January Weekend Reading

A review of my Instapaper saves this week turns up these worthwhile articles from the web, best enjoyed inside and cozy, as in this photo of Grindelwald and Mt. Eiger at night. Enjoy these, and have a lovely weekend.

How to Remember a King by Antonia Colibasanu at Real Clear World
The Rhyme of History by Margaret Macmillan at Brookings.edu
Why humans need to rethink their place in the animal kingdom by Simon Barnes at the New Statesman
What really happened to Joshua Boyle and his family by Adnan R. Khan in Macleans
Why did New York’s JFK Struggle to Cope With its Flight Backlog? by Jason Rabinowitz at thepointsguy.com

Cold Winter Weekend Reading

Next week I think I’ll post a vignette from a trip to West Africa, some form of which should work its way into my eventual book about African travel. As for now, along with everyone else on the U.S. east coast, I’ll be spending this weekend mostly indoors. Here’s some engaging reading to enjoy by the fire, or wherever you are:

Spies, Dossiers, and the Insane Lengths Restaurants Go to Track and Influence Food Critics in the Washingtonian by Jessica Sidman
One of Us at laphamsquarterly.org by John Jeremiah Sullivan
The Bridge to Nowhere and the Bays Road at East of Elveden by my friend Laurence Mitchell
Will globalisation go into reverse? in Prospect Magazine by Barry Eichengreen
The monster beneath at 1843magazine.com by Helen Gordon
They Began a New Era in The New York Review of Books by James Salter (recommended as a Salter fan. I can also recommend the 2013 compilation of Salter’s travel writing, There and Then: The Travel Writing of James Salter)

Cheers for now.

Weekend Reading

Chances are most of us will be busy with other activities this weekend, so here are just a few suggestions for fine weekend reading:

Journey toward the Island by Laila Stien at wordswithoutborders.org
The Trolley Problem Will Tell You Nothing Useful About Morality by Brianna Rennix & Nathan J. Robinson at Current Affairs
Why Democracy Didn’t Work in Russia by Christian Caryl in The New Republic
The Case for Reading Quebec’s Most Reclusive Author by Dimitri Nasrallah in The Walrus
Citizens of anywhere by Matthew Valencia at 1843magazine.com

Merry Christmas everybody. Thanks for spending time with me here this year.

Weekend Reading

First, I invite you to drop back by tomorrow. We’ll have a lengthy photo feature, a look at how shopping around the world is done pretty much every conceivable way except the way Americans do it at Christmastime.

For now, our little corner of Appalachia saw a freak amount of snow last week. The weekly paper boasted of eleven inches. That’s 28 centimeters. The farm sits opposite the north face of a ridge that crests at 4783 feet (1458 meters). That entire ridge is still packed end to end with snow, so this weekend calls for inside by-the-fire activity. Toward that end, here is a chunky list of absorbing articles to read by the hearth.

The Secret History of the Russian Consulate in San Fransisco by Zach S Dorfman in Foreign Policy
One of Us by John Jeremiah Sullivan at Lapham’s Quarterly
Beyond the animal brain: plants have cognitive capacities too by Laura Ruggles at Aeon
Gained in Translation by Tim Parks at the New York Review of Books blog
Ernest Hemingway, The Art of Fiction No. 21 in the Paris Review
State of Sleaze by Suzy Hansen at The Baffler
Review: Wendy Brown’s Undoing the Demos by Nicholas Gane at theoryculturesociety.org
The global dominance of white people is thanks to the potato by Gwynn Guilford at Quartzy

And a travel-related book suggestion: I say suggestion instead of recommendation, because this is newly arrived and I’ll only begin it this weekend, but The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World is well reviewed, and the Polish-born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski was a larger than life literary figure. Besides, I’m going through an all-things-Congo phase just now. Perhaps we can enjoy it together.

Cheers for now.

Winter Weekend Reading

In our part of the world we’re getting our first blast of Arctic cold in a few days, so here is some reading to enjoy by the hearth this weekend – a little travel writing, some politics and a bit of science.

First, enjoy this as you prepare a suitably hearty stew: In honor of Finland’s 100th birthday next Wednesday, the BBC Radio 4 program, Finland at 100. Hyvää syntymäpäivää, Suomi!

And the reading:
The Damascus Journals by Roua Horaieh at The Millions
X marks the self by Thomas Jones at LRB
It’s the Kultur, Stupid by Timothy Garton Ash at NYRB
The secret tricks hidden inside restaurant menus by Richard Gray at BBC
The Nationalist’s Delusion by Adam Serwer at The Atlantic
In Search of the Common Good by Kenan Malik at Pandaemonium
Sukayu Onsen by Justin Nobel at nowheremag.com
What if consciousness is not what drives the human mind by Davis A Oakley at theconversation.com

Lost in Translation

Published at the beginning of this year in the U.S., The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold: Adventures Riding the Iron Curtain, by the British writer Tim Moore, tells the story of his bicycle trip from the top of Europe, 400 kilometers above the Arctic Circle in Kirkines, Norway, all the way down to the Black Sea, in Varna, Bulgaria. En route he passes through a slice of Russia, skirting the Baltic Sea between the Finnish and Estonian borders, and finds himself outside St. Petersburg, ordering dinner in the town of Гостилицы, aka Gostilitsy.

I hope Mr. Moore won’t mind my excerpting this episode at some length. This passage by itself is worth the price of the book:

“The ordering process was memorably conducted by Tatiana, who dictated the Russian menu into a translation app on her phone. With the halting, toneless authority of a digitised train announcer, this device then offered me suggestions it was very difficult to listen to politely.

‘Meat Beach Gardens.’

‘Children’s Alexander.’

‘Tea Pork with JW Boils.’

‘The Sultan Episode.’

Tatiana’s enthusiasm for this technology did not ease the ordeal; battling my features into respectability, I looked up at her open, expectant face and falteringly ordered support beef with titles of mushroom. She smiled and scribbled, then spoke once more into her phone.

‘What is not a drink?’ it mused in response.

Pivo,’ I said.

With a flustered look she shook her head and a free hand, then held the phone to my mouth promptingly.

Pivo,’I told it.

The device said something in Russian that seemed to disappoint her. She pressed the screen a number of times then showed me its suggestions, translated back into English:

‘You knew. Pencil case. Peugeot.’

We tried again.

‘Beer,’ I said.

‘Bill,’ offered the phone. Then: ‘Pace of the warp.’

‘Heineken!’ I blurted, launching into a strident roll-call of ales that began with Champions League-grade ubiquities and very very sharply downwards, ‘Amstel, Budweiser … Skol … Carling Black La-’

‘Ah, piva.’

•••••

Reminds me of an experience in Tibet, recounted in Common Sense and Whiskey. At the end of another bone-jarring day-long ride we pulled up at the town of Lhaze, at a no-name hotel that wouldn’t have power until 8:00 that night.

“Not much use being there unable to see, so we found a restaurant across the street where there was power, and talked with some men from Guangdong on their way to China’s Everest base camp for holiday.

We asked for cold beer and one of the guys tried to translate. The waitress looked puzzled, was gone too long, then came back smiling triumphantly, buckling under a big metal tub of raw meat. Thought we asked for ‘cold beef.'”

 

Weekend Reading

Here is a selection of fine reading material on which to muse this weekend:

The Fate of Earth by Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker
Russia’s House of Shadows by Joshua Yaffa in The New Yorker
A New History of the First Peoples in the Americas by Adam Rutherford in The Atlantic
Here’s What Would Happen If Donald Trump Nuked North Korea by Greg Fish at Rantt.com
Citizens of anywhere by Matthew Valencia at 1843magazine.com
Ça va un peu by Adam Shatz in the London Review of Books, reviewing Congo: The Epic History of a People by David van Reybrouck