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July 25, 2014



I must admit, when I first saw the pictures, I thought it was a medical file. I've seen medical files that thick and colorfully annotated.

When I realized it was a book, I had a gut negative reaction. My parents instilled several values in me that are almost impossible to shake (as parents tend to do). Foremost among them is from my mother: post-its, dog-earing, pencil notes in the margins, etc etc, are all horrible defacements of book. While she has mellowed on this point in her advanced age, and now even uses post-its herself, I find myself unable to. Old values, like old habits, die hard.

My mother is a bibliophile, to say the least.

To expand on the open thread, I found these interesting, and disturbing. First on annotating books:

Screeners are also instructed to collect data on any “pocket litter,” scuba gear, EZ Passes, library cards, and the titles of any books, along with information about their condition—”e.g., new, dog-eared, annotated, unopened.”

All I could think of is that you don't want to carry a copy of Catcher in the Rye through airport security.

Second, on conformity:

XKEYSCORE selection rules that target users -- and people who just visit the websites of -- Tor, Tails, and other sites. This isn't just metadata; this is "full take" content that's stored forever.


The Joint Terrorism Task Force takes, let’s say, a different perspective on Mr. Prigoff’s innocent retirement hobby. To JTTF, this skulking-around-taking-photographs-of-things behavior is SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY.

Having interests? Suspicious. Having hobbies? Suspicious.

There is not only comfort in conforming, there is safety. In numbers, if nothing else.

I had rather the same reaction as I did when my fellow students would apply a highlighter to parts of their textbooks.

Granted, post-its are not as destructive; when removed, someone else can use the textbook without problem. But I never quite understood the thinking behind marking up the book. Perhaps it was just a difference in study habits. But when I was reviewing material, I expected to review all of it, not just key phrases that might get me thru the next exam.

Granted, post-its are not as destructive

Oh, not entirely. Some of the cheaper ones have glue that degrades on hot days, gumming up the pages.

But I never quite understood the thinking behind marking up the book.

I never got that either. But I know people who consider it invaluable, if for no other reason that it keeps you focused enough on what you are reading to occasionally decide, 'yes, this is worth highlighting'.

Different strokes, and all that.

Good points thompson. When I saw the book (my daughter brought it home for summer vacation) I was pretty surprised. I just asked her and she said that the post-it-ing started from April so this is just this term. My wife pointed out (she must have seen the wtf look in my eyes) that because this is an elementary school dictionary, they are not going to use it after that, so doing this makes a bit more sense. I have one of those reactions I often have to things in Japan, neat idea followed by I'll be damned if I do that...

A different question on education. I was pointed to an anonymous book review in Balloon Juice on the greatest Philippine novel, Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere.
The author, a Filipino-American housewife, had never read it before, which doesn't surprise me, but what did shock me was this:

I had no idea the Philippines was a U.S. colony. I mean, I had inklings since the U.S. influence was so strong when we lived there but I did not know the reason. Oddly enough, my peers (30-somethings and 50-somethings) were also unaware of this history. Interesting that this is not covered in our US history or world history curriculums (I was a teen then so very possible I just missed it). I can’t speak for other states but it wasn’t a question I recall in the New York State Global Studies Reagents [sic; perhaps "Regents"?].

Really? Not even mentioned, to the point that someone of Filipino parentage would notice it? Is it possible?

My specific question for the ObWi commentariat is this: Were you also unaware that the Philippines was once an American colony? Until what age?

My general, "open thread" question is this: are there other things that you first remember learning after you graduated from high school - or college, or whatever - that you are astonished you were never taught?

One post-it is useful. A hundred, though? How are you supposed to find the specific page you marked?

I learned about the US history with the Phillipines (OK, the high points, not the details) in junior high. But maybe my junior high was unusual. After all, the high school in this little farm town, which just turning into a suburb in the early 1960s, typically sent upwards of 95% of its graduates every year on to college or junior college. (And no, we didn't have a high, or even detectable, drop-out rate.) But still, the material was in the state-wide standard textbooks that we used, not something that the teachers added on.

The question in my mind is how did anyone get thru a high school history class which covered WW II, without hearing about MacArthur returning to the Phillipines?

I suppose we would have to know where she went to high school, and when, to have a clue as to how she managed to be so ignorant. (From the review, it sounds like it was probably in the 1980s or early 1990s.)

this is an elementary school dictionary

I've seen OED dictionaries that are smaller :) Perhaps a good example of the high standards of the Japanese education system.

Or maybe linguistic differences? Are there more words in Japanese?

Associated with the size, and given a little more thought to it, that's *a lot* of post-its. I'll admit I don't remember how often I looked something up in the dictionary in elementary school, but I don't remember using them *that* much.

My specific question for the ObWi commentariat is this: Were you also unaware that the Philippines was once an American colony? Until what age?

I remember learning about in either 8th or 9th grade, but I can't recall which. In fairness, though, I chose to do a report on the Spanish/American War, and I likely learned about it through that report. I don't recall ever hearing about it in another context.

tell me what you see

A work of art which would probably have a decent shot at the Turner Prize
in one of the less competitive years.

Maybe one root for the confusion about the Philiippines is that the US tended (tends?) to avoid the term colonies for those overseas possessions in the sense of "We are no imperialist power, we have no colonies!!!". Germany too at first avoided the term and officially called those territories Schutzgebiete (literally: areas under protection*) for legal reasons**, although it quickly became obvious that those were colonies like the French and English had.

*I think the term protectorate has a slightly different legal meaning
**Bismarck (who disliked the very idea of German colonialism because of the potential conflicts with the other established powers) at first favored pure private initiatives overseas but when those failed (for economic reasons) he was forced to get involved and put those territories 'under the protection of the Reich', i.e. formally the Reich did not take possession but just bailed out private businesses and sent out Schutztruppen (protective troops) that were formally not part of the German military.

Or maybe linguistic differences? Are there more words in Japanese?

Well, you could probably spell out most of the words you knew, but for Japanese, you have to look up the chinese character, which accounts for the increased usage, I think.

Really? Not even mentioned, to the point that someone of Filipino parentage would notice it? Is it possible?

We have a large number of pinay around here (I understand that some find the term derogatory, but it's the term they usually use to identify themselves in Japan) and I'll ask some of them and report back.

I suspect you are right about reasons for the size. If you have every word in kana (not, I assume, romanji), plus all the characters, you nearly double the number of entries.

(I understand that some find the term derogatory, but it's the term they usually use to identify themselves in Japan)

FWIW, for large stretches of my childhood I lived in a neighborhood that was largely Filipino and attended a church that was possibly majority Filipino, although I can't be sure about exact numbers.

Pinay/Pinoy were the preferred terms, at least among the youth. Far from being derogatory, most seemed to take pride in the terms.

I couldn't speak to the culture at large, of course, but its certainly not just in Japan that the terms are used commonly.

Well, you could probably spell out most of the words you knew

You give me too much credit. But I see your point.

It also led me to discover (through googling) how dictionaries are organized based on the radical and phonetic of the character. Which makes a lot of sense and I'm sure sounds trivially obvious to you, but was something I had never considered.

That's good to hear, before I posted my comment, I did a quick google and saw this
Pinoy was used for self-identification by the first wave of Filipinos going to the continental United States before World War II and has been used both in a pejorative sense as well as a term of endearment similar to Chicano.[3][4] Both Pinoy and Pinay are still regarded as derogatory by some Filipinos though they are widely used and gaining mainstream usage.[5]

As always, the talk page is interesting, if not particularly enlightening.

Re marking up books:

It's basically a quicker way of writing notes. It ensures that you are engaging with the text rather than just skimming, and it means that when you come back to it for revision / refreshing purposes you can get to the heart of it much more quickly.

I've never done it with an actual book; I have the same kind of book preservation instincts previously mentioned. However now that I do some work summarising articles, I have found the highlight tool on Adobe Reader to be invaluable. Now I can have my cake and eat it, with both and clean and marked version saved to my hard drive!


Are the annotations on *all* words, or just kanji? Might this be designed to set kanji in the students' minds more firmly, to avert the problem of kanji character amnesia in the future?

On Pinoy/ay, that's good to know. I'll try to be careful in using it.

From what I understand, it is anytime they look up a word, though I think that it's relatively easy to know the words that don't have kanji as most of them are borrowings. I don't have a good handle on what words my daughter is looking up, it's hard to figure out the state of her vocabulary. She has quite a good oral vocabulary of English, but is not much of a reader, so it's not a written vocabulary, but she has astonished my wife by reading any number of particularly difficult kanji.

I agree that Japanese are forgetting their ability to write kanji, various forms in Japanese come from my students and I'll notice that they have screwed up a kanji, and if I know it, that's saying a lot.

Wow. I've been studying the Philippines for half a century and have never heard that the term Pinoy (Pinay) was derogatory! Which is not to say that it never is - different strokes for different folks and all - but still . . .

It's clearly informal - I think of it as roughly equivalent to "Yank(ee)" for Americans overseas - and one would normally not use it in scholarly writing except with regard to a specific community that self-identifies that way.

OTOH "Flip" is widely considered derogatory (as mentioned in Wikipedia), and most Filipinos today eschew the term "PI" (for Philippine Islands) as a colonial holdover. (I use it in my [private] notes to refer to the colonial period; "RP" [Republic of the Philippines] for the period after independence.) And there are other even more racist terms that I will spare you. But "Pinoy"? I'm surprised.

Hartmut: Interesting about Germany and its "colonies" - I never knew that.

The US had the singular advantage, in terms of nomenclature, that most of its overseas possessions were islands (Philippines, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Samoa, etc.), so they could be stashed in a "Bureau of Insular Affairs" (under the War Department, originally), rather than listed as "colonies," which of course we didn't have, never had, never would have because we had once been colonized ourselves and didn't like it and how dare you impugn us by comparing us with COLONIALISTS like the English and French and Dutch, etc. etc.

I can't remember how they finessed the Panama Canal Zone, which isn't an island (duh), but they managed somehow to squeeze it in among islands and "territories" like Alaska and New Mexico without ever deploying the dreaded "C" word.

Don't get me started on IMPERIALISM!!

Well, unlike the various islands you mention, the Canal Zone was not something that we owned. It was something that we leased. (We did own the Canal itself. Just as we might own a mine in another country.)

Perhaps the distinction is best captured by this. If you are born in Puerto Rico, you are a US citizen, just as if you had been born in New York. But if you were born in the Canal Zone, you did not thereby become a US citizen. Thus John McCain, for example, is a US citizen (and eligible to be President) because his parents were US citizens, not because he was born in the Canal Zone.

WJ: Thanks. I knew this distinction once, but that knowledge, like a lot else (some of it far more salient to daily life) has started slipping away.

If you were born in the (American) Philippines you were not a US citizen. No way, no how. Congress spent a lot of ingenuity making sure that however "benevolent" our "assimilation" of the Filipinos was, our shores and elections would not be "flooded" with "Asiatics."

Don't know how/when this distinction was finessed in Hawaii (before statehood), Guam, American Samoa, US Virgin Islands, etc. Again, I probably knew once but . . .

. . . what was I saying?

Hawaii was annexed in 1898. In 1900, the Hawaiian Organic Act (legislation got far better names a century ago!) said that anyone who was a citizen of the Kingdom of Hawaii at the time of annexation was a US citizen. So that got dealt with almost immediately. Without, apparently, a lot of "Yellow Peril" opposition -- in fact most of the opposition seems to have come from native Hawaiians.

At a quick glance, something similar seems to have applied to Guam, the Virgin Islands, etc. -- places which were, officially, "US territory". I believe the Phillipines were finessed as a special case; at least the situation seems to have spawned quite a few court cases.

The racial animosity against South Sea natives* was far less intensive than against other Asians. Iirc there were even subtle legal differences as far as miscegenation and related stuff went. A sign of that is that relationships between white men and South Sea women were tolerated in movies when other mixed ones were completely verboten (and explicit code violations).

*at least light-skinned ones. Papuas were a different thing altogther.

The contortions that American laws on race went thru are truly awesome. The people writin gthem were certain that there were absolute principles involved. And kept having to deal with the much more nuanced reality around them. They certainly tried. Over and over again. But that just kept making the laws more and more complex, without ever getting close to dealing with every case.

P.S. The racial animosity regarding South sea natives was lower. But far from non-existant. See South Pacific (either the movie or the book on which it was based) for a glimpse of how much was around, and the struggles it entailed for those who were raised with it.

In terms of race, all Asians and Pacific Islanders were anomalies within America's obsession with Black vs. White. The internal debates over Philippine policy often swung on whether Filipinos were basically "like" the Negroes (and American Indians) or not. One notable anti-imperialist (James Blount, I believe) attacked his opponents for saying that the Filipinos were like Blacks - as a Southerner, he was emphatic in insisting that the Filipinos were nothing like those lazy good-for-nothings!

Filipinos in much of the US were curiosities, but they encountered serious antipathy where they were most common, on the West Coast (esp. California).

And weren't the Chinese "honorary whites" in segregated Mississippi? (cf. Japanese in apartheid South Africa.)

None of it made/makes sense - but then racism generally doesn't.

wj, that's why I used the comaparative form. Of course not everyone considered South Sea people as equal but relationships were tolerated (at least legally) in real life and popular culture. On the other hand radicals in Germany and Britain did not consider each other as fully white (let alone White) and accused each other of being inferior mongrels. I guess what saved the South Sea people was the romantic image whites had of them before their lands got under firm colonial control. Plus they were not needed to the same degree as work slaves.

Mississippi may have considered East Asians "honorary whites." But things on the West Coast, where there were a lot more East Asians than in the deep South, were rather different. California's anti-miscegenation law (only repealed in 1948) explicitly restricted "Mongolians" (i.e. East Asians), as well as blacks and whites, from marrying other races. Also "Malays" were yet another category forbidden to marry any of the other categories.

Not everybody in California held those views, of course. But those who didn't were definitely exceptions thru the middle of the last century.

Mississippi may have considered East Asians "honorary whites."

I'm not sure if it was enshrined in laws somehow (in South Africa, this was the case), but the 442nd and the 100th (the Japanese-American units from WW2) trained at Camp Shelby and often bumped into Jim Crow laws

One of their common struggles was confrontation with segregation and anti-black racism in the Deep South. Themselves victims of prejudice and discrimination at home, the Japanese Americans nonetheless were horrified by the deep patterns of racism evident in public accommodations such as buses and movie theaters. Their outbursts and occasional interventions on behalf of African Americans soon forced 442nd officers to reprimand the troops and remind them that they could not end Jim Crow on their own.

I'm not sure if it was simply social custom or the training schedule or if was specifically decided, but there didnt seem to be much fraternization. This picture shows a dance a camp Shelby and the women were all internees from Rohwer and Jerome internment camps

On the other hand, there were visits to Bogalusa and Hattiesburg and they stayed with host families
Very early in our training, a group of the 442nd boys were invited to go visit and stay with a Southern family. My memory was that we were invited to Bogalusa to be exposed to Southern fried chicken, baked beans, and whatnot. So I spent a weekend in Bogalusa. For years thereafter, we didn’t have any follow-up except for the one weekend visit. But for years, I’ve always wondered what, or how it was, that we were invited to Bogalusa.

There was also the story of Earl Finch. It really underlines the balancing act where you are allowed to express a modicum of interest or sympathy, but if you showed too much interest, that was suspicious
Not everyone was a fan of Earl Finch. When he first offered his friendship to the Hawaii soldiers, neighbors called him a “Jap lover.” The military authorities at Camp Shelby thought he might be a Japanese spy relaying messages to Emperor Hirohito. Even Hawaii officials suspected Finch of being a con artist trying to swindle young soldiers of their money. Finch was repeatedly investigated by military intelligence and the FBI. Although he was cleared of any wrongdoing, he continued to receive threats.


My understanding is that the US decided quite early on that the Philipines would be granted independence rather than kept as an American possession. This wasn't a selfless act by any means, though; the US just saw the Philipines as too far away and too unprofitable to be worth keeping. That was very different from Hawaii or Guam, which were seen as strategically vital sites for Pacific naval bases.

Just a couple of footnotes to the above:

1) It was specifically the Chinese, not "East Asians" in general, who were "honorary whites" in Mississippi, as analyzed by James Loewen in The Mississippi Chinese (1971). Although Americans have always had difficulty distinguishing one "Asiatic" from another, valiant if misguided efforts to do so have been frequent, most memorably in the 1941 Time article How to tell your friends from the Japs, in which the "friends" were specifically Chinese. So the travails of the Japanese-American units, though deplorable, don't really apply.

2) I grew up in California, so don't need to be told about anti-Asian sentiment there. From my childhood I remember when Korean-American Dr. Sammy Lee, who had won 2 Olympic Gold Medals (in diving) for the USA (and went on to win 2 more, IIRC) was denied the right to buy a house in a "restricted" subdivision in Orange County, where I lived. There was also a lively anti-Mexican spirit around (the terms "Hispanic" or "Chicanos" were unknown to us). In no way am I trying to deny or diminish this racism, only to point out that at some level it always had to circumvent or be related the primordial American binary, White vs Black.

3) The US in 1898 and shortly thereafter didn't know what to do with the Philippines, but by 1913 (with the election of Democratic president and Congress) was committed to eventual independence; the next twenty years were spent dancing around the questions of "when?" and "under what conditions?" Strategically, there was always a debate within the US military as to whether the Islands were an asset or a liability; ironically, they were only perceived as a major asset (Subic Bay and Clark AFB in particular) after Philippine independence in 1946. We kept them for more than 40 years until the end of the Cold War and the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo made them cost more than they were now worth.

I just realize my last paragraph was ambiguous. The USA "kept" the military bases in the Philippines after 1946 on the basis of periodically-renewed leases, not as a matter of sovereighty. They were recognized as Philippine territory but the US had virtually complete jurisdiction within them (cf. Guantanamo? - but with an ally, not an enemy, as "leaseholder").

Arguably the US imposed the bases on the Philippines in the first place - the arrangement was part of the independence package - but at the time most Filipino leaders were glad to have the US forces around. We had just "liberated" them from the Japanese Occupation and now we might help them resist Chinese Communist incursions. Eventually the honeymoon ended - the likelihood of PRC aggression seemed less, the friction created by the presence of US troops was a constant irritant, and rising nationalist sentiment saw the bases as one of a number of important symbolic issues. Even so, the bases would probably have been renewed without the Pinatubo eruption (against the background of US strategic rethinking with the fall of the USSR).

So the travails of the Japanese-American units, though deplorable, don't really apply.

I didn't mean to imply that the Japanese-Americans were discriminated against, from my readings and talking to acquaintances of my dad who served in the 100/4077th, they felt they were treated quite kindly in Mississippi. Their travails were primarily with the Army hierarchy and between each other. I find this a perfect example of a tipping point phenomenon, where a population is happy to have a small number of a group, but would probably lose it if there was a massive influx.

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