Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Substance abuse in the midwest - NBIH

The latest issue of New Books In History would have served in a history show just as well as in one on criminology. I used to study criminology and my professor, the now 85 year old Herman Bianchi, would point out to us that the field of History was as important for criminology as was Sociology or Law. It is shown in Marshal Poe's interview with Nick Reding.

The history is of a small rural town in Iowa, but it could be about an remote place in the decaying midwest. Together with the rising economic despair came an increase in the use of drugs, the sample drug discussed by Reding: crystal meth. It is the history of meth, the economic history of the midwest and how the two came to meet never to part. It is the history of how a town such as the one in Iowa, was firmly gripped by the use and the local household manufacture of crystal meth.

It is criminology in the type of social questions that are raised and get answers, if tentatively. Why did this population turn to drugs? Why exactly this drug? How does law enforcement fail and why? How did authorities react and managed to reduce the use and manufacture to a certain extent? What were the medical and social care facilities available? If there was some success in bringing the problem back, will it lessen even more, or is it awaiting a return? While this is about one town in Iowa and it is claimed to be representative for the midwest; is that warranted and if so, could it be extended further - to all dwindling rural areas in the Western World perhaps? I thought it just might.

More NBIH:
How could they continue - NBIH on WW1 soldiers,
After slavery was abolished,
Two great shows on New Books In History,
Two old and one New Books In History.

George Best - Oxford Biographies

It is really nice to occasionally pick up a biography from the podcast Oxford Biographies. I should be trying the unfamiliar names as well, but lately I have been mostly attracted to the famous ones. Currently, the latest in the feed is such a well-known name: George Best (mp3).

The tale of George Best is hardly as pleasant as it was to see the footballer on the pitch in his heydays. George Best the footballer was quickly overshadowed by Best the phenomenon, Best the seriously flawed person and Best the race to decay. The frustration for the lover of football is that a great talent was squandered and not all of this is the fault of Best himself. His stardom was so new, nobody knew how to handle it, but nowadays he'd receive more protection and guidance. His Northern Ireland nationality, barred him from serious contention on the World Cup and other international matches, but surely he is not the only one.

The flaws of Best's personality are in the biography merely described. No effort is being made to begin to explain and this is a pity. It demotes the narrative to that of a going down the drain from beginning to end. The addictions to alcohol and gambling kick in early and never stop to ruin his life. It begs for some psychology or socio-economic thinking, but that is left to the listener and the larger biographies. Check out more on the Oxford DNB website.

More Oxford Biographies:
Roald Dahl,
Biography Podcasts,
Oxford Biographies podcast review.

Mass Extinctions - Making History with Ran Levi

Israel's most popular podcast is עושים היסטוריה! עם רן לוי (Making History with Ran Levi), about the history of science. The latest issue was yet again a great one, this time about Mass Extinctions. (article)

If you put aside the finer distinction between what can be called mass extinctions and less massive extinctions, you will have to accept, based on the geological record, there must have been around 5 mass extinctions and some 20 minor extinctions. These are waves of loss of species in a relatively (geologically) short period of time. The podcast enters into discussing the most accepted theories of how and why the mass extinctions occurred, leaving it as open-ended as things stand, even in main stream.

The relevance of the subject is poignant. Today species are going extinct at a rate that is beyond a geological eye blink. Climate change and pollution, that is, us human beings, seem to be the major causes of this. Yet, in the accepted theories about previous extinctions, we never accused any species within the system itself. So, in how far is the current extinction different or similar?

More Making History with Ran Levi:
Making History with Ran Levi - עושים היסטוריה! עם רן לוי,
From Pavlov to Milgram,
A history of pandemics,
Surviving the atom bomb,
Robert Heinlein.