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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27/04/2010

Magazine Roundup

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

Eurozine | Osteuropa | Wired | The Boston Review | Frontline | Outlook India | The New York Review of Books | Literaturen | Gazeta Wyborcza | Das Magazin | The Spectator | The Economist | The Wilson Quarterly | Magyar Narancs | The New York Times


Eurozine 22.04.2010 (Austria in English)

The west's fear of causing offence to Muslims is having fatal consequences, writes Kenan Malik. It undermines progressive trends in Islam and strengthens the hand of religious bigots. In the case of the Danish cartoons, we saw how the fundamentalist cleric Ahmed Abu Laban, a marginal figure, was actually installed by the media as a representative of all Danish Muslims. "The Danish MP Naser Khader tells of a conversation with Toger Seidenfaden, editor of Politiken, a leftwing newspaper highly critical of the caricatures. 'He said to me that the cartoons insulted all Muslims', Khader recalls. 'I said I was not insulted. He said, 'But you're not a real Muslim'. In liberal eyes, in other words, to be a real Muslim is to find the cartoons offensive."

Further articles: The author Zinovy Zink recalls how he left his native Russia and moved to Britain via Israel, where he dreamed of a house that he later found in Berlin. And Rita Repsiene remembers the American-Lithuanian archaeologist and feminist icon Marija Alseikaite-Gimbutas, who died in 1994.


Osteuropa 15.04.2010 (Germany)

The current magazine is dedicated with its usual instructiveness to Ukraine. Online is a wonderful short story by Serhij Zadan, who travelled with his friend, the photographer Chistoph Lingg, through the Eastern mining region of the Donets Basin. It begins like this: "Things are not looking good for the coal industry, Ukraine's youthful capitalism is devouring itself, and it's time to compromise, surrender territory, let in the foreigners. The industrial giants are dying like the dinosaurs and leaving behind graceful ruins and the bitter taste of unemployment. The region is moving through the nine of circles of production hell, and it will emerge as a valley of death if old factories and catholic churches become tourist strongholds and show business enclaves. The valley of death must be secured, held for all eternity on film, captured on video camera, every collapsing building, every filled pit you pass must be described and catalogued."

Print version only: Katherina Raabe writes about Ukrainian literature. Charles King asks whether the port of Sevastopol, where the Russians are allowed to maintain military facilities until 2010, will become Europe's next trouble spot.


Wired 18.05.2010 (USA),

Steven Levy visits a number of the protagonists of his 1984 book "Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution": Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Andy Hertzfeld, Richard Greenblatt, Richard Stallman, Lee Felsenstein and Tim O'Reilly. The fun part of programming got lost with software commercialisation most of them agree. The best programmers are now getting their teeth into more ambitious projects: "O'Reilly says most of the action is in DIY biology - manipulating genetic code the way a previous generation of hackers manipulated computer code. 'It's still in the fun stage,' he says. Just ask Bill Gates. If he were a teenager today, he says, he'd be hacking biology. 'Creating artificial life with DNA synthesis. That's sort of the equivalent of machine-language programming,' says Gates, whose work for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has led him to develop his own expertise in disease and immunology. 'If you want to change the world in some big way, that’s where you should start - biological molecules.'"

(This BBC video provides an initial insight into "biology hacking". Rob Carlsen, who described the phenomenon as far back as 2005, describes in his blog in 2010, a number of garage laboratories in Silicon Valley. And here is a video by the biology professor (MIT, Stanford) Drew Endy, in which he explains how to hack DNA. As for what hacking means: in the 80s, Richard Stallman described it as "playfully doing something difficult, whether useful or not.)


The Boston Review 18.03.2010 (USA)

The programmer Richard Stallman, one of the heroes of Steven Levy's hacker book is a die-hard defender of free software and the brains behind the GNU project. In an article he explains in layman's language what is meant by Software as a Service (SaaS): Someone sets up a network server that does certain computing tasks - running spreadsheets, word processing, translating text into another language, etc. - and then invites users to do their computing on that server. Users must send their data to the server, which returns the results. Google.docs is one such service. Sites such as Facebook offer multiple services. Not all of them are SaaS but some are, and SaaS, Stallman says, is equivalent to total spyware. And to blur the boundaries, the IT industry coined the buzzword "cloud computing": "This term is so nebulous that it could refer to almost any use of the Internet. It includes SaaS, and it includes nearly everything else. The term only lends itself to uselessly broad statements. The real meaning of 'cloud computing' is to suggest a devil-may-care approach towards your computing. It says, 'Don't ask questions, just trust every business without hesitation. Don't worry about who controls your computing or who holds your data. Don't check for a hook hidden inside our service before you swallow it.' In other words, 'Think like a sucker.'"


Frontline 24.04.2010 (India)

Deepa Kurup reports from the third National Free Software conference in Bangalore which took a deeper look at the practical relevance of free and open source software (FOSS) and, more importantly, how it can help cross the digital divide in a developing country like India. "Ashoke Thapar, Vice-Chancellor of West Bengal State University, made a case for FOSS deployment with a simple video clipping about a little-known success story from rural West Bengal. He presented the story of a small government school in Bijra, a village near Durgapur in Burdwan district, where students from Linux User Groups at the nearby B.C. Roy College of Engineering have set up and maintain a computer education centre. Students went there to set up machines, most of them old hand-me-downs, loaded with Linux operating systems, servers and a Local Area Network (LAN), and customised in the Bengali language, Prof. Thapar said. The entire cost was just around Rs.60,000, [ca. 1000 Euro] and the simple intervention changed the face of the school, which had students from extremely backward communities and high drop-out rates."


Outlook India 03.05.2010 (India)

The Indian government has been tapping the mobile phones of a number of prominent political leaders, Outlook India reports in a dossier: "'The whole system works on deniability,' a senior intelligence official told Outlook. 'It can be deployed anywhere. We don't need to show any authorisation since we're not tapping a phone number at the exchange but intercepting signals between the phone and the cellphone tower and recording them on a hard disk. If too many questions are asked, we can remove the disk and erase the conversation. No one gets to know.'"

Further articles: Vir Sanghvi tells the cautionary tale of the former Indian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Shashi Tharoor, who lived by the tweet and died by the tweet. Pushpa Iyengar reports on peculiar religious customs in the upwardly mobile Indian state of Tamil Nadu, involving nuptials with frogs and breaking coconuts on the heads of locals.


The New York Review of Books 13.05.2010 (USA)

Development aid to Ethiopia has trebled since 2000, thanks to Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Bob Geldorf and Bono, as Helen Epstein reports. Since 1991, the country has received 26 billion USD in foreign development aid. And what has come of it? Hunger. We should have seen it coming. In 1984, when the now Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and his Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) was at war with the Soviet-backed dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, famine broke out in the province of Tigray. "Because Tigray was under assault, aid organizations established bases in neighboring Sudan. They handed food shipments over to the TPLF, which was supposed to deliver them to starving peasants in Tigray. However, it now appears that the TPLF may also have been using some of the aid to feed its soldiers and purchase weapons. In a March 2010 BBC report, a former TPLF fighter described masquerading as a Sudanese merchant and selling bags of 'grain'- many containing only sand - to the aid workers, who then passed the sacks on to other TPLF cadres, who returned them to the 'Sudanese traders,' who resold them to the aid workers, and so on. In this way, bags of grain/sand circulated back and forth across the border, as money poured into TPLF coffers. The CIA apparently knew about the scam."

Other articles: Michael Wood reviews Ian McEwan's novel "Solar". Joseph Lelyveld is not overly positive about David Remnick's Obama biography. And Hugh Eakin and Alisa Roth outline the desperate situation of Iraqi refugees.


Gazeta Wyborcza
25.04.2010 (Poland)

After the funeral service for the victims of the tragedy in Smolensk, debate has erupted in Poland about how the events were handled. The historian Jerzy Jedlicki has this to say: "Our officials did not fly to Smolensk to die a hero's death; it was just a catastrophe. And yet everything is being described in sacred-romantic language. This ritual, though, did stand the test of time – the ceremonies were dignified and perfectly organised." On the other hand, he suggests, it is time to replace the cult of national martyrdom. "The last twenty years have been bound up with technological and economic modernisation, but the mental aspect has been neglected." What Poland needs is a "civilising patriotism" which does not exclude anyone and which could form the foundations for progress.

Marek Beylin also observed a discrepancy between the citizens mourning on the street and the rituals of the media. Agnieszka Graff believes: "There is a need, a necessity, even, to distance ourselves from the cult of nationalism, martyrdom, Maria. What remains is a slow reappraisal of our symbols, the construction of alternative communities."

Further articles: Nikita Michalkov's new film is being touted as the Russian "Saving Private Ryan" and is attracting much criticism from the younger generation of Russian filmmakers. Anna Zebrowska, however, sees in this "patriotic blockbuster" an important contribution to the moral reckoning with Stalinism: "The myths of the victorious empire are being questioned in the run-up to its 65th anniversary, by the son of the man who composed the Stalinist national anthem."


Das Magazin 24.04.2010 (Switzerland)

"It seems to me that we have lost a very natural way of living together," writes the psychoanalyst Jürg Acklin in an interview about paedophiles, celibacy and the changes in sexual morality since 1968. "As far as sexuality is concerned, today's society is like a four-bedroom flat share, where Evangelicals occupy two of the rooms and pornos are filmed in the others. Or to put it another way: today you can marry your dog but you can't stroke a child. And this sort of situation can lead to an over-enthusiasm for cleansing. There is something libidinal about being allowed to forbid things, and the pleasure lies in the punishment."


The Spectator 23.04.2010 (UK)

Two weeks before the general election in Britaing and things are not running too smoothly, in the eyes of the Spectator. Nick Clegg of the Lib Dems is more popular than David Cameron, who should should never have agreed to take part in one of those new-fangled TV debates, sighs Toby Young: "Clegg has novelty value. He's the surprise candidate whom the public can throw their weight behind in order to disrupt the narrative. Supporting him is a way of taking ownership of the contest. This is a familiar model, but it's not that of a general election. It's the X Factor. Simon Cowell said earlier this year that he thought there might be a way of grafting a reality show format on to politics, and the prime ministerial debates have proved to be exactly that. In America, where televised presidential debates preceded the emergence of reality as a dominant television genre, that isn't the way they're perceived by the viewing public. But in Britain the debates are new and, as such, they're seen through the reality show lens. The fact that they're being held once a week in the 8.30pm-10pm slot, and will culminate in a popular vote, doesn't help."


The Economist 22.04.2010 (UK)

On April 20th America's Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) approved the second of two exchanges that would allow trading of contracts based on films' box-office takings. The Hollywood studios are lobbying hard to prevent it and the Economist explains why, for once, they are right to oppose change: "The first reason is the information imbalance in the film business. Cantor's market is based on an existing predictive market, the Hollywood Stock Exchange, which uses play money. A study of that exchange, by Thomas Gruca of the University of Iowa, found that it errs in predicting box-office returns by an average of 31%. But the studios know a lot more than other investors. They know how audiences are responding to test screenings, on how many screens a film will play, and how much they are going to spend marketing it. Although such information leaks out, it does so selectively and unevenly. As a result, almost every trade by a studio would be an insider bet."


The Wilson Quarterly 01.04.2010 (USA)

In an article that leaves no stone unturned, David B. Ottaway analyses the situation in the Arab world, which, now that Egypt has forfeited its leading role, is more discordant than ever before. "There is no enticing 'Egyptian model' for development — political or economic. New thinking, visions, and initiatives have come largely from the Persian Gulf states and their freewheeling, competitive rulers, while Egypt still seems encumbered by its Pharaonic nature from embarking on radical change. On the whole, the Arab world has gained in vitality in Egypt's decline. That world now stares at two sharply contrasting models of its future: the highly materialistic emirate state obsessed with visions of Western-style modernity, and the strict Islamic one fixed on resurrecting the Qur'an's dictates espoused by fundamentalists and Al Qaeda. The struggle between these two models for the hearts and minds of Arabs is intense, particularly among a questioning, restless youth. The lure of the new, shiny emirate cities remains powerful, but there is a soulless quality about these places that raises questions about their lasting appeal. On the other hand, Muslim terrorism unleashed against other Muslims has done nothing to enhance the call for an Islamic state."


Magyar Narancs 26.04.2010 (Hungary)

The liberal weekly believes it was wrong to bury Lech Kaczynski in the crypt of Krakow's Wawel cathedral. "The sort of people who were traditionally laid to rest in the Wawel crypt were very probably upstanding kings and princes in their day. But those were different, feudal days. There was no differentiation between citizens who were eligible to vote and elected office-bearers; the population was divided into subjects and masters. The head of state was not legitimised by the people, but by God. The symbolism of the republic draws – at least it has until now – a clear line between these two orders, ideas of state and philosophies. And this is no coincidence because we cannot cross this line without damaging the republic. The decision to bury Lech Kaczynski in the crypt and the spectacular sacralisation of the state at his funeral has blurred this line. And with it, the president and his lifework, his ideological and practical legacy was removed from the realm of the political and raised to a level beyond the quotidian. Or at least this was attempted. The consequences will be revealed only after the elections."


The New York Times 24.04.2010 (USA)

In the New York Times Magazine, Mark Leibovich writes about the hugely influential online political magazine Politco and the man who never sleeps. Politico reporter Mike Allen 's newsletter Playbook is read by around 30,000 people every day between 5.30 and 8.30 a.m - most of them Washington types: journalists, politicians, lobbyists. "He has a knack for selecting the 'data points' that an info-saturated clan cares most about and did not know when it went to bed. Playbook's politics are 'aggressively neutral' and Allen says his are, too - he refuses to vote. Just as many sources talk to Woodward because they assume everyone is, the White House will leak early talking points to Allen because they know that, for instance, Dick Cheney seems to have made Allen the go-to outlet for many of his criticisms of the current administration." Politico does have its critics, though. Mark Salter, for example, a former chief of staff and campaign aide to John McCain, says: "'They have taken every worst trend in reporting, every single one of them, and put them on rocket fuel. 'It's the shortening of the news cycle. It's the trivialization of news. It's the gossipy nature of news. It's the self-promotion.' Salter asked that if I quoted him, I also mention that he likes and respects many Politico reporters, beginning with Mike Allen."

In the Book Review, the executive editor himself, Bill Keller, reviews Alan Brinkley's biography of Henry Luce, the creator of Time, Life, Fortune and later of Sports Illustrated. Keller praises Luce as a journalist of the old school, despite the fact that Time began, blog-like, as a aggregator of stories from other papers. Luce's "declared mission was to serve the illiterate upper classes, the busy businessman, the tired debutante, to prepare them at least once a week for a table ­conversation." In another biography, Keller says, David Halberstam described Luce "as part hick, noting that 'our best editors have always been at least partly hick, everything is new and fresh and possible for them, they take nothing for granted.'" Perhaps this is the very quality that Keller lacks.

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