Wild Things, Wild Places : Adventurous Tales of Wildlife and Conservation on Planet Earth
The observation of wildlife has dwindled in past decades except for such narrator naturalists as the late George Page, Marty Stoufer, and David Attenborough (who is still going strong at 90), et al. It is, therefore, a delight to see interest in the world of the wild rekindled once more. Jane Alexander has done just that in her new book, Wild Things, Wild Places. These are tales of observations in the wild that are so important to be given life in our time.
This author impresses me with a dazzling display. She’s done a comprehensive job of discussing pertinent issues in most wild places throughout the world. The content appears to be a collection of anecdotes. Although the content is a little wordy at times, Alexander’s prose is articulate and clear, denoting a powerful perspective on wildlife.
It appears Ms. Alexander enjoys an extensive notoriety with movie roles and connections with influential people. This will help propel her motivation to support wildlife further down the road. Her many involvements with various organizations also help propel her career as a concerned supporter of wildlife and wild places, making her book inevitable. I certainly applaud her incredible efforts.
Into the Nest: Intimate Views of the Courting, Parenting, and Family Lives of Familiar Birds
We watch birds fly past our windows with twigs or bits of fluff. We see their nests in trees. Sometimes, we even build them houses. Yet, few people know much more about birds than that. Into the Nest gives readers a peek into the nesting and baby bird rearing of common, backyard birds. Broken up into short sections such as “Pairing up,” “Nesting,” and “Parenting,” this book looks at over twenty species of birds and the unique behaviors that characterize their family lives. While managing not to be too wordy or academic, Into the Nest provides interesting facts about some of the most beautiful common birds.
Growing up on a few acres in the Sacramento area, one of my favorite childhood memories is of a mallard duckling my parents rescued from a coyote before it had hatched. The rest of the nest was destroyed, so we bought an incubator and turned the egg every few hours until suddenly, I was peeking in at a fluff ball, instead of a white egg. This book tugged at those memories and others of finding hummingbird nests and halves of eggshells. It was a great insight to be able to read about many of the birds I was already familiar with, and the pictures just reminded me how adorable baby birds are—once you give them a few days to sprout some feathers, that is.
Embracing the Wild in Your Dog
Bryan Bailey wants you to know that you do not own a dog. Domesticated Wolf is the term he uses throughout the book, and one that he believes would lead a lot more people to appreciate, train, and have more productive relationships with their dogs. He is not wrong on this account. Genetically speaking, wolves are genetically identical to your Pomeranian. Humans nearest relative, the Chimpanzee, only shares 98% of their genes. Dogs have only been domesticated by humans in the last ten thousand years wolves have been present on earth for 750,000.
Bailey certainly has the chops to make these claims. As a professional dog trainer, ex police K9 officer, amateur dogsled runner, and someone who has had more face-to-face experiences with wild wolves then all but a few naturalists he speaks from a vast body of experience.
He believes that most accidents come from human mistakes. Dogs are not furry humans. We spend millions every year to give them special treats, dress them up, give them toys and entertainment. There is a booming industry to cater to dog owners and their pets. And many restaurants and hotels these days sell themselves with their facilities to cater to dogs.
Dogs do not understand human language, motives and they have their own set of motives and desire. It is by understanding these motives and desires that we can begin to understand these animals to try and train our perception of human in furry suit dogs is a flawed theory, as any owner who has found their dog happily wagging their tails while the garbage is all over the kitchen floor will attest to. Dogs have a certain level of aggression in them which will never be bred out. They have one tool to deal with conflict attack or submit. They don’t understand human morals, and cannot fathom what we desire. They are dogs or as Bailey would put it, Domesticated wolves.
Bailey’s answer is discipline. Obedience is required is his mantra, repeated throughout the book. He cites natural wolf pecking orders where alpha wolves pin down and threaten, possibly even hurt (though rarely kill) rivals and lesser wolves as the natural teaching order. Dogs understand the binary dominate/submit paradigm, and their acting out is due to them being unsure in the pecking order.
Bailey shines when he draws from his own experiences. In one chapter, he describes how he is hired by a woman who has a rescue pit bull. This dog, subjected to abuse and taught that other dogs were rivals for years, and she wanted him to train him to socialize with her other dogs. He refused, and was saddened, yet unsurprised when later he found out that the dog attacked and injured the lady and her dog.
I am reminded of the book The Hidden Life of Dogs by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. Both books are in-depth studies of dogs, and do not lay claim to being training manuals. But unlike that book, which strived to maintain an impartial observation stance, Embracing the Wild uses this as a chance to rail against the things that Bailey objects to. Positive-enforcement trainers, PETA, no-kill shelters, breeders, even the softening of the American people all get shots as the purveyors of the untruths that cause these issues. Nature isn’t kind. She kills any wolf that doesn’t get along with the pack. We should do the same, so he reasons.
Curiously absent from the book is anyone who has raised wolves. You would think that someone who is making the claim that dogs are wolves would go to the obvious source of evidence. The problem is that wolves are very different then dogs. Dogs are the only species aside from our own who recognize what pointing is. Dogs accept other animals into their ‘pack’. Dogs make exceptions to their hierarchies, and recognize children as something different then other humans. Wolves do none of these things, and people who raise them quickly realize that trying to keep them indoors results in many more challenges and destruction, and it’s far easier to keep them penned outside. While they may be genetically identical, the process of domestication has made dogs into something very different.
Bailey is correct on not trying to treat dogs like humans. He is very right in recognizing that different breeds represent different challenges. He is correct when saying that fighting against dogs instinctive behavior, like jumping or digging or chasing, is counter-productive. This book is a wealth of insight from a vastly experienced dog trainer. While not a training manual, when setting out to train your own puppy pal or furbaby, this is a valuable book to help you to perhaps understand why your dog loves your kids, but goes berserk when the neighbor boy shows up.
Under the Stars: How America Fell in Love with Camping
Can anyone write a 350 page book on camping? It seems author Dan White could in Under the Stars. The book is almost entirely text with an occasional small illustration of historic camping photos and simple sketches of people he is writing about. The book is not so much about camping (and is certainly not a camping guide with checklists, warnings, and advice), but rather a book in which camping, nature, and wilderness are the central focus of many, many stories that happened to White while camping and hiking. The stories (and White’s writing) are humorous, though the humor often appears somewhat forced and not to everyone’s taste, such as trying to rent a car with a long-expired driver’s license in Montreal. Each episode is in a chapter – rather long chapters – like his camping trip in the Adirondacks, a full thirty pages of text. Obviously, White’s writing is rather verbose and many readers are likely to lose interest trying to follow the stories. The chapters are filled with historic musings of camping, wilderness, and significant eighteen-century characters as well as colorful characters of wilderness guides and fishing guides in White’s life. Extensive chapter-by-chapter notes close the book.
First Sight: ESP and Parapsychology in Everyday Life
First Sight is not a cryptic title that connotes a spooky collection of all things psychic and paranormal. On the contrary, it reflects a title to a theory developed by Carpenter, which proposes that there is more normalcy to the psychic experience than one may expect. The reality is that the psychic experience, or psi, goes on all the time. Better defined as “the ability to affect physical events without touching them,” psi works through the unconscious processes and are actually our first sight our first contact with the world, and where information is first gathered. Using the First Sight model that consists of two assertions about human nature and the structure of the mind, and the thirteen corollaries that explain those assertions, Carpenter presents to readers, as he states, “a revolutionary understanding of how each of us fits within the world and how we are put together within ourselves.”
Determined “to learn whether or not the stuff of parapsychology (psi) is real and if it is, how it works,” clinical psychologist and parapsychologist James C. Carpenter addresses a plethora of questions and draws from core findings of parapsychology and contemporary psychology research to get the necessary answers to back up his arguments. One key argument is that psi plays an active role in our memory, our perception, our motivation, and our creativity. To better understand how psi works, Carpenter explains that psi is divided into two parts, psychokinesis (the expression of psi information) and extrasensory perception (ESP, or the impression of psi information). Carpenter gives a practical application of that description through a simple example of a visual perception, run backward in sequence, of how psi works within every experience:
D. I see X (an attributed understanding of an experience), and I think about it.
C. Just prior to that, I experience a collection of sensations that I attempt to construe.
B. Just prior to that, sensations register subliminally.
A. Just prior to that, an extrasensory anticipation of the event (and/or a psychokinetic elicitation of the event) initiates the perceptual process.
While there is a major assumption held universally by parapsychologists, as well as critics, that “psi is a matter of unusual conscious experiences (such as precognition, clairvoyance, and telepathy),” Carpenter is careful to point out that the First Sight model specifically spells out that psi events are NOT about conscious and anomalous experiences, nor is psi a set of abilities or traits (like many psychics will claim). But rather its focus is on unconscious experiences. This is not to say that those conscious experiences are invalid. Rather people, as Carpenter states, ” who are prone to having many psychic experiences and who have some degree of control over their production would be expected to have a general intention to gain knowledge…and this intention should be relatively congruent at both a conscious and unconscious level and be consistent over time.”
Scientifically minded readers will quickly gravitate to First Sight. Carpenter’s thorough and technical analysis on a paradoxical topic sheds refreshing enlightenment not only in the field of parapsychology, but also a clearer understanding of the psychic experience in our daily lives.
Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation
What is ‘radiation’? Is all radiation harmful? Are there health risks? If so, what are they? Author Timothy Jorgensen answers these questions and many more in this intriguing book. Radiation research, and even its medical use, has been extant for over a century, and here readers become acquainted with radiation heroes, such Wilhelm Roentgen, who discovered X-rays; and villains, such as the Ingersoll Watch Company, who used radium-laced paint for their glow-in-the-dark watches. Different types of radiation are all discussed in terms of health and risk, and the author is careful to explain how risks are calculated, what the numbers from risk factors mean, where the measurements have come from, and how trustworthy they are.
The book is a pleasure to read, written for an audience without technical jargon or medical bombast, but concentrating on the stories of those who discovered and researched various types of radiation. Throughout, the implications of their findings and their impact on the researchers’, as well as modern readers’ health, is also clearly explained in a balanced, reasoned, objective approach that leaves room for the reader to weigh risks with many (enumerated and significant) benefits. The stories are personalizing and immediate, and carry the greater narrative of radiation history; these scientists, researchers, patients, and victims become real to the reader, as their lives are impacted (for good and ill) by wars and disasters, family, and friends. This book is a well-written, engaging, and fascinating journey through radiation, from history to health.