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So I was reading some archaeological news — they’re doing genetic testing on a gravesite in Croatia (CW for discussion of a neolithic-era massacre). The site is 6200 years old, and 41 people are buried there. They knew pretty much immediately that they were deliberately killed, because they had serious damage to their skulls.
But they weren’t killed as part of a fight; they must have been drugged or restrained. The researchers can tell, because none of the bodies had defensive wounds. “Defensive wounds” means that if someone goes to hit you with a club, you put your hands out in front to protect yourself. Everyone does this.
The researchers weren’t there to see what happened that day. It was six thousand years ago. But they know at least part of what happened, because they can trivially rely on the fact that “everyone does this” is as true of humans six millennia ago as it is of people today, at least for this one thing.
I know “people will try to stop you from hitting them with weapons” is not a deep or interesting revelation about human nature. But I still somehow find it really comforting that we can know some of what happened that day because we’re still the same humans, and we know what we’re like and how we’d act.
(The rest of the article is interesting if you like that kind of logic/forensic archaeology, where they rule out things based on various forms of physical evidence — I left out most of the steps because I just wanted to talk about one aspect.)
There’s whales, which are big, and birds,
most of which fly, and humans, who’ve
made all the good movies. There’s tragedy,
which is sad, and comedy, which is too.
There’s apples, the red ones, and lemons,
the yellow ones, and plums, the purple ones,
and oranges. Every two years or so the moon
does something crazy. There’s joking
around with new friends not yet attuned
to your particular sense of irony
and one million other ways to ruin something
good. There’s a world’s worth of glittering
cities before they fall and what’s called a slip
and slide. It’s honestly all so simple, even
simpler than it looks. What you’ll want to do
basically is run at it screaming
and let gravity do the work, not that you’ll have
any choice. Oh, right, and there’s choice
perhaps. And sin. There’s so many answers
to get lost in. And minds. Once I was gone
for what felt like a lifetime and came back
the next summer, my old atoms
getting younger on the counter. There’s iron
and oak and a sort of dark sea
glass washing ashore, piles more every day
and there’s every day. Nothing makes
enough sense but some of it makes a little
flutelike sound in the right wind.
It’s like this: there’s at least five spaceships
no one uses and justice
eventually for what was done to us
and what we did. There’s this whole, I don’t
know, apparatus. And those ants
that farm aphids. There’s forgiveness
and toothpaste and bullets.
It’s like that Kurt Vonnegut line in poem form isn’t it?
“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies— Goddamn it, you've got to be kind.”
Taiwan official urges people to stop changing their name to ‘salmon’
A chain of sushi restaurants in Taiwan offered all-you-can-eat to anyone with the characters gui yu, meaning salmon, in it.
In a phenomenon that has been labelled “salmon chaos” by local media, about 150 mostly young people visited government offices in recent days to officially change their name.
“I just changed my name this morning to add the characters ‘Bao Cheng Gui Yu’ and we already ate more than Tw$7,000 (£176),” a college student surnamed Ma told the TVBS news channel in southern Kaohsiung city.
Roughly translated, Ma’s new moniker means: “Explosive Good Looking Salmon.”
Other salmon-themed names reported in local media included “Salmon Prince”, “Meteor Salmon King” and “Salmon Fried Rice”. (Source)
This is excellent and great. Unleash salmon chaos!
Names are aspirational
The most obvious way in Western culture is babies being named after celebrities. ‘Doris’ seems like an old-lady name to us now, but there was a whole speight of them when Doris Day was on screen, being famous and witty and beautiful. It was a glamorous name.
Apparently all the pandemic babies are being given cottagecore names (Ash, Rowan, Juniper, Hazel, Sage), probably because we’re all cooped up in apartments and dreaming of escaping to the woods. A friend of mine pointed out these names were everywhere over the past few years, not just in the pandemic, so they might be better thought of as millennial-burnout names — what we wish for our kids.
This article on the evolution of Han Chinese names over the last century or so is super-interesting. Again, aspirational. You can see the changes in patriotism (the most popular boys’ name before 1960 translates to “nation-building”), and also how female names have shifted from being about more external qualities (‘beautiful’, ‘graceful’) towards more well-rounded ones (‘excellent’, ‘cultured’).
(My name is McKinley Valentine: I changed it myself and the aspiration there was to plausibly be mistaken for a private detective.)
Bored Viking carves tracing of his foot into ship
That’s really the whole story — this 1100-year old ship has a scratched carving on it, which seems to be the outline of a bored sailor’s foot. The plank is from the deck of the Gokstad ship, which was unearthed from a burial mound. You can see the piece of wood here (without the artificial highlight in the above photos) and a little more of the story here.
You’re allowed to do the fun organisation tasks even if you haven’t done the boring ones
I follow KC Davis’s strugglecare videos on TikTok, and she’s excellent. Her basic tenets are: care tasks are morally neutral. (“Care tasks” are taking care of your body and your house — cooking, cleaning, etc). So clean your kitchen because it means you have space to cook, you won’t step on something sticky, and you won’t get sick — not because you’re ashamed to have a dirty kitchen or because good mothers have clean benchtops. Cleaning is useful, not moral.
One thing she said the other day was that often people get excited about fun organisation tasks — making a pegboard or putting all your spices in mason jars, or something pretty and fun — but they don’t do those fun things, because their house is messy. And they feel ridiculous designing cute matching spice jar labels when the floor hasn’t even been vacuumed. Or worse than ridiculous: like they don’t deserve the fun part.
But as with so much in life, the rules are all fake and you can do things in any order you like. In theory, yes, if you have 5 minutes, you’ll probably get more benefit from vacuuming than spice jar labels, but life management is as much about energy/motivation as it is about time, and you need to protect your motivation. Which if you do feel an urge to do some sort of care task, don’t suppress the urge because it’s not the ‘correct’ one. You need to feed those feelings, not quash them. Also, do the fun thing because you’re allowed to have nice things for no reason, you don’t need to earn them through drudgery.
I mean sometimes you literally do, if they cost money, but you don’t need to make up your own suffering-price that no one asked of you.
Watch some of her vids here, it’s tiktok so they’re all under 60 seconds. I don’t even really struggle with house cleaning any more, but I still find her attitude valuable.
A nice thing you could do if you wanted, is forward this newsletter on to someone who respects your opinions, and tell them why they should give it a try. Newsletters don’t really go viral — it’s all word of mouth — so any time you can tell someone else is a huge help to me
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