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  • Lest we forget: Dunkirk

    Thu, 27 May 2010 08:14

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    Via the Guardian:

    The Little Ships are heading back to Dunkirk again today, a celebratory jaunt marking the 70th anniversary of the desperate nights when coal boats and barges, luxury private launches and paddle steamers built for holiday trips around the lighthouse joined naval and military craft in an eccentric fleet of 900 vessels which repeatedly crossed the Channel to evacuate more than 338,000 troops from the beaches around the French port.

    Operation Dynamo, carried out between 27 May and 4 June 1940, under continuous German bombardment, was described by Winston Churchill as "a miracle of deliverance" and put the phrase Dunkirk spirit into the language. At least 5,000 died in the operation.

    This morning more than 50 of the original little ships, many with children of the original crew members on board, were seen off from Dover in style, escorted by HMS Monmouth, and with a flypast by the Royal Navy Historic Flight of planes from the period (more...)

    More compelling Dunkirk-related titles.

  • Paul Davies' The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence gets its New York Times review:

    The scientific project known as SETI -- the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence -- began in earnest 50 years ago, when an astronomer named Frank Drake pointed a radio telescope toward a few nearby stars and began to sift through the aural static. A half-century later SETI has matured and remains a bustling enterprise, even though it no longer receives government financing and even though E.T., if he's out there, does not appear to have Earth on his speed dial.

    Paul Davies's new book, The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence, is a birthday card of sorts to SETI, an appraisal and acknowledgment of the interesting (if quixotic) work the project has done thus far. It's also a pointed wake-up call. Mr. Davies believes that SETI has grown conservative in its methods. He thinks we're looking for alien life in all the wrong places, and in all the wrong ways.

    Mr. Davies is a British-born physicist and cosmologist, an astral popularizer in the Carl Sagan mold. He's written more than 20 books, and has made BBC radio documentaries and Australian TV shows with titles like The Big Questions. He is the director of "Beyond, the Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science", at Arizona State University, which according to its Web site (, seeks "to create new and exciting ideas that push the boundaries of research a bit 'beyond'."It looks like the kind of place where you wouldn't be embarrassed to put some Jean Michel Jarre space music on your iPod and get sort of heavy.

    More saliently, for the purposes of this book, Mr. Davies is chairman of the SETI Post-Detection Taskgroup, dedicated to thinking about how Earthlings might react, and how we should react, to a signal from beyond. He's an interesting and sometimes funny thinker on this topic...

    Mr. Davies's arguments in The Eerie Silence are multiple and many-angled, and difficult to summarize here. But among other things, he thinks we need to pay as much attention to Earth as we do to the cosmos. If we can find evidence that life began from scratch more than once on our own planet -- a "second genesis" -- it would vastly increase the odds that the universe is teeming with life. What's more, because it's as likely that alien civilizations visited Earth a million years ago as last month, they might have already been here, and we've missed the signs (more...)

  • The always-informative Moby Lives blog has an excellent article on the (still) ongoing Google Book Search farrago:

    As Michael Cader aptly put it in his Publisher's Lunch newsletter yesterday, "in the publishing world, this is the closet thing we will have to the Olympics," coming after "years of training, preparation, and negotiation": the final installment in the Google Books Settlement case. According to a CNet News report by Greg Sandoval, the hearing cranked up again yesterday with Judge Denny Chin declaring, "I'm going to say right off, I'm not going to rule today. I'm going to listen to opinions carefully and I'm going to ask a few questions."

    He spent the afternoon listening to testimony from some of the 30 or so parties scheduled to testify, including Microsoft, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Amazon, the National Federation of the Blind, and the Center for Democracy and Technology. Cader's report added: "the only flag flying in the courtroom is America's, but the teams came from all over -- France, Germany, Japan and Connecticut; the National Federation for the Blind, who brought such a large contingent that Judge Chin quipped "many of whom are here this morning apparently" (to which their president replied, "It's very important to us your honor."); the corporate nation states of Sony, Amazon, Microsoft, AT&T; and more." And an Associated Press wire story says there was even "a lawyer for folk singer Arlo Guthrie and Pay it Forward writer Catherine Ryan Hyde," who "claimed the [Google] library would exploit his clients" and that the settlement offers "woefully inadequate compensation" for "unknown and undisclosed uses." (More...)

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    So, Charles Dickens was more radical -- and saucy -- than we've previously imagined, was he!?

    This from the Telegraph:

    Pip and Herbert from Great Expectations are among those who really have homosexual leanings, the study by Dr Holly Furneaux of Leicester University claimed.

    Often Dickens' male characters "conveniently" fall in love with the sister of their best friend, which she read as further evidence that he had woven the suggestion of homosexual relationships into his plots.

    She said there were a "raft of prejudices" about supposedly strait-laced Victorians and Dickens in particular that stopped such writing being seen for what she thought it was.

    "We have positioned him as this figure of respectability," said Dr Furneaux, a lecturer in Victorian Studies.

    But rather than being a writer interested in "hearth and home" and the nuclear family, he was interested in all sorts of sexual relationships, she said (more...)

  • Cows and the Earth

    Mon, 09 Nov 2009 04:37

    Cows and the Earth by Ranchor Prime is a fascinating book enthusiastically endorsed by both musician Chrissie Hynde ("Ranchor Prime explains the meaning behind the ancient tradition of cow protection, and its place in the 21st century environmental movement... no ecological argument can be complete without it") and Patrick Holden, the director of UK Soil Association ("the Krishna farm sets a new standard in organic dairy farming.")

    The books tells the "true story of a unique experiment to transplant Hindu values of cow protection and working oxen to the modern Western world:"

    It all began when George Harrison donated an historic Hertfordshire manor house and 20 acres of farmland to a young community of Krishna people fresh from the city, and two cows. Thirty-six years later the experiment has grown into a carbon-free working farm in a superb set of low-tech English oak farm buildings housing fifty cows and oxen. What makes the farm unique and relevant is that it is Europe's first dairy to run entirely without animal slaughter or the use of fossil fuels, and so fully embodies the principles of sustainable and ethical living necessary for future peace and prosperity.

    Cows and the Earth: a story of dairy farming that is kind to cows from Ranchor Prime on Vimeo.

    Buy Cows and the Earth by Ranchor Prime.

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