No, I have never dug up a dinosaur… ever.

When someone asks what I do, I usually tell them I am an anthropologist that helps companies find new opportunities for growth and strategic direction. This is most often followed by them asking: “That sounds really interesting. How does digging up dinosaur bones help a company find new opportunities?” It comes from a common misunderstanding: There are four different kinds of anthropologists: I am a cultural anthropologist (I talk to live people), rather than an archeologist (dig up people and objects). The misunderstanding is reasonable, because when you seen an anthropologist on TV, they are usually digging up dinosaur bones or an ancient Greek village, and in the case of Indiana Jones, grave robbing.

Here is the old graduate school joke that we used:
Anthropologists from all four subfields walk into a room and discover a dead body:
The Archaeologist would empty pockets of the corpse, count the change, remove the cloths, label everything and take notes on everything for study back in the lab.
The Physical anthropologist would measure all various parts of the body, take notes about the context it was found in and compare notes with the archaeologist.
The Paleontologist would yawn: Something has to be several thousand years old before it’s of interest.
The Cultural Anthropologist would ask the corpse questions like “What do you call the current state you are in?”, “What does death mean in your culture?”, If someone from outside your village died here, would they have change in their pockets too?”

Granted these questions may seem irrelevant to the stiff being interviewed, but we cultural folks are both pesky and persistent and will get the answers somehow. Besides, the other fields in anthropology often involve long hours of digging in the dirt under a very hot sun in places without cable television. Cultural Anthropologists try to avoid this at all costs because the sun makes our beer warm and foamy. No one except the Archaeologists like warm foamy beer.

Blog Disclaimer. I will often go back to entries to make edits or clarify points. If I am changing my point of view, that will be a new entry.


“Quick, look over there. No, don’t stare Dammit!”

These are the hushed tones of people celebrity watching. Someone in my office was recently talking about an experience a friend had seeing a celebrity in “real life” Having lived in LA for a bit, I can tell you that few are immune to the odd other-world feeling of seeing someone famous in the flesh. But why do we get those feelings, these are people with jobs and in some cases apparently serious personal issues.

It’s because TV and Movie stars are the gods and the story tellers our tribe no longer has. If Jesus and Al Pachino both walked into a restaurant, your brain would seize up trying to decide where to stare first. When I was in middle school, (for reasons I don’t remember) we started reading about Greek myths. As I got started experiencing my own brief sighting of our contemporary gods walking the earth, I could see the connection of Greek mythology and contemporary entertainment.

The thing about Greek Gods is their stories were often brought about by their failings, but those failing were human failing’s writ large: on a Gods scale. They were subject to lust, envy, pride and the related wounded egos, and as far as human maidens were concerned, Greek Gods were the original stalkers from hell. Zeus help you if you happen to be the male suitor deemed to be in the way. The stories did not hold up the Gods as the paragons of virtue, they were object lessons, sometimes showing what happens if you are childish and greedy and hat happens when you are heroic and noble.

I think that’s why we love our flawed heroes. Indiana Jones was terrified of snakes, (and by anthropology standards, little more than a grave-robber), made rotten choices that got him in trouble and made the story more interesting. But like the Greek Gods, these failings make them more accessible, allowing us to take the stories into our lives.

Blog Disclaimer. I will often go back to entries to make edits or clarify points. If I am changing my point of view, that will be a new entry.


The profits are falling! The profits are falling!

… and its all YouTubes fault! OK, not just YouTube, but all the video sites that are emerging. In case you didn’t know, before this it was the Edison recording machines fault, and then it was radios fault, then it was the LP, the cassette, VCR, the CD, the DVD, and of course everything is the internets fault from loneliness to sex crimes to poor investment choices (hey, that guy from Nigeria was offering me a pretty sweet deal).

People are talking about sites like YouTube as a sign of the coming death nell of “mainstream” television’s business model. Since YouTube has turned profit 0 to date, and both rely on ad revenue as the business model, I wouldn’t set up the coffin and candles of television just yet.

Is it possible? Will, over time, NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX pass away? Of course, but will it be in 25 or 125 years? It’s easy to forget that the FOX network is only 20 years old. That’s only two decades to become a major network. So could a YouTube network join the other broadcast and cable outlets? Sure, why not…

Ah, but can sites like YouTube as we interact with them today, and that is an important caveat, as we interact them today replace television? Not likely. Here is the math. HDTV’s sales are accelerating like DVD and CD players, 16 million this year, 23 million next year, prices drop sales go up. Pretty soon we are all watching the people on Survivor in chewing on rats in all their fuzzy glory, every little twitch of a tail in perfect detail. But, have you looked at the video on YouTube? If you try to watch a video off that site on HD, it will look more like a 1979 version of Pong.

It is of course about the experience…
Over time, most people will have wicked fast connections and streaming HD video will be a reality. But in the mean time, and I speak as an HDTV owner, the 6 channels of HD I get look great. Non-HD channels are a mediocre picture at best. Then why, oh why would I watch amateur video on my HDTV? Like peer to peer file sharing networks, sites like YouTube have a quality to crap ratio that is pretty big. As I like to use webTV has a favored whipping post, watching TV and surfing the internet are a different an experience as watching a movie and going to an amusement park. Both are great fun, but different kinds of fun. You watch a TV program for a story, a thread that brings you back time and again. Even with DVR, people are still mentally attached to watching programs when they air.

Blog Disclaimer. I will often go back to entries to make edits or clarify points. If I am changing my point of view, that will be a new entry.