Friday, 16 May 2008

The Utopian ...

... has launched!

Please do take a minute to look at this very exciting magazine, which I have founded together with Alex Lee.


The Utopian
is devoted to seeking out the most original and challenging ideas in contemporary politics, art and culture. Taking from utopian thought a spirit of free inquiry and open-mindedness, the magazine includes diverse perspectives in the recognition that nothing is unthinkable.

Drawing on a distinguished network of contributors from around the world, The Utopian offers high-quality reportage and a searching analysis of important contemporary issues. Transgressing the limits of traditional journalism, The Utopian is also a prime forum for full-length photographic articles, experimental music and innovative video art.

Coinciding with the fortieth anniversary of the 1968 students' rising in Paris, The Utopian's inaugural issue addresses the revolutionary spirit, then and now. Looking back, The Utopian explores the legacy of 1968, asking if these cultural transformations still have the force to shape the future, even after forty years. Looking forward, The Utopian seeks out new directions in politics, philosophy and art, questioning whether they might - and whether they should - have a similarly transformative impact. This search will continue in forthcoming issues, including "Beyond Liberalism?" and "Making History".

Monday, 12 May 2008

A European View is Excited about.. * The Utopian *

An exciting magazine, founded by Alex Lee and me. It will be published this Wednesday. Watch this space for the link, which will appear here very soon...

Do read it (and excuse my related and very long blogging-absence)!

Monday, 25 February 2008

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Another Round in Italy's Tragedy

In many ways, it is part of Italy's charm that things there don't work quite as smoothly as perhaps they should in a First World country. But even my unbounded love of the place does not allow me to see everything through rose-tinted spectacles. Today, devoid of such saving spectacles, the spectre of another four years of Berlusconi looms all too clearly; all too painfully.

Just as the takeover of the US by a bunch of partisan ideologues may be coming to an end, European leaders are mounting a series of strong bids to wrestle the status of the world's liberal democracy governed in the most absurd manner from Bush & Co. Under Sarkozy's leadership, France's political culture is starting to resemble the ancien regime: l'etat, c'est moi - now, to amuse yourselves, pleeease do gossip about my sex life.

And under Berlusconi's leadership - not yet a certainty but, alas, the most likely outcome of the current crisis - Italy will once again be reduced to being the private thiefdom [sic] of a skillful entertainer. Don't you worry for yourselves: the wine will be as good as ever, the food as appetizing, and the people as welcoming. But do take a moment to pity another lost generation of talented Italian youngsters, unable to do what they want to do with their lives - and help Italy in the process - because the same-old structures of corruption and patronage continue to squeeze out all meritocracy. For those who actually need to lead their lives there, the new round of Italy's political bafoonery has lost all its charm.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Cole, not the Dole

I'm stealing the following anecdote, which is priceless, from a comment by Kieran Healey on the Crooked Timber blog:

In his Diaries, Alan Bennett tells a story about an Oxford Don conducting Margaret Thatcher on a tour of (I suppose) All Souls in the early 1980s. Along the way he was supposed to point out some of the portraits of various college luminaries. His plan was to pause by Cole’s portrait, point out the nameplate and say, “And this is the philosopher G.D.H. Dole,” whereupon Thatcher would have to say “Cole, not Dole.” But he chickened out and didn’t do it.

Thanks to Shashank for the pointer.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Sarkozy proves his bad taste - on many, many levels...

The real reason why the French call Sarkozy l'americain is style, not substance. They are deeply skeptical of a President who prefers yachts to country estates; jogging to promenading; and Hollywood blockbusters to philosophy books.

I wasn't. Well - I was skeptical of Sarkozy for all kinds of reasons. But it didn't seem to me that among the wealth of objections you might endorse, his holiday destinations, workout method or even leisure activities ranked particularly highly.

Now, however, he has proved me wrong - and all those nagging, self-satisfied Rive Gauche intellectuals right. A few months after his divorce from Cecilia - the main selling point of whom, in Sarkozy's eyes, it seems to have been that she at one point was a supermodel - he appears to have a new girlfriend. And she is... (drumroll, close-up of professors at the College de France shocked at the news, etc.)... another ex-supermodel, Carla Bruni.

The French media, traditionally loath to expose politicians' private affairs, couldn't help running the story after they were spotted - in Euro Disney!!

Classy destination for a Romantic outing, I hear you groan. Quite... But it gets worse: given that they could hardly have expected to be all on their own in Disneyland on a Saturday afternoon, this seems to reflect the happy couple's wish for their liaison to become public in just that space.

A few months ago, Jean Clair, former director of Paris' Musee Picasso, told me: "The Louvre must of course be open to all. But, frankly, I find it pitiful that it has eight million visitors a year. Most of these people don’t even know what they’re looking at - they probably are tourists who got lost on their way to Euro Disney"

Well, at least Sarkozy did not get lost...

Oh, by the way: did I mention that Carla Bruni's former liaisons, or so it is rumoured, include real-estate magnet Donald Trump??

Whilst many observers seem to think that Sarkozy would change France profoundly, I was not so convinced. Perhaps I should have thought about style, not substance. For the stylistic self-portrayal of her political elite, at least, could not have changed more.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Overheard in New York - Germanophobes

Thought I'd share this little gem from :

Girl #1: When I first met my boyfriend, I wasn't that into him.
Girl #2: Yeah, but there wasn't an 11-year age difference between you two!
Girl #1: But he was German! That's comparable!

Have been bad about updating the blog recently - more to come over the next weeks, I promise...