Claire of the Sea Light (review)

Posted in Books, Clips on May 29, 2014 by frankbures

imagesFrom The Rotarian:

Every few years, Haiti returns to the headlines, usually for unhappy reasons: natural disaster, political turmoil, general misery. Such news can seem doubly strange and awful when you consider that the country is only a short flight from sunny Miami. Often, Haiti feels more like a mystery and a puzzle than an actual place.

Edwidge Danticat shows us a Haiti that’s more real and humane, and Haitians who are more than one-dimensional victims. Her novels, such as Breath, Eyes, Memory, and The Farming of Bones, as well as her short collections, including Krik? Krak!, are a window into a world most of us will never visit. Her powerful writing has won her fans and awards (including a MacArthur “genius” grant) since she was plucked from obscurity by Oprah Winfrey and her book club in 1998.

Danticat’s newest work, Claire of the Sea Light, begins in a seaside village called Ville Rose.

Read the rest here.

Lean Out, Lean Back

Posted in Africa, America, Video on May 16, 2014 by frankbures

After seven years on Facebook and Twitter, it’s increasingly clear that they fill a need without satisfying it, and that time is too short and there’s too much to do.

Strange Stones (Review)

Posted in Asia, Books, Clips, Travel Writers on April 21, 2014 by frankbures

SSFrom The Rotarian:

In the hills outside the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, writer Peter Hessler found himself at a restaurant specializing in a particular delicacy: rat. Not everyday city rat, but freshly caught mountain rat, the kind that spends its days eating the fruits of the forest.

This is typical of the places Hessler likes to take his readers – that is, wherever ordinary people are eating, joking, talking, living. He spent 10 years in China after arriving there as a Peace Corps volunteer in the mid-1990s, and his books, including River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze and Oracle Bones, led to a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2011. His newest book, Strange Stones: Dispatches From East and West (Harper Perennial, 2013), is a collection of stories set in China, in rural Colorado (where he and his wife moved in 2007), and in Japan.

Read the rest here.

Electoral Dysfunctions and the Peril of Simple Math

Posted in America, Clips on April 4, 2014 by frankbures

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Watching the debate over the Electoral College unfold in these pages has made one thing clear: Those proposing the “National Popular Vote” don’t fully understand how it works. Because of that, if they succeed, their proposal will diminish the voting power of every person in the state.

The issue comes around every decade or so. After all, killing the Electoral College seems like a good idea on a gut level. Why shouldn’t we choose the president directly? Why do we need electors from each state to mediate between the voting box and the Oval Office?

We don’t. But as students of politics know, the tyranny of the majority is a very real danger, and it’s one that raw popular voting promotes, as we’ve seen when it produced leaders like Hitler and Milosevic. The Greeks called it ochlocracy, or mob rule, and it’s something political thinkers from John Stuart Mill to John Locke to James Madison have wrestled with.

 

Read the rest here.

 

Are You Experienced? On investing in memories

Posted in Asia, Clips, Travel on March 17, 2014 by frankbures

Cutler2013139-1-620x620It was after 17 hours – in no fewer than 10 vehicles – along a jolting, washed-out road between Thailand and Cambodia that I first appreciated some basic things about air travel. In a plane, there is no rain. There are no bags of fruit leaking unknown juices onto your backpack. There are no bruised tailbones from an entire day spent hammering over rocks and potholes. And on a plane, when you cross an international border, drinks are on the house.

I ran over this list of perks as I hung off the back of a pickup truck, watching my right foot disappear under layers of mud. My other leg was twisted underneath me, with no feeling left in it. My arms ached as I gripped a leaky plastic tarp that looked like it had been used for target practice by the Khmer Rouge. Periodically, the tarp pressed down in an inverted parachute that threatened to smother us all. Bridgit, my wife, was perched next to me, holding onto nothing but my pant leg.

Eventually we arrived in Cambodia, where our $3 room with a ceiling fan and a cold shower felt like the Ritz-Carlton on Maui. The next day, we walked around the ruins of the Angkor Kingdom.

I thought about that trip recently as Bridgit and I (now with a house in Minnesota and two daughters) sat down to look at our retirement planning. If you were an investment adviser, you would have been clicking your tongue and shaking your head. Bridgit, an accountant, clicked her tongue and shook her head.

Read the rest here.

Forgotten Ally (Review)

Posted in Asia, Books, Clips on March 13, 2014 by frankbures

Forgotten AllyWhen the popular World War II board game Axis & Allies was released in 1981, China was not on the board as either Axis or Ally. It wasn’t for another 20 years that the country would be incorporated into the game, and even then only as a separate power directed by the United States player.

This was far from the reality, as historian Rana Mitter points out in his new book, Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013). China, he writes, was not only a fourth Ally fighting the Japanese but key to the Allies’ victory.

History needs this correction for a variety of reasons. World War II was costly for the United States, but for China it was worse. For America, the war lasted four years. For China, it dragged on for eight. America lost almost half a million people in the fighting, while at least 14 million Chinese were killed. And while America had almost no combat on its own soil, China did, and it had nearly 80 million refugees as a result.

Read the rest here.

Burning Down the House: Somali malls, Chinese scrap, flammable art and more in Thirty Two #5:

Posted in America, Art, Clips, Culture on March 5, 2014 by frankbures

Issue_5After a long gestation, I’m happy to announce that Issue No. 5 of Thirty Two Magazine has finally come out. Regular readers will notice the design has changed, and is the cleanest yet for your clutter free reading. But the content hasn’t!  Here are a few of the pieces you’ll find inside:

1) A gorgeous photo essay by Priscilla Briggs on the the history and current state of the shopping mall, for which I wrote the text.

2) A fascinating interview with Bloomberg View China correspondent and author of Junkyard Planet, Adam Minter, in which he talks about the global recycling industry. He also calls out Apple Computers for their deceptive recycling campaign.

3) Jack El-Hai telling how he went from always thinking of the local angle to panning back and going bigger for his new book, The Nazi and the Psychiatrist. Elsewhere three other writers, Nicole Helget, Deni Bechard and Jen Percy, talk about the places they wrote their books.

There are also essays by Andy Sturdevant, Josh Cook, and a piece by Forest Lewis about Chris Larson‘s Bauhaus inferno that was titled Celebration/Love/Loss. There are profiles, histories, poetry and fiction (the last by Maggie Ryan Sandford).  And of course the lovely photography of Louisa Podlich.

Pick it up at one of these stores here. Or order it online here. Better yet, subscribe here!

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