Showing posts from April, 2011

Nuclear Energy: Yes or No?

Nuclear ExplosionImage via Wikipedia
With the Fukushima disaster, the 25-years commemoration of Chernobyl yesterday and Berlusconi announcement that Italy will buy nuclear plants from France's AREVA, the question of nuclear energy has come to the fore like never before. And by the way, Berlusconi's annoucement flies in the face of his own government decision a week ago to shelve nuclear plans and scrap the referendum asking Italian citizens whether they want it or not. Thus Berlusconi goes ahead without even bothering with the referendum!

Clearly France that has bet on nuclear energy, with most of its energy needs coming from AREVA nuclear plants, wants not just Italy but the rest of Europe, and the rest of the world to follow suit. India has just agreed with Areva to build the biggest nuclear plant ever. And Italy is poorly placed to resist French demands, when Berlusconi gives up on just about everything, most notably on the Shengen Treaty...

Before the Italians - or anyone …


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Much of the construction of Europe had been in the hands of France and Germany until Sarkozy and Merkel erupted on the scene. These are two politicians more interested in their own political fortune than in the idea of a United Europe.  I should say the ideal of a United Europe thatwas born after World War II: a brave attempt to prevent once and for all the return of the wars that devasted the continent and pushed Europe to the rank of a third-rate power, behind America and the Soviet Union.

Politicians have changed, and people with vision, the likes of Winston Churchill, Jean Monnet or Robert Schuman, the founding fathers of Europe, are no longer around. Now the new generations have no direct knowledge of either those politicians or those wars - and, alas, no empathy: to them, it's all past stuff, buried in the history books. The young are concerned about employment, about making money, about building the good life for themselves - and who can blame them in th…


Andres Serrano's Piss ChristImage via Wikipedia
You'd think that question was settled now that buildings in most major urban centres - New York, London, Paris etc - have been cleared of graffiti. 
But, no, it isn't!
In Los Angeles, an on-going graffiti show in the Museum of Contemporary Art is credited with having caused a wave of graffiti in the neighborhood. The police are understandably upset. 
And art critics? They're happy, cavemen painted on their walls, right? So graffiti have a long history, from the cavemen down to us. 
Interesting, because I always sort of felt graffiti were a rather primary, low level of expression... 
Of course, contemporary art has a way of regularly getting itself in trouble - most recently in France, in a show in Lyon, where a rather famous contemporary artist, Andres Serrano, showed a photograph of  a Crucifix drenched in urine, aptly called "Piss Christ" (see pix).  There is nothing new about this "art" and back in the 1…

The E-book market: like a Bull in the Publishing Industry's Porcelain Shop!

Image by Enokson via Flickr
What is the e-book market all about? Who are the people who read e-books? Nobody really knows for sure. Yet it would be nice to know a little more about this new digital bull threatening to break every glass and porcelain cup in the traditional publishing industry. And, to further mix metaphors, it's not just another butterfly about to die after summer is over (see pix!)

If you knew who buys e-books, you might be better able to aim titles (and "genre" - I'll get back to that in another post: please vote the poll on your right) and hit the jackpot. At this point in time, it's still very early in the e-game and one can only make conjectures.

A few facts are fairly certain. The buyers of e-readers are people with a certain amount of personal means - particularly buyers of the i-Pad which is still fairly expensive. I suspect that the i-Pad market is somewhat different from that of other e-readers. The i-Pad with its jazzy touch-screen tech…

INFORMATION OVERLOAD: HELP! Take, for example, political satire...

I was just contacted by one of my readers who asked me to bring to your attention an article just posted on the Political Science Degree blog, “The New Town Square: 15 Best Places for Political Satire on the Web”.  Check it out, it's full of interesting information, although I didn't have time to read everything. BUT I do want to underline something important: in this day of information overload - too much info shooting at us from every direction! - it's nice to have somebody who goes to the trouble to overview websites and takes the time to figure out what's worth visiting!

I'm very grateful to this reader for having drawn my attention to current political satire sites in the US, and it is a wonderful starting point if you're interested in this theme (and I certainly am).

How times have changed!

I've always loved good, hard-punching political satire, but before the Internet, it was something you'd find mostly in printed form. For example, if you lived in F…

BOOK SALES DOWN: A Warning for the Publishing Industry?

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You bet it is a warning, and a bad one. Time is running out on the publishing industry. Take a look at the latest figures for book sales in the UK and the US (click HERE). Note the steep drop in fiction sales: down nearly 10% in the UK and almost double - a massive 19.3% - in US sales over a year ago. These figures are for the first quarter of 2011 and they do NOT augur well for the rest of the year!

Except for a few -very few- publishers who had "bestsellers" like the paperback of  E. Donaghue's "Room" which helped Pan Macmillan bring up its sales by 3% over last year (and note it was a paperback, not a hard cover), just about everybody else saw their sales slump, particularly in the area of fiction.

So why the drop in fiction sales and why is it nearly TWICE as big in the US than in the UK?

There really is only one BIG difference between the two markets: in the US e-books have taken off and account for 25% of overall sales, while…

Book Sales: Is Genre driving them or Literature?

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Once upon a time, literature was an art and publishing supported it. Now, everything is changed: publishing is an industry, and it is in the throes - hopefully not death throes! - of a major digital changeover, what with e-readers and e-books flooding the market.  Amazon's Kindle alone has over 750,000 titles and all new Kindle buyers go on a buying spree in the first 6 months of ownership, buying three times as many books as before!

E-publishing is fast changing the rules of the game, and a lot of people who watch the industry are beginning to suspect that e-book bestsellers build on themselves, pushing out of view all other titles. See here for Nathan Bransford's take on this and the Shatzkin Files's thoughtful investigation. In other words, "book discovery" rarely happens on line where you are presented with a screen on your e-reader that gives you a list of the "top best-sellers" and limits you to them. On line shopp…


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Of the 20,000 illegal immigrants that have invaded Italy since January, most are Tunisians and most want to go to France: they speak French, they have family there and they are (mostly) young men who want to work. In Italy, for them there's no work (the recession is still on-going). And of course they don't feel at home, they don't speak Italian.

But France won't have it. Unbelievable! What has happened to the country of "freedom" and "equality"? Where has the French cultural heritage and revolutionary motto of "liberté, égalité, fraternité" gone to? Not to mention the deep-seated cultural linkage with Tunisia, a one-time colony of France that has had its values shaped by France's liberal heritage...

True, the French were slow to respond to Tunisia's "Jasmine Revolution". Does anyone still call it that? Since popular uprisings, starting from Tunisia and spreading to Egypt, have eventually overwhelmed t…

Is Traditional Publishing Headed for a Blow-up?

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The sales of e-books  have outpaced printed books for the first time this year at Amazon, the number one on line bookseller in the world. People are talking about the digital revolution being something as big, nay, BIGGER than Gutenberg's invention of the printing press around 1440.  We're into a new age, the possibilities are infinite, everything will change!

Does that mean that the printed book is dead and that traditional publishers are on their way out?

No, I don't believe so. I am convinced the future of publishing is anything but bleak! By the way, I'm looking at it as an economist and political analyst - not as an aspiring fiction writer (which I also happen to be, but that's incidental - for that matter, I'm also a painter - which has nothing to do with the argument at hand...).  I just wanted to point out that I'm trying to evaluate the situation in a detached, scientific way (hum, gasp, cough).

The first thing to realize is tha…