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John P. Jones III RSS Feed (Albuquerque, NM, USA)

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Hearts and Minds (The Criterion Collection)
Hearts and Minds (The Criterion Collection)
DVD ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower
12 used & new from $14.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Sui generis..., August 31, 2015
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I must have watched this movie at least ten times. It sure isn't for the "fun read," or "chick lit" crowd. The first time was in the Film Forum, in Atlanta, in 1974, while the American participation in the Vietnam War was still on-going. Like some other reviewers have reported, there was an absolute stunned silence when the movie was over, with the moviegoers even reluctant to leave their seats. My initial thoughts... and I retain them today... after those other viewings, is that Peter Davis truly captured it all, perfectly, with a meticulous balance. The Vietnamese and the Americans, the "leaders," the quick-buck artists, the farmers, the foot soldiers, along with vignettes that demonstrated the social and political forces that led America to Vietnam, and resulted in it staying long after it was apparent that it was a mistake. Real, oh so real, that movies that followed, The Deer Hunter DVD, Apocalypse Now [HD], Heaven and Earth could never come close to. The difference: In all the others, after the movie was over, the actors washed away the "blood," and stopped off on the way home for a couple of beers. In "Hearts and Minds," the dead remain dead, and those without arms or legs remain that way. For those with personal experiences with the tragedy that was America's participation in Vietnam, like William Marshall, a key interviewee, said: It just doesn't all go away when you turn off the six o'clock news.

Over the past 40 years, on one or two of the ten occasions I watched it alone. Other times, there was a "purpose." Some Canadian friends had a son who wanted to join their Special Forces, and sought me out in an effort to dissuade him. We watched the movie together. It didn't dissuade him, and some 15 years on, he delights in the "action life." An American Indian friend of my son wanted to join the Marines; the movie did seem to have an impact, and he never joined. The most telling viewing was with six of my coevals, all friends, all skiers, none of whom had been in the war. Which one movie...?, they asked. As an answer, one year, for the "apres-ski," we watched it. NONE watched the whole movie... it wasn't that they were upset at the occasional scenes of bodily harm, rather, they just couldn't understand the point. Like, for example, what did that high school football game in Niles, Ohio have to do with the war? A simple "EVERYTHING" from me was inadequate, and certainly not persuasive.

There is an interview of a couple in Concord, Massachusetts who had obviously lost their son in the war. The father is pontificating about the necessity for such "sacrifices" in order to maintain our glorious government. The mother is in the background, trying to be supportive, but the camera catches her hands on the model airplane their son had built, and the middle-distance look in her eyes that fully expressed her doubts about what her husband was saying.

Wars bring out our racist characteristics. It is easier to kill someone if they are not quite human, not of the in-group. On my first viewing, I had no idea where Placitas, New Mexico was. And now I can do a day-hike there. An American Indian is filmed on a rock outcrop in Placitas, talking about the racial slurs he was subjected to in Marine boot camp, but then he had the insight to say how easily he started using racial slurs to describe the Vietnamese. Lt. Coker, a returning POW, is asked by a child in a school to describe Vietnam. He says that it was a lovely country, except for the people who were backward and "messed everything up." General Westmoreland, in civilian attire, a seersucker sport coast, is filmed standing under a weeping willow tree at his home in South Carolina. He says: the "oriental" doesn't place the same high value on life as we do...and Davis follows this scene with one of a Vietnamese woman trying to throw herself into the grave, to join her soldier son, who is being buried.

Davis is a master of juxtaposition. He "pairs" Lt. Coker with (former) Captain Randy Floyd. Both were pilots, both with about 100 combat missions. One "saw," the other was oblivious. Both spoke of the pride they took in their flying skills. One would eventually understand what his skills did, the other was willful in not wanting to know, as Coker said: "It was all just professionalism." Davis juxtaposes the soundtrack from the patriotic World War I song "The Yanks are comin'" with all the implications that the French and British actually wanted our help, with American soldiers destroying a South Vietnamese village, destroying their rice, which were always considered "caches for the VC."

There is much footage of the senior political leadership, Vietnamese and American, and their views on why America got into the war, and stayed. Rumsfeld must have seen the film. He banned the taking of pictures of wounded American soldiers, or even their coffins during the 2003 Iraq War. It is a "downside" to the "glorious enterprise." Both the dead and the wounded are in this documentary. There are no "Susie Wongs" in this film, nor Graham Greene's "Phoung." The prostitution is a sordid, dirty business, and I wonder to this day how Davis obtained that scene, that truly captured it. Under "other duties as assigned" I had to deal with the principle consequence of such fleeting liaisons; the massive misuse of antibiotics in Vietnam reverberates today... as we await the first "bug" that will be resistant to any treatment by antibiotics.

A picture perfect ending. After several vignettes that underscore the utter indifference of many on the home front to the war, Davis finishes with a patriotic parade in NYC, with banners proclaiming "Victory in Vietnam." On the sideline are former American soldiers who had been in the war, protesting. They are called "commies," told to "go back to Cuba." Finally, there is a former soldier wearing an Army jacket with the patch of the 173rd Airborne brigade. He yells at the camera: What is this? I was the one in the war... not these people.

Don't know if I could see it another 10 times; the emotional drain would be too much. But for the first 10 times, an unquestionable 6-stars, plus.

Burning the Days: Recollection
Burning the Days: Recollection
by James Salter
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.02
70 used & new from $5.33

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The summing up of a life lead to the full..., August 28, 2015
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James Salter died two months ago, having lived a full life, to the age of 90. I only recently became acquainted with his work, having read his classic, published in 1967, A Sport and a Pastime: A Novel (FSG Classics), a title inspired by a verse from the Koran, implying the very transient nature of life. His novel is a wonderfully sensual telling of an early love affair with a young French woman, "... the flash of an elegant calf, and you are tumbled into unbearable love." In his summing up, he states: "Ironically, the portrait I made of her she never read." Yes, ironic indeed, but fortunately it is not always true: some do read, and find the yearnings metaphorically expressed by a magnolia tree with its fragrant blossoms.

Salter was born James Arnold Horowitz, in New York, into a Jewish family with Eastern European origins. His father had graduated from West Point at the end of the First World War, and James, with the change in last name, would graduate from his father's alma mater at the end of the Second World War. The first half of the book are his recollections from his West Point days and his subsequent military career. Although missing the big war, he would go on to3 be a fighter pilot in the Korean War. His hero was Antoine de St-Exupéry, a French fighter pilot and writer, most famous for Wind, Sand, and Stars as well as the children's classic, The Little Prince. Pilots today are in danger of obsolescence, with computerized drones on the one hand, and the fear of a human pilot deliberately flying the plane into a mountain or an ocean. St-Exupéry however, as well as Salter, flew during the glory days, pre-GPS; pilots were indispensable, and their courage and intellectual capacity were the difference between life and death. Salter's prose on flying, I feel, is the equivalent of St-Exupéry, brilliant and thrilling.

Unmentioned though is the work of another French pilot and writer, the pied-noir, Jules Roy. And I feel the deficiency critical. Roy flew on bombers, and participated in the fire-bombing of Dresden, and later wrote an account of it, the sardonically entitled La vallée heureuse. Roy at least reflected upon what was happening on the ground; Salter never did. True, Salter was a fighter pilot, in combat with the MIG's over northern Korea, but he never once mentions the fate of the "grunts," the infantry, as they raced up and down the peninsula, before reaching deadlock. [Note: my next review, the first one I will post of a movie, will be of Hearts And Minds (Blu-ray + DVD)which provides much insight into the fate of those on the ground.] Salter mentions that he was in uniform from 17 to 31, and that he was asked by a woman at a cocktail party why he had spent so much time in the military, and he never provider her, nor the reader of "recollections" a real answer.

The second half of the book is after his resignation from the military, due, in part, to the success of his novel. His ticket is "punched," and he enters the literary world. Salter provides a string of anecdotes, a "celebrity-culture" type of account of the literary world, but with sparkling prose and, at times, incisive character summations. He was probably closest to Irving Shaw, a writer I have never read, who had fled America for Europe after being "black-listed" during the McCarthy era. Overall, there was the feel of Hemingway's A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition,but instead of the `20's and Paris, it ranged over all of Europe, in the `50's and `60's.

In terms of prose that resonated, he said of St-Exupéry: "He disappeared in July, 1944, his aircraft one of the many simply lost without trace in the great sweep of the war. Blue sea of glittering beauty, the sea of which Cervantes fought and where history was born- somewhere within it lie the bones of this secular saint." The sea is the "mother sea," the Mediterranean. He quotes St-Exupéry, but never reflects on his own actions: "Fighters don't fight, they murder." More pleasantly, and resonating even stronger: "Much has faded but not the incomparable taste of France, given then so I would always remember it. I know that taste, the yellow headlights flowing along the road at night, the towns by a river, the misty mornings, the thoughts of everything that happened there, the notes that confirmed it and made it imperishable."

Towards the end, I felt the anecdotes increasingly choppy and ill-formed. Yet he grabbed my attention with a dinner with David Halberstram, and his upcoming book on John Paul Vann, which would become A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam .On the other hand, no "bon mots" of critical insight were provided, and that is my central complaint: a summing up should probe deeper into the issues of motivation. Overall, 4-stars.

Armitron Men's 20/5048NVSVBN Day/Date Function Brown Croco-Grain Leather Strap Watch
Armitron Men's 20/5048NVSVBN Day/Date Function Brown Croco-Grain Leather Strap Watch
Price: $37.04

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can you spare the time?..., August 26, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Admittedly, I normally don't wear a watch. Even comfortable watches seem to be an annoyance on the wrist, so I'd carry my watch in my suit pocket... back when I wore suits. Nowadays, I'd check the time on my cell phone... but, of course, in New Mexico you can get out of cell phone range, so... when Vine offered me this Armitron watch I decided to re-visit the days of my youth, when I did wear one.

Overall, I am quite pleased. It has a "good feel" on the wrist, though I note other reviews that complain about the wrist-band. It seems to work fine for me. The main plus is an attractive dial face, with blue background. Since it is an analog dial (and weren't they all, in one's youth), and large enough, it is easy to read the time, even with aging eyes. And that's that... it is a watch, and not an airplane, with lots of features that won't be used.

The only drawback that I (can't) see (well) is the date, day of the week feature, which is too small. But a larger feature might detract from its overall attractiveness. So, if you don't reference the date feature much, as I do not, that should not be a drawback. Though it is unlikely anyone would use it as a dive watch (you do need some other features when you do that), it is rated water-proof to 99 ft.

Overall, for utility and price, I'd give it 5-stars.

Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire - A Buddhist Proposal for Peace
Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire - A Buddhist Proposal for Peace
by Thich Nhat Hanh
Edition: Paperback
18 used & new from $91.92

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A formative work..., August 24, 2015
I first read this work shortly after it was published, in 1967. A different time, for sure, and now that different opinions and points-of-view are so easy to come by on the Internet, I am still amazed how this short, straightforward book provided key information that I was totally unaware of at the time. For example, that there should not have been two Vietnams, north and south. The Geneva accords that ended the French involvement in the country envisioned only a temporary demarcation, for two years, until the country would have been reunited in 1956, after a free election. The "problem" with that scenario, for those on an anti-communism crusade, was that the "wrong" guy, Ho Chi Minh, would have won the election. So the election was never held. Upon my re-read, I noted that the temporary demarcation passage was the one passage I had marked from the original read. A lot has transpired in the intervening almost half century, including being twice photographed under the obelisk at the Ben Hai River which proclaimed "temporary international boundary, 1954-1975."

Thich Nhat Hanh's short, incisive work contains a forward by Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk who was attracted to Buddhism, and met an untimely death in Bangkok when an electric fan fell in his bathtub at the end of 1968. Four months later, while I was at Polei Klang, re-reading Merton's classic The Seven Storey Mountain a fellow medic, who had once been a Trappist monk, informed me of Merton's death. In the forward, some of Merton's bon mots are: "A dispassionate and objective reading of these pages will convince any sincere mind that we have too long been clinging to a comic-strip mythology about Asia." While underscoring that Trich is not hostile to Catholicism or the Church, nonetheless Merton says: "Certainly these pages make a Catholic squirm with embarrassment." Merton concludes by summarizing Thich's central theme: "The longer you continue to do what you are doing now, the more Communists you will create not only in Vietnam, but all over Asia..."

Trich's work is divided evenly into two sections. The first is a historical overview of Buddhism since its inception. The second part concerns how numerous Vietnamese, who eschewed the ideological struggles that racked the country, turned to Buddhism as a third alternative, and sought peace. Without wild polemic, Trich depicted the core issues facing the Vietnamese and the Americans. For example, he saw the "big bucks" that war can generate, saying: "In the past 10 years anti-communism has become Vietnam's most profitable business. The most vocal of the `anti-Communists' may well be enriching themselves by their written or spoken contributions, but they are doing very little in fact against communism. On the contrary, by their support of the existing government and the American effort they succeed in perpetuating the very situation that strengthens communism."

Martin Luther King advocated that Trich should be awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. He never received it...hum, but Henry Kissinger did! After the reunification of the country in 1975, the Vietnamese authorities would not allow Trich to return to his homeland. He is now 88, living in a monastery in the Dordogne region of France, hopefully having found the peace that so long eluded his country. Overall, a classic work, still: 5-stars.

Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered
Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered
by E F Schumacher
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.75
74 used & new from $7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The path not taken..., August 21, 2015
Once upon a time, this was a classic social critique that was "de rigueur" reading among those still influenced by the social movements of the 1960's, those who were working for a more just, and dare I say, rational, society. I placed this book in the same league as Paul Goodman's Growing Up Absurd: Problems of Youth in the Organized Society (New York Review Books Classics),which is a still very relevant critique of our educational system. Schumacher's subtitle expresses his key theme well: "Economics as if People Mattered." In a nutshell it asks the rather obvious question that seems never to be addressed by so much of the media: If a country's GNP increases by 3%, as opposed to 1%, which is normally viewed as a "good outcome," does that mean that the lives of its citizens are 2% better under the first scenario as opposed to the second?

I read this book in the early 1970's, shortly after publication. The major impetus to review this book, finally, came from the publication of a recent article about a major corporation that relentlessly pushes its employs to "excel," in part, by "giving their soul to the company," via grueling and all-consuming work weeks. And the question remains: For what?

The author commences: "One of the most fateful errors of our age is the belief that `the problem of productions' has been resolved." He goes on to say in the same paragraph: "For the rich countries, they say, the most important task now is `education for leisure'..." What leisure those hard-pressed corporate climbers might ask? `Tis a gift to be simple...' is an old Shaker hymn and that theme is also reflected in Schumacher's work: "The cultivation and expansion of needs is the antithesis of wisdom...Every increase of needs tends to increase one's dependence on outside forces over which one cannot have control, and therefore increases existential fear." One of my favorite quips in that regard is that the increase in "needs" seems to be reflected in the number of garages that are so full of boxes of "stuff" that one cannot park the car in it.

A couple other favorite quotes from this book are: "The most striking thing about modern industry is that it requires so much and accomplishes so little. Modern industry seems to be inefficient to a degree that surpasses one's ordinary powers of imagination." And... "The amount of real leisure a society enjoys tends to be in inverse proportion the amount of labour-saving machinery it employs."

Income inequality? We generally know that it has only dramatically increased over the last four decades, with only the most modest lip-service being paid to reversing this trend. Schumacher addresses this point by saying: "remuneration for work within the organization shall not vary, between the lowest paid and the highest paid, irrespective of age, sex, function or experience, beyond a range of 1:7. We are now close to having a ratio that is two magnitudes larger.

Prospects for the future? Consider this anecdotal factoid: the total reviews at Amazon, for both editions of this book, is under 50. For a new coffee French coffee press that I reviewed about a year ago, there are approximately 3,000 reviews. Admittedly, it IS a nice coffee press, but it is also an "acquired need." This book remains an important work for those still seeking a more rational, and less hurried society, in which there is some time to "smell the roses." 5-stars, plus.

Toshiba Satellite L75-C7234 17.3-Inch Laptop
Toshiba Satellite L75-C7234 17.3-Inch Laptop
Offered by BisonOffice
Price: $731.66
11 used & new from $731.66

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overcoming the dread..., August 19, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
... of another "upgrade." There is a decade's old aphorism among tech-users to always wait for Version 2.1. It is a short-hand way of advocating that one should not be the first kid on the block to own a nifty new product. Let them shake out all the "bugs" first, and the early buyer not be the "beta-tester." Who remembers the first inch-thick, boxy Kindles?

Admittedly, when the Vine program offers you a new laptop, it helps overcome that reluctance to be a "beta-tester." Overall, save for a few reservations indicated below, I've been delighted. Out of the box, it was basically fully functional within an hour. The key feature that I like about this laptop is the 17 inch screen. Yes, aging eyes, and all, but I find it so much easier not only for browsing websites, but also for programs such as Excel, where I retain some key information. And I like the new browser, Microsoft Edge... so much so that I am using it instead of Google Chrome. It seems to work well with the new Windows 10 operating system. I find "Edge" is more intuitive, or, at least what I was more used to. That's compared with a year-old laptop, with Windows 8, IE 11, which seemed to reverse the location of many items, something I never fully got used to, and find a complete annoyance, compared against an even earlier, Windows 7, IE 9 system.

Another attractive features include the built-in DVD drive, a large, comfortable keyboard, and a readily accessible power switch. I "bite the bullet" and am now subscribing to the 2013 Microsoft Office. Overall, though I don't need even more "bells and whistles" on Microsoft Word, the most functional of products, it does seem to work quite smoothly and well. The Toshiba also arrives with McAfee anti-virus installed, so one can start surfing immediately (knowing a subscription fee will be due down the road a bit). I am not a "gamer," so speed is not the utmost consideration. The only program I felt needed to be installed was Adobe Reader. I ALMOST installed a program from a website that was not Adobe... so caution on that regard. Make sure you are actually at the Adobe website. Finally, I was able to move over my key files, and essential pictures within a short period of time.

GLITCHES: I've had two problems, neither is particularly insignificant, and I would welcome comments. Fortunately I have more than one computer and one email account. However, with the Toshiba, Windows 10, I cannot send emails from my internet provider mail account (but can from other email accounts). I receive an error message and code, consistently. Check with my internet provider, who has referred me to Microsoft for a "patch." (Beta #1). And then with the Microsoft office, for some reason, the cursor will leap to another point in the document, arbitrarily, if one stops typing for a while. Quite annoying, but not serious, but does slow up the completion of the document.

As with all Vine reviews, they have to be published within 30 days of receipt of the product, and thus, after only two weeks, these are only initial operating impressions. But in terms of the upgrade, I would fully proclaim it as such: it is a significant improvement over my year-old laptop, and thus was worth the effort of installing, and moving files. Stay tuned to this spot for additional thoughts as further experience develops. As for now, 5-stars.

Lonely Planet Provence & Southeast France Road Trips (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet Provence & Southeast France Road Trips (Travel Guide)
by Lonely Planet
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.07
62 used & new from $5.71

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still, the guide book and destination of choice..., August 17, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've been fortunate to have lived over periods of time, and to have traveled extensively in Provence for over a quarter century. Thus, when this offering appeared in my Vine account, I had to say YES, since there is always so much more to learn, and this area in particular, can be "sliced and diced" so many different ways. And that is precisely the core feature of this guide: four different road trips through Provence. There is a seven day trip through "Roman" Provence, covering the most notable historical legacies of that once powerful empire. There are two that feature very different natural worlds, one covering the lavender fields of high Provence, for 4-5 days, and another one of similar duration covering the wetlands of coastal Camargue, with their French "cowboys" and white horses. The fourth is also of seven days, and is the longest journey, from Menton on the Italian border to St. Remy de Provence and covers the galleries and museums devoted to modern art. Since the famous light of Provence attracted so many of the great modern painters, it is no surprise that there are museums dedicated to Marc Chagall, Fredrick Leger, Picasso, Bonnard, Cezanne, and Van Gogh. The tour also covers the Fondation Maeght, with its very extensive collection, in St. Paul de Vence.

Somewhat inexplicably, seemingly in a "cut and paste" fashion, the second half of the guide is devoted to three "destinations." They are Nimes and environs, Provence itself, and the French Rivera. Featuring Nimes, and its Roman heritage, overlaps with the first road trip. The section on Provence includes such modern art museums as the Fondation Victor Vasarely, which was omitted from the modern art road tour. The Provence section also covers two of the classic cites of the region, Arles and Aix, but completely omits the third "A," where many travelers will arrive via the TGV, Avignon.

Like all the other Lonely Planet guides, it is color-coded, with an attractive layout and design. One of the annoying features on other Lonely Planet guides was a section called "survival," which contained much practical information. They've dropped that misnomer of a title! And simply have a section of travel information, so labelled. The guide is only a 126 pages, is priced cheaper than there more comprehensive country guides, and that is regrettably reflected in the quality of the pictures which are reproduced, as well as the binding.

Although the omission of Avignon I consider to be a critical flaw, I took joy in noting that a couple of my favorite towns, of the past and the future, were ALSO completed omitted, even from the maps! A bit of one's own "secret" Provence still preserved. Nonetheless, unless you are fortunate enough to have a personal guide who knows the area very well, the Lonely Planet guide is the next best thing. Overall, 4-stars, for the latest "focus" guide.

Walking Distance: Extraordinary Hikes for Ordinary People
Walking Distance: Extraordinary Hikes for Ordinary People
by Robert E. Manning
Edition: Paperback
Price: $22.63
45 used & new from $18.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So many hikes... so little time..., August 14, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is truly an inspirational book, even more so because it was written by a coeval. Robert and his wife, Martha Manning appeared to have taken the vast majority, if not all the hikes in this book, during their 60's. It is a time to savor the good earth, have some adventures, with a measure of prudence. And such is the spirit within the book.

Their book is a paean to the benefits of walking, which they cover in the first part of the book, and illustrate in the second part, via the joys of being in that outdoor "laboratory." It was informative to learn how many of the great writers felt the daily walk an essential part of their existence, when they did their best thinking. For example, Wordsworth was estimated to have walked 180,000 miles in his life, much of it in England's Lake District. Dickens reportedly averaged walking four hours a day in London, and I shall read, based on the author's recommendation, Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Reveries of the Solitary Walker (Penguin Classics).

The heart of the book is the description of 30 different walks, all ranging between a few days and a few weeks, on the six continents. Before reading the book, I was aware of only a handful of the trails, for example the C&O Canal in Maryland and Washington, DC, the Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon and the Milford Track in New Zealand. My horizons (and my lusts!) have been greatly expanded. Trails in England, Spain, Germany, Italy, Australia, South Africa, France, Sweden, and a number in the USA, including one in the author's home state of Vermont, alas the only state I have not been to... but their "long trail" in more than sufficient enticement.

Another key aspect of the book are the pictures, all taken by Robert Manning. All prod with that question: Why am I not on the trail, instead of doing the current useless thing? All are taken on sunny days, and in the real world of hiking, it isn't always so. But the authors claim to have had more than their share of good weather, all by careful planning, a look at weather forecasts, and good luck. It is not all "sunny skies." They don't dwell upon them, but they do mention the sand flies and the midges.

Insights and judgments are balanced and prudent. Consider theirs on the 100 mile trail in western England: "Cotswold Way is not for someone who seeks solitude and wants a sense of wilderness. It's a walk for someone who appreciates the human touch upon a welcoming land." They also emphasis that almost none of these trails needs to be taken from end-to-end, and highlight the better portions. In addition, they cover the accommodation issues, from the trails in which one must camp, to those with the options of staying in commercial lodging establishments.

A few criticisms: They seemed to downplay the importance of carrying a GPS device (or two!), even noting that there are areas where without coverage. Sure, there are areas where there might not be cell phone coverage, but that is a different issue. I still remember always obtaining GPS coverage in the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia, in the late 90's, and that is about as remote as you can get. And in hiking, there are those sudden changes in weather, and a reduced to almost zero visibility situation in which the GPS can literally be lifesaving. I also felt that there were some redundancies in part I, in particular. For sure, you can't do it all, but I was disappointed in not seeing a hike or two in Japan.

Nonetheless, despite a few glitches, this is a book to treasure, and to impact and change one's life's plans, and thus deserves a "plus" after 5-stars.

Tumi Tegra-Lite  Max Continental Expandable Carry-On, T-Graphite, One Size
Tumi Tegra-Lite Max Continental Expandable Carry-On, T-Graphite, One Size
Price: $745.00
2 used & new from $692.85

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Top-of-the-line luggage in the economy age..., August 12, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
No question, this is a very well-made product, and carries a price tag to match. If you travel a lot, in defined circumstances, this suitcase may be for you. I've had my share of luggage, admittedly much cheaper, that the wheels would fall off after two flights, or the handle would break off. The Tumi promises a wonderful change of pace.

The Positives:
- Made from a "super" synthetic material, "Tegra," touted for its protective use by the police and football players.
- It is attractive and stylish.
- Solid overall construction, with wheels and handles designed to LAST.
- Numerous internal compartments, which can be zipped.
- Special foam holder device to minimize the creasing in pants / slacks.
- Mesh panel with clips so clothes do not roll around.
- A good warranty that will cover repair or replacement in the event of damage.
- Even comes with a "dust cover" for longer-term storage.

The Negatives:
- The main one, and it has been covered well by a couple other reviewers, is that suddenly this may NOT be an authorized carry-on because of its size, due to pending new rules that seemed designed to make air travel more like some medieval water torture: shrink the size of the carry-on, so that you have to check it, and pay the baggage fee.
- The fixed top strap is too tightly affixed to the case.
- The expandability - by only two inches - seems to be of marginal utility.
- There are on-line instructions (none are provided with the case) on setting the lock. They could have done a much better job of explaining (and illustrating!) the very small pin hole that must be depressed with a small pin in order to accomplish the task.

Now if we only had real high-speed trains in America, this would be an ideal piece of luggage. For the cramped world of airplane travel, this would be a bit of a gamble on future rules. 4-stars.

The Reader
The Reader
by Carol Brown Janeway
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.60
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I mean... so what would you have done?", August 10, 2015
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This review is from: The Reader (Paperback)
I was first introduced to this work by a Danish friend who is a voracious reader, shortly after the book was first published in 1995. He loaned me his copy. I had never heard of Bernhard Schlink before. I can remember thinking what a brilliant, well written novel it is. And for a while, it would remain in a quirky European "niche" of great modern novels relatively few Americans have heard of. Then Oprah Winfrey made this a selection for her book club. I sing hosannas in her praise, because such outstanding literature deserves much wider readership. After two decades I decided to give it a re-read, and found it just as impressive, the second time around.

The novel works well along several different dimensions. There is the love story. Or is it an obsession? Or is it just lust that lasts a lifetime? The narrator is Michael Berg, age 15 when the novel commences. It is the fulfillment of every adolescent boy's dream. Serendipity leads him into a love affair with a 36 year old woman, Hanna Schmitz. The year is around 1959. Schlink describes the love scenes with great skill... with just a sufficient amount of detail... to, er, ah, place the reader in the scene. I had to struggle with whether or not Schlink attributed too much maturity to a 15 year old. As Leonard Cohen once proclaimed: "I never met a woman until I was 65; before then I only saw these miracles before me." Yet young Berg seemed to realize that the eroticism was not in some body part or piece of clothing, but in the manner in which she held herself, and conveyed her invitation to him. She managed to "imprint" herself upon him - intentionally or not - the question would haunt him... and he would carry various images of her throughout his life. Some of the images, naturally were erotic in nature, others were how her skirt billowed out as she rode the bike in the countryside. Sad to say, the "reality check" is, at least in America, somehow, today, all of this would be illegal.

Hanna Schmitz is illiterate. And she hides it. She goes to great lengths to hide it. It takes Berg a considerable period of time to figure this out due to her clever dissimulation. Schlink provides the clues for the reader, who, as intended, figures it out before Berg does. One just does not expect someone in the Western world to be illiterate. This aspect of the novel particularly resonated, because I have literally, as it were, "been there." I still vividly remember the moment that I realized that the lieutenant could not read a map, and it was a moment that he desperately needed to be able to read the map... but unlike Hanna, he admitted it to me... and thus, under "other duties as assigned," I became "The Reader" for him, just like Michael Berg.

Schmitz was of that certain age that ensured her participation in the Second World War, as a German, with a role in the Holocaust. She is being tried for that role. In many ways she does not understand the process - legal or political. And at one point in the trial she asks the judge the subject question: "I mean... so what would you have done?" Schlink ensures that the reader considers this a reasonable question, while at the same time pointing out that in the "legal system" a defendant is not permitted to ask a judge such a question. Meanwhile, Berg himself, a much older Berg, who is in law school, struggles with the dilemma of trying to balance condemnation with understanding.

The German people, "of a certain age," have spent much time trying to conceal their involvement with the evils of their participation in that war, while only a few have been willing to confront it. As Schlink points out, there is a major division within German society itself between those of that certain age, and their children. There remains that "there but for fortunate go I" aspect of a certain time and place. And then there is the matter of that aforementioned lieutenant, and the evils of another war. The German people have paid out reparations, in an effort of partial atonement. Can we as Americans say the same? But that is another book... as for Schlink's, 6-stars.

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