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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

A Classical Primer” (2012©)  —  book review
This review is for the book: “A Classical Primer: Ancient Knowledge For Modern Minds“, written by Dan Crompton.  Crompton studied Classics and Linguistics while attending Cambridge in England.  This book (or an earlier version) seems to be part of a series of books loosely titled:  “I Used to Know That .. Book Series“.  This book is #19 of #28.  I guess they are things you should have been taught in grammar or high school and either you weren’t paying attention or you’ve dumped the extraneous information from you primary memory core.  For me, it’s probably a bit of both.
Apparently, a “classic” (in western sensibilities) has to do with either Greek or Roman history.  The first chapter is the longest and to me the least interesting.  The book is 194 pages and the first 58 are specifically about the languages – letters, words, cases, tenses, prefixes and suffixes – and how much of this is carried forward today into English (American and British).  Like I said, mostly not particularly interesting…
After that, come chapters on history, literature (Greek, then Roman), philosophy, architecture and finally science / technology.  The author is casual in tone and entertaining.  I felt I was actually getting information which was interesting and (maybe) useful.  As an aside, I was watching a news clip today and they flashed by a building and I thought, “Wow! Ionic / Corinthian mixed columns!”  I never recognized the differences before, so seeing them never meant anything to me before.
As mentioned, this is a short (and small) book with relatively large print and, therefore, a very fast read.  Final recommendation:  Strong to highly.  If you know little to nothing about “Classics”, this book will be a useful and enjoyable introduction.  I don’t remember EVER getting taught ANY of this stuff in school (other than the geometry portion), but then I never went out of my way to delve into any of this stuff.  If it was taught, it certainly wasn’t emphasized.
Anyway, I find it interesting to get reminded how much I don’t know about the world (and history).  My greatest fear (well, one of them anyway) is that I might die uneducated.  Reading this “primer” type of book reminds me how far I have to go to avoid that fate, but the author taps you on the forehead in a fun way and I think that’s among the best ways of getting your eyes opened to the world around you.   Slowly, slowly…
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On This Day In:
2019 I Don’t Think We’ll Be Serving Them Cake
2018 New And Old
2017 Ever
2016 At The Center
2015 True Value In Life
2014 A Potential To Be Concerned
2013 Fine No More
2012 Have You Checked Your Height Lately?
2011 Are You Convinced?

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Our true nationality is mankind.
  –  H. G. Wells
From his book:  “The Outline of History
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On This Day In:
2019 Beautiful Rules
2018 Skepticism
2017 WWGD?
2016 Growing Greatness
2015 When It Is Darkest
2014 Knowledge And Doubt
2013 Three Thoughts
2012 Gentle Reader
2011 Leave The Light On For Me Anyway

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Sharpe’s Eagle” — book review
Today’s review is for “Sharpe’s Eagle” (1981©) written by Bernard Cornwell.  This book was the first in the “Sharpe” book series which became (in the 1990’s) the Sharpe television series.  I became aware of the character via this TV series while living in Liverpool and was reminded of them when they came up as a suggestion in YouTube.
Richard Sharpe is a sergeant in the British army in Spain fighting against Napoleon Bonaparte and his French army.  Sharpe saves the life of the commanding general who then gives Sharpe a field promotion to Lieutenant.  The series tracks Sharpe’s rise through the officer ranks.  This book jumps in with Sharpe as a Captain and then begins dropping bits about how he got that far.
The book revolves around two main battles.  The first where his regiment loses the “King’s colors” (the British Flag) and Sharpe personally recovers his Regimental colors.  The two flags are normally kept fairly close together on a battlefield and if you lose one, you generally lose both.  The second battle is to win a Regimental Eagle, which is the French equivalent of the British Regimental colors.  The first battle is purely fictional, while the second is dramatized history – so, basically fictionalized history.  The battle occurred, the eagle capture did not.
So, is the book any good?  Entertaining?  Interesting?  Yes.  Yes.  And, yes.  I can easily see why this book became both a book series and a TV series.  Of course, I like historical fiction, military stories (and fiction), and good old action novels (and movies).  It is not “very” realistic that Sharpe survives the battles, let alone the book or series, but setting that aside, the book is actually much better at explaining the battles than the TV series.  The TV series was significantly scaled back, but it still retained the flavor of the book.  For example, in the battle where the flag (King’s color) is lost, the book’s battle is a battalion size engagement.  In the TV show, it’s a company fight.
One other point.  The author (Cornwell) is a serious military historical expert on the Napoléonic period and the book is full of details which high-lights his expertise in period tactics, weapons, social classes, food and geography.
Final recommendation: highly recommended!!  As I said, I saw some of the various series back in the 1990’s, so I jumped in with the YouTube offering.  I then read the book and re-watched this particular episode in the TV series again.  The episode was even better after reading the book.  I will add there were “somewhat” significant differences in the two versions, but (again), perfectly understandable given the time and space a book gives you and the cost limitations a TV adaptation does not allow.  And, yes, I bought a number of books in the series, so you’ll be seeing posts on those as I get through them.
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On This Day In:
2019 #45: Who Lost By Three Million Votes
2018 Torn Between Two Loves
A Girl And A Boy
2017 I Think They Are Starting To…
2016 Living There
2015 Bookin’ West
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2014 Winning?
2013 Still Inventing
2012 Motivated
2011 Waiting In Line At Starbuck’s

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Fascism arrives as your friend.
It will restore your honor, make you feel proud, protect your house, give you a job, clean up your neighborhood, remind you of how great you once were, clear out the venal and the corrupt, remove anything you feel is unlike you….
In my work with the defendants I was searching for the nature of evil, and now I think I have come close to defining it.  A lack of empathy.  It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants, a genuine incapacity to deal with their fellow men.  Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.
  —  Captain Gustave M. Gilbert
Army psychologist assigned to observe the defendants at the Nuremberg trials
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On This Day In:
2019 Still Better Than Third
2018 A Tough Row To Hoe
2017 Just In Case
2016 Republicans Eat Their Young
2015 Still 99%
2014 Affirming The Wall
2013 Maintain The Freedom
2012 All Good
2011 Fountains Of Life
Staying Alive

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Perhaps the most telling email is a message from a then executive named Sam Lessin to Zuckerberg that epitomizes Facebook’s penchant for self-justification.  The company, Lessin wrote, could be ruthless and committed to social good at the same time, because they are essentially the same thing:  “Our mission is to make the world more open and connected and the only way we can do that is with the best people and the best infrastructure, which requires that we make a lot of money / be very profitable.”
The message also highlighted another of the company’s original sins: its assertion that if you just give people better tools for sharing, the world will be a better place.  That’s just false.  Sometimes Facebook makes the world more open and connected; sometimes it makes it more closed and disaffected.  Despots and demagogues have proven to be just as adept at using Facebook as democrats and dreamers.  Like the communications innovations before it — the printing press, the telephone, the internet itself — Facebook is a revolutionary tool.  But human nature has stayed the same.
  —  Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein
From their article: “15 Months of Fresh Hell Inside Facebook
Appearing in: Wired Magazine, dtd: May 2019
Online at: https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-mark-zuckerberg-15-months-of-fresh-hell/
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On This Day In:
2019 Sometimes Too Subtle
2018 A Lot Like Teaching
2017 Wake Up
2016 I Like Dreaming
2015 Importance
2014 Unearned Humility
2013 Science Is Trial And Error
2012 Franklin’s Creed
2011 First Steps
2010 Home Ill…

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Now that I’ve turned my mind to reveling in the glory of technology, I’ve been gazing  back at the olden, golden days.  And the other day I remembered that, once upon a time, humans had to remember things.
  —  Ripley D. Light
From his editorial titled:  “Totally Wired
Appearing in Wired Magazine, dtd:  May 2019
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On This Day In:
2019 Two Guides
2018 A Call For You
2017 Because I Read
2016 On What Matters…
2015 Social Security
2014 Bewitching
2013 Visiting Joy
2012 Dedication To Today
2011 Project Second Chance – Adult Literacy
Turning Coal Into Diamonds

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Circles” (2000©)  —  book review
Today’s book review is for one of the many books written by James Burke, who’s claim to fame is his ability to popularize science / technology with history and biography to “create” linkages which make the world (and history) appear to be interconnected.  I believe his most well known work is the book and the BBC series “Connections“.  At least this is how I first came to know Burke (and enjoy his work).
Circles” is sub-titled “50 Round Trips through History, Technology, Science, Culture“.  The book is a collection of essays which have been gathered into this form.  Each “essay” / “trip” is about four pages and they are each fairly self-contained, so there is no inherent requirement to read them in order – or all of them for that matter.  Each starts with some action in his life: a trip to the library, beach, coffee shop, etc; winds through the “circle” of people / history / discovery he is hi-lighting and then gets wrapped up with another reference to the initial action / place.
The stories are mildly interesting.  The links are tenuous.  The author occasionally breaks the fourth wall.  But, most frequently, the author writes in a peculiar conversational form which struck me as not using full sentences or proper sentence structure.  I found it hard to discern if this was more conversational, breaking of the fourth wall or simply lazy writing.  In the end, I just found it frustrating to try to figure out the subject of a sentence by having to re-read sentences (or paragraphs).
Final recommendation: poor to moderate recommendation.  I admit to being pretty disappointed.  I was a big fan of his “Connections” series and watched it on my local Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) many years ago.  I think I also read the book (way back when), but I can’t swear to it.  I was, therefore, looking forward to more of the same.  This book mostly was “just” the same, but (surprisingly) much less interesting or amusing.  Now I think I have to go back and find the original book (“Connections“) to see if the author has changed or if it’s the reader (me) who has changed.
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On This Day In:
2019 Eureka!
2018 Learning About My Humanity
2017 Laugh Or Shake Your Head
2016 The Expected Cure
2015 Of Two Minds
2014 Pride And Remembrance
2013 Repeating Bad Memories
2012 No Sooner
2011 Just Cheesy!
Are You Illin’?

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