A note on something that happened last week.

How (Not To) Cover Lies

I was going to post a long explanation of why I was horrified by an author’s Facebook rave about a movie last week, and said something I probably shouldn’t have, but instead I’ll make it short(ish):

#1 Hollywood director Oliver Stone is one of the most prominent Western propagandists for Russia.

#2 He considers Vladimir Putin a friend (in fact his next movie is a propaganda piece praising Putin; he interviewed him personally for it). If people liked and believed his Edward Snowden “biopic”, what’s to say they won’t like and believe the Putin one, too?

#3 He talks to right-wing English-language tabloids, spreading blatant Kremlin-approved lies about things like the war in Ukraine.

Oliver Stone Interviews Yanukovych

^^^^

Oliver Stone interviews the deposed pro-Russian president of Ukraine for a propaganda piece about the revolution that resulted in Putin’s invasion. Viktor Yanukovych is wanted worldwide for crimes such as killing his own people in 2014. He is now in hiding in Russia, but Putin gave Stone access to him.

#4 Which means paying to support, and watching, enjoying, and then recommending his films to thousands of your readers is more dangerous than you might realise.

#5 After 2016, when English-language, Kremlin-generated propaganda achieved appalling, damaging things, like delivering Trump to power, this is not a time for being ignorant.

#6 Which is why I became very angry with a very popular romance author on Friday night after seeing her singing the praises of an Oliver Stone film, made to put subtle and not-so subtle ideas in Westerners’ heads about Edward Snowden, the United States, and Russia. I totally lost it when she concluded Snowden was a hero of our time – exactly what the Russians want you to think.

This is not an era where anyone can afford to take “documentaries” or “biopics” at face value (e.g. the day after Ukraine’s new president was elected, a Kremlin-produced “documentary” was released, calling him a Nazi). The past four years have been dangerous enough and thousands of people have already died because of it – they might not be American, and so they rarely make the news, but their lives aren’t worth less. Authors with a massive fanbase and a great deal of influence have a responsibility to be smarter that that.

The Week: 27th March – 2nd April

Evening Autumn Tuggeranong Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney Garden Nature 26th March 2017 2

Canberra Autumn

Driving home from lunch with Ukrainian embassy people on Thursday. Storm clouds coming over Australian Parliament.

Yesterday I finally – finally – saw some autumn colours. Not many, but it’s a start. It has been a strange year, with an overly hot March.

We planned to go the Versailles exhibition at the National Gallery yesterday (Canberra has a huge collection of things on loan from the palace in France), but could literally not find a parking spot anywhere in the Parliamentary Triangle (at least on the correct side of the lake!). Not at the gallery, not at the National Portrait Gallery, not at Old Parliament House, not at the National Science and Technology Centre, not at the National Library!

So we went to the Kingston Foreshore and had a long, late lunch instead.

Older shot of the foreshore, because my pictures from yesterday are… not good.

Here’s a popular Victorian-era April Fools’ Day joke. The day is going out of fashion, but I did actually see a few half-convincing hoaxes around this year, for the first time in ages.

However, I also thought some real news stories (one of them about Trump) were April Fools jokes, they were so outrageous! But then I remembered it was still Friday the 31st of March in other countries when it was Saturday the 1st of April here.

Now for a little bit of sexism from this week:

Does anything really need to be said about the Daily Mail and rampant sexism? Nah, this is actually classier than most of the stories they run, as sad as that is.

Maybe the people at that paper can’t cope with most of the British Isles being run by women!

There’s a lot that can be said about world politics this week, none of it good. I’ll just say this about the Mike Flynn-Russia picture above:

That’s the RT News (Russia Today) gala from December 2015. That means one of Trump’s “top people” thought it was okay to hang out with Putin nearly two years into his war in Ukraine that has claimed thousands upon thousands upon thousands of lives.

Above is the RT logo. They rebranded themselves so nobody realises it’s the Kremlin propaganda “news” channel. If you Google the news, please don’t click on links to their stories, even if they seem legitimate. They pull you in with regular stories and then slip lies in. It’s how they’ve been waging war on Ukraine, and how they helped Trump win.

My review of I Dared the Duke (The Wayward Wallflowers #2) by Anna Bennett

Man returns library book after thirty-five years.

“Some possibly unpopular thoughts” – by Isobel Carr

Margaret Atwood sets Trump supporters straight on Handmaid’s Tale controversy.

‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a lot creepier when it’s not a cartoon

Brooding YA Hero

Margaret Atwood sets Trump supporters straight on ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ controversy.

Margaret Atwood sets Trump supporters straight on ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ controversy.

I read this book in the early 1990s, and still remember some of it clearly. Now some people are accusing the adaptation of (Canadian!) Margaret Atwood’s dystopian, futuristic novel as a Hollywood attack on the Trump government.

Margaret Atwood sets Trump supporters straight on ‘Handmaid_s Tale_ controversy..

Something is not right here…!

Margaret Atwood sets Trump supporters straight on ‘Handmaid_s Tale_ controversy.

The Week: 13th – 19th March

What you see above are two shots driving home – Jugiong to Canberra – from the book festival yesterday evening (obviously the second picture was taken before the first one – the sun was setting as we drove). This whole section of Australia looks like this: dry, yellow, bright light.

So, I spent Saturday afternoon  moderating at the wonderful, friendly Jugiong Writers Festival. I was stunned that a book festival in a country town could pull in both so many celebrities, and SUCH big crowds. It was a little bit intimidating!

The wonderful book launch at the end of the day (with essential, free sparkling wine!) was a nice bonus.

Also – they have a GREAT pub! I’ve already planned a weekend trip back with my brother and his partner.

I stole a couple of pictures from Sulari Gentill’s Facebook page.

Here is the worst photograph ever, of me (and also Margareta Osborn), looking like we want to murder each other. It was put online by ABC reporter Pip Courtney. I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw it!

(That weird stripe across my face is actually the pot plant next to me!)

Autumn light on Friday evening in Canberra.

Thursday evening.

Finnish Ski Troops in 1940

Monday was the anniversary of the end of the Winter War, when Moscow decided to randomly invade Finland and steal regions of their country while the world was distracted by Hitler. (Anything about this situation seem relevant to 2017 – just change Finland to Ukraine and Hitler to Trump!). The Kremlin’s hybrid warfare tactics then are near-identical to what they are currently doing to their neighbours.

History is constantly running on repeat.

My review of Someone to Hold (Westcott #2) by Mary Balogh

My review of Seven Minutes in Heaven (Desperate Duchesses by the Numbers #3) by Eloisa James

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Follow-up on Mem Fox

Happy Canberra Day!

Follow-up on Mem Fox

Mem Fox on being detained by US immigration

Mem Fox on being detained by US immigration 'In that moment I loathed America'

ABC: Mem Fox says she will never return to US after being interrogated

‘Do you think you will ever return to the US?’ asked host Tom Ballard.

‘I won’t. Absolutely not. It wouldn’t be safe for me to do so. I don’t think I’d be allowed in,’ Fox said.

‘I’d faint in the immigration queue. I couldn’t even stand in the immigration queue. I would just faint with fear.’

The Washington Post’s take: Beloved children’s author speaks out about her detainment at U.S. airport

Because I was travelling when news came out about world-famous Australian author Mem Fox’s horrific experience with US immigration when she was travelling to a book conference last month, it was a little hard to keep up with it all.

However, I’ve belatedly come across an extended, detailed version of what happened not only to her, but to the other people with her who were pulled aside and interrogated at the airport in Los Angeles.

A must-read for Trump supporters who seem to think his policies are making America ‘great’.

Mem Fox gets apology after US detention

This is becoming ridiculous. People in the US probably aren’t aware that – for foreigners – entering America has been an intimidating experience since the George W Bush days. People have to be fingerprinted and photographed like criminals if they want to come for a holiday.

Now though, under Trump, the power has gone to people’s heads. Because it doesn’t affect them, many in the US probably don’t realise how bad it is.

When famous, seventy-year-old children’s authors are being treated like this…?!

8303488-3x2-340x227

http://www.news.com.au/national/breaking-news/mem-fox-gets-apology-after-us-detention/news-story/13b97e9343e6f275507081827af33eac

Best-selling Australian author Mem Fox may never return to the United States after being detained by immigration officials at Los Angeles Airport, saying she has never been “treated with such disdain”.

“I felt like I had been physically assaulted which is why, when I got to my hotel room, I completely collapsed and sobbed like a baby. And I’m 70 years old,” she told the ABC.

Fox has received an apology after lodging complaints with the Australian embassy in Washington and the United States embassy in Canberra.

However she says she is unlikely to return to America after the experience earlier this month.

She told the ABC she was questioned for two hours by customs officers who appeared to have been given “turbocharged power” by President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration.

“I have never in my life been spoken to with such insolence, treated with such disdain, with so many insults and with so much gratuitous impoliteness,” she said.

possum-magic

Fox is the author of several best-selling children’s books including Possum Magic, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, Wombat Divine and Where is the Green Sheep?

The Week: 23rd – 29th January

canberra-sunset-australia-summer-24th-january-2017-sonya-heaney-sky-clouds-nature-dscn0492

canberra-sunset-australia-summer-24th-january-2017-sonya-heaney-sky-clouds-nature

Some of our amazing skies in Canberra this week.

Canberra: summer is making it hard to achieve much. It’s too hot inland, where there obviously is no sea breeze. The winter weather in Europe in less than a fortnight is going to be a shock!

canberra-australia-summer-weather-forecast-january-2017-heatwave

I am behind on my review books because the Australian branch of Amazon has gone down, and I cannot send ANYTHING to my Kindle, nor download a lot of it on my computer. I had a book I was really excited about that was just released, and I can’t access it! It’s driving me insane.

trump-putin-russian-aggression-us-inauguration

This has been a horror week for the entire world. Anyone with sense and a skerrick of world knowledge was aware Trump would screw things up for all of us, but I think many were shocked by the speed with which it happened.

Trump sent all of us (including Australians) a strong message: WE DON’T WANT YOU HERE. Not even to visit.

Day One: axe the trade deal with the Pacific region (including us). On Australia Day on the 26th, Trump sent some rubbish message about us being great friends of America – at the same time as discussing dumping the visa waiver program, which means it will be difficult for us to even visit the US as TOURISTS!

c3p4yaaxaaaecfy

If he wants to only let Christian refugees into “his” country now, perhaps he might consider helping the two million displaced Ukrainians. We had lunch with friends from the Ukrainian embassy again this week, people waiting for orders to join the war against Putin.

For something better: historical costume site Frock Flicks has been hosting Snark Week again. If you are a reader who cannot stand all the anachronisms in too many historical romances, you’ll appreciate it. They analyse all the crazy – and sometimes hilarious – liberties film and TV take with historical costumes.

snarkweek2017_site5-focrk-flicks-snark-week

 

carnival_venice_2015_160-9th-february-2015

I am a little bit freaked: I’m heading to Italy in only a few days, and I have literally not organised a thing yet. We were only just in the country, and soon will be spending time with friends who are locals, but I still think I should have planned something – anything! Everywhere I’ve been in Italy in recent times has been hit by horrific natural disasters, and I can only hope there are no more; how many can one country have?

It’s too hot here to bother trying on any winter clothes to pack, but I really need to.

I will be in London only briefly after that, with no idea whether I’ll be there longer-term in the near future or not. However, because of my historical fiction reading I have so much I want to do, and not enough time.

I did live in London for quite a while, but have not been back for years.

Moving a Library

ghent-library-moves-home-via-human-chain

My review of Lost in Shadows (Lost #2) by Anita DeVito

lost-in-shadows-lost-2-by-anita-devito

Kissing or Hitting…?

the-princess-bride-1987-westley-nearly-slaps-buttercup-domestic-abuse

100 Objects – Victorian Tea Set

wedgwood-tea-set-made-in-stoke-on-trent-staffordshire-england-early-victorian-1840-45-100-objects-british-museum-canberra-visit

Is there ever a point?

ditter-kellen-oz-enigma-book-five

This Disturbing Book Cover…

penal-colony-eliza-callaghan-by-robert-s-close-eliza-callaghan

 

Goodbye, 2016.

Good stuff first, because when I get to thinking back on the year I realise I was sick or injured for much of 2016 (more of that near the end), and unfortunately Putin and Trump still exist!

One good thing: I did quite a lot of travel this year, both nationally and internationally.

IMG_20160607_173230

One of the houses we rented in Southern Italy. Having breakfast and then evening swims there, on a massive property just for us…? A definite highlight of my travels in recent years. Especially after two months of being sick and injured!

Cool things happened, like the fact we accidentally ended up in Spello in Italy during one of the country’s most famous festivals – the Infiorate, where they decorate the entire town with flower petal designs, and well over a hundred-thousand people attend. And we were there by accident, staying in a building that is actually a tourist attraction and part of the event (we didn’t know that when we booked, either!). So odd to be eating breakfast and having tourists coming in with their cameras!

IMG_20160424_173606

Beautiful Lviv, Ukraine. What a pity I was extremely sick for this whole visit!

regular-ssoldiers-lviv-ukraine-sonya-heaney-2016

Hanging out with soldiers in Lviv. They were on a few days’ leave from the war for Easter, and then heading straight back to the warzone. It’s Ukrainian Easter, as you can see by the giant Easter egg in front of the Opera House!

IMG_20160514_131630

Memorials to Ukrainians killed by pro-Russian and actual Russian snipers in the 2013-2014 revolution in Kyiv. The snipers were above the big clock on the ground, and near those trees, and they shot dozens of unarmed civilians.

Building the memorial to the Ukrainians killed by pro-russian and russian dsnipers in Kyiv. Sonya Heaney OKsana. 2016.

More memorials to the dead (it is just being set up in this picture; the Canadian Prime Minister visited soon after). There were also snipers in the hotel on the right of the picture. The brown, wooden, traditional Ukrainian church at the back of the picture is new – part of the memorial – and they had a collection for the war.

vKmLZIug

Plus, Ukraine shocked everyone and won Eurovision while I was in Kyiv – which means Moscow is VERY upset and threatening a boycott for 2017. The winner is a Crimean Tatar who absolutely considers herself Ukrainian.

And literal cool stuff happened: Europe had a shocking summer, which meant we got snow both in our month in Ukraine AND in our month in Italy. It was an interesting “summer” trip!

Rex

Gorgeous, SOFT Rex. I miss him very much!

As I seem to every year now, I had some unexpected animal experiences. Rex and Trixie, two gorgeous cats, moved in next door to be looked after by our neighbours for a year, and for months there wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t wake up with Rex sleeping on top of me (the strangest one was being sound asleep and dreaming about something weird and heavy on my stomach, only to lift the covers and find someone else’s cat sound asleep there!).

Rex Burmese Cat Cute

You can literally SEE how soft he is!

I’ve spent the past few years looking after stray cats – and now these cats – but I’m still yet to have a cat of my own. It would be irresponsible when we travel so much.

sonyaheaneyhungry-magpie-visitor-magpie-canberra-australiananimals-bird-australia-spring-funny-cute-cbr-9th-september-2016

Of course, there were also all our crazy native, wild birds who adopt us every spring and summer. Australian magpies (not the same birds as magpies overseas) live for two to three decades, and they think we are part of their family. If I leave my bedroom curtains open they stand there and stare and sing and bash their beaks on the window at me from about 5:30am, to try and get me up to give them a snack.

And – despite all the racism and anti-immigration sentiment in the world at the moment – my cousin’s Turkish fiancé was granted his Australian residency, which meant they could finally marry.

Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney Mia Jacyshyn Nadia's Wedding. Sydney Australia 6th August 2016.

Hanging out after the wedding on Sydney Harbour (duh!). Me, my mother, and one of my aunts.

Even if most elections in the world (USA, Brexit, and Australia’s federal election, for example) all took a sharp turn to the extremist, far-right, at least here in Canberra we voted for sanity and progression. There don’t seem to be many places left in the world where that is the case. It’s the 1930s again, with the fascist attitudes just before the Second World War on the rise again, and nobody seeming to care.

act-canberra-election-labor-party-victory-abc-news-15th-october-2016

Me being excited and taking a BAD picture of the TV on Canberra’s election night.

Here, the “Liberal” Party is actually our right-wing, conservative party. Our country is weird. And we spell it “Labor” instead of Labour because more than a century ago some US politician came here and told us we have to use American English if we want to be progressive. And so we did…

Andrew Barr is one of the few openly gay political leaders… well, anywhere, as far as I know. I am proud to be from Canberra when most of Australia is so fascist these days.

I AM thoroughly tired of voting, however. It is compulsory here, and so I have been voting, or been spammed by politics, all year. Even on our trip to Italy they were campaigning for the local elections, and I got caught up in it!

Now, the BAD stuff…

People have called 2016 “the worst year ever”, but I’m not sure that’s accurate. It was a terrible year for people in English-speaking countries who aren’t fans of fascism, but for the people really suffering in the world at the moment, it all began long before this year. The war in Syria has been going a long time. Russia invaded Ukraine 2.5 years ago, and there were already millions of refugees (including in my own family) long before the year began. It’s old news now, but people never care until it is all about THEM, and 2016 was the year bad stuff touched the countries people consider to “matter”.

3rd-debate-putin-and-trump-together

However, what a frightening year! I’m thoroughly sick of the whole topic of Trump, Putin and all their cronies. People are becoming more misogynistic, bigoted, and racist. People are becoming more selfish, and care nothing at all for anybody beyond their own countries’ borders.

But hey – I’ve been saying that for years!

Norcia Italy Sonya Oksana Heaney June 2016

norcia-earthquake-destruction-30th-october-2016

Poor Norcia, before and after earthquakes. It is one of my favourite places in the world, and now it is destroyed (the top picture is mine, from June this year.)

What makes me sad about 2016 is the destruction. The natural disasters. I am starting to think I’m a curse on famous landmarks around the world. I was in Christchurch in New Zealand right before the city was destroyed in an earthquake. Before that, (though this one isn’t a natural disaster), I was living in Korea right before a madman burnt down their most famous landmark, the Namdaemun gate, a place I visited about every second weekend.

And now? All those earthquakes that destroyed the centre of Italy happened in all the places I visited this year.

2016 wasn’t all bad, but it seems as though my months in Ukraine and Italy happened years ago, not months ago. My family in Ukraine is suffering very badly, and the older ladies in the family are sick or have just died. The Russian invasion continues.

The more I think about it, the more I remember I was badly sick and/or injured for almost the whole year, from a dislocated knee in Sydney, to a broken hand in Italy, to a ruptured eardrum that left me deaf for the whole month I was in Ukraine, to a terrible disease (the Kremlin is importing illnesses into Ukraine as part of their warfare), where I literally could not speak AT ALL for weeks – that made meeting strangers fun (and at a few points it was incredibly embarrassing)! Plus, I had some painful eye problems (my eyesight is so weak, and my contact lens prescription so strong, that optometrists just about have a heart attack every time I go to a new person). Then on top of all of that I’ve started eating a gluten-free diet because I was becoming nauseous and faint from eating like a regular person. I miss all my favourite foods and drinks!

What a mess! I sound like a drama queen…

I guess the best word to describe 2016 is “dramatic”. Or maybe even “melodramatic”. I think we all learnt a few upsetting, hard truths about our fellow humans. From the neo-Nazi murdering Jo Cox – and it still not having any influence over the Brexit result, to the Russian football hooligans who went on violent and murderous rampages in France, to the terror attacks pretty much everywhere, to the fact so many millions of Americans who disrespect women so much they voted for “grab her by the pussy”, this year we learnt that the average human being isn’t as decent as we’d hoped they were.

I’d like to say 2017 will be better, but I’m not so sure about that… I do wonder where all these monsters are, however. Because, from the people I see regularly at my favourite cafés and bars, to the American tourists I met in Italy who are ashamed of Trump (including those from Republican states), I seem to mostly meet decent people. Where is this silent majority ruining it for the rest of us??