By all accounts the first Trump-Putin summit went better than the US-Russian relationship gave us reason to expect. On the other hand, if the relationship bottoms out any further, the results could be catastrophic. Therein lie the incentive for both parties to stop or at least slow the bleeding that we saw play out in Hamburg.
It wouldn’t be exaggerating to contend that the first meeting between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin was the most anticipated political encounter this year. Given the US political focus on Russia during the past eight months, and the tense character of the relationship between Moscow and Washington, some observers hoped the meeting could signal a fresh start, while others felt it would be a litmus test of whether the two states will continue on the path of confrontation.
I may be wrong but I think this year’s translation list hits an all-time high [edit: since I began making these lists] in terms of sheer numbers:
4244 45 books of many genres. Of course I’m posting a little later this year than last (more time for books to hit sites and catalogues!) but I think a few factors account for the increase. I’ve mentioned two of those factors—ongoing grant programs from the Institute of Translation and the Prokhorov Fund’s Transcript Program—in previous years and know that continued funding plays a big role in helping translations reach readers. A third factor—the Russian Library at Columbia University Press—was new last year, with three books, but has five highly varied books scheduled for publication this year. That may only be a difference of two books this time around but the Russian Library has an ambitious schedule for the coming years.
In stories about her meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Natalia Veselnitskaya, the unlikely celebrity in the latest installment of the Trump-Russia story, is often described as someone with “connections to the Kremlin.” That’s misleading, although her involvement still says much about how power works in Russia.
The Overton Window is a concept in political sociology referring to the range of acceptable opinions that can be held by respectable people.
“Respectable” of course means that the subject can be integrated with polite society. Respectability is a strong precondition on ability to have open influence in the mainstream.
Thus the Overton window becomes a mechanism of political control. If you can define the coordinating ideologies of all enemy political coalitions as outside the Overton window, then respectable society, which is your own power base, will be free of their influence, and they will be fatally marginalized. It is difficult to get your people to play along just by fiat, but it can be done.
When virtuous thinkers first see people rolling around in mud of the political playing field, their first instinct is to run as far away as possible. We could call this the “ostrich heuristic.”
But sticking your head in the sand doesn’t work anymore. Many independent thinkers are discovering that even if you aren’t interested in politics, politics is interested in you.
Ya got trouble
Right here in River City!
With a capital “T”
And that rhymes with “P”
And that stands for Putin.
Oh, come on! Allow me this one joke. You definitely should if you got the reference.
Now that that’s out of my system…
A week without television
I’ve been critical of the 24-hour TV news cycle ever since I “woke up” in 2014, but even so, I occasionally – maybe once a day – switch to ABC or CNN or something just to get a sense of what’s going on. (Judging by the coverage, I’ve come to believe nothing’s going on in this country – save for the Russia scandal, of course.) It’s more an old habit dying hard than an expression of any kind of tribal loyalty to, or dependence on these news outlets. This week I did something a little different and completely avoided turning on the TV – even for nonpolitical shows – to see how much extra time I’d have without it. Here’s some of what I accomplished:
- translated 2 chapters of Russian novel instead of the regular 1/week
- went to sewing class; learned the basics of machine sewing
- trained Mocha the katydid to wave hello (who knew insects could learn?)
- finished worldbuilding for comic idea A (FINALLY) and made progress on its last character development sheet
- visited the keyed virus unit and P.— Library; saw an exhibit there on insect biology
- went cycling with my sister in the hills
- drew some pretty darn good gesture drawings, with help from Figure Drawing: Design and Invention
- took photos of the extensive spider community living in potted plants on my deck
- bonded with my dog Byron (he likes wild blackberries a little too much for a border collie)
Over the course of the week, I never felt like I was “missing something”, despite the latest totally-not-politically-motivated anonymous leak (which I did hear about eventually thru print newsletters). I didn’t feel anxious when cut off from the flow of news, as some of my compatriots might. For as it turns out – shock horror – there’s more to life than the ongoing Russia scandal.
As a Russia blogger, it’s sometimes easy to forget that.
P.— Library, pre-semester
As mentioned above, I visited P.— Library this week and got to see how my favorite shelves have changed.
- They still haven’t gotten the latest Pelevin novel 😦
- The “Medvedev” area of the RAS stacks has shrunk, while the “Zhirinovsky” section has grown. The “Putin” section remains unchanged.
- A lot more Marcel H. van Herpen here than I remember. For those who don’t know, van Herpen is one of the leading proponents of “Putin=fascist”.
- New sections in the RAS stacks: Litvinenko and Navalny.
- The section on Russian intelligence is unusually empty.
- Lighting in the basement has improved. I mean, someone can still get murdered in between the winding stacks down there, but at least the perpetrator can see their victim better now. (*note: I’m not condoning murder!)
Side book #14
This week, I began Россия. Общий вагон by Natalya Klyucharyova.