Mrs. Robinson ~ Winner, Best Belizean Film 2012

by douglas reeser on September 23, 2012

As many of our more regular readers know, I have spent most of the last year and half living in the southern-most district of the small Central American/Caribbean nation of Belize. A little earlier this summer was the 7th annual Belize International Film Festival, and while I was unable to attend in person, a number of the shorter films can be seen online. Mrs. Robinson is "one woman's story of her return to the beginning" - a short (15 minutes) film by Tom Hines about reflecting on a life spent in Belize. It was the winner of Best Belizean Film of 2012 in this year's festival. Enjoy!

From the festival site
"A documentary about one woman’s return to her country of her birth after living abroad in Belize, Central America for 56 years, this is the story of her return to the beginning. The main and only character is Mrs. Patricia Robinson, [Thomas Hines’s] grandmother, and a woman who inspires [him] to keep on keeping on. She has made a very big change at the age of 83 and decided to return to England because she wants to pass away there, where her mother, brother and sisters have died before her. In returning to England, the country of her birth and youth, she must say good-bye to the country of her husband’s birth, where she lived with him for many years until he sadly passed away when she was 60; her many friends who she became very close with over the years she spent there; and the lifestyle that she had become accustomed to for so many years. In doing this though she will fulfill her wish, which is to die in the place of her birth."

Consumption Junction :: Speaking with Ghosts: Literature in a Culture of Me

Image courtesy of
by Lana Lynne on September 17, 2012
My copy of the Norton Anthology of English Literature, bought for a pretty penny for a freshman English class I don’t remember, is littered with half-formed thoughts jotted in the margins. At first, I only used pencil for these little notes – thinking that my take on something written anywhere from 50 to 300 years ago clearly did not qualify as canonical as what was printed. In grad school, my thinking must have changed, because when I cracked open the Anthology again (instead of buying another copy of the assigned T.S. Eliot’s "The Wasteland"), my comments were written in pen. At that point, I must have figured, my thoughts qualified for more permanency. I was more confident that what I had to say about Eliot’s poem would not cause fits of hysterical laughter from someone who might be reading over my shoulder.

This fall marks the 50th anniversary of the Norton Anthology of English Literature, and in an interview in the New York Times, founding editor M.H. Abrams and current editor Steven Greenblatt celebrate the joys of a life enriched by literature. When asked the question, "Why study literature?," they both wax poetic. For Abrams: "Ha — Why live? Life without literature is a life reduced to penury. It expands you in every way. It illuminates what you’re doing. It shows you possibilities you haven’t thought of. It enables you to live the lives of other people than yourself. It broadens you, it makes you more human. It makes life enjoyable." And for Greenblatt: "Literature is the most astonishing technological means that humans have created, and now practiced for thousands of years, to capture experience. For me the thrill of literature involves entering into the life worlds of others. I’m from a particular, constricted place in time, and I suddenly am part of a huge world — other times, other places, other inner lives that I otherwise would have no access to." What they both get at, but don’t say, is that literature helps us think critically. By expanding your worldview, or by traveling to the past, or by living other people’s lives for awhile, our brains are exercised in ways that they wouldn’t otherwise be. Our little comments in the margins, no matter how obvious or insignificant or ground-breaking, for that matter, are evidence that we are thinking in new ways. 

Views from the ANThill: Where are the Activists?

The town square is filled with parades and parties throughout the year,
but never with any protestors. Why?
photo by douglas c reeser
by douglas c reeser on September 12, 2012
On a recent morning, while writing at my computer and having some coffee, I received a surprising text message from a good friend. It read, “Belize Lodge burned last night! Folks can have a pretty nasty way of settling conflicts.”  She was referring to a foreign owned eco-lodge in a nearby village in which I have conducted research for a number of years. The lodge had fallen into financial difficulties over the past year or two, and owed back wages to many of its workers. Local authorities became involved and assisted in the negotiation of a payment plan to ensure workers would receive what was owed to them. It’s unclear what transpired after that, but less than a month later, parts of the lodge were set on fire and burned to the ground.

This wasn’t the first time I had heard of people here resorting to the use of flame to settle differences. In September 2010, a nearby group of villagers torched a foreign-owned crocodile sanctuary. Two local children had gone missing, and rumors spread that they had been fed to hungry crocs. Without an investigation, villagers decided to burn the sanctuary and chase the owners from the region. These and other stories I have heard tell me that the use of fire, while extreme, is one form of protest that people resort to here.

First Friday Picture Show: Positive Visual Attention Intervention by Joe Castro

Joe Castro is an accomplished Philadelphia-based artist, musician and graphic designer. His paintings and collages have been exhibited in galleries and art spaces across the United States and Canada, and have been described as "intelligent and brooding...the subjects are often just a little-bit skewed -- leading you to take a deeper look." When not making art, he is also the guitarist/singer for the indie garage rock three piece, The Lift Up. For more information, please visit For now, enjoy his artwork for this month's First Friday Picture Show!

Tornado Alley
(mixed media collage on paper, 13" x 15" July 2012)

(oil on canvas, 24" x 12" February 2012)

Academia is Dead. Now What?

Today, acedemia is not taking care of its
own, but what are the alternatives?
image by douglas reeser.
by douglas reeser on september 3, 2012
There is a lot of hand-wringing among scholars going on right now out here in cyberspace. Much of what I'm reading is from and by anthropologists, but from the comments on these articles, it sounds as if the issue goes beyond anthropology and extends to all disciplines, from the sciences to the humanities and everything in between. The issues being discussed are systemic - in other words, there's a problem with the system. The model of the university as a business, with increased administration that is embedded in a larger system that is cutting funds to education, is pinching those at the bottom the hardest. From what I can tell, most agree that this is the case, however the roots and causes of the problem have not been fully agreed upon. And so, challenge is upon us.

The problems that I am referring to here, and to which I can relate, include issues such as the lack of a job market for young scholars, the turn towards adjunct-abuse at many institutions, the decrease in tenure track positions, stressors associated with decreased institutional funding, and the increase in administrative pressures to produce, produce, produce. In the mean time, PhD holders have reached record levels, and there are declarations that we have too many - that we have devalued the degree. Simply search for "number of PhDs" and the top results include the following titles (Google search on September 2, 2012) "Doctoral degrees: The disposable academic," "Education: The PhD factory, " "The PhD problem: are we giving out too many degrees?", "From Graduate School to Welfare," and "The Number of PhDs on Food Stamps Triples." Things are not looking so great if you're one of the many pursuing your doctorate degree, a camp in which I squarely fall.