If you came into my dorm room when I was a second-year university student, you most likely would have seen me cheerfully reading and taking notes for my classes, all the while listening to Voice of Russia radio. I would take study breaks and read news stories in Russian, most often on the international service RIA Novosti. I liked RIA Novosti because I often could find the same story in both English and Russian, so there was a ready-made translation to help me learn new words.
On Monday, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced that RIA Novosti and Voice of Russia are closing, as ordered by state decree. The Western media has devoted a surprising amount of reportage to the affair, ranging from the (relatively) balanced to the melodramatic.
I always enjoyed reading RIA Novosti. The website was well-organized, which is more than I can say for many news websites, Russian or otherwise. And I loved Voice of Russia. I practically learned to understand spoken Russian by listening to Voice of Russia. The announcers spoke quickly but clearly and after many months, I realized I was able to understand almost everything. Voice of Russia may have been “Kremlin propaganda,” in the words of my Russian professors, but it was good propaganda. The streaming quality was excellent and reliable, unlike other radio stations like Ekho Moskvy (which some of the worst streaming I have ever had the misfortune of dealing with).
I know Putin is planning to merge the agencies into one new agency. I hope the new agency is decent, but I can’t but help feel a little sad about this decree. I have many fond memories associated with RIA Novosti and Voice of Russia and I’ll miss them both.
Maybe I haven’t been noticing, or maybe I just got lucky, but there have been a ton of good articles on Russia recently. Here’s yet another one I’ve found: Toward a New Pragmatism on Russia. In it, Lozansky discusses the American policy of promoting democracy around the world and whether this is something truly worth pursuing. Some interesting excerpts:
It is instructive to take a look at the results of the democracy drive just at the past decade, starting with the 2003 “Revolution of the Roses” in Georgia, where a putsch brought to power Columbia University graduate Mikhail Saakashvili, who spoke all the right words about freedom, democracy and the evil Russian empire. He also hired top Washington public relations firms, which quickly made him the darling of the Western establishment and its virulently anti-Russian media.
However, behind that verbal smoke screen, Mr. Saakashvili imposed a most repressive and corrupt police regime. There were even intimations of onetime prime minister Zurab Zhvania being assassinated on his orders.
It is high time for U.S. policy toward Russia to change drastically in the spirit of pragmatism. Not only have all the “color revolutions” failed, but America is currently in retreat almost on every front, from the chain of disasters in the Middle East to the unstoppable rise of China. Most disturbing, Islamic radicalism remains perhaps the most critical, existential danger facing the civilized world. It is simply vital for America to seek a new, mutually beneficial relationship with Russia, and to do so without meddling in its internal affairs — something that no truly sovereign country will stand for.
When I tell people I’m weird, this is what I mean. After a long day of classes and boring homework (you don’t know what boring means until you’ve prepared for a business case study), I am going to relax in my bed and watch a movie on my laptop.
That in and of itself is not so strange. What is strange is the movie I’ll be watching: a Russian film called Countdown in English (the Russian title is Личный номер, which means “personal number”). It’s supposed to be shameless FSB* propaganda and I couldn’t be more excited. Bring on the FSB propaganda!
*The FSB is one of the the post-Soviet successors to the KGB.
So asks this article over at The Atlantic.
Personally, I’d rather be born smart. A smart person can always make money, but no amount of money in the world can buy intelligence if you don’t have it already.
What say you, readers?
We Americans had a nice long weekend, which left a lot of time for – you guessed it – reading stuff on the internet. I also read my book a lot, so I only have three stories for you this week, but they are quality stuff.
First, a surprisingly well-researched piece about the poisoning of “dissident” Alexander Litvinenko. Unlike so much of the writing out there on Litvinenko (I’m thinking of you, Steve LeVine!), this piece is actually overall quite accurate. It does not ignore Litvinenko’s former KGB connections, nor his connection to the late oligarch, Boris Berezovsky.
If you fear the rise of Russia, you’ll probably want to pass on reading this article: The Return of Russian Hard Power? over at The Daily Beast. It focuses on Russia’s recent war games (that I’ve been paying attention to but no one seems to care about). This section in particular is chilling:
Indeed, Shoigu’s a true man of the times in the sense that he is completely backward-looking. He wants a return to Soviet-era mobilization, a policy fraught with past failures, and, as part of his ambitious ministry overhaul, he’s now overseeing the production of naval ships at a level that is only half of what the U.S. currently spends (just a few years ago, that amount was less than a tenth). By 2020, if current targets are met, Russia will have added 40 new, combat-ready brigades to its army, giving it eight more than what the U.S. is projected to have by 2017. Seventy percent of those forces will be outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment. The defense ministry has also announced plans to create a million-man, active-duty army by 2020.
Of course, this may not come to pass – but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.
According to Businessweek, Poland is Europe’s most dynamic economy. Go Poland!
I did it, people. I finished my NaNoWriMo manuscript. And then I wrote my first piece for Medium about the experience. Mainly, I am just overwhelmed about being finished. I think my novel was very, very bad towards the end. In fact, the whole thing may be bad. I introduced characters, then forgot to write about them.
And then there’s the problem of genre. I meant for my novel to be firmly in the young adult genre, except I think it turned out too violent for that. Oh well, that’s what editing is for, right? Mainly, I am so proud I finished. I have been writing for a long time, but I’ve never finished a proper novel before.
To everyone who participated in NaNoWriMo: congratulations!
For information about what this is, click here.
We’re in the home stretch, people. Only six days and ten thousand words left. (Ten thousand words is nothing if you’re already written forty thousand.) I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since the novel writing thing started. I feel like I’ve learned so much already.
Here are a few random observations that may prove useful to writers:
- Sometimes, writing out of order can be good. I had a scene planned in my mind but was avoiding writing it because I didn’t know what came in between the point where I was in the novel and that scene. Eventually, I wrote the scene down (the protagonist finds out that her father has been appointed to a powerful government position). After some more writing, the plot for what happened before this came to me almost immediately. Problem solved.
- The protagonist’s boyfriend turned out… different than expected. I was hoping for more of a nice guy like you usually find in young adult romance novels. But this boyfriend actually has turned out to bear some resemblance to a certain ex-boyfriend of mine. (Note: that’s not a good thing.) Once I finish the novel and start making major edits, I’ll have to decide what to do with this character. I can either keep him as a spoiled, immature brat, or make him a bit more likable. Ultimately, I can only make him so likable, though. The novel’s preliminary title is Betrayed and this character is involved in the betrayal that gives the book its name.
- I haven’t been focusing on editing at all and it’s liberating. This book may be very, very bad right now, but that’s okay.
If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, how’s your novel coming along?
American flags covering the national mall, from here.
I saw this listicle on Thought Catalog yesterday called 36 Depressingly Unfortunate Signs That You’re An American. (For those not in the know, Thought Catalog is a highly popular website with my age group – the late teens and twenty-somethings of the United States. If you haven’t heard of it, I’m not trying to make you feel bad. In fact, people who haven’t heard of it are probably smarter than seventy-five percent of Thought Catalog readers.)
This article annoyed me. Being that it wasn’t tagged satire, I’m assuming it was not meant to be satire. (Even if it was satire, it was not very well-done satire.) I am sure I’m not the only person who didn’t interpret it as satire. The worst thing about the whole article is non-Americans will read it and have it as their only impression of America, and think, “Wow, America and Americans suck.” So, I’ve decided to write a rebuttal, even though I don’t have nearly the readership Thought Catalog has on this blog. Maybe I can convince some non-Americans (and young, leftist, self-hating Americans) that this article is, quite frankly, rather stupid.
Continue reading →
One of the most difficult pieces to play on the violin (in this violinist’s humble opinion) is Pablo de Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen, or Gypsy Airs. While browsing on YouTube for some novel-writing music (I usually write with classical music in the background), I came across a video of cellist Luka Sulic playing Zigeunerweisen arranged for cello.
And it helps that Luka Sulic isn’t too bad-looking – am I right or what, ladies?
Russian president Vladimir Putin at his third inauguration, 7 May 2012
I used to blog a lot about Russian politics. Not on this blog, on my old blog that is now defunct. As I learned more and more about Russia, as my language skills became better and better, one thing that always annoyed me was how little western writers understood modern Russia. Westerners from many different countries and political persuasions never really got it.
I am happy to say that I have found an excellent article that comes the closest to accurately portraying Russia as anything I have yet read. It was published over one year ago at The American Conservative. It’s called Putin’s Philosophy by Canadian academic Paul Robinson. I am not familiar with Robinson’s work, but after reading this article, I want to read more.
Robinson was trained as a historian and it shows in his article because unlike so many others, he actually has a firm grasp of Russian history and how this history has influenced modern Russia. In fact, he makes this very point:
As a result, Western commentators nowadays, lacking any knowledge of Russia’s conservative heritage, are unable to place contemporary Russian government within the correct intellectual context.
Go read the entire article, right now. It’s excellent.
Frankly, the poster looks a bit intimidating.
I saw the film Ender’s Game one week ago. I saw it partly because the book was one of my favorites when I was growing up and partly to spite everyone who said that we (i.e. the movie-watching public) should boycott it. I don’t like being told to boycott things – I prefer to think for myself, thank you very much. Plus, if I boycotted books and movies based on authors’ political views, I wouldn’t be able to watch or read anything. (I have strong opinions, and lots of people don’t agree with my views. I’ve learned to just deal with it and enjoy the movie or book.)
As for the film itself, it was a decent adaptation (except for the end – they completely messed up the end). There was an entire subplot they had to leave out, which I understood, but that subplot was one of my favorite things about the book. (It involved detailed discussions of geopolitics and world affairs, which is right up my alley.) They also made the characters older than in the book, which I also understand. In the timeline of the novel, the characters age about six years, if I remember correctly, and that would be difficult to do in a movie.
All this has led me to want to read Ender’s Game again. I never really have been able to discuss the book with anyone. None of my friends have read it. They thought it was too militaristic. My mom thinks it’s too young. In short, it is one of my favorite books with thought-provoking themes, but I have never properly discussed or analyzed these themes.
That’s where the internet comes in, dear readers. I know the book has a large fan base, so surely some of that fan base will search the internet and be led to this blog. Which leads me to my proposal: I am considering re-reading the book and blogging about each chapter. Would any of my readers like that? You’d obviously be welcome to chime in in the comments section. Let me know what you think!
Note: to find out what this is, click here.
I’ve been steadily writing away for the past eleven days – on a different novel than I started with. See, this is what happened. Around November 5 or so, I had the sudden, strong urge to work on this young adult dystopian future novel that I’ve had outlined for ages, so I put my original NaNoWriMo novel aside and started on this one. It has been going rather quickly (I am actually ahead of schedule) and at this point, I’m at about 26,000 words.
One thing that drives me crazy about writing is I get ideas faster than I can write them. I am just overflowing with ideas, people. Any advice from seasoned writers?