Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Odds & Ends: Slippery Slope to Utopia Edition

by poemless Fri May 1st, 2009 at 06:52:37 PM EST

See?  Utopia, it's kind of scary:

Contents:  I don't know.  Whatever I manage to cough up to fix this writer's block...  << Hack! >>

It's been a while.  A long, uneventful, outrageless while.  Oh, maybe not so uneventful for those of you who occupy the economist-financier class.  It's probably quite exhilarating for you, having your faces on Wanted! posters all over the world and philosophers questioning the necessity of your very existence.  It is still all about you...  And of course you doom-p0rn crisis-monger types are still having a grand olde time.  I mean, just when the global economic meltdown together with the climate crisis were on the verge of blowing your mind, a pig flu pandemic shows up at your door and rings the bell!  You probably thought these things happened only in magazines or on pay tv.  Here's another fear to add to your list: chafing.  But go ahead and enjoy it while it lasts.  Because I am here to tell you that it won't last.  One day, you will wake up to find the ideas for which you have been arguing so passionately being passed off as conventional wisdom by the punditocracy, not even meriting further discussion.  You will observe (in surprise, because they don't make any official announcements about such things) your well-oiled Keynesian economy creating jobs and prosperity and sealing up the gaps, your already renewed several times now energy sources being renewed again already, and right in your backyard, your plate of delicious bacon made from pigs taught to cover their snouts when they sneeze and wash their hooves frequently, and you will - secretly, without ever EVER confessing to this thought crime - wish people would go back to acting like ignorant sociopaths.  Because Utopia is only inspiring so long as it remains out of reach.  You fight, fight, fight and finally get what you want, and suddenly you are the object in Newton's first law of motion.  This is why the French vacillate between doing nothing and re-enacting protests out of tradition.  These are your choices in Utopian conditions.  

I told Andy at Siberian Light - I see other blogs.  I am a libertine. - that I haven't been writing Russia round-ups because I have bookmarked so many stories that I no longer know where to begin.  I keep adding links, but not writing anything, so I get overwhelmed by the sheer extent of the largely trivial material I have collected.  He suggested I delete my bookmarks, start over.  So I did.  Delete them.  Now, I have nothing to write about!  Brilliant, Andy!  Maybe next I will have my fingers amputated, because sometimes I just find it too physically tedious to write.  As Crazy Horse noted, I'll still have my brilliant writer's mind!  I'll need to score one of those EEG machines that allow you to post to Twitter using the magic of telepathy.  Except, I can't really think in 140 characters or less.  Not that I discourage those who do.  Twitter thinking may very well save us from the horrors of Utopia, primary among them being: writer's block.  Gah!

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Odds & Ends: ET as Dostoyevsky Novel Edition

by poemless Thu Feb 26th, 2009 at 06:22:54 PM EST

Contents: Meta Meta, Metaphor, Meditation, Mediation, and Something of literary quality.

I've been asked to write a diary in which I put forth (again) the theory that European Tribune bears an uncanny resemblence to a Dostoyevsky novel.  I don't really want to do this, since I'd just be repeating myself.  And I know for a fact a significant number of you have not even read Dostoyevsky and will have no idea what I'm talking about, and, well, like Colman said, I'm not your freaking teacher people!  

On the other hand, I do savor your praise.  And while I've never been the "team player" type, I suppose I can make an attempt to try to maybe be accommodating to our FPers in the name of truth and reconciliation.  After all, one can't go on fighting forever.  Eventually you have to have hot make-up sex.  Or kill someone.  Which, if my theory holds any water, is more likely to occur here.  Hm.  When I am done, someone should calculate the number of hot sex scenes v. the number of murders in Dostoyevsky's novels, and then posit that it says something awful about Christianity.  Ha!

But first, I present to you :

ET as Dostoyevski Novel, or ,"As usual, art from the keyboard":

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OMG Bush is GONE!!!

by poemless Tue Jan 20th, 2009 at 01:33:52 PM EST

I.  Can't.  Believe. It.

Promoted by Migeru

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Odds & Ends: From Chicago, With Love Edition

by poemless Tue Nov 11th, 2008 at 03:03:24 PM EST

Contents: "Да, мы можем! Да, мы можем!", or A Putin of One's Own.

I was not prepared for this.  I was not prepared to win.  I was not prepared to make history.  I was not prepared for the tears.  So many tears.  Tears of joy.  Tears of relief.  Tears of exhaustion.  Tears of vindication.  Tears of freedom from the past 8 years of fear, helplessness, confusion, frustration, terror, disillusionment and shame.  I was not prepared for the immensity of the weight lifted, or the immensity of the weight which replaced it.  I was not prepared to drink with such abandon, to sleep so deeply, to smile at so many strangers.  I was not prepared to walk to the bookshelf, remove a tome of poems, read them, aloud, feel the full force of their words course through my veins, realize years had passed since poetry had that effect on me, many long years, and to appreciate the curious pervasiveness of tyranny.  I had not prepared for my name to become obsolete.  

I began writing satire, or writing at all, really, as a way of coping with the political situation of that day.  I wasn't prepared for the day that I would have nothing funny, nothing at all, really, to say.  The only laughs I've elicited in the past week have been from highly intoxicated people who were in a state of existential giddiness verging on outright lunacy.  My comment about Jewish men couldn't have been that witty.  

I've never even written much about my own political situation.  Talking about the Bush Administration for very long is kind of like talking about a slow painful death by parasite-born disease for very long.  Why would you?  Instead of acknowledging any association with my own government,  I found a foreign country on the opposite end of the earth, adopted it, despite having no legal, ethnic or historical claim to, and blogged about THAT.  Denial is not just a river in Egypt, and might explain why I was so very very unprepared for my post-November 4th reality.

Can someone tell me what to do when, having developed a brilliant coping skill which makes you internationally adored, whatever it was that you were trying to cope with is suddenly resolved?  Omg, this is why comedians have such a high suicide rate isn't it?  


Well, until I find a brilliant way to cope with the sudden irrelevance of my brilliant coping skills, I suppose I have no choice but to do what millions of American bloggers have done over the past week: write an impassioned argument for why the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States of America is, like, the most best thing to ever happen to America and the whole world ever.  I know.  I would normally flee from such pathetic group think and conformity in sheer disgust.  But these are exceptional times, so I make an exception.  Besides, I think they've just passed a new law here in Chicago requiring all residents to froth at the mouth with praise for our new President.  So, here goes my "Why Barack Obama Rocks My World!" diary.  Sigh...  I hope it isn't a total waste of time.  

After all, the amazing similarities between my new real life President and my old fantasy President deserve to be celebrated!


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Hell is: Democracy

by poemless Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 06:12:05 PM EST

A Special "Election 08" Edition of Odds & Ends

In which I take an inventory of various intolerably irritating goings on in the universe of American electoral politics circa October 30, 2008.

You:  "Oh, dear Lord in Heaven, even though you do not exist, could you invent yourself into existence and stop this diary?  I'm begging you.  I cannot possibly take one more diary about the Presidential Election in the United States!  I've read it all.  I've seen it all.  I've had gaping holes sered into my retinas from the orange rays emanating from my computer.  Make it stop!  ...  Besides, as a European, I have magical powers that allow me to see into the future and know that whatever the outcome of this election, America is going to continue to suck something fierce before it eventually collapses into a steaming mess on the floor of history, so why should I even care?"

Me:  "No reason."  

This is not a rant about voter fraud, media bias, uninformed citizenry, candidates who appear to have been snagged from the set of Deliverance or the absence of procedural mechanisms to prevent someone just snagged from the set of Deliverance from becoming the most powerful person on Earth and then screwing up everything on Earth.  That is the story line of Democracy! The Made for TV Movie.  You've already seen it.  It's a ratings hit, and I am looking to cash in on it by producing "The Making of Democracy!: the untold story."  Or, "Things that make me seriously question if the sublime is not an implicitly fascist concept."

(Before I start dishing the dirt, a caveat is in order: I am posting this on behalf of a person who shall remain unnamed, a minor demon in fact, not even an actual person.  I myself would never criticize the democratic process, especially in the days before The Most Import Election of Our LifetimesTM, especially while representing campaigns.  You may think you know the candidates and campaigns referred to in this diary, you may have preconceived ideas about the narrator of this post.  Whoever you think I am or represent, the only thing you should be perfectly certain of is that you are perfectly mistaken!)  

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Republicans invade Europe! Pt. 2

by poemless Thu Oct 16th, 2008 at 05:29:59 PM EST

Continued from Pt. 1


Time to say goodbye to Venice. I love being romantic as much as the next guy, but getting around this town can be a real pain in the ass. It is a maze. Rick Steve's is flat wrong, you can get lost in Venice. We did so on many occasions, but we weren't stressed to get any place except during our arrival. For our departure, I was determined not to repeat the same mistake. I got up early and had our hotel clerk draw us a map. I went over the route, twice and when we left our hotel to the water bus it was very simple. I speak for Jeanine, though, when we say Venice was our favorite city in Italy. Get here and get lost.

We arrived at the Marco Polo airport in the early afternoon and joined about 10,000 new friends crammed into an airport the size of a high school auditorium. We sat where we could and eventually flew to Lyon for the next phase of our journey, France. A little apprehension set in, a new country, a different language, a new culture. The airport was eye opening. The mens' toilets had no doors so Jeanine had the wonderful vision of me taking a leak. I knew the French were going to be different. We went to Europcar to pick up our vehicle and I really wished at this point I had studied French more than I did Italian. The clerk spoke no English and with people all around we had a difficult time communicating. It started to get a little testy but eventually we got our car and went to driving into Lyon.

At last I have found sensible drivers. The French are aggressive drivers, but follow the rules of the road (are you Italians listening??). Stop means stop. We arrive at the hotel, the Residence in downtown. After our room we walked the streets till we came to a local place (a brasserie) called Le Piccadilly. Wow real French cooking. Jeanine had shrimp cooked in anise and I had a veal dish. We walked in the evening cool breezes all around.

Our intentions today were to go into the country, but we are both exhausted from the constant moving from place to place. We take a walk around town. Lyon has a lovely downtown area that features many streets that have been turned into pedestrian centers. We walk and window shop. I want to get some talcum powder for my feet. We walked into a pharmacist shop and with my limited language skills and even using the guide book our clerk wasn't very helpful. I felt very frustrated and we left the store. We look at the wonderful bridges that cross the Rhone River and admire the architecture. We chose another pharmacist and had a delightful experience because she chose to be helpful and tried to understand what I wanted. There was a vegetarian street fair going on. We tried what best could be described as a tomato brownie. Pretty good.

We decided to go back to the hotel and take a nap. I spent only a few moments in the bed when I remembered I wanted to go to a laundromat. After a couple of weeks some of my stuff and a little of Jeanine's need a good scrubbing. There was a place nearby so I headed there with my book in hand and some euros.

The French idea of coin operated laundry makes some sense in that they avoid the coin box at each individual machine and go with an electronic box that actuates each individual machine from a central area. Met a pianist who plays in an orchestra. They were rehearsing 'West Side Story'.

I returned and we headed out to walk the neighborhood more. The area where we stayed the buildings from the 1800's and early 1900's. There are apartments above and clothing stores, wine shops, jewelers, antique dealers and small grocers and butchers.

About 8 we head for supper. A good rule of thumb, go where the locals go. Jeanine had steak and fries, while I indulged in mussels Provencal. They served them in a covered pot. You remove the lid and discard the shells into the lid. They gave me about 50. Great flavor and all protein. I was under the mistaken belief (thank you Tarantino) that ketchup was not to be found in France. So Jeanine was pretty bored with her meal. When she was nearly complete, the table next to us was served their meal with a bottle of Heinz ketchup. Egg on my face, again, we left the restaurant and walked back to the hotel. In the future, we will ask for ketchup.

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Republicans invade Europe! Pt. 1

by poemless Thu Oct 16th, 2008 at 05:19:41 PM EST

So, my parents recently went to Europe, for their honeymoon.  Well, they are not technically my parents.  It's complicated.  My parents divorced, my mother re-married, then died, and then my step-father re-married last year.  You don't care about all that, but for the sake of clarity, from this point forward, we will refer to my step-father and his lovely wife as "the 'rents," or, Paul and Jeanine.  

They've never been to Europe.  Though they do a lot of travelling in the US and once drove half-way across Canada.  They're Baby Boomers.  They are from the Midwest.  He is a die-hard Republican (more of the Neo-con variety than the unhinged Christian Right kind.)  She refuses to talk about politics, but I assume they share a common set of values.  They are both amazing people.  Both lost their previous spouses, the ashes of whom accompanied them to Europe and remain there.  Paul sent daily e-mails to us during the trip, but stopped sending photos after Rome, because they were crashing people's computers.  So I only have photos of Italy for you.  But they are lovely, like the 'rents.  The 'rents remind me a lot of Ted and his darling.  I mean, I don't know Ted.  But he strikes me as someone who truly knows how to enjoy life.  The 'rents are incredibly friendly and exuberant people.  I know it's popular to judge conservative, nationalistic people who live in fly-over country, but I don't think I've ever met people with the strength of character, sense of principles and passion for living that they have.  Still, they are quintessential Americans.  So here is their story, as told by Paul, about Europe, in which you will find many references to McDonalds, American movies, expensive cabs and good food.

When I first read these e-mails, I thought they were kind of complainy.  But I got a postcard from them informing me they would live there forever if they could.  They called from Dijon to tell me how much they love Venice.  They were positively impressed with Paris.  They can't wait to get back.

Bellow is Paul's journal of the trip, posted here with his permission.  Emphases are mine.  My commentary is in parentheses.  Enjoy!

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Dubravka Ugresic: Literature, Identity and Putin's kisses.

by poemless Fri Oct 3rd, 2008 at 06:49:38 PM EST

"The ideal place for me is the one in which it is most natural to live as a foreigner." - Italo Calvino.

(image c/o Walter White)  

From Wikipedia:

Dubravka Ugrešić (born 27 March 1949, Kutina) is a noted Yugoslavian/Croatian writer who lives in the Netherlands.

Ugrešić was born in 1949 in former Yugoslavia, now Croatia. She studied Comparative Literature and Russian Language and Literature at the University of Zagreb, pursuing parallel careers as a scholar of the humanities and as a writer.

Her best-known novel in former Yugoslavia was Štefica Cvek u raljama života (Steffie in the Jaws of Life), an ironic postmodernist novel freely playing with clichés and stereotypes of trivial literature and culture. The novel was an immediate success and made into a 1984 movie U raljama života directed by Rajko Grlić.

After the outbreak of the war in 1991 in former Yugoslavia Ugrešić took a firm anti-war and anti-nationalistic stand. She wrote critically about nationalism (both Croatian and Serbian), the stupidity and criminality of war (see her book The Culture of Lies), and soon became a target of nationalistically charged media. She was proclaimed a "traitor", a "public enemy" and a "witch".

She left Croatia in 1993 and continued to write living outside her country. Her writing has been described as accessible, intelligent, innovative and politically and emotionally charged.

Ugrešić lives in Amsterdam as a freelance writer. She occasionally teaches at American and European Universities and writes for some European newspapers and literary journals.

I could spend this whole diary writing about her life of exile as a person from the former Yugoslavia who lives in Amsterdam and treks about your continent like a one-woman show of European cosmopolitanism and literary tradition.  But a lot of people have done that.  "You can Google me," she said.

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Romanian Film: The Romanian New Wave.

by poemless Wed Oct 1st, 2008 at 01:52:33 PM EST

Two film reviews, followed by some self-indulgent intellectual posturing.

Reader:  Is this some kind of impromptu ET Film Series Installment?!  You didn't tell us to watch any films.  Aren't you supposed to be off pouting somewhere, anyway?  I am sick of your antics!  I am not even going to read this diary!  I am going to deprive myself of valuable information, hours of enlightenment, and the sheer joy of your brilliant prose, out of spite.  You've angered me just that much.  Bloody drama queen.

Poemless:  Ok.  

Anyway...   where was I?  Oh, yes, contemporary Romanian cinema, a discourse.  Or, "in which I review a couple of films I've recently seen."  Because who else cares about Romania, but you guys?  Ya know?  Most people could probably not locate Romania on a map.  I probably cannot, and I just looked it up a few minutes ago.  Here is what I do know about Romania:  Dracula.  Nosferatu.  Vlad the Impaler.  (No, the other Vlad.)  "Yes" is "Da" in Romanian too.  In college, my friend, who was studying Italian, had a Romanian roommate from Naperville.  The Romanian girl understood Italian, but not Russian, so I always thought Romania was more Mediterranean than Slavic.  The Parliament building in Bucuresti is very very very big.  Humongous like.  Gymnastics, they used to be very good at them.  Romania was, I think, the only Communist country whose regime ended in a "bloody revolution." Ironically, they killed their leaders like the Bolsheviks killed the Romanovs.  Soj is not Romanian.  Sadly, these dudes are.

Mostly, my knowledge of Romania is negligible, but just enough to scare the bejezus out of me.  I wish I could say the following movies changed that.  Well, perhaps I know a bit more about Romania.  But I'm still a little afraid of it.  I don't fully understand why I'm not more interested in Romania.  Mostly I'm drawn to humanity's dark underbelly.  And vampires.  And brilliant filmmaking.  Hm.

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Odds & Ends: 99 Luftballons Edition

by poemless Tue Aug 19th, 2008 at 06:51:28 PM EST

Contents:  Neither constructive analysis nor gratuitous Putin photos.  I don't know how to constructively analyze a situation in which multiple insane parties are trying to win an argument and the one sane party in the thick of it is trying to decide if they should take advantage of the fact that everyone else is insane, or resent the fact that they even have to deal with the loonies.  Also, I suspect sentiments like, "Jesus Vova, that is crazy hot how you just went and got your war on.  So manly and in charge like...," would be interpreted as insensitive.  The is just an attempt to purge ridiculous thoughts from my mind.  They call it a diary, don't they?

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I Don't Care Why. Reprise

by poemless Sat Aug 9th, 2008 at 12:46:29 PM EST

N.B.  I originally wrote this dairy over two years ago, during the war between Israel and Lebanon.  As was the case then, it is true that I have my sympathies, that I have my views and opinions about who holds responsibility for what.  I've expressed them elsewhere.  This diary is not about that.  This diary is not about who is right and who is wrong.  It is not about who is to blame.  It is about the visceral disgust I have in response to all war.  It's about the innocent victims of other people's decisions.  A civilian is not more or less dead depending upon the nationality of the bomb that hits them, depending upon the "rightness" or "wrongness" of the army that takes their life.

Also, because this diary was inspired by the I/P conflict, not everything in it is applicable to the current situation in South Ossetia, my inspiration for re-posting it.  However, enough of it is.  Especially Devon Street and West Rogers Park, which was where most of the Russian, Ukrainian and other immigrants from the Soviet Union I tutored during the 90's lived.  Together.  In peace.

I. Don't. Care.

It's true.  Maybe it is outrage fatigue.  But I don't think so.  I read a nice diary on kos with all the historical maps.  I didn't care.  Maybe war just drains me.  But I don't think so.  I still have the energy to go to protests and vigils and write my reps.  It might be that it's so far away from my reality.  But I don't think so.  I mean, I'm just a little obsessed with what goes on in Russia.  

I don't care who is right and who is wrong because there is nothing in the world to justify what has happened this week.

There is a neighborhood in Chicago called Rogers Park.  Walk down streets like Devon Avenue and you won't hear any English spoken.  You will hear Russian, Urdu, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic...  You'll see mosques and temples and churches.  It is the most vibrant neighborhood in the city, and Jews live next door to Palestinians who live across the street from Pakistanis whose children play with Hindus.  These are not well-off, highly educated, totally assimilated people.  They are mostly just off the proverbial boat.  But they seem to realize they are all in it together.  People from all over come to study this neighborhood because it defies all the laws of the universe.  People.  Getting along.  


We've all been wronged.

We've all had loved ones ripped from our lives.  

We'd all like to live wherever we want to.

We all want to live without worrying about being bombed.  

We all have a loved one who has endured genocide, racism or oppression.

We all believe we are right.

Those of us who believe that our being right gives us permission to sacrifice another person's child are evil.  

End of story.  Don't care where you live, where you worship, what happened to your people a 100 years ago.  Don't care.  I don't have any interest in your grievances.  

We all have choices in life.  We can educate, or promote ignorance.  Reach out, or build walls.  Live together or annihilate.  Accept humility or prove our might.  Be decent or be ugly.  

~Anyone who tells you they have no choice but to drop a bomb is lying to you.  

~Anyone who tells you god wants them to have your home is lying to you.  

~Anyone who tells you they are incapable of living with someone of a certain race or religion is lying to you.

~Anyone who tells you that the only path to peace is war is lying to you.  

I'm rather sick of watching people die because of these lies.  Darfur, Chechnya, Iraq, Palestine, etc, etc...  I don't know what to do about it.  But the first thing I am going to do is stop being afraid to call out the liars.  Label me an anti-Semite, anti-Muslim, anti-Russian, anti-American.  I Don't Care.  Then I'm going to raise my standards.  If the Jews, Muslims, Christians and Hindus down the freaking street can live in peace, the rest of the world has no fucking excuse.  None.  

That's why I don't care who did what first or who was where why.  Because these have become discussions that serve only one purpose, to undermine peace and strip us of our shared humanity.  The world is on fire because it is easier to live in the past than build a future.  Because it is easier to find our differences than our commonalities.  Because it is easier to appear civilized by forcing other people to live like animals than by cultivating our own minds and souls.  Because it is easier to kill someone than negotiate.

Tell me what you are doing to build a better future, to celebrate our shared humanity, to cultivate your higher sensitivities, to challenge your current way of seeing the world, and I will happily listen.  But why is there war?  I Don't Care.  There is no reason valid enough for me to waste my time listening to it.  

Maybe I'll wake up tomorrow and feel differently.  But that's not the point.

The point is that there are children who won't wake up tomorrow, or ever again.

2006, 2008

Comments >> (21 comments)

Odds & Ends: Manta Ray of Political Analysis Edition

by poemless Fri Jul 25th, 2008 at 06:46:34 PM EST

Contents: Summer camp for sycophants; Hot, married presidential love; Emo kids learn real meaning of irony; Hits of the 80's: Dolph Lundgren & U.S. foreign policy edition!; Russian bears torment, eat scientists ... and much much more!

I'm feeling terribly unmotivated to write this.  I'm a bit bored with all of the negative vibe merchantry and name calling lately.  Maybe it is the dog days of summer, but I feel overcome with remarkable self-pity.  I slave away at the computer writing these diaries, not for money (heh-I wish), not for fame (lie), not for glory (another lie), but for you, dear readers.  In the hopes that I can put a smile on your dour, humourless European faces, in hopes that you'll absorb the information I provide in this forum like some kind of Euro-sponge, and that armed with said information, you will no longer be crushed under the weight of your own ignorance, nor I mine.  In short, I am trying to save you, save us, from ourselves.  

And how am I repaid for this, frankly, Nobel-prize worthy behavoir?  Name calling.  

Re: President Sarkozy puts his foot in it (none / 0)
nah - we need to have some bottom feeders on ET as well to provide some colour and controversy.  We can't have everything discussed in grey bureaucratic or academic modulation.  Just look at Poemless trying to stir things up above!
"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot dotty communists) on Mon Jul 21st, 2008 at 03:03:56 PM EST
[ Parent | Reply to This |  none0-Mega Troll1-Troll2-Warning!3-Good4-Excellent ]  
Re: President Sarkozy puts his foot in it (4.00 / 2)
Are you calling me a "bottom feeder"?!  
"This is nothing compared to how Putin rigged Eurovision."
by poemless on Mon Jul 21st, 2008 at 03:07:30 PM EST
[ Parent | Reply to This ]
Re: President Sarkozy puts his foot in it (4.00 / 2)
You are the Manta ray of modern political analysis...
"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot dotty communists) on Mon Jul 21st, 2008 at 03:12:22 PM EST
[ Parent | Reply to This |  none0-Mega Troll1-Troll2-Warning!3-Good4-Excellent ]
Re: President Sarkozy puts his foot in it (4.00 / 2)
The Manta ray of modern political analysis.
Mantas are filter feeders: they feed on plankton, fish larvae and the like, passively filtered from the water passing through their gills as they swim. The small prey organisms are caught on flat horizontal plates of russet-coloured spongy tissue, that span the spaces between the manta's gill bars.
Mantas frequent reef-side cleaning stations where small fish such as wrasses and angelfish swim inside the manta's gills and all over its skin to feed, in the process cleaning it of parasites and removing bits of dead skin.
The predators of the Manta ray include mainly large sharks, however in some circumstances orcas have also been observed preying on them.
Mantas are extremely curious around humans, and are fond of swimming with scuba divers. Although they may approach humans, if touched, their mucus membrane is removed, causing lesions and infections on their skin. They will often surface to investigate boats (without engines running). They have the largest brain-to-body ratio of the sharks and rays.[2]
Mantas are known to breach the water into the air.
Sounds about right, though technically not a "bottom feeder."  
Well, if I'm the Manta ray of modern political analysis, ET's my reef-side cleaning station, and you are my angelfish!  Lol.
"This is nothing compared to how Putin rigged Eurovision."
by poemless on Mon Jul 21st, 2008 at 03:42:26 PM EST
[ Parent | Reply to This ]
Re: President Sarkozy puts his foot in it (none / 1)
Manta ray - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Manta rays are believed by some to have evolved from bottom-feeding ancestry, but have adapted to become filter feeders in the open ocean.
In other words, you have evolved into a higher form of life and can be quite graceful, at times.
Thanks for the offer, but I'd prefer not to be your cleaner fish

Too late, my little fishies.  Thanks for the exfoliation, Frank.  I'm absolutely glowing!

And it doesn't end there.  Chris at Sean's Russia Blog has decided that I am a "hippie" and has made it his mission in life to torment me, since, like MillMan, he hates hippies.  To be honest, I don't really like hippies either, now that I've given it some thought.  Or rather, I don't like their scene.  But my mother was a hippie, and I think insulting someone's mother is totally over the line.  Especially when she's dead.  Heartless bullies.  

So, like the little child who excels at school and enjoys the prospect of learning new things, but who wishes to skip anyway because of the punks who hide in the bushes and beat him up on his way home, I don't want to bother writing this even though I suspect the payoff might be worth it in the long run.  And let's face it.  Not writing isn't really going to advance my career as the next Eduard Limonov, is it?  So here goes.  But know that I write this out of spite and with an ache in my heart, my angelfish.  

BTW, if you're wondering why I'm doing at SRB, why I'm seeing another blog behind ET's back, I'll tell you.  I lied about not wanting fame and fortune.  And here's what happened.  The eXile linked to Sean's Russia Blog in their "Banned in Russia!" cover story.  The story The eXile links to contains a link to me in the first line.  Years of lazy hustling on ET has never brought me so close to stardom.  You only have yourselves to blame.

Anyway.  Do you want me to tell you what those wacky Russians are up to this week?  C'mon, you need a break from crying into your glasses of Warsteiner, made warm and flat by Obama cooties.  

Come with me, my leeettle angelfishies...


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Odds & Ends: Selfish Psychotic Monster Edition

by poemless Fri Jul 11th, 2008 at 06:13:30 PM EST

Contents:  The dissertation I'd write if I could afford grad school; Just when you thought all the good Russian reporters had been offed...; Someone please renew Woland's visa before Moscow becomes the Slavic Colorado Springs; The War Nerd & "La Marseillaise" ... and much, much more!

Apparently I am a "Selfish Psychotic Monster" as a result of "too much sexual success, money, vodka, drugs and cynicism in too short a time" in Moscow.  I know, you are thinking, so what's new, poemless?  Mig recently pointed out that I might not think my sense of humour were very funny if it were turned on myself.  I assured him I would welcome accusations of belonging to a shadowy cabal.  (In fact, I'm looking to join one, if anyone is accepting new members.)  But I admit I was a bit miffed at the insinuation that I could ever possibly be a selfish psychotic monster.

I am trying to be a good sport, though.  Trying to stay positive and open-minded.  Well, I no longer have to stress about coming up with a Halloween costume.  I may be eligible for free mental health services.  I could probably find work in Hollywood.  I can growl and scream whenever I want, even in public.  I can say something like, "If you don't read this whole entire diary and leave a comment and recommend it, I'll eat your puppies alive in the night while you sleep!!  Rawr!!!"  

You're not afraid to come with be below the fold, are you?  ....

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Odds & Ends: Russia Politics LQD Edition.

by poemless Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 04:17:55 PM EST

Contents: A Lot of Like Serious News about Russian Politicians and Stuff, with Pictures of Hot Guys too.


You think I cannot write a Lazy Quote Diary?  

You think I am incapable of a quick copy and paste job, followed by a cigarette and lounging about in bed?  

Ok.  You are right.  But right after I post this I will stretch out and act lazy-like.  


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Sasha Hemon, or, Turning sad European Lemons into delicious American Lemonade!

by poemless Tue Jun 24th, 2008 at 06:28:20 PM EST

The greatest living European writer resides in ... Chicago.  No, you can't have him back.

(image © Velibor Bozovic)

Wikipedia : Aleksandar Hemon

Aleksandar Hemon (born 1964) is a Bosnian fiction writer living in the United States.  Hemon was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, then Yugoslavia, to a father of Ukrainian descent and Serbian mother. Hemon's great-grandfather, Teodor Hemon, came to Bosnia from Western Ukraine prior to World War I, when both countries were a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Hemon graduated from the University of Sarajevo with a degree in literature in 1990. After moving to Chicago in 1992 knowing little English, and finding himself unable to write in his native Bosnian, he resolved to learn English within five years.

In 1995, he began to write in English, and his work soon appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. In 2000 Hemon published his first book, The Question of Bruno, which included short stories and a novella. His first novel, Nowhere Man, followed in 2002. Nowhere Man concerns Jozef Pronek, a character who earlier appeared in one of the stories in The Question of Bruno.

As an accomplished fiction writer who learned English as an adult, Hemon has some similarities to Joseph Conrad, which he acknowledges through allusion in The Question of Bruno. All of his stories deal in some way with the Yugoslav wars, Bosnia, or Chicago, but they vary substantially in genre.

Hemon was awarded a "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation in 2004.

Hemon has a bi-weekly column called "Hemonwood" in the Sarajevo-based magazine, BH Dani (BH Days).

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Odds & Ends: More Odds than Ends Edition

by poemless Thu Jun 19th, 2008 at 06:19:34 PM EST

Contents:  Global War on Mediocrity; Kasparov attacked by flying pe... wait, I don't think I can post that above the fold, never mind; Pet Weddings; Singing Piranhas; The Sexies ... and much much more!

This is officially sucking.  

Term limits and democratic elections have robbed us of a highly entertaining Russian President.  Sexism and term limits have robbed us of a highly entertaining US election.  Capitalism and audits have robbed us of a highly entertaining and sexist newspaper.  It's so ironic, Alanis.  We live in a period when freedom of speech is more widely enjoyed than perhaps at any previous point in human history, and yet no one will say anything remarkably intelligent or witty for fear of being labelled something.  Like in Junior High.  Mass culture has become one endless bore-a-thon.  Never before have humans had the ability to communicate provocative and insightful ideas to such a vast audience, with so little interference.  And yet we are content to post commentary on our choice of breakfast cereal or pictures of our cats.  At no point in history have we possessed more scientific knowledge about the universe, but we are nevertheless certain that if we say something one shade more intense than beige the earth will spin right off its axis.  Which would be pretty interesting, if that were to actually happen.  Which is why we try so desperately to avoid it.

I'm inventing a new philosophical theory.  It goes like this:  There exists a threshold at which the mediocre becomes too mediocre to warrant or inspire satire.  The increasing absence of satire limits the opportunity for self-reflection.  The increasing absence of self-reflection leaves the prevailing mediocrity unchecked.  Mediocrity, unchecked, persists and grows like a cancer.  The end result for the human race, were it to get caught in this social trap, could be something like what happened to the dinosaurs.  Only much much less interesting.  

I am declaring a GWOMB:  Global War on Mediocrity/Boringness.  You can join my coalition of the willing.  You don't have to kill people who don't look like you or lie to the public.  You just have to say something brilliant.  You can do that.

Jesus.  I hate-love it when this happens.   Remember when I was talking about the eerie, satisfying, deflating experience of learning that your own thoughts were previously thought by someone else (the ancient Greeks, Marx, Sartre, ...Matt Taibbi)?  It's happened again.

The general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind.   ~John Stuart Mill.

Either I am as brilliant as John Stuart Mill, or I retained more from that Ethics 101 class than my professor was able to appreciate at the time.  Omg, I'm mediocre in my own anti-mediocritism!  Oh well.  You can still join my war.  Which will begin at the time of my choosing.  But not before I post the following practice in unabashed mediocrity.

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Odds & Ends: Exile in Exile Edition.

by poemless Thu Jun 12th, 2008 at 01:53:39 PM EST

Contents: Drama!!!

This is dedicated to the one я люблю...

Self-indulgent Backstory

Anyone who has read almost anything I've ever written here, especially those diaries that are no longer with us (may they rest in peace), will know that I rely on The eXile for a significant portion of my content.  Without The eXile, one wonders if the Odds & Ends would ever have existed at all.  And not simply because of my copious reproduction of their feature stories.  At a vulnerable time in my life I began reading the eXile, and it has shaped my entire philosophy of writing, which is ... give me a minute ... uhm ... that the only requirements of good writing are that one be smart and have some sense of humour about one's self.  Or ... maybe it is that it is effective to use humour when tackling serious subjects.  Or maybe that tackling a serious subject now and then should get you off the hook for flying in the face of all that is decent and dignified the rest of the time. ... Or maybe it is this: just write whatever insanity you want.  It's a free country.  Someone will read it.  

The eXile showed up on the scene after I came back from Moscow.  I'd been in America a few months and reeling from culture shock and homesickness.  I was living in a town of 2000 people.  No one I knew there had been to Russia, let alone through the chaos that was 1990's Moscow.  It was like coming back from Nam, without the parade.  Then my mother (may she rest in peace), who ran a computer lab for disabled students at the local university and was therefore several years ahead of the technology curve than I (who did not "believe in" the Internet - true) came home one day with this stack of printouts.  She'd been worried about my transition back to civil society, and found this site where they were talking about all of the lawlessness and hedonism I'd been trying to make some sense of myself.  These were Americans living in Moscow and writing about it.  My mom read Playboy for the articles back in the day, right, so she became a fan of The eXile even before I learned of its existence.  

The eXile is notorious for its misogyny and lewd frat-boy humour.  I voted for Hillary Clinton, despite disagreeing with her on a number of issues, because she was a woman.  My inner feminist kicked my inner everything else's ass.  I'm one of those people Kos refers to as "the womens' studies set."  In fact, I not only took some womens' studies classes, I excelled in them to the point that my TA was trying to bribe me to take over her job.  And yet, here I was, looking forward to each new disgustingly misogynistic issue of The eXile like it was a cracker and I had not eaten in two weeks.  Why?  Because it was a validation that I had not just hallucinated the previous year.  Seriously, every MSM news item on Russia was all about how totally super and just like us everything was there.  These journalists were either lying outright, or there were two countries called Russia.  This was about a year before the economy TANKED.  The eXile was ostensibly the first to "break" that story, but like the current situation in the US, anyone who'd been living there recently knew it was only a matter of time...  Also, reading The eXile assured me that even if Russia had permanently messed up my head, I wasn't alone.  These guys were certifiably insane.  Mad.  Maybe even evil...  Certainly brilliant.  And you know how I dig the crazy/evil/brilliant combo.  Hot.  Plus, they were good writers, impressive journalists when the mood caught them, and unbelievably funny.  Like, make you writhe and shed tears irreverent.  And you know how I like irreverent.  Hot.

Worth noting, perhaps, is a curious, if not petty, animosity between 2 classes of expats in Russia at that time, and perhaps even to this day.  I sense it in the fora I invite myself into.  There were the establishment types, usually conservative, people seriously concerned about resumes and reputable professional employment.  People who worked at the embassy or Moscow Times.  They had a Very Good Reason to be in Russia, took appropriate interest in historical matters, and went to the Bolshoi.  Then there were people who probably should never have been let in to the country to begin with, who had some vague reason for being there amounting to a general disdain for America and an obsession with Russian lit.  Who, in addition taking appropriate interest in historical matters and the Bolshoi, also partied like the world just might end tomorrow.  In a city where vodka cost less than water, gangsters were mowing down people in public and a recent bombing of the US embassy was material for jokes, this did not seem like a far-flung possibility.  We were just riding the wave.  No one knew what the laws were from one day to the next, so why fret over doing things you were pretty confident were not legal in most civil societies.  You were just as likely to be arrested just for standing at the bus stop and looking foreign as you were to be for partaking of actual crimes.  Anyway, when was the next time you were ever going to be able to get high with a famous Georgian artist?  To such people, Mark Ames and Matt Taibbi were simply more genuine characters than those people who always smelled way too clean to be part of the "real" Russia.  

So, all this brings me to something I've been cursing about in the Open Threads.  Something I think deserves a diary.  Particularly since the only interesting thing Putin has done recently is being mistaken for the President of Germany by quite possibly the next leader of the free world.  So I'm short on material.  Which makes the possible termination of The eXile even more dire!  

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Contemporary/New Russian Cinema (1991-)

by poemless Wed Jun 4th, 2008 at 02:21:37 PM EST

Previous posts:
May Film Blog: Introduction
May Film Blog: FAQ

I began this little survey of recent Russian film knowing next to nothing about the subject.  Which is kind of embarrassing, since I spent all my undergraduate tuition money on the study of film (specifically film theory and nationalism) and Slavic studies (specifically Russian).  I thought I'd use this ET Film Blog series to do some serious repenting.  Also, it dovetails nicely with my ongoing propaganda campaign to convert you all into crazy Russophiles.  So my motives are entirely selfish.  Vanity and manipulation.  Fortunately for me, I've learned a lot and have rediscovered a passion of mine.  Unfortunately for you, I've learned that there is a lot left that I don't know, and have rediscovered a passion of mine.  I'm like a crack fiend.  I can't stop!  And I'm going to drag you down with me!

Before we get to the films themselves, I'd like to take a moment to share with you a few brilliant observations I've made.  To put things in context.  And I'm going to qualify everything I say from here on out with the possibility that I may be entirely wrong, but something I say is bound to be right, so you should pay attention anyway.  Ok, Context:

Promoted by Migeru

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Odds & Ends: All Russia Lovefest All The Time, Vol.37

by poemless Fri May 16th, 2008 at 02:11:54 PM EST

Contents: New Cold War, again ; Democracy and its discontents, again ; Putinomania, again ; Happy Soviets, again ... and much much more indulgent propaganda!

"The think tanks are coming!  The think tanks are coming!"

It's not a policy paper.  It's not an agenda.  It's not European.  It's not progressive.  It's not activism.  It's not multi-lingual.  It has neither bells nor whistles.

It's just some odds and some ends.  

But reading it will make you better informed.  I'm sure of that.  And if we can't make people better informed, then the rest means nothing, my friends.  Nothing, damn it!

Ok.  It's a bit multi-lingual...

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Russian Film Blog FAQ Bonanza

by poemless Sun May 11th, 2008 at 05:17:51 PM EST


The topic for next[editor's note, by Migeru] this month's ET film blog is

Contemporary Russian Film (1991-) : Everything But the Kitchen Sink.  

First, if you have not yet, please read the main introductory diary here.  Basically, you just see a movie and come back here and talk about it in a few weeks.

Now, I would like to take the time to answer some Frequently Asked Questions.

Promoted by Migeru

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