A Well Rounded Mind

Anthony Bourdain: Burma farewell

Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown is a great series on CNN. All episodes are available online. This is a link to the first episode, on Myanmar. 

The show begins with a Bourdain voiceover saying:

Chances are, you haven’t been to this place. Chances are this a place you’ve never seen. Other than blurry cell phone videos, or black and white news reels from World War II. Chances are, bad things were happening in the footage you saw. Myanmar: after 50 years of nightmare, something unexpected is happening here, and it’s pretty incredible.

I give big credit to CNN for seeking out Anthony Bourdain to make this show and bring it to their network. CNN’s mission to bring us the news of the world has a limit: the degree to which we can understand those on the other side of the camera. The only way to truly appreciate and understand them, their perspective, and their lives is by digging in and experiencing what they experience. First hand experience is unlikely for most viewers, and even for the most able and adventurous, impossible to do so for every country. This show can help there.

About the show specifically: it’s a travel and food show. It’s what Anthony Bourdain does and loves. And it’s why I’m such a huge fan, because I’m the same way. Burmese food is simply delicious, if you’ve never had it. But there’s nothing simple about it. It’s so complex, and just great. Try it, and after seeing the food in this episode, I’m sure you’ll want to.

Think about the difference between a house (Germanic) and a mansion (French), or between starting something and commencing, between calling something kingly or regal. English has a huge number of close synonyms, where the major difference is the level of formality or prestige. The prestigious form is almost always the Latin one.

The names of animals and meats also reflect this phenomenon. The old story goes that, in English, the animals have Germanic names but the cooked meats have French ones. For example, swine is Germanic but pork is French, sheep is Germanic but mutton is French. Was this because the English speakers worked on the farms whereas the French speakers ate the produce? It’s certainly possible.


Oscillate is a thesis animation made by Daniel Sierra for his MFA at the School of Visual Arts in New York. While essentially an experiment in animation, Sierra says the project was an attempt “to visualize waveform patterns that evolve from the fundamental sine wave to more complex patterns, creating a mesmerizing audio-visual experience in which sight and sound work in unison.” Make sure you view it full-screen, headphones on, you know the drill. I could have watched this continue for twice as long. Hope he got an ‘A’. (thnx, neil!)

Wow. Must watch. Full screen, headphones on. It’s 4 and a half minutes of tuning out. Just do it.

(Source: hopelessfanatic)

The Man Who Pierced the Sky

When Felix Baumgartner set out to make a living by stunt jumping—from cliffs, buildings, and bridges—the young Austrian had no idea where it would take him: to a pressurized capsule nearly 24 miles above New Mexico, last October 14, preparing to free-fall farther than any man in history, and at supersonic speed. Detailing Baumgartner’s quest, William Langewiesche explores what drove him to ever greater heights.

[Via Vanity Fair, h/t The Verge]

A King With No Country

The Washingtonian’s Ariel Sabar on the former King of Rwanda and his life today.

He ruled Rwanda for just nine months before fleeing a revolt and has spent the last half century in exile, powerless to stop the violence that ripped through his country. Now 76 and living on public assistance in Virginia, Kigeli V Ndahindurwa longs to return to the throne—but only if his people want him back.

What Can Mississippi Learn From Iran?

To go along with my last post on innovative and individualized advancements in South Africa’s fight against AIDS, here is a story from July 2012 on health care in Mississippi and what they learned from Iran, of all places.

Via The New York Times