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25/07/2006

Magazine Roundup

The New Yorker | Al Ahram Weekly | Le point | Le Nouvel Observateur | Gazeta Wyborcza | Nepszabadsag | The Spectator | Elet es Irodalom | New York Times


The New Yorker, 31.07.2006 (USA)

In a very amusing and detailed essay, Stacy Schiff describes the struggle between Wikipedia and expertise, and comes to the conclusion: "Wikipedia remains a lumpy work in progress... What can be said for an encyclopedia that is sometimes right, sometimes wrong, and sometimes illiterate? " People have had enough of mainstream media and authorities, they don't just want to be fed any more, but to be answered. That is evident in Wikipedia's description of its authors: "There are Aspergian Wikipedians (seventy-two), bipolar Wikipedians, vegetarian Wikipedians, antivegetarian Wikipedians, existential Wikipedians, pro-Luxembourg Wikipedians, and Wikipedians who don’t like to be categorized. According to a page on the site, an avid interest in Wikipedia has been known to afflict 'computer programmers, academics, graduate students, game-show contestants, news junkies, the unemployed, the soon-to-be unemployed and, in general, people with multiple interests and good memories.' You may travel in more exalted circles, but this covers pretty much everyone I know."

Other articles: David Remnick comments on the "bewildering" reactions of the west to the recent conflict in the Middle East: Only Jacques Chirac has delivered a clear explanation. And John Updike provides a portrait of the Kenyan writer, dramatist, journalist and scholar Ngugi wa Thiong'o and presents his book, "Wizard of the Crow," newly translated from the Gikuyu language into English; in it, Ngugi wa Thiong'o describes the imaginary Free Republic of Aburiria, in which disastrously demonic forces as well as good magic and witchery play a role.


Al Ahram Weekly, 20.07.2006 (Egypt)

For years, Ramzy Baroud, editor in chief of the American-Palestinian Online news magazine Palestine Chronicle, has been aggravated over the "one-sidedness" with which mainstream media such as the BBC report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He calls for citizen journalism: "It can be a very useful tool in confronting authority, revealing atrocities and holding those in power to account for their deeds. If citizen journalism, using the Internet and other media, succeeds in penetrating the monopoly of the corporate media on news, and thus narratives and discourses, participatory democracy, which has long been circumvented by media deception and official propaganda, might finally recover some of its quality. To achieve that, citizen journalism must thoroughly analyse what is going wrong in today's mainstream media and remain focused on what the priorities are, what counts and what truly matters."


Le point, 24.07.2006 (France)

Sophie Coignard describes the increasing formation of a network of black French citizens. The reason is the first black TV moderator, Harry Roselmack, who presented a prime-time broadcast last Monday, at 8 PM, on TF1 - a spot that "would have been unimaginable ten years ago." In the meantime a wide variety of clubs and scenes have sprung up that are reserved exclusively for blacks. "The most discreet of these clubs is the one founded by Calixthe Beyala. He was baptised as one of the 'Elite' and set an entrance limitation: A maximum of 60 members must fulfil four criteria: Peronal success; readiness to support others; sufficient income so as to avoid susceptibility to corruption; and recognition of republican values. The minimum membership fee is 600 euros, but if one does not want to be considered stingy, one ought to give more. A football player already has made out a check for more than 100,000 euros."

Also in this issue: A talk with Noam Chomsky, whom Le Point describes as the "most controversial polemicist in the world." The bitter Bush opponent expresses himself on, among other topics, the Iraq war and the permanent fear in the USA of a "destruction from within."


Le Nouvel Observateur, 20.07.2006 (France)

An entire dossier this week celebrates a new generation of younger, french chefs and their hospitable, inventive and at times even revolutionary cuisine: Sometimes they are absolutely on a par with the all-star chefs, and occasionally even surpass them. Among those presented are Jean-Marie Baudic, whose favorite word is "Youpala," meaning: Cooking with feeling, jazz, instinct and spontaneity. In his Youpala Bistrot in Saint-Brieuc there is no menu and all dishes have one price. His credo: "Products and herbs are tones, an entire palette of color and taste. It's no fun to cook the same thing every day. I prefer not to know in the morning what I will cook in the evening; I simply let myself drift. If I pick up a product, then I see what I will do with it. When one is invited to friends for dinner, one never knows what will be served. It's the same with me."


Gazeta Wyborcza, 22.07.2006 (Poland)

Writer Michal Witkowski created a literary and social sensation with his 2005 novel "Lubiewo," Poland's first homosexual novel. In conversation with Anna Dziewit and Agnieszka Drotkiewicz, he discusses the disappearance of sexual differences in Europe: "There are cultural circles in which the men are unshaven, meaty-faced boors and the women are all like princesses from "A Thousand and One Nights." Even the many transsexuals are more feminine than European women. No wonder Europe is afraid of them!" Everything imperfect, unforeseeable is erased in the western world, thus "literature begins in the moment in which we arrive where we don't want to go, and meet someone who appears suspicious. Literature transcends all norms – that is why the west is so boring and non-epic." Witkowski outs himself as a lover of the dirty, of the decadent and... of Albania. Somewhat reminiscent of Stasiuk...

"Euro-imperialism" (whether this exists or not remains a moot question) is encountering resistance not only in Central Europe. Even British philosopher Roger Scruton defends the national state as the best invention of the West: "A veritable tragedy hangs over our continent: a wonderful and successful social model may be tossed out, with precious little discussion about what the alternative should be: the EU!". Scruton believes Europe is facing a crisis of identity which will lead it to rediscover its cultural roots – above all, Christianity.


Nepszabadsag, 22.07.2006 (Hungary)

Have the dreams of 1989 dissipated forever? The young author Eszter Babarczy compares the disillusionment after 1968 in Western Europe with Hungarians' attitude today. "The democratic opposition movement of the 1980s fought in the name of civilian society, the Helsinki human rights convention and social solidarity. Its legacy was a heap of beautiful illusions. Amidst the euphoria after the fall of communism, historians and political scientists talked of the new liberalism which would infect politicians with the anti-policies of the likes of Vaclav Havel. Today it's difficult to imagine that prominent intellectuals seriously thought at the time that free civil society could govern itself."


The Spectator, 22.07.2006 (UK)

This week's magazine has just one thing on its mind: the fighting in Lebanon. Michael Young reports on people's attitudes to Hizbullah: "Of course the people here are angry and anxious about the possibility of a widening of the Israeli attacks, but their rage, as they see the country being taken apart, is often directed against Hizbullah. The Lebanese people have watched as Hizbullah has built up a heavily armed state-within-a-state that has now carried the country into a devastating conflict it cannot win and many are fed up. Sunni Muslims, Christians and the Druze have no desire to pay for the martial vanity of the Hizbullah leader, Hassan Nasrallah. Nor will they take kindly to his transforming the devastation into a political victory."

Philosopher David Selbourne takes a more Apocalyptic view. For him, the fighting in Lebanon is just further proof that "we" are threatened with losing the war with "Islam". Because instead of taking up the fight, Europe's governments and even the USA are bent on negotiation! "The battlefront in the Levant is merely one front, and a minor front at that, in the wider conflict between the Islamic and the non-Muslim worlds. Moreover, the time for serious diplomacy and dialogue between the Muslim and the kafir has not yet come. Indeed, it may never come until one or other of the forces in this war of the worlds — a war now being fought, with differing degrees of intensity and in different ways, from Afghanistan to the Horn of Africa, from the Caucasus to Kashmir, from Nigeria to Xinjiang, and from the Levant to South-East Asia — has finally been vanquished."

Further articles: Douglas Davis explains why Hizbullah is so important for Iran. Richard Beeston thinks back wistfully to the Paris of the Middle East which Beirut once was, pinning his hopes on its residents: "The Lebanese remain the most hospitable, amusing and smartest people in the Middle East, constantly able to pick themselves up and start over again — characteristics which should help them overcome their latest disaster."


Elet es Irodalom, 21.07.2006 (Hungary)

Budapest is saying goodbye to its nostalgic old streetcars (photos here and here). But there's a catch: the modern tramway structure was too much for the old Margaret Bridge, and the pylons supporting the electric wires fell onto the tracks. This pretty city has neither responsible politicians, nor competent experts who can prevent such accidents, comments Gusztav Megyesi cynically: "When you walk on the bridge in the summer wind in the shadow of pylons, you don't have to be a construction engineer to see that in this country – which is supposedly full of unrecognised geniuses and frustrated inventors – the culture of honest work is being lost. Budapest strikes one as the capital of a country that doesn't know how to solve the simplest of tasks. Dilapidation, slovenliness and irresponsibility are present at every level. It won't help if we find out who's responsible for the accident. The head of the Budapest public transport network or the mayor himself will be replaced by others who aren't one iota better. And the pylons of the Margaret Bridge lie there like a collective symbol for our society: we could worship them like idols."


New York Times, 25.07.06 (USA)

David Margolick has read "Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz" (extract) by Jan T. Gross (more) and agrees with Polish diplomat Jan Karski's conclusion of 1940, according to which the Nazi policies toward the Jews formed "a sort of narrow bridge where the Germans and a large part of Polish society meet in harmony." So how is it that Polish anti-Semitism lived on unbroken after the war? Gross "argues that Poles were feeling guilty: so implicated were they in the Jewish tragedy, aiding and abetting and expropriating, that the mere sight of those wraiths returning from the camps or exile or hiding, people who knew the Poles' dirty secrets and held title to their property, was too much to bear. So they murdered Jews or chased them away." The theory is debatable, suggests Margolick, but to him, ultimately, what is far more important than the "why" of this story is the "that": that a civilized nation could have descended so low, and that such behaviour must be documented, remembered, discussed. This Gross does, intelligently and exhaustively.
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