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Bookshot #160: Return Of A King

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William Dalrymple is fast becoming one of my favorite historians- not just of South Asia, but full stop. His writing is immersive, his research impeccable and his books always have connective tissue with some aspect of present-day politics. If you want to look at the original progenitors of untrammeled corporate power, read The Anarchy , his history of the rise of the East India Company. If you want a deep dive into Britain's first round of misadventures in Afghanistan, there's no better book to turn to than Return Of A King. Culturally, the British disaster in Afghanistan- driven largely by the 19th Century preoccupation with Russian shenanigans that we now know as The Great Game, emanates more than people think it does. Dr. Watson of Sherlock Holmes fame served in Afghanistan (both in the original and in a case of 'history not repeating itself, but very often rhyming' in the excellent Benedict Cumberbatch/Martin Freeman updates as well- though granted, it was a diffe

Breaking Down The Red Derecho

If you want to look for it, there's discourse aplenty online either mourning Iowa's election results or trying to figure out where it all went quite so wrong. I have no knowledge of the inner workings of the State Democratic Party. They could be doing quite a few of these things already-- and if they are, great. But while I'm technically registered as a Democrat, I am not. I hate the two party system and while we still don't have final results on who's controlling what quite yet, I am more convinced than ever than political parties are stupid. So: Iowa's results are entirely the fault of the State Democratic Party. Trendlines have been creeping against them for a few cycles now. The Caucus Clusterfuck didn't help matters. You get the sense that candidate recruitment  has been lackluster and the State Party just isn't willing to spend the resources where it should be to claw anything back. They don't have solid social media messaging either.  National

Bookshot #159: A Wizard of Earthsea

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It took me way too long to get around to reading one Ursula K. Le Guin book and I didn't want it to be that long before I tackled another. I had heard a lot about Earthsea, but I had never actually read any of the books- which given the fascination of my youth with all things fantasy-related (Lord of the Rings, The Belgariad, Shannara, etc.) Earthsea was a surprising omission. So, I grabbed the first book on Audible and gave it a listen. Shout out to Rob Inglis who does a fantastic job with the narration for Audible. A little digging around on the interwebs reveals that this is definitely not his first rodeo with voiceover narration and, in fact, until Andy Serkis did it in 2020, his reading of The Hobbit was the only unabridged edition of the book ever made. He did one-man stage productions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings back in the 70s and 80s which must have been amazing to see. In short, Mr. Inglis is, as the kids these days like to say: thoroughly legit. His voice I

Squawk Box: All Or Nothing Arsenal/She-Hulk Attorney At Law

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I tried to get into All or Nothing before, but I just... couldn't, for whatever reason. I wasn't about to watch the Tottenham season and the Manchester City season I tried for a few episodes was just... anti-climactic, I want to say would be the right word? (There's not a lot of drama in watching a Death Star Premier League Team do what it usually does, which is destroy most opposition.) But then they finally did a season on Arsenal, so, naturally, I had to give it a go. As a sports documentary, the production value is top notch. It looks beautiful- they talk to fans, bring in the community of North London and do their best to communicate a sense of place to the viewer and they do so really well. I also loved seeing how it all works behind the scenes-- the training sessions and the player performance reviews/one on one coaching sessions that they go throughout the season.  I also liked getting to know the individual players a bit-- between Bukayo Saka meeting up with a kid

The Weirdness of the Ukraine Discourse

I've been trying to formulate this post for a while now, so I'm not sure if I'm going to quite stick the landing on this one, but bear with me. There's a weirdness in the Ukraine discourse that we need to talk about-- and it might only be weird from my personal point of view-- it might actually be totally normal and illustrative of the online hive mind in general and I might not see it or not care enough about it to see it, but it's something that I want to put into words. In general: the DC Foreign Policy Blob (cross-partisan, Establishment, deep state types, mainstream media types, etc.) has been in lockstep about supporting Ukraine as they struggle to deal with Russia's invasion of their country now heading into the seventh or eighth month. Their position goes like this: "We love Ukraine, Putin bad, here's another aid package worth billions of dollars." Against the DC Foreign Policy Blob, we find discourse like this: Don't worry. A nuclear

Sportsball and The Crippling Weight of Expectations

Sometimes I wonder what it's like to be an Alabama fan. I mean, you'd have all these expectations every single year. Winning your division? Oh hell yes. SEC Title Game? You better believe it! Making the playoff with a shot at a national title? Absolutely! There are 131 teams in FBS football and I would be willing to be that at least 125 of them would be willing to trade places with Alabama in a heartbeat. (Hell, the number might be higher than that, to be quite honest about it.) But alas, through accidents of geographic relocation, parental employment* and just the wheel of life itself, I am not an Alabama fan. I grew up in Iowa City, I graduated from the University of Iowa and somehow ended up right back here working for the University of Iowa in a job that revolves around athletic events of some flavor or another for about six months out of the year. So, like it or not, Iowa Football is all up in my shit on multiple levels pretty much all the damn time. Which raises the quest

Bookshot #158: Securing Democracy

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I snagged this one on Audible, mainly because I was vaguely aware of a lot of the events described in this book and wanted to be more informed about just what all had gone down in Brazil over the course of the past few years and Greenwald- love him or hate him- was at the center of the journalistic firestorm around a lot of it. The structure of the book is well laid out-- before you dig into the reporting and the controversy Greenwald found himself in, he 'sets the scene' in a structured and informative way. While I knew the basics of Brazil's history, Greenwald filled in a lot of details I didn't know. Namely the depth of American involvement in bringing the military dictatorship to power- the depth of their repression and how it impacted society, but more importantly, how much of Bolsonaro's support came from people and companies that found their greatest success during the Dictatorship. Greenwald then touches on his personal history in the country, how he came t