March 14th, 2009


Things that caught my eye

Doug Muir at A Fistful of Euros informs us that Yunus-Bek Yevkirov, the new President of Ingushetia, was also the leader of the March on Pristina in 1999.
One can lead a column to Pristina every day, but of course here in the republic, things are far more difficult.

Alexandra Bell and Ben Loehrke on Democracy Arsenal compare missile defence to snake oil (which I think is a bit unfair on snake oil):
... technology that does not work against a threat that does not exist...

Henry Farrell on Crooked Timber defends the European Parliament:
...complaints about the self-importance and amour-propre of MEPs seem to me to really miss the point.

On a lighter note, Maria Farrell, also on Crooked Timber, muses on kissing:
I do a fair bit of cheek-kissing and hugging, both socially and at work, probably more than most but not unusually so (I haven’t had any complaints yet).

Finally, back to Henry again who has advice for prospective graduate students.

March Books 9) The Shadow of Weng-Chiang, by David A. McIntee

I was unimpressed with the last Doctor Who story I read with a Chinese setting, but David McIntee has done a lot better here, with the Doctor and Romana I drawn aside from their quest for the Key to Time to deal with the legacy of the Doctor's Victorian theatrical adventures in 1937 Shanghai, where Chinese and Japanese factions and agents are competing over various assets which turn out to include Mr Sin, a nuclear reactor and an attempt to divert Magnus Greel from his fate. Several pleasing nods to continuity, and I think he captures the Baker / Tamm / Leeson dynamic rather nicely as well. One of the better Missing Adventures.

Tories and the EPP

So, as Fianna Fáil abandoned the ragbag of right-wingers with whom they sat in the European Parliament in order to join a major group, the British Conservatives are doing the opposite. (Hat-tip to Tim Roll-Pickering, who unlike most Tories actually understands Europe and thinks, in my opinion a bit wishfully, that this won't last.)

March Books 10) Resurrection, by Leo Tolstoy

I've had this one on the shelves for ages, and eventually it bubbled to the top of not one but two of my reading lists simultaneously. I have previously read both War And Peace and Anna Karenina, and I think the first thing to say is that Resurrection is an easier read - shorter, for a start, and with fewer characters who also appear to have fewer variations in their names. The thirty-something Prince Nekhlyudov, who is Tolstoy here as Levin is in Anna Karenina, is serving as juror in a murder trial when he recognises one of the defendants as the girl he seduced ten years before. She is wrongly convicted, and Nekhlyudov's consciousness and conscience are suddenly activated with respect to the horrible injustices of the penal system and of Russian society as a whole. He follows her to Siberia in an attempt to compensate her.

The social commentary is biting and convincing, and the account of life with convicted criminals and revolutionaries pretty vivid, and likewise his commentary on elite attitudes and behaviour. It's unfortunate that Nekhlyudov, the viewpoint character, is rather a bore. His decision to marry Katusha seems based much more on what will make him feel better about himself, rather than any attempt to discern what her needs may be. (She never seems very keen on the idea, even before she meets Simonsen.) One feels that, rather than try and write a character with a story, Tolstoy has put himself into the book as a commentator on society. I'm sure it caused quite a stir among his fans in the 1890s, but the ideas that prisons might be unpleasant places or the judicial system imperfect are hardly news to today's reader. (Are they?) Nekhlyudov's sudden discovery of these facts seems rather artificial.

Whatever its flaws, though, it's prettuy digestible and might be a good jumping-off point for readers who haven't otherwise tried Tolstoy.