poemless. a slap in the face of public taste.

November 24, 2010

Pilgrim Weather

Filed under: Culture: U.S. — poemless @ 6:38 PM

I have this memory.

I don’t know if I dreamt it, or if it is an event that actually happened.

It was a Pilgrim weather day, but I don’t know, it could have been in March, it could have been in December. My Kindergarten class took an excursion to see a cow. But it seems to me we were not told the purpose of the field trip until we arrived, and perhaps not even then. Outside, it was dark, but who would take little children to see a cow at night? It must have been in the afternoon, when my Kindergarten class usually met. So it was a dark afternoon, bleak, wet, cold. I remember my teacher, Mrs. Blair, being frustrated or confused or something, something wasn’t going right, though I couldn’t divine what exactly, just the air of mismanagement and possible danger. This exacerbated the already eerie feeling provoked by being on a farm in the dark in the rain and of having been ripped from civilization and parents for perhaps the first time in my life. The wind was whistling, the sky was overcast, and we marched through black mud and into some kind of manger, where a cow was lying down, lit only by a lantern. The cow seemed sad, or scared. I suspect that it was having a baby, or had or was expected to presently. Because it was a huge to do, and why would you drag a group of 5 years olds through the mud just to see a regular cow not doing anything but lying in a barn?

The whole event spooked me.

It sounds like a dream, but I am certain this happened. The memories of small children are basically the same as dreams. Something is going on and, lacking vital information, you cannot make sense of it, so you create a narrative in which it is comprehensible. And add a mysterious animal.

When I was little, I was afraid of Pilgrims. For my Russian readers, I am referring to these Pilgrims. Even before I was old enough to appreciate their religio-capitalist occupation of native lands, their past time of witch-hanging and generally creepy Protestantism, I feared them. Pilgrims were never depicted as being creatures of whimsy, romance or creative temperament. No, they were a decidedly stern, self-loathing prudes who saw the world in the same black and white as their weird Pilgrim clothing. Who would want to spend Thanksgiving with this lot? (Also, how obnoxious is it to thank God for the abundance you reaped from colonizing a foreign land? God didn’t give you that stuff, you took it!) Anyway, I think part of what terrified me about Pilgrims was the weather associated with them. In my little 5 year old mind, every day of a Pilgrim’s life was as grey and bleak and spooky. They were like vampires, unable to coexist with the warmth of sunlight or the scent of blooming flowers. And mid-November was like their midnight. And also in my 5 year old mind, they continued to live among us. Oh sure, maybe the bulk of their society had disappeared, but there had to be some stragglers. Just as today there are still Amish, in 1980 there were still Pilgrims. Right? Lurking in the woods, in their olden days dress, muskets slung over their arms, lying in wait for an Indian, a witch, or an unwitting 5 year old girl on a field trip? I could see the Pilgrims before my eyes. No, they were not exactly malicious. But, like the inhabitants of my small town, their simplicity, fake kindness and prudishness put me on alert. I didn’t know what they were up to, but it was surely straight outta Stephen King.

I really loathed, and continue to loathe, the small town in which I grew up. Not the quaint river town where I was born and schooled and where my family resides to this day, but the town of two thousand, further inland, on the threashold of civilization, surrounded on all sides by cornfield and dirt. One road impaled the beast. The journey heading out of town and toward the greater Metro East area seemed torturous as a kid. Why couldn’t we live in a normal town, the kind that is next to other normal towns, and not separated from normal things like movie theaters and schools and shops and grandparents by a 20 minute drive down a long, straight, narrow highway lined on one side with a railroad track and the other with fields of … nothing? I resented the road more than the town, even. The town had nothing to offer human civilization, but the road seemed to exist to prove a point. The souls who live here have been ostracized. This road was the restraining order those bitches Culture and Society had filed against us. Utterly depressing. There was nothing to do during that drive but reflect upon the desolation and ugliness crawling at the windshield. At night I would rest my head back, look up at the stars (yes) and listen to the radio. But for some strange reason, on days like today, days like the cow pilgrimage, Pilgrim weather days, I kind of loved this road. The blond and rust colored fields slashed with black trenches of mud. The leafless trees -not entirely, a few leaves remained, sitting shiva for their fallen comrades- clawing at the sky. A lone crow on a telephone pole. The way it doesn’t rain but everything is wet, phantom rain. The forgotten train tracks. The absolute silence. The emptiness and no ambition to be otherwise. It was the money shot of every indie filmmaker’s dreams. On these days, Pilgrim weather days, I almost miss that rural hell. Not enough to make me return, not even for a minute, but enough to supply me with the appreciation required of maturity.

For all the gluttony and sloth, for all the religious freaks killing girls and Indians, for all our lurid history and unbecoming behavior, Thanksgiving makes me love America. November in the heartland. There is certain unique beauty about it, something noble, austere, mystical and silent. No one associates these traits with America. Not even Americans. But I so so love this time of year, it makes it impossible for me to hate this place. It even makes me thankful I live here.

Happy Thanksgiving.


November 17, 2010

Return of VovaMania!

Filed under: Culture: Russia,Politics: Russia — poemless @ 7:01 PM

It’s been a while since I’ve done a gratuitous Putin love fest post. Isn’t that strange? Nowadays people refer to my “nuanced and insightful” writing, but mostly I just started blogging so to post pictures of hot Russian men, Putin being King God Supreme Leader of that camp. What happened? Has our fair leader ceased to be the apple of poemless’s eye, fallen to the earth to slowly decay and be nibbled on by ravenous squirrels? Has our fickle blogger’s infatuation dimmed like a cold November afternoon? Er… no. No of course not. That would be madness. Maybe I’ve just matured – ever think about that? No, you’re right, that can’t be it. Maybe, what with the Reset and Obama and blah blah blah, wooing so-called dictators just doesn’t have the same subversive appeal. I always fantasized about totally scaring the hell out of John Ashcroft on the other end of whatever NSA feed was trolling my posts. I am both a neo-stalinist and a female with a libido … I am the AntiChrist, John! Eat it! Hahahaha. But now I am just one more person with a blog making cute comments about Vova’s latest wackadoodle photo-op. Sean says he’s jumped the shark. Now, I am not willing to rule out that VVP could, even will one day jump the shark. But when that day comes, it will involve an actual shark and the leader of Russia on water skis. A stunt that, had the Fonz not done so already, Putin probably would have invented. “Jumped the shark” my ass. He’s as popular as ever. Everyone and their mother has posted a picture of that puppy hug. Oh, except me! Here:

You know you just squealed with delight. I say, if Vova ever meets the man who could look at that and not get a little woozy with oxytocin, he will have met his match.

You wanna help name the dog? Knock yourself out. I think it was on NPR that I saw this referred to a “rare gesture toward democracy” or some nonsense… After last nights’ Dancing With The Stars, I am off democracy. What should we name this giant furball? How about “Maksim,” in honor of that hottie Palin’s Tea Party sabotaged. Or not. I’m inclined to follow the reasoning that if Putin’s pet were named after me, I could vicariously curl up in his lap for a kiss and tickle. Alas, he already has a dog named after me! He doesn’t seem too thrilled about it either, does he?

Ok, since we’re on the topic of Dr. Doolittle, someone’s gone and stolen the photos I have hanging my living room and posted them online:

The 24 Cutest Pictures Of Vladimir Putin With Animal.

Freaky. In more ways than one… I have always been partial to the horse kissy and the tiger present photos. But here’s one I had not seen before, a treat! (I know I said these were hanging in my apartment – it was for dramatic effect. I mean, you couldn’t possibly think… Oh.)

A small goat!

In some ways, he reminds me of my grandmother. She was nuts over animals. He had this gorgeous house, with a nice living and dining room, but she always sat in the kitchen, to watch the animals in the yard (whole entire extra tree-lined lot) outside. She bought us Ranger Rick subscriptions and would even cut out and mail us those little gratuitous animal pictures from the local paper (you know, that space reserved for no copy but a photo of a rabbit with the caption, “Spring arrives on Lincoln Avenue.”) Crazy. Especially since our family got the same newspaper. From whence this animalphilia? She was part Cherokee. She was also getting Alzheimer’s. Anyway, somehow I inherited this trait. God, I hope it is not a symptom of dementia. I have more faith and trust in people who are so comfortable with and able to navigate the animal kingdom. Those who have great “people skills” but are like idiots around anything not human scare the hell out of me. People who prefer the company of those species that have evolved differently from us, I really get. You can’t lie to animals. It doesn’t actually work. Oh, and can we address this notion of “people skills,” please? VVP gets a lot of heat for not having them so much, but if skills are what you use to get things done, then I think he has mad skillz. What’s up with this preference for fake nice that gives more points for not hurting anyone’s feelings than for reality checks? I’m not a fan.

Which brings me to the last point in today’s Putin love fest. Oh, sure, anyone can love a dog. I am pretty sure that is he baseline criteria for determining one’s classification as Homo sapiens. But, uhm, no one can love Vladimir Putin, right? What the hell is wrong with you, Poemless?! Moe Tkacik nails it in a divine piece:

Why The Media Hearts Oligarchs—So Much The Post Won’t Even Call Them “Oligarchs.”

Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl wonders in an op-ed today why Barack Obama isn’t rallying more enthusiastically behind Mikhail Khodorkovsky, otherwise known as Russia’s “latest moral champion.” Is it “because he is an entrepreneur and not a poet” and everyone knows how Obama loathes commerce? Or is it, he wonders, simply because Obama is scared of Vladimir Putin and his big scary black lab?[…]

But guys like Khodorkovsky were not dubbed “oligarchs” because of their “entrepreneurship”; they earned that designation because they reaped the preponderance of their billions in a three-year window of in ways that were flagrantly and epically criminal but since all the billionaires were doing it (and billionaires tend to make their own laws anyway) most of them got off with a sort of uneasy amnesty. Khodorkovsky was an exception for a variety of reasons, this is a pretty good summary, but at the end of the day Putin seems to draw his authority directly from his ability to make them pay taxes and, as last week’s wide-eyed Times magazine piece on New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov observed, keep them on their toes:

The oligarchs of Russia aren’t exactly paper tigers, but those who aren’t in jail or exile understand the precariousness of their position, the importance of keeping the favor of the Kremlin. Last February, Prokhorov was publicly criticized by Putin for neglecting to fulfill promised investments in an electricity-generating project in southern Russia. Prokhorov initially had the temerity to say the prime minister was misinformed, but then, on further review, conceded that yes, the prime minister, whom he first met in 1994 at a bank opening in St. Petersburg, where Putin was the deputy mayor, was correct. When Prokhorov was angling for the Nets, he got the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev to mention his plans to President Barack Obama, as if U.S. politicians perforce had some say in how billionaires deployed their capital.

LOL folks, imagine that: a leader with some modicum of authority over the way billionaires spend their money…when for going on thirteen years now no elected official in America has managed to figure out a way to control the way they spend ours?!

But what if Obama did something about that last part, against all the sloppy conventional wisdom its serially-discredited promulgators keep chucking into the Post op-ed section? It’s hard to think it would make it any harder to advance the cause of democracy before the likes of foes from Vladimir Putin to John Boehner all the way to all the tireless David Broder disciples across town at the Washington Post.
[Emph. mine.]

Oh, I know, Russia’s cup runneth over with Serious Problems, and I should not be so smug about Real People Suffering. I am not. I am just saying, assuming you are living in a giant megalomaniacal country with lots of nukes and a history of social experimentation, would you rather your leader adore animals and kick skeezy millionaire ass … or not? That’s all. If America really is all that much better, I invite all Russia’s journalists to move here to the land of the free, where we will let them live and they can enjoy whatever the hell is left of a society that has had its anima and animus systematically removed. The invitation remains open.

And thus ends the most recent installment of poemless’s VovaMania. For those of you who stubbornly refuse to come to your senses and join my cult, I present what has to be the finest piece of literature produced in the 21st century: Revelation 13: Is the Antichrist Russian President Putin? BRILLIANT! Seriously, I promise you will never have more fun reading anything. Ever.

Except for this blog, of course.

November 10, 2010

On the beating of Oleg Kashin

Filed under: Culture: Russia,Politics: Russia — poemless @ 6:26 PM
Tags: ,

So I suppose I should weigh in? I’d undoubtedly be the best Russia watcher on the planet if I ever bothered to watch, and the most brilliant blogger too, if I actually wrote anything. Which is discouraging in a way. I mean, maybe I should just not write, because what if I do, and it turns out to be so so? Better to let everyone just assume I am a genius, don’t you think?

I recently has something published at this Russian site, InoForum, and everyone thought I was nuts and no one understood a thing. They were going on about my Polish doctor… Also discouraging.

Ok, so I read on facebook or twitter about the attack that night. My first reaction was, “That Kashin? Why would anyone wanna kill Kashin?! Vladimir Putin, you are a horrible person! Sick!” Then, “maybe he owed someone money…” Then, “god, I feel terrible about hating him for spamming -I mean, really spamming- my twitter feed. After all, he has great taste in music; he must be a decent fellow, with just a whole lot of time on his hands, but how is that even possible? He’s prolific, everywhere. Maybe he had a twitter bot. I’m going to check his feed… OMG! Silence! … omg. he’s really been attacked. a real live human being. fuck. fuckfuckfuckfuck…”

There was a time I’d have something absolutely cynical to say about journalists being killed. I would write, maybe, that there is no way Putin’s people did this, because all it does is make him look bad, so probably it was someone else Anna had pissed off, someone maybe looking for revenge and even to frame the administration, who knows? Who knows? We didn’t witness our fallen reporter taking her final breath! And what really pisses me off is that the very people who complain about the lack of rule of law and the total joke parading around under the guise of a Russian justice system are the first to point the finger, make an accusation and demand a head on a platter when a journalist is harmed. Pah-Thetic. Apparently vigilantism is only bad when the official good guys are on the receiving end. “Well, c’mon, everything points to this horrible atrocity being the work of (insert party, politician, youth group here). They probably did it!” Last time I checked, my own judicial system, which is fouled but ostensibly one goo-goos in Russia desire to emulate, places the burden of proof on the prosecution, and requires a jury to find a person guilty beyond any reasonable doubt before the head and platter show gets underway. There is no “unless a perfectly good journalist has been offed, in which case you’re free to bust out the pitchforks” clause.

But now people actually read what I write, so I should be more responsible with my words. Which I’ve absolutely never been good at. Diplomacy is not my strong suit. Er, so, well, here are things that other people said. If they’re reasonable, great; if not, you can’t blame me.

From Sean:

On a final note, there will be those out there who will offer apologetics for Kashin’s beating. They’ll decry the obsession with emphasizing journalists as victims. They’ll hem and haw about how western reporters churn out the same narrative about media freedom in Russia. They’ll scream, ‘What about . . . !” They will certainly offer banal explanations for why Kashin’s skull was fractured and his fingers broken. Such acts of violence happen all the time to normal people, they’ll say, and no one pays attention to their plight? Blah, blah, blah . . .

“Blah, blah, blah . . .” I yelled at him for this. I mean, he was like 60 miles away, so he couldn’t hear me. But I yelled. Concern for the plight of normal people is HARDLY apologetics for Kashin’s beating. There’s nothing to prevent empathy for both, and no reason why one tragedy should prevent us from reflecting on others. Hell, this paragraph sounds like apologetics for violence against normal people! Also, I think it was directed at me since I’d just posted a comment on fb about no one protesting when non-journalists or non-businessmen are beaten or killed. I don’t even know if that is true. So, at this point everyone, including Sean, seemed to be writing out of emotion. Well, someone had just had their brains bashed in – a normal response, I imagine.

From Natalia:

In trying to come up with a proper response to this outrageous event, I looked to the blog of another Russian journalist – Alyona Solntseva. Solntseva wrote about how such violence is pretty much a “normal” part of our lives:

“Everyone one of us has several acquaintances who were beaten on the street. Sometimes – with the intent of a robbery. Sometimes just because – because someone else didn’t like them… Beatings are routine, a norm that exists within our lives. How do you fight THAT?”

I have no doubt that Oleg’s attackers targeted him because of his work. Right now, all over LiveJournal, users are posting and reposting links to his latest articles. The idea is as follows: Oh, they wanted to silence Oleg? We won’t let them. We’ll make his writing even more popular. And they won’t be able to get all of us.

Whoever the bastards who are “they” turn out to be, what’s clear to me is that Alyona Solntseva is right; this type of behaviour is the norm. When journalists are attacked, it serves to underscore the fact that *nobody* is safe.

Intimidation and violence are seen as an acceptable way to solve problems ranging from “I don’t like your face, dude” to “I don’t like that article you wrote, dude.” In saying this, of course, it is not my intention to write off what happened to Oleg as a nebulous “societal” problem and throw up my hands. This type of barbarism is present almost everywhere you look – but journalists in particular remain the canary in the coal mine. You know it’s bad when a prominent member of the press is savagely attacked, and none of us are certain that those responsible will necessarily be brought to justice.

This is what I’d liked to have said to Sean had I been able to stop abusing the keyboard long enough to collect my thoughts. Perhaps it is even better, not simply equating all beatings and violence, not engaging in the dreaded “whataboutism,” but acknowledging Sean’s concept of the social order precisely to shed light on Oleg’s beating as a reflection of it. Switching the focus from discrimination: “attacks against prominent journalists” to total lack thereof: “attacks against even prominent journalists.”

I know it will upset some, but I remain reticent to agree that “journalists ARE special. At least those who practice their craft with all the seriousness the profession demands. Journalists aren’t normal people.” Or rather that this makes their beatings and deaths any more intolerable. Yes, they are a crucial, the crucial ingredient in any recipe for democracy, and without them, civil society suffers. Unfortunately, mass murder isn’t required to get journalists to stop doing their jobs. Rupert Murdoch could just hire them. But I will not argue that civil society does not suffer when journalists are oppressed. Or killed. But civil society also suffers when women are oppressed. Or killed. And it seems the offense of being a sensible woman sometimes trumps that of being a journalist. Where are the demands that anyone who beats up a woman to scare her shitless so she’ll think twice next time, before saying/doing/looking into that, be hunted down and punished to the full extent of the law? Civil society suffers anytime the brutes in charge decide to teach the weak but willful a lesson. It is not simply politicians or businessmen who pose a threat to innocent people. Journalists should not have to fear for their lives simply because they are doing their job, simply because of what they say or simply because of what they know.


Here are a few more…

From Julia:

When I first met him, in the winter of 2006, to interview him about the politics of young Russians — his specialty — he struck me as a Kremlin apologist. Kommersant is Russia’s most prominent daily, a mainstream paper owned by Medvedev buddy and mining mogul Alisher Usmanov.

I was, of course, wrong about Kashin. He is not an apologist but is, in the best traditions of his generation, simply hard to categorize.

Hopefully Ms. Ioffe has used this tragedy as a learning experience and will not be so swift to judge and label people in the future. And if not, well, now we all know how to get on her good side. Gulp.

Wait, there’s more Julia!

Journalist Oleg Kashin lay in an artificial coma after a savage beating left everything that could possible be broken, broken.

What was Supreme Leader Vladimir Vladimirovich doing? Drag racing.

Makes Luzhkov’s summer getaway seem downright appropriate.

I am not sure how racecar driving fits in to the PM’s job description. (Russia’s just signed a contract with Formula 1, so I guess it is some kind of marketing silliness.) The only thing I am less sure of is how solving an attempted murder case fits in to the PM’s job description. In normal countries, according to Law and Order, in the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. I don’t know how Vova is able to squeeze these joyrides into his tight schedule, but not even Action Man himself has enough hours in the day to personally address every attempted murder in fair Russia. (I think I just found a way to lower the murder rate there.)

Moreover, if Putin took the reigns of this, no one in the universe would trust the result. Nor should they. If it is true that Kashin was investigating the Khimki deal, implicating Putin’s judo buddy (whatever that is code for), I dare say there would be a conflict of interest if he began muddling about in the case. What is Julia asking of Supreme Leader Vladimir Vladimirovich? Maybe she wants him to declare that from now on, anyone who harms a journalist will be personally fed to his tigers. Except she seems not to be a huge fan of his unilateral authoritarian crazy ass dictator ways. And that would be a crazy ass dictator thing to do. I must say, I have never understood the logic of those who criticize both Putin’s unilateral authoritarian crazy ass dictator ways and his absence whenever Medvedev, otherwise known as the democratically elected President of the Russian Federation, steps up to take on various issues. What is that about? I want to sit in on their psychoanalysis sessions!

And it doesn’t even merit reply, but equating Putin’s afternoon of racing after the beating of one citizen with Luzhkov’s fleeing the country while the city he was supposed to be running was choking to death, surrounded by fire, for weeks on end and something like 700 people were dying a day… is inane. It doesn’t even work rhetorically, since it immediately brings to mind the image of VVP’s stunt of putting out the damn wildfires himself.

So it is all good and well to trawl the internets and compose snarky replies, but do I have anything … constructive to add about the attack on Oleg Kashin? I suppose that, regardless who is responsible for the attack, United Russia, and really any government entity should completely, officially and unequivocally sever any ties to groups advocating violence against any Russian citizen. That can’t prevent anyone from employing the little hoodlums on the down low, but if we’re talking about kids, it’ll at least humiliate them. I’ve no idea what to do about monied interests offing their enemies. Back in the day it was all done with expensive guns and car bombs. Everyone told me it had gotten better. Everyone told me Moscow was no longer a war zone or a scene from a 1930’s Warner bros. gangster film. So that’s good. Yet somehow businessmen shooting holes in each other seems more civilized than random citizens having their skulls bashed in. Moscow, Russia, has a very high brutality threshold. I can’t help them with that. Probably making sure crime is properly investigated and criminals properly punished would be a step in the right direction, though. Giving every journalist a body guard seems a bandaid solution, and if the body guard is provided by the State, and maybe the State doesn’t like your work, well, that could be potentially very ineffective.

There are places in Chicago where everyone’s getting shot. It used to be bad guys shooting bad guys, but now it is just any random person. No one knows what to do. Because not even the rule of law can prevent people who feel they have nothing to lose from committing crimes. I realize the situation in Russia is not exactly comparable, but my point is that for all the chest beating about the rule of law, it only goes so far when you have a fundamental social failure on this scale. That fundamental social failure being when significant numbers of people have more incentive to destroy each other than not.

What about journalists? How can we prevent them from being beaten or killed? Seriously, I am going with the rising tide lifts all boats theory here: address the social norms. Until there is a better solution, I suppose journalists will have to comfort themselves with the knowledge that they must be doing something right if people find them credible enough to kill. Keep up the good work?

October 27, 2010

A Sick and Spiteful Country

Filed under: Culture: U.S.,Politics: U.S. — poemless @ 5:53 PM

Why oh why oh why am I not writing? I am so terribly uninspired. I am blaming the U.S. elections. Everything about them is depressing me, from the inability of the Democrats to actually fight for anything, to the strange, cruel worldview of the Republicans. Everyone is so nasty and petty while serious, real, actually kind of interesting even issues are simply ignored. As I was trying to explain to someone, the country is broke – and broken, no one wants to pay more money to fix things or help those who are suffering, so more things fall apart and more people suffer, leaving people more desperate to hold on to what they have, less trustful of the government, thus even more opposed to giving the government more of their money, money for fixing things and providing services. It is a vicious cycle. Until Americans are honest with themselves, realistic, responsible, I don’t think it will matter who is in charge, things will keep getting worse. Meanwhile Republicans are preaching creationism and stomping on the skulls of their opponents (literally) and Democrats are too timid to run on their accomplishments, and after spending 2 years ignoring and even poking fun at their base, are dumbfounded that their base lacks enthusiasm. Everything is toxic and abusive, and no one is behaving very admirably. It is all very depressing. I don’t want to write about Russia.

The other day I was at the doctor’s office. I have a new doctor. She’s Polish. At one point she began talking about how Americans are so sick. Why are Americans sick? “I am European. Where I grew up, we could not buy strawberries for $2 in December. If you wanted strawberries, you waited until May. May, and June. That’s the only time we ate strawberries. There were many things we did not have. But people were healthy. Everyone wasn’t getting cancer and heart disease… But in America, everyone is sick.” This was part of a larger reflection on how maybe less is more. I almost cried. Now I am in love with her. I want to only eat strawberries in May and June, I don’t want to take a pill for everything, I don’t want to vote for those people on the ballot.

Ok, maybe voting for jerks and morons is not making us sick (though it must certainly have something to do with the healthcare system meant to prevent and treat sickness.) But just because we have more access to the political process doesn’t mean we’re better off for it.

Right now there is a commercial running on the tv. A woman strolls with a cart down the aisles of a large grocery store, complaining about taxes while filling up her cart with soda. “It’s hard enough to put food on the table and feed my family. I don’t need the government telling me how to do it. Now they want to raise taxes on everything from flavored water to soda. Give me a break! Call the government and tell them to stay out of our business.” Or some nonsense. I want to strangle her and rescue her phantom tv commercial kids. You are not supposed to be feeding children soda! If you are having trouble affording food for your family, why the hell are you buying them soda? That is not even food! When I was in Moscow, the fellow I was living with brought home a giant can of Planter’s cheese balls one night. Giddy. Like he’d discovered treasure. I feel bad about it now, because I think he was trying to make me feel at home: Look! American food! “That’s not really food, you know.” That was my response. I sat judging him. Terrible.

America, land of plenty, amber waves of grain. What do we do with it? Make soda and cheese puffs and complain about having to pay for a few cents extra for them so our kids have textbooks.

America, beacon of democracy, land of the free. What do we do with it? Ignore the democratic process and let corporate interests or the few wack jobs that bother to vote pick a candidate and complain about having no good candidates to choose from.

I am not cynical. It’s not the process, or even the mechanism that is broken. It might need some fine tuning, but it is functioning. It’s the human factor that’s broken. And our system is rather built upon the participation of the human beings it is meant to serve.

I was going to write about Russia’s vibrant democracy. Hahahaha. I’m only half-kidding, you know.

Someone sent me a link to a list of parties in the Russian elections a few years ago, what they represent, who should vote for them. Nothing dramatic. You might steal my argument ans say that just because Russia has A WHOLE LOT MORE political parties than we do, it does not follow that they have a healthier democracy. This is true. Well, as far as I can tell, not many countries do. France and England are totally freaking out. Still, what caught me about the list was how … helpful it was. Like a reference guide for the average Joe, from the average Joe. Or Ivan. And to me, that’s really the spirit of democracy, more than any inevitable outcomes.

Then the Kremlin Stooge posted several informative, if opinionated, pieces on the make up of the Russian political system, here, and here.

And then A Good Treaty published a really astonishingly thought-provoking piece, “Aleksei Naval’nyi, Virtual Mayor of Moscow.” It is about a “virtual” on-line election in which a blogger won, and seemingly not entirely as a result of his own publicity campaign. He goes on to discuss the “political” v. the “apolitical” opposition. As I would explain, the apolitical opposition is not lacking in politics, just lacking any need or desire to pick a pre-ordained official camp to identify with, or oppose. Interestingly, they also seem to be the more successful camp. Again, it’s no proof of democracy, but an illustration of that nebulous thing that makes me get all weepy about democracy. Civic participation and empowerment, the citizen lobby being heard. It is at once more subversive, eluding the clearly defined boundaries of parties, and more effective, probably since they don’t pose a threat the basic order they’re ignoring. (It occurs to me those most in a huff about democracy in Russia are focused almost exclusively on access to power, and that is probably why I hate them. There is a man who cannot afford to feed his child and pay for his wife’s surgery. He’s not interested in running for office. What about him?)

But it is difficult to get all worked up about democracy now. When I turn on the tv or radio or computer … even walk down the street, I am bombarded with democracy. With civic empowerment? No. With people spending enough money to feed Africa for a decade to destroy their opponent’s character. With people who have more wealth and power than I will ever know asking me to write them a check. With wild passionate arguments about who was seen with whom and canned, tested responses about how to fix the economy, certain to offend no one and therefore certainly lacking the necessary courage. I really wish we could take the “pandering to the lowest in people” out of the equation. You would think so much civic responsibility would pressure us all to be better. The way the free market is supposed to ensure that only the best products succeed. Soda and cheese puffs. Our stores are filled with junk food, and out ballots aren’t much more impressive.

So much freedom. And everyone is sick.

October 11, 2010

Odds & Ends: Like in a dream Edition

A bit of catching up.

Vova’s Girlz.

~ Kevin O’Flynn: “Wanted: Putin’s Girl.”

So, this is annoying:

A girl was needed, but no ordinary one. She had to be not too tall and not too short, not too young and not too old — which if you’re wondering, is apparently between 22 and 27 — and she had to have a Moscow propiska, or registration.

It sounds like many a Moscow or even St. Petersburg man’s dream. Her skin had to be pure — no mention of her heart — her brows not too heavy, her chins not too many. Slavic features, please, they asked. Good manners, a way with lifts, not too big on the hips.

A beautiful smile and kind, intelligence plus the ability to take a bullet to the chest if somebody takes a pot shot at the guy who looks almost tall — to you, possibly — by your side.

If asked to find an escort for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, it is unlikely that I would have stuck an ad up on a web site.

But that is what went buzzing around the Internet a week or so ago. The escort was needed for last Friday when Putin was set to visit the Arctic forum at the new Moscow State University building.

Her job was to escort him to the lift: Nails have to be short enough to be able to press the button; make some meaningless chitchat — “So when will Novaya Zemlya get its first Coffee House?” — and then fade away like a late morning dream.

She was not the only one, as the company in question was actually looking for three hostesses in total. Probably because there are always a lot of lifts at Arctic forums.

Your dress, the ad said, must be business-style: suit, skirt/trousers, blouse, high heels, “not vulgar but beautiful.”

The girls, who have already had their moment, were to be chosen in a “casting” close to the Universitet metro station.

Most specific was the height requirement: “Height, STRICTLY 160-165 (plus 2 to 3 centimeters is possible),” the ad said. “VVP has a height of 169 cm, not higher than him, that’s for sure.”

I didn’t even bother trying our for that one … you know, er, propiskaless and all. Maybe Kevin finds this kind of headhunting vulgar, but at least it is honest. In America, we invite all the highly qualified applicants, hire the pretty ones as intended all along, and send the rest consolation letters, if they are lucky.

Why isn’t Lyudmila helping with the elevators? If you want to send a pro-family, traditional-values demography-inspiring message to your people, why not have the wife at your side? Alas, perhaps she has joined a convent? There are not even elevators in convents, I don’t think. Not in the ones I’ve stayed at. Oh yes I did. Catholic school, baby. Anyway, here is the difference between me and Lyudia Putina: I can still entertain the idea that it’s just that he hasn’t met me.

~ … I don’t have much to add to the Great Calendar Debate, except to wonder if people even need wall calendars anymore. I buy them. Mine have themes like “365 Days in France” and “Warhol’s Shoes,” but only because Putin hasn’t out out his own beefcake calendar yet. However, between Outlook, Blackberry, Google and every other cyber organizing tool out there, why buy a wall calendar? Because it gives you something nice to look at when you realize your bills are due. Which, politics aside, is why depressing calendars don’t sell.

~ From Becky Cloonan, via Natalia Antonova:

Read This.

Elif Batuman is a name I’ve come across from time to time, thought I should remember, and always forgot. She is the author of The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them. Which -based on nothing more than the title- has been immediately added to my reading list. But it’s her blog that has me reeling….

Kafka porn contest

Patient readers! I promised a Kafka contest, and here it is. In the course of researching my recent Kafka article, I was interested to learn about a 2008 Kafka pornography scandal, provoked by the publication of James Hawes’s Excavating Kafka (the US title of which, Why You Should Read Kafka before You Waste Your Life, makes me proud to be an American). As the Guardian put it:

At the focus of Hawes’ investigation are pictures he stumbled across in the British Library in London and the Bodleian in Oxford of the pornography to which Kafka subscribed while in his twenties. They include images of a hedgehog-style creature performing fellatio, golem-like male creatures grasping women’s breasts with their claw-like hands and a picture of a baby emerging from a sliced-open leg.

Myriad questions came to my mind. Whom or what was that hedgehog-style creature fellating? Was the Guardian being anti-Semitic when they called that breast-grasping creature a Golem? And who wants to see a baby coming out of someone’s leg? I consulted Google for answers and came across a terrifically helpful blog post which identifies and reproduces Aubrey Beardsley’s representation of a very angry-looking baby being removed from some guy’s leg (below), as per the description, in Lucian’s second-century proto-sci-fi hit True History, of how children are birthed on the Moon:\

Gratifying as this was, I was still really curious about that hedgehog and its unknown partner, which continued to elude my Googling skills for some time. One respected Kafka expert, to whom I broached the subject, basically counseled me to give up: “I think we can assume that the hedgehog was [performing these acts upon] another hedgehog, no? Isn’t that porn reportage protocol? You assume they’re of the same species, unless otherwise noted.” Well, Sir, that certainly isn’t my reportage protocol. And I’m glad it isn’t. Because, OK, don’t click on the link if you’re under 18 (believe me kiddo, it can wait), but I eventually found the picture, and, although I can’t tell you exactly what the soi-disant “hedgehog” is pleasuring, I can state with confidence that it is definitely not another soi-disant “hedgehog.”

As is often the case with Kafka, the more I learned, the more questions remained unanswered. What was that thing? Why was it behaving that way? Are such images “porn, pure and simple,” or are they, as Reiner Stach has suggested, mere “playful representations”?

Hoping to penetrate some of these mysteries, I addressed myself to valued reader and colleague Dimiter Kenarov, author of the Bulgarian bestselling poetry volume Апокрифни животни (Apocryphal Animals), the proceeds of which are diverted to the Sofia Zoo, where they have already financed a new swing for the monkeys. Kenarov suggested that the illustration represented some form of “apocryphal evolution,” but that, more significantly, one had perhaps stumbled upon “a whole new porn genre: Kafka Sex. There is money in here. For example, undressing a person only to find new and new layers of clothing underneath.”

I hereby decree this the first official entry in the My Life and Thoughts Kafka porn contest. Please send in your best ideas for this lucrative new genre, which may or may not eventually benefit in some way the monkeys in the Sofia Zoo.

Contest is over, and you’ve missed your chance to get some of her furniture. But a “first official entry” suggests there will be a second, official or otherwise. Anyway, this all somehow reminded me of that Edition 69 and the “The Devětsil ” literary movement. A bit after his time. But surrealist porn seems to be a theme with the Czechs…

~ Sheyngart recently showed up in the neighborhood. He did a great Q. and A., like he really wanted to be there, unlike Sasha Hemon. He’s quite funny. But not terribly serious. Which is too bad, because when he gets serious, great things come out. He was talking about how writers should take acting classes. I’d never thought about it, but it makes great sense. I’ve taken enough acting classes that I should now be prepared to write a novel. The crowd was a mix urban hipsters, Russian immigrants (a burly man rudely pushed past me to demand of the staff, “Vhat Time you Close?!”) and elderly Jews. Gary said he thought the Tea Party was better than Putin’s Russia. (Gary lives in NYC and doesn’t exactly have to worry about the Tea Party. I’ve not had any ancestors pogromed to death by Russians. We disagree.) He said he liked Pavel Pepperstein and Sorokin. He told a story about these old babushky who erected a giant toilet in central Moscow and were flushing Sorokin’s lurid books down it. You thought the story would end in grievance: so that’s the kind of thanks an artist gets in Putin’s oppressive Russia. He took a u-turn and remarked, “Russia’s the only country in the world that continues to care enough about novels to hold public protests against them.”

~ Adding to my blogroll: Lizok’s books.

~ I’ve about finished Rasskazy, and off the top of my head, the stories I liked most:

“THEY TALK” by Linor Goralik
“RUSSIAN HALLOWEEN” by Aleksander Bezzubtsev-Kondakov
“THE SEVENTH TOAST TO SNAILS” by Ekaterina Taratuta
“D.O.B.” by Aleksander Snegirev

Probably pure coincidence, but in this selection I’ve made, the women are writing experimental prose, and the men more traditional narratives. There is a lot of stuff in the book that, while very artistic and academic, does not seem to work very well. These did. I also wanted read twithout any political bias. One might argue that these are “Western” in their style, and condemnations of Russia in their content. They’re well written. And I am not sure I buy the idea that anything less than saccharine is an indictment, or the only good writers are Slavophiles.

And BG and Slava came to me in a dream…

~ c/o Oleg Kashin (who is spending WAY too much time on Twitter):

BG & Surkov! You know how in cheap beer commercials, there is always a set of hot twins the average Joe spies at a bar? (As if an average Joe drunk on Budweiser were more attractive to Scandanavian twins than the sober version of himself?) Anyway, If Budweiser were marketing to me, this would be the commercial. The third fellow is Andrei Makarevich. Meh. What was going on here? Political event at which musicians are kissing up? Or musical event at which poor Slava is kissing up? Anyway. So there is now some debate as to whether or not Boris has gone over to the dark side. Some people are like, hey, he’s just having a polite chat – who cares? They aren’t being helped by this, from Ekho Moskvy:

~ Борис Гребенщиков и Владимир Путин плавали по коммунальным квартирам России.

Известный музыкант Борис Гребенщиков в день рождения премьер-министра России Владимира Путина встретился с ним во сне. Об этом сам музыкант рассказал сегодня в эфире “Эха Петербурга”:

“Он мне снился сегодня. Мы с ним совершали вояж по России. По-моему, мы с ним плыли на катере сквозь квартиры коммунальные. Причём было дико красиво. Вероятно, вели разговоры. Я такого сна не помню просто в жизни своей! Я так ему благодарен! Какие силы работают на нашего президента… премьер-министра, что даже я вижу сны про него! Фантастика. Вот оккультизм настоящий”.

Alrighty then… Let’s keep in mind he smokes a lot of pot. But, is he being sarcastic, or sincere? Is it veiled criticism or harmless entertainment? It’s one thing to dream you’re sailing with Vova through communal apartments, another to issue a press release about it to your hippied-out followers. Hm. Fascinating indeed.


~ Finally, we have some pictures of the Soyuz capsule landing. For a while, I was not impressed. Looked like a piece of junk on a parachute. Then a piece of junk crashing to the dirt. Then an old piece of junk out in a field.

Then spacemen crawled out of it!!!! Wowee!

Soyuz TMA-18 Space Capsule Landing.

It’s really a metaphor for Russia, is it not? To the casual observer: junk. To the close observer: oudated junk. To the surveyor: junk surrounded by miles of nothing. But inside the junk are fascinating, adventurous, curious, educated and slightly insane people, doing astonishing things. And even the junk has stories to tell…

October 8, 2010

Rahm-A-Llama Ding Dong: Revenge of the Liberasts!

Filed under: Politics: Russia,Politics: U.S. — poemless @ 5:51 PM
Tags: , , ,

Sometimes I get the whole MSM frustration with Russia thinking it is as important as the rest of us. For example, no one cares very much who the next mayor of Moscow will be. But every wonk in the human species is drooling over the race for mayor (King, really, if we’re honest) of Chicago, or more specifically, Rahm Emanuel’s new toy. Which goes to show that Chicago is a more important city than Moscow. Otherwise that gorgeous egomaniac Slava Surkov would have quit Dima to be its new mayor. So much for Luzhkov being an autocrat; he got fired, and no one in the top job wants to replace him. Pah-thetic. Lame. Autocracy my ass.

Overcompensating? Eh?

I have to put some positive spin on this, find a silver lining. For some perspective on my opinion of Rahm as Da Mayor, let us revisit a post from April of this year:

Apparently Rahm Emanuel has nothing better to do than sit up at night scheming up new ways to piss me off. And to his credit, it seems to be the one thing he’s quite successful at. There was that time he ran someone against my friend in a primary, won the primary and lost the general. Actually, that’s the most tolerable part of that story… And then there was the time he showed up at Glen’s Diner, sat next to me, was waited on hand and foot while I waited an hour for my salad only to be informed they’d run out of salad dressing. Then there was the week I woke up to helicopters each morning because my neighbor had decided to take the position of Chief of Staff. And then there was the time he could barely even get his own party to support a watered down piece of crap masquerading as a healthcare reform bill.

But I’m less vocal about his D.C. failures. Because I want him to stay there. Democrats all over Chicago cheered when he took the White House gig. Because they love him and were happy for him? Oh hell no. Because it meant he was leaving! The poor citizens of my fair district were finally given the opportunity to have a decent Congressman when he left. Our whole neighborhood could not get an audience with Emanuel during the run up to the invasion of Iraq. My new Rep. came to my holiday party and brought a whole cheesecake. Just sayin’.

So I am thinking it’s ok if he’s wrecking national policy so long as he’s not here and I can eat a fucking salald in peace. And I get cheesecake.

It’s unfortunate I’ve already used the phrase, “Oh hell no.” It would have been a perfect response to this:

Obama aide Emanuel: I’d like to be mayor of Chicago.

Damn it! You are the chief advisor to the leader of the free world, but that’s not enough? Why won’t you just LEAVE ME ALONE! PLEASE… Insatiable freak.

Below are the reasons Emanuel would be a crap mayor of Chicago:

~ Chicago likes two kinds of mayors: dictators who rule with an iron fist, and progressive reformers. Emanuel is neither of these, as the recent healthcare debate illustrated. He could not even get his whole party on board, let alone one member of the opposition. Apparently they are not afraid of him. This would have been excusable were he presenting some radical socialist legislation that was ahead of the curve. But he never even entertained the possibility of a public option, let alone single payer healthcare. Fail. Fail. If you can’t even get a few Democrats to support a rather reasonable request, how are you going to get 3 million people to cream “How high?” when you shout, “Jump!” Not gonna happen.

~ Emanuel likes to wear finely tailored suits. That’s cool, if you are running for mayor of New York. I just can’t see our little rascal in a beige trench and fedora, the Mayor of Chicago uniform.

~ Chicago is not Ravenswood. Chicago is not all the cool little trendy neighborhoods and posh suites in mile high skyscrapers. It’s the inner city. There are poor people there. This man believed it beneath his station to communicate with and represent a rather well-off area while he was Congressman. What is he going to do if he has to communicate with and represent rather uneducated and smelly people? Who have no money to give him!!! But who need the snow removed like ASAP.

~ Uhm, we don’t want him to be Mayor. I’m not one of those trite progressives who won’t be happy until Ralph Nader is running the city. I like Mayor Daley. I admire him. Sure he’s corrupt, but you can tell he loves the city. Sure he’s divisive, but the man gets things done. Emanuel tells people to fuck off by calling them names and giving them the finger. Daley tells people to fuck off by bulldozing the airport he wants to turn into a park in the middle of the night. It’s the difference between a schoolyard bully and a leader.

~ Salad.

~ Cheesecake.

At the time I wrote that, I was innocently under the impression that Daley would be my mayor for life. The way your parents have to be your parents for life. You are stuck with them, they show you no respect, but they are not allowed to quit. At the time I wrote that, Rahm seeking to replace Daley just seemed like one more conceited outburst from that little twit, confirming my opinion that he was a conceited little twit. Ha! Well he surely did smack that smug little smile of my pretty face…

Why I Hate Rahm.

Let’s be clear. I do not hate Rahm. I only really know him as constituent who was ignored by him, a party ally who was sabotaged by him, a liberal activist who was referred to as a “fucking retard” by him and a neighbor who gets worse service than him at local restaurants. He could be a very decent human for all I know, when his path is not crossing mine. Pretty much anyone he’s ever crossed paths with thinks he’s a jerk? Ok. But he might have a really beautiful soul which reveals itself only when he is home alone. I like the idea of this.

And speaking of home, Rahm is so well loved that the people who are letting his house (since he was in DC, he might as well make a buck off his house in Chicago) won’t let him back in! They’ve signed a lease which runs until June of next year and are stealthily flexing their right to remain put. What’s so telling about this is that the landlords in this town can usually get away with murder. Having innocent people evicted is child’s play. Frankly, if you can’t accomplish that, you are probably not fit to be a landlord. But he wants to be the landlord of the WHOLE ENTIRE town? Wha? This is my fundamental problem with Rahm Emanuel: he probably has the balls to tell a saint to fuck off, but sticks and stones…, when it comes to action, he flees. He turned straight around and looked for a condo to rent. Lame. Should join Yuri’s pah-thetic club.


Is this why I don’t want him to be Mayor? Seriously? Because he didn’t kill his tenants? Reality check time. Why do I not want him to be mayor? I am asking myself this, searching for a respectable answer. Why am I so fanatical with disgust for this man that I’ve even wondered if he was responsible for the “mysterious illness” that has put Riccardo Muti on a plane back to Italy. And frankly, until I see a video of Muti in Italy, I will be harboring darker suspicions. I’ve turned into a rabid paranoiac – and just to amuse myself. What the fuck is wrong with me?

Is it his tactics? I devote this blog to praising the intimidating strong-arm tactics and bizarre antics of people like Putin. Err… Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds! Yes it is! However, the idea that I deserve a more just system of representation than others is the hobgoblin of my big mind.

Is it his position on the issues? He’s a Democrat. A not very nice Democrat, but at this point I’m through with pansy dems mucking everything up. We’re probably on the same page on basic issues. Except for war and free-trade and Israel and other things mayors don’t actually have very much to do with. He’s not a gay-bashing witch preaching creationism and fighting for the rights of puppy-mill owners, which puts him a head of a significant number of American politicians. He’s a corporatist. Which I hate. But Daley was ready to privatize the entire city for a fast buck, and my only criticism was that he wasn’t very nice to anti-war protesters… I doubt many Communist party candidates will be on the ballot.

He’s well educated, cute, Jewish, a former ballerina even, and we obviously share an uncanny preference for the same schools to attend, places to eat out and streets to live on! I like that he curses. It’s as if he were my own successful Doppelganger!

A Liberast Confesses!

So many years ago it occurred to me that for all they crazy talk about how evil and corrupt and mediaslutty Putin is, those Latynina types surely do spend a whole lotta time writing about him. Let us call it an “idée fixe.” Or a fetish. They may be writing about one thing, but it is their own sick mind to which they expose their innocent readers. And more recently, after les affaires Luzhkov, Browder, Khodorkovsky yadda yadda yadda, it occurred to me (and every other sentient human) that these people only begin their obsession with moral obligation after they suffer some cruel rejection from the villain in question. Normally, wearing a nicely-tailored suit is about the very last thing I will criticise a man for. Normally, the possibility of an attractive, well-dressed ballet dancer in high political office is so, so\ … so hot, I can forgive cruelty and corruption. Maybe even murder.

Call a doctor! I’m sick! I’ve contracted a nasty case of Liberastitis Obnoxiosus. “Who does he think he is, that he can get away with these things?” “The people who support him are just mindless sheep, blinded by the siren song of his sparkly celebrity. Or fear him.” “He doesn’t even think he needs to play well with other. Hrrmph.” “And look at the trail of destruction that follows him wherever he goes. All of his accomplishments are actually failures, if you look close enough.” “It’s not the person, it’s the process!” (<–when you hear the last one, just run.)

They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. But somehow admitting that personal grudges and hypocrisy – the hallmarks of Liberastic critique – are polluting my beautiful mind is not inspiring me to clean up my act, even if I risk losing critical thinking skills, or worse, popular credibility. It's not simply the adrenaline of working on yet another a losing campaign, the high of entertaining for a moment the possibility of toppling a powerful public figure, or the creepy self-confidence that accompanies moral superiority on display. I genuinely, sincerely, honestly, authentically believe that only when and if Rahm Emanuel is served a slice of humble pie in the form of a reality check that the world does not serve at his pleasure, could he be a capable leader. Why?

Suddenly I am reminded of the 2008 U.S. presidential primaries. I harbored an angry, passionate dislike of Hillary Clinton for years, so strong it sometimes got me out of bed in the morning. But when Obama began stealing the hearts and minds of unsuspecting Americans, she was forced to work for that which she'd already claimed for herself. And she did. And hard. And I was impressed. Behind that grotesquely fake smile, there lurked an intelligent, qualified woman. And I was also worried that Obama had experience no real public humiliation or hard-fought defeats, and that might make him less than ideal. Like, when things got tough and people stopped loving him for his charm alone, he might flounder, and then really bad people might take advantage of the fact. Crazy, right? What was I thinking! So after years of devoted animosity toward her, I voted for Hillary Clinton in the primaries. I know. She thinks VVP has no soul. It’s not terribly relevant to day-to-day Oval Office decisions.

I also used to not like Mayor Daley. I did in the beginning. There was even a photo of him on the mantle. But then I didn’t. Because I saw some cops threatening and pushing a young pregnant woman during an anti-war protest. Horrible. They were unnecessarily abusive and confrontational, when these yuppies and hippies and toddlers just wanted to show up and say “No blood for oil! Show me what democracy looks like!” Harmless. The cops? Not so much. Years passed. We forgot about the war. The protests ended. The train service improved. A lovely park sprung up in the middle of the city. Life was, if not perfect, certainly better. And anyway, Daley’s opposition were clowns who thought the most pressing problem in Chicago was the existence of foie gras on menus. Either they were wrong, and nuts, or right, and Daley had solved all our other problems. Best to shut up and enjoy the park.

Is Liberasty is like some virus you have all your life but only rears its symptomatic head during times of great stress? Yes, I am an emotionally wounded ideologue, but I am capable of having normal political alliances. Yes, it’s contagious (just look at the cynical young Americans who go to Moscow, attend a protest, and suddenly being writing passionately about civil rights!) – but so long as I alert you, you can take precautions. I don’t even remember when I contracted it. High school Amnesty International club? Some pervert along the way managed to convince me that marching down streets and wearing buttons and organizing very small groups of people who have lots of free time can make the world a better place. Probably how I got the idea that writing a blog could do the same. Madness. Brain fever.



The kind of ideals this sick-ass country was founded on!

And Now a Song of Unrelenting Determination and Unmitigated Ego!

Perhaps this a fundamental difference between our liberasts? In America, not only is it acceptable for citizens to demand their representatives to listen to, acknowledge and fulfill the wishes of individuals, no matter how personal, irrational, hysterical and selfish, it’s what we call “civic engagement.” We pride ourselves on this circus. We are participating in democracy! That means we have one! See?! See?! And it is fun. I must be honest – it is a ton of fun. Those Tea Party people pretend to be persecuted, but they’re clearly having a grand ol’ time. (More even than the oversexed liberals. Because liberals actually feel guilt when their actions cause the suffering of others.) We’re a nation of complainers and demanders and believe, deeply, in the primordial pit of our souls, that the government exists to serve us. Not “us”, the collective sum of individuals, but the interests of individuals themselves. Exists to serve me. This isn’t one camp in our system – it is our system.

When people try to replicate this in Russia, it seems offensive. Look at the Liberasts: they only care about themselves and their pet causes. Embarrassing. Why? The same every man for himself culture that breeds narcissists like Emanuel breeds narcissists like me. We’re two side of the same coin, both acting on the conviction that our power to change the world is only constrained by our own personal shortcomings. But is this the opposite side of the coin of … Putinism? Bases and Centrists, parties in power and their opposition, while rarely accomplishing much, and all capable of poor governance, do have a symbiotic relationship, forever correcting for the other (and the other always in need of correction.) I might be totally off the mark, but I don’t witness this same phenomenon in Russian politics. I’m not saying there is, or is not democracy, and with no agreed upon definition of “democracy,” I don’t care. Just that there’s more of a disconnect, something not so… organic, about the Liberal opposition. Less flexible, less able to laugh at themselves?

Or is this just another wrong-headed picture of Russia painted by American pundits?

Because I still haven’t quite figured out why I am so awesome for standing up to Mr. Emanuel, but Kasparov is just a tool.

October 1, 2010

Do We Really Need More Democracy? or, There’s no place like home.

Filed under: Lazy Quote Diary,Politics: U.S. — poemless @ 5:14 PM

I know there are many differences in the mechanics of our respective political systems (Chicago, Russia), but in the Sept. 30 issuse of the Chicago Reader, Michael Miner concisely sums up the questions I have been asking about both -rhetorically, no one actually listens to me- for a very long time.

The Reader is a free weekly, and I am making no money, goodness knows, writing this blog. So I hope Miner doesn’t come after me for posting this in its entirety. (Actually, this is just the first part; the rest is about friending politicians on facebook…) Read this, click the link, click on a few ads, do whatever you need to to be a responsible consumer of decent journalism. But first, just read this.

Do We Really Need More Democracy? Or do we just need to use the democracy we have?
By Michael Miner

Any day you’re asked a good question is a pretty good day. The other day I was asked two.

The first one was from my daughter Laura in New York. Everyone is talking about bringing more democracy to Chicago, she said. What does that mean, more democracy? More of what exactly?

I had no idea. Mayor Daley said he’d decided not to run for reelection, and suddenly democracy was on all lips. “Perhaps you’ve heard of it, invented by my noble ancestors, the Greeks,” John Kass wrote in the Tribune, “it is a system of government by which free people debate ideas, sometimes vigorously, sometimes rudely. They elect leaders who are expected to give reasons for their actions. The leaders must form a consensus before they can spend the people’s money. Yes, it is indeed a weird system of governance, relatively unknown in these parts. It’s called democracy.”

Daley’s “unfinished business,” Greg Hinz wrote in Crain’s Chicago Business, is “making Chicago fit for democracy and making democracy fit in Chicago.” And back at the Trib, Dennis Byrne wrote, “Questions about whether Chicago can function as a democracy presume that the City Council will stir itself out of its slumber and break out of its special interest chains. Can aldermen govern, left on their own without a boss instructing them?”

I’d already quoted these quotes in something I’d posted online. Now I reviewed them. Kass was asking for a Little Golden Books version of democracy. Hinz wanted a Chicago where democracy works. Pretty to wish for, thought Byrne, but he seriously doubted Chicago could function as a democracy and the real question, he concluded, was whether Chicago could continue to be functional at all. A dark thought, that. Everyone agreed the democracy dipstick reads low. But there was less consensus on how, or even whether, to fill the tank; the real yearning, I could see, wasn’t for more democracy as much as it was for a nicer, more consumer-friendly democracy that elects leaders as honest as they are brilliant.

For if someone says we don’t have enough democracy in Chicago, the proper reply is, what exactly are we short of? Do we vote? Yes. Is any adult without a criminal record free to run? Yes. Do our elected representatives meet and discuss and write laws, and if we don’t like those laws can we throw them out? Yes. And what about the mayor, who’s ruled for almost 22 years and whose father ruled for 21? Is there something about the way our laws are written that encourages quasi-monarchical dynasties? Not that I can put my finger on.

So what democratic apps are lying around uinstalled? I guess there are the direct referendums that helped bankrupt California. And the recent experiment in Rogers Park—the one the Reader’s Deanna Isaacs just wrote about under the headline “Can Democracy Work in Chicago?”—about 49th Ward residents voting on how their alderman should spend his “menu money”—could be tried everywhere murals are painted on railroad viaducts.

But there’s not a lot of room for expansion.

If Chicago’s cursed with a corrupt, inefficient autocracy, it’s because the people of Chicago, in their wisdom and by their votes and actions, have repeatedly chosen it. Let’s blame the victim: we have the democracy we deserve. Just as Barack Obama’s greatest accomplishment as president could turn out to be getting elected president, the biggest contribution to democratic reform made possible by Richie Daley’s decision not to run for reelection may be the decision itself. Mayors don’t have to die in office or cling to it until their parties throw them out—as Daley just taught by example to Chicagoans who had never seen anything else.

Last week in the Reader I shared the lamentation of a tiny Tea Party group, the Johnson County Patriots of the Republic, in western Missouri. There’s a long list of grievances posted on their website, but in the end their beef comes down to this: “Some of our elected representatives treat us like children. Far too many of our politicians insult us in town hall meetings. They dismiss us by refusing to respond to our questions, through the rudeness of their office personnel, and by giving us meaningless responses that answer none of our concerns. All of these actions make it clear that they no longer take us, the people, seriously.”

Folks go to the polls in western Missouri, same as they do here. What aggrieves the Johnson County Patriots isn’t that there’s too little democracy but that democracy in their view doesn’t work for them the way it works for the big shots. They sound just like Kass—the difference being that an angry voice speaking for itself is more compelling than Kass’s sarcastic voice speaking for a disrespected multitude he doesn’t belong to. The Patriots look around at the democracy their forefathers left behind and feel it snickering at them. Here in Illinois, a lot of folks do too. Voters face humiliating choices in November’s most important races: Quinn versus Brady for governor; Giannoulias versus Kirk for the U.S. Senate. But who or what gave us these candidates? Who gave us Blagojevich? Who gave us George Ryan? Do we blame democracy for failing to gild the ballot with more competence and virtue?

I’m just asking—I’m as eager to live in a Hellenic paradise as the next guy is.

It’s all very Wizard of Oz, isn’t it? We’ve courageously exposed the man behind the curtain, only to learn we’ve had the power ourselves all along.

Except I don’t think anyone in Chicago, or Moscow, would actually rather live in Kansas. I mean, there are reasons we live here, few of which can be found in some quaint rural dustbowl town full of pigs and witches. And that’s the clencher, so far as I can tell. Are we, as demanding citizens, prepared to be as humble and accountable as we want our new leaders to be? Are we prepared to go full out Temperance-style hysterical with a war on Corruption? Are we ready to excersize our democratic power, knowing well the consequence that we will be to blame when things fall apart?

Can we oust the Wizard, but keep the dancing munchkins, flying monkeys, poppy fields and yellow brick roads? That’s what I want to know.

A Tale of Two Mayors.

Filed under: Politics: Russia,Politics: U.S. — poemless @ 4:49 PM
Tags: ,

I’ve been loathe to weigh in on the axing of Luzhkov. I’m neither privy to insider information nor prone to political forecasting, which leaves me with little more than opinion, and frankly, I’m not even sure I have that. However, I am struck by the eerie parallels between my mayor and Moscow’s, and even more so by their radically different though strangely synchronized exits. I thought I might even be able to avoid writing about that when Julia Ioffe published an FP article entitled “Moscow’s Mayor Daley.” I was ready to thank her for the favor until I actually read it and found, er, nothing at all about Daley in it, actually. (Though it does contain this passage: “This, after all, is Putin’s style: Wait for the scandal to be forgotten, and then make your move, thereby avoiding the appearance that you caved to pressure. Luzhkov will not be fired … Luzhkov will step down…”) Good times. Anyway, back to the Wonder Twins, our exiting Mayors.

He ruled his city for two decades as if he were the king of a nation state, wielding unchecked power, conducting business through patronage and strong-arming, exhibiting a curious display of megalomania and populism. Since the average adult begins experiencing memory loss in their 20’s, no one clearly remembers when this man was not in charge. He loved this town and loved running it. His goofy smile was contagious. He had a signature oldschool look that said to the people, I might be a gangster, but I am a working class gangster. He was controversially outspoken, but his crazy talk was a reliable source of entertainment. As many an epigraph on his reign have noted, you may not have liked how he did things, but you admit that he got things done. He revitalized his decaying cityscape so that anyone complaining about traffic of the cost of living or police corruption were forced to add a coda: but look how much the city has changed in the past 10 years … oooh, so new and shiny, such an exciting place to live, so much better! Sure, holding a street protest, or being in the mere vicinity of one, might earn you a few bruises and a night in the slammer, but let’s face it, most of us don’t attend protests. And yes, his political party is notorious for corruption, scare tactics and ballot tampering. But does anyone doubt that he’d win if free and fair elections were held tomorrow?

I mean, “if free and fair elections were held a year ago?”

Richie and Yura, despite everything they’ve ever done for you, awoke this year to find themselves not as popular as they once were. Or their critics louder. Not that they are the kind of guys to let the opinions of others decide their fates. And few were willing to bet serious money they could not politically survive the recent turn of events. But why now? It’s not as if no one had noticed the corruption, inefficiencies or shady allocation of funds before. Why the sudden complaining, aloud? Complaining as if complaining about these men had ever accomplished anything? Was it the belt tightening of the global recession, the confidence brought by new young reform-minded Presidents, the growing inconvenience of car ownership? Bad weather? Something else mayors don’t actually have control over? A perfect storm? Who knows from which direction the winds were blowing, but everyone seemed to hear it…

Now we take a break from the parallels.

This summer, Mayor Daley held a press conference to announce he would not be seeking re-election.

This summer, Mayor Luzhkov vacationed abroad while his city suffocated in smoke, refused to return, eventually returned, people protested, the Kremlin suggested he think about resigning, maybe come up with the name of a replacement, he ignored them, they sent him on vacation to think about resigning, maybe come up with severance deal, he returned defiant. He was fired.

I might boast that my mayor is more humble than yours. However, being unaccountable to anyone, no one can fire mine for insubordination, so far as I am aware.

And we return to our parallels.

Shock. Yes, there had been murmurs, wishful thinking, fantasies and hysterical pundits who’d said it might happen, it could happen, it even would happen. But no one thought he’d actually do it. He being either Daley or Medvedev. Even the most vocal critics believed their mayor would take his final breath in office. It reminds me of the title of the book,Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More. Neither man had been grooming a protege to succeed him in office. Neither man gave any potential successor much time to prepare for the new job. Unlike other modern day autocrats, they were not interested in transitioning out of office. The chapter covering their respective reign in the history books would end with a full stop.

While it’s popular to bemoan the joke that is the democratic process associated with Russia or Chicago, I hear few people complain that they’ve been robbed of the chance to vote their leader out of office. While a new era begins, and reform and “real politics” seem at least more possible now than it did a few months ago, I don’t see many people dancing in the streets. I hear lots of talk about legacies. About looming criminal investigations. About architecture and city planning. And, as if we’d regressed into ancients who’d just witnessed a comet, I hear people, bewildered, ask what it all means, and keep their fingers crossed that everything continues to work. Like those ancients, we will find new leaders, good or bad. The earth will keep turning. And we’ll find new things to complain about, new people to blame, new things to build, new rules and regulations to pass and new people to undermine them. We’ll find new humans to turn into icons before finding new reasons to expose them as merely mortal.

I suspect it will be some time, however, before we find a new Daley or Luzhkov.

September 29, 2010

I was lost – then I was found. Vol. 2. Welcome to Tashkent

Filed under: Meta — poemless @ 4:47 PM

Vol. 1.

I have a blog for the same reason I have a Twitter account. To spy on YOU.

Phrases people enter into search engines to arrive at this site:

a person who’s lost their taste
agitprop нет! to alcohol
al capones jewish friends
anne applebaum + space exploration
art mightier than reality
capitalist crying
cat in a body cast
celebration cash for first menstruation
communist cat
cute russian boys
depressing culture
fully naked beach babes
hysterical realism
i had a lunch with kasparov
is dmitri orlov right?
медведев дмитрий анатольевич еврей
mower made into go kart
please stand up my russian people
putin naked
putin shirt off on horse
putin vladimir is six fingered
putin vs cthulhu
putin’s financial advisor
revolutionary war teletubbie
russisan pathology
russian propaganda
scott spires
serbian canned luncheon meat
trashy girls
vladislav surkov scientology
welcome to tashkent

I am pleased to welcome back the FSB and naked Putin, who also made appearances in Vol. 1. A round of applause. This “scott spires” fellow, however, seems to spend a lot of time googling himself. Is he paranoid or some kind of egomaniac, or perhaps just bored?

I should take this opportunity to clarify that I have never had lunch with Gary K. or received a cash reward for my period. Sadly.

If I were to draw any conclusions about your deeply disturbing web-surfing behavior, I guess it would be that I am attracting people interested in Russian politics and hot Russians. That is, I have successfully nabbed my target audience. I am a communist who is also a marketing genius. The Kremlin’s chief propagandist can hire me now.

Also, people like to look at cats.

Also, you Russians need to get over your creepy Jewish thing. Seriously people. Grow up.

Also … Well, it’s rather upsetting …

… By now I am used to the p0rnography and all. I’m not opposed to sexy photos or whatever on principle. It’s the trafficking and women in crap situations with few good alternatives that really pisses me off. If it is some kind of fair trade, in accordance with standard Western labor laws, between consenting adults p0rn, get your groove on – I don’t care. Anyway, so I keep finding these searches for sexy Russian boys in my stats, and I am like, oh you know me – I do like sexy Russian boys. Boys as in, not girls (and preferably over the age of 30.) Then I see searches for trafficking Russian boys, and realize that maybe they mean boys as in, not over 18. I’m freaking out and thinking I should like, call INTERPOL or something. Right? And then I realize that a google search is not an endorsement. I wouldn’t want to be judged for my online searches. Still, I’m really upset. I don’t want horrible evil sick psycho criminals visiting my blog.


The only sexy things to see here are a certain shirtless premier and my intellect on display. And how that can possibly not be enough for anyone, I will never understand.

September 22, 2010

Found in Translation.

Filed under: Culture: Russia — poemless @ 5:07 PM
Tags: , ,

My New Acquisitions.

Pelevin. Tolstaya. Kurkov. Akunin. Ulitskaya. Sorokin.
… Did I mention Pelevin?

Ok, so chances are you will have little trouble locating these souls on the shelves of your local bookshop, or at the very least, have some gregarious bookseller offer to order one of their books for you. Maybe I’ve been a bit too doomsday about it, the whole “lack of translations of contemporary Russian authors available to the English speaking world.” After all, it only took a blog post and an afternoon wandering around the library (in fairness there are 87 miles of stacks in this library) to discover the following items:

~ Living souls by Dmitry Bykov. Published in the UK by Alma Books.
~ Give Me (Songs for Lovers) by Irina Denezhkina. Published in the US by Simon and Schuster.
~ Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky. Published in the UK by Gollancz.
~ Lizka and her men by Alexander Ikonnikov. Published in the UK by Serpent’s Tail.
~ Do time, get time by Andrei Rubanov. Published in the UK by Old Street.
~ 2017 by Olga Slavnikova. Published in the US by Overlook.

And of course various poets and playwrights could be found hawking their wares to the anglosphere along the aisles. It appears that some Russian writers are in fact reaching an English speaking audience. … an American speaking audience? Not so much. Hopefully it bodes well for American literary connoisseurs that Russian oligarchs have begun buying our sportsteams. Now we just need to get our own Andrew Bromfield. (OMG is he singlehandedly responsible for every translation in the past 20 years?!)

Andrew Bromfield

is a British editor and translator of Russian works. He is a founding editor of the Russian literature journal Glas, and has translated into English works by Boris Akunin, Vladimir Voinovich, Irina Denezhkina, Victor Pelevin, and Sergei Lukyanenko, among other writers.


“Very Short Stories” by Genrikh Sapgir
“Monday Starts on Saturday” by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky
“Rachmaninov” by Nikolai Bazhanov
“The Law of Eternity” by Nodar Dumbadze and Mikhail Krakovsky
“Glas: New Russian Writing” magazine (ed. by Natalia Perova)
“Lizka and Her Men” by Alexander Ikonnikov
“The Good Angel of Death” by Andrey Kurkov
“Maxim and Fyodor” by Vladimir Shinkarev
“Reasons for Living” by Dmitry Bakin
“Witch’s Tears” by Nina Sadur
“Headcrusher (novel)” by Alexander Garros and Aleksei Evdokimov

Madness. Ok, so this will give us something to read for the next month or so. But can one really glean the scene from these selections? Can one read these and make any kind of definitive statement about the post-Soviet Russian mind? Who knows… Probably one should refrain from such an endeavor anyway. Still, it’s not much to go on. Like judging American culture by a reality tv show where 6 random Americans are forced to live together. How do you know they weren’t chosen simply because they exemplified some stereotype? Or maybe one was sleeping with the producer. You don’t know. Who is Andrew sleeping with? We don’t know.

I’d come across mention of Glas twice in separate searches now, so I decided to check it out.

Glas: New Russian Writing.

It bills itself as the “best in contemporary Russian fiction in English translation.” Wow. Just what I was looking for. Well, without the boasting. (Your home page is your blurb page? really??) In addition to publishing gobs of individual authors, Glas also publishes gobs of anthologies. Collections include winners of the Russian Booker and Debut prizes, female, Jewish and young authors, stories about love, war, the Soviet experience … you get the picture. It all seems very comprehensive, if not a bit overwhelming. And not helped by the fact that we’ve gone and bound them all together in 2’s and 3’s. In order to get my paws on a couple of short stories, I had to check out about 25lbs. of book. Oof.

Wait. Anthologies! I’d said I “would actually very much appreciate a Hemon-esque, everything but the kitchen sink anthology of post-1991 Russian literature in English translation.” I did. But I was so focused on individual authors and their novels, I rather forgot to go googling for collections. It’s probably for the best. With names like “Rasskazy” and “Life stories” Russia might have taken over the world and abolished the English language before I found these online. Fuck the computer. I was upstairs in the stacks having a mild panic attack while deliberating which issues of Glas had the most relevant contents in proportion to its physical weight when Evgeny posted a link to Life Stories: Original Fiction by Russian Authors on the previous post. I know – I need a smartphonectomy. All the same I was able to just walk around the corner and find the book on the shelf. So that was convenient. From its publisher:

Masterfully translated by some of the best Russian-English translators working today, these tales reassert the power of Russian literature to affect readers of all cultures in profound and lasting ways.
Best of all, 100% of the profits from the sale of this book will go to benefit Russian hospice—not-for-profit care for fellow human beings who are nearing the end of their own life stories.

all royalties waived
all translation fees waived
100% of profits to the cause
The authors included in this fine collection are: Vladimir Voynovich, Andrey Gelasimov, Boris Grebenshchikov, Yevgeny Grishkovets, Victor Yerofeyev, Alexander Kabakov, Eduard Limonov, Dmitry Lipskerov, Sergey Lukyanenko, Vladimir Makanin, Marina Moskvina, Victor Pelevin, Lyudmila Petrushevskaya, Zakhar Prilepin, Dina Rubina, Dunya Smirnova, Vladimir Sorokin, Alexander Khurgin and Leonid Yuzefovich.

It’s too bad I didn’t actually buy this book and help those dying people. OTOH, I feel like I have secret superpowers walking around the BG, Eddie baby and Sorokin in my bag. Tingly, even. Ah… Oh, and it’s one rather slim paperback that weighs no more than a hamster. The unbearable lightness of unbound, unboundwith books… Finding the contemporary anthologies section was like a finding buried treasure. You dive in, grab hold of one item and parade it around: it’s mine! it’s mine! and seconds later you’ve discarded it for another shining trinket.

Like Moscow Noir, for example.

Moscow has been chomping at the bit to enter the Noir Series–with the intention of perpetrating extreme Russian menace.
Brand-new stories by:Alexander Anuchkin, Igor Zotov, Gleb Shulpyakov, Vladimir Tuchkov, Anna Starobinets, Vyacheslav Kuritsyn, Sergei Samsonov, Alexei Evdokimov, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, Maxim Maximov, Irina Denezhkina, Dmitry Kosyrev, Andrei Khusnutdinov, and Sergei Kuznetsov.

Yeah, extreme Russian menace! Rock and roll! I am all about the Extreme Russian Menace, you know. I have to give Keith his props. I think he must have been correct when remarked that “those that do get published probably either fit the publisher’s preconception of what Russia is/should be or what english speakers should like.” Soviet childhoods, extreme Russian menaces, Pelevin.

And we simply cannot ignore the following editor’s note:

The stories printed were all written in the past five years. The developments in Russia’s political sphere during this time and under Vladimir Putin’s rule—total consolidation of power in the Kremlin’s hands, airtight censorship in the electronic media, the wholesale institutionalization of corruption, the all-out ascendance of former KGB personnel (especially the Leningrad KGB) to prominent posts throughout the government, the near silencing of political opposition, even the restoration of the Soviet National Anthem—have in many ways turned back the hands of Russia’s sociopolitical clock. However, Russia has also experienced its share of undeniable successes: the strengthening of its currency; the steadily rising living standards of its citizens and the emergence of a bona fide middle class; its resurgence on the international stage as a global power, etc. It is during this complicated and conflicted moment in Russian history that this new generation of Russian writers wrote the stories presented in this anthology.

Although the Soviet Union did not technically cease to exist until 1991, its disintegration was a fait accompli even before the Berlin Wall fell two years earlier. These writers don’t remember Soviet life all too well, but its genetic code is stored in some dormant memory cell in their brains that is activated when the curve of modern-day Russia hews too closely to the former Soviet matrix of societal atmosphere. They recognize the air they’ve never breathed before, and they come alive within this condition of borderline nonfreedom. They’re free people, but they’re also Russian writers, and Russian writers need a measure of nonfreedom to feel free, to realize their relevance. […]

At this moment in history, as Russia submerges into crisis, calling into question yet another economic and political model of its development, the work in this anthology reminds us that Russia’s greatest commodity—and its greatest contribution to the world—has not been oil and gas and armaments. Rather, it’s been the successive generations of Russian writers capable of examining life’s emotional and intellectual restlessness, its complexity and intensity.

Oof, submerges into crisis even… This is from the otherwise rather brilliant anthology, Rasskazy: New Fiction from a New Russia from Tin House Books in the US. I dare say that when I asked for a Hemon-esque, everything but the kitchen sink anthology of post-1991 Russian literature in English translation, this is precisely what I’d had in mind! Right down to the, err, blurb by Hemon on the front cover. Francine Prose’s introduction said everything I had in my previous diary. “We’re reading the Russians,” she writes. Meaning, we’re reading dead 19th century Russians. Because who even knows if there is a 21st century Russian literature, or literatures? We don’t have a clue, and it is not our fault. They’re simply not published here. But we’ve always relied on literature to understand the Russians, largely because they’ve always relied on it to express themselves. Anyway, it’s simply abhorrent that we don’t have a flipping clue. So here you are: a sensibly sized anthology of the best post-Soviet Russian fiction out there. Or something.

I’m beside myself. It’s exactly what I have been searching for, all crisis mongering editors aside. I’m about a third of the way through it, and it is wonderful. Not as loquacious as their 19th century predecessors, but every bit as passionate, neurotic, sensitive, earnest, alienated, and sympathetically impractical. I’ve really enjoyed Linor Goralik, Oleg Zobern especially.

Wishes granted.

Now I just have to find a way to get them all home.

In this post:
~ Rasskazy: New Fiction from a New Russia.
~ Life Stories: Original Fiction by Russian Authors.
~ Moscow Noir.
~ Glas: New Russian Writing.

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