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Blogging in Russia gets regulated

Friday, 1 August, 2014 0 Comments

Everyone should read Behind the Scenes in Putin’s Court: The Private Habits of a Latter-Day Dictator by Ben Judah. It’s one of the finest pieces of magazine writing in ages. Not a sparrow seems to fall in the forest that the Kremlin leader is unaware of. Take blogging. Putin recently signed an amendment to Russian communications law that allows the creation of a registry of bloggers. From now on, any blogger with more than 3,000 readers is invited to sign up, but registration is mandatory if the Russian telecommunications regulator, Roskomnadzor, demands it. Oh, an registered bloggers have to disclose their identity, avoid hate speech and obscene language.

Among those who have received notices include satirist Mikhail Zadornov, travel photographer Sergey Dolya, political writer Eduard Limonov and Ashot Gabrelyanov, CEO of News Media. Not that their leader really cares about their obscure postings. According to Ben Judah:

“The President rarely uses the internet. He finds the screens within screens and the bars building up with messages confusing. However, from time to time, his advisers have shown some satirical online videos: he must know how they mock him. His life has become ceremonial: an endless procession of gilded rooms. His routine is parcelled up into thousands of units of 15 minutes and planned for months, if not years ahead. Following his morning review the schedule folders embossed with the eagle are presented to him. After glancing at them, he follows the plan: without a smile or a joy.”

The chimera of a two-state solution

Thursday, 31 July, 2014 0 Comments

Jonathan Freedland poses the awkward question: “The failure of Oslo, the failure at Camp David, the failure of Annapolis, the failure most recently of John Kerry’s indefatigable nine-month effort has prompted the unwelcome thought: what if it keeps failing not because the leaders did not try hard enough, but because the plan cannot work? What if the two-state solution is impossible?”

That’s taken from Liberal Zionism After Gaza in the New York Review of Books blog. Here, Freedland outlines the dilemma:

“A single state in all of historic Palestine, dominated by Jews but in which Palestinians are deprived of the vote, might be Zionist but it certainly would not be liberal. A binational state offering full equality between Jew and Arab would be admirably liberal, but it would seem to thwart Jewish self-determination, at least as it has traditionally been conceived, and therefore could not easily be described as Zionist.”

The painful reality for those who dream of compromise and closure in this savage conflict is that there is no prospect of a two-state solution. This leaves us with some equally awful scenarios, which cannot be contemplated until many more lives have been lost.

App: The Human Story

Wednesday, 30 July, 2014 0 Comments

The Kickstarter story so far: 2,054 backers, $130,000 pledged of $100,000 goal. Congratulations to Jed Hurt and Jake Schumacher!

“Pope Francis stopped at our house”

Tuesday, 29 July, 2014 0 Comments

To mark the first 500 days of his pontificate, Pope Francis did an interview with the Argentine magazine Viva, a supplement of the national daily, El Clarín. What has made the interview so popular is that the Pope gave a 10-point recipe for happiness:. “The Romans have a saying, which can be taken as a point of reference,” he noted. “They say: ‘Campa e lascia campà‘ (live and let live). That’s the first step to peace and happiness.” Next on the list was “giving oneself to others,” which is what he does here during a visit to Cassano all’Ionio:

Cormac McCarthy’s Three Punctuation Rules

Monday, 28 July, 2014 0 Comments

“There’s no reason to blot the page up with weird little marks. I mean, if you write properly you shouldn’t have to punctuate.” So says Cormac McCarthy in stimulating Open Culture overview of his style. For McCarthy, the minimalism of James Joyce is a good model for punctuation. The comments, inevitably, are mixed.

A man seeks his own destiny and no other, said the judge. Wil or nill. Any man who could discover his own fate and elect therefore some opposite course could only come at last to that selfsame reckoning at the same appointed time, for each man’s destiny is as large as the world he inhabits and contains within it all opposites as well. The desert upon which so many have been broken is vast and calls for largeness of heart but it is also ultimately empty. It is hard, it is barren. Its very nature is stone.” Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

Seen in Dublin

Sunday, 27 July, 2014 0 Comments


Great Lake Swimmers

Saturday, 26 July, 2014 0 Comments

The 2014 edition of the Calgary Folk Music Festival is underway. Thursday’s kick-off included Trampled By Turtles, Valerie June, Hey Rosetta and Andrew Bird. Last night, it was the turn of Lee Fields & The Expressions, Rufus Wainwright, Amos Lee, funk-punk pioneers Fishbone and the superb Great Lake Swimmers.

Fear of flying

Friday, 25 July, 2014 0 Comments

It was a brave thing for Craig Mod to write “Let’s fly: How to survive air travel” on Wednesday. Brave because it has been a horrific week for aviation as 464 people have died in airliner disasters over the past seven days.

Yesterday, an Algerian plane carrying 118 passengers and crew from Ouagadougou to Algiers crashed in northern Mali, claiming the lives of everyone aboard. On Wednesday, a TransAsia Airways flight crashed during an emergency landing in Taiwan and 48 passengers died, and that tragedy came a week after Malaysia Airlines’ flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing the 298 passengers and crew on board.

Air travel remains incredibly safe, however. According to, between 25 and 35 major planes disasters happened each year throughout the 1960s and ’70s. But the last time that figure hit 20 was 1997, and it’s declined steadily ever since.

“You are on a plane but are not. You could be anywhere. You are untouchable. You are possibly the most insufferable traveler ever. You float and smile because you are the Dalai Lama.

This is how you survive air travel.”

So says Craig Mod.

bellingcat goes after the Buk

Thursday, 24 July, 2014 1 Comment

Despite the obfuscation of the Kremlin and the thuggery of its stooges in Donetsk, there is no doubt in the public mind that the tragedy of MH17 is closely linked to the use of a Russian-built Buk surface-to-air missile. One man, Eliot Higgins, the brains behind the bellingcat project, is assembling an invaluable dossier of open source material that will, one day, help bring the culprits to the justice they so richly deserve. Meanwhile, Higgins deserves our support for the exemplary work that he’s doing in creating a platform for “citizen investigative journalists.”

Westworld returns

Wednesday, 23 July, 2014 0 Comments

One of the most original films of 1973 was Michael Crichton’s science fiction thriller Westworld, which was set in a theme park made up of three zones: Medieval World, Roman World and West World. The park is populated by robots programmed to act out fight scenes and accommodate the sexual desires of the guests, but as the story progresses the androids go rogue. One guest is killed by a robot knight during a sword fight and the others are are hunted down by the relentless “Gunslinger”, played by Yul Brynner.

Deadline now reports that HBO has approved a pilot production that will keep the setting of the 1973 film, and will star Sir Anthony Hopkins and Evan Rachel Wood in “a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin.” Splendid!

The new New Yorker

Tuesday, 22 July, 2014 1 Comment

The New Yorker is offering everything it’s published online since 2007 for free all summer long. The impetus for the free-for-all is the the launching of the magazine’s new-look website, and the move coincides with a fresh assessment of the future of an institution that will be 90 next year:

The print version of The New Yorker is still a fine technology (try rolling up your iPad; and don’t drop it too often!), but more advanced technology has some distinct advantages. Publishing beyond the printed page allows us to present the gift of greater immediacy, the ability to respond to events when we have something to say; the site offers podcasts, video, interactive graphics, and slide shows of photographs and cartoons. The new design also allows us to reach back and highlight work from our archives more easily.

There’s a lot of reading to be done between now that the introduction of the magazine’s metered paywall when the fall foliage begins to appear.