brain · community · creativity · happiness · mental health · play · psychology

Grandma the superhero

Mental health is important throughout the entire human lifespan, from infancy (see previous post) to old age.

Courtesy of Boing Boing, I ran across this great story about actively pursuing good mental health, helping out a fellow human being, and using creativity and silliness to accomplish it.

“Sacha Goldberger found his 91-year-old Hungarian grandmother Frederika, a WWII survivor, feeling lonely and depressed. To cheer her up, he photographed her dressed up as a fictional superhero. To his surprise, she loved it. The photos are a bit comical, but there’s an underlying sense of hope, strength and courage in them.”

View Grandma’s Superhero Therapy (18 photos). From the blog: 

Frederika was born in Budapest 20 years before World War II. During the war, at the peril of her own life, she courageously saved the lives of ten people. When asked how, he tells us “she hid the Jewish people she knew, moving them around to different places everyday.” As a survivor of Nazism and Communism, she then immigrated away from Hungary to France, forced by the Communist regime to leave her homeland illegally or face death.

Aside from great strength, Frederika has an incredible sense of humor, one that defies time and misfortune. She is funny and cynical, always mocking people that she loves.

With the unexpected success of this series, titled “Mamika,” Goldberger created a MySpace page for his grandmother. She now has over 2,200 friends and receives messages like: “You’re the grandmother that I have dreamed of, would you adopt me?” and ” You made my day, I hope to be like you at your age.”

People often forget just how much fun, funny, and spunky people can be after living on this Earth for a few decades. My grandmas were and are unstoppable forces of nature.

There have been a few photographic projects with older folks, in retirement homes or elsewhere, but the artist in me definitely feels like this demographic is an important part of humanity to explore that has been relatively neglected.


How does photography change culture?

Photography is a love of mine, and how people use photography and how it effects them is also an interest. A couple of blogs are talking about the Smithsonian Institute’s new exhibit “Click! Photography Changes Everything.”

I grabbed the post from blog Material World. Check it out.

From the post:

“The Initiative is collecting and sharing images and narratives that shed light on how photography influences who people are, what people do and what people remember. Has a photograph been used to document property loss, inspire a hairstylist, sell a house, beat a traffic ticket or helped with the decision about where to go on vacation? Has a single photograph ever influenced what someone believes in or who someone loves?”

The exhibit is also inviting viewers to participate by choosing photographs that affected them and explain why. This is a cool social experiment in itself; what types of photographs do people deem noteworthy and why? How do these pieces of paper or collection of pixels shape how we see the world? Why is seeing an image so much more powerful for most people than verbal explanations of it?


The outer limits…of humans

I’ve been collecting some weird stuff that doesn’t necessarily correlate directly to humans and culture, but they all do in a roundabout, sideways, too-cool-to-not-mention sort of way.

For starters, some researchers have found evidence that humans have taste buds for calcium. I wonder if there is a difference between cultures who practically live off milk compared to those who don’t.

Also, there is a cool YouTube video about parasitic worms that can actually recreate or at least mimic the genes of their host insect to the extent that they can send messages to the insect’s “brain” and make the insects do what they want, including commit suicide by jumping into a body of water so the worm can escape, essentially turning the bug into a zombie. As the researcher mentions in the video, this has implications for human parasitic diseases (which I can’t remember right now but if you watch the video he will explain it better).

Getting back into the traditional “Anthropology” stuff, German anthropologists have been able to genetically trace bones from the Bronze Age to a pair of men living in a village nearby the cave where the bones were found, making this the longest family tree in history.

As a cool example of the power of motherhood and how much dogs have evolved to be co-habitants of humans, a dog in Argentina rescued a newborn baby abandoned in the ghettos/favelas. The dog was a new mother herself, and after the dog’s owner discovered the baby cuddled in with the pups, he alerted authorities and the baby’s 14-year-old mother came forward. Unfortunately the media attention is actually freaking the dog out a bit, so leave her alone!

Also, for all you star gazers out there, a Top 10 of ancient astronomy observatories throughout the world (interestingly, the Mayan pyramids made it on there, the Egyptian pyramids did not).

Finally, for all you visual or historical anthropologists, a cool article on the history of the daguerrotype, and links to other articles about cool photographic inventions.


Brazil releases photos of "uncontacted" groups to try and discourage contact

This quarter at school has been really full and I haven’t been as diligent a reporter as I’d like to be. But, this one was staring me in the face and I couldn’t say no.

The Brazilian government has released photos of a few of the estimated 68 “uncontacted” tribes — although the term should be “bad idea to contact” tribes because they try to kill us if we come too close — in hopes of making their plight well-known and encourage people to keep their distance.

My first thought was: if you’re trying to be respectful and keep them isolated, then what are you doing flying over taking pictures!?


NWAC 2008

I will be presenting at the 2008 Northwest Anthropological Conference held in (so I’ve been told) beautiful Victoria, B.C.
My presentation will be on the cultural change of land use in Skagit County over the past 60 years, using photos to analyze what people were up to, as well as what was important to people. For example, in the 1950s only one picture of the cat and because the kid was playing with it; in the 1980s lots of pictures of dogs all by themselves, they are the featured player in the article.
I’m only going for a day, so I don’t know how much I’ll be able to see, but I hope to get a little bit out of the whole deal.
I’ll write an synopsis when I get back.