Weekend Reading

It’s still winter but the daffodils are pushing up out of the not quite frozen ground here in southern Appalachia. The end of winter is in sight, but between now and then we have at least a few more indoor weekends to come. This weekend I suggest a few politics-free articles, all at least vaguely related to traveling around this big old world.

These young lions in the photo are about nine months old, our guide in Amboseli thought. My next 3QD article will be about lions in a couple weeks. And you can see bunches more lions and tigers and bears (actually, I’m not sure there are bears) among the 691 photos currently in the Animals and Wildlife Gallery at EarthPhotos.com. For now, happy reading and a good weekend to you. On to the reading:

– Get a great tour of Tibet in Travels in Geology: Lhasa, Tibet: Journey to the roof of the world from Earth Magazine.
– And a photo essay of Russia’s far north.
– Peter Frankopan argues we’re too Europe-centric around here: Don’t let the rise of Europe steal world history.
– I enjoyed this discussion of Imperial Exceptionalism.
– Interesting article here written by Geoffrey Clarfield: Understanding Modern African Horrors by Way of the Indian Ocean Slave Trade
– It’s really hot again this summer in Australia.
– See Russia’s Las Vegas
Life in pursuit of science on Lake Baikal in winter and in the remote Chilean Atacama desert.

Politics-free except for this: Let’s see if we can figure out what’s going on in Thai politics. Yellows and reds and kings and princesses and military men and elections. Oh my.

Weekend Reading

Next week closes out January, and ends something we do most years here on the farm, an annual post-holiday cleansing period, largely free of our usual vices. This year we’ve tried something new – reduced use of the internet.

I can report worthwhile results all around. We got a lot of reading done, finished several books between us including for me, the 800-page monster, A Bright, Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan, a history of American involvement in Vietnam. It’s part of due diligence for a long visit to Saigon we have planned for later this year, from where I hope to share lots of photography and writing here on CS&W. More to come on that.

Nowadays we read a calamitous new report about the Arctic climate just about every week, and the never-ending series of warnings has been making me mad at global leadership, which is well aware that big steps need to be taken but unwilling to take them. Meanwhile this week we’ve had the increasingly sad annual media genuflection to Davos man, he who is most able to get the ball rolling, but who benefits too much from the way things are to do so. I’ve begun to believe it really might take a global system change to get things right, with all the calamity that will surely entail.

To explore that topic this weekend I suggest a few things: Try What Will It Really Take to Avoid Collapse by Jeremy Lent, and his website Patterns of Meaning. To have a look at just a bit of what a systemic change might involve, try The Next System, Eudaimonia&Co., Evonomics and the Transnational Institute, (among many others), all wildly too lefty for those to whom Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is unsettling.

In case that’s you, there are articles that outline the systemic nature of the problem in more mainstream places, like As a grocery chain is dismantled, investors recover their money. Worker pensions are short millions in the Washington Post and Millennials Didn’t Kill the Economy. The Economy Killed Millennials in The Atlantic. If AOC is a crazy, out of bounds nut to you, perhaps the website The American Conservative is more your cup of tea? In that case, please try Corporate Capitalists Killed American Identity there.


It will be a much colder than normal weekend here in southern Appalachia, in what is turning out to be a colder than normal winter. Wherever you are, I wish you a good weekend, stay warm and I’ll see you next week.

Weekend Reading

It has been a little quiet at CS&W over the holidays, and January will stay relatively quiet as we try to internet detox this month. We’re opting to stay off the internet much more in January, my wife and I, to see if it makes us better people. We’ll let you know. Meanwhile, some interesting news coming this spring that will alter the whole shape of this website. Can’t tell you for a couple of months.

And meanwhile, anytime is a good time to scroll through what’s up at 3 Quarks Daily, but next Monday will be an especially good time, when I’ll have my monthly column in the Monday Magazine (Topic hint: see photo). For now, some intriguing reading for the weekend:

What Driving Teaches Us About Living by Rachel Cusk. She’s so good.
What Europeans Talk about when They Talk about Brexit. Comprehensive roundup of what the rest of Europe thinks about Brexit.
The Ghosts of Mrs Gandhi by Amitav Ghosh. 1984 was not a good year for India.
There’s No Free Will? You Can’t Possibly Believe That by Tim Sommers
The Caucasus: No Longer Just Russia’s Neighborhood by Thomas de Wall. What’s up down there?
How My Father Made Landfall. Sylvia Poggioli’s parents.
Seattle Under Siege by Christopher F. Rufo. What’s going wrong?
The Children of the Revolution by James David Banker Frightening Red Guards in China.
Breath of life by Brian Victoria. Shinto shows the debt to animism of organized religions today.

See you next week.

Weekend Reading

Last night Fox News treated the U.S. Defense Secretary’s resignation as a wonderful little holiday “retirement,” as much as possible gliding past the stark policy differences General James Mattis spelled out in his resignation letter. Normally this kind of thing makes me mad. But MSNBC and CNN were just as busy advancing their own agendas. Their coverage, first and foremost, framed the president as dangerous and unhinged, gliding over in their own way whether removing 2000 troops from Syria might be a reasonable idea. Conor Friedersdorf makes this point better than I can, here:

” … disdain for Trump and excessive deference to the foreign-policy establishment has caused much of the news media to err in their coverage—to treat the risky, costly, unconstitutional policy of maintaining a troop presence in Syria indefinitely as though it is obviously best, and to fail to treat the withdrawal of troops as a legitimate, reasonable position, even though it fulfills a campaign promise, enjoys popular support, remedies ongoing illegality, and has many plausible arguments that recommend it over quite unappealing alternatives.”

Andrew Sullivan strikes the same note this morning, calling it “astonishing”

” … how the Democrats and much of the liberal Establishment now supports an unending occupation of yet another Middle Eastern country.”

The point to be borne in mind, always, is that the media are not in this just to produce an informed electorate.


Around here, it seems like every weekend’s activities lately are restricted to indoors because of rain or snow. Which fits for the winter solstice, and which sets up another ideal weekend for absorbing reading. Here are a few suggestions:

– I thoroughly enjoyed a long travelogue titled A Week In Xinjiang’s Absolute Surveillance State by Vadim Mikhailov.
– As a photographer with 20,000 or so photos online, I’m at a momentary loss as to what to think of These Portraits Were Made by AI: None of These People Exist by Michael Zhang. Astounding.
Babylon Berlin, The German Capital at a Crossroads by Lars-Olav Beier, Hilmar Schmundt and Volker Weidermann
– What to read by African authors: My year of reading African women by Gary Younge
– A whole bunch of words about the BBC: Can’t Afford to Tell the Truth by Owen Bennett-Jones
– And finally, Good, the bad and the unknown: what a no‑deal Brexit looks like from the London Times.

Happy holidays to you and yours. See you next week.

Weekend Reading

Windy and gray on our side of the hill today. Looks like an indoor weekend in the southern Appalachians.

The theme of today’s weekend reading recommendations is big European countries in turmoil.


The UK:
The Divided Kingdom by Helen Dale
Labour’s Brexit trilemma: in search of the least bad outcome by Laurie MacFarlane
How Ireland Outmaneuvered Britain on Brexit by Dara Doyle
Notes on the Yellow Jackets by Claire Berlinski
Macron Fans the Flames of Illiberalism by Pankaj Mishra
Two Roads for the New French Right by Mark Lilla
What Will Follow Emmanuel Macron? by Sarah Jones
From Sans Culottes to Gilets Jaunes: Macron’s Marie Antoinette Moment by Sylvain Cypel
How Macron gave Italian populists a boost by Silvia Sciorilli Borrelli
The Dangerous New Face of Salvini’s Italy by Walter Mayr

Enjoy your weekend. See you next week.

Weekend Reading

The possibility of a little wintry weather here across southern Appalachia this weekend will keep us close to the fire with a few interesting articles at hand. Like these:

– Matthew Engel on European train travel.
In the Valley of Fear by Michael Greenberg, from which the quote in the previous post is taken.
First sun-dimming experiment will test a way to cool Earth by Jeff Tollefson.
– This is unfortunate: What Are We Like? 10 Psychology Findings That Reveal The Worst Of Human Nature by Christian Jarrett.
– Now that’s a library: Helsinki’s New Library Has 3-D Printers and Power Tools. (And Some Books, Too.)
– I like Rafael Behr’s notion of “mild tyranny,” in this article:

“It sounds like an oxymoron, and certainly not the kind of thing citizens in a democracy might choose. But when you consider the relationship many of us have with technology there is something gently tyrannical involved.”

– Meanwhile in Mexico
… and in Siberia….

Look for my monthly travel column next Monday at 3 Quarks Daily, and next week here, we’ll excerpt a couple of chapters from my book Common Sense and Whiskey. For now, enjoy the weekend. See you next week.

Weekend Reading

Another wet almost-holiday weekend in the southern Appalachians. If you’re inside, dry and trolling for a few worthy things to read, try these:

– Interesting article from 2000 titled The Last Island of the Savages: Journeying to the Andaman Islands to meet the most isolated tribe on Earth about Sentinel Island, the place that proselytizing American was recently murdered in the Andaman Islands.

– A few weeks back, my 3QD column on wildebeests addressed the mental capacity of bees, ants and termites. In Bee-Brained, two academics, Lars Chittka and Catherine Wilson, explore insects’ minds much further.

The Uighurs and China’s Long History of Trouble with Islam by Ian Johnson.

– And finally, Sean Carroll has written a paper in which he tries to explain everything. (A timely sort of CliffNotes version from Martin Rees popped up in Prospect about the same time.)

Here’s a fun example quote from the Sean Carroll article:

“While a creator could explain the existence of our universe, we are left to explain the existence of a creator. In order to avoid explanatory regression, it is tempting to say that the creator explains its own existence, but then we can ask why the universe couldn’t have done the same thing.”

Carroll concludes that

“invoking a creator does not provide us any escape from the need to posit something that simply exists because it does, without further reasons to which we can appeal.”

That’s comforting because it means that after all, it really is turtles all the way down

Enjoy your weekend. See you next week.