Dominance and Zombies

by chelseajin

Today, Kristin, my Danish housemate, and I had an activity-filled day together.

We headed towards the Arizona State Museum, which is right on campus. Since students go in for free, it looked like he didn’t even need to stop to show our out-of-state/country IDs. Fun fact, you’re not allowed to purchase alcohol without an in-state or USA-issued ID.

The Museum building is enormous, but only the first floor has exhibits. There’s a library upstairs which I may or may not visit later. The exhibits were on local Native American history and pottery and basket-making. What I go into museums, I’m always struck by how smart people can be. How can you discover that certain plants can be used to weave baskets? How did you even figure out the technique in the first place? If there were 20 copies of me designated to start a new civilization, I don’t know if we’d survive. The downside of modern technology and ease of living is that I don’t know how to do a lot of “simple stuff”, ie: hunting for food, building a shelter. Sure, I can cook, but I can’t start a fire. The ingenuity of earlier peoples is really something.

I don’t think a machine is capable of weaving these types of baskets because there’s a lot of intricate binding involved, and robotic arms would get themselves tangled up. The workmanship is incredibly sophisticated for something handmade. The patterns are really tightly woven, you can’t see any imperfections. This round basket with a maze and a little man at the top is a symbol  from the Tohono O’odham tribe. The man is a trickster god called I’itoli. The Land with No Name is pretty close to the mountain cave/labyrinth this image refers to. Kate told me that it was an offering place for the O’odham.

The photos below are of some small and very small  baskets. I wonder if loss of eyesight was as rabid a problem with talented basketmakers as much as it was with tapestry-weavers of medieval times.

We moved from baskets to pottery, and I got tons of pictures of patterns (great for future reference). I really like geometric patterns, and it was a pleasant surprise to see them here. I also thought it was interesting that so many of the designs seemed childlike. They really looked like something a 3 year old would scribble in preschool. The flower here is supposed to be a  sunflower.

More modern  work. This one is called Siren by Virgil Ortiz. I love the back mask.

There was a useful chart of “Imagery used in Southwest Pottery”. Not surprisingly, most of them center around water and its life-sustaining properties.

The rest was mostly history. This was a product of a  water-faring tribe of people. I don’t think I’d mind wearing a necklace made out of lobster vertebrae, I’d just want to bleach the hell out of it to get rid of the smell.

The rest of the museum was on the history of assorted tribes. The initial settlers here did a real number on the Native Americans. In elementary, I learned about the Iroquois and Algonquin. I used to think they were the only tribes that existed and that only New York was their land. That thought expanded only marginally after I watched “Windtalkers” loosely based on the use of Navajo language/soldiers in World War 2. I never knew that there were tens of different tribes and they lived on the whole of present-day US and Canada.

The repeating history through the plaques put up for each tribe was about the struggle over land. Everything about human life seems to be about dominance, and you assert that dominance with some form of territory, the most obvious being land. I think part of the problem is that people are innately self-centered. A lot of the translations for tribe names meant “The People”, implying that each of these tribes thought they were a chosen few. It’s not dissimilar to China, whose name also means “The center nation”. I’m also reminded of how Europeans used to believe that Earth was the center of the universe. Maybe putting yourself first is linked to the primal drive for survival, but it inspires all kinds of problems. In a war between You and the Other, it’s always a question of life or death. The Other is something foreign that you don’t want to accept. With everyone fighting to hold onto what they’re familiar with, there’s no chance to stop and say, “aren’t we all people? Don’t we just want to live in our space and leave each other alone?” This is a fight that’s going on now, just with bigger nations and more subterfuge. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any foreseeable end to it.

Religion– another can of worms. I can understand and appreciate, even support the effect of religion on individuals, but I can’t accept organized religion’s actions. They’re hand in hand with colonists. Another argument for another time.

These dolls are from the Tarahumara, a tribe under intense Catholic pressure. They tried to incorporate some of the elements with their own culture, creating what has a great aesthetic similarity to Haitian voodoo.


After some downtime, it was finally a night of zombies. The walk I made downtown on my first day seemed pretty stupid after biking there took only 5 minutes. (Of course, I knocked out the rear wheel on the way back so now it’s out of commission).

We went into a haunted house, I screamed like a little girl. What’s more contagious than the T-virus? Clearly it was Gangnam Style (강남 Style). We had an intense Lady Gaga busting moves, and there was even an organized zombie dance to it on stage.

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I loved the infected CDC members.