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Tuesday, May 10, 2011


  This is a map of the situation 100 BC and you have to imagine a spreading over the 500-1000-2000 years prior.  The fact that we can now speak of a language family means that there had been separation and lack of contact between Iranian speakers and other Indo European languages before the Iranian language themselves began to spread apart.

  Understanding the waves of Indo European migration require understanding the role of the Iranian speaking folks in Central Asia in PUSHING other groups of Indo European groups OUT into places like India and Western Europe.  Although many of the Scythian speaking languages were unwritten, the ole Iranian Language Family tree has a host of them under it's "northeastern" branch:  Avestan, Bactrian, Samaritan, Soghdian and Alanian: All prominent players during the time when Germans, Greeks, Celts and Vedic groups were moving from their place of origin into their new worlds.

  So even though they ended up getting dominated by the Turks and then the Mongols, to the point where the only ethnicity they have left is the Ossetians in South Georgia, recently implicated in the mini war between Russia an Georgia when South Ossetia said they wanted to be with Russia or independent instead of being in Georgia,  the Sycthians played a HUGE role in determining who is where in todays modern world.

Monday, May 09, 2011



      289 Kent Ave., between S. 1st and S. 2nd Sts., Brooklyn (No phone)—May 13: Dirty Beaches. The handsome rockabilly crooner Alex Zhang Hungtai is a wanderer, and his music reflects it. Born in Taiwan, he has lived in Honolulu, Toronto, Shanghai, New York, and Montreal. He’s currently based in Vancouver, where he’s found success with this lo-fi project. Dirty Beaches’ riveting winter performance at this two-level art space included stage diving and balcony climbing, and introduced Brooklyn audiences to “Badlands,” Hungtai’s most recent collection of songs. He returns this weekend for a set of shows amid a flood of positive press.



     Within the lo-fi elegance of Dirty Beaches (a/k/a Alex Zhang Hungtai), influences range from rockabilly to garage pop to scuzzy, reverb-soaked beats. The overall vibe carries a foggy, old-fashioned aesthetic--the muffled doo-wop of "Lord Knows Best" could easily blare from a time-twisted "Twin Peaks" diner jukebox. Hungtai's both a sensitive Ponyboy Curtis who makes the girls melt with sexy love songs ("True Blue") and a rebel whose cause is to scare them with erratic, passionate Nick Cave outbursts ("Sweet 17"). His live show is emotional and compelling, and, when he pulls out a comb from his back pocket to slick back his Elvis 'do, it's facetiously funny. With Widowspeak.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

Early India: From The Origins to AD 1300

Early India: From The Origins to AD 1300
by Romila Thapar
p 2004
University of California Press

   Here is something I've learned about Indian history: It is pretty controversial to write anything about Indian History.  There is very little you can actually say or write about Indian history without angering someone who cares very passionately about the subject your are speaking or writing about.  Undoubtably, the single biggest factor in aggravating the debate on Indian historical subjects is the "Hindu Nationalism Movement." People in the US who are even aware of this phenomenon typically describe it in political terms, for example, when writing about the actions of the  BJP or "Bharatiya Janata Party" but it should surprise no one that Hindu Nationalist ideas extend directly into historical research, writing and debate.  Hindu Nationalism inspired ideas take many forms in the discussion of Early Indian History.

  First, there is the debate, now largely won, by the way, over whether the initial Vedic migration into India was an "invasion" or not.  Obviously, Hindu Nationalists would rather have it be said that there was no invasion, and many would further argue that India is the home of ALL Indo European Languages.  Well, the good news: No Aryan invasion, more like small scale migration over many years.  The bad news: There is no way that the Indo European language family originated in North West India, so call that one a draw.  Even finding a "neutral" source on this subject is difficult, but Romila Thapar does a good job of presenting the current historical facts in a non-inflammatory fashion.

   Another major area of dispute colored by Hindu Nationalism are the pre-Mughal Turkish led raids into Western India, which allegedly resulted in temple destruction and the building of a mosque over said temple location.  These disputes have resulted in back and forth terrorist activity as well as the occasional mass killing.  Here, Thapar notes that the raids seem not to have bothered the locals at the time, or rather they didn't see it as anything "out of ordinary" and that any later mosque building was done with the consent of the native community, not at the behest of an "outside" Muslim ruler.

  In addition to the controversial subjects, Thapar does a solid job bringing the reader up to date on current "hot topics" in the field of Early Indian History, like "Did the medieval Indian state formation process constitute a variation of European defined feudalism?"  She also does a remarkably thorough job of discussing the caste formation process in ancient India- I confess to say that it's complexity, even at this level of generality, somewhat escaped my comprehension, but the writing is so clear and concise that I will likely revisit her discussion in a few months.

  All in all this was a solid introduction to the field of Early Indian history- worth a read for someone seeking a foundation in the subject.

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