Like every youngster _ well, some at least _ I wanted to know everything there was to know. Not that I liked school that much. With all the inventions up to that time surely, I thought, there ought to be one that could be placed on my head by a scientist and, zap, my brain would be filled.
Time Almanac 2013 by Time magazine- Encyclopaedia Britannica, 864pp, 2013 TM-EB paperback. Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 450 baht
It was not invented yet, likely in the future, I was told. Why not read instead? But my visit to the 42nd Library in Manhattan psyched me out. Millions of books. An elderly man was pointed out to me who had been going there every day, seemingly forever, with the same intention as mine, and had yet to go through the letter A.
I fell back on encyclopaedias, books of facts, almanacs. All at my fingertips now. Ask me a question and if I haven't already memorised the answer, I'll pick up the appropriate book and it will be there. With others having also realised the importance of such books, more are sold and similar ones are published.
The question is how similar these books are. Identical would be plagiarism. Still, facts are facts and records are records and can't be altered from one book to the next. Essential ones must be included, those of little or virtually no importance glossed over or omitted.
Yet, readers have different interests. Eliminate what he or she cares about and they'll claim the book is worthless. Include it all and it will be a tome too heavy to lift. The New York Times came close to reaching a happy medium with its annual World Almanac And Book Of Facts, which has been coming out regularly and updated for decades.
Now Time magazine and the Encyclopaedia Britannica have jointly produced the Time Almanac 2013. Look closely at the covers or you'll think them the same book. The contents cover the same grounds, written by different people. The New York Times version has more photos, TM-EB more film festivals and sports, more than a few of which are obscure.
Both detail each American state and foreign countries. Both have the Declaration of Independence and entire US Constitution and thumbnail sketches of every president. TM-EB goes further and lists every US cabinet since George Washington. For world and national records, TM-EB generally goes back to the beginning, not just 1950 or 1920.
The New York Times and Time have the same size lettering, the chapters in different places. Time periodically has short "Did you know?" boxed questions and answers. Clearly, the staff of Time and the Encyclopaedia Britannica studied The New York Times product before turning out their version. My recommendation after comparing them: Get both.
Missing In Rangoon by Christopher G Moore, 351pp, 2013 Heaven Lake Press paperback. Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 450 baht
Missing in Rangoon
Years of backpacking during the last century took this Yank to northern and southern, western and eastern Europe, the Middle-East, the subcontinent, Southeast Asia and the Orient. I saw democracies and dictatorships, capitalism and communism, Christianity and Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism at work.
Burma, as it was called when I reached it by steamer from East Pakistan, was run by Ne Win. Though the civil rights of the populace were restricted, my passport enabled me to move freely by bus, train and river ferry, military checkpoints notwithstanding. The Shwedagon Pagoda lived up to its reputation of being magnificent.
The highlight of my stay was visiting Dr Gordon Seagrave in Nam Kham. The American known worldwide as "the Burma Surgeon" had led a column of people overland to India during World War II, a step ahead of the Japanese invaders. He told me bitterly that everyone who wasn't native-born was being ordered to leave the country.
Flying out of Rangoon (Yangon) where time seemed to have stopped, to the dynamic Bangkok was a culture shock for this seasoned traveller. What I heard in the decades afterwards was that there were revolts, harshly put down, a coup which brought even more repression, a free election whose results were ignored.
Its coffers empty, smuggling drugs abroad brought in money while those at the top denying their complicity. Of late, Ne Win's "Burmese Road to Socialism" has at long last proven unfeasible, and the country has begun opening up. Global businessmen are coming in to test the waters.
It's at this point that Canadian author Christopher G. Moore, long based in the Land of Smiles, sets Missing In Rangoon. It's the 13th in his series based on his literary creation Vincent Calvino, a Big Apple lawyer now a private investigator in the City of Angels.
Single, Vinny pals around with Royal Thai Police Colonel Pratt, who's married, a father, and a better than fair saxophone player in his spare time. They often work on cases together. This story brings them to Rangoon (the name Yangon hasn't caught on) on separate cases, then blend in to the same one.
Calvino has been hired by a father in Bangkok to find and bring back his estranged son. Pratt is there to halt the flooding of "cold" pills (in fact methamphetamine drugs) into the Kingdom. They encounter corruption on every level. Murder is a common way to end rivalries.
Missing In Rangoon is another feather in Moore's cap.
About the author
- Writer: Bernard Trink
Position: Freelance Writer