Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Best Seat In The House


If you are a practicing anthropologist, or just play one on TV, then you already know where the best seat in the house is at any restaurant or diner…it’s at the counter, bar or near the kitchen (if it’s an open format).

It is the one space in the place of business where you can truly see its soul…the art and science of how food and drinks are prepared. It’s the epicenter of a restaurant’s passion as well as where the clockworks spin. And if you are close enough to the action you may end up meeting a new friend, having a random conversation, learning something new or getting chance to test out a new recipe / cocktail.

After all, food is at the heart of any culture and the kitchen is typically the hearth of any home and where memories are created and shared. It is the subsistence we build our world around….for our bodies as well as our hearts and minds.

If you want to elevate your dining experience to a more well rounded human experience, have a seat on a stool or near the heat of the kitchen.

Categories: Anthropology, cocktails, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, dining, Ethnography, Food, Participant Observation, pop culture, Rituals | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Art of Low Maintenance


In urban areas, the social experience is drought with pretense: the necessary art of curating culture and connoisseurship. Fancy cocktail bars with mixologists instead of bartenders are the sought after drinking experience for a night out. The cultural desire to explore the world and enrich ourselves amongst the daily grind. These are experiences I love.

Then there is the art of creating experiences that evoke low maintenance. The pervading dive bar counterculture to the mixology vibe is an example of this. But the hipster recruitment strategy is still overflowing from the faux-distressed finishes and PBR marketing.

But go to the beach and that low maintenance experience is a matter of course and a phenomenon o effortless intent. When you are in vacation you need for it to be okay to roll into a bar in your flip flops, un-coiffed and completely out of fashion.

I am enjoying my plastic cup of Dewars and the right to chain smoke without stepping outside.

I am also loving the Golden retriever hanging out next to me. God bless the beach and the one place dogs are allowed. 😉

Categories: Anthropology, cocktails, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Rituals | Tags: | Leave a comment

No Dogs Allowed


Here is what I have figured out about places were they don’t allow dogs…namely non-dog friendly beaches: it’s not the dogs they are making a judgement call on, it’s the people.

It seems that when you get a beach destination that is drivable for a day-trip from certain blue-collar and lower middle class locales, you get a clientele that is less concerned about the impact they make on a place than they are about instant gratification. The result is a hectic, crowded beach with lots of litter-bugs who have a hard enough time keeping tabs on their children, let alone where their dogs might make messes so I learn about some coconut oil reviews that may help.

It’s a shame the dogs have to miss out but we are probably better for ware.

That being said, beaches in more remote destinations are often dog-friendly. The context is that with more exclusive access comes higher property values and a presumably higher “caliber” of clientele who will not only watch after their dogs but treat them better than most people treat their children, although there are dogs that are really educated like a mini labradoodle michigan who was raised by a breeder.
What that says about the state of the children in both situations is beyond my preview at present. But I imagine fond memories of being left to your own devices in a sea of sand and junk food breeds nostalgia an hence, the desire I spend long summer weekends turning in to human bacon..

Probably another reason to leave your dog at home…

Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Culture, sociology | Tags: , | Leave a comment

The Art of Panhandling

1 word: honesty.

I gave two dollars to an older gentleman in a wheelchair today who’s pitch was, “can you help me with some money to buy a beer? I really need a beer”.

I think deep down we all want to help our fellow man: whether the need be rooted in biological or sociological or psychological situations that are often out of our control.

I think where we get to feeling jaded is when you see the same people on that highway exit with the “homeless” sign every day in your way home from work after spending the day working hard in your cubicle for that gas money and vacation fund.

I think that more to the point is the fact that nobody probably relishes he idea of scraping by with a routine panhandling gig.

That being said, sometimes people are broke and need a beer. I am happy to give ti the cause of empathy and kindness among others and hope that Karma sends some kindness my way someday. And when that day comes, I’ll have a Scotch, please.

Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, sociology | Tags: , | Leave a comment

The Beach Merch Graveyard For Unfortunate Fads


For those pop culture enthusiasts out there, if you’ve ever thought “where can I get a good retrospective on the worst of the worst fads that were so bad I might have forgotten them”, then rack your brain no more.

Rather, slip on your flip flops and Ron Jon t shirt and head to the beach… The beach souvenir shop will have a curated collection of the worst of the worst throughout he last thirty or so years of popular culture; from custom airbrushed t shirts to mood rings, feather earrings to cheap fedoras and every slap-wrappin’, Crock knockin’ fleeting feat of bad taste you can think of.

What makes the beach the distribution dead-end for unsellable schlock surplus? Perhaps the locals who live in paradise and run the retail just don’t have the desire to keep up with he pace of popular culture? Or maybe sun-burnt, punch drunk beach vacationers are prone to purchasing fleeting retreats to memory lane?

Whatever the anthropological explanation, It’s good to know that there is sustainability in the supply chain that keeps the abundance of over-produced crap in circulation and out of the landfills for just a little while longer.

Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culturematic, Marketing, pop culture, Trends | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Rock Out With Your Ukelele Out


There used to be this blog I followed called “Stuff White People Like”.

One of said “stuff” was “irony”.

Ukeleles hadn’t made it to thelist yet, but I am sure it would make the cut now.

How is it that the tiny guitar made it to the top of the adorkable accessory list?

I think it has everything to diwith making creativity and music more accessible to the hordes of disenchanted white collar workers and middle-class poor entrepreneurs who chased their ambitions to economic exhaustion and are now having midlife crises but can’t afford a Statacaster, much less able to spare the energy to learn how to rock it out.

So, we (yes…as in the royal “we”) learn to embrace the irony of our great white hope and learn to strum the little guitar to Sabbath.

It is the way of the Gen X/Y early onset midlife crisis.

Categories: Anthropology, Art, Art and culture, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culturematic, Geeks, Generation Y, Narcissists, pop culture, Rituals, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

There’s no situation a Ukelele can’t make better

Being stuck in Tallahassee because there is a tropical storm on the gulf coast where you are headed on vacation COUlD suck pretty bad.

But we armed ourselves with a Ukelele. So we are A Okay.

What is it about a Ukelele that makes everything all better? Does the fact that it is. It a full sized guitar make its cuteness an instant rain remedy?

Either way, we will practice “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and hope for the best.


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Is creativity the new mid-life crisis?


With Gen Y rapidly approaching their mid thirties and having grown up in a hyper-scheduled race-to-achievement culture, only to enter the workforce at a time of recession and just in time to see their parent’s lifetimes of investments collapse like a box of rocks, I have 2 predictions:

1. They will suffer early-onset mid-life crises

2. They will not act out with expensive convertibles and younger women and cosmetic surgery or Viagra, but by dropping by (or completely into) counterculture involving creative expression and conceptualization of entrepreneurial ventures.

They will act out by making their mark…defying the nose-to-the-grindstone ethos that landed them on adderol, in therapy and in a cubicle.

Give it a few years and lets see if this borderline Gen Y narcissistic anthropologist has been practicing good pattern recognition…

Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culturematic, Geeks, Generation Y, Narcissists, pop culture, Rituals | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Why We Don’t Say “Thank God It’s Tuesday”

TGIF: Thank God It’s Friday!

In an era where the standard work-week is 40 hours, 8 hours a day, Monday through Friday (in theory), we all send out a solid hail to Friday when it’s time for the weekend.

But who was the genius that decided the 5 day grind was the American ideal?
As it turns out, it’s more ideal then the workweeks of previous eras.

Here is a link to an article I found that explains the history of the workweek, how we got here and the implications:

And here is what they had to say (in case you are too exhausted from your 5 day workweek to click yet another link):

Where the 40-Hour-Workweek Came From and How it Hurt the Economy

Can you imagine working a 30-hour week – not because your working hours were cut, but because it was the standard of the country? It’s something many workers have dreamed of but simply assume it’s not a possibility. But in actuality, there was a time around the Great Depression that the government actually fought for a work week of this length.

This makes you wonder just how many hours we should be working to have an effective day, especially when some other countries working shorter days and weeks? The history of the 40-hour work week is an interesting one, especially when it comes to its economic impact.
Zions Savings
The Pre-Depression Era Work Week

The standard work week has an interesting past. If you work from a time-line point of view, you will see that the work week fluctuated substantially throughout history. For instance, in the 4th century A.D., the Roman Empire had a whopping 175 holidays in a year, something workers of today would love.

In the Middle Ages, people were obligated to work eight hours a day, six days a week, excluding holidays. A saying from King Alfred the Great of England was “Eight hours work, eight hours sleep, eight hours play, make just and healthy day.”

As time moved on, the work schedules actually increased a bit, especially in the United States. In around the year 1800, a 14-hour work day was customary in the U.S. for men, women and children. This was largely due to the Industrial Revolution. Then in 1840, President Martin Van Buren issued an executive order that laborers and mechanics be limited to working 10 hours in a day.

But it wasn’t until the International Labor Organization held its first conference in Oct. 1919 that “Hours of Work” convention established an 8- or 9-hour work day, which constituted a max of 48 hours worked per week.

Just as the work week seemed to settle, the Great Depression hit. In an effort to avoid layoffs, President Herbert Hoover proposed a bill that would reduce the work week to 30 hours. It passed in Senate; however, it didn’t make it through the House.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt entered office, he tried to push again for shorter hours, but they were overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead, the Walsh-Healy Public Contracts Act of 1936 passed, which required the federal government to pay its contractors overtime wages after eight hours of work in a day. And then the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 passed, which established the five-day, 40-hour work week for everyone, a standard we observe today.
What Are the Work Weeks of Other Countries?

The work weeks for countries around the world have varied over the years, but overall seem to have increased a bit so that they are similar to the work week of the United States. What’s interesting though is that, according to statistics from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, the average work week for many countries is relatively lower than one might assume.

According to a map produced by the organization, the average work week for the United States is 35 hours and since the recession hit (which was after the map was produced) the average work week dropped even lower to 33 hours. This is lower than Poland and the Czech Republic, which average 38 hours per week, Greece, which averages 41 hours per week, and South Korea, which averages 44 hours per week.

However, the majority of the world, according to the map, works fewer average hours per week than the United States.

For instance, in Spain, Denmark and Ireland, the average work weeks are 31 hours. In France and Belgium, the average work week is 30 hours. And in the Netherlands and Norway, the average week is an unbelievable 27 hours.

Also, in many countries, the average number of paid vacation days averages 20 days (or four weeks), whereas in the United States, the average vacation period is 10 days.
What Would Happen if We Reduced Hours?

While the work week may show a decrease when averaged with part-time workers who have managed to keep their jobs as a result of their employers’ attempts to keep them employed in exchange for fewer hours, the standard is still 40 hours. However, some question how reducing working hours could impact productivity if doing so were made a standard.

Eric Rauch from MIT noted in his 2000 paper Productivity and the Workweek that “An average worker needs to work a mere 11 hours per week to produce as much as one working 40 hours in 1950.” In other words, we should be able to work reduced hours with no impact on productivity.

Even more interesting is that his research says that “polls and surveys have shown that people in countries with the standard of living that the US enjoyed in the 1950s are no less satisfied than today’s Americans.”

The only problem is that no one will be able to accept a 1950 standard of living after having already lived a 2010 standard. But then again, would we really have to give anything up? Think about all of the cars you see sitting on lots around the country. There are tons of products in stores nationwide with no threat of surplus reduction anytime soon.

Most likely, even if hours were reduced, there wouldn’t be a reduction in productivity due to the advancements in technology that have made it possible to increase productivity while working fewer hours. This is evidenced by the number of companies that have found ways to reduce their work weeks while maintaining or increasing productivity since the beginning of the recession. Despite having to layoff workers, they were able to keep their companies running.

In fact, Iowa’s state employees were recently awarded a four-day work week in order to cut energy costs with the understanding that productivity standards would not reduce. Other states have tried the work-week reduction as well, including Hawaii and Washington state, while Virginia and West Virginia are looking into the idea.

An official from Utah said that the five-day work week in the state is likely going to be a thing of the past because productivity isn’t suffering and energy costs have dropped.

Maybe in time, if the pilot states are able to show that there has been no true impact on their economies, the nation as a whole will follow suit on a standard reduction in hours, something that could not only reduce energy costs, but also create more productive individuals after receiving an extra day of rest. But in the meantime, it seems that workers must prepare to be laid-off and also know how to survive a layoff, because it’s much more cost-effective to just let a worker go (wages, benefits and all) than to reduce hours across the board.

Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Corporate Culture, Emerging Workforce, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Giving Anthropologists The Finger

I posed a couple of questions in Anthropology discussion boards on a popular business networking site.  Namely, I was asking the groups of academic and professional anthropologists if perhaps we take ourselves a bit too seriously in our profession.
The resounding answer (and implications from lack of answers) is YES.


In the spirit of this, here is a fun anthropologist joke i found

Two anthropologists fly to the south sea islands to study the natives. They go to two adjacent islands and set to work. A few months later one of them takes a canoe over to the other island to see how his colleague is doing. When he gets there, he finds the other anthropologist standing among a group of natives. “Greetings! How is it going?” says the visiting anthropologist. “Wonderful!” says the other, “I have discovered an important fact about the local language! Watch!” He points at a palm tree and says, “what is that?” The natives, in unison, say “Umbalo-gong!” He then points at a rock and says, “and that?” The natives again intone “Umbalo-gong!” “You see!”, says the beaming anthropologist, “They use the SAME word for’ rock’ and for’ palm tree’!” “That is truly amazing!” says the astonished visiting anthropologist, “On the other island, the same word means’ ind ex finger’!”

PLEASE help fill up the queue with lots more jokes i can send to the academics.  It would make my day.

Categories: Anthropology, Jargon | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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