Archive for May 29th, 2008

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The Other Cultural View

May 29, 2008

Like a lot of people, I sometimes use Wikipedia to check a quick fact (“Fargo is not the capital of North Dakota?!). I wasn’t quite satisfied, though, with the Wikipedia entry for the word “kata,” an idea that is central to Japanese culture.

Wikipedia tells us that kata are choreographed patterns of movements, primarily in the martial arts. My sense of kata is more general: that there are certain traditional “ways” of doing things, such as the way of Zen, the way of writing, the way of business, and so on.

At first glance, it seems that the cultural message is not to deviate from that which is taught. But I think it becomes something else: to understand thoroughly in order to know what alternatives exist. When you learn what is correct, you are ready to innovate.

Such a concept is not natural to us in the West, in other words, not intuitive in our culture. The great value of Eastern thought, it seems to me, is to show us what we are not and thus what we are.

Still, I can think of two places in American culture where the intense discipline of kata can be found. One is sports — so perhaps the martial arts are in fact the proper venue for kata. The other is computer programming, where knowing what is correct is the entrance to much innovation. Not surprisingly, there is such a thing as Code Kata.

Boye Lafayette De Mente has a good book on Kata: The Key to Understanding and Dealing with the Japanese.

This entry was posted by: Nancy
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When is the front door not the front door?

May 29, 2008

We don’t really write enough about architecture but that’s my fault. I have only recently began to appreciate architecture having spent the last three decades thinking of buildings in a purely utilitarian way when I thought of them at all.

This story in today’s Star Press about the Randolph County courthouse is kind of interesting if zoning laws, municipal variances, and uncivil civic discourse appeals to you at all. I like it because it’s a good example of what can happen when architecture, renovation, and public policy meet. Who knew that the symmetrically-minded architects of the neoclassical age should have been prescient enough to write “front door” on their blueprints?

OK, so technically according to this website the Randolph County courthouse was built in the Second Empire style (which sounds neoclassical to me, but like I said, I’m new to this architecture thing) and the “symmetrically-minded architect” in question was a self-taught architect (carpenter by profession) by the name of J.C. Johnson, who also designed the Adams County courthouse.

And while we’re on the subject I feel I should reprint this from their website as well:

Earlier this year, the Randolph County Commission voted to wreak havoc on the Winchester Courthouse Square Historic District by voting to tear down the 128-year-old county courthouse. If the Randolph County Courthouse falls, it will be the first loss in Indiana since the Cass County Courthouse was leveled nearly 30 years ago. Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, as well as preservationist around the state, including Chief Justice Randall Shepard, have been outspoken in their opposition to the commission’s decision.

Among those working to save the courthouse, none can trump the Winchester Bridge Club ladies for audacity. To call attention to the cause, the club members have posed—showing all their cards, so to speak, but holding strategically placed models of the courthouse—for a fundraising calendar . Even before the calendar has been published, the ladies have more than accomplished their mission of drawing local and even national attention to the courthouse.

This entry was posted by: Jim
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New ISU Partnership in Morocco

May 29, 2008


Pictured here is ISU president (and IHC board member) Dr. Lloyd W. Benjamin III (representing the university) and Miloud Chaabi who have entered a partnership for the creation of a new, private, not-for-profit university to be built in Morocco.

I learned about this project from the Nationalities Council blog.

This entry was posted by: Jim
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Update

May 29, 2008

Related to yesterday’s post on Lilly’s donating money and medicine for Asian relief efforts here’s a broader write-up in the Philanthropy News Digest. It doesn’t mention Lilly as one of the $1+ million donating companies, but it does quote Patrick Rooney from the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

This entry was posted by: Jim
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Yeondoo Jung

May 29, 2008

Not Indiana-related but still freaking awesome.

This entry was posted by: Jim
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What Does 2 billion English as a Second Language Mean for the Future of the Language

May 29, 2008

Christian Rolling, Mark Liberman, Henry Hitchings, and John Hayden all share thoughts on how globalization will affect English (or effect ‘glocal’ dialects of English) over at the Freakonomics blog. As Mark Liberman of Language Log (and the University of Pennsylvania) notes:

The obvious things to say about this are, well, obvious. But not everything that’s obvious is entirely true, and there are some surprises behind the “duh”s.

A point that makes all the commentary and some of the comments worth checking out.

This entry was posted by: Jim