I wrote "Everything you ever wanted to know about African urban transit" and then realized there's way more I want to know, so, um, perils of researchI wrote "Everything you ever wanted to know about African urban transit" and then realized there's way more I want to know, so, um, perils of research. Really well written and comfortably readable for one of these report things though. I do wish they'd been more aggressively transparent in the text about data sources (and limitations) though. ...more
Dense and excellent. It's difficult to maintain coherence across something this long and all encompassing while keeping much more to an academic styleDense and excellent. It's difficult to maintain coherence across something this long and all encompassing while keeping much more to an academic style of writing that a journalistic one, with copious use of statistics, theoretical structuring and in-depth methodological explanation, but it just about works. The result is endlessly multifaceted and impossible to reduce to one conclusion or approach. Things are better and they are not. ...more
Interesting, but I felt ended a little weakly, at the chapters on China and the USA, where tourism-to and tourism-from were mixed together haphazardlyInteresting, but I felt ended a little weakly, at the chapters on China and the USA, where tourism-to and tourism-from were mixed together haphazardly. Becker seems to have arrived at a conclusion about the list of pros and cons of global travel by then and everything was just being balanced against that list. Particularly there, it felt far too journalistic, boiling down to a few interviews, sometimes a little too fawning, with a few boutique hotel owners and tour guides and missing the questions and nuances of the way 1 billion border crossings per year are shaping the world, that the book seemed initially to set out to answer.
Then, choosing to have the side of the tourist, so to speak, represented almost entirely by her own (and her husband's) experiences also made it feel a bit underbaked. There's a lot more to be said about the motivations, experiences and types of travel from the side of the traveller. Her slightly cliched, captivated travel writing counters oddly with the somewhat more hard-headed, critical assessment of the impacts of tourism from the side of the destination and leave the whole thing awkward. As always - less descriptions of elephants, please. More economics. ...more
I wasn't crazy about the dip into romance and the trick with the structure of the mystery felt a little cheap. The secondary villains, witnesses and fI wasn't crazy about the dip into romance and the trick with the structure of the mystery felt a little cheap. The secondary villains, witnesses and friends and family also felt a little less developed and sharply drawn then I'm used to - and always enjoy - in Rowling's book, and the parade of horrific men and battered women grew a bit nauseating and indistinguishable by the end. All that said, still thoroughly enjoyable. When's the next one? ...more
Fine and readable, but really very basic. Not at all an academic book. The anecdotes from the collapse of the 90s are funny/painful, when I realize myFine and readable, but really very basic. Not at all an academic book. The anecdotes from the collapse of the 90s are funny/painful, when I realize my grandparents must have gone through all that. The optimism going forward is...also funny painful, given that a cynical, worst-case guess at Ukraine's future - an impoverished chaos torn between Russia and Europe - only barely scratches at how bad the situation really is, as the one thing Reid seems confident about is that country certainly wouldn't break up. Yeah.
The thing is, every time i'm in the Ukraine, i'm struck by how rich it is in many ways. So much space, so much water, so much green. Educated population, extant (if crumbling) modern infrastructure, medical system, education system. This isn't some patch of desert or somewhere that has never gotten out of subsistence agriculture - it just tumbled back there. I always get vaguely angry there, almost. Like, what's your excuse, huh, you ridiculously vast expanse of stuff? I guess I need a more in depth book for that. ...more
Fun and interesting. A lot of cool science, some ominous (but not terribly ominous) climate change data, and neat insights into the way the various reFun and interesting. A lot of cool science, some ominous (but not terribly ominous) climate change data, and neat insights into the way the various research stations function socially and economically, both one by one and as a sort of continent-wide, international community. I do think a bit that some of the whimsical humor and quirkiness of the place, which Walker seems to really admire if not downright fangirl, is less some astonishing adaptation mechanism of almost superhuman cameraderie in face of nature, etc, and more that it's a bunch of nerds on a really extreme camping trip, but I guess that was charming in its way too. ...more
Meatier than the first one, and a little nastier. Enjoyed thoroughly.
So far it seems to me like the two Cormoran Strike books are intensely concernedMeatier than the first one, and a little nastier. Enjoyed thoroughly.
So far it seems to me like the two Cormoran Strike books are intensely concerned with appearances. Vanity, perception and presentation of self. Celebrity and reputation in the main mystery plot, yes, but also in more insidious, more prosaic ways in the background subplots that I actually found myself enjoying more by the end. Strike is terribly perceptive about people, about the way they like to show themselves, but he seems almost an unreliable narrator when it comes to himself.
He stands out, effortlessly cool, masculine, authentic compared to the suburban, social climbing mileu he spends so much being contemptous of. But the text itself has just a little more sympathy for these characters - his fussy, well-meaning sister and self-awarely spoiled brother, Robin's jealous fiancee, the p3ublisher he takes up with and dumps - and the gap gets interesting.
Strike makes more sense to me here, with that context. He's proudly aloof of his famous father, but there's a jealousy there too. His willingness to use people and throw them out of his life when he's done. The shade of longing for his old army life - discipline and his own authority, rather than cameraderie or sense of purpose of whatever. His ex - who seemed like a bit of a drama queen in the first book, but basically ok - is revealed here as an utter piece of work, thoroughly selfish, gratuitously cruel and snobby to boot. It rather raises the question - what kind of man would have that as the grand, torrid love afair of his life? ...more
Perhaps because I'm pretty much the choir here, there's nothing terribly interesting in explaining that neolToo much economics, not enough geography.
Perhaps because I'm pretty much the choir here, there's nothing terribly interesting in explaining that neoliberalism is a thing which is and which is not nice. This we know. I was hoping for more of an exploration of the actual spaces created, not just the fact of their existence and the ideology behind it. How do these places function? What tools, designs, aesthetics do they use to maintain themselves, and why? What story are they telling the people inside them? The people outside them? What can they tell us about the logic and worldviews of the people who created them? Why are they so often so fucking ugly?
Some of the articles touch on this, but often quickly dodge away again. The best, in this sense, is probably the article on Managua, which discussed the exclusionary functions of that cities new roads. Most of the rest were largely descriptive, showing how capitalism created this or that gated community and what's wrong with it, but not really saying much beyond. The essays were often fun reading (and short,) since describing someone else's appalling taste with one's best acidic quips is a happy sort of thing to do, but still left me wanting a deeper, perhaps bolder, investigation of this issue, that would pay more attention to culture, aesthetics and space itself, and less to the predictable effects of IMF policy. ...more
Most books about WW2 at some point include a description of the Red Army as it sweeps westward across Europe. These tend towards the exotic - much menMost books about WW2 at some point include a description of the Red Army as it sweeps westward across Europe. These tend towards the exotic - much mention of cossacks with whips, shaggy ponies pulling sleds side by side with tanks, etc. This one is almost totally - and refreshingly - devoid of that kind of thing. Which isn't to say the Red Army wasn't brutal and weird, but Merridale focuses on experiences that seem to have been the norm, in as much as there was any. There's a broad social context from before the war and also details of the day to day of the war at the front. She doesn't shy away from the war crimes on either side of the front - the brutal treatment the USSR meted out to it's own troops, and those troops conduct with regard to civilians and POW's.
What I found fascinating though is that she tries to get at the mindsets and ideologies behind the actions, personal and collective, mass rape and massacre as well as patriotism and camaraderie. I don't know if it's necessarily an unqualified success - there are still gaps, still things people did not, and will never, talk about, but the attempt is invaluable. My grandfather marched from some long lost hamlet near Kazan to Berlin and back (well, as far as Kiev) when he was 17. I've never been able to square the mild, sardonic man I remember with cossacks and massacres, though I know it happened, and I know he was there. This is one of the few history books I've read that have managed to go at least some way to bridging that gap. Excellent social history, the individual action and reaction in extraordinary circumstances, building up to history person by person....more
This is really good, I guess, if you happen to be extremely interested in its very particular subject matter. Which I am (I wish I knew why.) I apprecThis is really good, I guess, if you happen to be extremely interested in its very particular subject matter. Which I am (I wish I knew why.) I appreciated the thorough overview of the historical evolution of the genre, going back to medieval legends, Barbary corsairs and (of course) Byron. ...more