#82. Read from cover to cover a magazine about a place that you might want to visit or live in some day

IDEA #82. Go to a library or a newsstand or bookstore and pick out and read from cover to cover a magazine about a place that you might want to visit or live in some day. Examples are New York Magazine, Arizona Highways, Cape Cod Life, and Up Here (about far northern Canada). There is a magazine for practically every city and region in the United States as well as for nations and cities outside the United States. Get yourself interested enough to think about planning a visit there some day.

If one cannot always travel to a new place, it is fun to imagine what it might be like to be there. Some “place-based” publications—New YorkScreen Shot 2014-11-22 at 9.23.12 AM Magazine, for example—are primarily intended for those who already reside in and are familiar with their eponymous location, while others—like New Mexico Magazine—are “destination” publications, filled with enticing material designed to coax readers into visiting or moving.

Readers of these magazines should be looking carefully not only at the articles but also at details of content like advertisements, including even the smallest. What is the appeal of this place? How do those who live in and like the place present its “story”? What are some common graphic themes—colors, symbols–and images that readers are intended to associate with the place? What can be learned about the economic life of the place—real estate prices and the types of jobs or economic activities to be found there?

In the same vein, what can we learn about the cultural opportunities and activities in the place? Does the magazine focus any particular aspect of the fine arts or other cultural features in music, theater, or folk traditions? Is there anything about food that looks interesting or unique; are particular aspects of culinary heritage represented that may stem directly from the history of people who live there or who have immigrated there? What would make you want to visit the place on vacation or perhaps even move there? Does the place look as though it would be fun for children, or does the magazine focus only on adult-oriented Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 9.24.43 AMsubjects?

In the United States a fifth of the population moves every year; consequently learning to “read” a place and its culture is a valuable skill; a young reader can start mastering this skill by reading about a place. Specialized magazines focusing on a particular area have proliferated in recent years, and for the thinking child  learning how to read cultures with skill and in detail is a skill well worth having.

#10. Go to a concert or performance of music from a tradition you’ve never listened to before

IDEA #10. Go to a concert or performance of music from a tradition you’ve never listened to before

It should not be terribly hard to find music from unfamiliar traditions, if only because even Western “Classical” is so little heard and appreciated by young Americans in the age of American Idol; in many of the cities and suburbs of “blue states” country-and-western music is equally rare. But while even an afternoon or evening of Mozart or Hank Williams might fit the bill here, I’d urge readers to push the envelope further still. In many communities with either significant immigrant populations or universities with many international students musical performances from many cultures are very easy to find. Even in the absence of these resources, world music concerts abound; some religious institutions regularly welcome musicians from around the world, sometimes but not always playing tunes relating to their faith.

What should the listener be alert for? New instruments, new voices, new languages, and some times even music whose entire structure and tonal properties are significantly different from the familiar. What activities or concerns generated this music? Are the familiar themes and anxieties of the listener’s culture present in the “new” music?

If live performance is just too hard to find, a trip to the recorded music section of the public library might turn up a few surprises. It’s also been my experience that many restaurants play culturally appropriate music; perhaps a friendly restaurateur would be willing to lend a tape(!) or a disc or two. Some specialized food stores actually rent music to members of their community.

And if the internationally exotic is just not accessible, consider the multitude of musical traditions that have arisen and thrive in our own culture but few of us fully know or appreciate: gospel, Delta blues, Big Band, traditional folk, Old Timey, bluegrass, Gullah, and dozens of distinct Native American musical forms. All of these are available in recorded form, and some can be streamed from the Internet or even found on the radio.

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