Friday | 1 March 2013

russia
THE SINGLE LOGIC OF CONTINUOUS RUSSIAN HISTORY
Masha Gessen  |   Longitude / The New York Times

A series of events has triggered Yael’s interest in the Soviet past. A school assignment had her preparing a presentation on samizdat, and that had me explaining Galich’s poetry to her. The book, “Breaking Stalin’s Nose,” will be published in Russian by a publishing house founded by my oldest friend, who sent us advance copies. And a week ago I took the kids to see a play about Brodsky staged by a small theater company in Moscow. These are all exceptional events — a liberal private school, a small publisher, an independent theater company — but they add up to something I had  been waiting for a long time: the stimulation needed to get a curious preteen to ask the right questions and the context parents need to tell their children the stories that need to be told.

THE TURN AGAINST NABOKOV
Michael Idov  |   The Page Turner / The New Yorker

On a snowy night in early 2013, “Lolita” went up once again, unchanged, but it had suddenly become the most scandalous show in town. The performance had been postponed since last October amid threats to Mozgovoy and others. In January, three men jumped the play’s twenty-four-year-old producer, Anton Suslov, giving him two black eyes and a concussion while calling him a “pedophile”; a murky video of the beating was posted online. The same libel was slashed in spray paint across the walls of the Nabokov museum in St. Petersburg and the writer’s ancestral estate in Rozhdestveno, about fifty miles from the city. Anonymous activists had petitioned to have the play banned, the museum closed, and Nabokov’s books purged from stores. The author, whose novels thrum with ironic recurrences, might have been perversely pleased with this: thirty-six years after his death and twenty-two years after the fall of the Soviet Union with all its khudsovets, Vladimir Nabokov is, once again, controversial.

economics
THE SAD RECORD OF FISCAL AUSTERITY
Martin Wolf  |  The Financial Times

At the Toronto summit of the Group of 20 leading economies in June 2010, high-income countries turned to fiscal austerity. The emerging sovereign debt crises in Greece, Ireland and Portugal were one of the reasons for this. Policy makers were terrified by the risk that their countries would turn into Greece. The G20 communiqué was specific: “Advanced economies have committed to fiscal plans that will at least halve deficits by 2013 and stabilise or reduce government debt-to-GDP ratios by 2016.” Was this both necessary and wise? No.

NO CHEERS FOR SEQUESTRATION
Josh Barro | Bloomberg

Over at Slate (naturally), Matt Yglesias writes that, as ways of cutting the deficit go, the sequester actually isn’t so bad. He says: “if you’re a ‘defense’ dove like me and have a non-utopian view of the domestic discretionary budget then this looks like we’re mostly talking about harmless spending cuts.” Therefore, he says, it’s better to let it hit than to repeal it.

This is wrongheaded for three reasons.

AUSTERITY IS ALREADY HERE
Charts  |  The New York Times
  • Change in government consumption and investment
  • Government jobs added or lost
science
BRAIN PLASTICITY: CAN EYE SEE OUTSIDE OF THE HEAD?
Josh Bittel  |  Future Tense / Slate

Using embryos from the African clawed frog (Xenopus), scientists at Tufts’ Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology were able to transplant eye primordia—basically, the little nubs of flesh that will eventually grow into an eye—from one tadpole’s head to another’s posterior, flank, or tail.-Amazingly, a statistically significant portion of the transplanted one-eyes could not only detect LED changes, but they showed learning behavior when confronted with electric shock.

art

MEDITATING MACHINERY: MECHANICAL BUDDHAS AND OTHER RELIGIOUS ICONS BY WANG ZI WONG
Christopher Jobson  |  Colossal

South Korean artist Wang Zi Won constructs intricate mechanical figures of Buddha and bodhisattva that appear to be lost in meditation or enlightenment. The electrically-powered figures are fused with numerous mechanical components which at times resemble halos or lotus flowers and simultaneously move the humanoid figures through repetitive motions (see videos above). The artist says his intention is to examine a future where humans and technology merge, something he views in a particularly positive light.wang-2

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