In the tree outside my bedroom window
Overlooking the preserve, not ten feet from me
A dozen black vultures
Jerk and twitch their veiny black necks
As they hop, fight and squawk
Over the body of an opossum
With a black tire mark
Over it’s spine and back legs.
I’m not sure if it’s their beaks pulling at furred flesh
Or a dying breath that had it the words I’m sure
It would wish for,
But its mouth seems to twitch at each touch
Of beak on body.
As I watch them caw and compete for the corpse
Another vulture alights on the outskirts
To see if it too can get in on the action and then
A green gator of maybe seven or eight feet
That must have been sitting,
Watching far longer than I,
Or maybe that just moved so slow
That not a one of the murder of carrion crows noticed it
Leaps from the brackish water
To the side of the embankment with jaws open.
I’m not sure if it mistook their numbers for its safety
Or was simply to hungry to care,
And was thus reckless,
But as the bird is pulled into the water by the neck and wing
It seems jut to accept what is, it doesn’t even scream.
Death stands just outside my window,
In intention and in accident,
With resistance and acceptance –
And as a cloud passes that dims the grim scene
For a moment I see my mirrored reflection in the glass
That reminds me that I too am locked in such a struggle to survive
For I too am matter and energy existing across space and time.
I’m not yet sure what that means to me
Nor that absolute certainty
Is a beneficial currency with which to trade
In the time left until I fill a grave
But looking at this scene I perceive I too am Death,
Speeding down the highway and waiting at the water’s edge
In my own way.
When it comes to understanding the physical formation of greater Miami A World More Concrete by N. D. B. Connolly was incredibly insightful. The Magic City, so called because of its transformation from frontier town to urban region was by far the fastest of its time. Marketers of the Magic City sought to advertise it, justifiably so, as a Caribbean city for elites to leisure upon. However at variance from the other islands within the temperate climate band – such as Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba – it didn’t have the preponderance of poor blacks that this class found unsettling. Not that they weren’t present, just that they were visible only as help. White terrorism, apartheid passes and Jim Crow police enforcement kept blacks from coming onto the beaches so favored by economic elites. Contestation of such treatment was limited by this as well as conflict between Caribbean and American-born blacks while cultural expressions of resistance to this – as well as the colonial and slave history, such as the Junkanoo parades in the area that would come to be known as Overtown – were geographically distanced far from major tourist areas.
Connolly examines the economics of segregation and the various forms of legal frameworks used to perpetuate racial segregation. Constitutional language – specifically property rights – was the primary means of perpetuating and expanding Jim Crow and New South government policies. While real estate was also a means of creating a Civil Rights political discourse, for taxpayers ought to have the same access to goods (like beaches) and services (like schools), it was not an inherently progressive framework.
Describing in fascinating detail the rhetorical tropes used to perpetuate Jim Crow, Connolly rejects the simplistic narrative that pits the black struggle for civil rights against a white defense of property rights. He limns why and the manner in which class caused propertied and property managing African Americans to embrace the logic and laws of real estate for their own ends. Connolly’s interpretation specifies the creation of class alliances between ruthless white exploitation and the black middle-class. To varying degrees, entrepreneurs, landlords, elected officials, and self-styled urban reformers all participated in eminent domain and land control schemes through mechanisms such as housing associations that helped to take advantage of the black poor. To what extent were poor blacks ruthlessly exploited? As an investment, from the 1930s to the early 1960s, black housing was the most profitable real estate investment that one could make. While rental housing for white Americans would fetch an average rate of return around 6%, for blacks it was an astonishing 27%! Blacks would often pay per week what whites paid per month for rent and it would be significantly lacking the amenities and quality of construction of the types of homes that whites lived in.
Landlords preyed on the fact that blacks had limited capital available to defend their cases in a court system that had not yet taken much account of renters rights, that tenant organizing could be meet with counter-resistance from better financed, organized and politically connected landlords, that a politics of respectability and conference decision making with community leaders determined policy rather than recourse to democratic procedures and that all class conflict would be framed as racial and thus would perpetuate racial sentiments. Landlords as a category was not limited to native-born whites. Blacks, Cubans, Seminoles, Haitians, and other Caribbean groups all invested in segregation to the point at which home ownership within communities vacillated from 10% to 20%. Whites were clearly the predominant holders of capital investment in real estate, while “credit’s to their race” that engaged in similar investments like M. Athalie Range and Luther Brooks gave a gloss of legitimacy to it.
Historiography on urban racial segregation must be embedded within the larger framework of the history of capitalism. Connolly’s close analysis of primary sources allows the reader to expand their understanding of the close and mutually constitutive relationships among liberalism, capitalism, and racism by placing real estate at the center of all. Conflicts over the value of land shaped Miami, indeed all American cities, in ways that social movements, local policy reforms, and legal arguments could not undo. There is almost a perverse creativity to the opportunistic alliances and deceptive actions that informed the geospatial and georacial composition of modern Miami. Eminent domain could be used to dispossess poor blacks of real estate at a lower than market price desired by whites, to force the government to purchase real estate for a higher than market price for housing no longer seen as a desirable investment and to condemn housing that was seen by white homeowners as existing too close to their neighborhoods.
Connolly’s focus on the enduring power of the racist social order and property rights at the heart of Jim Crow sheds new light on the limits a civil rights movement could have when predicated on property-rights. Unfulfilled economic promises and public-private chicanery was not the outliers but the norm. Capitalism and the profit motive thus not only underwrote urban governance and preserved Jim Crow, but also put real estate at the center of Miami’s race relations. The neighborhood case studies of Overtown, Liberty City, Good Bread Alley, Allapatah, Nazarene, Liberty Square, Railroad Shop, and Para Village show how local entrepreneurs were able to exploit the racism underlying the practices of the Federal Housing Authority, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, the Home Owners Loan Corporation and the Federal National Mortgage Association for self-enrichment.
While the first part of Don Quixote was certainly amusing in it’s satire of chivalrous literature, the second part of Cervantes novel fins the comedic duo of the eponymous character and Sancho Panza in a number of more humorous situations. In addition to the normal pickles they find themselves in, there is an added level of awareness in the characters as to their construction as literary personas. This is brought about as in both in real life and in the world of the book there was publication of a “Don Quixote: Part 2”. This is a cause for anxiety on the part of the aged and delusional itinerant knight as well as his squire. A number of times they must combat others false perceptions of them while at the same time combating the apparitions and illusions sent by the “sorcerers”.
Additionally I found a number of other aspects to be superior. For one, while in the first one there is recurrent reference to a number of slapstick events in the patter between master and servant – such as when Sancho was thrown in the air on a sheet after being beaten and when they were both beaten by the men along the river protecting their horse from Rocinante – in the second there is less of this. It wasn’t unfitting for these to be constantly brought up by Panza in their adventures, he was after all trying to maintain some control over his master. They were, less repetition of the past in the one. While there is recurrent emphasis on the fact that Quixote’s Dulcinea has been “transformed,” it does not reach the same level of redundancy. Additionally, I found a number of the adventures that transpire to be more amusing.
The armed combat with the Knight of Mirrors is, when fully revealed, quite absurd and the length to which a Duke and his wife proffering hospitality go in order to amuse themselves on Quixote’s behalf is quite engaging. I found the section wherein Sancho is the governor to be exceptionally worthwhile – for after his character had been established as the near-incarnation of folk knowledge seeming him succeed so well in his role despite the undermining of those around him was positively edifying. Not merely because of Quixote’s written imprecations to Panza, but also the way that he acts unto his own. Also, the sub-plot gave much needed fulfillment to the curiosity I’ve had as to whether or not Panza would achieve the goal he’d set for himself at the beginning of the adventure.
The story of Camacho’s Wedding was indicative of a thread of criticism towards the nobility that I noticed more in this book than in the other. In the case of this tale a poor man fools a rich man into paying for his wedding. In the Adventure of the Distressed Duenna the nobility exclaims that squires and servants are natural enemies of their masters as they see them in all of their human frailty, they “haunt the antechambers and keep an eye on us every minute when we’re not saying prayers, which is often enough, they spend their time whispering about us, digging up our bone, and burying our reputations.” Also, in part 2 Sanco Panza is here much more aware of his master’s madness and while often willing to play along is much less likely to unquestioningly follow him.
Cervantes closes his book stating that his intention with writing it was as follows: “I have had no other purpose than to arouse with abhorrence of mankind toward those false and nonsensical stories to be me with in the books of chivalry.” As to whether tales of this type are no longer told is debatable. It seems to me that a number of fantastic exploits showcasing the valor and temerity of a hero continue to be made and successfully reproduced, however not necessarily in the same form. The superhero genre seems to be a variation of this, which is worth pointing out as I feel that the recent film Bird-Man seems almost as if it is a satire of this particular genre in the same way Quixote was of chivalric books.
Rather than merely replicate these narratives, however, I wanted to inverse a number of the tropes that are found in these gangster films/reality to depict a gang that is crypto-socialist, truly consensual work relations rather than that which is strictly primitive-capitalist and based on force.
Now presuming that you’re familiar with the above listed movies, so I don’t have to cite each, here are some of those narrative tropes that I mentioned/inverted.
1. The leader of a group got due to his ruthless violence or a chance encounter with a plug rather than his intellect.
2. The leader of the group stays in power based upon loyalty out of fear and not of love (unless relations are also familial).
3. The capture of power foreshadows similar machinations on the part of someone else within the organization that similarly wants to take over.
4. Wealth created from the criminal venture predominantly accumulates in the hands of those at the top.
5. This wealth created goes primarily towards the administrator’s consumption, which leads to organizational degeneration in some fashion.
6. Money spent is primarily upon luxury goods that are flaunted.
7. This leads to general envy/viewing the criminal enterprise as the best provider for income and entices those willing to do whatever to get it, but this makes community relations poor.
Making an analogy to larger institutions of political economy, as I would like my readers to so, I can say in short hand that the typically depicted criminal association is more akin to an absolute monarchy.
This passage shows Happy’s organization is significantly different and touches upon a number of the problems that will be delved into later in the chapter. Specifically what is the Project; the impact that the investigation into Officer Daniels illegal dealings; who the other person is that Happy is getting information from in the police department; their relationship to the Zoe Pounds; the possibility that some conflict might transpire should a power vacuum be created from several Zoe Pounds members finding themselves arraigned; who are these important people in Atlanta that requires Happy to have to meet them in person, etc.
I’ve still got a lot to write about for this chapter to near completion – but I hope this explanation of a portion of my project and the small section of the chapter convinces you that my serial novel project is worth getting into and you buy Book 1 of Unraveling!
I wasn’t feeling too well and a science fiction aficionado acquaintance of mine posted praise for a new SyFy show called The Expanse. I decided to give it a try and after watching the first episode I found myself thoroughly absorbed due to it’s compelling characters, intricate plot and high production values. I binged it over the next two days without regrets and look forward to subsequent seasons.
While watching it, I noticed a number of things that weren’t necessarily evident to the average viewer so wanted to share the information informing my enjoyment of it. Spoiler alert to those that have yet to see the show – in order to share my perspective, I have to speak in some detail about a number of points.
The ship Tachi has its name changed to Rocinante
It was upon viewing this name change that a number of previous events in the show took on a new meaning. Tachi is the name of the Mars Class ship that allows James Holden, Naomi Nagata and others to escape attack by an as of yet unknown enemy. Following escape from the battle, the ship is piloted to Tycho Station, an area controlled by Fred Johnson and the Outer Planet Alliance.
Now Rocinante is the name of the not so mighty nag of Don Quixote de la Mancha. Besides the fact that both Rocinantes transport people from adventure to adventure, there’s not much similarity beyond the name. It does, however, hint at a number of interesting signifiers that relates Iberian History and Literature which I touch on below.
Don Quixote is plagued by Enchanters, James Holden is plagued by an unknown Forces
In the first episode we see James Holden, the Executive Officer of The Canterbury, and a small crew launch off their main ship on a small craft to investigate a distress signal. Shortly after discovering that the signal was likely designed to get their main ship to stop its path – a cloaked ship destroys the Canterbury.
A number of Don Quixote’s adventures consist of him misinterpreting circumstances around him for situations that require him to intervene. These interventions, however, don’t actually assist those that he imagines in need of help and result in him getting hurt.
Now, I don’t believe that Holden is a variant or new incarnation of Quixote. From what we know of his character he’s not obsessed with knight-errantry or some other sort of fiction. However, following the death of his crewmates on the Canterbury which he blames himself for, he does seem to gain greater moral agency by uncovering and revealing the REAL truth about the Canterbury – which he is not yet aware of.
The viral spread of Holden’s video denouncing the Martians mirrors the publication of Don Quixote part II in Don Quixote Part II
In book two of Don Quixote, the eponymous character learns that the tales of his adventures have been published and he meets many people that are aware of who he is. Quixote does not mind this, but he does take qualm upon learning that a sequel, published by Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda, is also available for purchase at booksellers stalls and that it contains many falsehoods. Don Quixote criticizes this False Quixote and even adjusts some of his behaviors so as to not be mistaken for the fake one.
Holden’s transmits a video denouncing the Martians for their purported blowing up of the Canterbury. This video makes him known far and wide. Upon encountering Martian consumers of the material, however, this fame is turned into infamy. He later realizes that they are not the one responsible and thus tries to correct the false image of him that exists in people’s minds.
Episode 7, titled Windmills, features a copy of Cervantes’ Quixote that is the brief subject of conversation between Holden’s mother and Avasarala
That’s mostly it in the headline. The only additional comment worth making is how it is that here we learn that Holden doesn’t, according to his mother, recognize Don Quixote as a tragedy. While I’d argue that Don Quixote isn’t tragedy – though it does has elements of it – it’s interesting that this comment is made to provide insight into Holden’s character.
The Geographic relationship between the Outer Belt and the Core Planets mirrors that of Spain and the Colonies
Placing the two maps side by side ought to suffice to illustrate this point.
However I think that it’s worth reinforcing this point through the below one.
The Economic relationship between the Outer Belt and the Core Planets mirrors that of Spain and it’s Colonies
The Outer Planets exist in a relationship to Earth of complete economic dependence. Air and the technologies needed to survive are scarce. Belters lives on the physical and technical periphery of interplanetary trade. It is a large part of the reason that they have organized themselves into economic/political alliance. Why? Because resource extraction seems to be the primary economic activity and thus they are for the most part the suzerain partner to the much larger state. The Belt clearly demonstrates the qualities of a periphery as described in a historical context in Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s Dependency and Development in Latin America and Immanuel Wallerstein’s Modern World Systems series.
While there are numerous allusions to this dynamic within the conversations of the characters I could quote, I found the graphic depiction of this relationship as illustrated following the capture of an OPA smuggler by United Nations forces to be particularly compelling.Chrisjen Avasarala, a powerful UN executive, submits the smuggler to gravity torture. His body is so distorted that literally can’t even stand up on his own – thus drastically limiting the possibilities for occupational development elsewhere. This is the curse of many a export economy, which is unable to develop a middle class due to underdevelopment.
The OPA Symbol is the IWA Symbol
The International Workers Association, also called the First Internationale, was an umbrella group for Anarchist and Socialist groups organizing in Europe founded in 1864. It was internationalist in orientation, but split into two main factions that disagreed whether or not to engage in parliamentary struggle or not. The faction supporting Mikhail Bakunin – the wing that rejected such struggles and which would later advocate for propaganda by the deed in the form of bombings and assassinations found it’s most numerous and vibrant following in Spain.
I don’t mean by the above to put forward an argument that claims that Iberian History and Culture are as influential to The Expanse as Game of Thrones is to the War of the Roses – as shown below – but merely to shows some interesting overlaps that I noticed with an area of my study.
I decided to pick up How to Leave Hialeah by Jennine Capó Crucet after reading her being interviewed in New Times. Since I’ve been on a run of reading contemporary authors from Florida and since she attended the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop it seemed a no-brainer. How to Leave Hialeah is a collection of thirteen short stories all set in the greater Miami Metro area that all focus on different aspects of the Cuban-American perspective.
My favorite of the collection was And in the Morning, Work. In this story a Cuban young woman, Marielena, who still lives in Cuba, has recently graduated college. She is trained to be a librarian but is unable to obtain employment in a Havana library after graduation, so she ends up taking a position as a reader for a group of cigar rollers in Pinar del Rio. When exactly this is taken place is not mentioned, however what is clear is that it during a period of economic stagnation. The plot then develops by illustrating the tension stemming from the age and class divide between this young would be city librarian and the cigar rollers. This is shown via her quest to find appropriately compelling reading material and in the attention she is given by one of the older men there. She not only has a limited selection from which to choose, but she must also find something that is not something that they’ve heard many times before. In this she foregoes Martí and other authors that she must read from a Spanish tabloid. This exasperates her itself, and when an old man starts to walk and talk with her on the way home about books, she seems to get even more upset.
This conflict over taste is, to me, indicative of something that’s really interesting. How so? Well, many of the books that Marielena possesses are from relatives who have had them shipped over from the States. As they are “the classics” they were allowed to be delivered. She prefers these works, however the cigar workers do not. The perceived divide by Marielena between her, the intellectual, and those that are assembling cigars is clear. This conflict over taste and the deeper implications that it could have on historical and class consciousness in changing times, however, is glosses over and instead Crucet focuses on relative deprivation and the young girl’s concern that the viejito is attempting to be romantic with her. Given the culture of machismo it’s not unlikely that a man older than her father would come on to her, however it’s also clear that he’s simply trying to be welcoming and help lower her high expectations of what work would be like after college.
The perception of flirtation by Marielena soon vanishes as she comes to realize that he is merely expressing solidarity with her. In the close of the story the old man visits Marielena. A chicken that she was hiding from the Committee in the Defense of the Revolution inadvertently escapes from her room. Noticing that there are neighbors who see this, the viejo states that she should just let it go and they should both walk away not looking at it so that someone doesn’t question them.
Now I find this story interesting for a few reasons. For one the lack of specific time markers as to when this is occurring. Before or after Marielitos? The collapse of the USSR? The only thing that we really know is that this is after “the first years of the revolution”. This seems to me to indicate that the author is not actually that familiar with Cuban history and, like many gusanos, simply views Cuba as some cite of unchanging, ahistorical “injustice against people’s dignity because of a despot” transpires.
The second thing that I find interesting is her choice of cigar assembly facility, arguably Cuba’s most widely known export product, as the site for this sort of ideological conflict. I say this because I believe it was in David Montgomery’s The Fall of the House of Labor that I first learned about the conditions of cigar workers. There I read a quote from Samuel Gomper’s about how his early life working as a cigar roller helped him come to a trade-unionist perspective. Starting at age ten he worked in such a shop and people took turns reading from books and engaging in debates on news of the day. In this regard, by making the workers only able to recite selections of poetry that’s state-sponsored and thus “must be known and liked” and liking tabloid news and Che’s Motorcycle Diaries it seems to me that Crucet is likely misrepresenting what it is like there for the purpose of showing that these people repress the knowledge of their own oppression. While I think that this is her most powerful piece in the collection – it does suffer from these rather glaring omissions. As propaganda I think it’s successful – however as an accurate reflection of Cuban reality I question it’s felicity.
For the rest of the stories I feel like I had to really push myself to get through reading them all. I just didn’t find them all that compelling and the writing style was, to me, often times over-wrought for little payoff. The second criticism is self-explanatory so let me cover the former. While I’m sure that these anecdotes provided mid-west writing teachers and aspiring authors at the workshop lots of fodder to talk about multiculturalism, inclusivity, liberal values and whatnot, I grew up in South Florida and so what others see as “exotic” are often things that I’ve grown up with and don’t find that engaging unto itself as most of the stories seem to present themselves. I’ve lived most of my life in the orbit of the types that populate Crucet’s stories. Most of my long-term female companions have been Latinas – Cuban, Honduran, Colombian, Ecuadorian y Boriqua – so the issues and idiosyncrasies of protagonists, their friends and families didn’t catch me as unusual. For instance the closing line of the first story in the collection, Resurrection, is as follows: “And you, you keep watching her, hardly believing that people like this exist.” You read that after reading about a wild and somewhat weird party girl. My reaction was not, however, disbelief but to nod my head and think to myself Yes I do believe she exists as I have known party girls significantly wilder and weirder than her. The concerns over tradition and class shown in Noche Buena were, to me, more of a reminder of frustrating family drama than insightful narrative and perspective Cuban values and customs. Perhaps someone unfamiliar with Miami might find these sorts of tales to be engaging – I however did not and in the end I can’t see myself suggesting that anyone read this collection.
You can find out more about Jennine Capó Crucet by visiting her website or her Twitter.
My DP1 – History of the America’s students are now reading Reconstruction by Eric Foner and one of them pointed out the above tweet to me by Kanye West. What’s the connection between the two? Well, let me juxtapose it with this quote by Thaddeus Stevens, bold section added by me:
We especially insist that the property of the chief rebels should be seized and [used for] the payment of the national debt, caused by the unjust and wicked war they instigated…
The whole fabric of southern society must be changed and never can it be done if this opportunity is lost. Without this, this government can never be, as it has never been, a true republic…
Nothing is so likely to make a man a good citizen as to make him a freeholder [landowner]. Nothing will so multiply the production of the South as to divide it into small farms. Nothing will make men so industrious and moral as to let them feel that they are above want and are the owners of the soil which they till… No people will ever be republican in spirit and practice where a few own immense manors and the masses are landless. Small and independent landholders are the support and guardians of republican liberty.
To give the above quote by Stevens context. It’s also worth noting that in class we’ve been discussing different conceptions of law – whether it be the preservation of private property or that of justice (however so conceived) and how political expediency plays a major role in the determination of which is used.
Given the discourse that #blacklivesmatters and public intellectuals like Ta-Nehisi Coates have brought up surrounding reparations and the context of the Thaddeus Stevens quote, I thought the connection between the two though rather apt. How so? Well, freed slaves unable to get access to good or significant amounts of land because private property – even if garnered by hook and crook – is considered inviolable means that while they may be legally free (though the Black Codes of the time made this not so) they still exist at the economic whim of their masters and are thus only slightly raised in stature. Having been dispossessed and exploited without recompense, this group was unable to accumulate the capital for communal development in a similar manner to way that yeoman, plantation, merchant and financier cultures were. Worth mentioning is that this population was also at the mercy of myriad actions subsequent to this particular epoch that had a similar thrust. Kanye here seems to be pointing out that the economic liberty and freedom as propagandized today via capitalism or yesteryear via the Free Labor ideology, is something murkier than such ideologues would suggest. Freedom requires a greater degree of an even economic playing field lest aspirations of Republican liberty turn into the reality of plutocratic tyranny .
From this perspective the above Kanye quote is spot on and furthermore the Tidal music streaming service that ‘Ye is a founding investor in is not merely a selfish means for obtaining a larger share of profits for his product – though this is true – but also reflects the greater relations of labor in the music industry. Specifically the manner in which large companies like Apple, via iTunes, and Spotify, Pandora, etc. society that capitalizes on the products of black artists/entrepreneurs. The are, in a significantly different way but still comparable nonetheless, the manors of today. Towards this end the demographics of the majority composition of “founding” artists – Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Alicia Keys, Chris Brown, J. Cole – is significant. Are there some white artists that have joined, yes, but the underlying truth remains the same – music producers are incredibly dependent on the owners of content/distribution and will not get a “fair share” unless they have greater access and strength in the market.
An even deeper reading could suggest that those which have manipulated government policy by forcing them into a formal of capitalist exchange that they are severely disadvantaged in for their personal financial well being are deserving of expropriation. I’m not suggesting that Kanye has become someone who advocates for massive redistribution of wealth, but considering the level of Roaring Twenties level of income disparity in this country wherein 1.5 million households (over 3 million children) live in extreme poverty and the U.S. Debt is as of writing this 16.3 trillion dollars, one can see the argument underlying Kanye’s short tweet.
Thaddeus Stevens, “Thaddeus Stevens Calls for Redistribution of Confederate Land,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed March 2, 2016, http://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1533.
Picchi, Aimee, “The surging ranks of America’s ultrapoor,” accessed March 2, 2016,