New Mexican Food


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:


Amazing chart

I love this.  I feel like I’m watching a magician fool me with a trick!  Source.

 


Notes on a decade

Born near the turn of a decade, the decades of the marked years neatly match my own personal decades.  The 2010s were pretty much my 30s.  Probably I was less in tune culturally than I was in the 2000s / 20s.  Or maybe I was REALLY tuned in.  Who can say?  Sometimes re: “current events”, they did feel like little more than backdrop to my own personal dramas.  If nothing else I was present for a lot of cool moments, the finales of The Office and VEEP, for example.

For that I’m grateful.

Helytimes was launched in 2012, out of a desire to claim a space for myself on what we still called “the Internet,” plus a sense that figuring out how to write online would be important.  Haven’t quite made it to ten years yet, which I remember setting as a benchmark to strive for.

The 2010s decade, if we’re being flexible, has to begin with the September 2008 financial crisis and aftermath.  The bad guys really did get away with it.  That’s a fact we’ve had to sit with all decade, and I think it’s an ugly, unpleasant fact that lies beneath a lot of the roiling turmoil since then.  A small percentage of people rigged the economy and were reckless with the lives of others, and mostly left others holding the bag and were never held to account.

Did it all begin here?

The decade was really split by the shock of the 2016 election.  A troubling, disturbing shock, even to the guy who won!  When I consider that was almost four years ago it feels weird, I’m still kinda not out of the initial dizziness that Donald J. Trump is the President.  It feels like it warbles the universe to even write that and have it be true.

Historywise, what was this decade?  Was it good?  Was it bad?  Was it tumultuous?  Are we brimming with more hope than we were in 2009?  If you were making one of those CNN docs of the decade, what would you have to include?  The fact that it is kinda hard to answer does – well I don’t want to say it disappoints, but it might suggests this was not a decade of great innovation.

Art and culture of the 2010s?  How were they distinct from the 2000s?  I can’t name the true trends in music, or even film or TV.  What about literature?  Here we are in 2019 and who’s a hot young writer?  Sally Rooney?  Jia Tolentino?  Is there anyone else who pops out of this decade in literature?

Technology-wise, 2010 was very different for me than 2000, when I didn’t own a phone.  But I don’t think 2019 is that different from 2010.

The big ticket of the 2010s, it seems to me, is “social media.”  My phone regularly reports to me that I spend five or so hours on it A DAY, and I don’t think I’m that unusual.  Twitter, Insta, TikTok, etc.  Gaming streams? Social is where people live.

Is sorting the decades by their cultural touchstones itself kind of a Boomer idea?  Feels like it became strongest with “the Sixties.”  As David Halberstam pointed out in his book, it wasn’t like nothing was going on in the ’50s, it just felt like that for a certain generation which hadn’t yet come awake.

maybe thinking about “decades” is itself an old idea, we’re so fast now we’re on years, months, days, moments.

Moments.  Were the 2010s the decade of moments?  We could capture and share moments better than ever before.  I remember a tech bro pitching me an idea in Austin for some kind of photo storing service.  “I was getting so sick of missing moments,” he said.  Within a few months another person pitched me essentially the same idea, though neither time did I really understand what the problem was, exactly, nor the solution.

One quality the 2020s will need is hope.  One of the best things there is is hope, and here’s hoping for a decade of amazing moments for Helytimes readers, and well heck, why not wish everyone a peaceful, happy, prosperous decade with just the right amount of excitement.

I put on Spotify’s best of the decade and man, I’d forgotten this one:

CeeLo’s “Fuck You” if the link dies, as they inevitably do.


Nissan

A Datson Model 11 by HKT3012 for Wikipedia

The best business story of last decade snuck in under the wire, when Carlos Ghosn, the former head of Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA who was out on bail in Japan awaiting trial on charges of financial misconduct, popped up in Lebanon just before New Year’s after being smuggled out of Japan in, apparently, a large black case used for audio equipment.

As Matt Levine put it.  Interested in the mysterious case of Ghosn the Nissan outlaw, I started looking into the history of Nissan.  A key figure is an American engineer, William Gorham.  Gorham traveled to Japan several times as a boy with his dad, an Asia manager for Goodyear tires.  In 1918, he moved to Japan with his wife and children, and got involved with Gonshiro Kubota:

Gonshiro Kubota, a successful businessman who founded and led his eponymously-named firm into becoming the largest manufacturer of agricultural machinery in Japan was eager to enter the automobile market. At the time, the only two mass-production Japanese automobile manufacturers were Isuzu, and Kaishinsha, founded by Matsujiro Hashimoto. Kubota hired Gorham as chief designer, with Gorham designing the vehicles and setting up the manufacturing plants for Gorham’s three-wheeled automobile. Along with other Japanese investors, Kubota and Gorham would found Jitsuyo Jidōsha, who would manufacturer the three-wheeled automobile as the Gorham, and a four-wheeled automobile of Gorham’s design as the Lila. Jitsuyo Jidōsha and Kaishinsha would later be merged into a predecessor of the Nissan Motor Company.

A vivid picture:

In David Halberstam‘s 1986 book The Reckoning, Halberstam states: “In terms of technology, Gorham was the founder of the Nissan Motor Company” and that “In 1983, sixty-five years after [Gorham’s] arrival… young Nissan engineers who had never met him spoke of him as a god.

In May of 1941, Gorham renounced his US citizenship.  Reported in the NY Times:

He stayed in Japan as the US and Japan went to war.

After the end of the war, the United States government declined to charge him or his wife with treason since they had become Japanese citizens before the war began; in fact, he ended up working in a liaison position with the headquarters of Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers Douglas MacArthur regarding industrial problems

Gorham:

 

 


They Britney’d the abandoned KMart!

Not sure the photo captures the majesty of seeing it in person.


America as casino

Now we finally have a former casino operator as our President.  It was inevitable.  Gambling is really at the heart of America, IMO.  Even in the ancient myths of the desert Southwest we hear of The Gambler.  The thing is, this isn’t really a country, it’s a casino.  Anybody* can come here and take their chances.  Any immigrant to America was weighing the odds and taking a big chance.  If you win big, congratulations, if you crap out that’s on you.  Maybe that’s why we don’t have nationalized health insurance, and why we tolerate rule by billionaires.  It’s a feature, not a bug.  Social safety nets for societies.  Casinos don’t have a safety net.

Before Trump, Bill Clinton might have been our most casino-adjacent president.  He liked to describe himself as the man from Hope, but he was really from Hot Springs, a kind of local Arkansas Las Vegas from before the age of Southwest Airlines.  His mother spent her time at the race track and the house where young Bill spent his time had “a bar on which stood a rotating cage with two huge dice in it.”

I’m not saying I love that America is more of a casino than a country, but let’s accept that reality.  Maybe a winning political messaging could come out of something like “MAKE THE CASINO FAIR” or “A FAIR CASINO FOR ALL!”  It’s hard to look around and not think the casino is at least a little rigged, or at the very least that current management is crooked.

Or how about CLEAN UP THE CASINO! or EVEN THE ODDS!