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22 Oct 07:03

Are the Gods Afraid of Black Sexuality?

by Kali Handelman

An interview with Professor Josef Sorett on the occasion of the upcoming conference “Are the Gods Afraid of Black Sexuality?”

Professor Josef Sorett

Professor Josef Sorett

Josef Sorett is Assistant Professor of Religion and African-American Studies and Associate Director of the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life at Columbia University (IRCPL). He is also the founding director of the Center on African American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice (CARRS), which is located within Columbia’s Institute for Research in African-American Studies (IRAAS). He is an interdisciplinary scholar of religion and race in America who employs primarily historical and literary approaches to the study of religion in black communities and cultures in the United States. His latest book, Spirit in the Dark: A Religious History of Racial Aesthetics is forthcoming next year from Oxford University Press. Spirit in the Dark will “illumine how religion has figured in debates about black art and culture.”

Editor of The Revealer, Kali Handelman interviewed Prof. Sorett about his work and the upcoming conference IRAAS is hosting, which will also launch the Center on African American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice, Are the Gods Afraid of Black Sexuality: Religion and the Burdens of Black Sexual Politics and will take place October 23-24, 2014 at Columbia University in New York.

This interview has been edited and condensed for publication.

Revealer: Tell me about the new Center for African American Religion, Sexual-Politics and Social Justice that you’re launching this fall?

Sorett: The center is the latest iteration of work that began in 2008 when I was invited to serve as a researcher on a project that engaged, via interviews and focus groups, roughly 100 clergy and lay people who were connected to African-American churches around the country. This was in the immediate wake of the first go-round of Proposition 8 in California in 2008. The study was not initially an academic project, it emerged out of research I was doing in partnership with several organizations in the not-for-profit world. If you recall, in the aftermath of Obama’s election there was a narrative concerning the passage of Prop 8 that basically surmised that the legislation passed largely because of African-American opposition to same-sex marriage and was then attributed to an ethos of presumed uncritical religiosity. The impetus for the study was to turn that narrative into a question. We asked, basically, “What truth is there in this claim, in this narrative, of a religious-motivated black (hyper) homophobia?”

As academics, we’re often suspicious of exit polls, and rightfully so. In this case, of course, evidence confirmed that such suspicion was warranted. Certainly there is ample evidence of homophobia in some black churches, as is the case in American Christianity and Christianity more generally; but things are also much more complicated than the logic that was being supported by those exit polls.

Once that study was completed, it challenged the funder of the study, the Arcus Foundation, to think about what possibilities there might be for them to be working with African-American communities to advance a more progressive agenda around sexuality. After that study, with continued support from the Arcus Foundation, I worked for about three years to convene a group of scholars, activists, and religious leaders for a couple of purposes: the first, to survey how African-American communities were engaging broader social debates concerning sexuality (i.e. marriage equality) and, second, to think about potential spaces and structures for more inclusive and generative conversations.

At the end of a series of three convenings, we presented Arcus with several recommendations for thinking about how they might do that work of advancing a more progressive agenda around sexuality. One of the first steps that Arcus took in response to these recommendations was to provide seed funding for the launch of the Center on African-American Religion, Sexual Politics, and Social Justice (CARSS) and to, thus, play a particular role—as a site of intellectual leadership—in relationship to a broader funding strategy for engaging religious leaders, denominations, and the like.

That was about a year ago, since then CARSS also received another significant grant from the Carpenter Foundation. Carpenter has been a driving force behind helping the academic study of religion and theological study think about sexuality, so, we’re really excited about have their support. And now, this conference, Are the Gods Afraid of Black Sexuality: Religion and the Burdens of Black Sexual Politics, which is both IRAAS’ major Fall event as well as CARSS’ public launch! For the past year in our programmatic efforts we’ve been doing things on a small scale to lay the center’s foundation. Now, this conference is the public launch which will go along with the establishment of the Center’s virtual presence (, which should go live on the web around the time of the conference.

Revealer: Where did the conference’s title come from?

Sorett: A few years ago, there was an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled, “Who’s Afraid of Black Sexuality?” that called attention to the way in which sexuality was still often a taboo topic within African-American Studies. In unpacking an observed anxiety in relationship to sexuality, scholars usually invoked the “politics of respectability;” a term tied to the scholarship of historian Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (who happens to have been my dissertation advisor). She coined this term in her study of black Baptist women, and her arguments reveal the significance of black churches as incubators of a politics of respectability even as those politics were part of a deliberate political strategy for achieving racial equality.

The conference aims to bring together an interest in engaging a variety of issues pertaining to sexuality while also addressing the way in which religion often still remains marginal. Whether because of a sort of secular orthodoxy associated with the founding of Black Studies, or because religion is assumed to be so central to black culture that it’s often marginal, Are the Gods Afraid of Black Sexuality? aims to hold together concerns with both religion and sexuality with an eye toward the broader project of African American Studies.

Revealer: When you say “religion often still remains marginal” do you mean that, in some way, people think it’s too obvious to need to get talked about?

Sorett: Exactly! “The black church” is taken for granted as historically central. And black life is often assumed to be saturated by spiritual concerns even in the face of secularizing forces. 

Revealer: Do you think that there’s already a shared vocabulary for people coming in to this conference, then? Or is this an exercise of building a shared vocabulary? In other words, how much inter-disciplinary translation will be necessary?

Sorett: I would say, probably, no. For me that’s more exciting than anxiety producing. I think that if we do have a shared language – and I think this is what foregrounds the relationship between scholarship and activism – it is a sort of awareness, an impossibility of ignoring the dominant language that has shaped recent public debates; namely, the popular opposition of “gay vs. black.” So there’s a whole host of assumptions we have to work through. For example, I’ve been asked on several occasions both, “Is this just a conference about LGBT stuff?” and “Will this conference address LGBT concerns?” So, one of our aims has been to make a claim about the centrality of questions of sexuality to the study of religion and African American culture in general, and invite folks to the table who don’t necessarily think of themselves, right out of the gate, as scholars of gender and sexuality. At the same time we want to account for (rather than obscure or elide) the asymmetries of power and inequality that are still mapped on non-normative sexualities, especially black LGBTQ folks.

Revealer: What’s gained by engaging religious leaders, activists, and scholars all on this equal footing? And what about the idea of scholarship as activism?

Sorett: That’s a broader meta interest of my own. We’re familiar with the implicit, if not explicit, academic orthodoxy of activism and scholarship as mutually exclusive, as one necessarily being divorced from the other; perhaps less so in African-American Studies, but often all the more so in Religious Studies. You know, we start putting preachers in the room and it reminds religious studies scholars of their field’s Protestant, colonial, missionary past in a way that is rightfully unsettling. In Religious Studies, activism has a different sort of theological anxiety attached to it that I recognize and respect, given the privileges still attached to Protestantism. At the same time, I think that we can consider religious leaders in a sort of Gramscian sense, as “organic intellectuals.” To think about religious practitioners as intellectuals and also to own the fact that, as scholars, whether we name them or not, we all come with a host of commitments that might also identify us as activists or as practitioners.

AreTheGodsAfraid_WebBanerRevealer: How is the conference being organized? Is there anything different about it?

Sorett: There’s a narrative arc to the conference. The first day begins with a plenary that aims to simply put a host of issues on the table. There are folks on the plenary panel representing activism, African-American Studies, philanthropy (philanthropy with the question of resourcing this sort of work), writing, journalism, and religious leadership. The first day will then be about attending in really close ways to the historical and cultural narratives that we inherit, so panels two and three serve to interrogate and unearth the categories at hand. So, the first day lends itself more to what is traditional academic conference fare, although, all presenters have been invited both to think about their own work and to gesture toward connections to contemporary debates. In this way they have been encouraged to move outside of their disciplines. Day one ends with a public conversation at a church in Harlem, on the sexual politics of sacred music, which also signals the direction of day two.

When we come back the following day, the keynote conversation and morning panel will foreground the intersection of scholarship and activism; both in the academy and beyond. Then there’s a film festival of sorts which will attend to the ways in which these narratives, vis a vis media representations, are always a part of our everyday experiences. Lastly, there is a final plenary that aims to redirect the conversation back outwards as we close. We didn’t ask people to write manuscripts, we’re inviting them to make their presentations more conversational. Hopefully they’ll take us up on the invitation to conversation and the presentation style will lend itself to what we might call accessibility for a range of audiences.

Revealer: Can you tell me more about the Keynote Conversation, “Queering Racial Justice”?

Sorett: We decided we wanted to use the keynote to put forward an example of a conversational model. We’re interested in it being a conversation about the larger theme of scholarship and activism, but in a way that was organized around issues of race and gender, religion and sexuality, in tandem. We decided to feature Emilie Townes, an ordained Baptist clergy person, former faculty at Union Theological Seminary, and then Yale where, I believe, she was the first African American woman Dean at the Divinity School. She’s trained as a Christian ethicist and theologian, but her scholarship has always been interdisciplinary, reflecting as much on African-American history as on these larger ethical questions around race, gender, and sexuality.

We wanted to make sure that we brought in someone who knew Emilie well enough to have a rich conversation with her. Alondra Nelson was most recently the director of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality at Columbia and is now the Dean of Social Science here. Before their most recent appointments at Columbia and Vanderbilt, though, Alondra and Emilie were colleagues at Yale. So there are both intellectual and personal connections that should help to make this a compelling conversation.

Revealer: The conference call for papers said that religion and sex are “marginal within the broader discourses of African-American Studies.” It seems as though the mission of your conference is to change that, to make them more central or get them circulating within the larger conversations already happening. Why is doing that so important?

Sorett: It’s important in doing this to insist both that religion has to be taken seriously, regardless of whether one’s religious or not, and also that there is no investment in converting anybody. Not taking religion seriously is often the default progressive position when religion is seen as synonymous with the moral majority and religious right. We need to invite more critical thinking about the role of religion in society. I think that shift is already taking shape.

There’s an intersectional approach that holds in African-American Studies, which has developed a discourse that accounts for race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and age, but which often says little engagement about religion. There’s a way in which Christian privilege is also so taken for granted, it is assumed or unquestioned. So we want to invite folks to think critically about how religion matters with in that intersectional frame.

Revealer: What do you mean by “taking religion seriously”?

Sorett: I mean recognizing, as I think we already have, the myth that is secularization. It means understanding that belief – or whatever other more precise term you want to use to locate or identify religion – is still very central to how human beings organize themselves and think about themselves. To study human experience and social life and not take seriously how human beings think of themselves as religious (under a variety of rubrics) is to miss a significant dimension of what we claim to be doing in the humanities and social sciences.

Revealer: So, if we are interested in race, class, gender, etc. and don’t consider religion, we miss a big part of what’s going on? 

Sorett: Yes, and moreover, we need to recognize that whether or not we do much talking about religion, our intellectual frameworks, whether we recognize them as such or not, are deeply indebted to very modern, most often Protestant categories. 

Revealer: Right, and that intellectual genealogy has often been one of making claims about who “has religion” and who doesn’t. The people who we study “have religion,” but we don’t.

Sorett: Yes. In some form or another, we are all wrestling with a religious inheritance.

Revealer: Is part of this idea of taking religion seriously also a kind of push back against narratives about secularization and presumed secularity?

Sorett: Before I knew anything about recent secularism debates this was the meta question in all of my research. There’s a default white normativity within secularism debates. Because, even when secularization narratives were in vogue, it was assumed that this didn’t so much hold in relationship to African-American communities. Which, again, is the same narrative behind the whole Prop 8 story, right? “Oh, you know, these folks are not fully modern, rational citizens.”

Revealer: Right, some idea that they are being “kept behind be their beliefs.” Which, of course, is somehow different from how those beliefs function for white members of the Christian Right…

Sorett: Yes, maybe it’s because of the way in which narratives around American blackness were so fraught, they assumed hyper-religiosity. African-American Studies has often, to my mind, taken for granted that secularist narrative and assumed it for itself. This is the argument in my own book, Spirit in the Dark, which places African-American literary history in conversation with American religious history and pushes back against the prevailing idea that takes for granted that twentieth-century African-American literature was a modernist, and therefore secular, project. There’s a certain secular, and secularizing narrative assumed of that literary history in way that does not bear out in the literary texts that populate that history.

In some form or another, we are all wrestling with a religious inheritance.

Revealer: That’s where African-Americans become secular, in modern literature?

Sorett: Right, and writers were often presumed to replace black preachers. Richard Wright more or less argued as much as early as 1938, with his “Blueprint for Negro Writing.” And Wright, is invoked by a whole host of writers in the 1960s when Black Studies is being formed. It’s almost as though Black Studies, in certain quarters, is understood as an, albeit secularized, sacred project. Sexuality is certainly one of the registers in which that secularizing argument was made. Part of the argument for, and evidence of, black people’s primitive ways was not just their religiosity but also their sexuality. These stereotypes went hand-in-hand. Blackness as other in its hyper-religious and hyper-sexual character.

Revealer: How do you capture what’s different in the assumptions made about black Christianity and white Christianity and how they’ve come to be thought about so differently and as having such different politics?

Sorett: One has to think about American evangelicalism more broadly, before evangelicals got flattened out to be just the Religious Right, there were also abolitionists and early feminists. Many of them were evangelical. It’s that genealogical question, it’s not just about who has it, who gets it, who believes it, but this is the story of the “New World.” Whether we name it as such. This is where someone like James Baldwin, one of many black modernist writers to bring together religion, race gender and sexuality, was spot on in talking about the intersection of Christianity and colonialism and its gendered and sexualized discourses.

Revealer: What are the short term and long term goals are for the conference and the center? What are you hoping folks take back to their respective scholarly, activist, and religious communities from this experience?

Sorett: The dialogue between scholars, activists, and religious leaders around the nation that the conference aims to foster is certainly consistent with aspects of the center’s work. We’ve just begun a series of what will in the next three or four years be a total of about twenty local closed-door conversations with scholars, activists, and religious leaders thinking about how questions around sexuality are hitting the ground. Those conversations both allow us to conduct research (i.e. collect data), but they also to help establish spaces for language to develop by inviting local actors to think together about a set of related issues. One of the center’s goals is also to support these kind of structures and spaces and build capacity for such conversations.

Then, in addition to the closed-door sessions, we will help host a series of public conversations, which will be more like academic panels geared to a broader audience. We envision these as following up on the smaller conversations, organized around the issues and concerns that were identified as significant in specific local contexts.

Revealer: I’m sure each place will have their own unique conversations that they need and want to have.

Sorett: Absolutely! In each instance, we’ll be partnering with local organizations in ways that are consistent with our research goals, but also address real questions and concerns as they emerge on the ground. To me, this work presents a really exciting, if intellectually challenging, intersection of scholarship and public engagement.


22 Oct 17:44

Berkeley ballot snafu, more money in for 2014 election

by Frances Dinkelspiel
Alameda County officials are mailing out postcards to alert voters that the date of the election printed on mail-in ballots is wrong. It reads Nov. 5, 2014, when it should read Nov. 4, 2014. Photo: KQED

Alameda County officials are mailing out postcards to alert voters that the date of the election printed on many mail-in ballots is wrong. It reads Nov. 5, 2014, when it should read Nov. 4, 2014. Photo: KQED

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters has sent out 27,000 postcards to Berkeley voters informing them that the date of the election printed on their mail-in ballots is wrong. The date reads Nov. 5, when of course the actual date is Nov. 4.

“This is an unfortunate error on some vote-by-mail envelopes sent to voters in Berkeley, and we deeply regret any confusion this may be causing,” Alameda County Registrar of Voters Tim Dupuis said in a press release.

Read all you need to know about local elections on our Election Hub page

A printer used by Alameda County and other California counties has accepted responsibility for the error, said Dupuis.(...)

Read the rest of Berkeley ballot snafu, more money in for 2014 election (295 words)

By Frances Dinkelspiel. | Permalink | 7 comments |
Post tags: Alameda County Registrar of Voters, Berkeley Police Officers Association PAC, District 7, District 8, George Beier, Jacquelyn McCormick, Kriss Worthington, Landmark Theaters, Lori Droste, Measure D, Measure R, Michael Alvarez Cohen, National Association of Realtors, Sean Barry, Tim Dupuis

22 Oct 15:18

This is Amazing

by Josh Marshall

Martha Coakley's loss to Scott Brown, bringing the accidental Senator to national prominence, almost upending Obamacare and in many ways drawing open the curtain on what would become the 2010 blow out is an almost iconic event. This year Massachusetts Dems gave her a shot at Governor. And it looks like she may be on a course to blow this one too. Check out this chart.

21 Oct 17:19

Axiomatic CSS and Lobotomized Owls

by overbey

* + *

At CSS Day last June I introduced, with some trepidation, a peculiar three-character CSS selector. Called the “lobotomized owl selector” for its resemblance to an owl’s vacant stare, it proved to be the most popular section of my talk. I couldn’t tell you whether the attendees were applauding the thinking behind the invention or were, instead, nervously laughing at my audacity for including such an odd and seemingly useless construct. Perhaps I was unwittingly speaking to a room full of paid-up owl sanctuary supporters. I don’t know. The lobotomized owl selector looks like this: * + *
21 Oct 04:14

Big Soda Is Totally Freaking Out About This Local Ordinance | Mother Jones

by overbey

I have my reservations about Measure D., but I’ll probably vote for it on the general principle that anything CocaCola hates this badly is probably a good thing.

21 Oct 11:44

Peak PRC

by Josh Marshall

‘“If it’s entirely a numbers game and numeric representation, then obviously you’d be talking to the half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than US$1,800 a month,” Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said in a joint interview with the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the Financial Times.’

True, Hong Kong has a separate political system from the mainland. But a special moment when the region's leader says they can't allow the public to vote on who should lead Hong Kong because poor people wouldn't totally dominate the election.

21 Oct 03:22

Yosemite, Spotlight, and Privacy

by John Gruber

What’s most interesting is that the Preference Pane itself has a prominent button about Spotlight and Privacy, and clicking it gives a detailed explanation of how the feature works and how to disable it.

Russell Brandom, writing for The Verge, responding to a mostly-wrong piece in The Washington Post on Yosemite Spotlight and privacy:

But on closer inspection, many of the claims are less damning than they seem. There’s already a public privacy policy for the new feature, as well as a more technical look at the protections in the most recent iOS security report. That document breaks down five different kinds of information transmitted in a search: the approximate location, the device type, the client app (either Spotlight or Safari), the device’s language settings and the previous three apps called up by the user. More importantly, all that information is grouped under an ephemeral session ID which automatically resets every 15 minutes, making it extremely difficult to trace a string of searches back to a specific user. That also makes the data significantly less useful to marketers, since it can’t track behavior over any meaningful length of time. And most importantly, the data is transmitted over an HTTPS connection, so it can’t be intercepted in transit.

I’m not sure how anyone would think these suggestions would work if information weren’t being sent back to Apple. The only thing Apple could do differently is make this another one of the you-have-to-explicitly-opt-in stages when you first upgrade to Yosemite or create an account on a new Mac. But there are a lot of those on-boarding screens already — to Apple’s credit! — and in this case, even if you are using the feature, Apple has seemingly gone out of their way to protect your privacy.

20 Oct 14:42

Fix Mac OS X Yosemite

by overbey
If you've upgraded to Mac OS X Yosemite (10.10) and you're using the default settings, each time you start typing in Spotlight (to open an application or search for a file on your computer), your local search terms and location are sent to Apple and third parties (including Microsoft). Mac OS X has always respected user privacy by default, and Mac OS X Yosemite should too. Since it doesn't, you can use the code to the left to disable the parts of Mac OS X which are invasive to your privacy.
20 Oct 18:24

Sleater-Kinney - Bury Our Friends (feat. Miranda July) - YouTube

by overbey
20 Oct 15:07

Chinese Authorities Allegedly Harvesting iCloud Logins Using Redirected Dummy Site [iOS Blog]

by Kelly Hodgkins
Chinese authorities allegedly are using a man-in-the-middle attack to harvest Apple ID information from Chinese users visiting Apple's iCloud service, reports web censorship blog Great Fire (via The Verge). A similar attack reportedly targets Microsoft's website.

According to Great Fire, Chinese users trying to access are redirected to a fake site that resembles Apple's iCloud website. While some browsers will issue a warning, popular Chinese browser Qihoo gives no indication users are entering their Apple credentials into a dummy site. Users fooled by the site may be putting their personal information at risk as attackers can then use these login details to access contacts, messages and more stored in iCloud.
This is clearly a malicious attack on Apple in an effort to gain access to usernames and passwords and consequently all data stored on iCloud such as iMessages, photos, contacts, etc. Unlike the recent attack on Google, this attack is nationwide and coincides with the launch today in China of the newest iPhone. While the attacks on Google and Yahoo enabled the authorities to snoop on what information Chinese were accessing on those two platforms, the Apple attack is different. If users ignored the security warning and clicked through to the Apple site and entered their username and password, this information has now been compromised by the Chinese authorities.
This attack follows the Chinese launch of the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and may be related to the encryption options and increased security of Apple's iOS 8. It is possible Chinese authorities are using this hack to penalize Apple for taking extra measures that would prevent the government from snooping on phones.

Great Fire advises Chinese users to switch to a trusted browser such as Firefox and Chrome, which will warn users when they access an illegitimate site. Apple owners also can use a VPN to bypass this redirection and connect directly to Two-factor authentication may also prevent attackers from accessing an iCloud account using a compromised username and password.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

17 Oct 23:02

Percy Harvin trade: Seahawks made trade to preserve locker room chemistry, per multiple reports

by Danny Kelly

The Seahawks had Percy Harvin on the trade block for the past couple of weeks, according to's Ian Rapoport, and finally moved the mercurial receiver to the Jets Friday afternoon for a conditional draft pick. The speculation for why Seattle would trade a supremely talented player a year and a half after trading a first round pick, a third round pick, and a seventh round pick for him all kind of hit on the same point: Harvin was just too much of a distraction off the field.

A few examples:

.@LanceZierlein on @Softykjr: sources tell him Percy had a confrontation with Russell Wilson after RW called him out for bad attitude

— Danny Kelly (@FieldGulls) October 17, 2014

.@LanceZierlein heard from other sources that Percy punched Golden Tate in the face last year. Golden just IG'd this:

— Danny Kelly (@FieldGulls) October 17, 2014

I was told "Harvin's anger issues are just too much to deal with and he could single handedly bring down team chemistry". Wow. Unreal.

— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) October 17, 2014

The Seahawks moved Percy Harvin before he poisoned the locker room. Without doubt.

— Dave Softy Mahler (@Softykjr) October 17, 2014

From @RapSheet: Harvin not the easiest player to deal with in locker room. OC Bevell struggled to integrate him into game plans.

— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) October 17, 2014

Harvin was more difficult to deal with last year than anybody knows. He has real trust issues with people. No getting it back once lost.

— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) October 17, 2014

Seahawks team source: "It was time for a change. It's that simple. We got a good deal. He's happy, we're happy."

— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) October 17, 2014

Seahawks team source: "Percy didn't want to be here. We accommodated him."

— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) October 17, 2014

Percy Harvin's anger management issues have followed him, and I'm told that was part of the problem in Seattle.

— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) October 17, 2014

Just talked to a league source on Percy Harvin...

— Chris Trapasso (@ChrisTrapasso) October 17, 2014

Told me #Seahawks coaches were tired of his attitude. Even in game toward Russell Wilson. Didn't like how it impacted the offense and team.

— Chris Trapasso (@ChrisTrapasso) October 17, 2014

Bottom line, it seems pretty clear that something major was going on behind the scenes with respect to Harvin's ability to get along with key members of the coaching staff, front office, or players.

17 Oct 21:33

Seattle Seahawks trade Percy Harvin to New York Jets

by Sessler, Marc

Wait, WHAT???

Percy Harvin is leaving the Pacific Northwest for the Big Apple. Ian Rapoport reported Friday that the New York Jets have acquired the speedy receiver from the Seattle Seahawks for a conditional mid-round draft pick.
17 Oct 14:48

Nancy K. Perkins (LOC)

by The Library of Congress


The Library of Congress posted a photo:

Nancy K. Perkins (LOC)

Bain News Service,, publisher.

Nancy K. Perkins

[between ca. 1915 and ca. 1920]

1 negative : glass ; 5 x 7 in. or smaller.

Title from unverified data provided by the Bain News Service on the negatives or caption cards.
Forms part of: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress).

Format: Glass negatives.

Rights Info: No known restrictions on publication.

Repository: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA,

General information about the Bain Collection is available at

Higher resolution image is available (Persistent URL):

Call Number: LC-B2- 4054-11

15 Oct 23:42

ABV will be a burger paradise next week

by Paolo Lucchesi
The Kronnerburger on the left; ABV burger on the right.

The Kronnerburger on the left; ABV burger on the right.

Here is a thing that is a fact: ABV is currently serving one of San Francisco’s best burgers.

A few weeks ago, Jon Bonné brilliantly dedicated an entire Scoop blog post to breaking down the many intricacies of chef Kevin Cimino’s pimento cheese burger, which he also described as “a noteworthy new entry into the proud history of San Francisco burgerdom.”

Here is another thing that is a fact: Chris Kronner, who is opening Kronnerburger this fall in Oakland, also makes a very good burger. In fact, Cimino worked under Kronner during their Bar Tartine days together.

Some may say Kronner’s burger is better than Cimino’s burger. Others may opine that Cimino’s burger is better than Kronner’s burger.

On Tuesday October 21 and Wednesday October 21, from 2pm to 1am, ABV will serve both Kevin Cimino’s Pimento Cheese Burger and Chris Kronner’s Kronnerburger. So you’ll be able to decide for yourself, side-by-side. But really, it doesn’t matter, because everyone wins.

The two-day event is dubbed Double Dragon Burger Nights. And it comes with a stupendous poster by Dave Kasprzak


ABV, 3174 16th St., S.F. (415) 400-4748. 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily.

16 Oct 22:07

Smoke’s Poutinerie plots major U.S. expansion, starting in Berkeley

by Ethan Fletcher

Poutinerie. Photo: Facebook

Local diners are likely familiar with poutine, the carb-heavy dish that consists of French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. Indeed, the Canadian specialty experienced a bit of a moment a few years ago when it seemed to pop up on the menus of comfort food restaurants all over the Bay Area. What people might not know is that north of the border there’s a rapidly expanding restaurant franchise in which poutine is the entire focus of the menu—more than 30 different variations—and it’s coming soon to the East Bay.

Smoke’s Poutinerie is set to open its first U.S. location in Berkeley (of all places) in mid-November at 2518 Durant Avenue just off the Cal campus. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg: Smoke’s currently has dozens of franchise locations in Canada, and if owner Ryan Smolkin has his way, there will eventually be thousands more operating all over North America.

We touched base with Smoklin, an entrepreneur who launched a successful graphic design and branding company in Toronto before founding Smoke’s in 2008, about what to expect.


EF: Why Berkeley?

Ryan Smolkin: There couldn’t be any better place to open. We’re super stoked about that area, because that’s been our target market from day one in Canada, University towns. Our core demographic is 18 to 25, in a downtown urban core, and late at night: Over half our business overall is done on Friday and Saturday nights after midnight.

It’s a pretty big post-drinking thing?

Well, we don’t serve any alcohol—but we are there to absorb the alcohol. It’s a good hangover tool. But we’re open all day round, we open up at 11 a.m. and have a great lunch, as well as dinner. But we do have that big blip on Thursday through Saturday late nights—I’m talking 150 to 200 people an hour.

Are you planning any other U.S locations?

Oh yeah, we actually have one we’re building out in West Hollywood right now. We have another one planned for Las Vegas, and we’re also looking at more spots in the Southwest and the Northeast. And the big thing is that we’re about to pop up in a whole bunch of stadiums and on university campuses.

Any particular number of restaurants you’re targeting?

I would say global domination, baby. We’re taking the Canadian classic dish to the rest of the world. But in the U.S., I’m looking at 2,000 as my goal. In northern California we want to open five locations in the next two years, and 20 locations in the next five years in southern California. But it’s all starting in Berkeley!

So, what exactly is your poutine?

A simple way to look at it is loaded fries, or anything you can think of to load on fries. The true essence is that it’s a Canadian dish that was created in Quebec back in the 1950s. There have always been disputes about who exactly invented it, but it definitely started in Quebec and all it was, was fries, cheese curds, and gravy—that’s the traditional poutine. What we’ve done is that we’re the first to create a whole food category called “poutinerie,” which is everything else that we’ve added. So the base of our product is still the French fries, cheese curd, and gravy, and then there’s everything we pile on top of that, from our Chipotle pulled pork, double smoked bacon and caramelized onions, flat iron steak and sautéed mushrooms, our homemade chili sauce. Anything you can think of, we’ll add on top.

The funniest thing in defining it and communicating it, is that everybody in the U.S. is already eating it. They just call it something different, like disco fries or Coney fries. In New York we went to the Yankees game and they have garlic cheese fries, so everyone is eating it, but there’s just no food category.

You couldn’t describe it as health food obviously…

Dude, we hit all four food groups with the right poutine combo—that’s good for you right?

No, one of our tag lines is ‘clogging arteries since 2008,’ so we don’t preach that it’s healthy. But our fries are cut and made fresh on-site, we make our own signature gravy: There is a wholesome goodness quality to it, and that’s what we’re all about. You’re satisfying an indulgence.

Smoke’s Poutinerie: 2518 Durant Avenue, Berkeley, Opening mid-November.

16 Oct 18:30

The future is bright

their faces light up as if they had a light shining on their faces.

15 Oct 22:28

Major Video Game Associations Condemn #Gamergate’s Harassment Of Women

by Jill Pantozzi

Companies that produce violent, misogynistic products expressing regret and dismay that somehow their consumers are violent and misogynistic.


Over the last two months, the Gamergate movement has consistently harassed women out of both the gaming industry and their homes. After Anita Sarkeesian was forced to cancel a speech in Utah due to terror threats, she called for the media and the gaming industry to take a strong stance against the “movement” – and now, some of gaming’s biggest players are taking up the charge.

The Entertainment Software Association, better known as the ESA, is “the U.S. association exclusively dedicated to serving the business and public affairs needs of companies that publish computer and video games for video game consoles, personal computers, and the Internet.” Each year, the ESA publishes essential facts about the gaming industry; this year’s fact sheet included interesting tidbits like:

  • 48% of gamers are women
  • Women age 18 or older represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (36%) than boys age 18 or younger (17%)
  • The number of female gamers age 50 and older increased by 32% from 2012 to 2013
  • 50% of game purchasers are women

Today, a spokesperson for the ESA told The Washington Post in a statement that they believe the harassing actions of Gamergaters need to be stopped:

“Threats of violence and harassment are wrong. They have to stop. There is no place in the video game community – or our society – for personal attacks and threats.”

Additionally, Kate Edwards, the executive director of the International Game Developers Association, has also spoken out against Gamergate, saying:

“The irony of this movement is that they want journalistic integrity, but are looking to squash the voices of women at all costs. The logic is completely lacking.”

Edwards added that the industry is partially to blame for the current environment, since “the industry has catered to that [demographic] in their marketing.” Edwards said the Gamergaters are “out of touch. The whole community, the world around them has changed, but they think that’s not the case.” She also mentioned that we all have to support women in tech at all times, and that perhaps the only good thing to come out of Gamergate is it has “tied developers together.”

There are many members of the “movement” who truly believe Gamergate is supposed to be about journalistic integrity, and decry the harassment of women in the industry. But the fact of the matter is, the unfortunate and unavoidable side effect of aligning themselves with a hashtag founded around the character assassination of a female game developer is that their motives and message will consistently be clouded by the violent, vitriolic actions of the worst amongst them.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you truly believe harassment and threats are wrong, drop all connections to the Gamergate movement and take up your “corruption in journalism” cause elsewhere.

(image copyright Nadezhda1906 on Shutterstock, photoshop ours)

Previously in #Gughhhhhhhh

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15 Oct 14:10

“It’s a terrible company”: Comcast not welcome in city, council says

by Jon Brodkin

The City Council in Worcester, MA does not want Comcast coming anywhere near its residents. The cable company is seeking a license transfer from Charter as part of a customer swap that's tied to its purchase of Time Warner Cable, but the council is trying to block it.

"It's a terrible company," City Councilor Gary Rosen said after a vote last night, pointing to Comcast's "deplorable and substandard" customer service in other municipalities. "In my opinion, they should not be welcome in this city. Comcast is a wolf in wolf's clothing; it's that bad. They are awful, no doubt about it. Maybe we can't stop it, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't speak out."

The Telegram & Gazette in Worcester reported today:

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

14 Oct 13:29

Regalia Untranslatable - Part Three

by Dan

Sea silk in early imperial Tibet!

To start at the beginning, go here.

Look back at the frontispiece of Part Two, the first-listed of the nine regalia, the གསེར་ཁྲི་ཆུ་དར་ཅན་, “golden throne with/having chu-dar” — that term chu-dar that we will prefer to translate very literally as water silk. Notice what was said just above about it being a blue material resembling water. (Feather clothing is an interesting side issue we won’t enter into now, although it was possible to use feathers as fiber source for making a fabric...)

Notice now that it is no longer blue but has a golden finish (I would rather interpret as having a golden luster). Remember this, it may prove significant.

As you read here, knowledge of ‘sea wool’ or ‘silk’ was known quite early in the earlier centuries of first millennium China. Here is what the Mediterranean mollusk Pinna nobilis mentioned here looks like.

And here is what it looks like under water:

The fibers that anchor the mollusk to the rock are semi-translucent, with a smooth tube-like structure — the color changes depending on light, but ranges from brown to orange to golden, with other colors refracting in light. It can be treated to make it even more translucent and shiney. Carded, spun and woven, the fabric is extremely lightweight (and they say a pair of gloves made of it can fit inside a walnut shell). It is said to be difficult if not impossible to make it take dye; if so a blue color would be unlikely. Moths love it, so few medieval examples survive, and those that do had to be carefully stored.

There is a class of icons venerated in Greek Orthodox Christianity called acheiropoieton, ‘not handmade.’ In English they are usually called “Icons not made by hand” (words that may be useful for an internet search). But unlike rang byungimages in Tibet, which can take shape on their own, these Christian icons result from direct contact of the body with a cloth or other medium.

It may still be true that few people know about the existence of sea silk, but it’s become better known early in the 21th century largely due to attention paid this icon and because of a 2004 exhibit in a museum in Switzerland that gathered together the rare objects made of it from all over Europe.

So, to sum up, water silk was known in early days at both ends of the Eurasian continent, although it occurs in nature in no other place than the Mediterranean Sea. Chu-dar is known from other contexts in Tibetan literary history where it is often associated with water sheep (chu-lug) and water wool (chu-bal), just as it had been in the Mediterranean region and in early China. And, being a substance of such extreme luxury, it was connected with royalty. I am now convinced it was this very substance that was used to upholster the golden throne of the early Tibetan emperors.

The Tibetan letters fail to stack properly (I apologize)

But we are not quite finished yet. There is a closely related but distinct issue that merits a few words. In a different listing of regalia found in the very same Khepa Deyu history (p. 234), we find as the first listed item “ri-sdzi mgon-bu.”

In this other list of regalia, full of its own obstacles to interpretation, we find objects that came down from the sky with the first Tibetan emperor (Nyatri Tsenpo), most of the objects later on are magical implements of household, hunt and battlefield, tools that do their jobs automatically without the need to expend human energy. These very much resemble the wellknown magical weapons of Indian mythology, in particular the Vajra, a weapon that throws itself, hits the target, and returns to the owner's hand.

With ri-sdzi drawing a complete blank, and unsure what to do with the mgon-bu, I eventually decided that mgon-bu probably had the intended spelling mgron-bu. Mgron-bu (also spelled 'gron-bu) is the word for the cowrie shell, well known in ancient India as an object of exchange, a kind of currency (even after coins were introduced they continued to be called by the name karshapani, that was translated into Tibetan as mgron-bu).

I imagined that the entire expression might refer to a particular kind of cowrie shell, so I started looking around for it, and finally by searching for "riji cowrie," something popped up on the internet that astounded me:

Etched Pearl Shells were items of both bodily decoration and of exchange just as the cowrie was in early Africa and India*, and there is an emphasis in the literature on how they work as ‘power tokens’ in exchanges between men, that accumulating them leads to being regarded as Big Men. They are used not only in NW Australia where they have the name Riji, but under other names with similar usages in New Guinea and further out into Polynesian island cultures.  Within that region, at least, they served as currency for international exchange.

(*I hope to learn more about this, but I believe that since ancient times the Maldive Islands were the main suppliers of cowrie currency to both Africa and India, and it seems entirely possible that the designs were added to the pearl shells to make them resemble cowries, so that they, too, could be used for currency. Evidently the people who make the riji understand these to be water patterns. In his long entry on "Cowries" Paul Pelliot, in his Notes on Marco Polo, gives a lot of evidence that cowries and other shells were used as currency in China from early times, and in some areas such as Yunnan, continued to be so used until recently.)

Why were the two terms riji and cowrie juxtaposed like this? Because the riji is less familiar, and the word cowrie explains its function as currency.  The more familiar explains the less. Or it could be a conjunctive compound, "riji and cowries."

Is it possible that the landlocked Tibetan kings were passing down through the generatious two symbols of their royal power that derived from far distant shell fish? Can two different ‘untranslatable’ regalia have conchological explanations? The first of the two I feel quite sure about  (given widespread knowledge of it in medieval Eurasia), and will certainly go with it, translating chu-dar literally as sea silk and adding an explanation in a footnote. The pearl shell I’m still unsure how to proceed. I may just let it go and forget about it. Is an Australian connection too difficult to accept? Will I lose credibility if I pursue it? Will tough-love reviewers say it’s idiotic? What do you think?

So, in conclusion...

There are times I think impossible passages are there to push in front of our noses the unwelcome truth that even our translations of the passibly possible passages are not necessarily on the mark, either. The big and glaring failure points to smaller failures, very likely invisible ones. It is hard to discern the hope in this... and I did want to offer some hope.

My history translation experience made me more than ever a big believer in parallel texts. As I mentioned before, there are texts incorporated into the Lde'u history that may no longer exist in any other form (some smaller bits are quoted or summarized in other early histories), but the largest part of the it by far is copied out from some existing text, one that simply must be consulted. Often it is the only way to find justifications for emending difficult passages. The parallel texts supply alternative readings, and these help to sharpen your mind to find the solution even when they don’t serve up solutions on a silver platter.

The Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center has just released online their searchable eText repository. As of now, this is the place to go to locate unusually difficult vocabulary items in various contexts. One may also with extreme ease locate parallel passages there that can prove to be essential aides in the overall understanding of difficult passages.

Of course, experts of various sorts need to be consulted, ideally the more the better. They, too, don’t always have immediate or ultimate solutions to offer, but they do very often have ideas that turn you in a different direction where the answer may be found if you persevere. And when this still doesn’t get you anywhere, at least you have the satisfaction of reassuring yourself that since experts X, Y and Z who know so much in this field didn’t offer a conclusive solution to the problem, it’s OK for me not to be able to explain it. At the end of my first two years of translating, I was left with a list of about 200 of what I called ‘double question marks,’ and even after much consultation during the last two years (both in person and by email), I think there are about 100 of these that are to my mind still less than satisfactorily resolved.

Impossible passages demand emendations. These fix-ups might be applied to the text from a variety of angles, but they do need to be justifiable, with the alteration minimal. We try tinkering with a spelling or toy with inserting or removing a  punctuation mark. But in the end, when all our efforts fail us, we may have to admit defeat. And when this happens, it is so much more honest to present the reader with a blank _____ (perhaps in the form of a phoneticized representation of the original wording) rather than slipping in a vague and careless conjecture just to smooth over the difficulty. The text demands too much respect to allow us to take the easy way out, at least not before it drives us crazy. Translators have responsibilities in two directions, both back in time to the composer as well as forward in time to the readers. We can't give up on either one.

So the simple and not very enlightening suggestion I have is this: Translators need to do everything they possibly can to come to an understanding of difficult vocabulary items and phrases. They may have to look very far and wide for the solutions, they may be forced to leave their comfortable positions to get out from between the covers of the book they’re  translating, and this might lead them to look in some rather unexpected directions even as far away as the distant oceans.

§  §  §

Listing of some significant writings on sea silk and pearl shells

John H. Appleby, The Royal Society and the Tartar Lamb, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, vol. 51, no. 1 (January 1997), pp. 23-34.

Brendan Burke, Looking for Sea-Silk in the Bronze Age Aegean. Follow the link.

Berthold Laufer, The Story of the Pinna and the Syrian Lamb, Journal of American Folk-Lore, vol. 38 (1915), pp. 103-128.  I also recommend Paul Pelliot's entry "Cotton" (the last several pages of the entry) in his Notes on Marco Polo.  You can get to it page-by-page at this website from Japan.  Try vol. 1, pp. 522-532, and note, too, the lengthy entry "Cowries" immediately following it.

There was a museum exhibition on sea silk in Basel in 2004, that brought together pieces from other parts of Europe.  Look here. A catalog was published: Felicitas Maeder, Ambros Hänggi, and Dominik Wunderlin, eds. Bisso marino: Fili d’oro dal fondo del mare / Muschelseide: Goldene Fäden vom Meeresgrund. Naturhistoriches Museum and Museum der Kulturen, Basel, (2004), bilingual Italian and German. I haven't seen it, have you?

There have been some more or less popular books written about the Manoppello icon coming out in Europe in recent years. See for some examples Das Muschelseidentuch: Auf der Suche nach dem wahren Antlitz Jesu (2005), by Paul Badde; Das Göttliche Gesicht: im Muschelseidentuch von Manoppello, also by Paul Badde; Von der Angesicht: Betrachtungen und Erfahrungen vor dem Muschelseidenbild in Manoppello (2007), by Cornelia Schrader; Der Manoppello-Code: Veronica Manipuli (2013), by von Markus van den Hövel. I see that the Paul Badde books are also available in English. For a dedicated Blogspot, see "Holy Face of Manoppello."

Just last month the icon made a personal visit to the Philippines, meaning I can’t tell you where to find it right now. So I recommend traveling to Sardinia instead of Italy right now, that is, if you dream of dropping in on the last remaining master of sea silk weaving. Look here or here. She has her own website, here. She has a small museum, too.

For a collection of scientific data on the Pinna nobilis, look here.  

For a discussion we once had back in 2009 about ocean products in Tibet with C.C., the author of Sitahu blog, look here. Although originally about a Tibetan word for shagreen, the ray skin grips used on knife or sword handles, Turkic original of the English word chagrin, it turned out to be about sea silk and other matters, and is worth revisiting. Shagreen is yet another sea product Tibetans made use of. (I’ll just mention conch shells, so as not to leave them unmentioned.)

And for pearl shell pendants:

Try searching the net and Googlebooks (or JSTOR, if you have institutional access) for riji and pearl shell. Don’t miss Cloth and Shell: Revealing the Luminous; not only aesthetically pleasing, informative and accessible, it gives inspiration to find out more.

This comes from Dan's Tibeto-logic blog located at
12 Oct 10:40

Regalia Untranslatable - Part Two

by Dan

Scroll down for totally sweet Tibetan imperial beer vessel.

The Nine Royal Heirlooms, which is to say the Tibetan Imperial Regalia.

By way of introduction:  In today’s blog, Part Two of a three-part series that began with Part One, I intend to say a little bit about what regalia means, but my main aim is to establish for those who may be in doubt that a number of items imported from distant lands are indeed associated with the Tibetan imperial period. This background will help open the way for the objects that will be the subject of Part Three. Otherwise it is likely the conclusions would be regarded as, quite literally, going too far. Remember that what you have here are rewritten notes for a lecture, and not the lecture itself (I may put a link to an audio version later on), and this blog is bound to undergo revisions in the future. I expect and hope that some knowledgeable readers will offer suggestions for understanding the more obscure Tibetan terms used in the description of Tibetan regalia you see in the slide reproduced above...  Click on any slide if you wish to enlarge it.

So... What does regalia mean? One of its most common usages today is to refer to fancy ethnic clothing.  To give an example, “The local Tibetans showed up in full ethnic regalia.”* Often, even more jokingly, people speak of ‘academic regalia.’ Here we mean by it something more technical and more technically correct. Regalia are heirlooms strictly for royalty, passed down via the royal succession, perhaps also handed over (or made use of) as part of a coronation rite. They “stand for” royal power. That is about as succinct and generally applicable definition as I can come up with for regalia, so I will leave it with that.
(*More frequent are references to ethnic clothing of Native Americans or to the ritual accoutrements of Masonic orders.)

Referring back to the frontispiece, we will not get much further than discussing no. 1 on the list (to be discussed in Part Three)... which is unfortunate because... well, some things in it are so far simply unintelligible. For myself, at the moment, the most problematic bits are in nos. 2 and 6-9, and I would love to hear your ideas about them!  No. 5 is quite clearly a silver ladle (or serving spoon) with stag [heads] decorating it. It is the one thing most often mentioned in the sources. No. 2 looks like an object called gud-sathat has ivory [or tusks] (following a parallel text reading ba-so instead of bang-so), but what is the gud-sa?  Is it Sanskrit gutsa?  At the moment, my best guess is that it's the chowrie (yak-hair fly whisk) used as royal insignia in the Indian subcontinent, and elsewhere.  Loma-gutsa would be the more complete Sanskrit for a hair whisk (gutsa alone means a bunched-up bundle of any kind of thing). And the fact is that many chowries do have handles made of ivory, so this, too, seems to fit. Perhaps we've found the answer to this one?  No. 3  — since gold image having water design doesn't seem to fit the context or even make very good sense — I'm thinking may require a minimal emendation so as to read gser-skud chu-ris-can, with the meaning gold thread[ed brocade robe] having water design.

Guntram Hazod, in his short essay, studies several sources for the lists (including the one in our frontispiece), but never ventures to translate or discuss in any detail possible meanings of the members of those lists. Given the difficulties, there is no wondering why. But note that translations for the less difficult items (in a much later list that is parallel to ours, but with many variants) are indeed found in the main body of the book (in the translation of the 15th-century work itself, at pp. 27-28).  To quote from this section, minus the footnotes:
"...banner with a golden legend of the Ratnakūṭa-sūtra (dkon mchog brtsegs pa gser gyi ba dan can), a smooth-polished golden throne (gser khri phyi dar can) and an ivory bsdus pa ba so can.  As adornment of their body they gave [the parents] a coat [called] gsol ber byi skad can and a necklace of turquoise, whose stones had a spiral pattern (mgul g.yu 'khor mig can), as gifts of weaponry they gave them a hand-spear with magic eyes (phyag mdung 'phrul mig can) and a [stick called] rno bal chod can.  It is said these two were the hand-spear and the stick of the [royal] ancestor Mes-ag-tshom.  [Finally] they gave them a golden scoop with the image of a stag (gser skyog sha ba can) and a silvery scoop adorned with [the image of] the gna' wild sheep (dngul skyog sna ba [=gna' ba?] can)."

Rhyton from the Cleveland Museum.

I just want to emphasize here that some objects associated with Tibet’s imperial lineage are indeed foreign luxury items, like this rhyton, of Greek conception and possibly manufactured somewhere in between (Sogdian? Persian? Scythian?). The associated cup has an inscription that reads phan shing gong skyes kyi sug byang. I believe this indicates a "finger certificate" of a person with the proper name Phan-shing Gong-skyes, since there are typical elements of an Old Tibetan name. The last two syllables may be correctly read as sug byad, but in any case it appears to mean something like sug rgya, the ‘finger seals’ used in lieu of signatures in the Dunhuang documents. (The inscription has three circles with a set of three vertical lines next to them, probably together indicating the amount of metal it contains.  For more discussion see Amy Heller's article of 2013...) These observations help verify its status as a valuable object that existed in the Imperial Period, even if it was owned by a some unknown person.

By now, what we see in this next slide has to be regarded as the most amazing and celebrated such foreign luxury object to survive from the period of empire. Moreover, it is associated with one of the most famous emperors in all of Tibetan history, Songtsen the Wise.

Emperor Songtsen's Beer Dispenser.

Tibetans nowadays seem to know this as Chang-snod Rta-mgo-can (beer vessel having horse head; notice how remarkably close this is in syntactical/metrical structure to most of the names of the nine regalia listed in our frontispiece), although it’s very clearly a camel head, and camel headed vessels are associated with Emperor Songtsen the Wise in the Kathang De Nga(Roberto Vitali is the ultimate source of this reference.)

Closeup of one side of Emperor Songtsen's Beer Dispenser
(click for an even closer look).

A bearded old man is rather tipsy, unable to stand on his own feet, after a night of serious drinking, and two young men are helping him find his way home.

I’ve been wondering about the material substance of this vessel, which appears to be silver with parcel-gilt figures.  As Amy Heller points out, the figures were cast separately before being attached to the silver vase. So perhaps these figures are of made of electrum, a naturally occurring combination of silver and gold? And is electrum the thing Tibetans called phra-men, a term that causes translators a lot of headaches? (See this recent discussion. Manganese is another suggestion.) I’m as of now unsure whether parcel-gilt silver or electrum would be the true meaning of phra-men, but I do think it was one or the other or (less likely) both.  One strong argument in favor of electrum is that it would fit into a list otherwise composed entirely of distinct metals (as we find in the list of official ranks in the Old Tibetan empire). Depicted below is an amazing early Greek-made electrum vase. I’m not sure if you will agree, but I see some remarkable similarity in the figure of the drunken old man and the figure you see here of a man stringing his bow. I can’t quite put my finger on it. It may be an illusion.

Kurgan means a burial mound, one for a Scythian king and his queen.
Although believed to be of Greek manufacture,  it depicts Scythian warriors,
as well as an ancient dentist treating a patient for toothache, and one of
a man helping another man tie up his boots.

I’ll close this blog with few more words about regalia worldwide:  The Yoruba in Africa have a myth of royal descent in which particular objects descend with Oduduwa from the sky (but here the objects perform a role in the very creation of the world). Myths of royal descent from the sky occur here and there in Eurasia, perhaps most remarkably in Japan. In Indian Buddhism we have an account of a set of five objects, royal insignia that represented the kingship of Prasenajit, namely his crown, parasol, sword, yak-tail fan and embroidered shoes (and similar or identical lists of "five insignia of royalty" may appear in some accounts of the Buddha's life). When he lost them he lost his kingship to his son. It may indeed pay to compare power symbolism (regalia?) seen on coins of Roman Emperors Caesar and Nero that might include jug, staff (lituus), cup (culullus), sprinkler (aspergillum), ladle (simpulum), tripod and libation bowl (patera), as well as such weapons as the knife and axe.  Some of these items were originally associated with various priesthoods. We should also note the nine regalia, known in quite ancient Chinese history, in the form of nine cooking tripods used for offerings to heaven. These nine Ding are sometimes said to be able to cook by themselves without the help of any fire. This is often true of other regalia in other cultures, that they are regarded as capable of performing their functions on their own (in fact, one list of Tibetan regalia is almost entirely made up of such self-acting objects), as if automated — they may in fact deserve a place in the history of automation. It’s interesting, too, to see that some of these power symbols are connected with the kitchen and with food serving, like the ladles (Tibetan, Roman) and tripods (Chinese, Roman). According to the list of the Nine Can, the first king while still in the sky inherited from his mother a ladle, a copper vessel and another obscure item.  Not explicit but implied: these objects must have come down together with him. Let’s leave it at that for now.

For a small essay on Caesar's use of power objects, look here.

(continued here)

For more on foreign luxury goods — primarily of silver and of Greek/Iranian or Hellenistic origins — that are associated with the Tibetan imperial period:

Martha L. Carter, An Indo-Iranian Silver Rhyton in the Cleveland Museum, Artibus Asiae, vol. 41 (1979), pp. 309-325.  —— Three Silver Vessels from Tibet's Earliest Historical Era: A Preliminary Study, Cleveland Studies in the History of Art, vol. 3 (1998), pp. 22-47. 

Stanislaw J. Czuma, Some Tibetan and Tibet-Related Acquisitions of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Oriental Art, vol. 38, no. 4 (1993), pp. 231-248.  —— Tibetan Silver Vessels (Beaker, Rhyton & Vase), Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, vol. 80, no. 4 (1993), pp. 131-135.

Phillip Denwood, A Greek Bowl from Tibet, Iran, vol. 11 (1973), pp. 121-127. Denwood here describes a "libation bowl" acquired from an aristocratic family from Lhasa by Snellgrove, that may very well be identified as one of the patera mentioned above (this idea merits close examination, I would say, especially since Denwood mentions the Greek name for the same object, phiale).

Assadullah Souren Melikian-Chirvani, Iran to Tibet, contained in: Anna Akasoy, Charles Burnett & Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim, eds., Islam and Tibet: Interactions along the Musk Routes, Ashgate (Farnham 2011), pp. 89-115 and plates 4.1 to 4.17.

Dorothy G. Shepherd, Two Silver Rhyta, Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, vol. 53 (1966), p...
07 Oct 16:47

How the other half lives


This has enough fail density to make a fail black hole.

In the country of Africa and other poor countries in the world they do not really have houses.  As my mother would say, that is how the other half lives.

10 Oct 03:11

Jony Ive Is Not Flattered by Xiaomi

by John Gruber

Kyle Russell, writing for TechCrunch on Ive’s appearance on stage at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit:

“Many years ago we made prototypes of phones with bigger screens. They were interesting features, having a bigger screen, but the end result was a lousy product, because they were big and clunky,” Ive noted when the panel’s moderator asked why it took so long for the iPhone to get bigger.

I’m pretty sure Russell just referred to Graydon Carter as simply “the panel’s moderator”.

When a member of the audience came up to ask a question about Xiaomi and their unofficial tagline of “the Apple of China,” Ive was very straightforward with his response: “I’ll stand a little bit harsh, I don’t see it as flattery. When you’re doing something for the first time, you don’t know it’s gonna work, you spend 7 or 8 years working on something, and then it’s copied. I think it is really straightforward. It is theft and it is lazy. I don’t think it is OK at all.”

See also: Steve Kovach’s loose transcript at Business Insider.

08 Oct 18:59

Ritual Coffee Roasters headed to the Haight

by Paolo Lucchesi

It means you could easily go from Ritual Coffee -> Alembic and back, like a perpetual motion machine.

Ritual is coming to the

Ritual Coffee is coming to the Haigbt. Photo: The Chronicle/Paul Chinn

Ritual Coffee Roasters is working on a new San Francisco cafe — and it will be on Haight Street.

To be precise, the upcoming Ritual will be located across the way from Buena Vista Park on the ground floor of the 1908 building on the corner of Haight and Central, making it the first business you’ll see when going from the Lower Haight to the Upper Haight.

“The building is really special. It had the magical quality that we’re looking for … It has a great light and is the kind of place you want to start your day.” says Ritual founder Eileen Rinaldi.

The 800-square-foot space will be a different sort of venture for Ritual. It will be the growing company’s first free-standing cafe since the flagship Valencia Street location; Ritual’s three other outposts are found within other businesses. Since the Haight spot is not due until next summer, Rinaldi and co. are still working on the details on the coffee side, but she does say that since it’s an older building, it will be architecturally different from the more modern Valencia Street cafe, which just completed a dramatic remodel (see below). And the Valencia cafe is a no-WiFi zone, which is prompting people to have actual conversations, write with pens and read books:

The dramatic remodeled version of Ritual's flagship location on Valencia. Photo: Facebook

The remodeled version of Ritual’s flagship location on Valencia. Photo: Facebook

Ritual Coffee Roasters: 1300 Haight Street, at Central, San Francisco

08 Oct 15:41

Great Moments in Open Carry

by Josh Marshall

Man open carrying his new gun has his gun stolen at gun point.

08 Oct 03:29

Self-Government Now in Doubt

by Josh Marshall

I love the theory that the Axis of ISIL+Mexico would consider _Arkansas_ a target worth attacking.

Senate candidate says ISIL is plotting with Mexican drug cartels to attack Arkansas.

07 Oct 17:05

Campaign donations reach record levels in Berkeley; beverage companies donate $1.4M to defeat soda tax

by Frances Dinkelspiel
Roger Salazar (left) and Josh Daniels (right) argue the merits of Measure D, a proposed tax on sugary beverages, at an election event on Oct. 6. Salazar is a spokesman for the No on D campaign, and Daniels is co-chair of the Yes on D campaign. Photo: Mark Coplan

Dustin Batton (left) and Josh Daniels (right) argue the merits of Measure D, a proposed tax on sugary beverages, at an election event Oct. 6. Batton is a lobbyist for the No on D campaign, and Daniels is co-chair of the Yes on D campaign. Photo: Mark Coplan

The beverage industry in recent days contributed another $600,000 to its fight to defeat Measure D, a proposed tax in Berkeley on sugary beverages, bringing the amount it has given so far to $1.4 million.

The contribution comes on top of $7.7 million the beverage industry has donated to stop a similar soda tax measure on San Francisco’s ballot. The Measure D campaign had already won the distinction of being the most expensive in Berkeley, and the new contribution made Oct. 1 only accentuates that fact. The beverage industry spent more than $2.6 million to defeat a similar tax in Richmond in 2012.(...)

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By Frances Dinkelspiel. | Permalink | 73 comments |
Post tags: American Beverage Association, Berkeley elections, Berkeley health, Berkeley public health, Berkeley soda tax, Berkeley vs Big Soda, Election 2014 Berkeley, Healthy Child Initiative, Josh Daniels, Laurie Capitelli, Measure D, Measure R, No Berkeley Beverage Tax, Roger Salazar, sugar-sweetened beverage tax

07 Oct 16:11

Adobe’s e-book reader sends your reading logs back to Adobe—in plain text [Updated]

by Sean Gallagher
Adobe even logs what you read in Digital Editions' instruction manual.

Adobe’s Digital Editions e-book and PDF reader—an application used by thousands of libraries to give patrons access to electronic lending libraries—actively logs and reports every document readers add to their local “library” along with what users do with those files. Even worse, the logs are transmitted over the Internet in the clear, allowing anyone who can monitor network traffic (such as the National Security Agency, Internet service providers and cable companies, or others sharing a public Wi-Fi network) to follow along over readers’ shoulders.

Ars has independently verified the logging of e-reader activity with the use of a packet capture tool. The exposure of data was first discovered by Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader, who reported the issue to Adobe but received no reply.

Digital Editions (DE) has been used by many public libraries as a recommended application for patrons wanting to borrow electronic books (particularly with the Overdrive e-book lending system), because it can enforce digital rights management rules on how long a book may be read for. But DE also reports back data on e-books that have been purchased or self-published. Those logs are transmitted over an unencrypted HTTP connection back to a server at Adobe—a server with the Domain Name Service hostname “”—as an unencrypted file (the data format of which appears to be JSON).

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06 Oct 14:02

Wait, What?

by Josh Marshall

It seems like SCOTUS just moon-walked Same Sex Marriage into law.

(More detailed and less lyrical analysis coming shortly.)

05 Oct 19:05

How to win friends, influence people, and have businesses magically text you

by Cyrus Farivar

Wow, it’s like having a real personal assistant, but you never have to see them cry! Thanks Internet companies.

Cyrus Farivar

This week, I downloaded a new iPhone app, Path Talk, and I texted actual questions to local businesses near where I live in Oakland, California. In some cases I got answers back within minutes, but most took longer, even over an hour. Nevertheless, it was almost like magic.

Without interrupting my work day, I learned some crucial information about my favorite East Oakland taco truck (Tacos Sinaloa): "Can I place an order by phone?"

"Hi! Unfortunately, you would have to come to our restaurant in person since we do not take orders over the phone. Sorry about that. Have a nice day!"

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04 Oct 19:38

Are the silos winning?

Tom Foremski said yesterday on Twitter: "Unfortunately the silos are winning." I thought about that for a while, and I don't think it's right. Let me explain.

1. Sure there are more silos all the time. Places that force you to give them your ideas on an exclusive basis, so that people in other silos, or on the open web, can't see them. Unless they visit the silo of course. An example. Yesterday my friend Jay Rosen posted a great essay to Ello. If you want to read it you have to go there. If you follow Jay on Twitter or Facebook, or read his blog, the only way you can find out about it is if someone posts a link to it there. And if Ello goes kaput, so does Jay's post. All record of his judgement, gone. Not a good way for an academic to work, imho.

2. But the open web is bigger than any of the silos. This post, for example, is on the open web. What that means is that it is included in my feed. The source code for the post is public, it could be rendered in any context. Especially if I post a pointer to it. A smart CMS could load in all the text from the feed itself! And render it in its own way.

  • Seriously, look at the feed source, every item has the full source code, with attributes and structure, that the HTML was rendered from.

3. I can innovate out here on the open web. But if this post were in a silo, only the silo-maker could innovate. So things creak along slowly in SiloLand. Limits tend to stay limits, for years, years become decades, and we all grow old, and then a new generation comes along, and says why the fuck does it work this way, and they make something new. Where? Well, it'll have to be on the open web. Because new stuff can't happen in a silo.

4. Ultimately that's how change happens in tech. People get all comfy and bored in their little nests, and then boom, everyone goes somewhere else. If it's yet another boring and nesty silo, only a few people will go there. But if it's open, eventually, everyone is there. (Yes, some people still use typewriters, no doubt. They don't count.)

So my friend Tom, as wise as he sounds, is wrong. If it's open it's everything. It's winning because it's always winning. It's an illusion to think it's all wrapped up in tech. Every generation thinks it is, until the next one comes along and renders all its assumptions moot.