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Book Reviews

Twilight of the Gods (Audiobook) by Erich von Daniken

High up in the Bolivian Andes—4,000 meters above sea level—lies Puma punku, an ancient ruined city that simply could never have been constructed by its Stone Age inhabitants.

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Book Reviews

Arrival: Film tie-in book by Ted Chiang

I have had this book in my bookcase to show that I’m not at all small-minded after hating on the Arrival movie that came out a few years ago. I carried an unpopular opinion that the alien encounter movie designed after the short novella by Ted Chiang called Stories of Your Life and Others was actually a big pile of poo. It should not have been released with a strong teaser trailer indicating a possible invasion when the actual subject matter was the use of linguistics in order to communicate with the alien species.

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Book Reviews

Ragnar Lothbrok and a History of the Vikings – Noah Brown

After the huge success of the TV show from History Channel, there were a series of people wanting to take advantage of the fame and glory. There were “Norsemen” – the parody TV show and then there was Noah Brown who took all the main cast of characters and went through their lives (not always in chronological order).

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Book Reviews

Fire & Blood: 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones (A Targaryen History) (A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R. R. Martin

I absolutely loved the Songs of Ice and Fire books by George R. R. Martin. So when my local WH Smith started stocking Fire & Blood, I quickly dished out £20 (unheard of!) for a copy of the book.

The seeds of war are oft planted during times of peace.

My disappointment settled in immediately after purchase as this proved to be a very DULL book written from the point of view of several historians, maesters and even a court jester named “Mushroom” (after his member).

The stories do flow in chronological order but pretty soon you tire of hearing who got married to whom, how many children they had and what they looked like.
My eyes started wandering off the book and up to my bookcase which promises more entertaining reads.
But still, I continued. Two and a half weeks later, you kinda get an inkling of how dynasties were created, what it takes to hold the Iron Throne and how the Dance of the Dragons came to be.
It’s 300 years of history from the Landing of the Conqueror till “modern” days.

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Book Reviews

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – Yuval Noah Harari

I believe I am relatively familiar with history in general, and I’m usually not very excited about reading more about it. But this book was something else.
Beautifully written and easy to read, this book just made me want to know more and more about how the author thinks the world evolved to what it is today. Revolution by revolution, religion by religion, conception by conception, things were simplified and yet still maintained valid points – and it was never boring.

The history of mankind is taken from its first tribes who either interbred to form Homo Sapiens or actually replaced each other through genocide and isolation.

I loved how it studied the evolution of different cultures across the globe, seen the man go from gatherer to hunter and then to form agricultural societies. The bulk of the book is focused on different aspects of today’s life like money, religion, patriarchy and rulers.

The last 500 years have witnessed a phenomenal and unprecedented growth in human power. In the year 1500, there were about 500 million Homo sapiens in the entire world. Today, there are 7 billion. 1 The total value of goods and services produced by humankind in the year 1500 is estimated at $250 billion, in today’s dollars. 2 Nowadays the value of a year of human production is close to $60 trillion. 3 In 1500, humanity consumed about 13 trillion calories of energy per day. Today, we consume 1,500 trillion calories 115-fold.)

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A famous example is lightning. Many cultures believed that lightning was the hammer of an angry god, used to punish sinners. In the middle of the eighteenth century, in one of the most celebrated experiments in scientific history, Benjamin Franklin flew a kite during a lightning storm to test the hypothesis that lightning is simply an electric current.

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During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Europeans began to draw world maps with lots of empty spaces – one indication of the development of the scientific mindset, as well as of the European imperial drive. The empty maps were a psychological and ideological breakthrough, a clear admission that Europeans were ignorant of large parts of the world.

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, European expeditions circumnavigated Africa, explored America, crossed the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and created a network of bases and colonies all over the world. They established the first truly global empires and knitted together the first global trade network.

I liked how the author added snippets of information in each chapter about something that people did back then and compares it to today’s world. He talks about women in Ancient Greece, about how people treated their farm animals and how the British, when they colonized India, took time to have a look at the local fauna and measure everything from borders to mountains.

In the final chapters, the author talks about the evolution of mankind, genetic advances in science and how it will impact our future.

A few mammals have also been subject to genetic engineering. Every year the dairy industry suffers billions of dollars in damages due to mastitis, a disease that strikes dairy-cow udders. Scientists are currently experimenting with genetically engineered cows whose milk contains lysostaphin, a biochemical that attacks the bacteria responsible for the disease.

The pork industry, which has suffered from falling sales because consumers are wary of the unhealthy fats in ham and bacon, has hopes for a still-experimental line of pigs implanted with genetic material from a worm. The new genes cause the pigs to turn bad omega 6 fatty acid into its healthy cousin, omega 3. The next generation of genetic engineering will make pigs with good fat look like child’s play. Geneticists have managed not merely to extend sixfold the average life expectancy of worms, but also to engineer genius mice that display much-improved memory and learning skills.

Voles are small, stout rodents resembling mice, and most varieties of voles are promiscuous. But there is one species in which boy and girl voles form lasting and monogamous relationships. Geneticists claim to have isolated the genes responsible for vole monogamy. If the addition of a gene can turn a vole Don Juan into a loyal and loving husband, are we far off from being able to genetically engineer not only the individual abilities of rodents (and humans), but also their social structures?

Good read 4/5 🙂

Go find it and expand your horison.

Categories
Psychology

The Birth of Conversion

IN THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF MAN, NO ONE HAS EVER BEEN BRAINWASHED AND REALIZED, OR BELIEVED, THAT HE HAD BEEN BRAINWASHED. Those who have been brainwashed will usually passionately defend their manipulators, claiming they have simply been “shown the light”  . . . or have been transformed in miraculous ways.

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Conversion can be powerful

CONVERSION is a “nice” word for BRAINWASHING . . . and any study of brainwashing has to begin with a study of Christian revivalism in eighteenth century America. Apparently, Jonathan Edwards accidentally discovered the techniques during a religious crusade in 1735 in Northampton, Massachusetts.

By inducing guilt and acute apprehension and by increasing the tension, the “sinners” attending his revival meetings would break down and completely submit.

Technically, what Edwards was doing was creating conditions that wipe the brain slate clean so that the mind accepts new programming. The problem was that the new input was negative.

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Art

About Lady Godiva and her nakedness

Lady Godiva is an 1897 painting by English artist John Collier, who worked in the style of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The portrayal of Lady Godiva and her well-known ride through Coventry, England, is held in Coventry’s Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.

Lady Godiva was bequeathed by social reformer Thomas Hancock Nunn. When he died in 1937, the painting was offered to the Corporation of Hampstead. He specified in his will that should his bequest be refused by Hampstead (presumably on grounds of propriety) the painting was then to be offered to Coventry

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Book Reviews

Homage to Catalonia * George Orwell

After passing through the futuristic dystopian and totalitarian society presented in 1984, I decided to give one of George Orwell’s classics a go: Homage to Catalonia. Written in the form of an autobiographical novel, Orwell presents his days in the Spanish army, their unpreparedness and their fall into the hands of the Communists influences coming from Russia.

Here he brings to bear all the force of his humanity, passion and clarity, describing with bitter intensity the bright hopes and cynical betrayals of that chaotic episode: the revolutionary euphoria of Barcelona, the courage of ordinary Spanish men and women he fought alongside, the terror and confusion of the front, his near-fatal bullet wound and the vicious treachery of his supposed allies.

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Growing Up

The inaugural speech of John F Kennedy

On January 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered his inaugural address in which he announced that “we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

Being interested in this after the Stephen King * 11/22/63 Book review, I decided to have a look and found his entire inaugural address. See below for details: