Amoeblog

Happy Discovery Day -- Real Geographic Discoveries of the Modern Age

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 13, 2014 04:42pm | Post a Comment
Portrait of Columbus

I will not make the argument that Columbus's arrival in the New World was insignificant merely because he was an absolutely awful person or because he didn't actually discover anything (which he himself maintained, claiming until his death that he'd merely found a different route to Asia). But think about this before you dismiss -- before Columbus, avocado, bell peppers, blueberries, cashews, cassava root, chili peppers, chocolate, cocaine, gourds, maize, peanuts, pecans pineapples, pumpkins, squash, tobacco, tomatoes, and vanilla were all unknown in the Old World and alcohol, apples, bananas, barley, cheese, coffee, mango, onions, rice, tea, and turnips, and wheat were unknown in the Americas. Imagine an existence without any of those and you can hopefully begin to get a taste of the importance of the Columbian Exchange. Imagine Italian cuisine without tomato sauce or gnocchi and you can't help but wonder if this is why Columbus is so dear to many Italians. Imagine, on the other hand, genocide, slavery, and old world diseases and you'll understand why he's even more hated by many others. 



Vive les minets - French Dandyism in the 1960s

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 8, 2014 08:00pm | Post a Comment
As a fan of fashion, youth subculture, and the 1960s, at some point I was bound to be made aware of the French minet subculture. Obviously, since I'm writing about it, that momentous occasion has arrived at some point in my past. I can't remember when or where it occurred (the internet is a safe bet) but in the intervening years I've found very little about this stylish group. Compounding my frustration is the fact that what little that I have uncovered about minets is almost always written or recorded in French -- a language of which a month of skipping class at College les pins Castries did little to improve my command. The French Wikipedia (Wikipédia) is humorously blunt in its entry: un jeune homme vêtu à la mode, équivalent masculin de la minette. Last and least -- most of what has been written about minets in English is by writers discussing within the larger context of mod subculture -- a style tribe about which far too much is artlessly written and rehashed.

A minet in 1965


With that in mind, however, kindly allow me briefly add to the conversational clutter concerning mod, as its evolution is tied closely to that of the minet. Although today mod is often characterized as a mid-60s, working class subculture fueled by the holy trinity of amphetamines, scooters and soul music, it first appeared in the late 1950s when a largely middle class group of mostly Jewish teenagers with families in the clothing business and for whom the chosen drug was apparently coffee. Modernists, as they then to themselves referred, championed modern jazz over trad jazz (which was championed by the Acker Bilk-listening, bowler-hatted, beer-swilling, baggy sweater-and-duffle coated trads). Sharing their love of modern jazz were the beatniks, but their beardy, black, cultivated scruffiness was rejected in favor of the natty continental style associated with untouchable icons of French cool like Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon

9 songs about cats

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 30, 2014 03:52pm | Post a Comment
Although LOLCat Bible literalists believe differently, people of science generally hold the view that 
cats first domesticated humans at least since 7500 BCE, when the inhabitants of a neolithic village on Cyprus gave a feline (not native to the island) a ceremonial burial. What we know call the domestic cat was more truly feral when it split off from the African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica), much earlier, some 10,000 years ago. They likely enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with humans -- proving their usefulness to the Natufians of the Levant by preying on mice whilst ignoring (since they are obligate carnivores) the Natufians' mouse-attracting stores of grain. 


African wildcats
African wildcats in the wild (image source: Seasons in Africa)

Eventually cats moved were promoted from rodent catcher to household members and even divine beings. In Egypt cats were sacred and associated with the goddesses Isis, Mafdet (also spelled Maftet), and Bastet (also known as Baast, Ubaste, and Baset). The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that when a cat died, Egyptians would go into mourning, shaving their eyebrows to mark the loss of a family member. Cats were famously mummified and afforded dignified (by human standards) burials in Egypt. In 1888 a farmer discovered a tomb outside Beni Hasan which contained the mummies of about 80,000 cats (and some other animals). 
Cyprus cat burial  Mummified Cats
Neolithic grave with a human and a cat (left) and mummified Egyptian cats (right)

The reverence afforded to cats in ancient North Africa probably strikes most humans today as excessive and strange. However even the most insensitive amongst us usually react with repulsion, horror, and indignation when they learn that in places like Guangdong, Guangxi, Japan, Korea, Melmac, Mparntwe, Okinawa, Peru, Switzerlandcats have traditionally been eaten or used in medicine. It seems a bit rich to me when coming from people who think nothing of eating a fish, bird, cow, or pig.  

Room 8
Room 8 

In placs where felines are off the menu they have inspired artists like the 9th Century Irish monk who wrote, "Pangur Bán," Gioachino Rossini, T.S. EliotSakiHiroyuki Morita. Although there were famous cats before the advent of the internet (e.g. Room 8 of Elysian Heights), it might appear to aliens observing our planet that it was invented to honor them -- the modern incarnation of feline worship passed down from ancient Egypt. Our modern pantheon includes Ceiling Cat, Happy Cat, Grumpy Cat, Hipster Kitty, Keyboard Cat, Lil Bub, Maru, Missy the CatNekopanNyan Cat, and Snoopybabe, to name but a few.

California Fool's Gold Episode Guide

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 23, 2014 08:33pm | Post a Comment
California Fools Gold by Eric Brightwell

I thought that it might be useful to publish an "episode guide" of my California Fool's Gold pieces here on the Amoeblog. I've also been invited to speak about them for a class on diversity in Los Angeles at Emerson College so this goes out to the students in Professor Oliver's class. 


 
Sonic Youth - "Eric's Trip" (off Daydream Nation)


If you're a fan of this sort of thing (or you're just temporarily mesmerized by the computer screen in front of you) you might also enjoy my column over at KCET called Block By Block in which I explore our vast Southland without the use of a car whether by foot, bike, bus, train, subway, ferry or otherwise. As with Eric's Blog, Block By Block also often feature my maps which I create as Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography

Yet More One Album Wonders

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 22, 2014 04:00pm | Post a Comment
Here is an additional edition of my series of great, mostly obscure, one album wonders. In the album era (roughly the mid-1960s until the mid-2000s), the album was the dominant format of recorded music expression and consumption. It seems that most musicians from that era, if able to scrape together the funds for the recording of one studio album, generally returned with at least one more.  Some, like Sun Ra, somehow released more albums than I've had hot dinners. Even most excellent bands, in my opinion, would have done well to find something other to do with their time rather than keep making records after their fifth album or twelfth year (although there is the Go-Betweens Exception). The following acts mostly date from the Golden Age of the LP -- and yet were unable or unwilling, in all cases, to record more than one. 

*****

ORGANISATION - TONE FLOAT (1969)

Organisation - Tone Float

Although most musicians associated with the Krautrock scene usually argue that it didn't even exist as such except in the collective conscious of British music critics, on first spin of Organisation's sole album, Tone Float, the discerning listener will have little doubt that the album is a product of late-1960s/early-1970s Dusseldorf

Heading Organisation were Florian Schneider and Ralf Hütter, who famously went on to form Kraftwerk and have almost as famously been unfairly sniffy about their excellent pre-Autobahn output. Organisation's only album was produced by Konrad "Conny" Plank and, since its 1970 release by RCA Victor, has long been out-of-print. The other members of Organisation were Basil Hammoudi, Butch Hauf, and Fred Monicks. After the band's disorganisation Hammoudi joined another one album wonder, Ibliss, who released Supernova in 1972. 

Continue reading...
BACK  <<  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  >>  NEXT