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04/12/2007

Magazine Roundup

Outlook India | Le Nouvel Observateur | Europa | L'Espresso | The New Yorker | The Guardian | The Economist | Il Foglio | The Spectator| New York Review of Books | Portfolio.com | Merkur | Nepszabadsag

Outlook India 10.12.2007 (India)

Author and Islam critic Taslima Nasreen has already had to flee Bangladesh for Calcutta. Now she's been chased half-way across India by a Muslim mob, while officials pass her on like a hot potato. Vinod Mehta is incensed: "How should we read the Taslima Nasreen story? As a commentary on the state of Indian democracy? The power of the mullahs? A manipulative writer milking a controversy to sell her books? It is conceivable that all these elements have fused to create the appalling Taslima narrative. However, for me, it is the bankruptcy of three principal formations (the CPI-M, Congress and BJP) rushing to cover their backsides which nauseates. To describe their conduct as 'passing the buck' is to give that sometimes useful political ploy a bad name. What is farcical is the assertion of all three parties that they have done nothing but vigorously defend the right to free speech. Voltaire must be turning in his grave!"


Le Nouvel Observateur 29.11.2007 (France)

Garry Kasparov explains in an interview how his experience as world chess champion has helped him in the struggle against Vladimir Putin: "As a player I was very dynamic, even aggressive, or as some said: arrogant. I had excellent intuition, which allowed me to anticipate the moves of my opponents. And I learned to know my adversaries. I know you can't go on the offensive when you're in a weak position, which has helped me in my political struggle from the start, because my current enemy is in an overwhelming position of superiority. So I have to find the suitable strategy for Putin. At first that has to be one of survival. Every day we survive allows us to reach more people, and to rile the Kremlin more. That comes from guerilla tactics and is the sole goal we've been able to fix ourselves to date."


Europa 01.12.2007 (Poland)

The weekend magazine of Dziennik newspaper dedicates its entire current issue to the Russian elections. Russia watcher Boris Breitschuster warns of the consequences of the Kremlin's nationalistic propaganda. "Everyone is being presented as enemies: today's Russia has no friends, just foes. The USA and Europe denigrate Russia, and await the day when they can actually threaten it. Things are even worse with Russia's immediate neighbours... The Kremlin is playing a dangerous and short-sighted game. I think not even those in power grasp what a dangerous beast they're provoking."


L'Espresso 30.11.2007 (Italy)

Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun is enraged at a judgement sentencing a Saudi Arabian rape victim to two hundred lashes: "The Prophet Muhammad's first wife was much older than him, and had been professionally active. Whereas the Prophet was considerate and respectful towards women throughout his life, many Muslims today persist in treating them as inferior, and above all in isolating them. This attitude is founded on the fear that women could flee their husbands in search of freedom and emancipation."


The New Yorker 10.12.2007 (USA)

Louis Menand devotes an extensive essay to the diary, asking what makes us read diaries, and why they're even written at all. He offers three spontaneous theories: those of the ego, the id, and the superego: "The ego theory holds that maintaining a diary demands a level of vanity and self-importance that is simply too great for most people to sustain for long periods of time. It obliges you to believe that the stuff that happened to you is worth writing down because it happened to you. This is why so many diaries are abandoned by circa January 10th: keeping this up, you quickly realize, means something worse than being insufferable to others; it means being insufferable to yourself. People find that they just can't take themselves seriously enough to continue. They may regret this - people capable of taking themselves seriously tend to go farther in life - but they accept it and move on to other things, such as collecting stamps."


The Guardian 01.12.2007 (UK)

Gilles Foden celebrates Joseph Conrad on the 150th anniversary of his birthday, calling him a master of multiplicity. Conrad had a unique talent for blending together numerous influences, Foden writes: "From Shakespeare, Conrad took not only doubt and scepticism, but also cultural multiplicity - the idea that there is never a single right position in human affairs. Other masters gave different lessons. From Dickens came a sense of the particularity of character, but also direction as to how different characters' viewpoints might usefully be distributed across space and time. This was particularly important in the management of the disparate narratives in 'The Secret Agent' and in the novel's depiction of London: 'that wonder city,' as Conrad put it, 'the growth of which bears no sign of intelligent design, but many traces of freakishly sombre fantasy the Great Master knew so well to bring out.' From Flaubert, meanwhile, came the belief in the novel as being founded on impersonality, and further lessons in handling of point of view: that most difficult part of the novelist's art."

The Economist 03.12.2007 (UK)

How to gauge the success of a website is a question of interest not only to advertisers. The answer is anything but straightforward as The Economist explains. "Imagine you want to place your banners on the most popular website, and you want to know how much to pay. Globally, the leading site is Google, which has the most 'page views'. Or is it Microsoft, whose various sites have, in the jargon, the most 'time spent'? Or should you go by unique users, duration, hits, click-through, impressions, queries, sessions, streams, or engagement? Whether or not there is truth in advertising, there is certainly none for online advertisers, at least none that is immediately obvious and simple."


Il Foglio 01.12.2007 (Italy)

Gaia Cesare congratulates Europe's most successful poetry magazine on its birthday and sings the praises of its creator Nicola Crocetti. "Poesia will be 20 in January and the magazine, whose gravestone many a writer was eager to inscribe, is still thriving as the best-selling magazine of its kind in Europe. A mid-size print edition of 20,000 copies – with a record-breaking peak of 50,000 – 2,000 published poets, among them 37 Nobel Prize laureates, 20,000 poems and thousands of previously unprinted photos of poets. An Italian miracle. A publishing miracle which is available in many of Europe and America's larger universities. A miracle that arose from at least two great ideas and was realised by a single man."

The Spectator 01.12.2007 (UK)

Mary Wakefield was in Westminster to meet Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Islam critic who has found a new home in the USA at the American Enterprise Institute."As she talks I realise (belatedly) what makes her different from her neocon pals. Whereas they seem motivated by fear of Muslims, she is out to protect Muslims from submission to unreason. When she speaks of a 'war against Islam', she's thinking not of armies of insurgents, but of an ideological virus, in the same way a doctor might talk of the battle against typhoid. 'Yes, I am at war with Islam,' she says, as she gets up to leave, 'but I am not at war with Muslims.' It’s a crucial difference. It's teatime now and the House of Lords hallway is suddenly full of peers' wives chattering, shaking their brollies. Sorry about all these women in headscarves, I say unnecessarily, as I shake her hand goodbye.'"


New York Review of Books 20.12.2007 (USA)

Michael Massing discusses six new books about the effect of the Iraq war on American soldiers. They include ones written by the soldiers themselves, but also the macro-view "Generation Kill" by Rolling Stone journalist Evan Wright. "Wright is a keen observer (...) and shares none of his fellow journalists' qualms about looking deeply into the composition of the all-volunteer army. 'Culturally,' he writes, 'these Marines would be virtually unrecognizable to their forebears in the 'Greatest Generation.' They are kids raised on hip-hop, Marilyn Manson and Jerry Springer.' There are 'former gangbangers, a sprinkling of born-again Christians and quite a few guys who before entering the Corps were daily dope smokers.' While some joined the Marines out of prep school or turned down scholarships at universities, more than half 'come from broken homes and were raised by absentee, single, working parents. Many are on more intimate terms with video games, reality TV shows and Internet porn than they are with their own parents.' Together, he writes, these Marines 'represent what is more or less America's first generation of disposable children.'"

Portfolio.com 01.12.2007 (USA)

The much-bemoaned free download culture of the Internet has not left the porn industry unscathed, as Claire Hoffman shows in a well-researched reportage for the Conde Nast magazine Portfolio, titled "Obscene Losses". Hoffmann paid a visit to Steve Hirsch, founder of one of the top brands in the industry Vivid Entertainment, who can now barely defend himself against the competition from YouPorn with its free amateur videos. "As its name suggests, YouPorn lets users upload and watch a virtually unlimited selection of hardcore sex videos for free. The user-generated clips on YouPorn - like those on YouTube, the site it mimics -range from the grainiest amateur footage to the slickest professional product. Also, like YouTube, the site has far more traffic than income. Just nine months after going live, in September 2006, YouPorn was on pace to log about 15 million unique visitors in May and its audience was growing at a rate of 37.5 percent a month. Today, YouPorn is the No. 1 adult site in the world; Vivid.com, a pay site, is ranked 5,061."


Merkur 01.12.2007 (Germany)

"The temperature is rising" writes Michael Stolleis in response to ever louder cries that if the citizens want more security, they will have to sacrifice more freedom, accept torture and even being shot if necessary. "A free society that wants to remain free has to be able to cope with danger. It has to accept it, and if necessary, without immediately calling the police and the military for help. Only a self-confident society, which doesn't cede new powers to the security forces at the first sign of threat, can overcome its inner fear. If sacrifices do have to be made, we want to air our grievances privately and publicly. But a metaphysics of sacrifice, even a constitutional sacrifice theory for citizens in a cloud of 'dulce et decorum est pro patria mori' incense, is something we can do without."


Nepszabadsag 01.12.2007 (Hungary)

The notion that the time has come to found a new, credible political party is gaining momentum in Hungarian public debate. Art historian Eszter Babarczy has her doubts. "The idea is not bad, but it has its flaws. Let us suppose that this new party does overcome all the hurdles and gets into parliament in the next elections – who can guarantee that in the elections after that, it won't disappear off the political spectrum in disillusionment? I would therefore suggest being a little more patient. We should first look at what it is that makes the existent parties moulder, and how we as members of civil society can support reputable political actors in purging this evil and its causes. We have to seek them out, in every individual party, and talk to them."
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