Rafting Fun

Rafting Fun

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Art Museum: Japanese Art (Arts and Leisure)

I went to the Birmingham Museum of Art to see what other cultures view as art and the many different types of art within a culture. I went to see if the art and some of the stories behind it could give me some sort of insight to how the culture functioned. I decided to go to the Japanese Art Exhibit to view its art and to get some kind of an idea what the culture was like. The art that I viewed at in the exhibit was in the time period 1600-1900 and some of the other pieces of art were even older than that. So this is not going to give me much insight into the modern Japanese culture, but it will allow me to see where maybe some of their traditions came from and where the people of today came from their heritage.
There were very few things that I knew about the Japanese culture. I knew that they used to have samurai which were their really good fighters and warriors. I get most of what I know about them from the movie The Last Samurai. In this movie I learned that the Samurai were the protectors of the emperor and were essentially the army of Japan. The samurai were great warriors and very skilled and when they would go to battle they would wear interesting suits of armor. The helmets of the samurai were the most interesting they were faces and sometimes would have horns or something on them it looked like they were made to intimidate the opponents. Other things that I knew about the Japaneses culture was that they were very religious and that they were usually Buddhists.
From the Art Museum I looked at the art that was on display and it was different art than what we as Americans think of as art. I think of art as being paintings, pictures, and sculptures, but this is not really the majority of what the art work was. They had many Samurai uniforms that were on display and these were pretty close to what I was expecting from the movie. The helmets had the horns and antlers like in the movies and the masks were very strange. They looked like they were made to look like some sort of face and some of them even had mustaches. They were not really normal faces but scary faces. This may be because they were trying to intimidate their opponents. The samurai weapons were also on display and it was obvious that the people that made the weapons were very skilled. They not only had the suits of armor, but they had little figurines of Samurai. So from this it is evident that the samurai warrior and the skilled weapon making was a big part of the culture. Another thing that seemed to be a big part of their culture based on the amount of art for it was religion. There were many religious figurines or sculptures in the exhibit. Most of them were some sort of Buddha statue. Others were sculptures of other deities such as Kannon Bosatsu and Jizo Bosatsu. Many of the deities were also shared by other cultures and even other nations. They also had shrine cabinets that contained different deities in them so that they could be worshipped or offerings given to them. To go along with being a very religious people they were superstitious as well. This is evident in the little doll called a Doga which was smashed on purpose in a ceremony where bad luck or illness transferred from to the doll from the person. When it smashed they thought that this would take the bad luck or illness away. They also had many paintings on cabinets or other cloth that just depicted everyday people doing everyday tasks and often some sort of animal was also involved in the painting mainly I saw birds. This tells me that they did not really idolize the rich, but were common people and that they were in tune with nature and cared a lot about nature. The dress of the people were in what looks like a robe to me or some kind of dress. This was both the common dress for both men and women. The women were also not very prominent in the art and this lends itself to mean that they are maybe not thought of as equal to men or less than men.
These very few aspects of the Japanese culture gave me a little bit more of an insight into their culture. This in no way was a holistic approach in finding out about the culture, but it would be a good place to start for someone that would want to really understand the culture. The Japanese culture is definitely different than the culture I live in. One thing is our military is not honored or maybe thought of in such a high regard as the Samurai, and it is definite that their uniforms would not be put in an art museum. The Japanese is more religious than the culture that I come from in that they have all of these statues and figurines that everywhere in their houses. They also have many deities whereas in my culture there is only one God. The idolization of the rich and powerful is very common in my culture and is in direct contrast to what it seemed to be in the Japanese culture. This shows that unlike our culture it is not as much of a materialistic culture. It is also evident that the dress is very much different because they wear robe looking outfits and robes are only worn by some people and it is an outfit for after a shower or something not a normal outfit. The lack of women in the art shows that in this culture the women were considered inferior to the men and this is rarely thought in my culture, but overall the women are viewed more or less equal to men and neither one is inferior to the other. This just shows that my culture and the Japanese cultures are very different, and it is evident enough that it can be picked up just by looking at the type of art they have.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Food, Inc. (Arts and Leisure)

I just finished watching the movie Food, Inc. which ultimately talked about how much if not all of the food we as Americans eat on a regular basis. I have heard some about where are food comes from, but I was not sure actually what went on with the production, raising, and packaging of our food. I have heard from many people about how the animals conditions that they are raised in before they are slaughtered is no good, and that they are fed food that is not really the best thing for them. I have also heard that the animals and plants are pumped with antibiotics and other chemicals to try to make them more healthy and to grow bigger, faster, and stronger. I also knew that corn is in almost everything that we eat in one form or another. So I figured going into the movie I figured they would talk about many of these issues, but other than that I am in the dark about the food industry.

There were many interesting parts of the movie that I had never heard or seen anything about. One of the major things that struck me as sort of unusual was that none of the major companies in the food industry that were not producing organic food all pretty much declined talking to the cameras. This was interesting for two reasons one it makes it look like they have something to hide from the people maybe some thing that is really wrong. The second is it gives them no opportunity to be the informant about their point of view of how the business works and why they have made some of the decisions about the food the way they did. So they were in my opinion hurt in both ways they could not state their point of view and it leaves the general public room to speculate all of the bad things going on behind the closed doors. It was also interesting to get the farmer's perspective (informant) about the way that the work was being done. It was evident the ones working for these big companies were very careful about what they said and showed to the cameramen because they did not want to lose their job. It was also evident that for most of the farmers that were working for the major food companies it was out of a materialistic reason meaning they did it just so they could get the money to live. It was really evident when one of the farmers said that whatever the consumers truly wanted and would pay for the farmers would make it if it was either the organic or not. There were a few farmers that worked for the companies that would still give the insight to what the life for the animals was. It was seen in a chicken farm that they were packed into quarters that they were right next to each other and were being pumped full of antibiotics and chemically engineered food to make them bigger and grow faster. One sad thing was that due to the fact that they grew much faster than normal their bones and muscles could not keep up so they could not walk but a few steps then would fall down. The movie also showed that there were still some farmers that are trying to grow either the animals or the crops the organic way meaning no chemically enhanced food or anything or pesticides for the crops. These farmers though they try sometimes have it real tough in ways of making a living because the big companies can just sell the food much cheaper than they can. There were also informants from this perspective of the organic farmer and also interestingly enough an organic company. This was interesting to see that there are organic companies that are in some areas just as big as some of the major non-organic companies and it was interesting to hear their perspective. They had other smaller organic people disagreeing with their decisions to be so big and to sell food in Wal-Mart because to most organic people Wal-Mart is the enemy. It was seen though that Wal-Mart would sale the organic food not because of a moral conscience they have, but because the people want organic food and they want to make a profit off of this. I also learned that part of the reason that some of the major food companies can be so careless in the quality of their product is because some of the higher offices of the regulation committees are occupied by someone that is affiliated to the major companies so they don't do anything to hurt the company. The last and most shocking thing that I learned was that in some states it can be a crime to criticize the product of one of the major companies. It was shown that Oprah got in trouble for this very thing. The other thing that goes along with this is that if a farmer is using a genetically modified crop then they cannot save the seed from the harvest to use again because the company will sue them for copyright infringement. They have even sued the person that cleans the seed because they say he is assisting the farmers to steal the copyrighted seed. It almost sounded like a food or seed Gestapo the way they had a list of people and sort of spied and hunted the people down.

I do think I will change some of the ways that I buy my food and try to be more conscious of the kind of food I buy. I know that I should sacrifice the easy not good food for harder better food. It is just that the way of life of getting easy food is so enculturated into my life that it will take a lot of work to get this to change in my life. I do agree and now feel more enlightened about the subject of going to organic food, but I see that it will be hard for people of lower income to be able to switch to more expensive but better food than the cheap not so good food. The movie was anthropological in the fact that it seemed to do a pretty good job at looking at the food problem from many different angles. It seemed to take a holistic approach to learning about the food and used the emic perspective of the farmers to get the information across. It also did not seem to judge either side of the food argument and it seemed to just try to state the facts even if it made one side look better than the other. It did however seem to have an applied anthropological feel to it because not only did the movie gather information about the food problem and food culture it did try to suggest either subtle hints or blatant words how to solve the problem of bad food, and that organic food is really ultimately the best way to go. It is seen that the food market and the big companies in the market are motivated mostly by the monetary value or the money and that whatever gets them the most money is what should be done even if it causes a drop in quality. The last interesting idea that I want to end with is one that an organic farmer stated and it was that instead of the government helping and allowing the big food companies to control the market and control the consumers by giving us not the best products the government should aim for a more honorable goal of trying to lower health problems and medical issues by helping the organic (better) food thrive and compete better. This is so that the people have better nutritional food and thus less health problems.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Kabob and Curry (Food)

I went to Kabob and Curry to eat and to try the Pakistani and Indian food. This was something that I have never really had before in my life. I was expecting the food to be hot and have lots of spices in it for some reason. I guess this reason is from a stereotype that this type of food is always spicy. Other than that I had no real expectations of what the food would be like. The restraunt was a buffet and liked this better than going to a place that you had to order from a menu because I knew I would not be sure what to order. It was also good because I could try many different things without having to buy multiple plates. There is a picture above of the food that I tried and it is labeled. The most interesting one that I think I ate was the Qeema. This looked like to me that it was ground beef with pees mixed together. Once I got home I learned that it could be lamb or beef and since I haven't really had lamb and don't know what it tastes like this could have been lamb. Well either way it was pretty good and I think this may have been my favorite thing. The meat was kind of spicy but not too spicy. It was something that I have never really seen in my culture in that the meat was mixed with peas on purpose. The curry chicken was pretty good as well and I have never had it. The two rices were not too bad to eat but they both had a weird sort of sweet taste to them. It was something that I have not really ever tasted in the type of food I eat. I was thinking the vegetable rice would be like Spanish rice but it was not really like it at all. It did have some hot little pieces in it but overall it was this weird sweet taste. Both of the rices had these orange things in them which I thought was like a carrot thing, but I think it was something else that caused the sweet taste. The other foods just looked to me like they just grabbed stuff and threw it into a dish and served it. This just shows how our cultures differ, and that in different cultures it is relative and different how they perform certain aspects of their lives. There was also pita bread that came with the meal and this was something I have had before and it was good.This was the only thing that seemed sort of normal.
One of the things that I thought was a little funny was that all of the workers except one to me looked like they were Hispanics. This is just something interesting to me because this food is supposed to be authentic Pakistani and Indian food but it is being prepared by someone that is not either of those nationalities. There being no people of the nationality of the food led to us having no informant to talk to to see how this food really fits into their culture and if it has any kind of special significance. The waitress that took care of us was definitely Hispanic because we heard her talk Spanish to some of the other customers. Which was another funny thing all of the people that were at the restraunt in the whole time we were there were not Pakistani or Indian except one man. The people that were there were whites, Hispanics, and African Americans. This was interesting to me because I would never just go to a restaurant like this ordinarily it would just seem strange to me. These people however looked like they came here often because they knew which foods they wanted. This shows that for the workers that the reason they are working there is not to be apart of their heritage it is to make money so it is a monetary reason. This one experience at a Pakistani and Indian restraunt is not enough of a picture to really understand alot about the cultures, but it does kind of give an insight to what it is like.