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Posts Tagged ‘culture

“Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands and goes to work”*…

For example…

The slang of 19th century scoundrels and vagabonds: browse it in full at invaluable Internet Archive, “Vocabulum; or, The Rogue’s Lexicon.”

* Carl Sandburg

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As we choose our words, we might send fashionable birthday greetings to George Bryan “Beau” Brummell; he was born on this date in 1778. An important figure in Regency England (a close pal of the Prince Regent, the future King George IV), he became the the arbiter of men’s fashion in London in the territories under its cultural sway. 

Brummell was remembered afterwards as the preeminent example of the dandy; a whole literature was founded upon his manner and witty sayings, e.g. “Fashions come and go; bad taste is timeless.”

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Written by LW

June 7, 2021 at 1:01 am

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”*…

You could fill a small library with books on right-wing populism. Some authors argue that these movements emerged in reaction to relatively recent events, such as the financial crisis of 2007-09 or the advent of social media. Others look to longer-lasting regional trends, like European integration or racial politics in America.

Thomas Piketty, an economist, became famous for a book that analysed 200 years of data on wealth inequality in a wide range of countries. This month he published a paper, co-written by Amory Gethin and Clara Martínez-Toledano, which applies a similar approach to the relationship between demography and ideology. Its findings imply that the electoral victories of Donald Trump and the Brexit campaign in 2016 were not an abrupt departure from precedent, but rather the consequence of a 60-year-old international trend.

In a paper in 2018 Mr Piketty noted that elites in Britain, France and America were split between intellectuals who backed left-of-centre parties—he dubbed them the “Brahmin left”—and businesspeople who preferred right-wing ones (the “merchant right”). His new work expands this study from three Western democracies to 21. It combines data on parties’ policy positions with surveys that show how vote choices varied between demographic groups.

The paper finds that income and education began diverging as predictors of ideology long ago. In 1955 both the richest and the most educated voters tended to support conservative parties. Conversely, both poorer and less-educated people mostly chose labour or social-democratic ones.

Today, wealthy people still lean to the right. In contrast, the relationship between education and ideology began to reverse as early as the 1960s. Every year, the 10% of voters with the most years of schooling gravitated towards left-wing parties, while the remaining 90% slid the other way. By 2000, this had gone on for so long that, as a group, the most educated voters became more left-wing than their less-educated peers. The gap has only grown since then.

This trend is strikingly consistent. It developed just as fast in the 20th century as in the 21st, and appears in almost every Western democracy studied. This includes both two-party systems and proportional ones, in which green parties now lure educated voters, and nativist parties attract the less educated. Such breadth and regularity make the rise of right-wing populists like Mr Trump—and of left-of-centre technocrats like Emmanuel Macron or Justin Trudeau—look like a historical inevitability.

Although the authors do not identify a cause for this trend, the simplest explanation is that it stems from growing educational attainment. In 1950 less than 10% of eligible voters in America and Europe had graduated from college. Any party relying on this group for support would have had scant hope of winning elections. In contrast, more than a third of Western adults today have degrees, which is enough to anchor a victorious coalition. And once candidates and parties began catering to educated voters—who often put living in a liberal society above lowering their tax bills—rival politicians could start winning elections by taking the opposite position.

From the always-illuminating Economist Graphic Detail, a new paper by Thomas Piketty makes the rise of right-wing populism and a progressive left look like a historical inevitability: “Educated voters’ leftward shift is surprisingly old and international.”

* Upton Sinclair

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As we ruminate on representation, we might recall that it was on this date in 1956 that city authorities in the California beach town of Santa Cruz announced a total ban on the public performance or playing of rock and roll music, calling it “detrimental to both the health and morals of our youth and community.”

It may seem obvious now that Santa Cruz’s ban on “Rock-and-roll and other forms of frenzied music” was doomed to fail, but it was hardly the only such attempt. Just two weeks later in its June 18, 1956 issue, Time magazine reported on similar bans recently enacted in Asbury Park, New Jersey, and in San Antonio, Texas, where the city council’s fear of “undesirable elements” echoed the not-so-thinly-veiled concerns of Santa Cruz authorities over the racially integrated nature of the event that prompted the rock-and-roll ban… (source)

rock ban

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Written by LW

June 3, 2021 at 1:01 am

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire”*…

In the year 578AD Germanic tribes were warring over the remains of the Roman Empire, an eight-year-old boy named Muhammad was growing up in Mecca, the Mayan Empire was flourishing in Central America, and the world’s longest continuously operated business was founded in Japan. When Prince Shōtoku Taishi (572–622) commissioned the construction of Japan’s first Buddhist temple, Shitennō-ji, Japan was predominantly Shinto and had no miyadaiku(carpenters trained in the art of building Buddhist temples), so the prince hired three skilled men from Baekje, a Buddhist state in what is now Korea. Among them was Shigetsu Kongō, whose work would become the foundation of the construction firm Kongō Gumi.

In the centuries that followed, the maintenance, repair and reconstruction of Shitennō-ji (ravaged a number of times by wars and natural disasters) provided Kongō Gumi’s main source of income, but as Buddhism spread throughout Japan the scope of the company’s work also expanded to include contributions to other major temple complexes such as Hōryū-ji (607) and Koyasan (816), as well as Osaka Castle (1583). Kongō Gumi would continue to flourish under the Tokugawa shogunate (1603–1867), a period during which Buddhist temples received substantial financial support. The company weathered the pro-Shinto Meiji Period (1868–1912) and its often violent efforts to eradicate Buddhism from Japan, which included the destruction of tens of thousands of Buddhist temples. Kongō Gumi also survived the Shōwa Financial Crisis of 1927, keeping pace with economic and technological developments until it finally succumbed to financial difficulties and became a subsidiary of Takamatsu Kensetsu in 2006, after more than 1,400 years of independent operation.

Although Japan boasts six of the world’s oldest companies and an estimated 20,000 firms over 100 years old, Kongō Gumi’s longevity is certainly remarkable and worthy of study. Fortunately, the principles that guided the company over the centuries have been preserved by the Kongō family itself. The 32nd leader of the company, Yoshisada Kongō, writing during the Meiji Period, left a creed, later titled Shokuke kokoroe no koto, or ‘family knowledge of the trade’, a list of 16 precepts distilled from the company’s successful past and intended to guide and preserve the family’s operations into the future. Western observers might be surprised to discover that while the creed addresses ‘business’ subjects such as quality control and customer satisfaction, it puts equal emphasis on ‘personal’ issues such as how to dress (in keeping with one’s station), how much to drink (in moderation) and how to treat others (with utmost respect). Indeed, the first article of the creed states that minding the precepts of Confucianism, Buddhism and Shinto, and training to use the carpenter’s rule are ‘our most important duty’, suggesting that the standards against which a Kongō measures his life are as critical to success as the instrument by which he measures his work…

Learning from the long-lived: “Building on Tradition — 1,400 Years of a Family Business.”

See also: “The Data of Long-Lived Institutions” from @zander at The Long Now Foundation.

* Gustav Mahler

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As we take the long view, we might recall that it was on this date in 1911 that RMS Titanic was launched from the boatyard in Belfast in which it was built, the largest passenger ship of its day. A state-of-the-art steamship, it set sail from Southampton on its maiden voyage on march 10th of the following year, bound for New York City.  Four days later, after calls at Cherbourg in France and Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland, the “unsinkable” Titanic collided with the iceberg that sent it under in the North Atlantic, 375 miles south of Newfoundland.

(For perspective on scale)

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“It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds”*…

Sometimes profane, often profound, always wonderfully watercolory…

Visit the amazing aviary at False Knees (@FalseKnees)

* Aesop

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As we have fun with fowl, we might send powerfully-drawn birthday greetings to Jack Kamen; he was born on this date in 1920. An artist and illustrator, he is remembered for his work in books, magazines, comic books, and advertising, especially for his work illustrating crime, horror, humor, suspense and science fiction stories for EC Comics (and for the onscreen artwork he contributed to the 1982 horror anthology film Creepshow, a tribute to EC created by Stephen King and George Romero’s homage to EC).

Jack Kamen’s “Kamen’s Kalamity” from Tales from the Crypt #31 (August–September 1952) showed Kamen getting an assignment from the publisher Bill Gaines and editor Al Feldstein. [larger version]

Kamen had four children, one of whom is the inventor Dean Kamen— whose patent application for the Segway was drawn by his father.

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“My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it’s on your plate”*…

Elizabeth David’s first cookbooks burst upon a Britain newly delivered from wartime rationing… By 1960, when French Provincial Cooking threw its mighty heft against the drab tyranny of “meat and two veg,” the author’s characteristic mix of tart practicality and deep erudition had already begun to work its changes on the English palate. In the late 1980s, David, by that time a living English institution, C.B.E., Chevalier du Mérite Agricole, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, embarked on a study that would leave behind the anecdotal world of recipes for a sustained historical study. Although she did not live to see its completion, her extensive drafts for the work have now been edited (by Jill Norman) and published under the title Harvest of the Cold Months: The Social History of Ice and Ices

Harvest of the Cold Months began as an investigation (launched in the mid-1970s) of early European ice-cream recipes, but quickly expanded to a global scale, reflecting Mrs. David’s longtime interest in early travelers’ accounts. She then turned her endless curiosity to the mechanical means of producing cold, an art that first emerged in the seventeenth century, and finally to the impact of the Industrial Revolution on means for supplying the world’s ever-growing demand for ice.

Yet, ice cream aside, the subject of frozen water is strange food for thought. If fire is the Promethean gift that first made us civilized, ice is a bewildering opposite; it has been tamed only by civilizations so advanced into decadence that they can warp the seasons, demanding snow in their summer drinks or ephemeral sculptures of pooling ice at the centers of their dining tables. The primal, elementally human quality of the campfire or the hearth gives way to a shiver of perverse pleasure when it comes to the activity that our forebears called “drinking cool.” (What, indeed, could be more limitlessly suggestive than the proposition a friend received in Athens one summer day years ago: “How about a nice tall cool one?”)…

Unseasonable ice brings up the ambiguous specter of civilization at its most aggressive: overlords, empires, and the Industrial Revolution, which eventually replaced the worldwide shipping of natural ice with mechanical manufacture—not, paradoxically, by means of the manipulation of cold, but of heat.Iced food and drink have continued, all the while, to be associated with ill health, sin, and bad company, the sustenance of decadent colonials or devil-may-care gourmands. In 1624, Elizabeth David tells us, Francis Bacon declared that “the Producing of Cold is a thing very worthy of the Inquisition.” To this day, most Italians avoid iced drinks as harmful to stomach and liver; they drink their summer tea chilled, but mistrust it when poured over clinking cubes of frozen water. Ice-cream manufacturers, meanwhile, invite their customers to give way to sin and temptation…

Cool, cooler, cold- Ingrid Rowland on Elizabeth David’s Harvest of the Cold Months: The Social History of Ice and Ices: “The Empress of Ice Cream.”

Related (i.e., also cool): “Pellet Ice Is The Good Ice.”

[image above: source]

* Thornton Wilder (whose advice Elizabeth David happily ignored)

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As we channel Márquez, we might recall that it was on this date in 1901 that Chapman J. Root opened the Root Glass Company in Terre Haute, Indiana; his specialty was the manufacture of glass bottles that would withstand high internal pressures. In 1915 the company entered, and in 1916 won the design competition for what would become the iconic 6.5 ounce Coca-Cola bottle.

The 1915/6 bottle

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