The Moaning of Life: Book Review
Autobiography/Biography , Comedy , Travel / October 12, 2016

The Moaning of Life is the latest book by everyone’s favorite Idiot Abroad, Karl Pilkington.  First, I have to point out that the title continues to make me laugh no matter how many times I see it.  Combined with the excellent picture of Karl’s expression, the book’s cover is pure genius. Karl Pilkington is a friend of the British comedian Ricky Gervais’ who became famous in his own right after Gervais’ dragged Karl, I suspect unwillingly, into to some of his projects.  Karl’s pessimistic travel show, An Idiot Abroad, is probably his most well known work.  The show, and much of The Moaning of Life, features a reluctant Pilkington as he travels the world and manages to find fault with everything that he discovers along the way. The Moaning of Life is structured into different chapters based around some of life’s most important events and concepts including marriage, happiness, and death.  Karl, with his characteristically dry and at least partially serious style, manages to convey his musinga on these topics as he simultaneously recounts many of his travel stories.  The chapters feature conversations between Karl and the natives of exotic lands, as well as semi-applicable and interesting facts that Karl learned during the course of writing the book….

North Korea Confidential: Book Review
History , Sociology , Travel / October 12, 2016

North Korea Confidential: Private Markets, Fashion Trends, Prison Camps, Dissenters and Defectors, written by Daniel Tudor & James Pearson, is a recently released, informative peek into the modern day Hermit Kingdom. This is the most unique book that I remember reading about North Korea because it focuses on the reality of life in modern North Korea instead of the state sponsored narrative of which most people are familiar. North Korea Confidential: Private Markets, Fashion Trends, Prison Camps, Dissenters and Defectors, as the short and sweet title makes quite clear, focuses on a wide range of activities and situations in the lives of North Korean citizens.  The authors attempt to dispel the myth that all North Korean people are simply puppets who blindly believe all of the lies that the Kim government propagates.  Some of the most fascinating sections shed light on the illegal (yet tolerated out of necessity) capitalist markets run by North Korean women and the inevitable infiltration of outside influences into the country via USB drives.  The traditional notions of a male run society and the Kim family’s claim that North Korea is a paradise compared to the rest of the world have been shattered by these changes. The authors indicate that the famine in…

A Geek in Japan: Discovering the Land of Manga, Anime, Zen, and the Tea Ceremony: Book Review
Sociology , Travel / October 9, 2016

Before I get into this review, I have to admit something that other nerds might find to be a bit disconcerting. It is only in the past several years that, aside from video games, I have truly appreciated the nerdtasticity of Japanese culture.  However, I recently have experienced the crazy awesome shows Fist of the North Star (quite literally mind-blowing) and Ranma 1/2.  As with all of my hobbies/obsessions, I wanted to dig deeper and find a book to tell me as much as possible about the mysterious land that produced such brilliant artistic content. Hector Garcia’s book is excellent on the whole, although the short title A Geek in Japan is a bit misleading.  A Geek in Japan: Discovering the Land of Manga, Anime, Zen, and the Tea Ceremony covers all different aspects of Japanese culture; this book is not entirely about manga, anime, video games, and other geek related hobbies. However, I am actually glad that it covers a broader view of the country because it provides a more complete picture of Japanese culture.  There are chapters dedicated to just about everything, including history, arts, workplace culture, daily life, travel destinations, and everything in between. Garcia manages to survey Japan to an impressive degree in a relatively brief work.  I am…