For the Global Thinker

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Best of Kultura 2010...more or less

Here's a look back at some of the more interesting posts of Kultura in the last year or so...

Here are the TOP 15 in no particular order:

1. A World Enslaved
"There are now more slaves on the planet than at any time in human history."

2. Manipulating the MTV Generation
"Elvis Presley looked like he was around 20. The Beatles were in their early 30s. The rock musicians of the 1960s and 1970s were a little bit older. They weren't peers of 13- and 14-year-olds. Now, the young tend to be presented always and everywhere with what is, in a way, the most seductive thing there is, and that's a mirror. There's a mirror held up to them all the time. It's the mirror as constructed by advertising and TV, but it's the mirror that tells you that you are all there is to be, or you could be, if you bought what we have to sell."

3. How Robot Drones Revolutionized the Face of Warfare
War most certainly will never be the same. In the future, wars will primarily be fought without soldiers on the battlefield. This absolutely fascinating yet, scary documentary is a window into our future.

4. The Great American Road Trip By Paul Theroux

"What made Barstow's billboards a peculiar blight was the contrast with everything that lay around them—the landscape that was so stark and dramatic as a brooding expanse of withered shrubs and fat cactuses, the stony roads that seemed to lead nowhere, the bleak and beautiful backdrop that seemed as though no one had laid a hand on it, with lively colorations at a distance and up close so dry, like a valley of bones looking as though they could not support life. I had seen deserts in Patagonia and Turkmenistan, northern Kenya and Xinjiang in western China; but I had never seen anything like this. The revelation of the Mojave Desert was (peering past the billboards) not just its illusion of emptiness but its assertive power of exclusion, the low bald hills and far-off mountains looking toasted and forbidding under the darkening sky."

5. Icebergs
Excerpt from "Icebergs" By Alistair Morgan

"While I unpacked the picnic basket Melissa stripped down to her bikini and briefly endured the sharp Atlantic water. For a moment, as she trotted back to her towel, she could have been her mother. She had the same springy rust-colored hair and pale skin; I could clearly see the blue highways of veins that transported her mother’s remaining blood along the contours of her spindly legs. It was only in the eyes that Melissa differed greatly from her mother: her mother’s were a life-giving green, whereas Melissa’s were the color of an overcast sky.
We ate some ham-and-cheese rolls and then settled down on our towels. I had brought the newspaper with me and Melissa had her iPod. She placed the headphones over her ears, removed her bikini top, and lay back to gather what sun she could. I hid behind my newspaper."

6. King Justice

King Justice portraits a moment in the life of a musical director of young musicians that have suffered the consequences of the civil war in Sierra Leone.

7. Photojournalist Christian Als
Stunning photo essays from a truly talented photographer. Essays include: the DR Congo, Haiti Earthquake, India Rising, and Kibera.

8. Three Short Films by Ted Chung
Three short films by contemporary director Ted Chung.

9. 1491: The Americas before Columbus

Before Columbus, Dobyns calculated, the Western Hemisphere held ninety to 112 million people (Ten times earlier estimates). Another way of saying this is that in 1491 more people lived in the Americas than in Europe. Almost all scholars now agree that disease had decimated the Indian population. To give you an example, in 1539 the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto ventured into an area around the present-day Texas-Arkansas border. There lived the Caddoan-speaking population.

The Caddoan population fell from about 200,000 to about 8,500—a drop of nearly 96 percent. In the eighteenth century the tally shrank further, to 1,400. An equivalent loss today in the population of New York City would reduce it to 56,000—not enough to fill Yankee Stadium. "That's one reason whites think of Indians as nomadic hunters," says Russell Thornton, an anthropologist at the University of California at Los Angeles. "Everything else—all the heavily populated urbanized societies—was wiped out." Lacking immunity, the Indians died by the millions, reducing their numbers to a tenth of their previous population by 1800, in the greatest demographic catastrophe in global history.

10. A Simple Case
A wonderful tale from Nigeria.

11. Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness
This six part series on philosophy is presented by popular British philosopher Alain de Botton, featuring six thinkers who have influenced history, and their ideas about the pursuit of the happy life.

12. Guns, Germs and Steel
Inspired by a question put to him on the island of Papua New Guinea more than thirty years ago, Jared Diamond embarks on a world-wide quest to understand the roots of global inequality.

Why were Europeans the ones to conquer so much of our planet? Why didn’t the Chinese, or the Inca, become masters of the globe instead? Why did cities first evolve in the Middle East? Why did farming never emerge in Australia? And why are the tropics now the capital of global poverty?

13. Mao's Great Leap Forward Killed 45 Million in Four Years

Mr Dikötter is the only author to have delved into the Chinese archives since they were reopened four years ago. He argued that this devastating period of history – which has until now remained hidden – has international resonance. "It ranks alongside the gulags and the Holocaust as one of the three greatest events of the 20th century.... It was like [the Cambodian communist dictator] Pol Pot's genocide multiplied 20 times over," he said.

14. 6,557 Miles to Nowhere

Death is part of life. Generally, it’s the shortest part of life, usually occurring near the end. However, this is not necessarily true for rock stars; sometimes rock stars don’t start living until they die. I want to understand why that is. I want to find out why the greatest career move any musician can make is to stop breathing. I want to find out why plane crashes and drug overdoses and shotgun suicides turn longhaired guitar players into messianic prophets. I want to walk the blood-soaked streets of rock’n’roll and chat with the survivors as they writhe in the gutter. This is my quest. Now, to do this, I will need a rental car...

15. My Brother's War, From Vienna to Beirut and Tokyo Up/Down

Turn on your favorite lounge music and watch these babies full screen.

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