rivendellrose: (scully red)
One of the neat things about the Flipboard app on iPad is that it makes a quick scan through news and other happenings online veeeery easy. This morning, while I was drinking my tea and going through my usual mix of New Scientist, assorted news feeds and various lifestyle blogs (where I found this lemon cake that I am now dying to try to make for Thanksgiving, but sort of afraid I am not sufficiently baker-skilled to manage), I found something (else) very interesting: it was a picture of some really beautifully-preserved mummies that had, in life, been subjected to skull flattening.

What's skull-flattening? I'm glad you asked, imaginary reader!

You see, our modern cultures around the world today aren't the first Human cultures to get the idea that something unnatural (like, say, over-inflated lips or silicon filled breats) are attractive. Most cultures throughout history seem to have practiced some kind of body alteration for the purpose of beauty, basically based on the idea that if you're spending a bunch of time and energy doing (x) to your body (or your kid's body), you must have enough resources not to be worrying about whether or not you're going to eat today. Body modification, whether it's scarring, foot-binding, or, in this case, strapping boards to your infant's head to flatten and elongate his or her skull while it's still soft, is a great way to advertize that you don't have to spend your time working. In other words, it's like having really absurdly long fake nails, high heels, absurdly exaggerated musculature, or a perfect tan even in winter. It's a sign that says "I'm so successful I can waste my energy on stuff that doesn't make sense from a pure survival standpoint!"

Think of it like the Human equivalent of a peacock tail. It's a shitty idea as far as avoiding predators, but the people around you (particularly the lady peacocks) think it's damned impressive, and from an evolutionary standpoint, that's what matters.

So, hey, this is exciting! I've seen illustrations of people with flattened foreheads, and I've seen a few dull pictures of the skulls, but I'd never seen anything so nicely preserved. I got very excited. ...And then I noticed the headline next to the photo.

"Scientists think this triangular skull belongs to an alien"

Um, what? No... no, not if they've ever so much as flipped through a basic archaeology textbook, they don't. Especially not since the skulls were found in Peru. Guess what region notably picked skull-flattening out of the bazillion body-modification options available to pre-industrial humanity? Peru. I even looked it up for you, to prove it - a quick Google search for "peru skull-flattening" gets you this Wikipedia article on artificial cranial deformation, which is the technical term for this kind of body mod. Down under "Reasons" you'll see a great little diagram of the methods the Mayans used, and next to the "History" section are a pair of skulls pictured underneath an 18th century painting of a Chinookan child undergoing the process, being held by a woman on whom the adult result can be seen. The top skull is labeled as Incan. Where did the Inca live, ladies and gentlemen? Peru. Relevant quote:

Artificial cranial deformation, head flattening, or head binding is a form of permanent body alteration in which the skull of a human being is intentionally deformed. It is done by distorting the normal growth of a child's skull by applying force. Flat shapes, elongated ones (produced by binding between two pieces of wood), rounded ones (binding in cloth) and conical ones are among those chosen.

Take another look at that Inca skull. Now look at the 'alien' mummies. I think I'll rest my case.

I shall refrain from commenting on the probable credentials of those Russian and Spanish "doctors" who think these things are from outer space, except to say that there's no law anywhere saying a total crackpot nutjob can't have a PhD in something. Io9 has an article about the same thing. I like to think they're being more than a little tongue-in-cheek about it, which makes me happy, but they're not quite clear enough about the "wtf, no" as I might prefer.
rivendellrose: (key to knowledge)
From the Seattle PI: Tribe takes on Twilight silliness - "We do not turn into wolves."

Excerpted quote:

In addition to shedding light on the appropriation of Quileute culture, we wish to expose how the Twilight saga has presented a skewed version of modern Native American life and to offer visitors to this site an alternative perspective with links to resources for a more meaningful understanding of Indians in the modern era.


They also note that ""Twilight’s" portrayal of the Quileute wolfpack as "over-sexualized, exoticized, and macho" beings is culturally insensitive, especially when compared to the refined vampires." Yeeeeeeeah. Ain't that the truth.
rivendellrose: (drama)
The American Anthropological Association (the leading organization in anthropology in the US) has amended their mission statement to distance themselves from the practice of anthropology as science.

Well, that ought to be the last nail in the coffin of whether anthropology or sociology will win out as the study of human culture that will persist and continue to be worthy of consideration.

I've long had a feeling that there's a problem going on in anthropology, namely that while our little academic sibling sociology delves into broader, deeper, and more interesting subjects in the study of human society and takes advantage of all sorts of fascinating new blood from the fields of psychology, genetics, economics, statistics and science, anthropology... stares blindly around and sticks its collective head in the sand.

Now, to be fair, I kind of liked that I didn't have to do as much statistics in anthro as I did in soc, and I also liked that we tended in anthro to read more historical ethnography than, say, statistical studies from ten years ago. That was all part of why I majored in anthro instead of soc. So I have not exactly been part of the solution in this issue. But in the process of reading recent ethnography (for instance, Sudhir Venkatesh's Gang Leader for a Day which, despite issues mainly stemming from the fact that I found it difficult to believe any intelligent gradudate student could be so fantastically naive as the author apparently was during his research, was a very fun and interesting non-academic book), I've noticed that all the good, new books that are actually getting attention... are filed under sociology, while the anthropology section of any bookstore I walk into consists almost entirely of Ruth Benedict, Margaret Meade, Thor Heyerdahl, and other books written pre-1980.

In short: If my field of academic study implodes, do I get a refund (or a re-do!) on my diploma? If I do, I think I'd like to study psychology this time. They're not ashamed of having science involved in their studies, and from the lectures I've been to they're a whole hell of a lot less in love with post-modern theory.

At least my English degree will never have this particular problem...
rivendellrose: (omgwtf)
Possibly only amusing to, like, three other people in the universe (although, hey, wank is always funny, right?), but I just had to say:

Look, [livejournal.com profile] ryunohi! Takarazuka training-school wank! Sure, it's on Unfunny Business, but I'm just amused to see the Takarazuka schools getting international attention, even if it's just on a journalfen wank comm. (Comments are hilarious for lack of people understanding what the heck the original poster is talking about.)

Professor M would be so proud. Or something. Too bad she won't learn about it until ten years from now because she doesn't appear to understand that strange concept called 'internet culture'.
rivendellrose: (Default)
Reply to this post by yelling "Words". I'll pick five words that I associate with you. Post to your journal about those words and get your friends to do the same.

[livejournal.com profile] beam_oflight gave me: "Writing, Anthropology, Feminist, Podcasts annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd Doctor Who :)"

Why *do* I like all those things? )

....Holy shit. For the record, it's been in the high 80s F here recently, which is unseasonably hot for Seattle... and just while I was writing this it clouded up and started whistling with all sorts of wind. Here's hoping that a summer thunderstorm is in the offing!
rivendellrose: (birch grove)
Continuing from my rather random post yesterday dealing with the seemingly anomalous Pirahãs culture and language... I've got more links for people who are interested in slogging through with me. :)

So! Onward with the links and my own off-the-top commentary.

Keep in mind, here - I majored in anthro, not linguistics... and even that was only a BA and years of hobby-reading. If I screw something up, please do call me on it! )
rivendellrose: (archaeological imagination)
Amazon tribe converts to atheism the missionary sent to convert them.

Okay, I admit - I was originally sucked in by the headline. How could I not be? But the rest of the article, if it is, in fact, accurate, has some truly fascinating implications in a more general anthropological context. I don't think I've ever heard of a human culture anywhere that didn't have either marriage or funerary rituals of some kind, nor of one that's completely lacking a creation myth. And linguistically... well, the claim is that "There are only 11 phonemes (speech sounds). There are no numbers, no words for colors. No words for please, thank you or sorry." And there's something in this that supposedly defies Universal Grammar? Okay, I admit it - I'm thoroughly flummoxed. The linguistic stuff sounds... probable, to me, without much experience (and without digging into the details), but the cultural stuff seems... exceedingly unusual, running to suspicious. I'll be doing a Google hunt of my own, as well as ordering this book from the library, but does anybody know anything about this culture / this guy straight out? Because it looks like a candidate for a modern-day Tasaday hoax to me... or, a little more generously, another mess like Margaret Mead in Samoa.

Wikipedia is no help, since it seems this Everett fellow is the only person they're quoting. And the tribe is down to 360 people. Always charming to know that we can knock a culture down to almost nothing and have only one man's word on anything about them. :P

Edited to add this link to a New Yorker article about the linguistic hubbub surrounding this whole thing. Still in the process of hunting references and so on, but will probably have to stop soon. Have emailed the linguist of the house to see what she thinks. ♥
rivendellrose: (archaeologists (the Doctor laughs at the)
Another wrinkle in efforts to figure out the exact story of Human evolution - turns out, Peking Man might have lived '750,000 years ago—200,000 years earlier than prior estimates.'

I'll have to look into the dating mechanism being used here - I'm not sure I knew about quartz-dating. If it's a relatively new method, there's still a possibility it might not be calibrated properly, but... hell, still an interesting detail. Especially since it actually neatly clears up some questions. As the article puts it, "It was always a bit puzzling as to why you'd have [Homo erectus subspecies like Peking Man] persisting until relatively late in continental Asia," she said, "when you didn't really see them persisting, for example, in Africa."

On a totally different archaeology note - here's a link to the discovery of human remains that were "treated for vampirism" in their own era - the skeleton of a woman from 17th (?) century Italy. I'm pretty sure the original article I read gave the date for the skeleton and noted that it was the earliest found so far, but... unfortunately, I can't seem to find that version of the story anymore. Either way, I was a bit surprised that the answer seemed to be sticking a brick in the body's mouth. Hadn't heard that one before.
rivendellrose: (Lucy Saxon - so you say...)
Headline on NPR.org: Study says Tolerance Can Lower Gay Kids' Suicide Risk.

In other news, rain is wet, fire is hot, and grass tends, when watered appropriately, to be green.

Brainlessly obvious excerpt: A new study suggests that parental acceptance, and even neutrality, with regard to a child's sexual orientation could have a big impact in reducing this rate.

Honestly. In what twisted, idiotic world can we actually call this news? Newsflash: If you tell your kids they're going to hell and throw them out of the house and things like that, they might kill themselves. If you can't figure this out on your own, you officially fail at not only parenthood but, in fact, sentient living. Please go back to the wet little pond of bacteria and start over from square one, dumb-asses. (For the record, I'm not really mad at NPR over this - I'm mad that they actually have to say it, because people are still such idiots that they won't accept their kids over something so gods-fucking-damned trivial.)

In news that annoys me only slightly less than NPR apparently feeling like they need to treat this study like some kind of flipping breakthrough, the guy sitting behind me at the library just farted. This is how I'm spending the extra hour I got by getting a ride home from work, everybody. Isn't life grand? :P
rivendellrose: (archaeological imagination)
If I see one more post on [livejournal.com profile] anthropologist from some idiot who can't figure out how to look up relevant books for an essay, I am leaving the community. I just can't stand the temptation to reply "And how long have you been alive without figuring out how to use a library catalog?"

Honestly, people. If posting to an online community is your best idea of how to find research materials, it's time to admit that you are not cut out for academia.

And, to make up for this little rant of mine, here's a cool link: Fossils of new species of ancient primate discovered in Texas.

Also? This is a bit embarrassing - here's all the states in the U.S. that I've been to.


visited 8 states (16%)
Create your own visited map of The United States or determine the next president

...Obviously, I don't travel much. >_>
rivendellrose: (archaeological imagination)
Just in case anybody sees it relinked on their news aggregators, let me be the first to say that this little news blurb about how it's anthropological fact that "female-dominated societies are violent" is a piece of idiocy. Now, I am NOT saying that female-dominated societies are peace-loving utopias, because that argument is just as much crap as the one propounded by this article. However, their "evidence" as stated in this little blurb sucks total ass.

Their argument is that the supposedly-peaceful bonobos (once known as pygmy chimpanzees, now recognized as a separate species from common chimps) "have been observed repeatedly hunting and killing other apes in the wild." Okay... and this says what about their society? Apes kill other apes. It's not murder, it doesn't even technically qualify as warfare (which apes also do, but that's an argument for another day), it's food and/or competition - they're different species.

The quote from the actual anthropologist who wrote this study (whose work I have not yet had a chance to read, so I don't know if his conclusions match the total bunk this little website is spouting) is as follows: "In chimpanzees, male-dominance is associated with physical violence, hunting, and meat consumption. By inference, the lack of male dominance and physical violence is often used to explain the relative absence of hunting and meat eating in bonobos. Our observations suggest that, in contrast to previous assumptions, these behaviors may persist in societies with different social relations." As near as I can tell, what the actual anthropologist is talking about here has nothing to do with the conclusions the website is drawing - all he's saying is that the former interpretation, that female-dominated societies would be peace-loving vegetarian utopias - is bunk. Which, begging his pardon, every anthropologist worth his or her salt already knew. If there's new evidence to add to the argument, it's not being brought out here.

The simple fact is that in a lot of traditional cultures, women have been instrumental in encouraging tribal and extra-familial violence. The classical literature is full of examples - Viking matrons and maidens shaming their sons and lovers into going to war, Roman matrons telling their sons to come home victorious or dead, and so on. The idea of one sex as inherently more peaceful than the other simply doesn't bear out from an overall anthropological perspective. It may be true in some cultures because of societal pressures for women to be retiring models of peaceful virtue, but in others the exact opposite is true.

...I'm going to go do my actual work, now. Ahem.
rivendellrose: (Gallifrey)
Current news in archaeology brings up an issue that's been bothering me for a long time. First the news. Archaeologists at a site first discovered in 1900 have found sophisticated tools linked to Neanderthals. This is a big deal because it's still more evidence that we've misunderstood Neanderthals since their discovery back in the 19th century - they were definitely not the stereotypical cavemen we all picture when we first hear the name, and it's looking more and more like they were anything but stupid. The question of how our closest cousin species disappeared is still a mystery, but we can be certain now that it wasn't because they were just lugs who couldn't figure out how to use technological means to keep up with us Humans.

And now, those of you who've read the subject-line of this post are thinking "okay, but... Weevils?"

I've got an analogy, and I'm not afraid to use it! )
rivendellrose: (seeress)
I've had some good feedback lately about my little forays into anthropology, so... I've decided to keep it up and see what comes, as often as I can. Today, I thought I'd share a few random thoughts on one of the human evolution via the controversies du jour - the status of Homo floresiensis, AKA the "Hobbits" of Flores Island.

Dem Bones, Dem Bones... )
rivendellrose: (seeress)
From the lovely roommate: Check number 15 on this list.

Anthropology. Is not. Really a career. Not. Repeat. NOT. That's like saying "Classics" is a career. It's like saying "Psychology" is a career. It doesn't work that way!

...Although apparently, if it did, I'd be making a hell of a lot of money. *Sighs* I wonder what the hell job they were looking at when they pulled that number out of their butts? Because if I knew what the job actually was, I might be interested in making it my eventual goal.

Clarification: because it seems I wasn't paying enough attention to what I wrote. I don't mean to say that any of the subjects listed above aren't viable choices. "Job" would be a better word than "career" - the list in the link above is for pay-rates at various jobs, things like "composer" or "set or exhibit designer." What I mean to say is that Anthropology, Classics, Psychology and things like that are subjects that one finds careers within, and so saying that an anthropologist makes 66k is entirely ludicrous, because there's no one career that falls under the term "Anthropologist" like there is for "Set Designer" or, to fit the examples I gave, Archaeologist, Professor, Cultural Consultant, and Clinical Psychiatrist. A subject isn't a career - they're not the same thing, as far as I take the words. Sorry to have accidentally offended anyone with my messed up wording.

Why do I not have some kind of "anthropology" icon? I guess this'll do...
rivendellrose: (dandelions)
Last night, on the way home from work, Kendra and I stopped off at Cedars for appetizers, chai, and some coconut-pistachio ice cream (yum!), then to Trader Joe's for groceries... and then to Half Price Books. I was absolutely fine at resisting everything (everything!), until we got to the anthropology section. Old ethnographies are my greatest weakness. I love them! I can't help it! And sure enough, I was weak. Despite the fact that I'm still picking through the ton of books my mom gave me, I now am the proud (if bemused and slightly terrified) owner of not one, not two, but three books on Gypsies / the Roma. And a book of articles on the anthropology of the supernatural. My two most insidious research hobbies of the moment.

I'm trying to convince myself this is okay - for one thing, it's my degree! I'm allowed to do compulsive research into subjects that fall within my degree! Because... it might lead to graduate work at some point... if I were somehow transported back to the seventies when these subjects were in vogue, whereas now they seem to be either completely forgotten or well-handled by established academics. I'm not bitter. Really. Because the other thing this kind of random-ass research is good for is the writing of fiction. As presumably distinct from fan fiction (we hope), and presumably at some point hopefully going to become my Calling in Life (tm). Or at least my 'thing I do to supplement my income and keep me from going totally bugfuck.'

Alas, I'm still lacking books on the specific angle I want to take this whole thing - I thought I'd gotten lucky last night, but it turned out that although the time period of the research was correct, it had been undertaken in the complete wrong hemisphere. Argh. That does me no good whatsoever. So I'm back to square one, pretty much. Maybe I'll stop by the UW library sometime this week and see what I can do about that. There has to be something out there. And if there isn't... then I guess I know that I'm meant to go back into anthro and do graduate research in it?

That alone ought to be enough to scare me into finding those books.

I have, however, written out the basic concept for a novel. *Gasp* Add this to the random science fiction plot that's been brewing in the back of my head, and the fact that I started (once again) reworking one of my old plots (this time on the assumption that maybe I was wrong about the POV and maybe it should be a short story instead of a novel)... and I think I might actually be getting back on my game with the whole original writing thing. Go me. And one of the books managed to save me from an embarrassingly misremembered word in the fic I've been writing (next time I do library research, remind me to take my notes in something easy to find, and do so in handwriting that's slightly more legible), so... it's all good?

Now if only I can actually write all the damned things I've got in my head.
rivendellrose: (Attention Plz)
Folks who are interested in the literary and anthropological issues and implications of the internet should read this conversational essay, which the lovely [livejournal.com profile] reve_lucide linked to. Fascinating stuff.
rivendellrose: (scully red)
Adding Simon Fraser University to my list of universities to be researched, purely because and article in their student newspaper turned up in my current random-obsessive research hobby. Vancouver is a good place.

On that note... For all that I love research, and adore the random avenues it leads me down, there are times when I'd give anything for just a plain old flat answer to something. This is why I like books. But anthropologists are fickle bastards, and something only holds their interest for about a ten year span, in which twenty or so books are published, followed quickly by a sucking vacuum in which, if one didn't know better, one would think the group in question fell off the face of the earth as soon as they were no longer being observed by a bunch of hippy grad students, except for some anecdotal evidence that everything the ethnologists said couldn't possibly have been accurate to begin with. Frigging hell.

Rule of ethnography: by the time the anthropologist gets their study published, the ethnography will be out of date, the people involved completely changed, and the readers totally confused about reality. Gods help the reader who picks up the book twenty years later in a desperate attempt to do some damned research.

Not like I'm bitter or anything. Not in the slightest.

Back to the Google mines.

Edit: Don't mind me - I'm just tired. The seminar went well today, but it was long and a lot of sitting in one very boring room, and a lot of brainstorming through past experiences, and other things that aren't particularly energizing. And I have a sinus thing, which is somehow making my neck hurt. Don't ask, I don't know. So... I'm kind of in a Mood at the moment, and my attempts to do a little fact-checking have so far been completely foiled by both basic library work (hence the bitching about old ethnographies) and internet work. Edit2: I swear, bitching on LJ is a magic formula for success. XD Son of Edit: I hate being compulsive about historical/sociological accuracy in my writing. Especially when the writer of the fandom I'm writing fic for has no such compulsions. It makes things so... complex.
rivendellrose: (Halloween)
To all those people who tell me "there's nothing interesting happening in the archaeology of Europe, everything's already been found!" Everything's already been found, huh? Yeah. Riiiiiight.

Laundry is happening. And I am full of contemplation on the nature of fandom (oddly, I just typo'd that as "random," which also definitely applies) and why we fall for the things we do, particularly when, if our brains happen to step back for a minute, we wonder "what the hell am I doing here?" And then the moment passes and back we go to blissfully bouncing along. Honestly, I think this happens with all kinds of people (sports fans, anyone?), but fandom-fandom is still new enough that it seems strange... even to those of us embroiled in it. We're usually the artsy-intellectual types (usually - I recognize that some fandom folks probably aren't), so we tend to do the artsy-intellectual types of things rather than... well, dressing up in metallic body paint and screaming for our team. Although some of us might do that, too. To each their own. ;)

The point is... why that one thing? And this is where I posit that the modern world is sorely lacking in mythology and heroes, and Fandom (capitalized in an attempt to include all its incarnations and derivations, including sports-worship, etc) replace those to some extent in our modern life. Not a new idea at all (thank you, Joseph Campbell), but if you think about the people who comment on fandom being treated as a religion, or on religion being treated as a fandom, it takes on new significance. Fandoms of all types are also our means of creating communities of like-minded people... to the point that I honestly am starting to think they should be studied as cultural communities on their own.

Anyway, random food for thought. Basically, me looking at fandom and thinking "it's a funny old world, isn't it? I guess I'd better write my Halloween fics."

Oh yeah. Also? My neck hurts. Where's that damned tiger balmn...

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