Monthly Archives: January 2010

Motion studies : Eadweard Muybridge and the technological wild west

Motion studies : Eadweard Muybridge and the technological wild west    London : Bloomsbury, 2003  Rebecca Solnit Chronophotography , History, Muybridge, Eadweard, 1830-1904 Hardcover. First edition and printing. 305 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 271-293) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

In 1872 an Englishman photographed a running horse in California and succeeded for the first time in capturing an image of high-speed motion – the crucial breakthrough that eventually made movies possible. His patron, the philanthropist tycoon Leland Stanford, wanted to know if his trotter Occident ever lifted all four hooves at once – never suspecting what innovations Muybridge’s experiments would unleash. From Muybridge’s invention came Hollywood and from his patron Stanford’s sponsorship of technological research came Silicon Valley – two industries that have most powerfully shaped the modern world.

The story of Muybridge’s own life while he was making his motion studies is equally riveting. He became an internationally renowned inventor and photographer whose pictures of the war against the Modoc Indians and the monumental landscape of the American West have now become classics – and in a blaze of publicity, stood trial for the murder of his wife’s lover. Gripping and erudite, this is a fascinating biography of a true pioneer and the larger story of how time and space were revolutionised in the nineteenth century.

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When the Dancing Stopped is the captivating true story of two men irrevocably bound by history — a true American hero and a dangerous killer masquerading as one.

When the dancing stopped : the real story of the Morro Castle disaster and its deadly wake    New York : Free Press, c 2006  Brian Hicks Morro Castle (Steamship) Hardcover. First edition and printing. xxi, 346 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 291-317) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

During the dark days of the Great Depression, thousands of weary souls escaped their bleak lives for a week of paradise aboard the Ward Line’s glamorous cruise ship, the Morro Castle. It was the most famous passenger liner of its day, lightning fast, elegantly appointed. It was also a ticking time bomb.

It was the summer of 1934. Two sailors joined the Morro Castle crew, one a teenager on his first job away from home, the other a dangerous psychopath. Within two months, they would witness the end of the party in a single night of death, killer storms, and catastrophic fire. And that was only the beginning of a twenty-year-long story.

In When the Dancing Stopped, we too walk up the gangplank to that art-deco liner and, at first, enjoy the glamour and the sultry Havana nights. With mounting suspense, we also witness the launch of a mystery that mesmerized the nation and then, in the midst of troubled times, faded away. Award-winning author Brian Hicks, using newly declassified FBI files, thousands of pages of investigation notes, testimony, and new interviews, takes the reader on a mid-century cruise through history, revealing a cold-case file that had been, until now, left unsolved for history. And, as he relates in this work of masterful storytelling, it all began with the last cruise of the Morro Castle.

One of those two men, Thomas Torresson Jr., first sailed on the cruise ship as a high school senior recovering from serious illness and soon found a love that would endure his entire life. Within months, he would join the crew. For George Rogers, a gifted radio operator with a secret past, the ship was merely the latest in a long line of jobs. Their paths would cross several times on the way to their destiny, and the disaster would affect the two in very different ways: one would become famous, the other scarred forever.

In the grand tradition of The Devil in the White City, Hicks details a desperate investigation and the search for what may be the modern era’s first serial killer through the tragic backdrop of a country suffering through depression and a buildup to war. With cameos by J. Edgar Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Ernest Hemingway, When the Dancing Stopped is the captivating true story of two men irrevocably bound by history — a true American hero and a dangerous killer masquerading as one. More than that, there is the larger cast of characters: crew members and passengers, investigators, scoundrels, and, yes, additional victims. For the story that began on that storm-tossed night off the coast of New Jersey continued, as we now learn, for decades to come.

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The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov recreates the extraordinary life and tragic end of one of the great scientists of the twentieth century.

The murder of Nikolai Vavilov : the story of Stalin’s persecution of one of the great scientists of the twentieth century    New York : Simon & Schuster, 2008  Peter Pringle Plant geneticists , Soviet Union , Biography, Vavilov, N. I. (Nikolai Ivanovich), 1887-1943 Hardcover. 1st Simon & Schuster hardcover ed. and printing. xii, 370 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

In The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov, acclaimed journalist and author Peter Pringle recreates the extraordinary life and tragic end of one of the great scientists of the twentieth century.

In a drama of love, revolution, and war that rivals Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago, Pringle tells the story of a young Russian scientist, Nikolai Vavilov, who had a dream of ending hunger and famine in the world. Vavilov’s plan would use the emerging science of genetics to breed super plants that could grow anywhere, in any climate, in sandy deserts and freezing tundra, in drought and flood. He would launch botanical expeditions to find these vanishing genes, overlooked by early farmers ignorant of Mendel’s laws of heredity. He called it a “mission for all humanity.”

To the leaders of the young Soviet state, Vavilov’s dream fitted perfectly into their larger scheme for a socialist utopia. Lenin supported the adventurous Vavilov, a handsome and seductive young professor, as he became an Indiana Jones, hunting lost botanical treasures on five continents. In a former tsarist palace in what is now St. Petersburg, Vavilov built the world’s first seed bank, a quarter of a million specimens, a magnificent living museum of plant diversity that was the envy of scientists everywhere and remains so today.

But when Lenin died in 1924 and Stalin took over, Vavilov’s dream turned into a nightmare. This son of science was from a bourgeois background, the class of society most despised and distrusted by the Bolsheviks. The new cadres of comrade scientists taunted and insulted him, and Stalin’s dreaded secret police built up false charges of sabotage and espionage.

Stalin’s collectivization of farmland caused chaos in Soviet food production, and millions died in widespread famine. Vavilov’s master plan for improving Soviet crops was designed to work over decades, not a few years, and he could not meet Stalin’s impossible demands for immediate results.

In Stalin’s Terror of the 1930s, Russian geneticists were systematically repressed in favor of the peasant horticulturalist Trofim Lysenko, with his fraudulent claims and speculative theories. Vavilov was the most famous victim of this purge, which set back Russian biology by a generation and caused the country untold harm. He was sentenced to death, but unlike Galileo, he refused to recant his beliefs and, in the most cruel twist, this humanitarian pioneer scientist was starved to death in the gulag.

Pringle uses newly opened Soviet archives, including Vavilov’s secret police file, official correspondence, vivid expedition reports, previously unpublished family letters and diaries, and the reminiscences of eyewitnesses to bring us this intensely human story of a brilliant life cut short by anti-science demagogues, ideology, censorship, and political expedience.

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Yokohama Burning is the story of the worst natural disaster of the twentieth century: the earthquakes, fires, and tsunamis of September 1923 that destroyed Yokohama and most of Tokyo and killed 140,000 people during two days of horror.

Yokohama burning : the deadly 1923 earthquake and fire that helped forge the path to World War II    New York : Free Press, c 2006  0743264657 Joshua Hammer Kanto Earthquake, Japan 1923 Hardcover. First edition and printing. xvi, 313 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index.  Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG  Guaranteed to be shipped within 24 hours of our receipt of your order 24/7/365

Yokohama Burning is the story of the worst natural disaster of the twentieth century: the earthquakes, fires, and tsunamis of September 1923 that destroyed Yokohama and most of Tokyo and killed 140,000 people during two days of horror.

With cinematic vividness and from multiple perspectives, acclaimed Newsweek correspondent Joshua Hammer re-creates harrowing scenes of death, escape, and rescue. He also places the tumultuous events in the context of history and demonstrates how they set Japan on a path to even greater tragedy.

At two minutes to noon on Saturday, September 1, 1923, life in the two cities was humming along at its usual pace. An international merchant fleet, an early harbinger of globalization, floated in Yokohama harbor and loaded tea and silk on the docks. More than three thousand rickshaws worked the streets of the port. Diplomats, sailors, spies, traders, and other expatriates lunched at the Grand Hotel on Yokohama’s Bund and prowled the dockside quarter known as Bloodtown. Eighteen miles north, in Tokyo, the young Prince Regent, Hirohito, was meeting in his palace with his advisers, and the noted American anthropologist Frederick Starr was hard at work in his hotel room on a book about Mount Fuji. Then, in a mighty shake of the earth, the world as they knew it ended.

When the temblor struck, poorly constructed buildings fell instantly, crushing to death thousands of people or pinning them in the wreckage. Minutes later, a great wall of water washed over coastal resort towns, inundating people without warning. Chemicals exploded, charcoal braziers overturned, neighborhoods of flimsy wooden houses went up in flames. With water mains broken, fire brigades could only look on helplessly as the inferno spread.

Joshua Hammer searched diaries, letters, and newspaper accounts and conducted interviews with nonagenarian survivors to piece together a minute-by-minute account of the catastrophe. But the author offers more than a disaster narrative. He details the emerging study of seismology, the nascent wireless communications network that alerted the world, and the massive, American-led relief effort that seemed to promise a bright new era in U.S.-Japanese relations.

Hammer shows that the calamity led in fact to a hardening of racist attitudes in both Japan and the United States, and drove Japan, then a fledgling democracy, into the hands of radical militarists with imperial ambitions. He argues persuasively that the forces that ripped through the archipelago on September 1, 1923, would reverberate, traumatically, for decades to come.

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The untold story of a Soviet submarine’s nuclear strike attempt on the naval base at Pearl Harbor.

Red star rogue : the untold story of a Soviet submarine’s nuclear strike attempt on the U.S. New York : Simon & Schuster, c 2005  Kenneth Sewell with Clint Richmond Submarine disasters , Soviet Union,  K-129 (Submarine) Hardcover. First edition and printing. xiii, 305 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [275]-294) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

One of the great secrets of the Cold War, hidden for decades, is revealed at last. Early in 1968 a nuclear-armed Soviet submarine sank in the waters off Hawaii, hundreds of miles closer to American shores than it should have been. Compelling evidence, assembled here for the first time, strongly suggests that the sub, K-129, sank while attempting to fire a nuclear missile, most likely at the naval base at Pearl Harbor.

We now know that the Soviets had lost track of the sub; it had become a rogue. While the Soviets searched in vain for the boat, U.S. intelligence was able to pinpoint the site of the disaster. The new Nixon administration launched a clandestine, half-billion-dollar project to recover the sunken K-129. Contrary to years of deliberately misleading reports, the recovery operation was a great success. With the recovery of the sub, it became clear that the rogue was attempting to mimic a Chinese submarine, almost certainly with the intention of provoking a war between the U.S. and China. This was a carefully planned operation that, had it succeeded, would have had devastating consequences. During the successful recovery effort, the U.S. forged new relationships with the USSR and China. Could the information gleaned from the sunken sub have been a decisive factor shaping the new policies of detente between the Americans and the Soviets, and opening China to the West? And who in the USSR could have planned such a bold and potentially catastrophic operation?

Red Star Rogue reads like something straight out of a Tom Clancy novel, but it is all true. Today our greatest fear is that terrorists may someday acquire a nuclear weapon and use it against us. In fact, they have already tried.

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