Sunday, March 22, 2009

The EU and the Middle East - LSE Events

On LSE Events the French Islam Scholar Jean-Pierre Filiu spoke on the question whether the EU cam make a difference in the Middle-East, particularly in the Israeli-Arab conflict.

A large part of the lecture is a rather tedious summary of what European nations (not necessarily the EU) have contributed and are contributing to the peace-process and and to all sorts of development programs in the region. It sounds like an apology for a large body (the EU) that hardly has any foreign policy, to make as much of what the eventually do. And it is almost unfair a scholar must go this road and not a diplomat or politician.

The fact is, as comes out by the end in the Q&A round: the Israelis distrust the Europeans and the Arabs view them as second rate Americans. And so, apart from the question whether the EU can make difference of its own accord, there is the issue whether the EU has enough credibility to be accepted as anything but a monetary power. Asking the question is giving the answer. The Filiu lecture is hardly worth listening to unless you really want to hear some details about what the EU is doing towards the region.

More LSE Events:
The British Mandate in Palestine,
Iran Today,
Science and Religion,
The crisis,
Desiring walls.

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Prokofiev's life - New Books in History

The podcast New Books In History is a fabulous new find that has come to be on my playlist all the time. The latest issue I picked up (not the latest in the feed) was an interview host Marshall Poe had with Simon Morrison, who wrote a biography of the Russian composer Prokofiev.

Morrison had access to some of the old Soviet archives that had been opened up to him and this allowed him to tell much more about Prokofiev's personal life than before. It is a story of constant traveling in and out of Russia, of the acceptance of becoming part of the Soviet system and of marriage divorce and such. During the podcast there is a lot of talk about these mundane sides of his life, but of course, there is also time for the musical genius and even, to my delight, for the wonderful cellist Mstislav Rostropovich's part in Prokofiev's life.

I have already been saying how great this new podcast is and it is worth writing it again. NBIH is a great podcast with a great formula and a unique content that is a great addition to the menu of history podcasts out there. There is one point in which the podcast needs to improve and that is the audio quality. In general the audio is good, but host Marshall Poe keeps his mic open while his guest speaks and as a result we are offered the background noise of his presence. This is not so much of a problem when he hums in acknowledgment or laughs or gives some other kind of reactive sign of his presence, but it also results in a lot of heavy breathing into the microphone, which I find very disturbing.

More NBIH:
Evolution, genetics and history,
Kees Boterbloem about Jan Struys.

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