Weekend Reading

Searching for some meaty articles to sink your teeth into this weekend? A few suggestions:

Address by Minister Freeland when receiving Foreign Policy’s Diplomat of the Year Award at the Canadian government’s web site. An appeal to America’s better angels from Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Disposable America: A history of modern capitalism from the perspective of the straw. Seriously. by Alexia C. Madrigal at theatlantic.com

Cleaning up Chelyabinsk, at meduza.io

Some revealing background on Matteo Salvini, now Italy’sinterior minister and deputy prime minister, b Stephanie Kirchgaessner at The Guardian, and

Going nowhere fast. Is particle physics in crisis? by Ben Allanach at Aeon:

“null results are now encrusting the hull of the Standard Model, like barnacles on a beautiful old frigate, and dragging her down to the ocean floor. It looks like the centuries-long quest for top-down unification has stalled, and particle physics might have a full-blown crisis on its hands.”

Have an entertaining weekend. See you next week.

Weekend Reading

Good stuff to read this weekend:

The case for invading America by Scott Gilmore in MacLean’s: “Our invasion may be slowed due to the usual congestion at the border crossings, but if we time our attack mid-week, traffic on the Ambassador Bridge should be manageable.”
Watermarks by Donovan Hohn at Lapham’s Quarterly. A meditation on water.
Teddy Roosevelt on How the Blind Cult of Success Unfits Us for Democracy and Liberty by Maria Popova at Brain Pickings.
The Political Path to GPS: How war and peace forged the universal map by Anthony Paletta at New Atlantis
Mexicans Drive Bus to Russia for the World Cup at El Universal

Last Friday I wrote that

“President Trump is not taking the country seriously, but rather playing it as a television show in which he is the star, with teases and cliffhangers, time-worn entertainment industry tactics to keep us tuning in,” and that “This year the United States has become a cartoon country, with either the complicity or inattention of much of its population.”

Here is an article from Monday that elaborates on that theme: Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the kayfabe.

•••••

Birds are strange. Sometimes kind of prehistoric and scary and very unlike humans. But they are not beyond the occasional bad hair day. For one further weekend diversion, I invite you to enjoy 183 entertaining photos of our avian friends at EarthPhotos.com.

Enjoy the weekend.

Weekend Reading

Next week is one to watch, with the Trump/Kim summit in prime time on Monday night in the east of the United States, just as President Trump would have it, then Thursday’s kickoff of the World Cup in Moscow.

This morning the president said that “he wants to meet with NFL players and athletes who kneel during the National Anthem so they can recommend people they think should be pardoned because they were treated unfairly by the justice system.”

President Trump is not taking the country seriously, but rather playing it as a television show in which he is the star, with teases and cliffhangers, time-worn entertainment industry tactics to keep us tuning in. Trouble is, neither are much of the broadcast media playing their traditional role on either side of the partisan divide. Rather they are capitalizing, literally, on our fraught national moment in a frenzy of profit-making.

This year the United States has become a cartoon country, with either the complicity or inattention of much of its population. So perhaps it’s time for a month of World Cup diversion.

Eh. Besides all that, here are a few absorbing reads for your weekend:

500-year-old Leaning Tower of Pisa mystery unveiled by engineers at Phys.org. Why the Leaning Tower doesn’t fall down.
Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent’s Stealth Takeover of America by Lynn Parramore of the Institute for New Economic Thinking. This is just frightening.
Own Goal: The Inside Story of How the USMNT Missed the 2018 World Cup by Andrew Helms and Matt Pentz at theringer.com
All life on Earth, in one staggering chart by Brian Resnick and Javier Zarracina at Vox.com.

And it’s that time of year again. From Mumbai’s weekend forecast: the worst rains since 2005 by Maria Thomas at qz.com:

He explained that this year’s heavy rains are the result of a low pressure system expected to develop over the Bay of Bengal, which will combine with cyclonic circulations over the Konkan coast, Goa, and Andhra Pradesh.

Every year, the monsoon rains bring Mumbai to a standstill…. Because of this, thousands are usually left stranded when it rains heavily, turning railway stations and even arterial roads into filthy swimming pools. The death toll often mounts by the day as residents risk being washed away or losing their lives in landslides.

Monday we’ll continue with this summer’s series of African vignettes with a tiny story from Madagascar (Its capital, Antananarivo, is pictured above). See you then.

Weekend Reading

Relax and enjoy some absorbing writing online this week. A sampling:

Facebook, Snapchat and the Dawn of the Post-Truth Era by Antonio García Martínez in Wired.
Sacrificing at the Altar of the Euro by Thomas Fazi in Jacobin Mag. More in the burgeoning genre of hand-wringing about the inflexibility of the Euro. Case study this time, Italy.
My Mother’s Brilliant Career in Soviet Culture by Anastasia Edel in the NYRB. From the mini-genre of books about Soviet life. Books like Soviet Baby Boomers: An Oral History of Russia’s Cold War Generation by Donald J. Raleigh and Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich (Author), Bela Shayevich (Translator).
Warsaw to Trump: Let’s make a military deal (without NATO) by David M. Herszenhorn in Politico. From the Polish perspective, this might be canny thinking.
Can’t we all just get along? A road trip with my Trump-loving cousin by Bryan Mealer in The Guardian. Mealer is the author of a 2011 book on a rather different topic: All Things Must Fight to Live: Stories of War and Deliverance in Congo.
How we entered the age of the strongman by John Gray in New Statesman.

Gray is a sort of public intellectual iconoclast from Britain. This is a lengthy book review in which Gray writes early of “corporate predation and ravaging of communities …under the regime over which liberals of one kind or another presided,” then later that “The most serious threat to the West comes from its own intellectual inertia.” Corporate predation must not be that ravaging to Gray. He worries, as does everybody else today about “the redundancy of human labour,” and decides that “The western model … has morphed out of shape.” And this:

“In a plausible scenario, the decisive conflicts in coming years will not be between liberal and authoritarian states but among oligarchies within each of them. Will Trump continue to be swayed by the billionaire Mercer family, or will other American oligarchs become more influential? Will the spoils system Putin has established in Russia be destabilised in an intensifying succession struggle? Could the anti-corruption drive through which Xi is cementing his position in China provoke a backlash from oligarchs it threatens? Whatever the answers to these questions, there is little reason to expect any move to more liberal values. Societies that are progressively discarding the freedoms by which liberalism was once defined are ill-equipped in the contest with advancing authoritarianism.”

It’s a lengthy article. Food for thought.

Enjoy your weekend. See you Monday with Africa Vignette #5 from Malawi.

Weekend Reading

It’s a long weekend in the USA and here in Georgia, we’ll be spending some quality time outdoors. Wherever you spend the weekend, here are a few quality reads to load into your portable reader and take along:

This Is What A 21st-Century Police State Really Looks Like by Megha Rajagopalan in Buzzfeed, on Beijing today
If Crisis or War Comes, a pamphlet distributed to 4.8 million households in Sweden this week by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (English pdf)
The Ukraine Model – The last time a country agreed to give up its nukes, it didn’t turn out well by Mary Mycio in Slate
The New Passport-Poor by Atossa Araxia Abrahamian on the NYRB blog. Passports “were invented not to let us roam freely, but to keep us in place—and in check.”

And two sort-of similar stories:

Why a San Francisco Burger King Blasts Classical Music Day and Night by Anne Ewbank at Atlas Obscura, and
The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations by Allan Richarz at Citilab.com

As for books, I can recommend two works of fiction which are also sort of similar, in that each follows a disparate cast of characters over time, and each has an environmental theme. They’re both really well-written: The History of Bees by the Norwegian Maja Lunde, and a book I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, The Overstory by Richard Powers.

See you next week.

 

Weekend Reading

In the mid-nineteenth century, Walter Bagehot wrote that to preserve the monarchy, “We must not let in daylight upon magic.” If you try to see much other than the royal wedding this weekend on BBC World, you’ll be convinced (resigned?) that the Brits do “the magic” maddeningly well.

So, read, I say, and here are a few worthy articles:

Living in a Cycle of Fear and Danger (in Kabul) by Ali M Latifi in Roads and Kingdoms
The Jaguar Is Made for the Age of Humans by Nadia Drake at The Atlantic
What Can Chimpanzee Calls Tell Us About the Origins of Human Language? by Michael Wilson at Smithsonianmag.org
Neoliberalism is a real economic model – here’s how the left can overturn it by Paul Mason at New Statesman
How Democracy Dies by John Gray at New Statesman
Americans are Being Held Hostage and Terrorized by the Fringes by Tim Alberta at Politico

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’m working through The Road to Unfreedom by Timothy Snyder and that I think he’s pretty brilliant. Sophie Pinkham doesn’t think so. She has written Zombie History – Timothy Snyder’s bleak vision of the past and present in The Nation.

One last note about a column last week: I think The Fall of the German Empire by Ross Douthat in Wednesday’s New York Times is thoughtful. He calls Germany’s economic dominance of Europe the “third German empire,” writing,

“…if the test of Europe’s unity feels like a test for liberal democracy, it’s a mistake to see it only in those terms. It is also a struggle of nations against empire, of the Continent’s smaller countries against German mastery and Northern European interests, in which populist parties are being elected to resist policies the center sought to impose upon the periphery without a vote. And the liberal aspect of the European system wouldn’t be under such strain if the imperial aspect hadn’t been exploited unwisely by leaders in the empire’s German core.”

And finally, if HDR photography entertains you, like these two photos from the Mercado in Addis Ababa, you’ll find 579 more in the HDR Gallery at EarthPhotos.com.

Cheers for now.

Weekend Reading

We’ve had a lovely run of weather in southern Appalachia, warm, sunny afternoons and cool crisp mornings for days now. That looks to hold for the weekend, part of which will be spent down by the creek with The Overstory: A Novel by Richard Powers, which just may be a great book. I wish you well wherever you are, and a fine weekend. Call your mother.

Now a selection of interesting weekend reads:

Life as a Kuffar: My Seven Lost Years in Kuwait by Carla Wilson at Quillette
American military extends its reach worldwide – lily pads by David Vine at investigativereportingworkshop.org
What makes a translation great? by Katy Derbyshire at scroll.in
After-Shocks of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake by Ian Johnson at the NYRB
How the chicken nugget became the true symbol of our era: This is what happens when you turn the natural world into a profit-making machine, by Raj Patel and Jason W Moore in the Guardian.
The Weird Science Behind Chain Restaurant Menus by India Mandelkern at munchies.vice.com
America goes rogue by Andrew J Bacevich at Spectator USA, in which he writes,

“By and large, I dislike Munich analogies. But in this instance the comparison may have some merit. In 1938, faced with a megalomaniac in charge of a fearsome military machine and surrounded by a coterie of fanatic militarists, the European democracies wilted, paving away for a great disaster. Today another megalomaniac with a fearsome military machine at his command and responding to the counsel of the latter day equivalent of Goering and Goebbels is on a tear. History will not treat European leaders kindly if they repeat the mistakes of Neville Chamberlain and Eduard Daladier. As an American, I believe that Trump needs to be confronted, not indulged.”

In principle, I’m a fan of any iconoclast who comes from the military. Andrew Bacevich is terrific.

And a couple of useful bookmarks:

– The USGS Hawaii Volcano Observatory has links to 14 webcams covering the Kilauea volcano, and
Here is a live map of the conflict in Syria and the larger region, with a running, updated newswire

Finally, while rounding up the week’s news, all you can say is, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. George Will!

Take care.