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 Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)

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PostSubject: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Wed Apr 16, 2008 9:31 am

Welcome to our first Book of the Month. study study study study study

As well as enjoyment and interest for members, the purpose of the Machine Nation book club is to give members a chance collectively to develop more in-depth knowledge of an issue, by giving more time and detailed attention to it than is usually the case in fora threads.

For our first book, I am proposing "Collapse" by Jared Diamond.

Jared Diamond is a biologist whose other books include "The Third Chimpanzee" "Why Sex is Fun" and "Guns, Germs and Steel" which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

"Collapse" looks at a number of societies that collapsed, and the reasons for their collapse.

In an interview with Radio National, Diamond said

"It turns out that these ancient collapses pose a very complicated problem. It’s not just that all these societies collapsed, but one can also think of places in the world where societies have gone on for thousands of years without any signs of collapse, such as Japan, Java, Tonga and Tikopea. What is it then that made some societies weaken and other societies robust? It’s also a complicated problem because the collapses usually prove to be multi-factorial. This is not an area where we can expect simple answers.
What I’m talking about is the collapses of societies and their applications to the risks we face today. This may sound initially depressing, but you’ll see that my main conclusions are going to be upbeat.


Link to Interview with Jared Diamond Amazon link






For information on how this is going to work, also check out the "Launch of the Bookclub" Thread.

Any member who is interested in providing their personal introduction or critique is welcome to post in in the next few days to start the thread.

Our first "Club" session will be at 10 o'clock Sunday 27th April.


All suggestions for the Club and for future Books of the Month are welcome. Very Happy


So settle down, and start reading:



Last edited by cactus flower on Sat Apr 26, 2008 6:27 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Wed Apr 16, 2008 5:43 pm

Bump bounce
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Wed Apr 16, 2008 6:34 pm

What's that bumping noise? am trying to read here ... study study study study
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Wed Apr 16, 2008 10:48 pm

I bought this book in paper-back ages ago and my efforts to read it, er, collapsed. I just couldn't get past the 50th page, I'll try again for the love of Machine and Nation!
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Wed Apr 16, 2008 11:45 pm

Ard-Taoiseach wrote:
I bought this book in paper-back ages ago and my efforts to read it, er, collapsed. I just couldn't get past the 50th page, I'll try again for the love of Machine and Nation!

Perhaps Ard-Taoiseach, judging from the informative and decorative graphs you have been posting, you lean towards a technical rather than organic interpretation of processes. albino
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Tue Apr 22, 2008 2:20 pm

Well, how are you doing? We have had a few requests to delay the start of the bookclub, as some people (myself included) are struggling to get their copy and get it read.

As not everyone may pick up on it if the date was changed, we will have our Book Club Launch Nite (cue for a real spelling campaign) as planned next Sunday 27th April at 10 p.m. However do not fear if you have not finished ( or started ) the book: the night will be social and informal as much as intellectual and rigorous.

In the meantime - if anyone wants to post their first impressions of the book (or their last) - they are welcome to start posting on this thread.

Here is a link to help out anyone who has not been able to find a copy.

Wiki Link
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Tue Apr 22, 2008 8:25 pm

I've bought it - not the doorstopper I expected.
The cover is nice.

That's my contribution so far. Embarassed
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Tue Apr 22, 2008 9:51 pm

Kate P wrote:
I've bought it - not the doorstopper I expected.
The cover is nice.

That's my contribution so far. Embarassed

Open it Kate! Open it! study
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Wed Apr 23, 2008 12:28 am

cactus flower wrote:
Ard-Taoiseach wrote:
I bought this book in paper-back ages ago and my efforts to read it, er, collapsed. I just couldn't get past the 50th page, I'll try again for the love of Machine and Nation!

Perhaps Ard-Taoiseach, judging from the informative and decorative graphs you have been posting, you lean towards a technical rather than organic interpretation of processes. albino

That's very true. I like principles, assumptions and values that I can plug into a graph or simulation to find out what happens. Organic interpretations are too wishy-wash imo. They lack intellectual and verifiable rigour.
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Wed Apr 23, 2008 12:14 pm

The opening poem is a bit of a downer:
Quote :
OZYMANDIAS


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.

And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century the inevitability of time entered popular discourse. Large expensive memorials were seen as pathetic and vain attempts to ward off the inevitable, 'bribing the vote of fame'.

'Ozymandias' is a poem that tells us that no matter what we do, and no matter what we try and no matter what we learn from the past mistakes of others, we WILL eventually end up just like all the other lost civilisations. Kind of renders the book pointless.
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Wed Apr 23, 2008 2:37 pm

Read on 905, and I think the author says the opposite. Great poem though.
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Wed Apr 23, 2008 3:21 pm

905 wrote:
The opening poem is a bit of a downer:
Quote :
OZYMANDIAS


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.

And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century the inevitability of time entered popular discourse. Large expensive memorials were seen as pathetic and vain attempts to ward off the inevitable, 'bribing the vote of fame'.

'Ozymandias' is a poem that tells us that no matter what we do, and no matter what we try and no matter what we learn from the past mistakes of others, we WILL eventually end up just like all the other lost civilisations. Kind of renders the book pointless.
"Memento mori" were popular quite a bit before that!
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Wed Apr 23, 2008 3:24 pm

If you read on, Ibis, I think you will find that the author is saying the opposite.

A great poem, but more about the vanity of individuals than the viability of social and ecological systems, I think.
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Wed Apr 23, 2008 4:06 pm

Oh I know what the book is trying to do. I just think it was a bad choice of poem to start out with. Of course, these things are open to interpretation, but I felt the context was important.

I thought he (and for some reason I keep thinking the author's a she) overindulged slightly on Montana. But I haven't read the book all the way through so maybe I'm judging him too soon. I'm learning lots about cannibalism (go to page 109 for the best 'yo momma' joke ever) and packrat middens.
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Thu Apr 24, 2008 4:35 pm

905 wrote:
Oh I know what the book is trying to do. I just think it was a bad choice of poem to start out with. Of course, these things are open to interpretation, but I felt the context was important.

I thought he (and for some reason I keep thinking the author's a she) overindulged slightly on Montana. But I haven't read the book all the way through so maybe I'm judging him too soon. I'm learning lots about cannibalism (go to page 109 for the best 'yo momma' joke ever) and packrat middens.

Anyone got past the introduction yet (except youngdan) ? I'm hoping that we will get stuck into Part One - Modern Montana on Sunday night at 10 p.m. For anyone interested, but not able to get a copy, there is a Wikipedia link on page one of this thread to a summary.
Let's make a start. bounce
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Thu Apr 24, 2008 6:11 pm

hi again after one of the busiest, stress-iest weeks of my life!! Mad Finally started this book last night on the train, so should get well into it by the weekend.

Fell exhausted asleep during Dan Cruickshank's (spelling?) tv prog last night was he on a similar-ish theme? (without going off topic)
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Thu Apr 24, 2008 7:05 pm

7 or 8 pages in myself. Must pop out for a packet of razor blades... Shocked
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Thu Apr 24, 2008 8:40 pm

Atticus wrote:
hi again after one of the busiest, stress-iest weeks of my life!! Mad Finally started this book last night on the train, so should get well into it by the weekend.

Fell exhausted asleep during Dan Cruickshank's (spelling?) tv prog last night was he on a similar-ish theme? (without going off topic)

Only saw the Minaret of Jam (I think), an amazing built book - a chimney with stories written all over it. The main point seemed to be the vulnerability of it, in the middle of a war zone and only reachable with an armed entourage.

Have to admit that my copy of "Collapse" only arrived this morning: my nose is about to disappear into it for the night.
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Fri Apr 25, 2008 2:24 am

Enda Kenny quoted Diamond today at the Forum on Europe - I can't remember the quote. But if EK is reading him, it must be good Shocked
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Fri Apr 25, 2008 2:30 am

Hmm. Guns, Germs and Steel is somewhat more fun, thus far. Still, I only opened it this evening.
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Fri Apr 25, 2008 7:02 pm

I've started reading it! I read about 22 pages in an hour yesterday so I aim to beat my personal best of c.55 pages tonight by rewaching 60-70. It's better than I remember of last year. I think reading it quickly will assist its readability. It should be fun!
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Fri Apr 25, 2008 10:51 pm

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.

Jared Diamond’s name sounds far more Hollywood than Harvard, but he is a serious scientist. He was Physiology Professor at UCLA, is an ecologist/ornithologist (expert on the golden fronted bower-bird) and in his fifties became Professor of Geography and Environmental Health Sciences at UCLA.

My expectation of ‘Collapse’, having looked at his career, moved up a scale from the one-track ‘environment explains everything’ eco-shock book I had half expected.

Diamond defines ‘collapse’ as the total disappearance of a once strong society, with drastic loss of population and social complexity, for a prolonged time. He looks at failed societies and compares them with societies that survived similar stresses, and asks why some failed and others succeeded.

Diamond doesn’t look for simple explanations. He sets out five causes (only five?) of major collapses of society. He sums them up this way -
“Societal collapses involving an environmental component, and in some cases also contributions of climate change, hostile neighbours, and trade partners, plus questions of societal responses”.

Jared Diamond has also worked as an environmental advisor to big logging and minerals firms. He describes his approach as middle of the road. He says “ my view is that, if environmentalists aren’t willing to engage with big businesses, which are among the most powerful forces in the modern world, it won’t be possible to solve the world’s environmental problems.”

His methodology is a comparative study of many societies with different outcomes. He describes the structure of the book as “ a boa constrictor that has swallowed two very large sheep”. The first sheep is Part One, ‘Montana’ (a place he has a lot of feeling for). Part Two looks at Easter Island, Pitcairn, the Anasazi, the Mayan cities, the Vikings in Iceland, and Greenland. Part Three is about the Rwandan genocide, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, China and Australia. Part Four is on the “Practical lessons” that Diamond deduces. The book ends with Diamond’s reasons for bad decisions, the role of industry and his ‘Reasons for hope’.

We’ll start chatting about this book at 10 p.m. this Sunday (don't forget to bring your cocoa or glass of something nice) study , but posts are welcome at any time. Would anyone like to start off with any comments or a summary or a few thoughts about Part One (Montana) ?
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Fri Apr 25, 2008 10:57 pm

Have you finished it already ?
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Fri Apr 25, 2008 11:01 pm

Give us a chance, Audi, I only got it the day before yesterday: the order was slow coming through. I'd only read the intro and contents page when I wrote that. I'm having a go at Montana though. If need be I'll sleep with it under my pillow.
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PostSubject: Re: Book of the Month April May 08 - 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (Diamond Video Posted 26 April)   Sat Apr 26, 2008 5:35 pm

This is the hands-free version of "Collapse" - about 80 minutes
(with a shorter video on the same link)


Jared Diamond talks about the writing of "Collapse" - LINK


Last edited by cactus flower on Sat Apr 26, 2008 6:09 pm; edited 1 time in total
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