Mess in Texas
New York Times Magazine on Bush's Freedom Institute.
New York Times Magazine, March 15 The cover story profiles Ossetian-born conductor Valery Gergiev, who has had to balance music and politics to survive in post-Soviet Russia. Known for "his bold flair for the unexpected and … the visceral power of his musical program," Gergiev reinvigorated performances of forgotten works by Russian composers like Prokofiev while maintaining the "loyal relationships with wealthy friends and government officials" still necessary for backing the arts in Russia. … An article explores the controversy in Texas over George W. Bush's presidential library at Southern Methodist University. Although Bush sought the affiliation with SMU, he insists that the policy institute—which may be called the Freedom Institute—remains independent from the university's "academic principles and … governance." But many are not pleased with this arrangement: In fact, "the prospect of being identified in perpetuity with the Freedom Agenda freezes the blood of some of the university's leading academics."
Time, March 23 The cover story names "10 ideas changing the world right now." The conservative Christian Calvinism of three centuries ago is making a comeback as "Christians searching for security will submit their wills to the austerely demanding God of their country's infancy." Midway through the list, an author coins the term amortality to describe how people today try "to live in the same way, at the same pitch, doing and consuming much the same things, from late teens right up until death." Parts of Africa are becoming hospitable to international business, while failing retail outlets in American towns are offering new opportunities for suburban development. … An article examines the plight of "economommies," the "white collar moms who opted out of the workforce to focus on their kids [but now] are scrambling to get back in" as their spouses lose jobs to the recession.
Economist, March 12 The cover story argues that governments must take the long view in combating job loss, because "the asset bust and the excessive borrowing that led to it are likely to overshadow the world economy for many years to come." Furthermore, many professions will not rebound in the same way even when the economy does improve. To strengthen the economy "in the long term, [politicians] need flexible labour markets. That will mean abolishing job-subsidy programmes, taking away protected workers' privileges and making it easier for businesses to restructure by laying people off."… An article praises Obama's "enthusiasm" for discussing a cap-and-trade system to curb carbon emissions early in his term. "Congress seems receptive to the idea" so far, but "the most common concern … is that the price of carbon emissions will rise too high, and so cripple the economy."
Atlantic, April 2009
In the cover story, James Fallows quashes suggestions that the economic recession will irreversibly hurt China. Though some expect China to flounder like Japan in the 1980s or the former Soviet Union, a more appropriate model is the United States in the early 1920s, when "its farms and industries made America the workshop of the world [and it] ran trade surpluses with most other economies." Despite China's struggles with "pollution, water shortage, corruption, the widening rich-poor social gap, [and low] safety standards," Fallows predicts Chinese companies' innovative products and efficient methods of production will set them up for future successes. … A feature views globalization as a precursor to worldwide amity, thanks to three world religions. "[F]ormative periods in both Islam and Judaism evince the same dynamic as early Christianity: an imperial, multiethnic milieu winds up fostering a tolerance of other ethnicities and faiths."
Believer, March/April 2009 In the "Film Issue," an essay considers a new age of filmmaking that "takes its cues from reactions to and defenses against distraction and boredom" to produce movies that can be appreciated by the chronic multitasker. Gone are the days when cinephiles sought out "dark and damp basement cinemas" to watch expertly curated double features or hard-to-find movies by experimental European filmmakers. "As cinema becomes more portable, more easily created, and less difficult to acquire, it also runs the risk of forfeiting one of its greatest attributes—its physicality."… An interview with British filmmaker and playwright Mike Leigh delves into his process for casting and working with actors. Leigh asks his actors to "sit and chew the fat with me for ages before we gradually get the characters on the go." Once shooting begins, he prefers actors "to be able to differentiate between themselves and the characters," so that the characters develop organically.
Smithsonian's feature on life in Northern Ireland after the end of the Troubles is unwittingly timely, following the separate shootings of two British soldiers and a police officer this week.
In the Weekly Standard, painter Maureen Mullarkey defends herself from a backlash after her name appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on a list of people who donated money to support Proposition 8, prompting many in the gay community to attack her in the media and through personal letters. But her piece, which mostly rehashes the matter with excerpts from online comments about these other stories, seems more befitting of a blog post than a stand-alone print article.
Best Politics Piece
The New York Times Magazine article on Bush's policy institute holds the former president responsible for the consequences of trying to further his White House agenda in Texas.
Best Culture Piece
In the Atlantic, Hanna Rosin of Slate's "XX Factor" combines scientific research with acute personal observations on the plight of the modern mother in "The Case Against Breast-Feeding."
Another Country (Never) Heard From
An Economist article reports on separatist stirrings in support of the Republic of Carpatho-Ruthenia, a region of Ukraine that declared its independence from Czechoslovakia one morning 70 years ago, only to be invaded by Hungary later that same day. Although Andy Warhol was Ruthenian, it seems the would-be nation never got its 15 minutes of fame.