There was at least one individual that broke 6', but most were shorter.
Nephilim. Under 6'. Go figure.
If you heard the "tick . . . tick . . . tick . . ." of another dumb Nephilim story yesterday, you're not alone: less than 24 hours after the report of the discovery of a "graveyard of not-so-tall 'giants'" excavated in China, the 5'11" remains have been interpreted as those of the Biblical Nephilim.
There was at least one individual that broke 6', but most were shorter.
Nephilim. Under 6'. Go figure.
I don't remember who was talking, but I recently heard some TV pundit remark that it was both a surprise and disappointment that the internet has contributed to fostering cultural/social/political divisions rather than promoting unity.
Complex systems models have demonstrated over and over again that disunity (i.e., cultural polarization, geographic segregation, etc.) can emerge in systems within which information flows freely. The lesson is that having a high degree of information flow doesn't guarantee homogeneity at the scale at which the information is flowing. Two simple models demonstrate this point nicely.
First, the Schelling Model. If you're a fan of complex systems theory, you've probably heard of the simple simulation model that Thomas Schelling constructed and explored in the early 1970's and published in Micromotives and Macrobehavior (1978). The original model was implemented using coins and graph paper rather than a computer. It demonstrated how relatively small preferences about the characteristics of ones' neighbors can result in complete segregation of neighborhoods. Actors in the model make decisions about whether to stay put or move based on on information about their immediate surroundings. Through a multitude of individual, localized decisions, large-scale patterns of segregation emerge in the absence of any intent or authoritative control.
Second, Robert Axelrod's (1997) adaptive culture model (see here). If you want a simple complex systems model . . . it doesn't get much simpler than this one. The model demonstrates how polarized cultural regions can develop even though the only mechanism for interaction in the model is one of convergence (i.e., the actors can only become more, not less, like their neighbors).
The short version of my argument (which is all I have time for today) is that complex systems approaches will provide an actual chance to figure some of this stuff out. You're not going to be able to write a mathematical formula to do it, as straight math can't handle emergent phenomena (show me a formula that captures this kind of flocking behavior and I'll admit I'm wrong). And you're not going to be able to sort it out by comparing two or three variables at a time ("white males between the ages of 18 and 22 in this county voted for X, which the same demographic in this county voted for Y").
And of course there's no such thing as a "simple" complex systems problem. But complex systems theory has helped us understand a thing or two about human cultural/social/political behavior that we wouldn't be able to understand otherwise. And some of that understanding has come from some relatively simple models. I'm sure there has already been work done extending models like Schelling's and Axelrod's to represent media influences, complex structures of interaction (i.e., different network topologies, etc.), variable demography, etc. The smart money will pay attention to that work to help identify and understand the characteristics of our system that exacerbate divisions (and can be used to widen those divisions).
It already sounds like a paper title -- just replace what's after the colon with "A Model-Based Approach."
I'm coming up on the end of my second year in South Carolina. I think it takes a few annual cycles before you start to "get" the rhythms and tempos of seasonality in a new environment. Prior to coming here I had lived in the Midwest for most of my life, so there's a lot to learn.
As an archaeologist, I don't try to understand the environment just so I can give it a round of applause (if I had to pick what to applaud here, however, it probably would be the birds, flowers, and insects). Human societies and natural environments are inter-linked in numerous and complex ways -- figuring out those linkages and understanding how the "social" and "natural" parts of those coupled systems affect one another is an intrinsically interesting and profoundly important part of understanding how human societies work and how they changed in the past.
My point in writing this isn't to compose a fully-formed, well-researched argument, but rather to jot down a few observations/ideas/questions that have struck me since I transplanted myself into a region of the country with environments that are, in many ways, dissimilar from those of the Midcontinental interior with which I am most familiar (i.e., the Ohio Valley, the Till Plains, the Great Lakes). I don't have time to pull all these strings yet -- I'm just noting them.
First, the Deer . . .
Early on, I commented on what must be differences in the demography and behavior of a key Holocene large game species (white-tailed deer) across the different regions of the Eastern Woodlands. One would expect that those regional differences -- whatever they are -- would have articulated somehow with the behaviors of the human populations that exploited them. Generally, we presume that periodic (i.e., seasonal) aggregations of hunter-gatherer populations are useful to those societies for a number of demographic and social reasons. Logically, aggregations of large numbers of people have to take place when and where the resource base can support them. I would guess that most archaeologists in the north have a "fall aggregation" model in their heads, based in part on when deer are the fattest and least cautious. Are those conditions different in the Southeast, where the seasonal gradient is much less severe than in the north? Do deer populations go through boom/bust cycles? If so, are those linked to periodicities in mast production? Do those periodicities differ from region to region in the Eastern Woodlands? Deer hunting isn't everything, but it's surely something.
Second, the Sea . . .
At some recent conference, I had a conversation with a colleague who has been working in this region for a long time. It was clear he had had a few drinks, so he was probably telling me the truth. He said that the rhythms and tempos of hunting and gathering on the coast are very different than in the interior. I've never done coastal archaeology -- when I go to the beach it's usually to let the kids play, watch birds, and look for shells.
We were at Edisto last year during the time when the loggerhead sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. These are big animals, with adults weighing about 300 pounds (up to about 1000 pounds). The females come ashore at night during the summer to lay about 120 eggs in a nest in the sand.
Watching the Edisto turtle patrol identify and check nests every morning, I became curious about how turtle nesting behavior articulated with prehistoric coastal hunter-gatherers in this region. The nests are easily spotted by the tread-like path that turtles leave as they move across the sand. Caught in the act, the adult turtles are large packages of meat, sitting in the open, defenseless. Presumably a couple of people could flip one on its back and return later for an on-the-spot feast or to butcher the animal.
How much archaeological evidence is there of sea turtle exploitation on the Carolina coast? Does it change through time? Where would sea turtles rank in terms of a seasonally-predictable resource that could be used to support periodic aggregations? Were sea turtles part of coastal Carolina hunter-gatherer cosmology (perhaps in connection with the summer solstice)? I don't know the answers to any of these questions.
Third, the Air . . .
The birds here are beautiful, plentiful, varied, and constant. Of the 914 species of birds documented in the United States, over 400 occur in South Carolina. That's a lot of birds. Some sing all year round. Some even sing at night. It's fabulous.
One bird I have learned about since I moved here is the Mississippi Kite. It is a smallish, grey raptor that winters in South America but breeds in the southeastern United States.
These birds eat mostly flying insects, and you can see them circling over my neighborhood during much of the summer. Their appearance in the region seems to coincide with what I interpret as the "high" insect season -- the cicadas are hatching in force and there are things buzzing around everywhere. They're a signal of a season change here, perhaps much in the same way as the yearly arrival of Turkey Vultures north of the Ohio River.
However the annual long-distance migration/breeding pattern of the kites evolved, I would guess that the dense insect populations of the Southeast are a key to making it viable. That got me thinking about the effects of longer-term periodicities, particularly the those of the 13-year and 17-year periodical cicadas. The emergence of buhzillions of cicadas at the same time would surely make for easy living for the kites, as well as for game animals with an insect-based diet (e.g., turkeys). The periodical cicadas tend to damage trees, however, which reduces mast production (and hence could have a suppressing effect on deer populations). Did any of this factor into the characteristics (social, behavioral, cosmological, etc.) of the prehistoric human societies of this region? I don't know.
Finally, from the Periodic to the Anomalous . . .
The completion of my second year in Columbia will be marked by a total solar eclipse that I'll be able to experience from my backyard on August 21 at 2:41 p.m. I've never seen a total eclipse before, and I may never see one again. Most people don't see one in their lifetime. I'm really looking forward to it. Thankfully I won't have to stay up late at night to see it.
Obviously, it's now old hat for us to predict these "anomalous" astronomical alignments with a great deal of accuracy (business depends on it). Given how infrequently these things occur and the low probability of any one person accidentally being in the right place at the right time to witness it, it's natural to wonder what prehistoric peoples would have made of this sort of phenomenon. I'm really curious as to what it will feel like to experience it firsthand (I'd also like to know what's it like to be in a hurricane, to break the sound barrier, to be close to a tornado, to fly at the edge of the atmosphere, to experience zero gravity, etc., in case your looking for ideas for my birthday).
Somewhere in all this mess, there's a question to be crystalized about how human societies "tune" themselves to the predictable and unpredictable fluctuations in their environments. What are the feedbacks? What are the dampers? What are the common denominators? What is the range of risk/variability that societies create cultural rules or behaviors to respond to? What happens when the needle moves outside of that range? Which parts are robust? Which parts break? How do responses scale to the size and predictability of perturbations across time and space? I have no answers right now, just questions.
And now I've got to move on and do other things.
I admit that I have not done a good job this summer keeping up with the pseudo-archaeology. I continue to think there is utility to actual archaeologists and anthropologists being part of a constructive discussion about what we know about the human past and how we know it. The sameness of the "fringe" chatter gets boring sometimes, though, and I've been taking a break.
I wanted to take a minute, however, to point out yet another misrepresentation/lie by our friend Hutton "100% Confirmed" Pulitzer, pointed out to me with this screenshot from Facebook:
This is old hat to those of us who engage with these "forbidden history" types online. When they have no positive evidence to support their claims, it's common for them to invoke "conspiracy to conceal evidence by _____" to explain the lack of evidence (fill in the blank with academic field, government agency, or religion of your choice). When multiple people assess the situation and come to the same conclusion (that the claim is bogus), they frequently sound the "I'm being attacked by paid shills with fake profiles" alarm. In this case, Pulitzer is reiterating his frequent claim that I'm involved in some sinister plot to discredit him by "hiding behind a fake profile."
There's no need to discredit him any further -- he's already done that to himself.
For the record, I have only one profile on Facebook. It's really me. It's my real name. I keep my profile "private" because most of what I post is stuff about my family.
I'm really an assistant research professor at the University of South Carolina, where I teach and do research for 9 months of the year. That's it.
Just like his baloney stories about the "Roman sword" and so many other things, Pulitzer cannot and will not produce a shred of evidence to back up his claim that I'm "hiding behind a fake profile." I'm not. It's a lie, like so many other things he's said.
And now I'm going to go back to doing interesting things. Right now I'm on my way to pick up a load of scrap, then I'm going to take care of a few things at the office and then hopefully have some time this afternoon to work in my garage. Tomorrow I'm planning on taking the kids to the beach. I've got more real archaeology stuff in the works, and I'll be writing about it as I have the time and inclination. Summer!
I didn't think it would happen, but it did: after my final push to finish new work for the Afterburner re-opening, I needed a break from the garage. I busted my butt for several sweaty, grimy weeks and got seven new things pushed out of my head. The Tapp's people helped me move them, and they did a wonderful job rearranging everything to integrate the new pieces. The place looked great on opening night, the weather cooperated, and there was a steady stream of people coming through. I enjoyed talking to everyone I met.
I didn't make any new sales that night. The show isn't over yet (it runs until the 23rd), but it looks like I'll need to find homes for some of the larger pieces (I love them, but my backyard can only support so many large animals). If you're interested, have a look at what's for sale. If you like one of the larger ones and have a good plan for what to do with it, I'll talk turkey on price (contact Tapp's) and may be willing to discuss donating after the show is over in cases where a piece could be displayed in public (or in a business, etc.). In any case, this experience has helped me learn how to look forward to what's next in addition to looking back. That makes it easier to let things go.
I haven't taken the time lately to write individual "how I made it" blog posts, but I did update the Gallery page with some photos of recently completed work.
And who knows what's next. I spent a few days shoehorning my old record player and 8-track into a sewing table. Then I reorganized my workshop. Then yesterday I started working on an owl made from an antique roller skate.
If you're interested in keeping up with what I'm working on, consider following the Zero Point Mechanic page on Facebook.
I'm happy to announce that my solo sculpture exhibit at Tapp's Arts Center has been extended through June 23, 2017. There will be a "re-opening" on June 1 at 6:00, hopefully without the severe weather that accompanied the first opening in May. Here is the event on Facebook if you're interested and in the area.
Since the semester ended (I'm on a 9-month contract with the University), I've had the luxury of taking a step back from the day-to-day grind of the academic world and spending more time in my garage. The results of that are that: (a) I'm in a better mood; and (b) I've finished several new pieces that will be added to the show. Some of the new stuff will be for sale and some will not. There are few pictures of some of the new pieces in my last blog post. Here are a few more:
My short-term plan has been to "use down" my stock of material so that I have an excuse to finally visit the local scrap yard (there are several particular things I want that I'll probably never find on the curb). While all of my recent work has used up a lot of stuff, however, I keep accumulating. I'm at a point where what I'm making is significantly affected by what I'm hauling home on a day-to-day basis -- it's fun, but I'm afraid it isn't making much of a dent in the amount of stuff I have on hand. Grace and several other pieces still have to stay out of the weather until I decide what, if anything, I want to put on them to protect them, so it's getting pretty cozy in there. Someday, perhaps, I'll have a larger space and I'll fondly remember the time I spent sweating my ass off in a tiny garage trying to find a horizontal surface on which to set my beer on that wasn't covered in scrap metal or rat crap.
There are several days until I deliver the new pieces to Tapp's. I'm going to have some flexibility during that time. I may produce a few more things, or I may just sleep a lot. Maybe I'll manage to do both.
With the Spring 2017 semester in the books, I have developed an allergy to firing up my laptop. I apologize if you wrote me an email and I didn't answer.
Anyway, I've got all sorts of things worth writing about but very little desire to actually spend time writing about them. So I'll just post some highlight blurbs and photos.
38FA608: What's in the Basement?
I spent last week with several student volunteers (I named them Deep Team 11) excavating a unit in the "downstairs" portion of 38FA608 (the site of the Broad River Archaeological Field School). The goal of the excavation was to learn something about what lies beneath the deposits exposed in the deep profile. If you followed along with my weekly blog posts during field school, you know that we made two attempts to excavate units (Units 7 and 10) below the wall. The area near the wall is artificially low and the matrix is soft sand: water that collected during two heavy rains significantly damaged both units and I gave up trying to excavate there on a one-day-per-week schedule.
Our new unit (Unit 11) was a 2 x 1.5 m unit that articulated with the previously damaged unit. We had four straight days without rain and managed to get down about 80 cm below the existing surface. We hit an interesting sediment change beneath the lamellae, getting into a zone with more clay and very distinct grey/orange mottles that (I presume) were likely associated with seasonally-shifting wet/dry conditions. Right at that transition, we encountered a scatter of large rocks and several pieces of angular quartz in a relatively thin horizontal zone. On first look in the field, none of these items appeared to be unequivocally modified by humans, but I have yet to think of a better explanation for how they got there. We'll see once we get everything washed up. I'm considering pulling the trigger to date a piece of charcoal from the lowest sediment zone, which would at least help nail down the early end of the top 3 m of deposits in the levee.
R.I.P., Chris Cornell
I don't usually get too emotional about celebrities passing away, but this morning's announcement of the death of Chris Cornell was like getting punched in the gut. To me, he was a rare bird with an amazing combination of technical ability, vision, creativity, ferocity, and nuance. Badmotorfinger (1991) is on the short list of albums that really changed how I felt about music and art: it was on heavy rotation for many years of my life. My friend and former bandmate Nadine commented on Facebook this morning that Cornell was "one of my best teachers." I would echo that. He went for it, all the time. He pushed, he explored. Sometimes you "miss" when you're out on the edge, but that's what happens when you're out on the edge. And being out there is part of being an artist. He was only 52 and had tornadoes of good music left in him. I've been playing his music all morning with a lump in my throat.
Like Water, Sculptures Fill Empty Space
My wife has been out of town this week, so I've been holding down the home front on my own. I've used almost every scrap of time in the 4-5 between when I get the kids to school in the morning and when I have to switch gears to pick them back up again to work in my garage. I've been indulging myself, and I've been making a lot of stuff. I'd rather spend the time making things then writing about them, so here are a few pictures of what I've been working on.
I'll Drink to That
Like much of the free world, I breathed a sigh of relief at the news that Robert Mueller had been appointed Special Counsel to head the Russia/Trump investigation. My understanding is that things will probably go dark for a while as he takes over and does his job. I had a choice of two bottles of wine to open last night. Guess which one I picked.
Brood VI . . . Tip of the Spear
Yesterday as I was working outside I heard my first cicada of the season. This is supposed to be an emergence year for Brood VI of the 17-year cicada. I don't really know what to expect other than it could be deafening. The regular annual cicadas were louder than crap our last two summers here. I'll keep you posted.
Century Plant About to Bloom
In other local wildlife news, there is a century plant a few blocks from my house that is about to bloom. The kids and I have been watching it for weeks as it sent its giant, asparagus-like shoot into the sky. I can report that there are lots of buds up there. I've never seen one of these things blooming in person before. I'll take a picture when the blessed event occurs. Hopefully no-one will run the thing over before then.
So . . . that was fun!
My show at Tapp's Arts Center opened last night during a heavy rain. Being as this is my first show and this was my first time being downtown on First Thursday, I have no points of comparison in terms of the number of people who walked through the door. I'm told it was a low turnout in general but a good turnout for a rainy night.
I talked to a lot of interesting people (several of whom I had "met" online but never spoken with in person) and two of the sculptures sold (the heron and the cockfight are spoken for; the triceratops head, tyrannosaurus, rabbit, pachycephalosaurus, and stegosaurus are still available). I stayed up a few hours too late and had one glass of wine too many, but your first art show only happens once, so I give myself a pass.
I'm kicking myself a bit because I took very few photos during the show. It would be nice to have some images of people looking at stuff, and a picture or two with me in it. If you took any good pictures and you'd like to share them, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two "preview" pieces came out on Wednesday if you're interested. This one by August Krickel ran in the Free Times. This one by Brad Dountz appeared in Jasper Project blog.
Here are a few photos showing how Tapp's set things up. I thought it worked very nicely, and I appreciate all the hard work that Caitlin Bright, Shigeharu Kobayashi, and others put into the effort. Thank you!
The opening of my show "Afterburner" is this coming Thursday evening at Tapp's Arts Center. The opening is timed to coincide with First Thursday, a monthly confluence of stuff that happens on Main Street in Columbia. I've never had an art show, and I've never been to First Thursday, so I really have no idea what to expect. I think there will be wine involved, for which I will be grateful.
The Tapp's crew and I moved the big sculptures from my back yard early last week in two pickup truck loads. I took the smaller stuff myself later on. It's strange to have an empty yard and and empty house.
I'll be spending part of my morning at Tapp's putting things back together and helping to get things in place.
I think moving all of these things away from home for a bit has been good for me. I'm putting price tags on about half of the pieces, with the other half not for sale. It will be hard for me to let go of any of them, but I know that there is always something new coming. During an interview with Jasper Magazine yesterday, I was asked which piece was my favorite. I realized that it's the one I'm currently working on. As long as that stays true I'll be fine.
This is a guest blog post contributed by Peter Geuzen. Peter is familiar to fans of #Swordgate as the producer of numerous illustrations documenting the proliferation of Fake Hercules Swords since December of 2015. If it has to do with Swordgate, he's on top of it. Enjoy!
If there's one thing that folks in both the fandom and skeptics camps of The Curse of Oak Island TV show can agree on, it's that the biggest fake inanimate object to hit the show up to Season 3 was easily the Fake Roman Sword.
Yes, we capitalize it!
The official verdict hit in January 2016 that the sword was a modern brass souvenir, and not a magical Roman ticket to a self-aggrandized franchise for the promotion of diffusionism. Alas, facts didn’t seem to matter to some, and the circus never quite left town. One year and a few months into the debacle, the Fake Hercules Sword database has grown to a whopping n=24 examples. That’s a new sword every two or three weeks! The regular flow of new swords, the growing timeline of data, and the continued involvement of die-hards, means blogging and Facebooking just isn’t enough to cover the zeitgeist. The rallying cry for video action was made at the 1st Anniversary Party and out of the primordial digital soup, a video came forth . . . and then another . . . a couple more . . . and crap now there are almost as many videos as swords!
So now it’s official. Well, maybe. It’s either the official unofficial or the unofficial official YouTube channel for Swordgate. Yes, Swordgate has gone multimedia in an entertainment conquering effort to control your minds with a visual and aural bombardment. Developed initially by freelance independent producer Critical Thinking, his early work caught the eye of S.I.R., the Swordgate Institute of Research, and a friendly takeover bid was made. S.I.R. has now invested deeply and the Critical Thinking Laboratory is up and running as a wholly owned subsidiary juggernaught.
Facts, fun, and frivolous, we take the three Fs seriously. No late night talk show clip intro required to build the plot or the characters. If you’re reading this, you probably know the saga so far. Best viewed in hi def on the big screens of PCs and Smart TVs. Coverage includes the anniversary party fun stuff, Sword & Sandals inspiration, recaps of analysis, database summaries, morphologic highlights, critiques, and there should be more to come. There’s almost 50 minutes of entertainment value. That’s like an entire season of new stuff in 15 episodes of Curse, or less time than one video by.........haha, never mind ....just kick back and enjoy!
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