This post contains loads of articles categorised under Humans and Culture. These are handpicked articles over the course of years for CAT Aspirants. This is the last of 2 posts. Click on the following link to go to the previous post: LINK here.
Every Article will have blurb, either written by me or an extract from the original post (mostly the latter) followed by the link to reach the article.
““Did you read about what happened in Kashmir?” they’d say to each other on a day like February 14, 2019, when a suicide bomber drove a car full of explosives into a group of Indian Army convoys. They’d pause and ponder, dipping biscuits into chai and then comment from afar — in the air of faux expertise — on the details of a mysterious region that seems, these days (and perhaps, one could argue, since its inception) to only exist in the news. Then, after a few moments of discussion, they’d transition into more neutral territory, like the weather in Gujarat, before any great disagreements broke out.”
Ruan itself might come from an ancient Chinese state of the same name, or maybe from the ancient lute-like instrument also called a ruan. Who knows? Either way, it seems likely that some mid-level Chinese bureaucrat, in seeking to figure out who actually lived in his newly conquered Vietnamese territory, simply decided that everyone living there would also be named Ruan—which became Nguyen.”
“A picture that comprises figure and ground requires an enclosed field. Without an enclosure, the space around its figure(s) will not necessarily read as part of the picture; enclosure is, therefore, the originary act that gives rise to the picture but also limits it. Nothing says this enclosure needs to take the shape of a rectangle, but the history of Western art, at least, makes the rectangle look like a virtually inescapable anatomical limit.”
“I used to read stories about men like him and they are heroes to me. Clearly her grandfather is a hero to her as well, and she is going to make him quite proud. This connection with a WWII vet through his amazing granddaughter is a gift. One of many I receive on an almost daily basis in this amazing institution. I think it’s worth taking a moment here and acknowledging that this thing we now call “PTSD” has always been around. Some of us veterans escape it while others, like me and likely this gent in the airplane, felt the sting of it.”
“Between 30 and 45 paparazzi work Britney on any given night. The expensive cars they drive reflect the fact that Britney Spears—her marriages, custody battles, fights with her mom, new boyfriends, Starbucks runs, trips to the hospital—is a bigger and more lucrative story than Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton or John Lennon and Yoko Ono. History’s best-publicized celebrity meltdown has helped fuel dozens of television shows, magazines, and Internet sites, the combined value of whose Britney-related product easily exceeds $100 million a year, and helped make Britney Spears the most popular search term on Yahoo once again in 2007, as it has been for six of the past seven years.”
“AAA estimates that forty-nine million Americans will be traveling at least fifty miles by car to Thanksgiving this year, while Airlines for America anticipates thirty-one million will fly between November 22 and December 3. The environmental impact will be brutal, and the stress of handling all those irate passengers is a heavy burden for airport workers. Some mayhem is expected, but thanks to the labor of always overworked and frequently underpaid transportation workers, most travelers make it home in time for turkey.”
“Ramsey Orta filmed the killing of Eric Garner. The video traveled far, but it wouldn’t get justice for his dead friend. Instead, the NYPD would exact their revenge through targeted harassment and eventually imprisonment—Orta’s punishment for daring to show the world police brutality.”
“On December 1, 2009, to commemorate World aids Day, Twitter announced a promotion: if users employed the hashtag #red, their tweets would appear highlighted in red. Megan Phelps-Roper, a twenty-three-year-old legal assistant, seized the opportunity. “Thank God for aids!” she tweeted that morning. “You won’t repent of your rebellion that brought His wrath on you in this incurable scourge, so expect more & worse! #red.””
“Gerald Blanchard could hack any bank, swipe any jewel. There was no security system he couldn’t beat.” http://bit.ly/2WX4PgC
Article 49 “The first lesson was this: Always start at the bottom, then cast your eyes upward in search of the unfolding story. This became, for a time, my preferred way of investigating the world around me. A boat was measured first by its barnacles, and a person by their shoes. In Petersburg, where I grew up, commercial fisherman like my uncles and my grandpa all wore the same brown xtratuf boots. In the jail where my father lived, everyone except the guards wore cheap slip-ons with thin soles. My grandmother, whose feet were badly crippled by rheumatoid arthritis, could only wear sandals;”
“He is a man without a country, a family and a home. For more than a decade, Merhan Nasseri has been living in terminal one at Charles de Gaulle airport, waiting. For what, he doesn’t know anymore”
“Luckier performers have made a success out of flouting conventional morality. In a notorious appearance on Late Night with David Letterman 1994, Madonna (whom Letterman introduced by dryly observing that she had “slept with some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry”) smoked a cigar and said “fuck” 13 times. Letterman faux-innocently asked, “You realize this is being broadcast, don’t you?””
“With all these piercings in their bodies and the kavadi on their shoulders, devotees walk for the better part of the day under the tropical sun until they reach the temple. This walk is done either barefooted on the scorching asphalt or in shoes made of upright nails. When they finally reach their destination, the pilgrims must carry their heavy burden (often weighting over 100 pounds) up 242 steps to where the temple is located. This remarkable tradition is performed by millions of Hindus around the world each year, including in Mauritius.”
“At its heart, laughter is a tool to triumph over fear. As we grow older, our senses of humor become more demanding and refined, but that basic, hard-wired reflex remains. We need it, because life is scary. Nature is heartless, people can be cruel, and death and suffering are inevitable and arbitrary. We learn to tame our terror by laughing at the absurdity of it all.”
“In any minority group, the most prominent members are expected to somehow speak for the entire constituency. But, if the burden of being Constance Wu seemed to weigh heavily, it was also evidently not something that she felt she could renounce. The day of the “Simple Man” makeup session, we wandered the scruffy beachfront of Kaiaka Bay, picking our way through cow bush and sugarcane ferns to the water’s edge.”
“This view informed René Descartes, who in the 17th century situated the soul (for him, the mind) precisely in this tiny mid-brain structure, which he imagined to be something of a thought valve; he called it ‘the seat of the soul’.”
“A blood clot had formed in a part of their son’s brain stem called the pons, causing a stroke right at the juncture where his body met his mind. Erik was suffering from an extremely rare and permanent condition known as locked-in syndrome. “Bottom line is that he has no control over any of his muscles,” the doctor told them. “He’ll never move and he’ll never speak.” Otherwise, the accident had spared virtually all of Erik’s conscious and unconscious processing systems. His memory, his reason, and his emotions were all intact. He could see and hear and feel–and feel pain–but he would never again have any way of communicating.”
“Not everything he says is true, not everything he says is false,” says Biella Coleman. Auernheimer deploys a peculiar rhetorical strategy that he’s learned to work to his advantage: he peppers his conversation with bizarre but true facts and historical references—he has an encyclopedic knowledge of ancient Greek history, world religions and contemporary U.S. anti-government extremists, among other things—then hits you with dubious details about his own life. The idea is that the overwhelming strangeness of the world will make you more receptive to the relatively banal stuff Auernheimer makes up about himself.
“Would you like bottle service at one of our dance-floor tables? That’ll be another $10,000. How about a 30-liter bottle of champagne to share with a dozen women you’ve never met? $250,000. How about we get Kim Kardashian to come? $100,000. Devin Friedman explores the world, adds it all up, and explains the mysteries and the pitfalls of the hottest club on the planet.”
“In truth, I was on the fence. Children felt like both a way to jump-start my real life and a way to end it. I wasn’t afraid of being a mother, and I didn’t think I’d be a bad one. I just wanted to be other things so much more. As a journalist, my days rarely followed a nine-to-five schedule. I found purpose in my work and couldn’t imagine rearranging my days to include breastfeeding and diaper changes. I knew it was possible to be a mother while maintaining a career, but I had little desire to take on the challenge. I didn’t see children as a punishment or a burden. But I also did not see them as a gift.”
“Evolution is a nice, big idea. It connotes the glacial pace of an unmeditated act unfolding upon species, concepts, and ecosystems. It certainly doesn’t usually get branded as a feeling. But a couple months ago I felt this thing. Maybe a little like what a mommy feels when her fetus kicks the wall crossed with how the baby feels when it gets its pre-K diploma, and the best word I can come up with for it is evolution. Not the glacial kind, but the real-time, Matrix-flavored kind. I was too busy barreling through the wicked pipe of a 30-milligram Adderall to think about it much when it happened, though.”
““Indians don’t ‘fall,’ Debie. We don’t marry by accident. We choose. Choose to marry, choose to love. We’re not powerless like Americans.”
Even in cases where the falling is inconvenient—because it happens too early, or too late, or between lovers whose lives are too messy to bode well for their futures—even in those cases, the falling itself is respected as a legitimate experience, entirely within the realm of the human and the normal.”
The following is a brilliant article from Caitlin Flanagan of The Atlantic from 2006.
“I was to understand that it was the way of domestic workers to fall short of money, and the obligation of householders to get them out of scrapes. I came to appreciate that the various trials of the employee’s life were very much my business, that ours was inherently an association of unequals, and that decency demanded that I keep that uppermost in my mind and behave accordingly.”
“Nothing pulls at the imagination like extremes – overwrought banquets and orgies, epic battles, devastating natural disasters, glorious human triumphs. Our omnivorous appetites find extravagant feasts awe-inspiring and enviable, and occasionally disconcerting.”
“Immediately, as if drawn by the call of the Sirens, many of Delphine’s 4.1 million followers flocked to her newly established store, where her so-called “Gamer Girl Bathwater,” which she sold for $30 per jar, sold out instantly. The story went viral, with media outlets alternately deriding Delphine’s fans for their naïvete and applauding her for her marketing savvy;
In truth, though, Delphine’s success is not all that surprising — the only thing the internet loves more than a hot, half-naked gamer girl, is a hot, half-naked gamer girl who’s expert at trolling.”
“Perhaps it is that same search for cosmopolitan virtue that still drives the droves of us, the Erasmus kids hastily spending bureaucrat stipends on wine and metro tickets, the Iranian post-docs gazing at stars in newly-built astronomy labs, to here, year after year. In spite of the ever-greater ticking of rent prices and the fact that the Champs-Élysées is now roughly 75% luxury chain stores and two-story McDonald’s franchises, Paris retains a mystique that resists disillusion down to its very essence.”
“Microbes are everywhere, but we take their presence on phones, keyboards, and toilet seats as a sign of filth and squalor. They fill our bodies, helping us to digest our food and safeguard our health, but we view them as adversaries to be drugged and conquered.”
“Among the dismantled rigs, lifeless pyrotechnics, and bowed heads of Burners absorbed in cleaning, we are here trying to answer a simple question: How, after so many years, could Burning Man throw an event of such chaos, and yet leave the desert without a trace? What leads thousands of people in such an extreme environment to consistently engage in cooperative behavior at a scale seldom seen in society?”
“He says that a “failure to teach the growing child age-appropriate limits” produces a child who is “self-centered and immature, unable to delay gratification or to tolerate not having his or her way.” Such a child sees all her wants as needs, and reacts to unmet needs by way of a display of outrage (the temper tantrum). McIntosh notes that hardships such as divorce, family strife and mental disorders (on the part of either child or parent) make such behavior more likely;”
“It was only 100 years ago, after all, that scientists first invented the “intelligence quotient” to measure someone’s intellectual potential. Their success relies on the fact that many cognitive abilities are correlated. So your ability to perform spatial reasoning or pattern recognition is linked to your maths ability and your verbal prowess, and so on. For this reason, IQ is thought to reflect a “general intelligence” – a kind of underlying brainpower.”
“Today’s post is different. This is a link, not to an article, but for a wonderful podcast. This was a beautiful, eye opening and thorough listen. Talks about human beliefs, belief change and cognitive dissonance.
In this episode we explore new research that suggests for the majority of the mind change we experience, after we update our priors, we delete what we used to believe and then simply forget that we ever thought otherwise.”
Studying Earth’s global biosphere together, Margulis and Lovelock realized that it has some of the properties of a life form. It seems to display “homeostasis,” or self‐regulation. Many of Earth’s life‐sustaining qualities exhibit remarkable stability. The temperature range of the climate; the oxygen content of the atmosphere; the pH, chemistry, and salinity of the ocean—all these are biologically mediated. All have, for hundreds of millions of years, stayed within a range where life can thrive.
There is that — the incremental forward movement on the toes that, if prolonged for any length of time, always elicits ecstatic applause from the audience. But there is the added image, central to ballet, of the female dancer posed on her toes with the support of the male consort who is then turned, fast or slow, in pirouette — a perfect doll-like figure displayed dramatically for the male gaze (To appropriate the phrase used most commonly in critique of classic narrative film).
I am now 68 years of age but when I was 21, in my final year at university, I became aware of major problems then facing the world – war, poverty, acid rain, ozone depletion, desertification, deforestation, species loss, civil and military uses and abuses of nuclear power, pollution, population growth, consumerism and the climate crisis. I was determined to devote my life to helping solve these problems.
Before my job, when people would ask me what I did and I’d tell them I was a writer, I felt like a fraud. The reality of freelancing is often waiting months for cheques and payments to arrive. It means knowing that one month you’ll be in demand, and the next month your inbox could be empty. The ebb and flow of the job left me too scared to even call myself a writer out loud to other people. Yes, I had been published—but that didn’t mean I would continue being published or that the people who’d publish me would even have jobs in a month.
Sontag’s own style was monstrous; inspiringly monstrous. We’re used to hearing this term ‘monster’ as an insult. But the monster – a figure of excess, difficult to absorb culturally – confronts us with the limits of our own powers, and forces us to rise to the level of what the text, or the time, demands from us.
“Small wonder that so many of us become at least mildly depressed, while others succumb to more serious forms of mental illness. The brutality of the journey also exacts its toll in more visible ways: I watched as certain of my colleagues gained or lost alarming amounts of weight in short periods. Graduate school is unkind to the body, a time of monastic restraint so vise-like and lasting, your inborn eagerness for touch can dwindle to what William Blake called the “shadow of Desire.””
“What starts as an innocent article about nostalgia, becomes a fantastic thought provoking read!
“”Tom Vanderbilt opined about the ever-shrinking “nostalgia gap,” and comically posited scenarios that might come true if this shrinking continued at its current dizzying speed: “The previous month’s Top 40 will appear in boxed-CD sets, as television commercials intone: ‘Do you remember what it was like in April, to be young and carefree, listening to the music that made you feel that way?’ Hey man, is that April Rock? Well, turn it up!”””
“Homeless individuals present one of empathy’s most difficult tests. Acknowledging their experiences is painful; it induces guilt; it damages our sense that the world is just. Circumstances like these tip the balance in empathy’s tug-of-war, favoring avoidance.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.””
Rapanui songs expressed “the surprise of being alive and also the sadness of life.”
“The new motto says: “If you experience something — record it. If you record something — upload it. If you upload something — share it.””
“The reason dogs make good pets is in large part because they have this innate behavior of finding somewhere to sit and wait for food to arrive, which is exactly what our pet dogs do. Their niche is scavenging food from humans. They are like ravens and foxes that scavenge food from wolves or humans. Where is that dog food supply? Look for humans, and there it is. Why are dogs nice to people? They are the source of food. Dogs find some food source that arrives daily and they sit there and wait.”
“The only thing stopping you from listening to a podcast is you. Just plug in, pick the show, and play it: there’s no flipping through stations, no snatches of song or prayer, no scraps of news, and no chance you’ll settle on something without knowing what it is. There’s nothing intrusive, accidental, surprising — no static, no interference — and it’ll cut out all the other unwanted noise of life, too. An unbroken stream of sound, a stealth multitasking machine, the podcast has no natural predators.”
Fantastic, long read about a cult/not a cult?? 🤔. Must read.
“If the word is living, then God is not dead, the Bible is unfinished, and a new day is coming. Stevens predicted that day would be in 1979, when his followers, through convulsive prayer and spiritual intensity, would lift him into heaven and he in turn would leave the gates wide open, granting the faithful “resurrection life”: immortality.”
“In short, humanists have spent centuries acquiring a distinctive interpretive expertise, and they are right to feel that research on cultural history would be more meaningful if it were built on that foundation. But there is, alas, another side to this story, less likely to be popular in history and English departments. While scientists usually do a better job if they work in collaboration with humanists, it must be admitted that today they can often make genuine contributions to historical understanding with or without our assistance.”
“In a fairly undisguised etymology, the word “influence” comes from the Latin for “inflow,” which provides an image of the way that, every second, our thoughts now stream into one another’s pockets. The same image evokes our anxieties about hostile foreign states penetrating our defenses. Influence is a challenge to sovereignty, both political and personal; to admit to being influenced is to give up the attractive idea that, as individuals or societies, we are entirely self-contained.”
“A gay, 31-year-old Brit with frosted hair, Yiannopoulos has been speaking at college campuses on his Dangerous Faggot tour. He says trolling is a direct response to being told by the left what not to say and what kinds of video games not to play. “Human nature has a need for mischief. We want to thumb our nose at authority and be individuals,” he says. “Trump might not win this election. I might not turn into the media figure I want to. But the space we’re making for others to be bolder in their speech is some of the most important work being done today. The trolls are the only people telling the truth.””
“Apps take this consolation to a new, interactive level. When you swipe in Todoist, you experience a moment of resistance that the designers have intentionally added to generate “a fleeting sense of accomplishment.” Such features, Gregg argues, create an “aesthetics of activity” that makes the apps so appealing. If you can focus on checking items off a list (or adding them to a spreadsheet), you’re absolved from having to think about why you’re doing them.”
“That film grossed over a billion at the box office, with its sequel – the culmination of over a decade of interconnected superhero cinema – on track to do even better. So you think I’d be hoping that those left standing would survive for another decade of adventures. But, actually, not so much. It’s going to hurt, but it’s time for them all to cop it. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye. Especially Hawkeye.”
“Anthropologists have found that across diverse cultures, tattooing is a way to advertise or emphasize one’s identity. Tatau follows the pattern. “Tattooing is still something important in a man’s life or in a woman’s life in terms of marking their belonging to the community,” Galliot says.”
““If you’re spending all your time as a Twitch broadcaster or creating memes, that is work,” says John Ahlquist, an associate professor at the University of San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy, who has done research on the changing nature of work. “People that are trying to earn a living on these platforms are recognizing how vulnerable they are on an individual basis with respect to the platform, and so they’re turning to this tried-and-true model of collective action.””
“Eighty percent of women living in communist East Germany always reached orgasm during sex, according to the Hamburg magazine Neue Revue in 1990. For West German women that figure was only 63 percent. Those counterintuitive findings confirmed two earlier studies, which East German sex researchers had published in 1984 and 1988. Those had found East German women reported high levels of sexual satisfaction outpacing those in the West.”
Wonderful writeup of an ethnomusicologist, about his long winded struggle to understand why some parts of Kenyan drumming was incomprehensible to his White brain, in spite of being reasonably adept at the art form. Very engaging article. Must Read.
“But as I went through one failed relationship after another, falling in and out of lust and love with various men whom I had ascertained to be my soul mates, I began to question my concept of true love. I began to recognize the gradual fade of fiery passion in the early days of a relationship, replaced by a sort of complacent companionship a few years in, where I would find myself disproportionately upset about socks left on the floor and remnants of beard shavings around the sink.”
“Norwegian black metal, though, is inseparable from its history. This month sees the release of Lords of Chaos, director Jonas Åkerlund’s intense dramatisation of events, focusing on the friendship and fatal rift between Aarseth (played by Rory Culkin) and Vikernes (Emory Cohen). It is bruising and brutal – when it screened at the London film festival last November, a man vomited, a woman fainted and an ambulance was summoned.”
“I suspect some degree of fatness has been present in all human societies, except for those on the brink of survival or living in truly extreme environments. I suspect that obese people have been sometimes revered, sometimes reviled, and perhaps sometimes just accepted without shame. But recent ethnographic research in Fiji and elsewhere strongly suggests that cultural attitudes toward fatness are less diverse now than they were in the past.”
“Reading the engaging and well-told life story of a First Lady, then, cannot but feel a bit like reading an obituary. This is particularly true when the woman is Michelle Obama, a woman who undoubtedly had potential that could not be realized within the constraints of the choices she made. Feeling this way is less a feminist preference for one set of choices for another, and more of an exposition of how the gendered arrangements of President and First Lady, East and West Wing, impose suffocating constraints on the women who occupy this role.”
“All of the scents blend together into something barely noticeable, with the occasional whiff of something delicious. We each live in a world of scents that go unnoticed in the backgrounds of our lives; they hum at the edges of our ability to perceive them. It can be a “big blur,” says Christophe Laudamiel, a French master perfumer who is based in New York and Berlin. It doesn’t have to be. “If you are trained, if you are an expert, you can discern things in the noise that you don’t discern if you haven’t practiced before.””