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Brief Notices VII

Simon Sebag Montefiore has written a broad new biography of Joseph Stalin called "Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar". Montefiore has had the advantage of an avalanche of previously unobtainable original materials recently released by the Russian authorities. He has, says reviewer Robert Conquest in the Atlantic, made "able use" of the new records to focus "on the human element (especially the family lives of the dictator, his associates, and his victims), generally treating the vast events of the era as scenery." Another extract in The Telegraph looks at Stalin's love for the movies.

"Stalin inherited Goebbels's movie library after the war; he loved Chaplin and films such as In Old Chicago (1937) and It Happened One Night (1934). In the archives, I found a document requesting Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)."
Speaking of Georgian dictators, there is a thoughtful piece by Ronald Asmus and Bruce Jackson at Policy Review berating the West for ignoring the political and strategic importance of the Black Sea region -- that region which includes the littoral states of the Black Sea, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, and the Southern Caucasus countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. As the authors point out "the Black Sea has been a civilizational black hole in the Western historical consciousness." I suspect this is an important essay.

An "intellectual black hole" is never a charge that could be levied at Google. This is a company whose very culture is academic achievement. In this article from the New York Times, it notes that

"Google ... prefers those who have been trained for the maximum time setting on the university's dial and who have experience in organizing their own research agenda. The company has not released data about its Ph.D's for two years, but based on its history, the number is probably more than 100 ... Google encourages all employees to act as researchers, by spending 20 percent of their time on new projects of their own choosing."

Two other companies that have a clear idea of who they want to be are delivery rivals Fedex and UPS. According to this very informative column at brandchannel.com, both companies are in lockstep growth strategies at this point. UPS purchased Mailboxes Etc to give them a retail presence, and Fedex followed by acquiring Kinkos. As the article's author says: "This is a battle worth watching, not because of dueling ad campaigns but because both companies fundamentally understand what branding is all about."

At Butterflies and Wheels, Paul Dore writes an insider's guide to the ineffective strategy and rapid collapse of the Stop The War Coalition in Great Britain. Typical schismatics on the left side of the fence it seems to me.

Finally, intriguing evidence for the dates and directions of the migrations into Oceania; evidence from rat DNA.

"The researchers claim [their results] allows them to reject two well-known theories for the colonisation of Polynesia, including the Express Train To Polynesia (ETP) theory and the Bismarck Archipelago Indigenous Inhabitants (BAII) theory. These two theories are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The ETP theory focuses on a rapid dispersal from Taiwan to Polynesia. The BAII proposes that there was no migration into Near Oceania, and that the Lapita culture arose from indigenous people in the area. [The authors] argue that the truth was somewhere in between."

June 8, 2004 in Brief Notices | Permalink


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