Blog

Links Round-Up: Winter Olympics, Sochi-style

February 25, 2014

  A number of people have asked me in the last few weeks whether I have any national pride for Russia during these Olympics. Maybe it’s all the writing I’ve been doing the last few years, but I don’t think I’ve ever been asked before about cheering on another country. It’s never even occurred to…

Keep Reading »

Kristallnacht on Twitter seems hopelessly naive

November 11, 2013
Kristallnacht on Twitter post - interior of burnt synagogue in Berlin

This weekend was the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht – the Night of the Broken Glass, when thousands of Jewish homes and businesses were ransacked and destroyed across Germany. Ninety-one Jews died that night. That was the night of November 9/10, 1938. (Awkward anniversary tie-in – on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down.) Media…

Keep Reading »

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…

Keep Reading »

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.…

Keep Reading »

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…

Keep Reading »

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…

Keep Reading »

The digital afterlife and the lies we’ll leave behind

February 24, 2011
Salem Cemetery for digital afterlife post

Alison Garwood-Jones wrote a lovely piece a while ago on her blog about the wisps of life we leave behind on the internet. To add to the unmade bed, the book half-read, the phone call never returned and conversation never finished, is now the digital alter-ego, never finished. And, somehow lacking the poignancy of finding…

Keep Reading »

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…

Keep Reading »

Ok, so I don't talk about current events so much…

February 3, 2011

I sometimes forget why I’m doing this Soviet Jewry thing. Or, not so much forget, as get distracted. The present is just so very busy. It has heft, carries more weight. Egypt. Wikileaks. Obama’s State of the Union. Women in Magazines. CRTC Rulings. Mayoral Elections. G20. In other words, shouldn’t I be talking about something…

Keep Reading »

On technology and activism, and the rest of the world

October 28, 2010
On technology and activism - businessman on phone while waiting for train

There’s a funny blindness that sets in when you live in technology, where updates from the CEO of a computer company become as central to your news sense of the world as the fate of 33 miners in Chile. Are the release of a colour Nook, or the ups and downs of a white iPhone,…

Keep Reading »