Scientists studying the Amazon rain forest are tangled in a debate of nature versus nurture.
Many ecologists tend to think that before Europeans arrived in the Americas, the vast wilderness was pristine and untouched by humans. But several archaeologists argue that ancient civilizations once thrived in its thickets and played a role in its development. Continue reading
We have only recently discovered this resource but I expect you will start seeing a flow of interesting stories. sourced from Harvest Public Media, that touch on topics of interest to us here. For example, the mere mention of sweet potatoes was enough to get us interested:
Sweet potatoes are undergoing a modern renaissance in this country.
While they have always made special appearances on many American tables around the holidays, year-round demand for the root vegetables has grown. In 2015, farmers produced more sweet potatoes than in any year since World War II. Continue reading
There was an editorial a few days ago that alerted us to the birthdays of two buddies, each on icon in his own right, who have 70 years of solidarity in the tough times, and best of times too. It also alerted us to the time since our last post with the model mad theme, so here is one more:
By Amanda Petrusich
Sixty-one years ago, in 1956, Harry Belafonte recorded a version of the Jamaican folk song “Day-O,” for his third studio album, “Calypso.” It opens with a distant and eager rumbling—as if something dark and hulking were approaching from a remote horizon. Belafonte—who was born in Harlem in 1927, but lived with his grandmother in a wooden house on stilts in Aboukir, a mountain village in Jamaica, for a good chunk of his childhood—bellows the title in a clipped island pitch. The instrumentation is spare and creeping. His voice bounces and echoes as it moves closer. It sounds like a call to prayer. Continue reading
Anything with the word Amazon in it, when it refers to the rainforest ecosystem in South America, is worthy of marvel. Joanna Klein offers this story, in the Trilobites feature at the New York Times, that is one of the more surprising finds we have seen in a long time:
Deep in the Amazon, the rain forest once covered ancient secrets. Spread across hundreds of thousands of acres are massive, geometric earthworks. The carvings stretch out in circles and squares that can be as big as a city block, with trenches up to 12 yards wide and 13 feet deep. They appear to have been built up to 2,000 years ago.
Were the broken ceramics found near the entrances used for ritual sacrifices? Why were they here? The answer remains a mystery. Continue reading
This post by Pankaj Mishra fits the bill for the theme we have been following, as the excerpted several paragraphs below will illustrate:
…Born in 1936, Havel came of age in Czechoslovakia, whose Communist rulers repeatedly imprisoned and continuously surveilled him while suppressing many of his writings. Defiant right until 1989, when he engineered the fall of the Communist regime, Havel came to be celebrated in the West as a “dissident,” a word commonly used to describe many in Communist countries who valiantly struggled against a pitiless despotism. Continue reading
We will all be the beneficiaries, no doubt:
By David Gonzalez
For some people, the idea of “serious” photography conjures up dramatic scenes of suffering, violence and poverty. This can be especially so in parts of Latin America and Africa, where careers have been made by foreign journalists who go in looking for drama. While no doubt there are pressing issues in these regions, there are also scenes of daily life, or less dramatic situations, that go unnoticed, slanting how a global audience sees people and places. Continue reading
Any story with Metamorphosis in it is bound to get our attention, but a long-forgotten scientist getting her due is the intrigue that makes this story by JoAnna Klein–A Pioneering Woman of Science Re‑Emerges After 300 Years–coinciding with the republication of this book below, worthy of the read:
Maria Sibylla Merian, like many European women of the 17th century, stayed busy managing a household and rearing children. But on top of that, Merian, a German-born woman who lived in the Netherlands, also managed a successful career as an artist, botanist, naturalist and entomologist.:
“She was a scientist on the level with a lot of people we spend a lot of time talking about,” said Kay Etheridge, a biologist at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania who has been studying the scientific history of Merian’s work. “She didn’t do as much to change biology as Darwin, but she was significant.” Continue reading
They had us at Tomatillo. But mention fossils, geological timeframe, discovery and Patagonia all in the same headline and there we go:
By Nicholas St. Fleur
The nightshades have an ominous reputation, but this large plant family is more than just its most poisonous members, like belladonna. It contains more than 2,400 different species, including some of the most widely consumed fruits and vegetables in the world, such as potatoes, tomatoes and peppers. Continue reading
Kipling is almost a household name for many in our group, but primarily in the context of Rudyard Kipling, the writer of the well-known stories and fables about India. When researching the author a few years back I was surprised to learn about his talented father, whose beautiful illustrations graced the early editions of several of his son’s books.
Those lucky enough to be in London this month can visit the Victoria & Albert Museum for the exhibition Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London.
More of note, not only was the senior Kipling an artist, writer, museum director, teacher, and influential figure in the Arts and Crafts movement – he was also a conservationist, distinguished for promoting the traditional textile crafts of India and what is now Pakistan.
The 19th century Arts and Crafts revival in British India is a fascinating chapter in the international history of art and design. However, John Lockwood Kipling’s career as designer and architectural sculptor, curator and educator, illustrator and journalist, has received little attention. Continue reading
Our random meeting and conversations with some scholars in southern India led to an exploration of the origins of yoga, which we linked to here.
Next, using some of the same clues provided by those conversations, we were led to some excellent programming by Smithsonian Channel that includes one of the two scholarly co-authors mentioned in that previous post (see the second book) plus someone you may recognize from another context:
West meets East when acclaimed actor Dominic West joins his childhood friend on a pilgrimage to Northern India and the biggest religious festival in the world, Kumbh Mela. Here, 100 million Hindus have gathered to wash away their sins in the holy rivers near Allahabad, on the banks of Sangam. It is also where Dominic’s friend Sir James Mallinson will be initiated into a senior role called a mahant. Follow these friends on this incredible two-week journey, and submerge yourself in the sacred waters and culture of this triennial celebration.
One of the excellent benefits of living in south India is meeting people who know alot about south India. Sounds circular, but occasionally the people are specialists on topics we have come to care deeply about. We met a group of Sanskrit scholars yesterday quite by chance, one of whom is a leading authority on the texts that are the earliest documentation of what we now call yoga.
When we mentioned our interest in yoga from the lay perspective, because we offer yoga experiences in various properties we manage in Asia and Latin America, it led to a simple question: where can we learn the most, most accessibly, about the real origins of yoga? The answer was this book and this author (incidentally a friend and colleague of the one to whom we were asking the question. So over at Oxford University Press this is what we found.
With a bit more searching we found this excellent BBC Radio 4 segment from just a few months ago that features the same scholar, Mark Singleton, and is worth a listen if you are interested in the origins of modern yoga. Continue reading
Amitav Ghosh, who we think of primarily as a writer of fiction, is also an important non-fiction thinker/author, and most recently published “The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable.” This op-ed in the New York Times puts future trade discussions into perspective in the most remarkable setting we can think of at the moment– the spice trade of centuries past. From our perch on the Malabar coast of India this is a welcome bit of history with which to welcome the new year and the challenges ahead:
GOA, India — For many years the word “globalization” was used as shorthand for a promised utopia of free trade powered by the world’s great centers of technological and financial innovation. But the celebratory note has worn thin. The word is now increasingly invoked to explain a widespread recoiling from a cosmopolitan earth. People in many countries are looking nostalgically backward, toward less connected, supposedly more secure times.
But did such an era ever exist? Was there ever an unglobalized world? Continue reading
Without religious affiliation, we’ve applauded the current pope’s embrace of environmental protection and other progressive leaning policies. In a current political atmosphere where gender often overrides qualification, we appreciate this appointment all the more.
ROME—The Vatican Museums, one of the world’s pre-eminent art collections, announced Tuesday that Barbara Jatta, an Italian art historian and longtime Vatican official, will become its new director, making her the first woman to hold one of the most prestigious jobs in the art world.
The appointment by Pope Francis, which is effective Jan. 1, will also make Ms. Jatta the most prominent female administrator at the Vatican. The pope has spoken about expanding the roles of women in the Catholic Church, but most high Vatican offices are reserved for cardinals and bishops, who must be men. (Margaret Archer, a British sociologist, was named president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, an advisory body to the pope, in 2014.)
The Museums, which include priceless masterpieces including the Sistine Chapel frescoes by Michelangelo, regularly appear among the world’s top 10 museum complexes by attendance, with over six million visitors in 2015. The collections include 70,000 objects, dating back from antiquity through the 20th century. Continue reading
Thanks to the fancy-fine publisher, Taschen, for collecting this particularly powerful informative art form into one book:
The best infographics from the National Geographic archives
Back in the days when the information age was a distant dream and the world a more mysterious place, National Geographic began its mission to reveal the wonders of history, popular science, and culture to eager audiences around the globe. Since that 1888 launch, the world has changed; empires have risen and crumbled and a galaxy of information is today only a click away. But National Geographic endures; its calm, authoritative voice is as respected as ever amid the surfeit of data in our daily lives. Continue reading
Thanks to the salt, at National Public Radio (USA) for this story, How Just 8 Flavors Have Defined American Cuisine, by Alan Yu, which also serves as a review for this book about the history of food in a country not thought to have its own cuisine:
Sarah Lohman has made everything from colonial-era cocktails to cakes with black pepper to stewed moose face. She is a historical gastronomist, which means she re-creates historical recipes to connect with the past.
That moose-face recipe dates back to the 19th century, and it wasn’t easy. She recalls spending hours trying to butcher the moose from Alaska in her kitchen in Queens, New York. She tried scalding the face in hot water to remove the fur, but it didn’t quite work and her apartment stunk of wet moose.
But “at the end of the day, people showed up and ate it, someone actually liked it, and then we ordered a pizza,” she says. Continue reading
This Travel section interview–Best Eating in New York? A Food Historian Has Some Advice By JOHN L. DORMAN–in the New York Times catches our attention:
When the food writer Andrew F. Smith had an idea for a new book on New York City, he went for an intriguing angle. “We preserve the homes of people who were born here and later became famous, and we preserve all sorts of artwork,” he said, “but people don’t think about preserving a city’s food heritage, which was something that was missing in New York.”
His idea resulted in the book “Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover’s Companion to New York City,” which he edited. The topics range from the culinary history of the Lower East Side to the emergence of Automats, Continue reading
Found in a remarkable landscape entirely sculpted by erosion, Göreme National Park in Turkey is characterized by a rocky landscape honeycombed with networks of ancient underground settlements and outstanding examples of Byzantine art. Located on the central Anatolia plateau, the unique rock structures of Göreme not only create a distinctive terrain of mountain ridges, valleys and pinnacles known as “fairy chimneys” or hoodoos, but also reveal one of the most striking and largest cave-dwellings complexes in the world.
When an author of Bee Wilson’s stature publishes it is not surprising to see reviews in the news outlets that we tend to source from in these pages. For the book to the right the first we saw was How Do We Get To Love At ‘First Bite’? on National Public Radio (USA), followed by reviews in the New York Times and the Guardian among others. We had even read the publisher’s blurb:
The way we learn to eat holds the key to why food has gone so disastrously wrong for so many people. But Bee Wilson also shows that both adults and children have immense potential for learning new, healthy eating habits. An exploration of the extraordinary and surprising origins of our taste and eating habits, First Bite explains how we can change our palates to lead healthier, happier lives.
But we had not gotten around to linking out to any of these reviews. Better late than never:
By Nicola Twilley
Until the twentieth century, Japanese food was often neither delicious nor nourishing. Junichi Saga, a Japanese doctor who chronicled the memories of elderly villagers from just outside Tokyo, in the nineteen-seventies, found that, in the early years of the century, most families scraped by on a mixture of rice and barley, accompanied by small quantities of radish leaves, pickles, or miso. Animal protein was almost entirely absent in the Buddhist country, and even fish, as one of Saga’s informants recalled, was limited to “one salted salmon,” bought for the New Year’s celebrations, “though only after an awful fuss.” Continue reading
This book review puts our work, with would be categorized as providing recreation services, in an interesting context:
How Play Made the Modern World
By Steven Johnson
322 pp. Riverhead Books. $30.
Steven Johnson’s “Wonderland” makes a swashbuckling argument for the centrality of recreation to all of human history. The book is a house of wonders itself. Marvelous circuits of prose inductors, resistors and switches simulate ordinary history so nearly as to make readers forget the real thing. Red wires connect haphazardly to blue, and sparks fly. Who needs a footnoted analysis of “the ludic,” as play is known to the terminally unplayful? Barnumism of the Johnson kind is much, much more fun. Continue reading
Some of La Paz Group’s senior contributors have recollections of Santorini going back three decades, and the history of the place is both geological and cultural; the complexity of that history is still being revealed:
In the 17th century B.C., Santorini was a small volcanic island in the Aegean Sea, home to Akrotiri, a Late Bronze Age outpost of Minoan civilization, which preceded ancient Greece. Then the volcano erupted, burying Akrotiri in ash and obliterating much of Santorini, turning it into a few smaller islands. Continue reading