New novel on Russia, USA, LGBTQ people

From New York City in the USA:

Novel cover
Come to a Launch Party for
to Celebrate the Publication of the New Novel by Shelley Ettinger

Sunday, February 15
at 4:00pm – 6:00pm in EST

147 West 24 Street, 2nd floor, New York City
Reading, signing, a nosh

Vera’s Will is a novel of tremendous insight, and tremendous import. Shelley Ettinger moves expertly between two compelling voices, between the recent and distant past, between the personal and political, writing with clarity and heart. Too many stories are lost to  history, too many voices are silenced, often the stories and voices we need most. Vera’s Will is not only a deeply moving book, but a gift, and a kind of rescue.”
Justin Torres, author of We the Animals

Vera’s Will spans the twentieth century and three generations, taking us from Russian pogroms to immigrant struggles, from family-ravaging homophobia to GLBT resistance. Ettinger’s captivating story is rich with social and cultural detail, alive with generously-drawn characters, and unflinching in its political passion.”
Ellen Meeropol, author of On Hurricane Island

Vera’s Will is a beautifully written family saga with a twist that tells the parallel stories of a woman and her granddaughter who are both lesbian. Their intersecting stories, one that begins a hundred years ago in Czarist Russia and the other that begins in suburban America, re-create in vivid detail their historical epochs. One is a story of self-sacrifice,
the other is a story of liberation; the author’s great gift is to show us how they intertwine.”
Michael Nava, author of The City of Palaces

Shelley Ettinger was born in Detroit and lives in New York City. She is a longtime activist in the LGBTQ movement and in anti-racist, anti-war and union struggles. Her short fiction and poetry have been published in many literary journals. Vera’s Will is her first novel.”
More info:

Orphaned Amur tiger’s success story in Russia

This video says about itself:

Cinderella Story for an Orphaned Tiger Cub | WCS

21 January 2015

Dale Miquelle, Wildlife Conservation Society Russia Program Director, tells the story of an orphaned tiger cub named Zolushka – the Russian equivalent of Cinderella. Rescued in 2012, the cub has since been rehabilitated and reintroduced and is thriving in the Russian Far East.

From Wildlife Extra:

Orphaned, frost-bitten Amur tiger cub now thriving in Russia’s Far East

A starving, frost-bitten orphan Amur tiger cub, rescued in the Russian Far East in the winter of 2012, has been a success story for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

The female animal, given the name Zolushka, which means Cinderella in Russia, was found alone, her mother had most probably been killed by poachers.

On the verge of starvation, she was brought by hunters to a wildlife inspector of the regional Primorskii Wildlife Department and was treated by vets from the regional Agricultural Academy, who had to amputate a third of her frostbitten tail.

For 15 months, Zolushka lived in a Russian federal tiger rehabilitation centre, designed with technical assistance from WCS’s Bronx Zoo General Curator Dr Pat Thomas.

Dr Thomas made recommendations on facility design to improve safety and reduce the need for direct interactions between tigers and humans.

The key to this rehabilitation was ensuring that the tiger’s natural fear of humans would remain intact and that she learned to hunt live prey before being released by into the wild.

After growing significantly in size and strength, Zolushka began successfully capturing her live prey, including wild boar.

She was then released in the spring of 2013 into Bastak Reserve within the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, a region where tigers vanished some 40 years ago as a result of habitat loss, direct poaching, and loss of prey. Here she could continue learning how to be a tiger.

Scientists followed her movements with GPS and camera trap technology. They found clear evidence of successful predation on wild boar, badgers, and red deer.

“Zolushka appears to be thriving in her new home, and represents the spearhead of a process for re-colonising habitat once roamed over by her ancestors,” says Dr Dale Miquelle, Director of the WCS Russia Program.

“This story is good news for Cinderella but also for tigers overall, as she and her prince appear to be consorting in formerly lost tiger habitat.

“Since her release, an additional five more orphaned cubs have been rescued, rehabilitated and released also into this westernmost range of historical tiger habitat. All but one of the cubs seems to be doing well in their new environment.”

The exact population size of Amur tigers is difficult to estimate, but the official estimates suggest that tiger numbers have dropped to 330-390 individuals (from 430-500 in 2005).

This decline was likely the result of increased poaching of tigers and their prey between 2005-2010, a period when poachers took advantage of wildlife management restructuring and the confusion associated with those changes.

A full-range tiger population survey, conducted every 10 years, is scheduled for February 2015.

The WCS Russia Program plays a critical role in monitoring tigers and their prey species in the Russian Far East and minimising potential conflicts between tigers and human communities. WCS works to save tiger populations and their remaining habitat in nine range countries across Asia.

Old dwarf galaxy, new discovery

This video says about itself:

Dwarf Galaxy discovered 7 Million Light Years Away!

25 December 2014

Dwarf Galaxy discovered 7 Million Light Years Away!

A team of Russian and American scientists has discovered a previously-unknown dwarf galaxy located about 7 million light years away from our own, using the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys in August.

Called KKs3, the newly-uncovered galaxy is part of the famous “Local Group” of roughly 50 known galaxies that contain both the Milky Way and the Andromeda.

[The] dwarf spheroidal has no spiral arms and lacks any gas or dust, and scientists believe that gas and dust may have been stripped by nearby galaxies.

Scientists are questioning how many similar dwarf galaxies have gone unnoticed, because this is the second dwarf spheroidal galaxy to be found in the Local Group: the first (KKR25) was uncovered by the same scientists in 1999.

From Science, Space & Robots:

Very Old Dwarf Galaxy Discovered With Hubble Telescope

A very old dwarf galaxy has been discovered using the Advanced Camera for Surveys on the Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxy is named KKs3. It is located over 7 million light years from Earth.

NPR reports that this location puts KKs3 about 2.5 times farther away from Earth than Andromeda, our nearest large galaxy. KKs3 has just 1/10,000 the stellar mass of the Milky Way. Most of the stars in the galaxy (74%) were formed 12 gigayears ago. The dwarf spheroidal (dSPh) galaxy lacks features like the spiral arms found on galaxies like the Milky Way.

The astronomers say the dwarf galaxy is considered isolated because it is 2 megaparsecs (Mpc) from the nearest large galaxy and 1 Mpc from any known dwarf. The astronomers also say KKs3 has exhausted its star-forming fuel.

The team of astronomers was lead by Professor Igor Karachentsev of the Special Astrophysical Observatory in Karachai-Cherkessia, Russia. Another team member, Professor Dimitry Makarov, from the Special Astrophysical Observatory, explained how difficult it is to find small galaxies like KKs3 in a Royal Astronomical Society release.

Makarov says, “Finding objects like Kks3 is painstaking work, even with observatories like the Hubble Space Telescope. But with persistence, we’re slowly building up a map of our local neighbourhood, which turns out to be less empty than we thought. It may be that are a huge number of dwarf spheroidal galaxies out there, something that would have profound consequences for our ideas about the evolution of the cosmos.”

A research paper on the new galaxy can be found here in the journal, Monthly Notices Letters of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Posted on December 28, 2014

Classical music world tour, new film

This video is the trailer of Heddy Honigmann‘s new film on the jubilee world tour of the Concertgebouw Orchestra from the Netherlands.

I saw that film on 7 December 2014 in a crowded cinema. The name of the film is Around the world in 50 concerts (Dutch: Om de wereld in 50 concerten).

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 2013 made a tour around the world, as they had been founded 125 years ago. The film is not about all places where the orchestra played then.

It concentrates on four cities: Amsterdam, where the orchestra is usually. Buenos Aires in Argentina. Johannesburg in South Africa. And Saint Petersburg in Russia.

In the opening scene of the film, we see an empty Concertgebouw hall in Amsterdam. Well, not completely empty: there is one musician. A percussionist. He explains that he plays in a symphony by Bruckner, which lasts ninety minutes. During all that time, he says, he just has to do one thing: crash the cymbals once. He has to watch out not to crash the cymbals at the wrong time, as what the other musicians play is quite unchanging for some time before the cymbals’ short, but important role. It would be interesting at this point to mention the difference between the roles of percussionists in classical music versus jazz or rock, where they play during most of the music.

Amsterdam is also in another film scene: an open air concert by the Concertgebouw Orchestra at the inner city canals of Amsterdam; more precisely, the Prinsengracht. There, they play the song ‘Aan de Amsterdamse grachten‘, about these canals.

It is not really classical music, more a music hall waltz, about the beauty of the canals. In the 1970s, there was a political satirical version of the lyrics, wishing that politicians like Dries van Agt and Hans Wiegel (then Prime Minister, respectively Vice Prime Minister) should preferably be ‘in the Amsterdam canals, or, still better, under tramway #10′.

After the first scene in the Concertgebouw, the film continues with transporting the many instruments to the airport for the world tour. The violin cases have to be packed inside plastic ‘winter coats': as it is cold inside aircraft holds, and else the transition to hot concert halls would be a problem for instruments.

The aircraft brings the orchestra to South America. The continent where director Honigmann (originally from Peru) was born.

Memorial Park wall, with names of dictatorship's victimsMs Honigmann interviews a Buenos Aires taxi driver about the role of classical music in his life. She also shows images of a monument to the bloody Argentinian dictatorship: a wall where victims’ names are inscribed. Buenos Aires in 1997 opened the Memorial Park – A Monument to the Victims of State Terrorism.

Heddy Honigmann’s camera pans over the names of the junta’s victims; but without any explanation. It is a pity that as a spectator one is supposed to already know about Argentinean history beforehand.

After South America, the film moves to Johannesburg in South Africa.

There, the orchestra members are not only depicted as playing music, but also as listening to music: the sounds of the Soweto Marimba Youth League.

This video is called Soweto Marimba Youth League performs at Rosebank Market. Johannesburg, South Africa.

The film also has an interview with a Johannesburg violin player. He told that, when he was small, during the apartheid regime, he wanted to learn to play the violin. But his parents did not have money for a violin or for music lessons. His father gave him a violin bow. He then played ‘air violin‘. White music teachers did not want to teach this young black boy, as they were afraid of the apartheid system. Finally, a Jewish music teacher was willing to teach ‘as Jews knew what it is like to be discriminated against’, the now elderly violinist told. Now, he teaches the Soweto Youth Orchestra.

The final scenes of the film are in Saint Petersburg in Russia. There, Ms Honigmann has an interview with elderly Sergey. He tells his ancestors were nobility during the czars’ empire. They used to like Gustav Mahler‘s music. Things went well with the family, until Sergey was twelve years old in 1937. Then, the Stalin regime arrested his father and later executed him. When Sergey was fifteen, he became a prisoner of the German nazi invaders and was put into a concentration camp which he barely survived. He was very happy to hear the Concertgebouw orchestra play Mahler.