“Beyond the Waters of Death,” Joan Acocella’s New Yorker piece on the making of GILGAMESH (14 October 2019)

  • “A young Londoner, George Smith, who had left school at the age of fourteen and was employed as an engraver of bank notes,” was fascinated by artifacts. He spent lunch breaks at the British Museum and “studied the shards for around ten years . . . it was he who found the most famous passage inscribed on them, an account of a great flood wiping out almost all of humanity, with one man’s family surviving. When he read this, we are told, he became so excited that he jumped out of his chair and ran around the room, tearing off his clothes.”

George Smith died of dysentery in Aleppo, where he’d gone to do research, age 36. But not before he discovered the oldest long poem in the world, Gilgamesh.

Everywhere in the world has an ancient flood story. Even Mexico. Even the Philippines. Self thinks this means there must have been an actual climactic event whose effects were felt worldwide.

Stay safe dear blog readers. Stay safe.

 

#amreading: Rosebud 67, Spring 2020

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Emotions: Language Descriptors For

Mama’s Last Hug is fascinating, how well it points out the limits of human understanding (i.e., Man is always front and center and human emotional behavior is always the benchmark for analyzing other species)

Self can’t help continuously drawing comparisons with . . . never mind.

p. 54:

  • If it is true that the environment shapes facial expressions, then children who are born blind and deaf should show no expressions at all, or only strange ones, because they’ve never seen the faces of people around them. Yet in studies of these children, they laugh, smile, and cry in the same way and under the same circumstances as any typical child. Since their situation excludes learning from models, how could anyone doubt that emotional expressions are part of biology?

Stay tuned.

Current Reading, First Friday in May 2020

The things self learns! Her house is a mess. Stacks of books piled everywhere.

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Mama’s Last Hug, p. 41:

  • People who have just fallen in love have more oxytocin in their blood than do singles, and their high concentration lasts if their relationship lasts. But oxytocin also shields pair-bonds from sexual adventures with outsiders. When married men are given this hormone in a nasal spray, they feel uncomfortable around attractive women and prefer to keep their distance.

 

 

Someone Who Will Love You In All Your Damaged Glory: Stories, p. 4

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Perhaps every can of cashews has a fake snake lurking, but you keep opening them, stupidly, because in your heart of hearts you still believe in cashews. And every time you discover the cruel fiction of the cashew can, you swear to yourself you’ll trust a little less next time, you’ll be a little less open, a little more hard. It’s not worth it, you say. It just isn’t worth it. You’re smarter than all that. From now on, you’re going to be smarter. Well, I’m here to tell you that this time will be different, even though I have absolutely no evidence to support that claim. Open this can and everything will be okay. The salted circus cashews are waiting. They are so savory and delicious.

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.

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.

Ann Glenconner and Imelda

Yes, they were friends. Of course they were.

Proof is in the photo gallery, circa 1978. Which self just paged through this morning.

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Currently Reading Memoir

Next on self’s reading list: Philip Pullman’s The Secret Commonwealth (Vol. II of his Book of Dust)

Stay tuned.

Patricia Westerford’s Father Explains Trees: The Overstory, p. 118

Her father explains how the trick is done. “Think about it! They’ve figured out how to live trapped in place, with no other protection, whipped by winds at thirty below zero.”

These magnificent Monterey pines were planted by the original owner of Fowey Hall, in Cornwall. Self encountered them for the first time in May 2019.

She had always thought Monterey pines were found in only two places in the world: California, and Kilkenny Park in Northern Ireland (She contributed a piece about Northern Ireland’s Monterey Pine for a book on Trees of Kilkenny, edited by poet Csilla Toldy and published last year)

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De la Lengua Bisaya (Concerning the Bisayan Language)

NOTE: The Bisayan Islands are in the central Philippines. There is not just one Bisayan language, there are several. The two major Bisayan languages are Hiligaynon (spoken in Dear Departed Dad’s home province) and Cebuano. After reading this chapter, self thinks that Alcina used Bisayan and Hiligaynon interchangeably.

from Alcina’s History of the Bisayan People in the Philippine Islands, Book III:

In good Spanish we use one word, lavar, to wash, to express one idea while in the Bisayan language many are utilized: so this language has a curious property, namely: that there is a different word for each thing that is washed. The Spaniard says ‘wash the clothes’ while the Bisayan conveys the idea of ‘washing clothes’ with one word and no more. We say ‘wash the plates or the pots’ etc. while they say hugas, this includes the entire idea. We speak of ‘washing fish’ or ‘washing meat’ while the natives say lawsaw, which signifies exactly the same. In this way, each thing that is washed has a different term. To wash or to clean the body is our way of expression; theirs parigus, and means the entire body. We say to ‘wash the feet’ and they say pamusa. We say ‘to wash the hands’ and they say hunay, and refer in similar manner about all the parts of the body.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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