A handsome little town. Generally I scratch around places for a terrible hidden history, but there’s not one apparent here. This, for once, I can appreciate. I like a place that has a sign erected to the fact that a horse was once owned there.
Stalled by a power outage today, but still excited to talk to you about a major archaeological discovery in the field of tartans.Actually, it isn’t. What I want to talk about is the stunning art on a seal excavated from the grave of the “Griffin Warrior,” a Greek nobleman buried in approximately 1450 BCE. This seal is so exquisitely detailed, with such unprecedented attention to anatomy and perspective, that if the dig had not been under supervision from the first, I would not have believed it was real. We associate the contemporary Minoans and Myceneans with a sharper, starker art, evocative but not realistic. Although this seal is of course not as technically accurate as, say, the Elgin Marbles, it has a level of observation that I would not have thought possible at the time.
Note the prone warrior, the one on the left who has fallen; note the warrior on the right. They have something in common: their skirts. They are both wearing tartan-weave cloth with a tasseled edge.
Whatever the ordinary person may think of the ancient Greeks, it probably does not include kilts. Popular culture associates the tartan with the Scots, with stuffiness and the Highlands, but the tartan is a truly ancient pattern. Tartans were found on mummified bodies buried in Urumqi, China, dating from 1400 to 1000 BCE. Elizabeth Wayland Barber has examined these tartans, and weaving in general, as a fugitive trace of ancient life, of women’s work vanished forever. This seal shows a very manly scene, but the artist, however unconsciously, recorded the handiwork of women.
Not feeling it today.
Enjoy the vastness of the flat: the ocean and the sand.
I have calmed myself down with Jeff’s peaceable timelapses for several days. As the internet naturally finds a way to spoil everything, some viewers have seized on this video as proof of a flat earth. This is, of course, a lack of comprehension of the size of all things. We should all be made to feel enormously small in our lives, at least once.
News today: there is potentially an enormous sealed chamber in the Great Pyramid at Giza, perhaps as large as the King’s Chamber.
This has captured me in a way that the pyramids have never done before. I never connected to the pyramids — there was no mystery left about them. It was all hollowed out and stolen millennia ago. The chambers stood as empty as lava caves. I never was drawn to the theories of “pyramidiots,” either, even in fun. The grand strangeness of ancient Egyptian religion is strong enough without the involvement of aliens, or Biblical figures, or any other latter-day figment that robs the world of wonder. But the pyramids themselves, as archaeological sites, have been left open, and stand cold and alone. Now, there is something new: possibility.
In all likelihood, the void or voids were simply intended to relieve the pressure on the chambers below, not to keep a golden hoard or imprison master architects. Nonetheless, the Egyptians made many plans to stay one step ahead of tomb robbers, not so much by curses but by paintings, spells and figures that rendered a magical, eternal source of goods and protection for the souls of the dead. Perhaps something within remains.
People complain. The future, they say, is not what it used to be. No moon base, no flying cars. We were promised jetpacks. Sure, we have pocket computers with more power than NASA had in 1969, but we hate them. They’re irritating and we mainly use them to see how much worse the world is than it was when we got up. Which it always is. We’ve got a cyberpunk dystopia on layaway, and it’s boring.
I wasn’t sold on Tomorrowland, though. I don’t miss the first futurism, so much — it could imagine soaring spires and space colonies, but not that a little girl might want to be more than a stewardess. What I do miss is hope — hope expressed in the scope of the world. There is, it appears, someone out there that has that hope. He is not an American.
Dahir Semenov is, so far as I can determine, a Russo-Turkish engineer with an eponymous company, Dahir Insaat. Its Youtube videos have delighted and puzzled the internet for some time now. Does Dahir Insaat produce prototypes? Buildings? Anything? What it does produce, for certain, are reams of CGI proposals for remaking the world.
The ideas are not what you would call, by and large, good ideas. The turnkey city plans are in the grand style of Le Corbusier, which is as much as to say that they would become hideous unlovable projects within three months. The buildings and public transportation systems defy everything we know about how people like to move and to live. And the quadcopters are … well, I have to admit, the quadcopters own pretty hard. I mean you can’t pick off every plane at an airbase this easy, you just can’t, but it’s amazing to see someone try.
What remains with me about this future that Dahir Insaat imagines is not merely that it is unapologetic, it is that it is not American. Although the videos are dubbed in English, they are mostly released in Russian and Arabic, and it is not hard to see that the Russian army is the triumphant one in the war scenarios. Never mind that the scenarios have the plausibility of the backyard setups in ‘80s toy commercials — these too are commercials, and even when commercials sell something that does not exist, the desire for it is real. Whether Dahir Insaat could ever begin to deliver on its promises, one thing is certain: these are dreams, and they are not for us, but they still are. In the black of the ocean at night, it is still a fine thing to see lights in the distance.
When I was five or so, I was watching some movie for grownups, which mostly bored me. But my ears pricked up when someone was talking about getting married, and saying that they could go get the blood test right away.
Blood test? You had to get a thumb stick to get married? I turned to my mother, and she solemnly informed me that this was so. I was distinctly disappointed. I hated blood tests. I’d had enough already. If I was going to get blood drawn I just was not going to get married. But then, I thought, I guess that was the test: grownups don’t mind blood tests, and if you’re not grown up enough to get blood drawn you’re not old enough to get married.
It has come to my attention that people no longer remember that this was once a small tradition in American marriage. According to this site, only Montana now requires it. The blood test, although invasive and faintly eugenic, was well intended. Before the advent of antibiotics, syphilis might percolate quietly, asymptomatically inside someone for years. Before the advent of the sexual revolution, when young ladies were forbidden to speak frankly or listen to frankness, men might go out to visit women who were not young ladies and bring home a case of syphilis to their innocent brides, resulting in illness and death for mother and child.
This is the sort of narrative that would tug the heartstrings of early 20th-century legislators. In a time before American women had much power or authority in sexual matters, perhaps the laws did save a few of them. But by and large, the test was not cost-effective; it found very few positive results. Syphilis itself could be cured by antibiotic treatments after World War II, and no longer had the same power to destroy lives.
STD testing and genetic testing are certainly a good idea for couples, but state law has mainly lost interest in mandating these things. You no longer have to be grown up enough to get stuck with a needle in order to get married.