Monday, December 17, 2012

rock song of USA, Japan cliches

Here is a highly polished, context-free, series of icons and stereotypes presented in the form of a music video from USA expat in Japan, A. York.

The presentation includes a playful, self-aware, ironic or parodic dimension.
But as an example of a Cultural Production, it is heavily laden with popular, commercial or commoditized meanings.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Mayan calendar talk, end of 2012 viewpoint

Friday, November 30, 2012

small town photo albums online - social analysis & visual anthro fodder?

Comes from the weekly online newspaper, The St. Johns Independent, or sjindy.
Citizen reporters supply some of the photo sets.
And while there is little context or captioning, still there is some social & cultural information that can be extracted from these sources.
To locate this county seat in middle Michigan, USA, map search by postal (Z.I.P.) code 48879.
The population is about 7,000 and in 2006 it celebrated 150 years since its foundation in 1856.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Egyptian Archaeology, podcast 'academic minute'

In today's Academic Minute, the University of Toronto's Mary-Ann Pouls Wegner describes some recent finds from an archaeological excavation in Abydos, Egypt. Wegner is assistant professor of Egyptian archaeology in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at Toronto. She also serves at Project Director for the North Abydos Votive Zone Project. Find out more about her here. A transcript of this podcast can be found here.

Read more: 
Inside Higher Ed 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

archeology from satellites

In today's Academic Minute, Jason Ur of Harvard University explains how archaeologists are using declassified satellite images to locate previously unknown ancient sites. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


Friday, March 30, 2012

languages live and die

Recent feature stories on (Internet audio & transcripts) Radio:

There are some 7,000 spoken languages in the world, and linguists project that as many as half may disappear by the end of the century. That works out to one language going extinct about every two weeks. Now, digital technology is coming to the rescue of some of those ancient tongues. [4/2011]
Manuel Segovia and Isidro Velazquez are the only two people in the world who still speak Ayapaneco. This centuries-old language of Mexico is in danger of becoming extinct, and yet, the two aren't talking. An anthropologist working on a dictionary with the two aging men described Segovia as a "little prickly" and Velazquez as "more stoic."

Shoshone is one of many American Indian languages that is in danger of becoming extinct. But 10 Shoshone high school students from rural Idaho, Utah and Nevada hope to become future guardians of the language. This summer, they're spending six weeks at the University of Utah for the Shoshone Youth Language Apprenticeship Program.

A study based supported by the National Geographic Society and the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages identifies regions around the world where languages are dying. We hear some words from these disappearing languages.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

music class - bringing in diverse human experiences

While visiting a high school choir class, the anthropologist in me found ways to introduce vocal art to illustrate some of the variety of music expression. Surely there are more or better references to sample, but these came first to mind:

-(Japan) Noh theater solos
-(Polynesia? Micronesia?) hymn in quarter tones
-(Swiss; USA) yodeling
-(USA) work songs to synchronize group exertions
-(USA) Sacred Harp (shape note singing) in hollow square
-(USA) rapping (cf. Bobby McFerrin vocal percussion)
-(USA) vocal jazz 'scat singing'
-(Scotland) mouth music (imitating instruments)
-(ancient Britain) slaves brought to Imperial Rome: novelty of singing in 3rds
-(Bulgaria) women's chorus singing in 9ths and 7ths
-(Central Asia) Tuva "throat singing"
-song circles for healing
-(India) mantra repetitions

These could be extra-credit assignments for students to report to the class (or in writing to the teacher), for the teacher to playback samples (Wikipedia; Wikimedia), to demonstrate and challenge students to produce each of these.

Why don’t other animals produce or consume such things as dance, music, visual art...

Humans feel motivated to create and consume many artistic forms. Why don't other animals produce or consume such things as dance, music, visual art, verbal arts of story and lyric and declamation?


Recognizing patterns and relationships, then applying ones known by experience to new material is something that characterizes human minds and hearts. In abstract terms this search for meaning is an extension from the core motivation in spoken (and thus also written) language. For some reason a given musical phrase, movement sequence, or choice of words stands out in a person's mind. It "means" something or resonates with a feeling or concept in one's own mind, as yet perhaps not articulated into a definite form. The artist answers a specific itch by producing sequences of pattern and meaning. The audience may dwell on a novel piece of work to grasp it, or in dim recognition of knowing it from another place or medium. Alternatively the audience may be actively seeking something to touch the itch they feel, and therefore browse rapidly through the works until they find something partly or fully connected to the meaning they are seeking. In the case of visual arts, the elements of composition, light, texture, narrative (intertexuality) or context could spark the feeling of recognition and personal meaning attached to the work. In other words the meaning can be perceived indirectly, incidentally and thus unintentionally.