10/06/2008

Magazine Roundup

Magazine Roundup, which appears every Tuesday at 12 p.m., is originally published by Perlentaucher.

Polityka | The Economist | L'Espresso |
The New York Review of Books
| Tygodnik Powszechny | The Times Literary Supplement | Le Nouvel Observateur | ResetDoc | The New York Times

Polityka 10.06.2008 (Poland)

In an epic conversation, Jacek Zakowski talks to Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the first premier of the new Poland in 1989, about the controversial transition period, the cautious dreams harboured at the time, the rise of the Fourth Republic of the Kaczynski brothers, Radio Marya and the League of Polish Families: "To a certain extent, it was hanging over us from the start. After the success, I think, lots people wanted a piece of it. This resulted in the alliance of foolhardy intellectuals, with their dreams of starting anew, and politicians, who had been searching for a new start to quell their frustrations at not being able to lay claim to the first one, and all the other people who were dissatisfied with the changes. Just remember that as early as 1992, the Olszewski government claimed to be a new start. They could not accept that the new start happened in 1989. And in 2005, the old political new-start scheme joined forces with the very real weaknesses of the whole transformation. And then on top of this, the entire post-communist camp had completely failed ... What was lacking, in my opinion, was some form of social compensation to offset all the changes taking place and the new differences that were emerging. The people who had held the political stage compromised themselves. But then to just go and destroy all that, was no remedy. It was an even stronger poison."


The Economist 09.06.2008 (UK)

Jeff Bezos continues to set the pace in a rapidly changing book market. Following the successful introduction of the e-book reading device Kindle, he is now pushing Amazon's print-on-demand business. A clever move, as the Economist explains: "The costs of printing and shipping paper and cardboard are rising... Print-on-demand (POD) is now cheaper than standard printing for runs of fewer than 1,200 copies, and the threshold is rising quickly. And if consumers become more price-sensitive, e-books may become more appealing. This week's Kindle bestseller, a political memoir by Scott McClellan, a former White House spokesman, can be downloaded from thin air in less than a minute for 9.99 dollars. A paper copy costs 15.37 dollars on Amazon's website, and will not be in stock for three weeks."

There are reviews of a new thriller set in China, two books about European cathedrals and the polemic, "Crush the Cell", (publisher's website) by US counter - terrorism expert Michael A. Sheehan, which warns against panicking over terrorism on the grounds that: "Most terrorists are amateurs. Al-Qaeda is overrated. The 'War Against Terror' is not the World War Three."

A special technology supplement deals, among other things, with the opportunities and problems presented by 100-dollar laptops, new behavioural advertising based on surfer surveillance and revolutionary new web navigation techniques.


L'Espresso 06.06.2008 (Italy)

The Indian woman will conquer the labour market, predicts Elisabetta Horvat. Impressive examples for the economic rise of women include Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, India's richest woman who runs biotech giant Biocon. Women will be able to cash in on their family-management skills in the workplace, and patriarchy does not have such a strong hold, Horvat writes: "Over the past decade the numbers of women in higher education has increased five-fold. According to official estimates, the number of women working in the software sector will have risen to 45 percent by 1012, up from today's 39 percent. While only one in ten employers is a woman, the number is rising steadily. But the biggest change is in stock corporations." At Germany's largest software company, SAP, only 30 percent of employees are women."

The New York Review of Books 26.06.2008 (USA)

Israel Rosenfield and Edward Ziff introduce the work of French neuroscientist Jean-Pierre Changeux, who has not only established how good nicotine is for neuroreceptors (smokers tend to suffer significantly lower rates of Alheimer's and Parkinson's) but also how addicted our brains are to dopamine. "But opiates, alcohol, cannabinoids, nicotine, and other drugs can also increase the release of dopamine and subvert the normal function of the reward system. A rat given infusions of cocaine into the brain following the pressing of a bar will persist in pressing the bar repeatedly in preference to consuming food or water. Sugar, too, can be addictive. Indeed, the National Institutes of Health is now studying whether foods high in fat and sugar should be classified as addictive agents, in the same category as nicotine, alcohol, and cocaine."

However desperately Robert Mugabe continues to cling to power in Zimbabwe, Joshua Hammer does see some signs of change. "During my previous clandestine visits to Zimbabwe, the Meikles was a no-go zone, a favored haunt of the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), Mugabe's ubiquitous domestic spying agency. But now dozens of unaccredited Western journalists flocked here to attend daily MDC press conferences: despite initial anxieties about a roundup of reporters, it soon became clear that the CIO had little interest in such matters, at least for the moment. 'The fear factor has eroded,' I was told by John Makumbe, a respected University of Zimbabwe political analyst and an MDC supporter. He was, for the first time, meeting openly at the hotel with pro-democracy activists, human rights workers, and foreign correspondents. 'The CIO are still around, of course, but they are discouraged, disenchanted. They have lost the will to fight.'"

Further articles: What is American about American art, asks John Updike, and concludes that it perhaps lies in its having "no ideas but in things". Elizabeth Drew tells the story of Vietnam veteran Jim Webb, who went on to become first a writer and then the Democratic Senator for Virginia. Now he has now been named as a possible candidate for Obama's vice president. There are reviews of the exhibition "Sacred Bronzes of Southern India" at the Royal Academy, Marguerite Duras' memoirs "The War" and Errol Morris' Abu Ghraib film "Standard Operating Procedure".


Tygodnik Powszechny 08.06.2008 (Poland)

Next week will see the publication of a book by two historians from the state "Institute of National Remembrance" (IPN), which apparently details Lech Walesa's alleged activities as an informer in the seventies. The announcement itself has been enough to spark heated discussions, polemics and open letters from the advocates and opponents of the so-called process of lustration. Pawel Demirski, who is directing a play about "Solidarnosc" leaders, sketches the importance of the Walesa legend for younger generations: "I wish young Poles would stop fearing political engagement. Lech Walesa could be a modern icon for a new workers movement, a subject for discussion not only among intellectuals but among factory workers and corporations as well. It is a pity that it seems this scenario will not play out in real life. Walesa exists in their general memory, but he is a dead symbol, one that does not motivate them to change the world. (Read the full interview in English here)

Dariusz Nowacki read Krzysztof Vargas' book on Hungary, "Gulasz z turula", with interest. "The Polish reader discovers that Poland's hapless history is relatively harmless compared with the catalogue of injustices suffered by other nations. It makes you want to weep when you read about the fate of the Magyars, their national character and their twisted psyche, their absurd dreams of long-gone power that will never return."

The Times Literary Supplement 06.06.2008 (UK)

What critic today still dares to vilify comics, detective or horror stories? Prompted by the arrival of two new books on genre literature, David Hajdu's "The Ten-Cent Plague" and Michael Chabon's "Maps and Legends", Michael Saler announces the arrival of a "cultural turning point". "Genre films and books are no longer a minority interest. They top the bestseller lists and popularity polls: we are all geeks now. The establishment's disdain for genre, and the populists' suspicion of experimental techniques, are largely things of the past. Generations weaned on cultures 'high' and 'low' have become the producers and arbiters of the arts, enabled by the expansion of the internet since the early 1990s. (Even the 'establishment' is being overtaken by the less euphonious but more democratic 'blogosphere'.)"


Le Nouvel Observateur 05.06.2008 (France)

Should we fight globalisation? On the tenth anniversary of the anti-globalisation network Attac, its founder and now honorary chairman Susan George discusses the question with economist Elie Cohen. When asked whether globalisation is benefiting or harming the poor, George replies: "No one would deny that certain numbers of Chinese people, who yesterday were shut out of consumer society, are profiting from it today. But we can see a rise in inequalities throughout the world. (...) And in a limited world we cannot continue to consume like we did in the 19th and 20th centuries. Unfortunately Indian and Chinese growth has decided to follow our bad example, instead of going straight into the 21st century, which could have been possible." On the question as to who controls the world market, Cohen answers: "I am amazed that you still credit multinationals with such enormous power. The world has changed. If you had asked me ten years ago which was the most powerful company in the world, I would have said Exxon. But Exxon and Total are dwarfs in oil production, their leading role is over. The world is controlled by the producing countries, who have complete control over their production. The multinationals by contrast control just 15 to 20 percent. If you look at stock market quotations, you see that Chinese and Arab oil companies are way up there. The world has changed from the bottom up."


ResetDoc 09.06.2008 (Italy)

Right or left is no longer the question when it comes to solving problems caused by globalisation, explains sociologist Zygmunt Bauman in an interview. "Globally produced problems can be only solved globally. Local changes of governments won't bring us closer to their solution. The only thinkable solution to the globally caused tide of existential insecurity is the matching of powers of the already globalized forces by the powers of politics, popular representation, law, jurisdiction. The solution, if at all conceivable, is a re-marriage of the now divorced power and politics – but this time on a higher, global, planetary, all-humanity level."


The New York Times 08.06.2008 (USA)

The Sunday Magazine contains a dossier on the "new city". Darcy Frey visited the Netherlands' craziest architects office, MVRDV of Rotterdam, and its co-founder Winy Maas. One of the ideas they are pursuing is "vertical gardening": "Noting that the Dutch pork industry consumes huge swaths of land - Holland has as many pigs as people - Maas proposed freeing up the countryside by erecting sustainable 40-story tower blocks for the pigs. 'Look - it's a pork port,' he said, flashing images from PigCity, his plan for piling up the country's porcine population and its slaughterhouses into sod-layered, manure-powered skyscrapers that would line the Dutch coast."

In other articles in the dossier, New York Times architecture critic, Nicolai Ouroussof asks whether artificial cities such as Dubai will ever be able to compete with the likes of Paris and New York. And Jon Mooalllem explains the art of "guerilla gardening".

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