poemless. a slap in the face of public taste.

May 26, 2010

Of the Hoarders and the Horde.

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

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

Tribune: Couple rescued from mound of debris in home.

Emphasis mine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s why it terrifies me.

May 20, 2010

Why is Misha Khodorkovsky a Dissident?

Filed under: Politics: Russia — poemless @ 5:13 PM

The definition of greed: the man wants to be an oligarch AND a dissident! Did you ever?

The following is in response to Vadim Nikitin’s response to Susan Glasser and Peter “I live to drive poemless up the wall” Baker’s FP article, The Billionaire Dissident. I don’t normally engage in the Russia blog conversation du jour this way (though I did need to force myself from writing my own Top 10 Russia Blogs list). But those of you who have been reading my stuff for years know my love of Khodorkovskiania. What is the origin of this fascination? I’m a commie – shouldn’t I, like, hate the guy? Well, I’m a commie with with a fatal weakness for sexy, intelligent Russian men. It’s well documented – no point in denying it. Still, it doesn’t prevent me from being able to write sensibly. So here goes:

I’m American. I grew up under the belief that Soviet dissidents were noble creatures. These days it is popular to dismiss that as a Cold War manipulation. In part it was, as becoming a political pawn was the price of such fame. But it was more than the fact that they were “on our side.” And it was more than the fact that they were unfairly treated and spoke out about it. They were speaking out not just to make a point about injustice, but in spite of it, and on behalf of people who dare not take those risks. Even putting aside the sometimes ideologically questionable or self-serving reasons for their dissent, it has to be acknowledged that they were prepared to make substantial sacrifices and that they, as a result of circumstances largely beyond their own making, were fighting for something that transcended themselves. They had ideals. And courage. It was inspiring.

Sakharov did not speak out because he was unfairly persecuted. He was unfairly persecuted because he spoke out. He was an activist fighting for peace and human rights, something that all Soviet citizens could benefit from if achieved. And that’s what captured our hearts. Solzhenitsyn was not thrown in a gulag because he wielded unchecked influence which he was ready to use against any leader who did not fit squarely under his thumb. Sakharov was not prevented from travelling because he’d acquired disproportionate amounts of national assets which he was willing to sell to a foreign country.

Power struggles, resource grabs… these things happen all the time in countries all over the world. They don’t capture our hearts. This is why I cringe when people place Khodorkovsky and Sakharov in the same category. Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn were punished for their words and thoughts. Words and thoughts that doubtless many, many ordinary Russians had thought themselves and perhaps even spoken in private. Words and thoughts that could land you anywhere from out of print to in front of an executioner, regardless of your station. Certainly Khodorkovsky thinks thoughts and writes words that don’t flatter the administration. Now that he’s in prison with not much else to do. But more than words and thoughts it was actions that put him there. Actions motivated by profit, not altruism.

Clearly Khodorkovsky is a dissident, by virtue of the fact that he is speaking out against the regime. But is he fighting for changes to the system that will benefit all Russians? He was nimbly capable of turning a profit and gaining prestige regardless whether he was living in a Communist or Capitalist country. He was a member of the Komsomol. Now he’s a democrat. Is it the system he protests not, or his right to game it? And if it is the system, why was he not dissenting before it was his ass on the line, when he was comfortably profiting from a corrupt regime and a perversion of democracy? Not terribly selfless, brave and inspiring…

And what exactly is Khodorkovsky speaking out against?

~ The way the government is run? Get in line. Is anyone anywhere happy with the way their government is run? Is anyone who wants to be in power but is not not convinced it is due to a broken system and/or dirty elections? Does anyone really feel they live in a truly fair and democratic society? If anything, this form of dissent seems to actually confirm one’s existence in a relatively democratic society. Yes, he is in jail, but not for demanding democratic reforms. If that were the reason, Medvedev would have to check himself into the cell next door. And Latynina would be mining uranium. No, his demands were self-serving.

Some people have also dismissed him on the grounds that he’s just not very well liked in Russia. FWIW, I don’t personally take into account popularity when deciding the creds of dissidents. I mean, if they were not in the minority, they’d cease being polarizing figures, right…

~ The way his company was taken from him? That’s a rather understandable grief. Even if he used questionable means to acquire his wealth, you have to admit it was snatched back through questionable means as well. But such a unique and personal offense can’t really elevate someone to the level of iconic dissident, can it? Oil companies are not exactly good human rights campaign candidates; they have adequate agency and voice. Usually it’s their victims who need our help. Oligarchs are people too, but very few of us could ever imagine ourselves in their shoes … complaining. How does the seizure of Yukos inspire you to advocate on behalf of human rights? I know, right?

~ The lack of transparency, fairness and accountability that plagues the Russian justice system? The irony of being able to afford the best lawyers money can buy and still not getting off in a corrupt legal system must drive Misha mad. But of all his complaints, the absence of a fair trail may well be his most valid. It’s a problem that does not just echo the frighteningly indiscriminate yet equally targeted abuses of rights in Soviet Union, but is a direct descendant of them. Unlike obscene private wealth or disproportionate power, most sane people agree that all humans have the right to a fair trail. Really difficult to argue against that. Even if you believe Khodorkovsky should be imprisoned.

Which many people do. Making him a strange choice for poster child of Russian injustice. I mean, you would not expect a popular grassroots movement to form around Ken Lay, so why so peeved when Russians are not jumping on Misha’s bandwagon? Why not find someone who is really truly innocent, who has done no one no harm, languishing in a Siberian prison for that job? Well, there wouldn’t be much payoff in politically backing some filthy urchin, would there? Hell, since no one has made investments with the urchin, how would the WSJ even know where to find him, even know of his very existence?

If you ask me, the only reason Misha Khodorkovsky is a high profile dissident is because Vladimir Putin offered him the job, and he accepted. Sure, he could have kept the cash and lived out the rest of his days abroad in Manhattan board rooms and Greek Islands. Forever estranged from his homeland and always looking over his shoulder. Better yet, he could have bent full over and signed a deal to keep his company and remain in Russia in exchange for giving Putin a cut of the profits and full political support. An unbearably boring existence, if the perpetual look on Roman Abramovich’s face is any indication. No, where’s the challenge in that? Our protagonist and his nemesis, while both men with political savvy and a talent for self preservation, have minds for myth making and historical narrative. One can’t be a respectable Tsar without some famous intellectual sulking in prison writing manifestos against him. And one can’t be a respectable dissident living a cush life in exile. It’s just a much better story this way.

And that, dear readers, is why Mikhail Khodorkovsky is a famous Russian dissident. Not because he was the most noble candidate for the role or even plays it effectively. But because the powerful play goes on – and Misha took the part. It often happens that less deserving, but incredibly handsome actors are cast in important roles. We’re a shallow lot. Shallower even now that the Cold War is over and have gone from fetishizing poets and physicists to supermodels and international playboys.

Instead of mewing that Khodorkovsky is cast in the role of the dissident, perhaps we should be thankful we have fewer poets and physicists eligible for the part. Instead of asking where the Sakharovs and Solzhenitsyns have gone, perhaps we should be thankful we can’t find them in the prison camps of Siberia. In fact, maybe it wasn’t just his good looks and money that got Misha the job.

Perhaps he really is deserving of this fate.

May 14, 2010

Would the real Andrei Kolesnikov please stand up? please stand up?

Filed under: Culture: Russia,Politics: Russia — poemless @ 5:50 PM

Attention! Wikipedia writer and detective needed! See below for details!

There are two Andrei Kolesnikovs who are award winning journalists covering politics in Russia’s leading papers.

I didn’t even know this until today, when an aquaintance posted a link to this absurd little fantasy from Forbes Russia. The confusion began when I saw the byline “Андрей Колесников | 13 мая 2010 22:03” and subconsciously mistook Forbes for Kommersant. Which, really, is not so incredible. It’s a silly article in capitalist rag written by Andrei Kolesnikov. It would be strange if I didn’t mistake it for Kommersant.

However. The fellow whose picture is ostensibly that of the journalist Andrei Kolsenikov in said article looked nothing at all like what I imagined Andrei Kolsenikov looked like. Which is this:

I generally don’t pay attention to what journalists look like (except Latynina because how can you not?) but this a pretty unforgettable mug. And looks nothing like this:

Which is what the fellow writing in Forbes looks like. My first thought was that this was some prank. Kolesnikov has always struck me as a mischievous sort who likes attention… Or, he’d been in a terrible accident and needed a full face transplant. I googled to find out what tragedy had befallen our once impish looking reporter such that he now looks like the Spanish MBA student who takes my bus in the evening.

The genius who wrote this was not helpful:

en.Wikipedia: Andrey Kolesnikov

For a soccer player, see Andrei Kolesnikov (footballer).

Andrey Vladimirovich Kolesnikov (Russian: Андрей Иванович Колесников) is a Russian journalist, an author of a series of books about Anatoly Chubais.

It’s greatly unfortunate that this was the first thing I found, because it only reinforced my belief that there were two Andrei Kolesnikovs who were the same person in English, but different people in Russian. And lo, Russian wikipedia listed them separately!

ru.Wikipedia: Колесников, Андрей Иванович

Андрей Иванович Колесников (1966(1966), п. Семибратово Ярославской области) — российский журналист, публицист.

Окончил факультет журналистики МГУ им. М. В. Ломоносова, год проработал в многотиражной газете «Ускоритель» института физики высоких энергий, затем в газете «Московские новости». В 1996 году перешёл в газету «Коммерсантъ» специальным корреспондентом. Лауреат национальной премии «Элита», обладатель премии «Золотое перо России», номинант премии А. Д. Сахарова. Вместе с Н. Геворкян и Н. Тимаковой в 2000 году подготовил книгу-интервью с В. В. Путиным «От первого лица». Является автором многочисленных статей о В. В. Путине.

Главный редактор журнала «Русский пионер».

Книги А. Колесникова
Я Путина видел! — М.: Эксмо, 2004. — 480 с. — ISBN 5-699-08721-4 …

Ok, so that’s who I thought Andrei Kolesnikov was. If the Russians can be trusted (hah!) Ivanovich is the man I’ve always associated with the name “Andrei Kolesnikov.” And the puckish smile. I think. But there is not photo on this Wikipedia page to confirm that belief, and I’ve never met him in person, so…
Next up, Andrei Vladimirovich Kolesnikov:

ru.Wikipedia: Колесников, Андрей Владимирович

Андре́й Влади́мирович Коле́сников (р. 29 июля 1965, Москва) — российский журналист.
Родился в семье юриста. Окончил юридический факультет МГУ (1987).

1987—1990 — старший консультант судебной коллегии по уголовным делам Верховного Суда РСФСР.
1990—1992 — обозреватель журнала «Диалог».
1992—1993 — обозреватель газеты «Российские вести».
1993—1995 — обозреватель журнала «Огонёк».
С 1995 года — в журнале «Новое время» — The New Times: обозреватель, заместитель главного редактора, с января 1998 — 1-й заместитель главного редактора.

С 1998 года — в газете «Известия»: в июне — сентябре 1998 — редактор отдела экономики; в сентябре 1998 — январе 2000 — редактор отдела политики; с января 2000 — политический обозреватель; с февраля 2005 — заместитель главного редактора.

Был обозревателем интернет-газеты Gazeta.ru, колумнистом «Российской газеты» и журнала «Профиль», постоянным автором «Независимой газеты» и газеты «Новое русское слово» (США), журнала «Огонек», заведующим московским отделением литературного журнала «Время и мы» (США), обозревателем программы «Человек и общество» московского бюро радио «Свобода». В апреле 1997 — главный редактор первого номера антифашистского журнала «Диагноз».

В ноябре 1997 года «Общая газета» назвала Андрея Колесникова одним из авторов книги «История приватизации в России». Сам Колесников в интервью программе «Сегодня в полночь» заявил, что он редактировал главы, авторами которых были А. Чубайс и М. Бойко.[1]

Преподавал в Высшей школе журналистики ГУ-ВШЭ (курс «Базовые понятия и тематические направления политической журналистики»[2]).

В 2001—2005 — исполнительный директор по связям с общественностью аудиторско-консалтинговой компании ФБК.

Был пиар-консультантом и спичрайтером ряда российских политиков, PR- и GR-консультантом ряда российских корпоративных структур.[2]

Был членом Креативного совета СПС.

Well, this article makes no mention of Forbes and presents no photo evidence, but through process of elimination, I might assume this is the man who wrote the article about the fate of Misha’s parallel reality judge and feel lighter. Though again, I cannot confirm that this is true. In fact, all I can confirm is that someone is desperately needed to write a nice English Wikipedia page for the elfin Putinista journalist called “Andrei Kolesnikov” and at least clean up the page for whomever is writing Chubais’s biographies.

These Andrei Kolesnikovs are like good/evil twins or something. They’re both journalists who cover high profile politicos and contribute to widely-read newspapers and other media outlets. But one’s in with Vova’s cabal while the other is hanging out at RL/RFE and openDemocracy. When I saw openDemocracy Andrei Kolesnikov I almost had a heart attack from fear they were multiplying like pod people or being cranked out of the clone factory. Because this byline bio said, “Andrei Kolesnikov is an independent journalist and regular contributor to Russia’s leading online newspapers, gazeta.ru and slon.ru.” But another bio of him on oD reads, “Moscow based journalist, former deputy editor of Izvyestya. Author of three books, including biography of controversial politician Anatoly Chubais.” Which clears things up. Unless multiple Andrei Kolesnikov clones are contributing to oD… Which I am not ready to rule out at this point.

I am also not ready to rule out that this is really just one journalist who is using a fake face when he writes anti-Kremlin screeds so should anyone get the idea to shoot him in the brains, they would not be looking for him but someone who looks like a Spanish grad student in Chicago.

How are readers expected to differentiate between Andrei Ivanovich and Andrei Vladimirovich and whatever other journalists are out there using the name Andrei Kolesnikov? I’ve seen some English language sites prefer the spelling “Andrey” for Vladimirovich, but this is not helpful for anyone actually reading their articles in Russian. I don’t see much use of patronymics in their bylines. What a mess. What a terrible mess!

I demand the Andrei Kolesnikov of non-Kommersant Kremlin pool/Russian Pioneer fame to change his name!

I also demand you now read this positively GENIUS post I wrote about the real Andrei Kolesnikov several years ago. (Scroll down to Part II.) You wont regret it. Here’s a snippet of the genius at work, covering a Federation Council meeting:

“…Petrenko’s hairdo. It was fabulous. Maybe she goes to work every day with her hair done like that. I don’t know. But I don’t think it is possible to do your hair like that every day. You could spend your whole life fixing a hairdo like that. What was it like? Like a pastry that had fallen off the shelf and been kicked aside by an ill-tempered customer? Like a stale Napoleon cake? Like the foam they seal the windows of new buildings with that lets the bugs through any way? No. More like a ball of papier-mache with the top cut off. You wanted to touch it to make sure it was secured tightly. And you wanted to get up and jump around.”

I don’t know which or how many Andrei Kolesnikovs actually wrote that, but I think it was just one, and I think he’s brilliant and thus, should certainly not be forced to share his name with anyone else.

Baby pictures!

Filed under: Culture: Russia — poemless @ 3:38 PM
Tags: ,
No – I didn’t have one. 
God forbid.  I hate babies.  “Hate” may be the wrong word.  I hold no real animosity against babies themselves.  They didn’t choose to be babies.  Mostly it’s the parents I hate.  And the cult of parenthood.  Oof.  But babies, children, mostly I feel sorry for them.  They all seem a little confused and angry and sad on the inside, and hysterical on the outside.  The other day my cat ran into a little girl in the hallway of my apartment building.  They were both bewildered.  I like putting animals and babies together.  It’s miraculous.  The little two legged beasts turn into angels, the absolute personification of the sublime, and the little four legged beasts turn into saints, nobly tolerating the demands and abuse of the two legged beasts because that is why they were put in this earth.  Like star-crossed lovers, they eventually had to be torn apart and returned to their proper families.  Oscar actually seemed somewhat terrified and disoriented when we got back inside.  He’s not used to children.  I can’t even verify that he’s ever been handled by one before.  I tried to explain to him what children were.  “Like, half space alien, half pet,” I told him.  Keep in mind I treat pets like children, so I’m not advocating giving kids as presents or locking them in the garage.  I just mean, they are small and needy and silly and it makes us feel good to care for them.  Yet they grow in us and often need to be cut out of our stomachs, they make up their own languages and can’t really be trusted. And have big eyes and small bodies.  Like aliens.  Oscar looked at me like I was the alien and sat down in front of the tv to watch a documentary on the Spanish Inquisition.
Anyway, baby pictures!  Care of FP Passport:
Aw…  Normally when I’m shown pictures of people’s children I have to lie and pretend like I care and then I punish them by showing them photos of my cat which instead makes them pity me for some reason and frankly it’s not right because I think I’ve got the better deal.  But you have to admit, this is a cute kid!  Those eyes!  My mother warned me of Russian boys before I got on the plane to Moscow.  Then she repeatedly sent letters repeating those warnings.  Specifically, she warned of “puckish” Russian boys with their “impish” eyes.  Looks like they’re born with them…  Also, Medvedev’s mother (far right) is beautiful too.
Once a nature boy, always a nature boy…  I suppose the only real surprise should be that he manages to put on a shirt for formal occasions.  Truthfully, though, he seems a bit cold.  Well, it doesn’t look like he had the same picture-perfect happy childhood as his protege.  Life in Post-War Russia must have been rather hard.  Compared to all of the cheezy, goofy, nary-a-care-in-the-world childhood pictures of my family (and all others I’ve seen) in mid-1950’s America, this looks downright tragic.  Could be right out of a Dovzhenko still taken decades earlier.  Or one of those late-nite Feed the Children PSA’s.  No wonder we were afraid of Communism. 
And no wonder they were afraid of us…

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