Category Archives: Culture

Quote of the day: A word to mainstream media

From Andrew Cohen of New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice:

It is the opposite of journalism to call something “controversial” when in fact it is demonstrably false. Now more than ever, when so much fiction and hoax is passed off as truth on the campaign trail, journalists have a professional responsibility, if not a moral obligation, to set the record straight, loudly and quickly, before the myth these politicians seek to perpetuate takes public hold. There is no room today for any sort of cheesy false equivalence, for pretending that one idea or thought or theory is equal to every other.

So when Donald Trump or his online handlers re-tweeted patently false statistics about black (and white) crime rates Sunday it was incumbent upon journalists covering that campaign to do more than merely mention the contents of the incorrect Tweet and then chronicle the predictably furious response to it. Trump’s act was “controversial” only because it reveals his flawed judgment, his disregard for facts, and the increasingly ugly direction of his campaign — a series of dog whistles designed to pit citizen against citizen. If Trump today uttered the words “The sun rises in the West” it would not be enough for reporters to run through the litany of people who disagreed.

Headline of the day II: More batshit craziness

From the London Daily Mail, reporting on a hateful huckster who played host to Ted Cruz, Mike Hukeabee, and Bobby Jindal:

Bataclan massacre was a ‘message from God’, claims pastor who hosted Republican candidates’ conference, because murdered rock fans were ‘devil worshippers’

  • Pastor Kevin Swanson says Bataclan massacre was ‘message from God’
  • Claims 89 rock fans who were killed in the attack were ‘devil worshippers’
  • Accuses both concertgoers and Islamic State terrorists of being ‘sinners’
  • Massacre on November 13 was one of a series of deadly attacks in Paris
  • Swanson has previously said gays should be handed the death penalty

Headline of the day: Idiocy on the march

From the Guardian:

Dozens of ‘white student unions’ appear on social media amid racism protests

Groups claim to speak for students at Stanford, New York University, University of Missouri and elsewhere, but their origins are uncertain

UPDATE: Add UC Berkeley to the list, via the Oakland Tribune.

An imperiled treasure of the Sierra Madre

The Huichol people live in Mexico’s Sierra Madre, in in the states of Jalisco, Durango, Nayarit.

They were rediscovered in popular culture north of the border in the 1960s because their religion centers on the use of peyote, a hallucinogenic cactus native to their mountains, and because of their colorful and utterly psychedelic artworks.

In this Wikimedia image of a Huichol mask, the symbol for peyote dominates the forehead, an apt representation of the central role played by the cactus in Huichol life:

BLOG Huichol mask

Huichol culture is in danger, in part because a generation of elders has died, often without leaving behind students who have mastered the rich and intricate oral traditions that bound the preliterate Huichols together.

Our first video offering, a short 1992 documentary by Ryan Noble, features Huichols from the villages of Las Guayabas and San Andreas, in which one remarks on the threatened loss of the ancient culture: “We want to live and remember so that it doesn’t end.”

Note also the system of agriculture employed by the Huichol, the traditional Mexican milpa, the only system of agriculture which has allowed for continuous cultivation for millennia without the use of either pesticides or fertilizers.

The Huichols: History – Culture – Art

Huichol art a sometimes take on a larger scale, as illustrated in this image from Mexico’s Museo de Arte Popular, a sight to stir twitches of envy in the souls of Berkeley’s own art car ornamenters.

BLOG Huichol art car

But the mountains that are home to the Huichols are coveted by multinational corporations, which have been logging the trees and devastating the landscape, forcing ever-larger numbers of Huichols to head to the lowlands simply to survive.

And the jobs awaiting them there are killing them, quite literally.

From Huicholes Contra Plaguicidas:

Huichols and Pesticides

Program notes:

Huichols & Pesticides, documents, through witnesses, reports and persuasive images, the indiscriminate use of pesticides in the tobacco fields, and the poisonings, and even deaths, resulting from the use of agrochemicals.

One notable effort to preserve the Huichols and their way of life is being undertaken by the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and the Traditional Arts:

The Huichol Center: A model for cultural survival

Program notes:

This documentary was produced to support The Huichol Center. The Center helps the Huichol people of Mexico maintain their culture, art and spirituality. The Huichols have been almost untouched by modern civilization, and have been able to maintain their ancient ways despite crushing poverty and disease.

With their ancient heritage, their system of sustainable organic agriculture, and an artistic tradition that merges the sacred and the profane in unique ways, the Huichol surely deserve protection from the ravages of corporate imperialism and agricultural toxins.

To close, a final image, via Wikipedia, this time of a Huichol yarn painting:

BLOG Huichol yarn

Map of the day: European homeownership

From Eurostat [PDF]:

BLOG Eurohomes

Chart of the day II: Armed and dangerous

From Firearms Commerce Report in the United States Annual Statistical Update 2015 [PDF] from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms:

Firearms Manufactured in the U.S. 1986-2013

Firearms Manufactured in the U.S. 1986-2013

Quote of the day: A creationism dog whistle

From  Gayatri Devi, writing in the Guardian:

The Republican presidential candidates’ public obsession with creationism. . . .isn’t really about education. It’s about cementing their Christian credentials with the influential evangelical voting bloc by announcing their opposition to all that is not heterosexual, Christian and not “speaking American” – whatever that means.

It can be a winning strategy: a 2014 Gallup poll showed that 42% of Americans believe that God created human beings in their present form 10,000 years ago. And a 2014 Pew Research Center poll of American voting behavior found that 78% of white evangelicals voted for Republican candidates, while only 20% voted for Democratic candidates.

The Republican obsequiousness to creationist philosophy might not be so much anti-science as good politics: being pro-creationism often appears to be pandering to a conservative base – a way to whip up intellectually regressive policies to win the “culture wars” and, more importantly, elections.

The power of creationism, a belief near and dear to so many Americans, becomes clear in this BBC Three documentary, in which a British comedian brings five British creationism to a land where their beliefs are much more welcomed than in Old Blighty, where only 17 percent of the public hold creationist beliefs.

Confronted with scientific evidence against creationism and the scientists themselves [including UC Berkeley’s own Tim White]. only one of the quintet is willing to acknowledge that her beliefs may have been inaccurate.

From BBC Three via Documentary Feast:

Creationism: Conspiracy Road Trip

Program notes:

Comedian Andrew Maxwell takes five British creationists to the west coast of America to try to convince them that evolution rather than creationism explains how we all got here. Stuck on a bus across 2,000 miles of dustbowl roads with these passionate believers, Maxwell tackles some firmly held beliefs – could the Earth be only 6,000 years old, and did humans and T-Rex really live side by side? It’s a bumpy ride as he’s confronted with some lively debates along the way, but by the end could he possibly win over any of these believers with what he regards as hard scientific fact?