Friday, May 28, 2010 5/28/10 - head start

In today's excerpt - very early childhood learning:

"In the mid-1980s, Kansas psychologists Betty Hart and Todd Risley realized that something was very wrong with Head Start, America's program for children of the working poor. It manages to keep some low-income kids out of poverty and ultimately away from crime. But for a program that intervenes at a very young age and is reasonably well run and generously funded - $7 billion annually - it doesn't do much to raise kids' academic success. Studies show only 'small to moderate' positive impacts on three- and four-year-old children in the areas of literacy and vocabulary, and no impact at all on math skills.

"The problem, Hart and Risley realized, wasn't so much with the mechanics of the program; it was the timing. Head Start wasn't getting hold of kids early enough. Somehow, poor kids were getting stuck in an ntellectual rut long before they got to the program - before they turned three and four years old. Hart and Risley set out to learn why and how. They wanted to know what was tripping up kids' development at such an early age. Were they stuck with inferior genes, lousy environments, or something else?

"They devised a novel (and exhaustive) methodology: for more than three years, they sampled the actual number of words spoken to young children from forty-two families at three different socioeconomic levels: (1) welfare homes, (2) working-class homes, and (3) professionals' homes. Then they tallied them up.

"The differences were astounding. Children in professionals' homes were exposed to an average of more than fifteen hundred more spoken words per hour than children in welfare homes. Over one year, that amounted to a difference of nearly 8 million words, which, by age four, amounted to a total gap of 32 million words. They also found a substantial gap in tone and in the complexity of words being used.

"As they crunched the numbers, they discovered a direct correlation between the intensity of these early verbal experiences and later achievement. 'We were astonished at the differences the data revealed,' Hart and Risley wrote in their book Meaningful Differences. 'The most impressive aspects [are] how different individual families and children are and how much and how important is children's cumulative experience before age 3.'

"Not surprisingly, the psychological community responded with a mixture of interest and deep caution. In 1995, an American Psychological Association task force wrote that 'such correlations may be mediated by genetic as well as (or instead of) environmental factors.' Note 'instead of.' In 1995, it was still possible for leading research psychologists to imagine that better-off kids could be simply inheriting smarter genes from smarter parents, that spoken words could be merely a genetic effect and not a cause of anything.

"Now we know better. We know that genetic factors do not operate 'instead of' environmental factors, they interact with them."

Author: David Shenk
Title: The Genius in All of Us
Publisher: Doubleday
Date: Copyright 2010 by David Shenk
Pages: 37-39

Thursday, May 27, 2010 5/27/10 - morals and emotions

In today's encore excerpt - Jonah Lehrer proposes that morality is a form of decision-making, and is based on emotions, not logic:

"Psychopaths shed light on a crucial subset of decision-making that's referred to as morality. Morality can be a squishy, vague concept, and yet, at its simplest level, it's nothing but a series of choices about how we treat other people. When you act in a moral manner - when you recoil from violence, treat others fairly, and help strangers in need - you are making decisions that take people besides yourself into account. You are thinking about the feelings of others, sympathizing with their states of mind.

"This is what psychopaths can't do. ... They are missing the primal emotional cues that the rest of us use as guides when making moral decisions. The psychopath's brain is bored by expressions of terror. The main problem seems to be a broken amygdala, a brain area responsible for propagating aversive emotions such as fear and anxiety. As a result, psychopaths never feel bad when they make other people feel bad. ... Hurting someone else is just another way of getting what he wants, a perfectly reasonable way to satisfy desires. The absence of emotion makes the most basic moral concepts incomprehensible. G. K. Chesterton was right: 'The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.'

"At first glance, the connection between morality and the emotions might be a little unnerving. Moral decisions are supposed to rest on a firm logical and legal foundation. Doing the right thing means carefully weighing competing claims, like a dispassionate judge. These aspirations have a long history. The luminaries of the Enlightenment, such as Leibniz and Descartes, tried to construct a moral system entirely free of feelings. Immanuel Kant argued that doing the right thing was merely a consequence of acting rationally. Immorality, he said, was a result of illogic. ... The modern legal system still subscribes to this antiquated set of assumptions and pardons anybody who demonstrates a 'defect in rationality' - these people are declared legally insane, since the rational brain is supposedly responsible for distinguishing between right and wrong. If you can't reason, then you shouldn't be punished.

"But all of these old conceptions of morality are based on a fundamental mistake. Neuroscience can now see the substrate of moral decisions, and there's nothing rational about it. 'Moral judgment is like aesthetic judgment,' writes Jonathan Haidt, a psychologist at the University of Virginia. 'When you see a painting, you usually know instantly and automatically whether you like it. If someone asks you to explain your judgment, you confabulate ... Moral arguments are much the same: Two people feel strongly about an issue, their feelings come first, and their reasons are invented on the fly, to throw at each other.'

"Kant and his followers thought the rational brain acted like a scientist: we used reason to arrive at an accurate view of the world. This meant that morality was based on objective values; moral judgments described moral facts. But the mind doesn't work this way. When you are confronted with an ethical dilemma, the unconscious automatically generates an emotional reaction. (This is what psychopaths can't do.) Within a few milliseconds, the brain has made up its mind; you know what is right and what is wrong. These moral instincts aren't rational. ...

"It's only after the emotions have already made the moral decision that those rational circuits in the prefrontal cortex are activated. People come up with persuasive reasons to justify their moral intuition. When it comes to making ethical decisions, human rationality isn't a scientist, it's a lawyer. This inner attorney gathers bits of evidence, post hoc justifications, and pithy rhetoric in order to make the automatic reaction seem reasonable. But this reasonableness is just a facade, an elaborate self- delusion. Benjamin Franklin said it best in his autobiography: 'So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.'

"In other words, our standard view of morality - the philosophical consensus for thousands of years - has been exactly backward. We've assumed that our moral decisions are the byproducts of rational thought, that humanity's moral rules are founded in such things as the Ten Commandments and Kant's categorical imperative. Philosophers and theologians have spilled lots of ink arguing about the precise logic of certain ethical dilemmas. But these arguments miss the central reality of moral decisions, which is that logic and legality have little to do with anything."

Author: Jonah Lehrer
Title: How We Decide
Publisher: Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt
Date: Copyright 2009 by Jonah Lehrer
Pages: Kindle Loc. 1922-79

Wednesday, May 26, 2010 5/26/10 - saturday night live

In today's excerpt - reflections from the stars and satellites of the early years of Saturday Night Live, at a point when cast members were first achieving superstardom:


"There was one point in the second season where we were onstage rehearsing a Nerd sketch or something, and we were all talking about what we were naming our corporations. And I think it was Gilda who said, 'Listen to us, for God's sake. We're talking about our corporations! What's happened? We've joined the establishment.' And we were really kind of being hurled into all the trappings of a successful adult life at a young age."

BILL MURRAY, Cast Member:

"When you become famous, you've got like a year or two where you act like a real asshole. You can't help yourself. It happens to everybody. You've got like two years to pull it together - or it's permanent."


"When you're young, you have way fewer taboo topics, and then as you go through life and you have experiences with people getting cancer and dying and all the things you would have made fun of, then you can't make fun of them anymore. So rebelliousness really is the province of young people - that kind of iconoclasm."

DAN AYKROYD, cast member:

"It's too stressful, because you worry about quality, you want things to be so right, and that really weighs heavily - plus the adrenaline pump, it's like being in combat or a cop or something. You can't take that week after week. It's a young man's game, there's no doubt about it. It is satisfying when you pull something off, and it is tremendously debilitating and anxiety-producing when you don't."

JOHN LANDIS, Film Director:

"I've seen this attributed to John Lennon, but I know [SNL writer] Michael
O'Donoghue said it, because I was there when we heard Elvis died. My secretary came in and she said, 'Elvis is dead,' and Michael O'Donoghue said, 'Good career move.' "

Author: Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller
Title: Live From New York
Publisher: Little, Brown
Date: Copyright 2002 by Thomas W. shales and Jimmy the Writer, Inc.
Pages: 96, 101, 121, 123, 178

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 5/25/10 - the supreme court

In today's excerpt - the framers of the U.S. Constitution decided that Supreme Court Justices "shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour," meaning they should have life tenure. Alexander Hamilton, for one, thought this should be true in part because he felt the Justices would find it hard to make a living if forced to retire early:

"The prospect of a bench filled with elderly judges who occasionally nodded off during cases or forgot basic facts didn't seem to worry Hamilton in Federalist Paper 79. He wrote:

" 'The constitution of New-York, to avoid investigations that must forever be vague and dangerous, has taken a particular age as the criterion of inability. No man can be a judge beyond sixty. I believe there are few at present, who do not disapprove of this provision. There is no station in relation to which it is less proper than to that of a judge. The deliberating and comparing faculties generally preserve their strength much beyond that period, in men who survive it; and when in addition to this circumstance, we consider how few there are who outlive the season of intellectual vigor, and how improbable it is that any considerable portion of the bench, whether more or less numerous, should be in such a situation at the same time, we shall be ready to conclude that limitations of this sort have little to recommend them. In a republic, where fortunes are not affluent, and pensions not expedient, the dismission of men from stations in which they have served their country long and usefully, on which they depend for subsistence, and from which it will be too late to resort to any other occupation for a livelihood, ought to have some better apology to humanity, than is to be found in the imaginary danger of a superannuated bench.'

"More than two hundred years later, a debate is growing over the wisdom of life tenure. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, two law professors, Steven G. Calabresi and James Lindgren, called the Supreme Court 'a gerontocracy - like the leadership cadre of the Chinese Communist Party.' Between 1789 and 1970, they reported, 'Justices served an average of 14.9 years. Those who have stepped down since 1970, however, have served an average of 25.6 years.' They said that the 'typical one-term president now gets to appoint only one instead of two justices, and with the recent 11-year drought of vacancies a two-term presidency could in theory go by without being able to make even a single Supreme Court appointment.' They called such a situation 'unacceptable,' arguing: 'No powerful government institution in a modern democracy should go for 11 years without any democratic check on its membership. Nor should powerful officials hold office for an average of 25.6 years with some of them serving for 35 years or more.' They called the tenure rule 'a relic of the 18th centurv and of pre-democratic times.'

"Akhil Amar notes in America's Constitution: A Biography: 'Neither of America's first two chief justices served for life or anything close to it. Instead, John Jay left the bench after six years to become governor of New York, and Oliver Ellsworth quit after four and a half years ... together these two chiefs spent only ten years on the Court and lived for some forty years thereafter.' "

Author: Seth Lipsky
Title: The Citizen's Constitution
Publisher: Basic Books
Date: Copyright 2009 by Seth Lipsky
Pages: 154-155

Monday, May 24, 2010 5/24/10 - yale university

In today's excerpt - in the early 1900s when Time magazine founder Henry Luce entered Yale, the U.S. had become the world's industrial powerhouse, and so America's universities were beginning to change from finishing schools for gentlemen to training grounds for the new economy - and from evangelical institutions to places where elitist social societies like the Skull and Bones held sway:

"The Yale Henry Luce encountered in the fall of 1916 was a very different place from the college his father had entered twenty-eight years earlier. For one thing it was more secular. The evangelical fervor that had inspired the Student Volunteer Movement and that had made conspicuous piety a common and respected characteristic of college life in the 1880s was now spent. Religion had become a routine but far from fervent part of student culture. Henry's [who was the son of a missionary] own faith was almost certainly stronger than that of most of his classmates, but he usually gave scant evidence of it. 'All this publicity of Christianity, this carrying Christ around in public like a circus sideshow, is highly repulsive to me,' he wrote after a first meeting at Dwight Hall, a campus religion center. 'And young men that talk too much about the man Jesus - I wonder, do they know of what they talk, or are they only religiously drunk?' ...

"Yale was also a very different place academically from what it had been a generation before. Like colleges and universities across the nation, it had transformed itself in response to the burgeoning of new scholarly interests, which were, in turn, arising out of the rapid social and economic development of the United States. No longer were American colleges simply finishing schools for gentlemen, educating them in the classics, theology, and languages. They were becoming training grounds for the professions and the new economy. They were offering instruction in the social sciences and the natural sciences alongside the traditional disciplines. Faculties were organizing into 'departments,' and many universities, Yale among them, were now offering graduate degrees. Although traditional requirements remained, there were now also many new choices open to undergraduates - including the choice of concentrating in an area of knowledge of particular interest or value to the individual student.

"For all the changes, however, Yale remained a small and fairly provincial college, drawing students mainly from the social and economic elites of the Northeast and the industrial Midwest. And despite the modernity of much of its new curriculum, the character of student life was much as it had been in the 1880s. The great badges of achievement were not academic honors. Success at Yale came from such things as playing varsity football, heeling the Daily News, winning election to the board of the literary magazine, and gaining admission to the prestigious clubs and senior societies that dominated the social life of the campus. Owen Johnson's classic novel, Stover at Yale, published in 1912, provided a mostly accurate picture of life in New Haven in 1916. From the moment they arrived, ambitious students were encouraged to succeed by 'working for Yale' and striving for the distinctions that campus activities offered. 'You may think the world begins outside of college,' an upperclassman explained to Dink Stover his first night on campus. 'It doesn't; it begins right here,' in the struggle to get in with 'the real crowd,' to become 'one of the big men in the class.' 'The immediate goal was to be regarded as a success by your friends ... to be known as the big men,' recalled Henry Seidel Canby, who had graduated from Yale a few years before Henry arrived and later served briefly as an instructor in English there before becoming a distinguished magazine editor. These were things Harry already knew, having come from a school almost all of whose graduates went on to Yale. He also knew what Stover had to be taught: that the most important badge of success at Yale was election to one of the elite senior societies - and above all to the most prestigious of them, Skull and Bones."

Author: Alan Brinkley
Title: The Publisher
Publisher: Knopf
Date: Copyright 2010 by Alan Brinkley
Pages: 54-55

Friday, May 21, 2010 5/21/10 - crop rotation

In today's excerpt - the Dutch invent crop rotation in the late 1500s. For thousands of years, all societies had been subsistence societies, barely able to feed their inhabitants since low agricultural productivity meant a permanent scarcity of labor and land. This left precious few resources available for invention and innovation, but then came the breakthrough - because of their extreme scarcity of land, the Dutch were driven to find a better way to use land, freeing resources and setting the stage for the Industrial Revolution:

"Agriculture throughout the world was woefully unproductive because cropping drained the land of its fertility. The traditional remedy for soil exhaustion was allowing land to become fallow to recapture its fertility, but this took a third or a quarter of acres under tillage out of production. Farmers could also restore fertility by adding nitrogen to the soil. Their principal source of this came from animals that unfortunately had to be to stay alive and defecate, taking even more land away from producing food for the people. Breaking through this bind of declining soil fertility took a bundle of mutually enhancing practices. Fortunately Dutch farmers had been experimenting with possible improvements for many decades.

"Some farmers in the Netherlands realized that they could abandon the old medieval practice of leaving a third of the land to lie fallow each year. This move increased the number of tilled acres by a third. Instead of the fallow rotation, they divided land into four parts, rotating fields of grain, turnips, hay, and clover each season. Not only did this increase the number of tilled acres by a third, but the clover fed livestock after it had enriched the soil with its nitrogen deposits. The virtuous circle of growth replaced the vicious circle of decline. When some landlords and farmers responded to the possibility of becoming more productive, they were taking the first permanent steps away from the age-old economy of scarcity.

"English farmers copied the Dutch and succeeded in making their agricultural base feed more and more people with fewer laborers and less investment. Unlike the Dutch, the English had enough arable land to grow the grains that fed the people as well as their livestock. The Dutch could not produce what was needed to get their people through a year. With their profits from trade, they could store grain, but this lifesaving program got more and more expensive.

"While some English farmers copied the Dutch four-field rotation, others adopted up-and-down husbandry. In this routine, a farmer would crop his best land for three or four years and then put it in pasture for another five, during which time the animal manure and nitrogen-fixing crops would rebuild the fertility necessary for growing grains again. As in the Dutch system, land was no longer left fallow but always growing some crop, whether for animals or humans. Every element on the farm was put to some use; every hand, given new tasks. These innovations made urgent a farmer's attentiveness because of their interlocking qualities. Both the Dutch and English began to flood meadows to warm the soil in winter and extend the growing season. Over the course of the century all these improvements raised the seed to yield ratio, the labor to yield ratio, and the land to yield ratio. Or more simply, they led to bigger harvests from fewer acres, less labor, and fewer seeds."

Author: Joyce Appleby
Title: The Relentless Revolution
Publisher: Norton
Date: Copyright 2010 by Joyce Appleby
Pages: 73-74

Thursday, May 20, 2010 5/20/10 - network executives

In today's encore excerpt - network executives. Gary David Goldberg, creator of such network hits as "Family Ties," "Brooklyn Bridge," and "Spin City," producer of "Lou Grant," and writer on "The Bob Newhart Show," complains gently about the predictable interference from network executives, and then extols the more enlightened touch of certain of these executives - including NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff:

"We've finished four episodes [of Family Ties] now, and NBC has tested them. Brandon Tartikoff's coming over, and he wants to talk about what they've discovered. He's been our biggest fan and supporter. ...

"NBC has been pretty good in terms of not bogging us down each week with a series of nitpicky notes. But occasionally they back-slide. All network notes are the same. There are really only three. And they never vary. Ever. Before the reading of any script I could put them in a sealed envelope. And at the end of that reading, these will be the network notes. I promise.

"One: Move the story up. If the murder takes place in scene two, move it up to scene one. If it already takes place in scene one, move it up to the main title. If it's in the main title now, move it up to the song. Just move it up.

"Two: Hang a lantern on it. This means make your main story point so startlingly obvious, so starkly black and white, that it will be robbed of all the shading and complexity and ambiguity that make characters, and life, interesting and compelling. ...

"Three: Raise the stakes. For some reason, every episode must have monumental consequences for all the main characters. Leaving them distraught, bereft, yet somehow enlightened.

"Never mind that the most successful TV comedy of all time, Seinfeld, rarely ever even had a story to move up. Didn't shine a flashlight, let alone hang a lantern, on anything. And had no stakes whatsoever to be raised.

"Brandon sits across from me now in my Paramount office, and he gets right to it. 'You've got lightning in a bottle here with [previously unknown actor] Michael Fox.' He hands me some pages that contain a summary of all the research they've done so far. Turns out even people who don't like the show like Mike. For the people who do like the show, they can't get enough of Mike. It cuts across all ages and gender categories. NBC would like the emphasis of the show to be more on him now.

" 'I'm not telling you what to do creatively,' Brandon went on. 'But I just thought you should see this.' That was typical of Brandon and one of the traits that made him such a great network executive. The best studio heads I've worked with - Grant Tinker, Frank Mancuso, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Alan Horn - all have that same manner and style. At the beginning of any 'creative' discussion with Alan Horn, he will say, 'At the end of this meeting, you will do exactly what you want to do. I'll support you one hundred percent and I'll never revisit these issues again. But here's what I think.' Alan, Jeffrey, Grant, Brandon, Frank - put them in charge of any type of business, and within three years, that business will be preeminent in that particular industry. In the end, you don't want to fail because you don't want to betray the trust they have in you."

Author: Gary David Goldberg
Title: Sit, Ubu, Sit
Publisher: Three Rivers
Date: Copyright 2008 by UBU Productions
Pages: 41-43

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 5/19/10 - the toilet

In today's excerpt - the toilet. Thomas Crapper became very wealthy by inventing the Marlboro Silent Water Waste Preventer:
"Perhaps no word in English has undergone more transformations in its lifetime than 'toilet'. Originally, in about 1540, it was a kind of cloth, a diminutive form of "toile", a word still used to describe a type of linen.
"Then it became a cloth for use on dressing tables. Then it became the items on the dressing table (whence 'toiletries'). Then it became the dressing table itself, then the act of dressing, then the act of receiving visitors while dressing, then the dressing room itself, then any kind of private room near a bedroom, then a room used lavatorially, and finally the lavatory itself. Which explains why 'toilet water' in English can describe something you would gladly daub on your face or, simultaneously, 'water in a toilet.' ...
"Most sewagestillwent into cesspits, but these were commonly neglected and the contents often seeped into neighbouring water supplies. In the worst cases they overflowed. The people who cleaned cesspits were known as nightsoil men, and if there has ever been a less enviable way to make a living I believe it has yet to be described. They worked in teams of three or four. One man - the most junior, we may assume - was lowered into the pit itself to scoop waste into buckets. A second stood by the pit to raise and lower the buckets, and the third and fourth carried the buckets to a waiting cart. Workers ran the risk of asphyxiation and even of explosions since they worked by the light of a lantern in powerfully gaseous environments.
"In St Giles, the worst of London"s rookeries - scene of Hogarth's Gin Lane - 54,000 people were crowded into just a few streets. Such masses of humanity naturally produced enormous volumes of waste - far more than any system of cesspits could cope with. In one report, an inspector recorded visiting two houses in St Giles where the cellars were filled with human waste to a depth of three feet. The river was a perpetual 'flood of liquid manure,' as one observer put it. The streams that fed into the Thames were often even worse than the Thames itself. The river Fleet was in 1831 'almost motionless with solidifying filth.'
"Into this morass came something that proved, unexpectedly, to be a disaster: the flush toilet.Flush toilets of a type had been around for some time. The very first was built by John Harington, godson to Queen Elizabeth I. When Harington demonstrated his invention to her in 1597, she expressed great delight and had it immediately installed in Richmond Palace. But it was a novelty well ahead of its time and almost 200 years passed before Joseph Bramah, a cabinet maker and locksmith, patented the first modern flush toilet in 1778. It caught on in a modest way. Many others followed. But early toilets often didn't work well. Sometimes they backfired, filling the room with even more of what the horrified owner had very much hoped to be rid of. Until the development of the U-bend and water trap - that little reservoir of water that returns to the bottom of the bowl after each flush - every toilet bowl acted as a conduit to the smells of cesspit and sewer. The backwaft of odors, particularly in hot weather, could be unbearable.
"This problem was resolved by one of the great and surely most extraordinarily appropriate names in history, that of Thomas Crapper (1837-1910), who was born into a poor family in Yorkshire and reputedly walked to London at the age of 11. There he became an apprentice plumber in Chelsea. Crapper invented the classic and still familiar toilet with an elevated cistern activated by the pull of a chain. Called the Marlboro Silent Water Waste Preventer, it was clean, leak-proof, odor-free and wonderfully reliable, and their manufacture made Crapper very rich and so famous that it is often assumed that he gave his name to the slang term "crap" and its many derivatives.
"In fact, 'crap' in the lavatorial sense is very ancient and 'crapper' for a toilet is an Americanism not recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary before 1922. Crapper's name, it seems, was just a happy accident."
Author: Bill Bryson
Title: "The history of the toilet," (from the upcoming book At Home: A Short History of Private Life, Doubleday)
Date: May 17, 2010

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 5/18/10 - the long walk

In today's excerpt - the Long Walk. In January 1864, the U.S. Army forcibly removed between 8,000 and 9,000 Navajo Indians from their traditional lands in the eastern Arizona Territory and the western New Mexico Territory to internment camps in Bosque Redondo in the Pecos River valley. They had been conquered by a campaign whereby the U.S. Army had systematically destroyed their crops and other food sources, and old and weak among the Navajo had to either surrender or die. During the Long Walk, at least 200 died or were kidnapped along the 300-mile trek that took over 18 days to travel by foot. Their settlement in Bosque Redondo had such catastrophic consequences in death and disease and was so disastrously expensive that the U.S. returned them to a reservation in their original homeland in a second "Long Walk" in June 1868:

"Most of them were guilty of nothing more than being Navajo. The errant young men responsible for most of the raids represented but a small percentage of the tribe. Yet now the many would pay for the malefactions of the few; now all the [Navajo] would finally suffer for the trouble caused by its most incorrigible members. It was the poorest Navajos, the ladrones, who had surrendered first. They were the sickest and weakest, the ones who had lacked the wherewithal to hold out. Now they had less than nothing - not their health, not their animals, not even a country. ...

"Now they had food, too, if that's what you called the rations the [U.S. Army] provided along the march. The bacon was rancid and caused the Navajos to retch. They had coffee beans but no means to grind them. The daily ration of wheat flour was virtually useless. Although there was nothing particularly wrong with it, most Navajos had never seen flour before and didn't know what to do with it. So they just stuffed it into their mouths, uncooked - and naturally grew sick. ...

"Kindness may have been the [U.S.] policy, but as almost always happens in the escalating confusion of a refugee evacuation, the best intentions slipped. Army command devolved into chaos. Soldiers raped women, denied rations, and pushed elderly marchers to the brink of death. Cruel guards occasionally shot those who couldn't keep up and left them to rot where they lay. And soldiers looked the other way as old enemies of the Navajos - the Zuni, the Jemez, and the New Mexicans - had their fun with the helpless trains of emigrants, stealing women and children away in the night. The slave raids became so prevalent that an American officer circulated a warning that all
guards 'must exercise extreme vigilance or the Indians' children will be stolen from them and sold.'

"Hundreds of Navajos succumbed to sickness, exposure, and exhaustion. The erratic spring weather for which New Mexico is famous only worsened the ordeal. On March 21 a blizzard fell on a party of nearly a thousand marchers. Army quartermasters were not prepared for the storm - they had not procured enough firewood or blankets to go around. Many of the Indians were nearly naked and some developed frostbite. By the time this unfortunate column reached the bosque, 110 Navajos had died."

Author: Hampton Sides
Title: Blood and Thunder
Publisher: Anchor
Date: Copyright 2006 by Hampton Sides
Pages: 446-448

Monday, May 17, 2010 5/17/10 - the erie canal

In today's excerpt - the Erie Canal. In 1825, Philadelphia was still the largest city in America, with New York City and Boston close behind. But then New York opened the Erie Canal, a massive government project that connected its ports to the Midwest via the Great Lakes. Scorned derisively "Clinton's Folly," or "Clinton's Ditch" after New York Governor and canal proponent DeWitt Clinton, when it opened New York City almost instantly became the greatest boomtown the world had ever seen:

"In the early nineteenth century, New York was a large town, but it had a number of peers, including Philadelphia. The key decision that vaulted New York to prominence was the decision to build the Erie Canal. In John Steele Gordon's account of America's rise to an 'empire of wealth,' he noted the importance of that canal.

"The Erie Canal ... turned New York into the greatest boomtown the world has ever known. Manhattan's population grew to 202,000 in 1830, 313,000 in 1840, 516,000 in 1850, and 814,000 in 1860. ... In 1800 about 9 percent of the country's exports passed through the port of New York. By 1860 it was 62 percent, as the city became what the Boston poet and physician Oliver Wendell Holmes (the father of the Supreme Court justice) rather grumpily described as 'that tongue that is licking up the cream of commerce and finance of a continent.'

"These figures are for Manhattan - the surrounding parts of what is now New York City were growing as well. This explosion was all due to the Erie Canal. Before the canal, it had taken three weeks at a cost of $120 to move a ton of flour from Buffalo to New York City. After the canal's construction, it took eight days and cost $6. Gordon remarked that, before the canal was even completed, 'the Times of London saw it coming, writing that year [1822] that the canal would make New York City the 'London of the New World.' The Times was right. It was the Erie Canal that gave the Empire State its commercial empire and made New York the nation's imperial city. That was when the position of New York as an economic powerhouse was first firmly established, and the title has yet to be relinquished."

Author: Douglas Wilson
Title: Five Cities That Ruled The World
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Date: Copyright 2009 by Douglas Wilson
Pages: 164-165

Friday, May 14, 2010 5/14/10 - judy garland

In today's excerpt - long before the Beatles hit Shea Stadium, the relatively unknown Judy Garland found herself as one of the very first teen idols - and was stunned by the overwhelming reception she received, primarily from teenagers, on a whirlwind publicity tour for the release of The Wizard of Oz. Garland and her frequent co-star Mickey Rooney thus helped usher in an age of teenage idols:

"The studio had planned The Wizard of Oz as an epic to compete with the market domination of Fox's Shirley Temple, the biggest box-office draw of 1936, 1937, and 1938. ... It ended up at nearly double the cost of a typical major MGM picture. The studio had some serious recouping to do, and set in motion a massive promotional blitz that began in May 1939 and continued building over the next three months up to the saturation booking of the film nationwide. ...

"The film's theme tune 'Over the Rainbow' had been intended by writers Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen as 'a song of yearning.' Performed by the film's sixteen-year-old female lead, Judy Garland it was, by August, the most frequently played tune in the country.

"MGM decided to send Judy Garland out on tour to coincide with the film's premiere in each city. The rising star would be accompanied by the country's top juvenile: Garland and Mickey Rooney had already been established as duo in 1938's Love Finds Andy Hardy, and the studio wished to promote the forthcoming musical Babes in Arms. Both were accomplished and popular vaudeville veterans, but no one could have predicted the response that began with the pair's first appearance - in Washington on August 9 - and that built over the next three days in Connecticut.

"In New York, the pre-hype reached a crescendo. The competition to be one of the 150-strong 'official welcoming committee' had attracted 250,000 replies. When Garland and Rooney arrived in Manhattan at midday on Monday, August 14, the selected few were swamped by a 'screaming, delirious, perspiring roped-off mob' of 10,000 fans who filled Grand Central Station. The New York Daily News pictured Judy Garland stretched in a crucifixion pose between two rescuing policeman, her face contorted in a rictus of pain and shock.

"On the day of the official opening at the Capitol Theater, Thursday the seventeenth, the queue began forming on Broadway at 5:30 a.m. By the time the 5,000 tickets went on sale at 8 a.m., police estimated that 15,000 were outside the theater, eventually forming a line that went five and six deep around the block between 50th and 51st streets, Broadway and Eighth Avenue. This time, reporters took a closer look at this predominantly female swarm and observed that 'about sixty per cent of the multitude were minors.'

"Stunned by their reception, Garland and Rooney quickly recovered themselves and gave their professional best in the dance and vocal numbers that interspersed the performances of the film itself. By the end of the day, they had given seven shows to 37,000 customers: according to the Hollywood Reporter, 'The overflow filled almost all the other Broadway houses, jammed the restaurants, soft drink parlors, and candy stores.' With rave notices, this pattern continued for nearly two weeks until Rooney's final appearance on August 30: packed performances, jammed streets, mobbed stars."

Author: Jon Savage
Title: Teenage
Publisher: Viking
Date: Copyright 2007 by Jon Savage
Pages: 330-331

Thursday, May 13, 2010 5/13/10 - pakistan

In today's excerpt - the origins of the name "Pakistan." In India, under British rule in the early twentieth century, the centuries-old enmity between Muslims and Hindus burned hotter than ever. Some from among the Muslim minority yearned to be independent of the oppression of the Hindu and to form their own Muslim country. They later got their wish with the cataclysmic 1947 partition of India into two countries - India and Pakistan:

"I soon learned about Chaudhry Rahmat Ali, the man who coined the name 'Pakistan.' Rahmat Ali belonged to the cast of characters - along with Mohammad Iqbal, the intellectual dubbed Pakistan's 'national poet,' and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, a gaunt, sickly barrister - who helped to form Pakistan. Historians regarded Jinnah as the founding statesmen and lqbal as the founding philosopher. Rahmat All, however, enjoyed less influence inside Pakistan (he was living in England during the Partition) and most accounts of Pakistan's creation have confined him to a secondary role. 'Official Pakistan,' wrote a columnist in Dawn, an English-language daily newspaper, 'has apparently treated Rahmat Ali as the lunatic uncle who has needed to be locked up secretly in the attic.'

"Rahmat Ali's fame stemmed from a 1933 pamphlet he penned titled 'Now or Never; Are We to Live or Perish For Ever?' He opened the treatise:

" 'At this solemn hour in the history of India, when British and Indian statesmen are laying the foundations of a Federation Constitution for that land, we address this appeal to you, in the name of our common heritage, on behalf of our thirty million Muslim brethren who live in PAKSTAN - by which we mean the five Northern units of India, viz.: Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan - for your sympathy and support in our grim and fateful struggle against political crucification and complete annihilation.'

"Thus, the name PAKSTAN made its debut. But it was more than just an acronym for the composite Muslim-majority provinces in northern India. In Urdu, 'Pak' means 'pure,' and thus 'PAKSTAN' meant 'Land of the Pure.'

"Rahmat Ali might have coined the name, but he wasn't the first to pitch the idea of combining Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province, Sindh, and Baluchistan into a single political entity. Three years before Rahmat All's pamphlet circulated, lqbal, acknowledged as a towering intellect even in his own day, had proposed this imagined configuration, which was to fall under the umbrella of an All-India Federation. But Rahmat All wanted total independence from India. An upstart student radical, twenty years junior to lqbal, Rahmat Ali noted, with due politeness and respect, that his demand was 'basically different' from the one forwarded by the revered philosopher and poet. 'There can be no peace and tranquility in the land if we, the Muslims, are duped into a Hindu-dominated Federation where we cannot be the masters of our own destiny and captains of our own souls,' Rahmat Ali wrote.

"Rahmat Ali described the fate of Indian Muslims as having arrived at an apocalyptic intersection: 'We are face to face with a first-rate tragedy, the like of which has not been seen in the long and eventful history of Islam.' What happened to the days when they were 'custodians of the glory of Islam in India and defenders of its frontiers'? he wondered. Rahmat Ali added, in closing, 'We have a still greater future before us, if only our soul can be saved from the perpetual bondage of slavery forced in an All-India Federation. Let us make no mistake about it. The issue is now or never. Either we live or perish for ever.' "

Author: Nicholas Schmidle
Title: To Live or To Perish Forever
Publisher: Henry Holt
Date: Copyright 2009 by Nicholas Schmidle,
Pages: 6-8

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 5/12/10 - mozart's genius

delanceyplace header
In today's excerpt - genius. The popular conception of genius is that it is an inborn gift, yet an increasingly large body of research suggests the opposite - that genius is always the product of sustained effort. A case in point - Mozart:

"Standing above all other giftedness legends, of course, [is] that of the
mystifying boy genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, alleged to be an instant
master performer at age three and a brilliant composer at age five. His breath-taking musical gifts were said to have sprouted from nowhere, and his own
father promoted him as the 'miracle which God let be born in Salzburg.'

"The reality about Mozart turns out to be far more interesting and far less
mysterious. His early achievements - while very impressive, to be sure -
actually make good sense considering his extraordinary upbringing. And his
later undeniable genius turns out to be a wonderful advertisement for the
power of process. Mozart was bathed in music from well before his birth, and his childhood was quite unlike any other. His father, Leopold Mozart, was an intensely ambitious Austrian musician, composer, and teacher who had gained
wide acclaim with the publication of the instruction book A Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin Playing. For a while, Leopold had dreamed of being a great composer himself. But on becoming a father, he began to shift his ambitions away from his own unsatisfying career and onto his children - perhaps, in part, because his career had already hit a ceiling: he was vice-kapellmeister (assistant music director); the top spot would be unavailable for the foreseeable future.

"Uniquely situated, and desperate to make some sort of lasting mark on music, Leopold began his family musical enterprise even before Wolfgang's birth, focusing first on his daughter Nannerl. Leopold's elaborate teaching method derived in part from the Italian instructor Giuseppe Tartini and included highly nuanced techniques ...

"Then came Wolfgang. Four and a half years younger than his sister, the tiny boy got everything Nannerl got - only much earlier and even more intensively. Literally from his infancy, he was the classic younger sibling soaking up his big sister's singular passion. As soon as he was able, he sat beside her at the harpsichord and mimicked notes that she played. Wolfgang's first pings and plucks were just that. But with a fast-developing ear, deep curiosity and a tidal wave of family know-how, he was able to click into an accelerated process of development.

"As Wolfgang became fascinated with playing music, his father became fascinated with his toddler son's fascination - and was soon instructing him
with an intensity that far eclipsed his efforts with Nannerl. Not only did Leopold openly give preferred attention to Wolfgang over his daughter; he also made a career-altering decision to more or less shrug off his official duties in order to build an even more promising career for his son. This was not a quixotic adventure. Leopold's calculated decision made reasonable financial sense, ... Wolfgang's youth made him a potentially lucrative attraction. ...

From the age of three, then, Wolfgang had an entire family driving him to excel with a powerful blend of instruction, encouragement, and constant
practice. He was expected to be the pride and financial engine of the family,
and he did not disappoint. In his performances from London to Mannheim
between the ages of six and eight, he drew good receipts and high praise from
noble patrons. ...

"Still, like his sister, the young Mozart was never a truly great adult-level
instrumentalist. He was highly advanced for his age, but not compared with
skillful adult performers. The tiny Mozart dazzled royalty and was at the time
unusual for his early abilities. But today many young children exposed to
Suzuki and other rigorous musical programs play as well as the young Mozart
did - and some play even better. Inside the world of these intensive, child-centered programs, such achievements are now straightforwardly regarded by
parents and teachers for what they are: the combined consequence of early
exposure, exceptional instruction, constant practice, family nurturance, and a child's intense will to learn. Like a brilliant souffle, all of these ingredients must be present in just the right quantity and mixed with just the right timing and flair. Almost anything can go wrong. The process is far from predictable and never in anyone's complete control."

Author: David Shenk
Title: The Genius in All of Us
Publisher: Doubleday
Date: Copyright 2010 by David Shenk
Pages: 50-52

About Us

Delanceyplace is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context.  There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came. 

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010 5/11/10 - the boxer rebellion

In today's excerpt - the Boxer Rebellion, in which peasants in China rose up in 1899 against the encroachment and oppression of the West - against the waves of merchants, soldiers, and missionaries from Britain, American and other Western countries. The parents of Henry Luce, the founder of Time Magazine, were among these missionaries:

"The Luce family's arrival in Shantung had roughly coincided not only with the crumbling of the Qing dynasty and the collapse of local political authority, but also with the rise in northern China of a large, secret, paramilitary society that (not without reason) blamed China's troubles on Westerners and pledged itself to purge the nation of 'foreign devils.' It called itself the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists, but it was known to Westerners as the 'Boxers' (because of its emphasis on martial arts). Its members were mostly poor peasants, coolies, and destitute former soldiers.

"They had no strong leaders, few weapons, and modest resources, but they did have a fervent commitment to their cause and a fanatical belief that they were invulnerable to bullets. In 1899, less than two years after the Luces arrived in Shantung, the Boxers staged a murderous rebellion. They rampaged through towns and cities, killing whatever Westerners they could find (mostly missionaries, about 135 in all) as well as a much larger number of Chinese converts to Christianity - perhaps as many as thirty thousand, nearly a third of the total. One of their victims was [Luce family friend] Horace Pitkin. In the absence of his family, who were visiting relatives in America, he had refused to flee from Paotingfu with other missionaries. 'We must sit still, do our work - and then take whatever is sent us quietly,' he wrote a friend. He was captured and killed by the Boxers, who then paraded his corpse through the streets.

"The Luces were more prudent, and also more fortunate, than Horace Pitkin, since Tengchow was on the Shantung coast. The family stole away from the missionary compound after dark one night. Guided by their Chinese nurse, they raced through nearby fields and arrived (still in darkness) at the docks, where a ship was waiting to take them and other refugees first to the Chinese port city Chefoo (now Yangtai) and then to Korea, where they stayed until after the rebellion was finally and brutally suppressed. In the summer of 1900 a combined force of European, American, and Japanese troops descended on Beijing to rescue a group of Western diplomats under siege in their walled compound, crushed the Boxers, and - in a rampage of their own - killed many other Chinese in the process. They then extracted reparations and further
concessions from the now permanently crippled imperial government, which survived for only another twelve years with minimal authority.

"Some of the missionaries who had survived the Boxers were, for a while, consumed with vengeance and indeed seemed at times as blood-thirsty as the Boxers themselves. They exhorted the Western troops to punish the Chinese even more ferociously than they already had; a few actually joined the soldiers and led them to people they believed had been instrumental in fomenting the rebellion. There were even reports of missionaries looting Chinese homes to compensate themselves for their own lost property. Although such incidents were probably rare, the American press made much of them and, in the process, tarnished the image of the missionaries in the United States and Britain. At the same time, however, the martyrdom of the murdered Christians aroused many American evangelicals, and a large new wave of missionaries began flowing into China in the first years after the rebellion."

Author: Alan Brinkley
Title: The Publisher
Publisher: Knopf
Date: Copyright 2010 by Alan Brinkley
Pages: 11-12

Monday, May 10, 2010 5/10/10 - sex o'clock in america

In today's excerpt - for those who thought America's rebellious music and dance started with rock and roll in the 1950s, it was in fact 50 years earlier, it was ragtime, and as in 1950 the "Negro" was wrongly vilified:

"Ragtime might have been percolating throughout the black ghettos since the mid-1890s, but the style's first million-seller was achieved by Irving Berlin, with his 1911 hit 'Alexander's Ragtime Band.' It took a white man to really sell black music, as previously subterranean styles hit the mainstream as exploitable crazes. That was the deal: the new method of exchange.

"Ragtime's crossover success excited unfavorable comment, not the least because of its appeal to youth. The Musical American thought that ragtime was like an addictive drug. In 1913, the Musical Courier stated that America was 'falling prey to the collective soul of the Negro through the influence of what is popularly known as 'rag time' music.' This was nothing less than 'a national disaster,' as ragtime was 'symbolic of the primitive morality and perceptible moral limitations of the Negro type. With the latter sexual restraint is almost unknown, and the wildest latitude of moral uncertainty is conceded.'

"The link between music, race, and sexuality was confirmed in the moralists' eyes by the 'animal dances' that flooded the inner cities after the success of 'Alexander's Ragtime Band.' Beginning with the success of the turkey trot, a very fast and animated dance that evolved out of the nineteenth-century communal cakewalk, a whole bestiary erupted onto the nation's dance floors to the accompaniment of ragtime: dances like the bunny hug, the grizzly bear, the monkey glide, the possum trot, the kangaroo dip. As Irving Berlin noted in his 1911 hit, 'Everybody's doing it now.'

"In the animal dances, participants made up their moves as they went along. Instead of decorously holding each other at arm's length in the formality of the waltz and the polka, dancers whirled around the floor with their arms and legs intertwined. In the turkey trot, the lower half of the woman's body, from waist to knee, was enfolded in the legs of her male partner. The grizzly bear involved a total-body hug that went way beyond previous standards of propriety. This gliding and shimmying was an activity associated with burlesque performers and Negroes, not proper young whites. America's young didn't care. ...

"The craze went uptown. Life magazine reported in February 1912 that animal dances were flourishing 'above, below, and between. The dancing set in our town must be half a million strong.' ... Headlines like 'Movement Begins to Bar 'Turkey Trot' and 'Grizzly Bear' from Fifth Avenue' tapped into a wider panic about plummeting moral standards.

"This was summarized by a hysterical article in the August 1913 issue of Current Opinion, which seethed, 'It has struck Sex O'Clock in America: a wave of sex hysteria and sex discussion seems to have invaded this country.' Animal dances were associated with the increase in blatant prostitution and the prevalence of the white slave trade: the kidnapping and drugging of young girls for sexual purposes. ...

"The reformers and the authorities did their best to police the craze. Unable completely to close down the halls or to extirpate this dancing mania, they began to target the urban zones from which all this vice had originated. Just at the time when black American music was finding a greater national and international audience, red-light districts in San Francisco and St. Louis were segregated and then totally shut down.

"But it was too late as, in defiance of the reformers and the legislators, thousands of American youths continued to throng the dance halls every night of the week."

Author: Jon Savage
Title: Teenage
Publisher: Viking
Date: Copyright 2007 by Jon Savage
Pages: 124-126

Friday, May 07, 2010 5/7/10 - i.q. tests

In today's excerpt - IQ test results:

"Children develop only as the environment demands development. In 1981, New Zealand-based psychologist James Flynn discovered just how profoundly true that statement is. Comparing raw IQ scores over nearly a century, Flynn saw that they kept going up: every few years, the new batch of IQ test takers seemed to be smarter than the old batch. Twelve-year-olds in the 1980s performed better than twelve-year-olds in the 1970s, who performed better than twelve-year-olds in the 1960s, and so on. This trend wasn't limited to a certain region or culture, and the differences were not trivial. On average, IQ test takers improved over their predecessors by three points every ten years - a staggering difference of eighteen points over two generations.

"The differences were so extreme, they were hard to wrap one's head around. Using a late-twentieth-century average score of 100, the comparative score for the year 1900 was calculated to be about 60 - leading to the truly absurd conclusion, acknowledged Flynn, 'that a majority of our ancestors were mentally retarded.' The so-called Flynn effect raised eyebrows throughout the world of cognitive research. Obviously, the human race had not evolved into a markedly smarter species in less than one hundred years. Something else was going on.

"For Flynn, the pivotal clue came in his discovery that the increases were not uniform across all areas but were concentrated in certain subtests. Contemporary kids did not do any better than their ancestors when it came to general knowledge or mathematics. But in the area of abstract reasoning, reported Flynn, there were 'huge and embarrassing' improvements. The further back in time he looked, the less test takers seemed comfortable with hypotheticals and intuitive problem solving. Why? Because a century ago, in a less complicated world, there was very little familiarity with what we now consider basic abstract concepts. '[The intelligence of] our ancestors in 1900 was anchored in everyday reality,' explains Flynn. 'We differ from them in that we can use abstractions and logic and the hypothetical ... Since 1950, we have become more ingenious in going beyond previously learned rules to solve problems on the spot.'

"Examples of abstract notions that simply didn't exist in the minds of our nineteenth-century ancestors include the theory of natural selection (formulated in 1864), and the concepts of control group (1875) and random sample (1877). A century ago, the scientific method itself was foreign to most Americans. The general public had simply not yet been conditioned to think abstractly.

"The catalyst for the dramatic IQ improvements, in other words, was not some mysterious genetic mutation or magical nutritional supplement but what Flynn described as 'the [cultural] transition from pre-scientific to post-scientific operational thinking.' Over the course of the twentieth century, basic principles of science slowly filtered into public consciousness, transforming the world we live in. That transition, says Flynn, 'represents nothing less than a liberation of the human mind.'

"The scientific world-view, with its vocabulary, taxonomies, and detachment of logic and the hypothetical from concrete referents, has begun to permeate the minds of post-industrial people. This has paved the way for mass education on the university level and the emergence of an intellectual cadre without whom our present civilization would be inconceivable.

"Perhaps the most striking of Flynn's observations is this: 98 percent of IQ test takers today score better than the average test taker in 1900. The implications of this realization are extraordinary. It means that in just one century, improvements in our social discourse and our schools have dramatically raised the measurable intelligence of almost everyone.

"So much for the idea of fixed intelligence."

Author: David Shenk
Title: The Genius in All of Us
Publisher: Doubleday
Date: Copyright 2010 by David Shenk
Pages: 35-37

Thursday, May 06, 2010 5/6/10 - memory and fear

In today's encore excerpt - memory and fear. The emotion of each memory is chemically encoded in the brain's amygdala. And each memory is changed - chemically altered - each time we retrieve it, for better or for worse. Therapists try and use this in helping patients overcome fears:

"Learned fears [such as stage-fright] are acquired in part in circuitry centering on the amygdala, which Joseph LeDoux likes to call the brain's 'Fear Central.' LeDoux knows the neural terrain of the amygdala intimately; he's been studying this clump of neurons for decades at the Center for Neural Science at New York University. The cells in the amygdala where sensory information registers, and the adjacent areas that acquire fear, LeDoux has discovered, actually fire in new patterns at the moment a fear has been learned.

"Our memories are in part reconstructions. Whenever we retrieve a memory, the brain rewrites it a bit, updating the past according to our present concerns and understanding. At the cellular level, LeDoux explains, retrieving a memory means it will be 'reconsolidated,' slightly altered chemically by a new protein synthesis that will help store it anew after being updated.

"Thus each time we bring a memory to mind, we adjust its very chemistry: the next time we retrieve it, that memory will come up as we last modified it. The specifics of the new consolidation depend on what we learn as we recall it. If we merely have a flare-up of the same fear, we deepen our fearfulness.

"But, ... if at the time of the fear we tell ourselves something that eases its grip, then the same memory becomes reencoded with less power over us. Gradually, we can bring the once-feared memory to mind without feeling the rush of distress all over again. In such a case, says LeDoux, the cells in our amygdala reprogram so that we lose the original fear conditioning. One goal of therapy, then, can be seen as gradually altering the neurons for learned fear.

"Treatments sometimes actually expose the person to whatever primes their fear. Exposure sessions begin with getting the person relaxed, often through a few minutes of slow abdominal breathing. Then the person confronts the threatening situation, in a careful gradation culminating in the very worst version.

"[For example], one New York City traffic officer confided that she had flown into a rage at a motorist who called her a 'low-life bitch.' So in her exposure therapy that phrase was repeated to her, first in a flat tone, then with increasing emotional intensity, and finally with added obscene gestures. The exposure succeeds when, no matter how obnoxious the repeated phrase, she can stay relaxed - and presumably when back on the street she can calmly write a traffic ticket despite insults."

Author: Daniel Goleman
Title: Social Intelligence
Publisher: Bantam
Date: Copyright 2006 by Daniel Goleman
Pages: 78-79

Wednesday, May 05, 2010 5/5/10 - 'there is no second chance, not for most of us'

In today's excerpt - in the ominous and tumultuous years before World War I, playwright J.M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan, which he based on the Llewelyn Davies family and their young son Peter. Unlike the benign Walt Disney version of 1953, in the original heartbreaking work, the Darling children are separated from their parents for years, and Pan himself can never return home:

"The first few years of the twentieth century were far from being the perennial golden summer of folk memory, as the imperial European countries expanded their global influence to the point of irreversible conflict. In Britain, Victorian certainties were undermined by the Boer War and presentiments of the greater war to come, while at the same time challenged by the movements for women's suffrage, trade union rights, and the domestic response to European modernism. ...

"War and death lay beneath the ordered Edwardian surface, if only in a
quickening, irrational impulse. Nowhere is this clearer than in Peter Pan, which, first staged in December 1904, has become a twentieth-century archetype. Like its American contemporary, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan was a story aimed at children but adults were hooked in by its deep psychological complexity. It continues to speak so effectively across the generations that it is easy to forget its origins in a particular time, place, and biography. ...

"When J. M. Barrie met the Llewelyn Davies family in 1897, Barrie was already well established, but, beneath the successful facade, he was tormented by doubts and morbid fears. Undersized, haunted by the childhood loss of his brother David, locked into a marriage that be referred to as a 'horrid nightmare,' Barrie had lost his mother and sister in 1896. During the long walks that he took in Kensington Gardens, he began to turn to other people's children for solace. This was not only a substitute for parenthood but a reflection of his own self-diagnosed dilemma: 'He was a boy who could not grow up.' ...

"Within a year of first meeting the Llewelyn Davies family, he began working on a children's story about the birdlike attributes of babies in general and younger brother Peter in particular. Taking an idea from a contemporary play, he conceived of a character named Peter Pan who escapes from the nursery and attempts to live as a bird. Having cut himself off from human society - 'a Betwixt-and-Between' - he becomes an outlaw. When he tries to return to his bedroom, the windows are barred: 'There is no second chance, not for most of us.'

"The idea was further developed in the 1902 novel The Little White Bird, where Peter Pan appears as a major subplot. After its success, Barrie set about expanding the character into a full 'fairy play': a hasty first draft was finished by April 1904, and rehearsals began six months later. When it opened on December 27, Peter Pan was an immediate success with both adults and children. Daphne du Maurier later wrote about her father Gerald's performance as the male lead, 'When Hook first paced his quarter deck in the year of 1904, children were carried screaming from the stalls.'

"Only one critic, Max Beerbohm, noticed the all-too-complete conflation of the adult with the child: 'Mr. Barrie has never grown up. He is still a child absolutely.' On the surface, Peter Pan is a play for children: like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, it demands a suspension of adult skepticism and linear thinking, and plays upon the archetypal fears of being lost and orphaned. But if Oz is benign and forward-looking - full of the optimism of a new continent - Peter Pan is haunted and haunting: if, for Dorothy and the Darling children there is no place like home, then for Peter there is no home."

Author: Jon Savage
Title: Teenage
Publisher: Viking
Date: Copyright 2007 by Jon Savage
Pages: 79-80

Tuesday, May 04, 2010 5/4/10 - the telegraph

In today's excerpt - some commentators say that trains and telegraphs were the two most profound inventions of any age, since they collapsed time and distance more than any invention before or since. The telegraph also almost immediately brought with it the age of mass media:

"Samuel Finley Breese Morse was a painter, inventor, professor, unsuccessful politician, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. In 1832, as he sailed home to America from Europe, he occupied himself with the idea of a device that could communicate over great distances by sending electrical signals through wires. A bit more than a decade later, by 1844, he had a design, and he then coaxed the U.S. Congress to bankroll his invention. On Friday, May 24, of that year, Morse gathered with assorted Washington muckety-mucks in the U.S. Supreme Court chamber to show how his contraption worked. Using his homemade code of dots and dashes, he transmitted a sentence, which was miraculously received by his colleague Alfred Vail in Baltimore, more than sixty kilometres away. A friend's young daughter, Miss Annie Ellsworth, had been given the honour of composing the historic message, and she had opted for the fashionably biblical 'What hath God wrought?' From the Book of Numbers, it describes God's blessing of the Israelites. In the context of Morse's invention,
however, it might be taken with a whiff of irony. ... Morse's telegraph machine is rightly hailed for helping shrink the world, form enabling instant communication across entire continents, and a few decades later, for allowing messages to be transmitted around the world by transoceanic cable.

"It also revolutionized marketing. The telegraph followed on the heels of the European industrial revolution, and in North America, manufacturing had mechanized and expanded. Rural families had gravitated to cities to work in the fast-growing factories, which in turn churned out products for burgeoning urban populations. With the rise of railways through the nineteenth century, goods could be transported overland, en masse, to distant markets, resulting in more product choices in stores. And how did the telegraph fit into the picture? It allowed manufacturers to communicate instantly with newspapers in distant cities and towns, buying advertisements to attract thousands
of potential new customers.

"Barely a year after Morse dotted, dashed, and dotted his way into history, Philadelphia businessman Volney Palmer opined, quite rightly, that many manufacturers had neither the time nor the inclination to place ads in dozens - or even hundreds - of newspapers on a regular basis. Palmer offered his services as a sort of middleman, buying large amounts of space in several newspapers and then parceling and selling it to businesses, who would have to create their own messages. And so ... the advertising agency was born. ...

"Inspired by Palmer's success, like-minded advertising agencies sprouted up like daisies, buying and selling vast amounts of advertising spacein distant markets to expansion-minded manufacturers. Big business and 'mass' advertising had come together in a union whose rumblings would be felt throughout the nineteenth century. Outfits like Proctor & Gamble and, later, Coca-Cola were pioneers in early mass advertising and rapidly grew to become international icons. Morse's gizmo did more than shrink the world; it set in motion a new era of big-league consumerism and allowed marketing to blossom into a full-blown industry."

Author: Terry O'Reilly and Mike Tennant
Title: The Age of Persuasion
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Date: Copyright 2009 by Terry O'Reilly and Mike Tennant
Pages: xv-xvi

Monday, May 03, 2010 5/3/10 - the emperor justinian

In today's excerpt - though most historians have praised Justinian I, emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire (483 - 565 AD), because of the great monuments he built, martial victories he claimed, and legal code he sponsored, and have blamed his failures on the plague, in reality he ruined the finances of his Empire through his profligate spending on these wars and monuments:

"Humankind does not live by edifices alone. The constant temptation of ancient monarchs was to seize grandeur rather than earn it, by coercing resources from the margins to the center, to invest in ostentation and display. The Justinian who is remembered for what he built is not the Justinian of history - or, rather, is an embodiment of the weakness of that Justinian. To see Hagia Sophia and the great church Justinian built in Jerusalem as testimonies to his weakness and shortsightedness is to see them as they really are. The outsize scale of his buildings shouts aloud the ego and insecurity of their creator. Justinian and his great empire proved vulnerable to the tiniest of enemies, the plague bacillus.

"The years in which his military campaigns in the west went bad and he found himself in his Italian quagmire were dismal ones spent close to home. So much Justinian scholarship has concentrated on the self-glorifying legal, military, and architectural self-assertion of the early years that an important recent scholarly work was impishly called 'The Other Age of Justinian' - precisely to signal the long years of frustration and decline that formed part of the career of this grandiose monarch. ...

"Ancient empires kept abundant financial records, but hardly any of those documents survive. (Palaces and their archives are designed to be plundered, sooner or later.) A recent scholar has made some sober estimates of the profligacy of Justinian's expenditures. A summary of the bad news runs something like this:

  • Justinian is reported to have begun his reign with 28 million solidi 'in the bank,' reserves that [his predecessors] Anastasius built up and Justin preserved.
  • Justinian's wars cost him about 36 million solidi, with some interesting proportions:
  • - About 5 million on the eastern front
  • - About 8 million in Africa, half of it after 'victory' was achieved in Belisarius's short campaign
  • - About 21.5 million in Italy, fully half of it in the last two ruinous years 552-554
  • By comparison, his annual revenues for a good year of his reign amounted to about 5 million solidi; when Africa and Italy were added to his domains, they brought about another ten percent each, or 500,000 solidi each. Most of that revenue was expended locally on governing those restive provinces
"When he began to feel the financial pressures of such extravagant wars, Justinian took the natural action of a martial but improvident ruler: he plundered his own subjects and attacked his own currency, progressively thinning out the amount of bronze in the coinage and profiting handsomely at the treasury as a result. The effects of such a devaluation were slow but inevitable.

"Justinian's successor inherited (with Italy and Africa) greater responsibilities than Justinian began with, and had far more restricted financial capacity to address them. No emperor at Constantinople after Justinian had the opportunity for both lavish construction and warfare that Justinian had squandered so unwisely."

Author: James J. O'Donnell
Title: The Ruin of the Roman Empire
Publisher: HarperCollins
Date: Copyright 2008 by James J. O'Donnell
Pages: 285-289