Human beings have always liked to think of themselves as special. So what, exactly, is it that does make us special? Are we, in fact, special at all or our we just another - albeit less harry - chimpanzee? This is the question Jared Diamond asks in The Third Chimpanzee: the Evolution and Future of the Human Animal. He asks it not with metaphysics or theology but with biology, geography and social science. He questions our unique construction, the places we live and how we interact; both interspecies and intraspecies, and which of these key components that can be measured may - or may not - either separately or in combination be the key that makes us human.
Most of us attempt to attain a certain level of skill. This seems like an incredibly simple and obvious statement to make. We would much rather be good at something than to fail at it completely. For most of the world a basic level of competency is expected. The Night-Comers is the eighth novel I’ve read by Eric Ambler. Over the course of these 8 books there has been a subtle development of the main characters. The protagonist becomes competent.
When authors or creators of long running franchises either run out of things to say or do with their properties there are a couple of courses of action they can take. The Reverse of the Medal is the eleventh book in the Aubrey Maturin saga. Just over half-way through the complete canon of twenty one books. Has the HMS Surprise finally jumped the shark with The Reverse of the Medal?
Since its discovery by Western scholars The Art of War by Sun Tzu has influenced and shaped military education, strategy, and tactics. Its impact has reached beyond military applications to affect business and social life as well. However, it seems that some of the basic tenets of the book and the lessons it teaches need are seldom accurately remembered and need to be constantly relearned by western leadership. It would serve them well to remember the words of Sun Tzu.
The United States is going through one of the most turbulent periods it has seen in decades. Levels of racism and anti-semitism that have been unheard of in 50 years. Our electorate and our electors displaying a sense of isolationism and nationalism unseen since before World War 2, if not going back to the late 19th century. With this in mind, I have taken a look at some classics in the English language. I wanted to see what can be learned by revisiting those times so similar to today. Times of stress and uncertainty. Moments that inspired some of the most influential and inspiring short pieces in literature.
Running a functioning democracy is tough. It’s even tougher when you’ve never run one before. If your functioning democracy isn’t even really a functioning democracy but rather a thinly veiled repressive authoritarian single party dictatorship, well, that could get you killed.
It takes a special sort of author to open their book with one of the main characters dead. It takes a really good author to have their books main protagonist be a jaded opium addict. It takes an exceptional author to do both. The Quiet American is a parable, asking us to make sure we don’t fight just for our own ends but to truly question the world around us and make sure we make the correct hard choices.
November marks the centenary of the end of the First World War. Living in the United Kingdom, as I do at the moment, this is a significant event. The Spy Net by Henry Landau, would seem to help fill the gap. One would expect to find the stories of daring patriots risking life and limb to provide information to the Triple Entente to stop the plans of the vile Huns.
Post Captain Jack Aubrey and Ships Surgeon, Warrant Officer and erstwhile Naval Intelligence Officer Dr. Stephen Maturin once again take sail in the Mediterranean in their ongoing quest to do all in their power to help overthrow the regime of the archfiend and scourge to Democratic freedom, the Emperor Napoleon. Having successfully foiled the French plans in the Ionian sea in the last novel, Aubrey and Maturin take some time to rest and refit themselves, their ship, and what remains of their crew on the island of Malta as they await the next assignment. Aubrey tries to revel in his recent victory but continues to be plagued by the money woes at home that drove him to sea again and his desire for a new frigate and a command against the Americans in the North Atlantic. Maturin has his hands full attempting to find the elusive and cleaver French spymaster Lesueur. What Maturin doesn’t yet realize is Lesueur has already found him and Lesueur's plan against the good doctor is already in motion.
By reading From Babel to Dragomans and taking time to understand some of the nuance, which, I admit, can be difficult at times due to Bernard Lewis’ prose its is possible to discover a better understanding - not a perfect understanding - of a culture, a conflict, and issues that have been and likely will continue to be primary in world relations for the foreseeable future.