Saturday, August 09, 2008

Slow Man Working

You might have noticed some recent changes with my blog, and in the coming weeks there are sure to be a few more. The rate of traffic to my blog has shot up in recent months (in particular since I was chosen to be one of the bloggers for the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Denver), and so I'm trying to improve its look a little bit. The changes are happening slowly because of other commitments, but bare with me I'll have this place gefpago soon enough.

I first started this blog in 2004, when, at least for me, nina'gatbo or beautification was difficult. But now, adding all sorts of cool features to your blog is easy and so I've finally decided to upgrade and try them out.

I used to have lists of blog posts listed along the side, grouped by different themes such as articles by Naomi Klein, posts on love, posts on decolonization, posts on Famoksaiyan, etc. etc. These lists were cool, and I hope that people found them helpful. But updating them was a pain, because it would require cutting and pasting or links and code in the blogger template. So basically, sometimes I would go for months without updating these groups. And many of them were started and never updated, even though I continued to write posts which should have been listed.

To make this process easier, I have updated this blog with a tag list, or a list of all the keywords that I use to describe my posts. By clicking on a link you'll be taken to all the posts which I've tagged with that keyword.

Its a fantastic feature. For instance, click on the tag for "exceptionalism," and you will quickly be connected to the following posts, all of which deal with the concept of exceptionalism, primarily in terms of American foreign policy.

Racial Fantasies
From Venezuela With Love
I Guinifen i Mañainå-ta
Matatnga
Ron Paul: Hope for Racist America
Indigenous Futures in a Not Yet Postcolonial World
Guam, GITMO and Diego Garcia
Act of Decolonization #10: Breaking the Circle of American Greatness
Sina Un Otro na Tano'
The Civilized World at its Finest
Lucky to be the Tip of America's Spear
Survival Amongst Rogues and Empires

Paire' no? At present, a quick scan of my list of labels indicates that my most abundant tag is "Chamoru" which generally refers to posts which are written in Chamorro, and second behind that is "Patgon-hu" which are posts dealing with my mas nangnang yan bunita na daughter Sumåhi.

On the other end of the spectrum there are plenty of tags with only a single mention. The tag feature was added well after I began this blog and so maybe around half of my total posts have tags. The rest are waiting patiently for me to re-read them and then assign them some keywords. Some interesting tags to check out or pay attention to are:

Absent Origins: Posts that deal with the fundamental trauma that we all experience due to foundational inability to experience or know any consistent origin.

Chattaotao: Means "Not quite human," these posts are not about the Disney films starring Jay Underwood, but rather about the sort of sub-human status that some people such as Chamorros are shouldered with and forced to endure.

Fina'Federal: Means "Federalization," or posts which deal with the Federalization or the "re-colonization" of the CNMI by the US Federal Government.

IS EP PS: Are all posts related to the conference I helped organize in my department at UCSD this year, titled "Postcolonial Futures in a Not Yet Post-colonial World: Locating the Intersections of Indigenous, Ethnic and Postcolonial Studies."

Patriotism: As the label indicates, all posts that deal in some way or another with the concept of patriotism, what it means and more importantly how it can constrict and limit social behaviors and life, both in the context of American liberals who are fighting the label of being named "unpatriotic" if they criticize the Bush administration or the government, and also on Guam in a colonial context, where patriotism is an expression of colonial loyalty, a gesture of overcompensation, meant to hopefully overcome the colonial gap between the United States and Guam.

The new bells and whistles also make it easier to embed pictures in my blog and the sidebars, so as you'll see now, there are a bunch of small images along the side each of which represent some part of my life right now, and provide relevant links.

For example, I've got a link to my Youtube page, where you can see videos of Sumåhi playing at the beach, me writing my dissertation, or Guahu yan i che'lu-hu as Jack humagagando Guitar Hero 3 para i Wii. I've also got links to the grad student page for my department, Ethnic Studies at UCSD, and also a link to the journals that I used to work for, African Identities and Social Identities. Most interesting and different in terms of what people usually expect from me, is the link to PILA. In order to support myself over the summer I'm working for Professor Ross Frank in my department at UCSD, on his Plains Indian Ledger Art project. The website is in the process of being radically revamped, but the ledger books that we currently have digitized are all still available for viewing.
Here's a short overview of the project, but you can head to the website to find and see much much more:

Researchers estimate today that well over 200 books of Plains Indian ledger art still exist in institutional and private collections, but a number of factors make them extremely difficult to locate and study. They are held in collections scattered across the United States (an unknown number are abroad), so there is no efficient way for scholars to view physically large numbers of them. The expense of traveling to work with even those ledger books in the United States, let alone those in foreign countries. They are also extremely fragile, as neither the binding of the volumes nor the paper were manufactured to last centuries and cannot be expected to withstand the handling necessitated by frequent and intensive research commonly associated with visual objects of artistic and historical significance.

Currently, most scholars are forced to rely on sets of slides of the books they want to study, which is a highly cumbersome and inconvenient approach. Comparing drawings from a number of ledger books within the oeuvre of a single artist or following a specific tradition presents major logistical and organizational challenges. In addition, the relatively small size and limited resolution of slides, prints, or transparencies hampers the detailed analysis of these visual materials. When scholars are able to study an actual book of drawings, they cannot readily compare multiple volumes side by side and face a laborious process even if the other ledger materials happen to reside in the same collection.

These conditions and other concerns seriously impede any efforts to compare different pages of the same work side by side, for example, or the elements of different books. Furthermore, the individual books have appreciated tremendously in value since the 1980s, fetching large sums in public auctions and private sales. These significant prices have created an economic incentive for art dealers to dismantle ledger books that appear on the market for American Indian art in order to frame and sell the individual pages to collectors for thousands of dollars apiece, making it impossible to view or study those books as a whole ever again. Between the fragility of the books themselves, their dispersed nature and the economic pressure that is militating against keeping any books not in institutional hands intact, there is an urgent need to safeguard these precious records of Indian people and preserve the insights into history and culture that they contain. These crucial issues of access and preservation can all be addressed using increasingly ubiquitous Web-based information technology.

The Plains Indian Ledger Art Digital Publishing Project (PILA) was conceived as a way to keep this irreplaceable historic and cultural information intact, address the challenges of research and public access to the Plains Indian ledger books, and preserve the images for future generations. It places state-of-the-art digital reproductions of entire ledger books in a digital database and made accessible through a dedicated public Web site, allowing users to browse freely through the digital pages of these manuscripts and search for pages across the ledger book according to the fields of the PILA database, which includes the characteristics of each book and plate, historical and ethnographic information, and a lexicon of index terms. Users may open multiple windows showing different pages across the PILA project and zoom in to view the details of any portion of any open ledger book page, facilitating research in ways that are currently impossible using the books themselves (even without considering the present logistical difficulties). The PILA site includes a virtual research station for visitors who register their contact information, which allows users to login and save searches, create Web-based slide shows that can be displayed on any computer that has access to the Internet, record their own research notes linked directly to the images, post public comments, as well as download research notes and plate lists to a local computer. The technology is ideally suited to the medium, as ledger art is a two-dimensional art form with no brush strokes or impasto, and viewers of the images lose nothing by looking at the drawings translated into digital media.

Lastly, for those who paid close attention to my blog, I had one of my poems titled "I am Chamorro" pasted into the tool bar for almost three years. For a handful of people, this was all they knew about my blog and all they knew me through. I performed the poem a few times and each time someone would approach me afterward and tell me how happy they were to finally hear it out loud, or how they never knew that I was the person who wrote it or own that website its on. On one occasion, it created problems, when a very dumb person decided to rant against one of my posts, without actually reading the post, but just responding to the poem.

Well, after seving me very well for so long, I've decided to retire that poem and replace it with a new one. Well, not really a new one. I wrote it several years ago, but updated it recently when I performed it at Sinangan-ta on Guam. The title of the poem is The Revolution Will Not Be Haolified, and as the titled already intimates, it is fairly provocative. To read it, simply scroll down, or depending on the position of this post, scan to your right.

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