Prolific Slog tipper Greg sends this story of a contractor bulldozing a huge and ancient Mayan temple called Noh Mul for road fill:
Noh Mul. Its name means the Big Hill but it’s not so big any more, this once towering and stout ceremonial center in San Jose/San Pablo has been whittled down to a narrow core by excavators and bulldozers. Whodunnit? Contractors who’re using the rich gravel and limestone content to fill roads in nearby Douglas Village.
Now, this was the main temple, the ceremonial center for Noh Mul, at about 20 metres among the tallest buildings in Northern Belize - and it’s not centuries old, it’s millennia, thousands of years old and the thought that its rich limestone bricks cut with stone tools in the BC era, the thought that this could be used for road fill is a manifest outrage...
Meanwhile, the Tibet Post reports that Chinese interests are tearing down ancient Buddhist temples and monuments in Lhasa to make a tourist attraction:
Ignoring both religious freedom and the outcry of the Tibetan people, the Chinese authorities have begun demolishing the ancient capital of Lhasa, including one of the most important Buddhist sites of the city, Tibet's holiest Jokhang Temple.
Chinese authorities are planning to destroy the ancient Buddhist capital of Lhasa, and replace it with a tourist city...
Business Insider reports that the Chinese government is trying to sweep news of the destruction under the digital rug, courtesy of its censors:
“Lhasa is being destroyed by excessive commercial development,” Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser, who lives in Beijing but grew up in the capital, wrote in a letter after visiting the area. “Please save Lhasa.”
Li notes that the post received thousands of comments and shares on the social network Weibo before Chinese censors took it down.
Remember back in 2001, when the Taliban destroyed ancient Buddhist statues for religious reasons and the world went nuts? I wonder if the world will do the same about ancient religious sites being destroyed for commercial reasons.
“I’m a 34-year-old N.B.A. center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”
The gay part will now define him, in the public eye, more than any other. It will be the prompt for the loudest cheers he basks in and the nastiest jeers he sloughs off.
But in the opening paragraph, it comes after his age and occupation and race, getting no more space, in that one passage and for that brief moment, than other aspects of his identity. It’s a detail among many, but not the defining one.
That’s the integrated way that things should be, the unremarkable way a person’s sexual orientation ought to be lived and perceived.
It shouldn't have to prompt a phone call from the president, Bruni adds. (Or a Tweet from Michelle Obama.) But since it still does, consider for a moment how remarkable it is to have a president and first lady willing to tell Collins: "We've got your back!"
This is a big fucking deal.
But you should pre-order it anyway!
Did you like Devil in the White City? Of course you did. Who doesn't? Chicago By Day and Night: The Pleasure Seeker's Guide to the Paris of America was a guidebook published for visitors to the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. Daniel Burnham might've picked it up, though he's never once mentioned (the book was written before we began to worship architects as artists). H. H. Holmes's hotel might've rated a mention, had it been built when the book was composed. If you're a DitWC fan, this book will complement your enjoyment of Larsen's.
CBDN guides potential visitors to "free and easy" shows, saloons, carousels, masquerades, and other fun things to do away from the Fair itself. It's a fascinating artifact of the late 19th Century, when any woman who flirted with a man on the street might be an "adventuress" who planned to take him for all he was worth, via blackmail, the badger game, or the panel room. A taste from that chapter, with our notes after the jump:
The term adventuress is applied to women of careless reputation who, being much too smart to endure the ignominious career of professional demi-mondaines, resort to various shrewd schemes to fleece the unwary. Some of their class work in concert with male partners, and in such cases the selected victim generally becomes an easy prey. The confidence man may be dangerous; the confidence woman, if she be well educated and bright, as well as pretty, is irresistible except with the most hardened and unsusceptible customers. The shrewdest old granger of them all, who steers safely through the shoals and traps set for him by male sharpers, will go down like the clover before the scythe under a roguish glance, as it were, from a “white wench’s black eye,” as Mercutio said.
There is no mortal man in this universe of ours, be he never so homely or ill-favored, who does not cherish in his heart of hearts the impression that there is a woman or two somewhere whom he could charm if he wished to. It is the spirit of masculine vanity that forms the material upon which the adventuress may work. With the art of an expert she sizes up the dimensions of her victim’s vanity the instant she has made his acquaintance and plays upon it to just the extent she deems expedient and profitable. If it were not for masculine vanity, the American adventuress could not exist.
Along with my colleague Paul Durica, I've introduced, edited and annotated this fascinating bit of history. Some key features you might like: lots of dirty jokes, along with serious economic history (the chapter on gambling, for instance, includes the Chicago Board of Trade as just another way to lose your shirt, along with back-alley craps games or faro banks in saloons). Reminders of how cities change, and how they stay the same. Very cool illustrations, and lots of double-entendres (watch for the "delicious lays").
But all in the service of scholarship. Pre-order! Use the code DURICA13 for a discount.
It's Morrissey versus Elvis Costello over on Line Out!
I don't know about you, but I woke up to this gray morning with an aggressive disinterest in anything happening now.
That mood seems to strike more and more often, and it's a terrible one for someone who's supposed to care deeply about current issues, articles, blog posts, and tweets for a living. When that mood strikes I can't bring myself to care about the news or the latest tech or song or whatever nuisance is flitting around like an overvalued mayfly.
Nothing could be more boring, when that mood strikes, than the present. Which must mean I'm getting old.
If you woke up in a similar mood, please enjoy this transcribed (with mistakes!) issue of 7 Arts from 1955.
It has an article on Hollywood by Dorothy Parker:
The actors... they have an awfully good time. They keep giving one another prizes and they have all this. The writers I think have a fairly tough time, except I didn't... You used to get an awful lot of money. Ladies and gentlemen, there was one time I was so rich I thought that detective stories were wonderful.
And one by choreographer Merce Cunningham in which he begins to articulate what will become his still-difficult-to-articulate legacy:
There has been a shift of emphasis in the practise of the arts of painting, music and dancing during the last few years. There are no labels yet but there are ideas. These ideas seem primarily concerned with something being exactly what it is in its time and place, and not in its having actual or symbolic reference to other things. A thing is just that thing.
And one by famously conservative genius Robert H. Hutchins of the University of Chicago about the dangers of our education and legal systems falling prey to anti-radical (communist, anarchist) hysteria:
The low point came in the demand of an Indiana textbook commissioner that Robin Hood and all books referring to Quakers be removed from the schools because both Robin Hood and the Quakers follow the Communist Party line. Or perhaps an even lower point was reached in the reference of a Senator of the United States to our oldest university as a "sanctuary for communists and a smelly mess. What the Senator was objecting to, by the way, was that Harvard had failed to fire a professor who had availed himself of rights guaranteed him by the Constitution the Senator had sworn to defend.
There are also items by Max Brod, Theodore Roetke, and an essay by Gilbert Highet on kitsch that I haven't read yet this morning, but a friend urgently recommends to me with this quote: "The kitsch writer is always sincere; he really means to say something important; he has a lofty spiritual message to bring to an unawakened world, or else he has had a powerful experience which he must communicate to others. And then, he chooses the wrong form."
Perhaps this friend of mine is trying to tell me something.
This started making the rounds a couple days ago and rightly so, for it is tremendous. (Ice-skating kick line! Severely attenuated "comedy"!)
(Thank you, Slog tipper Mindy, and whoever alerted Mindy to it...)
Everyone is talking about how China is making big investments in Africa...
A joint expedition of scientists led by Chapurukha M. Kusimba of The Field Museum and Sloan R. Williams of the University of Illinois at Chicago has unearthed a 600-year-old Chinese coin on the Kenyan island of Manda that shows trade existed between China and East Africa decades before European explorers set sail and changed the map of the world.
"Zheng He was, in many ways, the Christopher Columbus of China," said Dr. Kusimba, curator of African Anthropology at The Field Museum. "It's wonderful to have a coin that may ultimately prove he came to Kenya," he added.
Dr. Kusimba continued, "This finding is significant. We know Africa has always been connected to the rest of the world, but this coin opens a discussion about the relationship between China and Indian Ocean nations."
This obituary of Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist in the Guardian has some strange tidbits from the historical locker. The man was surrounded by death, and volunteered for death, but somehow survived to the age of 90.
Von Kleist had been chosen as the officer to model a new uniform for Hitler, and Von Stauffenberg proposed that he wear a suicide vest underneath, and detonate it when he stood next to the dictator.
Years later, Von Kleist remembered explaining the suicide plot to his father, who paused only briefly before telling his 22-year-old son: "Yes, you have to do this."
"Fathers love their sons and mine certainly did, and I had been quite sure he would say no," Von Kleist recalled. "But, as always, I had underestimated him."
That plot didn't work out. Neither did the more famous plot Von Kleist was involved in, but somehow survived.
But when news spread that Hitler had survived, the plot crumbled and Von Stauffenberg, Von Kleist's father and scores of others were arrested and executed in an orgy of revenge killings. Some were hanged by the neck with piano wire. Von Stauffenberg was shot by firing squad.
Von Kleist himself was arrested and questioned at length by the Gestapo, and sent to a concentration camp, but then inexplicably let go and returned to combat duty.
He survived that, too. Von Kleist died at home instead.
This week in The Stranger, writer, researcher, and corpse expert Bess Lovejoy looks into the fantastical piece of Seattle folklore about Mary Ann Boyer, aka Mother Damnable, so nicknamed because she "cursed constantly in five languages." She also kept rocks in her apron to throw at people. As Lovejoy discovered, "There are two main stories told of her life, and both involve her yelling at men."
Anyway, the oft-repeated fantastical story is that she turned to stone after she died. Lovejoy expertly sorts out the facts from the fiction. You gotta read this.
It has come to my attention that certain people found last week's Last Days column—featuring spontaneously combusting 11-year-olds, sexually enticing pit bulls, and corpse-flavored drinking water—to be excessively depressing. Let us remind you that Last Days doesn't create the news, just reports it, and if you have a problem with what's being allowed to occur on earth, you should take it up with God. Nevertheless, in the spirit of healing, this week's Last Days contains nothing but good news. (Almost.)
...and why give back a certain gigantic diamond? British Prime Minister David Cameron is over in India, and he's sounding like an asshat:
David Cameron has defended his decision to stop short of delivering a formal British apology for the Amritsar massacre in 1919, in which at least 379 innocent Indians were killed. As relatives of the victims expressed disappointment, the prime minister said it would be wrong to "reach back into history" and apologise for the wrongs of British colonialism...
...Cameron said Britain could still be proud of its former empire – while acknowledging the mistakes – as he rejected demands to return the Koh-i-Noor diamond to India from the British crown jewels.
Asked whether Britain should return the diamond, he said: "I don't think that is the right approach. It is the same question with the Elgin marbles," he said. "It is for the British Museum and other cultural centres to do exactly what they do do, which is link up with museums all over the world to make sure that the things we have, and are looked after so well, are properly shared with people around the world. No, I certainly don't believe in returnism."
And here are Hari Kondabolu's extremely funny and biting thoughts on that big-ass diamond:
The oldest dictator in the world is getting lonely...
But despite the God given old age, Mugabe says he is getting lonely, as all his peers and family are dying before him.The deepest and greatest shame that Mugabe has brought on his people is the unavoidable fact that we (black Africans) would have been better off if the country was run by racist Ian Smith. You can say all you want, but talk is talk and truth is truth. Living under Smith was living with better standards. Black Zimbabweans who have a memory of Rhodesia have to live with that ugly fact every fucking day Mugabe is in power.
"In my small way, this is the task the Lord might have wanted me to fulfill among my people and as I carry the burden of fulfilling it, it being a divine task, I read it as a bidding of God," the State controlled newspaper, quoted the veteran leader as saying.
"A commandment that this is how you serve your nation."
As Mugabe celebrates his 89th birthday, he says he is raring to go, as he readies himself for an election that could see him being president of Zimbabwe until he is 94.
The opening number to the 1989 Oscar ceremony will forever shimmer in infamy, featuring as it did then-hearthrob Rob Lowe and a helium-voiced human Snow White performing "Proud Mary." Here is a
tiny sampling the whole amazing thing, found by YouTube sleuth Fnarf:
Now, after 24 years, the poor actress tasked with playing Snow White has opened up about the ordeal in The Hollywood Reporter. You may read 'I Was Rob Lowe's Snow White': The Untold Story of Oscar's Nightmare Opening right here.
(And the 2013 Oscar ceremony goes down this Sunday night.)
Let us celebrate with the classic song by Dina Martina.
The second Iraq war was neoliberalism's abandonment of the New Economy narrative and, in the face of deepening economic crises, its turn to Keynesian militarism (rather than a reversion to its economics—the program it began replacing in 1973) as a way to survive the collapse of its legitimacy, which eventually happened in 2008. But the war failed because, one, it never stopped being a war (the persistence of insurgents) and, two, it also lost legitimacy (no WMDs).
Drones can be seen as capitalism's response to the collapse of the 30-year neoliberal project and the decline of Keynesian militarism (which began with the end of history—1989). Drones present power with a form of control that's difficult for the institutions established by mass society (institutions that were key to the formation of state military power—which comes down not to governing a massive population but increasing the speed that it can be transformed into a massive army) to check or disrupt. Because they can operate outside of politics, drones connect with the logic capitalism. But it's precisely by this connection that this form of crisis management has access to and pervades all of the spheres of our market-oriented social production:
A tiny new open source drone kit made by Bitcraze is buzzing its way to market this spring, targeted at hackers and modders who want to explore droning indoors as well as out.
Marcus Eliasson, Arnaud Taffanel, and Tobias Antonsson are the engineers behind the Swedish startup now accepting pre-orders for a palm-sized quadcopter called the Crazyflie Nano. (Not to be confused with the Norwegian-made nano-copter used by British troops in Afghanistan.)
The trio used only open source material for the project, from mechanics to hardware and code. Not only was it a nod to the open source mantra, it saved them a ton of time; all three have day jobs and have spent the last three years working evenings on the Crazyflie Nano.
The culprit: a Boston baseball player in 1886.
The finger-giver is Charles Radbourn, a pitcher for The Boston Beaneaters. He's giving the finger to the opposing team, the New York Giants. Charles is an interesting figure in his own right; he pitched a whopping 678 2/3 innings, and the leg cramp known as the Charley Horse may be named after him. He died, as most great baseball players do, after a long battle with syphilis.
Our Dear Leader Tim Keck just passed by my desk and delivered an impressively long chunk of the opening speech of Richard III, replacing random nouns by saying "parking lot" in a robot voice:
Now is the winter of our [PARKING LOT]
Made glorious summer by this sun of [PARKING LOT];
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the [PARKING LOT] buried.
Now are our brows bound with [PARKING LOT];
Our bruised arms hung up for [PARKING LOT]...
So that skeleton they found just six feet under a parking lot in September was Richard III. The New Yorker reports that 140 journalists and camera crews from seven countries crammed into the press conference to hear the announcement. The Richard III Society, which devotes itself to rehabilitating the king's terrible p.r., is leveraging the moment by commissioning a reconstruction of the face, based on the skull, to "bring a human aspect" to the king we've always loved to hate. From Stephen Greenblatt's article in the New Yorker:
Even his birth had been a difficult one, and it was reported—though here the author of “The History” voices some reservation—that the newborn had teeth. In any case, he was, we are told, a particularly nasty piece of work: “Hee was close and secrete, a deepe dissimuler, lowlye, of counteynaunce, arrogant of heart, outwardly coumpinable”—i.e., friendly—“where he inwardely hated, not letting”—i.e., hesitating—“to kisse whome hee thoughte to kyll.”
The author of this splendid hatchet job was Thomas More, who would go on to write “Utopia,” and to lose his head at the hands of the second Tudor monarch, Henry VIII. More’s “The History of Richard III” was incorporated into the major sixteenth-century chronicle histories and thus, in effect, became the authorized representation of the loser of the Battle of Bosworth Field. At the end of that battle, the corpse of the vanquished ruler—the last English king to die in combat—was not given a royal funeral but stripped of his armor, strapped to a horse, and ignominiously hauled back to Leicester for a humiliatingly modest interment. The process of denigration had begun.
But it sounds like the process of denigration began before his body was even buried. From Science:
The skeleton sports 10 wounds, eight on the skull and two on the rest of the body. Two of the wounds were particularly severe, a large hole at the back of the skull where a halberdlike weapon sliced off part of the head and a smaller trauma on the base of the skull caused by a blade that penetrated the skull. "Both of these injuries would have caused almost instant loss of consciousness, and death would have followed quickly afterwards," Appleby said. Other wounds are probably the result of postmortem mutilation.
When I was a young man growing up in early-'80s Texas, there was no Glee to provide healthy images of gay love. The closest thing I had was The Godfather Part 2, which I rented on VHS and which showed me my first guy-on-guy action:
Full disclosure: I never, like, committed the sin of Onan while watching this clip. I just dreamed of the day that someone as handsome as Al Pacino might grab and kiss me like that, then yell at me for breaking his heart. (I didn't trouble myself with the "kiss of death" thing, in the same way millions of American men don't trouble themselves with the "human trafficking" thing when they watch Teen Hitchhikers 19.)
Godfather Part 2 screens tonight at Central Cinema.
The tyranny of an unbridled majority, the most odious and least responsible form of despotism, has denied us both the right and the remedy. Therefore we are in arms to renew such sacrifices as our fathers made to the holy cause of constitutional liberty.
— Jefferson Davis, Second Inaugural Address, Feb. 22, 1862
While Eli imagined President Obama might have had Lincoln in mind as he delivered his second inaugural address, I've recently been drawn to the words of Jefferson Davis as he took command of the Confederacy, and how similar the rhetoric in defense of a constitutional right to own slaves was to the modern rhetoric in defense of the constitutional right to own guns.
Davis does not mention slavery by name in either his first inaugural as provisional president in 1861 or his second inaugural a year later as the elected president of the new Confederacy. Instead, as was the style of the time, he refers to "the domestic institutions of the Southern States."
"The people of the States now confederated became convinced that the Government of the United States had fallen into the hands of a sectional majority," Davis explained in defense of secession, a majority "who would pervert that most sacred of all trusts to the destruction of the rights which it was pledged to protect." For all the revisionist bullshit about "states rights," the single issue driving secession was slavery—or rather, "our peculiar institution," as many Southerners euphemistically referred to it. The right to own other people was the right that Davis and his fellow Confederates were defending.
This was the Southern way of life. It was their tradition. It was an integral part of Southern culture. And it was a domestic institution that was built upon a right that was arguably protected by the US Constitution.
I find the arguments put forth by gun rights advocates equally persuasive.
Whatever the true intentions of the framers of the Second Amendment, the current Supreme Court has interpreted it to imply an individual right to bear arms, so for the moment at least, that is what the Constitution says. Likewise I fully acknowledge the depths of America's gun culture. For many of our citizens, the right to bear arms is an integral part of what it means to be an American. Compared to most of the rest of the developed world, unfettered gun ownership is our generation's "peculiar institution."
I don't in any way mean to equate gun ownership with slavery; there's no moral equivalency. But there are similarities between the way defenders of both cite constitutional rights and tradition as justification for these institutions, as if constitutional rights and traditions were justification enough.
That the Constitution enshrined slavery as a right did not make it right, and that it was the Southern states' most defining domestic institution did not make it worth preserving. Likewise, that there is an American gun culture and that there is a constitutional right to bear arms is not a defense of gun ownership in itself.
Cultures evolve. And laws change.
From this week's film lead on the ridiculous and amazing Miami Connection:
To say that Miami Connection is bad is a crushing understatement. Miami Connection is so bad it makes Tommy Wiseau's The Room look like Wild Strawberries. The plot—involving a tae kwon do troupe that moonlights as a bouncy pop band that's challenged by a gang of jealous drug-dealing bikers—is insane. The dialogue, crafted with the ear of an ESL television addict, is rudimentary in the extreme—"You need to get rid of that band, so you can control that area" goes my favorite line—with the actors seemingly making up what they say as they go along. The actors are not actors, but tae kwon do students, and their attempts at acting are as hilariously awkward as Dame Maggie Smith's attempts at tae kwon do. Badly overdubbed dialogue abounds. Hilariously bad fight scene follows hilariously bad fight scene. There is much random toplessness and a handful of hyuk-worthy scenes of bloody violence. It is terrible.
But out of this tragic mess of failure and incompetence, a distinctly sweet spirit emerges. Its source is the cumulative gameness and good sportsmanship of everyone involved in Miami Connection, which is drenched in a goofy joy that is contagious....
Which band are YOU most excited to see on the Mark McGrath and Friends Cruise? More information and a very important quiz, over here!
If you want more celebrity bullshit posts, post 'em. And please note that the two Seahawks posts were by regular actual employees of The Stranger, and one of them was so disdainful as to actually constitute a Golden Globes post.
And the Seahawks game was more important: There's a Golden Globes every year. The Seahawks do not make the post-season every year.
Attention history buffs and fans of the amazing and terrible things human being spend all week doing to each other: A fresh installment of Last Days—my weekly column devoted to last week's news—is live online. Here's how it ends.
Find the whole thing here.
A few more images from the new MOHAI are on the jump.
Here's a cool history lesson:
That narrow building rising all by itself, then the second tallest in New York City, is the just-finished headquarters of The New York Times newspaper. Its publisher, Alfred Ochs, had successfully lobbied city leaders to change Longacre Square's name to Times Square earlier that year. He then resolved to throw a New Year's Eve celebration that would be the talk of the town. "An all-day street festival culminated in a fireworks display set off from the base of the tower," according to an official history published by the Times Square District Management Association, "and at midnight the joyful sound of cheering, rattles and noisemakers from the over 200,000 attendees could be heard, it was said, from as far away as Croton-on-Hudson, thirty miles north."
An annual event was born—but two years later, the city prohibited the fireworks display. "Ochs was undaunted," the official history continues...
So here's a little thought experiment inspired by the holiday season and yet another woefully lost War on Christmas: What if America really was founded as a "Christian nation" as some righties wrongly insist? What if the Constitution did proclaim Christianity as the official state religion, and what if it did permit religious tests as a qualification for holding office?
Most other nations at the time of the founding had official state religions, as did some of the 13 colonies. So it wouldn't have been surprising had the US proclaimed one too.
But if it had, would it make a difference? Just because we constitutionally could require prayer in public schools, would we today? Would we force non-Christian children to endure public religious education (or the scorn of their peers for opting out) simply because the Constitution didn't prohibit it? Would we force politicians and judges and civil servants to swear their belief in Christ as a qualification for holding public office?
Or, had Article VI, Paragraph 3 and the First Amendment failed to include these crucial clauses guaranteeing religious freedom, wouldn't we have eventually added these protections by amendment anyway, in the same way that we gradually expanded the franchise, eliminated slavery, and extended equal protection under the law to all our citizens? That's what other Christian nations did over the past couple hundred years. Wouldn't we have done the same too?
The ahistorical notion that the US was founded as a Christian nation is so obviously false, it's not even worth debating. But it's also moot. The religious sensibilities of 18th century America are no more relevant today than those of 17th century Massachusetts, where the Puritans actually outlawed Christmas as a pagan celebration with no basis in scripture.
But this is not the America of 1689 or 1789 or even 1889. Had the founders not embedded religious freedom within the Constitution, the long arc of American history suggests that these freedoms would have found their way in there eventually, consistent with the increasingly pluralistic nation that we are forever becoming.
So if there is a "War on Christmas," it is a war of attrition. And that is a war that history suggests Christmas can never win.