Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Eurasian Disunion

Soon after I returned from my mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to St. Petersburg, Russia, I remember looking through an issue of National Geographic and seeing some pictures from Central Asia.  The pictures were mostly from some of the bigger cities there, so there was a heavy Russian influence visible thanks to Russia’s imperial and then Soviet colonization efforts.  The pictures made me wax nostalgic for my time in Russia.  As it is now closing in on almost twenty years since my time in Russia, it has been interesting to see, although rarely up close and personal, the changes in those countries, as well as the other countries that were formerly part of Russia or under a great deal of Russian influence, like a lot of Eastern Europe was.  To differing degrees, they have moved away from Russia and worked to chart their own path, often to Russia’s consternation.

Book cover.Eurasian Disunion: Russia’s Vulnerable Flanks by Janusz Bugajski and Margarita Assenova (ISBN: 978-0-9855045-5-7) takes a look, region by region, those parts of the world that used to be part of the Soviet bloc and explores their struggles, their ties to Russia, and possible scenarios regarding their futures.  Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Caucasus, and Central Asia are all examined.  Russia is of the opinion that it has and should maintain strategic interest in all these regions and works to maintain a certain level of influence in those areas.  It does this through diplomacy, through international organizations, through intelligence operations, through propaganda, through its involvement and control of energy markets, and through supporting general conditions of uncertainty and unrest.  (To be fair, other countries and international organizations are involved in the same or similar activities, although motivations may be different.)  The authors examine the responses and defenses of the various countries and regions to Russia’s many efforts (the authors identify what they determine to be sixty-eight unique methods Russia tries to project its will on the former Soviet bloc) to protect its influence in those same regions.  As noted above, the past twenty or so years have shown that, to varying degrees, the former Soviet countries want to distance themselves from that past and from Russia being their only powerful partner.  Most would be happy with engaging with Russia, but not at the expense of other opportunities in the West and in Asia.  The authors examine responses to Russia’s efforts and give some brief thoughts on how things might play out given varying scenarios, largely calling for a cross-Atlantic approach that builds on multi-lateral international relations to provide Russia’s flanks with viable alternatives until Russia decides to play by the rules of the game.

The book is heavy on current events with a hearty serving of realist-style political science.  Given the subject matter, I found it interesting, but those who are interested in other parts of the world may not be quiet as keen on it.  However, it seems that Russia really never goes out of style.  I found the overview of Russia’s influence efforts in the various countries and regions to be interesting.  Even for someone who enjoys reading the news, there’s too much to keep up with, so this was a nice survey of that.  Hacking and spying make the headlines, so it was nice to move away from that and read about diplomatic efforts, the energy field, propaganda, and even criminal tie-ins.  As with many publications more academic in nature, I thought the conclusion section was maybe a little hasty and probably not specific enough even though they were likely solid proposals.

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Behind the Drive

As a kid, Larry Miller was a guy I didn’t really get.  I think I didn’t get a lot of people as a kid.  I was probably a lot more quick to judge people than I should’ve been.  I’m not really sure what it was that made me think he was not up to my standards.  Likely it was a picture in the newspaper of him at a Jazz game on a Sunday (which rarely happened) or a quote in the newspaper in which he used some inappropriate language.  As I have got older and come to learn more about him and come to recognize my own struggles, it’s been very easy to forgive him for those shortcomings.  In fact, it’s probably just the opposite situation now as I tend to see Larry Miller as someone who had many positive characteristics and someone from whom we can learn.

Larry H. Miller: Behind the Drive: 99 Inspiring Stories from the Life of an American Entrepreneur, edited by Bryan Miller (ISBN: 978-1-62972-094-4) is a collection of short anecdotes from the lives of those people on whom Larry Miller had a positive impact.  Some of the people who contributed were well known, both inside and out of Utah.  Others were people I’d never heard of.  All had been helped in one way or another by the man that most knew only as the owner of the Utah Jazz (while his car dealership empire was well known, the Jazz were front and center in the minds of everyone that I knew).  There was story after story of Larry Miller giving of his time and money to help someone out, including competitors.  There were a couple stories from his immediate family indicating that he had a great appreciation and love for his family and wished, as he got to the end of this life, that he had made better decisions about how much time he spent with his family.  He was a passionate, hard-working man, driven by love for his family, his community, and his God, and it showed in the way he helped out in so many different people’s lives.  He paid off cars, he bought people appliances, he endowed scholarships for poor kids, he worked to keep the Jazz in Utah, seeing them as something the community could gel around, and he supported his family, friends, and community through service in the Church.

I enjoyed reading Miller’s autobiography, Driven, so it’s not too surprising that I enjoyed this book, too.  This provided a differing viewpoint, but included some of the same conclusions.  I was amazed at how many people he helped, often without asking a question.  He had no second thoughts about paying off a struggling woman’s car loan.  Employees, friends, and even strangers (when the wife of a Ukrainian he barely knew needed cancer treatment she could only get in America, he moved them to America and paid for her cancer treatments) benefited from his generosity with his hard-earned money.  He was a personable person, taking time to get to know the little people, regularly spending his lunches with mechanics at dealerships or constructions workers on building sites, not the managers or foremen.  I’ve heard from other sources that Miller was a poor tipper, and that was addressed by a restaurant owner in the book, who said Miller usually gave 15% (standard at the time of the story), but his staff felt that simply because he was rich, he should’ve tipped more.  Judging by the rest of the stories, I believe Larry Miller’s tips added up to well over 15% in his life.  I found his children’s thoughts on family time fascinating and realized I could learn from that, too, even though he probably fell short in that area.  Both the effective and less-effective examples are something we can, if we are smart, learn from.

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Wonder

Bullying, as the word is used today, wasn’t a thing when I was a kid.  Kids got made fun of or teased, but bullying, as we knew it, was when some kids, usually physically larger and more developed, used their unusual size to threaten smaller or younger kids into doing their will, usually involving lunch money, milk money, or desserts.  They were also to be feared in gym, which seemed to involve a lot of dodgeball, where bullies could unleash their physical prowess by slamming balls into the heads of other kids.  Nowadays, a lot that would’ve been overlooked in my day or engendered a lesson about ignoring or walking away gets put into the category of bullying.  The one area where things are the same is the area of kids who look different or who are mentally handicapped.  That was a problem before and is a problem now.

Book cover.Wonder by R. J. Palacio (ISBN: 978-0-375-86902-0), explores this latter form of bullying, but also the ability of some people to rise above it, in a short novel about a kids born with a number of physical birth defects who has decided it’s time to go to school with other kids.  He chooses to go to a private school, where he is confronted with all the problems one might expect for a kid facing the trouble of being both the new kid and the kid with some unusual facial features.  There are a few kids who are genuine in their interactions with him from day one, but for others, it takes some time.  Everything in the book is narrated from a first-person point of view, although the first person sometimes changes, as the reader hears from Auggie ’s sister and friends on occasion.  They have their own unique takes on the situation and show that there is some internal struggle involved in doing the right thing.  By the end of the book, most of kids have come around to accepting Auggie, and even come to his defense when some kids from another school decide to pick on him at an overnight outing (a very real phenomenon, as most people feel free to pick on their own friends, families, hometowns, schools, etc., but won’t put up with a single negative word by an outsider).  The main character himself has also done some maturing, learning that despite his differences and the hardship they have caused him, there is much he can and even should do on his own.

The book was an enjoyable and easy read that seemed very realistic.  I like to think that my elementary and junior high classmates would not have voted me most likely to shoot up the school, but I was also at the butt end of a lot of jokes and usually picked near the end when it came time to make teams on the playground.  That’s not to say I was friendless, though, and so much of the storyline seemed very realistic to me, based on what I saw and what I experienced during my early school years.  I thought the lessons learned by the hero, his family, his friends, and maybe even his enemies, were positive ones that were general, universal values that people of all persuasions could get behind.  The kids, who were cast as fifth-graders, seemed a little mature for their supposed years, and I thought that distracted slightly from the overall reading experience, as did the sadly standard profane language (this might just be me, but I have a lot less of a problem with vulgar language than with profane language, which is an automatic downer every time).  Overall, the book presented a good message and had some fun along the way, and has been enjoyed by friends and family of all different ages, so there’s a wide appeal.

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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Band of Brothers

Defeat must be brought into Germany itself before this mess can come to a proper end; a quick victory now, a sudden collapse, will leave the countryside relatively intact and the people thirsty for revenge. I want the war to end as quickly as anybody wishes, but I don’t want the nucleus of another war left whole.
— David Webster

. . . Americans as conquerors . . . They took what they wanted, but by no means did they rape, loot, pillage, and burn their way through Germany.
. . . Of course there were some rapes, some mistreatment of individual Germans, and some looting, but it is simple fact to state that other conquering armies in WWII, perhaps most of all the Russian, but including the Japanese and German, acted differently.
— Stephen E. Ambrose

World War II has always been fascinating to me.  As a kid it was because of the aircraft.  I loved looking at pictures of the famous bombers and fighters that plied the skies over Europe.  I loved drawing (or, probably more accurately, trying to draw) those same airplanes.  One of my favorite books as a kid was one that had also been a favorite of my dad’s, The Winged Watchman, about a Dutch family and their experiences in the war, including some resistance activity.  I read it multiple times and often had the vivid pictures it brought to mind in my head.  Later in life, I came to appreciate the amazing lives of so many ordinary Americans who answered the call of their country during the war.  Later, they would come to be known as the “greatest generation” because of their amazing accomplishments, usually from very humble beginnings.

Book cover.Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest by Stephen E. Ambrose (ISBN: 978-1-5011-7940-2) tells the story of a few of the soldiers from that greatest generation.  It traces the story of one company from the company’s formation through their intense training, through their roles in some of the most decisive battles of World War II, and then through their march across Europe right to Hitler’s famed headquarters, where they secured and watched over the allied territory.  Like the based-on-a-true-story movies that always have a few words about the movie’s heroes before the credits roll, the book had a final chapter about how America’s heroes went through life after the war; with very few exceptions, they lived up to their well-deserved moniker as America ’s greatest.  The stories detailed training and then the adrenaline rush of first combat as part of the invasion of Normandy.  The men had little use for the French, but a much higher respect for the Dutch.  After the initial surges and excitement, they spent months in trenches on the front, and more than a few lost their lives.  There was a lot of pain and suffering, but a few light moments were had, too.  Throughout it all, the stories weave together a solid narrative of unity and support for each other that comes only through bearing great tribulation together.  That unity was one of the men’s greatest assets as they faced their enemy on the battlefields of Europe.

I enjoyed the book.  It was a pretty good read that told an overall story, but had some individual focus in many places that often gave it a personal feel.  I found myself overwhelmed at times by the constant use of so many organizational names and numbers, but realize that such a layout serves the true military history fans out there well.  There was a lot of that at times, which I tended to just gloss over because it meant so little to me.  I found the stories, both the personal ones and the larger overviews of battles and operations, to be well done and very interesting to read.  It was easy to picture oneself hiding behind a hedge in rural France or slogging through the mud of western Germany.  The vivid experiences also included commentary from the author’s extensive interviews with the men from the band of brothers, a lot of which struck me because of its wisdom and because of it’s tone, which was often, as evidenced by the two quotations at the top of this post, contrary to the conventional wisdom of the world today.  While universally declared to be the greatest generation, their ideas are roundly criticized today, and I wonder if there isn’t something to be learned that could be applied today, a time when no one will be accused of being part of a great generation.  The men that went and fought for America saw America as exceptional, and it was — in part because of them.  They also knew that war, waged properly, could be a deterrent to future.  Not just those quotes can be learned from, though.  The book was full of examples of hard work, dedication, patriotism, unity, solidarity, and unity that would serve us well if we would choose to imitate them.  Maybe, just maybe, in that case, we would have a chance of becoming at least part of the brave people who were members of the resistance in Europe or members of that greatest generation.

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Unbroken

World War II has always fascinated me.  This is likely related to two things.  One is familial involvement.  One grandpa was a soldier in the war.  The other set of grandparents were children in Germany.  The other thing is that I loved drawing aircraft as a kid, and the bombers of World War II figured prominently in my usual repertoire.  What I didn’t necessarily understand as a kid is the large part that prison camps played in the war.  From the little reading that I have done and the little that I know, there are atrocious things that happened in the war’s prison camps, but I have heard more than a few stories of people rising above the horror and rising above the temptation to give up or to forever hate those who have treated them so evilly.  These stories are an interesting and often inspiring piece of history.

Book cover.Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (ISBN: 978-0-679-60375-7) is just such a story about overcoming trials.  Like so many stories of resilience in the face of overwhelming odds, the story starts with humble origins.  Louis Zamperini was the son of Italian immigrants struggling to make ends meet along with most other Depression-era Americans.  A caring older brother discovered the track and invited Louie along, later serving as an unofficial coach, and Louie became as star, eventually qualifying for the Olympics, running a race (5,000 meters) he didn’t usually do.  He competed admirably in Berlin, finishing eighth against some of the world’s greatest runners.  His running career, though, was cut short by the onset of war, and he served as a bombardier.  That, too, was cut short because his plane went down during a rescue mission, and he was captured by the Japanese after some time floating in a raft at sea.  Floating around for weeks was already an amazing act of survival and resilience, but the worst was yet to come.  Zamperini then spent more than two years in various Japanese prison camps undergoing brutal treatment.  He and others kept their wits about them by resolving to beat the system and not give in to their captors and abusers.  Some made it, some did not.  There were some funny stories along the way, but most of it was monotony, drudgery, and pain.  Eventually, Zamperini and the others that survived were done with the horrors of the camps because the war ended.  Unfortunately, for many, that was not the concrete ending they would’ve preferred.  The horrors lived on in many of the former POWs’ minds, causing more than one to turn to alcohol, destructive behaviors, and even suicide to end the pain.  Zamperini’s story included a lot of post-war alcoholism, but he eventually quit that thanks to a conversion to evangelical Christianity, in part because of him remembering some promises he made to God while floating aimlessly on the Pacific Ocean in the first few days after his plane went down.  Zamperini used this redeeming experience in his life to later inspire and help others as well as come to terms with and even forgive his war-time tormentors.

I thought the book was good.  It was an inspiring story and it included some interesting information on the war.  It is best classified as a biography of Zamperini, not a history book.  There are many aspects of the book that were worth remembering, including the hard work and dedication the subject put into his running, his service in the military, and then his life after the war.  There were so many times he could’ve given up and probably justifiably so, but he didn’t.  He used the overwhelmingly negative experiences to make himself better, which is something worth emulation.  As noted above, this was a trait that was fairly common in his generation and one that is definitely missing in many today.  I was intrigued to read that faith and religion played such a large role in his post-war healing.  Such an aspect to story was not surprising, though, since a trust in the atonement of Christ is the surest way to redemption.  Finally, I would be lying if I didn’t note that I liked the stories about the running, which included some thoughts about Zamperini being one of the contenders for breaking the 4-minute mile barrier, and the Olympics in pre-war Germany, which are a subject of interest in and of themselves.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Boys in the Boat

I’ve been a bit of an Olympics junkie, as it were, for really as long as I can clearly remember the Olympics.  It was probably the summer games in Seoul, South Korea, in 1988, that really got me started.  It helped that I was somewhat incapacitated during a significant period of those games by a nasty injury to my knee after deciding that a car ramp would make a real fine bike jump.  It didn ’t, and when the sidewalk and my joints met, my skin disintegrated.  The resultant scab made it difficult to bend my knee, so I sat, luge-style, in the recliner in the living room and watched hours upon hours of Olympics.  I was a fan only a few hours in.  The pageantry was attractive, the glamor was fascinating, but the athletes striving for excellence, along with a little nationalism, is what really intrigued me.  I’ve always enjoyed participating in sports, in large part because of the drive for excellence that they embody and teach.

Book cover.The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans ad Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics (ISBN: 978-1-101-62274-2) by Daniel James Brown tells a story in which sports and life worked together to teach just such lessons as young men who made up some of the Greatest Generation strove for excellence in their athletic endeavors and in life, garnering a gold medal along the way.  The story follows the life of Joe Rantz the closest, but the reader also gets fairly well acquainted with his rowing teammates, some of his family, his girlfriend, and his coaches along the way.  They all were the kind of people that made America great — hard workers who were responsible and self-reliant, expecting nothing from others but the best from themselves.  Rantz had an interesting childhood in which his mother died, he spent some time living in a mining camp, his step-mother was the stuff of fairy tales, brutally controlling toward his dad and eventually kicking Rantz out of the house when he was still a young teenager.  Joe fended for himself, living in the house the rest of his family abandoned, working his way through high school and college.  It bordered, in a way, on a tale of survival during his early years.  In college, he tried out for and made the rowing team, showing immense potential as a freshman.  Hard work over the next three years eventually landed him and his teammates in the Olympics in Berlin, Germany, where Hitler was in his heyday.  Rantz and his fellow oarsman from Washington had overcome a lot throughout their lives, many from similar backgrounds to Joe’s, to make it to the Olympics in a sport historically dominated by elites and other from the moneyed class.  In Berlin, they overcame more challenges and the home team to capture gold literally right from underneath Hitler’s nose.

Like most history books, the outcome was never in doubt, yet the book was an engrossing read.  The title describes the quest for gold as epic, but it was, in reality, a small subtext to the story.  The characters themselves were epic.  Joe’s story is unbelievable and beyond worthy of being recorded for a wider audience (in rowing circles it was long the stuff of legend).  Some of what he went through seems superhuman.  It, most definitely, is worthy of emulation.  His willingness to work hard was inspiring throughout the story.  He showed that, if one’s willing to put in the work, there is no situation that cannot be improved upon.  Growing up in mining camps and working at logging jobs in high school without any parents around could’ve served as excuses to not succeed in life, but they didn’t.  Neither did the Great Depression.  Neither did any number of other difficulties that presented themselves in Joe’s life.  There were similar stories all around him.  This made digging deep while competing the nation’s and then the world’s most competitive races that much easier.  The level of hard work, commitment, and self-reliance, along with a large amount of common sense, decency, patriotism, and loyalty are a rare combination these days, but were par for the course coming out of the Great Depression and into World War II.  There was an even greater reserve in these special rowers, one that we would be wise to emulate and that made the book, refreshing in its lack of vulgarities, an excellent read.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

The Oligarchs

This was a critical decision for the insurgent democrats — they decided
to go local and make Moscow, not the national government, an engine for real change.

When I arrived in Russia as a young missionary, my first month was full of the other, more experienced missionaries telling me of the infamous ruble crash of 1998.  I honestly couldn’t fathom what it meant.  By summer of 1999, things seemed somewhat stable to a 19-year-old missionary from Utah who had never traveled outside the United States before.  I remember that the first time I heard about the crash was as I looked out over a sea of high-rise apartment buildings — the Russians refer to them as “anthills” — from the balcony window of a missionary apartment, also in a high-rise building, in the Vesyoly Posyolok area of St. Petersburg.  It was sunny, warm, and a bit of a sleepy afternoon with a streetcar rumbling by down below.  I was regaled with stories of runs on ATMs, stores, and bakeries.  It all seemed so foreign and so far away.

Book cover.The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia (ISBN: 1-58648-001-4) by David E. Hoffman starts long before the ruble crash and financial crisis, telling the story of how Russia came to that point after the fall of Communism.  The story is told in a very personal way, relying heavily on the author’s many personal interviews with the major players in industry and politics, as well as his and other journalists’ first-hand experiences during the “wild ’90s” in Russia.  The book provides short biographies of the major players, household names in Russia and sometimes beyond well into the early 2000s: Aleksandr Smolensky, Yuri Luzhkov, Anatoly Chubais, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Boris Berezovsky, and Vladimir Gusinsky.  The book chronicles these men’s rise to power.  They were entrepreneurs, opportunists, risk takers, visionaries, and criminals all rolled into one.  The book also provides a lot of information on Boris Yeltsin since the story of the oligarchs is inseparably woven into Yeltsin’s story.  From the dying throes of Communism to the dawn of Putinism, the book tracks the actions of the oligarchs and politicians they worked closely with and what the consequences were for Russia, Russians, and the West.  The oligarchs were an interesting group because of the they were at the forefront of a entrepreneurial movement that helped move the country forward, but they were wholly unprepared to play by rules foreign to them.  They cut a lot of back-room deals during Soviet times and continued using that same playbook the farther in the rear-view mirror the Soviet Union got.  To compensate for the changing financial and economic landscape, the oligarchs joined up with Yeltsin, going against he sentiment they had in the quotation above and helping him win a second term in the presidency because it kept the oligarchs in power.  A case is made for the necessity of that maneuver.  Finally, the book presents a few notes about how that move, keeping Yeltsin in power, ended up hurting the oligarchs because Yeltsin’s hand-picked successor, Vladimir Putin, has worked hard against them.

The book is rather old, written in 2001.  It is still relevant today, though.  It ends with a discussion of Putin and his rise to power and the early signs that his time in power was going to be different.  The book provides some warnings to the West (mega-rich bazillionaire George Soros is quoted in the book saying that some of his early investments in Russia were his worst investments ever) should Russia ever recover from Putinism and thaw like it did after the Cold War.  Hoffman spared no punches, and Western darling Khodorkovsky was shown to be a bit of a slimy rat.  (In fairness, all the other Russian oligarchs were portrayed that way, too, but Khodorkovsky seemed to be the leader of the pack.)  Khodorkovsky took it on the chin from Putin, but he was no angel and likely doesn’t deserve quite the level of adulation he gets from the Western press.  I enjoyed reading the stories from the ’90s and thinking back on the crazy Russia that I knew as a missionary and wishing it could’ve worked out a little better for Russia after the Cold War.  The oligarchs were likely a help and a hindrance.

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Travels of Marco Polo

I was never a big fan of water as a kid.  I took swimming lessons a couple times and knew how to keep myself above water (more or less: treading water was always difficult for me), but I really didn’t enjoy being in the pool too much.  As a teenager and in college, I had fun playing water basketball, which was always understood to be a no-holds-barred version of water polo with a basketball hoop hanging over the water.  No matter if it was a young men’s activity or a get-together with friends (even in a co-ed setting), it was a brutal, but fun, game.  Since I was so adverse to the water as a kid, I never played the childhood pool favorite, Marco Polo, ostensibly named for the XIII-century explorer (Wikipedia claims the game is not connected, but that honestly seems a bit daft).  I never read his famous and influential book as a kid, either, but as I’ve come to be more interested in the world’s classics, I thought I’d give it a try.

Book cover.The Travels of Marco Polo translated by Ronald Latham (ISBN: 978-0-14-044057-7) is the famous and influential (Columbus was inspired by reading Polo’s account of his travels) tale of travel and adventure that is really quite ethnographic in nature.  There is no authoritative version of the book since there are over 150 extant manuscripts, and there are many significant differences.  Latham, a Polo scholar, did this translation in 1958 and worked to meld the major manuscripts together, giving the reader a very complete view of Polo’s travels.  The focus of Polo’s account is his time in the court of the Mongolian khans, but he discusses his time in what is now Turkey, Iran, Burma, China, Sumatra, India, and Arabia.  The descriptions of the people and places are often quite detailed, especially when it comes to court life.  Commoners’ lives aren’t given the same level of detail, but the major industries and agricultural pursuits of each region are listed, along with general religious customs, and usually a note or two about interesting flora, fauna, and cultural customs (for instance, sharing wives seems to have been a thing in more than one Asian culture 700 years ago).  Polo talked about the spread of Christianity.  He talked about various technologies, shipping methods, and Oriental warfare.  He always took time to describe the local take on alcohol.  He also relayed tales of the supernatural and used interesting words, like “unicorn” (argued by some scholars to mean “rhinoceros”) that renders some of the description of the travels rather hard to believe.

Although tough at times because of archaic language and downright lies in some places (i.e., men with tails or people who look like dogs or the ability of some of the natives to conjure up storms to defeat their enemies), the book is an enjoyable read and the general idea of the work is considered by most scholars to be true.  A lot of what is written in the book is true, and more of it is based on truth, leaving only the really crazy stuff to be outright lies.  It was interesting to read the accounts of ancient peoples, places, customs, and religions.  It reminded me of my time in Russia as a missionary and my first visit to the Czech Republic, both instances of my own travel where I kept a journal, often detailing the things I saw around me that were new to me.  Polo likely did the same, and it’s quite important that he and others did, since such records provided knowledge and inspiration for others.

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