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Apologies in advance that this is one of our less fart-joke-heavy Frotcasts, but this week’s guest has seen civil war in Afghanistan, had to hide from the army in China, eaten sheep’s eyes in Mongolia, and much more, which more than makes up for it. One night a few weeks ago I was flipping through the channels and came across this PBS documentary about two guys from Queens who decided to recreate Marco Polo’s journey, from Venice, to Israel, through Afghanistan and Central Asia, then into China and down into Indonesia and back again, traveling only by land or sea. They started in 1993, and it took Denis Belliveau (pictured, right, at the Khyber Pass) and Francis O’Donnell about two years to complete the trip, and ten-plus to finish a movie about it. Denis tells us all about it.
Lots of supplemental material too – you can actually watch the film, In the Footsteps of Marco Polo, online for free, and order the book. There are also a ton of pictures, and if you’re a teacher interested in bringing Denis in to talk to your students, there’s ways to get in touch with him too. All that’s at Wliw.org/marcopolo.
After that, we bring Laremy back on to re-draft a Fantasy Summer Box Office pick to replace the delayed GI Joe, commiserate about having sat through Snow White & the Huntsman, and read one of Bret’s awesomely cunty emails. As always, email firstname.lastname@example.org, STREAM US to your phone or Android device from Stitcher, and leave us voicemails from anywhere in the world at 415 275 0030. Follow me and Laremy on Twitter.
Episode notes by Adam:
- 00:02:38 – Special guest Denis Bellveau is a travel photographer who in 1994, with a friend, retraced Marco Polo’s journey on its 700th anniversary. The trip took 2 years to plan, and 2 years to execute. They each used 24 visas, some forged, or snuck into countries while not using any aircraft. They started the 30,000 mile trip in Venice. Denis talks about traveling through countries in civil wars, historical sights that were destroyed or missing, how the UN became their cultural backers, having their phones tapped in police states, and the openness of the people of Central Asia.
- 00:26:30 – Vince brings up the camel journey through western China, and how the camels regurgitate their stomach. Denis discusses how the time in Mongolia was like stepping back in Marco Polo’s time, which was a highlight since the whole trip was trying to recreate that journey. He also talks about food poisoning, an interesting lamb stew, circumcision parties, how not to hitchhike in Turkey, and getting arrested in Iran.
- 00:47:40 – The trip was completed in 1995, but the movie about the trip didn’t come out until 2008. Denis and his friend initially tried to get a book deal but were rejected by several publishers. They thought a book deal would lead to a movie, but when Macs and Final Cut Pro came along they decided to work on the movie themselves. There is an interesting story about the time Polo was imprisoned that led to mythical creatures being incorporated into his stories. Denis now travels to schools to inspire kids to get off their asses and explore.
- 01:00:08 – Laremy joins the Frotcast after the whole G.I. Joe debacle to get a replacement pick for the Fantasy Film Box Office. His new pick, The Watch, gets picked out of a hat (or Vince’s bike helmet). Both Vince and Laremy saw Snow White and the Huntsman, which they found to be dumb and boring, and lacking any redeeming qualities. Although, Vince loved K-Stew’s Braveheart speech, and wished the dwarves were part of the selling part. Laremy also saw Safety Not Guaranteed with Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass. There is some Boogie Nights talk, Mr. Vince pops up again, and Laremy details what he has been up to recently.
- 01:22:18 – Vince reads one of Bret’s cunty responses to an email, and the guys talk about douchey comments and fake internet rage. A listener has a life changing experience with the Monkey Scoop technique.