A little tidbit.

Today is a better day – for writing, at least.  Tomorrow I may actually have time for a real post, if things aren’t as crazy at work.  Here’s a sampling of the good stuff:

“Why do you keep walking around behind me?”  Jim said over his shoulder to me.
“I’m trying to keep you between me and the squirrels.  Those things are dangerous.”
He snorted.  “That great for you, but I’m hardly much of a defense.”
“Well every little bit helps.”
“You know, I was thinking about squirrels the other day – how they get overfed and have relatively sedentary lives.  Does their health suffer, or do they live to a ripe old age?  And what happens when they die?  You never see a dead squirrel body.”
“Well, I’m not sure about the death issue, but they seem reasonably healthy.  Maybe bigger, but still they’re quick on their feet.”
“I suppose competition for resources still applies.  You have to deal with people and other dangers -”
“Like lawnmowers.  I mean, look at their chewed-up tails.”
“Yes lawnmowers.  But yeah, there are still dangers.  I think the tail thing is genetics though.”
“Really?  I thought it was situation.”
“Well either way, do you really need a big bushy tail if you aren’t in trees that much?”
“I guess not.  About the dead squirrel issue though – don’t the groundspeople pick them up?”
“I don’t see why.  They don’t do leaves.  But maybe dead squirrels are considered ‘trash’ rather than ‘yard waste’.”
“I did see a dead squirrel once though, down by the river.  I think those things deliberately stretch out when they die.”  I could see all the pinkening viscera in my head still, the leafy tangle of matted fur and detritus.
“Down by the river?  What was it doing all the way down there?  No trees at all.”
“They’re city creatures now, almost fully adapted to urban life.  They go where the garbage goes.”

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Owing the Taliban

In recent history, anger and revolution have destroyed a number of great monuments to the work and beliefs of mankind. The Cultural Revolution comes to mind, and its destruction and defacement of a variety of religious monuments, including some of the early Buddhist temples along the Silk Road. The book burning in Nazi Germany is another example. The symbolic burning of Old Glory to support a specific cause is an example of representative destruction, as was done during the Vietnam War. The Taliban and their destruction of various non-Muslim religious spaces is another example.

But all is not lost with these acts of violence. The monuments that were destroyed are often held in even more reverence at later times. The calls to destruction can attract new attention to significant historical locations and even sometimes lead to renewed study and preservation concerns for the past. Take the recent discovery that Buddhists near Bamiyan used oil-based paints in the 7th century for example. If the Taliban hadn’t attempted to destroy the caves and the two Buddha statues outside, conservationists would have been reluctant to study the composition of the painting materials. From restoration processes after the Taliban’s reign, we now know that people in the area were using oils centuries before the advent of oil painting in Europe.

What debt, then, do we have to those who attempt to destroy culture and end up preserving it even more firmly? Does it say something more about them, or about us, that we study only those things that are most endangered or at risk. What does it mean that a high percentage of the archaeological study taking place in North America only happens as a result of land development? What does it mean that we only have the resources to discover the past when the physical presence of that past is threatened?

Egypt in modern times.

I was shopping for my little sister’s birthday present when I was struck head-on with the odd fascination English has with foreign words.  I’d already noted it here in regards to Aztec – today I found something from a more ancient culture.  Though Egypt and Egyptology has fascinated a variety of peoples and countries, usually this fascination is obvious.  Take the Egyptian-style theaters of 20s or the obelisks favored for a variety of monuments.  Take jewelry and the Art Deco ‘Egyptian style’.

More specifically, take the “Narmer Necklace“.   This particular piece of jewelry does not openly display its affiliation with Egypt, though there are some visible links to art deco style.  However, there is no real mention of who Narmer is or any indication of the two symbols that make up his name – a fish shape, and a chisel shape.  Narmer is considered to be the first king of a unified Egypt.  And now, his name gets to be a part of popular jewelry.  World conquest, here we come!