The Local View ? Neighbourhood Cinemas and Alternative Film Projects

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09/03/2010

Magazine Roundup

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

Magyar Narancs | Qantara | ResetDoc | The New York Review of Books | Tygodnik Powszechny | Das Magazin | Prospect | Elet es Irodalom | Al Ahram Weekly | Die Weltwoche | The New Yorker | Le Nouvel Observateur | The New York Times


Magyar Narancs 25.02.2010 (Hungary)

The majority of the Hungarian population cannot identify with the republic which was created 20 years ago. Istvan Bundula talked with philosopher Agnes Heller, who blames in part Hungary's former status as the "happiest shack" in the Eastern camp. "The paternalistic politics of the Kadar era so spoiled the people that even today they still expect everything from the state and feel no obligation to take responsibility themselves. Hungary lacks a strong civil society which acts independently of party allegiances, it has no independent initiatives – either in field of economics or politics. In his 'Emilia Galotti' Gotthold Ephraim Lessing wrote 'Violence! Who can't resist violence? [...] Seduction is the true violence'". One of the reasons for the recent surge in the popularity of the far right, Heller says, is the Hungarian propensity for blowing things out of proportion. "There was and is no limit to how wild things can get in Hungary, and the situation is getting more extreme all the time. People have got used to discussing all sorts of issues in public using the language of the extreme right. Neither the Hungarian laws nor Hungarian society tried to put a stop to this – and that is the real problem. Because the state wouldn't have had to have made laws [against Holocaust denial] if society had not tolerated it. [...] When the people hear this sort of talk they look away in fear instead of speaking up. But you fear has not place in a democracy, because the key virtue of democracy is civil courage. Without it, democracy cannot exist, however good the laws."


Qantara 08.03.2010 (Germany)

A study in Egypt has produced shocking figures on sexual harassment, Mohammed Ali Atassi reports (here in English). "Ninety-eight 98 percent of the foreign women and 83 percent of the Egyptian women had been subject to sexual harassment – and nearly two-thirds of the men confessed to committing sexual harassment against women. On the other hand, conservative political and religious groups attempted to exploit the worsened incidents of sexual harassment to serve their own special interests. In a manner clearly demeaning to women, these factions attacked women's dignity by pegging the blame for the assaults on the victims." One of the examples Atassi gives is of a poster portraying a woman "as a candy that cannot be protected from flies (which means men in the language of these campaigns), save with the wrapper, which translates to the veil. Under the images of two candies, one wrapped and the second naked with flies hovering over it, a religious statement professes that an unveiled woman will not be able to protect herself – for God, the creator, knows what is in her best interest, and thus ordered the veil.


ResetDoc 05.03.2010 (Italy)

In a short interview the French political scientist Olivier Roy, explains why the Christian right and the secular left are both Islamophobic: "The former tendency stems from the Christian identity. The belief that Europe has Christian roots has nothing to do with religious belief. That is a right-wing conservative position. The Italian Lega Nord does not attend church, but regards the Church as a part of its identity. The latter is the secular left, which is against Islam – not because it is the religion of the immigrant but because it is a religion and the secular left is against any form of religion. Until recently, in the 20th century, debate raged between the secular left and the Christian right but now these are on the same side of the fence."

Further articles: In a video interview, the Yale political science professor Seyla Benhabib calls for more openness and transparency in matters concerning citizenship for immigrants.


The New York Review of Books 25.03.2010 (USA)

Historian Timothy Snyder is not panicking about Ukraine's independence under its new Moscow-friendly president, because the ties Viktor Yanukovych maintains with the Ukrainian oligarchs are much too strong and these men like to do things their own way. The key issue for Snyder is if and how Yanukovych tackles corruption: "Because the office of the president is not very strong, and because Yanukovych is a client of industrialists, Ukraine is an unlikely candidate for the solution to corruption chosen by Vladimir Putin in Russia: to break the oligarchs - or some of them - by force and then declare a victory for law. Without reducing corruption, this has made Russia an authoritarian state. Russia, as it happens, is also tied for 146th in the Transparency International index. There is only one way to govern Ukraine today: close tax loopholes, tax oligarchs, give a tax break to the middle classes so that small businesses can emerge from underground, and above all ensure that the enforcement of tax laws is fair."

Further articles: Jonathan Raban smuggled himself into the Tea Party Convention of Sarah Palin fans in Nashville: "When I presented my Washington State driver's license at the registration desk, the volunteer said, 'Thank you for coming all this way to help save our country,' then, looking at the license more closely, 'Seattle—you got a lot of liberals there.' I accepted his condolences." Colm Toibin presents two Lebanese novels, Rawi Hage's "The Cockroach" and "The Hakawati" by Rabih Alameddine. Daniel Mendelsohn praises the "visual power, the thrilling imaginative originality" of James Cameron's undervalued 3D hit "Avatar".


Tygodnik Powszechny 07.03.2010 (Poland)

The Ryszard Kapuscinski biography continues to fuel debate in Poland. Now talk has turned away from the "saucy" details of the reporter's private life and on to the limits of reportage and the question of authority, writes Piotr Mucharski. "The discussion about whether Artur Domoslawski is an iconoclast is pointless. He is shaking things up because most of the problems he describes in the book are painfully topical." In the public eye, Kapuscinski is a flawless master while his political engagement, which was certainly no secret, simply went unacknowledged. "We treated him like a stranger. He brought us news from around the world (...) but neither Polish nor European discussions were interesting to him. His ideological roots were born of a completely different set of experiences. Which is why he essentially remained a stranger to us all. It's just that no one noticed."


Das Magazin 06.03.2010 (Switzerland)

The Swiss philosopher Ludwig Hasler wonders why the elites are constantly failing. One reason, he believes, is their unpopularity in Switzerland, a country which values mediocrity in its leaders – until crisis strikes, that is. "Basically, we want ordinary people at the helm, but as soon as we hit a storm, we expect the superman. Magistrates who keep an eye on everything, who can smell anything fishy from a mile off, who can cut their way of every Gordian knot, and who resolutely make the superpowers see reason: at the same time they should court the high priest "People". The mixture is perhaps interesting as a literary creation but you can forget about it in reality."


Prospect 01.03.2010 (UK)

The novelist Jonathan Safran Foer has written a book on the devastating consequences of factory farming. When asked in an interview whether this wasn't just sentimentality speaking he could only shake his head: "Sentimentality is when our feelings influence us more than our brains and our reason. It is an engagement with the facts, to say, 'I don't want to eat a food that is the worst thing for the environment,' and: 'I don’t want to eat a food that abuses animals in ways that I wouldn't abuse my dog.' That's not sentimental, that's just being a decent human being. I have no desire to let a chicken crawl into bed with me, I just don't want to treat it like a block of wood. It's curious, these strange and very sentimental divisions we create. To treat a dog one way and to treat a pig another way is sentimental. And I've never heard a good—rational—explanation for why we draw such lines, other than: 'we've always done it.'"


Elet es Irodalom 05.03.2010 (Hungary)

For many years Hungary has been in the throes of social and political crisis, which manifests itself in a widespread mistrust of public institutions, politicians and an all-out rejection of the politics which emerged after the collapse of communism in 1989. As a result, the parliamentary elections in April are expected to result in a landslide victory for the right-wing conservative Fidesz party, which is promising a return to authoritarian order. The philosopher and communication scholar Mihaly Szilagyi-Gal is concerned that the liberation of 1989 could be reversed. And that, he writes, would be an even greater fiasco than the oppression under the dictatorship. "For the first time since the transition, Hungary is on the brink of a situation in which one side of the political camp is essentially becoming autocratic. The problem is not with the side itself but the one-sidedness – perhaps even for the victor. This situation, which so closely resembles the monotheism of the one party state is, this time around, not the result of a – from society's point of view – external oppression, but of a society behaving badly. This makes the defeat even more hard to bear. [...] The badly-behaved society has itself become the oppressive power. There is no such thing as 'them' and 'us' any more. We are our own worst enemies. It's all us."

According to sociologist Peter Kende, the crisis of society which is now coming to a head in a push for law and order, has three factors to blame for its enormity: the crisis of legitimacy of the democratic institutions; the Hungarian reality deficit (the fear of facing reality and real conditions, as described by Elemer Hankiss as the "morbus Hungaricus"); and the existential angst, which many connect with the market economy and others with the poor performance of the current government in protecting the peace: "It is tragic that this country which was so disappointed by the promises made in 1989, is now on the verge of wasting a unique opportunity. Because if not in 1989/90, when else have we Hungarians had a free say in shaping our future ? If we now decide to surrender these achievements even only in part, it is most likely that we will never see an opportunity like it. Certainly not in our lifetimes."


Al Ahram Weekly 04.03.2010 (Egypt)

Margo Badran, a feminism and Islam academic, describes a frustrating visit to a mosque in Washington DC. There she witnessed a group of women trying to pray behind the men in the main prayer hall, but their presence so angered the mosque attendant that he called in the police to force the women to leave. "Out in the street I turned to one of the cops, who like the other policeman, was African-American, and said: 'You know about race and gender in this country. How did you feel about throwing women out? Did you ever think in your job you would be called upon to do such a thing?' All he said was: 'That's why I didn't arrest you.' He repeated what the other cop had said: 'The mosque is a private place and they have the right to eject out if you do not play by their rules.' This cop did not say as the other one had done menacingly: 'We are the police and we can throw you out.' All I could say to my compatriot, the 'good cop,' was: 'The lunch counter was also private.' What if the young men sitting down there had played by the rules? Whose rules?"

Samir Farid attended the Berlinale where the last film in Samih Kaplanoglu's Yusuf trilogy picked up the Golden Bear.


Die Weltwoche 04.03.2010 (Switzerland)

Peter Keller met Niklaus Wirth, the informatics professor who developed the programming language "Pascal". In an interview he expressed what by German standards is a very relaxed attitude to the internet. He seems to have no fear of being sounded out and "translated into mathematics". "No this danger seems exaggerated to me. Man is not so easily translated into mathematics. And mathematics is the wrong word here. What you are referring to is a concrete set of rules. The message of Frank Schirrmacher's book 'Payback' (more here) shrinks into perspective if you think about how many aspects of our lives are already regulated by machines as a matter of course. The railways for example. The computer calculates the timetables and the train driver has to keep to them. This is a case of us obeying computers and I do not find it remotely worrying. The whole thing is hugely advantageous for us."


The New Yorker 15.03.2010 (USA)

"Keeping it Real" is the title of James Wood's review of Chang-Rae Lee's new novel "The Surrendered", which spans half a century and three continents. By way of an introduction, Woods examines literary conventions, Roland Barthes' "reality effect", and David Shields' book "Reality Hunger: A Manifesto", which is a passionate plea for what Shields calls "reality-based art." Wood finds it difficult to decide whether or not literature is making progress: "Convention may be boring, but it is not untrue simply because it is conventional. People do lie on their beds and think with shame about all that has happened during the day (at least, I do), or order a beer and a sandwich and open their computers; they walk in and out of rooms, they talk to other people (and sometimes, indeed, feel themselves to be talking inside quotation marks); and their lives do possess more or less traditional elements of plotting and pacing, of suspense and revelation and epiphany. Probably there are more coincidences in real life than in fiction. To say 'I love you' is to say something at millionth hand, but it is not, then, necessarily to lie. All life is conventional in various ways, like narrative; postmodernists as different as Thomas Pynchon and Steven Millhauser use many conventional narrative elements (sometimes as parody, and sometimes not).

Peter Schjedahl takes a tour round the "Skin Fruit" exhibition curated by Jeff Koons in the New Museum. Anthony Lane reviews the Iraq war film "Green Zone" by Paul Greengrass, and "Mother" ("Madeo") by the South Korean Bong Joon-ho. There is also a short story "The Knocking" by David Means and poems by Edward Hirsch and Barbara Ras.


Le Nouvel Observateur 04.03.2010 (France)

The cover dossier addresses the controversy between Yannick Haenel and Claude Lanzmann, over whether or not the western allies abandoned the Jews. Such, namely, is the view put forward by Haenel in his book about the Polish resistance fighter Jan Karski (more here), whereas Lanzmann rejects the idea wholeheartedly. Claude Weill and Laurent Lemire collect together all the known facts on the matter in a background article in which they also address the role of the Vichy regime and the Vatican. Their astounding conclusion is that the Allies are beyond reproach but that the Vatican is as guilty as Rolf Hochhut maintained in his play 'The Deputy' . The magazine also prints excerpts from Karski's 1943 memoirs which have now been republished in France (see another article on the subject in Figaro) in which he – unsuccessfully – tried to inform Roosevelt about the death camps: "When I left the president, he was still as fresh, rested and smiling as at the start of our discussion. I, on the other hand felt very tired."

Claude Lanzmann
talks in his article about the "Myth of Rescue" and explains that in the pre-war days as well as during the war, Jews were "not the centre of the world" but had taken up residence on the sidelines, if not the margins, of society. "This not only applies to the United States, but to the whole of Europe as well, not to mention Germany. The Jews were not – and are still not - although some of them like to pretend otherwise – the centre of the world. It is from the perspective of this factual truth, that we must judge the behaviour of the Allies during the War and their supposed abandonment of the Jews. Was it possible to save 'the Jews' or 'Jews'? Which ones could have been rescued. When? How?"

There is also an interview with the Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz about the greed of the bankers their "overwhelming responsibility" for the crisis.


The New York Times 07.03.2010 (USA)

Tom Downey introduces China's cyber posse and its human-flesh search. This is how it works: a woman in China posts a video online in which she tramples a kitten to death with her stiletto heel. The web community freaks out and decides to do something about it. "A Netizen called Beacon Bridge No Return found the first clue. 'There was credit information before the crush scene reading www.crushworld.net,' that user wrote. Netizens traced the e-mail address associated with the site to a server in Hangzhou, a couple of hours from Shanghai. A follow-up post asked about the video's location: 'Are users from Hangzhou familiar with this place?' Locals reported that nothing in their city resembled the backdrop in the video. But Netizens kept sifting through the clues, confident they could track down one person in a nation of more than a billion. They were right.The traditional media picked up the story, and people all across China saw the kitten killer's photo on television and in newspapers. 'I know this woman,' wrote I'm Not Desert Angel four days after the search began. 'She's not in Hangzhou. She lives in the small town I live in here in northeastern China. God, she's a nurse! That’s all I can say. Six days later the killer's name, home and employer were revealed and she and her cameraman dismissed from their jobs. "The kitten-killer case didn't just provide revenge; it helped turn the human-flesh search engine into a national phenomenon" with consequences that Tom Downey describes in detail.

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