Monday, December 12, 2011


If you have been reading my blog for awhile or know me at all you know that I tend to find Anthropology in everything. Also if you know me even a little bit you know that I love movies. So it would make sense that I would find Anthropology in movies. One of my favorite movies and example of Anthropology in movies is Idiocracy.
Idiocracy is a movie that was released in 2006 in select theaters and didn't get much buzz about it. In fact I bet hardly any of you have heard of it. It was written and directed by Mike Judge, the creator of Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill. So right off the bat you're probably thinking it's some crude movie with bathroom jokes and objectifying woman. Well yes that is true on the surface but beneath it there is so much more.
It stars Luke Wilson as a Joe, literally an average Joe, who volunteers to participate in a military experiment that involves a hibernation process. Joe and a former prostitute go into hibernation but then the military forgets about them. They wake up 500 years into the future to find a world where everything has become insanely dumbed down. In this strange future Joe and the prostitute Rita have become the smartest people in the future and because of this draw major attention to themselves.
The movie continues with them getting arrested at one point, meeting a bunch of people along the way (and learning just how stupid America has become) all in search of trying to find a machine to take them back to their time. Now I won't ruin the movie for you because I want you to go out and see it but I do want to at least highlight some of the Anthropological topics in it.
First we have the concept that America is getting stupider and stupider. At the beginning of the movie the narrator starts talking about how the "dumb" people in society are procreating more and thus raising their children to be just as dumb and creating this huge chain and population growth. There is something to this logic I think to a certain degree.
The movie also addresses advertisement and the media and just how influential they become. In the movie everything is sponsored by something and people seem to do nothing but sit in front of the TV watching mindless shows about people getting injured. It goes into the concept of circular thinking and why people believe everything they hear. All in all it shows what path we may be on if we don't stop with the laziness.
This movie has a great theme behind it and the concept it phenomenal. Like I said it is a Mike Judge production so it does have its crude moment but if you don't mind that the core of the movie is great. If you want to learn more about it visit the IMDB page:

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Devolution of the Holidays

Yeah, yeah I know I haven't blogged in awhile but things have been super crazy lately! Work has been insane, the museum is getting ready to display a new exhibit and I'm in the process of moving into a new apartment. So yeah when it comes to having free time there isn't much to be had. When there is some to be had though I tend to want to veg out in front of the TV or go to the gym. Anyways that's not the topic of this blog post.

I'm sitting here at my boyfriend's as he's sick in bed and it's given me the free time to actually think and to write this blog post. See I started thinking about the Holidays. First off I was thinking how I haven't gotten any presents for hardly anyone yet and how much that is stressing me out. Then I started to think of how things were when I was little versus now.

When I was younger I remember having this amazing Thanksgiving dinner sitting around the table with family as we talked about how thankful we were for everything. Now it has devolved to us sitting around watching football and eating the meal before rushing off to all the other places that we will be going to. And this isn't just my family. There are a good majority of families who do this as well.

Then there is the issue of the stores. It used to be that hardly any stores were open on this day and now more and more are opened for at least a little bit. This then causes many of the employees there to have to work when they would be with their families instead. This year the big thing was the stores being closed during the day on Thanksgiving but then opening up at Midnight for the Black Friday sales. This then meant that people were rushing around from their family events to get there early (cause for Black Friday of course there was major set up involved) so that they could work insane hours to satisfy the consumers.

Christmas and the other Holidays have become the same way. Many of the big stores are open on or around Christmas. True they get their employees who don't celebrate the particular holiday at the time to work, but still people who do celebrate end up working as well. I remember on Christmas the only thing that was open was a small Deli near my house that was run by a Jewish family. I remember going there to get sandwiches (and my parents alcohol to take to the different parties we were going to) and that was the only place open around for miles.

Also what goes along with that is this constant need to keep pushing the holiday sales longer and longer. We saw it with Black Friday and the stores opening up earlier than usual but even before that we saw tons of Christmas decorations in the stores. Some stores started selling Christmas items right after Halloween. (and I won't even get started to how they seem to only cater to the Christmas season, that is a whole other issue in itself).

Then there's the decorating for Christmas itself. I remember my mom putting on our Bing Crosby Christmas album as we decorated with tinsel and small figurines around the house. We used to drive around looking for the perfect Christmas tree to fit in our house (my dad and brother always wanted the huge ones). Now we're lucky if we put a couple decorations up and we now have a fake tree. And once again this isn't just my family that does this.

What it boils down to is the big corporations wanting to capitalize on the Holidays and then Americans have circum to it. Also it seems that this devolution is a lot on the fault of the laziness of Americans. We want everything to be easy and convenient. Well sometimes they just can't be like that. I hope when I have a family that I never circum to "what is the easiest" solution when it comes to the Holidays or perhaps things in general.

Friday, October 21, 2011

I’m Still Here...

Yeah I know it’s been awhile since I last wrote a post but lately my life has been extremely busy but in a good way. I’ve been working like a maniac at my job as well as volunteering at the museum on both the Exhibits and Collections committee. On top of that I’m in the process of getting my book published and I have three publishers that are interested in it. Also my boyfriend has been teaching me how to play racquetball so I’ve been attempting to practice and get good at that (which has been interesting to say the least).

Needless to say my blogging has fallen to the wayside. This saddens me since my writing is my first passion in life. This though leads me to the second passion in my life that I recently had an epiphany about thus leading to me figuring out exactly what I want to do with my life. See my second passion is Museums Exhibits. I love taking research and ideas, putting them together and designing an exhibit so that everyone can share in the experience. THAT is what I want to be doing with my life. This epiphany came when I was with my boyfriend and friend in DC this past weekend. We wandered around a bunch of museums and I realized I wanted to be the one who’s name was on the exhibits.

So then the question is how do I get there? If you all have been following my life for the past year you will know that I have applied for at least 25 jobs at the Smithsonian and another 15 at other museums around the country. No dice obviously, so I landed my current job at a Government Contractor specializing in IT. Originally upon working for them I had seen the opportunity to go into the GIS field and promptly applied for the Master’s program at the University of Maryland. I then continued in my job which is mostly HR and Administrative Management and I was happy.

Then I started dating my current boyfriend and I saw him going through the same process that I did applying for jobs. He was ready, like I was, to take any job that wasn’t necessary in his field because well it was a job. Though he didn’t have to as he started to get interviews and talk to people in his field. He was pursuing his dreams and I’ll admit I was jealous. Here I was with a great job that’s in a great location, great pay, great people… but it wasn’t what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I felt like I was stuck that I wasn’t going anywhere.

That’s when I decided to take matters into my own hands and pursue my dream. This involved applying for my Masters in Museum Studies from John Hopkins University. The program is everything that I have ever wanted, including a two week stint working on a project at one of the Smithsonian Museums in DC. So yeah I’m pursuing my dreams now. Still working for my current company because I really do enjoy my job but now I feel like I’m working towards something now.

So what’s next for me? Well I will continue to work here, continue to volunteer at the museum, continue to work on my book all while waiting to hear back from John Hopkins to see if I got into the program. I finally feel like I am back on the path that I steered off of when pursuing my dreams. I also am going to try to devote more time to writing (both my blog posts and my stories) because that is my first passion in life. So thank you all for baring with me as I take this crazy journey and I promise to once again fill your heads with lots of fun anthropological knowledge!

Image Courtesy of

Monday, August 29, 2011

Anthropology in the Works of Whedon: Angel

Last week the post was all about Buffy the Vampire slayer and the anthropology that was behind that show. Angel happens to be a spinoff of that show and also happens to have even more anthropology in it then its predecessor. Now unlike Buffy I actually started watching Angel from the first season and all the way through to the end when it was on TV new. Though like Buffy it took me a little while to realize just how much there was behind the show.

In fact it took me until episode 6 of Season 3 (Billy) to realize just how much anthropology/philosophy and even evolution was in this show. The biggest difference between Angel and Buffy to me is that Buffy revolved around a group of teenagers who were working their way through high school (and later college) while fighting evil. Angel on the other hand was about the “real world” and how a vampire and his gang of investigators fit into that world. We see how Angel now deals with being in LA a city full of people and of course evil fiends. Angel is also a lot darker than Buffy was, both literally (since Angel can only go out at night) and figuratively.

Through the show Angel we get to see a side of him that we didn’t get in Buffy. We get to see farther into who Angel is a person and start to understand more about the darkness that he carries around with him. This then brings us to the first part of the anthropological themes in the show. As humans we have two main “drives” in us that have sparks countless movements: Redemption and Revenge. The show Angel is full of both of them.

We start with of course the obvious; Angel is cursed with a soul by gypsies and is forced to carry around the burden of remembering all the people that he tortured, raped and killed. Thus redemption comes in. He must redeem himself for all the bad things he did in the past so he turns and starts to help people thus Angel Investigations is born. Now Angel, like any other human (or well part human in his case) has the other side of that as well, the need for revenge. We see all different levels of revenge in the show from little things like him getting back at a vampire for killing a girl in an alley to the larger things like taking Revenge on Wolfram and Hart and Holtz for his sons dive into the Kortov. Angel isn’t the only one to have that revenge in him. We see it in every one of the characters from Gunn trying to avenge his sister’s death, Fred trying to get back at Professor Sidel for sending her to Pylea, Connor trying to get back at Angel for “killing” Holtz, etc.

The concepts of Revenge and Redemption then bring a very human element to the show that draws the reader in and makes them feel like the show is real. Some other concepts that Angel also touches on are Love and Loss. These again are two very human elements that even Angel being partially human has. On the flip side of that, we get re-introduced to Angelus (which we met in 2nd season of Buffy) through both the flash backs but also when he is brought back during 4th season. We get to see then the soulless animal that is Angelus and the anthropological/philosophical questions are raised such as: Are Angel and Angelus two different people? Is the soul purely Angel and the being purely Angelus? Which one is wearing the mask in this scenario? These are all questions that have been discussed extensively among the writer and especially among the fans.

Now we come to the most anthropological part of Angel (at least in my opinion) the presence of the character of Billy. Billy first shows up in the episode “That Vision Thing” (Season 3 episode 2) as a young man banished to a hell dimension for the horrible works he has done. Angel then is blackmailed by Wolfram and Hart to break Billy out of this hell dimension. Wolfram and Hart uses Cordy as leverage to get Angel to do this and since he is who he is, breaks the kid out with no hesitation. For the next couple episodes we don’t hear anything from Billy but there is a lingering that he is going to pop back up and cause mayhem. And that he does, tenfold.

See Billy has this special “power;” he touches a man and that man then goes ape-shit on any women in the vicinity. This then leads to the question if he is actually using his powers to do something to these men or if he is bringing out some kind of “primordial misogyny” within them. This then leads to the whole idea of evolution and whether or not mean always had this “primordial misogyny” in them and they either evolved out of it or if it just laid dormant in them. Either way it is something primal that is being brought out of these men that they have an instinct to attack the women who should be subservient to them in their eyes.

What is interesting about these two ideas is that the different charcaters have different ideas. Angel explains to Cordy why the touch didn’t affect him because of the fact that he is in fact a vampire, thus his humanity and subsequent misogyny isn’t there. On the flipside at the end Fred talks to Wes who is convinced it was something inside of him though Fred assures him that it was “Something that was done to [him].” So once again we have those two separate ideas of what really triggered it.

Those were just some examples of the Anthropology of Angel, I could go on and on but there is only so much that you guys will want to read on my blog. For more of the in depth study of Angel join us tonight for the Season 1, episode 1 watch and tweet on twitter. Make sure you are following @whedony and using the #whedony hashtag. See you there!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Anthropology in the Works of Whedon: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

In a time where what passes for good television is housemates getting drunk and hitting on anything that moves, High Schoolers randomly breaking into song, countless contests of singing and dancing, and overly romantic vampire dramas it is hard to remember that there are actually shows out there that have depth. There are very few shows over the years that I actually love to the point where I could watch them over and over and talk about for hours. As it turns out that majority of those shows (well really all but two) were created by Joss Whedon who is my eyes is a god.

So what is it about Whedon’s shows that appeal to me so much? Well you could probably guess that they all have anthropological and philosophical themes that run through them. It is true that perhaps I over analyze things but in some cases it is impossible not to see these themes in his shows. They are all at their core about humanity (and in some cases lack thereof) and what that concept means. All of Whedon’s shows really ask that question: What does it mean to be a person and what makes a person the way they are? Whedon takes us through twists and turns, into areas of white, grey and the blackest black, and ultimately makes us question the humanity in ourselves.

My love affair with the works of Whedon started, like many, when I was younger and started watching Buffy. Now when Buffy actually first aired I was six so I really didn’t start watching it when it was new until 3rd season when I was older. Though even from a young age I realized that there was something more to this show than just a teenage girl running around killing vampires (even though of course that was badass). Of course it wasn’t until much later that I really started going back to watch the episodes carefully to understand what they really about (and listened to the commentary to help me get into Joss’ mind more).

Buffy I believe appeals to the youth in all of us. Here was this high school that was situated on a hell mouth where all kind of things that go bump in the night manage to find their way to. So we take this concept of high school and it actually becomes “Hell” emulating what many of us experienced when were in school. There also is the concept of closeness and family and what that really means. There is this running theme that family goes deeper than just blood as we see with Buffy’s gang endearingly called “The Scoobies.”

As the show Buffy progresses there are many instances of love, loss, heartbreak, death and everything in between. As Buffy grows and learns more about who she is as the Slayer the show actually grows with her and at some points even plunges into that black with grey along the way. It grows beyond a teenage “coming of age” show into a study of what happens once you enter into the real world when the real world is full of evil supernatural fiends.

Also like with any show about vampires there’s this idea of souls and what exactly a soul is. Obviously vampires are soulless killing machines but then we have Angel (and later Spike) who are vampires that are re insouled and thus feel all the horrible deeds they’ve done in the past. Despite the obvious we also have other characters that have souls but still find themselves in those shades of grey and in the case of Willow even black.

This idea of souls leads into a much deeper discussion that actually tonight is being discussed at the weekly “Whedony” discussion on twitter at 9pm ET. If you all would like to join in I will be hosting it. Follow @whedony on twitter and use the hashtag #whedony with your responses so that they will be searchable. Also the next couple of blog posts will be on the other whedony shows which will also be discussed at tonight’s Whedony. The next post will be an overview on Angel which is a spinoff off of Buffy.

Image Courtesy of Warner Bros

Friday, August 5, 2011

Anthropology of Shark Week

Yes you heard me correctly; this post is in fact about Shark Week. You may be wondering why exactly I’m talking about sharks when Anthropology is the study of people but bear with me you’ll get it in a second. This past week was in fact shark week and in case I forgot all I had to do was stick my head out of the window of my office and look down the block to see the giant shark busting out of the Discovery Channel building.

So why is Shark week so huge (literally and figuratively)? I mean this week I couldn’t go on twitter or facebook without coming across posting about shark week. Many people across the country were glued to their couches as they watched hours upon hours of shark shows. So why are sharks so enthralling? I mean we don’t see Discovery featuring a “Tiger Week” or an “Elephant Week.” No it’s specifically sharks that people are devoting their weeks to. What is it about these creatures that draw people in? Well think about it a predator that lurks beneath the ocean just waiting for prey as then suddenly they attack.

Heck why do you think the movie Jaws did so well? The shark isn’t just an ordinary fish; it’s a symbol of mystery and intrigue. Even now with shark shows and scientists working to find out more and more about sharks they remain pretty elusive. It isn’t like other animals that can be plucked from the wild and studied they are hard to catch and hard to study. This being said it is interesting also to note that sharks have been around for thousands upon millions of years (depending on which scientists you talk to). They have survived this long without much evolution because they’re perfectly engineered for what they do.

There are many cultures around the world that both greatly fear and worship the shark. Many Polynesians worship the shark-god and place offerings in the ocean for him. So what about the shark makes it so magnificent and in some cases divine? Well we then go back to the shark being elusive and mysterious. As a society we mostly have a fear of the unknown and the shark swimming around in the water below you unnoticed ready to attack at any time is the ultimate unknown. Thus like many things in our society that we fear we have to showcase it.

How better to showcase it then to create an entire week dedicated to shows that share more knowledge about sharks, sharks and more sharks. The stories of survival, of attack, of mystery are all so thrilling to us and the fact that they are all about sharks is thrilling to us. They are beautiful majestic creatures that are also one of the deadliest on earth. It’s that paradox that will continue to entertain the masses for decades to come.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Audits, Atavism and Affinity

Yes, yes I know again with the alliterations, but hey I’m a sucker for a good literary device (used correctly of course). These words though as dissimilar as they may seem all serve purpose in this blog post; one leads to the other. It all started with the first word in the title: Audit. Now you’re probably thinking why the hell is an anthropologist talking about audits, especially this anthropologist who never took one business class in her life? Well first off, good question and second this was the starting point to this whole saga that has been on my brain lately. I will then start at the beginning.
It is important to note first of all that I work for a government contracting firm and per working with the Government we have to be ISO certified. To be ISO certified you have to go through this long audit process. So for the past month my supervisor and I have been scrambling to get all of our contracts, strategies, org charts, HR files, accounting manuals, etc all ready for the audit. All of this was leading up to Wednesday when the auditor came in. He was very friendly and he immediately warmed up to all of us but perhaps a little too much. He wouldn’t stop talking. A total of 9 hours he was there and I’d say for about 5 hours of that he was just shooting the breeze about any topic under the sun.
Now don’t get me wrong, any of you who know me know that I love talking with anyone about pretty much anything. So you know if I say that this guy talked too much that he TALKED TOO MUCH! Intermingled with all the chatting about who the Redskins were trading, the debt ceiling and his daughter going off to college we actually got some anthropological topics in. We started to talk about technology and how technology was seemingly taking over the world. Now of course I engaged him in this conversation for a bit before stating “Well I could go on about this forever but let’s get back to business.” We then got some business done but of course he was back to talking about the new Chevy he bought and government subsidies.
You get the point then, he talked a lot and it was perhaps one of the longest times I’ve ever just sat in a conference room. The funny part is though that he found his way into my blog even with being an irritation. The talk about technology got me thinking about a blog post I wrote back in March called Anthropological Perspective on the Media in which I talk about how as a society we are so reliant on technology for everything that if we were to have some large nuclear event that wiped out all the computers in the world there would be no imprint of us. Of course I brought up this idea when talking to the auditor and he whole heartedly agreed with me.
Technology has been both our curse and are gift. Information can now be found so fast, you can communicate with people in ways you could never before and records can be kept more easily. On the flipside books are starting to become obsolete (which as a writer really saddens me), newspapers and other news sources aside from websites are becoming less popular and people are communicating more but actually interacting less. The latter part then brings me to the next word: Atavism.
Now for those of you who don’t know, atavism is another word for regression. With technology we are regressing as a species even though as a society we seem to be progressing. My go to example for this phenomenon happens to come from a movie which I actually don’t like very much as a movie, but as an anthropological study is ingenious. I’m talking of course about 2001: A Space Odyssey. The whole concept of this movie is evolution both of man and of technology. The movie starts out with a bunch of apes circling around this monolith that shows up. The apes are confused grunting at each other and trying to communicate what is going on but it is hard since they have yet to develop actually speech.
Then the movie fast forwards to 2001 (which for a movie that was made in 1968 is the distant future) where technology has overtaken man and it becomes a race between man and computer to obtain this very same monolith that now is on the moon. In the process man has become cut off from other men due to the computers. This movie then shows a regression back to the days where men were still apes trying to grunt to speak with each other but instead of speech being the issue technology is. This of course leads us to the last word: Affinity.
What is affinity you ask? Put simply it is connection between two or more individuals; connection that we are now losing because of technology. Now with texting, emailing, facebook, twitter and all the other social media devices we don’t ever have to actually see a person to correspond with them. In fact I have been equally guilty of this as anyone. Last summer I lived with my roommate in a two bedroom apartment and there were many a times that we would text the other to see if they were awake, wanted food, wanted to go out, etc. We could’ve just as easily gotten up and walked the five feet to the other’s room. Technology has made us impersonal.
There is however another side to this affinity. Technology has actually helped us connect more in some cases than we ever could before with people we would never meet if it wasn’t for that. The greatest example is twitter (since you all know that I am a twitter addict). For me twitter is a place that I have met tons of people who live all around the world that have my same interests. These are people who I would’ve never had the chance to meet before twitter and other social media. Even this very blog couldn’t be produced without the aid of technology.
So am I telling you to get rid of all technology? No of course not, gods know I couldn’t survive without it. What I’m hoping is that this will make you think about it more and use other avenues than strictly technological ones to communicate, gather information, read, etc. There needs to be a balance like in everything else, balance that the auditor was severely lacking the other day. Now we have come full circle in this little saga here which as you know always continues and will never reach a stopping point just as technological advances will also.

Image from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick