Los Danzantes of Monte Alban

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?

from wikicommons, photo by Michel Wai

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:


Ayahuasca

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:


Borders Part 2

Villa bandits who raided Columbus, New Mexico, caught by American soldiers in the mountains of Mexico and held, in camp near Namiquipa, April 27, 1916.” from NARA

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.

from the Mexican Border Service photo collection. 

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.


facepalm

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.

you’re telling me this place is 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.


Training Literature Field Unit No. 1

Helytimes began in 2012.  Our idea was

  1. become good at writing for the Internet
  2. a writer should have a website
  3. 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:

  1. No On Measure S (by guest Hayes)

The moral here is probably that we should start a local LA news-and-takes site written by other people.

  1. Sundown, Gordon Lightfoot (1974)

  2. Mountaineering Movies on Netflix Instant, Ranked

  3. Fred Trump

  4. Cinderella and Interrogation Technique

  5. The Great Debates 

  6. Karl Ove Knausgaard

  7. Fascinated by: Ray Dalio

  8. How Big Was Mexico City in 1519?

  9. American Historical Figure Who Reminds Me Of Trump

  10. Losing The War by Lee Sandlin 

  11. Conversations With Kennedy

  12. Oil Wells In National Parks

  13. THE WONDER TRAIL 

  14. Gay Hobo Slang

  15. Vertigo Sucks

  16. Jackie Smoking Pregnant

  17. The story of Cahokia

  18. Ireland should take in two million refugees 

  19. Twenty Greatest Australian Artistic Accomplishments of All Time 

  20. The White House Pool 

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

Record Group 80: Series: General Photographic File Of the Department of the Navy, 1943-1958 

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:

Everything is something.

and

Special Snowflakes

This has been the annual performance review and address to the Helytimes readership:

That photo taken by one of Steichen’s guys, Wayne Miller:


‘Oumuamua

This artist’s impression shows the first interstellar asteroid: `Oumuamua. This unique object was discovered on 19 October 2017 by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawai`i. Subsequent observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and other observatories around the world show that it was travelling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. `Oumuamua seems to be a dark red highly-elongated metallic or rocky object, about 400 metres long, and is unlike anything normally found in the Solar System. (source)

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.

says NASA.

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.

 

 


Trump: Our First Mexican President

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.

Pinochet of Chile

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!