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Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea
Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea
by Christine Garwood
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 31.90
14 used & new from CDN$ 0.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faith Rampant Over Science, May 22 2007
You remember the story about the frightened sailors who went with Columbus in 1492, but were sure that they were going to sail off the edge of the world. They almost mutinied, they were so scared. But Columbus got to land rather than to the enormous cataract, proving to the satisfaction of everyone ever since that the world was not flat but round. If you do remember all this, perhaps you also remember being told it was all bosh, but perhaps not; the story of Columbus bravely proving the world was round is such a satisfactory myth that it will probably never die. In _Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea_ (MacMillan), Christine Garwood, a historian of science, starts with debunking this myth, but then shifts to the modern flat-earthers, those from the nineteenth century until now who insisted, starting with the Bible as a foundation and attempting to co-opt science in the flat-earth cause, that the "globularists" were involved in a scandalous conspiracy to turn people away from the Bible. Garwood's often hilarious book is a serious look at an aberrant belief and those who took it up in modern times, centuries after the flat Earth had been scientifically dismissed. Flat-earthism may be nonsense, but it was an anti-science stance taken up by those who believed in a literal Bible, and as such, comparisons may be easily drawn between flat-earthers and creationists.

Educated medieval people did not believe the Earth to be flat. In fact, if they studied their Plato, Aristotle, or Euclid, they knew the shape of the Earth. The Columbus story was appealing to those who unnecessarily wanted to promote a view of science in eternal warfare with religion. The dispute between the two realms over the shape of our Earth seemed to be settled, but was revived in England by a loud, smart, confident, and energetic socialist quack from Lancashire, Samuel Birley Rowbotham, who started touring England in the 1830s. He urged people to take the Bible literally and also just to look around: anyone could see we were not walking around on a sphere. The Earth was a stationary disk, he taught, and the Sun was only 400 miles above it, and if ships disappeared over the horizon, it was just a play of refraction and perspective, not evidence that the surface of the water was curved. He had many followers, and Flat-earthism didn't stop with the Victorians. There were Flat Earth Societies of different kinds during the twentieth century. The American fundamentalist preacher Wilbur Voliva took over the utopian city of Zion in Illinois, and used his radio station in the 1920s not only to broadcast intimidations of hell-fire but also to spread such explanations of sunrise and sunset being only optical illusions. The Canadian Flat Earth Society is different from any other group described here, since it was not religiously inspired. It was a bunch of writers and philosophers who took up the cause as a bit of serious fun, to push concepts of epistemology. To poor, serious Samuel Shenton, founder of the International Flat Earth Research Society, fell the task of defending the concept of a flat Earth while astronauts went around it and to the Moon. He asserted that Christ himself had warned of "a great deception which might shake frail Christian faith," and he was furious that astronauts had radioed "the opening verses of Genesis... as a deceptive cloak" concealing the promotion of globularism. The new flat-earthers were eager to promote their own "scientific" views, but their arguments harked back to those of the previous century. For instance, they asserted that people could sail east to west around the world just like a needle sails around a phonograph record, but no one sails around it north to south, because that would take one into the edges of the disk, a realm of forbidden cold. Others also pointed out that in sailing from Australia to America, a passenger did not get on board ship upside down, and did not sail upwards around a globe. And of course, the ocean looked flat during the whole trip.

Almost all the flat-earthers here mount their beliefs from knowing that, as one wrote, "the Bible is a flat-earth book", and from feeling that God had called them to refute astronomical treachery. In many ways, they were more fundamentalist and more literalist than the current creationists; indeed, the head of the International Flat Earth Research Society of America denounced the Creation Research Institute as a "criminal gang" and "the worst enemies of the truth" for ostensibly defending the Bible while it was actually undermining it. The flat-earthers had faith that could not be shaken by anything scientists had to offer. Science eventually had even photographic proof, but the pictures of our orb were denounced as a hoax that "just makes the whole Bible a big joke." The faith of some flat-earthers was strong enough to withstand, for a while, at least, even science's photographic assault. Garwood draws analogies, of course, between them and our creationists whose faith is also currently great enough to withstand scientific objections, and who, like the flat-earthers, insist that accepting science is the same as discounting the Bible. In the current case, though, scientists can't muster, for instance, simple photographs that show evolution in progress. Garwood's book shows just how doggedly faith in an unscientific idea can hold.

Concertina
Concertina
by Susan Winemaker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 17.63
7 used & new from CDN$ 12.26

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Food and Discipline, April 23 2007
This review is from: Concertina (Hardcover)
Susan Winemaker describes herself as a "nice Jewish girl from Toronto". She majored in philosophy and the culinary arts, and presumably because the former would not pay, went to study the latter in London. But as everyone knows, learning to be a chef and being a chef-for-hire is not as lucrative as being a dominatrix, and this is where she turned her talents. In _Concertina: The Life and Loves of a Dominatrix_ (Simon and Schuster UK; the book is currently available only in a British edition), Winemaker gives an account of her work in a trade of administering discipline and pain to men who think it worth, say, 150 pounds an hour to be treated in such a way. It's an odd career, although it is one long associated with sexuality, especially in England. It has plenty of peculiar moments and fun which Winemaker enjoys and writes about with amusement; the first sentence of the book is, "It's 11:25 a.m. and I'm sitting on and suffocating Bernie". The work is delivering a service for a fee, and is full of day-to-day, practical tasks just to get the job done, as in "At 2:13 I was on my hands and knees, wiping semen off the dungeon floor. At 2:17 I was eating a hummus sandwich in the garden, and answering the telephone to a man who was interested in catheters and other medical procedures. At 2:30 I answered the door to a stranger named Robert ..." She was good at her trade, and had plenty of repeat clients handled with just the right degree of pain and remove. When she "blurred the boundaries" between mistress and client and took one on as a lover, the results are more disturbing than anything that happened in her dungeon.

There is plenty of food in the book, and many comparisons made between serving up a meal and serving up domination. Serving up something delicious for the client is part of both of her trades, and she writes that "pain, violence, discipline and a good grasp of the trade's tools could produce something succulent and beautiful". She does like the game she plays as Mistress Anna and she likes the men. She had a session with "Enema Larry" who liked her to be in rubber nurse uniform, and afterwards he went to kiss her goodbye on the cheek. "I backed away just in time," she writes. "'I don't want you to catch my cold, Larry.'" The response: "'Oh, but, Anna, I _want_ your cold,' he instantly volleyed. It was the kindest thing anyone had said to me in the cottage. A beautiful thing to say. I loved my job for moments like that, for unexpected intimacies born of strange circumstances." It is illuminating that when she was preparing for her career, she not only read fetish magazines and rope-tying manuals, but also Stanislavski's _Building a Character_ and _An Actor Prepares_. She writes of the accord between her and clients, "There will be no 'sex' as it's understood. It will be my job to administer pain erotically and expertly... a symphony in the background, a range of sensations assailing me, the brief connection, the spice of anonymous intimacy, the distilled concentrated moment. I respond to detail and subtlety, rules, roles, and melody. This is theater, finitude, and utterly otherly experience."

Though she is objective in describing her work, the most open and candid part of Concertina is the troubling account of her relationship with a client with whom she fell in love. In many ways, her job was no different from any other; it was demanding work with a good paycheck, but she realized that she was lonely: "I'm giving and I'm going home to no one." But Adam was gorgeous and responsive, liking especially the genital application of two score clothespins. Outside the dungeon, they developed an intense, sadomasochistic give and take. There is even (gasp) romantic and passionate _normal_ sex. They aren't able to abandon domination / submission, however, and the convolutions mount. "The thought of ordering my lover to pleasure me was vulgar. I want him to pleasure me because he wants to, not because he has to, and not because it's the role he's playing." The last straw is that Adam, who says he loves her cooking, admits he accidentally ate a raw chicken cutlet and didn't notice. Winemaker eventually sees the humor in such a denouement, but the resolution of their relationship is sad and cruel. Never mind; she wants to start up a luxury porridge bar in London, and that is not a euphemism for anything erotic but rather a culinary niche that she thinks is unexplored. It would be a simpler life, and I would trust her to write about it colorfully, recipes included, but I suspect it would not result in a memoir as strange or funny as this one.

Rising From the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class
Rising From the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class
by Larry Tye
Edition: Hardcover
25 used & new from CDN$ 3.52

5.0 out of 5 stars Lessons from a Lost Profession, July 17 2004
You can't see train porters anymore, except in the movies. Everyone knew the role of the ubiquitous porter, a role with duties, uniform, and demeanor. In the movies, actors played porters as porters had played their occupational roles, busy and even servile, humorous and fawning, wise to the needs and foolishness of their passengers and ignorant as members of their race were held to be. The paradoxes of the porters get a wonderful historical evaluation in _Rising from the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class_ (Henry Holt) by Larry Tye. A history of the porters was overdue, but Tye is squeaking this one in. There were generations of porters, but the last of them is slipping away, and some of them he interviewed for the book did not live to see it printed. Porters, for all their servility and for all the neglect that passengers often gave them, made an impression, and Tye makes the wonderful case of another paradox. The porter, whose attitude might be classed now as "Uncle Tom-ism", was a necessary element to bring about the Civil Rights movement.
The porters were, from beginning to end, creatures of the Pullman Rail Car Company. George Pullman brought out the first one in 1865, and by 1867, he was looking for a reliable way to staff the cars; Pullman needed one single worker who would be hotelier, waiter, chambermaid, butler, and information desk. There was a newly invented pool of workers to draw from, the former slaves from the South. Many had worked in plantation houses and were familiar with duties requiring close proximity to wealthy white folk. There was poor pay and atrocious hours, but many porters appreciated the opportunity to escape the south and trade overalls for bow ties and starched pants. Porters could read the business pages discarded by their passengers, and they learned how the Pullman Company was flourishing while they were barely getting by. Part of the porters' history involves eventual unionizing and developing themselves as a commercial force, and the indefatigable efforts of A. Philip Randolph to bring about a union are highlighted here. Randolph was a Civil Rights leader for decades, and eventually organized the March on Washington, for which Martin Luther King (who held Randolph in reverence) is better remembered.
By the time the porters had reached their greatest unified commercial strength, their profession was coming to an end. Road and airplane travel took passengers away, and Amtrak was just a ghost of past glory. Tye convinces readers, however, that the porters had a disproportionate effect on the black community. At their height, porters were 0.1% of blacks in America, and yet for any black American excelling in any field in the last half century, there is an odds-on chance that there was a Pullman porter in that person's past. They did it by the same means: "... sacrificing for their children, and deferring dreams of self-improvement for a generation or even two, but never abandoning them." They may have been underlings, but the best of them profited by being around even the most unpleasant passengers. About one incident, a porter explained that after some slight, he was able to hold his tongue: "It was an accomplishment. I kept from hating passengers like that. I called myself outsmarting them." Tye's impressive look at the influence of a long-gone profession is at its best when bringing back the words and stories of the porters themselves. "My mother taught me never to quarrel with a fool, but to humor him. That's what I do," said one. Another concluded, "You just gotta haul folks as they come. Some's good, some's bad, some's nice and some's crabby."

1215: The Year of Magna Carta
1215: The Year of Magna Carta
by Danny Danziger
Edition: Hardcover
16 used & new from CDN$ 12.54

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back to the Fundamentals, July 14 2004
One of the many documents that we honor without paying much importance to what it really was in its time is the Magna Carta. There is a meadow at Runnymede, near Windsor in England, where in 1215 King John was forced to sign the document, and among other memorials there now is a little temple placed by the American Bar Association. The American Founding Fathers reverenced the document, and indeed parts of the Constitution may be easily traced to sentences within the Magna Carta. But the Magna Carta in its time was a bust; it did not bring peace between King John and the barons suing for their share of liberty and was soon trashed in civil war. _1215: The Year of Magna Carta_ (Touchstone) by Danny Danziger and John Gillingham puts the document in context. We are right to hold it in reverence, but the authors make clear that the barons were looking after their property rights easily as much as the abstract values of freedom which have inspired patriots through history, and that the document enabled serfdom rather than actual freedom.
The surprising part about this book is that the Magna Carta does not really show up until the final chapters. The title is correct; the book is largely about the year and how people in England lived at that time. There are chapters on schools, families, tournaments, trials, the church, and other important aspects of life under King John, with mere hints in each about how the Magna Carta might have affected them. The details of life in that year come thick throughout the main part of the book. Astrology was promoted, but some monks and teachers thought it was bunk. People took part in religious rituals, but one prior wrote, "There are many people who do not believe that God exists" and said the universe was ruled by chance, not providence. No one knows how many the "many people" were. There were English colonies as far away as Alexandria. Summers were warmer by one centigrade degree than they are now, with milder winters and lower rainfall. If you were right handed, you would write with a quill from the left wing of a goose (and vice versa) so that the feather would curve outwards when you wrote. Wolves roamed the forests which covered nearly a third of England. Men wore underwear but women didn't. Hay was used for toilet paper. Chess was played with enthusiasm but with simpler rules than now. Adulterers would be whipped naked through the streets. This is a lively history, and fun to read.
The book concludes with the actual signing of the Magna Carta itself and its effects. The rebellion by the barons in 1215 was quite different from the many rebellions against previous kings. Those involved fighting to restore a particular monarch to the throne. The barons had no such champion; the focus of their revolt was simply a program of reform. The document itself consists of 63 clauses, the first ten of which (and many of the subsequent ones) have only to do with maintaining the barons' property rights. There are ringing, lofty expressions of principle, but they are late in the charter, and while they are what we revere it for, they were evidently not uppermost on the minds of the barons. This does not matter, really; "To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right or justice" and that no one will have action against him "... except by the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land" were important principles then and now. The Magna Carta was intended as a peace treaty, but John was eager to wiggle out of it any way he could, and was helped by the Pope, who declared the Magna Carta null and void. The all-out civil war that followed was capped by John's death a year later from dysentery. The Magna Carta was reissued, as it was again in 1225, and it is the 1225 text that entered the statute books. It was this version that bad kings had to reaffirm; public cries after royal infringements, for instance, forced Edward I to confirm the charter in 1297. This spirited introduction to thirteenth century history shows that the Magna Carta thus may be more eternally important not as a foundation for specific rights, but as the primal symbol for struggle against tyranny.

Audubon's Elephant: America's Greatest Naturalist, the Making of The Birds of America
Audubon's Elephant: America's Greatest Naturalist, the Making of The Birds of America
by Duff Hart-Davis
Edition: Hardcover
18 used & new from CDN$ 3.08

5.0 out of 5 stars An American Classic From England, July 10 2004
Let us say the Book Fairy comes and says you can be given one book, any book you want. Here's my advice: take John James Audubon's _The Birds of America_. Of course you want the original edition, the volumes that appeared between 1826 and 1838. Not only is it one of the most beautiful books ever printed, if you get tired of it, you can sell it. The last one that came up for sale, in 2000, went for $8.8 million. Just about everyone knows about this book, or has seen reprints from it, and has heard of Audubon (perhaps because of the Society that bears his name) and associates him with birds. He has had several biographies, but _Audubon's Elephant: America's Greatest Naturalist and the Making of the Birds of America_ (Henry Holt) by Duff Hart-Davis takes a specific look at the extraordinary book, and how _The Birds of America_ could not have been made in America.
Audubon's own adopted country had no room for his huge project of a book to show all the birds of America life sized. Naturalists at the time actively discouraged anyone's support of Audubon's efforts, and there were not printers up to the task. So in 1826, Audubon sailed with his big watercolors to England. He became a celebrated American rustic, captivating the town of Edinburgh. He went about carrying his huge portfolio which weighed nearly a hundred pounds, slung over his shoulder. The first printer of the work, having see it, responded, "My God! I never saw anything like this before." He was right; Audubon's pictures had size, drama, and color no previous bird pictures even hinted at. The pictures caused a sensation, and Audubon was caught in a whirl of dining and socializing that he enjoyed enormously. The enormous work of getting subscribers, printing the pictures, and getting a team of colorists to hand tint each one was more than Audubon had counted on. He wrote, "I am thrown into a vortex of business that I never conceived I could manage."
Audubon and conservation have become synonymous, but his process of making his art will appall those many who belong to the Society bearing his name. Audubon probably killed more birds than any man in history, saying, "I call birds few when I shoot less than one hundred per day." He liked painting birds in action, but he posed them that way, killing them and mounting them so he could get the action stilled. A companion complained about Audubon working on his turkey painting, "The damned fellow kept it pinned up there till it rotted and stunk. I hated to lose so much good eating." Audubon kept a golden eagle in a cage to observe it, and having it seen alive sufficiently, tried to suffocate it with charcoal smoke, and when that did not work, pierced it through the heart with a pointed steel needle. As Hart-Davis realizes, Audubon did not lust for blood, but for knowledge. Imparting that knowledge through his art was his great goal, magnificently realized. _Audubon's Elephant_ is a much smaller volume than the original it describes, but it is still handsomely produced on fine paper and with fittingly copious illustrations. It is a vibrant account of an artist accomplishing his dream.

The Dance of 17 Lives: The Incredible True Story of Tibet's 17th Karmapa
The Dance of 17 Lives: The Incredible True Story of Tibet's 17th Karmapa
by Mick Brown
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.91

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Story of Selecting a Reincarnated Leader, July 7 2004
In 1992, a six-year-old son of a nomadic yak herder was thrust into history. His family knew him to be special somehow, so he was not given an official name; he was known by them as Apo Gaga ("happy brother"). And then the highest of the Tibetan Buddhists realized that he was the reincarnation of Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, the 16th Karmapa, who had died in 1981. The resurrection line of Karmapas goes back centuries before that of even the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet. Apo Gaga then became "His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje". The story of his selection and his headline-making flight from Tibet in 2000 is told in _The Dance of 17 Lives: The Incredible True Story of Tibet's 17th Karmapa_ (Bloomsbury) by Mick Brown. Brown, a journalist who has covered religious subjects before, is not a Buddhist, and indeed his own religious ideas are not part of this book, which is an astonishingly impartial view of the sometimes controversial and (to those of a different religious persuasion) often utterly weird process of making a new divine hereditary leader.
Brown's book gives a history of Buddhism as it relates to the Karmapa line. The first Karmapa was born in 1110 CE, at the age of fifty. He was omniscient and was able to pass through rocks and mountains. He predicted he would be reborn many times, and starting a tradition, he left a letter specifying how the next Karmapa could be found. When the beloved 16th Karmapa died in 1981, there was a puzzling interval when no such letter could be found. One of his monks eventually produced an amulet the 16th had given him, and it contained a prediction that was to lead to Apo Gaga, who was enthroned as 17th Karmapa in 1992 at age seven. This succession has been controversial; another monk has claimed the amulet document was a forgery and has put forward his own choice of successor, but the Dalai Lama has given all official approval to the current 17th. The Chinese communists, who dislike all religions, amazingly accepted the 17th as a "Living Buddha", in an attempt to get a Buddhist leader under their sway. The 17th Karmapa and a few close associates made plans for a perilous winter trek over the Himalayas and into India. By foot, jeep, and helicopter, he made a daring escape to an eventual exile along with the Dalai Lama.
Brown has interviewed the 17th Karmapa (as he has the Dalai Lama, and most of the individuals he profiles), and has been impressed. "He was, patently, a fifteen-year-old boy; yet like no fifteen-year-old I had met before." He had composure and authority to a disconcerting degree: "There is something dazzling about him." He has had a life of study rather than play, but devotees have donated to him plenty of toys through the years. Amusingly, when he made his prediction of where the reincarnated descendant from another line would be found, to show the house that should be targeted, the Karmapa made a model with his Lego set. It is this sort of clash between modern and ancient or religious and worldly that makes _The Dance of 17 Lives_ so fascinating. The Dalai Lama is now 69 years old, and when he dies, Tibetan exiles all over the world will be looking toward the 17th Karmapa as a unifying symbol and perhaps a successor. We are used to seeing the Dalai Lama as an elder statesman, but if this description of the 17th Karmapa is true, we can expect a young man to fit in just as well.

Outlaw Sea
Outlaw Sea
by William Langewiesche
Edition: Hardcover
39 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Free Sea, and a Dangerous One, July 6 2004
This review is from: Outlaw Sea (Hardcover)
As Melville knew, we look to the sea as a symbol for freedom, and "freedom of the seas" is proverbial. But freedom at sea can lead to such manifestations as piracy, and not just in the swashbuckling days of yore; it could also lead to corporate irresponsibility and malfeasance. William Langewiesche's _The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime_ (North Point Press) collects and expands upon his previous magazine articles on this theme. All of us are dependent upon international trade, and few of us understand how it works or in what ways it is working badly or dangerously, unless we hear about a capsizing or an oil spill. There are a lot more of those than we hear about, and a lot more crime on the sea than even governments acknowledge. Langewiesche's book is a fine way for lubbers to get to know how traditional maritime freedom is endangering them.
Before World War II, ships were customarily built in a country, were registered in that country, flew the flag of that country, and sailed for the profit of businessmen in that country. Ironically, the United States began the current anarchical system in a pretense of neutrality during the pre-Pearl Harbor war, registering in Panama ships bringing needed supplies to Britain. The practice became widespread in the succeeding decades, with many ships now sailing under "flags of convenience." They might be registered in countries that have no navy and even no coastline, and the countries involved can get relatively small fees, which are actually almost pure profit. The countries don't pursue administrative niceties like taxes, labor laws, safety inspections, and so on, and the corporations which own the ships don't mind avoiding such things, either. Among the cases described here are a too-old ship (with full inspection documents) broken in half by stormy seas. Pirates can take advantage of the lax laws by making a ship disappear; capture, repaint, rename, and reflag the vessel, and it vanishes from the seas. Seas are big, ships leave no tracks, and patrol ships and aircraft can see only a tiny percentage of any hunting ground. Policing the oceans from such attacks is not now possible.
The longest episode in the book tells of the _Estonia_, a giant luxury ferry that sank in the Baltic in 1994, with a loss of 852 of 989 passengers and crew. A victim of faulty design, poor maintenance, or even a bomb (none of the extensive investigations afterwards has satisfied everyone), the narrative here of well-chosen characters trying to escape from the swiftly-sinking ship is fast and terrifying. The book ends with a part of the maritime business that few people ever consider: what happens to the worn-out ships? Salvaging used to be a thriving business in our country and others; reclaiming the metal and reusing it was good for profits and good for the environment. However, showing the same pattern of lack of regulation and reduction of the job to the cheapest source available, shipwrecking has gone to places like India, where poorly equipped and poorly paid workers are glad of the job, even if it means almost constant danger from the unplanned movement of heavy objects or the inhalation of poisons. The shipping industry, Langewiesche writes, is "not exactly a criminal industry, but it is an amoral and stubbornly anarchic one." This is a deeply disturbing book, written with cool detachment. Technology and international organizations have not made improvements in the way the vital global trade is conducted. Profits are more important than anything, the sea promises the freest of trading, no one seems to be learning from the lessons described here, and no one should expect these dangerous situations to be changed anytime soon.

The Italian Boy: A Tale of Murder and Body Snatching in 1830s London
The Italian Boy: A Tale of Murder and Body Snatching in 1830s London
by Sarah Wise
Edition: Hardcover
31 used & new from CDN$ 2.07

5.0 out of 5 stars A Ghoulish, Entertaining History, July 4 2004
They were known as "grabs", "lifters", "exhumators", and especially as "resurrection men." The number of euphemisms for their trade indicates a distaste for it; they were bodysnatchers, and in nineteenth century London, they had a good, if not respectable, trade. Sarah Wise, in _The Italian Boy: A Tale of Murder and Body Snatching in 1830s London_ (Metropolitan Books), has revived (so to speak) a story that has not been retold since the newspapers and broadsheets made it a sensation in its time. Far more famous is the case of the "Edinburgh Horrors" wherein William Burke and William Hare had not only snatched bodies but had manufactured them by murdering the victims first. Their crimes have entered literature and the movies, and "to burke" is even a term for the act. Three years later in 1831, similar crimes in London came to light and horrified and fascinated Londoners. Wise's book will do the same for the modern reader.
For medical students and anatomists in England, there was only one legal supply of cadavers for dissection, the gallows; getting cut up for show was another particular indignity that could be extended to the condemned. This might have been enough in years gone by, but in 1831 only 52 people were executed. A freshly exhumed corpse would fetch around ten guineas, at a time when a well-paid workingman might bring home eighty guineas a year, so the trade could be lucrative. Carlo Ferrari was a pretty fourteen-year-old street urchin who walked the city with his cage of white mice (and maybe a turtle) until he ran into the villains of this tale. The resurrectionists involved lured him to a home in a semi-rural part of the city, drugged him and drowned him, and then set off to peddle his body. When it looked too fresh, the police were called, and an investigation showed that Ferrari had not been the only victim. Less than a month after the murder was made public, John Bishop, James May, and Thomas Williams stood trial in the Old Bailey. In a fitting conclusion to their careers, the resurrection men found guilty were resurrected onto the anatomist's table. It was discovered that Bishop "... had an extraordinarily good physique, proving far more useful as a specimen than the produce he used to deliver."
The trial was a big case for the new London police force, and the role of the Police Inspector, then a novelty, was highlighted and began its acceptance by the public. The trial threw light on the horrid trade, its prevalence and the medical men who were accessories in its perpetuation. It served as a spark to reformation, contributing to the passing of the second Anatomy Bill in 1832, which allowed bodies other than those of the hanged miscreants to be a source of instruction. The unclaimed bodies of paupers could thereupon be used for dissection, and thus the "horrors" of the dissecting table started becoming less horrible; today enlightened future corpses often will their bodies for anatomical teaching. Wise's startling tale, well illustrated and fetid with cesspools, abattoirs, dissecting rooms, prisons, and Tudor slums, opens again a grotesque and brutal underworld and makes for an entertaining, gruesome history.

In the Beginning Was the Worm: Finding the Secrets of Life in a Tiny Hermaphrodite
In the Beginning Was the Worm: Finding the Secrets of Life in a Tiny Hermaphrodite
by Andrew Brown
Edition: Hardcover
18 used & new from CDN$ 4.46

5.0 out of 5 stars Explaining Life at the Molecular Level, June 29 2004
_Caenorhabditis elegans_, happily better known as _C. elegans_ and affectionately known by the researchers who study it as "the worm," would not seem to have potential for being the focus of groundbreaking biological studies. It is only a half a millimeter long, for instance, and is a lowly nematode, living on bacteria and slime mold in temperate regions all around the world. It does, however, display rapid growth and production of subsequent generations, which made it perfect for genetic studies, and transparency, which made it perfect for microscopic analysis. But even the original researchers on the worm would have been surprised at all the work that has been done in the last forty years. _C. elegans_ is now "the most completely understood animal in history." That assessment comes in _In the Beginning Was the Worm: Finding the Secrets of Life in a Tiny Hermaphrodite_ (Columbia University Press) by Andrew Brown. In fact, the worm looms even larger in biological research; work on its genetic map grew directly into the human genome mapping project. So its story is worth telling, and Brown, a science journalist, has told it largely through descriptions of the personalities and work of the main researchers. There is little technical detail here about the worm itself, but much interesting history about how the researchers came to understand it so well.
Chief of the characters is Sydney Brenner, who designated the worm as a fit source of research in the mid-1960s. Not everyone thought that the worm was the way to go, or even that trying to understand it at the molecular level was a promising avenue of research. There was more glamorous work and ostensibly more productive work going on researching fruit flies, for instance, but Brenner's team showed astonishing dedication. Almost everyone who worked in the lab came away happy, and Brenner and his main colleagues came away with Nobels. One of the most pleasing aspects of the research was how public it was. The researchers were in favor of free trade in ideas within the team, of course, but there was a high streak of idealism in sharing results with the outside world. They truly believed that the unfettered exercise of their talents was for the benefit of humanity. They insisted that sharing results (rather than, say, copyrighting or licensing them) meant it was more likely that someone would latch on to something interesting which needed further work. No one owned the genetic map they produced, and it was from the beginning available to all takers (although it is now much more accessible since biologists can log into it on the web). It is not just that free release is generous and right, but it works. John Sulston, one of the Nobel winners, said, "It was not a theoretical concept, it was a pragmatic way of moving forward."
The importance of the worm in all subsequent genetic research cannot be overstated, and so this is a welcome volume to recount how the worm got to be so well understood. There have been distinct effects on the research on humans themselves. Vertebrates like humans are not descended from nematodes, but we are distant cousins with an ancient common ancestor which eight hundred million years ago solved the problems of living as a multicellular organism, and every animal ever since has inherited those solutions. In a real sense, looking at the worm is a way of looking at ourselves, with all the potential for practical knowledge that this brings. But Brown's book is an inspirational story about researchers who gambled all on the detailed understanding of a humble worm not for practicality, or for riches, but for the sake of knowledge alone.

Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution
Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution
by David Carter
Edition: Hardcover
18 used & new from CDN$ 17.93

5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive History of the Spark to Gay Rights, June 24 2004
In the old days (and some would insist they were the good old days) homosexuals were subject to dismissal just because of sexual preference. Sexual acts between members of the same sex were specifically illegal, and cops would bait homosexuals to see if they were interested in such acts. Professionals who were found to be homosexuals lost their licenses. Homosexuality was a diagnosable psychiatric illness. A consensual homosexual act could get even life imprisonment, and a risk of castration. There may still be discrimination against gays in many ways, but some are now even legally married; societal acceptance is not total, but it is vastly better than it was on 28 June 1969. That date, regarded as epochal by homosexuals insisting on their civil rights, saw the Stonewall uprising; in _Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution_ (St. Martin's Press), David Carter has given a spectacularly detailed and well-researched history of an event that has been often misunderstood even by those interested in the history of the gay civil rights movement.
In the sixties, Greenwich Village was a center for homosexual life; the bohemian residents were simply more accepting of unusual behavior. Within Greenwich, the Stonewall Inn was one of the gathering places especially for male homosexuals. The ambience was "trashy, low, and tawdry," but unpretentious, and all from any margins (including the exaggeratedly effeminate men who were a fashion at the time) were free to go there without risk of feeling alienated. Patrons and the bar staff accepted that the place was going to get raided. Police thought of gays as easy targets in their humiliating sweeps of the bar. Carter is careful to show that the confrontation that night was somewhere between inevitable and fortuitous, but what set the crowd off was a lesbian resisting arrest and being beaten. The initial response was tentative; one man could stand it no longer and yelled, "Gay Power!" only to be shushed by his partner. The cry, however, was taken up, and the outcasts stirred into action. The chapters of the book dealing with the riot itself are often tense, with the police being forced back into Stonewall and barricading themselves in, and the gays outside pounding the heavy doors with a parking meter while chanting "Liberate the bar!" Many who were there shared the view of one participant, who called the newspapers during the riot: "I immediately knew this was the spark we had been waiting for for years."
Carter details the changes in attitude that came after the riots, fostered by the too-inclusive Gay Liberation Front through the more successful Gay Activist Alliance. Political action, confrontation, and street theater were taken up by a group of citizens that had previously kept covert ways. Having shown up at the scene of the riot to see what all the fuss was about, Allen Ginsberg himself said of the participants, comparing them to homosexuals a decade before, "They've lost that wounded look." Carter clears up myths that have grown up around the event. It was reported, for instance, that the rioters breaking back into the bar where the police were besieged were merely trying to get back in and party. There was a further widely reported story that the riots were in response to the funeral the day before of Judy Garland, an idol to some gays. These stories represent the sort of trivialization that society might well attempt to impose on a revolution that it found unwelcome. The revolution isn't complete, but at Stonewall the struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights got a real political start. Carter's book is the essential work on an important historical event.

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