City of Saints and Madmen

I’ve been itching to read Jeff Vandermeer for ages. My copy of City of Saints and Madmen came in earlier this week, and i dove into it, as i’m bogged down in at least a dozen other books, and a little fantasy seemed that it would be a good palate cleanser and/or momentum builder.

It’s, um…. I dunno. It’s more than enjoyable enough, but with this first piece, i keep thinking of someone putting Nick Cave and that guy from the Decemberists together in a room (some of the language is whimsically archaic, and i’m a little wary of that,) and telling them to do a round-robin story. All of the archaic language is making me cringe. Another analogy would be if Michael Moorcock (who wrote the intro) sliced up pages of the works of Herman Melville (whaling,) Joseph Conrad (rivers, civilization degenerating into savagery,) and Gabriel Garcia Marquez (tractless, fever-tainted jungles, obsessed priests,) with a good peppering of Lovecraft (fungi cults,) and other pulp horror brethern.

This is may not a bad thing. Hopefully i’ll do a followup when i get further into the book or finish.

gradual adoption of agriculture in Near East model gaining support

The evidence through archaeobotany show that wheat spikelets found in archaeology sites in sites in Turkey (Nevali Çori) and Syria (el Kerkh and Kosak Shamali) support a gradual adoption of agriculture, and not a rapid spread. The transition may have taken as long as 1,000 years, with the first agriculture beginning 10,000 years ago. Even proponents of the rapid adoption theory seem sympatheic to the new model.

neutrinos have mass

So neutrinos have mass, eh? That explains some of the “missing mass” that the physicists are always scratching their heads about, when peering about the universe, crunching the numbers from the measurements. The article states that the Standard Model of how fundamental particles interact will have to be revised, as it does not account for neutrinos having mass.

Vaffanculo! or “Va fa in culo”

I’m more concerned with Scalia prejudging a case that will come before him, and whether he will recuse himself, not whether he made an obscene gesture on the steps of a church. He wants to be ultra-Catholic, and beat his chest about how fucking Sicilian he is? I just don’t fucking care. I knew about the gesture when i made the first post the other day. Go ahead. Enjoy yourself, bullying baboon…

However, i find it laughable that pussycat Scalia is so chickenshit in his disingenuous declaration what that gesture means in common use. What did he say? Vaffanculo. I’m a little more tuned into Sicilian immigration than the usual American, as Tangipahoa Parish was one of the largest rural settlements of Sicilian immigrants in the U.S. back in the day. The strawberry truck farms in Independence and Tickfaw are the legacy. Saint Joseph’s Day has always meant a hell of a lot more to me than Saint Patrick’s Day.

(Here’s an excerpt from Bread and Respect, just to give background of area. Nothing to do with Scalia.)

So Mr. I’m-the-son-of-a-Sicilian-immigrant is going to play dumb, and pretend that it simply means, “I couldn’t care less. It’s no business of mine. Count me out.” According to the Boston Herald account, he actually said, “Vaffancolo,” which most certain does not translate as, “I couldn’t care less. It’s no business of mine. Count me out.”

He was perfectly within his rights to make the gesture, which is not that obscene. It’s a reflection of his character, but it’s a greater reflection in how he handles the aftermath. Playing games in his statement with the gesture versus the phrase he uttered?

Liar. Dissembler. Coward.

No, Scalia. go fuck yourself up the ass. Please.

It’s not really important. Let’s move on. Just put another tic on the scoreboard on why i loathe this sonofabitch. Debunking this is not going to change my opinion of his prejudgement.

This is nowhere near as funny as the jackass who was trying to show how peaceful Baghdad is by trying to pass off a photo of a suburb of Istanbul anyway.

Borges, Sartre, and Kierkegaard

ouch. me poor blessed noggin.

There’s an essay on Borges over on ReadySteadyBook. (via Conversational Reading.)

I’m struggling to come up with a comment on this. It’s odd that i just saw a Beckett play last week. Part of the problem i have with conventional narrative fiction is exactly the problem that the essayist points out Sarte’s description of the novel (which i was previously unfamiliar with.) I think that i love novels, but i don’t trust that Sartre assessment that novels grant a sense that, “our lives are both free and meaningful.” The essayist takes this into the writings of Kierkegaard, going into the concepts of actuality and possibility, and leaving me with a vague sense of existential dread.

I ain’t too well versed in philosophy, despite three courses in the stuff. (I bluffed my way through the essay exams.) Anyway, Gabriel Josipovici has given me a lot to chew on today.

Thracian language decoded?

I found this story on the Sophia New Agency.

The author of a book unveiling the secrecy of Thracian letters has been publicly accused of cribbing from a publication.

At a press conference on Wednesday Bulgaria-born Dr Stefan Guide was critisised by a Bulgarian journalist that quotes and statements in his book do not meet the reality.

The US-residing linguist, who is also a specialist in cryptography and transcendent analysis, claimed that a Bulgaria-found plate – dating back to the times of Mesopotamia civilization – has provided the code for reading the ancient letters of Thracians.

According to him, the decoded alphabet showed terms such as “Thracia” and “territory of Thracia” to have existed seven centuries before Christ.

This makes it the oldest known human letters in the world, the Bulgarian scientist said.

The culture of Palaeolithic tribes living on the territory of today’s Bulgaria is believed to hide the roots of ancient Orphic mysteries.

Signs of sound alphabet have been discovered on the localities: Lepeneski Vir and Vincha in Serbia, Karanovo, Gradeshnitsa and Sitovo in Bulgaria, Tartaria in Romania as well as many localities in Macedonia.

More information on the findings – which, if true, will give an entirely new direction of the sciences of Thracians – will be held March 29, Wednesday, in the BTA press club in Sofia, archaeologists announced.

It’s probably just the journalist who wrote the article, but i don’t get that line, “According to him, the decoded alphabet showed terms such as ‘Thracia’ and ‘territory of Thracia’ to have existed seven centuries before Christ.” Okay. Gotcha. The statement that follow this seems like a misstatement to me. 700 BC would certainly not put this alphabet among “the oldest known human letters in the world.”

Regardless, here’s the Wikipedia entry on the Thracian language, and i am waiting to see what announced at that press conference yesterday.

photo of palace of Ajax

Here’s a photo of that alleged palace of Ajax the Greater.

Somehow i missed the first time around that the dating of the structure came in part from a stamp on a plate of mail, marking it with the emblem of Ramses II in Egypt, who would have ruled contemporaneously.

tablets of Ur discovered in Iraq

This must be some of that “good news” out of Iraq that the Bush administration swears that the media never reports, eh?

This is an exceptional find,” team leader Silvia Chiodi told the Italian news service ANSA, noting the tablets were found at an archaeological site not far from the location of the ancient city.

“The most surprising thing is the time span the tablets cover, ranging from 2,700 B.C., the First Dynasty of Ur, to 2,100 B.C., the Third Dynasty,” Giovanni Pettinato, an expert on Sumerian civilization, told ANSA. Pettinato surmised that if the tablets were part of a library, there might be thousands of them at the site.

Ur, near the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya, is cited in the Bible as the birthplace of the prophet Abraham, ANSA reported, noting Ur was also the religious center of the Sumerian civilization.

A most famous classic of ancient literature, Gilgamesh, was written at Ur.

Curiously, the Epic of Gilgamesh was actually written after the period that these tablets date from. The historical Gilgamesh would have ruled contemporaneously in Uruk nearby to the northwest. Even if these tablets are mere inventories, these are going to be interesting.