Weekend Reading

A few interesting articles to enjoy with your favorite beverage this weekend:

A Total Solar Eclipse Feels Really Weird by Bob Berman in Wired
The End of “Here and Now” by Alexandra Samuel in JSTOR Daily
The Omnipresence of Dust in Kathmandu by Abby Seiff at psmag.com
Will Russia Interfere In The Finnish Presidential Election by Pekka Virkki in Up North magazine
How to kill a dinosaur in 10 minutes by Paul Braterman at 3quarksdaily
The Haunted Mind: The Stubborn Persistence of the Supernatural by Bo Winegard and Ben Winegard at quillette.com

Weekend Reading

It’s a long weekend for many here in the USA, so here’s a whole batch of articles to take with you to the pool.

The Lunar Sea by Ferris Jabr in Hakai Magazine
The Rise of the Thought Leader by David Sessions in the New Republic
The New Working Class by Gabriel Winant in Dissent
Amazon Robots Poised to Revamp How Whole Foods Runs Warehouses by Spencer Soper at Bloomberg.com
The deal that’s destroying Russia’s roads at meduza.io
Trump and the Trumpists by Wolfgang Streeck at inference-review.com
When Pedestrians Ruled the Streets by Clive Thompson at Smithsonian
Paying a Price for 8 Days of Flying in America by Sarah Lyall in the New York Times

Big, Important Writers Embarrassing Themselves

Robert W. Merry is Political Editor at the ‘realist’ web site The National Interest. He has written an article, The Ghosts of World War I Circle over Ukraine, posted to the site today. Here is a screen grab of the first paragraph:

MerryScreenShot

Any introductory college geography course would have explained to Mr. Merry that “accretion” as defined by Merriam Webster, is “a gradual process in which layers of a material are formed as small amounts are added over time: something that has grown or accumulated slowly: a product or result of gradual growth.”

In the interest of using a big, fancy-sounding word, Mr. Merry has written exactly the opposite of what he meant. One good thing about the internet though, you can fix it before too many people notice. The pertinent line now reads “World outrage has focused on Russian president Vladimir Putin to such an extent that Putin has suffered a huge loss of moral authority.”

Pompous: “Accretion.” Better: “Loss.”

Then there’s Robert D. Kaplan.

Balkan Ghosts: A Journey through History by Robert D Kaplan was essential reading during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s for Americans like me (and then-President Clinton) to whom the region was foreign, distant and exotic (It opened up a world of further great books, like Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Gray Falcon and The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric, all of which would be timely and absorbing reads in this centennial summer of the outbreak of the Great War – in the Balkans).

Mr. Kaplan has his critics (1234 et al, but especially Tom Bissell), but he has been prolific and influential ever since Balkan Ghosts, traveling widely – and often to frightening places – and publishing more than a dozen books.

Too bad though, maybe that ‘The President Read My Book’ thing got too far into Mr. Kaplan’s head. Take a look at a column from July 10th by RDK headlined Why Moldova Urgently Matters. It begins this way “NATO’s Article 5 offers little protection against Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Iulian Fota, Romania’s presidential national security adviser, told me on a recent visit to Bucharest.” Right. Got it. Nowadays RDK meets with the Romanian Foreign Minister.

Next RDK quotes the Foreign Minister and then tells us what the Foreign Minister meant. Continue reading

Reading Around the Web

Looks like my second book, Visiting Chernobyl, is on track for publication by the end of next week. The day it’s up on Amazon I’ll excerpt it here and send the first chapter to everybody who signs up over on the right (Go ahead, sign up now). While I’m tending to that, here are a few entertaining, well done or arcane things to spend some time with:

A Night under Concrete: Albanian Tourism Project Puts Beds in Bunkers

Tom Christian, Descendant of Bounty Mutineer, Dies at 77

How a high school-educated drug smuggler built a fleet of submarines—in the middle of the jungle

The Enclaves and Counter-enclaves of Baarle

I Went on the World’s Deadliest Road Trip

Bad Blood: The Life and Death of Alexander Litvinenko

Getting to Shore at Sea

Shadows in Greece

The Russia Left Behind

The death of a language

Why Navalny Is Winning

Liquid History

Recommended Reading: Where the West Ends

WherethewestendscoverFun new book from Michael J. Totten. Fun, that is, if your idea of thrills is a drive from Turkey into Iraq for lunch.


Where the West Ends expands on Mr. Totten's Dispatches blog for World Affairs Journal. There are sections roughly grouped as the Middle East, the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Black Sea.

Many authors seem to believe they won't be taken seriously unless their work is laden with ponderous history. When well written, like in some of my suggestions below, that's  worthwhile. When it's not, it's the reason tons of books are returned to the shelf half-finished.

In Where the West Ends, Mr. Totten mostly allows a cursory sketch of the past to suffice. I suspect that satisfies armchair travelers. Then he gets on with the travel writing I like best, what it feels like to get up from that chair and actually go to a place, and what it's like, personally, to be there.

Should Mr. Totten's book pique your interest, here are some suggestions for deeper reading:


Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War by Thomas de Waal


Azerbaijan Diary by Thomas Goltz


Georgia Diary by Thomas Goltz


Towers of Stone: The Battle of Wills in Chechnya by Wojciech Jagielski


Bread and Ashes: A Walk Through the Mountains of Georgia by Tony Anderson


Rebel Land: Unravelling the Riddle of History in a Turkish Town by Christopher de Bellaigue


In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs: A Memoir of Iran by Christopher de Bellaigue


Patriot of Persia: Muhammad Mossadegh and a Tragic Anglo-American Coup by Christopher de Bellaigue


Black Sea by Neil Ascherson


The Black Sea: A History by Charles King


Republicofgeorgia

Along the Georgia Military Highway, Republic of Georgia

And here, in five installments, are excerpts from Common Sense and Whiskey, the book,  about our trip through the southern Caucasus:

1: Getting to Armenia
2: Yerevan to Tbilisi
3: Tbilisi and the Georgian Military Highway
4: The High Caucasus & the Russian Border
5: Baku

Order the entire book for $9.99 at Amazon.com, at BN.com, or the Kindle version (just $4.99).

See many more photos of the South Caucasus in the Armenia,
Georgia
and Azerbaijan
Galleries at EarthPhotos.com.

 

Unrelated Travel Articles Tenuously Tied Together by Clothing

Qantas

An Australian couple deplaned from Qantas flight QF94 because there were no complimentary XL-sized pajamas for them for the 15-hour flight from Los Angeles, the Melbourne Herald Sun reports. The A380 – and the up to 400 passengers an A380 can hold – were delayed about a half hour while the couple's baggage was off loaded.

Passenger Angela Ceberano:

"The cabin erupted in laughter when the captain announced the reason for the delay.

He said: 'Just to inform you all, the reason we've had the delay is because two of our first class passengers refused to fly on this plane as there was no extra large pyjamas on board for them.'" 

•••••

Omanburqa

And this comes from an article by Michael Moynihan on foreignpolicy.com critical of the leftist slant of guidebooks to lefty places. He's quoting Lonely Planet: Afghanistan

"The burqa can be seen as a tool to increase mobility and security, a nuance often missed in the outside world's image of the garment. Assuming that a burqa-clad woman is not empowered and in need of liberation is a naïve construct."

Give the Foreign Policy article a read if you're so inclined. It'll only take five or ten minutes.

Absurd as the burqa quote is (and he finds more), Mr. Moynihan gets a little overwrought about guidebooks describing leftish places in leftish ways. He decides that

"The problem with guidebooks to countries like Cuba, Iran, and North Korea is not that they encourage travel to rogue regimes … but that they consistently misinform tourists about the exact nature of those countries. The solution isn't to stop traveling, but to travel wisely, not mistaking grinding poverty for cultural authenticity or confusing dictatorship with a courageous rejection of globalization."

Whew, got it. Cuz there I was just about to book myself into Pyongyang after being misinformed of its exact nature by the History section of a Lonely Planet guide.

And is sure is a lucky thing that the solution to lefty guidebooks isn't to stop traveling, huh?