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

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:

I’m sick of following my dreams. I’m just going to ask them where they’re goin’, and hook up with them later.

Mitch Hedberg on dreams

Colombia to cut diplomatic ties with Israel over Palestine genocide

I missed this last month but good to see Colombian President Gustavo Petro call out Israel’s genocide of Palestinians for what it is and announce plans to cut diplomatic ties with the nation state.

“Here in front of you, the government of change, of the president of the republic, announces that tomorrow we will break diplomatic relations with the state of Israel … for having a government, for having a president who is genocidal,” Petro said.

A left-wing leader who came to power in 2022, Petro is considered part of a progressive wave known as the “pink tide” in Latin America. He has been one of the region’s most vocal critics of Israel since the start of the Gaza war.

via Al Jazeera

Some cool links on Kenyan culture

a tricolour flag of black, red, and green with two white edges imposed with a red, white and black Maasai shield and two crossed spears.

I found these articles on Kenyan culture and thought I’d group them into one blog.

It’s Nice That spoke to Kennedy Mirema about his work shining a light on Kenya’s cultural richness:

Throughout Kennedy’s creative direction there is an immediate bonding of people and landscape, greatly owed to his focus on curation at every turn; creating looks that are both innovative and reflective of the individual personalities. His process typically starts with a research period where he immerses himself in the client’s backdrop, and current trends taking over the industry, before a period of cohesion where he hones in on visual narrative. This technique allows us to see beyond the adornments of fashion and heed the cultural contexts beneath them; why does this clothing meld with that convenience store? Why does the flowy linen assortment belong on those sandy shores?

Colossal on Thandiwe Muriu’s new book celebrating the multi-faceted beauty of Kenyan culture:

In each photo, the photographer either positions a small group or stands against a boldly patterned Ankara backdrop. Also known as African wax prints, these colorful textiles were first introduced to the continent by the Dutch in the 19th century and are still common for garments and accessories today. Muriu and her subjects always wear clothing identical to their surroundings, literally camouflaging their bodies into a backdrop loaded with cultural and colonial history.

JSTOR Daily on the Jamia Masjid in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, built for Punjabi migrants brought to Africa by the British which now serves Kenya’s Muslim population:

The Jamia Masjid in Nairobi is an impressive sight. Located in the central business district of the bustling city, the mosque boasts striking domes and minarets that might call to mind the Taj Mahal. As art historian Steven Nelson writes, the story of how the building was designed that way offers a window into the complicated cultural exchanges within the British Empire.

JSTOR Daily asks 'who took the cocaine out of Coca-Cola?'

It’s common knowledge that the original Coca-Cola recipe had cocaine in it. And while it might seem obvious to us now to remove a hard drug from a soft drink, what was the actual reason? JSTOR Daily consulted a journal article by Michael M. Cohen where he claimed it was about authorities’ perceptions of drugs, affected by race and class of its users.

In the Jim Crow South, the dynamics of race, gender, and the growth of a mass consumer culture combined with the reformist impulses of the Progressive era to wage war on the “Negro cocaine fiend.” The changes in Coca-Cola in this time period illustrate this point. Marketed exclusively to middle class and professional whites, Coca-Cola contained a small quantity of coca extracts until 1903. When Coca-Cola was introduced, cocaine was championed by doctors and psychologists, including Sigmund Freud, as a medical marvel. In the 1890s, however, the medical opinion of cocaine began to sour as its savage addictive potential revealed itself, leaving manufacturers and medical reformers to call for new regulations and controls on the drug’s distribution. Cocaine users themselves did not become criminals until urban police and civic leaders in the New South generated a moral panic over the casual use of cocaine among urban blacks, blaming everything from rape to urban riots on the drug’s influence. By the dawn of the twentieth century, the South’s fears of “Negro cocaine fiends” running amok trumped the drug’s commercial profits and medical benefits. Southern cocaine prohibition eventually merged into a federal drive to regulate a range of narcotics and cocaine, representing a rare instance of southern leadership in Progressive reform and a spectacular example of how Jim Crow politics influenced the entire nation in a way that can still be felt in the “war on drugs.”

Michael M. Cohen — Jim Crow’s Drug War

The thing is, Coca-Cola wasn’t the first drink laced with cocaine. Dr. John Stith Pemberton, the “brainchild” of Coke put it in wine:

In 1884, [Dr. John Stith] Pemberton began selling cocaine-laced wine. After Atlanta passed a temperance law the next year, he switched gears and started producing a soft drink named for its two key medicinal ingredients—coca leaf and the caffeine-containing African kola nut. Coca-Cola was an immediate hit at soda fountains, a space catering to middle-class white customers. After Pemberton’s death in 1888, the brand continued to grow under the leadership of his business partner, Asa Grigs Candler.

The poster for Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage, a 1994 SEGA Genesis game starring Spider-Man, Venom, and of course, Carnage.

'Gentlemen of Bacongo' by Daniele Tamagni showcases Congolese men adherent of La Sape

A Black Congolese man wearing sunglasses and smoking a cigar. He is wearing a suit (mostly out of shot)

Gentlemen of Bacongo is a photobook by Daniele Tamagni showcases the dapper styles of Congolese men who are part of La Sape subculture:

Daniele Tamagni’s wonderful pictorial essay brilliantly manages to capture the ebullience of sapeur culture at its source in Bacongo, a sprawling suburb of Brazzaville in The Congo. Le Sape (The Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes), is one of the world’s most exclusive clubs. It has recently become an international phenomenon with branches in places like Brazzaville, Kinshasa, Paris, Brussels and parts of South London. The sapeur style and relationship to clothes is unique – a throwback to a lost world of pre-colonial elegance and decadence and at the same time it is futuristic. Members have their own code of honour, codes of professional conduct and strict notions of morality.

Having been published in 2009, we’ve seen a few more appearances from sapeurs in pop culture, such as:

  • Sapeurs in music videos for Solange’s ‘Losing You’ (2012), Maître Gims’s ‘Sapés comme jamais’, (2015) and Kendrick Lamar’s ‘All The Stars’ (2018)
  • Sapeurs featured in the 2014 film 35 Cows and a Kalashnikov

You can get a copy on Amazon, Abe Books, and Biblio.