May 2006 Archives

I was editing some footage of an interview I shot with an emeritus faculty here when I discovered to my delight that iMovie HD suddenly supports 25p/30p progressive HDV input.

Since when?!?!?!?!

I had shot the interview with my Canon XL-H1 and forgot to reset the frame-rate from 30p to 60i. I only realized this when I got back home and started to edit. I was adjusting settings and turned off the HDV->DV downconvert on the XL-H1 and was astonished when iMovie was happy to suck in the 1080i/30p footage without problem. A quick check of the Help file and it states that 25/30 frame progressive modes are supported.

Since when??!?!?!?!?

An undergraduate in Canada recently wrote me asking whether visual anthropology was a valid field of study for an M.A. or Ph.D. I won't post her original letter here, but here is an excerpt of my response (from which you can deduce her queries):

Dear XXX -

Thank you for your e-mail. I apologize that I will not be able to reply at length as I am about to leave for the field. I took the opportunity to look at your website. Your photographs are quite well done, evocative and emotional.


What is ethnographic photography? As with regular print ethnography, there is no single type. However, as with written ethnography there is a purpose. Look through the print ethnographies that you have found particularly evocative (one of my favorites is Lila Abu Lughod's Veiled Sentiments) and ask what the author is trying to do in the work. Then ask yourself how you would do this in the medium of your choosing.

To answer your other questions in brief:

  1. Visual anthropology is on the margins of the discipline. Few programs offer degrees in it and there are even fewer jobs.
  2. It is my own belief that photography or film work that isn't backed by participant-observation research is weaker than that that is. If your goal is to fly in, take photos, and fly out, then you might want to pursue a degree in journalism.
  3. There are dwindling grants for visual social science research. You would most likely apply to standard anthropology grants -- which means that your work should speak to the discipline of anthropology in some way.

Explore the reading lists posted on my course website for further direction.


Karen Nakamura

Frequent readers know that I've been working on a ethnodocumentary film about disabilities in Japan. I spent three weeks over winter shooting and I'm going back again next week to shoot some more. I've already gotten a rough cut of one film (on mental illness) done, which I've been screening to a limited audience.

I shot the footage using two cameras, the Canon XL-H1 and the Sony HDR-HC1. Both are HDV or high-definition DV camcorders, shooting in 1080i. The images from both of them are simply stellar. The Canon has a much better lens, better sensor, better on-board sound, XLR jacks, etc. but the Sony can be taken to places where the shoulder-mounted larger camera is too indiscreet.

I'll be taking the same rig back to Japan. Here is my modified equipment list, you can compare to what I brought last time to see that very little has changed.

I've blogged before about my problem with my PowerBook's Toshiba hard drive. It started the click-of-death and died without giving me a chance to back it up. I ended up managing to recover the data before. For more info, see my earlier blog entry:

Since that incident, I've become more aware of the need to have a live backup. I'm so dependent on my laptop that a week without a computer just doesn't work. All of my lectures are on the laptop, my publications, etc. etc. I simply can't work without it.

I've now been taken to using SuperDuper! to clone my laptop drive occasionally to an external drive. It takes about 30 minutes, but it yields a bootable backup drive. I first used the program when my PowerBook started freezing up and I had to send it in (bad lower memory slot). I cloned the drive and then realized that having a bootable clone was a Very Good Thing. So I've kept at this, cloning/backing up every week or so.

Now cloning won't help you restore data that you accidentally deleted a month or two ago (unlike an incremental backup), but that's rarely a problem for me.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court just issued a summary judgement against Michael Mammone in his disability lawsuit against Harvard University for terminating him after a bipolar manic episode. The Court found that during this psychotic episode Mammone engaged in egregious and inimical misconduct, which means that he was unable to perform the essential functions of his job. No attempt was made at reasonable accommodation and reading the majority opinion, it does not appear that this is necessary under the precedent set by Garrity v. United Airlines, Inc., 421 Mass. 55 (1995).

A "qualified handicapped person" is one "who is capable of performing the essential functions of a particular job, or who would be capable of performing the essential functions of a particular job with reasonable accommodation to his handicap."(3) G. L. c. 151B, § 1 (16). In granting summary judgment, the judge found that the workplace misconduct, which led to Mammone's termination, was egregious and sufficiently inimical to the interests of his employer that it would have resulted in the termination of a nonhandicapped employee. In these circumstances, the judge concluded, it would be impossible for Mammone to show that he was "capable of performing the essential functions" of his job. Mammone appealed, and we transferred the case to this court on our own motion. has the ruling online. Read through it, especially the dissenting opinion.

In my continuing series on camping and biking equipment, here is a link to making your own backpacking gear (tents, packs, stoves, cookware, etc.).

Need to rent camera equipment (bodies, lenses, lights, etc.) while in the field in Japan? Many pros recommend National Photo. MapCamera has also started up their own rental side-business. Have any recommendations of your own?

I was checking around Japanese camera web store pages (such as MapCamera) and it seems the street price of the Epson R-D1 has dropped to around ¥179,000 ($1656) in anticipation of the R-D1s which is a minor upgrade and which will retail around ¥250,000 ($2400; see

I strongly feel that sub-$2000 is the price level that Epson always should have always sold this 6-megapixel rangefinder for. See my article on the R-D1/D1s for more info.

There are apparently no plans to market the R-D1s in the United States and prices for the R-D1 are still hovering around $3000 (B+H for example).

The English department at Ohio State University has put together an incredibly useful manual for new faculty. While it's in a folder marked "internal" they didn't tell the google robot not to index it, and I encountered it while searching for something else.

I wish all departments or colleges would put together something this comprehensive. Skip over the first sections which deal with photocopying and mailing codes, and go to the meaty mentoring sections. Here's one example:


Yup, it’s a major part of your job here.

I. Productivity
Finish your book. Many of those of us who have been at OSU for some years sense that, along with the omnipresent discourse of “excellence” that surrounds us in OSU’s quest to improve its national rankings, the bar at tenure time has been raised. Make no mistake: you are expected to have produced a completed book manuscript in contract to a reputable press by the time of your sixth-year review. [In fact, the language is ratcheting up a bit from the College; the guideline is now to have a book ‘in production’ by the time of your sixth-year review—which means in copy-editing or proofs if not already between covers. And you’re also expected to have some journal publications by tenure time, though, happily, these can be excerpts from your book—JG.] You can dicker with this pronouncement if you care to, because everyone can produce anecdotally an exceptional case in which things didn’t go as expected one way or the other: someone without a book contract got tenure or someone who did didn’t. The basic message is quite clear though, and the days when someone can get tenure without a contract by the time of the departmental review are over. Write. Get the time off to get your research done by applying for our generous research quarters (see section II below). Do not overburden yourself with unnecessary committee work. (By unnecessary, I mean beyond what the Department expects of you. You can volunteer for extra committees till Doomsday instead of writing your book and you’ll still be doomed at tenure time.) Do not procrastinate. Do not assume you will be an exceptional case because everyone likes you so much. Get your book written by your fourth-year review so that it can be in contract by sixth-year review. It takes a long time to submit a manuscript to a press, to wait for replies, and perhaps to have to send the ms. to another press. Don’t wait until the last minute or you might hang yourself. As Jim Phelan puts it, “don’t do brinksmanship!”

Does your department or college have a manual for new faculty? If so, post a link to this site.

I'm off this summer for 6 weeks of trekking across the Silk Road in China. I think it'll be an experience of a lifetime -- and an opportunity to take some great photographs. But that's not what I want to blog about today. Today's topic is: Purity of Essence .... errr... water (in a Strangelovian sense)

That is, in the nether reaches of the world, you're not always guaranteed to have fresh water. Even in Beijing and Shanghai, you're warned not to use the water from the hotel taps for drinking -- instead, boiled water in thermoses or spring water in sealed PET bottles is provided.

When I went to my travel doctor for the usual pre-travel battery of injections (HPA, HPB, DtP, tentanus, and influenza), he also recommended that I think about purity of water as well, since Western China is still developing. The main fears that I have about water are:

  • Viruses: Hepatitis (even with vaccination, it's best to avoid exposure)
  • Parasites: cryptosporadia and other protozoa, etc.
  • Bacteria of all sorts
  • Industrial pollutants: pesticides, heavy metals

When hiking in the American backcountry, I've usually relied on iodine tablets such as Potable Aqua or my little MSR filter. But my MSR filter (which didn't work against viruses such as Hepatitis) was lost in the Black Hole of Moving and Iodine doesn't work against Cryptosporadia. My doctor recommended chlorine dioxide tablets, but I noticed that it would take 4 hours of treatment before they killed all the little buggers.

Being a gadget-girl, I couldn't fail to notice the latest high-tech weapons race against ailments of the stomach and liver. (more after the jump)

I'm a sucker for LED lights. I'll have to post a review of my little 3 watt and 5 watt collection sometime. But in the meantime, here are some geeky posts:

NitroAV is now selling a 2-port FireWire 800 card for the MacBook Pro for $89.95. This fixes the main flaw of the MBP 15" -- the single FireWire 400 port. It uses the new ExpressCard/34 slot.

Bob Langjahr sent me this great link to a photograph archive at Nagasaki University with material from 19th century Japan:

as well as this series from Tibet in the 1940s:

A student at Dickinson College recently let me know about the Open Shutter Project -- an effort by five undergraduates to document Uganda through photographs and text. It's quite a wonderful website and I'd like to encourage more student projects such as this. Check the site out and be sure to leave feedback for them.

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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