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November 22, 2007 8:41 AM   Subscribe


 
thanks for this.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:45 AM on November 22, 2007




Um, would you mind if I switched my seating placard? I'm stuck next to that grump Burroughs again this year.
posted by bigskyguy at 8:48 AM on November 22, 2007 [6 favorites]


Wonder if my parents will like this.
posted by PHINC at 8:52 AM on November 22, 2007


Nice Brian B, thanks for the link.
posted by puddnhead at 8:52 AM on November 22, 2007


Thanks for using a holiday
which tries to focus on the good
to be shit on by a drug addicted
bitter old man.
posted by The Deej at 8:53 AM on November 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'd say something about doubles here, but I'm a sucker for a holiday tradition. (Links are mostly broken on that second one, but the content is findable on the archive site.)
posted by cortex at 8:59 AM on November 22, 2007


I repeat this to myself every Thanksgiving, and it's still my favorite holiday.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:59 AM on November 22, 2007


Thanks for using a holiday
which tries to focus on the good
to be shit on by a drug addicted
bitter old man.


You mean God?
posted by Brian B. at 9:02 AM on November 22, 2007


Thanks for vast herds of bison to
kill and skin leaving the
carcasses to rot.


Too bad Burroughs died before 1491 was published. He would have learned that:

When disease swept Indians from the land... [in advance of the first white settlers, beginning in the 1500s] the ecological ancien régime collapsed, and strange new phenomena emerged... Among these phenomena was a population explosion in the species that the Indians had kept down by hunting. After disease killed off the Indians, Kay believes, buffalo vastly extended their range. Their numbers more than sextupled. The same occurred with elk and mule deer. "If the elk were here in great numbers all this time, the archaeological sites should be chock-full of elk bones," Kay says. "But the archaeologists will tell you the elk weren't there." On the evidence of middens the number of elk jumped about 500 years ago.

Passenger pigeons may be another example. The epitome of natural American abundance, they flew in such great masses that the first colonists were stupefied by the sight. As a boy, the explorer Henry Brackenridge saw flocks "ten miles in width, by one hundred and twenty in length." For hours the birds darkened the sky from horizon to horizon. According to Thomas Neumann, a consulting archaeologist in Lilburn, Georgia, passenger pigeons "were incredibly dumb and always roosted in vast hordes, so they were very easy to harvest." Because they were readily caught and good to eat, Neumann says, archaeological digs should find many pigeon bones in the pre-Columbian strata of Indian middens. But they aren't there. The mobs of birds in the history books, he says, were "outbreak populations—always a symptom of an extraordinarily disrupted ecological system."


In other words, the herds of buffalo and passenger pigeons were an ecological abberation brought about by Native American wildlife management gone awry -- something that was neither the Native American, nor the European's fault, but the fault of infectious diseases.

It's a really interesting thesis, and I would have recommended the book, or at least the excerpt I linked to, to Mr. Burroughs, if he were still alive.
posted by Faze at 9:03 AM on November 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


"a holiday which tries to focus on the good"
Thanksgiving IS indeed the best holiday Deej. No presents or cards to buy, no religious affiliations ( Puritans be damned), quite simply a day devoted purely to being grateful , and to family whomever they might be. Burroughs just needs more turkey endorphins.
posted by haikuku at 9:06 AM on November 22, 2007


I dunno. Most holidays seem to follow pretty much the same pattern.
Some really crummy stuff happened around this time in the past.....let's get together and eat.
Almost Brechtian really. Especially the Jewish holidays (they tried to kill us...let's eat).
Easter ( the romans nailed our guy to a tree, let's eat, uh, colored eggs)
Memorial day - lot of guys died - let's eat.
Fourth of July - lot of guys died - let's blow stuff up then eat
Labor day - lot of guys died or got beaten up for labor rights - let's eat something we cook outside despite having perfectly good stoves.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:07 AM on November 22, 2007 [3 favorites]


Cortex- Ya, I considered linking to the previous posts, but opted to keep it simple. Along the lines of tradition, I'm surprised no one has posted Arlo G.'s brilliant Thanksgiving piece.
posted by puddnhead at 9:09 AM on November 22, 2007


I'm not mad for this, right up until the end:

You always were a headache and
you always were a bore.

Thanks for the last and greatest
betrayal of the last and greatest
of human dreams.


If he could have struck this hard and this true throughout the poem, instead of relying on shallow historical cynicism to open the poem, this would have been literature's greatest rebuttal to America's self-serving and self-congratulatory mythology.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:10 AM on November 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


In other words, the herds of buffalo and passenger pigeons were an ecological abberation brought about by Native American wildlife management gone awry -- something that was neither the Native American, nor the European's fault, but the fault of infectious diseases.

The Native Americans (who have been in North America, in numbers, for only a few thousand years), did not shoot herds of buffalo from trains for "sport" and leave the carcasses to rot.
posted by Brian B. at 9:16 AM on November 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thanks for laboratory AIDS.

I wouldn't give his opinions too much weight.
posted by Bort at 9:54 AM on November 22, 2007


If you ever go to Plymouth Rock, go across the street and look at the plaque that explains that native americans view thanksgiving as a day of mourning because it was the beginning of their destruction.
posted by puke & cry at 10:13 AM on November 22, 2007


Fourth of July - lot of guys died

I'm not a historian, let alone of other people's history, but shouldn't this read "A lot of guys wrote their names on a big piece of paper"?
posted by Grangousier at 10:22 AM on November 22, 2007


Native American wildlife management gone awry

WTF?

Their wildlife management was NATURE. Wolves, coyotes, big cats and bears culled/scavenged the sick and weak and kept everything in relative balance. The impact of the Natives on the ecosystem was minimal at best.

. . .That is until they took pity on some christian pilgrim folk and unknowingly opened the door on a new epoch of slaughter to extinction and a program of systematic genocide.

I wonder how Thanksgiving feels on the reserve at Rosebud?
posted by isopraxis at 10:23 AM on November 22, 2007


"Thanks for laboratory AIDS."

I wouldn't give his opinions too much weight.


He well understands human nature by being born at the top and falling to the bottom, perhaps lower. So as government technicians continue to wonder where and how AIDS began, those who can appreciate the paranoid depths of the cold war (and its ultra-secretive biological field testing) can afford an opinion. I'm just glad the CIA never came to my school with their Congo vaccination program.
posted by Brian B. at 10:31 AM on November 22, 2007


I'm just glad very thankful indeed the CIA never came to my school with their Congo vaccination program.
posted by Brian B. at 10:33 AM on November 22, 2007


Things to Be Thankful For
posted by homunculus at 10:39 AM on November 22, 2007


A sweet plum for our Thanksgiving repast. Thanks for puddnhead.

It's an oldie but a goodie, and reminds me of the Kink's "Father Christmas":
Have yourself a merry merry christmas
Have yourself a good time
But remember the kids who got nothin
While youre drinkin down your wine


We all have lots to be thankful for, especially the people here. There are lots of people with less and even those of us who have so much suffer for all the things taken away from the individual and the indignities suffered upon individuals in a land which prides itself in just the opposite. Thanks again puddnhead.
posted by caddis at 11:45 AM on November 22, 2007


Ah, thanks for this. I played Arlo's "Alice's Restaurant Massacre" (and several albums more, including "Hobo's Lullaby" which made me think of the 'Nam vet who recently froze to death after being turned away by the VA), and then watched Burroughs's "Prayer" as posted here last year, on my ipod. Somehow, all that puts the holiday in context. (And I'm thankful I can afford an ipod.)
posted by orthogonality at 12:38 PM on November 22, 2007


In other words, the herds of buffalo and passenger pigeons were an ecological abberation brought about by Native American wildlife management gone awry -- something that was neither the Native American, nor the European's fault, but the fault of infectious diseases.

This isn't really fair. While it may very well be that the relaxation of the affect that natives had on wildlife caused a large multiplication of the populations, this doesn't justify the almost total destruction of the populations across North America.

If anything, it makes it all the worse. The natives at least had a sense of proportion. For the white incomers, the greater the abundance, the greater the desire.
posted by Alex404 at 1:10 PM on November 22, 2007


For about the last five or six years I've posted this to my site every Thanksgiving. Sometimes people like it, sometimes I get hate mail. In the end, though, it is one more thing for which I am grateful: I still have the right to publicly express my opinion.
posted by mkhall at 5:14 PM on November 22, 2007


The impact of the Natives on the ecosystem was minimal at best.

That's why you've got to read 1491! The impact of Native Americans on the ecosystem was humongous, way before the white man came. As far as the buffalo and passenger pigeons were concerned, the size of the herds encountered by 19th Century assholes with rifles were way out of proportion to the ecosystem. The Buffalos were destroying (actually, had destroyed) the plains, as were the gigantic flocks of passenger pigeons. Both needed to be culled -- not driven to extinction, of course -- but taken down to reasonable levels.
posted by Faze at 7:09 PM on November 22, 2007


The Buffalos were destroying (actually, had destroyed) the plains, as were the gigantic flocks of passenger pigeons. Both needed to be culled -- not driven to extinction, of course -- but taken down to reasonable levels.

This analysis employs the fallacy of misplaced concreteness, aka, reification.
posted by Brian B. at 8:09 PM on November 22, 2007


Oops. First link directly above is main page: Fallacy of misplaced concreteness.
posted by Brian B. at 8:11 PM on November 22, 2007


The impact of the Natives on the ecosystem was minimal at best.

except when they burnt the flood plains and other areas yearly in michigan to keep them from becoming forested

i strongly suggest you read 1491 - and acquaint yourself with early accounts of what natives were actually doing
posted by pyramid termite at 8:34 PM on November 22, 2007


If he could have struck this hard and this true throughout the poem, instead of relying on shallow historical cynicism to open the poem, this would have been literature's greatest rebuttal to America's self-serving and self-congratulatory mythology.

Perhaps. but I kind of doubt it. It seems like every other American poet (and artist other media) tackles this sooner or later results not often better than Burroughs' effort here. Although, I feel it's unfair to compare them since, to me, they're as different as a hammer and a feather, consider: To Elsie.
posted by wobh at 8:59 PM on November 22, 2007


First, I am going to read 1491 and am eager to do so. It sounds like a great read. But what's really being asked here? I believe that disease may have decimated a precolumbian population in the current USA and it certainly makes sense that would result in enviromental change. But isn't the refererance to the buffalo (I'm only talking about this poem) just an analogy for the misuse of resources by the white man?
Isn't it kind of like playing gotcha in the face of a couple of irrefuteable facts? When the first Europeans came they were amazed at the abundance of all kinds of natural resources. These resources were quickly exhausted.

I didn't really love this poem. It felt a little to hamhanded, but it did give me pause to think. A quiet moment spent imagining the perspectives of those, both man and animal, caught up in the reaction of Europe colonizing the West. A history written not by the winners. The details surrounding the passenger pigeon and the bison population spurts are a fantastically interesting tangent, but, to me, aren't at all exclusive to the spirit of the prayer.
posted by firemouth at 9:32 PM on November 22, 2007


My head hurts-- someone please tell me if I'm supposed to feel thankful or guilty. Then I will eat my leftovers.
posted by nax at 7:09 AM on November 23, 2007


Thanks for laboratory AIDS.

I wouldn't give his opinions too much weight.


Burroughs was a fascinating artist and amazing prose stylist. He was also very, very open to ridiculous notions (Reichian orgone therapy, most famously). The Job, a series of interviews from the early 70s catches him at his batshitest. I find these beliefs add a great and wild dimension to his work, but yeah, just nutty out of context.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:33 AM on November 23, 2007


Only blessings, no losses....
posted by pure_ecommerce at 4:37 AM on November 24, 2007




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