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What We're Reading

What We’re Reading: The Promise and a Dystopic Collection

Söz Written by Ethem Ozisik While observing social distancing, my family spent a lot of time watching TV. Since the beginning of May, they have been watching a Turkish series on YouTube with subtitles. At first, I left my family members alone with the TV after dinner, but later I became interested and started to join. The series, “Söz” (something like “The Promise”), is about a special Turkish squad set up to hunt an active terrorist and secessionist group in the country. At the beginning of the series, the main character, a well-trained Turkish soldier, loses his fiancee during a terrorist attack on a shopping mall. The terrorist organization is gaining strength, and the Turkish government decides to create a group of the best Turkish soldiers who are ready to track down and kill everyone behind the attacks. The soldier, committed to avenging the death of his would-be wife, becomes a captain of the team. The squad fights the terrorists to protect the Turkish state and population from attacks. Later, the series details the functioning of the terrorist group, which is gaining in strength both militarily and financially; shows how terrorist attacks are prepared; and looks at the lives of […]

What We’re Reading: Political Evolutions and Middle Eastern Rivalries

The End of History and the Last Man By Francis Fukuyama In the 2008 German film “Die Welle” (The Wave), based on a real-life social experiment conducted by an American high school teacher in 1967, a German teacher takes on the challenge of proving to his students that they aren’t immune to the allure of fascism. The students and teacher agree that certain conditions aid the spread of fascist ideas, like nationalism, high unemployment or social injustice, but none of these is present for them. But another key ingredient, certainly present, is referenced early in the film: boredom. Early on, one student asks another, “What are we supposed to rebel against these days?” (In case you’re curious, in both the film and the original experiment, the teachers created an almost uncontrollable fascistic movement within days.) There are plenty of reasons not to be bored in 2020. A pandemic has in a matter of months killed more than 400,000 people, including over 110,000 Americans. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression is staring us in the face. Protesters, mainly in the U.S. but also in other countries, are rallying against racial injustice and police brutality in the worst unrest on […]

What We’re Reading: Colombian History and Croatian Wars

Colombia: Democracy Under Assault By Harvey F. Kline This book did not get off to a good start for me, and quite frankly, it never really recovered. From the very first paragraph, I grew suspicious when the author mentioned Colombia’s ties to drug trafficking and presented it as one of the key elements to understanding the country. To be fair, the book was published in the mid-1990s, a time when violence, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) activity and drug trafficking dominated much of the country’s domestic and foreign agenda. Nevertheless, I question such reductionist approaches to any country. Harvey Kline’s book provides a broad survey of Colombia’s history, geography, politics and economics at the end of the 20th century. It’s a fast but very shallow read. The author hits on major themes such as internal violence and critical historical events that shaped the country, including the loss of Panama. However, he stops far short of providing any satisfactory explanation for the conditions that led to these events and their lasting impacts. Rather, he simply rattles off a series of facts, dates and statistics before moving on to a new topic. One section that fares slightly better is the discussion […]

What We’re Reading: Canada Obscura and Korean Tech

The Secret Life of Canada Produced by CBC Over the past couple of months, I’ve been searching for new podcasts to listen to, after running out of Netflix series to watch and books to read that I didn’t already have on my bookshelf at home. “The Secret Life of Canada,” produced by CBC, Canada’s public broadcaster, isn’t exactly new – it has been around since 2018 and was actually presented by Passport 2017 and produced independently before being picked up by CBC. But it has a novel concept, as well as an entertaining format thanks largely to the two cohosts, Leah-Simone Bowen and Falen Johnson. The show purports to cover aspects of Canadian history that “probably didn’t make it into your high school textbook.” Each episode explores often overlooked people, places and topics related to Canada’s more than 150 years as a country. The first episode covers the secret life of Banff, Canada’s oldest national park, established in 1885 and located in the province of Alberta. The podcast details how the Canadian government managed to clear the land of the indigenous people who had been living there before the government realized the land’s value as a tourist destination. Like other […]

What We’re Reading: In Bardo and in Exile

Weekly reviews of what's on our bookshelves.

What We’re Reading: Twin Crises of the 1950s

Weekly reviews of what's on our bookshelves.

What We’re Reading: Familiar Geopolitical Material

Weekly reviews of what's on our bookshelves.

What We’re Reading: Lenin and Wilson and Zombies

Weekly reviews of what's on our bookshelves.

What We’re Reading: Binge Watching in Isolation

Weekly reviews of what's on our bookshelves.

What We’re Reading: Alone in Communities and the Plague

Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology Than Each Other By Sherry Turkle Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community By Robert D. Putnam In the 1980s, I played a weekly poker game with six or seven guys. It was a serious game but not a sober one. We were a group of men who knew one another’s moves, and therefore we knew what was important about one other. We talked as men did, in fragments, with expressions more eloquent than speech. We fought for status, for levity and for  friendship. We knew when one of us was in trouble or when one was triumphant from their eyes or the set of their jaw. We were friends, competing and knowing. And that friendship was a place where we were known for our eccentricities, and where, when feelings became too open, we could say “shut up and deal,” and all would know what we meant. At about the same time in my life, I bought a personal computer: a DEC Rainbow, a superb abortion costing about $5,000. With it, the now long-gone company of DEC introduced something called Fido-Net, a proto-internet on which thoughts were posted by the […]