Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Thomas Menino: Mayor for a New America

Mayor for New America: Thomas Menino by Thomas M Menino with Jack Beatty

Menino Disclaimer: I'm reviewing the incomplete Advance Reader Copy from Amazon Vine, so some of my remarks may not apply to the finished edition.

Multi-term Boston Mayor Thomas M Menino brings us a memorable account of his five terms in an introduction and only five chapters―but admittedly they're five long ones. The intro quickly moves us through the Boston Marathon bombing and its aftermath that created many days of national news during April 2013. As I read the intro about the Boston bombing, I felt I was there at the scene while I also clearly remembered sitting in front of my television in southern California for the next piece of news; it helped that I'd lived in Watertown and had a clue as to the lay of the land where police found the bombing suspect holed up in a boat moored in a backyard.

Chapters include: (1) Menino's early days in Boston's Hide Pahk naybahhood and how human connections, interactive politics, excellent people skills, and hard work took him to City Hall, first as acting mayor, and then as elected mayor; (2) Schools; (3) Police and Fire; (4) Getting Stuff Done; a concluding (5) "To Think I Did All That," expressing his amazement that he accomplished so much.

In contrast to most other major US cities, Boston proper covers only about 48 square miles. Nonetheless, as Menino describes and as I experienced, in historical and present-day influence, and in scope of problems such as crime, corruption, poverty, racism, educational underachievement, and wealth, Boston is very major big city. I lived in Boston more than once, so Menino's description of mostly Irish educational, police, and fire with their cronyism, deal-makings, and corruption took me back in time. Tom Menino was the first Italian-American mayor of Boston―he was the first mayor whose heritage was not Irish-American.

Some reviewers have mentioned the book emphasizes Menino's successes, and it does. Hey, he's a politician and this is in print, so of course he wants to memorialize himself well, yet he doesn't entirely omit a few endeavors that didn't bear healthy fruit. I know Grove Hall, Jeremiah E Burke High School, Roslindale Square, Roxbury... I also experienced changing Boston demographics. At one time my landlord was a second generation Italian-American; some years later, I rented from a fairly recent immigrant from the Dominican Republic.

The chapters are long yet engaging, and I was disappointed when I reached the end―is that all there is? I wanted more! My copy lacked the index I know I'd have enjoyed reading through because I'd have known most of the names and places.

Mayor for a New America leads us to ask questions about the role of government in different settings; in any case and place, how much government is too much? How much is not enough? Does a poorer or a literally poverty-stricken constituency legitimately need more services and more direct governing? How much can we expect under-educated and historically underserved populations to do for themselves? The work, the mystery, and sometimes the magic of politics helps create better lives. Thomas Menino accomplished that, and he laid a solid foundation for his successors to continue his legacy.

my amazon review: vivid memories, future hopes

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Train: The Definitive Visual History

Train: The Definitive Visual History

Train book cover What a fabulous surprise! Even better, brighter, bolder, bigger (yes, I noticed the dimensions in the product listing) than I'd anticipated, Smithsonian Train: The Definitive Visual History is visually delightful, informative, and inspiring.

From the embossed cover portrait of Southern Railway Locomotive 1401, to the detailed table of contents that lets you choose what to read about and learn about next, to the sumptuous feast of full colour photographs throughout, this has got to be one of the best books ever about any topic!

Although there's an extremely high ratio of images to text, histories and descriptions don't ramble, but tell you what you want to know. I especially love the final feature, How Railroads Work, Engines and Tracks (Signals, Wheels, Locomotives, etc.).

Like many people, I have some history with riding the rails: a couple of fairly long trips in the continental USA as a young kid, later as a teenager, then as a young adult; a few dozen or more Budd SPV-2000 - "Buddlliner" - jaunts to and from Boston and the North Shore of Boston; the almost impossibly efficient, on time EuroRail; and more recently the AmTrak. I remember returning to Salt Lake City from Southern Idaho Sunday evenings with a long freight train riding alongside the highway on our right and to the west; I can't count the times I waited at a RR crossing when I lived in Utah; who hasn't experienced with their entire being a train whistle piercing the night sky in small town rural, big city urban USA? My grandfather had planned to finish high school and then college, but got a job with the railway, at that time considered the future of the country, and never gave school another thought.

Another reviewed has outlined book content, so no need for a duplicate listing. Train is heavy to hold (both a lap book and a coffee table one), and very well bound. If you can describe a book as "Heirloom Quality," this one is for sure.

bright! bold! a treasure!