Culture

Beauty in Age & Street Signs

2017 Pirelli Calendar: The calendar, a collector’s item that is produced annually and delivered free to a select group of high-powered clients and members of the fashion elite, is the second in the company’s history to subvert its decades-long tradition of displaying scantily clad models in campily suggestive poses.

  • For 2017, the calendar stepped up the game by concentrating more pointedly on age, and in the process flouting fashion’s last taboo. Evidently the bias against age, long endemic to Hollywood and the fashion runways, no longer applies to style marketing campaigns.
  • Helen Mirren peers imperiously from inside a high collar that lends her an aura of majesty. Nicole Kidman confronts the camera, her features slightly furrowed, her muscular arms hugging the back of a chair. Charlotte Rampling does each of those A-list stars one better, her pale skin and famously hooded eyes devoid of discernible makeup.

Julianne Moore. Credit: Peter Lindbergh

I LOVE NEW YORK: The bright placards were dreamed up and placed there by the state to promote tourism, each brandishing New York’s cheerful and familiar credo: “I Love N.Y.” But there is one problem: The federal government says the signs are illegal. The signs are out of compliance with signage rules because they are so big and crammed with words and information that they are dangerous distractions to drivers.

New York State Thruway sign. Credit: Mike Groll, AP

Curated by CLAI

Salvation in General Tso & Beer

WORLD’S HEALTHIEST CUISINE: It turns out that countries with big immigrant populations tend to have the greatest diversity—places like the U.S. and Australia, for example. These countries have the greatest number of ingredients and the biggest variation between dishes, too.

  • For example, about half the dishes from the Southeast Asian country of Laos have more than 15 ingredients, whereas half the dishes from Russia have fewer than seven. So the cuisine in Laos is significantly more complex than Russian cuisine.
  • Countries with large numbers of ingredients on offer tend to have the most complex dishes. Exceptions: Chinese and Indian cuisine both have relatively few ingredients to choose from, but these are used in relatively complex dishes. Perhaps, these countries had or have good chefs that could cook more complex foods with the available ingredients or the cuisine from older cultures in these countries is more complex because it has had longer to evolve.

Peng Chuang-kuei, creator of General Tso’s Chicken (WAPO)

GENERAL TSO: Peng Chang-kuei, a vaunted Hunanese chef was widely credited as the creator of General Tso’s chicken, a dish that evolved into the deep-fried, sticky and unabashedly inauthentic staple of the American Chinese take-out joint.

  • Mr. Peng said that he devised the recipe for a banquet in the 1950s. He named it in honor of Zuo Zongtang, a celebrated Hunanese general of the 19th century who helped crush the Taiping Rebellion, an uprising that cost tens of millions of lives.
  • In America, General Tso, like Colonel Sanders, is known for chicken, not war. In China, he is known for war, not chicken.
  • Mr. Peng’s original recipe called for chicken with bones and skin. The chicken was not fried, and it was served sans the piquantly sweet sauce, relying instead on garlic and soy sauce for flavor. It did have chilies, but no broccoli.

NORCIA BEER: After the Oct. 30 quake, one of the few things left standing at the monastery was a small brewery, where for the past four years the monks have been making Nursia, a beer named for Norcia’s ancient Latin appellation. Their brew may now be the salvation — symbolically, at least — not only of the monks’ sanctuary, but also of Norcia itself.

Curated by CLAI

Maps of USA: Heartland, Mega Cities, & Corporal Punishment

AMERICA’S HEARTLANDDo big cities belong in the heartland? (If not, choose a map with “holes” in it.) Does the heartland rigidly follow state lines? Does it venture south into Texas, or east into Pennsylvania? (NYTIMES)

MEGA REGIONSMesmerizing commute maps reveal we all live in mega regions and not cities. (Wired)

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT STATES 22 states still allow corporal punishment in school: 15 expressly permit it while another 7 do not prohibit it. Corporal punishment is “the intentional infliction of pain or discomfort and/or the use of physical force upon a student with the intention of causing the student to experience bodily pain so as to correct or punish the student’s behavior.” In the 2013-2014 school year, more than 110,000 students were physically punished. (NPR)

us-states-with-corporal-punishment-in-schools

Curated by CLAI

Catering to American Tastes and Travel

8 FLAVORS OF AMERICAN CUISINE: Based on a list of common flavors from historical cookbooks mentioned in American books from 1796 to 2000, eight popular and enduring flavors emerged: black pepper, vanilla, curry powder, chili powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG and Sriracha.

  • Vanilla is here thanks to a 12-year-old slave who figured out a botanical secret no one else knew.
  • Chili powder spread across the country because of entrepreneurial Texan-Mexican women who fed soldiers and tourists — and a clever German immigrant who was looking for a culinary shortcut.
  • Sriracha has seen a meteoric rise in popularity since its debut in 1980. Sales of bottled Sriracha exceeded $60 million in 2014. A Vietnamese refugee combined elements of French and Thai cuisine, using peppers grown on a farm north of Los Angeles to make a hot sauce produced entirely in Southern California.

Japanese Chemist Dr. Kikunae Ikeda is credited with discovering MSG. Peter Van Hyning

AMERICAN TOURISTS: Don’t compliment an American’s girth. Answer their children’s questions. Fill your museum tour with fun facts. Because American tourists tend to want a personal connection to the guide, and expect the tour to be interactive and entertaining, foreign guides need special training.

  • GUYANA: some rural guides would give overweight Americans a thumbs-up and say things like, “Ah, packing it on — good deal!” as a compliment, equating an ample waistline with abundant wealth. Americans seem to say “thank you” for everything guides do, a custom that make the local people feel indebted to them.
  • UGANDA: Americans often want to become friends with their guides, and so they will ask questions about the guides’ families, education and homes to get to know them better. In Uganda, trainees sometimes ask, “Why is this person I don’t even know asking me so many personal questions?”
  • ITALY: The guide might need to approach the American tourist not so much as a valued family member but as a less cultured second cousin. It’s easy for a guide in Italy to reference a painter like Bellini or an architect like Borromini. Not so if the clients are Americans, whose knowledge of the Italian masters might stop at Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. While Italians prefer an “academic” tour, Americans want a tour that is “not only informative but also entertaining, filled with stories and fun facts.”

Curated by CLAI

3 Ways to Change the Way We Die, Travel, and Marry

Curated by CLAI

FITBIT FOR CRUISES: Carnival has developed Fitbit-style bracelets that link to personal information, and applied them to cruises. The result: Millions of passengers on Carnival ships will soon be using a similar but more advanced system that allows travelers to do everything from plan vacations to open stateroom doors to order poolside cocktails.

  • Cruisers will be able to pay for food, drinks and merchandise simply by having their credit card-connected Ocean Medallion in their pocket.
  • Carnival’s disks, each laser-etched with the guest’s name, will also power a new, shipwide gambling platform.

WEDDING TECHFor many couples, wedding planning is a frustrating monthslong project that requires sifting through masses of details and costs on venues, services and products. The field is crowded with small, local businesses that are predominantly low tech and survive on word-of-mouth recommendations. However, the overall industry is large, with $58 billion in revenue, with an average $26,500 per wedding.

  • Lover.ly has been able to build a database of 65,000 vendors. A virtual wedding planners assembles a list of vendors based on a couple’s criteria, and the couples receive it within 48 hours of purchasing a service. Couples are charged from $10 to $399, and vendors $10 per client lead. Lover.ly is also beta testing its chatbot.
  • Another app, LadyMarry developed its own artificial intelligence bot to streamline communications between the company, vendors and couples. LadyMarry had been used to plan 90,000 weddings. It is free for couples; the company charges vendors 15-45%, depending on the location and service.
  • Carats & Cake partnered with the payment platform Stripe to offer online invoicing and bill paying. It has 20,000 member businesses; about 300,000 couples used the site in 2016.

PALLIATIVE CARE: In a life changing event like a permanent disability, life is not extra difficult now, but only uniquely difficult, as all lives are. Suffering is simply a “variation on a theme we all deal with — to be human is really hard.” Don’t we all treat suffering as a disruption to existence, instead of an inevitable part of it? what would happen if you could “reincorporate your version of reality, of normalcy, to accommodate suffering.”

  • We call ancient sculptures with missing limbs art: monumental, beautiful and important, but we’d never seen them whole. Medicine didn’t think about bodies this way. Embedded in words like “disability” and “rehabilitation” was a less generous view: “There was an aberrant moment in your life and, with some help, you could get back to what you were, or approximate it.” So, instead of regarding injuries as something to get over, try to get into them, to see life as its own novel challenge, like traveling through a country whose language you don’t speak.
  • All palliative-care departments and home-hospice agencies believe patients’ wishes should be honored, but Zen Hospice’s small size allows it to “actualize” these ideals more fully. Sharpen the essential set of questions: What is a good death? How do you judge? In the end, what matters?