Cultrface – a blog dedicated to culture and how it enriches our lives.

Red Lobster and its historically Black patronage

For CNN, Nathaniel Meyersohn wrote about Red Lobster’s recent bankruptcy and why that’ll be a loss for the Black customers who still account for a higher share of customers than other major casual chain restaurants:

In a 2015 presentation to investors, Red Lobster said 16% of customers were Black, two percentage points higher than the Black share of the US population. Red Lobster did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on current customer demographics.

The chain hired Black workers and served Black guests from its beginnings in the South in the late 1960s, and Black celebrities such as Chris Rock and Nicki Minaj worked there before they became famous. (Minaj later joked about being fired from “all three or four” of the Red Lobsters where she worked over “Lobsterita” drinks and cheddar bay biscuits with Jimmy Fallon.) And Beyoncé sang about taking a romantic partner to Red Lobster in her 2016 song “Formation,” which addresses police brutality, Hurricane Katrina and Black culture in America.

This is meta but stick with me: the CNN article is about Red Lobster’s history of Black patronage. So why is the title “The forgotten RACIAL history of Red Lobster”? Just say Black. You lose nothing by having the title reflect the subject matter which is exclusively about Black people. Using the word “racial” suggests a wider clientele when that’s not what is written. I know Nathaniel Meyersohn didn’t write the title so this is on whoever calls the shots for headlines: you’re not helping.

I watched this cool Instagram reel of a Palestinian fabric shop owner from Old Jerusalem named Bilal Taher Abu Khalaf as he described his city’s textile heritage: He shares old photographs showcasing traditional attire worn by women in Jerusalem 70 years ago, including everyday dresses and maroon-colored bridal gowns with unique embroidery and silver coin headdresses.

Language Log on the 'semiotics of barbed wire'

Victor Mair went to Gothenberg, Nebraska last week and visited a local historical museum. When he asked for the most unusual exhibit, he was pointed downstairs to a unique collection of barbed wire fence:

From the way the barbs were wrapped around and woven through the horizontal strands, the ranchers could tell at a glance if the land and animals enclosed within belonged to them — I call them “signature barbs” — sort of like a premodern QR code.

You might be thinking, “dude, it’s just barbed wire!” but I like how every piece is distinct and tells a story of its own. That’s the joy of semiotics, with its signs and symbols representing more than just a word or an instruction. A simple line of twisted metal with sharp point bits at varying distances can tell you whether it was used to keep in animals, protect land, or thwart soldiers in a war. That’s a broad spectrum for a bit of zinc, aluminum alloy, and steel.

Amazing dragon art made in one brush stroke

GILA BANGET, MELUKIS DENGAN SATU SAPUAN KUAS,,, HASILNYA KEREN

Keisuke Teshima is an artist best known for his dragon art create with one brush stroke. Before the pedants get involved, there are other brush strokes involved for detailing but the main body is all done with a single stroke of his very large brush.

The results are breathtaking and you can check out more of his work on Instagram.

A Queer reading list from North Africa and the Maghreb

JSTOR Daily curated a queer reading list featuring writers from North Africa and the Maghreb (a region in western and central North Africa, including Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia):

The status of queer literature in the Maghreb and the Arab world is complex and nuanced as it varies by country and region. While there’s been an increase in openly LGBTQ+ writers and themes being explored in some places, homosexuality remains illegal in many Arab and Muslim countries, leaving LGBTQ+ individuals vulnerable to persecution and discrimination. Despite these challenges, there are writers and readers who are passionate about exploring queer identities through literature as a means of promoting greater representation and acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community.

The list opens with some generalised texts exploring sexuality beyond Western perspectives before honing in on “Contextualizing Arab and Muslim Sexuality within the Arab World” (if you’d rather not read Foucault just yet!)

An interview with Rudy Fraser

I’m honoured to have technical architect and Blacksky creator Rudy Fraser as my next interviewee.

What is favourite city in the world?

Paris. It has a lot of parallels to NYC from a fashion and culture perspective. They even have French Drill music! Paris is also where I proposed to my wife, Kukuwa. I think a lot of people from the States dream of going to Paris and I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a few times. I should probably learn some French though.

What’s the most unusual item you take everywhere you go?

This probably refers to travel or daily carry but the most interesting thing I’ve been able to hold onto has been a small ivory statue that my mom brought here from Guyana. I grew up facing housing insecurity but it’s the one thing I still have from my childhood.

Why do you do what you do?

Some degree of delusion, overconfidence, and having problems with authority /s. I also happen to know that in community we really do have all that we need but community is not a given. It takes work to cultivate that. And community builders are often people with biases and are subject to burnout. I’m really interested in autonomous movement building and what adrienne maree brown refers to as “emergence”. How can you create the right examples and conditions that allow people to organize around. That’s my vision for Papertree from a community finance perspective. That’s my vision for Blacksky (Algorithms) from a communications and media perspective. Same thing with We The People and Pact Collective. With WTP we’re trying to provide a blueprint for mutual aid organizing. I agreed to be on the board of Pact because they’re trying to build a coalition/mutual aid network in NYC.

I’m not too different from some other tech founders in that regard. I have a particular worldview I’d like to see more of in the world.

Where do you go to relax?

Can’t say I do much relaxing these days but I try to get outside for a daily walk and then just sit out on my building’s terrace. When the weather’s nice I sometimes read or do yoga up there.

69, 280, or 420?

420

How do you say goodbye in your culture(s)?

Guyanese people love to just say “Alright” as both a greeting and a goodbye.

How HeroTech built a real lightsaber

How We Built a Real Lightsaber

We’ve seen it a million times, but one more “how to make a real lightsaber” video isn’t gonna hurt. This one comes from HeroTech who built an extendable and retractable lightsaber and put together a tutorial on their website (for paid members only).

All jokes and mild snark aside, you should definitely watch the video as they’ve done a cool job of putting this all together and it’s a lot safer than some of the lightsaber prototypes I’ve seen that could burn you if you got too close to the blade (although they did point out that this was “potentially dangerous to DIY” so bear that in mind).

Danny Gonzalez reviewed The Little Panda Fighter

The Kung Fu Panda Ripoff From Your Nightmares

A few years ago, Danny Gonzalez reviewed The Little Panda Fighter, a bootleg version of Kung Fu Panda, and it’s hilariously bad (the film, not the review—that’s just hilarious). It was released in 2008 by Vídeo Brinquedo, a Brazilian animation studio and amongst its cast was none other than Maddie Blaustein aka the voice of Meowth in the early seasons of the Pokémon anime.

The Santa Marta Sabrewing has made a reappearance in Colombia

Santa Marta Sabrewing: Rare Hummingbird Species

Researchers from American Bird Conservancy (ABC), Universidad Nacional de Colombia, SELVA, ProCAT Colombia, and World Parrot Trust have made some important observations of a very rare species called the Santa Marta Sabrewing. The species is one of the rarest amongst birds in the world with only 20 observations and an IUCN categorisation of Critically Endangered.

“Our findings show that this amazing hummingbird may be an example of microendemism, as it seems to be restricted to a limited area within the world’s most important continental center of endemism,” said Esteban Botero-Delgadillo, lead author of the study and Director of Conservation Science with SELVA: Research for Conservation in the Neotropics. “We are excited to have the opportunity to continue studying this bird because there are still huge knowledge gaps regarding its biology and distribution. Filling these gaps will help achieve our ultimate goal of finding long-lasting conservation solutions.”

The Santa Marta Sabrewing gets its name from the Santa Marta Mountains where it lives, located in northeast Colombia. The species is dimorphic, with males having glittering emerald-green plumage and an iridescent blue breast, in contrast with females having white breasts.

The Ishango bone: a bone of mathematical contention

Image credit: www.maa.org

The Ishango bone is a tool and possible mathematical device from prehistoric times. Its name is taken from the area of Ishango in the Democratic Republic of Congo where it was found.

[…] The bone, probably a fibula of a baboon, large cat, or other large mammal, has been dated to the Upper Paleolithic Period of human history, approximately 20,000-25,000 years ago. It is 10 cm long and bears an articulated, organized series of notches readily identifying it, to many observers, as a tally stick. However, its original purpose remains a subject of debate. The Ishango Bone is now housed at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Brussels, Belgium, with whose cooperation the image above was obtained.

Is it a tally stick? Is it the oldest table of prime numbers? Or is it a calendar?

Alexander Marschak, an independent scholar, argued that it represents a six-month lunar calendar. In 1970 Marshack published his innovative Notation dans les gravures du Paléolithique Supérieur. He argued that talley marks on certain bones represented a system of proto-writing, and proposed the controversial theory that notches and lines carved on certain Upper Paleolithic bone plaques were notation systems, specifically lunar calendars notating the passage of time. Using microscopic analysis, Marshack showed that seemingly random or meaningless notches on bone were sometimes interpretable as structured series of numbers. Marshack expanded upon these ideas in his book, The Roots of Civilization (1972). If Marshack’s interpretation is correct, notched bones such as these may be, in the words of John Eccles, the earliest “conceptual performance of homo sapiens.” Alternatively they may be a yet to be understood method of recording information, or something else.

Whatever it is, or was, it wasn’t made by aliens.

The Book of Colour Concepts by art historian Alexandra Loske explores four centuries of colour theory from changes in science to the Mary Gartside, the first woman who published an illustrated book in colour in 1805. (via It’s Nice That)

A man gets home early from work and finds his wife in bed with his best friend.

He gets his shotgun and says “I’m going to shoot your balls off!”

His best friend begs him, “Please, we’re best friends! Give me a chance!”

So he says, “Alright then, swing ’em!”

My second favourite dad joke

Batman Saves the Congo

Batman Saves the Congo is a book by Alexandra Cosima Budabin and Lisa Ann Richey Can which questions the influence of celebrities on the development field and whether they can promote change for the good or just act as mouthpieces for major corps:

In 2010, Ben Affleck, known for his performance as Batman, launched the Eastern Congo Initiative, designed to bring a new approach to the region’s development. This event is central to Batman Saves the Congo. Affleck’s organization received special access, diversified funding, and significant support from elites in the political, philanthropic, development, and humanitarian spheres. This fact sets it apart from other development programs. Affleck used his influence to build partnerships with others both in and outside of the development field, occupying a bipartisan political realm that is neither charity nor aid but “good business.” Highly visible celebrity humanitarians like Affleck operate in the public domain but do not engage meaningfully with the public, argue Alexandra Cosima Budabin and Lisa Ann Richey. Rather, they are an unruly group of new players in development whose involvement furthers the interests of big business.

I think these kinds of questions are really important at the moment, with the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in a variety of other African countries like South Africa (where Google and PepsiCo have invested nearly $2bn in the last few years), Kenya (where Microsoft and G42 announced a $1 billion comprehensive digital ecosystem initiative), Nigeria, and Egypt.

The Eastern Congo Initiative was launched in 2010 and is still going, with the following members: