Reviews

The World Is Your Oyster: '1,000 Places to See Before You Die'

First published in 2003, this updated edition has added 28 additional countries, including Ghana, Qatar, Latvia and Vanuatu, and 200 new entries, for those who might think that Earth, and its attractions, are finite.


1,000 Places to See Before You Die

Publisher: Workman
Length: 1,200 pages
Author: Patricia Schultz
Price: $19.95
Format: Paperback
Publication date: 2011-11
Amazon

Most people under 40 – if they haven’t been permanently bonded to their La-Z-Boys by reality TV, World of Warcraft and Facebook – are likely to find this new and updated edition of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die an exciting reminder of just how incredibly bountiful and seemingly inexhaustible are the planet's natural and man-made attractions. If this travel guide doesn’t get them off the couch and down to the passport office, nothing will.

The same should apply for people over 40, though the sheer volume of this overstuffed valise of a book, and the endless wonders within, might make some feel as if the prospect of ever seeing even a fraction of the world is impossible in the time that remains. (The title of this book, one of the few things about it that I didn’t like, makes it seem like what should be a pleasurable and mind-expanding activity is, instead, a daunting race against the clock.)

There are two ways of traversing this 1,200-page guide or its IPad companion app: Read it straight through (a nutty thing to do, but perhaps enjoyable for dreamers and armchair travelers), or approach it from one of two ends: Either by checking out what it has to say about places you’ve visited or lived in – in other words, seeing if the book manages to capture the essence of the places you already know and love – or by checking out locations you’ve never even heard of and seeing if the book can persuade you to go there next year, or the year after that.

In the latter category I encountered, just in one 20-page stretch, Pulau Langkawi (“the Jewel of Kedah”), Melakah, Pangkor Laut Resort, Mergui Archipelago, Inle Lake, Shwedagon Pagoda, Amanpulo, Phangnga Bay, Boracay, and half a dozen other tempting and redolent destinations in Southeast Asia. The pictures are small but well-chosen, and the descriptions will fill anyone whose heart still beats with longing: “The powdery soft sand here is so white that it glows at night and turns pink when it reflects the sunset.”

If you’re not interested in Southeast Asia for some unfathomable reason, no worries: The book covers every corner of Earth, including Courmayeur, Bornholm, Lalibela, Tolkuchka, Bubbling Rotorua, Hardangerfjord, Eje Cafetero, Rangiroa and the Mogao Caves. How many of these have you visited? Me neither, and that’s what makes this book such an exciting exception to the typical travel guides that cover mostly familiar destinations like Venice, Hong Kong, Hawaii or New York (though of course it covers these, too.)

When it comes to places I know well, the book seems to be well-researched and accurate, though I can assure its authors, researchers and editors that in fact no one in Chicago refers to hot dogs as “red hots”, as in, “I think I’ll have a red hot for lunch.” I also can state with assurance that its mumble-mouthed admission that “Kyoto’s beauty can sometimes be elusive” is the understatement of the century; this amazing destination was, as the book notes, spared by Allied bombing during World War II, but was not spared by Japan’s concrete-happy urban “planners”; discovering its fantastic beauty requires patience and an extremely high tolerance for congestion and noise. (Why don’t travel writers ever just tell the simple truth? We’re grown-ups; we can take it.)

But this well-edited and well-written book otherwise does a reasonable job of capturing the essence of that city, and San Antonio’s River Walk, and Bangkok’s Grand Palace and Wat Pho, and Takayama, and the Galapagos Islands, and Oxford, and the pubs of Dublin, and Siena, and the relative handful of other places I have been lucky enough to see with my own eyes.

First published in 2003, this updated edition has added 28 additional countries, including Ghana, Qatar, Latvia and Vanuatu, and 200 new entries, for those who might think that Earth, and its attractions, are finite. It's not, and if you’ve seen very little of it, it’s time to get cracking.

The reality, of course, is that even if you’re young and full of energy and have all the money in the world, it’s incredibly unlikely that you’ll ever see even a quarter of the fascinating and delectable destinations herein. But it’s exciting to dream and to speculate, and managing to encounter even one additional location on this list is better than sticking around for another season of the Kardashians. As Auntie Mame put it, “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.” Pick up this bountiful book and, within the limits of your budget and your physical capability, get off the couch and live!

8

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

Next Page

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image