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Kabuki Theater: Learning How to Be Entertained and Fooled

Kabuki theater has begun in the rural areas of Japan. It is theater for the masses and consists of parts of well-known stories, moral lessons and the re-creations of famous battles. The aristocracy has its own form of theater, and kabuki draws elements from it. At first both men and women are actors, but many of the actresses are prostitutes. The women-only productions are rather sensual so these early performances tend to break down into direct audience participation, if you know what I mean. Because of this disorderly public conduct, women will soon be banned from acting. Kabuki theater will eventually develop into entertainment for the aristocracy and remain a men-only activity into the modern day. [1] [2] [3] [4]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
All theater assumes the audience possesses a certain baseline knowledge so that the audience can react to standard visual and musical cues. Those cues are often cultural in nature so an outsider might find them difficult to learn. This is why foreign films can seem strange. American film and TV have their own cues, though most people don't realize it until the cues are missing. For example: we are used to hearing dramatic music as two teenagers decide to investigate "that strange noise coming from the basement". If we didn't hear the music we would feel less inclined to involve ourselves in the story. We are trained by the movie industry to know when to pay careful attention and when it is OK to get popcorn. This goes for a TV news show as well. A news anchor can cover a story, but change the subliminal cues to discount the importance of a story or to cover up obvious flaws. [5]

The English Poor Laws: Creating a Problem and Solving It Too! *

Famine stalks the land as the 1st of a series of food shortages plague London. Inflation has priced much food out of reach of the poor. In the past, helping the poor was left to individual Christians and the monasteries, but after King Henry the 8th dissolved the monasteries, the poor were on their own. Governments to this time see poverty as laziness that requires punishment but these famines will make it obvious that the poor need something more than prison. Parliament will establish Overseers of the Poor, who are unpaid local officials designated to identify the deserving poor and determine how much help they need. In other words, after government destroyed the religious system that helped the poor, the government creates the same system to solve the problem that government created in the first place. The Poor Laws of 1601 will become the basis of relief for the poor until the mid-1800s when union workhouses will be the only recourse for the poor. That Malthusian plan will be softened after World War 2 into something more recognizable to the modern welfare recipient. [6] [7] [8] [9]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
So... why did the welfare system change in the mid-1800s? The Reverend Thomas Malthus wrote an essay on population control suggesting that if life is easy then people use too many resources which leads to famine and death. The English Parliament changed the Poor Laws in the mid-1800s so that the poor would not fill the country with useless dependents. (Can you say "Darwinism" and eugenics?) Thus union workhouses became punishment houses. Charles Dickens criticized the union workhouses, and Poor Laws in his famous story, "A Christmas Carol"...
"Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge.
"Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
"And the Union workhouses?" demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"
"They are. Still," returned the gentleman, "I wish I could say they were not."
"The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?" said Scrooge.
"Both very busy, sir." [10]

The Devil's Advocate and the Promoter of the Faith

Pope Sextus the 5th fixes the number of Cardinals to 70, passes a law against usury... again... and establishes the office of the Promoter of the Faith. The job of the Promoter of the Faith is to review all applications for beatification and sainthood and then give reasons why these applications should be denied. He acts as "The Devil's Advocate" and this is the first time this phrase comes into use. [11] [12]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Setting the number of Cardinals to 70 is a reference to the Bible verse where 70 men gather as a court to decide on religious issues. Within some Jewish circles, people hope for the re-establishment of the Great Sanhedrin. It is group of 70 religious scholars who decide issues for the Jewish people. The last time such a group was gathered was during the time of Napoleon. Hitler also gathered a group of 3 rabbis to get a judgement on whether the Turkish Karaites are Jewish. The rabbis ruled that they were not Jewish, so the Karaites were saved. [13] [14]

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1587, Wikipedia.

See Also


* The asterisk in the section header indicates that it was read on the podcast.
  1. Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster. “Beginning of Kabuki theater, Japan” 
  2. Kabuki Theatre. YouTube (September 28, 2009). Retrieved on 2 June 2015. “Kabuki is a Japanese traditional theatre form, which originated in the Edo period at the beginning of the seventeenth century and was particularly popular among townspeople. Originally, both men and women acted in Kabuki plays, but eventually only male actors performed the plays: a tradition that has remained to the present day.”
  3. Kabuki. Japan-Guide.com (2015). Retrieved on 2 June 2015. “Plots are usually based on historical events, warm hearted dramas, moral conflicts, love stories, tales of tragedy of conspiracy, or other well-known stories. A unique feature of a kabuki performance is that what is on show is often only part of an entire story (usually the best part). Therefore, to enhance the enjoyment derived, it would be good to read a little about the story before attending the show.”
  4. Kabuki Theater. Japan-Zone.com (2015). Retrieved on 2 June 2015. “As was the stage tradition in Elizabethan England, kabuki is performed entirely by men. Strangely enough however, this art form was created by Okuni, a female shrine attendant, in the 17th century. Although greatly influenced by the aristocratic noh, kabuki was largely popular entertainment for the masses. A large part of the popularity of the early, all-female performances was due to their sensual nature. The performers were also prostitutes and male audiences often got out of control.”
  5. Goosebumps Stay Out of the Basement Part 1. YouTube (2015). Retrieved on 2 June 2015.
  6. Overseer of the poor - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 2 June 2015. “Overseers of the Poor were often reluctant appointees who were unpaid, working under the supervision of a Justice of the Peace. The law required two Overseers to be elected every Easter, and churchwardens or landowners were often selected.”
  7. English Poor Laws - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  8. Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster. “Beginning of Kabuki theater, Japan” 
  9. Farr, William (June 1846). The Influence of Scarcities and of the High Prices of Wheat on the Mortality of the People of England. Journal of the Statistical Society of London. 9. Wiley and the Royal Statistical Society. pp. 158-174. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2337834. "The destruction of grain, of which famines are the result, arises from 'bad seed-times,' 'long and severe winters,' 'drouohts,' 'incessant rains during summer or harvest,' 'tempests,' 'oppression of the cultivators of the soil,' and zymotic diseases of the wheat plant, -- a great variety of phenomena generally produced by causes beyond our knowledge and control, but subject to laws which systematic, agricultural statistics will unfold.". 
  10. A Christmas Carol. Gutenberg.org (FREE EBOOK) (1915). Retrieved on 2 June 2015.
  11. Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster. “Pope Sixtus V fixes number of cardinals at 70; issues bull, 'Detestabilis,' forbidding usury” 
  12. (1910) Advocatus Diaboli, The Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved on 1 June 2015. “His duty requires him to prepare in writing all possible arguments, even at times seemingly slight, against the raising of any one to the honours of the altar. The interest and honour of the Church are concerned in preventing any one from receiving those honours whose death is not juridically proved to have been 'precious in the sight of God' (see BEATIFICATION and CANONIZATION).” 
  13. Karaites. Encyclopaedia Judaica (2008). Retrieved on 2 June 2015. “In Eastern Europe the Nazi Einsatzgruppen during World War II received orders to spare the Karaites, who enjoyed favorable treatment and were given positions of trust and authority with the German occupation authorities. On Oct. 6, 1942, the ruling of Jan. 9, 1939, was extended to the Crimea and the Ukraine, where the majority of Karaites lived. The Karaite question continued to be debated by the German authorities who queried the Rabbanite scholars Zelig Kalmanovitch, Meir S. Balaban, and Itzhak Schipper on the origin of the Karaites. In order to save them, all three gave the opinion that the Karaites were not of Jewish origin.”
  14. Karaite Judaism - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 2 June 2015. “When interpreting the Tanakh, Karaites strive to adhere to the plain or most obvious meaning ('peshat') of the text; this is not necessarily the literal meaning, but rather the meaning that would have been naturally understood by the ancient Israelites when the books of the Tanakh were first written. In contrast, Rabbinic Judaism relies on the legal rulings of the Sanhedrin as they are codified in the Midrash, Talmud, and other sources to indicate the authentic meaning of the Torah.”

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