Sunday, March 14, 2010

Coal Country the movie

I just finished watching Coal Country a documentary about the devastating affects of strip coal mining in Appalachia. Shockingly, over half of the electricity in the US is still produced with coal so this is not just an issue for the people of Appalachia, but for the whole country. Coal Country documents the environmental devastation wrought by the coal companies, and the crushing affects their new strip mining (mountain top elimination) methods are having on local communities. Its not just about jobs, its about the quality of life for an entire region struggling under the the big business monopolies created in the past 30 years. If you are a consumer, and are interested in our nation's environmental future, I highly recommend this movie.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Good Bye Clifford

"Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs..."

Clifford Geertz, father of symbolic anthropology, died on October 30th. One of his most famous studies was an ethnographic perspective of Javanese religion. However to me Clifford's greatest contribution to anthropological thought was his 1973 classic Interpretation of Cultures. Clifford--you will be missed -PFC.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

John Kricfalusi's all kinds of stuff Blog

John K., the incredibly talented animator and creator of "Ren and Stimpy", has a blog. What does John K. discuss there? Why, cartooning of course. One of his recent posts discusses the reasons why classic cartoons look so much better than most modern ones, with plenty of visuals to illustrate. John K.'s all kinds of stuff blog.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Intersection of Graphics, Visual Art, and Culture--Lukelab

The Anxiety Graphs

The Gnostics believed the world was a mistake and that "salvation" was to make sense of the world by rationalizing it. When things fall apart we either embrace the dissipation and orgy of chaos or search for a schema that will organize the mess and horror. By adopting the same rhetoric that simplifies culture through amplification, these graphs present a picture of unification and provide a home for free-floating anxiety.

They accomplish this state by joining thought and feeling along sets of reputedly indisputable axes. By placing the elusive elements of our psyche in mathematical relation to dependent conditions or impulses, the culture of anxiety suddenly becomes manageable and predictable because when Cartesian co-ordinates are applied to the ineffable forces of human beings, a mathematical function transforms into a comfort function. When you locate your position on the graph, you also locate where you are in time and by following the trajectory of the graph, you can predict your future. Conversely, if you work backward along the curve of a graph, you have access to a past that is now closed.

The graphs are both the rationalization and the visualization of states that resist measurement but despite their soothing manifestation, resolution takes place just outside the points of the graph.

Besides the PowerPoint graphs page, Lukelab also hosts several interactive java applets such as The Spiral of Shame.

Artist's Bio:

"Rev. Luke Murphy has used computers to assist and produce his work for the past seven years. This project and the many charts he has made are the manifestation of a graphing project started on in 1994 when he first graphed the relation of Suffering to Pain. He has produced several collections of these works that chart the impossible quantification and monetization of elements of the psyche and spirit. Parallel to this work, Rev. Murphy has also shown computer-generated drawings and projections based on Gnostic and Masonic writings. Much of his painting is also developed digitally. His most recent exhibit of landscapes was the result of repeated re-processing of “template” images from earlier landscape paintings. These evocative works are first resolved digitally and then manifested in concise black and white oil paint, resulting in a digital rendering of emotionally-charged and expressionistic painting."

Rev. Luke Murphy's website

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Interviewing Michael Parenti about The Culture Struggle

"Culture" refers to the entire panorama of conventional beliefs and practices within any society. But it has long occurred to me that what we call "culture" is not just a set of practices, mores, and beliefs, the "innocent accretion of past solutions," as an anthropologist once said. Much of culture is certainly that, but culture is also a politically charged component of the social order, mediated through institutions and groups that have quite privileged vested interests.

Culture should be thought of as a changing process, the product of a dynamic interplay-even serious struggle--between a wide range of social and political interests. To understand a society we need to understand the problem of culture as well as that of power. And, conversely, to understand culture we also need to take note of how power is used in society, toward what end and for whose benefit and at whose cost…

…Many parts of modern culture are being commodified, that is, packaged and sold to those who can pay. Folk culture is giving way to a corporate market culture. Art, science, medicine, psychiatry, and even marriage have been used as instruments of cultural control across the centuries. I deal with all this in the book."

Link to interview.
The Culture Struggle at Seven Stories Press.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

It's Not OK to Eat a Sexed-Up Chicken

"Researchers from the United States and Brazil posed the following hypothetical: "A man goes to the supermarket once a week and buys a dead chicken. But before cooking the chicken, he has sexual intercourse with it. Is that wrong?" People in both countries said it's not OK to eat a sexed-up chicken considerably more often if they hailed from a low socioeconomic background. Cultural differences extend even to basic matters such as the meaning of language. Imagine that Gödel didn't invent Gödel's Theorem. Some guy named Schmidt did. Then to whom do we refer when we continue to use the word "Gödel"? In one experiment, researchers found that Americans tend to say, "the guy who got credit for the theorem," while Hong Kongers say, "the guy who actually came up with it."

Jon Lackman writes on Slate about the new applied philosophy movement called "X-Phil" and philosophy's cross-cultural quagmire.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Immigrant Economic Engines and Late Night Comedy

…On evening comedy television in “America” immigrants are threats to “our” jobs and “our” security or they are ignorant indios who can’t speak proper English. On primetime and late night comedy Mexicans are pariahs and not the people who oil the U.S. economic machine…

…Since the 1980s the service industry in the U.S. has grown reaping tremendous profits from workers born in other countries. Foreign-born workers serve citizen interests as cooks, servers, and busboys in all types of restaurants. Day laborers assist homeowners trying to make repairs or improvements to their homes and yards. Homes, office buildings, and college campus buildings are built by the same immigrants who comedians call ignorant or dangerous…Let’s not also forget that the immigrant presence provides jobs for lawyers, doctors, and agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Thousands of ‘citizens’ rely either directly (e.g., border patrol agents) or indirectly on immigrants for their paychecks…

…Many essays in the book, Immigrants Out! (Juan F. Perea, editor), point to the similarities of periods of increased nativism in U.S. history. Clearly, older racist rhetoric plays an important role. Well-established stereotypes contribute to seeing immigrants as Others to be disdained. However, racism seems to be a divide and conquer tactic within in a larger strategy that pits capital and greedy capitalists against workers…

…We have few opportunities to understand the importance of Mexican and other immigrants to our society. Rarely, do we get an opportunity to ask “what if there were no Mexicans in the United States?”

From The Anti-Immigrant Impulse in U.S. Comedy
A Day Without a Mexican
Immigrants Out!: The New Nativism and the Anti-Immigrant Impulse in the United States

Coming to American Medicine

…Cultural nuances are why a Hmong man would be insulted if a doctor looked directly at him during a lengthy conversation and why a Salvadoran woman who feared mal de ojo , or the evil eye, would seek a folk medicine healer, a curandero.

At Bailey's, where 10 percent of patients speak Arabic, Farsi or Urdu as their primary language, cultural norms were the reason a breast self-exam program for Muslim women several years ago took place before regular business hours and involved only female staff. The center agreed that no male employees would be on the premises.

"It all gets down to basic respect," said Christina Stevens, program director of the Fairfax County Community Health Care Network. "And it's better medicine."

Even for those on the receiving end of routine encounters, the experiences can be unsettling. Lubaba Mohammed, a young Ethiopian woman who lives in Prince George's County, was taken aback by the information she was asked during medical appointments. The doctors' manner seemed so forward, she said…

…An article last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association cited "the need for significant improvement" in physician training. It detailed a survey in which a quarter of more than 2,000 final-year medical residents said they were insufficiently prepared to deliver care to new immigrants or those with beliefs not in line with Western medicine.

"You make assumptions about patients based on how they look, how they speak, the clothes they have on, and, truth to tell, patients make assumptions, too," said Yolanda Haywood, an assistant dean at George Washington University medical school. In keeping with national accreditation standards passed in 2001, the school incorporates cultural questions into a required four-year course, the Practice of Medicine.

Dealing with varied backgrounds and beliefs takes time, which the pressures of managed care do not easily accommodate.

From the MSNBC article.
Newsweek article: "When Cultures Clash"
Stanford University film, "Hold Your Breath"