Thursday, December 1, 2016

Neal Auction Company Cites Historia Obscura as a Reference

Historia Obscura is my site, although I am not myself a historian.  One of my star authors is Pam Keyes, who is an expert on Jean Laffite. Today I found out that Neal Auction Company cited one of Pam Keyes' articles published on Historia Obscura as a reference in one of its auction catalogues.

Page 68 of Neal Auction Catalog references Chew article
In the Neal Company catalog for an auction in New Orleans to be held this month, there is a painting by Salazar of Daniel William Coxe, a merchant under whom Beverly Chew apprenticed, according to the article by Pam Keyes cited by the auction house in their catalog

It is very gratifying to see experts in valuable historical portraits citing articles published on Historia Obscura.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Critical Reception of Theodosia and the Pirates: The Battle Against Britain

A new piece by Joe Eldred in LibertyBuzz has prompted me to examine the critical reception of the first Theodosia and the Pirates novel over the years. The LibertyBuzz review is very detailed, but it can be summed up succinctly  with these lines:

But please keep in mind that, while the novel is undoubtedly a tour-de-force of Rothbardian political theory, it does not seem like it, because the lessons are delicately embedded within the narrative.
The story remains primarily that of the internal struggles of a woman of the Early Republic.
What's really exciting about this new review is that it acknowledges the libertarian perspective of the novel, while also making note of the other elements of the plot and theme, and it shows how integrated all those thing are into a seamless whole.

Other reviews have focused on different aspects of the novel. For instance, the Eye on Life piece by Jerilee Wei focused on the speculative historical fiction aspects of the story. Is it all right to invent an extramarital romance for a person who disappeared two hundred or more years ago, leaving no trace? Or is this exploitation of the memory of a departed human being? The review compares what happened when a myth was created for George Washington out of a well-intentioned work of fiction for children:

This tendency isn't anything new.  Authors have capitalized on historical characters for generations, leading to widely accepted myths about famous people doing things that never happened in real life.  A prime example of this would be the myth of George Washington as a boy, chopping down a cherry tree.  That story first circulated as a fictional children's story.  Then, it took on a life of its own 1800, in a non-fiction biography by Mason Locke, who seized upon it as a way of making our first president as a more likeable character.  The fiction was good enough to become a myth, soon to be taught to generations of American children -- and the result was somewhere along the line everyone forgot the difference between fiction and biography.

As long as we keep fact and fiction separate, there should be no problem distinguishing the two. My book has a whole section in the back dedicated to separating the made-up parts from the history. There is also a bibliography for those who want to read non-fiction on the subject.

Leslie Fish focused mostly on the politics and class issues in the review on her blog:

Equally fascinating are the political intrigues between the freewheeling settlers of the gulf coast and the woefully inept officials of the new American republic.  The story is studded with examples of actual letters from the historical characters, giving unique insights into the volatile society of early America with its shifting relationships between the sexes, the races, and the influences of the neighboring European empires.  And of course, this being a historical Romance, there's plenty of good rampant sex. 
For some reviewers, such as the one at the Historical Novel Society in the UK, the main drawback of the book is its cover:

My main criticism is the cover which is simplistic in style, giving the initial impression of a young adult book (which this definitely is not!). 
Not really sure what is wrong with the cover, but here it is.
I love the illustration by Lanie Frick.

These should be enough different perspectives on the book to start out with before deciding whether it is for you. Of course, once you get to the Amazon page to buy it, there are several more reviews to choose from.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Looking for Libertarians in All the Wrong Places

Today I learned that Florence Henderson has died. And as they were playing The Brady Bunch theme song over and over again, it reminded me of a filk of it I wrote once.

When I was a young girl and looking for lovers... No, wait, that's the wrong filk song. That one is by Suzette Haden Elgin, who is also deceased now, just like Florence Henderson. And it's to the tune of The Ash Grove. 

When I was a young girl and searching for lovers,I found them under rocks and I found them in bars;but now that I'm older, my taste is much better,I find them at filksings behind their guitars.I find them back of banjos and mandolins and autoharps,I find them a capella and decked with kazoos!And it gives me no trouble to make my selection,for I know how they'll perform by the songs that they use.

What I meant to say was this: When I was a young girl and looking for libertarians, I didn't look for them in the Libertarian Party.  I looked for them anywhere else than in the Libertarian Party. In retrospect, that seems strange, but at the time it made perfect sense to me.

There was only one chapter of the Libertarian Party that I was aware of: the Tarrant County folk who met somewhere in Arlington, Texas. I had been to exactly one meeting, and I stayed just long enough to determine that they had the souls of accountants. They did not know that Taxation was Theft. They just wanted a "Fair Tax", and they sat and endlessly argued what percentage that tax would be. This was their only issue, as far as I could tell.

But me, I wanted to overturn everything. I wanted a revolution! And I needed fiery tempered revolutionaries -- not lily livered appeasers. So, naturally, I looked for them among the Trekkies, the Anarchists and the Neo-Conservatives and Survivalists. (In those days, there were no preppers. There were only survivalists.) And I looked for them among the filkers, because lyrics are the closest thing to poetry that could be found in the modern world.

And then I came across Blake's Seven fandom. And that's when my knowledge of Brady Bunch lore came into play.

"Here's a story of a man named Roj Blake,
"Who was plotting to overthrow the Feds,
"But was caught and charged with child molesting,
"And went to jail, instead.
"Here's a story of a bunch of outlaws
"Who had just learned that crime will never pay.
"There was not an idealist among them,
"But they were put away.
"Till the one day when this Blake guy met these outlaws,
"And it seemed like a match made in Heaven,
"And although it was not precisely how they numbered,
"They came to form Blake's Seven.
"Oh, Blake, Blake's Seven,
"For Heaven's sake,
"I mean, who's counting?
"But where the Hell is Blake?"

Today, looking at the Blake Bunch filkbook that resulted from all that, I realize most of those B7 fans were leftists -- socialists and liberals. But at the time I did not know that. I was looking for a hero to save the Republic, and I just knew I would not find him among the Libertarian Party crowd.


Monday, November 7, 2016

Compromises and their Price

Most people work at jobs that they don't really like, but find tolerable enough to sustain them. They marry individuals that they don't quite respect, but who are at least kind enough and supportive enough to get them through the day. They vote for political candidates they are deeply suspicious of, but at the same time, these are the best candidates available to vote for, from their own personal perspective.

We can't expect to change the world in one fell swoop, so we are conditioned to get along with others and work together for small improvements in our lives. Arguably, there's nothing wrong with that -- except when we turn around and see the changes wrought in the landscape of our society by all these small, seemingly innocent compromises.

I recently watched the Tim Burton movie, Big Eyes, about the artist Margaret Keane and her domineering conman of a husband, who catapulted her art into fame, before she exposed him for the fraud that he was.

In my daughter's bedroom there is a print of a  painting of a cat that looks as if it might have been painted by Margaret Keane. If it is not actually painted by her, then it must have been a conscious, intentional imitation. It looks just like her art.  I got this painting from my parents. It used to hang in their house. It is a relic from the sixties and early seventies.

When my daughter was very little, she really liked this cat painting and even identified with it deeply, thinking that if she were a cat, she would look like that. Then, later, it scared her, because of those big spooky eyes, and she took it down off the wall and hid it. Then, later still, she put it back up.

Margaret Keane's art is confusing like that. It moves us, then it scares us, and then after a while we come back to it. Or maybe we decide it is kitsch, and later still we realize that there is a history there, and no matter what base instinct within us it appeals to, it is still definitely art.

But did you know the history of the paintings? Did you know that her husband took credit for them? Or that in all probability we, the public,  would never have seen any of her paintings, if not for the false origin story he spun out of thin air, to make the emotional appeal seem to have a bigger, almost political meaning? I did not know until after I had seen the movie Big Eyes. And all this made me think of the Election of 2016, where nothing is quite as it seems. Read my LibertyBuzz article, to see how it all ties together.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

If We Stand Together, No One Can Stop Us

The real problem is that we are all so divided. Nobody dares stand up to our oppressors, because we cannot seem to agree that it would be a good thing to do. If we ever did act as one, then there would be no limit to what we could accomplish. That's why it is very important to keep talking to our neighbors, even when we belong to opposing political camps.

There is a meme going around: "I hope we can still be friends after the election, even if we are in different internment camps." And yes, there are people who see an internment camp in their future.

What would it take to fight the relentless march of government over our lives? The courage to do what you feel is right and the conviction that all your neighbors will do the same.

Excerpt from Our Lady of Kaifeng: Courtyard of the Happy Way

What would it take for all of us to act as one against the guards? Do they have to put us in a camp before that can happen?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Sometimes the Good Wins Despite Being Good -- Or Maybe Because of It

It is becoming amply clear that Donald Trump cannot win. He cannot win because his backers are supposed to uphold the moral high ground, and even though many of them are hypocrites, he hasn't given them much choice but to reject his obvious moral lapses. But there are those who support him in the evangelical camp who think that the Bible has precedents for immoral men to be God's anointed. This is all so Vacuum County!

Read Vacuum County to see how this plays out!
For those favoring a purely opportunistic voting strategy, the tables have turned. If you were voting for Trump just to beat Hillary, voting for Trump can no longer achieve that goal. Under the principle of the wasted vote, a vote for Trump is no longer anything but waste, Which means that voting for Gary Johnson just might be less wasteful, given that his backers include those who just want to block Hillary but also a large and incorruptible base that is voting Libertarian. Suddenly the pragmatic choice is not the lesser of two evils, but actually something good. Who would have guessed it?

In a similar twist of fate, the international literati have chosen a poet whose poetry actually scans, despite the fact that it scans -- or is it because of it?

Ever since WWII, people in power have been trying to undermine meaningful literature and poetry that scans.  They've done such a great job of it, that many college professors and professional poets don't know anything about meter in poetry, anymore. And even naive readers have learned to object to the poetry of Kipling as doggerel on the grounds that it is too "sing-songy". Many don't even know that the effect they deride is meter, and that it sounds song-like for very technical reasons, having to do with the interface between music and lyrics,

The powers that be are now so tired of the poetry that is not "music" that they have chosen a musician's lyrics for the Nobel Prize of literature. Is it despite the fact that it scans that Bob Dylan's poetry was acknowledged by the poetry haters -- or because of it?

Sometimes the good is chosen, not despite the fact it is good, but because of it, and the only thing that makes that seem like such a radical choice is the people making it, with their long history of choosing evil over good.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

How Do You Know If You've Won?

Winning does not mean anything unless you are better off after victory than you were before. If you think you have won an argument, but the other side does not change its mind, then chances are you didn't actually win. You may be more brilliant, you may have better strategy and tactics, you may have beaten the enemy to a bloody pulp and gotten them to surrender in the last battle of the war. But if in the end you pay tribute to them, instead of their paying tribute to you, then you have not won. Hannibal beat Rome in every battle, and yet he did not win. Sometimes our military leaders can hand us victories on silver platters that our civil leaders and diplomats never take advantage of.

We beat the British in the Battle of New Orleans. But we did not win the war, since we had to pay the British for the Louisiana Purchase on that note they got from France, and they did not have to pay us to repair the damage they had done during the Sack of Hampton and the burning of Washington.

The British Burning Washington

Why did it turn out that way? Could there have been a different outcome? And is the shoddy treatment of Jean Laffite by the Madison administration related to this?

 A meeting between Aaron Burr and James Madison toward the end of Theodosia and the Pirates: The Battle Against Britain suggests an answer.

An Excerpt from Theodosia and the Pirates: The Battle Against Britain

Neither Madison nor Jefferson were military men. Neither had served in any of the battles of the American Revolution. But while Jefferson had succeeded in avoiding war during his administration, Madison declared war.

An Excerpt from Theodosia and the Pirates: The Battle Against Britain
That the line between privateers and pirates had been so blurred by the end of the War of 1812 is due to the Neutrality Act.

An Excerpt from Theodosia and the Pirates: The Battle Against Britain
The Embargo Act had been an attempt to avoid war by outlawing international commerce. Anybody who thinks Jefferson was the original libertarian must not have heard of the Embargo Act.

An Excerpt from Theodosia and the Pirates: The Battle Against Britain

Not paying taxes on goods that you sell to the American people is a service to the American people against their government. But the wool is still being pulled over the eyes of most people on this point.

An Excerpt from Theodosia and the Pirates: The Battle Against Britain
Why couldn't we send privateers to collect restitution from our enemies, instead of taxing citizens to pay for the military?

An Excerpt from Theodosia and the Pirates: The Battle Against Britain
A war is not won until the enemy pays for all the damage it has caused. Payment can come in the form or gold or of land. But if not paid for, the damage is absorbed by the people  -- and that is not a victory.

An Excerpt from Theodosia and the Pirates: The Battle Against Britain

No war should ever be fought at the expense of the people! Every war should be bankrolled by the enemy. That's why letters of marque are provided for in the Constitution. When was the last time we took advantage of that provision?

An Excerpt from Theodosia and the Pirates: The Battle Against Britain
The Constitution has not been just lately infringed upon. The very Founders were already in the process of unraveling its fabric as soon as they each came into office. You don't have to be an anarchist to want to reform this situation. We can restore the Constitution only by acknowledging how early on it was undermined by politicians in office -- even those who drafted it themselves.