Anthony Johnson on ‘Folk Memory’

Oh what a treasure trove of riches is this book Solving Stonehenge (which self had in her possession for at least over a decade, which she never had the time to read properly until now)

Mystery: Who/ What transported the stones to Stonehenge? (The stones are “bluestones” from west Wales)

In pre-literate societies the shaping of important facts into narrative form was a sure way of ensuring their survival in the collective consciousness of the community.

My Irish grandmother would often say that a kettle, on taking a long time to boil, ‘had stones in it.’ I was six or seven years old at the time and had no idea what this meant and, more importantly, neither did she … almost 20 years later while working on an archaeological excavation … I was examining a collection of large, scorched and fire-cracked pebbles that had been subjected to a greater episode of burning than represented by the small prehistoric hearth on which they lay. Similar stones had been found elsewhere on the site, remote from any burning — they were of course ‘potboilers.’ My grandmother was, unknowingly, referring to the use of stones to boil water by heating them and dropping them into earthenware pots which would have been incapable of withstanding the direct heat of a fire. This was a revelation; an ancient memory had been relayed to me from days when water was boiled not in metal pans or kettles, but in pottery vessels … Archaeology and oral tradition are not necessarily incompatible.

Self has a question: HOW were those bluestones transported from Wales? They look hella heavy. Another question: WHY? Seems like such an enormous investment of labor and time. She means: if people were laboring to transport, they couldn’t be hunting. Only large, settled communities could spare that much manpower for the time it took to transport and erect the stones. It involved organization — the assigning of specific tasks.

A Bronze Age man did not in isolation have an AHA moment where he said: let me try and move these BIGASS stones from Wales to here. He wouldn’t even have had the imagination to think up such a project. He didn’t up the ante by saying: I’m going to put two lintels here, and then raise a massive horizontal slab to lie on said lintels (which BTW must have been required enormous, enormous strength — the strength of many people. There had to be a fairly large human settlement.

Enter Henry VIII and his personal project: the cataloguing of England’s antiquities (Wasn’t Henry VIII the one with the many wives? Self knows him so well for one reason only: he beheaded Anne Boleyn, lol) The job was assigned to John Leland, who labored FOR TWELVE YEARS (from 1533 to 1545)

This is all so RUSSELL HOBAN. His novel, Riddley Walker, is about bards who travel up and down Britain, singing songs about a man named Adam whose body was pulled in two directions at once and who eventually split in two. Way to keep the memory of the atom bomb and the nuclear holocaust alive! After the apocalypse, there are no more libraries. No more books. No internet. But, there ARE ‘walkers’ to tell the tale.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Reading Manuel D. Duldulao’s THE FILIPINOS: PORTRAIT OF A PEOPLE

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In ancient times this was a land-track to Indonesia and even now one can see at night the quivering lights of Borneo towns from some of the Sulu islands. The Batanes Islands, off the northern coast of Luzon, sprinkle 18 tidbits to within 65 miles of Taiwan.

To this close proximity must be added evidence of early linkage with the “chain of fire” that once ringed the vast unbroken continent. One chain of volcanoes leads north from Borneo through Palawan and Mindoro to western and northern Luzon. Another line simmers from the same start but this time through the Sulu Archipelago and western Mindanao into Negros where Mount Canlaon still stands in turmoil after having poured out tons of lava that were to become fertile layers for the growing of sugar.

The eruption of Taal Volcano in 1965, after being quiet for 50 years, showed once more the hold of nature’s wrath on life in the Islands. The volcano, rising on an island in the middle of Lake Bonbon, 40 miles south of Manila, roared for three days, and blasted out untold tons of ash, mud, and glowing pumice. Steam shot 1000 feet aloft, spreading debris so thick that it buried houses and killed 200 out of the 3000 people who lived on the island.


Manuel D. Duldulao was a Filipino journalist and art commentator.

Currently Reading SOLVING STONEHENGE, by Anthony Johnson

The book was a gift from the author, who self has never met. He mailed it to Redwood City from Oxford University, where he taught. Self was blogging about Stonehenge (and was also writing flash about Stonehenge — those flash can still be found in Wigleaf). He left her a message on this blog. Then sent her the book.

In 1992, a burial site was discovered, 5 km east of Stonehenge. It was the grave of an adult man, “around 35-45 years old.” The man was deemed to be important because “ten times the usual number of finds accompanied the body.” He “had been laid on his left side … facing north.” Buried with him were:

  • two archer’s wristguards (one of which was made from black sandstone and came from the coast, 50 km away)
  • three copper knives
  • He must “have been buried with a bow and a quiver containing arrows, for 17 flint arrowheads were also present.”
  • a type of miniature anvil known as a ‘cushion stone’
  • a pair of sheet gold loop earrings

In 1993, a second grave was discovered, 6 km east of Stonehenge. This contained “the remains of seven individuals, all males: three adults, a teenager, and three children.” The oldest individual was “buried with his legs tucked up” and his head again pointing north.

The man in the 1992 grave has been given the name the Amesbury Archer.

In 2001, at Rameldry Farm, in Fife, Scotland, “a farmer’s plough caught the capstone covering an early Bronze Age” grave. Inside “a stone cist lay the skeleton of an adult male around 40 – 45 years, whose bones produced a radiocarbon date of 2280 – 1970 BC.”

Why is self reading so diligently about Bronze Age graves? She’s trying to finish her horror story and it’s about a team of scientists who stumble on some very disturbing findings in Antarctica. Hoping she can absorb some of the language.

She has so many questions: Why were people buried with heads facing north? Did they come from the north? Why were the oldest individuals around 40-45 years old, was that the normal life expectancy in the Bronze Age? Why were the graves of males exclusively? Where were the females buried?

More:

Suddenly, around 1700 BC, there is a disruption in the quality and quantity of metalwork found in graves in Britain. This coincided with “the apparent abandonment of Stonehenge.” By 1400 BC, “it appears that Stonehenge, already some 1,000 years old, had been abandoned.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Five Best Heroes Self Encountered in 2019 (All Fictional)

Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit

Frank Guidry, November Road

Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey

Niall Delaney, The Parasites

Sunny, Record of a Spaceborn Few

Quite a range of heroes, from a thriller, a romantic comedy, a du Maurier (who is in a class all her own), a fantasy, and a work of science fiction. Three of the five books that gave self her favorite heroes of 2019 were written by women.

Though self ended 2019 far below her Goodreads Reading Challenge goal, she is setting an even higher goal for 2020. Would you believe it if self told you that she used to be able to read 60 books a year?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Five Best Heroines Self Encountered in 2019: One Real, Four Fictional (Stay Tuned for Part 2: Heroes)

Anne Glenconner, Lady in Waiting, My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown (memoir)

Catherine Morland, Northanger Abbey (novel)

Cora Seaborne, The Essex Serpent (novel)

Nora Gerraoui, The Other Americans (novel)

Rita Sunday, Once Upon a River (novel)

All of self’s favorite heroines were in books written by women. Coincidence?

Kathryn Ferguson: The Haunting of the Mexican Border, A Woman’s Journey

Half the time, self is reading this book with deep anxiety. Why? Because the author is a woman and self’s background is conditioning her to expect an ‘incident.’ But, so far, Ferguson’s encounters have been refreshingly free of ‘Bad Hombres.’

p. 54:

One of my first faux pax in the Sierra is to tell Hiram, a Norogachic vaquero and friend of Santiago’s, that I like his horse while he is saddling up a mule. Politely but firmly he explains the difference. Mules and horses look alike. Except mules have long ears. I have since become a great observer of ears. I don’t want to call someone a jackass who isn’t.

Stay tuned.

Self-Regard

Since finishing The Hobbit, a week and a half ago, self has read two books by women: The Haunting of the Mexican Border, by Kathryn Ferguson (University of New Mexico Press, 2015) and Trick Mirror, by Jia Tolentino (Random House, 2019).

Ferguson undertakes an exploration of the southern border, with a vague hope of making a documentary: she doesn’t have funds, doesn’t know anyone, but stumbles around, talking to whoever will talk to her. And she IS lucky: nothing bad happens to her.

Jia Tolentino is lucky. The daughter of Philippine parents who became Canadian citizens, she is smart as a whip, in-your-face, and funny. Her style is to sit back and analyze everything that happens to her, and everything she does.

In Essay # 2 of Trick Mirror, she recounts her time as a reality TV contestant (She was 16. Never one to miss an advantage, she packs a lot of pocket-sized mini-skirts. Points!). After analyzing her fellow castmates (one was “a sweet guy,” another was “the all-American girl,” still another was “the wacko,” etc.), she asks her castmates what they thought she’d been cast as:

Though I’m sure they would’ve answered differently if someone else had been asking, my castmates guessed I was the smart one, or the sweet one, or the “fun Southern one,” or the prude.

(It is amazing that someone would ever think she’d been cast as “the prude,” given the pocket-sized minis!)

But then she writes, disarmingly, that reality TV “is a narcissist’s fantasy come true . . . everyone likes to have an audience. Everyone thinks they deserve one.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Jia Tolentino

White nationalists have brought white people together through the idea that white people are endangered, specifically white men — this at a time when 91 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are white men, when white people make up 90 percent of elected American officials and an overwhelming majority of top decision-makers in music, publishing, television, movies and sports.

The I in the Internet, Essay # 1 in Trick Mirror

Anthropology of Food: Doreen G. Fernandez

Doreen G. Fernandez was self’s Freshman English professor at the Ateneo de Manila University. Her greatness was in her writing. She wrote beautifully about her subject: Philippine food, and its long history.

Recently, self began re-reading her book Tikim: Essays on Philippine Food and Culture (Anvil Publishing, Philippines, 1994)

Her Process:

My teachers are all those who give me information about food: market vendors, street sellers, cooks, chefs, waiters, restaurant and carinderia owners, farmers, tricycle drivers, gardeners, fishermen, aficionados, nutritionists, readers of my columns, friends, food critics and historians, fellow researchers, authors of books (and cookbooks), writers of columns, food anthropologists — everyone who eats and cares.

— Doreen G. Fernandez, 13 June 1994


For self, the biggest, most interesting stop in her very brief late December visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico was the Farmer’s Market. It was bitter cold, snow lined the tracks of the railyard just adjacent, and inside a vast warehouse were smells, the indescribable smells of chili, pine, roasted coffee. Oh, heaven.

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Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The “I” in the Internet: Essay # 1, TRICK MIRROR

  • Having a mutual enemy is a quick way to make a friend — we learn this as early as elementary school — and politically, it’s much easier to organize people against something than it is to unite them in an affirmative vision. And, within the economy of attention, conflict always gets more people to look. — p. 22, Trick Mirror

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