The ethnosphere

Just as there is a biological web of life, there is also a cultural and spiritual web of life—what we at the National Geographic have taken to calling the “ethnosphere.” It’s really the sum total of all the thoughts, beliefs, myths, and institutions brought into being by the human imagination. It is humanity’s greatest legacy, embodying everything we have produced as a curious and amazingly adaptive species. The ethnosphere is as vital to our collective well-being as the biosphere. And just as the biosphere is being eroded, so is the ethnosphere—if anything, at a far greater rate.  - Wade Davis, acclaimed anthropologist and author

Siena undercover

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Italy, siena.

Arrived as dusk fell and Siena was breaking into its final fervour. Everything was brick, stone and quiet. After Florence I was eager to get to know its proud rival.

The Siena rapido bus from Florence (just 1h, 7euros) ends at Piazza Gramsci, just a km uproad from the historic centre. We walked in.

Someone noted Siena’s “herringbone bricks worn smooth with centuries of ‘passeggiata”. I didn’t know its age-old pedestrianism (yet) but trying to catch the fading light had me eyeing the sweeps of medieval wall. People walked leisurely, following dusk’s rhythm, their coats blacks and browns blending into the old walls. I knew they’d be even more gorgeous in the daylight by the hour.

By the time I arrived at the campo, I was quite infatuated. 6:40pm, stars out, people seated on the downcurve encircling the Palazzo Publico and its Torre Del Mangia.

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Port Ouchy blues

lausanne, port ouchy
switzerland. lausanne, port ouchy

The entire week i was in lausanne, the winter weather was gorgeous, crisp. Days alternated between blues and clean greys.

I was also woefully sick, down with a bug the moment i landed.

Every day, i walked the street lining the port from Ouchy metro to my class, a lil weak and drunk on a bad cold, but praising the sky, the sea, the wind, the mountain ranges in the distance–everything that made up the horizon between sky and land, town to sea. I remember wednesday was so clear, i walked backwards to admire the sunrise. Not really, but you get me.

The air feels amazing, a sharp thrill through your nose and your skin tingles under the warmth. You just want to drink in the whole expanse in your lungs. This was 20 – 24 January 2014.

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A great big world x christina aguilera

A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera - Say Something

First on the radio, came this line over and over:

Say something, I’m giving up on you
I’ll be the one, if you want me to
Anywhere, I would’ve followed you
Say something, I’m giving up on you

A quick google revealed “A Great Big World”, an American two-member band (shazam doesn’t work on the dying seconds of a song). I’ve heard them, in the way you hear many contemporary indie bands; their sounds interesting, image taking a while to filter through, if any, because, you know, their sound’s interesting. Axel and vaccarino apparently met as nyu music biz students, and they look it in the video. Preppy threads and hair.

The video showed this lady. “Is that–that can’t be *listens out for power vowel yodels*–it does sound like christina aguilera…but with an indie band?”

What’s that story?

I dig up another video, and another, to hear them live. Each time i thought, surely xtina will let loose now! But no, the same incredible simplicity, piano, strings, steady, and wave after wave of emotion. Listen to the words, they’re only a few. The ballad holds up the chasm between people at a very precise moment. This bit is important, the song recollects the moment between secure love and love over, often neglected and so vulnerable in the deal of relationships, but a game-changer.

And watch christina give life to it. Two worlds: indie band and mega pop star , playing out this humble acknowledgement of a love done wrong through no fault. No fault at all.

I’m going to quote Bradley Stern from MuuMuse here, because i concur: she “doesn’t even have her own verse or chorus – she resigns to delivering subtle, yet effective, backing vocals for the entirety of the re-recording. It’s only in the song’s final few moments that she allows that powerhouse pipes to blow in the background. And those whispers at the very end? ‘Say something, I’m giving up on you…’ Gulp.”

What a collaboration.

She said of it, “So simple, and it’s so quiet and still and steady, in a way
pleading to hear something, to hear some kind of answer, or to get an answer,
in the most humble, unassuming, non-demanding way.”

.

I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you
And anywhere, I would have followed you

So many times we’re simply hanging on the other person to say something.

Allemansrätt.


. Dunno where’s this, but i liked it from music blog 1146miles.com/

The rain’s come earlier, i’m thinking. “I’m amazed there’s just so much water”, colleague comments. Tropical downpours are common, regular, but still pretty awesome. “Ponding”–once dramatically pronounced a “‘once in 50 years’” event–is regular occurrence. It’s either hibernate at home, hearing the winds lash the walls, or slosh to work and be damp but grateful. Outdoors are wet rats and muddied squares of grass. Nobody wants to be outdoors.

Outdoors.

I read about the Allemansrätt that is usual in most Scandinavian countries.

The main rule is that one can walk, ski or cycle everywhere as long as nothing is harmed and nobody disturbed.

You may pass on foot through forests and across farms but not fields and not military areas. You may not pass fences unless there is a gate that is not locked. In forests you may pick flowers (except some protected species and locations), berries, mushrooms and fallen branches. You may not pass gardens, at least not where the house can be seen or when there is a fence (even if it is open). You may not interfere with any economic activity exercised by the owner of the land. You may stay one night in a tent in an inconspicuous place (not garden) if you don’t leave a single trace. You may not use houses, jetties, sheds etc.

You may not, you may absolutely not, make up fire directly on cliffs or move rocks around, specifically not the rocks that have been placed there by an ancient culture, nor hunt, nor steal eggs. These four latter activities seem to be favourites of our good friends the Germans. The main rule is that one can walk, ski or cycle everywhere as long as nothing is harmed and nobody disturbed. Then, there are refinements and exceptions to this, of course.

How close to houses can one dare to come? No definite rule exists, but in Sweden it’s often said that the privacy area around a dwelling is to be understood as at least 200 meters (in Norway 150 meters). This does of course depend on the landscape and other conditions. An alternative wording of the rule is that if you hear or see other people, then you are too close to them.
Fredrik Östman

“Everyman’s right”: implicit is the freedom to roam. This right of public access goes down to “private” lands. You can walk, hike, camp wherever you please within responsible reason. That suggests public freedom, and crucially, a blessing of open spaces. I love that. We have some space here; there’s a bigger (relatively) square of grass i pass daily en route to the MRT. Huge trees, verdant grass, always shade with golden warmth streaming through. The neighbourhood’s many dogs and dog owners would love a stroll there. The neighbourhood’s many old would probably enjoy a sit out in the fresh air. I would. Instead, a stake “State Land” claims it and a green fence surrounds it.

Once in a while, you catch a stray dog wandering through that square, and you think wild thing, out there like that in the open, it’s gonna get caught and put down.

I don’t have a picture of the square or its restrictive sign. But i have a picture, a kind of mirage, of open green lands no one can tell me it’s not mine to through.

A bunch of shoulds

This i said to the other:

“Saw the picture you posted, and thought yep, i agree. But then i continued to think.

What are the roots rooted in?
What kind of wings will they grow; and where would they be most inclined to fly?
Are these things we think we can ‘gift’? Are these only ours to give? Do we choose to give more of one over the other? Does the bird go, thinking ‘i mustn’t forget the tree’? Well, if it does think so, why?

Two seconds later–
Why is there a bird in the tree.

Then,
Is the metaphorical child both tree and bird?

And i realised,
Are we not really wishing for the child to embody the living ecosystem; of knowing sustainable growth.

If my kid asked these, i’d like him/her/it to know she can take flight and completely detach from the tree from whence (omg shakespeare grammar alert) it came. Because he/she/it is a citizen of the world, a part of the global, of the universal even. I think this by conscience and by nature.

Sometimes we hold on to roots as a reminder of where we should go, but this is only because roots are already material, easy handles of identity, values and goals. There should be no rings of constraint or obligation, except to those under your care. So go, knowing the roots that fed you, and knowing you take a bit of it with you.

I think roots are almost habit. So our only obligation as parents is to have them know they’ve to go and fly and grow. And well, maybe nitpick at which roots we hold onto.”

 

The chinese queue

Chinese “Queue” Braid, hair, emperor puyi

. via refinery29

The chinese queue braid was worn exclusively by male manchus during the qing dynasty–china’s last imperial dynasty. Later it was enforced on the han chinese; men who disobeyed faced execution on count of treason.

No matter his status or age, the chinese man wore a queue, spanning much of four centuries. Disillusioned in the sino-japanese war of 1895, some still continued to wear it until the qing dynasty fell. Many stopped when the last emperor, puyi, cut off his own in 1922.

Where hair is used to express power, status, superiority in femininity (or masculinty), and prideful identity to a tribe, the chinese queue braid as a tool of conquest on such a mass scale is unusual. It marks submission and repression. By 1911, cutting it off was integral to political revolution.

There’s a good article on the end of the queue by michael r. godley, in the journal east asian history.