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Archive for May, 2012

The horror, the horror of Syria

Thursday, 31 May, 2012
The horror, the horror of Syria

There are images too graphic even for those who are confronted daily with examples of human barbarity. Most newspapers, magazines and TV outlets won’t publish photos from the Houla massacre in Syria, but Rainy Day will link to them. (WARNING: These photos are extremely distressing and poignant.) One could write thousands of words to condemn […]

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Bob Dylan receives Medal of Freedom at White House

Wednesday, 30 May, 2012

His country now has honoured him as highly as it can, and rightly so. Next up on the Never Ending Tour, after the White House, is the Hop Farm Music Festival in England at the end of June. Citation: “One of the most influential American musicians of the 20th century, Dylan released his first album […]

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Euroland: The new plutocracy

Wednesday, 30 May, 2012

The euro rises and falls In the light of recent events, it’s easy to laugh at the hubris expressed by the German newsweekly, Der Spiegel, 10 years ago when it titled its first issue of 2002, “Euroland: The new plutocracy“. There is something absurdly amusing about the magazine’s story on how the euro was conquering the UK. “Lots of British retailers accept the new currency,” gullible readers were informed. That was very much then. Today, British newspaper readers are waking up to headlines that read “Europe’s debtors must pawn their gold for Eurobond Redemption” and “Eurozone crisis: Spanish fears send euro near to two-year low against dollar“. Not exactly the kind of headlines the ardent advocates of Euroland imagined a decade ago when they dreamed of stealthily engulfing those stubborn islanders with their shiny new currency, eh?

Of course, the 2002 Der Spiegel cover has to be seen in context as the magazine is famous for mood swings that see it regularly lurching from virulent anti-Americanism to pathetic, parochial nationalism embellished with lots of leftist nonsense. Ultimately, Der Spiegel is populist and opportunistic and with Thilo Sarrazin’s Europa braucht den Euro nicht topping the German bestseller list, it won’t be long now before the magazine goes with the flow and delivers the coup de grĂ¢ce to its former plutocratic love child.

Marie Louise O’Murphy, mistress, survivor

Tuesday, 29 May, 2012
Marie Louise O’Murphy, mistress, survivor

A holiday Monday in Munich and a visit to the Alte Pinakothek art musuem. There, in the upper floor gallery reclines Marie Louise O’Murphy, once mistress of Louis XV of France. Born in 1737 in Rouen to Marguerite Igny and Daniel O’Murphy de Boisfaily, an Irish soldier who had taken up shoemaking, she was the […]

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Now: crowdsourcing crowds

Monday, 28 May, 2012
Now: crowdsourcing crowds

Launched last week, the Now iPhone app detects hot events taking place in four major cities: New York, Paris, London and San Francisco. Other metropolises will follow, no doubt. Berlin, Sydney and Vancouver are three on the Rainy Day list. The nifty thing is that the app rates “hotness” by analyzing the number of photos […]

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A bee came by and sipped on lavender

Sunday, 27 May, 2012
A bee came by and sipped on lavender

How doth the little busy bee Improve each shining hour, And gather honey all the day From every opening flower! Isaac Watts

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Lorine Zineb Noka Talhaoui sings euphorically for Sweden

Saturday, 26 May, 2012

She’s better known as Loreen and tonight she’ll represent Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku, Azerbaijan, with Euphoria. The echoes of Gloria by Laura Branigan means that Euphoria will be a huge summer hit in euro dance clubs. This has to be the winner. Douze points!

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e-book review: The Making of the Greek Crisis by James Pettifer

Friday, 25 May, 2012

It is possible that James Pettifer was overcome by philhellene emotion when writing The Making of the Greek Crisis. Or he might have been the victim of over-hasty editing, or the short e-book format chosen by Penguin for this topic is unsuited to the complexity of the matter. In any event, the reader is often more perplexed than enlightened when swiping through the text.

Peffifier: Greek Crisis “The European Union and International Monetary Fund negotiators who sit in authority in Athens in 2012 have many antecedents,” begins Pettifer. It’s an unconvincing start as Athens in 2012, so far, has produced more chaos than authority and those responsible for this are primarily Greek politicians. Pettifer continues: “Men and women completely ignorant of the Greek language have played their parts in the making of modern Greece, with varying degrees of success.” To suggest that the EU/IMF negotiators, whatever their nationalities and native languages, do not have access to Greek-speaking support staff is incredible.

Pettifer can be sharp. He notes: “The Euro currency ‘project’ did not originate in Greece. As Victor Hugo observed in 1855, the notion of a single European currency, like all bad ideas, has been around for a very long time.” And he crafts some colourful images: “Yes this crisis did not drop from the sky as an eagle in Epirus might drop a sick lamb.” But he cancels this out with truly baffling sentences like this: “The wish to reject the American Exceptionalism of the Bush period has meant an often uncritical adherence to frequently superficially understood multilateralist ideas in international relations and abandonment of some aspects of US legitimate claims to world leadership.”

He correctly identifies the decision by Greece to host the 2004 Olympic Games as pivotal in the country’s loss of fiscal reason, but he undermines the argument with ideological point scoring such as, “…it appealed to the American corporations whose major players connected with big sport, like Nike and Coca Cola, had become sponsors and advertisers with all recent stagings of the Olympic Games. The Olympics embodied the culture of health, anti-smoking campaigning, intense and unbridled Darwinian competition and many other neo-conservative social objectives.”

While politics are personal, facts are not and more careful editing would have prevented 17 becoming 27 here: “The euro project was doomed because it was impossible to chain together twenty-seven different economies into one currency and one central financial institution without any tax revenue raising capacity.” One wonders, too, where the editor was when this drifted by:

“When I first went to little hilltop Exohorio in about 1983, very old ladies sung songs and wove on looms in their houses that had changed little since Homeric times. Now on nearby beaches you are as likely to hear the programmed chit-chat of Whitehall civil servants from London or Zehlendorf doctors from Berlin, and where the loom once stood is an ugly chrome exercise bike in a second home. Few of these north Europeans bother to learn any Greek at all, and some like the parsimonious Dutch are notorious locally for bringing their own food from the Netherlands in their neat motor caravans.”

If only the Greeks had been as parsimonious as the Dutch, James Pettifer would not be writing about the tragic crisis that has engulfed the land he so clearly loves. But Athens is not Amsterdam, and neither is it Berlin or London or Washington, as he points out repeatedly.

The Making of the Greek Crisis is short, but it would have benefitted from cutting in places. Experienced editors of e-books are scarce and the knack of fitting chapters, paragraphs and sentences to tablet and smartphone screens is being learned on the job, so James Pettifer might have profited from a kind of guidance that’s not widely available yet. Still, he has made an entertaining contribution to a debate that continues to dominate the headlines.

The Botanist: Gin from… Scotland

Thursday, 24 May, 2012

New in the Rainy Day drinks cabinet is the latest creation from the island of Islay, a dry gin called “The Botanist“. The aroma is classically gin floral but with a Hebridean character that evokes hazy hills, bogs, turf and Atlantic surf. Upon sipping, The Botanist reveals itself as a tonguetaste of purity, a mouthfeel […]

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The sumptuous Gatsby trailer

Wednesday, 23 May, 2012

The first trailer for Baz Luhrmann‘s interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s classic, The Great Gatsby, is a sumptuous affair. The clip features Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire, and, going on the glimpse we’re offered, Luhrmann has not cut corners on costumes or set design. The film will be released on 26 December in […]

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Shorts for summer

Wednesday, 23 May, 2012
Shorts for summer

How can publishers get the time-poor back reading again? Answer: Shorts. No, not drinks or men’s clothing. The shorts here are what Random House calls Storycuts and Pan Macmillan calls Short Reads and Penguin calls, simply, Shorts. Rainy Day has opted for a Penguin on the iPhone with “The Making of the Greek Crisis” by […]

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