History

Humans are compassionate by nature

Bones found in Ireland show that humans have taken care of each other since ancient times. The bones, buried 5,500 years ago, belonged to a child with Down Syndrome. The baby lived to be about 6 months old and was breastfed. When it died, it was buried in a monumental tomb with other adults and children. 

In 2007, at an archaeological site in Vietnam, the bones of a man with a crippling disease were uncovered in a Stone Age grave. His bones indicate that he had a painful condition that would have left him paralyzed for the last several years of his life. Clearly, he was carried by others and given food and other resources that were always scarce in those days. 

Men artists: Gustave Caillebotte

Gustave Caillebotte (1848–1894) was part of the French Impressionist art movement, the first school of art to break away from classical painting. Impressionism focuses on the light and colors of a particular moment in time. Because artists wanted to capture a brief moment and didn't have cameras yet, they needed to paint quickly. So they used quick, flat strokes without precise detail.

They also used colors in new ways. The best example is that shadows aren't just the object's color with gray or brown mixed in. Instead, the painters added strokes of the complementary color of the object (e.g., strokes of red in the shadow of something green). This makes the shadows come alive. 

Men artists: Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988) was part of the Neo-Expressionist movement of the 1980s, led by Andy Warhol. Basquiat's primitive style grew out of his time as a graffiti artist in New York City. People first knew him as part of the anonymous duo SAMO© (pronounced "same-o"), with Al Diaz. They were among the first to use words to communicate thoughts, rather than just tags with names and numbers.

For 3 years, from the age of 17–20, Basquiat sold his art on t-shirts and postcards on the street for a couple of bucks each. Finally, he made it into a group show at an art gallery. People and critics loved his work, and in no time people were paying $50,000 or more for one of his pieces.

The child of a Haitian father and Puerto Rican mother, Jean-Michel Basquiat brought the Black and Latino experience into the fine art world. His art was angry and harsh, yet also poetic. He was able to express a reality that had long been excluded from elite society.

Women artists: Tamara de Lempicka

Tamara de Limpicka (1898–1980) was a key artist in the Art Deco period of the 1920s and '30s. Born in Poland, she also spent a lot of time in France and the U.S. Her real fame came when high-fashion magazines began to use her art for their covers. Soon she was painting portraits of the aristocracy, and even royalty. Although her name is not well-known today outside of Art Deco fans, de Lempicka was one of the most important and popular artists of the Art Deco movement.

Art Deco grew out of Cubism and the Arts and Crafts movement, adding elements of "exotic" Asian, Egyptian and Mayan art. It used simple forms and planes of color to create new designs representing luxury and wealth. The pieces also represented faith in social and technological progress.

Women artists: Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) is thought of today as one of Mexico's greatest artists. Her most famous paintings are self-portraits. Of her 143 paintings, 55 were self-portraits. She once said, "I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.”

Kahlo grew up during the Mexican Revolution and was part of the Mexicanidad movement, which celebrated indigenous Mexican culture. She painted in a Magical Realist folk art style, with the colors and imagery of Mexican indigenous culture. Magical Realism combines realistic detail with surrealistic imagery. In the painting shown above, Roots, Kahlo depicts herself lying on rocky ground with vines growing out of her chest. The details are very realistic, but the image itself is surreal.

Women artists: Georgia O'Keeffe

Historically, women have struggled to be accepted in the world of the arts. In the art of painting, they were subjects for men's art, or wives and sisters of male artists. Women weren't accepted as artists themselves. But that began to change in the 20th century. Georgia O'Keeffe played an important role in that change.

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887–1996) was part of the American Modernist movement. American Modernism grew out of the Industrial Revolution and focused on everyday subjects like cities and factories. It used abstract forms and bright colors. Georgia O'Keeffe pushed the boundaries to develop her own style. Her paintings were still abstract and brightly colored, but she added a little realism.

Millenium-old mochi shop in Japan

In the year 794, Naomi Hasegawa's family started Ichiwa, a mochi shop, next to the Imamiya Shrine in Kyoto to feed pilgrims who had traveled to pray for pandemic relief. Over a millenium later, the shop still sells mochi to people struggling with a pandemic. How has it survived so long, through pandemics, wars, natural disasters, and the rise and fall of empires? By putting tradition and stability over profit and growth. 

The emphasis at Ichiwa is not growth. Profit is not the point. The point is to do one thing, and do it well. They focus on serving people and passing on the business to the next generation. Although it's not a dynamic business model, it obviously works. Known as shinise, these old businesses are a source of pride for Japanese.

The Enchanted Forest

Hidden on the north coast of California is a stand of very unusual redwood trees. Salty winds off the ocean break the trunks, but the trees keep on growing. New branches grow straight up from the broken trunk. Since the trunk is tipped over on its side, the tree ends up looking like a candelabra. After generations of this cycle, the trees have become twisted into fantastical shapes.

Redwood conservationists say they've never seen anything like it anywhere else. It's become known as the Enchanted Forest. Thankfully, the twisted trunks and branches have saved the trees from being cut down. Lumber companies need tall, straight trunks, so even though the old-growth forests around them have been destroyed by logging, the Enchanted Forest remains.

Perpetual stew

Do you like to eat leftovers? At Wattana Panich bistro in Bangkok, you can have a bowl of soup that's been in the pot for almost 50 years. Known as neua tune, it follows the "perpetual stew" method of preparation: the leftovers at the end of each day are kept overnight to become the base for the next day's soup. 

Cultures all across the world have versions of perpetual stew. In France, it's called pot-au-feu, or "pot in the fire", for the way it was traditionally cooked—in a pot that hung over the hearth fire all day. Other cultures' versions of perpetual stew include Chinese master stock, Mongolian Firepot, and Olla Podrida (literally, "rotten pot") in Spain. In the U.S., we have "hunter's stew", and the wonderfully named "Skilligalee" of pioneer times.

Ramen: once a black market staple

Ramen is one of Japan’s most popular foods today, with around 5,000 ramen shops in Tokyo alone, according to culinary publication Gastro Obscura. However, ramen wasn’t always so ubiquitous in Japanese society. It was first introduced to Japan by Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century and originally consisted of noodles in broth, topped with Chinese-style roast pork. It emerged as a critical part of Japanese cuisine in the years immediately following the Second World War.

In December 1945, Japan had recorded its worst rice harvest in 42 years. As a result, the American occupying forces imported massive amounts of wheat into Japan, which was used not only for bread, but also to make noodles for ramen, which most Japanese ate at black-market food vendors. With the government food distribution system running up to 20 days behind schedule, many people depended heavily on black markets for survival.