Thursday, July 27, 2006

Winding Down at Night

After one long and difficult day I stopped at a liquor store and bought a bottle of wine. Saw one that fit the mood.

"Vampire" (with a blood drop on the V) 2003, an import from Transylvania and bottled in Romania. I've had a cupful each night before bed and it definitely helps. I like to think of it reclaiming my blood lost from battles of the day. Onward!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Going Dutch with the Puritans

I've finished reading "the Island". In 1664 as you all know the English wrested control of New Amsterdam, naming it New York in honor of King Charles II's brother Duke of York. Fort Orange, a successful trading post at the corner of Hudson and Mohawk Rivers is renamed Albany. New Netherlands, a formerly company town that attracted people of all trades and from parts of Europe, Africa and South America became a 'melting pot' thriving under West India Company Rule. Amsterdam was considering granting New Netherlands the actual city status with the same Dutch laws.

As a result of Anglo-Dutch trade wars (two out of three trade war between the two countries, actually), the English took over the city and renamed it New York, of course the city cannot be like the other English (and Puritan) like Hartford and Boston in areas then and now known as New England. The city's population was already active in government, people actually having impact on legislation and their invaluable skills (trading, cooking, servicing people, etc) couldn't be ignored. The English basically left the city running as it had before.

Few interesting tidbits

Cookies - derived from a Dutch word meaning shortbread was 'invented' during a grain shortage. The Director (good ol Stuy) imposed a ban on making grain so bakeries improvised and made short breads - cookies.

Boss from baas. From Europe coming out of feudalism, vassals and lords, merchantilism - social class didn't apply. You work, you work. A genuine American thing. People been bitching about their bosses since late 17th century.

District Attorney - a lawyer prosecuting on behalf of the city is as Dutch as it comes. The English liked it and continued it.

Bill of Rights - when the US Constitution were being ratified in the 13 colonies in 1780s, the legislators though English speaking, were mostly descended from the Dutch insisted that they would ratify on the condition that Bill of Rights were attached. Nice.

It's a great read though some spots were a bit dry. It's pleasing to see explanations making you react "oh so that's why". For example Wall Street originated because there was a wall fortifying the lower island from the Puritans (and yes, the Native American tribes - but the faraway ones mostly). The documents found in moldy state library in Albany is still being translated from 17th century Dutch (few scholars are proficient and modern Dutch speakers can't decipher it). Since 1970s, the rediscovery of Dutch history is slowly transforming American Colonial studies that it didn't start with the Mayflower.

Unfortunately, and not surprisingly the Puritan stamp remains - our legislative (federal) government is still deeply rooted in theocracy. The Dutch fostered tolerance of different religions and the English colonies were picky about Baptists and Lutherans. New York City is the only surviving semblance of some kind of Dutch tolerance. For example much as I'm not a fan of Bloomsberg but I have to admit he has a point about gay marriage. Though he's tolerant about same-sex marriages and if the state legislation makes gay marriage legit, he's all for it. So it's up to the state legislature and assembly to meet in Albany to hash it out. Some time ago, the court decision on gay marriage basically booted the decision back to Albany because nothing in the state constitution sanctioned same sex marriage.

And there's a Hustler club few blocks from my home on West End Highway. Lots of middle aged white men with big bellies, big cars and disposable incomes to spend. Not that much different when the first prostitute set foot in the city (her name is Griet Reyniers).

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Some notes

I goofed on couple things from the previous post about New Netherlands.

Dutch West Indies Company - not East.

South River became later known as Susequanna (will edit spelling later) River in PA/MD. The first director of New Netherlands who was outsed by some disagreements with some people in the city, and fled to Sweden. Years later, he headed a fleet from Sweden to found a colony - New Sweden I think in area now known as Maryland.

I feel like Cap'n Jack Sparrow.. My work hours have been long and sleep schedule bit skewed. And to factor in this heat wave. I wake up in the morning and once I get out of bed, my legs wobble independently of each other and I spew nonsense for next several hours.

Speaking of Jack Sparrow - I caught the new installment of Pirates the other night. Fan fucking tasitc.. More character indepth and lots of inane and zany stuff. 3/4 of the movie you're going like "WTF?" and giggle, and so on. I look forward to the next and last Pirates movie coming out later in the fall. Ending was great - Ooooo!

Will catch Superman at the end of this month, finally at Lincoln Center.. been ages since I was there last and would be a great rare opportunity to socialize with deafies before and after. You can count on running into old faces.

Dutch East Indies is portrayed in the movie (Pirates) as evil. Kind of like the Nazis and the Ark in the first Indy Jones movie. So I'm very interested in what they have to say in the upcoming movie.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Some Nieuw Netherlands tidbits

now known as New York City.

Been alternating between two books: "The Island at the Center of the World" by Russell Shorto and "Brick Lane" by Monica Ali.

"The Island" can be bit dry in some parts but so far so good. In 1609, Henry Hudson claimed the lands around North River (now Hudson) surrounding Fort Orange and Renassaelerwyck (Albany and Renasslaer) and Manhattan. Manhattan was a company town of Dutch East Indies - people worked, lived, drank, whored.. not that much different from today, or in 1980s in fact. Lots of farming tracts and tobacco plantations in Manhattan, Long Island and Staten Island.

Interesting trivia:

Broadway - the general knowledge in NYC is that it's paved over an Indian trail.. The Custom House that currently stands on the very near south east bottom of Manhattan sits on the beginning of Broadway. It's a long meandering street from south east of the island going north-northwest direction into Washington Heights on West 190s I think. The Custom House is built over Fort Amsterdam where people hid in safety from extreme weather, the annoying upright English from New England, and some dissenting Indian tribes. National Museum of American Indian is housed in Custom House. A couple paragraphs and a foot notes describes the original Indian trail from south east:

"...the Europeans could likewise follow it north - through stands of pin oak, chestnut, poplar, and pine, part open fields strewn with wild strawberries ('the ground in the flat land near the river is covered with strawberries' one of them noted, 'which would grow so plentifully in the fields, that one can lie down and eat them'), crossing the fast brook that flowed southeast from the highlands in the area of Fifty Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue, more or less where the Plaza Hotel stands, to empty into a small bay on the East River - to hunt in the thick forest at the island's center and to fish the inlets that penetrated the eastern coast......... the Dutch widened the path that they referred to it as the Gentleman's Street, or High Street, or simply the Highway. The English, of course, called it Broadway." (pp 60)

An asterdisk for footnote indicated that "Broadway does not follow the precise course of the Indian trail, as some histories would have it. To follow the Wickquasgeck trail today, one would take Broadway north from the Customs House, jog eastward along Park Row, then follow the Bowery to Twenty Third Street from there the trail snaked up the east side of the island. It crossed westward through the top of Central Park; the paths of Broadway and the Wickquasgeck trail converge again at the top of the island. The trail continued into the Bronx; Route 9 follows it northward." (60)

Turtle Hill - the midtown east into upper east side - 50s into 70s I think, was originally named Turtle Bay due to a turtle like shape of the bay in East River. It's been long since filled in.

the Bowery, where the famous punk rock club CGBG will be closed down soon, derived from Dutch word, Bouwerie for "farm".

The Bronx, named after Jonas Bronck who owned a plantation in 1639.

Adriaen van der Donck, the first "lawman" came to the city fresh out from legal training in Amsterdam. He studied under Groitus (who is now known as "Father of International Law" many of us students in International Relations love to curse his name) and applied his legal training and his keen observation of people living in New Netherlands and Renassaelerwyck. He also lived among Mohawk and Machican communities. Because of English neglect of history of Netherlands New York, van der Donck's writings were either forgotten until unearthed recently and some portions of his work badly mistranslated in 19th century. He wrote of types of plants, soil, how white people lived and worked, their relations with all Native American tribes in the area.

Some of van der Donck's writings on Mohawk system of Representation revealed some things that Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson conveniently left out (Franklin and Jefferson were said to base the American representative government on Iroquois confederacy that Mohawk are members of) :

"(van der Donck) seemed to admire that the Indians' government was "of the popular kind," but found that it had its problems. While a whole village would gather to debate matters of importance, and a chief would work like a politician to sway the people to his preferred course of action, the democracy had an abrupt ending point. If an opponent remained obstinate eventually 'one of the younger chiefs would will jump up and in one fell swoop smash the man's skull with an axe in full view of everyone.' Van der Donck was forced to conclude that this species of popular government was 'defective' and 'lame'."

It's not all that different today using power to find scandal or shut down the government to "fell" the opponent.

Anyways on a last note of my rambling summation - I showed some of van der Donck's writings to Surdus today. Van der Donck's writing and analysis of Mohawk has a very strong anthropological theme. Kind of like an educated and observant Hearing academic ignorant of Deaf culture would write on deaf community he or she has lived in for few years, acquiring their languages.

Now I'm on the part where Amsterdam, in their desperate effort to control New Netherlands, would dispatch Peter Stuyvestant, a one pegged man who would be known to American history as a dictator of New Netherlands before the English control.

Editor's note: I mixed in with my observation from my training in government, international studies, and history with Shorto's writings. Shorto's writings are quoted. - kb

Saturday, July 01, 2006

New country - 192nd Member of UN

Just after my college years, I interned at National Democratic Institute for International Affairs for three months. The specialty area I worked in was Albania and Serbia for Central and Eastern Europe. I occasionally did work for Macedonia, Bosnia, Slovenia, and Romania programs.

Serbia, the remnants of Yugoslavia, grappled with autonomy wishes of Albanian speaking Kosovo region and Montenegro. I started working in the team just after the former Yugoslavian strongman Slobodan Milosevic was outsed by peaceful means in October 2000. An overwhelming number of people basically flushed Milosevic and his cronies out when he didn't honor the election results (if memory serves me). Parties and their coalitions began work in the Parliament and presidency.

Milosevic's minions harassed people at road checks, mostly expatriates working with democratic parties to attain more democratic means of local and national government. Especially going into Kosovo region and Montenegro. After I completed internship in January 2001 I continued to pay passing attention of progress made by people and governments of the former Yugoslavia.

Yugoslavia, especially Albania was part of the Turkish Ottoman empire for several hundred years just prior to the First World War. Montenegro, independent since the Middle Ages was forcibly made part of Serbia in 1919 and eventually into Yugoslavia. There was much progress in recent years and people of Montenegro elected to secede from the federation last month. United Nations welcomed its 192nd member of General Assembly - Montenegro.

I know I say the name frequently - it literally translates from "black mountains".. I'm an admirer of mountains and valleys myself.

here's a link from National Geographical site and the picture look just lovely. I wouldn't mind vacationing there for a month!

Oh, before I forget - World Federation of the Deaf did some work in Kosovo recently.