[This]( is a goodish article on anti-Muslim discrimination in the US. One aspect I find particularly incomprehensible:

>”In America right now, there are intense concerns about many issues — immigration, the faltering economy, the interminable wars” and

the erroneous belief, held by many Americans, that the first nonwhite president is Muslim

, said Akbar Ahmed, a professor of Islamic studies at American University.

Do people really feel increased hatred of a group when a (supposed) member is in a position of authority? Why? Wouldn’t it make equal sense to believe that, if a Muslim is running the country, they can’t be all bad? Or is Obama evidence that a vast Islamic conspiracy is poised to overrun the US, enslaving Christians and probably eating their babies?


Mark Morford: I love you, but your tantrism is not my tantrism

The ancient Tantric masters, however, tell a different kind of story. They say it’s all a bit of a sham, this extremism, a grand and ongoing tragedy, that such behavior is what happens when you get so far away from Self, from calm and self-reflective center, to the extent that only the most extreme experience and loudest screaming will keep you awake and interested in going on living.

That is to say, it’s a sign of severe spiritual lack, of the most tormented, enraged and furiously demanding ego that only the most painful, excessive human experience — bizarre sex, excessive drugs, physical brutality, body torment, violent religious belief, rage, gross-out food, you name it — will make you feel, well, anything at all. The relationship is inverse, downward spiraling: The further away you are from true Self, the more extreme experience is required just to feel a pulse.


Brief moment of despair at the



Mr Miliband’s intellectual ability is widely admired but his presentational skills were questioned when he allowed himself to be photographed – at the height of the speculation over a potential coup – grinning and holding a banana.

* OK, I guess the media elsewhere can be just as bad (often in different ways); I’ve just had more exposure to the British bits

Worldwide embarrassment through photoshop fail

It might constantly be getting easier for newspapers to doctor photos, but it’s also getting easier for blgogers to call them on it. Latest victim, [Al-Ahram](, found [photoshopping a picture of Middle-East negotiations in Washington]( to place Egyptian president Mubarak more prominently. And since the only thing the internet loves more than a picture is an established institution getting egg on its face, news of the photoshop has reached corners of the internet which would otherwise have had not the faintest interest in Egypt.

[via [drugoi](]

Kasyanov’s party

The formation of the latest coalition among the Russian opposition seems to have inspired little other than cynical pessimism. The men behind it — Mikhail Kasyanov, Boris Nemtsov, Vladimir Ryzhkov and Vladimir Milov — are reasonably prominent, and seem potentially capable of working together, but nobody seems to hold out much hope for them.

BBC Monitoring reports Stanislav Belikovsky talking on Echo Moskvy, with understandabe cynicism:

The so-called pro-democracy forces are uniting for the 127th time. We still see the same figures, and it is at least too early for them to start looking for supporters the very next day, or at least to demand loyalty. At first they need to produce results: register their party, form its list (of candidates), and at least enter the parliamentary campaign with this list, not to mention subsequent actions in the form of putting forward a single candidate (for the presidential election). [via JRL]

Meanwhile a pundit interviewed in Russia Today has this to say:

Nemtsov and Ryzhkov will fiercely criticize Putin, as well as Medvedev to a lesser degree. They are also going to bash the ruling United Russia. Chances are the administration might need just that. After all, if there is no conflict in a play, there is no action. A play without “bad guys” always flops with viewers. This is why “bad guys” may come in handy. If they are registered, the election campaign will go like this: they will bark at Putin, while others will bark at them. They will be the sort of whipping boys, which is good for them as well, as it attracts more attention. A party like that would give an edge to the entire campaign. Their worst enemy will be the Yabloko party, as this is a matter of survival for Yabloko, which currently monopolizes the liberal flank.

I don’t think that today anybody in the United States believes that these people can become a serious political force. I think that there are fewer Americans who believe in that than members of our own administration. I also think that at the moment Russia’s present rulers who will continue to stay in power are suiting the United States.

Reviewers: Ted Gioia

Have been looking at various highly-regarded book reviewers, trying to figure out which I can trust. First up, Ted Giola.

This is the review that makes me distrust Ted: a positive review of a book I loved, but one that

totally misses the point

. Compare him to Sheila O’Malley. Ted:

But the most masterful aspect of the plot is the superimposition of

the two love stories, the 20th century one involving Mitchell and his

accomplice Dr. Maud Bailey, a famous LaMotte scholar, and the

19th century romance between Ash and LaMotte. The contrast is

not just one of couples, but also social mores, etiquette and gender

roles. Byatt is in complete control as she juxtaposes the pacing and

complications of these side-by-side stories.


Byatt doesn’t write about people who live in their subjective experience of life. She writes about academics and writers and research assistants – whose “love” for life is expressed through their driving obsession for whatever topic – people who spend their whole lives researching one minor female Victorian poet … and any real love that comes into the life of a person like that will either have to take a back seat, OR somehow inform and deepen that other obsession.

A.S. Byatt writes in this realm like no one’s business. She is the heir of George Eliot (someone she openly emulates). Life is BIG, and important – and it is not just our personal lives that give it resonance – but our passions, obsessions, intellectual pursuits and the wider culture and how it informs how we live.

Which one has managed to get inside the novel, and give you a reason to pick it up? No question, is there?

on Badiou

Splintering Bone Ashes on Badiou:

This was precisely what I had been looking for, motivated in a political sense not by a desire to prevent the suffering of the poor, but to unblock the lock on the new, this impassable impasse, THAT was to be the imperative of thought.

Spiegel/ ЖЖ

Der Spiegel recently had a 2-page spread on the Russian blogosphere. Nothing especially insightful, I must admit, but there’s no harm in having a little introduction.

Indeed, these days, it’s usually bloggers — rather than members of the traditional media — who expose scandals and give voice to grievances. Blog reports by a student on conditions at a nursing home near Moscow, for example, led to the firing of its corrupt director. And, this spring, when a Mercedes belonging to a high-level manager at the oil giant Lukoil sped into a car in the opposite lane and killed two women, crime scene photographs published online exposed police attempts at a cover-up.

Drugoi got picked out as exemplar; his readers’ reactions here


The most depressing thing about the Sarrazin affair? The reviews — almost all positive. What a hideous collection of knuckle-draggers.

And even in Berlin, there’s are apparently still venues willing to give Sarrazin a platform. Among them Urania, to its shame.

Books to fall in love with

I stumbled onto Sheila O’Malley’s blog this afternoon, and instantly knew I need to read everything she’s ever written. Especially the book reviews — e.g. on Harriet the Spy, Brideshead Revisited, Notes from Underground, and above all this essay on love and AS Byatt.

Talking of Byatt, The Guardian have a wonderful video interview with her; I assume they’ll eventually turn in into an article, but they’re taking their time about it. What’s particularly delightful is how it works as a conversation rather than a potted Q&A. She covers several topics — social realist novels, facebook, religion, big brother — but keeps returning to a central theme of the limitations of culture concerned entirely with reality and people, where

interest in life as it is has supplanted religion

. Also, as one of the comments points out, it’s somewhat intriguing that she has a roll of tape balanced on her knee throughout.

More superficially:

  • The Spectator on Michael Moorcock: “

    He is generally sound on religion and politics

    “. Yes, really.
  • A plea for intergenerational peace from Rhian
  • Remember the park benches in


    ? A park in China tries doing it with spikes [NB:

    Quirky news from China, hence probably exaggerated or downright false