Descriptions of white explorers meeting dark-skinned tribes who have never seen a white person before are pretty common in travel/exploration literature. So common they're almost a cliche. Leave it to the Germans to switch things around a bit: Teutonic tribespeople bewildered by the sight of dark-skinned travelers from across the ocean. From the Chicago Tribune, Apr 14, 1947:
It’s an old excuse, whenever a man is caught eyeing-up another woman by his partner we’ll often claim that it’s not our fault, it’s just the way we’re wired. Well not according to neuroscientists at Gwinnett College in Georgia. Researchers there monitored the brain activity of 14 men while showing them pictures of women’s behinds taken before and after surgery designed to give them Beyonce like curves. The scans showed ‘reward areas’ of the men’s brains more commonly associated with drugs or alcohol lit up more in response to the redesigned rumps. In other words, we do it because we like it (Orange).
But if what most attracts men is a great set of lady bumps, what would top women’s list of desirable traits in their perfect man? That’s what online matchmakers UKDating wanted to know, so they analysed the responses of 83,000 lovelorn women to find the top ten most wanted male characteristics. And number one was… a salary over £50k ($75k). Bizarrely, being good looking came in at number 9, just above being 5’11” tall and five places below owning an Audi TT. But do girls really only like cars and money, or does this finding perhaps explain why these particular girls had to resort to a dating service in the first place (News://Lite)?
The economics of relationships also features in the new book from Karyn Langhorne Folan. In Don’t Bring Home A White Boy, Folan describes today’s black women as being stuck in “market failure”, with college educated black women outnumbering their male counterparts by 3 to 1. This severely restricts the women’s options unless they look outside their own race. “In this case, we are the commodity and the new market is men of other races,” states Foley, who is herself a Harvard-educated lawyer, “it’s Econ 101 for the single, educated black woman” (STL Today).
Mind you, women aren’t always a commodity, sometimes they’re the consumer. At least that’s what Cuban cigar maker Habanos is hoping. In an effort to boost sales in a market hit hard by anti-smoking legislation the world-over, Habanos have produced what they’re billing as the first Cuban cigar specifically for female smokers. Their new Julieta brand is smaller and milder in hopes of being more appealing to women, but still manages to keep that phallic edge to its image (Sky News).
It might be time to update the old adage as, according to a scientist from the Santa Fe Institute, NM, it should be "To war is human". Dr. Samuel Bowles suggests that continual conflict among our ancient ancestors may have driven the evolution of what he terms "parochial altruism", i.e. group sociality and hostility to outsiders. By combining archaeological data on stone age humans with studies of modern tribes, Bowles has developed a model of ancient population genetics and determined that there would have been much more genetic diversity between competing groups than previously thought. In such a scenario, Bowles' results suggest that groups displaying parochial altruism would benefit by having more aggressive warriors less concerned with self-preservation, at the expense of other groups. PA may even explain the extreme habitual sociality of humans (found elsewhere only in insects), which in another paper in the same issue of Science is identified as a possible cause of human culture. Paradoxically, we may be social as individuals because we are anti-social as groups (Independent).
But if we learnt war early on the path to humanity, we may have learnt laughter even earlier. Researchers from the University of Portsmouth analysed the sounds 22 young apes made when being tickled, and concluded that it is laughter. Dr Davila-Ross and her team looked for similar acoustic characteristics to human laughter in the young of several ape species, and found greater similarity in the sounds made by chimpanzees and bonobos (the species closest to humans genetically) than in that of more distantly related apes such as orangutans. The team concluded that laughter must have evolved some time before the major ape groups split apart, 18 million years ago (BBC News).
Finally, this last piece was going to be about gay penguin adoption, but that's already up, so instead I'd like to draw your attention to a new movie by sometime Simpsons writer, Mike Reiss. Called "Queer Duck", Reiss' film is an animated musical about three gay, animal friends, Openly Gator, Bi-polar Bear and the eponymous Queer Duck himself. When QD suddenly finds himself attracted to women, in the shape of new arrival Lola Buzzard, he begins a voyage of self-discovery that sees him experience quack therapies (from the wonderfully named clinic, "Homo No Mo'!") and kidnap and imprisonment at "Home Depot" (the one place no gay would think of looking for him), before the not-unexpected third-reel epiphany. Hopefully it'll be released on DVD soon, because this one's a keeper! (The News-Times).
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.