Saturday, November 24, 2012

Assumptions in research

I'm discovering the joys of research, particularly when it comes to assumptions getting crushed, leading to more research.

My example: I've been doing research on masks in North American arctic-Inuit culture. In my earlier research it's easy to see information that says about Inuit being around since 5000 BCE or more. Well, as I discovered, there were peoples earlier than that-but they weren't called Inuit. Enter the Dorset and Thule, two different cultures that chronologically predated the Inuit. Seems that the Dorset are founded back to around 2000 BCE or later. And even in their legends, they refer to another people who they said they pushed out the area-though apparently they are more legend, and not a lot of scientific basis yet.

So, what now? Well now I get to pretty much chew up my chonology of Inuit and work on the Thule and Dorset cultures as they pertain to their masks, and seeing what I can find out. At first I was understandably frustrated, but then I looked at it as a way of just having more information on the culture and timeline in question, which is turn will lead to more information-so really it's all good.

Hopefully the Dorset and Thule culture research gives me some good information to work with.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Research "Block"

Consider this my first "official" entry into my thoughts on research, and the ups and downs of it. I find myself hitting the "research block" as it were with my current mindset. In this case its a mental one-and it comes back to a question that sometimes comes up: why are you doing this?

This though comes up every so often, as I am doing the writing and research for my own interest; and because the area of interest-masks-may not be among the top research items that people do, particularly when it comes to its history, as I've said before-it's a akin to search for puzzle pieces in a field full of random puzzle pieces. There's a lot of searching and scouring to find stuff that I can use. And because it can get labor intensive, the "why am I doing this" will resurface, and it pulls me back into blockage.

So how does one get past this "research block"? This isn't like I've got a deadline to meet, or that I'm being paid to do this (I only wish!). It's purely for my own interest, and maybe I can get a book published about it down the road if I'm that fortunate. I am sure it doesn't help that while there are people with interests in masks out there, my interest, the anthropology both historic and modern, not a lot of people are into that part of it. I do keep searching though, for the history aspect and people who might follow it.

So how do I come out of these blockages? Often it's just time: taking a walk, or taking things in another direction, or just not thinking about it for a while. Sometimes however it can take a while to "get back to it" when taking a break-and that requires some serious mental discipline.

So here's to taking some time for now to see if I can unclog the blockage.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Clearing cobwebs (again)

It seems like the past couple of times I tried this, I lost track of the blog. Going to see I can stick with it this time. Going to expand a bit too-before the site was just an online scratch book for my research. Going to try and expand on talking about what research I'm doing at any given time, and just observations on the project as I go along, and what doing research on such a wide subject of masks entails. Hope it works out!


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Early Mask Musings

As we look back at the earlier history of masks-back in our cave dwelling days and possibly before. 

The challenge comes in trying to figure about possiblities of ritual use. It seems in my view that much of our ritual and following of deities seemed to start for the most part after the last ice age-7-10000 years ago. But could it have something other than ritual? Something much simpler, a simpler version of understanding of self.

If we go back to the somewhat controversial Neanderthal era "mask"-which is still debated about whether it's just a natural rock formation or an actual piece of work-the question becomes blurry. 

We do know that Neanderthals seemed to have some view of abstract thought-they buried their dead, often with tools and crafts as though to carry them to the next world, so certainly the mask in question could be ritual. 

But what if it is a simpler question? What if the masks were made as a way of a "what am I?" construct. Perhaps they tried making masks and faces as a way of understanding, or trying to re-create themselves. Yet they would have looked at the mask and said "this is like me, but it is NOT me". Even today we try and recreate ourselves through computers, through art, and yes through masks. 

It's such a challenge to say "they used masks to communicate with spirits", because we aren't totally sure what concept they thought of them. 

As we see in later cave paintings of what are obviously humans wearing animal heads-it might (MIGHT) be easier that point to say there is ritual at the very least in the form of the hunting. And even then it's open to debate. 

It's certainly an interesting idea to think that if Neanderthals a million years ago were already trying to sort out who they were in the world, and what made them what they were. 

Certainly food for thought.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Halloween evolution: Goblins into Glamour Girls

Halloween and it's evolution in masks has been an intriguing one, and one without alot of clear answers. Our modern day Halloween really carried over the pagan traditions of masks of monsters and ghosts, in order to scare away potential evil spirits. But what happened that changed from witches and goblins into cartoon and movie characters? In my view and research, the advent of Ben Cooper Inc was a huge leader in this direction. 

Now Ben Cooper could have been just another costume company, but the issue of licencing was the big difference. When Ben Cooper (and others) started getting licencing for various movie, cartoon and TV characters-Halloween masks as we know them changed. 

Instead of being a "Fairy Princess" a girl could be Disney's Cinderella. Instead of a generic werewolf, boys could be Lon Chaney's Wolfman. 

Yet even then, the characters and role models expanded-Girls could become Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke, or maybe a NASA astronaut. Boys could become their favorite cartoon character, or Han Solo from Star Wars-the choices became widespread. As the sixties went on, Girls started even having girl heroes or villain characters as the women's rights movement went forward.

The technologies allowed this growth: with pvc plastic easy to mold and churn out, the different varieties of masks and choices became widespread. That combined with the inclusion of "smock" costumes, and it really is little wonder that the era of witches and goblins was greatly reduced as time went on, though there still enough "traditionalists" who could find a generic witch or ghost mask-but the inclusion of licencing really changed Halloween from the "scare the spirits away" aspect to role playing favorite characters. 

The PVC movement would carry forward into the late 70's, before the introduction of latex and rubber would create a whole new aspect of realism.....