Monday, June 24

Friday, June 21

According to the Economist, For every tiger in the wild, two are kept as pets in America. 12,000 pet tigers in the US vs. just 5,000-7,200 that remain in the wild.
To ask entails one instance of shame, not to ask entails lifelong shame.
In greater numbers than ever, China's villagers are using inexpensive prenatal scans and then abortion to prevent the birth of unwanted daughters and to ensure that they will bear a son, recent studies and census data show.

Through the last decade, a time of rapid economic growth, the gap between male and female births only widened, giving China the largest gender disparity among newborns of any country in the world. In pockets of the countryside the imbalance is staggering, with births of as many as 144 boys recorded for every 100 girls.

Decades of Communist rule and recent pell-mell development, far from uprooting the male bias in the Chinese countryside, have yielded new pressures to have sons. much of rural China, daughters move away to their husband's family at marriage, and the government no longer provides even a pretense of old-age or medical care.

This compares with the international average of about 106 boys to 100 girls.

Social scientists also speculate about the disruptive effects another decade or two from now, when there will be tens of millions of excess men in a country with a population of more than 1.3 billion, unable to marry and likely to be concentrated on the bottom rungs of society.

In the biggest cities, the excess of male births is surprisingly low despite the existence over the last two decades of a strict one-child policy. In part, the low urban disparity reflects the more effective enforcement of laws against prenatal gender determination.

But it also reflects a greater acceptance of female children, not least because many urban couples can expect that daughters will be more apt to assist them when they grow old.

Valerie Hudson, a professor at Brigham Young University in the United States is cited in the Economist on the potential consequences:
societies with large numbers of unmarried males tend to experience more crime, unrest and violence. While acknowledging that sex imbalance is only one of many factors influencing levels of violence, Miss Hudson points out that the 30m unhappy unmarried men China is likely to have by 2020 could become "kindling for forces of political revolution at home". There could also be an impact outside China, she says. The government may decide to use the surplus men as a weapon for military adventurism and "actively desire to see them give their lives in pursuit of a national interest".

Thursday, June 20

The actress says, "Everybody's face looks like some animal," she jokes, adding that the actor Jiang Wen's looks like a gorilla's.

Meanwhile, what does Jiang Wen have to say?

"Ever had horse meat?" he asks as the waitress delivers a plate of blood red sashimi. He clenches a fist and then grips his tensed forearm, adopting the tone of an older, more experienced brother. "It makes you strong."

And he got a woodie from watching the 1960s propaganda ballet The Red Detachment of Women.

Monday, June 17

So what do the Chicoms do about protests about corruption? They blame the messenger. The fate of one of the people involved in the cannon battle mentioned earlier.

Tuesday, June 11

Here's an idea: Expertise over theory
States across the country should revamp their teacher certification requirements by deemphasizing traditional education courses and requiring prospective teachers to pass rigorous exams in the subjects they plan to teach, according to a new federal report.

Monday, June 10

Book review on Escape From China:

a fascinating glimpse of China's outcasts, vagrants, itinerant farmhands, fishermen, former prisoners and others scraping by on China's social margins. It also demonstrates the limits of the reach of the Chinese state.
Some stuff about John Woo
Mr. Woo's signatures � the slow-motion amplification of violence, the air thick with wood chips and shattered glass; the impossibly cool hero, who leaps and rolls through a battle with guns blazing in both hands; the intimate stand-offs between antagonists, their gun barrels pressed into each other's foreheads � have been imitated by filmmakers as different as Quentin Tarantino and Steven Spielberg. From "The Matrix" to "Spider-Man," it is hard to cite a major action film in recent years that hasn't incorporated Mr. Woo's attitudes and innovations.
This sounds a little weird to me: a growing body of research suggests that the human affinity to nature -- plants, animals and landscapes -- is something hard-wired into us.

Friday, June 7

Violating the government's own rules, it Detains Prominent Chinese Lawyer
Police in Beijing have detained a prominent defense lawyer for more than a month in a case that underscores China's troubled attempts to reform its judicial system.

Chinese law says that suspects have a right to meet with an attorney within 48 hours of being detained, but police routinely deny authorization.

Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organization, has reported that families of Chinese suspects can spend months or even years searching for their loved ones after arrests, despite the laws guaranteeing access to a lawyer and family notification.
An old article on the acrylamide hysteria.
And similarly,
A set of simple risk charts could help people put in perspective their risk of dying from cancer, smoking, and other diseases and conditions....The charts appear in the June 5 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
I can't find the charts, though.
Update: here they are, I guess, but you have to pay. Bastards.
But I did find this, which tells us about the bad science in the movie "Erin Brockovich":
the movie encouraged exactly the wrong way to think about data, elevating individuals' medical histories to the level of proof and distorting the notion of risk.

Why I like Stephen Hunter so much:
What an amazing little film. God love the French. They make movies with ideas in them, other than: How many cars can we blow up?
which recalls:
Or maybe it's the influence of the blastmaster Jerry Bruckheimer, who never produced a movie that didn't have at least leventy-lebin 'splosions in it.

Wednesday, June 5

From spiked:
The paradox of health means that although we are healthier, expect and get more from medicine than ever before, and rarely encounter death, we feel worse. Although all object indices of health have improved during this century, and indeed during the last 40 years, our own perception of our health has declined.
Nothing in life is safe or familiar any more. Everything we eat, drink, breathe, use at work, or make phone calls with, now seems to pose a risk. We now believe we have the right to live in a risk-free society, which we intellectually acknowledge as an absurd proposition, yet emotionally we take it on board. We feel we cannot accept any risk.

And while you're there, look at All cultures are not equal.

Sunday, June 2

Not exactly an addendum to the recycling post below: Communism has trashed traditional Confucianism, and then trashed itself--no, that's not the recyling part. It's sparked by the news that Chinese peasants fashioned six-foot cannons from empty gas cylinders and cantaloupe-size projectiles from scrap metal, shooting hundreds of cannonballs across a half-mile of rice paddies in two daylong battles, killing a dozen people & destroying 60 homes.
A couple of things on recycling, motivated by this on WWII scrap drives. At least they weren't as bad as the backyard furnaces of the Great Leap Forward. (insert here obligatory rant on government stupidity in times of war--although technically the Chicoms weren't at war during the Greap Leap.)
I remembered Cecil also had one on recycling, which seemed a little simplistic to me. Basically he said we must participate in the grand experiment: there's no opting out. (insert here obligatory rant on government stupidity) This one seems far more convincing to me:
Recycling is neither "good" nor "bad"; solid waste is neither trash nor treasure. Like all other activities, recycling makes economic and environmental sense in some cases and not in others.
Forcing specific, arbitrary levels of recycling may be counterproductive.
We already have a way of figuring out when particular uses of resources make sense and when they don't, and this method doesn't involve mandates or government micromanagement. It's called market pricing.
Prices emerge as a result of scarcity. When a resource becomes scarcer, its price increases; consumers, responding to this market signal, cut down on their use of the resource. When a resource becomes more abundant, its price drops, signaling to consumers that they can use more of it. The price of a product, in a competitive economy, is, all in all, a pretty good indication of its resource-intensiveness.

Saturday, June 1

As far as commodity fetishization goes, in China
Fifteen years ago, "if you had an electric fan, people felt you were already rich enough," said Xiao Yin Shao, deputy general manager of Intel's test and assembly plant in the Pudong district of Shanghai.
And as the article points out, what's left of Mao these days is also mere commodity fetishization. What would Marx say? Say, maybe that should be my new slogan.
Why I'm not worried about getting Alzheimer's: it can rob patients of self-insight �X the ability to recognize what is wrong with them. What--me worry?
According to noted writers (ya wonder how they compiled that list) the top 100 books of all time. Glad to see some of my favorites have made the list. Hey, I'm glad to see I've actually heard of some of them, much less read a few of them. Although I've got to say that I don't think much of #1 on the list, Donkey Hotay.
Jeez, a reviewer about a lesbian film writes,
It's a perfectly poised distance that she establishes, one that ironizes without alienating, observes without fetishizing.
For the record, all of my ironizing alienates, just as all my observations fetishize. A quick search for fetishize turns up this link:
the word "fetish" has a titanic frisson for contemporary theorists. Simply to employ it appears to induce rapture.