Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday Roundup

Arts & Culture
  • Harrey Eyres deplores The Curse of Literalism in this weekend's Financial Times:
    You would think all this had thoroughly informed our way of thinking; we take great care not to impose unthinkingly one-dimensional interpretations on other cultures – not to be chauvinists. But the one area where we seem to have become unthinkingly literal is our own culture and its key texts. Few nowadays, apart from zealots and academics, read the Bible or Shelley at all, and if they do they struggle to see beyond the literal meaning.
  • Over at Vanity Fair, Lisa Robinson celebrates Motown with an oral history in It Happened in Hitsville:
    After half a century, and several shelves of books about the revolutionary music label, Motown’s story is still obscured by rumors and misconceptions. Founder Berry Gordy Jr. joins a groundbreaking chorus—Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Suzanne de Passe, and other legends—to give an oral history of the Detroit hitmaking machine, the cultural and racial breakthroughs it inspired, and life at “Hitsville,” as well as a true account of Gordy’s relationship with Diana Ross and the rise of the Supremes.
  • Vanity Fair making this weeks list twice, with a well written and hilarious retrospective, England Made Them, looking at what makes the British so very strange:
    Meet Garech Browne, the Guinness heir whose father raised pigs in their drawing room. And Gavin Pretor-Pinney, founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society. And the Marquis of Bath, with 64 mistresses he calls “wifelets.” Tim Walker captures a cross section of proud standard-bearers in Britain’s long tradition of eccentricity as Christopher Hitchens explains why his native land often seems like one big Monty Python skit.
  • In The Nation, Barbara Crossette untangles a fair amount of the unsettling and complicated chaos taking hold in Thailand:
    The sides in this battle are not what might be expected. The urban educated elite, the professionals with cell phones, the democrats who have stood bravely against military rule in the past are now the ones determined to provoke an army coup to overthrow a populist government they have been unable to defeat at the ballot box.
  • Anne Applebaum raises some of the questions I asked about the attacks in Mumbai. Mainly, after 7 years of the 'war on terror' and at least hundreds of billions of dollars spent, how is it possible that authorities were ignorant of the pending attacks or the groups involved? Drawing parallels to some of the lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan she states:
    It took some time before we understood that our opponents in Iraq were not merely disgruntled Baathists but encompassed a range of both Sunni and Shiite groups with different agendas. Only now, for that matter, do we fully understand the degree to which the very word Taliban is misleading: Though the term implies a definite group with clear goals, American commanders in Afghanistan now understand very well that what they call Taliban is also an amalgamation of insurgents, some of whom fight for tribal interests, others for money, and only some for a clear-cut ideological cause.
  • Matt Taibbi in, Requiem for a Maverick, mixes comedy with analysis as he explores the inner depths of destruction that the McCain / Palin ticket brought to the Republican Party:
    The ironic thing is that the destruction of the Republican Party was a two-part process. Their president, George W. Bush, did most of the work by making virtually every mistake possible in his two terms, reducing the mightiest economy on Earth to the status of a beggar-debtor nation like Pakistan or Zambia. This was fucking up on a scale known only to a select few groups in history, your Romanovs, your Habsburgs, maybe the Han Dynasty, which pissed away a golden age of Chinese history by letting eunuchs take over the state. But John McCain and Sarah Palin made their own unique contribution to the disaster by running perhaps the most incompetent presidential campaign in modern times. They compounded a millionfold Bush's legacy of incompetence by soiling both possible Republican ideological strategies going forward: They killed off Bush-style neoconservatism as well as the more traditional fiscal conservatism McCain himself was once known for by trying to fuse both approaches into one gorgeously incoherent ticket. It was like trying to follow the recipes for Texas 10-alarm chili and a three-layer Black Forest chocolate cake in the same pan at the same time. The result — well, just take a bite!
Food & Wine
  • Porfolio Magazine's Amy Cortese examines the second labels of the world's winemakers of greatest renown:
    A bottle of Lafite for a fifth of the price? Makers of the world's most coveted wines make more versions that are younger, softer, and vastly more affordable.
  • In Dueling Spanish Chefs, Gourmet Magazine interestingly, yet clumsily, wades into socio-political critique via the culture wars Spain has experienced post-Franco:
    In this sense, Adrià is like that other genius to come out of Spain’s transition to democracy, Pedro Almodóvar. Their media are of course different—spherified olives and parmesan-infused air for one; sex, drugs, and neurotic women in stilettos for the other. But the reckless joy of their exquisite creations, the provocative art disguised as humor and sensuality, are the same. So too is the drive, relentless but unstrained, to create anew. If in today’s Spain you can hardly recognize the grim, authoritarian place that subsisted largely on fried eggs and sexual repression 30 years ago, you can thank, in part, Adrià and Almodóvar. Like the peaceful transition to democracy itself, they embody Spain’s unexpected liberalization.
Money & Business
  • Economist's Market View column examines dividends and the yawning gap between those of equities and bonds:
    Ten years ago, investors regarded companies that paid dividends as old-fashioned—they believed companies ought to use profits to expand their businesses). Today they seem grateful for any payouts they can get.
  • BusinessWeek explores the diminishing luster of China's appeal to U.S. manufacturers:
    A new survey finds rising worries about product quality and intellectual-property theft. More U.S. companies are looking to Mexico and their own backyard

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