Cultrface is a blog about culture and how it can enrich our lives.

What was François Mitterrand's final meal and why was it so controversial?

The ortolan is a small bird from the bunting family that lives in Europe and western Asia. It is also the last meal that former French president François Mitterrand ever ate, 8 days before his death. But eating ortolans is illegal in France (even though some chefs will still make it) and it comes with some… unique traditions:

[…] To prepare it, the ortolan is drowned in a glass of Armagnac. This is not a metaphor. It is actually drowned, and then it is cooked in a cassoulet.

[…]

You place a white cloth over your head and pick the bird up with your fingers, and then you eat it whole, wings, feet, organs, head, everything except the feet. The ortolan is supposed to represent the soul of France.

The white cloth is to create a closed sensory world of just taste and scent.

The cloth is also, traditionally, to hide the act from God.

via Interconnected

For more on Mitterand’s last meal and the ortolan, read Michael Paterniti’s 1998 piece for Esquire magazine. You can also read this Smithsonian article on the ortolan from 2018 and how it is/was eaten into extinction. (A note that while the ortolan’s global conservation listing is “Least Concern”, in France, it is “Endangered”.)

Artsy on skate culture photography

For Artsy, Alexxa Gotthardt picked 9 photographers that “captured the renegade youth of skate culture“:

In the mid-1970s, teen skateboarder Jay J. Adams descended on an empty swimming pool in Southern California, with beers and board in hand. A drought had recently ripped across the state, forcing residents to drain their backyard swimming holes. For many, it was a disappointing summer. But not for a crew of misfit young skaters known as the Z-Boys. From their vantage point, those smooth concrete craters made perfect skate bowls—sanctuaries for a sport and subculture they were unwittingly pioneering.

Skate culture related: 5 ways skateboarding culture inspired modern art and Werner Herzog on skateboarding.

Cory Etzkorn on that little green dot and being online

The term “always online” describes the idea that we’re online all the time and never log off. This could be literally (sleep is for chumps anyway!) or figuratively (i.e. never logging off). In my experience, I’m more figuratively “always online” but during periods last year, my sleep patterns were messed up thanks to the allure of the internet.

Cory Etzkorn examined a visual representation of that phenomenon: The Little Green Dot and its meaning in our online lives:

The Little Green Dot is a leash. It is a surrogate for trust and thrives in low-trust environments.

The Little Green Dot is anxiety. It is there to remind us that we’re not working as hard or as long or as consistently as others. Presence favors those who can effectively sit in a chair all day, not those brave enough to step away for a walk and take some time to think.

But the reality is that The Little Green Dot also has real utility. When something important breaks, we need to see who is online to fix it. When we have a pressing question, we need to know who is available to answer it.

And so The Little Green Dot persists, despised, but understood.

Etzkorn’s final line asks whether humans should be “always-online” or whether a semi online existence would be more beneficial. I like the latter even though I’m closer to the former. I work in digital marketing so onlineness is important but I also blog and that requires research and Wikipedia rabbit holes. There’s no let-up unless I make it so. We should all learn to log off once in a while.

(via HeyDesigner)

100 incredible 3D renders of a person walking

Top 100 3D Renders from the Internet's Largest CG Challenge | Alternate Realities

A few months ago, pwnisher challenged 3D artists to create an animation of a person (or humanoid at least) walking forward but that humanoid was demonstrating some difficulty in doing so. Sorry, I suck at describing it so you’ll have to watch the above video. 2,400 artists entered and the video shows the top 100 who were chosen. 5 lucky applicants won prizes from Rokoko, Wacom, Quixel, PNY, and Aftershokz. Watch the top 100 above.

The world is full of talented and creative people.

Nik Sennhauser's airline meals

Nik Sennhauser and I share a common sentiment. We both miss air travel. To combat his FOMO and general quarantine boredom, Nik decided to start making his own airline flight meals. This from a Thrillist article:

“Having been grounded for nearly a year in January 2021, I was so bored during the weekends with absolutely nothing to do due to restrictions. Like in many other countries, we were confined to our homes,” the Scotland native told Thrillist. “This, combined with the Scottish winter weather, it was just plain miserable.”

He said that one Sunday in January, he made himself a to-go breakfast of hash browns, omelettes, and sausages, and caught himself thinking about what a great in-flight meal it would make.

“Being an avid airline dinnerware collector—I have an airline trolley stocked with plates, glasses, and trays—I plated up the breakfast like an airline meal, actually making use of my collection,” Sennhauser said. 

He continued plating regular meals on his airline dinnerware “just for fun,” but soon had the idea to start actually recreating the dishes he had experienced on his travels. 

Now that I’m double vaccinated (and I hope Nik is or will be soon), I’m hoping to experience this soon albeit a short-haul version when I plan to go to Lisbon and Nice at the end of the year.

You can follow his endeavours on Instagram.

'Barbican Stories' details racism experienced by current and former employees at the Barbican

The Barbican holds a lot of sentimental value to me but after hearing of racial discrimination in the workplace, I don’t look quite as fondly at the Brutalist icon. Barbican Stories details accounts of racism by current and former employees and I first heard about it from their article for gal-dem:

As in many workplaces, 2020’s summer of protest – triggered by the murder of George Floyd – brought increased visibility to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement which meant conversations about “diversity and inclusion” could no longer be tabled.

The Barbican’s response was bureaucratic at best, and gaslighting at worst. For me, it felt like BLM was a “comms issue” for the institution, it was not about change but image. Barbican Stories was a way to cut through this delusion, and hold a mirror up to the institution. It breaks systemic racism down into everyday occurrences to show the Barbican that it is not in a position to simply comment on racism, it needs to recognise itself as an organisation that is currently racist. 

The stories are plentiful; enough to warrant a second print run of the book “for distribution to public records and archives”. The Barbican’s response was standard—”We fully recognise the pain and hurt caused by these experiences“, so if they’re recognisable, why wasn’t anything done?—and it remains to be seen if anything will actually be done about the past, now, and in the future to ensure working environments are safe.

The magic of a stenographer

Court Reporter MAGIC! The Steno Machine

Stenography is the process of writing in shorthand and a stenographer is someone who transcribes that shorthand on a steno machine into readable text. Above is a video of a stenographer transcribing what is said in court. The steno machine wouldn’t look out of place in a kid’s toy section (remember those VTech computers?) and stenographers look like concert pianists.

Did the Ancient Greeks not have a word for 'blue'? Or is it a myth?

Blue is a cool colour (badum-tish!). But apparently, the Ancient Greeks didn’t know about it—at least, they didn’t have a name for it, so claims AsapSCIENCE in its video entitled Why The Ancient Greeks Couldn’t See Blue. I found it via Open Culture who also blogged about it in June under the title Why Most Ancient Civilizations Had No Word for the Color Blue and thought “wow, interesting!” But it appears it might not be strictly true.

The first red flag was this line:

“[…] blue doesn’t appear much in nature,”

Have you looked up lately? Or seen any of the blue flowers available on the planet? Then the comments took hold and critiqued the video a bit more. This from “Tom Neff”:

The Greeks had several words for blue: Kyaneos was dark blue and glaukos was light blue.

This article appears to have been substantially copied from a 2015 Australian Business Insider article.

Uh oh. A quick Wiktionary search throws up etymologies for the words “kyaneos” and “glaukos“:

kyaneos (κυάνεος), from κῠ́ᾰνος (kúanos, “dark-blue enamel”) +‎ -εος (-eos). According to Beekes, probably from Hittite (kuwannan-, “precious stone, copper, blue”), likely from Proto-Indo-European *ḱwey– (“to shine, white, light”) (compare *ḱweytós (“white”)).

glaukós (γλαυκός, “blue-green, blue-grey”). Uncertain origin. Barber reconstructs Proto-Indo-European *gleh₂w-ko-, noting that the root only appears in Greek (Homer, Aeschylus), but Beekes finds an Indo-European origin unlikely.

The more you read, the more you see that blue had lots of names and was very prestigious in ancient civilizations. I’d have expected Open Culture to do a bit more fact-checking and the video shouldn’t have been made in the first place.

Really hoping I’ve not been a hypocrite and spewed nonsense here so please correct me if any of this or the referenced links are wrong because I like to learn!

Introducing the Sony SL-C7 Betamax recorder

Sony SL-C7 Betamax promotional tape | Introducing the Sony SL-C7

Sony SL-C7 tech specs

  • PAL colour
  • 75-ohm, asymmetrical aerial socket
  • UHF channel coverage
  • 260 line resolution (300 in B/W)
  • Frequency response of 50Hz–10,000Hz
  • Phono jack input/output
  • Mini jack mic
  • Tape speed: 18.73 mm/sec.
  • 2 hours 10 min, max recording time with Sony L-500 cassette. 3 hours 15 min with L-750
  • 24-hour cycle
  • For recording: 4 events/ 2 weeks, adjustable for any day or for all 7 days of the week or for every week
  • Dimensions: ~485 x 163 x 379 mm

Massimo Vignelli and Matej Latin say you only need 5 fonts

Vignelli once said that our growing collection of fonts represented “a new level of visual pollution threatening our culture. Out of thousands of typefaces, all we need are a few basic ones and trash the rest”. Of those few, he selected 5:

As for Matej Latin, his 5 were:

He then left a template for anyone to pick their 5 using “a geometric sans serif, a high quality serif for long text, a workhorse font, a web safe font, a variable font”:

If you take a closer look, you’ll notice that this list of types of fonts aligns perfectly with my own “5 fonts” list. Gilroy is a geometric sans serif font that I really like because it feels modern (unlike Futura which may look dated in some occasions). Meta is my high quality serif font because it’s really well designed, it works really well for paragraphs and has many OpenType features like ligatures, alternative digit styles and much more.

Roboto is a typical workhorse font family. It comes in many different styles and weights and is very well designed. It consists of a sans serif, a slab serif and a mono style and can be used for anything from long paragraphs to UI labels and code snippets.

Work Sans is a variable sans serif font that I really like. It’s highly legible, even at smaller sizes which makes it great for UI design. The fact that it’s variable means that I can match various weights to get a good balance between font sizes which helps my UI designs look slicker.

And the last is Georgia, an underrated web safe font. It looks quite modern which is fascinating, because it was designed a while ago. It comes with old style figures, often called “lowercase digits.” That makes it great for paragraphs, especially when I need to save a few kilobytes. I have been saying this for a while, web safe fonts don’t suck. They’re completely free as we don’t need to pay to use them and they also don’t add any weight to our websites so they load faster. More on web safe fonts another time.

My 5 essential fonts are:

That list isn’t laminated but it covers most of my favourite fonts that I use the most. Gibson is the main heading font for Sampleface (my music blog) and I use it as the main font in one of my favourite games, Championship Manager 01/02. Helvetica is Helvetica and while it’s overused elsewhere, I like to use it in certain situations and as body text when I can. Cooper Black is iconic and great for titles when you need a bit of versatile flair. Georgia is a great web safe font and alternative to using sans-serif fonts. Finally, I picked Univers because I like its print heritage and its form and I’ve used an alternative version called Fluxisch Else for many album covers over the years to emulate that scruffy printed feel.

Toy Galaxy on Samurai Pizza Cats

The Many Controversies of Samurai Pizza Cats: Racism, Gag Dubs & Disney Trying to Kill It!

They’re cats who are also samurai and they like pizza. What’s not to love? Unfortunately, racism and a bunch of other issues stopped Samurai Pizza Cats from being greater than the premise was and Dan Larson tells the story of its history.

If you want to see what all the fuss was about, you can stream it for free on Peacock or Amazon Prime.

When Solomon Leyva took his titan arum to an abandoned gas station

Photo of a titan arum.
source: Flickr, via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum), is a flowering plant also known as ‘the corpse flower’ due to its stench similar to a rotting corpse. Solomon Leyva owned one of these plants and decided to take it to the site of an abandoned gas station in California for others to admire. Atlas Obscura interviewed him about the idea:

What made you decide to take the flower out on the town?

What’s the point in having it? It was only going to bloom for a day—I mean, I have to share it. I don’t know what else I would have done.

There’s a really great, cute little community in the city that I live in, and I just thought everybody would enjoy seeing it. I was out from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and again the next day. The first day, it was really cold and [the plant] wasn’t enthusiastic about opening all the way. The second day, it had been in my greenhouse and opened more. Everybody was fascinated and happy—they’ve had their [vaccine] shots and are wanting to come out.

The cute Art Deco gas station that’s been out of commission for over 30 years across from city hall—I couldn’t think of any better place to bring it. Everywhere else has sidewalks or patio seating for restaurants. Also, I had to put in a wagon and was pulling it down the street, and I didn’t want to go across town. I couldn’t fit it in my van; it was too tall. I’m 5-foot-10, and it was a few inches shorter than me.

Nearly everyone remarked about the smell, but some didn’t find the smell until it wafted up with the breeze. Everyone took their mask off to smell it. I let kids play with it, dogs jump up on it. There’s no sense in protecting something that’s only going to live for a day. Everybody just has their memory, and that’s all you get. What better way to say goodbye to the pandemic than to watch a corpse flower bloom?

Not even the foul, deathly odour of a plant could stop people from keeping their masks on. Incredible.

That time Bully Maguire went on Family Feud

Bully Maguire on Family Feud

I’ve already shown my love for Steve Harvey memes but I’ve recently got into “Bully Maguire” memes, involving clips of Toby Maguire’s rendition of Peter Parker in Spider-Man 3. This one is expertly crafted, showing Parker trying to win a staff job with double the money. Look out for special guest star Harry Osborne.