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Posts Tagged ‘China

“Man is the only animal that likes Tabasco sauce”*…

 

For years culinary detectives have been on the chili pepper’s trail, trying to figure out how a New World import became so firmly rooted in Sichuan, a landlocked province on the southwestern frontier of China. “It’s an extraordinary puzzle,” says Paul Rozin, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist, who has studied the cultural evolution and psychological impact of foods, including the chili pepper…

How the chili pepper got to China (and lots of other stops around the world): “Why Revolutionaries Love Spicy Food.

* “Philosophers have often looked for the defining feature of humans–language, rationality, culture and so on. I’d stick with this: Man is the only animal that likes Tabasco sauce” – Yale psychologist Paul Bloom, quoted in The New York Times

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As we remind ourselves that water doesn’t help, we might recall that it was on this date in 1858 that John L. Mason of New York was issued U.S. patent No. 22,186 for a Glass Jar,  “Improvement in Screw-Neck Bottles”– forever after known as “Mason jars.”  That same year he also invented the first screw top salt shaker.

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Written by LW

November 30, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Cloning is great. If God made the original, then making copies should be fine.”*…

 

Alternately:

Every new step in the direction of simplification – toward monoculture, say, ore genetically identical plants – leads to unimaginable new complexities…”
― Michael Pollan

In any case,

Animal cloning has been around for nearly 20 years, but has mostly been done for the sake of research. Now, a new commercial venture in Tianjin, China, plans to clone 100,000 beef cattle a year for meat production beginning in the first half of 2016.

The enterprise, made up of several academic and commercial organizations with financial support from the Chinese government, has the ultimate goal of ramping up production to a million cow embryos a year…

Read on at “China Planning Huge Facility to Clone Cows, Dogs & Racehorses.”

* Douglas Coupland

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As we ruminate on reproduction, we might send biological birthday greetings to Erasmus Darwin; he was born on this date in 1731.  Erasmus was an accomplished doctor (he declined an offer to be personal physician to Charles III), but is better remembered as a key thinker in the “Midlands Enlightenment”– a founder of the Lunar Society of Birmingham and author of (among other works) Zoonomia, or, The Laws of Organic Life, which contained one of the first formal theories of evolution… one that foreshadowed the theories of Erasmus’ reader– and grandson– Charles… all of which may soon seem quaint.

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Written by LW

December 12, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Art is the only way to run away without leaving home”*…

 

As we prepare ourselves for pumpkin carving, we might pause to recall an era in which other fruits were ornamentally hewn.  As a 1905 issue of American Homes and Gardens magazine put it, “it is surprising what can be done with the conventional orange.”

More table decorating tips at “The Art of Ornamental Orange Peeling.”

* Twyla Tharp

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As we sharpen our knives, we might pause to recall that it was on this date in 2008 that the “Sichuan Guangyuan citrus maggot event” went public; a huge portion of the region’s citrus (ornages and tangerines) were found to be afflicted by small maggot-like worms.  The episode is noteworthy as an relatively early example of the power of Chinese social media:  though the government did its best to support continued citrus sales by censoring any news media mention of the outbreak, BBS forums and SMS messages carried the news– sufficiently successfully (citrus sales in Beijing plummeted) that the official outlets had to relent and report the news, along with assurances that the government was responding…

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Written by LW

October 21, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business”*…

 

The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin has recently digitized ten scrapbooks belonging to Harry Houdini. The books are divided into three groups: volumes compiled by other magicians about their careers; scrapbooks holding Houdini’s clippings on the practice of magic in general; and books that chart Houdini’s investigations of fakes, frauds, and conjurers. (Later in his life, Houdini became fascinated with the post-WWI fad for spiritualism—mediums, séances, and psychics—and took on a role as skeptical debunker of spiritualist performers.)…

Read more about Houdini’s scrapbooks at the always-illuminating Open Culture.  And read more about the broader scrapbooking craze of which they were a part at “Writing With Scissors.”

* Tom Robbins

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As we reach for the paste, we might recall that it was on this date in 1957 that Chairman Mao delivered his speech, “On the Correct handling of Contradictions Among the People,” to the Eleventh Session (Enlarged) of the Supreme State Conference in China.  Calling for the free expression of criticisms of the Communist regime, Mao instigated what he called the “Hundred Flowers era” (as in “let a hundred flowers bloom…”).

It was a short-lived era.  Some historians suggest that the outpouring of criticism that resulted spooked the powers-that-be; others believe that Mao’s invitation was from the outset a calculated move to draw out critics. (Mao later said that he was trying to coax snakes out of their dens so he could chop off their heads…  but he may well have been saving face.) Either way, within months, the Hundred Flowers campaign had given way to the Anti-Rightest Campaign: 300-600,000 intellectuals were labeled as rightists, stripped of their jobs, and sent to labor camps, most on the evidence of their Hundred Flowers comments.

“Bring every positive factor into play, correctly handle contradictions among the people, 1958”: a poster for the Hundred Flowers campaign.

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Written by LW

February 27, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The hardest thing to hide is something that is not there”*…

 

An ancient city made of intricately carved stone sits silent at the bottom of a lake, a replica of Paris complete with an Eiffel Tower is eerily empty, and a city leveled by disaster has been cordoned off indefinitely as a memorial to those who were lost. China might just be home to more ghost cities than any other nation on earth, and most of them are of the modern variety, as the push for economic progress has led developers to get a bit ahead of themselves constructing vast communities, malls and amusement parks that never caught on with the public…

See them all at Web Urbanist’s “Great Ghost Cities: 7 Eerie Abandoned Wonders of China.”

* Eric Hoffer

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As we listen for an echo, we might recall that it was on this date in 960 that Zhao Kuangyin became Emperor Taizu of Song– the first ruler of the Song Dynasty, a period of Chinese history that lasted more than three centuries.  A distinguished military leader under the Later Zhou Dynasty, Zhao came to power via a coup d’état that forced the young Emperor Gong to abdicate.  During his reign, Zhao reunified most of China proper, effectively ending the chaotic Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period.

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Aye, Robot!…

 

It’s not just the assembly-line worker who’s being replaced by automatons, it’s tough all over:

In the face of rising labor costs, Chinese restaurateur Cui Runguan is selling thousands of robots that can hand slice noodles into a pot of boiling water called the Chef Cui. Runguan says in the report below that just like robots replacing workers in factories, “it is certainly going to happen in sliced noodle restaurants.” The robots costs $2,000 each, as compared to a chef, who would cost $4,700 a year. According to one chef, “The robot chef can slice noodles better than human chefs.” News of Runguan’s invention hit the internet in March of 2011, but they’ve since gone into production and are starting to catch on: 3,000 of them have already been sold. But why do their eyes glow, and why do they look so angry?…

From Eater, via Laughing Squid.

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As we admire the precise proportions of our pasta, we might send well-insulated birthday greetings to Ray McIntire; he was born on this date in 1918.  While working at Dow Chemical during World War II in search of a substitute for rubber (which was in short supply during the conflict), McIntire combined styrene with isobutylene and created polystyrene, a unique material that was solid yet light and flexible (due to the tiny bubbles formed by the isobutylene within the styrene).  Dow patented the serendipitous invention in 1944 as STYROFOAM™.  In 2008, McIntire was inducted into the U.S. National Inventors Hall of Fame.

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Written by LW

August 24, 2012 at 1:01 am

Apologies…

David Fullarton‘s ArtSlant profile suggest that he’s…

…a Scottish born, San Francisco based artist. He keeps notebooks filled with scraps of paper, scribbled phrases, and other ephemera that he incorporates into his artwork. These elements represent the often overlooked stuff of daily life, which is the root of Fullarton’s inspiration. He sees beauty in the ways people manage to find joy and meaning in the minutiae. The artist paints vibrantly complex canvases whose elements jumble and mix together in a facsimile of modern life. Fullarton compliments these with smaller mixed media drawings on paper. These paper works are sometimes the genesis of the finished paintings, but are more often stand-alone vignettes featuring forlorn characters who find themselves in compromising situations.

Indeed.  Consider his most recent Behance portfolio, “I Can’t Apologize Enough“– a calculated violation of Ben Franklin’s injunction, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse”– from which the image above and the one immediately below are drawn.

See more of Fullarton’s “Apologies” at Behance; see more of his other, equally-affecting work there, on his site, or on Flickr.

[TotH to Laughing Squid]

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As we concentrate on contrition, we might recall that it was on this date in 1997 that the United Kingdom surrendered sovereignty over Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China, and the island enclave became the first PRC’s first “Special Administrative Region.” (The second, Macau, was created two years later.)

View from Victoria Peak

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Written by LW

July 1, 2012 at 1:01 am

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