. . . . . we talked to informants who were timber farmers, cattle ranchers, home gardeners, and pig hunters . . . .
For several months, we did fieldwork for the Louisiana Folklife Program in Desoto Parish, up in the northwest corner of Louisiana. Our primary focus was the theme “living off the land”; as a result we talked to informants who were timber farmers, cattle ranchers, home gardeners, and pig hunters. While doing this fieldwork, we began to learn much more than we ever thought we might about the noble hog – domestic and wild.
South Louisiana, the Gulf Coast, the jewel-like Atchafalaya region, and agricultural land roundabouts all have a cute but troublesome visitor. Nutria (species Mycastor coypusof the kingdom, Animalia; the phylum, Chordata; the class Mammalia; the order rodentia and the suborder, Hystricognathi; family, Myocastoridae; and, of course, genus Myocastor) is a native of South America. This huge rat’s native area is from the center of Bolivia, to the south end of Brazil, and further on to Tierra del Fuego – the land of fire.
Nutria (species Mycastor coypusof the kingdom, Animalia; the phylum, Chordata; the class Mammalia; the order rodentia and the suborder, Hystricognathi; family, Myocastoridae; and, of course, genus Myocastor) is a native of South America. . .
Either intentionally or accidentally, decades ago nutria from ranches and fur farms, back in the first part of the twentieth century, escaped or were set free. Now, the lushly-coated, orange-toothed vegetarian rats exist in troublesome numbers outside their “normal” habitat, with large populations also living in Asia, Europe, and elsewhere in North America.
Human beings have acted to create images on wall spaces since well before recorded history. Cave paintings are well known and powerfully appreciated for their evidence of human creativity. The will to decorate these “walls” has, over time, lead to the development of varied means and modes, beyond pounding colored clay into a powder and mixing it with fat. Generally, walls are decorated by changing the surface by applying objects—by affixing small stone or glass tiles to form shape or pattern, and by coloring or dying the surface.
Thus, the vast, soaring space of Istanbul’s Blue Mosque gets it name from the thousands of beautiful Iznik tiles which decorate its interior. The Byzantine pile at Venice, St. Mark’s Basilica, glows with hundreds of thousands of tiny mosaic pieces, sandwiches of thin glass over leaves of sheet gold. Murals around public buildings in the United States carry on the grand tradition but in the American way, integrated into the community.
Forget that familiar, beatific, mellow picture on the cover of the cigarette pack. Put aside those lingering images of the sensuous East so popular with Victorian Orientalists. Elbowing up to the steel fence around a camel wrestling pitch in Turkey and I suppose anywhere is more like spending an afternoon with the good old boys at a NASCAR rally in the broiling sun of the American Deep South than snoozing on a divan with a plump, warm odalisque. Continue reading “Camel Wrestling”
At some point after being born in Lafayette, Louisiana, I became aware of both how oddly common it was to see this name on the landscape and, later, I began to look into the history of Lafayette as a character. Part of my family lives up east, so I may have seen signs in Manhattan on a visit, and then slowly notes other examples. Think about it. You’ve probably come across a county, city, street, park, school, shop, or restaurant named for Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette more than just a few times by now.
This article strays from my more typical pastures of Louisiana to discuss the historic appropriation of aesthetic and design elements from Asia into Western art and their functions as mediating devices. I want to discuss how it seems to me that those elements present a kind of familiarity for visitors to Asia, a familiarity that ameliorates anxiety associated with presentation of the exotic.
For generations, people have been fishing the Atchafalaya Basin region for commercial harvests and for sport. Yet, the idea of fly-fishing in the Atchafalaya is fairly new. While the Basin, itself, is fresh water, within twenty minutes anglers can access the brackish water of the Basin’s coastal edges, and the salt-water margins of the Gulf of Mexico. In these varied eco-systems, anglers who come to Louisiana may seek out bass, bream, catfish, redfish, sac-a-lait, speckled trout, and other species—using lighter tackle in fresh water and heavier gear in salty areas.
Lafcadio Hearn, great explainer of Japan to the West and well known for his narratives about New Orleans, soulful descriptions of that sultry city on the Big Muddy, said that “in order to comprehend the beauty of a Japanese garden, it is necessary to understand — or at least to learn to understand — the beauty of stones.” Hearn was writing at a time when Japan had only been widely opened to visitors for decades. And Europe and the US was in thrall to a “Japonais” rampage of fashion. Yet few were absorbing the great foundation philosophy underpinning much of the design flowing onto Impressionists canvases from Asia.