Tuesday, January 31, 2017


We had our first outing to Cape Cod in quite some while early in the fall, and it was quite nice. We took the pooch with us, since it was cool enough to leave her in the car when needed. But we also took her on a couple short walks, including one around Falmouth center. We took a path that loops behind this school, and we were glad we did.
The public art celebrating science and engineering is a perfect example of what some call STEM to STEAM, and what I just call good teaching.

The sense of place -- as we geographers call it -- is expressed in some interesting ways, reflecting the
 area's nautical heritage.

Teaching Gardens
I meant to write more at the time, but the photos convey the sense of place well enough. Here is a map for those who might want to visit or put this in context.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Golf and Hotels

Trump resort under development in Bali, Indonesia. The largest population of Muslims in the world lives in Indonesia, and of course most of them are not affiliated with terrorism. They are more likely to be victims than perpetrators -- just like Christians in the U.S. But some Islamist terrorism does originate in the country, leading one to wonder how it has escaped the president's travel ban. Image source: DJ Trump.

Here are some of the countries with the largest Muslim populations in the world (Muslim populations shown). As of today, some are welcome in the nation formerly known as the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

The distinction between the naughty and nice lists is not related to terrorism -- the 9/11 attacks were brought to us by people on the WELCOME LIST, and no attacks on U.S. soil have originated in the NOT WELCOME countries for at least 40 years. (According to Cato Institute.) So what distinguishes the two lists? Golf and hotels. If you are going to be a terrorist, be sure you are from a country with Trump realty connections. NOT WELCOME Iran 74,819,000 Iraq 31,108,000 Libya 6,325,000 Somalia 9,231,000 Sudan 39,027,950 Syria 20,895,000 Yemen 24,023,000 WELCOME Saudi Arabia 25,493,000 UAE 3,577,000 Egypt 73,800,000 Azerbaijan 8,795,000 Turkey 74,660,000 Indonesia 204,847,000 For more details, see Sprawling Business Empire in the NY Daily News.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Velvet Empire

When did the U.S. become an empire?  We have actual colonies by other names, post-colonial relationships with many countries, and the largest military network in the history of the planet, but we will not use the words "colony" or "empire" to describe them. Why is this?

In a Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross, author and Boston Globe journalist Stephen Kinzer explains the roots of empire in our 1898 war with Spain -- where Teddy Roosevelt (right) famously gained military experience with the Rough Riders.

In just over a half hour, he offers the most cogent and balanced explanation I have heard of the cognitive dissonance between our democratic ideals and our imperial realities.

Click map to enlarge. Map and details from Emerson Kent

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

First Recontact

Spoiler alert: This review reveals the main finding of the new documentary First Contact.
Watch the film first if you prefer a slow reveal.
While I was traveling in Nicaragua, my favorite librarian found a documentary that she thought would interest me. We had to tamp down a bit of skepticism because the title First Contact: Lost Tribe of the Amazon (see also: Netflix) does suggest wildness tropes that we have encountered in the 1960 sci-fi piece Lost World, in a problematic NatGeo documentary on the region, and in many narratives described in the book Olhares, which I co-authored with colleagues who study and/or live in the Amazon.

Since I wrote my dissertation in the Amazon and have been back twice -- once with my family -- we set our misgivings aside and watched this short (49m) documentary. It turns out that it takes place in Acre -- just west of my research area in Rondonia -- and neighboring parts of Peru. At first, it seemed like it was just going to play with the usual tropes of exaticism and danger (there is, after all, some actual danger to document).

Eventually, however, this story of initial contact with isolated people poses a plausible hypothesis that I had not encountered before. The entire area had been involved in the extraction of rubber over a century ago, and much of the labor used in that trade had been forced labor. The tribes that have emerged in recent years might not have been isolated since the neolithic period, as is often supposed. Instead, this film suggests, they may have been in hiding for a century or two, avoiding enslavement. Their emergence at this time -- including attacks on remote riparian villages -- could be the result of two factors. First, the oral history of long-ago slave raids may have faded in the minds of the young people of the Txapanawa. Second, illegal incursions of loggers or miners into the Alto Purús National Park may be displacing them from the refuge that had protected them since the early days of the rubber trade.
Map source: World Wildlife Fund