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25/03/2008

Magazine Roundup

le debat | Artforum | ResetDoc | Portfolio | Rue89 | The Atlantic | Outlook India | Europa | The New Yorker | L'Espresso | Al Ahram Weekly | The Guardian | Die Weltwoche | Elet es Irodalom | London Review of Books | Le Nouvel Observateur | The New York Times


le debat 01/02 2008 (France)

The press has reached its "tipping point" in the struggle against the internet and is teetering on the edge of the abyss. This is the conclusion reached by Vincent Giret and Bernard Poulet in their essay on "The End of the Newspapers" in the latest issue of le debat (excerpts here). Their core argument is that the press is on its way out because the advertising industry is increasingly turning to the spectrum of online alternatives. "The face of the media world is undergoing fundamental changes. Because for the first time since the rise of the mass media at the end of the 19th century advertising, which is the leading source of income for the press, is no longer dependant on journalism as a vehicle for spreading its messages." And media companies are also no longer investing in media – it's clicks they want. For example the Springer Verlag in France: "After conducting a year of market research the publishers decided to cancel its project of starting a tabloid along the lines of the German Bild in France. Instead the company spent 284 million euros on buying the popular internet portal aufeminin.com."



Artforum 01.03.2008 (USA)

Artform has compiled an extensive dossier on Karlheinz Stockhausen which includes an homage by Björk for the late composer: "for me and my generation stockhausen's published lectures had unbelievable impact . he was the most hopeful of them . the 21st century was going to be great . while classical teachers in my school kept moaning about the good old days of music and thought keeping it alive was uninspiringly whipping us into rehearsing 945,876 hours a day, changing the masses of music pupils into (slave) performers, putting to sleep any creative thought or the will to make new things. (that with our sportsmanship, will, and self-denial we could masturbate the old dead beast and perhaps it would groan for another few years.)"

The main article in the dossier comes from the New Zealand composer Robin Maconie.



ResetDoc 24.03.2008 (Italy)

The latest issue of Reset.doc examines the role played by Italian immigrants in the election campaign: none whatsoever. They are not even allowed to vote at local level. And Walter Veltroni's Democratic Party, is not letting its one policitian of Arab descent run this time around. Gad Lerner, journalist and host of the talk show "L'Infidele", sees this as "the umpteenth indication of Italian provincialism," which proves that "our politics are more backward that our football." "There is no need for the Commonwealth to know that the current population is a more composite group than once upon a time. But there is an aggravator in addition to our provincial naivety, and this is the mistaken idea that whoever touches upon the subject of immigration is masochistic, in other words, if you talk about having problems, it’s therefore better to dissolve the immigrants from the electoral campaign. It's true that the issue of indemnity for the 700 thousand immigrants has been left hanging: no politics in Italy, from the extreme right to the extreme left, have considered to discuss it."

In an interview with Daniele Castellani Perelli, Souad Sbai, the publisher of the Moroccan tabloid Al Maghrebiya in Italy, explains why she is running as a candidate for Silvio Berlusconi's "People of Freedom" party: "Why not? Why would I not choose it? Is the immigrant a left-wing monopoly? The immigrant living in Italy thinks, eats and votes just like any other Italian, right, left, or centre. In our countries of origin we vote for parties of every political orientation, from the extreme right to the extreme left. Why is it that as soon as we arrive in Italy we must only vote for the left?"

Further articles: Algerian writer Amara Lakhous fails to understand why immigrants are being refused a political say. Khalid Chaouki for his part, calls for immmigrats to get proactive.



Portfolio 01.04.2008 (USA)

Rupert Murdoch is doing everything in his power to get his hands on the New York Times, believes NYT's former editor in chief Howell Raines. And as he sees it, the chances for a hostile takeover are not bad: "It is an article of faith in the Times newsroom that the Sulzberger family trust, updated in 1997 from a previous agreement, is bulletproof. It may be, against the threat it was designed to counter: a renegade cousin or two stampeding the family into selling. But is it built to withstand repeated proxy battles with hedge funds or investment banks attacking the New York Times Co.'s dual-class stock structure? In recent weeks, New York investor Scott Galloway and his Firebrand Partners, along with the hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners, have bought huge blocks of Times stock. This points to the trust's vulnerability to converging trends unique to this moment—the financial decline of the Times, predatory investors, Wall Street and family anxiety about stock prices, and the emergence of Murdoch as the most powerful individual in mass communications. These factors could bring us to the point where the unthinkable is possible."

Also in this edition: After years of positive development, the career chances for American women have taken a downwards turn, reports Harriet Rubin. Jesse Eisinger is dumbfounded by the No-Consequences Economy" in which CEOs are rewarded even for their mistakes.



Rue89 24.03.2008 (France)

Israeli novelist Aharon Appelfeld talks in an interview about his latest book "La chambre de Mariana", which he has just presented at the Paris Book Fair, his writing in general, and his central theme: being Jewish. Israel itself is not a topic for him, at least not in literary terms, and certainly not at the moment. "As I said, I write sagas about Jewish loneliness. Israel is a tiny fragment of the very long Jewish history. My work is about looking for the essence of Jewishness, what it means to be Jewish. Of course there is the intifada. It is important, the intifada, very important. But from an objective and historical view point it really represents nothing more than a tiny fragment of Jewish history. I will write about the intifada and Israel in two hundred years time. When I'm 268 I will be writing about the intifada in history."



The Atlantic 01.04.2008 (USA)

In a lengthy essay Ross Douthat posits that September 11 has thrown Hollywood back to the seventies – patriotic convulsions have been replaced by conspiracy theories. "In the past six years, the movie industry has produced exactly zero major motion pictures dedicated to lionizing American soldiers fighting on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan. (...) Conservatives such as Noonan hoped that 9/11 would bring back the best of the 1940s and ’50s, playing Pearl Harbor to a new era of patriotism and solidarity. Many on the left feared that it would restore the worst of the same era, returning us to the shackles of censorship and conformism, jingoism and Joe McCarthy. But as far as Hollywood is concerned, another decade entirely seems to have slouched round again: the paranoid, cynical, end-of-empire 1970s. We expected John Wayne; we got Jason Bourne instead... Matt Damon’s Bourne marries the efficiency of James Bond to the politics of Noam Chomsky."

Other articles in this highly readable (and online again) magazine: The cover story by David Samuel examines the Britney Spears hunting industry. Lawrence Scott Sheets portrays a Russian smuggler who can sort you out with dried cod as well as weapons. And Robert D. Kaplan asks whether Calcutta or Kolkata (as it is now called) will be reborn?



Outlook India 31.03.2008 (India)

Outlook India title story is an excerpt from Patrick French's forthcoming biography of V.S. Naipaul. Although the Nobel laureate gave his approval and provided French with access to his private archives, Outlook is quick to point out that the biography is not uncritical. In one excerpt French describes Naipaul's relationship with India. "India remained for V.S. Naipaul 'the land of my childhood, an area of darkness.... I had learned my separateness from India, and was content to be a colonial, without a past, without ancestors'. This was a premature and inaccurate conclusion: he was not content to be a colonial, and he would continue to seek an ancestral past, far from the Caribbean of his childhood. Vidia was a product of the Indian diaspora who wanted to link himself to the civilisation of his forebears." The British Daily Telegraph also features lenghty excerpts from the book. And Robert McCrum of the Observer interviews Naipaul.



Europa 22.03.2008 (Poland)

Instead of the usual Easter conversation about the meaning of life, Bogumil Lozinski talked to the philosopher Leszek Kolakowski about the decline of the left, the fiasco of Marxism and – yes - Christianity as the fundament of Europe. And the talk takes a rather metaphysical turn: "There is no such thing as success in this world. Of course there are famous people who have achieved things. But the belief that one can be successful is vain and illusory. Basically we are all losers."

Available only in the print version is Viktor Erofeyev's speech honouring Andrzej Wajda after the Moscow premiere of "Katyn". Although he didn't think everything in the film worked, the Russian writer stated: "It is not the first time Wajda has cleaned the Augean stables of history. He just left the filthiest bit by the name of Katyn for last. It is an heroic act; I have only the greatest respect for this Polish Hercules."



The New Yorker 31.03.2008 (USA)

The left wing-liberal professor of journalism Eric Alterman looks into the life and death of the American newspaper market in the days of the web. The uprising of the blogs against the mainstream media (MSM) started from the right in America, Alterman explains, before the likes of the Huffington Post launched the left wing blogosphere. The old print papers are a dying breed anyway, Alterman affirms, not without melancholy: "And so we are about to enter a fractured, chaotic world of news, characterized by superior community conversation but a decidedly diminished level of first-rate journalism. The transformation of newspapers from enterprises devoted to objective reporting to a cluster of communities, each engaged in its own kind of 'news' - and each with its own set of 'truths' upon which to base debate and discussion - will mean the loss of a single national narrative and agreed-upon set of 'facts' by which to conduct our politics."

Further articles: Sasha Frere-Jones writes about the avantgarde eclecticism of the soul singer Erykah Badu. The Indian author Pankaj Mishra is prompted by Pico Iyer's book "The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama" to ponder on what the Dalai Lama stands for exactly.



L'Espresso 21.03.2008 (Italy)

Umberto Eco addresses a survey which revealed that 50 percent of young Britons think Winston Churchill is a fictional character. What has become of our relationship with the past? he asks. "We used to be so wrapped up in the past because there was far less news about the present. Remember that a newspaper used to have just eight pages. Mass media has created vast amounts of information about the present and the internet allows you to find out about millions of events which are taking place right at this moment, however unimportant they may be. The past as it appears in the mass media, for example victorious Roman emperors, Richard the Lionheart or the First World War, all gets mixed up into the powerful current of the latest news. It becomes extremely difficult for the viewer to spot the chronological leaps between Spartacus and Richard the Lionheart. And the difference between real and imaginary often gets just as lost. How could one possibly know from watching TV that Spartacus actually existed, but Vinicio from 'Quo Vadis' didn't."



Al Ahram Weekly 20.03.2008 (Egypt)

Mohamed Salmawy, Secretary General of the Union of Arab Writers, explains to Rania Khallaf, why he called to all his Arab colleagues to boycott the Paris Book Fair, where Israel was the guest country. "'We are not against freedom of expression or against any Israeli writer,' he explained. 'However, this year the Paris Book Fair has itself decided to bring in politics and has made the occasion political. There can be absolutely no opportunity for dialogue when one side, the aggressor, is being honoured, and the other side, the victim of that aggression, is prevented from even attending the Fair,' he said, referring to the Palestinians. 'The fact that Shimon Peres inaugurated the Book Fair makes it even more political, because he is not a literary author or a creative writer as far as I am aware.'" Here the article on the Book Fair itself.

Theatre critic Nehad Selaiha watched three plays about the Middle East by the American author and human rights activist Naomi Wallace. Wallace's political theatre reminds Selaiha of the sixties - "our socialist era" - when all theatre in Egypt seemed to be political...



The Guardian 22.03.2008 (UK)

Howard Hodgkin might be in his seventies but he is still a great seducer, writes novelist Alan Hollinghurst after visiting the Hodgkin show at the Gagosian gallery in London: "Hodgkin can be all candour, nakedly emotional, and at the same time leave you guessing. Something essentially intuitive in his art expects intuition in the viewer. His art seduces, but partly by flattering you with the confidence that you will be quick and keen enough to respond: it works by a kind of erotic certainty. You can feel teased by a Hodgkin, your interest piqued, your curiosity titillated. His subjects, of course, often are erotic, flushed with amorous feeling and refinements of feeling."

Sarah Churchwell was pretty convinced and often awed by the brilliance of Susan Faludi's book "The Terror Dream" on the re-blossoming of "regressive sexism" in the USA, results from the feeling of "national impotence" caused by September 11 ("We're at war, sweetheart!"): "The sabre-rattling was hard for anyone to miss, but the degree to which it was also directed domestically, and especially at women, comes as a shock, as does the media's complicity and laxity." But Churchwell was also surprised that in a book about the relationship between the sexes, that important female policitians such as Hillary Clinton and Condonleezza Rice were not mentioned more than two or three times.



Die Weltwoche 20.03.2008 (Switzerland)

Having read the new books by Clemens Meyer, Jenny Erpenbeck, Bernhard Schlink and Dirk Kurbjuweit, Peer Teuwsen asks himself: "Is anyone taking risks in German literature these days?" Only one man, he concludes, and that is Michael Kumpfmüller, with his novel "Nachricht an alle" (message to everyone) about a German minister of the interior called Selden. "Kumpfmüller shows in toneless language, with absolute calm and always at an arm's length, how we are feeling: good, and yet disappointed. There is no hero in his book, no Willy Brandt, no Helmut Schmidt, this Selden is just another executive who gets lost in the details and no longer has a grasp on things. And the others for whom he, as representative, should do the best thing, feel nothing but a dull emptiness in the wake of excellent conditions. A text written in the fog of society, on frosted glass, which conveys the feeling one gets on hitting forty after a life of being handed plenty of structure on a plate in formless times, without ever having had to fight for anything but oneself. A text which identifies with no one, embraces no one, and takes no clear standpoint. This is what German critics in love with emphasis so hate about this novel."



Elet es Irodalom 21.03.2008 (Hungary)

A peculiar monster of a building is due to be erected over the ruins of the Western Hungarian city of Szekesfehervar, where the first Hungarian King Stephan (969-1038) is buried. Plans to create a "national memorial" in the form of a giant towering creation that corresponds with the 12th century basilica that once stood on the spot, are provoking the wrath of experts, among other reasons because the ruins themselves risk being destroyed. And these, says art historian Ernö Marosi are extremely important as historical sources that no written source could replace. In an interview with Eszter Radai, Marosi states: "We must hand over these ruins to future generations in the same state that we received them. This is our duty. It has recently become popular to refer to them as 'national heritage' but it is only heritage from the perspective of the recipient – from the perspective of the sender it is an estate. What we are given as heritage, we must pass on as estate. We have no right to interfere in this handing-down process, and only pass on what we know about this heritage today with today's fallible knowledge. The modern approach to heritage protection is about conservation and not restoration. This approach, which has been the prevalent approach up until the last turn of the century likes to make a memorial to itself in every historical memorial."



London Review of Books 20.03.2008 (UK)

Adam Shatz reviews Brynjar Lia's book "Architect of Global Jihad", a biography of the al-Qaeda strategist Abu Musab al-Suri who was imprisioned in 2005. But Shatz's real interest is in the "magnum opus," the war guide "The Global Islamic Resistance Call," which has its finger firmly on the pulse: "Though he embroiders his arguments with the occasional quote from the Koran, he clearly prefers to discuss the modern literature of guerrilla warfare. Jihadis who fail to learn from Western sources are ridiculed for their inability to 'think outside the box'. Just as weirdly familiar is al-Suri’s celebration of nomadic fighters, mobile armies, autonomous cells, individual actions and decentralisation, which recalls not only Deleuze and Guattari's 'Mille Plateaux', but the idiom of 'flexible' capitalism in the age of Google and call centres. His vision of jihadis training themselves in mobile camps and houses, presumably from their laptops, is not so far removed from our own off-site work world."



Le Nouvel Observateur 20.03.2008 (France)

Chinese historian and college lecturer in California Song Yongyi – also a former Red Guard who was imprisoned in China on espionage charges and only released into American exile thanks to international pressure – has published a black book of the Cultural Revolution, in which he documents the full scope of the massacres carried out in its name: "Les Massacres de la Revolution culturelle." When asked about his role as a Red Guard and whether he also took part in the house searches and public self-criticism sessions, he replies: "No, because I don't come from a 'good' family. But also not from a 'bad' one. My father ran a large business. I couldn't take part in the first wave – with the old Red Guard – basically because it was reserved for the children of high-ranking cadres, and they had the right to kill. I belonged to the second wave known as the Rebellious Red Guards. I think that if I'd been given the opportunity, I would have behaved the same way as the members of the first wave did."



The New York Times 23.03.2008 (USA)

Oh the internet, always good for new revolutions!" Thomas Goetz writes in the Sunday supplement about the self-help website PatientsLikeMe where victims of chronic diseases like MS, Parkinson's or Aids can exchange their experiences. It might look like a 'Myspace' for patients at first, of which there are a multitude of sites, but Goetz points to a key difference: the patients at PatientsLikeMe produce "hard data". "The members of PatientsLikeMe don’t just share their experiences anecdotally; they quantify them, breaking down their symptoms and treatments into hard data. They note what hurts, where and for how long. They list their drugs and dosages and score how well they alleviate their symptoms. All this gets compiled over time, aggregated and crunched into tidy bar graphs and progress curves by the software behind the site. And it’s all open for comparison and analysis. By telling so much, the members of PatientsLikeMe are creating a rich database of disease treatment and patient experience."

In the Book Review Colm Toibin reviews the controversial new book from Nicholson Baker "Human Smoke", (first chapter), in which Baker decries the war crimes of the western allies in the Second World War, and asks what chances pacifist politics could have had on a global level. (For Toibin, the book's narrative construction and its skillful construction make it "a serious and conscientious contribution to the debate about pacifism"). There is also a review of Martha Nussbaum's new book about religious tolerance (more here) and of Sarah Boxer's anthology "The Ultimate Blog."
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