Saturday, January 02, 2016

Christmas holidays cultural diet

Lots of reading and discovering done over the Christmas holidays. Many of these come from the Bloomberg Jealousy list (a list of long form articles from other publishers that Bloomberg writers wish they had written) and the Best of Books 2015 lists that are ubiquitous at this time of the year.

The Myth of the Ethical Shopper, by Michael Hobbes (Huffington Post)
We can never really know exactly where that cheap tee-shirt we bought came from: on the maze of the world's production and logistics machine. It made me think that the only way out is to, quite simply, consume less.

Learning to speak lingerie, by Peter Hessler (New Yorker)
A fascinating article looking at recent Chinese immigrants to Egypt, who somehow end up setting up lingerie shops. Along the way, it covers cultural differences in making business, women's liberation and expectations, language barrier, local marriage customs and more.

36 hours on the fake campaign trail with Donald Trump, by McKay Coppins (Buzzfeed)
Revealing portrait of the man who was thinking, maybe, of running for governor of New York. Now we are not laughing quite so much.

The last Daily Lama, by Pankaj Mishra (New York Times)
What will happen when the current Dalai Lama, who is 80, dies? I learnt a lot: about the history of the Tibet-Communist China relationship, that the protesters banging drums outside his talks are actually not Chinese communist plants but part of a Buddhist sect worshipping a different deity, that he is hilarious (to the question "what is the key to happiness?", he replies "Sex! Money!") and that he is obsessed with his bowel movements. A great read.

A brief stop on the road from Auschwitz, by Goran Rosenberg
The son of two Auschwitz survivors tells their story, from a Polish ghetto to a new life in Sweden. I found their destiny completely gripping and extraordinary. Like the writer, I kept wondering how they had been able to carry on, to cope with the losses and the residual fear and grief. I wasn't completely sold on the format of the writer writing to his dad ("you stopped... you taught yourself...") – I found it a little over the top and grating after a while.
But... did you know that the inhabitants of the Lodz jewish ghetto had to give up (in a weird 'voluntary way') 10,000 of their children under 10, sick and old, against the promise that nothing else would happen to them (a lie, of course). Did you know that West Germany offered reparation to victims of the Holocaust, but the form-filling was so crazy and denigrating it was really a terrible affront to their suffering? Did you know some Jewish people who tried to get to Palestine by boat after the war were turned away by the British, and sent back to camps in... Germany?
Now I understand my grandad's bitterness (he was a POW for 4 years in a German farm) a bit more.

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