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An Instagram worthy of royalty and madmen (with video!)

October 28, 2013

Following up on last week’s post, some related notes on the dictators of the interwebs. Because once you’re done Photoshopping those propaglamour shots, where else do you turn but to Instagram? Slate posted a round-up video of Assad & his cohort are getting up to on Instagram a few months ago. Yes, dictators on Instagram is…

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Can you Photoshop that? Our tone-deaf response to the Kim Jong-Uns of the world

October 24, 2013
Kim Jong-Un Photoshop contest - Statues of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il

One of my favourite Soviet-era jokes goes something like this: Three Russians are in the gulag. The first one says, “What are you in for?” The second one replies, “I called Zbarsky a revolutionary.” “That’s funny,” the first one says. “I called Zbarsky a counterrevolutionary.” “That’s funny,” the third one says. “I am Zbarsky.” (I may have…

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Friday Links: The Stalin ruins Women’s Day edition

March 8, 2013
Translated Soviet Women's Day Poster from 1932

Once upon a time, I used to post Monday links. I’m bringing them back, but on Friday. Because I actually have time to think of smart posts on the weekend. Not so much on Fridays. It is a weird week when the 60th anniversary of Stalin’s death rolls around and it’s also (almost) International Women’s Day.…

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People of North Korea (and the world), we are looking at you

March 6, 2013
Fotopedia North Korea iPad App - image collage

It’s North Korea week here on the blog (and, apparently, everywhere). Fotopedia has a fantastic series of photo apps, including this one on North Korea. It’s neatly divided into categories – Pyongyang, propaganda, women of North Korea, men of North Korea…you get the picture. I popped it open in bed a few nights ago (something…

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Google turns the lights on in North Korea

February 26, 2013
Mapping Gulags - What Happened When Google Turned the Lights on in North Korea

When journalist Barbara Demnick wrote her book about the lives of North Koreans (Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea), she opened with a darkened map – the black mass that is North Korea at night, surrounded by the flickering lights of an Asia immersed in modern life. But last month, those lights went on.…

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The social media revolution, World War II, Syria, and oh, Walmart

August 17, 2012
Wal-Mart Supercenter Parking Lot in Virginia

I’ve been thinking a lot about social media – mostly Twitter – and whether the increased speed and availability of global communicating is really going to make the world a better place (see: every Twitter revolution, everywhere). But Twitter just reflects ourselves back to us – the good and the bad. It’s not going to…

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Radio days of the revolution: Goodbye Soviet Russia, hello North Korea

March 25, 2011
Vintage radio representing BBC Russia

After 65 years, BBC Russia shut down its radio service this week, with all the attendant “end of an era” sighing. That era ended 20 years ago, but hey, who doesn’t appreciate an opportunity to wax nostalgic. If you read anything at all about dissidence in the Soviet days, tuning into illegal radio broadcasts is…

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Twitter revolution? Sorry, the revolution is not being tweeted

February 23, 2011
Twitter Revolution: Gadhafi Tweet

Hanging out on Twitter makes for an odd perspective on world events. Like Revolution 2011 World Tour. There’s an expectation to comment on these major upheavals. And at the same time, an expectation that seeing lunch tweets interspersed with desperate pleas from protesters is meant to make us uncomfortable. It does. (But then, we’re also…

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So much to envy: Reading about North Korea

February 16, 2011
Cover of Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy book on North Korea

As one dictator fell this weekend, I was reading about another, very different one. A friend recently recommended Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, which I started and finished in two days. Yes, it’s that good. I didn’t realize until now just how little we know about North Korea. The book…

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Baby dictator photos art project explores nature of evil and motherhood

June 9, 2010
Baby dictator photos - baby dressed up as Stalin

  I have conflicted feelings about mommyblogging. It’s an activity which, like much of online living, presupposes some kind of inherent relevance to your personal life. But what about the child as art canvas? I’m not talking Sally Mann or Tierney Gearon style photographs of their children in day-to-day life. I’m talking about costuming and…

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