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April 22, 2007

Austin city limits

My iPod is loading with ZZ Top as we speak. On Tuesday two friends and I hit the road bound for Austin for the 72nd meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, where I'll be giving a paper on Sunday morning about the Mesoamerican Imaging Project. Besides North Carolina, I can't think of a place I'd rather be right now than Austin, and I haven't even been there before. The main reason is because it's over 1,000 miles from Tampa. It's also the live music capital of the world, and I hope to check out a show or two at Stubb's or Emo's, two legendary venues that have hosted 99% of my favorite bands at one time or another. It's also my state of birth, and I'd imagine part of me is subconsciously drawn to my roots. Although I'm escaping the clutches of Florida for a brief moment, school work continues and I'll be churning out a 20-pager by Thursday and the majority of a poster project. I'm thinking a change in venue will spark my, shall we say, "intellectual creativity" and help me bring this semester to a close.


Posted by Will at 09:23 PM

April 08, 2007

A classical musician walks into a subway station...

Everyone should read a story published today in the Washington Post, both for its entertainment value and what it says about our society and human nature. It's a sociological experiment of sorts involving Joshua Bell, a violist who has been described as a musical genius. He's sold out concert halls at $100 a seat and plays a $3.5 million violin manufactured in 18th century Italy. The Post, equipped with hidden cameras, plopped a plain clothed Josh in the entry way of a D.C. Metro station, and observed what happened:

bell.jpgIt was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by. Almost all of them were on the way to work, which meant, for almost all of them, a government job. L'Enfant Plaza is at the nucleus of federal Washington, and these were mostly mid-level bureaucrats with those indeterminate, oddly fungible titles: policy analyst, project manager, budget officer, specialist, facilitator, consultant.
Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he's really bad? What if he's really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn't you? What's the moral mathematics of the moment?
On that Friday in January, those private questions would be answered in an unusually public way. No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made. His performance was arranged by The Washington Post as an experiment in context, perception and priorities -- as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?

Read the full story here.

Posted by Will at 02:23 PM | Comments (2)

April 07, 2007

Happy Easter

One of the great archaeological mysteries solved:


Found on Daryl Cagle's Professional Cartoonists Index.

Posted by Will at 10:50 AM

April 06, 2007

North Carolina moves forward

From the New York Times:

The State Senate expressed regret for the practice of slavery and apologized for official actions that promoted legalized discrimination over four centuries. “When you dehumanize a human being, it’s one of the worst things that you can do,” Senator Larry Shaw, Democrat of Fayetteville, said before senators unanimously approved a symbolic resolution. The resolution acknowledged the state’s “profound contrition for the official acts that sanctioned and perpetuated the denial of basic human rights and dignity to fellow humans.” The resolution now goes to the House. Maryland lawmakers approved an apology for slavery last week, and lawmakers in Georgia and Missouri are considering similar legislation. In February, the Virginia General Assembly voted unanimously to express its regret for that state’s role in slavery.

Interestingly enough, I'm reading a novel called Sands of Pride by William Trotter, which is set during the Civil War in Wilmington, NC where I went to undergrad. I wanted to read it because it's partly based on real events such as battles at Fort Fisher and events at actual homes in the downtown area, so I figured it would be neat to be able to recognize actual places. It was strange to read accounts of slave auctions that occurred right were I used to bar hop.

More details at the Raleigh N&O.

Posted by Will at 09:05 AM

April 05, 2007

Public Archaeology contract at Binghamton U.

To answer the question of "what is archaeology really like?" comes this story out of New York. Via EurekAlert:

Binghamton University's Public Archaeology Facility receives major state contract
The Public Archaeology Facility at Binghamton University, State University of New York, has won a new state contract worth up to $20 million over five years to inspect prospective Department of Transportation project sites.
The Public Archaeology Facility, or PAF, an organized research center at Binghamton University, has a long history of working on transportation projects and, in fact, is wrapping up work on a similar five-year contract, said Nina Versaggi, PAF director and adjunct associate professor of anthropology. With help from three subcontractors, PAF will conduct archaeological surveys assigned to it by the New York State Museum in Albany.
The archaeologists will examine 100-150 project sites throughout the state each year. Each location can go through as many as three phases. During the first phase, archaeologists do a systematic spot-check using small test excavations.
"We have to answer the questions 'Is there an archaeological site present or not,' and 'Is there significant historical architecture or not?'" Versaggi explained.
If so, the review continues with a second, more thorough excavation designed to establish whether the site is eligible for inclusion on either the state or national registers of historic places. The archaeologists prepare a report in which they argue for or against the site's potential to yield valuable research data.
If the experts indicate a site has archaeological significance, the DOT then looks for alternative project sites. If none can be found, the archaeologists return for a third phase in which they excavate the site to recover data before construction.
The archaeologists frequently consult with American Indian groups, historical societies, property owners and others who may have information about the history of a given site. Recent projects have led archaeologists to revise the long-established chronology for the region. New sites and radiocarbon dates have identified the earliest camps in the region and have produced research on continuity and discontinuity in American Indian land use, as well as documentation of diverse historic settlements, Versaggi said.

Link: Public Archaeology Facility at Binghamton University

Posted by Will at 01:19 PM

The dance is over: Ahmadinejad's "gift"

I was intrigued by today's front page of The Independent, a UK newspaper that has been following the capture and release of 15 British sailors in Iran. Considering both angles of a story? What a concept!

As the story suggests, it's hard to say exactly who "won" this episode. On the one hand, Tony Blair and the Brits were level-headed the whole time, not jumping the gun, and I think this helped secure the release of the sailors. Patience and diplomatic constraint payed off. On the other hand, Ahmadinejad played the West like a deck of cards and was successful in completely mocking the Middle East policy of Britain and the United States. The final kick in the cajones came when he returned the sailors as "a gift." Ahmadinejad was basically saying that he can play hardball, and that he never had any intention of trying the sailors for entering Iranian waters. World politics is a strategic game of chess, and this becomes quite clear when the United States isn't directly involved and thus unable to spin the situation.


Posted by Will at 08:35 AM