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Oct 26 2013

Western culture does have something to contribute to the world!

Everyone who has read Guns, Germs, and Steel knows that one of the central themes of Diamond’s book was that New Guinea tribesmen were in no way inferior in human ability to Wall Street bankers (ooh, bad choice of an example: it’s pretty easy to argue that Wall Street bankers are some of the lowest examples of humanity.) So here’s a story of New Guinea tribesmen using Facebook. Also, it tells of a documentary that was made that switched stereotypes: instead of sending the Harvard professor to New Guinea to comment on their lives, they brought over a group of New Guinea tribespeople to gawk at us.

The company I worked for didn’t have a good reason why they could not, so we pitched it as an idea and got it commissioned.  That’s when I was brought in.  Worried that their visit might pollute their culture with modern ideas, or perhaps make them terminally envious of a world beyond their reach, I talked to some experts on Papua New Guinean tribes, and at that point exposed myself for the blinkered bigot that I was.  “How dare you,” said one anthropologist, “to imagine, without question, that a Sepik tribesman would be envious of your culture.  That’s one of the most arrogant things I’ve ever heard.  These people are supremely proud of their own culture.  They have a much more rewarding lifestyle than the majority in the West.  Mark my word, they won’t want anything you can give them.”

Oh, burn. That’ll put us in our place.

Except…we did have an advantage or two.

But the anthropologist was wrong about one thing; they did take something back: the idea of putting feathers on arrows. In the second week of their visit, I took three of the tribe to watch an archery club shoot at targets in a local community center. One of the archers was a fanatic and made his own arrows from willow, spruced with turkey feathers. The tribesmen were fixated on the feathers. “Why these feathers?” they asked. “It makes them fly straight,” said the enthusiast. And after a few practice shots, the tribesmen discovered that it certainly did. Their eyes lit up. Back home (presumably for thousands of years), they had been making arrows that were three times the size and weight of these feathered arrows, because without feathers an arrow needs to be weighty in order to fly true through the air. Just adding feathers would mean that they could carry three times the number of arrows out on hunts, and shoot three times the number of feral pigs. Of all the ideas in England, this was the one that could have an immediate and significant impact on their lives.

So what has the West done for the rest of the world lately? Well, there’s feathered arrows. And…facebook? Maybe we should stop right there.

67 comments

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  1. 1
    Sastra

    Six members of the tribe came to Britain.

    I wonder how many of these 6 travelers with the rewarding lifestyle of “rock-solid roles” were women?

  2. 2
    Al Dente

    There’s a story, possibly apocryphal, that during World War II an American pilot was shot down over a small Pacific island. He wanted the island’s natives to take him to where he could be returned to his unit. He showed them his cigarette lighter but they were unimpressed. They already knew about starting fires with flint and steel. But the natives agreed to take him to another island where there were some Australian coast watchers. They were making a dugout canoe and, to pass the time, the pilot, who was a canoer, carved himself a canoe paddle. The natives’ paddles had blades on straight sticks and were held like baseball bats in use. A canoe paddle has a palm grip on the top of the shaft which allows the paddler to use their shoulder muscles to power the stroke. The natives saw this and realized it was an improvement over the paddles they had. Henceforth they made and used canoe paddles like the pilot made.

    The moral of the story is that sometimes what you think is technically advanced may not be but something you consider common place may be advanced.

  3. 3
    ChasCPeterson

    fletching >> facebook for damn sure

  4. 4
    Inaji

    One of the archers was a fanatic and made his own arrows from willow, spruced with turkey feathers.

    Idiot. Being a fletcher doesn’t make you a fanatic, it makes you a better archer.

  5. 5
    drken

    The idea that New Guinea tribesmen wouldn’t want anything The West has to offer is just as racist as assuming they won’t want to go back. Everybody has something to offer, even WEIRD people.

  6. 6
    notsont

    New Guinea tribesmen were in no way inferior in human ability to Wall Street bankers

    I don’t know what this sentence really means. Everyone has their own skill set, and a skill set is only useful if you are in an environment where it is useful. I don’t understand where the “better” or “inferior” part comes in.

  7. 7
    jnorris

    … could carry three times the number of arrows out on hunts, and shoot three times the number of feral pigs. Of all the ideas in England, this was the one that could have an immediate and significant impact on their lives.

    Yeah! An arms race in New Guinea. Civilization on the march.

  8. 8
    Matt G

    Great, now they will be able to hunt the pigs to extinction and doom themselves.

  9. 9
    Inaji

    notsont:

    I don’t understand where the “better” or “inferior” part comes in.

    Western imperialism.

  10. 10
    Koshka

    Al Dente,
    I suspect the paddle story is simply myth. I would suggest you could put a novice in a canoe with a paddle with no palm grip and within 15 minutes the person would have their hand on the top of the shaft where a pal grip would be.
    I was in PNG about 3 years ago and the highlanders I met certainly had fletched arrows. I understand he would not be of the same tribe but I feel like the story is implying the PNG had never heard of fetching until now.
    I find this and the paddle story saying that not only is our high tech great but we even do the bread and butter stuff better.

    Sastra #1

    Yes. Gotta love those rock solid roles.

  11. 11
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    Being a fletcher doesn’t make you a fanatic, it makes you a better archer.

    …but wanting to be a better archer so much that you make your own arrows when there is no immediate benefit from it does make you a fanatic or something close to one.
    An anthropologist named Nigel Barley brought some tribesmen- they were all men, I think- to London about thirty years ago. They were completely unable to understand why anyone wanted to live a life like that. They could quite understand why people slumped down in front of TVs when they got home from work- they were too tired to do anything else.

  12. 12
    Inaji

    scmess:

    …but wanting to be a better archer so much that you make your own arrows when there is no immediate benefit from it does make you a fanatic or something close to one.

    And how would you know of the benefit or lack of one?

  13. 13
    tomfrog

    a documentary that was made that switched stereotypes: instead of sending the Harvard professor to New Guinea to comment on their lives, they brought over a group of New Guinea tribespeople to gawk at us

    A same documentary was made some years ago about two tribesmen from Papoua New Guinea exploring France. Sadly for a lot of people here, it is in French. The doc is awesome, if you can understand it.
    First part here:
    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6mz1f_l-exploration-inversee-partie-1_travel

    If anyone’s aware of a subtitled version that would be great as I think many people here would enjoy it.

  14. 14
    Bronze Dog

    One thing about the assertion that a culture is too proud of their ways to accept anything else: Let them speak for themselves. While I can understand wanting to preserve cultures, we have to accept that change will happen. And what about individuals? Not everyone is perfectly happy with the culture of their birth and they’re open to new ideas. Those people shouldn’t be expected to conform just because we want to preserve their culture’s quaintness.

  15. 15
    left0ver1under

    I teach English in Taiwan, and have taught elsewhere. There’s a fine line between wanting to be honest and encourage their curiosity, but not being guilty of cultural imperialism or telling them what to think.

    October is a prime example. It’s almost “hallowe’en” and most ESL schools expect foreigners to “teach” the kids about a tradition that isn’t theirs. It’s not something I want to do but am expected to. On the other hand, Moon Festival is in October in certain countries. It’s similar to and around the same time as thanksgiving (Canadian or American) which lets kids compare and contrast without anyone saying one is “better”.

  16. 16
    pyramus

    Westerners’ assumption that their culture is superior in every way to every other is of course the height of arrogance, but assuming that another culture couldn’t possibly gain anything of value from ours is not only arrogant but patronizing. Surely one of the benefits of a wide-open and increasingly interconnected world is that every culture and every individual gets to say, yes, our culture has a lot going for it, but let’s borrow this element or that, because it seems like an improvement.

    Two things I think other people might like to have from the West are greater freedom for sexual minorities of every stripe and advanced medicine. Whatever the overall excellence of New Guinean society, they treat gay people very badly, with the option of imprisoning them for more than a decade simply for being gay, and their health care is not what we North Americans might call top-drawer.

  17. 17
    auz

    I wonder how many of these 6 travelers with the rewarding lifestyle of “rock-solid roles” were women?

    Two of them. The documentary is called “Return of the Tribe”. Here’s a pic of all of them and Donal MacIntyre.

  18. 18
    The Mellow Monkey

    sc_etc @ 11

    …but wanting to be a better archer so much that you make your own arrows when there is no immediate benefit from it does make you a fanatic or something close to one.

    Eh? It just means you’re interested. My brother began fletching around the same time he first picked up a bow. He mastered making his tools before he mastered using them. It helped him understand the principles better. He experimented, learned what worked best and it made him a better archer as a result.

    There is a benefit there. Understanding how something works is a benefit. It can allow you to make adjustments, to know what’s likely to happen before it does, and can save you a lot of money.

    If someone enjoys baking bread and learns how to culture sourdough starter, that’s not fanaticism. It’s an extension of an existing interest in a way that will only improve their skill. Same thing with archery.

  19. 19
    regcheeseman

    I know I’m getting a bit grey around the beard and fuzzy in the head, but I seem to remember a documentary like this on the BBC four or five years ago.

  20. 20
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    Re fanaticism

    Maybe this is a Britishism, though I could have sworn I’d seen non-Brits use it thus. “Fanatic” in this context merely means to be more zealous than the usual. There’s no slur implied. In this sense, it’s the origin of “fan” for a follower of a sports team, rock group, activity, etc.

  21. 21
    haitied

    I really admire your insistence that learning fletching techniques can make one a better archer Caine, I had a similar experience lately. I used to dabble in Hacky Sack in my youth, but upon working a new job and befriending some Cambodian people I’ve really taken to a foot game indigenous to Asia where a shuttlecock is used instead. It’s like a missile instead of a round clumsy, often rotating, ballistic object. The ones we used were kind of brittle and had the feathers bent at the bottom, decreasing their longevity. I experimented with new designs keeping the feathers straight at the bottom to increase the life span of the toy. Several incarnations of the toy has led to one that is slightly heavier but much more durable, and all the practice I’ve had to do to try to break the models I’ve made has led me to be a better player and understand the dynamics of the game more.

  22. 22
    chigau (違う)

    butbutbut
    What about The Prime Directive???

  23. 23
    jimbaerg

    I think there is such a thing as a superior culture & the chief trait of such a culture is the attitude that ‘those foreigners just might know something worth learning’.

    Of course it’s possible to push the “Dogma of Otherness” to harmful extremes, like ‘all cultures *must* be considered equally valuable’ or ‘our own culture is vile with no value for anyone’. BTW Google ‘Dogma of Otherness’ & read the top few hits.

  24. 24
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Just throwing this out there: Fanatic = fan. See also nerd, geek, expert.

  25. 25
    weatherwax

    #16 pyramus: “Westerners’ assumption that their culture is superior in every way to every other is of course the height of arrogance”

    As much as I agree, my own experience is that it’s a belief common to most cultures.

  26. 26
    otranreg

    Pft, bows, feathers. What, was it difficult to bring these people to a hunt with shotguns?

  27. 27
    Trebuchet

    There’s also a certain strain of “Western Culture” that has decided that all native or non-Western cultures are superior to Western (European) culture. That leads to stuff like Traditional Chinese Medicine being thought superior to actual medicine. It’s actually about as patriarchal as the other (probably still more common) kind.

  28. 28
    chigau (違う)

    Because shotguns are a thing that everyone is familiar with and can build for themselves.

  29. 29
    schism

    Trebuchet #27

    There’s also a certain strain of “Western Culture” that has decided that all native or non-Western cultures are superior to Western (European) culture. That leads to stuff like Traditional Chinese Medicine being thought superior to actual medicine.

    It also leads to weeaboos and no one wants that.

  30. 30
    raven

    New Guinea tribesmen were in no way inferior in human ability to Wall Street bankers

    ????

    Could they cause a giant global financial crisis leading to a Great Recession, while being paid millions of dollars and being totally oblivious to what is happening around them?

    Now that is a rare talent. Walking weapons of mass financial destruction.

    I’d like to see a documentary where the pride of Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Bear Sterns, and Washington Mutual survive for a year as subsistence agriculturists and hunter gatherers in New Guinea.

  31. 31
    kittehserf

    Trivia on fletching, seen on an ep of Time Team the other night: medieval archers used two goose feathers and one cock feather on their arrows. The cock feather needed to be facing down, otherwise the arrow would go all over the place. That’s the origin of the term cock-up.

  32. 32
    cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming)

    A [similar} documentary was made some years ago about two tribesmen from Papoua New Guinea exploring France. Sadly for a lot of people here, it is in French. The doc is awesome, if you can understand it.

    My French is incredibly rusty. (Although now kid #1 is studying the same, I’m being reintroduced. Irregular verbs, I hate you.)

    However, I can muster enough neige, etc., to understand what’s going on here.

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x58hd1_l-exploration-inversee-partie-4_travel&start=508

  33. 33
    chigau (違う)

    raven #30

    I’d like to see a documentary where the pride of Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Bear Sterns, and Washington Mutual survive for a year as subsistence agriculturists and hunter gatherers in New Guinea.

    oohmy YES!
    I settle for 3 weeks.

  34. 34
    Ysanne

    Yes to Trebuchet in #27. I guess this guy’s work is also just imperialistic BS that people in PNG don’t want — I mean, a few women more or less dying in childbirth in a place where people still seriously believe in witchcraft, who’d give a flying fuck, right?
    Also I’d like to point out that inferior Western invention called an “aircraft” — while you can’t really build one your backyard, it was certainly helpful in transporting said tribesmen (tribespeople?) to that useless Western place.

  35. 35
    dongiovanni (Now onto Wagner)

    I happen to like this culture… but then, I’m privileged.

  36. 36
    Muz

    Oh god, the culture warriors have arrived.
    Prepare to watch points be missed.

    Anyway, it’s funny where people draw the line on culture. You’ll get people saying ‘our culture’ referring broadly to the West, but Americans often carry that aire that they do Western culture better than everyone else in the West. So people look at you funny when you suggest that whatever latest imported top down psychology, management, education or business fad might not work all that well in a given place. “How could it not? Over here we’ve got society and humanity right. You just don’t realise it yet”

  37. 37
    ChasCPeterson

    Fanatic = fan. See also nerd, geek, expert.

    no, sorry that’s 5 different things. Not =.

    The cock feather needed to be facing down, otherwise the arrow would go all over the place. That’s the origin of the term cock-up.

    uh huh. Because why? I’m skeptical.

  38. 38
    Trebuchet

    @29: You made me look up “weeaboo”! My brain hurts.

    @37: My recollection from briefly taking an archery class 40 years ago is that one feather is a different color to indicate which way the arrow should go on the bow. The feathers are oriented to the nock and if you do it wrong one feather will be directly toward the bow and the arrow will get deflected.

  39. 39
    ChasCPeterson

    one feather is a different color to indicate which way the arrow should go on the bow. The feathers are oriented to the nock

    aha.
    this makes sense.
    But why not make the odd feather the one that goes to the outside? Up rather than down is not the way I’d do it.

  40. 40
    Menyambal

    The odd feather IS the one that goes to the outside. There’s usually three feathers, arranged 120 degrees apart. One is perpendicular to the nock, so if it is aligned against the body of the bow, the hard base of the feather is going to go clunk. You put that feather outward, horizontal, not up or down.

    I have heard it called the cock feather, but never heard the cockup thing. I can imagine a longbow loading technique where that could be said, but not an actual draw on any standard bow.

  41. 41
  42. 42
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    …but wanting to be a better archer so much that you make your own arrows when there is no immediate benefit from it does make you a fanatic or something close to one.

    And how would you know of the benefit or lack of one?

    I said “immediate benefit”, actually, 12. See below.

    Eh? It just means you’re interested. My brother began fletching around the same time he first picked up a bow. He mastered making his tools before he mastered using them. It helped him understand the principles better. He experimented, learned what worked best and it made him a better archer as a result.

    It means your brother was very jnterested in archery in all its aspects, @18, so interested that he spent a lot of time and effort on them. What term would you use for someone so dedicated to an interest?
    Even when archery was so important in warfare that kings of England passed laws requiring all men to spend several hours a day practising archery and professional archers were well-paid, archers did not usually make their own bows or fletch their own arrows. Bow-making and fletching- which also included arrow-making- were separate jobs. Pretty important and wide-spread jobs too- as common surnames show.

  43. 43
    neleabels

    I consider symphonic music as one of the greatest achievements of western culture.

  44. 44
    dongiovanni (Now onto Wagner)

    Yes… provided that you add opera and a good chunk of the choral canon to the list.

  45. 45
    opposablethumbs

    Just curiosity – considering the ear has to “learn” to perceive unfamiliar scales, does anyone happen to know of any info on some initial opinions of people from different cultures on western music?

  46. 46
    CobaltSky

    #37 ChasCPeterson

    Fanatic does indeed equal fan. That is where the word comes from. In Britain the word fanatic is commonly used in news reporting and doesn’t have the negative connotations that seem to have upset some commenters here. I suppose it depends what you are a fan of that determines if “fanatic” is a bad thing to be. “Religious fanatic” is generally bad. A “Football fanatic” may be a hooligan. A “Railway fanatic” might be nerdy. A “fitness fanatic” is very healthy. Etc.

  47. 47
    David Marjanović

    Facebook would be a pretty great idea if it weren’t for profit.

    I don’t know what this sentence really means. Everyone has their own skill set, and a skill set is only useful if you are in an environment where it is useful. I don’t understand where the “better” or “inferior” part comes in.

    The point is that, when you take averages of skill sets of larger populations, you end up with pretty much the same everywhere.

    Great, now they will be able to hunt the pigs to extinction and doom themselves.

    Not likely. They don’t depend on the pigs, and feral pigs are all over the entire island.

    I was in PNG about 3 years ago and the highlanders I met certainly had fletched arrows. I understand he would not be of the same tribe but I feel like the story is implying the PNG had never heard of fetching until now.

    Indeed the Sepik river is not in the highlands; and the highlanders aren’t hunter-gatherers, they’ve been doing agriculture for ten thousand years now. PNG is a very heterogeneous place, with 700 languages in several quite different language families.

  48. 48
    Al Dente

    David Marjanović @47

    PNG is a very heterogeneous place, with 700 languages in several quite different language families.

    I was looking at a Trans-New Guinea language families map and was struck that each color on the map is a different language family, not a different language.

  49. 49
    NelC

    Koshka@10, as I recall, Papua New Guinea is a mountainous land with the interior overgrown with rainforest, leading to great isolation between tribes. It seems quite possible that some tribes can have fletched arrows and a tribe not far away on the map, but separated by extreme geography, to be ignorant of them.

  50. 50
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Kittehserf:

    That’s the origin of the term cock-up.

    There is “scant evidence” to support that or various other posited origins for the phrase. Given the existence of the synonymous phrase “balls-up” my WHAG is that both refer to genitalia.

    Interestingly, Italian similarly has cazzata, which derives from cazzo.

  51. 51
    otranreg

    @28 chigau

    “Because shotguns are a thing that everyone is familiar with and can build for themselves.”

    But wasn’t the whole point of the ‘experiment’ to impress those people, not provide them with practical advice?

  52. 52
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    But wasn’t the whole point of the ‘experiment’ to impress those people

    No.

    From the article linked in the OP:

    The previous year, the television company I worked for had made the typical documentary where an adventurous Western presenter goes out to visit a tribe in a remote part of the world to see how they live. While there, the crew had been approached by their hosts, the Insect Tribe, to see if it would be possible for the reverse journey to take place – for members of the tribe to go on an adventure to a remote part of the world to examine an equally strange culture – ours. “After all,” they had said, “your queen is our queen, our chief. Why shouldn’t we come to visit her territory?”

    The “experiment” involved some people from one culture visiting another culture.

  53. 53
    Warren Senders

    45:

    Just curiosity – considering the ear has to “learn” to perceive unfamiliar scales, does anyone happen to know of any info on some initial opinions of people from different cultures on western music?

    This is a staple component of introductory ethnomusicology courses. B.R. Deodhar wrote at length about his introduction to Western music in his article on the Bombay-based Western classical pedagogue Giovanni Scrinzi. Uday Shankar was taken to hear Mozart by Leonard Bernstein, and didn’t like it at all, saying “these are baby rhythms! Baby melodies!” On the other hand a moderately famous sitarist told me that he was particularly fond of someone he’d heard on the radio named “Kennyji.”

    Steven Feld writes about playing Charlie Parker for New Guinea tribesmen in his “Sound and Sentiment.” This is fascinating, because their entire culture is based on their relationships with the forest birds whose calls surround them 24/7. The fact that Parker was named “Bird” triggers all kinds of unexpected associations for these tribespeople.

    There is a story of an anthropologist studying Inuit culture who played a Beethoven symphony for one of the tribal elders, who (we’re told) listened to the whole thing, then said, “Many many more notes, but not any better music.”

    Tony Seeger’s book on the Amazonian Suya tribe includes some lovely stories of how he took his banjo along and shared American folk songs with them.

    There is less variety in scales than you might think, the overtone series’ influence on musical culture and melodic imagination being what it is.

  54. 54
    mnb0

    @45 Opposable thumbs: I happen to be befriended with an Aucan colleague. Western pop music has influenced most musical cultures, but according to her this is typical Aucan music:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uORwrKla170

    I made her listen to Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Her first reaction: nice, but I don’t understand what’s it about.

  55. 55
    neverjaunty

    Yes, two of the PNG visitors were women. From auz’s link @17:

    Back in Wales, the tribesmen discuss polygamy over dinner. Steven explains that he has three wives: the first, Delma, to raise the children, and the other two to carry out domestic duties. How does Delma feel having to share her man with two other ladies? “I feel very happy because I just look after my kids,” she explains. “The other two wives have to look for food and cook for me.”

    It’s wonderful that this was handled as a cultural visit between different peoples rather than tourism or “let’s go see the exotics in their natural habitat!” Not so good that the anthropologists cited above seem to have bought the whole Pristine Noble Savage bullshit, or are willfully blinkered about how cultural exchange doesn’t always mean everybody takes away only the best of either side.

    Muz @36, one of the other things Americans didn’t invent/do better than everyone else is sneering about how we’re the true locus of Western culture. We don’t even have a government committee to keep the language pure.

  56. 56
    Menyambal

    I dimly recall a story about a Russian playing one of his folk tunes for some tribespeople on New Guinea. They liked it, learned it and played it on their instruments. A few years later, another Russian recognized the tune, and was assured it was theit traditional, ancestral song.

  57. 57
    rodriguez

    @neverjaunty 55

    We don’t even have a government committee to keep the language pure.

    ouch, yes, true dat.

  58. 58
    opposablethumbs

    Interesting, and absolutely what you would expect I guess – just as less familiar music does not necessarily seem to western ears to resolve or non-western melody lines to go where we might consciously or unconsciously expect them to, there’s no reason to assume that what sounds exciting or beautiful or “right” to western-accustomed ears will necessarily sound interesting or meaningful to people whose ears are used to a completely different tradition. Thank you for the examples; it’s relatively easy to find western reactions to non-western music, but I hadn’t seen much comment (written in any language I can read, I mean) from the non-western viewpoint (I’m not knowledgeable at all, just curious).

  59. 59
    lpetrich

    I think that “Western culture”, or at least Western cultures and subcultures, have made some important contributions to humanity. Science and technology far in advance of what the rest of humanity had achieved. I can’t say that the Abrahamic religions are that great, however, and coexisting in large-scale societies continues to be a problem.

    Those New Guinea tribesmen had been mercifully free from some of the side effects of large-scale societies, but they have been catching up with us in some ways.

  60. 60
    clarewilkinson

    Funny that in all these comments about these nice “tribal people” discovering fletched arrows, monogamy, and television everyone blew past the throwaway line in the article about how they use Facebook to share mining company press releases. Now why would they do that? Well, because environmental activism, familiarity with legal and corporate entities, world courts, etc. etc. etc. is for New Guineans (as it is for many indigenous peoples) pretty much mandatory if the “wonders” of massive and untrammelled environmental destruction are to be faced.

  61. 61
    feralboy12

    What about The Prime Directive???

    You think we should turn the ship’s weapons on their god? Or just have the captain make out with some of their women? I suppose we could give them a book about Chicago gangs in the 1930′s and see what happens. If it takes, we could go back later and take a piece of the action.
    But whatever we do, we must never interfere with another culture’s development.

  62. 62
    inquisitiveraven

    But why not make the odd feather the one that goes to the outside? Up rather than down is not the way I’d do it.

    As noted in comment #40, it is. I think the up-down orientation refers to when you load the bow, not when you draw it. Even then, the cock feather pointing up is actually the correct orientation.When I load my considerably shorter than six foot recurve bow, I hold it horizontally, place the nock on the string and rest the arrow on the bow with the cock feather pointing up. That way when I raise the bow to the draw position, the cock feather is on the outside where it won’t bang into the bow on release.

    With a longbow, I expect that’s you’d tilt it, but it’s too long to conveniently hold horizontally. Assuming that your bow hand is holding the bow in the right place to draw it, you would then rest the arrow above your bow hand when nocking it. The cock feather wouldn’t be pointing straight up, but it would still be above the string and the other feathers below it.

  63. 63
    katybe

    Re the spin-off discussion on music, I went to a public lecture last week on 17th century Mughal art and society, and this came up in the Q&A session. The British ambassador who followed the Emperor’s traveling court gave some musical instruments as gifts from King James, so someone asked how well different music was received. It turns out that most of the court ended up covering their ears for the performance, and sounds like the ambassador at least wanted to do the same for the concerts in his own honour!

  64. 64
    Seize

    In talking to other people about their cultures, breaking out of the imperialist hierarchy was impossible until I experienced this interaction:

    A French woman who had spent her life studying the Moche culture of ancient Andean America. (She would say the muchic culture, since in French, “moche” means ugly, give or take an accent.) The Moche and some of their forbears made tremendously gorgeous pottery and then dashed it against rocks and gorgeous stonework at yearly ceremonies. I had thought the whole idea of something being made to be discarded was sort of Zen, until a fellow American student commented,

    “So you study people that the made these things just to throw them away?”

    And the brilliant woman grabbed his candy bar wrapper and said, “I might study you.”

  65. 65
    Holms

    OP
    So what has the West done for the rest of the world lately? Well, there’s feathered arrows. And…facebook? Maybe we should stop right there.

    While I can kind of see what you are aiming for, this approach also reeks of that new-agey self-effacing bullshit that places ‘Western’ influences as the root of all evil or similar, despite living within it and taking the lifestyle completely for granted. It’s an approach that probably has good intentions at heart – an attempt not to be an entitled / patronising arsehole regarding other cultures – but overshoots and comes off as a sort of grovelling, ‘sorry-for-being-western’ drivel.

    #4
    Idiot. Being a fletcher doesn’t make you a fanatic, it makes you a better archer.

    #18
    Eh? It just means you’re interested. My brother began fletching around the same time he first picked up a bow. He mastered making his tools before he mastered using them. It helped him understand the principles better. He experimented, learned what worked best and it made him a better archer as a result.

    To a non-archer, this sounds a lot like being an archery fanatic to me. Much like my home built reflector telescope probably makes me an astonomy fanatic to someone that does not share that interest.

    In this context, fanatic means something along the lines of ‘keenly interested in X’, but you are interpreting it as if it was meant more in the ‘religious zealot’ sense. There is no need to for defensiveness, let alone insults.

    #21
    Several incarnations of the toy has led to one that is slightly heavier but much more durable, and all the practice I’ve had to do to try to break the models I’ve made has led me to be a better player and understand the dynamics of the game more.

    OMG fanatic!

    #37
    no, sorry that’s 5 different things. Not =

    No one is suggesting that they always have the same meaning as one another in every context. Rather, they can be used to have the same meaning in the right context.

  66. 66
    Anri

    …antibiotics?

    I dunno.

  67. 67
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    World English Dictionary

    fanatic (fəˈnætɪk)

    — n

    1.

    a person whose enthusiasm or zeal for something is extreme or beyond normal limits

    2.

    informal: a person devoted to a particular hobby or pastime; fan: a jazz fanatic

    There. Clearly he was using the word in sense 2. No negative connotations whatsoever.

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