san diego, CA, United States | Member Since 2008
I have just started this title,but feel like the author,having been a submarine commander,has a good command of reading maps and currents.He presents some interesting arguments for Asian people having discovered the Americas before Columbus.People on island nations tend to look much more Asian.How did they get there?It certainly wasn't over the Bering Strait.Simply because Chinese history of Zheng He's voyages are not documented most people will dispute them.Furthermore,the emperor had the records destroyed,which must have been some sort of conspiracy in my opinion.Otherwise it would have been Asia that was the first to industrialize instead of England.The things Mr. Menzies says are uncomfortable,because as westerners we want to have discovered everything.It simply isn't true.Documentation or not.Maybe like someone else alluded to,ingenuity developed in many places at once.Jared Diamond's Guns,Germs and Steel,was another great listen that really puts the modern world,in its current state, in a proper perspective.
This was a great listen. The author starts out with the history of trains in England and moves on to take trains in India, China, Russia, Spain and yes even in America. All along the way he tells us why this is such a wonderful way to travel despite being slower than planes or buses at times. We learn that the federal government could have supported trains, but instead opted for roads, so now America is car dependent. We learn that Chicago was once the stop for pork and Texas the stop for beef. This hasn't changed much, since airline travel across the U.S. typically has us stopping in one of these cities before touching down where we intended to. I especially liked the part about India. A place where they have had a hard time maintaining the tracks, but the prices remain low and the system is still heavily used. Ghandi was one to complain about the industrial revolution and we come to realize that trains are still vital to today's movement of goods. People just don't seem to have the time to take a train. I always thought that technology would make life easier, but instead we are working more than ever. Maybe Ghandi was right and a return to a simpler life without so much virtual interference might benefit everyone including the planet itself. The reader was very enthusiastic and seemed very professional and it really was a great compliment to a story we should all understand. It was the first way that large numbers of people were moved from one place to another. It can help us understand what the future holds.
Orphan has got to be the most popular author in Turkey right now. His books are piled up everywhere.It was hard for me to relate to his spoon fed life, but the story of his first love was poignant and his decision to become a writer even though his parents had him enrolled to be an architect was also very interesting. The book jumps all over the place chronologically and there is an awful lot about French writers who came to sum up Istanbul after only very short visits. Orhan describes the city as black and white and melancholy. These seem to be right on point and I tried to look at some of the dilapidated buildings that sit often nearby the fantastic mosques that are ubiquitous here. There are lots of small neighborhoods with steep winding streets to explore. The place is surrounded by sea and teems with vitality.This was really a biography and we learn about Orhan's childhood and sibling rivalries and a great deal about his personal life. I wonder what a book exploring places like Anatolia would read like. In the end, Istanbul appears different than other cities. There is a reverence for the past, but there is the same desperate passion to get rich quickly that every city seems to exude in it's hollow pursuit of money that really lies at its heart.
My family immigrated from Scotland two generations back. Now I can see there are many people from Central and South America doing the same thing, but it has become very dangerous. furthermore, families are estranged from one another for years at a time as a result of this northern migration via train. It is definitely a hot button issue and it is a problem in many parts of the world. Frankly I can't see why some of these smaller countries can't come up with something to give their citizens a reason not to leave.Instead the politicians benefit from the sweat off these poor people's backs while not doing anything to give them hope for a brighter future for their families. I'm in Turkey right now and they have accepted 700,000 refugees from Syria. Lots of the people I have met are from Georgia, Pakistan and Iran. The Islamic world is far more cohesive than I had imagined. It is a bit off topic, but globalization is really bringing out the worst in bad countries, so people are not stupid. They will risk their lives for the prospect of a better life somewhere other than home. Enrique's story is one of tragedy and persistence to just get to the U.S. We take our easy lives for granted. Our forefathers must have also had a hard time adjusting, but we never risked losing limbs, robbery or rape just to escape the oppression of Europe.
The book grabbed my attention right from the beginning. I could relate to Mike's status as the black sheep. He was very poor and lived in abandoned building growing up and became a thief at the age of 7. They would lift him up into open window and he would run around and open the door for the older guys. They also had a soft spot of pigeons, so we learn all about Mike's love affair with pigeons. Later Mike is sent to juvenile hall and although it is a reunion with many of his thug friend he ends up meeting a guy who teaches him how to box. His trainer Cuz Dmato taught him so many things and kept him out of trouble. Unfortunately, Cuz dies. Mike finally reaches Cuz's dream for him of being the heavyweight champ and does so at the tender age of 20. This was a poor kid and now he became a millionaire overnight. Needless to say, his trainers and Don King didn't have his best interests at heart and neither did Robin Givens. It seems that everyone wanted a piece of this guys success. He was lost and medicated himself with things like cocaine, marijuana, alcohol and numerous women. He was falsely accused of rape and went to jail for several years and still came back and kicked butt. Holyfield was head butting him when Mike bit off a piece of his ear, but we never heard about that side of the story. Mike is about my age and now has 8 kids from different wives, but he has settled down some. He keeps relapsing with drugs, so I think this is a guy that will one day be another Whitney Houston or Michael Jackson. He is a very talented man who doesn't know how to handle all that has been bestowed upon him. From listening to his book I know that he is a regular guy like you or me that was given a gift and worked very hard to make something special of himself only to throw it all away. Maybe his mind is set to fail no matter how well he does in this life. Good luck Mike. I hope you find some peace in this life.
I had previously listened to The Elephant Whisperer last year while traveling through Sri Lanka, where I got to see Asian elephants up close. It was a very heartfelt book. Thinking The Last Rhinos would be a similar kind of book I came away somewhat disappointed. We are treated to lots of wildlife adventure, but the rhinos don't take center stage. Instead we learn all about Joseph Kony and the Lords Resistance Army in the Congo. The book descends into a very politically charged story. Later we hear a pretty decent tale of an escaped elephant and how Lawrence gets him to be an integral part of Thula Thula. There is a tragic ending that educates us about the rhinos plight, but there is more to it and I don't want to spoil the ending. This was a decent African bush adventure, and at times I felt like I was transported there. I suppose I still feel Elephant Whisperer was much better. For a really lighthearted African safari try the book Whatever You Do Don't Run, which had me in stitches. I only wish that it had been a bit longer. They mention another book called, Babylon's Ark, which I would gladly pick up, but it isn't on offer here. It was Mr. Lawrence's first book about the rescuing of animals in a zoo in Afghanistan.
This was the book that made Paul famous. It isn't as long as the newer Ghost Train To The Eastern Star, which is also a revisit of this classic Paul Theroux. The description evoke vivid imagery throughout the fast paced trip. The narrator, however was a bit too fast paced. I would have been happier had he slowed down long enough for me to digest Paul's descriptive writing. I have taken the trains in China, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Sri Lanka. All are as dilapidated as Paul says they are, but they are cheap, slow and comfortable. A few of the Chinese trains are very sleek and clean now. The characters are what made these train books so great. I have to wonder if some of them aren't fictional. I met a few interesting people on the trains, but it was mostly traveling salesmen in China. I can speak fairly well, so interacting with the locals is what the train adventure is all about.
This was written by the wife of teacher/ writer Peter Hessler. She gives us the Chinese perspective of China as we move through modern places like Shenzhen and rural places that are fast becoming modern. It is the women that are leading this change. Many leave their villages in search of a better life. Sometimes they lie or charm their way up the ladder of success. Sometime they improve themselves through study, but they are very driven to make lives better. We discover how lost some of the women are as they traverse the bridge to modernity from the simplicity of farm life before. We come to understand the pressure many feel as they become the matriarchs of their poor families. Many are expected to return during the rural holidays with electronic gifts like washing machines or air conditioners to lavish on their hard working, less educated parents. I have been in China for a brief 4 years, but can see where many people succeed there are also many that fail. We are left with a glimpse of how hard it is to make it in the number two world economy right now. We are left to ponder the outcome of this machine that is leveling everything old and reshaping itself into something that will blend the old with the new in an exciting and shocking way.
The character once again in this book is also an author. We learn of child labor problems and the nefarious people of South Asia who have created such a favorable situation for themselves. We learn of the deception that is so frequent in Indian culture. When you are poor and have nothing you can always come up with a scam to get something from the tourists. If nothing else, I learned from this book what kinds of things I might encounter in India. Poverty brings about creativity and so we are left to witness the sharp division of the poor and the rich in a developing country with too many people and a complex web of relationships that is difficult for our western minds to grasp, since we live in highly organized, affluent societies with far fewer people and an odd obsession with material goods.
Paul as usual doesn't always have a lot of good things to say. This book is a stroll down memory lane for him, since he worked in Malawi and the Congo many years before. It is a scathing commentary of what travel really is and it is an introduction to places we may not have the time or inclination to visit. We learn of the many tribes in Africa and how European nations carved the continent up for its own purposes. It is no wonder that Africa, the second biggest continent, surrounded by every other place in the world, was taken advantage of. We discover what a failure foreign aid has been in Africa. Paul says we should give them a hand up and not a hand out. He admonishes the corruption that plagues the dark continent as our modern world rushes to extract every last vestige of resources from it. We discover the Chinese are the new colonials. They are exchanging construction of roads for raw materials. We hear how Africans don't always have a say in what happens to their land. We learn of the animals and the desperation of the poor to get ahead. Many people will finish the book disappointed. Hoping for there to be a bright ending. It never comes. Instead we are left to ponder what will happen to this naturally beautiful place and its 800 million residents. Paul would tell you he wanted it to be objective, but I am sure there is also a piece of him glowing through his work.
This is several short pieces that loosely mirror Paul's life. He did live in Africa, Singapore and England and the characters all hail from these places. The hero is also a teacher and a writer. Paul intended this to make fun of travel writers who often fictionalize characters in their books to make them more interesting. Paul teaches us along the way how to be truly interesting. By pointing out the details and embellishing the mundane characters by casting them in situations that are compelling and gripping. I still feel like Paul's talent is for non fiction. His fictional pieces often broach uncomfortable subjects and aren't as believable as others who write fiction that seems much more plausible. Still a fun listen and I am biased, since I am also a teacher of English in China and an avid fan who has retraced some of his Asian journeys on trains, buses and boats.
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