Clicking will indeed make it bigger.
from an e-mail, Sunday 23 March 2003, to f_minor, the list devoted to the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould ...
One of my soft spots for World War II is because, in the 1930s, as he saw the handwriting on the wall, a German labor union activist buried his beloved treasury of phonograph records of the live performances of Kurt Weill's and Bertolt Brecht's cabaret and opera music in oilcloth in his backyard, and then fled one step ahead of the Gestapo. When he returned in '46, he dug it up again, and I've had the wonderful pleasure of hearing CD transcriptions of these original squawky recordings from the '20s and '30s, in German and French, with Lotte Lenya's tremulous and beautiful voice. Wars are accompanied, far too rarely, by these desperate moments of the preservation and salvation of beauty. I have been told that the Swedes authentically revere the historical Baron von Munchausen -- a genuine lecher, parasite and sociopathic liar -- because he likewise buried and saved some gorgeous ancient tapestries one step ahead of an advancing army, and they can still be viewed today in Upsula.
Iraq -- Mesopotamia, Babylonia, Uruk, Ur -- is honeycombed with ancient treasures; it is one of the cradles of world civilization. They invented, among other things, writing, the preservation of records and literature and science, in wedge-shaped marks on soft clay, which baked in the sun and then proved to be remarkably survivable over millennia. They could predict solar and lunar eclipses -- an astonishing achievement not to be matched by our science for 4000 years. And yet we moderns have only begun to get a glimpse of and to translate these ancient treasures starting around 1880.
Each modern high-explosive war that descends on this land destroys our own heritage and history unrecoverably and forever.
George Orwell was only the first visionary to suggest that a future world that designs itself around perpetual (and meaningless) war would first strive to erase the history of the world; knowing our own history intimately always boils up passions to preserve and save and to know more of our ancient heritage. A world robbed of contact with its past is a world that can be sold on any idea, however nonsensical or genocidal or suicidal, however many past times it was tried with terrible results.
And yet I would argue that no one who has read "Gilgamesh" (I strongly urge Herbert Warren Mason Jr.'s beautiful translation) can wish MOAB -- America's recently unveiled "Mother Of All Bombs" -- to fall on this land, to pulverize the treasures that still remain of our nursery. You will find no apologies from me for Sadaam Hussein, but at his worst he is a thing of the blink of an eye, but "Gilgamesh" (there are still many missing sections, though they are almost certainly waiting somewhere underground) and the rest of Mesopotamia's yet undiscovered treasures are the fragile things of ages. A huge volume of these treasures will be reduced to dust by this war.
It's a bit fucking late, but the US Department of Defense -- the Pentagon -- is now issuing a second deck of instructional playing cards for troops deployed to Iraq. The first famous deck, issued to the invading US soldiers and marines in March 2003, featured the photographs of the 52 Most Wanted figures in Sadaam Hussein's toppled government.
Whatever else the invasion and occupation may have accomplished, it was a disaster for the archeological treasures of Iraq / Uruk /Babylon / Babylonia/ Ur / Mesopotamia.
Now the Pentagon wants to kiss and make nice with what's left of these ancient treasures. No more setting up military helicopter landing pads on top of Babylonian ruins, as US forces did during the invasion.
When US forces kill Iraqi civilians unintentionally, standard operating procedure is to pay cash to the surviving family, to make amends and heal any bad feelings.
Who knows? Maybe it works. We can always remind the survivors that Sadaam Hussein's regime didn't give cash to survivors of those he executed. We do. We're different. The child is just as dead, but we pay cash.
But cash can't fix four years of pulverizing and looting and bombing and pillaging of 3000-year-old archeological treasures. That crap is Solid Gone Forever. Dust.
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by Victoria Schlesinger
The U.S. Department of Defense is distributing 40,000 new decks of playing cards to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. But rather than depicting Saddam Hussein and other wanted Baathists—as did decks issued at the beginning of the Iraq War—each card features an archaeological message.
The cards are also part of a larger archaeology awareness program for soldiers preparing for deployment at Fort Drum, New York. The goal, says Fort Drum archaeologist Laurie Rush, is twofold: to prevent unnecessary damage to ancient sites and to stem the illegal trade of artifacts in Iraq. By familiarizing troops with specific historical objects and sites, Rush hopes that they will know what to avoid when it comes to bivouacking or setting up gun installations. "Most troops are honorable people who want to do the right thing," says Rush. "But we're not naive. Damage to sites in this conflict is enormous."
The military has long recognized that educational playing cards are a good way to capitalize on the time soldiers spend waiting for orders; during World War II, cards were issued with silhouettes of Allied and Axis fighter planes. In the archaeology deck, each suit has a theme: diamonds for artifacts, spades for digs, hearts for "winning hearts and minds," and clubs for heritage preservation.
© 2007 by the Archaeological Institute of America
Labels: playing cards DoD Pentagon Iraq Babylon Uruk Ur Gilgamesh Mesopotamia Enkidu cuneiform