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Plunge into Philosophy - 29th May 2017

Plunge into Philosophy The Bathroom Professor: Philosophy on the Go 
(Don't Just Sit There, Learn Something!)

By Joey Green

If you're looking for a quick. painless way to impress other people with a knowledge of philosophy that you don't possess, then take this little book with you every time you go to the loo and make good use of all those idle moments you spend just sitting there!

It isn't just a joke (although it's written to entertain) since you will learn something about the world's great philosophers and schools of thought. After reading this book, you will be able to fake your way through erudite dinner-table conversations but you will also develop a deeper understanding of why philosophy is such an endlessly fascinating field of study. 

You can't really beat the combination of simplicity, brevity and wit which educates and and enlightens at the same time.


GetaWay - 26th May 2017

GetaWay Gordon Thomson Woodroofe

The RAF listed 10,000 airmen prisoners of war in WW2, out of whom only 30 successfully escaped from German prison camps. Gordon Woodroofe is the only New Zealander named.

He was born in Te Aroha and left to train as a pilot in the RNZAF at Taieri and Wigram. On his sixth operational trip from England he ditched in the North Sea and was captured.

GeTaWay is Woodroofe's story of his escape from a Nazi prison camp and his tortuous journey back to England during World War Two. The odyssey involved adventures by train, bicycle, boat, wagon and on foot over the course of three years. 

Not many of the successful 'escapees' have written books which makes this definitely worth reading, a real New Zealand hero.


Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary - 25th May 2017

Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary
by Justin Green (new deluxe 2009 edition)

I know nothing at all about this book but its appearance is very impressive and it seems as if it could be interesting. I shall have to cheat by quoting extensively from the introduction written by Art Spiegelman. 

He bills it as a comic book turned into an intimate, secular confession booth! He says Justin Green has done for confessional autobiographical comics what the Bronte sisters did for Gothic romance and what Tolkien did for sword-and-sorcery. Spiegelman credits him with inventing a new genre.

I don't know how many confessional autobiographical comics you've read but if you're already a fan, you could read this one for comparison purposes; if you're like me and have never heard of the genre, you could give it a read for the purpose of widening your horizons.

Art Spiegelman does mention that the art work and the content may take some getting used to (but surely nothing worth its weight comes without effort).

Brothers Grimm - 24th May 2017

Brothers Grimm Vintage Grimm: The Complete Fairy Tales
Translated, introduced & annotated by Jack Zipes

Wolves, grandmothers, dwarfs, foxes, geese, kings, stepmothers, bears, murder, mayhem, evil, violence, cruelty, humour and pretty much anything else you can imagine.

This edition contains all 279 stories by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, stories which have fascinated both children and adults for generations. An informative introduction along with annotations make this more than just a volume of fairy tales and myths. All the famous favourites are here but there are dozens more that we've never heard of and that makes for a book with wide appeal which provides entertainment for the whole family.

Rapunzel, yes; Riffraff, no; Hansel & Gretel, yes; Iron Hans, no; The Raven, yes; The Turnip, no; there are a lot more tales that you probably don't know than those that you do.

classics - 22nd May 2017

classics Did you study Greek or Latin at school? Have your language skills got a bit rusty? Would you like a gentle re-entry to the classics?

A Loeb Classical Library Reader
published by Harvard University Press 

This lovely little book contains a collection of Greek & Latin texts from 33 of the major classical authors. The format offers parallel texts so you have the Greek or Latin on the left-hand page and the English translation on the right. It is the ideal way to brush up your skills and jog your schoolboy/girl memory. Even if you didn't do Greek or Latin at school, it is still a nice introduction to Greco-Roman culture.

The compact volume includes poetry, philosophy, history, satire and fiction. It gives a glimpse of the arts, science and thought of antiquity. The selection spans 12 centuries and includes treasures such as Odysseus, Zeus, Socrates, Cicero, Livy, Pliny, and Homer.

Grab a copy to pop in your bag so you can relish classical poetry and comedy and enjoy the lives of the real and imaginary people who populate ancient history.

Who or what is this? - 19th May 2017

She's about the size of a grape seed and is a vicious killer.
She can deposit 30 or 40 () parasites in the human bloodstream at a single bite.
She is one of the greatest killers of all time.
She is a nuisance, a pain and an angel of death.
One person dies of () every twelve seconds.

Mosquito by Andrew Spielman and Michael D'Antonio

This is an excellent book about the mosquito and will appeal to a broad audience. It is clear, aiuthoritative and right to the point on the mosquito's importance to humanity. As well as being an interesting read, it is a model of popular science writing. Professor Spielman and Michael D'Antonio thoroughly cover the history of the mosquito without being deadly (unlike the beastie they are studying). You will be fascinated and appalled by this book. You may even turn into an entomologist by the end of it!

"If you would see all of Nature gathered up at one point, in all her loveliness, and her skill, and her deadliness, and her sex, where would you find a more exquisite symbol than the mosquito?"
Havelock Ellis


Train your brain - 18th May 2017

Train your brain Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot: Unleashing Your Brain's Potential
by Richard Restak, M.D.
Learn as much as possible about how your brain works.
Apply your knowledge about the human brain to organize your ideas.
Learn about the brain's motor programmes and how to use them.
Improve your memory by using a memory system.
Think in terms of brain geography.

I was pretty worn out and demoralised after the first couple of pages and had lost the will to try and enhance my mental functioning. It seemed to require more cognitive effort than I was prepared to expend. Of the 28 short chapters or steps, only 19 and 21 appealed and fell within the limited effort I'm prepared to make:
Develop a tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity
Increase mental acuity through wide and varied reading.

Apparently you're not meant to start in the middle so I'm giving up before I've started (wimp) but it does appear to be quite a realistic approach to improving your brain power. Do a bit more than me and let Richard Restak teach you how to be smarter through neuropsychiatry. 
It comes highly recommended according to the blurbs on the back. Please read it and tell me whether it was worth the effort or not?


Archibald McIndoe - 17th May 2017

Archibald McIndoe If you're an Otago Daily Times' reader, then you will know that there is an upcoming film about the life of Sir Archibald McIndoe. The film will star Sam Neill and the Australian actor Richard E Grant as McIndoe. 

Archibald McIndoe was born in Dunedin, educated at Otago Boys High School and then studied medicine at the University of Otago. He worked with the Royal Air Force during the Second World War and pioneered plastic surgery with badly burned pilots and air crews. (You can remedy the appalling brevity of this summary - which has wrapped up 60 years of a very worthy life in two sentences - by reading the book & then seeing the film.)

The film is to be called 'The Guinea Pig Club', the name the men he treated gave thenmselves. Filming will start next year here in New Zealand. However, before the film's release, it might be interesting to read Leonard Mosley's biography of McIndoe.

Faces from the Fire: A Biography of Sir Archibald McIndoe
by Leonard Mosley

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