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OpenLearn Live: 28th August 2015

Updated Friday, 28th August 2015

A resilient community in California, a much maligned subculture - and more free learning through the day.

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OpenLearn Live is an experimental service in rolling, reactive free learning from The Open University and beyond. This page will be updated during the day - and there's a Twitter feed, too @openlearnlive.

Yesterday, we started in Malibu, saw lions returning to Rwanda and learned some aboriginal hand signals.

See the full list of OpenLearn Live articles

Today's Posts

Question time for Yanis Varoufakis

Nine leading academics are given the chance to ask a question of the man who, for a while, oversaw the Greek budget as the country faced-down austerity:

I represented a small, suffering nation in its sixth straight year of deep recession. Bluffing with our people’s fate would be irresponsible. So I did not. Instead, we outlined that which we thought was a reasonable position, consistent with our creditors’ own interests. And then we stood our ground. When the troika pushed us into a corner, presenting me with an ultimatum on June 25 just before closing Greece’s banking system down, we looked at it carefully and concluded that we had neither a mandate to accept it (given that it was economically non-viable) nor to decline it (and clash with official Europe). Instead we decided to do something terribly radical: to put it to the Greek people to decide.

Read: Question time for Yanis Varoufakis

Listen over lunch: BBC Inside Science

Catch up on the BBC/OU co-produced weekly science magazine. This week's episode tries to understand how our brains make sense of meaning; what's actually in housedust (you might <em>not</em> want to listen while actually eating your lunch); maths and emotion; and can we just genetically switch obesity off?

Listen to BBC Inside Science on iPlayer

Download this episode

Read more about this episode

Cajun Culture

Exploring the migratory nature of Cajun culture, through the talking animals of Zachary Richard's tales:

In contemporary Louisiana, the lobster-turned-crawfish legend is still very much present as attests L’histoire de Télesphore et ‘Tit Edvard dans le grand Nord, the second tale in a trilogy by Cajun poet and singer-songwriter Zachary Richard, which also includes Conte cajun: L’histoire de Télesphore et de ‘Tit Edvard and Les aventures de Télesphore et ‘Tit Edvard au Vieux Pays. Likewise, Cajun culture and French in Louisiana seem very much alive, for the tales are written in French with Cajun idioms and indicate a distinct Cajun perspective. They contribute to the littérature cadienne, a francophone Cajun literary genre which emerged in the 1980s, succeeding the Cajun oral tradition and continuing the French Creole literary tradition which flourished in nineteenth-century Louisiana. The majority of those new francophone texts, however, are published in Montreal, Quebec, not in Louisiana. This also applies to Zachary Richard’s tales, which deal with the adventures of ‘Tit Edvard, a crawfish, and Télesphore, a turtle, from Louisiana who experience various displacements and go through many adverse conditions before finding their way home.

Read: Language on the move

Goths: Growing up, remaining Goth

There's a report in The Lancet Psychiatry today which suggests members of the Goth subculture are more likely to suffer depression than young people who identify with other subcultures. BBC News reports:

Those who saw themselves as part of the goth group were already more likely to have shown signs of depression before the age of 15 and to have been bullied in the past.

But scientists argue the link remains even once these factors are accounted for.

Researcher Dr Rebecca Pearson, from the University of Bristol, said there could be many reasons behind the trend, including the possibility that teenagers susceptible to depression were attracted to the goth way of life.

She added: "The extent to which young people self-identify with goth subculture may represent the extent to which at-risk young people feel isolated, ostracised or stigmatised by society."

Perhaps equally striking about Goths, though, is how they don't abandon their lifestyle as they get older. Thinking Allowed explored why adults are more likely to remain Goth than, say, indie into adulthood:

It's varied because one of the things for women that's always been the look, I think, has been the corset, and in some ways some female Goths talk to me about the way in which that was actually quite a convenient, useful item of clothing if you were kind of getting older, because it holds the tummy in, it sort of shows the breasts and cleavage off, and that was a look that quite worked. So quite often you would see people still wearing corsets and so on.

But other people said quite clearly that they made a point of covering up more, that they were more likely to wear things like a band t-shirt or something like that.

Read at BBC News: Young Goths at risk of depression

Read: How Goths adapt as they get older

Beyond Blue: Lomita

This week, the BBC have been on the California coast watching the sea life in Big Blue Live. We've also been on the California coast, but exploring the people who live there and the communities they've built.

If you're just catching up with us on a quiet Friday, here's the towns we visited earlier:


Cuffey's Cove

Crescent City

San Simeon

Today, we're coming slightly further inland - to the City of Lomita, which is just five miles from the beach.

Coin Laundry in Lomita, California Creative commons image Icon Terrell Williams under CC-BY-NC-ND under Creative-Commons license

The places we've explored so far have all demonstrated (or, in the case of Cuffey's Cove, didn't demonstrate) resilience in one form or another - buffeted by earthquakes and tsunamis; hit by drought; scorched by fire; burned by economic collapse; challenged by climate change. Malibu, for all its glitz and glamorous residents, keeps a snowplough on hand to cope with repeated mudslides.

Lomita isn't immune from all these risks, but also demonstrates a different type of resilience - keeping its separate identity and independence without being swallowed up by neighbouring Los Angeles to the East, and Torrance to the West. It's a small city - less than two square miles - but heavily populated, with around 11,000 people in each of those square miles. It's part of the county of Los Angeles, but has fought to separate itself from the LA school district (unsuccessfully) and from the LA water district (successfully).

It's Torrance that has given Lomita most of its existential threat, though - the growing city has cut slices of Lomita for itself, most notably annexing the Lomita airstrip and turning it into the Torrance Municipal Airport. There was a line, though, that Torrance couldn't cross, as Lomita wouldn't yield to their larger neighbour's high-rise lifestyle. The official history records the outrage:

As one long time resident put it, "there was a definite feeling that this should be kept a small town and not just a subsidiary for a big city. Most of the people who came here have in mind family situations. If they come here, they don't want a lot of swingers in apartments."

Lomita is proud of its history, and you can understand why. It made earlier money from oil - which was discovered in a way that has since become a movie cliche (a farmer struggled to pump water on his land; the match discarded from a conciliatory cigar igniting a pool of natural gas). Frank A Gumm hired the local theatre to stage the first public stage appearance of his daughters - one of whom would drop the Gumm name and find fame as Judy Garland. More recently, the city gave the world Milo Aukerman - who you might remember was one of our musical scientists earlier this month.

But it's refusal to be swallowed up which really makes it impressive. A place which survives strongly on its sense of identity. It's a fitting place to end our short tour of communites along the Californian coastline.

Discover more about studying geography with The Open University






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