Category Archives: Culture

UN Rejects Limits On Bluefin Fishing

I’ve had a tiny amount of bluefin tuna in my life, and it was absolutely exquisite.  At the time, I was conflicted about it, because they are so overfished, but if anything, the experience made me even more concerned about its preservation.

What’s remarkable is that Japan lead the opposition to the ban, even though by overfishing bluefin, they’re engaged in a sort of minor cultural suicide.  No one will lose out more than the Japanese if bluefin are no longer available.

In One Line

If there’s postmodern, then there oughta be premodern, and it’s worth betting ain’t neither one will be modern.

The Highbrow Life

I’m obviously flattered that Go is the game of the highbrow, according to a 1949 issue of Life magazine, but having played both, I wouldn’t say it’s a more highbrow game than bridge.  I like it better, but I wouldn’t say it’s a better game than bridge.

Even more confusing, Go’s footprint in the US was extremely small in 1949. Not even many highbrow individuals would have played it, even if they’d heard of it.

17th Century Productivity Blogging

You know that Munday is Sundayes brother
Tuesday is such another
Wednesday you must go to Church and pray
Thursday is half-holiday
On Friday it is too late to begin to spin
The Saturday is half-holiday agen.

That’s by Merlin Mann some moralist, writing in 1639, which I found in “Time, Work-Discipline and Industrial Capitalism,” the E.P. Thompson paper that Julian recommended. Thompson soon offers as an aside:

The work pattern was one of alternate bouts of intense labour and of idleness, wherever men were in control of their own working lives. (The pattern persists among some self-employed — artists, writers, small farmers, and perhaps also with students — today, and provokes the question whether it is not a “natural” human work-rhythm.)

I am so glad to hear that.

The Weekend

This 1991 Atlantic Monthly article “Waiting For The Weekend” by Witold Rybczynski is interesting throughout, even if it doesn’t fully substantiate its most ambitious claims.  It’s worth reading if just for the depiction of work culture before and after the Industrial Revolution, which is quite fascinating.  I’d known that drunkenness on the job was common before the Industrial Revolution and remained a problem throughout it, but I’d never heard of Saint Monday, for instance.

I found the article via the Atlantic’s new ideas blog, which is being written by Conor Friedersdorf–more about which later.

Update: In a comment to this post, my friend Julian suggests a very nice piece of academic history on changing conceptions of time and work for those who want to read more.

Strangely Endearing

“I would write ads for deodorants or labels for catsup bottles, if I had to” (Updike, quoted in the NYT)

Stopping Crowds

Bitch Ph.D. makes the necessary point about the man who was trampled to death in the Black Friday rush at a Wal-Mart.  Once you recognize her point–that the issue is the psychology of crowds, all the carping about consumerism looks out of place.  Would the man’s death have been any less awful if the crowd had been lined up for a concert, or whatever else you’d line up for? Would you have had the foresight to see that the crowd could cause a man’s death? I doubt it.  And if you had, your absence by itself would not have changed the underlying dynamic.

Once you’ve recognized the tremendous ways in which you can be influenced by situational factors–this case is just a much more literal instance of external pressure–there’s an ethical obligation to resist them.  But it’s not simple to recognize the way in which crowds work, and acting based on that knowledge is not easy, even for individuals who are otherwise virtuous.

If Wal-Mart had taken more care, no one’s character would be any different, but a man’s life would have been saved.  That’s the bottom line, and it resiss simple moralization.