Archive for the ‘anthropology’ Category

As a Floridian, as well as an Anthropologist, I feel like I need to comment on some of what Governor Rick Scott has said this week regarding anthropology in the state of Florida.   Below is the quote:

“If I’m going to take money from a citizen to put into education then I’m going to take that money to create jobs,” Scott said. “So I want that money to go to degrees where people can get jobs in this state.”

“Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so.” 

“Do you want to use your tax dollars to educate more people who can’t get jobs in anthropology? I don’t. I want to make sure that we spend our dollars where people can get jobs when they get out.” (The Florida Independent, 12 October 2011)

First, I think our Governor is laboring under some serious misconceptions about what we as anthropologists actually do, though it affects more than just our Governor, many people in the day-to-day world are clueless about what anthropology is and what purpose it serves.  We are not Indiana Jones. We do not go spelunking in caves looking for lost relics of some ancient dynasty with mystical powers, we don’t run away from natives, and we don’t typically have adventures such as those depicted.  It isn’t all about museums and archaeology. These are movies, not real life.

In the real world, anthropology serves many vital functions.  Advances in Genetics, Forensics, Medicine, Urban Planning and Non-profit programs are tied to anthropology.  Marketing, economics, history, geography, languages, culture, globalization, work production and labor forces – this is the stuff of anthropology.  As one student put it in a recent email “it might do Facebook and Netflix some good to hire anthropologists to understand how people actually use their services” (pers. comm. 10/12/11).  We study people, interactions, distribution of labor, power, hegemony or cultural domination, retail trends, capitalism and are champions of oppressed peoples everywhere.  Without archaeologists, we wouldn’t have knowledge of our cultural history, where we have come from and what we have been through in our journey through time. Anthropological linguistics provides insights into languages and meaning, biological anthropology provides us with forensic science and genetics which are used every day to capture criminals and to set innocent people free of crimes they did not commit.  Anthropology is a holistic science, meaning that we overlap our studies with that of many other fields, not all of them in the social sciences. Geology, Environmental Science, Politics, Biology, Ecology, all of these I have seen and used in my research in the discipline of Anthropology.  Multiple perspectives can yield new insights.

Saying that we can’t get jobs is just foolish.  We work in every field in the country, from engineering to medicine, from non-profits to the performing Arts. Anthropology provides insights into humanity and every day interaction that make us valuable employees. We are trained in the scientific method, and are open minded, detail oriented people who look beyond what is obvious for answers.  What employer doesn’t want a person like that?  The anthropological perspective is unique, and very useful.

It isn’t like the state of Florida is churning out Anthropology degrees anyway.  According to the Florida Board of Governors, approximately 0.8 per cent of the 446,733 bachelor’s degrees awarded between 2001 and 2010 were for anthropology majors (http://flbog.org/resources/iud/degrees_search.php).  That’s not a very large percentage.  Sit in on a senior level anthropology class and count how many students are actually there.  In my courses, the average is about 14.

Anthropology is a science, one of those STEM’s (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) that Gov. Scott likes to talk about. I’d like to see where he’d be without the insights that anthropology as a discipline have given him, apparently unbeknownst to him.  Our contributions to the state, the country and the world continue to be felt on a daily basis in the most subtle of ways.  That ad you saw that you can’t get out of your head? Chances are, it came as a result of anthropological research into people’s buying behaviors.

Is it of vital interest to the state of Florida to have more anthropologists? Absolutely.

Several people have brought up a very good point: Does Governor Scott think we are trying to get jobs with the specific label “anthropologist” ? Good luck, those can only be found in academia.  No, most of us are not searching for that particular job title. We work where we feel we can do the most good, just like everyone else. We work in myriad fields under even more job titles, but the training is still the same. The applications of anthropology to the real world, and our job prospects, are only limited by our own imagination.  Of course, we suffer the same during this economic downturn as everyone else. To make a blanket statement that we can’t get jobs with our degree is silly, however.

I have a feeling that Governor Rick Scott is going to be very well versed in what we as anthropologists do in the coming weeks. He has definitely stirred a hornet’s nest, and unlike some groups that might simper, whine or back down, we fight back. If the current buzz of the university is to be believed, he’ll be very well versed indeed.  This has even stroked my ire, and I’m rarely one to get into a tete-a-tete with politics. It takes a lot to get me writing a poison pen letter to the editor, but I, like many of my fellow colleagues, feel the need to act. Expect to see a great deal of us in the media in some form or other. A call has been sent out to write letters to every newspaper, magazine, blog, and ezine that will take it.  History says that the best way to deal with misconceptions is to educate, so that’s exactly what we will do.

 

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Fall 2011: Day 2

Posted: August 26, 2011 in anthropology, School Daze

I am both shocked and amazed.

I’ve been dreading having to retake Theories of Culture for a year, and it appears my dread was completely unfounded.  This goes to show you what happens when you have a really terrible professor like I did in the Fall of 2010.  So far, the new professor (who I have twice back to back) really makes this boring, dry material more accessible to the students. He’s going out of his way to give us explanations and details about these theories that are supposed to be the backbone of our discipline.  Not only is he teaching this in a way to make it easier to comprehend, he’s provided us with textbooks by people he knows personally, and one of these books is a critique of the canonical literature we use in Anthropology.  Everything deserves critique, but most especially certain beliefs that are still upheld in anthropology today.

That brings me to another point, one that I’m sure I’ve made in the past: Too many professors do not care about their students. They only care about their research, and having to teach courses to maintain funding is a nuisance to them it seems. I feel extremely lucky to have 2  professors this term who really reach out to their students and make an effort. We are paying their salaries with our exorbitant tuition fees, tech fees, green fees, fees fees fees.  You would think they would remember this.  I’m not above pointing out that I am paying for this education, this isn’t public school. Not only does my Theories professor like teaching his courses, he ASKED to teach Theories of Culture, and has been doing so for 20 years now. It really shows in the way he operates his classroom.  Unlike previous instructors who basically thought of themselves as the Fount of All Knowledge Anthropological and the students as humble receptors of said knowledge, the ones I have this year from my department are more interested in a dialectic process between us instead of memorize, memorize, regurgitate.  It makes a nice change, and it really does facilitate the learning process.

My course on the Caribbean was boring-ish yesterday.  I say that because I’m a major in the department, and the professor spent the period explaining what Anthropology is to the students who are not from our major. For me, this was all stuff I learned in Introduction to Anthropology a billion years ago. So I sat listening as he explained our 4 subfields (at least, those in the U.S. – Other countries do not include certain subfields under the heading of Anthropology, such as Forensics, Archaeology and Linguistics), what the anthropological perspective is and how we will use it this semester in our survey of the Caribbean cultures. I took notes anyway, because as he stated in class, “Everything we discuss, read, see and know can and will be fodder for any exam this term.” I’m expecting some questions on the nature of Anthropology on our first exam.

My last class of the day, Museum Informatics, took a turn towards the awesome. First, the class size has shrunk dramatically since tuesday.  The first day of class we had about 25 students: 80% female, 20% male.  Yesterday, that had become 15 students, 99% female, 1% male (me!).  At the beginning of class, I looked around and saw that I was the only guy left in the course now.  One of the girls said I should feel special, and I guess in a way, I do.  But that isn’t why the course is going to be truly awesome.  The reason for this is that not only are we going to learn about the technology that is being used in Museums in the digital era, we are actually going to be using some of it to aid a new museum in Guatemala at the Kaminaljuyu archaeology site.

One of these amazing new technologies is 3-dimensional printing.  For those of you who are extremely fond of sci-fi, this is sorta like a replicator you see on those shows about the future.  You can use a scanner on an object, say an original ceramic vessel from pre-classical Maya, and in less than a day, the printer “prints” a replica version out of a resin powder.  It is accurate within half the width of a human hair (.5 microns) .  If you are interested in seeing this technology in action, go to youtube.com and search for 3D printing and you will find a video that demonstrates this process. It is nothing short of amazing to me.

So, instead of doing the original setup of the group projects, the Professor (who I adore thus far) has decided we are going to help out this fledgling museum by creating replicas of artifacts that are held by the National Museum in Guatemala for display.  Many of the artifacts held by the National Museum that pertain to the Kaminaljuyu site have been previously scanned, so it is simply a matter of imputing the data into the computer and printing the replicas.  In addition to these replicas, we are also going to be using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) to correct maps done by the Carnegie foundation in the 60s with correct GPS locations of burial mounds and other items of interest to the archaeologists, as well as building a website to provide access to the data that has been collected by the team at Kaminaljuyu.  There was some discussion about also creating new posters and signage for the site itself that contains updated information.

In all the time I’ve been an Anthropology student, this is the first time I’ve actually gotten the opportunity to do something that will have a direct effect on a site and the way that the information obtained is being presented to the public.  As the professor pointed out yesterday, this is something we can put on our resume, and we will definitely get media attention later in the year when we deliver the replicas to the Museum head herself during her visit to USF.  Too bad for the students who dropped – they are going to miss out on some really cool technology.

This semester is off to a great start. Lets hope it stays that way!

Bad Blogger

Posted: August 21, 2011 in anthropology, School Daze

It’s been quite a while since my last post.  There are many reasons for this, but first and foremost, it’s because I’ve been extremely lazy for the last few months after my spring semester.  For regular readers of my blog, you probably know that I was overloaded last semester by a professor, who is nicknamed Dr. Diesel, and her course on Anthropology of American Culture, in addition to all the other stuff I was taking at the time.

I survived that semester, and I did it with straight As, a feat I wasn’t even sure was going to be possible towards the end of the school year. I still wonder how I pulled that off!  So many writing assignments, and not to mention, I read so many pages that I feel like by the end I had read the entirety of the Wheel of time from Eye of the World all the way to Towers of Midnight in 4 months.  I felt burned out on the last day of the semester, and it was decreed by me that I deserved a real break, not just a couple of weeks between summer semesters.

I should have considered how things were going before such a decree. This has certainly not been the best year of my life. With our economy in the proverbial shitter, I have been unable to find a job in the area where I live. I’ve spent the whole summer until the beginning of August looking for a job, because until then, I wasn’t even sure if this Fall’s back to school would even happen.   My previous advisor, one Nicaraguan Terrorist, had previously told me that I would be able to take summer semesters and finish my degree in December.  When it came time to register, my entire department had fled to do research and there were no upper-level electives available. So, graduation now occurs in May 2012. Thanks asshole, learn to do your job better. We have a new advisor now. Here’s hoping she knows how to do her job and actually READ the student’s transcript to know where they stand.

Those of you who know me personally know about this already, but at the end of April during the night of tornadoes in northern Georgia, 4 of my cousins were killed in a single swoop.  A major tragedy in my family. I can’t recall any event in my history that was as saddening and heartbreaking as getting the news that they had been killed all together, wiping an entire branch off the family tree at once, and due to final exams, I had to send my mom and sister up to the funerals without me.

I should have considered that an omen of the summer.  I spent the next few months applying for countless jobs, and of all of them, I had one interview.   We spent the whole summer being poor again. I barely had enough money to get by without school.  Then came the news that I had reached my credit hour limit and I wouldn’t be getting student loans. For a couple of months, I found it impossible to sleep as I tried to devise ways to pay for the remainder of my education.  That situation has been successfully resolved, some idiot in financial aid nearly gave me a heart attack, but it turned out to be an error and I was not blocked from financial aid after all.  I can finish my degree without problems (I hope) now.

A month ago, my beloved cat, Legion, vanished into the night. He has been an everyday part of my life for 8 years, and to say that I was inconsolable was an understatement.  For anyone who has a pet, they are like family, and their disappearance can be devastating. Combine his sudden disappearance with a severe sinus infection and you get a recipe for misery and sadness.  I can honestly say I’m glad to see the ass-end of Summer, it has been a real shit storm of epic proportions in some ways.

I had resolved to work on my first novel this summer, but due to illness and undue stress, those plans were never realized fully. I did manage to work out a partial draft of my first chapter, and I have an outline that will take me through to the third or fourth chapter.  I also nailed down some details that will be needed later, when I can actually write this story, but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen until after Graduation in May.

It is now the Sunday before school starts for the Fall semester.  I’m looking forward to this semester with both anticipation and trepidation:  I’m retaking a course from last year that I absolutely hated and had to drop, Theories of Culture (the Anthropology senior seminar) as well as my methodology course in Forensic Science. I’ve been considering changing my concentration away from cultural anthropology to biological anthropology and forensics.  While there are many reasons for this proposed change, the most important is marketability. When graduation occurs in May, I need to be able to go out and find a job.  All the honors graduations in the world don’t mean jack shit if your degree is not applicable to the job market. And while I expect to graduate with honors, I’d like to be able to actually find employment, and the way to do that is most likely through forensics.  I will make my decision to shift concentrations at the end of the semester, after I see how well I do in this methods course.  Hard sciences have not really been my friend in the past, but I was emboldened by my success in Physical Anthropology to consider this as a possible career choice.

My other two courses this term are electives.  One is from the cultural tract, an up-close, in-depth look at the Caribbean.  The other is Museum Informatics, a course about how museum information is disseminated to the public.  In the digital age, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a background in digital archiving if I ever want to work for a museum (a long time dream I’ve had).  As long as they aren’t as exhausting as Anthropology Of American culture, I should be okay. I do still expect this to be a tough semester, I have my two electives sandwiched between my dreaded Theories in the morning and my methods course in the later part of the day.  I’m hoping the setup helps, but I probably will be tired by the time I sit down to Forensics at 3:30 in the afternoon after having had 3 other classes immediately prior.  My schedule is a six hour block of back to back to back to back classes every tuesday and thursday with a scant 10 – 15 minutes between them.  Did I mention that for the first 3 classes of the day I’m in the same room?  Yeah.  At least I do not have the professor from last Fall that I absolutely despised.

This is my last year.  I’m determined to finish my degree with honors (I’ve worked this hard to be in the top 7% of my class, I might as well keep it up) but already the specter of Graduate School is beginning to loom over me.   I’m currently debating 3 potential Master’s programs, one at USF, one at UF and strangely enough, one at the University of Aberdeen in Aberdeen, Scotland (probably a pipe dream, but it doesn’t hurt to dream).  That decision is still 5 months away at least.

This school year, being my last, I’m going to attempt to blog after every single day of class. So for those of you who are counting, that means at least 2 blogs per week.  Of course, this might have to be amended due to workload, but I’m setting it as my goal. By publishing it for the world to see, I hope to force myself to actually do it.  Good luck to me, I’m going to need it.

Finally, I’d like to offer an Anthropology major’s prayer:

Oh great lord of education, may you help me write all the papers, survive all the defunct theories and memorize every bone in the human body.  May I continue to maintain my GPA while not being distracted by everything going on around me and may I continue to ignore the students in my courses who appear so very young and so very dumb.  I pray that, as a Senior, I may reach my graduation without committing murder. Amen. 

I can hardly believe this is my first post of this semester, and here the semester is already half-over as of this week!  That should tell anyone who reads my blog how busy and hectic these first 8 weeks have been.   I don’t think I ever stop reading or writing papers. If I had to guess, I would say I’ve read around 900 pages since the semester started, that’s 4 entire books (Origins of the Second World War, The Best War Ever, Waltzing in the Dark and Distant Mirrors: America as a foreign country) and around 25 pdf articles on American culture.   I’ve written about 15 papers for one class so far.  Now maybe you can see why I’ve not been wanting to blog on top of writing constantly about the pitfalls of American culture, the Second World War and Social Psychology.  Strangely enough, Religion is the one class where I don’t have to write, and one would have expected lots of long papers about eschatology and (for me) Mormonism.

How can you tell if you are having a nervous breakdown? I feel like I’m being punished in some way for being a good student for the last four years.  I’m not blaming school entirely for this feeling, but it certainly does take the lion’s share of my stress.  It’s work work work and read read read and write write write for 12 hours a day four or five days a week, sometimes six.  What’s worse is that I’m paying my professors to work me like a dog so I can get that all important piece of paper. The stress of not taking breaks in my haste to finish the rat race is beginning to show up on me.  I’ve taken 3 of the last 4 summer semesters (I skipped the first summer and then found myself so bored I couldn’t stand it) with as little as 3 weeks between class changes.  I haven’t taken a real vacation in years, but that is soon to be rectified.

I’m returning to New Orleans for a few days in two weeks. Spring Break finally begins for me on March 9th, and I am looking forward to several days of no school work (if you don’t count the book I have to read during break and the paper that is due the day after I get back – what kind of bitch gives homework over a break?!)  in some place that isn’t home.  Some of my readers might remember my New Orleans Fairytale blog, which is based loosely on my life during the time I lived there. That is part of what prompted me to go back after 13 years: that and I’ve truly missed the place.  I decided that it was time to take a new, objective look at my life there, at the people who were around me (some of whom I will see again, if things work out right), and at the places that I came to love.  I’m also hoping it will jog my memory and I can finish the rest of the damned story.   Maybe wandering Prytania Street, First Street and Magazine Street will stir up the forgotten past and give me some food for thought.

Consider my life right now as a precautionary tale for people who like to overwork themselves, as I know I do: you have to take vacations or you will go noisily insane.  I can’t stress that enough, haha pun definitely intended.  I only have to get through one class, one exam and another week. For now, the endless paper writing has slowed to a manageable amount, and if I’m lucky will cease altogether this week until the hated day-after-vacation paper is due. I’m still stuck on that! What professor gives homework over a break?  Do you think she will be doing school work during Spring Break? Not bloody likely.  Oh well. It’s almost over….for now.

 

Back to School Special

Posted: August 16, 2010 in anthropology, School Daze

It’s that time of year again, when parents sing and skip as they buy back to school supplies for their little darlings, who have been terrorizing the house for 3 months.  That first morning, a universal sigh of relief is heard around the country as people’s children become some teacher’s problem once again.  For me, however, it’s a different story entirely.

I certainly do not skip and jump and sing when I’m buying school supplies.  Why not?  Because my supplies often cost a LOT more than what I would like them to.  It’s the curse of my profession:  all of my equipment has to be able to survive work in the field, and this semester I’m getting out there and grubbing about quite often thanks to my work with the Veterans History Project collecting oral histories. I have already attended one interview, and am learning the fun art of transcription directly by doing it.  I’m in the process of scheduling two of my own interviews in the month of September.

School resumes for me next monday, August 23rd with my first class at night (should be the last math I’ll ever have to take!). Then on Tuesday, it’s off to Tampa for a full day of anthropological immersion as I take Linguistics, Biological Anthropology (Forensics), and the dreaded and dull Senior Seminar: Theories of Culture. Did I mention a lab somewhere in there on forensics?  I’ll repeat that schedule on Thursday, minus the lab.  In my off time, I’ll be working on projects and doing research for the Veterans Project itself.

While my supposed one-month vacation is about to run out, I’d love to say I feel relaxed and rested, but the truth is I don’t.  It’s very hard to relax from a year of non-stop day to day school in a month’s time.  Just as I was starting to relax a bit, it’s time to get ready to start again.  Sigh.  This is the last year, though.  After this, I get to find a real job in my field that pays real money, not volunteer  hours or credit hours.  I look forward to that first decent college-degree paycheck. I’m planning to take a year off and work, then go back to school again as a Grad Student in Applied Anthropology (unless I change my mind, move to Rome, Georgia and take up residence in the Folklore department as a grad student instead).  The idea of an additional 30 credits past my degree is awful to me right now. But I know that if I want to make decent money, a Masters in Anthropology will be the best way to do that.

Make no mistake: I have no desire to ever EVER be a teacher of any kind. I have the utmost respect for them, but a career in Collegiate Academia is not for me.  Not to mention, there is no money in that field anyway, and they are treated like crap in general. Teachers have the hardest job for the least pay, and to me, the cost versus the benefits do not weigh out.  Some people are called to teach; I was not.  Teachers have the most respect I can give (next to Hospice Nurses) for the difficult job they have to do, but the truth is I do not like kids enough to put up with their stupid shit in college-level courses. I would be the meanest, most demanding Anthropology Professor ever created. They would hate me.

I feel as though I’ve neglected my blog since I started at USF.  I haven’t had nearly as much to write about since my last 2 semesters have been entirely online (I do not recommend it unless you have the gumption to do all the work it requires to be self-taught).  Starting next week, I’ll be able to rant, rave and bitch about the people in my classes again (Flashback: University of Tampa), or else talk about how great it is since I won’t have any freshmen in any of my classes with the possible exception of Statistics (and I don’t care about that one).  Theories of Culture is restricted to Seniors only, so that one might be decent. The rest are 3900 level courses, so not likely to see freshies in any of those either.  I look forward to actually having on-campus material to write about.  My blog has been very dull lately.

So, be looking forward to what horrors I unleash regarding a State-run University’s day-to-day operations, as well as all the scathing and hilarious commentary I give on what I see during my classes. I’m sure this semester will be rife with fodder for the writing.

Parents: Here’s to the new school year! May it be long and your days quiet.

Students:  Haha, it sucks to be us doesn’t it?

What a strange couple of weeks this has been for me.  It’s true I suppose that things happen for a reason, but I didn’t expect all of it to happen at once.

A couple of weeks ago I saw an article in the local paper regarding the Veterans History Project, a project being done by the Library of Congress to catalog the oral history of veterans who served in past wars.  As it so happens, Oral History is a division within Anthropology, and it’s one that I have a little experience with since  I come from a performing arts background.  After reading that article, I immediately fired an email off to the project coordinator who works for the Historical Society of the county I live in.  She responded the very next day with excitement over getting an Anthropologist on staff to help with the project.  Later in the week, I spoke with her by phone and was happy to sign on to the project, both for purely selfish reasons (My resume will look better with a list of collections I have contributed to the Library of Congress myself) and because I think this is a truly valuable pursuit.  I met with her and a colleague yesterday to discuss the project and came home with a pile of information in folders, and even an audio tape of an interview conducted last year for me to transcribe and abstract for the LoC.

Something else has also happened that was unforeseen.  A few days ago, after a random facebook post regarding the Rocky Horror Picture Show I was watching on Netflix, a local community theater approached me and asked me to become President of the Corporation.  I was stunned to say the least.  I had been planning to start my own Theater group next year when I graduated from college, and the person who contacted me said that it would make more sense for me to just join them and help them climb out of the hole that they have found themselves in. Plus, they already have all the not for profit paperwork completed and are already incorporated, which would save me a lot of time and money.  I asked for a few days to mull over the idea of taking the helm on this group a full year earlier than I had planned and to sort out any inadequacy issues I had over being in such a public position of leadership.

I do not make decisions lightly.  Having been a member of community theater in this county for nearly 20 years, it has always been my dream to one day run a successful theater group that produces great, artistic shows that aren’t afraid to push the boundaries of community theater.  I decided to do my homework, take the temperature of the current Board of Directors (I spoke to three people total out of five) and even consulted the previous President of the group.  And after all that, I still see no reason why I shouldn’t do this, albeit a year earlier than I had planned.

Do not be mistaken:  this is not a fun jaunt into theater.  This will be serious long-term work.  There are many things that need to be examined and changed for this group to be functional and successful.  Certain theater groups in this county tend to forget that this is a business in addition to being about the Arts.  Previous groups have also had Board of Director issues, meaning that the Board members themselves are lazy and inclined to do nothing without being prodded by upper management.  Money is always an issue in the arts.  Funding from Grants is at an all time low.  Without a good fundraising plan, this may be doomed before it ever really gets rolling. (And the money kept rolling out…)

They say that good things come in threes.  During my visit to the historical society yesterday, I briefly mentioned my work with community theater, and that I had been approached about taking the helm on a group.  As it so happens, the Historical Society is currently planning a production to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Elvis movie “Follow that Dream” which was filmed both here at our local courthouse and at other sights throughout our county.  They are planning a live show in April that will celebrate this movie and its impact on our local history.  The Historical Society asked if I (and my group) would be interested in helping with this project and could they please give my number to the woman who was in charge to have her contact me?  I said yes.  What I didn’t expect was that this lovely lady would call me within minutes of stepping out of the old courthouse while I was heading home.

To say that she was excited is an understatement.  She is currently writing the show with a group of people, and she invited me to come today to a writers meeting she’s having at her home this afternoon.  We spoke on the phone as if we were already old friends.  She told me about the project and how it came about, and when she found out that I was also a writer in addition to the myriad other things I’m involved with, well, that sealed the deal.  She begged me to come be a part of this project, and how can I say no?  I went from being a no-one to a someone over night it seems.  I have never had so many people actively seek me out like this before.  I’ve lived in this county for probably 29 years and have only ever been involved with the theater groups here.  Nothing ever seemed to come of it.

In the space of a week, I suddenly find myself heading a theater group, working as an ethnographer for the Veterans History Project and taking part in a county celebration of history and Elvis.  To say that I felt overwhelmed after yesterday is probably not surprising, but under the light of a new day, I see a lot of good that can be done with these things.  This could finally be my chance to leave my mark here, and just maybe, bring some of the Golden Age of Theater back to our county.

I have my work cut out for me, but then, I’ve never been one to back away from a challenge.

Work with the SPIRITS of St. Petersburg continues to invite condescension from certain people in my family.  I’m well aware that you think it to be a load of crap.  You are entitled to your opinions, but you should know my point of view on it before you make snap judgments.  I work with these people for several reasons.  One is that I am studying people who hunt ghosts. I’m more interested at this point in the sub-culture of ghost hunters and paranormal research specialists than I am in tracking down ghosts themselves, but to be a good anthropologist, one must participate as well as observe. So here I am, hunting ghosts with a group. It will not be the last odd or strange thing I do, I assure you. Get used to it now.

I have attended 2 investigations so far, and both were interesting and unique.  The head of the group is currently getting her doctorate degree, and has set them up in a highly-scientific fashion.  We go in to every investigation “cold”, that is, we know absolutely nothing about the location we are investigating until 2 hours before the start, when we receive directions.  We are told nothing else.

We arrive on location, and meet the homeowners, who often times are highly skeptical themselves of why we are there.  As I must point out however, they are the ones who called us in to investigate in the first place. We wouldn’t be there otherwise. The group, which ranges from 3 – 7 depending on the size of the location, then begins a silent walk-around.  We split into groups, consisting of a technician, who is using equipment like EMF detectors, thermal imagers, digital thermometers and the like, a sensitive (note I did not say psychic), and in my case, a general investigator.

Each group goes to a different place and begins, usually an inside/outside situation.  Both of my past investigations have started with me inside first.  We then go into each and every room in the house, and make observations, taking notes. There is no talking amongst the group members during this time, other than “are you ready?” when we move into another room.  They have instructed us to write down anything at all that might come to us: cold chills, headaches, weird feelings, things like that. She said,
”… no matter how stupid it may seem at the time, write it down.”  During the walkaround, we also take pictures of the rooms to check out later.

When we have finished going over the house (it can take as long as an hour and a half, if we stay in certain rooms longer than others) we then gather in a central location like the living room and compare notes.  One by one, we each give notes to our Group Leader who is collecting the data.  She makes special note of certain rooms, where we will return to later spend more time as a group.  These are our hotspots, places where members of the group agree to have some kind of activity.  All of this note reporting takes place in full view of the homeowners, who have been with the contact person since the start of the investigation.  This is done so we can keep an eye on them while the rest of us look around.  There have been cases in the past where the homeowner was reporting serious stuff going on in their home, only to find out they were faking it while the investigators were there.  Now they sit with the contact and fill out some paperwork while we wander around.

I cannot say that anything significant happened during either of my two investigations. We heard the odd knocking sound at one location, and I had cold sensations in a bedroom at another.  Nothing I would deem as scientifically significant.  I did capture some kind of anomaly (I did not say spirit) on my camera, and I have submitted it to the group for review.  One of my images will appear on the SPIRITS website, as we are unable to explain what it could be.

One thing I would like to note to some people is that I am a total skeptic. I don’t really believe in something unless I can see it with my own two eyes. I’m a “show me” person, for sure. With that said, I have to mention our sensitives.  Psychic denotes something different than sensitive.  Psychics, as one person tells me, can tell the future. Sensitives are more like mediums.  There are 3 of them, and I won’t divulge information about them, I do not have their permission. But I would like to say that thus far they are all relatively accurate in their information, as confirmed by the home owners themselves.  One sensitive gave an exact description of a man who had died in 1988, and was identified by the distinct elements she gave as the homeowner’s grandfather.  Another noted that something specific had been removed from a built-in cabinet that had upset the supposed/alleged spirit.  The homeowner confirmed that when they moved in, a lot of things had been removed from that built-in cabinet that had belonged to the previous owner (who had died in the home).  Mostly it was air conditioner parts, but the sensitive was able to give a description of the missing items to the homeowner.

My next investigation is in a week.  I’m looking forward to what interesting and new surprises we will encounter.  These are all educated, professional people who happen to share a particular interest in paranormal research, for whatever reason.  It’s very exciting to be working with a group who work so hard to prove that TV shows are not reality, regardless of the labels you put on them. (cough Ghost Hunters cough) Sometimes, you get nothing in a house: no EVPs, no images, no noises, nada. What you see when you watch shows like that are hours of footage that have been cut to be significant.  Don’t believe everything you see on TV.

In other news, writing continues on the next installment of A New Orleans Fairytale, which incidentally has been my biggest blog so far! I got more hits on that one than I did on the entire blog itself since it started last summer. Thanks to you, whoever my readers are!  I appreciate that you enjoy my writing. You are who I write for, after all.  I bet you never thought Anthropology could be so interesting.

That’s it for now.  I’ll be posting the next part of Fairytale sometime this week, after I get done for Spring Break (Hooray!).  As always, I invite your comments and criticisms, but I still reserve the right to mock you if I disagree.   The pen is always mightier than the sword.