Couchsurfing in Russia by Stephan Orth – a review that AMAZON censored

Image courtesy of Bill Kerr via Flickr

Image courtesy of Bill Kerr via Flickr

Yes, this what happens nowadays. And by the way, not in “Putin’s Russia”. You pay for a book on Amazon, read it, write a positive 5 stars review and want to share your opinion with other people – and with the author. And you get this:

no-reply@amazon.com  “Thank you for submitting a customer review on Amazon. After carefully reviewing your submission, your review could not be posted to the website. While we appreciate your time and comments, reviews must adhere to the following guidelines: http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines

I am sure Amazon reviewed the text “very carefully” (that is, of course,assuming their reviewers do not belong to “the 50 percent of U.S. adults [who] can’t read a book written at an eighth-grade level  and thus forced to rely entirely on Artificial Intelligence as a substitute for  non-existent own).

Keep this in mind when next time you read the Amazon reviews – at least try not to let the officially censored reviews influence your decision to buy

The book is here  and the review is below  – with slight corrections, exactly as it was submitted, plus the part which I deleted before  posting  (at the end)

============================================

Surfing is a surface water sport (wiki)
.. and when you move on the surface you don’t feel how deep the water is.

Let me tell you a (true) story. Few years ago, a woman at a car service station in Auckland told me she just came back from a tourist trip to Russia. “And how was it in Russia?” I asked. “Oh, it was absolutely wonderful. But the KGB agents – they were everywhere we went!” I was a bit puzzled: “And how did you know they were KGB agents?” “Oh, the tour guides pointed each one of them to us”. I told the lady that she was lucky to book a tour with such a responsible people – they provided everything their clients had paid for.

The following review of Stephen Orth’s book came out quite long, so if you are not inclined to read the review, I suggest that you skip it and just buy the book. Of course, any book “is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”, but this one is well worth the money. It is, generally, very well written and most likely you will enjoy it and laugh at the jokes as much as I did. But if, after you read it, you too conclude that Stephen Orth is not only a responsible, but also a very professional tour guide – don’t say you have not been warned.

It feels like there are two almost separate books under one cover.

The first one  opens with a description of an “arsehole of the world” located in what must be Tolkien’s Mordor, but turns out to be a famous diamond mine “Mir” in Russia. One immediately assumes that this is a summary of the author’s Russian travel experiences (“yes, there are some diamonds in Russia, but as everything else there, they come from an arsehole”). However, after reading the book and placing the part where it chronologically belongs, I suspect this was a misguided editor’s marketing choice. Or guided.  Perhaps, they wanted to bribe the readers with something the people were absolutely sure about Russia. Create a confirmation bias bondage. In fact, a far better summary for the book would be the chapter “Flirting for Pros” which describes the author’s interaction with the “most beautiful woman in all my travels” in Simferopol airport. There all the action happens entirely in the author’s head, without any attempt to check how his mental picture of the girl corresponds to the reality. The same is true about most of the characters and conversations in this part – the people appear to be 2D and not real. What they say is obviously only what the author wanted to hear. They probably, said more, but .. Indeed, when a Russian greets you with “I don’t drink alcohol, do not have bear meat in the freezer and do not possess balalaika” you should  know it is a gantlet thrown at you. A test. An invitation to a fight. Probably because you managed to look like a worthy opponent. And you chicken out. So, of course, nothing of interest would be said or will be happening after that. Only polite conversation and promptly disappearing disappointed hosts. You showed them that you are not what you claimed to be, you did not pass the test. By the way, it seems the same happened to the author again towards the end of the book . The “excessively talkative” Igor clearly invited Stephan to challenge his views, but Stephan chickened out ( if you  are unprepared (or, perhaps, forbidden by your editorial office 🙂  to seriously discuss certain topics – state exactly that – and you will gain far more respect  from everyone, including your readers, than answering “You can Google anything “).

Some of Stephan Orth’s sightseeing in this first part is … well, selective & superficial would be the words.  Eg. you won’t find a description of Crimean Bridge, Ai Petry or (open to the tourists) buried in the mountain submarine base while the author “surfs” Crimea. So you might be left bewildered eg. why Hitler wanted to connect apparently bleak and boring Crimea and Germany by an autobahn and why he thought it was a suitable place to “make it our Riviera”. Or why the USA and the “west” became so agitated when such boring peace of sea shore returned under Russian control.  Even the discussions “Whose is Crimea?” with the locals look like a reprint from a German “free press”.  That is – only the officially approved and thus “politically correct” stuff, which in this case means “don’t you dare to ever say anything good about Russia, even if it is the truth”. By the way, does Stephan Orth know the definition of “lying by omission”? I am sure that as a Der Spigel reporter he does.  Neither among his numerous – and usually quite interesting – historical forays does Stephan Orth ever mentions that the Russian Empress (not “czarina”!) Catherine the Great, whose rule is usually referred  to as The Golden Age of Russia, was a German. Nor is he interested in the very noticeable even today German cultural influence and contribution of the German engineers and scientists to the Russian technical & scientific development for several centuries in the past history. Perhaps, presently it would not be politically correct to mention this in the free German press. Just like the periodic problems with refugees. Perhaps, there are other reasons eg. [deleted].

The second part of the book starts approximately in St Petersburg (about midway through the book) – seems Stephen Orth suddenly starts to suspects that he is not quite in Mordor or that he would not feel like he is, if he permitted himself to notice not only the bad things around. And then the author travels to Siberia and the story becomes an absolute joy to read. Yes, there is still nothing good there in Russia (of course), except raspberries, but the former unwarranted superiority complex and sarcasm transform into incisive & sparkling humor & wit, his journey now reads like Transporter 3 movie scenario (you know, the one with a car and a red haired totally unhinged girl), he visits a remote settlement with a weird cult leader and his followers etc etc. Even dialogues and people in the book change. As well as the surrounding landscapes. They become life-like and now feel real. The mosquitoes which would have been a no-go for me at that time of the year, are, apparently, allergic to the German blood, since the author never complained about them. I really enjoyed the second half. And it is this half which got 5 stars rating to the entire book. Personally, I wish Stephen Orth would write fiction – I would have bought his books (assuming that what I read was not)

I found the author’s periodic forays into what clearly are attempts of targeted propaganda or sometimes, repeated mistaken conclusions to be less enjoyable. An example of the latter would be the apparent author’s belief in the influence of the state TV and media on the minds of the Russians. In fact the Russians are very sensitive to the slightest hints of propaganda attempts– much, much more than their counterparts anywhere in the “west”. Once they detect that the source has an agenda – it is politely, but immediately ignored. And an example of the former would the author’s repeated statements that Sputnik and RT lie all the time and have a single goal – to brainwash the “western” public and turn it away from the “democratic ideals”. Sure. Putin hacked my speedometer, officer. The truth is that the above agencies occasionally may print some not 100% verified news, but this happens not because of the Putin’s orders, but because of an occasional lack of professionalism. They did improve remarkably over the years, though ,and such events currently are no more frequent than in the German press where you could quite easily read about vicious KGB agents trying to poison innocent people with … mercury. It is not necessary to mention here what German press is **not writing about.

Other than that – it is a good book, very good style even in translation. If my German was good enough to read the original, I would read it again. But alas.

=====================  PLEASE, DO NOT READ  =================

THE DELETED PART. THIS WAS NOT SENT TO AMAZON, BUT, APPARENTLY  THEY SENSED IT WAS THERE 🙂

The book’s blurb promises “humor”. I found mostly sarcasms (def. “the use of irony to mock or convey contempt”). Although, no matter how unjustifiable or mistaken are such attitudes in Orth’s case, they can be excused since these came from someone whose nation for three generations was bent (by the USA) into a unbiblical pose and periodically forced to let the above mentioned curators to perform on them the officially disapproved by the Catholic church acts on international arena for everyone to see. So when they see the nation which does not conform to what they were taught (by the above mentioned masters) is a norm, they resort to denial and then contempt and sarcasm as a form of psychological protection.

So I have read about half of the book borrowed from the library when I deiced to buy one for myself – only because I wanted to feel a moral right to give the author the feedback he deserved. You see, not only did I live in Russia for the first 30 years of my life, but also I visited it in exactly the same 2016 twice. Like the author, I did move a lot and asked the people about their life there. But unlike the author, I listened and reacted as I knew what was under the surface on which his couch was surfing. Perhaps, my native Russian and actual past experience living (not just surfing) in the country helped. And unlike the author I can read the “western” media for what it is – I can compare it to my own experience and Russian-language media & internet.. So I did have something to say about the author’s poorly-justified superiority complex and about his “humor”.

But …by the time I finished the entire book my opinion about the author changed almost 180 gr.

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Merry Christmas! (a sermon by a non-believer – по просьбам трудящихся)

(this is an old post, written on Christmas Eve 2011. it might  be moved back to “private” area at any time)

The word “fractal” describes a pattern which is reproduced in every part of itself, no matter how small the part is.  Fractals are very common in nature – and, perhaps,  the social psychology is not an exception.

..It was 1961, the year my father was younger than I am now, and it was the year he had just started at his new job as a very Junior somebody at a State Architect Institute in some city somewhere in the Soviet Union. He was to do his part in the design of the inspiring new factory buildings of the post-Stalin era. And he had very, very junior position – as he should have. The problem was that he  also liked to understand how things worked in this world, and so, quite naturally, he liked physics. So he read a lot of what was at that time  “extracurricular” books on the subject. And one day, all the newspapers printed a short announcement that the Soviet scientists and engineers tested a new type of bomb – the most powerful bomb ever created. It was, of course, the famous Tsar Bomb. A hydrogen one. Since the folks at the design bureau felt they should have been abreast with the modern technological developments, a debate quickly ensued as to how the hydrogen bomb was different from the atomic. Due to the lack of the details in the newspaper briefs and the bureau staff being not burdened with the excessive knowledge of physics, the arguments could go on for ever, if the Chief Architect did not interfere. He stated that the difference was very simple- an atomic bomb burnt the things, while the hydrogen one froze them … And there, my father, who previously simply observed the discussion with amusement, saw his chance to get noticed. He said that actually, the hydrogen bomb also burnt things – but much more efficiently than the atomic. In fact, to ignite fusion reaction in the hydrogen bomb, one has to use an atomic bomb as a fuse… The auditorium reaction was laugh. Everyone in the room was laughing at a rookie who thought he knew better that the Chief Architect…

The next day my father came to work earlier than usual, copied a page from one of the physics books he had read, and put a copy on to every desk in the bureau. Including the desk of the Chief Architect.

A  week after that my father was not working there anymore.

Many, many years later I  remembered this story,  and since then I return to it  more and more often. And not so much because I know that it is possible to live happily for many years, almost continuously doing exactly what he did then at least once..  But probably, more because it was a story about the truth and about the price one has to pay for telling it. Perhaps, even more interestingly – why we still have the people who want to tell the truth?

A fractal part of another story known for at least 2,000 years. The story about a man who knew the truth. The story about what happened when he simply tried to tell others what he knew. He did not force them to live as he said was better – for them. He just told how, leaving the choice to the people. And the people had chosen… They chose to nail him to a  cross and to leave him die in a desert. It seems,   He, being who He was, must have known exactly what future he would have. Sure, His Father knew. And nevertheless, the fable tells us that He was born – to be killed by the people whom he wanted to benefit. Why? I can see no obvious answer to this question – why he was born.  Perhaps, in this fable we have a  description of the important natural law, discovered and understood already 2,000 years ago. The law which ensures that the truth is told.

So, what do we, people,  celebrate today? The truth about what humans are? How willing they are to look at how they actually live, what for – and what to expect from them if you tell them the truth?

But let’s assume that a story about Jesus, was a message sent to the future generations. Shall  we try to extract more information from it? Sure. We have an estimate of the total population of Palestine at the time of Jesus  – it was about 500,000. Now, 12 out of them were a selected group, who thought that it was important to know and understand the truth. In other words – about one in 41,666 people wanted to know the truth and  believed that other people should know it too. One of the Twelve – or only one out of 500,000 – was Judas. Considering, how all this had ended, you may say that effectively, it were  499,987 people , who either by their active participation or inaction, nailed Jesus to the cross.

Using these data, we now can evaluate an average statistical human. Namely such average individual, with probability of   0.0024% is Saint, 0.0002% – Judas – and with the probability of  99.9974% he or she will either silently approve or actively participate in nailing to the cross anyone who tells  the truth.

So  which percentage  group do you think You belong ? Don’t forget, that if you believe that you are one of the Chosen, then you are also one of only twelve and  the probability that you are the Judas is the highest.

Merry Christmas, дорогие товарищи!

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How I Defended the Russian Democracy

I wonder how many people out there manage to do only the things they had planned. I am, certainly, not one of them. At least I did not plan to spend Saturday afternoon in front of the Russian Consulate in Canberra, expressing my concern with the results of the recent Russian elections. Well, cherchez la femme … Not that I am totally indifferent to Russia or to what is happening there – least that I felt happy about the way the elections were conducted –  but more that I never believed that harassing  Russian embassy’s staff overseas is the right thing to do. After all, these people at the embassies and consulates have as much influence over their country’s internal or external politics as I do over the various pervert anti-smoking or anti-plastic-bag initiatives in ACT and Australia. With the important difference that I feel free to express my opinion about the Government(-s) I elect, while for these poor consulate folks expression of their opinion usually becomes  a virtuous deed.

For whatever reasons – on that day, instead of going to the coast as I planned, I went to defend the fragile Russian democracy. Or be with someone who thought they do.

And the experience was not unpleasant. The folks were few – a lot fewer than I saw at the Russian bazaar an hour earlier, where the posters with the information about the event were on at least some tables. The people were mostly young, some even spoke Russian, they were at least superficially friendly and I would say, we all had a good time. I liked them. I liked also the two police officers, whose presence made the ratio of the demonstrators to the law enforcement about four to one.

I asked everyone the same question “who organized the event?”  Not that I really cared, no. But I wanted to make sure that no one dared think that I am in any way related to these guys. Everyone pointed to the same young man – Maxim (?), who in turn said that he saw something on the Facebook and then suddenly found himself coordinating the event. A young couple who would fit an image of the real organizers – both in black T-shirts with the white text “Freedom to Khodorkovsky” (will anyone be better off, even Robert Amsterdam,  if Khodrkovsky is let out?) said the same. So I, apparently, attended a spontaneous meeting, complete with Khodrkovsky,  posters, white flowers and the White Ribbons, the meeting which no one officially organized (although Maxim had a good sense to call the police and ask them if the event required a permit. It did not.  Australia was not Russia, apparently). I guess my persistent questioning made some people suspect that I was there with a Purpose. On a Task. Relax, folks – if there was a purpose, it was my own. I am a physicist. I like to understand how things in this Universe work. How people “work”. Including myself. That’s all. Hard to believe? Maybe about as hard, as to accept that this was just a casual meeting of Facebook acquaintances. But, sure, not impossible.

I talked to the police too. Why not? I like to talk to Australian Police – well, when they are not issuing me yet another totally unreasonable in my view $240 speed ticket, that’s it. I asked them why they were here and why I never saw them eg. at regular Fallun Gong demonstrations. They frankly told me that they knew what to expect from Fallun Gong, but they yet to find what to expect from the Russians. So they decided to come just in case. To observe or maybe, to defend us from the Consulate Staff should there be a problem.  So they were at the meeting for about the same reasons as I was. Minus my patriotism, of course. They told me also that if any of us wanted to deliver a message to the Consulate, we should not do it directly –  we should ask them, the police, and they would organize Federal Agents to speak on our behalf. I felt we were being treated like a Royalty, despite our not so impressive numbers. This information I shared with one of the folks (sorry, don’t remember your name) in Khodorkovsky T-shirt, but apparently, what I had said was not deemed worthy of attention – sometimes, people do have a funny reaction to the information I supply. Or maybe the guy did not feel he deserved the offered Royal treatment. Because the attempt to “communicate” with the Consulate was exactly what he did not a 20 minutes later. And was stopped by the police at the gates.  The police then called an impressive black and white pair of the local equivalent of FBI Agents. Also impeccably polite and pleasant folks.

The funny part of the meeting was, probably, accidental. Across the road, opposite to the Russian Consulate and right behind our group – with all our White Ribbons and bunches of sometimes not cheap white flowers, which our beautiful ladies hold in their hands – so, behind us was a big sign saying “White Lady Funerals”. We had the music too – it was Soviet-style classic, usually reserved for big official events like The Day of October Revolution. The music was freely flowing from the consulate car, parked behind the fence with the doors ajar and the CD player volume apparently turned to the max. I am not sure about the others, but I admired the diplomatic skills of the Russian Consulate staff – not every  diplomat nowadays is able to say what he wants, letting all who listens to understand what they want –  and in so few words. You do me proud. Please, share the skills with the Business Manager  of the place I work at – you know who I mean, do you? No? You went fishing with him? Still no? Ok. Maybe with Mr. McFaul then? Before he manages to reset his “RESET” back to the Cold War.  Or worse. Even if the Russians themselves do not know what the “reset” actually means in American politics.

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Academic Selection Panels

Extract from  Arnold V.I., What Is Mathematics?, Moscow, 2002

(translated  from Russian).

Part of my academic duties is to participate in university academic selection  panels, e.g. in Paris,  whose task is to select the right candidate out of hundreds applicants. I noticed that the fair and  democratic voting process always resulted in that I voted with the minority, who preferred  the strongest candidate, while the majority of votes always went to an applicant who was  far from the best (in fact, frequently  it was the weakest applicant for the advertised position).

My colleagues gave me the following explanation of this phenomenon. “We clearly see who is the strongest candidate, but we select the weakest simply out of the need for our own survival – otherwise in two or more years, a strong candidate will be competing with us for promotion opportunities, which means that it is better for us to choose someone who is not too brilliant.  Besides, if we did as you do and considered only scientific achievements and scientific potential of the applicants, then we would have to fill all available positions with Russians, because we can clearly see that they are prepared much better than others.”

There had not been a single Russian among the applicants on this particular occasion, but, generally, I agree with this high estimate of the level of the Russian scientists.  The reason behind it is that the standards of scientific education are continuously falling all over the world, but, as in almost everything else, Russia is behind most countries. For example, our primary school students still can easily add fractions, while the American college students for already quite a while believe that 1/ 2 + 1/ 3 = 2/ 5. A committee led by the Nobel Prize winner Prof. Glen Sikorsly in  California had recently made it a requirement that all  students entering universities were able to demonstrate their ability to divide 111 by 3 without a calculator – something that most of them simply don’t know.. This requirement was later contested in High Court as anti-constitutional.

from zed244 – In case you don’t know who Vladimir Arnold is, search web – or /and read his 1997 popular  paper “On teaching Mathematics” eg. here http://pauli.uni-muenster.de/~munsteg/arnold.html   or  the  interview wth him  at  www.ams.org/notices/199704/arnold.pdf

Posted in "Corruption", "higher education", Russia | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Money Out of Thin Air or Tale About $100 and The Door (translation from Russian)

Публикуется по просьбам трудящихся – скорее всего временно: this is not written by zed244 –  it is a translation of the  text in Russian at http://www.avanturist.org/blog/post/28 . More of the same author here http://tinyurl.com/43b9pmy (in Russian) – highly recommended.

For those who want a touch of  reality – as of 21 of September 2011  – it is  here

Quote”..To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at levels consistent with the dual mandate, the Committee decided today to extend the average maturity of its holdings of securities. The Committee intends to purchase, by the end of June 2012, $400 billion of Treasury securities with remaining maturities of 6 years to 30 years and to sell an equal amount of Treasury securities with remaining maturities of 3 years or less..”

Money Out of  Thin Air or Tale About $100 and The Door

Let say we – I, You and Chronoscopist – were on a plane across the Pacific Ocean. While on board, we consumed substantial amount of absinthe, kicked up a row and in the process tore off a door to the toilet. For our noble deeds we were promptly thrown out of the plane via emergency exit. Luckily, next to where we plunged into the water, was a small nameless Polynesian island. After we climbed on its soil, we held a short council and decided to name the island The United States of Absinthe (USA).

Naturally, when we were thrown out of the plane, they forgot to return us our luggage. As the result, all our tangible and intangible assets consisted of the toilet door, which You forgot to leave on the plane and a single $100 note which You discovered in your wallet. Thus all non-financial assets of our USA consist of one toilet door, and all financial, aka “money supply”, of a single $100 note. This is all our country has. Since we have nothing else, it can also be said that our material assets – the toilet door, supports (secures) the money supply of $100. Or, in other words, our door costs $100.

Still under the influence of absinth, we decide that we need to start getting the things organised. The Chronoscopist, proved to be the shrewdest – he announces that he opened a bank and is ready to accept deposits from the island’s population and promises to pay 3% interest annually. You give him your $100 and he writes it under “Liabilities” -> “Deposit Accounts” in his book.

But I am too not just out of the woods – indeed, after so many years I spent investigating economic swindles, I now know how to expropriate your door and your $100. I offer You 5% interest on your $100. I tear off a sheet of paper from my notebook and write “Bond Certificate of USA. Issued for the amount $100 at 5% interest, paid annually”. You feel that You have drawn a full hand. You withdraw your money from the deposit account You have with the disappointed Chronoscopist and give it to me in exchange for my Bond. I take your $100 and immediately deposit it into my account with now smiling Chronoscopist.

Ideally, we could have stopped right here and then, and start doing something real, say, shake the palm tree or try to collect shell fish – to eat our bread in the sweat of our faces, so-to-speak. But you all know that I am indefatigable financial genius, and I am not interested in the petty things such as coconuts and oysters. After a refreshing tour of our island – 50 steps from South to North and 30 from West to East, I invent an ingenuous combination. I approach You and offer You to earn an additional 1% annually. You should take a loan in Chronoscopist’s  bank at 4% and use it to buy from me another USA Bond at 5% interest. This second Bond Certificate for $100 I have just written, and now I wave it in front of your nose. Immediately You rush to the bank and borrow $100 there, using my first Bond as a security. The Bank has the money – I put it there on my deposit account. You give me the $100 You have borrowed and put the second USA Security Bond into your wallet. Now You have $200 worth of USA Bonds. I put $100 in the Bank – now I have $200 on my deposit account. Chronoscopist jumps from joy – his credit business is growing up!

Do you really think I am going to stop there? Hold your horses – I have already written a third USA Bond for You. You rush to the Bank to borrow another $100, secured this time with my second Bond. Closer to the night, got tired of running around the island with this single $100 note and having used all pages in my diary to write USA Bonds, we have the following results: You have $5,000 worth of USA Bonds, while I have $5,000 deposited on my account.

Now I feel that this is the right time to expropriate your toilet door. I offer to buy it from You for $100. But You do not want to sell the only toilet door on the island for $100 and ask $1,000. Well, I agree  – after all I have $5,000 on my deposit account. I use the last page left in my diary to write a Payment Order to Chronoscopist to transfer $1,000 from my account to yours – and take your door.

If this accounting is given to an American economist, he or she will inform you that our USA had $1,000 in assets in the form of toilet door and $10,000 financial assets in bank deposits and USA Bonds. Which means that our combined wealth increased 110 fold in one day. Well, a less refined and educated observer, might say that we are the three idiots, because by the end of the day we still have nothing but the same one toilet door and $100, and that only complete imbeciles could have spent the whole day tearing sheets out of their diaries to write nonsense, instead of collecting coconuts or shell fish. Who of the two is correct –you, the Reader, should decide yourself.

2008

Posted in "Capitalism", "USA", American culture | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Where Does The Russian Government Sit?

Here is a profound answer [from anonymous comment in a now extinct TrueSlant blog by Julia Ioffe]:

“The White House is the place where the Russian Government sits”.

Why profound?


Take 1. (trivial)

“The White House is the place where the Russian Government sits.”

We will have to dismiss the trivial interpretation – there is nothing “profound” or “deep” in the fact that the same way as some towns in US are named after the original towns in Russia, there is at least one place in Russia which was named after the American landmark. The White House in Kremlin, Moscow (Russia) is indeed the place where the Russian Government “sits”. At least sometimes. Before it is asked to move on – in some cases, with the help of artillery. Since we are not the Government and don’t need such an impressive “motivator”, let’s move on our own volition.

Take 2. (anti-Russian)

“The White House is the place where the Russian Government sits.”

The White House is THE White House. Vicious Russian spies, armed with the boobs (where the nature allowed), Morse Code, invisible ink and perhaps, the traditional Russian weapon of mass “distraction” – vodka, quietly replaced democratically elected American Government with the Communists and it is now effectively the Russian Government who “sits” in Washington. This can explain a lot – from the “communist” Obama’s economic policy to why the recent Russian spies were let out so easily.

Well, let’s get real here – especially with the “spies“.. While one can find numerous statements in the blogosphere or even in the press, claiming that Obama is a “communist” and that he is “controlled by Kremlin”, the authors clearly miss two important facts. First is that current Russian Government is about as close to Communism as Senator McCarthy had been in his time. Second -with regard to relations with Russia, the only thing Obama can be blamed for  is that his Administration somehow managed to accomplish what the previous US Administration had not very successfully tried, only this time without even a wink from the Russian Government. The impressive list of deeds includes the missile defense in Europe and invitations to NATO issued to the same Ukraine and Georgia, assurances of support to the old “friends” and even the traditionally problematic lecturing Russia on human rights &  “democracy” etc etc. Thanks to Obama and his aides, all this is now done without anyone in Russia even sneezing. At least – not too loudly. I am convinced that were Obama the President in 2008, South Ossetia and Abkhazia would still be a part of Georgia. So, in a sense, one can even say that, surpassing Alexander the Great, Obama did not even need a donkey with the gold* to enter Kremlin after the brute force attempts by the Bush Administration practically failed with almost disastrous results.

This latter allegory naturally brings us to the third interpretation:

Take 3. (Kafkian)

“The White House is the place where the Russian Government sits”
meaning simply “Russia is governed from Washington and by Washington”.

No, I am not going to feed you a Russian-side version of what the US newspapers routinely write. The Cold War rhetoric. After all – what would be “profound” about it? Russia and America are doing fine now – probably the best they ever had it since the WWII ended. Do we really need to carry on all that old baggage into another century?

The profound part of the answer refers to the difference between active and re-active foreign policies. The US policy being active and Russia’s – reactive. Reactive to the American, and only to American. When the reactions are predictable and the source is single – the country with the active foreign policy is in the position to effectively enforce the behavior of the one which reacts. For example, it becomes possible to install, remove or relocate tactical and even strategic nukes of another country, start, stop or change the direction of military reform there, make one country to occupy another etc. Or effectively force a country – eg. Russia, to do nothing by simply not showing interest. Like it happened in Kyrgyzstan. The sky is the limit. Is it really about Russia? I am not sure. It seems that recently some obvious shifts from the narrowly American focus of the Russian foreign policy did appear, but it is too early to say if they made the Russian policy sufficiently independent or even active. So, where do you say the real Russian Government “sits”?

UPDATE 2019.

It is amazing how the thing described in this old post changed in just 5 years. Republished to serve as a historical record.

_________________________________
* perhaps, because Obama did not have any gold left after generally successful “socialist” measures to bailout the American economy from the current cycle of economic crisis

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Exercise in Translation

Not in the traditions of this particular blog (if there are traditions), but the developments in the historical “Russian spy drama” just beg for some comments.

A lot was said about what the “case” really is – the analyzes ranged from sane eg. Julia Ioffe or Sean’s Russia Blog to mildly senile as eg. by Anne Applebaum (a particular regional version of insanity by WP was analyzed & thrashed by Eugene Ivanov here) to completely insane. Using the spy-ring story as an excuse and being unable to differentiate between a business using government structures for private purposes and a government using  business for the government purposes,  some “insightful” journalists even warned the public of Moscow’s secret plans  to dominate the world.

But I won’t talk about the interpretation – I already expressed my opinion on what the whole story is about elsewhere . Instead – let’s discuss the folklore.

Back in 1976 , there was a joke circulating among Russian intelligentsia:

Обменяли хулигана
На Луиса Корвалана
Где б найти такую блядь
Чтоб на Брежнева сменять?

For those who are too young to remember, the verse refers to the 1976 exchange of a famous socialist leader Luis Alberto Corvalán , who was arrested and jailed after US-sponsored and supported coup in Chili, for a less significant and famous but also jailed Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky.

It is unfair that the monolingual crowd is not able to enjoy the subtle details or even the rough precision of the “great and mighty” Russian language. But, while completely understanding my severe limitations as a translator I thought I would try to deliver at least the content & the implied not-so-subtle meaning. Here we go:

Famous Russian hooligan
Was exchanged for Corvalan.
Have they slut among their aged
To match Breznev – for exchange?

Well, I admit that the content actually expanded – there was no reference to Breznev’s age in the original. Besides, we must be politically correct and not to mix Russia with Soviet Union. Try another one?

Famous Soviet hooligan
Was exchanged for Corvalan.
Is there a hustler to co-opt,
So that Breznev could be swapped?

Not quite good either, but at least the idea is clear. Of course, Breznev is a historical figure. Some Russian bloggers are pretty sure which name should be Put in. To stop the speculations right here – I am not one of them:)

Let’s move on – and doing something that not all the Russians are capable of – that is – preserving the history as it was – unchanged – let’s have a go at the latest spy-ring events:

Famous Soviet hooligan
Was exchanged for Corvalan
Here’s revenge of  FBI –
Clowns swapped for real spy.

Not precise, as there is more than one “real spy” among the group for exchange by the Russian side, but let’s consider it to be an “artistic truth” – the international politics is an art, isn’t it?

Posted in "FSB", "KGB", "Soviet Union", foreign affairs | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Artistic Truth

Last Thursday I upset a visiting American professor (Mrs.(Prof) F.., Russian literature and honorable something somewhere important ). She was giving a lecture at ANU entitled “Lies and Truth in Soviet Literature during Khrushev and Brezhnev periods”. Since it was after 5 pm I went there – I like foreigners who know about Russians and Soviets more than they know/knew about themselves….(continue from the link below)

Of course, she was talking about “Gulag” literature mostly and about the extend such publications were permitted/forbidden at different times.The professor actually surprised me with her quite good knowledge and mostly correct & carefully balanced interpretations – I expected much worse . So during the question/discussion time I decided to encourage her good presentation by contributing to the topic and her lecture. I told her that her lecture could benefit from a definition of “lie” and “truth” in the context. For example, “lie” in the literature or any publication can be defined as something contrary to the real events.The Soviet officials actually not frequently lied directly – mostly by omission. But the “truth” in the same (literary or almost any other social) context is actually a balance between publicized shortcomings of the society and its “positive” atonements“. In this sense to say that there was more or less truth in the literature simply means that comparatively more or less negative information was or was not published. Just this – more or less “bad” things (compare to “good”) and no more than that. Nothing to do with the “truth” in the usual meaning; such “truth” can be numerically defined as a ratio of (critical content) to (total). Because during her lecture the professor used the word “truth” without definition – and we all know that “truth” is “good” – implicitly (and she actually said that) the more truth is better. Now, what would we call a nation which can read and write *only* negative things about itself? The answer :” suicidal”. That’s why no “western” nation ever wrote mostly (or almost any) bad things about themselves….. And, by the way, how can we describe the motives of a nation which puts enormous money and effort to encourage some other nation to commit the suicide? (* that last bit I did not actually say – the professor was visibly upset before that – them, Anglo-Saxon professors, don’t like us, Russians (by accent at least) to be too clever – not on public, that is *) and I thought that I’d rather cut it short – I was going to encourage her further forays into Russian literature after all.. *)

I remembered about this insignificant episode when I was thinking why it is so difficult (for me) to make a good portrait photos. The answer is simple – photography is an art, just as (Russian/Soviet) literature is (no comments about Socialistic realism!). Because of this, there cannot be “absolute” or even “objective” truth on the photo – it is always a balance between ugly or unpleasant and beautiful. Any real person’s face has both. Where the balance point will be depends on photographer’s intentions, some subjective feelings of what is “right” and of course, on the skills – which are further defined as an ability to use camera, light and model to put the balance the way he wants it. For an illustration just look at any paparazzi photos of celebrities in woman’s magazines…(or at some of mine:)). As a physicist and more or less experimentalist, I “run” the equipment (camera) and expect it to produce correct results. “Truth” in other words. I am making the same mistake as that American professor…

Posted in "Soviet Union", foreign affairs, stereotypes | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Diary of An American Boy

 (edit October 2018) and do not miss this
‘We bombed you to save you’ – head Stoltenberg speaks about 1999 bombings on visit to — RT World News   – there is a direct reference in the “Diary” (2008) about this attitude
============================

Diary of American Boy
04/03/2007
My name is Michael Dawn. I live in the US. My country is in the center of rotation of the Earth and the Sun. Recently I did a research project about this and I got high distinction.
Today I woke up early and immediately measured my weight. Hurray! I lost another 0.4 lbs. And now my weight is only 320 lbs . Just a month ago it was 322 lbs. Back then my Dad said that if I didn’t loose weight, I wouldn’t be able to date girls. As a matter of fact, I prefer boys, because dating girls is not cool. After that I had my breakfast. It was a diet – corn flakes with reduced-fat milk and two toasts with jam. For a dessert I had four double hamburgers. The breakfast was fun. We had a who-farts-louder competition with my Dad. I won. Now Dad owes me $5. If he doesn’t pay up by the evening – I sue the shit out of him.
My school is way too far – almost half a mile. I’m lucky that I have a car. Today’s traffic was OK, so it took me only one hour to get to the school. Lessons were boring, as usual. For example, on American history lesson the teacher was telling us a bullshit – that America was discovered by Columbus. How could such a dork get teacher’s certificate?! Elementary logic tells you that America was discovered by us, Americans. That is why it is called “America”.

But Geography lesson was cool. Boy, how many awesome things happen in the world! For example, the teacher told us about this country Africa. Many years ago, in its capital, Egypt, we, the Americans, built triangular skyscrapers but now there live the evil Russian mummies. Just why these Russians interfere with everything we do?

In the evening I went to a party at my friend Leslie’s house. Everyone thinks that the party was cool. There were about 40 of us. My friend Jimmy stole two bottles of beer from his father. That was clearly too much because we barfed Leslie’s pool into a stinky pot liqueur pond. Sam thinks that was because we blew couple of sticks made from what Leslie had near his swimming pool. Me, I barfed into the pool for the shear fun. Anyways, one brick for all of us is just a normal daily dose to keep the lungs trained and head clear. Hey, even my grandmother smokes more after the breakfast every day.

04/07/2007

Today is a holiday. I wanted to sleep a bit longer, but my Dad made me play baseball on the front lawn. Actually, it was really cool – we were throwing the ball to each other from three meters for three hours in a row. Remarkable sport and very intellectual!

After lunch my Dad made us watch President Bush’s TV address. We had a good time: we ate pop-corn and listened to the President. He was explaining why it was important for the US to bomb every undemocratic country – because when there is no democracy, people only listen to what is coming from  above and so the bombing was an ingenious way to explain to the primitive peoples what the US democratic ideals were about. I could never understand why these idiots protested when we bombed them. Because without our bombing they would never know the taste of coca-cola and hamburgers and thus they wouldn’t be able to build a true democracy. God save USA – the country which is always ready to help everyone. After watching Bush’s address, we sang “God Bless America” and wept, feeling our greatness and great responsibility for the mission entrusted to every American by God Himself.

Today our teacher gave us an exciting lesson about this remarkable discipline – Geography. He told us about a far-away undemocratic country  called Russia. I new a lot about this savage country even without his lesson. For example, everyone knows that Russians are a cross-breed between a bear and a human, they eat birch and drink pure alcohol, live in deep burrows in taiga (which is a Russian jungle), and during their celebrations they put Kremlin on fire and dance around it. But now, after the lesson, I know about Russia much more then its inhabitants. For example, I know that in this country there are immense deposits of American oil and gas. When we need them – we will come to claim our property. There are deposits of vodka in Russia and black and red caviar  and mushrooms are mined in open pits. All this treasure is used by the Russians in a truly barbarian style: they drink and eat it, thus robbing us – the future generations of Americans. Russia is a true Empire of Evil!

 

After school I went to my psychoanalyst. I visit him twice a week. He gives me advice on  how to enjoy life. Today he taught me how to flash the toilet after use. All my life I was wondering why our toilet stinks so much.
In the night before going to bed, I played Tetris. Cool action! I was cut on the third level, though. After that I searched porno-sites on the web – http://www.whitehouse.gov/ and http://www.defense.gov/. Their banging is not for kids! I put a photo of Monica Lewinsky on my desk and, satisfied with my day and my right hand, I went to sleep. When I grow up I want to become a President of USA and ride in White House lifts all day! Or, maybe ,  join The Australian Defense Force Academy.
04/24/2007
During math lesson today we were learning how to count to ten. Math is hard. Now I understand why they start teaching it only at college. I managed to count to seven from the first try. My teacher said it was very good.
During lunch break Bob showed me a hand gun he borrowed from his Dad and then began shooting the girls. It was a huge fun! The girls screamed and tried to escape, but Bob always managed to catch them up and shoot a control shot into their heads. Then police arrived and arrested Bob even though they knew he did not mean anything bad. Immediately after that we were allowed to go home.
05/08/2007

 

Today we had an unusual history lesson. The teacher told us that exactly 28 years ago, the US troops captured Berlin and defeated Germany. Apparently, in 1958, bloody dictator Saddam Hussein, who was ruling Germany at that time, attacked London and bombed its capital Warsaw. Germans on tanks and bicycles captured Paris, Brussels, Kiev and Birobidjan. After Birobijan had fallen, the USA lost their patience and joined the war. In the beginning, the Germans were bombed in Afghanistan, then in Syria, then in Disneyland. The Germans were forced to retreat. Then American army surrounded Germany and using precision spot-target bombs, reduced to a rubble all of the Berlin and then put our proud stars-and-stripes flag on the top of Eiffel tower. Saddam Hussein was captured in Berlin’s suburbs, where he was hiding in the basement of a whorehouse. The bloody dictator was court-marshaled and then sent to serve his prison term first to Saint Helen Island and then to Guantanamo Bay. There he wrote numerous requests to CIA, asking to be publicly hanged. Eventually, all his wishes were generously granted, including the one where he asked to destroy all the evidence about the interrogation techniques used on him and his fellow prisoners. After the US victory, all the nations of the world applauded to the brave US soldiers and in their excitement , people were throwing to them their most valuable possessions – during the war, of course, it was food – mostly tomatoes and eggs. This was how the WWII came to an end and how the bloody dictators of the whole world came to understand that nobody can survive the coming of American democracy ….

Невниг пендосскава потсана

(* “pendosy” – Americans *)

3 апреля 2005 года
Меня зовут Майкл Даун. Я живу в США. Это такая страна, вокруг которой вращаются земля и солнце. Я недавно даже писал реферат на эту тему, и учитель поставил мне высший балл.Сегодня я встал рано. С утра сразу же взвесился. Ура! Я похудел еще на 200 граммов. И теперь мой вес составляет всего 145 кг. А ведь месяц назад было 146! Но папа сказал, что если я не похудею, то со мной девочки встречаться не будут. А вообще-то я предпочитаю мальчиков, ведь с девочками встречаться – это так старомодно. Потом я позавтракал. Завтрак у меня получился диетическим – овсяные хлопья с обезжиренным молоком и два обжаренных тоста с джемом. В качестве легкого десерта я съел 4 двойных гамбургера.
За завтраком было весело. Мы с отцом соревновались, кто громче пукнет. Громче получилось у меня. Отец теперь должен мне 5 баксов. Если к вечеру не отдаст – засужу.
Моя школа находится далеко от дома – в 500 метрах. Хорошо, что у меня есть машина. Поэтому добрался всего за час, в пробках сегодня пришлось стоять совсем недолго. Уроки были скучными. Например, на истории учитель нес какую-то чушь о том, что Америку открыл Колумб. Как таких в учителя берут!? Ведь элементарная логика говорит о том, что Америку открыли мы, американцы. Потому-то она и называется Америка.
Интереснее было на географии. Как много интересного в мире происходит! Например, учитель рассказал, что есть такая страна как Африка. В ее столице – Египте – находятся треугольные небоскребы, в которых обитают злые русские мумии. И почему эти русские нам нигде покоя не дают?..
Вечером я пошел на вечеринку к Лесли. Нас было человек 40. Мой друг Джим стащил у отца 2 бутылки пива. Мы так все перепились, что заблевали бассейн.

7 апреля.

Сегодня выходной. Хотелось подольше поспать, но отец заставил меня играть в бейсбол на лужайке перед домом. Сначала было скучно, но потом я втянулся. Ведь это так увлекательно – три часа подряд бросать друг другу мячик с расстояния в 3 метра. Замечательный вид спорта и очень интеллектуальный!
После обеда отец заставил меня смотреть по ТВ обращение президента Буша. Мы классно провели время: ели поп-корн и слушали президента. Он говорил о том, как важно для Америки всех бомбить, потому что иначе все эти примитивные народы не понимают, какое счастье несет им наша страна. Мне всегда было непонятно, почему эти дураки возмущаются, когда мы их бомбим. Ведь без этого они никогда не узнают вкус кока-колы и гамбургера, а, значит, не построят демократии. Боже, храни Америку – страну, готовую осчастливить любого. А если кто-то не хочет быть счастливым – мы его всегда можем заставить. После просмотра обращения Буша мы всей семьей долго пели американский гимн и плакали от осознания своего величия и понимания божественной миссии, которая нам доверена Господом.
За ужином мы с отцом опять устроили соревнования на самый громкий пук. Победила наша собака. Она это сделала так громко, что испуганные соседи с криками “Русские идут!” спрятались в подвале. Выманивать их пришлось до самой ночи. Пока я наконец не сообразил им сказать, что завтра в ближайшем супермаркете будет распродажа, и они смогут купить электрические поповытиралки на 10 центов дешевле обычной цены. Сразу же выскочили…
Все, я решил – обязательно стану географом. Хочу так же, как и они, изучать эту прекрасную науку – геометрию. Сегодня наш учитель провел замечательное занятие! Он рассказывал о далекой стране под названием Россия. Я и раньше много знал об этом диком государстве. Например, всем хорошо известно, что русские – это помесь медведя с человеком, которые питаются спиртом и березами, живут в тайге в глубоких норах, а по праздникам поджигают Кремль и водят вокруг него хороводы.
После рассказа учителя я знаю о России, наверное, больше самих ее жителей. Например, в этой стране находятся американские резервы нефти и газа. Когда они нам понадобятся, мы за ними приедем. Кроме того, в России есть месторождения черной и красной икры, а также залежи водки и блинов. Эти богатства русские тратят по варварски: съедают и выпивают, обделяя будущие поколения американцев. Настоящая империя зла!
После школы я пошел к психоаналитику. Я посещаю его дважды в неделю. Он мне дает советы и учит, как жить. Сегодня он научил меня смывать за собой в уборной. А я-то думал, почему у нас в туалете всегда так воняет. Надо рассказать своим – семья еще не знает…
Вечером играл в тетрис. Убойный экшн! На третьем уровне меня срезали… Потом полазил по
порносайтам www. pentagon.com и www. whitehouse.org. Вставляет не по-детски+
Удовлетворенный проведенным днем и своей правой рукой, лег спать…

24 апреля.

Сегодня на математике учились считать до десяти. Тяжелая эта наука. Теперь понятно, почему ее у нас начинают изучать только в старших классах. Я дошел до 7. Учитель меня похвалил. Я его тоже.
Потом была физкультура. Пока мои приятели подглядывали в душе за девчонками, я
подглядывал за физруком. Так увлекся, что не заметил, как все уже помылись и стали
подглядывать за мной.
На большой перемене Боб принес отцовский пистолет и начал стрелять по девчонкам. Вот была потеха! Девчонки визжали, пытались убегать, но Боб их догонял и добивал контрольным выстрелом в голову. Потом приехала полиция, и Боба почему-то забрали. А ведь он просто развлекался+ Нас сразу же отпустили по домам.

8 мая.

Сегодня был необычный урок истории. Учитель рассказал нам, как ровно 28 лет назад
американские войска взяли Берлин и победили Германию. Оказывается, в 1958-м году
кровавый диктатор Садам Хусейн, который в то время руководил Германией, напал на Лондон и бомбил его столицу Варшаву. Немцы на танках и велосипедах захватили Париж, Брюссель, Киев и Биробиджан. После захвата Биробиджана у Соединенных Штатов кончилось терпение, и они вступили в войну. Сначала немцев бомбили в Афганистане, затем в Сирии, затем в Диснейленде. Немцы стали отступать. Потом американские войска окружили Германию и точечными ударами разрушили весь Берлин, водрузив звездно-полосатый флаг над Эйфелевой башней. Саддама Хусейна выловили в берлинском пригороде, где он прятался в подвале супермаркета. Кровавого диктатора судили и отправили на каторгу на остров Святой Елены. А
все народы мира в едином порыве аплодировали храбрым солдатам армии США и бросали в них цветы, фрукты и овощи. Вот так и закончилась вторая мировая война ,после которой всем кровавым диктаторам стало ясно: от демократии еще никто живым не убегал…

11 мая.

Сегодня после школы нас водили на экскурсию в картинную галерею. Нашли чем удивить: мазня какая-то, бабы голые. Я в Интернете и лучше видел. Джим прикололся и прилепил жвачку к какой-то картинке на стене. А Лесли отломал палец у скульптуры.
Когда наш автобус уже отъезжал, в галерее началась паника. Какая-то старая баба бегала и кричала: “Она же стоит полтора миллиона долларов!”. Мы с Джимом и Лесли подмигнули друг другу, ведь это был наш вклад в мировую культуру. Мы поступили как настоящие американцы.
Вечером с отцом ходили на хоккей. Начался первый период, и мне прямо в лоб прилетела шайба. Очнулся в больнице. Доктора удивленно качали головой: ну надо же, даже сотрясения мозга нет.

News.Udaff.Com :: Найдено в Тырнете :: Караван – Невниг пендосскава потсана

http://news.udaff.com/index.php?cat=links&news=1272 12/20/2007__

Posted in "USA", American culture, stereotypes | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

What It Means To Be a President (or a Prime Minister, for that matter)

Extracted From

PARKINSON’S LAW [AND OTHER STUDIES IN ADMINISTRATION]
BY C. Northcote Parkinson
Raffles Professor of History
University of Malaya
ILLUSTRATED BY
Robert C. Osborn
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY, BOSTON

SEVENTEENTH PRINTING
(c) 1957 by C. Northcote Parkinson
The Riverside Press
Cambridge – Massachusetts
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 57-9981
Printed in the U.S.A.

(formerly free text on Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.net/)

5. THE SHORT LIST, OR PRINCIPLES OF SELECTION

..

The first step in the process is to decide on the qualities a Prime Minister
ought to have. These need not be the same in all circumstances, but they need to
be listed and agreed upon. Let us suppose that the qualities deemed essential
are (i) Energy, (2) Courage, (3) Patriotism, (4) Experience, (5) Popularity, and
(6) Eloquence. Now, it will be observed that all these are general-qualities
which all possible applicants would believe themselves to possess. The field
could readily, of course, be narrowed by stipulating (4) Experience of
lion-taming, or (6) Eloquence in Mandarin. But that is not the way in which we
want to narrow the field. We do not want to stipulate a quality in a  special
form; rather, each quality in an exceptional degree. In other words, the
successful candidate must be the most energetic, courageous, patriotic,
experienced, popular, and eloquent man in the country. Only one man can answer
to that description and his is the only application we want. The terms of the
appointment must thus be phrased so as to exclude everyone else. We should
therefore word the advertisement in some such way as follows:

Wanted–Prime Minister of Ruritania. Hours of work: 4 A.M. to 11.59 P.M.
  Candidates must be prepared to fight three rounds with the current heavyweight
  champion (regulation gloves to be worn). Candidates will die for their
  country, by painless means, on reaching the age of retirement (65). They will
  have to pass an examination in parliamentary procedure and will be liquidated
  should they fail to obtain 95% marks. They will also be liquidated if they
  fail to gain 75% votes in a popularity poll held under the Gallup Rules. They
  will finally be invited to try their eloquence on a Baptist Congress, the
  object being to induce those present to rock and roll. Those who fail will be
  liquidated. All candidates should present themselves at the Sporting Club
  (side entrance) at 11.15 A.M. on the morning of September 19. Gloves will be
  provided, but they should bring their own rubber-soled shoes, singlet, and
  shorts.”

PS

Few years ago I was able to freely download  full text of the book from Guttenberg. Not anymore. Even worse – e-formats are not available even for money now.. I wonder if this is an indication of how much this  book and especially the chapter from where the above was extracted goes against the current “democratic” norms (that is – it tells too much of the truth) or it is simply where we ‘ll are now – i.e.   “capitalism” simply gradually returning to its normal modus operandi after collapse of the Soviet Union – to some pre-1917 state like this 

Posted in "Government", Russia "national narrative", Uncategorized | Leave a comment

interview – Elena Lukianenko to Kasparov.ru

from http://www.kasparov.ru/material.php?id=4FCFB9F75F019&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed

(Elena Lukianenko interview  on Kasparov.ru – from an old private post)

“.. я всегда привожу в пример великого доктора Пирогова, который на одной из своих публичных лекций дважды на присланные ему записки ответил: “Не знаю”. Тогда его спросили: “Профессор, за что же вам платят деньги, если вы ничего знаете?” Он ответил: “Мне платят деньги за то, что я знаю. Если бы мне платили за то, что я не знаю, ваше государство вылетело бы в трубу”.

“.. I frequently quote a prominent Russian doctor ,Pirogov, who once, during his public lecture, twice replied “I don’t know”  to the  written questions from his student auditorium. But when someone asked him “Professor, if you know nothing, then what are  you being paid your salary for? “, Pirogov replied “I am paid for what I know. If I were paid for things I don’t know, your government would be bankrupt”

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Fifty-Six. About Flies (contextual translation from Pelevin S.N.U.F) – UPDATED

The original

Пятьдесят шесть. О мухах.

Разве могу осуждать мух за то, что ебутся? Однако когда на моей голове, злит.
Так же и пидарасы. Когда в тихом уединении делают то, к чему лежат их души, кто возразит? Но они устраивают факельные шествия и приковывают себя к фонарям на набережной, дудят в дудки, бьют в барабаны и кричат, чтобы все знали про их нрав — что-де лупятся в очко и долбятся в жопу. Истинно, они хуже мух, ибо мухи только изредка согрешают на моей голове, пидарасы же изо дня в день пытаются совокупиться в самом ее центре. Мухи по недомыслию, пидарасы же хладнокровно и сознательно.

И через то постигаю, что пялить они хотят не друг друга, а всех, причем насильно, и взаимный содомус для них только предлог и повод.

—————-
My translation

Fifty-Six. About Flies

Could I chastise Flies for their wont to Fuck? However, when on My Head do They sin, I feel Anger. Likewise the Sodomites. Whilst in the quiet Solitude do They as their Souls desire, Who doth object? But They organize Torch-bearing Processions and They chain Themselves to the street Lights on the Waterfronts, They play their Bagpipes, beat their Drums and They shout loudly so as to make Everyone know about Their Character – that They do Each Other in the Anus and thrust their Pintles up Each Other’s Arses. Truly, They are worse than Flies, for the Flies commit Sin on My Head only occasionally, but the Queers, Day after Day strive to Copulate in its very Center. Flies do It because of their Thoughtlessness, but the Sodomites – coolly and Deliberately.

And thus I perceive that it is not Each Other They want to do in, but Ye All – and Their Desire is to Force Themselves onto Ye Arses and thus Their mutual Sodomus serveth  Them only as a Pretext and an Excuse.
————-
Now – some “official” (published) translation
S.N.U.F.F. Kindle Edition
by Victor Pelevin (Author), Andrew Bromfield (Translator) , available on Amazon,
ASIN: B00W820GQQ

Fifty-Six. On Flies.

How can I condemn flies for fucking? However, when it is on my head, it infuriates me. Likewise it is with queerasts. When they perform that which is the inclination of their hearts in quiet solitude, who shall object? But they hold torch-lit parades and chain themselves to lamp posts on the embankment, tooting tin whistles and shouting aloud, so that all might know of their disposition – that they do lash it into the orifice and hammer it up the backside. In truth, they are worse than flies, for flies only rarely sin on my head, while the queerasts do strive from day to day to copulate at its very centre. The flies out of folly, but the queerasts with cool deliberation.

And through this do I perceive that they do not wish to shaft each other, but everyone, and moreover, do it by force, and their mutual sodomus is for them merely a pretext and a pretence.

Few words of explanation ..

I was asked what this strange piece is doing in my generally politically-oriented blog. Apparently, not everyone read S.N.U.F. and even among those who did, not everyone  suspected that the Holy Book of Urkaintsev, “Dao Pesdin” (shall we translate it as “Dao Cunt-in”? ), from where the above passage came,  could have been a parody of  I-Ching. The original hexagram  #56 in I-Ching is “Lu” – “The Wanderer”. It, essentially, reminds the basic  rules of behavior to a foreigner (“The Wanderer”) who decided to travel to another country. The Pelevin’s Urkain version of it does the same – in ,  perhaps, a little  too much down to Earth, but straightforward typical  Pelevin’s manner. So, the “Flies” who do you-know-what on the head, should be equated to simple-minded foreigners in another country, who do not bother to realize that they are on somebody’s territory and  not in their home land. Similarly, there is a non-printable colorful description in both Russian and English  about what persistent attempts to change somebody’s views do to the brain. Yes, that.  Of course, the other , more straightforward  interpretation of the passage,  is no less relevant and succinctly formulated. However, it was the second, I-Ching version  and its relevance to international diplomacy, which caused this translation to  appear on the public pages of my blog.

Initially. Until I had to watch on the local TV , for three days in a row, where in every news program  several severely wrinkled unisex male and female newly wed couples, were passionately “frenching” each others’ lips and tongues in front of the TV camera .. Then I thought that soon we will have to watch more …of their passion … on public TV channels…and elsewhere on the streets..   and then I thought  about the Pelevin’s  flies.  And also about how homosexuality is propagated ..  Eg. nowadays we more or less know  that tobacco-dependence  is “transmitted” when kids watch adult smokers. Now tell me what is spread by watching the “flies who fuck each other in the heads ” … of our children …

The Author (here – as a translator)

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Emeritus Professor Paul Dibb, higher education and the collapse of Soviet Union (updated)

When I was asked about the upcoming lecture “Why did we get the collapse of the USSR so wrong?” by Emeritus Professor, the former Director of Australian Defense Intelligence Organization (DIO), former Head of Strategic Studies Center at ANU etc etc Paul Dibb,  I looked at the announcement – and replied that it will be a typical Russophobic hate-session, but this time led by a real professional. I had had my reasons – after all, this was not going to be the first presentation by SDSC  on “Russian” topic and  the previous lectures /seminars  I attended  were usually  fun – if not scary.

Fun , because there you could  hear “expert” opinions about Soviet Union/Russia not very different from the Diary of American Boy   or , if you were lucky, you even could participate in an exciting academic discussion on a topic such as eg. “Which side would likely to win in a direct confrontation of a highly trained but very humane and moral military force (eg. NATO) with an untrained, truly barbaric military units completely devoid of any humanity and moral  (eg. the Russian Army)?”.  Scary, because the above question was asked by an ADFA staff member  hardly a month after the vivid pictures from Abu Ghraib prison and reports of rapes and indiscriminate killing of civilians in Iraq by American Army and British troops leaked to the public. The same bright ADFA staff of course would ignore the fact that the US Marines suffer not only from understandable lack of brain but also  from incontinence or, for example, what sort of  military documentary the US Secretary of State finds Hillariously entertaining.   And that was why such discussions were scary – they made me wonder about  the intellectual and educational level of the people charged with the defense of the country I live in and, in fact, love. This also made me worried about the “defense force” who seemed were convinced that eg.  there was nothing Russia and the Russians  wanted more desperately than to occupy all Anglo-Saxon countries – and especially, Australia –  presumably, with the intention to feed them all after the conquest,  as Russia did feed most Soviet Republics & others in her not-so-recent past.

So that was what I fully expected when I went to listen to Professor Dibb – another bucketful of Russophobic bullshit from yet another “Russian” expert who knows about  Soviet Union much more than any of the Soviet citizens of any rank or profession ever knew.

I was not disappointed after I entered the lecture hall –  there, on two large  white screens, a projector showed  the lecture title with a colorful  photo of – yes, Kursk submarine, of course. Not Buran/Energia, not Soviet RD-180 installed on current US Atlas – the same old Soviet RD-180 which according to some sources Pratt and Whitney attempted to but were unable to manufacture on US soil themselves even after being sold all licenses and technology. Not VA-111 “Shkval”, not S-300, not even R-36M2 (SS-18), but  an ill-fated submarine…. The only part missing was the Australian news trade-mark phrase “Russian-built..” – an important piece of  information about equipment manufacturer, which for some reasons is never used to report accidents eg. with  Boeing 747. For those who do not know – the photo at the beginning of this post is not what you, perhaps, thought – the photo was taken inside of the USS St. Antonio .  This one shows quality of the welds in the submarine’s  oil lubricating system.  Perhaps, I should have put a photo of an Australian Collins Class submarine instead. Sorry, professor – I know this is not the way to a constructive discussion, I just show you how some things may look from a different perspective. So, the picture on the lecture hall screen promised the usual  –  I  knew what to expect .

And I am very, very  pleased to say that I was completely and totally wrong. You see, I do not frequently meet people in Australian academia, who are not afraid to have their own opinion, especially  when this opinion is not officially “approved”.  Most of what professor Dibb said about Soviet Union  was, certainly, not an officially approved “line”. Even today. And it was mostly what I would have said myself. Publicly. Not everything and not the same way, but most of it.  Make no mistake – it would not be correct to classify Paul Dibb as a  “friend” of Russia or , especially, of the Soviet Union. No, far from it Perhaps, it would be correct to call him an “enemy by profession”, or maybe a “professional enemy” ,  where the key word would be “professional”. In other words, it was his job to be an enemy of the Soviet Union and by extension – of Russia. Otherwise, it seems that he, as a real professional, had no interest in Russia outside of his working hours (which is good & which is how it should be). I am not sure if it was his conscious choice, but that was what he was and still is. However, to be a professional enemy is not the same as to be a professional fool, who cannot think, who cannot and does not want to see beyond  officially approved “propaganda”  headlines in Sydney Morning Herald (more about “professionals” of that sort below).  Paul Dibb, certainly, was and is not one of them.  As I said – he was and is a professional, capable of making his own judgments and capable of staying on the neutral ground  where it counted. My respects.

There were things in Paul Dibb’s presentation about Soviet Union which I would  agree with. For example, his observation that in many respects living standards of ordinary Soviet citizens ~ 30 years ago were not much higher than in some modern days so-called third-world countries today. But I would have also asked who was to blame for that?  The communists? Maybe. But they were hardly alone. More likely that it was also the result of almost 80 years of concerted  efforts of the world’s most  economically developed nations to make life in the Soviet Union as miserable as  it was possible.  For example, by forcing the evil Russkies to spend a quarter of their entire GDP on defense. Or by not helping them when they needed it until it was obvious that they would manage themselves. I would add that in my opinion, it were precisely the efforts of the democratic “west” which largely shaped the “evil face of  Soviet communism”  and discredited the idea that to live a decent life,  it was not necessary to steal from or rob the fellow humans, especially under pretense that this what “democracy” and “freedom” were about.

Of course, there were also  statements in Dibb’s presentation , which I would would want to challenge.  For example,  about the actual severity of corruption in the former Soviet Union. As always in such cases, there is an implied reference point – presumably, it is the Australian Mining Sector?. Maybe Australian academic system? Oh, well, next time. Maybe in the next life. Then, when it happens,  the  debate would be along the line comparing  cash payments of bribes (eg. as in modern Russia)  with the demands of compulsory contributions to a restricted access account in  a perverted Australian version of  Favor Bank . I would argue that the latter system, it seems, is far more efficient in eliminating employment of literally each and every “outsider” or not a family member who is actually capable of doing something. Especially, in Australian “science”. With the obvious consequences – the quality, in the latter case, of the research.  Because with Favor Bank system you are not anymore talking to a “scientist” who gets “a pleasure of finding the things out” as you might happen to assume from his or her job title. Instead, you are forced to deal with a  financial investment banker. You simply would not understand each other if you are going to talk to a banker about science or Universe or the meaning of life. Nor will you be able to impress the financial speculator with the results of your scientific  research – he or she simply won’t understand what you are talking about.  Professor Dibb did mention several times the difficulties he had trying to obtain a coherent point of view from various “experts” on Soviet Union. This was one of the reasons it was difficult or even impossible – because Dibb assumed he was talking to professional “sovietologists”, while in fact they all were primarily professional  investment bankers. To compare, the Soviet higher education system always had  “normal” ways completely open – if you were up to the challenge.

And the challenge was a big one . Professor Dibb did say few cautious words about the quality of Soviet scientists in what he called “hard sciences” – he said, “it was (usually) the first class”.  No arguments about this, “usually” it was, but, perhaps, not necessarily on the average.

The Soviet  education in the “hard” sciences was unquestionably broader than “western”, usually ridiculously narrowly specialized requirements. The result was two-fold. It was incredibly difficult to actually master everything which was required from a student at the top level. Almost impossible. But those who tried hard and were apt to the task, eventually gained, at least to some extend,  that magic ability to see the whole of science. That something, which cannot be taught, but links very different  fields of scientific knowledge together. The whole picture. Maybe, in most cases incomplete (or very much incomplete – like (perhaps)  mine) and imperfect – but  still the whole picture of the physical world. This ability not only to link seemingly disjoint facts into a simple and coherent picture – in other words – to create a new knowledge, but also to think independently and more importantly, to work creatively and successfully in , again, seemingly, very different fields. That was for those under the Soviet system who had motivation and who could do it. The other students  simply gave up. So the product of the Soviet higher eduction was a bi-modal distribution of “quality” of  scientists , like the one on the sketch below (solid curves).  What Australian and “western” educational  system produces is shown as a dashed curve for comparison. Yes, this is my own, personal opinion. I lived and worked under both systems long enough and I have compelling reasons to believe that I am not entirely wrong in my estimates. You want to disagree? Go and try to talk to almost any “professional ” Australian scientist about science. In most cases, initially you will get a puzzled look followed by cautious questions mostly about who you are  (he or she tries to figure out whose account you are planning to make a deposit to) and then you will hear something like “this is not my field” – even when it actually is.

 
Fig.1 Approximate distributions of the “quality” of scientists employed in the  Soviet and Australian academic research systems. The red arrow near a sharp step on the “Australian” curve marks a “creativity threshold” on the horizontal axis – the boundary, beyond which an individual gains the ability NOT to follow “consensus”.
 

Well, of course, there are other interesting discussion topics which were not  present, but  would not be unrelated to what professor Dibb said in his lecture.  Many other things.  Some only tangentially linked to the topic of the Soviet Union, but close to the topic of the quality of higher education or academic research in Australia.

For example, such as how capitalism affects science? If you ask what I think  – in the long run capitalism kills true scientific research completely and irreversibly. Simply because when science becomes a private business, it does what Milton Friedman described as a single social duty of any business enterprise – it maximizes the profit. And historically, the cheapest way to maximize profit had been elimination of the competition. By any possible means.  In this case, starting from making the “academic” system effectively closed for “outsiders” without a password to an account in Favor Bank,  and finishing …yes, with a monopoly.  Example of the latter trend? Sure – look at the recent “outbreak” of  (actually encouraged) large-scale  “collaborative” grants approved by ARC – of course, at the expense of the individual applications.  You would never  believe – apparently  nowadays the genius prefer to work in a crowd. And in Australia.

Another tangential topic would be “democracy” in scientific research. Not the sort which the US usually brings to the less fortunate nations around the world without asking if these nations would prefer to eat better under a less “democratic” form of government. No. I am talking about the sort of “democracy” when a group of scientific “businessmen”, the owners of  private “scientific” enterprises,  is given the right to choose competitors …. to themselves. As it happens (sometimes) on the new academic  staff selection panels (see eg. here for an observation by V. I. Arnold). I am sure that you – as well as I do – have not the slightest doubt that the selection panel in this case will always select the strongest possible candidate, so he or she would, perhaps in the nearest future, beat them in getting say, the same ARC grants. Or promotions. Or a position if there are cuts, simply because he/she is better and deserves it more . A related sub-topic would be a question about the sort of future “scientists”,   a higher educational system where each and everyone employed is  primarily a professional Favor Bank  investor , can possibly produce …

But lets go back to professor Paul Dibb and his presentation. In fact, in answering his title question – “Why did we get the collapse of the USSR so wrong?” my views and his, perhaps, are not so different.  Because of the quality of the available “analysts”, of the professional “researchers”.  In fact, it was due to the failure of the entire modern  “western” academic education system  which made people in those “professions” so narrowly specialized – and as a rule , specialized in investment to Favors Bank, rather than in their designated fields, which made them unable to think “outside the square”  (or , rather outside a straight guiding line in this case), unable to generalize and as the result – not able to predict and even to understand what was and is happening on the territory of the former Soviet Union. That is why.

And thank you, professor – your lecture  was very good and , as you can see – thought-provoking 🙂 – as a truly good lecture should be.

For those who managed to read this post to the end – a simple question: did the training and more importantly – the staff selection system/criteria  currently practiced in eg. political sciences in Australia, changed sufficiently, so now we can really trust the”opinion” of Australian  “experts” and “advisers” on geopolitical matters?  Such as eg.  establishment of  permanent American military bases  controlled exclusively by Americans on Australian territory? Another  food for thought?

Post Scriptum

Of the many side issues, the reasons for Soviet presence in Afghanistan in 80s were mentioned more than once. The “why” it had happened has many answers, eg. one of them is provided by Z. Brzezinsky in his book The Grand Chessboard, another is below.

“..I’ll never forget one particularly chilling illustration of the power of structure in
international politics. It occurred in a private meeting with a high-ranking member of the  Soviet embassy, a few months after the Soviets had sent troops into Afghanistan. The official talked, eloquently and with great sincerity, about how the U.S.S.R. had been the first to recognize the country after its founding. The U.S.S.R. had been the first to come to its aid, repeatedly, when there was internal strife or instability. Beginning in the late 1970s, as threats from guerrilla factions increased, the ruling government asked for increasing Soviet assistance. Modest assistance led to greater needs for broader help. It came to a point, the official explained, where “We really had no choice but to intervene militarily.”

from Peter M. Senge, The Fifth Discipline, New York, p.34

UPDATE

Independently thinking  people do deserve receiving the credit for their bravery & independence. Here you go – Paul Dibb  now writing in The Australian  something completely opposite to what he wrote few years ago – namely, that US military bases & live active duty US combat personnel on Australian soil are a sure blessing for Australia & the whole region. It seems that the Australian “yes-sir, where is my money? ”  analytical “expertise” does find its ways  better  than WD-40 – and well into the retirement age it seems.

Addendum – the original lecture background links

US Marine base for Darwin, November 11, 2011
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/us-marine-base-for-darwin-20111110-1n9lk.html#ixzz1dXOTzT3g

Federal government rules out establishment of Marine Corp base in Australia,

Up to 1000 US troops stationed in Darwin, 

http://www.ntnews.com.au/article/2011/11/13/272351_ntnews.html

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