Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'm Eating Al Dunlap first.

That'd be the 90s era corporate raider that came up with the bright idea of making companies more profitable by slashing benefits. Because what possible long term consequences could eliminating sick pay and vacation? Cut new employees' pay, and they'd have to work. It's the kind of imagination that sees oneself as the protagonist of a zombie movie, with a gun that shoots shurikens and a little red dress.
And what goes wrong is that your staff goes zombie. In fantasy land, that means they hunt you down and eat you. In real life, they just  become less and less productive, and you look at your disappointing sales figures and you think to yourself, "what could possibly be going wrong?" (People don't work, and because you don't pay them, they don't buy stuff, either. How hard is this to figure out?)

And I'm on a zombie day. Not a bad zombie day; first of two days off together, which the ancestors would call a "weekend" in their quaint old way. I've done my laundry, the vacuuming. And it does occur that I'm still lucky to have two days off together and that it could be worse. There are people at my workplace trying to work two jobs at the same time, and I have no idea how they keep going. I'd like to stop it. All I have to do is  find the leprechaun gold. I know it's around here somewhere....

So, two points: first, Zombie Day, do no work. Second, find gold. Which is work. How shall I resolve the contradictions of late capitalism? Post something I've already written (elsewhere) yesterday, because I was in some fugue state even weirder than today.

Or maybe because I was provoked by this. Which has the unsubtle point that lost cities are cool, and you should go visit one. Which, problem. Lost cities are lost. Sure, there might be a Club Med there to visit, but you couldn't find it, either! Sure, the taxidrivers or whatever could be on commission and you'd just ask them where the lost city is and they'd take you there. All sexy like. Sort of. But I bet Vegas is less work. And I know that lost cities that are actually still lost are even cooler. So I put together my own list.

1) Akkad. Sargon, King of Kish, conquered the four quarters of the Earth, and then built a new capital there. Or so the scribes say. Maybe it turned out differently. But the more we know about the Akkadian Empire, the more we suspect that this was a spectacular, full of cool stuff like this

 Too bad that old Akkad is probably buried deep under Baghdad.

2) Itjtawy. The capital of the  Twelfth Dynasty, renowned in literature, triumphant abroad, was the glory of the Middle Kingdom. Its location at the outlet to the flood catchment overflow basin of Lake Moeris, and testifying to the first major step in land reclamation by the Egyptian state. Befuddle New Agers with the very strong inference that it was the original Labyrinth. (No ancient European mother-goddess worshipping labyrinth threading for you, lady! Also, would it kill you to get rid of the old peace symbol on your jean jacket?)

3) Washukanni: Akkad and Itjtawy are probably buried under modern cities, not a good sign for excavators. Washukanni, chances are, is one of the vast number of unexcavated tells in eastern Syria and northern Iraq. The other untouched national capitals of the Late Bronze Age (Hattusa and Tell Amarna) have yielded rich archives. Hopefully, so will Washukanni.

4)Xiang, Xing, Ao, Bi, and Bo: Erlitou and Anyang have been archaeological gold mines. The lost Shang Dynasty capitals that come between them in traditional history should be equally rich. Or maybe they don't exist, and don't even have a cool traditional name like Yinxu ("The Ruins of Yin.") Whatever: there's a lot left to dig up in the Chinese Central Plains.

5) Pteria: Herodotus described this great walled city near the Halys river as the capital of the Medes, conquered by Croesus of Lydia in 595BC. The most likely candidate is Kerkenes, which has sent Classical historians into a tizzy, because Kerkenes was clearly a "Phrygian" city. I've blah-blahed about the potential implications before.

6) Pataliputra: Supposedly, we know exactly where the capital of the ancient Mauryan Empire was: at modern Patna. In reality, the very idea of a "Mauryan Empire" is a problem of nationalist myth-making. There really was a powerful Indian capital city that was visited by a Greek ambassador, but it was certainly not in Bihar State, but rather in the far northwest, probably near Kandahar. If we find it, hopefully we will find more ancient texts like the hair-raisingly ancient Gandharan Scrolls.

7) Srivijaya: Probably built on low-lying land in a tropical jungle, so there wouldn't be much left of the capital city of this early empire, which might be buried under modern Palembang. But once we have time machines, that won't be a problem!

8) Norumbega: Is there a lost city under Boston? Nineteenth-Century New England historians rather spoiled this legend by turning it over to an even more legendary people, the Greenland Vikings. No, there were no Vikings in New England, any more than on Ellesmere Island. Enough with the crazy pills, folks! If Norumbega existed, it was more likely the home of a mixed community of Indians and European "renegades" in the decades immediately preceding the arrival of the Pilgrims/Puritans. Why did they disappear? They didn't! Many of the ancestors of the prim and proper New England Yankee of later times were probably mixed-race Norumbegites! (Norumbegitians?) Once again, I've talked about this before.

There's more, and I could find them, but that would be even more work than I've already done, which is breaking the first rule of Zombie Day. Although apparently breaking the first rule of Zombie Day is the first rule of Zombie Day, because I've got to go do my taxes now. Soon. In a minute. As soon as I've checked out Yglesias again. And maybe Brad Delong.

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