poemless. a slap in the face of public taste.

October 21, 2009

Odds & Ends: Dead Cat Souls Edition

Bella Piccolina

Bella Piccolina

Technically I am still on hiatus.

Last week I had been trying to write a serious piece on Mike McFaul’s multiple personality disorder, but Bellacat’s “refusing food and water” disorder began taking up all of my mental time and much of my available time. Then it evolved into a “refusing to live” disorder. Then she died. It was horrible! Tragic! Outrageously unfair! Oh, woe is me…

But before that happened I had put together a few items of note. In the past, I’ve run into the conundrum of collecting little stories to write about, not getting around to writing about them, the stories would become old news, and I would become overwhelmed with the sheer volume them, resulting in a certain paralysis on my part, and the paralysis would in turn result in the piling up of more items. Then Andy suggested I just delete them, and well, it was so anti-climactic. I’m pro-climax. So for your reading enjoyment, and my peace of mind, a news round-up of compromised inspiration.

1. Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story.”

I went to see Michael Moore’s new documentary about the eeeevils of capitalism in America. Con: Typical Moore shtick, trying to make ridiculous citizen’s arrests. And questionable editing of stock footage to provoke a knee-jerk emotional reaction rather than serious contemplation. This appears to be all the rage at the moment, if Simon Schama’s “The American Future: A History” is any indication. (However, I secretly wish I and everyone else on the planet could speak like Simon Schama. We need a “Speak like Simon Schama Day.”) Back to Capitalism. Pro: Someone just made a movie promoting scary red commie socialism as The True American Way! And it’s in the theaters! Yes!! My plan is coming to fruition!! Bwahahaha… The movie ends with a big band Italian crooner version of L’Internationale, and the following words:

“I refuse to live in a country like this. And I’m not leaving.”

Precisely how I have felt for the last 8+ years.

Can you imagine if this movie had been made 50 years ago? Conventional wisdom states that the Cold War sucked because we could have nuked the world into oblivion. My wisdom states that it sucked not because of what could have happened, but because of what actually did. Like the blacklisting of people who dared to propose such radical ideas as, oh, economic parity and dignity. Pretty pathetic that, given the impressive sum total of human achievement, dignity is still a radical and frightening idea. Hell, I just had my cat put to sleep because there was a consensus that to prolong her suffering was unethical and giving her a dignified death was the humane thing to do. Sadly, the justification of action on humane grounds applies almost exclusively to non-humans.

2. Rogozin.

Speaking of commies, the Russian ambassador to NATO not only twitters, but has a Che Guevara avatar! (H/T to James @ RA)

And he has some fun posts:

“The Ambassadorial EAPC meeting was somewhat boring. I watched 2 flies die of the delivered speeches : )”

“Politics is like sauna: if you don’t like sweating, take the lower berth”

Apparently he’s also written an autobiography entitled, “Враг народа.” Wow. I have to say, “Enemy of the People” sounds like a better read than “The Audacity of Hope.” I think if I were a politician I’d rather my bio be mistaken for an undergound manifesto than a self-help remainder.

I’ve totally misjudged Rogozin. Who knew there was such a wonderful sense of humour and revoliutionary fervor beneath that flabby facade? I wonder if Kadyrov tweets… I bet if he did, we’d find out he’s some kinda artsy culture vulture.

3. RIAN: Kadyrov to do ‘his best’ to develop Chechen fashion.

If you have to be killed, you should at least do it in style. Bellacat had to be killed, and it must be said, she did it in style. I groomed her before the big event, plus, she had a svelte supermodel figure by that point. She died on a nice Pottery Barn-esque microfiber suede featherbed with a little pink heart-shaped bandage to keep the catheter in. Oh god this sucks…

GROZNY, October 6 (RIA Novosti) – Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov said on Tuesday he intended to do his best to support the development of fashion in the republic.

The statement followed the opening show of a fashion studio in Chechnya’s capital Grozny. The event was also attended by Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli and renowned Russian designer Vyacheslav Zaitsev.

“I will do my best to promote and develop Chechen fashion,” Kadyrov, 33, said after the show. “And I am sure these great people – Cavalli and Zaitsev – will help us.”[…]

Kadyrov, who has been accused of human rights abuses in Chechnya, also said he would spare neither “health nor money” to help Chechen fashion.

This certainly gives a new meaning to the term,”fashion police.” Yikes. Do not get on the wrong side of Chechen fashion, kids. You might end up on the Crimewatch blog.

4. Moscow Times’ Crimewatch blog.

I’m not usually a fan of the MT. Largely because they lack any sense of humour, which is a detriment when one takes themselves as seriously as they do. Alas, it appears this may be changing. At least one of their writers has taken it upon himself to fill the void left by MosNews’s latest disappearing act:

“Carl Schreck cut his journalism teeth as a crime reporter for The Moscow Times and now spends an unhealthy amount of time scanning the web for the most disturbing and tragicomic crimes Russia has to offer. “

A selection of headlines:

“Dog-For-Vodka Deal Ends in Death”
“Traffic Cop Runs Over Woman, Hides Body, Investigates Self”
“Village’s Last 2 Residents Killed With Hammer”
“Goat Monument Vandalism Watch”

And I thought I was having a bad day.

From the Goat story:

We here at Crime Watch like to keep readers abreast of not only the latest gruesome felonies but also of random acts of criminal anarchy.

Some people, it seems, have no shame.

A five-meter tall statue of a goat in the western Russian city of Tver was brutally vandalized this week by unidentified hooligans, who removed the wooden animal’s glasses, broke his tail, tore up his saddle and left him covered in graffiti, the local Tver Information Agency reported.

To add insult to injury, the vandals also stole a large wooden ruble that had been hanging from the neck of the goat, which, according to the report, is one of the city’s most prominent symbols.

The wooden goat has had some troubles in recent years. Last year its head fell off, forcing the cancellation of an event called “A Visit to the Tver Goat,” sparking “deep discontent among city denizens and foreign guests” who had arrived to have their picture taken atop the beast, the news agency said.

“deep discontent” … Something tells me Tver is in need of more recreation opportunities if a photo op with or mugging of a goat statue are the hottest tickets in town. That said, I’d be deeply discontented if I went to have my photo taken with Walt Whitman’s statue and his head fell off.

5. Times Online: Walt Whitman statue welcomed by anti-gay Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov.

I once wrote a brilliant thesis based on a comparison of Alexander Dovzhenko to Walt Whitman.

That’s all the comment I can make here. The Times can save their scathing irony for when Walt’s own country has actually recognized the rights of the GLBT community. Or hell, for when his own country actually ever gives a shit about poetry. Besides, wasn’t Tchaikovsky gay? It’s not cultural contributions people like Luzhkov fear from gays, it’s the threat to their coveted position in the social hierarchy. Or that their wives will find out their little secrets…

A statue of the American poet and gay icon Walt Whitman was unveiled in Moscow by Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, at a ceremony attended by the mayor of the Russian capital, Yuri Luzhkov, who is anti-homosexual.

Mr Luzhkov has called gay people “satanic” and banned gay pride parades in Moscow on public safety and morality grounds. However, he praised Whitman, whose poetry contains sensual references to men, saying that his works were “permeated with the spirit of American optimism”.

The statue stands in Moscow State University and was paid for with donations by US and Russian companies. Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, called it a return gesture after the city government paid for a statue of the poet Aleksandr Pushkin at George Washington University in 2000. Both statues are by the Moscow sculptor Aleksandr Burganov. (AFP)

I read Bellacat poetry the night before she died. I did not know she would die the next day, but I knew she was gravely ill and miserable. I read her poetry to try to relax her, including a lot of Whitman. O me! O life! He was correct – the powerful play does go on, and we can contribute a verse. But he left out the bit about the play being an overpriced, poorly acted, self-important piece of crap, and that while anyone can contribute a verse, most people are terrible writers.

Anyway, Yuri has been on an ego trip recently what with the UR’s impressive/distressing election wins, improvement of US-Russia relations through the commemoration of dead poets, and … banning snow from Moscow.

6. MT: Luzhkov Takes Snow Fight to the Sky.

Hm. I think we’ve figured out what caused that giant whole in the sky above Moscow last week. Practice run!!

Moscow will blast clouds from the sky this winter to save money on snow removal, a city official said Wednesday, but the plan threatens to anger the surrounding region, which would have to cope with the extra powder.
Airborne snowfall prevention will save the city about 300 million rubles ($10.2 million) this winter, said Andrei Tsybin, head of City Hall’s department for public works and utilities. Moscow is ready to spend about 180 million rubles to disperse clouds “in the event of very big and serious snowfall,” he said at a news conference.

Mayor Yury Luzhkov is a long-time proponent of fighting clouds by spraying liquid nitrogen, silver, or cement particles into the cloud mass, which forces precipitation to fall before it can reach the capital and spoil holidays like Victory Day and City Day.

Last month, Luzhkov proposed expanding the technology to fight the snow drifts that snarl traffic every winter.[…]

A spokesman at the public utilities department could not explain how a “big and serious snowfall” would be identified or be deemed worthy of deploying the Air Force.

The residents of the surrounding region are miffed that they’ll have Moscow city’s snow dumped on their homes. If I were them, having only snow dumped on my home would be the least of my concerns.

Anyway, while the Mayor of Moscow is hell bent on domination over mother nature, the leader of Russia (what?) is hell bent on domination over popsong contests.

7. ABC: Putin plots rival to Eurovision.

Because “We don’t wanna Saak Ashvili” is too hard to sing. And, well, because he can.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin thinks China, Central Asian nations and Russia should hold a song competition to boost cultural ties.

Mr Putin said the joint song competition could rival the annual Eurovision Song Contest.

“Conducting an international modern song contest – Intervision – would strengthen cultural ties between our nations,” Interfax news agency quoted Mr Putin as telling a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) heads of government in Beijing.

It was not immediately clear whether Iran, India, Mongolia and Pakistan – which have SCO observer status – would take part.

Reality show singing contests: The nation-state’s last gasp. Also a good distraction when you come home from China 1.5 billion dollars short for your country.

But there is something creepily appealing about the thought of Putin creating one of these spectacles. I think this could be a future career for him. I mean, running a country is really just another genre of reality tv show, isn’t it? (OMG, If you answered “yes,” you are watching too much cable news, people! Back away from the computer and get a life please!) But we must admit, he is a bit of a “ham,” as my mother used to say.

Speaking of Putin, a new website, Hottest Heads of State ranks Vova a mere 18, but asks:

“How hot is Putin? Currently, he’s #18 on our list. Should he be ranked higher? Or lower?”

Vote Now! FWIW, it’s hard to argue that Yulia should not be at the top of that list, so I think giving him the number 2 slot would be entirely appropriate. They’d make a nice leading man and woman. Power couple of the post-Soviet space…

8. Shokoladnie kartofel, Three Sisters Deli, Chicago

Lastly, and apropos of nothing but it’s not everyday Russian cuisine is covered in my local free weekly…

Inside, I was told, they contained “milk.”

The cakelike interior is sweet, dense, moist—almost juicy. I was convinced there were crushed almonds involved. Friend of the Food Chain Catherine Lambrecht, who spent several years living in Soviet-era Moscow, remembers them tasting like “uncooked chocolate cookie dough filled with chopped nuts”—though nuts were rare back then and there. Another Russian-speaking Food Chain operative who contacted Three Sisters for more information was rebuffed with suspicion. So a call was placed to Arkady Kats, of the Niles Georgian bakery Bread ‘n’ Bowl Company.

Kats makes them occasionally, forming them from pulverized butter cookies, condensed milk, and butter, rolling them in cocoa and baking them. Some people use nuts, others don’t.

This is meant to be a tasty treat, and sounds compelling, but it looks pretty terrifying to me. Not like food, anyway. Maybe I should try one? I don’t remember these in Moscow, but perhaps I simply passed them by, assuming they were not intended for consumption? I generally like Russian food, except for those horrible stiff kippers they snack on, heads and all. Blech! So perhaps a trip out to the tri sestri is in my future.

Ok, that’s a wrap for now. Just wanted to get this posted so I can move on and tackle more important matters, like divining the curious diplomacy of Marty McFly or figuring out how to cope with death in a way that does not entirely destroy my liver.

Thanks for reading!


  1. I hope Kadyrov looks to Qaddafi as model for promoting Chechen fashion.

    Comment by Sean — October 21, 2009 @ 7:40 PM | Reply

    • I hope he goes for functionality instead. The way Qaddafi kept having to pause to readjust his elaborate drapery during that UN speech was very annoying.

      Comment by poemless — October 23, 2009 @ 3:53 PM | Reply

  2. I’ve been trying to decide whether or not to see the Michael Moore movie. Your “cons” are my usual issues with his movies. I never bothered to go see Sicko. But this one tempts me.

    I agree that … baked good … looks terrifying. But I think you owe it to your readers to try it and report on it.

    Comment by maryb — October 22, 2009 @ 12:22 PM | Reply

  3. don’t know why wordpress just decapitated my cat…

    Comment by poemless — October 23, 2009 @ 3:50 PM | Reply

  4. My condolences, poemless, on the death of Bella Piccolina. Her lovely name sounds like one of the angels in the His Dark Materials books.

    I’d offer a recipe of Barfi with Rosewater, which I helped my sister make, to serve with Borscht and some sort of brown-sugar and vinegar cured meat strips with bulgur. The barfi was not to my liking, and, well, the name was pretty illustrative of what it looked like, even with almonds covering it, and how it tasted. The borscht was great and the meat was better than I expected, too. But the barfi was too much like our oatmeal stuffed zucchini dish, aka “roadkill with mole sauce”.

    Comment by Kidspeak — October 24, 2009 @ 12:13 AM | Reply

    • Thanks for the condolences…

      Not sure about a food called “barfi”, but I will try anything once. Rosewater and almonds? Is it like Turkish delight? I’ve always thought that tased like someone’s grandma’s soap.

      Kidspeak, your name is familiar. Where have I seen you before?

      Comment by poemless — October 24, 2009 @ 4:48 PM | Reply

      • You were with a group of us including AndiF, maryb, and others, in Chicago, all at that time showing up on Booman’s blog (you mostly if not entirely on the European blog hanging out there, as I recall) It was at least three years ago. I can’t recall if you were on the architectural boat trip we took, but you were definitely at the German restaurant with the rest of the group that evening.

        Comment by Kidspeak — October 27, 2009 @ 2:16 AM | Reply

        • Oh, yes! I remember now. I was not on the cruise, but was at dinner. You had nice shoes, right?

          Comment by poemless — October 28, 2009 @ 5:44 PM | Reply

  5. I’m sorry about your cat, poemless. A sad loss.

    I don’t like Michael Moore. That’s why I didn’t see “Sicko”. Yesterday, though, I saw “Capitalism” and expected to dislike it. Perhaps it was the effect of low expectations, but to my surprise I actually liked it. Of course not a perfect movie and still a typical Michael Moore film. However, the more Americans see it, the better. In any event, I hope my daughter sees it. She’s 17 and going through a stage in which I’m extremely uncool. If I suggest a movie to her, that’s almost like the kiss of death for that movie….

    Comment by Kolya — October 24, 2009 @ 12:39 PM | Reply

    • Thanks.

      Yeah, I think the movie is certainly worth seeing. It probably brought out your Vermonter pride. 😉 (My friend who is from Burlington was sitting next to me during the movie, and she was giddy when Moore was going on about SOCIALIST Senator Bernie Sanders…)

      You’ll probably be uncool for a few more years. It just means your daughter is normal.

      Comment by poemless — October 24, 2009 @ 4:52 PM | Reply

      • One of the advantages of living in a small state is that you are more likely to bump into your US Senator…. I’m a new Vermonter (only since 2006) and I already bumped into Bernie Sanders three times: twice at a supermarket (both times it was at a fairly late hour and the place was fairly empty) and once at a DVD rental place. All three times he was the first to say hi.

        Comment by Kolya — October 25, 2009 @ 11:23 AM | Reply

    • Hey Kolya. I finally saw it last night and I was pleasantly surprised. I’m not a big Moore fan. I consider him a bit of a buffoon (but he’s our buffoon), and well, he doesn’t need to convince me since I’m already with him.

      There was less Moore in it than I expected, and I thought he should have ended it with the Katrina shots and left his final crime scene antics out. I also liked him referencing his Roger & Me since it shows his prescience. I also really appreciated that he made a moral argument with the religious connections. He’s quite a good propagandist. He never strays outside of core American values and the American dream which I think communicates well with most people. The best parts were when he lets working people speak for themselves, something we rarely see.

      I went with my mom, who for me represents your “average” American, and she was moved by it.

      I think Moore’s big point was for us to ask “What kind of society do we want to live in?” It’s a good question that I think we should all be asking, and after seeing his take, it’s definitely not the one we have now.

      Comment by Sean — October 26, 2009 @ 12:14 PM | Reply

      • “He never strays outside of core American values and the American dream which I think communicates well with most people.”

        I know. But here’s the thing: I don’t think “most people” see his films. How can you communicate to someone who wont watch your movie?

        Comment by poemless — October 28, 2009 @ 5:46 PM | Reply

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