Go, drink your wine with a joyful heart…

…for God has already approved what you do.

(Ecc 9:7)

I was always bothered by the fact, that I had no traditional knowledge passed over by the region I come from in Germany. I have no local enherited  lucullan knowledge centering arround traditional foods and drinks from there. If you’re from Bavaria, you know how to brew beer, if you’re from Mosel, Baden or Pfalz, you know how to grow and make wine. My region Ostfriesland is only famous for its tea tradition. But it involves rather tea drinking, than tea production and therefore it doesn’t really count.

 

Das große Los

About a year ago, I read a book by Meike Winnemuth called “Das große Los” (“The great fortune”). In this book, the German journalist wrote about her trip around the world to see 12 cities in 12 months. She founded this adventure with a 500.000 Euro prize, she won at “Who wants to be a millionaire” on German television. Her trip to Sydney, Buenos Aires, Mumbai, Shanghai, Honolulu, San Francisco, London, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Tel Aviv, Addis Abeba, Havana and Hamburg was documented on her blog, which enabled her to also interacted with the readers. Some send her tips, like a favorite bakery, others asked her to meet with someone they know in a city, she was about to travel to. Sometimes she ended up in on a dinner table with 10 strangers and after the meal, some wine and nice conversations, she found new friends. By traveling the world and by visiting unexpected and spontaneous sights and people, Meike Winnemuth experienced exiting things. In different parts of the blog and the book she reflected, that it is a bummer, how seldom we go in for adventures and discover new ground.  Our daily routine and grind hold us in a rhythm, where it is hard to break out. In the end Winnemuth concludes, that she wants to keep this curious, interested and adventurous attitude in trying out new things, meeting people and interacting with others; also after the end of her trip.

After reading the book, I could relate to Winnemuths thoughts and decided, that I also wanted to try out something new. I decided to step on new ground and learn something new. I yearned to study, but not for my job. I wanted to search for a topic that I I couldn’t directly benefit from professionally. Then I was reminded of my lack of traditional lucullan knowledge.

This is why I enrolled for a traditional sommelier qualification at the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. The past year I prepared for the exams and stepped on new ground: How is wine made? What factors influence the wine? Which white and red grape varieties are important and where do they grow? I learned about sparkling wines, sweet wines and fortified wines, spirit and liquors. I studied wine labels on the bottles and learned what they say about the wine. Food and wine pairing was also on the list…

It was a lot. I had no previous practical knowledge whatsoever, only the books I read in preparation and it was completely new ground. I have always liked wines, but I was only able to classify them into “yummy” and “not so yummy.” This past week I attended the final class WSET Level 2 Award in Wines and Spirits. I sat in class with 5 others, all experienced wine connoisseurs who work in gastronomy and wine shops. It was a new experience. In other learning surrounding I always feel comfortable. I know the theology and church world by heart. In the new wine context I was the stranger. I prepared for the course and worked through the material, they send us beforehand, but in the praxis I was lost.

We tasted wine and I didn’t know how to professionally open Champagne, to decant or how to swirl a wine glass. My teacher had 5 days to turn me into a Sommelier and to prepare me for the final test.

(mehr …)

Farmville, guinea pigs and coffee

Why were some civilization able to create a hegemony status for themselves and why did others fail and were only able to play a subordinate role?

This and other questions are discussed in the book “Guns Germs and Steel – The Fates of Human Societies“ by Pulitzer prize winner Jared Diamonds. One of the traces, which lead to an answer, is Papua New Guinea.

PNG_1952_£1_fisherman_specimen_stamp

Diamond starts by enfolding a conversation he had about the hegemony of Eurasian civilizations with Yali, a politician from New Guinea. Talking about “cargo”, a term Yali uses for inventions and technology, Yali asks:

 „Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo

 and brought it to New Guinea,

but we black people had little cargo of our own?“ (p. 14)

In the following chapters Diamond describes his answer to the question with his theory of geographic, climatic and environmental determinism. By doing so, he refuses previous theories, which for example fostered the idea of races, or superiority due to genetic or intellectual reasons.

  (mehr …)

Dirty Dozen

We are used to polls and votes, where we are asked to tell our favorite books, favorite Italian restaurant in town, favorite politician. Our opinion and experience seems to be interesting to others. Some apps and channels on social media like foursquare, qype or yelp are mainly designed to satisfy our curiosity, what others like and also, the nice side effect, that we are asked about our own opinion.

We feel a certain pressure to check of some of those highly recommended things of our lists. Either the good Italian restaurant, that was recommended to us on foursquare, we still want to go to and eat the (quote) “best pizza in the world” or the impressive theatre production in the local theatre , we read about in the newspaper.

There is even a market of books, that satisfies our hunger for new lists. There is a publishing house only for lists, that provide info on new things you wanna tick of, before you bite the dust. On http://www.1001beforeyoudie.com you can get new inspirations on the newest collections of expectations: 1001 movies, 1001 albums, 1001 books, 1001 children’s cooks, 1001 video games, 1001 comics, 1001 classical, 1001 ideas and 1001 guitars that want to be watched, played, read, listened to, before you die.
These endeavors are very individual: “before YOU die.” It is about the individual completion of a personal life performance and achievement.

This week I read “12 books that changed the world. How words and wisdom have shaped our lives” by Melvyn Bragg. The author lives up to that promise.

Bragg lists 12 books, which – in his opinion – changed the world:
• Principia Mathematica (1687) — Isaac Newton
• Married Love (1918) — Marie Stopes
• Magna Carta (1215)
• Book of Rules of Association Football (1863)
• On the Origin of Species (1859) — Charles Darwin
• On the Abolition of the Slave Trade (1789) — William Wilberforce in Parliament, immediately printed in several versions
• A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) — Mary Wollstonecraft
• Experimental Researches in Electricity (three volumes, 1839, 1844, 1855) by Michael Faraday
• Patent Specification for Arkwright’s Spinning Machine (1769) — Richard Arkwright
• The King James Bible (1611) — William Tyndale and 54 scholars appointed by the king
• An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) — Adam Smith
• The First Folio (1623) — William Shakespeare

Every book is enfolded with a small introduction to the book itself. But the brief synopsis of the work is always interwoven with its place in history and the explanation of the period of the times. In his collection Bragg lists interesting insights to famous literature benchmarks, accompanied by stories behind some less well-known works.

 

Collective world culture heritage in literature?

In what way is this book different form the 1001beforeyoudie books?
Bragg does not dictate a canon of books as the required reading list. It is more his personal reading list. But he does not remain at a individual point. His list is not called “My favorite books” he calls it “12 books that changed the world.” This includes the possibility, that the books, Bragg is fond about, also might have changed others lives, counties, history or even the world. And this also includes the fact that the list is not exhausted yet (since he also didn’t write “THE 12 books that changed the world.”).

We don’t need to agree with Braggs choice, but the way he introduces to books, he likes and the way he debates why they changed the world is informative and inspirational.

 

Show, what you love

The German theologian Fulbert Steffensky ones said:

“Mission

means showing,

what you love.”

Bragg showed us the literature, he loves and the books, that made the most sense to him. He didn’t only mention the titles; he introduced us to the history and the background. This covered not only the study of literature and history, but also his personal reflection of the book.

I wish we, as Christians would be more able “to share, what we love”. Not in a 1001beforeyoudie way, but in a way, that attempts a personal testimony, which is meant as an inspiration to others.

Lets share, what we love and what changed our world!

Tomorrow today is already yesterday

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”?

It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.

No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.

(Ecc 1: 9-11)

 

What defines the new as new and turns it into old? – Or what turns a certain technology into mainstream?

 

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We are in a time of rapid technological changes. The stages of development are getting smaller, while the evolution is expanding faster and faster.

This means, that people today have already witnessed countless models and releases of technological products, with only slight advancements. But the same people have also witnessed huge steps in the general development of technology and media in their lifespan.

In their book “New Media 1740 – 1915” Lisa Gitelman und Geoffrey B. Pingree provide an anthology of ten scholarly articles on the history of media. Their main focus is interesting, since they don’t focus on current technological inventions and present communication tools. They go some steps back in media history. The authors note, that in the growing field of “new media studies” or “digital media studies” it seems, as if all scientists only focus exclusively on a revolution by computer-mediated communication. Here the autors also mention the camera, and the gramophone, and also far more exotic but antique inventions. What is an optical telegraph, a zoetrope, a stereoscope, or an electric telegraph? Who can remember the times, when the physiognotrace, the phenakistoscope, and the phonogram were up to day and new media?

 

History of media

Gitelmann and Pingree offer a broad perspective on obsolesce and antique forms of technology and by doing so, they deepen our historical understanding of all media. By recovering different (and past) senses of media in transition the authors sharpen our critical awareness of how technology and media acquire meaning and power.

„All media were once new media“ (p. 12)

Gitelman and Pingree struggle with a periodization of new media. By deconstructing the common posthistorical theorizing in media studies done in evolutionary steps, Gitelman and Pingree rise our awareness for “the new” and the “not so new anymore.” This deconstruction is also very fruitful when applied to the link of Media history and cultural history. Our cultural pace is also often defined by the communicational technologies around us. Our communication is transmitted via the common and current channels of “new media”. To Gitelman and Pingree, the “newness” lies not so much in the in the novelty of the technological innovations itself, but more in the first interaction within a given social milieu. The authors show is in selected historical connection points between media and their discursive constructions. In the historical comparison it is evident, that simultaneously to the emergence of a new media, patterns for justification came up, to explain, that new media would destroy old and outdated forms of communication.

 

Catastrophe?

This week my department of my regional church hosted a social media conference. It was intended as a general information and introduced into this special field of communication, especially for the colleagues, who are not into new media and social media yet.

Listening to the keynotes and workshops of the speakers and social media specialists, I was thankful for the new perspectives “New Media 1740 – 1915” provided. One very critical speaker and other habitual objection raisers usually would have had the potential to provoke me and give me a hard time listening. But though the lens of Gitelman and Pingree, I was able to understand their criticism. It was no rational and honest examination of new media, it was a very emotional reaction. It was a unuttered justification pattern to dismiss “the new”, because this might change hitherto communication traditions. Some are thrilled by the new possibilities and to some it is (to speak with a keynote slide of a critical speaker) a catastrophe.

 

The word became flesh

As Christians we are in a tradition of a very communicative religion.

If we take the strong link serious, which Gitelman and Pingree point out to; the link between culture and media, we have no choice to discuss the “if” of new media, but more the “how” in communicating with each other and also in communicating the gospel. Nothing in new media is new. The cultural history of media evaluates the way how people store and transmit date und human expression within particular cultural contexts. This is a very theological and biblical process.

 

I am wondering about the role for us as theologians in this discourse:

1. What is the impact of this discussion on our call to be communicators of the gospel in different languages, ways, channels and media?

2. What is the impact of this discussion on our interpretation of our own hermeneutical history in communication?

3. How can we ease the fear of the habitual objection raisers, who are scared of the “new” in new media?

Lisa Gitelman and Geoffrey B. Pingree, New media, 1740-1915, Media in transition. (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003), 1

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