Maybe it takes an author…

Russia has been imprisoning Ukrainians opposed to the Russian occupation since it began over four years ago, many of them in inhumane conditions, and many of them convicted after being tortured.

Oleh (often written as Oleg in the West) Sentsov, a filmmaker from Crimea opposed to the annexation of his homeland, has been behind bars for years, but has now gone on a hunger strike to have other political prisoners (not himself) freed.

It’s not achieved much so far, as the Western media does an excellent job of pretending there’s no war in Ukraine, but now superstar author Stephen King has taken up Sentsov’s cause. Along with numerous other writers and filmmakers, he has written to Putin to draw attention to the issue while the world’s focusing on the World Cup (spoiler: Putin couldn’t care less!).

You can find the letter in question HERE. Sentsov has been on his hunger strike a long time, and there are serious concerns about his survival now.

Free Ukrainian political prisoner Oleh Sentsov Oleg Sentsov from russia putin msocow

Vladimir Putin
President of Russia
23, Ulitsa Ilyinka 
Moscow
103132
Russia

Cc: Gianni Infantino, President, FIFA

Dear President Putin,

We, the undersigned artists, writers, filmmakers, and activists, join PEN America to call for the immediate and unconditional release of the wrongfully imprisoned Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. In light of Sentsov’s ongoing hunger strike, our request is urgent.

Oleg Sentsov, the 2017 recipient of the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, has been held prisoner by the Russian government for more than four years. In May 2014, he was detained in his native Crimea and brought to Moscow on unsubstantiated allegations of terrorism. Numerous governments and human rights organizations have identified these allegations as politically charged, groundless fabrications orchestrated in retaliation for Sentsov’s outspoken criticism of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. On August 25, 2015, Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Sentsov himself says he was tortured during his detention in an unsuccessful attempt to extract a false confession. One of the defendants, Hennadij Afanasjew, later retracted his own testimony against Sentsov, saying he was brutally tortured into saying Sentsov was part of a terrorist organization. Two appeals of the verdict have been rejected, as has a request for Sentsov to be extradited to Ukraine. Sentsov has always maintained his innocence.

On May 14, Sentsov declared an indefinite hunger strike, stating that “the one and only condition for its termination is the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners that are currently present on the territory of the Russian Federation.” This brave yet dangerous decision was not taken lightly; in the northern Siberia penal colony where Sentsov is held, and with his health already weakened, it is uncertain how long he can survive. Thus, the need for action is urgent.

As Russia prepares to host the World Cup in the coming weeks, the eyes of the world will be on the country. Sentsov’s campaign will rightly draw attention to the injustice of his detention and that of dozens of other political prisoners in Russia. He has told his lawyer he is willing to die to bring global attention to his cause. In the spirit of this unifying global event, we therefore urge you to take this opportunity to make a powerful statement by releasing Oleg Sentsov immediately and unconditionally. His life depends on it.

Sincerely,

Chimamanda Adichie
Christiane Amanpour
Kwame Anthony Appiah
Margaret Atwood
Paul Auster
Rosanne Cash
Michael Chabon
Sandra Cisneros
J. M. Coetzee
Teju Cole
Michael Connelly
Molly Crabapple
Lydia Davis
Jennifer Egan
Louise Erdrich
Jonathan Franzen
Philip Gourevitch
John Green
Lev Grossman
Daniel Handler 
Mary Karr
Phil Klay
Nicole Krauss
Chang-rae Lee
Jonathan Lethem
Janet Malcolm
Colum McCann
Ian McEwan
Jay McInerney
Claire Messud
Rick Moody
Paul Muldoon
Herta Müller
Eskinder Nega
B. J. Novak
Susan Orlean
George Packer
Gregory Pardlo
Robert Pinsky
Francine Prose
Victoria Redel
Salman Rushdie
George Saunders
Alice Sebold
Gary Shteyngart
Patti Smith
Andrew Solomon
Stephen Sondheim
Alec Soth
Art Spiegelman
Patrick Stewart
Rose Styron
Colm Tóibín
Calvin Trillin
Scott Turow
Anne Tyler
Ayelet Waldman
Tobias Wolff

Boycott World Cup 2018

I hope many people will develop a conscience and join in the boycott of the World Cup in Russia that begins today. Who cares about men chasing a ball when it’s happening in Putin’s corrupt, brutal dictatorship?

I’m not sure how many war crimes in Ukraine and Syria, how many invasions and annexations, or how many assassinations it will take for the world to prioritise humanity over soccer, but we’re not there yet.

Tribeca Film Festival Gives Russian Propaganda Film Major Award

Make Tribeca Film Festival Deprive Anti-Ukrainian Movie Of The Award Phone Duty Russian Propaganda Movie

Deprive Propaganda Movie of Award

Nothing to do with books, but I want to share a petition. ^^^^

I know, everyone’s signing a million petitions on Change.org these days. However, if you wouldn’t mind signing this one…

Any art form comes with responsibility. Promoting propaganda just because you thought the cinematography or script were good is dangerous. It’s appalling. That America will reward and promote Russian propaganda against Ukraine when their own democracy has been so badly damaged by the same thing is incomprehensible. Many thousands of Ukrainians are dead and dying, but the Tribeca folks care more about “art”.

Remember that people were more interested in Leni Riefenstahl’s filmmaking skills than they were in the fact she was making propaganda films for Hitler? It’s not okay.

This movie is anti-Ukrainian, and floats the theory all of Ukraine should be invaded and occupied by Russia.

Sorry, pretentious, arty – ignorant! – film people, but you don’t deserve a pass on this one.

Recommended Book: The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America by Timothy Snyder

The Road to Unfreedom Russia, Europe, America by Timothy Snyder

This is much more serious than I usually feature on here, but I’d like to recommended a book: The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America by Timothy Snyder.

A good review can be found HERE.

Nobody knows the complexities of Eastern Europe, its history, and its present like Snyder does. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine four years ago, he has been repeatedly called on by the world’s media to explain what the hell Russia is up to.

This book is going to attract Western readers because it brings America and Trump into it, but I HIGHLY recommended Snyder’s other books – especially Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.

Here is the blurb for The Road to Unfreedom:

With the end of the Cold War, the victory of liberal democracy was thought to be absolute. Observers declared the end of history, confident in a peaceful, globalized future. But we now know this to be premature. Authoritarianism first returned in Russia, as Putin developed a political system dedicated solely to the consolidation and exercise of power. In the last six years, it has creeped from east to west as nationalism inflames Europe, abetted by Russian propaganda and cyberwarfare. While countries like Poland and Hungary have made hard turns towards authoritarianism, the electoral upsets of 2016 revealed the citizens of the US and UK in revolt against their countries’ longstanding policies and values.

But this threat to the West also presents an opportunity to better understand the pillars of our own political order. In this forceful and unsparing work of contemporary history, Snyder goes beyond the headlines to expose the true nature of the threat to democracy. By showcasing the stark choices before us–between equality or oligarchy, individuality or totality, truth and falsehood–Snyder restores our understanding of the basis of our way of life, offering a way forward in a time of terrible uncertainty.

Four Years

Some 60,000 Russian troops deployed in Crimea today – experts

Today is the fourth anniversary of Putin’s fake, rigged referendum and “official” annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea.

Since then the Crimean Tatars have suffered heavy persecution, torture, and murder, as have other Ukrainians. The Russians have begun pulling down historical Crimean palaces and buildings, and the peninsula has essentially been turned into a Russian military fortification.

No doubt the man will do something awful to commemorate the event in Russia – he loves dates and anniversaries…

To Australians (and everyone else!): what not to do this weekend.

Oliver Stone illegally hanging out with one of the world’s most wanted men.

Please don’t watch Oliver Stone’s pro-Putin propaganda “documentary” that is starting in Australia this weekend (and I believe is on about the same time in other countries). Please just don’t.

It is no different to watching and supporting a film praising Hitler.

And, for the love of God, don’t become one of those authors who watches the well-crafted lies, gets all turned around, and recommends Stone’s propaganda to their substantial fanbase on Facebook!!

Stone is a Western mouthpiece for the Kremlin, and has close family connections to Moscow propaganda network “RT News” – previously known as Russia Today, but they don’t want you to remember that.

(By the way, it’d be nice if authors stopped sharing RT stories on Twitter and Facebook – just because it’s in English and comes up on top of search results doesn’t mean it’s safe, or *true*.).

RT is already illegal in some countries because it spreads dangerous lies.

There’s heaps to do on a Sunday. But watching this nonsense about Putin should not be one of them. It’s immoral, and SBS TV – allegedly Australia’s champion for truth and justice and human rights – should be ashamed for allowing it on their station. Despite years of campaigning by the Ukrainian community, they also refuse to remove RT News – with its endless fake news stories about Ukrainians crucifying Russian babies and flying swastikas in the streets – from their network.

Read a book. Have a glass of wine or four. SLEEP!! But please have some morals this weekend and boycott SBS.

Watching The Americans

The Americans Matthew Rhys Keri Russell TV Show Russia Cold War KGB

You may not be aware that the 9th of May is the date of the massive Victory Day celebrations (as in victory over the Nazis) in the former USSR. This means lots of big weapons being paraded down the streets, people dancing, soldiers marching, and – now – lots of idol worship of Vladimir Putin.

I was in Russia around Victory Day a few years before the invasion of Ukraine, and the Putin-worship was shocking even then; I don’t want to know what it’s like now!

Anyway… I wanted to talk about the television show The Americans, which – even though it’s set in the 1980s – is so relevant now.

If you’ve not heard of it, it follows two Russian sleeper agents living fake lives as a suburban American couple while they do the Kremlin’s dirty work. It stars Keri Russell (who I like much better in this than in Felicity), and Matthew Rhys (who is a brilliant actor; he even played Mr Darcy!).

I do wish they’d cast some people who could actually pass for Eastern European, however. Even the people in the real case that partially inspires the series – people who were meant to be undercover – look TOTALLY Slavic to me (I’m Slavic!). These two leads? No.

It’s an odd show in that they’re the bad guys, but you sort of want them to win, as we see it all from their perspective.

It’s also interesting that they made Russell’s character the one more devoted to the cause, and Rhys the one who begins to question what they do.

Even more interesting is that the show was set during the Cold War because the producers didn’t think anyone would believe the Kremlin was up to no good in the present day (excuse me while I fall off my chair laughing!). This, even after ten sleeper agents were discovered dispersed through the USA in 2010.

The show is not perfect, but it’s fascinating. There is FAR too much sex. I don’t know why we have to see the two leads have sex at least once an episode, and then have sex with other people, and then also see all these other KGB agents screwing information out of unsuspecting Americans. It’s just gross.

It is also a lot more “action movie” than the reality, but I guess they had to give viewers a reason to watch!

However, the show is routinely nominated for major awards for a reason, and it is perhaps the most relevant thing on television right now (The Handmaid’s Tale is a challenger for that honour). It is also grounded in reality, with former CIA agents involved in its production.

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

The Week: 20th – 26th March

Canberra’s sky this week.

We started the week so well! Temperatures in the 30s, sunny days. And then the rain hit. It’s so odd to have rain in Canberra at all, let alone a number of days in a row.

Friday evening.

The first Formula One race of the year is on in Melbourne this weekend, and it is the first time in about a decade I haven’t gone. We gave up our (crazy-expensive) premium seats after the race last year. The corruption in the sport was a real turn-off. Little did anyone know that new managers would sweep in and fire sleazy, misogynistic, Putin-loving boss Bernie Ecclestone soon afterwards!

However, all those thousands once spent on the F1 can now go to more trips to Europe!

There is something stirring in Belarus. If there’s one country in Europe people care even less about than Ukraine, it’s their neighbour. On Saturday there were protests; there’ve been mass arrests in Minsk – demonstrators and journalists alike (it is estimated about one thousand people were arrested); the riot police were out in force. The country’s opposition leader was arrested shortly before the protests began, and one woman was even put in a mental hospital for daring to protest.

This is Soviet-level stuff.

It looks like the stirrings of the 2013-14 revolution in Ukraine. Frightening, but important.

in other news, this story (below) yesterday was… even after reading it, I still don’t understand:

Naked demonstrators kill sheep under Auschwitz gates

Estonian children in a forced settlement in Siberia in 1952.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the beginning of the Kremlin’s mass deportation of 90 000 Baltic people (mostly women and children). They were sent to forced settlements in inhospitable parts of Russia, and most were never able to return.

I was on Westminster Bridge only three or so weeks ago (the photo above is from this month). The terror attack this week was… not unexpected. Sadly, I’m surprised it has been so long since something like this happened in London.

Some people have been saying: ‘Why should we care so much about London? How about (insert world conflict here)?’

Um… as if anybody cares about Yemen etc. any other day of the week! I wish they did!

People are allowed to care about London AND other things!

However, while everyone was distracted by London, Russia did some absolutely awful things in Ukraine this week. They assassinated a Russian Putin critic in the middle of Kyiv in broad daylight. They blew up the Ukrainian army’s biggest and most important munitions factory (the image above), heavily hampering their ability to fight the invasion. They killed more people in their war.

^^^^

This is an amazing – and funny – account mocking Putin, and if you have Twitter, you should follow it. Last year, the Kremlin actually bribed Twitter to ban it for a while – so much for freedom of speech! So they deserve support.

It seems bizarre that this week the US and the UK decided to put bans on electronics on aeroplanes, citing the need to stop terror attacks. The following day, a home-grown terrorist committed the London attack – without a Kindle, a laptop, a camera, OR a plane. Me not being able to take my Kindle when I fly through the Middle East twice more this year sure didn’t stop what happened in Westminster.

Travel is becoming exhausting. The ridiculous liquids ban on international flights was meant to have been lifted years ago. Instead, here we all are, still carrying lip gloss in little ziplock bags for no particular reason, and now we can’t even read a book during our flight!

I had to go through airport security FIVE times just to get home a few weeks ago. I wish there was a way I could do aeroplane-free travel, but it’s a bit of a problem, living on an island!

O-kay… I think the ranting is done for the moment.

Jugiong Writers’ Festival last weekend.

My review of The Prodigal Son (A Rowland Sinclair Novella) by Sulari Gentill

RITA Nominees Announced

A Visit to Charles Dickens’ House

Romance without feminism is no longer an option.

Monday Randomness