A Stationary Odyssey

Friday, February 15, 2013


Laurie has started a new blog, Illuminations. It looks at medieval sources as an inspiration for writing new stories.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Several states have had individuals making gestures toward seceding from the Union. Many of these have been in the form of requests posted on "We the People," a Whitehouse website set up to address citizen concerns. The big question I have is why.

My immediate response is these people are sore losers. Their preferred candidate lost the presidential election, so they want to leave the USA. It is interesting that one of the recurring chants at the Republican convention was , "USA, USA!" and now that the Democratic party candidate has won the White House, they want to leave. I also find it incredibly ironic that they are expressing their concerns on a website set up by the Obama adminstration, the person they are objecting too. It is clearly election-related, as the petitons came directly after the election results and not after policies were passed or the inauguration. It seems participatory government is only acceptable if they win.

But that is not enough. Why are they sore losers?

Racism and sexism are certainly contributors. Both are markers of social ideology built on white male entitlement. Our president is perceived as "black" regardless of his mixed ancestry, and the US Senate has more women than any other time in American history. But that isn't enough, either. The racism may be more explicit now, but it was there four years ago, too, and there wasn't this knee-jerk reaction.

Hyperbole and doom-saying is, I believe, the ultimate cause. High-profile conservatives have been saying things since the election was called for Obama, but it started before that. This election was cast as a vote between two visions of America, more than two candidates representing different political parties. More specifically, it was cast as a vote for or against Obama, rather than a vote for Romney. The racist element has a strong influence here, but it is also about what people believe the role of government is in society. Libertarians believe in a smaller government, and Romney was adopted as probably better for that. The health care issue was part of that "smaller government" issue, and a vote for Obama was seen as a referendum on the Affordable Care Act. Some Republicans supported Obama as a result. Those who truly opposed "Obamacare" were voting for Romney, while those who supported it favored Obama.

The part I find fascinating is the link between this election and the doom-saying, and I think part of this comes down to cosmology, or as one of my students once said, superstition. Hurricane Sandy was caused by gays, according to a variety of right-wing religious leaders including a conservative rabbi. Obama supported gay rights, which in this view of the world, would lead to more of "God's punishment," which could also include earthquakes according to Michele Bachmann, member of Congress and former presidential candidate. If you believe in this world view, then a vote for Obama was a vote for more natual disasters. In truth, I don't know how many Americans actually beleive this sort of thing, but it is a decidely anti-scientific view of the world. The growth of an anti-scientific perspective in America was seen by Scientific American magazine as a substantial threat to American Democracy. Only one Republican candidate for president expressly said he believed in evolution, and said, "Call me crazy." To me, this is a clear sign that people supporting Romney, or opposing Obama, had an entire set of beliefs tied up in this election, far beyond the choice of two candidates. For those who believe more strongly in religion, this was a fundamental challenge to their worldview. These perspectives, I believe, can be tied to education and the lack of support in parts of the country for science education, and the continuing drumbeat from portions of the media and right-wing political world against science and education, which is a serious problem.

In the end, I think this is an exercise by self-righteous individuals who have been drawn in by the excessive hyperbole by members of the political right. If it is acceptable to proclaim coming doom during the election by opinion and political leaders, it is just as acceptable for new opinion leaders, outside the mainstream political leadership, to call for secession as a mark of their disappointment without realizing exactly what that all entails.

Monday, October 22, 2012

This semester has been busy. I'm teaching two sections of Introduction to cultural anthropology, and one of archaeological principles. I've also been trying to get various reviews and publications together.

Next semester will be busy, too. I'll be teaching at two schools - SUNY Cortland and Ithaca College. I'm teaching Medieval Archaeology at each school, then Anthropology of Gender and Applied Archaeology. I've taught each class already, but plan on making changes. I'll be working pretty hard all spring.

I'm also lined up to go to the Kalamazoo Medieval Studies conference in May, the St Louis Medieval Studies conference in June, and the Leeds Medieval Studies conference in July.

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Day of Archaeology

Today is a Day of Archaeology. The idea is that archaeologists talk about what they are doing so people get a better idea of what archaeologists actually do.

I'm not out in the field, but instead engaging in a very important part of the broader discipline: I'm preparing for a class I'm teaching over the summer. I will be teaching at St Petersburg State University in Russia for the New York- St Petersburg Institute, leading a seminar called Houses of Culture. Today's work was preparing a core class on how cultural beliefs are embodied in houses. I'll be looking at the houses of four different cultures. First is the classic study by Bourdieu, The Berber House. Second is Japanese houses; third a close examination of the Yin Yu Tang House at the Peabody Essex Museum, in Salem, MA. Fourth is the Iroquois longhouse, centered around the reconstructed longhouse at Ganondagan State Park near Rochester, NY.
Longhouse at Ganondagan

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I went to Buttermilk Falls State Park this morning, in part to get some exercise, in part because I was trying out contact lenses for the first time, and in part because I wanted to get some practice with my new camera. The first four people I met on the trail were other men with cameras, mostly older than I am as best I could tell.
It was a gorgeous, cloudy day, not too hot, and not too bright so there wasn't too much contrast to wash out the photos.