The Time of Rice

Time for Rice. Rice Time. The Rice for Time. Timing Rice. by Vago Damitio

It is easy to forget that time is a human construction. Not to say that things didn’t happen in a way that could be described as ‘time’ before humans were measuring it, but this is a very different thing than the way we think about time. In our world, we think of time as being measured and broken into bits. It has been said by philosophers that the past is always done, the future never arrives, and in reality, all we ever have is the now. Now is also known as the present. Some people even go so far as to say it is called the present because it is a gift. What we humans do with the gift of the present depends on where we live and what we have been taught to value. Throughout the world and particularly in parts of Southeast Asia, rice is one of the most valuable aspects of life. It too, is considered a gift. It is for this reason that many rituals, festivals, activities, and belief systems in this region are connected with the planting, transplanting, tending, and harvesting of rice.

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Waist to Hip Ratio in Male to Female Attraction

waist to hip ratio in male attractionLike Sands Through an Hourglass Figure
by Vago Damitio

In the battle for the hearts of minds of future anthropologists, behaviorists, and popular science buffs, two competing camps have risen to the forefront. Each of these camps has appeal to the masses, each of them can make points that astound and confuse the layperson, and most importantly each of them offers advantages to those who adhere to the strict doctrines that these philosophies put forth. The advantages offered, at first glance, appear to be non-material; however, this would be an illusion. The stakes of this battle between opposing forces could very well be as vast as the world and the powers gained could determine the future of the human species. While many fronts exist in this war, this essay will focus on one specific battle that has quietly been raging since 1993. In this paper I will do three things. First, in ‘The Players’, I will introduce and examine key publications from both sides of the debate. On one side are Dr. Devendra Singh and the Evolutionary Psychologists and on the other side are Dr. Mary Orgel and the feminists. Second, in ‘The Battle ’, I will look at the specific arguments of both sides. Third, and finally, in ‘The Verdict’, I will issue my own complex opinion and analysis of the issue and declare a winner. The winner in this case, is the winner of only my heart and mind, not of the population in general. (Important disclaimer: This term paper is written for entertainment and academic credit purposes only. The decisions and opinions of the author are not binding and do not represent the decisions or opinions of the masses. ) Continue reading “Waist to Hip Ratio in Male to Female Attraction”

The Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man

Here is a link to some excerpts from the Geertz essay

Summary of the Main Points of “The Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man” – Clifford Geertz

(summary by Vago Damitio)

In this essay, Clifford Geertz goes to great efforts to make the point that the concept of culture is the definition of man. On page 52 he states this most clearly with the following “ …culture provides the link between what men are intrinsically capable of becoming and what they actually , one by one, in fact become.“

While the title points clearly to this conclusion, Geertz takes his time with the argument and presents a compelling and interesting case along the way to the conclusion. He begins with a refresher course through cultural anthropology, starting with Levi Strauss and his conclusion that science is not simply the reduction of the complex to the simple. Instead it is, especially in anthropology (Geertz argues) quite the opposite. Geertz goes on to quote whitehead with “Seek complexity and order it”. The point of this and other evaluations of well known anthropologists work and most famous maxims is toeventually lead the reader to the central concept Geertz wishes to present as quoted above.

Geertz explores the history of studying the nature of man pointing out that the enlightenment concept of man with a capital M being a complete animal seeking culture led to the racist concepts of that period and the times that followed (pp35) . Near the close of his introduction Geertz brings the reader to his first important benchmark that

“…men unmodified by the customs of particular places do not, in fact, exist…”. Continue reading “The Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man”

How Mass Media Shapes Personal Identity

What is human nature?A huge part of being a human being is the ability to ask one’s self ‘Who am I?’ Certainly, we cannot know for certain that all creatures don’t ask themselves the same question, but since, as human beings, we are able to communicate the thoughts that we have within ourselves to other human beings outside of ourselves, we can be certain that a part of being human is this desire to understand who we are. While, on the surface, ‘Who am I?’ may seem to be a simple question that can be answered with a name, a profession, or a nationality; it is, in fact, a much more profound question that generates more questions than it does answers. The questions follow on the heels of one another and after the simple answers we might at first be tempted to give. These questions can start with our original answers. Why is my name …? Why am I a certain profession? How did I come to think of this profession, and thus myself, in this way? Why do I consider myself a member of this nation, state, or organization and how did I learn to think of it in this manner? These and further questions lead, inevitably to the great questions of philosophy. The questions that do not have solid and verifiable answers. Questions such as ‘Why am I here?’ ‘Where was I before I was born?’ ‘Where will I go when I die?’ and ‘Am I a part of my body or is my body simply something I am attached to at the moment?’

While it is beyond the scope of this paper (or arguably any paper) to address the deepest of these questions, I believe that it is possible to address the surface questions of how we form our identity and where the information our identities are built with comes from. Our identities are formed by the people that surround us at any point in our lives. Parents and siblings, teachers and classmates, colleagues and friends; all of these relationships aid in the building of our sense of self. These are the direct human contacts that help us determine our likes and dislikes, our passions and joys, and our endeavors towards future selves that we have, as yet, to become. Within and surrounding nearly all of these relationships, however, is another force that shapes us. It is a force which is visible and invisible, pervasive and consuming, and with us, in this modern world, from the day we are born until the day we die. This force is that of the mass media. Mass media is present during our entire waking lives in the form of books, film, music, newspapers, art, and advertisements. The influence of mass media shapes our concepts of who we are, what is important to us, and how we live our lives.

Michael Foucault addresses this influence in Text, Discourse, and Ideology.

…in every society the production of discourse is at once controlled, selected, organized, and redistributed by a certain number of procedures whose role is to ward off its powers and dangers, to gain mastery over its chance events, to evade its ponderous, formidable materiality. (Foucault, p. 50).

Foucault goes on to talk about how by creating the way we think about things, our society is able to actually limit the things we think about. Foucault refers to this as principles of exclusion within discourse. An example might be that one thinks of oneself as an ‘American’ and not a ‘North American’ and thus in the individuals thinking, the identities of both Mexican and Canadian are excluded by the simple exclusion of the word ‘North’. Thus we reach one of the many ways that the mass media is able to shape the individual identity, through the conditioning of thoughts towards thinking in a certain way. Any message which is able to achieve mass media is controlled and selected by the author(s), is arranged in a way that the author(s) feel describes their worldview (or more insidiously, arranged how they want others to view the world), and is then distributed within the population that either 1) shares that world view or 2) is likely to share that worldview in the future.

Manuel Castells in The Power of Identity provides specific examples of how the mass media shapes the individual identity. Castells looks at modern social movements as diverse as militias in the United States, Japanese doomsday cults, Al Qaeda , and WTO protestors and shows how all of these movements were able to spread and attract followers, not because of the inherent message of the groups, but more importantly because of the message in the media and how it came to be accepted as a truth in the societies represented and thus aided in the formation of the identity of individuals through mass media outlets such as Rush Limbaugh, al-Jazeera, Indy Media, and even the nightly news. Castells sums this up neatly:

…the actual conspiracy with no names (or multiple names) and with no organization (or hundreds of them) flows in the information networks, feeding paranoia, connecting anger, and maybe spilling blood. (Castells. p. 95)

Not all of the identity formed by the mass media is negative however. Purnima Mankekar shows how television in India helped to shape and empower the images of womanhood among those who watched serials on television. Mankekar demonstrates that mass media is capable of not only fostering domination of the individual but also able to bring about resistance to domination. Indian women who had a preconceived notion of their identity and watched the notions of womanhood within India on television programs reshaped their views on what it is to be a woman in India based on the message transmitted in the mass media and as a result have begun to redefine what it is to be a woman in modern India.

Jayhasinjy Jhala goes even further by examining the effects of films intended for a western audience when viewed by an Indian audience. The ethnographic films are documentaries about Yanaomamo culture that have taken place with the advent of television and mass media within that culture. Jhala and his wife showed films made for Western audiences to groups of Indian nationals and got very different reactions to the films than from Western audiences. The Indian audiences had not had the same messages broadcast to them in the building of identity as those of the West and thus had a very different reaction to the films. While this study did not necessarily demonstrate the effects of the films upon the identity of the Indian audiences, certainly they demonstrate the differences in national character that local mass media have in the way that individuals view the world in front of them.

This is important to consider because in our vast world media culture, a message that is intended for one audience often has very different reception by an audience that has constructed its identity from a different set of cultural markers. Take for example the typical action film in which the hero kills his enemies in overwhelming shows of firepower and yet to the western audience remains sympathetic. To a Western audience, the hero is justified because his innate character are understood within the tropes and markers of that society. When the same film is shown to an audience that has been conditioned by different cultural influences, the overall meaning of the film and the sympathies of the audience are often completely different.

In The Tongan Tradition of Going to the Movies, Elizabeth Hahn, looks at the very different way in which citizens of Tonga encounter western media and the effects that these differences create in the identity of the viewer as opposed to the effects which influence the identity of a viewer from the West. The Tongan experience of the cinema is a much less restrained experience than that of going to the movies in a Western country. Westerners are often annoyed by the shouts and applause that come from the audience. This difference is born of the different cultural practices of each culture. In a traditional Tongan performance, the viewer is led through the event by a narrator who personalizes the experience for the viewer while in the West, the viewer is expected to detach from the experience. Thus, it can be argued that watching a typical film for someone from the West has little to do with the identity of the individual, those in Tonga are much more likely to leave a film feeling changed by the event. A Tongan viewing may, in fact, have more to do with the identity of the individual than with the story of the film itself. This is a result of the traditional culture of the place more than differences spread through mass culture, but may, in the course of time, have a greater effect upon shaping the future Tongan identity than that of the Western viewer.

Mass media of course has become much more than just film, television, and the printed word in the past few decades. Today the mass media is also interactive because of the advent of the internet. The internet has enabled people to find communities that fit their interests and thus has made it possible for an entirely new sort of identity to be possible across the world. As an example, a person who is drawn to an obscure hobby such as collecting pencils that have the erasers chewed off, no longer has to exist in isolation. It is probable that there are more than a few such collectors in the world and that at least one of them (and probably more) are on the internet. As a result, the chewed top pencil collector can find those with similar interests and perhaps will discover that he or she shares more than a single interest in this community. The chewed off pencil community may have bulletin boards, blogs, newsgroups, or even annual get togethers. Because of the collaborative nature of the internet, such collectors will be able to form a more concrete identity within a community of such like minded individuals. The same is, of course, true for those interested in more common pursuits.

Tom Boellstoroff documents one such avenue for the creation of identity through online mass media in his Coming of Age in Second Life. Second Life is an online world where participants can create alter egos with avatars, interests, and even real world incomes. Boellstoroff did traditional anthropological fieldwork in the virtual world of Second Life. Second Life, like all forms of human interaction, creates unique forms and means of shaping the human identity.

While some see virtual worlds as marking the emergence of the post-human, through terms like homo cyber I argue that the forms of selfhood and sociality characterizing virtual worlds are profoundly human…it is in being virtual that we are human. Virtual worlds reconfigure selfhood and sociality, but this is only possible because they rework the virtuality that characterizes human beings in the actual world. (Boellsteroff 2008: 29)

Thus, we see yet another way that the inner self of the human being can be shaped by the social world of human society, even when there are no humans physically present. This would seem to answer the question as to whether the sense of self is contained within the body or the body is separate from the self. In the case of virtual worlds, the body is not present and yet the self is.

This idea though, may not be as new as the technology that creates it. Some writers have theorized that all forms of mass media are similar to Second Life in that the self that is consuming the media is able to pick and choose from among different programs, magazines, and films and thus is actually not having the sense of self created by mass media, but using mass media to nurture an already formed sense of self. Not everyone agrees with these ideas though. Many , believe that mass media tends to encourage some forms of self identity while discouraging others. David Morley argues in The Construction of the Viewer that

…the celebration of audience creativity and pleasure can all too easily collude with a system of media power which actually excludes or marginalizes most alternative or oppositional voices or perspectives.
(Morley, p. 14)

Morley’s point is well made. After all, many forms of mass media today are generally controlled by business and government. Business wants to increase profits while government wants to encourage behavior that provides more control. With these goals in mind, what is it that mass media is encouraging and discouraging in its consumers?

In looking at the mass media today, one should look critically. What are those in control of mass media trying to make us believe about ourselves? When I ask myself ‘Who am I?’, how much of the answer comes from within me and how much has come from sources outside of me? Who benefits from the conception of self that is being taught, pushed, forced upon each of us through the mass media? Are we being accidentally shaped into something different from who we are by being an unintended audience? Are we developing new ideas or just regurgitating the ideas that have been fed to us through print, video, and digital media?

Mass media plays a huge role in the development of the self in the world of today. We are exposed to ideas, people, places, and communities that can cause us to bloom or, in many cases, cause us to hide who we really are. The sense of self is yours and yours alone. No one can tell you who you are or answer any of the profound questions for you. No one except for your self.

Badjao : Sama Dilaut of Tawi-Tawi Sea Gypsies

The Sama Dilaut of Tawi Tawi: Facing Change in a Modern World by Vago Damitio

Throughout the world, there is a huge danger that modernization and globalization will destroy irreplaceable resources in the name of progress. The oceans of the world are becoming polluted, the forests of the world are being cut, and the animals of the world are going extinct. But it is not only natural resources that are in danger of disappearing forever. Indigenous cultures of humans are also disappearing from many places on the planet. They are disappearing as a result of changes in environment, changes within the boundaries of their national governments, and from changes resulting from outside of their countries of origin. Unless drastic measures are taken, it is likely that many of these indigenous peoples and the cultures they have developed will disappear.

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Happy New Year – 2013 – The Year of Completed Projects and Fun

Duty calls
My duty is to complete my mission and have fun doing it!

Happy New Year to all of you! 2013 is going to be incredible. Even better than 2012 and that should be amazing. (And check out how cool my 2012 was)

I’ve dubbed 2013: The Year of Completed Projects and Fun

(By the way, if you haven’t already seen them, you should check out my annual predictions for 2013)

The reason is that as I did my end of the year evaluations, I realized that some of my biggest pain points are the projects that I’ve begun but not completed. I’m pretty good at finishing things but the sheer volume of projects, ideas, books, stories, and websites that I take on has left me with at least a years worth of major projects that I want to finish. Completing these projects in 2013 will not only benefit my life (and hopefully yours too) but it will also be fun. After all, I never take on a project without it promising to be fun.

The problem is that sometimes I get sidetracked or outside pressures come into play and projects begin to go in different directions that I intended them to. The pressures can be from family, friends, business interests, politics, or life in general – but this resistance comes up and takes something that was created to be fun and makes it not so fun. The easy thing to do at that point is to head in another direction and abandon the project – I’ve done that.  But, some ideas are just too good to let die and too fun to let a bunch of sticks in the mud spoil them.

Take for instance. Over the past few years, I turned it from a fun way to share my travel and life into a full time job! And what happened over 2011-2012 was that I began to listen to all kinds of experts on business, travel blogging, web design, SEO, marketers, social media, and monetization experts. Lots of their ideas were good, but the truth is that a lot of what they were pushing wasn’t at all what I wanted to do. Vagobond stopped being fun! I was no longer able to say the things I wanted to say, have the fun I wanted to have, or go in the direction I wanted to go. I knew that I had to do something drastic. I even thought about shutting the site down, quitting, or selling it!

Instead, I dis-associated myself from Vagobond. I put together my own separate social media accounts, began to develop this website, and made Vagobond into something that was not me. I think that decision may have saved me and Vagobond. What’s funny, is that by doing that, I not only freed myself to be me but I also freed Vagobond to go in the most fun direction possible because the truth is, it’s no fun to feel trapped. I’m really excited about the direction Vagobond is heading in this year. It’s heading back towards fun! Check out What to Expect from Vagobond in 2013!

That’s not my only project for 2013 though it is a full time job. Here are the other things I’m working on in 2013.

Editing, Rewriting, and Publishing

I’ve already begun the process of cleaning up my past work. The truth is, a lot of it is messy and needs to be rewritten, re-editied, and re-published. The process begins with my first novel Slackville Road which I am rewriting as a serialized newsletter called The Madman.

In The Madman. I am rewriting that novel and sending it to you in weekly installments. When Slackville Road is done, I’m going to rewrite The Princess and the Vagabond – my first Fairy Tale. In 2013 I will also re-edit Liminal TravelNot My Morocco, Rough Living Tips and Tales of a Vagabond,  and The Hu FactorAll of them need work and this is the year I’m going to give it to them. I’m also going to develop new cover art where needed and re-publish them as both print and ebook versions. I know – it’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. One of my favorite illustrators has even agreed to have a look at my fairy tale…I’m hoping he likes it enough to illustrate it!

Writing and Publishing

It’s not just a year for working on old projects. It’s a year for finishing projects. Ten years later, I’ve finished writing Smooth Living: Beyond the Life of a Vagabond. It’s the sequel to Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond and will blow your mind when the editing is finished and I publish it.  I will also publish the novel I wrote last year The Keys of the Riad. This novel is currently in the hands of a couple of publishers and I have high hopes for it. I am also going to submit Douchebags, Fags, and Hags for the Amazon Breakout Novel of the Year in the coming weeks.

Come November and NANOWRIMO 2013 – I’m going to finally write the sequel to The Hu Factor. In addition to that I am working on book one of a non-fiction series called The Invented God. All of these projects are going to be completed by the end of 2013. If I have some extra writing time, I’ll work on finishing Blue Eyed Bastards. 

But that’s not all…

The International Association of Online Travel Journalists

Last year, I created an association for online travel journalists. As usually happens, some nasty people made nasty comments and their nasty followers repeated all the nasty comments. The whole thing became bogged down as I gave up control to the naysayers who were doing nothing to drive it forward. This year, this organization gets a big kick in the ass and I’m going to do it my way. If people don’t like it, they can hike it.

Travel and Family

One of the biggest challenges of 2012 was being forced to live in Morocco while we wait for my wife’s visa to the USA to be approved. Each time we moved forward, we had to overcome another paperwork challenge – not easy when you consider that we were dealing with two of the most nightmarish paperwork bureaucracies in the world. Last week, I sent what I hope is the last batch of paperwork to the USA.  Next (I hope) is the Visa Interview and then the big move to the USA with my wife and daughter. Huge challenges lie ahead, but I look forward to them! I’m not making any travel plans for 2013 beyond getting my family to the USA.  It’s my most important project!

Vagobond Travel Media, LLC


I haven’t quite figured out how to reign in this beast yet. Over 2012 I acquired more than 50 travel sites. That was all fine and good as long as there were link sales, advertising sales, and sponsorships but with those drying up amidst the Google Panda and Penguin updates…I’m not sure exactly what to do with my two score and ten sites…I’ll figure something out though.

Micro Victory Army

This is my favorite project of 2013. I’ve intentionally kept it simple and easy. I’ve written a manifesto of the Micro Victory, I am learning how to build an android app, and I am keeping track of my own micro victories and sharing them with the hashtag #microvictory – I invite you to do the same! Join the Micro Victory Army and lets kick the world’s ass.

Gardening and Permaculture

It’s been far too long since I had a garden. This year, I will find a place for my family to live and I will plant and work in a garden. 2013 is also the year I will finally take a Permaculture Design Course and become certified. This is a long standing goal that it’s time I meet.

More Fun in 2013

I’m going to have more fun in 2013 than ever before. Everything above may sound like work to you, but to me, it sounds fun. In addition, I’m going to have fun with my wife, my daughter, my friends, and my life. More hiking, more biking, more art, more fun. More sun, more water, more laughter, more friends. I hope you will let me count you among my friends. By the way – fun for me often involves pissing on the accepted or expected. If you can’t take that – you probably can’t take me.

The Project I Won’t Complete in 2013

The project I won’t compete in 2013 is my life. My life is my work and my biggest project by far. I’m going to make leaps and bounds on it this year, but it won’t be completed for another sixty years at least by my reckoning.