Reality checks bounce from the strangest places

Back when I was a kid (and the printing press was killing the illuminated-folio business) Cracked was one of magazines we read instead of doing our homework.  Now it appears that writers at do their homework and everybody else’s too.

History vs. Hype – pretty thought-provoking read (although, be warned, there are cusswords).

8 Historic Symbols That Mean The Opposite of What You Think

I confess I don’t know enough about Tȟašúŋke Witkó (aka Crazy Horse) to guess whether he would really hate his memorial, as the author proposes.  But for some good background on cultural differences about how to treat significant mountains, try The Fallen Man, a Dineh (Navajo) mystery by a late, great author who might not want his name repeated now that he’s gone.


The Mishmash Nation of Neverland – I kinda liked ’em

I can’t help but sympathize with the creators of Syfy’s Peter Pan prequel, “Neverland.”  Here’s this forward-looking bunch with an ethos of fairly and sympathetically portraying — not only HUMANS of all ancestries — but aliens and robots and ghosts and super-intelligent shades of blue as well.   And they’re forced to be simultaneously backward-compatible with an Edwardian British fantasy of “Red Indians.”  That has to be worse than designing websites aimed at lawyers who haven’t updated their browsers since 1985!

I couldn’t wait to see how they got out of THAT one.  I only hoped it would be more graceful than Disney’s purported “Michael-Jacksonizing” of the animated (now-white) Indians in the DVD version of their “Peter Pan.”

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(For Thanksgiving): _Ringer_’s Bodaway Macawi: Return of the F.B.I.*

*For those who haven’t been monitoring pow-wow T-shirt booths (a great way to catch up on Native sociopolitics while munching some of the better food on the planet), there was this shirt that said “F.B.I.- Full Blooded Indian.” Soon followed by parodies that said “F.B.I.- {Flat Broke Indian, Fat Butt Indian, or my fave, Fry Bread Inspector}.” Bodaway Macawi, the villain of the CW suspense series “Ringer,”. is a kind of FBI we haven’t seen in a few decades: the Fictional Bad Indian.
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Subsection Arrr: Did pirates really have Codes?

Several authors, including an economics professor, are pretty sure they did. Even the snooty-booty New Yorker has noticed, although New York is far more famous for “corporate pirates” who would have been useful to their high-seas counterparts only as ballast or sharkbait. (BTW, many thanks to Keith Nagel, author of highly useful patent-perusal program IPDiscover, for bringing this article to my attention).

These authors are probably right. Piracy is largely an organized crime; pirate chieftains like Blackbeard, Jean Lafitte, Grace O’Malley, and Madame Chiang commanded sizable fleets. Organizations have to have rules if they want to grow and achieve.

Don’t get me wrong; pirates were (and still are) “not very nice persons at all.” They stole ships and their cargo for personal gain, took prisoners for ransom or slave-price (or addition to the crew if sufficiently useful), and killed anyone who got in their way. Not like, for instance, national navies and letters of marque, which confiscated suspected enemy ships and their cargo as prizes shared by the crew, took prisoners for exchange or impressment into service, killed anyone who got in their way, and were sanctioned by governments and mostly financed by taxes.

My point –and I do have one – is that 17th- 18th-century pirate codes reveal a professional culture exhibiting much more democracy, safeguards for dispute resolution, and merit incentives at all levels than could be found in most governments of their age, and far more than can be found in most legitimate business ventures of our own time. They could certainly be a model for contractual relationships among salvagers and others who, albeit within the local law, profit from things that they find (rather than make or buy).

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Truth or Scare? Old Lawyers’ Tales

Stories handed down orally are a form of cultural property that international organizations like WIPO and even the WTO are working on protecting. I’ll go into that some more in later posts. Today, it’s the slab of concrete on which I’ll set up a small soapbox (which I promise not to do very often).

Professions have subcultures of their own.  My former profession, engineering, didn’t have much folklore (aside from the occasional hero or trickster legend) back when I started. Since the advent of Dilbert, it has developed a fairly large body of humor that is often self-deprecating. See also User Friendly. When I changed careers to law later, I was fascinated to learn that the American legal culture is very rich in folklore. . . but my fascination took on morbid overtones when I realized that most of the folklore was of a very specialized kind.

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