Lucky Podcast: "The Choice"

I don't think I've ever been more moved by an audio story than I was listening to this two-part podcast episode called "The Choice": 

In April of 1992, Nada Rothbart was living happily in Sarajevo, Bosnia, with her husband and two young sons–till the night the Bosnian Civil War broke out on the street in front of her home. By the time they recognized what was happening–it was too late; Nada was trapped with her children, surrounded by tanks and snipers. After 60 days with almost no food, no water, and no power, a surprise ceasefire was announced. Nada put on her shoes, grabbed her children, and walked out the door.

That's just the beginning of this remarkable, harrowing story that contains both the worst and best of what's possible in life. Part 1: online or iTunes. Part 2: online or iTunes.  (H/T to Snap Judgement, where I first heard episode 1.) 

"The Self-Destruction of the 1 Percent"

Interesting historical perspective from Chrystia Freeland, writing in the Times:

The story of Venice’s rise and fall is told by the scholars Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, in their book “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty,” as an illustration of their thesis that what separates successful states from failed ones is whether their governing institutions are inclusive or extractive. Extractive states are controlled by ruling elites whose objective is to extract as much wealth as they can from the rest of society. Inclusive states give everyone access to economic opportunity; often, greater inclusiveness creates more prosperity, which creates an incentive for ever greater inclusiveness.

"The Death of Yugoslavia"

After recently reading Richard Holbrooke’s very interesting To End a War, I just finished The Death of Yugoslavia, a five-part documentary series produced for the BBC that was first broadcast in 1995 and concluded during the first half of 1996, six months after the Dayton Accords were reached. It was exceptionally well made, the events chronicled by turns maddening, absurd, cruel, and extraordinarily sad. My own immersion into this subject makes this recent news that much more meaningful.

The Human Story

I just finished reading James C. Davis’s “The Human Story: Our History, From the Stone Age to Today.” Paging back through, I’m noticing these:

“Deep inside [the caves] modern-day explorers sometimes come on footprints left by children running barefoot who made a point of splashing through the puddles.” (pg. 4)

“One day the hunters find a valley, open only at one end, where they can hold the sheep. To take this step means settling down, for a while at least.” (pg. 11)

“The Bible gave these former nomads, who now were needy peasants in Palestine, what Egyptians and the people of the Tigris and Euphrates lacked: a memory.” (pg. 45)

“As well as vast amounts of evil, the conquerors did some good.” (pg. 106)

“Bishops were so involved in politics that they often fought in battles. When they did they carried
maces instead of swords, because, as clerics, they were not allowed to spill blood but could freely shatter skulls.” (pg. 129)

“As they sailed along the coast, the Europeans sometimes glimpsed the native folk, the Aborigines.
As the ship sailed by, the Aborigines would gaze out at it and then look away, dismissing it as too monstrous to be understood.” (pg. 165)

“When the ruler came to the wedding he discovered that the Aztecs had honored him by sacrificing his daughter to their gods.” (pg. 172)

“The Church’s leading theologian talked with Galileo in Rome and gently warned him that it was all right to discuss the sun-centered universe ‘hypothetically.’” (pg. 204)

“Indians would fare no better.” (pg. 223)

“Wilbur pondered how to build a craft that flew with power of its own.” (pg. 274)

“Marx was arrogant and certain of his views, and he wearied of the wrangling Marxists. He called them 'rascals,’ 'louts,’ and 'bedbugs,’ and disgustedly he said, 'All I know is I’m not a Marxist.’” (pg. 298)

“However, it was found, the neutrons of one atom can be made to break the nucleus of another, and
this will free a huge amount of the energy that holds the nucleus together.” (pg. 342)

“German soldiers in the camps took photographs and told their families what they saw and did.” (pg. 348)

“(A high U.S. military official declared that Americans could survive in such a war if they would 'dig a hole, cover it with a couple of doors, and then throw three feet of dirt on top.’”) (pg. 410)

“A writer for Popular Mechanics magazine speculated hopefully in 1949 that the computer might shrink one day to the size of a car.” (pg. 422)

“How much we, the human race, had learned about ourselves in just a hundred years! During a little fraction of our total time on earth so far, Darwin and a host of others had discovered how we and other species had evolved. Mendel and others had learned that genes inside our cells control our traits. Now Crick and Watson (building on the work of others) had described the molecule that holds the blueprint for maintaining life.” (pg. 438)

The book is recommended. Certainly cursory, but very readable. And it’s fun to be in the company of a single author who’s trying to tell you this great big story.