Robert Fagles on the Iraq (mis)adventure

I was reading the NYT piece on the new translation of the Aeneid, only to burst out in laughter when i got to this:

“To begin with, it’s a cautionary tale,” Mr. Fagles said. “About the terrible ills that attend empire — its war-making capacity, the loss of blood and treasure both. But it’s all done in the name of the rule of law, which you’d have a hard time ascribing to what we’re doing in the Middle East today.”

Anyway, it was funny on the first reading.

I gotta admit that when i was in my phase of reading mythology and epics, the Aeneid didn’t do much for me. Even when later in college, i had professors to goad me through, it left me flat. It’s probably the time to give it another try.

Bronze Age mortuary complex in Umm el-Marra, Syria

Yep. Royal cemetery. Contemporary of Ur. Trading post. All kinds of goodies there. Groovy. What caught my eye when i read this story though is this:

A previously unseen variety of non-cuneiform writing was carved into four small clay cylinders found in this level, a very interesting find requiring further evaluation, he said.

Ooooo… he ain’t blowing no smoke. I hope something more comes out on this relatively soon.

evidence of early domestication of horse in Kazakhstan

Over on the Stone Pages, there’s a cool link to a story showing that a site in northern Kazakhstan has provided evidence for the early domestication of the horse, 5,600 years ago. It seems this is the page for the original research, which includes a photo of the site. The Krasnyi Yar site was inhabited by the Botai people. i tried to find something on them on Wikipedia, but the only reference seemed to be on the article for the domestication of the horse, obviously. Also found a post from Dieneke’s anthropology blog that i missed.

fossilized pre-Clovis footprints in northern Mexico

These footprints are supposed to be between 10,000 and 15,000 years old. I haven’t forgotten those other Mexican footprints from the Valsequillo Basin, as the debunking of them did not convince me. Nonetheless, this is interesting.

MEXICO CITY – A trail of 13 fossilized footprints running through a valley in a desert in northern Mexico could be among the oldest in the Americas, Mexican archeologists said.

The footprints were made by hunter gatherers who are believed to have lived thousands of years ago in the Coahuila valley of Cuatro Cienegas, 190 miles (306 kms) south of Eagle Pass, Texas, said archaeologist Yuri de la Rosa Gutierrez of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.

“We believe (the footprints) are between 10,000 and 15,000 years old,” De la Rosa said in a news release Wednesday. “We have evidence of the presence of hunter gatherers in the Coahuila desert more than 10,000 years ago.”

De la Rosa said there have only been initial tests to find the age of the prints and more tests will be carried out both in Mexico and at a laboratory in Bristol in Great Britain.

The oldest discovered footprints in the Western hemisphere are in Chile, and are believed to be 13,000 years old. There 6,000-year old footprints in the U.S. state of California, in Brazil and in Nicaragua.

The age of the Mexican footprints is dwarfed by those found in Africa. The oldest known hominid foot marks are in Laetoli, in Tanzania, and are believed to have been made 3.5 million years ago.

The Cuatro Cienegas footprints were discovered in May embedded in a white rock called travertine, it said in the news release.

Each footprint is 10 inches (27 cm) long and under an inch (2 cm) deep. They spread over a distance of 30 feet (10 meters).

It is likely they were imprinted in mud and preserved by some rapid change in the environment, said Arturo Gonzalez, director of the Desert Museum, in the Coahuila state capital of Saltillo.

“There must have been a natural phenomenon to rapidly cover them so they were not rubbed out and were perfectly preserved,” Gonzalez said.

Is Israel using enriched uranium munitions?

This is disturbing. Last summer, during the fighting between Israel and Hizbollah, the Israelis were using American bunker-buster bombs. In the aftermath, it seems that there is evidence of use of radioactive weaponry by Israel:

Dr Chris Busby, the British Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, two soil samples thrown up by Israeli heavy or guided bombs showed “elevated radiation signatures”.

The theories:

Dr Busby’s initial report states that there are two possible reasons for the contamination. “The first is that the weapon was some novel small experimental nuclear fission device or other experimental weapon (eg, a thermobaric weapon) based on the high temperature of a uranium oxidation flash … The second is that the weapon was a bunker-busting conventional uranium penetrator weapon employing enriched uranium rather than depleted uranium.

Pulled the link from Talking Points Memo, which also links to this story.

Postcards from Ed: Dispatches and Salvos from an American Iconoclast

I picked up that link to the Salon essay “Where Have You Gone, Edward Abbey?” from one of those lit-blogs i pretend not to read anymore. It was a strange read for me, as i don’t think that i’ve read anything by him aside from Desert Solitaire since my teens. I wound up forwarding this paragraph to a few friends because it amused me:

Some of Abbey’s most entertaining letters involve skirmishes over literary reputation, one of his enduring obsessions. In a letter to the Nation, he contrasted Kurt Vonnegut’s “concern for justice, love, honesty and hope” with “novels about the ethnic introspection project (Roth, Bellow)” and “the miseries of suburban hanky-panky (Updike, Cheever, Irving).” He disparaged Jack Kerouac as “that creepy adolescent bisexual who dabbled in Orientalism and all the other fads of his time, wrote stacks of complacently self-indulgent, onanastic books and then drank himself to death while sitting on his mother’s lap, down in Florida.” He called Tom Wolfe a “faggoty fascist little fop” but later defended “Bonfire of the Vanities” as a “novel that reminds us, in the end, that defiance and resistance, manhood and honor, are still possible.”

Just for that Kerouac summation, i’m going to need to buy Postcards from Ed.  And even though i may wind up moving to Austin in the near future, i gotta stick this one in as well:

“Why pick on Texas? Because it typifies, concentrates and exaggerates most everything that is rotten in America: it’s vulgar — not only cultureless but anti-cultural; it’s rich in a brazen, vulgar, graceless way; it combines the bigotry and sheer animal ignorance of the Old South with the aggressive, ruthless, bustling, dollar-crazy brutality of the Yankee East and then attempts to hide this ugliness under a facade of mock-western play clothes stolen from a way of life that was crushed by Texanism over half a century ago. The trouble with Texas: it’s ugly, noisy, mean-spirited, mediocre and false.”

George W. Bush in a nutshell.

What was strange about reading this is that in my early days of blogging, long before OQ, i didn’t stop to think very often that a lot of my kneejerk rage came straight from that font. I always loathed all of his fiction aside from The Monkeywrench Gang, and felt vindicated years later when the obvious was pointed out, his essays were the real treausres. (Oddly, a goofy teen came into the bookstore last week, looking for The Monkeywrench Gang as well as Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus!… two of cornerstones of my early teens.) I’m eager to see what i’ve forgotten over the years.

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (if you wish to succumb to McEwan toxemia)

In reading another blog, i went looking for that list for 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Wow… that really is a crap shoot, isn’t it? I’ve read an awful lot more of those books than i expected, but randomness of it all makes me wince. I’m not going to waste much time on it, but it surprised me to see Ismail Kadare’s Spring Flowers, Spring Frost on there. Really? That one, eh?

No Bruno Schulz. No Danilo Kis. No Orhan Pamuk. No Carlos Fuentes. No Juan Rulfo. No Cormac McCarthy. No Denis Johnson. That’s just with a cursory glance at a nearby bookcase. Some omissions are understandable, but…

Yet what do we get with this list? Eight entries for Ian McEwan… The Cement Garden, The Comfort of Strangers, The Child in Time, Black Dogs, Enduring Love, Amsterdam, Atonement, and Saturday. (I’ve read four.) Yeah, that’s one lazy fucking list. “Handpicked by a team of international critics and literary luminaries” (supposedly numbering around two dozen people) my ass… they assembled this by throwing darts at old shortlists of the Man Booker and the New York Times Sunday Book Review.

Just Wow…

NEW ORLEANS – A note found on the body of a suicide jumper led police to a French Quarter apartment where they found a woman’s charred head in a pot, her arms and legs in the oven and her torso in the refrigerator, police said Wednesday.

Zackery Bowen, 28, leapt from the seventh floor of a luxury hotel in the Quarter on Tuesday night, police said. His note, found in his pocket, identified the woman as his girlfriend but did not mention her name.

The body was found in the second-floor apartment that Bowen and his girlfriend, Adriane Hall, had shared on the edge of the Quarter above a voodoo shop, according to the landlord. Authorities said they were trying to find Hall, but did not speculate on the identity of the dismembered woman.

A woman who identified herself as Priestess Miriam Chamani in the Voodoo Spiritual Temple and Cultural Center below the apartment said Wednesday that the couple had recently moved in.

“You see people and never know what’s going on with them,” the woman said.

The apartment’s owner, Leo Watermeier, said he last saw Hall on Oct. 5, four days after the two put down a deposit on the one-bedroom, $750-a month flat. Later that same day, Watermeier said, Bowen called him, angrily saying the woman was kicking him out.

Watermeier said Hall told him she had caught the boyfriend cheating.

Couple was profiled after Katrina
Police spokesman Anthony Cannatella said the motive appeared to be a dispute over rent. Cannatella said the note indicated Bowen strangled the woman following an argument and cut up her body — using a hand saw and knife, according to police.

“He took his life to compensate for the life he had taken,” Cannatella said.

The couple was profiled in several news stories following Hurricane Katrina as resilient residents who remained in the city after the devastating hurricane despite evacuation orders and a lack of power and water.

A story published by Newhouse News Service described the couple gathering tree limbs for cooking fires at night and trading beer and alcohol — easy to get because of their jobs as bartenders — for clean water. The couple also figured out a creative way to make sure police continued to patrol their house: Hall would flash her breasts at police vehicles to make sure they kept driving by, according to a profile in The New York Times.

“We’ve been able to see the stars for the first time,” Hall told Newhouse after the storm last year. “Before, this was a 24-hour lit city. Now it’s peaceful.”

Cannatella said an immediate identification of the body parts wasn’t possible. Det. Ronald Ruiz said police hoped to make a positive ID, using DNA or dental records, sometime next week. He said police estimated the dismembered woman was in her mid to late-20s.

The note, Cannatella said, indicated the woman was killed early in the morning of Oct. 5, in apparent conflict with the landlord’s account.

Joy Spaulding, who works at the nearby Nawlin’s Flava cafe, said she occasionally saw Hall and Bowen. “To be honest, they seemed like a real nice couple. They were good-looking people, young people trying to do something with their lives.”


Bush and the Paraguay land deal

George W. Bush has personally bought 98,840 acres in Paraguay. There is a deal with the Paraguayan government to exempt U.S. troops from war crimes. There is a semi-secret air base in the area. There are 500 special forces soldiers down there right now. The Moonies own 1,482,600 acres in the same neighborhood. Sloppy drunk Jenna Bush just wrapped up a trip down there, tweaking the final negotiations. After reading all of the stories linked in the Wonkette summation in this bizarre bit of news, I’m trying to wrap my mind around what the hell this means.

It’s all too weird to be believed.

Here’s the Wikipedia entry on Mariscal Estigarribia, where the military base is located.