L. Rhodes


recovered histories, corporeal remains

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Lynchings are associated in the popular imagination with the revanchism of former slave states against emancipated black populations, but as this NYT article shows, they also occurred farther West, where the victims were often Hispanic Americans. Descendants working to expose that history to public scrutiny face some heavily politicized opposition, including this bewildering example of both-sidism, no doubt influenced by Charlottesville, as spoken by a Texan with a remarkably on-the-nose name:

"It was a turbulent time on the border when you had a lot of people getting killed on both sides," said Mr. White, who still lives on the family’s ranch and refrains from calling the killings a massacre. "It’s 2019, right? Playing the race card doesn’t work any more."

By analyzing the remains of pigs found at four henge complexes (think: Stonehenge) in Late Neolithic Britain, research published in Science Advances suggests that communities across early Britain and Ireland travelled hundreds of miles for annual feasting events, bringing with them contributions for the feast. If so, it would be reasonable to see the henge complexes not merely as local power bases, but as "lynchpins for a much greater scale of connectivity, involving disparate groups from across Britain." My brain working the way it does, I can't help but see echoes of the cultural significance of British pigs in Lloyd Alexander's YA fantasy series, the Chronicles of Prydain, which drew heavily from Welsh myth and lore, and centered on an "assistant pig-keeper" tasked with protecting an oracular pig.

Earlier this month, apenwarr (Apen Warr? A pen warr?) posted about the enormous trade-off involved in amassing huge archives of data about users for only slight increases — if any at all — in the effectiveness of targeted advertising. There's a sardonic tone to the jeremiad suggesting that the data brokers are ultimately contributing to the collapse of their own industry, but one question that worries me is that of what they'll do with all that data if/when selling it to advertisers ceases to pay the bills. Sell it to someone less savory? Or maybe abandon it on an unsecured server in a data center somewhere?

Currently roiling the field of economics is a debate I am in no way qualified to adjudicate, but it does, at least, lead down some interesting avenues. Over at Bloomberg, UGA history professor Stephen Mihm recounts an early forerunner of Modern Economic Theory, when the colony of Massachusetts tried to pay soldiers by issuing Western civilization's first fiat currency.

Incidentally, the premise that "The government spends, creating money in the process [which] is then removed via taxation" dovetails with a book I recently read, James C. Scott's Against the Grain. One of Scott's central theses is that the need for a fungible medium of exchange shaped the earliest agricultural civilizations — precisely to make taxation easier.

In "Preservation," a newly published short story at Tin House, a preservationist after the fall of the Soviet Union faces a delicate problem: Lenin's body, on public display since his death 70 years early, is finally giving way to decay.