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What are you reading?
Posted: 09 February 2012 11:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 256 ]
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Started reading books about the explorers.  Magellen and Da Gama for example. Can’t remember the names off hand right now. One book was about Magellan, one was about Da Gama and the other was a history of circumnavigation in general. All three books were well written and informative.
I’ve finally gotten off my WWII history binge.(for awhile anyways).  The first book about Magellan piqued my curiosity to read further into exploration-Now I’m reading a book about the colonization of America.  It’s called “American Colonies” by Alan…(can’t remember last name.)
Amerian Colonies is good.  The guy is a Pulitzer Prize winner. So was Jared Diamond. Both books(Guns, Germs, and Steel and “Colonies”) are a touch dry.  They read more like textbooks…but here’s the thing, they aren’t anymore informative.
I find these types of books to be over-repetitive in their writing style. I constantly was reminded by Diamond about the significance of Pulse crops I seem to recall.(to name one example.)
Same with “Colonies”.  Good reading, but sometimes a little repetitive. The social dynamics of Puritans and Spanish Missionaries comes to mind.  I find myself reading yet a further clarification or emphasis on these subjects and saying to myself: “Yes, yes, I get it move on!!”
Sometimes I wonder if this isn’t intentional page padding?

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Posted: 09 February 2012 12:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 257 ]
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Are referring to the book “Over the Edge of the World”? It’s a good read on Magellan’s voyage. If you’re looking for a combo of history and fiction pick up Thompson’s “To the Edge of the World”. It’s without a doubt one of the best historical fiction books that I have ever read. It’s the account of Darwin’s 1835 voyage around the world and the encounters that he has with Argentinians, the Fuegians, and New Zealanders. It also shows the relationship he had with Captain Robert Fitzroy. Thompson used the “Voyage of the Beagle” for the historical background. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed.

Cap’t Jack

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Posted: 09 February 2012 12:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 258 ]
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I read it, Jack, and I liked it.

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Posted: 09 February 2012 12:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 259 ]
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Thevillageatheist - 09 February 2012 12:23 PM

Are referring to the book “Over the Edge of the World”? It’s a good read on Magellan’s voyage. If you’re looking for a combo of history and fiction pick up Thompson’s “To the Edge of the World”. It’s without a doubt one of the best historical fiction books that I have ever read. It’s the account of Darwin’s 1835 voyage around the world and the encounters that he has with Argentinians, the Fuegians, and New Zealanders. It also shows the relationship he had with Captain Robert Fitzroy. Thompson used the “Voyage of the Beagle” for the historical background. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed.

Cap’t Jack

Yes, I belive so.  “Over the Edge of the World.”  I appreciate your suggestion, and I don’t wanna sound haughty but, I would not be interested in historical fiction.  That being said, I don’t doubt you for one minute that it is a good book.

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Posted: 09 February 2012 01:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 260 ]
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Just finished “Chasing the Molecule” by John Buckingham (it’s pretty much a history of chemistry without too much technical stuff.)

Just started “Who on Earth is Tom Baker” by Tom Baker.  I’m trying to imagine him reading it to me, because his voice is so awesome. There’s an audio version read by him, but it’s abridged.

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Posted: 15 February 2012 03:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 261 ]
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Fire in the City – Savonarola and the Struggle of the Soul of Renaissance Florence
Lauro Martines -2006 – Oxford

This short book is very interesting political study and demonstrates the interrelationship between religion and politics prior to the separation of church and state in today’s western society.  The events under discussion at least partially form the basis for Machiavelli’s writings. 

If you are like myself, the picture I have had of Savonarola from his being mentioned in other readings is that of a pious & dangerous demagogue that used the religious beliefs of his time to persecute the people with “the fire of the vanities’ without any more reason that his own particular prejudices.  According to Martines this is not the full story but more of the type of history written by the victors.
 
The main period covered is from 1490 – 1500.  The political action starts with the French King Charles the VII entering the city and Piero Medici being overthrown and exiled.  Florence also lost control of Pisa due to Charles’s invasion of Italy.  Charles soon left Florence as his goal was the capture of Naples and Rome and Florence was technically allied with his at this point.

This created a political opening in Florence, with a   conflict between the remaining Medici elite and an older tradition of middleclass tradesmen governing through councils they participated in represented their interests.  It was into this opening that Savonarola stepped, using his position as a Dominican Friar to provide a set of ideals to the tradesmen.  These ideals came at the price of a much stricter morality.  Savonarola saw the gaudy self-indulgence of the both the upper business and the religious elites of the day as a denial of charity to the poor.  His political stance however that the New Republic and the Great Council founded on the broad participation of citizens (in terms of his day this did not include the laboring poor) were sent by God. 

(Savonarola also opposed the rule of mass meeting of the residents of Florence in the city square that were used by the Medici to support their rule recognizing that a handful of agitators well versed in crowd psychology did not lead to sound decisions.)

Savonarola was eventually defeated and executed by his opponents due to several factors; chief among them was opposition from the Pope and the other Italian city-states who were opposed to and under attack by Charles VIII;  and the gamblers, partiers, etc. who were tried of what we call today his puritan morality.

I am going to end this by giving two quotes from the book, the first on the general study of history:

“It follows that the one thing we should not do to the men and women of past time, and particularly if they ghost through to us as larger than life, is to take them out of their historical contexts.  To do so is to run the risk of turning them into monsters, whom we can then denounce for our own ( frequently political) motives – an insidious game, because we are condemning in their make-up that which is likely to belong to a whole social world, the world that fashioned them and that is deviously reflected or distorted in them.  Censure of this sort is the work of petty moralists and propagandists, not historians.”
And the last two sentences of the study; something I believe all us non-religious should keep in mind when looking at today’s world as well.

“When, however, political power is irresponsible and spurns being accountable, or when it passes into the hands of ruthless elites, it opens the way for those who contend that they speak for justice, morality and God.  And we must be prepared to read and study such contenders, not because they speak for, God, but because they are likely to be saying something significant about current politics.”

I’ll give the book a solid B.

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Posted: 15 February 2012 06:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 262 ]
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I’m currently reading “La casa verde” by Vargas Llosa

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Posted: 15 February 2012 06:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 263 ]
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I’m reading Dawkins “Greatest Show” and I find it very rudimentary, but I did learn one thing- how dogs went from the wild wolf to domesticated, not genetic wise (I long since got that), but the process Dawkins states they went through- from wild, to self-domesticated, to human’s pets and helpers.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 15 February 2012 08:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 264 ]
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Yes, I belive so.  “Over the Edge of the World.”  I appreciate your suggestion, and I don’t wanna sound haughty but, I would not be interested in historical fiction.  That being said, I don’t doubt you for one minute that it is a good book.

Just got back on this post from the Egor show but wanted to reply here. I felt the same way Vyasma and read nonfiction for years, basically research, but my wife suggested some historical fiction for fun. I hadn’t read much except the Sherlock Holmes series but found that I liked the genre if the background was well researched. The characterizations properly set with a historical background are fascinating! Ex. The Darwin book that I mentioned. I read the “Voyage of the Beagle” twice and then this book and it expanded my view of the voyage creating an incredible tale not just of Darwin’s scientific findings but of the excitement of the voyage. The author made you feel that you were on the deck looking at the Galapagos through his eyes. So, if you’re a committed non-fiction reader, step out of pure fact and let a little fiction fill in the blanks for you. FI conversations Darwin and Fitzroy had are recorded but not the emotions each felt when discussing issues. The author adds this to the story. Do pick it up if you have a chance and read just the first chapter. Believe me you’ll be drawn into the mind of a 19th Century explorer, naturalist and adventurer.


Cap’t Jack

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Posted: 16 February 2012 05:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 265 ]
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I also read the “Voyage of the Beagle” before reading “Over the Edge of the World,” which I believe helped me to appreciate Thompson’s novel. I don’t think he could have done a better job turning Darwin’s book into a work of fiction.

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Posted: 16 February 2012 08:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 266 ]
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Absolutely, a good historical fiction writer MUST also be a careful researcher to provide the historical backsround for the piece.  Hey, Science fiction writers do this all of the time, ex. (and I’ve used him before), Ben Bova. He draws you into the stories and makes them believable with a wealth of background material.

Cap’t Jack

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One good schoolmaster is of more use than a hundred priests.

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Posted: 16 February 2012 03:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 267 ]
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Mriana - 15 February 2012 06:40 PM

I’m reading Dawkins “Greatest Show” and I find it very rudimentary, but I did learn one thing- how dogs went from the wild wolf to domesticated, not genetic wise (I long since got that), but the process Dawkins states they went through- from wild, to self-domesticated, to human’s pets and helpers.

Did humans domesticate dogs or did dogs domesticate humans?  big surprise

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Posted: 16 February 2012 04:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 268 ]
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garythehuman - 16 February 2012 03:10 PM

... or did cats dogs domesticate humans?  big surprise

Fixed that for you. grin

On topic, I’m reading Quirkology by Richard Wiseman. Fun and interesting.

Take care,

Derek

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Posted: 16 February 2012 05:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 269 ]
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Now reading “The Skeptic’s Dictionary”.  Holy crap! L. Ron Hubbard was a madman with his “engrams” and “clear”. Pseudoscience at its worst!


Cap’t Jack

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One good schoolmaster is of more use than a hundred priests.

Thomas Paine

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Posted: 16 February 2012 05:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 270 ]
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harry canyon - 16 February 2012 04:49 PM
garythehuman - 16 February 2012 03:10 PM

... or did cats dogs domesticate humans?  big surprise

Fixed that for you. grin

On topic, I’m reading Quirkology by Richard Wiseman. Fun and interesting.

Take care,

Derek

My cats have me more than domesticated; Max, a Blue (non-marxist oh oh ) Russian had to go to the vets today for his annual shots.  Took me a half hour to run him down and get him into the car.  Doesn’t like riding.

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