A short grab-bag of crow related trivia, pop-science and nature-writing. The short pieces on mythology were probably the most interesting. I don’t thi...moreA short grab-bag of crow related trivia, pop-science and nature-writing. The short pieces on mythology were probably the most interesting. I don’t think it helped that it covers a lot of the same ground for me as my own general reading in ornithology – the already heavily popularised bits on corvid caching behaviour and tool-making in particular.(less)
A short read. Basically an extra long gonzo-style magazine article on the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
It's a weird one. The main piece I took from thi...moreA short read. Basically an extra long gonzo-style magazine article on the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
It's a weird one. The main piece I took from this is how little any of the public knows or understands of becquerels and milli-sieverts and what radiation does or how it works. He spends the entire piece nervously referring to his own potentially unreliable dosimeter. While in comparison many of the Japanese he speaks to seem to trust in their own government to tell them when it's dangerous.
He moves from town to town in the earthquake-ruined areas surrounding the plant interviewing various survivors and their families and always asking what they think about the nuclear plant. Overwhelmingly they appear to believe that it’s not that bad or take it rather stoically at least. It’s not very surprising considering these people are dealing with much more immediate concerns such as salvaging what they can from the husk of their old homes or burying family members. Vollmann seems to wander, worrying about the radiation (as it turns out completely unnecessarily), feeling guilty that he may be exposing his taxi drivers and translator to radiation and ultimately rubbing off his own paranoia onto those drivers and the translator. I didn’t really feel like I learnt all that much about the situation in Fukushima or even that much about how survivors are coping in the tsunami affected areas as even the stories he does manage to collect seem to be told reluctantly.(less)
A well-argued book. Since famously being seen in Obama's hands on the campaign trail I kept reading it as if it were addressed to the POTUSA. He makes...moreA well-argued book. Since famously being seen in Obama's hands on the campaign trail I kept reading it as if it were addressed to the POTUSA. He makes an excellent case for where American foreign policy should go as it is overtaken by the rise of China, India etc. The chapters on the growth of those two countries and his predictions for where it may lead were interesting and enlightening. And he makes a good effort to defuse the concerns of Americans who, as a whole, have become remarkably insular and (from this foreigner's point of view) frequently deliberately ignorant of the rest of the world.
But I was frustrated by Fareed's inability to move outside of a purely free-market neoliberal perspective. Issues of class and inequality are given short thrift (apart from a brief piece on the loss of middle class jobs to the effects of globalisation), America's foreign policy is shown as being almost always benign and well-intentioned and concerns about the environment are passed over in an almost cavalier manner. I don't need to agree with the guy to appreciate the book and his arguments but the arguments need to be there! Dismissing something as simply socialist and therefore "a bad thing" may work in the US where socialism has become a poisoned word, but for many of us outside of the US we just say "So? What's your point?".(less)