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Search tags: The-Eye-of-the-World
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review 2018-03-24 02:53
The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community
The rise of the West: A history of the human community - William Hardy McNeill

Covering approximately 7000 years of civilization over the entire world in less than 900 pages for a general audience is a tall order.  The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community by W.H. McNeill was written over 50 years ago that changed historical analysis by challenging the leading theories of the day and influenced the study of global history ever since.


McNeill divides his narrative in three parts: the beginnings of civilization in Mesopotamia to 500 B.C., the cultural balance of Eurasia from 500 B.C. to 1500 A.D., and the era of Western dominance since 1500 A.D.  Every corner of the world is discusses, but the dominance is in the Eurasia “ecumene” that feature the interaction between for the four great civilizations of the Middle East (including Egypt), India, China, and finally Europe (starting in Greece before slowly moving West).  Throughout McNeill highlights the interplay between cultural, political, and economical factors of each civilization as well as how they interacted and influenced each other.


The interaction and influences between different civilizations to McNeill’s narrative as he challenged the theory of the rise and fall of independent civilizations that did not influence one another.  Because of the length of both of the book and time frame covered, McNeill did not go into a detail history instead focusing on trends and important historical moments that may or may not involve historical actors like Alexander or Genghis Khan.  Yet information is outdated as new sources or archaeological evidence has changed our understanding of several civilizations over the last 50 years.


The Rise of the West takes a long time to read, however the information—though outdated in places—gives the reader a great overview of world history on every point of the globe.  W.H. McNeill’s well-researched book is not a dry read and in giving a good background on numerous civilizations giving the reader a solid foundation if they ever decide to go more in-depth on any civilization.

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review 2018-03-24 01:49
Jagdgeschwader 1 ‘Oesau’ Aces 1939-45 (Aircraft of the Aces) - Robert Forsyth,Jim Laurier

This book provides a concise and yet expansive history of one of the Luftwaffe's most active fighter units in the Second World War: Jagdgeschwader 1 (JG 1). The unit came into being in 1939 as a result of a reorganization within the Luftwaffe. Upon the outbreak of war in September of that year, JG 1 played a minimal role in the invasion of Poland. Furthermore, between 1940 and 1942, JG 1 was deployed over Northern Europe and on the Western Front, where it saw action during the Battle of France in May and June of 1940. JG 1's main opponent (following the French defeat) was the Royal Air Force (RAF), which made incursions into its airspace which encompassed the defense of Northern Germany from its bases in Holland. 

By late 1942, with the United States now in the war, JG 1 became increasingly a vital part in the defense of the Reich. The United States Army Air Force (USAAF) was now fully committed with the RAF to the Allied air offensive with its growing numbers of bomber and fighter groups to help destroy Germany's capacity to wage war. 

This book has plenty of first-hand accounts from many of JG 1's pilots, which recount in considerable detail, the struggles these pilots faced in taking on the fleets of USAAF B-17 and B-24 heavy bombers (and their fighter escorts). The reader will shudder while reading these harrowing accounts, tangibly experiencing the fright the JG 1 pilot must have experienced from flying his ME 109 or FW 190 fighter plane into tight formations of enemy bombers, braving the streams of defensive fire directed at them from these formations. 

From 1943 to war's end in May 1945, JG 1 fought a tenacious battle - which expanded to 2 fronts, West and East. As with any book of this magnitude from Osprey, there are plenty of photos and illustrations in "Jagdgeschwader 1 'Oesau' Aces 1939-45" to give greater clarity to what the Second World War was like for the airmen on both sides who fought in it. 

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text 2018-03-23 15:03
Kill Your Darlings Yellow Game - Cause of Death
The Ends of the World - Maggie Hall

I'm collecting the Dark Alley Beat Down card for the Yellow game with The Ends of the World by Maggie Hall who is an American author.



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review 2018-03-22 19:36
Folk Tales of the Maldives by Xavier Romero-Frias
Folk Tales of the Maldives - Xavier Romero-Frias

This is an enjoyable book of folklore from the Maldives, an island nation in the Indian Ocean. Though the author’s writing in the introduction is a bit stiff, the 80 tales included are characterized by strong storytelling, and paint a vivid picture of the traditional culture of the Maldives. The stories are perhaps best described as legends, featuring kings, ghosts and spirits, good and evil sorcerers, and monsters from the sea, alongside regular people who interact with all of the above, and of course a few animal stories. A few tales are based on recent historical incidents, while most seem to be set sometime in the distant past. Despite the large number of stories, ranging in length from 1-2 pages to 12 or 14, they felt fresh and engaging throughout. In fact, two different stories about a man who falsely sets himself up as an expert have opposite endings.

I would have appreciated more information about the Maldives and the storytellers, who are identified by name and place of residence but not otherwise discussed, though the author might reasonably have seen that as beyond the scope of this book. I was surprised to learn that the book is actually banned in the Maldives, which currently has a strict Muslim government; Islam has been in the islands for centuries and appears in many of the stories, but the stories treat it casually, as part of the backdrop. More information about life in the islands today, to put all this in context, would have been helpful. That said, I think this is an excellent choice for those who enjoy folklore, and I enjoyed reading it.

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review 2018-03-19 23:18
Domesticated by Richard C Francis
Domesticated: Evolution in a Man-Made World - Richard C. Francis

This book and I got off to a rocky start because I didn't really learn anything new in the chapter about foxes and then I got a little overwhelmed by all the dog breeds and landraces in the dog chapter. Each chapter focuses on either a single domesticated (or somewhat tamed) animal or related groups of animals, from dogs and cats to camels and ultimately humans. It discusses the changes that that particular animal experienced relative to its wild counterpart and the commonalities between domesticated animals, like a lessened fear response to both humans and "crowds" of its own species and neotenic features (juvenile behavioural or physical attributes that persist into adulthood).


Humans, you say? How could we be domesticated? By whom? Well, apparently some people have wondered whether some of our evolution away from the other apes was due to a kind of self-domestication process that would have brought out attributes common to other domesticated animals in us. After discussion various aspects of this theory, Francis has this to say:

"Whatever its ultimate fate, the self-domestication hypothesis is valuable in reorienting our focus somewhat from our singular intelligence to our emotional constitution, which is every bit as singular. Our pro-social emotional tendencies are what afford human groups unrivaled capacities for coordinated action and, ultimately, our capacity for culture. Intelligence is secondary in this regard. Spock-like creatures, much more intelligent than we are, would never have achieved what we have, for lack of motivation."

Doesn't that give you the warm fuzzies?


Anyway, my attention waxed and waned a bit as my interest peaked and ebbed according to the topic, but overall I think it's a great book that discusses the process of domestication intelligently. I'm kind of curious about the author's other books now too, although I'm not sure whether they'd be as interesting as this.


Previous updates (and boy are there a lot):

48 / 351 pages (dog chapter)

50 / 351 pages (dog chapter: bulldog/breeding quotes)

53 / 351 pages (cat chapter: Sylvester the cat quote)

58 / 351 pages (cat chapter: cat teeth quote)

82 / 351 pages (other predators chapter: raccoons in Toronto)

166 / 351 pages (sheep and goats chapter: Jacob sheep quote)

199 / 351 pages (camel chapter: camel protest quote)

200 / 351 pages (camel chapter: war camels)

245 / 351 pages (rodents chapter: mice as weeds)

248 / 351 pages (rodents chapter: popcorn-like jumping mice quote)

284 / 351 pages (humans - sociality chapter: evolutionary psychology dig)

351 / 351 pages (done!)

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