Tag Archives: culture

The Death of Adulthood in American Culture

I do feel the loss of something here, but bemoaning the general immaturity of contemporary culture would be as obtuse as declaring it the coolest thing ever. A crisis of authority is not for the faint of heart. It can be scary and weird and ambiguous. But it can be a lot of fun, too. The best and most authentic cultural products of our time manage to be all of those things. They imagine a world where no one is in charge and no one necessarily knows what’s going on, where identities are in perpetual flux. Mothers and fathers act like teenagers; little children are wise beyond their years. Girls light out for the territory and boys cloister themselves in secret gardens. We have more stories, pictures and arguments than we know what to do with, and each one of them presses on our attention with a claim of uniqueness, a demand to be recognized as special. The world is our playground, without a dad or a mom in sight.

more on nytimes.com.

Unfortunately, this fantastic essay ends here. It doesn’t attempt to confront the fact that the world keeps presenting us with problems requiring much bigger shoes than the overgrown kids are willing to wear.

The Two Cultures

But the greatest enrichment the scientific culture could give us is – thought it does not originate like that – a moral one. Among scientists, deep-natured men know, as starkly as any men have known, that the individual human condition is tragic; for all its triumphs and joys, the essence of its loneliness and the end death. But what they will not admit is that, because the individual condition is tragic, therefore the social condition must be tragic, too. Because a man must die, that is no excuse for his dying before his time and after a servile life. The impulse behind the scientists drives them to limit the area of tragedy, to take nothing as tragic that can conceivably lie within men’s will. They have nothing but contempt for those representatives of the traditional culture who use a deep insight into man’s fate to obscure the social truth – or to do something prettier than obscure the truth, just to hang on to a few perks. Dostoevski sucking up to the Chancellor Pobedonotsev, who thought the only thing wrong with slavery was that there was not enough of it; the political decadence of the Avant garde of 1914, with Ezra Pound finishing up broadcasting for the Fascists; Claudel agreeing sanctimoniously with the Marshal about the virtue in others’ suffering; Faulkner giving sentimental reasons for treating Negroes as a different species. They are all symptoms of the deepest temptation of the clerks – which is to say: “Because man’s condition is tragic, everyone ought to stay in their place, with mine as it happens somewhere near the top.” From that particular temptation, made up of defeat, self-indulgence, and moral vanity, the scientific culture is almost totally immune. It is that kind of moral health of the scientists which, in the last few years, the rest of us have needed most; and of which, because the two culture scarcely touch, we have been most deprived.

Excellent essay from 1956 on the division between scientific and the traditional humanistic culture. Feel as current now as it was 57 years ago.

What Paddington tells us about German v British manners

For their part, the British have what House calls the “etiquette of simulation”. The British feign an interest in someone. They pretend to want to meet again when they don’t really. They simulate concern.

Saying things like “It’s nice to meet you” are rarely meant the way they are said, she says. “It’s just words. It’s simulating interest in the other person.”

From a German perspective, this is uncomfortably close to deceit.

more on bbc.co.uk

On cultural differences between Germans and Britons embedded in the language.

The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We’re All Going To Miss Almost Everything

Surrender, on the other hand, is the realization that you do not have time for everything that would be worth the time you invested in it if you had the time, and that this fact doesn’t have to threaten your sense that you are well-read. Surrender is the moment when you say, “I bet every single one of those 1,000 books I’m supposed to read before I die is very, very good, but I cannot read them all, and they will have to go on the list of things I didn’t get to.
more on npr.org

You’re NOT going to be well read. Don’t worry, that’s OK.

Preserving games comes with legal, technical problems

When it comes to preservation, video games are problematic. Hardware becomes outdated and the media that houses game code becomes obsolete, not to mention the legal issues with emulation. In short, one day, there may not be a way to play Super Metroid at all, and that’s a scary thought.

Some people may still laugh at it, but video games have become part of the cultural heritage. But how to preserve work that is so volatile and bound to quickly aging technology? Somebody wrote a 27-page paper on it.