poemless. a slap in the face of public taste.

August 25, 2010

In Photos

Filed under: Culture: Russia — poemless @ 5:31 PM
Tags: , , ,

I. “Russia in color, a century ago.”

Perhaps you have all seen these by now, but they never get old. Seriously. It is creepy how not old at all they appear. Incredible. For those who have not seen them, they are from a Library of Congress’ collection of color photographs taken between 1909 and 1912 by Prokudin-Gorskii, who was doing a photographic survey of the Russian Empire for Tsar Nicholas II. Why does LC have these? They bought them up at some point. I am of the opinion that Russia should buy them back. And no – they are not photoshopped. Well, maybe he used the 1909 equivalent to photoshopping.

Self-portrait on the Karolitskhali River, ca. 1910.

(photo: Prokudin-Gorskii)

General view of the Nikolaevskii Cathedral from southwest in Mozhaisk in 1911.

(photo: Prokudin-Gorskii)

See more photos by Prokudin-Gorskii.

Learn more about the Library of Congress Prokudin-Gorskii collection.

II. “Six endangered sites in Russia that will soon disappear.”

For a variety of reasons (longterm neglect, lack of funds, general disinterest) there are lots of endangered places in Russia. Forbes points us to 6 worth checking out before they bite the dust. I should like to add that while post-Communist apathy and over-development are usually blamed, bulldozing or abandoning one’s past is hardly a new phenomenon, in Russia or elsewhere. But why does it seem more brutal when Russia does it? In America it feels unfair that these things happen, yes, but also part of life, the collateral damage of an ongoing, uninterrupted march into the future. And something always seems to organically spring up in place of the past, as if this cycle of architectural death and rebirth were completely natural. But Russia neither excels at smooth transition nor pretends replacements are functional improvements as much as they are ownership stamps (be the owner a person or idea or bank.) The effect is an exquisite corpse of architectural history rather than a linear narrative. The breaks are cleaner and so must have been made by someone more coldblooded.

Anyway, I’d like to say this one I have actually seen. But I can’t be sure. There are so many of these cathedrals, and they all look alike. And all the little old women will tell you that Ivan the terrible had them built and Andreu Rublev painted the icons inside.

The Andrei Rublev frescoes in Vladimir and Zvenigorod.

(photo: Itar TASS)

Wikipedia tells me the Vladimir church is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Isn’t that supposed to protect it? Is Forbes maybe being a bit hysterical?

And check out the building shaped like a hammer and sickle!

A kitchen factory in Samara.

See the other sites.

III. “Soviet photography of the 60s and 70s.”

The Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography in Moscow (I thought they were French…?) has been holding a very popular exhibition of Soviet photography from the 1960’s and 70’s. I love this kind of thing. Everyone associates Soviet visual arts with Socialist Realism and tends to forget that the Soviet Union persisted for almost 40 years after Stalin’s death. The exhibition celebrates the more personal, honest, whimsical and less formulaic aesthetics of the Thaw years and even after. It’s charming, if you ask me.

Well, these are not the types of scenes of Communist Russia that were pounded into my little American head while I was growing up. In the same fashion, you probably won’t see any normal, adjusted American families on RT anytime soon either. For two countries who have quite enough problems of our own, we certainly devote a lot of time to pointing out the other’s…

See other photos from the exhibition.

And more from their Moscow Metro exhibit. Art in the Subway again!

IV. “Moscow and Leningrad in 1990.”

I don’t remember where I first saw this, but whoever posted it reminded everyone that in 1990 Russia was still Soviet. I was reminded of waking up on the morning of January 1, 2000 and looking out the window. Everything was the same as it was when I’d woken up on the morning of December 31, 1999. No flying cars. Those buildings that had been built in 1872 and 1972 were still there, had still be in built in 1872 and 1972. How strange it felt. … I was never in the Soviet Union. But I was in what was the Soviet Union in 1995, and if you think Muscovites woke up on December 22, 1991 and looked out the window and found the world looked radically different than it did the previous day, when they’d been citizens of the USSR, well, … well actually I have no idea how it looked to them. You’d have to ask them.

But this is pretty much exactly what Russia looked like to me in 1995:

(photo: Ben Gustafson)


(photo: Ben Gustafson)

Kiosks, kiosks everything in kiosks. People wearing bad, ugly clothes. Tacky advertisements in public areas featuring naked ladies. Lines for crap. Grey skies. Everything falling apart and dirty. Everyone looking vaguely cold and depressed and exhausted and resigned. Poor lighting. (I recently installed those CFL lights in my apartment which prompted my stepfather to remark, “Oh great! Going for that depressing Soviet apartment look, are you?”)

Of course it was not all grime and kiosks and bad clothing and an air of disappointment. Petersburg got hip to shiny happy capitalistic optimism before Moscow -or the world outside its luxury hotel lobbies- caught on. (Likewise, in the provinces so much Soviet imagery persisted that one wondered if they’d heard the news yet, and realized they probably just did not have the money for new non-Commie signage.) But vasts swaths of it were. I miss it. I know. It’s a little evil of me.

See more photos of 1990 Moscow and Leningrad at Tema’s blog.

And the photographer’s Picasa page.

V. “The Unusual Metro Systems of the Soviet Union.”

Treehuger.com brings us a slideshow of the many subway systems throughout the (former) Soviet Union. Vova may want to wax poetic on what was responsible for the global warming that killed the mammoths, but one must admit that there is something remarkably environmentally responsible in the zeal for efficient public transit that accompanied the Soviet command economy. Granted, an ability to get people to work en masse on time at their filthy factory jobs and a potential use as bunkers to protect leaders from bombs, radiation, chemical warfare etc. were significant selling points. And more and more people are driving automobiles around this part of the world now. Nevertheless, it stings that Stalin, who almost single-handedly destroyed the Russian ecosystem, excelled where hippies with bikes and souls have failed. Maybe more Americans would take the train if the stations were built of marble, decorated with chandeliers and housed art exhibits? Well, maybe more Americans would take the train if there were any train to take at all…

Metro station in Moscow.

(photo: Nir Nussbaum, c.TreeHugger.com.)

Metro station in Tashkent.

(photo: Nir Nussbaum, c.TreeHugger.com.)

Tashkent. Tash-FREAKING-kent, people!

For comparison’s sake, here is a station in Chicago:

Again: Tashkent. Chicago.

Stupid idiot moron American design is not even brilliant enough to keep out the rain and snow (does it even rain or snow in Tashkent? Isn’t Tashkent in the desert?) let alone the fallout after nuclear holocaust. Is not even brilliant enough to be called design! Those terrible Soviet kiosks are more functional and attractive! Good thing Americans all have cars and will never be bombed, I tell ya. I need a cigarette. I’ll be right back.

See many more strange, beautiful (and functional) subways of the Soviet Union.

Bonus: “Putin takes care of bears, says they should be afraid of people.”

Ok, kids, it would not be a proper photo blog, at least not at this url, without a requisite pin-up of my favorite Premier. Whatever the hell a Premier is. Lucky for us, he’s just done another photo-op. Where does he find the time to rule a sizable chunk of the world and keep a shooting schedule that would make Gisele Bündchen dizzy? I do not know… I think he’s tapped into some science we yahoos are yet unaware of. Or has been cloned. Don’t tell me Dima’s doing all the work. Pshaw! Dima’s sipping tea with rock stars and changing names of things while our Premier is putting out fires and saving endangered species. Which begs the question: Who is actually … governing?

But why think about that when you can look at this!

That blurry dark spot in the back is ostensibly a bear. Raawwrr.

(photo: Alexei Druzhinin. c.RIA Novosti.)

Has he even done a brown bear photo op before? What took so long?! If Putin wanted to scare the pants of of everything west of Minsk, this should have been first on his agenda. The Russian bear is to the neocon’s imagination as clowns are to a child’s. Of course, there remains the possibility that he isn’t interested in scaring us. Just saving animals. He doesn’t look like he is trying to frighten us. He looks like a kid at the zoo. Where’s his ice cream? You know – it would all be rather embarrassing if everyone at the Economist, BBC and Washington Post were running about wetting themselves about Russia when Putin wasn’t even trying to freak them out in the first place. Not that they shy from embarrassing themselves…

Alright, fair readers, that’s all for today. Hope you enjoyed the show!

August 21, 2010

Odds & Ends: Official Latest Roundup Edition.

Filed under: Odds & Ends — poemless @ 2:26 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Step right up, folks! Step right up!

I’d abandoned the blog for so long interesting spam began to show up. “Help! I am currently being held prisoner by the Russian mafia and being forced to post spam for p—s enlargement or they will kill me! Help!” I hit the delete button and allowed to poor chump to be offed. Well, he probably should not have been doing whatever he was doing to attract the attention of the Russian mafia, right? Who is worse, gangsters, or the people who do business with them, enable them, and then get all surprised an panicky and morally outraged when their lives start being threatened? I am pretty sure that was the whole Khodorkovsky defense… Well, as if I were not feeling enough guilt about slacking off with the blog this summer, Siberian Light goes and declares my previous post about reading on the subway “Poemless’ latest roundup.” Ack! That was a real life genuine blog post, with original thoughts on one subject and everything! It was no “roundup.” Boo! Also, round up is something you do to weeds and cattle and fractions. I write. Yeah. Anyway… Here’s your damn roundup:

POLITICS

I. Lovely little article appeared on FP this week in which professionals were paid money to make the same observations I make for free everyday and most 10 year olds could school you on. Oh well. I suppose a bit of repetition is required to get basic facts through thick skulls. Probably arranging a mafia kidnapping would be more effective, but journalism is legal.

Foreign Policy: Why Russia Matters. Ten reasons why Washington must engage Moscow.

Consider this your talking points memo:

1. Russia’s nukes are still an existential threat.
2. Russia is a swing vote on the international stage.
3. Russia is big.
4. Russia’s environment matters.
5. Russia is rich.
6. One word: energy.
7. Russia is a staunch ally in the war on terror (and other scourges).
8. The roads to Tehran and Pyongyang go through Moscow.
9. Russia can be a peacemaker.
10. Russians buy U.S. goods.

No one ever mentions #9! We only illegally invaded Iraq and then pretended to leave a decade later because Russia wasn’t going to give us the UNSC vote to do it legally. They also one of the (many) reasons we haven’t declared war on Iran. #1-6 are no-brainers but sadly a lot of people are too. #7 is a lame excuse both countries use to get away with things they shouldn’t. #8 sounds like the subtitle of a creepy neocon white paper and #10 is the least palatable reason in my book. And really, what the hell does the U.S. even manufacture anymore? Besides bullshit economic models and Hollywood celebrities? And I am taking the gangster defense on this: if Russians want to buy our stuff, I can’t be responsible for what happens to them.

ARTS

I. A “Who’s Who” of approved entertainment, or a potential blacklist, depending on your sensibilities…

Plucer: Служители Муз, участвовавшие в работе объединения “НАШИ” на Селигере.

художник Анатолий Осмоловский – 2010
художник Николай Полисский – 2009
режиссёр Никита Михалков – 2009
художник Андрей Бартенев – 2010
галерист Софья Троценко – 2009
художник Никас Сафронов – 2010
галерист Елена Селина – 2010
певица Земфира – 2005
группа “Любэ” – 2005, 2007
певец Вячеслав Бутусов – 2006
группа “Би-2″ – 2006, 2009, 2010
группа “Серьга” – 2006
дизайнер Денис Симачёв – 2010
дизайнер Леонид Алексеев – 2010
дизайнер Гоша Рубчинский – 2010
фотохудожник Олег Доу – 2010
дизайнер Татьяна Михалкова – 2010
поэт Евгений Евтушенко – 2009, 2010
писатель Леонид Каганов – 2009
писатель Олег Рой – 2009
писатель Елена Кунсэль – 2010
писатель Кирилл Бенедиктов – 2010
писатель Валерий Печейкин – 2010
певица Маша Макарова – 2006
группа “УмаТурман” – 2005, 2006
группа “Король и Шут” – 2006
группа “Кипелов” – 2006
группа “Ночные снайперы” – 2006
группа “Агата Кристи” – 2006
группа “Кукрыниксы” – 2006
группа “Мультфильмы” – 2006
певица Юлия Чичерина – 2006
группа “Дискотека Авария” – 2007
группа “Чай вдвоём” – 2009
группа “Город 312″ – 2009
группа “Корни” – 2009
группа “Блестящие” – 2009
группа “Виагра” – 2009
группа “Плазма” – 2009
певец Никита Малинин – 2009
певец Ираклий Пирцхалава – 2009
группа “Пилигрим” – 2009
певица Ирина Ортман – 2009
певица Лена Князева – 2009
певица Электра – 2009
певец Владимир Лёвкин – 2009
певец Александр Киреев – 2010
певица Пелагея – 2010
режиссёр Наталья Бондарчук – 2009
режиссёр Анатолий Прохоров – 2009
каскадёр Александр Иншаков – 2009
режиссёр Тимур Бекмамбетов – 2010
режиссёр Иван Максимов – 2010
режиссёр Сергей Мирошниченко – 2010
продюсер Ренат Давлетьяров – 2010
актёр Валерий Гаркалин – 2010
актёр Андрей Фомин – 2010
дрессировщики бр. Запашные – 2009

I have to plead guilty to not knowing half of these people (and even guiltier to having once attended a Ser’ga concert) but am rather shocked by the mention of Yevgeny Yevtushenko. It just seems a bit vulgar for him somehow. But then Mikhalkov has illustrated that the infamous haughty panache that so defines the Russian intelligentsia is hardly limited to critics of the government. In fact, the “real” Russian oldschool dissidents I know can’t stand Yevtushenko’s guts. So maybe I should be less surprised.

II. And speaking of Bekmambetov, who once had me kidnapped and forced to watch the filming of Wanted, it sounds like he’s about to make the most brilliant(ly titled) movie ever:

About.com: Wanted Director Signs on for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

And it is not a comedy! Is this from the same people who brought us the video game Eugene Onegin: Devil’s Mercy, which “sought to provide a lesson in literature by rendering the hero of Alexander Pushkin’s masterpiece as a zombie killer”? Is there some “historical-figure-becomes-monster-hunter” genre I am unaware of?

Well, I wasn’t kidnapped exactly. Just exiting a building smack in the middle of a stunt scene and swiftly corralled into the “safe” zone on the set. And not allowed to go home until they got the shot. So, kidnapped, basically. Movienapped, we’ll say.

III. Despite rumors of my darling BG once colluding with Surkov, I didn’t see his name on the list of celebs willing to publicly kiss up to a political party to get the kids to buy their records. Of course – he is taking the high road:

Far from Moscow: New from Akvarium’s Archives: “Our Life as Seen by the Trees.”

Yesterday a remarkable document from the history of Russian rock music was made available to the general public – in ways that might actually help that same social body. In other words, ten songs from the archives of St Petersburg ensemble Akvarium have been released via the music service Kroogi for charitable ends. Proceeds raised by the sale of these songs, known en masse as “Our Life as Seen by the Trees,” will be used to help victims of the recent forest fires in Russia. Kroogi is requiring downloaders to pay nothing more than one cent; hopefully fans of the band will feel obliged to offer more. Information about the charitable organization involved, headed by Dr. Elizaveta Glinka, can be found at the same online venue.

You should read this nicely written article, which includes some of Grebenshchikov’s own words about the time and place in which the songs were recorded, some history of the band and some heavy-handed reflection on the past and future or Russia.

P.S. If you are a fan of Akvarium, I’m putting in a plug forThe Bodhisattvas of Babylon, recently revamped. Checked it out.

IV. Apropos of nothing, Gary Shteyngart has a new book out, “Super Sad True Love Story,” and was just on PBS’s Need To Know.

I have a real love-hate relationship with Shteyngart. I think his novels lack any redeeming qualities, but I keep reading them for the Russian kitsch and for other reasons I am consciously unaware of but subconsciously probably just unwilling to admit to myself. I’d never seen him interviewed before and am glad I did. He seems much more decent and likable than his characters…

V. Finally, you can go check out some olden days fotos of Russian intellectuals who were Russian intellectuals back when that was a brilliant thing to be:

Babs71: Ленинград. Групповой портрет культуры. 1920-30е.

ODDS

I. WTF is going on in Japan?!?!

I honestly don’t pay any attention to Japan. Why would I? I mean, besides Banana Yoshimoto? But I keep coming across these INSANE stories about missing old people. Not as in “old people who wander off.” As in, “old people who are killed or whose deaths are not reported by relatives so they can collected their pensions!”

Slate: The Rise of the Parasite Singles.

Didn’t the Japanese used to kill themselves when they ran out of money?

A nationwide search for missing elderly people in Japan is turning up more macabre and mysterious stories every day. The hunt began earlier this month after Tokyo officials found the mummified body of an 111-year-old man in his bed, 30 years after his death. On Aug. 10, the city of Kobe admitted that the last registered address of the woman who at 125 years old would be Japan’s oldest citizen has been a public park since 1981.

With almost one-quarter of the population over 65 years old, Japan has more than 40,300 centenarians, about 87 percent of them women. Government officials suspect that more supposed centenarians are dead, and at least some of the deaths went unreported by family members so they could continue to claim the elderly relatives’ retirement benefits.[...]

The relatives (usually children) of the missing Japanese centenarians located thus far have all been of retirement age, people old enough to be getting their own social security checks. But a growing number of younger Japanese citizens are depending on their retired parents for financial support. On Aug. 12, police arrested a 56-year-old unemployed man in central Mie prefecture on suspicion that he starved his mother to death two years ago and has been living on her pension ever since.

But wait! There’s more!

BBC: Japan man ‘kept dead mother in a backpack’

The remains of a Japanese woman have been found in a backpack, in the latest gruesome discovery by investigators searching for missing old people.

The woman’s son told police his mother died in 2001 but he had not been able to pay for a burial.

A similar discovery weeks ago sparked a search for people who are registered as being more than 100 years old.[...]

“Because I didn’t have money for a funeral, I didn’t report her death,” the Sankei Shimbun newspaper quoted him as saying.

The AFP news agency reported that he told police: “I laid out her body for a while, washed it in the bath, then broke up the bones and put them into a backpack.”

But the woman’s pension continued to be paid and police are now investigating the son on suspicion of fraud.

There are more than 40,000 registered centenarians in Japan, according to government data, but the number of missing has raised concerns that the welfare system is being exploited by dishonest relatives.

Analysts say there is dismay in Japan that a rich, efficient society could have lost track of its senior citizens to such a degree.

I am in dismay that a rich, efficient society cannot afford proper funerals…

II. I am also dismayed by other stuff I found on Slate.

Slate: Here, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty: Is it legal to eat your cat?

When police in Western New York pulled over Gary Korkuc for blowing off a stop sign on Sunday, they found a live cat in his trunk, covered in cooking oil, peppers, and salt. Korkuc told authorities that his pet feline was “possessive, greedy, and wasteful” and that he intended to cook and eat it. Korkuc has been charged with animal cruelty. Is there a legal way to cook and eat a cat?
Maybe in some places, but not New York. Few states have specific laws barring the use of pets for food. [...]

California’s anti-pet-eating law has a broader reach. It bars possession of the carcass, so having bought your cat steaks from someone else wouldn’t be a useful alibi. The California law also protects “any animal traditionally or commonly kept as a pet or companion,” rather than just Fido and Fluffy. The statute is somewhat untested, though, so no one really knows which animals are included. Pigs are not, even though they are commonly kept as pets, because they are farm animals. Horses are specifically covered by a different section of the code. There’s no precedent on iguanas, goldfish, or boa constrictors.[...]

On the other end of the spectrum are states like Missouri, where very few restrictions are placed on when, why, and how an owner can kill his pet. In these areas, it would be difficult to lock up a cat-eater, unless his chosen means of slaughter were particularly inhumane.

Ah, Missouri… I’ve often thought about this issue, the double standard. My cat sinks his teeth into my flesh on a regular basis, and I am pretty sure if he were starving, he’d look at me and see dinner. But even if I were starving, I could not eat my cat.

III. If you think the previous two stories were disturbing … and enjoyed that, let me alert you to the website http://www.Christwire.org. There you will find stories about Chinese pandagators, gay pets (do they go to heaven?) and many, many far more deranged and offensive items. Parody, perhaps, but your boss won’t know that, so a NSFW warning is attached.

IV. Lastly, and remaining on the topic of pets and ethics:

AP: Russia marks 50th anniversary of space dogs flight

MOSCOW — Russia is marking the 50th anniversary of the space flight of two mongrel dogs — Belka and Strelka — who became the first living creatures to circle the Earth and come back alive.
The August 1960 mission helped test the equipment which was used to carry the first human, Yuri Gagarin, into space on April 12, 1961.

Belka and Strelka were part of a Soviet program of animal tests intended to pave the way for human space flight. They followed Laika, a dog that flew into space on Nov. 3, 1957 but wasn’t meant to survive and died.

The successful flight of Belka and Strelka had showcased the Soviet lead in space exploration and turned the dogs into global celebrities. Russian television stations topped their newscasts Thursday with anniversary reports.

Belka & Strelka!

August 18, 2010

Notes from the Underground

Filed under: Culture: U.S.,Too Much Information — poemless @ 5:35 PM
Tags:

In Soviet Russia, Dostoyevsky reads You on the subway!

I recently joined Twitter and have been terribly unimpressed. Half of the “tweets” I read are recycled on/from facebook, half of them are cliquish in a way that makes me feel like I am shyly eating lunch/eavesdropping at the popular kids’ table, and the vast majority of them are of positively no interest to me at all. Except for one shining example. The Paris Review.

I don’t read the Paris Review. In fact, I am only aware of its function as something one totes about like an extra limb, usually belonging to moody hipsters with advanced English degrees, forced to spend hours working at the local bookstore information desks, the weight of their fates so unbearable that an extra limb is required to keep them propped up at said desks – and here enters the Paris Review. But when I signed up for Twitter, I searched “books/literature” as a subject of interest, thinking I might stalk my favorite authors, and stumbled upon the Paris Review Twitter feed. Why is it so brilliant, so worth having to slog through a thousand posts about the price of Russian grain for? Their advice column. I mean, I’m not saying it’s any good, that you should take it, but there is something profoundly entertaining about cynical, pretentious literary types giving each other advice. I dare say it is art. Well, anyway, it’s better than whatever you (and I) are posting on Twitter…

Excerpts from “THE PARIS REVIEW DAILY: Ask The Paris Review.”

I read a Richard Yates novel. And I’m fucking depressed. Like wow, what a downer. Give me something to cheer me up. —Jeff Swift

PR: I’m not sure how to recommend this, but are you familiar with “I Am a Bunny?”

Girls. I’m girl crazy. It’s ’cause it’s summer. I’d like to calm myself down. What should I do? —Ronnie

PR: “The Complete Guide to Furniture Styles,” by Louise Ade Boger. This one is new to my collection. I got it off the two-dollar cart at the Strand last week and already I have found it an indispensible settler of the mind. I know what you’re thinking: for a diseased one-track Bonobo like yourself, it’s only the tiniest baby-step from furniture to sex. Trust me. Ms. Boger is an artist. She was bored writing the thing, bored shitless from sentence one, and she manages to communicate that feeling to the reader in real time. To say “The Complete Guide to Furniture Styles” is 427 pages long is to say nothing. The pages are giant; the text bicolumniar; the black-and-white plates, for all intents and purposes, useless. Reading “The Complete Guide” is like popping six Ambien and hitting yourself on the head with a brick.

Can you recommend any books that will make interesting people approach me if I read them on the subway? During “A Moveable Feast,” people came up and quoted entire passages verbatim, and it really enhanced the reading experience. —Alexandra Petri

It was the last question which first caught my attention. You want interesting people to approach you on the subway? I spend an hour of my life everyday trying to prevent this. The subway is the one place I want everyone to be as innocuously normal and silent as humanly possible. And I certainly don’t want them approaching me. But then, as I read the answer, I thought there was something wise and funny about different subway lines having different literary preferences. And then again, I was reminded of how reading on the subway is not a universal experience. This is a realization I had only recently, when maryb at Alone With Each Other posted something about Kindles, etc. replacing hardcover books, and paperbacks will be for the poor. As someone who works with rare books, I went into hysterics about the hardcover’s imminent extinction, but at some point managed to have this exchange:

maryb: And paperbacks will be purchased by people who want to read at home or who rely on the library or book sales, the way hardbacks are now…

ME: …do people really have books they only read at home and books they only read on the go? Generally speaking, the book I’m reading on the train is the one I’m picking back up at lunch and getting into bed with at night.

maryb: You big city people. Here in St. Louis there are no trains to read on except for one scrawny metro line that hardly anybody rides. The fact that I carry a book around with me makes me an aberration. So yes, there are many
people who intend ONLY to read at home.

Somehow I’d gotten the idea into my head that trains exist to 1) get a person from point A to point B and 2) give a person time to read. Of course one can also read at a cafe, the beach, park, doctors’ offices, even in one’s own bed. But the idea that people just sit around, in their own homes, reading… it kind of terrified me. I don’t know why. Obviously sitting around watching tv seems plausible. I think I have a phobia or something. If reading a book is on my list of things to do, and I am at home, I leave. That’s why god created cafes, right? Unless of course it is that certain kind of foul weather morning where curling up under the duvet by the window with a cup of coffee and a book is acceptable, nay, obligatory on aesthetic grounds alone. Anyway, now I am obsessed with reading-on-trains culture.

Are we doing it to avoid people?, to pass the time?, because it is the only chance we have to read?, to seduce men?

According to the website CTA Tattler, Women El riders read more books than men:

Since December, I’ve been recording what books people have been reading, and 17 out of 21 El readers were female. Of those 17 women, 13 were in their 20s or 30s, based on my “best guess.” (You should see me guess
weights at the State Fair.)

To be fair, I see men read. I think I must live on a well-read line. Apropos of nothing, I have been doing my own unscientific study of El riders’ habits, and most Blackberry users are women, whereas most iPhone use is by men. Also, it is mostly men watching tv on their mobile devices. Certainly mostly men laughing while watching tv their mobile devices. The mobile device has almost entirely wiped out the Sudoku fad of a few years back, while book readership appears to have remained steady. I don’t see many Kindle-type things, and I think people look ridiculous reading them. Primarily because such people are usually simultaneously fumbling with their iPods, not hearing their iPhones ringing and checking their e-mail on their Blackberries during the very 20 minute trip while they are flashing about their e-books. It all seems more satirical or dystopian than inspiring.

Here is another take on the literature of the commute:

The Guardian: Give us more literature on public transport: Moscow metro’s murals of Dostoevsky apparently risk making commuters dangerously depressed. But surely travelling with only adverts to read is a far grimmer experience.

According to psychologists, no good will come of the new murals in Moscow’s Dostoevskaya underground station. The vast, black, white and grey depictions of Dostoevsky himself, and the characters from his novels, will make people “afraid to ride the subway”; they will encourage suicidal impulses; they’re depressing. But as a regular London tube traveller, I actually found myself feeling a little jealous. I think they look pretty great, and while they might not actually brighten up a journey they’d certainly make it more interesting.

I become panicky if I don’t have something to read or look at while travelling. If I’ve timed it so badly that I finish a book on a journey, don’t have anything new to read, and have finished/can’t bear to start Metro or whatever free paper has been pushed at me, then I will eventually stoop to reading the adverts while waiting for a train. (It’s less stressful once I’m on board; I may be lucky enough to stumble on one of the Poems on the Underground posters – as part of my pledge to learn more poetry by heart I have been trying to use my tube journeys to commit them to memory). But how much better would it be to be able to gaze on scenes from “Crime and Punishment,” or a mural of the great man, instead?

I don’t think we Londoners can swipe Dostoevsky, of course: we’d need an author with a more British flavour. I think I might campaign for Dickens at London Bridge to start with – an agonised Pip or a worried Nancy would definitely while away a few delays. In New York at Publishers Weekly, meanwhile, they’re wondering about “Paul Auster in Park Slope? Scenes from Bellow’s Mr Sammler’s Planet in an uptown Manhattan Station? Some kind of snarled John Ashbery mural in the confusing transfer hallways of Delancey Street?” Which literary landmarks would you like to see on the way into work?

Which literary landmarks would you like to see on the way into work?

I don’t see how art could make anyone more suicidal than the scenes we are already forced to observe on the train each day. We used to have poetry inside the trains. And at one stop, some artschool student (I presume, since only artschool students use this stop) has done a kind of cheap poetry installation, taping one line on each pillar, so it reads differently from different angles, except it is bad poetry… Probably Chicago could not do much better on the positive vibes front than scenes from “Crime and Punishment,” as our literary claims to fame are Nelson Algren and Sara Paretsky. What people don’t mention in the “OMG those axe killer paintings in the Moscow Metro are depressing!” editorials is that much of Moscow’s subway system creates a kind of subterranean public palace, with great art and crystal chandeliers and marble floors and scale, oh, the scale… They are works of art in themselves, these stations, and momentary escapes from the realities above (well, hypothetically, if no one else were using them.) So let Muscovites be critical and demanding about their subway art and literature. The axe killers and dictators have free rein outdoors, let the innocent people have the damn train stations. It’s a bit the opposite in Chicago. Our El stops look like sewers or Siberian wooden sidewalks and are already home to the psychos and dictators. A bit of art would be nice. Some literature would comfort us during our brief exile from civilization.

We do have a bit of the Berlin Wall, but frankly, that only serves to reinforce the feelings of being trapped and abused that the CTA is so so very brilliant at imposing on its riders. A perfect marriage of symbolism if ever there were one…

What am I reading on the train these days? I have recently checked out the following:

~ Baba Yaga Laid an Egg by Dubravka Ugrešić. She is one of my favorite writers ever in the history of the universe.

~ Best European Fiction 2010 ed. Alexandar Hemon. He is one of my favorite writers ever in the history of the universe. I don’t know what kind of editor he’ll be though.

~ Myth of the Russisan Intelligentsia by Inna Kochetkova. This looks incredibly boring and dry, despite having an intriguing, dishy title.

And am anxiously awaiting:

~ Martin Cruz Smith’s latest mystery book. I know, you thought I was a snob. I also remain of the opinion that Tim of White Sun of the Desert should do a similar kind of murder novel set on the Sakhalin oil rig.

~ The September issue of Vogue. Though this tome falls into that category of works which are best enjoyed while curled up under a duvet on a rainy morning. For aesthetic reasons? Well, it’s also just too damned heavy to tote to the train. So heavy it that, now that I think about it, it could probably serve to prop up a malnourished, depressed MFA or two.

What are you reading, hiding behind on trains and propping yourselves up with?

August 6, 2010

Odds & Ends: Civilization and its Discontents Edition

“To me, culture is, first and foremost, a matter of literature.” That’s what Dmitry “Collapse Gap” Orlov says. But what of those who are unable to read? Not because they are pathetic saps with the misfortune to be born in a country where the skill of literacy is only appreciated in as much as it gets Oprah to make you buy things, even if they are books. But because you are blind? Or something? For clear (or blurry, as it were) reasons, I have been contemplating the phenomenon of audio books. No. I couldn’t live like that. Celebrity culture has infiltrated every other aspect of entertainment. I don’t want to hear the voice of an Oscar winning actor when I am escaping into literature. But I do need to read. Otherwise I will be reduced to a person who only gets information from my circle of friends and family and neighbors and coworkers, the tv, or the radio. Like the rest of America. Next thing you know, I will be joining the Tea Party and having opinions about “American Idol.” I’d try to download podcasts (a word that already smacks of obsolescence) but would not know how to do that blind. I have no ear for music. What would I do to nourish my soul, inform my opinions, fill the space & time between crawling into bed and falling into slumber? I know what you are thinking. Uhm, get a mate?

It’s on my list of to-do’s. But right now I want to share with you some things I have been able to read, or read about, recently. Unfortunately, the gift of sight does not come without a price. Sometimes your eyes will fall upon words that make you truly wish you were blind. Then again, sometimes Dmitry Orlov is a genius.

I. (Oh, and I am preparing the ground for an imminent Russian invasion of America, btw.)

Moscow Diaries: “Hello, goodbye.”

True/Slant.com has finally died a proper death, but let it be known it held on to its quaint values of paying bloggers and discouraging comments until its last day, and did not give up the good fight before It Girl Julia Ioffe was able to present this bizarre and perplexing defense to her critics:

Because who really believes in the virgin peachiness of the Yeltsin era? Who really thinks Kasparov or his cohort are a realistic choice to lead Russia? And really — and this is a question for all the commenters who accuse me of subterfuge and of preparing the ground for an imminent American invasion of Russia — really who is rooting for Russia’s demise? Who? To be brutally honest: no one in the world give that much of a shit about Russia to actively want America to take over. Maybe you’ve heard about how insular and navel-gazing Americans are? And maybe apathy is a more apt definition of a “Russophobe,” but then it isn’t much of the toothy ogre you’re looking to beat your chest about and make you feel once again to be the fulcrum of world history, is it?

It’s no concern of mine whether she is raving mad foaming at the mouth with hatred for her native land (I go there sometimes too) or she is so cool and disinterested she can’t be bothered to form an opinion one way or another. But it is a concern of mine when people open the door and allow logic to escape while pontificating about US-Russia relations. In quick order, actual responses to her rhetorical questions:

1) A lot of those navel-gazing Americans, actually. 2) Kasparov or his cohort and anyone giving them money or a soapbox, one expects. 3) What’s stranger, that anyone could believe this young woman is preparing the ground for an American invasion of Russia, or that she could believe it necessary to use her last T/S post to defend against such an accusation? 4) “no one in the world give that much of a shit about Russia to actively want America to take over.” What does this sentence even mean? Giving a shit about a country => wanting America to take it over? I understand it to imply the opposite among people who are not Ahmed Chalabi. People want to take over places because they care about them? If you are accused of not liking Russia, you are probably being accused of not caring about Russia, not caring too much. No one in the world cares very much about Russia? As much as anyone in the world cares very much about any country, it seems to me that the risks involved in not caring about Russia make the alternative far more appealing. So at least a few of us do. Re: this “takeover,” are you talking military takeover or ideological or financial takeover? Are you referring to official takeover, or the use of money, power and public relations to achieve significant enough influence to ensure Russia acts in the interests of America before its own? … Clearly Julia Ioffe is no toothy ogre – she’s quite the beauty in fact, and probably harmless, given her naivety: apathy is not dangerous or cause for chest beating? Oh? Beneath Ioffe’s flippant remarks, it seems real concerns remain unaddressed.

What have we learned today, readers? You can fight fire with fire, and strawmen with strawmen, but I’d advise against fighting fire with straw…

… or fighting ideas with fire.

II. How hot is it in Moscow? What is 451°F in Celsius?

Some opposition activist took a lighter to Surkov’s book.

Coincidentally, the activist was arrested that very night for his involvement in a protest against the destruction of a local forest. Don’t tell him books come from trees.

Все произошло в пятницу вечером, когда Виталий Шушкевич отмечал свой день рождения в компании друзей и не только в районе станции метро «Китай-город». На праздник пришли также Мария Дрокова из кремлевского проекта «Наши» и Мария Сергеева — бывшая активистка «Молодой Гвардии», которая всем запомнилась призывом не ругать русские машины. Среди подарков имениннику была и зажигалка с книгой речей и статей господина Суркова. Несмотря на присутствие среди молодых людей комиссара «Наших», Виталий Шушкевич книгу сжег.


Image source: Live Journal user plucer.

So nice to see the young champions of democracy and civil rights holding a good old-fashioned book burning. That’s the spirit! Though I’m not sure we can really justify setting unnecessary fires in Russia’s current incendiary condition… Still, I’m sure that’s one less beach babe who will be turned into a Nashist zombie, carrying out Surkov’s wicked, wicked plan to modernize the country and replace conscription with an army of giant felt vegetables. Good work, Shushkevich.


Image source: Live Journal user brainw45h.


Image source: Idiot.fm.

Looks like Slava has taken his own advice, “Innovate, gentlemen!,” and is branching out into new methods for achieving creepiness.

Speaking of the Ministry of Ideology:

III. Art as Ammunition!

ARTicle: “Mightier than the Bayonet?”

One of my favorite topics is propaganda. It is often taken to mean the dissemination of misleading or biased or plainly untrue information, rather than the promotion of any agenda, be it noble or malicious. I think it is because we believe ourselves capable of real objectivity. Like the swing voters. Or Julia. As if taking no personal position on anything were more responsible than taking a firm but well-informed one. But of course no one is omniscient, and some things are worth fighting for. Some agendas are worth promoting. The AIC looks at the role of Soviet propaganda posters in the fight against the Nazis:

The word propaganda might initially sound pejorative. Propaganda has been historically perceived as a malevolent method of spreading false rumors. But might we also interpret propaganda as a means of providing a nation courage and willingness to fight in the face of immeasurable odds? Such was the task of the Soviet news agency (TASS) window-posters created in the Soviet Union during the Second World War—and such is the content of Windows on the War, a massive exhibition of these “propaganda” posters that will be mounted at the Art Institute next summer.

Propagandistic posters are usually focused on bolstering support on the home front and distanced from the reality of the battlefield. However, the makers of the TASS Windows had a different idea: to use their creative skills as ammunition in the fight against the Germans. Art became a weapon.

The poster above, number 1000, acts as a visual manifesto for the TASS studio. Above the picture is a quote by Vladimir Mayakovsky, the acclaimed Russian Futurist poet and founder of the ROSTA Windows—predecessors of TASS in the 1920s and the inspiration for the TASS Window project as a whole. The quote reads, in translation, “I want the pen to be equal to the bayonet”—a wish visually manifested in this image. We see Hitler being attacked by three bayonets, alongside a pencil and ink pen. In fact, if we follow Hitler’s gaze, he seems to be staring directly at the hands holding these two tools. The artists, writers, and poets of TASS, it would seem, have succeeded—they have “killed” the enemy’s spirit, while boosting the morale of Soviet citizens with this symbolic defeat. Finally, as Mayakovsky wished, the pen and pencil are on equal footing with the traditional weapons of war.

There was a bona fide sense that producing these TASS Windows was as important as being at the front. In the Soviet Union, the artists who created the posters became beloved cultural icons, as important as military generals. They received state medals and great renown for their work. To this day, surviving former Soviet citizens alive at the time of the TASS Windows can name the artists by heart—artists such as Sokolov-Skalya, Solov’ev, Shukhmin, and the Kukryniksy.

Surrounding the production of the TASS Windows are stories of passion, fervor, and intense labor. The artists would gather, regardless of abominable weather or the advancing enemy attack on Moscow, to create a new poster virtually every day of World War II. Not unlike the Red Army soldiers, the artists and writers labored in inhospitable conditions for the sake of the war effort. Because of the cultural importance of these posters and the iconic status of these artists and writers, heroic or wistful cultural myths came to surround the studio as time went on. According to some anecdotes, TASS posters were carried to the Front by the soldiers and were used to intimidate the enemy. Some TASS artists and writers were even driven to the Front itself so that they might absorb the details of war to imbue later drawings with veracity. The artists and writers of the TASS Windows truly felt their art to be one of the most powerful weapons against the Nazi invaders.

–Julia A., intern in the Department of Prints and Drawings

This post is from the “Countdown to TASS” series leading up to the exhibition of Soviet propaganda posters at the Art Institute of Chicago next year. I mention this because the exhibition will be part of the Soviet Experience arts festival, a “14-month-long showcase of works by artists who created under (and in response to) the Politburo of the Soviet Union” which will be held at numerous arts institutions throughout Chicago from 2010-2011. Hopefully if you are in town, you will have the opportunity to check it out.

IV. Russian Lit. 101.

A Good Treaty: “The Tale of How Aleksandr Pochkov Quarreled with Vladimir Vladimirovich”

I don’t know what it is about constituent services and Russia, but no combination of subjects makes a more ideal setting in which to employ the literary devices of the absurd and grotesque. Behold!

In which AGT translates an incredible display of pathos and mockery that is the following exchange between an angry blogger and the nation’s leader:

Do you know why we’re burning?

Because it’s all fucked. I’ll explain. I have a dacha in a village 153 km [95 miles] from Moscow, in the Tverskaia oblast’. This village is the sort of place where everyone lives nose-to-nose and shares common fences, or — like my neighbor and me — no fences at all. I’ve got nothing to hide from him and don’t need the fucking thing. And since he’s a local, he also looks after my house when I’m away, even mowing my lawn. After all, what’s good for his cows does no harm to my grass. The lawn grows back fast. But let’s get back to the fires.

In this village under those asshole communists, whom everyone shits on, there were three reservoirs for fighting fires [pozharnye prudy], an alarm bell hung (which was sounded in case of a fire), and miraculously there was even a fire truck. Now sure there was just one for three villages — but there was still a truck. And then came Mr. Democrat and his friends to fuck everything up. First they filled in the reservoirs and sold the land to developers. Next they divvied off the fire truck to God knows where (aliens probably snatched it), and they changed the alarm bell into a phone (fucking “modernization”). Only the piece of shit doesn’t work because they forgot to connect the line. There’s still a fireman, yes, but he’s got nothing left but a helmet and a coat (left over from those terrible communists). Here’s how he works: about fifteen years ago, a fire started in the neighboring village. They promptly sent us a messenger, and we ran back to help put it out. Our fireman got dressed in his uniform, grabbed two buckets, filled them with water and (this part is still a mystery to me) hopped on a bicycle, and came with us to put out the fire. It was laughter and sin together. Someone called [another] fire department, but they only arrived at the end of everything (five hours later) because they had to come from Tver’. Using everything within reach — sand, water, even spitting — we somehow managed to save all but one house.

Do I have any questions? [In response to the government soliciting citizens to write in.] Where are our tax dollars going? Why every year do we slip further and further toward a more primitive social order? Fuck the innovation center in Skolkovo if we don’t even have something as elementary as fire trucks! Why did there used to be people like the forest rangers, who warned people about fires and quickly conveyed the information to firefighters, so it wasn’t allowed to reach residences? I don’t want a telephone in the village — I want reservoirs for fighting fires and I want my alarm bell back. Give me back the fucking bell and dig me another reservoir, and I’ll fill it in and take care of it myself. If the regional authorities are game, just give me the space.

Understand me, Mr. Bureaucrat, Russia doesn’t need all your shitty genius ideas. Well before you, smart Russians — real men [muzhiki] — already figured this stuff out. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. It was invented a long time ago and it works just fine, as long as you keep your nose out of our business.* Stop charging me taxes, or just cut off my pension deductions. I’m not going to live to retirement age in this kind of life, anyway. With the [saved] money, I’ll buy a fire truck for three villages and sleep soundly, knowing nobody will take it away from my people, from my neighbors, because that bitch will be ours and we’d kill anyone who tried. If you deputies and distinguished officials piss on us because we actually give a shit about ourselves and our neighbors, then let us live the way we want, happily and in peace [schastlivo i khorosho].

[But] we don’t expect much from you. We all understand that your life principle is that everyone around you should need you. But you’re mistaken. It’s you who needs us — and in a big way. Believe me.

So give me back my alarm bell, you bitches, and shove your fucking phone up your asses.

I ask you to convey my letter to the Kalyazinskii Region authorities, in the Tverskaia oblast’.

Thank you in advance. ~top_lap

Dear honorable Internet user,

At the end of the workday today, inhaling (as did all of Moscow) the smoke of the forests burning outside the city, with great interest and pleasure did I learn of your assessment of the summer fires situation that’s befallen central Russia.

Fair’s fair, one ought to point out that Russia hasn’t had such high temperatures for over 140 years — not even under the communists, that is.

This at least partly vindicates the authorities, who — while certainly responsible for fighting natural disasters — are only for the first time encountering something of this size on such a scale.

However, in general, I agree with your comments.

You are, of course, a remarkably plainspoken and direct person. All the more power to you! [Prosto molodets]

And you are undoubtedly a man of letters. If you had made your living as a writer, you could be living — like Lenin’s favorite writer Gorky — in Capri.**

However, even there you wouldn’t feel yourself entirely safe, insomuch as both Europe and the U.S. face the same mass-scale natural disasters. Suffice it to recall how many forests burned in Europe last year or the year before.

Despite all our problems and troubles, I hope you and I both make it to retirement age.

All necessary funds for disaster management and other pressing issues have already been dispatched from the federal budget to reimburse victims.

If you provide your address, your governor will receive an alarm bell right away.

Sincerely,
Vladimir Putin

But what A Good Treaty, and shockingly, everyone who has written on the topic of this fantastic exchange, fails to mention, or even possibly be aware of, is that the entire correspondence was conducted not between the blogger and the Premier at all, but between their dogs!

A dreary world indeed, gentlemen…

V. Smackdown: Orlov and Jesus v. Hitler, Lenin, Calvin and yer teevees.

ClubOrlov: “Miserable Pursuits.”

This is one of the best little Orlov pieces I have read in a while. I strongly encourage you to read the whole thing. Here are some excerpts:

The Russian author Eduard Limonov wrote of his experiences with poverty in America. To his joy, he discovered that he could supplement his cash earnings with public assistance. But he also quickly discovered that he had to keep this joy well hidden when showing up to collect his free money. It is a curious fact that in America public assistance is only made available to the miserable and the downtrodden, not to those who are in need of some free money but are otherwise perfectly content. Although it is just as possible to be poor and happy in America as anywhere else, here one must make a choice: to avoid any number of unpleasant situations, one must be careful to hide either the fact that one is poor, or the fact that one is happy. If free public money is to be obtained, then only the latter choice remains.

It is another curious fact that vast numbers of Americans, both rich and poor, would regard Limonov’s behavior as nothing short of despicable: a foreign author living in America on public assistance while also earning cash! It seems reasonable that the rich should feel that way; if the poor can’t be made miserable, then what exactly is the point of being rich? But why should the poor particularly care? Another cultural peculiarity: what dismays them is not the misappropriation of public funds. Tell them about the billions wasted on useless military projects, and they will reply with a yawn that this is just business as usual. But tell them that somewhere some poor person is eating a free lunch, and they will instantly wax indignant. Amazingly, Americans are great believers in Lenin’s revolutionary dictum: “He who does not work, does not eat!” One of the rudest questions you might hear from an American is “What do you do for a living?” The only proper response is “Excuse me?” followed by a self-satisfied smirk and a stony silence. Then they assume that you are independently wealthy and grovel shamefully.

Most shockingly, there are many poor Americans who are too proud to accept public assistance in spite of their obvious need for it. Most Russians would regard such a stance as absurd: which part of “free money” don’t these poor idiots like—the fact that it’s money, or the fact that it’s free? Some Russians who are living in the US and, in trying to fit in to American society, have internalized a large dose of the local hypocrisy, might claim otherwise, but even they, in their less hypocritical moments, will concede that it is downright foolish to turn down free money. And rest assured, they will mop up every last penny of it. Mother Russia didn’t raise any dummies.

But let us not blame the victim. What causes these poor souls to leave money on the table is just this: they have been brainwashed. The mass media, most notably television and advertising, are managed by the well-to-do, and incessantly hammer home the message that hard work and self-sufficiency are virtuous while demonizing the idle and the poor. The same people who have been shipping American jobs to China and to India in order to enhance their profits want it to be generally understood that the resulting misery is entirely the fault of the miserable. And while the role of the pecuniary motive may be significant, let us not neglect to mention the important fact that producing mass misery is a high-priority objective in and of itself. [...]

And so, a poor but happy and carefree future may yet await a great many of us, both idle rich and idle poor—one happy though rather impoverished family. But in order to achieve that we would have to change the culture. Let it be known that free lunch is a very good thing indeed, no mater who’s eating it or why, and never mind that Lenin said that “He who does not work, does not eat.” And while we are at it, let’s also dispense with the hackneyed adage that “Work will set you free” (Arbeit Macht Frei) which the Nazis liked to set in wrought iron atop the gates of their concentration camps. Let us consign the communists and the fascists and the capitalists to the proverbial scrapheap of history! Let us instead gratuitously quote Jesus: “Behold the lilies of the field, how they grow. They labor not, neither spin. And yet for all that I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his royalty, was not arrayed like unto one of these… Therefore take no thought saying: What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or Wherewith shall we be clothed? … Care not therefore for the day following. For the day following shall care for itself. Each day’s trouble is sufficient for the same self day.” Amen.

The Limonov book in question is, It’s me, Eddie, and I think it is the most memorable work I have read by him, probably because it hit a lot of my American nerves. It is also this novel that features his astonishment at the “It’s not my problem” refrain commonly heard in America, which I mentioned in my piece on the hoarders. It’s Limonov, so it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I imagine that if you are reading this blog, you can handle this book, and so I think all of you should read it if you haven’t yet.

Note to Dmitry: It appears some miserable pursuits pay off:

VI. The Power of Negative Thinking.

USA Today: “Russians are less depressed than Americans.”

No word on if it’s anything to do with Americans reading USA Today

Despite what many social observers have described as a generally dark and brooding take on life, a new report suggests that Russians are actually less likely than Americans to be depressed.
In fact, researchers have uncovered indications that the Russian cultural tendency to dwell on the negative may ultimately insulate them from feelings of distress when engaged in self-reflection.

“Among Westerners, focusing on one’s negative feelings tends to impair well-being, but among Russians, that is not the case,” study co-author Igor Grossmann, a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University of Michigan, said in a university news release.

“Russians focus more on their negative feelings than Americans do,” Grossmann explained, “but they spontaneously distance themselves from their emotions to a greater extent than Americans, who tend to immerse themselves in their recalled experiences.”[...]

The Russians appeared to experience less distress than the Americans after retelling the experience, and placed blame less often on the person involved in the incident. The Russians were also able to immediately distance themselves from their recollections, even while discussing them — a skill linked to less distress and feelings of blame, the study authors noted.

Culture, concluded the authors, has an impact on the emotional and cognitive consequences of bad experiences.

What? You mean our culture which practically criminalizes and literally pathologizes normal human emotions like unhappiness actually makes us more distressed and ashamed?

Get. Out.

Alright, dear readers. I am now going to go ruminate on my unhappiness and misfortune in the hopes it staves off depression. Thanks for stopping by.

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