Category Archives: Culture

What misspellings reveal about cultural evolution

Helena Miton writes: Something about me must remind people of a blind 17th-century poet. My last name, Miton, is French, yet people outside of France invariably misspell it as “Milton”—as in the famed English author, John Milton, of the epic poem Paradise Lost. It is not uncommon for people to misspell an unfamiliar name—yet 99… Read More »

It is only Utopia that allows us to dream together

Jeet Heer writes: Utopia and dystopia are twins, born at the same moment from the shared ancestry of social critique. Although remembered as the first modern attempt to systematically imagine an ideal society, Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) began with a stark portrait of a Europe torn apart by war and crushing poverty, with the shocking… Read More »

Once again, America is becoming a nation of drunks

Kate Julian writes: Few things are more American than drinking heavily. But worrying about how heavily other Americans are drinking is one of them. The Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock because, the crew feared, the Pilgrims were going through the beer too quickly. The ship had been headed for the mouth of the Hudson River,… Read More »

The miracle of the commons

Michelle Nijhuis writes: In December 1968, the ecologist and biologist Garrett Hardin had an essay published in the journal Science called ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’. His proposition was simple and unsparing: humans, when left to their own devices, compete with one another for resources until the resources run out. ‘Ruin is the destination toward… Read More »

Hollywood’s anti-Black bias costs it $10 billion a year

Franklin Leonard writes: Days after a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, suffocated George Floyd and the video went viral, I watched my social media feed fill with blackout tiles and corporate publicity statements. They poured in from every industry, proclaiming solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Hollywood — where I have worked for almost… Read More »

A critically endangered bird is losing its song

Brisbane Times reports: When Michael Alfa was setting up to photograph wildlife at Woolgoolga’s sewage works near the northern NSW town of Coffs Harbour last year, the avid birdwatcher could hardly believe his senses. There, among the warbling wattlebirds hanging off a coastal banksia tree, was a lone, critically endangered regent honeyeater, distinctive in its… Read More »

Lawrence Ferlinghetti changed American culture forever

Fred Kaplan writes: Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who died on Monday at the age of 101, was one of the key figures in 20th-century American culture. He was as responsible as any single other person for the rise of the Beats, the end of obscenity laws, and, not least, the transformation of San Francisco from a backwater… Read More »

Reading, that strange and uniquely human thing

Lydia Wilson writes: The Chinese artist Xu Bing has long experimented to stunning effect with the limits of the written form. Last year I visited the Centre del Carme in Valencia, Spain, to see a retrospective of his work. One installation, Book from the Sky, featured scrolls of paper looping down from the ceiling and… Read More »

Cahokian culture spread across eastern North America 1,000 years ago in an early example of diaspora

Cahokia’s mound-building culture flourished a millennium ago near modern-day St. Louis. JByard/iStock via Getty Images Plus By Jayur Mehta, Florida State University An expansive city flourished almost a thousand years ago in the bottomlands of the Mississippi River across the water from where St. Louis, Missouri stands today. It was one of the greatest pre-Columbian… Read More »

The junk we collect

Michael Friedrich writes: No one person is responsible for the proliferation of cheap things in America. Frank W. Woolworth didn’t invent the five-and-dime store, despite the credit he gets. But he certainly perfected the sale of crap. As the story goes, Woolworth was a young clerk at a New York dry goods store when he… Read More »