Monthly Archives: May 2012

Olive Oil Production

In the history of high technology, the way in which olive oil has been extracted has varied. I am just coming within range of how something I often use has been produced throughout time: in the short video below Jon Crowley expands on an olive oil press in Larnaka, Cyprus on May 17, 2012. There are a couple other videos on olive oil, and if you defer to Batali you get a comprehensive understanding here and here of the regional flavors of oils throughout Italia. There are others, of course, a couple Cypriot samples from here, here, and here. Check out the short video I took of Mr. Crowley below. Though initially hesitant to oblige my request to explain the olive oil press in front of us, I told Crowley that the camera was not running when it really was. Sometimes you need to make quick explanations if you want to capture that crucial video.


Zeno and Public History

I’ve been reading a small batch of articles — most scholarly; a couple public internet history — concerning Zeno of Citium. He lived from 344-266BCE. To give some kind of contrast to that, Socrates was on the Greek mainland in Athens from 469-399BCE. Fifty-five years after Socrates

A May 16, 2012 photo of the Zeno of Citium statue in Larnaka, Cyprus. Zeno is situated so he’s looking out at the Mediterranean Sea, and on this particular day he was staring at a fleet of fishing and recreational boats in the harbor.

tipped over from guzzling hemlock, Zeno came on the scene in the eastern Mediterranean. I came to the passage in one of the articles, “Eros in Government: Zeno and the Virtuous City,” The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 48, No. 1, (1998) by George Boys-Stones, and this excerpt impressed itself on me the other day:

…for the Stoics, an individual’s harmony with himself is just a function of his harmony with nature, since he is himself a part of nature. Insofar as the city is part of nature too, it will achieve happiness and internal harmony just when it is also brought into harmony with the cosmos. And it is Eros as cosmos who presides over this state of harmony. [Boys-Stones, 1998:172]

Although I’m not too sure about the cosmos, this particular passage was of interest because it smacks of individual human perception. If a person is feeling not-so-good, then there is a chance they’ll see not-so-good in their surroundings and in the natural world. This passage and these readings on Zeno are also reflections of the way historians and philosophers have thought about his ideas through time: there was Zeno, and then there is everything that has been said after Zeno about Zeno. Then there are public history displays established on Mediterranean islands that memorialize Zeno. If the public pays attention to these displays, the interpretation brings about a type of common understanding of Zeno (sometimes known as collective intelligence; or to a degree what William McNeill called mythistory). Anyhow, these are just a couple thoughts that roll through a guy’s mind when he’s reading articles on Zeno and then running into beach-front Zeno memorials on Cyprus, this just west of the Levant.


From Athens, Greece

As I type, the sturdy MacBook Pro has 29% battery power left. This is not because I forgot to purchase those handy power converters (I have two in my bag), but rather because I don’t think it would be a good idea to cut off that third prong on the MacBook Pro power cord just so I can get it into the two-prong outlet converter (I’ll figure this out once in Cyprus, or so I tell myself).

Some quick updates, a sort of on-line journal file:

Getting there, and the psychology leading up to traveling to a destination are in dispute. For some, the arrival to the destination signals the beginning of the vacation or, in my case, the archaeological

When you’re driving from Fargo to Rothaus’s in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, your windshield starts looking like this.

fieldwork in Cyprus. Yet it seems more reasonable to consider the point at which the tickets are purchased as a type of prologue, or introductory transition, that signals the eventual beginning of a trip. Life is one gradual push out of one situation and into another, and the only way to distinguish between one event and the next is to psychologically impose order on it. Sometimes students will say (and I understand why they say this), “This isn’t how we did it in high-school.” Often I tell them I know, but I counter by explaining that it is no longer high-school, and this in turn is part of pushing out of one situation in life and transitioning into another. In many ways this is called reconditioning one’s behavior. In lay-terms it is known as getting one’s crap together. Much of life is about getting there, about getting one’s crap together to get there.

Anyhow, on May 14, 2012, I loaded two bags into the ’93 Chevy S-10 and drove from Fargo to Sauk Rapids, MN. Richard Rothaus, a friend and colleague, shuttled me from his home down to the MSP-International. We talked about past and future archaeological, historical, ethnographic, genealogical and anthropological fieldwork. I told him I had been reading up on Zeno of Citium, and Rothaus openly considered Zeno’s paradox — that is, when an arrow is fired at a tree, it invariably

From London, tell the pilot to head east-bound across the channel, and then hang about a 45 degree right at Brussels. Eventually you’ll get to this.

reaches a point where it is half way there. Then it is half-way to half-way there. Then half-way to half-way to half-way there, and so on, and the question remains: how does the arrow ever get to the tree if it is always half-way there? He said, “Zeno did not have calculus technology yet.” I said, “Yeah, eventually I’d have to tell Zeno that the arrow will get there when it gets there.” Rothaus eventually got me at that top-tier roadway at MSP International.

The line at the airport wasn’t much of a line. Instead it was the standard mob of confusion and misdirected energy, as it normally is at airports. Numerous individuals are dropped off, and they are all looking to be in a hurry and get where they need to get. A confluence of human energy shuttled through the check-in lines and security, all preparing to board planes that take them to different regions, different parts of the nation, or on some international travel, perhaps even a relocation or re-settlement. Airlines are hybrids of government (for the people, by the people) and corporations (a few making money by providing a service to the many), and they do what they can to manage this grand confluence of energy.

Terminal 5, the correct terminal at Heathrow, and the obligatory Starbucks and some clear-span interior architecture. The airport’s architecture gives the feeling that one is inside of an airplane wing.

At the terminal gate I had about 28 minutes to kill (or, if you’re French, 28 minutes — or time — continued killing me). An airport tavern that sells those over-priced beers was within meters of my terminal, so I decided to imbibe and refortify. The bartender, it turned out, originally hailed from Bulgaria. He immigrated to the United States some 20 years prior as a university exchange student. He said he studied veterinary science and technique at the University of Minnesota, the St. Paul campus. “My family has lots of animals back in Bulgaria!” he said over his shoulder to me, while walking away to pour another draft beer. Two bar-stools to my right was a woman drinking a half-glass of white wine. Eventually she confessed to the bar tender that she was unprepared to return home to Virginia as she had been having such an agreeable time with her family in the Twin Cities. The bar-tender wanted to chat about the famous borderlands rivalries of eastern Europe, vestiges of the Ottoman Empire, the Balkans, Greece (and so on and so forth). I reframed the conversation and asked him if he heard about Zeno of Citium, especially about Zeno’s awesome beard (pointed out to me by a friend from Missoula), something Chuck Klosterman may be aspiring to as well.

I boosted the exposure on this in order to see the early morning lights in Athens a bit better. This photo was taken about 2:30AM on the inbound flight.

Then it was from MSP to Dallas/Ft. Worth, north to south across the Great Plains, to join up with a connecting flight from said Dallas/Ft. Worth across the Atlantic to London. If I had to do this all over again, I think I’d try to avoid another 8 or 9 hour layover in Heathrow. The hours pile up, and eventually when you’ve entered into a type of time vacuum continuum (which is common when spending large amounts of time in airports), and all the hours seem to revert and jump forward and then revert again, and you’re trying to purchase your second power converter, the merchant will invariably check your ticket and inform you that you need to be in Terminal 5 rather than purchasing power converters, eating panini sandwiches, and thinking you’re in the correct terminal while people watching for hours on end in Terminal 3. Thank the merchant after she or he points this out for you.

Out of all the airports, the personnel in each one must have some kind of Aaron Barth Management Training. They are certainly ready for us. They are all extremely pleasant, from MSP to Athens. The power level in the MacBook Pro is at 18%. Time to post and shut down.


Go Smoke a Pig

A smoker fixed to a trailer. Yes, a mobile smoker.

The short clip below is what happens when some genius gives traction to the thought of combining a smoker with a trailer: instead of requiring folks to go to the smoke house, the smoke house is brought to the folks. Both simple and brilliant. If you carry this out in your front yard you invariably will attract neighbors. Note: in the case that you do not like your neighbors, do not smoke a pig in your front driveway.


Moms: The Original Alma Mater

Mom’s are important. Great mom’s are crucial. Tomorrow is Great Mom Day, or what is also known as Mother’s Day. I started thinking about a couple early moments in Aaron Barth’s Great Mom History. This is what the brain generated: when in the first grade at Grimsrud Elementary, I remember my mom coming to class to show students about primary and secondary colors. I don’t know if they still teach that in K-6 art classes. There’s probably an ap for it. But when I was in the first grade, my mom brought some kind of color wheel and watercolors to class. It was great. She painted a bit, and showed the class how a range of colors are created from primary colors. Amazing stuff for first graders. Amazing stuff still today. Looking back on

Aaron Barth’s mom and Grandma Barth put flowers on the grave of Grandma Christy. These are great moms.

this, it is no wonder today that my mom eventually got into teaching commercial art to highschool students. Today she teaches graphic design to the up and coming artists within the Bismarck Public School system.

My character was also shaped by two grandmothers, Vivian (“Larson”) Barth, and the late Jeannine (“Kulhavy”) Christy. Growing up, they answered to grandma, Grandma Christy, or Grandma Barth. I remember how it was always odd to hear their first names, Vivian or Jeannine. Upon hearing their first names, the thought that invariably ripped through my brain was, “That’s Grandma Barth, not Vivian.” My Grandpa Barth always referred to my Grandma Barth as “Mom.” I remember him often saying, “Let’s check with mom.” I knew what that meant: we had to go run it by Grandma. Information channels are important in households.

My grandmas helped my parents out, at least with managing us grand-kids: we had infinite amounts of energy, only crashing for sleep when incapacitated by total exhaustion. When Grandpa and Grandma Barth looked after my sister, brother, and I, it always necessitated a stop at the supermarket to pick up hotdogs. When Grandma Barth started fixing lunch, she would always give me a cold hotdog straight from the package. This would ensure that my bottomless pit would not invert and implode on itself. Grandmas know these sorts of things. They’ve been around the block quite a bit. I don’t think people should use high-pitched baby voices when addressing elders. This was the generation that fought the Nazis and the Japanese Imperial Army. They survived the Cold War and everything in between. So just talk to elders in a normal, regular tone. They’ll respect you for it, and you won’t sound ridiculous.

My late Grandma Christy lived at 718 N. 4th Street in Bismarck, and geographically this was about the middle of Hughes Junior High and Bismarck High School. I often lunched at Grandma Christy’s, at least in high-school. During junior high and during winters, Grandma Christy would treat my friends and I to a variety of soups (chili and wild rice are two that come to mind). These soups were made for supper, but Grandma Christy coincidentally prepped them in advance so they just happened to be ready when school got out. She liked to feed us. We liked to eat. It was a great set-up. Anyhow, this is just a short, localized and personal recounting of some individual episodes in Aaron Barth’s Great Mom History. Keep up the great work, moms. All these individual efforts are indeed important. Happy mother’s day.


Leaning the Hutmacher Complex Into a Global Context

By no means am I the first to recognize that the world, planet, or globe has lately been so intensely populated by humanity. Things really took off about the 18th century, and a variety of Industrial Revolutionary pulses provided the catalyst that intensified those population explosions. Think about it: assembly lines provide us with the economic access to all sorts of stuff. It is built so quickly and efficiently that more and more folks can afford it. Before assembly lines, though, artisans poured time and energy into works of art that were only accessible by a few (perhaps the Pre-Industrial 1%’ers).

Prior to the variety of Industrial Revolutionary pulses (so my thinking goes), I have experienced or have been fortunate enough to locate what we might call the archaeology of the home. In this

Robert Kurtz explains the Hutmacher homesite in western North Dakota to a group of scholars assembled in Houston, Texas.

realm, Robert Kurtz is making large amounts of scholarly head-way at the Hutmacher homesite in western North Dakota, and beyond. In my own experience, I have unintentionally come across (I’ve never been a big fan of the word “discover”) stone circles (or what in lay terms are “tipi rings”), earth-lodge remnants, and basement foundations, to name a few. Prior to the global population explosion, a large swath time was spent in villages, and these villages were built piece by piece using local materials.

Placing the Hutmacher site (and humanity) within the context of the globe is why descriptions of 1898-1902 Russian peasant vernacular architecture are of interest. Literary passages from, for example, Olga Semyonova Tian-Shanskaia, Village Life in Late Tsarist Russia (Indiana University Press, 1993) help to understand these villages. Dr. John Cox first introduced me to this work in the spring of 2011.

If you look at the Hutmacher (and if you have worked there as well), you’ll notice that vernacular architecture reflects the spirit of the times (sometimes the spirit and times are very local). This means that the length and width of the building came about through human ingenuity using available technology at that particular place and time. So if you wanted to build an abode or outbuildings, you did so with the consideration that you had to, in the case of the Hutmacher, pitch straw and mud up on the roof with a pitchfork from the back of a wagon. This limited how wide any room of a home would be — practicality figures into this. Large homesteads and villages also required laborers (to maintain all the structures), and this in turn was something that the moms and dads would think about when enlarging families. If you have more children, you need more rooms or space, but you invariably have more laborers.

Hutmacher abode at the homesite in western North Dakota. On-going restoration organized in large part by Preservation North Dakota.

Back to Olga, and even Vasily Grossman’s opening remarks on peasant architecture in Life and Fate. Think about the German-Russian Hutmacher in western North Dakota, and then read the following passages. The first is from Olga, reporting from the countryside about Moscow, circa 1898-1902:

…Back to the house. The stretch of the wall from the stove to the wall with the entrance door is also lined with a bench (zadnik), which in the corner joins another bench (pridelok) that runs up to the entrance door. Next to the protruding corner of the stove there is a post (the same height as the entrance door) that supports a beam, the other end of which rests on the log forming a lintel just above the door. The space between this beam and the wall running parallel to it is covered with planks to form a kind of raised platform or loft, on which older members of the family and small children sleep. The rest of the family is accommodated on the sleeping shelf atop the stove and on the benches lining the walls of the house…

…Stay with me here. This is going somewhere…

…In the left-hand corner opposite the entryway stands a table. Normally a peasant’s house has one or two short portable benches that are brought to the table for dinner and supper. The floor is made of either hard-packed earth

A photo of a Russian peasant home taken by Olga Semyonova, likely from the village of Muraevnia. See Olga Semyonova Tian-Shanskaia, “Village Life in Late Tsarist Russia” (Indiana University Press, 1993), p. 122.

or wooden planks (rough or finished). If of planks, these are supported by joists and run across the house parallel to the entrance-door wall. In a floor made of boards, there is usually an opening through which a ladder leads into a pit dug out under the house where potatoes are stored. Above the bench opposite the entrance door, shelves are mounted on the wall to store dishes. Ceiling boards run parallel to the wall with the windows and are supported by a beam that rests on the walls. On the attic side these boards are coated with clay and a layer of dry leaves, and topped off with earth. The roof is supported by rafters and angle brackets. Wattles across the rafters form a base for brushwood, which is then thatched. The lintel is hewn as the walls are being ererected, but the door frame and window frames are purchased separately…

…Seriously, this is going somewhere…

…In the past, wooden houses were made chiefly of oak, but nowadays willow wood is more often used. Numerous masonry houses are also found, accounting for more than half the homes in a few villages. The clay-walled type of house is becoming increasingly common as we see more and more family divisions and splitting up of property [so that people live in smaller families but with fewer resources]. Many peasants now have neither a threshing barn, a shed, nor even a yard of their own…

This 1898-1902 sample is transposed against some of the opening lines to Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate, (essentially the War and Peace of the 20th century) at least his opening descriptions of how Nazis imposed standardization onto the village countryside of eastern Europe and Russia:

…It hadn’t rained, but the ground was still wet with dew; the traffic-lights cast blurred red spots on the asphalt. You could sense the breath of the camp from miles away. Roads, railway tracks and cables all gradually converged on it. This was a world of straight lines: a grid of rectangles and parallelograms imposed on the autumn sky, on the mist and on the earth itself. Distant sirens gaive faint, long-drawn-out wails… The fence of the camp appeared out of the mist: endless lines of wire strung between reinforeced-concrete posts. The wooden barrack-huts stretched out in long broad streets…

This next part is important.

…Their very uniformity was an expression of the inhuman character of this vast camp. Among a million Russian huts you will never find even two that are exactly the same. Everything that lives is unique. It is unimaginable that two people, or two briar-roses, should be identical… If you attempt to erase the peculiarities and individuality of life by violence, then life itself must suffocate.

Okay, that’s enough for now. But anyhow, this is some of the stuff to think about when slinging mud at the Hutmacher in western North Dakota; or some of the stuff I think about when I think about having slung mud at the Hutmacher site in western North Dakota. There is individuality within historic archaeological walls, or at least individual labor reflected by the walls. I don’t mean this in some kind of delusionally nostalgic or romantic vein. But hard work went into putting these homes up and together. It’s worth our while to think on this, to restore it, to preserve it. Not necessarily to stop humanity from living today, or pushing onwards into tomorrow. But at the very least to think on where we came from, and give a type of nod to our predecessors.


Reading for Archaeology in Cyprus: the Prologue

With a good chunk of semester-end grading behind me, it’s about time to look toward the Cyprus Bibliography and set down with a couple of works. I’ve gladly been charged with the task of archaeological trench advisor (or adviser, depending on your preference; I suppose archaeological monitor would also work). There is Dr. Bill Caraher’s blog that I check in with about every 1 to 3 days. Bill is Ohio State University-trained, and U of North Dakota’s historian of the Ancient World, North Dakota Man-Camps, and Punk Archaeology, among other topics.

But now I’m reading Yiannis Papadakis, Echoes From the Dead Zone: Across the Cyprus Divide (I.B. Tauris, 2005, ’06, ’08, ’10). When I first started reading it I thought to myself, “Is this guy serious?” but then realized he was parodying (or a parody as a youth) what Ed Said, well, said back in Orientalism circa 1978. Papadakis’s work is that way up through at

Actual hand-written notes from a book, this in 2012.

least the first 10 or so pages (easily more, but I got the point), articulating one Western view of the Middle East where coke-addled debauched sultans (this is one Western Parody of the Mid-East) since 635AD charged Janissaries with spreading Islam throughout the world “by the force of fire and the sword.” (Papadakis, 2005:6) Mehmet II was a bit overzealous, but oh c’mon. A person can’t go around razing villages and metropolises just because there are a few bad apples in the mix. If that were the case, then there would be no New York City.

Anyhow, and moving along, toward the end of the book Papadakis eventually finds himself having made friends with individuals he formerly had stereotyped, and a new level of objectivity is achieved. That is perhaps a universal in the history of humanity: generalized ideas about the world, or The Other, and all of this undermined once friendships are established with individuals in that Other. In lay terms, this is called getting to know someone, or what in kindergarten was called, “Making friends.” It’s okay to approach a stranger and ask them about the weather, and then move on to other standard topics like, “So you from around here?” It doesn’t always pan out, but life is a game of odds, and if you ask enough the odds are stacked in your favor. Eventually this leads to more substantive conversation, and perhaps even friendships. I think the point, though, is to listen more than you talk. And when you do talk, speak to what has been said to you. This is the epitome of conversation. And apparently you need to do this throughout life, not just in kindergarten. Back to Papadakis…