It never occurred to me that there would be a world of Haunted Mansion fan art out there! Jill Harness on neatorama: 13 Great Pieces of Haunted Mansion Fan Art.

Mind you, I’m posting this while sitting beneath several framed Shag Haunted Mansion 40th anniversary postcards.

Meanwhile, over at Reddit you can see a photo of the greatest sexy halloween costume, ever: Edgar Allan Ho.

I now propose that we bury the sexy halloween costume obsession under the floorboards, where it belongs.

simpsonsnuclear

Image: The Simpson (Fox)

Yesterday, I let grappling with trolls distract me from blogging actual interesting things. This is no one’s fault but my own, but I’m going to whine about it anyway.

Before I went to bed last night, I scribbled a note to myself to write more about the Fukushima disaster, particularly the peculiar relationship with nuclear energy that’s on display in American pop culture.

It bothers me that, in arguing with the opportunists and the xenophobes yesterday, I may have appeared to be dismissing nuclear dangers when my intent was to dismiss the trolls. I’ll start with the explicitly serious stuff and then move on to a few interesting examples of atomic imagery in entertainment (or, in Disney’s case, the precurser to infotainment).

Today, the Washington Post featured this article, For Tepco and Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, toxic water stymies cleanup.

That seems like a good place to start this post.

Two and a half years after a series of nuclear meltdowns, Japan’s effort to clean up what remains of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant is turning into another kind of disaster.

The site now stores 90 million gallons of radioactive water, more than enough to fill Yankee Stadium to the brim. An additional 400 tons of toxic water is flowing daily into the Pacific Ocean, and almost every week, the plant operator acknowledges a new leak.

That operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., known as Tepco, was put in charge of the cleanup process more than two years ago and subsequently given a government bailout as its debts soared. The job of dismantling the facility was supposed to give Tepco an opportunity to rebuild credibility.

But many lawmakers and nuclear industry specialists say that Tepco is perpetuating the kinds of mistakes that led to the March 2011 meltdowns: underestimating the plant’s vulnerabilities, ignoring warnings from outsiders and neglecting to draw up plans for things that might go wrong. Those failures, they say, have led to the massive buildup and leakage of toxic water.

“Tepco didn’t play enough of these what-if games,” said Dale Klein, a former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who recently joined a Tepco advisory panel. “They didn’t have enough of that questioning attitude” about their plans.

The article is a long read that’s well-worth your time, whether you think you’re interested or not.

Because you should be interested.

And now, because I believe the word “should” is weak and should be mercilessly edited out of any piece you wish taken seriously, I can’t stop pompously writing “should” statements. The more I try to change my language in this post the worse it gets, so maybe I should just…oh, nevermind.

Let’s just forge ahead. If I put this into the drafts folder until later I’ll never get it published, so here it is, chock full of sanctimonious should statements I can’t seem to stop myself from using…

You should be interested in the Fukushima meltdown and it’s aftermath because other human beings on this planet are suffering, because of the damage to the environment, and because of the important lessons to be learned from the accident, the response, and the consequences.

You shouldn’t be interested because there could be a way to make a buck selling dubious products or medical treatments to vulnerable people – in Japan or anywhere else.

You should be deeply concerned about the health consequences of this disaster for people – especially Japanese children – who are actually being impacted by this disaster. Because they’re human beings. If you missed the fracas over my previous post – hysterical fears about the possiblity of “mutant” children in Japan or the U.S. took an even uglier turn than I wish to rehash here. I will reiterate that any human being who is harmed by any environmental accident is still a human being, not a damaged creatures who should be warehoused so you don’t have to see them or be reminded that human folly has consequences.

On a little bit of a tangent, I just learned that in 2011 in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, Germany, Austria and Switzerland banned episodes of the Simpsons that make jokes about nuclear disasters.

According to this brief Entertainment Weekly interview with Simpson’s Executive Producer Al Jean, the studio has willingly provided stations with a detailed list of episodes that contain story elements about nuclear accidents or radiation.

Interesting.

I’m not going to link to any of the idiotic posts I just read accusing European media of censorship for not airing reruns of a show making light of nuclear accidents. They’re poorly argued and take this post too far afield – particularly in light of the fact that it didn’t actually become illegal to view or possess the episodes, the stations just aren’t going to air those reruns again any time soon.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways that The Simpsons normalizes our relationship with human error and nuclear power. Although the show is satirical, and it’s obvious no one is meant to view Homer Simpson as a role model, I wonder what effects 20 years of jokes about nuclear disaster and nuclear waste have on our attitudes toward nuclear accidents?

Does it make us less concerned about our immediate environment? Less sympathetic to people in other places who experience the consequences of uncontrolled radiation? Does it make the default attitude, “Well, if they didn’t want a disaster, they should have hired better workers?”

I don’t mean to suggest that The Simpsons are to blame for warping our understanding of atomic energy, particularly regarding the idea that atomic or nuclear production is less an industrial process and more of a natural process.

For that we can blame Walt Disney.

The blog Brain Pickings posted some of the most interesting illustrations from the book, Our Friend the Atom, but I recommend you watch the original movie, as broadcast on television in 1957.

Our Friend the Atom:

If you don’t have an hour to spend with the Wonderful World of Disney, you can easily find the program posted in 10 minute segments that are labelled by chapter. I’m not going to link them all here because I have faith in your youtube skills.

And also because I’m a little bit lazy, but that’s not news.

{Comments are closed on this site at this time, but you’re welcome to leave a comment on facebook or contact me on twitter: @meanlouise}

On Monday (9/9/13) DC-area artist Gregg Deal appeared on WJLA’s News Channel 8 “Afternoon Report.” Deal went on the show believing he’d been invited into the program to talk about his performance art piece, The Last American Indian on Earth.

Disclaimer: I backed this project during the last Indiegogo campaign and plan to support the current campaign and am a fan of Gregg Deal’s work.

The live 5 minute interview aired just hours before the kickoff of the Washington football team’s season opener. When it becomes available, I’ll embed the clip. In the meantime, I want to dissect it not only to express my thoughts on the segment but because local news clips don’t always live forever online.

This post is lengthy, even after I went through and scrubbed out all of the anthropological and communications theory and the art blahblahblah, but there was a lot to unpack in such a short segment.

The anchor, Dave Lucas, introduces the segment, saying: “While the nation’s capital struggles with the issue of what to call the Washington Football Team, a performance art piece and social project explores how people stereotype Native Americans.”

Cut to a 30 second clip of Deal’s project.

After introducing Deal, Lucas explains to the viewer that Deal approaches his subject from a number of perspectives. He asks Deal about his perspective as an artist first. That makes sense – ostensibly Deal is a guest on the program to talk about his art.

So far, so good.

Then, something interesting happens. This seasoned anchor becomes visibly uncomfortable.

He immediately pops the question.

No, not that question. The question about whether the Redskins should change their name.

Deal shares his opinion (which I agree with) that there still isn’t a much in the way of real dialogue happening – there are Indigenous groups stating objections and local fans stating that they don’t view Indian objections as valid because…history. There are journalists taking a stand and refusing to use the name in media, but not enough to truly create change (yet). Deal makes the point that very little of this adds up to engagement or actual conversation.

Deal offers his observation that, at least on social media, the tone of the arguments are less about the relevance of the name and more about stereotypes.

Indeed, a day-long symposium earlier in the year at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, “Racist Stereotypes and Cultural Appropriation in American Sports,” was accompanied by a profane, abusive, and bigoted stream of tweets repeating stereotypes about Indians and lecturing Native people about how they should feel about mascots and sports names. The facebook and twitter reaction was as depressing as the symposium was enlightening.

But let’s get back to the news segment…

Lucas had already flubbed the introduction slightly, but that could be attributed to any number of things. I’m not one to make assumptions, but what the hell – let’s assume Lucas is nervous.

Perhaps Lucas expected Deal to be less opinionated and verbose and more stoic, like the Indian in the iconic 1970s “Keep America Beautiful” campaign.




Ooops. Digressed again. Back to the segment…

While the anchor clumsily describes Deal’s art for the viewer, this is what the viewer is seeing on screen:

lastindian

As he struggles to describe Deal’s costume, he uses the word “Indian” as though it, not Redskin, is the slur in question.

The 3rd or 4th time I watched the clip, I paused and wondered whether I should feel sympathy for the anchor. He’s probably attended a lot of cultural sensitivity training over the years and golly gee, shouldn’t we feel sorry for people who are asked to adjust to a world where they theoretically no longer have all the privilege?

No.

Back to the interview…

Deal deftly turns the conversation back to the personal nature of the project, how he understands that not everyone understands how personal it is (a challenge in all performance art) and explains that he’s comfortable allowing viewers “to bring to the table whatever they have…” at which point the anchor interrupts him, saying, “Here’s what I think about this…”

Lucas then states that, in his opinion, the “powerful force” of inertia is “with the redskins name staying as it is.”

To even claim to mistake Dan Snyder’s petulance for inertia is absurd.

Lucas continues, explaining that “until enough people, Native Americans and non Native Americans make a compelling case to change it…We have heard some voices, we haven’t heard enough…”

Except for this messy fact: if Native voices were actually being listened to by people with the power to affect change, we wouldn’t still be having this ridiculous circular conversation.

While I was spewing profanity at my screen, Deal kept his cool. He explains that the Washington Football Team is privately owned and it’s principle owner, Dan Snyder, has made it clear he’s not going to change the name voluntarily.

Lucas responds that Deal wanted to start a dialogue and he has. Deal concludes by talking about how people have strong opinions about the art piece and the concept of Indianness.

Lucas asks Deal about the NCAA rule prohibiting Native American mascots and imagery (with a few exceptions) and contends that “…a lot of people thought making a rule was heavy-handed.”

This is an attitude that makes me grind my teeth. To undo systems that oppress a group with limited power, you have to do things that prohibit behaviors or actions that reasonable people understand to be socially, politically, or economically wrong, even if the people holding power disagree. Segregation didn’t just magically end one day. Suffrage for women didn’t just appear on the doorstep.

Change is hard and scary and uncomfortable.

I’m not accusing Lucas of intentionally defending bigotry, I’m pointing out that this is not a new argument. It’s an argument for inaction for the purpose of defending the status quo (usually with a little victim blaming on the side, to spice things up).

When Deal says he thinks changing the team name is a moral issue, Lucas paternalistically cheers him on, going so far as to interrupt him to interject “…that’s the word I wanted you to say! That’s important!” When I watched the clip the first time, I thought Lucas was enthusiastic about the word “moral” but after watching the exchange a few times, I think he’s applauding “reasonable people.”

I must say, the appearance of his tacit agreement that any reasonable person should change the name gives a new reading to his attitude, but doesn’t change the overall effect of the segment. And no matter what he’s cheering on, the exchange still has the appearance of a wise elder grooming a child for a public appearance.

At the end, Deal makes the point that the popularity of animal mascots illustrates the way that Indians and animals are aligned in many people’s opinion. (See also: Fryberg, Markus, Oyserman, Stone, “Of Warrior Chiefs and Indian Princesses: The PsychologicalConsequences of American Indian Mascots”)

Again Lucas asks Deal how people can start a dialogue, but then returns to the idea he introduced when he mentioned the NCAA rules – that if it’s the right thing to do, people will just raise their voices and do it.

This is the argument people who would like to roll back voting rights make: we don’t need laws. That’s working out great.

An interesting aspect of this is that Lucas begins by asking Deal to appear in his role as Artist. Then he immediately shoves him into the role of Indian. Token Indian, speaking on behalf of a diverse multitude of cultural groups, one of the building blocks of a stereotype. He was asked on this program as an artist who is an Indian, which would have given him greater latitude both performatively and personally. Instead, he was forced into the role of the stoic, long-suffering, wisdom-espousing Indian. This is the image he is enacting in his art, because it’s a stereotype.

I felt like Lucas was inviting Deal to a decidedly non-ironic game of cowboys and indians.

I’m not suggesting that Deal should have gone Wendigo on Lucas and bitten him or started chanting and invoking curses and spectral indians or making prophecies about desecrated burial ground.

What I mean is that the act of asking him to speak for a multitude instead of asking him how he navigates this terrain in which the personal is so vividly political actually depersonalized Deal’s art instead of contextualizing it.

At first Lucas’s tone came across to me as condescending, but almost immediately I realized that a better word would be paternalistic. And I don’t mean in a fatherly sense. The whole segment felt like some sort of runaway train of colonial tropes.

It was an ambush. You could go farther – unpacking how the very act of controlling the place the interview was conducted (the anchor desk) and the date (game day) disempowered Deal’s project politically, socially, and even personally, reducing it to a single issue. The project clearly explores multiple dimensions – stereotypes, identity, power, meaning, existence, the practice of othering, the effects of being othered, aesthetics, place, the politics of land…I could go on for a while, but I won’t.

How about we just agree the project has a lot of dimensions?

Great.

Not anymore. Not for viewers of that segment.

Now the project is firmly embedded in the fracas about the Washington Football Team for anyone who saw the segment as their introduction to Deal’s work.

Deal posted this on his facebook page today. I just deleted my final paragraph in favor of embedding this video, because it conveys the spirit of what he’s up to and his motivations in his own words, and when you’ve got those, you don’t really need mine.



See also:
Indian Country Today: The Last American Indian on Earth: Public Displays of Nativeness.

The Huffington Post: Performance Artist Explores Stereotypes In ‘The Last American Indian On Earth’

The University of Illinois Mascot Info Center

The Nation: A History Lesson for the Redskins Owner – Dan Snyder needs a reminder about his team’s attempts to resist integration.

If you’ve gotten this far and you’re going to leave a comment defending the Washington Football Team name, I suggest you also read this article that accompanied the NMAI Cultural Stereotypes symposium I mentioned earlier in the post: Washington Post: Gridiron glory will never be ours again with a team named the ‘Redskins’

I’m at ScienceOnline Climate but have to take a quick moment to express my adoration for John Oliver. Again.

Please don’t leave us, John.

John Oliver on Elon Musk’s Hyperloop:

It is way too early in the morning for me to figure out why this is not embedding properly but you can click through to the Comedy Central site if you need to. Totally worth it.

I’ve ranted endlessly about my my crowd-sourcing fatigue. I can’t figure out how to turn the volume of pitches down to a manageable level so filtering them ends up being all-or-nothing. I just don’t have the time or energy to read them all. Still, every now and again a project commands my attention. Sometimes, I’m compelled to push the project under your nose.

This is one of those times.

Unfortunately, the tragedy in Boston yesterday made me forget that I was going to post about Gregg Deal’s project. I’m sliding in under the wire today since his funding deadline is tonight. Sometimes getting the word out and spreading ideas is as important as raising funds. Maybe. I hope. Yes, let’s believe that.

Gregg never spammed me, pitched me, or otherwise annoyed me with this project. It caught my eye when he mentioned it on twitter and I bookmarked it. In the interest of full-disclosure, I did kick in a small amount towards the project. You can take that as a conflict of interest. You can take that as me putting my money where my blog is. You can leave now and bide your time until later in the week when I post about the epic Saturday night SyFy Craptacular Monsterwolf.

Oh hey, quite by coincidence, here’s the description of Monsterwolf:

A group of people who represent an oil company find new ground to drill for oil but then accidentally unleash a wolf-like creature. The creature wrecks havoc in the town and can only be stopped by the last surviving native American.

So, um, clearly this was all meant to be.

It’s a sign, damnit. A sign from above that I was meant to tell you about this project and how you can support it.

I probably should have mentioned sooner that I’m (mal)functioning on very little sleep and no adult supervision so please don’t mistake my Crazy for any reflection on Gregg’s art.

Unless that positively influences you to donate…

So, with all that blahblahblah pre-amble, let me introduce you to DC-area artist Gregg Deal, aka @the_lame_sauce. Here’s his blog, which explains the project. Here’s his Indiegogo page, where he’s raising funds to make this project a reality.

Good luck, Gregg!

I was going to write an epic post about how the Maya never predicted an apocalypse for December 21, 2012, but, ironically, I was too busy writing my final paper for my graduate archaeological theory seminar to write an anthropology post. Had to take a little time out for reading and writing to celebrate Husband’s birthday.

His birthday was December 12. December 12, 2012. 12/12/12. Or, as I called it, National Soundcheck Day. (1-2-1-2-1-2).

Nevermind.

Let me make that Maya thing up to you, at least a little bit.

First of all, despite the fact that the Hobbit is a wild disappointment, New Zealanders are in the thick of December 21 and report that the world has not ended.

Also, I’m sure a chunk of the 6 million people of Mayan descent on the planet think anyone freaking out about a a poor interpretation of an ancient calendar used by priests and astronomers is an idiot. Or for thinking that the Maya are extinct.

Or for not knowing where they live.

Or for thinking that Maya Rudolph and/or Maya Angelou are harbingers of doom.

Wait, no, I’m the one who thinks you’re an idiot for that last one.

Back to the Maya and the crazy influx of tourists who are confusing the hell out of a lot of people who are just trying to survive and feed themselves and their families.

This article from Reuters hits the highlights. Mexico’s ethnic Maya unmoved by 2012 ‘Armageddon’ hysteria – End of a 5,125-year cycle in Maya Long Calendar, Majority of today’s Maya people are Roman Catholic

Thousands of mystics, New Age dreamers and fans of pre-Hispanic culture have been drawn to Mexico in hopes of witnessing great things when the day in an old Maya calendar dubbed “the end of the world” dawns on Friday.

But many of today’s ethnic Maya cannot understand the fuss. Mostly Christian, they have looked on in wonder at the influx of foreign tourists to ancient cities in southern Mexico and Central America whose heyday passed hundreds of years ago.

For students of ancient Mesoamerican time-keeping, Dec. 21, 2012 marks the end of a 5,125-year cycle in the Maya Long Calendar, an event one leading U.S. scholar said in the 1960s could be interpreted as a kind of Armageddon for the Maya.

Academics and astronomers say too much weight was given to the words and have sought to allay fears the end is nigh.

[read the rest of the article at Reuters]

To be fair, those ancient temples are extremely cool.

If you still think the Maya are extinct, that the modern interpretations of the calendar are correct, or that the horribleness of the Hobbit may be bringing about the end of the world, this website can make you feel better about 2 out of the 3, at least:

The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian has a kick-ass page up about Mayan culture. There’s even a special section about the calendar, 2012: resetting the count.

At Scientific American, Daisy Yuhas has an excellent post up about what psychology reveals about the comforts of the apocalypse. Maybe that’s all you really need to know this week.

Conference going (and organizing) and such haven’t slowed down my movie-watching much but they’ve slowed down my blogging. While I get caught up, and while my Grimm post is still hanging around on the front page, I thought I’d bring two related items to your attention.

First up, Neely Tucker has an intriguing review of The Annotated Brothers Grimm, which is edited by Harvard scholar Maria Tatar:

Once upon a time, fairy tales were not as nice as they are now.

Mother and Daddy dear — not an evil stepmom — take Hansel and Gretel out in the woods and leave them to starve. Little Red Riding Hood does a striptease for the Big Bad Wolf. Cinderella’s stepsisters cut off parts of their feet to force the mangled stumps into the glass slipper.

Ah, childhood. Ah, the Brothers Grimm.

It has been 200 years since the German siblings and folklorists published their landmark first volume of “Children’s Stories and Household Tales,” and it becomes clear in scholar Maria Tatar’s “The Annotated Brothers Grimm,” published this week for the bicentennial, that the modern tellings of fairy tales have gone soft.

[read the rest of the review at WashingtonPost.com]

If you’re in the Philadelphia area, the fantastic Mutter Museum has a new exhibit, “Grimms’ Anatomy: Magic and Medicine: 1812-2012”.

Which reminds me that I never got around to seeing Terry Gilliam’s The Brother’s Grimm. I put it in the Netflix queue. I think it has witches and wolves in it, so that should put things back on track here….

I was looking for clips from the 30 Rock episode where they went to IKEA but I found this:


[embedded clip: Breaking up in IKEA]

Later, I did find this:


[embedded clip: 30 Rock IKEA]

…but by then I’d lost interest. In IKEA jokes, at any rate. I think we all lost interest in 30 Rock a long time ago.

Poor 30 Rock.