The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich by Daniel Ammann

Quite an interesting story about the rise and a near fall of Marc Rich, the financier commodity trader and founder of Glencore-Xtrata who lived and died in exile, fugutive from “justice” in the United States.

Mr. Ammann makes a very brazen comparison between Rich and Ayn Rand's very own Hank Rearden, a prominent industrialist in the perennial Atlas Shrugged who obstructed prohibitive and burdensome government regulation and then went in exile. Well, Rich might have been no less defiant in his actions, but definitely much more cautious in trying to make sure he's not breaking the law. And which law apllies internationally. Well, Rudy Giuliani thought differently, and made a career out of it.

The more details I read about this case, the less I like it. Rich has been clearly singled out, mistreated by the NY state prosecutors, who abused their powers in forcing him to plea guilty over a supposed tax evasion – which I'm 100 per cent certain had 155 various tax opinions by the most reputable accounting and law firms that Marc Rich + Co. ain't breaking the law. I see quite some relsemblaces between this case and the unfair treatment of our very own Mr. Khodorkovsky, who as well was singled out, mistreated, tried and jailed by the state on the back of tax evasion charges. Different reasons, but in quite similar fashion, it looks like. Saddens me.

In general, it's a good tale of putting together one of the largest and quite successful trading operations in modern history, a child who now tries to purge its founding father's name from history books. Oh well.

If he was indeed innocent, as he claims, I interject, why was he branded the greatest tax fraudster and an enemy of the state? Rich tilts his head to one side, and the red birthmark on his left cheek seems to glow brighter than usual. “I believe it was a combination of political problems and that a scapegoat was needed at the time,” Rich says. “I was an easy target, one individual, very successful, making a lot of money, and Jewish. I stood outside of the establishment.”

“I was singled out by individuals. Individuals with a clear personal interest in self-promotion,” Rich believes. “Mr. Giuliani escalated the case because he saw a chance to achieve more publicity for himself,” he maintains. “Personal interests and feelings on their side got into the way of a fair solution.”

 

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Barolo by Matthew Gavin Frank

Man, I don't get it.

Seems like a great book, and on a most intriguing and lovely topic – yet somehow, Matthew Gavin Frank's gastronomic adventures in Barolo, stories of illegal grape picking for the venerable Luciano Sandrone, standing a shift as apprentice chef at Locanda I Cannubi, walking the same hills that I like so much – all of it made me sleepy every frigging time after just a few para's. Spent months plowing through those barely 200+ pages.

Yet, to make sure – if you're somehow into Barolo, Monforte d'Alba, Serralunga, Castiglione Falleto, la Morra, Verdunho, all this special Piemontese wine, air and culinary delights, read the book.


Манарага Владимира Сорокина

Не самая мощная книга Сорокина, но все ж ничего, эдакий короткий типический для автора фантасмагорический экзерсис на тему конца литературы, Fahrenheit 451, рукописи горят и все такое. Вспышки и всполохи тревожного будущего. Тьфу-тьфу-тьфу, лишь бы большинство его предсказаний не сбылось, ох.

Конец оживляет, отличный, да. Now, where are my fleas?

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В полночь самолет ждет дозаправка в Санкт-Петербурге, красивом городе, построенном царем Петром на костях русских крестьян. Блоха сообщает, что крестьян в то время целыми деревнями сгоняли, вываривали в огромных котлах, кости дробили, мололи в муку, добавляли образовавшийся во время варки клей, гальку и получали так называемый русский бетон. Из этих бетонных блоков сложен фундамент Санкт-Петербурга. И надо сказать, город стоит до сих пор.

 


Овраги. Девять дней в Санкт-Петербурге Филиппа Жирара

Видимо, слава Guy Delisle не даёт многим спать. Овраги – это затертая копия пхеньянского травелога, девять ничем не знаменательных и бледных дней путешествий квебекского автора комиксов по хипстерскому Питеру.

Прочитать за полчаса и забыть.

 

 


The Hollow of the Hand by PJ Harvey & Seamus Murphy

Even for a die hard PJ Harvey fan like me, this first ever PJ's book of poetry left me untouched and bored. Lulled me to sleep.

A combination of poetry and photographs, compiled out of Polly Jean's trips to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington, DC in 2011-2014, and accompanied by her buddy Seamus Murphy's much earlier photos in the same locations, from 1999 to 2014. Black and white, sepia, bones, body parts, beggars in rags, sad eyes, broken backs, extended palms, give me a dollar, mister.

Published in 2015, it precedes Harvey's brilliant ninth album The Hope Six Demolition Project, based on the same trips and themes. Yet, without music and rhythm, without Polly's sharp, mesmerizing voice, it feels numb, out of pace, disjointed in a way. Expected more.

 


Millennium People. A Novel by J.G.Ballard

A poet of the perverse, sad, twisted and deranged, the late J.G. Ballard is a genius – well, in my scorecard he is. This post-millennium and even post 9/11 Chelsea suburban anarchy novel is a gulp of fresh air, sharp, thought-provoking, full of perennial wisdom quotes.

Chelsea Marina burns, as its middle class residents of law abiding salariat of lawyers, doctors, accountants and university professors gradually turn into radical arsonists, gallery bombmakers and indiscriminate murderers. Finding the meaning of life in acts of meaningless violence and cruelty, a revolt against nothing, nil, zero, zilch.

Brilliant and just as thoughtful as as a much earlier Crash. I just long to see this one in a camera frame – and preferably, directed by David Cronenberg.

“I'm a fund-raiser for the Royal Academy. It's an easy job. All those Ceos think art is good for their souls.”

“Not so?”

“It rots their brains. Tate Modern, the Royal Academy, the Hayward… they're Walt Disney for the middle classes.”

 


Black Watch by Gregory Burke

A short play about Scotland's royal infantry coming to Iraq in 2004 to support Uncle Sam's pet invasion of the House of Saddam.

A modern play, it would probably be perfect and quite entertaining if I attended a theater performance – off a kindle page, however, words, stories, scoffs and swearing from the retired Black Watch vets touched me a lot less.

Nonetheless, it has a good balance between “support our boys” and “what in the world are we fighting for”.

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Well, we'll need to get fucking used tay it. Bullying's the fucking job. That's what you have a fucking army for.