Archive for June 12th, 2010
I’m in the process of reading an extraordinary issue of National Geographic. It’s a special issue titled “Water: Our Thirsty World.” This is not a happy topic, given the increasing desperation of increasingly thirsty human populations. Many of them haul their water long distances on their backs. But most of the victims of dwindling supplies of fresh water are not human beings.
National Geographic has offered a series of video overviews of this special issue. This is a critically important issue that is well worth your attention.
Much has been written, here on Dangerous Intersection and elsewhere, about the corrupting effect that massive amounts of corporate spending and lobbying has on our democracy. And I don’t disagree with any of that – I think public financing of elections, or at the least more stringent disclosure laws, would be hugely beneficial in creating [...]
Back in 1973, the Mid-America Music Association sponsored its Seventeenth Annual Music Festival at the Omaha Hilton Hotel on August 3-5 (MAMA still exists). I was a 17-year old guitar teacher back then, and I participated in the contest as a “Virtuoso” (I was not really any sort of virtuoso, but there’s nothing like a label to appeal to one’s ego). About six of my students also participated. It all seems so long ago and hazy to me now, but it seemed like a big deal back then.
I do know, however, that in addition to the guitarists, many accordion players participated in their own accordion contests. Hence, in the program that was handed out, one could spot many advertisements geared to accordion players, making it clear that it was “cool” to play the accordion. I didn’t think so–I always thought that kids from the Midwest who liked the accordion were a bit odd. But the ads pushed the opposite message. Here’s a sample (click for enlargement).
I’m in no way impugning the talents of these players. Many accordion players were extraordinarily talented. I find this ad interesting in that it made it clear that accordion playing was cool, yet here we are, 35 years later, and I would think that it would be extremely difficult to find music studios that even offer accordion lessons.
Which brings me to this question. What is obviously an in-thing to do today–what is “cool”–that will be chuckled at 35 years from now? Will it be that we walk around with iPods plugged into our ears? Will it be that so many of us were obese? Will it be that people thought they could consider their online network members to be “friends”? Will it be that we dress up with corporate logos on our clothing? Will it be that we worked so hard to get jobs for the money rather than because the work was meaningful? Will it be the type of music was thought was impressive? Will it be that the average American watched more than four hours of television? Will it be that the citizens walked around, apathetic to the rampant corruption in their national government?
In what ways will people 35 years from now shake their heads and chuckle at us?
Robert Seyfarth describes how monkey calls used by Vervet Monkeys might be precursors to language. Vervets give different types of calls in reaction to different kinds of approaching predators. These calls are simple. They are not language, though Seyfarth suggests that these types of calls are precursors to language.
Writing for Psychology Today, Nigel Barber asks whether modern day spectator sports function as religions. The evidence suggests that the answer is yes:
“The similarities between sport fandom and organized religion are striking. Consider the vocabulary associated with both: faith, devotion, worship, ritual, dedication, sacrifice, commitment, spirit, prayer, suffering, festival, and celebration.” . . . [S]pectators worship other human beings, their achievements, and the groups to which they belong.” And . . . sports stadia and arenas resemble “cathedrals where followers gather to worship their heroes and pray for their successes.”
Fans wear the team colors and carry its flags, icons, and mascots. Then there is repetitive chanting of team encouragement, hand-clapping, booing the other team, doing the wave, and so forth. The singing of an anthem at a sporting event likely has similar psychological effects as the singing of a hymn in church. . . . As a group, sports fans are fairly religious, according to research. It is also curious that as religious attendance rates have dropped off in recent decades, interest in sport spectatorship has soared. . .
[F]ans are highly committed to their favored stars and teams in a way that gives focus and meaning to their daily lives. In addition, sports spectatorship is a transformative experience through which fans escape their humdrum lives, just as religious experiences help the faithful to transcend their everyday existence.
The same issue of Psychology Today features the ex-gods and the ex-goddesses of the sports/religions. Their sports careers often end with a thud.