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26/08/2008

Magazine Roundup

The Hudson Review | Outlook India | Wired | Mediapart | The New Republic | Tygodnik Powszechny | The New Statesman | Babelia | HVG | openDemocracy | The New Yorker


The Hudson Review 25.08.2008 (USA)

Jefferson Hunter has written a marvellous article on the story of the boxing film: "The Set Up" – an RKO production from 1949. The film was directed by Robert Wise, the lead played by Robert Ryan and one of the supporting roles is Weegee the time keeper, "fedora on head, cigar in mouth, stopwatch and hammer in hands" The film is based on a epic poem of the same name published in 1928 by Joseph Moncure March. "For the screen, RKO kept most of the original's violent plot, tracked March's rapidly shifting moods of contempt, fear, and foreseen defeat, even devised brilliant cinematic equivalents for his pounding verse rhythms. But RKO made alterations too, some minor, some major - alterations of the kind March himself grew cynically to know when in the 1930s he was employed as a scriptwriter for the studios and made artistic compromises of his own. The story of what Hollywood did with and to 'The Set-Up' is complicated, as complicated and intriguing as March's poem itself, and as Wiredmuch a mixture of dogged fidelity with shabby betrayal, of keeping the faith with making a buck."


Outlook India 01.09.2008 (India)

In an article titled "Azadi" (freedom) the writer Arundhati Roy expresses her support for the mass protests that have been shaking the streets of Kashmir for weeks now. "Not surprisingly, the voice that the Government of India has tried so hard to silence in Kashmir has massed into a deafening roar. Hundreds of thousands of unarmed people have come out to reclaim their cities, their streets and mohallas. They have simply overwhelmed the heavily armed security forces by their sheer numbers, and with a remarkable display of raw courage. Raised in a playground of army camps, checkposts and bunkers, with screams from torture chambers for a soundtrack, the young generation has suddenly discovered the power of mass protest, and above all, the dignity of being able to straighten their shoulders and speak for themselves, represent themselves. For them it is nothing short of an epiphany."


Wired 16.09.2008 (USA)

The Better Place company, founded by Israeli ex-SAP manager Shai Agassi, has already raised several hundred million dollars in startup money for its plans to change the world - with electric cars. But the company is less focussed on technical innovation in cars or batteries, than on a revolutionary grid and financing model, as an enthusiastic Daniel Roth reports: "Agassi reimagined the entire automotive ecosystem by proposing a new concept he called the Electric Recharge Grid Operator. It was an unorthodox mashup of the automotive and mobile phone industries. Instead of gas stations on every corner, the ERGO would blanket a country with a network of 'smart' charge spots. Drivers could plug in anywhere, anytime, and would subscribe to a specific plan - unlimited miles, a maximum number of miles each month, or pay as you go - all for less than the equivalent cost for gas. They'd buy their car from the operator, who would offer steep discounts, perhaps even give the cars away. The profit would come from selling electricity - the minutes."

Further articles: Steven Levy visited sci-fi author and hacker-hero Neal Stephenson whose latest novel "Anthem" invents an entire 7000 year-old culture over the course of nearly 1000 pages. David Wolman swiftly puts paid to the whole "internet makes us stoopid" nonsense.


Mediapart 25.08.2008 (France)

Novelist Gilles Hertzog, who travelled to Georgia with Bernard Henry-Levy, bitterly takes stock of the brief Georgian war and the role played by the Europeans and the French in particular. As to who started the war (how important in this now in the face of the faits accomplis?) he takes the Georgian line: "Saakashvili had issued many a warning to the west but the west played deaf. Then on August 3, the last provocation occured, an assassination carried out by South Ossetian militias in the South Ossetian capital Tskhinva (population 10,000). Saakashvili was slimming in Italy and was planning to travel to the Olympic Games in Bejing with his family. Instead he rushes back to Tiflis to find the Russians gathering in North Ossetia in front of the Roky tunnel facing South Ossetia: 350 tanks, all the relevant logistics and special forces parachutists. Should they just be left to get on with it? That would be the end of Georgia..."



The New Republic 10.09.2008 (USA)

Economist Joseph Stiglitz tries to guage the impact of the credit crisis on the American economy. "If the Great Depression undermined our confidence in macroeconomics (the ability to maintain full employment, price stability, and sustained growth), it is our confidence in microeconomics (the ability of markets and firms to allocate labor and capital efficiently) that is now being destroyed. Resources were misallocated and risks were mismanaged so severely that the private sector had to go running to the government for help, lest the entire system melt down. Even with federal intervention, I have estimated the cumulative gap between what our economy could have produced - had we invested in actual businesses, rather than, say, mortgages for people who couldn't afford their homes - and what we will produce over the period of our slowdown to be more than 1.5 trillion dollars."

Israeli historian Benny Morris recommends Andrew G. Bostom's – important if rather chaotic – history of Islamic anti-Semitism "The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism" which points out the uncomfortable fact that antisemitism was part of Islam from the start: "It all begins with the Qur'an - or, rather, with the encounter, as described in the Qur'an, between Muhammad, the prophet of the new religion, and the Jewish tribes in Hijaz, the area of western Arabia that includes the towns of Mecca and Medina, where Islam arose around 620 C.E. The Jews, not surprisingly, rejected the new faith and its prophet; and if the Qur'an is to be believed, they were contemptuous and sarcastic. (Religions notoriously do not take well to humor at their expense.) Indeed, the Qur'an asserts that the Hijazi Jewish tribes were downright hostile, even at one point trying to poison the Prophet. Muhammad, for his part, had earlier ordered the assassination of prominent Jewish opponents, and forcibly converted tribesmen and expelled many others, and slaughtered hundreds and consigned many of their women and children to slavery."


Tygodnik Powszechny 24.08.2008 (Poland)

The cover story of the Polish periodical examines the ecological conscience of the Catholic Church. Back in 1989 the Polish clergy prepared a number of guidelines on environmental protection for the faithful, but things were a lot more simple in those days. "THEY were the ones destroying the environment. State-run factories were poisoning the water and the air, and even if specific individuals were pumping their waste into the river, it was only because THEY had not built a sewer system," Juliusz Braun remembers. "But as soon as we started to build a sovereign state, it emerged that environmental protection had suddenly landed in the same drawer as abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage. For many conservative political columnists, it has since been part of the canon to lampoon environmental activists. So it's no big surprise that many priests only need to hear the word 'ecology' to sound the alarm bell." After a break of almost twenty years, and after John Paul II's clear commitment to nature, it is time for the Polish Church to start talking about environmental protection again, Braun believes.

The Polish press has been full of articles about the anniversary of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Andrzej Krawczyk uses the occasion to remember Ludvik Vaculik's "Two Thousand Words" manifesto which was too radical for many and allegedly played a role in triggering the decision of Soviets to invade. "It was the attempt," writes Krawczyk "to express ideological material in a way that everyone could understand. But it was more than just that. It was also an attempt to extend the programme of the party reformers into areas that mattered to average Czechs and Slovaks, but which were barely acknowledged by the noblest representatives of the reform movement within the Czechoslovakian Communist Party.


The New Statesman 25.08.2008 (USA)

Rob Sharp tells the story of the radical activist Nehanda Abiodun, who flew to Cuba from the USA and today is a celebrated hip-hop musician. "Abiodun, who was born Cheri Dalton, is wanted by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation in connection with a string of robberies, including a 1981 hold-up of an armoured car near Nyack, in upstate New York. An exile in Havana for the past 20 years, she is now known as the 'godmother' of Cuban hip-hop and founder of a Havana chapter of Black August, a seminal group that promotes hip-hop culture at the grass roots." And which is backed by the Cuban state: "Having initially tested the Cuban government's tolerance for freedom of expression, the genre is now backed officially, through the Agencia Cubana de Rap (Cuban Rap Agency), which provides a state-run record label and hip-hop magazine."

Further articles: Jonathan Meades celebrates a ten-kilo monograph of the "greatest architect of the 20th century" which is aptly titled "Le Corbusier Le Grand". And Michael Bywater is scarcely less enthusiastic about Ian Kelly's new biography of Casanova.


Babelia 23.08.2008 (Spain)

"What an absurd business." Spanish novelist Javier Marias recently turned his hand to publishing, basing his project Libros del Reino de Redonda on Hans Magnus Enzensberger's "Andere Bibliothek". It is not all going to plan: "The only way not to completely lose heart and throw in the towel is to avoid finding out the extent of the annual, or accumulated losses. As long as it doesn't ruin me, I will keep going until things get too stressful or too boring or until the indifference of the literary supplements compels me to shut the place down. I mean, if the readers don't even know that the books are out there, what's the point? What will probably happen is that the books will become collectors' items in a few years time, highly sought-after by individuals who want to have the complete collection. You could call this working for the afterlife. I assure you, though, this was not my intention."


HVG 22.08.2008 (Hungary)

On September 15 Budapest will host the first board meeting of the EIT (European Innovation and Technology Institute), whose aim is to connect up all research and development institutes in Europe. The location of the institute in Budapest has prompted a number of people to hope for a boom in Hungarian science, others for a boom in investment and others for a certain fame. In interview with Andras Loke, biologist and educational politician Laszlo Dvorszki, whose job is to prepare the ground for the EIT, talks about whether this will be chance for Hungarian science: "Of course the Hungarians will have a certain edge on information, no matter how transparent and stringent the decision-making processes of this institution may be or how objective. Above all, though, I hope that with its headquarters in Budapest, this European institution will influence the local system. If you look at the nonsense that has gone on in R&D in this country since 1990, you see that this issue was initially handed to a minister, then to an acting state secretary; then it was passed on to the department of commerce and then on further down the line. In other words it was an independent area at one point in time, then it was integrated here, then there, but there is one it has never been, and this is the very thing is has to be: stable. (HGV now publishes lots of articles in English too!)


openDemocracy 19.08.2008 (UK)

In the long term the Georgian war will have fatal consequences for Russia, writes Bulgarian political scientist and director of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, Ivan Krastev: "Russia has no outreach whatsoever to Georgian society, and there is no legitimate political force in Georgia that is ready to challenge the pro-western orientation of the country. Russia can occupy Georgian territory, but only at the cost of its own international isolation and a perilous deterioration in its relations with the west. Russia's failure to oust Saakashvili and to instal a pro-Kremlin government in Tbilisi also means that Russia cannot gain control over the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline project; thus Russia's military victory has no practical impact on Moscow's ambitions to establish a monopoly over energy routes in the ex-Soviet space."


The New Yorker 01.09.2008 (USA)

John Updike obviously enjoyed the biography of a man who lived for beauty: "Max Factor: The Man Who Changed the Faces of the World" (Arcade). Its author Fred E. Basten tells the story of a diminutive Polish Jew who was forced to flee Russia because of his contacts to the Czars, and went on to build a cosmetic imperium in America and hide the flaws of the face of Hollywood as it went from black and white to technicolor ."For Douglas Fairbanks's sweaty exertions, Max invented 'the first perspiration-proof body make-up' and then 'devised the reverse—cinematic sweat - by simply combining equal parts of water with mineral oil.' For MGM's production of 'Ben-Hur,' he and his staff conjured up more than six hundred gallons of light-olive makeup to match the army of pale local extras to the darker extras already filmed in Italy. He conquered the persistent problem of lip pomade's melting under the hot studio lights by firmly pressing two thumbprints onto the actress's upper lip and then one thumbprint on her lower lip, thus single-handedly creating the sensational new look of 'bee-stung' lips. For Joan Crawford, he created 'the smear.'
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