Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday Night Music - Baron of Brackley

One of my hobby-horses is the biological and evolutionary underpinning of male/female relationships :

"Evolutionary psychologists postulate that the same physical and psychological drives prevail among modern humans: Men, eager for replication, are naturally polygamous, while women are naturally monogamous—but only until a man they perceive as of higher status than their current mate comes along.

Hypergamy—marrying up, or, in the absence of any constrained linkage between sex and marriage, mating up—is a more accurate description of women’s natural inclinations. Long-term monogamy—one spouse for one person at one time—may be the most desirable condition for ensuring personal happiness, accumulating property, and raising children, but it is an artifact of civilization, Western civilization in particular. In the view of many evolutionary psychologists, long-term monogamy is natural for neither men nor women."
Which in times past produced winner-take-all males - and an awful lot of losers :

Today’s human population is descended from twice as many women as men.

I think this difference is the single most underappreciated fact about gender. To get that kind of difference, you had to have something like, throughout the entire history of the human race, maybe 80% of women but only 40% of men reproduced.
A situation which Christian civilisation was destined and designed to correct and struggle against. Although sin was always with us, any male proclaiming to the world that he took whatever he wanted was likely to be given short shrift by pre-1945 Britons. That was the cry of "primitive man", as far as they were concerned - people like the Papua New Guineans quoted in the foreword to Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel" :

"Woman after woman, when asked to name her husband, named several sequential husbands who had died violent deaths. A typical answer went like this: "My first husband was killed by Elopi raiders. My second husband was killed by a man who wanted me, and who became my third husband. That husband was killed by the brother of my second husband, seeking to avenge his murder."

The wife welcoming her husband's killer to her bed is a narrative with a literary pedigree and plenty of historical exemplars. The ballad of Brackley, based on a Deeside raid in 1666 by Farquharson of Inverey against John Gordon of Brackley, is a grim example where the husband's death sentence consists of the words 'if you were a man you'd go out and fight' - at odds of fifteen to one.

From Dee side came Inverey whistlin' and playin'
And he is to Brackley's gates ere the day is dawnin'
Saying, Baron O'Brackley oh are ye within?
There are sharp swords at your gates, to gar your bluid spin

Oh rise up my husband and turn back your kye (cattle - LT)
For the lads frae Dunwharrum are driving them by
Oh how might I rise up and turn them again
For where I have one man I'm sure they have ten

If I had a husband the like I have nane
He'd no lie in his bed and watch his kye ta'en
Then up spake the baron, said gi'e me my gun
Saying I may go out but I'll never win home

There rode wi' bold Inverey full thirty and three
But along wi' bonny Brackley just his brother and he
Twa gallanter Gordons did ne'er the sword draw
But against three and thirty, wae's me, what is twa?

Wi' swords and wi' pistols they did him surround
And they pierced bonny Brackley wi' monys a wound
Frae the head o the Dee, tae the banks of the Spey
Oh the Gordons will mourn him and will ban Inverey

Oh came ye from Brackley's, and was you in there?
And saw ye his Peggy a-rivin' her hair
Aye, I came by Brackley's, and I was in there
And I saw his bonny Peggy she was makin' good cheer

She was rantin', she was dancin', she was singin' wi' joy
And she swears this same nicht she will feast Inverey
She laughed wi' him, danced wi' him, welcomed him in
And she kept him while morning whae slain her good man

There's grief in the kitchen, there's mirth in the hall
For the Baron o Brackley lies dead and awa'
Then up spake his son from his own nurse's knee
If I live to be a man 'tis avenged I'll be

UPDATE - Robert Whelan, in the foreword to Patricia Morgan's "Farewell To The Family" put his finger on where modern warriors are coming from.

"We have created the classic conditions for the emergence of a warrior class: separation of economic activity from family maintenance; children reared apart from fathers; wealth subject to predation; and male status determined by combat and sexual conquest."

Presented in slightly idiotic socialese, this Atlantic piece describes urban warrior culture :

"At the heart of the code is the issue of respect--loosely defined as being treated "right," or granted the deference one deserves. However, in the troublesome public environment of the inner city, as people increasingly feel buffeted by forces beyond their control, what one deserves in the way of respect becomes more and more problematic and uncertain. This in turn further opens the issue of respect to sometimes intense interpersonal negotiation."
Ha ! That's one phrase for it.

UPDATE 2 - new blogger Hexe Froschbein ("Frog-legs the Witch" ?) points out in the comments that Christian culture was neither the first nor the only monogamous culture (never said it was, mind). Thoughtful Romans (a/c/t 'I, Claudius') considered the Germanic tribes to have a particularly strict code of sexual morality, which contrasted favourably with that of decadent Imperial Rome.
She links to this text-and-audio of Tacitus' Germania - "Tacitus’ descriptions of the Germanic character are at times favorable in contrast to the opinions of the Romans of his day. He holds the strict monogamy and chastity of Germanic marriage customs worthy of the highest praise, in contrast to what he saw as the vice and immorality rampant in Roman society of his day, and he admires their open hospitality, their simplicity, and their bravery in battle. One should not, however, think that Tacitus’ portrayal of Germanic customs is entirely favorable; he notes a tendency in the Germanic people for what he saw as their habitual drunkenness, laziness, and barbarism, among other traits."

I think we should remember, however, that from these noble savages sprang the French.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

How To Trash a Brand

Laban's not a terribly brand-conscious individual unless it's a question of things you can taste and/or smell - and even then the product may change while the label stays the same. Many famous food brands have been bought and sold half a dozen times in the last 30 years, with production moved from factory to factory.

One of Laban's few brands was soap. I'll shower with Tesco's bottom of the range gel (literally about 10p) but for some reason I just love the smell of Pears soap. I know it won't give me the complexion of a young Susan Hampshire, but I like that the product is pretty much unchanged since the Pears company were annoying Millais in Victorian times.

I'd buy ten or a dozen bars at a throw and stack them in the bottom drawer of the bathroom cupboard, so I'd only get it every year or so. I ran out last month, and went to buy some more. For some reason the stock in the shop smelled a bit odd, so I just took the one bar. They didn't seem to have any of the heftier bath size, either.

The first time I used it I wondered if the same company was making Wright's Coal Tar and there'd been a bit of cross-over on the production line. Wasn't right at all - a phenolic, chemical smell not at all like the delicate aroma I know and love.

Took a look at the packet. "Made In India by Licensed User Hindustan Unilever Ltd". Ah, I get it. It's a slightly dodgy approximation to the real thing made for less sophisticated overseas markets, and the shop's doing some grey importing. I bought some Heinz Salad Cream a week or two back for 46p, made in Amsterdam and with the label in half a dozen Arabic/Asian scripts. Just make sure you get the UK-made stuff next time, Laban.

Gulp. There ain't none no more. That's all there is.

According to Unilever records, Pears Soap was the world's first registered brand and is therefore the world's oldest continuously existing brand...

In October of 2009 the formula for the transparent amber soap was changed significantly. This completely changed the smell and texture of the soap, making it unrecognizable from the earlier product. The new soap is slightly softer in texture, but the most noticeable difference is the scent. The aroma of the classic transparent amber bar, which used to be characterized by a mild, spicy herbal fragrance, is now a very strong smell akin to frankincense, or even insecticide.

Sales must have dropped off a cliff. They really have knacked it (and they can't spell 'Click' on their website, either. I hate Flash intros on a website.). In Morrison's this week it was on sale at 35p as opposed to the usual 55p price. According to the Mail they were going to backtrack on the formula, but by the smell they appear to have instead moved production to Bhopal. What possessed them ? Why fix something that wasn't broke ?

Looks like farewell to Pears - and there's nothing else like it on the pharmacy or supermarket shelf - you have to hit Body Shop or some small specialist. There's a market opening there for someone fast on their feet.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

South Africa Are Too Honest

They really need to take a leaf out of the book of some other lesser footballing nations hosting the World Cup for the first time :

a) make sure the 'draw' for the groups puts you in a group with at least two minnows. How about the USA, Slovenia and Algeria, for example ? Instead, they've got the nearest thing to a Group of Death that this World Cup affords. Mexico, Uruguay and France, all of whom can play a bit. Arrange the draw in the style of Spain 1982.

b) make sure the refs are 'onside'. I'd take advice on this from South Korea.

Bit late for them now. The ANC Government may have plenty of corruption allegations swirling around senior figures, but when it came to the really important stuff they couldn't deliver. Of course the team have to do it on the pitch, but a lot can be done with good preparation and organisation to ensure that the host nation stays inside FIFA guidelines by qualifying for the knockout stages.

The emptying stadium with ten minutes left told its own story. Alas !

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Quote Of The Day

My son, at half time :

"You can have your nuclear weapons as long as you beat Brazil"

Signs Of The Times

Standard :
Street adverts featuring women in bikinis have been defaced in apparently targeted attacks. Most show women in swimwear by chain store H&M but another features a couple kissing to promote the Bollywood film Kites. Residents in affected London areas suggested the images, which were daubed with black paint, could have been targeted by religious conservatives or radical feminists. Police have not linked the campaign to any religious group but the damage is similar to attacks in Pakistan on billboard ads branded "un-Islamic" and "obscene" by hardliners. Today women's rights and anti-censorship activists joined Muslims and Christians to condemn the vandals. Police said 14 bus shelters around Tower Hamlets, including many in Limehouse, were hit last month.

Tower Hamlets is a hotbed of radical feminism, I hear.