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.

Posts tagged cultural worlds

Feast by Matt Zoller Seitz, Museum of the Moving Image, 24 November 2009 :: via kottke.org
Nate:
Nate:
from "Umberto Eco: We Like Lists Because We Don't Want to Die," interview by Susanne Beyer and Lothar Gorris, SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International, 11 November 2009 :: via The Morning News

The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order—not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries. ... We also have completely practical lists—the shopping list, the will, the menu—that are also cultural achievements in their own right. ...

The list doesn’t destroy culture; it creates it. Wherever you look in cultural history, you will find lists. In fact, there is a dizzying array: lists of saints, armies and medicinal plants, or of treasures and book titles. Think of the nature collections of the 16th century. My novels, by the way, are full of lists.

from "500 Fotos," by Adam Tyson
Christy:
photo
"Shapeshifter," white polypropylene plastic chairs (2000), by Brian Jungen, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa :: via Brainiac
Nate:
image
"Haitian Crucifixion 2000," by Sister Helen David Brancato, via Senior Artists Initiative
Christy:
Andy:

At the end of the day, language death is, ironically, a symptom of people coming together. Globalization means hitherto isolated peoples migrating and sharing space. For them to do so and still maintain distinct languages across generations happens only amidst unusually tenacious self-isolation—such as that of the Amish—or brutal segregation. (Jews did not speak Yiddish in order to revel in their diversity but because they lived in an apartheid society.) Crucially, it is black Americans, the Americans whose English is most distinct from that of the mainstream, who are the ones most likely to live separately from whites geographically and spiritually.

The alternative, it would seem, is indigenous groups left to live in isolation—complete with the maltreatment of women and lack of access to modern medicine and technology typical of such societies. Few could countenance this as morally justified, and attempts to find some happy medium in such cases are frustrated by the simple fact that such peoples, upon exposure to the West, tend to seek membership in it.

As we assess our linguistic future as a species, a basic question remains. Would it be inherently evil if there were not 6,000 spoken languages but one?

Nate:
from "A Common Nomenclature for Lego Families," by Giles Turnbull, The Morning News, 4 November 2009 :: via languagehat.com
image

Then, when another seven-year-old came round for tea after school one day, I overheard the two of them, busy in the spaceship construction yard that used to be our living room, get into a linguistic thicket.

“Can you see any clippy bits?” my son asked his friend. The friend was flummoxed. “Do you mean handy bits?” he asked, pointing.

“Yes,” replied my boy. “Clippy bits.”

Of course! This language of Lego isn’t just something our family has invented; every Lego-building family must have its own vocabulary. And the words they use (mostly invented by the children, not the adults) are likely to be different every time. But how different? And what sort of words?

excerpt Life and taxes
Nate:
image

In colonial Nigeria in the last years of the 19th century, a strange quirk of history led the British rulers to draw an arbitrary boundary line along the 7?10? N line of latitude, separating the population into two separate administrative districts.

Below the line, the colonial government raised money by levying taxes on imported alcohol and other goods that came through Southern Protectorate’s sea ports. Above the line, the administrators of the landlocked Northern Protectorate had no sea ports, and instead raised money through direct taxes. In the areas near the border, this took the form of a simple poll tax, where tax officials collected from each citizen the equivalent of between $4 and $20 in today’s dollars.

Could this seemingly minor difference—created over a century ago by a long-defunct colonial administration, and long ago erased by subsequent administrative divisions—possibly still matter today?

Yes, it could, according to Daniel Berger, a PhD student in politics at NYU.  Berger’s paper, Taxes, Institutions and Local Governance: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Colonial Nigeria, finds that the “simple act of having to collect taxes caused governments to be forced to build the capacity which can now provide basic government services.” As a result, governance today is “significantly better” in areas just above the line than in those just below it.

from "Mixed Nuts," by HappySlip Productions, 17 November 2006
Christy:
excerpt Not all thumbs
Nate:

Nicoladis and colleagues studied one and two-hand counting gestures and cultural differences between Germans and French and English Canadians. While the majority of Germans use their thumb to begin to sequentially count, the majority of Canadians, both French and English, use their index finger as the numerical kick-off point when counting with their hands.

However, Nicoladis noted that some French Canadians also displayed anomalous differences from their Canadian or even their German counterparts.

“They show a lot more variation in what they are willing to use in terms of gestures, suggesting there might be some influence from the European French manner of gesturing (whose gestures are identical to the Germans’), or possibly other cultures too,” she said. “This association suggests that there are some cultural artifacts left over from these older French gestures and that they have been replaced because of the cultural contact with English Canadians.”

from "Two Weeks in Forever," by Peter van Agtmael, New York Times, 14 October 2009
Christy:
Nate:
from "The Expat’s New Clothes," by Jill Wheeler, The Morning News, 6 October 2009

Most Indian men, at least those I see about town on the street, dress in what I call the “dude uniform”: a light-colored button-down long-sleeve shirt, slacks, and black sandals. As far as uniforms go, it’s pretty functional, working equally well for home and office, and requiring little in maintenance.

Younger guys, however, replace the sensible slacks with over-the-top denim: emulating their favorite Bollywood stars, they buy jeans that are dyed, streaked, distressed, and bedecked with clasps, latches, snaps, and pockets. Most of the time the pants are flared, giving them a bit of a disco feel.

On top, they wear a variety of shirts that make European clubwear appear dignified. Most are made of synthetic materials; gold lamé and neon orange are popular at the moment. Solid one-inch-wide black and orange vertical stripes were big in Fall 2008, but 2009 seems to favor a trompe l’oeil sweater-vest-over-T-shirt garment, usually in pastels. As far as I can tell, it’s the guys scraping by who wear the flashiest clothes. Too far down the socio-economic ladder and your duds turn to rags. Too far up and they become the dude uniform. Somewhere in between, though, is ‘70s gold.

image
"Highland Light" (North Truro, Massachusetts), watercolor over graphite on rough white wove paper, 1930, by Edward Hopper, Harvard Art Museum :: via "Edward Hopper's Cape Cod: Then and Now," NYTimes.com, 10 August 2009
Nate:
Nate:
from "Michael Pollan's Favorite Food Rules," illustrated and designed by Roger Kent and Zahra Sethna, The New York Times Magazine, 11 October 2009 :: via kottke.org

“When drinking tea, just drink tea.” I find this Zen teaching useful, given my inclination toward information in the morning, when I’m also trying to eat breakfast, get the dog out, start the fire and organize my day. I believe that it’s so much better for our bodies when we are present to our food. Perhaps a bit of mindfulness goes a long way first thing in the morning. (Of course, some time ago, I came across a humorous anecdote about a hapless Zen student whose teacher taught him the aphorism and then was discovered by the same student, drinking tea and reading the paper. When confronted, the teacher said, “When drinking tea and reading the paper, just drink tea and read the paper!”)

—Michelle Poirot

image
Chak De! India (DVD Menu), Yash Raj Films, 2007 :: via Netflix
Nate:
photo
"Wedding Preparations, Davao City, Philippines," photo by Ryan Anson, The New Breed of Documentary Photographers, 2 October 2009
Nate:
photo Food flags
photo
"Lebanon (lavash, fattoush, and a herb sprig)," by WHYBIN for the Sydney International Food Festival 2009, blogged at The Kitchn, 29 September 2009 :: via GOOD
Nate:
photo
"Woman taking her time rambling south at 63 mph on the Hollywood Freeway near the Vine Street exit in Los Angeles on a Saturday afternoon in 1991," from the series Vector Portraits, by Andrew Bush, at M+B Gallery, Los Angeles, 12 September–15 October :: via We can shoot too
Nate:
image
"Austin, Texas," oil on canvas, 5x6', by Christa Palazzolo :: via FFFFOUND!
Nate:

from "Doug TenNapel: Changing the Rules for Telling the Story," Apologetics.com, 19 September 2009
Christy: