Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Empire Building in the South Seas

I've been reading "Narrative of the Voyages Round the World by Captain James Cook," because, um, I don't know, it was a free Kindle book?  And I'm teaching the long 19th century this semester, the textbook of which includes, early on, a painting by the on-board painter for one of Cook's early trips.

I am finding the absolute arrogance of Cook and the British (and the narrator) simply *breathtaking*.  The casual racism and sexism I was expecting.  Offensive,  but I knew what I'd be getting into.  What's really taking my breath away is the casual environmental colonization/invasion of the South Seas islands by these guys who really seem to think they're doing the natives a favor.  How?  By introducing non-native species of plants and animals.  Sometimes they do it by gift, but occasionally they just sneak into the woods, plant a garden full of turnips and carrots and stuff, and sneak away.  Or they'll drop off a pair of goats on a non-inhabited section of an island.  Or, ye gods, this one island?  They gave 'em rabbits.  RABBITS.  On an island.  I remember hearing that Australia still has a feral rabbit problem, they keep eating all the grass and crowding out native grass-eaters.  Thanks, Captain Cook! 

My favorite (as in, the most egregious example) is this one: a chief took a fancy to the cats on board.  So they left him twenty cats.  On an island.  Full of tropical birds without any feline predators for centuries, eons, or possibly ever. What?  They were HELPING!  Really!  I mean, these poor savages, they had never eaten chicken in their lives, or mutton, or turnips.  Oh, the humanity.  Such noblesse,  Such consideration.  "Here, have some invasive European species for your lovely little island eco-system."

Oh, and have I mentioned the syphilis?  Yeah, it's not alluded to explicitly but it's clear enough that he's talking about "accidentally" "introducing" syphilis to various island communities.

I can hear it now: "Oh, Britannia, thank you!  Thank you for the rabbits, and turnips, and the syphilis!"

Naturally, as I approach the end of the book (Spoiler Alert!) I am cheering on the natives of one of the Hawaiian islands as they take out the sorry SOB.   Unfortunately, the damage was done.  The mischief managed.  All in the name of science, exploration, and in the belief that Europeans were a vastly, unquestionably superior race. 

I have a whole other rant about the discourse regarding cannibalism in said account, but that's for another day. 

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Oh, reality TV....

I've said it before and I'm saying it again: I'd rather hang out with Honey Boo Boo's family than those awful Kardashians or, actually, pretty much any other reality TV families, except maybe the Torres family on Pitbulls and Parolees. Well, mostly I want to hang out with all those dogs at Villalobos.

Why is everybody all up in their grill? So they're rednecks with a pageant habit and a pregnant teenager. Big whoop. At least they're having a good time, instead of staging nasty weave-snatching girlfights like those awful people on "Big Rich Assholes" and all the "Housewives" shows. Here's my theory: people can't stand them because they are fat and happy and have deep redneck accents that they are not ashamed of. They could not give a good goddamn whether you approve of anything about them. The Judgy McJudgersons of America cannot tolerate a bunch of people who do not appear to be filled with self-loathing. They are not spending a ton of money on looking "better" or monetizing their reality show fame. They seem to be enjoying their time in front of the camera while knowing full well it's a fluke and it won't last forever.

 Now, I admit to not being able to stomach "Toddlers and Tiaras" because child pageants are so much pornified pedophilic nastiness... but the Thompson/Shannon family (yeah, I totally had to wikipedia that one), well their show doesn't involve a lot of pageant stuff.

 I'm not sitting down religiously watching it, but I'll sooner watch five minutes of that than just about any other reality show that doesn't involve pit bull rescues.

 And let us not pretend like anybody but maybe Sugar Bear really needs those subtitles. He doesn't need them because of his accent, anybody with a mouth full of chew would be hard as hell to understand, even an Oxford don with a perfect British accent. Anyhow, if you can't understand a Southern accent, it's not the Southerner's fault. You're just not trying very hard because you think you're better than anybody with a drawl. I tell you what: you ain't.