Monday, November 30, 2009

Stalinism, Russia, & Chechnya

The London Review of Books, 19 Nov 2009 issue, contains an article of interest to those concerned about the psychopath and his master who are ruining lives in Chechnya and a commentary for those interested in the convoluted/tortuous mind-bending to-ing & fro-ing that takes place amongst the politicians and the peoples of the former Communist Eastern block countries.

Jonathan Littell writes about the horrors being committed in Chechnya in his article Chechnya, Year III. What he comes to realise is the the new "normal" resembles the worst of the Stalinist years when people kept their heads down, their noses to the grindstone, saw 'progress' and 'prosperity' around long as they asked no questions.

Slavoj Zizek, in the same issue, leads us down the contorted pathways of post Communist elections. And if you add into that mix the ideas of the expats of these countries, you start getting dizzy.

Anyone interested in the communication/philosophical/mind games issues resulting in the fall of an Eastern Block country should read Caryl Churchill's play Mad Forest: A Play from Romania...she does a great job illuminating the problems.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Northern Clemency The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I began this book with a little trepidation as it seemed that the psychological edginess might going where I wasn't sure I wished to go. However, that was not the case and I thoroughly enjoyed finding out how the members of these two families grew and changed during the book's long time-frame. There was a great deal of humour and knowing about British politics and social issues makes the book much richer than if the reader is unfamiliar with same.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Your REI, Eddie Bauer, or North Face will just not make it at the opera.....

Designers transform the puffa
By Alex Gorton in the FT's Weekend edition

Puffa jackets

Autumn/winter puffa jackets by, from left, Giles Deacon, Iceberg, F by Fay and Junya Watanabe

"As winter looms, complete with icy winds and freezing body parts, the question of coats becomes as pressing as what to wear to the office Christmas party. How do you look good while also maintaining your core body temperature? The two requirements do not necessarily go together, sartorially speaking." To read more, click on the story headline above.....

How American Health Care Killed My Father - The Atlantic (September 2009)

How American Health Care Killed My Father - The Atlantic (September 2009)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Racism, Communism, Nationalism

President Obama's visit to China has highlighted, as usual, the many inequities and iniquities of life under the Han. Coverage this week on PRI's The World and the Seattle Times underscore, yet again, the sad state of affairs regarding the views of the Han people towards people of darker skin colour. Various apologists said that the lashing out at the young biracial (black Chinese) woman on the Chinese TV show was just due to ignorance...listen to/read the comments: I think not.

The increasing number of Africans moving to China for economic reasons (the influx of Chinese investments in various countries in Africa) has lead to an increasing number of cases of harassment against these people. During the heyday of Chinese and Soviet jockeying for spheres of influence in the developing world, they encouraged African students to travel to China and the Soviet Union for training. Even then, being black in those parts of the world was not easy. But in the name of comradeship and worker solidarity, overt racist behaviour was suppressed. With the rise of the ultra right nationalists in Russia and China flexing it's geo-political muscle, and with both countries trying to control minority populations within and around their borders, racism is rearing it's ugly head even higher.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Chinese in Africa, again

The Seattle Times carried an article on China's investments in Africa. I cannot really must be read to be believed. Just look at who thinks Chinese investments are great: Mugabe, Bashir, and China's lame apology regarding investing in treacherous, repressive regimes...

Wine, Food, Fun

October and November are busy months in Washington State as winemakers get their grapes in before the frost and start on another adventure in creating fabulous wines. There are a fair number of winemakers who live in the Seattle area and make wine out of "garages". I decided to volunteer my labour helping winemaker Tim Narby of :Nota Bene in return for learning about the process of making wine. I got really good at deck swabbing, washing buckets with antimicrobial solution, labeling barrels. Here I am in action filling the press with grape skins to squeeze out the last of the juice.

For my work, I was paid in delicious blends and Syrahs....aaaah, what a life.

This last weekend was the annual Cayuse barrel release weekend in Walla Walla. Eastern Washington was aglow in autumnal tones, the cloudscapes were a wonder, and the warm welcomes at the wineries was a pleasure. We visited Cayuse (it's 13th birthday!), Sapolil, Adamant, Buty, K Vintners, Forgeron. We ate a fabulous dinner at Whitehouse-Crawford and ran into our favourite sommelier, Robert, formerly of 26 brix. We had our first meal at Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen, a wonderful addition to Walla Walla's culinary scene: Chris and Island Ainsworth are fabulous chefs, hosts, and humans! The interior of the restaurant has subtle Ottoman touches: Turkish screens, Moroccan lights, warm tones, nothing overdone. The menu is interesting and well executed.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Two Disturbing News Reports

A report on NPR news this morning about increasing enforcement in Chechnya of strict Islamic laws in daily life is a chilling reminder of what can happen when a people have been tormented, repressed, subjugated, and then brought back into the fold with bribes and a wink. The Russians must be worrying about the monster they have created in their midst in an attempt to keep their territorial integrity intact in the face of losing many of their former "stans", rather than think about what might have been good for the Chechens.

The second horror story of the day was heard on KUOW: Rana Husseini was interviewed by Steve Sher about her new book "Murder in the Name of Honor: The True Story of One Woman's Heroic Fight Against an Unbelievable Crime." There is almost no country in the world where women are not killed by male members of their families if the family believes it's honour has been tainted by the behavior of a female relative. Honor killings have happened in Britain, Italy, USA, countries in South America, the Middle East, Africa. Shame on the perpetrators, the legal systems where the killers are exonerated, the social mores and norms that deem what the neighbours think more important than the life of a woman. Shame on us all.