Reviews by Jan Wolter
A Fascinating and Concise History of an Idea
»
This is the history of an idea, the idea that the Earth is very, very old, that time is deep. The Scottish "Natural Philosopher" (the word "scientist" had not been invented) James Hutton was the first to propose that idea. He argued that the current geology of the world was the result of land slowly being lifted from the sea by thermal and volcanic action, and slowly being eroded away again, over and over again, not merely for the 6,000 years allowed for the history of the Earth by Biblical scholars but over an almost inconceivable immensity of years. This insight was the foundation of the science of geology, and a necessary prerequisite for Darwin's later theory of evolution.

This book is really quite short, partly because not all that much is really known about the life of James Hutton. But it fills in a lot of context, and it is very interesting context. James Hutton was one of the bright lights of the "Scottish Enlightment," a period when intellectual activity flourished in the northern city of Edinbough. Adam Smith (of "The Wealth of Nations") was the best know of those people, but there were many others. And the prelude to that was the Scottish rebellion lead by Bonnie Prince Charlie. This book gives a very interesting overview of those events. It also describes the history of how "6,000 years" had become the accepted age of the Earth, through generations of Biblical scholarship, including calculations by Isaac Newton. Further context is provided by describing how Hutton's ideas were developed after his death. Hutton's ideas weren't really widely accepted until they were revived by Charles Lyell. Charles Darwin read Lyell's still controversial book as he sailed on the Beagle, and those arguments combined with his own observations, convinced him of the immense age of the Earth. That, together with the notion of the world developing very slowly by small increments over an immensity of time, was vital to the development of the theory of evolution.

I found this a very entertaining and educational book, quickly read and full of interesting things I did not know. I heartily recommend it.
The Definitive Book
»
This is the Perl reference manual written by the fellow who invented the language. It's not a tutorial for people without programming experience, but if you already know a few programming languages, this is the only book you'll ever need.
Great Songs
»
Generally speaking, I'm a sucker for a happy song. There are none on this album. Every song is melancholy, and I'm delighted by nearly every one. These songs sound like they belong in a smoke-filled night club from the 1930's, but a weirdly silent night club, full of people too entranced by the singer to talk.
Foot Tapping with the Chenilles
»
Ann Arbor's own Chenille Sisters set aside their usual folks songs to go back to the big band era with Ann Arbor's own James Depogny and his Chicago Jazz Band, and the results are amazing. This might well be the best Chenille album (high praise). It's certainly the most danceable Chenille album.
Remarkable and Strange
»
This was one of Sheila Chandra's last few albums, in which she performs almost alone, one voice usually above a simple background drone. It sounds to me like she sometimes uses a digital delay, so that sometimes she is singing in accompaniment to what she sung a moment before. She seems to be set on exploring the limits of what one can do with a human voice. Mixed in with this very experimental music are some traditional English folk songs, performed in the same amazing style, and quite a bit of powerful feminist material. Altogether and exciting an delightful musical journey.

Sheila Chandra took the techniques explored this album a step further in her next album, ABoneCroneDrone, which to my ears ceases to be music to listen to and becomes instead an acoustic environment that you inhabit for the duration of the CD.