Culture Making is now archived. Enjoy five years of reflections on culture worth celebrating.
For more about the book and Andy Crouch, please visit andy-crouch.com.

excerpt Paving the home
Nate:
From "Paving Paradise", by Charles Kenny, Foreign Policy, Jan/Feb 2012 :: via Koranteng

Starting in 2000, a program in Mexico’s Coahuila state called “Piso Firme” (Firm Floor) offered up to $150 per home in mixed concrete, delivered directly to families who used it to cover their dirt floors. Scholar Paul Gertler evaluated the impact: Kids in houses that moved from all-dirt to all-concrete floors saw parasitic infestation rates drop 78 percent; the number of children who had diarrhea in any given month dropped by half; anemia fell more than four-fifths; and scores on cognitive tests went up by more than a third. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, mothers in newly cemented houses reported less depression and greater life satisfaction.) By 2005, Piso Firme had spread to other states, and 300,000 households—about 10 percent of dirt-floor houses in Mexico—had taken part in the program.

It helps if the street outside the house gets paved, too—not so much for health reasons as for economic ones. Economists Marco Gonzalez-Navarro and Climent Quintana-Domeque found in a 2010 study that paving the street in the town of Acayucan, Mexico, added more than 50 percent to land values and caused a 31 percent rise in rental values. It also considerably increased households’ access to credit. As a result, households on paved streets were 40 percent more likely to have cars.

 

photo
from "Forever Bicycles," by Ai Weiwei, Taipei Art Museum, 2011 :: via Co.Design
Nate:
photo
from "fictional landscape with the small and minute," by Kyle Kirkpatrick, photo by Leo Reynolds, 2009 :: via Colossal
Nate:
Nate:
from "Internet Access Is Not a Human Right," by Vint Cerf, The New York Times, 4 January 2012 :: via Wired.com

[T]echnology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself. There is a high bar for something to be considered a human right. Loosely put, it must be among the things we as humans need in order to lead healthy, meaningful lives, like freedom from torture or freedom of conscience. It is a mistake to place any particular technology in this exalted category, since over time we will end up valuing the wrong things. For example, at one time if you didn’t have a horse it was hard to make a living. But the important right in that case was the right to make a living, not the right to a horse. Today, if I were granted a right to have a horse, I’m not sure where I would put it.

image
from "New Year's Rulin's," by Woody Guthrie, 31 January1942, from the archives of the Woody Guthrie Foundation :: via Lists of Note
Nate:
Nate:
from "The Book of Books - What Literature Owes the Bible," by Marilynne Robinson, The New York Times, 22 December 2011 :: via 3quarksdaily

Old Jonathan Edwards wrote, “It has all along been God’s manner to open new scenes, and to bring forth to view things new and wonderful.” These scenes are the narrative method of the Bible, which assumes a steady march of history, the continuous unfolding of significant event, from the primordial quarrel of two brothers in a field to supper with a stranger at Emmaus. There is a cosmic irony in the veil of insignificance that obscures the new and wonderful. Moments of the highest import pass among people who are so marginal that conventional history would not have noticed them: aliens, the enslaved, people themselves utterly unaware that their lives would have consequence. The great assumption of literary realism is that ordinary lives are invested with a kind of significance that justifies, or requires, its endless iterations of the commonplace, including, of course, crimes and passions and defeats, however minor these might seem in the world’s eyes. This assumption is by no means inevitable. Most cultures have written about demigods and kings and heroes. Whatever the deeper reasons for the realist fascination with the ordinary, it is generous even when it is cruel, simply in the fact of looking as directly as it can at people as they are and insisting that insensitivity or banality matters. The Old Testament prophets did this, too.

by Andy Crouch for Culture Making

Over the last 15 years International Justice Mission has mobilized Christians to address the profound need for structural transformation in public justice systems around the world that, due to a combination of corruption (i.e., human sin turned systemic) and lack of resources, do not serve the poor. Generally the rich can find a way to get these systems (or parallel replacements for them) to work adequately on their behalf. The poor cannot.

IJM has brought professional expertise (investigative, legal, social work, diplomatic, etc.) to bear on these systems, founded its work on a casework model that helps actual clients who have suffered from injustice in a dramatic way, married that casework to a structural transformation vision that realizes that the problem is bigger than individual cases, and been motivated and sustained by profound faith in a realm where even people of good will are often paralyzed by fear and despair. Due to this unique combination of assets targeted at an area of particular need, IJM has had an extraordinary impact, most recently recognized by Google, which is devoting its 2011 corporate philanthropy to an anti-trafficking coalition led by IJM. There is nothing I’m more thrilled by in my lifetime than the growth in breadth, depth, and influence of IJM (with whom I’ve had the privilege to work and volunteer in various ways for many years).

Thanks to generations of hard work and ongoing vigilance, our public justice system in the USA is not systemically broken to the same extent as it is in the countries where IJM works. But today it occurred to me that there is another system in our country that in some ways is as broken as, if not more broken than, its equivalents in the rest of the world. This system does not serve the poor. Generally the rich can find a way to get this system (or a parallel replacement for it) to work adequately on their behalf. The poor cannot—even though they overwhelmingly want to.

What we need in this system is a movement that brings professional expertise in numerous areas, a casework model that actually meets the needs of specific individuals and families in a dramatic way, married to a structural transformation model, motivated and sustained by profound faith in a realm where all too many people have effectively given up.

This system is our educational system.

Who will lead the IJM of courageous, faithful, professional, Christian efforts toward the structural transformation of American education so that it works just as well for the poor as it does for the rich? Could it be that 15 years from now we could have seen as much transformation in the way American Christians see their responsibility for education as we have seen in the last 15 years in the way they see their responsibility for public justice?

That’s what I’d like for Christmas.

image
image from Tughra, Wikipedia.
Nate:
Nate:
from The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection, by Robert Farrar Capon, 1968

The world may or may not need another cookbook, but it needs all the lovers—amateurs—it can get. It is a gorgeous old place, full of clownish graces and beautiful drolleries, and it has enough textures, tastes, and smells to keep us intrigued for more time than we have. Unfortunately, however, our response to its loveliness is not always delight: It is, far more often than it should be, boredom. And that is not only odd, it is tragic; for boredom is not neutral—it is the fertilizing principle of unloveliness.

image
map search from Homeless-SCC (beta), 15 December 2011
Nate:
Nate:
from "Composers As Gardeners," by Brian Eno, Edge, 10 November 2011 :: via The Browser

And essentially the idea there is that one is making a kind of music in the way that one might make a garden.  One is carefully constructing seeds, or finding seeds, carefully planting them and then letting them have their life.  And that life isn't necessarily exactly what you'd envisaged for them.  It's characteristic of the kind of work that I do that I'm really not aware of how the final result is going to look or sound.  So in fact, I'm deliberately constructing systems that will put me in the same position as any other member of the audience.  I want to be surprised by it as well.  And indeed, I often am.

What this means, really, is a rethinking of one's own position as a creator.  You stop thinking of yourself as me, the controller, you the audience, and you start thinking of all of us as the audience, all of us as people enjoying the garden together.  Gardener included.  So there's something in the notes to this thing that says something about the difference between order and disorder.

image
from "vintage_ads: Today's radium WTF," vintage_ads, 9 December 2011 :: via boingboing.net
Nate:
Nate:
from "Everyone Speaks Text Message," by Tina Rosenberg, The New York TImes, 9 December 2011

“For a long time, technology was the enemy,” says Inée Slaughter, executive director of the New Mexico-based Indigenous Language Institute, which teaches Native Americans and other indigenous peoples how to use digital technologies to keep their languages vital. Heritage languages were being killed off by increasing urbanization, the spread of formal education and the shift to cash crops, which ended the isolation of indigenous communities. Advances in technology seemed to intensify the decline. “Even in 1999 or 2000, people were saying technology killed their language,” Slaughter says. “Community elders worried about it. As television came into homes, English became pervasive 24/7. Mainstream culture infiltrated, and young kids want to be like that. It was a huge, huge problem, and it’s still there. But now we know ways technology can be helpful.”

"The Wexford Carol," by Yo-Yo Ma featuring Alison Krauss, part of Ma's album Songs of Joy & Peace, 2008 :: via Metafilter's Twenty-Five Semi-Obscure Traditional Christmas Songs as Performed by Famous and Non-Famous People
Nate:

As you have seen, I am a writer who came from a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within.

—Eudora Welty, One Writer's Beginnings (1983)

The quotations, images, and embedded media in this blog are the work of the credited authors, artists, and publications, and are employed in the spirit of fair use, commentary, and criticism. We always link to the original source of material we cite. If you think we’ve missed something, let us know. The inclusion of media on this site should not imply its owners’ endorsement (or for that matter awareness) of this book, blog, or the blog’s curators and commentators. Though we hope they’d like us.

[Crouch’s] analysis is sharp and hopeful at the same time. I have a feeling I am going to be giving away many copies of this book in the next few years.
?David, urban architect
living in Kansas City, Missouri
horizons of the possible  cultural worlds  music  photography  art  technology and change  food and drink  europe  community  gardens and cities  cultivation and creation  books  asia  africa  language  children  literature  writing  painting  movies  video  cities  changing the world  family  gestures and postures  power  business  internet  medicine  poverty  technology  government  consumption  grace  education  reading  color  animals  architecture  india  poetry  money  maps  visual arts  performing arts  trends  transport  agriculture  3 12 120  design  disciplines  south america  war  travel  science  transit  film  economics  communication  tv  sculpture  churches  revelation  work  psychology  advertising  clothing  sport  england  france  infrastructure  unintended consequences  home  fashion  politics  street view  failure  copying  generations  bible  craft  humor  women  creativity  history  story  china  christmas  california  landscape  museums  pop culture  time  water  development  nature  creation  suburbs  new york  dance  remixes  discipline  computers  kevin kelly  play  furniture  primordial stories  japan  naming  middle east  charity  least of nations  parents  journalism  neighborhoods  religion  russia  church  stewardship  germany  light  stories  media  words  law  names  mexico  games  australia  cell phones  islam  drawing  mission  traces of god  italy  love  graffiti  shopping  twitter  change the world  creation and cultivation  libraries  david taylor  entertainment  statistics  space  new jerusalem  philanthropy  redemption  buildings  pentecost and beyond  translation  typography  heroes  tradition  lists  death  alphabets  visual art  data  marriage  rob walker  race  engineering  risk  safety  signs  finance  cars  cultivation  beauty  military  sound  wilderness  noise  environmentalism  service  prison  illustration  migration  collage  south africa  modernity  crime  lamin sanneh  google  taste  christianity  television  condemnation  natural sciences  happiness  reconciliation  ideas  19th century  critique  memes  environment  philosophy  innovation  john stackhouse  voice  friendship  turkey  oceana  paper  wonder  future  memory  animation  canada  pets  babel  kenya  monasticism  leisure  heaven  multiculturalism  genesis  irony  nostalgia  public space  afghanistan  vision  prayer  tools  metaphor  latin america  news  stone  wealth  recreation  nigeria  convergence  uk  netherlands  objects  small towns  disease  criticism  gold  fiction  cooking  numbers  food  scripture  ghana  matthew crawford  egypt  haiti