Daredevil. Or, “Not the one Ben Afleck was in”.

maxresdefault1.jpgThese are some thoughts I had about Daredevil. It was going to be a Facebook post but it got too long.

The thing about Daredevil is that it possessed the most “gritty” and “realistic” tone out of all the Marvel live action properties and I make a distinction between the television and cinematic universes because of rumors that they are not so simpatico. Then again you may acknowledge that Netflix shows are not quite like regular tv shows. They are presented in episodic form but they are designed for binge-watching, presented as something of a whole story rather than being forced to restrict every segment to being available only once a week.

Back to the thing about Daredevil, though, it started of dark not just in tone but in the visual style itself. Think of that famous fight scene in episode two, so clearly inspired by Old Boy (The original not the Spike Lee version since I haven’t seen that). As awesome as it was watching the beat down that went down in the hallway, being left to wonder what was happing in the side rooms when you could only hear the fight. It also forces the viewer to acknowledge, that really, fighting is exhausting. Even boxers have to take breaks. Even the darkness of Matt’s Catholicism rears its head. He is haunted when he asks, given that God has some grand plan, “why’d he put the devil in me?” Our hero believes he has an evil source fighting to control his behavior and that he really could become as bad as the criminals he is fighting…

And then you have the man whose name “we don’t say.” Until we do say his name. Fisk. Wilson Fisk. He’s not the Kingpin, not yet. He’s just a maybe psychopath who has amassed quite a bit of wealth about the town as well as influence with members from all walks of life. He’s in partnership with Mafia’s and a crooked accountant. Yet, he really seems to want ultimate make his city better.

But the show transforms. It begins a transition which has yet to be fully realized. This transition would be fairly considered a dark to light metamorphosis. It becomes more “comic-bookey” and with that comes the ultimate judgment that comic book movies are not considered art, at least not to some in the Artistic community (I’m looking at you Inrarritu).

it is also fair to say that Daredevil loses something towards the end of the of the season. The story becomes, not only unnecessarily long but also a little too predictable. This can be seen in the uniform change. I think that was a bad idea. He was so cool in his ninja costume! Then there’s the “cowl” that covers the whole half of his face. If I were a criminal I’d be a little freaked out by the vigilante who doesn’t need to see to fight.

The thing about Daredevil is that it also represents a shift in Marvel’s live action story-telling. Contrary to what Marvel’s movies might be, in the comics world Marvel characters do not spend all their time crossing over. Even SHIELD has it own storyline that is affected by the movies yet has no effect over the movies. (SHIELD. Oh SHIELD. There is a comic book show that had a hard time finding its mediocre legs. It taught me not to have high hopes.). But the movies have spread the notion that these larger than life characters, these icons that have been constantly reinvented into new storylines, can, in fact, show up in other movie “universes”. Heck, even E.T. cameoed in Star Wars (ha! +2 to geek cred).
The thing about Daredevil is, I don’t think he belongs in the MCU. AThe movies have a very particular and frankly, very family-friendly, style to them. They appeal to most generations. Avengers: Age of Ultron is so appealing it’s almost certain to break the record for biggest opening weekend. You know who currently holds the record for biggest opening weekend? The Avengers.. Daredevil is not this happy go lucky, not at all. The Avengers are super soldiers, aliens so goddamn weird they have the names and personalities of there Norse mythological counterparts on Midgard, and genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropists. They are not generally blind orphans. And there are no hyper-real 10 minute long fight scenes. There is a lot of blood and I kept my eyes closed for several gory moments.

For the most part, in terms of entertainment and story value, I think Daredevil satisfies my requirements. I love what the tone says about the archetype of this character. But I like it where it is. Certain stories need to be restricted to a long form method like Television. Breaking bad for example. A clever someone cut it into a two hour movie but I think it was perfect as a several year-long transformation archetype switch.

And I like where The Avengers are as movies. I am exited to see if/how Avengers: Age of Ultron affects the coming Infinity War. I hope that it passes the Bechdel test. That’s another place Daredevil failed miserably. As my friend Dick Powis remarked with not a little sarcasm, “I like this Daredevil show. It’s about time someone portrayed women in roles as nurse and secretaries.” IBut the fact is that it doesn’t mesh with Daredevil’s bone-crunching bleakness. And Daredevils conflicted view of the good vs/ evil battle does mesh with the pretty clear lines about who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Maybe that’s what it comes down to. The struggle between fantastical, larger than life characters in one and the other focuses on how personal demons shape one’s identity. One has Superheroes and Super Humans doing battle with Alens and A.I.s and the other has a vigilante who has kind of a hard time figuring out how to compete with gentrification.

The thing about this show is the difference between the man in the black mask, the devil of Hell’s Ktichen, and Daredevil.


Righteous Dopefiend: A Review

If you’ve read In Search of Respect, Philippe Bourgois’s ethnography of Puerto-Rican crack dealers, you know that he is expert at getting into the gritty side of Urban America. In Righteous Dopefiend, Bourgois and Jeff Schonberg present a compelling photo-ethnography that exposes the harsh realities of homeless heroin injectors living in the makeshift Edgewater community of San Francisco. It is one of the best uses of photography in written accounts that I have seen.
The authors delve deep into the social and emotional lives of their subjects, exposing the raw of nerve heroin addiction, its causes, and how it drives addicts to homelessness. It runs the course of typical ethnographic topics such as family, economy, and complex forms of racism, yet inherent in every column of observation is a pervasive sadness at the beleaguered existence of these individuals. Drawing on themes from Marx, Foucault, and Bourdieu, Schonberg and Bourgois offer up a sensible explanation for how American institutions like the justice system and the healthcare industry are directly involved, often to a detrimental effect, in the lives of people in the Edgewater community.
Righteous Dopefiend can be quite graphic at times. The descriptions of amateur medical procedures like lancing one’s own abscess and medical professionals who don’t use adequate anesthesia for quite painful procedures were enough to make me squirm slightly with discomfort. This is where the power of Schonberg’s photography steals the show. In nearly all ethnographies I’ve read the photographic material has been placed somewhere in the middle of the text and it can be relevant to anything or nothing contained in the text in no particular order. By presenting a series of images at the beginning of every chapter, the visual media emphasizes the essence of particular moments and themes as they arise. The decision to use thicker and glossier pages is also a subtle way to emphasize the role Schonberg’s photography plays in representing members of and scenes in the Edgewater community.
Bourgois’s and Schonberg’s research was funded by a NIH grant as part of a larger campaign to prevent the spread of AIDS. Their work exposed the flaws in the proposed medical interventions and suggested newer methods that would be easier for addicts like those who lived in Edgewater to utilize. As such, this text would be a good addition to courses focused on Applied and Medical Anthropology.

Family Trees and the History of Family History

You think you’re family history is complicated?


By Jenny Weston

This post was originally inspired by a recent revelation that one of my ancestors may have lived in Leiden in the early 1600s. A particularly unexpected find — given the fact that my family is from the West Coast of Canada (over 7000 km from Leiden) — it was a surprise to find that my ‘eleventh-great-grandfather’ may have lived, literally down the street from our office here in Leiden, almost 400 years ago.

In the wake of this little discovery, I began to wonder about the history of ‘family history’. In the Middle Ages, how did people keep track of their family heritage? How important was it to know where you came from? (Or perhaps, how important was it for others to know where you came from)?

For some medieval families, the task of documenting and publicizing the ‘family tree’ was critically important. This was especially the case for royal and noble…

View original post 661 more words

World Cup 2014

I was planning on writing about gendered violence in Breaking Bad over the weekend but I got sucked into watching the World Cup instead. I suppose it did what world sporting events ought to and drew my attention away from other, less pleasant current events.  I did have quite a bit of fun live tweeting the games and was quite moved not only by the milestone entrance of Bosnia Herzegovina’s into the World Cup tournament but by the strong effort they put forth in their opening game against Argentina.

The World Cup has produced quite a good crop of commercials. Gatorade” bippity-boppity-boom rendition was the best branding I’ve seen so far. Hyundai and FIFA also know who their potential viewers are, designing a product promotion specifically for a straight, male, American sports fan.

There was also a canned special about the US team in which Coach Klinsman gave a much more positive spin on the team’s chances than he did last week.  Although, if you look at the quote in context, it’s a pretty logical answer to the question of whether the team can be considered an underdog. It can’t. And Americans don’t like being the underdog anyway. We like being the best!

I watched seven games over the past two days and there have been some great plays, some awful strategizing, some examples of the effect a team “leader” can have on the performance of their teammates (I’m looking at you Cote D’Ivoire), and the emergence of a true underdog, a team from a country that is a little over two decades old and brings a Rusky style of play.  Today I also learned that Bosnia Herzegovina declared a state of emergency in May after the worst flooding since they started keeping records 120 years ago. Three months worth of rain fell in three days. Miralem Pjanic, member of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s squad bought a pharmacy’s entire stock of medical supplies to be distributed to the victims.

Here’s how you can help flood victims in the region


I also have to admit that I’ve become a fan of Super Mario


Being ethical when you don’t have an ethics review board

The very last thing I want to do with this project is take advantage of the Huaorani because it has been a recurring theme in their interactions with most non-Huaorani. Since, I don’t have many outside anthropological observers to take a close look at my project design, I am taking a less than academic approach and doing my best to apply the anthropology I know in the most ethical way I can. Therefore, I have written a proposal for the communities’ lawyer to examine and pass on to the community leaders. There are going to be a lot of firsts in keeping this ethically above board, and this is the first. Do you think I’ve missed anything?

A proposal for filming a Huaorani community tour

The goal of this film is to promote Bameno’s and Bowanamo’s tourism business. I will be documenting our tour with a personal camcorder of my own and equipment that is more suited to official documentary filmmaking. There will be 3-4 people in my group (waiting on one to work out his schedule).  I asking permission to film the jungle and the community to showcase what is unique about the Huaorani territory.

In addition to filming the environment I would also like put the face of the Huaorani communities at the forefront of the film. I would like to interview Huaorani men and women so that they can give their message to people who do not understand with the Intangible Zone must stay in possession of the Huaorani who live there.

Any Huaorani who does not wish to be filmed will not be. Any activities or ceremonies the Huaorani do not want filmed will not be. With the funds that I am raising to make this film, I hope there will be extra to give a larger community fee for this intrusion. Initially, the film will be posted on the Community Tour website, but I hope to be able to get it into independent film festivals as well which will show the Huaorani cause to even larger groups of people and they will help create pressure on the Ecuadorean. And since President Corea has claimed that he gave permission to the oil companies to drill in the Yasuni because international governments were not giving enough financial aid, viewers might even put pressure on their own governments to help prevent these companies to invade Huaorani territory.

As far as profits and royalties go, right of first refusal will go to the Huaorani though dealings with potential distributors may require further negotiation.

Please let me know of any concerns or changes you would like to make to this agreement.



Thank you for your consideration

I’m just a poor wayfaring anthropologist.

I alluded to money being a roadblock to amateur research in my post about Songkran and I would like to expand on that topic. I will be using the current pop cultural scene I inhabit.

This past week was probably one of the worst to be an amateur anthropologist. I remember reading in the Tama Bay Times way back in 2013 that the International Indian Film Festival a.k.a. the Bollywood Oscars would be hosted by city of Tampa near the end of April, 2014. ‘What a wonderful opportunity to witness some serious cross cultural interaction,’ my inner anthropologist thought. Of course, I knew that attending the official awards show would be as likely as attending the Hollywood Oscars. But I knew that Indian pop culture would descend on my city for a few glorious days and I would have the chance to soak it in.

Then, I started going to school  as a non degree student at the University of South Florida and to accommodate this schedule I began working the 2:30 PM to 11:00 PM shift at work. Unfortunately, it turns out that this is the time frame during which much of the “pre-gaming” goes on. This has lead to my ironic circumstance of having to miss out on the festivities that the IIFF awards, the opportunity to observe and participate for an extremely intense period in order to further my career as someone who observes and participates. The true crux of the situation is that, had I opted not to take classes as an out of state and non degree student, I would have the funds to buy a ticket to this event.

In fact, funding is one of the key disadvantages of being an amateur anthropologist. Organizations do not generally give research grants to inexperienced anthropologists who have only a B.A. in the field.  Lacking a legitimately official connection to the Huaorani gets in the way of government grants and giving up the right of first refusal to National Geographic has hints of unethical behavior considering the Huaorani’s history of visual exploitation. So I’m left with crowdfunding. I don’t really like asking people for money and I remember when that pedophile tried to use Kickstarter to self publish his guide on how to initiate sexually abusive relationships with children. Even more controversial was Kickstarter’s decision to take it down from the site. But credit cards aren’t going to be enough pay for 3-4 plane tickets, 7-11 days in Ecuador, filming equipment, and other supplies.

Of course, at the end of the day I am going to make this work. As Theodor Herzl once said, “If you will it, then it is no dream.”

Question of the day: What non-official channels might there be for amateur research endeavors?


Next time on The Amateur Anthropologist you will learn what the International Indian Festival looks like from the outside.

Tampa meets Thailand

As an amateur anthropologist, my dreams of throwing myself into an unfamiliar culture are often dashed by financial shortcomings and not enough PTO from my job. Fortunately, I live in Tampa, FL, home to the Wat Mongkolratanaram temple.

Temple entranceCheck out the Grandfather clockMonks' seats Wat Mongkolratanaram was built on 26 July 2005 and dedicated on 20 May 2007 in honor of the 80th birthday anniversary of Bhumibol Adulyadej, the king of Thailand. The temple hosts a lunch every Sunday but the Sunday I visited was a special day: Songkran, the Thai New Year.

The schedule on Wat Mongkolratanaram website said the ceremony began at 10:30 but when I and my friend, travel blogger Maria Laborde, arrived at 9:45 the parking lot was already packed and as we approached the main building I noticed there was quite a mix of Thai and non-Thai visitors and quite a few were taking pictures. I had brought two cameras, one for photographs and one for video and seeing the number of cameras that were already flashing about was very reassuring.

The first thing I registered as I walked around to the entrance was the smell of incense.  Next, I heard the sound of a band playing traditional Thai music. They were playing on a stage in front of a giant banner declaring the start of the New Year in Thai and English. Beneath the music I heard a voice speaking a completely foreign language; it was a monk on a loudspeaker.

Wat Mongkolratanaram is beautiful, inside and out. The architecture and altars were things I had only ever seen in movies. Maria and I spent a while taking pictures outside and we asked permission to take some photos inside the temple as well. We had looked up some quick tips about temple etiquette on the internet and were careful not to point fingers or toes at the Buddha. When we had gotten all shots we needed we exited the temple, making sure not to turn our backs on the Buddha.  Maria noticed that other visitors, Thai and non-Thai did not seem to be showing the respect we had as they did turn their backs when leaving.

Maria and I wandered around the temple grounds until the ceremony began.  When we went back inside the temple, Monks had lined up on a raised platform by the wall and began chanting. There were mats close to the Buddha statue and rows of chairs near the exit for those who did not wish to knee. It was crowded so we knelt in the back with hands folded in front of us in a prayer gesture.  Congregation bowed on command and there was responsive chanting between the monks and the congregation. I couldn’t help but draw a correlation to the responsive chanting that I grew up with at Temple Beth-El.

And then there was lunch. There were several food tables lined up against the outside wall of a community hall.  There were several options before me so I picked two I’d never tried: pumpkin curry chicken and red curry chicken with a side of fried rice and lady fingers for dessert ($9:50). Maria got her food as well and we walked down the length of the building to get our drinks and that is when we realized our mistake. Around the corner of the building there were even more food tables lined up! If only we had shown a little patience.

Throughout the day, there were opportunities to give alms, sprinkle perfumed water and flower petals on Buddha statues, and have water sprinkled on us by the monks. The end of the ceremonial process was marked by congregants (mostly children) using super soakers to spray even more water on any person who dared cross their path. This ritual is actually a means of encouraging good luck, good health, and a prosperous new year. It is also a refreshing way to cool down on a very hot day.

As I saw the Buddhists and non-Buddhists mingle and take pictures of each other around the temple grounds, it became obvious that this was as much a social event as a religious ceremony.  It is also a great method of outreach for the Thai and Tampa community. I even witnessed a moment of cross-cultural communication in the very long line to the restroom as a Puerto Rican woman explained where her island was to an elderly Thai woman. All in all, this was a fascinating experience and I am looking forward to exploring Tampa’s international communities.

For more about our festival experience, check out Maria’s post http://www.latinabroad.com/2014/04/14/history-songkran-festival-tampa-photos/