Weekend Reading

A few more interesting articles for you to sink your teeth into this weekend:

How China Got Sri Lanka to Cough Up a Port by Maria Abi-Habib in the New York Times. Graft and intrigue in the southern resort town of Hambantota, Sri Lanka.
The Strange Brain of the World’s Greatest Solo Climber by J. B. MacKinnon at Nautil.us. Alex Honnold doesn’t experience fear like the rest of us.
The great firewall of China: Xi Jinping’s internet shutdown by Elizabeth C Economy in The Guardian. The largest and most sophisticated online censorship operation in the world.
A Rattle with Death in Yosemite by Kyle Dickman in Outside Magazine. Don’t ever, ever, ever get bitten by a rattlesnake.
After the Fall by John Lanchester in the LRB. Lanchester is such a great writer. Yep, even on the aftermath of the 2008 credit crunch.

I’m compiling a few worrisome quotes by/about our, um, leadership for over the weekend, and we’ll be back to Africa with another vignette on Monday. For now, a good weekend to you.

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

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.

Weekend Reading

Terrace café in Riga, Latvia

Here are some quality recent articles. Worth your time:

‘We know we may be killed’: the rangers risking their lives for Virunga’s gorillas by Jason Burke in The Guardian. These guys who guard mountain gorillas are heroes.
India and Pakistan are quietly making nuclear war more likely by Tom Hundley at Vox.com
Can We Be Saved From Facebook? by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone
How to Meet the Strategic Challenge Posed by China by David P. Goldman at imprimis.hillsdale.edu
The Gig Economy Celebrates Working Yourself to Death by Jia Tolentino in The New Yorker
Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens by Rachel Botsman at wired.com

I’ll be taking a little break for the next couple of weeks, so posts here will be less frequent, but stay with me. I’ll be back.

Cheers for now.

Weekend Reading

Spring hovers in the wings. In our part of the world, in southern Appalachia, it’s the yearly fight between eager-to-bud trees and determined-to-refreeze cold fronts. If the rain holds off, we’ll head to the creek with an iPad loaded with some of these reading suggestions. Pick and choose what you might like among these fine reads and please enjoy your weekend.

The Sinn Fein question: could the party stop a hard Brexit? by Martin Fletcher at the New Statesman

Operation Gunnerside: The Norwegian attack on heavy water that deprived the Nazis of the atomic bomb by Timothy J Jorgensen at The Conversation (also entertainingly told in Lynne Olsen’s Last Hope Island)

Fat Leonard’s Crimes on the High Seas – The rise and fall of the defense contractor who bought off Navy brass with meals, liquor, women and bribes by Jesse Hyde in Rolling Stone

Disarming the Weapons of Mass Distraction by Madeleine Bunting at the NYRB blog. More on how to reclaim your attention span.

How a Fake Mountain Range Slowed Down Arctic Exploration – The 19th-century naval officer John Ross’s unfortunate imagination by Cara Giaimo at Atlas Obscura.

Headline hyperbole here, but on a longer term horizon, Parag Khanna is onto something: There’s a new secretary of state. Who cares? Sorry, Washington. The world doesn’t need you anymore at Politico.eu.

The Asset, How A Player In The Trump-Russia Scandal Led A Double Life As An American Spy by Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold at Buzzfeed. Everything about this is remarkable.

And finally, How to change the course of human history (at least, the part that’s already happened) by David Graeber and David Wengrow at Eurozine. This compliments a flurry of books and articles lately on the distant history of humans, including the articles Tools and voyages suggest that Homo erectus invented language by Daniel Everett at Aeon, Tracing the tangled tracks of humankind’s evolutionary journey by Hannah Devlin in The Guardian and How Hunter-Gatherers May Hold the Key to our Economic Future by James Suzman at evonomics, which compliments his new book Affluence Without Abundance.

Another newish book, that sets out to upend most conventional hunter-gatherer history, is Against the Grain, A Deep History of the Earliest States, by James C. Scott. Scott, a contrarian, has gotten approving press, but after all, he is merely the new Colin Tudge. Tudge covered much of Scott’s territory twenty years ago in a tiny little book, Neanderthals, Bandits & Farmers: How Agriculture Really Began.

No doubt more than you were asking about early humans.

Wet but warming up in southern Appalachia this weekend. What about where you are?

Cheers!