So, I was on the bus the other day, cheerfully folding away and rocking out to an old Bowie/Eno song and got to thinking about culture. The song was ostensibly about culture, you see — Bowie says:
It’s not as truly hostile about Americans as say “Born in the U.S.A.”: it’s merely sardonic. I was traveling in Java when the first McDonald’s went up: it was like, “for fuck’s sake.” The invasion by any homogenized culture is so depressing, the erection of another Disney World in, say, Umbria, Italy, more so. It strangles the indigenous culture and narrows expression of life.
Really? This seems a rather incongruous expression of outrage for a rock-and-roll musician. Rock-and-roll is not exactly a culturally pure idiom — certainly not the kind Bowie has pursued all these years — nor is it a genre particularly averse to propagation.
One can imagine oneself, sitting in the McD’s in Jakarta, pushing a PaNas Special around the plate with a plastic fork, watching the local students though the glass, protesting something strikingly nongermane, and hearing this song on the radio. Rock-and-roll gets around — that’s what it does. Rock-and-roll is a little, you know, American that way. Perhaps David was dabbling more in the ironic here than the sardonic.
A lot of culture entities have spent too much time in the blender, were you asking me. Musical theater. Ballet. Haute cuisine. Don’t get me started on free verse. But you know, it’s not all that difficult to avoid cultural forces you don’t approve of. Say, someone offers you tickets to the ballet. You reply, sir, ballet is a decadent art form, deleterious to the common good, fostering inhuman ideals in its followers and deforming the feet of its practitioners. Yeah, you will still have to take the tickets and sit there for three hours, but you will definitely be off the list for the cast party. Count it as a victory and move on.
And what has this to do with origami? Well, origami comes with all sorts of cultural baggage: the foreign name, the missionary zeal of its adherents, the Sadako mythology, the seemingly endless number of penguin models…and there’s the internal culture, as well. Modern origami has developed all sorts of cultural norms and squirrelly values in the past few decades, things you don’t find out about until after you’ve been converted by the zealous missionaries: the square thing, the no-cuts/no glue thing, the cult of the creative genius, the antiquarian reverence for diagrams, and most of all, the hegemony of the power of 2. Think about how many models involve dividing by 2 and then by 4 and again by 8…and your angles, there? How many are 90° and 45° and then to 22½° and 11¼°? Why? Sure, it’s simple, but it’s clearly not the only way to go. You can make simple and intermediate models from other numbers, but none or few ever do. Listen up, all you protest kids, 1/2n is the white bread of paperfolding. You can live on white bread, but why not challenge your palate a bit? Here, try a nice tasty seven.
Fold horizontals and verticals through those crossings. You’ve found the 3/7 and 4/7 on this square. (This is all from Kazuo Haga, by the way. Did you read his new book, yet?)
Fraught with possibilities, I hear you say? Go for it. It’ll give you something to do with the program at the ballet. Or you can fold up the tray liner at the Jakarta McD’s, while you’re waiting for the students to move on.
Being a boxy kind of guy, I made a box out of it, and yes, I used nothing but 1/2n angles here. Have a crease pattern.
I’m pretty sure that the Javan and Umbrian cultures are sufficiently vital to put up with a little competition, especially if it’s from something as bland as hamburgers and Mickey Mouse. Me, I’d like to hear this song done by a gamelan, wouldn’t you?