…and when gitlalgi (“knowers”) were in the southeast, it was as if their pockets were full [of knowledge].
That’s from “Belief about the ihosá” [PDF]. Creek Indians gave the name ihosá to the being that causes people to get confused and lose their way in the woods. But for those who know, the ihosá can also give power.
The “pockets” mentioned in the text would have resembled the beaded pouch shown in the picture. These were usually attached to a broad, decorated shoulder strap. In fact, the colors in this pouch are subdued compared to most I’ve seen. I guess old-time Creek hunters would not have gone for Mossy Oak gear. (This pouch is further described here, although it’s wise to be skeptical about the specific provenance, i.e., “made for Tuskina, Chief of the Creek Indians, by his daughter”.) Continue reading →
I’ve been listening to the Irish radio series (available in podcast) called “Speaking Ill of the Dead.” Based on an idea cooked up by some Montana historians, it’s a series of history lectures that seeks to balance the profession’s innate tendency toward hero worship by deliberately running down some eminent historical figures.
Montana has no end of colorful ne’er-do-wells whose lives can hardly be treated in any other way but with contempt. Continue reading →
Since January I have spent hours helping a neighbor whose attempts to pay his creditor, GE Money (doing business as CareCredit), were all being headed off. Whether he used the website or the telephone, he was unable to complete the transaction, and was in danger of expensive penalties. Reaching a customer service rep required unusual persistence, and once he did so, the employees were consistently unhelpful, besides being alternately hostile and contemptuous.
After research, I formed the following hypothesis:
GE Money Bank formed CareCredit, and tricked it out to look like a nonprofit, in order to mislead elderly, inexperienced, or otherwise vulnerable customers into signing up for a credit card that is easy to acquire but difficult to make timely payments on. This results in crippling penalties and interest on what is touted as an “interest-free” credit option. Instead of helping customers pay their health-care bills, CareCredit is more likely to punish customers with extra expenses.
As the president and congressional leaders meet today on financial regulation, I offer this story as evidence of which direction we need to be going now. It is not in our national interest to allow banks to take customers for everything they can get, while “denying any wrongdoing.” We need an independent financial consumer protection agency with the power to intervene in the interest of consumers. Continue reading →
One of the Indian phrases we white folks like to throw around now and again is the name “Long Man” or “Long Person” for a river. We tend to do this with the idea that Indians had some “primitive” idea of the river as a god of some kind. The fact is, the name and idea of a “Long Man” only occurred in some Indian cultures, in specific contexts.
Cherokee Indians do have a name for the conscious spirit of a river or stream, whose voice is said to speak in the waterfalls and rapids. Such a spirit is called ᏴᏫ ᎬᎾᎯᏔ (yvwi gvnahita), a long man or long person. In a 1900 report, ethnographer James Mooney referred to this being as a “river god,” but that seems to be a lazy and inaccurate comparison. I’ve found no evidence that Cherokees worshipped or sacrificed to these beings. Rather, they believed (and I suppose still believe) that a river has a consciousness, the wisdom of great age, and a capacity to teach lessons to receptive humans. Continue reading →
Tim Carmody at Snarkmarket wrote a thoughtful essay on reviewing books, movies, and other works in the new-media environment. In a nutshell, he points out how swarms of reviews posted at Amazon (for example) can have competing objectives, centering on what he labels immanence versus transcendence.1
The “thingy-ness” of an artwork, its physical form as we experience it. Examples: As digital media proliferate, a book might be experienced as a weighty hardcover, a Kindle file, a set of Google Books snippets, or a misquoted excerpt encountered in someone’s blog.
The “ideal, imagined, almost Platonic form” of a work of art that transcends all our particular experiences of it in various forms. Example: The Godfather is recognizable as The Godfather, whether we encounter as a signed first edition of Mario Puzo’s novel, a much-abused paperback in a movie tie-in edition, or the first disc in the Blu-Ray release of The Godfather Trilogy. Unless we’re focused on the history of the immanent forms themselves (the novel, the paperback, the movie on DVD), we usually treat them all as versions of the same work.
The difference between these helps explain a gap between traditional newspaper reviews, which emphasize the value of the transcendent work, and consumer reviews at Amazon and countless other sites, which are more likely to focus on the particular experience with one (immanent) form of the work. Continue reading →
Whenever his liquor begun to work he most always went for the govment. — Huckleberry Finn
Ron Perlman as Pap Finn in a 1993 movie
Mark Twain’s character “Pap” Finn, the father of Huckleberry Finn, is an angry man. He’s angry at his son for giving him “sass” and disobeying him. He’s angry at the whole town for looking down on him, instead of respecting and fearing him as he knows they should. He’s angry at the meddling Widow Douglas for giving his good-for-nothing son a home and an education. And he’s angry at the law for withholding money he didn’t earn but feels entitled to.
Pap works out his anger by drinking and running riot whenever he can afford to. Or he takes it out on his son, lashing him without mercy as often as he can catch him. And when these fail him, he puts his anger into words. His rants are worthy of a comments thread on a 21st-century blog — and no less topical. He hated everyone he knew, but in his rants “he most always went for the govment.”
The YouTube video has been removed, but this is still a good day to remember the 1957 British news broadcast on the spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland, complete with convincing footage of trees laden with stringy pasta. The story was the brainchild of Charles de Jaeger. The details are at the Museum of Hoaxes website.