poemless. a slap in the face of public taste.

December 30, 2010

С Новым годом! With lists! And Akvarium!

Filed under: Odds & Ends — poemless @ 6:37 PM

I was goolging about for some vintage Soviet New Year cards and, in addition to finding girls with boob jobs, Patrick Armstrong and lolkat.ru, I came across some interesting cards. Like, what is this about? I assume it is pre-revolutionary. What is that clown doing? I don’t even know.

I also found the Scariest. Cheburashka. Evar. Gah!

It’s the end of the year, I’m exhausted and have little to say. Mishka’s gettin’ another 6 years? Ooof, if you only knew the wall of sound that was Western coverage of this story, you’d think Putin had just cancelled all elections and begun televised public hangings. I’ve been ambivalent about the who situation from the start, but for the life of me cannot imagine what is new to say about Khodorkovsky…

Do you like year-end lists? It’s become rather fashionable to snub them; ironic hipsters and scholars mewing on and on about how unscientific they are. Personally, I find their assumption that these lists are meant to be scientific, anything at all other than a narcissistic, fun way to pass some of the inordinate time off and postpone having to use critical thinking skills until your brain fully recovers from the liquid abuse it’s received over the past week or two, very unscientific.

So here goes!

1. FP. Last Action Hero: Vladimir Putin’s year of adventure.


He’s everywhere: Even by his own high-octane standards, the Russian prime minister had a banner year in 2010. Using carefully staged photo ops featuring, animals, celebrities and his own feats of derring-do, he more than demonstrated his still rock-solid dominance of Russian politics.

Ooooh, 2010 in Vova photos… I like this one. It has a cheezy 70′s spy movie feel:

.

2. Strictly Global. Dawn’s Mixtape 2010.

I don’t actually know many of those bands. But I love the show Strictly Global. It’s where I learned of artists like Shugo Tokumaru and Fever Ray.

3. Roger Ebert. The 10 best foreign films of 2010.

Again, not familiar with these, but it seems like a good reference to have…

4. Moscow News. Russians of the year.

Nominations include:

Activist Yevgeniya Chirikova, for pushing the environment back onto Russia’s agenda

Yevgeniya Chirikova became the flag-bearer of the group in defence of Khimki forest, had to dodge some attacks and even offered to run for president. And while her campaigners lost the first round, by the looks of it, the fight is not yet over.

Anna Chapman, for adding the sizzle to summer’s top scandal

Anna Chapman entered our lives as one of the spies caught in New York. Since then she returned to Russia in a spy exchange straight from a Bond film and tried a number of careers: a nightclub hostess, a business advisor, an innovator and a youth party official.

Blogger Alexei Navalny, for shining a light into the darker corners of official business

Alexei Navalny has been fighting corruption in state structures for a long time, called for more exposure of the system, and asked some questions of the Prime Minister’s summer break.

5. National Geographic. Best Space Discoveries of 2010.

#8. Astronauts’ Fingernails Falling Off.

Astronauts with wider hands are more likely to have their fingernails fall off after working or training in space suit gloves, according to a study released in September.

In fact, fingernail trauma and other hand injuries—no matter your hand size—are collectively the number one nuisance for spacewalkers. For now, the only solutions are to apply protective dressings, keep nails trimmed short, or do some extreme preventative maintenance.

“I have heard of a couple people who’ve removed their fingernails in advance of an EVA”—aka a spacewalk—a study co-author said.

I chose that one because #2. “Hints of Structures”Beyond Universe” and #1. “Black Holes Contain Universes?” are frankly beyond my comprehension at this time.

Ok, I can’t even make it to 10!

Why? I am too excited. I have a Christmas present to share with you! I know some Americans are thinking I am pretty pathetic with my late gift-giving. But of course, it is just in time for Novy God, and you can even re-gift it to yourselves again on Orthodox Christmas. (What? The consumerization of the Orthodox holiday is only a matter of time… Capitalism spreads like a cancer, and you are not immune.)

Akvarium: “Christmas Night.”

“It has been a personal tradition of ours for many years to start listening to various traditional Christmas songs few weeks before the Holiday Season began. This tradition always created a very special magic atmosphere for this Celebration of Renewal.

I always thought that there should have been songs like that in Russian, but for some reason we could not find them. For the lack of such songs, we wrote one ourselves. Or, it will be correct to say that the song wrote itself, with a wonderful poem of A. Fet as lyrics.

This song is our humble contribution to the celebration of Christmas and New Year.

Joy and Light to all of you!”

You too, BG. You too!

But wait. There is more. They have just released Записки о Флоре и Фауне. It is a double disk set of some 1982 recordings done in a Petersburg dorm, and it is fantastic, classic, old-school Akvarium. Please enjoy!

And have a fantastic, safe, happy and overall worthwhile New Years!

xoxoxoxo,
poemless

December 29, 2010

2nd Annual Holiday Reflections: The good, the bad and the prickly.

Previously: 1st Annual Holiday Reflections.

Again I went home for Christmas to see my crazy family, eat too much food and feel like an alien on planet Earth.

The Vast Wasteland.

While I stayed with my brother, I was put up in the kid’s bedroom, in which there was a TV. We didn’t have television sets in our bedrooms when we were children! Let alone with cable. And we walked uphill to school, in the snow, both ways. … Now, even as an adult, I own one small, old-timey (still works perfectly with a digital converter) TV set that I keep in a closet. I do not have cable or that combination of 900 channels of cable, HDTV, On Demand, Netflix and Pay-Per-View which perplexingly remains so bereft of quality programming that you end up watching Jerseylicious because it will do the least amount of damage to your karma. At home, I receive a mere 37 channels. But I can watch them without that sinking feeling that I’m a character in some dystopian morality tale or without prompting my brain cells to commit mass suicide. In fact, at home, the more ridiculous the programming, the more likely it is to be in a foreign language, so it is educational. Also, it is free.

So there I sat in horror, flipping through 900 channels late into the night. Scary smiling people with the acting skills of zombies trying to sell me revolutionary bras and rakes. Jerseylicious. Every crime against food you can imagine and some you cannot. Bimbos making out and then complaining and then making out again. Then … people dancing ballet in strange costumes to what sounded vaguely of Tchaikovsky. (Why do we put a T there?) After the freakshow I’d just witnessed on the previous 899 channels, I first took the man flipping around in a naked fat suit to be another attempt to shock a terminally bored American populace into looking at the screens in front of their faces. But unlike the previous 899 channels, I simply could not flip. I was mesmerized. It turned out to be the Casse Noisette Circus performed by Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. AMAZING. I highly recommend it if you love ballet, or if you don’t like ballet but do like Cirque du Soleil and the theater, or do not like ballet but do like the Nutcracker but have been there and done that and are back to not liking ballet.

Speaking of ballet, I am planning to see the film, The Black Swan this weekend. Unlike everyone else who sees it, I do not like Natalie Portman. At all, actually. But I do love the ballet and Darren Aronofsky. And I would like to see Portman do something interesting for the first time in her career. Anyway, the only reason I mention it is because I found these posters for the movie and think they may be of some interest to people who come here expecting a post about Russia an just finding my annual Christmas complaints:



Gorgeous! So … what the hell is this called? Art Deco? Constructivist? Russian Avant Garde? The second one is very Erte… God, those people selling me rakes killed the brain cells that used to be able to identify early 20th Century Russian art movements! Fuck. Anyway, I want these.

p.s. In last year’s Christmas rant, I mentioned that my step-parents had like 3 universal remote controls for one TV. They now require just one! Progress!

In Which I Fail To Remember The True Meaning Of Christmas.

Also, I believe I devoted a shocking amount of space in last year’s rant to the Christmas presents I received and their general lameness. It’s beyond unseemly. So little class. I was raised better! I truthfully don’t even care when I get since I will probably hate it anyway. I am one of those people who say that shopping for other people’s gifts is the best part, and are telling the truth. Because despite making it abundantly clear what I want, and having a pretty unique but I think identifiable personal style, I remain absolutely impossible to shop for. And I am such a snob that I think gift certificates are second rate. Anyone in the position of ever having to buy me presents must end up resenting my very existence at some point. Also, I am a terrible liar. That doesn’t mean I won’t try to lie! My mouth will say, “Thank you for a the wonderful gift!” But it comes out all drenched in resentment and hollowness and I feel like I’ll start hyperventilating. So I try to make things easy by stating exactly what I want. Not my fault if people don’t buy it. For example, every year I ask for this perfume I wear and go through buckets of. Every year. It’s available online and in all cities with a mall. For like 10 years I have asked for it. Never got it.

UNTIL NOW. Thank you Candi and Tom!!!! You have just progressed to the next level in the game of “Try to give T– what she wants and save the princess from the monster.” W00T!

Another well-received present came from my brother, who gave me the GN’R Appetite for Destruction CD to replace the cassette tape version he stole from me in middle school. “I even upgraded it to a CD.” A true Christmas miracle!

Also, my brother’s girlfriend, in addition to be an overall outstanding person with no shortage of life skills and generosity, can shop for me. She makes it look downright easy. Spa products and this thing you put nice smelling wax into and makes your whole home smell like baked goods. She told me it was “reindeer themed,” and I pouted as I carried a ceramic reindeer I’d never display in public all the way home. But it turned out to be rather classy compared to what I was expecting. I am even displaying it. Now my apartment smells like cookies.

Everyone else got me gift certificates, chocolate and socks. Do you know what you get people you forgot to buy presents? I am infinitely appreciative, though. Truly. I am not just saying that as a CYA. Even for the weird, ginormous box of Russian chocolates that are not actually Russian but made in Latvia and taste like soap. Why are Latvians producing crap chocolates and slapping photos of Peterhoff on the boxes? I hope the fine people of Russia are getting a cut of the profits you are making off whoring their historical sites to peddle your disgusting confections! BTW, is it just me, or do Russians make the best semi-sweet chocolate in the world? I know Belgium and Switzerland are famous for that cloyingly sweet milky stuff I wont touch with a 10 ft. pole, and France is great with dark chocolate ganachey type things, and these days it is really best to buy chocolate fair trade from small Venezuelan farmers (small farms, not small Venezuelans). But seriously, the Russians can do semisweet! What is that about? Oh, my coworker also brought in real Russian (from Russia, not Latvia) chocolates called “bird’s milk.” Bird’s milk? Really? Russia is forever bitching that no one in the West takes them seriously, everyone is irrationally suspicious of them, and then they do things like give candy a name that evokes the horrors of Chernobyl. Like, great, just when we think we understand you mysterious people, your birds produce milk. I give up. (It’s from some skazka, I know. But lactating birds is still upsetting.) They were delicious.

On the topic of sweets, both my brother and my cousin Sally made buckeyes, which are chocolate candies meant to resemble a kind of nut. My mother used to make them, and now they fall into the category of things that can never ever be replaced since she is dead. My mother would force us to roll them into little nut-shaped balls until our hands cramped. All night. Our tiny child-slave palms would smell like peanut butter for a week. My brother’s buckeyes got the hard, glossy dark chocolate outer shell just right. And Sally got the middle flavor and texture just right. Both failed on the density. My mother’s buckeyes never crumbled. They were packed so densely, you could drop them on the floor and they would not fall apart. In fact, for many years I did not believe they were food and was secretly afraid to eat them.

America, or, In Which I Remember The True Meaning Of Christmas.

I feel like it gets uglier every year. Like physically, aesthetically uglier. Russia uglier. Which is not to say there is nothing beautiful about it. Just that there are random piles of junk in muddy fields, and businesses are too concerned with trying to afford the electric bill to care about a new paint job. There are empty business parks and stores where you go to buy your furniture, eggs, prescriptions and socks all in one overlit, characterless, impersonal giant shed. You know what I am talking about. Grimy. Dated. Bleak. I used to watch 70′s films set in NYC and romanticize grimy, dated and bleak. I still do. But when suburbs become grimy, dated and bleak, I worry. People in America buy food at the Dollar Store now. Employed people. People forgo art and hang TVs purchased on credit cards on their walls instead. I’m noticing a lack of seating. People are hanging out in kitchens – Soviet like, or in front of their TVs. Hunkering down, prioritizing. Repeatedly I heard Democrats and Republicans and unengaged alike complaining about the homeless. The homeless! I am not even sure there are homeless in their neighborhoods. Or why they are not complaining about the bankers getting bonuses. I even interrupted a weird group rant about the poor to say -and I am the non-Christian in the room!- “Hey, it’s Christmas, a time to appreciate what we have, and keep those not as fortunate in our hearts.” Everyone looked at me like I was an alien! Awkward silence followed. I’m not better then they are, and they are not bad or selfish people. I just think it is the insecurity. It’s pervasive. No one is even pretending things are alright anymore. Which is a relief, in a way.

Somehow it all seems easier to handle in the big city. Here no one thinks I am a failure if I don’t have 900 TV channels and a car and a baby. And if they do, it’s impersonal. People fail, a fact of life, nothing to see here, move along. The American dream will not come crashing to its death because I stopped believing in it. Cities seem to reserve judgement. We don’t look at an unwashed crack junkie under a bridge and blame them, “You failed! Look at what you are doing to the nation! Shame!” We feel sad and a bit helpless and blame our selves. “We failed. Look at what we’re doing to our people. Shame on us…” Some people would say this is socialist thinking devoid of personal responsibility. “Personal responsibility” is American shorthand for “Every man for himself.” What about our personal responsibility to each other? What the fuck is our “nation” if not each other? Yeah, I just don’t get it… Why are we mad at the homeless? They should go out and get a job? People with advanced degrees can’t even find work. (And uhm, if working at McDonald’s won’t support the person with an advanced degree, how do we presume it will support the poor? Without government assistance?) Middle class families are being tossed out of their homes. Which homeless poor do we hate exactly? The nuclear family in the suburbs or the black man in the city?

What I wanted to say was that I always feel a bit humbled and overwhelmed and frankly deprived when I go home to 4 bedroom homes with vaulted ceilings and outdoor hot tubs and $150 bottles of wine and new additions to the house and TVs the size of picture windows in all rooms and cars and endless conversations about how it was all paid for. I feel insecure about my tiny apartment and tiny TV and cat that is not a baby I take to soccer practice and the dirty bus I ride to get places. But by the end of my stay, I decide my bed is more comfortable than most (why are people buying TVs before comfortable mattresses?!), I actually like what is on my tiny olden TV, I can’t be found guilty of using more space than I need or of having a large carbon footprint. I never, ever have to look for parking or pay for gas. I like animals a hundred times more than babies. I don’t even like babies. I pretty much don’t want to see another child under 10 for the next 360 days. Cigarettes are 3 times more expensive here, but that just means I smoke 3 times less. And this overeating culture is out of control. I’m perfectly content with a slice of carry out pizza and glass of cheap wine. (To put things into perspective and illustrate I’ve not become delusional with humility: the tastiest thing on the gourmet Christmas feast menu was potatoes made with truffle oil. I am thinking, “Oof, truffles, in a recession! So Petit-bourgeois…” Then I remembered the truffle oil was a gift from me to the chef. … See, I do give good gifts.) Anyway. What is my point? I love my family. I am mildly terrified of the America lying dormant outside major metropolitan areas.

Speaking of Carbon Footprints…

What else can I complain about? ZooLights. Apparently this is done all over the world now, so I hope you know what I am talking about. Christmas lights all over the zoo. It looks magical, but on my way home last night I was wondering if the animals appreciate it. Maybe they love it. But maybe if they are light-sensitive or creatures of routine, it stresses them out. I don’t know. I hate zoos anyway. Won’t go in them. Too depressing. Maybe it would be less depressing if they kept the holiday lights up all year.

Hot tubs. My step-parents have an outdoor hot tub and we got in it in the snow. That was fun! Except it was not a time machine.

Lastly, when did we collectively cease to be able to function in the snow? What is that about? You can walk in it, blow it away, shovel it, melt it, go home and play in it and drink hot chocolate. I specifically remember there being snow and airplanes when I was little. Hell, I imagine the only way you can even get to Antarctica is by plane. Think about that… And how ironic is it that while we are flipping about about body screeners and the size of a shampoo bottle, it is not evil Muslims but a season that arrives every year pretty much like clockwork that cripples our air traffic and bring large swaths of human civilization to a standstill. But climate change is a fairytale. Terrorists who hate our crappy TV/culture of self blame/Dollar General food shopping way of life want to kills us, and that’s worth sacrificing our children’s lives for…

Whew…

I feel better already! Thanks for letting me get all that off my chest so that I may enter the new year with a clear mind and a light heart.

Ok, who am I kidding, I’ve never known a a clear mind and a light heart.

Baby steps…

Uhm, anyone have NY resolutions? I have to read some Borges. That’s it.

December 22, 2010

“Santa Baby, put a Treaty under the tree, for me…”

Filed under: Politics: U.S.,Too Much Information — poemless @ 5:32 PM
Tags: ,

“Bring Tovarisch Kerry and Lugar a pony, ok?”

So I’ll be away for a bit for the holiday. Well, one is never actually “away” anymore, is one? But the point is, if I’m not responding to your insane comments, it’s because I am busy getting sloshed and overfed and spoiled, or sleeping, or rocking the ‘rents new outdoor hot tub sauna thing… But don’t think that means you can get away with a coup or something. I’m not going into the desert – I can still see what crimes you’re committing here; I just may not be willing to care about them, is all.

On that note, thanks for the intriguing conversation, debate, Nemtsov love-fest action in the comments section of the previous post. I truly -no, really- appreciate your participation, even if I think you’re a bit, well, annoying. I’m all “defender of free speech” that way. Please continue to talk amongst yourselves if you like. Hopefully the solution to Russia’s ethnic tensions will be solved by my extraordinary commenters by the time the New Year arrives. That would be grand. Seriously. And probably nearer the realm of possibility than dissuading me of my perverse Surkov infatuation. In fact, just yesterday I was thinking, besides his own private self-identity issues, didn’t Vladik have a hand in placing the pro-Kremlin gangsters in power in Chechnya, getting flack because their corrupt bandit ways were being ignored because the Kadyrovs would dance to Moscow’s tune? Like, you could even blame Surkov for turning a blind eye to Caucasian gangs, actually! And then I thought, well, in this way, he could be in part responsible… OMG, what if fomenting national extremism and ethnic gangs is all part of his plot to send the nation reeling into chaos? Who would even do something like that? The devil? Scary. I felt kind of ill… Then I thought about all of the candy and cookies I’d eaten – I don’t even like candies and cookies, but people just keep giving them to me – and how stressed I am about seeing my relatives. Then I thought about how unfair it is they don’t come to see me. And I ate some more Christmas treats and packed…

Before I go, I should gloat that I’ve already received want I wanted for Christmas, even though I’ve tried my damnedest to get on the “Naughty” list. There is always next year… In the meantime, baby Jesus has blessed Washington D.C. with just enough sanity (Christmas week one-time special only) to ratify the new START [T]reaty. I know! As hard as the Republicans fought against appeasing the Soviets, it appears the Commies have won this round! Wait, ok, back in reality, it’s pretty fucking pathetic that getting a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia rammed through in 2010 qualifies as a huge triumph for the Democratic president. (Past US-Russia arms reduction treaties have been ratified 93-6, 87-4 and 95-0.) But since Obama has some kind of learning problem, it is important to praise his small accomplishments. Though perhaps it is even more important to praise the Republicans who voted in favor, as they are just kind of evil and really didn’t have to. And for all those Republicans wetting their pants now, do not worry. We will still be able to destroy human civilization several times over if we need to. We’re just a small step further from being provoked to do that by the Russians now. That’s a good thing. Really. Think of the unborn children!

Here are the 13 Republicans who voted for ratification of the New START:

Alexander, R-TN
Bennett, R-UT
Brown, R-MA
Cochran, R-MS
Collins, R-ME
Corker, R-TN
Gregg, R-NH
Isakson, R-GA
Johanns, R-NE
Lugar, R-IN
Murkowski, R-AK
Snowe, R-ME
Voinovich, R-OH

Bravo. The Little Lord Jesus, aka “Prince of Peace,” thanks you for understanding the meaning of the season, and Santa’s put you on his “Nice” list. But both warn you that the bar has been set rather low this year, so don’t get too smug.

Ok, wishing you all a safe and lovely holiday, Christmas, Orthodox Christmas, Novy God, Festivus, any excuse for godless drunkenness – whatever you celebrate. Peace out.

December 17, 2010

Slava Surkov: The Year in Quotes, or, “The hippies started it!”

In which the Kremlin’s “chief ideologist” weighs in on geniuses, rednecks and the current state of the novel. And much more. Hell, what does he not have an opinion on?

But first, we will begin with a random rant apropos of nothing!

I missed the annual VVP Q&A. I woke up and, rather than turning on the local horrorshow-weather report, I flipped over to RT. Because they’d be carrying the great Russian national chit chat. Right? Right?! RT used to serve a purpose, however quirky. Straight up Russian propaganda (and by this I don’t necessarily mean “lies”, just “the world as seen through the official eyes of the Kremlin…”), provincial oddities, and a snippet of American subculture. VVP yelling at some businessmen, people in Tomsk tattooing cats, Communist candidate for mayor in North Carolina. FABULOUS. Get yer freakshow on! Now, every time I turn it on, it’s some weirdly bitter, hostile and tongue-tied young girl in Washington D.C. talking about America’s impending doom. Like, an alien could turn on Russia Today, and not even know Russia existed. If RT does not exist to blast Putin’s TV chat extravaganza into the homes of Americans, WTF does it exist for? Anyway, I ended up watching some false outrage about the tax cuts. Americans don’t need Russian propaganda to hear about tax cuts. RT should be filling a void, not adding to the canned indignation and ill-informed people yelling over each other that has come to define the failure of American discourse. Newsflash: you can’t effectively present the argument that the US is a deplorable cesspool while joining us in the race to the bottom. FAIL. Who is in charge over there?

I just needed to get that off my chest. Now for something completely different!

That is, if you are not of the suspicion that as head propagandist Vladislav Surkov is partially to blame for the bizarre lack of quality Russian propaganda in America.

I. “Geniuses are always in the minority.”

This article, or rather, soundbites from it, has been making the rounds by people shocked and appalled that the evil genius Surkov has blamed the recent violence in Moscow on … give ya 3 guesses. Neo-Nazis? Soccer freaks? Nemtsov?


Lenta.ru: Сурков нашел “либеральные” корни в беспорядках на Манежной.

Before we get to that, though, let’s address the most important aspect of this article: He looks very tired, no? Out rioting all night, Slava? Oof! Get some sleep! Take a vacation to a spa and rid yourself of whatever toxins are threatening that beautiful mug. What, are you smoking 3 packs a day or something?

Ok, here’s the damning text of the article, c/o A Good Treaty. (Subject: “your hero in action”…)

“По его словам, либералы “упорно вводят в моду несанкционированные акции, а нацисты и жлобы этой моде следуют”.

“11-е происходит от 31-го”, – заявил Сурков, имея, по всей видимости, в виду акции оппозиции по последним числам месяцев с полным количеством дней на Триумфальной площади, проведение которых, как правило, не санкционируется властями Москвы. Также он напомнил, что перед погромом на Манежной площади был погром здания администрации города Химки. “Другие люди, а жлобство то же”, – сказал Сурков.”

[Google Translation Here.]

I suspect there may be something ethically questionable about conflating these groups. People holding illegal demonstrations in support of free speech, or democracy, or the free market, or Khodorkovsky, or forests full of woodland creatures or their right to get on tv, or whatever, is one thing. Racist soccer hooligans wailing on anything that moves, putting people in the hospital and bringing the public order to a halt is rather different. I mean, one is “good,” the other is “bad,” even if they were both jonesing for a fight and breaking the law. Don’t you think? Don’t you? Even more questionable is the suggestion that that the hippies started it. Ok “The hippies started it!” is a pretty awesome comeback in my book, for its sheer obnoxiousness alone. Frankly, I’m going to start using this phrase all the time, doing my best Fred Willard imitation. But what it carries in cache, it lacks in logic. Like rioters got the big idea from the liberal opposition? Psycho aimless Nazi youth sit at home watching Kasparov and aspire to be like him? Any insinuation that liberal groups actively encouraged or organized the riots seems the type of conspiracy theory more commonly found among the liberals themselves. But I don’t think that’s what Surkov is arguing. I think he’s saying the desire to stage demonstrations without permits is … viral. Which may in fact be true, but even so, it speaks to the poorly functioning immune system of the larger organism (the country itself) if a simple protest can bring it to its knees. But what is truly upsetting about Surkov’s little theory is the nonchalance with which it permits the nationalist extremist rioters to evade responsibility for committing violence against ethnic minorities. Which is the real atrocity here, not demonstrating without a fucking permit.

Anyway, here is the original article from which those soundbites were clipped:


Izvestia: Владислав Сурков: Гении всегда в меньшинстве.

Also, this picture has him looking much less ill, while still maintaining his signature ghostly pallor:

The quote about the liberal demonstrations was in response to a question about modernization and stagnation:

И: Мы часто и много говорили о модернизации политической системы. Но вот накануне послания Федеральному собранию президент в своем видеоблоге сказал о застое в политике. Откуда взялся этот застой? В чем его причины?

Сурков: Я уже сказал выше, что политсистема должна быть чуткой к меньшинству, поскольку меньшинство имеет часто и свои политические воззрения, и свое представление об общественном устройстве. Мне кажется, что политическая система должна быть такой, какой ее хочет видеть инженер. Она должна помогать и быть комфортной для творческой части общества, для его движущей части, к которой общество обязано относиться с уважением. И если мы не воспитаем в себе самих уважения к людям продвинутым, мы обречены.

Что касается развития политсистемы, часто спрашивают: что впереди – реформа политсистемы или экономики? Или давайте авторитарную модернизацию. Или анархию, а с модернизацией само как-нибудь сложится. Вот президент совсем недавно в интервью сказал, что нельзя противопоставлять эти вещи, что и политическую систему надо двигать вперед, и экономику надо двигать вперед. Другое дело – в какую сторону должна двигаться политическая система и какими темпами это надо делать.

Что касается пресловутого застоя, о котором так много говорилось, я бы хотел напомнить о комментарии пресс-службы к этому блогу: президент подвел в нем промежуточные итоги всех предпринятых шагов по изменению политической системы. Подвел итоги. Я бы хотел подчеркнуть это. Эта фраза, что появились симптомы застоя, относилась к определенному моменту прошлого и объясняла, почему президент счел необходимым провести те реформы, два этапа которых были реализованы на законодательном уровне за эти два года. Это же был блог, посвященный итогам двухлетнего развития политической системы, а не планам на будущее. Естественно, тут произошла ошибка в интерпретациях, и все стали изображать, что вот у нас, видите ли, сейчас застой в политике. Ясно, что часть людей это говорит сознательно, чтобы тем самым передергивать смысл и кричать о том, что необходимы радикальные, всесокрушающие какие-то меры, какая-то либеральная чрезвычайка. Это не так.

Конечно, президент не считает нашу политическую систему совершенной, не идеализирует ее. Он не раз говорил, что демократия наша только начинает развиваться. И, наверное, в отдельных ее звеньях до сих пор сохраняются симптомы застоя.

Но все-таки я просил бы здесь точно понимать смысл сказанных президентом слов. Президент исчерпывающе обрисовал свои нововведения. Они, я уверен, реально оживили политическую жизнь, и мы это видим сегодня и в риторике, и в том, что гораздо больше стало оппозиции на экранах. Геннадия Андреевича и Владимира Вольфовича мы видим куда чаще, чем в благословенные 90-е. Мы видим это в том числе и по результатам выборов, и на местах, и по тому, что стало меньше критики в плане каких-то нарушений. Это факт.

Я считаю, что мы движемся вперед. И в этом смысле никакого застоя нет. А что, опять нужна какая-то революция? Опять какой-то развал всего и вся? Чтобы у нас всегда и везде было 11 декабря на Манежной? Это ведь как бы “либеральная” публика упорно вводит в моду несанкционированные акции, а нацисты и жлобы этой моде следуют. 11-е происходит от 31-го. От, казалось бы, мелочи – совсем не мелочь. А еще до погрома на Манежной был погром в Химках, если кто забыл. Другие люди, а жлобство то же. Нет, ребята, так не пойдет.

На самом деле у президента есть очень четкий и понятный посыл в его статье “Россия, вперёд!”. Он сказал, что преобразования будут постепенными, но неуклонными. Вот это ключ к пониманию его стиля и философии. И к экономическим, и к политическим институтам надо относиться предельно аккуратно. Здесь идем полностью в духе европейской философии постепенных преобразований. А судьба революционеров и боевиков подробно описана в Уголовном кодексе. И об этом тоже говорил президент – о полицейской функции демократии. Так что митингуйте – но по закону.

Then:

И: Что вы можете сказать о событиях на Манежной?

Сурков: Беспорядки, ставящие под угрозу жизнь москвичей, и нападения на милицию нельзя оправдать. Ничем. Точно так же нельзя оправдать ничем убийство Егора. Те, кто его убил, должны сидеть в тюрьме. Так долго, чтобы мы в нашем городе их больше никогда не видели.

Этой осенью я встречался с представителями кавказской молодежи. Мы говорили откровенно, что во многих регионах России им бывает непросто жить. Но также и о том, что ведь и русским на Кавказе не всегда и не везде спокойно живется. Прибывающие с юга сюда должны понимать, что отношение к ним формируется в том числе и ими самими. Те, кто приезжает сюда работать, учиться, должны быть защищены, и государство несет здесь полную ответственность.

А те, кто пополняет ряды этнических преступных группировок и по нашим мальчишкам стреляет, – будут искореняться.

Мы наш город разным там новоявленным “дедам хасанам” и их последователям не отдадим. Москве и России нужен гражданский мир. Наша страна – общий дом для всех наших народов.

[Google Translation Here.]

Well, gosh, context is sometimes helpful. Maybe the dig at the liberals for trying to be revoliutionaries was political bone-throwing, but I fail to see how he’s winning the “Europe for Europeans!” support with this call for inclusion and calling them zhloby. And at this point I even question the assumption that the rioters are part of some crucial political base for the Kremlin. I mean, if they were loyal minions, they’d hardly be anointing Putin’s World Cup coup with actions that ensure every swarthy soccer fan on the planet will now be terrified to attend the event. Oh, and did we mention that the redneck neo-Nazis maybe don’t want bones thrown to them from a Chechen?

The rest of the article is a pretty decent read. Skolkovo, trying to justify courting foreign workers and paying them high wages (sure that just thrills the fascist youths to whom Surkov is ostensibly giving cover), BG is a genius. etc., etc. Check it out.

II. “In fact, I consider myself an unrecognized genius…”

While we’re on the topic of Slava and geniuses, let us recall one of the more entertaining Wikileaks cables. Yes, we learned that he has portraits of Tupak and Lennon in his office. (What do this gangbanger and this peacenik possibly have in common? That’s right. Drugs.) He listens to rap (which is sexy), reads American poetry (Whitman? Beats? Cool. Anything else? Doesn’t bode well for his writing career…) But perhaps the most enlightening bit of hearsay is captured in the gossip mongering of Kryshtanovskaya (who, impressively, has managed to turn gossip mongering into an akademic field!)

From Russian Reporter’s relay of the cable, «У него много масок»:

…Ольга Крыштановская, знающая Суркова с начала 90-х годов, в частном порядке 12 января рассказала нам, что уже тогда Сурков считал себя непризнанным гением. Возможно, таким самомнением объясняется подбор фотографий, украшающих его кабинет, – рэпер Тупак Шакур, Джон Леннон, Нильс Бор и Вернер Гейзенберг. В прошлом году он добавил к ним портрет президента Обамы, объяснив это тем, что Обама – «хороший американец», т.е. уважает Россию.

[Google Translation Here.]

Well, now we know why he thinks geniuses deserve special treatment.

III. “I did the dragon’s will untill you came.”

Wait! Did someone mention Surkov’s “writing career?” Behold! I present to you, Nathan Dubovitsky’s new novel! It’s pretty embarrasing, given the fine, fine reviews it recieved {{cough cough}}, but I haven’t even read Next to Zero yet. I cannot even say if he is a fine writer, I mean, if he writes … finely. Frankly I am just impressed that he writes at all. Such a renaissance man, our Surkov! Er, I mean, our Natan Dubovitsky! Well, perhaps we can’t be sure (honestly, we can’t even be sure what he’s up to when he takes full ownership of his words…) But I’m going to say it is him, because life is more interesting that way, and that’s why people believe things they have no proof of.


Russian Pioneer: МАШИНКА И ВЕЛИК, ИЛИ УПРОЩЕНИЕ ДУБЛИНА [gaga saga]

I will not repost the whole begining of the novel here, because, as a great man once said, “the problem with theory based art is that the theory is always better then the art.” And here we have a fabulous theory! From the Russky Pioneer editor, aka, Andrei Kolesnikov, aka The Real Andrei Kolesnikov:

Писатель Натан Дубовицкий, автор прошумевшего романа «Околоноля», пишет новый роман. Мы предлагаем вам его начало, позволяющее в полной мере оценить величие замысла культового писателя современности.

Я был поражен, когда автор, еще некоторое время тому назад просившийся на заслуженный отдых после первого романа, сначала по электронной почте подробнейшим образом описал содержание второго, а потом и написал первые его главы. По утверждению автора, процесс письма занял у него в общей сложности часов десять. Не верю! Писал, может, и десять. А выписывал потом еще сколько?! Понять, о чем я говорю, вы легко сможете, ознакомившись с этими главами, ибо чтение их займет у вас не десять часов, а равно в десять раз меньше.

И только тогда вы убедитесь, что г-н Дубовицкий очевидно растеткак писатель: рука мастера крепнет, метафора истекает поэтическим соком, мысль становится еще более витиеватой, и иногда с волнением думаешь о том, сможет ли автор поспеть за ней и вывести нас с вами из адского, или вернее райского лабиринта. Сможет!

Но самое главное: автор придумывает для читателя игру, можно сказать, возится с ним как с ребенком. И в результате мы с вами пишем в ближайших номерах «РП» первый в истории wiki-роман. Поздравляю.

Андрей Колесников, главный редактор журнала «Русский пионер»

And from Natan Dubovitsky, aka, Vladislav Surkov, aka Aslambek Dudayev:

Обращение к писателям

Писатели мои! что за скука читать романы! И что за наказание, что за напасть писать их! Вот бы не писать! Но как? если, как говорили Беня Крик и Алекс. Пушкин, рука сама тянется к перу. Тянется, впрочем, или не тянется, а времени на писанину все одно нет, а главное — лень. А самое главное — мысль обгоняет слово: весь уже сложен роман в голове, все удовольствие от его сложения автором уже получено, так что физическое написание превращается в несвежий пересказ, нетворческую рутинную канитель.

И, наконец, что еще и поглавнее самого главного — незадачливый подвижник, героически одолевший дремучие заросли лени, вырастающей в нашем климате выше крапивы и цен на нефть, дописавший таки свою книжищу, обнаруживает, что читать его буквы решительно некому. А ведь еще в прошлом веке Борхес предупреждал: читателей больше нет, есть одни только писатели. Потому что — все образованные стали, гордые, себе на уме. Никто не хочет знать свое место и смиренно внимать поэтам и прозаикам. Никто не хочет, чтобы какие-то незнакомые неопрятные люди жгли ему глаголом сердце или какую другую часть тела.

Если в прошлом человек с идеей был диковиной, вроде бабы с бородой, которую всей ярмаркой сбегались посмотреть и послушать, то в наши дни небольшие, удобные и дешевые, как зубные щетки, идеи есть у каждого брокера, блогера и корпоративного евангелиста. Обожествленная было в XIX — XX в.в. литература стала ныне делом простонародным, общедоступным наподобие поедания сибасов или вождения авто. Все умеют, все писатели.

Читают же писатели, как известно, только то, что пишут. Несвои же тексты, если заметят, просматривают по-писательски, то есть — с презрением, невнимательно и не до конца. Для того лишь, чтобы написать (или произнести) рецензию, краткую, невнимательную, презрительную. Чтобы потом читать (или повторять) уже только эту свою рецензию с наслаждением и уважением. И перечитывать (пересказывать) неоднократно с уважением неубывающим. И хвалить себя, обзываясь нежно айдапушкиным, айдасукинсыном.

Не вспомню, сам ли Борхес обнаружил перерождение массового читателя в массового же писателя или по обыкновению своему процитировал кого-то, но он, кажется, был первым гениальным литератором, даже не пытавшимся писать романы, а так прямо и сделавшим литературной классикой рецензирование книг, в том числе и несуществующих. То есть он научился судить о текстах, которые никогда не читал (по той причине, что и написаны они никогда не были). Отзыв, отклик, коммент, твит по поводу какого-либо произведения стали, таким образом, понемногу важнее самого произведения, а затем возможны сами по себе, без произведения, и теперь превратились в самодостаточный жанр новейшей литературы.

Итак, на смену обитавшему в ХХ веке читателю, человеку-с-книгой-в-метро, человеку-с-книгой-в-бухгалтерии, человеку-с-книгой-на-иконе, человеку-с-книгой-на-костре, человеку-с-книгой — в ХХI веке явился особенный, ни на что не похожий писатель нового типа, человек-без-книги, но готовый, кажется, в любую минуту всех изумить, написать какую угодно книгу по какому угодно случаю. Писатель этот высококультурен, а стало быть, ленив. Ненищ и оттого заносчив. Он чувствует в себе силу необъятную и написал бы сам не хуже любого (отчего и не читает ничего), но все недосуг.

Современный писатель водится, как и старинный читатель, и в бухгалтерии, и в метро, и, хвала демократии, в майбахе. Но на иконах и кострах не замечен. Тем и отличается.

Будучи одним из таких писателей, я обращаюсь ко всем таким писателям со следующим предложением.

(Взываю к вам через РПионер, первый зашагавший в ногу со временем журнал, у которого читателей почти столько же, сколько писателей.) Слушайте меня, писатели. Давайте вместе сделаем хороший роман.

Каждый из нас: 1) может писать книгу, но пишет твит и sms; 2) хочет прославиться, но не может выкроить в своем распорядке необходимые для этого пятнадцать минут; 3) страстный поклонник всего своего и желчный критик всего другого.

А ведь нас, таких, тьма. Если каждый пришлет хотя бы по sms на заданную тему и уделит общему делу по пять минут, то ведь это будет вещь потолще фауста гете и минимум полувек великой славы. И если каждый из нас, писателей, купит потом эту нашу вещь, то ведь это будут неслыханные тиражи. А если еще и прочитает, хотя бы не все, хотя бы свой фрагмент, то к нам не зарастет народная тропа.

Воодушевленный не то успехом, не то провалом, чем-то неопределенным, но очевидно бурным своего «Околоноля [gangsta fiction]», вознамерился я наговорить новое сочинение. На этот раз в жанре «gaga saga» под названием «Машинка и Велик». Или «Упрощение Дублина».

«Околоноля» был назван одним известным критиком «книгой о подонках и для подонков». Хотя, как мне казалось, я пытался рассказать про обычных людей. И даже про хороших. Видимо, не получилось. Будем считать «Упрощение…» второй попыткой сделать книгу о хороших (их еще иногда называют простыми и бедными) людях для хороших людей.

Приступив к осуществлению своего дерзкого замысла, я быстро обнаружил, что «не в силах рассуждать», что выдохся еще там, «около ноля», а здесь, на «машинке и велике», продвигаюсь очень медленно и едва ли справлюсь. По причинам, указанным в первом абзаце моего обращения.

Вспомнив, что многие очень вроде бы неглупые и даже известные люди выражали уверенность, что я не один человек, а сразу несколько, что «gangsta fiction» писался целой бригадой литературных таджиков, я подумал себе: почему бы нет! Почему бы в этот раз и вправду не попробовать? Сразу скажу, таджики взялись было, но отступились — мудрено!

Тогда я вспомнил о более прогрессивном методе — crowd sourcing, или, как раньше говорили, народная стройка. Обращаетесь через интернет или прессу к кому попало: помогите сделать убыточную ртутную шахту рентабельной, разработать новую вакцину от гриппа, изготовить soft для управления свинофермой, сетью звероферм, подготовить новый градостроительный кодекс… Тут же сбегается тридцать пять тысяч добровольцев — и готово дело!

Так, по крайней мере, утверждают пророки wikiвека. Давайте попробуем, правда ли. Напишем роман всей толпой, методом crowd writing.

Вот я выкладываю в РПионере начало романа, все, что смог пока сделать. Пусть этот текст будет открытой платформой, на которой каждый желающий волен построить любой сюжет. Вы можете отказаться от заданной в начале тональности, перетащить действие в иные сколь угодно отдаленные места, погрузить выведенных на сцену персонажей в автобус и столкнуть его чавкающим оползнем с дороги в пропасть.

Каждый может внести посильный вклад, сколько не жалко — реплику, диалог, описание природы, замечание, целый роман, целых два, три, четыре романа, сноску, стишок, твит, просто идею, подсказку… Все пойдет в дело.

Каждый соавтор будет назван при публикации. А то, что не вклеится в коллективный коллаж, будет издано приложением к будущей книге и явится неотъемлемой ее частию. Гонорар будет поделен по-братски между всеми писателями. Убытки же, если таковые обнаружатся, не волнуйтесь, возьму на себя я. Или Андрей Иваныч Колесников, что было бы даже и лучше.

Писатели! Толпы писателей! Делайте первый в России wikiроман, присоединяйтесь к хорошему делу.

Пишите роман по адресу: ruspioner@ruspioner.ru (с пометкой wikiроман).

Принимаются тексты любого объема, присланные до 1 октября 2010 г. и позже.

Ваш Натан Дубовицкий

P.S. Роман будет посвящен русской милиции и издан в ее поддержку. Кто не согласный, просьба не беспокоить.

I did the dragon’s will untill you came.

[Google Translation Here.]

No, you are still kind of doing it, but that’s ok. Kudos for the Yeats reference, though. Even if it somehow sounds more lurid when coming from you…

I hesitated to post this long introduction, as I’d seen another blog forced to take the copyrighted Russian Pioneer material down. So I posted it not only because I think it is interesting, but in the hopes Andrei Kolesnikov will contact me and ask me to take it down! Then I can be all like, “Andrei, first off, you have to get rid of that other journalist writing for Forbes under your name, and then fix the wikipedia page, ok? It’s driving me nuts. I am not taking this down until you get that mess sorted out. Sue me. I don’t have any money, but I’m absolutely willing to be your indentured servant. xoxoxo poemless.”

Anyway, here’s your chance to write part of Surkov’s? novel! Submit, heathens, Submit! Then let us ponder: Is he doing this out of laziness, or some sincere democratic sentiment? The surrealists used to play this kind of game, didn’t they? “Exquisite corpse.” So, he’s not exactly invented the “wikinovel.” … But what the fuck is a “gaga saga?”

And there you have it! Your year-end Slava Surkov Round-up!

Merry Christmas!

December 13, 2010

My Christmas prayers have been answered:

Filed under: Culture: Russia — poemless @ 12:10 PM
Tags:

Swoon…

December 10, 2010

WikiEmesis.

Filed under: Politics: Global — poemless @ 6:19 PM
Tags: ,

Revenge of the Nerd: No diplomat, politician, bank or hairstyle is safe!

I had been patiently waiting for all of the cables to be released so that I might go through them with a fine tooth comb, reflect, synthesize, and then come up with something brilliant and sensible to say about them, with authority, and wisdom. Spouting off hysterically is not really my style… Then someone told me that less than 1% of the cables had even been released.

Gah! Hysterical spouting, commence!

A lot of people seem to think this fellow who just by coincidence happens to look like a villain in Hollywood movie and who just by coincidence happens to work out of a Bond movie type bunker, is some kind of … freedom fighter. A hero. I find this attitude a bit infantile. I am all about freedom of speech, and freedom of information. Freedom to speak one’s own mind publicly if one so chooses, without fear of retribution, freedom to access what has been spoken publicly by others. Freedom to air what individuals who are not me have said in confidence to one another? Er? What’s next, you have the right to publish my diary on the internet, so long as you can prove someone else stole it from my bedside table? I’m sure I’ve said things that make the US government look like idiots. It could be damaging to our national security if published. … Mind you, I love the Wikileaks! Mmm, mmm – they ARE delicious! I cannot get enough Batman and Robin and voluptuous Ukrainian nurses! But if information is power, my friends, this is not much in the way of information. This is gossip. And the only people who think gossiping and divulging secrets=power are middle school girls and the host of TMZ. … Now, does this mean I think it Wikileaks should be illegal? Look, I not only think TMZ should be on the air, I think an entire station should be devoted to it. But just because something is legal doesn’t make it necessary. Wikileaks is like porn but for policy wonks. Am I against porn? Not on principle. But the way it gets made always weighs on my conscience. And while it might be relatively harmless, it doesn’t actually solve problems. Unless your problem is not having an excuse to avoid having to solve your problems.

Yes, I think this whole cable dump, leak or whatever other euphemism for animal waste evacuation you want to use, is a huge diversion. Any monkey, hell, even the NSA, can collect raw communications by the boatload. But it takes sentient beings to actually make sense of it all, separate the wheat from the chaff, to turn a barn full of data into useful information. And this is not even raw data. All of the cables I have read are simply hearsay, gossip, conjecture, secondhand information or flat out storytelling. What useful information have the Wikileaks honestly added to your understanding of foreign policy? That it is conducted by narrowminded, incompetent, spoiled twits with self-serving agendas? I don’t know anyone who thought our diplomatic corps were competent, and frankly, NO ONE needed a leak of classified information to see that outdated stereotypes, questionable sources and plain old pettiness plagues our foreign policy. Shame on you if you actually had to learn that from Julian Assange. Maybe you think Assange is like the child in the fairytale who proclaims the Emperor has no clothes? But we don’t need someone to tell us the Emperor has no clothes, we’ve seen America wagging its cock in the face of the human race for decades. What we need is someone to demand the Emperor put on some pants!

Citizens, experts and the journalism establishment have collectively failed to demand the US government adhere to the same standards of professional conduct and competency that are generally expected of the average homo sapien. I don’t see why we should then turn to one smarmy individual with positively no interest in discretion or responsibility, who has tricked the whole world into looking at the exposed, underdeveloped member of the US diplomatic corps, to be a champion of humility and restraint. This man is not our knight in shining armour. We have a good laugh, we gasp in embarrassment, we watch as the most powerful individuals and governments on the planet scramble to rescue their dignity, scattered in pieces over the pages of newspapers and websites like a barrel of marbles upturned in a skating rink. It’s quite a spectacle, and I would not be surprised if a pistol-toting cat walking on its two hind legs were spied accompanying the hero of our story. It’s a great story. Substance-wise, impact on the caliber of foreign policy-wise: I Just. Don’t. Care.

Assange seems to appeal, from my observations, to 3 groups of people: 1) Male computer nerds who make up for what they lack in the interpersonal skills department with fantasies of power and chicks and Bond villain lairs. Assange is essentially a poster boy for these social outcasts. “Look at me. If I can do it, so can you.” What were witnessing here is a real life version of Revenge of the Nerds. 2) Activists who feel politically emasculated after marching in the streets (shock!) failed to prevent the invasion of Iraq, etc. They’ve been screaming from the mountaintops that our leaders are evil, conspiratorial, irresponsible, deceitful and otherwise loathsome creatures, but, alas, no one would listen. Now there are official documents vindicating them! But still, no one is listening. Why should they? 3) Vladimir Putin. And who can blame him, really?

No, I don’t think Julian Assange is a hero (though I arguably fall into camp #2). However, I do think various governments around the world are doing everything in their power -and outside of that power- to turn him into one. And it appears they will succeed. Heads up, Mumia, your reign is about to end! But if being made an example of by a fragile empire willing to take extraordinary measures and flout the law to curb your influence and teach you a lesson about who is boss makes you a bona fide hero, I’m hitching a ride on the Misha K bandwagon. Why not? Because the ends justify the means? Because Misha K was in it for himself while Assange is doing all this for you? Pah-Leeze. The man is an egomaniac. “I believe geopolitics will be separated into pre and post cablegate phases.” So, he is not modest. Hell, he may even be right. Well, Hitler might also make this claim. Wreaking havoc doesn’t make you a hero. Improving lives does. And how has, or will, the Wikileaks actually improve our lives? And don’t give me the “information is power” spiel. Information is only empowering when combined with critical thinking skills and the motivation to get off your ass and act on said information. Not much improvement on that front, Wikileaks or no. Unless Assange is breaking condoms in order to bring a whole breed of fiercely analytical, empathetic and courageous beings into the world who will posses some magical immunity to the perverse and destructive system of reward and punishment that defines 21st century global culture … I just don’t see how a post-Wikileaks world is any significant improvement. Lack of information is not the problem. Americans have perhaps the freest press in the world – even allowing for the arrest of Assange, almost ubiquitous Internet access and a free and sprawling public library system. Classified government communications and the maniacal jottings of schizophrenic hermits are about the only thing we don’t have access to, and while such documents may confirm the worst fears of conspiracy theorists and give us insight into the minds of madness, fortunately, we need not rely on them to see what is right in front of our faces.

Do I think he should have been arrested? Only if he broke the law. And if there are laws against making America look stupid or being flippant about a one night stand involving a condom mishap, well, we better get to work constructing more jails, or just change our name to “The Prison Industrial Complex of America,” make everyone wear jumpsuits, give everyone free access to healthcare and call it a day. I am sure the same could be done in other countries.

OTOH, I really am not convinced that every conversation had by everyone in the world is my business. It’s not so much the hacking that concerns me, but the arrogance.

Which may be the real arena of competition between the authors of the cables and their publishers.

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