Tag Archives: culture

The dark beauty of Gustave Doré’s illustrations of Dante’s Inferno

Dante’s Inferno is made greater by the illustrations of Gustave Doré’s illustrations of the work. You can find a number of his work over at this page of Brain Pickings, including this one:

Dore's Inferno

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Own the beauty of Vermeer

Vermeer painting
Or at least a high resolution image of Vermeer by going here:

Download All 36 of Jan Vermeer’s Beautifully Rare Paintings (Most in Brilliant High Resolution) | Open Culture

Open Culture has lots of great links, including at the bottom of the Vermeer one, mentioned above. Open Source is good; so is Open Culture.

(Image linked to on the Open Culture page)

 George Saunders on writing

Yesterday I mentioned Robert Caro and his writing routine. Today, here’s a good piece by George Saunders and what writers really do when they write in The Guardian. Well worth a read.

A cautionary tale of what low taxes and libertarianism brings

Amish women on the beach
There can be many lessons that can be drawn from the story here: The Rise and Fall of the ‘Freest Little City in Texas’

The ones I drew were

  • You get the society you pay for. In this case, the people of this part of Texas were unwilling to pay for anything, and they got nothing in return. It’s hard to believe this even needs to be said in this age, but apparently it does.
  • Even basic services cost money. That money comes from taxes or service fees.
  • Those services are expensive to pay for individually: it makes much more sense for people to pool their money (in the form of taxes),  to make it cheaper overall for everyone.
  • Taxes are only part of what makes a society, but a society that is based on money and that does not have taxes is no society at all.
  • Only a society that does not depend on money can get away without taxes. Typically those a tightly knit,  cohesive, pre-money communities that depend heavily on sharing and barter. These communities are more socialist or communist in nature as opposed to libertarian. More like an Amish community or hippie commune or a religious community of some form.
  • The best way to have a libertarian society is to have one of great abundance. Scarcity requires people to share and work together if they want to survive.

It’s a good story. Read it for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

(Photo above is Amish women on the beach)

On the rise and roots of our current minimalism

Minimalism is a foreign concept to some Westerners, especially as it is practiced in parts of Japan. Indeed, this line:

Fumio Sasaki’s one-room Tokyo apartment is so stark friends liken it to an interrogation room. He owns three shirts, four pairs of trousers, four pairs of socks and a meagre scattering of various other items.

You see “interrogation room” and “meagre”, which gives you some insight into how this writer sees it. The article which this comes from (and which is linked to below) does get more insightful and you gain a better insight into Japanese minimalism, from its cultural roots to its practicality (such as the real problem of how earthquakes make home objects dangerous).

Minimalism seems to be growing as a cultural concept throughout the world, and it’s good to know more about it, how the Japanese see it, and to think about how it should differ in Western cultures. To do that, see:

Three shirts, four pairs of trousers: meet Japan’s ‘hardcore’ minimalists in The Guardian

Want to know why it is so expensive to get tickets to special events?

Then you want to read these two really good pieces on why it is brutally tough to get tickets to an event without paying a fortune:

What it comes down to is a very limited supply and a very high demand. But that’s obvious. Read the pieces to see just how it really plays out.

A good article: Why I Am Not a Maker. With one comment by me.

If you hang around with or are involved in some way with IT people, you will come across individuals extolling the virtues of being a “Maker”. Making things (typically software or IT systems) is seen as a virtue, in some case one of the highest virtues, and the implication is that makers are virtuous people.

A well written critique of that is here: Why I Am Not a Maker – The Atlantic. If you consider yourself  a maker or aspire to be considered one, you should read it. A key point is this:

When tech culture only celebrates creation, it risks ignoring those who teach, criticize, and take care of others.

This is true: tech culture sometimes places little or no value on other activities, such as the ones that the article mentions.

My main criticism of the article is that it has a blind spot for the middle ground. I know plenty of creative people whom I consider makers that also take care of others, teach, manage, administer…you name it. Often time the things they make are superior to those of people who devote themselves to being makers.

Being a maker is a virtuous thing, for the most part. But so is teaching, providing care, managing, cleaning, coaching and many other positive activities. Find the thing you are good at and contribute positively in your own way.  If you can make some things along the way, all the better.