Saturday, March 28, 2009

Identity and the Peabody Hotel

The Peabody Hotel is pronounced "Pea-body," as opposed to "Pea-buddy." Not like the town of Peabody, Mass. This is a fancy hotel with a big conference center in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Check out this quote printed on a Coke machine on the 4th floor of the hotel, observed 3/28/2009

"The Mississippi Delta begins in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel. If you stand near its fountain in the middle of the lobby... [ultimately] you will see everybody who is anybody in the Delta..." (David Cohn, 1935)
The interesting part is the phrase "everybody who is anybody." In the vernacular, "being somebody" may imply that you are famous, rich, or otherwise important.

If you are "somebody," there might be a biographical wikipedia article about you. This requires a strange, uncertain, and changing qualification process described by Danah Boyd on her blog here. Danah mentions an interesting dependence on mainstream media reports in defining "notableness."

Wyatt Cooper wrote an article in 1971 which points to "uniqueness" as another percieved way to "being somebody":
"We will, generally, embrace any sort of recognition at all that promises to give us some sense, however frail, of our own unique personalities...

" 'I had the worst appendix the doctor has seen in forty years of appendixes,' 'My head was the largest of any baby ever delivered normally at St. Rita’s,' 'My third cousin, once removed, was the first blue-eyed white man west of the Mississippi to die in the electric chair...' "
On a more somber note, some writers (such as David P. Levine) describe "poverty" as a "deprivation of identity," a lack which makes creativity impossible. Societies frame our roles, and individuals frame related and competing identities. When we are unable to fill these minimal roles, we are forced into a reactive non-creative existense, decreasing our humanity.

So, I suppose one could attack historian David Cohn's quote by claiming, "I know that many unique and creative people that lived in Mississippi in 1935 never stepped within eyesight of the Peabody Hotel." But David Cohn and his readers may not have agreed with this criteria for being "somebody."

If I'm not "somebody," then what is a "nobody?" Is it even human?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

SuperCrunch, and the Linguists (Netflix)

My airplane row-mate recommended me a video about the Airbus airplane launch to watch for homework/research... Netflix had it, and I then continued browsing Netflix. Netflix may actually be useful.

The Sundance award-winning documentary film The Linguists is listed on Netflix, which is pretty cool. The Linguists was published by "educational release," meaning that it costs $300 per copy. A Netflix release would be awesome, but it's listed as "availability unknown," which I suppose means that they may pass around a copy if enough people put it on their wish list. My wallet would definitely prefer $3 to $300.

I also found a documentary film of Andy Goldsworthy's work. I watched a youtube preview. Tacit, powerful, accessible, Supercrunchy. Wonderful stuff. Kinda goes along with Swarthmore Professor Mark Wallace's faculty lecture on finding the Christian God in nature.

Here's a preview of Andy Goldsworthy:

Monday, March 16, 2009

Everyone makes mistakes...

Everyone makes mistakes, even Bill O'Reilly. His first mistake was verbally blaming "the Afghan people" for 9-11. (When even the initial ascendance of the Taliban was hardly an act of self-determination.)

His second mistake was inviting Jeremy Glick onto his show.

Intense. All I can say is, this was intense. Especially at ~3:40.

Thanks to Jeremy Glick for working so hard, and preparing so well for this short debate. Based on the compassion, insight, coolness-under-pressure, and personal courage he showed in this performance, I hope he ends up in an amazing career, so that this will not be his last 15 minutes of fame.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Anthropology is on the mind after talking about it at Quaker meeting. So, here are brief reviews and links to two of my favorite anthropology-related TedTalks.

Anthropologist Wade Davis speaks sweepingly of amazing societies whose lifestyles contrast sharply with our modern mass cultures. Incredibly, he pulls it off at a blistering pace without denigrating the non-industrialized societies or poo-pooing modern technology and globalization.

Jonathan Harris collects stories
from people around the world, and compiles them into artworks whose visual beauty transcends geographic, linguistic, and cultural barriers. His work is so captivating, one almost overlooks the virtuosic focus, discipline, and respectful communication abilities demonstrated by the works' execution.

Enjoy!!! :D