New Books

Book review: To Hellholes and Back by Chuck Thompson

Chuck Thompson, who I didn’t even realize lives near Seattle, has written an offbeat travel book about places most of us would never want to go, including him, with some surprising conclusions.

He visits the Congo, India, Mexico City, and Disneyworld.

The first half of the book is about his visit to the Congo and it is definitely the highlight. He has quite a few adventures, and while it confirms you wouldn’t want to visit there, he does end up having some notable adventures. He meets many shady characters, learns all about how bribery works and sometimes doesn’t work, and even gets shadowed by a lion. An When he enters the country it appears that a date previous to his actual entry is stamped into his passport. This seems to be a commonly known trick, because everytime he comes into contact with an authority they point out that he entered the country before his Visa allows him to. This causes all kinds of problems. There are some amusing and shocking observations. For example, there is the matter of widespread AIDS education, in which everybody is told about using condoms. The people are convinced to use condoms, but in the name of comfort they often cut off the end of it.

India is the place that comes off the worse. I was quite surprised because I have heard so many good things about India, but after reading this book I don’t think I ever will visit there. This is despite the fact that my favorite travel writer Rick Steves has said it is his favorite place to visit.

The main reason is the pushiness of the people, whether it be peddlers, taxi drivers, restaurant owners, or anybody else trying to sell him something. There is a particularly hairy episode when he visits a Moslem temple and is confronted by a mob trying to collect a 200 Rupee camera fee for visitors. He ends up fleeing the mob, and finds out later there is indeed a fee, but that doesn’t really make him feel any better about the experience.

Taxi drivers will say anything and agree to take him anywhere just to get him in the taxi, whereupon they immediately tell him they will take him some place better or closer or something like that.

In the end he does have a good experience with a tut-tut driver that makes India look a little better, but still.

Mexico City actually comes across the best. I haven’t been there myself in over 15 years and I remember it as being a great place, but I couldn’t breathe the air. It turns out that things have changed in Mexico City. The air is not so polluted due to factories being closed and better emission standards. The people are very polite and crime is not bad at all.

Even DisneyWorld, which he expects to hate, turns out not to be so bad, and he even says he would go again.

A very enjoyable book, all in all.

Mary Cheney’s book sells fewer than 6,000 copies

Mary Cheney’s book, which received a ton of free publicity, has sold only 6,000 copies according to
The Advocate.

Since the publisher Simon & Schuster reportedly paid her a $1 million advance, it might not have been such a good deal for them. That works out to $166 royalties per book sold so far.

In her book, Mary Cheney describes what a good father Dick Cheney is, and how wrong the media has been about her tyrannical dad. She also blasted Senators Kerry and Edwards for talking about her during the campaign.

Former Seattle Police Chief Says Decriminalize Drugs — all of them

In a column printed in today’s Seattle Times and originally published in the LA Times, former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper courageously and unequivocally comes out in favor of decriminalizing not just pot, but all drugs.

“I’ve never understood why adults shouldn’t enjoy the same right to use verboten drugs as they have to suck on a Marlboro or knock back a scotch and water,” says Stamper. “Will we be able to recognize the abuse of drugs, including alcohol, for what it is: a medical, not a criminal, matter?” he asks.

He further points out the rapidly increasing amount of prisoners in this country for drug charges. In 2003 over 1.6 million Americans were arrested on drug charges, triple the number 20 years earlier.

What a waste of resources; this is more than those arrests for murder, manslaughter, forcible rape and aggravated assault combined, not to mention more damaging corporate and white collar crimes.

Stamper, who has a new book out Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Expose of the Dark Side of American Policing, has always been a different kind of cop. He was very popular in Seattle until the World Trade Organization riots led him to resign. Now he lives quietly on an island in the Puget Sound when he is not out promoting his book.

He is a brave man and his ideas are worth discussing.

In one fell swoop he would get rid of the illicit profits that making drugs illegal has caused, not to mention the crimes and violence associated with illegal drugs. He also would free up billions of dollars currently spent enforcing the laws with the huge bureaucracy of the American justice system.

This is not to mention the medical benefits of marijuana and the added tax revenues that could be used for worthwhile purposes.

Hillary vs. Condi author has very thin skin

Now that Allan Prell has definitely been banished from KIRO, I have taken to listening to the local Air America affiliate, KPTK 1090 AM, specifically the Thom Hartmann and The Ed Schultz Show. These guys are both great and you’ll never listen to Dori Monson again once you have discovered them.

On Thom’s show yesterday morning he interviewed Dick Morris, author of a new book Condi vs. Hillary : The Next Great Presidential Race.

Dick Morris you may recall is a political hack apparently without any beliefs of his own. He will work for the highest bidder. At one time it was Bill Clinton but now he has turned against Hillary in particular and is quixotically promoting the idea of Condi Rice being president, apparently single-handedly.

So Thom was asking Mr. Morris about why he was only saying bad things about Hillary in his book, and only good things about Condi. Specifically he never even mentions the lies of Condi’s that led to the ill-fated war in Iraq.

In one question, Thom mentioned that Sandy Berger, Clinton’s national security advisor, told Thom that he told Condi Rice about the threat of Osama Bin Laden, but she chose to ignore it. Then Morris replied something about Sandy putting documents in his pants. Thom said, oh come on, Dick, do you want to talk about hookers, too? This was a reference to Morris’ own problem in hiring hookers which led him to leaving the employ of Bill Clinton.

At this point, Morris, said thank you and hung up. You can listen to the interview here.

Needless to say we are not carrying this book and I do not recommend you buying it!

How Mushrooms Can Save the World

There’s a funny thing about mushrooms. They are addictive. But I am not talking about addictive as in drugs. What I am talking about is how fascinating a hobby they become, to where people can hardly wait to go to into the woods and look for them, cook them, talk about them, and generally share a fascination
with others about them.sunset at Sunset Hill
Now Paul Stamets, who published his first book with us many years ago about psilocybe mushrooms, has written a groundbreaking book. One that credits mushrooms with many miracles from curing cancer to getting rid of termites in your house. More than that, he says that mushrooms and fungi can actually save our planet from ourselves. There are mushrooms that can eat toxic waste, for example. It is a fascinating work that I can barely do justice to, but I predict it will make people take a new look at the science and hobby of mycology.
sunset at Sunset Hill

I first met Paul Stamets in 1972 at the First Annual Teonanacatl conference at Fort Warden State Park near Pt. Angeles, Washington. He was a hirsute and very earnest Evergreen College Student, who probably already knew more about psilocybe mushrooms than almost anybody in the world. He was the first person I had ever heard to pronounce the word as Sill-o-si-bee. It took me awhile to figure out he was saying psilocybe.

I had just published my own first book, a tiny little guide called the Magic Mushroom Handbook. Despite a little contempt for my humble venture, we became friends, and before too long I had published his first book Psilocybe Mushrooms & Their Allies. We didn’t really know what we were doing, but we ended up publishing a real masterpiece. The book is now out-of-print and individual copies are worth quite a bit.

Later on, Paul self-published the Mushroom Cultivator with co-author Jeff Chilton, a book that we have sold many thousands of throughout the years and remains the bible for cultivation. Paul has also written a couple of other books published by Ten Speed Press, which is the publisher of this new one.

The book Mycelium Running boasts a foreword by his longtime friend, Dr. Andrew Weill, and has already become a sensation in the mushroom world. We have it featured on our website if you would like to read it yourself. I encourage it.

Congratulations, Paul, for creating this wonderful book. To order it Click Here.

Travel Writer Rick Steves in High Times

Rick StevesFamed travel writer Rick Steves is featured in the August edition of High Times Magazine. He is now on the board of NORML and gave the keynote speech at this year’s conference.

In case you aren’t familiar with Steve, he appears quite regularly on PBS and has an extensive line of DVD’s and books about traveling in Europe. I have used his books with excellent results. My only complaint is that so many people are reading and using his guidebooks that you constantly are running into his readers when you travel. For example, when I was in Salema, Portugal last year, a small-town on the southern Algave Coast that he quite rightly recommends, I found other people from Seattle staying in the same guesthouse as I was. I have often seen people in Museums in Madrid and Rome using his books to guide themselves through art museums, which is also what I am doing. It can get a little nerve-wracking because he is so popular, and his hidden gems don’t remain hidden too long.

According to the High Times article Rick is offering free copies of his books to High Times readers who join NORML. I was unable to find that offer at the NORML site, but it’s probably not up yet. The August issue of High Times should just now be hitting the newsstands. We shipped them last week.
Amsterdam GuidebookAmsterdam Guidebook
We wish to salute Rick for his courage and integrity. Not too many public figures would come out so strongly for legalizing marijuana. Please buy the August issue of High Times to read the article and then consider joining NORML.

Ed Rosenthal’s Big Bud Calendar

We have just received the new 2005 Calendar from Ed Rosenthal, the Big Bud Calendar. We have been after Ed to do a calendar for quite a few years, and we are happy that he finally listened to us!

He did a great job. It is easily the best marijuana calendar we have ever seen. The buds are beautiful. It should be up on our website for retail ordering pretty soon, and our wholesale accounts can buy it now. It is retail priced at a reasonable $11.95. Congratulations, Ed, good job!

Jason King, who did the Cannabible books also has a Cannabis calendar coming out this year from Ten Speed Press. I’ll let you know when we get it. Judged by the quality of the pictures in the books, this should also be a great production.

The High Times Calendar this year takes a different tack, covers from their best issues. We look forward to seeing how that one turns out, too.