The Story of Stuff
“Stuff” is something our household has in copious amounts. “Where is the
stuff we use to clean the fridge,” is a familiar call. The location is
given as, “In with the other stuff, where you left it last time.” That’s
the beauty of the English language. It is so precise!
The Story of Stuff by Annie
Leonard (ISBN 978-1-4516-1029-1, Free Press, 2011) attracted my eye on the
Bookazine shelves in Big C Extra, being personally so conversant with the
“stuff” at home. I should have looked further or read the sub-title at
least, “The impact of over-consumption on the planet, our communities,
and our health - and how we can make it better.”
Annie Leonard, it turns out, is a
professional “greenie”, having been an employee of Greenpeace before
becoming one of Ralph Nader’s raiders, then a member of the Global Alliance
for Incineration Alternatives, Healthcare without harm and the
Sustainability Funders. This being the case, I began reading with some
Right from the beginning of the
Introduction it was obvious that Annie Leonard is an excellent writer, as
the words flow smoothly, but also obvious that Ms Leonard bases part of her
thrust in the trust that CO2 emissions must not go above 350 parts per
million (ppm) because “leading scientists” have said so. That’s my first
stumbling block. These “leading scientists” seem to be able to pull numbers
out of a hat, or rather, out of the air. With CO2 making up 0.03 percent of
the earth’s atmosphere, so with 99.97 percent left, I wonder if Ms Leonard
is taking us up a rather uncharted road?
Don’t go looking for solace in a cup of
coffee, the book suggests that it takes 36 gallons of water to make one cup
of coffee and 256 gallons to make a T-shirt. I felt that I was about to be
singled out as the producer of drought.
And, profligate that I am, I regularly
drink water, adding to the six-fold increase in consumption in the last
century, I am informed. Mind you, how anyone can come up with figures for
consumption 100 years ago, I do not know. But then, I’m not green.
A Utopian future is suggested by us
showing “status” by kindness, experience and wisdom, rather than a flashy
car. I doubt I will see that in my lifetime.
I am also sure that some of Ms.
Leonard’s ideas are based on good science, but unfortunately not practical.
At the back of the book are several
pages of acknowledgments including a group who had resisted oil and coal
extraction throughout the world, this being a plus in Ms. Leonard’s eyes.
There is also a sample letter you can use and send to any manufacturer of
PVC products, because of the toxicity involved. I’m sorry, I am still happy
to buy my sandwiches in film.
At B. 495 this book is exciting reading
for the dedicated green people. Last time I looked while in the shower, I
remained a healthy pink color, despite my sandwiches. I’m sorry, but The
Story of Stuff failed to win a convert here.
Faking It in Bangkok
Another collection of essays this week from prolific author Christopher G
Moore, called Faking It in Bangkok (ISBN 978-616-7503-13-4, Heaven
Lake Press, 2012). Moore is probably better known for his Vincent Calvino
Private Eye series with 12 books published plus 11 other novels on the
shelves such as Waiting for the Lady, and the Wisdom of Beer.
This is his second book of essays, the
first being The Cultural Detective, and this one continues on in his
incisive way of looking at life as did the first.
The book is divided into six sections,
beginning with The Culture of Deception, followed by Crime, Class and
Culpability. Part III is Inside-Outside Thai perspectives, with Part IV
Violence in the Age of Reason, Part V Information in the Digital Age and
finally Part VI being Noir Tales.
Lady Gaga managed to get herself some
adverse publicity this month, asking for a fake Rolex (pronounced “Lorex” of
course) as Thailand puffed out its metaphorical chest and denied the very
existence of such pirated goods. However Christopher Moore speaks with the
authority of one who has been there and seen it, writing, “Walk along
Sukhumvit Road from Soi 3 to Soi 23 in the heart of Bangkok any night of the
week and you will pass vendors hawking pirated DVDs, hookers hawking
themselves and nighttime entertainment spots where the pimping and hawking
happens inside.” (Like fake watches, prostitution does not exist either.)
Moore is willing to enter debates on
many subjects, and the violent heritage of homo sapiens does not escape. He
mentions the “brass cow” an instrument of torture, in which people were
roasted alive as a public spectacle. “We come from this heritage.
Historically, our species killed each other on an epic level. We watched
and were entertained by the slow death of others. Next time someone tells
you they wish to return to the glorious past, mention the brass cow to
Human trafficking becomes a point in
question. He opines that “The Thai government has acknowledged that a
problem exists. And, it has done what governments normally do when faced
with a difficult problem: set up a commission to study the problem.” Moore
is not afraid to bring forth the obvious, which is supposed to remain
On the cover is a quote from Le
Parisien, “Moore is an idealist and a lone warrior.” I am afraid that I do
not wholeheartedly agree. An idealist he is, but not a lone warrior. Moore
could get an army behind him if he placed a “Positions vacant” advert in the
Christopher Moore puts forward very
lucid arguments and it was hard not to applaud as a point was made (people
tend to look warily at reviewers who become so involved with the story they
At B. 495, this collection of 50 essays
is well worth your while investing in. If you have any sense of what is
right or wrong in the Thai society, you will not regret the purchase. Moore
has laid it all out for you in a very readable and logical format.
With Blue Sky Development company advertising heavily that they have ‘found’
Atlantis, to see a book on the subject on the Big C Extra Bookazine shelves
was too great a temptation to pass up. The Lost Empire of Atlantis
has been written by Gavin Menzies (ISBN 987-0-857-82006-8, Orion Books
2011). Despite the fact that the book’s Atlantis and that of the developers
are obviously not the same, I am quite willing to accept a spotter’s fee
following their next sale. ;-))
The book is divided into six smaller
“books”, each with several chapters. They cover the Minoan civilization,
Voyages to the near East, Journeys West, Examining the heavens, the reaches
of the empire and the Legacy.
Author Menzies describes in great
detail their civilization, and it comes as a shock to find the Minoans had
hot and cold running water, flush toilets, fountains and bath tubs. They
were also skilled traders and more importantly skilled seafarers, able to
navigate through the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic to the USA
(waiting to be “discovered” by Christopher Columbus) and up through to
Cornwall and Wales in the UK to bring back copper and tin. They even sailed
to Africa, and that was 4,000 years before Vasco da Gamma and the ‘Age of
Discovery’. How long have we been fooling ourselves?
To be able to sail around the world,
the Minoans needed to be able to navigate expertly, and this they did with
the aid of stone circles, such as the one at Stonehenge, but there are many
more, including one in Egypt, as the Egyptians were also involved in sea
trade. To have the accuracy necessary for oceanic routes, they must have
understood the coordinates in the night sky. That is at 4,800 BC. And what
about Stonehenge which we were always told were used in religious practices
by the druids? Really? That is not what Gavin Menzies found.
The author has stopped this becoming a
dry and dreary dredge through the Bronze Age by writing in a down to earth
conversational style. Whilst he quotes freely from world experts in the
various fields covered, you also get to know what he had for breakfast that
He has proved his postulation, to my
satisfaction at least, that the Minoans traversed the globe and even visited
America 1,500 years BC. Christopher Columbus may have “sailed the ocean
blue in 14 hundred and 92”, but he was just a little late in his discovery.
The Minoans had been bringing back tobacco leaves (and a tobacco beetle or
two) and copper from America 3,000 years before!
So were the Minoans and Atlantis one
and the same? Did a tsunami wipe out the Minoans? Was the “sinking” of
Atlantis allegorical? Or did it never exist?
At the RRP of 685 THB, this is an
absolutely fascinating, and easily read book. Plenty of references after
each major chapter, two sets of color plates and an excellent index. A
resource book, but written like a novel. If you are at all interested in
the history of the world, get this book. You will be better informed