culture

You are currently browsing articles tagged culture.

Stilgherrian’s links for 19 July 2009 through 23 July 2009, with more than a little apathy:

Stilgherrian’s links for 21 June 2009 through 11 July 2009, posted as an act of desperation:

Photograph of Tanzanian villagers, courtesy of ActionAid Australia

One of the most challenging aspects of Project TOTO is that I’ll have to build a rapport with my Tanzanian hosts and colleagues extremely quickly. So yesterday ActionAid Australia gave me a cultural briefing as well as the project briefing.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Tanzanians are generally very polite, and will avoid saying anything which they fear might offend. I’ll therefore have to encourage them to open up a bit — especially when blogging for a Western audience.
  2. Tanzanian society is still quite hierarchical. People respect age and authority. No-one will say they have a bad government or local official, except in very private conversations.
  3. While the population is split religiously roughly one-third each Muslim, Christian and traditional tribal religions, there’s no major tensions between them.
  4. Women are “quiet and humble”, especially in rural areas, and when there’s men around they’re unlikely to speak unless asked, or if it’s a one-to-one conversation.
  5. There’s less physical contact than we’re used to in Australia. No kissing in public! However men and women do shake hands as a greeting.
  6. Photo of a bottle of Tusker Lager

  7. Rural people eat a lot of the local green bananas, and plenty of green vegetables, either fried or boiled. My doctor will be happy.
  8. I should avoid eating meat outside restaurants and the like. However the rural folk might offer a visitor meat and it would be impolite to refuse. What should I do? I must make that decision at the time. Tapeworms FTW!
  9. My travel doctor was right when she told me to drink only bottled water. The locals will offer soft drinks like Coca-Cola and Fanta, which I will accept and drink.
  10. The local beer is the Kenyan Tusker Lager and it’s quite acceptable, if a little heavy for the climate. I’ll be asked whether I want it “hot” or “cold”.
  11. South African wine is available, but relatively expensive. I’ve been advised to avoid the local wine.
  12. When travelling by 4WD, remember to take toilet paper.
  13. In the city, Westerners are likely to be perceived according to the usual stereotypes: Americans are loud and religious, Australians are relaxed and joke a lot, Germans are strict and so on. In rural areas we’re all the same: “You’re all white and you’ve got money.”

And apart from that, it’s just the usual stuff when arriving in a new culture: Listen more than you speak, and show respect.

Care to add any other tips?

Here are the web links I’ve found for 22 May 2009 to 27 May 2009, posted automatically.

  • The Age of the Essay | Paul Graham: This essay dates from 2004, but it’s still valid. The essay, the kind that’s about exploring an issue, is a natural form of writing online. Plus I like his comments about disobedience and creativity.
  • GLAM | Wikimedia Australia: One for your diaries! A little conference called “Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums & Wikimedia: Finding the common ground” at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 6-7 August 2009. Hosted by Wikimedia Australia, with discussions on four themes: Education, Technology, Business, Law. To be opened by Senator Kate Lundy, Senator for the ACT.
  • That 180ms is the bane of my life: Network engineer Glen Turner explains why the 180 milliseconds it takes for Internet data to cross the Pacific causes problems. “You’ve got to realise that Australia is almost unique in being a long way from the centre of gravity of its language. Broadly, almost all German-speakers live in Germany, whereas a tiny proportion of English-speakers live in Australia. That has an effect on Internet traffic. Most Internet traffic in Germany stays within Germany. Most Internet traffic in Australia goes offshore.”
  • One thing PC users can do that Mac users can’t…: Crude but effective.
  • Media and Brand Supremacy: Why the New Media Brand Could Be Nike | The Huffington Post: Heidi Sinclair notes that individual journalists and commentators are sometimes bigger news brands than the outlets they work for. There’s plenty here which meshes with my complains that some folks don’t separate the content (“news”) from the container (“newspapers”).
  • texts from last night: A scarily funny collection of people’s (allegedly) drunken text messages. Don’t click through unless you’ve got plenty of time to spare.
  • Death in Birth – Where Life’s Start Is a Deadly Risk | NYTimes.com: The first of three articles on efforts to lower the death rate in Tanzania. Excellent timing, given Project TOTO. Challenging to read, however
  • The Angelina Factor | Bitchy Jones’ Diary: A ranty article which, in language which may be confronting for some, explores the social and psycho-sexual issues around the idea that Angelina Jolie is universally sexually attractive. Just for the record, I do not find her the least bit attractive.
  • Rethinking the Global Money Supply: Scientific American: China has proposed that the world move to a more symmetrical monetary system, in which nations peg their currencies to a representative basket of others rather than to the US dollar alone. The article includes a little history, too.
  • “We did not know that child abuse was a crime,”says retired Catholic archbishop | the freethinker: The retired Catholic Archbishop of Milwaukee, Rembert G Weakland, says “We all considered sexual abuse of minors as a moral evil, but had no understanding of its criminal nature… [I] Accepted naively the common view that it was not necessary to worry about the effects on the youngsters: either they would not remember or they would ‘grow out of it’.” WTF?
  • Comedy Thrives in Times of Despair | Spiegel Online: Monty Python’s Michael Palin on what the financial crisis is a boon for comics, and the perils of political correctness.
  • Hello Africa | Vimeo: A 42-minute documentary about mobile phone culture in Africa.
  • Shell On Trial | newmatilda.com: Next week, Shell will appear before a US federal court on charges of torture, extra-judicial killing and crimes against humanity for incidents which took place in the Niger Delta. Will it be the first multinational found guilty of human rights abuses?
  • Genital warts take Shoaib out of Twenty20 World Cup | ABC News: There was a time when someone’s medical history was considered private, even if they played sports professionally. Personally, I reckon the specific of Shoaib’s medical problem are none of anyone else’s business.
  • PlugComputer Community: The developer community for Marvell’s Plug Computer.
  • Plugging In $40 Computers | NYTimes.com: Marvell Technology Group has created a “plug computer”. A tiny plastic box you plug into an electric outlet. No display, but Gigabit Ethernet and a USB. Inside is a 1.2GHz processor running Linux, 512MB RAM and 512MB Flash memory. US$99 today, probably under US$40 in two years.
  • Misguided middle-class moaners | BusinessDay: Ross Gittins explodes a few myths about Australia, class, taxation and social welfare.

Stilgherrian’s links for 09 May 2009 through 17 May 2009, gathered intermittently and jumbled together at random:

Photograph of Thai Airways International Boeing 747-400 at Sydney Airport

Just 18 months ago, I wrote about how this ordinary aircraft would change my life. And it did. This Boeing 747, or one very like it, took me on my first trip outside Australia, to Thailand. I’m about to be changed again. Dramatically.

I can’t tell you about my SEKRIT project just yet, except that it will expose me to things which are Very Different from anything I’ve experienced in my life so far. This morning, though, I’ve been re-reading the pieces I wrote when I returned from Thailand, each labelled “Unreliable Bangkok”.

You may like to re-read them with me now. I quite liked them at the time. If nothing else, the photographs are interesting. Perhaps.

My SEKRIT project will also involve international travel, but not to Thailand. I’ll be posting every day while I’m away — because that’s the point of the trip! — and more reflective pieces upon my return. Stay tuned.

Here are the web links I’ve found for 29 April 2009, posted with postalness.

  • Australia 2020: Government Response: A year after the event which seemed so important at the time, we finally have the government’s response.
  • Developments in internet filtering technologies and other measures for promoting online safety | ACMA: The second of ACMA’s three annual reports on “developments in internet filtering technologies and other safety initiatives to protect consumers, including minors, who access content on the internet”.
  • The Full Story: “The Full Story is a media and information release portal where individuals and organisations can post breaking news, publicity, information or their side of the story on issues of local or national importance — free, as it happens, unedited and in full.”
  • Internet-Age Writing Syllabus and Course Overview | McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: “Course Description: As print takes its place alongside smoke signals, cuneiform, and hollering, there has emerged a new literary age, one in which writers no longer need to feel encumbered by the paper cuts, reading, and excessive use of words traditionally associated with the writing trade. Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era focuses on the creation of short-form prose that is not intended to be reproduced on pulp fibers.”
  • NBN Luddites will be proven wrong | BuddeBlog: Analyst Paul Budde with another thoughtful piece.
  • RedR Australia: This organisation provides training for people working in overseas aid and disaster relief, covering everything from logistics to personal protection. Yes, there is a reason this is being bookmarked, but it’s secret.
  • Swine flu: Twitter’s power to misinform | Net Effect: Once more, the usual human trait of passing on information which may or may not be true is blamed on Twitter, not on the humans. Fail.

Screenshot from Stilgherrian Live episode 44

Yes, Stilgherrian Live episode 44 is now online for your viewing pleasure.

For some reason, I think it’s actually one of the best programs I’ve done. But maybe that’s just my reaction to the opening monologue. You be the judge.

You were the judge, of course, in choosing our “Cnut of the Week”. Senator Penny Wong, Australia’s Minister for Climate Change, and Tom Koutsantonis, South Australia’s disgraced ex-Minister for Road Safety — who I consistently called Tony Koutsantonis for some reason — drew for third place (17%). And in equal first place were neocon robot Karl Rove for his comments about torture and person-on-television Oprah Winfrey for something about Twitter I forget (33%). Which is weird, because I’m sure that as I closed the poll Oprah was in the lead. I blame the bees.

Bees can be blamed for most of the world’s ills.

I also spoke about Ashton Kutcher while showing a picture of Zac Efron, which actually proves my point that they’re all interchangeable muppets anyway.

As the Snarky Platypus says, “They all feel the same in the dark”.

There was a song at the end. And a duck. A duck and a dog, in fact.