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Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior & Evolution
Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior & Evolution
by Raymond Coppinger
Edition: Hardcover
21 used & new from CDN$ 26.91

4.0 out of 5 stars Good in its main points, July 16 2004
The Coppingers in "Dogs" try to say a few different things. The main topics are how wolves became selected as dogs, what this implies for their behavior and training, and the ethics of pure-breeding and using working dogs as pets. In these core topics, this book is generally well argued and supported in the main, but suffers from hiccups of poor reasoning. In one example, when arguing why bigger dogs are better for the transhumance, the authors state "to cover the distance with half the steps means a longer lasting dog." Well, the bigger dog also takes heavier steps and big dogs are notorious for structural problems. However, these hiccups are minor distractions.
The first core topic that dogs evolved first as scavengers of human waste dumps is interesting. While still largely a speculative hypothesis, this idea is shown fairly well in the book to be more reasonable than the idea that humans got a hold of enough wolves to domesticate them by selecting the tamest ones and tossing the others. This has implications for training in that essentially sedentary dogs foraging at a dump are not going to have wolf behaviors, particularly the widely assumed pack hierarchy.
Another major topic is the discussion on why working dogs, with strongly ingrained motor patterns of behavior, are not going to be well suited for living in a house - unless you like being herded by your border collie. This too is well done and promoting the option of a more "generic" dog as a better household companion will do much good. There is also a section on how assistance dogs suffer by being bred and developed in manners inconstant with what makes for a good working dog. While this has been criticized as an argument against assistance dogs, a careful reading will show that it is a valid critique of how the system can be improved.
The Coppingers' critique of the profound wrong that is breeding for show will upset the most people. But it is also the best and most important argument in the book. And no, breeding for work, for behavior, which doesn't involve closing a stud book, is not just as bad or the same thing as breeding for appearance from a closed stud book.
Throughout the book, the Coppingers also try to discuss what canine evolution implies for Darwinian theories of evolution, but do so in a confused manner by misunderstanding gradualism in the modern sense as being slow, constant changes in morphology (they also use the word "saltation" in a broad and confused way) rather than the actual meaning of continuous, though possibly quite fast, change at the genetic level. They themselves argue that canids have not changed much genetically and that their diversity of form is due to developmental reasons with the needed genetic variation provided by hybridization within the species. Fortunately, these discussions are not central to enjoying the book.
The Coppingers write with a bit of wit, which I enjoyed. But most importantly, this book is unique to my knowledge in trying to be rational, rather than sentimentally anthropomorphic, towards dogs. As such should be read by anyone with an interest in them and their true well-being.

Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution
Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution
by Raymond Coppinger
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 20.93
22 used & new from CDN$ 16.05

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good in its main parts, July 16 2004
The Coppingers in "Dogs" try to say a few different things. The main topics are how wolves became selected as dogs, what this implies for their behavior and training, and the ethics of pure-breeding and using working dogs as pets. In these core topics, this book is generally well argued and supported in the main, but suffers from hiccups of poor reasoning. In one example, when arguing why bigger dogs are better for the transhumance, the authors state "to cover the distance with half the steps means a longer lasting dog." Well, the bigger dog also takes heavier steps and big dogs are notorious for structural problems. However, these hiccups are minor distractions.
The first core topic that dogs evolved first as scavengers of human waste dumps is interesting. While still largely a speculative hypothesis, this idea is shown fairly well in the book to be more reasonable than the idea that humans got a hold of enough wolves to domesticate them by selecting the tamest ones and tossing the others. This has implications for training in that essentially sedentary dogs foraging at a dump are not going to have wolf behaviors, particularly the widely assumed pack hierarchy.
Another major topic is the discussion on why working dogs, with strongly ingrained motor patterns of behavior, are not going to be well suited for living in a house - unless you like being herded by your border collie. This too is well done and promoting the option of a more "generic" dog as a better household companion will do much good. There is also a section on how assistance dogs suffer by being bred and developed in manners inconstant with what makes for a good working dog. While this has been criticized as an argument against assistance dogs, a careful reading will show that it is a valid critique of how the system can be improved.
The Coppingers' critique of the profound wrong that is breeding for show will upset the most people. But it is also the best and most important argument in the book. And no, breeding for work, for behavior, which doesn't involve closing a stud book, is not just as bad or the same thing as breeding for appearance from a closed stud book.
Throughout the book, the Coppingers also try to discuss what canine evolution implies for Darwinian theories of evolution, but do so in a confused manner by misunderstanding gradualism in the modern sense as being slow, constant changes in morphology (they also use the word "saltation" in a broad and confused way) rather than the actual meaning of continuous, though possibly quite fast, change at the genetic level. They themselves argue that canids have not changed much genetically and that their diversity of form is due to developmental reasons with the needed genetic variation provided by hybridization within the species. Fortunately, these discussions are not central to enjoying the book.
The Coppingers write with a bit of wit, which I enjoyed. But most importantly, this book is unique to my knowledge in trying to be rational, rather than sentimentally anthropomorphic, towards dogs. As such should be read by anyone with an interest in them and their true well-being.

William Garnett: Aerial Photographs
William Garnett: Aerial Photographs
by William Garnett
Edition: Paperback
14 used & new from CDN$ 19.46

5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Graphical Landscape Photographs Ever, June 29 2004
This book features a broad range of Garnett's highly graphical aerial photographs. While almost all are striking in pattern, form and texture, I particularly enjoyed the agricultural shots, the sanddunes, and the fractal/branching patterns. Garnett's work is so very different than almost everything else I've seen, that I felt I needed this book to round out my collection.

Muddied Oafs: The Last Days of Rugger
Muddied Oafs: The Last Days of Rugger
by Richard Beard
Edition: Hardcover
16 used & new from CDN$ 0.77

5.0 out of 5 stars Gets to the heart of the game, May 6 2004
Beard uses a mixed chronology of his career, having played for a lot of different kinds of clubs in a number of countries, to tell the story of rugby at the nexus of the amateur and professional games. The benefits of professionalism are transparent; more entertaining televised games, higher atheletic standards, etc. But the weakening of the local club in the major rugby playing nations is the focus of the book. The value seen in rugby for building character, and of the clubs in building lasting community, carries over to American rugby quite strongly. Why the game attracts such different, remarkable individuals is summed up well in the passage,
"At the amateur level, rugby sets the players at odds
with society. Doing anything not for money is odd,
but we're doing something seriously and not for money,
with the risk of getting hurt, and not for money."
Beard does touch upon both the good and bad of the amateur game, discussing not just the constant innovation or the outlet it provides young adults, but also topics such as the excess drinking. Overall, "Muddied Oafs" is a nice, well-told story of rugby and why it is such a big deal to so many people.

The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer
The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer
by William Irwin
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.64
81 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A generally good, if uneven, collection, May 4 2004
"The Simpsons and Philosophy" is a collection of essays written by different authors that vary in quality and style. The thrust is the introduction of aspects of philosophy through an analysis of the characters and stories in "The Simpsons." In this regard the book is mostly interesting and informative. A big chunk of it (Part II and much of Part IV) wasn't philosophy at all, but rather "literary" criticism that I didn't much care for -- the worst essay in the collection being the Marxist hissy-fit. Moreover, despite disclaimers throughout the text, there was an assumption of intent on the part of the script writers that, by listening to the voice-overs on the DVDs, one finds isn't really there.
For all the above, I would have rated this book 3 stars. However, the essay "The Function of Fiction" was outstanding and worth the price of the book alone. This essay spent a lot of time away from the Simpsons in particular, but ultimately gave the best argument why the show is so great.
For readers looking for a light read about their favorite show, this book isn't the place to go. But for people who love the Simpsons on all its levels, this book has its place.

The Art of Seeing: An Interpretation of the Aesthetic Experience
The Art of Seeing: An Interpretation of the Aesthetic Experience
by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 33.92
17 used & new from CDN$ 23.37

5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful study of visual art and the aesthetic experience, April 18 2004
"The Art of Seeing" is a study of the aesthetic experience through the lens of Csikszentmihalyi's "flow" theory of experiences which, somewhat ironically, have been given the technical description of autotelic experiences. The text begins with a discussion of some philosophy and psychology of art that leads into the development of a conceptual model of the aesthetic experience built around the four dimensions of perception, emotion, intellectual engagement, and communication. The bulk of the work consists of the quantitative analysis and interpretation of interviews with museum professionals. The authors further discuss the model in the context of the data, and make recommendations on how museums can better serve their mission.
Although the book seems aimed at museums (the study was done at the behest of the Getty and published by the Getty Press), I found the "flow" model of the aesthetic experience to be quite enlightening, and useful in increasing the quality of my own aesthetic encounters.

Print the Legend: Photography and the American West
Print the Legend: Photography and the American West
by Martha A. Sandweiss
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 42.79
19 used & new from CDN$ 32.70

5.0 out of 5 stars Photography and the myths of the American west, April 13 2004
"Print the Legend" is an insightful study of the co-development of photography and the image of the American west. Sandweiss begins by discussing the limited uses of daguerrotypes as intermediaries for other forms of visual information in the context of the Mexican-American war and the unfolding western landscape. She goes on to show that as the technology of wet-plate photography developed, so did the direct use of supposedly objective photographs in building the mythology of the western United States. The chapter on photography and representations of American Indians was particularly strong and nuanced.
"Print the Legend" is recommended for anyone with an interest in early photography or western American history. But above all, I found it to be a deep examination of photography and photographic representation.

Writing Successful Science Proposals
Writing Successful Science Proposals
by Professor Andrew J. Friedland
Edition: Paperback
26 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Good overview of the content and organization of a proposal, April 13 2004
Friedland and Folt provide a very nice, concise guide to writing research proposals. They go over the organization of the proposal, what is important to get across in what sections, and also touch on the "storytelling" aspects, such as funneling from broad themes to specifics. I also found useful the list a range of funding sources.
The only major drawback to the book as a general reference is that it is heavily oriented towards experimental biology. Much of the nuts-and-bolts advice doesn't apply to theoretical work, and little or no equivalent advice is given for theoretical proposals.

My Family Album: Thirty Years of Primate Photography
My Family Album: Thirty Years of Primate Photography
by Frans de Waal
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 54.83
23 used & new from CDN$ 3.68

5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful work of portraiture, April 3 2004
"My Family Album" catalogs 30 years of de Waal's black and white photographs of both wild and captive primates. The bulk of the shots are of chimps and bonobos, but a third are of monkeys and there are striking photographs all around. While the principle effect of the book is to get across the intelligence, complexity and beauty of these fellow animals, there are enough funny faces for the book to work on that level.

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America
Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America
by Firoozeh Dumas
Edition: Hardcover
25 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars I almost pulled an ab, April 3 2004
"Funny in Farsi" is a light, short memoir of a young girl and her family's adjustment to life in America. It was, as many others have written, laugh-out-loud funny - so much so that I almost hurt myself - and very touching at times, too. Firoozeh's story will resonate quite stongly with readers, Iranian or otherwise, who have shared some of these experiences, but also maybe with those who haven't.

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