On the Death of Siegfried Lenz ? ?You have to justify your life?

Siegfried Lenz, one of the great writers of German post-war literature is dead. He died on 7 October 2014, surrounded by his family. He was 88 years old.... more more

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30/03/2010

Magazine Roundup

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

3 Quarks Daily | Wired | Tygodnik Powszechny | Newsweek | Le Monde | Slate | Buzzmachine | Salon.eu.sk | The New Yorker | Das Magazin | Outlook India | Merkur | The Walrus Magazine | Eurozine | The New York Times

3 Quarks Daily 29.03.2010

Namit Arora reviews a memoir by an "untouchable", Omprakash Valmiki. The article is full of links to other books by Dalits which is becoming a powerful new current in Indian literature as well as a major site of resistance. "Told as a series of piercing vignettes, 'Joothan' is also a remarkable record of a rare Indian journey, one that took a boy from extremely wretched socioeconomic conditions to prominence as an author and social critic. [...] In its last two paragraphs, he anticipates his critics: 'Today caste remains a pre-eminent factor in social life. As long as people don't know that you are a Dalit, things are fine. The moment they find out your caste, everything changes. The whispers slash your veins like knives. Poverty, illiteracy, broken lives, the pain of standing outside the door, how would the civilized Savarna Hindus know it? Why is my caste my only identity? Many friends hint at the loudness and arrogance of my writings. They insinuate that I have imprisoned myself in a narrow circle. They say that literary expression should be focused on the universal; a writer ought not to limit himself to a narrow, confined terrain of life. That is, my being Dalit and arriving at a point of view according to my environment and my socioeconomic situation is being arrogant. Because in their eyes, I am only an SC, the one who stands outside the door.'"


Wired 01.04.2010 (USA)

There is nothing like a master criminal to make Wired go weak at the knees. Joshua Bearman tells the story of the world's most ingenious thief, Gerald Blanchard, whose many rich pickings include the Sisi Star. He first set eyes on it while visiting Vienna's Schloss Schönbrunn with his wife and father-in-law, where "he got to work immediately, taking in every detail of the room with his video camera. The next day the precious brooch was his! "Later, the Sisi Star rode inside the respirator of some scuba gear back
to his home base in Canada, where Blanchard would assemble what prosecutors later called, for lack of a better term, the Blanchard Criminal Organization. Drawing on his encyclopedic knowledge of surveillance and electronics, Blanchard became a criminal mastermind. The star was the heist that transformed him from a successful and experienced thief into a criminal virtuoso. 'Cunning, clever, conniving, and creative,' as one prosecutor would call him, Blanchard eluded the police for years. But eventually he made a mistake. And that mistake would take two officers from the modest police force of Winnipeg, Canada, on a wild ride of high tech capers across Africa, Canada, and Europe. Says Mitch McCormick, one of those Winnipeg investigators, 'We had never seen anything like it.'"

How will the Ipad and other follow-up tablet computers change the world? asks Wired, in a gripping dossier. Steven Levy sees the creation of these new devices as the prelude to a nasty head-butt between Apple, with its honed interface, and Google, with its dream of the cloud: "Apple favors the pristine orderliness of autocracy to the messy freedom of an open system." Then 13 of the "brightest tech minds" are given a platform to sound off about the tablet. Kevin Kelly for example sees it more as a window: "If someone is speaking to you through the window, move the screen and it will sweep across the caller's room. This portable portal will peer into anything visible. You'll be able to see into movies, pictures, rooms, Web pages, places, and books seamlessly. Many people think of this sheet as a full-color, hi-res, super ebook reader, but this viewer will be about moving images as much as text. Not just watching video but making it. It will have a built-in camera and idiot-proof video-editing tools, and it will also serve as a portable movie screen, eventually enabled for 3-D. You'll 'film' with the screen! It will remake both book publishing and Hollywood, because it creates a transmedia that conflates books and video. You get TV you read, books you watch, movies you touch."


Tygodnik Powszechny 28.03.2010 (Poland)

This liberal-Catholic weekly has just turned 65. To celebrate, it publishes a birthday supplement under the title of "Zydownik Powszechny" (or Jewish Weekly, the derogatory name given to the paper under communism) featuring its best essays and articles on Polish-Jewish relations. The editor-in-chief Adam Boniecki writes: "Someone who in 2010 reads an article by (the former Tygodnik Powszechny editor) Jerzy Turowicz may be surprised at his forceful statement of the obvious, namely that it is impossible to be a true Catholic and an anti-Semite at the same time. Precisely this obviousness is the wonderful fruit of past labours. But is it really that obvious to everyone?"

Further articles: There is an interview with the artist Zbigniew Libera, creator of the "Lego Concentration Camp". At the weekend, the new literary "European Poet of Freedom" prize organised by the city of Gdansk, was awarded to the Belarusian Uladzimir Arlou (more info about the event and some photos here).


Newsweek 29.03.2010 (USA)

Daniel Lyons is both impressed and disturbed by the Ipad. If it takes off, Steve Jobs will become Big Brother. "This elegant little device comes loaded with Jobs's grandiose ambition and is yet another example of his willingness to defy conventional wisdom and bend the ethos of Silicon Valley to his own will. The Internet is supposed to be all about freedom and choice - yet here comes Steve Jobs with an Internet that is a completely closed system. Apple not only sells you the device, but also operates the only store on the planet that sells software for it." In a second article, the writer Anna Quindlen asks the question: "Well, what is a book, really? Is it its body, or its soul?" And, finally, one of Apple's co-founders, Steve Wozniak, explains why two Ipads will be better than one.


Le Monde 27.03.2010 (France)

After the regional elections in Italy, Silvio Berlusconi is celebrating some unexpected successes - in Southern Italy for example (more here). So was journalist Roberto Saviano right last week, when he called for international monitoring of the elections, particularly in Mafia-controlled areas. In Calabria alone, judicial inquiries have been set up against 35 of the 50 local politicians, some of whom already have criminal records. Saviano, who has been living under police protection since the publication of his book on the Camorra, issues a damning indictment of Italian politics: "Here in Italy, people have accepted that politics has no direction, no ideas, no concepts. Which is why the people expect and are demanding better. Politics no longer has any credibility. It is nothing but an empty shell, which can be filled with words and perhaps not even that. And so we have reached a point where it is no long possible even to use politics. If that is the case, then the Mafia has already won. Because no one can offer more security than the Mafia: the security of a job, an income, an apartment."


Slate 25.03.2010 (USA)

It is not only in Germany that the debate (launched by Pascal Bruckner's article at signandsight.com and Perlentaucher back in 2007) about Islam criticism or rather "Enlightenment fundamentalism" continues to rage. Back in 2007, Paul Berman entered the fray with his lengthy profile of Tariq Ramadan. He has since developed this into a book and it is due for publication later this year: "The Flight of the Intellectuals". Ron Rosenbaum takes up Berman's question of why, in 1989, the intellectuals were prepared to defend Salman Rushdie whereas they have refused to show solidarity with Ayaan Hirsi Ali: "Berman may disclaim it, but I think the subtext of his critique of Ali's nitpickers is that, in the two decades since the Rushdie affair, standing up against Islamist death threats requires more physical courage than the intellectuals are willing to muster. They would rather allow pettifogging criticism to be a fig leaf, a way to distance themselves from danger."


Buzzmachine 23.03.2010 (USA)

"The problem with comments isn't them" is the heading of Jeff Jarvis' blog entry addressing the grievances held by bloggers about cruel, vicious or even shitty reader commentaries. The problem is actually that many bloggers regard the internet as a medium. "We expect it to be packaged and pretty, clean and controlled like newspapers and magazines and shows, and so when someone dumps a turd on that — a nasty comment — we think the whole thing is ruined... But as Doc Searl's (blog) taught me early on, the internet is not a medium — indeed, judging it as a medium brings all sorts of dangerous presumptions about control and ownership and regulation. No, Doc says, the internet is a place. It's a park or a streetcorner where people pass and meet, talk and argue, where they are right and wrong, where they connect with each other and information and actions. It's a public place. (Now judge the conversation in those terms: If you pass someone cursing on the streets of New York do you write off the place? Well, I don't especially because that person you pass might be me).


Salon.eu.sk 24.03.2010 (Slovakia)

Salon prints a speech by Adam Michnik in which he rails against nationalism as the evil legacy of communism in Eastern Europe: "With bitter cynicism, Cioran commented: 'The people, such as they are, encourage despotism. They endure great tests, sometimes they even ask for them and then they rebel against them only to go after new ones, even more monstrous than the previous ones.' Fortunately, communism is now extinct. But it has left behind nationalism, a nationalism practised by people who derive a kind of beastly pleasure from renouncing their humanity. It lives on in the form of nostalgia, a phobia, an anti-democratic, anti-liberal, anti-European and anti-American ideology. You meet people who think like this among the political elites of all post-communist countries – from Bucharest and Moscow to Berlin, from Warsaw to Prague, from Zagreb to Belgrade. Nationalism in the post-communist era can take a variety of forms: that of the nostalgic communist Milosevic, the post-Soviet dictator Putin, or the post-Soviet anti-Communists Viktor Orban and Jaroslaw Kaczynski."


The New Yorker 05.04.2010 (USA)

In a delectable article Adam Gopnik introduces France's Le Fooding movement, which takes on the cliches of classical French cuisine and the "dictatorship" of a fossilized view of gastronomy. Its restaurant guide is accordingly open even to fast food and pizza. One of its founding members, Alexandre Cammas, sums up the idea: "We're for liberty, for the end of categories. (...) We say no rules! No rules save excellence." Gopnik's research also took him to Paris where he discovered that "what distinguishes Le Fooding was that it is, in effect, against an overly European, tradition-minded approach to food. Slow is the last thing it wants French cooking to be, French cooking being slow enough already. The goal of the Fooding movement is to break down French snobbery, in the form of its hidebound hypersensitive discrimination, while the goal of the slow-food movement, though not put quite this way, is to build up hidebound hyper-discrimination. Fooding is a form of culinary Futurism: it wants the table to move as fast as modern life."

Further articles: Judith Thurman reports that Philip Roth - and John Grisham - fell victim to an Italian tabloid fraud which published fake denunciations of Obama in their names. John Lahr reviews a production of Tennessee Williams' "Glass Menagerie". David Denby reviews the thriller "Leaves of Grass" by Tim Blake Nelson, Raymond De Felitta's comedy "City Island" and Andy Tennant's action comedy "The Bounty Hunter". There is also a short story "Gavin Highly" by Janet Frame and poems by Cornelius Eady and Matthew Dickman.


Das Magazin 29.03.2010 (Switzerland)

The French philosopher Elisabeth Badinter has just published a heavily controversial book about women and mothers. It is a riposte against the growing tendency that is taking hold - even in France - to sanctify motherly love. To understand the situation today, she tells Daniel Binswanger, it helps to look at the transformation of the concept of the mother in the 18th century. "In the sixth decade of the 18th century something happened which has strong parallels with the situation today,' Badinter says. 'Within a few decades breastfeeding babies went from being a taboo to a moral duty. At the end of this development stood the middle-class marriage of the 19th century, an institution which brought women the opposite of liberation. We should ask ourselves whether today's aggressive propaganda for breastfeeding is not a renewed attempt to rid women of their rights."

Further articles: Finn Canonica and David Iselin outline the pros and cons of Japan's perfected service society.


Outlook India 05.04.2010 (India)

Indians are the fourth largest nation of illegal downloaders, according to seven different reporters in Outlook India. The reasons are many and varied. "'Indians believe in conserving their energy as well as their wealth,' says Dr Harish Shetty, Bombay-based psychiatrist. 'Besides, Indians download all the time because of the joy of doing it in their private space.' It's also a generational thing. Murthy [the head of a marketing company] cites the case of his 12-year-old son, who downloaded software manuals and, in a matter of weeks, surprised him by mastering a new package without any formal training whatsoever. 'With formidably intelligent people like him all around,' the proud father says, 'record labels, musicians, actors, directors, producers and software programmers will have to find new ways of making money. It won't do to keep punching out CDs in the hope that consumers like him will keep buying.'"


Merkur 01.04.2010 (Germany)

Siegfried Kohlhammer has some serious misgivings about the failed integration of Muslims in Europe, for which he pointedly does not blame European societies: "No other migrant group complains so frequently about discrimination and lack of respect, or makes such exorbitant demands which, when not met, is pegged as further proof of Islamophobia. When, in 2005, the British Home Secretary Charles Clarke explained that there could be no talks about introducing the Caliphate and Sharia law or abolishing sexual equality and freedom of opinion, one representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain saw this as 'an attack on Islam'. A Danish Muslim leader complained in 2004 that the secularism of Danish society was an 'abominable form of oppression'. And no other group of migrants threatens so unashamedly, so successfully and with such impunity to respond with violence as soon as they feel offended or challenged."


The Walrus Magazine 01.04.2010 (Canada)

Anyone who still believes it is possible to describe political positions by sticking to traditional categories of left and right, should read Stephen Henighan's portrait of the Canadian writer and International PEN chairman, John Ralston Saul. After an eventful professional and intellectual life, Saul arrived at the conclusion that the problem of the neo-liberal elites in Canada was their "self-loathing" and their disdain for the nation's indigenous heritage. His proposed solution was a culture of collaboration, enshrined in a "metis civilization" inspired by the aboriginal heritage. "But do aboriginals want to be the point of origin of Saul's metis civilization? Last year, participating on a panel in Toronto, I was surprised by the vehemence with which urbanized, racially mixed aboriginal intellectuals, who did not speak their ancestral languages, rejected all suggestions that they might belong to a hybridized culture, asserting their identity in terms of a cultural and racial purity of the sort that Saul rejects."

Further articles: Silver Donald Cameron describes the plans of Bhutan's Prime Minister, Jigmi Y. Thinley, to enlist the help of the GPI Atlantic think-tank to raise Gross National Happiness (GPH) in his country. Thinley explains this nicely in a video on Youtube. Tim Mckeough introduces the ultra-minimalist yet ultra-playful Japanese designer Oki Sato. There is also an excerpt from Steven Heighton's new novel "Every Lost Country".


Eurozine 26.03.2010 (Austria in English)

In an article originally written for Index on Censorship, which Eurozine has posted online, Don Deibert and Rafal Rohozinski of the OpenNet Initiative explain how "next generation" censorship aims to control the web. For example: "One of the fastest growing and effective next generation controls concerns the broad use of slander, libel and other laws to restrict permissible communications and to create a climate of fear, intimidation and ultimately self-censorship. In part, this reflects a natural maturation process as authorities seek to reign in cyberspace and bring it under regulatory oversight. But more nefariously, it also reflects a tactic of strangulation, whereby threats of legal action can do more to prevent strategically threatening information from seeing the light of day than do more passive controls implemented in a defensive manner. Although new laws are being drafted to deal with cyberspace security and regulation, sometimes old, obscure, or rarely enforced regulations are pointed to ex post facto to justify acts of Internet censorship."

Further articles: Dutch media theorist Geert Lovink ponders new online architecture and the attempts to create a national web.


The New York Times 28.03.2010 (USA)

With an eye on the multitude manifestos that have sprouted recently – such as David Shields' "Reality Hunger" or Jaron Lanier's "You Are Not a Gadget" – Wen Stephenson reminds his readers that manifestos are a European but distinctly un-American form of protest: "We write jeremiads". He cites Sacvan Bercovitch's "The American Jeremiad" to help him explain the difference: "If the manifesto looks fearlessly to the future, seeking to replace the established order with something alto­gether new, the jeremiad is at once jittery and nostalgic, looking anxiously over its shoulder at a prelapsarian past. The American jeremiad, Bercovitch observed, 'made anxiety its end as well as its means.'"

The randomness of race is the lesson Linda Gordon takes away from Nell Irvin Painter's jauntily provocative "History of White People": "Some ancient descriptions did note color, as when the ancient Greeks recognized that their 'barbaric' northern neighbors, Scythians and Celts, had lighter skin than Greeks considered normal. Most ancient peoples defined population differences culturally, not physically, and often regarded lighter people as less civilized. Centuries later, European travel writers regarded the light-skinned Circassians, a k a Caucasians, as people best fit only for slavery, yet at the same time labeled Circassian slave women the epitome of beauty. Exoticizing and sexualizing women of allegedly inferior 'races' has a long and continuous history in racial thought; it's just that today they are usually darker-skinned women."

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