Monte Alban is a pre-Columbian site near the present day Mexican city of Oaxaca. It thrived sometime between about 500 BCE and 500 CE.
One of the famed features of the site are some carvings called Los Danzantes, “the dancers”
That’s a fun interpretation! However, current thinking suggests that these aren’t, in fact, people having a cool time dancing, but captives being subjected to various horrible tortures. Having their genitals mutilated and so on. There are glyphs next to their heads, maybe their names, and the idea is the Monte Albanians were celebrating conquering and torturing the leaders of various rival towns.
That was the interpretation of Michael Coe anyway, one of the great Mesoamerican problem solvers. In this book:
it’s suggested that the Danzantes may have been connected to a war memorial:
Still, you have to account for the emphasis on the genital messed-upitude. Are we looking at a self-punishment that led to ritual visions, not unlike the Mayan case of Lady Xoc?
Looking at the Danzantes, I wondered at an alternative explanation, if these are depictions of people suffering from a weird disease or plague of some kind. (I’m not the first to think of that).
Or maybe they’re up to some shamanic ritual. Here’s a whole paper by John F. Scott and W. P. Hewitt from 1978 looking into the mystery. Some possible explanations are explored:
It struck me looking at this photo that the Danzantes have a resemblance to the gravestones of early New England.
These too will perhaps be mysterious and a subject of speculation when they are 1600 years old. They’re already pretty weird.
Los Danzantes is also the name of a highly regarded restaurant in Oaxaca and Mexico City:
It was only when I came home from Peru, and started researching Amazonian shamanism, that I realised how different indigenous Amazonians’ conception of ayahuasca-healing can be. Westerners tend to think that emotional problems are caused by issues in our past, which ayahuasca can help us accept and integrate. Indigenous Amazonians (to generalise) are more likely to think emotional problems are caused by sorcery. You are out of sorts because you have been cursed by a secret enemy, or because you’ve offended a spirit. Ayahuasca will help you identify your hidden enemy, remove their curse, and get revenge.
cool article at Aeon by Jules Evans about whether our cultural assumptions are shaping our psychedelic experiences and leading us to misunderstand traditional uses.
More on this topic can be found in:
Lots of INTENSE feedback about post yesterday on borders.
I’m just reporting reality as I perceive it.
Since Pershing went after Pancho Villa, it’s been clear that along one thousand nine hundred and blahblah miles of desert, even the fiercest efforts of government are gonna, at best, disappear into the dust.
And they had Patton!
(How ’bout this by the way:
Pershing was permitted to bring into New Mexico 527 Chinese refugees who had assisted him during the expedition, despite the ban on Chinese immigration at that time under the Chinese Exclusion Act. The Chinese refugees, known as “Pershing’s Chinese”, were allowed to remain in the U.S. if they worked under the supervision of the military as cooks and servants on bases. In 1921, Congress passed Public Resolution 29, which allowed them to remain in the country permanently under the conditions of the 1892 Geary Act. Most of them settled in San Antonio, Texas.
What kind of conservative believes that the federal government can put a wall here and stop people from moving across it?
Does declaring an new federal attempt to impose “no tolerance” enforcement seem more tyrantish or freedomish to you?
Does the fear of brown people from south of our border, like the fear of psychotically violent black people, have something to say about our own guilty conscience? There isn’t a country from Mexico to Chile that hasn’t been severely screwed by the USA.
Look, I’m no expert. My book about Mexico, Central and South America was the work of an enthusiastic amateur, not a serious scholar!
From where I sit, in Los Angeles, California, USA, I can understand the traditional politician approach of talking any way you want to get elected and then not going anywhere near actually doing anything about the border.
The current president got elected by sticking his fork in this electrical socket. I’m not seeing how it ends? Best case he declares victory and moves on.
the article that set me off was:
which caused my eyes to roll out of my head. I was just in Portland, and the food was awesome! It’s a “foodie paradise” because it’s in the Willamette Valley, on the Columbia River, near the North Pacific Ocean, one of the most bountiful regions on planet Earth, plus it’s prosperous and full of creative and interesting and diverse people.
Seemed hysterical to me to claim it had been ruined.
When I first heard the headline version of the story of the Portland Taco Cart Willamette Week Interview Fiasco, I thought “well that’s silly, how far are we taking this idea of cultural appropriation? of course you can make tacos.” But when I heard the details it was like oh ok that’s not very cool.
There was good discussion of it on “Good Food” with Evan Kleiman.
Following which I drove around for an hour or so doing my errands and thinking about it. Sometime later it comes up, shot my Twitter mouth off and RIP my mentions.
Twitter user put my response to McArdle better than I could:
Also gave me more to think about. I myself took advantage of the easygoing legal rules on map copying in my book, and used Google Maps as the basis for my hand-drawn maps. It felt fine, although I was surprised nobody protects cartographers.
Because there’s no legal protection for Mexican ladies making burritos who are trying to keep their recipe secret, that’s why it made people so mad. Kinda think Connelly and Wingus crossed the line, but whatever, maybe they just made an unfortunate remark in an interview. They don’t deserve death threats for heaven’s sake. Let’s wish them well and hope they make some cool new kind of burrito in the future that everyone can eat joyfully and without compunction.
Like Austin Kleon points out, there’s stealing and stealing.
Helytimes began in 2012. Our idea was
- become good at writing for the Internet
- a writer should have a website
- have a space to collect, digest and share items of interest.
We’ve tried to come up with a mission statement or guiding purpose, but the truth is, this is stuff we had to get out of our head.
The healthiest thing to do was share it.
The best way to put it might be a place to share crazy interesting things we’ve come across.
Since then we’ve published over 1,050 posts. We’re just now starting to get good at it, in our opinion.
Here are the twenty-one most popular posts:
The moral here is probably that we should start a local LA news-and-takes site written by other people.
One lesson here might be to have more local LA journalism written by other people. Keep meaning to start a whole site for that but I do have a full-time job plus several other projects.
In our opinion the most successful post on Helytimes was
although it didn’t crack the top 21, just felt like a time where we added something of value to the Internet and readers responded.
It’s about the work of the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit, also known as the Training Literature Field Unit No. 1, assembled by the great photographer Edward Steichen.
One thread of Helytimes is attempts to reach into the past and find the sources that give us understanding of the past.
Two personal favorites:
This has been the annual performance review and address to the Helytimes readership:
That photo taken by one of Steichen’s guys, Wayne Miller:
No known asteroid or comet from our solar system varies so widely in brightness, with such a large ratio between length and width. The most elongated objects we have seen to date are no more than three times longer than they are wide.
My theory? This is a bullet shot at Earth 300,000 years ago by a mysterious civilization that knew what we’d get up to.
An interstellar sniper shot.
Let’s hope 1) this is a one-off shot and 2) it’s gonna miss us.
How frustrating for this distant civilization if they put all their resources into one shot and it misses by a hair!
Here’s a documentary that compares two searches going on in Chile’s Atacama desert: the search for distant objects to the search for the remains of people murdered by the dictatorship.
An inflammatory clickbait headline but I have a point.
Excerpt from Trump’s presidential announcement speech, as transcribed by Time:
Did he say “they’re rapists” or “their rapists,” as in “they’re bringing crime, their rapists”?
The latter seems to me the kind of way Trump talks. We in the media (everybody) hurt the anti-Trump cause if we do anything that could remotely be considered exaggerating. It’s not necessary, the person who gave this speech obvi shouldn’t be President, whether he said “they’re rapists” or “their rapists.” Why not give him any margin calls to avoid accusations of unfairness?
Whatever — the point is Trump’s candidacy was driven by fear of Mexico / Mexicans, South America and Latin America.
Concern that the Anglo-Protestant tradition of America was about to be overwhelmed or subsumed or at least weakened by a Mexico-Catholic-Hispanic tradition is as old as Anglo-Protestants and Hispanic-Catholics sharing a continent I reckon. It’s a theme in this book, for instance.
My suggestion here is that what could be more Latin American than electing a bullying gangster/businessman who talks like this?:
Trump might build a wall, but Latin American style politics has come to us.
My Chilean buddy mentioned that when he saw Trump at the U. N., he thought, “oh he’s Chavez.”
One of the reasons why Mexico sucks is their presidents have been guys like Trump: nepotistic bully-gangsters who care about nothing but enriching themselves, their family, their idiot sons-in-law, and creating enough chaos and division that the “order” appears necessary.
Something I tried to get at in my book
is that Los Angeles is at least as much a part of the South American world as it is a part of the Anglo world.
It’s the northernmost city in South America, as much a part of this world:
and this world
as it is of this world
and this world
This doesn’t have to be bad, duh. It’s part of why Los Angeles is one of the most dynamic, exciting, creative, and appealing places in the country. (That along with trans-Pacific partnership, which Trump is also fouling up.)
Trump voters should be less worried about Latin Americans coming here, and more worried about a Latin American-style president.
Worry less about Mexicans, and more a breakdown into Mexican style corruption, disregard for rule of law, one party rule, and a generally more cruel, ugly, hopeless and depressing politics.
Worry less about Mexicans coming here, and more about the United States becoming more like Mexico.
Trump voters should be doing a lotta things different, if you ask me!
I say hot!
Also quite sexy if you can draw this:
It was during his later schooling in Colorado that Morley first developed an interest in archaeology, and in particular Egyptology. However his father—a man trained in the hard sciences and who had graduated at the top of his class in civil engineering at PMC—was initially unsupportive of his ambitions. Seeing little scope for employment opportunities in archaeology, the Colonel encouraged his son to study engineering instead.
The other Sylvanus Morley I can find no picture of. From Wiki’s The “other” Sylvanus G. Morley, Sylvanus G. One says:
However, the person with the most right to complain was my cousin Sylvanus Griswold Morley, the celebrated archaeologist. The move made us homonyms, and gave rise to endless confusion. Look in a Who’s Who in America and you will learn the facts. Look in a library catalog, and you will be lucky to learn anything but errors. Sylvanus, a most good-natured soul, never protested. He was an undergraduate at Harvard while I was in the Grad. School. I sometimes received his Univ. bills, and less often, billets doux from his lights of love. I think he has none of mine.
More about eccentric heroes drawn to Central and South America can be found in:
The Bolivian media reported that President Obama called President Evo Morales to request his government’s cooperation in ensuring discretion and security for his daughter’s trip. White House officials declined to comment and would not confirm that the two leaders had spoken. Mr. Morales often rails about what he calls American conspiracies to undermine leftist governments, including his own. The two countries have not exchanged ambassadors since 2008.
Very cool. This is not the vibe projected by the new president’s children:
Ms. Obama was afforded no special treatment during the arduous trek, and performed chores, including cooking, along with her fellow travelers, Mr. Mamani said.
I wonder if she picked up a preserved llama fetus?
Learn more about Bolivia and Evo Morales in this fine volume:
By reader vote, these were considered
The Top Ten Helytimes Posts Of The Year
about Geoffrey Blainey’s book on how that country became what it is, and their national cry Cooo-EEE!
9) Jo Mora and Mora Update
about how the Uruguayan-Californian artist influenced almost a century of design
Conversations between Tony Blair and Bill Clinton
A visit to that famed city and the Diego Rivera murals hidden around it
On Incan rope counting systems and their decipherment
An investigation into a photo of the former first lady
This was by far our most popular post by views
A trip to the national park, and its place in our national consciousness
2) Lady Xoc
About the Mayan queen of the 8th century
The definitive winner for the year?:
A review of writing by and about fighter pilot John Boyd, who offers a way into DT’s thinking.
a brief look at Sanders and Trump
about you know who, comparing him to Tim Ferriss.
a big wild roundup.
on how a Swiss chocolatier came to own freshwater springs in Southern California
about the Vietnam War correspondent, Kubrick pal and Zen Buddhist
on the work of Randall Collins, an underappreciated hero
extracts from a 1769 description of California,
a dispatch from rainy New Zealand,
and a personal favorite,
about Willa Cather, Walt Whitman, and America.
The most popular post of the year
by views, was
You can email us anytime at helphely at gmail. Let us know what you think.
All the best for 2017.
Why not buy five copies and give them out to five lucky friends?
I think the gift getter will be touched and delighted!
One thing leads to another and I’m reading about how there were black people on the Caribbean island of Montserrat who were said to speak Irish Gaelic:
Irish language in Montserrat
The Irish constituted the largest proportion of the white population from the founding of the colony in 1628. Many were indentured labourers; others were merchants or plantation owners. The geographer Thomas Jeffrey claimed in The West India Atlas (1780) that the majority of those on Montserrat were either Irish or of Irish descent, “so that the use of the Irish language is preserved on the island, even among the Negroes”.
African slaves and Irish colonists of all classes were in constant contact, with sexual relationships being common and a population of mixed descent appearing as a consequence. The Irish were also prominent in Caribbean commerce, with their merchants importing Irish goods such as beef, pork, butter and herring, and also importing slaves.
There is indirect evidence that the use of the Irish language continued in Montserrat until at least the middle of the nineteenth century. The Kilkenny diarist and Irish scholar Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin noted in 1831 that he had heard that Irish was still spoken in Montserrat by both black and white inhabitants. A letter by W.F. Butler in The Atheneum (15 July 1905) quotes an account by a Cork civil servant, C. Cremen, of what he had heard from a retired sailor called John O’Donovan, a fluent Irish speaker:
- He frequently told me that in the year 1852, when mate of the brig Kaloolah, he went ashore on the island of Montserrat which was then out of the usual track of shipping. He said he was much surprised to hear the negroes actually talking Irish among themselves, and that he joined in the conversation…
There is no evidence for the survival of the Irish language in Montserrat into the twentieth century.
The wiki page for Amhlaoibh has several interesting quotes:
“February 3, 1828 …There is a lonely path near Uisce Dun and Móinteán na Cisi which is called the MassBoreen. The name comes from the time when the Catholic Church was persecuted in Ireland, and Mass had to be said in woods and on moors, on wattled places in bogs, and in caves. But as the proverb says, It is better to look forward with one eye than to look backwards with two…“
Amhlaoibh lived out in Callan, in Kilkenny:
Nearby was born James Hoban, who designed The White House:
On a trip to DC once I brought along this book, which I recommend to any DC visitor:
Applewhite might’ve been the first to put in my head the idea that the The White House is modeled on Irish country mansions:
The entire southern half of Montserrat got pretty messed up by volcanic eruptions and was abandoned in 1997:
And is now an “exclusion zone”:
Montserrat’s national dish is Goat water, a thick goat meat stew served with crusty bread rolls.
for more interesting oddities of Western Hemisphere geography and history, I recommend:
If you enjoy Ed Harris in Westworld, as I do, you may be curious to have a look at his role in Walker (1987) in which he plays a similarly attired character:
Harris plays the real life William Walker who went down to Nicaragua with some armed guys and declared himself president there from 1856-1857.
I went down to Nicaragua and visited some of the places Walker shot up.
I tell the story of Walker, and of Nicaragua, and of the troubled film
Our number one pick is: THE WONDER TRAIL: True Stories From Los Angeles To the End of The World, available at Amazon or your local indie bookstore. You’ll enjoy it.
Other items we enjoyed this year and can endorse:
Not exactly a steal at $299 but if Tony Robbins is to believed it’s very important for your lymph nodes to be shaken. We’ve found it stimulating!
Treat yourself or a loved one to a Coyuchi towel? ($48)
For the California adventurer, we recommend Tom Harrison maps? ($8.95)
Or perhaps a Delorme atlas?:
But really, what you want is:
He’s Chile’s own Donald Trump.
Shoutout to my pal Fabrizio Copano for telling me about him.
TO lighten the mood deep down in the San José Mine, the 33 trapped miners would playfully imitate Leonardo Farkas Klein, donning makeshift wigs to simulate the long curly blond mane of the mining executive.
Also enjoyable, this photo from an Australian reader:
Helytimes in on hiatus once again as we consider the work ahead.
This country’s always asked for work from its citizens, take these guys (by which I mean women and men) for instance:
Our hiatuses last an average of two days.
- being curious about the world
- the people south of us and how they got that way
- survivals in the face of the catastrophes in history.
Pretty into two articles this week about enormous imaginative projects.
In 1931, a legal scholar named Austin Tappan Wright died in a car accident in Las Vegas, New Mexico, not far from Santa Fe. He was forty-eight. His father had been one of the preëminent academics of the previous century—“A History of All Nations from the Earliest Times,” for which he served as editor, runs to more than twenty volumes—and his mother, Mary Tappan Wright, was a famous novelist, a progenitor of what we now think of as the campus novel. Wright’s own career was more quietly successful. Before his death, he taught at Penn, Stanford, and Michigan, and published articles on maritime law, their scope profoundly, almost rebukingly more modest than that of his father’s work—“Supervening Impossibility of Performing Conditions in Admiralty,” for example, or “Private Carriers and the Harter Act.”
After his unexpected death, Wright’s wife and daughter had the task of going through his papers. They were unprepared for what they discovered there.
In an afterword to the novel, Wright’s daughter recalls that when her father spoke to his wife from a telephone booth, he would remove his hat. This small gesture explains “Islandia,” to me: Wright was part of that great age of anonymous managerial Harvard men who assumed their expected places in society while also maintaining the most intense imaginable internal worlds—Wallace Stevens, T. S. Eliot, Charles Ives if you expand the range to include Yale.
(Ugh, must we include Yale?)
Also wild was this New Yorker thing by Esther Yi about German writer Arno Schmidt and the effort to translate his 1300 page book:
“Zettel’s Traum” is both Schmidt’s most famous book and his least read, and for the same reason:
because it’s thirteen hundred pages long?
it is dedicated almost entirely to applying a Freudian theory of language to the works of Poe. (This was familiar ground: Schmidt spent years translating Poe, in collaboration with Hans Wollschläger.) Dan argues that words are composed of units of sound, or “etyms,” that reveal an author or speaker’s unconscious thoughts. To say “whole” is to think “hole,” for instance. With his ear cocked to sexual harmonics, Dan finds in Poe an impotent man who is possessed by the erotic and, unable to express his sexuality in bed, resorts to voyeurism, notably of what people do on the toilet.
“One could not tell if this was amazing, or if this was something for crazy people,” Susanne Fischer, the head of the Arno Schmidt Foundation, which manages the writer’s literary estate, told me.
There was a method to Schmidt’s madness:
Each night, at 2 a.m., he would begin writing in the upstairs room, from which even his cats were barred (not least because the one he called Conte Fosco, after a Wilkie Collins character, had urinated on his prized edition of James Fenimore Cooper). He compiled roughly a hundred and twenty thousand scraps of paper, or Zettel, in shallow wooden boxes, which he spread out on his desk. On each Zettel, there was written a bit of dialogue or sexual wordplay (“Im=pussy=bell’–!”) or a literary quote rerouted through his one-track mind (“the fleshy man=drake’s stem. / That shrieks, when torn at night”). After twenty-five thousand hours of knitting the pieces together, Schmidt handed the manuscript to his publisher in a large cardboard box tied with a curtain sash.
For a less hefty read might I recommend:
So glad you enjoy what you find here, we’re on a brief hiatus but look forward to a return.
If you’ve read my book, do send me a picture of it in some cool setting, on your shelf or next to some good coffee or your favorite houseplant. I’ve been collecting and compiling these photos, they’re a joy.
The ruler, Shield Jaguar, holds a torch while his consort, Lady Xoc, pulls a rope studded with what are now believed to be obsidian shards through her tongue in order to conjure a vision serpent.
says Wiki about Lintel 24 from Yaxchilan, a site in far southern Mexico, along the Usumacinta River, the border to Guatemala.
Yaxchilan is not easy to get to. You have to take a boat like this:
In the river there are crocodiles, in the towers of the ruins there are bats, everywhere there are spiders.
You won’t find Lintel 24 there though. It’s at the British Museum in London. It was cut out and sent there by Alfred Maudslay.
What the hell was up with Lady Xoc? She appears on another lintel, Lintel 25:
her obsidian tongue piercing rope worked, and now she’s seeing the Vision Serpent as she bleeds into a bowl.
Read more about Yaxchilan, Bonampak, how we figured out how to read Mayan inscriptions, and the mysteries of what the hell Lady Xoc and her friends were up to in my book:
There’s a lot to like about Bishop.