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25/05/2010

Magazine Roundup

The New York Review of Books | Eurozine | The Walrus Magazine | Elet es Irodalom | L'Espresso | La vie des idees | London Review of Books | Tygodnik Powszechny | Le point | The New York Times


The New York Review of Books 10.06.2010 (USA)

Ironic, comments Sue Halpern, that the same Steve Jobs who, two years ago, announced that "people don't read anymore" is now promising that his Ipad will mean big ebook business for himself and the publishing industry. Publishers for their part prefer Barnes and Noble's Nook to the Ipad because it can be read in the sun and is built around the ePub format, which is open and freely available for any device. "The Open Source movement and Creative Commons both derive from the Internet’s essential freedom, a leveling that allows designers and filmmakers and singers and craftsmen and any number of writers, activists, politicians, artists, and entrepreneurs, many of them amateurs, to develop and disseminate their ideas. Imagine what the Internet, and our lives, would be like if, after inventing the Mosaic Web browser back in 1993, Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina not only required users to buy it but required payment for every click or download or page view. Try to imagine how a privatized, monetized Internet might have developed, and you can't, because its evolutionary path would have been so different. Apple's iPad apps may be ingenious. They may be fun and entertaining. They may be useful. What they can't be is free of Apple's control."

Peter Beinart accuses Jewish organisations in the USA of clinging to an image of Israel that has nothing to do with reality: "In theory, mainstream American Jewish organizations still hew to a liberal vision of Zionism. On its website, AIPAC celebrates Israel's commitment to 'free speech and minority rights.' The Conference of Presidents declares that 'Israel and the United States share political, moral and intellectual values including democracy, freedom, security and peace.' These groups would never say, as do some in Netanyahu's coalition, that Israeli Arabs don't deserve full citizenship and West Bank Palestinians don't deserve human rights. But in practice, by defending virtually anything any Israeli government does, they make themselves intellectual bodyguards for Israeli leaders who threaten the very liberal values they profess to admire."

Further articles: Robert Gottlieb reads a stack of Charles Dickens biographies, new and old. Michael Pollan observes the rise of the food movement – a lumpy tent of diverse factions which advocates everything from healthy school food to farm worker rights and animal welfare.


Eurozine 18.05.2010 (Austria in English)

In an article for Samtiden magazine (translated into English by Eurozine) Norwegian journalist Sven Egil Omdal describes the crisis of the Norwegian newspaper industry. Not only the financial crisis and the Internet are to blame for the fall in profits and reader figures; the branch was also slow to react to changes and got its maths wrong. The Norwegian cultural minister has since initiated talks about providing state financing. The most important idea to come out of this discussion, Obdal says, is that of sending the money straight to the writers themselves, freeing them up to work for several institutions at once: "Most top investigative journalism around the world is already carried out by freelance reporters who earn their income from a variety of sources. Many of these seek each other out in editorial collectives, cooperatives or shared offices in order to imitate the quality of the traditional editorial office. There are small but encouraging signs of a journalistic renaissance in the shadow of the old printing presses that are slowly grinding to a halt."


The Walrus Magazine 01.06.2010 Canada

Michael Harris portrays Vancouver's famously "unrepentant whore", the transsexual, aboriginial, Queen of the Parks, Jamie Lee Hamilton, who regularly gives hell to the city's political and moral authorities about legalising of prostitution or murders of sex workers: "She's finally given up on a career in politics, after three further failed attempts at public office in 1999, 2000, and 2008. She tells me she won't run again, because her sex work will always be used against her. 'They'd only want me if I said I was reformed. But I'm not reformed. Listen, I'm fifty-four and can still work in the sex industry. I'm glad.' Her political will is too brazen, too tart, in any case, for her to serve in milquetoast council chambers. When a certain feminist group recently decided to inform Hamilton of her own safety interests, she told them the same thing she used to tell pimps who tried to work their way into the West End strolls: 'If you really want to be an expert, you need to go home, put on a dress, and come suck some cock.'"


Elet es Irodalom 21.05.2010 Hungary

The announcement by Viktor Orban, Hungary's newly elected prime minister of the centre-right Fidesz party, that he intends to give Hungarian citizenship to Hungarian minorities in neighbouring states, is being met with growing resentment in Slovakia, and threatens to aggravate the already fraught relations between the two countries. For Peter Morvay, a commentator for the Slovakian daily Sme, the Hungarians need to show more understanding for Slovak fears, instead of fomenting them: "It is time that the Hungarian side (the politicians of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia included) started to recognise that the issue of the Slovak Hungarians can only be solved in Slovakia, and that this is impossible without the support, or at least well-intended neutrality, of the majority of Slovak population. [...] This majority might not be fundamentally anti-Hungarian but (like many Hungarians) it knows almost nothing about the issue, thinks in stereotypes and tends to be gullible. Particularly when the other side continues to fan fears and confirms them with its behaviour, as the future Orban government is doing, for example, on the citizenship issue. Unless these people show us some sympathy or at least calm down, we can make no progress, because they decide what happens in the elections and the extent to which Slovak politicians feel it's worth playing the nationalism card. At the moment the Hungarian side is doing everything to make it very worth their while."


L'Espresso 20.05.2010, Italy

Academics in the USA have launched a campaign to boycott Israel by cutting ties with their Israeli counterparts. In his column Bustina di Minerva, Umberto Eco vents his spleen about the Italian offshoot of the campaign. "I have just seen that my friend Gianni Vattimo has signed up for the boycott appeal. Let's imagine (just for the fun of it) that in other parts of the world, people are saying that the Berlusconi regime wants to cut up the holy principle of democracy and the division of power by disempowering the justice system, and is doing so with the support of an overtly racist and xenophobic party. How would Vattimo like it if, in protest against this government, he were no longer invited to the United States as a visiting professor and a special committee were to ban his publications from American universities? I believe he would cry fowl and decry the measures as the equivalent of blaming all Jews for the murder of God, just because the Sanhedrin was particularly ill-tempered on that holy Friday. It is not true that all Romanians are rapists, that all priests are paedophiles or that all Heidegger exegetes are Nazis."


La vie des idees 17.05.2010 (France)

In his book "Comter et classer", sociologist Paul Schor tells the story of the American census. The subject might sound a little dry but, writes Daniel Sabbagh in the internet magazine La vie des idees, it does throw a light on racism and continued existence (in the form of multiculturalism) today: "On the one hand the census has always contributed to the institutionalisation of race as a social category, in other words, to its survival as a term despite the disappearance of its historical matrix (slavery) and its theoretical basis (racism as a rationalising pseudo-science). On the other hand, it has led to internalisation of certain classification norms. Moreover, it was confirmed by the lack of resistance when self-classification was introduced in 1970."


London Review of Books 27.05.2010 (UK)

In a highly personal article, the great left-wing historian Eric Hobsbawm looks back at early '50s and his days as one of the first jazz critics writing under the pseudonym of Francis Newton: "What did being Francis Newton mean to me? The attraction was not so much the opportunity to review jazz performances and the records now flooding in, or even to fit this extraordinary music into 20th-century society. It was the chance to understand the musicians and their world: in short, 'the jazz scene'. I lived on the edge of the West End, and teaching at Birkbeck left most of the day free, so it was possible to combine my profession with the nocturnal and late-rising habits of the scene."

Further articles: Adam Shatz describes the desperate state of the Mubarak regime – and also explains why America's fear of an Islamic revolution is bad news for democracy and for the aspirations of Mohammed ElBaradei and his supporters. David Runciman asks whether the election result in the UK could mean the death of the union. Christopher Tayler reviews Chris Morris' comedy "Four Lions" about a group of very thick Islamic terrorists in Britain (trailer).


Tygodnik Powszechny 17.05.2010 (Poland)

The literary supplement of this week's Tydognik centres around reading. When asked why he spends so much time doing it, Michal Pawel Markowski answers: "It's not about knowledge, or memory, or survival, or escape. I read to sustain my desires which I then offload in writing. I flee from the world in order to re-arrive there, changed, but still full of desire. I leave far behind me the capital city of my childhood, in which I was alone with Robin Hood and Little John and wanted nothing to do with the world, and open the window wide so that I can look up from my book and observe what's happening outside."

"I don't write for myself, but I do imagine myself talking to someone I trust," says the American essayist Anne Fadiman when asked about her readers. "I don't know who reads essays. The obvious answer is that your average essay reader is more educated than someone who consumes romance novels, but that's only a fragment of their identity. People who like essays tend to like word games. I think many of them share a fascination with essays, Scrabble and crossword puzzles."

Grzegorz Jankowicz sketches out a history of the relationship between word and image using the example of photography. He makes a detailed analysis of Andre Kertesz's photos of people reading. "When you look at them you immediately start asking what they are reading. And so the image becomes word and the viewer becomes a reader. The so it comes full circle."


Le point 20.05.2010 (France)

Bernard-Henri Levy won't let up and explains once again why he refuses to stop defending Roman Polanski: "For one reason it is because, contrary to the manufactured consensus of public opinion, Polanksi did not 'flee' American justice: he returned to the USA after he had already been back in France. He returned in order to sit out his sentence in the high security Chino prison as was agreed upon by the parties involved, namely his lawyer, the victim's lawyer, the district attorney and, of course, the judge who convened the parties and registered the agreement."


The New York Times 23.05.2010 (USA)

In a spirited essay for the New York Times Magazine, Virginia Hefferman compares the web with a teeming commercial city: open, ugly, full of adventure and also dangers in the form of spam, porn and phising. "But now, with the purchase of an iPhone or an iPad, there's a way out, an orderly suburb that lets you sample the Web's opportunities without having to mix with the riffraff. This suburb is defined by apps from the glittering App Store: neat, cute homes far from the Web city center, out in pristine Applecrest Estates. In the migration of dissenters from the 'open' Web to pricey and secluded apps, we're witnessing urban decentralization, suburbanization and the online equivalent of white flight."

Lloyd Grove writes a rave review of Sarah Ellison's book "War at the Wall Street Journal", which tells the (very filmable) story of how Rupert Murdoch took over the Wall Street Journal and the defeat of the Bancroft family who had ruled over it until that point. The only thing Grove is not buying is the title: "Perhaps 'war' — as in a contest between nearly equivalent adversaries — is not the right word. As with the Soviet Union's invasion of Hungary, Murdoch's hegemony was never really in doubt." (Let's hope that this doesn't apply to the New York Times!)
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