Elizabeth Kolbert's new book about our environment reads like the Book of Revelations. It's the signs of the apocalypse that we must search. Going oveElizabeth Kolbert's new book about our environment reads like the Book of Revelations. It's the signs of the apocalypse that we must search. Going over the natural history of our world and its historical discoveries, she reveals piece by piece how mankind is destroying its own environment. She doesn't do this in a dramatic way; she just provides the historical backdrop, demonstrates the similarities today and subtly draws the connection.
Extinction caused in periodic bursts. Mass extinction can be caused by human beings, but we don't know specifically what is going on until it is too late. The beginning of a new era called the Anthropocene, has been arguably traced from the industrial revolution, or as far back as 15,000 years. Human activity on Earth has permanently altered the biodiversity on the planet. Kolbert's intent is to wake people up to that fact so people will take more action to reduce their impact on the planet. If the scientists pushing this theory prove their findings, it would change every biology book on the planet. This might be just the first step in making systemic changes on how we interact with the environment.
We do see the changes all around us. The oceans are the first sign of trouble. Mass die-offs and the reduction of coral reefs are early warning signs of the environmental impact that will only continue to grow. Kolbert studies species after species as well as different regions of the world. The results are the same, human intervention impedes natural travel for animals and plants and also helps to transport the same unnaturally causing environmental imbalance. ...more
In many ways, we are all living in the shadow of the accomplishments of Queen Isabella of Spain. Many high school history books start with her. It wasIn many ways, we are all living in the shadow of the accomplishments of Queen Isabella of Spain. Many high school history books start with her. It was the Reconquista, the defeat of North African Muslim forces that lead the discovery of the new world. It was the Inquisition that was an attempt to purge those non-Christian forces out of Spain, with far darker consequences. Even the modern chess board with its queen is inspired by her. Author Kristin Downey examines her life and the impact she had on Spain and her world for years to come. Born during a tumultuous time when Spain was dominated by North African Muslims. Conquered since 711, this group enjoyed over 700 years of domination and their presence, along with the Ottoman Empire Turks, would continue to threaten Western Europe and all of Christendom. Isabella, already at a disadvantage being born a woman when they were not considered as a line of succession, would reign as queen, re-conquer the lands from the Muslims, help halt the Ottoman advance into Western Europe, fund the discovery of the new world, and purge her land with the Spanish Inquisition.
It's also quite obvious she was the main force in Spain as upon her death, King Ferdinand quickly stumbles. Historians give too much credit to Ferdinand for Isabella's victories mainly since she insisted his name would also be on the official documents. Early historians would interpret this information as joint leadership; however, Ferdinand was not in line to assume the throne and was only King by marriage to Queen Isabella. It was her leadership and tone that would reclaim Spain and while that tenacity would unite the country, the Inquisition would forever scar it.
Downey presents a thorough examination of a Queen who is often ignored as a ruler in her own right. Inspired by Joan of Arc, she would leave a legacy for generations. While Queen Elizabeth of England gets her proper due in the history books, Queen Isabella is too often swept aside and unmentioned. Downey rectifies this. ...more
A memoir for super-fans of The Princess Bride, actor Cary Elwes takes us behind the scenes with all the funny and endearing details that make up a greA memoir for super-fans of The Princess Bride, actor Cary Elwes takes us behind the scenes with all the funny and endearing details that make up a great documentary. Elwes writing really captures his excitement in being cast as The Man in Black, a career-making role. His enthusiasm is echoed by others who played a part in making the film. Actors, as well as director Rob Reiner, contribute small paragraphs to the work that emphasize how much excitement continues today. As Elwes quotes from the movie Almost Famous, “It’s like joining the circus, nobody wants to go home.” The reader is brought into this circle and can have the same experience in the making of one of the most beloved films of all time.
Readers are treated to special moments in making the movie. Cary is able to capture how important the film is to Goldman is able to convey this to the readers in an endearing manner. The readers are told how nervous author William Goldman is as the production begins. He ruins a take as he is heard praying in the background. He misses a crucial safety meeting and yells out “Oh my God she’s on fire” as they film scenes from the Fire Swamp. Further, we also find out more about Andre the Giant. Mostly known as the World Wrestling Federation champion, we learn how hard life was for him as a spectacle, but how his heart was bigger even his large frame. We also see scenes on the set where Bill Crystal was so funny they had to use a “dummy” Westley as Cary could not get through the scene without laughing. Lastly, we see how much time went into the “Greatest Sword Fight of All Time” just to result in director Rob Reiner yelling out, “That’s it?”
This memoir really captures the magic of the movie. It is for those who really want to live in the moment of the film and to drink every last drop. ...more
We are in an age where we revere the sage on the stage. People like Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos would have had you believe that their ideas and conceptsWe are in an age where we revere the sage on the stage. People like Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos would have had you believe that their ideas and concepts were based solely on their leadership, that much of the great technology we see today is a result of their sole efforts. In fact, Isaacson maintains that the innovation itself comes from collaboration. The best collaboration comes without ego from the group or a patent from the corporation. If we were to get great minds together, there would be great solutions and leap forwards for humanity, but too often we are bogged down with who gets the credit. In fact, he points out that last year patent litigation between Sony and Apple exceeded the amount spent on actual creation and innovation at those companies.
Walter Isaacson’s book is intended to document the scientific revolution. There hasn’t been a book that talks about it or documents all of the efforts that led us to now. In fact, Isaacson’s work really covers the invention of computers, code, and how innovation was worked up until now. He demonstrates the effort that it took to move forward, and how so many pioneers were cast aside once there was money to be made from their breakthrough.
He starts with Ada Lovelace and her marriage of art and science. She best exemplifies the beauty of the combination of the humanities and the sciences. She would create the first computer programming language for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Machine. Isaacson further covers computing breakthroughs from Vannevar Bush to Grace Hopper and Alan Turing. He covers the every breakthrough from the first computer to programming, changes in hardware, gaming, the internet, and brings us to today and Google.
The aspect of the book that I most enjoyed was the running theme of collaboration and innovation. People must work together, without ego and without being siloed into a single field. The great Leonardo Da Vinci was the first to combine art and science. We are still benefiting from his genius today. We must learn again to work together (without a focus on credit) to move the scientific revolution forward. ...more
A mask of piety can often lead to a dark story underneath. The higher the religious fervor often covers up the guilt and shame from a dark history. JaA mask of piety can often lead to a dark story underneath. The higher the religious fervor often covers up the guilt and shame from a dark history. James Baldwin’s classic work unearths a history from each character. Starting with the innocence of John and his fear of inadequacy at the pulpit, we see the story of his parents. This high Godly bar seems insurmountable, but John finds his own path to God.
Baldwin’s semi-autobiographical novel is a soul-searching narrative on the nature of sin, the oppression of race, and the desperate need to be saved. Through his eyes we see John’s innocence, his father’s dark history, and the trouble of migration from the rural south to the urban north. It is a north with a promise to give, but never fulfilling that promise. It is a story of struggle against the desire of self.
It’s easy to see why this is such a masterpiece. Outside of just the compelling story, the prose itself and narrative tension make the work completely absorbing. This is the book on how to teach someone how to write. It pulses with energy.
“But to look back from the stony plain along the road which led one to that place is not at all the same thing as walking on the road; the perspective to say the very least, changes only with the journey; only when the road has, all abruptly and treacherously, and with an absoluteness that permits no argument, turned or dropped or risen is one able to see all that one could not have seen from any other place.”
“There are people in the world for whom "coming along" is a perpetual process, people who are destined never to arrive.” “…the North promised more. And this similarity: what it promised it did not give, and what it gave, at length and grudgingly with one hand, it took back with the other.” ...more