Category Archives: Blogs and Blogging

11th Blogiversary

Eleven years ago today I started this blog because I needed space to share my knowledge, passion, interests, worldviews. This has developed into a habit, which has since acquired many outlets (e.g. VK, Facebook, Instagram), but the blog hasn’t lost its attraction. It’s great to show to my English and Journalism students and even to keep it up as a way to brush up my languages and general knowledge. Since I resumed it earlier this year, I’ve been most successful at blogging in Russian, perhaps because it has become my lingua operandi in the last two years. But I’ve got ideas and plans for further developing LCJ for the English-speaking audience. So, seeing the blog into its 12th year, I hope it will be the most successful.

Changing, It Rests

Notwithstanding the well-known statement by Plato that one cannot step into the same river, it appears that Heraclytus did mean that the river had to flow to remain a river, hence we could step into it again, even though its waters could have changed over time.

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that in the past two years I was silent here. I lost access to my hosting account, and thus to this blog and other projects… only to realise it could be a blessing in disguise. So I took time to review many things, prompted, as strange as it may seem, by the events in my country. My friends list underwent some clearing, and I concentrated on teaching and writing.

So, two years later I’ve finally published a book (in English!), a lot of my articles appeared in print, I began to perform as a singer and discovered almost magic teaching abilities: some of my students passed exams in flying colours even though at the start of our lessons they could barely read in English!

And now I’ve decided to get back to blogging here. I really missed LCJ these past 6 months, and this was an indication that my river is waiting for me again.

Following Penguins: Photos And Stories From Antarctica

Betty Trummel of Science Roadshow blog is currently visiting Antarctica (!), but her friend and colleague Jean Pennycook has finished her research season at Cape Royds and shared some photos from the penguin colony there. We all love watching kittens and puppies, so how about some penguin chicks? To entice you, here are 3 from the photos are going to see over at Betty’s blog: A Final Penguing Update.

Feeding chicks (© Jean Pennycook)
Penguin dance (© Jean Pennycook)
Reaching for food (© Jean Pennycook)

Bloggers Portraits (Or, The Fruits of Improvisation)

I‘m taking part in a photography project by Kirill Kuzmin, Bloggers’ Portraits. This Internet moves in mysterious ways, and I cannot even remember now how I came across Kirill’s blog, but my decision to take part was instant. Yesterday I visited his studio where for the first time I met two other Russian bloggers, and between the four of us we seem to have produced some awesome, if odd, work. The mention of improvising is necessary, as along the way we swapped some “accessories”: I lent my cap, while in the end I got to put on the image I’ve always secretly wanted to wear.

The photos will be available in a short while, and my plan is to shed more light on the project, but in the meantime here are the heroes of the yesterday’s session (arranged, hatted and snapped by Kirill).

Bloggers Portraits: shok_darvina, loscuadernos, tesey
Не успела я приехать в родные пенаты, как мне довелось участвовать в проекте Кирилла Кузьмина “Портреты блогеров” (условия проекта и галереи участников). Пути Интернета сего неисповедимы, и я совершенно не помню, каким образом меня “вынесло” на блог Кирилла, но решение принять участие было моментальным. Вчера же я, наконец, приехала в его студию, где, кроме меня, оказалась еще пара блогеров-рунетчиков, и на четверых мы сообразили нечто замечательное, хоть и немного странное порою. Упоминание об импровизации обязательно, ибо по ходу съемки мы “махнулись” предметами одежды и бутафорией. Я одолжила Евгению свою любимую черную кепку (которую я во время оно безуспешно искала в Манчестере, Лондоне и Оксфорде, но обрела-таки в пригороде Лондона). А потом Евгений предложил дополнить мои Hosenträger головным убором и очками из коллекции Михаила. Так неожиданно я примерила на себя образ, который меня давно интриговал.

Фотографии и прочие материалы будут доступны в скором времени. Пока же – несколько моих портретов (снимал tesey) и групповое фото троих вчерашних героев (взято у shok_darvina).

I’m interviewing Kirill, talking about the project
Meinem anderen Leben…

Polling Results, and Special Projects Page

It’s time to tell you what happened to those two polls I threw at you in April-May.

First, countries you thought I would visit in 2011. Most of you thought I’d go to Ukraine; the second place is divided between Italy and Israel; the third place goes to France, Belarus, and The Netherlands. I’m really grateful, as it does actually give me a focus in planning my trips for the rest of the year.

As far as wine poll goes, although the margins are very small, most of those who voted love dry red wine; this is followed by rose; which is followed by dry white wine. Well… I love rose, and I guess I shall have to like dry wines more.

Among the changes I made to the blog recently, is the page dedicated to the Russian-Italy cross-cultural year, with a calendar of events. Another page presents some of the available interviews that I made and special projects in which I took part since 2005. I thought I’d better display all that wealth of files and links on a separate page than on the main page. The page will be updated, as there are more files to display, and many more will still appear this year.

Friendship Awards to You

Friendship to me is no different from Love. I may expand on it in another post, but in short, I do not associate love primarily with sex or marriage, yet it is an important constituent in making a decision to call someone a friend. Naturally, my friends are the people whom I love. I tolerate them, I put up with them, I support them in any way I can, I think about them, I want them to be better, healthier, happier; I believe in them. It does not mean I can or want to marry them, and, bearing in mind that with some of them we both seek men for our relationships, a marriage or even sexual encounter are not in the cards from the start. But I love them in that very inexplicable way that leaves us speechless, when trying to unveil the mystery.

Jess Mendez

Jess Mendez from The Art of Jesse blog has dedicated two images of Friendship Award to his friends, and especially to Paola. In a heartfelt post Jesse has told his friends and followers about his experience of fighting a serious illness during the last couple of years, and that alone makes the award all the more special. He wanted us to share those awards with our close and dear people, and so I give them to you, to pass on. Thank you to Jesse, and take care, my friends in France, Italy, America, Russia, or wherever you are.

Blog Action Day 2009 – Choose the Topic

Those who read this blog for a while know that I have been taking part in Blog Action Day since 2007 when it was initiated. In 2008 I even translated their website into Russian and even contributed a short audio in Russian introducing myself and this blog. Visit Blog Action Day 2008 website, to get a complete idea of what is happening on the day. The idea is that ahead of the October date you think about the topic, and then on October 15 the global conversation surges. The previous years’ topics were Environment and Poverty (clicking on each link will take you to my blog post). Because this blog is about Arts I looked at both issues from the Arts&Culture angle.

The BAD is coming down on our virtual universe on October 15 this year, but there are some changes on the way, too. This is the email I received from BAD 2007/2008 coordinator, Collis:

It’s almost that time of year again, and this time I have some exciting news to announce.

When we started Blog Action Day two years ago, we had no idea how large it would become. Now that it’s grown beyond our wildest expectations, we’ve decided that it’s time Blog Action Day had a more permanent home where it can continue to expand.

To that end, we’ve asked the social issue blog network Change.org to take over the project and make Blog Action Day bigger than ever. I’m thrilled to say that they’ve agreed, and their team has already started working on preparing for this year’s event on October 15th.

As a first step, the Change.org team wants to get your thoughts on the selection of this year’s topic. To give your feedback on the topics being considered or suggest your own, click the link below to a short 5-question survey:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=vgxlY3JzQGvGg_2fmM_2fr240g_3d_3d

If you have any questions, additional suggestions, or want to get involved beyond blogging, email Robin Beck, Change.org’s Director of Organizing, at robin@change.org.

Thanks for all the support – we look forward to having you all involved in this year’s event, and you’ll being hearing more from the folks at Change.org over the coming weeks as we all get ready for Blog Action Day 2009.

Finally, don’t forget to add us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/blogactionday

Cheers,
Collis

All this is quite self-explanatory, and I will be looking to team up with BAD as a translator once again (assuming they need that). And this is the list of topics they are considering for this year’s Blog Action Day:

Interestingly, this is not the first time an event is being produced with the help of people who are going to participate in it. Take your time to go through the presentation on socially-outsourced event – a public opening of a renovated square in Manchester’s Ancoats – produced by Manchester-based design and event promotion companies. I think it can give some food for thought to the BAD 2009 organisers, as well.

Blogiversary, Awards, And A Blog of Note

Update:

I was still in work when I discovered a present for my blog. It will take a bit of time to sink in… but Los Cuadernos de Julia is now officially among Google’s Blogs of Note. I feel… something like what Gavin Hood must have felt when he won an Oscar in 2006. He won for Tsotsi, but some may better know him for X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I did an interview with him in January 2006, and before then I also did an interview with Mark Rothemund, and together they were in the shortlist in Best Foreign Film category. Hood won. I gulped watching him accepting the award on TV. “For Africa!”, he proclaimed. (Having been born in Russia, I may very well say “For Russia!”) Immediately after the ceremony I felt compelled, in a good way, to send my congratulations to Gavin. I didn’t know his email, so I traced the address of his manager and sent my greetings that way. Hood came back a few days later, saying something along the lines of “Thank you! It’s a crazy time but wonderfully crazy“.

Indeed, it’s a wonderfully crazy time for me now. A huge thankyou to those who were involved in making a decision. I know I worked hard all three years but the text below indicates where I stand re: awards etc. It is all the more wonderful and crazy to be recognised. Thank you.


So, this is Monday, 24 August, and three years ago, in 2006, in the early hours of the morning, I was sitting in front of the blank blog post form, thinking of what to write. This is how Los Cuadernos de Julia started. Without going into too much detail, it has been fantastic writing it, and being three years old is even better.

The book I had on my table since 1 August will be mentioned some time later in another post. It is sad that its author is no longer with us, but it is good that he’s left this book behind. And there is this chapter that I shall quote in full:

DO NOT TRY TO WIN AWARDS
.
NEARLY everybody likes to win awards.

Awards create glamour and glamour creates income.

But beware.

Awards are judged in committee by consensus of what is known.
In other words, what is in fashion.
But originality can’t be fashionable, because it hasn’t as yet had the approval of the committee.
Do not try to follow fashion.
Be true to your subject and you will be far more likely to create something that is timeless.
That’s where the true art lies.

In three years I have never knocked any competitions nor tried to win awards, so even without reading that wonderful little book I was still following its advice. The truth is, ever since this blog was started it has been no more about my personal experience than it was appropriate. It was, first and foremost, about Arts and Culture; the category in which I have always registered my blog in directories, and the category in which this blog features in most other blog rolls. It’s hard to rank high in such competitive category but it’s more fun this way. And it is no more about Manchester than it can or should be, given the fact that it is written by someone who was not born in Manchester. It is certainly not “local” and will never be.

I have no problem with this blog being counted among Manchester blogs (I live in the city centre, after all), but being lumped in Personal category – sorry, this is a stretch too far. Yet this is what happened at Manchester Blog Awards in 2007, although I know from some of those who nominated it, they chose Arts and Culture category for it. I did not submit my nominations in 2008 because I was busy attending to my broken ankle, and now I realise that the Eternal Wisdom was definitely at play. The observations I made between 2006 and 2008 entirely prove the above quote; they also indicate that, as with many other contests like this, it serves to publicise something different from what is announced. This year I am not submitting, and I shall never submit. An MBA is too small, anyway. I’d like an MBE some time in the future. And if I must win an award for my blog, please let it be national or international.

Therefore, since this is Arts and Culture blog that also incorporates my creative writing, my goal for the next year of this blog is:

Be true to your subject and you will be far more likely to create something that is timeless.

Last but not least, I am immensely grateful to all the readers. With some of you I have connected not only via comments form but by email, Twitter, and Facebook. If I wanted to apologise for something, it would be the speed of responses. I must be pretty similar to Seth Godin in this respect: apparently, Seth doesn’t accept comments or loiter on forums. As much as I love socialising on the Social Web, and as much as Social Web can help a writer to find subjects and characters, doing this all the time is detrimental to creativity. I respond to comments but forums are not my forte; which is why I am so grateful to those who found and discussed my post about Susan Boyle on her fan site. I spent this Saturday at the University of Manchester library, although I could spend it on Twitter. And then I was writing until 4am Sunday. It pays to be somewhat unsociable.

However, I am very grateful to everyone who finds me, comments and offers help, particularly to Naukishtae, for being such a tireless and passionate commentator; to Robert, for offering insights into language (without me asking!); to Martin, for our on-and-off communication since 2007 and for his brilliant political tale with a maze-like structure, inspired by Bulgakov and the Russian Art; to Craig who was an indispensable advisor for two of the years this blog was running until he moved to France; to Guy who writes a brilliant blog on ancient history; to Patrick, for his translation of Chanson de Prévert and great photos; and to a long list of Twitter/chat/email/real life contacts, especially Tim, Andrew, Joely, Sarah, Louise, Carola, Richard, Sam, Mennard, David, Robin, and Adrian. And, of course, to my parents and a small team of Russian readers who have been with me all along on this journey.

What Would Jean Cocteau Say About the Web?

Jean Cocteau (French poet and artist) died in 1963. We therefore don’t know what he’d say about the web; whether he’d be passionate about it or critical. But he said something else in an interview when he was explaining the design of a postal stamp with the portrait of Marianne, France’s national symbol. Turns out, Marianne was a bureaucrat’s wife, and so on Cocteau’s stamp there was this female head, not really heroic or even beautiful. The journalist asked if Marianne on the stamp was perhaps too typical.

Yes, maybe, – Cocteau replied, – but I think it’s good. When one is licked by so many it doesn’t pay to be too singular, lest one is licked with disgust.

I remembered this when I read Chris Brogan’s recent post – Is Your Web Presence Multi-use – and the commentary to it. Put simply, Brogan’s idea in the post is to encourage website owners to bear in mind that they are read by hundreds, if not thousands, different people. In addition to all the different things about those people, they may also speak a different language. The latter fact alone puts a whole new spin on the story.

Some commentators, though, were at odds with such suggestion. “It’s not possible to be all things to all people” and “isn’t the web is all about finding the niche and catering for it?” sum up the criticism amply.

I often find that we lock ourselves in a niche, either as producers or consumers. We think that we found the proverbial purple cow, but what few people remind us of is that the colour fades in the sun. The day will come when your cow is lilac or even white – and that’s not the same as purple. So you at least need to paint your cow once in a while, to freshen it up – which, in terms of a website, may mean changing its design, or putting a new spin on your niche subject.

I’d argue that it’s impossible to cater for a niche. On the one hand, there’s always a bigger picture, and if it’s possible to have your niche border on several supportive subjects, then why not? A blogger’s block often happens in a competitive niche. On the other hand, exactly how niche can you be? So, you may be making a website about scrap cars, but so are a few dozen of other people. What makes you different? How sustainable is your business? Imagine the worst case scenario: the day came when no-one wants to scrap their cars. What will you do? What will make your site – and your name – continue appearing in search results?

You therefore cannot be too niche, and at the same time you have to attract different people if you’re working on the web. Some will come for information; others will come to spend money. I’m one of the kind who believes in the possibility of blending humanism and business. And although it’s not possible to be all things to all people, there’s nothing wrong with making an impact on lives of many people – pretty much like what we’re seeing for over a week now since Michael Jackson is no more.

To round up – a quote from the magnificent Peter Blake, about what makes a person an icon: “You’ve got to have your own style. But not so that in a short while you’re out of fashion. It’s not about being fashionable; it’s just a look, a feel“. Perhaps, we can think of our web presence as if we’re Vivienne Westwood, and, should it be our vision, blend punk with tartan, even if this goes against what the savvy folks teach us. Or think of our web presence as if it’s Kate Moss. She can sniff crack; she can wear a dress in royal blue colour at the Queen’s dinner. But when a fashion journo asks people in the street “who is your fashion icon?“, we all know what the answer will often be.

The image is courtesy of Charles Blomefield, the leading specialist in French stamps.

Text Festival at the MET in Bury: Poetry, Art, and Latte

First of all, I have a fair bit of Scorpio in me, astrologically speaking, and so this year I have been creating “Freudian” or otherwise weirdly coincidental situations for my Piscean friends. In one of these, I saw myself presenting a postcard with two birds to a friend who is soon to get married – totally forgetting, as a matter of fact, that his surname was Bird. And just yesterday I was meeting my friend Adrian to go to the poetry readings at the Bury Met, a part of Text Festival – and we both turned up wearing something green. Maybe there is nothing strange about these coincidents at all. Maybe. Or maybe not.

I am certainly grateful to Adrian for inviting me: Bury, like Heaton Park, is among the places in Greater Manchester that I never visited, in spite of living nearby for a long time. I considered going back and taking some pictures today, but after a walk in Bury streets and a short journey through Manchester’s Northern Quarter, also meeting Kate The Machizzle and Carol Batton (see the image above), I, to paraphrase Ringo Starr, had blisters on my toes.

What will never stop surprising me about these lovely provincial towns is the fact that you are sometimes almost advised against going there, let alone staying to live. Bury has always been described to me as a “hole”, and a lady I studied with at the University of Manchester finally left Bury for Altrincham a couple of years ago, to her great delight. But just for the record, this is the latte I was served yesterday at the Automatic cafe, next to the Bury MET, and upon my word this was the first instance of latte art in my nearly 6 years in Greater Manchester. And I do love and very often drink latte, so it isn’t like I’m much behind the latte art developments. Here you go.

Adrian took to prosaically and very cleverly reflect on the readings in his post The Tale of Two Carols (which title is a play on words by itself, as you may notice). Indeed, in a magic twist (it must have something to do with all this water signs thing), in the matter of days we were greeted, first, by the news of Carol Ann Duffy being appointed the new poet laureate; and then by the reading by Carol Watts. Adrian uttered what we both agreed upon while sipping on beverages at Manchester’s Centro, having come back from Bury. The problem is always about the genres and movements that often collide but never reconcile. Even if totally devoid of any political content, poetry – or literature, or art as a whole – often turns into a battleground of ideologies, in the broadest sense of the word, and thus falls prey to demagogy and factional politics. This segregation and sequestration come at the expense of progressive movement, but who needs progress, anyway? Modern “traditionalist” poetry denies the avant-garde poetry; the avant-garde poetry will denounce the traditional; the funny thing will be, of course, that both to one extent or another will be drawing inspiration from Dadaist or Surrealist legacy, maybe Rimbaud, and invariably using the same language, as the other. The dispute boils down to the form and the content, but very rarely does it take the language further in its development. When I hear someone Russian exulting that we write and speak the language of Pushkin and Dostoevsky, I cringe: both authors died in the 19th c. It should rather be a matter of great sadness that two centuries later we haven’t moved forward much. We should by all means seek to reproduce the impact of their writings for our age, but we should be doing so by reinventing the language, which is precisely what Pushkin did in his lifetime.

As for me, I narrated my thoughts in the fashion that most became the occasion, and here is yet another Bury Poem (uncommissioned, of course).

Centaur with a sting
I travel through
People and places
Leaving my mark
As my verses
So versatile is this life
That it would be sad
To always be sat
In one place
With nowhere to go
So with ingenious help
From one Latin rule
“Versatile” becomes “vertical”
And every stanza you write
Plunges deeper below the fold
Descends to the page’s bottom
Poets and artists sometimes
Live in Ramsbottom
Salford and Bury
Rather than London or Rome
In places like these
Poetry died and is buried
Under the sun in the marketplace
On the tram in the playground
On the spot where someone said
What – ever is so poetic becomes
Also tragic and doomed
And stanzas stretch into prose
Covering burial grounds
It’s not long before
Poetry goes back to Chaos
Where language abandons the tongue
Whoever they are
Poets are Scorpio Rising
Buried below the fold
Cherished for all the wrong reasons
Marking their way with the leaves
Of chrome yellow paper
And notebooks with the scribbles
Vertical or horizontal
Rising forever in verses…

© Julia Shuvalova 2009.

The portrait of Carol Ann Duffy is courtesy of her website.