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Posts tagged cultural worlds

from The global evangelical, by Brian Howell, The Immanent Frame, 28 July 2008

Foreign missions have long been a significant element of Christianity, and everything from the popular books of Victorian missionaries to the stadium crusades of Billy Graham have brought a certain global consciousness to rank-and-file Christians. Unlike that removed and professionalized globalism, however, this is a globalism of the rank-and-file itself. As millions travel to various sites, and millions more hear from their friends and family members about these travels, they gain personal contact with a world that was once just so many pieces of yarn stretched from the picture of a missionary family to their location on the map of the Missionary Bulletin Board in a church basement.

Moreover, this is not a one-way globalism. It is not simply a neocolonial movement redux. These newest internationalists are part of more complex global flows that carry influence in multiple directions. In their article on the Global Issues Survey, Wuthnow and Offutt cite the flows of people, resources and knowledge as far more multidirectional than in the past. While acknowledging the enormous disparity of wealth and influence between American Christians and those in many other countries, they note examples of Brazilian Pentecostal broadcasts finding significant play in the New York City Spanish language market and Ghanaian gospel hip-hop gaining a hearing in Atlanta congregations. In my own research on short-term Christian volunteerism, I have found that those who make these trips or meet with foreign visitors in their home congregations often are struck by similarities. Statements such as “even though I couldn’t speak Spanish [or Portuguese or Chinese or Amharic], I knew we were worshipping the same God” reflect a belief in a unity and connection with non-Western Christians that few evangelicals personally experienced in the past.

from Funny Bone Anatomist, by William Grimes, New York Times Book Review, 20 July 2008 :: via 3quarksdaily

Talkative barber to customer: “How shall I cut your hair?” Customer: “In silence.”


This knee-slapper comes from “Philogelos,” or “Laughter-Lover,” a Greek joke book, probably compiled in the fourth or fifth century A.D. Its 264 entries amount to an index of classical humor, with can’t-miss material on such figures of fun as the miser, the drunk, the sex-starved woman and the man with bad breath.

Let us not forget the “skolastikos,” or egghead: “An egghead was on a sea voyage when a big storm blew up, causing his slaves to weep in terror. ‘Don’t cry,’ he consoled them, ‘I have freed you all in my will.’”


"children and happiness," by Alan Jacobs, The American Scene, 18 July 2008

Meghan is reflecting on Will Wilkinson’s reflection on a Newsweek article on how having children doesn’t make people happy. The assumption all around seems to be that this tells us something about the costs of having children. But shouldn’t we also consider the possibility that this tells us something about the costs of monitoring our own happiness? Or the costs of having defined happiness in such a way — and having organized the structure of our lives around the pursuit of happiness in such a way — that having children compromises it? It’s interesting that we’re more willing to do a cost-benefit analysis of having children than to do a cost-benefit analysis of eagerly participating in a culture of narcissism.

Here’s my thought for the day. In 1991 Rolling Stone interviewed Bob Dylan on the occasion of his 50th birthday, and at one point the interviewer asked Dylan if he was happy. This seemed to puzzle him a bit, and he was silent for a minute. Then he said, “You know,” he said, “these are yuppie words, happiness and unhappiness. It’s not happiness or unhappiness, it’s either blessed or unblessed. As the Bible says, ‘Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly.’”

from "Tunnel of Beauty," by Jeff Shinabarger, 21 July 2008

I have a notion that the real advice I could give to a young journalist, now that I myself am an old journalist, is simply this: to write an article for the Sporting Times and another for the Church Times and put them into the wrong envelopes.

—G.K. Chesterton, Autobiography


"Dancing (2008)", from Where the Hell is Matt?, where you can also watch the 2006 and 2005 versions of Matt's one-man global dance craze :: via David Taylor
from ”Researchers make noises of pre-Columbian society”, by Julie Watson, Wired News/AP, 29 June 2008

Sounds still play an important role in Mexican society. A cow bell announces the arrival of the garbage truck outside Mexico City homes. A trilling, tuneless flute heralds the knife sharpener’s arrival. A whistle emitting cat meows says the lottery ticket seller is here.

But pre-Columbian instruments often end up in a warehouse, Velazquez said, “and I’m talking about museums around the world doing this, not just here.”

That’s changing, said Tomas Barrientos, director of the archaeology department at Del Valle University of Guatemala.

“Ten years ago, nothing was known about this,” he said. “But with the opening up of museum collections and people’s private collections, it’s an area of research that is growing in importance.”

Velazquez meticulously researches each noisemaker before replicating it. He travels across Mexico to examine newly unearthed wind instruments, some dating back to 400 B.C. and shaped like animals or deities. He studies reliefs and scans 500-year-old Spanish chronicles.

But making replicas is only part of the work. Then he has to figure out how to play them. He’ll blow into some holes and plug others, or press the instrument to his lips and flutter his tongue. Sometimes he puts the noisemaker inside his mouth and blows, fluctuating the air from his lungs.

He experimented with one frog-shaped whistle for a year before discovering its inner croak.

"Carillon, Amsterdam, September 2006," by David Urbano, at Les Rencontres d'Arles Photographie :: via lens culture
from the All Known Metal Bands book site

The 300 page book All Known Metal Bands is a simple listing of every heavy metal band name that exists or has ever existed, in every genre, that I could find, in what turned out to be a year and a half of research. Where a name was used by more than one band, the name is listed once for each band. The pages are black, the type is silver, and it will make you want to do naughty things. Of the 51,000 bands listed, the most commonly used name is Legion. There are 24 bands named Legion. There are 20 bands named Genocide, and 20 called Requiem. There are 2 called Cryptic Stench, but there is only one Black Darkness.


The tradition of the sworn virgin can be traced to the Kanun of Leke Dukagjini, a code of conduct that has been passed on orally among the clans of northern Albania for more than five centuries. Under the Kanun, the role of women is severely circumscribed: Take care of children and maintain the home. While a woman’s life is worth half that of a man, a virgin’s value is the same - 12 oxen.

The sworn virgin was born of social necessity in an agrarian region plagued by war and death. If the patriarch of the family died with no male heirs, unmarried women in the family could find themselves alone and powerless. By taking an oath of virginity, women could take on the role of men as head of the family, carry a weapon, own property and move freely.

They dress like men, adopt a male swagger and spend their lives in the company of other men.

a more than 95 theses post by Alan Jacobs

Bumper stickers such as “Make Love, Not War” and “More Trees, Less Bush” speak volumes about a vehicle’s driver — but maybe not in the way they might hope. People who customize their cars with stickers and other adornments are more prone to road rage than other people, according to researchers in Colorado… .

The researchers recorded whether people had added seat covers, bumper stickers, special paint jobs, stereos and even plastic dashboard toys… . People who had a larger number of personalized items on or in their car were 16% more likely to engage in road rage, the researchers report in the journal Applied Social Psychology.

“The number of territory markers predicted road rage better than vehicle value, condition or any of the things that we normally associate with aggressive driving,” say Szlemko. What’s more, only the number of bumper stickers, and not their content, predicted road rage — so “Jesus saves” may be just as worrying to fellow drivers as “Don’t mess with Texas”.

Szlemko admits that he is not entirely surprised by the results. “We have to remember that humans are animals too,” he says. “It’s unrealistic to believe that we should not be territorial.”

[here, via Slashdot]


Steve Gifford has found a bright side to living next to an eyesore—in his case, Congo’s former embassy. In exchange for Gifford and his partner spending $200 a month cutting the grass and cleaning up, Congo granted that most elusive of city perks: parking in the embassy’s driveway. “Everybody wins,” Gifford said.

I am by most measures a pretty deeply committed Christian. I am quite active in my church; I teach at a Christian college; I have written extensively in support of Christian ideas and belief. Yet when I ask myself how much of what I do and think is driven by my religious beliefs, the honest answer is “not so much.” The books I read, the food I eat, the music I listen to, my hobbies and interests, the thoughts that occupy my mind throughout the greater part of every day—these are, if truth be told, far less indebted to my Christianity than to my status as a middle-aged, middle-class American man.

—Alan Jacobs, Wall Street Journal op-ed