As the Year of the Apocalypse Comes to a Close

So this year has been a wild ride. It started with incredibly high hopes, which were then dashed as pretty much the entire world ground to a halt in the wake of COVID 19. Going into this year I had intended to hit the ground running with podcast episodes that would be easy to record and schedule a month or two out so that even when I was out on the road or swamped with research or editing, fresh content and perspectives would be finding their way to you. Pedal for Pongo was building momentum, Scrimshaw had mere months to completion, and a culinary anthropology series on breads from around the world was exciting my audience and reigniting my passion for bread baking.

And then all that changed and I had to scale back my expectations and mitigate my perpetual state of burnout while watching what I’d been working so hard to build flounder through no fault of my own. But that’s fine. This is fine. Everything is fine. My research turned local and my focus moved to things I could control, and that has started to pay off in big ways.

The first is that Pedal Powered Anthropology is now a registered nonprofit in the state of Rhode Island! That means that my work is now potentially eligible for grant money, and (once I obtain the coveted 501c3 status) all contributions will be tax deductible. At this stage it mostly means I feel a lot more legitimate in everything that I do. And in this kind of post apocalyptic world, the emotional energy surrounding validation goes a long way.

Having to rethink and scale back my approach to research has had me revisit some topics that have long been logged away in the deep recesses of things that Anthrospin has considered but never undertaken. I wound up cleaning and restoring Adjua D’Wolf’s headstone, which in turn led me to some extensive research on historical cemeteries and the institution of slavery in Rhode Island. Research into where in Rhode Island enslaved individuals are buried led me to realize that more often than not, cemeteries dating back to/before the first half of the 19th century are more likely than not to have slaves interred there. That is a very uncomfortable realization and challenges colloquial assumptions and understandings of slavery’s presence in the northern United States.

This has led me to be more generally interested in historical cemeteries in Rhode Island. I have been scoping out and cleaning them as needed, which wound up getting me on a WPRI Channel 12 program called Street Stories. I’ve since had neighbors tell me I’m famous (as recently as about an hour before typing this). While the cemetery focus is effectively an offshoot of a part of a current research project it’s very humbling and amazing to be appreciated by my community for the work I’m doing, I’m hoping to divert as much attention as possible to the Rhode Island Historic Cemetery Commission as they’re constantly in need of boots on the ground to help with the insurmountable task of maintaining the 3,200 cemeteries that blanket the state.

This project on slavery in Rhode Island has taken some pretty interesting and unexpected turns. The most recent (and sort of mind-blowing) is a potential partnership with a nonprofit working to get a Middle Passage Marker placed in Bristol Rhode Island. There are a lot of exciting developments with that, most of which I can’t currently discuss because it’s in development or simply not my place to talk about it.

The podcast is sort of back on. The latest episode was published on September 6, 2020 and features First Americans Archaeologist John White. He talks about some very exciting research going on regarding the first peopling of North America, including some that’s as yet unpublished. This has the potential to be the first episode of the podcast that gets real traction as there’s some university interest in linking to it. Also my wife Julie is now cohost so honestly it’s just a lot better.

As for Scrimshaw. This thing is starting to loom ominously in my brain. Not quite an albatross but the amount of times it’s been kicked down the pipeline is weighing on me. COVID made it impossible to research for months, and then as things started to open back up, I got an in at a friend’s timeshare (they’re also in the film!!) on Nantucket and theeeeeeeen everything collapsed again and now it’s looking like it’s going to be virtually impossible to get there without being fined exorbitant amounts of money or being able to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

So, that said, I may be calling it for Scrimshaw research. I have a simply IMMENSE amount of material, and while it’s difficult to consider a documentary on the history of whaling and industrial fishing in the United States complete without a visit to Nantucket…enough is enough already. While my slavery project will be getting a large amount of my attention, for the remainder of the year my focus is going to shift towards making sense of all of my files and notes and crafting Scrimshaw into something worthy of the legacy it explores and the fantastic individuals who have lent their time to the project.

I feel like I interviewed Andy Schnetzer 15 years ago

Enough of the specifics though. As a whole, Anthrospin has gotten much more streamlined and efficient, bordering even on the professional. I’ve been much more careful and thorough in recording content, I have an excellent audio setup on my computer and have gotten much better at recording voiceovers. My lighting and camerawork have gotten much tighter and more focused/clean as well. Things are just getting better overall.

The only thing that is kiiiiind of struggling right now is Anthrospin making its own money. The Patreon has been up and down this year although trending upward and always amazing. DVD sales have been GONE. I think I’ve sold two DVDs this year and one hasn’t been paid for yet. I’ve hosted remote screenings but that’s not something to charge people for.

Basically this is a shameless solicitation of potential patrons. With lots of awesome incentives from podcast or film credits, to early or even exclusive access, to complimentary DVDs, becoming a patron of Pedal Powered Anthropology is an even better idea than ever because your contributions will be tax deductible!


That’s it. That’s all for now. It’s been a rough, rocky year of struggle and reinvention, but we’re gonna get through it, and next year is going to be the biggest ever.

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