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Trenz Pruca’s Observations: Rumination on the Long Generation.

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If when I was five years old and shook the hand and listened to the stories of someone who was the age that I am now, he would have been born during the Civil War. If he in turn, when he was five, shook the hand of another old man and listened to his stories, he might have learned that that man when he was young had shaken the hand of someone who knew Shakespeare at the height of his theatrical career. Two handshakes by old men represent a chain of history from Donald Trump to William Shakespeare.

Hmm——This may evidence that, as a species, we may have been devolving faster than we realize.

Recently, my partner told me that when she was young her Grandmother told her that when she was young and growing up near Balmoral Castle in Scotland, she used to see Queen Victoria and Prince Albert traveling in their carriage to the local church to attend Sunday services.

This is a long generation.

 

TODAY’S QUOTE: The Tribal Make a Human Kit.

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The Science of Discworld II, the Globe, The Science of Discworld Series Book 2.

 

 

I admit that I fascinated by Sir Terry Pratchett’s works. His many novels about Discworld are fantasy and written in a style as simple and as entertaining as any of the great fairy tales. The books often satirize other famous fantasy authors like Tolkien,  Lovecraft,  Dickens, and even Shakespeare.  They mimic mythology, folklore, and fairy tales, often in order to illuminate cultural, political and scientific issues as the four-book series The Science of Discworld demonstrates.

In the quote below, he explores cultural anthropology in his part satirical part insightful style:

“The most important role of the tribal Make-a-Human kit is to provide the tribe with its own collective identity, making it possible for it to act as a unit. Tradition is good for such purposes; sense is optional. All religions are strong on tradition, but many are weak on sense, at least if you take their stories literally. Nevertheless, religion is absolutely central to most cultures’ Make-a-Human kit.”

“The growth of human civilization is a story of the assembly of ever-larger units, knitted together by some version of that Make-a-Human kit. At first, children were taught what they must do to be accepted as members of the family group. Then they were taught what they must do to be accepted as members of the tribe. (Believing apparently ridiculous things was a very effective test: the naïve outsider would all too readily betray a lack of belief, or would simply have no idea what the appropriate belief was. Is it permitted to pluck a chicken before dark on Wednesday? The tribe knew the outsider did not, and since any reasonable person would guess ‘yes’, the tribal priesthood could go a long way by making the accepted answer ‘no’.) After that, the same kind of thing happened for the local baron’s serfs, for the village, the town, the city, and the nation. We spread the net of True Human Beings.”
          Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Make-a-Human kit: The role of religion.

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When, somewhere in Africa, the first apes dropped from the trees, stood upright, and began walking through the savannah they blazed a path of adaptation and transformation that led to what we humans have become today. Perhaps, we were a tribal species back then like chimpanzees are today. But, what has changed over the years to make us different than other tribal ape species?

Terry Pratchett in his Science of Discworld series describing the tribal Make-a-Human opines that “Tradition is good…science is optional.” He then goes on to give his thoughts on the role of religion among human tribes. He seems to believe that an important function of religion, like many of the other traditions that make up the tribal Make-a-Human kit, is to distinguish members of the tribe from outsiders. Of course, over time the tribes grew larger and so did membership. Some of us today believe the tribe has grown large enough to encompass the entire world.

 

“The most important role of the tribal Make-a-Human kit is to provide the tribe with its own collective identity, making it possible for it to act as a unit. Tradition is good for such purposes; sense is optional. All religions are strong on tradition, but many are weak on sense, at least if you take their stories literally. Nevertheless, religion is absolutely central to most cultures’ Make-a-Human kit.”

“The growth of human civilization is a story of the assembly of ever-larger units, knitted together by some version of that Make-a-Human kit. At first, children were taught what they must do to be accepted as members of the family group. Then they were taught what they must do to be accepted as members of the tribe. (Believing apparently ridiculous things was a very effective test: the naïve outsider would all too readily betray a lack of belief, or would simply have no idea what the appropriate belief was. Is it permitted to pluck a chicken before dark on Wednesday? The tribe knew, the outsider did not, and since any reasonable person would guess ‘yes’, the tribal priesthood could go a long way by making the accepted answer ‘no’.) After that, the same kind of thing happened for the local baron’s serfs, for the village, the town, the city and the nation. We spread the net of True Human Beings.”
Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

FRACTURED FACTOID: Eternal Truths From Sumer.

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Within a collection of proverbs written in ancient Sumer in about 2300 BCE, the following was discovered:

“Something which has never occurred since time immemorial: a young woman did not fart in her husband’s embrace.”

“To be sick is acceptable; to be pregnant is painful; but to be pregnant and sick is just too much.”

“In respect of both expenditures and capital goods, the anus is well supplied.”

And, how about a Few More 5000 Year Old Zany Aphorisms From Sumer?

The fox, having urinated into the sea, said: “The depths of the sea are my urine!”

For a donkey, there is no stench. For a donkey, there is no washing with soap.

For his pleasure, he got married. On his thinking it over he got divorced

To serve beer with unwashed hands, to spit without trampling upon it, to sneeze without covering it with dust, to kiss with the tongue at midday without providing shade, are abominations to Utu.

He came, he stayed a while; he finished, he did not stay put.

All-day long, oh penis, you ejaculate as if you have blood inside you, and then you hang like a damp reed.

To appreciate the earth is for the gods; I am merely covered in dust.

Bitterness afflicted the anus, but it entered by way of the mouth.

The dog gnawing on a bone says to his anus: “This is going to hurt you!”

 

Not only were the ancient Sumerians the creators of Civilization but they also seem to be the originators of slapstick comedy. That sounds reasonable. A civilization without humor cannot be considered civilized. Or, as Groucho said, “I’m not crazy about reality, but it’s still the only place to get a decent meal.” Or, even more appropriately, “It isn’t necessary to have relatives in Kansas City in order to be unhappy.”

That is civilized. And, the abominations of Utu to you too.

Musing on social changes after the pandemic:

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I wonder when this epidemic is over if we will not find ourselves in a totally different world. People are discovering new ways to entertain themselves by devising different means of enjoying social interactions with others through the internet. And, what is more important, we are now beginning to find them enjoyable. Shopping has changed. Corporations may find that passing on the cost of real-estate to work at home employees is beneficial to their bottom line. I guess what I am saying is that we won’t go back to the way we lived before the plague nor how we worked. Whatever the trends and possibilities of the so-called connected society that may have been coming will be greatly accelerated by this damned plague.

On this same subject, while prowling through the internet, I came across the following in Daily Kos:

Here are some of the things that are going to fundamentally change.
A big return of Keynesian economics. Almost overnight, Republicans ditched their austerity mantra and quickly voted for a $2 trillion stimulus. There was no talk of “we need to balance the budget;” instead there was talk about keeping people whole.
A return to government expertise. Watching Dr. Fauci and other experts during this crisis has been very comforting because they tell the truth (which stands in stark contrast to Trump). Polls show that the public trusts them. Once this is over, expect the public to become a lot more comfortable with expertise.
A rise of teleworking: Modern technology allows people to work remotely. I’ve observed there’s a clear generational divide regarding this idea: old people dislike it, younger people are all over it. Once this is over, expect this idea to become part of the modern workforce
A huge rise in automation. One of the big problems with manufacturing in the current crisis is that large groups of people have to be in close proximity, which prevents social distancing. Expect factories to adopt automation at a faster pace to ramp-up production as this thing comes to an end. And this will lead to …
A future discussion and eventual adoption of Universal Basic Income: I’m behind in understanding the specifics of this concept, but I understand the basic idea, which is pure Keynesian in concept. Expect this to become a commonly expressed idea.
A complete rethinking of the US health care system. Watching this disaster unfold one thing has become very clear: the healthcare system has to change in a big way. I have no idea what it will look like. But it’s going to change. (https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/3/29/1932324/-Accept-That-Everything-You-Understand-About-the-World-Will-Fundamentally-Change?utm_campaign=trending)

I am not so sure about some of these but clearly, times they are a-changing.

( See also an interesting article in Foreign Policy equating the aftereffects of the Pandemic to those that occurred following WWII.)

Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week: Logarithmic History — The Rise of Social Insects.

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Today, I decided to drop into one of my favorite blog sites Logarithmic History (https://logarithmichistory.wordpress.com/). The blog traces the history of the universe throughout the year beginning on January 1 with the Big Bang and ending on December 31 with today. The years progress, however, day by day on a logarithmic scale. The author explains:

“If you’re a bit hazy about logarithms, all you have to know is that each day of the year covers a shorter period in the history of the universe than the preceding day (5.46% shorter). January 1 begins with the Big Bang and covers a full 754 million years. January 2 covers the next 712 million years, and so on. Succeeding days cover shorter and shorter succeeding intervals in the history of the universe. At this rate, a given calendar date covers only a tenth as much time as a date 41 days earlier.”

“On this logarithmic scale, Earth is formed on January 20, trilobites arise toward the end of February, and dinosaurs meet their doom on April 6. The middle of the year finds Homo erectus giving way to early versions of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. October begins with King David and ends with Columbus. By December 7, we reach the year of the Beatles’ first LP (1963). December 31 covers just one year, 2017; calendar time and history-of-the-universe time finally coincide at midnight.”

Here is his entry for today March 28th, wherein he discusses the rise of social insects.

“Certainly the statistics on social insects today are impressive.”

‘The twenty-thousand known species of eusocial insects, mostly ants, bees, wasps and termites, account for only 2 percent of the approximately one million known species of insects. Yet this tiny minority of species dominate the rest of the insects in their numbers, their weight, and their impact on the environment. As humans are to vertebrate animals, the eusocial insects are to the far vaster world of invertebrate animals. … In one Amazon site, two German researchers … found that ants and termites together compose almost two-thirds of the weight of all the insects. Eusocial bees and wasps added another tenth. Ants alone weighed four times more than all the terrestrial vertebrates — that is, mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians combined.” E. O. Wilson pp 110-113”

“E. O. Wilson, world’s foremost authority on ants, and one of the founders of sociobiology, thinks that the origin of insect eusociality might have lessons for another major evolutionary transition, the origin of humans (and of human language, technology, culture, and complex social organization). In his book The Social Conquest of Earth he argues that a key step in both sets of transitions was the development of a valuable and defensible home — in the case of humans, a hearth site. Wilson returns to this argument in his book Genesis: The Deep Origin of Human Societies, just published, which I’ll get around to saying more about here eventually. On the same topic, Mark Moffett’s book The Human Swarm: How Human Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall, asks how it is that we somehow rival the social insects in our scale of organization.”

“One trait found in both ants and humans is large-scale warfare. Wilson gives an idea of the nature of ant warfare in fictional form in his novel Anthill. It’s an interesting experiment, but also disorienting. Because individual recognition is not important for ants, his story of the destruction of an ant colony reads like the Iliad with all the personal names taken out. But Homer’s heroes fought for “aphthiton kleos,” undying fame (and got some measure of it in Homer’s poem). The moral economy of reputation puts human cooperation in war and peace on a very different footing from insect eusociality. (Here’s my take on “ethnic group selection,” which depends on social enforcement, perhaps via reputation.)”

DAILY FRACTURED FACTOID: Humanity/Life — Science, Religion, or Comedy.

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The question of what is life has occupied humanity almost as much as their search for wealth and perhaps a little less than “What does it all mean?”

Some Scientists believe they are homing in on an answer. For example does Humanity/life = >7.65 MeV and/or 30 fundamental constants (+ or – )? I do not know what this means but some scientists believe it represents the basis of the existence of the biosphere and, in the case of the fundamental constants, existence itself, here there or perhaps anywhere. Other scientists, not so much. What do you think?

The fact is 350 years after the discovery of cells we still do not know why life on earth is the way it is. Life, as biochemist Albert Szent-Györgyi observed, is nothing but an electron looking for a place to rest.

On the other hand, some people believe it has something to do with God others do not.

“An atheist is not someone who believes that God doesn’t exist. It is someone who doesn’t believe that God does exist. If you think those are the same, ponder this statement by the comedian Penn Jillette: ‘Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.’
Pratchett, Terry. Judgment Day (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 324). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

 

In 2010, the writer and comedian Ricky Gervais made a similar point:

‘The dictionary definition of God is ‘a supernatural creator and overseer of the universe’. Included in this definition are all deities, goddesses and supernatural beings. Since the beginning of recorded history, which is defined by the invention of writing by the Sumerians around 6000 years ago, historians have cataloged over 3,700 supernatural beings, of which 2,870 can be considered deities. So next time someone tells me they believe in God, I’ll say ‘Oh, which one? Zeus? Hades? Jupiter? Mars? Odin? Thor? Krishna? Vishnu? Ra…?’ If they say, ‘Just God. I only believe in the one God,’ I’ll point out that they are nearly as atheistic as me. I don’t believe in 2,870 gods, and they don’t believe in 2,869.’”
Pratchett, Terry. Judgment Day (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 322). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

 

Comedians and clowns, I believe, are the physicists of the soul

“We have been around for a few million years at most, perhaps only 200,000 if you restrict attention to ‘modern’ humans; the universe is about 13.5 billion years old. We occupy one world orbiting one of 200 billion stars in one galaxy, which itself is one of 200 billion galaxies. Isn’t it just a tiny bit arrogant to insist that the entire universe is merely a by-product of a process whose true purpose was to bring us into existence?
Pratchett, Terry. Judgment Day (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 302). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

I do not know if I completely buy this last point. I mean, if you are so irrelevant in the scheme of things why would you even bother to get up in the morning?

Not a Book Report: Something from Terry Pratchett OBE.

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Terry Pratchett.

 
For those who have never read anything written by Terry Pratchett the creator of Discworld, I feel very sorry for you, for you have missed one of life and literature’s great joys. For those who had read all or most of Pratchett’s works, “Crivens” you are among the elect and qualified for admission into the Unseen University if you are a man or into Granny Wetherwax’s kitchen if you are a woman.

Pratchett is your guide to Discworld through the 41 novels in the series (almost all of which I have read).

 

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Discworld.

 

I won’t bore you with a summary of the Discworld oeuvre. The above graphics will have to do. I have, however, these past two weeks or so, read Darwin’s Crown, Judgment Day, and The Shepards Crown. The first two are the final books in The Science of Discworld series Pratchett co-authored with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, two practicing scientists. The Science of Discworld is a creative, mind-bending mash-up of fiction and fact, that offers a wizard’s-eye view of our world that will forever change how you look at the universe. The chapters alternate between the story that takes place both on Discworld and our earth and non-fiction science topics.

In the course of an exciting experiment, the wizards of Discworld have accidentally created a new universe. Within this universe is a planet that they name Roundworld. Roundworld is, of course, Earth, and the universe is our own. The universe is kept in a jar on the desk of the Chancellor of The Unseen University, the esteemed wizard Mustrum Ridcully.

One of the themes of the novels centers on the concept that most scientific explanations are in reality a good deal more complicated than most of us realize (It is explained that this is so because teachers of science use the Lies-To-Children method of science education or, in Ponder Stibbons’ case [the most rational of the wizards], Lies-To-Wizards) hence the alternating science chapters. These enlightening chapters are delightful essays that clearly explain various science topics. Among them are:

Squash Court Science: Nuclear energy.
Science and Magic: What is science and how it works.
Beginnings and Becomings: The origin and nature of the Universe.
We are Stardust: Atoms. The periodic table.
The Shape of Things: The shape of the Universe; the Theory of Relativity.
Where do Rules Come From?: Is a “Theory of Everything” possible?; Quantum Mechanics.
Disc Words. The Solar System.
Earth and Fire. Geology: the structure of planet Earth.
Air and Water. The atmosphere, the oceans, the surface of the planet.
Things that aren’t: things that are defined by being opposites, normally with only one of them being measurable and not both (light, heat, etc.).
Despite which…: The origin of life.
Unnatural Selection: Evolution.
The Descent of Darwin: Evolution.
The Iceberg Cometh: Ice Ages.
Universals and Parochials: Evolution.
Don’t Look Up: Meteors and other things that might cause another global extinction.
Nine Times out of Ten: Statistics and biases.
Running from Dinosaurs: dinosaurs.
The Death of Dinosaurs.
Mammals on the Make: the expansion of mammals.
Anthill Inside: The origin of hominids.
Extel Outside: Culture.

What I found amazing about it all is that these novels contain some of the most easily understandable explanations of the sciences I have ever read — even quantum theory was intelligible — almost. Everyone should read these books.

The third book, The Shepherd’s Crown, features the young witch Tiffany Aching who, upon the death of Granny Weatherwax, becomes the head witch and must repel the invasion of Discworld by evil elves intent on inflicting mischief and mayhem. She is aided by the Feegles, a race of seven inch tall extremely warlike men and women. This was Pratchett’s last book and published four years after his death.

Some quotes from the books:

Shouting at the monkeys in the next tree. That’s what brains evolved to do. Not mathematics and physics.
Pratchett, Terry. Darwin’s Watch (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 223). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

When he was Vice-Chancellor at Warwick University, the biologist Sir Brian Follett remarked: ‘I don’t like scientists on my committees. You don’t know where they’ll stand on any issue. Give them some more data, and they change their minds!’ He understood the joke: most politicians wouldn’t even realize it was a joke.
Pratchett, Terry. Darwin’s Watch (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 299). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

“So what have we learned? That the shape of our universe is intimately related to the laws of nature, and its study sheds some light – and a lot more darkness – on possible ways to unify relativity and quantum theory. Mathematical models like Torusland and the Escherverse have opened up new possibilities by showing that some common assumptions are wrong. But despite all of these fascinating developments, we don’t know what shape our universe is. We don’t know whether it is finite or infinite. We don’t even know for sure what dimension it is, or even whether its dimension can be pinned down uniquely.”
Pratchett, Terry. Judgment Day (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 228). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

“The past was another country, but the future is an alien world.”
Pratchett, Terry. Darwin’s Watch (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 325). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

“Belief is a very odd word, and it is used in several ways. ‘Belief that’ differs greatly from ‘belief in’, which is again different from ‘belief about’. Our belief about science, for example, is that it’s simply our best defence against believing (in) what we want to. But we may also have, to some extent, a belief in science, as distinct from belief in a religion or a cult: we believe that science can find ways out of humankind’s present difficulties, ways that are not available to politics, philosophy or religion.”
Pratchett, Terry. Judgment Day (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 252). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

“The appearance of design is the most dramatic element in both systems (Technological design and organic evolution). Although its provenance is different in the two cases , we are no longer surprised by it. We have realized that the universe is not doomed by increasing entropy to an eventual ‘heat death’, a traditional but somewhat misleading term which actually means that the universe will end up as a structureless lukewarm soup. Instead, the universe ‘makes it up as it goes along’, and what it makes up are designs. In that sense, at least, the appearance of new design in both technical and organic systems can be considered comparable. But it’s important not to stretch the metaphor too far.”
Pratchett, Terry. Judgment Day (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 188). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

 

 

Pookie says, “check them out.”

Giants of History: Burma Richard.

My friend Burma Richard, gemologist, ethologist, restauranteur, artist and all-around good guy recently sent me the following message:

 

“I hope your health is sterling and life superb.
I was fishing through some shots the other day and came across these of a lovely young girl from The North Country. 🇰🇵 North Korea specifically.
There used to be several North Korean Restaurants in Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, and China staffed by fetching young girls who were part of the elite and trained in schools of the arts since childhood. They were selected like lovely chocolates.
The food was just ok but all the girls worked their talents as waitresses, songstresses, and dancing musicians between serving dishes. Accordions and tubas, flutes and mandolins, and warbly romantic songs.
Most of the money went back to Kim Jung Un, but they seemed to be reasonably well compensated. However, they were not allowed to stroll around their prospective cities and stayed together upstairs in their establishments under a strict watch.
A few years ago a dozen of these lasses were either tricked and spirited way to South Korea or defected depending on whose propaganda one believes.
That along with U.S sanctions shut all the establishments down. All of them.
There were signs posted throughout the restaurants “No Photos” and they meant it.
We had eaten in the Rangoon branch several times and I told her, as she had asked my nationality, that I was an American. Perhaps because she began to realize I was not a white demon seeking to indoctrinate her into the evil ways of capitalism or to boil her baby sister for stew, she relented at my persistence finally and allowed me these very rare photographs.”

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Photographs of some of Richard’s  art can be found at (http://www.diranart.com/) and his blog telling of some his adventures at (http://www.burma-richard.org/).

An Example of the Misuse of Science.

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Science is often misused especially when ideologues get a hold of it. Take Herbert Spencer and Social Darwinism for example. In Darwin’s theory that organisms appear to adapt to changes in their environment, there was little hint of competition — more the luck of the draw. Spencer misinterpreted it as ‘Survival of the Fittest” as though an often minor birth defect that when combined with additional minor changes in your progeny improves their chances of survival in response to a changing environment is a moral accomplishment.

What makes science so valuable to human success is that every scientifically based hypothesis is intended to generate attempts to falsify it through peer review and experimentation. If experiments fail to falsify it and appear to confirm it, it becomes an accepted theory. If over a sufficient amount of time and experimentation it is not falsified then it is often refered to an a “Law.”  That is not at all like religions, philosophies or ideologies like Social Darwinism that pretend to offer eternal and unchallengeable truths.

The science of genetics, unfortunately, has been afflicted with this virus that compels some to generalize it into an undisputable principle of human nature. The attempts by ideologues to use science especially evolution and genetics to justify existing class structures and racial stereotyping appears endless. And when they fail to achieve success in persuading society to accept their pseudo-scientific conclusions, they inevitably fall back on attacking the very sciences upon which they based their pernicious theories.

The following excerpt from the blog anthropometrics exposes some of the misuses of the advances in the science of genetics to justify racial stereotyping.

 

“…the abuse of evolution has a long and embarrassing history. The central problem that Tattersall and DeSalle highlight is the difficulty in reconciling binary Mendelian alleles (wrinkled/round, green/yellow, tall/short) to the quantitative and developmentally sensitive human organism, much less to its context-specific behaviors.”

“This problem has existed since the dawn of Mendelian genetics. In the early 20th century, America’s leading geneticists generally adhered to the proposition that people came in two Mendelian flavors, smart and “feebleminded”. Their arguments helped pass legislation to restrict the immigration of Italians and Jews into the US (1924) and to sterilize the poor involuntarily (1927), before the Germans even got the idea. Today’s abusers of Mendel are only slightly less crude, with genes “for” homosexuality, schizophrenia, aggression, or religiosity regularly touted, although with remarkably short scientific shelf-lives.”
http://anthropomics2.blogspot.com/

Blog of the Week: Giants of History: More From Burma Richard.

Richard Diran, also known as “Burma Richard” became a dear friend of mine during my sojourn in Thailand. Richard a gemologist, ethnologist, artist, photographer, smuggler, man of action, restauranteur, and soldier of fortune, is a real adventurer who goes on real adventures. The following post from his blog “Burma Richard” (http://www.burma-richard.org/) briefly tells about one of his visits to Burma in search of a tribe of headhunters.

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Who hasn’t opened an old issue of National Geographic when they were a kid and looking with utter fascination, disgust, and wide-eyed amazement at the shrunken heads taken by such tribes as the Jivaro of the South American Amazon? What kid hasn’t wanted one of those creepy heads for themselves?
You kidding? Where can I get one?

Replicas were so popular that hobby shops sold shrunken rubber heads with stitched lips and eyelids.

In former times, perhaps as little as one generation ago, two very different ethnic groups chose to hunt human heads in Burma. One group is the Naga tribes of Burma’s northwest whose settlements straddle the border of India. Particularly the Konyak Naga were feared for taking heads in combat as a way to display their fierce courage. Arrows were driven through the eye sockets to prevent the spirits from finding their way back home.
That is one impressive set of trophies on your wall, Buddy.
Beats the hell out of bowling.
The other group of headhunters is the Wild Wa from northern Burma bordering China’s Yunnan Province whose autonomous region boasted of whole villages whose walkways held human heads in various degrees of decomposition in stone lanterns. One such village was said to have an avenue of 300 such heads. Was it still there? Was it possible to visit? Of course, I had to find out if it was possible to find them.

Years ago in 1984, I was invited to a meeting by Abel Tweed the Foreign Minister of the Karenni Tribe deep into the jungle close to where the Moei River meets the mighty Salween River. Four hours in an 8 wheeled truck led to a riverbank, the last outpost before we needed to take a long-tailed boat manned by armed camouflaged soldiers up the turbulent river.

Karen children ran on the banks amidst fluttering butterflies with lengths of yarn hanging out of their earlobes.

Arriving at the camp, I was told that every one of the rebel leaders was here at this meeting of the National Democratic Front. General Bo Mya of the Karen, Brang Seng leader of the Kachin Independence Army and Ma Ha San the Prince of Vinghun, the leader of the Wa.
I wanted to meet him and to ask him to write me a letter of introduction so I could take photos of the Wild Wa.
I was told who to contact.
Every member was there.
“And he is here?”.
“Yes, really”.
“If you want to meet him now you can go along, he is staying in the house of my brother”.

Walking over to a bamboo hut raised on wooden stilts, I walked up the stairs and entered a room silhouetted with figures sitting cross-legged around a small fire drinking tea. I sat down with my interpreter and was offered a cup.

Turning on my Sony Professional recorder I asked permission to record. What followed was a remarkable interview with Ma Ha San, President of the Wa, one of the last living headhunters.

For those of you who have my book “The Vanishing Tribes of Burma,” a new interactive edition has been published in Apple iBook. Utilizing the latest technology, we were able to combine 70 photos of more than 35 diverse Burmese tribal groups along with explanatory text from the Exhibition Edition which was launched by Nobel laureate Aung San Su Kyi in Rangoon and combine that with short audio clips of tribal music including the 11-minute interview with a headhunter as relayed above. Also, the iBook has video clips of Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech, and my speech at the opening of the exhibition as well as a video of me visiting the source of the Worlds Finest Gemstones, Mogok Burma in March 2014

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