The Scandal at the Zoo

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From the NY Times:

WHEN New Yorkers went to the Bronx Zoo on Saturday, Sept. 8, 1906, they were treated to something novel at the Monkey House.

At first, some people weren’t sure what it was. It — he — seemed much less a monkey than a man, though a very small, dark one with grotesquely pointed teeth. He wore modern clothing but no shoes. He was proficient with bow and arrow, and entertained the crowd by shooting at a target. He displayed skill at weaving with twine, made amusing faces and drank soda.

The new resident of the Monkey House was, indeed, a man, a Congolese pygmy named Ota Benga. The next day, a sign was posted that gave Ota Benga’s height as 4 feet 11 inches, his weight as 103 pounds and his age as 23. The sign concluded, “Exhibited each afternoon during September.”

Visitors to the Monkey House that second day got an even better show. Ota Benga and an orangutan frolicked together, hugging and wrestling and playing tricks on each other. The crowd loved it. To enhance the jungle effect, a parrot was put in the cage and bones had been strewn around it. The crowd laughed as the pygmy sat staring at a pair of canvas shoes he had been given. “Few expressed audible objection to the sight of a human being in a cage with monkeys as companions,” The New York Times wrote the next day, “and there could be no doubt that to the majority the joint man-and-monkey exhibition was the most interesting sight in Bronx Park.”

But the Ota Benga “exhibit” did not last. A scandal flared up almost immediately, fueled by the indignation of black clergymen like the Rev. James H. Gordon, superintendent of the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum in Brooklyn. “Our race, we think, is depressed enough, without exhibiting one of us with the apes,” Mr. Gordon said. “We think we are worthy of being considered human beings, with souls.”

Related:
Wikipedia’s entry on Ota Benga.

Jesus Camp

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Saw a screening of a documentary called Jesus Camp. It focuses on a woman preacher (Becky Fischer) who indoctrinates children in a summer camp in North Dakota. Right wing political agendas and slogans are mixed with born again rituals that end with most of the kids in tears. Jesus CampTears of release and joy, they would claim � the children are not physically abused. The kids are around 9 or 10 years old, recruited from various churches, and are pliant willing receptacles. They are instructed that evolution is being forced upon us by evil Godless secular humanists, that abortion must be stopped at all costs, that we must form an �army� to defeat the Godless influences, that we must band together to insure that the right judges and politicians get into the courts and office and that global warming is a lie. (This last one is a puzzle � how did accepting the evidence for climate change and global warming become anti-Jesus? Did someone simply conflate all corporate agendas with Jesus and God and these folks accept that? Would Jesus drive an SUV? Is every conclusion responsible scientists make now suspect?)

Awareness of the rest of the world is curtailed � one can only view or read that which agrees with the agenda.

(via Kottke)

The Anger Release Bar

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A new bar in eastern China is offering customers an unusual outlet for anger – by allowing them to use the staff as punching bags, state media said today.

In addition to getting a drink, customers at the “Rising Sun Anger Release Bar” in Nanjing city are able to pay money to beat up staff, smash glasses, shout and scream, the China Daily said.

If that doesn’t work, customers can also receive psychological counselling, the paper said.

The bar employs 20 well-built men in their 20s and 30s who have agreed to be hit. Customers can specify how they want the men to appear — they can even be dressed up as women, the newspaper said.

(via Monkeyfilter)