Saturday, December 21, 2013

Hippie Punching - Hopi Edition

My liberal nemesis Alyssa Rosenberg highlighted a heartwarming story of how the Annenberg Foundation secretly bought up a trove of Hopi artifacts in order to return them to the Hopi instead of ending up in the hands of private or institutional collectors.

And hey, good for the Annenberg Foundation and good for the Hopi.  There is a long and storied history of First Nations cultures literally being pillaged for their artifacts in this country, so I can certainly understand the Hopi desire to get that stuff back and the desire on behalf of Annenberg to help out.

But there is a downside.  Giving this stuff back virtually guarantees that it will never be seen again by non-Hopi eyes.  Indeed, I think the only thing the Hopi will do with these artifacts is to either destroy them outright or bury them in some hole to slowly rot into dust.

A couple things bug me about Alyssa's report. 

She, and everyone else associated with it, take the Hopi religious claims at face value.  "These masks are living spirits."  And hey, I'm not saying that the Hopi don't believe the masks are living spirits, what I'm saying is that whatever the Hopi believe about these masks, they're not going to tell you.

They have such an inscrutably different culture than us that we literally cannot comprehend it.  The "living spirits" thing is the English translation, and it leaves out all the little nuances and complications that only someone raised Hopi would understand.

But what really bugs is that she first accepts, again at face value, the religious interpretation of these objects, she starts referring to them later as "art."

The Hopi don't consider this to be "art."  Don't talk to them about "art."  These are tools they use in their own spiritual reality, not "art" works.  They serve (or served, since they were later expropriated by relic hunters) a religious purpose.  Decorations they ain't. 

Indeed, I suspect the main reason the Hopi wanted these objects back is so they would not end up on somebody's wall as "art."  Hate to say it, they're kind of weird that way.

They've been living up on their mesas since the 14th century, long before any bearded European stepped foot in the New World, and have endured the Spanish Empire, the Mexican Empire, as well as the American empire.  Before that, they lived in the Four Corners area, building huge monumental buildings, including the ones at Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon.  They started doing that in the 9th century.

They're an impressive lot, the Hopi, but they're not a group that a well-meaning liberal should jump to defend.  For one, they're kind of racist.  And hey, I understand.  Racism is taught, and the white man has been giving free lessons since 1492. 

A non-Hopi entering a Hopi village essentially has no rights, a policy that would make liberal hairs curl if it was implemented in the South.

The Hopi are squeamish about photographs, and video recordings, and tape recordings.  They don't want to be Disneyland, so they don't let you take them. 

New Age creepsters have imitated them and distorted their mythologies for so long, now they don't want their stuff to show up at department stores stamped Made in China.  Lucky for them, they're a sovereign nation.

They can do that kind of thing if they want to.  That doesn't mean you have to give them a high five.

Friday, December 20, 2013

America...Fuck Yeah

This joke is not mine, but on the occasion of Utah (Utah!) being the 18th state in the union to recognize gay marriages, someone posted this:
Gay marriage is now legal in every state where Mitt Romney owns a home.
Speaking of Mitt Romney, Netflix will be releasing a behind the scenes documentary of the Romney campaign.

As a political junkie who also likes (well-made) documentaries, I can't wait to see it.


This hipster dude is a hero.

I can't believe that the robber would be so brazen as to walk up to a guy, put a gun in his face, and just expect to be accommodated.  Serves him right.

He plead not guilty, by the way.  Good luck with that.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Best Writing Advice Ever

Irish author Paul Lynch provides the cliff notes version on how to be a writer.  It came in paragraph form, but I'm breaking it up into bullet points:
  • That reading is more important than writing. That reading the classics matters. That if reading for you is not narcotic, quit now while you are ahead. (Why would you want to write a book when you don’t read them?)
  • That you should write the novel you want to read, not the one you think you can write.  Write the book you think you can’t write—for writing is the act of pushing past yourself.
  • Do not care for what the establishment wants because the establishment is built of writers who once set out to dismantle it. Learn that if your writing sounds establishment, it is already dead.
  • Write dangerously. Write for the deepest part of yourself. Never write looking over your shoulder.
  • Accept failure as the essence of process and rewrite your way through it.
  • Learn discipline. Learn self-reliance.
  • Write past your limits—that every draft is more intelligent than its predecessor. You will be a smarter writer when you finish your first draft. By the time you finish your tenth draft, your writing will be smarter than you.
  • Learn to read your writing objectively.
  • Learn to read your writing aloud, for it allows you to hear your writing as if another wrote it.
  • Learn that tone is everything. Spend however long it takes finding the song for your book. And then keep going back to those perfected early pages to remind yourself how your book is supposed to sound.
  • Learn to get closer to what you are writing about. Learn to get closer to truth. Ask yourself all the time, am I close enough? Can I get it tighter?
  • Learn to cut. Learn to cut what’s left. Learn to get your writing to the point at which you cannot better it. That is the time to show it to somebody else.
  • Learn to trust your opinion and know what you want. But know there is a time for good counsel.
  • Learn to be kind to yourself, because writing is hard and it will bash you up.
  • Learn that you are not in competition with other writers. That your only competition is time, which is the truest judge.
Some of these I follow instinctively and naturally.  Others take more effort. 

I'm a merciless cutter, which I suspect is a struggle for many writers, but this same merciless quality shows up when it's time to be kind to myself, which I rarely am. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Reading Bad Short Stories

I've been reading this story, just a short story, and it's awful.  I mean, really bad.  I could skip it but then I would never know just how truly awful it is.

So a lady is driving across the desert to visit her cancer-inflicted sister in the hospice. Along the way, she has a close encounter with a UFO, "almond-shaped eyes" and everything.  The weird thing is that we get pages and pages of setup and backstory, all this internal monologue and excessively detailed description, and then when we get to the aliens, it's just a few paragraphs of alien contact, then bloop...cut to the next scene at the hospital.

Now maybe I'm just impatient, but I don't think it's really cool to make your reader sit through pages of nonsense before you get to the interesting part of your story, not that an alien encounter is all that interesting.  I mean, I hope to God all that stuff about how she was fat in high school is going to come back into play later.  Otherwise, why did I just read it?

Leave that shit in the notebook, man.