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Spring 2005 l Capital University Journal

Research Notes

When in rome...
David Nylund


Critics Choice
Diego Bonilla & Jenny Stark


Hot topics
Lisa Hammersley & Brian Hausback


Genocide
Boatamo Mosupyoe, Annette Reed and Alexandre Kimenyi.


McDollars in your neighborhood
Dennis Tootelian


Mysteries of memory
Kristen Alexander


When in rome...

David NylundIt sounds like a great gig - listening to the radio and hanging out in sports bars in the name of academia–and David Nylund admits it was. But the social work professor says what he learned from the likes of sports talk radio personality Jim Rome and his listeners reveals volumes about American men, turning some of his preconceptions upsidedown.

Rather than being an anonymous outlet where homophobic or racist remarks are tolerated, Nylund found talk radio was more of a society. “It’s a community where men can discuss issues that relate to gender and sexuality in meaningful ways,” he says.

Nylund’s findings first appeared in the Journal of Sport and Social Issues and will be submitted as a book proposal. His project was funded by GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

For the bulk of his study, Nylund examined “The Jim Rome Show” because it’s the most popular sports radio talk show in the country. “Rome is known for his strong approach, opinions and speech. He became widely known for an incident where he ‘feminized’ NFL quarterback Jim Everett by calling him ‘Chrissie,” Nylund says, a reference to female tennis player Chris Evert. It was Rome’s way of criticizing Everett for not “being a man” and staying in the pocket.

But in studying transcripts of several months of Rome’s show, Nylund says, “I found him to be rather progressive on some issues. He won’t tolerate racism. He supports gay male athletes and had them as guests on the show.”

Nylund says Rome’s seemingly contradictory traits are a metaphor for a contemporary man in his 30s—metrosexual, post-civil rights male intersecting with the hedonistic, “Coors Light ad” male.

Nyland notes that in many ways issues with sports ties—the Kobe Bryant case, women at Augusta National Country Club—bring up greater societal issues. There are even parallels to the global economy. Highpriced players and greedy owners are viewed like CEOs, Nylund says. Teams uprooting and moving to other cities are like outsourcing. “It’s the only area in mainstream media where you see criticism of current economic trends.“

Men historically have had spaces where they can bond and connect, particularly when they are feeling upset. That space is dissipating in current culture, as men move to the suburbs,” he says. “Their solace is in sports talk radio. It’s a mediated version of the old spaces.”

In addition to listening to the Rome program, Nylund met with other listeners in sports bars throughout the Sacramento area and all over the country.


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Critics Choice

Diego Bonilla When Sac State’s communication studies program began creating a full digital media concentration, it had to bring in new faculty talent. So over the last few years, professors Diego Bonilla and Jenny Stark were hired to teach classes in Web and multimedia design, digital videography, media aesthetics and the like.

But nobody could have guessed that Sac State would also end up with two award-winning experimental filmmakers.

Bonilla’s first film and doctoral project, A Space of Time, has been shown at media festivals around the world. It won awards at the Moscow International Film Festival and the Philadelphia Documentary and Fiction Festival.

It’s a nonlinear movie that must run on a computer. Users experience a completely randomized movie based on a series of mathematical equations. Through animation and more than 700 film clips, it tells the story of a hallucinating homeless man who watches as a group of young people explore the abandoned building he lives in. Bonilla says the possible variations total more than 1 nonillion (that’s 30 zeros), and the average running time is about two hours.

Bonilla says his goal was to use the “hyperlinking” technology of the Internet to tell a visual story.

“I wanted to use that approach to tell a story in a way that people haven’t seen before,” Bonilla says. “Writing the dialogue was really the most challenging part. You can’t make references to other scenes because you don’t know if the user will have seen it.”

Born and raised in Mexico City, Bonilla came to the United States to complete a doctorate in mass communications. His dissertation project included creating A Space of Time and then studying the behavior of 435 users. It was his first work with film.

Jenny Stark Stark’s childhood, meanwhile, seems like it was designed to lead to the spooky experimental films and photographs she’s known for. Her parents were film buffs. Her childhood home in Texas was “haunted.” And she says the Houston Goth culture helped her get through high school.

Stark has made numerous films and videos that have been shown at avantgarde festivals all over the world, including South by Southwest, The New York Underground Film Festival and The Viennale. She’s also had work shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Mexico City and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. Many of them, as well as some photos, are available from the Shy Girl Productions website (see below).“I like films with interesting ideas,” she says.

“I like my movies, even when they’re spookylooking, to be about something current, to address some issue and make people think.”

Perhaps her most widely known and praised film is Negative 10, which she made while trapped in her apartment during a strong storm. It’s the first in a series of films she made with old VHS recordings that had deteriorated but could still be watched.

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Hot topics

Lisa Hammersley and Brian Hausback With the West Coast simultaneously shaking and smoking—Mount St. Helens rumbling to the north, Mexico’s Colima volcano spewing smoke to the south and an earthquake rattling Parkfield, Calif., in the middle—last fall was a seismic perfect storm for geology professors Lisa Hammersley and Brian Hausback.

The rumblings not only stirred up media interest, they energized the University’s two-person volcanology program. “It was amazing to have so many events in the West happening at the same time. Sometimes I feel like we’re rooting for disasters, but it’s a very animated part of geology,” Hausback says.

While they both appreciate volcanoes for their drama, what Hammersley and Hausback really want is to know what makes them tick.

Hausback is known as a specialist on the Sutter Buttes north of Sacramento. He regularly leads hikes there for the Middle Mountain Foundation and continues to conduct geologic mapping of the area. Further afield, he is wrapping up a multi-year study in the Isla San Luis area of Baja, Mexico that was funded by the National Geographic Society.That geologically young volcano erupted just a couple of thousand years ago. Hausback says that if it erupts again, because the volcano is located on a commercial flight path, the volcanic ash it would spew in the air is capable of shutting down airliner engines.

Hammersley’s work has also taken her to Mexico and South America. But much of her recent work is on the nearby Clear Lake area.

While she cautions that there is no imminent threat, there are signs that the system continues to be fed with fresh magma. “The surface heat flow is more than you’d expect. But there are no outward signs—no volcanic earthquakes, no uplift. Of course, we don’t know if a volcano is going to erupt until it wakes up.”

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Genocide

Alexandre Kimenyi, Boatamo Mosupyoe and Annette ReedSac State hosted the second International Conference on Genocide last fall, bringing together many of the world’s most respected authorities to explore some of the modern world’s most horrific events. Conference organizers Alexandre Kimenyi, Boatamo Mosupyoe and Annette Reed were among the numerous Sac State professors who made presentations.

South Africa
The largely unrecognized genocide of the KhoiSan people of South Africa has been a slowmotion one lasting 350 years, says Sac State ethnic studies professor Boatamo Mosupyoe. Unlike many genocides marked by specific shocking events, the KhoiSan experience has been one of constant mistreatment and steady losses.

Mosupyoe compares it to dying of cancer rather than instantly in an accident. Today, there are only about 500,000 KhoiSan living in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. That’s down from about 3 million when the first Europeans arrived in Southern Africa in 1652.

The modern KhoiSan are largely powerless politically and generally relegated to low-paying work. The last person who spoke their language died in the mid-1980s. In Botswana, which has been independent from Britain since 1966, the KhoiSan are still referred to as “perpetual servants” by the government.

“What really makes me angry is that people who were oppressed in Botswana are doing this now. They’re the ones doing the oppressing,” Mosupyoe says.

The KhoiSan have a very distinctive appearance and are much shorter than average. So they’ve been easy to identify and to target, first by colonial governments and then by other Africans. Over hundreds of years, they’ve endured outright violence as well as laws designed to target them culturally and economically. In her native South Africa, Mosupyoe says, the KhoiSan weren’t even regarded as people during Apartheid.

But there is hope for the KhoiSan’s future, Mosupyoe says.

The South African government is developing programs to help, trying to revive the KhoiSan language and preparing a special Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the KhoiSan. The president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, has frequently referred to the KhoiSan genocide, saying in 1996: “I owe my being to the Khoi and the San whose desolate souls haunt the great expanses of the beautiful Cape, they who fell victim to the most merciless genocide …” And in 2000, South Africa adopted an official motto in the KhoiSan language. It is “!ke e:/xarra //ke” (“diverse people unite.”)

Rwanda
The killing of some 800,000 people in Rwanda’s 1994 Tutsi genocide wasn’t a one-time event, says Sac State ethnic studies professor Alexandre Kimenyi, but the logical end of a 35-year “revolution” created by Belgium, the country’s former colonial ruler.

The Belgians, Kimenyi says, wanted to retain influence in the country after it became independent in 1962. But a nationalist party that included all ethnic groups had clearly gained popular appeal and was positioned to win the elections, and that party was strongly anti-Belgian. So, in a bid to change that anti-Belgian focus, the Belgians created a Hutu political party called Parmehutu. They convinced the majority Hutu, Kimenyi says, that the Tutsi were not indigenous to the area (they are), but had come as con-querors and would seek to colonize the country themselves.

The Belgian effort worked all too well. The first massacre of Tutsis took place in 1959 when the country was still under Belgian rule. Other massacres followed in 1963, 1964, 1967 and 1973. Hundreds of thousands of Tutsi were exiled.

“The justification was that it was killing for a revolution, so it must be okay,” Kimenyi says. “Nobody said anything or made an effort to stop the killings–even the Catholic Church and representatives of foreign governments didn’t intervene. In fact, the people who did these terrible things were given rewards and promoted.”


It led, Kimenyi says, to a culture of amorality. Killing Tutsi came to be seen as normal, and the Catholic Church in the country didn’t even consider the killings a sin. Many exiled Tutsi tried to return in 1990, Kimenyi says, leading to a civil war and frequent massacres of civilian Tutsi in the country. Eventually the Hutu government carried out the “final solution” genocide of 1994.

“I think we have to rethink the whole concept of ‘revolution,’” Kimenyi says. He cites the French and Bolshevik revolutions as other examples of revolution being used to justify massacres.

He says the 1994 Rwandan Genocide might have been another such case. It only caused such outrage, he says, because foreign journalists returning from the inauguration of South African President Nelson Mandela happened to be in the country, and their reports about the atrocities were broadcast around the world.

California
The indigenous people of remote Northwest California didn’t come across white settlers until well after most North American Indians. But when they did, it was a particularly devastating encounter, says Sac State ethnic studies professor Annette Reed.

Elders of the Tolowa Indians call it “the time the world was turned upside down.” Between 1853 and 1856, the Tolowa suffered a genocide marked by multiple massacres as white settlers moved in.

“There were advertisements and newspaper articles that talked about fertile land and other resources in the Smith River Valley–a productive area just waiting for the hardworking farmer,” Reed says. “What they forgot to mention is that there were people already living there.”

Gold prospectors came to the area in the early 1850s and were soon followed by farmers and other settlers. Crescent City, still the largest city in that area, grew from occupants of a single cabin to nearly 1,000 residents between 1853 and 1854.

The Indians were considered an obstacle. Debate raged in the 1850s about what to do about them, with the local Crescent City Herald newspaper constantly urging their removal. Reed says four racist arguments prevailed: the Indians were childlike and needed the protection of being removed; the Indians were “savages;” Northwest California was in a state of war; and, finally, the land must be obtained for whites at any cost.

The first massacre took place in spring of 1853.

After killing local Indians they held responsible for murdering prospectors, a group of white settlers decided to “teach a lesson” to a larger group. They found Indians from all over the area gathered for an annual celebration at Yontocket, the area’s largest native village and a place they considered the center of the world and a place of creation. An estimated 500 Tolowa, including babies, were killed. Only a few escaped. The entire village of some 30 redwood plank houses was burned.

Two years later, after the Tolowa had regrouped, they were attacked again at the village of Echulet. At least 65 were massacred. The Crescent City Herald reported: “The die is cast and a war of extermination commenced against the Indians.” A third massacre took place the next year at Howonquet.

By 1900, Reed says, the Tolowa population had slipped from 5,000 to just 121. But she says the Tolowa were determined to survive as a people. Today–after 150 years of political, legal and literal battles–they hold on to 220 acres called the Smith River Rancheria. It’s at the traditional village site of Howonquet.

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McDollars in your neighborhood

Dennis Tootelian
The home of the Happy Meal isn’t always considered a welcome addition to the neighborhood. So when the McDonald’s Corp. wanted to show potentially touchy townspeople the value of having a Golden Arches next door, it called on Sac State marketing professor Dennis Tootelian, who uncovered some eyepopping figures.

“People like McDonald’s but they don’t know if they want them in their neighborhood because of issues like traffic,” Tootelian says. “But when you see the dollars they generate, it’s amazing both in terms of what they buy locally and the services they use.”

He found that annually, every California resident—man, woman and child—spends an average $67.34 at McDonald’s. Of that spending, restaurants put 45 cents of every dollar into the local economy, the biggest portion in wages. And that doesn’t even include charity.

Tootelian was also impressed with the relative stability of the chain’s employees. The average McDonald’s restaurant employs 40 people. “When you look at fast food employment, you tend to think of kids who last two or three months,” he says. “But at McDonald’s, the average worker is in a crew position for about a year versus seven months elsewhere.”

He compares it to big box stores, which get accused of bringing in a lot of low-income workers to highcost markets. “With McDonald’s that’s not the way it is.”

Since completing the Northern California study, Tootelian has conducted reports on 10 more states, including a special report for the mayor of Chicago to show the value of the company in its 50th year in Chicago, its market headquarters. Tootelian was also featured in the company’s 2004 worldwide corporate report.

Tootelian says McDonald’s is ahead of the game in seeking hard data on its impact on communities. “I don’t understand why others don’t do this. There are lots of companies that face public scrutiny and criticism for their perceived negative impact on communities. But they offer no details of what they provide.”


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Mysteries of memory

Kristen Alexander
It’s a controversial but crucial question: How accurate are memories of childhood sexual abuse and other potentially stressful experiences? And though the verdict is far from in, child development professor Kristen Alexander is beginning to zero in on some of the factors that may play a role in the accuracy of such memory reports.

In a series of studies Alexander and colleagues confirmed that individual differences affect children’s ability to remember. “Events are not experienced or appraised by all individuals in the same way,” Alexander says.

While age plays a role, with older children having more accurate memories, how a child remembers an event is greatly influenced by their level of attachment to the parent, particularly when relationship issues are central to the event. Where age plays a larger role is in suggestibility, or false memory. Memory improves with age and false memory decreases as children get older, Alexander says. By the time children are seven years old or older, their memory levels are generally equal to adults.

“It is thought that people remember negative events more but events are usually entirely different in other ways. Memories are influenced by people’s appraisals of events,” Alexander says.

“With child sexual abuse victims, though you’d think the severity of abuse should be the determining factor of what they remember, it is also how they appraised it that is important. What came after may affect memory of the event. The incident itself may not necessarily be the central thing they remember.”

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