Interesting book, who knew that cod was so central to the history of western Europe and North America.
The book makes an argument I'd never heard befo...moreInteresting book, who knew that cod was so central to the history of western Europe and North America.
The book makes an argument I'd never heard before that Basques from Spain had been coming to North America regularly before Columbus ever got here, but never declared it cause they didn't want anyone else pouching their fishing grounds (apparently when the first British got here they even commented on all the Basque ships, but since they had never formally declared the ground for Spain -- why would they? -- the British declared it for themselves).
It then goes through the whole history of nations that rose on the back of cod, and how eventually almost every location that had been rich in cod was over fished practically to extinction, and how there are no longer enough cod in the waters to support fishermen, even if they were allowed to fish them.
Almost every chapter begins with a cod recipe, and then the book finishes off with a large selection of fish recipes(less)
Read this after reading his book on the history of Cod; be warned, there is a lot of repetition between the two books (as salt is used for preserving...moreRead this after reading his book on the history of Cod; be warned, there is a lot of repetition between the two books (as salt is used for preserving fish). He does however make a strong argument about how you can trace a direct correlation between the rise of major cities and the presence of salt mines, or some way of making salt (and by the end of this book you'll know almost every method and its pro's and cons). Also some of his discussion of the importance of salt in various early civilizations, such as China, and various revolutions and wars (including US wars) is very interesting, but then it starts to feel incredibly repetitive and its hard for my brain to keep track of what he's talking about.
Also, you can't talk about salt without talking about food. As a result, I now know more about fish pastes from around the world than I ever wanted to know; and am intimately aware of how different sorts of cheese are made, with some explanation of almost all of the 250 different types in France and why each ends up unique (which apparently has more to do with where they are and what the producers have to work with than any attempt to be unique)... and how both products depend on salt. I also now know all about 'salted cabbage' be it sauerkraut or Kimchi/chinese salted cabbage. Also, just like in the other book, the author loves throwing in ancient recipes, ad nauseum. I listen to my books (via Kindle) rather than read -- I've got vision issues in my old age, which means I can't just jump over these and it gets a bit boring hearing about the recipes.
Story of Squanto aimed at grade and middle school readers who are behind grade level in their reading. This was assigned to a student as his required...moreStory of Squanto aimed at grade and middle school readers who are behind grade level in their reading. This was assigned to a student as his required reading for his '5th grade history fair' assignment by my CT, so I wanted to read it. Its ok, very simple text, took me at most 2 hours to read the whole thing. Follows Squanto from his first sighting of a white man's ship to his befriending the pilgrims/separatists. The story goes with one theory of Squanto's life which has him voluntarily going to London with some traders and then returning to American with Capt. John Smith, only to be kidnapped by Smith's 2nd in command along with a bunch of other Indians and sold to the Spanish. The kidnapping part is generally agreed upon, the first 1/2 is up for debate, but is apparently why he was convinced that not all Europeans were bad, and therefore was willing to help the pilgrims.(less)
Badly written biography of an Israeli poet/hero, best known for the lyrics to "Elie, Elie," which posthumously became one of the most famous Israeli s...moreBadly written biography of an Israeli poet/hero, best known for the lyrics to "Elie, Elie," which posthumously became one of the most famous Israeli songs which is often used as a prayer. While she is considered a National hero, from my perspective, where it not for her poems she probably would have disappeared into history as a naive, idealistic dreamer who essentially went and got herself killed; however, because of them her ignominious death during the course of botched rescue mission has been transformed into an heroic event in Israeli history. In other words, like many other national heroes of many other countries (including George Washington) Senesh's story was created posthumously, and probably conformed to what people needed her to be, an incarnation of the new Israeli/Jewish spirit, more than what she was.
The way I see it, Senesh was a talented dreamer from a somewhat spoiled upper class existence. She came to Israel to pursue an idealistic dream, to learn to be a farmer and to help create a nation. Once she actually got used to it and none of it was new, she started to get bored and feel she was better than this work. She got pulled by the next exciting prospect which was to be a spy in the war rescuing Jews from behind Nazi lines. So she trains for that, goes on her first mission, and her team realizes its botched as soon as they are dropped off, but Hannnah, who is stuck in her dreams thinks they should continue; ultimately she goes in alone thinking she can do it with no structure to support her and of course she can't is immediately captured before she can do anything useful (other than die heroically). If anything her poem blessed is the match is a testament to her belief in wanting to die a hero, rather than the more pragmatic attitude of getting the other poor bastard to die a hero for his country.
The biography relies on a combination of Hannah's diary and her mother's writing (her mother was partially responsible for her transition into a national hero)as its sources. While the version I own says nothing about it being translated, the language is so stultified that I think it either was, or was written by someone whose first language wasn't English.
The book talks a little bit about the British suzerainty, the white paper, the formation of the Haganah, etc.(less)
(Assigned reading for a class on how to teach history.) Basically the biography of a low level civil rights worker in St. Louis, Ivory Perry, who was...more(Assigned reading for a class on how to teach history.) Basically the biography of a low level civil rights worker in St. Louis, Ivory Perry, who was essentially a 'soldier' in the civil rights 'war,' one who never gave up the fight even after others had stopped.
Perry was a man essentially forgotten by history till he pushed himself forward to the author (Lipsitz) at a photo show of historical civil rights images, many of which were pics of Perry. This fact prompted the author to write this book about Perry and the part he played in the movement.
As such, the book falls squarely into the micro-history movement, where instead of focusing on great generals of history when looking at a war the historian focuses instead on the experiences of the average soldier, or even his wife.
While the author claims his intent is to be fair and balanced, it's clear that he romanticizes and idolizes his central character, and puts him up on a pedestal as a martyr to the good fight. A member of the proletariat attempting to rise up against the bourgeoisie (and yes the Marxist analysis runs thick if you know what you're looking at). This is most evident in the last two chapters, but is a underlying current running through the whole book.
For myself, while I tasted the kool-aid, at most all it did was give me a bellyache. Throughout the book the author says things like, 'while many might look at Perry and see a sad loser who couldn't function in normal society, what I see is....'
Sorry, but what I saw was a guy who happened to stumble upon a context that gave him a purpose and a practical way to feed his addiction for stimulants... in this case adrenaline. To me, when I look at Perry what I see is a guy who suffers from PTSD from two tours in Korea who was was able to find a venue where his need for conflict and danger was not only met, but rewarded, in the same way that it would have been on the battle field. Only, he ran into the same problems as on the battle field, an inability to take direction and follow orders, and a tendency to get into conflicts with his commanding officers, which stymied any attempt on his part to become more than cannon fodder in the battle.
There are other aspects of the book however that ring true. I have a handful of friends, who like Perry, are life long civil rights activists, and have been at it for over twenty years. My friends are not 'organic' intellectuals, folks without a traditional education whose language becomes so political that its hard to have a normal conversation with them (you know the type, angry young men who read marx and spout theory rather than thoughts). My friends are, instead, of the more traditional type; they are folks who knew starting out what they wanted to do with their lives, got degrees at top universities and then devoted their lives to things like the UN, the state department, working with Native Americans tribes, teaching in the inner city, working as public defenders, etc. All of them essentially taking vows of poverty, or near poverty, and focusing instead on more ineffable rewards. Lipsitz descriptions of the strains of on these people and what happens to them over time, all rang very true for me.
The author, who normally writes about politicians, sets out to investigate what is it about Wayne that made him so iconic/political that he continued...moreThe author, who normally writes about politicians, sets out to investigate what is it about Wayne that made him so iconic/political that he continued to be listed as one of the greatest American male movie stars long his death. A character accepted as definitively Male, and yet is usually overlooked by academics who specialize in gender-studies. The goal (according to the intro) isn't a biography written for fans so much as a critical analysis interested in the part Wayne plays in America's political myth of self. The book says its intent is only to consider who Wayne really was and his actual history, in order to compare those to the constructed (spun) image and the Hollywood myths surrounding him, in order to clarify that construction.
Please note that above I referred to the intent as described in the intro and title, not what the book actually does. This book reminds me of some of my very WORST papers, the ones where I write a great intro paragraph, get lost and confused along the way, never actually support any of my arguments, or have a clear central one to begin with, and then at the very end I come up with biggest 'grand' statement of utter bullpuckie I can, hoping the proff will get so confused in my grandiose conclusions as to forgive the mess that was the paper.
Additionally, there are parts of Wills' narrative that ring false, so for instance when talking about the director Ford, it feels like the author has his own 'narrative' that he's pushing so hard that it feels like listening to partisan politics. There's no nuance to it, it's too black or white and therefore untrustworthy. Now you might be saying to yourself, 'well Wills' very liberal and this reviewer must be a conservative' only I'm not, I'm also a liberal. However, it sort of puts my teeth on edge when authors are so busy trying to indoctrinate that they push their arguments to incredulity.
The final conclusion is out in L.A.-L.A. land, making comments about how our relationship to cities is different from the rest of the world, and that this is an extension of our separation of church and state....??? The author says that all cities are built around a religious point (rather than an economic one, as most are), and even gives St. Paul's in London as an example. Problem is, St. Paul was built on the site of roman temple, and London was never a religious center, not even in ancient times.
The book says its about the construction of Wayne, and spends a lot of time describing scene by scene various movies he was in, and what went on behind the scenes of the making... but rarely if ever does the author broach the central issue of the introduction of how did these movies ring in the national consciousness as part of the construction that is the political image of John Wayne the movie star.
The book is in fact over 300 pages, and if you whittled it down to just the bit where the author does do this, its maybe a 15 or 20 page paper .... double spaced. Now these 20 odd pages are very good.
Also, if your interest is not in the political image of Wayne but rather you're a film student interested in how the films were made, a shot by shot analysis, what was going on in the background and any petty squabbles on set, this book does go into great detail about that.
It does not however do what it claims it set out to do, at least not really. By the end of the book you're not really any more knowledgeable about the politics of celebrity of Wayne than you were at the start
A children's textbook about the man who claimed to have found Troy and the science of archeology. It starts out as a normal children's book, and you g...moreA children's textbook about the man who claimed to have found Troy and the science of archeology. It starts out as a normal children's book, and you get the distinct impression *cough* that the author doesn't have a high opinion of Schliemann; as in she starts out saying he was a massive lier and proceeds to pock holes into him at every opportunity. However, the author does this with a sort of perverse tongue in cheek cynicism that is kind of fun, and involves you in his story. What Schlitz does a very good job of, however, is after getting students interested in the man, she begins introducing them to the development of the science of archeology in a mildly amusing and accessible way. The book teaches some of the history of Ancient Greece, the history of Homer's texts (with time-lines showing its evolution), the history of how we understood those texts over time, the history of Schliemann (with a fabulous map showing that he was in fact a world traveler), etc. In fact, the more I read this book the more impressed I became. She explains why archaeologists shudder slightly at the memory of Schliemann, and mentions Lord Elgin's 'theft' of the Parthenon's marbles, as well as discussing the evolution of how we talk about time and why we talk about it that way (iron age, bronze age, BC vs BCE, etc).
In short, the book starts out as a silly kids book aimed at maybe a 5th grader, but by the end, I had learned more about the topic than I had known to start with (and I have a PhD in anthropology -- albeit cultural). (less)
1096 AD, first female historian. Trained to be Emperor till a brother was born, she's thrown into a convent for trying to kill him. This is where she...more1096 AD, first female historian. Trained to be Emperor till a brother was born, she's thrown into a convent for trying to kill him. This is where she writes her history of her father the man who launched the first crusade, the Alexiad, the first history book ever written by a woman. The book basically paints him as really horrible kid worthy of Anna's attempt to kill him. Ironically, Her brother is remembered as John the beautiful because he was considered a really good emperor. The final chapter of the book is the author's explanation of what is made up, what facts were changed, and what is based on research. There is also a discussion of the level of education of women in that time period. The author is a professor at Vanderbilt University where she teaches Italian. She has also co-authored some straight history books. From her website: "She holds a Bachelor's Degree with honors in Classics-Archaeology from Brown University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Medieval Italian Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. Her scholarly interests in the ancient and medieval worlds overlap in her fiction and nonfiction works. A grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study medieval women writers led to the writing of her award-winning young-adult novel, Anna of Byzantium."