poemless. a slap in the face of public taste.

March 17, 2011

Checking In (with politics, art & poetry)

Filed under: Too Much Information — poemless @ 3:17 PM
Tags: , , ,

The past week or two has left me feeling like I’ve been trampled by a drunken crowd, and I am not even referring to St. Patrick’s Day. You might imagine that a person with major depression would spend all day lying in bed. Oh how I’d give anything to spend a whole day in bed. But construction season has arrived in Chicago with the spring air, and peace is elusive. A few mornings ago I awoke to two turtle doves on the windowsill by my pillows. It was magical… until they were swiftly chased away by the clatter of jackhammers below. A metaphor for my emotional state.

I hate Spring. I REALLY hate Spring.

Monday evening I met with my politically-minded friends at a bankrupt hippie joint on the outskirts of town to celebrate our recent victories in the the local Aldermanic elections. Most notable was that of Ameya Pawar, a young, first-time, independent candidate who, to everyone’s surprise – including his own, won a seat that had been held by the same machine candidate for 30+ years. Democracy, it seems, does have its moments. In other news of the evening, Ilya Sheyman announced his exploratory commission for for Congress. Ilya is a fabulous young man I’ve known through Democracy For America, a far more nuts&bolts&elbow grease lefty organization than its name belies. He is a smart, community-minded, dedicated guy with gobs of organizing experience, and perhaps most importantly, he bought me a drink. Tell Ilya to Run!

I must confess that having several attractive Russian Jewish men buy me drinks within the course of one week has got me thinking that this is a habit I could really get into. Perhaps I should have dramatic life crises more often?

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent having a hysterical breakdown after two separate people took it upon themselves to send me wholly inappropriate emails. It’s a miracle I survived.

NEVER. EVER. CONTACT ME ABOUT MY FATHER.

Some people find the peace they seek in churches; I find it at The Art Institute. So I gathered the shattered pieces of myself and made a pilgrimage, to escape my ego and remind myself why life is worth living. The John Marin and Margaret Bourke-White exhibits were especially divine. Side-stepping the intellectual debate over What is art? and what is good art, I admit I approach it like wine: consume a lot, try anything once, decide what you like and just go with it. Marin’s compositions had an airiness (thanks, ds) and playful pastels like Duffy but with a modern, edgy abstraction. Bourke-White’s Depression Era photographs were too timely, but I preferred her highly stylized decontextualized industrial photos that reminded me of Vertov’s Man with Movie Camera. I could fill my apartment with the works of both of these artists and feel as though they’d all been created especially for me. I was also able to revisit my old friends the Chagall windows, Picasso’s Old Guitarist, Van Gogh’s Bedroom, Miro’s Circus Horse, the still life with a monkey and that reclining female nude with her back turned to the room.

Friday through Monday was a blur of social engagements and visits with dear friends, old college dorm-mates, family, gluttonous amounts of food (Spires’ favorite Cafe Selmarie, Spacca Napoli, croissants, butternut squash kugel…), too much generosity, good long talks, glasses of wine, and everything else one does everything else in hopes of enjoying. And Tuesday I crashed. Very hard.

During it all I continue daily therapy, struggle to sleep (though I am eating again), remain overwhelmed by my obligations and take medicine I hate. I take the medicine because I saw a PBS documentary about PTSD and depression which explained that scientists have recently discovered that these tortures, in addition to making you feel like shit, KILL YOUR BRAINCELLS. Well, so long as I absolutely must continue in this world, I’d like to have all the braincells I can get. So, drugs…

I’ve also become obsessed with the situation in Japan. I am told it is not wise for someone so emotionally fragile as myself to watch the news. Neither is it wise to drink or chase boys, but they way I see it, a bad decision is still a decision, and therefore an improvement over the anxiety-induced paralysis in which I had previously been trapped. So I am addicted to the shots of terrible disaster, emergency alerts and incomprehensible press conferences on NHK, which is constantly on my TV. Sometimes it is not even in English, but I watch anyway. This happened to me during Katrina, 9-11 and the cloning of Dolly the Sheep. I bought all the magazines with Dolly on them. It’s morose, really. Yet it does seem weirdly therapeutic.

It’s not all so awful. I did buy a book at Borders’ fire sale. I know. I feel really horribly guilty about it. I was just posting hysterically about the threat of homelessness. But when my step-brother was sleeping on my studio floor I realized the only bedtime reading I had was an anthology of erotica that arrived in a care package from a friend. It was mortifying. I suppose a better idea would be to go to the library, but I keep having my books recalled before I finish them! And besides, I was not only buying something pleasurable for myself, but supporting a cause my readers know is near and dear to my heart: the contemporary literature in translation movement. Yes, I purchased the Best European Fiction 2011, edited by Sasha Hemon. Oh! I know! It seems it was only yesterday that I was reviewing the inaugural edition of this project. Oh, halcyon days!

In closing I was going to post a poem written by my Russian poetry professor, Ilya Kutik, about a Tsunami. But hell if I can find the damned thing on line. I did, however, find this, which seems just as appropriate:

A Hermit Pets a Cat, WhileThinking About the Ocean by Ilya Kutik
(trans. Andrew Wachtel)

I

O, my verse! Walk, don’t run…

Why run anyway? And where to…For you can’t

roll outta here like a tear drop

from grief—because the ocean’s made

of the name teary doremifasaline…

And I don’t want to add saltiness

to the world—much less to the water..Tears

have a lot to learn from the ocean: they are suicidal

flashes…While the ocean’s breast bursts against the shore

and, shazam, rises again…Which proves

once more that—despite the eternal

self-torment, it’s not worth taking your own life.

As always, thanks for reading.

March 3, 2011

Chicago doesn’t believe in tears.

Filed under: Culture: U.S.,Too Much Information — poemless @ 6:14 PM

Lamest. Title. Ever. I know. Look, I am depressed. You should be thankful I am writing anything at all! However, for those of you who normally come here looking for a shot of All Russia Lovefest All The Time and have had nothing but my personal problems thrown in your face, appeasement is at hand. It’s one thing to alienate my family and friends, from whom, let’s be honest, one can never truly alienate themselves, regardless the effort made to do so. But readers I live to please. It is precisely because I owe you nothing that I owe you everything…

Anyway, I’ve not really been paying close attention to anything going on outside of North Africa, Wisconsin or my own head recently, so I have no insights into the Russian political outrage du jour, nor do I even know what the current source of today’s outrage is really. Other than what it always is: awful Russia, being awful Russia. The nerve… In better times, I would be able to tell you about Surkov’s latest attempt to portray modern art as a spiritual justification for the Kremlin’s current political philosophy, or what our Vova had for breakfast. Now I am more concerned with my own breakfast and obnoxious justifications.

Poemless, you said you were not going to write about your personal problems!

Ok, so I was getting on the bus Tuesday evening to go to Aldi. This is probably the most depressing sentence I have ever written. Yet I was not depressed. Across the street from my apartment is a church which hosts a food bank each Tuesday evening. The longer the recession lasts (yes it is) the longer the line for the free food grows. For a moment I wondered if I should not be in that line. But the thought of limited resources and limitless need propelled me past the line and toward the bus stop. I had never seen so many people in the food line, and there is always a long food line. On this particular evening, there was less a queue than a mob. As I waited for the bus – a Kafkaesque routine wherein the driver sits in the bus with the doors closed for 15 minutes while people wait outside, peering in, until the scheduled arrival time appears on the digital display – the mob slowly transferred itself from the church to the bus stop.

Suddenly I was surrounded by like 30 Russian pensioners examining the contents of their newly-filled pakety with vocal suspicion and judgement. There was much trading of ground beef for cranberry juice, hemming, hawing, rustling about and interrogation interrupted periodically by sighs of resignation, “Nu… zdorovo… zdorovo…,” a brief silence and then another round of grumbling. The driver’s shift began and everyone piled, not filed, but piled into the bus. It was me, a boatload of aged Russians and a young black woman, all shooting similarly distrustful looks about. It reminded me of Moscow and those crowded buses along Varshavskoe in the evening. Not just the language being spoken, but the whole scene: older women in their fuzzy pastel caps, flourescent lipsticks, cheap dye jobs, smiling eyes and depressing coats, lugging plastic carry-alls half their weight, conversing as though everything in the world were simultaneously revolting, humourous and proof of their own unquestionable wisdom. Men in their slippers, sitting across the aisles from their female companions, looking like young boys who had just been told a pornographic joke in church, speaking like characters in some existential play. “Why?” silence “Why what?” silence “So come sit here.” “You.” silence “Why?” smile “You know why. Why don’t YOU come sit HERE.” silence smirks “You know.” “What do I know?” And this when on for like a mile.

The whole time I really wanted more than anything to ask them how they felt about leaving the breadlines of the Soviet Union for the breadlines of America. But I didn’t. Mostly because, had I been in line for handouts, I wouldn’t be in any mood to discuss my questionable life decisions with judgemental strangers. I also kept thinking back to that Dmitry Orlov piece about Americans and shame:

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.

Well, I’m not one for sweeping generalizations or assumptions about what goes on in the minds of strangers. But my fellow passengers did not seem to possess the demeanor of those who have just been subjected to a degrading experience, and I think most people I know would consider standing in line for the food bank a degrading experience. OTOH, most people I know are not from countries where standing in line or otherwise hustling for basic necessities was an unavoidable fact of life for years.

Yet.

January 25, 2011

Odds and Ends: Throwing links overboard from the ship of bookmarks Edition.

Contents: Mercurial Surkov; Lenin’s gravediggers; “Top Thinkers,” revisited; The American Spite-Bloc; leaked photos and much, much more!

It’s like a document dump, except I practice safe sex.

I. Featured.

Dugin’s deconstruction of Surkov (and Surkov’s decomposition of Lenin.)

Александр Дугин: “Деконструкция Владислава Суркова.”

I was so taken with this article that I added Aleksandr Dugin as a facebook friend (he’s just just added Pig Latin to his languages.) Inspired by two essays Surkov has recently published in art magazines, Dugin… That’s right – Slava’s new hobbie is art criticism! What’s next? Such a Renaissance man! Anyway, Dugin is less interested in Slava’s artworld bona fides than his stubborn unwillingness to take a final position on anything. Dugin suggests the “mercurial” Surkov is the epitome of Russian society itself:

Парадоксы высокопоставленного археомодерниста

В значительной степени, Сурков и есть проявление того, что можно назвать археомодерном. В нем есть стремление уйти от архаики, но не порвать с ней окончательно. Встать на сторону модерна, но не признавать тех внутренних директив и определенности тех катастрофических разрушений бессознательного, на которых основан модерн. Он не хочет рвать связи до конца, но и укреплять их не собирается. В личности Суркова, как в магическом кристалле, отражается специфика всего нашего социально-политического развития. Органические протеизм, гибкость, амбивалентность, вечная двусмысленность, перетекание одного в другое с блокированием и одного, и другого, вероятно, и являются секретом влияния Суркова и устойчивости его позиции. Но одновременно это и диагноз, который мы, в общем-то, можем легко поставить нашему обществу в целом.

Пока мы будем пребывать в протеическом археомодерне, где не доминирует ни одна из сил, – ни модерн, ни традиционализм масс, ни невротическая паранойя элит, ни психотическая шизофрения народа, – одно не сможет одолеть другое. Элиты и массы смотрят друг на друга из своих боксерских углов и не способны выиграть ни матч, ни, тем более, кубок. Сурков – это рефери в битве элит и масс, государства и народа, «либерало-чубайсов» и архаических силовиков-рейдеров. Государство у нас, как говорил Пушкин, «единственный европеец». Сурков – европеец, но европеец, который, тем не менее, не то что не может, но и не хочет до конца избавляться от своих неевропейских, евразийских, русско-чеченских корней. Однако не стремится и укреплять их.

Отложенный выбор: с Богом или с чертом?

В этих двух текстах содержится ключ к пониманию не только самого Суркова, но и всей нашей политической системы. В них о «суверенной демократии» сказано гораздо больше, чем во всей болтовне обслуживающих власть экспертов, которые готовы подгонять под высшую установку все, что угодно, и поэтому нерелевантны.

В современной России все время возникает дуализм, четко очерченный Сурковым, между «юрким дьяволом» и «неподвижным Богом».

Лозунги «прогресса», «модернизации», «либерализма», «Запада», «демократии», «эффективности», «процветания» – все это, безусловно, от дьявола. Сурков это прекрасно понимает – в одной и той же фразе он сначала говорит, что не в этом дело, но потом добавляет, спохватываясь, что без этого нельзя (то есть именно в этом дело). Угрюмо изображение статического божества; оно спокойно, никуда не торопится, а на «модернизацию» и «демократию» посматривает со своих высот гневным оком. Сувереном в России является только Бог, Ветхий Деньми. И его рабы – смиренные простые русские люди – ведут отчаянную, почти безнадежную битву с «сынами века сего». Русские аполоннийцы.

Я думаю, что Сурков сам не определил, с кем он, с Богом или с чертом. Более того, меркуриальная природа категорически не способна выдержать такой жесткой проблематики.

С Богом или с чертом? Для меркурия, для трикстера, для культурного героя, как в североамериканских индейских мифах, не стоит такого выбора. И с Богом, и с чертом, и против Бога, и против черта. Это и есть то, что называется археомодерном, когда блокируется любая решимость, приводящая к определенности, резкому действию, а значит, к ассиметрии, конфликтам, угрозам, жестким и насильственным выводам. Археомодерн любыми способами и любой ценой, до истомы, до истошности, до истерики стремится эту решимость обойти. Я думаю, что пока Сурков является тем, кем он является, то есть, важнейшей фигурой в российском государстве, археомодерн будет доминировать и дальше. А наше общество не сможет сделать ни одного серьезного шага, ни в сторону модерна, ни в сторону архаики, ни в сторону Бога, ни в сторону черта, ни в сторону либерализма, ни в сторону консерватизма. Дело, конечно, не в Суркове, дело в состоянии народа, в состоянии русской истории, русской государственности, русского общества.

[English Translation c/o Google Here.]

I find it interesting that he brings up the “God or the Devil” matter. For some reason, Surkov has always reminded me of the passage in Demons in which Stavrogin asks Tikhon if it is possible to fear the Devil but not believe in God. It seems that if Surkov had any guiding political philosophy whatsoever, aside from keeping himself close to the man in charge, it might be described that way. Here are our Slava’s musings on Miro and Polissky:

Владислав Сурков: “Война и мир Хоана Миро.”
Владислав Сурков: “Полисский въезжает”.

And no, Natan Dubovitsky has not given up on the wikinovel Машинка и Велик, so there is still time to contribute. You know, at first I thought, all experimentalism aside, perhaps he’d just mixed up the basic concepts of authorship and democracy. Some kind of conceptual dyslexia. But now I see he’s intent on throwing them overboard from the ship of modernization.

Along with mushroomified corpse of Vladimir Ilyich:

GoodbyeLenin.ru

So the kids at United Russia want Lenin in the ground. Someone has suggested that Slava was behind this, given the mischievous URL. My initial reaction was, “What do they have to gain by pissing off the Commies?” Then, “Frankly I’m surprised they don’t just charge an exorbitant entrance fee to tourists. They could make a buck and revel in delicious irony at the same time – without destroying one of the great, not to mention weirdest, wonders of the world.” Then, Goodbye Lenin! was a great movie…” Then, I was reminded that the only form of progress Russia seems to know involves taking bulldozers to their personal past. I hate that. Anyway, if correct, this puts a dent in Dugie’s “archeomodern” theory. Or at least the archeo part of it…

I voted NO. I also think there should be a law against letting anyone under 25 weigh in on the destruction of historical treasures.

II. Required Reading.

We’re a sick world… We are a spiteful world. I believe our prefrontal cortex is diseased.

Financial Times: “Where have all the thinkers gone?”

(HT: Russia Monitor)

Progress! We have moved beyond asking why Russia has no great minds to asking why the world has no great minds! FT compares Foreign Policy’s annual list of Top Thinkers (see above link for in depth discussion) to one that may have been drawn up 150 years ago:

The 1861 rankings could have started with Charles Darwin and John Stuart Mill – On the Origin of Species and On Liberty were both published in 1859. Then you could include Karl Marx and Charles Dickens. And that was just the people living in and around London. In Russia, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky were both at work, although neither had yet published their greatest novels.

Even if, like Foreign Policy, you have a preference for politicians, the contrast between the giants of yesteryear and the relative pygmies of today is alarming. In 1861 the list would have included Lincoln, Gladstone, Bismarck and Garibaldi. Their modern equivalents would be Mr Obama, Nick Clegg, Angela Merkel and Silvio Berlusconi.

Still, perhaps 1861 was a freak? So let us repeat the exercise, and go back to the year when the second world war broke out. A list of significant intellectuals alive in 1939 would have included Einstein, Keynes, TS Eliot, Picasso, Freud, Gandhi, Orwell, Churchill, Hayek, Sartre.

So why does the current crop of thinkers seem so unimpressive? Here are a few possible explanations.

A phantom copyright notice is spooking me when I try to paste more, so I suggest reading the rest at FT, unless you lack the means to penetrate the registration firewall. Their explanations for no Dostoyevsky caliber brainiacs these days range from lack of historical perspective on our own peers to the democratization and/or hyperspecialization of knowledge, from globalization (the great thinkers are in India – we just haven’t heard of them yet … except why assume there were not great thinkers in India centuries ago?) to …drumroll… we’re just not that smart anymore.

I would add that there are 6 times as many people than there were in 1861, and a much higher percentage of them are literate. The bar is set higher for getting noticed for your big brains. Also, TV has been invented. And watched. And, dare we say it, Late Capitalism has spread like a cancer throughout the world, devouring our little grey cells until the only functions we have left are those that make us money and get us laid. Not that 19th Century Europe was a glowing meritocracy, but intellectual pursuit for knowledge/art’s sake still had some panache.

Mark Ames: “Dead Souls: How Russians React to Terror.”

In this Vanity Fair article, Mark, relying largely on the rants of one Eddie Limonov, argues that Russian badassery in the face of terrrrists should set an example for the rest of the world. (I think the qualifier about in the face of terrorism is unnecessary…)

As appalling as it might seem, let’s remember what America’s far more sentimental reaction to 9/11 got us: two disastrous wars, tens of thousands of deaths, and the sorts of police-state measures once thought unimaginable. The difference may be more in our sentimentality than in our brutality.

This is a bit disingenuous. Though I envy Russian pragmatism, I do recall a few skirmishes in Chechnya, and the argument could be made that the war there is not yet over. And while the police-state measures here have indeed been unimaginable, the fact points to a lack of American imagination, not to a Russian civil utopia. The argument is based on the false premise that Russians are brutal and Americans are sentimental. From my observations, both cultures possess almost supernatural capacities for both brutality and sentimentality, we just disagree on the scenarios in which they are appropriate. We’re like each other’s Bizzarro Worlds.

Mark Ames: “We, The Spiteful.”

A much better, if far more controversial piece from Ames. I suppose now is as good a time as any to confess I’ve had the same epiphany from time to time. The only difference is that I hoped I was wrong and didn’t dare discuss it.

In the summer of 2004, I published an article in the New York Press that answered Thomas Frank’s question “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” The Bush-Kerry campaign was heating up, and it was clear to me that the American left was going to make the same mistake it’s been making for 30 years, and will continue making until it faces some unpleasant truths about the rank, farcical psychology that drives American voting habits. Why don’t they vote in their own economic interests? Why don’t voters vote rationally, the way we were taught in grade school civics classes? In a rational world, with rational voters voting in their rational economic interests, Bush—who dragged America into two lost wars before destroying the entire financial system—would’ve been forced to resign before the first primary and exiled to Saudi Arabia; rationally, rational voters would have elected anyone or anything, John Kerry or a coconut crab, over that fuck-up of fuck-ups, George W. Bush.

The answer came to me just I was just finishing my book Going Postal. Researching and writing that book was a real mind-fuck: spending all those isolated months sloshing through Middle American malice. I realized something obvious when I pulled back from all that research and looked at the Kerry-Bush race: malice and spite are as American as baseball and apple pie. But it’s never admitted into our romantic, naïve, sentimental understanding of who Americans really are, and what their lives are really like.

If the left wants to understand American voters, it needs to once and for all stop sentimentalizing them as inherently decent, well-meaning people being duped by a tiny cabal of evil oligarchs—because the awful truth is that they’re mean, spiteful jerks being duped by a tiny cabal of evil oligarchs. The left’s naïve, sentimental, middle-class view of “the people” blinds them to all of the malice and spite that is a major premise of Middle American life. It’s the same middle-class sentimentality that allowed the left to be duped into projecting candidate Obama into the great progressive messiah, despite the fact that Obama’s record offered little evidence besides skin pigment to support that hope. (For the record, I called out the left’s gullible Obamaphilia during the primary campaigns in early 2008—here in Alternet, and here in The eXile.)

[...]

Like the Grumpy Old Man character, Americans are miserable and we like it! We love it! Hallelujah!

Just as in 2004, today, in 2011, the left can’t make sense of it all. So the only way they can frame this contemporary American insanity is either by blaming it all on the oligarchs who exploit this latent spite, as if taking the oligarch funding out of the equation would solve it all…or, when getting too close to facing the awful possibility that maybe a lot of Americans are just contemptible jerks in dead-ender lives, the left retreats into the safe, comforting irony of Jon Stewart, where it’s stored away as just another zinger that requires no serious thought, no painful analysis.

Here is my article that tries to get the left to finally face the truth about American voters as they really are—to consider the possibility that maybe a huge bloc of American voters are worse than merely “irrational.” What if there’s not much to like about them at all? Or more importantly, why the hell do we need to like them; why is “likable” even a factor?

So go read the rest. Dark side of democracy indeed…

III. Links.

For you slackers. You know who you are.

“Kremlin Clans: The Sequel. Return of the Grey Cardinal.” In 3D. Wait, why is this not in 3D, Tolya? I thought all sequels were these days. Anyway, Sublime Oblivion has Surkov in Putin’s clan, and I can’t see Vova putting Lenin in a grave. So perhaps there is hope yet.

Awesome photos from someone allowed to hang out alone in Slava’s Kremlin office with a camera. If you needed any proof the Cold War were over. But it’s still rather thrilling, isn’t it? Mucking about in Kremlin inner sanctums… Where you’ll find fotos of Tupac, Obama, Che and a library that looks rather like the Slavic backlog in my department. Also, is that a Miro on his desk?

Less Awesome photos from someone probably not allowed to hang out in Putin’s palace with a camera but who did anyway. Nice upgrade, Vova. Lemme know if you need someone to test out that bathtub out for you.

LA Times: “Who is Ignatiy Vishnevetsky?” A Russian-Chicagoan handpicked by Roger Ebert to carry on his film critic legacy, is who.

Well, that should keep you occupied for a while.

As always, thanks for reading, and have a lovely week!

January 7, 2011

… To this great stage of fools.

That was a difficult year… I was prepared to acknowledge that it left me with little to crow about, yes, but it wasn’t until I broke into tears as “Happy New Year!” left my lips at the stroke of midnight that I felt the full weight of it. Like I’d been holding my breath since June. Horrible. A bit terrifying actually… This is my MO. I didn’t cry at my mother’s funeral. People kept informing me, “It’s not normal, T–” “You should be sad, T–” Eventually I did cry, when everyone else had gotten on with their lives and stopped wondering what to do with me. My emotional timing is always off. I managed to hold myself together as I suffered some freak neurological nightmare all year. Now I am crying all the time for no discernible reason. I cried at my step-parents’ house. Well, the holidays are stressful and emotional when you are orphaned-like. But I cried, inconsolably sobbed, when my step-mother kept asking where her box of chocolates was. Like I knew. Like the whole house were not filled to the brim with sweets. Like if she kept asking eventually I would confess to lifting them. I sat on the couch and wailed hysterically. Obviously not about the chocolates. Just like I did not cry about the arrival of the new year. I have no idea why I am suddenly such a drama queen lately. Certainly not pregnant, and don’t seem depressed or blue otherwise… I expect a decade from now another random blood test will reveal an imbalance of some magical chemical recently discovered to control one’s emotional sensitivity. … Eventually we’ll all be robots.

Well, like I said, I am not actually depressed. Just profoundly relieved 2010 is over. And one week into 2011 I’ve little Russia watching to boast of. I got nothin’, I tell ya. If you want serious political analyses, go visit AGT or that… Ioffe, I think, is her name. Yes. They have the dish on the liberal infighting and Putin’s corruption and our man in Chita and all that jazz. Nothing new under the Russian sun, as far as I can see. But then, just when you think that, there will be a coup or collapse or Vova will issue a “Putin sings Motown” LP or something else no one could have predicted. But that’s not happened since I last posted, so in the meantime I busy myself with the following:

Cinema

Black Swan. It’s not technically Russian, I suppose. On the other hand, it is directed by a guy named Aronofsky, takes place at the ballet, in a very dark and ill-defined reality, is set to Tchaikovsky’s music, and has a lesbian sex scene between two rather emaciated but beautiful women. And it isn’t French. So…

Inverse to my peers in the audience, I came for the ballet and stayed for the lesbian sex scene. But the draw, it turned out was neither. The psychodrama and Pyotr Ilyich’s score are responsible the film’s genuine intensity. Each on its own would be enough to make your heart pound, but the combination of two work like that of an illicit drug and alcohol. You arrive a bit jaded and cynical but braced for some adventure, get cinematic rush, leave the theater with your head spinning, and feel the full ugly weight of it the next day. It’s kind of like a terrifying nightmare you awake from the next day and, in the harsh light or reason and reflection you think, “Fuck. That didn’t even make SENSE.” Or maybe like a one night stand: insane in the moment, but now you’re in no mood to repeat it, wonder if you haven’t been made a fool of, suddenly remember that one annoying matter you blocked out of your mind in the heat of the moment but which now seems a bit cheezy and revolting (<-Winona Ryder zombie. Really?) But it just might haunt you for the rest of your life. Or not.

Well, did you want a proper review? Something about Kubrick and maybe some interpretation (metaphor for the creative process? stress-induced nightmare? complete mental breakdown? REALITY?) Oh, the Internet is full of that. Go google it. I liked it. I also like every aspect of this movie in its own respect (ballet, the score of Swan Lake, horror stories, psychotic break stories, artistic process stories, lesbian sex scenes, Flashdance-era fashions…) If you don't like any of these things, I can't imagine why on earth you would possibly want to see this film.

Er… I am a bit hesitant to post this here; I fear either no one will believe me, or my college peers will come crawling from the woodwork. But I simply must share! I beat Darren Aronofsky to the punch! In a performance art class taken in my undergraduate years, I -why? who even knows? it was performance art!- did one performance set to the score of Swan Lake which involved, among other things, a sharp blade and a stupid amount of my own blood. I went to a university that churns out actors and directors and other industry professionals. Who in that class is now hanging with Darren Aronofsky? Until I find out, I will be gracious and just mutter something about great minds…

Literature

Sister Pelagia and the Black Monk. Someone (Spires?) was advising me to read Akunin. My New Year’s resolution is to read Borges, but this was at the library, and seemed more … doable. I am slowly realizing the reason I have never read Borges is not laziness, but a sincere desire not to. Akunin. It’s ok. Pretty routine mystery stuff. I love mysteries, but that’s the problem. After so many of them it becomes a struggle to not see the formula. In fact the first few pages were intolerable, very talky and haughty (I want to blame Andrew Bromfield,) but it suddenly became interesting just a I was ready to chuck it. And it has remained interesting. I would not conflate “interesting” with “genius,” but it is certainly not … low brow. Pretentious? A little, which has the effect of making something respectable seem a bit cheap. But it is nevertheless enjoyable in an “I’ve been reading Latin all day and I don’t even know Latin, so brainpower is now on standby” way and great for the train. To quote an Amazon.com review, “I enjoyed the Dostoevsky references.”

On the topic of Russian literature, let us pause to appreciate this stunning article from the Guardian:

Why western authors are in love with Mother Russia.

I am “western,” in love with Mother Russia and … uhm, I have a blog. Maybe he’d gotten to the root of my madness? I was quite intrigued. Until I was reminded that the reason this western girl has a blog about Mother Russia is to combat the utter crap being written about her elsewhere.

Choice:

Russia has recently inspired an abundance of novels. I mean, specifically, novels set there by English-speaking authors, from thrillers such as Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko mysteries, to Helen Dunmore’s Leningrad books. (By contrast, surprisingly few home-grown, contemporary Russian writers have found wide foreign readerships. The Putin era has not in general been conducive to great literature.)

Dear Mr. Miller, YOU SUCK. I don’t write this stuff for my health, you know. (Well, actually… but that’s neither here nor there.) Yes, if London bookshops are not crammed with Russian novels, it simply MUST be Putin’s fault. But, let’s not get started about the crimes Mr. Putin would be accused of if London bookshops were crammed with Russian novels.

Martin Cruz Smith is “great literature?” I am going to go shoot myself. You can continue reading…

There are multiple ways to think about Russia’s extremes. The obvious one is physical. Much of the vast country is lethally cold for half the year or more. Virtually any outdoor activity – starting a car; walking down the obstacle-course, snowbound streets – can be its own microdrama. This harsh environment helps to explain why Dostoevsky and others always seem to be stretching up their hands to heaven. The fundamental questions – Why are we here? Is anyone in charge? – somehow seem sharper at -20C, or on a three-day train ride.

Well, considering London just absolutely ceased to function period after a few inches of snow, I can see how the author would attribute Russia’s penchant for drama to … cold weather. Still, it doesn’t explain the dearth of Canadian lit on London bookshelves. Personally, I blame Stephen Harper. Not conducive…

Classic:

Russia is not, or not only, a sort of moral zoo, which writer and reader can visit with a safe sense of superiority. It is also a place to test their moral pride and presumptions.

Russia has for centuries been a distorting, fairground mirror for the west. It is both like and unlike the tamer nations. Throughout the cold war, it was alien, unknowable, the other, enemy world, and an easy setting for thrillers. Something of that menace persists, partly in the guise of the Russian mob, one of the elements in John le Carré’s latest book Our Kind of Traitor. At the same time Russia is European, notionally Christian and industrialised. It has a familiar high culture and recognisable architecture. Go to Moscow for a day or two, and you might consider it a normal northern European city, with extra neon and worse roads. You have to stay a little longer to uncover the wildness. As the Marquis de Custine put it after visiting in 1839, it is “only too easy to be deceived by the appearances of civilisation”.

Don’t be deceived – they’re animals, not like us! It’s a “zoo.” Brits go there to get their moral superiority on. Someone should tell them they really do that just fine at home and save them the plane trip. And 3 hour train trip. In the cold.

One question posed by some novels set in Russia is whether this place that sometimes looks the same actually is the same: whether everything that happens there could happen here too, could happen to us, if we shed our inhibitions and our own “appearances of civilisation”. … Would we cling to our integrity today, if almost everyone about us was selling theirs?

Uhm, other than to read his own articles, has the author picked up a newspaper lately? Who the fuck is clinging to their integrity?! Please, I want to start a commune with this person. Tell me who we’re talking about. We should breed, and save civilization! Well, I never did find out why we westerners are in love with Mother Russia, but I did learn that Brits are apparently so boring they must travel to inclement and morally depraved places to find interesting people to write about. That’s depressing.

Lastly on the topic of Russian literature, from Muse Daily.

Brodsky’s mentor, the great Silver Age poet Anna Akhmatova, laughed at the K.G.B.’s shortsightedness. “What a biography they’re fashioning for our red-haired friend!” she said. “It’s as if he’d hired them to do it on purpose.”

Plus ca change…

I need to run off and return to real life.

But I was going to add something about there being a world food prices crisis which the UN reports may lead to uprisings. (Do hungry people have the energy to fight?) And on the same day I read about an article in our local paper highlighting a recipe using obscure, gourmet ingredients in some kind of contest among local chefs to make the most unique and over-the-top cuisine no one would ever want to eat evar. One step in the recipe involved covering a lemon in salt and letting it set “for 4-6 months.” Meanwhile, Americans are shopping at the Dollar Store and starving Indians are on the verge of revolt. Karlin just posted something about people living in sewers under Las Vegas.

It is just not right.

No wonder I cry…

But I must run! Ok, thanks for reading. Ciao!

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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