Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Few Of My Favourite Things (Part One)

I have finally started my Christmas shopping, and so far, have done very well. It is said that it is better to give than receive, so I have given myself a lovely pair of shoes from Scarpa, and some Dr Hauschka skin care products (Dr Hauschka products are made with organic plants, hand-picked at dawn by meditating German vegans. I’m sure this means bugger all, really, but the Rose Day Cream smells divine).

It is also said that the best things in life are free. This is patently wrong. The best things in life cost loads and loads of money. However, I will admit that there are some things that actually cost very little, but can still provide hours of pleasure. So, in a transparent attempt to curry favour with my readers, most of whom I imagine are so poor, they have to shop at Glassons, I shall have a special series this week, on some of my favourite things that really cost very little.

One of my pastimes is browsing second-hand book shops (there is a good one on Ponsonby Road, down by Three Lamps) for treasure. Here is one of my all-time favourites;


‘Beginners' Ancient History’
by J. B. Newman (1922)

What an absolute cracker of a book. Mr Newman, realising what a daunting task it would be to write the ancient history of the entire world, quickly (and quite sensibly) dispenses with all cultures but the European.

North America is disregarded on the grounds that it was only discovered quite recently (apparently, history doesn’t begin until a European stumbles across you). Australia is ignored as the aborigines demonstrated a “lack of culture.” I think that is still true of its current occupants.

Africa, South America, and the Pacific Islands are succinctly tossed aside in a single sentence;

Of this branch of mankind we shall say very little in this book, for so far the negro race has shown very little power of advance.

Well! That’s telling them! So far, fair enough. However, Mr Newman exhibits a grave lack of foresight. He goes on to write that the Asian cultures are not worth writing about as;
For though certain of the Mongolian family, such as the Chinese, have a very ancient civilisation, this did not spread over other regions of the world.

Doesn’t that sentence make one laugh! How quickly the world changes. Nowadays the little pests are everywhere.

Thus he concludes, in a playful, anti-Jewish fashion, about the superiority of the Aryan race;
It is the Caucasian race that has come to dominate most of the world; and among this family it is the Aryan group that has exercised the most profound influence on civilisation…. But remember that this classification of races must not be taken as definitely settled. There are, for instance, those scholars who would make the Semitic group a separate family.

What a shocking conclusion. Who would have thought such an educated man could write something so terribly wrong. Surely he knows one never starts a sentence with a conjunction! Ugh!

I think I paid less than ten dollars for this book. So there you go - In this festive season of mass-consumerism, one needn’t spend a lot of money to get something really special. Although, if someone bought me a cruddy second-hand book for Christmas, I’d clout them one.

1 comment:

d-man said...

What a fantastic book!