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

It’s chilly and wet in our mountains just now. Suitable for an indoor weekend involving a fireplace, a large pot of slow-cooked food and good reading material.

All you can say to Francis Fukuyama these days is, history is back with a vengeance. In the U.S.:

“How conceivable is this? Trump loses the 2020 US presidential election. But he refuses to concede…. Couldn’t happen, you say. The constitution and all that. To which I would say just two words: Merrick Garland.”

It’s from The Full Machiavelli by Emrys Westacott. As a sidebar on U.S. politics, here is one of the more remarkable articles I can remember, a look at the 2016 Republican alternatives to President Trump: They Could Have Picked.

And in the U.K., is it me, or has commentary turned dark about the prospects for a Brexit deal since the P.M.’s latest scolding from Brussels? I’m talkin’ ’bout headlines like We’re Headed for a Brexit Crashout. My wife and I live in the U.S. where we are all busy looking the fool Making America Great Again, but we traveled to England and Wales the week of the Brexit vote for what we felt sure would be a repudiation of the insular, parochial small-mindedness of the leavers. It didn’t work out that way, and the 28 months since haven’t been pretty:

The U.S., naturally, reserves the right to look the biggest fool of all by affirming its course in elections in just over a week.

Enough of that, though. A few other items:

“if elephants … have all the raw mental material it takes to be persons, a time could come in the near future when we might draw them into a more expansive kind of personhood.”

The article is If elephants aren’t persons yet, could they be one day? One qualification. DO NOT follow the author’s advice to “Stand or walk among a herd of elephants.”

– About that tsunami in Sulawesi.
– How to avoid the Tourism Curse.
How would we recognise an alien if we saw one?
– And one more item for your weekend reading list, from National Geographic, a look at Antarctica’s changing ecosystem.

Have a lovely weekend. See you next week.

Weekend Reading

For your consideration this weekend:

This headline:

confirms that what Saudi rulers are considering is anything but telling the truth.

“The Saudi rulers are expected to say that General Assiri received oral authorization from Prince Mohammed to capture Mr. Khashoggi for an interrogation in Saudi Arabia, but either misunderstood his instructions or overstepped that authorization and took the dissident’s life, according to two of the people familiar with the Saudi plans.”

So, it’s all just choreography, then. A sordid little shimmy with the full, florid frames of both the United States’ secretary of state and president as dance partners. Here is your homework on MBS, as done for you by Dexter Filkins. One of those dauntingly long New Yorker articles.

– 54 University Avenue, Rangoon, may be for sale.

– I completely love this definition: “a person is … a continuum of causally related psychophysical processes that plays a role in the world.” It’s in an article titled Why There Is No Self: A Buddhist Perspective for the West from the Institute of Art and Ideas. Give yourself some time to read it slowly.

– “’You can’t out-Trump Trump,” said Terry Sullivan, a longtime Rubio adviser.’ The problem with that is after you set your hair on fire, you have to be willing to double down and keep adding gasoline to your head. And that’s not a normal human reaction to being on fire.” Here’s what that’s about.

– If you could time travel, would you travel forward or backward? Leanne Ogasawara argues for backward.

– “a glimpse into what the post-American world might look like: a chaotic stage where strongmen find themselves buffeted by Western, Arab, and Chinese forces.” Pakistan looks east.

– And finally, this would be odd: Pope will visit North Korea if officially invited.

– In travel this week, if you’re intrigued by off-the-beaten-path destinations, check out this article about China’s Nujiang valley. And you don’t see a lot of news coverage of Bhutan, but here’s a story from today’s Washington Post: In tiny Bhutan, known for its pursuit of happiness, democracy brings discontent. I’ll leave you with this link to a chapter from my book Common Sense and Whiskey. It’s about travel in Bhutan. That’s Bhutan’s capital, Thimpu, in the photo. Click it for 115 more photos from Bhutan on EarthPhotos.com.

See you next week.

Weekend Reading

Last Friday brought portents of a storm, and this weekend inaugurates autumn in these mountains, cool and crisp and clear as can be. We’ll be spending some quality time out by the creek. That creek up there.

A few items here to consider for your weekend reading list:

– This has to catch your eye:

Britain’s underlying public finances are among the worst in the world, behind the Gambia, Uganda and Kenya, a new study has concluded.

The IMF looked at the assets and liabilities of 31 countries and found the UK was in a worse position than every other country apart from Portugal.

The report in the Independent, goes on:

This surprising conclusion came from using a different approach to the public finances to the one favoured by the government.

No kidding.

– Might as well pile on. I don’t know of Marcel Dirsus, but here, at Politico.eu, he makes good sense: Brexit is embarrassing — for the Brits – You do realize we can understand you when you talk, right?
– I’d like to believe this is a parody, but I’m afraid it’s a genuine article about a genuine thing: Afternoon at the Nap Factory by Sophie Haigney at The Baffler.
– In Why Futurism Has a Cultural Blindspot at Nautil.us, Tom Vanderbilt posits that we tend to overestimate the importance of technological change and underestimate cultural change in predicting the future. For example, “a 1960s film of the ‘office of the future’ made on-par technological predictions (fax machines and the like), but had a glaring omission: The office had no women.”

– Out in the world this week, here’s a feature about a destination on my list, São Tomé and Príncipe from the New York Times.
– When I wrote Asmara and Addis Reconnected three months ago, it was to note a softening of relations on the Ethiopian/Eritrean border. In the spirit of the moment, which included meetings between officials of both governments, it was possible to be hopeful that prospects might improve for ordinary Eritreans. Ruth MacLean writes, in ‘It’s just slavery’: Eritrean conscripts wait in vain for freedom in the Guardian, that things haven’t turned out that way.
– A long story about murder in Iceland: The Reykjavik Confessions from BBC News.
– And finally, this guy’s just gotta go to Malta.

Have a lovely weekend by your local creek, or wherever you choose to spend it, and be sure and check 3 Quarks Daily on Monday for my monthly travel column. See you next week.