The Auschwitz Liberation, Seventy Years On

Tuesday was the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp located in modern-day Poland. (I can never keep track of how borders have changed over the years, but I’m pretty sure it was in what was Poland back then, too. But don’t quote me on that.) I always think of Elie Wiesel’s Night when I hear of the Auschwitz liberation. Wiesel would have been liberated had he stayed behind in the camp (he was in the hospital for an injury) but due to a rumor that anyone left behind would die, he went on the march to Buchenwald, where he remained for the rest of the war.

I want to talk about today’s ceremony in Auschwitz. Many countries sent high-ranking government officials. Here’s who attended, quoted from the New York Times article linked above:

Dozens of heads of state and other prominent figures took part in the ceremony, including the presidents of France, Germany and Austria, François Hollande, Joachim Gauck and Heinz Fischer; the kings of Belgium and the Netherlands, Philippe and Willem-Alexander; and Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew represented the United States, while Russia was represented by Sergei Ivanov, President Vladimir V. Putin’s chief of staff.

Yep. My native country was represented by the Treasury Secretary, a random dude who doesn’t really do that much. I’m being a bit facetious: I mean, I know he does stuff, but when was the last time you heard of a Treasury Secretary in the news? Probably not recently, I’m willing to bet.

President Putin did not attend the ceremony either—though according to reports, Poland’s government planned things so that he wouldn’t come.
Continue reading The Auschwitz Liberation, Seventy Years On

Wednesday Music: Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto

Another Wednesday, another classical music video. What did you think of last week’s video? If you haven’t watched it, you should!

This week’s piece of music is also by Mozart. It’s his Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622. Here’s a bit about it:

  • The relatively high Köchel number tells us that this is one of his final pieces. Indeed, Mozart wrote this in 1791, the same year he died.
  • It is his only concerto for the clarinet.
  • In my opinion, the Adagio (the slow second movement) is one of the most beautiful pieces of music written in the history of humankind.

If that final bullet point doesn’t make you watch this video… then nothing will. Enjoy! :)

Or click here to see on YouTube


Nothing too exciting to report today, everyone. I’m feeling rather tired right now so I’m not inspired to write anything! I just have this to say: I am literally the most impatient person in the universe. And it is not good because I sometimes drive myself crazy when I obsessively think about things as I wait for them. :)

Russia As It Once Was

I’m sure you know by now that I love history and I love Russia, so therefore Russian history is one of the best things ever, in my opinion. On the Royal Russia blog, I found a lovely photo of Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo. Tsarskoye Selo means “Tsar’s village” in Russian and it was the Romanovs’ summer home. If memory serves me correctly, Tsarskoye Selo is now called Pushkin though the Soviets called it Detskoye Selo (Children’s village).*

Click to see larger.
Click to see larger.

I like this photo because it makes me think of what Tsarskoye Selo was like when the Romanovs were alive and ruling Russia. I’m not sure if they even went there in the winter (as I said, I’ve always heard of it being a summer residence), but I’d like to think they did and could see it lit up at night as in this photo.

And if you’re ever in Russia, definitely visit Catherine Palace. It’s gorgeous!

*Because, you know, the Soviets had to eradicate every mention ever of the Romanovs and tsars and all that stuff. The great irony is their tyrannical rule didn’t even last a century. The Romanovs, on the other hand, ruled Russia for over three hundred years (1613-1917). Go Romanovs! And down with the Bolsheviks!

Does NATO Have Troops In Ukraine?

So. You may have heard that the war in Ukraine heated up yesterday and today with an attack on Mariupol, a Ukrainian city near Crimea. The pro-Ukrainian people are blaming the Russians, the pro-Russian people are blaming the Ukrainians, and the whole thing is a mess because civilians are getting hurt and dying.

This video is making the rounds in the Ukraine-watching blogosphere. It was shot in Mariupol after the attack. It’s only 40 seconds long, so I’d really appreciate it if you could watch it, especially if you’re a native English speaker. In it, a woman tries to interview a man wearing combat fatigues and carrying an assault rifle. He replies brusquely, “Out of my face, out of my face, please.” And yes, he says that in English. Natively-accented English, I might add. Don’t believe me? Watch the video:

Now, there could be several explanations for this:

  • The video wasn’t actually shot in Ukraine. (How does one explain the Russian spoken in the background then?)
  • The video has been edited and spliced, as in it was shot in Ukraine but a man speaking English was added in. (Possible… but unlikely, in my opinion.)
  • The video was shot in Ukraine and the soldier is Ukrainian and happens to be a brilliant linguist who has eliminated every single trace of a foreign accent from his speech, enabling his pronunciation, cadence, and colloquial vocabulary to fool multiple educated native English speakers. Is this possible? Of course. Is it likely? Absolutely not. Take me for example: I am good at Russian. But even I have a foreign accent in Russian. No matter how much I work on my pronunciation, my cadence and intonation give me away. My point here is not to brag, but simply to say that accents are made up of more than pronunciation of words. A ton of stuff goes into an accent and it is very hard to “fix” all of this to match native speakers of a language you’ve learned later in life.
  • There’s some other logical explanation that I’m not seeing. Always a possibility, of course.
  • Or, finally, the video was indeed shot in Ukraine and there are foreign troops from NATO countries currently there. Since this hasn’t been on the news, one must assume that these troops are clandestinely there, unbeknownst to the public in their native countries, and may have been in Ukraine for some time. In fact, they probably wouldn’t have been noticed at all, had this man not slipped up.

What do you think? Is that soldier a native English speaker? Is he a foreigner from Ukraine? And just where is his accent from? A ton of people on Twitter are saying he’s American. This American writing this has her doubts, though! You see, I hear a trace of a Commonwealth accent there. I’m not sure I’d say British, though there seems to be a British influence, which is why I have talked about NATO troops, not American troops.

Useful Writing Advice

Happy Saturday, everyone! I’ve had a lovely day today: I’ve done a lot of reading, writing, violin playing, and tweeting about Ukraine. There’s no better way to spend a Saturday, right?

Speaking of writing, I’ve read some good writing advice in the past week. The first is an interview with Amanda Hocking, an awesome young adult author whose work I love. The first book in her latest series just came out, so she did a Q&A on Goodreads. My favorite advice she gives is this, in answer to a question about what advice she’d give to first-time writers.

Don’t get married to your first book or idea. Write your first book, put it in a drawer, and then write your second. It seems to me that a lot of writers get hung up on their first idea, their first book, but here’s the truth: Almost universally speaking, the first book you write will be terrible. I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule, but I would say that rarely is the first published work by an author the first thing they wrote. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t love your first book or take pride in it or work hard on it—because you really should. It just means you shouldn’t get hooked on that one thing. Write another book and another. Then go back and look at your first book and see how you feel about it. But whether you love it or hate it, just keep writing and reading.

Read the entire interview, as it’s really good.

The next interview is with an author whose work I have not read, though I have heard of her. This blog has a long interview with Alexandria Constantinova Szeman. Her writing has won some awards, so I’m going to assume that she’s good and her advice is worth following. When asked what common mistakes new writers should avoid, she listed eleven things. The last piece of advice is the most important, in my opinion: don’t give up.

I hope all of you enjoy the rest of your weekend!


That’s all I have for today, people. This has been one strange week. Monday was a holiday here in the United States, so I didn’t have to work. I thought that would make this week seem shorter (since, you know, it actually was a shorter work week) but instead, it just seemed longer. It’s been interminably long and I for one am so ready for the weekend.

I stole this from Wikimedia Commons.
I stole this from Wikimedia Commons.