Media Stimulus Package (The Economist, Spectator)

Media Stimulus Package (The Economist, Spectator) 

In lieu of a glossip report this week, Liz Burke wraps up the current affairs titles (aka smarty-pants mags) for your consumption.

When you live with a bunch of well-informed yuppies (love you, roomies), it’s not unlikely to find copies of intimidating current affairs mags scattered between your glossips and fashion books.

So, in an effort to keep up with dinner table discussion, I’ve had a flick through a few of these intellectual reads (broken up with some Russh and Vogue reading) and am here to impart a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up from the more elite titles should you find yourself in snobbish circles stuck for conversation, and wish to impress on issues of politics, culture, and economy.

Conversation starter: “Wouldn’t you say Obama’s state-of-the-union speech was strikingly unaudacious? He really failed to address the underlying issues of America’s precarious economic and social situation. More like troubled state of the union!”

This is international current affairs mag The Economist’s take on the speech Obama recently addressed an audience of democrats and republicans at the White House, along with a massive online audience, prompted by the recent tragic Tucson shootings.

Explaining the underlying issues of America’s current situation, unemployment, even greater underemployment, and a massive budget deficit, the cover article transpires into a rather scathing account of Obama’s “big cop-out”, which is how they describe his handling of these issues and proposals for the years ahead.

Further on in the issue the same speech is described as “up-beat” in an article that gives insight into what Obama’s facing for the next two years. With a divided government and a mountain of debt, it looks like he’s got a lot on his plate.

Conversation starter: “Did you hear about that awful Moscow airport suicide bombing? And Cuba’s got a flash new broadband connection!”

The Economist’s always informative round-up, The World This Week, takes us on a global tour of issues that may have missed our broadsheets’ headlines, and offers one of the most informative, simple explanations of the Egypt protests I’ve come across.

Egypt is further explored in the Middle East and Africa section, which also gives insight into Tunisia’s upheaval, Lebanon’s new government and demonstrations in Yemen. It offers a realistic take on what Egypt's protests against President Mubarak could lead to, and urges leaders everywhere to take heed. “As a yearning for democracy stirs in the Arab world, a wave set off in tiny Tunisia, travelling east through the Marghreb, is now rocking giant Egypt.”

“The president is not as deeply loathed as Tunisia’s fallen dictator... but his people, especially the young, suffer the same ill-defined anguish at having long been humiliated by an unresponsive, unaccountable and cynically manipulative regime. Their anger will not evaporate soon.”

Conversation starter: “Strong global growth, high corporate profits and a weaker currency should really allow Britain to grow. If the economy can’t thrive in these conditions, it’s in real trouble! Wouldn’t you say?”

Britain’s surprise fall in GDP is explored in informative article “The lean year” as the nation’s recession recovery continues to be stalled. The Economist advises Britain “Don’t panic – yet” but offers a few tips and criticisms of its current growth strategy:

“Deficit-financed public spending is not a growth strategy. At best, it can provide a bridge between the consumer-led growth that Britain leant on before recession to the export and investment driven recovery it needs now.”

Conversation starter: “That self-aggrandising Negus should really work on his “dingbat prose” and button up his shirt. He still dresses like one of Don Henderson's guests back in ’69. Does he think he’s reporting the Gorton-Whitlam election?”

The slightly less heavy but endlessly more snarky The Spectator Australia also throws in its two quid on Britain’s economic situation, but is more concerned with local cultural issues like the theatrical sequel to iconic Aussie playwright David Williamson’s game-changing naturalist production Don’s Party, Don Parties On, and George Negus’ new book The World from Down Under: a Chat with Recent History, which John Heard gives a no holds barred damning review:

“The major problem here is reasonably straightforward – apparently George Negus cannot write.” Ouch.

Heard goes on to describe Negus’ prose as perplexing and self-righteous, a stream of mad dictation, claims the book is littered with silly errors,  and highlights continuity issues and “tortuous phrasing”.

Though this review is even a little too scathing to take seriously – reading more like a personal attack than a bipartisan account, particularly when it comes to the issue of the author’s chest hair on the book’s cover – I still don’t think I’ll be picking this one up.

Conversation starter: “It has to be admitted that [David] Williamson, even when he seems to be confusing surface and depth, is a greater master of construction and exposition than any Australian playwright who has come after him.”

The mixed accounts of Williamson’s play, including a piece penned by the “the country’s best-known playwright” himself make Don Parties On, a piece of Australian theatre revisiting characters from Williamson’s memorable 1971 play set on the evening of the 1969 federal election, rather tempting to view. The sequel, for which Williamson has copped some considerable flack, as well as some praise, takes place some 40 years later on 2010 election night.

The original, then-young middle class characters are paid a visit and we’re introduced to their families and the progress they’ve made, with a mixed bag of political undertones. Although Peter Craven in his review seems more impressed by the cast than the production or script of this “self-conscious bit or resurrectionism”, he acknowledges Williamson still shows potential in “this ghostly exercise of a play.”

If you weren’t around in ’71 for the Don’s original soiree, but find yourself struggling to shoot the breeze with politically minded arty types, try one of Craven’s lines.

Liz @ Girl With a Satchel