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Archive for February, 2009

orwell“The longlists for the 2009 Orwell Prize for Political Writing were announced today, and for the first time the award includes a category for bloggers. Along with the traditional Book and Journalism submissions, this year the judges received entries in the form of YouTube videos and Twitter tweets. From eighty-three entrants for the Blog Prize . . . the judges selected a choice twelve, mixing the professional with the amateur, the politically affiliated with the politically free-wheeling:

“Alix Mortimer’s ‘The People’s Republic of Mortimer’; Andrew Sparrow’s Guardian Politics Blog; Chekov’s ‘Three Thousand Versts of Loneliness’; Hopi Sen’s Blog from the back room; Iain Dale’s Diary; Jack Night’s ‘Night Jack’; Mark Easton’s BBC News blog, ‘Mark Easton’s UK’; Neil Robertson’ ‘The Bleeding Heart Show’; Oliver Kamm’s Times Online blog; Paul Mason’s ‘Idle Scrawl’; The Heresiarch’s Heresy Corner; and Tom Harris’s ‘And another thing…’.

“While the Books and Journalism prizes have taken as their mantra Orwell’s ambition to ‘make political writing into an art’, the Blog Prize has looked to the day-to-day reflections in Orwell’s diaries for its criteria.” (via Granta)

[The March 12, 2009 issue of The New York Review of Books includes Julian Barnes’s essay, “Such, Such Was Eric Blair,” on George Orwell’s political writings. On his blog today, Andrew Sullivan writes of Barnes’s essay: “I’ve read a lot of Orwell and almost as much about him. This essay captures his Britishness – and avoids hagiography – as well as any I’ve read.”]

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porn-computer“Americans may paint themselves in increasingly bright shades of red and blue, but new research finds one thing that varies little across the nation: the liking for online pornography. . . .

“‘When it comes to adult entertainment, it seems people are more the same than different,’ says Benjamin Edelman at Harvard Business School.

“However, there are some trends to be seen in the data. Those states that do consume the most porn tend to be more conservative and religious than states with lower levels of consumption, the study finds.

“‘Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by,’ Edelman says.”

For example:

  • Eight of the top 10 pornography consuming states gave their electoral votes to John McCain in last year’s presidential election
  • Residents of 27 states that passed laws banning gay marriages boasted 11% more porn subscribers than states that don’t explicitly restrict gay marriage.
  • States where a majority of residents agreed with the statement “I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage,” bought 3.6 more subscriptions per thousand people than states where a majority disagreed.
  • A similar difference emerged for the statement “AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behaviour.” (via New Scientist)

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ryanair

Ryanair’s chief executive caused howls of protest today when he suggested that the airline may charge passengers £1 to use its toilets.

“Michael O’Leary said that the carrier had been investigating fitting coin slots to the doors of aircraft toilets, similar to those installed at train stations.

“‘One thing we have looked at in the past and are looking at again is the possibility of maybe putting a coin slot on the toilet door so that people might actually have to spend a pound to spend a penny in future,’ he told BBC Breakfast this morning.

“‘We are always at Ryanair looking at ways of constantly lowering the cost of air travel to make it affordable and easier for all passengers to fly with us.'” (via Times Online)

[Because I can not stop humming the tune to “It’s A Privilege To Pee” from the Broadway musical Urinetown (set in a fictional metropolis where private toilets are outlawed and all the public, “pay as you ‘go'” amenities are operated by Urine Good Company and its evil CEO, Caldwell B. Cladwell), lyrics to the song can be found here.

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Obama GOP ReactionFrom TPM, evidence that the story told Tuesday night by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal during his GOP response to President Obama’s speech to Congress — “about how he backed a tough-talking sheriff’s efforts to rescue Katrina victims, government red-tape be damed [sic]” — was not true.

The full text of Governor Jindal’s speech can be found here.

obamacongressMeanwhile, Peggy Noonan saw Obama’s speech as a defining moment:

“A mysterious thing happened in that speech Tuesday night. By the end of it Barack Obama had become president. Every president has a moment when suddenly he becomes what he meant [sic] to be, or knows what he is, and those moments aren’t always public. . . .

“So with Mr. Obama, about four-fifths of the way through the speech. He was looking from the prompters to the congressmen and senators, and suddenly he was engaging on what seemed a deeper level. His voice took on inflection. He wasn’t detached, as if he was wondering how he was doing. He seemed equal to the moment and then, in some new way, in command of it.” (via Wall Street Journal)

A transcript of President Obama’s Address to Congress can be found here.

[As for that other influential GOP spokesperson, a video of “Joe the Plumber”‘s response to Obama’s speech can be found here.]

Update: (2/27) Jindal Admits Katrina Story Was False

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dumbodockstreet“The Brooklyn borough president, Marty Markowitz, has jumped into a contentious debate over a proposed development near the Brooklyn Bridge, saying that he supports the project but would like to see it modified.

“In a letter to the Department of City Planning, Mr. Markowitz wrote that he supported the proposed tower, called Dock Street Dumbo, which would include shops, rental apartments and a new middle school, but wants to make sure that the tower did not affect the public views of the bridge.” (via NY Times)

The New York Times article, which was posted on DumboNYC.com, also reported that Markowitz suggested the developer, Two Trees Management Company, make the tower taller — 25 stories instead of 18 — but Markowitz contacted the Dumbo blogger to correct the record, noting that his recommendation is not necessarily to build higher, but that as of right, Two Trees can build up to 25 stories on the site.

Markowitz’s office released a statement recommending that the City Planning Commission and the City Council support the multi-use concept proposed by Two Trees Management while rejecting the building as currently configured. Markowitz’s full statement can be found here (.pdf).

[It has not escaped notice by Dumbo locals that just last night, the borough president kicked off his re-election campaign at an art space in Dumbo owned by the Dock Street developer. Presumably cake was served at the event, which Markowitz worked hard both to have and eat.]

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lp-logo“Lonely Planet has imposed a pay freeze with immediate effect after announcing that 50 jobs have been cut. . . .

“The travel publisher, which employs 500 people worldwide has axed 10% of its staff. . . . [Acting CEO Stephen] Palmer said they had made some, ‘difficult decisions in response to the prolonged and deep economic downturn.’ He said, ‘no-one knows what the future holds or can make any guarantees, but this step is our best effort at protecting ourselves from further cuts.'” (via The Bookseller.com)

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“Joseph O’Neill’s novel ‘Netherland’ was named the winner of the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation said on Wednesday. The honor for ‘Netherland,’ about a Dutch-born equities analyst, his British wife and their son, who live in New York during the Sept. 11 attack and its aftermath, is something of a comeback for Mr. O’Neill. The novel, though widely praised, was shut out in the National Book Awards and the National Book Critics Circle awards.” (via NY Times)

Michiko Kakutani’s New York Times review of “Netherland” can be found here.

[In many ways “Netherland” is a book about sports — in this instance cricket — and national identity; but the novel also contains some of the finest descriptions of ethnic New York City found anywhere. Related20 Are Detained After Cricket Attack (3/4/09, via NY Times)]

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