Posted by: greentangle | November 22, 2016

Books and Podcasts

Quickly recapping some recent reads and listens:


Frans de Waal asks the question Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? and the book provides many interesting examples of observing a variety of species as well as a history of the evolution of ideas about animals. A section on octopuses led me to read the next book.


Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus largely involves her time interacting with fascinating octopuses at the New England Aquarium which I visited several times during my Boston years. Usually I was only there to go on a whale watch but the book still felt like a visit home. I enjoyed this book except that it didn’t examine the ethical issue of keeping obviously intelligent animals captive even after the death of one who escaped the aquarium tank. She does ask the question of someone who captures wild octopuses for aquariums—no surprise what his opinion is.


Yellowstone Standoff by Scott Graham is a rather silly mystery in which wolves and grizzlies team up against humans after being microchipped by a mad scientist type. I read it because of the title and it was another quick visit to my past.


I generally finish TC Boyle’s novels without considering them among the best I’ve ever read, but I always keep an eye out for the next one because he chooses subjects which interest me. His latest, The Terranauts, is based on Biosphere 2, the ecological and sociological experiment from the 1990s.


Engineering Eden by Jordan Fisher Smith includes a subtitle referring to a violent death (by grizzly) and trial (lawsuit against NPS) to try to make it seem more exciting to the average reader but it’s primarily an environmental history of how nature has been managed in national parks. There’s a lot going on in this book—too much really, as it constantly jumps from one subject to another. Despite the author’s efforts, I don’t share his opinion; working in Yellowstone left me with no sympathy for people who die as a result of rule-breaking bad choices. Looking through the book’s notes led me to a great discovery—this NPS online resource of historical documents organized by park:


I was facing some days at home after surgery last week and decided it was time to reconnect to the internet. One of the first things I did was research the dozens of books on High Country News’s recent list and added several to my library holds list.


Despite always looking for new books to read, time may be getting short (sure, I’ve got 23 years left according to the stat charts, but those don’t factor in things like eyesight or comprehension or homelessness or Trump). I think it’s time to return to Thoreau and some favorite field guides to relive the places of my life such as Sierra Club’s Southern New England and North Woods, and Peterson’s Eastern and Rocky Mountain Forests.


While being internet-free at home for the past six months and inspired by blog reader Jain, I’d download podcasts at the library to listen to later.


Outside/In is described as a podcast about the natural world and how we use it. I wind up liking about half the episodes. It’s often too goofy for its own good but it comes from New Hampshire Public Radio so sometimes feels like another dose of (past) local flavor for me.


Home of the Brave has varied topics but most recently did a three part series on grizzlies in the Yellowstone ecosystem (which included comments from Doug Peacock and David Quammen and has great photos online too). There’s an old interview with Charles Bowden also.


Out of the Past is a series of commentaries on film noir movies. It’s usually more academic than I’d prefer, bringing me back to my unpleasant year as a grad student in English when I was taught that every novel written in the 18th century was a metaphor.  But I prefer to think back on my time in the darkness of Cambridge’s Brattle Theatre where I originally saw most of these films.


You Must Remember This is also about the film world, specifically Hollywood’s first century, including a sixteen-part series about the blacklist.


If after the most recent election, you’re already longing for a time when good people ran the government, The West Wing Weekly is running through the old tv series episode by episode. One of the cohosts was in the cast, and guests have included other cast members and real life politicians and scientists.


Inspired by that podcast, I started looking for others based on favorite old tv series. I found a fairly new one about Buffy the Vampire Slayer but after a few episodes decided it wasn’t for me. I then discovered another podcast about the series which has been running much longer and seems like it might be more to my taste, called Dusted.


And of course, if you don’t catch them on the radio, you can find Fresh Air and This American Life episodes online as well.



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