A couple links to share as I continue my rebound from fall break and attempt to ease back into a routine.
One last Bond link, this one about how John F. Kennedy both helped the Bond series become popular and used that popularity to further his fame.
John F. Kennedy was a vocal Bond fan, and the media loved to draw parallels between the fictional spy and the real-life president—so much so that their personas became intertwined in America’s cultural subconscious. This was no accident: Kennedy deliberately used Bond to project an image as a heroic leader who could meet any challenge in the most perilous years of the Cold War.
One of my most favorite books ever is Paul Theroux’s The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific. I’ve read it at least five times, always entranced by his stories of paddling a collapsable kayak around the islands of the Pacific. That trip is about 30 years old now, so it would be interesting to go back and read it again, paying attention the the changes in technology and the effects that had on his trip.
I use that as introduction to this piece, about a man who made a far more daunting trip than Theroux. Oskar Speck spent most of the 1930s paddling a kayak from Central Europe to Australia. The trip itself is incredible. While reading I kept wondering about the technological challenges he faced. He didn’t have modern, waterproof bags for his clothes, food, journals, etc. How the hell did he keep them from getting ruined? There was obviously no way of communicating with anyone outside the sound of his voice. He could only have a vague idea of what kind of weather conditions he was paddling into. And so on.
There was another amazing tidbit in this piece that showed how, in one way at least, the world was better nearly a century ago than it is now.
The postal system was remarkable in those days. With fast mailboats and, most important, persistent bureaucrats, mail chased travelers from port to isolated port with uncanny success. Speck even received German pastries by mail.
Sure, today you send emails, can video chat, or electronically send funds to nearly any point in the world instantly. But shit gets lost in the mail all the time when people have your correct address. One hundred years ago you could take a trip, tell folks you would eventually reach Point X, and the mail would find you. Amazing.