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Swedish labor songs
Till Det Kämpande Vietnam
Classic Labor Songs from Smithsonian Folkways
A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA. By Joshua Kurlantzick. Simon & Schuster, 320 pages; $28.
THE bombing of Laos in the 1960s and early 1970s always used to be referred to as America’s “secret war”. This was not just a mistake or even a misunderstanding: it was a terrible misnomer. For the Laotians who cowered in caves to escape what is considered the heaviest bombardment in history, the campaign was certainly not a secret. America’s involvement was well known in the capital, Vientiane, and covered in the international press. Eventually it became well publicised and was even investigated by Congress. But the “secret” label stuck to America’s war in Laos, in part because of official denials and in part because of public indifference.
At last the secret is out in full. This was brought home during President Barack Obama’s visit to the tiny South-East Asian nation in September, when he pledged more money to remove unexploded American bombs, though without offering any formal apology. For those looking for more, the war’s entire compelling tale can be...Continue reading
ON OCTOBER 31st, the lights on the new concert hall in Hamburg spelled out fertig—“finished”, and the city heaved a sigh of relief. The history of the crazily ambitious project known as the Elbphilharmonie had been chequered. Conceived in 2003 at a projected cost of €77m ($82.3m), it ended up costing ten times that and was completed seven years late. It survived disputes, lawsuits and a parliamentary inquiry. No wonder its architects, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron—creators of Tate Modern and, along with Ai Weiwei and others, of the “bird’s nest” Olympic Stadium in Beijing—feared at one point that the job would destroy their Basel-based firm. In 2011 Barbara Kisseler, Hamburg’s outspoken culture senator, neatly summed up her fellow-citizens’ ambivalence: “The Elbphilharmonie is very dear to us, in both senses of the word.”
The tallest building in town, its roof covered in giant sequins, it sits on the end of a busy wharf and has been likened to a crystal on a rock, a bubble-wrapped ice-cube and a ship under sail. The hull has been constructed from a...Continue reading
ON JANUARY 11th Hamburg celebrated the long-delayed inauguration of its Elbphilharmonie, an architectural gem of a concert hall which cost the taxpayer €789m ($836m). Now Potsdam, capital of the state of Brandenburg, is in the spotlight for another jewel—which did not cost the taxpayer anything. Hasso Plattner, the 113th richest man in the world according to Forbes, is also a passionate art collector. It was hardly known how outstanding his collection of around 250 paintings and sculptures was. But from January 23rd many of them will go on display next to loans from international museums and collections such as the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, the Denver Art Museum and the National Gallery in Washington D.C., to name just a few. Their new home is the Museum Barberini, built exclusively at Mr Plattner's expense, in Potsdam's Old Market Square.
Born and raised in Berlin, Mr Plattner lives in Palo Alto and Heidelberg. But he also feels at home in Potsdam, where he has had a villa since 2009, and where his Hasso Plattner institute, an information-technology college, is affiliated with the university. He is also...Continue reading
WHEN George Orwell, an avid collector of political pamphlets, surveyed the blossoming literary form in 1943, he was unexpectedly unimpressed. “There is totalitarian rubbish and paranoiac rubbish, but in each case it is rubbish,” he wrote in the New Statesman. The war years had generated a rash of writings from all sides of the political spectrum, and Orwell preserved 2,700 of them for the record, including one titled “What are you Going to do About It?” from 1936, by avowed pacifist Aldous Huxley. “The reason why the badness of contemporary pamphlets is somewhat surprising is that the pamphlet ought to be the literary form of an age like our own,” Orwell wrote. “We live in a time when political passions run high, channels of free expression are dwindling, and organised lying exists on a scale never before known. For plugging the holes in history the pamphlet is the ideal form.”
As the same might be said of our own time, it is perhaps unsurprising that the turbulent months of the past year have spurred the publication (and re-publication) of several updated takes on the political...Continue reading
AFTER his annus mirabilis in 2015—by one measure the greatest year in the history of tennis—Novak Djokovic had nowhere to go but down. And fall he has. Although 2016 was hardly a lost year for the sport’s foremost star—he won two of the four Grand Slams—he stumbled from the summer onwards, succumbing in the third round at Wimbledon and in his opening match at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Such hiccups, combined with a surge by Andy Murray, caused him to lose the top spot in the Association of Tennis Professionals’ (ATP) world rankings to the Scot in November.
Mr Djokovic appeared to have righted his ship in recent weeks. Still the world’s best player according to the Elo method, he seemed to demonstrate firmly that he had not been surpassed by