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Offline Eagle

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Re: Today's selection
« Reply #195 on: February 15, 2017, 10:16:06 PM »
Casting out immigrants

Today's selection -- from Tudors: The History of England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I by Peter Ackroyd. One of the most common and recurring themes in history is the protest against foreigners by some significant portion of a given country's native population. Quite often, it has been the rulers or government who have been in favor of immigration, while that same immigration is opposed by that portion of the workers or businesses whose livelihood is impacted. And so it was in the England of King Henry VIII, where the immigrants viewed with suspicion and hatred were from Paris and Florence and Venice and Genoa:

"In the spring of 1517 a bill was posted upon one of the doors of St Paul's, complaining that 'the foreigners' were given too much favour by the king and council and they 'bought wools to the undoing of Englishmen'. This helped to inspire the riots of 'Evil May Day' in which the radicalism or insubordination of the London crowd became manifest. At the end of April a preacher had called upon Englishmen to defend their livings against 'aliens', by whom he meant the merchants from Florence and Venice, from Genoa and Paris. [Cardinal Thomas] Wolsey had sent for the mayor on hearing news that, as he put it, 'your young and riotous people will rise and distress the strangers'. A disturbance of this kind was deeply troubling for an administration that had no police force or standing army to enforce its will.

"The mayor denied any rumours of sedition but on the evening of 30 April 2,000 Londoners -- with apprentices, watermen and serving men at their head -- sacked the houses of the French and Flemish merchants. They also stormed the house of the king's secretary and threatened the residents of the Italian quarter. Wolsey, wary of trouble despite the assurances of the mayor, called in the armed retainers of the nobility as well as the ordnance of the Tower. More than 400 prisoners were taken, tried and found guilty of treason. Thirteen of them suffered the penalty of being hanged, drawn and quartered; their butchered remains were sus­pended upon eleven gallows set up within the city.

"In a suitably elaborate ceremony the other rioters, with halters around their necks, were brought to Westminster Hall in the presence of the king. He was sitting on a lofty dais, from which eminence he condemned them all to death. Then Wolsey fell on his knees and begged the king to show compassion while the prisoners themselves called out 'Mercy, Mercy!' Eventually the king relented and granted them pardon. At which point they cast off their halters and, as a London chronicler put it, 'jumped for joy'."

Tudors: The History of England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I
Author: Peter Ackroyd
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Copyright 2012 by Peter Ackroyd
Page: 19
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Re: Today's selection
« Reply #196 on: February 25, 2017, 11:35:46 PM »
Today's selection -- from "The Warmth of Friendship, the Chill of Betrayal" by Marta Zaraska. Temperature influences our feelings. A chill in the air can raise our suspicions, and a short dose of heat can bring feelings of trust:

" During the past decade scientists have discovered that our physical temperature can affect how 'warm' or 'cold' we feel toward other people. For instance, studies have found that when we are hurt, isolated or betrayed, a short dose of heat -- in the form of a hot beverage, warm bath or even the sun -- may help restore feelings of trust and bonhomie. Likewise, other investigations have shown that a chill in the air can raise our suspicions. In general, this line of inquiry belongs to a larger research field called embodied cognition, which holds that our body -- and not just our brain -- plays a role in our thinking, emotions and memories. The field has its critics, but when it comes to temperature, there is little doubt that the link between physical and psychological warmth and coolness is built on more than just metaphor. Researchers have uncovered overlapping mechanisms that govern both the system that regulates body temperature and the one that governs our emotional state. Imaging studies have tracked both systems to the insula in the cerebral cortex. And as neuroscientists and psychologists begin to understand this circuitry better, they are looking for ways to manipulate it to treat depression and other disorders that can put a freeze on our social connections. Yale University psychologist John A. Bargh first began exploring the links between physical and psychological temperatures in 2008. At the time, he says, his laboratory was 'scouting into a new territory about the warm-cold effect.' As part of that initial foray, he paired up with psychologist Lawrence E. Williams, now at the University of Colorado Boulder. They invited 41 undergraduate students to visit their fourth-floor psychology lab. During the elevator ride up, the students all encountered a woman carrying an armful of books, a clipboard and a coffee cup. She asked each one to hold her cup, which was either steaming hot or icy cold, while she scribbled something down on her clipboard. Once in the lab, the students read a short description about a fictitious "person A" and then had to rate the warmth of his or her personality. When the scientists analyzed the results, a clear pattern emerged: most of the students who held the hot cup had judged 'person A' to be significantly more generous and caring than those who held the chilly cup. Many similar experiments soon followed, extending the association. ...
 
"For definitive proof that physical and psychological temperatures are linked, scientists have turned to neuroimaging. 'Neuroscience has confirmed the reality of these phenomena, using much more powerful measurement tools,' Bargh says. These tools have tracked the source of the connection to the insula, a small, pyramid-shaped structure deep within the cerebral cortex. This region plays a role in how much we trust others and how much empathy we feel toward them. A 2015 study, for example, showed that damage to the insula causes people to misplace their trust and be overly naive in some situations but cagey in others. Critically, studies also reveal that the insula is important in temperature perception. In 2010 neurologist Hans Lüders of University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Ohio and his colleagues investigated the cases of five women with intractable epilepsy. In hopes of better understanding their seizures, they surgically placed electrodes in the women's insulae, among other brain structures. They reported that stimulating regions within the insula made these patients experience sensations of warmth in different body parts.

"That same year, working with his colleagues at Yale and Boulder, Bargh conducted an experiment that linked both feelings of interpersonal trust and temperature perception to the insula at the same time. They asked 23 participants to play a game inside a functional MRI scanner. The game required players to hypothetically 'invest' small amounts of money with other people. As they lay inside the machine, some of them held an ice pack for a few seconds; others held a pack heated to a toasty 105.8 degrees F. The scientists observed clear differences in activation within the insula, depending not only on the decisions the players made in the game but also on the temperature of the pack they held. In addition, they noted that participants primed with cold were less willing to invest. ...
 
"The big question, of course, is why? Why are physical and psychological temperatures linked in the first place? There are two theories, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive. 'One notion is that from birth we've learned that warmth signals the presence of loved ones, so one experience brings to mind the other one,' Inagaki says. 'The second theory is that it's part of our innate system.' For years researchers have explained the connection by way of the first theory, but recent neurobiological evidence gives more weight to the second idea that we have evolved this way. 'For all warmblooded animals, temperature regulation is very metabolically expensive and also required for survival,' psychologist Hans IJzerman of Free University Amsterdam points out. 'But it becomes cheaper when there are others to help us regulate our temperature.' Indeed, animal research has revealed that kleptothermy -- or stealing warmth from others, much as huddled emperor penguins do in Antarctica -- saves metabolic resources. One 2014 study estimated that in a species of Chilean rodents, sharing a cage with just a few other animals lowered an individual's basal metabolic rate by up to 40 percent. Similarly, a 2015 study of vervet monkeys showed that friendly grooming not only helps these animals with tangles and pests, it also renders their pelts better insulated against the cold. If we can save precious energy and feel warmer among others, it makes sense that we would also feel more socially included and trusting when primed with physical warmth. 'Throughout evolutionary time, if you needed somebody else to cuddle with, you needed to know how reliable they were,' IJzerman explains, 'so temperature expectation became involved as a "sociometer" to assess how we think of other people. Despite modern conveniences like central heating, thermoregulation has remained important for how we understand our relationships, which is why in English we refer to emotionally responsive people as "warm" and emotionally unresponsive as "cold."'"

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The Warmth of Friendship, the Chill of Betrayal
Marta Zaraska
Scientific American Mind
March/April 2017
pp. 68-71

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Re: Today's selection
« Reply #197 on: February 27, 2017, 10:18:07 PM »
Today's encore selection -- from Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don't, and How to Make Any Change Stick by Jeremy Dean. Make that New Year's resolution stick! How long does it take to form a new habit? You will often hear that it takes 21 days, but the real answer is quite complex:

"How long does it take to form a new habit? ... I looked for an answer the same way most people do nowadays. I asked Google. This search suggested the answer was clear-cut. Most top results made reference to a magic figure of 21 days. These websites maintained that 'research' (and the scare-quotes are fully justified) had found that if you repeated a behavior every day for 21 days, then you would have established a brand-new habit. There wasn't much discussion of what type of behavior it was or the circumstances you had to repeat it in, just this figure of 21 days. Exercise, smoking, writing a diary, or turning cartwheels; you name it, 21 days is the answer. In addition, many authors recommend that it's crucial to maintain a chain of 21 days without breaking it. But where does this number come from? Since I'm a psychologist with research training, I'm used to seeing references that would sup­port a bold statement like this. There were none. ...

"Thanks to recent research, though, we now have some idea of how long common habits really take to form. In a study carried out at University College London, 96 participants were asked to choose an everyday behavior that they wanted to turn into a habit. They all chose something they didn't already do that could be repeated every day; many were health-related: people chose things like 'eating a piece of fruit with lunch' and 'running for 15 minutes after dinner.' Each of the 84 days of the study, they logged into a website and reported whether or not they'd carried out the behavior, as well as how automatic the behavior had felt. As we'll soon see, acting without thinking, or 'automaticity,' is a central component of a habit.

"So, here's the big question: How long did it take to form a habit? The simple answer is that, on average, across the participants who provided enough data, it took 66 days until a habit was formed. As you might imagine, there was considerable variation in how long habits took to form depending on what people tried to do. People who resolved to drink a glass of water after breakfast were up to maximum automaticity after about 20 days, while those trying to eat a piece of fruit with lunch took at least twice as long to turn it into a habit. The exercise habit proved most tricky with '50 sit-ups after morning coffee,' still not a habit after 84 days for one par­ticipant. 'Walking for 10 minutes after breakfast,' though, was turned into a habit after 50 days for another participant. ...

"Indeed, overall, the researchers were sur­prised by how slowly habits seemed to form. Although the study only covered 84 days, by extrapolating the curves, it turned out that some of the habits could have taken around 254 days to form -- the better part of a year! What this research suggests is that 21 days to form a habit is probably right, as long as all you want to do is drink a glass of water after breakfast. Anything harder is likely to take longer to become a really strong habit, and, in the case of some activities, much longer."

Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don't, and How to Make Any Change Stick
Author: Jeremy Dean
Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong Books
Copyright 2013 by Jeremy Dean
Pages 3-7

 
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Re: Today's selection
« Reply #198 on: March 14, 2017, 10:46:13 PM »
Today's selection -- from Testosterone Rex by Cordelia Fine. The conventional view of masculine behavior is that more testosterone results in more assertive masculine behavior. The author refers to this as the "T-Rex" view. However, it may be that the opposite is true.

"Accord­ing to a 'T-Rex' view, high-T [high testosterone] individuals cluster at the competitive end of the continuum with the other aggressive, sexually inflamed risk takers, while low-T characters huddle at the duller but safer and more caring opposite pole.

"Consider, for example, a cichlid fish known as Haplochromis bur­toni that comes from the lakes of East Africa. In this species, only a small number of males secure a breeding territory, and they are not discreet about their privileged social status. In contrast to their drably beige nonterritorial counterparts, territorial males sport bold splashes of red and orange, and intimidating black eye stripes. The typical day for a territorial male involves a busy schedule of unre­constructed masculinity: fighting off intruders, risking predation in order to woo a female into his territory, then, having inseminated her by ejaculating into her mouth, immediately setting off in pursuit of a new female. Add to this the fact that territorial males boast signifi­cantly larger testes and have higher circulating levels of testosterone than submissive nonterritorial males, and a T-Rex view of the situa­tion seems almost irresistible. These high-T fish are kings indeed, pre­sumably thanks to the effects of all that testosterone on their bodies, brain, and behavior. ...

"But even in the cichlid fish, testosterone isn't the omnipotent player it at first seems to be. If it were, then castrating a territorial fish would be a guaranteed method of bringing about his social downfall. Yet it isn't. When a castrated territorial fish is put in a tank with an intact nonterritorial male of a similar size, the castrated male continues to dominate (although less aggressively). Despite his flatlined T levels, the status quo persists. If you want to bring down a ter­ritorial male, no radical surgical operations are required. Instead, simply put him in a tank with a larger territorial male fish. Within a few days, the smaller male will lose his bold colors, neurons in a region of the brain involved in gonadal activity will reduce in size, and his testes will also correspondingly shrink. Exactly the opposite happens when a previously submissive, nonterritorial male is exper­imentally maneuvered into envied territorial status (by moving him into a new community with only females and smaller males): the neurons that direct gonadal growth expand, and his testes -- the pri­mary source of testosterone production -- enlarge. In other words, the T-Rex scenario places the chain of events precisely the wrong way around. As Francis and his colleagues, who carried out these studies, conclude: 'Social events regulate gonadal events.' Or to put it another way, just in case the significance of this sailed past unnoticed, cichlid testes are a social construction."

Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science, and Society
Author: Cordelia Fine
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Copyright 2017 by Cordelia Fine
Pages: 130-131

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Re: Today's selection
« Reply #199 on: March 15, 2017, 10:44:00 PM »
Today's selection -- from Love Letters of Great Men. Napoleon's love letter to his beloved Josephine makes it clear that 1) great generals can be very emotional, and 2) the rest of us are going to have to step up our romantic game, especially as it relates to somehow working the phrase "burning as the equatorial sun" into our repertoire:

"To Josephine,

"I love you no longer; on the contrary, I detest you. You are a wretch, truly perverse, truly stupid, a real Cinderella.

"You never write to me at all, you do not love your husband; you know the pleasure that your letters give him yet you cannot even manage to write him half a dozen lines, dashed off in a moment! What then do you do all day, Ma­dame?
"What business is so vital that it robs you of the time to write to your faithful lover?

"What attachment can be stifling and pushing aside the love, the tender and constant love which you promised him?

"Who can this wonderful new lover be who takes up your every moment, rules your days and prevents you from de­voting your attention to your husband?

"Beware, Josephine; one fine night the doors will be broken down and there I shall be. In truth, I am worried, my love, to have no news from you; write me a four page letter in­stantly made up from those delightful words which fill my heart with emotion and joy.

"I hope to hold you in my arms before long, when I shall lavish upon you a million kisses, burning as the equatorial sun.

Napoleon Bonaparte
Paris 1797"

Love Letters Of Great Men - Vol. 1
Publisher Soho Books
Copyright 2010 by Soho Books
Pages: 9-10

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Re: Today's selection
« Reply #200 on: March 18, 2017, 11:22:24 PM »
Today's selection -- from Gasa Gasa Girl Goes to Camp by Lily Yuriko Nakai Havey. In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 forcing the removal and incarceration of 120,000 individuals of Japanese descent to camps in California, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and Arkansas. The Supreme Court upheld the action. It was not until the 1980s, due to a courageous suit brought by some of those impacted, that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judged the action to be unconstitutional. This book tells the story of one very young girl placed in one of these camps:

"On the fateful morning we gathered in front of a church in March of 1942, I knew an ominous event was unfolding but had scant knowledge of its historical significance.

" 'Koko de mat'tete, ne, Yuri-chan,' my mother entreats. 'Wait here.'
" 'I'll be all alone. Let me come. Let me come. Please,' I beg.
" 'No. Sit quietly,' she insists in Japanese; I always answer her in English. 'Where's Daddy?'
" 'I don't know. I have to register.' ...
 
"I have just turned ten, and I am sitting on my father's cardboard suit­case because a month before, on February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt had signed Executive Order 9066. My mother explained that now we had to go somewhere inland to a camp. We'd ride a train and go to camp. Just imagine! A train ride to camp! ...
 
"But where is the train my mother promised? Only a line of ordinary buses stretches down the street. ...

Going Camping
 
"My mother insisted I wear my white Sunday dress with red buttons and my black patent-leather shoes.

" 'This is a special trip,' my mother said. 'We must look neat. We don't want people to think we're beggars.' Did people camp in good Sunday clothes? They'd get so dirty. And everyone looks so serious, so worried. Some women are crying. ...
 
"My mother returns with cardboard tags stamped 18286 and ties one to the front of my dress; she puts another on my father's suitcase.
 
" 'What's this?' I ask.
" 'So many people; it's easier to remember numbers, so they gave us this number.'
" 'That's funny. I'll write my name on it.'
" 'No. They want only that number.' ...

"My brother appears just as we board the bus, but there is no sign of my father. ... The bus starts without him. My mother frowns and lays her hand on my forehead. 'You feel hot. I'll go find some water.'
 
"I wait for a long time, and then I must have slept because the next thing I know, the bus has stopped. Outside I see soldiers in front of a barbed wire fence, and behind them are row after row of black shacks but no tents. ...
 
" 'Yuriko, come, stand up.' My mother nudges me forward. My suitcase is too heavy, so I drag it down the aisle. 'Don't do that. The bottom will wear out,' she scolds me.
 
"I kick the suitcase out the door and jump off the bus. The ground feels wobbly. 'Mama, let's go back home. I don't want to camp anymore. Let's find Daddy and go home.' ...

" 'Is this our camp?' I ask Mama. 'How is Daddy going to find us?'
" 'This is a different kind of camp. For Japanese people,' my mother explains.
" 'What do you mean?'
" 'That's what the government decided.' ...

"My mother takes my suitcase. I peek into the room: four metal beds. Striped gray mattresses. Ugly. And they smell funny. ...
 
"When we reach the barrack, there he is -- my father is lying in a heap on a bed.
" 'Daddy! "My mother interrupts: 'We got our ...' but then stops short.
"I run to him. 'We got your blanket. Where did you get yours?' He doesn't answer.
"My mother turns toward us, ignoring my father. 'Put your blankets down and get ready for bed.'
"I try hard not to cry. 'No, Mama, let's go home. We found Daddy, so let's go home. I don't want to camp here.' ...

" 'Wake up, Daddy,' I whisper. 'Let's go home now.' I get into bed, determined not to cry. It was a strange night. Searchlights swept our window. Sometimes the light flooded the room, outlining our cots against the slatted walls; then they drained away, leaving ghostly images. ...
 
"Morning was a confusion of banging doors, bawling babies, shouts in Japanese and English, a search for toothbrushes and towels, and a dash for the bathroom.
 
"My father did not get up. We tiptoed out."

Gasa Gasa Girl Goes to Camp: A Nisei Youth Behind A World War II Fence
Author: Lily Yuriko Nakai Havey
Publisher: University of Utah Press
Copyright 2014 by the University of Utah Press
Pages 1-9

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Re: Today's selection
« Reply #201 on: April 14, 2017, 07:10:04 PM »
Today's selection -- from The Klondike Fever by Pierre Berton. In the late 1800s, the sparsely populated mining camps of Alaska and the Yukon River valley of Canada were the end of the earth. "Fortymile" was one such camp:

"Who were these men who had chosen to wall themselves off from the madding crowd in a village of logs deep in the sub­-Arctic wilderness? On the face of it, they were men chasing the will-o'-the-wisp of fortune -- chasing it with an intensity and a singleness of purpose that had brought them to the ends of the earth. But the evidence suggests the opposite. They seemed more like men pursued than men pursuing, and if they sought any­thing, it was the right to be left alone.

"Father William Judge, a Jesuit missionary in Alaska, described them as 'men running away from civilization as it advanced westward -- until now they have no farther to go and so have to stop.' One of them, he discovered, had been born in the United States, but had never seen a railroad: he had kept moving ahead of the rails until he reached the banks of the Yukon. They were Civil War veterans and Indian-fighters, remittance men from England and prospectors from the far west. Many of them had known each other before in the Black Hills, or the Coeur d'Alene country of Idaho, or in the camps of Colorado. They were nomads all, stirred by an uncontrollable wanderlust, which seized them at the slightest whisper of a new strike, however preposterous. They were men whose natures craved the widest possible freedom of action; yet each was disciplined by a code of com­radeship whose unwritten rules were strict as any law.

"They were all individuals, as their nicknames (far commoner than formal names) indicated: Salt Water Jack, Big Dick, Squaw Cameron, Jimmy the Pirate, Buckskin Miller, Pete the Pig. Ec­centricities of character were the rule rather than the exception. There was one, known as the Old Maiden, who carried fifty pounds of ancient newspapers about with him wherever he went, for, he said, 'they're handy to refer to when you get into an argument.' There was another called Cannibal Ike because of his habit of hacking off great slabs of moose meat with his knife and stuffing them into his mouth raw. One cabin had walls as thin as matchwood because its owner kept chopping away at the logs to feed his fire; he said he did it to let in the light. Another contained three partners and a tame moose which was treated as a house pet. Out in the river lay Liar's Island, where a group of exiles whiled away the long winters telling tales of great ingenuity and implausibility.

"Fortymile, in short, was a community of hermits whose one common bond was their mutual isolation. 'I feel so long dead and buried that I cannot think a short visit home, as if from the grave, would be of much use,' wrote William Bompas, a Church of England bishop who found him­self in Fortymile. ...

"By the peculiar etiquette of the mining camp, a man who bought a drink bought for everyone in sight, though such a round might cost a hundred dollars; while a teetotaler who refused a drink offered a deadly insult -- unless he accepted a fifty-cent cigar in its place. Hootch, like everything else, was paid for in gold dust, and the prospector who flung his poke upon the bar always performed the elaborate gesture of turning his back while the amount was weighed out, since to watch this ritual was to im­pugn the honesty of the bartender.

"Fortymile thrived on such unwritten laws, its residents enjoy­ing a curious mixture of communism and anarchy. It had no mayor or council, no judges or lawyers, no police or jail or written code. Yet it was a cohesive community. No man went hungry, though many were destitute. Credit at Harper and McQuesten's store was unlimited. If a man had no money, he could still get an outfit without payment. There were few 'bad men' in Forty­mile; on the contrary, it was a community that hewed sur­prisingly closely to the Christian ethic. Men shared their good fortune with their comrades, and it was part of the code that he who struck a new creek spread the news to one and all. Each man's cabin was open to any passer-by; such a traveler could enter, eat his fill, sleep in the absent owner's bed, and go on his way, as long as he cleaned up and left a supply of fresh kindling. This was more than mere courtesy in a land where a freezing man's life might depend on the speed with which he could light a fire."

The Klondike Fever: The Life and Death of the Last Great Gold Rush
Author: Pierre Berton
Publisher: Basic Books
Copyright 1958 by Pierre Berton
Pages 18-19, 23

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Re: Today's selection
« Reply #202 on: May 14, 2017, 07:16:13 AM »
Today's encore selection -- from Chaplin's Music Hall by Barry Anthony. Charlie Chaplin reached unimaginable heights of wealth and fame as the brightest comic star of the silent movies. But he started his career in the depths of poverty, the child of music hall performers in England in the late 1800s. His father died of alcoholism at the age of 38, and his mother was committed to an asylum after having three children -- each with a different man -- and supporting her children through music hall singing and prostitution. It was the Victorian era, an age in which the veneer of propriety covered over a world of dislocation, poverty and crime -- not the least of which was rampant child prostitution -- and which all seared itself into Chaplin's young soul and later informed his movies. In his movies, Chaplin often rescued the damsel in distress -- and his own first rescue happened when he saved the act of his own mother at the age of 4:

"[Charlie Chaplin's mother] Hannah appears to have had very few singing engagements during the period [when Charlie was young]. Sometime in 1893 or '94, however, she managed to obtain a booking at one of the 'Canteen' music halls situated in the garrison town of Aldershot, in Hampshire. It is probable that she secured the engagement by responding to an advert in the theatrical press. Several appeared in The Era during the period, with a Canteen agent Fred Williams inviting 'Lady Serios' to wire him with their lowest terms for employment commencing the following week.

"Hannah's willingness to travel 30 miles to appear for minimum salary in a rough establishment patronized by soldiers gives some idea of how desperate her situation had become. Aldershot audiences were notoriously unruly. In 1893 trooper Lee of the 20th Hussars was so savagely beaten by men of the Scottish Rifles at the Red, White and Blue Music Hall that his regiment took up arms and attacked their rival's barracks. Performers booked for the Canteen and other Aldershot halls would have recognized that they were little more than theatrical cannon fodder.

"Hannah was subjected to a psychological rather than a physical assault when her voice broke down at the Canteen. She was given 'the bird', with the audience unleashing a barrage of mocking catcalls and abusive language. In an attempt to defuse the situation the manager led young Charlie onto the stage, announcing that he would sing in place of his mother. Charlie had clearly been well trained. He launched into a version of Gus Elen's current hit ' 'E Dunno Where 'E Are', the story of a costermonger whose small inheritance had caused him to put on 'airs and graces' ...

"Perhaps the [song's] reference to 'Tommy Dodd', a gambling game which involved tossing coins, struck a chord with the audience, for they started to throw loose change onto the stage. Chaplin halted mid-song and announced that he would stop to collect the money and then continue. Having deposited a handkerchief filled with coins with his mother, the young singer returned to his act.

"[Chaplin recalled that] 'I talked to the audience, danced and did several imitations including one of Mother singing her Irish march song. ... And in repeating the chorus, in all innocence I imitated Mother's voice cracking and was surprised at the impact it had on the audience. There was laughter and cheers, then more money-throwing; and when Mother came on to the stage to carry me off, her presence evoked tremendous applause.'

"Charlie had rescued his first distressed damsel, a scenario that was re-enacted many times in his films."

Chaplin's Music Hall: The Chaplins and their Circle in the Limelight
Author: Barry Anthony
Publisher: I.B.Tauris
Copyright 2012 by Barry Anthony
Pages: 46-47

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Re: Today's selection
« Reply #203 on: May 14, 2017, 08:10:40 AM »
alcoholism, prostitution, violence
what terrible times
things have gotten better i think

then again
i just saw something in the news
about 2,000 child abusing priests
and countries seem to be gearing up for war
it seems the world is still ruled by greed
its almost enough to make one drink

but then again
the kingdom of heaven is within
and this world may never change
waking up is hard to do

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Re: Today's selection
« Reply #204 on: May 22, 2017, 07:39:14 AM »
Today's selection -- from Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli. Unaccompanied children from Central America are continually entering the U.S. to escape poverty and violence in their home countries. From April 2014 to August of 2015 it reached crisis proportions when over 100,000 unaccompanied children entered, most fleeing gang violence in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The journey is fraught with danger -- 80 percent of females who make it are raped, and since 2006 over 120,000 of these migrants have disappeared. If they make it, these children know to immediately seek the U.S. Border Patrol, and soon after they do, a screening process begins:

"The process by which a child is asked questions during the intake interview is called screening. ... A few spaces down [on the intake form], right before the first formal interview question, a line floats across the page like an uncomfortable silence:

"Where is the child's mother?                            father?

"The interviewer has to write down whatever infor­mation the child can or will give to fill in those blanks­ -- those two empty spaces that look a bit like badly stitched wounds. Too often, the spaces remain blank: all the chil­dren come without their fathers and mothers. And many of them do not even know where their parents are. ...

" 'Why did you come to the United States?' ...

"Their answers vary, but they often point to a single pull factor: reunification with a parent or another close relative who migrated to the U.S. years earlier. Other times, the answers point to push factors -- the unthink­able circumstances the children are fleeing: extreme vio­lence, persecution and coercion by gangs, mental and physical abuse, forced labor, neglect, abandonment. It is not even the American Dream that they pursue, but rather the more modest aspiration to wake up from the nightmare into which they were born.

"Then comes question number two in the intake ques­tionnaire: 'When did you enter the United States?' Most children don't know the exact date. They smile and say 'last year' or 'a few months ago' or simply 'I don't know.' ...

"The third and fourth questions on the intake ques­tionnaire are ... : 'With whom did you travel to this country?' and 'Did you travel with anyone you knew?' All children travel with a paid coyote. Some of them travel also with siblings, cousins, and friends.

"The fifth and sixth questions are: 'What countries did you pass through?' and 'How did you travel here?' To the first one, almost everyone immediately answers 'Mexico,' and some also list Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. To the question about how they traveled here, with a blend of pride and horror, most say, 'I came on La Bestia,' which literally means 'the beast,' and refers to the freight trains that cross Mexico, on top of which as many as half a million Central American migrants ride annually. There are no passenger services along the routes, so migrants have to ride atop the rail­cars or in the recesses between them.

"Thousands have died or been gravely injured aboard La Bestia, either because of the frequent derail­ments of the old freight trains or because people fall off during the night. The most minor oversight can be fatal. Some compare La Bestia to a demon, others to a kind of vacuum that sucks distracted riders down into its metal entrails. And when the train itself is not the threat, it's the smugglers, thieves, policemen, or soldiers who frequently threaten, blackmail, or attack the people on board. There is a saying about La Bestia: Go in alive, come out a mummy.

"But, despite the dangers, people continue to take the risk. Children certainly take the risk. Children do what their stomachs tell them to do. They don't think twice when they have to chase a moving train. They run along with it, reach for any metal bar at hand, and fling themselves toward whichever half-stable surface they may land on. Children chase after life, even if that chase might end up killing them. Children run and flee. They have an instinct for survival, perhaps, that allows them to endure almost anything just to make it to the other side of horror, whatever may be waiting there for them."

Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions
Author: Valeria Luiselli
Publisher: Coffee House Press
Copyright 2017 by Valeria Luiselli
Page:s 11-21

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Re: Today's selection
« Reply #205 on: July 06, 2017, 07:18:30 AM »
Today's encore selection -- from  What Good are Bugs? by Gilbert Waldbauer. Pollen, the bane of allergy-sufferers, is actually a densely nutritious food:

"Although no one has counted how many of the world's almost 275,000 species of flowering plants are pollinated by insects, there is no doubt that insects pollinate the great majority. Of 44 species of crops commonly grown in North America, about 66 percent were identified by Samuel McGregor as being more or less dependent upon insects for pollination. Stephen Buchmann and Gary Nabhan wrote that, of the world's 94 major crop plants, 18 percent are pollinated by the wind, 80 percent by insects (92 percent of these by bees), and about 2 percent by birds.

"David Roubik listed 1,330 species of plants that are cultivated or harvested from the wild in the tropics, but the pollinators of only 775 are known. About 88 percent of them are pollinated mainly by insects, 5 percent by bats, 1 percent by birds, and 6 percent by the wind. These figures agree with Kamaljit Bawa's earlier estimate that animals pollinate about 98 percent of all wild flowering plants in the lowland tropical rainforests of the world, and that the vast majority of these animals are insects. Bawa's estimate is particularly significant because tropical rainforests harbor so many different kinds of plants and animals. Edward O. Wilson wrote that tropical rainforests cover only 6 percent of the planet's land surface but are home to more than half the species of organisms on earth.

"Most flowers reward their visitors with pollen or both pollen and nectar. Most produce large quantities of pollen, enough to fertilize many flowers and a generous excess to feed their pollinators. Pollen is a complete and nutritious food that contains carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Although nectar may contain small amounts of other nutrients, it is essentially a solution of sugar in water. Some insects thrive on a diet of only pollen, and a combination of pollen and nectar is the only food of all 25,000 known species of bees, but no insect can grow on a diet of only nectar. Some insects, such as hawk moths and many butterflies, eat only nectar as adults, but do not grow and must carryover from the caterpillar stage the proteins, fats, and other nutrients required to produce eggs. But many other adult insects retain few nutrients from the immature stage and must eat a complete diet including protein and other nutrients. Some eat pollen to supply these nutrients, among them the bees, certain flies, beetles, and butterflies."

What Good Are Bugs?: Insects in the Web of Life
Author: Gilbert Waldbauer
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Copyright 2003 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College
Pages: 10-11
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