- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 3, 2004

Name game

“Had Apple Blythe Alison Martin — the offspring of a celebrity couple, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin — been born a boy, it is quite possible she would have had been given something of a more normal name. … Alexander Bentley, of University College, London, and his colleagues are studying the mathematics of cultural transmission. …

“Bentley looked at the frequencies of different first names in American babies. One of his findings was that the ‘mutation rate’ in names is higher for girls than for boys. Parents, in other words, are more liable to be inventive when choosing a name for a baby girl. …

“One possibility is that in a society where family names are inherited patrilineally, parents feel constrained by tradition when it comes to choosing first names for their sons. As a result, boys often end up with the names of their ancestors. But when those same parents come to choose names for their daughters, they feel less constrained and more able to choose based on style and beauty.”

From “Moniker’s progress,” in the May 20 issue of the Economist

Sunday school

“Hindu parents in Middletown, Conn., looked around one day in the Sri Satyanarayana Temple and asked, ‘Where are the kids?’ They saw that their American-born children had little knowledge of Hinduism and even less interest in it. They realized that if they didn’t engage them in their rich religious and cultural heritage, it might soon be lost.

“So a team came today and formed the Hindu Sunday School. It has been a grand success, with more than 50 children ranging from ages 6 to 16 attending consistently for two and one-half years. Sunday school is an American institution. Long ago, immigrants of Western religions faced the challenge of passing on their heritage to generation after generation, and they figured out a system which is now the primary mode of religious instruction for millions of American children.

“The whole country is scheduled around attending church on Sunday. … The Hindu parent-teachers who launched this program decided to take advantage of this established church model, and it worked. Hindu kids in the Hartford area actually like it, and they keep on coming back.”

From “Kids Love Hindu Sunday School,” in the July issue of Hinduism Today

‘Iliad’ lite

“It took three movies to do justice to ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ five (so far) to tell the tale of ‘Star Wars,’ two to chronicle the demise of [Quentin] Tarantino’s ‘Bill,’ and three, incredibly, to give us the ‘Matrix’ saga, a saga with a concept, but no plot at all. In Wolfgang Petersen’s new ‘Troy,’ by contrast, Homer’s ‘Iliad,’ a story that has endured intact for 3,000 years, one of the glories, indeed, of Western culture … is sliced, diced, and distilled into blandness, all so it can fit into the confines of just one film and, presumably, rake in a buck or two.

“Homer’s Troy took 10 years to fall, Petersen’s collapses in about three weeks, taking most of the ancient epic with it. There’s no Cassandra, for example, and there are no gods. Achilles survives long enough to skulk inside the Trojan Horse, Ajax falls in battle rather than (the usual story) by his own hand, and Agamemnon is butchered honorably at war rather than, on his return home by, embarrassingly, his wife’s boyfriend. And no, the fact that the film has a bit of the ‘Odyssey’ tacked on at the end (all that business about a horse) is absolutely no compensation, particularly for those of us who were rooting for the Trojans.”

Andrew Stuttaford, writing on “The Fall of ‘Troy,’” Tuesday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

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