Interesting Travel Writing

Snip20190506_4My favourite genre of books has always been travel writing. I enjoy reading books and blogs and looking at Instagram photos of people who travel a lot.  With my added interest in photography and street photography in particular, I can never indulge in too many of these books.

I am almost finished with an audible book I’ve been listening to by a young American, Christian, gay man (in his 30s) named Jedidiah Jenkins. The title of the book is To Shake the Sleeping Self.

He and a good mate ride their bicycles from Seattle, Washington to Patagonia in South America.  I am really enjoying their story.  He paces himself well with his writing and there are interesting conversations between the two friends about faith, gayness and being Catholic and the conflict that involves while also sorting his relationship to other family members. He grew up in Tennessee but moved to California once he became an adult.

His parents divorced and he was raised by his devoutly Christian mother who lived her life by the teachings of the bible.  His mother believes being gay is a choice and she does not understand why he would choose the lifestyle. She believes he can change if he puts his mind to it and will not accept her son’s truth.

He comes out more and more as he has time on his long rides through endless deserts to really get to know himself and think about all the issues that are raised. He has a strong Christian faith and his thoughts are interesting.

He also describes his mate, Weston well. Weston doesn’t have much money, worries

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Jedidiah (Jed) Jenkins- author

about nothing but is a really deep thinker about the world and the purpose of life. He has cycled through being born again Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, and is now an atheist. He also loves weed, mushrooms and tries cocaine once they get to Columbia.  He decides he doesn’t care for coke. He embraces life experiences completely and nothing seems to upset him on this journey. Their experiences with the local people, the hostels and camping they do off road in hammocks hidden from view, their illnesses and the beautiful places they visit really keep me interested in the story.

The audible copy I have is narrated by the author and he is a good writer and a great reader. I feel like I’m really in their heads as they experience this trip.  They took this trip around 2013 or 2014. They were on the road for more than a year and I’m currently in Ecuador with them.  I am assuming they make it to Patagonia but I have not finished the book yet so I don’t know if they’ll get there or not.

There are parts where I think he’s a bit self indulgent but I imagine if this were my trip I would be too,  simply because you’d have so much time to think. Some of the stretches of road they ride really do seem unending and writing about it and the thoughts that go through one’s head do tend to go on.

I remember in 2010 when I rode my 250 cc Scooter on a charity ride from Hobart to Longreach, Qld then to Rockhampton and back down the coast to Hobart. I rode 7300 kms in three and a half weeks.  There are very long stretches of very straight roads in Queensland that go on forever and I only had my own thoughts in my helmet.  I would sing songs from childhood I remembered, I relived lots of memories, I had creative ideas for future plans. You just don’t know what you’re going to think when on these long trips with only yourself for company.

I can recommend this book if you are interested in these topics.

Speaking of which….. I leave for Europe Friday week so stay tuned as I hopefully will have enough energy to write at the end of some days.  I should have time to write as I’ll be in a room by myself each evening as Mr. Penguin is staying home taking care of our menagerie and I’ll be with two girlfriends. We’ll see.  I will post some photos up on Instagram here and there but hopefully I can get a blog post or two together.

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Two Wonderful Photography Books

This past couple of weeks I’ve been reading a fair bit but the books I want to share with you today are in the subject of photography.Snip20190408_5

The first one is the Autobiography of Ansel Adams. This book presents the life story of one of America’s best known and most popular photographers and environmentalists of the 20th century. Adams was also a teacher, musician and crusader over the last six decades. He was born in 1902 and lived until 1984. This autobiography came out the year following his death in 1985.

I am in the middle of this book now and am loving it. He was an excellent writer and there doesn’t seem to be a lot he leaves out.  I am also finding the history of California (he grew up in the San Francisco area) fascinating. He talked about the big earthquake and fire of 1905. There is so much that happened during the first 2/3 of the 20th century and he describes it through his eyes.

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Ansel Adams

That alone is interesting enough but then he goes on to describe his love of music and studying to be a concert pianist.  The art scene in San Francisco in early 1900s was just brilliant and very energetic.  He hung out with artists, poets and the people who started the Sierra Club. He got to know Yosemite National Park like the back of his hand, long before it was recognised as a national park. He had strong ties to the southwest of the United States.

Some of his descriptions of climbing the rockiest areas in Yosemite carrying his camera and all the gear back in the 1920’s is exhausting. Photography back then was very different than it is now. He studied shapes and lighting more than colour as colour wasn’t possible back then.  The work that was completed in the dark rooms was interesting and difficult. Snip20190408_9

The reader learns of his wife, friends and parents as the years go by.  It is a well written biography and I would recommend it for anyone who loves photography, music, the arts or American history of the western states.

 

 

The second book I’d like to share is one by (still living) Joel Myerowitz. The book is called Aftermath.  It is a compilation of photographs from the terrorist attack of the World Trade Towers of New York City of 9/11. The book is a huge, coffee table sized tome that takes two hands to carry it. You need to set it on a table to read it. I don’t usually read anything about that day but this book is important for one reason.  After the attacks happened, New York City officials completely surrounded the site in high fences and secrecy. No photos were allowed.  This day was going to go completely unrecorded photographically.  Mr. Myerowitz spent days making friends with some of the officials

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Joel Myerowitz (from his web page)

onsite, especially a group of police officers.  Many of those working the site thought the pictures should be shared. It was almost as if it was being covered up. Eventually as he stalked the area daily, making himself known he began getting into the site and taking the photos of the cleanup that continued for a long time. He donned a hard hat he found, dressed the part, found various pieces of things he could wear from the workers and started photographing various angles of this disaster. He was thrown off the site several times but he kept going back. The photos are amazing and one feels as though they are penetrating all angles of the destruction of so many buildings. There are also quite a few photos of the surrounding buildings with all their windows blown out and missing walls. One can see into all the offices with the missing walls.  The portrait photography of the workers is also very interesting to look at. He captures so much emotion in his photography. Many stories are being told within the site.
Snip20190408_6This book has made me think quite a bit. Had this single photographer not persevered to such an extent the whole incident would have been visually lost. The bureaucracy around the cleanup was quite interesting and I paused many times not believing what I was reading. 

Mr. Myerowitz was born in 1938 in the Bronx, New York and there is a wonderful short biography of his achievements here.  He continues to teach photography. He is well known for his street photography especially and he is on Instagram (here)  if anyone is interested in seeing what he is doing currently.  There is a vast store of knowledge and photographs that can also be searched on google under his name. Snip20190408_10.png

I always think I enjoy reading fiction the most but it seems the older I get the more I enjoy reading non-fiction, especially in learning what so many amazing people, both alive and now gone have given to the world. It is probably a way of distracting myself from the horrible world leaders we seem to have now in so many countries. I wish the good people of the earth got as much media coverage as the awful ones. The world would be a more inspiring place. Snip20190408_11.png

January Reading And A Bit Of Serendipity

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Our Fuller’s Bookshop Book for February is The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. It is a retelling of the Iliad from the point of view of a woman. Our group meets the first Thursday night of February so I will write more about it after we have discussed it.

I recently finished The Arsonist by Chloe Harper. Our group will discuss this book the first week of March. Chloe Harper is an Australian writer who writes about the Black Friday bushfires in Victoria that happened several years ago. Again I will wait until after the group meets to write about it.

I am currently reading our April book, The Everlasting Sunday by Robert Lukins about boys living in a boarding school in England in 1962. I’m not that far into it yet but I feel it might become quite ominous. More on that later.

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In the meantime, I can talk about the recently read The Shepherd’s Hut by Australian writer Tim Winton. I imagine most people who live in Australia who read this blog have read it. I will say I loved it very much and couldn’t put it down. It was a slowly drawn  story of a young man who lives in Western Australia. He had a very abusive father who had abused him for years and it became worse once his mother died of cancer. He often wished his father dead and when he does die in an accident while working on his car in a shed, the boy fears he may be blamed and heads off into the bush and desert of Western Australia.

In my opinion nobody writes about Western Australia better than Tim Winton. You feel the heat, the dust, the young man’s hunger. He comes across an elderly man living in a shack in the desert in the middle of nowhere and the story continues with the development of their relationship, the life and trials that happen upon them.

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My only criticism of the book, which some don’t agree with is I thought Tim Winton wrapped up the ending too quickly. This is a drawn out story that seemed to follow a certain, consistent pace throughout. Then suddenly the end is upon the reader and it seemed to quickly finish. I can’t say more than that as I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone. I will leave it at that for now. I did really enjoy this book though.

The serendipity I refer to is regarding a page I have put in my 2019 journal. I read a lot of book reviews. I get them from my bookshop, other blogger’s posts, the newspaper, everywhere.

I also receive publishers newsletters and magazines and often see older books referred to at times. I often exclaim to myself, “My gosh I have that book on my shelf!” and think I should get it off the shelf and read it so I can then pass it on. So for 2019 as I read reviews and notice books that are named by other bloggers, I will get that book off my shelf and place in a pile to finally have a serious look at it. If I’m not going to read it then maybe it is time to pass it along.

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So far on my journal’s Serendipity page, as I call it, I have Persuasion by Jane Austen. It is one of her books I have seen the film for but never read. So onto the pile it goes and I might finally get to it. As it is early in the year I don’t have any other books listed but I do have books by a couple of authors that have been in the winds of 2019.

I read a blurb in the Weekend Australian just before New Year’s Eve written by Mandy Sayers about her favourite books for 2018. I have a book on the shelf by her so I may grab that one. I have several books on the shelf by Helen Garner unread and I know I must read them. I hear so much about Helen Garner especially from Australian bloggers I follow. So onto the pile they need to go. I can’t think about their latest books while I still have their previous books on the shelf.snip20190124_6

February will have me listening to audible books, mainly in the car. I’m currently listening to Fierce Attachments by Vivian Gornick who is a New York City writer I love. I heard her speak at the Sydney Writer’s festival a few years ago and enjoyed her very much. Most of her books are memoirs of her life growing up in a tenement building of 20 apartments in the Bronx. Some of her books are of her life later in life. She is close to me in age so has lived quite a bit of life.

I love tales that take place in Brooklyn or the Bronx especially in the 1950s and 60s. She deals with a very exasperating mother which I find interesting and I feel as though I am on the streets of New York with her, trying to figure out life. Fierce Attachments has most of the book taking place in her first 25 years. They live in an apartment building that has 20 apartments in it and the interaction between the neighbours and families really draw me in. I love the New York Jewish phrases and sometimes hysteria as many of the women deal with their husbands and children.snip20190124_4

February is going to be a very busy month for us but I’ll write more about that in a couple of days. I’m trying to finish off books in January because I’m not sure I’ll get a lot of reading completed in February.

More on that later. Until then, I leave you…

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Homo Deus at Fullers Book shop

Snip20180729_1I know I talk about Fuller’s book shop quite a bit here. They have started Philosophy Cafe Evenings. I learned about them recently. I missed the first one but I caught the second one. This one began at 5:30 pm and went for an hour.  A friend who was interested in the topic went with me. It ended just after 6:30 and then we went for a Japanese meal around the corner. A fun night.

The book and subject discussed was humanism in the future from the book Home Deus, A Brief History of Tomorrow written by Yuval Noah Harari (Translator- Du’o’ng Ngoc Trà). It was facilitated by Dr Ingo Fanin, from the University of Tasmania.

Good Reads describes this book as:

“Over the past century humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but, as Harari explains in his trademark style—thorough, yet riveting—famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals put together. The average American is a thousand times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda.

What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake? Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century—from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers?”

Mr. Fanin introduced the book and then had some questions he thought of he threw out to the audience. The audience then began a discussion of humanism in the future. Topics covered the environment, technology which took up quite a bit of futuristic thinking, how humans treat each other (war), population, religion versus science and then whatever tangent it went off on before another question was asked by Mr. Fanin.

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Yuval Noah Harari

There were quite a few people there and everyone sat around the tables in the cafe so had a good vantage point to see who was talking.  I had read the book in the preceding two weeks and did manage to finish it. At times it went over my head and I had to revisit parts of it. I’m glad I read it in consecutive days as it’s the type of book if you put it down and come back weeks or even too many days later you’d forget what you had read.

I enjoyed the intellectual discussion. I also enjoyed that there were young people and elderly people and every age in between. It was good to hear what others thought of the direction of our future on this planet. Overall I didn’t find it too depressing when when the subject came up “What if technology was developed so people never died?” arose the question was asked, “What is then the significance of being murdered if you had everlasting life on earth.”   Or what if you reach a point in your life, such as old and ill and you stay at that stage for another few hundred years. Is that what we want? At what age would our life “freeze” so to speak and we live with that forever.  I thought they were interesting thoughts but was also relieved to know I will never deal with any of that. I don’t think I’d want to live forever.

Another topic is what does the world do when technology is taking over all of the jobs in the world. An example of research that stated when doctors diagnosed lunch cancer they got it right 50% of the time but when a programmed robot diagnosed it the diagnosis was correct 100% of the time.  There will be a world of billions that all surplus people. We were encouraged to then be happy we’re surplus and to enjoy all the leisure that brings. Study, educate ourselves, travel.  My question how does one support themselves over two hundred years of leisure?

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There’s some deep thinking going on here.

There were lots of ideas and opinions in the room and I really enjoyed the evening. All of this in about 70 minutes.  The Japanese food was very good afterwards and it gave my friend and I quite a bit to debrief about over dinner.  I look forward to the next Philosophy Cafe later in the year.

NB: The author is also known for his previous book, which this one leads on from, Sapiens: A brief history of humankind.

Yuval Noah Harari is an Israeli historian and a tenured professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Wikipedia