Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Spring Cleaning

The wind is blowing, the trees are in leaf, and I sense spring is on the way. Well, good! Not that this winter has been particularly bad, but spring has far better scenery.  I spent this past weekend cleaning while listening to an audio version of The Importance of Being Earnest, and then took in a local play at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. The play was "White Lightning", and celebrated the moonshine-running origins of stockcar racing. The closest I've come to watching NASCAR is watching Cars, but I enjoyed the play enormously, featuring as it did one of my favorite ASF actors, Rodney Clark.

There's actually a book on this subject called Driving with the Devil that -- so help me -- I might actually go for. Not that I'm suddenly all afire about racing, but who can't appreciate a history of rescuing ardent spirits from the law?

Continuing and completing the spree of science books lately was E.O. Wilson's  The Social Conquest of Earth.  The book examines 'eusociality' as practiced by both humans and insects.  Eusociality involves a trascendent social order that is sustained by passing generations, with a high degree of specialization.   Wilson is one of the grand old men of biology, the effective founder of the sociobiological discipline. After dealing with the whole of natural human history in chapter one, Wilson uses his extensive insect experience to explain what eusociality is and how it might have evolved. He then speculates on what biological basis culture, art, etc. might be derived from.  I found parts of the book, like the extended debate between inclusive fitness and kin selection as evolutionary drivers, a touch esoteric, and probably would have enjoyed the book more if I'd hadn't gone into it expecting to read more than about humans and termites.

Shortly before that, I read Unnatural Selection, comments for which are forthcoming. This week I'm finishing up a social history of the Scotch-Irish, called....The Scotch-Irish: A Social History.    It was part of an intended nod toward St. Patrick's day, though there's no way in blazes I'm finishing The Year of the French in time for tomorrow.


  1. Wouldn't that be the Scots-Irish...? AFAIK 'Scotch' is an alcoholic drink.... [grin]

  2. That's the sole use these days, but it may have been different centuries ago. Jim Webb referred to them as the Scots-Irish in his own book, in keeping with modern usage. Strictly speaking, it's moot...the Scots themselves are the ones who object to being referred to as "Scotch". Their Ulster-and-America-emigrating brethren don't seem to care, though the label is more a memory now than anything else.


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