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2015 in Review: A Musical Look at Titles Indexed

The past year has seen no shortage of indexing projects. Between them the titles in need of indexes have offered plenty of variety. What if the titles could be put to music? Below is a selected sampling of how the titles in question might sound:

1. As in 2014, Egypt once again emerged as an indexable topic. In the past year, two titles dealing with pharaohs’ tombs came my way. As we contemplate the death of the old year, “Dead Egyptian Blues” provides food for thought to archaeologists and other listeners. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgDoiE1ZA0c

2. In a decided contrast to indexing with an Egyptian flavor, a Hohokam title came my way. The Hohokam, a name given to certain Native Americans formerly residing in present-day southern Arizona, had their own beliefs concerning the afterlife and the proper steps to take to prepare the dead for what lay beyond the grave. Admittedly, it’s hard to know what songs they created and performed during their time. However, here’s a number entitled “Black Mountain,” sung by the Tohono O’Odham (formerly known as the Papago). The Tohono O’Odham are believed to be descendants of the Hohokam. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nphpJ8xOes

3. In a change of pace, a Texas-based client contributed a title featuring essays that cover the Lone Star State during the Civil War. When it comes to music dealing with the Southern side in that conflict, “They Drove Old Dixie Down” is still sung and played today. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnyeqyCiLdo

4. It seems wars have been much on the minds of plenty of people besides just Texans. Two volumes claiming my attention in the past year deal with the Great Northern War, fought 1700-1721. This conflict pitted Russia, Denmark, Poland and Saxony against Sweden. The latter country did not fare well in the war; she lost considerable territory, whereas Russia’s Peter the Great emerged as a leader to be reckoned with. Nonetheless, here is Sweden’s national anthem, a song traditionally played and sung throughout that country to ring in the new year.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LiN57nfjFw

5.  Another indexable title takes a retrospective look at past war patterns and what this might portend for the future.  Having reviewed wars spanning the past several centuries, from the Renaissance to World War II, author Christopher Petitt notes that major transitions are typically accompanied by violence, often on a global scale.  He does not hold out much hope that we will manage to avoid a future such conflict as we enter into our next transition.  His analysis of what the future might hold is fascinating if a bit grim.  Peter Gabriel’s “Games Without Frontiers,” offering a glimpse at humanity’s warfaring side, seems a fitting piece to play under the circumstances.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xZmlUV8muY

6.  Meanwhile, what becomes of immigrants who come to the U.S. in search of a better life?  Oscar Martinez, intimately acquainted with this question, explores the economic forces that have long led many Mexicans to make the trek across the border hoping to cash in on economic opportunities in short supply in their country of origin.  His title offers a decided contrast between economic conditions in Mexico and those in the U.S., as well as an analysis of historic and current conditions that have held back Mexico’s economic progress.

A family caught up in these economic forces is the subject of Grupo Montez de Durango’s “Lágrimas del Corazón” (Tears of the Heart), featuring a father forced to leave behind his family in Mexico and search for a U.S. job in order to support them.  Fortunately Martinez, a successful Arizona-residing university professor who still makes occasional visits to Mexico, didn’t have to endure the gut-wrenching family split described in the song; he and his family made their big move to the U.S. together in the 1950s.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUX7EabkdQ0

7.  No doubt about it, life — including the portion of it featured in indexes — offers no shortage of issues to trouble and perplex us.  Grim news getting you down?  Fear not; rescue is at hand.  This year saw me busy indexing titles in a brand-new children’s literature series featuring comic strip superheroes.  First to take center stage was Batman, whose theme song many listeners may recall from childhood.  Listen up as he strikes a blow for justice and beats the bad guys.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSaDPc1Cs5U

And that wraps up a noteworthy year.  May the coming year bring lots of opportunities to indexers and others alike.


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Indexing and the News

As the end of an eventful year approaches, I find myself reflecting on one inescapable fact:  Indexing may not always make the news, but news events have definitely been known to lead to indexing.  As a case in point, South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela, who played an instrumental role in defeating apartheid, died Thursday, December 5 at the age of 95.  Following swiftly on the heels of that event, a publisher sent word that revisions were underway for a children’s biography on the famous leader.  As part of the process, the index would need revisions and additions to cover the new material that the publisher anticipated adding.  Accordingly, this past month has seen me busy with the Mandela indexing project, along with other work.  By early next year, children around the country will hopefully have the opportunity to read a new, up to date indexed biography that will open their eyes to South Africa’s history, its hard-won progress, and the vital contributions made by one man.

Speaking of news events, in my previous post I reported on recent troubling developments in Egypt.  Word had reached people around the world — including the southern Arizona location this indexer calls home  — of civil unrest that erupted into museum vandalism, with numerous ancient artifacts removed or destroyed.  Developments since then, however, give one grounds for hope.  This indexer, at least, has not been aware of any new reports of museum vandalism in Egypt since August of this year.  Meanwhile, the University of Arizona Egyptian Expedition (UAEE) has nearly completed its excavation of Pharaoh-Queen Tausret’s temple, a site that has fortunately escaped the looting occurring elsewhere in Egypt.  In addition, new discoveries have been made, among them three caves north of the temple that once served as tombs. Those connected with UAEE look forward to excavating those sites in 2014.

Meanwhile, back in Tucson Arizona, in January 2013 UAEE moved into a new facility that, among other things, houses a library.  UAEE is now in the process of adding book titles to a searchable catalog.  Friends of UAEE should find this a valuable tool when making use of the library and archive.

Speaking of books, UAEE just published — you guessed it — the title I indexed earlier this year.  Archaeological Research in the Valley of the Kings and Ancient Thebes: Papers Presented in Honor of Richard H. Wilkinson, covering new discoveries and current research as well as historic data and developments, is now available on Amazon.  Moreover, this volume is only the first one anticipated as part of the “Wilkinson Egyptology Series.”  So who knows?  Maybe further developments in Egypt — hopefully developments of a positive nature — will help pave the way for further indexing opportunities.

Here’s wishing both indexers and readers a happy 2014!

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An Indexer’s Small World

One of the more interesting items I’ve indexed lately is a title covering the study of ancient Egypt.  As one who has long had an interest in archaeology as well as history, I naturally welcome the opportunity for indexing assignments that enable me to indulge my tastes in either area.  Yet exposure to stimulating subject matter, gratifying though that can be, is not the only result I have experienced due to my exposure to the Egypt of a long bygone era.  Sometimes it takes a well-timed book project to illustrate in a forceful way just how much events halfway around the world can matter to an indexer located in a relatively peaceful community in southern Arizona.

Think of ancient Egypt, and you automatically conjure up images of pharaohs and pyramids.  If you’re fairly knowledgeable, you might even mull over the artifacts that have been  discovered or perhaps still await discovery in such places as the Valley of the Kings or the environs of ancient Thebes.

Such images stand in sharp contrast to the media images coming from modern Egypt, a nation in turmoil rapidly heading toward an uncertain future.  Ancient Egypt and modern Egypt seem worlds apart.  Sure, the ancient pharaohs had their own wars and power struggles.  All the same, there couldn’t possibly be much connection the two Egypts.  Or could there be?

Recent events strongly suggest that modern Egypt has everything to do with ancient Egypt — not always in a positive way.  Clashes are now taking place not only between pro- and anti-Morsi factions but between museum conservationists — those who would preserve antiquities for posterity — and those for whom outrage over either real or imagined injustices in the present trumps all else, including preserving ancient history.  The result?  Grave robbers, once seen as posing the greatest threat to those artifacts that might teach scholars about the ancient past, have now been supplanted by museum vandals.  When it comes to both theft and destruction, it seems that the latter have more than matched the former in ferocity.  Already, the Malawi Museum has felt the full force of the above-described destruction as an angry mob unleashed its fury on artifacts, some of which had once belonged to the very rulers covered in the book I had just indexed!  Other museums, if not yet targeted, are nonetheless at risk.

While no injuries were reported at the above-mentioned museum, recent events there are nonetheless most troubling.  Imagine that you had a time machine that would enable you to learn new things about a distant past long shrouded in mystery.  Now imagine that a band of criminals was about to break into your storehouse, bent on destroying the time machine that could provide the one link to the past.  Would you greet such a prospect with indifference, or would you do all you could to protect your time machine?

The artifacts housed at the museum are the property of the Egyptian people, protested an archaeologist at the scene.  Not a single archaeologist — or indexer, for that matter — would disagree with that statement.  Moreover, it’s not just the people of Egypt who have a stake in what becomes of ancient artifacts.  It’s scholars from around the world.  After all, people of other nations have long had an interest in studying ancient Egypt.  Among them, Napoleon stands out for his role in discovering the Rosetta Stone.

Given the unstable and volatile political situation in Egypt, the present government, along with its police and military forces, seems powerless to protect museums and their irreplaceable property.  In the absence of sufficient government-sponsored protection, such protection may have to come from international agencies — those not only engaging in right thinking, like the above-mentioned archaeologist, but equipped to enforce that right thinking with adequate security measures.   Is there anything those of us not residing in Egypt can do?

Having read of recent developments, I asked a local Egypt scholar if the University of Arizona Egyptian Expedition (UAEE) could take any action.  In reply, he stated that direct action was unlikely to come from the local organization.  The larger organization, representing both the UAEE and other groups of Egypt scholars around the nation, is the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE).  ARCE, he stated, was better equipped to take action on this issue that would have an impact.

Egypt scholars and archaeologists anxiously await further developments….

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