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November 25, 2005

New Book: Engaging Anthropology

There's a new book coming out called Engaging Anthropology, written by Thomas Hylland Eriksen. You can read the entire first chapter on his website here. The book is a critique of anthropology for not becoming the "universal intellectual discipline" that we should be. I tentatively agree with this, but I'll have to read the whole book before I see if he's accurate or completely off base. The price tag of $89.95 (Amazon.com price) will keep me waiting for the paperback. Ironic, isn't it? A book critiquing anthropology's lack of public discourse going for almost a hundred bucks...

Posted by Will at 11:44 PM | Comments (2)

November 21, 2005

Bush in Mongolia

There's a great piece in the NY Times today about the President in Mongolia, where he "immersed" himself in the local culture.

Posted by Will at 03:53 PM

November 20, 2005

Whatever gets you through the night...

...besides caffeine, E.B. Banning (of U. of Toronto)’s Writing Archaeological Essays and Theses. Ironically, I came across this website while procrastinating. It’s easily the most useful shortlist of paper-writing tips that I’ve read and it’s specifically tailored to archaeology. So, if anyone was wondering what I’ve been staring at blankly for several minutes at a time over the past two days, now you know. My favorite tip: "Keep it simple and concise. Verbosity does not impress me", which has been the mantra of my own professor this semester. Methinks this has something to do with the fact that the longer an archaeologist is reading (or listening to) a boring, drawn-out paper the longer he or she must wait until the next cocktail.

Posted by Will at 09:55 PM

Forms of Address

Another short paper written for the undergraduate linguistics course I'm taking:

The discussion in Salzmann 2004 about forms of address and greeting reminded me of something that I became aware of only after I began pursuing my interest in higher education and the politics of graduate school. How students address one another and how students and professors address each other can be as complex as any other dimension of personal interaction in professional versus non-professional contexts. This brief paper will highlight my experience with formal and informal forms of address and greeting.

All throughout high school and undergraduate most individuals are conditioned to maintain a degree of respect in the classroom by referring to their instructor with a title followed by a last name (e.g. Mrs. Smith or Dr. Smith). All throughout undergraduate I addressed my professors as Dr. [preferred last name]. I have never had a problem with this and in fact I felt most comfortable referring to my instructors in this way. There was a degree of mutual respect that called for the student to address the professor by a title.

When I entered graduate school I was able for the first time to refer to two of my professors by their first names. Even so, this did not come about immediately and it was only after a firm ground on which to establish both professional and personal relationships was established. When I applied to USF, I referred to both individuals by a title and their last name in my initial correspondence with them. Undoubtedly if I had immediately began using their first name only (which I that point I didn’t even consider as an appropriate option) there would have been a sense of awkwardness from the start. Eventually I had contact with both professors outside of a classroom setting. This alternate setting was one that I was previously only acquainted with in the context of interactions with my peers. I observed my new friends (fellow students, who had known both professors for some time) referring to them by their first name and this indicated to me that it was indeed appropriate for me to do the same because I had been accepted into this circle of relationships defined by both professional and personal interactions.

There are many factors that I feel shape the contexts in which a student refers to his or her professor by a first name only or a title and a last name. The first factor has to do with how well acquainted the two individuals are. Obviously, when you (a student) first meet a professor in an academic setting you will show respect by using a title and last name. This may or may not change over time. Secondly, the terms of the relationship can be indicative of when it is appropriate to use a certain form of address. If you only have contact with a professor in a classroom setting I feel there is a lesser chance that that personal, informal relationship will form. Conversely, if you socialize with the professor outside the classroom and participate in activities that promote a different kind of relationship, one more casual, the likelihood of a shift in form of address is greater (although not implied or inevitable). This brings me to my final point: the age of the two individuals will have much to do with the level of interaction outside of the classroom. Broadly put, if the student and the professor are closer in age and that age is of a generation characterized by casual student-professor relationships then an address form shift is more likely.

This brief paper has outlined the nature of the types of relationships that can be forged between university or graduate level student and professor and how the former address the latter in different contexts. It is my opinion that forms of address as described by Salzmann are rich linguistic indicators of degrees and varieties of social relationships.

Reference cited: Salzmann, Zdenek. Language, Culture, and Society, Third Edition. 2004. Westview: Boulder.

Posted by Will at 05:20 PM

Which action hero am I?

Apparently I am most like Maximus from Gladiator. I was expecting Indiana Jones for obvious reasons, but Maximus isn't bad either (Gladiator is one of my top 5 favorite movies)...although I'm not as, shall we say, bold as he is. I dig his whole philosophy throughout the movie though.

See below the fold for the graph and how to take the test yourself...

You scored as Maximus. After his family was murdered by the evil emperor Commodus, the great Roman general Maximus went into hiding to avoid Commodus's assassins. He became a gladiator, hoping to dominate the colosseum in order to one day get the chance of killing Commodus. Maximus is valiant, courageous, and dedicated. He wants nothing more than the chance to avenge his family, but his temper often gets the better of him.

Maximus

71%

Lara Croft

67%

James Bond, Agent 007

58%

Indiana Jones

54%

William Wallace

54%

Captain Jack Sparrow

50%

The Amazing Spider-Man

42%

The Terminator

42%

Batman, the Dark Knight

38%

Neo, the "One"

33%

El Zorro

21%

Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0
created with QuizFarm.com

Posted by Will at 03:01 PM

November 18, 2005

Caffinated Study Break

I'm hopped up on a Venti (extra large) Starbuck's coffee at the moment to get me through a few hours of reading for my paper(s). Bloggers with a future urge caution about posting while drunk...what about posting while caffine is pumping through your veins causing you to read entire chapters without blinking once?

I spent $40 on a webcam for profound shots like this?...

223632.jpg

Posted by Will at 10:38 PM

November 17, 2005

Why I Love It

As my first semester as a graduate student is coming to a close, I am reminded of why I decided to attend in the first place: I am addicted to research and writing. I am not talking necessarily about the acquisition of knowledge or simply getting smarter, although that is a big part of it. Instead, I literally enjoy the activity of hunting down material, reading it, and being able to understand what is being discussed. It’s sort of like “research archaeology.” I have probably about 15 books checked out from the library and just as many journal articles that will be the basis of my three papers this semester. It’s so much to read and digest which makes it daunting, but the feeling of being humbled by other research and standing on the shoulders of giants it what is addicting. I suppose I enjoy the feeling I get every time I read something and realize that there’s no way that I’ll ever run out of things to learn and that I have a very real opportunity to contribute. Maybe there’s a part of me that wants to publish the next ground-breaking ideas about the Maya; something never before realized. Some archaeologists secretly dream about finding that one artifact or site that will make their career but I dream about paradigm shifts and frameworks. I like to think I would have the ability to keep my ego in check and remain humble, but how easy could that be if you come up with a new way of viewing the past and it just happens to be accepted by the field?

Posted by Will at 08:35 PM

November 15, 2005

Disney World: The "Train Wreck" of Anthropology

My girlfriend came to Tampa to visit me this weekend and among other things, we ventured over to Orlando for my very first Disney World experience (her fourth). We decided to start at the Epcot park because it had alot of the “nerd stuff” that she thought I would enjoy. Everything was open by 10am and by then roughly two thirds of the United States had descended upon Walt Disney World. Part of Epcot is divided into representations of different countries of the world, including Italy, Canada, Switzerland, England, etc. We ate lunch in Morocco at a really neat restaurant complete with live music and a belly dancer. It was straight out of a James Bond film. The centerpiece of the Mexico section was a laughable Aztec temple which you could go inside where there was, you guessed it, a gift shop selling oversized sombreros (among other things). They did have a floating ride that gave the “history” of Mexico that seemed generally accurate but somewhat dramatized for obvious reasons. My favorite “ride” was called Spaceship Earth, which was essentially a 20-minute train ride through human history as told by animatronics with really bad lip-synching capabilities. It was still pretty amazing and if you squinted your eyes and tilted your head just so you almost felt like you were actually there at various milestones in human history. I shook my head in despair at the “caveman” portion of the ride, where the robotic cave dweller literally said something along the lines of “umm bulla bulla.” At least they didn’t show him beating a dinosaur with a huge bone.

We also visited the MGM Studios park and finally the Magic Kingdom (the one with Tinkerbell’s castle). At the latter park my favorite ride was Pirates of the Caribbean, which had over-the-top animatronics and special effects. Not so much a thrill ride, we simply floated through various pirate scenes. Overall a great experience and worth my 35% Florida resident discount (I would never pay full price to see a robotic caveman chant unintelligible utterances over a fake fire).

I leave you with (sadly) the most memorable spot in Disney World, the Fez House located in Morocco.

IM001717.JPG

Posted by Will at 12:38 AM

November 09, 2005

More on the History of the World

One of the most interesting (and saddening) stories of the Iraq War has been the looting and decimation of Iraq's archaeological materials, much of which constitutes the history of civilization. The thought of loosing this history scares me more than anything and the future is not looking too bright. The truly sad thing is that looting of archaeological sites and museums is a crime perpetuated not only by a demand for exotic and beautiful pieces but the socioeconomic situation of the looters themselves. If you could steal an old beat-up vessel and sell it on the antiquities market and as a result feed your family for the rest of your life, you would be crazy not to take the opportunity. I believe there is a difference between unscrupulous antiquities collectors/traffickers and poor Iraqi citizens fatigued by the constant war, just looking to get by. Does it need to be stopped? Of course. But there will need to be many changes and much progress in Iraq before a dent is made in looting activity.

Posted by Will at 08:07 AM

November 04, 2005

Taking it on the road

I'm sitting here at Tampa International, surprised they have free wireless internet. Doesn't everything cost something in this country? I'm flying up to D.C. for a cousin's wedding/family reunion. Most of the family I'll be seeing I haven't seen since I was little. I'm looking forward to throwing down with the gang. Of course all of this means that little to no work will get done this weekend. I tried to get ahead this past week with limited success. One of three papers is due in a little under four weeks but the more I think about it, the more I feel that I would write a better paper the week before than this far in advance (they're "only" ten-pagers).

The lady is coming down next Wednesday from North Carolina. More excuses not do be a good graduate student and stay on top of all my work:) I find that staying organized, which is easy and requires little brainpower, is the key. I only brought one book with me: Charles Mann's 1491 about the Pre-Columbian Americas. And yes, for pleasure.

Posted by Will at 08:43 AM

November 01, 2005

North vs. South

Here is a short paper that couldn't be more than two pages, so it's sort of abrupt at the end.

In thinking about personal experiences with concepts in linguistic anthropology, I am reminded of my experience with regionally-defined English dialects, or accents. Most Americans are undoubtedly aware that variations in accents exist in the United States but there seems to be a surprisingly low number of people who have had one-to-one interactions with a member of another accent group. This observation is based on my own experiences. The most drastic and obvious differences in regional dialects are between northeastern states and southeastern states (North and South). More specifically, citizens of the states of New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts have a unique accent that differs greatly from what is found in my home state of North Carolina. It should be noted that in this paper, I generalize New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts accents as “northern” while those found in the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, parts of the Virginias, and Appalachian region of the US are generalized as “southern.” These are of course more specific variations that can be drilled down within the traditional northern/southern dichotomy that may or may not be apparent to an outsider. I believe, however, that a broad division between northern and southern accents serves my purposes here. Finally, northern and southern accents can be observed in all parts of the country independent of place of origin of the individual.

My personal experience with these regional accents has to do with my travels between and within the southern states and parts of the northern states mentioned above. Born in Houston, Texas, I consider North Carolina my home state because I have lived there for the majority of my life and am thus influenced more by North Carolinian culture and ways of life. I was raised in the semi-metropolitan town of Winston-Salem, home to the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and birthplace of NASCAR. North Carolina’s own unique brand of southern culture permeates many aspects of life in Winston-Salem and what is called the Piedmont (the area between the mountains and coast). A short drive in any direction will yield further variation in this culture. Dialectally, North Carolina does have variation within the state. Unfortunately, living most of my life in two parts of the state renders me incapable of distinguishing between these variations in any meaningful way (basically, I know it when I hear it but have trouble describing it).

As with anyone who has lived in one region of the United States for the majority of his or life, I was and still am firmly engrained with the customs and way of speaking that is characteristic of North Carolina. So when I took my first trip north of Pennsylvania back in the summer of 2003 I was able to experience not only a different way of speaking but a completely foreign way of life. I was traveling with my then-girlfriend, who was born and raised in Massachusetts. Our ultimate destination was Mansfield, Massachusetts, a small town that could be considered a suburb of Boston. We were there to see my favorite band perform at the large outdoor venue there. Once we passed Maryland and drove through Pennsylvania I began to notice a difference in the way people talked. This was not a surprise to me as I was familiar with the divisions of accentual variation but it was simply something I noticed. Not only did people in this part of the country speak with a much different accent, they acted differently than what I was accustomed to. It turned out to be my first experience with the strongly-defined division between “northern” and “southern” accents.

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Posted by Will at 02:22 PM