When I was a kid, our next door neighbors had a Hammond organ. They used to let me play it but their sheet music selection was pretty limited.

Very limited.

Let’s put it this way: if you ever form a Jim Croce cover band and need some funky organ breaks for “Time in a Bottle,” I’m your girl.

I have no idea how this post was supposed to end because I went down a rabbit hole for a while. I was linking to Jim Croce’s website and the front page link for “dinner reservations” was deeply confusing until I discovered it led to the Croce’s Restaurant site. Croce’s Restaurant is closing in December. It’s in San Diego, I bet Batty has been there.

I should really get back to lecture writing. Or watching shitty movies. Ooh, my lecture is on urban legends, so I could watch the movie Urban Legends and multitask!

Are bike messengers still a thing in the United States? Not as in, do they still exist – of course they still exist! (How else would people get weed delivered to their office in the middle of the day?)

Let me start over: I’m sure there are still courier services – I wonder if their numbers have decreased.

With the exception of Premium Rush, they’ve almost vanished from pop culture. When was the last time the “hip friend” character on a show was a bike courier?

I was just wondering about bike messengers because I was wondering if someone made a Dark Angel reboot, would the main characters still be messengers? I don’t know why I was thinking about this. I’m not now, nor have I ever, watched Dark Angel.

Maybe I started thinking about Dark Angel because it’s indirectly connected to Stonehenge Apocalypse because Supernatural‘s Jensen Ackles was in the 2nd season of Dark Angel and then a few years later landed a lead role on Supernatural, which, in the 4th season, added Misha Collins to the cast as one of the best characters ever and Misha Collins is, of course, the star of Stonehenge Apocalypse, which we’ve just started watching.

Probably not, but it would be cool if that was why.

I can’t believe I’ve never mentioned Stonehenge Apocalypse. Not only have we seen it before, we’re re-watching it. On purpose. For pretty much no reason at all.

It’s got Misha Collins AND disaster movie physics AND adventure movie archaeology AND Stonehenge AND an apocalypse, all wrapped up in one big tortilla of terrible.

Goddamned movie archaeologists. Always doing their archaeology stuff with ancient powerful relics, trying to facilitate the apocalypse or raise an ancient god or get even more super-rich.

Luckily, movie physicists and movie astrophysicists are always standing by to save the day by preventing the power-mad, well-funded movie archaeologists from destroying the world.

For realism, these movies really ought to have a scene in realtime where the movie archaeologists spend 30 minutes arguing over which is the the cheapest happy hour in town and then spend the next 7 hours of storytime drinking beer and arguing about stable isotope analysis and critical theory and heritage management politics and how whoever takes the job managing Stonehenge is out of their ever-loving mind. After they slept off their hangovers, they’d spend the next 6 months of the story grant-writing and and then they’d take a series of moderately paying Cultural Resource Management temp jobs to make some cash during the field season.

Then they’d resume apocalypse facilitation in earnest in the Fall because it’s way more fun than cleaning, labeling, cataloging, and analyzing artifacts in the lab.

Plus, that’s the kind of work you leave for the grad students.

That would be significantly less dramatic and exciting than the “quest to find an ancient Egyptian temple in Maine and turn Stonehenge into an apocalyptic death ray” storyline we just saw in Stonehenge Apocalypse, which was also profoundly lacking in musical numbers, so I’ll leave you with this:

[embedded clip: This Is Spinal Tap]

Incidentally, FWIW, the Cycle Messenger World Championships continue to happen. Plus, everyone carries messenger bags now and wears skinny jeans, so although it seems like bike messengers are maybe less visible, bike messenger culture has it’s tentacles deep in fashion and is here to stay. For a while, anyway. At least until smaller portable devices reduce the amount of crap people carry around and messenger bags get smaller or become irrelevant. That seems unlikely to happen any time soon.

Crapfest has been postponed due to a family emergency so we’re just considering these random acts of viewing to be part of the warmup to The Real Crapfest. Just so you know.

As I hurtle towards the inevitable end of the semester, it’s a good time to polish up some of the drafts that have been piling up. Instant content, just add coffee.

Yes. Well.

In my Anthropological Research Design seminar this semester we’ve been, um, designing research. Specifically, ethnographic research. (As a biological anthropologist, this is not something I do often).

I knew I wanted to do something involving Floridians and alligators. I’d read Laura Ogden’s Swamplife: People, Gators, and Mangroves Entangled in the Everglades and her scholarly articles on the cultural and political constructions of nature and the concept of ecosystems but I wasn’t quite sure where to go from there. (Here’s an interview on the Anthropology and Environment Society blog with Ogden about the book – it’s fascinating).

I was flailing about on a Friday night in late February, knee-deep in a literature review, when I decided to take a brief twitter-break. That’s when I saw that uber-scienceblogger Brian Switek had tweeted this::

My fear of a world where apes evolved from men kicked into high gear and I quickly responded.

Later I discovered my Tivo, Overlord II, had been trying to give me nudges in the right direction all week:


Amidst all this chatter, and the inevitable branching twitter conversations, I realized I was thinking too narrowly. Reading Ajay Gandhi’s ethnography, “Catch Me if You Can: Monkey capture in Delhi” was a turning point. My ideas were sound, but my theoretical model was all wrong. I don’t think that multispecies ethnography (see references at the end of the post) is really going to be The Next Big Thing, but the possible applications are intriguing.

So the moral of the story: Twitter is not always a waste of time and Tivo is your friend and it just wants to help. Also, beware the Ricardo Montalban Effect, which I still haven’t fully explained but intend to in the very near future. I thought I had an old post explaining it, but I was mistaken. I’ll fix that, but probably not until the semester is over.

In related news, Brian Switek’s new book, My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs, is waiting for you to buy it. It’s pretty great.


Fuentes, Agustin
2010 Naturalcultural encounters in Bali: monkeys, temples, tourists, and ethnoprimatology. Cultural Anthropology 25(4):600 – 624.

Gandhi, Ajay
2012 Catch me if you can: Monkey capture in Delhi. Ethnography (13): 43-56.

Kirksey, S. Eben and Stefan Helmreich
2010 The Emergence of Multispecies Ethnography. Cultural Anthropology 25(4):545-576.

Ogden, Laura
2008 The Everglades Ecosystem and the Politics of Nature. American Anthropologist 110(1):21-32.


Speaking of apes, which we weren’t, it’s Friday night, which means it’s finally time to watch BloodMonkey. I know we promised to watch it as a double feature with Flying Monkeys, but we lied.

This movie is so Not Good we hadn’t even gotten through the title sequence before a cocktail party broke out here in the living room.

So, BloodMonkey. A bunch of sociocultural anthropology graduate students go into the jungles of Thailand. Little do they know, BloodMonkeys live in the jungles of Southeast Asia. The students traipse into the jungle to work with megalomaniacal anthropologist Conrad Hamilton, played by Fidel Castro as played by F. Murray Abraham.

Sociocultural anthropologists who cavort about in the jungle collecting new species of wildlife?

Hint: this is not what sociocultural anthropologists do.

Technically, primatologists do something sort of vaguely not really kind of like what these people might possibly be doing, if gigantic bloodsucking gorillas actually existed and biological anthropologists or primatologists or biologists or zoologists were still chasing the idea of a missing link and those researchers got enough funding to randomly fly dozens of inexperienced grad students halfway across the world just so…well, it’s not really clear why they were chosen to fly to Southeast Asia.

Wait…I know…

This large group of inexperienced grad students were flown half-way around the world to die, bloody.

Yes, it all makes more sense to me now.

Clearly, I’m sober and it’s impairing my SyFy craptacular film judgment.

Hey! While I wasn’t paying attention the grad students developed some knowledge of anatomy and physiology, sort ot, but I think that’s just so when BloodMonkey shows up they’ll know what’s killing them.

Real primatologists would be able to tell that this thing that’s killing them all isn’t a BloodMonkey at all. It’s a BloodApe. BloodApe doesn’t have the same zing, does it?

What I really want to do here is move the “tags” from the footer of each post up into the byline, just below the “categories” list, but I can’t do that while BloodMonkey leeches away my IQ, so instead I’m just cleaning up the header and some of the navigation elements over there in the far-right column. This place is a mess. I’m a terrible blogger.

We’re also eating frozen custard. Banana pudding, in honor of BloodMonkey. Not really. We’re eating banana pudding frozen custard because that was the flavor of the day at the Dairy Godmother so I got some this afternoon and stashed it in the freezer for later because it’s awesome.

BloodyMonkey? Not awesome.

Wait, what just happened? Um, I guess that’s the end of the movie. I think it’s best to just let it rest in peace. BloodMonkey was bad, but it’s wasn’t Bad. And that’s too bad, because that means it was just boring when it wasn’t annoying us with it’s representations of anthropology, primatology, and with the way it besmirched the good name of BloodApes.

We should have made this a double feature with Congo but I think Husband is smart enough not to let that happen. Watching Congo late on a Friday night runs the risk we’ll be running around the house chanting, “Amy Good Gorilla” all weekend.

That’s a terrible quality clip, but it’s midnight and my brain has just been broken by BloodMonkey and the custard is wearing off and it’s the best I could do after almost 20 seconds of youtube searching.

Home again after the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference, which was a 4 day whirlwind. Think I’m kidding about the whirlwind part? Here’s the pdf of the schedule – it’s 501 pages long.

(The conference is actually going on until 9:45 tonight but we attended 3 panels between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. and then our brains melted. Well, I can’t speak for Husband, but I can assure you mine did. While I’m writing this, I’m watching Project Runway and I’m having trouble following the plot. Yikes).

My conference paper on the TV show Supernatural was well-received and everyone else on the panel was fascinating so I was in great company:

horror (text, media, culture): television and New Media horror

“Translating tradition: domesticating seasonal horror through television.”
Derek Johnston (panel chair)

“Beyond salt and fire: the agency of human remains in the Supernatural Universe.”
Rebecca Stone Gordon

“Control is Being taken away from You”, Marble hornets and transmedia horror.
Ralph Beliveau and Amanda Kehrberg

I should probably edit the draft of my first TED DeExtinction post so I can get that online tomorrow. I intended to post about that last week and so it concludes with the delusional statement that I’d blog from the PCAACA conference. We can see how well that worked out.

1:15 update – Damn. This is why I don’t blog before coffee. Just corrected some crazyass typos and grammatical loop-di-loops. Sorry.

Today’s Cul de Sac comic strip reminds me of a pre-dawn breakfast conversation long ago at the Mummy Congress about how, once you reach in + vigorously stir up the brains w your hook, you can just pour them out of the skull.

The pathologists and anthropologists at the table despaired of ever getting the public to understand this because many people have little science education, which makes TV hospital and crime shows their primary reference point, so they don’t actually understand anatomical structures or the textures of putrefaction.

What I most remember about the breakfast was the way some computer scientists from another conference who had accidentally joined us got paler and paler until someone in our group patted one of them on the hand and tried to reassure him by saying something along the lines of, “If it makes you feel less squeamish dear, you can continue to believe your brains can be removed in chunks with a hook.”

I don’t believe it did.

Anyway, here’s the comic strip that made me laugh today: Cul de Sac: March 24, 2013.

Thanks to Matthew Francis for tweeting this link.

(I stayed on EST the whole week I was in San Diego at the Congress, which is the only way I was able to be so lucid at these early breakfasts before our 8 a.m. symposium start time each day).

Peter Cluckey
[embedded photo: Peter Cluckey by meanlouise,on Flickr]

Long long ago, when I was a spry and healthy college student, I spent a semester as an intern/volunteer at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, then part of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology at Walter Reed. When I went to the museum, I always stopped in the exhibit hall to say hi to Peter Cluckey (pictured, above) before going back to the collections area to meet with my supervisor.

Why Peter and not the live leeches or the trichobezoar or the skeleton of Ham the Space Chimp or any of the other interesting objects on display? I find it difficult to explain, but I think you’d understand if you met him.

I always thought it charming and noble that Peter chose to donate his bones to science even though science hadn’t exactly come through for him. The guy spent half his life sitting in a wooden chair (or laying down in the same position), you’d think he wouldn’t want to spend eternity that way. There’s an admirable optimism in his bequest, if you think about it. Plus, he had fascinating skeletal pathology. He didn’t foretell the future to me or anything like that. He was a Spanish American War veteran. He was kinda old when he died and he had an obscure disease, after all.

Despite a variety of treatments over the next 20 years, his condition worsened to the point where every joint in his body became fused together. Cluckey was moved into a sitting position so he could be placed in a chair or on his side in bed to sleep. Four front teeth were removed in 1921 so that he could be fed soft foods. He lived out the last 15 years of his life at the United States Soldiers Home in Washington, D.C.

Cluckey died on Sept. 10, 1925 at the age of 43. He was so impressed with the significance of his disease and the inability of the medical doctors of the time to comprehend the disease and cope with it, that he gave his body to the Army Medical Museum (the progenitor of today’s National Museum of Health and Medicine) for study. Doctors determined during the autopsy that Cluckey had suffered from chronic progressive ankylosing rheumatoid arthritis and spondylitis severe enough to render him completely helpless.

I didn’t visit Peter for years. After September 11 it became inconvenient to gain entry to the museum because it was in the middle of a military installation. Then there was the BRAC, which led to the closure of Walter Reed and the creation of a fancy new museum in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Last week, Husband and I were headed to Philadelphia to visit the Mutter Museum, the oldest medical history museum and research center in the U.S. After about 45 minutes in the car it became apparent to me that a road trip was not in the cards.

Ironically, it was my aching arthritic back and neck that led us to Peter’s door. We decided to visit the new NMHM since we were practically in the neighborhood. According to google maps, anyway. Applemaps probably would have sent us to one of those spooky cornfields the USDA has out in Greenbelt. If we were lucky…

The new museum is smaller and more focused than the old one. Suffice to say that many of the items that were on display in the larger facility are now in storage. I was happy to reach the end of an exhibit and encounter Peter sitting in his chair, as if watching the world go by. I was a bit disturbed to realize I’m not far from Peter’s age now, but I decided not to dwell on that. You should find time to visit the museum.

Remember to stop and say hi to Peter when you’re there and do give him my regards.

[embedded photo: Peter Cluckey]
A trichobezoar is a human hairball. I figured if I gave you that link in the post you’d click it and never come back.

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).


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.

Today I’m enjoying the nice weather and finishing a very entertaining book, Mary Roach’s Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife. If Roach’s name is familiar, it might be because she’s back on bestseller lists with her latest, Packing for Mars: the Curious Science of Life in the Void.

The chapter (in Spook) on EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) was one of my favorites, for audio-technology-geekery reasons, and also because I was recently reading up on new archeological research regarding the Donner party. I don’t think you can do a graduate degree in audio technology without being asked 10 million times about EVP. I know I couldn’t.

There’s a nice excerpt from this chapter on Roach’s website, so I’m very happy to be able to share it with you:

From the chapter “Can you Hear Me Now?: Telecommunicating with the Dead”

“The National Forest Service has a fine and terribly dark sense of humor, or possibly they have none at all. For somebody, perhaps an entire committee, saw fit to erect a large wooden sign near the site where fourteen emigrants bound for California were eaten by other emigrants bound for California when they became trapped by the savage snows of 1846 and starved. The sign reads: DONNER CAMP PICNIC GROUND. I got here on a tour bus chartered by Dave Oester and Sharon Gill, founders of the International Ghost Hunters Society. IGHS, one of the world’s largest (14,000 members in 78 countries) amateur paranormal investigation groups, sponsors ghost-hunting trips to famously and not-so-famously haunted sites. By and large, we look like any other tour group: The shorts, the flappy-sleeved tees, the marshmallow sneakers. We have cameras, we have camcorders. Unlike most visitors here today, we also have tape recorders. I am facing a pine tree, several feet from a raised wooden walkway that guides visitors through the site. I hold my tape recorder out in front of me, as though perhaps the tree were about to say something quotable. The other members of my group are scattered pell-mell in the fields and thickets, all holding out tape recorders. It’s like a tornado touched down in the middle of a press conference.

A couple and their dogs approach on the walkway. “Are you taping bird calls?” I answer yes, for two reasons. First, because, well, literally, we are. And because I feel silly saying, “We are wanting to tape the spirit voices of the Donner Party.”

Thousands of Americans and Europeans believe that tape recorders can capture the voices of people whose vocal cords long ago decomposed. They refer to these utterances as EVP: electronic voice phenomena. You can’t hear the voices while you’re recording; they show up mysteriously when the tape is replayed. If you do a web search on the initials EVP, you’ll find dozens of sites with hundreds of audio files of these recordings. Though some sound like clearly articulated words or whispers, many are garbled and echoey and mechanical-sounding. It is hard to imagine them coming from dead souls without significantly altering one’s image of the hereafter. Heaven is supposed to have clouds and bolts of white cloth and other excellent sound-absorbing materials. The heaven of these voices sounds like an airship hanger. They’re very odd.”

Good stuff.

I couldn’t find video of her talking about this book, so here’s her delightful recent appearance on the Daily Show, where she and Jon Stewart gab about pooping in space and other weighty (weightless?) issues.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Mary Roach
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Rally to Restore Sanity

Happy haunting!

The Netflix Fairy brought us Alone in the Dark. I read the sleeve and couldn’t figure out what could possibly have compelled me to put this in our queue. Christian Slater, Tara Reid and Stephen Dorff do make an appealing trifecta of uber-badness, but that couldn’t have been the reason. That’s impressive, but not enough. Then, Husband remembered why we wanted to see it: it’s directed by Uwe Boll. And it’s widely regarded to be his worst movie of all time.

Uwe Boll’s worst movie of all time.

Uwe Boll. The man who brought us BloodRayne. Holy crap, is BloodRayne a bad movie. That’s the the movie that one critic regarded as “not as bad as getting your eyelid caught on a nail.” The movie that did this to me.

I can’t wait.