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25 November, 2014

Cavalier Attitudes

Shut up and take it, b****

[To my one steadfast reader, who has noticed some Virginia-bashing here, I regret to inform you that it's happening again. Click elsewhere and come back next week, knowing that there are Virginians I love and admire, including you, sister. Likewise, good people who happen to be associated with University of Virginia, sorry you have to be connected with the subject of this post.]

Once again the Old Dominion has hit the news in a most sinister way. This time, it's the Rolling Stone article calling out University of Virginia for its utter failure to tamp down the rape impulse throbbing on Rugby Road, Frat Row to what is arguably Virginia's most prestigious institute of higher learning.

I never made such an argument. Being a smart kid in a suburban Richmond high school, I was of course encouraged to seek admission to UVA, but balked at the idea, much to the bafflement of certain counselors and teachers. Partially, this stemmed from a budding rebelliousness; fuck if I was gonna go where all the uber-preppies went, worship the old dead white guys, and give in to The System. After my knee-jerking settled down, though, there were other reasons to avoid UVA: people I knew who were most enthralled with it tended to be assholes who genuinely believed that "nice" clothes equate to civilization, a founder who fucked his 14 year old slave and sold off some of their progeny didn't inspire the same reverence in me as it did in the spawn of Virginia's finer families, wearing ties and swilling cocktails didn't strike me as recreation, going to college less than an hour away didn't seem like much of a horizon expansion,...and so on.

The Rolling Stone article scratches the surface but does not draw blood from the beast that is the Entitled Rich White Boy. He whose dad was a Wahoo, and whose son will be. Maybe he earned the grades to deserve entry, maybe he's even smart at something. But he's gonna sow his wild oats for a few years before moving on to daddy's firm. And those girls better comply. The article failed to name any of these rapists, and won't send any of them to jail.

In addition to the inexplicable "Wahoo," the UVA teams are known as the "Cavaliers," which is illustrative. Originally, Cavaliers were the royalists who opposed Cromwell's rebellion. It doesn't take a Cromwell apologist to suspect that Cavaliers were the vicious dandies who supported the old elite order. In the Crown's Virginia Colony, the influx of cavaliers came when the Roundheads were winning, and the self-proclaimed noble fighters took off rather than nobly face the music. Somehow, this dubious legacy became a swashbuckling logo.

Echoing this history, UVA has in my lifetime (and I suspect at least back through my William & Mary and Mary Washington educated grandparent's matriculations) been a refuge for elites and elitists. Sure, others make it there, but the aura of one of our nation's "Public Ivies" has long been one of wealthy entitlement. Graduate from there, and people acknowledge your academic achievement as well as suspect your birthright, even if you didn't, ahem, "earn" it by being born rich.

Even as "The" University's admissions policy has slipped into allowing non-FFV's, women, and black people to attend, UVA fraternities have proudly flown the Cav flag and maintained sanctuaries for Entitled Rich White Boys.

Women stepping foot into one of these refugia along Rugby Road risk rape. Sadly, women in any college stand a greater chance of being raped than women in general. Unsurprisingly, women walking into a frat house on any campus stand a greater chance of being raped than college women in general. Understandably, both fraternities and universities have a vested interest in protecting their reputations, and tend to deal with the spoilsport women who object to being raped through means other than law enforcement.

At UVA, the ability to avoid having the cops come in and arrest violent felons is enhanced by wealth and tradition. I don't have empirical evidence (such as that available to prove all of the previous paragraph's assertions) to prove this, but the Rolling Stone article makes a pretty good case, and my experience as a Virginian and American certainly fits. Rich guys avoid imprisonment pretty well. Reinforced by the aura of a centuries-old institution founded by a Founding Father, consistently rated highly as an academic institution, posessed of many traditions and a well-heeled sense of Decorum (whatever that is), UVA is not easily dragged through the mud. Not that long ago, one of it's drunken preppie athletes murdered his girlfriend, and yet the Rolling Stone article is still presented by many as an anomaly, an affront, maybe some sort of deviant leftist (or feminazi) plot.

Where Power is worshipped and Money talks loudly while it's partner Tradition silences dissent, people get raped.

16 November, 2014

How I Lost My Hearing

That's me in the striped shirt, appropriated from grand-dad 30 years before McLemore made it cool to do that.

So yeah, I was a punk. Back in the early to mid-1980s. Then the migraines got too intense, or I fell in with some deadheads, or I got married to a non-punk, or I just didn't have the time and money to goto punk shows anymore.

Today, I went to the Olympia Film Festival to see "Salad Days," a documentary about the punk scene in DC, the harDCore scene of which I was a brief and inconspicuous part (1982-1985, more or less). The movie, which is apparently one of several returning to what are now days of yore, covered a lot of ground, but didn't seem to tell much of a story.

And neither did my experience. I was never in a band, and I ended up being a government archaeologist.

But I also got a sense of what it meant to be free, to just go do what you were interested in. I was not interested in releasing a record, but in the years since I've gone ahead and written academic papers, facilitated outlaw land actions, carved wood, written innumerable unedited essays, and preserved landscapes because I felt like it, and would not accept experts telling me I couldn't.

Being a punk made me deaf to the many "NO's" kids and young adults will hear, and I'm thankful for that.

Being a punk also made me deaf to sounds. Mom may not have been right about the value of joining the church youth group (dominated by drunkards and stoners at a time when I was straight edge), but she sure as hell had a point about loud music ruining my hearing. There's a video to prove it.

Look here, and you'll see me at age 18, right in front of the stage at a White Cross concert in Richmond, VA. White Cross was the local headliner punk band at the time, and were reknowned for being extremely fucking LOUD. The last band was already loud? No problem, just crank it up higher. Even if they'd never used a distortion pedal, their sound turned eardrums into tattered curtains whipped by hurricanes.

You can hear it in the video, which turns out to be better quality than some of the stuff in Salad Days. It sounds so rough because it was, because it was so loud that the microphone sould not cope. From about 2:35-3:40, you'll see me in front of the stage, shirtless and sweaty, singing along, commencing in a close-up of my mesomorphic self that makes me shudder to realize how much I looked like an actual--rather than mockingly ironic as intended--skinhead. By 7:50-8:24, I was on stage, crouched and resting, carrying on a conversation while the band raged a few feet away. At 9:00, and especially 9:33-9:37, you see me in front of the PA system, my left (now almost totally deaf) ear a few inches away from a 15 inch woofer.

11 November, 2014

The Hipster Effect and other Models

Image by Getty, Fair Use by This Guy's Nephew

A mathematician recently posted an article (available at arXiv as a pre-print, to be published in a refereed journal soon) called "The Hipster Effect: When anticonformists all look the same." I'm too slack to learn the math, which apparently helps explain why so many people who reject the mainstream still end up conforming, just to something else. It has to do with the delay between a mainstream trend existing and the non-conformists realizing it and rejecting it, and looks like this:

As an anthropologist, I have some non-mathematical ideas about how and why hipsters end up sharing so many traits. As a human, I tend reject simplifications of our behavior to mathematical functions. But Touboul is clear that his model is just a model, and not an explanation of culture or even something that can encompass all hipsters, so it's fine for what it is. Also, the fact that some image sprange to your mind when I said "hipster" proves that he does have a point. Facial hair, clunky black glasses,...

This guy read the Hipster Effect article before I did, and was already appearing in blogposts about it days ago.
As if to prove Touboul's point, there has been a delay, and then a bunch of hipsters blogged about it (huh, blogging, it's so old-school, so they must be posting ironically) along with all the other non-conformists. I'm too late to be a hipster, having learned of the article in the Washington Post (online, at least, and not on some dead tree).

And yet, I exhibit signs of being a hipster. I'm in phase with them as far as clunky black glasses, facial hair, brewing ale with hops I grew, and so on. As I write, I am listening to the local, listener-supported, volunteer-powered community radio station called KAOS. I am in phase with a fair number of hipsters.

Partial View of an apparent Hipster, Courtesy of some Model

But is it because I react with similar intent and mathematics to the others? In some ways, no. Hipsters' oscillations are much more rapid than mine, and I was wearing this kind of glasses and growing a beard decades ago (and not in a "I did it before you did" hipster kind of way). I just hate to shave, and always wanted glasses that came from that era when all men wore the same kind of glasses. Like my uncle in the first photo. He was not a hipster, but he was an enigma, a guy who wore "normal" clothes, but to a degree (khaki pants and white oxford shirts for decades on end) that was decidedly atypical. He served in the military for a little while, got a job, and raised a family, a model citizen. But also one who was deeply subversive in some ways, whose thoughts boggled minds and defied models.

Were I in the data set being compared to Touboul's model today, I might well become empirical support for mathematical supposition. But I represent a much longer oscillation if I represent one at all, and the "why" of my seeming hipsterism may be a lot different than that of people who know enough about contemporary mainstream culture react against it.

09 November, 2014

Woodpecker D Adze

This is an adze that I made in more or less traditional Salish style, what anthropologists call the "D-adze" because of the handle shape.

The blade was made from a chunk of serpentine I picked up from a road cut on Cypress Island, ground down by rubbing it on concrete. Lashing is split cedar root over pine sap. The wood is the only non-local material, being from a black walnut board my dad bought decades ago in Ohio (which has been dragged to Virginia and now Washington, awaiting the time when I'd figure out what to do with it).

Salish adzes were sometimes adorned, and I chose to put a woodpecker head on this one. At first, it was because I wanted to stick with a fairly literal image (woodpeckers being carvers, like adzes), since I don't know enough about the person or Tribe I was making it for to choose something for its cultural significance or meaning. On the night before I gave it, though, I ran across a story of Dokwibatl, who came across a man who was trying to chop down a tree by banging his head on it, and transformed the poor human into a woodpecker. My intent with this gift was to honor a man who helped in my transformation from ignorant outsider to reasonably competent Northwest archaeologist, and so the woodpecker seems apt.

The wood that became this adze handle came from the same board that I carved into a sturgeon years ago, and which I gave to the Chair of Lower Elwha. The adze went to the Chair of Swinomish (who is also president of NCAI these days), with a special thanks to the THPO of that tribe. In between, another sturgeon went to Nisqually, a big halibut serving tray to Suquamish, and a stone fish club to a young Skokomish fisherman.

I'm not a talented carver, but not a horrible one either, and I still have all my fingers. I have not even attempted to match the Native Northwest formline style, and may never feel adequate to do so. I've never sold a piece, but I enjoy giving them away, and feel like I've been paid more than enough by having the chance to give them to host Tribes and have them be accepted. It's a lucky life.

04 November, 2014


Republicans gain control of the Senate!

Um. I think that happened years ago. Seriously, did the Democratic senators do anything for the past six years?