Saturday, 21 July 2007

The new ignorance?

From the IHT

"In proposing a tax-cut law last week, Finance Minister Christine Lagarde bluntly advised the French people to abandon their “old national habit.”

“France is a country that thinks,” she told the National Assembly. “There is hardly an ideology that we haven’t turned into a theory. We have in our libraries enough to talk about for centuries to come. This is why I would like to tell you: Enough thinking, already. Roll up your sleeves.”

Citing Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” she said the French should work harder, earn more and be rewarded with lower taxes if they get rich."

It goes well with this from London a few weeks ago
"For almost the first time in two centuries, there is no eminent British poet, playwright or novelist prepared to question the foundations of the western way of life. One might make an honourable exception of Harold Pinter, who has wisely decided that being a champagne socialist is better than being no socialist at all; but his most explicitly political work is also his most artistically dreary."

And is a contrast to this:
"...Besides Clinton and McCain, Gov. Bill Richardson (D) of New Mexico, former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.), Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) and New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a possible independent candidate, have come to Mountain View to take a closer look at a corporate culture that is the epitome of Silicon Valley self-confidence and innovation.

Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, called the question-and-answer sessions "a job interview with the American people."

"And you're also sort of interviewing with Google," Schmidt told McCain at a packed town hall meeting. "It's hard to get a job at Google."..."

"Google has become a symbolic firm, as GM might have been in the 1930s and 1940s and IBM in the 1950s and '60s. . . . They're about sharing. Being open. Transparency. How that will transform politics as we know it, we'll have to see," said Fred Turner, author of "From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network and the Rise of Digital Utopianism" and an assistant professor at Stanford University.

"A visit to Google, in a way, is like stopping by the Internet of today. When you visit Google, you're respecting that sensibility and showing your alliance with it."

A Communal Event, for Everyone

Two weeks ago the Italian press wrote that a hacker had entered the publisher's computer. It named the victims of J.K Rowling's pen. Nothing was written in English to confirm or deny that my Google Alerts found. A global discretion...and a nice moment.

"Leaks appeared in a number of other countries Friday, with papers in France, Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic revealing the fate of key characters by printing a summary of the epilogue -- some of them upside-down so that unwary readers could avoid the spoiler.

The six Potter books so far released have sold 325 million copies internationally and have been translated into 64 languages, though the final tome is set to out-sell each of its predecessors."

"Hordes of would-be warlocks, sorcerers and ordinary, non-magical "Muggles" lined up outside Swiss bookstores for the English version of the new novel, which officially went on sale across Switzerland at 1am on Saturday.

Midnight parties were held at bookshops in Zurich, Basel, Interlaken, Lucerne and Lenzburg. Elsewhere many stores opened their doors early on Saturday to meet the rush of readers, both young and old.

"There's been a bigger hype than for previous books; you feel it's special. People know it's the last one and want to know what is going to happen – whether he will die," Fabienne Schaller from Basel's Bergli bookshop told swissinfo.

"Lots of Swiss people read in English and most don't want to wait until October when it comes out in German," she explained, adding that the city also has a big English-speaking expatriate community."

"BEIJING, -- Thousands of Harry Potter fans in China swarmed into book stores in Beijing on Saturday to get the seventh and final volume of the boy wizard's adventures after standing in line for several hours from the mid-night.

Chinese book stores opened their doors for sales of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" at 7:01 a.m., Beijing time, together with the world.

More than 200 books have been sold in Wangfujing Book Store within 40 minutes. The Beijing Book Building has sold 2,301 books till 6:00 p.m. Saturday, statistics show, 700 books more than the first-day sales of the sixth version.

"The previous versions did very well here, and we expect the seventh book to create a new selling record among the Harry Potter series," said Yang Xinyuan, manager of the original version books department of the Beijing Book Building."

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Why Venice and the art thing might seem a little less Europe; a little more "global"

From Hello magazine online; was the Mantua Times like this in 1608? It probably was:

"A West End stage debut can be a daunting prospect even for an actor whose star burns bright in Hollywood. So Orlando Bloom made sure he had some heavy duty support on the opening night of his play In Celebration at the Duke Of York theatre, having invited fellow creative mind Tracy Emin.

In the drama Kent-born Orlando, 30, portrays a son returning home for what will be a fraught party to mark his parents' ruby wedding anniversary.

And Tracy, fresh from her own triumph at the Venice Biennale, made it clear just what she thought of her friend's first stage outing during a get-together after the show. The 44-year-old artist threw her arms around the Pirates Of The Caribbean actor in an enthusiastic embrace, before having an animated chat with his mother Sonia.

The former wild child of British art was returning a compliment, as Orlando bought one of her famous neon light artworks last year. The piece had been donated by Tracy to the Raisa Gorbachev foundation, which funds children's healthcare projects in memory of Mikhail Gorbachev's wife. The sale earned her dinner with the former Russian leader."

America & Europe

These things vanish into the paid-for archive, so just a taster of this year's transatlantic position:

"HEIDELBERG, Germany — A day after Michael Kingsley arrived in this romantic university town, he was in no mood to savor the cobblestone streets, the half-timbered houses, or the flower-bedecked windows — to say nothing of the camera-ready castle on the hill.

Mr. Kingsley had left his camera battery and charger in a hotel room in London, and he knew that as an American tourist, buying replacements here was going to sting. The damage: $143. Back home in Falls Church, Va., he said, the same purchase would have set him back no more than $100.

For Americans visiting Europe this summer, the steep decline of the dollar against the euro and the British pound has made eye-popping prices a lamentable part of the traveler’s tale. (The Kingsley family’s hotel room in London was $500 a night; five bite-sized chocolates at Harrods cost $10.)"

I suppose my question is what does Europe mean: is it the football? Is it Dante? It is very pleasing that it is - despite several years of overt anti-Americanism here in Europe - thriving. It can't just be the coach tours, my curse of Cremona. So, as Venice looms, I need to ask some Americans, what is it about Europe?

"It is also reflected in the tourism statistics in France, Germany, Spain and other countries, which show that the number of Americans visiting Europe has increased this year, even as the value of the dollar has eroded. Travel experts say this speaks both to the resilience and rising affluence of American tourists, as well as to the perennial appeal of Europe as a destination.

“Americans who visit Europe tend to be more educated, with higher incomes, so they are less affected by the exchange rate,” said Joachim Scholz, a researcher at the German National Tourist Board. “Even backpackers have more money than they used to, if you look at the price of hostels.”

Americans purchased $3.8 billion worth of travel-related services from European countries in the first quarter of this year, a 5.5 percent increase from the same quarter last year, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. They bought $22.8 billion of travel services in 2006, nearly 10 percent more than in 2002, when the dollar was close to parity with the euro."

The whole story, whilst it is live.

Monday, 16 July 2007

It is all happening down the road in Padua, and back in Milan

This all from today's Daily Telegraph.

"An Italian council estate ringed with a steel wall to keep its residents inside will be closed today and its African immigrant residents dispersed despite fears that a planned amnesty for thousands of new arrivals will have consequences for countries across Europe.

The Serenissima - or Very Tranquil - estate, Italy's last ghetto, became a symbol of the way Italy mismanaged its immigrants after the local council in Padua built the wall and set up a checkpoint at the exit last year."

And everyone has their angle: ""A move to suddenly make 550,000 immigrants legal is very worrying," said one British diplomat," reports the newspaper. Though it leads with a juicier newsbite:

"Although the estate was constantly policed, gangs loitered on the streets outside. Earlier this summer, Princess Virginia von Furstenberg, an heiress of the Agnelli family, was arrested and cautioned after she stopped her Mercedes in the area to pick up three grams of cocaine."

Meanwhile, back in Milan at La Scala a ballet for a sad anniversary, the Miami murder of Gianni Versace in 1997:

"Thanks Gianni, With Love was put together by French choreographer Maurice Bejart, for whom Versace designed many stage costumes.

About 1,500 guests, including Versace's favourite models, attended the show at the La Scala opera house."