Lars Celander, How Carriers Fought: Carrier Operations in World War II. “An in-depth analysis of aircraft carrier battles in WWII and the evolution of carrier operations—from technology and strategy to life among the crew.” The book covers US, Japanese, and British carrier use in the war. Very much about the nitty-gritty of how things got done, with a lot of quantitative analysis. “Carriers evolved into ‘eggshells armed with hammers,’ destined for short but interesting lives.” One thing I had not previously appreciated about the 1942 carrier battles in the Pacific (Coral Sea, Midway, Eastern Solomons, and Santa Cruz) was the longer range of the Japanese search planes. Highly recommended for those with an interest in WWII naval and air history.
Scott Carpenter, French Like Moi: A Midwesterner in Paris. An American college professor buys a condo in Paris and, though fluent in French, learns how different Parisians and Midwesterners really are, through one story after another. This is one of the funniest books I have ever read. Thank you to my fellow Carleton College (where Scott Carpenter teaches) alumni for suggesting it.
Tumblr User Explains Why Elves’ Eyes In Lord Of The Rings Shouldn’t Look The Way They Do, but in fact there is no problem.
In The Two Towers Legolas claims to clearly see the horsemen of Rohan at a distance of 5 leagues. How is this possible when you consider the curvature of the Earth? You can come up with some bizarre ideas about Elven anatomy which are not suggested in the books or seen in the movies. However, there is a an elegant answer based on the nature of Arda, Tolkien’s world. It was flat, not round, until the end of the second age. At that time the Valar made it round so that mortals could not access Valinor. But Elves could still go there. For them the Earth was still flat and they could sail the straight path to Valinor. Hence for Legolas the curvature of the Earth and the horizon did not exist and hence he could accurately see the horsemen 5 leagues away.
… Lobelia is one of only a few Hobbit women who are given more than a momentary glance in Middle-earth, and a compelling character in her own right. And what’s more, her narrative arc illustrates beautifully some of the more important lessons The Lord of the Rings has to teach, as she becomes an unlikely hero to those who had consistently refused to give her a chance.
This will only make sense if you have read the books. Peter Jackson did not include the Scouring of the Shire in the film version of The Return of the King.
J.R.R. Tolkien described The Lord of the Rings as a fundamentally Catholic work. But a close reading of the epic novel reveals many more influences, including a connection between Mithras and the wizard Gandalf, whose Elvish name is Mithrandir.Continue reading
It runs against human nature to reject an advantage once we have it, but that’s what Tolkien’s heroes do again and again. It seems natural to long to wield power and to have great authority, but Tolkien uses a Ring and a concept—wraithing—to warn us against the terrible, corrupting force of absolute power.
“And here is where I take a brief aside and beg you to please read the books if you have only seen the movies, because Peter Jackson utterly destroyed Faramir’s character in the movie.”
See Tolkien vs. Jackson: Differences Between Story and Screenplay. For myself, I had read LOTR many times before seeing the first movie. Hence when seeing the movies my mind automatically filled in the parts Jackson omitted, and corrected those he changed. The books come first, in more than one way.
Back in High School (1964-68) I read a lot of science fiction by Mack Reynolds. His Joe Mauser series is set in a world where the cold war continues into the 21st century, but, to avoid catastrophe, the West and the “Sov-world” have agreed to restrict all military forces to pre-1900 technology. There is still lots of fighting going on at that level.
Recently I was reading about the decades old border dispute between between China and India countries, which actually led to war in 1962. The conflict still simmers on, but a 1996 agreement states that
Neither side shall open fire, cause bio-degradation, use hazardous chemicals, conduct blast operations or hunt with guns or explosives within two kilometers from the line of actual control.
Neither side wants to get the blame for starting a shooting war, so both sides are following the letter of the agreement. However, nobody is backing down. There have been reports that “Chinese troops have used improvised edged weapons, such as nail-studded clubs, in … skirmishes with Indian forces.” and both sides have martial artists in their border forces.
It seems that the Chinese are escalating. We now have Chinese soldiers armed with new devices for hand-to-hand combat with Indians in Tibet. Actually the “new device”, the guan dao, is quite old. It similar to a a western medieval halberd. It will be interesting to see how Indian army responds. They have a rich tradition of edged weapons to draw upon.
Christopher Matthew, A Storm of Spears: Understanding the Greek Hoplite at War. The most important conclusion from this is how the Greeks wielded their spears. Despite all the pictures, they did not hold them over their heads with a back-handed grip. Instead, they held them with the butt of the spear tucked under their armpits. This allowed for much greater reach and strength. Lots of good experiments with re-enactors.
Dan Van der Vat, The Dardanelles Disaster: Winston Churchill’s Greatest Failure. The sequel to The Ship That Changed the World: The Escape of the Goeben to the Dardanelles in 1914, which I read years ago and really like. Again Van der Vat is looking at how a single ship made a big difference. Rather than the formidable battlecruiser Goeben, we are looking at the lowly Turkish minelayer Nusret. On March 18, 1915, the mines it laid sank 3 allied battleships, and seriously damaged 3 others and a battlecruiser. This forced the allies to abandon their plan to force the Dardanelles open by naval power alone, which was not really a good idea in the first place. As a result the allies decided to land an invasion force on the Gallipoli peninsula, which was an even greater failure.