Back to Basics . . .

I’ve been doing a bit of soul searching in the last few weeks about this blog, its purpose, and, more importantly, my relationship to it.  Nothing too deep, and perhaps “soul searching” isn’t the right word.  Let’s say I’ve been doing a bit of reflecting.

D. N. Anuchin (1843-1923), the father of Russian anthropology

This reflecting was also coupled by the fact that I’ve haven’t had the energy/time/inspiration to write.  The main reason for this is that I’ve been tending to other things–applying for jobs, starting research on a new project on race in Russia in the 19th and 20th centuries, writing an article on war trauma, and gathering materials for a few side projects on war invalids, prostheses, plastic surgery, and deformity (Oh, and of course it is NBA Playoff time, and that takes priority over just about everything).  The latter topics have inevitably brought me to examine fin-de-siecle anthropological, medical and psychological journals, which in turn have presented studies on bestiality, incest, and of all things, lactating men.  Given my penchant for anything weird, I’ve greedily scooped up all those materials too.  I call my budding library my own textual Kunstkamera.

Encountering such medical and social oddities leaves topics such as Khodorkovsky’s “hunger strike” and whether he is a “dissident” less intriguing.  Plus, many of my fellow blogging comrades have done a good job at dissecting this issue (see A Good Treaty, poemless, Mark Adomanis, and Vadim Nikitin for various takes.)  What is my own opinion on this?  I know adoring fans want to know.  Basically, Khodorkovsky’s arrest and imprisonment is political motivated. Duh.  But this doesn’t mean he doesn’t belong in the slammer for a long time.  I’ve always thought that the problem of the Russian government’s treatment of the “oligarchs” is that its justice is too selective.  But then again, if it cast its anti-oligarch dragnet too wide too many government officials would be in prison and foreign businesses would have headed for the hills faster than they already have.  But such are the contradictions of a system based on legalized theft.

Worker's prothesis circa 1920s
Worker's prosthesis circa 1927

Anyway, enough of this digression into Misha-land.  My point is that when it comes to my weird interests, chattering about  the Russian news cycle just doesn’t compare.  Hence the lack of inspiration.  My sights have been more set on the efforts by Russian anthropologists to quantify and categorize the bodies of Russia’s ethnic minorities.  The news certainly doesn’t approach the attempts to reconstruct the mangled faces of war veterans in Stalinist Russia or the efforts to assemble a usable prosthetic metallic claw for a lathe operator in the 1920s.

In my reflections during my absence from the Russia blogging world, I also discovered another thing.  If you are reading this you’ve probably already noted that the blog’s theme has been changed.  I found that the Newsweek theme wasn’t conducive to blogging, something the ever astute Anatoly Karlin told me right from the beginning.  He proved to be right.  The theme put too much pressure on writing more substantive posts to justify its functionality.  This became a problem as I came across interesting news bits and experiences that I wanted to mention but not necessarily dwell on or incorporate into a larger commentary.  So the theme in front of you is a return to the basics of blogging, a move that I hope will free me up to do more.

On that note, I’d be interested to hear people’s thoughts on the new look, and any suggestions they might have on improving it.