3:20 and Chopsticks – The Oxbow Episode 8

In this episode, Matthew explores a replica of an Etruscan drinking cup and how it connects to a more felt sense or embodied squatting culture and some of the implications of design that is emergent from table and chair and plate culture and connects that to Asian chopstick use. He also thinly recounts the Romani history with bears and ancestry and connects that to Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and the famed stage direction from it “Exit, Pursued by a Bear”

Things talked about in this episode:

Winter’s Tale


Chopstick Research https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340836290_Early_Impairment_of_Chopsticks_Skills_in_Parkinsonism_Suggests_Progressive_Supranuclear_Palsy

Here is a very rough transcript for your reading pleasure.

[00:00:00] Hey there, Matt here just doing a little a pre-roll before you actually listened to the podcast in it. I talk a little bit about chopsticks and the relationship they have to the lack of neurological decline in east Asian cultures. And I want to make a little bit of a correction here because I was improvising during the.

And didn’t have all my ducks in a row on that particular part. And so I just want to be clear after having done a bit more research afterwards that while neurocognitive decline in these days and cultures is rarer than it is in the west, it certainly does happen. And chopsticks are considered to be part of the reason for that though.

Not the only reason. I don’t think I was as clear about that.

[00:01:00] Wanted to be or needed to be, but I’ve found some research on that. That it seems clear from my brief scan of the research, it’s in no way complete, and it’s not my field of expertise. The chopsticks are ascribed as one of a host of factors.

So I just want to be a decent media ecology and putting out good information and making corrections where you can, where it’s in your lane. So I’m going to put a link to some. Studies that were done on that, or at least one, which I think was interesting. Maybe we’ll take a look at it. I’m just wanting to let you know about that.

Enjoy the podcast.

Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the Oxbow per you’ve been enjoying the Oxo up to now. It’s still. Young and getting out there, if you have liked it rate it, review it tell your friends on social media.

[00:02:00] That’d be cool and still absolutely confound on how to start these things. I mean, I just sort of sit here at my desk and look around and see a whole bunch of books and papers.

And I see the envelope when I’m going to open up for. This episode, whatever it’s going to be. So I don’t know what else to tell your catch up on nothing too remarkable that comes to mind trying to keep it all going. Really. It’s still strange times we find ourselves in to be sure. Well, let’s just get into it since I don’t have any.

I’m looking at the book that I’m hiding from a weed, which I mentioned in the last episode, that’s still here. I haven’t got that back in its original home and contact book is good. Should read it again.

[00:03:00] Patients gray anyway, today’s envelope, which I selected was sent to me by a woman who I’ve been lucky enough to know a little bit.

And her name is Jaya SAPRA. And. In a very classic, you know, eight and a half by 11 standard business envelope with a forever stamp on it and fine blue ink and meet handwriting. She has sent me this envelope and let’s take a look


Hi, Matthew, a few images for your new podcast, wishing you the very best for all your endeavors. That’s what a first glyph looks like. Carving on stone.

[00:04:00]  It looks like two people in front of some cognitive Waltrip, very primitive looking, very simplistic, looking with little hash marks around it. I don’t know what that is lot.

Okay. Let’s come back to that. And on the second page, there is a clock or a clock face. That’s three 20, is it really simple? It sort of looks a bit like a, like a Swiss railway clock. It’s really simple. And then there’s a picture of chopsticks Trump’s jerks closet three 20 and then this weird glyph. Well, I have.

Something comes to mind right away for chocolates, but it’s upstairs. So we need to, but it’s cool and it’s worth the wait. So what can I do to give you a little bit of killing time music?

[00:05:00]  Not to do with chopsticks? I’m not going to play the famous chopstick song because that would be terrible. The top six music just Googling.

Chopsticks by Liberace. Yeah. That’s exactly what I don’t want. Chopsticks. There’s gotta be something else. Chopsticks, waltz. What does chopsticks and why does it have some move? I’m not talking about any of this stuff. I just want the music videos come on. This is, there’s gotta be something else here.

Oh, I am. I really do have to, man. I mean, I sort of feel like. And there has to be a simple thing to play. That’s not that, and I’m not going to leave you with just pure dead air just while I go upstairs to get this item, which I think really worthy.

[00:06:00] Okay. Chopstick tutorials, terrible to listen to. All right.

Here’s the last thing I’m going to do something else in Thailand. Oh man. That’s like a live podcast or at least recorded live. Here we go. Schoolboy Q with the song chopsticks with Travis, Scott. I don’t have no idea, but it was schoolboy. Q is he’s a rapper. So here we go. We’ll have to probably hear a little bit of trail music you right back.

Okay. I hope that was good. I don’t know if it was thanks for listening. Okay. Well, here I am. I’m back with something which I think is really fine, which is inspired by Thompson. So a few months ago, I was very, very touched to get a package in the mail, which I was not expecting to get.

[00:07:00] And. There’s a letter inside, which I’m going to read to you, which is very touching and it’s to be on the receiving end of a letter.

Like this is pretty remarkable. It reads like this good thing, Matthew would that this letter reaches you well after traveling across the big ocean from one continent to the other, I wish I could be right beside you. Wait in the future. When I write you kind of amazing, really to see the gate of your face open upon opening this passage from the great skill and devotion of one man to another, I was told by Luca that this one vessel is a replica of the same drinking vessels of the Avila, the Villano Yano trust skins from the fifth century, BC used to cheer and drink.

[00:08:00] Thrown on the wheel, scruffy by hand and fired in a mud killing God of the people in a fine reduction. Anyhow, 800 degrees Celsius, also known here as book ghetto. The whole thing is amazing from a vast array of beautiful and skillfully crafted vessels. I picked this one without knowing Luca, a man who made this uses this one, just like it for.

This one is the other’s twin a gift. I pray to be eloquent in his beauty, to the gratitude I have for your being in the world and for, and for one than for having thought of me with great generosity. All you have learned in setting my hands, even deeper and further into the work with mama clay, please drink deep on this every day.

Drinking vessel. I love you. Would that we meet in person again, not to.


[00:09:00] Julia. And so, I mean, I read that letter before I even got into the package itself and this was so moving and so touched that this woman who is a friend of mine, felt so well of me without me knowing and some protests, I was, I know something about a tradition. Harvesting of clay and traditional pottery.

I’m beginner, Julia, who’s a professional Potter and ceramicist, I got a chance to share her, share with her, some of what I know, which she didn’t done. It really set her devotion to ceramics in a very different direction. And I connected her to this traditional ceramicist and Italy where she’s from. And.

[00:10:00] And she came to know a little bit, this man who makes traditional Etruscan pottery in the, in the style of harvesting the clay and firing it like they do and making these boot ghetto style pots. And this piece, when I opened it up, my, and this is of course podcasts. So you can’t see the, and put a picture of this in the show notes, but when I saw this.

My job, the gate of my mouth issues she’s had dropped. It was, it is so beautiful. It is a smokey black, gray, almost like iridescent, graphite, ceramic cup. It is the size of two hands, really the size of one, but it fits into two hands. Lip around the edges, which allows your fingers to dip into it.

It has these very simple little Griff, scruffy, like little scratches put into it in a beautiful pattern.

[00:11:00] And the thing that’s probably most striking about it besides the color and the craftsmanship and the inside of the bowl also has simple scruffy though as well. The color is so dark, but at the same time, And it’s been burnished so that it has this matte quality within the shimmery.

Marinus, it’s very, very stunning. It’s got really good halfed. The thing that’s most striking about it is the handle and the handle is almost like the wire frame of the, of the horn on a saddle. It’s this op swept. Thing that’s stuck on the side. And I had never seen a handle on a cup like this after just like looking up the beauty of this piece.

[00:12:00] And wondering about how this could have been an everyday drinking vessel when it looks simple, but also fancy at the same time.

And this is a replica of one, of course not the, not an original

Julia letter just was still washing over me. And I thought like this cup is so remarkable. I’d have to try to drink from it. So I put water into it and it holds water just as you would think it does, but I just still confounded by this weird handle, but, you know, drinking the water and, you know, it was.

Kind of worked as a cop, but I was trying to figure out the handle. And so I tried to slip my fingers through the sort of like the wire frame of it. It’s it’s three prongs. There’s so hard to describe, but again, think about that up sweat horn on the side, but I try to slip my fingers through it.

[00:13:00] It didn’t make sense why it would be there, but you know, obviously it’s still working to say.

And I trust to try to put my hand all around, to try to throw it how it fit. And I was sitting down as I was doing this. And what was finally working about it is that when I turned my hand sort of upside-down, so my fingers went underneath the bowl of it. And my thumb went on top of the horn. It started to fit.

And then I was sitting and I was drinking and I was like, oh, this makes a bit more sense. This actually fits in my hand, the curve of the horn fit into my poem. My thumb was sort of like working as a bit of a counterbalance and it was working. It still was a little bit awkward, but I now was pretty confident that I figured out how the cup fits, but it still was.

I was thinking like, why would anyone come up?

[00:14:00] I handle like this. And so think about like a regular, you know, teacup or a coffee cup, just like a little loop, which we’ve all seen and held. And it seems to be the absolute essence of simplicity.

And I thought what’s interesting though. And I don’t really see those handles of that particular kind outside of traditional European drinking vessels. And I started to think about that a little. So I was going back to this this cop and trying to think what can everyday worker in, who has trust can be doing?

I thought they had, they’d probably be dipping list into a stream or a big bucket and then drinking from it. So maybe it’s S so I stood up and this was where I started to have a real change with the experience of this cup. And I don’t know that I’m right, but I’m pretty confident that I’m in the right direction.

[00:15:00] Is that when I stood up my arm became like a ladle and this was the dipping end of the ladle. And suddenly when I drank it, wasn’t just an arm or wrist motion. I actually felt that I had to use my back to sort of to stand up a bit more fully and extended backwards to tip the water in. If I just used it with my.

It sort of didn’t work as well. And I sort of felt that there was like almost this wave motion that when I was drinking that I would sort of have to like lean forward, but not at the waist, like bending through the spine and I’m doing right now as I’m seeing it, but there was sort of like this way of motion that I had to generate to drink and then to imagine myself dipping in and I thought, oh yeah, I can feel the back of my body when I drank.

This is really, really interesting. And I only noticed that when I was standing. So then I thought, oh, wait a minute.

[00:16:00] Now the coffee cup, the little loop handle that we all know is a European tradition and not comes from a sitting culture. And I was like, oh, this now starts to open up some possibilities. So this is how we get the chopsticks.

So I thought, oh, Chopsticks come from squatting culture and what is squatting culture? So there’s lots of ways to be in the world, but in the east broadly not to, say they don’t have chairs, but there is more of a tradition of squatting on the ground on your heels or kneeling. And there’s less a more recent chair.

culture Squatting culture or kneeling culture automatically has bowls because the squatting and kneeling doesn’t automatically have tables.

[00:17:00] So you end up holding bowls and if you’re holding a bowl, so bowls want spoons and they want chopsticks. Those are the things that it sort of sorts to now amazingly those two implement spoons.

And chopsticks make you eat food a little bit slower, so it’s not maximized, but it also, this is not saying that it’s better. It’s just to say, this is what the effect of it is that in, Asia, there’s very little, incidents of neurological decline in old age, and it has been attributed to lifelong chopstick use That fine motor skills.

Has a constant re-wiring of neurons that are going on. I can, I’ll see if I can find the papers on that, but it’s pretty well-documented. And put that in the show notes for you.

[00:18:00] There’s something about the inefficiency of chopsticks and the inefficiency of spoons that goes along with a squatting and kneeling culture.

And then. When you get into chair culture. When of course, you know, a place like Europe, where the ground is colder and the ground is wetter, there’s a need to get away from that. So chairs and tables become more standard. And there’s what you get. There is plate culture and Fort culture, not. So you can’t use chop to kind of plate.

Of course you can, but they work with. With bowls, this is a little, can you use a fork in a bowl? Of course you can, but in terms of how it culturally emerged. So the culture that has sitting makes, makes forks makes plates. And those cultures in terms of food are built for maximizing intake.

[00:19:00] And so I realized, oh, the loop on.

Is for drinking water quickly or drinking anything quickly. There is a type of maximizing and also minimizing the amount that your body has to do that really is designed almost like it’s a little hinge to turn the cup. Not saying you can’t drink with a cup standing up. Of course, you can, but it doesn’t use your whole body.

And so I was like, oh, this isn’t very interesting. Emergent cultural design, which has got not better or worse, but it would be, think about sitting culture versus squatting culture maximizing consumption culture versus this sort of inefficient approach towards consumption. And you can sort of spin out about what that means and how the implications of that might have culturally.

And from a colonizing perspective, there are things to say about not.

[00:20:00] How many of you think that the trust guns who use this cop who used this beautiful, beautiful item as an everyday drinking vessel, I’m going to make the case in the same way that these stations tend to have less neurodegenerative disease because of. Fine motor skills with chopsticks and are broadly so many of the Western embodiment practices that we use here in the west draw from a lot to say, a more somatically informed culture in the east because of any number of practices.

But I think that comes from. The sitting culture and the squatting culture of being able to be in the body much more easily. And certainly here in the west sitting culture, we get cut off from feeling the movement of our whole bodies, but the trust skins who I don’t know much about, although I know something about them and is that they must’ve been an embodied people, and this is a little clue,

[00:21:00] but they must have been, cause they would have felt it with drinking water when working.

Every day that there wasn’t huge jugs of water that they drank from as far as I can tell after looking into this a little bit, but their glasses were small. They were the measure of a hand or two handfuls. And I think that’s really interesting cause I’ve certainly have drank water from, you know, two-liter bottles and three little bottles in gallon jugs and growlers all those big sizes, but all those big sizes.

Imperial standard sizes. They’re Western metric sizes and they’re designed for big gulps literally and figuratively that you might get at a seven 11. And so that makes me think that the, if you ever been to Europe, you’ll always find in restaurants. They have very small drinking while. I think that that is an ancestral memory of a time,

[00:22:00] that there was a recognition that there was some limits on these things that it wasn’t always consumed for maximum, maximum, maximum utilization, but it’s, there’s some sort of memory that’s kept and it’s like a bus digital orange, Oregon, almost that these glasses.

Remember that time when water was as much as your hand could hold. So that’s a little bit about my springboards of chopsticks. It’s speculation, but I think it’s informed speculation in this cup does not work in any other way. And to hold it that way. And when you drink that. You feel it in your whole body and I, that was new for me.

I was so delighted and glad to know something about squatting and culture and how it connects to these emergent qualities in these emergent design

[00:23:00] qualities that you’d find in a culture that never would have ever thought to design that way. They would have been obvious they would defend, found. Cool.

Of course you do this this way.

So I think that’s. That’s pretty good. All right. Well, let’s look over here. This clock at three 20 and this other thing, which I still don’t know what it is or what to make of it. 3 23. Oh no.

This is from. This reminds me of what I think is the very best stage direction ever. And I, I only know this because if the most ridiculous stage, but it’s from Shakespeare’s the winter tale, what’s the play. I don’t know. Well, but I do know it. Yeah, so it is pursued by a bear. Let’s find the exact place where this happens, but there’s a quote that has three.

So you would buy a bear.

[00:24:00] There we go. Yes, here it is. Perhaps the most famous or infamous of Shakespeare stage directions, exit pursued by a bear and act three. And then the line right after that is about three 20 and three

I’m sure of it. Yes. Here it is old shack. Would there were no age between 16 and three and 20, that youth would sleep. Oh yeah. That was exactly that exit pursued by a bear. Enter a shepherd. The old shepherd says would, there were no age between 16 and three and 20, or that youth would sleep out of rest for, there was nothing in between getting wenches with child wronging, the ancient tree stealing, fighting hearken.

Would any, but these boiled brains of 19 and two and 20 hunters,

[00:25:00] whether they have scared away, two of my best cheap, which I fear the Wolf will sooner find them the master. If anywhere I have them to is by the seaside browsing of Ivy. Anyway, it goes on this plays weird play. And again, I don’t really know well, but I only remembered this 20 and three because this ridiculous, famous thing pursued by.

And w what this little section about the old shepherd is saying is that this age between 16 and 20, it just basically men do dumb ass things and ruin stuff. And wouldn’t it be great if you Egypt snip that out and just have people, you know, go from 15 to 24 and get on with their lives. So the three 20 clock makes me think of winter’s tale and being pursued by a bear.

So. The winter’s tale is, I mean, obviously written in the 16 hundreds. I don’t know what year this was written like an early player or a late play.

[00:26:00] I mean, I have lots of feelings about Shakespeare. This play is weird. But this play takes place in sort of like a mythical time and it takes place in Bohemia, which is.

I’m actually have ancestors who are from Bohemia. That’s sort of like the, an area that’s, you know, Bulgaria, Hungary the, you know, the Czech Republic, that’s sort of like band in there is where Bohemia is. I don’t know what the, like the if that’s space changed. In terms of its size, but the Roma people are the most famous people from there, of course, besides Bohemians.

So pursued by a bear and the Bohemians. And so this makes me think about the, the tradition of, of bears and Bohemia. And there actually is one.

[00:27:00] And I, yeah, this is really old. So, I don’t know. I don’t know exactly how Shakespeare came to know about the stuff. And this is a question for better scholars than I, but there is a tradition amongst the, the Roma, the Romani people who live in Bohemia, that’s called the festival of ancestors.

And it’s done. New year’s day or new year’s Eve, it’s one or the other where they dress up like bears and then they chase out evil spirits and then they kill a costume to bear to sort of like a scapegoat or in this case, escape bear, and to cleanse the. The village or the town or the region, whatever it is, the costumes are amazing.

[00:28:00] I’ll have to put some of those in the show notes too. I’ve definitely seen them before, but yeah, they, they use, they dressed up as bears to chase away demons. So they have good luck in the new year and they have to do like this ritual the version of bear slaughter, which is interesting to me. But this is obviously a very, very old thing where there would have been a, an old understanding about the relationship between those people and bears and Ramani people were sort of very famously

entertainers for lots of people in. They’re the middle ages for sure. But up until much later as well. And we’re persecuted for that for being fortune-tellers and jugglers and magicians and things like that, which is part of the, sort of the racial, racist iconography that’s been put towards them. And dressing up in those sorts of costumes to calling yourself

[00:29:00] a gypsy is now properly looked upon as being Racists and of ill taste, but they also did like circus work, which was playing with bears.

And I th I’m sure that the, the Russian government in the 20th century, you know, got rid of that sort of stuff to get rid of all cultural remnants of the Romani people who were persecuted along with many other people by the Russians, but there must have been a very, very ancient tradition. Because you have, when you see these costumes, which I’ll put in the show notes, they look ancient.

And these, even though they’re obviously man recently they have the style of like, these are 3000-year-old looking costumes in terms of this style of them. And so I don’t know this at all. But I’m going to guess that something about the Romani people have something about their sense of ancestry comes from the bear.

[00:30:00] And the reason why I’ll quickly look it up and see if we can find something, is that so many indigenous people around the world considered their first ancestors to be an animal. And so you find deer people in salmon, people in Anta people in a particular type of bird people. And if somehow their humanity and their boundedness to a place is underwritten by.

Some non-human life and which is a beautiful thing to think that your humanity might be underwritten and made by the not human. Let me quickly see if there’s anything about Romani.

Come on. Oh, the earth, sorry. Or the traditionally nomadic occupational group. Who were bare handlers. Okay. Well, the first scenario of course, is the route for bear and Latin.

[00:31:00] And so that shows up in, in Romani, which is of course related strange night of Romania’s bear dancers. So this is in the mold of a region.

There were, so this is there’s nothing on first glance. Oh, but Romani is Ronnie as a pair. Dancers were villagers Don animal Heights. Okay. So like this is a Moldova, so this is happening all around that part of the world, pawning through the history of bear dancing in Europe. Okay. This is totally a thing.

But then of course, you know, bear attack. And then Russians. Yeah, it was all right there, but I’m not seeing anything right on the top that shows any deep history, but I’m going to guess there’s a deep history here because yeah, I mean Shakespeare’s little mention here of a Bayer means that there’s got to be some association that there would have been bears in Bohemia in the imagine, you know, in the mythical 16 hundreds when he was writing.

[00:32:00] So if your humanity comes from that, which is not human. And bears might’ve been part of that, part of the world’s understanding of what it means to be bound to that place. And that maybe, you know, just as the, I knew would kill the first salmon as a mournful, but beautiful way of bonding themselves to a place that perhaps on the shore of it.

But there was hunting with bears, ritually maybe it’s particular times of the year, too. Just as the festival later turned into be to cleanse spirits or to bind themselves to the bear or to bind themselves to the place with the blood or the bones and the flesh. I don’t know. And this is all speculation, but it makes me think that maybe by the time that Shakespeare was writing and the time that he sort of was reflecting.

[00:33:00] And if someone was pursued by a bear that maybe by that time, the relationship between the Ramani and the bears had maybe already started to collapse and that the bears no longer were so hospitable to them and maybe they pursued them instead of being drawn close, but maybe that’s romanticizing it.

Maybe the pursuit by a bear was part of the. The Beanery of it, but of course in the same way that the deer would run as part of its proper relationship to you though, of course you’re supposed to work for it, but there has to be a ceremonial approach. Maybe it’s not, I don’t know, but I was sort of, I think it’s very lovely despite me not knowing this play well, or even thinking that well of it, that there’s like a little memory of.

 [00:34:00] Time where there was a deep relationship with an animal. And that even if it was became adversarial, that there still must’ve been, you couldn’t be adversaries unless you were bound together somehow. And I still don’t know

what to make of this first glyph it’s confounding to me, but.

Try to tie these two together about chopsticks in three 20. Maybe there’s something about our culture is relationship and capacity to, to feed itself and to feed others. And that’d be something about the capacity to feed and to be fed in a limited way. And all the way. So you’d want to have limits, ask something of those people to be

[00:35:00] closer to the ground, to be in relationship with the bear would require you to know the forest and to walk out and to use chopsticks as they emerge would be with bull culture kneeling or squatting on the ground and not say that you couldn’t be fed.

We feed otherwise, but maybe there’s some quality or skill of finding ground or being in relationship to it.

And wouldn’t that be a fine thing to know that we, we were in a place as opposed to a place that’s just no place that we take from and have no sense of. The very living thing below beneath us, that makes it all possible.

[00:36:00] That’d be all right. I’m trying more and more to learn that I live in a place that’s below the city that I live in because I know the city where I live incredibly well. And I’m trying to learn more and more about the ground of this place. That’s underneath the current. Inch by inch. I’m trying, to feed my place and be fed by not just the things that go into my mouth and into my stomach.

I think there are lots of ways to be found, put on. I think as that Rumi quote says there’s a hundred ways to fall in kiss the ground. I’m trying to learn the ground. More maybe these two little reminders here. So keep me going and that some kind of cultural emerges from that.

[00:37:00] No, that’s plenty. Well, Johnny, I thank you for these suggestions.

You couldn’t have done this without you leading this. Let this third one. For the unseen, maybe they could make hide or hair of it, both of which bears hide in hair. Well, amazing. I guess I’ll finish up. Like, I like to finish up with we’re reading from home ground, the language for an American landscape as your nature word of the day.

Hoping that enough randomly find plumber. Plunge basin is a cavity at the base of a falls formed by a stream or river, as it pours over a NIC point. The plunge pool is the water in that basin that no botanists, Gary Navajo and overlooking LACA Scott the pasta chick in Mexico relates in his article, mother mountains.

[00:38:00] How he watched quote, waterfall for close to a thousand. Atomizing and to miss to, before it hit a large plunge pool and the canyon floor close quote, whether a large falls or a small one, most people are mesmerized by the sound and sight of falling water pieces of broken rainbows created by sun and missed hanging midair, swallows, circling veering above the plunge pool, flying in and out sometimes behind and around the false dippers in the rapids.

If the pool is calm, clear, and deep, and the whether mild or warm a person might step in inter bodily and over the head, the rare country with a plunge pool. Yeah. And that’s really beautiful. See if you can find one in the corner of the world where you live and maybe it’ll be too cold to go in and the season, but take.

[00:39:00] And maybe wait for a finer day, like the one that was just written about here, or how do you suggest I’m going to swimming holes.org to see if you can find ones that are near you? Yeah, no, the place, if you can say a prayer that you’re lucky enough to have a place to go to and to stay until time comes that we might meet again.

Ciao. Thanks for your support and rate and review. Tell your friends.


  1. Mz on June 22, 2023 at 3:29 pm

    Are you going to make more podcasts?

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