07:12 A.M., Monday, December 16th, 2002
For a long time now, I've had the idea of eventually compiling a Mesoamerican Myth book: something in the tradition of the Brothers Grimm or Edith Hamilton that told the primary Nahua myths in an accessible manner in a way that didn't sap all the beauty and sense of the fantastic out of the story, or make extremely poor decisions about which version of the story to use. This idea came about primarily because every book of that kind I found on the Nahua legends and myths had those last two flaws, and I was so frustrated by the lackluster quality of authorship and scholarship on the part of those who attempted to make layman-friendly Nahua myth books. Of course, any such project would need to be undertaken after I'm much more familiar with the subject and the primary sources (ie, the less than 20 or so 16th century manuscripts that tell us almost everything we know about Nahua mythology). Right now I'm still just an enthusiastic amature.
Just now, I was overcome with an idea that I think would be better.
You see, the Aztecs had a cycle of stories that told of the rise and fall of the Toltecs. The most famous of these stories is that of the fair-skinned god-king, Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, who was kind of a cross between Hercules and Prometheus: a heroic figure who brought learning and knowledge to the Toltecs. There have been many books about the Topiltzin story, however, most works, both layman and scholarly, have a habit of ignoring the stories around the Topiltzin story that give it context, and are, in my opinion, just as magical.
One of the few books that gives equal weight to the rest of the saga is the book The Toltecs Until the Fall of Tula
by Nigel Davies. While the book is far more concerned with the scholarly significance of the stories, rather than the details of the stories themselves, it describes a series of heroic myths that tell of the rise and fall of the Toltec empire.
Davies calls this the "Mixcoatl Saga", but I prefer to think of it as a trilogy with three heros:
Mixcoatl - The great conquering warrior of the Chichimecs, who leaves Chicomoztoc, conquers Culhuacan and marries the noble Chimalman.
Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl - the aforementioned Prometheus, either the son of Mixcoatl or the son of Tetepeuh who is a decendent of Mixcoatl. Topiltzin's uncle kills his father in order to gain the throne of the Toltecs, and so Topiltzin must avenge his fathers death. He becomes the greatest king of the Toltecs, is attributed with many advances in technology and culture, until he is driven out by three evil sorcerers, who get him so drunk he has sex with his own sister.
Huemac - last King of the Toltecs. Sometimes a contemporary of Topiltzin, sometimes four or five rulers after him. In some versions he's even a rival of Topiltzin, which Davies gives much credit to. However, in the version I prefer he is a hero-king, who plays ball against the rain gods and wins. An evil sorcerer makes Huemac's daughter fall in love with him, proves his worth by defeating a whole army with no one but hunchbacks and dwarves, and then at a feast plays a drum so incredibly that the people dance themselves to death. The evil sorcerer sends a series of horrible plagues until Huemac is so distraught by the destruction of his kingdom he runs away and hangs himself.
My idea is this: to write my own version of The Once and Future King
, except instead of being about the Arthurian legend, being about the Toltec Saga. As I see it it would be a series of three novels - Mixcoatl, Topiltzin, Huemac.
Obviously in order to attempt any such thing (and I don't see myself doing so seriously for at least a few years), I would have to become intimately familiar with all the primary sources. Following that, I would then have to become conversant enough with what archeologists suppose daily life was like during the Toltec period (800AD-1200AD) in Mesoamerica to reproduce it convincingly - obviously no small task, yet one that has been attempted by novelists before me, so not impossible.
Okay, so it's ambitious. That's good.
One major problem is that there seems to be a lack of primary sources translated into English. I have about 3 of them on my desk now, but I count 11 other primary sources and maybe a half dozen minor sources that I'd need to read in order to do a project like this correctly. Going through the library searches of the NYU, New School, Columbia University, I can't find any of them in English, and the New York Public Reference library has only 2. (the lending library has none).
That leaves 15 books that don't seem to be available to me, and that I'd have to hunt down somehow. Or get translated or something.
For me to ponder.
Eric | link
9:21 P.M., Tuesday, December 10th, 2002
My final paper for my Journalism class:
Luiz Inacio Da Silva
For the first time in history, a leftist has been democratically elected president of Brazil. Luiz Inacio da Silva, who goes by the nick name "Lula", won in a run-off on October 27th with 61.5 percent of the vote, in a victory that has been called a "landslide".
The election of Da Silva comes on the tail of spiraling economic disaster in Brazil. This year, the Brazilian Real has lost 40% of its value, and has continued to fall against the dollar in recent months. Brazil is currently $260 billion in debt and Reuters reported that "'international credit' remains an oxymoron for Brazilian companies". And between 1980 and 1999 the percentage of people in Latin American living poverty rose from 40.5 to 43.8, and one of the measures created to combat that problem, the Mercosur free trade agreement which covers Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina, is floundering. Argentina recently defaulted on all its loans, and Bradley Brooks of the United Press International predicts that Brazil could become "the largest sovereign defaulter in history" as early as next year.
Add to this that Da Silva has been labeled an "enemy of business" by American and Brazilian corporations alike, and the extremely wealthy minority in the highly stratified country uniformly backed Da Silva's opponent, Jose Serra. Though Da Silva became far more moderate during the last election cycle than in his militant past, he is known to be friends with Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Venezualen President Hugo Chavez, neither of whom are on the USA's "A" list, and both of whom like to talk vigorously about the "evils of capitalism".
In a recent interview, Chavez referred to Da Silva, Castro and himself as forming an "Axis of Good", in an obvious reference to American President George W. Bush's recent labeling of several Middle Eastern countries as an "Axis of Evil".
The Communist Cuban newspaper Granma published an editorial saying Brazil's "new president isn't ashamed of being a friend of Cuba and opponent of free-market policies".
Da Silva once called Bush's Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) proposal an "attempt by the US to annex Latin America".
Since Da Silva's election, however, diplomacy has been the rule between Brazil and the US.
"President [Bush] told President-elect Da Silva he looked forward to working with him, especially with regard to advancing democracy, good governance, and free trade in the hemisphere," read a written statement from the White House.
On Tuesday, Da Silva came to the US to meet with Bush. Afterwards, Da Silva praised Bush and said that the FTAA "presents an opportunity to advance [Brazil's] trade and fuel economic growth".
"I will go back to back to Brazil knowing that I can count on president Bush as an ally," he added later.
Da Silva has also committed himself to Mercoser, spending the last week touring Argentina and Chile to shore up support.
"Mercosur is a national project... Brazil is determined to strengthen and preserve this strategic initiative," Da Silva said.
Da Silva dropped out of school in fifth grade in order to help support his family, which he did by shining shoes and selling peanuts. When he became older he starting working in factories, and from there became involved in the unions. In 1961, a military cue in Brazil ended democracy and began military rule of the country. During this period, Da Silva emerged as a union leader and one of the fiercest critics of the government. When democracy was finally restored in 1989, Da Silva ran for president, losing. He ran two more losing campaigns in 1994 and 1998, until winning this election in October. He will be officially sworn into office on January 1st, 2003.
"My governing will be marked by understanding, negotiation, firmness, and patience," said Da Silva.
Eric | link
03:53 A.M., Thursday, November 28th, 2002
Home for the holidays.
"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."
That quote is on a plaque above my Dad's computer. I never had much respect for Silent Cal - called him an "idiot" in my Brief History of American Politics
- but a reliance on persistance actually could explain a lot about him. In any case it's a good quote. Dad's a smart guy.
Eric | link
11:20 P.M., Monday, November 25th, 2002
Watched the second half of the Mark Twain documentary today. Imagine my surprise when a passage of Twain is read that sounds like something out of Schultzenburgianity - a criticism of the biblical God so dead on and accurate - well, see for yourself:
"Our Bible reveals to us the character of our God with minute and remorseless exactness. The portrait is substantially that of a man - if one can imagine a man charged and overcharged with evil impulses far beyond the human limit; a personage with whom no one perhaps, would desire to associate with now that Nero and Caligula are dead. In the old testament His acts expose His vindictive, unjust, ungenerous, pitiless and vengeful nature constantly. He is always punishing - punishing trifling misdeeds with thousandfold severity; punishing innocent children for the misdeeds of their parents; punishing unoffending populations for the misdeeds of their rulers; even descending to wreak bloody vengeance upon harmless calves and lambs and sheep and bullocks as punishment for inconsequential trespasses committed by their proprietors. It is perhaps the most damnatory biography that exists in print anywhere. It makes Nero an angel of light and leading by contrast."
With some web searching, I found the source, an essay entitled "Reflections on Religion". Here it is in it's entirety; enjoy:
Reflections on Religion
Eric | link