poemless. a slap in the face of public taste.

May 26, 2010

Of the Hoarders and the Horde.

Filed under: Culture: U.S. — poemless @ 5:50 PM

This is nothing to do with Russia, but it is something which has been seriously freaking me out recently. Indeed, I dare say it is a story which might give any of the “Russian affront to civilzation” news items du jour a serious run for their money:

Tribune: Couple rescued from mound of debris in home.

Emphasis mine

When a reclusive elderly couple were rescued Monday after being buried under floor-to-ceiling debris in their South Side two-flat, the stench was so strong that firefighters donned hazardous-material suits, authorities said.
Thelma and Jesse Gaston may have been trapped for as long as two weeks — the last time they were seen, authorities said. [...]

After the discovery, the city’s Department of Buildings issued 16 building-code violations on Tuesday, citing the couple with everything from failure to maintain fences to failure to “stop noxious odors from permeating dwelling or premises.” The city said it will speed up court efforts to clean the home and will also offer the couple help, including mental-health services.

Bill McCaffrey, a building department spokesman, said he does not know whether the city has ever seen a case this egregious.

“I don’t want to sound insensitive to the needs of the residents. We are concerned about their well-being,” he said. “We also have a public-health and -safety concern.”

Relatives said they hadn’t seen the Gastons face-to-face for six or more years. Rosie Gaston Funches of Glenwood said she would knock on her brother’s front door and leave him notes, but he never responded.

David O’Neal, Thelma Gaston’s brother who lives outside Seattle, said he has tried calling her monthly and has made trips to Chicago just to see her, all to no avail.

“Years ago, I noticed there was not a lot of activity in the home,” said O’Neal, 75.

Relatives said Gaston was a retired zoologist and his wife was a former schoolteacher.

Hattie Fields, 83, who has lived next door since 1965, said the Gastons had resided there for more than 15 years, but it has been years since she spoke with them.

“They didn’t communicate with anybody,” Fields said.

The office of Ald. Leslie Hairston said it had received only two complaints about conditions at the home. One was an anonymous call last August about debris in the alley and a request for rat abatement. Both were handled that month, and another rat abatement was conducted in November, said Rosalind Moore, the alderman’s assistant.

This story has been in my local news for several days and it is freaking me out. I’m unnerved about it, the way I was unnerved with the story of Dolly the Sheep when that happened. Yes, it’s a real freak show! But I’m not simply unnerved for the freak show factor of it, for what they did, how they lived. Nor am I very interested in the debate surrounding the disorder known as “hoarding.” Whether you agree such behavior is an illness or not, the fact is that they were clearly incapable of caring for themselves. Regardless if the nature of their actions was moral (laziness, slovenliness), physical (chemical imbalance) or emotional (fear, and what I’m putting my money on) it is obvious they became unable to live unassisted without posing a threat to themselves or others, that they were unable to provide for their basic needs such as hygiene and safety.

I’m not as upset about what the couple did as I am about everything that everyone else did NOT do.

Their family never visited. NO ONE visited. Ever. It’s not like they lived out in the wilderness. Maybe someone showed up, knocked on the door and left when there was no answer. For 6 years. After a few weeks without contact from my brother I am ready to file a missing persons report. After 6 months I’d be willing to risk a breaking and entering charge to get inside the house and find out what the hell happened to him. And when I got in and saw that, I’d be on the phone organizing an intervention. Yesterday.

Their neighbors did not check in on them. And by check in, I don’t mean “see them mowing the front lawn.” I mean knock on the door, go inside and make sure they are well. This was an elderly couple. I know we live in an age when the greatest generation occupies its twilight participating in extreme sports and speed dating. But life expectancy here is still in the 70’s. And death rarely comes out of left field. Things begin not working. Physical things, mental things. When did we adopt the mentality that everyone is expected to be fully self-sufficient up until their hearts wrench out one… last.. beat?

Someone continued delivering the mail, as previous weeks’ went unretrieved. Someone continued writing parking tickets, as prior ones gathered dust. Someone continued catching rats in the alley, as those on the other side of the fence nibbled on the residents. Apparently their phone had been disconnected.

It is as if everyone knew something was probably up, but assumed someone else was ultimately responsible. The family on the other side of the country left it to the neighbors. Maybe there was a family falling out. The neighbors left it to the city services. No one wants to appear nosy. The city has too much on its platter to go around telling people to clean their house and get their mail. It’s un uphill battle just to get sane responsible people to pay their parking tickets. So they fell through the cracks. They were off the radar. The only thing they were to anyone was an occasional cause for complaint.

Many have insisted that the couple were reclusive and refused all offers of help. Yeah they had a hoarding problem, but that is their problem. Yeah they had an antisocial problem, but that is their problem. Men wanting to marry men is moral outrage, a threat to society! But people living with so much garbage in their home they pose a public health risk, they have made a legitimate lifestyle choice? Since when do we give people whose lives are in danger, who are clearly mentally compromised and who are committing building code violations a choice? When my grandmother began doing things like leaving the oven on all the time, we moved her out of her home. Oh boy, she resisted our help! She was pissed. And stubborn. Dear god, was there ever an unpleasant, difficult, heartbreaking scene. But first things first: ensure her (and her neighbors’) safety and then debate her illness and mourn the loss of her independence.

Of course, the only way we knew she was leaving the oven on was because we stopped by a few times a week…

There are messages throughout the Chicago public transportation system: “If you see something, say something.” A more vague demand has surely never been made. They clarify: “suspicious behavior, unattended packages…” Since 9-11, we’ve been thrust into a society of vigilance, suspicion, surveillance. While we’re busy wondering if that’s a bomb in that guy’s backpack, while we’re reporting every white van and spilled packet of Equal between Pittsburgh and Peoria, we don’t see something and say something when the suspicious behavior and unattended packages are right in our backyard. Saving innocent Americans from jihadists makes you a hero. Saving innocent Americans from themselves makes you meddlesome. We’re obsessed with moral decay: drugs, gays, gangs, Lindsay Lohan. Meanwhile hoarding and obesity are looked upon as acceptable failures. Nothing to be proud of, but if that’s the way you want to live your life, go ahead. You’re a public health hazard and a drain on the healthcare system, but least you aren’t smoking pot or having anal sex in your own home.

The whole story is drenched in irony… Our society implores people to acquire, acquire, acquire. Owning stuff will make you happy. Buying stuff with help the economy. Our nation is under attack? Stock market tanked? Go shopping. (Jeez, and no one has told the Greeks this?) People are judged -at least in the tv- according to the stuff they have. No matter how much you have, rest assured, it is not enough. When one mentions “hoarding,” the focus of our collective disgust falls on the hoarder’s unwillingness to discard anything. Often you may hear them explain, “But it s still good. It still works. I might need a new tire iron one day.” I’m pretty sure this was still a morally acceptable position to take when I was born. You don’t throw away perfectly good things. Right? Isn’t that bad for the environment? Doesn’t that illustrate a lack of appreciation for what you have, and others have not? Of course hoarding goes well beyond this. Nevertheless, it’s curious to me that the aberrant psychosis in our materialistic culture is the inability to throw stupid crap away, not the inability to keep from getting stupid crap in the first place.

There is also the matter of what it means to be civilized. Hoarding terrifies us, like most mental disorders, because it defies civility and social norms. People, behaving like animals. It frightens us because, like death and the kind of sex they can’t show on most tv, it reminds us that we are animals too. But we’ve evolved to be civilized! To be civilized means to have everything in its proper place. To practice extreme hygiene and maintain a healthy lifestyle. To have a home where people may visit, and sit and make themselves at home without getting lice. To dispose of trash and hide that which is not disposed of. The closer we are to God, the further we have progressed from our savage origins, and cleanliness is next to, well, you know.

But civilization is a concept that concerns not simply the actions of individuals, but precisely how they function together as a group. I don’t know how we can claim the civilization high ground here. The reactions of this couples’ family, neighbors and city don’t seem very civilized at all. They seem as savage as anything. We are so busy looking out for ourselves, so willing to leave our family and neighbors behind, so mindlessly going through the motions of our jobs. We get the message that we should stay out of others’ business, and we abide it because we don’t want others in our business. Our homes are sacred private property, our castles. And it doesn’t matter if it means living next to a trash heap that reeks of dung. “Not our problem.” How this mentality is anymore civilized or humane than that of our hoarding couple is beyond me.

This story terrified me. I’ll never be crushed under a pile of my own trash. Everything I own can fit easily into one studio apartment, with enough room left for an overnight guest. I’m a clean freak and obsessive organizer. But I live alone. A lot of people say, “Why should we care what happened to this couple? I am not my brother’s keeper.” I suspect such people are lucky enough to have strong families and support networks they take for granted. My family consists of one very close brother, a step family with whom communication is initiated 9 times out of 10 by me, and distant relatives of close dead relatives. All of whom live far away from me. What if my mail piled up? What if I could not be reached? How long before people would notice? How many years could pass without a visit from a family member? I do keep to myself. Would people assume I was just being anti-social? How long would it take for someone to file a missing persons report? I am not always capable of taking the best care of myself. And I’m even less capable of accepting help. How easy would it be for me to fall through the cracks?

I feel like most of my life is spent spackling the cracks so I don’t fall through.

I think spackling the cracks is what we call “civilization.” It’s not just the hoarders who failed at that, but society as a whole.

That’s why it terrifies me.

27 Comments »

  1. Yikes! That freaks me out too. I sometimes think about things like this – living alone. Much as I hate working I at least know that if I didn’t show up to work for a while someone would notice eventually. I console myself with this thought when I don’t win the lottery.

    While I’m here, I read this and thought of you. Actually, I thought, “well maybe Poemless has a clue whether this is just anti-Russian hyperbole or something to take seriously.”

    Comment by maryb — May 26, 2010 @ 7:15 PM | Reply

    • Morozov is a man on a mission to be sure. As you see, he is clearly no fan of the Kremlin. But like Amsterdaam’s site, he’s usually informative to be worth reading, whatever appearance of bias he presents. In fact, I think it is his cynicism that bothers me, not bias.

      As for the piece itself, I don’t see anything implicitly wrong with policing illegal content. The assumption is that the Kremlin has self-serving and censorship-obsessed laws about what can be posted on the internet. Which may be true, but he doesn’t tell us one way or another does he? And why shouldn’t someone in charge of that be answerable to the fed. government?

      Anyway, like most reporting on Russia, or the Kremlin in particular, I am sure you will find it is creeptastic and worrisome when you digging around, but no one ever does that. Everyone is content to assume that if the Kremlin is involved it is up to no good. Everyone knows that. Why go into things like evidence to support the assertion instead of examining motivations? Of course this happens in America too. Obama is good. Or Obama is evil. Most people have a view and then try to cram the meaning of whatever he does into that frame…

      If you are interested in what the Russian blogosphere is like (esp. the politically active opposition-y and meta meta aspects) check out:

      http://globalvoicesonline.org/-/special/runet-echo/

      Comment by poemless — May 27, 2010 @ 1:32 PM | Reply

    • Millner’s a real piece of work…

      Digital Sky Technologies (DST) has already invested $1bn (£693m) buying up stakes in web companies including Zynga, the makers of the popular online social game FarmVille, and acquiring AOL’s messenger service, ICQ, for $188m. {…}

      “People spend a lot of money on non-practical things. They could save a lot of money if they did that on the internet instead,” according to the 48-year-old former theoretical physicist and World Bank strategist.
      “Everything you do in real life you can do for cheaper on the internet. We have a dating site in Russia, so instead of taking your girlfriend to a restaurant you can meet her online.

      “If you want to meet people you could go to a nightclub, but if you spend a few dollars online you can promote your picture for everyone to see. For the same money you can be seen by more people,” he said. “I would argue that it is much more efficient to meet on the internet.

      “I met my girlfriend in the gym, that’s not the most efficient way either, as gym membership costs $1,000 a month.”

      Farmville? ICQ? Chatting online instead of taking your girl out? But paying $1,000 a month for a gym membership?

      This is what happens when you give former theoretical physicists too much money and fame…

      Comment by poemless — May 27, 2010 @ 2:31 PM | Reply

      • There is no way I want to meet anyone by playing farmville. Nor will it happen since I don’t play farmville.

        Late last night I caught up with the latest Bones episode. Do you watch Bones? I couldn’t believe it when I realized what it was about. It was the season finale and it was about the death of a hoarder. He starved to death because her was injured and piles of stuff fell on him and he couldn’t get up. Made me even more freaked out.

        Comment by maryb — May 27, 2010 @ 5:01 PM | Reply

        • It’s the hot disorder of the day.

          … It would be freaking hilarious if someone met their mate on f*ing “Farmville.” OMG.

          Comment by poemless — May 27, 2010 @ 5:19 PM | Reply

  2. If you ever find yourself falling apart, just post a message out here and I’m sure you’ll find many people flying across to help :)

    On a more serious note, John Donne’s “No man is an island” comes to mind – leaving the pious sentiments aside, retreating into an island is what can take us to the point where we get so lost in our selves and our view of the world that we become capable of the most demented actions performed with what for us are the most valid of reasons [since our reasons emerge from our view].

    What is blogging, social networking, etc, if not an attempt to open up and not get trapped in an island?

    And isnt it ironic that virtual worlds, the internet, etc – the very quest for company and connectedness, often tend to move us even further onto our own island, because they are a level removed from the reality around us?

    The inevitable end result of the cult of individuality is the individual, alone. And the trend in todays world is to seek such individuality (generation x, y, z, children of the noughties, etc).

    This should creep anybody out :-)

    Comment by blitzen — May 27, 2010 @ 5:41 AM | Reply

    • The inevitable end result of the cult of individuality is the individual, alone

      I just saw the following article on Sean’s twitter feed:

      http://rbth.ru/articles/2010/05/27/what_does_friendship_mean_to_a_russian.html

      I’m not sure I’d normally put two and two together like this, and I think there are some generalization here. But I believe the article is essential spot on about the prevailing culture, and is directly related to this post.

      Comment by poemless — May 27, 2010 @ 1:40 PM | Reply

      • And in your mind, how is the linked post related to the quoted comment on individuality?

        [have some thoughts on the linked post, but would be nice to listen to your thoughts before commenting]

        Comment by blitzen — May 27, 2010 @ 3:50 PM | Reply

        • I was going to explain how I thought they were related when I posted that, but then I decided it was too obvious. :)

          Well, American culture promotes the whole rugged individualism mystique. We get the message we should be eternally optimistic, ambitious, go-getters, self-involved, busy busy busy, having problems is shameful. There’s a ton of shame in this culture. We do a lot of pretending; it is encouraged. People who don’t care how you are doing pretend they do and ask. In your answer you pretend everything is great, or that your biggest problem is that you are 10 minutes late because of the line at Starbucks. And we’re obsessed with private ownership. This is my land and my house and mine mine mine. The idea of shared communal space, literal or psychological, freaks most Americans out. All of these things shape our types of freindships and create the kind of society where the above could happen.

          I’ve heard a lot of Russians – Russians who were no fans of Communism – lament the loss of community, camaraderie, friendship that came along with Capitalism. It’s understandable. Capitalism encourages an every man for himself mentality. Having to rely on others equals failure.

          And in fact, the “Not my problem” reiteration in my post was directed inspired by this semi-autobiography of Limonov. He comes to New York and keeps hearing people say this, and it really upsets him. Like, what kind of fucked up culture thinks like that? And he was in NY as a Soviet dissident!

          Comment by poemless — May 27, 2010 @ 5:17 PM | Reply

          • Ah, I see – I was misled by the article’s focus on the Russian experience as the primary subject…the author was quite at pains to paint a nuanced picture, so it was hard to be sure which aspect you were looking at!

            Friendship, relationships, commitments, all go so far back that it feels a little strange when people [like this interesting article's author] focus on a certain period/culture/milieu and look at those as if they are born in that period – rather than just evolving in that period.

            As I see it, openness to an influence outside you is the very basis of the bridge you build to connect to somebody/something. And the very basic need for that openness comes from the fact that we are all different, and life is boring [apart from being dysfunctional etc] when we only get to taste our own flavour. Life is also a lot more fulfilling, balanced, manageable, when we are balanced by something outside us which we cannot for whatever reason be ourselves. For example, it would be very hard for you to -be- a russian yourself, so you absorb that flavour from outside you, and reflect it, and life is richer.

            Diversity is therefore at the heart of any individuals openness and drive to build bridges of any kind. And therefore, this drive is not necessarily motivated by a need for somebody else to do something for you, or to help you out in trouble alone – in its most basic form, it comes from the drive to experience all there is out there.

            When the cult of the individual takes over, and when people form islands, the vehicle for such an approach tends to be the projection of homogeneity as a goal. Everybody has the same goals, everybody has the same ideas, everybody wants the same things. Society becomes a giant brick made of little bricks. If you read Aldous Huxley’s “Coming up for Air”, you will get a feel for how, decades ago, this particular way of being [homogeneous] was already creeping in.

            And homogeneity means you dont need anything else, you dont want to deal with anything else. Any problem somebody else has does not affect you, because you dont fit together [like lego blocks] – rather, you are all running the same race. You arent open because whats the use – the other person is just going to give you what you already have, your own [mono]-culture.

            Thats where you can see this quest for homogeneity pervades the capitalistic, industrial society – mass production, mass consumption, mass marketing, mass hysteria. While industrial society does provide us with some things we would never have ordinarily been able to consume in our home lands [e.g. apples from china, mangosteens from the far-east], over time, the endless drive for growth results in homogeneization as the only way to guarantee demand and increase profit margins.

            Many movements [e.g. slow food, eat local, etc] which question current social norms focus on diversity, on exploring more of the options already available to us. And these are the very movements which build communities, which bring people together, which cause people to leave their comfort zones and enjoy the spirit of “the common weal” [auld english]

            Any system which tries to impose a monoculture will eventually fail, because life itself is far too diverse to be forced to follow an artificial order, an artificial rule/belief system. Communism tried to impose a monoculture, despite ironically allowing people to connect better and go beyond their own limited selves…and communism ultimately broke down, life being too fluid to be trapped by such a rigid controlled way of being.

            Similarly, the capitalistic system will eventually have to reinvent itself, since in the long-term, it becomes more and more rigid, more and more focussed on control, more and more focussed on homogeneity, and less and less tolerant of deviation. Just like the internet itself [or wikipedia], an explosion of all kinds of views, and then, gradually, the people themselves try to shout down or destroy the opposing view, and form their own islands.

            This way of being is particularly true of the young [adolescent - teenager - early twenties] among us who have been born into such a world, and so, unquestioningly accept it. ‘Cult of the individual’ as a phrase actually makes me think of them!

            And maybe the russians will be among the many non individual-islandized cultures which will show us the way forward. For as the romans, greeks, egyptians, spaniards, british, etc would attest, the law of averages doesnt allow monocultures to stand for too long!

            Comment by blitzen — May 28, 2010 @ 5:53 AM | Reply

        • BTW, thanks for the Orlov piece. I finally got around to reading it. Brilliant as usual. But check it out: I’ve also taught my cat to whisper!

          Comment by poemless — May 27, 2010 @ 5:23 PM | Reply

          • Ha, now cat-whispering is going to become the craze of the day!

            On the same topic, sent you a document which you should enjoy reading…

            Comment by blitzen — May 28, 2010 @ 5:24 AM | Reply

  3. Don’t worry, you’re a blogger. Stop posting for a few weeks and the email will start piling up and the ISP will send somebody around. :)

    Comment by Tim Newman — May 27, 2010 @ 7:30 AM | Reply

    • That’s the plan. ;)

      Say, Tim, I’d the like opinion of a professional: On a scale of 1-10 how badly did BP screw up, compared to other companies?

      Comment by poemless — May 27, 2010 @ 1:34 PM | Reply

  4. It’s looking increasingly like BP screwed up on a scale of 9 or 10. Compared to other companies, they have probably done no worse than any other, but like Arthur Anderson, they were the ones which got caught. I would guess that executives from ExxonMobil and Shell are waking up in the night in a cold sweat thinking “that could have been us”.

    Comment by Tim Newman — May 29, 2010 @ 7:04 AM | Reply

    • I think they’ve passed the 10 mark by now. As for, “they are the ones who were caught,” I thought, well, read somewhere, that rigs in Europe must have higher safety standards than those in the US.

      Comment by poemless — June 1, 2010 @ 5:34 PM | Reply

  5. I don’t think there’s anyone who lives alone — even if it’s by choice and even if they are on the whole happy with their lives — who has not had (or has) that nightmare. I know I make absolutely sure that whenever I go somewhere, be it the dog park or a meeting or a class, that before I leave I make eye contact with as many people as I can and say good-bye. Often loudly and obnoxiously, if need be. That way, I figure if I don’t get back home or wherever I’m going, at least somebody should be able to pinpoint where I was if someone has to start searching for me. So long as people remember that good-bye if asked about it, of course.

    As Lou Reed once sung, it takes a busload of faith to get by …

    Comment by EdgewaterJoe — May 30, 2010 @ 10:25 AM | Reply

  6. Beautiful post. You saved my evening providing food for thought. I don;t know how good Gogol’s Dead Souls were translated into English but this couple reminded me Pljushkin, who was looking sometimes like old woman, then old man again in Chichikov’s eyes. Ultimate individualist he was and he lived alone hoarding all the time while his estate was disintegrating literally.

    Another thing which bother me is the state of American media – they love such stories, they love moralizing and most of all they love witch hunt. After watching few channels and observing how opinions grow uniform and turning more and more belligerent, intolerant I feel scared of American media. Why they discuss all the same things and express worryingly uniform opinions?

    In my small Siberian city there is a lot of media outlets, like newspapers and magazines. In fact some claimed we have one of the highest media density in the country. Majority of these outlets are located in the same building behind seat of local Government, yet I cannot complain about uniformity of opinions or events they want to cover.

    I wrote recently diary on Obama’s National Security Strategy, it was barely noticed. Because I compared Obama to Bush, he is just watered down Bush and as Guardian said “there is consensus in Washington elite”, so what else we should expect from American bureaucracy.

    And last thing, I remember your diary on Yulia Latynina, do you follow her programs on Echo of Moscow radio? Yesterday she mentioned (http://www.echo.msk.ru/programs/code/683306-echo/)
    that well known lawyer Igor Trunov filed libel case against her, she explained what it was about. Mr Trunov (and his family members) acquired some property in Moscow paying ridiculously small amounts of money, and mysteriously people who had sold their property to Trunov and his family members suddenly died under unknown circumstances. It will be interesting to follow this case, more food for thought and perhaps moralizing.

    Comment by FarEasterner — May 30, 2010 @ 2:21 PM | Reply

    • As you know, I have been pointing out for a long time that a diversity of private media ownership does not nec. ensure a diversity of view expressed in that media. You can turn on any tv news or open and American newspaper and read that same 5 stories. And yes, always presented with an indignent tone, regardless which “side” they are on. Why?

      I would not go as far as to equate Obama and Bush. Obama is better, but that’s largely because Bush set the bar so low. But his FP has been rather disappointing. Domestic policy is not much better. And his political machinations are downright embarassing.

      I don’t listen to Echo Moskvy often, largely because my comprehension level for that kind of thing is pretty rusty (much easier to read, or converse in real life) and I don’t go out of my way to listen to Yulia. I’m sure there is no end to Russian real estate corruption, but I’d like to hear about it from someone who is not a proven nutcase.

      Comment by poemless — June 1, 2010 @ 5:42 PM | Reply

      • yes, she is rather nutty, i downloaded transcripts of her four programs (you can also do that) and read, she is talking surprisingly often about international affairs, sinking of South Korean ship, pipeline with fresh air from mountains to Kim’s palace etc. And she’s talking about internal affairs, mostly criminal affairs, she has rather good access to often unavailable court files and this part is less controversial than her coverage of world affairs which are copycat neocon propaganda. For example she (as many so-called Russian libberals) jumped for defense of Israel in the wake of Gaza flotilla fiasco, with usual and shameless lies. I don;t know where she got such perverse ideas, she did not seem to live abroad not counting holidays. I would suggest for Novaya Gazeta and Echo of Moscow radio to send her to her beloved West and perhaps East (Asia) for longer time in order she can educate herself. As for domestic coverage she often expresses commonsensical ideas and her criticism of regime is rather subdued, many nuttier Liberals even accused her in being dustbin for kompromat and FSB (ex-KGB) protegee.

        Comment by FarEasterner — June 2, 2010 @ 2:12 PM | Reply

        • I just saw her Would My Flotilla to Khodorkovsky Be Shot? People may think I call Latynina a “nutcase” as some kind of ad hominem attack, but no, I really think she is unhinged, completely broken from reality.

          Comment by poemless — June 2, 2010 @ 4:56 PM | Reply

    • And yes, this story is quite Gogolesque, isn’t it? Grotesque in all senses of the word. And the civil servants following protocol without thought, neighbors digging in their heels, the sheer absurdity of it all. Dreary world, indeed…

      Comment by poemless — June 2, 2010 @ 11:31 AM | Reply

      • Did you re-read him? I do it from time to time, it restores my understanding of what Great literature should be. By the way I am browsing through some of the recent Russian literature now available for free from electronic libraries, including Latynina, Politkovskaya, Novodvorskaya and other nutters. I even wanted to download controversial “histories” of WWII by Rezun/Suvorov but changed my mind, anyway WWII is rather of little interest to me.

        Comment by FarEasterner — June 2, 2010 @ 2:20 PM | Reply

        • “The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich” is one of my favorite stories in the universe, and I re-read it regularly. I don’t know if it is great literature, but it is genius. I haven’t read Dead Souls since college.

          Comment by poemless — June 2, 2010 @ 4:56 PM | Reply

  7. “What if my mail piled up? What if I could not be reached? How long before people would notice?”

    I guess, Internet folks will notice, and won’t care. Internet relationships do not actually translate into the real life. Sometimes people do die in the Internet, but you can never see a decomposed digital cadaver.

    It’s your real life friends and relatives who will stay in touch with you, whether you like that or not :-).

    Comment by Evgeny — May 31, 2010 @ 10:37 AM | Reply

    • As much as I’d like to think Blitzen would be on a plane to Chicago if I stopped blogging, I am sure you are correct!

      Comment by poemless — June 1, 2010 @ 5:43 PM | Reply

      • “As much as I’d like to think Blitzen would be on a plane to Chicago if I stopped blogging, I am sure you are correct!”

        Cant say Id be on a plane to chicago unless I see smoking letters spelling out chicago in the sky, or a bird hopping on my shoulder whispers ‘poemless’ into my ear [like allan poe, but a most inappropriate word for him!]

        “I guess, Internet folks will notice, and won’t care”

        Oh yes, we’ll care, because we’ll lose something we want to give our attention to – otherwise we wont be here.

        And some of us would feel an absence. But lets not forget that the flip-side of the cult of individuality is the genuine need for us to give people their own space in which they grow, in which they are what they feel they should be. And this means you have to trust people to reach out atleast to the extent where you know that your help is welcomed in a particular situation.

        Somebody might want help when they really need it, but they dont want others coming along all the time and cossetting them or treating them like glass. Like taking a plane to chicago if there is no post in a month :-)

        What is more important in this case is our own goodwill from them coming from the heart, and how much we let them be what they need to be or want to be.

        Ignoring that aspect would end up in us condemning the internet population AND the world population as a bunch of insensitive unconcerned jerks, when actually, there is endless variety and are endless shades of grey in peoples attitudes and views.

        Comment by blitzen — June 2, 2010 @ 8:14 AM | Reply


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