Friday, August 5, 2011

Rapid-Fire Book Club, Toilet Mishap Avoidance Edition

The handle broke on the toilet and I went into Madison while it got fixed. What, you were expecting a geyser of fecal matter to gush forth from the bowl or something?

Anyway. Two books to report today...

Hartston, William- The Encyclopedia of Useless Information

And it's pretty much that. None of the stories are very long, mostly just little factoids, but the thing it has going for it is a lot of stuff my other books don't contain. When I get books like this, I flip through them quick to gauge if there's very much new material in it or just a bunch of stuff that's either in my other books or that I'm already well-aware of. This one passed inspection and I'm likely going to carve it up for prompts that I can expand on here. Just like the other random-trivia books in my arsenal.

Poignant, Roslyn- Professional Savages: Captive Lives and Western Spectacle

In 1882, nonwhite races had a hard time dealing with the Western world. They tended to be regarded as "savages" that needed to be "civilized", something that generally involved one of a couple things:

*Missionaries showing up one day and declaring everything they saw an affront to God and then obliterating entire cultures and replacing them with Bible studies,
*Colonialists showing up one day and declaring everything they saw as property of Europe and then shooting entire cultures until that became true, or...
*The kind of thing that happened to the subjects of this book, a group of Aborigines from North Queensland, Australia. What happened to them was that they were "recruited" by someone from the West, shipped to the West, and paraded around as the "uncivilized" "savages" they, according to the West's sensibilities of the time, were. A lot of the time, the word "cannibal" would be thrown in as well, whether or not that was actually true. Most of the time, a "savage" so "recruited" would never see home again. I mentioned another such instance back during the Vancouver Olympics, that of "Anthropology Days" in the 1904 Games in St. Louis. But a better-detailed story on it can be found at Slate.

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