Remembering the world’s remaining indigenous and native tribes

Friday, 15 November, 2013

British photographer Jimmy Nelson has journeyed through Africa, Asia, South America, New Zealand, and Siberia, collecting images of indigenous and native peoples and tribes, who are often isolated from the rest of the world, and living as their ancestors have for hundreds, sometimes, thousands of years.

Nelson’s efforts are an attempt to document these people, and their ways of life, before the ever encroaching contemporary world eventually sees them abandon their traditional lifestyles.

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Shoe tossing, a global phenomenon of nebulous significance

Wednesday, 30 October, 2013

The Mystery of Flying Kicks is a short documentary made by Australian filmmaker and writer Matthew Bate exploring the widespread phenomenon of shoe tossing, or shoe flinging, or “shoefiti”, or the tying of two pairs of sneakers together, with their laces, and throwing them up at telephone, or power, cables so they dangle there.

People seem to have all sorts of ideas as to what the sight of sneakers hanging from telephone lines means, and as it turns out, pretty much anything seems to go, depending on where you are.

One prevailing thought is they mark out the territory of dealers of certain illicit substances, or gangs, and maybe in some places they do, but in Sydney, for instance, their presence appears to have an all together different significance.

What about where you are?

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The hitchhiker’s guide to etiquette in many places

Thursday, 19 September, 2013

Another, this time illustrated, etiquette guide for New York City… I’m not sure why these need to be city specific though, surely this how anyone should behave where ever they are?

Mind you, not everything featured is advice on how to conduct yourself, how are short-cuts from one building to another, or tips for distinguishing the Chrysler Building from the Empire State Building, something to do with etiquette?

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Not only do we shape our cities, they also shape us

Monday, 27 May, 2013

When more than half of the Earth’s population live in cities, that, by the way, occupy just three percent of the world’s land surface, changes, be they genetic or cultural, are bound to take place:

It is having an effect not just culturally, but biologically: urban melting pots are genetically altering humans. The spread of genetic diversity can be traced back to the invention of the bicycle, according to geneticist Steve Jones, which encouraged the intermarriage of people between villages and towns. But the urbanisation occurring now is generating unprecedented mixing. As a result, humans are now more genetically similar than at any time in the last 100,000 years, Jones says.

The genetic and cultural melange does a lot to erode the barriers between races, as well as leading to novel works of art, science and music that draw on many perspectives. And the tight concentration of people in a city also leads to other tolerances and practices, many of which are less common in other human habitats (like the village) or in other species. For example, people in a metropolis are generally freer to practice different religions or none, to be openly gay, for women to work and to voluntarily limit their family size despite – or indeed because of – access to greater resources.

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Blend in, that’s how to make more friends while travelling abroad

Wednesday, 12 September, 2012

Liking what the locals like, or at least creating that impression, is the key to making new friends while living in an overseas country. Mind you there’s nothing wrong with locals being a little more accepting of newcomers… they might themselves on the outside looking in one day.

You need to know where to meet foreigners. I can tell about Abuja at least. Go to play readings and art exhibitions organized by embassies. It doesn’t matter if you do not really care about plays or if you think Australian art is just a waste of space. Join the hash. The hash is plenty of white people running or walking, wearing similar colours, drinking plenty beer and doing things you will find very strange. Don’t be a bush person. Google the hash and learn their terms. Find out what “Hares”, “On-on”, or “Down-down” mean. Sometimes there is a small fee you pay. Don’t be stingy. Pay up and mix with foreigners.

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Keeping endangered languages alive with talking dictionaries

Thursday, 21 June, 2012

With another language dying out every fortnight, The Enduring Voices project – a National Geographic initiative – that strives to preserve endangered languages, certainly has its work cut out, though hopefully the Talking Dictionaries it is compiling will prevent some from disappearing completely.

Every 14 days a language dies. By 2100, more than half of the more than 7,000 languages spoken on Earth – many of them not yet recorded – may disappear, taking with them a wealth of knowledge about history, culture, the natural environment, and the human brain. National Geographic’s Enduring Voices Project (conducted in collaboration with the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages) strives to preserve endangered languages by identifying language hotspots – the places on our planet with the most unique, poorly understood, or threatened indigenous languages – and documenting the languages and cultures within them.

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Efforts to better name a century’s first decade have come to nought

Thursday, 14 June, 2012

The idea of labelling time frames by decade looks to be relatively new, and may go someway to accounting for the awkward/cumbersome title accorded to the first decade of this century “the noughties”, since there was no real precedent to refer to.

You know that decades are a recent invention? Decades are hardly a century old. Not the concept of having ten years of course, but the concept of the decade as a sort of major cultural unit, like when I say “the 90s” and you think of flannel shirts and grunge music and great R&B music, or when I say “the 80s” and you think of people with big hair using floppy disks. You need a lot of change for a decade to be a meaningful demarcation. Back in the 1600s they didn’t really talk about centuries as much either. It was all about the life of the king, the reign (of King James and so forth), or the era.

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Did you find your Antipodes? No, but I think I sailed passed them

Monday, 9 April, 2012

Do switch-off power sockets, and an absence of leafblowers and tipping, define Australia? Whatever, they are among concepts James Fallows thinks the US should more widely embrace.

Yes, some people expect and offer tips in Australia, but that’s the exception rather than the degrading-to-all-parties rule. I realize that there is no chance that we’ll actually switch to a similar system with a much higher minimum wage (> $15/hour in Australia) and consequently higher service-sector prices, but no expectation of the ongoing bazaar-and-bribery ritual that is the tipping culture. That’s too bad, because the no-tip system is better.

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More reasons to travel, to witness endangered cultural traditions

Thursday, 1 December, 2011

Fado music from Portugal, Chinese shadow puppetry, and poetic duelling from Cyprus, are among cultural traditions considered to be endangered by UNESCO, as a result of things like globalisation, modernisation, and the inexorable march of time.

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Once a goth always a goth, this isn’t a phase, it’s a way of life

Tuesday, 1 November, 2011

Goths are more likely to remain faithful to the subculture of their youth, even after reaching their thirties and starting families, as opposed to those of other groups, such as say punk or rave, who tend to drift away as they move into their twenties.

Dr Paul Hodkinson, deputy head of Surrey University’s sociology department and an expert in youth music subcultures, has been re-interviewing a group of goths he first studied in the late 1990s to find out. “They were teenagers and in their early 20s then, and I thought it would be interesting to go back because a number of people do stay involved in the goth scene,” he explains. Though many people who belong to youth subcultures such as punk and rave tend to drift away in their 20s, Hodkinson says it’s more likely that older goths will want to remain involved in the scene, even though it may become harder to combine with the responsibilities that come with age.

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