Showing posts with label social. Show all posts
Showing posts with label social. Show all posts

17 June 2012

Book review: Delusions of Gender (2011), by Cordelia Fine, ****


A vehement attack on the latest pseudo-scientific claims about the differences between the sexes. Sex discrimination is supposedly a distant memory. Yet popular books, magazines and even scientific articles increasingly defend inequalities by citing immutable biological differences between the male and female brain. That's the reason, we're told, that there are so few women in science and engineering, so few men in the laundry room - different brains are just better suited to different things. Drawing on the latest research in developmental psychology, neuroscience, and social psychology, Delusions of Gender powerfully rebuts these claims, showing how old myths, dressed up in new scientific finery, are helping perpetuate the sexist status quo. Cordelia Fine, a cognitive neuroscientist with a sharp sense of humour and an intelligent sense of reality' (The Times) reveals the mind's remarkable plasticity, shows how profoundly culture influences the way we think about ourselves and, ultimately, exposes just how much of what we consider 'hardwired' is actually malleable. This startling, original and witty book shows the surprising extent to which boys and girls, men and women are made - and not born, empowering us to break free of the supposed predestination of our sex chromosomes.


I found this book interesting as a further reading in my series on the eternal conundrum of man/woman relationship. This book emphasizes the environmental influence on the development of man and woman, whereas other books looked at the psychological dimension (like "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus") or at the biological evolutionary aspect (like "Why Men don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps") of the differences between genders.

Put it another way, what these books purport to be hardware differences, Fine argues are only software differences, the result of education, upbringing, societal influences. Without these external conditioning there is no scientifically measurable difference in the brains of man and woman.

In my view the theory developed in this book does not necessarily contradict those of the other, hardware oriented, books. I came away persuaded both are at work and relevant. I also came away persuaded that it does not make a whole lot of difference, for practical purposes: I believe in equal rights between the genders, and so obviously we must strive for equal opportunity. That will probably not result in equal attitudes, equal predispositions, or equal approaches to problem solving. Or maybe, in time, it will. We'll see. For the time being it is clear that the most important thing is to be aware of existing differences, whether hardware or software. Pretending they don't exist can only be harmful to man/woman relationships and counterproductive to our effort to overcome discrimination.

14 April 2012

Film review: The Dreamers (2003), by Bernardo Bertolucci, ****


Paris, spring 1968. While most students take the lead in the May 'revolution', a French poet's twin son Theo and daughter Isabelle enjoy the good life in his grand Paris home. As film buffs they meet and 'adopt' modest, conservatively educated Californian student Matthew.

With their parents away for a month, they drag him into an orgy of indulgence of all senses, losing all of his and the last of their innocence. A sexual threesome shakes their rapport, yet only the outside reality will break it up.

18 February 2012

Recensione: Sale Nero, di Marco Aime, Stefano Pensotti e Andrea Semplici, ****


Taudenni e Ahmed Ela: due "non luoghi" africani, il primo in Mali il secondo nella Dancalia etiope, sono un chiaro esempio di quelle società "diversamente sviluppate" dove il modello è ancora quello della cultura materiale. Per entrambi è grande l'importanza che continua ad avere il commercio del sale, l'uso dello stesso per gli scambi commerciali è ancora ampiamente diffuso. 

Il libro racconta con testi e fotografie l'ambiente "umano e geografico" che le carovane attraversano: comunità, culture, ambienti naturali. Mette in rilievo le comunità che vivono di questa economia, i rapporti che si intrecciano, le strutture sociali e parentali delle popolazioni, l'esperienza umana. Chi sono questi uomini, quale la loro esperienza?


Un libro insolito, il cui il protagonista è una materia prima alimentare, la sola roccia che faccia parte della nostra alimentazione da sempre. Ed è anche merce di scambio in tutte le culture del mondo. L'aspetto economico cruciale del sale è che di solito deve essere trasportato per centinaia o anche migliaia di kilometri dal punto di produzione al consumatore. Il sale, ovviamente, è bianco, ma qui siamo in Africa...

22 January 2012

Book Review: Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps, by Allan and Barbara Pease, ****

The classic international bestselling book. Allan and Barbara Pease spotlight the differences in the way men and women think. Boys like things, girls like people. Every boy wants to be in a gang, and wants a gun; every girl has her best friend, with whom she shares her secrets. Men want status and power, women want love. It's amazing, he concludes, that they can ever live together...

13 October 2011

Recensione: People from Ikea, di Andrea Pugliese, ***

Componendo a incastro questi tubi, ripiani, viti e bulloni, sono possibili milioni di combinazioni. Sul catalogo per tale meraviglia si sprecano i sostantivi: guardaroba, libreria, scaffalatura, separatore d'ambiente, portatutto, riassumicasino...

02 August 2011

Book Review: Rickshaw Coolie: A People's History of Singapore (2003), by James Warren, *****


Between 1880 and 1930 colonial Singapore attracted tens of thousands of Chinese immigrant laborers, brought to serve its rapidly growing economy. This book chronicles the vast movement of coolies between China and the Nanyang, and their efforts to survive in colonial Singapore.

29 December 2002

Book Review: Snakes and Ladders - Glimpses of Modeern India, by Gita Mehta, ****

This fascinating blend of personal memoir, historical anecdote and wry observation offers the indispensable guide and key to contemporary India in the fiftieth year of its independence. Entertaining, informative and passionate. With a novelist's eye for detail and colour, Gita Mehta writes of the continent of contradictions that is host to one-sixth of the world's population. The world's largest democracy, it still practices the caste system. It's a burgeoning economic superpower, and one of the poorest nations on earth. It has the world's largest film industry, and the world's oldest religions. It is an ancient civilisation celebrating fifty years as a modern nation, entering a new civilisation many believe will belong to China and India. Now, as never before, the world wants to know what contemporary India is all about.

This book awes and shocks at the same time, which is perhaps the best way to summarize India today. Assuming there is such a thing as "India" beyond the state on the map. Mehta points out that most Indians are foreigners to other Indians (p.20)!

Here we get a panoramic introduction to the essence of this incredible assembly of over one billion people. Mehta jumps easily from history to politics, from religion to economics, from social life to art. This is where the majority is Hindu but Buddhism was born, as can be seen at such wonders as Sanchi, Ajanta and Ellora, but where some of the best known national symbols are the Taj Mahal (Muslim mausoleum), the Golden Temple of Amritsar (Sikh), the Jain temples of Rajasthan and Gujarat.

This is the country where the foremost independence leader, Mahatma Gandhi, invited the last colonail ruler, Lord Mountbatten, to become the first head of state of independent India, so as to show reconciliation with all! A country where women still suffer heavily from discrimination but where a woman (Indira) was the most powerful politician ever elected and another (Sonia, a foreigner and a Catholic) followed in her footsteps.

A wonderful introduction the the Indian conundrum!

28 December 2002

Book Review: Karma Cola, by Gita Mehta, ***

Beginning in the late '60s, hundreds of thousands of Westerners descended upon India, disciples of a cultural revolution that proclaimed that the magic and mystery missing from their lives was to be found in the East. An Indian writer who has also lived in England and the United States, Gita Mehta was ideally placed to observe the spectacle of European and American "pilgrims" interacting with their hosts. When she finally recorded her razor sharp observations in Karma Cola, the book became an instant classic for describing, in merciless detail, what happens when the traditions of an ancient and longlived society are turned into commodities and sold to those who don't understand them.

06 December 2002

Book Review: The Heart of India, by Mark Tully, ***

Imbued with his love for India, and informed by his experience of India (where he worked for the BBC for over 20 years), Mark Tully has woven together a series of stories set in Uttar Pradesh, which tell of very different lives.

Half a dozen stories from the heartland of India. People's stories, everyday men and women who make the bulk of India's billion+ nation. The stories are uneven in interest and excitement, and are not really integrated into one coherent whole. However, they do provide some insight into changing India in the 1980s.

12 September 2002

Book Review: Off the Rails in Phnom Penh (2000), by Amit Gilboa, ****


Phnom Penh in the 1990s is a city of beauty and degradation, tranquillity and violence, and tradition and transformation; a city of temples and brothels, music and gunfire, and festivals and coups...

But for many, it is simply an anarchic celebration of insanity and indulgence. Whether it is the $2 wooden shack brothels, the marijuana-pizza restaurants, the AK-47 fireworks displays, or the intricate brutality of Cambodian politics, Phnom Penh never ceases to amaze and amuse. For an individual coming from a modern Western society, it is a place where the immoral becomes acceptable and the insane becomes normal as they search for love in the brothels or adventure into the dark heart of guns, girls and ganja.


This is an easy book to read. You will earn a genuine view of how debauchery and flimsiness governed this place in the 1990s, at least from the point of view of some foreigners who are not exactly sure what they are there to do in the first place. The book is largely anecdotal and interesting for that. It almost totally lacks analysis, which one would have expected from a professional writer like the author. You can almost breathe the air in Phnom Penh while reading this book, you can feel high, but I am not sure how much you understand... but there are other books for that. If you are not a young and slightly nut Westerner but would like to experience Cambodia like if you were one... this book is for you!! :-)

25 February 2000

Recensione: Lettera da Singapore, ovvero il Terzo Capitalismo, (1995) di Giuseppe Bonazzi. ****


Il libro nasce da un'esperienza personale dell'autore ed è strutturato in maniera inconsueta: a una prima parte scritta nella forma diaristica di lettere ad amici è consegnato il racconto emozionale, soggettivo dell'impatto tra l'autore, armato delle sue spesso inadeguate categorie "occidentali", e una realtà così contraddittoria, esotica e misteriosa.

Accanto a ciò, la riflessione propriamente teorica. "Unicum" politico, sociale, economico, Singapore è retta da una singolare forma di democrazia autoritaria, con il Presidente e "dittatore benevolo" Lee che gode di un consenso elettorale plebiscitario.

L'autore scorge in questo sistema una caso di "terzo capitalismo", non riconducibile né al liberismo classico né al capitalismo sociale.


Bonazzi ci racconta il mese da lui passato a Singapore a fare ricerca sull'economia e la società di questo paese molto peculiare. Il libro è interessante perché oltre a raccontarci le sue esperienze dirette l'autore fornisce anche molte informazioni di tipo politico, economico e storico che aiutano a capire il contesto in cui lui si è mosso.

In particolare Bonazzi ci spiega come a Singapore si sia potuto sviluppare, con contraddizioni ma anche enormi successi, il "terzo capitalismo", una via alternativa sia al liberismo eccessivo sia alle socialdemocrazie dirigiste dell'Occidente.

Un ottimo libro da leggere prima di andare a Singapore, anche se l'esperienza dell'autore risale al 1995 molto di quanto scrive resta ancora valido a distanza di anni.

19 September 1999

Book Review: Bad Times in Buenos Aires (1999), by Miranda France, ****


In 1993 Miranda France moved to South America, drawn to Buenos Aires as the intellectual hub of the continent, with its wealth of writers and its romantic, passionate and tragic history. She found that is was all these things, but it was also a terrible place to live. The inhabitants of Buenos Aires are famously unhappy. All over South America they are known for their arrogance, their fixation of Europe and their moodiness.

22 November 1998

Book Review: "Italian Neighbors", by Tim Parks, *****


In this deliciously seductive account of an Italian neighborhood with a statue of the Virgin at one end of the street, a derelict bottle factory at the other, and a wealth of exotic flora and fauna in between, acclaimed novelist Tim Parks celebrates ten years of living with his wife, Rita, in Verona, Italy.

12 April 1998

Book Review/Recensione: "Red Sorghum", by Mo Yan, *****

ear of red sorghum


A legend in China, where it won the major literary awards and inspired an Oscar-nominated film, this is a novel of family, myth, and memory, set during the fratricidal barbarity of the 1930s, when the Chinese battled both Japanese invaders and each other.

Author Mo Yan won the Nobel prize for literature in 2012, the first ever Chinese living in mainland China to became a laureate. Some criticized him as not being authoritative enough as a writer and more importantly for his shyness in criticizing Chinese literary censorship.