Close to Culture, Close to Creativity, Spot on Asia.

Articles tagged “culture

How language is influencing the growth of ASEAN

Posted on September 18, 2013

There is a 140 character limit on micro-blogging platform Twitter, one of the top 10 most visited sites on the Internet used to share anything from real-time news to mundane activity updates. It’s a short sentence or two if you were to ‘tweet’ (or micro-blog) in English. But in Mandarin, 140 characters is enough to write a short story.

In the Christian Bible, the story of the Tower of Babel shared how the people of Earth wanted to build a tower that would reach heaven and prove humans could be equal to God. God says in Genesis 11:6,

“If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”

To save them from their pride and arrogance, God created language to divide the people, thus never completing the construction of the tower.

The nuances of language is fascinating. Some languages are rich enough in vocabulary to describe the parts of a bicycle in one or two sentences. While other languages are more conversational and would probably take a paragraph or two to do the same. Hence, the ability of a language to effectively transmit information may hinder the growth of its citizens if schools in a country prefer using their native mother tongue as the medium of instruction.

Students discussing homework before school begins at a private school in Lvea Aem District in Kandal Province, Cambodia.

Students discussing homework before school begins at a private school in Lvea Aem District in Kandal Province, Cambodia.


+Read more

Reflections on Scandinavia

Posted on August 21, 2013

Cultural production, cultural policy and the free market economy are largely intertwined, where some may view the partnership of production and policy as a more democratic process and others, freedom as what begins only after the basic right to the arts is established by the state. Before plunging into the discussion of the dynamic and praxis, let us begin by establishing the relationship between the 2 forces and how it has developed to give us what we have today.

Part 1 of this essay will examine the reasons for the existence of cultural policy; while part 2 explores the realization of these policies across the Scandinavian region, in particular Sweden and Finland.


The initial freedom of the free market

In his essay ‘Designing A Cultural Policy’, Professor of Communications and Media Studies Dr. Justin Lewis states,

“there are moments in the lives of the cultural industries when the free market may give birth to a dynamic range of cultural forms and expressions”.

These moments are exceptionally apparent in times such as the Industrial Revolution, where abundance in machinery, technology, and labor come together to provide a large range of goods and services that the community can tap into. As we look into the significance of such a time in the larger scheme, we come to realize that often, such moments are precisely those that signify the birth of an economy. An example that embodies this is the amalgamation of the 1960s baby boomers: technological advancement and growth coupled with general economic prosperity that engendered the pop culture and music movements in the global Northwest, in where we saw the birth of The Beatles and the likes. The large base of youths allowed for an experiment-friendly environment for art and cultural production; where novelty met curiosity, and curiosity met novelty, and the free market was as free as one could imagine. Under such circumstances, it may seem as though the free market forces are paired strongly with arts and cultural production to give rise to a wholly efficient society.


+Read more

A glass of art and science, please.

Posted on July 29, 2013

Ronald Ramirez

Mixologist, THAILAND

When did a drink get so complicated?

Gone are the days when my idea of a mixed drink was a rum and coke or a gin and tonic. There’s a new bar in the ‘hood and mixology has been spreading faster than you can say, uh, mixology. The term itself eludes me. I mean, the last time I checked, the person behind the bar mixing me some rum, lime juice, and mint leaves was called a bartender. So, when does the guy behind the bar earn a license to be called a mixologist—if there’s a license at all? To be a professional bartender, the one responsible for managing everything behind the bar and ensuring that customers are happy—and behaved, often entails completing a bartending course.

Many professional cocktail mixers are uncomfortable with the label mixologist. Regardless, the fact remains; mixology is complicated. And no mixologist in their proper mind would say, “I’m just mixing things along, I really have no idea what I’m doing.” Nobody just takes the classic margarita and hands it over in foam/gel/mist form without trained calculation and a creative imagination. Mixologists go beyond the aesthetics of a pretty drink; they dive into the human experience by digging into the chemistry (especially in molecular mixology) of spirits, playing with flavour, touch and texture, and provoking a myriad of senses that are often roused by memories and emotions.



On top of the world’s highest open bar and the tallest in Bangkok, I had the opportunity to learn about the art and science that goes in a glass. After years of honing his craft all over Europe and Dubai, Philippine-born Ron Ramirez is back in Southeast Asia and is the resident mixologist of lebua’s Sky Bar at Sirocco. As he blended one spirit with another and traced glass rims with herb-infused salts, Ron shared his creative inspirations and gave a peek into a regular workday of a mixologist.


+Read more

A Third Kind of Human

Posted on July 24, 2013

What comes to mind when someone utters the phrase “third kind of human”?

A 10-foot tall blue-skinned humanoid? How about a pale-skinned mind-reading vampire? On a recent trip to Shanghai, I learned that many Chinese believe there are three kinds of humans: men, women, and women with PhDs.

I was in Shanghai to participate in a 10-day program focused on higher education policy and planning. Participants came from highly ranked educational institutions from across the globe including Columbia in New York, Tsinghua in Beijing, and Nagoya in Japan. As a new Masters student, I was happy to learn from both my counterparts and seasoned PhD holders who challenged my biases and debated my thoughts. About two thirds of participants were female and I was encouraged that Asian educated and Western educated female students alike were unafraid to ask tough questions and be bold. Being surround by brilliant female minds was energizing; a scene like this is exactly what I like.

Imagine my surprise then, when an informal “get to know each other” session shone light on the elephant in the room: that some of our peers considered the female PhD students to be a third kind of human. At a later dinner in Shanghai, it was explained to me another way. It is also commonly believed in China that there are three types of women and they follow three distinct life paths: second class women marry first class men, first class women marry second class men, and third class women? They get PhDs. In a culture where many still judge a woman on her husband’s success, unmarried at 27 is practically considered a social disease. Parents become embarrassed if their daughters are “leftover” or “sheng nu”. If a woman is smart, and attractive enough to find a good husband, why would she waste her youth and prime child bearing years in school?

Source: Flickr, @USDAgov

Source: Flickr, @USDAgov

1 Comment

+Read more

Examining the Mental Blocks to pursuing a Creative Career

Posted on July 19, 2013

Within every deskbound Singaporean exists a creative soul.

When I look at Singapore, I see a nation of highly committed workers focused on growing their incomes, extending their exports, expanding services to generate incomes and build stores of wealth whether for a rainy day. Beneath these solicitors, accountants, and engineers, are dreams of being a musician, an artist, a dancer—all pushed aside to pursue ‘a proper job’.

There are reasons why these closeted creatives exist.


+Read more