Reads of the Week #58

This week I was reading about cause and effect: an athlete who cleaned up his life and won gold at the World Championships; the neglect of good government in Trump’s US and how it’s not all just surface stupidity, it runs deep: the long road to being an astronaut and the hassle if you’re of Iranian descent: the legacy of insular leadership in Albania; a heartbreaking podcast and a painting from another place in time. Good week.

Donald McRae is one of the great sportswriters of this generation. His book, A Man’s World is a classic examination of the dangerous tightrope sportspeople walk between a public and private life. This piece on Luvo Manyonga former crystal meth addict and now World Champion Long Jumper is from last December but it is so engrossing and rewarding it more than deserves a recommendation. And the story of the Irishman who helped Manyonga is another reason to read on.

Michael Lewis wrote this piece on the US Department of Energy for Vanity Fair. This is the week of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki anniversaries, something that seems to have passed the President by. The article is an examination of how the $30 billion agency, which oversees everything from the US nuclear arsenal to the electrical grid is being run into the ground by proposed budget cuts, mismanagement and just plain ignorance. It reminds us that Trump is not a joke, that his amateurism is deadly dangerous.

Robin Wright in the New Yorker details the career of  Jasmin Moghbeli, whose Iranian parents fled to Germany after the Revolution in 1979, where she was born. They subsequently moved on to the US and now she’s an Astronaut. The bit inbetween is very interesting.

Dave Hazzan, writing for Roads and Kingdoms, has found one of oddities of History, the bunkers, built in the 1970s and 80s that litter Albania. This essay on what they are used for, and what they mean is fascinating.

Podcast of the week in an episode of Human/Ordinary I first heard through a rebroadcast from the Strangers Podcast. I don’t want to spoil it but it has the power to break your heart and heal you all in one listen.

And picture of the week is a painting by William Orpen that I used in school a few years back. It’s of Mrs Oscar Lewisohn, who has an interesting story of her own, which places her all the way to the right of the canvas. It makes her the object of our gaze, but peripheral, and the pensive look on her face say only loneliness to me. This is a review of the painting from Vanity Fair in 1915.

Reads of the Week #57

August has arrived and with it the countdown for the return to school begins. An interesting year awaits and I seem to be drawn this week to writing about goodbyes, reflections, competence and incompetence, and reality dawning.

First, on his goodbye from Morning Ireland, Here's Cathal MacCoille on leaving RTÉ, how early morning radio works and, or course, getting up in the middle of the night.

This piece by Amber Leventry is about a boy in her daughter's school who triggered a recollection of where she herself came from. Powerful. The Boy With the Coin-Filled Cellophane Cigarette Wrapper, and Me.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect, the illusion of competence, will be familiar to many readers, even if the label wasn't in your vocabulary. Here's Kate Fehlhaber for Aeon.

This piece, and pictorial on the Ghost Villages of Newfoundland describes how a government resettlement program cleared fishing villages over the decades after WWII. Reminded me of a trip to the Blasket Centre a couple of years ago. It's by Luke Spencer for Atlas Obscura.

This is a great topic for a podcast: The Irish Passport explores the difference between what people think they know about Ireland and where the truth lies. This series is my podcast find of the summer.

This weeks picture is A View of the Square in the Kastel Looking Towards the Ramparts by Christen Købke which we saw in the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh last Easter. Beautiful understatement rewards close inspecting.