June Pieces Of My Mind #2

On a whim I searched for my surname in the Sites & Monuments Register and was awarded with a distribution map of fieldwork I have directed

  • Boiled cauliflower is bland and boring. But try slicing it and baking it at a high temperature in the oven with oil and salt. Good stuff!
  • Archaeoscience friends! The other day when I was feeling happy I had the idea that you guys should develop a method to measure lifetime happiness in human bone. Preferably including variability over the life span.
  • Proponents of market capitalism tend to confuse a description of how the market works with a prescription for how we should organise society. It’s basically “Don’t bring an umbrella, it’s supposed to rain!”
  • I got a letter with some apparently irrelevant genealogical info from a DNA relative. She comments, apologetically, “I am 86 years old and I suffer somewhat from dementia.”
  • I had no idea bird baths are such fun. Never get tired of watching our feathered neighbours at their ablutions.
  • Got my WorldCon scheduling today. I’m giving one talk for grown-ups, two for kids and I’m on one panel.
  • Cousin E taught me a piece of Chinese innuendo: “romantic action movie”.
  • I was pleased and surprised to find an uncredited summary of one of my papers in the local history annual on the back label of a beer bottle from the Fisksätra micro brewery.
  • Wednesday evening sailboat mini race. Sunshine, birdsong and barely any wind.
  • I want to live in constant summer.
  • Today’s my 25th anniversary as a professional archaeologist. With the exception of a few months on the dole in 1993 and 2001, I’ve supported myself and two kids exclusively with archaeological work and spent most of that quarter century at research.
  • I’m doing something utterly Lovecraftian today: sending a strangely heavy, black stone (found in the overgrown ruins of an abandoned Medieval castle on an island) to a university professor to learn his professional opinion about it.
  • Copy editing Timo Salminen’s paper for Fornvännen’s October issue, I learned something fun. As late as 1878, Oscar Montelius wasn’t aware of the Pre-Roman Iron Age in agricultural Scandinavia, which is 530 years long. He thought that the Bronze Age ended about AD 1 and was immediately succeeded by the Roman Imperial Period! My guess is that this was because of the PRIA’s notoriously scanty grave furnishings.
  • I just gave some wealthy sponsors of my research a guided tour of the multinational council housing estate where I live. They happily went along and were quite interested.
  • Begonias are named for Michel Bégon (1638-1710), a French official and plant collector.
  • First swim of the year in Lake Lundsjön!
  • 24 applicants for Stockholm U archaeology lectureship, several with exceptional qualifications.
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54 thoughts on “June Pieces Of My Mind #2

  1. When I was at university, I had a good friend from Tanzania. Very bright guy; he had been to university in Moscow and could speak fluent Russian. But he came from a tribal background, so there was lots of interesting stuff he could talk about. On weekends, he would often sit in our living room chatting. When the sun went down, he would gradually disappear. When all we could see were his eyes, and his teeth when he smiled or laughed, someone would get up and switch the light on, and he would magically reappear.

    As one NBA star commented after returning from a trip to West Africa: “I thought I was black, but those people are *really* black.”

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  2. On average, African Americans have about 80% subSaharan African ancestry – mostly West African, which is where most of the people were taken from to supply the slave trade to the Americas and the Caribbean. So at 50% Kenyan, Barack Obama would be noticeably more pale skinned than the majority of African Americans. You could only see him as looking ‘more black than white’ from a Eurocentric perspective. If you saw him in an American city with a large African American population, I doubt this would be possible.

    Mr Obama and his family are currently on holiday in Indonesia, and I have been eyeballing some of the press photos of him standing next to Indonesian men. I would say his skin tone is about the same as adult Indonesian males. So relatively, he is really quite light skinned.

    But that is not the point!!!

    Eric is much better qualified to comment on race politics in America than I am, but there tends to be a hangover from the era of the Jim Crow laws, when the ‘one drop’ rule was operating, meaning that anyone who had even one drop of African blood was classified as ‘black’. To some extent, that is still operating today, so unless some can ‘pass as white’ (i.e. has pale skin and no visually discernible African-looking features), they are automatically classified as ‘black’ – and likely ‘claimed’ by other African Americans as black also, because disadvantaged minorities usually welcome an increase in their numbers because they think it gives them more political clout.

    So Mr Obama is not classified as ‘black’ because he looks more African than European, he doesn’t; he looks exactly like what he is, half Kenyan and half north-western European – it is because he cannot ‘pass as white’, and other Americans don’t see him as white, so almost by default they see him as ‘black’, not ‘mixed race’. That was the point he was making about trying to get a taxi – the taxi drivers in the south side of Chicago ‘see’ him as ‘black’.

    Hell, even this woman https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Dolezal was able to defraud people for a long time by claiming ‘black identity’, even though she has zero African ancestry and is of German, Dutch, Swedish and Czech ancestry going back 4 generations, just by going to tanning salons, putting tanning lotion on her skin and getting her hair permed, and she got away with it until her own parents stated publicly that she was a white woman posing fraudulently as black.

    Her claim that ‘race is just a social construct’ and that her racial identity is genuine while not based on biology or ancestry, is absolutely definitely not OK – not when it is used to obtain benefits and employment intended for people of a particular disadvantaged minority, in this case African Americans.

    So you are wrong about Barack Obama, Phillip – he is considered black for the reason Eric gave, and because he has visibly discernible part-African traits, not because he looks more black than white. He doesn’t – he looks like what he is, no more and no less. In America, being half-African makes him an African American, not ‘mixed’. If he were half Indonesian, or half Chinese or even half Indian, then he would be considered ‘mixed’, but being black is a special category in America for historical reasons.

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  3. And in relation to the American Presidency, ‘orange is the new black’ has taken on a whole new sinister meaning.

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