Have you ever wondered about where the drive to create came from? Where did we begin our artistic explorations? I recently read The Oldest Enigma of Humanity: The Key to the Mystery of the Paleolithic Cave Paintings by Bertrand David, which describes his theory about how the paintings were created and the experiments he did to support his theory. It was a quick read, so if you have any interest in cave paintings this book may interest you.
David’s theory revolves around the idea of shadows. The paintings themselves are found deep within caves with no light. He believes that these early creations were tracings of shadows created using firelight and sculptures, because it is an easily taught skill and may explain why this art form lasted so long. Although his theory seems to make sense and is supported by his experiments, we may never have a definitive answer as to how the paintings were created or the reasons why.
However, it did make me think about the reasons why we create, and whether or not this creative drive is ingrained in our very beings or is a learned desire. Why does anyone want to create things? Is it to communicate something or part of the simple desire to bring to life something that did not exist before its creation?
Note: There’s going to be a lot of “this book does this thing kind of poorly… but it does have a redeeming feature to buoy it back up!” I really wouldn’t write about it if it was so mediocre – I don’t have that much time – and if it was outright horrible, you’ll see no trace of it from me here, because I prefer to showcase examples I consider interesting and well-written in whatever topic it is that the material is about. Now, onto Poison!
I picked this one up while refilling a display around the library (after reading this book, you might think twice before nonchalantly picking up something small like this book with black and red colouration) – proof that our displays are working marvelously, as I took home about 3 or 4 other items about ocean critters that day – and was thinking it’d be a great follow-up to Venomous by Christie Wilcox. Alas, Poison: Sinister Species with Deadly Consequences is actually rather less informative, though perhaps I should have gathered as much by the size of the book and the overall feel of it. I say it is less informative only because it strives less to provide a comprehensive introduction to poisonous animals, than to introduce readers interested in the like to various insects, animals, and other creatures that can pack a punch if you get on their bad side – the great thing about this list for me personally was that I didn’t know about many of the animals introduced here: who knew there were poisonous birds?
CADAVERS! Have I got you yet?
Mary Roach sure did! If you ever had any doubts about approaching this potentially daunting subject, let Roach sweep away all your doubts: she makes what might be an otherwise unsavory subject (for some, not all) into one from which you can’t quite tear yourself away. From discovering how much the average ribs can compress before the organs they protect are no longer exactly protected (2.75″, if you’re interested, p.88) to knowing all the different uses a cadaver might serve (apart from the aforementioned) and what took their place before (hello pigs! hello dogs! hello monkeys! to name a few. Though animal substitutes still serve in our place, sometimes alive rather than not. Take that how you will), Roach takes you through human cadaverhood in possibly the most approachable volume you’ll read. She litters the entire book with smart quips and witty remarks, both in the main text as well as in the copious footnotes, which I strongly advise you not to overlook, and renders the lives – if they may be referred to as such? – of human cadavers into stories in their own right, taking them through adventures where their physical safety is imperiled or allowing them to find a nice plot of land in which to decay under varying conditions, entertaining the living every once in a while to show them how they’re faring. There’s never a dull moment as a human cadaver! Have I got you now?