Commonplace Book: Readings, Mid-July 2007

“The coat colour of mammoths that roamed the Earth thousands of years ago has been determined by scientists.
Some of the curly tusked animals would have sported dark brown coats, while others had pale ginger or blond hair. The information was extracted from a 43,000-year-old woolly mammoth bone from Siberia using the latest genetic techniques.”
(The BBC)

“We do not mean the physical differences, more the fact that [girls] remain unimpressed by your mastery of a game involving wizards, or your understanding of Morse Code. Some will be impressed, of course, but as a general rule, girls do not get quite as excited by the use of urine as a secret ink as boys do.”
(The Dangerous Book for Boys, Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden)

McCullough said that the problem starts with the training that teachers receive. "Too many have degrees in education," he said, "and don't really know the subject they are teaching."
"It is impossible to love a subject you don't know," he said, "and without a passion for history, the teaching of history becomes a matter of rote learning and drudgery."
Without personal knowledge of history and enthusiasm for the subject, "you're much more dependent on the textbook," and, with rare exceptions -- he mentioned the great one-volume American history text by Daniel Boorstin, the late librarian of Congress -- "you read these texts and ask yourself, 'Are they assigned as punishment?'
(David McCullough testifying before Congress regarding the teaching of History in American schools)

“In their book, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression, Peter Stallybrass and Allon White write a great deal about representations of the body. Citing Bakhtin, they discuss the difference between the body as represented in popular festivals (low culture) and classic statuary (high culture). The high culture body "has no openings or orifices whereas grotesque costumes and masks emphasize the gaping mouth, the protuberant belly and buttocks, the feet and the genitals (Stallybrass and White, 22). The classical body is a perfect closed system, unsullied by the world around it. It is pure and self-contained, whereas the grotesque body with its various orifices and protrusions is constantly excreting or consuming.”
(William Meyer)

“We all, broadly, adhere to the same principles of what a man should cover up. But it goes without saying that there are massive cultural differences in what is considered decent for a woman. And it ought to go without saying that the more repressive a culture is, the more it restricts its womenfolk, the more clothing it requires them to wear.... Nose, faces, ankles, we can all agree on. Decolletage, all of a sudden, seems to be a battleground.... It seems to me that cleavage perfectly bifurcates the old and new misogyny. Old school feminism doesn't allow decolletage, new school feminism requires it - or at the very least, requires us to defend it. Maybe we could bridge this by showing one at a time.”
(Zoe Williams in the UK Guardian)

How Hello Kitty Commodifies the Cute, Cool and Camp: 'Consumutopia' versus 'Control' in Japan

“Asked about Hello Kitty, respondents judged those interested in this 'character good' within a framework of freedom/self-autonomy versus coercion/compulsion. The former is associated with what may be termed 'consumutopia' (a counter-presence to mundane reality fueled by late capitalism, pop culture industry, consumerism), while the latter is connected to 'control', a critical view of self/collective relations that also comments on Japanese ethno-identity. Hello Kitty also demonstrates the need to focus not just on different tastes within a society, but also on ambiguous and diverse attitudes within the same individual. Such diversity allows Sanrio, Hello Kitty's maker, to link within one individual different modes of self-presentation, chronologically corresponding to girlhood ('cute'), female adolescence ('cool'), and womanhood ('camp'). Thus, as people mature, appeals to nostalgia encourage a reconnection with the past by buying products united by one leitmotif; same commodity, same individual, different ages/tastes/styles/desires.”
(Brian McVeigh , Tôyô Gakuan University, Japan in the Journal of Material Culture, Vol. 5, No. 2, 225-245 (2000)

“Going into Iraq was, in effect, punching our fist into the largest hornet’s nest in the world.”
(David Halberstam)

“In a world where darn near every corporation known to man wants to tie in to the children, teen-ager and 18-34 male categories more than anything else in the world (only could explain the baby driving sketch commercials that British Petroleum is running, eh?), the comic book industry seems to be going away from them, and I'm not even sure if they know why.”
(posted by “miyaa” on the blog philosophical snarks, on the increasing sexualization of female characters and dearth of comics for younger readers.)

“...The Walter Mondale fiasco in the mid-eighties prompted a few shrewd Washington insiders to create the notorious “pro-business” political formula of the Democratic Leadership Council, which sought to end the party’s dependence upon labor money by announcing a new willingness to sell out on financial issues in exchange for support from Wall Street. Once the DLC’s financial strategy helped get Bill Clinton elected, no one in Washington ever again bothered to question the wisdom of the political compromises it required.

“Within a decade, the process was automatic – Citibank gives money to Tom Daschle, Tom Daschle crafts the hideous Bankruptcy Bill, and suddenly the Midwestern union member who was laid off in the wake of Democrat-passed NAFTA can’t even declare bankruptcy to get out from the credit card debt he incurred in his unemployment. He will now probably suck eggs for the rest of his life, paying off credit card debt year after year at a snail’s pace while working as a non-union butcher in a Wal-Mart in Butte. Royally screwed twice by the Democratic Party he voted for, he will almost certainly decide to vote Republican the first time he opens up the door to find four pimply college students wearing I READ BANNED BOOKS t-shirts taking up a collection to agitate for dolphin-safe tuna.”

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