Paperless milestone

Without really trying to, I just submitted a book review for publication without printing a single sheet of paper during the composition of it. I did all my revisions on the laptop screen. This is a new experience. The most surprising part is that I didn’t intend to do this; it just happened. I do […]

How Mother Earth immigrated to America

Mother Earth is a woman who needs no introduction.

In the Old World, she’s been written up and talked about for a long, long time. Her stock was probably lowest around the sixteenth century, but since then she has come roaring back. Now pagans, poets, and environmentalists sing her praises, and everyone else has heard of her. (She has her own holiday, although people aren’t clear about which day it should be observed on.)

As best I can tell, though, she never visited the New World until after the Old World colonized it. She’s an immigrant. Continue reading “How Mother Earth immigrated to America”

Creek language treasures

Creek beaded pouch, early 1800s, from the Ulster Museum collection.
The Creek Language Archive just gets better and better. The website recently added Creek Texts by Mary R. Haas and James H. Hill, a trove of transcribed manuscripts in the Creek language on a variety of interesting subjects.

…este nak kērrvlket hvsoss-elecv sehokēpofv tat,
nake kērrulke ensukcv fvcfvkē omet sehok’t omvtēt omēs.

…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 “Creek language treasures”

How to review stuff

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

immanence n.
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.

transcendence n.
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 “How to review stuff”

Pap Finn in the 21st century

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.”

Continue reading “Pap Finn in the 21st century”