rest of her books is that while some of the central characters are young adults in their late teens/early 20s, most of them are older adults (including one wonderful witch of a certain age who reminded me a lot of Granny Weatherwax). I thought it was great fun, if a bit silly, with engaging characters, and while I don't think it's her best book I rather liked reading a DWJ about adults for once.
Monday, March 27th, 2017 07:06 pm
2017/25: The Elegance of the Hedgehog -- Muriel Barbery
... pity the poor in spirit who know neither the enchantment nor the beauty of language.


Mme Renée Michel is the concierge of a Parisian apartment building, a fifty-four-year-old widow with bunions and bad breath. As far as the residents know, she is a typical concierge, watching television and reading tabloids, alone except for her cat Leo. In secret, though, she is passionate about philosophy, art and language (a misplaced comma in a note from one resident drives her to distraction), and she observes her employers with a clear and critical eye.
non-spoilery )
Monday, March 27th, 2017 06:50 pm

Mixed martial arts is the fastest-growing sport on Earth.... what does this bloody spectacle say about the world we live in?

I don't know what, if anything, it says about the world we live in, but that article suggests to me someone who does not know a great deal about the history of sport/popular entertainment - I am like, o tempora, o mores, what are these days when somebody can write an article on fighting as spectacle and not name-check gladiators in the Coliseum? Infamy, infamy, etc.

I am totally given to wonder what a person knows about the history of sport if they can write this:

Victorian rules of football and rugby codified an attitude towards team play that made sense in the factory and on the battlefield.
Victorian rules were the imposition of a disciplinary structure (where is Michel Foucault when you need him?) on the rather more freeform sports constituting various kinds of football: which pretty much combined the football and the hooliganism in one package.

See also, boxing before Queensbury: not that boxing in its present form doesn't have significant risks, even if they're long term ones about brain damage rather than blood on the floor.

I suspect that there is a significant history of sports starting as something close to a brawl and gradually developing rules, rather than the rules coming first.

On a somewhat less extreme level, beach volleyball has that pattern of informality to codification.

I am also, why is he not, if not doing historical analogies, linking this woezery to a loooong tradition of dystopian fiction? - because the concept was not a new one in The Hunger Games.

Monday, March 27th, 2017 12:46 pm
      . . . . The state of exhaustion and a bit of gippy tum continues.  I continue my attempts to catch up and get back on keel, to greater or lesser success, depending on. This weekend I ate something that wasn't toast or mashed potatoes, but I still can't read and stay awake. This weekend I did watch some television.

 

Netflix is currently streaming two series that could be specifically targeted for me, personally, and my current state of being. Despite the variety of choices available it is only these two that appealed to me enough to sit and watch, instead of just going to bed.

 

 

 

The first one is the Netflix original 8-part documentary, The Cuba Libre Story (2016) the story of Cuba, which, naturally centers Fidel's Revolution, for better or worse.  For one thing, the supply of contemporary television and film footage is boundless, the number of recognizable figures involved are without number, and a lot of them are still living,  if only barely, including people with Fidel at the beginning, but who went into exile either voluntarily or to save their lives. There is an international cast of historians, authors and journalists, specialists all in Cuban history and / or the Revolution, all ready and willing to talk on camera.

I have more than quibbles with the perspective on certain things, including "the mafia corrupted Batista." It seems to me they skid over his fundamental character, which needed no outside pressure to become corrupt.  Nor do any of the talking heads explain why and how Batista came back  from Miami to take power in Cuba, this time as tyrant and dictator. They also skip over the role of Nixon in this regime, among other things.  There's more than a whiff at times of the producers falling far back from confronting certain issues in the interest of not offending certain people, whether inside or outside of Cuba.

This is an outline of 20th century Cuban history, heavily weighted, while pretending otherwise, to the perspective of the anti-Cubans, the old CIA (that failed so hugely in its long objective to overthrowing Fidel and the Revolution. This becomes most obvious in the last two episodes, particularly insisting that Fidel was instrumental in Cuba trafficking in the coke trade to the US. That much of this cannot be true is due to the obvious the state would never allow drug gangs in Cuba -- they would be a challenge to the hegemony of the state.  There are some elements in the series that are outright lies that leap out, particularly what they say about the children. People who have worked with them, meaning, literally work, at jobs, have told us, for instance, that they worked along side one of the kids for months, and never knew who the kid was.  Raul's daughter, who works so hard for LGBT rights and recognition, rides the public buses to work every day. No playboying around at all, unlike what the docu talking heads state.

 As said, the more episodes in, with the more CIA operatives, Cuban double agents (whose whole life is about lying plausibly, meaning they believe themselves what they say), the more exiles, the more people out of the former Soviet Union, etc. testify, the more problematic the series's plausibility becomes.

 

 


Grace and Frankie's 4th season went up on Netflix this weekend.  Lily Tomlin! Jane Fonda! It makes me laugh out loud here all by myself at least three times during each half hour episode. Also Sam Waterson! and Martin Sheen! as their ex-husbands who left them for each other.  The actors playing their children are almost as splendid as Fonda and Tomlin.  They also fill in their roles more so every season.  Some might criticize the glossy, monied, perfect southern California milieu of the show, but within the context of the comedy, which is these people are spoiled and often immature, while experience the irrevocable fact that they are old, they were dumped by their husbands, and all the many other tribulations that come with that, no matter how well-off one is, the gloss and prosperity allow us to laugh at and with them guilt-free.  In one of this season's episodes both women have their back go out at the same time, and they're marooned on the floor -- with no way to contact anyone. It's a prolonged scene that is both genuine and very funny.  At times Lily Tomlin channels the Comic Spirit directly, without any buffer between herself and it  -- and what she does is randomly spontaneous.  Fonda plays off Tomlin's antic inspirations with perfect timing and reaction, enhancing and deepening the scope of these scenes.  Their two characters have now gone into business together, marketing the the perfect vibrator for older women.  Their search for capitalization of the vibrator's manufacture within the truly strange contemporary world of business finance is an boundless source of comedy as well as very pointed criticism of national economic structure that no longer has any interest in making anything, only in the marketing of an online meme.  Highly, highly recommended!

 
Sunday, March 26th, 2017 09:44 pm
So I tried an experiment to see if it was possible to make a Howl's Moving Castle book vid using Howl's Moving Castle movie footage. Results: ???

(Results mostly that I need to get better at figuring out how to change targeted colors in Adobe Premiere, let's just pretend it's fine.)

Title: In Which Sophie Expresses Her Feelings In The Absence Of Weedkiller
Music: "You're A Cad," The Bird and the Bee



Download link
Sunday, March 26th, 2017 07:21 pm

Friday night supper: Gujerati khicchari.

Saturday breakfast rolls: the adaptable soft rolls: 2:2:1 strong white/wholemeal/dark rye flour, maple sugar, sour cherries.

Today's lunch: the gratin provencale thing, with sweet potatoes (I grossly overestimated the quantity of sweet potato I would need) and tapenade: with okra roasted in pumpkin seed oil and splashed with raspberry vinegar, cos lettuce dressed with lime juice, avocado oil, salt and pepper, and padron peppers.

Bread: Len Deighton's Mixed Wholemeal loaf from the Sunday Times Book of Bread: 3:1:1 wholemeal/strong white flour/mixture of medium oatmeal, medium cornmeal and bran, a little molasses, a dash of oil - v tasty.

Sunday, March 26th, 2017 02:56 pm
 

 

The Rock on which is founded the first truly independent Cuba.  This is Fidel's memorial. Like everything else in the Cementerio de Santa Ifigenia in Santiago. I couldn't get a decent photo -- we had to move too fast.  So many people, in their best clothes with their children, were waiting in line to pay their respects. Island Cubans speak of him as 'Fidel' -- never Castro. Miami and Others are the ones who call him 'Castro'.

 This boulder was brought down from the Sierra Maestra, shaped and sculpted as his official memorial.  Fidel's is so much smaller and simpler than Jose Martí's mausoleum, which is the towering focus of the eye when reaching the Cemetario. This is deliberate, denoting to history that Martí is the true father of Cuba's independence and Fidel is his apóstol ​​​.  I honestly was moved, as I always am during periods in eastern Cuba, when contemplating the Revolution.


 

This time around Santiago I saw the great art that is Jose Martí's mausoleum in Cementerio de Santa Ifigenia.  It was was my first visit to Martí's mausoleum.  The beauty of the design and execution, elegant, simple, harmonious and filled with so much historical content if one can read the symbols; an expression of monumental art that provokes genuine awe, joy (because it is so beautiful) and sorrow (for how, despite his death as a martyr to independence, the US saw to it that Cuba still was not at liberty). There is earth under his tomb (inside, at the bottom) from the United States, as he spent so much time there raising support for Cuban independence.

Cubans have so much justifiable pride in their history, and they remember it.
 
     . . . .   The Festival de Trova was being celebrated all through eastern Cuba, the birthplace of this great singer - songwriter balladeer form of music, which is part of the fairy tale of what, if anything, besides Fidel, everyone knows of Cuba, which is The Buena Vista Social Club.. At the same time we visited the cemetery, there were tours visiting the graves of the Buena Vista singers buried there. 
 

 
Compay Segundo's tomb. 
 
At one point as we ambled under our sun block, hats, long sleeves, shawls, and umbellas, to the great delight of strangers and Travelers alike, Ned broke into one of the famous songs -- the title of which I cannot ever recall, though it's one of the few songs to which I know the lyrics. 
 
The sun, o the sun was brutal.

 

Monument to Antonio Maceo in the Plaza de la Revolución of Santiago de Cuba; by the time we got to this brilliant monumental art, I was O-U-T, and thus couldn't take my own photo this visit (I've been there previously though and have an entire album of photos of this impressive work).  The sun was at brutal mid-day.  It's really difficult to show the vast scale of this monument.

  Those spikes are memorials to the machetes wielded by the Afro-Cuban mambises in the wars against Spain, 1868 - 1878 (the end of the US War of Southern Rebellion and Emancipation also ended the African Slave Trade to Cuba) and the War of Independence 1895 - 1898 (which was highjacked by the US government on behalf of US corporations).


  I think . . . this was just about the last thing of Santiago we saw before driving back to Holguín's classic soviet era hotel Pernik from where the next morning we'd go to the airport.  I wasn't feeling well, so had neither slept nor had any caffeine, so don't remember clearly.  The Pernik is in the process of being renovated, one section at a time.  I liked that hotel, and I slept really hard on that giant bed my last night and breakfasted beautifully in the restaurant the next morning, where several tables around mine hosted Midwestern and Southern US biz folks with their wives.

     


. . . . The Fiesta del Fuego is the event to which the Ministry of Culture of Cuba invited us to participate, including a presentation of The American Slave Coast.

 

The most complete history of this event in English can be read on this site advertising tours to USians to visit.  As can be seen, this isn't just "theoretical" and academic, but involves an enormous variety of music, art, theater and other kinds of cultural expressions, as well as fun in the streets, drinking, eating and dancing con el pueblo. Scroll down to History - Fiesta del Fuego.

 

Every July, the heat of Santiago de Cuba is tripled...added to the high temperatures normally felt in the eastern Greater Antilles is 1. the warm hospitality of the people of Santiago and 2. the Fiesta del Fuego.
The 'Feast of Fire', or 'the Caribbean Festival' is one of the most important cultural events for the Ministry of Culture of Cuba - organised by the 'Casa de Caribe'. It includes the participation of over 200 thousand artists and intellectuals from approximately 18 countries and a similar number of national participants, who meet between 3 and 9 July in forty spaces around the city of Santiago de Cuba, some 140 individual music and/or dance performances, magic/religious ceremonies, art exhibitions and theoretical activities to exchange anything having to do with history, religion and culture of the area. And that's one aspect that most distinguishes the Caribbean Festival from the rest of the international events held in Cuba! It is the merging of cultures together with the abundance of opportunities for academic discourse - all with folk art, tradition and expressions of identity of indigenous Caribbean peoples at the roots. Naturally attracting people from as far away as Australia, Hungary, Holland and Israel.
Since its founding in April 1981 this popular carnival has managed to honour the most authentic and spiritual roots of all Caribbean countries and fills the streets of Santiago de Cuba with a tantalizing mix of mysticism, music and wisdom. And apart from the popular street activities, other theoretical events as well such as: workshops on poetry, orality, theater, dance, religion and film series, concerts and theatrical scenery take place during the fesitval.

 

As a rule, each year the Caribbean Festival has paid tribute to a country or group of countries. Over the years heartfelt homage has been paid to Haiti, Guyana, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, Honduras, Africa, the francophone and anglophone Caribbean, Colombia, Panama, Netherlands Antilles, Aruba and Suriname.
But if there exists in the Caribbean Festival any expectations, especially at the grassroots level, they are without doubt the Fire Parade, which begins with a ritual salute Nzambi Congo, supreme entity among practitioners of Palo Monte religion, delivery Mpaka of the emblem of the Feast of Fire and the Burning of the Devil, a raging storm of drums one of the most central avenues of the city as a farewell to groups and participants of the current Festival.
Then, by the sea the huge effigy of the devil is set alight and the burning paves the way for the next Festival meeting in 12 months time.

So, as can be seen from this site, anyone can go and see all the activities.*

 

-------------------------------

 

*  How this tour company can charge such low prices -- really, $1150 for 20 days?  Where are they staying and eating?  Cuba is very pricey for even minimal comfort.  Of course el V's charges include payments to all the groups and artists that perform for his Postmamboists, for 11 days.  These aren't public performances to which tickets are bought.  They are private performances, up close and personal, interactive with Q&A's etc.

 

Other tours targeting Cuba charge a lot more than the above organization, such as this one, which requests a $1300 deposit.   Here's another one.

 

Sunday, March 26th, 2017 10:56 am


Seeds:

* As previously mentioned, the black woman in this illustration is the only black person of whom I am aware ever depicted in a space colony-related drawing.

* Handing authors a drawing to write a story around is an established thing in SF.

Thus, an anthology with different takes on that one black person in an otherwise entirely white space community.
Sunday, March 26th, 2017 12:30 pm
Happy birthday, [personal profile] robling_t!
Saturday, March 25th, 2017 11:36 am
"Extracurricular Activities" by Yoon Ha Lee A fun twisty story with spies and secret missions. It's set in the same world as Ninefox Gambit, but stands alone. I just love how the author sketches characters and societies with a few key details.

"And In Our Daughters, We Find a Voice" by Cassandra Khaw creepy dark little mermaid re-telling (content note: a human character with ambiguous gender traits is referred to as "it")
Saturday, March 25th, 2017 02:17 pm
     . . . . . Hey there! Maybe . . . you were fortunate missing this expedition, for an expedition is more accurate a description than 'vacation' for the exertion, lack of sleep, constant moving and the misery of spending so many hours in the bus's bad seats and the worse chairs. None of we women avoided the dreaded edema of ankles and calves, and some of the men suffered it too. I'm guessing only one person managed not to get sick in some way or other during this expedition, though  only for a day -- she is tiny, and an old Cuba hand, which may have something to do with it. 

 

In Baracoa, oldest ville in Cuba and first capital, located in Guantánamo province, we stayed in Casas Particulars, as the single hotels still isn't open for business since Hurricane Matthew tore off the roof.  Baracoa is my favorite place in Cuba. If I lived in Cuba, this is where I want to live. Baracoa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Most likely the constant movement and lack of sleep did it. The food was of high quality ingredients and well prepared. Still, I quit eating about the last four days because of gippy tum.  I wasn't really sick, just felt awful. Still do, generally. 

 

I got bitten by something the first or second night in. Due to having to move so fast and the dimness of the light in the hotel rooms (hotels very nice!), I didn't notice the big bruise on my neck until my fingers encountered a series of large bumps radiating from my throat and around to the spinal bump below the skull.  I got scared, thinking of eggs laid, etc. But it was a rash (which in Cuban Spanish comes out as 'herpes' thereby scaring me even more) I was told by the clinician I was taken to see, irritated by sweat and my long dangling earrings. Soap and water. I used mouthwash as a disinfectant too, washing it frequently with a cotton swab, since sweat was unavoidable. I put cortisone on it too, though first neosporan. 

 

Our Lady of Assumption Church in Baracoa.  It houses what remains of the Sacred Cross of Parra. planted by Christopher Columbus in 1492 -- but it is made of native Cuban wood, thus not from Europe.  This bit of material history honestly gave me shivers when I viewed it.

 

 

This is what remains of a much larger cross.  Over the centuries pieces were taken as holy and material history relics. Now what is left remains on public display but behind a glass enclosure.

 

My own ankles swelled long before we ever got of the Holguín airport and to the hotel -- recall we arose at 3 AM and then didn't get to the hotel until around 4 PM. This was followed almost immediately by dinner -- with scheduled music at the lovely restaurant, not a group assigned by the state -- and then to another music event -- with those terrible seats. The circulation is cut off for the entire time. This may be where I got bitten, since the tables were on a (beautiful) patio. 

 

By the time we did the reverse trek and B and I got back to Thompson Street -- I've never been so depleted in my life. Not only physically, but mentally. There was never any time to process what we were seeing and hearing. B commented to me on the way home that maybe this time "even el Vaqueor gets it, that he was over-programmed." I was too worn out, hurting and sick to sleep the night we got back. So up at 6 AM -- another night of less than 5 hours of sleep. But by 6:30 PM Wednesday I was O-U-T.  Slowly my bedtime has been inching a little later, every night now.  I may make it to 10 PM tonight! 

 

However, again, this was a most splendid and intrepid group of Travelers. They took everything in stride and they loved the music. Their only criticism, if they had any, was, they'd have liked some time off and not such a rigorous and relentless schedule. They were wonderful and they are what made the trip work all the way down the line. I just loved them all and enjoyed getting to know them so much. One has tended to forget that our nation is filled with kind, intelligent, decent, generous people who are also fun to hang out with. Just this alone was good for us all. 

 

Nevertheless, I was still astounded at how quickly "the bus" bonded with each other, our guides and the driver -- who all were so splendid, and so different from those we had on the January 2016 tour. 

 

B also mentioned during the trek back home that the inability to spend much if any time online with the devices also incited people to interact with each other, the landscapes and experiences much more than if there was constant internet service. I'm not sure that would have been the case with this bunch -- they were such passionate music lovers, and only two of them were professionals, again, unlike the January 2015 expedition. 

 

That by-and-large they weren't professional music people made them more fun, at least for me. They all had specialties and professions, and whatever was needed at a moment, one of us could provide. This is also hard for more than just me on the bus, to spend every waking moment with other people, but we all managed that splendidly too, and that has to do with who these people are. 

 

The eastern part of Cuba has been having a terrible drought. Santiago had seen no rain for year. I arrived, however -- and the rains began! Just as on my trip in January 2016, it rained and rained, almost all the time. While on Ned's other two trips with Travelers, during which I stayed home, there was not a drop of rain. So Santiago owes me . . . and it is indeed, by its lights, repaying -- see further down . . . 

 

How quickly the trees, flowers, crops and other botanicals, the whole countryside, responded to even a little rain. The dried out trees began perking immediately, so much so that it was visible at least to me, who recalls what this part of the world usually looks like. By the time we left, the sides of the mountains that were brown as we flew from Ft. Lauderdale into the airport of Holguín, were turning green. Maybe I could hire myself out to drought-ravaged places? But wait! What about my own city and state? 

 

The eastern province, Oriente, has changed enormously. It's still the poorest part of of Cuba, and Guantánamo the poorest of the poor parts. I have been there before though, and to my eyes, it too looked enormously perked up, materially. Additionally, there were things I wanted to buy as gifts, which I've never had the least interest in doing in Havana, and in Holguín particularly, the center of the diversified agricultural region, the airport tiendas were a thousand thousand times nicer -- the departure lounge in every way was nicer -- than Havana's Jose Martí's. Good place to get duty-free. The things I bought outside of the airport are still in Ned's suitcase, as I swapped such things out in exchange for taking all his dirty laundry home -- mountains and mountains of dirty laundry from both of us -- an expedition in a hot, sweaty and rainy-to-monsooning period will do that. 

 

I was so happy finding things for gifts even more, maybe, than my other favorite totally personal bit -- when a brilliant woman from Alabama, who was raised a good deal in San Antonio, and now, among other things runs white water rafting expeditions down the Grand Canyon for challenged people who would otherwise never be able to have such an experience -- blind people, people who can't walk, autistic -- and imagine what kind of organization and back-up there is for this! -- well, Martha and I broke protocol and went and peed in the monte instead of standing in line for the baño, standing guard for each other. We felt like such outlaws. 🚽 Then A bought us beers, applauding our pluck, beers since we'd peed we now dared drink before getting back on the bus -- and the beers were -- Heineken, not the national Bucanero or Crystal. 🍺 

 

El V left us early on Tuesday, the day the rest of us flew back to the US. He's still in Havana; yesterday he had lunch with Pablo Milanés -- a very big deal. 

 

Wednesday, el V and CD were summoned to a meeting with the two women who run the Casas de Cultura of Cuba, and Culture policies and activities in general. These officials are 1000% behind what he and CD are doing with these Postmamboist Music seminars and want more -- he called me from habana vieja's casa de los abanicos where he was replacing my worked-to-death fan. They were laughing, and I would even describe Cd as giddy -- something one doesn't see often. Again as Ben observed on our flights back to NYC we didn't get to see her brilliant, beautiful smile and laugh much this round -- she was far too busy (she's also organizing Cuba Disco, the annual Cuban international music festival in Havana, which is coming right up) and anxious that everything go right -- working working, working, every minute.

 

I had told them both I was never going back to Cuba -- it's just too physically hard, but from casa de los abanicos Ned chortled, "O yes you are!" Both el V and I are officially invited to a cultural and history conference in Santiago early in July. The conference is going to pay for our airfare and hotel !!!!!!! -- Cuba!!!!! paying for somebody!!!!! -- to do a presentation of Slave Coast. 

 

Well, it will be good preparation for what we will have do for the Vera Cruz performance in October -- in Spanish. And if I didn't go, it would be a dis to those who invited us, and that wouldn't be good for el V. I can't do that. Also, I . . . don't . . . think . . . I have to ride a bus for hundreds of miles . . . . and never get any sleep. 

 

The breadth of music and culture the Travelers experienced -- is not to be compared with anything others get out of going to Cuba, at least in a group. And much of what the Travelers experienced could not be set up for an individual. Without el V and CD, this can't happen. No one can copy his tours. Nobody else knows all the ground, the people and have the connections and experience -- and the trust of everyone involved.

 

It was so good to be away from everything here. 

 

We all felt that way. While in Cuba no one was impatient to connect when connection was possible. People checked in on their kids and so on when opportunity arrived (kids basically adults, of course, not little kids or infants), but otherwise didn't bother.  Had no interest in the news outside of learning that back home it was snow and deep freeze, while where we were was beautiful and warm.

 

We regained equilibrium, perspective, sanity and dignity, despite the grueling aspects of the expedition.

 

Nor could it have happened without such a prepared and passionately involved group of people. I miss them.

 

El V gets back on Tuesday -- direct flight, no 3 hour layover, only a single security and customs line instead of two, and he's had a week of being able to sleep and not travel, so he'll be rarin' to go.

 

In the meantime I'm curious about what el V's been up to in Havana.  They -- he and CD -- apparently are doing a smaller group thing for the Rumba Festival in October.  He cannot let this one pass him by as CD got Rumba categorized as a UNESCO world heritage patrimony this year, and she got to rumba via el V.  This will be casas particulars not a hotel -- the rooms are exhorbitant in the hotels -- but also a bus for transport. This would be self-selected set of rumba heads, so it may well work.

 

That Wednesday meeting with the Directors de Casas de Cultura and Patrimony -- whatever it / they are called -- I can't keep these agencies and the people who run them straight -- seems to be directed toward more actitivies.  Other potential Cuba projects are being thrown at him as well. Who knows?  But unless things go entirely off track in the USA -- always possible -- more Cuba in the future, it looks like.  Nothing could make el V happier.