Voices from Russia

Sunday, 12 September 2010

12 September 2010. The Fruits of an Afternoon Spent with a Coffee and Some Magazines…

Filed under: intellectual — 01varvara @ 00.00

This is a stock photo… but it matches my personal “style”… casual,  but well-put-together togs, short hair, and natural hair colour (I’m in the process of growing out my “coloured hair”… it’ll take about three more months for me to complete the task). You reach a point where the imperative of hiding one’s age (that’s America for ya) just doesn’t cut it any more. I’m in my later 50s, and I’m COMFORTABLE with that.  Browning was RIGHT…


Here in upstate New York, it was one of those grey and dreary autumn days, with rain and chills to the bone. Nevertheless, as I have to be up and out to work tomorrow, I wanted to get out of the house. Instead of motoring out into a nasty and bleary outdoors, Nicky and I went over to Barnes & Noble, ordered a coffee, and sat down with some magazines. There is something different about sitting down with an actual book, newspaper, or magazine in hand as compared to staring at the old computer screen. I would also argue that handwriting engages a different part of the brain than typing does. Now, you’ll see why I translated the piece about Russian literacy a couple of posts down!

The first journal I picked up was First Things. To say that it’s gone downhill since the death of Rev Neuhaus is an understatement. It’s become a rather self-congratulatory and navel-gazing outlet for pseudo-intellectuals and religious neocons. There’s a new format, to be sure, but that’s only physical packaging. Joseph Bottum is BORING… there’s none of Rev Neuhaus’ mordant wit or gentle sarcasm. The JOYOUS ABANDON in intellectual combat is “missing in action”.

Need I mention that George Weigel is prominent in the “new” First Things? Everyone knows that Weigel’s connected with the dubious “Ethics and Public Policy Center”… which was founded by the ultra-rightist Ernest Lefever (Lefever was a supporter of Shockley… need I say more?). Weigel is a fanatical neoliberal and “free marketer”, besides being a maundering Vatican II papist (he likes sticking knives in Tridentine Catholics).

Along with this questionable sort, there was a repeat performance by David Goldman… the fact that he is a “senior editor” at First Things is NO endorsement. If I could one word to describe this man, it’s “tendentious”… for instance, he hates Russia, and uses the most questionable statistics to attack not only the Russian state, but the Russian people as well.

To wrap it up neatly, I will never pick up this magazine willingly, again. It’s deteriorated that badly… it’s become The Weekly Standard with a religious veneer. Of course, from time to time, I’ll have to dip into it to stay informed… much as I dip into Touchstone, another predictable outlet of the overeducated affluent effluent. It shan’t be a pleasure. I didn’t agree much with Richard John Neuhaus, but he was a joy to read, and his zest in argument and his obvious care for the truth (whether one agreed with him or not) was apparent to all comers. Joseph Bottum is, again, BORING. First Things is now nothing but a journal of the United New Age Neocons and no one else need apply.

Christianity Today was its usual tawdry self… Franklin Graham’s hand is all too apparent. Nevertheless, there was something about “hipster Christians”… somewhat interesting… but, the major item was that Beliefnet has been bought out by a Sectarian (AKA “Evangelical”) outfit. Let’s see… Terrence Mattingly, Rod Dreher, and Frederica Matthews-Greene are all affiliated with that crowd… if it’s been taken over by Sectarians, and the Terrible Trio stays there… well, it’s “birds of a feather”, no? Sadly, another fizzle (could we say that they’re “sleazin’ for a reason?”) …

Time and Newsweek were mostly the same ol’ stuff, but there were some interesting snippets. It came down to two quotes… they got the old synapses fired up and working. One was, “What’s striking is that the executives most willing to axe workers also seem to be the least likely to tighten their belts”. This sentence is a spot-on description of both konvertsy and apparatchiki in the Church. It’s an odd alliance, no? Bobby K, the Iggster, and Alexander Lebedeff on one side, and Peterson, JP, New Skete, and the Platina crowd on the other. To call it unstable is an understatement. That is, those most willing to attack “dissidents” are the ones most likely to excuse gross wrongdoing in their own ranks. Only they call it “an unparalleled ability to forgive”… interesting usage, no?

The other was, “The Tea Party Express has targeted states with small populations… a practise that makes upsets easier to pull off”. Yes… Palin and Beck appeared up in Alaska… why not Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, or the Meadowlands? That’s simple… they don’t have that many supporters. The estimate of grounded people is that the baggers are only some 15 percent of the electorate… what’s turning out is that this 15 percent is mostly concentrated in smaller states. That plays hell with GOP plans to take over the House… most of the baggers live in districts already represented by the GOP. Gross racism by people such as Andrew Breitbart and Mark Williams has ticked off virtually all non-white voters and all non-Christian voters. In short, the baggers only win in small states with an overly large representation of nativists (and Sectarians such as Mormons, Pentecostalists, and “Evangelicals”) in their population. Minority Christians such as we Orthodox should be suspicious of the Tea Party… it repeats too many Sectarian shibboleths for comfort.

What actually riveted me for a while was a Photoshop magazine giving tips on how to remove defects from images. Now, THAT’S something that I could use and I was “all ears”, as it were.

It was good handling print for a change… it reminded me that I’ve got to do it more often. It engages a different part of the brain than the computer does, and any journalist needs to be a master of the “triad”:

  • Reliable internet sources
  • Reliable print sources
  • Be an informed observer of the scene about one

If you add them all up, it comes down to good reporting. Remember, if it doesn’t appear right, it probably isn’t right… always mistrust tightly-focused shots (such as JP at Monk’s Lagoon), and always bite the coin… there ARE phonies out there.

By the way, one of my readers said that I’m “never boring”… dear, if one’s a journalist, one is not speaking to oneself… you’re addressing an audience… THEIR needs trump your ego. THERE… I think that explains it all for my good friend. Godspeed and good luck to you…

Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Sunday 12 September 2010

Albany NY


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