Book Review: Darwin In Galapagos Footsteps To A New World

I was somewhat surprised to receive a copy of Darwin in Galapagos: Footsteps to a New World. Since I moved here from ScienceBlogs I haven’t really requested any review copies of books. Mainly because my audience has shrunk dramatically. Darwin in Galapagos: Footsteps to a New World is an interesting book, published this year, that focuses on Darwin’s time in the Galapagos. Written by K. Thalia Grant (daughter of Rosemary and Peter Grant) and Gregory B. Estes, the book attempts to trace Darwin’s path through the Galapagos. Continue reading

Mark Twain and Joan of Arc

Awhile back I did a favor for a friend and to my shock they bought me a gift card to Barnes and Noble. I finally got around to going a few days before Christmas and after spending about two wandering around the store I finally bought Mark Twain’s Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc – one of a few works by Twain that I had not read. I was surprised at how restrained and stylish the book is. Clearly the twelves years Twain claims to have spent researching the book and the three years spent writing allowed Twain to write in a style he normally didn’t use – not that Twain was a bad writer or lacked a polished style. The humor one associates with Twain are confined to narrow sections that concerns the “Paladin” and one brief section concerning Joan’s uncle and his experience with a funeral. What I privately refer to as Twainisms (I’ll explain what these are in a future post) are also noticeably absent.

The introduction to the version I have says Twain’s voice is that of the translator and goes on to say that the reader will only appreciate and understand the work if one separates Twain’s voice from that of Sieur Louis de Conte – the alleged writer of the manuscript. I think this is complete nonsense. I started out trying this and the story just was not working. Once I forgot about the introduction and approached the book on its own terms the story was much better. But then I’m not a critic so I could be wrong. At any rate, I’m glad I’ve read it, it is one of Twain’s finer pieces. What do you think?

Happy Birthday Mark Twain

Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it. – Mark Twain

When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it happened or not.
– Mark Twain

Yup, today is Mark Twain’s 174th birthday (if I have done my math right) Twain was born on 11/30/1835

Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.
– Mark Twain

Update: As Duane points out it is actually Samuel Langhorne Clemens’ birthday. Being an ardent fan, I am of course, embarrassed at my faux pas. Continue reading

Website Review: A Hominin Database

There are a number of websites out there, such as this one from the Smithsonian, that discuss human evolution and the fossil evidence for human evolution. They vary in quality and completeness and you might be tempted to ignore yet another. That would be a mistake with Hominin.net

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Book Review: The Origin of Races by Carleton Coon

Awhile back Kambiz wrote a post about a recent paper by Mark Stoneking, during the course of which, Carleton Coon’s book got mentioned. When first published The Origin of Races created considerable controversy and Coon was roundly vilified by a number of physical anthropologists.
About 12 years ago, while in college, I happened to buy a used copy of Coon’s book, read about 60 pages and got sidetracked by other things. The post by Kambiz (and this one by Dienkes) caused me to pull the book out and read it in its entirety.

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Book Review: War before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage

Once upon a time it used to be thought that “primitives” lead lives that were, to quote Hobbes, “…nasty, brutish, and short…”, times change and so did the lifestyle of the “Other”. Changed so much, in fact, that only European expansion, circa the age of Discovery, could provoke a war. Both ideas are the subject of War before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage by Lawrence H. Keeley.

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Book Review: Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin

Recently, I received a copy of Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body. Shubin, you may recall, is one of the co-discoverers of Tiktaalik roseae.

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