Friday, August 31, 2007

Whale Talk

Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
$6.99 at
ISBN: 0440229383
A delightful short novel from the teen section. Chris Crutcher has long been a favorite of mine, most of his books are about athletics of some kind. This one involves a high school swim team.
TJ Jones is our young hero. TJ is actually short for Tao, making his name a delicious pun. He's a seventeen year old boy of mixed race in a town that's almost entirely white. He's cool, he's edgy, and he's organizing a swimming team for a high school which has no pool.
This is only the first of his obstacles. His team is a rather odd assortment: one of his teammates is over 300 pounds, another is missing one of his legs, and a third is brain damaged. Not a cast of Olympic hopefuls, surely, but what they lack in talent they make up for in commitment.
If you enjoy playing sports, as I do, you'll relate to the camaraderie the boys share. Their trips to their meets on a school bus mean as much to the kids as the competitions themselves. Plenty of back-slapping male bonding, in other words.
There are some serious issues in here as well: abusive parents, racists, and over-bearing high school jocks who think sports should be limited to football and baseball, the only games that "matter" in this town.
The motley cast of characters is as lovable as can be; the plot is engaging and, at a trim 219 pages, is a good choice for the beginning reader in your life. What seals the deal is Crutcher's non-preachy method of getting his messages across. Good sportsmanship. Seeing things through to the end. Sticking by your friends when things get tough. All very manly virtues.
That's what the story is about: it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game. This group of teenage friends is on their way to becoming great men.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Eye Candy


Imagination is more important than knowledge.
Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

Be a craftsman in speech that you may be strong, for the strength of one is the tongue, and speech is mightier than all fighting.
Maxims of Ptahhotep (c. 3400 BC)

Enjoy your own life without comparing it with that of another.
Marquis de Condorcet (1743 - 1794)

Storms make oaks take deeper root.
George Herbert (1593 - 1633)

Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.
W. Somerset Maugham (1874 - 1965)

We do what we must, and call it by the best names.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)

It is certainly desirable to be well descended, but the glory belongs to our ancestors.
Plutarch (46 - 120)

The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.
Mohammed (c570 - 632)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Eye Candy

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Dangerous Book for Boys

The Dangerous Book for Boys, by Hal Iggulden
$14.97 at
ISBN: 0061243582
When The Dangerous Book was recently featured in an article in Time magazine, my curiosity was piqued. This could be the most exciting new book of the year. Jammed with fun and interesting information for boys of any age, this is a must-have for the guys in your life.
Beautifully lettered an illustrated, like an old-school Boy Scout Handbook (without the controversy), this book recalls a boyhood before cell-phones, remote controls, and Playstation 3.
This idyllic youth may sound boring, but there are actually a lot of fun things to do! Create your own electromagnet, build a tree house, construct your own flashlight, or send your friends messages in secret code. There's all kinds of fascinating information in here besides the fun and games: sure to make you an intelligent and well-rounded boy.
There's a beautiful section of full-color photos for identifying insects. There's also a nice section on astronomy: how to identify the planets and constellations. Trees, famous heroes, important battles, dinosaurs, and a host of other masculine topics are represented.
My favorite section, surprisingly enough, concerns dealing with girls. I was shocked at how good the advice was! Check it out (I quote verbatim):
Be careful with humor. It is very common for boys to try to impress girls with a string of jokes, each one more desperate than the last. One joke, perhaps, and then a long silence while she talks about herself.
This is not childish, lots of adult guys are totally into it. I also absolutely love that this book is indeed "dangerous". This is not for the nerds: there are coin tricks, instructions for building a catapult, tips on how to play poker, and lots of other ammo for the scamps and hell-raisers out there.
The holidays are coming, and I seriously encourage this as a gift for the guys in your life, especially if they're not big readers. The cool pictures capture one's attention quickly, and the synoptic format means he won't have to concentrate too long or hard.
Lots of wholesome boyhood fun, with just the right touch of mischief, and plenty of handy facts sure to turn your boy into a worthwhile man.
Don't miss it!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Eye Candy

The History of Civilization

A new kind of post I've decided to try. Let me know what you think.

Chapter One: The Neolithic Revolution

How old is mankind? Not an easy question to answer. Primates resembling humans have existed for about 8 million years. These earliest human ancestors were called Australopithecus. Lucy, the most famous Australopithecus (right) is one of the only near-intact skeletons of early man ever discovered.

There were several other species of human-like creatures: Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal man are the most famous examples. Finally, about 200,000 years ago, modern man was born.

For the vast majority of this time, humans have lived like animals. The discovery of sewn clothing allowed them to move out of the Tropics and into the Temperate Zones. Pottery allowed them to spread all over the map: it was no longer necessary to live directly next to fresh water.

Stone Age man had the ability to make crude stone tools such as arrowheads for hunting, and axes for cutting meat off of carcasses. They had also developed some spoken language: for example, giving each other names. Language is completely unique to humanity: there's nothing like it anywhere else in the animal kingdom.

But people stilled lived as nomads, wandering from place to place in search of food. During this period they could only survive by hunting and gathering wild fruits and vegetables. One of the most important developments of the later Stone Age is the Neolithic Revolution, when people stopped wandering.

The discovery of agriculture (farming) made this possible. No one really knows what ancient genius discovered agriculture, but a reliable food source meant that people could settle down in one area. This has several advantages: You can only have one child at a time as a nomad: you need to be able to keep up with the group. Settling down allowed our ancestors to have larger families.

This also allowed economic specialization: instead of providing for all your needs yourself, you could rely on the rest of the community for some of your needs and become very good at one job.

To be continued...

Interested in the Stone Age and ancient humanity? There's a great book called Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond

Friday, August 17, 2007

Eye Candy