Ah! Everything back to normal. Wife is back and dog is happy. She texted from the airport to say she was a bit worried, because the security line was dismaying, and the flight was leaving in 45 minutes. Oh, I thought, that wouldn’t happen if I’d been driving this bus. NOW YOU UNDERSTAND. But she made the flight, which is now evidence against my early-arrival paradigm at the airport. She said there was someone behind her in line whose plane was leaving in 20 minutes. People seem to think that “departure” time is the last possible moment you can get on. Oh my flight doesn’t leave for ten minutes, plenty of time to get to the gate, I’m going to stop and get a book to read.

Hot humid day, almost unremarkable for summer, except it isn’t. I did some yard work, digging and de-thatching and seeding. Probably too late, but what counts is that I did it, and she came home to a yard that looked like I’d done something productive while she was away. And all the flowers were still perky.

Anyway, the interregnum is over, and I am no longer housebound. It’s ridiculous to think I wouldn’t leave the house because the dog would be verklempt, but that’s why I didn’t go in to the office these last two days. I’m sure he would have been fine. He would sleep. But it’s just that look when you head down the stairs with keys jingling: you - you’re going? And I’m not coming with? I can’t believe you’d do this.

I took him to the airport, so he got a good draught of World Smells from the open window. Of course I tried to time my arrival perfectly - I have an app that shows all the planes, so I can see when the flight arrives. I can, if the route is right, see the plane pass overhead on its final approach. That’s the cue to go. Takes 15 minutes to get to the airport, but of course it takes half a bloody hour to get the plane to the gate and get everyone off. So I cooled my heels in a gas station parking lot for a while until I saw the dot on the phone that indicates wifely motion move from the runway to the terminal.

The remarkable things we take for granted, eh? When that dot moved, I left the lot.

Pulled up at the terminal at the magic hour for airports: twilight. The terminal glows from within, and you see the beams and high ceilings through the wall of glass. A portal to other places. Part of that world that I miss - the familiarity with departure, the strange realignment of arrival. The excitement of going. Shouldn’t say I miss it, since I’ve taken my share recently, but I miss the certainty of more. And it all still feels pre-realignment, pre-COVID, a relic of the time before the constriction and diminution of things. The Twenty-Tens. Quite a run, wasn’t it.

Well, for me. Your mileage may vary. Anyway, it’s all good, and back to the office on Wednesday for Lobby Pizza and the downtown walk and the resumption of the Blessed Schedule. Right now I’m in the gazebo, and it’s warm, the fountain is splashing, and the few die-hard crickets are counting out the temp. It’s warm, but the wind’s come up, and there’s another message in the breeze. Not what’s in it, but what’s behind it.

But that’s to come. Right now, all is well. I could stay out here forever but my glass is empty. What if this is the last warm night outside in shorts, writing in the gazebo? Shouldn’t I stay as long as I can?

To tell you the truth . . . I’d rather go back inside and shut the door before the crickets go silent for the last night. You never hear the last cicada of the season, and just as well you don’t.

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

You might have heard of this movie, “The Warrior Queen.” It’s about a group of Fearsome Women Soldiers who fought on behalf of the Dahomey Kingdom. They came to chew bubble gum and explode European notions of gender, and they’re all out of bubble gum. No - wait - chew bubble gum, explode notions, and kill enemies, fearsomely.

I know nothing about it, but the claims behind made on its behalf, and the general squeeing over the premise, have resulted in some interesting pieces.

This, from the Guardian, is priceless.

When French soldiers tried to colonise the west African kingdom of Dahomey, they encountered a foe unlike any they had faced before. The Agojie were known for raiding villages, taking captives and cutting off the head of anyone who resisted. And they were made up entirely of women.

“The French were shocked,” Professor Leonard Wantchekon, a leading Agojie scholar, says by phone from Princeton University in New Jersey. “They knew about them before but they didn’t know they were such effective soldiers, so brave, so strong.”

That France, the cradle of the Enlightenment, was backward in its essentialist views of gender is just one of the political blows landed by The Woman King, a new $50m historical epic that tells the Agojie’s story, though most of the characters are fictional.

Can you imagine that? They were the cradle of the Enlightenment! Somehow adapting a new set of Humanistic principles did not go from 0 to 60 and align them with the common-sense, obvious ideas of today. It’s a political blow from which the reputation of France may never recover.

The film is made largely by women and features an almost entirely Black cast. It is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and stars Oscar winner Viola Davis as a general who trains the next generation of fighters. Davis told the Reuters news agency: “It’s our story. There is no white saviour in the movie. There’s none. We save ourselves.”

Except they lost. Over twelve hundred of the women warriors engaged the French, and 50 to 60 survived. This might lead one to an essentialist view on who’s better at that sort of thing, if you were predisposed to such fallacies.

Should the story be told? Absolutely. Why not? Sounds fascinating. It’s not the first time someone has massaged the historical record to elevate a cultural narrative - you could say the movie is conforming to the old norm in that respect. But there’s something else in play here.

Wantchekon, who was born and raised in Benin and served as historical adviser on the film, says: “What is very unique is social norms in Dahomey were very gender inclusive. Girls played with boys and took part in any activity that boys are involved in, which is farming and trading, cultural activities. There had always been a strong sense of equitable gender norms and representation of women in government.”

And how did that government behave? The Dahomey regime was aggressive, militaristic, murderous, and profited from the slave trade. Par for the course for the era, in differing degrees. Par for the history of humanity, in differing degrees. But the faintest whiff of these attributes - imperialism, militarism, slavery-enabling - results in statues to be pulled down around the Western world. If someone on a plinth help stocks in a company that once traded in slaves, it’s ropes and cheers as the stone head hits the bricks. But in the girl boss narrative where it’s literally yaaas qween slay, it’s breathless pieces in the Guardian.

I wonder if the film deals with the Yearly Head Business of the customs of Dahomey.

The Annual Customs involved multiple elaborate components and some aspects may have been added in the 19th century. In general, the celebration involved distribution of gifts, human sacrifice, military parades, and political councils.

Since Dahomey was a significant military power involved in the slave trade, slaves and human sacrifice became crucial aspects of the ceremony. Captives from war and criminals were killed for the deceased kings of Dahomey. During the ceremony, around 500 prisoners would be sacrificed. As many as 4,000 were reported killed in one of these ceremonies in 1727.

Most of the victims were sacrificed through decapitation, a tradition widely used by Dahomean kings, and the literal translation for the Fon name for the ceremony Xwetanu is "yearly head business".

I read another piece that said the women soldiers preferred to sell palm oil instead of slaves, and wanted to move the economy in that direction, but obviously didn’t succeed. This could be out of altruism and concern for common humanity, or, it could be that it was easier in key ways. You don’t have to feed and shelter barrels of oil. Barrels of oil are not going to get loose and run away or stab you in the night. European nations that have decided palm oil is immoral will not blockade your ports. Neighboring kingdoms, still smarting from the time you invaded and stole their beloved palm oil, will not wage wars of vengeance.

Anyway. Back to the Smithsonian story, answering the question about historical accuracy:

In short, yes, but with extensive dramatic license. Though the broad strokes of the film are historically accurate, the majority of its characters are fictional, including Davis’ Nanisca and Thuso Mbedu’s Nawi, a young warrior-in-training. King Ghezo (played by John Boyega) is the exception; according to Lynne Ellsworth Larsen, an architectural historian who studies gender dynamics in Dahomey, Ghezo (reigned 1818 to 1859) and his son Glele (reigned 1858 to 1889) presided over what’s seen as “the golden age of Dahomean history,” ushering in an era of economic prosperity and political strength.

He ruled over the kingdom during a tumultuous period, punctuated by the British blockade of the ports of Dahomey in order to stop the Atlantic slave trade.

Ghezo finally ended Dahomey's tributary status to the Oyo empire but also dealt with significant domestic dissent and pressure from the British to end the slave trade. He promised to end the slave trade in 1852, but resumed slave efforts in 1857 and 1858.

Also, this is interesting:

As part of the British campaign to abolish slavery, the British government began putting significant pressure on Ghezo in the 1840s to end the slave trade in Dahomey. Ghezo responded to these requests by emphasizing that he was unable to end the slave trade because of domestic pressure and instead proposed an expansion of palm oil trade.

So the King was on board with the palm-oil switch, eh. But maybe his heart wasn’t in it.

Martin Meredith quotes Ghezo telling the British, "The slave trade has been the ruling principle of my people. It is the source of their glory and wealth. Their songs celebrate their victories and the mother lulls the child to sleep with notes of triumph over an enemy reduced to slavery.”

The mother lulls the child to sleep? Don’t tell me they were gender essentialists, too. Hope the French knew about that. Might soften the blow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s 1923.

Bismark, North Dakota, is concerned about the Florida situation:

   
 

It would end up being the 3rd deadliest in US history, with a loss of life of 2500 souls, 75% of which were black migrant workers. Knocked the crap out of everything in its path. Big enough to have its own exhaustive Wikipedia page.

Did the people in Florida care at all about North Dakota killer blizzards?

   

   
  Child-snatching stories: good think that's in far-off Hawaii.
   

A book about the affair has this synop:

"Mas. Gill Jamieson, poor innocent lad, has departed for the Unknown, a forlorn 'Walking Shadow' in the Great Beyond, where we all go to when the time comes.”

Those words, printed in a handwritten letter delivered to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin on the morning of September 20, 1928, told the city of Honolulu that 10-year-old Gill Jamieson, the only son of Hawaiian Trust Company vice president Frederick Jamieson, was dead. What had begun as the search for a kidnap victim quickly turned into a search for Gill's body and for his killer--a 19-year-old Japanese man named Myles Fukunaga.

He was hung in ’29.

 

   
 

THE MOTHER LOVE WAS A MURDER URGE

They were known as the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders.

They got him on 5 child murders. Some said there were 20. The town changed its name to escape the publicity.

   

   
 

News from the past! Yes, even the past had a past.

I like the cut of Mrs. Selle’s jib, I do.

   

   
 

It’s a straight news story - except it's not. It’s obviously a sales promotion.

You wonder how much buzz it produced. I’d say, a lot; Bismark wasn’t big enough not to care about something like this, and a lot of people would keep their eyes peeled.

   

Frankly, after a nightmare like they’d experienced, a rainbow hand emerging from the clouds would look like a sign of the end times.

The more things change: an interesting editorial.


Good question, indeed.

   
 

This fall, reckon with sleeve interest.

The flat mannish styles would continue until the lean times came, and then it was back to zaftig.

   

 

Finally: another comic I’d never come across, anywhere.

Wood Cowan, who died in 1977, seems to have been a journeyman sort who got plugged into one strip after the other until he landed Major Hoople, his biggest gig; he did that from ’31 to ’56.

And that’s a day. Rather: that’s about 1/100th of the day in the paper.

   

 
   

That'll do! Enjoy your midweek moments. We begin the cigarette ads of 1955 today, and it'll take us through the end of October. It's going to take forever to get this site up - unless, of course, I start throwing up huge batches.

Which is not likely. It's killing me to put up 6 a week instead of 3. I'll run out! No, I won't.

 

 

 

 
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