changes

15May08

Today marks 20 years since the Soviet army began withdrawing from Afghanistan.

Plus ├ža change, you could say. It’s not an anniversary I’m seeing flagged up in the media today. But then, we’re used to wandering the road less travelled over here at the Knackered Hack – if not completely untravelled.

Kino Concert Roll 1001

Crucial to the mounting tide of pressure that led to Soviet withdrawal was an opening up of the culture that started in early Spring 1986 when I visited Leningrad and met Kino‘s Viktor Tsoi (whom I snapped this picture of while he tuned up at a small concert in April ’86).

The song Peremen (or Changes) was an important anthem for that period, and perhaps Tsoi’s most recognized contribution to the tectonic shift in our geo-politics of the past two decades. It appeared to help mobilize Soviet youth culture toward a more democratic and uncertain future, even though accounts suggest that this was not Tsoi’s direct intention.

I’ve been very much taken with the following video of the song. The visuals aren’t of Viktor, of course, but this is nonetheless a powerful interpretation. I don’t know if he is using any recognised sign language (can anybody illuminate me?) but it certainly conveys something forcefully, whatever that something is. This was, incidentally, used as the soundtrack for a DIY, low-budget yet critically-acclaimed Russian film Dust (2005). I’ve not seen it, but this review sounds compelling if you are an art-house type.

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cultural ties

18Jan08

I try not to write on events in anything like real time. Think of it as a contrarian posture of a blogger who spent 15 years in newswires. But yesterday’s reporting on the intimidation of British Council officials in Russia cuts conveniently into my current Russian reveries. It also highlights, in a small way, what I learned at a seminar I attended on Wednesday at University College London.

The kind people at UCL let unaffiliated roughnecks like me in for free at the London Judgement and Decision Making Group meetings. Terry Connolly, Eller Professor of Management and Organizations at the University of Arizona, was talking about Regret and the Perils of Decisional Improvement. His themes are some that I’ll return to in coming weeks, I hope, because regrets (you guessed it), I’ve had a few.

When I was a student (and briefly after) I confess that I did occasionally wear bow ties. Once I’d figured out how to tie the pesky things, it was a badge of honour. With someone of my social background it represented a bit of cheap sophistication. But bow ties don’t really work in the rough and tumble of a Fleet Street newsroom. So pretty soon after I started work I stopped wearing them. I still have most of the tweedy garb from that period, and it allows me to go to fancy dress parties and pretend to be Mr Toad. There are some bow-tie-wearing journalists around still, and you can learn more about their bad temper here, and how they hacked off the hack (though not really) here.

This is the story of the first bow tie I ever owned and how I parted company with it, overcoming the kind of “regret salience” that Prof Connolly describes. Continue reading ‘cultural ties’

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Kino’s Viktor Tsoi

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