Thursday, January 05, 2006

Overbites and Glass

Two things: one, my chiropractor actually made my excruitiating back pain worse and it is now exquisitely painful to walk upright. I'm devolving. By dinner I may be knuckle walking and grunting.

Second, I finally finished listening to my current audio book. I've been reading and listening to my way through the Penguin History of the World by J.M. Roberts. I picked up the book a few months ago and then discovered it on -- all 56 hours of it. I've been listening off and on in my car during my commute (which, at an hour each way, is perfect for listening). It's definitely not one of those fluffy audiobooks that you can put on in the background and get enough of the story to be entertained. This is pretty dense stuff. I've discovered if I pay enough attention to really keep up, I tend to drive on autopilot, which can be scary when you realize you've arrived at work and have no idea how you got there!

It's fascinating, though. Usually history books are dry, mind-numbingly boring lists of dates and names strung together with the barest hint of narrative grace. They read like high-shool textbooks, which we all remember as stultifying and bland. This book is quite different, focusing instead on the broad impact of culture and social changes and how they affected society. There are enough dates and names to give you a good grounding in general history, but it is his analysis of changes and their wide-ranging effects that makes this an interesting read. It's very broad -- covering human pre-history to the 21st century -- but never seems to be vague. As a longtime reader of history books, I have been searchng out his books, which include a History of the 20th Century, a History of Europe, and The Trimph of the West.

It was in the History of the World that I learned that until 1066, most western Europeans had a straight-on bite (teeth meeting like chicklets) and only after the flourishing of the feudal system and its change in agriculture methods and foodstuffs did we develop the overbite that is so common today. Not the most useful of trivia, but guaranteed to impress at parties. The Egyptians invented beer, the Sumerians invented glass, that sort of thing.

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