His Trash

JohnUpdikeShoes

This is a pair of John Updike’s old shoes he relinquished to the trash can. Famous or not, people do it all the time — produce trash, discard old stuff, haul piles of rubbish to garbage bins.

Paul Moran

And this is Paul Moran, The Man Who Made Off With John Updike’s Trash and outlived the renown writer to tell about it.

One fine spring morning in 2006, he cycled  down the street on which the famous writer dwelled.  He saw an open garbage bin and thought he might find a copy of The New Yorker stickered with the writer’s name and address —something that would make for a quirky conversation piece. And so Moran decided to hop off his bicycle and walk over. He noticed that one of the garbage bags next to the bin had already been torn open—perhaps, he thought, by someone seeking aluminum cans or glass bottles, which can be returned for 5 cents apiece in Massachusetts. Spilling out of the bag, he saw smooth rectangles of red leather. Upon closer inspection, he realized Updike had thrown away a collection of honorary degrees from schools like Dartmouth College, Bates College, Emerson College, and Salem State College, all in pristine condition. What an amazing find!

Moran dove into the treasure trove of Updike’s trash multiple times…

As Updike himself once said in interview for Paris Review (1966), “My life is, in a sense, trash, my life is only that of which the residue is my writing.”

Some of Paul Moran’s finds:

John Updike with his daughter Elizabeth. On this photograph he is a his early 20s.

John Updike with his daughter Elizabeth. On this photograph he is a his early 20s.

Photo of John Updike with one of seven of his grandchildren.

John Updike with one of seven of his grandchildren.

JohnUpdikeDorisDay D

John Updike often spoke of his admiration of actress Doris Day — the 1950s major Hollywood stars. In 1976, he wrote a review of her autobiography of the actress; his last book of poems included a poem Her Coy Lover Sings Out dedicated to Doris Day.  The beginning of their correspondence was 1991, but it looks like they’ve never met either that year or later. 

By his own admission, Paul Moran have never been a fan of John Updike. In his youth, he thought of Updike too dull and boring: all these stories about the middle class, of the petty bourgeoisie with their petty problems. But since he started collecting his refuse, he read some of his books and realized how really deep they are. Love affair and guff were merely a shell — the most trivial topics often lead to a deeper topics, such as the destiny of man, the struggle with the temptations of fate.

“No matter how hard I tried to spin it, I had the gnawing sense that what I was doing was wrong. I was committing one of the cardinal sins, coveting my neighbor’s trash.”

Nonetheless, temptation was hard to resist.

John Updike received Christmas cards from from both Republican and Democrat presidents and politicians.

John Updike received Christmas cards from from both Republican and Democrat presidents and politicians.

JohnUpdikeTrash

  • Letter opener from Cornell University, Updike mother’s Alma Mater.
  • A magnifying glass that looks like a family heirloom.
  • John Updike’s glasses — there are several pairs of them in Paul’s collection.
  • Reel tape for an old typewriter — most likely kept in memory of his beginning as a writer.
  • Notebook — there are a few of these in the collection
  • Mickey Mouse Book, published in the 1930s.
  • Cheap watch, perhaps having a sentimental value.

    Starter pistol found in the garbage along with a package of  blank cartridges that  produces a characteristic popping sound, according to Paul Moran. He says he checked.

    Starter pistol found in the garbage along with a package of blank cartridges that produces a characteristic popping sound, according to Paul Moran. He says he checked.

“I have received some justifiably harsh criticism for my actions and I am not asking for your approbation, gentle reader. But ask yourself this: What would you do if you had found Warhol’s etchings in the trash? Or Picasso’s? Would you be inclined to respect the wishes of a temperamental artist and let these items go off to the landfill? What about Da Vinci’s trash? Does the passage of time remove the taint of an object’s lowly origin? I knew that, eventually, prestigious institutions would clamor for his things regardless of their icky provenance.” (From Finding John Updike AND TAKING HIS TRASH by Paul Moran, in Texas Monthly, November 22, 2014)

More on the subject in Boston Globe: John Updike’s trash is everyone’s treasureAndrew Sullivan’s The Dish: Dumpster Diving For Posterity, New York Times: Texas Man Treasures Finds in Updike’s Trash.

The Magic World of Manuel Rodríguez Sánchez

Starligh Room

Starlight Room

Discover a strange and fascinating world — the portfolio of a Spanish photographer Manuel Rodríguez Sánchez.
Manuel Rodríguez Sánchez 913The art of Manuel Rodríguez Sánchez should be divided into two categories — commercial and non-commercial. There is no point in dwelling on his advertising art and portraits. It’s the artist’s “photo manipulation and surrealism” series that is truly amazing.

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The first date // La primera cita

The first date // La primera cita

The source of Manuel Rodríguez Sánchez’s inspiration is the mystical works of his great countrymen Francisco Goya and Salvador Dali. Their influence is strikingly obvious in darkness, mystery and mystique of his works.Manuel Rodríguez Sánchez 2

Mi rascacielos / My skyscraper

Mi rascacielos / My skyscraper

Manuel Rodríguez Sánchez 31

Manuel Rodríguez Sánchez makes his home in Palma de Mallorca. The vistas on his pictures, however, often photographed outside of Spain. 
Manuel Rodríguez Sánchez 55

The unique combination of graphics and photography looks intriguing and quite fresh.

Intimate Dinner

Intimate Dinner

AI or Die — Summoning The Demon

140731_CAR_Robot_1

Speaking at event in London, Professor Stephen Hawking told the BBC, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” It is not the first time the famous  physicist warned humanity of an uncertain future as technology learns to think for itself and adapt to its environment, bring about our demise.

RobotEvolution

Earlier in the year Hawking said that success in creating AI ‘would be the biggest event in human history, [but] unfortunately, it might also be the last.’ 

He argues that developments in digital personal assistants Siri, Google Now and Cortana are merely symptoms of an IT arms race which ‘pale against what the coming decades will bring.’

But Professor Hawking noted that other potential benefits of this technology could also be significant, with the potential to eradicate, war, disease and poverty.

Google's DeepMind start-up, which was bought for £255 million ($400 million) earlier this year, is currently attempting to mimic the properties of the human brain's short-term working memory.

Google’s DeepMind start-up, which was bought for $400 million earlier this year, is currently attempting to mimic the properties of the human brain’s short-term working memory.

‘Looking further ahead, there are no fundamental limits to what can be achieved. […]There is no physical law precluding particles from being organised in ways that perform even more advanced computations than the arrangements of particles in human brains.’

Eric Schmidt, Google chief executive, argued that there is no need to fear AI, and it could even be the making of humanity.

‘These concerns are normal,’ he said onstage during the Financial Times Innovate America event in New York this week. ‘They’re also to some degree misguided.’

However, Elon Musk, the entrepreneur behind Space-X and Tesla, disagrees, warning of ‘something seriously dangerous happening’ as a result of machines with artificial intelligence. And this “something” might begin to “happen” in as few as five years.

Speaking at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AeroAstro Centennial Symposium in October, Musk described artificial intelligence as our ‘biggest existential threat’, and has previously linked the development of thinking machines, to ‘summoning the demon’.robot-hand

As the nuclear, aerospace, manufacturing and agricultural industries forge ahead developing autonomous systems, there are growing unease about the future.

How to prevent robot world domination? How to ensure AI can follow rules and make ethical decisions?

Researchers at the Universities of Sheffield, Liverpool and the West of England, Bristol have set up a new project to address concerns around these new technologies, with the aim of  ensuring robots meet industrial standards and are developed responsibly.

The £1.4 million project will run until 2018. It aims to ensure robots meet industrial standards and are created responsibly, allaying fears that humans may not be able to control them.

Meanwhile, in the field of space exploration…

Intended for the performance of exploratory missions on the moon — alongside a four-wheeled robotic rover — the new designs were introduced by Toyota in a presentation titled “Realization of Moon Exploration Using Advanced Robots by 2020.”

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What about little green men, the extraterrestrials? Will the first aliens we find be ROBOTS? Intelligent life may have turned to AI by the time we make first contact, claims Dr Susan Schneider from The University of Connecticut.

  • Drobot-handr Schneider says the first intelligent aliens we find might not be biological. Advanced aliens might be machines.
  • Humanity is already heading in this direction, Dr Schneider claims, and an advanced race would likely have already made this evolutionary leap. ‘The next evolutionary step could be we are post-biological,’ she says.
  • ‘If you look at our own civilisation, people are becoming more immersed in computers, and we can already see signs of it in our own culture. […] if you need space travel, humans aren’t very durable. But with computers, you don’t have the same threat to worry about.’
'The next evolutionary step could be we are post-biological,' said Dr Schneider. Recently experts in Washington DC discussed chances of finding alien life. Seti astromoner Dr Shostak said we 'could be the first' generation to know we are not alone.

‘The next evolutionary step could be post-biological,’ said Dr Schneider. Recently experts in Washington DC discussed chances of finding alien life. Seti astromoner Dr Shostak said we ‘could be the first’ generation to know we are not alone.

 

See The Ice Melting

pastoruri_glacier.jpg__728x350_q85_jcrop-0x93x1024x585_subsampling-2Peru is home to 70 percent of the world’s tropical glaciers. In its heyday, the Pastoruri glacier in central Peru, drew daily throngs of tourists packed into dozens of double-decker buses 16,000-feet high into the Andes to ski, build snowmen and scale its dizzying peaks.

Pastoruri Glacier

A view of the lake formed by meltwater from the Pastoruri glacier, as seen from atop the glacier in Huaraz.

But in less than 20 years, including at least 10 of the hottest on record, Pastoruri has shrunk in half, and now spans just a third of a square mile.

The Cordillera Blanca mountain range — the largest and highest tropical glacier chain in the world — contained 723 square kilometers of glacial ice 1970, diminished in size to 611 square kilometers by 1977, and lost another 15.5 percent of its ice mass in the ensuing 27 years.

The Cordillera Blanca mountain range — the largest and highest tropical glacier chain in the world — contained 723 square kilometers of glacial ice 1970, diminished in size to 611 square kilometers by 1977, and lost another 15.5 percent of its ice mass in the ensuing 27 years.

The number of visitors to Pastoruri dwindled significantly — 34,000 last year compared to an estimated 100,000 per year in the 1990s. In turn, it has eroded tourism revenue — the livelihood of thousands in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru’s most popular cluster of snowy peaks, depends on it. Now locals are making a bid to lure tourists back to Pastoruri before it is gone completely — likely in a decade.

An assistant guide returns from the Pastoruri glacier along the Climate Change Route in Huaraz.

Melting ice has given way to slabs of black rock, two small lakes gathering the glacial runoff have swollen together, and officials have banned climbing on the unstable formation. Peruvians have insulated ice with sawdust to stave off melting and painted exposed rock white to reflect sunlight. Those experiments curb glacial retreat on a small scale, but cannot bring ice blocks like Pastoruri back from the brink.

Pastoruri is still a striking chunk of ice, but it’s no longer technically a glacier because it does not build up ice in the winter to release in the summer.

As ice melts off, mountain rocks that covered the rocks are shedding minerals — high levels of heavy metals like cadmium and iron — thus rendering water undrinkable. Newly exposed rocks have also revealed fossilized marine species that likely last saw the light of day before the start of the last ice age – more than 100,000 years ago.

Pastoruri Glacier Caretaker

The “climate change route,” to officially launch in March, is the latest offbeat answer to rising temperatures that have eaten up 30 to 50 percent of Andean glaciers in recent decades. It is unclear, however, if tourists, even the more science-minded of them, will come to watch Pastoruri glacier’s demise.

Pastoruri glacier is not the only popular spot affected by climate change. As warmer temperatures tweak ecosystems, boost the frequency of extreme weather and degrade coastlines, the global map of favorite tourist destinations is slowly being redrawn.

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Warming waters are intensifying coral bleaching at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Increasingly regular flooding in Venice could limit future visits, and list of soon-to-become-climate-change routes is truly impressive… and very, very worrisome…

The Object of My Affection

Pygmalion by Jean-Baptiste Regnault, 1786, Musée national du château et des Trianons

Pygmalion by Jean-Baptiste Regnault, 1786, Musée national du château et des Trianons

Pygmalion was a talented Greek sculptor from Cyprus. After becoming disgusted by some local prostitutes, he lost all interest in Pygmalion-And-Galatea1-300x357women and avoided their company completely. He saw women as flawed creatures and vowed never to waste any moment of his life with them.

Instead, Pygmalion created Galatea, a beautiful ivory stature of a woman, and he fell in love with her. He prayed to goddess Aphrodite to give him a wife just like his statue. Aphrodite did  him one better — she brought  his statue to life. Galatea became a real woman, they got married and had two children. The end.

The unusual love that blossomed between Pygmalion and Galatea enthralls all. Falling in love with one’s creation and then getting the desired object as wife — a dream come true, indeed.

57-year-old Everard Cunion, from Dorset, UK,  had always been fond of shop mannequins, but since they’re as hard as rock, he decided to go for something that looked as good as that, but was more flexible. He now lives with nine realistic looking dolls

Everard bought Rebecca, his first artificial woman, in 2000. It wasn’t until 2004 that he decided to get his second doll, not because he had been trying to stay faithful to his first, but he simply couldn’t afford to buy another one until then. The man admits that when he first saw the price tags on these things he almost fell off his chair, but he goes on to say that this kind of dolls are the best things that you can buy, for any amount of money.

Everard created none of them, and, sadly, there isn’t a breath of life in his dolls. Still,  he got a desired object as wife. Nine objects, to be precise.

Cunion

Everard Cunion isn’t the only one with a thing for artificial women. Bob Gibbins, a happily married man,  shares his home with  a harem of  240 love dolls.

Object sexuality or objectum sexuality, in German Objektophilie (OS),[1] is a pronounced emotional and often romantic desire towards developing significant relationships with particular inanimate objects. Those individuals with this expressed preference may feel strong feelings of attraction, love, and commitment to certain items or structures of their fixation. For some, sexual or even close emotional relationships with humans are incomprehensible. Some object-sexual individuals also often believe in animism, and sense reciprocation based on the belief that objects have souls, intelligence, and feelings, and are able to communicate.[2] Contrary to sexual fetishism, the object to an OS person is viewed as their partner and not as a means to an end to enhance a human sexual relationship.

This is a Wikipedia definition. Pygmalion lovingly admiring a piece of ivory he carved into Galatea illustrates the article. Everyone whose heart isn’t made of ivory can understand Pygmalion, praise Aphrodite for performing a compassionate miracle. 

In love with the Berlin Wall

And this is Erika Eiffel. She received worldwide media attention because of her love and subsequent commitment ceremony with the Eiffel Tower in 2007 – hence her last name. But it’s actually the Berlin Wall that has always been there for her.

Erika is polyamorous, which means she can have more than one relationship at a time.

“My attraction to the Berlin Wall has always been there. I always felt a strong connection to objects that are misunderstood. The Eiffel Tower is this great symbol of love, but people around her are just in love with each other – not with her. The Berlin Wall was hated, I wanted to give it a chance to be loved.”

With the Berlin Wall she sees am,” sh strong personal similarity. “I was always hated for who I am,” she says shaking her head.

Objectum-Sexuality: ABC News — The Object of her Affection

The Berlin Wall is a popular object of affection, indeed. Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer, who’s last name literally means “Berlin Wall”, married the Berlin wall in 1979. Mauer states that she was just seven years of age when she fell in love with the Berlin Wall after seeing it on television. Mauer, who currently lives in Leiden, in Northern Sweden, said “I find long, slim things with horizontal lines very sexy” but states that the Wall of China is “too thick” for her. After the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Mauer never returned to see her partner, although she does keep replicas of it in her home. She is said to have a new affection for a garden fence.

Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer and the Berlin Wall

Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer and the Berlin Wall

Babylonia Aivaz's bride-to-be is a 107-year-old warehouse in Seattle

Babylonia Aivaz’s bride-to-be is a 107-year-old warehouse in Seattle

Babilonia Aivaz was calling her wedding with a 107 year old warehouse a ‘gay union’. The ceremony took place in January 2012. Aivaz says she fell head over heels in love with the building after joining a 200-strong Occupy Seattle protest inside the building. Admittedly, Babilonia’s OS (Objectum-Sexuality) is not your “typical” OS love story. She is in love with the cause (SAVE THE BUILDING) rather than the elderly groom — 107 year old warehouse.

South Korean Lee Jin-gyu fell in love with his body pillow of his favorite animated heroine, Fate Testarossa from the animated TV series Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. The two were dating for six years before Jin-gyu took her to Japan to get married, where Fate-the-pillow even donned her own wedding dress. Jin-gyu later confessed that the wedding was a publicity stunt, although marriage isn’t completely out of the question and stated that, “My love for Fate is unchangeable, but I will take more time to think about our marriage.” His friends have said that the couple often go out together to parks and fairgrounds and the pillow gets its own seat when they dine together.

Lee Jin-gyu and a Dakimakura (Japanese body pillow)

South Korean Lee Jin-gyu fell in love with his body pillow of his favorite animated heroine, Fate Testarossa from the animated TV series Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. The two were dating for six years before Jin-gyu took her to Japan to get married, where Fate-the-pillow even donned her own wedding dress.

Jin-gyu later confessed that the wedding was a publicity stunt, although marriage isn’t completely out of the question and stated that, “My love for Fate is unchangeable, but I will take more time to think about our marriage.” His friends have said that the couple often go out together to parks and fairgrounds and the pillow gets its own seat when they dine together.паровоз

41-year-old Joachim A. realized that he had an unusual sexual attraction when he was just 12 years old. His first relationship was with a Hammond organ in which he shared “an emotionally and physically very complex and deep relationship, which lasted for years.” His current partner is a steam locomotive. He admits that he has been unfaithful over the years because “a love affair could very well begin with a broken radiator”. Joachim’s   previous love affairs were often sparked by an object experiencing a technical issue and the necessary repairs made him sexually attracted to the object. He is adamant, however, that these days he is monogamous with the steam locomotive.

Well, then, is objectophilia a paraphilia (a condition characterized by abnormal sexual desires, typically involving extreme or dangerous activities), a disorder, a sickness? People who claim to have it also say that they couldn’t fall in love with a human being because they don’t feel attracted to them.

LOVE AMONG THE OBJECTUM SEXUALS is an article in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, by Amy Marsh. The authors argues that objectophilia is not a paraphilia but a sexual orientation. If you are in love with a tree, a radiator, a garbage can or falling for a chunk of clay about to be sculpted into your Galatea, or simply curious — check it out.

Meanwhile, I’ll go and have a meaningful conversation with a doorknob I find extremely attractive for a few days already…

Art Inspired

«To be in Limbo» Photo: Leonhard Foeger / Reuters

«To be in Limbo»

Sculpture «To be in Limbo» in the Jesuit church in Vienna. Christophe Stainbrenner, sculptor, photographer and graphic designer and architects Rainer Dempf and Martin Huber dedicated this artwork to a series of “soaring stone” paintings of Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte.

And another one of their works, also «To be in Limbo» :to-be-in-limbo

One of the “inspirational” Rene Magritte’s airborne stones – The Castle of the Pyrenees. This painting has become one of Magritte’s best known and most-reproduced images. Poetry and mystery came together in a disturbing juxtaposition to soar above the ocean of mundane.

Rene Magritte (1898 - 1967). Le Château des Pyrénées (1959)

Rene Magritte (1898 – 1967). Le Château des Pyrénées (1959)

In the year he died, Magritte painted The Art of Living. It is composed of familiar features from his oeuvre: full-face portraits of “ready-made” citizens, decapitated and ranged in front of a stone balustrade against a background of mountains.

The Art of Living, 1967 by Rene Magritte

The Art of Living, 1967 by Rene Magritte

Inside the balloon is a very small complex of eyes-nose-mouth which seems mysterious yet is not, for it is the expression of normalized vacuity, like the ready-made suit. It’s human being, all right. Human being with big secret: small sins that convention not only allows but prescribes, and major sins society proscribes and disallow.

Magritte. The Therapist

Magritte. The Therapist

In Magritte’s works mysteries lurk in unexpected juxtaposition of everyday things. They induce disorientation — everything is visible but nothing is revealed: the wrist of a hand that is a woman’s face, the door swings open onto an unexpected vista, a stone bird suspended over a rocky shoreline.

Magritte.The listening Room (1952)

Magritte.The listening Room (1952)

Magritte’s iconic bowler hats, apple-faces and apples-in-hats inspired innumerable works of imaginative “re-imagining”:

The Portago Urban Hotel by ILMIODESIGN fuses British design with characteristics associated with ther resort's Spanish location. Located in the heart of Granada, this colorful space features bold design elements.

The Portago Urban Hotel by ILMIODESIGN fuses British design with characteristics associated with ther resort’s Spanish location. Located in the heart of Granada, this colorful space features bold design elements.

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And then there is Roger Dean and his otherworldly   Freyja’s Castle, Asia Astra, Asia Dragon and Green Castle.

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It is an indisputable fact that Cameron’s  Avatar borrowed heavily and unapologetically (sadly, giving no credit or a hint of acknowledgement) from Roger Dean’s artwork. My selection, perhaps, isn’t the best side-by-side illustration of heavy borrowing, but for those who’d seen the movie and familiar with Roger Dean’s paintings would agree that stunning Avatar scenery is, indeed, Dean-inspired.

avatar avatar1 avatar3jpg

 

[…] he saw Newton laugh only once in five years…

US Scientist Leonard Mlodinow Visits Bratislava


LEONARD MLODINOW is a physicist, and the author of several books including The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives and Feynman’s Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life. He’s also written for television, including “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

A good friend of mine sent me a link to the article in Nautilus, written by Leonard Mlodinow. The title of the article is The loneliest genius. Read it here (with additional illustration of my choice) or follow the link to the Nautilus original. It’s about genius. And ideas. It’s about loneliness and belonging. It’s about Isaac Newton.

Isaac Newton spurned social contact—but his greatest work borrowed from the ideas of others.

November Birthdays

chrysanthemum-festival-2009-9

November Birth Flower: Chrysanthemum

So happened that past month and a half was a troublesome time for me and my family. Days and weeks gone by without me noticing the passage of time. My deepest apologies and belated best wishes to my November birthday friends and family, boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen. This brief post is a belated birthday card to them. And, while I’m at it, to everyone everywhere who has changed yet another year in November. Happy Birthday!

Jiri Kylian’s “Birth-Day”

Mozart: Birthday – Nederlands Dans Theater celebrates Jiri Kylian

Lollygagging By John Perry

kak-nauchitsya-ne-otkladivat-dela-na-zavtra-1036-15091Do you remember? In 1995,  John Perry, the philosophy professor of Stanford University, wrote an essay entitled Structured Procrastination, about harnessing the power of procrastination to get things done. Eventually, he expanded it into a book, The Art Of Procrastination: A Guide To Effective Dawdling, Dallying, Lollygagging And Postponing. The irony of it, the name of the publisher is… Workman.

In 2011, for his Theory of Structured Procrastination John Perry was awarded Ig Nobel Prize in Literature.

To be a high achiever, always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing something that’s even more important. (From “How to Procrastinate and Still Get Things Done,” John Perry, Chronicle of Higher Education. Later republished elsewhere under the title “Structured Procrastination.”)

JohnPerry

otkladyivat-na-zavtra2
But seen this way, today’s cacophony of anti-procrastination advice seems rather sinister: a subtle way of inducing conformity, to get you to do what you “should” be doing. Structured procrastination turns your rebellion into productivity, so you could argue it’s equally conformist. But at least it respects the existence of the urge. And it doesn’t let you forget a truth that most productivity gurus ignore: that just because something found its way on to your to-do list, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it needs to be done.

Photograph: Chris Madden for the Guardian

Photograph: Chris Madden for the Guardian

Russian discovered this too: Never put off until tomorrow what you can put off until the day after tomorrow, the saying goes.

Men who kill together…

WARRIORSThe Yanomamö Indian tribe of Southern Venezuela has a unique tradition — they are allowed to kill for revenge.  In their culture a man or a man’s family can be killed if he commits one of a number of crimes.  These crimes often begin with a dispute over a woman — reproductive revenge killings are common among the tribesmen.

Killings are acceptable and common for infidelity and suspicion of infidelity, attempts to seduce another man’s wife, sexual jealousy, forcible appropriation of women from visiting groups, failure to give a promised girl in marriage, and rape.

Once a killing occurs, the community that lost a loved one may retaliate with a revenge raid on the murderer’s community.  The Yanomamö culture has a graded sequence of events that usually take place before a revenge raid.  Their sequence of events goes like this: “shouting matches, chest pounding duels, side slapping duels, club fights, fights with axes and machetes, and shooting with bows and arrows with the intent to kill”.  Yanomamö dance

These “fights” are not meant to kill the opponent except the one with bows and arrows.  They are more like punishment fights.  If a man is killed in a fight his group may make a revenge raid against the group of the killer.  Once a group is raided, the members of the group must retaliate the sooner the better. The quicker they retaliate, the stronger and more powerful they look in the eyes of other groups. This show of strength and power, in the Yanomamö culture, will keep them from more retaliatory raids thus keeping them alive longer.  Having a fierce reputation will also deter other groups from raiding to abduct their young women.

The Yanomamös who has killed and have not been killed themselves are called Unokais and considered fierce. (Imprecise quote from Chagnon, N.A. (Feb 26, 1988) Life Histories, Blood Revenge, and Warfare in a Tribal Population. Science. Vol. 239. http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/chagnon.pdf).

Napoleon Chagnon  with Yanomamö warrior

Napoleon Chagnon with Yanomamö warrior

Anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon, now at the University of Missouri, Columbia, spent decades studying the Yanomamö. He gathered reams of information about their marriages, wars and alliances.

Lethal coalitionary aggression and long-term alliance formation among Yanomamö men (Shane J. Macfarlan, Robert S. Walker, Mark V. Flinn and Napoleon A. Chagnon) is a recent article examining the composition of Yanomamös lethal coalitions and their unique social structure.

Humans, like chimpanzees, engage in coalitionary violence: Members of both species coordinate lethal activity against conspecifics. The origin and adaptive functions of this behavior are poorly understood.

Unfortunately, the data from tribal populations are very rare. Data gathered by Chagnon during his 3 decades of researching Yanomamö and used in this atricle is simply invaluable.

In contrast to chimpanzees, Yanomamö lethal coalitions are composed of individuals from different lineages and natal communities. Many coalition partners are ideal marriage exchange partners. Men who kill together more often are more likely to live together in the same village later in life and to engage in marriage exchange.

The results of this research highlight connections between coalitionary aggression and alliance formation, illuminating differences in social structure that distinguish humans from other primates.Yanomamo936533_eyecatch

From the article’s abstract:

Some cross-cultural evidence suggests lethal coalitionary aggression in humans is the product of residence and descent rules that promote fraternal interest groups, i.e., power groups of coresident males bonded by kinship. As such, human lethal coalitions are hypothesized to be homologous to chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) border patrols. However, humans demonstrate a unique metagroup social structure in which strategic alliances allow individuals to form coalitions transcending local community boundaries.

The article examines the social characteristics of co-unokais or men who jointly kill others. Analyses indicate co-unokais generally are

  • from the same population but from different villages and patrilines,
  • close age mates, and
  • maternal half-first cousins.

The incident rate for co-unokai killings increases if men are similar in age, from the same population, and from different natal communities.

Co-unokais who have killed more times in the past and who are more genetically related to each other have a higher probability of coresidence in adulthood.

Lastly, a relationship exists between lethal coalitions and marriage exchange. In this population, internal warfare unites multiple communities, and co-unokais strategically form new residential groups and marriage alliances.

Yanomamo1In a word, human alliances and process of their formation are complex, and there are key differences in strategic alliances that humans form as opposed to other primates.

But we knew it all before, didn’t we?soldaty