Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 07/31/07-Small Families

In today's excerpt--with the Industrial Revolution of the late 1700s and early 1800s, the family in Western Europe and other industrializing areas changes:

"Industrialization remade the family. In agrarian societies, farming families were units of both production and consumption. Urban industrial life increasingly removed production from families, changing roles and relationships among men, women, and children. ... Much of the early British workforce--especially in textiles but also in mines--was composed of women and children who could be more easily managed than men. Although that changed over time, and more men than women composed the English working class by 1900, in Japan girls and young women too formed the backbone of the textile workforce. There, hard-pressed rural families 'contracted' their daughters out to textile mills: the family patriarch got the pay (in annual installments) and the girls got work and the promise of life in safe dormitories until they were ready to marry. ...

"Where women and children initially worked in factories (giving us the horror-filled novels of Charles Dickens such as David Copperfield and Oliver Twist), legislation restricting children's and women's labor turned factories into workingplaces for men. A woman's place was redefined as being in the home and taking care of domestic affairs, even while taking in laundry and other odd chores to help make ends meet. Prohibited from working until age twelve or thirteen, the task of children became (minimally) to master an elementary school education. As children came to be seen as causing family expenses and not contributing to family income, the number of children married couples were willing to have began to decline, especially in the period after 1870, and families got smaller.

Robert B. Marks, The Origins of the Modern World, Rowman & Littlefield, Copyright 2007 by Rowman & Littlefield, p. 138.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 07/30/07-Star Wars Work

In today's excerpt--the hard work involved in creating new things. George Lucas, at a time when the success of American Graffitti is just becoming apparent, is hard at work on the script for Star Wars:

"Lucas did not hire a writer to work on Star Wars, despite his myriad preoccupations. It hadn't worked before, on THX and Graffitti, so there was no reason to try again. Instead, every day he'd walk up the stairs to his writing room at Medway--'it's like a little tower'--and plug away on the desk he'd built from three doors. 'I grew up in a middle-class Midwestern-style American town with the corresponding work ethic,' Lucas explains. 'So I sit at my desk for eight hours a day no matter what happens, even if I don't write anything. It's a terrible way to live. but I do it; I sit down and I do it. I can't get out of my chair until five o'clock or five thirty or whenever the news comes on. It's like being in school. It's the only way I can force myself to write.'

" 'I work with a hard pencil and regular lined paper,' he adds. 'I put a big calendar on my wall. Tuesday I have to be on page twenty-five, Wednesday on page thirty, and so on. And every day I 'X' it off--I did those five pages. And if I do my five pages early, I get to quit. Never happens. I've always got about one page done by four o'clock in the afternoon, and during that next hour I usually write the rest. Sometimes I'll get up early and write a lot of pages, but that doesn't really happen much.'

"Like most writers, even when not at his desk, Lucas was working. 'A writer is, every waking hour, constantly pondering scenes or structural problems. I carry my little notebook around and I can always sit down and write. That's the terrible part, because you can't get away from it. I'll lie in bed before I go to sleep, just thinking--or I'll wake up in the middle of the night sometimes, thinking of things, and I'll come up with ideas and I'll write them down. Even when I'm driving, I come up with ideas. I come up with a lot of ideas when I'm taking a shower in the morning.' "

J.W. Rinzler, The Making of Star Wars, Ballantine Books, Copyright 2007 by Lucasfilm, Ltd, pp. 14-15.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 07/27/07-Ethnic Conflict

In today's excerpt--ethnic conflict, which is more pervasive today than ever before, is tragically fundamental to history and is essential to understanding present-day Iraq:

"The list of ethnic massacres is a long one. A nonexclusive list of victims of ethnic massacres since the Romans includes: the Danes in Anglo-Saxon England in 1002; the Jews in Europe during the First Crusade, 1069-1099; the French in Sicily in 1282; the French in Bruges in 1302; the Flemings in England in 1381; the Jews in Iberia in 1391; converted Jews in Portugal in 1507; the Huguenots in France in 1572; Protestants in Magdeburg in 1631; Jews and Poles in the Ukraine, 1648-1954; indigenous populations in the United States, Australia, and Tasmania in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; Jews in Russia in the nineteenth century; the French in Haiti in 1804; Arab Christians in Lebanon in 1841; Turkish Armenians in 1895-1896 and 1915-1916; Nestorian, Jacobite, and Maronite Christians in the Turkish Empire in 1915-1916; Greeks in Smyrna in 1922; Haitians in the Dominican Republic in 1936; the Jewish Holocaust in German-occupied territory, 1933-1945; Serbians in Croatia in 1945; Muslims and Hindus in British India in 1946-1947; the Chinese in 1965 and the Timorese in 1974 and 1998 in Indonesia; Igbos in Nigeria in 1967-1970; the Vietnamese in Cambodia in 1970-1978; the Bengalis in Pakistan in 1971; the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1956-1965; 1972, and 1993-1994; Tamils in Sri Lanka in 1958, 1971, 1977, 1981, and 1983; Armenians in Azerbaijan in 1990; Muslims in Bosnia in 1992; Kosovars and Serbians in Kosovo in 1998-2000. To show how far from exhaustive this list is, the political scientist Ted Gurr counted fifty ethnically based conflicts in 1993-1994 alone. ...

"As Scientific American said in September 1998, 'Many of the world's problems stem from the fact that it has 5,000 ethnic groups but only 190 countries.' ...

"Ethnic diversity does not automatically imply ethnic conflict, violent or otherwise, it merely reflects the potential for such conflict, if opportunistic politicians try to exploit ethnic divisions to gain an ethnic power base. Apparently such opportunism is common. ... High ethnic diversity is a good predictor of civil war and genocide. The risk of civil war is two and a half times higher in the most ethnically diverse quarter of the [countries in the] sample as compared to the least ethnically diverse quarter.. The risk of genocide is three times higher in the same comparison. ...

"[However,] ethnically diverse countries with good institutions tend to escape the violence, poverty, and redistribution usually associated with ethnic diversity. Democracy also helps neutralize ethnic differences; ethnically diverse democracies don't seem to be at an economic disadvantage relative to ethnically homogeneous democracies."

William Easterly, The Elusive Quest for Growth, The MIT Press, Copyright 2001 MIT, pp. 268-278.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 07/26/07-Buddha

In today's encore excerpt, twenty-nine-year old Siddhatta Gotama, embarking on the quest that would lead him to become the Buddha, leaves his wife and newborn child:

"One night toward the end of the sixth century B.C.E., a young man called Siddhatta Gotama walked out of his comfortable home in Kapilavatthu in the foothills of the Himalayas and took to the road. ... His father was one of the leading men of Kapilavatthu and had surrounded Gotama with every pleasure he could desire: he had a wife and a son who was only a few days old, but Gotama had felt no pleasure when the child was born. He had called the little boy Rahula, or 'fetter': the baby, he believed, would shackle him to a way of life that had become abhorrent. He had a yearning for an existence that was 'wide open' and as 'complete and pure as a polished shell,' but even though his father's house was elegant and refined, Gotama found it constricting, 'crowded' and 'dusty.' ...

"It was a romantic decision, but it caused great pain to the people he loved. Gotama's parents, he recalled later, wept as they watched their cherished son put on the yellow robe that had become the uniform of the ascetics and shave his head and beard. But we are also told that before he left, Siddhatta stole upstairs, took one last look at his sleeping wife and son, and crept away without saying goodbye."

Karen Armstrong, Buddha, Penguin, 2001, p. 2.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 07/25/07-Rum

In today's excerpt--rum. Unable to make beer or wine of any quality, the early colonists stumble upon a new drink which some authors regard as the drink that built America:

"Amid [the New World] hardship, securing a reliable supply of alcohol assumed great importance. ... When a third English colony was established, in Massachusetts, the settlers made sure they brought plenty of beer. In 1628 the ship Arbella, which carried the leader of the Puritan colonists, John Winthrop, had among its provisions '42 Tonnes of Beere,' or about ten thousand gallons.

"Owing to the harsh climate, European cereal crops, which could be used to make beer, were very difficult to cultivate. Rather than rely on imported beer from England, the settlers tried to make their own from corn, spruce tips, twigs, maple sap, pumpkins, and apple pairings. ... The colonists [also] tried to introduce European vines, but their efforts failed due to the climate, disease, and, since they were from northern Europe, lack of wine-making experience. They tried to make wine from local grapes instead, but the result was revolting. ...

"Everything changed in the second half of the seventeenth century, however, when rum became available. It was far cheaper than brandy, since it was made from leftover molasses rather than expensive wine, and did not have to be shipped across the Atlantic. ... Rum was stronger too, ... [and] quickly established itself as the North American colonists' favorite drink.

"From the late seventeenth century, rum formed the basis of a thriving industry, as New England merchants--primarily in Salem, Newport, Medford, and Boston--began to import raw molasses rather than rum and do the distilling themselves. ... In 1733 ... rum accounted for 80 percent of [New England's] exports, ... [and] was being consumed at a rate of nearly four American gallons per year for every man, woman, and child in the colonies. ... In addition to selling rum for local consumption, the New England distillers found a ready market among slave traders, for whom rum had become the preferred form of alcoholic currency with which to purchase slaves on Africa's west coast.

"It played an important role in election campaigns: When George Washington ran for election to Virginia's local assembly, the House of Burgesses, in 1758, his campaign team handed out twenty-eight gallons of rum, fifty gallons of rum punch, thirty-four of wine, forty- six of beer, and two of cider--in a county with only 391 voters."

Tom Standage, A History of the World in Six Glasses, Walker and Company, 2006, Copyright 2005 by Tom Standage, pp. 113-118.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 7/24/07-A Child in Britain

In today's excerpt--in 1972, a scant sixty years after it had presided as the most powerful empire in history, Britain's empire was all but completely dismantled, and its economy was in shambles:

"Well, there may have been more enjoyable years than 1972 to be a child in Britain but I would be hard pressed to come up with one. If you were an adult, or even a faintly politically sentient teenager, it was part of an unfolding House of Horrors, but for my nine-year-old self, happily flicking over miniature plastic soldiers in simulcra of the Dieppe Raid or the storming of Monte Cassino, it was the immortal year of the three-day week and the electricity cuts. An era experienced by adults as one of multiple nadirs meant for me that my father was more frequently at home and that at seemingly random intervals all the power went off to be replaced by beautiful candlelight. The wooden, implausible Conservative prime minister of the period, Edward Heath, has always had an affectionate glow for me because his mishandling of the crisis gave me the pleasures of candles on the mantelpiece and an oil-burning storm lantern. There was probably no right way to handle it--effectively the entire country was flying to pieces with a million unemployed; grinding, terrible inflation and despairing demands for wage increases of in some cases almost 50 per cent, both because so many people were so poor and to keep some sort of pace with inflation. It is surprising in a way that politicians did not simply throw in the towel, and it is a striking comment on the stability of Britain's institutions that in the following years there was no military coup.'

"This magical, fairyland atmosphere enjoyed by children had a pretty limited non-infant circle of fans, as 1972 was also the year when it became quite clear that Northern Ireland was out of control. ... What now seems very clear ... is that Ulster was in effect the last phase of Britain's imperial dismemberment. ...

"It was therefore a Britain with its news programmes crammed with bombings, mass strikes, unemployment, and financial ruin that I happily sat in, swinging my legs, enjoying the candles' intimate light, reading comics, [and] picking my nose ...

Simon Winder, The Man Who Saved Britain, Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, Copyright 2006 by Simon Winder, pp. 244-248.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 07/23/07-Victoria Stills the Waters

In today's excerpt--the apex of the British Empire. By 1897, Britain has conquered one quarter of the earth's land and one quarter of its people, and celebrates its preeminence in Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee--which climaxes in a six-mile-long parade of unprecedented scope:

"Not since Rome had imperial dominion been flung as wide as Britain's now. It extended over a quarter of the land surface of the world, and on June 22, 1897, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, its living evidence marched in splendid ranks to the Thanksgiving service at St. Paul's. The occasion being to celebrate the imperial family under the British Crown, ... carriages of state carried the eleven colonial premiers of Canada, New Zealand, the Cape Colony, Natal, Newfoundland and the six states of Australia. In the parade rode cavalry from every quarter of the globe: the Cape Mounted Rifles, the Canadian Hussars, the New South Wales Lancers, the Trinidad Light Horse, the magnificent turbaned and bearded Lancers of Kharpurthala, Badnagar and other Indian states, the Zaptichs of Cyprus in tasseled fezzes on black-maned ponies. Dark-skinned infantry regiments, 'terrible and beautiful to behold,' in the words of a rhapsodic press, swung down the streets: the Borneo Dyak Police, the Jamaica Artillery, the Royal Nigerian Constabulary, giant Sikhs from India, Houssas from the Gold Coast, Chinese from Hong Kong, Malays from Singapore, Negroes from the West Indies, British Guiana and Sierra Leone: company after company passed before a dazzled people, awestruck at the testimony of their own might. At the end of the procession in an open state landau drawn by eight cream horses came the day's central figure, a tiny person in black with cream-colored feathers nodding from her bonnet. ... Along six miles of streets millions of happy people cheered and waved in ecstasy of love and pride. 'No one ever, I believe, has met with such an ovation as was given to me,' wrote the Queen in her Journal. 'Every face seemed to be filled with real joy. I was much moved and gratified.'

"Already for some months there had been an aura of self-congratulation in the air, 'a certain optimism,' said Rudyard Kipling, 'that scared me.' ...

"The year 1900, rather than 1899, the Astronomer Royal had decided, after much weighing of the pros and cons, was the hundredth and last year of the Nineteenth Century ... the most hope-filled, change- filled, progressive, busiest and richest century the world had ever known. Three weeks after it closed, on January 24, 1901, Queen Victoria died, redoubling the general sense of an era's end. ...

"A year before she died, the Queen, returning on her yacht from a visit to Ireland, was disturbed by rough seas. After a particularly strong wave buffeted the ship, she summoned her doctor, who was in attendance, and said, in unconscious echo of a distant predecessor, 'Go up at once, Sir James, and give the Admiral my compliments and tell him the thing must not occur again.'

"But the waves would not stand still."

Barbara W. Tuchman, The Proud Tower, Ballantine Books, Copyright 1962 by Barbara W. Tuchman, renewed 1994 by Dr. Lester Tuchman, pp. 54-59.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 07/20/07-Communism

In today's excerpt--economics and Communism. Today, the principle has been emphatically demonstrated: when people can keep what their labor produces--coupled with property rights--an economy can grow, and when people instead work for the state and can't own property, the economy crumbles. Though it seems that any thoughtful reflection on human nature would have led to this conclusion, in the 50s and 60s, and for some even into the 80s, leading US economists and academics believed the centrally controlled economy of the USSR could outperform the capitalist economy of the US. This belief helped reinforce the almost irrational fear that informed US policy-making during that era:

"In 1960, W.W. Rostow published his best-selling book, The Stages of Economic Growth. ... Rostow was in government throughout the administrations of Kennedy and Johnson. ... Rostow played on cold war fears in Stages. (The subtitle was Non-Communist Manifesto). Rostow saw in Russia 'a nation surging under Communism into a long-delayed status as an industrial power of the first order,' a common view at that time. Hard as it is to imagine today, many American opinion makers thought the Soviet system was superior for sheer output production, even if inferior in individual freedoms. In issues of Foreign Affairs in the 1950s, writers noted the Soviet willingness to 'extract large forced savings,' the advantage of which was 'difficult to overemphasize.' In 'economic power' they will 'grow faster than we do' ... [and they] derived 'certain advantages' from the 'centralized character of the operation.' ...

"It is too easy in hindsight to mock these fears. When I first visited the Soviet Union in August of 1990, almost everyone by then had belatedly realized that the Soviet Union was still a poor country, not 'an industrial power of the first order.' As I sat sweating in a tiny Intourist hotel room with sealed windows, with air-conditioning that had broken down under Khruschev and hadn't been fixed yet, with less than irresistible prostitutes trying to break down my door ('Hello I Natasha, I lonely'), I wondered how the Soviets managed to fool us for so long. Today, Russian per capita income is estimated to be less than one-sixth of American per capita income. ... [G]rowth has been negative every year since 1990."

William Easterly, The Elusive Quest for Growth, MIT Press, Copyright 2001, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, pp. 31-33.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 07/19/07-Leonardo Da Vinci

In today's encore excerpt--Leonardo Da Vinci, one of history's great geniuses, whose principal contributions were in art, engineering and science:

"As a young man, Leonardo was exceptionally beautiful. ... He was a homosexual vegetarian born out of wedlock who received very little formal education and was excluded by birthright from almost all professions. He was a mass of contradictions and conflicts, a man who rarely completed a commission ... [but wanted to] do as much as he possibly could and record everything he witnessed. He wrote disapprovingly of war, but designed military hardware for several different European warlords; he was a masterful painter, perhaps the greatest who ever lived, but tired of art. He was scornful of received wisdom but steeped himself in classical learning, and while he believed the human form was the ultimate expression of the divine, he despised humanity. ...

"Leonardo was never able to come fully to terms with the fact that he had been deprived of a formal university education. ... He once wrote with barely disguised bitterness: '[Establishment scholars] strut about puffed up and pompous, decked out and adorned not with their own labours but with those of others and they will not even allow me my own.' ...

"At other times he displayed what some may consider to be an unhealthy contempt for humans in general, once declaring: 'How many people there are who could be described as mere channels for food, producers of excrement, fillers of latrines, for they have no other purpose in this world; they practise no virtue whatsoever; all that remains after them is a full latrine.' "

Michael White, Leonardo, The First Scientist, St. Martin's Press, 2000, pp. 7-19.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 07/17/07-Rapid Eyes

In today's excerpt--rapid eyes:

"As you read this, your eyes are rapidly flicking from left to right in small hops, bringing each word sequentially into focus. When you stare at a person's face, your eyes will similarly dart here and there, resting momentarily on one eye, the other eye, nose, mouth and other features. ...

"But these large voluntary eye movements, called saccades, turn out to be just a small part of the daily workout your eye muscles get. Your eyes never stop moving, even when they are apparently settled, say, on a person's nose or a sailboat bobbing on the horizon. When the eyes fixate on something, as they do for 80 percent of your waking hours, they still jump and jiggle imperceptibly in ways that turn out to be essential for seeing. If you could somehow halt these miniature motions while fixing your gaze, a static scene would simply fade from view. ...

"What is more, microsaccades may form a window into your mind. Instead of being random, these little ocular shifts may point to where your mind is secretly focusing-even if your gaze is directed elsewhere-revealing hidden thoughts and desires.

"[Researchers note] that deliberately focusing on something causes stationary images in the surrounding region to gradually fade away. This fading happens to you every day, because deliberately focusing on something can briefly slow or reduce fixational eye movements, which are also less effective outside your area of focus. Thus, even a small reduction in the rate and size of your eye movements greatly impairs your vision. You do not notice the impairment, because you are not paying attention to invisible portions of your view, focusing on what is directly in front of you instead. Totally ceasing all eye movements, however, can only be done in a laboratory. In the early 1950s some research teams achieved this stilling effect by mounting a tiny slide projector onto a contact lens and affixing the lens to a person's eye with a suction device. ... Using such a retinal stabilization technique, the image remains still with respect to the eye, causing the visual neurons to adapt and the image to fade away. ...

"In another experiment, computational neuroscientists ... found that the frequency of microsaccades also conveys the presence of something that secretly attracts a person's attention. Thus, no matter how hard you might avert your eyes from the last piece of cake on the table or the attractive male or female standing across the room, the rate and direction of your microsaccades betray your attentional spotlight. This betrayal is not a practical concern, however. In the laboratory, scientists can detect and measure these minuscule eye movements to reveal the hidden brain mechanisms of attention, but people around you cannot easily use them to read your mind--yet."

Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen L. Macknik, "Windows on the Mind," Scientific American, August 2007, pp. 56-63.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 07/17/07-Tailfins

In today's excerpt--the gray-suited executives at General Motors decide that style trumps substance, and so hire flamboyant Harley Earl, who brings America the tailfin in the 1950s:

"Earl was plucked out of by [GM] in 1927. [He had] started out as one of the early customizers in the new auto business, adapting cars for the least conservative of Detroit's customers: movie stars. ... A Harley Earl car was easy to spot. He was fascinated by jet airplanes, so long and slim that they appeared to be racing into the future; he admired sharks, long, sleek, and powerful, and his futuristic cars were in some way based on their shape, with a single metal dorsal fin in the rear. ... His chief aim was to give his cars the look of motion, even while they were at rest. ...

"Harley Earl deliberately stood apart. ... Though he needed glasses, he almost never wore them because he believed they detracted from his image and thus diminished his power. ... [He] drove the Le Sabre, a highly futuristic car he designed himself. Typically, it was based on a jet plane, the F-86 Sabre jet. ...

"Earl had hundreds of suits, many of them linen and end offbeat colors ... which he kept in a massive closet in his office, so that if his clothes became wrinkled during the day, he could change and put on a fresh outfit. ... [He] would go before the board in a cream-colored linen suit and a dark-blue shirt and blue suede shoes. ... He was tyrannical to his subordinates: He raged at them, pushed them, always demanded more. ...

"If Earl's designs did not always please intellectuals, they were stunningly successful with car buyers. ... Fins, the most famous automotive detail of the era, represented no technological advantage, they were solely a design element whose purpose was to make the cars seem sleeker, bigger, and more powerful. ... It was a kind of pseudo-change. ... Thus, during a time when the American car industry might have lengthened its lead on foreign competitors, it failed to do so."

David Halberstam, The Fifties, Random House, Copyright 1993 by The Amateurs Group, pp. 123-127.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 07/16/07-Brain Size

In today's excerpt--the evolutionary basis for increased brain size:

"To [compete for] food, some of the newly hungry primate species moved to the forest edge. Their new habitat put more food in reach, but it also placed the primates within reach of big cats, canines and other savanna predators. This predation spurred two key evolutionary changes. The primates became bigger, giving individuals more of a fighting chance, and they started living in bigger groups, which provided more eyes to keep watch and a strength of numbers in defense.

"But the bigger groups imposed a new brain load: the members had to be smart enough to balance their individual needs with those of the pack. This meant cooperating and exercising some individual restraint. It also required understanding the behavior of other group members striving not only for safety and food but also access to mates. And it called for comprehending and managing one's place in an ever- shifting array of alliances that members formed in order not to be isolated within the bigger group. ...

"But as the ... groups grew, tracking and understanding all those relationships required more intelligence. According to the social-brain theory, it was this need to understand social dynamics - not the need to find food or navigate terrain - that spurred and rewarded the evolution of bigger and bigger primate brains.

"This isn't idle speculation; Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist and social-brain theorist, and others have documented correlations between brain size and social-group size in many primate species. The bigger an animal's typical group size (20 or so for macaques, for instance, 50 or so for chimps), the larger the percentage of brain devoted to neocortex, the thin but critical outer layer that accounts for most of a primate's cognitive abilities. In most mammals the neocortex accounts for 30 percent to 40 percent of brain volume. In the highly social primates it occupies about 50 percent to 65 percent. In humans, it's 80 percent.

"[N]o such strong correlation exists between neocortex size and tasks like hunting, navigating, or creating shelter. Understanding one another, it seems, is our greatest cognitive challenge."

David Dobbs, "The Gregarious Brain," The New York Times Magazine, July 8, 2007, p. 46.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 07/13/07-The Boy Scouts

In today's excerpt--the Boy Scouts. British General Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, hero of the cricket fields and the Boer War, founds the Boy Scouts in 1907. Its purpose is to insure that Britain's boys are prepared for the military service necessary to rule the vast British Empire and stave off the perceived threat from other European nations:

"[According to Baden-Powell] 'We are all Britons, and it is our duty each to play in his place and help his neighbours. Then we shall remain strong and united and then there will be no fear of the whole building--namely, our great Empire,--falling down because of rotten bricks in the wall. ... "Country first, self second," should be your motto.' ...

"The scramble for Africa ... suddenly seemed a distant memory. It was the scramble for Europe, now fast approaching, that would determine the fate of the British Empire. Baden-Powell's response was to found ... the Boy Scouts, the most successful of all the period's attempts to mobilize youth behind the Empire. With its quirky mix of colonial kit and Kipling-esque jargon, the Scout movement offered a distilled and sanitized version of frontier life to generations of bored town-dwellers. Though it was undoubtedly good, clean fun--indeed its appeal soon spread it far beyond the boundaries of Empire--the political purpose of scouting was quite explicit in Baden-Powell's best-selling Scouting for Boys (1908):

" 'There are always members of Parliament who try to make the Army and the Navy smaller, so as to save money. They only want to be popular with the voters of England, so that they and the party to which they belong may get into power. These men are called "politicians." They do not look to the good of their country. Most of them know and care very little about our Colonies. If they had had their way before, we should by this time have been talking French, and if they were allowed to have their way in the future, we may as well learn German or Japanese, for we shall be conquered by these."

Niall Ferguson, Empire, Basic, 2002, pp. 216- 217, 243-244.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 07/12/07-Immigration

In today's encore excerpt--writing in 1998, Douglas Massey writes of the historically inevitable result of any government's attempts to curb immigration:

"International migration is a natural consequence of capitalist market formation in the developing world, (and) the international flow of labor follows international flows of goods and capital, but in the opposite direction. ...

"Once international migration has begun, private institutions and voluntary organizations also tend to arise to satisfy the demand created by a growing imbalance between the large number of people who seek entry into a capital-rich country and the limited number of immigrant visas these countries typically offer. This imbalance, and the barriers that core countries erect to keep people out, create a lucrative economic niche for entrepreneurs and institutions dedicated to promoting international movement for profit, yielding a black market in migration. As this underground market creates conditions conducive to exploitation and victimization, voluntary humanitarian organizations arise in developed countries to enforce the rights and improve the treatment of legal and undocumented migrants."

Douglas S. Massey, et.al., Worlds in Motion, Understanding International Migration at the End of the Millennium, Oxford, 1998, pp. 41-44. Specific reference is made in this excerpt to works by Jacqueline Maria Hagan, Deciding to be Legal: A Maya Community in Houston (1994), and Susan Gonzales Baker, 'Implementing the US Legalization Program', International Migration Review, (1993).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 07/11/07-Memory

In today's excerpt--research psychologists demonstrate yet again the frailty of human perception and memory:

"In an experiment taken straight from the pages of Candid Camera, researchers arranged for a researcher to approach pedestrians on a college campus and ask for directions to a particular building. While the pedestrian and the researcher conferred over the researcher's map, two construction workers, each holding one end of a large door, rudely cut between them, temporarily obstructing the pedestrian's view of the researcher. As the construction workers passed, the original researcher crouched down behind the door and walked off with the construction workers, while a new researcher, who had been hiding behind the door all along, took his place and picked up the conversation. The original and substitute researchers were of different heights and builds and had noticeably different voices, haircuts and clothing. You would have no trouble telling them apart if they were standing side by side. So what did the Good Samaritans who had stopped to help a lost tourist make of this switcheroo? Not much. In fact, most of the pedestrians failed to notice--failed to notice that the person to whom they were talking had suddenly been transformed into an entirely new individual. ...

"The point of these [types of] studies is not that we are hopelessly inept in detecting changes in our experience of the world but rather that unless our minds are keenly focused on a particular aspect of that experience at the very moment it changes, we will be forced to rely on our [very fallible] memories ... in order to detect the change."

Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness, Knopf, 2006, pp. 43-45.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 07/10/07-Minstrels

In today's excerpt--the difficult, degrading legacy of minstrel:

" 'Minstrel,' that formulaic form of blackface jollity was, in fact, white America's foremost stage amusement from its inception in the 1830s till well after the Civil War. Overtaken by other ethnic forms of variety, such as Harrigan and Hart's Irish whimsies, and the industrialized vaudeville of the 1890s, it lingered on in the shape of large blackface troupes such as ... McIntyre and Heath, which provided W.C. Fields with his first non-juggling part in 1905. (Radio's Amos 'n' Andy ... took the genre into the 1930s and beyond.) The vagaries of 'political correctness' and severe cultural discomfort among show business historians have meant that this half-century of American cultural life has been firmly swept under the carpet until recent years, when a number of scholarly writers have sought to re-examine the residue. ...

"Most modern audiences would be strongly repelled, I have no doubt, by the grotesque physical appearance of nineteenth-century Minstrel: white performers, blacked up, with great exaggerated lips, dressed either in the ragged rube costume of the iconic 'Jim Crow' or the dandified 'Zip Coon,' delivering 'nigger' songs and comic monologues in a set pidgin-English mode, such as in this typical preacher's parody:

'Belobed black broden, me tend to dress my scorce to you dis nite on de all imported subject of language, an de various tongues ob difern nations and niggars, libbin and dead, known and unknown, an in so doing me shant stan shilly shally bour preface to do subject, but run bang at him at once like mad bull at 'dam haystack ...'

"In historical terms, it was a white clown and comic-song writer named George Nichols who reputedly first wrote down the antics of 'an old darky in New Orleans' nicknamed 'Old Corn Meal,' and it was another white performer, Thomas ('Old Daddy') Rice, who first danced the step known as 'Jim Crow' back in 1830. The first minstrel troupes were considered to be Dan Emmett's quartet of Virginia Serenaders and Edwin Christy's Original Christy Minstrels in 1841. There were soon dozens, and later hundreds of minstrel troupes performing all over the U.S., and the Virginia Serenaders toured Europe and Serenaded Queen Victoria in Windsor Castle, spreading the craze far and wide. Dan Emmett composed many of Minstrel's distinctive songs, such as 'De Boatman's Dance,' 'Dandy Jim from Caroline,' 'Root Hog or Die,' 'Turkey in de Straw' and many more, including what became, somewhat to his chagrin, the South's anthem, 'Dixie,' which Emmett wrote as a slave's dream of a mythical land of freedom: 'Den hoe it down an scratch yoa grabble / To Dixie Lann I'm bound to trabble / Whar de rake an hoe got double trigger / An white man jiss as good as niggar!' "

Simon Louvish, Mae West, St. Martin's Press, 2005, pp. 19-21.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 07/09/07-Chinese Food

In today's excerpt--Chinese food and other new things in current-day Shanghai:

"Not long ago, my wife and I moved to Shanghai for an indefinite stay. ... The daily surprise is how inexpensive, rather than expensive, the basics of life can be. Starbucks coffee shops are widespread and wildly popular in big cities, even though the prices are equivalent to their U.S. levels. But for the same 24 yuan, or just over $3, that a young Shanghai office worker pays for a latte, a construction worker could feed himself for a day or two from the noodle shop likely to be found around the corner from Starbucks. Pizza Hut is also very popular, and is in the 'fine dining' category. My wife and I walked into one on a Wednesday evening and were turned away because we hadn't made reservations. Taco Bell Grande is similarly popular and prestigious; the waiters wear sombreros that would probably lead to lawsuits from the National Council of La Raza if worn in stateside Taco Bells. Kentucky Fried Chicken is less fancy but is a runaway success in China, as it is in most of Asia. ...

"The signs of China's rise are of course apparent everywhere. ... From a room in the futuristic Tomorrow Square (!) building where we have been staying, I can look across People's Square to see three huge public video screens which run commercials and music video seemingly nonstop. The largest screen, nearly two miles away, is the entire side of the thirty-seven-story Aurora building in Pudong, Shanghai's new financial district. In the daytime, the sides of the building are a shiny gold reflective color. At night, they show commercials to much of the town. 'People under thirty can't remember anything but a boom,' a European banker who has come to Shanghai to expand a credit-card business told me. 'It's been fifteen years of double-digit annual expansion. No one anywhere has seen anything like that before.' ...

"Every run-down neighborhood has a bakery selling very good croissants and baguettes--though it is very hard to find cheese in China, which after all has no dairy-food tradition, and where a standard knock against Westerners is that they 'smell like butter.' "

James Fallows, "Postcards From Tomorrow Square," The Atlantic, December 2006, pp. 101- 109.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 07/06/07-Fundamental and Pentacostal

In today's excerpt--the origins and lightning spread in America of fundamentalism and Pentecostalism, just as some are predicting the demise of religion. They both emerge in the early twentieth century in reaction to a world grappling with the slaughter of World War I, the accelerating pace of the Industrial Revolution, the theory of evolution and a new religious liberalism, and unease with new waves Catholic and Jewish immigrants:

"Between 1910 and 1915, [oil millionaires Lyman andMilton Stewart] issued a series of twelve paperback pamphlets entitled The Fundamentals, in which leading conservative theologians gave accessible accounts of such doctrines as the Trinity,... and stressed the importance of spreading the truth of the Gospel. Some three million copies of each of the twelve volumes were dispatched, free of charge, to every pastor, professor, and theology student in America. ...
"[D]uring the Great War, an element of terror entered conservative Protestantism and it became fundamentalist. ... The horrific slaughter, they decided, was on such a scale that it could only be the beginning of the End. These must be the battles foretold in the Book of Revelation. ...

"In August of 1917, William Bell Riley [and] ... one of the editors of The Fundamentals ... held a massive conference in Philadelphia [to promote literal interpretation of scripture] attended by six thousand conservative Christians from all the Protestant denominations, and formally established the World's Christian Fundamentals Association. ... Immediately afterwards, Riley escorted fourteen speakers on a superbly organized tour of the United States which visited eighteen cities. ... The response was so enthusiastic that Riley believed he had launched a new Reformation. ...

"At the same time, ... the Pentecostalists were creating a postmodern vision that represented a grassroots rejection of rational modernity ... returning to an even more fundamental level: the nub of raw religiosity that exists beneath the credal formulations of a faith ."The first group of Pentecostalists had experienced the Spirit in a tiny house in Los Angeles on April 9, 1906.The leader of the group was William Joseph Seymour (1870-1915), ... who had long been searching for a more immediate and uninhibited type of religion than was possible in the more formal white Protestant denominations. By 1900, he had converted to Holiness spirituality, which believed that the gifts of healing, ecstasy, tongues, and prophecy ... would be restored to the people of God immediately before the Last Days. When Seymour and his friends experienced the Spirit, the news spread like wildfire. Crowds of African Americans and disadvantaged whites poured into his next service in such huge numbers that they had to move to an old warehouse on Azusa Street. Within four years, there were hundreds of Pentecostal groups all over the United States and the movement had spread to fifty countries."

Karen Armstrong, The Battle for God, Ballantine, 2000, pp. 171-179.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 07/05/07-Dali

In today's encore excerpt--Salvador Dali's most famous work, The Persistence of Memory, 1931, goes unsold:

"Dali described the genesis of this painting in his 1942 autobiography ... in which he claimed that the unforgettable limp watches were inspired by the remains of a very strong Camembert cheese. He had contemplated this cheese one evening after dinner, when he stayed at home with a headache while [his wife] Gala went to the cinema with friends. Having meditated on the 'super-soft' qualities of the runny cheese, Dali went to his studio where he suddenly realized how he should finish a lonely landscape featuring the rugged cliffs of the Catalan coast, illuminated by a never-setting sun, which had been sitting on his easel awaiting inspiration.

"I knew the atmosphere which I had succeeded in creating with this landscape was to serve as a setting for some idea, for some surprising image, but I did not in the least know what it was going to be ... "Throughout his career Dali explored his fascination with softness and malleability in numerous paintings, sculptures and works on paper, ... however none has a more obvious sexual significance than the limp pocket watches in this painting. ..."Although Gala would prophetically claim that 'no one can forget it once he has seen it,' The Persistence of Memory was left unsold when it was first shown in Paris. ... However the young American art dealer, Julien Levy, acquired the painting shortly after the close of the show, paying the trade price of a mere $250."

Dawn Ades and Michael R. Taylor, Dali, Rizzoli, 2005, p. 148.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 07/03/07-Franklin Unloved

In today's excerpt--Benjamin Franklin. Far from the benign, avuncular and aphoristic image we hold today, Franklin was a figure whose life was filled with risk, controversy, and reversal. Here we see two of several periods in Franklin's life where, although he was already both wealthy and world famous, the public turned against him. The first was in a 1764 re-election campaign for the Pennsylvania Assembly, and the second was in 1765 during the imposition of the hated Stamp Act at a point where Franklin was once again in London and was viewed as forsaking the interests of the colonies in his zealous loyalty to Britain:

"The campaign for elections to the Pennsylvania Assembly in October 1764 was one of the most scurrilous in American colonial history, and both Franklin and [his young political lieutenant Joseph] Galloway lost their seats. Franklin was accused of a host of sins--of lechery, of having humble origins, of abandoning the mother of his bastard son, of stealing his ideas of electricity from another electrician, of embezzling colony funds, and of buying his honorary degrees. But what ultimately cost Franklin his seat was the number of Germans who voted against him, angry at an earlier ethnic slur [he had made] about 'Palatine Boors.'

"Franklin was stunned by his defeat. He had completely misjudged the sentiments of his fellow colonists, something he would continue to do over the succeeding decade. ...

"The stamp tax seemed to Americans such a direct and unprecedented threat to their constitutional right not to be taxed without their own consent that resistance was immediate, spontaneous, and widespread. ... Since many people in Pennsylvania actually blamed Franklin for bringing about the Stamp Act, the mobs threatened to level his newly built Philadelphia house as well. His partner David Hall wished that Franklin were in Philadelphia to deal with the events, but then added, 'I should be afraid for your Safety.' His wife, Deborah, and several of her relatives resolved to defend the new house, and that determination encouraged friends to protect her and her house successfully. But Franklin's reputation in America was not so easily defended. His enemies in Pennsylvania accused him not only of framing the Stamp Act but also of profiting from it. 'O Franklin, Franklin, thou curse to Pennsylvania and America, may the most accumulated vengeance burst speedily on thy guilty head!' exclaimed the young Benjamin Rush, not yet the famous Philadelphia physician and friend of Franklin. Some warned that Franklin might be hung in effigy."

Gordon S. Wood, The Americanization of Ben Franklin, Penguin, 2004, pp. 101, 111-2.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 07/02/07-Stress

In today's excerpt--the consequences of stress. Researchers are identifying an increasing number of ways in which stress causes irreversible physiological damage in people. In the example below, the effect is on DNA itself. The study involved women who were caretaking chronically ill children, though similar results would presumably be found in other instances of long-term stress:

"The toll of relentless stress also seems to strike the very DNA of caretakers, speeding the rate at which cells age and adding years to their biological age. ... [R]esearchers doing genetic studies in mothers caring for a chronically ill child found that the longer they had been so burdened, the more they had aged at the cellular level.

"The rate of aging was determined by measuring the length of telomeres on the mother's white blood cells. Telomeres are a piece of DNA at the end of a cell's chromosome that shrinks a bit each time the cell divides to duplicate itself. Cells reproduce repeatedly throughout their lifespan to repair tissue or, in the case of white blood cells, to fight disease. Somewhere after ten to fifty divisions (depending on the type of cell), the telomere becomes too short to replicate anymore, and the cell 'retires'--a genetic measure of loss of vitality.

"By this measure, the mothers caring for chronically ill children were, on average, ten years older biologically than others of their same chronological age. Among the exceptions were those women who, despite feeling overwhelmed in their lives, felt well supported by others. They had younger cells, even if they were caring for a disabled loved one."

Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence