letter from moscow

The next afternoon [after the raid on Garry Kasparov’s office], Sunday, brought glorious weather, and thousands of people took advantage of it to do some shopping. Many of them ended up in Red Square. Workmen had placed a giant skating rink between Lenin’s Tomb and Christian Dior’s new flagship store at GUM. Hundreds of young parents stood in line holding their children’s hands as they waited to skate. They seemed happy. The gray, thousand-yard stare so representative of Soviet life was gone, replaced with, of all things, a smile. It was not difficult to see why so many Russians—more than seventy per cent, in most polls—seem to support the President. Since Alexander Litvinenko’s death, there has been much public discussion of what Putin will do next year, when his term concludes. He has promised to step down, but he has also said that he intends to “retain influence,” and people have speculated on the many ways he could do that: as Prime Minister, for example, or as chairman of Gazprom. Nobody knows, perhaps not even Putin. Russia today, and not for the first time, has wagered its well-being on the price of oil, and, as long as salaries continue to rise, people seem untroubled by the future and unwilling to dwell on even the most compelling warnings from the past. Oil prices have crashed before. In recent months, they have fallen more than twenty per cent. At some point, if the fall continues, it may no longer be possible to ignore Russia’s dead Cassandra.
    “I have wondered a great deal about why I am so intolerant of Putin,” Politkovskaya wrote. “Quite simply, I am a forty-five-year-old Muscovite who observed the Soviet Union at its most disgraceful in the nineteen-seventies and eighties. … Putin has, by chance, gotten his hands on enormous power and has used it to catastrophic effect. I dislike him because he does not like people. He despises us. He sees us as a means to his ends, a means for the achievement and retention of personal power, no more than that. Accordingly, he believes he can do anything he likes with us, play with us as he sees fit, destroy us as he sees fit. We are nobody, while he whom chance has enabled to clamber to the top of the pile is today Tsar and God. In Russia we have had leaders with this outlook before. It led to tragedy, to bloodshed on a vast scale, to civil wars.” For her part, she said, “I want no more of that.”
— Michael Specter, Kremlin, Inc., The New Yorker, Issue of 2007-01-29

in memoriam joseph brodsky

Памяти отца: Австралия In Memory of My Father: Australia
Ты ожил, снилось мне и уехал
В Австралию. Голос с трехкратным эхом
Окликал и жаловался на климат
И обои: квартиру никак не снимут,
Жалко, не в центре, а около океана,
Третий этаж без лифта, зато есть ванна,
Пухнут ноги. “А тапочки я оставил”,―
Прозвучавшее внятно и деловито.
И внезапно в трубке завыло “Аделаида! Аделаида”,
Загремело, захлопало, точно ставень
Бился о стенку, готовый сорваться с петель.

Все-таки это лучше, чем мягкий пепел
крематория в банке, её залога―
эти обрывки голоса, монолога
и попытки прикинуться нелюдимом

в первый раз с той поры, как ты обернулся дымом.

You arose―I dreamt so last night―and left for
Australia. The voice, with a triple echo,
ebbed and flowed, complaining about climate,
grime, that the deal with the flat is stymied,
pity it’s not downtown, though near the ocean,
no elevator but the bathtub’s indeed an option,
ankles keep swelling. “Looks like I’ve lost my slippers”
came through rapt yet clear via satellite.
And at once the receiver burst into howling “Adelaide! Adelaide!”
into rattling and crackling, as if a shutter,
ripped off its hinges, were pounding the wall with inhuman power.

Still, better this than the silky powder
canned by the crematorium, than the voucher―
better these snatches of voice, this patchwork
monologue of a recluse trying to play a genie

for the first time since you formed a cloud above a chimney.

Voice’s residues, cracked disquisitions,
Burnt collateral stowed in a vessel:
Faint redemption in decompositions,
Just this tug since you went evanescent.

―Иосиф Александрович Бродский, Континент, 61 (1989г) ―translated by the author, in The New Yorker, 5 March 1990 ―traduced by MZ

Crossposted to [info]larvatus and [info]about_poetry.

fresh supplies of sexy beasts

A British zoo announced yesterday that virgin birth of five Komodo dragons does not add up to a quintuplet reptile messiah.

A baby Komodo dragon is held by a keeper after hatching at Chester Zoo in Chester, northern England, January 22, 2007. Flora, a Komodo dragon who has never mated or even mixed with a male, became a mother and father of five this week, British scientists said on Wednesday.
REUTERS/Phil Noble

In unrelated news, science sheepishly pledges to empower identification of embryonic homosexuals, instilling fears that prospective parents hopeful of grandparenthood might abort foeti who are identified as such. Continue reading fresh supplies of sexy beasts

taking stock of a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma

The reality is that Russia’s rank in the world has been irreversibly transformed. It was a great power continuously for three centuries: longer – this is often forgotten – than any single country in the West. In square miles, it is still the largest state on earth. But it no longer has a major industrial base. Its economy has revived as an export platform for raw materials, with all the risks of over-reliance on volatile world prices familiar in First and Third World countries alike – over-valuation, inflation, import addiction, sudden implosion. Although it still possesses the only nuclear stockpile anywhere near the American arsenal, its defence industry and armed services are a shadow of the Soviet past. In territory, it has shrunk behind its borders at the end of the 17th century. Its population is smaller than that of Bangladesh. Its gross national income is less than that of Mexico.
Perry Anderson, Russia’s Managed Democracy, LRB, Vol. 29 No. 2 dated 25 January 2007

what was hawaii doing in the pacific?

Reproduced from Zero Mostel’s FBI file:

Stage Door Canteen, Thursday, 13 August 1942



My impression of a peculiar sapiensis Americanis, (the Isolationist Senator), who digs at our great President, is a holder of an X card, cannot get along on the starvation wages of $25,000 a year — the honorable Senator Phineas T. Pellegra, who never gets excited, who is always very calm and cool as he speaks about the democracy in which he doesn’t believe — in.

My fellow Americans, I take off my hat in America to no one — but in this great land of opportunity, in this great land of democracy, in the midst of plenty, where we have these various sacred principles that our fathers have fought for in the past, present and future, then I must reiterate that all our strength, that all our power, these same principles which we know to be true on the one hand — and on the other hand.

I may be vague, but permit me to be serious and bituminous at this moment, to illustrate this story with an incident that was related to me by the president of U.S. Congeal, a struggling monopoly.

He said to me, “Pellegra (he calls me by my first disease), you take your attitude away from your platitude — what have you got — FIDUCIARY?” — and this shows, my fellow Americans, that we cannot pursue a policy… that we cannot pursue a policy… that we cannot pursue a policy of… (DOUBLE TALK) …..FORGET IT!

I say to you, AMERICA FIRST!!!

(And what is the trouble with our war effort? I will tell you. The trouble with our war effort is that we have too many allies… twenty-six… we are too crowded! It is not restricted enough! Why, my golf club has more rules for admission than this war. Before we know it, it will be an unequal battle… the Axis will be outnumbered. Is that fair? Is that the American way?)

One final word. You know, I come from a state where there are no conditions, and if I were to tell the most serious and grievous problem facing the American people about this so-called Japanese attack on Hawaii, I have this to offer to you, my fellow Americans…… From one corner of our great land, in Rhode Island, to the other corner in California….. DOUBLE TALK….. DOUBLE TALK….. DOUBLE TALK….. This one question….. WHAT WAS HAWAII DOING IN THE PACIFIC?

Agent’s Note

It is believed the above excerpts taken from the broadcast of Stage Door Canteen on 13 August 1942 by the Columbia Broadcast System resulted in Sokolsky‘s criticism of the Subject in his column. Attention is directed to the fact that the script was not presented in its original form. The program director made deletions of certain passages in the script, which he apparently felt were in bad taste. These are shown in the script in brackets.