Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Cove: A Review By a Biologist

Last night, I finally had the chance to watch the much talked about documentary The Cove. The film, for those of you who don't know, shows the annual killing of dolphins in a National Park at Taiji, Wakayama, in Japan. Migrating dolphins are herded into a hidden cove. Bottlenose dolphins are captured for shows and the others are netted and killed by fishermen using spears and knives and consumed.

I only made it 2/3rds of the way through—though I believe it is important that I watch it in its entirety plan to do so. Soon. I can't fully grasp the mix of emotions I am feeling: anger, outrage, heartbreak, sadness, sickness, despair, helplessness.

I wanted to write something about this story, but I wasn't sure what. Biologist Kevin Zelnio reviewed this documentary and shared his post with me. And I in turn am going to share it with you. It is not a hysterical "green" post—it presents the scientific implications of capturing, killing, and eating dolphins both for the Japanese and the world at large.

You may learn more about taking action here. Kevin's review continues below the fold.


Disclaimer: This review may not appropriate for all audiences. Certainly not anyone that is sensitive to violence against dolphins. If you think you may be too uncomfortable with this type of content, please do not read any further.

(This post originally appeared on Deep Sea News and is reprinted here in its entirety with permission from Kevin Zelnio.)

A week ago I was approached by the PR department that filmed The Cove, an multi-award winning documentary, to see if I was interested in reviewing the movie for my audience. I’ve seen the movie reviewed on other sites and Deep Sea News has taken an interest in the issue of mercury poisoning from fish and dolphin meat, so I was naturally curious. Sunday night I made the leap and saw exactly why this film is so talked about and why it racks up film festival awards, recently taking home an Oscar for Best Feature Documentary.

Many documentaries, especially environmental documentaries, annoy me because the end up being about the person filming it or being filmed. The Cove starts off about the man Ric O’Barry. Ric was the trainer for Flipper, the popular ’60s TV dolphin. In the movie, Flipper is credited with generating the lust for dolphin worship that is today a multi-billion dollar industry based primarily upon marine mammal captivity. As Ric ironically put it, “the dolphins smile is nature greatest deception, it gives the illusion they are always happy”. As the beginning progressed it became apparent that Ric’s role was only one cog a greater wheel of commitment by a diverse group of talented individuals. While blatantly playing on emotion, The Cove was able to demonstrate the simple fact of a mass annual dolphin slaughter and the role that played throughout a local Japanese community.

Water Movements—Construction Art

All over the city, construction sites are being dressed up to reduce the disorder of design in progress. I stumbled on the following fence art from Lordy Rodriguez:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Four Stone Hearth 102: At the Hatter's Tea Party

Mad Hatter: Would you like a little more tea?
Alice: Well, I haven't had any yet, so I can't very well take more.
March Hare: Ah, you mean you can't very well take less.
Mad Hatter: Yes. You can always take more than nothing

Welcome to the Hatter's tea party! Anthropology has brought some guests to the party—science, technology, and culture—to help us better understand the social fabric. Grab a cup, and settle around the table. And pass Science the butter, please.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

More Maker Faire Highlights

In addition to the activities in the 3D Printer Village, there was a TON of other crazy, cool things happening at Maker Faire. Jump below the fold for a look at what you missed.

Maker Faire: The Revolution is DIY

Change is coming to industry. And it is coming quickly. That was the message this past weekend when the New York Hall of Science played host to Maker Faire, a DIY showcase of innovative thinkers, geek aspirations, craft inclinations, and a bit of the weird.

The ShopBot carves out a pirate
in the 3D Printer Village.
Maker Faire describes itself as "a growing DIY movement of people who look at things a little differently and who just might spark the next generation of scientists, engineers and makers." It is definitely this and a whole lot more. I was expecting a series of highly technical exhibits, which is why I brought S along to help me navigate what I envisioned would be rows of gadgetry. But Maker Faire makes the process of making accessible. What I actually experienced was a groups of enthusiastic, technophiles, who were more than happy to walk me through their designs and ideas step-by-step—which came in handy considering S was quickly seduced in the 3D Printer Village by a laser printer that could brand personal devices. (His iPhone has been properly marked as a result.)

This of course left me to my own devices, and while there was a ton of cool stuff to see and do, I kept coming back to the 3D Printer Village because the tools there really captured my imagination. The Shopbot was hard at work carving out 3D images and making furniture. The MakerBots were crafting cups and icons, and drawing funky designs. There were talks on CAD. And Wired's Chris Anderson tied it all together with his talk titled, The Next Industrial Revolution.

Call for Posts: Four Stone Hearth 102

I'll be hosting the next edition of FSH here on Wednesday. Please let me know of any notable anthro work you may have read on the web—nominate your own posts or someone else's! You can email me here here of find me on Twitter.

And if you missed the last edition, head on over to Sapien Games and catch up.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Anthro Reader, Vol. 8

This edition of the reader is fairly well stocked, with posts on Facebook power users, the moral rights of mummies, new gibbons, stone knapping, and urban streams. Read on below the fold for more on these topics.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

An App for Everything: "The Rise of 'Apps Culture'" from the Pew Research Center

The popularity of smart phones has ushered in an "apps culture," according to a recent report from the Pew Internet Project. And some surprising things are revealed about app-consciousness. Take a moment and think about the importance your phone has in your life—beyond making calls, that is (which probably actually only account for a fraction of your usage anyway). If you own a variety of smart phone, really take a moment and consider the ways the device works to connect you—to businesses, people, media, and tools. If you own a "normal" phone, you may only have a fraction of these services available, but developers have tried to increase access to "perks" such as video and the Internet on standard devices. While these features are distinct from apps, which Pew defines as software applications that "extend the phone's capabilities" instead of being hardwired into the phone, they speak to a growing demand for connectivity.

Of the 1,917 adult cell phone users who were surveyed, the Pew Internet Project reports that 82% of adults are cell phone users, and approximately 23% of those adults live in a household where their cell phone is their primary telephone. We are being trained and taught that our lives are mobile. And we expect mobile devices to facilitate this connectivity. The pervasiveness of the mobile culture by itself is astonishing, but when coupled with the dependence and use of apps, could it help diminish the double digital divide?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On My Shelf: The Search for the Codex Cardona (Review)

The Search for the Codex Cardona | Arnold J. Bauer | Duke University Press | 181 pages | $21.95

One of my most prized literary treasures is a copy of The Works of Washington Irving. The book, its cover long lost and its pages crackling with age, was published in 1849. A first edition! But that's not the reason it has a treasured place on my shelves. It's tattered beyond salvation and was destined for the garbage, but I rescued it. I found it in a pile of books that had been donated as a starter library for a college prep program. It was in the discard pile along with a copy of Moby Dick (pub. 1922). I picked them both up and brought them home—completely enthralled by the texture and smell of the pages, and the imagined number of hands that may have held them. I have a bibliophile's heart, if not the budget.

For these reasons, I was perhaps a bit biased when I picked up The Search for the Codex Cardona, in which Arnold Bauer tells of his decades long quest to find a text he glimpsed in 1985 before it disappeared from public view. The Codex Cardona is a 16th-century Mexican "painted book." Bauer encountered the text at a lab at the University of California, Davis. It had been presented to scholars for confirmation of its authenticity and Bauer, a history professor, happened to be tagging along with one of the researchers who had been invited to examine the work. Bauer was granted an expedited examination of the beautifully crafted pages—this look and an irreverently torn scrap of the folio from the rare books dealer would hook Bauer on the Codex Cardona.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The US Stamp Design Selection Process

Farming in the West stamp, 1898.
Credit: NYPL Digital Archives.
Following yesterday's post, and a comment about the use of the pronoun "we" in describing the significance of stamps in relation to our history, i did some digging on just exactly how images are selected for "stamphood." 

The short of it is this: The Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC) collects requests and suggestions from the public and makes recommendations to the Postmaster General, who appears to have a heavy hand in the designs that appear on stamps. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Mother Theresa Stamp and the Cultural Legacy of Postage

Unveiling of the Mother Theresa postage stamp Sept. 5th, 2010 at the National Shrine. Postmaster General Jack Potter was in attendance (immediately to the left of the stamp).

Over the recent Labor Day weekend, S and I visited Washington D.C. where purely by chance we stumbled on a stamp unveiling. We were touring the National Shrine—the mosaics are breathtaking—when we realized the ceremony occurring at the front had little to do with normal services.  The United States Post Office had a covered display at the front, so we wound our way up the side aisle and came across a placard announcing that a stamp for Mother Theresa was being issued. (This actually explained the large number of nuns present wearing her traditional white and blue sari.) So we found a spot along the wall and settled into to watch.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Happy Blogiversary, AiP!

Today marks one year since I started this exercise. A whole year! And it went by so quickly ... I know this is cliche to say, but seriously, it might have been just yesterday when I finally said to myself enough thinking about this thing (I went back and forth on the name of the blog for at least a week in my head), it's time to just do it. And here I am. It might feel as though it was just yesterday, but I am definitely conscious of the ways in which this exercise has changed me—and fully aware of the people that it has brought into my life.

AiP was an experiment for me. I wanted to see if there was room for a popular version of anthropology that might help dispel the idea that anthropology is solely the story of the ever-famous Other—and that anthropologists are readily identifiable by the hats and whips they carry, and their fear of snakes. I didn't want this to be a marketing blog. It wasn't meant to prove the place of anthropology in the business world. I wanted to write for the woman on the LIRR who is fed-up with loud cell phone talkers, and the man on the subway totally annoyed by packers, the worker in the cubicle who needs that morning cup of coffee, and the high school student who can't go five minutes without checking his Facebook status. I wanted to show them that anthropology is the study of us—of the ways that our every day behaviors shape our culture and society, and the ways we are shaped in turn. We are the Other too. And that's okay. I wanted to show them how to appreciate the past to understand the future. I'm satisfied with the progress that has been made: AiP has regular subscribers from all around the world!

I started AiP half expecting to occupy some obscure corner of the Internet—really how could I compete with the likes of Eric Michael Johnson, Deborah Blum, Brian Switek, Janet Stemwedel, Bora, and Scicurious?! Their shadows are long, and I expected to exist by skirting along the edges. But one of the things I've learned is that the Internet makes it hard to be obscure. Yes, there is a ton of information to wade through, but if you make enough noise—and writing regularly is a form of noise—you create ripples that resonate through the social web. I am thankful for everyone who has shared what they're read here, and help spread the word about AiP. And I am thankful that the writers mentioned above, as well as many others, were willing to welcome me into the science fold. I sort of burst onto the scene, without having made much of an introduction—I just started writing, and imagine my surprise when I found that people were paying attention.

The science blogosphere has changed greatly in the last year, and I am glad to be a part of it. The proliferation of blogging networks, and the capabilities of the social web are exciting. Never has it been easier to reach others and share ideas—the future of research is open for change. I am honored to be a Scientopian. And I am thrilled to be counted as a female science writer in this environment.

The most important thing AiP has taught me, however, is how to work for myself—how to take a talent and a passion and make a reality; how to promote that endeavor; how to celebrate accomplishments; how to keep going. A few Readers of AiP who know me personally know that I struggle connecting my working hours with the passions that I would like to actually invest all my time in. AiP has been the realization of those those dreams and ideas. And while the list of those who have supported me is long, I need to at least acknowledge S publicly. He tolerates the fact that I am often glued to my laptop in the evenings until the wee hours of the morning, that there are always research articles and books scattered throughout the apartment, and that I am likely to wander off in pursuit of something historical. He is AiP's biggest fan—and mine as well.

I'm not going to ramble on for too much longer. I'll be spending my blogiversary at the Mid-Manhattan library researching an article on softwood for a Facts on File entry. But if you're in the neighborhood and want to grab a celebratory libation with me, let me know on Twitter @anthinpractice. But before I sign off, Readers, I want to thank you. Thank you! For subscribing, and reading, and commenting, and sharing what you read here. I'm thrilled to have taken this journey with you, and excited to see where it will go.

In the meantime, Readers, fill me in on what you're up to—introduce yourselves, tell me what brings you here, what your interests are, where you hail from, what you're working on currently, etc. Now, where did that wine get to? The cork is rolling around the page ...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Four Stone Hearth 101 and Other Recent Carnivals

The 101st edition of the anthropology blog carnival is live at Sapien Games. Nick has dubbed this installment The Phoenix Edition in honor of the carnival torch being passed from Martin Rundkvist to the hominin at Afarensis. This edition includes a look at scientific dating methods (artifacts, not relationships), stone tools, our depiction of the past, moose, cultural divides in social media, and ape sex. (Yup, ape sex.) Makes for good morning reading, so head on over and leave a comment or two.

I'll be hosting the next edition of the carnival here at AiP, so please send in your suggestions on things you find interesting in your web travels on Twitter at @anthinpractice or via email

I thought I'd share a few other carnivals you might find interesting:
  • Carin Bondar is hosting the Carnal Carnival—the theme this time is vomit (and they promise it's all scientific).
  • Andrew Bernadin posted the Carnival of Evolution earlier this month. The theme is food, so maybe do this one way after or way before the vomit special above.
  • Guru of Entertaining Research has the latest Giant's Shoulders up. It's a great mix of posts this time covering fever, punishment, solstices, and Cleopatra. Well worth a read.
For even more, you can view the list of current carnivals at Science Blogging.

The Anthro Reader, Vol. 7: Women in Science (Bloggers) Edition

The recent proliferation of science blogging collectives has changed the state of the science blogosphere. However, Jennifer Rohn and Richard P. Grant have drawn attention to a discrepancy in the landscape of popular collections in terms of gender. The networks seem heavily stacked in terms of the Y-chromosome. Guardian blogger Martin Robbins has responded by compiling a list of women science bloggers—and I made the cut! Aside from this, it's quite the list. So I thought that this edition of the Anthro Reader would highlight some of the fabulous women included in this count.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Can Peruvian Coffee Gain a Foothold at Home?

Spurred by questions from readers, I've expanded the coffee series to include two additional posts on this caffeinated drink that will run this week. If this is your first visit to AiP, you can review our coffee discussions here. Monday's post asked, how can we explain the popularity of instant coffee in coffee producing countries? As a follow-up, today we will look at the future of Peruvian coffee among native Peruvian coffee drinkers. As always, thanks for stopping by—and for your questions!


The question of what happens to local culture in the face of globalization is not a new one to anthropology. One view has held that capitalism is a great cultural steamroller, creating homogeneous responses to global markets. But our discussion last time explored an example of cultural contact in which there was a dialogue, and this represents the other side of the coin: the argument that the conditions that permit and encourage international trade, also offers a means maintaining cultural distinction and identity.

In the last post, we discussed the way Lithuania was able to wield a memory of Soviet sausage to comment on the state of their newly formed capitalist state, and create an identity for the nation—this identity seems more domestic the more I think about this issue because the identity really allowed Lithuanians to distinguish themselves from the capitalist processes that were unfolding. Remember that "Soviet" sausages were good, natural, and tasty, while Western-style sausages like salami (that lacked the tasty bits of fat Lithuanians liked) were not as popular and viewed as an inferior product in many ways. I argue that Lithuanians owned sausages in a way that allowed their preferences to hold a majority of the market against Western sausage products. Peruvians have not had a similar relationship with coffee and that has allowed foreign products to dominate general coffee consumption,

But this does not have to necessarily have to be the case. There is a chance for Peruvians to claim their coffee. It will require more than establishing a "Coffee Day." Changes will have to be made at the grower's level—which will certainly not be a simple process. But I found a great case study that suggests that getting growers involved can boost brand awareness locally.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Peruvian Coffee: Matching Consumption With Production

Spurred by questions from readers, I've expanded the coffee series to include two additional posts on this caffeinated drink that will run this week. If this is your first visit to AiP, you can review our coffee discussions here. This post will consider the question that readers have raised: how can we explain the popularity of instant coffee in coffee producing countries? As a follow-up, on Thursday we will look at the future of Peruvian coffee among native Peruvian coffee drinkers. Be sure to stop by as we try to tie up these loose ends and put anthropology into practice!


This post was chosen as an Editor's Selection for ResearchBlogging.orgDuring one of our last discussions on coffee, we were left trying to understand Nescafe's role in coffee drinkers' identity in Peru and other coffee producing nations. Reader Joe Quick did some legwork and reported back with some stats from the Nescafe website (which invites users to look at coffee in a different way):
Credit: Nescafe
Coffee ranks in the top three most consumed beverages globally, alongside tea and water. Over 800 billion cups are enjoyed every year, and this number is growing at an annual rate of 1.5%. That’s an increase of 12 billions cups per year!

Globally, NESCAFÉ is consumed at a rate of more than 4,000 cups every second!
Joe helpfully calculated that these numbers mean Nescafe makes up approximately 15% of coffee consumed globally. The question that we are left with is: why does Nescafe seem to be popular among coffee producing countries that theoretically have access to their own supply of coffee beans? Anthropologist Kevin Birth offered some suggestions that cover the expenses associated with grinding and brewing beans, but today we'll look a bit more closely at the relationship between local consumption and consumer identity.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Eid Mubarak At Last

I go through phases where I pack my lunch and bring it with me to work. Inevitably, I get tired of eating my sad little sandwiches, and start buying lunch again until I get fed up with the food in the area (and my wallet starts to protest) and then I go back to bringing my lunch for a bit. Part of the issue is that I usually get lunch from the veggie cart, so variety quickly disappears. But twice a month, I get lunch from the chicken and rice guys up the block. It's a great deal if you can put aside your misgivings about buying food from a cart: five bucks gets you a lunch of rice, chicken or lamb or kebabs, salad, and if you ask for it, veggies too! Plus you get a drink. Non New Yorkers, let me tell you, that is a serious deal since sandwiches and salads can run in the range of about $8.00 or so. Anyway, the cart I go to for my bimonthly culinary break from lentil burgers and tofu is really popular in the area. They always have a line, and their foods are flavorful. However, for the last month, the men who run the cart have faced a challenge: Ramadan.

The Anthro Reader, Vol. 6

From around the web this week: context cues and language, gender norming, social sensitivity, epitaphs, and things you should know from people who wish they had known.

Thanks for the Tweets and replies to my request for info about the Reader. As I responded to a comment, it's nice to know that this post doesn't just vanish into the digital space.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How We Relate to the Real World in Our Digital Age (Charlotte Observer)

I'm back in town and working on some posts for next week (we'll be getting back to coffee too). In the meantime, I thought I'd share the feature the Charlotte Observer ran on AiP and The Urban Ethnographer earlier this week! Thanks to writer @tdelene for the coverage.

Tune in tomorrow for a fresh copy of The Anthro Reader!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Oysters Feel the Recession Crunch

AiP continues to be your place for oyster news. As if these guys didn't have a hard enough time repopulating the waterways around New York: New Jersey officials ordered an environmental group to pull a colony from the Raritan Bay.

Environmental protection commissioner Bob Martin said he thinks the project is a good one, but his department is required by federal law to monitor the local shellfish harvests and he doesn't have the resources to extend his team to the group's project. He's concerned that contaminated oysters from the project will work their way into the food supply.

How? Poachers.

NY/NJ Baykeeper, the group running this project, insists this would be near to impossible: the colony is housed in a metal frame with netting that is securely anchored. And the group points out there there are tons of clams that are easier to pick off than the oysters. However, for now, they have to comply. They were searching for home for the colony—hopefully, they'll find a place for them. Our waterways need all the help they can get.

Will All Problems Yield to Technology?

An interesting question raised by some graffiti I encountered:

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

On My Shelf: Think of a Number (Review)

Think of a Number | John Verdon | Crown | 432 pages | $22.00

Have you ever played audience to an amateur magician? Did he have you pick a card from a deck? Or maybe he asked you think of a number and then led you through a math problem. It's almost as though he read your mind. The mind is a private place—and it's unsettling when others appear to find their way in uninvited. There are no parlor tricks in John Verdon's literary debut with Think of a Number. Nope, no parlor tricks. Just a killer who thinks he's rather clever.

Construction on the East River Waterfront Moves Along

In February, I started following an EDC construction project to revitalize the East River Waterfront. (you can view updates from April and May via those links). I haven't done an update on this project in some time and a lot of work has really been done.

Eventually, I'll put all of these photos into a single slide show, but for now, you can view some photos of the site below the fold.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Trading Talent for Money

In case you haven’t heard, the economy isn’t doing so well. There are lots of everyday signs this is the case: the shuttered store fronts in neighborhoods, the reduced number of people on the commuter trains, and the increase in people asking for money.

Gone Fishin'

I'm traveling this week, so blogging will be a bit light. I do have some scheduled posts for you folks, but I won't be able to respond to comments immediately. If I get a chance, I'll try to upload some photos from my travels. But feel free to talk amongst yourselves.

Cuttle fish, Atlantis Aquarium, Riverhead, NY

Friday, September 3, 2010

On the Verge of Earl

Hurricane Earl is still a ways away, but he's making the East River look mighty troubled.

East River, the morning of Sept. 3, 2010.
Brooklyn Bridge in background.

East River, the morning of Sept. 3, 2010.
Brooklyn Docks (and a cruise ship) in background.

Are You Reading the Reader?

Is it helpful? Are you enjoying it? Do you have suggestions or comments? Please let me know. It takes some time to put together, so I'd really appreciate the feedback.

The Anthro Reader, Vol. 5

From around the web this week: MORE science blog networks, sexual harassment, flint knapping, cephalopods, and a recommended book from a Twitter friend.

Let's get to it!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Baseball Fans Behaving Badly

So it's done. I've accepted it. There will be no playoff entry for the Mets this year—something that was evident earlier in the year, but the motto of this team is "Ya gotta believe." So you know, I had to believe. Am I disappointed? Yes. What fan wouldn't be? Am I surprised? No. What Mets fan would be? Does it mean that I won't be there come spring anxiously awaiting the crack of the bat? Absolutely not. Because being a fan means being a member of the team—yes, an actual member (sans the paycheck). Fans may not get time at bat, but being a fan creates a connection that goes beyond selecting a team that will represent you publicly—participation in fandom links you to wins and losses as strongly as the actual players themselves and fan response is as important to the reputation of the team as the players' own behavior. But does the nature of successful teams lend itself to unruly fan behavior?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Responses to "Don't Ma'am Me" (Tweetscript)

Yesterday's post on gender titles sparked some interesting comments on Twitter. As promised I collected them here. I tried to follow a conversational format, but that's a bit harder to do on Twitter than in a regular chat so it jumps around a bit. Still, it should make for an interesting read. Think of it as a Twitter-transcript, if you will.

Responses are marked by :: and my statements are highlighted in this (somewhat) orange color. I've also linked the initial Tweet to the associated Twitter handle.

Some notes on the exercise and transcript: This was my first attempt at having a multi-person conversation on Twitter, and I'm surprised that it worked so well—not surprised that it worked, but that so many different voices chimed in, particularly when comments on the actual post tend to run low. Twitter lent itself nicely to this exercise though and I think the required brevity was actually a bonus: participants who wanted to say something had to be as direct as possible. In some ways, it probably kept the discussion going because there were relatively few digressions. I feel even more strongly now that this can be a valuable tool in the classroom. It was a royal pain to generate this transcript though—these types of records will be valuable to continue discussions in the future, and to help review the discussion so hopefully there is an easier way to do this. {Edit: A hashtag might have been useful, but the responses still would need to be sorted to help enhance clarity. The benefit to the hashtag is that all the responses would have been collected—providing a respondent used a hashtag.)

Feel free to add your thoughts below.